transportation

The defender must build a perfect wall to keep out all intruders, while the offense need find only one chink in the armor through which to attack

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The air-support division of the Los Angeles Police Department operates out of a labyrinthine building on Ramirez Street in the city’s downtown, near the Los Angeles River. […]

The division began with a single helicopter in 1956, and it now has 19 in all, augmented by a King Air fixed-wing plane. The aircrews operate in a state of constant readiness, with at least two helicopters in flight at any given time for 21 hours of every day. A ground crew is suited up and on call for the remaining three, between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. On weekends, considered peak hours, the number of airborne helicopters goes up to three, although in a crisis the division might send as many as four or five “ships” up at once. […]

The heavily restricted airspace around Los Angeles International Airport, Burdette pointed out, has transformed the surrounding area into a well-known hiding spot for criminals trying to flee by car. Los Angeles police helicopters cannot always approach the airport because of air-traffic-control safety concerns. Indeed, all those planes, with their otherwise-invisible approach patterns across the Southern California sky, have come to exert a kind of sculptural effect on local crimes across the city: Their lines of flight limit the effectiveness of police helicopter patrols and thus alter the preferred getaway routes.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

painting { Michael Chow }

Take me out, tonight

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Before leaving his girlfriend’s apartment in Crown Heights, on the morning of his nineteenth arrest for impersonating and performing the functions of New York City Transit Authority employees, Darius McCollum put on an NYCTA subway conductor’s uniform and reflector vest. […]

Six weeks earlier, Darius had been paroled from the Elmira Correctional Facility, near Binghamton, New York, where he had served two years for attempted grand larceny—”attempted” because he had signed out NYCTA vehicles for surface use (extinguishing track fires, supervising maintenance projects) and then signed them back in according to procedure. Darius has never worked for the NYCTA; he has never held a steady job. He is thirty-seven and has spent a third of his adult life in prison for victim-less offenses related to transit systems. […]

His obsession with the subway manifested itself as soon as he began riding trains with his mother, at age three. […] Darius spent hundreds of hours watching trains at 179th Street. He estimated the angle of every track intersection in the yard. By the time he was eight, he could visualize the entire New York City subway system. (Later he memorized the architecture of the stations.) Family and friends with subway questions began calling the McCollum household and asking for Darius. In small notebooks he recorded arrival and departure times at various stations, and documented whatever he observed: the shrill, keyed-up atmosphere an emergency stop instantly creates on a platform, the presence of transit police, mechanical problems (“E-train to Canal st 0015 L.C. Delay of train leaving Parson’s Blvd Door Trouble”), passengers riding between cars (“A-train to 81st L.C. 4112—Girl riding in between cars approx. 17 Brown Coat Blue Pants Brown Shoes”). He hasn’t abandoned this note-taking. […]

Darius’s apprenticeship began with a motorman he called Uncle Craft, who drove the first train Darius took regularly. When Craft began working at the 179th Street yard, he taught Darius to drive along the generous stretch of track between the yard and the last F stop. Darius learned how to ease a train into a station, aligning it with the markers that match its length, how to read signals while simultaneously observing the track connections the signals predict (he was taught never to assume the infallibility of signals), and how to understand the timers that govern the signals. Darius was an exceptional, methodical student: he learned quickly and thoroughly, building on each skill he acquired and instantly memorizing terminology. Soon he was doing yard maneuvers and taking trains into passenger service, as both a train operator and a conductor. (By the time of his first arrest, he had driven trains dozens of times.) […]

A prison psychiatrist, after a cursory evaluation, noted that a neurological disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome might explain Darius’s behavior.

{ Harper’s/Long Reads | Continue reading }

image { New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual }

‘To him who looks upon the world rationally, the world in its turn presents a rational aspect.’ –Hegel

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Google started testing their cars on public roads back in 2009, long before any regulations were even dreamed of. An examination of the California Vehicle Code indicated there was nothing in there prohibiting testing.

For testing purposes, Google has a trained safety driver sitting behind the wheel, ready to take it at any moment. Any attempt to take the wheel or use the pedals disables the automatic systems and the safety driver is in control. The safety drivers took special driving safety courses and were instructed to take control if they have any doubt about safe operation. For example, if a vehicle is not braking as expected when approaching a cross walk, take the controls immediately, do not wait to see if it will detect the pedestrians and stop.

The safety drivers are accompanied by a second person in the passenger seat. Known as the software operator, this person monitors diagnostic screens showing what the system is perceiving and planning, and tells the safety driver if something appeared to be going wrong. The software operator is also an extra set of eyes on the road from time to time.

