Thursday, October 22, 2009
Dear Dunkin' Donuts: America does not run on Dunkin'... At least not until you open some stores in America
My enjoyment of Dunkin' Donuts is always tempered by the knowledge that this is a regional chain. It's how I imagine people from the East coast feel about Kogi Taco, Peet's Coffee or Coffee Bean. And while I love Dunkin' Donuts and their coffee drinks, their advertising tag line "America runs on Dunkin'" always struck me as a little bit delusional... how can "America" run on Dunkin' if their store is no where to be found in America? If you go to the Dunkin' Donuts website and go to store location and put in a zip code, any zip code from California, you will find nothing. Try it with other Western states, too. Nothing. Expand your search to the mountain states and you get a few hits in Arizona. Midwest region get some Dunkin' love but only in selected cities. You don't get many store listings until you get close to New England and the Acela corridor. Which is fine. Whatever... no one expects advertising to be truthful.
Then I went to Asia. And Dunkin' Donuts are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Like Starbucks and McDonald's. According to the intrawebz (which is never wrong), there are nearly 1,800 Dunkin' Donuts shops in the Asia Pacific region, including 725 in Korea, 600 in the Philippines, and 260 in Indonesia. There are two dozen Dunkin' Donuts in Taipei but none in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, or Seattle. What. The. F---? Anyway, that also didn't bother me that much either. I figured the more Dunkin' Donuts overseas the better because it means there are more airports in the world that I can grab delicious donuts (try the mochi donuts next time you are in a Dunkin' Donuts store in Asia).
But now I'm mad. What really ticked me off is the latest Dunkin' Donuts advertising campaign on TV. Instead of advertising regionally, now they are buying prime time ads on national TV. They tempt me with their donuts and coffee drinks and then ruthlessly crush my hope and dreams by running their tag line at the end. America runs on Dunkin'... Oh really? How about you freaking open some stores in America so your TV ads are not an exercise in irony? Korea runs on Dunkin'. Taiwan runs on Dunkin'. Philippines too. But not America. Definitely not America.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
10. She's moving to the lower 48 because Alaska is just too far from Glenn Beck.
9. After 30 months as governor, she's cracking under the stress of protecting the U.S. from Russia.
8. She doesn't want her tenure as governor to overshadow her experience as mayor of Wasilla.
7. She wants some time off to go hiking with Mark Sanford in the Appalachian.
6. The Alaska state legislature wasn't giving her time to go for her daily runs, and sweat is her sanity.
5. Trying to conceive triplet so she and Todd can replace Jon and Kate.
4. Because that's what Joe Vogler would have done.
3. Maybe she was just jealous of all the attention Michael Jackson is getting.
2. She's decided to run for President... Of Alaska.
1. There's another shoe left to drop.Happy 4th of July!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Are you a transit chicken? If you live in Los Angeles and never used our transit system, you don't know what you are missing. For one thing, the myth that no one takes public transit in LA is just that... a myth. The Orange line (that's the Rapid bus line in the Valley) boards over 650,000 passengers per month and LA County has the 2nd highest number of people in the US who use public transit as the primary means of getting around (after NYC).
I decided to write this guide because I found that there is actually nothing like it on the web. When I started taking public transit 2 years ago (after almost 20 years of living in LA), I had to learn everything the hard way. But once I figure it out, I found myself repeating the same things over and over whenever another transit chicken takes the plunge and decides to give it a try. So I wrote down some Q&A type responses and turned it into this guide - a quick primer on how to use public transit in LA if you have never tried it.
The first thing and the most basic thing to remember:
Level 1 - Newbies: Learn the Metro Rapid Lines (and the LA Street Grid)
For novice transit users in LA (especially those living in Mid City and Westside), you should focus your attention on learning the system exclusively on the Metro Rapid buses. These are the red (or dark blue for R3 and R7) buses that only make limited stops and takes you places where you want to go (major intersections and landmarks like malls/shopping centers). The slower orange buses also cost
All these Rapid bus numbers start with a "7", which is a prefix denoting that it is a Rapid. They generally have a corresponding "slow train" version (the orange bus). For example, the 704 bus runs on Santa Monica Blvd from Downtown LA to Downtown Santa Monica. It is one of the most popular bus line in the city. It stops only at major intersections. There is a #4 orange bus that runs on pretty much the same route that stops on every block.
