Cynical Synapse

Sat, 30 Aug 2008

Stupid People Shouldn’t Get Licenses

Filed under: Behavior, Driving, People, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 10:16 pm

For some time now, I’ve felt the 10-question driver license test and the vision test really weren’t the right focus. I think the Secretary of State (or DMV) should have a mandatory intelligence test. It sure seems to me we have way too many stupid people on the roads today.

I happened across a blog at work one day that summarized my key pet peeves. Unfortunately, I can’t find it now, so you’ll just have to put up my rant instead of having the privilege of someone else’s words.

There are all kinds of “top tens” and “top nines” out there (who came up with top nine?) in the blogosphere. While there are certainly uniform “crimes,” those that fit in the top ten kind of vary with our particular preferences and even by region.

Several posts I’ve read, which I agree with, blame at least part of the problem on bad highway design. Amen! In my daily commute, I pass through 3 interchanges that were not designed for the capacities of traffic they’re expected to handle. Hello, MDOT, this is not complicated! Fricking tax-dollar-wasting “variable message signs” with dumb messages on them will not solve the issue. How about re-engineering the interchanges? Why do we spend millions—or even billions—of tax dollars to rebuild stretches of road to the same exact standard rather than expected future traffic loads? M-14 in Michigan is a classic example. The highway was completely reconstructed in 2006-07 exactly the same as it was with zero consideration for increased traffic loads, future densities, or at least expanding the third lane to the end of the construction zone. Pathetic.

But, I’m not sure even the best highway engineering can save us from the stupid people. First on my list are what I call the left-lane hogs. I used to consider Floridians the leaders here, but the problem has become rather universal. It comes up in most blogs on driving. Just see how often it’s mentioned in the Edmunds blog on regional differences. Michigan even recently posted “Pass Left, Keep Right|It’s the Law” signs, which have made absolutely no difference in driving habits.

A corallary to the left lane hogs is what I call the Lemming Syndrome. This is where cars just follow the one in front of them, regardless of what is going on around them. The Lemming Syndrome is what permits Bill Beaty’s solution to the wave syndrome to work. From my perspective, however, the lemmings are usually following a left lane hog. This backs up traffic in the left lane. But, how many times have you noticed a lemming behind you that speeds up when you change lanes? Don’t these retards realize there are other lines available?

Several of my other stupid people fit within World of Complaint’sstupid drivers and The Reasoner’s annoying drivers. Chief among these are the guys (a generic term including both males and females) who take the whole ramp to get up to a whopping 60 mph or so (if that) before merging into 70 mph traffic.

These folks usually don’t realize they are on an Interstate highway until about a mile or so down the road. Then they amazingly speed up to 75 or 80. Hello, why not use the acceleration lane to get to your traveling speed? That’s what it’s for! The reverse corollary of this are those that start slowing down a mile or so before their exit. Excuse me, but that’s what the deceleration lane is for; don’t hold up traffic on the freeway because you’re not sure you can slow down enough to exit. And don’t hit your brakes until you’re in that exit lane!

Cruise control has been around for at least 30 years now, and I’m amazed at how many people don’t seem to know about this feature. What appears to be a common underpinning of our traffic problems is a lack of social connection and decency in the confines of our vehicles. This is nowhere more evident than in the drivers who need to be first, no matter the impact of their selfishness. Once they’ve passed, at best their speed is inconsistent, but at worst, they’re actually driving slower than you were going. If you can afford a 21st century car—or even one more expensive than mine—you should be smart enough to know how to use the cruise control! So, if you want to go faster than me, fine. But don’t pass and then slow down in front of me.

The next big issue are those that wait to the last possible moment to move from the left lane to the exit lane. Are they just assholes? Did they not know where they were going? Or were they on their damn cell phones! While the latter ls likely, I tend to think they just don’t care about the rest of us. Social research seems to support this conclusion. The corrolary to this is the last-minute mergers when lanes end or are closed for construction. Instead of just merging, this selfish behavior penalizes us all with long back-ups. Even light traffic can turn into excessive delays under these circumstances.

So, research seems to say people hide behind their vehicles to express their inner evil, in a majority of cases. They become highly competitive, despite their actual personalities. The “me first” phenominon takes priority on the roads. This competitiveness, it seems, is counter productive. Imagine if we all just stopped competing and worked to end traffic jams.

