Stupid Drivers

When cruising down the road my thoughts often turn to the stupidity of man, usually, but occasionally women. I’m driving a large vehicle, over 50′ long, probably overloaded, with what is likely a person of inferior driving skills. Why would any sane person cut in front of, barely missing the front of our vehicle, steal our stopping distance, or pull out in front of us?
It seems obvious to me that there are two things needed. First, institute a driver competency test possibly with simulated driving experiences like a video driving game. If you don’t make it to the destination without killing someone, you don’t get the license. Two, try enforcing some laws, write some, a lot of tickets. In fact, try 100% enforcement. If you run a red light, you get a ticket. If you speed, you get a ticket. If you drive like many people I’ve seen recently, you’d get 100′s of tickets a day. With 100% enforcement, you’d get a free ride for a minimum amount of errors based on how serious and how frequent you make the errors. If you drive across town, and run 20 stop signs, you receive tickets for each offense, possibly lower than current costs but definitely progressive for each offense, say 25% more per each offense. Your 20 infractions, with a $20 starting cost would cost you $1388. You won’t do that long without feeling it. If you reach a limit that clearly identifies you as a dangerous driver, like possibly two days of 20 stop signs, you loose the prize, you car, permanently and your license for an extended period, like a year. Again, these would be progressive. The next offense for a longer period and or more than the cost of your car. If you drive without a license, you go to jail for a year, again progressive. The point is, you make it unpleasant to do the wrong thing.
You could do 100% enforcement by instrumenting all vehicles using GPS. The cost per vehicle could be less than $100 factory, more for retrofits especially older vehicles. Tampering with the device looses you your vehicle as well. Test its operation like is done for smog tests and automatically wirelessly as you pass near an officer or roadside device. This would free up the police to do what they should be doing, rather than driver training. It seems like little would change there since they don’t seem to be doing traffic enforcement anyway. One other thing that is needed is to post the real speed that is safe, not the politically correct speed. No 55mph max posted speed if you will allow 75mph. What’s posted is what’s enforced, so make it correct.
As a plus, the instrumented vehicles could provide an additional benefit. Pay for use of the roads. If you commute 200 miles a day, you pay more than if you commute 5 miles. This would lead to sanity in the work/live arrangements, but that’s another thought.

My History With Computers

Cleaning out the closet caused me to look at my history with computers.

Don’s First Computer
My prize computer I haven’t been able to locate for years. I built it in 1962. It was very useful. It added numbers up to a result total of eight. Probably stuffed in the attic? I built a mahogany box about the size of a cigar box in wood shop. I then built two rotary switches using the old push style paper clips. The switches were something like 4P4T switches. There were two switches that you dialed a number on each of the two switches and one of 8 lights would light which was the result. I built it as a science fair project.

Introduction To Programming
In the service, at tech school, I was introduced to a “real”computer. It wasn’t much. It was built of discrete components and could be programmed to do some simple things. I liked programming it.
In the service, I ended up at the Satellite Test Center in Sunnyvale. I worked in the Telemetry Ground Station. Our primary job was making recordings and printing oscillographic charts for use by the satellite mission controllers. We also had the development center for the ground stations. The command computers were Univac 1230 computers, a computer that was originally designed to launch missiles on submarines but ended up used for satellites. The 1230 was a dual processor computer with a common memory bank of 4K of magnetic core memory. It looked like the computers you see in very old sci-fi movies with lots of rows of lights as readouts for the various registers. It had about 6 each 14″ platter hard disk drives, 6 each 1/2″ tape drives, an IBM card punch and reader, a drum memory device like a spinning garbage can used for fast storage. The hard disks weren’t very fast. There were teletype terminals, line printers (an impact printer that printed a 22″ line with one stroke, Paper flew out of it when it printed), and a page programmed key switch array used to send commands to satellites. It booted up with a punched tape drive.
The “back end” computers were CDC 160 computers. There was one in our ground station/development center and another 15-20 in the next room. The 160 used about 6 each 1/2″ tape drives. It was booted up with a punched tape drive. and used an IBM card punch and reader. Each 160, with peripherals,occupied about 300sf. I spent many an hour playing stupid games like Jotto, a word guess game and hangman (there often wasn’t too much going on on mid-night shift).
We had lots of other computer like equipment like PCM decommutators and interface simulation devices, and etc. We tested some of the first mini computers later used to replace the dinosaur like room sized computers in use then. We also worked on the development of wideband modems later used to link the various ground stations and the control and launch sites.

Bally Arcade
A game machine that could also be used as a poor mans computer. It had tiny basic and you could do a lot with it including program your own games. It had the best games available at the time as well.

Ohio Scientific C4P
The most powerful hobby computer of the time. It ran at 1Mhz, had 4K RAM, used audio tape for storage. I immediately started modifying it by double clocking the cpu to 2 Mhz and modifying the video memory to allow paging of two 32 character by 32 line video displays. My first programming using it was a Tic-Tac-Toe game. I also used a commercial game called Pedestrian in which the objective was to run down as many pedestrians as possible. I modified this game extensively to make a more interesting game.

