Archive for January, 2017

2017 Eclipse Parties

There’s a big astronomical event this year and the Astronomy Picture of the Day for 1/31/2017 features the solar eclipse.

Are you planning to see the American Eclipse on August 21? A few hours after sunrise, a rare total eclipse of the Sun will be visible along a narrow path across the USA. Those only near the path will see a partial eclipse. Although some Americans live right in path of totality, surely many more will be able to get there after a well-planned drive. One problem with eclipses, though, is that clouds sometimes get in the way. To increase yourclear-viewing odds, you might consult the featured map and find a convenient destination with a historically low chance (more blue) of thick clouds overhead during totality. Given the large fraction of Americans carrying camera-equipped smartphones, this American Eclipse may turn out to be the most photographed event in the history of the world.

It might be an idea to plan a jaunt up to Idaho or Oregon this summer to see day turn into night for a few moments.

Update: Roadtreking gathering.

Now’s the time to reserve your spot for our Roadtreking Total Eclipse Boondocking Gathering Aug. 18-22, just south-east of Prairie City in Oregon, almost directly on the centerline of this magnificent event.

Eastern Oregon offers some of the best chances for a clear, cloudless sky, and Prairie City is about as close to the centerline as you can get when the total eclipse occurs at 10: 24 AM on August 21st..

Comments off

Cellphones, Email and the new avenues for the old game

It has become ever less expensive to reach out to others. Email and telephone are now nearly free and the robots can roll through telephone numbers and address lists with ease. That means the scammers have a wide field to play in. You aren’t even safe out in the boonies any more as cell phone coverage spreads and remote state parks start to feature Wifi.

Katherine Rodriguez describes one: ‘Can You Hear Me?’ Phone Scam Has Police Warning People to Hang Up Immediately.

Police say answering the question “Can you hear me?” over the phone from an unknown caller can have serious consequences thanks to a new scam that is making the rounds in several states.

“You say ‘yes,’ it gets recorded and they say that you have agreed to something,” Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy for the Consumer Federation of America, told CBS News. “I know that people think it’s impolite to hang up, but it’s a good strategy.”

Police suggest taking the following steps to avoid this scam:

Do not answer the phone from numbers you do not recognize,
Do not give out personal information,
Do not confirm your number over the phone,
Do not answer questions over the phone.

Police urge those who do get caught in a scam to hang up the phone and call 911 instead.

I am not so sure about calling 911 as non-emergency (not threatening life or property) calls should go to the routine dispatch number but 911 is easier to remember.

Here’s the Federal Trade Commission page on phone scams. A search for Washoe County Sheriff scam report finds don’t be a victim.

Anyone who has been a victim of this scam, or who receives such a call, is encouraged to take down as much information as possible, such as a name and call back number, without giving any information away. Then, immediately contact the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office at (775) 328-3001.

Verizon has a rundown on What are Robocalls?

Robocalls are phone calls with prerecorded messages. These calls have increased in recent years because technology has made it cheap and easy for robocallers to make calls from anywhere in the world while hiding their identities by displaying fake Caller ID information. To Learn More visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

All calls with prerecorded telemarketing sales messages are illegal unless you agreed to be called. Some non-marketing robocalls (such as political and charitable calls to wireline telephones) are authorized by law in most states, even if they are unwanted.

Senior fraud seems to be a particular concern with special laws. Nevada Consumer Affairs says

Older Americans are targeted for fraud because they are the mostly likely demographic to have money in savings, own their home, and have excellent credit… all of which a fraudster will attempt to take advantage of. Also, seniors are less likely to report fraud.

The Nevada Senior Guide also has Tips for Staying Safe As a Senior Citizen by Mark Mahaffey.

the elderly grew up during decades when it was proper to be polite and trusting. This makes them less likely to be rude during a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting with a con artist. The con artist will keep pushing, and the elderly victim may just ‘give in.’

Financial crimes are devastating for anyone, but especially so for senior citizens. They not only feel afraid, but may begin to question their own ability to handle their own affairs. For an aging person already trying to hold on to independence as long as possible, this can be emotionally terrifying.

