Thursday, September 24, 2015

Another pedantic letter to the editor

Last week this article was published in the Teaneck Suburbanite, with the following lines (emphasis added):
Trains carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota travel through Teaneck and other Bergen County towns regularly before arriving at a refinery in Philadelphia. Their numbers have increased exponentially in the past few years, and several derailments have occurred in Canada and across the United States.
Well, I felt the need to respond, and this week they printed my letter to the editor:
To the editor,
A recent article about the freight trains carrying Bakken crude oil running through Teaneck ("Resolution for trains to stop idling passes", Sept. 17, 2015) claimed that "[t]heir numbers have increased exponentially in the past few years..." This is not correct. "Exponentially" is not a more dramatic way of saying "rapidly" -- it means "at a rate proportional to the current value".
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (, crude oil traveling by rail from the midwest (i.e. North Dakota) to the northeast (i.e. Teaneck) has increased roughly linearly since 2012, at a rate around 4.3 million barrels per year (see:, which corresponds to approximately 6,000 extra tanker cars per year.
While the (linear) rate of increasing oil traffic may still be very concerning to residents, like myself, who live within the "danger zone" of the tracks, we should, at the very least, be accurate in our descriptions of the situation.
Eli Lansey, Ph.D.
Here's the plot I link to:

Sunday, September 06, 2015

handle fell off of vistaexplorer tripod fix

TL;DR; find the square nut; look on the back side of the tripod and pop the bolt back in.

I've been using the VistaExplorer tripod from Amazon for a while now. It essentially does the trick. Basically it has all the features you might come to expect from a real tripod - but built in a kind of cheap and slightly rickety way. I personally would much prefer a cheap sturdy tripod with fewer bells and whistles, but as far as I know this is the best cheap tripod out there.

There is a somewhat common problem of this handle popping off, and the little square nut popping out of its slot. This post from 2013 explains the issue well with this little knolling image.

Here is my little cell phone image where you can see the correct location of the nut after I popped it back in. Happy fixing!