Aim65′s (hand crafted)
These computers were used as programmable test devices. They applied inputs to traffic signal volume and occupancy coordination devices and tested for the correct response. They were also used to program EPROMS used by traffic controllers and bus destination signs. They were also used to develop a solid state traffic counter and graphing software for it. The Rockwell AIM65 was a single board computer with an integrated 20 character LED display and a 20 character printer. It was great for program development using 6502 assembly language. I also built video cards and printer interfaces for them.

Radio Shack M100 portable computer
This was a birthday present. It was possibly the best computer I’ve ever had. It was used for development of specification documents. I also designed a data logger for it. The data logger could monitor 16 inputs and respond to inputs set as triggers to record pre and post event data. It was used mostly to monitor Light Rail Vehicle signal control systems. I also used it for project management and workload control as well. This was the first maintenance management software that I developed.

Commodore Vic 20
A very powerful and cheap computer. I used this a lot for browsing what later became the Internet. I used Delphi, Compuserve and other online services. I expanded mine with lots of memory and an 80 character wide display. I used it for word processing and hardware development as well.

Commodore 64
More powerful that the Vic 20 and used for much the same use.

Commodore B128
This computer was picked up at an auction from a former Commodore dealer. I never really used it for much but it had such potential. It is a beautiful computer, possibly the best looking, most rugged and versatile computer of the time and a long time after. Its primary processor was a 6502. It could utilize daughter boards for other processors like the 8080 or Z80. I didn’t have either board though. It is a business computer and the main application of the dealer was POS systems.

Commodore C128
This computer replaced my Radio Shack computer for use with maintenance management. It was also used for word processing. The Paperclick word processor has yet to be beat for simplicity and versatility. Someday MS Word may have all the features. This computer had both the 6502 and the Z80 processors. It ran the same basic as the Vic20 and C64 as well as a more powerful version of basic and ran CPM programs as well. This was a great computer.

Apple II
This was a clone that I built from scrape parts. I used to love the computer swap meets at De Anza College and West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. I never liked the Apple computers.

Apple III
I got this from a neighbor but never used it.

Kaypro Computer
A CPM computer. This computer was used for the central terminal of a closed loop traffic signal control system. It came with WordStar, DataStar and other CPM programs. DataStar was used to develop a prototype of a maintenance management system that was never implemented in production. It was some of the roots of later Maintenance Management System development.

IBM PC
We got an IBM PC in the Mid 80′s. While I used it, I never really embraced it. It was so inferior to the Commodores, in my mind.
A while later we got more PC’s and I setup a network using a product called Invisible Network. I obtained a program called VP-Planner, an early Lotus-compatible relational spreadsheet from Paperback Software. VP-Planner was much more powerful than Lotus and had an application menu system as well. I developed a menu driven maintenance management application in VP-Planner that used relational Dbase files with the spreadsheet interface which allowed browse sets of data, something ordinary database systems couldn’t do. It took a long time to find a real database application development system that could replace it. In about 1991 Alpha4 was used to develop its replacement. The Alpha4 application performed maintenance management, time capture, inventory management and more. In about 1998 a windows based replacement was developed using Clarion from TopSpeed. That application is still in use. I developed the specification and managed the development project. It provides a fully integrated maintenance management system, time capture, inventory, reporting, Customer Relation Mmanagement (CRM), automatic job creation and assignment with supervision. It can manage complex maintenance as well as construction and design projects.
The network evolved to an ethernet network using a peer-to-peer Novel network with DrDos, then to an NT network and then Windows 2000. I was eventually administrator for a network of about 40 computers half of which were laptops.

All this computer related activity was just a side line and hobby.

A Math Lesson

My math teacher once ask my class what is the smallest base for a number system?
A student that got good grades responded with 2 for the binary system. I
suggested 1 for a unitary system. The teacher didn’t agree with my answer. How short sighted of her!
A unitary number system would of course only ever count to one if you added one
you would still have one. What’s wrong with that? If you’re a bean counter that
would be a major failure of the number system. If possessions didn’t matter to
you, it would be a perfect number system, because “what is, is”.

Why Are People Racist?

This is a thought I had in my youth when I was learning about color for stage lighting and television:
Because they are what they hate. Color perception is interesting. When people see white, it is because the object “seen” reflects all light. If they see black it is because no light is reflected. Where does the light go. It’s absorbed. So the object seen as black is actually white and visa versa.

What You Are

You are not what you eat, you are what you don’t poop. (Wavy Gravy)
Reminds that life throws lots of challenges at you. If you accept the good and reject the bad, you are good.? In other words don’t take crap, give it.

Does Your Vote Count?

Here we go for a third election here in Santa Clara County using electronic voting. We still do not have a paper trail (as in “capable of being audited”) to allow for a true recount. Why is this? Why would the people in charge of elections chose a system that doesn’t provide it. ITS CRIMINAL in my opinion! These same machines are used all over the country.
When Mr Bush was “re-elected” last year, why is it that, evidently, the exit pole numbers differed from the election results by approximately 5% only where there was electronic voting without a paper trail? There were reports of machines having vote counts in them before the polls opened. Again in today’s election, when our governator, Mr Schwarzenegger, tried to cast his vote he was told he had already voted. Supposedly his name was used to “test” the system? If thats so, why did the data still exist when it should have been cleared before the election? How many other votes pre-existed? Did his previous vote get removed?
This worries me greatly. This used to be a democratic government. If the votes don’t really count then democracy doesn’t exist. What really amazes me is that we have more security in our state lottery results that we do with our voting system.
It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes.

