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Trains Are Better Than Planes

The train, a 19th century invention, is superior to the plane, a technology of the 20th. I had this thought at the Trenton Train Station, which in all candor is not the most sublime transportation hub on the planet, and is perhaps an unlikely place to have a rhapsodic revelation about the glories of rail travel.

It was a dark morning, rainy, and Trenton is not a town that looks better when wet. The New Jersey Transit commuter train sat on Track 4, hissing. The station had the full array of sound effects, of humming electrical wires, squeaky brakes, bells, whistles, the shouts of conductors, and indecipherable intercom announcements. Those of delicate sensitivities might have found the place grubby. But I wouldn't trade it for the cleanest airport concourse. Planes are just buses now, and you starve, and there's no leg room, and you never know if you're going to get where you're going or will wind up stranded in a terminal for 8 hours, sleeping on your luggage.

The great technological advantage of trains is that their core value is punctuality. [Note dissenting opinions expressed in the Boodle.] The trains leave on time: This is what we say about successful societies. Trains have an imperturbable nature; they are generally unfazed by rain or snow or fog or wind. They are not delayed by someone who is slow to stow his baggage in the overhead bin. Ideally they pull into a station, open the doors, let people board, and they're off again, lickety-split, efficient and full of purpose.

And they go somewhere -- not to a faceless garage, or to a remote suburb, or to the new terminal 30 miles from downtown in the middle of a prairie, but to the heart of old industrial cities. They wind up in magnificent stations in Washington and Philadelphia and New York, where you feel like someone should be piping in a George Gershwin soundtrack. I always associate the train with going to New York. In college we could hop on the Dinky, the little shuttle that came right into campus, and in just an hour or so be at Penn Station, popping out onto the street practically underneath the Empire State Building. Going to New York was a guaranteed adventure, and the only way it could have been more fun is if we had had some money.

When I'm taking the train to New York these days I feel like I should be wearing a suit with wide lapels and padded shoulders. A snappy hat. You can become a character when you ride the train: A person with important appointments. The kind of person who knows where to get a great shoe shine. Someone who, like the train, has a schedule, and isn't just stumbling and bumbling along through life. People on trains aren't winging it: They have places to be. A car offers mobility and freedom and flexibility and the possibilities of a spontaneous detour (road trip!) to someplace fun and decadent; a train offers a straight and level path through life, and the very high probability of getting where you need to go.

It's not always a pastoral view out the window of the train. To the contrary: In the Northeast Corridor you find yourself gazing at decrepit industrial parks and abandoned factories. You see slums. You see places that would look bad from the front, and from the back, from the train, look apocalyptic. You see the scrap heaps, junkyards, power plants. But the train keeps moving, passing all of it by, rolling down the rails toward what might turn out to be another great adventure.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 25, 2006; 10:08 AM ET
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YES! Trains! The only way to go. Better yet, get a sleeper. Nothing gets you to sleep faster than a rocking train. This has become my family's favorite way to travel and we design trips around where Amtrak will deliver us.

Of course that's how we know that our country really is going to he11: get on any train NOT on a Northeast Corridor line and plan on arriving at least 6 hours late. But in a sleeper bedroom you don't mind. You just get out another book and plug your iPod in to recharge.

What time do we leave?

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I don't take trains enough anymore, though I do take it to NYC.

These days, it's cheaper, and Very Bad People are unlikely to hop onto Platform 9 3/4 and demand that someone fly this train to Cuba.

The two last best words on train travel: Bar Car.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I can see you never had to change trains in Chicago on Amtrak, Mr. Kit.

Posted by: Out I-81 | April 25, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

on topic sort of: Parker Brothers has announced they are coming out with yet another version of Monopoly. "Hera and Now". It features landmarks in 22 cities. Some landmarks include the White House, the Washingtgon Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for Washington. Some other cities are New York, Boston and Los Angelos. Here's the on topic part: They're replacing the Railroods with airports. You can vote here:

Posted by: omni | April 25, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"HERE and Now: sheesh and feh!

Posted by: omni | April 25, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Hear, hear! I've always liked trains, too. Growing up in the Philly 'burbs, we used to ride them to get downtown, or to go to Phillies games (at the old Connie Mack Stadium). Took trips from Philly to both DC and NY, and once to Mystic, Conn. And have been on about a zillion subways over the years. I'm not sure Joel would agree that trolleys and cable cars are train-like variants, but I've always liked them, too.

Just one more reason to hate Detroit, and "car culture," and American public policy that doesn't endorse and support public transportation that doesn't guzzle oil.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 25, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Imagine building houses and then hotels on those landmarks. I think this is a bad idea. Nothing is sacred anymore.

Posted by: omni | April 25, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I agree!

Joel, this is a great item, and worthy of its subject matter. Almost too good for the blog, I'd say.

My best train trip was in a (i)couchette(/i) from The Hague to Nice. Go to sleep, wake up in another world! Loved it. Except for the change from Gare du Nord to the other station in Paris--although, even there, being propositioned, in French, by the taxi driver was a memorable experience.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 25, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

HA! Five posts, and I go off topic...HA!!!

Posted by: omni | April 25, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

TBG, care to weigh in on "Hera and Now"?


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Great Article. I grew up in West Trenton a hundred years ago (it seems like) and haven't been back but once. But I well remember the Trenton Station and the West Trenton Reading Railroad station. I traveled often to Philadelphia from there especially when I worked at the Shipyard. As a youngster the West Trenton station was often a playground. We were always on the lookout for railroad flares and squibs. Thanks for pleasant reminder

Posted by: ZZ | April 25, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Ridden trains in Europe, which are clean, fast, efficient, and financed by taxes on gasoline. What's not to love?

My last train trip in the U.S. was from DC to Charlotte some years ago. The bathroom in the car I was riding wasn't functional, not a good thing. But when we got into NC, a goodwill ambassador from the State Tourism folks got on and entertained us. It turned out to be a gentleman I knew from church who was retired and a great traveler. That made the trip more pleasant, although it was night-time and we couldn't see anything...

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

A metaphorical yearning for simpler,more orderly times eg.,when the trains ran on time. Wow,things must be going South faster than I thought.

Posted by: ILL-logical | April 25, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Since we are going old fashioned talking trains this morning, it seems perfectly right that my recipes for Sara and JW and their significant others, date from the 1870's though they likely were used well before that.

Camphor Ice

One ounce lard
one ounce spermaceti
(grey haired whale preferred but not required)
one ounce camphor
one ounce almond oil
one half cake white wax

Melt and turn into moulds.

Recipe from Mrs. A.M.
I think this is supposed to be old fashioned camphor salve, with which you could soothe a loved ones chapped hands.

Treatment for Fever and Ague

Four ounces of galangal root in a quart of gin, steeped in a warm place. Take often.

Recipe from Mrs. R.A. Sibley
I find this most valuable for the advice 'take often'. In my personal experience delete the galangal root and just go with the gin. Take often.

And my all-time personal favourite cure for the sickroom,

To restore from Stroke of Lightning

Shower with cold water for 2 hours: if patient does not show signs of life, put salt in the water, and continue to shower an hour longer.

This cure is attributed to no one. Please feel free to wonder about that.

These are actual recipes in a reproduction copy of 'The Home Cook Book' the first community published cookbook in Canada first printed in 1877.

I will also submit a recipe I have used many times for 'Grandmother's Oatmeal Bread' from the "Bread Bakers Manual' RC Fiske And J Koch Potee authors, published in 1978.

