Millionaires Demand more money from the poor!

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 8:45 pm by Tomas

OK, the subject line is a bit over the top, but hear me out before you object too loudly.

Professional basketball, a consortuim of billion-dollar private businesses with million dollar employees going under the name of the NBA is at it again. (See THIS PREVIOUS POST for the last time they got my attention.)

I’m not a fan of the freaks in short pants, but when they again come begging ME for money from my fixed income to help pay for a playhouse for excessively tall multi-millionaires, they get my attention.

Very recently the NBA (National Basketball Association) Commissioner, David J. Stern, took us to task for not breaking our butts to pay for the Seattle SuperSonics getting a new place to play at public expense.

Here’s a brief news story about that:

PHOENIX – NBA commissioner David Stern warned on Thursday that if the SuperSonics leave Seattle he sees no way the league would ever return to the city.

“I’d love to find a way to keep the team there,” he said, “because if the team moves, there’s not going to be another team there, not in any conceivable future plan that I could envision, and that would be too bad.”

At a news conference following his announcement that the 2009 all-star game would be held in Phoenix, Stern criticized the city of Seattle and the Washington legislature for its handling of the issue of funding a replacement for Key Arena.

Stern repeated earlier criticism of the mayor and city council for promoting a measure, overwhelmingly passed by voters, that requires any funds to help build an arena earn money at the same rate as a treasury bill.

That measure simply means there is no way city money would ever be used on an arena project, Stern said.

He also lamented that the state legislature refused to even consider continuing a tax that helped fund Seattle’s baseball and football stadiums.

“To have the speaker of the House say well, they just spend too much money on salaries anyway, so we need it for other things,” Stern said, casts aspersions on the whole league’s operations. “We get the message. Hopefully, maybe cooler heads will prevail.”

He was referring to a remark by House Speaker Frank Chopp last February when funding for a new arena in the Seattle suburb of Renton was proposed.

“They ought to get their own financial house in order when their payroll is over $50 million for, what is it, 10 players? I think that’s a little ridiculous,” Chopp said at the time. “They need to get their own financial house in order and if they did, they wouldn’t have to ask for public help.”

Here is the very short letter I wrote to the NBA:


The subject choices for these messages gave me a starting point: Business of the NBA.

Recently Mr. David Stern commented about my state’s legislature not allowing additional taxes from the citizens of the state to help support a billion dollar enterprise with millionaire employees.

First off, it is NOT the “Business of the NBA” how our legislature taxes the citizens of the state, and definitely not Mr. Stern’s business.

As one of the folks who would suffer additional taxes to help support a private business composed of millionaires, I would be more than happy to let Mr. Stern assume all responsibility for the taxes he wishes the state legislature to impose on my limited fixed disability income, and in turn he can have any and all interest I have in seeing the Sonics or any other NBA team.

If the team can afford to pay multi-million dollar salaries to individual players, they can certainly afford, much more than I can, to pay their own costs for a place to play. Don’t ask ME to pay for it.

Mr. Stern: Go away, and please take the Sonics with you…

(And remember, guys, you all signed a CONTRACT with the city the LAST time we put together a place for you to play at public expense. That contract requires you to play in that place until a certain date. That date isn’t here yet. Suck it up, guys, act responsibly, and play out your contract where you said you would, the way you said you would. After all, that’s what let you suck money out of our pockets LAST time…)



My faithful Sanyo 4930

Posted in Personal Topics, SprintPCS at 3:37 pm by Tomas

My previous post was about my moving on to new service with Sprint PCS, coupled with two nice new phones. While I do like the new phones and service, it leaves me with yet two more perfectly functioning cellphones that I no longer use.

I should say left me with two more, because one of those old phones, my old Sanyo 4930, has now moved on to a user in Ohio. 🙂

A few weeks after my changeover to my new phones/service I noticed a post on a Sprint users’ forum from a person who had broken their 4930 and was looking for a replacement.

I contacted that person and offered my perfectly working 4930 for the cost of shipping it to him.

He accepted, and I shipped it to him Priority Mail for $7.50…

Now I need to see, I guess, if I can find good homes for my other four Sprint PCS phones. I hate to see them junked, because they are some of the best basic phones ever on the Sprint PCS system, and there is nothing wrong with them.

