The Demise Of The ‘Service Station’

I went to the Dulaney Valley Road Hess Station to get gas and because it’s the only place. I know of with free air in the area.

Now I reckon high gas prices come with the territory. But it bothers me as much, if not more that most gas stations no longer offer air and if they do it’s a half-dollar or more.

This is done in the face of evidence that many drivers have underinflated tires out on the road. It seems that if the nation was serious about maintaining road safety we’d focus on keeping service stations with some service in them.

Roundabouts

Apparently, the U.S. Is increasing the usage of roundabouts according reportage heard on NPR. I’ve always liked them–no arbitrary light timing, etc., not to mention they are reported minimize certain types of crashes (intersections, etc.) but there are at least two problems with them: Americans’ inability to merge or yield. Watching the start of an incident-free F1 race shows me that people can proceed at least a little faster without bashing into one another.

Argonne Drive Repair Makes Me Question If The City’s Left Hand Knows What The Right Is Doing.

Independently, I don’t frown on road repair, but I can’t help but think about the scene in the Soprano’s when Tony’s crew scored the trucking contract and the road repair contract, then laughed to themselves about how overloading the trucks will lead to sooner than average road repairs, thereby fleecing the fictitious New Jersey town.

Not that this is a wholesale fleecing. But the Baltimore DOT is less than responsive to neighborhood concerns. Some years back, on behalf of the neighborhood we asked for a traffic study because Argonne Drive (a 25mph residential street) had a seemingly high amount of accidents and presumably speeding. Not to mention signs indicate that it has weight restrictions which don’t seem to be enforced. We never had a tactile response despite their claims to respond in 180 days maximum. The did put a speed “indicator” – no telling if you went through it at, say, 70 whether there were any repercussions.

Couple those problems with the oft-written about sewer line problems in Baltimore City. From what I read, the sewer lines break apart piece by piece and the city is keeping up with them (or trying to) as they break. Argonne Drive’s broke last year in spectacular fashion (in places).

The pipes presumably were rebuilt, tearing up street that had been repaved in recent memory. With the potholes that inevitably spring as the seasons re-warm, I have to wonder at the re-paving without DOT’s completion/publication of a traffic study, enforcement of speeding or overweight restrictions, the ensuing lack of traffic controls, the presumably continuing sewer problems (we keep thinking they are done), the high water table issue on Westview which leads to a stream that runs to the sewers after lots of rainfull, and the logic of repaving the road before the winter, it all leaves me wondering whether there is an understanding of the overall situation.

I mean, leave the street in the post-sewer line fix and at least it’s not like you’re spending good money after bad and those doing fifty in a twenty-five pay the “suspension tax” when they hit the bumps or tell me where I can get in on the action.

Selected Reasons For Avoiding an iPhone

As much as I like Apple and its products, ever since I realized how easy it was to change font sizes and make my papers seem longer way back in school – when writing class assigned page minimums as a surrogate for making a point, I won’t be getting an iPhone. Here’s why:

1. Simply too expensive. It’s just a category killer for me to walk around with a phone over a 2-spot. Once I went on a bike ride and got caught in 45 minute rainstorm. Phone was dead … Painful, but not a mortal situation.

2. I’m trying to spend less time on the net: a decent enough phone can do that. Conversation with my dad today about where former Ravens backup Troy Smith is: (ten seconds and I had an answer: Omaha Nighthawks!?). Having conversations where Che king the net is necessary like I’m in a presidential debate alters if not mars the state of conversation, not that I’m wistful, it’s just not that necessary.

… anything more and it’s more like having a device that needs cherishing like, perhaps, an iPad.

3. While I’ve done the phone upgrade thing in the past, never again for me. I went to the bank the other day, and they gave me complications and I had the freedom to just end the relationship right there on the spot. Powerful place to be: like being the swing vote on the Supreme Court. Well, not exactly. The people I the cell contract are the weakest group.

4. The iPod is just as good if not better (price) … (& if they can’t support Bluetooth tethering, then I can wait and if i can’t, I’ll jailbreak the iPod on my current non-iPhone service).

5. The issues with being an early adopter…

6. Insurance on a phone? Remember the days when you bought a phone and it lasted twenty years? The phone at my grandma’s might be older than me. Once the phones got small and powerful, it takes a lot for me to like them even more.

7. Compatibility should be the next frontier and with all those guys suing one another and no two connectors being compatible, building an entire OS is the only way to build them when compatibility should be the way to go… To the degree this pits Google against Apple: Game on. Until the dust settles there some, buying the latest phone means buying a whole lot more than just the phone.

I learned this when I bought a Nike/Philips mp3 player back in 2000. The player was nice and compact but the software was clunky on a Mac and this translated into a great player on a bad system. Apple solved this with the iTunes/iPod integration not only on Mac but surprisingly enough, on PC. Great design, a wide open market & the rest history.

8. I prefer to zag.

9. Open source the phone OS, so it can be “pimped” how I like it… Not possible? Right….

10. Change the paradigm of cell phone service in the States making the plans less punitive and more valuable to the loyal customer … Not possible? Right…

Baltimore Grand Prix Seemed To Go Well…

It was good to see the Baltimore Grand Prix go off pretty well. Kudos to the development group and the racers of all the classes. Even the political leadership needs some thanks on this score, since the jockeying politicians have angled to forecast the event’s downfall, which seemingly did not come. Baltimore’s tourism goals combined IndyCar’s path to legitimacy generally create a decent marriage of convenience for both sides despite protestations of natives, so to see it go well is good.

Couple things on that score: it’s not the worst weekend to host a race and not expensive as a formula 1 grand prix.

Having IndyCar in Baltimore is like having a Monaco Grand Prix on a budget. But F1 is a beast of a different sort with demands on countries and venues that seem near criminal: google the ordeal surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix where Ecclestone is happy enough to work with the dictatorial regimes to put together an event, because the money was on the table despite the human rights concerns, but judge for yourself.

Anyway, $5m in road repairs is nothing compared to the $25m Austin had to put down just to guarantee the next year’s F1 race. (Light Street looked terrible, though — it’s bad enough in a road car). But like Tony Kanaan said: that’s what they get paid for… and he’s right.

Second, the city is strategically located for a number of sponsors who needed an East Coast venue. Baltimore’s current draw of tourists was a good bet (having worked on a number of tourism brochures research shows Baltimore to be a strong “drive-to” venue.)

Also, Baltimore’s looking to increase it’s name value while IndyCar’s still trying to rebuild American open-wheel racing as it resurrects itself from insolvency less than ten years ago.

Seemingly, having lost its helm of legitimacy as the fiercest series behind F1, the series is still in the early stages of developing a must-watch option.

Recent defections of people like Jacques Villneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya from F1 to Nascar spell the stability and emergence of the oval-dominated series.

A new venue and the prospect of new fans does have the potential to bode well for both the city and IndyCar, as well as the emerging American Le Mans Series.