Grandmother's Oatmeal Bread

3 pints boiling water (6 cups)
1 cup molasses
1 handful of sugar (2 Tablespoons)
1 tsp salt.
Mix together and when the mixture is cooled to 'warm', add

1 tablesppon of active dry yeast
1 pint of old fashioned oatmeal (2 heaping cups)
Stir in enough flour, usually about 12 cups, to make a stiff dough and let rise in a bowl for 3 or 4 hours till double, and place dough in pans, and let rise again, till it reaches the top of the pan. Bake in 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Yeild 4 1 pound loaves.

This is an unkneaded batter bread, so the dough is quite soft in comparison to a regualr kneaded bread. Its more sensible to halve the recipe, but if you want to impress overnight guests make this and serve it as breakfast toast with real butter and fresh jams and fruit compotes.

Like riding a train, bread baking is an old art and practise, but is worth the time and effort. If you bake bread you feel you feed the world.

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"likety-split" ... I just love that term.

Posted by: jlessl | April 25, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I love taking trains -- I've never even driven in Europe, not even once, during my many long years over there. You can tell almost instantly whether the trains emanate from northern Europe or southern Europe by the state they're in by the time you've boarded. Sometimes the food's reasonable (by taste but never price) but mostly it's not. Get a cheese baguette and a chocolate bar and something to drink that comes out of a bottle, and you're good to go.

It's so nice a relaxing, you get a great view of the countryside and someone else is driving. What's not to like?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 25, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

"There isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going". E.St.V. Millay
I loved trains since I was tiny, and I have the newspaper clipping about the 2-year old who escaped from his mom's watch and sat on the B&O to wait for the train to come. The NE corridor has the advantage of being owned by Amtrak, so they have control over the operations, making on-time performance generally very good. It's out there in the boonies, running on other people's railroads, that usually causes havoc. We went to Savannah a couple of years ago, scheduled at about 12 hours. We were 4 hours late getting down, and 7 hours late coming back. And this was apparently accepted practice. No one in the political sphere, in either party, has had the gumption to take on a true national transportation policy. There needs to be a sorting out of priorities between highways, rail, and air. Each has a definite role to play, but no one wants to take on the vested interests. BTW, if your interested in the origin of my nom-de-net, I direct you here:

Posted by: ebtnut | April 25, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

SCC -- "nice *and* relaxing"


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 25, 2006 11:43 AM | Report abuse

You forgot the best thing about trains -- you can move around! No seatbelts! Get up whenever you want, walk to the cafe car, visit the lavatory and straighten your tie. Planes and cars can't beat it.

One of the best things about living in Center City Philadelphia is proximity to the glorious 30th Street Station. From there, I'm 2 hours to downtown DC, an hour and 15 minutes to Baltimore, or an hour to New York's Penn Station. Nothing's faster or more convenient.

Posted by: Jay | April 25, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

omni, that was a notable comment indeed.

Mudge, no doubt that you've visted the National Capital Trolley Museum.

I'd add that I can't find any records of methane-powered locomotive experiments that predated the British steam train successes of the early 19th century.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

SCC Tablespoon.

And umm... because I must, Go Oilers go.

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

We are conditioned from an early age to love trains. For many of us, our first experience with one was seeing it go around a Christmas tree (and what Christmas tree doesn't make every kid's eyes spin). Then there's Thomas the Tank Engine with G. Carlin or R. Starr narrating. Putting that penny on the track and waiting for the train teaches you that a train can quish anything beyond recognition.
And now, it's faster to take the train from DC to NY, downtown to downtown, and skipping all those lines at the airport and the inevitable horrible cab ride to your 'Final Destination' (which I didn't think was actually on this planet).

Posted by: LostInThought | April 25, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, and trains jump the yrack or otherwise crash on a more frequent "schedule" than planes drop out of the sky.

Posted by: Rev. Craig | April 25, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I love trains, though I have seldom been on them. The handful of times, however, that I have taken a train ride were all memorable moments.

I can remember the smells and sounds of my first train ride at age 6, as if it was yesterday.

It used to be a rite of passage - I rode the train to Washington, DC when I was a patrol in 5th grade. Apparently, "they" don't do that anymore. It's either a bus or (if you attend a wealthier school) a plane.

Posted by: amo | April 25, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I we could just have a train from coast to coast, on dedicated tracks, traveling at 300 mph, you would see the airline industry become just a means to get across the oceans and automobiles would be used for local grocery shopping.

Posted by: pablo | April 25, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Trains are terrific. Too bad they don't work as transportation solutions in this country. most people choose not to take trains because they are slow, VERY expensive (e.g., AMTRAK), and not nearly as reliable as your blog posting suggests.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Trains are hugely more fuel efficient than planes. Experts say that if we didn't have the N.E. Corridor into NYC, we'd need 16 more lanes of highway tunnels from NJ into NYC. How many tens of billions would that take, assuming you could get the land it would need? Yet the Bush Administration keeps trying to kill Amtrak, and recently fired the best leader Amtrak ever had. We need a taxpayer supported, massive RR building program on a par with the Interstate Highway Program as a key piece of any energy independence effort, not to mention how little pollution there is from trains powered by electricity. Makes too much sense, won't do it, gotta keep General Motors and Exxon happy.

Posted by: Rail Believer | April 25, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday, I finished reading Jim Tenuto's "Blood Atonement," a two-murder mystery with lots of Mormonism. Tenuto says that trains are for the very phobic (airplanes) and the hopelessly romantic. For both these reasons, trains appeal to me.

And the scenario Joel describes must be of trains in the Northeast Corridor, where distances are relatively short. I never took a train further east than Red Wing, Minn., or Chicago or Kansas City or San Antone. Riding trains in the West is an entirely different story, quite different experiences than the ones that Joel describes in his Kit this morning.

I rode trains as a kid--as a Brownie up to Tehachapi in the lower southern Sierra, the Skunk Train from Fort Bragg to Willits as it plowed past millions of coastal ferns and redwoods, the wobbling-boulders-above-our-heads ride of Anaheim's old Disneyland.

The most punctual trains I ever rode were in Germany and Switzerland. Clean, efficient, and almost always on time, to the minute. Even the little train that climbed the steep slopes in the snow to the Alpine Appenzell. It's as though people could set their Swiss watches by the these countries' trains' arrivals and departures.

Not so Amtrak, as it dawdles across the American West--giving up the right of way to a freight train in the middle of the desert night, crawling because of ties made unstable by flash flooding across west Texas, lumbering and huffing as the engine and trailing cars climb a narrow, winding ledge above a sparkling river nestled into a narrow gorge into the upper reaches of the Sierra Nevada, chugging as the engine's headlight cuts through a murky gray-day sky choked with snowflakes on a high Rockies mountain pass.

On one occasion, my husband and I took the train from Sacramento to Reno to attend one of his weeklong Computer Measurement Group conferences. The ride east was easy, not so traveling back west a few days later. Amtrak had been delayed by Midwestern snow at least eight hours, so we had to take milk-run Greyhound, then taxi across Sacramento to get to the train station and my car that would drive us home just in time to shower and get back on the highway to attend my company's--Supercomputer System Inc.'s--Christmas party in Livermore.

If one gets the sense of costume while riding trains in the West, it is of a leather skirt or jeans and chaps, fringed vest, wide tooled leather belt, boots, spurs and Stetsons, especially when a Native guide is brought onboard to interpret the route. But the last time I rode across Arizona and New Mexico, the brochures that told the colorful history of towns along the tracks were no longer tucked in the pockets of the back seats, and I never saw a Southwestern storyteller.

