Saturday, October 30, 2010

Prop 19 is a conservative bill

I feel I need to point out a few things, because they have been lost in the debate over prop 19. When I was talking people into signing to get it on the ballot, it seemed like supporters were knowledgeable about this but somewhere in the campaign people stopped reading the bill and arguing over the generic issue. Prop 19 is a very conservative bill to legalize marijuana. It has a lot of features that were added in to give it a higher chance of passing, even though many supporters would prefer a more liberal bill.

This list of features includes:

Not legalizing marijuana sales in counties that don't want it.

Not changing driving under the influence laws at all.

Not changing the rights of people who have medical marijuana cards.

Not legalizing smoking for those under 21, or smoking in the presence of those under 21.

Not allowing smoking in public.

For some reason opponents have settled on the strategy of saying legalization is a worthy cause, but this bill is flawed. This is silly, it is not perfect by any means but it is the best we can hope for. If real problems with it come up than they can be changed later.

This was the first ballot measure I have gathered signatures for and the first campaign I have donated to, so I am very excited about next Tuesday. I only give us about 1 in 3 chances of passing. Still, when I was standing out in the streets with a sign trying to talk little old ladies into legalization I didn't really believe that the measure would even get on the ballot. I thought it had a shot, but it seemed like it would be close. Two years ago, I don't think much of anyone thought there was a chance this bill would pass. Now all it would take is high voter turnout for young people.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paying to break down

I have often heard people justify luxury cars by claiming that they are better built. I have long been skeptical, mostly from being broke paying for Jaguar maintenance. Sure enough, consumer reports showed that most luxury cars have low reliability ratings. If reliability is important to you, a Scion or Hyundai will run circules around a BMW, Mercedes, or Jaguar.

Voter registration

Well, I got screwed by moving one city too far and my car accident. I moved in July to a new place. Because of that I filled out a voter registration form about a month ago. Unfortunately this needs to be mailed in. I didn't have a stamp so I just put it in my car to mail later. Then the car was totalled in another town so I packed everything in the car away in a bag. For some reason I thought I sent it in or I would have been fine. This would have been an obvious mistake had my car not been hit, but hidden in a bag in my closet I stopped seeing the forms.

I just looked at the laws. If I had moved 15 days before the election I could vote at the old polling place. If I had moved to somewhere in the same county I could still vote. I however am one town away from my former county. It is therefore not possible for me to vote, even though I registered to vote in this state within the past year.

Next election I really need to get behind a day of election voting registration ballot measure. There is no good reason for this. I have no doubt that thousands of people don't vote since they have to re-register constantly unless they have a stable residency. At the very least they should let you vote at the old site for a year after you move. This way you have a chance to realize your mistake and correct it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I spent much of last week in Nashville. It was an impressive change from LA. When I left for the airport I saw that traffic on the 91 was already backed up at 5AM! It wasn't completely stopped by any means, but it was barely crawling along.

Then I got to the airport. Despite being so early the line for security was almost out of the door. I waited around about a half hour, glad I had not tried to push my luck getting there late.

Then I land in Nashville. It was about 5PM, and I was about ten minutes from downtown. I drove to one of the major tourist attractions in the city. No traffic. Nothing that even vaguely resembles an average day in LA. I had to try really hard to not go 90 the whole way. Which I easily could have, were it not for the strangely low speed limits combined with being unsure how aggressive the local police were. The whole time I was in Nashville I never was in any significant traffic despite driving to downtown several times.

Then I went to the airport to head home. Unlike the line going out the door in LA, I doubt I spent ten minutes from getting in line to get a boarding pass, to being behind security. I wouldn't say that there was no line, but it was insignificant. Nothing like what I faced in LA.

I really don't see how California can hold up in the long run unless this gets reversed. Sure, we have no shortage of smart people here, but if they are stuck in traffic or fighting airport security they aren't doing anything productive. It seems like we have tried to abandon the car, without bothering to make anything better. Following the route of NYC and getting excellent public transportation would have been fine. Having horrible traffic, with no alternatives, isn't.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Power outlets

The Oakland and Ontario airports have put in free power outlets. This is more exciting than it should be. Being stuck in an airport sucks quite a bit once your electronic equipment dies. I doubt this costs more than a fraction of a penny a person to provide either so hopefully this becomes standard in airports.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Medical Studies

People are often surprised by how skeptical I am about a lot of biomedical science. I have a great deal of trust in some aspects of it such as vaccines and antibiotics but I generally think a whole lot of it is not understood nearly as well as doctors and biologists make it sound.

This is a pretty good article on just how bad most medical studies are.

Everything needed to install a car stereo

I just finished installing a stereo in my new car. It appears to be working, although the interface on the radio is pretty poor it does everything I need it to do. However figuring out what I needed to buy and how to install the radio was a real pain. Because of this I have listed everything needed to install a stereo in a 2004 ford focus SE with a Blaupunkt radio. The last two words take some explaining. There are two stereos which a 2003 or 2004 ford focus could have. The first is a standard one, the second a Blaupunkt radio. This one will play MP3 CDs, and has slightly different wiring. It is important to know if you have this stereo because if you buy what you need for a normal focus than you end up not having everything you need. This held up my installation for several days while I waited for parts to ship.

Here is the total list of what I bought:
Pioneer DEH-2200UB CD Receiver with iPod Direct Control and USB Input. I picked this stereo because it was about the cheapest one which could connect to an iphone with a USB cord.

Stereo Antenna Harness Ford Focus 00 01 02 03 04 . This adapter connects your antenna to the new stereo.

Stereo Wire Harness Ford Focus 00 01 02 03 04. This is what you need to install the stereo in a typical 2004 ford focus. This connects the wiring that connected to the old stereo to the new stereo. Half of the connector is wrong for installing a stereo in one with a Blaupunkt stereo. So this will not connect to your car. However you really do need the other half which connects to your stereo, so unless you find it cheaper by itself you will need this.

Stereo Wire Harness Ford Focus Blaupunkt 03 04. This is the other half of the last item. This will connect to your car. It will need to be soldered to the half in the previous item which connects to the stereo.

Stereo Install Dash Kit Ford Focus 00 01 02 03 04. This is the dash kit which the stereo sits in. You need this because the new stereo is smaller than the old one. This is not as sturdy as the factory one which worried me at first, but it seems stable enough to not be a real problem.

A Soldering Iron. If you do not have one, you will need this to solder the wires of the wire harness together. I have no idea why I cannot buy one with the wires pre-soldered but I at least couldn't find one.

Heat shrink tubing. This isn't the one I bought at Radio Shack, but it looks like the same stuff. You could use electrical tape but from what I hear the stereo will not work for the life of the car if you do that. Wherever wires are soldered together this should be used to cover the wires. It will prevent the wires from shorting out.

Dt1 Radio Removal Tool. There is currently a stereo in the car. You must remove it. This tool will make removing the stereo simple.

The first thing I was warned to do when I installed this stereo was to disconnect the negative terminal of the battery. It is unlikely this will do anything useful, but if you accidentally short something out you will probably be glad you did this.

Two things gave me trouble. The first was identifying what the mounting sleeve was. The instructions that came with the products kept talking about it. They don't bother to tell you that when you buy the stereo it comes around the stereo. For a while I thought I had to order yet one more part. You have to pull it off of the outside of the stereo. This mounting sleeve will get inserted into the dash kit. Once it is inside the car all of the little metal tabs will need to be pushed down with a screwdriver. This will hold the stereo in place.

The next problem was connecting the two halves of the wire harness together. In this case I simply connected together the same color wires on each half and hoped for the best. In the case of the ground wire I cut off a connector at the end because I couldn't see anywhere to connect it to. Instead I soldered it to the black wire on the other half of the connection.

Once I got to this point it was simple. I simply plugged all my adapters into the connectors in my car which used to go to the old stereo. Then I turned on the car to check that the stereo worked. When I saw that I could get sound from it I pushed it into the dash kit and it clicked into place.

Edit: Whenever I turned the car off the radio lost its settings and the time. To fix this I had to solder the red wires to the yellow wires. Now it seems to work without significant issues.

