Changing How I Utilize Facebook

I’ve been neglecting my personal website in favor of Facebook.  Yes, the big bad demon of fast and easy content sharing.  Two problems with Facebook.  First problem is my writing ability has suffered greatly after a few years of short entries.  Second is the security settings lulled me into a false sense of what was visible to who.

That worked well until they made several mistakes that I consider to be rookie sysadmin mistakes with their security.  Make a change and default everyone to the lowest and most insecure settings.  Makes total sense!!

The final straw for me was in September of 2011.  I wanted to share a batch of photos with about 100 people.  Facebook technically has this ability but nothing I tried would work.  Limiting the photos to not be seen by certain groups of people didn’t work the same way that it once did.

The new way to manage security on a photo album appeared to be to select who I did want to see it (which makes more sense).  So I created a group of who should see the photos and attempted to add the group as an authorized user to the album.  No dice, have to add the users one at a time to the album (far more time consuming than creating a group in the group screen).  Okay fine.

So I added all 100 people to the album.  After saving I found that only 15 people were saved in the group.   I added 20 more and that time only five saved.  Then no more were saving.  I finally managed to get people added by adding them once, save, twice, save.  Would take the second time.  When I reached 50 people the trick stopped working.

At this point I went to the support forums and found people complaining about all the same problems I was having …  The complaints started a few months prior … There were no helpful responses from Facebook staff on the matter either.  Since I pay nothing for the service (aside from handing them all sorts of marketing data to sell) that’s about what I would expect from their support staff as well.  There was also the issue of the group of friends I have that have not succumbed to peer pressure and therefore did not create a Facebook account.  I needed a way to share things with them as well.

I then decided it was time to get my site up to the latest stable releases of WordPress and Gallery, link them through single sign on and start updating here again.

As for Facebook I’ve been going through and deleting all prior activity.  What a fun task let me tell you ….  I’ve gone through since I first signed up in 2007 and deleted everything one by one.  Status Updates, Comments (on my own and other people’s statuses), Photos etc etc etc.   While the trip down memory lane is great …  I want a feature that would allow me to tell Facebook to delete or make private all activity prior to XX date.  Seems the only way to do that would be to completely delete my Facebook account and start a new one … And go through and “refriend” everyone.  No thanks.

What I thought would be a great use for Facebook moving forward would be to collect my thoughts of the week (month, year, decade ….) and discuss them with whoever felt like discussing them.  Then dump what’s worth holding onto into a blog post and delete everything on Facebook that was posted for that week.  This way I own and control the final content.  I control what’s for certain groups and what’s public and if something goes wrong I only have myself to blame.  The drafts (for lack of better term) will exist on Facebook’s servers somewhere I’m sure but whatever.

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Toyota’s Troubles

Toyota has made their business selling absolutely boring vehicles that had a reputation of running for a long time with minimal maintenance required.  With the current round of issues they’re having with brakes, accelarator pedals etc . . .   I have one thing to say.

This is the BEST time to purchase a used Toyota product.  I’d suggest trying to avoid any that utilize their drive by wire system of course however I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of up-in-arms Toyota owners looking to unload their “Death Trap” and are willing to sell on the cheap.

If you’re considering selling your Toyota due to the issues . . .   The hit in resale is not worth it right now.  If you’re truly concerned that your car is going to accelerate unexpectedly then learn how to deal with it.  Take your car to an abandoned parking lot and floor it.  Practice moving your gear selector to neutral and turning the car off.  If you use a push button starter read your owner’s manual to learn how to turn the car off in an emergency.

I’ve actually been the driver of a vehicle that was accelerating unexpectedly (NOT a Toyota product).  I was able to put it in neutral, coast to the side of the road and turn the car off.  Make sure you know how to do the same in whatever car you drive.

Your car is not a thrill ride.  Prepare for emergencies so you can work through them confidently.

This all said, the car industry is going to be interesting.  Toyota has been on top with a sterling reputation for a long time.  People AREN’T up in arms about the problem.  They ARE up in arms about Toyota’s handling of the situation up until this point.  Toyota has to turn that around and prove that they have otherwise people will let their wallet do the talking as they walk to Ford, Hyundai, Honda, Mitsubishi and a host of other car dealerships when it comes time to trade their vehicle in.

