For no particular reason, I decided to keep a detailed log of every cup of tea I drank in 2016. I kept track of the time I started drinking each cup, what time I finished the cup, the brand and flavor of tea, the type of vessel I was drinking from, and a few other things. Now that 2016 is finally over, it’s time to share the results. Note that here I am referring only to hot tea. I don’t tend to drink iced tea.
I don’t drink coffee, so I tend to drink a lot of strong black tea in the mornings. Meanwhile, the early afternoon is a good time for green tea, as evidenced by the tea type by hour chart:
The majority of the tea that I drank in 2016 was from MarketSpice, a local tea company here in Seattle. In a distant second was Tazo, the brand of tea stocked in the office at work.
Most of the tea that I drink is black tea. I should probably try to shift the balance more toward green tea, given its numerous health benefits.
Most of the time when I’m drinking tea I’m sitting (or standing) at my desk, working. At both my workplace office and my home office I’ve got an electric mug warmer that keeps the tea at a pleasing temperature for the entire duration of each cup.
When I’m drinking tea away from home, it’s almost always in my Zojirushi insulated mug, which keeps the tea hot literally all day. Even though I took a lot longer to drink tea when I was away from home, it was always still hot when I finished it.
I was also curious whether there’s any sort of seasonal trend to my tea consumption. The answer to that question appears to be “not really, but there was a bit of a drop-off in November and December.”
Finally, I thought it would be interesting to compare my 2016 tea consumption to data on tea consumption around the world. The best data I could find on this was from a 2014 Quartz story. The catch is that the annual per capita consumption by country data was measured in weight of tea leaves rather than volume of tea drink.
In order to properly compare my 2016 tea consumption to the rest of the world, I counted up the number of cups I drank using tea bags and multiplied it by the average weight of tea contained in a typical tea bag, 0.075 ounces. I also weighed the leaves I typically use to brew an eight ounce cup of loose leaf tea, which was about 0.4 ounces for MarketSpice Cinnamon-Orange. I told you that I like my tea strong.
The total estimated weight of the tea leaves used to prepare all the tea I drank in 2016 came out to 13.5 pounds, nearly double the per capita consumption in Turkey, the heaviest tea-drinking country in the world, and over 27 times as much tea as the per capita consumption here in the United States.
Still more dangerous driving persists right in front of my house. The city of Everett traffic engineering department refuses to make any modifications to the flawed designs at this intersection that are obviously conducive to such dangerous behavior.
Here are the latest examples:
[Update November 28 – Here’s another.]
Note that these are just the ones that we happened to see first-hand. This kind of dangerous driving happens daily, I just don’t happen to be looking and save the video.
Here’s my latest email to the city of Everett traffic engineering department:
From: Timothy Ellis Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2016 11:36 AM To: Michael Brick; Ryan Sass; Engineering / Public Services Subject: Re: FW: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
I would like to reiterate my request for four-way stops on Wetmore Ave. at 36th, 35th, and 34th streets. We continue to see people driving at unsafe speeds (35-40mph) north on Wetmore and other drivers running the stop signs on the cross streets. We’ve already seen one fatality and without adjustments I am certain we will see more.
Please consider adding four-way stops at 36th, 35th, and 34th where the steep hills lead down to Wetmore. By adding the four-way stops it would 1) discourage through traffic from using Wetmore Ave, moving them instead to the much better suited Colby Ave and 2) slow all traffic through those three intersections, dramatically reducing the risk of a fatality collision.
And here’s their non-response reply:
From: Michael Brick <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 9:11 AM Subject: RE: FW: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
To: Timothy Ellis
Cc: Ryan Sass <email@example.com>, Tim Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Kevin Allen <email@example.com>
After further review of this location Traffic Engineering still finds that the existing east-west stops at these intersections are appropriate. I have contacted Sgt Allen with the Everett Police Department and made him aware of your concerns. He agrees that this is an issue of compliance with the existing stop signs and that police enforcement is the appropriate next step. He will be contacting you shortly to discuss what option the Police have to address your concerns.
Michael Brick, P.E.
Associate Traffic Engineer
City of Everett Public Works
It’s only a matter of time before there’s another serious injury or fatality collision at one of these intersections. It’s a shame that the city refuses to take the appropriate measures to prevent it.
Just thought I’d make a few election predictions for the upcoming 2016 US presidential election. Before we get started, I’ll say up front that I’m not going to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. They’re both terrible candidates and I am seriously disappointed in the voters and the political parties whose actions have led to us having such a historically awful pair of choices in November. Shame on all of you.
With that, here are my election predictions for what will go down in November.
Voter Turnout Will Drop Below 50 Percent
Americans are disgusted with the way this election has played out. From Trump’s manipulative pandering, to Clinton’s prioritization of her own convenience over national security, to the Democratic National Committee rigging the primary election against Bernie Sanders from the start, everyone is simply fed up.
We haven’t seen voter turnout below 50 percent since 1920 and 1924, but the first of my election predictions is that a record number of voters will opt not to vote, and as a result 2016 will see turnout hit at least a 92-year low. I could even easily see turnout dropping below 45 percent, which would be the lowest level in nearly 200 years.
Clinton and Trump are literally the least-liked candidates ever to run, by a wide margin. If either party had put up a different candidate, they likely would have won in the biggest blowout since Reagan’s 1984 reelection. Instead, we’ve got two candidates that most of the country can’t stand.
Even many Democrats and Republicans are disgusted at the candidate their own party has selected, to the point that they’re not willing to vote for their own party just to support the “lesser of two evils.”
As it stands now, I expect that the Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson will net at least ten percent of the vote. I would not be surprised to see them pull in twenty percent or more, collectively edging out Ross Perot’s 1992 performance.
Donald Trump Will Probably Win
As much as I’d like to believe that there’s some way we’ll break a 164-year streak and elect someone other than a Republican or Democrat, it just doesn’t seem at all likely.
If I’m forced to choose who I think is likely to win this year between the two terrible choices that were nominated by the major parties in the past week, I’m going to have to pick Trump.
When Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, like most people I laughed and assumed it was basically nothing more than a poorly-executed publicity stunt. And yet, here we are just over a year later and he’s not only the Republican nominee, but he’s even edged ahead of Hillary Clinton in the polls. As this has played out I’ve been reading Scott Adams’ blog, where he has been predicting and—more importantly—explaining Trump’s rise every step of the way.
tl;dr – It’s all about persuasion. Adams contends that Trump is a “master persuader,” who is playing the game in a completely different way than any of the other candidates.
Although both candidates are still historically disliked, over the last year Trump’s net favorability has risen 13.5 points (from -34.6% to -21.1%), while Clinton’s has fallen 15.2 points (from -2.0% to -17.2%). And this is despite the fact that Trump seems to say offensive and reproachable things daily, while Clinton hasn’t had a press conference since December 2015.
And so, here’s the last of my election predictions: A specific guess for how the electoral map will play out in November:
So Yeah, We’re Basically Screwed
In closing, I’d like to again point out that I think both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are terrible candidates, and I won’t be voting for either of them. These are my election predictions, but they aren’t what I hope will happen. Unfortunately, I think it’s too late to realistically expect something dramatically different than the outcomes I’ve outlined above.
Despite how terrible our choices for president are, you should all at least go out and vote for your local and state races.
The main problem is that people (often on bicycles but also in cars) frequently ignore the stop signs on 35th and 36th and blow right across Wetmore Avenue, especially when heading east, since both of these streets have a steep hill leading down to the stop sign at Wetmore. This has led to many close calls already. Here are just two recent near-misses that I happened to catch on camera at 36th & Wetmore:
Here’s an excerpt from my April 5th email:
I have seen people coming down the steep hill eastbound on 35th blow through the stop across Wetmore, and when you’re coming southbound down Wetmore, you have zero visibility of oncoming vehicles from the west thanks to that row of hedges. I typically avoid driving that portion of the road at all since I am afraid I will run over someone on a bicycle or skateboard without any chance to even see them coming.
This is what it looks like as you approach 35th heading southbound down Wetmore. Note that this street view was taken in 2012. The hedges on the right are even bigger than that now.
Last Friday, April 22, the city traffic engineer responded to email. Unfortunately, the only action the city plans to take for these two intersections is to improve stop sign visibility and measure traffic to possibly recommend “emphasis patrols” by the Everett Police for speeding on Wetmore. Neither of these solutions really does anything to address the structural problems that make these two intersections so dangerous.
Sadly on Monday afternoon 35th and Wetmore was host to the exact kind of collision I warned the city about:
EVERETT — A bicyclist suffered critical injuries Monday after colliding with a school bus in north Everett. The man, 52, was knocked unconscious but was breathing, according to police.
The man was taken to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. No students were injured.
The crash happened about 2:15 p.m. at the intersection of Wetmore Avenue and 35th Street. The southbound bus was carrying the Everett High School track team to Memorial Stadium, according to the school district.
