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Sometimes Its Hard to be Thankful

Looking back on 2020 its hard to be thankful. We are faced with a pandemic, economic disruption, a chaotic political scene, the most destructive riots in history, natural disasters, a governing class seemingly unwilling to take the needs and feelings of the electorate into account when decision making, a media caught up in ideology rather than even handed reporting, and the rest.

We have lost the ability to win or lose with grace. The pressures of lock downs and closures have cost us the ability to reason. We accept the decisions of our betters without question. Neighbors are turned against neighbors for no rational reason. How can we possibly be thankful?

Come on, Van Horn, don’t tell me it could be worse.  I’m almost afraid to list some of the good things that still exist. I don’t want to hex them.

Electricity and water still flow. There is plenty of gasoline for our cars, trucks, and planes. Planes are flying, and if you need to get somewhere, you can. Grocery stores are stocked and with a few minor exceptions caused by irrational fears, we even have toilet paper, although for some reason, I can’t say the same about formula 409.

We seem to have developed a vaccine for the virus, at ‘warp speed.’  At least three pharmaceutical companies have developed the drug and it should be available in the next couple of weeks. Total time to fruition, less than nine months.  This usually takes two to three years or more.

The vast majority of us (over 90%) have not gotten the virus, and won’t. And the vast majority of those who do, (well over 90%) will survive.

The economy is showing resilience, and my guess is that by mid year, the numbers will continue to climb, if we can just keep out of the way.

From the cartoons and pictures I see on line, we haven’t lost our sense of humor. We can still laugh at ourselves. And why not.

Here is my only fear: Our betters in government will do what they usually do and believe that for some reason the people who had the wisdom to elect them don’t have the wisdom to run their own lives. They will continue to micro manage and destroy the fervor and energy that is America. I leave you with the following:

Take a few moments this season to consider The Serenity Prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

Happy Thanksgiving


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Don’t pay the Ransom, I’ve Escaped

I know, its been a while since I have blogged. We all get down a bit. But this past week has been an eyeopener for me.

I hadn’t been on an airplane for nine months. For most, that doesn’t seem unusual, but checking my calendar for 2019, I was averaging two to three plane flights a month. The Pandemic had put me on the ground.

I was reacting to news stories and empty parking lots at LAX. It seemed there was a paradigm shift going on in air travel. Everyone was talking about how it would never be the same.

I was forced to fly to Chicago in November. And let’s face it, I began the trip with some trepidation. Would I be checked for CV by TSA? Would there be temperature checks? How would flight attendants treat the passengers? Would I step off the plane having been infected with a deadly disease?

Well, guess what. None of that happened. With the exception that everyone was wearing masks, there was absolutely no difference flying in November than flying in March. Well except for the fact that the TSA, airport employees, and flight attendants seemed actually happy to see you.

At the security checkpoint in Chicago, the officer was actually joking with the passengers in line. He played with my passport, his eyes smiling behind his mask. It was a laugh when he asked me to lower my mask so he could make sure it was “me”. I had no clue what he was asking so he lowered his to show me.

The Plane was nearly full. There was one difference. There was no inflight service. You were given a baggy upon entering that contained a small bottle of water, a package of cookies, and a hand wipe. After the plane took off, I didn’t see a flight attendant again until we were on final at O’Hare. Frankly I didn’t miss them.

All the flights seemed to be full or nearly so, but the airport wasn’t full at all. In Chicago the restaurants and shops were open, those in LA not so much.

The flight was a pleasant experience. I commend air travel to you. Its time to get back out there, folks. Go for it.  I see that Thanksgiving travel is going strong, but not back to normal. I think that’s great. People are loosening up a bit. This is not a bad thing. We are beginning to overcome fear. And if we are to survive as a people, we must.

Hotels are a different story. Its spooky to stay in a hotel with only about 10% of the rooms taken. Someone said it reminded her of “The Shining.”