I may keep one as an “emergency backup” should one of my current phones go bad, but that still leaves the others.

Maybe I’ll make a “Free To Good Home” sign for my “signature” on that Sprint Users site…



Cellular Update…

Posted in Personal Topics, SprintPCS at 3:14 pm by Tomas

I’ve had a cellphone since I first started engineering the cellphone network’s interface into the landline network back in ’84. That first cellphone was a black 3 watt Motorola portable the size, shape and weight of a car battery.

Since that time I’ve had many other, different, cellphones, including the new ones I just got earlier this week.

My current service is with Sprint PCS (has been for the past decade) and I’m pleased with the service technically, but like most Sprint customers I dread contacting Customer Service for many reasons.

Anyway, about these new phones…

The prior phones on my account were a ruggedized Sanyo 4930 for myself and a metallic pink (!) Sanyo 200 for my mother. Both were fairly basic phones with excellent battery life, outstanding speakerphones, and excellent fringe area ability. Both could also browse the internet and swap SMS and e-mail messages, although I didn’t use those “non-phone” features – mostly because of excessive cost and lack of need.

Recently I learned of a ‘special offer’ for ‘new activations only’ that for the same price I was paying for minimal voice-only service with Sprint would provide me with twice the monthly minutes, evening and weekend unlimited time starting two hours earlier, full unlimited internet, full unlimited text messaging, free roaming, free long-distance, and a few other goodies.

Of course existing customer’s lines were not eligible for this offer.

So, since I purposely haven’t been ‘under contract’ to Sprint PCS for nearly a year, I decided to order two new lines with two new (free) phones under the special offer and terminate my old service with Sprint (no termination charges) after they arrived and activated.

I also added “Sprint Navigation” (TeleNav.com) to one of the new lines/phones, since it has a full autonomous GPS built in.

The new phones are a red Samsung M300 for my mother and a Sanyo SCP-7050 (mil-spec, ruggedized) for myself.

This week I’ve been playing with the GPS features on my new phone at every opportunity (right now I’m at N 47 12’10” by W 122 32’7″ and going 0 MPH).

The combination of the GPS knowing where it is and communicating with the navigation server to present maps, turn-by-turn instructions, traffic alerts and re-routes, all on a real-time basis, is fascinating. I went to at least two places I’d never been before with no problem, and was re-routed around a mess on I-5 once so far.

Having this little black thing clipped to my car’s dashboard, showing my route and announcing over it’s speaker each action I need to take is actually as useful as it is interesting.

Oh! It also has a “pedestrian mode” that I haven’t even sampled yet. Be interesting to see how it handles getting someone from place to place walking.

While in the car, the phone is of course running from the car’s electrical power and charging it’s battery, but while hand-held, even though it has very good battery life, I have the “extended battery” on it’s way, whuch should boost it’s “talk time” from 4.5 hours to 7.5 hours.

I suspect I will be writing more about this newfangled gadget as I play with it more.

‘Nuff for now,



Sometimes even with the best of intentions…

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion, World at 7:11 pm by Tomas

UPDATE 11OCT07: Just this morning the Regional Office of this manufacturer sent out an e-mail to those registered that they have arranged for parking 500 to 750 feet away from the dock. While this is good news, it is very late (two days before the event) and still rather distant. I wish everyone going on the cruise a wonderful time!

UPDATE 26SEP07: Since first posting this I have canceled my reservation for the cruise due to lack of adequate accomodation. 🙁


A manufacturer that I greatly respect and am very pleased with, has annual “Owner Appreciation” events around the United States that are free events to any and all current owners of their product. There certainly is no requirement that they do this, and the fact that they do it anyway is greatly appreciated.

Over the past three years I’ve attended these events, and greatly enjoyed them, and expressed my thanks – in fact the last local annual event I even worked the ‘entry’ position for a few hours directing hundreds of vehicles to proper parking areas and answering questions (didn’t get so much as a T-shirt).

Even with the best of intentions, though, some parts of the planning consistently slip through the cracks in these events (and others sponsored by the same corporation).

