Monthly Archives: January 2011

MetroMinder Update

MetroMinder is a Web based application that I started as part of my initial efforts to learn PHP.  The current iteration of MetroMinder has the following features:

  • Lists all Metro stations by line based on user select (Blue, Green, Orange, Red, Yellow);
  • Provides real time arrival estimates for trains at user selectable stations;
  • Provides a link to Google maps based location information for each station;
  • Lists Metro Rail Service alerts.

The application gets its data from the Metro Transparent Data Sets API (using the RESTful services) and the Metrorail Service Disruptions RSS feed.

Today I finished making some tweaks to the layout to optimize the display on my Motorola Droid (the target platform is smart phones like the Droid). The one area of the design that I am not happy about is the graphic I created from the Stations function (see screenshot below).

MetroMinder Screenshot

If you have the time to check out MetroMinder I would appreciate any feedback you might have or offers of assistance in the form of a better station graphic.

Rex Grossman Cartoon from 2007…

Way back when Rex Grossman was QB of the Bears I drew this cheesy cartoon expressing my excitement over what I thought was going to be an easy Chicago Super Bowl win…

Unfortunately Grossman stunk and the Bears lost…

Anyway, forgot all about this cartoon until I noticed in my stats that my site was coming up in the search results for Rex Grossman and Cartoons… this is probably not what people are searching for but here it is anyway!

Image: The Smithsonian Castle

I was in the city yesterday with my daughter and we wandered into the Smithsonian Castle.

West Wing of the Smithsonian Castle

West Wing of the Smithsonian Castle

I haven’t been inside The Castle for a few years and I had forgotten how beautiful the architecture is.

West Wing of The Smithsonian Castle

West Wing of The Smithsonian Castle

Someday soon I need to go back with my DSLR and a little more time to see if I can do the architecture justice.

West Wing of The Smithsonian Castle

West Wing of The Smithsonian Castle

TV: John From Cincinnati

I received the John from CincinnatiThe Complete First Season for Christmas and I am working my way through re-watching episodes 1 through 10 of this epic TV series. I still can’t believe this show was cancelled after only one season. From the opening credits (featuring the song Johnny Appleseed by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros) right up to the  close of each episode I found myself weirdly riveted by this show.

Unfortunately for the show its ratings totally sucked and it didn’t matter that it had an incredible cast (Bruce Greenwood, Rebecca De Mornay, Ed O’Neill, Luke Perry, Luis Guzman, Garret Dillahunt, and more), was brilliantly filmed, had a great sound track, and had a story that was… well, what the hell was the story actually? What did any of it mean?

You could join fans of the show over at The John From Cincinnati Wiki to talk about the meaning of the show or you could just do what I am doing and enjoy watching the series again.

Two years ago…

On my way to work this morning I remembered that yesterday was the two year anniversary of the day I quit smoking. Two years later I still find it hard to believe that I managed to quit smoking. I was a smoker for nearly twenty years (having started when I was 16 and finally quitting at the age of 35). Quitting seemed like mission impossible when I took that last drag way back on January 12th, 2009…

Image: Best Photos of 2010 Blog Project

Jim Goldstein’s Best Photos of 2010 Blog Project page went live early this morning with an impressive total of 160 participating photographers. I haven’t gotten very far through the list but so far I have been wowed by the entries. I highly recommend taking some time to persue the entries.

My Best Photos of 2010 Blog Project post can be found here: Image: My Top Ten Photos of 2010.

Bangkok: The Infamous Tuk Tuk

If you are ever fortunate enough to be able to visit Bangkok, Thailand you will probably wonder whether or not you should “risk” a ride in one of ubiquitous auto rickshaws known as tuk tuks. While I was visiting Bangkok in October I spent a good deal of time fending off tuk tuk drivers. Based on my limited experience I think that most of the warnings you will read in tourist guides are at least partly true. These mainly fall into the following two categories:

  • Health and safety – Tuk tuks are open to the elements and are not designed with your health or safety in mind. While riding in a tuk tuk you will be exposed to the elements, pollution as well as being more vulnerable to injury in the event of an accident then if you were in a taxi. Traffic in Bangkok can get pretty crazy.
  • Scams – Tuk tuk drivers picking up tourists are generally running a scam that starts out with offering a really cheap ride to where ever you want to go and then taking a detour to a local store or tourist trap. The tourist traps or markets pay the tuk tuk drivers for luring tourists in.
Where tuk-tuks go to sleep

Where tuk-tuks go to sleep

I broke down and rode in a tuk tuk once during my stay in Bangkok. The choice to hop into the tuk tuk wasn’t an easy one (although being slightly lost in a foreign city helped) but negotiating the fare before jumping helped make the ride come to a successful conclusion roughly where I wanted to end up (since I didn’t actually know exactly where I wanted to go, only a rough area in the city, I ended up “roughly” where I was going).

On the street

On the street

If you are interested in taking a tuk tuk in the city here are my suggestions for getting where you want to go:

  • Don’t get in the tuk tuk until you negotiated the price of the trip and the destination.
  • Make it clear to the driver during the negotiation that you want to go straight to your destination and the side trips are not acceptable.

Most tuk tuk drivers catering to tourists seem to make their money off the side trips and not your fare so they won’t give up easily. They will offer you heavily discounted or even free rides if you agree to the proposed side trips. If you want the ride without the side trips you will need to be insistent. I repeated the phrase, “50 baht no stop” many times before the driver stopped trying to negotiate and agreed to give me a ride to Dusit Park from Wat Saket (The Golden Mount) for 50 baht (about $2).

Was it worth it? Yes. Negotiating the ride was a real pain but the experience of riding through Bangkok in a tuk tuk was actually fun (if not a little scary). Would I do it again? Maybe, however you have to keep in mind that taxis in Bangkok are safer, air conditioned, and use meters. The cost of taking a taxi is also on par with the cost of taking a tuk tuk without the hassle of negotiating the rate.

Note: I would definitely be willing to make an exception for a ride in a royal tuk tuk like the one below on display in Dusit Park.

The King's Tuk Tuk

The King's Tuk Tuk