But looking out of these trains--whether the southern (Sunset Limited), northern (Burlington Northern), or middle passage (San Francisco Chief), one can almost see the ghosts of the bison and Native nations, the hunters and trappers, the homesteaders, the loggers, the miners, and the saloon girls.

And when you're riding those distances across the great painted desert, or the sprawling plains, or the looming sets of mountain ranges that ripple in great undulations north to south before you reach the coast, you have all the time in the world to get to know those people in front of you, behind you, across from you who are taking all or part of this long journey with you. You come to know their stories and their lives.

Some of my oddest and some of my best memories are from either the train rides or train stations. The man whose girlfriend never showed up in Copenhagen, so he handed me a dozen long-stemmed, red roses intended for this unknown woman, that I then carried on to the family with whom I would stay in Stockholm. Riding with very rough, country men in Yugoslavia who told the very old, very wrinkled woman in our cabin how they had purchased their wives. Being handed Russian coins by the Russian bicycling team after they had won a gold medal that day in the Olympics, their medal victory enabling them to leave Munich to go to a neighboring town to drink and to celebrate. And also being mistaken for a prostitute on that same ride because I was wearing a German dirndl and had shaven my American legs. Singing a duet of "Edelweiss' with my best lifetime friend as we headed into Bavaria.

Being driven to the wrong train station in Chicago by a very foreign cab driver, and having to scramble to get another cab to the station from which *my* train was actually departing. Soaking up sunshine among Spanish-tiled fountains at the Los Angeles terminal before catching either the zippy commuter train down the coast or the Amtrak bus to Bakersfield. Watching a bear in a stream in Glacier National Park fish for his breakfast, as I was seated in the dining car, about to eat mine.

I have never had these kinds of experiences with airplanes.

Posted by: Loomis | April 25, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse


You make the mistake of generalizing about the trains based on the Washington-to-New York route.

My wife loves trains, and has long advocated that we should take the AutoTrain to DisneyWorld for our occasional family vacations there. She has researched the cost, schedule, etc. to death and even she has agree with my bottom line analysis:
- It costs more than flying;
- It takes the same time as driving.
My conclusion: If you have the time, save money by driving; if you have the money, save the time by flying.

For a short trip like Washington to New York or Philadelphia - go for it...

Posted by: Frankie Boy | April 25, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Anyone wanting to see beautiful scenery on a trip to California should take the train from Los Angeles's Union Station to San Luis Obispo. Miles of travel along the ocean. RIGHT along the ocean.

And an amazing thing --- you can rent a car at Union Station and it is waiting for you just outside the door.

Posted by: nellie | April 25, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

bc, Hera and Now... that's a true snorter.

My son recently told me he wishes I had named him Zeus.

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I had two Eurail adventures in the 90s. Eurail passes at that time (not sure if still now) were actually first class. I don't know why. There was a couple of times we felt like the homeless guys crashing the country club party.

Those flexipasses were just about the ultimate in travel freedom. Using up one of your days of travel you could go just about anywhere in western Europe, and change plans at the drop of a hat.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 25, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I read Achenbach's entry on train travel and thought, "Has someone stolen Joel's brain today?" I too love trains, but not because of their "puncuality." Worse than being stranded at an airport for hours in a thunderstorm is being stuck at New York's wretched Penn Station for hours in a thunderstorm. No chairs, no information, no hope. And the "magnificent" railway stations? NYC's great old Penn Station was torn down in the 1960s and replaced by an underground cave; in the words of Lewis Mumford, "One used to enter the city like a God; now one scuttles in like a rat." This is exactly correct, and this was 40 years ago. Which station does Joel arrive into? Grand Central? It's only got trains to Westchester and Canada these days.
Trains are wonderful once you're on them and moving, but Amtrak travel is not an efficient experience anymore.
Paul B.

Posted by: Paul B. | April 25, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

clearly you've never done the non-DC-NY commuter Amtrak trains, which are NEVER on time and usually delayed such that the trip is extended by a third again (Williamsburg to Alexandria always took at least 4 hours)

of course, if you have no time constraints and aren't bothered by a lack of punctuality, trains are very relaxing and comfortable

Posted by: student | April 25, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Ah trains! The glory of 'em. I grew up with trains (Pappy worked for the Pennsylvania RRR). We rode anywhere on the PRR system for free (!) and anywhere else for 1/2 price. I think it cost me $25 round trip to go from Pittsburgh to LA when I was 12.
Trains are wonderful. Someone on the boodle noted derailments and how few planes fall out of the sky... Well, the problem (as I see it) is that the tracks aren't maintained as well as they once were during the heyday of train travel.... National priorities have moved elsewhere...
Also, how many times are passenger (& commuter trains) interrupted so that a freight-carrying train can pass by.... That is what causes some of the late arrivals.
Bring back trains! I'd take 'em everywhere.

Posted by: choo choo | April 25, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I absolutely love travelling by train, but Amtrak is KILLING it, just killing it. It costs as much, if not more, than flying to most destinations. It takes longer for most trips, which is only partially off-set by the fact that it will drop you off smack-dab in the center of most metropolitan areas, as well as having quite a few intermediary stops in towns along the way.

The way I see it, Amtrak must be TRYING to kill train travel in this country. There's so many things they could do right that they are doing wrong. I wouldn't have a problem paying the same amount as what a plane ticket would cost, but charging more is just insane. Amtrak also needs to figure out whats good about train travel, and start emphasizing it more. They've started that with more advertising of "quiet" cars, outlets for electronics, and other conveniences that planes don't have. How about business compartments? Why don't they build cars with private meeting rooms where a group of business people can get together? How many businesses would take the train from New York to DC if it meant that the team could get together and rehearse their pitches, review presentations, and otherwise prepare in privacy? Amtrak also needs to find some way to make taking the train "cool" again. Look at all the posts about how much people love travelling through Europe by train? Why doesn't Amtrak have that allure any more?

Posted by: jw | April 25, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I love trains, too. But while I always try to take the train east from the San Francisco area to Reno, I never, _never_ consider taking it back -- especially in winter. Why not? Because, while punctuality may be the trains core value, the west-bound train from Chicago is anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 DAYS late when it gets to Reno. Even planes are rarely that bad.

Posted by: wj | April 25, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

That's the problem, choo choo... the tracks are owned by the freight-train companies, not Amtrak. And think of how many highway miles we save with those freight trains.

No, the train is not the way to travel for economics, but trains go places planes don't go. And planes don't travel through the brilliant fall foliage on their way to Pittsburgh (at least we hope they don't!) or go around the famous horseshoe curve in Altoona, Pa.

We travel by train the same way we travel by car... the trip's the trip, not the destination. The "destination" for us is usually just a turning around point.

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Ms. Bertocci on this one -- my first thought when I was only a paragraph in was, "Joel, this is too good for the blog."

Thanks for treating us this morning, though. I love the idea of a character in a snappy hat who knows where to get a great shoe shine. Nicely put!

Posted by: WGibs | April 25, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Although passenger trains offer the allure of film noir on rails, even freight trains have a mystique that planes can never match. There is a reason the Lionel Model Trump-Shuttle-In-A-Holding-Pattern never really caught on. I think it goes back to childhood. What kid hasn't sat at a railroad crossing counting the train cars? (Personal record: 275 in July 1971.) Pennies on a train track are fun. Pennies on the tarmac, less so.

For me a fascination with trains is in my blood. My grandfather built railroad lines until he was 74 years old. (Evidently Grandmother was a difficult woman.) As an immigrant from Italy he learned English and got a job as a construction foreman. I still have his pocket watch as well as a copper identification tag dated 1909. When Grandpa retired he lived on railroad land next to a spur in Orting, Washington. Well into his seventies he would pull scraps of firewood from the slow moving logging trains with a large iron hook. (I think this was considered a fringe benefit.) Grandma would serve us ice-cold Coca-Cola in heavy crystal tumblers while we paged through old calendars issued by the Southern Pacific.

The Southern Pacific, my grandfather, and even the spur in Orting are long gone now. Trains, however are still around. They are stubborn. And I have a feeling they aren't done with us yet.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

bc wrote: "I'd add that I can't find any records of methane-powered locomotive experiments that predated the British steam train successes of the early 19th century."

bc, you're just double-daring me, aren't you?

Jay, Philly's 30th Street station is nice (or was, last time I was there, several decades ago). But I was always fonder of funky old Reading Terminal, just as grubby as Trenton Station that Joel described. For one thing, it was right in the center of downtown, and maybe two blocks from City Hall, two blocks from Wanamaker's, about 50 feet from whatsaname's bookstore on 13th Street, two blocks from the Bellevue (OK, everything in Philly is only two blocks away. It is a very compact little town, awright?)(It was about five blocks from Pop Edward's, alas, though only three blocks from the Red Oak on Chestnut around the corner from the Bellevue). Reading Terminal was always gritty, dark, sooty--but everything a train station ought to be (it had platonic trainstationness). Commuters, moms taking their kids to Wanamaker's at Christmas, winos and vagrants, college students--everybody. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, and of course was right on top of Reading Market. Vendors selling chesnuts right outside the escalator, and a corner stand with Philly pretzels (I shall not wax poetic here about the glories of the Philly pretzel -- this time -- but consider yourselves poetically waxed). Where 30th Street was granite and Greek Revival, Reading Terminal was Victorian wrought iron--almost Jack-the-Ripperish in its own way, though for some peculiar reason I always thought of it as a "friendly" place in a way that 30th Street, or Grand Central, or Pennsylvania Station were not. Maybe because it was closer to a human scale. I dunno.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 25, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I went completely blind over 15 years ago and been riding the DC Metrorail ever since. It's literally where I spend the bulk of my social life. It's where I get my therapy. Since I can't read books or newspapers, I always try to bug an inicent passanger for conversation, it makes the time go faster and I meet people, just like those on this Boodle, and discuss meaningless, but highly interesting topics. This is a typical conversation I have with the inicent passanger when they notice me poking around with my cane in search of an empty seat:
Passanger: "Would you like to sit down, sir?"
Me: "Sure"
Passenger: "There is a seat right over there."
Me: "I suppose you're pointing at it, right?"
Passenger: "Oh, I forgot..."
Laughter ensues.
Me: "Hey, since I'm blind, I do better if you just throw your voice at it, and I'll just pick up the echo."
Hopefully, I will have made a friend, at least for a few minutes. Maybe I should change my post handle to "Pat, the Bat"
I think a lot of people get quiet as possible when they see me coming toward them tapping my cane. I just bet they think that if they keep as quiet as possible, I won't know where they are, and then they will be spared a whack on the ankle. However, the opposite happens. The quiet people get whacked the most.
Although riding the train is relaxing, Metro Center will probably be the death of me. There are tons of steel moving around, high voltage, very important rushing people that when they run into me bark "Watch where you are going!" It is noisey, confusing, and just1, count them, just 1 wrong step and Splat goes Pat! Yuck! So up front: I regret the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

Posted by: Pat | April 25, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I used to take the train all the time. Before my wife and I were engaged, I lived in Baton Rouge and she on Long Island. I'd take Amtrack's "Crescent" from New Orleans, then the LIRR to Port Washington, 10 blocks from her house. After we got engaged I'd take the "City of New Orleans" to Chicago, and the "Empire Builder" (I think) to Red Wing, MN, where she could pick me up.

Unfortunately, that has come to an end for me. The nearest station is in Danville, a 45-minute drive away, with no overnight parking. The northbound "Crescent" arrives in Danville around 5:00 am (rarely on time), and the southbound arrives at around midnight (never on time). And, as others have mentioned, the fares are as high as an airlines.

I'd give anything for good train service, though.

Posted by: Dooley | April 25, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Pat, thanks so much for sharing your unusual perspective.

On behalf of the jostlers, I apologize.

I've been curious ever since you first joined the conversation and told us about your blindness: could you explain how your computer is equipped to compensate for your lack of sight? I'm sorry if this seems like a stupid question, but I haven't been able to imagine what it's like to boodle without being able to visually scan the screen.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 25, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, yes.

I'll raise you to triple-dog, if that helps.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Passenger trains on their own tracks rocks. Passenger trains on freight lines tracks doesn't work very well. Railroads maintain the track just well enough to minimize the cost of the derailments vs the increase cost of maintenance, this is not an acceptable standard from a safety and comfort point of view for passenger trains. Railroads compete with road transporters that are using an infrastructure largely paid for by taxpayers while each RR pays for its own way. With oil at nearly $100 per barrel very soon we may see a renewed interest in passenger trains, if the passenger railroad can get a deal on track construction. They can't afford to buy land now, the old freight railroads got it for basically nothing in the 19th-early 20th century, this is why it still makes economical sense now.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 25, 2006 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if you DC folks consider the Metro a train or not, but having just spent the last week in your fair city (visiting my son-in-law in Walter Reed - wounded in Iraq - long, horrible story) I was greatly impressed by your mass transit system. Clean, fast, relatively cheap, easy to figure out, once your get your bearings (hard to know if I wanted to head toward Glenmont or Shady Grove right off the bat). Anyway, it was a bright spot in an otherwise grim visit.

Posted by: Slats | April 25, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Love the train. Headed up to NYC tomorrow, and it will be by train. My boss and I used to meet in NY. He was a plane person, would take the shuttle out of National. I hop on the train at the BWI train station (not one of the more majestic stops, but parking is right outside the door!). He would take the cab into Wall Street, me the subway. Same amount of time, door to door, and cost within $5 of each other.

Not perfect - I've been on an Acela more than once where the computer shut down. The train glides to a stop. And the engineer and conductors all stand around outside for 45 minutes until someone shows up to "reboot" the computers. Never had that problem on a regional. On balance, much more civilised way to travel.

Posted by: Steve-2 | April 25, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"The great technological advantage of trains is that their core value is punctuality."

Spoken like a man who has never taken a long-distance trip on Amtrak.

I took the Coastal Starlight in December. It left the originating station three hours late. By the time I fled the train in Sacramento, it was 18 hours late. Some of this trouble was due to flooding, but the train was already severely delayed when it came to the floods because freight trains have priority on the shared tracks.

I will never travel Amtrak again if I don't have at least a day's buffer on the far side. Indeed, after every major trip on Amtrak (my last previous trip, in 1993, arrived eight hours late), I vow never to do it again.

Posted by: Jonquil | April 25, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Passenger trains on their own tracks...highly recommended--the Cumbres and Toltec RR out of northwestern New Mexico into southern Colorado, especially in the fall when the aspens are changing color. Also: the short line into the Grand Canyon, especially good for small children since this tourist line stages a hold-up mid-way. A nice way to get to the rim if you already driven in on a previous occasion.

One of the prettiest stretches of Amtrak not mentioned: the Columbia Gorge.

