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Please do not put me in a position where I have to defend Donald Trump…

October 4, 2018, 8:04 AM

At 2:18 PM on October 3, a presidential alert went out to everyone’s mobile phones.  It was accompanied by the classic emergency tone, and looked like this:

"Presidential alert: THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."

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Categories: National politics, News

Bill Cosby goes to jail…

September 29, 2018, 1:34 PM

Like everyone else did, I read about Bill Cosby’s being sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison for sexual assault, and his eating a pudding cup as part of his first meal as an inmate.  I also finally figured out the word to describe my own feelings about the whole Bill Cosby situation: disappointment.  I am not angry over Cosby’s conduct.  I am not sad about Cosby’s conduct.  But I am very disappointed over Cosby’s conduct.

After all, I was part of a generation of kids that practically grew up with Bill Cosby, and his very wholesome brand of education and entertainment.  His stand-up comedy was mostly about his family and his children.  We watched Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, where, in the opening, Cosby indicated that, “If you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done.”  We watched Picture Pages, where Cosby taught us about math and other subjects with friend Mortimer Ichabod Marker.  Cosby also had a long relationship with the folks on Sesame Street, making many appearances there.  We then watched The Cosby Show, which was a wholesome comedy about a successful family, and ensuring that the children were positioned for their own success.  The final episode was about a college graduation, after all, driving home that heavy emphasis on education.  He also released a book, Fatherhood, during this period.  And then Cosby was all over the commercials during this period as well, pitching Jell-O gelatin, Jell-O pudding, Kodak film (“No seal?  Who knows!”), and EF Hutton, among others.  All of those wholesome and family-oriented roles caused him to develop a public reputation as a father figure.  We all looked up to Bill Cosby, because he had made himself as someone worthy of looking up to, as a successful father of five, a strong proponent of education, and from all appearances, an all-around nice guy.

That Cosby, in the end, turned out to be a grade-A scumbag, is just disappointing, and felt like a punch to the gut.  “America’s Dad” turned out to be a dangerous sexual predator.  There’s a certain feeling of disappointment and betrayal that comes with it, discovering that a role model is anything but.  We all looked up to him, and then soon discovered that he was not worthy of our respect.  Watching his fall from grace is a sad reminder that people are not always who we think that they are, and that Cosby’s wholesome public image was merely a facade over an absolutely despicable person.  Cosby will likely be remembered not for the work that made him famous, but as the scumbag who drugged and sexually assaulted many women over several decades.  And that’s how he should be remembered, because that sort of conduct is inexcusable.  No more love for Cosby, as the real Cosby is a person that is not worthy of admiration and who lost everyone’s respect.  Sigh…

Categories: News, Television

I think that we need to have a discussion about news sources…

February 27, 2017, 9:14 AM

Over the course of the last several days, whenever I’ve gone on Facebook, I feel as though I’ve had to play fact-checker a lot more than usual.  Most of the stories that I’ve had to verify and debunk are about Donald Trump, but there have also been a few ones about the toxin-du-jour and other miscellaneous topics.  And having to constantly stay on my game and do the same sort of research over and over again gets tiring.  I started out making this post about the problem:

I feel as though I've had to burst far more bubbles than usual as of late when it comes to people's sharing fake news stories. Please, people, vet your stories before you post, because anyone can start a website and write anything they want and make it look official. I highly recommend Snopes.com for vetting stories. They'll set you straight on the fake ones.

This post got eight likes and one comment, so it didn’t do as well as I would have hoped.  Maybe it’s because I posted it in the middle of the day on a Friday.  But in any case, the bottom line is to think before you share.

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Categories: News, Social media

A principal has egg on her face…

June 14, 2016, 6:10 AM

As someone who was on the receiving end of some pretty unfair punishments in school, and having witnessed school officials blatantly flout the rules on a number of occasions, it’s good to see someone get called out for a punishment that’s out of step with policy.  This was the culmination of a controversy regarding several students’ drinking alcohol on prom night at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School‘s senior prom, and the reversal of a decision that would have prevented them from attending their high school graduation.

