Friday, June 04, 2010

The BEST Comment EVER

I have been following the Israeli Flotillagate, and a friend sent me this article discussing US citizenship, especially in context of the American citizen who was murdered by the Israeli Defense Forces.

As usual, I like to read other readers' comments, and comment #22 written by a "El Cid" made me laugh.

-------------------------Start of Comment-------------------------
Israel’s Interior Minister wants to remove citizenship from the Israeli Arab Knesset (Parliament) representative who was arrested on the flotilla.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai petitioned Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to help him revoke the Israeli citizenship of Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zuabi, who took part in efforts to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza on a flotilla of aid ships earlier this week…

...In recent days,” Yishai wrote to Weinstein on Thursday, “Israel’s citizens have witnessed how an Israeli member of parliament, Hanin Zuabi, headed a group of terrorists who aimed to hurt Israel Defense Forces soldiers, under the protection of her parliamentary immunity.”

Yishai asked Weinstein for his help as the Supreme Court had ruled that an interior minister cannot revoke a person’s citizenship without the written authorization of the attorney general.

“MK Zuabi used her immunity as a cloak to protect her from the law, although she was undoubtedly aware of the activists’ preparations for the attack against IDF troops,” Yishai wrote. “This is a premeditated act of treason, and there is documented proof of this.”

An “attack on IDF troops”.

Similarly, innocent people shot by police are premeditated bullet thieves.
-------------------------End of Comment-------------------------

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lo siento, yo no soy Hispano.

When I went to Cancun with a friend a couple years ago, I was taken aback a little bit when the local folks talked to me in Spanish. Not just a couple here or there, but a lot. Being mistaken for a Hispanic in the United States is one thing, as I attribute it to ignorant people, but to be mistaken likewise in Mexico just tells me that, perhaps, despite my tainted brownish Chinese appearance, I may really look like a fair skinned Hispanic.

Now, why did I bring this up? Imagine this: I go down to Arizona for a little touristy visit, and like a typical American, I bring just my Illinois state ID. No passport, no birth certificate and no certificate of naturalization. Furthermore, I nonchalantly rolled through a stop sign at an intersection instead of coming to a full stop for three seconds as required by most traffic laws. I get pulled over, and am asked for proof of my legal status. Unfortunately, I cannot provide this. So I get arrested without a warrant, and then later transferred to Homeland Security custody, instead of just being cited for traffic violation as usual.

This potential chain reaction started with the fact that I didn't carry on my person proof of legal status in the country, further compounded by the fact that I looked Hispanic. And this all could happen only because of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which amended a few existing Arizona statutes.

Arizona SB 1070 came about following the brutal murder of a third generation Arizona rancher, Robert Krentz near the border on March 27, which heated up the anger and frustration of Arizonans. The Republican senators, in response without looking like they're not doing anything, rushed through the creation of the bill and slammed it through the senate through its Republican majority seats of Senate. All Republicans, save for Carolyn S Allen, voted for the passage of the bill, whereas the Democrats either voted against or abstained. [The senate is made up of 18 Republicans, 12 Democrats, and 3 vacated seats. The vote breakdown was 17 Ayes (all Republicans), 11 Nays (10 Democrats and 1 Republican), and 2 Abstains (both Democrats).]

Please don't get me wrong. Like most Americans, I agree with the fact that this nation has an illegal immigration problem which desperately needs addressing. Furthermore, I am in full support of states taking measures to protect themselves in such regards when the federal government has been unable to address the issue. But, I am not in support of Arizona's new law. Specifically the amendment to Section 2, Title 11, Chapter 7 with the addition to Article 8, where provision B states:

This provision forces all levels of law enforcement from state to county to city to subdivision to act as immigration officer, a jurisdiction held by the federal government, not anywhere else. The jurisdiction issue is not something I particularly care about, but I do care about the fact that anyone can be detained where "reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States."

Great! Now what? If you read the entire bill, nowhere did the legislature provide any assistance to law enforcement on the definition of "reasonable suspicion," nor provide any guidelines in understanding so. If I ask you to take a look at two women, one of whom is menstruating, and the other not, would you be able to tell which one is? Likewise, how can you tell the difference between someone who is here legally and one who isn't? Because, Arizona's law basically gave whether "reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States" as a probable cause. And nowhere in the bill do the Republican lawmakers explain what this "reasonable suspicion" is.

This poorly written and rushed bill is vague in its language, and certainly invites racial profiling as a tool that law enforcements will reluctantly employ in determining who is an illegal alien and who isn't. There is no way around it, given the vagueness of the bill.

Since 1995, there have been several joint programs between the federal and local governments known as 287(g) programs. Such programs were authorized by Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), enacted in 1995. Section 287(g) of this law authorized the federal government to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of sworn U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

In essence, 287(g) programs give local law enforcements the same powers as provided by Arizona Senate Bill 1070, with a couple differences: 1) requirement of training on the local law enforcement's part, and 2) the option to question someone of their legal status rests on the local law enforcer, as opposed to required all of the time.

Given that several programs have been created under this provision in federal law for 15 years, many of the participating local law enforcement agencies have advised Arizona Governor Brewer against endorsing SB 1070. Their reasons, which can be backed up by statistics, were: 1) No matter how much training their law enforcers had from the federal government, nearly half of them admitted that determination was so difficult that they ended up unknowingly and unintentionally employing racial profiling practices; 2) Only 9% of the 145,000 people arrested under this program were violent criminals; and 3) The program has a counterproductive effect on people as it creates distrust of law enforcement to the point where no witness, legal or not, is willing to report crimes or help investigators.

The most important thing to note here is that those with experience in similar types of enforcements have warned of racial profiling, a practice deemed unconstitutional in various courts, as it violates the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [The Fourth Amendment states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.] Proponents of AZ SB 1070, when discussing the merits of the law, seemed willing to give up such a civil liberty as if the right was not worth anything. Either that or they tend to downplay the severity of such practice. When publicly asked how the state's various law enforcement agencies can avoid racial profiling without the state legislature providing assistance either in language or provision of training dollars in the bill, Governor Brewer simply responded that racial profiling will not happen. As if her word alone is strong enough to prevent some of the most natural human tendencies toward racial bias. (Please don't confuse "racial bias" from a subconscious state of mind to active "racism.")

