Red Light Traffic Cameras: Safety or Profit? (and why Sen. John Carona is a hero)

Dallas recently started a red light traffic camera program. Owners of offending vehicles get a $75 citation that’s like a parking ticket:

In other words, it’s a moneymaker. Dallas’s 2005-06 budget indicates $19,757,102 came from “municipal court” fines, which excludes vehicle towing and storage, parking, and library late book fines. It’s likely that the vast majority of this $19.7 million figure comes from traffic fines. Dallas expects this fine revenue to increase 60% once the red light camera program goes online. Wow!

My state senator, John Carona, introduced a bill forcing cities to send all profits to state coffers.

This is ingenious for three reasons.

First, all funds go to a state account that compensates for uncovered emergency room bills. Basically, red light violators are collectively paying for the injuries they cause.

Second, why must cities profit from traffic enforcement? How much does a city haul in when prosecuting a burglar? (Try nothing!) So shouldn’t traffic safety be about, gasp, safety?

Third, cities are still allowed to retain enough to pay for the camera program–as long as it doesn’t exceed 50% of the ticket revenue. Sounds fair to me!

Predictably, cities are upset about this legislation.

WordPress’s Mediocre Image Support

I’m unimpressed with WordPress’s image support.

With my old DasBlog blog, I authored my posts with FrontPage. Not only did this give me a rich editor, photo management was a snap. I could resize and adjust images that I dragged and dropped into the blog post without external tools. Transferring the blog post into DasBlog was simple.

I can’t find anything similar in WordPress. Despite many image plugins, image management is a stupid, cumbersome, multi-step process.

The best option appears to be integration with Gallery2 with the WPG2 and Gallery Image Chooser plugins. However, even this option has drawbacks:

  • No resize. Gallery2 is limited to a fixed-size thumbnail and the full-sized image. There is apparently nothing in between, and wait, there’s less! The thumbnail size is fixed for all images across the entire Gallery2 application. That is, there is only one thumbnail image size setting. Rumor has it that the next Gallery2 version, which was supposed to be out 4 months ago but isn’t even in release candidate yet, will have midsize image support. But even then, unless the midsize image is supported through URL parameters, I’ll probably have to wait for WPG2 and Gallery Image Chooser updates to use it.
  • No auto caption. Sure would be great if captions in Gallery2 could automatically and dynamically transfer to WordPress. This may need to be a WPG2 feature. Maybe I can hack this feature?
  • No image adjustment. FrontPage’s basic image adjustment tools were great. I could change the brightness and contrast on the fly and resample the image at will. No such luck with Gallery2.
  • No clipart. With FrontPage, I had access to a decent amount of royalty-free clipart. I have virtually no instant access to any clipart with this setup.

It looks like I am stuck fully finishing my photos on my PC with an image editor and then uploading them through the WordPress interface or dumping them into Gallery2.

Argh.

I may whine like a petulant twit, but this image handling problem is a barrier to to quick, casual posts with images. An image is worth a thousand words. That’s why I believe that the better blogs are full of helpful images. WordPress’s image support is a major shortcoming.

I still feel that I did the right thing getting off DasBlog, however. It’s a dead product, and there are almost no run-it-yourself Web 2.0 applications for Microsoft platforms.

I have a follow up post about my dishwasher coming soon. These image hassles have gotten in the way.

Welcome to my new blog

Ladies and germs, I am now on WordPress.

I tired of DasBlog‘s slow updates, poor features, and futziness. It got old.

This is a major change for a Microsoft fanboy like me. WordPress is totally non-Microsoft: runs on PHP, uses mySQL, and works best on Linux systems. Argh. Now I’ll have to figure out PHP. phpMyAdmin rocks. Linux still sucks, but since this is hosted, I don’t have to administer Linux directly.

I tried finding other reliable, mainstream, Microsoft-centric blog systems. The only realistic alternative is Community Server, and it’s way too complicated for a single blog.

We’ll see how this goes. I am still experimenting, so please be patient.

I was able to get most my old posts into this system. It’s way too much work to get the comments over here, so those will have to be lost.

I am not sold on this theme. Email me if you have any better ideas.

Bad installation instructions on Home Depot’s universal dishwasher connection

(Skip to the very bottom if you want the instructions on how to use this hose.)

I finally have a new dishwasher installed (more details later). Thanks to instruction defects on Home Depot’s GE Universal 6′ Dishwasher Connector, the installation was significantly lengthened.

The first of these hoses leaked out of both ends:

This is what the end looked like when I was done with it:

I returned it as defective and got another one. The second one also leaked:

…out both ends!

Notice that this time, I used Teflon. Didn’t help.

What is going on? I double checked the instructions:

…and couldn’t find where I went wrong.

Note how the instructions say “DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN.” What in tarnation does that mean? Thanks for being so helpful and specific, GE!

Here’s what I did:

  1. Hand tightened.
  2. Wrench tightened until the nut doesn’t back off after I remove the wrench. Before that point, the nut would back itself up about 1/32 to 1/16 turn when I left off the wrench.
  3. Turned on the water.
  4. Watched both fittings leak.
  5. Throw tools around the room and curse Home Depot and GE.
  6. Storm around the house in a rage, pulling out my hair and banging my head on light switches and doorknobs.
  7. Tightened each fitting about 1/8 – 1/4 turn at a time until the leak stopped. Except neither leak stopped, leading to…
  8. Eventually bottomed out each fitting to where I couldn’t tighten any more.

I didn’t think I was overtightening in step 2, but I’m sure that it was way overtightened by step 8.

Back at Home Depot the third time, I asked the resident certified plumber what I was doing wrong. He said I need to get it pretty tight. (Gee, thanks, hadn’t that method failed me twice already)

Doing the same wrong thing over and over again is insanity, so I thought I would try a new tactic this time. I followed the same instructions that came with some faucet hookups: hand tighten, then turn a wrench an additional quarter turn.

Hand tightening got difficult because the 3/8″ fitting fit had smooth sides and fit in a 5/8″ wrench. But I did it that way on both ends, and it held! And didn’t leak!

Here is the under-sink fitting:

…and the under-dishwasher connection:

My gentle readers may wonder, “Aren, don’t you feel guilty returning a product that you screwed up?”

No. This is a product defect. Part of a product is its instructions. The fancy packaging clearly denotes this as a DIY-oriented product. Therefore, the instructions should be appropriate for DIY types like me who have never done this before. Simply stating “DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN” when you really mean “hand tighten and then wrench tighten an additional quarter turn” is a gross defect in the instructions.

Another part of the product is the design. There is no need for the flat edges on the nut to engage the wrench. If the nut had been enlarged and equipped with a grippable surface, then no wrenches would be needed at all. Human strength would be able to provide enough torque.

DIY people are used to fittings where you need to crank them reasonably tightly. Almost all copper fittings are that way, almost all metal-to-metal fittings in a car are that way (except for Vortec intake manifold bolts when you use the plastic manifolds!), etc. Home Depot should have done a better job of policing its products, especially for one that’s 50% more than the equivalent at Lowe’s.