I went to Schaumburg, Illinois, to work on final plans for PIE 2021. I came away excited about hosting the first in person event in the industry in well over a year. It will be fantastic to see old friends and make new ones. We have some ideas that will fit in with the obvious restrictions, and you will love them.

We will reveal them to you over the next few months.

All you scolds, back off. I’m not downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic, but I do understand the social toll it has taken. We live lives interacting with other people and we must do that. We need to be careful, those of us of a “certain age” and those with preexisting conditions should take care, but the vast majority of us need to interact, we need to meet and greet, we need to see people and smile again.

I have mentioned before that restricting face to face meetings is anathema to one’s creative juices. This little two day trip made a huge difference in my outlook. The meetings at the hotel were face to face, across a table without masks. We could see the excitement in the facial expressions of our partners in PIE 2021. They told us stories about life in the pandemic and how they were coming out of it.

The folks behind the registration desks were friendly and chatty. We went to dinner, inside a restaurant, and were regaled by the restaurant owner with stories about having an open restaurant. The place was packed. But social distancing was maintained. Masks were in place except when eating. We talked about our families, school opening and closing, the trials in working from home and the excitement on returning to the office.

Yes, people want to return to the office. Don’t believe the stories about a permanent ‘zoom’ theory on the workplace. The people I met, some very high in the organization, were actually giddy about reopening the office. The vaccine was on everyone’s lips.

We need to put politics aside and thanks those who began “project warp speed” and got the vaccine moving. What normally would take years, took months. Were there mistakes. Sure. Someone equated the response to the pandemic to building a plane while you were flying it.


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People are just Tired, But Annie has it right!

Astrid pointed out this morning that as she walked to the post office yesterday, her neighborhood seemed subdued. There was no energy in her central city area. Traffic seemed down, the normal shops and stores were empty, it was like a Sunday on a Wednesday. And remember, this was ground zero for the riots earlier this year in Los Angeles.

I posited that maybe, after the election, people were just tired. You can be ‘up’ and ‘tense’ only so long. Its over, no matter who wins, and I think people are relieved, and want to just hide out and relax for a while.

Sure we still go to work and go through the motions, but we have had it with the pressure placed on us by Covid, by the election, by the constant bombardment by the media, by Antifa and mostly peaceful demonstrations,  by our fears and concerns, valid or not. Malaise has set in. One colleague mentioned to me that she just felt ‘icky’. Covid? She didn’t know, but she felt like she didn’t really care any more. She was just tired.

Tired of talking, tired to thinking about the next crisis, tired of worrying about this and that. People are just plain tired.

There is something to be said for malaise. Sometimes we need to just take some time and recover, and I commend you to it. Relax, turn off the news, watch a few episodes of Love Boat, and get some sleep.

As Annie sings: “The sun will come up tomorrow…Tomorrow, tomorrow I love ya tomorrow, You’re always day away …’

Meanwhile, this, from comedian Angelo Tsarouchas, is worth a read:

Early November is finally here. I have seen a lot of hate spewed in recent days about a man who is a constant winner and overachiever, and that’s what the people who support him like about him. Yes, he’s been caught in some lies and maybe twisted the truth a little but he’s still out there proving his haters wrong time after time. Some people are just jealous of someone who is successful and has money. Throw in a hot foreign underwear model at his side and they hate him even more. You may not have wanted him in his role, but he’s there now and there’s nothing you can do about it. I know it’s possibly just going to get worse over the next several days, but like him or not, Tom Brady is turning things around in Tampa.


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Why Have Vacations?

Parkmobile has done a survey on people taking vacations and where, how long, and whether they drove or took other transportation. You can access the survey here.

The one thing that caught my eye was that many people commented that since they were working from home, and all set up with a home office on their computer, they simply packed their laptop in their suitcase and could carry one working, making their vacation more productive.

Where is it written that your vacation should be ‘productive.’ I see this as another disaster that the lockdown and Covid-19 has placed upon us. Why have vacations anyway?

