On December 1, 2008 I blogged about my doctoral dreams and how I plan to apply for programs starting on December 1, 2009 — my “PhD-Day.” I also featured photos and a video of a graffiti-laden delivery truck on which the letters “P-H-D” are spray painted on the roll-top door. I have decided to call this truck the “PhD-Mobile” (like “Batmobile” but for academics).

I have intermittently encountered the “PhD-Mobile” and interpret it as a sign that pursuing a doctorate is the right path for me. I started seeing this truck in March 2008 when I was driving to and from the DeVry Center in Bakersfield, CA where I have been an adjunct professor since October 2007.

I am sure these letters are just some tagger’s initials, but to me they represents my dream of earning a PhD by studying the impact of social media on the management and marketing of knowledge (possibly with a focus in the health care industry).

With regard to that process, I am now evaluating disciplines in which to conduct my research. The leading contender is Communication, although Marketing and Information Science remain possibilities. You can track my progress in my PhD-Day Diary.

After a long period during which I did not see the “PhD-Mobile” I saw it again during the morning of February 24, 2009! I happened upon it while driving on Interstate 5 North (near Pyramid Lake) from my home in Santa Clarita, CA to DeVry University (as has been the case in the past).

Here’s a video of the truck (in slow motion and intentionally without sound):

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A photo of the same truck follows. Note that the truck was driving so slowly in order to get this picture (after initially getting the video, above) I had to exit Interstate 5 at Pyramid Lake, wait for approximately five minutes and then, once I saw the truck pass by, re-enter the freeway.

PhDMV Take Two?

The timing of the sighting was auspicious as it was two days after my birthday and right after I had been evaluating my options. I had also taken a practice GRE on Sunday (my actual birthday) so my mind was very pre-occupied with thoughts related to the doctorate.

I guess this was a reminder that I am headed in the right direction!

Today I begin teaching a buying behavior course at UC Santa Barbara Extension for the second time. The class runs for five consecutive Saturdays and concludes February 14, 2009 (Valentine’s Day — a “holiday” rich in strange and often irrational buying behaviors!).

I taught the course last year for the first time from January 12, 2008 through February 7, 2008. It was a challenging, yet enjoyable experience and I am glad to be going back again.

There was (and will again be) a large number of international students which makes for a uniquely multidimensional educational experience. It was enlightening learning about the different ways companies market in Germany, Brazil, Japan, Korea and myriad other locations around the world.

When I taught the course last year I had only been “officially” classroom teaching for a few months (I started teaching at DeVry University in Bakersfield in October 2007). So, I was still a little “green” or “wet behind the ears” (pick your euphemism).

Originally a second session was scheduled for the late summer of 2008, but the course was cancelled at the last minute. It’s hard to believe it is a year later: time really is flying!

This time around, I can leverage another solid year of teaching experience. On some levels it feels like a completely different course, but I’ve really just built up from the original foundation I constructed last year.  I expect it will be a much stronger effort that is ultimately more enjoyable and educational for my students.

Most notably, due to some budgetary issues, all Extension courses are now offered on the actual UCSB campus — so now I will be teaching on the very campus where I took classes more than a decade ago as an undergraduate!

I am again using the book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly,” by David Meerman Scott.

However, I have added a compelling new book from branding expert Martin Lindstrom, “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy,” which explores the fascinating world of neuromarketing. I will also have a guest speaker, Beth Mansfield, who is the Public Relations Manager for CKE Enterprises (Carl’s Jr.).

Incidentally I have come to know both David Meerman Scott and Beth Mansfield through my use of Twitter (Beth is the official “voice” of Carl’s Jr. on Twitter).  After some initial interactions with Beth I realized she was located just down the road from UCSB in Ventura, CA I invited her to come speak at my class — and she accepted!

I am definitely looking forward to this version of the class and excited about what the experience will be like. Interestingly, while preparing for it, I discovered a series of pictures I tool when I drove to and from class last year on January 19 (which is, incidentally, my younger son Max’s birthday).

I also realized that I never posted them online, so I have decided to do so below (note that last year my class was held off campus in Goleta, CA and not on the actual UCSB campus).  Without further adieu here are 20 pictures from a round trip journey on January 19, 2008 from Santa Clarita to Goleta, CA (and back):

Leaving Santa Clarita

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On the 126 Near Fillmore

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On the 101 Freeway North

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Alongside the Pacific Ocean on the 101 Freeway North

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Approaching Carpinteria

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At the Highway 217/101 Freeway Spit near UCSB

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Isla Vista!

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Glen Annie/Storke Rd — Where Extension Classes Were Previously Held

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Heading Back Home on the 101 Freeway South Near Summerland

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Just South of Carpinteria on the 101 Freeway

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Photos of the Pacific Ocean

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101 Freeway South in Ventura

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Merging Onto Highway 126 East Towards Santa Clarita

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Heading Home on Highway 126 Through Santa Paula

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Almost Home at the Highway 126/Interstate 5 Intersection

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Welcome to Santa Clarita!

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Adverse weather is not something we experience very much of here in Southern California.

Usually, whenever there is the slightest hint of moisture in the air our cadre of well coiffed weathermen, meteorologists (I forgot they have advanced training in meteors), start proclaiming armageddon and calling it the “Storm of the Century.”

However, the past few days have actually brought some wild winter storms to the area (see KTLA, KNBC, KCBS, The Signal and Los Angeles Times).

Weather has been a mess elsewhere too — across the country temperatures have plummeted as we seem to be deluged by some kind of nuclear winter (fortunately, without the nuclear part, but the result seems similar). Even Las Vegas is dealing with its biggest snowfall in 30 years!

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has now closed the “grapevine” portion of Interstate 5 (Castaic through Lebec) and also, quite surprisingly, the Antelope Valley Freeway (14) from Soledad Canyon in Santa Clarita through 10th Street in Palmdale. Several other major freeways have been shut down as well.

It’s been a wild few days.

Fortunately, I quite literally just missed getting stuck in this storm. I was teaching at DeVry in Bakersfield on Tuesday, December 16. In the afternoon, when I drove to campus, there was a light dusting of snow atop some of the higher points in the Grapevine. However, there was no immediate danger or impediment to my progress.

Here are some photos I took that afternoon with my Palm Centro and sent them to my Twitter account using a service called TwitPic. (Note: My orginal desire was to embed the images from my TwitPic account into this page and avoid duplicating them. Unfortunately, that only worked for a short time before the image seemed to expire — so I’ve gone ahead and uploaded the photos to WordPress):

December 16, 2008
Snow on the Grapevine (Interstate 5) @ Pyramid Lake: December 16, 2008
December 16, 2008
Snow on the Grapevine (Interstate 5) @ Lebec: December 16, 2008
December 16, 2008
Snow on the Grapevine (Interstate 5) @ Gorman: December 16, 2008

Later that night, after finishing my classes I headed home. As I approached Lebec at roughly 11:30 p.m., the steady rain that began 30 minutes earlier in Bakersfield transformed into sleet. By the time I reached the Tejon Pass (elevation: 4,144 feet), I was driving into a steady flow of snow.

It got fairly dense at one point, and I became slightly concerned as I was driving my Scion xB and had no chains. Mercifully, the snow began to dissipate once I made it through Gorman. I continued onward and made it home without any problems.

Photos from that adventure follow (taken, as before, with my Palm Centro):

December 16, 2008
Snow on the Grapevine (Interstate 5) @ Tejon Pass: December 16, 2008
December 16, 2008
Snow on the Grapevine (Interstate 5) @ Tejon Pass: December 16, 2008
December 16, 2008
Snow on the Grapevine (Interstate 5) @ Gorman: December 16, 2008

Hopefully my luck will continue the next time a big storm blows into Southern California! Either way I will be sure to post some pictures and/or video from the experience. Stay warm!

Since 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, July 1, 2008 the California Vehicle Code (CVC) mandates that all drivers use a “hands-free” device when driving and talking on a cellular phone.  The state actually passed two laws which are now active as Section 23123 and Section 23124 of the CVC.

According to the new laws, drivers caught talking on a hand-held cell phone will be subject to fines of $20 for the first ticket and $50 for subsequent tickets. Additional fees can potentially more than triple the fine — I have heard that the average first ticket will cost $76!

One silver lining in this dark cloud: although the infraction will appear on your driving record the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will not assign you a violation point.

Below is an instructional video about the news laws followed by Q & A about them (courtesy of the DMV):

Q: When do the new wireless telephone laws take effect?
A: The new laws take effect July 1, 2008.