There are three exceptions to the Rapid route system. Two of the Rapid bus lines are served by Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus: R3 on Lincoln Blvd and R7 on Pico Blvd and they are dark blue (as oppose to baby blue). A third, R6 on Sepulveda Blvd is operated by Culver City Bus (dark green/silver). This is a legacy of the "turf war" battle from another era which I'll try to explain later. The good news here is that Big Blue Bus and Culver City Bus are cheaper (only
The bottom line - you just need to memorize which Rapid bus lines goes on which street... The main ones:
Image cutesy of Wikipedia, without which, western civilization will be erased without a trace. (note, this map is slightly outdated but no one updated Wikipedia so I'm not going to either)
Level 2 - Grasshopper: Learn the Metro Rail System
Once you have master the Rapid bus system, it is time to move on to taking the trains. LA's Metro system is still a work in progress so one thing you'll notice is that it doesn't go where you want to go... No direct airport connection; no San Fernando Valley to Westside line; no Pasadena to Glendale line; no Southbay to Westside line. Knowing this limitation is key... If you live in Santa Monica and want to go to the Lakers game at Staples Center, you are better off driving... at least for now until the Purple line reaches you in around 2030 (no, really, that's when it is estimated to get there!) However, if you live in Pasadena or Hollywood, I declare jihad on you if you are silly enough to drive to a Lakers game (or USC football game once the Expo line opens in
The second thing to remember about LA's Metro system is that we are new at this... despite operation since the late 1980s and having the 3rd highest passenger count of any rail system in the US (that part is mind boggling if you think about it), MTA is still relatively inexperienced at running a rail system. This is reflected in part by our shortsighted and illogical train line color naming scheme. In major cities around the world, metro systems lines are typically named after a combination of letters and numbers (i.e. New York City) or the destination (i.e. Tokyo or London). The colors on the map is usually only a secondary visual device, not the primary identifier of metro lines. For example, the NYC "F" train is the "orange line" on the NYC subway map but everyone knows F train goes to Queens. And there are actually 4 other trains that runs on the "orange line" with different destinations and service mode (express, local, late night etc). In LA, we did it all wrong so the color is also the primary identifier. This is ok for now... but in the future when the Downtown Connector is completed, and trains start running from Pasadena to Long Beach or Santa Monica to East LA, it's going to be chaos. So ok, enough of a rant... back to the lesson.
It's pretty straight forward:
The main transfer stations are 7th/Flower Metro Center (Red/Purple/Blue/Expo) and Union Station (Red/Purple/Gold Foothill/Gold Eastside). The lines are as follow:
- Red line: Downtown LA to North Hollywood - connect to Orange line bus to the Valley [should really be called the "Hollywood line"]
- Purple line: Downtown LA to Koreatown (Wilshire/Western) - connect to 720
or 920Rapid bus to the Westside (extension to Westwood should begin construction in 2013) [should really be called the "Wilshire line"]
- Gold line Foothill: Downtown LA to Sierra Madre (extension to Azusa under construction) [should really be called the "Pasadena/Foothill line"]
- Gold line Eastside: Downtown LA to East LA/Montebello (extension to Whittier under consideration) [will be combined with Expo line once the Downtown Connector is completed]
- Expo line: Downtown LA to Culver City (opening in June
2010 2011April 2012, extension to Santa Monica schedule to open in 20142015)
- Blue line: Downtown LA to Long Beach [should really be called "Long Beach line"]
- Green line: Norwalk to Redondo Beach (free bus connection to LAX at Aviation station) [should really be called "Norwalk line"]
Metro also operates a special BRT (bus rapid transit) line in the Valley that works like a train but is actually buses on a grade separated road away from other cars. The Orange line was originally going to be an extension of the Red line subway running at surface, but the NIMBYs in the Valley kill it. It works just like Metro's rail lines with "stations" instead of bus stops. It's not as nice as a train but it is a huge improvement over buses on regular street. The success of the Orange line has lead Metro to
Level 3 - The Matrix: Mastering LA's Byzantine Bus System
MTA or Metro is the largest transit operator in LA County, but it is not the only one. Many cities have their own municipal bus lines. The most familiar ones are probably:
Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (it's blue) and Culver City Bus (it's green).
There are three other pretty big "muni" bus lines: Torrance Bus (white with red stripe but changing to green and gold); Foothill Transit (white with blue stripe); and Montebello Bus (white with blue and pink stripes). Further afield, there is also Long Beach Transit (red and gold), Glendale Bee line (white with gold letters), Beach Cities Transit (seems to change color every month...) and Gardena Bus Lines (white with green and yellow stripes).The City of Los Angeles also operates its own bus service: DASH local shuttle and long distance Commuter Express (white and dark blue).The point being... there are lots of different bus operators in LA County.
The reason why we have "muni" and Metro bus lines dates back to an ancient time (like 1920s to 1950s) when LA was crisscrossed by surface trams. The Pacific Railway and the "Red Cars" ran trams from Downtown LA to all kinds of places. They setup depots and terminals throughout the city. Those terminals still exists... but they are now bus terminals. When the trams finally went away (Google "GM and Firestone Los Angeles tram conspiracy" if you want the learn more of this tragic chapter in LA's history) cities in LA County started their own bus services to fill the void. As a result, they established their respective "turf" and their "protected terminals". Metro bus dare not venture into these protected "turfs" without starting a full on gang war (yes, transit agencies are like gangs, they take their turf seriously).
In order to fully master LA's bus system, you need to know these "turf" and their related bus terminals because depending on what part of the city you are in, you are more than likely have to rely on the "muni" to provide local service rather than Metro.
Bus Line - Turf - Terminal
- Big Blue Bus - Santa Monica,Westwood, Century City, pretty much everything west of Robertson Blvd - Rimpau Terminal (mid city), Downtown Santa Monica Transit Plaza, and LAX Bus Terminal
- Culver City Bus - Culver City, Palms, Mar Vista, - West LA Transit Center (on Fairfax and Washington), Fox Hills Mall Transit Center, and LAX Bus Terminal
- Torrance Bus - Torrance, Gardena, Redondo, Inglewood, most of Southbay - Del Amo Transit Center
- Foothill Transit - cities in San Gabriel Valley and western portion of San Bernardino County
- Montebello Bus - Montebello, Whittier, Norwalk
- Long Beach Transit - Long Beach, Lakewood, - Long Beach Transit Plaza
So what does this really mean? The most practical example is the bus ride from Downtown to Santa Monica. You can take the 720 and it will run on Wilshire all the way... no problem. However, let say you went to dinner in Koreatown and now need to go back to your place say... off Pico near Westside Pavillian. You will need to take the Metro 730 to Rimpau terminal and change to Big Blue Bus's #7 or Rapid 7 to finish your trip. Ditto 728 and BBB5 on Olympic. Why is this so? Because Big Blue Bus will go nuts if Metro tried to steal its routes on the Westside on Pico and Olympic. It's an unfortunate reality that we'll just have to deal with and navigate around.
So the bottom line is this: if you are going from Downtown LA, Mid City or Koreatown to West LA or Santa Monica, you have to transfer at either Rimpau or Westwood Blvd (unless you are taking Rapid 720 or 704, which goes all the way through). Similarly, if you want to go to Culver City from points east or north, you will most likely need to transfer at Fairfax/Washington bus terminal.
Now that we get that out of the way, there is one more intimidating aspect of using the bus in LA that newbies find impossible to comprehend. What does the Metro bus numbers mean?
- 1-99: Local bus service to/from Downtown Los Angeles and other areas. The route numbering begins at Route 2 (Sunset Boulevard, a route leading west from downtown) and proceeds counterclockwise around Downtown Los Angeles, ending at route 96 (Riverside Drive.)
- 100-199: East-west service, not serving Downtown Los Angeles.
- 200-299: North-south service, not serving Downtown Los Angeles.
- 300-399: Limited-stop versions of traditional local routes, which make fewer stops and generally operate during peak times. Most limited-stop routes are designated by placing a 3 before a main route number (example: the limited-stop version of route 2 is route 302). Most limited-stop (300-series) routes have been replaced by Metro Rapid routes.
- 400-599: Express (all or part of the service runs on freeways)
- 600-699: Shuttle and special event services.
- 700-799: Rapid
- 900-999: Rapid Express (the "Rapid of Rapids", even fewer stops than the 700 buses)
- The first digit tells you what kind of service (Local, Express, Rapid etc) and the general direction (Downtown, East-West, North-South)
- The last 2 or 3 digits tells you what neighborhoods it goes through (not exact but close enough)
For east-west buses, the lower the last two digit (i.e. #2, #4, #20, 704, 720 etc), the closer the route runs near the top (north) of the rectangle. The higher the last two digit (#33, 130 etc.), the closer it runs near the bottom (south) of the rectangle.
Now if you go back to to Level 1 where I mention the main Rapid bus line numbers, notice how 704 is Santa Monica (northern most), follow by 720 Wilshire (middle), 730 on Pico (lower middle), and 733 on Venice (south). Bus 130 is the southern most east-west line operated by Metro. Bus 150 and above denotes east-west service in the Valley (the area outside the imaginary rectangle) and the pattern is reversed - 150/750 is the southern most east-west line (Ventura Blvd) in the Valley; higher numbers operate on more northern streets.
For north-south buses, the lower the last two digit, the closer the route runs near right (east) of the rectangle. Higher numbers are further to the left (west).And as is the case of east-west buses, the pattern is somewhat reversed in the Valley.
Level 4 - Jedi Master: Use The Force
If you have managed to learn the first 3 steps, you are probably in the top 10% of people in LA in terms of transit proficiency. There is nothing more I can teach you really... you just need to keep using the system and learn on your own. You may be wondering... what about Metrolink? Well, that is our regional commuter train system (not to be confused with Metro, which is our local transit agency) and I actually have never used it since I live and work in LA. Metrolink takes you to some really far out places out in the suburbs like Ventura County, Orange County, and Inland Empire. Since I have never used it, I can't give you any tips about how to approach it if you are a newbie... but once you get to Union Station, everything I mentioned in Level 1~3 applies. And also, your Metrolink ticket entitles you to one free boarding on Metro rail and buses... so you can hop on the Red, Purple, or Gold line or connecting buses without having to buy another ticket.
Another recent development in LA's transit scene is the FlyAway bus that connects Downtown, Westwood, Van Nuys, or Irvine with LAX. This is the most convenient way to get to LAX and the bus drops you right off at the Terminals.
Go ahead transit chickens... take that first step towards independence.
Links to some transit agency websites if you want more info on specific bus routes:
Big Blue Bus
Culver City Bus
Friday, February 27, 2009
The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, please take note: An amateur video maker did a better job explaining the financial crisis then you did or anyone else in the Government.
This video is awesome (and completely free of partisan spin).
Monday, February 16, 2009
Ever wonder why the lane you are in is moving 10 mph slower than every other lane? Chances are you are following a Corolla. Even wonder why the parking lot at Whole Foods is always backed up? Chances are a Prius driver is having trouble parking. Ever wonder why you are not turning left despite the green left turn signal? Chances are a Camry driver at the front of the line is not paying attention. Ever notice that almost every Camry and Highlander you see on the street has a dent in the bumper? In the 20+ years of driving, I have observed many Toyota drivers and I have come to the conclusion that there is a greater force at work. Like Darwin, who saw evidence of evolution in Galapagos island lizards and booby, I too have come up with a theory that explains it all.