In six of the events sponsored by this corporation that I have had some part in, accessibility for handicapped individuals has been sadly lacking, and usually completely ignored, until they are sometimes rather pointedly reminded of the ADA and associated laws and regulations. http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/cguide.htm

Some examples…

Two segments of a Seattle event for about 400 people took place about a half mile apart, with no planning for the needs of the mobility impaired in getting from one area to the other, then back to the first where their vehicles were parked. That same event had one pair of tiny restrooms about 300-400 feet from the center of the first area.*

Next year, parking was provided for the mobility impaired at both event areas, and there were many more restrooms provided at the first area – still 300-400 feet from the center of the area (admittedly a contractor error).

Another Seattle area event actually had handicapped parking – 700 feet from the door…

It is understandable that the able bodied don’t recognize the difficulties faced by the handicapped, and can easily overlook their needs. HOWEVER, when they are repeatedly reminded beforehand of the need to have accommodations for the handicapped and still fail to respond to those needs, it becomes obvious there is a deep systemic problem.

Another series of events is planned this year, and once again, during the early planning stages and many times thereafter, reminders that not everyone is hale and hearty were repeatedly sounded.

Again, little to no actual consideration for the needs of those with handicaps actually made it into the final plan.

The event this year is a dinner-boat cruise in the Seattle’s harbor and nearby Puget Sound. The boat itself actually has some accessible areas, but parking is an unplanned, ill-considered nightmare.

Attendees are told that the tour company has no parking, and that they will have to find either someplace on the waterfront streets to park, or perhaps find a parking lot or garage within a few blocks (one block is anywhere from 300 to 600 feet).

When the tour company was contacted directly for assistance/suggestions, here was the e-mail exchange:

From: Tom
To: Sales Inquiries
Subject: Accessibility


What arrangements are available for handicapped parking for a ‘customer appreciation’ brunch cruise (already scheduled) on the Royal Argosy? Can you provide directions to your closest handicapped parking?


Hello Tom,

There is no Argosy Cruises designated parking, handicapped or otherwise. There is public meter parking available across the street from Pier 56 on Alaskan Way that is free on Sundays. To the best of my knowledge, there aren’t any designated handicapped spaces. If you require special accomodations, you may arrange to drop off handicapped individuals in front of the Pier 56 building and then park the car elsewhere. There is a 15 minute load and unload lane on the west side (water side) of the street.

If you have further questions, please call Argosy Cruises at (206) 623-1445 and ask for Guest Services.

Argosy Cruises
Guest Services

Thanks for the quick response!

The problem with “drop off handicapped individuals in front of the Pier 56 building and then park the car elsewhere” is when the DRIVER is handicapped, and arriving solo.

I’ll refer this on to the folks doing the event planning for this 400 person bash, and see what plans they have for ADA compliance for the event.

Thanks again,

As is evident, this one also fell through the cracks.

Here is a portion of my inquiry to the event sponsors (in addition to including my exchange with the tour operator):

For Portland, the parking is obvious and easy, in a lot right near the dock (this includes handicapped parking right near the ramp, per the cruise operator).

In Seattle the parking is more complex. On street if possible, or remotely located open lots – in the waterfront area… Per the tour operator, they know of no assured close-by parking and no handicapped parking. Not only are some folks leery of parking [customized vehicles] on the street or even in unsecured lots in that area, but those with mobility limitations (there are a few) have no assurances they can get close to the dock. Some guidance and hints on where to park and what arrangements need to be made would be helpful.

As the time for the cruise approaches, with no reasonable solutions forthcoming, I will probably simply cancel my reservation.


* One of the typical requirements for getting a handicapped parking placard or license plate from the state is that the person has great difficulty walking 200 feet… See: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.16.381



Posted in Personal Topics, Scion, Site Comments at 12:28 pm by Tomas

I just realized that I changed the image at the top of my blog from a B-52 on takeoff to Mt. St. Helens without mentioning it.

Recently a group of Scion owners here in the Pacific Northwest gathered for a “cruise” to the Mt. St. Helens observation center on Johnston Ridge, followed by an excellent BBQ and potluck picnic at Seaquest Park on our way back to civilization.

A fine time was had by all, and many quite excellent pictures were taken. I even took some pics.

