L.A. Police Want to Censor Our Waze

Waze reveals police presence on many highways.
Waze reveals police presence on many highways.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has stepped in it – big time.  Beck sent a letter to Google vehemently objecting to its cellphone app, Waze, which routes drivers to and from various destinations in real time via GPS.

What upsets Beck is a particular feature warning drivers of police presence on the highway, causing traffic to slow down and react cautiously.  Waze also warns drivers of objects on the road, lane closures, vehicles stopped on shoulders, as well as fog and rain.

What’s the problem?  Does he intend to give Waze free publicity?  When I worked back East as a professional driver for a limousine service, Waze turned out to be a godsend.  Many times, it would instantly reroute me away from traffic jams whenever a time-saving detour could be found.  Another advantage: it accurately advised me what lane to move into before an unexpected mind-altering exit.  And when you plug in a street address, pinpoint navigation guides you whenever a business destination is located inside a shopping center.

Beck lives in a West Coast vacuum.  He has no clue that back East, police cruisers are routinely stationed in a visible location to serve as a traffic-calming ploy.  And once Google acquired Waze for $966 million in 2013, its Google maps application improved.

Beck doesn’t want to give up his cause célèbre easily.  He points out that the alleged assassin of two policemen in New York City had a screenshot of the Waze app on his Instagram account a couple hours before the crime was committed.  But don’t criminals utilize all the technological advantages available anyway?

What about a woman driving alone who realizes a car is following her?  Wouldn’t knowing where a cop was stationed help her?  What happened to the Los Angeles slogan – “to protect and serve” – that appears on each patrol car?  And don’t be lulled into thinking Waze reveals all police presence, because it doesn’t.

Waze utilizes Facebook interactivity to allow users to post highway conditions.  The more people that use it, the better it becomes.  Reuters’ story on the Huffington Post reports that law enforcement in general favors letting drivers know of impending police presence.

And for cops who prey on unsuspecting drivers haphazardly wandering into a “speed trap,” a little disclosure is a good thing.  I remember monitoring a college student from the University of Virginia whom I cautioned to stick to the posted speed limit because of my Waze app.  Within mere seconds, he passed a parked squad car whose occupant was using a laser gun to nab out-of-towners.

Law enforcement is supposed to work for us, not against us.  And we’re deeply mired in an era where terrorists are gunning for honest Americans here at home.

When I drove from the East Coast to Oregon, Waze kept Alice and me safe.  It’s consistently accurate and constantly updating, which is more than I can say for Verizon’s Navigator, Google Maps or even Garmin.  And the best part: it’s free!

I’m glad Google is not rolling over because of the L.A. police department’s opposition.  It makes me glad I live in Oregon, too.  We need more disclosure, not less.  Are we going to make criminals of truck drivers who warn other truckers of speed enforcement ahead?  Should a driver be cited for flashing his lights to warn oncoming motorists about a hidden patrol car?

Let’s get real.  Braving today’s traffic requires a cooperative effort from all concerned.

Father’s Actual Telegram Proclaims Birth

mason's birth telegram-lr

In my last post, I expressed gratitude for receiving – finally – the Pod.  Well, here’s another document that means the world to me.

My father wrote a telegram to my grandpa Mason and grandma Grace Johnston proclaiming my birth in a New York City hospital.  He invites my grandparents to visit.

What was I going through when the camera shutter snapped?  My facial expressions vary from pic to pic.

Oh, by the way, it looks like Western Union screwed up the year of my birth.  I was born in 1943, not 1942.  Fortunately, my birth certificate confirms the correct date.

I’m old enough; I don’t want anyone to think I’m even older, right?

To Russia With Love

My father, Virgil, holding me in Central Park, NYC, during Spring, 1943.
My father, Virgil, holding me in Central Park, NYC, during Spring, 1943.

Of all the people who visit my website, I never could have perceived one place where Google Analytics reports all my blathering and posturing is being consumed and afterward complimented.

Yet there it appears.  Ranked somewhere above … ?  Wait a second, could that be?

It’s ahead of the #3 city, Portland, on Google’s list, which recently overtook Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  So that means it’s either #1 or #2, but the runner-up honor is held by Hillsboro, Oregon.

