Buses, trams, trains and subways – not what they seem

I have always enjoyed the luxury of private transportation.  Tooling around in my own car has satisfied many moments of wanderlust.

I never invested much thought into public transportation. It was always a nice thought in the back of my mind. I thought of public transportation as my safety net should I ever become incapable of operating my own vehicle due to financial or physical circumstance.

As my travel experience expanded into regions (like New York City and Amsterdam) where public transportation was required for my day-to-day exploration, I realized very quickly that public transportation is not designed for patrons with physical limitations.

When people push for public transportation a benefit often listed is the convenience and freedom it offers to those physically unable to get to destinations on their own. Unfortunately, with what I have witnessed in New York City and Amsterdam, this benefit is unfounded (by my standards anyway).

The public transportation I participated in in New York City and Amsterdam were very well run processes. I used a combination of buses, trains, trams and subways. Not only were these vessels immaculate but they were easy to identify from the street, the destinations were easy to understand and each trip was reasonably priced.

My first impression while participating in this transportation was that of efficiency and money well spent. Unfortunately after a few minutes of observing others, I realized that public transportation is is no way designed for members of the public with physical limitations. What I witnessed was something built ONLY for humans who never require assistance at any time for any reason. Time and again I witnessed:

  • elderly people stumble into seats as the public transportation jerked into action without warning
  • young people not feeling well that had to stand due to lack of available seating
  • people of all ages with crutches or a cast on an arm trying to frantically reach a seat or poll to hold onto before the tram lurched forward
  • turnstiles to access transportation platforms were narrow
  • bus and tram stops at street level were often in horrifying and narrow areas where one misstep would land an unfortunate soul in the path of speeding cars or dare-devil cyclists
  • thinly veiled impatience on the face and demeanor of every participant with fully-functional bodies
  • horrified mothers gasp as doors tried to close on strollers while irritated observers grab the stroller and assist getting it into the train
  • seats too close together for easy maneuvering of wheelchairs, luggage, strollers, people of different heights and widths
  • hoards of lunatics rushing onto and off of the public transportation
  • seats designated for the visually impaired remained empty, a clear indication to me that this group found attempts far to horrifying to ever attempt again

If I had my way I would change the priorities of public transportation in the minds of participants and designers. I would like to see the top priority go to those who truly need public transportation due to physical limitations so they may get from point A to point B safely.  Unfortunately this change in priority would require the majority of the population to step back, take a deep breath and exercise compassion and patience.  I am not sure our planet is ready for something like this yet so in the meantime I will try my best to keep compassion and patience at the top of my own list.  I know one day I will need it from others;)

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Full Body Vibration (FBV) or Whole Body Vibration (WBV) Platforms for stiff/sore muscles

I love gadgets.  When I saw a video of a Full Body Vibration (FBV) / Whole Body Vibration (WBV) Platform I immediately wanted to know how this gadget helped users with muscle soreness.  I could not locate any scientific studies regarding the matter so I just decided to buy one myself and see if it helped my post-workout and post-stretching muscle pain and stiffness.  The way the device was described it made me think it could partially mimic the vibrations of a therapeutic soak in a hot tub.

I purchased this device on eBay for a very reasonable price: 30″ Full Body Fitness 3D Vibration Plate Platform Exercise Machine w/ Straps by Murtisol.

From the research I did on these devices, I think users are supposed to actually workout on them instead of just stand on them. I am not working out on this device. I do my normal workout each day and then I stand in a relaxed position on the device for 10 minutes on this setting: manual, speed 3. I am very pleased with the results so far. I have only been using the platform for about a month but I have noticed a significant decrease in leg soreness and stiffness (most notably first thing in the morning). I will continue to use this device each day after my workout and stretch as a massage tool.

If you decide to purchase the exact model I mention above, note the following:

  • it is surprisingly quiet
  • it is heavy, getting the package into the house may be challenging for some (it has wheels and a handle for tipping and wheeling it around for ideal placement once the device is unpacked)
  • it takes up space (it is 30 inches long) so do not think it is something you can pack away easily – you will want it out and accessible every day
  • I have been using this particular brand for about a month so I cannot say at this time how well this device functions long-term but so far it is working as expected
  • this particular model simultaneously rocks in different directions so be aware of this in case you have balance issues
  • consult your physician first before using this device if you have pre-existing conditions
  • this device has an added benefit of making you sound like Darth Vader if you chat on the phone with friends while standing on it

Handling video surveillance data (while NOT being a complete whacka-doodie)

Video surveillance in and around homes and businesses, whether we like it or not, is the norm now.  True IT professionals are trained in handling all kinds of data and the handling of the data involves very specific rules focusing on integrity, confidentiality, local and federal laws and respect for others.

If you are considering the installation of video surveillance in or around your home or business, know that you will now be the keeper of potentially sensitive data.  If you do not make a conscious effort to treat the data with care, then expect to lose the trust and respect of anyone coming in contact with you or the surveillance equipment.