***** A Better IDEA *****

Here is what I think would make for an honest election that every voter could have confidence in. First, let me say, I’m a believer in electronic voting, I just think the system has to be designed properly. The current systems are not.
The key is for a voter to be able to verify that their vote exists in the data and that the choices are the ones they made. Further, the public should be able to see all the votes, download the data and perform their own counts if they desire.
This can be accomplished quite easily while still providing anonymous voting. It would allow for a means for any citizen to challenge the vote results, with proof.
Obviously, the key is a trail. When you vote, you get a printed ticket with a vote ID number and the vote choices. There would not be a relation between the voter and the vote ID just a ticket with the votes and an ID number. The voter, or anyone else, would immediately be able to check the votes via the Internet by browsing to a page showing a group of vote ID numbers and the votes each recorded. In fact, all vote data could be seen and downloaded for analysis. The key to anonymity is that no one could identify who voted, only the votes that were cast. That is, except for the fact that a voter could confirm their own vote using the ID number on their ticket. No one could monitor who browsed where and use it to identify how they voted because the data would only be presented in groups of votes. Only the voter would now which was their vote. The voter could then confirm that the choices were their own choices. If not, then hang the Chief of Elections and hold another election. Another key to this is that voters take the responsibility to check their vote results to confirm their vote was actually counted. Any voter could download the data and make their own count and check the results against the reported results.
This would not limit who manufactures the voting machines, they should all be designed to the same standard. The data is what is important. Even more importantly, the validity and honesty of the results is what is important.
There are probably other methods that would work as effectively but can anyone explain to me why we ended up with the systems we have. They are so obviously weak in providing any of the capabilities needed to insure an honest election, which I would have thought was the entire purpose.

What Happened To Debates?

What ever happened to debates? A good debate can really help in seeing something more clearly. In days of old, politicians debated and the voters were able to understand the thinking of the polititions better. Now days, we get sound bites and advertisements neither of which do anything to enlighten the listener. The former is the result of lazy news people, the later an attempt by the advertiser to confuse the voter. Neither is a good thing.
This came to mind yesterday while watching a program on NBC from Los Angeles where the Governator of California responded to questions from the news people and audience during the first half hour of the show. Then, in the second half hour, the opposition to the Governator did the same. Why not a debate Mr Governator, unless you don’t really understand your proposals well enough to debate them?

Politics As Usual

I’ve tried to keep politics out of my travel blog. I now think that’s been a big mistake. Too many people must be doing the same or we wouldn’t have a “president” like Bush. So, I created this blog for my thoughts. Not all entries are anti Bush, but there will be a lot. This is the first entry.
Why protect a corrupt government by listening to its hype. The incompetent and co-conspiring press that has ignored important stories, failed to do its own investigation, failed to hold government accountable and has become too “embedded” with this countries greatest enemy, our own politicians. It is time to kick the money grubbers out of government and into prison in many cases. Government should serve the “people” not the contributors.
Is the direction of this entry clear yet?
I’m quite upset about governmental response to the recent weather event in New Orleans. We’ve had more than 3.5 years to prepare for “events” like 9/11 and any other type of disruption. Most of the budget has been spent in preparation, almost everything that hasn’t been flushed into Iraq. Government agencies have been restructured to help in this effort. Most such events will not come with multi-days to respond like the approach of a hurricane. If this is how we respond with such extended warning, how will we fare for an “unscheduled” event? The response is extremely embarrassing. Mr. Bush demonstrated his great concern by flying out of town as fast as he could and not returning for days. He did get back before the first federal response was apparent three and a half days later?
While the press fails to adequately investigate and report the failings of the administration, they are more efficient than the administration. Reporters had no problem being on the scene the next morning. Perhaps government needs to be run by reporters rather than politicians? I know there’s a slight conflict in this thinking but how could they do worse?
I’m from Northern California so my politics may not be too surprising. I am grossly anti-Republican, because they seem to be totally against the ideals for which this country was founded. The Republican politicians seem to be very adept at saying one thing and doing the opposite. They are very good salesmen. If you are a non-politician Republican, this doesn’t mean I hate you, only that I think you are misinformed and blinded by the hype. You don’t have to dig deep to find the difference in what is said and what “is”. (Isn’t it odd that many Republicans found Bill Clintons statement that “it depends on what the definition ‘is’ is” to be a problem in his character?). Our current administration plays with what “is” more than any administration before it and the press doesn’t even question them. The current administration appears to not even care what “is”. What they say has no relationship to what “is”. Clinton, on the other hand, knew the definition and could even spell “is
There is lots more to say but I think I’ll stop here for now. But I must ask you to “question authority” it isn’t un-American, it is the responsibility of all citizens! Defend your rights against those who say “trust me.”

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