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2009 Smart Fortwo Test Drive

When I purchased my 2002 Honda Accord coupe I quickly found out what a pain it was to parallel park (the back end is hard to judge.  Other people that have driven my car have said the same).  This is made worse by me now living in Chicago. I just don’t like piloting a car the same length as a minivan around the city.  That said, the Smart Fortwo making it to the United States was good news to me!  My thinking was a Smart would be a great car to have as my daily driver and I could just rent a vehicle for those days I’d need something larger which is maybe once or twice a year if that.

Since it’s arrival to the U.S. there’ve been plenty of reviews dismissing the vehicle as terrible.  Because of that I really didn’t have much of a desire to actually test drive one.

On 12-22-2009 I happened to log on to Smart’s website and noticed that they’re giving away $25 Target Giftcards for test driving a Smart before 12-31-2009.

$25 for my trouble?   Since there’s a Smart dealership about 20 minutes away from my home I decided that it was worth it to go take a look.  Bonus is that it was snowing pretty good that evening.  If anything would be a deal breaker for this car I figured it’d be snow handling.

A friend of mine and I arrived on site and walked in.  I was pretty impressed to see that for less than $12,000 I can get a Smart Fortwo Pure with standard Power Locks, Remote Keyless Entry, “automatic transmission” (more on that later), airbags all around, Tridion Safety Cell, ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System), ESP (Electronic Stability Program), CBC (Cornering Brake Control), ASC (Acceleration Skid Control), ETC (Engine Torque Control), TPS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) and BAS (On the same page Smart lists it as Hydraulic Brake Assist and also as Electronic Brake Assist . . .  Neither lines up with BAS   I’M CONFUSED!!!!)  This is quite a lot more standard features than you’d find in cars for the same price such as a Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio or Nissan Versa.

That said the Smart can also be loaded up with quite a bit more.  Power Windows, Heated Mirrors, Navigation, Rear Backup Camera, Heated Seats, Leather Seats, Panoramic Sunroof and Automatic Climate Control name all the options that I can think of that were interesting to me (though I’m sure a rear backup camera is useful in any vehicle . . .  It’d be considered a toy in a car like this)  Oh in addition to this the Smart Fortwo is also comes available in convertible form with a top that you can open & close at any speed.

The friendly salesperson explained all of these features to me and offered to take a Smart Convertible out on a test drive with me.  First he proceeded to show me how the car refused to lose control no matter what he did.  Try to swerve and the various systems (ESP, CBC, ASC, ETC) all work together to keep the car going as predictably as possible.  It was impressive.  My Accord does well on snow but If I tried some of that I’d be spinning.  That said I’d recommend anyone who does serious winter driving invest in snow tires for their vehicle regardless of what you drive.  Whatever type of drivetrain you have it will do you no good if your tires can’t get a solid grip.  If you have no place to store them in off season some shops will store them for you.

After that he turned the keys over to us and we drove it on our own.  We both drove it and thought the handling was pretty good.  It was not a speed demon of a car but it was certainly acceptable (We were encouraged to try it on the expressway if we wanted however with the gridlock of 6pm snow traffic I think we got a better test by sticking to side streets)  I’d say the acceleration of it was on par with my old 1993 Subaru Impreza L which was fully capable of beating Chevy Camaros from stoplights when the Camaro driver wasn’t paying attention.

Two things took a few minutes to get used to.  The floor mounted brake pedal and the transmission.

Floor Mounted Brake Pedal – Why?  Seriously why?  Once you’re used to it it’s fine but . . .  Why?  Space savings perhaps?  Maybe it takes a fair amount of hardware to mount the brake pedal from the bottom of the dash?

Automated Manual Transmission – The transmission is the biggest thing people love to complain about with this car.  It’s an automated manual transmission.  The shift action of the car from 1st to 2nd was especially interesting to me as the feeling of the clutch engaging and disengaging was very obvious.  There’s also a manual mode for this transmission.  Reading the Smart enthusiast forums there’s arguments about which mode is better.  When test driving a Smart make sure you understand the transmission for what it is.  I don’t consider it a weak-point just a quirk which you’ll either love, hate or be indifferent to.  As for me I though it was cool.

