Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rat-Running, and 18-Wheelers/Tractor Trailers

One aspect of daily life that has always bugged me is driving--or at least many aspects of it. That is a post all its own--heck, that's a BLOG all its own. Today, I will deal with 1 aspect, or 2 combined into one (sort-of)--"rat-running" (or "shortcutting") and tractor-trailers (or 18-wheelers).

First-off, tractor-trailers/18-wheelers. I have long disliked the presence of 18-wheelers and/or tractor-trailers on the roads. At best, they're a necessary evil; at worst, dangerous and noisy monsters that dramatically damage the quality of life of anyone or anything within range. They block traffic, they're loud, they make you cough (especially if you're bicycling), and--frankly--too many of their drivers take advantage of their vehicle's size to bully people.

Don't get me wrong, I realize that they're necessary for deliveries and the operation of commerce. Truckers have a hard job in providing the services they do. That said, this doesn't mean that their presence everywhere is appropriate.

The main behavior I take issue with, and 18-wheelers are not the only ones that do it either, is "rat-running." This Wikipedia article describes what rat-running is. Basically, it's short-cutting through roads that aren't meant to handle large volumes of traffic. More to the point, it's shortcutting down roads which were designed specifically to be quiet and--paradoxical as it may seem (as these are roads, after all)--which were designed for residents who want as little traffic as possible so as to have a quiet, peaceful environment around them.

I learned of this while living in Tucson, AZ. At first I didn't see it that way myself; when I'd read articles about residents complaining of traffic on a certain road close to where they live, I thought they were being a hypocrite. I mean, gee whiz, Tucson was a city of 500,000 people, who were they to think their road was special? Why was it okay for the road near the mall to be packed with cars, but not the road near their house?

Over time, I came to see that I was wrong.

Different streets have different intended uses. A narrow 2-lane road, well away from the main streets, with speed-humps and houses lining the sides, has a far different intended usage than a wide 8-lane highway next to the mall and car dealerships. The latter is meant to handle large volumes of the traffic of the entire city as they commute to work and shop etc. The former is not. The former is designed for the residents living in the nearby houses to be able to walk-around, bicycle, jog, etc--without large volumes of cars polluting the environment. By pollution, I don't just mean fumes, but also noise and even just the irritation of cars being in the way.

What happens in "rat running" is that people use these residential roads in large numbers rather than using the main roads which were designed for heavy traffic-usage. In Tucson, this meant that work commuters would travel on these small, residential roads commuting to work. These small roads weren't intended for large volumes of commuters to use in that manner, and the residents of those roads were right to be upset at people using those roads instead of the 8-lane highways.

Around here, the common form this takes involves, often-times, 18-wheelers/tractor trailers. Rather than, say, taking a 4 lane state highway to go from the Interstate to the ultimate destination, they will instead take some narrow country-road--sometimes 1-lane roads--as a shortcut, often-times to avoid road tolls. These small roads were never designed for that volume of traffic, and in fact persons living on such roads often-times made the choice to live there specifically to avoid such large trucks to begin with.

In some communities, people have complained and laws have been passed forbidding 18-wheeler from being allowed on such narrow country roads. I support this. I get sick & tired of hearing the truckers whine about how they're not appreciated. Again, as annoying as 18-wheelers are, they are a necessity, and on major 4/6-lane state highways and the Interstate, so be it. But they have absolutely no business whatsover on narrow county roads. We're talking about places with no businesses, no employers, dotted with quaint farm houses--these are places people move to in order to get away from traffic, including 18-wheelers/tractor trailers.

In my opinion, it is amorale behavior for someone to shortcut through minor roads that they don't live on, especially when it's large numbers of persons doing this to save 2-tenths of a mile n their work commute, and then large 4-6 lane highways are readily available for them to use.

Think of it this way--you realize that loud shouting is inevitable at a rock concert. Would you appreciate someone doing this while you're researching in the library? Of course not. Same thing here. It's out-of-place and completely inappropriate--and downright immoral.


1Tractor Trailers Not Allowed in Left-Hand Lane, Source: Wral.Com
2Tractor-trailer Ban on Local Roads - New Jersey, Source: NewRules.Org
3Damage, danger spur possible Oglethorpe ban on tractor-trailers, Source: OnlineAthens.Com
4SAVE proposes truck ban on local roads, Source: Save41.Org
5State Funds to Pave Way for Truck Ban, Source: La Times
6Rules banning truck traffic on Central New York roadways move closer to being final, Source: Syracuse.Com

Monday, August 10, 2009

Legal Kidnapping: Passengers on Planes

I read this story today1, about passengers stuck on a plane for 6 hours, not allowed to leave. I have heard of a few such incidents the past few years, and I can only call it one thing--legal kidnapping.

I also imagine how I'd respond if I were in that situation. I tend to think that I'd respond along the lines of doing whatever I had to in order to leave the plane, even if it involved activities along the lines of a Chuck Norris fight scene (and I think anyone caught in this situation should do exactly that, although in all likelihood I probably would end up wussing out), because to me it is a clear case of kidnapping--yes, kidnapping--to not allow me to simply leave an airplane. Gee whiz, do these people think they own me?

