Thursday, May 31, 2007


There's an interesting article on wasting time at work in The New York Times:

    American workers, on average, spend 45 hours a week at work, but describe 16 of those hours as “unproductive,” according to a study by Microsoft. America Online and, in turn, determined that workers actually work a total of three days a week, wasting the other two. And Steve Pavlina, whose Web site ( describes him as a “personal development expert” and who keeps incremental logs of how he spends each working day, urging others to do the same, finds that we actually work only about 1.5 hours a day. “The average full-time worker doesn’t even start doing real work until 11:00 a.m.,” he writes, “and begins to wind down around 3:30 p.m.”

    The experts disagree on how we are wasting all this time. The AOL survey says time is lost to surfing the Internet (given the source, that is either self-congratulatory or self-incriminating).

    The Microsoft survey pointed to worthless meetings. Respondents said they spent 5.6 hours each week in meetings and 71 percent of them thought that those meetings “aren’t productive.”

    Searching through clutter is another diversion, says Peggy Duncan, a “personal productivity coach” in Atlanta, who maintains that rifling though messy desks wastes 1.5 hours a day.

An oddity about my job, at least for me, is that it isn't work. It's not work in the way all of my prior jobs were work. I've never had a blue collar (physical) sort of job, but even the so-called "knowledge-jobs" I've held in the past were genuine work, where this one really isn't.

On the average night I drive one fare each hour, perhaps 1.3 per hour, which lasts about 25 minutes. The rest of the time I'm sitting in a parked car reading or messing with this computer. By the actual number of minutes I "work", my workweek amounts to 27.2 hours per week (I average 60.5 hours per week in the car).

It varies greatly, however. Last night I had one, short fare between midnight and 3:15 a.m. Before and after those 10 minutes of work, I read a few blogs, made a post for my own, and watched a few minutes of an auto race I recorded earlier this week. Some nights we're so busy I'm moving 100% of the time, but nearly half of that time I'm driving empty -- unpaid. Is that work?

If I look at the hours per week that I'm the taxi, then we get some large numbers. I average 5.5 working days (shifts) per week (I work five days one week, six the next, and so on). I average 11 hours per shift, amounting to 60.5 hours per week. The average American works 45 hours per week.

Even if I consider every hour I spend in the cab (all 60.5 per week), I don't really consider any of it work. When I'm driving customers, it's about as stressful, demanding, and time-consuming as driving friends to a movie theater, or going to the beach. None of it is work.

I guess I'm lucky (or dumb...or smart?).

Only one this is certain: to earn a decent (middle class) living driving cab, one must put in a lot of hours -- total, in-the-car hours. I have to be "working" during the busy times to maximize the income, and "working" a lot of hours is the only way to guarantee I'm earning during those busy times.

Car in the shop last week

These shots are from last week, during the latest round of fixes to the Falcon.

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Fixing the thumping problem and "excessive play" in the steering

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My loaner car was a real sweetheart

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But at least it had a heated mirror...

Navy follies

Last night's final ride was disheartening. I picked up two drunken sailors who wanted to go from a bar to a navy base, and they needed to go inside the base. I explained that I could only get them to pass & decal, and after arguing for a while, they agreed. When I arrived at the gate they tried to bully me into attempting to sweet talk the guards into allowing me inside. I could lose the car if navy cops catch me inside without authorization, so the obvious answer to the sailors: "No."

The fare was $4.20 and they handed me a $20. I gave the guy $15 and asked if he wanted to mess around with the $.80.

Him: Give me another dollar.

Me: I don't owe you a dollar. I owe you $.80.

Him, threateningly: Give me a dollar.

Me: So, not only are you going to stiff me on the tip, you're going to try to pay less than the amount shown on the meter?

Him: Yes, because you won't take us on base.

Me: We discussed that, and you knew I couldn't get on base before you got in the cab.

Him: Are you going to give me a dollar?

Me: No, but I can give you $.80. (Which I can't; I don't mess with coins, even in private life. If we had resolved the issue, I would have given him the full dollar, but not until he acknowledged I didn't owe him that much.)

Him, yelling and slurring: What is your name? What is your cab number?

I said nothing. He and his buddy left, saying they were going to call my supervisor.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Misc photos

These are from a few days ago.

