Author Archives: admin

Smartphone Usage

Key in my passcode, check for notifications, access my 3 email accounts, open Facebook, Instagram, read my newsfeed, twitter (stupid tweets), Nextdoor, LinkedIn, and every five minutes check them all again—addicted!!smartphone cartoon

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of smartphones.  I love getting reminders for friend’s and family’s: birthdays, anniversaries, or special occasions.  Instant news is great, GPS to get from A to B, my credit card notifications rock, great camera, a way to reconnect with friends and family, follow grandkids lives–both victories and TMI, weather and police alerts, and communication from anywhere with text and phone—amazing tech, but there is a downside.

There’s the distracted while driving/walking thing, total rudeness by ignoring those around you, wasting a big slice of your life, depression from constant stream of bad news and stupid tweets, and “like” envy.

The more time we spend staring at our phones, the more negative crap we view.  And we reinforce our right or left views choosing Hannity or Colbert.  I have a diverse group of friends, so I witness the full spectrum of opinions and often follow or participate in one of those no-win political debates which usually end in some of my fact-challenged friends being shredded—OUCH!

The smartphone is an amazing technological tool but staring at that small screen shouldn’t take over your life.  I experimented (cold turkey) with a smartphone diet.

I cleansed myself for a day by limiting my smartphone usage of social media, news, and apps to once in the morning, noon and evening.  It’s a whole lot easier than giving up smoking or cutting back on sugar and at the end of the day my battery was still at 80%.  My diet crashed the next day as I waited in the eye-doctor’s office.  I keyed in my passcode, connected to free WiFi and entertained myself instead of freaking-out about the usual overly-long wait for my examination (another FUBAR subject).

This experiment forced me to look at my beloved iPhone time and I concluded that the associated problems with overusing smartphones are more about the user than the phone and totally restricting use doesn’t work.  You can be one of “those guys” who constantly talks/text when driving, conducts self-important phone business in the middle of a captive airport gate, or doesn’t turn off your phone at a show OR you can come back from the dark side by being a considerate user.

I do waste some time on my phone but overall, I have pretty good phone etiquette.  Accessing my home security cameras when traveling or receiving a text signed with a heart from a grandkid is part of the smartphone magic.  I’ve realized that the reason we’re always on our phones is because they have changed all our lives, mostly for the good, and we just must figure out a balance between obsession and a sensible use of an amazing entertainment, communication, anything-you-need tool.  Just need a “rude” app to turn off some of those “other guys” phones.

Light Rail Doesn’t Work Here

From North Carolina to California our highways are over capacity and grid-locked.  How did this happen?  The short answer is that, historically, our city councils and town boards have ignored long term road and infrastructure planning while rabidly approving sprawling development. Roads to these communities quickly become parking lots for thousands of frustrated commuters.

I live along one of those overburdened roadways and we are all screaming for relief!  In response, our development-friendly city council realized that they must at least make a token effort to address the associated traffic problems. Their first step is to propose “the plan” for a fix, a light rail system.

Step two is soliciting public comments on their we-know-best proposed transit plan.  It always amazes me how many intelligent experts are part of our community offering innovative, visionary advice—engineers, scientists, statisticians, health care professionals, urban planners, economists, scholars, and most importantly people who care.  But anyone who has participated in these public forums realizes that even the best suggestions are  ignored.

Predictably, our City Council voted to adopt their original doesn’t-help-anything plan to build a 17-mile light rail system, the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Plan (DOLRT), despite overwhelming logical objections.

So, what’s wrong with this plan?

  • There will be over 40 at-grade crossings creating traffic backups, accidents, and air pollution
  • It doesn’t go to popular destinations like: Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Research Triangle Park (main employment center) and Chatham Park (new population center).
  • Route selection and station locations were dictated by politics.
  • Many of the proposed train stations are linked to more development in a transit corridor that reached over capacity for it’s roads, schools and infrastructure years ago.
  • DOLRT only serves a small corner of our area.  Most of our residents won’t benefit, yet they will be paying the cost.
  • Our neighbor, Wake County, listened to professional planners opting against light rail and went with other solutions like less costly Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that will serve more people with flexibility and funding for future population shifts
  • As projected ridership numbers affirm, it won’t make a significant difference in getting cars off the road and may add to the congestion with commuters driving to train stations
  • The 2012 allocated sales tax funds were for mass transit and not exclusively tied to light rail.
  • Presently, the ever-rising estimated cost is over 2.4 billion dollars to build and 29 million annually to maintain with loan payments extending beyond 2050.
  • Sources of funding are questionable relying on cash strapped federal, state, and local government sources—MORE TAXES!
  • It will consume our whole transportation budget taking money away from existing and future transportation options like bus service, bicycle paths and greenways that would get more cars off the road.
  • The first passenger won’t ride until 2028. Until then, we’ll be funding a bad plan and it may be obsolete by 2028 because of shifting population density and ever-changing technology.
  • More, more, more….

Of all these problems I am most bothered by the cost and the dated train model.  We desperately need solutions to our traffic problems, but we should be moving forward instead of back to railroad tracks and tethered electric trains.  A lot of alternative, innovative solutions that will better relieve our traffic mess without bankrupting our transportation budget are available NOW like: BRT buses, a network of protected bike lanes, driverless cars and trucks, and drones capable of transport.light rail and flying pod cartoon

If we make wise transportation choices now, we’ll be able to afford all the latest and greatest transportation technology that will eventually make gridlock just a memory.  My preference would be to fly with the Jetsons as opposed to riding with Fred and Barney.

Global Warming

  • “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”
  • “The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, so okay, they’re at a record level”
  • “Look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place.”
  • “We have ended the war on American energy, and we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.”

In addition to these out-of-touch-with-reality quotes, our President has enacted out-of-touch-with-reality energy policies like removing bans on off-shore drilling, approving and promoting new pipelines, defunding alternative energy research, lessening environmental emission standards for fossil fuels, and all sorts of FUBAR elimination of environmental safeguards.  At best you can call the President environmentally challenged and at worse you can see this as it really is, an attempt to support a 1950’s energy policy that is harming our world and blindly continues to promote the production of fossil fuels that profit influential coal, oil and gas companies.

Ignoring the consequences of the long-term effects of global warming or climate change is irresponsible and all credible scientists agree that we have a problem, and something must change before we’re all treading sea water.

First we all have to understand what “global warming” is:

Then we must vote for politicians who are willing to listen to responsible scientists and create policies that are common sense solutions to the climate damage caused by our reckless, unbridled use of fossil fuels.  Elect lawmakers who will enact well thought out strategies to phase in more solar, wind, hydro, and innovative energy sources with a gradual reduction of fossil fuels—a challenge, but doable.

The best thing you can do is to become an intelligent voter by researching global warming.  Just google “global warming” and/or look at websites like these below and vote for environmentally friendly candidates who care about the future of our planet.

Union of Concerned Scientists

NASA

National Geographic