Month: September 2011

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-09-25

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-09-18

Transfer cheats or transfer windows? BC Transit and transfers

The BC Transit CEO is claiming that an additional $600,000 is being seen in revenue without increasing ridership due to a crackdown on “cheating”

“It’s pretty amazing — the level of fare evasion that was going on out there,” said Manuel Achadinha, president and chief executive of B.C. Transit.

Pretty incendiary. BC Transit’s financials from the September 13th Victoria Regional Transit Commission meeting reveal a small increase in ridership, and an increase in revenue (over plan) from passengers and advertising of $685K, YTD.

When BC Transit in Victoria changed its transfer system recently, it did three things:

  1. Reduced its transfer window from 90 to 60 minutes, a 33% reduction. Now, I don’t know how much this is being enforced. I use a monthly pass, but anecdotal observation of bus transfer lengths indicates that it is enforced with varying levels of strictness (people watching is fun on the bus!).
  2. Made transfers one way, so people running short errands can no longer use a transfer on the return.
  3. Did away with the “letter of the day” system, and prevented people from banking transfers from previous days and times.

Now, the only cheats are the ones who gamed the letter of the day, not the ones who were using the transfer for short errands, who now pay double what they paid, or those stopping en-route to home and running a small errand in their 90 minute time window, now 60 minutes.

It’s obviously easy to parade cases of cheating, creating beautiful anecdata.

“I actually had a guy who had a glass case who had everything [all the transfers] alphabetical”

Right, the power of ONE! While a numerical estimate of $200,000 was provided for the cheating, it’s hard to tell what this was based on. It is disturbing that the Times Colonist didn’t bother questioning BC Transit on the methodology used, or the provenance of the numbers. It seems as likely to me that a shortening of the transfer window, and banning two way travel with a transfer could have increased the revenue per passenger from $1.47 to $1.52, a 3.4% increase. But that goes against BC Transit’s story.

I am sympathetic of BC Transit’s need to raise more revenue without bothering the car driving and property owning public with property tax increases. As a monthly pass buyer and property tax payer, I contribute in many ways! I suspect they noticed the reuse of transfers and saw it as an opportunity to raise revenue by tacking on unrelated transfer restrictions. We should be exploring more mobility tied solutions such as linking the carbon tax with transit funding, as these University of Victoria students are advocating. This is on the head of BC’s provincial government, which believes more in the optics of having a carbon tax in place and wowing environmentalists worldwide, rather than designing a system that works well.  Car drivers, think of it as paying a modest (really modest) toll to get people off the road so you can drive in peace! I would do it!

Photo courtesy Stephen Rees Flickr Photostream used under a Creative Commons Licence. Do read his blog as well, he always has insight to add to BC’s transit options.

Income Inequality = Super VIllains

From the very awesome Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Website, a reminder that income inequality causes more super villains than science, and mashing DNA 🙂  Canada’s Conference Board, which no one would accuse of being socialist, came up with a report yesterday flagging growing inequality in Canada. They flagged inequality as “raising questions of fairness”, and declared it of “moral concern”.

They are late to the party. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has been on this beat for years, and has an ongoing project called The Growing Gap about income inequality. Go read The Spirit level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett of the Inequality Trust in the UK for an epidemiological look at inequality and various social conditions.

