Wrangling high speed trains

This summer, the California High Speed Rail Authority proposed putting its high speed trains through Alhambra, the suburb close to downtown L.A. where my family and I temporarily landed. The I-10 freeway runs through the city with 12 lanes (6 lanes each way) and a commuter train line down the center of the freeway. Despite such a wide transportation corridor, the Rail Authority had the gall to propose a route along but outside the footprint of the freeway. Such a route would require homes to be seized and people evicted. Unlike other areas near freeways, Alhambra and its neighboring cities are not blighted nor ghettos. Moreover, a route down the center of the freeway on the commuter tracks would force the Rail Authority to build on an elevated platform from 35-50 feet high. Worse yet, the Rail Authority is rushing its environmental study process through despite having plenty of time on its side. It currently intends to finish its environmental reviews in 2014 but not begin construction until 2020, the earliest. By rushing, it is predetermining the I-10 freeway as the route selected.

I am showing my opposition the only way I know how. I created a web site where I am tracking the project and providing analysis about the route, focusing on the things the Rail Authority is leaving out of its presentations. http://www.alhambra123.org/ I am also organizing my community so that it is informed, can learn more about the project, and voice concerns now before it is too late.

The upside to Google Books

Knowledge sharing is a foundation to a strong society and economy. For that reason, I think it is very impressive and wonderful that libraries and companies have teamed up to share books digitally.* For example, while researching the philosophical underpinnings of public trust in our democracy, I stumbled across Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Volume 2, hosted by Google Books. His Democracy in America series is a classic work and important for its early study of American democracy and society.

The book is also available in ebook format and other digital formats at a number of different web sites.

All digital formats have their pluses and minuses. Including book scans is wonderful because it is generally more readable than plain text formatting and does not require a specialized machine that costs $100 or more. Of course, I prefer paper to digital books but the downside to paper is the inability to quickly and easily search. 🙂

* Note, I am talking specifically about books in the public domain, and to some extent orphaned works. Despite the obvious flaws to our copyright system, copyrights are valuable to society to encourage and reward creativity.


After a long hiatus, I’m back to updating this blog and doing the social network thing (although still a tad less frequent than before).

Sweet Dreams

Me: Good night, sweet dreams. What will you dream of tonight?
Casimir: Lay see

Lay see are the red envelopes given as gifts by Chinese folks. Other words are hong bao (literally red envelope). Cas prefers the envelope to its contents (for now;-).

Like Water For Spectrum

You can now download the paper I wrote for a Mass Communications class I took during the fall semester (also with a more practical title): Water Law Principles Applied to Spectrum Opportunities for Wireless Rural Broadband (PDF — 37 pages – with links) (Google Docs – without links).

In the paper, I recommend that the FCC utilize principles from water law to open up radio spectrum to encourage mobile/wireless broadband in rural areas.

From the introduction:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order, [the White Spaces Order], in November 2008 to free up  unused radio spectrum in the television frequency band for unlicensed use by low power devices. A  goal of the order is to help lower the costs of entry to potential wireless broadband providers by making more spectrum available for free to businesses and consumers.

One shortcoming in relation to rural users is the order’s failure to address backhaul between a rural  community and backbone networks. Frequencies in the television spectrum that are the focus of the  White Spaces Order do not lend themselves well to point to point communication necessary for longer  distance backhaul from a community to a backbone connection point. Without access to spectrum for  backhaul, rural communities will be forced to rely on other alternatives such as more expensive fiber cables. As such, the Commission will need to provide spectrum that is better suited for backhaul required for viable and economic high speed Internet services in rural communities. To that end, I suggest that the Commission apply three modified principles of water law that: 1) require spectrum use  be beneficial and reasonable; 2) require the licensee to actually use the spectrum and not hold a license  for speculative purposes; and 3) provide for equivalent replacement of a communications signal.

Applying these principles will free up unused and underutilized spectrum for more productive purposes including point to point backhaul connections.

