28 April, 2008

Scream for a rain!

Gimme rain or gimme death!

Commuter rail stations conspiracy

(Or, actually, this is more of an anti-conspiracy).

Commuter rail cars have doors on both sides, because on some stations you exit to the right, and on some - to the left. However, there's often no need to differentiate which side of the platform the train arrives at.

Clearly, it may be more convenient to do one way or another in a city streetcar system:

- stations raised above the ground have one platform, trains arriving on two sides - this design needs only one set of elevators/stairs down to the street level;

- stations that are on the street ("stops" would be a more appropriate name for those) don't need any special ways to get from the platform to the sidewalk and therefore the platform is on the right side of the train.

However, inter-city commuter rail systems, like BART, usually don't have a stop just in the middle of a street - not only because such transit systems usually require a huge parking lot, but also because a 9-10 car train would create quite a traffic distraction if being let loose on the open street. So, as BART stations are already full-fledged stations, using up a lot of land, it would seem strange that some stations have one platform in the middle and some - two on the sides.

Therefore, as it would have been easier - and cheaper! - to build each and every station more or less a copy of others, I can only conclude that varying station layout is intentional, and, as the side of the upcomming exit is not announced, I can only conclude this is done to catch spies. See - a local would know where the exit is, while a spy, no matter how good he is at blending with locals, would not. There are cameras right above each exit on BART, so interested authorities can monitor those who hesitate, or prepare to exit through the wrong door, and then do a background check on them. It's OK if that was just a guy who moved into the area recently, but if that was a member of a foreign diplomatic mission, who is, according to the official consulate's schedule, supposed to be at a trade meeting in another state, then something is obviously fishy.

22 April, 2008

Better than average

They say 80% of the drivers consider themselves better drivers than their average peer, which is somewhat unlikely, unless the average is really, really bad. A usual explanation for this is that most people are over-confident about themselves and thus overestimate their skills and abilities.

However, another possible explanation is that it is hard to imagine an "average" person - as in off the pool of everyone. I think most people just imagine some random people who have cut them off, or even had an accident, or a near-accident with. Plus the respondents may remember some of their friends or relatives who drive really badly, making the respondent swear to never get into the car with them driving. And as very few people remember every single trip that went well, but most remember accidents or near-accidents quite vividly, it isn't surprising that when building up a picture of an "average driver" people mostly remember a set of bad* drivers and, often quite correctly, rank themselves as better ones.

*And even the best drivers may get into someone's "bad driver" list, because not everything is under the driver's control. A child runs unexpectedly onto the road, you slam the brakes causing the guy behind you to perform emergency braking, too, cursing you for not paying attention to the road. Perhaps he didn't even see the child, but it is you whom he'll blame for his scare moment.

21 April, 2008

Text-editing trick

Undo/Redo keys can be used to quickly go back to the place in the text where you've been. Like if you scroll up to where the #includes are, press Ctrl-Z and then Ctrl-Shift-Z to jump back to the place in the code you've been modifying.

Works with Office, too - although unfortunately the newest Word either doesn't have a Redo hotkey or something else is not quite right. A positive thing about the newest Word's hotkeys is, however, that they've kept the Ctrl-P to print, otherwise I would know how to print.

But the trick works where I do most of the text editing: with Visual Studio and I think I got it to work with Eclipse, so - w00t.

20 April, 2008

When I grow up, I want to be a...

Some people buy their children toy airplanes, thinking that may be some day kids will become pilots. Some people buy their heirs erector sets, slightly pushing them to become engineers. But of course, those are only hopes, not guarantees, and some parents just have to be certain, even if it means aiming low.

16 April, 2008


I've seen an interesting ad for USAF on some website recently. It was made as a flash mini-game, stylized after an old arcade with an airplane flying bottom to top (or, rather the terrain moving under it), with some green squares moving towards the plane. I was even going to shoot some of these green squares, but turns out, the game is not about shooting the crap out of things (the whole purpose of an air force, I think), but you're supposed to "drop humanitarian aid", green squares are the targets for the aid.

They must have an urgent need for pacifists for some reason :)

15 April, 2008

How to get a new car using a cell phone.

Pretty simple - if someone yakking on the cell phone smashes into your car, totaling it, their insurance would pay for a new car. The problem didn't specify you have to use the phone, did it?

10 April, 2008

Perpetual calendar in the head

Today is Thrusday, April 10th, which day of the week is September 3rd? It is actually easy to calculate these things, without the computer's help:

As today is Thursday, 17th, 24th and 31st are also Thursdays. April has only 30 days, so 31st of April is actually May 1st (and it is a Thursday).

Continue with Thursdays: May 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th, 36th. May 36th is (36 - 31) = 5th of June.

June 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th, 33rd [-30] = July 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st, July 38th = August 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, 35th, which is September 4th - those were all Thursdays, so September 3rd is a Wednesday.

To go faster we could add several weeks at a time - like 3 or 4 to not overshoot a month completely. 3 weeks (21 days) probably is easier to add, arithmetics-wise, than 28 days.

Let's check October 17th: September 3rd is Wednesday, so September 24th is, too and so is September 45th, which is October 15th. Therefore, October 17th is a Friday.