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Market St near 5th Ave

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Market St facing east, looking up at Golden Hill

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After I pulled into a meter spot near 6th and G, Gaslamp Quarter, a parking enforcement guy showed up and measured the distance from the car behind me (red car) and the curb. I wasn't fast enough with the camera to get him with the yellow measuring tape. Here he is writing the ticket. It reminded me of the movie "Annie Hall", when Annie parks her VW in Manhattan. Woody Allen's character said: "We can walk to the curb from here."

I drove an employee of today, and he suggested I give it a try. From their About page:

    HubPages is the leading online publishing ecosystem with easy-to-use publishing tools, a vibrant author community and underlying revenue-maximizing infrastructure. Hubbers (HubPages authors) earn money by publishing their Hubs (content-rich Internet pages) on topics they know and love, and earn recognition among fellow Hubbers through the community-wide HubScore ranking system. The HubPages ecosystem provides a search-friendly infrastructure which drives traffic to Hubs from search engines such as Google and Yahoo, and enables Hubbers to earn revenue from industry-standard advertising vehicles such as Google AdSense, Commission Junction and the Amazon Affiliates program. All of this is provided free to Hubbers in an open online community.


The kids at the Marriott are growing up. Mom still has all eight. Here are shots from two and three weeks ago.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Limerock Park

This is a great little racetrack.

Photos: East Village

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UPS drivers

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Breakup

I caught this breakup on the street just as I was dropping off a customer. It's an audio recording with some still photos. My customer wasn't involved, although he was very amused, as were all the neighbors. People had come out to their front yards to watch the excitement.

Several F-bombs are dropped, as well as a mention of whores, drugs, and the necessary "don't ever come around here again."

The best weekend of the year

Lots of great racing!

F1: Grand Prix of Monaco

Need I say anything?

GP2: Monaco

Watching the F1 stars of tomorrow come up through the ranks, like Senna's nephew, is great fun.

IRL: Indy 500

I only watch three IRL races -- Indy 500 and the two road courses. The rest of the season takes place on ovals. Watching fast, open-wheel cars going round-and-round, full-throttle, is pathetic. Indy organizers claim the Indy 500 is the biggest sporting event in the world, with 400,000 in attendance. Three women are racing this year: Danica Patrick, Sara Fisher (sp?), and Milka Duno. Also, the 19-year-old Marco Andretti will be racing.

NASCAR: Coca Cola 600 in North Carolina

This is the longest race on the NASCAR schedule (out of 36 races). It's endurance racing at a sustained, 180mph. This year should be more interesting than most because Goodyear has brought a very hard tire. It lasts 90 laps, but the grip is extremely low, causing a lot of oversteer. The Cup cars have about 750hp and have poor aerodynamic downforce and mechanical grip -- putting them in high speed turns with the current tire is quite fun to watch. My pick to win: Matt Kenseth.

Rolex GT: Limerock Park, Connecticut

I've raced similar cars on this track with the GTR sim (simulates FIA GT) for the PC. It's probably the most fun I've had racing.

Silver Surfer quarters

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I've been getting Silver Surfer quarters lately. The decals seem to be machine-installed. I was thinking the gubment can't be too pleased about that, and sure enough, they're not:

    A Marvel Comics hero is giving George Washington some company on the quarter, but the U.S. Mint doesn't think the stunt is so super.

    To promote the upcoming film “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” 20th Century Fox and The Franklin Mint altered 40,000 U.S. quarters to feature the character.

    The U.S. Mint said in a news release Friday that it learned of the promotional quarter this week and advised the studio and The Franklin Mint they were breaking the law. It is illegal to turn a coin into an advertising vehicle, and violators can face a fine.

This is similar to the Boston bomb scare involving the light boards. Publicity is worth the fines, I guess.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Nude cab driver

Here's an interesting story about a San Diego cabbie. It wasn't me!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


There's a large convention at the San Diego Convention Center this week -- about 20,000 people. It's the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Assocation. Some Scientology types were protesting on the first day.

I've had a lot of travelers tonight: Belgium, Australia, Poland, Germany, Anchorage, Philadelphia, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago.

