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Category Archives: ET Extra

Shameful Behavior Award Given to Florida Department of Transportation: Red Light Cameras with Reduced Yellow Light Time

A hortrafficlightrible government action has just been reported on in Florida by 10 News WTSP.com:

“TAMPA BAY, Florida — A subtle, but significant tweak to Florida’s rules regarding traffic signals has allowed local cities and counties to shorten yellow light intervals, resulting in millions of dollars in additional red light camera fines.

“The 10 News Investigators discovered the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) quietly changed the state’s policy on yellow intervals in 2011, reducing the minimum below federal recommendations. The rule change was followed by engineers, both from FDOT and local municipalities, collaborating to shorten the length of yellow lights at key intersections, specifically those with red light cameras (RLCs).”

The above yellow light “tweak” may result in significant extra fines, but it will undoubtedly result in many more accidents and injuries, some probably fatal. Yellow light timing should be based on a reasonable time for drivers to react to a yellow light and safely bring their vehicles to a halt before the light turns red. If yellow lights are shortened below reaction time, and drivers are fearful of possible fines, stomping of brakes and resultant rear-end collisions can be confidently predicted, as has already occurred in some areas where red-light cameras have been installed.

This shameful practice should be abolished immediately. Government officials should be first and foremost concerned with ensuring public safety, not increasing revenue through deceptive practices. Anyone getting a camera-based “red light” violation should challenge this despicable practice, and hopefully we will soon see some government officials jailed for the crime of public endangerment.

-Ed Walker

 

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ET EXTRA: Mind Reading: No Longer Science Fiction

Image from Total Recall, inspired by the
Philip K. Dick short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”

“A new company, Veritas Scientific, is developing a technology that promises to peek into a person’s brain to reveal some of their secrets. ‘The last realm of privacy is your mind,’ says Veritas CEO Eric Elbot. ‘This will invade that.'”

…”‘Certainly it’s a potential tool for evil,’ says Elbot. ‘If only the government has this device, it would be extremely dangerous.’”

from “The Mind-Reading Machine” by Celia Gorman, July 2012 ieee Spectrum

 

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ET EXTRA: Mobile App Alert

Please see Beware: Free Apps Might Prove Costly
Research by an IEEE Fellow warns of malware on the prowl
By Ania Monaco in the 17 Feb 2012 IEEE the Institute

 

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Shameful Behavior Award Presented to VIP Deals For Its Fake Reviews

Online seller VIP Deals has provided refunds in exchange for reviews.

“By the time VIP Deals ended its rebate on Amazon.com late last month, its leather case for the Kindle Fire was receiving the sort of acclaim once reserved for national heroes. Hundreds of reviewers proclaimed the case a marvel, a delight, exactly what they needed to achieve bliss. And definitely worth five stars.”
-David Streitfeld, 29 Jan 2012 New York Times

 

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ET EXTRA: Provocative Novels For Engineering Thinkers

As can be seen in the sidebar on this blog, I have written some novels, the latest being Double Visions (containing the new short novel Purgatory and my prior novel Nexus).

The novels can be described as psychological mysteries with a touch of the twilight zone, and — the reason for mention here — they contain insights on human behavior from the ET perspective as discussed from time to time in this blog.

As an Engineering Thinking blog reader, it’s likely that you’re looking for more than predictable and superficial plots (fights, car chases, mindless special effects, stalker-of-the-day “thrillers,” etc.). If so, for some thought-provoking and entertaining fiction (according to some reviewers), please visit Journeys to the Edge of Reality.

Double Visions is initially available at CreateSpace and Amazon.

-Ed Walker

 

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ET EXTRA: Yep, U.S. Airport Screening Isn’t Safe

See “Cancer-Causing X-Ray Security Scanners Are Banned

Excerpt: “Just in time to make you feel better about your holiday travels: full-body airport security scanners that use X-ray technologies are acknowledged to cause cancer. No problem in the US; but now they’re banned in the EU.”

Also see earlier post: “The Public Has Been Misled about Airport Body Screening Risks

 

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ET EXTRA: Is Social Security A Ponzi Scheme?

fire Engineering Thinking Extra Is A Short Review Of A Current Hot Topic
 
 
 
Analysis: Using the generally-accepted definition of a Ponzi Scheme from this article…

The Williams plan to avert Social Security disaster” by Walter Williams, 10/03/11, washingtonexaminer.com

…and considering the following data from the article…

According to a 2002 Congressional Research Service report titled “Social Security Reform” by Geoffrey Kollmann and Dawn Nuschler, workers who retired in 1980 at age 65 got back all they put into Social Security, plus interest, in 2.8 years.

Workers who retired at age 65 in 2002 will have to wait a total of 16.9 years to break even. For those retiring in 2020, it will take 20.9 years. Workers entering the labor force today won’t live long enough to get back even half of what they will put into Social Security.

…then yes, it is reasonable to refer to Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme.

-Ed Walker

 

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ET EXTRA: Why Medical Care Is So Hazardous

“…as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed.”
From “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science,” by David H. Freedman, 23 Aug 2011, The Atlantic

ET Corollary: Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor probing questions, to challenge his/her assumptions, and to do your own research.

 

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Baloney Alert: PolitiFact Is Light On Logic

The St. Petersburg Times Memorial Day edition had a PolitiFact article with the following headline :

“Bulb warnings are light on facts

There’s no plan to ban incandescents, just make them more efficient”

PolitiFact’s second statement above is so logically absurd it made me laugh out loud when I read it. At ET we believe in straightforward honesty: no lies, no spin, no deception, and no misdirection. This includes having the integrity to accept statements in their clearly-presented context. Unfortunately, PolitiFact often likes to twist and distort the context of statements, in effect gerrymandering them into one of their preferred liberal themes.

In this case, here are the facts: the government has not literally banned incandescent light bulbs, true. But it has passed regulations requiring light bulbs to have efficiencies that are impossible for them to achieve. There is no technology on the horizon that will allow incandescent bulbs to achieve that efficiency. Manufacturers of incandescent light bulbs have reacted accordingly by shutting down production. Therefore — bottom line — the government has indeed, in essence, banned the use of incandescent light bulbs.

PolitiFact’s childish contrary argument earns our maximum 5-baloney rating.

Regarding PolitiFacts’ other comments on the compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) replacement for incandescent bulbs, please see “Unintended Consequences: Nanny Engineering” in the DACI 2nd Qtr 2011 Newsletter, and “Why Government-Directed Energy-Savings ‘Investments’ Are Illogical.”

Notes

The St. Petersburg Times is as good as it is bad. We were planning a piece called “It was the best of Times, it was the worst of Times,” where best refers to their investigative reporting, and worst refers to their editorials and their PolitiFact operation. At this point other priorities have intervened, but we hereby want to provide an honorable mention of their stellar investigative work.

Also, we strive hard to be objective, with our critical commentary targeted at non-ET people or organizations, regardless of political affiliation. Although we believe there are sound reasons that support a small-government-is-better theme, this does not mean that honorable people cannot disagree, or that there are no ET deficiencies in the corporate/business world. If you have a suggestion of a person or firm that would be worthy of an ET review, please let me know.

Update 2011/05/31

Here’s another good summary of the unintended consequences of using CFLs: “The CFL Fraud” by Edmund Contoski.

Update 2011/06/02

For a follow-up discussion on this issue, including some facts on the halogen alternative to the standard light bulb, please check PolitiFact Bias under “Bryan adds.”

-Ed Walker

 

 

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Shameful Behavior Award: Pushing Grandma Off A Cliff

The image to the left (from YouTube) is from an ad created by the Agenda Project. The ad states, “Now, Republicans want to privatize Medicare,” as it shows a man wheeling an elderly lady up a cliff, against her will, and then dumping her over the edge.

From an ET perspective, does the ad portray any empirical evidence to support its allegations? No. Does it provide any analysis to support its allegations? No.

The Republican plan, put forward by congressman Paul Ryan, does not affect anyone over 55, which rules out most elderly “Grandmas” as depicted in the ad. It also tries to responsibly address the fact that Medicare, as it presently exists, is broke, and a plan such as Ryan’s will be required to save Medicare. This is exactly the opposite of the message conveyed in the ad.

Creating and running an ad designed to scare the elderly, and doing so by blatantly lying, is despicable. Therefore ET awards its Shameful Behavior award to the Agenda Project, and its founder, Erica Payne.

 

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