Just wanted to share the awesome cartoon, that’s all 🙂

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-09-11

  • What Strategy? Obama's decision on smog rule offers hints on environmental strategy. #
  • The Globe and Mail concern trolls the #NDP on solidarity. It's a democracy, dear paper, opinions can differ! #cdnpoli #
  • Can Obama Escape the Alberta Tar Pit? By @revkin on #noKxl #tarsands #oilsands #
  • My oatmeal is missing some sriracha, but soy sauce, pecans and ground black pepper are yummy too #
  • About time. India Arrests G. Janardhana Reddy, Mining Baron for illegal #mining #
  • In a post-parking meter Victoria, cyclists left looking for a spot #yyj #yyjbike #
  • Why Belgium is doing better than France: No government = no 'austerity' LRB #
  • Read and weep. Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult #
  • RT @desmogblog: Why Questionable "Science" Gets Published, Pounced On in the Media, Retracted…Rinse and Repeat #
  • RT @dgardner: "The elites on both sides of the Atlantic have messed up catastrophically." Says @NYTimeskrugman #
  • RT @lacouvee: Speak up for Victoria Charities & Non-Profits. Thurs Sept 8th 8:30am-12:30 pm. Review of gaming cuts. #yyj #
  • RT @dave_eby: RT @ianmulgrew: Police conduct aided serial killer Willie Pickton – they must be held responsible #bcpoli #
  • RT @danpollock: Sept 23 is @BiketoWorkVic's "Bike to Work Day": 7:30-9:30am at #UVic 3:30-5:30pm @DocksideGreen #yyjbike #
  • RT @harjap: Take from poor, give to the rich, call it ‘development’ – Arundhati Roy on corruption, media & insurrection: #
  • RT @triadonaldson: Still room on buses to head out to the Juan de Fuca public meeting! Join us at 3 at Centennial Square to help #savejdf #
  • RT @libbydavies: Please check out my article: "What's next for the #NDP ?" on @Rabbleca #cdnpoli #
  • Underpant gnomes FTW! RT @pourmecoffee: Romney jobs plan: 1. Eliminate taxes, regulations on corporations and wealthy. 2. ??? 3. Jobs! #
  • Arnie campbell of shirley and otter point opens up the #savejdf hearing by opposing the development. 47 of 50 in district opposed. #
  • Fire marshalls closing the room. Up to capacity, but a few seats still available. #savejdf #
  • Walter jones of the pacheedaht nation reminds the #savejdf hearing of the fact that there is no treaty, its disputed land #
  • RT @triadonaldson: Ender Ilkay just slipped in the back of the room. No seat available for him either! #yyj #
  • Speaker after speaker reminds #savejdf committee members to "uphold people's will", "come to their senses" #
  • First supporter, Says this development "is the best we can do". Really? We can do better. #savejdf #
  • Awesome! RT @TrendsVictoria: #savejdf is now trending in #Victoria #
  • Also follow @triadonaldson @jcoccola and the #savejdf tag to keep up with puhlic hearing against sprawl vacation homes in the jdf. #
  • .@sarah_sierraBC is also livetweeting #savejdf hearing. #
  • Gordon O' Connor of @Dogwood says this #saveJDF zoning decision is only the tip of the zoning iceberg, speculators are waiting. #
  • RT @jcoccola: #savejdf "94% of people in jdf region who were surveyed against the development" says gordon of @dogwoodbc #
  • More quotes "luxury development doesn't belong on the juan de fuca trail" #savejdf #
  • Mehdi najari says this is a crd issue, let the whole CRD have a say. Reminds us of how the forest lands were privatised. #savejdf #
  • Mehdi najari with a classic barnburner #savejdf reminds us of the idiocy of the crd suing itself, talking about endemic corruption. #
  • .@sarah_sierraBC of the sierra club reminds us very cogently that this jdf sprawl development violates the regional growth strategy #savejdf #
  • this phone just isn't up to livetweeting a #savejdf puhlic meeting marathon 🙂 #
  • Next speaker asks "what happens if this development fails"? Developer's track record? #savejdf #
  • Ha!! "The pda (proposed development agreement) is a crock " john's choice quotes from the #savejdf hearing. Lots more, passionate speeches #