Many companies have developed a use it or lose it policy.  They want their employees to take their vacation time. Its important to get away, recharge, and burn off some steam. When you come back you have a fresh outlook and are more productive.

I wonder if the fact that people are working from home is a similar issue. Do you ever leave the office? I get emails from folks in the middle of the night, and they expect an immediate response. Can you sit down to dinner without receiving a phone call from a colleague or a customer. “I’m at work, why aren’t you?”

Can we never kick back, have an adult beverage, and leave the office behind? This home office fiasco has put us all in a difficult position. Yes, Yes I know that we can ignore the home office, but when everyone knows you are working from home, can you really?

Isn’t it time to get back in the office and get a tad of separation between work and home?


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LPR – A Hot Topic

The post I wrote a few days ago on License Plate Recognition has exploded on Linkedin. Jordan puts my blogs up on my Linkedin page and almost 5000 people have viewed it in the past week and a half. There are number of comments, most agreeing, some adding more information, some in total disagreement.

One comment that caught my eye was a reader who thought the whole idea of LPR was a waste. Seems he feels that it can be replaced with Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) and it never fails. A failure rate of 2 or 3 percent would cause huge traffic problems, he stated, and therefore a back up credential was needed anyway. So why go to the expense of LPR in the first place.

I might comment that there are other uses for LPR than just monthly access. I am always impressed when I visit a location where I pull a ticket, pay at a central POF, and then drive to the gate. I always have my ticket ready to stick in some machine at exit, but to my amazement, the gate opens as I drive toward it. I later look at my ticket and find my license plate printed on it.

This is a great convenience for the daily parker and speeds up the exit, an important feature in this case, which is a monthly/transient lot with about 200 cars and one entry and exit lane.

I’m sure there are more uses for LPR than just as a monthly credential, I just haven’t run across them.


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A Solution for the Divisive Crisis in which We Find Ourselves

There is no question that the election season 2020 is divisive; brother against sister, husband against wife, neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. We find that someone is voting for ‘the other guy’ and we write them off as ‘insane’, ‘idiots’, ‘lost their minds’, and many terms that cannot be written in a family publication.

I think a lot of this is based on the fact the most people don’t support their candidate, they tear down yours. Trump is a donkey’s butt, Biden is a senile liar, and we are off to the races. I will increase my vindictive against your guy, you will try to top me about mine. Before long its close to fisticuffs, and we say things that do permanent damage to a relationship.

I have a solution to all this. What if we didn’t tear down our competition, but spend the conversation building up our guy. Tell me the reasons why you think your guy is best for the job, and you cannot mention my guy in the conversation.

If we are selecting the leader of our country, we should know just what good he is going to do. We should be able to list the things that he or she brings to the office. We should be able to show what actions he has taken in the past that will back up our claims that he is ‘the guy.’ From my point of view, simply tearing down my candidate doesn’t cut it, and it causes irreparable damage to the national fabric.

With the possible exception of obscure political junkies writing in blogs no one reads, I cannot think of a person that has, in the media, or anywhere else for that matter, said a word about the positive side of their candidate. Oh they can go for hours on why mine is a donkey’s butt, but never a positive word about theirs. To me this is sad.

And it is painful to the point of destroying relationships at every level. Congress no longer can debate a particular bill and then go have a drink with the competition, talking heads castigate entire sections of the populace and never once mention why I should vote for their guy. Ah for the days when Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia could argue daily about points of law, then spend an evening as close friends discussing opera or when Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan could go head to head on domestic and defense policy, but find agreement on foreign affairs.

Try to have a conversation where you only discuss the benefits of your candidate. If you can’t, shame on you.


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The Act of Voting

I have had two incidents in the past week that have turned me against voting by mail. (Absentee ballots are fine; if you aren’t going to be in town, you contact the county, and they send you a ballot. Fair enough). But here in California they sent us an actual ballot, unsolicited. How do they know I’m still at this address, or for that matter how do they know I’m still alive. Or how do they know the ballot will get delivered to them after I vote. And therein lies the tale.

