Sunday, March 01, 2015

Parking & Abandoned Vehicles

A gal living near Carson Park made the following complaint/ comment on the Eureka Nextdoor Neighorhood e-mail list:

"I am extremely frustrated at the moment. I know our police force does a good job. However, the fact that we have so many crime riddled neighborhoods, ours specifically , and yet a vehicle that hasn't been moved in 3 days received ticket 2 times in one week? Now, I get it. I know there are rules about unregistered vehicles on the roadway. However, I live on the corner of F and dollison and I don't feel that the Hyundai Santa Fe that our son parked there require so much policing. The fact of the matter is, we are doing everything we can to get this immobile unregistered vehicle off of our corner..."

She went on some more after that. My first comment was I wasn't sure what the problem was. As it turns out, sounds like the vehicle is unregistered and immobile. Didn't catch that the first time, but I still wonder what the problem is. How hard can it be to move a vehicle onto your own property where you don't have to worry about it being tagged?

I haven't seen her particular location, so maybe they can't just push it into their garage or driveway. I wonder though, if it's that big a problem, if they should even bother trying to keep the vehicle? It's neither working or registered and the owner seems to be a son who is out of state. Maybe they should just have the vehicle hauled to John's Auto Wreckers out on Jacob's Avenue?

For some reason some people just won't let cars go. I can't help but wonder if this is one of those cases. I've seen it time and again in Eureka. Cars just sitting there, sometimes for years, when there's no reasonable expectation of the car being driven again.

I know of one car that's been sitting in a carport for over 23 years. I know that because I used to work there and the car was there- albeit looking better than it is now- way back then. Now, there it sits and looks yucky, but it's in her carport so nothing can be done in the normal course of things.

Bumped into another car in a driveway not too far from that car. An old station wagon that had obviously been there for some time. Long enough that the windows had so much mold and mildew on them you couldn't see inside the car. Flat tires, the whole nine yards you get with abandoned cars. This was in the lady's driveway so, again, not much can be done. I was so grossed out by the car I didn't even bother giving the lady a bid on the job I was there to check out.

This happens all the time and I'm not sure why people insist on hanging on to cars like that. In the case of the gal who complained on that e-mail list, my suggestion to her was to let EPD haul it off for free. If you haven't even the wherewithal to pay $10 for a non- operation fee, is the car really worth the hassle to you?

As far as cars parked on private property as I cited above, I'm not sure what to think. I'm sure you could get the city to take action. Joel Mielke wrote something about the city charter not allowing things that could endanger property values. I suppose that's good, but I don't like bothering people over how they run their own affairs.

I was wondering if some of these cars could be disposed of by simply asking the people who own them if they'd have any objection to the car being hauled off at no charge? About the only problem with that is I hate everyone else having to pay for the car owner's lack of personal responsibility. But, we might be surprised at how many people would jump at an offer like that, and maybe even more surprised at the number that refuse. 

It still might be worth a try.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Humboldt Bay Power Plant, Unit 3

Both the Times- Standard and Lost Coast Outpost have stories on the guy who was fired from Humboldt Bay Power Plant decades ago and went on to write a book about it. I used to work there but never knew the guy. He was there some time before I was. One of the guys I worked with told me of the guy leaving the plant one day and saying he'd been fired.

The pic to the left is a radiation warning sign I still have today. I didn't steal it. They'd fall down from the fence on occasion and workers would just put up new signs. I was standing by them one time as they were reattaching signs, picked up the fallen one and asked if I could have it. They just shrugged their shoulders so I took the sign home with me. About the only souvenir I have of HBPP.

The picture below is from Wikipedia. Not the best as the Unit 3 barber pole stack had been taken down. The two stacks on the left are of Units 1&2. Those were crude oil units, but I believe they could also be run on natural gas. Unit 3 was to the right of them. It was the nuclear unit. Folks who have lived here a while will remember the tall smokestack with the "barber pole" design on it.

I actually got to see and stand right next to a nuclear fuel rod once. I'd thought I'd touched one but thinking about it some more, it was Ron Chance that touched it. Sounds hairy, doesn't it, except it really wasn't.

Gate 13 was on the east side of Unit 3. Whenever any gates were opened, we had to have security folks guarding it, so I was sent to stand there. One of the workers was there just inside the gate- the radiation area, except not much, if any, radiation was right there. He had white booties over his shoes to protect against contamination and a open crate on the ground. 