  • RT @triadonaldson: Report on the Juan de Fuca public mtg from @timescolonist #savejdf #yyj #
  • Ouch! RT @jcoccola: #savejdf big line of people still trying to get inside. At least this room has fire protection. #yyj #
  • This regional district is in a Hell of a hole! Says the next speaker:-) he's a storyteller, talks about mt. Benson in nanaimo #savejdf #
  • Thank @dogwoodbc @sarah_sierraBC @wildernews @blunt1 and others for organising bus pool, car Poole, and feast 🙂 #savejdf #
  • Saul Arbess challenges the legitimacy of land use committee A to make the decision on the #savejdf bylaws! #
  • Saul says, full Board needs to decide, not land use committee A #savejdf #
  • .@Integreen overflow crowd here, very passionate, informed and uniformly against the rezoning #savejdf #
  • RT @triadonaldson: Crowd outside holding up I heart Juan de Fuca signs! #savejdf #yyj #bcpoli #
  • Raging grannies brings up the ghost of emily Carr. Go Freda and the rest! #savejdf #
  • RT @triadonaldson: Raging Grannies take the mic at the Juan de Fuca public meeting, bringing the colour and song! #yyj #
  • .@rabbleca also follow the #savejdf tag for the juan de fuca hearing #
  • Freda Knott representing @cocvic talks about developing in port Renfrew instead #savejdf #
  • The outpouring of opposition against the rezoning and sprawl on the juan de fuca trail is quite amazing. #savejdf #
  • Vicky husband of the jordan river steering committee once again reminds us or the "clearly not consistent with rgs" leyal opinion. #savejdf #
  • Sorry for typos 🙂 phone cant read my mind… #savejdf #
  • People who went out during the bathroom break not let back in. Overwhelming show of opposition has "broken" the public hearing #savejdf #
  • "Supernatural BC" not if this development on the juan de fuca happens, says next speaker judith #savejdf #
  • Wish all the passion in this room could power this phone. #savejdf #
  • Next speaker to elected officials of the land use committee A "Do your job" – thundering applause ensues #savejdf #
  • Stacey jones and Bill jones of the pacheedaht reminds us of our treaty obligations -#savejdf #
  • Okay, phone officially read. Follow #savejdf for more. Many Many more speakers to come! #
  • Foes of resort proposal dominate public hearing into development near Juan de Fuca trail #savejdf #
  • Wow, what an incredibly beautiful day, picked a good one to put the bike on the @bc_transit bus, biking back home will be fun. #yyj #
  • Damn RT @alferraby: Another cyclist struck on Bay Street between Fernwood and Shelbourne this hour.Emergency crews are on scene #yyjbike #
  • Bay Street not fun to bike on. Cars are fast, lots of turns, lots of lights, bike lanes start and stop… #yyjbike #
  • Wow, and another #yyjbike accident on Blanshard and Tolmie, be safe people. Morning sun was super bright, and low, patchy fog? #
  • He is wrong, and this is fear mongering. Harper says 'Islamicism' biggest threat to Canada #cdnpoli #
  • Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and other Nobel peace price winners ask fellow winner Obama to reject #KeystoneXL #
  • Of course, Nobel price winner and Obama's energy secretary Steven Chu is for #KeystoneXL #
  • What incredibly stupid framing by CBC. Does Canada feel safer after 9/11? #cdnpoli #
  • US Chamber of Commerce astroturf group to promote #KeystoneXL pipeline – url is fuelingus (Ha ha!) #
  • I need a new phone, start meeting fully charged, #FAIL 3 hrs RT @jcoccola: Phone charger! way more prepared for day 2 of #savejdf meeting #
  • Ah, the "view from nowhere" useless article. Harper’s ‘Islamicism’ quip draws heavy opposition fire #
  • "A bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer" @jayrosen_nyu on the "View from Nowhere" #
  • The appropriate response to Harper's Islamicism "Quip" (really??): "Is it true, here's what we found", not "opposition condemns it". #
