Sunday, September 21, 2008

Google Ads Without Context

In this post, I criticized telemarketing scammers for spoofing caller IDs. So, what does Google Ads think my readers want to buy? How about "Spoof Your Caller ID" or "Fake Your Caller ID"? Clearly, Google's ad placement algorithms do not use context. This is hurting my bank account. ;-)

Tindo - The First Practical Battery-Electric Bus?

On February 11. 2008, the battery-powered Tindo bus made its debut in Adelaide, Australia. The Tindo bus uses molten-salt Zebra batteries for storage and a charger system at a central bus stop. This flyer shows the important data in metric units. The data are converted to American units below.

  • Capacity:
    • Seated – 25
    • Wheelchair – 2
    • Total – 27
    • Standing - ?
  • Length: 34 feet, 2-1/4 inches
  • Speed: 47 mph
  • Maximum grade: 12.5%
  • Range between recharges "under typical urban conditions": 124 mi
  • Has air conditioning
  • Unknown (to me) whether it has heat
  • "1 minute of charge = 1 kilometre" (0.62 mi)
  • Charger voltage: 386 V
  • Charger power: 70 kW
  • Battery temperature: 270° C (518° F)
  • Cost of first bus: $US 460,000 (as of 9/21/08)
It looks like this bus could be practical for relatively short runs already made by 35 foot buses with relatively long layovers for charging. Presumably, longer buses could be manufactured.

This is really second-generation technology. The exciting part lies in what could be done with third-generation battery or supercapacitor technology.

Tysons Tomorrow - Just Another Pressure Group

I had an email exchange with Erin Fuller, Executive Director of Tysons Tomorrow and Vice President of The Coulter Cos. It turns out that my cynicism regarding Tysons Tomorrow was a bit excessive. I mistook signs of a startup operation (e.g., a survey referring to a nonexistent website) for something sinister. It is just another pressure group willing to do anything legal to get its way. So, it will spin (i.e., distort) facts and produce bogus statistics in addition to mundane organizational activities. So, a "key finding" of its survey is that "86% of respondents support extending rail to Dulles airport, including four stops in the Tyson’s Corner area." In an earlier post, I noted that this question was meaningless as phrased, given its lack of context. Sure, if extending rail to Dulles Airport via Tysons Corner were free, I'd support it. But it's not free, so I can't make a judgment without knowing the costs.

Still, I stand by my verdict that push polling should end - it's destroying legitimate surveys. It's really a kind of Prisoners' Dilemma problem. We all would be better off if push polling ended. However, it is against the interest of any individual push pollster to cease. So, we will be stuck with them until the survey business crashes. :-(

Friday, September 12, 2008

A New Way to Annoy Telemarketers

I got a call today about my auto insurance. The whole thing was suspicious: no mention of my name, no name on the caller ID and a vague reference to my expiring auto insurance and threat to end it if I hung up. So, I pressed "1" to talk to an agent, then put the phone on hold to investigate the number. When I was done, I resumed the call and the "agent" was yelling. I tried to ask "Who are you?" but got a hangup. So, if I get another call like this, I can annoy the aggressor by simply using my phone's hold feature. In the meantime, I can do something useful, like post another blog entry that nobody will read. ;-)

BTW, the phone number on the caller ID was spoofed: 323-763-8732. I called back to find it not in service.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Metro's Lunchtime Chat Answered Two of My Questions Today, One Bizarrely

Shiva Pant, standing in for General Manager John Catoe, answered two of my questions

First question of session:

Alexandria, VA: Why has the slowdown on the Blue/Yellow Lines between Braddock Road and Nat'l Airport not been publicized? When will service return to normal? Another communications failure has befallen Metro.

Reply: Hi Alexandria! As you most likely are aware, we often have speed restrictions in place after conducting major track work. This is to ensure that the new trackbed, which was just installed over the Labor Day Weekend, has settled and is safe for trains to ride on at full speed. The speed restriction means that the trains are moving slower through the stretch of track that was replaced. It?s not actually delaying anyone?s trips.

Let's see. The Blue/Yellow lines have some speed restrictions (i.e., lowered speed limits), but that is not causing delays. Perhaps in another universe this is true, but, in ours, it is false. Lowered speed limits cause increased travel times, that is, delays. Normal service will resume when the track is ready. I really didn't know that. But, then I asked a more precise question about when it will be ready. A different view of reality and a nonanswer from someone without answers.

And, next:

Alexandria, va: The idea of a enabling a walking transfer between Farragut North and Farragut West has recently popped up. What are your thoughts on implementing this? In what kind of timeframe can this be done?

Reply: Hello Alexandria. Actually the idea of a ?walking transfer? is something that has been considered and I believe is actively being explored. It is something that is part of our next fare software upgrade. Once that is in place, we should be able to move forward with that idea. It would work by allowing riders x amount of minutes (that would be determined later) to walk between the Farraguts.

So, the idea of a Farragut Square walking transfer is on the table. Rejoice, O Readers of CommuterPageBlog and Greater Greater Washington!

I'll spare my rant about last night's Redskins game for another post. I can hear the rejoicing now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I Just Got a Flyer from Tysons Tomorrow

This yet another post about Tysons Tomorrow. Now, they want me to join and to go to a Board of Supervisors meeting about Tysons Corner. Te want me to support the recommendations of the Tysons Corner Land Use Taskforce. Never mind that the recommendations have not been made public yet. Methinks there be a rat. I love the way the flyer says "Metrorail is coming to Tysons...", as though it has final approval from all parties. Personally, I think it is a boondoggle. The Silver Line has the highest cost/passenger ratio I've seen of any mass transit project. (If I'm correct, it's something like $55,000 per (passenger per year). For the price of the Silver Line, several relatively expensive light rail lines can be built with far higher overall ridership. Moreover, the Orange Line is saturated: adding trains will only add to the congestion. Even if half of rush-hour Blue Line trains switch to the Yellow Line, that leaves only half of their slots available for the Silver Line, somewhat defeating its purpose.