I decided to vote. I filled out the ballot as carefully as I could (see previous blog) and put it out for the post person to take. Two hours later the three year old daughter of our next door neighbor brought me a stack of mail. She asked if these were ours. Yep, six letters all addressed to me and delivered to her house. And guess what, one of them was my ballot. Yikes. I have heard of misdirected ballots but this happened to me. What if they had simply tossed it in the trash?

The second incident was a tad more horrifying. I was speaking to a friend who told me that he had received a ballot for his recently deceased mother. He was very proud of himself. He opened it, voted, forged his mother’s name, and mailed it in. Just how many times does that have to happen to change the outcome of an election? In some cases one changed vote per precinct can change everything.

When I was growing up the polling place where my parents voted was in a private home, next door to our house. Those staffing the place were an equal number Democrat and Republican. Also, between them they knew personally virtually everyone in the precinct. The ballots were hand marked, counted at the precinct, and the results called in to the county seat. I doubt if there were more than 500 in the precinct. The judges (the folks working the election were called judges) kept everything on an even keel.

In our case, the homeowner where the election was held also served food to those who came to vote. She had breakfast ready for the early voters, a quick lunch and full dinner for those coming later. Everyone, including the kids, looked forward to Pearl’s house on election day.

Last election I voted at a fire station which has four precincts rolled into one place. You figure out which precinct you are in, go to that line, sign there, and get your ballot. The chances of you knowing any of the “judges” or frankly anyone else who is voting, is nil.

This year, you can vote anywhere you want. I guess the names are on line so you can go to any polling place, and they will look up whether or not you have already voted, and if not, allow you to vote. It takes all the personal feelings about the election away. You are just another faceless voter among the masses, not a neighbor from down the street exercising your right to vote.

I know its old fashioned, but I miss Pearl’s house as a place to vote. It was personal, its was fair, and how can you be upset if you just had an order of eggs and bacon after you voted. There were no harsh words when people got together to vote at Pearl’s. She would have a thing or two to say about that.


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Better to punt than be wrong

Michelle over at the IPMI has penned a very good piece on voting. She rightly comments that is it our civic duty to vote. She then opines that we need to be kind and proceeds to note that it is possible to disagree but still be civil and friends. She likens it to sports. It’s a good analogy. But…

I sometimes wonder if voting for voting’s sake is a good idea. What if your vote is wrong? I particularly wonder about judges. I mean how can you possibly know whether a person running for judge is qualified, fair, honorable, or simply an ego maniac looking for a day job. You have never heard them speak; you have never even had someone you trust tell you how to vote. (And the recommendations of the local newspaper does not count.) What if your vote is wrong?

Unless you are a political or news junkie, how can you possibly follow all the ins and outs of a campaign. I watched exactly two minutes of the debate last night and caught each candidate in a lie. Now what?

Voting is serious business. Just because someone has an “R” or a “D” after their name doesn’t mean anything. And we simply cannot rely on the media to give us any information, good or bad. They are as biased as the candidate themselves.

You might say that the incumbent is bad, so you will vote for the outsider. But, what if the outsider is worse.

Some take the position that you should vote based on what someone has done, not what they say. But how do you realistically know what they have done? Have you studied the record? Have you read the tens of thousands of pages and then sifted the wheat from the chaff?

I voted a week ago and then found some information that would have changed my vote for a certain proposition. Fortunately, my ballot was returned to me by my next door neighbor as the mail person had delivered it to her. I tore it up and will vote in person. But consider the last few sentences. Is mail in balloting such a good idea? Will your vote be counted? Shouldn’t we all wait to vote until all the information is in?

Yes, Michelle, it is our civic duty to vote. And also our civic duty to be knowledgeable. But sometimes (like the judges) that’s impossible. We should vote, but know what we are voting for.

Frankly I don’t know what I’m saying. I can only say that for me, if I don’t have a strong opinion about a person or a ballot proposal, I don’t check that box. And frankly, there are a lot of empty boxes on my ballot. Better to punt than be wrong.