On the other hand, sometimes the effort to protect the elderly goes a bit too far. A neighbor got in trouble like this once in caring for his mother as a physician reported a bruise from a fall as potential abuse. For an explanation of the law, see Nevada “Elder Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation & Isolation” Laws (NRS 200.5099) (Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys)

It is a crime in Nevada to abuse, neglect, financially exploit, abandon or isolate the elderly. Certainly it is illegal to harm people of any age, but Nevada law carries harsher penalties for targeting “older persons.”

Caretakers and family members are often wrongfully accused of abusing elderly people in Nevada. These false allegations may stem from simple misunderstandings, innocent accidents or legitimate self-defense. But a conviction carries devastating penalties and mars the accuseds’ records, causing prospective employers not to consider them for jobs.

It’s a wide world out there and there are people from kids playing with fire to bone fide experienced criminals trying every door and window to find an opportunity for mischief.

Take Care.

Comments off

Refilling the disposable propane bottles

The small disposable propane bottles are useful for catalytic heaters, camp stoves, lanterns, and other portable propane powered camp equipment. They are a much more expensive way to get propane compared to the big tanks on your RV feeding the built in appliances. That is why there is a lot of interest about ways to refill the small disposable bottles. WheeliePete has a YouTube video, NO Pre-Chilling! FULLY Refill a 1lb Propane Bottle (Avoid 600%+ Markup on Propane) Coleman, that is one of the better of its type. 

Do take his caveats and precautions to heart. These range from potential legal issues to the general hazards of doing things with combustible gases under pressure.

Comments off

Traffic Controls and Unintended Consequences

There’s been a lot of emphasis put on distracted driving recently and most of it is a PC thing. More laws don’t necessarily mean more safety and speed laws have be a topic here to illustrate that. A PhysOrg report by Michelle Wheeler on a study that Strictly enforcing the speed limit may make drivers worse that brings these two driving problems together.

A UWA study found strict enforcement of the speed limit could be bad for road safety by making drivers focus on their speed rather than hazards.

It found people who drove under the stricter conditions were less likely to spot red dots that appeared in their peripheral vision. They also reported a higher mental workload.

Lead researcher, Dr Vanessa Bowden, says … “We came to the conclusion that [monitoring speed] is eating up their limited pool of visual and mental resources a little bit and taking their attention perhaps a bit away from the task of safe driving.”

“It’s what we want to do next with this, is see if it actually translates into more accidents,” Vanessa says.

This is reflected in the MUTCD (manual of uniform traffic control devices) published by the U.S. DOT. It says “When a speed limit within a speed zone is posted, it should be within 5 mph of the 85th-percentile speed of free-flowing traffic.” [guidance # 11]. Implicit here is that most drivers drive at a safe speed and they should not be subject to traffic restrictions that will distract them from the primary responsibility to drive safely.

In the section on Engineering Speed Limits, there is another item of note.

In terms of traffic law, speed limits should reflect the maximum reasonable and safe speed for normal conditions. That is speed limits should be acceptable as reasonable by most drivers and separate high and low risk speed behavior.

This acknowledges a social aspect of law. Those subject to the law must see it as ‘reasonable’ and with a proper purpose else they lose respect for the law and its enforcement. Speed enforcement often violates these concepts and the distracted driving laws are following suit. This is not good for either safety nor for law enforcement. Putting up a new law is easy. Finding a solution to poor driving habits and judgments is difficult. Conflict between law and good driving are destructive. Better solutions need to be found.

Comments off

Traffic Camera Citation Story

Adam MacLeod is an associate professor at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and author of Property and Practical Reason (Cambridge University Press). He got a ticket because a camera took a picture of his car. He tells his story: That Time I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into the Constitutional Trial of the Century.

Traffic-camera laws seem like such minor, insignificant intrusions on liberty that few grasp their constitutional significance. But they reflect a profoundly mistaken view of American constitutionalism. One might say that the traffic camera is a sign of our times. Its widespread use and acceptance reveals how far we have drifted from our fundamental commitment to self-government. When our governing officials dismiss due process as mere semantics, when they exercise powers they don’t have and ignore duties they actually bear, and when we let them get away with it, we have ceased to be our own rulers.