Continue reading: Water Law Principles Applied to Spectrum Opportunities for Wireless Rural Broadband (PDF — 37 pages – with links) (Google Docs – without links).

Catching up

I’ve been a bit too pre-occupied over the past few months to post anything. I am likely to post a few belated posts over the next few days and weeks to fill in the blanks and because they are still timely. 🙂

I finished up my last semester in December and now have a Juris Doctor degree. Or, at least that’s what my unofficial transcript says and the State Bar believes (it let me sit for the bar exam). 🙂

As much as I intended to enjoy myself for a few weeks after the bar exam, colds/flus/other have kept us all sick and miserably inside. This after promising the following to be our theme for the few weeks after the exam. 🙁

Regardless of what happens next, I intend to be the change I wish to see in the world. 🙂

When the lights go out in the city

GeoCities closes down today. I am marking the day the only way I know how — with an animated gif.

In reality, GeoCities should have been shuttered years ago. It was neglected for so long most people forgot it still existed.

Musical Coffee Shop Chairs

I find it amazing that everyone appears to have a favorite seat at coffee shops. This afternoon, I took a small table with a lone blue metal folding chair. I bypassed the blue chair. Instead, I got permission from a man at the next table to take a well worn but small, comfortable high back chair. Immediately after I sat down, but before I could get out my computer, another man came for that metal folding chair. He chose that blue chair over other closer empty chairs. And in the background, others swapped out the inferior (in their minds) for more desirable chairs.

My next move will be to claim the table from the man who let me take this chair. I think his chair is more comfortable, too. 😉

Sansa: Blue Ring of Death

My Sansa e280 player seemingly died a few weeks ago. It suffered from the dreaded “blue ring of death” – when the screen is black and the blue control ring is lit. I was mad. I still am mad. I was given no warning.

It took hours of head banging and research to troubleshoot, find the cause, and fix it. So if you find yourself with the blue ring of death then do the following:

  1. Get yourself on a computer running linux. It is free and its windows versions operate like a cross between Mac OSX (a linux distribution) and Microsoft Windows. I find it is just as stable as Windows but with a better price tag (free) and just as much software (also free). I currently use the Ubuntu flavor of linux -  http://www.ubuntu.com/ It is not hard to install yourself.
  2. Open a terminal and run these two commands:
    1. sudo lsusb
    2. sleep 10 && dmesg |tail
  3. If your computer recognizes your Sansa then you likely have a software problem. In which case, those commands will return lines that mention Sansa. A good place to start is http://fixmysansa.blogspot.com/ and the Rockbox forums (search for “blue ring death”). You will likely need to set the sansa to manufacturing mode.
  4. If your computer does not recognize your Sansa, those commands will not return a line that says ‘Sansa.’ In which case, unscrew the cover over the battery compartment and press down on the little black rubber nub just above the battery. Behind the rubber nub is the flash memory chip. For some reason or another, the flash memory module may disconnect itself from the Sansa. See: http://forums.rockbox.org/index.php?topic=21908.msg151537#msg151537
  5. If you don’t have either of those problems post your issue to the Rockbox forums. It seems people are always willing to help. Paste as much detail as you can including the output from the two linux commands above.

For me, pushing the little rubber nub fixed my sansa e280. Its memory chip apparently became dislodged.

BTW: It can get worse. I busted the lcd screen yesterday; now it is an expensive flash drive. 🙁

UPDATE: I spoke too soon. My player still works, even with a broken LCD screen. I installed the Rockbox voice file and presto, whamo, voila! It works again, albeit without any visual menus. The voice option is provided as an accessiblity feature so blind and other sight impaired users can use an MP3 player running Rockbox. Surprisingly, Sansa’s OEM firmware does not provide screen reader or voice capabilities thus shutting out a large, potential market. Next, I’ll need to take some time to disconnect the lcd so it stops draining power. Maybe I’ll even get another few off eBay for a few dollars apiece for backup and to give away.