Month: November 2010

New Hybrid Buses are Running the Streets in Providence

Saw this on my way to work this morning.

RIPTA Hybrid Bus
RIPTA Hybrid Bus

It doesn’t look like the Gillig hybrid, is RIPTA buying Nova Buses again? Interesting. They ride better than the Gillig’s that’s for damned sure.

Notice the hump. That is a battery pack. Allegedly these babies can get double the mileage of a standard bus. But get this, she runs on pure electric. For the first several miles it runs off the battery pack then uses a smaller engine to top off the pack and supply power to the drive system. In other words what trains have been doing for at least forty years now.

Allegedly the new trolleys are hybrids too. Gotta ride one and see how quiet they’ll be because the engine is smaller and less noisy.

If it wasn’t obvious, I’m also an electronics geek

I’m also a bit of an electronics geek besides being a computer software engineer too.

It’s why I’m always thinking of ways to apply certain technologies to every day problems.

So I found this very interesting open source set of books on various topics in electricity and electronics called “Lessons in Electric Circuits”

I’m reading the book on direct current or DC right now. I’m 25 pages into a 560 page document and so far we’ve covered static electricity, basic nuclear physics, voltage, current, voltage drop, and resistance. I cannot wait to read the other 535 pages!

What is more fascinating about these books is this:

This book is published under the terms and conditions of the Design Science License. These
terms and conditions allow for free copying, distribution, and/or modification of this document
by the general public.
The full Design Science License text is included in the last chapter.
As an open and collaboratively developed text, this book is distributed in the hope that
it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the Design Science
License for more details.
Available in its entirety as part of the Open Book Project collection at:
www.ibiblio.org/obp/electricCircuits

The bold section says it all. “These
terms and conditions allow for free copying, distribution, and/or modification of this document by the general public”

There are a series of SIX books in the series covering AC Circuits, Semiconductors, Digital Circuits, Reference material, and a lab or experiments manual. I have to say, pretty comprehensive stuff. And the book covers are interesting too. For example the straight road for DC, the curving road for AC, and the partially blocked road for semiconductors, and the multi-path for logic circuits.

I’m happy to see publications like the ones above. It encourages people to both learn and to actively contribute. This is where copyright falls flat on its face.

And think about it, electronics is simply the method of using the flow of current to do work of some sort. Whether it’s to light up an LED, or scroll information across an LCD screen, it’s all based on the principles of controlling current.

And I like how the books are organized. The two volumes for DC and AC will give you enough basic knowledge to start building oscillators, then radio receivers and who knows, radio transmitters. Or if you’re so inclined in the 5V world, you can used the Digital guide to understand Boolean logic and how to implement those via electronic circuits.

Enough geeking out for now. But check it out if you’re even remotely interested in how electronics gear works.

My Annual UPS Rant

So I read several food blogs. What can I say, one of my favorite things to do is baking. Breads, cookies, pastries, cakes, I know how to bake.

But I’m interested in other dishes too. I’ve done Japanese, Italian, and French. So when I saw this recipe for Savory Stuffed Pumpkin on the Soup Addict’s Blog and where it came from I had to have the cookbook.

It’s by Dorie Greenspan and called “Around My French Table”. First of all the photography is top notch. My kudos to photographer Alan Richardson for a job very well done.

Anyhow I elected to pay the $11 and get 2 day shipping on the book. The book itself was $25.00 when I bought it (It’s up to $26.40 now).

Tuesday rolls around, and there’s the familiar UPS InfoNotice on the door. Funny, someone was home ALL day but UPS obviously didn’t ring the doorbell.

So Tuesday night I sign the InfoNotice and stick it on the door. Wednesday afternoon I check and no package but the InfoNotice is gone. Weird.

By this point I’m calling UPS and ripping them a new one. My co-worker tells me I’m quite effective at pointing out the failings of the service. Anyhow this gets nowhere so I call Amazon.

Amazon cannot explain to me why they shipped a $25 item with signature required. I’d say that is a failing in Amazon’s shipping system. But at this point there’s nothing they’re willing to do but contact UPS and try to get it delivered.

So now I had to get creative:

UPS Notices
UPS Notices

By Thursday I login to the UPS web site and see delivery attempt number 3 had been made and that the shipment was now in exception mode.

Anyhow the driver if he/she had actually climbed the six steps would have most DEFINITELY seen the above.

The two day shipping I PAID for is now out to 4 days of what I call Tag and Run.

So I did what I always have to do with UPS, call them up and tell them I TAPED the InfoNotice to the door and the package was NEVER delivered. The folks at UPS then tell me that the driver is still nearby and they’ll have him deliver it.