Beyond that though the car was surprisingly roomy.  The car had heated cloth seats and I have to say seat comfort was great I could see myself sitting there for quite a while without any complaints.  The seating was also nice and high which provided a more commanding view of the road than other non-SUVs.  It didn’t feel much like a micro car once inside until you looked in back of you and realized . . .  It was.  Considering the lack of a following distance most idiots on the road are leaving today . . .  It’s conceivable that their vehicle’s grill will be just a few feet from the back of your head.

That said I have no doubts that the Smart is a very safe vehicle for any size.  People still subscribe to the “bigger is better” mentality.  I’ve never bought into that mindset.  One reason I like smaller cars because I can maneuver out of an accident rather than just letting it happen.  I much prefer looking at active safety than passive safety.  Should something happen though it would appear, based on real life accident reports the safety cell and all of the safety features available in the Smart do their job very well in all situations from fender benders to roll overs.  http://www.safeandsmart.com/ has a lot of actual owner stories and explanations of the safety systems the vehicle has.

Did I mention that it’s also one of the cheapest cars to insure?  The safety ratings contribute greatly to this.  I did contact my insurance company to get a quote on replacing my Honda Accord with a Smart Fortwo and a Honda Fit.  The Smart would be $56 extra per year.  The Honda Fit Base would be an extra $160 per year.

Let’s now discuss the included warranty . . .   With Smart pushing the fact that Mercedes-Benz had a lot to do with the engineering of this vehicle . . .   Why don’t they also include a warranty package on par with Mercedes-Benz?  2yrs 24,000 miles is VERY pathetic by today’s standards.  The dealership tried to tell me it was due to Smart’s research that most people won’t hold on to their car for that long.   . . .   Nice try.    Most factory warranties are transferrable which is a selling point for a used car.  I feel that a warranty that’s on par with Mercedes-Benz is what should come with the car.

Furthermore the Smart roadside assistance program at the same 2 yrs 24,000 miles is not up to the level of Mercedes-Benz’s which is unlimited time unlimited mileage for any Mercedes-Benz vehicle in the U.S. . . .  And it’s GOOD.  We’ve used it on two occasions on a 2002 C230 Coupe. (both flat tires) The technician was out within 20 minutes.  The first time the tech showed up in a late model BMW 3 series.  I asked “Ok I’ve used roadside assistance through AAA, Subaru and Honda.  Each time it was a two hour wait.  Why was this so fast?”  he was quiet for a bit and said “This is Mercedes”  ‘nuff said.  From what I’ve read owners are reporting that Smart roadside assistance is very good and very fast.   Flatbeds are always sent out as well since the Smart does not have a spare tire therefore tows to the nearest tire shop may be necessary.  That said, if you’re going to tie yourself to Mercedes-Benz . . .  Again . . .  Offer the same coverage they do!

I should also mention that I asked two different Smart salespeople why Smart does not offer a program like Mercedes-Benz’s unlimited time unlimited mileage roadside assistance program that’s available for ALL Mercedes-Benz vehicles within the United States.  They had no idea what I was talking about and it took me a few times of mentioning my brother’s 1987 260e is covered before it sunk in that the vehicle was over 20 years old.  That was especially surprising considering the showrooms at that dealership are connected.  I’d expect some passing knowledge of their sister brand’s offerings.

In all fairness it was explained to me that I could extend the warranty coverage if I so chose so there are options.  I’d recommend anyone buying any car on payments make sure their warranty lasts the life of their loan.  While Smart is the shortest that I’ve seen lately most auto manufacturers’ included warranties do not last through a five year loan period.  Factor the cost of an extended warranty into your car purchase if you’re buying the car on payments.  Nothing is worse than having a car payment AND unexpected repairs.

Moving beyond that . . .   I know I even did this earlier in my posting but I have to say that comparisons between the Smart Fortwo and the Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa etc are just not fair.  That’s the same as comparing a Nissan Altima coupe to a Toyota Highlander.  Are the prices similar?  Yes.  Is the vehicle’s mission the same?  No.

I’ve seen many people say the following “But I have a family!  What am I supposed to do with them in a Smartcar??”  Nothing, this car is not a family hauler.  Don’t get a Mazda MX-5 either.  Get a vehicle that’s designed for that.  Small and mid-sized SUVs appear to be the soccer-mom transport of choice nowadays.  “I’m a construction worker!  How am I supposed to haul all my tools and materials??”  Sorry this car isn’t for you either.  Look for a pickup truck or something with equal hauling ability.  “I can’t drive me and four other friends around!”   Why would you want to?  Let them foot the gas bill.

