Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Airlines are a mess

I'm now flying a few times each year for various reasons. Though I don't fly all that often, I've noticed a decline the airlines. When I came home from San Antonio, TX in January, my flight was delayed several times before we finally boarded. Then the plane broke down and everyone had to wait for a new plane to come in even later. Today I'm on my way to Kansas City. I'm stuck in the Phoenix airport because the second leg of my flight was cancelled due to the plane breaking down in Sacramento. I'm spending enough time at the airports between flights to qualify as actually visiting these intermediate locations! Crazy.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Senseless Sunday: the long and short word

  • The word hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia means fear of long words.

  • Flint, Michigan is the largest city in the U.S.A. to have just one syllable in its name.

  • An urban legend defines a twit as a pregnant gold fish. Gold fish do not get pregant. They lay eggs that get fertilized afterwards. A twit is also not a comment on Twitter. That is a tweet.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

San Antonio, TX recent visit

I recently visited San Antonio, TX for a world conference that I attended. Though I didn't get to explore anywhere outside of the downtown area, I did visit The Alamo , River Walk, and the Tower of the Americas (known to the locals as "Space Needle" in apparent recognition that it was built to compete with Seattle's Space Needle).

San Antonio appears to have a lot to offer both visitors and residents. The downtown area is large, with a lot of restaurants and places of interest.

There's a saying that everything is bigger in Texas. However, The Alamo seems a bit smaller than expected. The history around this monument is told throughout the associated park. It's worth a visit, but don't expect to be wowwed.

The Tower of the Americas is beefy and tall. The problem with it is that there's just not much to see from the top. In every direction is the city of San Antonio, the good and the ugly. The Seattle Space Needle has a much better view since Seattle has a more interesting skyline, greener city, and beautiful coastline.

The River Walk is a glorified shopping mall. It is a good place to visit, but perhaps too touristy for the locals to hang out. I enjoyed the water tour and walking around.

The week I spent in San Antonio had similar weather to Silicon Valley over the same period. However, a week before there was a terrible storm, and a couple weeks after there was a snow storm. We barely get rain in Silicon Valley, and it never snows.

I guess my trip to San Antonio, TX taught me that there isn't nothing terribly bad about it, nor is there anything very compelling. It's a good place to live and visit.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Silicon Valley International Auto Show and Traffic school

Allie went to traffic school this past Saturday for a ticket she earned during the Thanksgiving holiday. In the past, the real life edition of traffic school was a preferable over the online edition. However, she reported to me this time was no picnic. The class of more strict that before. She then told me several tales about her 1 day adventure in dealing with many different kinds of strange people. How do people fit that much annoying interaction into a lousy 8 hours?

So, on Sunday, I planned an in-town day trip to downtown Campbell for lunch, and also the 2011 Silicon Valley International Auto Show in downtown San Jose. This trip is notable for one very strange fact. We were actually able to take local light-rail public transit to each of our destinations. Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area are notorious for poor public transportation options. The fact that we were able to go to two enjoyable locations using light-rail is amazing.

Anyway, there were some cool vehicles this year. Here's some pictures from the show.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The bear at the Bellagio

Here's the bear in the Bellagio (Vegas) xmas display.  Its adorable, but if it was real, I'd never be this close.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Senseless Sunday: fruitville

  • The peanut is misnamed since it is actually a legume.

  • Pineapples are coalesced berries.

  • If a raisin is dropped into a glass of fresh champagne, it will float and sink over and over.

  • From 1923 to 1969, Illinois had a law making American their official language[1].

  • After Canada and Mexico, Russia is the nearest neighbor to the United States, via Alaska. In the middle of the Bering Strait, Russia’s Big Diomede Island and the U.S.’s Little Diomede Island are only two miles apart. "I can see Russia from my house."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Android Top 10 Utility, Tools and Communications Apps for 2010

A lot of new apps are now available on the Android Market this year. With so many new apps and Android phones, it's hard to keep up. So, I'm going to do several top ten app lists for various categories this year. This is the 2010 installment of my Top 10 Android Utility, Tools and Communications Apps for 2010, in no particular order.

  • Star Contact by StarObject provides advanced Contacts search functionally that is missing from almost all smartphones (even Palm). Though I do not use this app every time I need to look up contact, it proves itself to be essential when searching contacts based on criteria other than a person's name. (Also listed in 2009.)
  • Easy Dialer Premium by UIP ($) does cost a small nominal fee, but it is worth the chump change! It provides a well designed speed dial interface that really should be the standard for any Android smartphone. There is a free version with small and unintrusive ads called Easy Dialer. (Also listed in 2009.)
  • App Referrer by Drathus allows one person to quickly give an app to another person's phone by scanning a simple barcode. (Requires Barcode Scanner app from Google.)
  • Blogaway by Kumar Bibek is a simple and convenient method to post articles to your blogger.com blogs.
  • WordPress by Automattic, Inc (WordPress makers) is a fairly powerful app that allows you to add and edit comments, articles and pages to your WordPress blog.
  • Shazam by Shazam Entertainment Ltd is a powerful tool that can quickly identify a work of music just by listening to it, with information about the artist, myspace pages, etc.
  • FPT System Manager by FPT Software is a powerful app provides detailed system and app information, with many tools built-in. Unfortunately, this app may no longer be available.
  • Mute by Marko Mitic is a very simple tool that allows for one-button press to toggle the fully muted mode on the Android phone. This is on my home screen and I use it almost every day.
  • Tip Calculator by Techmind determines a tip on the pre-sales tax price. It also calculates the amount each person owes on split bills. There are many tip calculators on the Android Market, but this is gets straight to the point with a simple and easy to use interface.
  • Twidroyd for Twitter by PostUp, Inc is a great Twitter client app with a lot of bells and whistles that are missing from Twitter.com homepage. It tracks multiple accounts, has LivePreview which automatically shows webpages or profiles associated with a particular tweet, and has an intuitive interface. There is also a paid version called Twitdroyd Pro for Twitter, which I recommend if you want additional control over your Twitter experience.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Senseless Sunday: stop the numbers!