Another noteworthy point is that proponents of the law seem to buy into the notion created by the fear mongering of Republicans that illegal immigrants are all violent criminals, with the propensity to take a life. And this is further amplified by Conservative media, which just adds fuel to a raging fire. Just watch this incendiary Fox News report on the peoples' reaction to the rancher's murder, which conveniently left out the voices of those in the town hall meeting with an opposing (and cool-headed and objective) point of view:

What's important to realize is that those who commit violent crimes have no boundaries in skin color or even immigration status. I thought we have already learned the lesson from the misconception at the turn of the century when people assumed black people were the culprits behind any given crime when there are no suspects. But now, at the turn of the new century, instead of black people, illegal immigrants are being unfairly targeted and portrayed as violent criminals at large who will do anything and break common sense laws, such as murder.

I fully support states that adopt their own laws to protect its citizens when the federal government seemed unable to do so when it comes to border and immigration issues. So long as the laws are not unconstitutional. But the Arizona law gave an open invitation to racial profiling without constitutional probable cause, and thus lead to violation of the Fourth Amendment. It's not the idea behind the law I am against, but the vagueness of the verbiage and lack of provision to protect the civil rights of all people that I am truly against.

The United States was founded and based on civil rights, which Americans are so damn proud of because no other country can rival it even today. In the Declaration of Independence, it is stated: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." We further stated in the Preamble to the United States Constitution: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." And we spelled out what these unalienable rights and blessings of liberty are, in the form of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution.

Of so many laws pertaining to immigration enacted and adopted by many states in 2010 alone, the Arizona state law is the only one that not only draws criticism, but takes away a civil right protected by the United States Constitution by means of legalized racial profiling. The law does nothing more than make a mockery of our Constitution. For that, I cannot fully support or agree with how Arizonans chose to protect themselves from illegal immigration problems.

You know what one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once wrote? "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What Constitutes a Smartphone?

As it is 2010 already, it has almost been three years since I first wrote about the iPhone. Without much fanfare, it has been nearly a year since I upgraded my Nokia N95 to the N97 phone. And now, we have iPhone OS version 4 coming soon in the summer. So where do I stand now? With news of the new iPhone OS version 4 and the unfortunate accidental discovery of a prototype 4th generation iPhone recently, let's take another pulse...

First, we start with the elimination of my quips of the iPhone since I last wrote about it.

1. Multitasking: FINALLY! Sort of. Apple finally allows a pseudo form of multitasking. Instead of doing full multitasking just like Nokia's Symbian or Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS (except for the upcoming version 7), the iPhone now allows some sort of multitasking by giving the application access to resources via seven predefined APIs. Never mind the fact that Nokia's Symbian OS has been able to do TRUE multitasking since 1997! Any technical guru can do a bit of a research and realize that Nokia's Symbian OS has the most advanced multitasking capability for a portable operating system. Apple's prior reason for not including multitasking is the argument on drain on battery life. Well, that is a line of horse crap that we all have heard before, and now replaced with other baseless reasons. Remember the argument that the 3G chip was not included in the initial iPhone because for fear of battery drain? Ha!
Status: With this new feature, albeit limited and inferior to even Palm's WebOS, and far inferior to Nokia's Symbian OS, I am willing to give the iPhone a green light on this point.

2. Text Input: Well, the iPhone OS version 3 released in June of 2009 finally introduced a landscape keyboard as I wanted and complained about years ago. But it doesn't go far enough.
Status: Yellow light. Why yellow? It still does not address my desire to perform text input using just one hand, unless you have an unusually large hand and thumb with equally amazing dexterity. For me, text input should be simple and fast, and should not give you carpal tunnel syndrome. Too many buttons all spaced tightly together calls for microscopic accuracy for the motor and coordination functions of the hand. This is where Nokia's Symbian OS shines, with the excellent predictive text entry system using just the numeric pad. If the iPhone also offers this as an additional alternative to text input, it will be green all around. This is the very reason why I avoid full QWERTY smartphones like Nokia's E71 or BlackBerry's offerings.

3. Search: The iPhone OS version 3 finally introduced a Spotlight search feature. Nokia's Symbian S60 OS had this feature for years, and it definitely is a prerequisite for what constitutes a smartphone.
Status: Green light here.

4. Cut, Copy & Paste: This feature was initially released in iPhone OS version 3, and I truly applaud this! Not only did Apple include a feature that is a prerequisite of what a smartphone should have, it implemented the feature superbly! But did Apple really have to wait three revisions of the operating system to include a smartphone prerequisite?
Status: Green light all around for this feature!

5. Multimedia Message Service (MMS): (Or what you non-technical people call picture text messages.) It is very sad to have to include this, as this feature is such a basic feature that it should have transcended the need to be a prerequisite of a smartphone, but a prerequisite of all modern cell phones! Considering that dumbphones all around have this feature for years, I am glad that Apple finally brought this feature to the iPhone with OS version 3.
Status: Green light.

6. Assisted GPS Receiver: The second generation of the iPhone finally introduced the inclusion of a GPS receiver. What's really interesting of note here is that while Apple claimed an unacceptable battery life if the 3G radio chip was included, Apple introduced both the 3G chip and GPS receiver together in the second generation of the iPhone! Total BS on the battery drain excuse! But whatever. I'm glad Apple finally included this.
Status: Green light.

7. Video Recording: The third generation of the iPhone supports video recording. Finally.
Status: Green light here.

8. 3.5 mm TRRS Connector (audio jack): Well, the second generation of the iPhone, starting with the iPhone 3G, eliminated the recessed plug, thus making all aftermarket standard earphones a choice for the consumer.
Status: Yellow light. Why yellow light? Well, until Apple commits to keeping this plug free and clear, unlike what they did to the iPod Shuffle with the new authentication chip, I am extremely cautious of Apple's future line of products, the 4th generation of the iPhone included. Granted, so far the three generations of iPhone do not have this, but they all are not good enough a phone for me to consider owning.

Second, let's look at the list of quips that is still persistent, which still prevents me from ever considering the iPhone.

1. Bluetooth: I still don't understand why Apple included the Bluetooth radio but won't allow it to do many smartphone functionalities normally found in other smartphones for years. The initial release of the iPhone OS allows only HSP profile, or the ability to connect to wireless earphones. The next "major" change was with iPhone OS version 3, where A2DP profile support was added, which allows the iPhone to connect to wireless stereo audio devices. The final "major" change is with the new iPhone OS version 4, where a limited HID profile is to be added, which allows only keyboards (not any other HID devices) to be connected.

Seriously?!? The Bluetooth receiver is already there! Why perform software controls on what profiles can be used? For years, both dumbphones and smartphones have employed the OBEX profile, which allows transfer of any kind of files and contact vCards between Bluetooth-enabled phones. And for years, both dumbphones and smartphones have employed the HFP profile, which allows hands free connection to devices that enable hands free communication while driving. The fact that Audi was the first auto manufacturer to include Bluetooth HFP in its Audi A8 back in 2002 is a testament that Bluetooth enabled phones, both dumb and smart, had this HFP profile for years! DaimlerChrsyler and Acura offered Bluetooth HFP in 2003. Today, you can't find a car that does not offer the Bluetooth HFP connectivity as an option, including low end cheap rides!

2. PIM Synchronization: A basic smartphone should have the ability to synchronize basic PIM information. It is no secret that the intermediary catalyst of synchronization is the most important software that joins a smartphone and a computer in holy synchronization. Well, let's face it. Apple's iTunes is inferior when it comes to synchronization. For one, its inability to treat Calendar events in a flexible manner really puts iTunes to shame. For another, iTunes can only synchronize with Mac OS X Mail (on the Mac OS X platform) and Microsoft Outlook (on both the Mac OS X and Windows platforms). Whereas Nokia allows the entire PIM synchronization to happen between 5 widely used PIM software on Windows, as well as PIM software on Mac OS X via its iSync synchronization software.

3. Tethering: Sure, the iPhone OS version 3 offered tethering, but the damning part here is that it allows the carrier to decide whether to offer this or not. Why can't I buy an unsubsidized iPhone that comes with tethering enabled? Sure, blame the carrier. But once the AT&T exclusivity deal is over, what's to prevent Apple from going to another carrier for exclusivity, and thus leaving that option to the carrier as well? I'll believe wide open tethering when I see this available.

Furthermore, the kind of tethering the iPhone is capable of is strictly the use of the iPhone as a modem while connected to a computer. What about the kind of tethering where you can use your PC while connected to the iPhone to read and send SMS (aka text messages)? If I'm at work or home and sitting in front of my PC, I don't want to have to pick up my phone to type out a reply message when I receive an SMS. I'd rather do it all using my computer, using the keyboard I am already in the middle of using!

4. Battery: No matter the technology or device, I have always been wary of companies who are not forthcoming with their battery capacity details. In fact, these companies prefer to hide behind ratings such as Watt-Hours (WHr) and specs that cannot be achieved in real world tests such as X hours of talk time, which are usually estimates if everything else is off other than talking. It has been universally accepted since the invention of batteries in the nineteenth century that battery capacity is measured in ampere-hour (Ah), or milliampere-hour (mAh) for smaller batteries. Apple chose not to disclose their battery capacity, and worse, chose not to allow customers to replace the battery on their own! If the battery of the iPhone reached its end of life prematurely, you have to go without an iPhone for a period of time while your iPhone is being serviced. In today's day and age, and the reliance on cell phones as mission critical to life itself, who wants to be without a phone for days? Worse, if your iPhone battery dies out of warranty, you are either forced to buy another iPhone, or pay an exorbitant amount of money to replace the battery, which may not be a brand new one anyway!

5. Custom Ringtone: Even dumphones for years allow you to select any music file you have on the phone to be a ring tone. For the iPhone, custom ringtone was not a feature until a subsequent update to the OS. But when it became available, you had to pay for it. And not only that, it was an arduous process. You can't just go to your music library or player on the phone, and just select it as a ringtone. No, you either have to pay for it from iTunes, use a third party application or Garage Band, or use a 17-step procedure using iTunes. WTF?!?

6. Useless Camera: Granted, I'll give the iPhone engineers kudos for doing a great job of using software to optimize picture quality without the aid of a flash in dark surroundings. That is in itself a feat that needs recognition. But seriously, no flash? While manufacturers of both dumb and smartphones have evolved from including a bland flash to double flash to LED flash to now Xenon flash, Apple has yet to include even a flash! Now, to be fair, the recent discovery of a 4th generation prototype of the iPhone has a flash, so this may not be a total lost cause. But two questions still remain: 1) What kind of a flash will be included, and 2) What kind of a camera lens will be utilized? Am I going to hear that it will just have regular flash bulb instead of LED or Xenon because of fear of battery drain?

7. iPhone Premium Tax: This is technically a non-issue now, but still affects a large group of customers. And for all practical purposes, it is of no fault of Apple. For users of iPhone, not just limited in the United States, customers are forced to pay more for their data plan to the tune of up to double the price of a similar unlimited data plan. Sure, you can blame AT&T, but once the exclusivity contract ends, what's to prevent subsequent carriers from assessing this? It is now a non-issue, since AT&T has began adopting the same double charge of unlimited data plan for all phones designated at its discretion as a smartphone, if purchased from AT&T. But for customers like me, who have fulfilled my contract obligation and paying month to month, I can still buy any unsubsidized phone and retain my lower monthly unlimited data cost.

In summary, even with the numerous improvements made by Apple on its iPhone hardware and OS, none of the improvements are compelling enough for me to accept the iPhone. Don't get me wrong, the iPhone's UI is arguably the best out there as far as cellular phones go, but it's like a beautifully decorated cake with no real nutrition in it. At the end of the day, you're left with a cellular phone that makes pretty graphics and transitions and much to be desired when it comes to functionalities.

Sure, if all I wanted was a cellular phone, the iPhone will fit the bill and more. But as a smartphone? It is nothing but an overpriced cellular phone that isn't smart enough. Which brings us to the point of my title: What Constitutes a Smartphone?

It is important to note that there is no industry standard in defining what a smartphone should be. But a general consensus is that a smartphone should offer advanced capabilities with computer-like functionalities. And in my point of view, a smartphone should offer said advanced capabilities that can help users work smarter, not harder. And a smartphone should be a good converging device, for a device that only offers phone calling capabilities alone hardly can be considered a smartphone. Because, how much more advanced can you do turn a phone if not for other capabilities?

Having said that, here are my reasons why I consider the iPhone a semi-smartphone:
1. How can the iPhone be a smartphone if it cannot perform the full duties of a standard PIM synchronization? A cellular phone in itself is a holder of many personal information, and by extension, it should be able to seamlessly synchronize your personal information with whatever PIM software you choose. Granted, the latest iPhone OS allows wireless synchronization using Microsoft's ActiveSync technology, but that relies on the fact that you rely on the Internet for PIM storage. A good portion of technology users still rely on their PIM software on their own computer for all important and private information. Not many are willing to fully utilize free sites like Gmail and Google Calendar for their truly private information. And for those who rely on Microsoft's ActiveSync technology on the iPhone with their corporate PIM server, not many are willing to place personal information on their work servers.

2. A smartphone must be one where its basic core functionality as a phone is portable and usable no matter the situation. The solution for this has been created and accepted for years, in the form of Bluetooth's HFP profile where the smartphone can be used for hands free driving. If this technology is widely used for years, and universally adopted, why does Apple who already includes the hardware technology restrict such adoption via its own OS software? I see so many iPhone users in cities like mine where talking while holding the phone is illegal use their earphones for phone conversation! Maybe if these drivers used just one earphone instead of both, I would feel safer. A smartphone is one which seamlessly integrates into the publicly adopted technology and exploits it, not restricts it.

3. A smartphone, given its ability to perform more than one functionality should allow its user to use multiple said functionalities simultaneously without restrictions. In this day and age where multithreading is widely used in many technologies, it does not make sense to put a powerful workhorse of an iPhone into a single threaded device. Sure, the latest iPhone OS version 4 may support pseudo multitasking, but I don't think it is enough.

4. Likewise, a smartphone should be a device that is able to perform advanced functionalities of other smartphones created and widely adopted before it. The iPhone raises the benchmark for UI, but strangely lowers the benchmark on other functionalities which are widely adopted as core functionalities of smartphones and even some dumbphones. A smartphone should always evolve forward, not backwards. All other smartphones, be it the Nokia, RIM or Android, are still evolving forward, despite a few of their own fallings. But at least they're evolving forwards, not backwards.

5. A smartphone with its advanced operating system should let its user decide what application he/she deems useful. If the application is poorly written, so be it. Let the free development world decide what application should flourish and which should fail, based on customer experience. A smartphone should not be a closed ecosystem where the application for such platform is subject to the phone manufacturer's purview. If the argument is made that such restrictions are required to protect laypeople using said device, then by essence the device is no longer a smartphone, as it caters to non-technical people.

The same argument can be made for BMW 7 customers: If you're not technologically savvy, don't get the iDrive system option! Either do not offer the advanced iDrive system as an option for the benefit of laypeople, or offer it and call it an advanced car control system and let the customers who chose it accept it with all its inherent learning curve. A smartphone is a device with advanced capabilities that are not meant to be picked up without any learning curve. If advanced capabilities are removed for fear of customers' inability to learn, then don't call the reduced device a smartphone.

Having said all that, I suspect that the day I will finally own an iPhone will be the day Apple comes out with iPhone OS version 8, or 20. And even then, I just may not get the iPhone simply for the fact that I cannot replace my own battery. But stay tuned to this blog for years, and we'll see if I end up converting to the iPhone, or abandon my love affair for the Symbian operating system and choose something else like the WebOS or Android.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Toyota's Denials May Be Its Own Worst Enemy

I have a friend who is employed by Toyota, and I regard him as one of the greatest persons I have ever met. It is no secret that he is also a huge Toyota fan. And so am I. Or was. But I fear I may have jeopardized my friendship with this guy because I publicly, via Facebook commentaries, asked him to think logically for himself, given the facts that cannot be denied, instead of going along with the PR spin that Toyota provides to the public. My goal was to share the little-known facts that have been overshadowed by poor journalism (one extreme) and Toyota PR spins (other extreme), that are irrefutable, and have him and the readers think for themselves. Alas, my goal just ended up costing me a friendship, with the facts simply lost in translation.

I am not here to claim that I know what is wrong, but I know for a fact that Toyota is not being fully honest with the public. I am not asking Toyota to accept blame for anything. I just want Toyota to commit to the public, especially its customers, that it will spend all its resources to investigate every possible root causes of unintended acceleration issues. But that is exactly what Toyota isn't doing, at least publicly.

So, why am I so passionately and emotionally attached to this issue? I have many family members who drive Toyota vehicles. And that includes my one and only little sister, who drives an Avalon along with my parents' first grandchild. But unlike most people in the public who read just tidbits of information, or fall prey to bad and/or sensationalized news reporting, I, as a man of science and logic, prefer to look at the concrete facts and remain objective.

Thus, here I am. With a blog entry that is a bit off the usual path of being funny, and out of hiatus.

Now, keep in mind, I will only present facts without any emotional exaggeration or sensationalized news reporting that may have breached journalistic ethical standards by my books. And there are simply too many stupid people out there who want their 15 minutes of fame (i.e. James Sikes), or worse, a piece of the potential money they think they can erroneously and/or greedily profit from frivolous lawsuits (or thinking about filing).

Why do I say or think that there are those who have the wrong intentions? For all manufactured cars for model years 2005 to 2010, up till September 30, 2009, Toyota had on average 4.81 complaints per 100,000 vehicles sold for unintended acceleration. Ford had 3.12. After the recorded 911 call detailing the fatal crash of a 2009 Lexus ES was released on September 10, 2009, the nation went into panic mode with the help of media blitz on the story. And coincidentally, including data from September 30, 2009 through Febuary 3, 2010, the number almost doubled to a staggering 9.75 complaints per 100,000 vehicles sold. (Source: Washington Post, Mar. 11, 2010; from data by Edmonds and NHTSA.) It is possible that part of the uptick may be legitimate complaints, but statistically speaking, it is unlikely that all the increased cases are truly legitimate.

So where to begin? Let's start with the background information, and go through the facts chronologically.

This all started with the tragic news of a fiery and fatal crash of a Lexus ES vehicle involving the family of Mark Saylor, a California Highway Patrol officer, in San Diego on that fateful August 28, 2009. After much speculations and investigations, it was later discovered that the root cause of the uncontrolled Lexus was due to the installation of an all-weather floor mat designed for a Lexus SUV.

That discovery, plus the many complaints Toyota received regarding what Toyota called "pedal entrapment," resulted in Toyota announcing in September 29, 2009 that it will recall 3.8 million U.S. vehicles due to floor mat problems causing the accelerator to get stuck. It is important to note that the company from this moment on began insisting that there is no "vehicle-based cause" for unintended acceleration problems.

But news reports suggested that there may be other causes besides the floor mat. I was at first critical of this, as I myself have been a victim of a stuck accelerator pedal due to my floor mat at least three separate incidents that I distinctly remember: once in my Acura Integra LS, once in my Mitsubishi Eclipse GT and once in my Subaru Legacy GT. In all instances, it was all due to the floor mat being loose and not properly secured. Incidentally, they all occurred after taking the car to my local car wash. Thankfully, nothing serious happened, as two of the incidents happened while driving off the car wash lot, and once while on Interstate 44.

As late as November 2, 2009, Toyota issued a video press release from Bob Daly, Toyota Motor Sales Senior Vice President. In this video, as a Toyota representative, he claimed that "it's important to know that no defect exists, in vehicles in which the driver side floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured." The whole video was basically a denial of any other sources of problem for unintended acceleration problem. Absent of any other concrete evidence, I believed and defended Toyota.

Suddenly, on January 21, 2010, Toyota announced another recall to fix another problem of unintended acceleration that could cause accelerator pedals to get stuck even without the presence of floor mats. This really caught me by surprise, because Toyota had long insisted the problem with unintended acceleration had always been isolated to incompatible floor mats only. After studying the recall facts, it turned out that some accelerator pedals may get stuck in a depressed position due to a sticky assembly. By this time, I felt slightly betrayed, as I had believed and defended Toyota. Why did Toyota go to great lengths to insist that there are no other problems besides the issue with incompatible or improperly secured floor mats, only to suddenly announce this second recall with a fix?

Despite my slight feelings of betrayal, it made me realize that Toyota must have continued digging deeper behind the scenes. If I was running Toyota, I would not have made so many steadfast denials, just to later swallow the claims and issue another recall. But what do I know about running a company? In any case, I thought that was it.

Then came reports later of an incident that happened on December 28, 2009. Kevin Haggerty of Pittstown, New Jersey, encountered an unintended acceleration situation on Interstate 78 with his 2007 Toyota Avalon. Fortunately, he was able to pull over safely by putting his vehicle into neutral. But his story is unique. When he safely pulled over, he inspected the accelerator pedal and found that it was not trapped by the floor mat. In fact, the accelerator pedal was not stuck in any position, but in its neutral and starting position. But the strangest part of the incident was that while the accelerator pedal was not stuck, the engine continued to rev as if the accelerator was depressed.

Mr. Haggerty called the service manager of the Muller Toyota dealership, and drove his Avalon there by constantly switching between neutral and drive positions of his transmission. Once there, the service manager test drove, inspected and confirmed the problem. In this case, Toyota technicians later instructed the service manager to replace the accelerator assembly, accelerator body and electronic sensors.

Now, this incident seriously caught my attention. Any person capable of getting out of an unintended acceleration situation is obviously one who thinks, and probably credible. Never mind his credibility; what sealed the deal for me was the confirmation made by the service manager of the Muller Toyota dealership. As a person of science and logic, I was convinced without a shadow of a doubt that the floor mat and sticky accelerator pedal were both not the root causes of this particular incident.

But Toyota kept on insisting that other than the two recalls, no other defects exist. To this, with the sting of betrayal still fresh in my mind, I became skeptical and critical of Toyota. Knowing what happened to Mr. Haggerty, how can one logically and reasonably expect to believe Toyota's insistence, given that Mr. Haggerty's Avalon suffered neither condition described in the two safety recalls?

On February 23, 2010, Jim Lentz, President and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motor Sales, went before the House Commerce Committee for a Congressional hearing on this serious safety issue. In his prepared statement, under oath, Mr. Lentz said, "Our engineers have identified two specific, mechanical causes of unintended acceleration covered by the recalls and we are currently addressing these through the open recalls. One involves floor mats that when loose or improperly fitted can entrap the accelerator pedal. The other concerns accelerator pedals that can, over time, grow 'sticky' with wear. The solutions we have developed are both effective and durable.

"We are confident that no problems exist with the electronic throttle control system in our vehicles. We have designed our electronic throttle control system with multiple fail‐safe mechanisms to shut off or reduce engine power in the event of a system failure. We have done extensive testing of this system and have never found a malfunction that caused unintended acceleration."

From my point of view, this prepared statement made clear that Toyota is using the very same stance that no other issues exist, including the possibility of a defect in the electronic systems or anything else. But one has to think about the December 28 incident involving Mr. Haggerty's is at the very least unexplainable, and at the very minimum deserved further investigation. Toyota, at least since the beginning of 2010, knew of this very incident that absolutely cannot be attributed to driver error or any of the causes covered by the two recalls.

What is even more amazing is the little known fact that Mr. Haggerty was also called to testify in the very same Congressional hearing as Mr. Lentz! Under oath, Mr. Haggerty testified to the incident that happened to his Toyota Avalon. Anyone should be aware that falsifying testimony under oath in Congress carries a serious and heavy fine and imprisonment. So for now, even without Muller Toyota service manager's witnessing of the situation, I am going to say that Mr. Haggerty is a credible person.

But it gets even better. After Mr. Lentz's testimony, during the questioning portion of the hearing, the below exchange occurred.
Representative Henry Waxman, Chairman of Energy & Commerce Committee: "Do you believe that the recall on the carpet changes and the recall on the sticky pedal will solve the problem of sudden unintended acceleration?"
James Lentz: "Not totally."
Waxman: "What do you need to do?"
Lentz: "We need to continue to be vigilant and continue to investigate all of the complaints that we get from consumers that we have done a relatively poor job of doing in the past."
(Source of transcript:

When I heard and read that in the news, I was ecstatic. Finally, an honest and logical man who said the magic words I was waiting to hear all this time. For a moment, the President and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motor Sales was my hero.

Sadly, this glimmer of hope did not last long, because on February 24, 2010, the day after the Congressional hearing, Toyota issued the following statement of "clarification" to the media: "Contrary to some press reports, Jim Lentz's testimony to Congress did not reflect a change in Toyota's position regarding its recalls effectively address unintended acceleration issues in certain Toyota and Lexus vehicles." (Source:

Now, we're back to square one. Or square two. Basically back to denial. The first denial made me feel betrayed. This additional denial in similar fashion to the first one was just downright insulting. Not to mention that Mr. Lentz was made to look like a fool, for which I felt sorry for him. Meanwhile, Toyota is not making official statements regarding Mr. Haggerty's incident. And I blame this on the clutter of other unfortunate events that the media seemed to jump onto, such as the faulty experiment made by Professor David Gilbert and the runaway Prius involving James Sikes. With images of such "horrific" incident and the sensational spin on the events by the media, the bottom line situation just gets muddier. I am sure Toyota is happy to have a distraction from Mr. Haggerty's situation and spend all the press time on rebutting Professor Gilbert and Sikes, which is rightly so. But Toyota should also spend some time to address Mr. Haggerty's situation.

It is important to note that as of the first week of March, 2010, Toyota has received verifiable confirmation from the U.S. Department of Transportation of reports of unintended acceleration issues from owners who have had the two recalls applied to their vehicles. Yet, Toyota still maintains that there are no problems with the electronic systems and that the two recalls are the effective remedies to unintended acceleration problems. (Source:

What I find interesting about all this is the fact that Toyota has claimed publicly and repeatedly that there are no problems with the electronic control system in Toyota vehicles. Yet, in a letter dated March 1, 2010 to the NHTSA, (later revealed on NHTSA website on March 17, 2010), Toyota wanted to meet with safety regulators to discuss about a potential fix to a problem with the electronic control unit of about 1.2 million Corolla and Matrix models. (Source:

Granted, the aforementioned problem is unrelated to sudden unintended acceleration, but what is important to note here is that for months, Toyota has claimed that the electronic control system has been vigorously tested, and neither Toyota nor the NHTSA has found problems with it. In fact, Toyota claimed that no defects exist with their electronic control systems. Yet suddenly, we learn that it is possible that the faultless electronic system may have a defect after all?

In my point of view, all these denials of other possible problems are only hurting Toyota's image and reputation. What I don't understand is why isn't Toyota willing to simply commit to look into complaints and problems, instead of simply blaming driver error and being overzealous in claiming complete resolution of problems when additional sources of cause pop up later?

Toyota is not a company I want to see seriously set back like what happened to Suzuki and Audi in the past. But I can't help but wonder if Toyota's continuation of its current corporate attitude and stance will only contribute to its own demise or serious setback. I seriously hope that while publicly denying other possible root causes with the unintended acceleration problems, probably for legal protection purposes, Toyota is secretly investigating everything possible much like they did with the sticky pedals after publicly claiming no other vehicle-based defects exist other than the floor mats.

Although Toyota's corporate character will forever be tainted, I just secretly hope that in time, Toyota will provide all the necessary and truly complete fixes that will keep my family safe.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There is absolutely no doubt that there is no logic in Asia

I'm usually pretty good about vetting my friends. I usually ensure they're generally good people who carry no bigotry and share my view of the world in general. Otherwise, they're just acquaintances to me, or simply people I don't care.

So what brought this topic to light? Well, this morning, a 'friend' of mine posted a status that was pretty usual. She's someone who has been living in Vietnam. LiHd* wrote on her Facebook status: LiHd might be incommunicado via Facebook soon if Uncle Ho decides to block it.

And below are the comments that entailed throughout the day... Anything in smaller fonts just means that they're insignificant to the blog topic.

JeHa: oh brother! C'mon Nam! Get with this century! What's the reasoning behind this one? Oh nevermind, When in Asia, don't ask why.

LiHd: exactly. i have heard it from a couple of sources but who knows!! no logic, no logic, no logic...

LiHd's friend #1: NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

LiHd's friend #2: What?

LiHd's friend #3: good ol' uncle Ho.

LiHd's friend #4: One thing I learned after living in China is that no matter how much the government tries to block something, there's always a way to get around it using a proxy. I'll help you out with that if Uncle Ho decides to block facebook.

LiHd's friend #5: Oh noes! Say it ain't so, Uncle Ho!

LiHd's relative #1: nothing better then the good old US of A.....and Facebook!

VaHa: Yikes. keep me posted

LiHd's friend #6: I keep hearing this ... when will this happen?

John Ho: Just wanna throw this out there... Asia includes many other countries like India, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan. Most Asian countries don't have censorship, except for China or North Korea. So let's not categorically put Asia together into a place of illogical decision making. And as with the century thing, you do realize that Japan, Great Britain and South Korea are far more advanced than the United States, right? Not only that, the ol' US of A is the only advanced civilization to preach human rights but at the same time manages to enjoy prosecuting those under 18 as an adult, which all other G20 or EU countries condemn as inhumane. C'mon, USA! Get with the freaking times! And let's not forget, it is 2009 and we had Judge Keith Bardwell who will not marry interracial couples in the USA.