One of those pictures I took was a panoramic view of St. Helens, a small version of which now graces the top of my blog.

Hope you enjoy it.



Tandoori Spiced Chicken with Veggies and Noodles

Posted in Personal Topics at 7:00 pm by Tomas

DSCF0417.JPG, originally uploaded by uuv_one (Tomas).

A friend has finally talked me into getting set up on Flickr.com (even though it is a Yahoo! property), so I figured I should try out all the little kinks and swirls they offer…

One of the things they offer is automated links to the images I have on Flickr.

Above is just a pic of my dinner tonight – Tandoori spiced wok chicken with veggies and noodles. There are actually pics of me preparing that meal over on my Flickr pages.

Now I get to see how this all works. I know as little about what to expect as do you…



More thoughts on the Scion xB2

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion at 11:52 am by Tomas

I first got to see the new Scion xB2 back in December at a private unveiling. Recently I got to learn a lot more about it and to drive it. No question, I was impressed with the handling, braking, quietness, smoothness and power of the new xB2. I believe the engineers and designers have come up with a real winner.

I’m a Scion xB owner. The OLD xB. One of those small, very boxy, City Cars built by Toyota.

Scion xB outline

If I were buying a vehicle specifically for highway travel, it would probably not have bought the box. I specifically bought a “City Car” or “Urban Utility Vehicle” that was superb in such use (tiny, nimble, roomy, easy access, excellent visibility, economical, inexpensive, practical). Less than 5% of my driving is outside the city environment, and I bought a vehicle to match my needs and desires.

The new xB2, while it seems an excellent vehicle, and is designed as closely as possible to match the wants of those unhappy with the original xB (Scion followed very closely the answers they got to the question “What should we change?”), is not really a “City Car” but a step in the evolution toward a more “universal” middle-America car – longer, lower, wider, more power, heavier, quieter, more shiny knobs and flashing lights.

The new design actually is a good one – I’m personally impressed how well it answers the suggestions of those who didn’t care for features of the original xB, and had different needs. I’m also impressed with what one gets for the money. The vehicle is a bargain. But please don’t think that it is a little “City Car” in the same class as the original xB, it is not. It is a tC station wagon, a step toward a fancy, funky, fun, family function vehicle for young Middle America.

I don’t dislike the new xB2, it is an excellent design specifically aimed at a closely targeted market segment, and it will meet their needs and be popular with them. What I do “dislike” is there is a vehicle that is missing – one not being sold here – a replacement for the super practical, unapologetically square, City Car. 🙁

I’m a city dweller. My vehicles are used primarily on city streets. When I needed to go off road I had Land Cruisers, Jeeps, and a lone Ford Explorer. When I needed to cruise the highways I had Volvos, Plymouths, Chevy’s, and one misplaced Porsche.

NO vehicle can be the best at everything – there is no combination Ferarri/Peterbuilt/Lincoln/Jeep/Prius that can go like a nimble bat-out-of-Hell, carry massive loads, cruise the highways in superb comfort and quiet, and cross a mountain range without a road, all while getting amazing gas mileage. All vehicles are compromises.

Each of those compromise vehicles have a very narrow range of things they are designed to do excellently, and a wider range of things they can do if necessary. The compromises in the new xB2 are different than the compromises in the old xB, and that is not a bad thing, it is just a slight shift in focus.

The new xB2 blends in with the rest of the cars on the American landscape better than the original xB. Its compromises are different, and it is more able to meet the average US uses. It isn’t as narrowly focused. Maybe it was felt that the original xB was too “different,” and the line needed to be refocused so the folks in Podunk wouldn’t complain that it wasn’t comfortable for the weekly 75 mile drive to Wal-Mart.

The new xB2 doesn’t do the “City Car” routine as well as the original, but it can still do it. The new xB2 does, however, match the ‘wide open spaces’ of America better.

I’m sure that the new xB2 would be a lot nicer on my drives to Montana, but my old original does the job just fine, since those long drives are less than 1% of my time in it, in the average year. The other 99% of the time, my xB Classic is in it’s “comfort zone” and is doing just exactly what it is designed to do.

