Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nicer Racks!

New fifth rack with old design! All is good.

Courtesy: Brad Simeral

For those not following - Dr Shirley figured out that Caltrain could put in fullsized racks after all. Brad saw one Tuesday AM. My hope is that this is part of the rollout to all trains as I saw the original short rack this AM.

I also saw this.

The 2 bike cars sign. I am not sure if I would see this sign before I saw the 2nd mirror hanging off the actual 2nd bike car... too small and too low.

Thanks, Jabba

I commute on Central Expressway from Santa Clara to Mountain View most days. Central Expressway is a 55 MPH roadway for much of that distance, with restricted access (on and offramps) for a large portion of that route, with a few actual intersections.

Sounds scary, but I find Central to be a great commute route. The shoulder is very wide, and in practice the on/offramps are lightly used, the skill involved in managing passing them is not hard to acquire. A co-worker once saw me on Central Expressway and expressed amazement that I would take the risk of riding on Central. First, I asked if I should be afraid that he's going to hit me. Of course, everyone is a good driver - it's just the other people who are bad drivers.

I then pointed out that I am on the very wide shoulder away from the cars - he is in the travel lane mixing it up with those other people - the bad drivers. I'm more likely to die in a collision with a car, he is far more likely to be in a collision, and as a whole he is probably more likely to die on Central than I am.

Anywho - yesterday I ran into (not literally) not only a bad driver, but a malicious one. At Mary, if the traffic light is red, I cross 2 lanes of thru traffic to get to the left turn lane onto Mary. This is a pretty simple maneuver - since the thru traffic light is red, traffic is slowing and I can negotiate across traffic. I signalled, the car approaching me from the rear slowed, I began to merge into the rightmost lane.

He sped up.

I veered back onto the shoulder, he slowed down. I signalled again and tried to make eye contact. He was looking at me, I began to merge across.

He sped up again. This time he started frantically waving his finger at nothing in particular as far as I could tell. I backed off and went around him.

The light being red, I had the opportunity to come up along his left side and give him the big "What the hell are you doing?" He rolled down his window with his finger still wagging incoherently, and he yelled "You are going to get yourself killed! Use the crosswalk".

I said, "Thanks Jabba, but crosswalks are for pedestrians, this is a vehicle, and for me to cross that crosswalk that direction would be of questionable legality. And you're gonna get yourself killed by being such a fat (expletive deleted)"

I've been trying to be more calm in my interactions with drivers, but this wasn't a stupid driver, this was a malicious one.

I did miss my chance to use a famous line I heard on a poker table once back in the bad old days. A very large patron had just put a bad beat on one of his opponents, and the beatee exclaimed "YOU SIR, HAVE EATEN A LOT OF BIG MACS". I need to remember to keep that one in the front of the insult rolodex.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rachel Maddow shoots an airball...

Maddow - doesn't own a TV and is not an obvious sports fan, decided today to do a bit on the final four, poking fun at Obama only getting one of the final four teams.

Blah blah blah.

Finally she gets to her picks, and says she really can't brag, she didn't get any right. Of course, this is in large part because she picked Gonzaga, and she just did that because she likes saying "Gonzaga".

Unfortunately, she pronouced it Gone-Zog-uh. It's pronounced Gon-Zag-ah.

It's one thing if she mispronounces Gonzaga, not so big a deal - unless your whole joke is about saying Gonzaga!

When you throw in a 5 minute bit on something that isn't your forte, have someone proofread your punchline Rachel.

The Google Bus (or Apple Bus, Paypal bus, etc...)

There is a little kerfluffle in Noe Valley over The Google Bus - of course it is pointed out in this blog entry that the bus that has everyone in a tizzy is actually an "Apple Bus".

For those of you not denizens of the Valley (Silicon or Noe), the "Google Bus" is a company shuttle run by Google, which magically transports their employees from some location, to work, and back. One of the primary hotspots for the Google Bus is Noe Valley, favored locale of infants, dogs, and Googlers who are not defiling the Mission instead.

The NIMBY's don't want this horrendous shuttle in their neighborhood. One could argue that perhaps what they don't want in their neighborhood is the Trendy Google Professionals. This of course doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense, most of the people complaining are homeowners and carowners. The TGP's are keeping their housing values up and by taking the shuttles are reducing traffic and in most cases simplifying parking in the neighborhood by not owning cars. And frankly if cranks are not homeowners or carowners, they are probably waiters or dogwalkers or nannies and they really shouldn't be chasing their patrons out of the neighborhood.

The issue. The buses are pretty big. Perhaps a tad bigger than a MUNI bus. But they run for a very short period in the AM and PM, and take a buttload of traffic off the streets. They do - or do not - take the same route as the 24 bus. If the do not - and this is deemed to be a problem, all that they need to do is talk to Google/Apple/whomever. Earlier they were idling on Jersey St, a small residential street. The NIMBY's decided to "Take it to the Man" and surprisingly - "The Man" said "Wow, that would really suck to have that big bus on your narrow street - we won't idle the bus there anymore!" This of course displeased the cranks who apparently were not actually trying to get the bus off of Jersey - they were trying to get the bus to vanish into thin air, and their bluff got called. Doh!

