Archives for April 2005

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It'll Never Be Done

Six years ago today I was working on eThreads. What am I doing six years later? Working on eThreads. Today I merged some changes from my CGI tree into the mod_perl mainline and wrote a plugin to add an http:// when people forget to include it in the URL they give with their comments. Someday soon I really do need to get around to polishing this stuff up and doing some sort of a release. The eThreads site is a little bare right now.

Write Write Right

It's funny to me how sometimes I'm really good at writing papers, and sometimes I'm, well, not. I'm up now working on a paper that I've been "working" on all day. But it's 1am and it's really not close to being done. It's not even a hard paper; I'm just having a hard time getting words down onto the page.

I've gotten a couple pages written in the last hour or so, but it would really help me out if all of a sudden a few more would just appear out of nowhere. It's not like I haven't written papers quickly before.

The Politics of Freeway Cameras

It's interesting to note the reaction to the recent freeway shootings that have taken place around LA. The Long Beach Press Telegram has an article today calling for Caltrans to record the freeway cameras so that law enforcement can use them as evidence to help in solving freeway crimes.

A veteran California Highway Patrol supervisor with an extensive background in freeway shooting investigations said the CHP and other agencies have repeatedly asked Caltrans to hook up the cameras to recording devices.

"They basically say they don't care about being in the crime- fighting business and claim poverty ... even though ... every 7-Eleven has a system. They are prevalent in Europe and at intersections throughout the United States. They are universally successful,' said the officer, while noting Caltrans' multimillion-dollar spending on its new 14-story office building in downtown Los Angeles.

A couple weeks ago my class went to visit the ATSAC center under City Hall East. That's where all of the LADOT traffic cameras pipe to. This was before the freeway shootings, but this was a topic that came up. Like Caltrans, LADOT doesn't really want to get involved in law enforcement. They don't want people seeing their cameras and viewing them as evidence that needs to be "taken care of." I would imagine that while officially Caltrans may say things about funding and such, they really just don't want to get the big brother stigma attached to their cameras.

Connectivity is Against Me

USC's wireless would pick today to be acting up on me. It seems to me that it's just one access point, really. When I'm connected to 00:01:F4:ED:1B:6C I get 70% packet loss and 4000ms ping times. When it's 00:01:F4:EE:84:D4 I get no loss and 40ms pings. Yikes.

So right now I'm up on my bluetooth -> EDGE connection. It's not too fast, but at least it lets me browse the news and such while sitting here in class.

I finished a 20-page paper today (well, mine's 17 pages, but it feels done) only to find that I actually could wait to turn it in Friday. Oops. I guess I should read my emails more carefully.

One With the Bike

I've mentioned in the last few posts that over the past few days I bought pedals (the SL-CR's) and shoes for my bike. Last night I very unsuccessfully tried getting my old pedals off to put the new ones on. Having failed at that, this morning I tried calling the LA County Bike Coalition (whose offices happen to be across the street, so it's not as random) to see if by chance they might have a pedal wrench lying around the office. They didn't, but they pointed me to a bike shop on 8th & Main, just three blocks from my apartment. A couple minutes and $3 later, I had new pedals on.

Tonight I finally got a chance to try them out. I'll admit it: I was a little scared. Even though I knew it was the way to go, I still wasn't sure about this whole thing of having both feet attached to the pedals. I practiced first in my apartment, holding myself up against the wall and then rolling from hallway to bedroom doorframe and working on unclipping a foot. Then, very cautiously, I headed outside. — Continue Reading...

Getting Around Town

Yesterday one of my PPD professors hosted our class for dinner at his house in Manhattan Beach. Being me, I made my way there via bike and train, taking a stop off at REI on the way to pick up a pair of shoes and a multitool. I managed to just miss trains on both trips, so my trip time wasn't too impressive.

The oddest thing, though, was the Blue Line train I got on at Washington and Grand, heading south. Either that train had serious equipment issues and shouldn't have been running, or the operator is the worst I've ridden with. Twice before we even left Washington we had two complete stops of the variety where you can watch every passenger jerked forward and then back in unison. Then, after making the turn, at several station stops we would come into the station fast, start to brake hard, then you would hear a thunking sound (that seemed to me like the wheels locking up and skidding) and finally we'd stop and the doors would open to the smell of brakes.

I remember back to when I was younger and had a miniature railroad. The last power controller I had came with a feature of making stops and starts more gradual, to make it more realistic. With this on you couldn't just instantly stop a train, instead it would have to take a little distance to stop. It seems that's not a feature of modern light rail trains.

Bike Show 2005

I went to the Bike Show yesterday, worried that the hour and a half or so I had until it closed might not be enough time. Well... It was, and then some. Whereas the website claims hundreds of exhibitors, their exhibitor list adds up to only 90 or so. And if there were 90 exhibitors there yesterday, some of them weren't very visible. The marketplace was heavy in some items while pretty empty in others. For instance, it had shoes, but only two models from the same company. I similarly only saw one type of pedals for sale.

I ended up buying pedals from one of the exhibitors, but didn't really get any special deal on them. Now I have to find shoes I like. I'm about to make a stop at REI this afternoon, and if they don't have them there (they have some I like on the web, but I'm not sure what they stock in-store) I'll have to stop by a shop in Pasadena over the next few days.

The Immortal Class

A couple weeks ago Alan told me to check out Travis Hugh Culley's book The Immortal Class. It took me a while to get through, but yesterday during my field trip I ripped through the second half. From one of the editorial descriptions on the Amazon page:

When unpublished playwright and director Culley found it difficult to earn a living in the creative arts, he took a job as a bike messenger. This is the story of his adventures on the streets of Chicago. The author's descriptions are so vivid and apt that it is easy for the reader to imagine himself pedaling at breakneck speeds through crowded intersections and along sidewalks. More than a mere joy ride, this book is a window into the bizarre and cultlike world of the bike courier and, more significantly, a passionate plea for more sensible city planning.

The first 250 pages is Travis' story, and it's a captivating one. But yesterday it was the last fifty pages that really got me. That's where the story shifts to being more about the relationship between cars and the bicycle, and how the two of them relate to the road. The story from chapter ten -- where a cyclist is seriously injured due to road crews not marking a construction zone, but then isn't allowed to sue for medical expenses since bicycles are not an "intended" user of the roadway in Illinois -- isn't directly applicable to California, where bicycles are considered vehicles. Still, though, both it and the last few chapters highlight the tenuous hold cyclists have on their rights. Even if you don't have time (or interest) to read the whole book, I highly recommend these last pages.

Field Trip

So I had to take a field trip today for my Geology class. I wasn't excited about it, since it meant a good long while in a bus. We left USC at 8am and returned a little before 4pm. Aside from the long sit, though, it was at least mildly interesting. Some cool scenery and rock formations mainly up around where the 138 hits the 15. We ate lunch in the small mountain town of Wrightwood, CA, which I have to say was utterly unprepared to feed three+ buses full of college kids inside of 45 minutes. I've put my photos together as a set over on Flickr.

Higher Fines, but Still No SUV Enforcement?

Interesting to note that next Wednesday LA's City Council will consider a motion to raise the fines for operating a vehicle over 6000 lbs on restricted streets. Actually this motion, which Janice Hahn made last June but has taken some time working its way through the system, isn't to raise the fines per se, but instead to have the City Attorney draft an ordinance that would do so.

For first time offenders, the maximum fine shall be increased from $50 to $250, the second offense to be increased from $100 to $250, and the third and subsequent offenses be increased to a maximum $1,000.

It will be interesting to see if this passes without discussion of the fact that a lot of big SUV's are heavier than the 6000lb limit. This issue (and the non-enforcement of the law) was all the buzz last summer, and it seems it still is: CityBeat published this article just a few weeks ago. I don't really think SUV's should be banned from residential streets (though I do think they should pay extra to attempt to compensate for their additional wear on the roadway), but it just seems that if that's not the intent of the law, the law needs to be rewritten.

The Weather Lied to Me

The weather's conspiring against me today. I got up this morning, checked, and saw a high of 73 degrees. So I put on my board shorts and t-shirt, hopped on my bike, and headed off to work. Around lunch time I started to say "Hey, it's not warm out." Just now I went back to check the weather again and found this time a high of only 66 degrees, and some rain coming this evening. In fact here at JPL the high is only listed at 64. So now I not only have to deal with the chill, I also have to plan to beat whatever showers we're going to get back Downtown.

On the plus side I'm really starting to notice improvements in my biking stamina. I powered up the hill from Pasadena in one gear today, and had enough left to give it a little juice coming up to the top. The worst part of my ride, though, continues to be the hill I have to go up once inside JPL. My building's basically at the top of the lab, which is built into a hillside. Looking out my window from the 5th floor I'm even with floor 11 or so of Building 180, which sits approximately on level with the security gate that sits right at the bottom of the hill.

I also have to mention that I enjoyed the LAist post on biking today. Critical Mass and the Bike Kitchen did need to be mentioned along with this weekend's Bike Show and BikeSummer. I bash them a lot, so I figure I should mention when I do like a story. And no, it's not because they linked to blogdowntown.

LaBonge Wants Smart Meters

In my March wrap-up of the DLANC Transportation & Public Works committee meeting over on blogdowntown I mentioned that the CRA's Downtown Parking Study's Best Practices document included talk of smart meters and multi-spot pay station technologies. The City may be soon looking to get serious about that sort of thing, as Councilmember Tom LaBonge has made a motion that

the City Council direct the Deparment of Transportation to report on the feasibility of implementing a pilot project that would involve installing and evaluating smar meters within the City.

I know, any kind of thing like this takes forever to work its way through the system, but Tom LaBonge has been on a roll with cool transportation related motions lately. Eric Garcetti seconded, and this motion now makes its way to the Council's Transportation committee.