First, the question: Why is it that Toyota drivers are especially inept and timid? And what makes Toyota so special that these bad drivers are drawn to its car like moth into open flames? My theory is that Toyota (and Lexus) drivers are humor-less drones who, following Darwin's theory, have self-selected into driving the very soul-sucking cars that defines their personality. This in term shapes how Toyota makes its car into ever more numb, isolated, ill-handling pods. Which of course makes its cars even more attractive to the bad drivers of the world all over. It's a self-fulfilling cycle - Toyota makes cars only bad drivers appreciate; only bad drivers buy Toyota as a result; Toyota makes the next one even worse to satisfy its main customers.
The basic truth is that there are two kinds of drivers in the world, those who like it and those who don't. I'm not talking about speed fiends or people who like to take their car to the race track (although, you'd never find a Camry at a track day event). I'm taking about just the simple pleasure of driving. The feel of connectedness of steering wheel and gear shift to the tires and motion of the car, the satisfied feeling one gets from piloting a complex machine. If you ask Toyota (and Lexus) owners about this, they would have a blank look on their face. These people simply do not understand driving. They are bad drivers. The kind that takes 20 seconds to make a right turn when there are no cross traffic. The kind that sees a sign for 65 mph and thinks a prudent speed should be 50 mph. The kind that thinks turn signals are optional and the best way to merge on to a freeway is to ride on the brakes and force other cars to slow down to their speed. Toyota drivers on a whole are the kind that prefers soft crushy ride and no steering feedback. In another word, they prefer cars that don't tell them they are doing a bad job of driving.
Now, I fully concede that my theory is not foolproof. Toyota sells a lot of cars and not everyone who buys Toyotas are bad drivers per se. But my observation is largely true... Think of it as a Venn diagram:
If you are driving a Toyota, chances are you are a bad driver. Your subconscious and biological evolution in inept driving skills has lead you down a path towards a vehicle that least offends your sensibility. You are driving a Corolla. Congratulation. Now watch out for that couch on the side of the street... it may jump out at you any time. Slow down... way down... and annoy the rest of us with adequate motor skills and hand-eye coordination that are stuck behind you.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The graphs shows how fast the economy has lost jobs since the start of recession. The magnitude of the trouble we are in is mind blowing. Just another thing to be thankful for the 8 years of George W Bush.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
1. "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004
2. "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."—Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000
3. "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"—Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000
4. "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."—Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004
5. "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican."—declining to answer reporters' questions at the Summit of the Americas, Quebec City, Canada, April 21, 2001
6. "You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.''—Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001
7. "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."—Washington, D.C., April 18, 2006
8. "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."—Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005
9. "I've heard he's been called Bush's poodle. He's bigger than that."—discussing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as quoted by the Sun newspaper, June 27, 2007
10. "And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq."—meeting with Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008
11. "We ought to make the pie higher."—South Carolina Republican debate, Feb. 15, 2000
12. "There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002
13. "And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."—speaking on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007
14. "We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers."—Houston, Sept. 6, 2000
15. "It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet."—Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000
16. "One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."—U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 3, 2000
17. "People say, 'How can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil?' You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you."—Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2002
18. "Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness."—CNN online chat, Aug. 30, 2000
19. "I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend."—on the prospect of visiting Denmark, Washington, D.C., June 29, 2005
20. "I think it's really important for this great state of baseball to reach out to people of all walks of life to make sure that the sport is inclusive. The best way to do it is to convince little kids how to—the beauty of playing baseball."—Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 2006
21. "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."—LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 200022. "You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war president. No president wants to be a war president, but I am one."—Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 26, 2006
23. "There's a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, 'I don't want you to let me down again.' "—Boston, Oct. 3, 2000
24. "They misunderestimated me."—Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000
25. "I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."—Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008