There is some complaint about the bus using Sanchez instead of Noe St (this sort of makes sense to me as Noe has a huge hill, but I digress). See, the Sanchez Street people say "If I wanted to hear 6 huge buses per day go past my house, I would have slummed it up and bought on Noe St!" If this were an actual actionable complaint - it's pretty certain Apple/Google/whomever would just tell Bauer to re-route their behemoths - problem solved.

I mean, I don't get it. If Menlo Park keeps the HSR out of their neighborhood, they do the region a huge disservice, but they get some marginal localized benefit. The shuttles do the region a huge service... and they do the neighborhood a huge service. These guys are just being cranks for the sake of being cranks.

I happen to not be able to take one of these lovely shuttles, thus I spend a lot of time grousing about getting my bike on the Caltrain. But I do ride bikes with some of the gentry who do get to ride these shuttles. We were discussing this issue and the following point counterpoint came up that I found very amusing....

We can form an automobile based critical mass in Noe Valley. Everyone that
usually takes shuttles can whip out their cars for one specific morning and
we'll demonstrate how an extra N cars on 24th st. can negatively impact the


Yeah! Stick it to the NIMBY MAN!

sure... if i had a driver's license and a car.


Doh! Stick it to the nimby man FAIL.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trader Joe's vs Whole Foods

Aside from my minor distaste for Trader Joe's after I was ruthlessly attacked by one of their biodegradable balloons, I have always found the place a bit disconcerting.

Avocados must be purchased four at a time, not yet ripe, in a plastic scrubber bag. Generally when I want an avocado, I want one, and I want to use it that day. The one time I brought Avocados there, I ended up going to Bell to get a ripe one and the four from TJ's ended up in the compost bin. TJ's frozen food section sort of feels like they raided Costco and put hippie labels on the bags. Products of dubious unknown origin. Cheap, yes, but I don't get how they've managed to build this brand as if they were, well, Holier than Whole Foods.

All of their veggies are packaged on a styrofoam bedding and wrapped in copious layers of plastic. The organic dairy is just as likely to be from Vermont as Sonoma County. Yet somehow TJ's is universally seen as a pretty responsible place and Whole Foods is the land of the overprivileged yuppie who goes there to spend their Whole Paycheck. The only actual super green thing about TJ's is that they have a raffle for $25 if you bring your own bags. This isn't even as much of a pinch as DeLano's probably eats up giving 5 cent credits to bring your own baggers.

I really like Whole Foods. I don't necessarily like my wife going there, where she focuses on prepared foods that are certainly tasty but definitely the high margin items in the store. I prefer to stick to the damn good produce then spend a lot of time in the very reasonable bulk sections. I'll pay for good produce and I can put it in my own bags instead of piling on the styrofoam. I can get Clover-Stornetta Organic Milk instead of TJ's random milk. Does TJ's share a "dubious origins factory" which Kirkland?

Apparently I'm not alone. The Thin Green Line blog in the Chronicle takes on TJ's this week, and echoes some of my disbelief.

They have an interesting link about Whole Foods trying to educate consumers how to shop there for less money. The money quote?

"They need to reorient people to the center of the store, where there are things like ingredients. But ingredients are foreign objects to shoppers and ingredients have not been where Whole Foods have made their money. - Pam Murtaugh"

It is after all "Whole Foods" - not McDonalds. Sounds like Pam Murtaugh knows my wife.

What do you think? Whole Foods or TJ's?



True sign of the apocalypse


Flickr image by Rat Fink

Hoarding so much crap he can't fit his car in the garage, but can't stomach looking for parking, so he's "extended" his garage by creating a portal that his car fits through but won't allow anyone to sneak in and grab his crap. Then the garage door comes down when he leaves.

At least that's my guess.

If you need the car that bad and you hate looking for parking, get rid of the crap. If you really need the crap, get rid of the car. Preferred option - get rid of both.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bumped again.

Our company has 32 bike lockers. Sort of like Caltrain has 32 slots per train.

Today, I got bumped!

Oh the indignity of the bike racks in the garage!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jake DeSantis of AIG resigns in the Times.

Jake DeSantis, an executive of AIG has resigned from his job. Now the company will probably never get out of the rut, without his expertise.

I take a lot of issue with Mr. DeSantis' rant.

"I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G."

Ah yes, the old "I got laid off/bonus cut/whatever because the other people in my company sucked" line. At Digital Equipment I heard this all the time. "My division made money". Of course it did. The problem is the group that builds the buildings, the security guys, paying for the lights, anything overhead - loses money. It's up to the divisions that make money to make enough money to offset what the parts of the company that aren't revenue producers spend. In the case of Digital, there were two or three groups making essentially the same product. All were profitable, but the sum profit of the three was not enough to pay the overhead. Combined, the same product line made by one group, and maybe you can pay the bills. In the case of DEC it was too little too late.

Anywho, AIG. This one to me is a little complex. He was working for the commodity and equity divisions and bringing money into the company - quote - "a couple of years before A.I.G.’s meltdown last September, was named the head of business development for commodities. Over this period the equity and commodity units were consistently profitable — in most years generating net profits of well over $100 million."

Nicely done. He made hundreds of millions of dollars in commodity an equities in a time when stocks were in the middle of a bull market, and while Oil was going to $150 per barell. Basic commodities - metals, food, you name it, all going up. Why? Because of the massive injection of cash into the economy fueled by debt procured in the housing market, backed by credit default swaps.