  • RT @drgrist: Here’s what happens to EPA whistleblowers (hint: it isn’t pretty) #
  • .@billmckibben on what comes next for the #TarSands Action #keystoneXL #noKXL #oilsands #cdnpoli #
  • So, #KeystoneXL not relevant to flow of #oilsands oil to US says US State Dept. #tarsands #cdnpoli #
  • Sad. RT @wicary: Despite PMO denial, emails cite ‘directive’ to re-brand government as Harper Government #cdnpoli #
  • Commute rest stop on pat bay 🙂 #yyj #privileged #
  • Follow #savejdf @sarah_sierraBC @triadonaldson @jcocola for 2nd day of Juan de Fuca sprawl resort hearings #yyj #
  • Follow #savejdf @sarah_sierraBC @triadonaldson @jcoccola for 2nd day of Juan de Fuca sprawl resort hearings #yyj (corrected) #
  • Apparently, Ender Ilkay is a virtuous developer trying to preserve his land from ruin by building a sprawl resort on it? #saveJDF #
  • Indeed. RT @triadonaldson: 'If this was a democratic process, it wouldn't have gotten this far," says @blunt1 #savejdf #
  • Wow! RT @jcoccola: #savejdf It's official, there will be another meeting tomorrow at 5pm. Come join us and make you voice heard! #yyj #
  • Morning book choices: Happiness? or Blindness? #
  • #yyj drivers please take appropriate anti-glare precautions.Two cyclists hurt in separate collisions #yyjbike #
  • Switching from coal to natural gas would do little for global #climate Study Dep. on modelling assumptions. #
  • Hilarious! Subprime Mortgage Bonds Getting AAA Rating S&P Denies to U.S. Treasuries – Bloomberg #
  • I wish bloggers would go back to debating issues on their blogs instead of on twitter, which is a difficult place to follow discussion. #
  • RT @drgrist: @andrew_leach @alannogee Skip Laitner puts it this way: productivity is recipe of labor, capital & energy. Can change ratio. #
  • RT @alexsteffen: The disturbing reality for US sustainability work: need to ruggedize both for climate chaos + catastrophic civic failure. #
  • Thanks! Why not public stores too? RT @cqwww: My first google maps app, all of the BC private liquor stores #yyj yvr#bc #
  • .@TheEconomist thinks that #indigenous opposition to BC resource projects that would destroy their land is nimbyism #
  • Sounds good, though, and is also a good band name. RT @mattyglesias: "Regulatory uncertainty" is nonsense on stilts: #
  • RT @andrew_leach: This email thread, by @Revkin, is a great discussion on #KeystoneXL #nree #oilsands #tarsands #
  • About time this discriminatory practice ended. Canada weighs lifting blood donor ban for gay men #
  • People power! Juan de Fuca resort decision delayed #saveJDF #yyj #
  • Researchers predict extreme summertime temperatures to become a regular occurrence #climate #
  • RT @ghoberg: British Columbians Call for Climate Action – A youth-organized petition – LIke this page on #
  • RT @pembina: #Enviro Minister says he cld close loophole giving #MaximPower #coal plant 45yr licence 2 pollute #cdnpoli #
  • RT @wicary: The world after 9/11: @NaomiAKlein prevails again, Gerry Caplan says. #cdnpoli #
  • Apparently, there was a tremor in #yyj Damn, I can never feel them. #
  • RT @MF_EQ: #Earthquake Time:2011-09-09 19:41:30 UTC Region:Vancouver Island, Canada region (49.508,-127.009) Magnitude:6.7 Depth:2.0 #yyj #
  • RT @brodiedavid: How come everytime there is a minor earthquake in Canada, NRC's website goes down?? #
  • Love letters from account… RT @wicary: The #CPC MP, the Chinese reporter and the amorous emails. #cdnpoli #
  • RT @paulwillcocks: If Juan de Fuca trl resort apparently doomed, how abt province buying for Gordon Campbell Provincial Park? #yyj #saveJDF #
  • Bred for Dutch Independence:) Carrots are orange for an entirely political reason #
  • .@Daveh2120 I would like the JDF lands to revert back to public stewardship, where they were before they were irrregularly "privatized" #
  • .@hootsuite Any problems with the facebook api? Can't post to facebook from the web? Keep getting error message "error occurred with FB API" #