What do I think the vehicle’s mission is?  Who do I think it’s for?

A family that already has a family car but needs a second smaller car for one or both parents to get to & from work.  I’ve read people in the forums posting that they’re getting mid to high 40s gas mileage out of the Smart without too much effort on long commutes.  Since the vehicle starts under $12,000 that’s not a bad initial investment.  Sure you can get that out of a Toyota Prius but that starts for around $22,500 which is over $10,000 more.  A Honda Insight will do similar as well but that starts at $19,800.  If the backseat isn’t necessary but high gas mileage is the Smart is a good choice.

An individual living in any area where street parking is necessary would be well served with a vehicle this short.  For the size the cargo hauling ability is pretty good.  98% of the time this car will probably suit the needs of those people.  The rest of time time they can cheaply rent a hauling truck from the hardware store or car rental agency.

An individual with limited mobility (like a senior citizen) with limited cargo hauling requirements would probably love this car too.  The high seating arrangement makes the car extremely easy to enter and exit which is a particular advantage for this segment.

Someone who wants a second cheapish (without being cheap) fun unique car, particularly in convertible form.  The convertible starts pretty well equipped for just under $17,000.  By comparison the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) is the closest in terms of base price with the 2010 model starting at just under $23,000 and does not include all of the features the Smart Car has as standard.  Same goes for the Mini Cooper Convertible which starts at just over $24,000.  In both of these cases the cargo hauling ability is compromised due to the convertible top whereas the Smart Fortwo doesn’t appear to have a problem with hauling cargo while the top is partially or fully opened.

The Smart is not for everyone but what car truly is?

So, to sum it up, overall I really like this vehicle and am giving it serious consideration as a replacement for my Honda Accord later on this year.  That said however my suggested improvements to SmartUSA are as follows.

  • Longer Warranty – Mercedes-Benz includes a 48 month or 50,000 mile limited warranty with unlimited time/mileage roadside assistance.  Hyundai & Kia offer a 10 year or 100,000 mile powertrain warranty & a 5 year or 60,000 mile limited warranty on other components (Read Hyundai’s warranty closely to determine where their limitations are).  If Smart were to include a warranty on par with either of these manufacturers I think that would help them greatly.  2 years / 24,000 miles is not long enough when most people are going to be taking car loans out for a five year term.  That said most car manufacturer warranties are not long enough to last the life of the average loan so most car buyers should be purchasing manufacturer extended warranties anyway if they aren’t sure they can afford repairs and a loan at the same time.
  • Diesel Engine – I’ve read that Smart sells a diesel version of this car in Europe that gets 70-80 mpg (I’m sure that’s not the U.S. measure but still it’s impressive) and we don’t have it here.  I imagine it’s due to the clean diesel requirement that we have in the U.S.  Mercedes and Volkswagen had to pull their diesel passenger cars off the market for a year or two while they worked that out.  I’m betting they don’t quite have it worked out for the Smart yet which is why we don’t get it.

Aside from those suggested improvements I do feel the Smart is an overall good value with a high level of standard equipment, great safety ratings and low operating costs.  If you think this car would serve the purpose for you I’d suggest you read all the reviews you can so you understand what the car actually is and then go test drive one for yourself.  It’s worth it.

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Transformers Quiz

A time waster for sure . . .  But these things are always fun
I AM
61%
STARSCREAM
Take the Transformers Quiz

Starscream

Starscream has delusions of grandeur. He chose to resemble an F-22 jet because it’s the pinnacle of human technical achievement. He serves Megatron but longs to fill his shoes.

Like Starscream, you are evil, motivated by destruction and chaos. You want to be a leader and show some promise, but you have much to learn. In addition, you enjoy technology and are aware of the latest trends, but you stick with what works for you.

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I/T Reunion

I started at a company as the sole help desk person when I was 19 years old. I was put in a large windowed office that was to be shared with another coworker of mine, decided she was too good to be caught dead in the Northbrook office and worked from home most of the time. She later ended up moving out of the office. Then it was mine . . . All mine!! When I worked in the office. I would take work from home days once in a while. Haven’t had a job where I could do that for a long time.