The Australians were two guys in town for the psychiatric convention. We talked politics as I brought them to the Westin Hotel on Broadway and Columbia. They don't like Howard, but have supported him because the economy has done well under him. Among the American candidates, they like Giuliani because he's a strong leader and leans right, but he's not a far-right conservative.

My German customer was a young man from Hamburg who is staying at a housing facility for international students. We talked about the ICE train, and he suggested watching "train rider" on YouTube:

Monday, May 21, 2007

MotoGP: Nicky Hayden crash

My man Nicky "The Kentucky Kid" Hayden crashes out of the French Grand Prix. Heartbreaking.

A dismal year gets worse for Hayden. It's hard to watch, especially since The Kid won the championship last year. Laguna Seca (California) may be his only bright spot this year.

I spend a lot of time watching SPEED TV. Find their program schedule and great original content here.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Turn 1: Juan Pablo Montoya

JPM is in the black No. 42 with a red star on the hood (Texaco Havoline Dodge). This is fantastic! He tries to win in turn 1 of the Nextel Open, a qualifying race for the NASCAR Nextel Cup All-Star Challenge. JPM brought his fierce style to NASCAR, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Jumping off the Coronado Bridge

UPDATE 1/5/08: Go here for my piece on the New Year's jumper who took a police dog with him.

This is a very grim subject, but it's sort of interesting, so I'm going to roll with it...

Two people tried to jump off the Coronado Bridge in the last six days. The first one made it into the Union-Tribune, which is rare. Apparently a man stole a car in Las Vegas, then drove to San Diego, went to the top of the bridge, got out, and tried to jump off. A motorist stopped and apparently talked him out of it. He continued to Coronado where he was met by the police, then he tried to run from them. The news article is here.

The second jumper was Friday night. One of our drivers put the call on the radio: "The ramp onto Coronado bridge from Caesar Chavez Parkway is closed because of a jumper." About 20 minutes later, another of our drivers came to the hotel where I was staging. He said he was driving across the bridge when he saw a man running from several cops, who were also on foot. As our driver went by the man, he jumped up on the railing. Our driver didn't see him jump, and we never heard what happened. The ramp was opened within 20 minutes.

Background on the bridge and jumpers

The Coronado Bridge is 2.2 miles long and 200 feet above the bay. It connects San Diego with Coronado, an island (technically a peninsula) that protects the harbor from the Pacific Ocean. The bridge is huge, dominating the skyline. It makes a bend of almost 90 degrees, and it's basically a hill, with a fairly steep run to the top, then back down. The Golden Gate Bridge, by comparison, is 220 feet high (road surface) and is about 1.5 miles long.

I have heard a lot of jumper notices on the radio in my two years of driving cab -- probably six per year, with my first year (April 2005-2006) being much busier than the second. It seems like I heard about one per month for that first year. I always pause and hope the person changes his mind. I've had customers in the car when a call came through, and they become somber, too. Usually the message is short and simple: "There's a jumper on the Coronado Bridge," sometimes followed by a closure notice. CHP often closes down all travel, both directions, for as long as four hours.

Incidentally, any rides we get to Coronado during that time are much more lucrative, as we have to take the 5 freeway all the way down to Imperial Beach, then drive up the Silver Strand into Coronado. A 10 minute drive from downtown becomes 30 minutes. More, if IB traffic is bad. I once picked up people in San Diego going home to Coronado who said they missed the opening of a Padres (baseball) game because of a jumper.

Bridge in background on a hazy day; these
shots are from Harbor Island, with downtown
to the left, and Coronado to the right

The bridge has no walkway, unlike the Golden Gate, and there's no shoulder. So, it's assumed that anybody walking on the bridge is planning on committing suicide. There's no net, and the cement guard rail is only about three feet high. Our drivers always call 911 when we see somebody walking.

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From downtown

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Driving on the bridge

Personally, I've seen four people walking in two years, and I called 911 each time. The first three times the operator said they already had the info. The fourth time, I was asked for the exact location (I was the first to call), which side of the bridge, and which direction of travel. They didn't ask for a description, but I remember him well: he was wearing blue jeans, a blue jacket, and a blue baseball cap. He was small in size, maybe 5'6" to 5'10", medium build. I couldn't see what race he might have been. He was walking slowly, looking straight ahead, near the top of the bridge. Traffic was heavy, and I didn't stop, and didn't see what he might or might not have done. The bridge was closed in both directions for several hours that time. I checked the Union-Tribune for the next couple of days, but I never saw a story about it. I'd like to think the police talked him out of it.

I found something interesting: apparently several people have survived the jump. The San Diego Reader has the story.

Car died

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I watched the temp gauge rise slightly, then
it zoomed all the way up (second from right)

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I pulled over...

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I ended up spending Friday and Saturday night with the loaner car (my car died Friday night). I had no laptop because the loaner doesn't have a mounting system. It has been a while since I went without the technology, especially for two nights in a row. It was good and bad -- good because the car wasn't cluttered with computers and power inverters and wires. Without all the distractions I listened to the cab radio more closely, which is fairly entertaining because our drivers act like school children. I was able to dig into a novel, too.

It was bad because I'm used to having GPS, the web, and movies to keep things entertaining. I felt like I was driving naked without all that stuff. It was a very odd feeling. In a way, the GPS and access to the web are crutches. I can do the job without them, but what a hassle!

Also, the loaner car was absurd. When I picked it up, the car was two quarts down on oil, about three quarts down on coolant, and all the tires were at 20 psi, except one, which was at 15 psi. They should all be around 35-40. The interior was so filthy I wondered if I might get some flesh-eating disease. My first customer was a lady, and she decided to put her window down. Once we hit the freeway she tried to put it up, but it wouldn't go. She complained mightily about getting her hair blown around. I didn't have the heart (or lack thereof) to tell her a tornado couldn't make her mop look any worse.

At about midnight last night (about two hours ago), I was at a cab stand at a hotel when I was belled to a bar. I started the unsightly beast and found that it was stuck in Park. After a minute or two of fighting with the shifter, I had to call and tell them to give the ride to another driver. Finally it went into Drive, and when I tried to get it back into Park, it wouldn't go. I was on a hill, so I had to keep my foot on the break. With the car turned off, and therefore no power assisted braking, it took a great deal of leg muscle to keep the car from rolling. WTF? I tried leaving it running, in Drive, and that held it in place. But, that would probably cause the transmission to overheat and such. I should have driven to Broadway pier and dumped it into San Diego Bay. I would have been doing the company a big favor. I finally brought the piece of dung back to HQ and said: "This car is absurd. Give me another one."

Well, there were no other cars available, so the night ended early. I made very little money tonight, but did well last night, so I'm content.

Tomorrow I should be back in business with the Millennium Falcon, complete with all the techno-entertainment, and then life will be good once again.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Police call

I was staging across the street from a bar at 1 a.m., an hour before bars close in California. The door to the bar was open. It has been a very quiet night, with little traffic or street noise.

I heard what sounded like a bartender yelling. "Stop or I'll call the cops!"

Within three minutes a police car arrived with its lights on and stopped on the street in front of the bar. Two officers got out and went inside. A second car circled the block, looking for someone.

I heard one of our drivers call in a ride on the radio, and I knew he'd be driving past me and the bar. So I got on the radio and told him to be on the lookout for anyone suspicious, as the police are searching for someone in the area. Our HQ often gets calls from the police asking for us to be watching for suspects or missing persons. This time, I decided to pre-empt them. People running from the law often take cabs.

A few minutes later I was belled: "95, police call." It was to the bar. I pulled up alongside the police cars and the officers came out. I asked if they had requested me, and they said it was another officer a block away.

I went to the location and found a cop letting a mid-20s guy out of the back of his police car. "Tell it to the judge," the cop said to the guy.

The guy got in the cab asking to go to IB (Imperial Beach). I asked him what happened, and he said his two friends got in a fight with another guy, and when the bartender threatened to call the cops, everyone ran out the back door and down the alley.

He said he wasn't involved in the fight, but since he ran, he was chased down and handcuffed. The police determined he wasn't involved in the fight, so they sent him home. The guy said his friends hadn't been caught yet.

En route to IB, one of our drivers was speaking with dispatch on the cab radio.

Guy: Is that a police scanner?

Me: No, it's the cab radio.

Guy: You can't hear the cops on that?"

Me: No.

The guy was really nervous. I'm sure the cops had tried to get him to tell where his friends might be going. He probably wanted to hear whether they had been apprehended, too.