He'd reach down, pull a rod out of the crate and wipe it down carefully with a white rag. Then he'd test the rag with a dosimeter to see if there was any contamination. He explained they were fuel rods that hadn't been used. Kinda freaky, as even us guards were susceptible to all the hype about how dangerous nuke fuel rods were. 

Another  guard, Ron Chance, asked if he could touch one. The worker said it would be ok so Ron ran his finger down a short section of the rod. Wow! We were kinda stoked. Standing there right next to nuclear fuel rods. There were maybe 10 or 12 of them in the crate. The worker explained they were worth 1 or 2 million dollars each and were being sent back the General Electric since the nuclear unit was being closed.

What did they look like? About six feet long and maybe an inch in diameter. They were made out of clear, hard plastic, as best I could tell. You could see through them. About every six to eight inches down the length of them, there was a cylindrical gray pellet about 3/4 to an inch log. The ends had pointed metal tips on them meant to clip into the actual reactor assembly. Pretty neat.

Why weren't they super radioactive? One of the nuke engineer guys said they need to react with each other to get the nuclear thing going. After they do that for a while they do get real hot, both literally and figuratively. I'm still not sure I get that. After all, they were sitting next to each other in the crate. Weren't they reacting then, but the guy cleaning up the rods didn't seem concerned. Aside from wearing booties over his shoes and gloves on his hands, he was only wearing street clothes the whole time.

I worked there as a security guard from something like '79 to '88. Around '88 was when they laid most of us off because of the nuclear unit being decommissioned. I was fifth in seniority and could have stayed on as the relief guy- covering for other guards when the were off- but opted not to. I passed that torch on to Bob "bobdog" Shaw, the guy below me in seniority. Some of the folks I worked with are still working there to this day.

Friday, February 27, 2015

CFL Bulb Fire Hazard?

A Facebook Friend posted mention from someone who said one of those compact fluorescent bulbs almost started a house fire. That's good to know and I was going to post something here to warn about that. Then I got to thinking that I'd never heard of a fire caused by a CFL lightbulb and would think I would have read of such a thing if it was common.

Did a quick search and the first hit was from Snopes. Apparently this is one of those internet hoaxes that are partly true. The bulbs can get discolored when they go out (none of ours have) but that's normal because of the way they're designed. Here's the link to the Snopes entry if interested. 

BTW; CFL bulbs are considered hazardous wasted which means you're not supposed to throw them in the trash. I was pleased to find out City Garbage takes the first 8 (or 10?) of them for free at their West Hawthorne Street recycling center.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ISIS Stuff

Not something I'd normally comment on here, but I found this piece from Vox pretty interesting. It seems to be from people in- the- know about the situation in the middle east. They say ISIS isn't doing well, isn't expected to do any better, and might well be losing. Easy reading with some interesting maps.

Boycott Google

Leaving aside the net neutrality issue, more troubling info on the internet front: Google is planning on restricting access to blogger sites it deems as having "explicit adult content". I guess porn sites is one way to refer to them, but according to this article it might involve more than what many of us consider porn.

Those blogger sites won't be deleted, or so it's believed at this point. You'll just have to "follow" those blogs to be able to view them, and there's some talk of those blogs being removed from search engines. We don't need that.

I don't do much porn anymore, but I find it troubling when any company tries to restrict content on the web. I suppose I should say it's a private company so they should be able to run things as they see fit, but they're just too big. And you have to ask: What will they try to restrict next?

No, I'm not asking for government intervention. About the only thing I can think of doing is to boycott Google, but how do you do that?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Telegraph: Neat Paper

I've enjoyed reading articles from the British newspaper, The Telegraph, for some time now. Just recently I started getting all kinds of stuff from them on my Facebook feed. Don't remember subscribing to that feed but no problem. Just about every article seems interesting and I'd follow the links to read them. 

Until the other day when I clicked on one of their stories only to see a message that I'd used up my ten free views for the month. I had no idea they were, or had turned into, a pay site. Bummer. Great stories and I don't want to ration them as I do stories from the L.A. Times. Six pounds per month to subscribe. Isn't that $12.00 U.S., or more? Too expensive for me.

Addendum: Currently a pound is equal to 1.55 dollars so a monthly subscription would be a bit over $9.50.

Traffic Anarchy= Safer Roads?

