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Vancouver adds street-crossing instructions, saying 40 percent of us don’t know how

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Vancouverites may have noticed the large white stickers that have begun appearing on green-painted steel poles at major intersections, such as West Broadway Avenue and South Granville street. These stickers are nothing less than detailed instructions for how to properly cross the street.

The wordy instructions explain what pedestrians can (and cannot) do, depending on which symbol is displayed by the crosswalk signal:

White pedestrian icon: “Start crossing” “Watch for vehicles”;
Flashing red hand icon: “Don’t start” “Finish crossing if started”;
Countdown timer: “Time remaining” “To finish crossing”;
Steady red hand icon: “Don’t cross”.

According to Jag Sandhu, a city spokesperson with Vancouver’s Corporate Communications department, the instruction stickers are meant to clear up a very common misunderstanding among pedestrians about the meaning and purpose of the countdown timers displayed by the crosswalk signals at major intersections.

Sandhu explained that a City of Vancouver survey about crosswalk countdown timers found that 40 percent of pedestrians think that it is legal to start crossing the street during the countdown with the red hand flashing and that 20 percent apparently didn’t know one way or the other.

The instruction stickers are meant to make it clear that “pedestrians should only start crossing when the white pedestrian signal is on and should only finish crossing if already started during the countdown”, says Sandhu. Read more…

Free your TV—make a digital antenna for under $10

diy-ota-digital-antenna

On Friday (February 10), a septuagenarian do-it-yourselfer and I were talking about the over-the-air digital TV signals available in the Vancouver area; something relatively few Vancouverites seem to be aware of. At one point I was given an offhandedly description of the dandy DIY antenna that this fellow uses to pull in something like six TV stations for free.

My elder friend is the sort who built himself crystal radio sets as a child and he grew up to be a very capable tinkerer. For many years he refurbished discarded computers just to give them to the less fortunate (that is, people lacking his repair skills).

I very much respect his do-it-yourself mindset and I pumped him for enough information so that I could provide both the clear diagram which heads this post together with the additional details needed to build his homemade HD TV antenna—all of which follows below. Read more…

That dragging feeling first thing in the morning

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Revolution Resource Recovery truck, number 229 on West Broadway at 9:38 a.m.

This morning (February 9), those of us who were watching rush hour traffic from the comfort of a seat in the McDonald’s restaurant in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue were rewarded with the modestly interesting sight of a waste-hauling truck dragging a fluorescent orange traffic cone in its undercarriage.

According to various sources on the Internet, a three-axle garbage truck like this is designed with enough power to easily haul a maximum load of over 30 tons of garbage. So what’s one traffic cone, more or less?

Thinking about the sort of stuff (like traffic cones) that might get stuck under a garbage truck gives me a bit of a frisson, I’ll admit.

I imagine how the driver might not even notice they were dragging something, unless whatever it was also made a gawdawful racket—something like: “Oh help me! Help me! I’m stuck under your truck, along with my bicycle and trailer!”

Not that I admit to worrying overmuch about such a thing happening to me when I’m riding my bike and trailer in rush hour traffic.

But I also imagine that I would have to yell really, really loud to be heard over the engine. Click the image to enlarge it.

It’s snowing—no fault of you-know-who

The wintery scene this morning on West Broadway Avenue at 7:48 a.m.

The wintery scene on West Broadway Avenue at 7:48 a.m. this morning.

Snow has been falling steadily across Metro Vancouver since early this morning (February 3) and try as I might I can find no single overarching thing to blame it on, beyond ordinary cold air.

Apparently there is no El Niño weather pattern at present and I can think of no way to pin it on the hombre-niño in the White House—despite the snow having obvious Trump-like qualities of being cold, regressive, disproportionately hard on the poor and unwanted by a majority of voters.

Any snow is mildly unusual for Vancouver but the fact that this snow isn’t even remotely connected to, or about Donald Trump makes it especially unusual.

For over a month now, virtually everything, it seems, has been about the blustering new President of the United States—all the news sources I read can’t stop writing about him. My friends can stop talking about him and the people I follow on Twitter can’t stop Tweeting about him. Read more…

Obama’s last act as president was to shorten over 1,000 unjust drug sentences

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In his last two months in office the quality of Barrack Obama’s mercy was matched only by its quantity.

As of December 24, the 44th President of the United States had used his executive privilege to issue pardons to people convicted of federal crimes only 64 times.

But by the time he had left office on January 19, 2017, president Obama had issued 212 pardons and a whopping 1,715 commutations, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Most of Obama’s 1,927 acts of presidential clemency represented a final effort in his administration’s 8-year campaign to undo decades of systemic discrimination and injustice in federal prison sentencing and catapulted him to become the fourth highest dispenser of executive clemency among all U.S. presidents.

When it comes to total presidential pardons and clemency, Obama only ranks behind the presidents who held office during the two World Wars: Harry Truman in third, with 2,044; Woodrow Wilson in second, with 2,480 and Franklin D. Roosevelt in first place, with 3,687. Read more…

The newest thing in old dumpster-dived computers

mk808b-quadcore-android-stick

Even though the parkade that my homeless friend “J” sleeps in is blocks closer to the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue than the parkade that I sleep in, I was still halfway through my Big Breakfast this morning (January 24) when he finally showed up—ostensibly to get his first coffee of the day.

However, the way that he was hovering behind my chair and rooting through his backpack, I could tell that along with buying coffee he was going to try selling me some bit of garbage that he had found while dumpster diving the previous night.

And yes, with a flourish and an expression that was both questioning and hopeful, he offered me a jumbled handful of computer hardware.

There was a wall plug, various-ended USB and HDMI cables and some wee little USB dongles—all of which were jet-black and plugged into an equally black, highly engineered, plastic box about the size of a short chocolate bar.

In addition to connection ports and grills (likely for heat dissipation), one edge of the box bore a bar-coded serial number sticker and there was white branding on the two largest sides if the box, which read: “MINI TV for Android Quad-Core MK808B Plus” and “H.265 high efficiency video coding”.

My friend had no idea what it was and a first glance I took it for some kind of device to bring computer to a TV or TV to a computer—perhaps not unlike the Hauppage WinTV stick for receiving digital TV on a laptop, which I found two years ago in a dumpster.

hauppage-stick

All I’ve done with the USB TV tuner I found in 2015 is run its picture in this post.

Either way, I wasn’t overly interested in the “MINI TV” stick that my friend had found and I politely declined to buy it—first when it was offered for $5, again when it was marked down to $2 and finally when it hit rock bottom at $1.50.

J complained that he needed the money for bus fare (as if homeless people pay bus fare).

I laughed and waited until his dejected self was just about out the door of the restaurant before I offered to lend him $2.

He jumped at the loan but then couldn’t be bothered to take back his doo-dad (it having more or less served its immediate purpose).

Anyway, he was coming right back and left it with me so that I could find out on the web what exactly it was and how much it was worth. Read more…