Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Boycott the Nissan Pavilion!

My daughter went to the Jonas Brothers concert there. Getting in was easy, as she and her mother arrived hours before the start. The problems were in getting into the building and getting out of the area. The latter took over 1-1/2 hours just to get to the public road.
  1. The building funnels everyone into one entrance. This is very inefficient and creates backups.
  2. There is only one access road.
  3. The access road opens on to a 2-lane road, thereby putting the latter over capacity.
  4. To add insult to injury, every ticket comes with a parking fee. That's chiseling in my book.

The only way this can be fixed is for the Nissan Pavilion to be boycotted until it is put into usable shape and charges ethical prices.

The steps required to end the boycott are:
  1. An end to the per ticket parking charge. If they want to charge for parking, they can sell permits online like the Washington Nationals do.
  2. Free shuttle buses from Metrorail to reduce traffic loads.
  3. More building entrances.
  4. More access roads. One can be dedicated to the shuttle buses.
  5. An appropriate number of properly trained parking staff.
  6. Widening the two lane road and other traffic improvements. Let NP pay for them, so the taxpayers don't have to subsidize it.
Seriously, PW county should never have approved this thing without the necessary infrastructure.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Any Olympic Athlete Who Does Not Win Gold Should Be Boiled in Oil!

I'm sure this is what the Chinese government and far too many of its people think. The Commies haven't learned that winning loads of medals in international athletic contests does not prove the superiority of communism or any other ideology. All that a Chinese Olympic "victory" would prove is that the Chinese Communist Party has overinvested in athletics, to the detriment of everything else.

On the other hand, the U.S., which is not exactly a totalitarian country, is leading the total medal count. This is due to a combination of the U.S.'s size (over 300 million people) and freedom. No government official will force you to take up a sport. If you are lucky, you can get a college scholarship, provided that your sport is played intercollegiately. For the most part, our athletes play for the love of it, which is the way things should be. Fortunately for many of them, they are marketable and can gain support in exchange for advertising work. Still, this relationship is strictly voluntary.

Enough of this outburst...the Redskins are playing tonight. I have to practice watching football and berating idiotic coaches. ;-)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Still More on

After perusing their website, I determined that is an outfit of developers who want to extend Metrorail to Tysons Corner using a tunnel. Their survey question about Dulles rail is a diversion. I suspect that the membership consists of current major property holders who want to use Metrorail to increase the value of their holdings. Redevelopment would be a natural outcome of this process. In short, I "followed the money" again.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More about

Their website now works. I clicked "About us" and got some boilerplate about making Tysons Corner more livable, blah, blah, blah. It has nothing about who sponsors it. The only contact listed is "Erin Fuller". That name is too common for a search to glean any information about her.

How to Create an Effective Summer Jobs Program

The recent troubles with DC's jobs program indicate that it was viewed as an entitlement for teenagers. Teenagers, in return, view it as an entitlement. Expecting them to work well and to have useful jobs to do is unrealistic.

The Spring 2008 issue of ArcUser has an article "Techie Teens Use GIS to Increase City Revenues" (p. 49). While the article focuses on the work the kids did, deeper points lie in the article. 6 of 60 kids in Safford, AZ's jobs program were selected to do the work. The work consisted of a fixed project and the kids had to give a report in the end. The kids gained useful skills and are expected to work on future projects.

The implication for DC is to severely scale back the jobs program and to make the jobs part of discrete, measureable projects. Teenagers should apply to work on the projects, thereby encouraging them to gain an internal locus of control. This also means a reduction in DC's democratic centralization. Only a small number of projects should be done in the first year, as everyone gains experience with the system. As experience grows, the number of projects should increase. In no case, should a project be make-work. The projects can range from high value-added things like GIS and IT to simple beautification and clean-up projects. One obvious clean-up project involves removing trash from the Anacostia River. The work will be tough, but the benefits can be made clear to workers, and the money is still money.

So, imagine the results. Kids will have shown their willingness and ability to do hard, useful work and the initiative to take those jobs. This will look good on college applications.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Another Push Poll, This Time by

I'm just off the phone from a survey by They were trying to get me to say that I support extending Metrorail to Dulles, without mentioning any costs. They also wanted me to say that I wanted both more housing and more affordable housing in Tysons Corner. That is two questions, not one as they posed it. Idiots like these are ruining the survey business.

Another aspect of poor survey design: I was asked whether I worked in Fairfax County. I answered "No." Then, it asked me whether I worked in Tysons Corner. Hello? Tysons Corner is in Fairfax County, so if I don't work in Fairfax County, I can't work in Tysons Corner. Idiots!

BTW, while I was typing the first paragraph, I got a second call from the same number with the same survey. Who programmed this stupid thing?

Friday, August 1, 2008

LRVs Without Overhead Wires?

Bombardier's "MITRAC Energy Saver" consists of an supercapacitor bank and associated electronic. Its primary use is to recover energy from braking, but Bombardier claims that 1 km of acceleration is possible.

The weakness of this technology is its low voltage. According to the product information, it runs at 750 volts. To get, say, 10 km of acceleration, the voltage has to increase to 7,500 volts. It is unclear from Bombadier's website how much charge is stored. Still, the supercapacitors have to have about 10 times greater voltage, or be 1/10th of the size of the current ones to store this much charge.

Thus, we can conclude that this technology is unripe.

So, what does this have to do with anything? I've been following the talk about light rail lines in Washington, DC. It seems that the Congress has long forbidden overhead wires on streets. Getting power from a third rail using either the old conduit track technology or the new technology in Bordeaux is impractical. So, the way to get streetcars running is to charge them at stations. Right now, this appears impractical. But, improvements in battery and supercapacitor technologies may make this feasible within 5 years. So, all of you who like to dream up light rail systems should think in terms of having chargers at terminals and stations, with Shanghai-like charging "umbrellas".