OK, I'm not an economist, but that's my take. His division made a shitload of money at a time when there was free money being printed because of what was going on in other divisions. But aside from that - his division is SUPPOSED to make money. Just because they made money doesn't make him a rocket scientist. If they made more money than if they had hired someone else to do the job, maybe I'd clap. Of course this is pretty hard to measure.

"Quote" - I can't pick a quote regarding his outrage of being "cheated of our payments". Retention bonus? If these guys can quit on a whim and return the bonus to show the high road, then they aren't effective retention bonuses. These guys have been overpaid from the start, so you can't retain the good people not because other companies are trying to steal them away, but because after a couple of years they don't need the job anymore.

Sure, they make a lot of money for their companies - that is THEIR JOB. I'm not saying they've rooked the taxpayers - they've rooked the SHAREHOLDERS. AIG stock is in the tank. BofA. Goldman. etc... In large part because these guys were overpaid compared to their marginal return to the company compared to other employees that could be hired to do the same job. If one guy makes $100 million for the company and you pay him $50 million, he is not as valuable as a guy who makes $51 million for the company whom you pay $200,000. Thing is, nobody in the company wants to set the trend of lower salaries. Golden rule - the guy with the gold makes the rules. The shareholders? Large mutual funds. Even though Joe Schmoe really "owns" the shares, the mutual funds vote the shares, and those guys work in the same industry and it's to their benefit to match the salary trends.

I don't feel sorry one whit for this guy. I feel sorry for guys at ATI. They made some damn good graphics processors. They were making money, their stock was going up. Then they got bought by AMD, and AMD turned into a boat anchor. Now ATI has to suffer layoffs and paycuts because of AMD's CPU division. This isn't the same as my Digital example, ATI was a well managed company with good products that now has to share the suffering of a really poorly managed company with bad products.And guess what. The government is not bailing them out.

Jake - you picked a bad company. Your company went into the dumper. When your company is going bankrupt, they can't pay you. A white knight comes in to save the company's ass, the white knight gets to make the rules. That happens everywhere in the private sector. Somehow AIG managed to effectively be in the public sector by making its survival indispensible to the general economy, but at some point it doesn't matter - the white knight makes the rules.

The AIG employees that aren't capable of just retiring will stay on. Those that quit can easily be replaced. These guys cooked their golden goose. They got too greedy and now instead of setting their own pay, the peasants get to set their pay. There will be PLENTY of talented people who can do this job for a much lower salary. Maybe AIG can hire the folks from ATI - Graphic Processor Design is a hell of a lot more complicated than "Buy Low, Sell High".


Monday, March 23, 2009

Sue Lempert Speaks

I don't know quite how to read this one.

"Mark Simon, former San Francisco Chronicle columnist, and now the special
assistant to the executive director at Caltrain/SamTrans, was the
liaison between the JPB and the cycling advocates. Mark has been an
organizer of the Tour de Peninsula, a charity bicycle ride, and has
good relations with the cycling community."

Hmm... that's an interesting way to put it. Last time I heard someone describe Mark Simon of Caltrain it went like this "He is the Special Assistant in Charge of Getting People to Buzz Off, Especially Cyclists".


The bike lobby
They may not have an expensive office on K street in Sacramento and
they are not known for their generous campaign contributions, but the
bicycle lobby is one of the best organized and most effective locally,
regionally and in the state. CalTrans now has a full-time bicycle
expert in many of its regional offices; the Metropolitan
Transportation Commission has one to handle bicycle issues in the nine
Bay Area counties and most cities in San Mateo County have a bicycle
pedestrian advisory committee in addition to the county=92s bike
As cyclists gain political clout they have become less
confrontational, as in the disruptive Critical Mass rides during
Friday evening commutes, and are more willing to work with the
authorities to accomplish their goals. What they lack in dollar power
they make up in people power. And the cyclists are smart and in vogue
as more people turn to two wheels to commute to work, to stay fit and
to drive less.
Peninsula cyclists won a major victory when they convinced Caltrain
that more space was needed on trains for bicycles and bumping cyclists
was no longer tolerable. The cyclists wrote letters, many of them
printed in the Daily Journal, sent voluminous e-mails to Caltrain
elected officials and staff and turned up at meetings of the Joint
Powers Board (the three-county board which runs Caltrain) to make
their case. They took time off from work to present a well-researched
and well-presented argument for allowing more bikes on trains. Bike
riders make up 2,400 of Caltrain customers each day out of a total
ridership estimated at 41,000. They are extremely loyal customers and
Caltrain was smart to meet them half way.
By mid-spring, bike capacity on the trains will increase by 27
percent. Gallery train sets will increase to 40 slots (versus the
current 32) and Bombardier trains will have 24 bike spaces (versus the
current 16). Of course, cyclists wanted more but this is a good first
step. Caltrain will have to find $200,000 to remove seats from
existing cars and install new bike racks. The staff also committed to
assign two bike cars to peak-period trains as operations allow.
Caltrain was a pioneer in allowing trains on board in 1992. Mark
Simon, former San Francisco Chronicle columnist, and now the special
assistant to the executive director at Caltrain/SamTrans, was the
liaison between the JPB and the cycling advocates. Mark has been an
organizer of the Tour de Peninsula, a charity bicycle ride, and has
good relations with the cycling community. But the major credit goes
to CEO Mike Scanlon who is a tough executive but knows how to listen
and when to be flexible.

Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday.
She can be reached at sue@smdailyjournal.com

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Caltrain buckles under intense scrutiny from cyclists

Caltrain has lost their way and implemented a low tech solution.

Per 295bus Caltrain has put a sign on the front cabs of trainsets with 2 bike cars. Passengers have only been recommending this for oh say, 5-6 years. Of course this was probably an expensive implementation and Caltrain had to apply for a grant.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cyclists and Road taxes

from the San Mateo Daily Journal

> Published Tuesday, March 17, 2009, by the San Mateo Daily Journal
> Letters to the Editor
> Common sense on the roads
> I agree the roads should be for all but I have to register my cars for the
> privilege to use the roads. I think in this era of no money for various city
> and county projects, all bicyclists should pay at least $25 a year to register
> their bikes -- they use the roads -- they should pay.
> I would like to see more cyclists obey traffic rules -- stopping at red lights
> and stop signs, watching out for pedestrians and not riding two or three
> abreast on a two lane street, which makes the cars go into the wrong lane to
> pass them. So we should be courteous of one another, use common sense and we
> should all pay to use the streets.
> Bill Hogan
> Newark

Why is it that "common sense" seems to be "nonsense" so frequently these days.

This has been discussed ad naseum elsewhere but I'll repeat.

Cyclists already contribute their fair share

$25 per year huh? To pay for our usage of the road. I assume Bill thinks that we can then use this money to build some bike lanes or something. In practice, it would cost this much money just to initiate and run the program, leaving little to no money for road improvements. So he's not really asking the cyclists to pay their fair share and rescue the city and county budgets - really it appears he is just trying to put an impediment in front of cyclists. And given that I am a resident of San Francisco - currently prevented from any improvements for cyclists, I would *really* be pissed to pay a fee to make improvements that won't happen because they are prohibited.

Can I assume that once I start paying my fair share, I can bike to work on US-101? Or would that still be verboten?

What's amusing is that Bill Hogan is probably some right wing nut case that complains about how Obama is going to tax us all in some giant money grab, yet he favors this tax.

UPDATE: Pat Giorni responds the next day.

No registration needed for bicyclists


It is the right of anyone in this country to buy a motor vehicle, but to become a licensed driver is a benefit and not an entitlement to operate it on a public thoroughfare. It is indeed a privilege to drive a motor vehicle.

Registration fees are an enforcement tool to ensure vehicles are in legal operational condition with horns, headlights, turn signals and brakes in good working order, along with emissions standards compliance. Bicyclists and pedestrians do not present the lethal possibilities of the operation of motor vehicles, but they are also bound by regulations that are designed to make the streets safer for all users.

That pedestrians jaywalk and cyclists fail to stop at red lights are enforcement issues whereby I agree that citations should be issued. We are all bound by the rules of the road.

Paid registration of bicycles is discriminatory if all other forms of non-motorized transportation is not subject to the same requirement. What next, wheelchairs, baby strollers, shoe-leather?

Pat Giorni


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St Patrick's Day

Rob Anderson gets it wrong again

At 12:12 PM, Rob Anderson said...
So why aren't more black people riding bikes?

AIG - r00ling angle shot attempt by Freshman Congressman Gary Peters

From Daily Kos

Congressman Peters’ bill would create a 60 percent surtax on bonuses over $10,000 to any company in which the U.S. government has a 79 percent or greater equity stake in the company. Currently, AIG is the only company that meets this threshold. The 60 percent surtax would be added to the normal income tax rate, meaning that bonuses received this year by AIG executives paying the top 35 percent tax rate would be taxed at 95 percent. The remaining 5 percent would likely be paid in state and local taxes, so taxpayers would fully recover any AIG bonuses paid in 2009.

Fine - go ahead and pay the bonuses. We'll just take it back April 15. Amusing.

I'm guessing David Patterson loves this idea, it would be an extra $5M or so to New York...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cyclist shot by paintball on Mines Road - perps arrested

Reprinted from Cycletrons mailing list without permission, I am trying
to figure out contact information. OK, that's a total copout but this
mail has gone viral, I'm a publicity whore, and this is a pretty good story.

If I have it right the Cycletrons are guys who work at Lawrence Livermore
and do some solid hardmen rides at lunch. LLNL is in some great cycling
terrain which includes Mines Road. Mines Road, as Patrick indicates, has
one way in and not many ways out - if you don't want to go back through
Livermore, you have to go to Patterson or San Jose - 45 twisty miles or so
later. Not the best place to go postal if you don't want to get caught.

Yesterday evening (about 5:30 pm), while cycling up Mines road just
south of Tesla Rd I was shot (with paint gun) by a passing vehicle. At
first I thought it might have been a badly timed rock coming off the
vehicle, then I felt the burning sensation, then noticed passengers in
he passing white mustang pop their heads back up from the back seat
and realized I'd been shot. I wasn't sure if it was a pellet gun or bb
gun. I immediately flagged down the next vehicle and asked if they
could get the license number of the vehicle but the mustang had
already gone to warp speed so the chances were slim. I did not have my
phone. A few minutes later, when the shock wore off, I realized the
weapon was most likely a paint gun (sound was familiar from my one
experience with that 'sport'). Fortunately it only grazed my back and
was not a direct hit (no paint).
This kind of e-mail usually ends with 'be on the lookout for...'

