Engadget's got a neat story up about some research projects looking to turn "highway power" back into something useable. In most cases this would involve harnessing wind, such as that generated by moving cars. Although I don't love the idea of using this newfound energy to power "intelligent billboards", I'd certainly be all for the addition of some energy collecting devices along the road.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Guy on a train in Indonesia goes into the bathroom, locks the door, and dies. Nobody notices and he spends the day travelling back and forth between Tegal and Jakarta until the janitor complained that he couldn't clean one of the toilets because it had been locked for the whole trip.
There's a great Clerks joke in there someplace!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
This is not something I ever really thought of, but it makes sense. You're entitled to free commuter benefits, but you don't need them. So, what do you do? Take them, of course, and then flip them for a profit. Great deal if you can get it. The only problem, of course, is that these aren't commuter benefits that you got while dumpster diving behind the local Frye's. These are benefits that the government bought for you, which ultimately means that you're making a profit on somebody else's tax dollars. I'm gonna go ahead and guess that that's frowned upon.
I sort of admire the entrepreneurial spirit of whoever thought of this first. Except for some important details, that is. For one, it clearly says right on the MetroCheks, "It's illegal to resell this." So, don't play stupid when you get caught. Second, it's not just people saying "Ok, give me one and then if it turns out I don't use it this month, I'll sell it." It's about people filing fraudulent claims as well, like the guy in the article that pays $54 for his commute and puts in for $105. That's just plain wrong. If you're going to go for anybody first, go for those losers. You're government employees, numb nuts, you're not screwing your employer out of his profits, you're screwing your fellow citizens out of their tax money. Knock it off.
So, I just got back from a quick conference in Washington, D.C. It's always fun walking around a new city, particularly a big one, because having come from Boston I'm never really sure on the rules regarding pedestrians versus cars. Is this a city where pedestrians just walk into the street at will, and cars actually stop? Or is it a city where not walking in the crosswalk will actually get you a jaywalking ticket?
You know how, when it's your turn at the crosswalk and the little while LED man lights up on the traffic light, sometimes you'll get a counter to let you know how long before the light changes? I've always appreciated those. It lets you know, when you're approaching an intersection and the countdown says 1 second left, that you may want to think twice about going for it. In Boston you get maybe 8-12 seconds total, so you don't get much time to think about it.
Guess how long those countdowns are in D.C? 45 seconds! To get across the street! We were commenting how we felt obligated to take our time and make it a nice leisurely stroll. In 45 seconds we could have stopped completely and had a nice cup of tea on the yellow line.
Maybe that's why our politicians never get anything done, they're spending the better part of their day just waiting for the light to change.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
It doesn''t take any extra time, money or special equipment. You don't have to plan ahead, or change jobs or neighborhoods. It works coming and going, whether you walk, drive, take the train or something else. Ready? Here they are.
- Look Behind You! If you hadn't noticed, you're not the only person trying to get where you're going. If you were, there'd be no traffic and you'd get there in half the time. But that's not how it works. Chances are very good that no matter where you are and what direction you're moving, there's somebody behind you. So:
- If you're in a car and you're about to switch lanes (preferably one lane at a time), LOOK BEHIND YOU. Maybe even use a directional signal, but hey, let's not push our luck.
- If you're about to walk through a door, LOOK BEHIND YOU. Are you about to let it close in somebody's face? Would anybody notice you getting to your destination half a second later because you paused and held the door long enough for the person beihnd you to grab it?
- Even if you're walking in a straight line and you suddenly think, "Hey, I'd like to be over there now!" LOOK BEHIND YOU. Just because the person walking 2 feet behind you is a ninja who makes no meaningful sound doesn't mean it's cool to crash into him or drive him into the nearby rosebush. If somebody walking behind you randomly sped up and stepped on your feet it wouldn't be very cool, would it? That doesn't happen, because are supposed to look where they're going.
- Say, "Thank you." Several times during the course of any commute you're going to run into people to whom you could say, "Thank you."
- The cashier at the coffee shop.
- The conductor on the train who punches your ticket.
- The gas station attendant.
- The oncoming car who chose not to speed up through the yellow light, allowing you to cross in the crosswalk.
- The oncoming driver who stopped at the intersection so that you can make that left turn.
- The person on the train who moved her purse so you can sit down.
- Wait your turn.
- If the light is red, don't start rolling forward because you can't wait to move your foot from the brake to the gas.
- "Right turn on red" does not mean "squeeze into oncoming traffic if you think you can make it."
- Do not walk in front of oncoming cars because, "Hey, I'm in the crosswalk, they have to stop." Maybe true, but getting hit by a car will not get you to your destination any sooner, and it will hurt like a son of a gun.
- If the train is pulling into the station, stay in your seat and read a few more pages of your book. Don't go running down the aisle and crowding around the door like a sheep.
Yes, these three things are all common courtesy that you should have been taught as a child, but maybe in your haste you've forgotten. And yes, they're about being nicer to your fellow man.
How is that supposed to improve your commute? Simple, if you haven't already guessed it. The other guy could be reading this guide too, you know. Wouldn't you like it if pedestrians didn't step off the curb while you've still got the green light? Or that drivers waved a quick thank you when you let them go at the intersection? Or that somebody held the door for you just a quick second longer so you could grab for it?
You're not the only one with a commute. Try thinking of your fellow commuters, and you might just be pleasantly surprised to discover that they're thinking of you, too. And that will improve everybody's commute.
Friday, April 20, 2007
For awhile now, Boston commuters have been able to grab The Metro for free. There's armies of people giving them out at every train station. I used to read it, long before I got an MP3 player. Now I just find them annoying, shoving papers in my way as I'm trying to get out of the rain and onto the escalator.
This morning I noticed people in different shirts hawking different free newspapers. I don't have to go researching this, since BoingBoing has the scoop. Entitled Boston Now, this free paper hopes to be different by offering a "pro-am partnership" with bloggers, relying mostly on internet supplied content and very limited wire service content.
Hey, I wonder if I can get a column doing the Commute Smarter report? Maybe I should grab one of those next time?
This morning in the parking lot of the train station I saw a bumper sticker that said this:
Which, for those of you that don't speak Unix, is shorthand for "Remove President Bush." Caught my eye right away. I actually found them at the Delete Bush store (CafePress). That's not my store, I'm not affiliated with it, blah blah blah. I'm just sayin. As a geek I can't help but wonder why the shopkeeper keeps saying "delete" in the description when "rm" is short for "remove". Does anal-retentive have a hypen? :)
For bonus geek points he should have written /bin/rm, because very often in Unix implementations, just plain "rm" is aliased to "rm -i" for interactive, which will ask "Are you sure?" to prevent accidental erasure. Since we are all sure that's what we want to do :), /bin/rm just does it as fast as possible without asking.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Yahoo Finance has a story up entitled Four Ways to Make a Bad Job Good. You just know that I'm going to have something to say about #2, "Decrease your commute by moving closer to work." Fine, I agree in principle that nobody wants to spend their time commuting, so the shorter the commute the better. Naively saying that you should move closer to your job is pretty dumb, though. I've got a family with three toddlers. I want a yard for the kids to play in and a street where I don't have to worry about them getting run over. Hard to have that, and work in downtown Boston, and still move close to your job.
What I disagree with more is the rest of the argument. The commute is impossible to adjust to because "the way in which it's bad changes every day." So the tension of not knowing what will be bad and not being able to control it screw up the rest of your day. Right?
Wrong. There's a big gap between acknowledging that you can't control your commute, and going with the flow so you don't let it ruin your day. Big surprise, traffic patterns change every day. Does anybody get into their car each morning (or evening) and get surprised that there's an accident? Prepare yourself for the possibility. If I miss my 8:15 train I get the 8:30 (and if I miss that, the 8:45, and so on). If I'm going to miss a meeting, I call, and possibly even get on a conference call. If I'm late for dinner, I call my wife. I don't sit in the car and scream at the other cars to get the F out of my way.
Listen. Your commute is just a way of life. In a dream world you can get a better job in a better neighborhood that's five minutes away from your house and you can work flex time and the sun will always be shining and the train will never be late and there'll never be any car accidents to delay you. Sarcasm noted? Good. Now enjoy your commute. Get a cup of coffee and a bagel before you hit the road, load up your iPod with a bunch of audiobooks and other podcasts. Get a bluetooth headset for your cell phone. And relax.