When a cop admits to perjury on the witness stand, you know there is problem with the legal process. It is the “minor, insignificant intrusions on liberty” that flavor civil discourse and government effectiveness.

Think of this and the implications of the folks who decided to take the Dog Valley detour out of Verdi when I80 closed over the pass in the recent storm. There are all sorts of ways to get stuck in mud when driving.

Comments off

Rules of the road and complications

Gery Witzenburg at AutoBlog asks Is modern traffic enforcement all about dollars instead of safety? — “We’re going with a strong yes.”

So wherever you live and drive, watch out for all types of revenue-driven enforcement and report any you see to the NMA, which keeps an excellent nationwide database. The authorities will never publicly admit it – just as they routinely deny the existence of ticket quotas or that ticket counts are key factors in evaluating and comparing individual officers’ job performances – but it is clearly happening nearly everywhere as states, counties, cities and towns continue to rely on ticket revenue for their operating budgets.

That is why you should use a radar/laser detector (legal in the U.S. except in Virginia and Washington, D.C.) and invest time and energy to contest every ticket, whether or not you think it’s deserved. If you give in and compliantly pay up on one minor ticket today without a fight, the next one will likely drive your insurance premiums way up for a period of years. Multiple studies have shown, by the way, that radar detector usage actually reduces accidents because their users invariably slow and look around whenever the devices sound off.

From a lifetime of study and observation, I long ago concluded that traffic enforcement in the U.S. has become mostly about revenue, very little about safety anymore. From aggressive enforcement of unreasonably low speed limits to speed and red-light cameras and unreasonably high fines, what evidence is there otherwise?

This is part of a larger phenomena that impacts where you can go and where you can park in your RV among a lot of other lifestyle decisions and choices. The enforcement that can be witnessed, as illustrated in Witzenburg’s opinion, also tends to denigrate law enforcement. The social pressures that do exist corrupt law enforcement efforts. The push to ‘do something, do anything’ along with the pushback from people unjustly caught in the mayhem tends to excess enforcement of simple measures like speed and inhibited measures of more important and harder to objectively measure behavior.

Comments off

SNU Newsletter January 2017

SNU Folks,

Happy New Year!

The January 2017 Newsletter has been posted — Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can also be found there.

Topics in the January newsletter: January Lunch -|- Holiday Luncheon Review -|- 2016 Highlights -|- Whats in a Name -|- The MBCU caravans -|- 2008 Railroad Museum -|- 1975 Welcome letter

January Luncheon in Sparks: The first SNU luncheon for 2017 will be at Carolina Kitchen in Spark off North McCarran on Glendale – 950 Glendale Ave . The date is Saturday January 28, 2017 at 11:30 am. To RSVP Contact the SNU via phone: 775 972 9392 or Email: hq@sierranevadaairstreams.org.

Keep Informed about the SNU

— 

SNU HQ

Comments off

Travel Geology

The GPS Tracklog notes: New GPS App Shows Geological Points of Interest Along Route.

This app, created by the University of Minnesota Department of Earth Sciences and funded by the National Science Foundation, allows users to download a track and then use GPS to learn about interesting geological and fossil sites on a hike, road trip, or even flight.

The home website is http://fc.umn.edu/ and the app is available for both Android and for Apple. Here’s their blurb:

Flyover Country is a National Science Foundation funded offline mobile app for geoscience outreach and data discovery. The app exposes interactive geologic maps from Macrostrat.org, fossil localities from Neotomadb.org and Paleobiodb.org, core sample localities from LacCore.org, Wikipedia articles, offline base maps, and the user’s current GPS determined location, altitude, speed, and heading. The app analyzes a given flight path and caches relevant map data and points of interest (POI), and displays these data during the flight, without in flight wifi. By downloading only the data relevant to a particular flightpath, cache sizes remain reasonable, allowing for a robust experience without an internet connection.

From the list of sources, the app is quite a mash-up. It will be interesting to see how it works and whether budding amateur geologists can get a batter handle on the country they travel.

See also GeoSpace: Flyover Country—The next generation field-based research toolLake County News Chronicle WKS graduate creates smartphone app.

Comments off