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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Croix de Mount Davis? 19 Innings of Oakland Athletics Baseball

While I will always be a Giants fan and earned my Croix de Candlestick buttons for surviving extra innings during a night game at Candlestick, it's amazing to see how the Oakland A's can pull off a difficult feat very early this morning.

From 7PM to 1:40AM, the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels played 19 innings of baseball until a two run home run finally ended the game with Oakland winning 10 to 8.  While 19 innings did not make the Major League record books for longest game ever, it did make Oakland A's history.

While the hardcore fans did stay for all the fun at the Colosseum, it's too bad some had to leave in the middle of the game because the last BART trains were to arrive at the station to take people back home.  With the game finishing near 2AM, I hope people were able to get a taxicab or get a ride from someone to get home, or wait a couple of extra hours for BART service to reopen this morning.

Lastly, for those who attended the game and survived 19 innings wouldn't it be nice if the Athletics gave their fans something to cherish for their loyal attendance of 19 innings?  If the Giants can give out the Croix de Candlestick, how about a Croix de Mount Davis for those Oakland fans?

If you are not familiar with Mount Davis, it's that structure in the top photo that blocks the view of the Oakland Hills skyline.  Some gave it the nickname "Mount Davis" because Al Davis moved the Raiders to Oakland and there was a need to add more seating; the top deck is so steep and tall that it's rare to find stadium seating that high anymore.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

SF's District Attorney Gascon to Crackdown on Distracted Drivers - How About Distracted Pedestrians?

Illegal Left Turn
BMW driver caught making illegal left turn.
This morning, I was watching the local news and there was a brief news story about San Francisco's District Attorney, George Gascon to start a crackdown on distracted driving.  The news reporter said the reason behind it is San Francisco's higher than state average automobile vs. pedestrian accident rate.

I personally feel that a crackdown is necessary to stop people from shaving while driving, looking down at their cell phones while driving, and those who think eating a big burrito while driving is a smart idea.  There was one instance where traffic was held up for a few minutes because a lady was playing with her cell phone while traffic in front of her was moving forward.  When she noticed the cars moving and passing her, she advances forward, driving extremely slow, and enjoying whatever is on her cell phone.

But while the need to crackdown on distracted drivers is necessary, how about cracking down on distracted pedestrians?

Distracted pedestrians are just as dangerous as distracted drivers!

I'm a good driver and I don't have any distractions that keeps my eyes away from the road.  I always scan the road ahead of me, check my mirrors regularly, look for road hazards, identify drivers that are driving erratic, etc.  But pedestrians are even more risky because they could pull off some really stupid stuff.

Just yesterday on my drive back home, here's a list of unlawful things pedestrians did while distracted:
  1. Jaywalk across six lanes of traffic and a median, including walking in front of my car without a care in the world.  The crosswalk was just 30 feet away from the person.  I gave the guy the stink eye.
  2. Another pedestrian jaywalking 15 feet from a crosswalk on a busy four lane street while admiring the vase of flowers he had in his hands, and luckily the car that made a right turn was able to stop just in time to not hit the person.  The driver making the right turn could not see the pedestrian because the cars parked next to the curb made it a blind spot.  If the pedestrian crossed in the crosswalk, the driver would have easily seen him.
  3. Talking with a friend and both decide to cross against a red hand pedestrian signal while cars with a priority green left turn arrow was turning.
  4. Another instance of crossing against the red with incoming traffic.

Akit's Opinion
We all have a shared responsibility to obey the traffic laws of our city and state.  No matter if you ride a bicycle, drive a car, or walk, the laws in place is supposed to make sure you don't do something stupid and dangerous to risk your life or others.  Even with the laws, common sense should always be used, because sometimes people will do illegal things, and you need to make sure you can react quickly to prevent injury or death.

I personally feel that George Gascon needs to also tackle the problem with distracted pedestrians.  Wearing those $200 headphones while crossing the street isn't the smartest idea because it makes it difficult to hear if an oncoming car is approaching close.  But so isn't those rightious pedestrian dicks who think that it's totally okay to cross against a red signal and they won't get hit by a car.

Reality check pedestrians: You are not Superman.  In the battle between car vs. pedestrian, car will always win, and pedestrians will be in the hospital.

I'm just hoping the police will help by ticketing pedestrians that breaks the law; just like how Gascon will demand a crackdown on distracted drivers.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FasTrak and Clipper Card to Change Policy on Your Usage Records

Back in October 2012, a reporter from the Bay Citizen reported about an instance when a warrant was used to request data of a registered Clipper card user that was an alleged accomplice to a crime.

While it seems a great idea to link an accomplice to a crime by reviewing the data of a Clipper card user, it does raise the issue of privacy concerns and what information is kept by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Clipper, and how long they keep information about your usage.

While the Bay Citizen reported the number of warrants to release information was only a few (back in October 2012), the data Clipper gathers is typically used for assessment purposes by reviewing the riding patterns of the public.  Without the need for people to have clipboards at bus stops, the Clipper card can keep track of the number of passengers that rides the vehicles, and at train stations and Golden Gate Transit, able to determine patterns of passengers of where they ride to and from.  The data they gather helps transit agencies find if additional or less service is needed, or the need to operate higher capacity vehicles or trains due to boarding numbers.

Some transit agencies like Samtrans and Muni may know what route you took, but can't determine where you boarded or exited because they don't have GPS information connected to the Clipper devices; this is unlike Golden Gate Transit that operates on a zone system requiring GPS to determine your ride fare, and train stations that needs to know what station you boarded and where you exited to properly charge you the right fare.

Even then, the data retained tells a lot about your usage patterns.  Is having a registered card risky?  If you are a criminal, probably so.  Grocery stores with self-checkouts sometimes have problem with theft by tricking the machines, but people are stupid enough to use their registered store loyalty card during the check-out process.  But if you are a law abiding citizen and don't mind having your records kept for several years, then it's okay for you.

The same concern is with FasTrak devices as well.  They know what time you crossed the bridge, but a privacy policy regarding the freeway devices keeping eye on traffic speeds don't record the FasTrak serial numbers, only to find out the speeds of the freeway to help aid the 511 website and the signs on the freeway with the estimated time of major exits and junctions.

After the Bay Citizen reported about the issue, the state government scrambled to work on changing the policy from seven years of data retention to just three.

However, a law that was proposed in the senate would re-define the retention of data for those who cancel their Clipper and FasTrak accounts; the policy would be only up to six months from the date of cancellation of the account.  Also, the senate law proposed would also: "Require deletion after six months of PII not needed "to perform account functions such as billing, account settlement, or enforcement activities.""
While six months sounds like a useful amount of time, the MTC did not agree on the six month policy because of the statute of limitations, so instead of six months or even three years, the most suitable amount of time would need to be longer.

Operations Committee of the MTC will be voting upon a proposal to change the retention of data this Friday:
  • The MTC is proposing to change the data from seven years to four years and six months.
As stated in the MTC's document regarding the proposed change in policy: The statute of limitations can go up to four years.  By extending that with an extra six months, it allows the MTC and Clipper enough time to handle lawsuits and claims.

Akit's Opinion
Shortening it to just slightly beyond the statute of limitations isn't such a bad idea.  I'm not that concerned of my usage patterns, even with my grocery store loyalty cards.  Like Safeway really cares if I made a purchase of ice cubes and condoms in one transaction.

But if you personally have a fear of the government tracking you, why not just get an unregistered Clipper card?  Just make sure to replenish your card only using cash.