Monday, April 16, 2007
The weather is quite nasty up here in the northeast. We're having one of those "bring in everything that's not nailed down, and even if it is nailed down go looking for it tomorrow" storms. Of course, that's just the start of it. Let's look at how complicated this day has turned out to be:
It's Boston Marathon day. That's no big deal to me, but it is a holiday (I don't get it off) and the start of my kids' vacation, so I was hoping to take it as a day off. But with the pouring nasty horrible rain, there's nothing to really do with the kids, so perhaps I should go in today and save the day off for a day when we can do something?
In the morning, the power flickers a bit. So if I leave for work, I might end up leaving my wife and kids in the dark. I decide that perhaps the best option is "Stay home, but work from home so I'm not using up a day off." As if on cue, the cable goes out. Which means that while we still have power, I don't have internet. So much for working from home! Suddenly driving in looks better.
After calling the boss, who lives in the neighborhood and is heading in to the office, I decide to give it a try. The roads are an obstacle course of swerving to avoid downed hunks of trees. I see one house that has not one but *3* trees fallen onto it. Ouch! I wonder whether to call the wife and tell her, but that'll just serve to make her nervous that a tree will fall on our house. I skip it.
Then I can't even get on the highway. The main road out of town and onto the highway is closed. I don't know if it's because of flooding or accident or tree or what, but at this point I give up and decide to head home. On the way back, I see a car accident. It it not a good day.
So I'm back home. At least my net has come back up, so now I can claim that it's a work from home day. How was your commute?
Friday, April 13, 2007
This morning walking across Boston Common I saw them unloading the swanboats from a big Budget Rental truck. Glad I knew what that was, from a distance it just looked like a multitude of really big-*ss birds getting ready to take over the world. (I googled for the collective word for "lots of swans", like a gaggle of geese or a murder of crows, but I came up empty).
Once I saw the swans I also noticed that people were out painting the park benches and cleaning up the grass.
It may have been a cold day, and it just snowed yesterday. But spring's coming. You can see it if you look for it.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I'm kicking myself for not jumping on this story when it happened, since it happened right in my back yard. But the truth is I don't commute on 495 and thus didn't really appreciate the magnitude of the spill. Check out the pictures, it really does look pretty spooky.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
From USA Today:
Automotive club AAA said the national average was $2.792 a gallon on Tuesday. "Retail gasoline prices are up 11.9 cents from a year ago at this time. Prices have risen 54.2 cents over the past 10 weeks, following a previous five-week decline,'' the story says. "The pump price rose most notably in the Midwest region, where average prices climbed 13 cents from the prior week to $2.744 a gallon. However, drivers on the West Coast paid the highest average price of $3.138 a gallon, up from $3.096 a week earlier."
I think I just paid $2.69 last night, so I guess I'm getting off easy. Where are you, and what are you paying?
No, seriously. There's a cat who takes the bus to the fish and chips shop. What did you think, I was setting up a joke or something?
Can't say I've seen many animals on my public transportation. Had a bird in my garage the other morning, but that was over the weekend so I can't really call it a commuter story ;). And I've seen my share of deer and wild turkey roaming around the streets as I drive in. But actually on the bus or train? Not yet.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
My kids keep calling it "yogurt." It's funny when my 2yr old gets to pick out a movie to watch and she goes to our Daily Yoga Routine DVD as if it's the same as Dora or The Doodlebops. "I like yogurt movie," she says.
You'd be surprised at how many elements of yoga practice you can encorporate into your daily commute. The Working Podcast episode #63 has some tips that can help wake you up in the morning, or get rid of that stress before you head home.
Check it out. It's not really all about sitting cross-legged and chanting Om Mane Padme over and over again. Although when I do that nobody wants to sit next to me on the train, so maybe that's a good thing. :) Beats just putting my bag on the seat and hoping nobody asks me to move it.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Who said contests and free giveaways don't generate traffic? I got a whole *2* responses to choose from! Who knows, maybe we'll chalk it up to everybody already having done their taxes already. Or maybe TurboTax really does have that big a monopoly. (I thought everybody knew the secret to use Google Alerts on words like "contest" and "giveaway" so that when you spot a post that only has 2 entries you can jump on it and improve your odds of winning stuff.)
Anyway, at least it made the decision a coin flip. Congratulations Duckberry! Details on the way via email.
Sorry Nathan, I promise you're on my short list for the next time somebody gives me free stuff :).