Anyway, the majority of the I/T staff was spread across the U.S. and worked from their homes. In order to maintain a sense of community we would have a yearly I/T Meeting in Texas where the bosses (Floyd and Becky) live.
When the company was bought out we decided to keep up the tradition yearly. I wasn’t able to make it for last year’s but I was for this year’s . . . I’m very glad I went.

It was great to catch up with people. Great food too. (I was impressed again by the size of the Fort Worth Central Market grocery store when we went to pick stuff up) Was cool to watch shows on the home theater setup they have . . .  To be amazed go to this page on Floyd’s website.
Just an overall fun time which was exactly what I needed. The first half of this year has not been great. Here’s to the second half!

While there I stayed at the Five Star Inn located in Burleson, TX . . .

I won’t say much else except I’m looking forward to more mainstream hotels going up nearby. Should be ready by next year.
Pictures of the room I stayed in as well as pictures and video of the reunion can be found below . . .

I’ll resize the pictures later . . .  Maybe even post more.  There are a lot more pictures that were taken than what I’m putting here.  I’m being lazy for now and just wanted to get something. 🙂 They’ll look correct on screen but will take a while to load.
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2007 Honda Accord SE

I was in Dallas over the weekend and rented a vehicle from Enterprise.

I had requested a premium class vehicle online which was to be a Nissan Maxima, Dodge Charger or similar (basically something with a V6 and some sporting intentions) What I ended up with was a 2007 Honda Accord SE Sedan 4 Cylinder. Not a bad car at all but . . . I have an Accord coupe at home. Not only that but the website stated that a premium vehicle is a vehicle has a V6 engine. The Accord is powerful for an inline 4 (even when compared to some other vehicles with a V6 under the hood) but I was hoping to find out how the V6 variant would perform. I made sure to mention this to the Enterprise person on my way out what the website said and what I got.

That’s all well and good though, I got to see how the 2007 sedan would compare to my 2002 EX coupe. I had tried out a 2004 Accord Coupe brand new on the lot a few years ago. I liked it except the visibility wasn’t all that good. The coupe seats were lower than the windows so I had the feeling of sitting in a bathtub (a very deep bathtub). It might have been just me needing to get used to it but I don’t have that feeling in my 2002 Coupe aside from my inability to judge where the front and rear of the vehicle is (parallel parking is a blast!) The sedan doesn’t seem to have this issue.

First off the engine and transmission are much improved. I had no gripes about what’s in my own Accord but the new version is much snappier. Definitely has no issues spinning it’s tires either. The steering required a bit more effort as well which made the car feel more on target (less floaty) than mine. This might have something to do with my tires (currently Bridgestone Turanzas) needing replacement however. Plus it is up to 60,000 miles so, even though the shocks are still fine, they’re not going to be as good as a brand new vehicle.

The seat felt strange at first but I found it to be more supportive than my car. What was missing however was the adjustable lumbar support. For that you still need an EX.

All in all a great upgrade. I’ll be happy to buy one as a Certified Pre Owned car later on. 🙂 I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what they do for the all new version in 2008.

Pictures of the car are below . . .
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Billygoat Tavern

I decided to try something different for lunch today . . . Most people would consider this typical but for me it’s unusual. I wanted to have some good old American food (Burger, fries, steak, etc)

I went to http://www.lunchintheloop.com and went to see what was available for that kind of food. Billygoat Tavern at 309 W. Washington was pretty highly recommended by all the individual reviews.

So I headed out a bit before 12 to beat the lunch time rush. I showed up around 11:50, the place was pretty empty. I walked in behind two others. Seating was almost completely open and this was not a small place.

I ordered a “Cheezborger” and a raspberry Nestea. The total had come out to $6.31. Wasn’t sure why it was so much until I looked at the receipt.

Chez Burger – $2.95
Fries – $1.45
Lrg Soda – $1.34
Tax – $0.57

They had added on fries. I was going to ask them to fix the bill but I figured I’d give the fries a shot too. They even added on tax! I didn’t want that at all!!! 😉 The prices are better depending on the day you go. Thursdays and Fridays double and triple burgers can be had for much less than my single cost me today.