....not this time!

Remember, I was going south on Mines. There are not too many escape
routes for the average vehicle.

I continued on my ride eventually arriving at the Del Valle kiosk.
Did you see a white mustang come though here in the last half hour
I asked the attendant. sure did was his reply.

That's when the story turns to the cyclist favor.

Three troupers, a bunch of park rangers, and a patrol helicopter
narrowed the search quickly.

They found the teenagers (white mustang and friends in white pickup) on
the southwest end of the lake, took significant video footage of them
from the air engaging a number of activities to warrant trouble in
court, surrounded them and placed them under arrest in the middle of
the grass field in their wet clothing on a cold evening extracting a
full confession.

Turns out at least one of the teenagers actually lives on Collier
Canyon Rd. He asked the officer if he could apologize to me in person.
When he did, I shared with him that I have kids his age and I tried to
get him to visualize what he would do if one of my kids had shot his
mom or dad while they were out riding their bike trying to stay in

My hope is that this experience for this group of teenagers serves to
at least reduce the number of aggressive vehicles out there by one
white mustang and one extended cab white pickup, especially in the area
of Collier Canyon and Del Valle/Mines Rd.

-Patrick Dempsey

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Home Gardening Boom

I'm up at Healdsburg today, and in between gardneing stints I ran across this article - Dollars from dirt: Economy spurs home garden boom

"People's home grocery budget got absolutely shredded and now we've seen just this dramatic increase in the demand for our vegetable seeds. We're selling out," said George Ball, CEO of Burpee Seeds, the largest mail-order seed company in the U.S. "I've never seen anything like it."

I'm certainly one of the Johnny come latelies in this regard - of course we just got our plot here in Healdsburg this year and the raised beds and fruit trees that come with it. But now I've extended this to growing cilantro, dill, and arugula in our yard and patio in SF. I got sick of buying huge bunches of Cilantro for two-three bucks to use a couple of sprigs, and then send the rest off to compost, instead of picking what I need grown from a penny or two of seeds. While I read a lot of info about things you "must do" to get this stuff right, even screwing things up a bit you can get some production.

Off to the garden. Today - after some serious weeding and cutting back the remains of November's planting, I'll be putting in some carrots, cilantro, and dill. Maybe some more after a trip to the Healdsburg Nursery - one of my favorite places on earth.

Scoreboard from November. Everything grew like crazy in January when it was so hot, and crops that were supposed to be coming out now, are bolted and gone. We did get 2 arugula harvests by January, but it was bolted and I cut it all the way back. Between then (mid Jan) and now, the cut back arugula grew back so fast it is going to seed again. I left one plant the finish seeding in hopes it will re-seed, of course the plants I cut back may come back AGAIN. Arugula is like a weed!

We harvested some great mixed lettuces last night. The spinach we harvested in January grew back beyond usefulness. The Broccoli probably hit perfection in late February but was now in flower completely! Doh. We have 3-4 cabbages to harvest now and I'll make some coleslaw. And the parseley and Oregano plants are in perfect condition right now and I'll be harvesting them by cutting them back so we can make something using them this week.

Even a hack like me can have fun with this stuff, and save a few bucks if you have the place to plant. For herbs like cilantro this could even be your windowsill.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fixes proposed for Bike Commuter Benefit

Per Bike Portland

According to a one-pager about the new resolution, Blumenauer’s office says that the language to allow combining of transit and bike benefits is needed because many commuters “use multiple forms of transportation in their journeys,” and that, by allowing employees to choose only one commuter benefit to use, “the program does not currently recognize these realities.”

Sneaking in this low snark post in tribute to the following tweet.

from Cyclelicious

I'm starting to get nasty again in my blog and email discussions. Time to relax, chill, and go for a bike ride.
about 1 hour ago from web

Thursday, March 12, 2009

OH NOES! Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris are going to surround me FRIDAY.

As I post this, it is sixteen hours, 4 minutes, and 7 seconds until I and the rest of the liberal fools will be SURROUNDED by Glenn Beck! Run and Hide!

This is rich.

"Do you believe that your voice isn’t loud enough to be heard above the noise anymore?" - god knows they are trying. Beck may not be blessed with a lot of intelligence but he is blessed with some major shouting pipes (and there is always the possibilty he is meta-intelligent, acting dumb to make a crapload of money from morons).

Anyway, we are about to be surrounded apparently. It's unclear exactly what that means, but if it is a literal interpretation then we might be ok, in that Obama won by six percentage points or so.

Beck has nine overriding principles for a good surrounder.

It's great stuff...