The situation, as I understand it based on a Bethesda Magazine article and a Washington Post article, began with a policy set at the school level regarding consequences for students’ showing up for prom while impaired by alcohol or other various substances, or becoming impaired by the same over the course of the evening, encompassing the prom itself as well as the official after-prom party.  The school’s policy was that anyone who either was caught drinking at prom-related activities, or showed up to same already drunk, would not be allowed to walk at the school’s June 1 graduation at DAR Constitution Hall.  This is supported by a prom guest application document from the school’s website, where the relevant section, near the bottom of the second page, reads:

Students and/or guests who are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, inhalants, illegal drugs or controlled substances will not be admitted to Prom or After Prom.  Students attending Prom or After Prom who show signs of being under the influence of such substances, or who are found to be in possession of such substances during either event, will be subjected to the consequences set forth in the B-CC Student Handbook, and their parents will be notified.  If the student is part of an athletic team or other school-sponsored activity, the coach/sponsor will be notified as well.  Note that any senior who is determined to be under the influence or in possession of such substances when arriving at or during the course of Prom or After Prom will not participate in the on-stage distribution of diplomas at B-CC’s graduation ceremony.

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Augusta County puts enforcement cameras on its school buses…

May 20, 2015, 12:09 PM

I recently read in an article in The News Leader that Augusta County Public Schools, where I went to middle and high school, is partnering up with the local sheriff’s office to outfit two of its school buses with cameras.  These particular cameras are mounted on the exterior of the bus, on the left side, and are designed to catch people who pass a stopped school bus while their red warning lights are flashing.  Normally, drivers in all directions are supposed to come to a complete stop when the bus’s red warning lights are flashing and the stop arm is out.

Now we all know better than to think that this always happens.  I’ve written about school bus stops before, in regards to whether a right turn that begins just beyond a stopped school bus and moves away from it is a legal movement, or if it’s not.  I casually asked a Montgomery County police officer about this one time while I was out and about, and he said that it wasn’t a legal move, describing the area where drivers are required to come to a full stop for a school bus as being like a bubble, rather than as a line of demarcation.  I would have loved for the move that I described to have been legal, because then I could just zip past and be on my way.  But apparently, it’s not.

Also, for those of you who have never driven a large vehicle before, let me let you in on something: if you think that the people around you drive like wackos when you’re in your car, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve watched drivers around a large vehicle.  The “wacko” factor gets turned up to eleven when you’re driving a large vehicle.  After all, large vehicles are very different than your car.  They’re big, they’re heavy, and they’re slow.  And in the case of school and transit buses, they make frequent stops.  Drivers in cars know that, and as such, will do anything, even some very unsafe/illegal moves, to get past or otherwise not have to wait for a bus.  I have been cut off in just about every way imaginable when I’m driving the bus, and I don’t get special privileges like school buses get, i.e. I don’t get to stop all traffic when I’m boarding and alighting passengers.  And even if I could, fellow road users are still very poorly behaved and would stop at nothing to get past or around me while I was stopped, threat of ticket or not.

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This is a problem where the biggest step towards a solution is not police, but signage and paint…

March 12, 2013, 10:16 PM

According to an article on Patch.com, since January 22, four pedestrians and one cyclist have died in collisions with cars in the eastern part of Montgomery County.  The cyclist was struck in downtown Silver Spring.  The pedestrian fatalities all occurred outside the Beltway.  One involved a woman’s being struck while on the sidewalk, and the other three were struck and killed while attempting to cross major arterial roads in the county – specifically, Columbia Pike (US 29), Connecticut Avenue (MD 185), and Georgia Avenue (MD 97).  Ken Silverman, an analyst for county councilwoman Nancy Navarro, created a map showing the location of the accidents.

Now in looking at all of this, I latched onto the fatalities related to crossing the arterials.  I am on each side of the pedestrian-driver coin in Montgomery County at various times, and so I am familiar with both driving around pedestrians, and walking around cars.  I have also crossed Georgia Avenue on foot many times.  In these instances, the Columbia Pike incident happened in the southbound lanes at the intersection with Oak Leaf Drive in White Oak.  The Connecticut Avenue incident happened at the intersection with Everton Street, in the Wheaton area.  The Georgia Avenue incident occurred at the intersection with Heathfield Road in Aspen Hill.  I looked at these areas, and there are some common factors in all of them:

  • All three incidents occurred after dark
  • All three incidents occurred at unmarked crosswalks (any intersection is considered a legal crosswalk in Maryland whether it’s marked or not)
  • The main roadway in all three locations is a six-lane divided highway with three lanes on each side
  • There are bus stops on both sides of the road at all three locations
  • There is street lighting on the side of the road where the incidents occurred (Columbia Pike and Georgia Avenue have lighting on only one side in these areas, and Connecticut Avenue has lighting on both sides)

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“Where is this train going?” takes on new significance with Rush+…

December 18, 2012, 9:37 AM

So in reading the Express this morning, I looked at Dr. Gridlock’s column on the DC Rider page. There were three questions: two about escalators, and one about destination signs at Franconia-Springfield.