I discovered while in Connecticut that my great-grandfather Thomas Benton Loomis worked in his early years at the Springfield Armory, but in his mid-years, the Loomis genealogy book lists him as a railroad carpenter in Chicago about the time of the great fire. If anyone has any suggestions about how I might sleuth his employer, I'm all ears. Thomas Benton would be a smaller player among more noteworthy Loomis descendants involved in significant ways in helping Chicago mature.

Posted by: Loomis | April 25, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Joel waxes poetic about train travel as it was generally about 50 years ago. At that time the railroads still cared about passengers, and on-time schedules. I believe that theoretically the freight railroads are supposed to give Amtrak right of way over freights, and be liable for fines for non-performance. I suspect there are loop-holes in the agreement, and the freighters may just pay the fine rather than actually care about the passenger trains.

Mudge: I echo your sentiments re: Reading Terminal. You and I may be the only ones on the boodle old enough to have actually ridden a train into that great old trainshed. We are in fact blessed with some really nice "Cathedrals of Railroading" in this area: Union Station, of course; Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore; Mt. Clare Station in Baltimore (now the centerpiece of the art college); Richmond's Broad Street Station (now a museum). Also visit "Baldwin's", a very good restaurant in the old B&O station in Sykesville, MD. It is one of a number of stations scattered around the region designed by Baltimore architect E. Francis Baldwin in the 1870's and '80's.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 25, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Even the Northeast Corrider has beautiful scenery, but it's all north of NYC so must of us haven't seen it.

The Amtrak Regional to Boston is a great ride. Get on in DC at 7 am and arrive at the South Station around 2 in the afternoon. The scenery through Conn., RI and Mass is just breathtaking... going in the water and surrounded by clapboard houses and boats... lots and lots of boats.

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Trains are dope.

(Note to those over 35: that means trains are good.)

My buddy and I are avid poker players, and we travel to Atlantic City a lot. We used to take the Greyhound bus, an experience which compares to plane travel in every hellish aspect: crowded (sometimes oversold) vehicles which neither depart nor arrive on time, run by people who care not a whit about your travel experience.

So, after getting sick of that, we started taking the train (Amtrak to Philly, then NJ Transit to Atlantic City), even though it costs much more. Despite all the bad press Amtrak gets, we have found it to be a fantastic experience: on time, clean, with workers who actually seem to care about getting you there right.

And, since we don't hate the world by the time we arrive (as we did with Greyhound), we both make a lot more money. :-)

Posted by: mmy | April 25, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Achenbach, I've taken Amtrak regularly from DC to NY over the last 7 years and more often than not the trains run late! In some cases train service is cancelled!

When my flight on USAIR was cancelled I got two FREE roundtrip tickets. I've never received even an apology from Amtrak for taking my time away from my family when their trains are late.

Also, have you ever been stuck in Penn Station? It is a very scary place to be stuck during non-rush hours. And it's the most uncomfortable place to be stuck too. Union Station was the same until they fixed it.


Posted by: Javier | April 25, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I agree with dr that baking bread is truly one of the good things in life. Just stay away from those silly machines. You need to feel the dough between your hands. And if you don't end up with flour on your face, you're clearly doing something wrong. Home baked bread, like a train, is a link to the past.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse

To tie together Mudge and TBGs comments. I was startlingly old before I realized that the Reading Railroad on Monopoly boards had nothing to do with books.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

dr, sorry, but it's Go Wings. Not subject for debate.

Posted by: jlessl | April 25, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

jlessl, you got me laughing here. I submit that one of us will get to plant a genteel little neener,neener on the boodle tommorrow. You know me, curling is really where my heart is, but darnit that ice is out, and all that left is hockey.

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Joel, totally agree with you, at least within the NE Corridor.

There is really no other way to travel between DC and New York (and points in-between). It's really good for those weekend trips--get off work, grab the Metro to Union Station (or New Carrolton, if you take the Regional), hop on the Amtrak, and as if by magic, you're smack-dab in the middle of New York city, with almost zero stress.

Air is cheaper and faster, but not by much, once you start factoring in the time and expense of getting to & from each airport, then waiting in security.

There's the other nice thing, as well--the seats on the train are way more comfy than the ones on the plane. quite cool.

If you're really cost-conscious, you can take the bus...but that puts you out into the I-95 melee, and really, isn't that why you decided not to drive in the first place?

Between here and Chicago, well, it's tough to justify. As much fun as it would be for me to hop on the Capitol Limited, it's a lot quicker and less bother to get the plane.

Posted by: ouij | April 25, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

going up the Hudson River on the rails from NYC to Albany is spectacular, even in seasons other than fall. Of course when you get to the destination, the scenary is not so nice. Whoever decided to put the Amtrak station in Rensselaer should be flogged immediately.

Posted by: parker91 | April 25, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

My first memory of trains is being taken by a neighbor couple when I was about 3 to watch the troop trains come and go. Always got a big double dip ice cream cone-- one chocolate, one vanilla. Way back when.

More recent train story...
Lucky or not, our phone number here in Casper is the same as the railroad line call center, for scheduling and routing trains, but with the addition of an initial "1." It's the Burlington-Sante Fe line transporting coal from Gillette, Wyoming's Big Thunder Mine--largest in the world. We tried to inform the company and they suggested we change our number, but we didn't want to...but really don't mind too much. I just tell the guys to dial the whole number. They are very polite...besides I am a borderline insomniac.

Posted by: thereIsaid it | April 25, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

parker91, I'm guessing you didn't go to Rensselaer Poly.

I'm just sayin'.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

RD, a machine is ok, if your hands ache. Kneading is really hard on hands. I hope you can forgive me, but I machine. A bigger machine, but still a machine. I do throw quantities of flour around, face floor, counters so the kitchen maintains proper ambiance.

When I was a kid, and we were a herd with my aunts and uncles kids, our moms baked all our bread. My Aunt who had 6 sons and 2 daughters says she used to bake 40 loaves, twice weekly, to keep them fed. She is my hero.

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I love trains too, but they are best when you're not pressed for time. I was lucky enough recently to take the Eurostar train from London to Paris through the Chunnel, and was that ever a fabulous experience. The train was quiet, fast, and pleasant bilingual attendants plied us with food and champagne. The cost of a first-class ticket on the train was comparable to the cost of flying, but the train was much more enjoyable.

My first train memory was taking the train with my mother from Princeton, NJ to New York when I was about three to see the circus at Madison Square Garden. In many respects the train ride was just as memorable as the circus.

However, I must agree with Loomis and other Boodlers that for the most part, trains are not practical for long-distance travel in the West. I grew up in Livermore, CA (a town with a zillion freight trains passing through) and went to school in Santa Barbara (on a well-traveled passenger and freight line). It takes about six hours to drive between the two places. When I looked into going by train once, Amtrak informed me that there was no direct train service between Santa Barbara and Livermore. However, they would gladly sell me a train-and-bus ticket for about $120 that involved: a) six-hour-plus bus ride from Santa Barbara east to Bakersfield, b) a three hour train ride from Bakersfield north to Stockton, and c) another two hour bus ride west from Stockton to Livermore. *Snort!* Needless to say, I passed on the experience.

Loomis: A company Christmas party in Livermore as your final destination? Why??