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Drivers: Cyclists, pedestrians and Glare

Two cyclists were taken to hospital Wednesday after each went hurtling into a windshield in what police said were “almost identical” accidents just 23 minutes apart. Both drivers were somehow blinded by the sun, neither of them seeing the cyclist.

Two cyclists hurt in separate collisions.

This is sad, because it is avoidable. Most drivers know that visibility during  morning and evening driving when the sun is low is problematic. They can see massive objects like other cars, trees, or buildings, but pedestrians, animals and bicyclists are frequent victims to what is called “sun glare”. But do drivers get adequate training on how to avoid sun glare?

Insurance BC (ICBC) driver’s licence guide has a chapter that they call See-Think-Do, about being a smart driver. It doesn’t mention the sun or glare. I have not taken driving lessons here, so I don’t know if this is something that comes up during instruction.  Just in case, here’s a shortlist of things drivers can do to avoid injuring other people, courtesy the smart motorist, and moi.

  1. Take the bus! Why is this first? Because it is foolproof, you can’t personally injure people when you’re not driving, and you can be assured that your professional driver likely knows more about driving than you ever will.
  2. Know when the problem is worst:  Early spring and early fall when the sun rises due east and sets due west, and roads are laid out perfectly east-west, and north-south.
  3. Driving in glare causing conditions is as dangerous as driving in fog or rain, so drive anticipating danger. It’s a beautiful sunny day without consequence when you’re sitting in a bus watching the sun rise over the ocean, or playing hooky from work, not while piloting a dangerous vehicle.
  4. Aerodynamic tilted windshields make you more vulnerable as they increase scattering. No, don’t go out and buy a boxy SUV, you’ll injure more people that way.
  5. Light coloured dashes are out, get darker interiors. Yes, it may get a little warmer on a few days in the summer, but the solution to that is a sunshade, and cracking your windows.
  6. Avoid, as in avoid ghastly cleaning products that shine up your car’s insides. Yes, shiny is often associated with clean, but might I add, that an understated clean shows more polish 🙂
  7. Clean windshields. That buggy, dusty windshield will scatter more light, keep it clean. Also, older windshields eventually get micro-scratches from all that dust, and all the cleaning in the world will not improve things. I wonder if one’s insurance company will pay for a replacement if the windshield becomes a safety hazard. I mean, it is more honest that a strategic stone throw, or other devices.
  8. Polarised sunglasses. Surprising that sunglasses are not mandatory while driving, they really really help. I should know, having never worn one for many years. I got a prescription pair five years back, and I can’t imagine driving, biking, or walking in the sun without one.
  9. Attention. Of course, texting, talking, eating, changing channels, berating your children, vacuuming your car, polishing your dashboard, etc.

If you are a visual learner, here’s a helpful, very short video from consumer reports.

Image courtesy bootbearwdc’s flickr photostream used under a creative commons licence.


Ebooks, What Gives?

So, I borrowed (from my excellent local library) a paper version of the most excellent Merchants of Doubt, which chronicles motivated denialism in the US starting from tobacco and continuing on to climate change. I liked it a lot (I don’t do too many book reviews!), and wanted to pick up a copy. I’ve discovered, rather recently, that reading on my 3.5 inch smarphone screen has made my reading richer in so many ways:

  1. I cannot forget to pack a book any more, it’s in my phone
  2. The small screen means no horizontal eye scrolling, which makes the reading faster.
  3. All those selling points about eyestrain and e-readers are a bit overstated. I read in 30-45 minute stretches and there is no strain reading 2-3 hours a day.
  4. Brightness is not an issue either, my excellent (for non DRM’ed) books software fbreader lets me adjust screen brightness easily by a simple screen swipe.
  5. One downside, now, instead of my nose buried in a book that I can signal how clever I am with, it’s now buried in a phone, not as cool.

Back to Merchants of Doubt, I wanted to get an ebook version, since I can’t really see myself buying too many paper books any more, and needing to find bookshelves and moving boxes and space.  I had the ability to comparison shop because I read on a vendor neutral device. So, off to the internets I went:

Amazon – $11.02

Barnes and Noble – $14.85

Kobo – $24.19 (Ha!)

Sony – $14.85

Books on Board – Independent website – $14.98

These are all DRM’d, so can only be read by the appropriate readers/software, of course. Anyone who’s unfortunate enough to own a kobo reader will be happy to know that they can expect to spend more than double on just this one book compared to a kindle. This seems a ridiculously large spread for what are essentially identical bits of data sold on the internet. The only reason the spread can exist is that the DRM locks unfortunate e-readers into buying products that are artificially sabotaged to work only on their readers.

And, god forbid you have a fantastic ebook organization and conversion software like Calibre to manage your books for you and convert them between different formats, it will not work with these DRM’d  books.

If you buy a book, or borrow one from BC libraries new, and fast expanding ebook site, it comes with severe restrictions, only a reader software or two, not compatible with the kindle (which is entirely amazon’s fault for not going with a standardized book format), and with various software vagaries. I once “lost” access to 3 of my library books because I authorized a computer in error.

The tragedy for authors, of course (I won’t link, just google), is that it is not that difficult to remove the DRM, and a cursory search on most ebooks indicates that they are downloadable for free, non DRM’d and readable on anything. They can’t even say “no ebooks”, because with the ubiquity of high quality scanners and OCR software, and sites that can scan for $1/100 pages, not much to be done to prevent book digitization.

So, like the music industry a few years back, are we going to have a giant war on book downloaders/DRM breakers soon? Has the publishing industry learnt anything from the music industry? If anything, books are even easier to download, they’re mostly text, so, small files. It is a different world. But, I will never buy an e-reader associated with a bookstore as long as they don’t play well with each other.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-09-04

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