Okay, I’ll stop playing cagey.  The #1 city whose residents visit my website is none other than: Moscow, and I’m not talking about the city in Idaho.

Moscow, Russia.  And I can’t tell whether my last name, Loika, is responsible for bringing Moscovites here, or what it could be.

The statistic panders to a pronounced propensity for curious vanity, knowing that Hungarians and Russians hold authors and poets in great esteem.  (So do Native Americans, but that’s another story.)

My father, Virgil Loika, was born March 12, 1907 in Temisvaar, Romania, to Andrew and Victoria Loika.  According to Virgil, his parents gave birth to him late in life; his four older brothers had already left home.  Later, his father and brothers were conscripted into the Hungarian Calvary.

My late mother, Thelma, of English and Scottish descent, wrote “Virgil’s Story,” a historical account of my father, and observed, “He didn’t say when he began to play the violin – it seemed he always did – and he had a talent for languages.  In Budapest he played with kids from several nations and cultures, many of them Jewish.  And he became adept in Yiddish and German, mostly Yiddish.”

Is this why Alice suspects I might be secretly Jewish?  Because at some point after my parents married, the Loikas lived at 300 Lydig Avenue in the Bronx, an apartment building filled with 200 musical families.  All of them were Jewish, except for two families, of which we were one.

A book in the works will include my mother’s tale verbatim, as a preface to my own memories.  But I’ve digressed.  I daydream what accounts for Russians in Moscow visiting my website, and my imagination is running wild.

Some Russian website visitors have tried to add a comment to posts, but their plaudits are more appropriate for my email address.  Therefore, I need to make my email address more visible, which is [email protected].

Please do not feed my ego to the point I begin walking on air.  I am a sucker for compliments, but other readers could find an overabundance to be sickly sweet.  And because I’m an Aries, I suffer from expanded head syndrome.

Anyway, thank you, Moscow, for your curiosity.  I do plan to get my DNA tested soon to learn about my father’s side of the family tree, and there will be more posts about the subject when there’s something to report.

Anyway, for those who understand Russian, here’s the text of one such “comment” to my post entitled “Library Science in Hillsboro” :

Всем Привет!

Я в шоке.

Ищу уже недею и никак не найду интернет аптеку где можно не дорого купить Викасол с доставкой на Сахалин

Пока в Москве жили, пользовались этой http://www.farmshop.ru . Проверенная аптека, и доставляет очень оперативно и вовремя , но только по Москве и области, а на Сахалин нет.

Может кто нибудь знает нормальную аптеку на Сахалине?


I note a website is mentioned in the second paragraph.  I do not know whether it is virus-free.

If you understand the language, please email me with a translation.  Again, the email address is: [email protected].

Portland Under Siege

Hundreds of activists jammed a Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission meeting on Jan. 13.  Photograph courtesy of Portland Rising Tide.
Approximately 100 activists protested outside a Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission meeting Jan. 13. Photographs above and below courtesy of Vance Walstra, Portland Rising Tide.

Portland, Oregon has suddenly become Ground Zero for the battle to save Planet Earth.

Canadian Pembina Corporation, a Canadian company deeply mired in the transport of propane, jumped over another hoop last week to create a super-shipping rail-to-seaport highway into a projected $500 million port destined for the heart of Portland.  The seaway is plotted to move 37,000 barrels of oil a day into China, making Portland the first such port in the nation.

The mayor of Portland, Charlie Hale, is waving Pembina’s banner high.  “This is great news.  We welcome this investment and these jobs in Portland.  The city is committed to growing our economy on the land we already have, and holding industry to very high environmental and public safety standards.  This proposal meets these goals.”

The Oregonian, Portland’s major daily newspaper, is not so gung-ho:  “Pembina Pipeline Corp.’s terminal in the Rivergate Industrial District would mean 1.3 mile-long trains full of propane passing through Portland every other day.  Up to 30 million gallons would be stored on site.  Massive tankers full of the fuel would transit the Columbia River two or three times a month.”

