Thursday, June 28, 2007

we win! ... er wait a minute...

yep, we won the nation's worth traffic contest! hah. now i can scoff at all those east coast pals who complain about their measly traffic. we're the kings baby!

one interesting tidbit:
because our traffic sucks, we have less fatalities.
makes perfect sense: how do you have a fatal collision at 5mph? how do you run over a pedestrian when no one walks in LA? all the stories of senior citizens decimating farmer's markets and drivers shooting other people with guns they carry in the glove boxes are clearly overdone. the reality is we're polite enough to get out of the car *before* we shoot each other.
start taking notes, montana!

California has worst U.S. traffic: study
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Californians idle in the nation's worst traffic jams on interstates surrounding major metropolitan areas but they are far from alone -- 52 percent of these urban stretches of highways are congested, according to a new study released on Thursday.

Drivers in four lucky states enjoyed zero congestion: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

But one Midwestern state, Minnesota, and two East Coast states nearly matched California's sorry showing.

Some 83.33 percent of California's urban interstates are overcrowded, followed by Minnesota at 77.78 percent and New Jersey at 73.35 percent, according to the 16th annual survey by The Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonpartisan group.

Manhattan popularized the term "gridlock" but traffic jams on New York's urban interstates were only mediocre, ranking 37th at 53.39 percent, according to the libertarian-idea promoting group that compared volume-to-capacity ratios.

Drivers in some states whose booming economies are magnets for new residents spent much more time car-sitting without moving than New Yorkers. Florida ranked 40th at 59.44 percent. And Texas, whose $50 billion road privatization dwarfs all of its peers, was 41st at 59.67 percent, the study said.

And for the eighth year in a row, New Jersey had the nation's worst overall road system, according to the group.

"Gridlock isn't going away," said David Hartgen, the lead author and a professor at the University of North Carolina.

To reverse this trend, the 50 states -- which spent almost $99 billion on roads in 2005 -- must prioritize their dollars on traffic-busting projects, added the Charlotte-based expert.

That might be a bit of a challenge for New Jersey, whose Democratic Gov. John Corzine might partly privatize its toll roads. New Jersey's administrative costs were the nation's highest at $68,352 per state-controlled mile, the study said.

Massachusetts was 49th at $60,807; next was California, whose overhead ate up $50,614. New York ranked 43rd -- but its $18,687 tab was less than one-third of neighboring New Jersey.
Florida ranked 42nd at $16,109; Texas was much leaner, spending just $3,147 which put it in 9th place.

North Dakota had the least expensive bureaucrats, spending only $1,786, followed closely by Arkansas, which ranked second at $1,805, and Missouri which was third at $1,989.

New Jersey's total road budget -- $2.36 million per state-controlled mile -- was also more than double that of the next biggest spender, which was Massachusetts at $893,236.

Florida was 48th at $570,191, just above New York, which ranked 47th with a budget of $552,807.

California was 43rd in total spending at $336,954. Texas spent just less than third of that, ranking 26th at $106,221.

South Carolina spent the least -- $31,262. West Virginia was second at $41,839; next came North Carolina at $44,654.

Though states got 13 percent more federal transportation aid in 2005 than in 2004, they may have focused on potholes.

"They put the money right to work on the road surface," Hartgen said by telephone, noting the "pavement condition" of urban and rural roads improved. But fatalities rose a bit and little headway was made in speeding urban interstate trips.

"They put a lot more money into the system but haven't really turned the corner on congestion," Hartgen said.

Though often driver-maddening, traffic jams can actually cut deaths by slowing speeds. "Most of the states with very low accident rates also have very high congestion," said Hartgen.

Massachusetts did best on the death scale, with only 0.797 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles. Connecticut came second at 0.865, followed by Vermont at 0.946.

New Jersey was 5th with 1.013, followed by New York at 1.039. California took 19th place with 1.315 fatalities.

Montana was the deadliest, with 2.256 fatalities. South Dakota was 49th at 2.215; South Carolina was 48th at 2.211.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

the "executive" view

it's often said that big companies have lotsa resources, with fancy desks and executive offices with cherrywood desks and views gazing out over the landscape. i'm here to expose this lie.

here's the view from the back of my little office. aeron chair? check. neglected biz mgmt books?check. picture of wife? check. nothing unusual here, save perhaps my electric green buddha coin bank. let's take a look out that window...
ah yes! my little office has a choice view of the loading bay, whose dumpsters send out a siren call to all of the homeless in ppl in the nearby park. and today look who i spied digging in the dumpster: the big lebowski's twin brother. the loading bay has been far better than any mountain or ocean view as i get to the play the game of "guess what's in the dumpster?"
he shoots, he scores! leaping off his feet, lebowski goes deep in the BFI bin. today was a light day for dumpster treasures, he was solely was able to uncover a handful of recyclabes for redemption. better luck tomorrow my man, i'll be cheering for you.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

sedona by the photos

i thought i'd share a few of our shots from a visit to sedona, AZ last weekend. this time from our nice camera instead of my crappy motorola Q. the one up above is jane and i driving into town. you can see the groovy red rocks up in front of us. we stayed at the sedona rouge hotel which was pretty nice, but sits right next to a strip mall with an oversized safeway looming over it. nothing spells "weekend getaway" like the neon luminescence of a grocery store sign...

behold! it's a very sneaky and nearly invisible "secret mountain wilderness"! i've noticed that overtime the requirements for naming something "secret" have really bottomed out. this trail was about as secret as a 7-11. truth be told we hiked for about a mile and 1/2 before it became intolerably hot and we dashed for the car before we turned into beef jerkey.

sedona has some great scenery beyond the famous red rocks. i was surprised at how green it was for the desert, really quite nice. the above little flower was hanging out on a cactus during our ill-fated hike along the not-so-secret boynton trail.

ah yes, slide rock park! we'd passed this up earlier in the day as the heat had drawn everyone from within a 20 mile radius to the park. we opted instead to chill out in the quaint downtown area of flagstaff which was about 2000 miles higher in elevation and a little cooler. we caught slide rock with much less crowds around 5:30 and i hopped into the water straight away.

woohoooooo!!! slide rock gets its namesake from the little "waterslides" nature has carved into the rock. as you can tell by the look on my face, it was lotsa fun :-)

and now for round 2!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

not so normal in minneapolis

picture this: 48 hour biz trip for me to minneapolis for a speaking gig to a small group of customers. i'm expecting a ho-hum, uneventful excursion to the midwest. i was planning to do the rough equivalent of "plugging my nose and swallowing" the brussel sprouts of a town that i expected minneapolis to be. then the fun started...

walking through the airport, i glanced to my left and caught this advertisement: "Goose Problems?"

uh, not really. why do you ask, flightcontrol?

turns out that migrating canadian geese are the plague of golf courses and people with large lawns everywhere in minneapolis. the disrespectful little canucks punish the greens with their poo, turning the 14th hole into a slippery mess. i was told some people have dogs simply to keep the geese off their lawn, which stands in stark contrast to LA where we seemingly get dogs just to put people's clothes on them and stuff them in a handbag. hrm.

next, i stepped outside to get a sandwich for lunch and had to do a doubletake as i watched a storm trooper take cash out of the atm and go for a stroll down the street. i mentioned this to someone later and they said that they'd also seen him watering plants with a little girl. ladies and gentlemen, nothing to see here, pls move along. just a grown man pretending to be sci-fi warrior amidst all the downtown shops and businesses. i can only imagine what minneapolis is going to look like when the new harry potter book is released...

for the record, we keep these ppl in front of mann's chinese theatre in LA (remember the scene where borat finds his pal dressed as charlie chaplin?) and only let them wander around during movie premieres. if you want to be truly nuts in LA, costumes are not required or really encouraged. though i have to say a stars wars costume would be wayyyyyy better than the old guy in tights that hangs out shirtless on roberston and dances with a baton in front of the local stores. double hrm.

lastly, the sales guy i was out helping took me out to a british pub with a 2nd floor nestled amongst the downtown high-rises which had nothing less than a complete lawn-bowling court setup right next to the pub.

old duffers and young 'uns alike all dressed up in their summer whites throwing the little bowling balls at one another while onlookers work on buffalo wings and beer. league scores up on a big board and everyone enjoying a pleasant late spring evening. pretty cool.

minneapolis, next time i'm coming back with a better attitude and my yoda hookup. dammit, you deserve it :-)

Monday, June 18, 2007

current playlist

L.S.F. - Mark Ronson feat. Kasabian - Version
Song for Mutya - Groove Armada - Soundboy Rock
Sealion - Feist - The Reminder
Wanna Be Loved - Pericos & Buju Banton - Red Hot & Latin Redux
Musicology - Prince - Musicology
Ridiculous Wobble - Bassnectar - Underground Communications
Yo - Bassnectar feat. Kristina Maria - Underground Communications
Shoot to Thrill - AC/DC - Back in Black
Red Rabbits - The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Hollywood (Gabin's Organic Remix) - West Indian Girl - Remix E.P.
Valerie - Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse - Version
Time - Easy Dub Allstars - Dub Side of the Moon
Monkey One - Underworld & Gabriel Yared - Breaking & Entering O.S.T.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

hong kong->singapore

onto the last leg of my asian biz trip over here. i left hong kong yesterday afternoon and landed in singapore late last nite. the difference was spelled out almost immediately. my driver in hong kong was an efficient, no-nonsense chinese guy who quietly took me where i needed while i played away on bubble breaker in the backseat. the driver in singapore was a jovial indian fellow who interspersed jokes into commentary on the remarkable changes in singapore since my last visit, which involve even more land reclamation, formula-1 races starting soon and the development of a sands casino on the island. the latter of which was loudly decried i'm told until they discovered how unbelieveably lucrative it was. they're still taking pains to discourage singaporeans from gambling away their mortgages, including an education campaign and the requirement that any singaporean must make a deposit (100 bucks) before they can start gambling at the casino each time they play, presumably to make sure they can still pay for a cab home and meals the next day if they lose their shirt. hrm.

