Archive for September, 2011

A mild and continuing rant on Rail

September 27th, 2011

ThinkTech Hawaii

Believe it or not, in this very scary recession, rail is still going on, as if we didn’t have to pay for it, even though we clearly do. There’s no way in the world that we can afford this. Yet it goes on like the Eveready Battery, oblivious to the storm clouds that are right out there, coming for our economy, something like the car that runs after you’ve turned the ignition off.

Now they’re looking for bones, 24 by 7, with lots of midnight commotion and much more to follow. This is going to depreciate QOL in our city and it will cost way more than $5 billion. My guess is $10 billion and rising. Remember the incredible cost overruns in the Boston Big Dig. We have only begun.

Do we really need this aggravation? Every day I get stuck in traffic, worse and worse it seems, and every day I ask myself whether our city is concerned for me and all the other people stuck in traffic around me, comrades in congestion, and what in fact the city is doing to alleviate my pain. I always conclude the same thing - nothing. Nobody is doing anything about the traffic. They’re only telling us that if we just go along with them, rail will solve the traffic. Not true.

Building rail isn’t going to alleviate my pain, or yours, at all. What we need to do is go block by block, mile by mile and figure out why our highways are so congested. We need to identify the sources of every jam and then deal with each of those sources. It’s like the police in Japan, they work block by block. That way, after a while you know everything you need to know to keep the neighborhood working, and then you’ve solved the problem. It’s about being systematic.

We haven’t made any serious effort to solve the congestion problem. Our mayor, just as his predecessor, would like us all to believe that rail is the grand panacea, which is simply not so and is ringing pretty hollow these days. At some level, we all know this. All our intellectual capacity tells us the same thing – rail is a huge waste. It’s not going to solve the problem. It’s rather an excuse for not solving the problem. And for reasons not clear, we go along with it.

Notice we don’t have any significant incentive for carpools anymore. We don’t have staggered work hours or days. We don’t have HOT lanes. We haven’t widened the freeways or the access ways. We haven’t installed sensors or smart traffic signals. In short, we haven’t done anything to deal with the congestion. And indeed it’s getting worse every time you look. It’s almost as if the people responsible want the traffic to be congested so they can make their argument for rail.

We should subsidize our bus system instead. With this kind of money, we could make it into a really world class bus system. We don’t do that, and we’re apparently hypnotized by rail and determined to spend $10 billion of what will probably be our own money on a painful frivolity.

Bottom line - this is an overwhelming expense for a project which is an extravagance at best. It’s not going to do what they say it’s going to do but is going to cost much more than they say it’s going to cost. We need to drop it already. Better now than after $10 billion.

The sad truth, however, is that by the time we figure it out, by the time we understand the wool over our eyes, it will be too late and there’ll be nobody around left to blame. We’ll just have a monumental and irreversible problem that will blight our city for the rest of time, leaving us with faint recollections of how it might have gotten this far, and faint recriminations about why we let it get this far.

The suit that Ben Cayetano, Walter Heen and Randy Roth have filed is a great idea, although a little late, but frankly it may or may not stop the project rail. More likely, it’s just going to delay the project and in the process further increase the cost of the project. That’s not really a solution.

What we need is legislative action that will summarily stop this rail project right away, at the City Council or the Legislature, before any more time goes by and before any more money goes in. We need to redeploy that money into the highways and buses and toll ways and the technology that should have been installed years ago to properly ameliorate our congestion.

This is essential for the preservation of our economy and way of life.

We can’t afford to turn our backs on the risks of rail. It all feels like we’re picking opii with our backs to the ocean, knowing very well that a big wave is coming that will knock us over. This $10 billion wave, with all the other unpaid liabilities we have incurred over recent, is going to knock us over.

We’d better turn around, face the music and get this thing back under control.

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Sequel on the Android

September 20th, 2011

ThinkTech Hawaii

I wanted to follow up on my article a few weeks ago on the new Android smart phones. At the time, I was testing a Samsung Charge and looking forward to a Motorola Bionic. I had a good experience with the Android OS on the Samsung so I went ahead to buy the Motorola Bionic, early in the morning on September 8th at the Verizon Store at Keeaumoku and Kapiolani. It was an important day.

The Bionic has been great. You can have it your way. You can change the home screens. You can change how the icons are configured, where they are and what they look like. You can install and move icons and widgets all around your home screens, accessible at a finger’s flick. It becomes yours, tailored for you, and because of that it becomes a more powerful assistant.

I really like the speed of the Bionic. It responds immediately, not only in the browsing and videos, but in everything. I find it more responsive than the iPhone 4 that I had to give up to get the Bionic. Most of the apps I was using on the iPhone are available on the Bionic. My favorite has been Speak-write, which takes your dictation and sends you an email with a transcription.

But the thing that blew me away is the Swype technique in the Android’s text boxes. It’s fantastic. I understand it’s also on the iPhone 4, but I hadn’t heard of anyone using it there. With Swype, you type by running your finger from one letter to the other. Android is smart enough to know the word you want. You can learn it in a few minutes, and with it you can type much faster. Actually, I think Swype is disruptive and the future of mobile and tablet typing.

Downsides – with all its functions it uses a lot of juice so unless you’re careful the battery won’t last all day. You can, of course, buy a bigger battery, or an induction charger, which is great. Yes, there is a learning curve, but the help is good and Verizon gives classes. It’s like a PC compared to an Apple; more complex (more keystrokes), but more adaptable. Most apps are free, but you have to enter your credit card for the ones that cost something, and that’s tedious.

Since I switched to Verizon I haven’t had a single dropped call. It stays connected even in elevators and stairwells. The Verizon network is way better than what I had, and I’m delighted with the choice I made. I can now rely on my phone to keep me connected and give me LTE 4G lightening speed on the browser. The people at Verizon are great too. I haven’t met anybody from Verizon who didn’t want to help me in every way possible. They’ve been terrific both in the Verizon store on Keeaumoku and on the telephone. I’m delighted to be back with Verizon.

That said, I’m organizing a ThinkTech radio show on October 5th at 4:00 p.m. on KGU 760AM where I will discuss these new phones with some help from both Verizon and Best Buy. We’re calling it Phonemania and we’ll have a wonderful time examining the Androids, how they are stacking up against the iPhone, and what’s in store in the grand competition between the two.

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ThinkTech to begin drive-time radio series in October

September 6th, 2011

ThinkTech Hawaii

For immediate release:

ThinkTech Hawaii will be starting a weekday drive-time radio series through one of its affiliates on KGU 760AM, 4-5 p.m. Monday through Friday starting October 3rd.

The ThinkTech drive-time series will cover Business and Law on Mondays, Asia in Review on Tuesdays, Technology and Energy on Wednesdays, the Arts on Thursdays and Government and Politics on Fridays.

This programming is dedicated to raising public awareness about the importance of these subjects to the citizens and future of our State.

The central issue for ThinkTech is technology, and this will be the subject of the show each Wednesday. Jay Fidell was host of the ThinkTech Radio show on Hawaii Public Radio from 2001 to 2008 and will continue that conversation on KGU.

Fidell has organized this series with his law partner Keith Agena and existing ThinkTech hosts David Day and Alan Okami, and all of them will be collaborating in kicking off the series.

“We’ve organized a great team for the series and a great lineup of subjects and guests over the next few months,” said Fidell, “and we’re all looking forward to expanding it to drive-time.

“We want to develop a vigorous conversation on these subjects, find pockets of excellence, and bring people, especially in science and technology, together again on the radio,” he said.

Although the show will be engineered at KGU’s King Street studios, ThinkTech and KGU have arranged for remote broadcasting from downtown locations. “This will make it easier for guests to participate,” said Fidell, “and will therefore greatly expand our show possibilities.”

ThinkTech was established in 2000 to raise public awareness about the importance of science, technology to the diversification of our economy, and has worked to disseminate that message through print, internet, radio, public events and video broadcasts ever since.

“The development of this drive-time radio series is an extension of ThinkTech’s historical connection with radio and makes great synergy with our other media efforts,” said Fidell.

Stay tuned for ThinkTech Radio coming soon on KGU 760AM.

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