The Mole reads the papers (and other things) so you don't have to

On 8 October, the “Los Angeles Times” printed “They've Got a Ticket to Ride” covering the LACMTA classes to teach senior citizens how to use the Metro system. I cannot believe that any training session can condition seniors to put up with the rigors of public transportation here in Los Angeles – I can barely tolerate it! Teaching people, most of whom are no longer allowed to drive, in groups of forty (40) sounds like life-time employment for the teachers AND for very limited return in fares to the LACMTA. I believe that the focus should be to improving service and especially the ambiance for everyone. Riding in dirty, graffiti defaced conveyances, with annoying cell phone users, TransitTV, people who talk to themselves and conversations laced with the F-word and the N-word should soon change the happy smiles, depicted in the piece, to frowns. This is nothing but more puff coverage of the LACMTA as delivered by the obedient Los Angeles Times.

In what appears to be original copy from the “Daily News”, the “Press-Telegram”(2) covers the present situation in the ongoing battle between the BRU (vide infra) and the LACMTA about just who gets to screw up local public transportation and the methodology by which it is to be screwed up.

This is a perfect segue for my opinion, reprinted regularly, regarding the BRU (Bus Riders Union).

FreedomOf SpeachFreedomOf SpeachFreedomOf SpeachFree
Although I applaud the BRU's effort to improve area transportation, I feel and have always felt that they define their area too narrowly. In limiting their concerns to buses they do a disservice to their constituents and to all users of public transportation in our region. My suggestion? Rename themselves the “Metro Riders Union” and learn about transportation systems so that they are conversant with the structure, organization and functions of a multi-mode transportation system. That way they could lend their weight to important issues in other modes (rail and subway) of transportation which they currently ignore other than to whine “It's not a bus”.
FreedomOf SpeachFreedomOf SpeachFreedomOf SpeachFree

Why the “FreedomOfSpeech” border? Well, in the past the BRU has had my opinion of them redacted – because I linked to their site, so that my readers could see the BRU's opinions fully developed. N.B. BRU, NO LINKS this time. By the way BRU, you may freely quote my opinion, you are welcome :-)!

Holla out to those who so kindly link to my blog. I don't have a links section as such, but I hope that this list, in no special order, will do:





I am especially impressed by the MetroRider's graphics. He has even iconized your Mole. His image has me wearing a “Metro” hard hat. Although truthfully, your Mole's weight is much more in proportion to his height, which is solvable by the “Katie Couric Photoshop diet” and your Mole likes to think of himself as at least slightly better looking than the graphic.
Whatever their opinions, to all of the above I say: “Thank You!”. If I missed you as a backlinker, I will do his periodically and pick you up, I hope, then –sorry!.

Ear to the Rail

I have found that the link below, to the 1 October 2006 "Background Briefing" broadcast, offers the best succinct summary of the current situation in Iraq as well as coverage of our relationship with Japan with some emphasis on Japan's new PM, Shintaro Abe (Ah-Bay). The broadcast features (former) Ambassador (to Croatia) Peter Galbraith on Iraq and Dr. Chalmers Johnson, professor emeritus at UCSD talking about Japan. You can download the MP3 for later listening or listen to it in place. You can hear Ian Masters live on KPFK 90.7FM Sunday mornings in the 11:00 – 13:00 time slot. The broadcast is also concurrently streamed at http://www.kpfk.org/ at that time.

The Mole Rides Again - so that so that you too, can learn from others

Foreigners are always a good source of information. I talked to a woman from Belize who told me that the capital was Belmopan - “... the Bel from Belize and the mopan from the local river, the “Mopan”. I also found out that Belize is the only English speaking country in Central and South America. Although, Spanish is their second language. She said that, weather wise, February through April is the best time to visit.

A forester from New Zealand told me about seeing trees whose age, established by growth ring count, were alive when Columbus discovered “America”. He told me that New Zealand maintains its forests on a 27 year cycle of cut and plant. He made me aware that New Zealanders, working in the California “Gold Rush”, returned with pine seedlings which provided the country's initial timber. Also, he noted that his country was discovered by the Dutch sometime after the initial 1778 “first fleet”, carrying convicts, arrived in Australia.

A Puerto Rican said that about 60% of his countrymen wanted to maintain some form of relationship with the US while only 5%, much lower than I had thought, sought independence..

I am at the LAX City Bus Center. It is Sunday 15 October around 13:00. A Metro cleaner is hard at work. Cleaning the area? No, this big man with glasses, over-the-ear headphones, the standard Metro International Orange vest with silver reflective stripes and a large ring of keys dangling from his neck, is trash can diving for recyclable bottles and cans. This might not be a Metro employee, just someone doing “community service”. Which brought to mind the problem with everything that is littered ending up in the Pacific Ocean. PBS' Earth and Sky broadcast talks about the problem. “Rain that falls in urban areas typically flows into sewers and storm drains. This urban runoff has been found to contribute greatly to pollution in rivers, lakes, the ocean, and other natural bodies of water. It’s been estimated that some cities need nearly a billion dollars each in upgrades to their storm water systems, in order to comply with the U.S. Clean Water Act.”

The U.S. Clean Water Act is summarized here. The site says “The statute employs a variety of regulatory and nonregulatory[sic] tools to sharply reduce direct pollutant discharges into waterways, finance municipal wastewater treatment facilities, and manage polluted runoff.” Based upon my observations , we here in Los Angeles have a LONG, LONG way to go. On Pico Bl at the NE corner of the intersction with Granville Av, I noticed that the storm drain had "strainers" in the form of a perforated steel plate. But this approach to preventing trash from entering the storm drain system is extremely rare!
I can't leave this without a link back to the Los Angeles Times series(4), "Altered Oceans" - even though I have an earlier link to it. This is Pulitzer Prize writing.

The two women, seated behind me on a bus, are playing some kind of irritating noise producing game on a cell phone. Actually, only one is playing and producing the sound while the other mimics the noise. I speculate as to the sum of their IQs.

A quote from Carl Bernstein as it appeared in the “Forbes”(3) is apropos: “We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the course are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal.”

At the Fox Hills Mall Transportation Center, a teenager kicks at a pigeon, I am not sure that he makes contact, but the bird flies away.

Life is bittersweet. A Latina hugs and kisses her mija. Over her shoulder I see another mother's plea, in the form of a computer printed 8 ½“ X 11” poster which includes a picture, asking for help in locating her daughter, missing since 17 October. I hope that her search ends with a happy reunion. The juxtaposition of these diametrically opposed extremes understandably darkens my mood.

On board a Culver City bus, two young black students, one with shoulder pad, cleats and a helmet discuss a non-present third person's football skills. The one with with equipment says, “ ... he's a work in process”. Aren't we all?

On a Big Blue Bus heading for LAX – I respond to a woman's question about exactly how to get to the airport from the LAX City Bus Center. She is from Denmark, actually a Danish island west of the main Danish peninsula. I help her off the bus with a large bag, show her the way to the LAX shuttle and teach her the acronym “TBIT” for Tom Bradley International Terminal and she is off.

On another bus, I meet a transportation professional. We discuss GPS-AVA (using the Global Positioning System as part of an Automatic Voice Announcement) of bus stops.

My main complaints about the LACMTA's implementation GPS-AVA system are: (1) Bus operators, in some instances, are able to drive faster than the system can cycle, therefore the system is announcing stops which the bus has already passed; (2) the latency (time to acquire the required 3 satellites and perform the necessary computations) of the system is such that the system must be programmed to announce - “Stop “A” followed by stop “B” when the two bus stops are too close together to allow for individual announcements. This is confusing to bus passengers, especially to those who are unfamiliar with the route and don't know exactly when to signal for a stop; and (3) inconsistencies in pronouncing local street names, e.g., “Luh Cienega”, compounded by truncating full street names so that they become identical, e.g., both Center Drive and Center Place become “Center” (Line 439), as in announcing a stop as “Center and Center” vs “Center Drive and Center Place”. On another bus (Line 111), I saw Aviation Bl displayed as Aveation Bl, which is the way the guy pronounced it.

I believe that problems (1) and (2) are solvable by using a RTOS (Real Time Operating System), so that computations can be performed and announcements made in a deterministic (within a known and acceptable time period) manner. My candidate for such a RTOS is a Linux distribution which implements a real time kernel (basic logic of the operating system). (3) too, is fixable but only with a change of management at the LACMTA :-).

Although it may be impossible, no matter what RTOS is used, to announce stops that are very close together, an alternative form of surface tracking could be used. Beginning at the location of the GPS position “fix”, using speed/distance covered in order to announce stop. The system could then revert to GPS tracking for stops which are more widely spaced. Such a mixed mode implementation will ease the system hardware/software requirements and lessen the cost as well.

My intent is to motivate the LACMTA to take action to improve the system and to make the passenger's experience better.

I meet a young lady from 上海 (Shanghai, China, if you don't read Han zu, or if the characters fail to materialize on your browser) and we share (for me, at least) a pleasant ride to UCLA. She has an interesting job that is generally similar to mine. She smiles at my Chinese mispronunciations – likely stifles a laugh. She re-teaches me how to write gua, which means melon – there are many Chinese foods which I like that are melon based, e.g., bitter melon soup and etc., and I can write lots of them in Chinese characters, or at least I could after my tour in Taiwan. She leaves soon for the next stop on her business trip. Before I leave her at UCLA, I make her aware of alternative routes back to her hotel. I ask her to let me know how her trip progresses by means of e-mail messages. I wonder if I will hear from her? Enough of that, Don Mole, we have knights with whom to do noble battle.

(1)Weikel, Dan “They've Got a Ticket to Ride” Los Angeles Times 8 Oct. 2006:B1
(2) Uranga, Rachel “MTA ruling expected” Long Beach Press-Telegram 20 Oct. 2006:A4
(3) Bernstein, Carl “THOUGHTS On the Business of Life” Forbes 27 Feb. 2006:p120
(4)Weiss, Kenneth R., et al “Altered Oceans series” Los Angeles Times 30 Jul~10 Aug 2006

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