I took issue with the answer to that third question, which went as such:

Q: I am a regular rider at Franconia-Springfield and am adjusting to most parts of Rush Plus.  However, the problem remains that trains pull into the station, turn off their destination signs, and you are left to guess whether it’s a Blue or Yellow Line train until about 30-45 seconds before they close the doors.  It’s particularly frustrating when it is cold outside and there are two trains waiting with their doors open.  Is there any way to persuade Metro to leave the direction signs lit?

A: I don’t see a good reason a train operator would need to turn off the destination signs, unless just maybe Metro isn’t sure where to send the train till the last minute.  What I’m thinking of here is that the operations center monitors the crowding on the platforms and could alter a train’s route – though unlikely.

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

What “SPECIAL” really means…

October 3, 2012, 12:14 AM

This morning as I was taking the Red Line to work and reading the Express, I read the DC Rider section, as I usually do.  Today, they ran a rider Q&A with Dr. Gridlock.  One of the questions that was posed was about Metro’s destination signage, which I quote here along with Dr. Gridlock’s answer:

Q: Why doesn’t Metro label trains during their weekend shutdowns?  Several times this weekend on the Green Line, I saw passengers confused by trains that were only labeled “Special” with no color line identified on the front.  One lady rushed off a train at L’Enfant Plaza because she thought it was a Yellow Line train, and another guy was about to try to transfer because he didn’t know the train was going to Congress Heights.

Dr. Gridlock: I don’t see any good coming from labeling trains “Special.”  When Rush Plus began, Metro officials made such a big deal out of telling everyone to watch the destination signs.

I have a few concerns with this response.  First off, the response mixes up regular service with temporary service changes for track work.  Metro’s Rush+ is the regular service pattern during the hours that it is in operation, and comes with certain things like programming in destination sign information for the regular terminals if need be, maps, and permanent signage.  Service changes for track work are only in effect for a weekend, and thus what Metro has at its disposal is different, and it’s not always feasible to make things look like they do in regular service for weekend service changes.  Second, they leave PIDS completely out of the equation in the response.  And last, there seems to be a lack of understanding on both parties’ part about what makes Metro pull out that “SPECIAL” destination sign in the first place.

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

I didn’t want to have this I-told-you-so moment, but…

July 18, 2012, 8:53 PM

You know, I really didn’t want to have the I-told-you-so moment that I had today.  But when it comes to Ride On in Montgomery County and those Navistar Champion cutaway vans, well, I called it right.

First of all, I am talking about these Ride On “buses”:

Ride On Navistar Champion cutaway, bus 5210

Yes, the cutaways.  What’s happened is that today, after yet another fire involving the Champions (bus 5208 in this case), County Executive Ike Leggett announced in a statement that the Champion cutaway vans would be immediately withdrawn from service – permanently.  This supersedes earlier plans to phase out the Champions over 18 months.

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The Iraq War is over?

December 15, 2011, 9:37 PM

So apparently the big news today is that the Iraq War is over. It’s an announcement that’s come eight years, eight months, and 26 days later than it should have (truth be told, it should never have even started), but it’s better late than never.

Of course, I’m not entirely sure if I want to believe our government when they say that the Iraq War is over. I want to believe them – I really do – but considering that the Iraq War was built entirely on lies from our federal government, I have no reason to take them at their word. How many different rationales were there for our going in? Weapons of mass destruction? Yellowcake uranium? Bring freedom to the Iraqi people? Bringing the fight to them before they bring it to us? Others? As it turned out, there were no weapons of mass destruction. The yellowcake was a lie. The first victory announcement (“Mission Accomplished”) in 2003 was a lie.

We also expended scads of money – much of it off budget – for a war we should have never been in, while people go hungry in this country, while teachers must spend their own money on necessary school supplies, and while we still don’t have universal public health insurance (don’t get me started on the shortcomings of Obamacare). And what did we accomplish in Iraq? Nothing. We are no safer today than we were when we went in. Our own freedom as a nation was never in question. No one fought for your freedom or mine in this war. The war was all about oil, and I don’t believe we even managed to get our hands on that (good!). Your tax dollars at work.

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Categories: Anti-war, News

With the president of Egypt gone, the people rejoiced.