I have heard that the laws, part of the Homeland Security Department regulations if I'm correct, are a large part of this. My response--I don't care. It matters not to me what the law is, and what the reasoning is (at least in principle), I don't care if it has anything to do with this whole post-9/11 paranoia sweeping across the country. (I need to do a blog entry about that very thing sometime.) It is totally a violation of my rights to make me stay on a plane that has landed on the ground. I don't care if the security screeners were not present, that's not my problem and it's not my fault.

My tendency, when I hear of these issues, is to say--if I were ever in that situation, then I'd do whatever I had to, even to the point of performing Chuck Norris-like karate moves on anyone, including air marshals if necessary, in order to not be a participant in what is, in my view, downright kidnapping. In fact, I think every person on a plane in this situation should do exactly that, if that's what it takes to protect one's right to freedom from improper (notice I didn't say unlawful) detainment.

Disclaimer: I am not an advocate of violence per se, at all, I am not at all saying every disagreement with someone in authority should be handled by acting like a Chuck Norris wanna-be. As a general rule, "play the game" as it were. It's just like with being pulled over for speeding--maybe you don't agree with that particular speed limit, but that situation is not the time to address it; just accept the ticket and do your advocating later. Same here, perhaps. But I do believe that, if a person is being kidnapped--and that's what I consider this to be--I think they're entitled to do whatever they have to do in order to no longer be under such improper detainment.

This site dedicates itself to the premise of flier's rights, and I myself strongly support them. This, also, is an issue where I (potentially) cross party lines--I don't care what the party affiliation is of a Senator that supports this, they are someone I'd vote for. Period.

This is just insane.

1Passengers Stranded on Flight, 08-10-2009, Source: Yahoo!
2Flyer's Rights, Founded by Kate Hanni
3Bill O'Reilly Clip About This Clip, Featuring Kate Hanni

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Texting/Writing: TOATLT (Tired of All The Lazy Typists)

This article1 highlights one of the petty/little things that annoy me--people that abbreviate excessively, especially in a manner similar to text-messages, even when the writing is more formal.

You know--LOL (laughing out loud), BFF (best friends forever), WRUD (what are you doing), blah blah blah.

You know what I call it? LTBLP (Lazy Typing By Lazy People).

What really irks me--frankly, I dislike seeing that even in text messages, but you see it everywhere, even in more formal writings, even in places where you're not limited to 140/160 characters. Letters, emails, online postings--some teachers have even reported seeing it littered all over the place in formal term papers.

Enough already.

Call me an old-fogie who "doesn't understand" or "is from the dark ages," but where I come from, you spell your words out. You do so because it makes you easier to understand, you're not placing a burden on your recipient to have to do any unnecessary work figuring out what you mean--and also, because it's just respectable, and juvenile to do otherwise.

One should take pride in knowing how to spell something correctly--that's what spelling bees are for, with children--and using proper grammar, etc. What is an education for, anyway? Why educate yourself to a collegiate level but then dumb yourself down to the level of a 3rd grader with your language & writing mannerisms?

I admit to being un-mainstream here. I spell out my words, even when text-messaging (granted, having a Palm Treo or Blackberry, with a full keyboard, makes it easier). I even capitalize the 1st word, I use the apostrophe, and I put a period/question mark etc at the end of my sentences. In other words:

Other people type: what r u doing 2day cant u cm ovr
I type: What are you doing today, can't you come over?

Yes, even in text messages, I do it like that, "all-the-way"--the first-word capitalized, the comma in-between, the ' in can't, and the question mark at the end. I do likewise with my emails--I receive emails all the time from people who abbreviate all over the place like that, never capitalize anything, mis-spell half their words, and they act like it doesn't matter a wit.

I think it's just plain lazy and tacky. I would never pick a fight or degrade someone over it, but I do think it's, at the least, sloppy and "dumbed-down" writing.

I do understand such things as, say, NASA, VCR, DVD, CD, A/C (for air conditioner), NASCAR, MSNBC, torn ACL (the common sports injury). I have no qualms with the use of acronyms with things of that nature. And don't even ask me what the heck "radar" means (radio detecting & ranging, maybe?). Those I understand, and use all the time myself.

But when someone says "My MIL [mother-in-law] came over and gave my DH [dear husband] a recipe for cake, and I shared it with my BFF [best friend forever] Pam," I'm sorry, I'm thinking--where do you work at, Irene's fish market? Did you not take any English and writing classes past the 3rd grade? Do you have any typing/word processing classes in your entire educational career? If you have, what was the point, if you're going to dumb-yourself down like that?

It makes me want to be an English teacher. I would immediately flunk any papers turned in written this way. Some teachers do this, and I applaud them. I know every student would call me an "old fogie from the 80s," so be it--but I believe in proper English, grammar, spelling, and yes--freedom from stupid acronyms like WRUD (what are you doing), especially in formal writing. Enough already. You're above the age of 7, talk like it, quit making yourself look dumb & lazy in your writing, it's undignified and unbecoming.