But then again, if another "normal" American at a bar here in the US asks me if I also speak Asian after telling him/her that I speak Mandarin, then I'll totally take my entire first paragraph back! =)

LiHd's friend #7: let us know if there is another way to keep you in the loop if there is anything to happen exciting..but i must tell you went to cinci for a conference and went to see uncle bill a and aunt janet...and they live less than a mile from NKU!!!

LiHd: jho...again you missed the point

everyone else: so far they are only rumors that i have been hearing from students...i am not sure if or when this will happen. but if you don't hear from me for a while on fb, that's most likely why.

LiHd's relative #1: i would be lost without my fb....and my business would most likely cease to exist...

John Ho: I was more directing that comment at JeHa's comment when she wrote: "Get with this century! What's the reasoning behind this one? Oh nevermind, When in Asia, don't ask why."

LiHd's friend #8: oh no, that sucks. Well, if I go to Seoul you can come visit me and use my interwebs :)

LiHd: jho: it's because we have both lived in asia for a bit of time; i am in my third year and JeHa was here last year and is in malaysia this year...there is absolutely no doubt that there is no logic on this continent. if you start to apply logic or ask questions it only confuses the issue more.

LiHd's friend #8: you never gave me the 411 on your move to seoul!! when are you leaving? where are you teaching?

John Ho: Let me get this straight... Asia is one of the biggest continents comprising of so many different countries and more distinct cultures than there are number of countries. And because of the illogical experiences you two have encountered in a few countries, you can categorically say Asia as a whole has no logic. I'd like to see you and your friend tell that to a Japanese or Taiwanese or Singaporean citizen. Hmm... I'm glad you're not letting your education get in the way of your ignorance.

VaHa: 9 years in Asia. Agree with the gals.

LiHd, I read a bit about it. Something was said in August and some people reported FB blocked then.

LiHd's friend #8: LiHd, I don't know yet. First up: try to sell my condo. As soon as that happens, I will decide where I go. It may depend on the time of year and how much I get for the condo.
I will def. let you know where I wind up, esp of it is Korea.

LiHd: jho: i am speaking from experience, you are speaking from the point of view of someone who only comes here on vacation or business. why are you insulting my intelligence?? ridiculous and almost unforgivable comment on your end.

John Ho: Maybe you didn't know this, but I was not born in the US. I didn't even come here till 1996. I have lived in five Asian countries while growing up. Not on business or vacation. And I renounced not one, but two previous Asian citizenship when I became naturalized in the US.

Just so you know, there are 47 countries in the Asian continent. How many of the 47 countries have your friend and yourself gone to, to make such a generalized statement about Asia? Even I, who have lived in more Asian countries and longer than you, would not dare make such a statement such as your friend Jennifer's or yours.

I was not insulting your intelligence. Your blanket statements did.

----------########## END TRANSCRIPT ##########----------

So after all that, I was going to remove this ignorant friend of mine from my Facebook, and you know what? She saved me the trouble! Now I don't have to worry about the guilt of "Was I too harsh on my friend when I removed her from Facebook?"

Simply put, if anything, I was more shocked than anything that someone who I thought I have known for almost five years can have such a narrow-minded viewpoint. As a friend of mine who was following the whole chit-chat wrote over instant message: "most ppl tend to compare new experiences with things that they are used to; any deviation from it, they consider 'illogical'; especially for those not so open-minded fools" [sic]

True that!

* Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Check and Mate?

Yeah, I haven't updated my blog for a while. It's mostly because since joining Facebook, I've been using the status updates to write tidbits of my thoughts more often. It is so much easier, since I'm limited in length as to what I have to share, and blogging, well, takes so much more time and energy.

Anyway, this post is a relatively easy one, because it's mostly a copy-and-paste job. On Wednesday, both a Facebook friend and I found out about this horrendous news regarding a raid on a dog fighting ring here in Chicago. I posted a status update, as usual, with a funny twist: "John Ho just learned that we have an 'Animal Crimes Unit' here in Chicago!!! When is NBC going to add Law & Order: ACU?!?"

My Facebook friend also posted something related to this a few minutes later. And from there, a heated discussion ensued in the comments section, which I have detailed here below. Of course, names have been changed to protect the strange.

Status update @ Wed at 1:54pm:
Daniella just found out that police busted another dog fighting ring in the Chicago area. I'm really starting to hate people - how can you be so cruel to an animal?

Following below are comments on said Facebook status update:

Daniella's Friend #1 @ Wed at 2:00pm: boooooo!

John Ho @ Wed at 2:05pm: It wasn't just an animal. 9 dogs!!! They even used 4 puppies barely a month old as bait for the fighting! And it wasn't just a house, but the neighbor next to the day care is also in on it, because they found a modified treadmill used strictly to train fight dogs! Disgusting what people can do, huh?

Daniella's Friend #2 @ Wed at 2:10pm: The guff was empty the day they were born. First dogs, then people!!!

Daniella's Friend #3 @ Wed at 2:10pm: They should put the culprits between two angry pits that don't know who they are as punishment and see what it feels like to be torn apart!

Daniella's Friend #4 @ Wed at 3:10pm: i have a pit. sweetest, most loving (and intelligent) dog i have ever owned. a dogs character is that of the owner. most fighting pits are intentionaly inbred so they are born all eff'd up. the others you hear about attacking have ignorant, dumb ass owners. furthermore, you never hear about other breeds who attack, which happens all the time. ... Read Moreonly pits...the media, as usual, warp the reality for shock value. pits have a bad rep. on a related note...michael vick should still be in prison much less on a football field! he killed his dogs my hanging, drowning and slitting there throats. hes a piece of shit as a human being...hes evil. theres my rant of the day! lol

John Ho @ Wed at 7:52pm: So what I'm understanding here is that even after someone has paid his/her dues for the crimes he/she commits, it's still not enough? Sure, Vick did something that is very detestable in my books, but he served his time. Why are people still harping on that? Sounds to me like even after someone has paid his/her due for a given crime, you simply can't forgive. Nobody is perfect. But he did his time for his crime. Let's just get over it. For otherwise, capital punishment would be in place for every petty crime, including the kid who steals $2.