Q: What is the difference between the two laws?
A: The first prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle, (Vehicle Code (VC) §23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a “hands-free device.” Drivers under the age of 18 may NOT use a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle (VC §23124).

Q: What if I need to use my telephone during an emergency, and I do not have a “hands-free” device?
A: The law allows a driver to use a wireless telephone to make emergency calls to a law enforcement agency, a medical provider, the fire department, or other emergency services agency.

Q: What are the fines(s) if I’m convicted?
A: The base fine for the FIRST offense is $20 and $50 for subsequent convictions. With the addition of penalty assessments, the fines can be more than triple the base fine amount.

Q: Will I receive a point on my driver license if I’m convicted for a violation of the wireless telephone law?
A: No. The violation is a reportable offense, however, DMV will not assign a violation point.

Q: Will the conviction appear on my driving record?
A: Yes, but the violation point will not be added.

Q: Will there be a grace period when motorists will only get a warning?
A: No. The law becomes effective July 1, 2008. Whether a citation is issued is always at the discretion of the officer based upon his or her determination of the most appropriate remedy for the situation.

Q: Are passengers affected by this law?
A: No. This law only applies to the person driving a motor vehicle.

Q: Do these laws apply to out-of-state drivers whose home states do not have such laws?
A: Yes.

Q: Can I be pulled over by a law enforcement officer for using my handheld wireless telephone?
A: Yes. A law enforcement officer can pull you over just for this infraction.

Q: What if my phone has a push-to-talk feature, can I use that?
A: No. The law does provide an exception for those operating a commercial motor truck or truck tractor (excluding pickups), implements of husbandry, farm vehicle or tow truck, to use a two-way radio operated by a “push-to-talk” feature. However, a push-to-talk feature attached to a hands-free ear piece or other hands-free device is acceptable.

Q: What other exceptions are there?
A: Operators of an authorized emergency vehicle during the course of employment are exempt, as are those motorists operating a vehicle on private property.

 

Drivers 18 and Over

Drivers 18 and over will be allowed to use a “hands-free” device to talk on their wireless telephone while driving. The following FAQs apply to those motorists 18 and over.

Q: Does the new “hands-free” law prohibit you from dialing a wireless telephone while driving or just talking on it?
A: The new law does not prohibit dialing, but drivers are strongly urged not to dial while driving.

Q: Will it be legal to use a Bluetooth or other earpiece?
A: Yes, however you cannot have BOTH ears covered.

Q: Does the new “hands-free” law allow you to use the speaker phone function of your wireless telephone while driving?
A: Yes.

Q: Does the new “hands-free” law allow drivers 18 and over to text message while driving?
A: The law does not specifically prohibit that, but an officer can pull over and issue a citation to a driver of any age if, in the officer’s opinion, the driver was distracted and not operating the vehicle safely. Sending text messages while driving is unsafe at any speed and is strongly discouraged.

Drivers Under 18

Q: Am I allowed to use my wireless telephone “hands-free?”
A: No. Drivers under the age of 18 may not use a wireless telephone, pager, laptop or any other electronic communication or mobile services device to speak or text while driving in any manner, even “hands-free.” EXCEPTION: Permitted in emergency situations to call police, fire or medical authorities (VC §23124).

Q: Why is the law stricter for provisional drivers?
A: Statistics show that teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to be involved in crashes because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks. Teen drivers are vulnerable to driving distractions such as talking with passengers, eating or drinking, and talking or texting on wireless devices, which increase the chance of getting involved in serious vehicle crashes.

Q: Can my parents give me permission to allow me to use my wireless telephone while driving?
A: No. The only exception is an emergency situation that requires you to call a law enforcement agency, a health care provider, the fire department or other emergency agency entity.

Q: Does the law apply to me if I’m an emancipated minor?
A: Yes. The restriction applies to all licensed drivers who are under the age of 18.

Q: If I have my parent(s) or someone age 25 years or older in the car with me, may I use my wireless telephone while driving?
A: No. You may only use your wireless telephone in an emergency situation.

Q: Will the restriction appear on my provisional license?
A: No.

Q: May I use the hands-free feature while driving if my car has the feature built in?
A: No. The law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using any type of wireless device while driving, except in an emergency situation.

Q: Can a law enforcement officer stop me for using my “hands-free” device while driving?
A: For drivers under the age of 18, this is considered a SECONDARY violation meaning that a law enforcement officer may cite you for using a “hands-free” wireless device if you were pulled over for another violation. However, the prohibition against using a handheld wireless device while driving is a PRIMARY violation for which a law enforcement officer can pull you over.

It is hoped the laws will reduce distractions to drivers, thereby mitigating the 4,000 traffic accident deaths that occur in the state each year.

A study released by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute documented 80 percent of accidents are caused by driver distraction, and 65 percent of near-crashes resulted from driver inattention three seconds before the event. The Public Policy Institute of California anticipates 300 fewer traffic fatalities annually once these new laws take effect.

Yet, there remains great debate as to how much using a hands-free device improves your ability to pay attention to the road beyond what you would experience by simply holding the phone to your ear.

In a June 28, 2008 a Daily Breeze article, California State University, Dominguez Hills psychology professor Larry Rosen, a specialist in the psychology of technology, is quoted as follows:

“Hands-free phones are no safer than handheld – it’s all an issue of cognitive load, or brain power. If you talk to somebody on a phone, you only get a limited number of cues, as opposed to looking at someone when you can see their demeanor, their facial expressions. When you don’t have those cues, your brain has to work hard to fill them in and having to work extra hard means you’ll be paying little attention to the road.”

Additionally, as reported in a July 2, 2008 Daily News article, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University discovered listening to a conversation while driving reduces brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent!

So, as was echoed in the quote by professor Rosen (above), it’s not how you are talking on your cell phone that matters — it’s the fact that you are talking on your cell phone. You could have two extra hands on the wheel while wearing your headset and still drive like an idiot.

That being said, I think using a headset is a nice option while you are in the car — though I think it actually has the opposite effect: it makes me want to talk more. I find myself more engaged in the conversation because I don’t have to think about holding the phone. I am unsure if I am in the normal or abnormal category for this issue, but it is how I feel.

For nearly the past month I have been using the Plantronics Explorer 350 with my Palm Centro — mostly as I drove to and from DeVry University in Bakersfield, but also around town on short errands. It works very well and it is reasonably comfortable. I like it because it sits in my ear, making it easier to hear the person with whom I am speaking.

I recommend this device to anyone looking for a Bluetooth headset. I do, however, not recommend wearing it outside of your car — you can get away with looking like a dork/Borg from Star Trek in your car, but once you are outside of it, the same cannot be said!

I initially tried a Motorola H500, but either the unit I had was defective or the design doesn’t suit me — becasue I could almost never hear anyone whether I was at highway speeds or even on side streets.

In any case, the results of this new law remain to be seen, but if it has the same effect as most other laws related to driving — or even most laws for that matter — I doubt it will have much of an impact beyond generating additional revenue for the state that can get misappropriated.

I am encouraged by the portion of the law dealing with drivers under 18, as that seems to make the most sense: completely outlawing the use of cell phones while driving is the only way to (at least legally) ensure that drivers are no longer distracted by them.

At the same time I am a realist: making something illegal does little to prevent someone determined to do it from doing it.  I also know that if you aren’t distracted by your cell phone while driving there are plenty of other things to do the job: kids, pets, people, iPods,  the stereo, makeup, food — the list goes on. I once even saw a woman reading a book while driving down the 405 Freeway Southbound in the Sepulveda pass!

But, if you live in California, it is now law, so unless you want to waste a lot of money you need to “get assimilated” and find yourself an earpiece that works for you. Just look at the bright side: now you will have an extra hand free so you can hold your coffee and your breakfast burrito while talking on the phone!

On Saturday, June 14, 2008 my family and I decided to visit the incredible Travel Town Museumin Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. We headed out at approximately 10:00 a.m., but once we left the house realized we needed to get gas. So, we stopped at a Shell station on The Old Road, near Rye Canyon and a stone’s throw away from the Southbound 5 Freeway.

When I got out of the car to gas it up, I nearly fell over when I saw that the cost per gallon of 87 octane fuel (the “cheap stuff”) was an astonishing $4.65! I could barely believe my eyes and had to check again to make sure I had read the numbers correctly. Yep, $4.65 a gallon!

 I was in shock and quickly cycled through the five stages of grief:

  • Denial: There is no way gas costs this much!
  • Anger: This is outrageous, I am being robbed!
  • Bargaining: Well, maybe if I just get $10 worth the prices will drop and I can fill up the rest of the tank later at a lower price?
  • Depression: I can’t believe this, I will never be able to afford to drive anywhere again….the world is conspiring against me!
  • Acceptance:It will be ok, gas prices will eventually even out – I have no control over the prices so why get riled up by them?

I filled up the tank with 9.123 gallons, resulting in a grand total of $42.50!

A few days earlier, on May 31 through June 3 (the last two days I filled up) the per gallon cost of 87 octane fuel was $4.23 at a Mobile and 7-11 down the street from my house — which was bad enough, but crossing $4.50 a gallon seemed like an entirely different level of extortion.

I’ve often heard the argument made that in some European countries gas can cost $8 to $10 a gallon, so we should be grateful that our prices are so much less. However, this argument is a fallacy, because these same European countries that have gas prices double our currently ridiculous rates are socialist — meaning that the additional cost of the fuel is intended to cover any number of social programs designed to benefit citizens of that country.

Therefore, in those cases, it makes sense that gas would cost so much more. But America, being a capitalist economy, the additional cost we are now paying for fuel does not result in any equivalent increase in services made available to the citizens of the country.

So, until I get free healthcare — that I would likely not want anyway, given the propencity of anything run by a government agency to foul things up — I will fail to feel “grateful” that we don’t have it any worse.

Although, there is a chance I qualify for dual Italian/American citizenship — so I might just ride out this “oil storm” living with my family in a Tuscan villa zipping around on a Vespa and exclaiming “Ciao!” to everyone (props to Eddie Izzard!)! I think I am liking the sound of this!

On March 5th of this year I posted photos I took while traversing the Grapevine portion of Interstate 5 in California on the morning of January 23, 2008 to the DeVry University Center in Bakersfield where I have been teaching since October 2007.

As I mentioned, due to the snow that began to fall that morning, as of 3 p.m. that day the California Highway Patrol (CHP) decided to close the 5 between Castaic and the base of the Grapevine and it remained closed through a good portion of the following day.

Due to my teaching schedule at DeVry I had already planned to stay over in Bakersfield that night, but the continued closure of the 5 the following day, Thursday, January 24, 2008, necessitated my taking the “long way” home on Higway 58 East through Tehachapi to the 14 Freeway South.

This was  a route which, at that time, I was driving on Monday afternoons to get to a class I was teaching in Palmdale once I finished my classes in Bakersfield. From the 14 South I made my way to Interstate 5 North and home to Santa Clarita (though this post does not include photos of that leg of the journey).

With Southern California currently sweltering under a relentless heatwave, today seemed like a perfect time to share some photos I took of that snowbound adventure.

Note that the photos below were taken roughly between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and are only from the portion of the trip on Highway 58 and do not include much less interesting shots I took while driving south on the 14.

Although it was not heavily snowing, though there was an intermittent dusting. Overall it was an enjoyable drive and was especially interesting once I got to the portion of the highway where the windmills are visible.

Hopefully the photos of this trip will provide some kind of relief for those of you who are now contending with temperatures in the 90s and 100s.

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

Photo Taken January 24, 2008 on Highway 58 East

California: land of surf, sun, and… snow?

I took the photos below on the morning of Wednesday, January 23, 2008 between roughly 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. as I made my way North on Interstate 5 through the Grapevine portion of the freeway (the area between Gorman, CA and Lebec, CA). This was the start of what I believe was the first major storm of the season.

By 3 p.m. that same day, the California Highway Patrol closed the 5 between Castaic and the base of the Grapevine; it remained closed through a good portion of the following day. I had planned to stay in Bakersfield that night anyway so this development didn’t immediately affect me.

However, the continued closure of the 5 the next day, Thursday, January 24, 2008, necessitated my taking the “long way” home which I normally drove on Mondays to get to my class in Palmdale: the 58 Freeway East through Tehachapi — my “favorite” drive (the topography is beautiful; I feel as if I am driving through a train set!).

Here are pictures from my journey (click the image for a larger version):

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Once I cleared the Grapevine and began the descent into the valley below (the portion of the 5 just before the 5/99 split) I saw a full rainbow! It began roughly over the freeway a few miles ahead and actually seemed to end at an IKEA distribution warehouse!

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I hope you enjoyed these photos — more to come soon!