The burger was ready within a couple of minutes I went to their condiment table and threw some onions, pickles and mustard on it. I was also able to request mayonnaise packets at the counter

The burger patty was a bit thin (as several reviewers on Lunch in the Loop stated) and was served on a Kaiser bun. The burger itself was . . . A burger. Not the best, not the worst. Just a burger. I didn’t notice how thin the patty was while actually eating it. The fries . . . Were fries that needed salt.

I finished eating around 12:10 (with half my fries left over, could not finish them. This place will fill you up!) and looked around. There were maybe about five more people in there than there were before. Today was, obviously, not a high traffic day for them.

On the upside they did have free copies of the onion on a table off to the side. I was able to read all about how Roomba Vacuum cleaners were hiding and harassing their owners with their incessant cleaning and how a shocking percentage of parents mistreat their children by limiting their TV time, saying maybe for hours sometimes days on end without a definite answer and engage in inappropriate touching by hugging and kissing them in front of the school bus before it leaves.

All in all the place wasn’t bad and I would like to try their steak burger at some point but from my experience today it’s just another burger joint, nothing more nothing less. Not what I was expecting based on the reviews. I might be back for a steak burger to try that out at some point.

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Metra

I went into work during the first major snowstorm of the year and that’s what prompted this entry.

This was one of the main reasons I wanted to take Metra …. Driving to work in bad weather is not fun. Only having to go two miles to the local station is much much nicer. The fact that I can park in a parking garage where my car is mostly sheltered from the elements is great too. So long as you don’t arrive immediately before a train would come (dealing with all the people speeding through the garage trying to find a parking spot and make it to their train on time) or leave right after a train arrives (dealing with all the people that have to get out of the garage RIGHT NOW I just sit and listen to the radio for a few minutes until the group is gone) it’s not bad.

Ideally I’d like the 699 Pace bus route to stop closer to my complex so I could take that in the morning and not have to drive at all. A ride on Pace that links to Metra is cheap not to mention I wouldn’t have to pay for fuel or put wear and tear on my car. The stop by me is across Dundee road and farther in which is not a bad walk however it’s not the safest of places. If there was a stop either on our road out or directly on Dundee road I’d seriously consider taking it. I wrote a comment to Pace about that but haven’t heard anything.
Aside from that I prefer taking Metra to driving for 45+ minutes. My commute does not vary unexpectedly I need only be concerned with getting to the station with enough time to spare. The best part is at the time that I get there two metra trains come within five minutes of another. One running express and the other running local. One gets me there fairly early and the other gets me there with just enough time to make it in. Definitely makes me more relaxed about getting there.

One funny observation about Metra . . . When you commute by car and you have to drive during rush hour your commute takes longer due to the amount of people on the road. Commuting by Metra during rush hour doesn’t take as long because they make sure they have express trains (trains that do not stop at every single station) running during those times.

Back to why I’m writing this . . . The trains on Friday were running behind by about 15 min due to some motorist in (I think) Arlington Heights being stuck on the tracks during the snowstorm. They made an announcement saying the express trains may come before a local but they didn’t say if they knew for sure. We were in a situation where we didn’t know what side of the tracks the train would be on.

All of a sudden we hear the dinging of the bells alerting us that a train was approaching. Everyone looks and it’s headed for us on the center track.

This is a problem if you’re desperate to catch the train because the doors do not open on the side where the station and parking garage is…. There’s a center platform on the other side and that’s where the side the doors open for express trains bound for Chicago.

When I saw the train coming I was in the heated passenger shelter in front of the garage and decided to just let it come and if they can open the doors on the other side then I’d get on otherwise I’d just wait for the next train. Other people took off in a run to make it across the tracks.

This is not a good idea particularly during a winter snowstorm.

As one lady was crossing she slipped and fell flat on her face. As she was struggling to get up it became clear the train coming was an express to run PAST Palatine not one that would stop at it. The train whizzed past at a pretty good clip.

She had fallen on the track next to the express track not on the track the train was coming. Had she gotten a few feet farther before slipping she would’ve been killed.

After that we all crossed the track. Everyone figured our next train would run express. 10 minutes later the train came. There were people who just walked down from the parking garage and were running across the tracks as the train approached.