Rail cars would emanate from Alberta, Canada.  More detail is in the Portland Tribune’s account.

Efforts to manufacture propane are controversial because of two ways the volatile gas is derived: by fracking and through tar sands.  The process known as fracking is well known to Pennsylvanians; a free-for-all is taking place in the Keystone State’s hills and mountains overlying the Marcellus Shale, with disastrous harmful effects, namely methane gas, to the environment and the residents who live there.

Portland is one of 14 municipal or regional governmental entities recognized last month by President Obama’s White House as Climate Action Champions.  Two Native American tribal entities were added for a sweet total of 16.  You can see who was recognized at the White House website: click here.

Is turning Portland into a propane port the environmental “gotcha” that Republicans long to rub in the face of President Obama?  This is not good news, considering what scientists observed over the past year.

NOAA and NASA both rang an environmental alarm bell earlier this week when they concurred their readings show the 10 warmest years in world history occurred since 1997.  And last year, 2014, was the warmest yet and, alarmingly, the first time temperature records were broken without an El Niño, the atmospheric effect caused by the Pacific Ocean sending heat into the atmosphere.

Can you imagine?  Last year in Anchorage, Alaska, the temperature never dropped below zero!  For the New York Times’ analysis, click here.

The latest warnings pose a disturbing question: Have we passed an environmental “tipping point” – disabling possible reversal of global warming?

What is happening in Portland should cause worldwide alarm.  Portland has long been considered a hotbed of environmental activism.  If Portland tosses its reputation away, it not only opens the town to economic greed, it opens wide the door for the entire state.  Soon, the environmental sanctuary known as Portland could be gone.

According to the Portland Tribune, David Red Thunder, a resident of Hayden Island where fuel storage tanks would be placed, describes the proposed propane storage plan as “a ticking time bomb in the middle of a very special place.”

portland activists2-lr

The next step in the permitting process takes place on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, when the Planning and Sustainability Commission votes to make a recommendation to the Portland City Council.

Prior to that time, the Commission is accepting written testimony from the public, says Yoko Silk of Portland Rising Tide.  The Commission’s email address is [email protected].  For those who prefer the traditional look of snailmail, it’s 1900 SW 4th Avenue, ATTN- PSC, Portland, OR 97201

Will the luck of the Irish cool down the monetary greed being exhibited by Portland’s so-called city fathers?  What argument shall carry the day?

Art Exhibit Tour de Force

joan's jan-2015 art show-lr

The art openings and galleries of Bucks, Hunterdon and Mercer counties exalt the senses.  In fact, the picturesque River area of Pennsylvania and New Jersey would seem barren without these pleasantries.

January 24th, though, when the dead of winter is laden with icicles, will be opportune to trek toward the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie in the New Jersey capitol city’s Cadwalader Park.  Former Delaware River area gallery entrepreneur Joan Perkes, along with Susan Hogan, assembled a potpourri of river sculptors and artists for an outstanding exhibition entitled “Black and White … with a Touch.”

georgeson pregnant figure-lr

What captures my attention is one of the works chosen to appear: “Pregnant Figure” by internationally respected Harry Georgeson.  His attention to classical detail reveals a vast knowledge of world art history.  And the beauty of his painstaking work can emotionally affect sensitive art patrons.

Other sculptors being presented include Raymond Mathis, Katherine Stanek and Rory Mahon.  Artists include Mavis Smith, Diane Greenberg, Bonnie McLean, Dolores Poacelli, Paul Mordetsky, Kyle Stevenson and Maurice Galimidi.

The exhibition is unveiled to the public with a reception from 7-9 pm on Saturday, Jan. 24, and members of Ellarslie are invited to savor a private meet-and-greet with the artists an hour beforehand.  Admission is free but donations to Ellarslie are gratefully accepted.  Plenty of free parking, too.

“Black and White … With a Touch” will be open 11 am-3 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1-4 pm Sundays, through March 8.

Ducks Wallow in the Mud

muddy duck

The Oregon Ducks’ loss to Ohio State is setting in.  The Tuesday morning after the Buckeyes tromped the odds-on-favorite Oregon football juggernaut, Portland media downplayed details of the game.