Posted by: Boodleaire | April 25, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

For those who are curious how I can post to this boodle. It's simple, I have this software named Jaws. It reads the screen to me through the sound card, at least the text. It can also let me know if there is a graphic on it, I have over 1000 programmable hot keys that I have to remember: say next word, say previous letter, say line above, below, first last, say bold, highlighted..., and of coarse, for the advancement of this Boodle, say italics. I have different voices, rates and pitches and pretty much have the rate jacked up so fast, very few people can understand what its saying. My boss insists I keep my monitor on while I'm at work. It doesn't make any sense to me, but I figure it's the same mentality that my wife uses when she turns the kitchen light on when I'm doing the dishes. Editing text is very painstaking. Mostly I have to go 1 letter or word at a time. Kinda like looking through a straw to review the text. b, d, e, g, p, t and v, pretty much sound the same. Responding to kbortocci isn't easy, I had to go over the name about 5 times, letter by letter, forward and backwards and try my best to remember how to spell it, and most likely got it wrong. Names like Mudge, Cassandra, Son of Carl, Shreaking Dennison, padic, bad sneekers, and even Achenbach are a lot easier, but I'm sure I've butchered several. I like the name Pat for a posting name because it's easy to spell. I remember when I first posted that I couldn't spell, someone responded with a sentence of mispelled words, which I didn't realize until my wife pointed it out because the sentence was phonetically correct... I could go on and on, even write a book, which I may have to end up doing in order to support myself when my boss finds out much time I've been spending on this blog.

Posted by: Pat | April 25, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I guess I can issue a dispensation on the machine dr. Pain is never good.
But I do insist on the flour.
Your oatmeal bread recipe looks fantastic. Before we move entirely out of breadbaking weather, I am going to give it a try.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Pat, that's fascinating, thanks so much for posting here. Write the book!

Posted by: Achenbach | April 25, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Pat, that's very interesting.

Jaws sounds like a really interesting product, probably better than the old voice recognition stuff that I played with 10-15 years ago.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Great, I BOO'd with the boss.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Looks like I'm not going to get any takers on that lightning strike cure though.

"turns the kitchen light on when I'm doing the dishes". Pat in your honour, a first. I now have my tomatoe soup all over my keyboard.

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Trains are great, but nothing beats the NY Waterway Ferry when you are riding on one of the boats where they let you stand down in the bow, with the water rushing just under your feet, and the wind blowing in your face, as the Captain guns the boat toward Hoboken, leaving all other vessels far behind, and with the light of the sun that just set reflecting high in the western sky.

Posted by: Youngster | April 25, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

dr, you and I are probably the only ones here who care about hockey. Regional preference absolutely. Here's hoping I have neener, neener rights tomorrow. All in good fun, of course.

That said, the Pistons rule!

Posted by: jlessl | April 25, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only person who saw this story about possible plagarism, and first thought, "Ha! Serves you right, smarty-pants Harvard sophomore with a $500,000 book advance!" Man, I love schadenfreude.

Posted by: jw | April 25, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Joel's the boss? I thought he was merely along for the ride.

Trains aren't always practical, but they sure are sexy. How about all those movie cliches of trains going into tunnels?

Posted by: amo | April 25, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I am caught between train and plane as prefered mode of travel.

What I like: As an aerospace engineer I love being on airplanes. I love to sit over the wing so I can see the control surfaces moving. I love flying over deserts and oceans-- I have a huge collection of photographs taken of interesting geographical features from the air. Nothing beats arriving at your destination-- on the opposite side of the globe. For trains, I can actually fall asleep on them, I enjoy having more space, I can get to Union Station 20 minutes before departure and hop right on. Passing over rivers is always nice.

The dislikes: This is obvious for airplanes. Having to arrive at least 1 hr in advance of a flight. The small cramped quarters. Getting struck by lightning and being forced to land in Alaska in the middle of the night. For trains it is always the trip home from NYC. Cheap off-peak tickets equals a full train-- standing room only. The NYC-DC trip taking way longer than driving or taking Greyhound, sometimes 6 hours! And don't even get me started on Penn Station.

Posted by: alexandra | April 25, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

slats, I hope your son-in-law is doing well. God bless the soldiers.

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

What a wonderful article! And so true! One thing I love about Europe are the trains. Someone should send this article to every congressman, and to the President and especially his VP, and above all to our Governer Jeb Bush and his legislature, who de-rail every vision Florida citizens have for high-speed rail, including a constitutional amendment that was passed. They will say they passed a second amendment against the rails, but polls showed that many people thought that a vote yes was a vote for the train, and it was really a vote to undo the train. Trick the people, that seems to be thes trick these days.

Posted by: RR Danielson | April 25, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

What a wonderful article! And so true! One thing I love about Europe are the trains. Someone should send this article to every congressman, and to the President and especially his VP, and above all to our Governer Jeb Bush and his legislature, who de-rail every vision Florida citizens have for high-speed rail, including a constitutional amendment that was passed. They will say they passed a second amendment against the rails, but polls showed that many people thought that a vote "yes" was a vote for the train, and it was really a vote to undo the train. Trick the people, that seems to be thes trick these days.

Posted by: RR Danielson | April 25, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

As a child, I used to take the commuter train into Boston with my mother for special occasions. I remember one time the conductor let me ride up front with him for a few stops. I think the train was called a "budliner" - just a couple of identical cars hooked together that had engines at each end (not the best description but I can't remember it very clearly). I loved South Station, so cavernous and it echoed.
My recent train experience was of the tourist variety. A few years ago I was in Alaska and took the train from Anchorage to Seward - a five hour ride of indescribable beauty. Wild flowers growing by the tracks, majestic snow-covered mountains rising up from and reflecting into glass-like lakes. Moose, a bear, mountain goats, bald eagles, glaciers floating in rivers. And yes, the seats were comfortable, I could walk around and get food and drink and the rest rooms were clean and bigger than a breadbox. Nothing like a good train ride to see a countryside in detail, and nothing like a good train ride through a beautiful countryside to make one appreciate nature.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | April 25, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I liked the Amtrak service that brought me home to NYC when I was at school in Philadelphia.

But I recently took Amtrak from NYC to Charlottesville, Va. The train did wonderfully till Union Station. Then--it was as if the train knew it was about to leave the Northeast Corridor. It sat in Union Station for 45 minutes. (Annoyingly, they didn't tell us we would do that, so we couldn't go get nice Union Station meals instead of crummy Amtrak ones.)

And as for the dining service--the dining might have been fine, but the service was so bad I didn't get to find out. The waitress gave the excuse that she had two other tables to attend to. TWO! And I sat there for half an hour waiting for my order to be taken.

Nowadays, you have a choice: Get invasively and sometimes humiliatingly searched by your government before boarding your regulated-almost-to-death, kept-alive-by-subsidies "private" airline flight, or get delayed by your government on the trains it owns.

Can any libertarian think tank figure out how to get private passenger trains functioning again? If I could ride Taggart Transcontinental, I'd never travel any other way!

But let's not mistake Amtrak for Taggart Transcontinental. Off the Corridor, you'd have to be insane.

P.S. The current Penn Station is very different from Grand Central or 30th Street, or for that matter Union Station. But it has a modern beauty of its own.

Posted by: Alexander | April 25, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Slats, glad the Metro was a bright spot, and I hope the overall trip was as positive as possible.

Pat, next time I see a cane on the Red Line (I'm rarely on the others) I'll make sure to say, "Pat, would you like a seat?"


And I'm VERY partial to trains, having grown up quite literally next to the Boston & Maine tracks in N.H. I'd walk the tracks looking for glass insulators from the old telehphone poles that stood there. Now there's Amtrak service on that line, from Boston to Portland, Maine.

My timing sucks... *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 25, 2006 3:21 PM | Report abuse

SCC: telephone


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 25, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse

jw, Gene talks about it in his chat today.

I admit to laughing and thinking 'serves you right'. How many authors have written their greatest works when they are so young?

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Alexandra, my dad used to work at Boeing. Flying with him was exhausting because he kept pointing out the stress points and what might happen should they fail.
The man had issues.

Now I think I may have some work to do.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

To Alexander: as I recall, Amtrak takes care of the Northeast Corridor lines. Anything south of Union Station, though, and you're dealing with CSX, whose line-maintenance schedules seem to be dictated by astrology. That will rack up your delays, for sure.

It might be worthwhile to see if Amtrak can sell off a few lines to private investment. Or, indeed, if it could auction off passenger services to private investment within the corridor. There has to be some better way of allocating resources.

Posted by: ouij | April 25, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Let's give Amtrak a bit of a break. They have been living under Damocles' sword almost from the get-go. Every Republican administration since Reagen has tried to kill it entirely. They somehow think that beacuse passenger trains once made a profit (and they haven't since before WWII)they should still turn a profit. This despite the millions in airport and highway subsidies that are doled out annually. If we are in fact heading towards $5 a gallon gas, we are going to need alternative modes, and trains are still very efficient. We need an intercity system for those high-density regions (NE Corridor, Chicago-land, San Francisco, LA, etc.) that is fast, frequent and convenient. I grant that the transcons are mostly window dressing, but it is still good to have alterantives to planes, buses and autos. And it would also be good if someone in authority (the President, or at least the Sec. of Transportation) would jawbone the freight railroads into relearning how to dispatch a railroad. There is normally no good reason to stick a passenger train in a siding for two hours waiting for a freight train that may not have even left the yard. And surely there are passing sidings along the way. Dispatching a single-track railroad was an art, and it shouldn't be a lost one.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 25, 2006 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I took the train to NYC recently, from DC, and it was great. I took the Metroliner up and the Accela back. I prefer the Metroliner. The seats are more comfortable and the car seemed better made. Also the Accela has only a 15 minute adavantage over the Metroliner, which is not significant. The one thing that I was a bit upset about was the level of poverty I found along the way, especially near the train stations in Trenton, Philly, Baltimore, etc. It seemed more Esatern Eourpean from a poverty perspective, than American. I guess the illegal Mexican's have taken all the jobs that the folks living in those neighborhoods would have normally taken.

Posted by: Joseph | April 25, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone else taken the Maryland Scenic Railroad? It's one of the last steam engines running anywhere, so I'm told. Runs from Cumberland to Frostberg and back, with an hour-or-so layover in Frostburg where you can eat lunch, watch them turn the engine around on the turntable, wander around town, etc. Done for the tourists, I think it runs once, maybe twice a day on weekends. The scenic tours in the fall are spectacular. They also do a Santa trip for the kids in the Winter.

They almost shut the train down last year when maryland reduced their funding. But a surge in railfans and others who flocked to get in one last ride helped them earn enough money to go on for at least one more year.

Posted by: Steve-2 | April 25, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Sneaks: It was a "Buddliner" Rail Diesel Car (RDC), built by the Budd Company back in the early 1950's. Rail commuters of a certain age around here will remember them on the old B&O lines betwee DC, Baltimore and Martinsburg. I think the last ones were taken out of service about 10 years ago.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 25, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I hoped 9/11 would spark a revival of the passenger railroad system.

Besides all the advantages mentioned above, I know this from hours of crashing toy trains as a kid: If you hijack a train, there are a VERY LIMITED number of things you can hit with it.

Posted by: just john | April 25, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

To really develop a passenger train network we need a "suppository bomber" to board a plane and try to initiate his device but have him get a very painful and obvious but harmless misfire. It would do for train travel what the "shoe bomber" couldn't achieve.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 25, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

slats, I'm glad you had a good trip here and my best wishes for your son-in-law.

This is one of my favorite train songs. It's about the effect of an advance in technology on a small town in West Texas after WWII. It's called "Texas, 1947" and is written by Guy Clark.

Now bein' six years old, I had seen some trains before,
so it's hard to figure out what I'm at the depot for.

Trains are big and black and smokin' - steam screamin' at the wheels,
bigger than anything they is, at least that's the way she feels

Trains are big and black and smokin', louder'n July four,
but everybody's actin' like this might be somethin' more. . .

. . .than just pickin' up the mail, or the soldiers from the war.
This is somethin' that even old man Wileman never seen before.

And it's late afternoon on a hot Texas day.
somethin' strange is goin' on, and we's all in the way.

Well there's fifty or sixty people they're just sittin' on their cars,
and the old men left their dominos and they come down from the bars.

Everybody's checkin', old Jack Kittrel check his watch,
and us kids put our ears to the rails to hear 'em pop.

So we already knowed it, when they finally said 'train time'
you'd a-thought that Jesus Christ his-self was rollin' down the line.

'Cause things got real quiet, momma jerked me back,
But not before I'd got the chance to lay a nickel on the track.

Look out here she comes, she's comin',
Look out there she goes, she's gone,
screamin' straight through Texas
like a mad dog cyclone.

Big, red, and silver,
she don't make no smoke,
she's a fast-rollin' streamline
come to show the folks.

Look out here she comes, she's comin'
Look out there she goes, she's gone,
screamin' straight through Texas
like a mad dog cyclone.

. . .Lord, she never even stopped.

She left fifty or sixty people still sittin' on their cars,
and they're wonderin' what it's comin' to
and how it got this far.

Oh but me I got a nickel smashed flatter than a dime
by a mad dog, runaway red-silver streamline. . . train


Posted by: pj | April 25, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Oops. It's WESTERN Maryland Scenic Railroad

Posted by: Steve-2 | April 25, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Love trains. If you don't like Amtrak, I suggest the Reunification Express, departing from Hanoi at 7:30PM and arriving at Hue at 8:30.
First class berths include meals which resemble heat and serve soups in styro containers. Just add hot water. There's lots.
On the other hand, if you have a weak stomach, don't eat or drink, and avoid the communal bathrooms. Stinking, with Turkish style toilets.
Our train hit a man in the middle of the night at a grade crossing. We stopped for about 20 minutes and then proceeded.
My wife kept hearing and feeling thumps all night long. I told her it was water buffalo.
And the air conditioning? Yeah! baby!.
If you think I didn't enjoy this trip, then you are wrong. Two days later I took a train from Danang to Nha Trang. It was a day trip. The people were great! The scenery marvelous.
I recommend it to anyone who thinks America railroads are the pits.

Posted by: Bruce | April 25, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

On writing that book and posting on the Boodle, I'm a little worried that the Washington Post will gain exclusive rights to my content. Which is not mine anymore after I hit the Submit button. Oh, well... looking on the brighter side of things, I'm mentally preparing for my trip through Metro Center, which reportably, from a sighted coworker, has braille listings of the station names posted on those large poles that I keep running into. If any of you DC Metro persons can confirm this, I would sure like to know so I can write headquarters and tell them how they once again wasted more money. I almost feel guilty for being blind when I found out how much money was spent putting the bubbles along side the platform so blind people won't fall off the edge. No wonder people kick my cane out of my hand. Maybe its the area, but I can't tell you how many times someone has stomped on my cane and bend it up. It's humorous, they run away and hide in the crowd as if I might get a good look at them and report it to the station police. Instead, I just walk around and around in circles getting nowhere until I finally straiten out my cane.