I wrote here back in 2009 about a plan in Drachten, Holland to remove all traffic control measures in the city of 50,000. It was a traffic engineer's idea to make streets safer. I wondered how that idea had worked. The National Motorist's Association reports it worked well, reporting that traffic accident's went down after they put the idea to practice.

"Der Speigel noted in 2006 that the number of accidents in Drachten 'declined dramatically' after the open traffic design was implemented. Other European cities similarly minimized their traffic control systems with positive results."

I'm still leery of the idea but, when you think about it, many of the traffic "calming" measures we've taken in the U.S. do the same sort of thing. Those concrete and brick islands they've put up in the middle of at least a couple streets in Eureka seem to me more of a hazard than anything else, and I do pay special attention to them. The same could be said of claims made over the street tree program.

But we can't just let the roads be hazardous by themselves, can we? We have to physically create obstacles to make them more hazardous.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My Second Enterprise Adventure

We rented another car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car over the weekend for yet another trip to UCSF. I'd called them weeks earlier to make a reservation but couldn't remember if I was supposed to show up there at 1 or 2 o'clock on Saturday. Not that I think it matters much. As it was, I called them anyway to tell them I'd be in around 2pm. They didn't seem to care.

I went down Saturday around 2pm and give them my credit card and driver's license info. Quick enough. Then the gal says to just wait a bit while they get my car ready. Their car clean up guy was sitting at the back of the office. He got up, went out to the lot, got in a car and pulled it up next to the building where they do the clean ups.

I was a bit disappointed with the car he picked. A Toyota Camry(?). Not sure, but a little bigger than I'd prefer. I'd mentioned when I made the reservation I wanted an "economy car", but knew they pretty much just gave whatever car was available. This one was smaller than the last one we rented- a Chrysler 200- but still bigger than I would have liked.

What really confused me was why they waited until I showed up to get the car ready? I would think the way to do it would be to immediately clean it up after it's returned to get it ready for the next job. Why wait until someone shows up to get it ready? 

No biggie. I'm easy and, as it turned out, that got me a better car.

So the gal at the desk goes out with the guy for ten minutes or so and there I sit when another car drives up and pulls in behind "my" car. It was a smaller Toyota Corrolla. I thought to myself I'd really prefer that one, but I didn't say anything. 

The girl driving it happened to be one of the employees apparently having taken the car somewhere for some reason. Perhaps to take a customer home? 

After about 15 minutes the girl I was dealing with comes back in and asks me to come out with her to inspect the vehicle. They record any damage, gas level and all that stuff so there's no disagreement over the condition of the car. Much to my surprise, the car the other girl drove in is backed up in front of the office and "my" girl hops inside, starts the car and records mileage, gas level and such. Cool! I get the one I wanted. She gave me the key and I drove the car home.

Maybe they thought that car wasn't going to be back in time so went ahead and started getting the other one ready? Still, I would think it would be good operating procedure to get the cars ready to go back out as soon as they're returned from rental. Oh well. I was happy at that point.

The Car

Now I had to figure out all the unique operating stuff in the car. The newer cars are a bit confusing to me. One of the first things I noticed about this car was the same as many newer cars: the view out the rear window is wanting, at best. With the back of the car higher than the front, and the back window not every wide or tall, it's really hard to get a good view out the back. I don't like that at all.

I also hate this thing with newer cars where only the front driver's side door accepts a key. This one was just like the last in that regard. I also don't like the doors locking automatically when you start the engine, but maybe that's just me (my work truck does that). So, two things I'm not comfortable with but I also know that's just the way things are nowadays. Best get used to it.

When I got home I started looking at the dashboard. I couldn't see any way to open the trunk, although there was a button on the key that had a symbol for opening the trunk. That worked.

When we loaded up the next morning I suggested to the wife we're not going anywhere until we know how to open the hatch to the gas cap. I'd actually looked at the manual briefly but the type was too small for me to read easily. I asked Connie to grab the manual to see if she could find out how to open the gas latch.

She found it quickly, along with the location for the button to open the trunk from inside the car. Both were next to each other on the floor to the left of the driver's seat. Good to go. After loading, we left. As I backed up that LED screen, or whatever you call it, in the middle of the dashboard showed the rear view via one of those cameras on the back of the car. Hmmm??? Kinda neat, but I'm not sure I trust that camera view.