Police believe the eastbound bicyclist ran the stop sign and collided with the school bus, which did not have a stop sign.
I initially requested that the city install “traffic calming circles” at these two intersections. These exist at quite a few other intersections in our neighborhood, and would serve to slow traffic in both directions. The traffic engineer rejected that suggestion, saying that “they restrict the ability of emergency responders (particularly fire department vehicles) while they have proven to provide little to no reduction in crashes or excessive speeding at locations where they have been installed.”
Therefore, my latest suggestion is that the intersections on Wetmore at 35th and 36th streets should be made into four-way stops. There is already a four-lane north-south road with a flatter grade and a higher speed limit that is designed for through traffic just one block to the west on Colby. If vehicles on Wetmore were made to stop at 35th and 36th streets, collisions like the one that happened yesterday would be far less likely.
Here is my email exchange with the city on this matter:
From: Timothy Ellis Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 1:33 PM To: Ryan Sass; Engineering / Public Services Subject: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
I have lived on the corner of 36th Street and Wetmore Avenue since 2011, and I am very concerned about the safety of this intersection. In the time we have lived here, we have seen many people driving much too fast down Wetmore (usually northbound down the hill), and also many people–usually on bicycles or skateboards, but sometimes in cars as well–blowing through the stop signs on 36th Street.
Frankly I am amazed that nobody has been killed yet, and I fear that it is inevitable if changes are not made.
We also witness people driving far faster than 25mph up Wetmore on a daily basis (usually northbound as that is the downhill direction), occasionally even fast enough to catch a little air off the slight bump in the road just north of the intersection. It is ridiculous.
I would like to request that the intersection be modified in some way. I’m obviously not a transportation engineer, but it seems like the traffic calming circles solution in place at the intersections of 35th and Lombard and 35th and Oakes would sufficiently slow traffic in both directions to avoid any tragic events.
Also, I’m not personally there to witness it as often, but 35th and Wetmore has the same problems. I have seen people coming down the steep hill eastbound on 35th blow through the stop across Wetmore, and when you’re coming southbound down Wetmore, you have zero visibility of oncoming vehicles from the west thanks to that row of hedges. I typically avoid driving that portion of the road at all since I am afraid I will run over someone on a bicycle or skateboard without any chance to even see them coming.
From: Michael Brick Sent: Friday, April 22, 2016 11:53 AM To: Timothy Ellis Subject: RE: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
Thank you for taking the time to make the City of Everett aware of your safety concerns. We have evaluated the line of sight for the intersections of Wetmore Ave with 35th Street and 36th Street, checked that the stop signs at these intersections are clearly visible, and checked crash records along Wetmore Ave.
Traffic Engineering has evaluated the line of sight at the intersections of Wetmore Ave with 35th Street and 36th Street and found them acceptable. For local street intersections such as these this line of sight check consists of measuring how far away vehicles approaching along Wetmore can be seen from the side-streets when stopped 10 feet back from the edge of the travel lanes. When stopped 10 feet from the travel lanes approaching vehicles should be visible from at least 155 feet away. The City of Everett does not check that drivers along the main road can clearly see drivers stopped on the side-streets, only that drivers stopping on the side-streets can clearly see approaching drivers on the main road. We assume that side-street drivers will respond appropriately and yield to any vehicles approaching along the main road. The large hedge on the northwest corner of 35th Street and Wetmore Ave does extend partially across the sidewalk and a letter is being sent to the property owner directing that the hedge be trimmed but this is to comply with a legal requirement that the sidewalk be kept clear and unobstructed, not to maintain sight lines at this intersection.
Stop signs on local streets should also be visible to approaching traffic from at least 155 feet away. The stop signs on the approaches to Wetmore Ave along 35th Street and 36th Street are clearly visible to approaching vehicles from at least 155 feet away. Because the eastbound approaches to Wetmore Ave along 35th Street and 36th Street are particularly steep the City has already installed “STOP AHEAD” signs mid-way between Colby Ave and Wetmore Ave to reinforce to drivers that there is a stop at the bottom of the hill. The City of Everett is in the process of replacing all of our “STOP” signs with new, highly reflective signs to improve their visibility so the signs at these intersections will soon be replaced with even more visible signs.
It appears that no crashes have been reported to the Everett Police at the intersection of 36th Street and Wetmore Ave in recent years. The intersection of 35th Street and Wetmore Ave does have an average of 1.5 reported crashes per year, but only about 1 crash every 2 years results in any injuries. While ideally there would be no vehicle crashes in Everett, the low incidence of injuries in this area is considered acceptable to the City. We will not be installing traffic calming circles at these locations because they restrict the ability of emergency responders (particularly fire department vehicles) while they have proven to provide little to no reduction in crashes or excessive speeding at locations where they have been installed.
It has been several years since the City of Everett collected speed data along Wetmore Ave near your home. We recently placed a traffic counter along Wetmore Ave in this area to collect vehicle speed and volume data. If this data shows excessive vehicle speeds at specific times of day we will forward that information to the Everett Police Department and request emphasis patrols to address the speeding at those times. As soon as we have reviewed the data currently being collected I will let you know our findings.
If you have any further traffic related questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.
Michael Brick, P.E.
Associate Traffic Engineer
City of Everett Public Works
From: Timothy Ellis Sent: Friday, April 22, 2016 4:33 PM To: Michael Brick Subject: RE: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
Thanks for the thoughtful response. However, I do feel somewhat like my point was not quite understood. My main concern is not that the stop signs are not visible or that people are otherwise not aware of them. My concern is that especially on the steep hill eastbound on 36th, people just don’t care to stop. Adding a “stop ahead” sign and making the stop signs more reflective will likely do nothing to change that.
Also, the location that you’ve put the speed/volume strips up at 34th street are not likely (in my opinion based on my observations) to measure nearly as much speeding as we see down the stretch of Wetmore between 37th and 36th. Since that portion has the steepest hill, it seems that most of the speeders are going their fastest at the bottom as they pass through the intersection of 36th & Wetmore, and may have slowed somewhat by the time they get to 34th.
I understand the downsides of the traffic calming circles, but I also think that something more than just improving existing stop sign visibility and possible “emphasis patrols” would be prudent to prevent a serious incident from eventually occurring here. I also find it odd that the city would be willing to go on record saying that a dangerous intersection like this “is considered acceptable to the City.” That seems like the kind of statement that might be problemati should there ever be a serious injury (or worse) that results in a lawsuit.
Obviously I still think some sort of modification would be advisable, even if it were just to make the intersections at 35th and 36th into four-way stops. With a wider, flatter north-south route one block west on Colby, I don’t see the harm in intentionally slowing traffic on Wetmore.
I originally shared this story about attempting to return a defective DVD to Target back in 2008 on the personal finance site Get Rich Slowly. However, at some point this year the original post seems to have been deleted by the site’s new owner QuinStreet.
One way our family keeps the entertainment budget slim is by not buying new release DVDs, but waiting to buy movies until they drop below $10.
About a month ago, my wife purchased the DVD movie “Never Been Kissed” for $5.50 from the discount shelf at our local Target. A few weeks after buying it, we tried to watch it, but after trying multiple DVD players it became clear that the disc was defective. On our next trip to Target we brought the DVD and the receipt back to exchange the disc for a working copy.
There were no copies of that movie in stock, so we waited another week and tried again. Unfortunately, this time not only was the movie not in stock, but an employee looked it up and informed us that Target no longer carries that movie at all. (Well, they carry it, but now it’s in one of those double-feature disc sets.)
I figured that this was no big deal, that since they don’t stock it anymore, they would accept a return for cash or store credit for the defective product they sold me.
The employee informed me that Target does not under any circumstances accept returns on DVDs, CDs, or video games. I asked to see the manager, who affirmed the policy and told me that he cannot override it, because of “copyright law.”
I know my rights as they pertain to copyright law, and I know that there is no provision in Federal law or Washington State law that prohibits a retailer from giving a customer their money back for a defective DVD. In fact, I verified with Costco that they are glad to issue refunds for DVDs. (Their return policy contains no exception for disc-based media of any kind. [2015 addendum: I have since successfully returned DVDs to Costco on two occasions. Once a disc was defective, another time two of the three discs were completely missing. Costco staff was friendly and helpful both times, fully refunding my money without question.])
Unfortunately it seems that this “copyright law” excuse is being fed to Target employees from the top. An internet search revealed multiple accounts of similar tales across the country. It’s a store policy — nothing more. I can understand the rationale behind such a policy, but it’s pretty lousy that they give people with an actual defective product the shaft like that.
The moral of this story is something that seems to be a good deal at the time can be turned into a complete waste of money by a lousy policy and stubborn or poorly trained employees. I’ve learned my lesson that it is important to be familiar with store policies and know your risk when assessing apparent “deals.”
Here are some other pieces I wrote for Get Rich Slowly. Some have been deleted, and others are still live. I don’t know why no one at QuinStreet bothered to mention to me that they were deleting my stories.