Keep the following in mind when reviewing the data from surveillance equipment you have installed:

  • Where is the data stored? If it is stored in a free “cloud” then consider the data NOT private and some or all the data at some point may be viewed and/or sold to third parties without your knowledge.
  • How is the data protected? If you “log in” to something to view the data then take extra care in forming complex passwords that change frequently.
  • Avoid sharing the data with anyone unless activity captured is illegal activity (if it is illegal, share the data with law enforcement).
  • Avoid commenting on activity captured.
  • Delete stored data on a regular basis, I recommend deleting data once every 4 months.  This gives a wide enough range should law enforcement ask for assistance from the community in any investigations involving areas near the surveillance equipment.
  • If you capture something memorable (and legal) that you would like to share with the public, feel free to share it however you like after first getting the permission from all humans present in the data captured.

Over the weekend I listened to a homeowner mock a person delivering a package to his front porch.  The homeowner played the recorded surveillance footage of the mundane event for everyone at the dinner table and ridiculed the delivery person for several things (none of which were illegal).  I could not help but wonder the horrid things they would say about myself if I were to ever visit his home.  The homeowner initially had installed the equipment for home security, but the setup has now morphed into disrespecting members of his community in public forums.  This event was a reminder to me that our society is flooded with fun gadgets but the security and ethics training necessary to properly handle the data being captured is absent.

Tech message of DOOM

Most devices and apps are built with good intentions, I think this because I am a computer programmer with a more often than not sunny disposition. I am also a realist. I have been around long enough to know what it means to not know your neighbors.

I have a tech message of doom for the world today: it is fun to bury ourselves in technology. Tech is a lovely escape from accountability, confrontation and reality – it also does amazing things for efficiency, heath, transport – the list goes on and on. However, hiding behind technology will only make us rock stars of our own empty electronic world and nothing more. Human interaction can be complex and often times dangerous but until we invest in the lives of others then all tomorrows are a blue screen of death – tomorrows that no one person can save us from, we all need to do our part for this world.

Invest in the world if you can, you will be glad you did – our world needs you:)

Update your smart TV. Fear not, it will never be as smart as you;)

Is your computer connected to a smart TV? If so, the following information will give you a good idea of how to update your smart TV.

What is a smart TV? A smart TV can access WiFi and run applications just like a smartphone (unlike a regular TV or computer monitor).

A smart TV, just like a computer or a smartphone, requires periodic maintenance in the form of “updates” from the manufacturer for security and performance enhancements. This is an example of how to update smart TVs:

  • Using the remote control that came with the smart TV, select a settings button. Most settings buttons look like a small gear to activate the settings menu.
  • Navigate through these settings menus to find the network options (all smart TVs are different so navigating through the menus to become familiar with them is the best approach if you do not have documentation handy). In the network options there will be features allowing you to connect to a network (it doesn’t matter if your computer that is connected to the smart TV is connected to a network or not, the smart TV is a separate entity and will not use the network connection of your computer – the smart TV needs its own network connection to receive updates). The screen will tell you if you are connected to a network or not. If you are not, then attempt to connect to WiFi, if this does not work then plug a network cable into the back of the smart TV and plug the other end of the network cable into a network port in the wall of your home if you have one or a network port on your wireless router.
  • Using the remote that came with the smart TV, select the settings button again if you do not already see options on the screen for updating the smart TV. Most settings buttons look like a small gear. Click on the setting to download updates to the smart TV. Wait for the download to complete (a message will appear on the screen telling you the updates are complete, depending on the frequency of the updates in the past, the updates can take a few minutes or up to an hour to complete).
  • Once the updates are download, turn the smart TV off, wait a few seconds and turn the smart TV back on for the updates to take effect.
  • Disconnect the smart TV from the wireless network (by using the smart TV remote > settings) or the hard-wired network (removing the network cable from the back of the smart TV and from the network port in the wall of your home or from the network port on the back of your wireless router).
  • Many smart TVs will also read updates from a thumb drive that is connected to the back of the smart TV, this is an often problematic approach for updating some smart TVs due to the number of steps involved (users have to visit the manufacturer web site, download the updates to the thumb drive while the thumb drive is connected to the computer then remove the thumb drive from the computer and place the thumb drive into the back of the smart TV and the smart TV may or may not be able to read the files on the thumb drive or may or may not be able to even recognize the thumb drive).

Our “healthy” elderberry syrup contains heavy metals – really – just like most things that are not “healthy”.

Do you think “healthy” or “well” or “organic” labels on your food means extra special goodness? Sometimes it does and sometimes it does not.  Science can help you answer questions regarding the safety of food items within your home if you ever suspect a problem.

I was given a bottle of elderberry syrup, it came in a clear glass jar with a metal lid.  It had one label: a large oval label on the front.  The label looked like something someone printed off a home computer and the manufacturer information was not on the label so there was no way to tell who made the product, what the expiration date was or where it came from.  The label gave the user the impression of health.  Wellness words like “prevent cold/flu, well, purified …” were all over the label.  The label instructed users to consume one tablespoon every few hours at the onset of the cold or flu or one tablespoon a day to prevent the cold or flu.

A few weeks ago I sent a sample of this elderberry syrup to a food testing lab.  When the lab results for the elderberry syrup arrived, the findings surprised me.  The elderberry syrup contained small levels of mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium.

Pollution and natural occurrences of elements are our reality and several of the foods we consume contain heavy metals, but I find it extremely irresponsible to market something as healthy when the product contains heavy metals.  If a manufacturer makes a food product then it is his or her responsibility to get the food tested.  If the food tests positive for heavy metals (even if the levels are within the range deemed acceptable by the FDA) then it is not appropriate to market the food item as something special in terms of promoting health.

Beware of “healthy” foods in your home.  Know that if you have concerns about food items, food testing labs can provide you with details of what is in the sample and then organizations like the FDA can provide you with details on what levels are acceptable.

I need a legion of self-driving remote-controlled electric scooters – by Halloween please.

Strange dream a few nights back. I love it when I remember the strange ones! I only remember this little bit I’m afraid but it is enough to go on:

I controlled a legion of self-driving remote-controlled electric scooters. Each scooter had a big stuffed bunny tethered to the scooter. I was directing the scooters down residential streets at a very slow rate of speed at dusk. General hysteria from the ‘burbs was unfolding as a result.

The only “remote control” scooters I have found are ones you can disable and more unhelpful things via a smartphone – this isn’t what I am looking for. So if you have a huge stack of cash and some time on your hands, make this happen please. We all want to scare the daylights out of kids and give them boatloads of candy on Halloween, get moving!

One more thing, I am so poor I can’t even pay attention so there would be absolutely no benefit to you for doing all of this hard work other than being hailed as the King of SDRCES by me…and maybe my cat.

No way will they make it in customer service.

I was shocked at how strange my seemingly simple interaction with customer tech support was with a company over the weekend.

I encountered an issue with a company’s very specialized search engine over the weekend, my instructions to them on how to recreate the issue were so simple and yet the person I was dealing with from their tech support department was incapable of comprehending the 3 easy steps I sent them (the 3 steps were sent in print so there would be no misunderstanding – if for some reason tech support cannot read or cannot read English then there is nothing at all wrong with that – if that is the case then the company needs to switch to phone support instead of their current email ticketing system for support issues).

What should have been no more than 3 messages (1 message from myself highlighting the issue and 1 or 2 messages from tech support acknowledging the issue and then fixing the issue or saying the issue isn’t fixable at this time) has instead escalated to 9 messages so far.

This much chatter is completely unacceptable and unnecessary.

These are the 3 simple steps I sent the company so they could replicate the issue I was seeing:

1. visited this url: http:\\www.[their search site domain here].com
2. in the search box I entered this phrase: bla bla
3. selected enter, the search results appeared on screen

How can anyone not understand the exact 3 steps noted above? I cannot image any 3 steps being easier than what I posted above. How does someone not understand this? This is an example of the chatter going back and forth between myself and tech support:

  • tech support: “Works fine for me”
  • me: send me a screenshot
  • tech support: sends me a screenshot
  • me: nope, you did not go through the same 3 steps I did (see my steps), you instead searched on this criteria: bla. bla – I do not include a period in my 3 steps
  • tech support: “Went through your steps again, works for me”
  • me: send me a screenshot
  • tech support: sends me a screenshot
  • me: nope, you did not go through the same 3 steps I did (see my 3 steps), you instead searched on this criteria: you selected the category bla first then within that category searched on the phrase bla bla – I do not select a category in my 3 steps

The conversation just keeps going on and on and on like this until the human finally performs the 3 steps and sees the issue (I have truly witnessed a miracle). The human is unable to follow 3 simple instructions until the human is baby fed each step at a ridiculously slow pace. These instructions could not be simpler but this human is incapable of understanding how to perform these 3 steps without a tremendous amount of hand holding.

This person needs to leave customer support immediately and never go back and instead build a roller skating rink in my honor to make up for the damage this unnecessary stress has caused my brain.

Our tech world makes it easy to store and babysit useless data, avoid this practice at all costs.

Examples of useless data

  • Storing documents containing data you have not accessed or updated within the last 3 years.
  • Storing phone numbers in your smartphone that belong to humans that have not contacted you within the last 3 years (you may have contacted them within 3 years but they have not initiated any contact with you within 3 years).

Why get rid of useless data?

  • It takes up space that could instead be used to store photos of puppies.
  • It is an obstacle when looking for valuable data (i.e. useless phone numbers are in the way when scrolling or searching to find other valuable phone numbers). Time wasted wading through useless data could instead be used to enjoy nature or go shopping for copious amounts of jewelry.
  • Useless data is as dangerous as a cluttered desk or home, it can shower many of us in a thin mist of anxiety that is difficult to identify in the early stages of discomfort.

Cleaning up your digital life every few years is one easy way to help you focus on the most important aspects of your life.  Start deleting now and do not look back:)

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