February 12, 2011, 11:51 PM

It’s been all over the news by now, of course, but the reign of (now former) Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has come to an end. And as it turns out, my prediction was spot on. Back on February 1, Nicole Sandler tweeted this:

Does anyone really think the #Egyptians will allow Mubarak to stay in power until Sept elections? Me neither

I retweeted Nicole Sandler’s tweet, and then replied:

@nicolesandler Honestly, I doubt that Mubarak even lasts two weeks, let alone until September. #egypt

I said less than two weeks, and ten days later, he abdicated. It was one of those things, I believe, that we all knew was coming but were surprised to see actually happen.

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Categories: Activism, News

As the snow stops, here’s what we’ve got…

December 20, 2009, 6:44 AM

Well, it looks like the snowfall is over. The snow has stopped, and the folks at Capital Weather Gang say that clouds will decrease during the day. Meanwhile, we’re pretty much buried in the white stuff, and here’s the proof:

My car has a foot or so of snow on top of it. That snow is expected to stay on there until at least some time tomorrow, because there's no way in hell I'm going anywhere today.
My car has a foot or so of snow on top of it. That snow is expected to stay on there until at least some time tomorrow, because there’s no way in hell I’m going anywhere today.

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I’m surprised that this made it through…

December 14, 2009, 7:48 PM

A friend recently referred me to a Dr. Gridlock column where Les Dorr Jr. of Frederick, Maryland wrote this:

Is Metro trying to increase public confidence by renumbering the 1000-series rail cars? I ride the Red Line every workday, and recently I’ve been aboard two very old, obviously 1000-series cars that had “4000” series numbers on the end doors.

Dr. Gridlock was very cordial about this accusation being slung at Metro, saying, among other things, this:

The 4000 series of 100 cars, built by Breda, entered service in the early 1990s. The 1000 series is scheduled to be replaced beginning in 2014. But the 4000 series also is reaching an important milestone: A midlife rehabilitation needs to be done over the next few years, at a cost of more than $1.5 million per car.

If I were going to fake a number in the Metro fleet, I would have picked something higher than 4000. Still, riders would see through it: The cars are very obviously showing their age.

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

“The color coded alert system was security theater at its best, and blatant fearmongering at its worst.”

July 16, 2009, 9:45 PM

July 15 poll resultsSo said “BFS” in the Express. And for those of you who have been following this site, “BFS” is me, as I usually post comments for Express using my initials. And my comment got published again, as seen at right in this excerpt from page 28 (56 in the PDF file) of Express.

According to an article on page 4 of the July 15 edition, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has “appointed a task force to determine in 60 days how effective the current system is.” The idea is to either overhaul it or do away with it entirely.

I’m surprised that they’re even appointing a task force for it. I’d just ditch the thing outright. After all, if you step back, what did the terror alert system do? It was propaganda. It told people when to be scared, and what to be scared of. And it was no secret that the system was used by the Bush administration to score political points. Every time they wanted you to be scared, they just looked into the camera, and said…

ORANGE

It’s “orange”! Oh, no! Grab your duct tape and plastic sheeting and head for the hills!

And looking at the history of threat level changes, it seems to prove that the Bush administration wanted you to be scared at times that were advantageous to them. What officially tipped me off is when they raised the threat level to “orange” at the beginning of the Iraq War, and left it there until just after they took Saddam Hussein down. They worked long and hard to make you scared of Iraq, and so when they went in and invaded an unarmed nation, they wanted to make doubly sure that you would be fearing the terror boogeyman. Apparently, wetting your pants was patriotic, and if you didn’t wet your pants, the terrorists would win.

And once people stopped paying attention to the terror alert scale, Homeland Security stopped using it, as we never saw an alert above “yellow” nationally after August 2005. And we never saw a “green” or even a “blue” threat level. You’d think that they would have dipped it down into “blue” a time or two just to make the public think that they were doing a good job. After all, if you’re going to manipulate it to make people scared, you might as well manipulate it to make the people think you’re doing something right (even if you aren’t). But instead, the two bottom levels were simply decorative.

So in the end, I think that the Homeland Security task force will scrap the alert level system entirely. Its main purpose is to make people afraid of things they can’t do anything about. And you know what they say – why worry about a problem you can’t solve? Like I said in the comment, it’s security theater at best, and blatant fearmongering at its worst.

Categories: National politics, News

I saw this picture, and…

July 2, 2009, 9:32 PM

I saw this picture on the front page of the Express on my way to work this morning, and it scared the heck out of me at first:

Sears Tower ledges
Photo: Kichiro Sato/AP

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Categories: News, WMATA