Most annoying iphone features

The iphone is a pretty good phone. Still, it does some stuff that drives me crazy. Most of these follow a simple theme. Iphone does something amazing. Iphone makes a simple error that makes amazing feature useless. Because of that I never use this feature.

So here is a short list of the most annoying things the iphone does:

1. The spell checker automatically changes words. A spell checker is a wonderful thing. However often you actually want to say something that is not in the dictionary. Or worse, you misspelled something in a way that is similar to another word. The iphone helpfully changes all of these words into something completely different without ever asking my permission. I found that time after time I would send a message that made no sense at all because my phone changed a word which was one or two letters away from the correct one into one entirely different. If the iphone ever lets me turn on the spell checker without auto-correct I would love to use it. Until then, I will have to work with my own spelling abilities.

2. I cannot make websites think I am on a normal computer. This might seem a small issue, it isn't. Many pages helpfully redirect your attempts to get to their real site to a mobile site which has less than half the information of the real site, but has large buttons. The best example of this I can think of happened when I was looking for a place to rent. I found a whole bunch of places to look at on a local newspaper website. I emailed them to myself and went out to look at places figuring I could look up details on my iphone later. Only instead of giving me access to the actual webpage, this newspaper transferred me to a mobile site. This site had none of the information I actually wanted! I had to drive to a real computer to do something that my iphone was quite capable of doing, but was simply refusing to do. Sometimes I have been able to make google cache give me pages that are hidden from my iphone, but more often I just cannot get to the real page. A great example of a page that limits users is A few months back they created a mobile site. Now, without going through some heroics there is no way to see the actual site. Sure, the articles are on the mobile site, but what if you went to the site to read user comments? I see no way at all to access these from an iphone. Rarely if ever does a mobile site include all of the information of the real site.

3. I can't turn off the anti-red eye feature on the camera flash. The camera flash is too bright. In a dark room the LED makes anyone looking towards the camera squint or rapidly look away. If it only had a quick flash this would be a small issue. I would take the picture in the short time of the flash so they wouldn't have time to cower in pain. Sure they would have red eyes, but I could remove that later with software. Instead the LED turns on for a long time, everyone cringes and looks away, then the short flash happens. So I have a flash that is mostly useful for taking pictures of objects. If I am taking pictures of people they better be looking away from the camera or be in a bright room.

4. No dvorak keyboard. This would be easy for them to add as a feature. I doubt it would take a programmer long to install the feature. To my knowledge there is no way to do this though.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nagging electronics

I hate electronics that try to nag me to do what it feels is necessary.

I just got an iphone 4. So far it seems pretty much exactly like my iphone 1 except it is a little better at doing everything the iphone 1 could do. Really it doesn't seem revolutionary in the way the first iphone was. However, it has done some random changes in the settings for no apparent reason. The most annoying one of these was enforcing a voice mail password.

Now, there are several things on my iphone which I would rather no one use:

First on this list is facebook. Someone with my facebook application could generally make a fool of me to a very large audience and in a generally believable way.

Second on this list is my email. It is not terribly unusual for things to be in my email that don't need to be public knowledge. For example I wouldn't be surprised if at some point a credit card number or social security number has slipped into my email account.

Third would be my text messages. There is just a lot of data here, also there is the ability to send messages to essentially everyone I know.

Forth would be the notepad. I often use it to record large amounts of semi-private information.

However none of these have a default password. Anyone could steal my iphone and get to the information. Now, I am sure if I cared enough I could get a password for all of this but really, you aren't going to find anything that exciting.

However my voicemail has a default password. It also seems to be one I didn't set. It just made up one and I had to waste a half hour trying to figure out how to remove it. Why would I care though? unlike everything else I use on the iphone this does not include any of my information. It is all other people's information, and seriously, how much do people put in a voicemail that matters? I can't think of a single voicemail I have got ever that anyone would care enough to spy on. The only reason I can see anyone caring is if they are cheating. And if you are cheating, you probably need to worry far more about your email and text messages than your voicemail.