Many other developers have taken this approach, and some of the regulations written have coded something similar to it into law.

This style of testing makes sense if you consider how we train teen-agers to drive. We allow them to get behind the wheel with almost no skill at all, and a driving instructor sits in the passenger seat. While not required, professional driving instructors tend to have their own brake pedal, and know how and when to grab the wheel if need be. They let the student learn and make minor mistakes, and correct the major ones.

The law doesn’t require that, of course. After taking a simple written test, a teen is allowed to drive with a learner’s permit as long as almost any licenced adult is in the car with them. While it varies from country to country, we let these young drivers get full solo licences after only a fairly simple written test and a short road test which covers only a tiny fraction of situations we will encounter on the road. They then get their paperwork and become the most dangerous drivers on the road.

In contrast, robocar testing procedures have been much more strict, with more oversight by highly trained supervisors. With regulations, there have been requirements for high insurance bonds and special permits to go even further. Both software systems and teens will make mistakes, but the reality is the teens are more dangerous.

{ Brad Templeton | Continue reading }

related { Will You Need a New License to Operate a Self-Driving Car? }

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord.

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Using data from an online hotel reservation site, the authors jointly examine consumers’ quality choice decision at the time of purchase and subsequent satisfaction with the hotel stay.

They identify three circumstantial variables at the time of purchase that are likely to influence both the choice decisions and the postpurchase satisfaction: the time gap between purchase and consumption, distance between purchase and consumption, and time of purchase (business/nonbusiness hours).

The authors incorporate these three circumstantial variables into a formal two-stage economic model and find that consumers who travel farther and make reservations during business hours are more likely to select higher-quality hotels but are less satisfied.

{ JAMA | Continue reading }

photo { Philip Lorca-diCorcia, Roy, ‘in his 20s’, Los Angeles, California, $50 (Hustlers series), 1990-1992 }

‘The future of humanity is uncertain.’ –Primo Levi

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{ How MH17 Came Apart Over Ukraine }

It was Me, L Boogs and Yan Yan, YG, Lucky ride down Rosecrans

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Commercial drone flights are set to become a widespread reality in the United States, starting next year, under a 2012 law passed by Congress. […]

Military drones have slammed into homes, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in midair. […]

Several military drones have simply disappeared while at cruising altitudes, never to be seen again. […]

The documents describe a multitude of costly mistakes by remote-control pilots. A $3.8 million Predator carrying a Hellfire missile cratered near Kandahar in January 2010 because the pilot did not realize she had been flying the aircraft upside-down.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

‘Against boredom even gods struggle in vain.’ –Nietzsche

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Darius McCollum has been arrested 29 times over the past 30 years for a series of transit-related crimes ranging from impersonating subway workers to stealing buses. […]

He first drew notice in 1981, when as a 15-year-old he operated an E train six stops from 34th Street to the World Trade Center without the conductor or passengers reporting anything amiss.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

photo { Thomas Hoepker, Lover’s Lane, New Jersey, 1983 }

Terminator X packs the jams

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Scientists on Long Island are preparing to move a 50-foot-wide electromagnet 3,200 miles over land and sea to its new home at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. The trip is expected to take more than a month. […]

The electromagnet, which weighs at least 15 tons, was the largest in the world when it was built by scientists at Brookhaven in the 1990s, Morse said. Brookhaven scientists no longer have a need for the electromagnet, so it is being moved to the Fermi laboratory, where it will be used in a new experiment called Muon g-2.

The experiment will study the properties of muons, subatomic particles that live only 2.2 millionths of a second.

{ AP | Continue reading }

Persistent vegetative state

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These new robot-painting machines can wash, apply solvent to remove dirt, rinse and then spray two different paint types. […]

Manually, it takes a team of painters 4.5 hours to do the first coat. The robots do it in 24 minutes with perfect quality. Boeing began using the machine in February. By midsummer, all 777 wings will be painted this way. […]

Half the 777 wing-painting team has been redeployed to other roles, such as programming the machines, painting the airline liveries on the fuselage or working on the sophisticated paint job needed for the 787-9 tails, which have a special smooth aerodynamic finish, Clark said.

{ Seattle Times | Continue reading }

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading

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On April 7, 1994, Federal Express Flight 705, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 cargo jet ferrying electronics across the United States from Memphis, Tennessee to San Jose, California, experienced an attempted hijacking for the purpose of a suicide attack.

