Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving '09 - Visiting Cleveland

I haven't really been back in the Midwest for several years, but I have almost somewhat reminisced about the flat cities, ride roads, and generally better road manners. During this past weekend, we took a day trip to visit Cleveland.

Here is my photo essay of Cleveland (images taken with the Canon SX20).

Cleveland's Finest at work (Pardon the poor image, as the vehicle was moving at ~30mph and there was vegetation in the lane divider).

The Chevy Cruze is coming to America! (Although it remains to be seen whether or not they'll be built in Ohio).

Cleveland has nice flat wide roads.

Cleveland's West Side Market - pretty cool place!

Fresh pasta at the West Side Market.

MASSIVE jar of Nutella!

Cheap Ducks at a Chinese supermarket!

And... last but not least... LIVE frogs at only $4.29 per pound!


More fotos to come!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why do Presidents pardon turkeys?

Every year during Thanksgiving, the President of the United States "pardons" turkeys presented to him by farmers. How did this tradition begin? And what do they do with the "pardoned" turkeys?

Thanks to Google, I was able to research and write this "exposé" from the comfort of my home while I'm defrosting chickens. Apparently, most Presidents ate the turkeys they were presented with, and those that did not like turkey meat donated them to the local homeless shelter.

The turkey pardoning sort of started off as a joke by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Reagan, who I guess was doing some sort of press conference, was asked before Thanksgiving whether or not he would pardon Oliver North for his role in the Iran-Contra deals. Reagan, in typical Reaganesque manner, deflected the question with a joke, saying he would pardon the turkey.

President George H.W. Bush later turned the turkey presentation, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, into a turkey pardoning day. After the turkeys are pardoned, they're sent to some farm to live out the remainder of their lives. Although this begs the question, how long do the turkeys live afterward?

Domesticated commercial turkeys are bred to maximize weight gain in the shortest amount of time, which shortens their natural life expectancy to as short as two years for male and three years for female birds.

These "pardoned" turkeys don't live very long at all... maybe the Presidents should just donate them to the local food bank or something...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Unintended Acceleration?

Toyota/Lexus has been recently under fire for "unintended acceleration." Apparently in August of this year, a Californian off duty highway patrol officer and the occupants of the Lexus ES-350 were killed in high speed accident because the accelerator pedal had become jammed. A passenger called 911 while the car was speeding out of control, and apparently the 911 recording has been released to the public (I didn't bother to look for it).

CBS did an "investigation," citing "experts" and "victims" who claim that Toyotas may be prone to unintended acceleration.

In the 1980s, CBS' 60 Minutes did a similar hack job, accusing Audi 5000 vehicles of being prone to unintended acceleration. They interviewed "experts," "victims," and even fabricated a "test" by modifying a vehicle so it appeared to suffer from unintended acceleration. The hack job harmed Audi's image in the United States, and Audi's sales did not recover for almost fifteen years.

The complaints from "victims" are usually the same and goes as follows:

"I was just sitting there in my car, the ignition was on, the transmission was in gear, and then all of the sudden the engine revved and the car began to move and the car crashed."

The problem with these claims? The accidents usually occur in a parking lot or a drive way, or when the driver is in the act of parking/coming to a stop - which not so coincidentally is when drivers usually mistake the accelerator for the brakes.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) always investigates such claims, and basically never find evidence that the vehicle was at fault.

But the August Lexus accident was different. The driver and the occupants of the vehicles were all killed, and had no reporting bias/desire to transfer blame. The vehicle was on a major road, and was not in the act of parking/coming to a stop. The NHTSA investigated the August Lexus matter, and issued a report [Warning: PDF!].

The crashed vehicle, which was a car dealership loaner, had the wrong kind of floor mats installed. Because the floor mats were not properly secured, the accelerator pedal became jammed/caught by the bundled up floor mat when depressed.

The driver tried what most of us would do first - he tried to brake the car to a halt. Unfortunately, in most American and Japanese vehicles, the electronic control unit (ECU) in the car will not intervene when the both pedals are depressed. In many European vehicles, when both pedals are depressed, the ECU will give priority to the brake pedal input, and will shut off the accelerator pedal input and the car will stop.

To makes matters worse, the driver was not familiar with the vehicle (as it was a loaner) and the car featured a push start keyless system. Therefore the driver didn't know how to shut off the engine, and the Lexus accelerated to over 100mph, crashed, became airborne, and burned.

This tragedy could have been averted in so many ways. The dealer could have been competent and installed the correct floor mats and secured them, the driver could have inspected the vehicle and discovered the pushed up floor mats, the driver could have the presence of mind to shift the vehicle to neutral, or the driver could have learned how to shut the ignition before driving it off the dealer lot.

I'm sure the deceased victim's estate/survivors are probably suing the dealer for negligence, and will probably also go after Toyota for some product liability claim (i.e. negligent design of pedal). The plaintiffs will probably win a big judgment, or the parties will probably settle out of court, but nothing will bring the deceased back.

So here's a Legally Irreverent Public Service Announcement.

What to do when the gas pedal gets stuck?
1. Shift to Neutral.
2. Apply the Brakes.
3. Stop & Turn off the Ignition.

If by some strange mechanical defect you're unable to shift to neutral, you'll have to turn off the ignition - but only do this as a last resort, because you'll lose power steering, and brake performance will decline (ABS, brake force boost/distribution will be off).

What not to do when the gas pedal gets stuck?
1. Call 911.
2. Pump the brakes repeatedly (if the brakes aren't slowing the car, they're not slowing the car; do not do the same thing repeatably and expect a different result).
3. Leap out of the car.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Canon PowerShot SX20 Introduction.

We selected this particular camera after a long and agonizing decision process, involving hours of online research, hands on research, and finally decided to stick with one of the earlier suggested models, the Canon PowerShot SX20!

So here are some shots as an introduction.

A panoramic view of Oakland (click photos to enlarge).

Then a few shots of Kimchi!

And last but not least, Tigger!