He got a phone call, and in hushed tones, said, "I can't talk right now. I'll call you back in a few minutes." It had to be one of the fighters.

I got him to IB without incident. The meter was $28, and that's what I got.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rates increased

Our rates went from $2.40 per mile to $2.60. For every five miles I drive, I get an extra $1. That should help with gas, considering how ridiculous the prices are.

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Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) regulates buses, taxis, and trolleys

Gaslamp Quarter

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6th Ave

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7th Ave

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Buca on 6th Ave

Wednesday night rides so far

My first ride was a short one, only $4.60, and the lady tried to pay with a $100 bill. I took her last three singles and said not to worry about the rest.

The next ride was $7, to a golf course. I got stiffed, then the guy seemed perplexed as to why I wouldn't get his clubs out of the trunk. He was about 50, and I would have thought that was long enough to understand at least the basics of how the world works, but alas no. The lack of extra service will have to remain a mystery to him.

UPDATE: The guy paid the $7 fare, but stiffed me on the tip. I apologize for messing things up.

The rest of the evening so far has gone well. I've had several call in the $20-$30 range. There are several small business conferences in town, and people are moving between hotels and heading to the Gaslamp Quarter to get drunk have a nice evening out.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Juan Pablo Montoya pitches Dodge

I think this is Montoya's first commercial as a NASCAR Nextel Cup driver.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

I've been following the progress of a family of ducks at the Marriott for a couple of weeks. There's a mother raising eight chicks. Last week they were very small, and today I see they're grown a lot. They're probably double in size. This is a good mother!

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Last week

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This week; she's a good mother for keeping eight ducklings alive; one on the right looks like mom

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Two interesting rides on Mother's Day

Happy Mother's day to all the mothers out there. It's a tough job, often thankless, and it's done out of love. Thank you to my mother and all mothers.

I got a late start today because I had trouble waking up. I stayed up late to watch the Formula 1 race live. Felipe Massa won the Spanish Grand Prix, with the kid Lewis Hamilton taking 2nd (that's all podiums for the rookie). It has been a very slow afternoon, and will probably stay slow all evening. I've been watching movies I transferred from the DVR to the laptop. It's a great way to pass the time between rides.

I've had two interesting rides today:

Vietnam Veteran

I drove an interesting guy, probably in his sixties. He's in San Diego to visit his daughter and grandkids for Mother's Day.

Someone on the car stereo mentioned dreams, and the guy said he recently had a strange one. He re-lived an experience from Vietnam, where he was getting shot at by an unseen enemy. He and his two soldier-companions ran into the woods and took cover. He said he tensed his legs so tightly while in a crouch that he pulled muscles.

In his dream he did the same thing, and his legs hurt for two days. He said he doesn't have flashbacks or any other trouble from his Vietnam experience. Just the occasional dream.

He spent one year in-country as a sniper, and went on a total of 29 missions. He was shot at three times -- once by the U.S. Army, once by the U.S. Navy, and once by the enemy. He was never wounded.

Austin, Texas

I drove a newly married couple, middle 20s, who are visiting San Diego because they're considering moving here from Austin, Texas. I told them a few things I know. I could work for the Dept. of Tourism.

San Diego:

+ Very low crime rate for a city of this size

+ Top two industries are defense and tourism

+ Top 5 in USA for venture capital investment; top 3 for life sciences; lots of high-tech: Qualcomm, Sony games (like Everquest), Intuit / TurboTax, Akamai, etc.

+ Military capital of the West Coast

+ Somewhat insulated from economic downturns (last recession had other cities, like Seattle, at 8% unemployment, while we stayed around 5.5-6%)

+ Interesting city -- ocean, desert, Los Angeles, Mexico, great zoo, Sea World, etc.

+ Best weather on earth (Canary Islands and a few other places are as good or better, but have far less to offer, like commerce, jobs, universities, and the Chargers)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Nightly ritual

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Fill with gas, check the fluids, remove my personal stuff

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Highway robbery at $3.39 per gallon

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Permit, gum, SD card reader, hand cleaner (money is filthy), and ibuprofen

Friday photos

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Harbor Dr between the airport and downtown

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Grand Ave going from Pacific Beach to I-5

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same as above

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