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Does your PARCS system really work?

To answer that question one has to understand what ‘work’ means to the questioner. In dealing with PARCS systems, it could mean many things. To wit:

  1. When a car approaches the gate and presents a credential or pulls a ticket, does the gate goes up.
  2. The systems acts like ‘1’ above except it checks the credential for validity.
  3. The system keeps track of all the tickets issued and lists them upon request.
  4. The system knows when a credential is invalid and turns it off automatically.
  5. The system does all the things the salesperson said it would do.
  6. The system does most of the things a salesperson said it would do and ‘1’ above.
  7. All monies collected by a POF are accounted for and all credit card transactions are checked on line.
  8. If a person has not paid or their credential is invalid, they are stopped at the gate.
  9. The system works off line.
  10. The system will not work off line.

There are more but you get the point.

I could probably hold either side of most of the ‘working’ reasons above and a large number of you would consider me correct.  How can that be? Something either works or it doesn’t.

I think it has to do with what you bought the thing to do in the first place. I mean what you really what it to do. In other words, do you want to control the location, or do you want to control the location except when the customer might be inconvenienced. In that case, maybe its “OK” to skirt the rules a bit. We don’t want anyone to complain, now do we.

When I was selling alarm systems to movie stars (a story for another time), sometimes we would get a star who just wouldn’t follow the rules and not open a certain window or door when the alarm system was on. This caused numerous false alarms, and many unkind words to patrol staff who responded to those alarms. The solution; jump out the sensor to the offending door or window. Problem solved. What we did was purposefully break a working system so the customer wouldn’t be inconvenienced.

If we allow the PARCS system to run off line, then we are letting a broken system control our facility so we don’t inconvenience practically everyone. However if we say the system must run on line, all the time, or shut down the garage, my guess is that the offending part would be quickly and permanently fixed, and that there would be a repair crew handy to ensure the system was always up and running.

A bank or a grocery store would never allow their control systems to run off line. Period. They wouldn’t allow a broken system in their facility. Why should we?

So the next time someone asks if a certain systems ‘works ‘ perhaps you should get their definition of ‘works’ before you answer.


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Can LPR Accurately Identify 100% of the Cars Scanned?

This is one of those situations where you have to know the answers before you ask the questions. Most LPR companies would tell you that they read license plates in the high 90% range. Fair Enough. However that’s of license plates that can be read.

What about plates behind a bike rack, or trailer hitch, or covered with mud or snow or ice? What about cars with no plates, or dealer plates in the rear window? What about plates from a foreign country with strange characters or fonts?

I remember a few years ago talking to an LPR company rep in the UK. I asked him what the percentage read rate was. He asked me where was he doing the reading. I said in the UK. He said better than 99%, a requirement by the government to provide LPR technology to the police and enforcement agencies. I then said, “In the US.” When he stopped laughing, he said, “Maybe in the mid 80%, on a good day.”

Seems that in the UK, all license are the same – that is white on black, and the same font. In the US, every state is different, plus in most states, there are different designs, pictures, and PR slogans. I understand there are more than 50 different designs in California alone. The computer must be trained to differentiate between all these and do it accurately.

Technology has moved on since my conversation in the UK. However even if the camera/computer combination is capable of reading and decoding 100% of plates it can see, what about those listed in paragraph above?

If I am scanning cars on the freeway, or those parked on a city street and miss a few, one could say “so what.” I’m still probably getting more accuracy that if I was relying on a PEO entering data on their hand held. But what if I’m relying on LPR to allow vehicles to enter and exit a garage? If I miss 10% and don’t have any other way to get them in or out, I have a real problem in the lanes.

Granted the read rate may be higher in garages because the cars are stopped, the cameras aligned perfectly, and lighting is ‘just right.’ But still, some will be missed.

The point is that when you ask about read rates, be sure you ask the right questions. The answers may all be true, but not all are helpful.


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