Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

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Driving While Texting Causes Deaths: But, Does Outlawing it Make Us Any Safer?

12.15.10

Many states now have laws that make texting while driving illegal, seeing as people literally take their eyes off the road for several seconds at a time, causing accidents and sometimes deaths.

Such was the case for a 20-year-old woman in Glendale. After a three-month investigation in a fatal accident, it was concluded that the driver was texting when she ran a stop sign, striking and killing an 80-year-old man.

The Glendale Mayor had this to say about the situation:

Mayor Ara Najarian said distracted driving and traffic collisions involving pedestrians had reached “an epidemic point in Glendale.”

The son of the deceased offered this:

Following the crash, the son, Roger Ranjbar, said he hoped “it was an accident, and nothing else like alcohol, or drugs, or like texting or talking on the phone.”

To which I say: what difference does it make?

Not to say that this isn’t tragic.  To be 20-years-old and facing potential manslaughter or murder charges for typing “BRB” to her friend is devastating and life-changing to say the least.  And I know how annoyed I get when someone cuts me off on the road and I see that they have a cell phone up to their ear (which is also illegal in California, but whatever), so to know that your father was killed because of similar behavior would most likely be maddening and infuriating.

But, aside from the emotional fury, what does it matter?  Whether she was texting, chatting, doing her makeup, changing out a CD, changing the radio dial, turning down the volume on the stereo, adjusting her mirrors, eating, or any number of other possible things that people do when they’re behind the wheel, the result is the same: she failed to stop at a stop sign and, now, a man is dead.

Granted, texting is by far one of the the worst activities you can do while driving. With just about everything else, you at least have your eyes up — but texting you’re usually looking down into your lap, especially now in California because you don’t want a cop to see that you’re holding your phone in your hand.  I think it’s beyond stupid to text and drive even though I’m not perfect and I used to text occasionally while I drove — now I make a point of not doing so.  Not because I’m so worried about the ticket but because I don’t want to end up pulling a 20-year-old-texting move like that Glendale girl.

At the same time, I do use my phone as my iPod, so sometimes I glance over-slash-down to change songs.  Is that different?  Is that illegal?  I don’t know how many times I’ve done that and wondered if I got pulled over if I could argue my way out of the ticket since changing the radio dial isn’t illegal, so why should this act be outlawed?  Where do you draw the line?

The reality is that driving is inherently dangerous.  Way more than most of us acknowledge.  Living in Los Angeles, it’s commonplace to hear talk about a “fatal accident” on the radio when they give the frequent traffic update on the drive into work in the morning.  Think about that: people driving to work will die every single week, just commuting, an everyday activity for most of us — for any number of reasons. So often that it’s not even shocking when I hear it from the morning shows.

My point is this: don’t trust anyone else behind the wheel. If you’re driving, be aware of everyone around you and don’t trust a soul to obey traffic laws.  No texting ban or cell phone ban or eating ban or whatever they impose will make us any safer — people will still be idiots when driving.  It’s up there with death and taxes.

Case in point: just this morning as I was driving through an intersection because the light turned green, I noticed a woman on a bike riding down an alleyway headed toward the street.  I assumed she was going to stop since, well, there was a line of on-coming traffic headed her way with the right-of-way — but, I left off the gas anyway.  Sure enough, without even bothering to glance to either side, she just kept on riding – slowly – across the street right in front of me as I slammed on my brakes.  Oblivious, completely.  Or suicidal.

The only thing you have control over is yourself, and defensive driving is your best way to stay safe.

(H/T LAist)

Image courtesy of mrJasonWeaver’s Flickr Photostream.



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Proud Mary vs. Bad English: Which Version of “Missing You” is Better?

10.16.10

I’ve been saying for a while that this whole “agree to disagree” theme of my opinionated blog doesn’t have to only speak about politics.  In fact, there’s plenty to have opinions about that doesn’t involve the economy, elections, and policy.

So, I’m going to start tackling other polarizing topics.  Starting this week with music.

Yes, music.  Everyone has an opinion on this one.  Just ask someone: Beatles or Stones?  That person will most likely answer nearly instantaneously one or the other… unless you’re like me and you respond with, “Metallica?”

But that’s not what I’m arguing today, nor most likely ever in the future because that’s just a pointless discussion for me as I don’t really care either way on that one.  No, today I’m arguing something much more pertinent in our lives: the better version of the timeless classic: “Missing You.”

In one corner we have John (The Babys, Bad English) Waite who wrote and originally performed the tune as a bitter, heartbroken anthem in the 80s about a jilted lover determined to put on a face of being over his ex despite being a total mess inside.






In the other corner we have Tina (Tina Turner) Turner‘s cover from 1996, which was a literal take on the main lyric “I ain’t missing you at all,” and became more of a female empowerment F-you to the idiot who dumped her (Ike?).







Perhaps this isn’t as big of a deal as I think it is, but I’ve had numerous conversations (yes, seriously) with people who seem to prefer the Tina Turner version.  What!?  First off, most people don’t know who John Waite is or that he did the song originally.  (C’mon, people.)  Second, his version is empirically better — as in most art, it’s better to use not hit things directly on the nose, to let the listener develop his own feelings and interpretation of the song.  In Turner’s version, there’s no gray area — she seriously ain’t missing you at all.  But the way that Waite’s bitter, quick tongue snaps off the lyric, you know that he’s hiding behind a shell of bitterness and is determined to come across strong while inside, he’s a melted, weeping sack of heartache.

And lastly: the 80s just ruled. Sorry, 90s, but when it comes to cheesy love songs, the 80s has you beat.

Look — Tina Turner rocks.  I will forever love “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” because my dad would play her record (yup, vinyl) on Saturday mornings.  Plus, she was in Beyond Thunderdome.  But, sorry, Proud Mary, John Waite’s version is more layered and, therefore, more affecting than yours.

Winner: Waite.


Photo courtesy of rwoan’s Flickr Photostream.


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LA Lifestyle: Autumn Arrives Early in the Southland

08.28.10
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Do You Like Capitalism? Then, You Should Love Gay Marriage.

08.24.10

Marriage is big business.

Sure, it’s about love and being together forever and all that jazz, too.  But, let’s be real: it’s a serious moneymaker.

I just went to a wedding of one of my best buddies out in Rochester, NY this past weekend and it was on the second leg of my cross-country flight that it really dawned on me just how much money I was spending on his wedding.

First, there’s the flight from LAX to ROC.  It’s the summer and while Rochester is no resort town, it’s still on the other side of the continent.  I brought my girlfriend along, so multiply that by two.

Then, there’s the hotel. We went cheap and stayed at a Microtel.  But, since I was in the wedding, I arrived a couple days early to make sure I was there for all the festivities and the rehearsal dinner and everything else.  So tack on a couple extra nights.

And there’s also the rental car, the gas for the rental car, eating out for several meals, bar tabs. You can see how it adds up.  And that’s just for one guest and a plus-one.

I can’t even begin to compute how much the actual wedding cost — renting out the event center for the reception, the dress, the suit, the transportation, the hotels, the flowers, the two huge meals, the entertainment, the booze.  And this wasn’t even an overly extravagant affair; it wasn’t tiny, but it wasn’t huge.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining at all. I gladly would spend it all over again in an instant to be there with one of my best friends on his wedding day.  It’s a unique, joyous occasion to celebrate love and the expansion of friends and family.  It’s moving.  It’s hilarious.  It’s inappropriate.  It’s something you don’t forget.  You make all sorts of new memories while revisiting all of the old.

But, still.  It costs everyone involved a small fortune.  Receiving that welcomed honor of being in a wedding comes with its price tag.  And while you can’t put a dollar amount on being able to sing and dance and laugh with friends that you only get to see maybe once a year if you’re lucky, you kind of can.  The flight. The hotel.  The car.  The gas.

It all adds up.

And then it made me think about all of the different industries that I, along with my fellow weddingers, were helping sustain for this four-day excursion into upstate New York in August.  The flight attendants, the fast-food-joint workers, the caterers, the chefs, the gas station clerks, the airlines, the DJs, the waiters and waitresses, the photographers, the flower arrangers, the chauffeurs, the hotel staffs.  I’m sure I’m missing plenty more, but you get the idea.

Given the state of our economy, local businesses and big businesses alike could use the help.  And even though times might be tight for everyone, it’s a lot easier to swallow some big expenditures when its in the name of something as happy and joyous as a wedding.

Let’s forget the obvious reasons to support marriage equality on an emotional level for the moment.  Instead, think of it from the capitalist mentality. This is, after all, America, so might as well speak to the language of the land: the dollar.

If marriage is already reduced to being a thousand federal benefits anyway, what harm could it to do just talk about it like it is?  A cash cow for multiple industries.  What could be more American than that?

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Supporting Gay Marriage: It’s Not About the Children. Seriously.

08.05.10

Equal Rights is an American ValueCalifornia’s Proposition 8 has just been overturned.

While a huge victory for marriage equality, with many in favor of equality rejoicing in this, the opponents of gay marriage continue their failed arguments that make sense to their personal beliefs but don’t reconcile with the Constitution.

Even after logic, reason, and the law showed that their arguments held no legal water, gay marriage opponents continue with the same tired rationale:

Most people think of marriage as an institution which indicates the strong feelings which two people have for one another. But the state doesn’t have any interest in privileging strong feelings. Rather, the state is interested in the perpetuation of society, which — to again state the obvious — requires procreation.

So what about sterile couples who want to marry?  Should they be banned as well?  Or how about elderly couples who already have kids and don’t plan on (or are too old) to have any more?

But the bigger issue I have for this argument is: since when does the state have any business in my procreative inclinations? Where in the California or U.S. Constitution does it say anything about requiring married couples to have children?  I would like to see some evidence to this strong claim that our government has a vested, legal interest in whether or not its citizens procreate and that this interest is directly tied to the civil institution of marriage.

I believe this blogger at The American Catholic, along with many others who oppose gay marriage rights, is confusing state with church.  When it comes to secular law, (no, we are not a Catholic nation) the Constitution trumps any religious text.

The American Catholic continues:

The ease with which they [gay marriage supporters] threw out bromides (“finally, equality!”) bothered me, primarily because it revealed two things: 1. a group of intelligent people couldn’t grasp that there might be real objections to same sex “marriage”, and 2. as I’ve noted previously, too many (probably most) Americans simply don’t understand the essential nature of marriage.

1. I question just how real those objections are when the person making them lacks the intellectual honesty to avoid snark by putting quotes around the word “marriage” in order to marginalize it and make it seem that its inferior or not even worthy of the word, making it hard to even have an honest discussion on a logical, rational level and not an emotional-only argument.  And when that person raises objections, offers no legal support for said claims (see above re: marriage being a device of the state to insure the procreation of its citizens.)

2. Given that Americans are a group of widely diverse people with all sorts of beliefs, heritages, and customs, to lump them all together as if there’s some universal consensus on something as personal and varied as marriage shows a very closed-minded, narrow, and narcissistic worldview that believes that one’s own views on marriage are the right way and the only way to think.

The reality is that there are religious rules and there are secular laws.  They don’t always match up because we live in a society that allows for the practicing of all faiths.  But our laws are based on equality and fairness.

Change is difficult. Fighting for equal rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution is extremely tough to secure.  But the fight is worthwhile.

Equality will prevail. This is just another step forward.

Photo courtesy of stevebott’s Flickr photostream

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How to Turn the Political Tide: Reward Rational Thought

06.26.10

From the blatant lies passed off as truths by Arizona’s governor to the Rolling Stone reporter whose article ultimately led to Gen. McChrystal’s forced resignation, the question raised by The Economist, Andrew Sullivan, and others seems more relevant than ever now: do intelligent arguments make a difference?

With so much of the blogosphere ripe with deeply partisan, harsh opinionators, and the populist movement in full force across the country, playing toward people’s emotions has seemed to trump rational arguments.  We’re living in a time when a journalist has to defend his reporting because it’s so vastly different from what gets passed off as news and journalism with outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, and the Washington Post dangerously blurring the lines:

“Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn’t be mistaken for hostile – I’m just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That’s what reporters are supposed to do, report the story.” – Michael Hastings

In a debate with other gubernatorial candidate, Matt Jette, who said that a lot of undocumented workers “are just trying to feed their family… They just want to work,” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer responded with:

“We are a nation of laws. And they are coming across our border illegally. And the majority of them in my opinion and I think in the opinion of law enforcement is that they are not coming here to work. They are coming here and they’re bringing drugs. And they’re doing drop houses and they’re extorting people and they’re terrorizing the families. That is the truth, Matt. That is the truth…”

Notice how her argument is based on her opinion, which at the end, she passes off as truth, as fact.  In her argument, there is no difference between what she believes and what is real.

Now, let’s just say for the sake of argument that she’s right: the majority of illegal immigrants are coming across the border to sell drugs and terrorize Americans.  If that’s the case, and the numbers (because there have to be numbers to prove something like this which is calculable) show this to be the case, then there’s no need to even bring up one’s opinion, or allude to the possible opinion of some third party.  There’s no my feelings versus your feelings; it’s just these numbers show this is happening, plain and simple.

The obvious reason that Gov. Brewer didn’t handle the argument in this manner is most likely two-fold:

  1. The numbers weren’t in her favor.  There are more than double the number of Border Patrol agents on the border now than six years ago, and the crime rates in border towns in Arizona haven’t changed much at all in the past decade.
  2. The masses aren’t interested in numbers.  Not to say that people are stupid, but when in large groups, it’s easy to play to emotions.  And emotions run high these days with nearly two years of unemployment near 10%, the housing market crashing, and broad anger toward those who are supposed to be the ones who can do something about it all.

To look outside of Arizona, let’s take the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Outrage slowly built after the initial oil rig explosion when people realized just how grave the situation was and how difficult it was going to be to fix it.  That outrage initially went right at BP, for good reason; but, as the weeks flew by with oil churning out of the earth, blame shifted to President Obama and the government — he should be doing more; he hasn’t done enough; he hasn’t been putting enough pressure on BP; he hasn’t even met with BP’s then-CEO Tony Hayward.

When you ask people what they expect Obama to do that hasn’t yet been done, no one can give an answer.  And no one has an answer because no one has the answer.  The only actual fix seems to always have been the relief wells that are currently being dug and won’t be finished until August; everything else has been done on a wing and a prayer.  Not to say that the different methods of stopping the leak shouldn’t have been attempted, only that the probability of their effectiveness was never all that high — the “top kill” method only had an admitted 60-70 percent chance of working, and that was being optimistic since it had never even been attempted at that depth before.

People don’t like feeling helpless.  It might be the worst feeling, up there with guilt and shame.  We don’t take it well when we’re told “there’s nothing you can do.”  Usually you see this happen in a movie, in a hospital, when someone is told that there’s nothing more anyone can do to save someone who is dying and they demand, hysterically and angrily, that the doctor do something, that there must be another option, something else they can try.  The raw facts of the situation won’t change the emotional response of the poor soul dealing with the reality of his futility.

This feeling of futility seems to be the source of the growing populist movement of broad, unfocused anger toward the establishment.  There must be a way to fix the economy, create jobs, solve the undocumented worker issue, stop global warming without it costing us a cent, find an everlasting geyser of oil, and plug the gaping hole in the Gulf — we just haven’t found it yet, haven’t tried hard enough yet.  And indeed there must be.  But the only way will be to look at the facts with a rational eye.  It won’t be quick.  It won’t be easy.  And there will have to be sacrifices.

It’s easy to throw tantrums, point fingers, and react with our emotions, but there’s a reason why that didn’t work as kids, and why we need to be strong now and realize why it can’t help now that we’re adults.  Rational arguments can make a difference.  But it means having to face reality, as difficult as it may be, and rewarding those who give logical explanations for ways to solve problems and dismissing the ones who don’t.  It’s up to us.

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4 Tips for Improving Time Warner Cable’s Awful Website

04.22.10

I blame this guy.

Thanks, Time Warner Cable.  You have quite possibly the worst online bill pay system I’ve ever had the displeasure of using.

C’mon! You’re a media company! Get with the times.

Password must start with a letter and cannot have any characters other than letters and numbers and must be 8-16 characters long and cannot repeat the same character four times in a row.  Really?  Thanks, because none of my usual passwords – which are far more secure than anything I could create on your site – will work on your site so I have to create something brand new which I know that I’m going to forget and have to use the “Forget Your Password?” feature every single time I need to sign into your site, which leads to another total disaster.

Speaking of signing into your site, why do I need TWO SEPARATE LOGINS? One to get onto your site to make any changes to my account and yet another to pay my bill?  What a waste of time and energy.

Hey, Time: the idea of allowing people to pay their bills online is to make it quicker and easier than calling on the phone or mailing it in.  You want people to be able to pay with as little resistance as possible.  This is how you make money.  Why would you make this more of an inconvenience than taking my 40 bucks for mediocre Internet access already is?

Here are my tips to improve your site:

  1. One login for everything. This is a no-brainer, TWC.  If you’re going to use some outside company to handle your bill-pay, you should be the one dealing with making the logins one and the same.  Don’t make the customers have to navigate two logins and remember two ridiculous passwords just because it’s cheaper for you to outsource your billing to Asia.
  2. Fewer password regulations. You make me sound like a fiscal conservative, which makes me even more pissed off than I already do for calling for deregulation.  Go for a normal level of security and let us make up our own passwords.  If I want to use “123abc” as my password, let me use “123abc” as my password.
  3. Improved password recovery process. Don’t make me enter my account number every time I forget my password. Also – make sure that this feature actually works.  I ended up having to create a whole new account on your bill pay section because every time I punched in my information to retrieve my impossible-to-remember-but-easy-to-hack password, it asked me to enter my account number again but didn’t specify where. Do like everyone else does and include a security question that I can answer and just have my password emailed to me.  How hard is this to fix?  Also, this would be a lot smaller of an issue if you just dealt with #1 and #2.
  4. Store my payment info. I signed up for automatic bill pay but since it can take up to two months weeks to take effect (why!?), I had to make a payment today to make sure that I didn’t incur any late fees.  Well, naturally, when I went to make the one-time-payment, I had to re-enter all of my payment info that I had just entered not two minutes before.  This info had to have been saved in your system!  It’s in there.  I know it is.  Make that account available on the drop-down menu as an option.  You’ve already made me enter my 16-digit account number one too many times and now my 16-digit credit card number twice, as well?  Enough, Warner.  Enough.

Welcome to 2010, TWC.  You’re about 10 years late.

Thanks to The Consumerist for the original image.