1. America is good.

OK, pretty much anyone can get on this bandwagon. For a long time the wingnuts tried to hijack the name of the country. Now, they LOST THE ELECTION in a landslide, but somehow the majority of Americans, who voted for the side that won, believe that America is bad. Seems to me that the wingnuts are the ones that think America is bad - because it elected a President they don't like. Newsflash - America is a Democracy and the fact that sometimes you don't win means that America is in fact good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

I was raised Catholic. No priest ever molested me and my experience was pretty darn good. I benefitted a lot from listening to parables, it's made me a better person.
I also agree with Bill Maher that a great percentage of the really bad things that have happened in the world have happened due to organized religion, and that a lot of bible thumpers seem to have misread the majority of the Ten Commandments, so I don't appreciate them co-opting religion in order to spread fear and hatred. My belief runs on this line - a just God could care less about if you have faith, and cares very deeply how you treat others. Reciting a stack of psalms at the pearly gates shouldn't get you any extra credit.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

I guess we don't have to worry about Dick Cheney SURROUNDING US.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

Or Rudy Guiliani. Or David Vitter. Or Larry Craig. Rush Limbaugh has been divorced twice.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

"Rush Limbaugh was singled out for prosecution because of who he is. We believe the state attorney's office is applying a double standard."

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

Especially if you are blue-collar but continue to vote against your own self-interests, or you are super-rich and can convince a bunch of wingnut blue-collar racists to vote against their own self-interests.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

Can I stop sharing any of my taxes with Caltrans?

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

Unless your opinion is that of a Democrat apparently. Or you participate in Critical Mass.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

This I agree with. At least since Jan 20, 2009.

nVidia making push for cycling commuters

My company, nVidia, has an initiative called "Visualize Green" going and solicits ideas from employees for green ideas - especially those that can save money. I just got an email with several suggestions for employees to this effect. It includes things like a "WattStopper" plug that you plug into your powerstrip and plug anything that isn't "fulltime on" - lamps, monitors, etc... into that and it will turn off if there is no sensor. I got an "A" grade for carrying around my own cup for the water fountain, I'm giving myself an "F" for not always taking a break and eating in the cafeteria, thus taking a compostable (which degrade, but nVidia is still trying to develop a program where we divert this stuff to compost) container instead of using a reusable ceramic plate. Good for my mind, environment, and the company's bottom line (of course we can then get into the endless debate on water use, but I digress). I get an "A+" in that I have never driven to work.

Anyway, I then wandered over to our "Visualize Green" website to check out the "In Action" intiatives started from employee ideas, and found this one...

Develop SAFE bike route from CalTrain station to Santa Clara offices
CalTrain goes right by our Santa Clara office, but getting from the train to the office (about a 2.2-mile ride) on a bike is a death-defying experience. The shuttle service is too infrequent to be practical, such as when working late. The bike route up Kifer Rd and up Walsh, is totally un-safe. There is no bike lane, despte the fact that Kifer /Walsh is very wide (5 lanes with raised sidewalks on both sides -- see google street view), and there is plenty of room for an ample bike path. Nvidia should petition the Santa Clara government, and offer to sponsor creation of a bike lane on Kifer / Walsh. Perhaps Intel could be persuaded to contribute, since it also has offices along the route.

Jenga! Corporate push for better cycling infrastructure! Very nice. While I don't really consider this chunk of road as "death-defying" (it definitely is not "Where I will get run over") there is no legitimate need for two lanes in each direction plus a middle turn lane. Sunnyvale modified a similar stretch of road on Evelyn, surely Santa Clara can do the same here.

Pretty cool. nVidia has a lot of bike commuters, and is fairly supportive (bike lockers, showers/etc...), for a company in a location that is regarded as somewhat bike scary (about half the time my entire commute route from work to train station is on roads with 55 MPH speed limits, San Tomas and Central expressways. I like those roads but it's not for everyone).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

From the "Duh" column...

From the Golden Gate Transit Website

Gas Prices and Bus Ridership

The correlation between gas prices and bus ridership is evident when comparing the change in ridership from this Fiscal Year 2008 to Fiscal Year 2007 (Column D) and the change in gas prices from the current month to previous month (Column G). Looking at those two columns, when gas prices go down, bus ridership goes down and when gas prices go up, bus ridership goes up (with exceptions: February, September and October 2008 when gas prices decreased and ridership increased).

Click the link to see the data.

The data is a little tricky to mine. The best comparison for ridership data is against the previous year at the same period in order to remove seasonal effects. But the data comparison they chose shows situations where "Gas prices decreased but ridership increased". They don't draw any conclusions, but since I am so smart I will.

Once gas prices increase above some pain threshold, a decrease in gas prices can still leave the gas price above the pain threshold. Of course, that doesn't explain why the riders weren't there the month before when the price first went over the pain threshold. I believe the answer is simply that for those who require a decent amount of pain in their wallet to switch from driving to transit - it takes a little bit of time and research to figure out the alternative solution.

The Sept 2008 data shows not only a 10% year on year gain, but also a 4.5% month to month gain, while in Sept 2007 there was a month to month net decrease. Sept 2008 was a good month for attracting new transit! This is despite the fact that gas prices were dropping! I posit that this is because prices were still almost four dollars, and by now the population had been dealing with such prices for four months or so, and the pain was starting to hit home. GG Transit attracted all sorts of new riders who finally got off their butts and figured out how this "bus thing" worked. I can confirm this anecdotally, I was occasionally taking the bus from Santa Rosa to SF in this time frame and the buses were packed, the park and ride lots were overflowing, and the riders waiting for the bus talked nothing but gas prices.

Notice that in November 2008 gas prices - and ridership - dropped dramatically. The column they hightlight shows it 5% less than Nov 2007. Again, I think it's more important to look at it differently. From October 2008 to Nov 2008, ridership dropped 17 percent. This could of course be seasonal, which is why they look at data compared with the same month in a prior year. But we can get some really useful data if we compare the deltas - the Oct-Nov delta for 2007 to the Oct-Nov delta for 2008. In 2007, this drop was 7.4%, but it was 17% in 2008.