The last one was an older gentleman who walked across the tracks slowly. Several people yelled, “do you not see the train???” at which point he ran. If he had continued at the pace he was going he would’ve been hit.

A couple days prior to this a lady in Norwood Park was crossing the tracks and was hit by a southbound train.

Is it worth risking death to catch a train? I don’t think so.

C’mon people, its common sense. You cannot stop a huge speeding train on a dime much less several hundred feet. It is not a small car. There is no way a conductor can stop for you by the time he sees you! If the lights are flashing and the gates are down get out of the way! There’s always another train!

I do wish however that Metra had been able to put the announcement PA system to better use. They weren’t able to say with certainty when the next trains would arrive, if they’d be express or local or which trains would stop at this station. Why is that?

Since there was confusion due to the delays I think it would have been helpful if they were able to have jumped on the PA to say simply something like “A train is approaching on the center tracks however it is not going to stop here. Please do not cross the tracks when the signals are on. Thank you”. Then five minutes before the train that would stop at Palatine was to arrive make another announcement so people could get on the correct platform

Seems like a good idea to me. Communication is key and knowledge is power.
Metra

Pace

Chicago Transit Authority

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New Blackberry Pearl on the Way

My Sidekick II had again begun to separate the keyboard from the device itself. It had begun this about the same time last year so I figured I’d give it until March and I’d just purchase a different phone since the Sidekick II is now out of warranty.

Well Friday was not a good day for it. I decided to sync up the phone with my Powerbook using The Missing Sync by Markspace. I hadn’t done it in a long time. I went ahead and did it . . . I lost a good chunk of my contacts from both the Apple address book and the Sidekick’s online address book. Lovely.

I then check out MarkSpace’s website for support. They’ve discontinued the product due to lack of support from Danger (The creator of the Sidekick). After that I did some searches online. The general conscientious from what I read is that there’s nothing to be done. There are no snapshots kept of individual accounts and no way to

The constant syncing with the online address book between the device is a great thing but it’s apparently somewhat hit or miss syncing the online address book with PCs and Macs. There’s also no way to just do a straight export of your address book. Best thing to do (which I should’ve done before the sync) was go to the web based interface and send VCards of my contacts to myself. Can only do 36 per email so it’s inconvenient. I’d hate to be the person with the maximum 2000 contacts in their address book!!

So, needless to say, I do not trust the Sidekick service to manage my contacts any longer. And yes, this means I will not be upgrading to a Sidekick III.

Saturday morning I decided to look for a new phone. I checked out the prices for an unlocked Palm Treo but it was much more than I wanted to pay. This is even with the discount I get on Palm products from the class action lawsuit settlement for owners of various Treo flip phone models with various hardware defects. I had the original Treo 180. I loved the phone but I had it replaced under warranty about six times before giving up.

This leaves me with what T-Mobile had for a smart phone selection. Aside from the Sidekick III they currently have a few Blackberry models and several Windows Mobile devices. I’ve tried a few devices running various iterations of Microsoft’s PDA operating system in the past . . . I always found them to be clunky to use. This is a stark contrast to what I normally heard about Blackberry devices, which are supposed to be very well done. The most experience I’ve had with Blackberry devices, however, was configuring the synchronization software for end users.

After looking over the specs of what they had available I decided to go with the Blackberry Pearl. My only caveats are the Suretype keyboard and the phone looks like it’s case is made from the same material as some of the current iPods, which are very easy to scratch. (A friend of mine found that the surface scratches on his iPod were easily fixed with Meguiar’s Scratch X which is a product to remove scratches from automobiles Good to know) Interestingly you have to get a case for the phone separately.

I should have it later this week. I called T-Mobile and ordered the phone with a case yesterday . . . We shall see how this works out for me.

CNET.com Review of the BlackBerry Pearl

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Renaissance Faire

Renaissance Faire

I just realized . . . I never posted the pictures and videos I took at the Renaissance Faire!

We went at the beginning of September and I managed to get some interesting pictures and video that I wanted to put up. Keep in mind when looking at the videos . . . My digital camera is six years old. It does MPEG video capture but not as good as the newer ones and the captures are only up to 15 seconds . . . One day I’ll upgrade, for now it does the job and serves it’s purpose. 🙂

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