The xB2 is a very nice vehicle to drive, quiet, smooth, powerful, excellent handling, reasonable visibility, etc. It just doesn’t fit the City Car niche as well as the xB Classic…

xB and xB2 side-by-side

It will sell well. 🙂

Tiny Tom icon


The little red xA is back in service

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion at 2:46 pm by Tomas

Got the little Salsa Red Pearl 2006.5 Scion xA back from Lakes Autobody on Thursday.

When we went to pick her up, there was a little bit of light overspray on the front bumper, but about 30 seconds of work took care of that.

Detailed inspection of the work leaves me rather amazed. Even knowing what areas were worked on, I actually couldn’t find any clues that would indicate there had been bodywork other than the slight mist of overspray on the front bumper and a bit of the OEM sealant that had held the rearmost sidewindow to the body before it was cut to remove the window.

A quick polish of the bumper and throwing away the bit of sealant laying in the back, and the little critter looks like new.

An amazingly well done job.

Thanks, Randy!



Off to the body shop…

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion at 2:39 pm by Tomas

Red xA side view j p g

Well, the little red Scion xA went into the shop today to have some minor paint and body damage on the passenger side fixed up. Sometime while she was parked, something battered both passenger side doors, scratching the paint, leaving dents, and in the lower front corner of the front door, bending the metal enough to crack the paint. 🙁

The shop she’s in is Lakes Autobody on Steilacoom Blvd. in Lakewood.

They were recommended, and the detail description they gave of what they will do to repair the xA fully described doing the job correctly.

With luck all will be back in good shape by the end of the week.

Hope so, at least.



A continuation and clarification of the City Car discussion

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion at 4:18 am by Tomas

To continue the discussion begun in my last post, one of the other folks commenting at an enthusiast’s site has direct contact with some of the officials at Scion. She communicated to them the basics of my thoughts about their abandoning the “City Car” niche in the United States. The reply from those Scion folks was that the Scion xD was the model that was directly carrying forward the City Car idea, and would replace the xB Classic in that niche. This is the xD:


and this is the xB Classic it is allegedly “replacing” in the “City Car” niche:


Note especially in these views the tremendous difference in the rear hatch sizes, and the height of the cargo and passenger areas. The vehicles are similar in length and width.

I responded to the idea that the xD would fill the niche vacated by the xB Classic as follows:

Well, that’s nice, but the “space efficiency” of the xD is NOT the same as the space efficiency of the xB Classic: The rear hatch and load space are much more limiting than on the xB Classic. The xD is a very nice compact hatchback, but there is NOT any way it is as easy to load, nor can it handle the bulky items that the xB swallows without complaint.

Also, the driver/passenger access is much poorer on the xD. Yet another crouch-to-enter small car.

(And can anyone imagine trying to do a wheelchair conversion similar to the Braun Rampvan conversion of the xB on the xD? That is one very clear, very solid example of the difference in usable interior space on a similar footprint.)

xB rampvan

I repeat, “There is nothing on the current US market from any manufacturer with the same space efficiency as the now discontinued Scion xB. Nothing. There are no equivalent City Cars available here.”

Thanks for asking them, though, I guess they don’t understand what a magnificent design the xB Classic was for usable space in a tiny vehicle, and in turn do NOT understand that they have abandoned that niche and those customers. 🙁


Another commenter said

Tom think of it this way, IMO…for anyone to espouse that the “car they want next” is even “heard” by a manufacturer sets you apart from 99.0% of the rest of the planet….you folk have an impact on what comes next. As much as you’d like to deny it….scionlife can dictate model changes….they may just be model changes you functionally fixated folk have a tough time swallowing.

My response:

No, I fully understand that the “new xB” is a direct result of the designers paying very close attention to all the folks who were pleading with Scion to change specific things about the xB Classic. It is absolutely amazing how closely they followed their vociferous customer’s “demands.”

What may have fallen through the cracks, though, or at least fell below the threshold of being actively noticed, is the even larger group who DIDN’T demand those changes – those who were essentially saying by their silence that the now discontinued Scion vehicles were very appreciated and met their needs and desires.