There are a couple of potential factors here. First, Gas prices dropped with the economy, less people working, less people commuting in any form. Secondly, while there is a barrier to switching from driving to transit that slows the rise of transit usage when prices go up, this barrier does not exist when switching back to driving from transit (unless you sold you car I guess). Gas prices dropped, the bus started to seem less attractive.

The most interesting conclusion to try to draw is if - factoring out gas price increases and economic contraction - transit ridership is increasing in general. After the prices dropped and it all washed out - will public transit keep some of the riders that it attracted when it was more compelling from a financial standpoint?
Time will tell...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Vilsack recommends more pixie fairy dust to solve our problems

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack - the former Governor of Iowa has a great idea - the government should move quickly to increase the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline.

Ah yes. The Ethanol Fallacy - most popular in heavy corn producing states - say for example... Iowa. Friggin Hawkeyes. Of course they grow a little corn down in Champaign-Urbana too. My father in law is from "downstate" and has given me a pretty good view on how much ethanol has meant to corn farmers in the midwest. Hint... "a lot". And who is from downstate Illinois? Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Double Ethanol Whammy.

But it's not doing us any good. It feels good, but it's not.

Key quotes from the Popular Mechanics Op-Ed linked to above...

"Let’s start with the math. Corn doesn’t grow like a weed. Modern corn farming involves heavy inputs of nitrogen fertilizer (made with natural gas), applications of herbicides and other chemicals (made mostly from oil), heavy machinery (which runs on diesel) and transportation (diesel again). Converting the corn into fuel requires still more energy."

“Today, 1 Btu of fossil energy consumed in producing and delivering corn ethanol results in 1.3 Btu of usable energy in your fuel tank. Even that modest payback may be overstated. Skeptics cite the research of Cornell Uni¬versity professor David Pimentel, who estimates that it takes approximately 1.3 gal. of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol."

"If the benefits are in doubt, the costs are not. It would take 450 pounds of corn to yield enough ethanol to fill the tank of an SUV. Producing enough ethanol to replace America’s imported oil alone would require putting nearly 900 million acres under cultivation—or roughly 95 percent of the active farmland in the country. Once we’ve turned our farms into filling stations, where will the food come from?"

Before I really get on my high horse about my former brethren in the midwest... the AP article continues... "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she also supports raising the cap after a separate speech to the group."


If the Obama administration allows us to go further down this dead end I'll be very disappointed and will await Vilsack to use his moxie to keep the Ag Subsidies afloat as well. Ugh.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Speaking of reckless cyclists...

How timely in lieu of my last post, that Comcast catches this idiot on tape.

Crazy cyclist. That seat is at least an inch too low.

I will not apologize for reckless cyclists

Update - good comment on the NY Times article from Richard Masoner via SFBike Listserv.

Seriously, when's the last time there was a 2300 word article in a
major paper exhorting drivers to drive lawfully? When's the last time
you saw a letter to the editor demanding that motoring advocacy groups
control their membership's behavior?

And what's with this bicycling author castigating cyclists based on
how they DRESS?

Richard Masoner
Katherine Roberts forwarded this article from the New York Times to the SF Bike Coalition list serv. It's an article from a daily NY bike commuter getting on his apologist shoes complaining that cyclists who cause whatever form of havoc are hurting the cause.

Actually, she posted a direct link to the comments and said "Have at 'em".

The comments sections of newspapers and blogs is of course where the "real battleground" is of course, whether on NY Times, on SFGate, or the ever popular Morgan Hill Times. In that last instance the anti-bike folk jumped down the throat of cyclists who "jumped to the conclusion" that Rita Campos was at fault. Campos was then charged with manslaughter which was not surprising, the aforementioned cyclists didn't have a hard time sleuthing with their knowledge of the area and a quick peek at Google street view to ascertain the chain of events (Note: I fully realize that Campos was negligent - not malicious - but I have a pretty dim viewpoint on negligence when it results in a fatality.)

The first comment in the article on the manslaughter charge?

I drive Uvas road quite a bit. It is narrow, curvy, many blind spots, and very little room for a bicyclist to ride. Why someone on a bike would risk their lives on this road is beyond me. Many bicyclists I encounter are also riding side by side which further complicates the problem. Talk about a dangerous activity! I read the comments of these bikers and they always bring up the fact that they have equal rights to the road. They may be right. Unfortunately, like Mr. Finch, they are "dead" right. There are many roads in this area that are safe to ride on. Uvas is definitely not one of them.

Even with a charge in place, the victim is blamed, much like what happened with Gough and Peterson.

Anywho - here's my thought on the NY Times article. The author has fallen prey, and this is easy to do, to apologizing for his perfectly legal behavior. What? Isn't he apologizing for the behavior of miscreant cyclists and urging them to shape up their act? Not in my opinion. My opinion - the fact he apologizes legitimizes the opinion that riding a bike to get from point A to point B - period - is an abnormal behavior that requires the participant to genuflect at the knee of the "normal people" who are at best tolerating his anti-social behavior.