I get home and there’s my package. I called Amazon and again asked why a $25 book was shipped with signature required. The Amazon representative could not explain it but offered to refund the shipping. Absolutley! Thank you! And I checked the account and they did refund the $11 and change.

If you really want it to be delivered with no hassle and no bullshit, deliver it via the United States Postal Service. Seriously, their Priority Mail package for a little under $8 is a great deal.

But unfortunately Amazon has a deal with UPS. So now I know, I’ll have to EXPLICITLY state in the ship notes NOT to ship it signature required.

But UPS is still shit. Notice they backed away from their “What can Brown do for you?” campaign because they realized people equated the color with shit, and the best description I’ve ever heard of UPS is “UPS is shit wrapped in chiffon”.

Ok, kudos for RIPTA now

So today I left the office about 7 minutes early. Got downtown just in time to get my connection.

Today was a record. I was home by 5:20PM. Not bad RIPTA. Of course now I know the trick.

If you do get in early you head north from the stop, not south into the plaza. Because then you can catch the connecting bus on Exchange Terrace.

Pretty much all the buses headed through the city go over Exchange Terrace.

Reason #7,343,245,168 that RIPTA sucks.

So today was the first damp, cold rotten day where it’s dark at 4:15PM. And of course whenever there’s bad weather, RIPTA, or the buses of RIPTA are ALWAYS late.

But even thought my connection downtown was late the connecting bus home was too so it was at the berth when I got to the transit hub.

Ok, maybe not so bad right? Wrong.

Two blocks away from my stop someone pulled the signal cord. The “Stop Requested” indicator at the front of the bus lit up.

But the bus driver ignored the stop and continued on some five blocks.

My parting words to the driver were “You think you missed a stop a few blocks back there? Thanks a lot! Pay attention you fucking jackass.”

That’s the thing about me, make me uncomfortable enough and that Italian trait kicks in. The mouth.

But this is precisely why I wanted TRACKED transit in the city. I plan on being at the meeting on the 15th of this month to present MY plan. Besides, you can AUTOMATE a tracked system. Really not much more expensive to do so. So you eliminate the daydreaming drivers, save the payroll expense and now your only two expenses are energy and maintenance.

The reason I say automated is because computer vision systems are getting better and better every day. And on a tracked system you only need obstacle avoidance in two directions (Though you need to be aware of lateral traffic too.)

And it isn’t really that hard to pick out human shapes at a stop. This isn’t future technology, it is technology that exists TODAY.

A distant memory

So I’m filling up my iPod with some of my favorite tracks and some new ones and I realized, I didn’t have Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”.

There’s a story behind this. From 1985 to 1987 I was a radio DJ at WDOM 91.3FM. I used to do Saturday nights midnight to whenever. Whenever was usually 2AM but if the music was flowing, I’d be there until 6AM with my co-conspirator Don. Then we’d do Sunday evenings 6PM to 9PM.

Every time I’d sign out I always ended the set with this:

Picture it, I’d be sitting at the console, headphones on, eyes close just soaking it up. It was my way of signing out for 3 years.

NYTimes: Our Banana Republic

A pretty scathing indictment of the rich and powerful.

Nicholas Kristof does a good job laying out the reasons for our current plutocracy. If you don’t know, a plutocracy is defined as:

: government by the wealthy
or
: a controlling class of the wealthy

When 1% of the population controls not just 24% of all income but has enormous power over our elected officials, it’s a plutocracy.

It isn’t just the people though, it’s the businesses. I’ll focus on the banks in particular since they seem to be very much in the news today, what with a forecast that Bank of America is tanking.

I say let it fail. It’s insured, the FDIC will satisfy all demand. And it will be less expensive in the long run than doing another bailout and prolonging the inevitable.

But banks are getting greedy. In fact lots of companies like telecoms, net providers, broadcasters, book publishers, music publishers, etc. are all hiking fees and further curtailing how we can use their services.

At the same time the banks et al are shedding jobs like crazy. So tell me, when you have that many people economically disadvantaged by corporate profit, how do they buy the products of that company?

This is going to come back to bite them in the ass. I know it is because it is history repeating itself, only this time on our shores. It’s played out quite a few times in Europe over the years.

And now it’s our turn. And we’re doing the exact same things that the Germans did after the Treaty of Versailles except with slightly different motivators.

And we’re occupying not one but two countries in the oil and natural gas rich region of the world. Yeah, ok.

New Music this week.

So I’ve gotten two more discs worth of music. The first a new album from Jamiroquai called “Rock Dust Light Star” and the other from N.E.R.D called “Nothing (Deluxe Edition)”

Favorite track from N.E.R.D. is “I’ve Seen the Light”. From Jamiroquai it’s “Smoke an Mirrors”

So that’s what’s new in music at casa Truthspew this week.

Pope Benedict XVI sees ‘aggressive secularism’ in Spain

I am just loving this. Pope Benedict XVI (Aka Benny the Rat) has his underwear in a bunch over the rising secularism in Spain.

All I can say is “Awww, poor baby! You and your church had the chance to make things better but you made them much worse! Maybe it’s time we tried to live our lives without the asinine interference of peoples of faith and belief in a sky fairy!”

Here’s a more choice quote from the article:

“The clash between faith and modernity is happening again, and it is very strong today,” he told reporters on the plane, quoted by AFP news agency.

He is due to celebrate an open-air Mass and then travel to Barcelona on Sunday.

“Spain saw in the 1930s the birth of a strong and aggressive anti-clericalism,” Pope Benedict said.

And the Spanish were right to repudiate religion back in the 1930’s too. It’s really done us absolutely no good during it’s entire reign on the planet (Or at least the last 2,000 years. I cannot vouch for pre-monotheistic cultures but even they had their idiocy too.)

The dipshit Pope went on to say:

“a Spain and Europe concerned not only with people’s material needs but also with their moral and social, spiritual and religious needs, since all these are genuine requirements of our common humanity”.

Those last two really aren’t needed at all. It’s just that the church would like you to believe that they are because without them, the church has no power over the individual.

This part is interesting:

Only 14.4% of Spaniards regularly attend mass, and legal changes to allow divorce, gay marriage and abortion have caused concern to the Catholic Church.

But 73% of Spaniards still define themselves as Catholic.

There’s the difference I have with the 73% of Spaniards, I don’t consider myself Catholic at ALL. I am an atheist. I do not have the need to attend services or join any church.

But the best part, the pope can’t pull em’ like he used to in Spain.

But some shopkeepers are disappointed by the number of people coming to the city for the Papal visit.

“There are still no people, we’re very surprised,” one souvenir shop owner told AFP news agency.

Of course – Mr. Ratzinger your venomous statements that gay people are “intrinsically disordered” falls flat in more civilized countries.

Providence implements measures to improve pedestrian safety on Atwells Avenue

Let me make it abundantly clear. It took a city councilman being struck by a hit and run driver to start the ball rolling but we’re finally seeing a new emphasis on pedestrian traffic safety on Federal Hill. I noticed it this morning when I had to stop at Walgreens on Atwells Ave. that something new had been installed. And these babies are BOLTED to the pavement with four sturdy looking threads sticking up with lock nuts and washers holding em’ down.

Something new
Something new

They’re all up and down the strip. I’ve seen the same thing in Massachusetts. Of course at least there most of them obey the directive. Here in RI I noted quite a few cars zoom through while I was in the crosswalk. So maybe this will make you understand my more draconian solution further down.

Atwells and Piedmont
Atwells and Piedmont

And the one above, about 25 feet down the street you saw this:

Speed Display
Speed Display

The mobile speed display was interesting. If people were doing 25MPH or under it would display “Have a nice day” and if they were exceeding the speed limit it would pop up “Your Speed NN” then cycle do “SPEED LIMIT 25MPH” then “SLOW DOWN”. As you can see, the perp in this case was 9MPH over.

The city only has two of them but they should make one a permanent fixture right there on Atwells Ave. Shouldn’t cost too much and it would be an effective deterrent if you married a camera and flash to it and started taking pictures, then you could send them via the cities MESH network right to the police department where the police could print and mail the summons for speeding. If they were really progressive they’d even setup a Goggle Checkout account so you could pay the fines online.

My second though was to skip the camera and the process entirely and modify the device to have a stock of caltrops.

Modern Caltrops
Modern Caltrops

I think you see where I’m going here. When it detects a vehicle exceeding the speed limit by 10% to 20% you eject a bunch in a pattern guaranteed to flatten all four tires on the offending vehicle, stopping it dead in it’s tracks. Then you have it alert the police to do the cleanup.

Yes, much more draconian but effective.

And while I’m on the rant, I saw this pasted to a telephone pole:

Oh Really?
Oh Really?

A rough translation:

Do you have problems with your life? And you haven’t found a solution to your day to day problems? With the marriage, your children, on the job, finances? Jesus Christ is can help.

Oh sure, lay all your problems in the lap of a sky fairy and abdicate your own personal responsibility.

But rant mode off. If we wanted to slow down traffic on Atwells we could do a mini rotary. The area I’ve marked out on this map would work.

Mini-Rotary??
Mini-Rotary??

It would have the effect of slowing down traffic and preserving easy access for fire and rescue. And if there was ever a case for eminent domain this is one. That lot is empty. City or state should purchase it and then take the edge of that parking lot on the other side. It would be for the public good after all.

.