The great gas powered vehicle experiment is officially a failure

As someone who walks, rides a bike, drives a car and occasionally travels by plane, I think the time has come to admit defeat and work to replace the car.  I know what you are thinking, “He’s just crazy, you can’t get rid of cars..blah….blah….blah…” To some extent I agree, cars are needed but the HOW and WHEN we use them needs to be looked at. So lets discuss this matter using what I love using, FACTs.

car_crashThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) releases their report every year and somehow each year most Americans find a way to ignore it. Because if they sat down and let the numbers soak in there would be a backlash of epic proportions. Ok, not really. A few people would probably post a link or two on some social network but the onslaught of cute animals and pinuninterests would quickly have everyone forget. (The Silence would be so jealously proud but I digress) But, if they did paid attention they would have seen some rather scary numbers.

http://autos.aol.com/article/traffic-fatalities-nhtsa-americans-killed-cdc/

The number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased 5.3 percent last year, jumping to 34,080 deaths, according to a preliminary estimate made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s the first time in seven years the number has increased.

May 7, 2013

http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2014/NHTSA-study-shows-vehicle-crashes-have-$871-billion-impact-on-U.S.-economy,-society

New NHTSA Study Shows Motor Vehicle Crashes Have $871 Billion Economic and Societal Impact on U.S. Citizens

May 28, 2014

The numbers are, to put it bluntly, beyond staggering. To give you a better way to grasp these numbers, if you were to divide the numbers of deaths by 12 months you would get over 2800 deaths a month. That’s over 700 a week, or someone dying in almost half the states in the US every day. How anyone can find these numbers acceptable is beyond me. The act of going to work, driving your children to school or going on vacation should not be life threatening. But according to the data, it is, each and every day.

Making things worse, cars appear to be responsible for the deaths of over 4000 pedestrians.

http://autos.aol.com/article/number-of-pedestrians-killed-rises-for-first-time-in-five-years/

For the first time in five years, the annual number of pedestrian deaths climbed. NHTSA said 4,280 pedestrians died in 2010, a 4 percent increase from the 4,109 killed in 2009. An estimated 70,000 were injured.

Aug 7, 2012

Yet each day people get in their cars and become distracted by an ever growing list of things which personally, should not be part of the driving experience.  People are using cell phones, texting (which is illegal in most states), shaving, putting make-up on, eating, etc, etc all without considering what type of damage they can do with their 2-3 ton vehicles because of their distracted driving.  Sadly though, we haven’t even touched on the pollution aspect of cars.

http://healthland.time.com/2013/04/09/car-pollution-linked-to-childhood-cancers/

Reporting at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C., scientists said that mothers who had higher exposure while pregnant to traffic pollution coming from car and truck emissions were more likely to have children who developed cancers like acute lymphoblastic leukemia and a type of eye cancer.

http://qz.com/135509/more-americans-die-from-car-pollution-than-car-accidents/

A new study from MIT suggests that in the US, 53,000 people a year die prematurely because of automobile pollution, compared to 34,000 people a year who die in traffic accidents.

These results more than double the number of people who die in the US every year as a result of automobiles, to nearly 100,000.

For those of you who glanced over those numbers let me repeat them. One of the most respected colleges in the world, MIT, estimates that nearly 100,000 people die EACH YEAR as a result (directly or indirectly) from the use of cars. Again to help grasp that number, here is the breakdown.

More then 8333 deaths per month

More the 2083 deaths per week

And more then 297 deaths per day OR 5 people in each state of the US.

I’m sorry but the great vehicle experiment is an utter and complete failure and it’s time to rethink how we move around our country. If we are to completely eliminate the estimated 100,000 deaths each year, alternate forms of transportation must be considered in a serious manner. We should be looking into zero pollutant public transportation that truly serves the masses, real cycling infrastructure that protects cyclists and not just some paint on the ground, and a re-think of speed limits when cars are present that protect pedestrians of all ages.

For those of you who say it can’t be done, just look at someone living in New York. There arePedestrians walk on a closed sections of Broadway and 7th Avenue in New York City many folks who do not own a car and use their subway system to get around. New York has also made some strides in cycling lanes and even changed some streets to public areas with great success.  Not to mention a number of news stations in New York have shown how cycling is actually faster then taking a cab when getting around.

Like I said before, the facts are hard to argue with. So lets deal with the big question at hand. What is it going to take for people to let go of their cars as their primary means of transportation and start using alternatives?

To begin, you can’t expect anyone to give up anything unless they have something to replace that thing with.  So before anything can move forward there needs to be a viable replacement. To be perfectly honest there really should be two, maybe even three options. In this case when replacing a car people must have access to transit options that meet all their needs AND be just as easy to use as a car.  And, to be perfectly honest, there will be times when the car is the best choice for getting from point A to point B. But at present, alternatives are rarely discussed so we never move forward.

Now I know what you are thinking, “if we only had larger roads all our congestion issues would disappear.” Many car users believe adding infrastructure for things like bikes and buses should only happen AFTER all roads have been properly expanded to meet drivers needs. Unfortunately that theory is appears to have the opposite affect.

Recent studies show that building or widening highways invites more traffic, a phenomenon called “induced traffic.” Shortly after the new lanes or road is opened, public transit or carpool riders switch to driving. Motorists decide to take longer and more frequent trips or switch routes to take advantage of the new capacity on the roadway.

As the new/expanded roadway stimulates more development away from core cities and suburbs, motorists move farther from work and shopping. Often, induced traffic eats up 50 to 100 percent of the roadway’s new capacity. After a few years, the “new” roadway has once again reached full capacity, and created extra traffic on the local streets at both ends of the trip.

http://vault.sierraclub.org/sprawl/report02/transportation_choices.asp

Please do not take this one story to be the end all, be all on this subject, do some research yourself. For me this was proven beyond a doubt by my state’s Big Dig Project. When proposed this project was going to end all of Boston’s traffic issues. At least that’s what many people thought and maybe even hoped would happen. The reality did not match because months before the official opening the new Central Artery was already full.  So far I have yet to find 1 story that shows when you widen or add more lanes traffic is eased. In fact, repeating myself, the opposite appears true. But like I said, don’t believe me, take some time and read up on the subject yourself.

So where does that leave us? Well we can pull what Einstein thought was the first signs of insanity and continue to do the same thing hoping for a different result, or we can start changing how people get around. Many cities have already started to experiment with bike lanes and bus stop islands and the results are promising. But change takes time and many people oppose change so we’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out.

Trust me, this will not be the last thing I have to say on the matter.

Posted in cycling, rant, technology | 1 Comment

My yearly century debrief

This year marked the 25th year I’ve done my Sept Century and much was different. Lets discuss.

To begin, this was the first year with my new bike. It’s a Focus Cayo and is a huge improvement over my 22+ yr old Trek 2100.  One of the biggest things is the gearing on the bike. My old bike ran a 53 – 39 with 13-25 in the rear.  The Focus has a 50 – 34, strangely called a compact crank even though the crank length hasn’t changed just the gear ratio, and I believe a 13-27 in the back. So right off the bat, I can now spin up hills which I was grinding before. I’m getting older ya know. The frame is also much better at transferring the pressure I apply to the pedals into forward motion instead of wasting it.

The way I road the century and said hills was different as well. In previous years I would really push up the hills because I thought I was making up alot of time. Why would I think this? Because the fastest way to create a gap on someone you are “racing” is on the hills. If you accelerate they pretty much have to match your power to stay with you. There is some help to be gained by following someone up by way of pacing and maybe some hiding from the wind but in the end, it’s pretty equal terms. Unlike the flats and downhills where drafting plays a huge part and getting away is not easier. So this year I decided to take the hills a bit more casual as a way to even out the effort level and it really worked. Ironically I was still passing a good number of people but I wasn’t so gassed by the time I reached the top. Simply put, smarter riding. Funny only took 25 yrs to figure that out.

Because of the above a funny thing happened around the 85-90 mile. For whatever reason a riding buddy of mine, that I caught during the final 30 mi leg (I accept blame as well), decided it would be a great idea to hold 20-23mph for a while. He blamed me for pushing him and I blamed him for doing it first. By the 95 mil mark we both wished we hadn’t done that but still couldn’t stop from laughing at the absurdity of it all.  To put this little event in context, I ended up averaging 17.2.

Next up, cars and their drivers. This year I got to witness first hand the reaction of a very well to do young man having to deal with cyclists and tons of them. No one was in his way but his rather pricy Mercedes was no longer the king of the road and you could tell he didn’t like it one bit. You’ve spent all this money on this really nice car, roads which are normally yours to travel as you like are now under the control of someone else and there is nothing you can really do to change anything.  The guy rolled down a window and asked if he could be let through which a cyclist in front of me answered perfectly, “Sure, the minute it’s safe to do so.” Most “car drivers” feel they are close to the top of the food chain when it comes to roads. To have that power taken away, legally, and to actually be forced to -Share the Road – is just not something some motorists cannot handle. Lets hope they learn.

Which brings us to our most important part, how I actually did. Without dragging this out, 5:45 riding time for an avg of 17.2. That’s right, I met my goal of keeping my riding time under 6hrs. Other then some slight cramping, probably caused by The Big Push with my friend, the legs really responded well. Which is surprising given how poor this season started. My mileage was lower then normal this year because our harsh winter caused most riders to start their road training much later. But I think my off season lifting really paid off. This may sounds strange but I fell in love with the dead lift, among other things, and just keep getting stronger. Obviously I will try to repeat my lifting efforts in hopes of getting stronger.

Well that’ all for now. The last two years did not go well so it’s great to be talking about keeping it under 6hrs because eventually my age will become the greater limiter. But until then, “Train Hard but Rest even harder.” Joe Friel.

 

Posted in cycling, training | 2 Comments

Quick US view on soccer/football

With the world cup now over (Congrats to Germany) I can officially say I won’t miss all the “Why American’s don’t like soccer” talk. This time around we got see ridiculous political <insert favorite derogatory term here> go off the rails, we heard sports radio and tv spout a multitude of reasons but I have yet to see any of these “folks” actually ask some everyday, ordinary Americans why they don’t find soccer more entertaining. Now before you hear from a person who actually was born and raised in the US, some quick background notes.

I am not your typical American but who is? Remember we are a country built strong by our diversity and people from all around the world have come to live in this country. (remember that part) Are we perfect? Far from it but that’s who we are and I am one of them. I grew up playing and/or watching baseball, football, soccer, basketball, cycling, hockey, tennis, golf, and bowling. Since I was young my parents made sure I tried alot of different sports to find the one I liked. That’s why my favorite sport to actually compete in is Triathlons and to haka_rugbywatch is currently Cyclo-Cross.  For 6 years I hosted a podcast that covered UCI cycling, WRC (rally racing) and FIA Formula 1 racing. I had someone from the UK join me during the show and my audience during the show’s run was not just in the US but abroad. To end, and to provide further evidence of my global awareness, without a doubt the best pre-game “ritual” in the world has to be the All Blacks Haka; period.

So now that you know I’m not someone who is unaware of sports beyond my boarders, lets present some of the reasons as to why I do not follow soccer.

Viewing Competition

This may sound strange but the US has the same problem with football as the world has with soccer. Every year a bazillion people, from all corners of the world, tune in to watch the SuperBowl. Yet the US cannot get the rest of the world to buy into American football. They have international teams, and leagues and games played about but most European’s just don’t like the sport. At the same time American’s just don’t seem all that interested in soccer except during the world cup. I guess the same can be said about the Olympics as well. It’s not like downhill skiing, bobsledding or track and field are huge draws in the US outside of Olympic time. Sound familiar doesn’t it?

Here is another point, I’ve been to Portugal twice and while not statistically significant, I did notice the following. There are no baseball diamonds, hardly any basketball courts, no deck hockey rinks, very few skateboard parks, etc, etc. Conversely when you travel the US (I’ve been to every state on the east coast and a few on the west) almost every park has many choices. There is always some basketball courts, baseball diamonds, some have skate parks, others have tennis courts, bocce fields, or volleyball courts. Simply put there is alot of choice.  I honestly believe that choice is part of that reason the US doesn’t go crazy for soccer. American kids have so many sports to pick from other then soccer that most grow up playing other things.

Corruption

mosleyAs an F1 fan (although this year is just a joke) I am well aware that the FIA is far from being called “pure as the fresh driven snow”.  But FIFA seems to be corrupt from head to toe. Every time I read a story about corruption in sports, FIFA’s name is always somewhere near by. So if you want me to watch, you have to clean it up. I don’t expect perfection but what you have running the sport now cannot be taken seriously.

Shoot Outs

I’m sorry but the shoot out system should be erased from all sports. (Hear that NHL?) To be fair, in the playoffs the NHL play until someone scores. Some games have actually gone into triple over time. That means two games were played back to back. So what would I replace it with? Extra time, say 15 minutes.  If no one scores during that time both teams lose a player. Repeat until someone scores. This will probably force the coach’s to use more players from the bench. Trust me after an extra 30mins of play, that new guy will have fresh legs and might just score the game winning goal. Now that’s excitement.

Flopping

But the absolute worst part of the sport, which you must eliminate if you really want me to get serious, is all the faking, flopping, diving, etc. For me, it ruins the game. I remember a while back watching how Italy took a dive in the box against the Aussie team which gave them a penalty kick thus giving them the game. I thought our NBA players were actors playing to the ref’s to get the call but soccer players take it to an entirely new level of faking. It’s so bad there are YouTube channels dedicated to all the flopping these guys do.

BqSRK0wCMAAkFxIAs an example of how not to fake it, and in this case, how to play through a real injury let me introduce Gregory Campbell.  ( http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/06/bruins-player-keeps-playing-hockey-on-a-broken-leg) I can hear you now, “Oh but he’s the extreme case, no one else plays with anything broken” and you would be wrong. Enter Matt Fraser who scored a game winning goal while playing with a broken foot. (http://nesn.com/2014/05/bruins-matt-fraser-played-canadiens-series-with-broken-foot/) To be blunt, that’s only two players from one team in one sport. Football players, American football, routinely take the field with something wrong. I’m sure Rugby players would fit into that category as well not to mention a certain Alberto Contador and his fractured tibia.

For me flopping can be easily stopped. Add more Ref’s and put in some form of instant replay review. Here is how it would work. To start, with extra eyes watching the game some of the glaringly obvious calls would be made right away. If not while the “downed” man is on the ground flopping around, a review person in the booth could quickly see a few replays. If the guy is completely faking it, Red card and a fine. If there was contact but the guy is overacting, Yellow card. If the injury is legit, like a pulled muscle, or the contact was on the bad side, the ref can be told via his ear piece to allow time. But to see players “taking a dive” after the ball is taken from them, on the ground acting like they are about to bleed out only to bounce back up into the play when they realize they won’t get the call, is pathetic at best. By the way, Rugby has instant reply to make sure of the calls so soccer can have them too.

So there you have it, just another worthless American view. To end, I was going to bring up the whole college sports and scholarships connections but I couldn’t find enough evidence to support my theory. If you or you know someone who has done the research please let me know but my little voice says, US colleges are not exactly handing out tons of soccer scholarships, but I could be wrong.

 

 

Posted in cycling, rant, triathlons | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Have we improved anything? No seriously, have we?

As the new year began I had a talk with someone who was looking at his new smart phone while wincing. One of his young children had gotten hold of his last one and well you can guess the rest. Smash, boom, bang…Daddy needs a new phone. So here is this guy, with what looked like the latest and greatest phone, and he turned to me and asked this simple question, “Have we really improved anything?” And for what seemed like a long time, we both just stared at his brand new phone not speaking, wondering if his question had an answer. My engineering background kicked in and I got ready to put forth all the things we have improved via great steps in technology. But I never did speak, reply or even try to answer the question because the more I thought about it the harder it became.

This blog post, and maybe others, will attempt to identify where those improvements really lie. But how does one define an improvement? Well thanks to Merriam-Webster’s wonderful online dictionary we have these definitions.1

: the act of improving something : the act or process of making something better

: the quality of being better than before

: an addition or change that makes something better or more valuable

After reading the above, two words jump out at me, “Quality” and “Valuable”. The problem with both of these words is perspective. While most people understand what quality is, value is a whole other issue. But when you connect the two that’s when problems kick in. Lets apply this logic to the above new phone. Was the phone an improvement over the previous model? I think most would agree yes, but at what cost? Did the guy value his phone more then he did before? Judging from his words we can answer, “No.” The only reason the guy had a new phone was a result of the old one breaking. Also what happened to that other phone? Was is properly disposed of? Or did it end up in some land fill somewhere? How many natural resources did it take to make that phone? Did someone in a certain communist country have to work long hours for very little pay to assemble that phone? But most of all did this guy’s quality of life improve with this new phone? According to him, no. He joked that on Fridays he would often lets his cell battery run out because he enjoys the quiet period heading into a weekend. So where was the improvement?

While researching this entry, I kept coming across the same kind of statement made over and over.

The invention of machinery played a big part in driving forward the British Agricultural Revolution. Agricultural improvement began in the centuries before the Industrial revolution got going and it may have played a part in freeing up labour from the land to work in the new industrial mills of the 18th century. As the revolution in industry progressed a succession of machines became available which increased food production with ever fewer labourers. 2

In the US it was the same. Until food production increased, people ready and willing to work in the factories were not available. So before there was any form of industrial revolution there needed to be “improvement” in agriculture.  Once man figured out how to mass produce food, man was then free to direct his efforts elsewhere. So lets take a look at those improvements.

Has agriculture improved?

Unless you’ve been purposely ignoring the entire subject, these numbers should not come as a surprise to anyone. According to the CDC:

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. [Read data brief [PDF-528Kb]]
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. [Read guidelines]
  • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

The numbers are staggering with some suggesting this generation will be the first in history to have a shorter life expectancy then the previous. Yet as some countries are eating themselves to a shorter life, other countries continue to suffer the harsh reality of little to no food. Now consider how much waste the US creates and/or how much food we throw away. 4 Some estimates are so large that it makes the numbers seem fictitious. The answer to the above question does not appear to have a positive response nor does the data show any sign of improvement. Simply put our current agricultural system is failing us.

On the surface the answer is no, but it’s worse then that. How much oil are we using to help produce, transport, market, stock and sell these foods? Plastics are used in all phases of production, packaging and in the final sale which creates additional waste for our land fills. Gas is wasted transporting food back and forth across the country. Because of this travel, we have the pollution created by the planes, trains and automobiles. I hate to sound all doom and gloom but the more I look into answering the question regarding improved agriculture the more I see how bad things are. So I will end with this one last point to ponder.  What if I told you the tomato you just had in your salad has less nutritional value then the one your parents had 30 years ago? 5. Well it’s true, and it’s not limited to the tomatoes, but also broccoli, just to name another.

It’s time to answer the first of many questions which I plan on posing.

Has agriculture improved?

The answer is simple, the current agricultural system has not improved nor does it show any signs of improving. Unless something changes people will experience shorter life spans while their quality of life declines.

Sources:

1 -http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/improvement

2 -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution

3 – http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

4 – http://students.arch.utah.edu/courses/Arch4011/Recycling%20Facts1.pdf

5 – http://www.nbcnews.com/id/37396355/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/nutritional-value-fruits-veggies-dwindling/

Posted in family, garden, rant, technology | Comments Off

TweetDeck vs Hootsuite

So you are surfing the web looking for something to use to make better use of your twitter account. Like me, you think the website, twitter’s that is, just doesn’t work for you. You like the idea of lists and how they can be used to separate your main stream into something manageable.  You keep hearing about three main choices: TweetDeck, Seesmic and Hootsuite but don’t know which to pick. Well I’m hear to help. To start, Hootsuite bought/owns/etc Seesmic so there are actually only 2 big players in the market for people to use. So without wasting anymore of your time, here is why I started with TweetDeck, tried Hootsuite and decided to just stick with TweetDeck.

Real-estate

Loosing work area

Loosing work area

As you can see, because H.S. runs in a browser you lose some work space when compared to Tweetdeck.

More usable space.

More usable space.

Now I know someone is going to cry foul and before you write me a long email defending H.S.’s integrity…yes yes I know, I’m comparing a web app to a desktop program. But H.S took over Seesmic which was a desktop program sooooooooo….. you see my point? Good.

Menu and the GUI

The menu to the left really shows you just how different each program is. For HS you have Analytics, Publisher, Assignments and Contacts. In TD, you have an icon for each list you are using. For those of you who want the quick and dirty final word and don’t want to read any further, HS seems totally geared to people who use twitter in some business fashion. These people want to know when the best time to post is, how many people read your post, etc, etc, etc. And if I were a business I would want that information too. But I’m not, so those features are not important to me. I just wanna read stories and talk to a few friends in the quickest way possible. So if you want to see the furthest list to the right, in HS you need to drag the scroll bar. If you want to go back to the left most list, you again need to drag the scroll bar. In TD this same action is done with 2 clicks on the left menu.   In TD I can use the arrow keys to read post after post just by hitting the down arrow. I tried but HS doesn’t seem to allow for that. The one thing HS absolutely nails dead on is (drum roll) each acct has it’s own tab. Brilliant! Now that’s a great idea. It allows you to make sure you know which acct you are posting/replying/talking in.

This next comparison is a really weird one. In TD if you set your streaming to real time things will fly by as fast as they are posted. This can be both good and bad. I should be fair in saying while this seems to work great TD doesn’t update the list columns anywhere near as fast as they should be and DM replies sometimes grind to a halt. In HS the fastest you can get anything to update automatically is every 5minutes. Now I only tried the free edition just like TD but for a program that focuses so much on business, I would think instant updates would be their “thing”. Then again twitter has all kinds of weird number of times you can ask for updates thing so maybe it’s not HS fault.

Wrapping this up.

HootSuite

Pros

Data to make better decisions about when and how to post to maximize your ROI.  Divided Accts using tabs. Easily schedule posts.  You want access to your apps no matter where you are.

Cons

Small work area. Arrow keys don’t work. No simple way to jump from list to list. Have to manually log in each time which for me means I have to open Keepass since I don’t actually know my password. Slow 5 min update time.

TweetDeck

Pros

Full screen gives plenty of work area, navigating lists are very easy. Navigation without a mouse is easy. No logging in issues.  Instant updates in full stream.

Cons

Additional resources needed to run separate program. Lists sometimes don’t update at same rate as mainstream. DMs can be very slow. All accounts on one screen, can forget which account you are using. If you want to schedule tweets, ability is kinda buried.

Like I said, I’m sticking with TweetDeck but if I were the media relations person at some business I would use HootSuite.  Use what works best for you.

Posted in technology | Comments Off