STOP APOLOGIZING. Who cares if there is some helmetless hipster running lights as he whizzes across the Mission. This isn't your problem. Worry about your own riding. And one of the best things you can do is to not fan the flames of passion in the anti-cyclist crowd - you are giving them a platform to spew their crap. Ignore them and their platform disappears.

I'm only slowly learning this lesson myself given my addiction for trying to pick on Rob Anderson. He's impossible to back into a corner because he just redefines the corner. The only way Rob can be tweaked is by turning him int an apologist himself - by calling him a racist for example. Or to just say "You are probably right Rob, but I'm a selfish prick and I want the damn bike lanes and we're going to get them, and while you've done a fine job of being an obstructionist, your time is almost up".

I am doing a pretty good job on my resolution to not lash back on SFist, let alone the cesspool that is SFGate. There's a lot of noise there, but it's just like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News - it doesn't matter how loud they yell - yelling isn't votes and the Democrats won the election.

And in person? My tactic with anti-bike people is to put them on the defensive with the absurd. "These cyclists get in the way of traffic". Answer? "Well, do you run them over?". "No". "Why not? They got in your way, get them out of your way - run them over". 75% of the time the angry cretin starts to shift and look very uncomfortable, this was not the fight they were trying to pick.

Friday, March 6, 2009

HSR NIMBY's in Palo Alto

The California High Speed Rail project, given a green light by voters in California in November. If this thing actually gets built, it will run from LA to "the Bay Area". I say that because I'm getting pretty convinced that Murphy's Law is becoming pretty solid these days and that anything that can get changed, probably will. The theory is this thing will run to San Jose via the Pacheco Pass and then up the Caltrain line to San Francisco. In SF it may or may not enter a "Train box" - a new tunnel that will extend it to the Transbay Terminal at 2nd/Mission.

On that Caltrain section they need to run 4 tracks the whole way to make this thing work. In some places Caltrain already has 4 tracks, in some places it will be tricky to add them. Additionally the whole thing needs to be grade separated, Caltrain has something like 23 at grade crossings today. In Palo Alto/Menlo Park/Atherton the plan of record (for today) is that the grade separation and track addition will be done on a raised berm, similar to how grade separation is done in San Carlos today. This has the people living near the Caltrain line in an uproar. They (hah!) want a tunnel dug underground for the train, probably half a billion dollars or so. Well, really they want the thing to go over the Altamont Pass and terminate in Oakland so they never have to see it - which is amusing since this project will electrify the line (quieter - a big plus, I used to live at Alma and Hawthorne in Palo Alto and it was VERY noisy), and remove the at grade crossings which are bad for traffic and even worse for cars or people who stray onto the tracks when the train comes through.

My friend Dan Connelly has shot off a well reasoned letter to the editor of the PA Daily News.

People wanting to follow this drama are well advised to follow the California High Speed Rail Blog. I used to think I knew a few things about trains until I started reading this. There is a cadre of folks who are literally obsessed with trains and tell you minutia about how there is a little spot in San Carlos, just north of the station, that is going to require a lot of money to fix for HSR - it currently causes trains to slow in San Carlos - left as is it HSR trains would have to slow from 125+ to 60 something (I am not an expert but this is my general understanding) adding 1%+ to the overall trip time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sunday Streets...

July 17, 2008


The businesses on the wharf are right; it's a dumb idea that won't be helpful in their busiest season of the year. The Third Street merchants seem desperate enough to try anything. The city should close that street off on Sunday mornings, before the Punks with Guns get out of bed.

Rob Anderson

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Last year, up to 15,000 bicyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers and others turned out for two very successful pilot Sunday Streets. This year's events still need to get through the permitting process, a move expected next week, but there is no opposition. The first event in just six weeks along the waterfront from the Giants ballpark to Aquatic Park enjoys the support of many Fisherman's Wharf merchants who were previously opposed.

"We really need to embrace it otherwise we may be the ones losing out on it," said Karen Bell, the executive director of the Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District. "We think it's a good thing for families to get out and be healthy. It's almost springtime and we want people to get out and visit Fisherman's Wharf for different reasons."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rachel Maddow hits a homer tonight

I personally find Rachel Maddow a bit oversnarky. Sure, Olbermann is played with his schtick - way over the top, but I have always been a little annoyed by Maddow. But flipping around I landed on MSNBC and she was interviewing the head of Duke Energy about Cap and Trade. She really nailed him - of course he changes the topic as well as Rush Limbaugh and Rob Anderson, but the point was clear.

He discussed the fact that a lot of investment went into Coal plants and we needed a "smooth transition" to non-carbon producing energy. Maddow posited that Duke Energy had made a lot of money off those coal plants for decades, producing a lot of pollution that the general population has had to pay for (even if you are a global warming denier the health impacts of burning coal are pretty clear).

He responded that he has been a consumer advocate early in his career and has fought for consumers, and they would not be able to take the sticker shock of the increased price of electricity and we needed to protect the consumer.

Maddow read my mind with her comeback - "Is Duke Energy Profitable?"


To paraphrase Maddow -

If you agrees we need to move away from carbon, and you think we need to protect the consumer - why doesn't Duke Energy take the hit? After all you made a ton of money putting pollution into the air at the cost of the cosumer...

He then babbled about prices being set by regulators blah blah double speak.
Good Stuff. March 3 show, entitled "Power Play"