Mutual Friend #1 @ Wed at 7:52pm: How can people be so cruel to other people?

Daniella's Friend #5 @ Wed at 8:23pm: What John said!

Daniella's Friend #6 @ Wed at 8:47pm: Hate people? Wow. How 'bout hate people's behaviors? Ya, it's pretty disgusting what things are done.

Daniella @ Thu at 9:09am: John - Vick didn't serve time for animal cruelty, he served time for federal racketeering. I don't care if this makes me sound like the biggest bitch, but if someone kills another living being, they should not be able to go back to their cushy NFL job. He sucks as a QB anyway...

Daniella @ Thu at 9:09am: And I just realized that my above statement doesn't make me sound like too much of a bitch - but sorry, yes I hate certain people AND their behaviors. He's a piece of shit.

John Ho @ Thu at 9:19am: Then you're a mass murderer! Think about the number of living beings you have killed every time you killed a bug, or poisoned a bug with bug sprays, etc. Think of how many living things you have killed when you de-worm your dog. ;-) In some religions, that is considered bad, because whether it's a bug, fly, or whatever, anything that is a living thing has a soul. Think about that...

Daniella @ Thu at 9:34am: Wow, really reaching for an argument aren't you?

Daniella's Friend #4 @ Thu at 10:10am: bugs??? holy hell. soft, bleeding hearts. some sick rapist kidnaps your child, rapes then murders them? lets see how forgiving you are then. There are white souls, grey souls & black souls in this life. The black souls are just shells, their job, unbeknowest to them, is to try and smother the light of the others...the good in this world. They bring anxiety, depression & anger into our lives when they are near us - like moths to a flame. There IS evil in this world, and punishment is justifiable. When it comes to evil, they are NOT our equals! If I would get a DUI, my time would be much longer than Vicks. If it was I who did what he did, rest assured, I would still be in prison. Who gives a fuck hes an nfl player. Our society is so addicted to celebrity its sick...this countries ablility to turn a blind eye to cruelity and immoral behavior by these assholes amazes me. again...bugs?!?!? come on man

Daniella's Friend #4 @ Thu at 10:16am: by the way dont sound like a bitch. you sound like someone who'e passionate about their convictions and beliefs...

John Ho @ Thu at 10:26am: Nope, not reaching for an argument. Just using your argument, that's all.

Hey, I'm not saying that when I'm a victim, I will have the mentality to keep things in perspective. If my child is raped and murdered, I can't say for sure that I'll let the judicial system work it out for me. But I also can't say for sure that I'll just go grab a shotgun and kill the rapist in the courtroom. I won't know what I'll do until it hits me directly.

But for now, I'm taking the route of letting the judicial system work its way out. We all have an opinion. Your opinion is that there's nothing he can do to return to his "cushy" job. My opinion is that he served time, and he is working extra hard to use this experience to talk to kids and others in the public community to discourage animal cruelty and dog fighting. I think, in my opinion, that this is good. Learning to forgive is not easy, but worth a damn. Hating forever, well, is kinda sad.

Daniella @ Thu at 11:12am: A) Once again he did not serve his time for animal cruelty. B) The talking to kids about what he did thing is the biggest piece of PR bs I’ve ever heard of. C) I’m a huge supporter of rescue organizations,and the things I hear about what people have done to dogs, cats, etc is enough to, yes, make me hate other human beings. I’m sorry, but I just can’t forgive the guy for what he, and so many other subhumans like him, have done. Forgiveness is not easy in my book and if that makes me a sad person, then so be it. It’s not sad to have a passion or have convictions, sorry. We’re just going to agree to disagree I guess. I’ll make sure to hug my dog, who was starved, dehydrated and living in filthy conditions for a year extra tight for you tonight, John.

John Ho @ Thu at 3:40pm: Good for you for rescuing your dog. We need more people like you.

But let's make the facts clear. In federal criminal case number 3:07CR274, he is indicted for dog fighting, including the money, gambling, transportation and animal cruelty aspects of dog fighting. And on August 24, 2007, he pleaded guilty to all charges, and the judge sentenced him (which, by the way, exceeded the sentencing guidelines). So I'm not quite sure where you got the fact that he did not serve his time for animal cruelty.

Here's the indictment document:
Here's the plea agreement document:

Let's not forget that double jeopardy doesn't apply in the state of VA when it comes to charges coming from state prosecution. So he also pleaded guilty there and paid his dues as well on state level.

John Ho [cont'd from above because Facebook has a text limit]: Dog fighting is an underground activity that, unfortunately, is more widespread than ever. Not only is the "sport" itself cruel, but it is often tied to other vices, like gambling, gangs and criminal activities. It is a sad, sad thing that despite tougher laws enacted, this activity still continues.

You have to look at the silver lining though. Without the NFL's most highly paid player's case in the matter, dog fighting as a public issue would not have gotten such attention and awareness. And on top of that, Michael Vick not only apologizes and has paid his dues to society, but he is working with the Humane Society in speaking against the "sport." Because of this, more police officers than ever have elected to get special law enforcement training related to animal cruelty.

Even after all the good that can come out of him, you still can't forgive? The Humane Society has. Let's focus on the positive outcome of this so that more dog fights can be stopped with his message.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Just Some Sunday Thought...

please be philosophical please be tapped into your femininity please be able to take the wheel from me please be crazy and curious papa love your princess so that she will find loving princes familiar papa cry for your princess so that she will find gentle princes familiar please be a sexaholic please be unpredictably miserable please be self absorbed much (not the good kind) please be addicted to some substance papa listen to your princess so that she will find attentive princes familiar papa hear your princess so that she will find curious princes familiar please be the jerk of my knee I've fit you always you finish my sentences I think I love you what is your name again no matter i'm guessing your thoughts again correctly and I love the way you press my buttons so much sometimes I could strangle you papa laugh with your princess so that she will find funny princes familiar papa respect your princess so that she will find respectful princes familiar papa love your princess so that she will find loving prices familiar papa cry for your princess so that she will find gentle princes familiar please be strangely enigmatic please be just like my