If *I* were to have been asked what changes I would like to see in the xB Classic, mine would have been very simple and direct: Cruise control, side airbags, and slightly more substantial front and rear pieces that could withstand having another car gently bumping or brushing against them in parallel parking – without damage.

I’m one of the silent ones who did NOT find fault with the original, because 99 and 44/100ths percent of it fully met my needs and desires.

I wouldn’t be one to say don’t innovate – innovation is one of Scion’s strong points, innovation and taking chances.

I fully believe that the new xB2 station wagon will be a strong seller, and will have an avid following: It is a well designed, well put together vehicle specifically designed to answer to the customer’s desires. Same for the new xD.

Neither one, however, is a continuation of the City Car theme first introduced to this country with the Scion xB Classic. Tiny car, tiny engine, massive interior space, sophisticated simplicity (minimalism), and undeniably form-follows-function VERY MUCH OVER form-follows-fashion.

Yes, the xD, for example, may have been intended to be a follow-on design for the City Car theme, but each and every extra curve and flowing line added, subtracts from the utility and usability of the vehicle in the City Car functions.

Rounded sides, top, rear, and hatch opening? Reduction in usable interior space, even with the same size exterior. A one foot cube holds MUCH more than a one foot sphere even though both take the same size storage niche (parking space).

Exterior curves placed solely for styling tend to make doors and other panels thicker, thereby also increasing the difference between usable interior space and required exterior space.

The real beauty of the xB Classic was that the required exterior space was essentially the usable interior space plus only mechanical and safety required space. No corners trimmed off for looks and lost to utility.

The original xB was a brutally unapologetic, efficient vehicle, and sophisticated well beyond what most can appreciate. There are a lot of very subtle things going on inside those flat panels that make it a pleasing and reliable little box on wheels.

The xB2 is the redesign of that concept up into a totally different class of vehicle, to meet the expressed desires of the loudest 10 percent of those who either bought the box and found it wanting, or who refused to buy the box and said why. I doubt the silent 90 percent wanted their beloved boxes to morph into tC station wagons.

I wish the xB2 buyers all the best, and feel confident that they will be getting a very fine vehicle priced way below what it could be. I’m sure that Scion will listen to them also, as their vehicle matures and changes. The xB3 will reflect the changes the dissatisfied xB2 owners demand. 🙂

Scion is doing an amazing job of listening and changing, in this instance it may be their customers who failed. 🙁 Only those with complaints seem to have said anything at all. Either from a lack of belief that anything we said would count, or simple apathy, the rest of us were silent. For whatever reason the (I believe) majority who appreciated their beloved boxes for what they were, didn’t make ourselves known.

It could be HOW the questions were asked: The questions were always “What should we change?” or “What would you change?” The questions never seemed to be “What under NO circumstances should be changed?” 🙁

Always the focus was “What did we get wrong?” never “What did we get right?”

What happened was that 95% of those things ostensibly “wrong” were corrected in the new design, which is absolutely fantastic! 😀 Thing is, it also meant some of the really great things they got right were lost. 🙁

The xB2 and xD look to be great cars, and should propel Scion forward. Sadly, those of us who MOST liked and appreciated the earlier xB design for what it was no longer have a home. There is no follow-on vehicle that does for us what the box does. That makes me sad. 🙁


And yet another voice was heard:

Tomas, you stated it all. I think after this next 3 year run hopefully people will realize what they lost in the xB classic (and yes everyone should start calling it that).

I think like minded folks like us know what was so great about the idea of the car, the aesthetics aside. I absolutely love the xB classic and I have since I first saw it. Unfortunately for me there was never an opportune time for me to get one. I missed out on a car based on the idea of a ‘City Car’ in every sense of the word.

It was the first time I saw the American car companies “wake up” to what was practical in the rest of the world. I thought this car would start a revolution not only in design but in the idea of what cars in America could be. I am so utterly let down by Scion’s decision to drop the City Car from their line-up.

The new 2008 Scion models look to be great cars at excellent price points. Add in the quality of the design, construction, and customer care, and they will be excellent choices for those whose needs they meet.

For those with serious UUV (Urban Utility Vehicle) “City Car” needs, one can only hope that a true replacement for the earlier Scion xB Classic appears.

TOMAS sig with xB

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »