Admittedly, I don’t often take or use Uber or cabs to commute around. I generally use my feet, bike or utilize public transit. So my experience is likely limited but I ran into an egregiously different experience between that of using Uber and that of a traditional DC cab over the weekend. My experience, while anecdotal, gives strong evidence that the cab companies of yesterday probably wont be around much longer and really, after this experience, it couldn’t come quicker.

The Uber experience, consisted of, deciding, yes, Ill use Uber, placing the reservation and two minutes later I’m entering my Uber drivers car. It was a crossover vehicle with bucket seats. It was very clean and tidy inside with no loose items or worn seats. It felt very comfortable. The driver was pleasant and courteous and there wasn’t much conversation. At one point, the driver asked if I preferred an alternate route as we had run into traffic and he suggested a quicker way. Time was critical as I was attempting to catch a movie. Arriving at our destination was similarly pleasant and quick. In all, I would do it again. No complaints.

The cab experience was from the start, a little different. I walked three blocks before I was able to get the attention of a passing cab. Many cabs simply drove by, either ignoring me or legitimately not seeing me. Either way, I could see their cab light on and their seats were empty. Eventually though, I managed to grab one, asked if he could take me back home and he replied “hop in”. The car was a traditional Ford Crown Vic with old worn faux leather seats with very little leg room. The car was hot and the seats were hotter. To the cabs credit, the AC was working and on full blast. In front of me, along with the front passenger seat, was a small, about seven inch display panel hooked up to what appeared to be a local news feed. The sound was not on. It was attached to the back of the front passenger seat head rest. As the driver started off, the panel in front of me came alive. Sound blasting out, immediately advertising at me. For the duration home, I had to listen to and be subjective to various ads and promotions this cabbie or cab company had decided was in my interest? I’m sitting there, thinking to myself: Do the ads make the ride free? Who are the ads for? Did I sign up for this? Is this legal? Is this now a norm for traditional cabs?

To give the screen a fair assessment, it did seem like it doubled as a credit card processing unit.

As the cab arrived at my destination, we had to figure out the total cost and again the entire time this screen is blaring sound at me. There was no sense in any of it. I could barely hear the driver and he could barely hear me. At that point, it seemed more likely that this screen isn’t something the driver wanted. He seemed to almost ignore it. Reviewing the cab experience, I would not do that again. Not ever.

I cannot imagine a more harmful experience. Sitting in a cab, having a small, basically television, broadcasting advertisements at you as the meter spends your money away is a pretty awful way to get repeat customers. I don’t want to say you’re trapped, but its darn close. I think normally, the sound can be muted but it seemed this particular unit was not capable of doing this. My options were, bail on the cab, having to pay the entrance fare and the few bucks already traveled or stay put enduring the ads. It amazed me to think this is what Uber is competing against. An old, tattered car, equipped with all the latest and greatest ways to keep your passengers entertained er informed. Uber was likely riding with a friend. The cab was like being trapped in a mall with a gaggle of teenagers whose only tone is shrill.

A quick online search found that NY has actually removed the screens from their cabs. Shocker, they were widely unpopular.

See this post on ArlNow for the backstory.

TL’DR – Basically, Arlington County Gov installed a “no pedestrian crossing” sign where there have been numerous close calls between pedestrians and cars, specifically between the Whole Foods and Starbucks.

This is ultimately a failure of urban design. The sign is just evidence that the planners failed to see how these spaces would be used. It’s a lazy quick fix to a much bigger problem of prioritizing cars over people in urban environments.

The surface parking lot in front of Whole Foods is the most likely culprit in causing this problem, although there are a number of designs in that area that contribute to the jay walking issue. People want to take the shortest distance regardless of what sign you put up or the path you pave or the law they break, they are lazy and stressed. Their decisions are going to reflect this. You can mitigate some of this through rules enforcement but that comes at the expense of resources that could be used on more important problems. So the best solution is to build environments so people dont have to make these decisions.

The surface parking lot forced the entrance to be pushed back off the street front, there by creating a more suburban design and forcing people to walk through some portion of the parking lot and creating a rather round about walking path to get to the entrance. Pedestrians are left with two decisions to cross, risk a short walk across Clarendon directly to the entrance or guarantee a slower walk waiting for a light to cross, to then have to deal with cars turning into the surface lot, to then finally making it to the entrance. Remember, people are lazy. Had the entrance to the Whole Foods been placed on the street front or better yet at the corner of Edgewood, pedestrians would be much less likely to attempt crossing because their perceived choices would make more sense. Instead of short risky cross vs. long circuitous, eliminate the choice through better design and the problem would likely fix itself.


Jeans are or seem to be an essential part to many folks daily wear. If only I could get my hands on jeans that have already been destroyed by a lion. And check.

Via PBS News Hours, Recent UC Berkley study shows somewhat questionable behavior associated with a persons perception of their wealth.

The quality and production since the Sun Times switch is not terribly shocking, For some back story, Chicago Sun-Times will train reporters on ‘iPhone photography basics’.

Short rant. Jobs report was announced today. Economy added jobs. Media says we didn’t meet expectations. Every writer and journalist added their own spin on the missed expectations (See short list of news stories below) and therefore causing a slight turmoil within the market. Sounds about the status-qua now. The thing about jobs reports, there isn’t very much to look into on any one specific job report as it takes time for economies to show change. They need to be reviewed across a large frame of time. The jobs report is actually one of the places were the numbers from the past are revised to be more accurate. If you read this months report, you’ll see that the last two jobs reports have been amended, both with lower jobless rate claims. Media says nothing of this.

Our media in their relentless pursuit of the truth will likely never be satisfied with the results. In fact, I don’t ever remember having the media and the economists meeting with any sort of mutual understanding of one another. Will we ever meet their expectations? I realize investors use the jobs data to further predict the market behavior but the media has no business speculating. Are they reporting on investor attitude or are they reporting the jobs information? I’m skeptical the media even bothers to make predictions or have expectations. What would they expect? Make more money? They seem to just react the same way regardless of the report being given. They call fire. If you were to skim headlines and take the media at their word, you would miss the inclusion of the previous jobs reports amendments, noted above. For future jobs reports, please, just take whatever news you hear and notch it down a couple degrees. It will serve you much better and will probably be as accurate as the news reports or just read the report yourself.

A new baseball season has arrived, predictions have been made, players traded, cleats cleaned and the only team I’ve rooted for has changed leagues. The Houston Astros, officially made their American League debut this last Sunday. They won, 8 – 2, beating the Texas Rangers, their long standing bitter rivals…, no, no I don’t remember that. Anyway, the Astro’s season as a whole will likely resemble a cat cooking pancakes. On the upside, their new ownership has made great strides in rebuilding, trading for and drafting youth. It should result in a very competitive team in the long run. I can agree with this approach. It has succeeded for many teams. It is, however, concerning for the MLB to require the Astros change leagues. It takes baseball in a direction that fundamentally changes the game.

First, moving the Astro’s from the NL to the AL doesn’t make sense unless you buy into the Ranger’s vs Astro’s rivalry , you’re Bud Selig and insist geography was the main contributing factor, or your Bud Selig and this is the only ‘logical relocation’. More on Selig and his nonsense. I can understand if the players want the leagues even to make playoff chances distributed evenly. That make sense. But there is no ‘logical’ explanation to have moved the Astros instead of the Brewers. Lance Berkman,

“I think it’s a travesty,” [Berkman said.] “It’s a National League franchise. I think if they were going to do something like that, Milwaukee’s the choice to go back to the American League; they’re historically an American League franchise. “
via Houston Chronicle

Second, interleague play was introduced in 1997 as a new way for the two leagues to play one another prior to the World Series. Fans loved it and it was a great success for the MLB. It has slowly expanded to more and more games each year from this success. Now, Bud Selig insists the leagues should have an even number of teams. Historically, the leagues have had an uneven number of teams, mandating some teams play and some teams rest. Moving the Astro’s into the AL, puts 15 teams in each league thus an equal number of match-ups, 15 vs 15. Selig wants to make sure that no team goes unmatched during any given day. It should be noted the AL and the NL normally do not play one another during the regular season because they have different rules. The AL uses the designated hitter and the NL does not. Eventually, if the teams are playing enough, won’t the subtle difference be eroded away if the two leagues use the same rules? We’ll lose one of the styles of baseball. I don’t think that’s beneficial to the fans or baseball in the long run.

The two leagues are uniquely different. By moving the leagues to be more similar, Selig reduces part of what makes baseball, baseball. The oddities of the game. The autonomy of each team. None of the other sports have these traits. A great example of this are the different baseball stadiums around the country. Each team is allowed to construct and design their field as they see fit with a handful of guidelines. This creates very unique fields and quirks that add to the whole picture of baseball. Would Selig think it’s beneficial to force all future baseball stadiums and domes to have the exact same foul lines and fence lines? Do you think fans would be upset if the “Green Monster” in Boston had to be taken down or “The Ivy Wall” in Chicago or the weird hump that currently sits in center field of the Astros stadium? I bet the fans would be upset and I bet Selig would pay attention to the fan-bases. The fan bases cherish the lore of baseball.The lore and these little differences make the game. They give it it’s character.

Obviously, moving a single team to another league isn’t going to change baseball overnight but it will reduce some of what originally made it so beloved. The emphasis on the individual as part of a team. The unique differences between the teams, the fields and the rules they play under. Moving the Astro’s to the NL is a small step in finally doing away with what I refer to as ‘real baseball’. The DH is lazy. It’s financially driven and it changes the game. I’m ok with the American league playing this way. I think it’s a great counter to the National League style which is much closer to the baseball we play as kids. Everyone hits. Not literally, but the nine in the field are the nine to bat. They are individuals playing as a team. In contrast, the DH is a hired gun who shows up and leaves as his presence is requested. He doesn’t play in the field, he just bats. AL baseball is a more free market style of game and I think it is fascinating to watch when an NL team plays in AL team. The rules they have to adjust to and who they decide to be their DH and vice versa.

I tend to think moving the Astro’s is an entirely financial based decision, maybe it’s not? Maybe the DH hits more home runs and draws more fans, maybe he doesn’t. Is that risk worth it to homogenize the two leagues? Is the money worth it to alienate a league that is already fighting public disasters from the performance enhancing drugs debacle. It trivializes the whole game to assume that moving teams around will generate more fans or create more dynamic match ups. It fails to recognize how the game is played and what it means to be a fan of baseball.

Image via Deadspin

Is it Simcity or SimCity? Does it matter? Will anyone notice? The recent SimCity release has caused a lot of negative heat for EA and Maxis despite the seemingly no-way-to-lose release. I have not personal played this game and will probably wait for much of this to pass until I even think about giving EA and Maxis my money or time. The following has been collected from different posters, commenters and reviews of the game Ive been able to read and watch to far. It’s not impossible for EA & Maxis to fix and improve a lot of these problems but in the mean time, it is somewhat satisfying seeing them squirm as each lie is called out and exposed by the hive mind of the internet.

How the release has gone so far for EA and Maxis:

  • Enforced a policy, disguised as a feature, of requiring their users/customers/players to always maintain an active internet connection
  • Always-On Servers were not available for the better part of the first 2-3 days of the release.Apparently, too many people logged on to their servers. They basically didnt put up enough for the demand and it all crashed. They have sense improved but there are still many stories trickling in of customers not being able to reach the servers. EA has offered a free game to those effected players. However, the recipients can only obtain the free game exactly 14 days after the release of SimCity. This is the exact same day those same users would no longer be able to return their copy of SimCity.
  • Since the servers went down and in order to get them back working again, EA & Maxis made the decision to disable some parts of the game. EA’s servers fail and their solution is to take game features away because their own always online servers cant handle process requests. These features have not been returned to the game.
  • Amazon suspended sales of the game for a period during the initial release as too many customers were complaining they could not connect. Amazon has sense removed the warning but reviews for the game continue to hover around 1.5 stars out of 5 with over 2000 reviewers.
  • The actual simulation is very broken. The path-finding system for the ‘sims’ is improving with some updates being pushed out already but there are still oddities being reported: Fire trucks can’t find fires, students can’t find schools. Traffic unable to recalculate based on fastest mode vs shortest mode. These issues have all be squashed in SC4 with community mods.
  • EA/Maxis have not been terribly honest during this entire build up and launch of the new title – misled customers about how the ‘sims’ are counted, misled about the ability for play offline, misled about the ability for 3rd party mods to the game. Ocean Quigley, lead developer of the game, was quoted saying mods would be allowed. Reality, EA will ban you from Origin for any user mods found on your game. User mods are what keep Simcity popular and so contemporary. Removing them changes one of the fundamentals of what made SC4 so successful, sharing and extending the game and creating new buildings, modes of transportation and regions. It’s their product, I realize, but in doing so they are alienating a very large, passionate and vocal audience of Simcity fans.
  • Their PR campaign continues to baffle and generally seems to just cause more problems. Yesterday, Maxis SVP, Lucy Bradshaw, explained that SimCity is really more of an MMO.
The game we launched is only the beginning for us – it’s not final and it never will be. In many ways, we built an MMO.

So is it a strategy/simulation game or an MMO? If it is an MMO, why wasn’t this better facilitated to the customers and fan base before release? Again, just bizarre handling of a very prized brand and product. Why are they so unclear as to what game they are making? It would make sense to me to know firmly what type of game you are making, at least from a PR perspective. Lucy, had previously said Maxis/EA had a vision for the game and single player didn’t fit in that vision. So they know very well who they want playing but they have no clue what you will be playing. That sounds like a great plan to me.

Simcity is one of those games that will far out last the individuals who first conceived it or put the first parts of the simulation together. It is a timeless classic of the video gaming industry. Seeing the game and the release handled as it is, is both sad and disappointing. EA and Maxis have let a lot of the community down. Most of what EA and Maxis say now comes with very little credibility even if they were to fix many of the problems. How can you believe them? As more information about the game and the decisions EA and Maxis have made trickle out, it becomes very clear that most of the decisions being made for the release of this game were driven financially.

As an avid fan and player of Simcity, none of these items are really deal breakers for me. I could deal with the always-online, if it worked, and the community features. It makes sense moving forward with the game. I can get behind the Great Works projects that require multiple cities to cooperate to complete. Im ok with poor path-finding and being misled about certain features within the game. These can all be updated and fixed. What I cannot get over and what continues to prevent me from even entertaining this game, is how EA and Maxis have treated us, the customers, like absolutely morons and continue to do so. The game itself treats the users as if they aren’t capable of handling the stressful decision of where to start your city or where zones might go or how the roads might interact with the building forms. No, all of that is predefined. The game, as it stands, does not reflect the level of intelligence that had previously be required to play. Their PR campaign is just as bad, delivering double speak and non answers to nearly all the tough questions. It’s insulting to be treated like this but even more shameful for Maxis to continue to parade around like everything is fantastic with SimCity. Reddit user, maretard, sums it up nicely

This is the first time I’ve felt like some prick has just sold me a bag of shit after seriously trying to convince me it was caviar. And after everyone in town confronts him, he starts his explanation off with, “Sorry for interrupting you guys from eating your caviar.” It is just fucking infuriating, and makes me want to punch that prick in the face and go, “NO ONE BELIEVES IT’S FUCKING CAVIAR.”

What originally drew me to this game was its deep deep complexity. The nuance of changing this road or that road, adding an elevated rail, moving a port and seeing how those choices all effect a massive region. Now, you are given an area 1/10 of size we previously had and told you can play during this time and with these predefined sets and must only save the game on the Maxis server. Thanks but no thanks. I play Simcity 4 almost daily. I still revel in the choices Im able to make and the consequences of those choices. That seems to have been removed in favor of making EA’s shareholders more money.

It did take SC4 a handful of years to get it’s act together. It wasn’t until the Rush Hour update that really kicked up the SC4 quality to what we have today. Maybe we can expect a great turn of events in the future for EA and Maxis. Maybe they see some of their errors and change things for the better. Ill just keep playing Simcity 4 while we wait.