Local TV stations acknowledged the loss, but the former media hype was gone.  During the game, almost everyone in the area was pulling hard for the Eugene-based team, especially since the Ducks scored the first touchdown in impressive style.  But eventually reality set in, and Ohio State pounded the Pac-12 team into submission 42-20, much as Oregon turned Florida State into chopped liver at the Rose Bowl.

For me, skepticism toward Urban Meyer remains, but his game plan was superb.  (While working as an ESPN analyst, Meyer took note of what Chip Kelly accomplished as Oregon’s coach, and converted Ohio State into the vaunted attack that won the day.)  And who knew that a third-string freshman quarterback by the name of Cardale Jones would step in admirably with stunning pinpoint passes so that his receivers outshone Marcus Mariota’s counterparts?  (Yesterday, Mariota announced he is making himself eligible for the NFL draft.)

For me, I’m left to wallow in the mud during football’s offseason, but I’ll watch Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators battle their way through the rest of their Southeastern Conference hoops schedule.  No matter how much I imagined it, my feet didn’t turn out to be webbed after all.

Winning the brass ring still is an Oregon dream, but we can hope the oodles of cash required to accomplish that goal will be trumped by the realization of how much it costs to realize an NCAA football championship.  Academic achievement is still the #1 university goal, right?

Or am I merely quacking up?

Duck Fever Strikes

Oregon duck logo

Living in Portland has its perks – and its maladies, especially now.  There’s a contagious infection going on throughout the state, and I’m catching a mild case.  It’s called “Duck Fever.”

Let me explain how.  Currently, I am a suffering Gator fan.  Stepping down under duress after a season of disappointment, Will Muschamp relieved himself of Gainesville’s on-campus pressure to become defensive coach of Auburn.  And under athletic director Jeremy Foley’s aegis, the Gators’ football team is undergoing renovation courtesy of Colorado State’s former gridiron coach, Jim McElwain, whose $7.5 million buyout sets an all-time record.

Meanwhile, the Gators basketball team opened a challenging season by fading down the stretch when its opposition played tough.  Lately, the team has begun to gel, but there’s a way to go.  As Gator Nation awakens from its state of hibernation, it prompts the question, “What’s a Gator to do?”

Stage right center, the Oregon Ducks football team finds itself on the precipice of a national championship.  With their Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota certainly the resident darling, only one obstacle looms: Ohio State led by its photogenic coach, Urban Meyer.

Gator fans do not like Meyer much after he left the team in a state of ruin following a national championship in 2008.  Certainly, he went through the anxieties that are endemic to media-crazy Florida as the University rose in national stature.  But he was paid well, albeit for a 24/7 position.

After saying he was retiring, Meyer accepted the football coach’s position at Ohio State and doesn’t seem to be looking back, currently being paid $4.6 million a year.  That hasn’t stopped him, though, from speaking out about the pressures at Florida and blaming that for depression and chest pains while competing for prestige and power.

Was that the reason for the downfall of Florida football after he left?  Gator fans are inclined to curse his legacy.

Now here I am in Portland where sports fans have only one professional team, the NBA Trailblazers, for whom to root.  Then the Oregon Ducks began wowing the locals under Chip Kelly, but never grasped the brass ring during the dynasty he constructed.

Yes, after living in the Philadelphia area and watching Kelly be wooed to the NFL by the Eagles, I am now in the Portland area.  And just in time, I am ripe to catch Ducks Fever, under replacement coach Mark Helfrich, who has kept the ball rolling in Eugene.

Being called national champion is a booster shot for local pride, and Oregonians appear hungry for the chance.  Local TV stations have earmarked key staffers to follow the team to Dallas, and the airwaves are saturated with every little move team members make.

Maybe it will go away after Monday night’s big game.  But I’m not sure.  This Gator fan has checked himself in the mirror and suspects he is getting webbed feet.  Is this what they mean by a Quack Attack?

I can only see what happens after kickoff Jan. 12th at 5:30 pm Pacific Time, 8:30 on the East Coast.  If worse comes to worse, perhaps I’ll need reconstructive foot surgery.  Stay tuned.