Tue, 12 Aug 2008

“D” is for Dumb, er, Detroit

Filed under: Detroit, Michigan, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:59 pm

The Tigers’ logo is an old English capital letter “D.” It’s supposed to stand for Detroit, but maybe it stands for “dumb.” Detroit has been a struggling city—and region—for quite a while. Probably since the 67 riots, I’d say.

Ok, I live in a Detroit suburb, so I don’t get to vote in the city’s elections. I’m also from the west side of the state, so I’ve not lived all the history. But I moved here during the Coleman Young years. Detroit’s mayor talked about a city surrounded by “hostile suburbs.” The region still suffers from that legacy, I’m afraid. Reasonable people know, however, the city and the suburbs need each other. It’s not a we-they, it’s an us!

That said, I already had reservations about Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick torward the end of his first term. No disagreement, he started out positive and had some great ideas and, it seemed, a more regional perspective than some suburban county executives. But there were some questionable dealings and enough controversy that I was surprised when Kwame was reelected.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Detroit politics works on the same order as the political machine in Chicago politics. It’s just not as highly publicized. I suspect white flight enabled Coleman Young to capitalize on racism and build a machine on that basis. The fundamentals of this machine was there when Kwame took office. Maybe he’s been a crook from the beginning, but maybe he’s a victim of “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

That’s where Detroit is now. City Council wants to boot the mayor. Kwame won’t step down even though he faces perjury charges and felony assault charges, maybe more. Nevermind he’s cost the city at least $9 million in the whistleblower lawsuit that surfaced the whole related text-messaging scandal.

I used to be embarrassed that Detroit was the murder capital of the country. Then I was embarrassed by the so-called Devil’s Night shenanigans. At least then I could adopt a tough-guy attitude. But now I’ve got a lying mayor that has bled the city dry in secret whistleblower deals and blown every credibility chip earned by events like the Superbowl. How can I explain that to folks from outside the region? How many conferences and conventions will the region see canceled because the mayor’s head is actually bigger than his broad shoulders?

To be sure, the Detroit and its metropolitan area have a lot of things to work out. Kwame isn’t the only problem, but he sure has distracted attention from them. Like Rev. Vann said, it’s time for Mayor Kilpatrick to step down before he does any more damage to an already fragile Detroit reputation.

Mon, 04 Aug 2008

Oil Costs Higher than Just Record Profits

Filed under: Economy, Gas Prices, Legal, Oil, Rants, Take action — Tags: — cynicalsynapse @ 11:46 pm

This has been a painful week regarding oil for most of us who live in the mundane day-to-day world. Yes, oil prices seem to be down and, with them, gasoline prices as well. Despite the fact that two months ago, the record prices quoted were for July and August delivery. I never understood how a record price per barrel could instantly translate to higher pump prices. Did someone forget the time for shipping, refining, and shipping again?

Fast Track charges a premium for credit purchases.

So, pump prices crested at over $4 per gallon in much of the country. Now, God knows why, the price has fallen back to $3.75-$3.89 in my area. They say reduced demand, but I don’t see that on the road, unless all the Chinese decided to park their cars this month. But here’s the catch. That price spread is based mostly on the “cash” price and the “credit” price. With some exceptions, that’s a new and, I think, very dangerous trend. It has rippled from a station or two to become commonplace among Detroit’s northern suburbs. You see a price advertised that you think is the regular (87 octane) price. That’s true only if you pre-pay cash. If you use credit, such as pay at the pump, the price is about 12 cents higher, which is in the middle of the sign. That’s the price you used to think was mid-grade. Stations don’t advertiset that anymore. Just regular cash and regular credit along with diesel cash and diesel credit.

Having learned this lesson on the new method of pricing, I could probably accept that except I think it’s inherently deceptive. It’s another means for the oil companies to suck money out of our pockets. Does it really cost 12 cents a gallon to accept a credit card? I doubt it. Why should I pay the bank big fees to get cash out of the ATM to save at the pump? Either way, it’s coming out of my pocket through an extra reach in.

So, I think the cash and credit prices that seems to be a sudden trend at area gas stations is deceptive. How is it any different from the old bait-and-switch concept? At the very least, it seems to violate the provisions in MasterCard’s rules (section 5.9.2). I suspect it also violates Visa’s rules, but they’re not so easy to find from their website and I’m waiting on an email response.

Frankly, the dishonesty in posting gasoline prices is disturbing in the same manner as the sudden appearance of $80 fuel surcharges on airline tickets. What’s truly disconcerting is this all piles on top of ExxonMobile’s record-breaking net $11.68 billion quarterly profits. NET profits—that’s after taxes and expenses. For a single QUARTER!

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