Now we have to figure out how everything else works.

First order was the air and air conditioning. I don't usually need A/C but I do like having the air on to make it fresh and cool. There was some button on the dash with a fan symbol on it. Pressed that but nothing happened. Pressed it again and again. Came on too strong then lowered as I fiddled with it. I wasn't sure what I was doing but somehow stumbled on getting it just the way I wanted.

Then the radio. We found the channel we wanted. Then we got on the freeway and I tried to figure out how cruise control worked. Pressed some buttons on the left side of the steering wheel and the radio got all screwed up. Ok, that's not it. Another one of those radio controls on the steering wheel, just as on the last car we rented. I wasn't interested in figuring that out yet. I told Connie she had to figure out how to get the radio back to normal using the controls on the dash. 

She starts fiddling with the radio. Can't figure it out and ends up saying, "How do you do this?". I tell her rather abruptly if I knew how to do it I would have done it myself(!!!). That's her job and she's got five and a half hours to figure it out. Shortly after that she got the right channel back. Later on we kinda figured how to do it pretty well, but I'm not gonna bother with the controls on the steering wheel.

I finally found the cruise controls on the steering column but couldn't quite figure out how they worked. Somehow I managed to get it to hold on my desired speed, but I wasn't sure how I did it. I stayed on cruise control for an hour or so before turning it off due to traffic. I wasn't quite sure how I turned it off, either. 

A few more hours down the road and I finally figured it out. You press the button on the end of the control. That starts the speed tracking. When you get the right speed figured you just tap the control rod down and it locks your speed in. There's a light on the speedometer that says SET when you've got it right.

I also noticed a green light on the tachometer that would light up and say "ECO". I figured that was the thing someone here mentioned earlier that tells you when you're using the right gas vs speed ratio. Kinda neat, but I'm not sure what practical application there is for it. It would be near impossible to train yourself to always keep that light on. You drive according to conditions, not the light.

Mileage wise it's hard to say just how well we did but we left with 3/4 of a tank and used only a quarter of it by the time we made Willits. Only $19 plus change, but hard to say how much had to do with lower gas prices vs. good mileage. Plus, we filled the tank, so put more gas in than we used. Still, a quarter tank to get to Willits was pretty nice. 

Coming back north, we refilled at Brown's in Willits. Forget how much gas we got as their stupid pump wouldn't print the receipt, but I figured we made it down on a quarter tank. We should make it back on a quarter, too. Nope. Actually a bit more than a quarter since the tank fills up beyond full on the gauge. 

I was surprised it went down as far as it did, but I realized something I never noticed before: from at least Piercy on northward, you seem to drive a lot more uphill. Anyone else ever notice that? First time I did. As it was I can't complain as we got home with about the same amount of gas in the tank, perhaps a hair more, than was in the tank when I picked it up. Pretty cool.

Overall, I was pretty happy with that car. Drove well. Cornered well and handled hills very well. I wouldn't mind having one, depending on the price. I'm guessing next time I rent a car from Enterprise I'll probably be wasting my time asking for that particular car again? I'll still ask.

Norman's Dry Cleaners Being Demolished

I just found out via the Nextdoor Neighborhood e-mail list that Norman's Dry Cleaners- in Henderson Center for as long as I can remember- is going to be demolished. Apparently the fire department is going to use it for fire training before it's torn down. Anybody know if it's going to be rebuilt, or just gone forever?

Many have noticed the chain link fence that was put around Norman's some time ago. I'd heard that was in preparation for digging up a bunch of underground chemicals or something along that line. I didn't realize they were planning on tearing the building down.

As an aside, I noticed the chain link fences and excavation being done at the Henderson Center Patriot gas station for a few days. I thought maybe that place might be out of business for some time, too, but after a couple of days they're back in business. I guess it won't be the same with Norman's.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Another Wannabee Martian

The Sacramento Bee has a story on yet another finalist in the Mars One project. This gal is from Folsom. Another explanation of why someone wants to go that I don't get. There is a little more info on the project in this story than the last.

Speaking of Mars, you space buffs may want to get a copy of James Oberg's Mission To Mars. Published in the 80s by a NASA guy, it tells the thinking of the time on how they'd send people to Mars and what they'd do when they get there. I read it back then and was fascinated. I've read that despite being an older book, the thinking behind Mars exploration hasn't changed much.