  • Adding 10 inches to 6 millimeters equals exactly 26 centimeters (10 in + 6mm = 26cm).
  • Tautonyms is the word for scientific names where the genus and species are the same.
  • Taxi is spelled exactly the same in English, French, German, Swedish, Portuguese, and Dutch.
  • Mexico uses the Spanish word alto on stop signs; Spain uses the word stop.
  • Don’t ask a quantum physicist to define the time length for a jiffy. You might get a long answer.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Senseless Sunday: eyeing time

  • The old statement “a broken clock is right at least twice a day” is meaningless if the clock is digital.

  • The tool used in old shoe stores to measure foot size is called a Brannock Device.

  • The eye muscle is the fastest reacting muscle of the whole body. It contracts in less than 1/100th of a second.

  • The number googolplex cannot be written out since a googol of 0’s (zeros) cannot fit into the observable universe.

No on 20 and Yes on 27 (my personal experience)

As someone who has gone through the applicant process for the Prop 11 Citizens Redistricting Commission, I can say from personal experience that the process is very bizarre. The Applicant Review Panel, which selected the applicants, is not following the constitutional requirements in how they have selected the applicants. They have extended deadlines in direct violation of the Prop 11.

My personal experience have given me the impression that the Panel didn't seem to understand how to assess the skills of average Californians when picking applicants. They have selected a body 60 individuals, many of whom might be described as academic elitists and career bureaucrats. To illustrate this point, the body of 60 applicants (in the current pool that will eventually be narrowed down to 14) is heavily favored towards those who are in the highest tax brackets, and almost all have higher education degrees. Less than 30% of Californians have such degrees and far less have such incomes, yet the current applicant pool almost entirely of consists of college grads, including a high number of PhD's.

It doesn't seem like the current pool of applicants represent the average Californian. This is not in the spirit of Prop 11. I don't believe this is what Californians expected when they voted for Prop 11. Additionally, the semi-final random selection process (random drawing for the first 8 of the eventual 14 individuals) will not be guaranteeing compliance with Prop 11 either!

Prop 11 and Prop 20 might be good in principle, but have just turned out to be yet another Sacramento mess, in my opinion. There has got to be better solutions out there. We are better off not having Prop 11 or 20 right now. Seeing the mess from the inside has prompted me say No on Prop 20 and Yes on Prop 27 this year.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Free Right Turn rule in California

There are a lot of areas of confusion about some California driving laws. This was discussed in article that is part of an on-going series in the San Jose Mercury News that covers readers' questions about driving. The article supposedly provides some final answers about some very common driving questions. Since the article doesn't site many of its sources, it's tough to trust it 100%. The article does make some interesting statements.

One of the biggest questions in California is about something called free right turn. Many larger intersections have right turn lanes that are separated (channelized) from the intersection by a traffic island. These lanes rarely have signals or signs directly associated with cars in the lane. The confusion comes from how to use the lane when there is a red light in that direction. In most cases, a right turn is allowed on a red light only after a full and complete stop. However, when there is a separated lane, the car may treat it as a yield. In other words, it's OK to precede on a right turn as a yield on a red light (if safe) for separated right turn lanes.

Here's the funny part. There is no law on the books in California that actually make this declaration, as far as I know. The free right turn rules seems to come out of the same absence of law regarding the requirement for a stop on red for those lanes. It's important to note that this rule only applies if the traffic signal is after the segregation of the right turn lane (which does make sense).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Alaskan Cruise Day 3

Allie, her parents and myself arrived in Juneau, AK on board the Norwegian Pearl. There wasn't much to see within walking distance of the pier; just some tourist shops. I'm glad we planned ahead for a whale watching cruise.

After a lengthy ride on a bus (with a driver that was more than happy to tell her personal story of how she and her husband ended up in Alaska), our tour group arrived at a small dock in Auke Bay. The tour boat had a heated cabin. We took off from dock and headed out of the bay.

View Larger Map

At first, there were no whales in sight. As we headed north, we began to see spouts of water off in the far distance. The crew finally got us near some humpbacks. Over the next couple of hours, the boat went from one area to another trying to give us a glimpse of the whales. As the day progressed, we had better sightings.

Near the end of the tour, we watched excitedly as a whale lunged out of the water to fill its mouth full of fish. That was an impressive sight!

As we headed back to dock, I asked Allie's mom how many whales she spotted. She excitedly held up her hand showing all her fingers and said, "FIVE!" with as big of a smile as I've ever seen gleam. Everyone had a lot of fun on this excursion.

Navigation: See all Alaskan Cruise articles here

Links to Alaskan Cruise articles

Alaskan Cruise pre-day
Alaskan Cruise Day 1 and 2
Alaskan Cruise Day 3
Video of Whale Watching cruise
Alaska Cruise Day 4: Skagway and the Safari
Alaska Cruise Day 5: Glacier Bay!
Alaska Cruise Day 6: Ziplining
Alaska Cruise Day 7: Not Alaska (B.C.)