Saturday, March 22, 2008

Of Countdown Timers at Traffic Lights. Of Cluj and Taiwan.

Via the Freakonomics blog, some interesting results about the impact that countdown timers installed at traffic lights in intersections in Taiwan have upon the number of accidents and injuries :

"A research institute within Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation released a report showing that at 187 intersections which had the timers installed, those that counted down the remaining time on green lights saw a doubling in the number of reported accidents, with a 33 percent increase in the number of injuries, while those that counted down until a red light turned green saw a halving in both the number of reported accidents and injuries. Intersection that had both red and green light timers saw a 19 percent increase in reported accidents and a 23 percent increase in injuries."
My thoughts went instantly to the identical timers installed in intersections in my hometown of Cluj, Transylvania, a city with an unadapted infrastructure to the daily hellish car traffic. I always thought that these timers have a positive impact by reducing the drivers' frustration and in a sense regulating traffic discipline. The traffic still sucks but at least you know how much you have to wait at the traffic light. On the other hand some people might take it as a 100% guarantee that when the counter is down to zero the road is clear and they can push the accelerator pedal down to the floor. I don't know of similar studies in Cluj - I think they're badly needed - but the results from Taiwan should be looked into by my hometown's municipality. One thing is sure, regulating traffic in intersections is far from being a global solution to improving traffic conditions in overcrowded cities - taxing inner city access might also work provided the adequate infrastructure to avoid it exists - but it seems to have it's own benefits in certain conditions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bring Back the 80's Speed Metal

A link I received today from a friend. Metallic, funny and a bit nostalgic. Just brilliant!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barack Obama on Race in the U.S.

The speech on racial issues in the United States that Barack Obama gave yesterday in Philadelphia is definitely one for the history books. You can watch the video feed accompanied by the animated transcript on the New York Times website.

As an external viewer unable to grasp the entire complexity of the racial issue in the United States I don't really see exactly to how much extent - if any at all - Mr. Obama played the racial card just to make believe he was not doing it at all. Maybe not that much. Also the repeated anti profit-driven-corporate-America message underlying the union of the races raises some serious doubts about Mr. Obama's actions in the case he wins the presidential race.

This being said - and again, as an external viewer - I am left with the feeling that Mr. Obama's view of race related difficulties people encounter in their everyday life is a complete and honest one. He doesn't leave anybody behind - be they blacks, whites or browns - and emphasizes better education as a means to overcoming racial bias. He is also a breathtaking speaker, your critical spirit as a listener is being constantly challenged by his capacity of embarking you on the Obama flow at any time (not a small temptation at all). I think this speech is a decisively winning one for him in the perspective of the Democrat primaries in Philadelphia next month, but on a national level it remains to be seen. It's not yet clear for me whether the racial issue in the U.S. still has the anvergure that Mr. Obama gave to it in his speech, but he definitely scored some major points with yesterday's speech.

Barack Obama's approach on race and ethnic diversity is not an exclusively American one, it can easily be applied - if correctly adjusted - to the French society. We just need politicians with more guts and and a less socialist mind frame. Is MiB one of them? Sadly not, at least not for now.

Atheist Clubs. Thanks But No Thanks.

I have just discovered that a fellow blogger included Buffer Overflow on a "Promoters of Reason" - also called "Brother at Arms" - list of blogs promoting atheism if my understanding is correct. Another fellow blogger included Buffer Overflow on a similar list of blogs which if you visit you commit a capital sin - put in an ironic and cynical way, of course. And all this because of this post I recently wrote on what I called an embryonic form of intelligent atheism in the Romanian blogosphere.

As much as I appreciate readers finding topics worthy of their interest on my blog, I must kindly decline the offer of joining the kind of pro-atheist clubs as the ones I found my blog included into without my consent and I gently ask their promoters to remove me from them. And this for multiple reasons. The first one is that religion - and religious people - bashing is not on the menu here, it doesn't require a great effort of reading to realize that this blog doesn't promote anti-theism or militant atheism. The second reason is that I don't particularly endorse the breed of militant atheism I stumble upon in many productions of the Romanian blogosphere fueled by the legitimate rejection of the religious conservatism that is increasingly manifesting itself in Romanian society. At this point of it's evolution I don't really see it as a rational process, hence the word "embryonic" I used to qualify a rather singular moderate and rational view of things. The third reason is that when I pick up a fight I pick it by myself on what I consider as a strong basis, hence it is not necessary for others to do it for me. And definitely this is not the kind of fight I'm interested in:) Therefore thanks but no thanks. Cheers!