Auburn Calloway, a FedEx employee facing possible dismissal for lying about his previous flying experience, boarded the scheduled flight as a deadheading passenger with a guitar case carrying several hammers and a speargun. He intended to disable the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder before take-off and, once airborne, kill the crew using the blunt force of the hammers so their injuries would appear consistent with an accident rather than a hijacking. The speargun would be a last resort. He would then crash the aircraft while just appearing to be an employee killed in an accident. This would make his family eligible for a $2.5 million life insurance policy paid by Federal Express.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

art { Caleb Brown }

See you on the road, skag. See you like we saw your friend, The Nightrider.

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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.

{ 10 News | Continue reading }

Some men just want to watch the world burn

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Hijacking airplanes with an Android phone

By taking advantage of two new technologies for the discovery, information gathering and exploitation phases of the attack, and by creating an exploit framework (SIMON) and an Android app (PlaneSploit) that delivers attack messages to the airplanes’ Flight Management Systems (computer unit + control display unit), he demonstrated the terrifying ability to take complete control of aircrafts by making virtual planes “dance to his tune.”

{ Net Security | Continue reading }

art { Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1971 }

Stands forth, his loins and genitals tightened into a pair of black bathing bagslops

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The average bicycle police officer spends 24 hours a week on his bicycle and previous studies have shown riding a bicycle with a traditional (nosed) saddle has been associated with urogenital paresthesia and sexual dysfunction. […]

The objective of this study was to assess the effectiveness of the no-nose bicycle saddle as an ergonomic intervention and their acceptance among male bicycle police officers. Bicycle police officers from five U.S. metropolitan areas were recruited for this study. […]

After 6 months, 90 men were reassessed. Only three men had returned to a traditional saddle.

{ International Society for Sexual Medicine | PDF | via Improbable }

images { 1. Charles Ray | 2. Dietmar Busse }

It is a colossal edifice, with crystal roof built in the shape of a huge pork kidney

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As a gateway to the city, Los Angeles International Airport could hardly be more dispiriting. A jumble of mismatched, outdated terminals, LAX gives visitors a resounding first impression of civic dysfunction.

The city, which owns the airport, has tried several times to remake LAX. The latest attempt is a master plan by Fentress Architects, which is also designing the nearly $2-billion Tom Bradley International Terminal.

But the truth is that the airport’s biggest liability is not simply architectural. Somehow Los Angeles built a major rail route, the Green Line, past LAX 20 years ago without adding a stop at the airport.

And guess what? We are about to build another light-rail route — this time the $1.7-billion Crenshaw Line — near the airport and make precisely the same mistake again.

{ LA Times | Continue reading }

photo { Garry Winogrand }

‘We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t.’ –Bukowski

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{ John Schnabel }

Travels beyond the sea and marry money

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{ Cleaning lady stole a train in Sweden, crashed into house }

The bulldog of Aquin, with whom no word shall be impossible

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{ Driving school for dogs in New Zealand | Thanks Tim }

Prepare to receive cavalry. Prepare to receive soup.

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These days, the TSA’s major role appears to be to make plane trips more unpleasant. And by doing so, it’s encouraging people to take the considerably more dangerous option of traveling by road. […]

A longer list of TSA’s confiscations would include a G.I. Joe action doll’s 4-inch plastic rifle (“it’s a replica”) and a light saber. […]

Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. They also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening alone reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities.

{ BloombergBusinessweek | Continue reading }

In the second carriage, Miss Douce’s wet lips said, laughing in the sun

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Six years ago, Mexico was the world’s ninth largest exporter of cars. Today the country is ranked fourth—behind Germany, Japan and South Korea—with exports expected to total more than 2.14 million vehicles this year.

One in 10 cars sold last year in the U.S. was made in Mexico. Next year, every new taxi in New York’s fleet—made by Nissan Motor Co.  —will carry the “Hecho en Mexico” label. Mexico is now exporting vehicles to China, and even helped Japan keep up with orders after last year’s tsunami.

Mexico’s Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari boasted that a batch of new factories planned by car makers will help Mexico surpass South Korea in a few years. […]

For decades, the free world drove cars made primarily in the U.S., Germany and Japan. But a global shift toward smaller cars has put pressure on profit margins, forcing car companies to find lower-cost manufacturing elsewhere. […]

Wages for Mexican assembly-line workers begin at $40 a day, experts said. That is far below minimum wage requirements in the U.S. or Europe and approaching the average manufacturing wage in China, which is $3 per hour.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

Each one is sister to another and he binds them all with an outer ring and giveth speed to the feet of men

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The gap between professional race drivers and self-driven cars isn’t all that big, as a race at the Thunderhill Raceway in California proved yesterday. Although the human driver achieved victory against the self-driven Audi TTS in a head-to-head, he only managed to shave off a few seconds from the computer’s time.

{ Silicon Angle | Continue reading }

photo { Roger Minick }