Posts tagged “bart”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Mermaids poised for their mainstream splash [SF Chronicle] – Here’s an emergent trend that we’ll all want to get in front of, whether it’s cultural literacy or presents for friends and children, or perhaps cashing in before it the bubble bursts.

Mermaids are about to swamp vampires and zombies as supernatural rainmakers in popular culture. Photographer Mark Anderson is releasing a book called “M: Mermaids of Hollywood,” that features Anna Faris, the Kardashians, Kristen Bell and others in tails. Carolyn Turgeon, author of “Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale,” has agreed to run a new magazine, Mermaids & Mythology. The true beneficiaries of the mermaid bull market are small-business owners who cornered the mermaid market before there actually was one. Eric Ducharme, who lives near Tampa, makes about seven latex tails a month for $500 to $700 and since December has created 25 silicone ones for $1,600 to $5,000, including one for Lady Gaga. The Weeki Wachee Springs Underwater Theater, also near Tampa, started its mermaid shows in 1947. In danger of closing just a few years ago, it’s now hosting sold-out camps for adults who want to swim with tails.

Masked Protesters Aid Time Warner’s Bottom Line [] – The mask wearers have been seen here in the Bay Area recently, in protests against the BART transit system preemptively disconnecting cell service in advance of a protest. There’s clearly a market for knockoff masks, which may lead to some corrective corporate actions, which may in turn lead to more protests and indeed an entire economic turnaround.

When members [of Anonymous] appear in public to protest censorship and what they view as corruption, they don a plastic mask of Guy Fawkes, the 17th-century Englishman who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Stark white, with blushed pink cheeks, a wide grin and a thin black mustache and goatee, the mask resonates with the hackers because it was worn by a rogue anarchist challenging an authoritarian government in “V for Vendetta,” the movie produced in 2006 by Warner Brothers. What few people seem to know, though, is that Time Warner, one of the largest media companies in the world and parent of Warner Brothers, owns the rights to the image and is paid a licensing fee with the sale of each mask.

Come On, Feel the Mud [] – This interactive feature has some lovely, if muddy pictures, but mostly I was struck to learn that there’s a Polish Woodstock. If nothing else, we are clearly a decades past the dawn of political correctness where that phrase could only be the punchline to an offensive joke.

The original Woodstock festival was known for both its music and its mud. Although it is no relation to the American festivals, the Woodstock Festival in Kostrzyn nad Odra, Poland, does its best to recreate the experience by building giant mud pits in which thousands of young Poles writhe and wrestle to a hard-driving beat. Now in its 17th year, the Polish Woodstock mixes older Western rock bands like Prodigy and Helloween with popular Polish acts like Laki Lan and Enej. Despite the aggressive music, the vibe in the mud pit is much more summer of love. “We are moshing, we are throwing sand and dirt, but it’s really friendly,” said Michal Knapinski, 16. “When someone falls, there are hundreds of hands pulling him up.”

How to pay for parking


Our CCA class just finished a “user experience audit” of BART and found dozens of aspects of the whole experience that are sub-optimal. I’ll add this one (although maybe one of them saw this as well).

Step 1 – remember your stall number.

Too bad this sign is posted in the ticket-buying area of the station, far far away from your car off in the parking lot. It should read Go back to your car, dumbass, and write down the four digit number and then come back here and look at step 2. Their guidance is not presented at a useful point in the process, at all.

Last week I dialed my cell phone with my 4-digit parking code so that I could “remember” it. There’s one machine for buying tickets, and then through the turnstiles is the next machine for paying for parking (“the paid area”). So even if you walk from your car muttering 3214 over and over again, you still have to use a number-heavy interface to select the value of your ticket, enter your ATM password and so on, and that’s likely to wipe out your short-term memory.

But I only learned this from failure. All of which makes this sign so unhelpful.

Industrial-grade Smoothing

Orinda, BART, Late Night Originally uploaded by DCVoyager.

This SF Chron article describes a weird piece of behind-the-scenes infrastructure – the nightly grinding of the rails on the BART system (emphasis here is on reducing the squealing noise but presumably there are other safety and function reasons)

“But we don’t do that. We have to grind the rails.”

And that can be done only in the middle of the night, roughly between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m., when the passenger operation is shut down for the day to allow for track inspections and maintenance. It’s one of the reasons BART doesn’t operate on a 24-hour schedule.

Each night, crews smooth about 1 mile of track, just a sliver of the 104-mile system. It sometimes can take a dozen or more passes along one small section to get the track “just right,” said Dave Alves, who has worked the job for eight years.

On a recent night, Alves was the track man. Like a tailor judging a fine piece of fabric, he relies a lot on touch to determine how the track should be reshaped. He creates a grinding pattern based on the track’s marred surface and keys it into a computer that controls 20 grinding stones attached to the belly of a specially made railcar.

“Sometimes we may do 18 or 20 patterns on one piece of rail.”

They’ve got one car to do this task, and it’s a decade old. A new car takes more than a year to build (at a cost of $3M) since the BART rail size/width is non-standard.

Thought this was an interesting process story; the slow, non-automatic, manual nature of the task, and the analogous challenges in creating the tool for this task.


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