the difference b/w singapore and china (and to a much lesser extent HK), can be illustrated by the fact that in china you never have to wait in line to wash your hands at the bathroom and you're pretty lucky if you can find paper towels or a dryer outside of higher-end places. blecch. in singapore, i ran into a sign today next to a well-stocked paper towel dispenser which outlined a 8 step technique for thoroughly cleansing your hands from all germs that i'm fairly certain is based on an advanced tai chi maneuver.

only real final thoughts on HK is that the place is nice enough but it is overrun by bankers and their kin, making it very money-centric and as such a heckuva lot less interesting than other places. it also means people are always on their damn phones! i witnessed people nearly shouting into their cellphones in the elevator, on the train and at every biz meal i had someone either got up and left the meal for 10 minutes for a call or just took it at the table, blabbing away. ugh!!!! there did seem to be a small design culture there and my stay was short but i wasn't disappointed to leave. i will say that hands down HK has the best public transportation i've ever used. dead easy, super efficient and fast.

the final old college pal and roomie i've seen on this trip is jeffrey lam from my freshman year at the university of michigan on rotvig hall of bursely. jeff's married with 2 kids now but has somehow managed to evade the grasping hands of time as he looks exactly the same as before. here's jeff at dinner tonight:

Saturday, June 02, 2007

beijing -> hong kong

phew! finally taking a big breath after trekking around for a week. i've landed in hong kong after finishing out my short stint in beijing. a couple final thoughts...

- there's a hustler on every street in beijing. it feels like nothing close to communism... it's hypercapitalism. everyone is out for a buck, including this student that ended up doing double duty as tour-guide / salesman. it worked quite well as he was excellent at both and i was looking for an original souvenir :-) this is a shot from the "forbidden city" which was nearby the hyatt i was staying at.

the funky food stories go on as i had dinner at what was described as one of the "most famous" sichuan places in beijing. it consisted of some pretty tasty stuff along with a fish served in a vat of oil (must have been a gallon) along with frogs, pig's feet and congealed pig's blood. i ate the frogs (think 'triplets of belleville') but passed on the other more dubious stuff citing my pseudo-vegatarianism.

here's another shot from the forbidden city. this one is of an older gent doing street calligraphy with a long brush. his elegant scribings were ignored by many who walked by who trampled across the characters. this type of indifference/rudeness was quite common in mainland china, everything from people talking loudly on cellphones in elevators to cramming into subway cars before the people on the train who are trying to get out have time to step out.

beijing was really interesting, but i was happy to leave it behind me as i boarded another air china flt to hong kong saturday afternoon...

as i stepped off the plane, it was easy to recognize what a different place hong kong is than mainland china. it smells different (read: better), looks very high-tech, and people are serially connected with their mobile phones. when going through immigration, one woman didn't get off the phone until the agent was in the process of stamping her passport, she apologized weakly and hustled along. in LAX immigrations you will get chided by the quasi-police for so much as pulling out your mobile phone in the waiting area...

outside of the well-appointed airport, the next thing you notice is the stifling heat. oh lord am i a wimp after living in LA for so long. it's nearly intolerable, something like 90 degrees F + 100% humidity. needless to say i'm chilling out in my hotel room right now after sweating my head off while walking around town this morning. here's a shot from window of the lovely grand hyatt hong kong:

and a shot of the city from the restaurant at the top of the excelsior hotel where old friend alex roberts and i had brunch:

and aleboh:

Friday, June 01, 2007

first real cyberwar (sort of)

recently estonia decided to remove a statue of a soviet soldier from a park which triggered them getting rocked by russian botnets launching ddos attacks which basically shut down internet access to estonia from the outside (and inside for some services). for all of you non-security types, this means they blasted them with so much traffic they weren't able to do anything but swallow the massive amounts of data being pumped at them by angry russians.

really well-done ny times article on the event here.

there's been a lot of talk of "cyberwar" and the like but this is the most prominent, prolonged internet fights between 2 countries that has ever been witnessed. china has targeted the us and japan for military secrets, pakistan and india have dueled in the past (swapped website defacements mostly), as have israel and palestine but none of their online skirmishes match what's happened between russia and estonia in terms of raw, brute force. estonia is no internet backwater either, they have some serious skills as do much of the former soviet bloc countries.

this is a harbinger of things to come. it's been possible to cripple internet-reliant countries for some time now but it's never been done at scale. since i'm not one to fearmonger, i'll point out that with internet services inaccessible during the eventual cyberwar with some pissed off country, think of all the things we'll be able to do since we won't be wasting time online! why just this week with no internet access on my mobile and long taxi rides in beijing, i've scored my personal best in bubble break (over 500). that's progress :-)