30 July 2007

The meaning of the word "Yield"

I've been driving back and forth between Chambersburg and metro Washington, DC recently and have noticed that there is a particular intersection that people seem to have problems understanding the meaning of a yield sign. The intersection is I-81 and I-70, going east on I-70 towards Frederick/Baltimore. For Dicksonians, this is the intersection that you'd go through if you were going to the Hagerstown outlets.
Anyhow, I-70 is essentially three lanes at this point, with one lane being a segregated lane that is meant to just be used by traffic getting on from or off onto I-81. I go around the cloverleaf from I-81 south onto I-70 going east and am in this third segregated lane. This lane will end shortly after the intersection (it merges with I-70 east) so I have to be at highway speed or close to it. Shortly before the third segregated lane merges with I-70, traffic from I-81 north merges in, at a yield sign. There is no merge area. The yield sign tips people off to the fact that there is no merge area. Despite this, people come into this intersection and expect me to yield to them.
A yield sign means that you may proceed if the way is clear. It does not mean that you can proceed if in so doing you'll require another car to apply its brakes hard (or, technically, apply its brakes at all) or take evasive action. Yet, at this intersection, people seem to take it that way. If you have to stop at this yield sign, because there is no merge area, then you have to stop.
Of course, I'm not going to prove my right of way to them, sure, I may have the right of way, but I'll also have a car in an accident, with all the hassle that comes with. So I've just learned to watch other cars at this intersection.
Of course, why Maryland thinks it is a good idea to have no merge area where two interstates merge together is another question, but that's for another blog entry.

19 July 2007

Apple Quality Control

Compared to Microsoft, Apple has serious quality control problems with their software/system updates. For many of the updates that they release, there are significant problems with them. One firmware upgrade caused my computer to become unbootable, requiring me to hold down a combination of keys on my keyboard to make their computer useful again, if Apple Support knew that trick (which they didn't, they made me send my computer in for service). One of the updates caused my computer's speakers to make popping noises (it wasn't just my computer's speakers, other people had the problem too). Apple resolved this problem with another update. Another update caused people's optical drives to stop working. Apple removed that update. Yet another update causes applications that were not specifically built for Intel-based processors (Rosetta applications) to stop working. I could sympathize with Apple (somewhat) if these were caused by obscure applications. But they're not. Many problems occurred directly with Apple's hardware. (The first three problems I've listed). While Apple may have come out with with Intel-native applications, there are certain applications -- for example, this obscure application called Microsoft Word -- that run on Rosetta. I'd like to give Apple the benefit of the doubt, but it is now at the point where if I see an update, I wait a week for Apple to iron out the bugs before I install it. For Microsoft updates, on the other hand, I install them instantly on my PC and, knock wood, have not had a problem with them.
Microsoft does not control the hardware that its updates are installed on, and yet still manages to have very few serious problems with their updates. Apple should improve.

11 July 2007

Summer Reading Suggestions

I surfed into this website recently. It's published by the University of Texas at Austin, and has a list of summer reading suggestions. Kind of nice of them to go to the effort to get all these suggestions together. At the bottom of the page are links to previous years' lists.

10 July 2007

Avril Lavigne Plagiarizing?

People are saying that Avril Lavigne plagiarized her latest song "Girlfriend" from an obscure band from the 1970s. There's an article discussing this on CBC. (Be forewarned, the video that this article links to, at least the quicktime version, is rather loud) Her manager claims there is "no basis" at all, but I disagree. The chorus seems pretty similar, in my opinion. I wonder if whoever wrote the song gambled that because the band with the song was so obscure, they could get away with it.

09 July 2007

Small Towns, Long Term Residents

I saw an article in my town's local newspaper about how this year's summer concert series on my high school's lawn will be dedicated to the memory of Donald Luckenbill. He was a music teacher in the school district from 1944 to 1980. Although I never had Donald Luckenbill as a teacher, I sang a song by him in elementary school (essentially an ode to Sagamore Hill, home of Teddy Roosevelt) and later played that song when I was a member of the Oyster Bay Community Band. I also played Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs that he arranged when I was in the boy scouts and performed at a kresh/memorial lighting.
I guess I'm writing about this because I really enjoyed growing up in my town. It's small enough so that my middle school band teacher had my third grade teacher when he was in kindergarten. This teacher could also point to a portrait of a basketball team hanging on the high school wall and point out his father on the wall.
I was at a meeting with the elementary school's principal while I was in high school to discuss a fundraiser that the club I was involved in was doing. He said, so, [D], your parents are long term residents, right? And without really thinking, I said yes. Looking back, I also don't know what this had to do with fundraising.
Afterwards, though, I realized that it all depended on how one defined the word "long" in long-term resident. Sure, my parents lived in East Norwich since right before I was born, but we're certainly not one of the "generational" families that have lived in Oyster Bay/East Norwich since the Revolution, or even since before suburbanization. In some ways, Oyster Bay is different from other towns on Long Island. Unlike other towns, it has a history of its own, and wasn't just potato farms until the suburbanization boom of the 1950s.

02 July 2007

Free Music from Smithsonian Folkways

There is free music from Smithsonian Folkways (downloadable as an MP3, no signup or registration required) at this link:
Right-click on the MP3 link to download them.
Check out Rabbit in a Log by The Stanley Brothers. It has some wicked good banjo picking.
One of The Stanley Brothers is Ralph Stanley, who did the "O Death" song in O' Brother Where Art Thou (this is the scene during the KKK rally)

A Spider, a Swan, and Another Spider

I was at the public library the other day and was flipping through a biography of E.B. White (author of Charlotte's Web) There was an interesting discussion of how, originally, Fern (the girl in the story), was not going to be featured so prominently, so he originally planned to start the book with what is now the opening scene of Chapter 3, at the barn. It also had pictures of drafts of the book that he had typed up and scribbled on, which I thought was kind of neat, to see the original wording and see how he had changed it.
The biography was critical of The Trumpet of the Swan. I enjoyed The Trumpet of the Swan when I was growing up, partially because I played the trumpet when I was younger, but also because E.B. White is just a talented writer. Louis' father is funny in that book.
And now, for "Another Spider," as promised in the blog post title.
When I was looking at my car in the hotel parking lot in Washington this weekend, I noticed a spider web on it, in between the spare tire and the side hinge of the door. I drove back to Chambersburg and discovered that the spider was still there (after hurtling at over 65 mph on the highway). Impressive. It spun a web between last night and today. I wonder what it thought when the blue "rock" that it had spun a web on started to move, and then was hurtling down a highway with other "rocks" at amazing speeds. (Probably nothing, since spiders don't think, but it's still impressive that it stayed on my car)

01 July 2007

The Beatles in Court

A defendant wrote: "Like the Beetles say, 'Let It Be.'" when asked how he should be sentenced. The judge in his case, in Yellowstone County, Montana, wrote a two page opinion in which he incorporated many Beatles songs. He also took the opportunity to correct the defendant's spelling of The Beatles.