1Learning To Text. Source: Wall Street Journal

Why I Will (Likely) Never By an iPod/iPhone (Petty)

This is one of my "petty" posts, if you will (perhaps a refreshing change from the last post dealing with the Henry Louis Gates/Cambridge police department controversy).

Today's post deals with: why I, likely, will never buy an iPod or an iPhone.

Short answer: I hate anything proprietary, any attempts to cripple and/or dumb-down a product just for "coolness," and because better options exist and I don't care how un-hip it makes me look.

Don't get me wrong, I love modern technology toys. For the sake of clarity, for the sake of those that don't know--I do own an MP3 player. I do NOT own an iPod. What many don't realize is that iPod is a brand, it's not the type of product itself. In other words, iPod is to MP3 player as Pepsi is to cola.

I own an MP3 player, but it's not an iPod. It's actually a SanDisk (e280), to be exact. More on that in a bit.

I've owned PDA/Smartphones since January 2008, either a Palm Treo 650, 680, or a Blackberry Curve/8310 (as of this writing I'm using a Palm Treo 680 again after 7 months with the Blackberry). I text-message, email and browse websites everywhere I go with this thing, and it may be the coolest device ever. I embrace such toys.

But, unless something changes, I will never own the iPhone.

Let's revisit the iPod subject matter first.

I did briefly own an actual iPod, late 2008, bought it on eBay on the cheap, and in fact it was an older model (4th generation, circa 2004 if I recall). It barely worked at all, battery life was horrible and the battery needed replacing. I gave it to my best friend shortly after while visiting--I told him, it might work if someone fixes it for you, knock yourself out. (He had an old 4G Nano, this was a 40G model, so if he could get it going, it represented a 10x upgrade for him.)

If you know anything at all about iPods, you know the battery isn't user-replaceable. Also, you can't just "drag & drop" the songs on there, like you can with almost all other MP3 players, you have to use install Apple's iTunes to do so--and it's a huge, computer-hungry program. Not only that, the player goes out of its way to prevent you from restoring songs from the player to the computer again, so if your computer's hard drive goes toast, no dice with simply connecting the device to your fixed (or new) computer and restoring the songs device-to-PC. It won't let you.

Practically no other MP3 player, including the SanDisk e280 I own (and owned at the time, in fact), has any of these limitations. With my SanDisk e280, I can "drag and drop" the songs on there without the need for any bloated, computer-hungry software to be installed. I can backup from player to PC, too, it doesn't try & prevent me from doing this. If the battery stops recharging, I can buy a replacement on eBay for 10 bucks and swap it myself in 5 minutes, without having to do any fancy footwork--something that was not true with my iPod (and that's the case with ALL of them, in fact).

Much of the same goes with the iPhone--sort of a combination smartphone-iPod.

I almost got one back in Jan 2008, when I got my 1st smartphone (the Palm Treo 650). Why didn't I? No copy & paste. This is a glaring omission, only recently since fixed, for any smartphone device. I mean, gee whiz--you're basically talking about a pocket-sized PC (in fact, some of the first such device years ago were called that), and of all things to not have--copy & paste? Totally asinine. How stupid can you get?

Also, just as with the iPod, you can't change the battery yourself. It is, in fact, (as far as I know), the only cellular phone of any type--however fancy--that does not let you change the battery yourself. Any other cellular phone on the market, however cheap or expensive--if the battery stops working, you can buy a replacement on eBay for 5-10 bucks and you're back in business. No having to spend time migrating your contacts to a new phone or, depending on your service plan, having to sign 2 more years to your contract to replace it. Not so with the iPhone--you have to send it to Apple, wait, and pay about 100 bucks for the privelage. (Or, you could buy another one, which--some say--is Apple's thinking as to why the battery is sealed up.)

Am I the only one that finds this practice downright anti-competitive, and even borderline monopolistic in nature? As much as I am for a minimalist government in most cases, I think it perhaps should be required by law that all such devices allow the user to change the battery yourself. (In fact, the NY Consumer Protection Board addressed this sometime ago1). This should apply to all devices--MP3 players, phones, flashlights, watches, remote controls...

But then, have you noticed--all these devices are already that way.

That's my point, really--it amazes me that I can replace the battery in my 5 dollar watch I bought, encased in a cheap-skate blister-pack, at Family Dollar--even though I can't imagine anyone wanting to. I mean, gee whiz, you go buy another one for 5 bucks, spend (maybe) 1-2 minutes setting the time--you're golden.

I guarantee you it takes much more than 1-2 minutes to restore 5,000 songs to your new iPod (or any MP3 player), or migrate your contacts from one phone to another, and it sure costs a lot more to replace one than 5 bucks. But that's what you'd have to do if it was an Apple product & the battery quit on you.

It gets worse. Apple's new MacBook Air, a thin notebook PC (laptop), is a new, highly popular laptop and it is--you guessed it--the only laptop on the market that doesn't let you replace the battery yourself.

And just like with the iPhone and iPod, people are buying it like crazy--because it "looks cool."

No Apple products for me, no thank you. If I can't replace the battery myself, like I can my 5 dollar Family Dollar watch, I am not buying it--I don't care how it looks. I'm not that stupid.

1New York Complains to Apple About Battery Policy, Source: