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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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.

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:)

Pay for a DNA kit? Then pay to access DNA data? What?! Seriously?

The commercials over the holidays touting the sale of DNA kits almost sent me into orbit.  Why in the world would I pay for a DNA kit and then pay to become a member of a genealogy web site?  DNA data is extremely valuable and these companies want me to pay them to take my DNA data and pay to access DNA data?  I have seriously never heard of any business plan so ridiculous but for some reason many people are happy to pay others to take his or her valuable DNA information and then pay others to access DNA information.

DNA data has the potential to make a tremendous amount of money far into the future.  So many people are interested in DNA data and are willing to pay a lot of money for it.  Unfortunately though it looks as if DNA submission participants may not see any of that money with the current state of things.

When arguments such as the greater good and science are voiced when attempts are made to justify a strange business plan such as this, then I recommend carefully scrutinize the profits at each stage of the process.  Who is getting cash in their pocket at each stage? What will they use the cash for?  Answers to these questions will help you determine if paying people to take something so important from you is really worth it.

Here are just a few very simple examples of what DNA data is or could be used for now or way into the future (and there are many more – some we cannot even comprehend yet):

  • Car insurance companies:  determine who is “healthy” enough to operate vehicles or who may be predisposed to certain conditions that one day may or may not impede ones ability to operate a vehicle (anything from depression to brain tumors)
  • Health insurance companies:  base coverage and rates on odds of survival/disease based on genetic makeup
  • Grocery stores:  deny some purchases (like sugar or alcohol) to those customers with genetic predispositions to certain conditions
  • Designer babies:  ability to pick whatever features one would like for a baby
  • School athletics:  determine who is or is not allowed to be on the high school basketball team based on genetic predispositions (i.e. heart conditions, blood pressure)

Can you tell I am just a tad paranoid?  This paranoia of the current state of some of the DNA collection processes stems from my zest for life.  This zest is fueled by many things, including the belief that anything is possible.  Once humans are reduced to genetic categorizations, then the only things that are highlighted as possibilities for ones self are the items listed on a cold print out of capabilities determined by your genetic makeup.   I can think of nothing more detrimental to the human spirit.

 

Best Tech Dream Ever

Holy schnikes! I had the best tech dream ever last night:)

The horror of forgetting every single password for every single web site, mobile app, desktop app, database, server, work door code, house door code, safe, car door code finally came to fruition in a stress filled dream of too much work and too little time.

When I realize my brain no longer contained all password data for all of my things in my life requiring passwords, I was so stressed about it that I was truly unable to react in any way and then suddenly this lovely wave of calm came over me and I accepted the moment.  I decided I would not pursue recovery in any way, I would just walk away from all that was password protected and start anew.

I woke up pretty happy at the tranquility of it all but also at the sheer absurdity of me in any dimension accepting loss of data – never!

Hit a button and help someone, magic app where are you?!

My last trip to Las Vegas, NV was like all prior trips – crazy fun.  The city is 24/7 entertainment, the folks are fantastic and the surrounding landscape is absolutely beautiful desert.

I see Las Vegas as an unusual island-like place since the extreme heat of summer often isolates the city with everyone corralled safely under magnificent lighting and air conditioning from the dangerous desert conditions.

In such a close environment I expect there to be a greater unspoken pressure to care for one another but like all other communities, this sometimes isn’t possible even with the best of intentions and some people suffer due to a myriad of reasons.  The visual impact of someone in need, standing quietly in 115 degree desert heat, in the center of excitement and fun has quite an impact on my heart.

I haven’t found a mobile application or web site yet that seems to be as immediate and verifiable as something like the hire-a-driver-on-demand mobile application Uber in terms of “hit a button and get results now”, probably because complex solutions are often in order when it comes to people in need.  Even so, I will continue to seek out this magic button and if I do not find it then, as a computer programmer, maybe I will write one someday that has the potential to be an epic failure:)  Until then, wherever you are, help someone.  You will be glad you did.  If you are a freak introvert like me then here are a few ways to help others without having to actually torture folks with your weird self:)

  • That good book you just finished, leave it on a park bench with a note.
  • On holidays, leave colorful cards with money in them in areas like bus terminals, park benches, public restrooms, bike racks, etc.
  • Whatever city you are in, know where the rescue mission is so you can take them food, money or clothing (or order the items online and have them delivered). Many already post needed items on their web sites.  I will be placing an amazon.com order for this wonderful little place tonight: http://www.vegasrescue.org
  • Contact a church and ask for a shopping list for any church members they may have in need, get the items and leave it at the church, or order the items online and have them shipped directly to the church. Many churches will already have a list of needed items on their web site.

Technology Dreaming: Singing to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

I do not sing.  I somehow just know that, if I ever attempted such a thing, a horrid aftermath of: babies crying, adults screaming while holding their ears, buildings crumbling, ground shaking and meteor strikes would ensue.  I am so confident of this in fact that I do not even try to sing when I am alone, at night, driving in my car.  It is too dangerous.  I know the sound that would emanate from my mouth would be bad enough to destroy the universe as we know it.

Walking around without the gift of song, for me, is OK.  I’ve never had a desire to sing so the world has been perfectly safe and I have been quite happy listening to others sing.  All of this changed however a few years ago when I was in New York City with my husband.  He had purchased the best Christmas gift for me:  a ticket for an afternoon of ice skating at Rockefeller Center with a small group of other skaters and Kristi Yamaguchi.  The ice skating event in itself was an unforgettable treat.  But the icing on the cake was seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, in person, for the first time.  WOW!  I saw it at night and I remember laughing to myself because for some reason my first impulse was to sing – definitely a feeling I had never had before.  Luckily for the universe, I did not sing.  But I do hope the powers that be at Rockefeller Center will place a live microphone near the tree this year for anyone that happens by and has the same powerful impulse to sing that I had.

Granted, this “technology dreaming idea” comes with substantial risk of one or more of the following occurring:

  • The microphone and all other necessary equipment are stolen and pawned within the first 20 minutes by a moody tall man wearing no shirt.
  • An over-the-top political activist hogs the microphone all day long so he or she can scream about all of the injustices of the world.
  • Someone who sings so badly that the sound halts traffic and causes car horns to stop functioning steps up to the microphone and belts out 49 songs before someone wearing earplugs is finally able to take them down with a potato sack over the head and a tackle.
  • An angry city puppy gnaws through the electronics, leaving frayed wires dangling in puddles of freshly melted snow for unsuspecting participants to get the shock of a lifetime.

I think the risk is worth it for those few who will show up and sing something that is as beautiful as the tree:)

Merry Tweeting

I had a pretty sweet dream last night. I only remember a tiny bit of it but what I do remember is something I hope will happen someday if a random fabulous person out there decides to give me a hotel for my birthday and Twitter agrees to my unusual request.

Here is the low down on the dream:

It is night and very cold. I own a big beautiful Christmas hotel. Each night Twitter projects a massive live feed of Christmas-related tweets down the side of the building that faces town. They only project the actual tweets in a pretty cursive font and leave off everyone’s names/photos. Then it starts to snow.

There you have it folks, you know what you have to do.  I want this in place by next Friday! Move! Move!

Contemplating the Self-Driving Car (from someone who knows nothing of them but really really wants one)

The self-driving car is at the top of my wish list and I will be a seriously happy coder if I get to enjoy one within my lifetime.  My ideal self-driving car would be one that requires no intervention by passengers other than voice commands for mundane tasks such as “open window” or “turn on radio”.  The topics I discuss below are regarding this ideal type.

The impact of self-driving cars on the aged, the physically impaired, and the visually impaired will be off the charts high.  I remember a blind woman telling me years ago (long before amazon.com) how difficult it was to just buy dog food for her dog.  Something as simple as buying dog food meant she had to take the bus to the grocery store that was over 5 miles away and, with her small frame, it was nearly impossible getting herself, her walking stick, her dog and a huge bag of dog food onto the bus without a series of delays or injuries.

Another potential perk of the (convertible) self-driving car is sun bathing.  Can you imagine how tan and beautiful we would all be if we could catch rays during long drives to boring meetings?  I could see special fold down seats with 5-point seat belt harnesses to keep you safely locked in while lying down.  The only light my skin sees right now is from computer monitors – ick!  I want to look like those beautiful people in Rio! Don’t deny me self-driving car inventors! Don’t deny me!

My ten hour drives to Ohio will no longer be sprinkled with gripping the steering wheel in horror through torrential downpours while surrounded by big rigs.  Instead, I will joyfully knit a new blanket or read a scary book and occasionally glancing through the window to see if the rain is letting up.

Hmmmm.  Knitting and reading in a car? I can’t do that now as a passenger in a regular car.  Believe me, I’ve tried and each time I just turn green and my entire body wants to convulse.  I have a feeling that all of the companies out there that have motion sickness drugs are about to become crazy rich because folks like me will certainly need their potions  if we ever get our hands on these cars.

I only have a few concerns right now regarding self-driving cars and these concerns may be without merit due to my lack of self-driving car knowledge but right now these are my concerns:

  1. Unforeseen dilemmas will surface during accidents or potential accidents as a result of calculations the system makes.  We are animals and by default we are programmed for survival above all else but will my self-driving car be programmed to save me no matter the circumstance or will my self-driving car be more self-sacrificing?
  2. No one owns vehicles anymore. Self-driving cars appear when you need them and are gone when you do not need them.  I would love to replace my driveway with an in-ground swimming pool; however, the car in my driveway represents absolute freedom.  When I want to drive to the mall or if I ever have to evacuate my city quickly, I may do it without delay.   Am I willing to give up absolute freedom? No.  And what about my privacy? I am not willing to give that up either.  Data will most certainly be collected on millions of people who “order” self-driving cars to show up here and there.  Sorry, no other human being needs to know that I went to the grocery store yesterday at 2:00pm to buy cinnamon bread.  No one.  That is it.  And I think we all know that any empty self-driving car (controlled remotely by another party) that shows up to pick you up is a big fat hack target and if it is hacked it isn’t going to be pretty – grandma is going into the river.  No! Grandma! No! Hackers killed grandma!

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