Posted by: Pat | April 25, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe we've all gotten this far into the boodle and no one has mentioned one obvious thing: train whistles. Down in southern Maryland where I live, there's only one train a day that comes through, a coal train going down to the Morgantown power plant, and it usually comes through about 9 or 10 p.m. The track is perhaps 1/2 a mile or more from my house, but on a night when we have the windows open, it is just sooooo cool to hear that train whistle (and even a faint sound of the coal cars rumbling on the rails, if the wind is right).

About the Harvard novelist: yes, I was more than a might perturbed and feeling beaucoup shadenfreude that a 19-year-old got $500,000 for a two-book deal. I'm still having trouble dealing with Updike selling his first novel at 23 (and he didn't steal anything).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 25, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse

i LOVE LOVE LOVE airplanes! i love the feeling you get when you leave the tarmack... i took a train once from DC down to florida - it was the most miserable experience ever (no, not a sleeper car) no more long distance trains for me - give me planes thank you very much!

that being said, the rail system in europe is astounding! railed all over italy from milan to venice to rome to naples to sorrento, back to rome and up to florence - the trains were clean, convenient, the chairs pull out so you can recline and the scenery was breathtaking! LOVED it! now, if the rail system in the US was like that...

Posted by: mo | April 25, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Great posts, Pat

Pat writes: "Pat goes splat" Ha! Sounds like a lesser-known children's book.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 25, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

pat - i too got a good chuckle from your wife turning on the lights when you do the dishes!

i'm completely astounded by service dogs on the metro - how do they know what direction to go in? how do they know what color line the train is?

and are the bubbles on the side of the tracks just for blind people? i'm asking cuz i honestly don't know - they've been there ever since i was a little kid...

Posted by: mo | April 25, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Train travel may be wonderful in the Northeast Corridor, but I can tell you that, in other areas, it leaves a lot to be desired. I live in Rochester, NY, which is served by Amtrak; most trains go to New York or to Niagara Falls, with once a day service to Chicago, Toronto and Boston. My daughter took the train to college in Toronto for a number of years, and the train was late more often than not. In Upstate New York, CSX owns the tracks, and Amtrak trains often have to wait to let the CSX freight traffic go by.

I took the train in Germany last year, and it was a pleasure. I had to change trains (with only 5 minutes allotted between trains), and it was no big deal. Part of the reason that the German trains ran so well is that there were no "at grade" crossings; motor vehicle traffic had to go around (or under) the train tracks, not
across it.

If you really love train travel, don't try it outside the Northeast Corridor; you will soon wonder why you love trains!

Posted by: Tom | April 25, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone explain to me why so many conservatives/libertarians hate trains (and public transportation in general)? Is it because they're "public?" Because they're subsidized (like freeways aren't?)? If you mention the words "commuter rail" in the Midwest, half the people you're talking too will respond with disgust or indignation. What gives?

Posted by: CowTown | April 25, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

mo, on our recent Amtrak trip to Florida, my son wandered from our bedrooms to the Coach cars and said they looked like the "influenza ward."

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes, jlessl, you indeed *DO* know who to back --

GO RED WINGS!!!!!!!!
GO PISTONS!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, dr, you're outnumbered. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 25, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

About the Trains. I am a train lover,too. I remember my sister and I would catch the train from St. Louis Union Station to Chicago. We would be dressed in our best dresses, just a like and patent shoes. Going to Chicago. We would eat in the dinning car, and afterwards fall asleep with the rocking motion of the train. In 50" train rideds was fun and exciting.

Posted by: Lynn | April 25, 2006 4:29 PM | Report abuse

CowTown, the word to ponder in your query is Midwest. I really do think it has to do with location rather than anything political. The more you go west, the greater the likelihood that public transportation is only when there are no other options.

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I was going to stay out of it and not inflict too much hockey on the boodle (and besides, the playoffs have only started), but dr is not in fact, outnumbered. GO OILERS!

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 25, 2006 4:32 PM | Report abuse

off-topic - is anyone else bothered by the flight 93 movie coming out? i think it's too soon... (even tho tbg says it's done quite tastefully) what do you guys think?

oh, and a recipe for sara and jw - (since i can't cook worth squat - it's another salad recipe but it's my staple and quick to make - everyone seems to love it)

a bag of baby spinach
fresh basil leaves
vine ripened tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
boconccini (or any fresh mozz in water you can find)
balsamic vinaigrette dressing (i prefer paul newman's brand)

over the spinach half the boconccini and tomatoes and shred the fresh basil over the top (to taste) and add the dressing (to taste)

Posted by: mo | April 25, 2006 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I could settle down, and be doing just fine, 'till I hear an old train, coming down the line...

Posted by: Hank | April 25, 2006 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm confused, SonofCarl. Aren't the Oilers now called the Tennessee Titans? (And hope Steve McNair has a good year.)

mo, I expected to see a World Trade Center collapse megamovie on the scale of "Towering Inferno" before a Flight 93 movie. I know some people are saying "it's too soon"--but if they feel that way, they don't have to go see it.

CowTown, I suspect conservs don't like ANYTHING run by the state. They'd privatize the army if they could. And public transportation tends to be an urban/suburban thing (where people are), not in the wide open spaces of the fly-over states. So they don't want to pay for trasportation for "them" (and read "them" any way you want). It's a modified reverse NIMBY with a half-gainer.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 25, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Due to your kind support SonofCarl, Go Flames Go.

I beleive that would be correct?

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

mo, I didn't say the movie is tastefully done, just the trailer. I can't speak for the movie since I haven't seen it.

And I'm pretty positive that I won't be going to see it. I may stop and watch a bit on TV in the future if I'm flipping past it. I just can't see myself going out of my way to see it.

I was just noting that the trailer was more about the motivation than the movie itself. It features victims' family members who wanted the movie made. It was more "too soon" for American Dreamz to be making fun of terrorist training camps and terrorist training videos.

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse

"Can anyone explain to me why so many conservatives/libertarians hate trains (and public transportation in general)? Is it because they're "public?" Because they're subsidized (like freeways aren't?)?"

I think it is mostly because public transporation is in fact heavily subsidized, which grates against their belief that everything should pay its own way. It's why they don't support welfare, universal health care, etc. For most, highways are off the radar since they have been subsidized for so long. Maybe it also feeds into their belief that the auto is the ultimate expression of freedom, and you have to have the roads to drive on. And they probably don't realize how much public money goes into the air traffic system. This is why I said earlier that there needs to be a conversation on a national transportation policy. Modern metropolitan areas cannot exist without public transport, and that has to be subsidized. Think about what would happen if all of those 300,000 or so daily Metro riders had to drive. The blood chills.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 25, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

"you feel like someone should be piping in a George Gershwin soundtrack" Funny you shoul mention that - legend has it that Gershwin composed "Rhapsody in Blue" on a train from New York to Boston. The tune had been rattling around in his head for awhile, and he used the trip to finally get it down on paper.

Posted by: E in DC | April 25, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

My most unforgettable train ride was ONCE from Kilmarnock, Scotland to London. I was working in Scotland and had to go down to London for the company's monthly meeting. I always took the BA shuttle down in the morning and back in the afternoon. People kept saying why don't to you take your wife and go by train? Get a sleeper compartment and have dinner while you roll through the country side before it gets dark. Well dinner turned out to be a dried up sandwich bought from a guy with a card table between cars. In the sleeper the *beds* were like benches athwartship on either side of the compartment. The train stopped about twenty times and every stop and start one of us had to hold on for dear life to keep from getting tossed out and the other slammed against the bulkhead. We didn't arrive refreshed and took the plane back.

Posted by: bh | April 25, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

The equipment on the Cascades trains from Eugene to Washington State (with bus service to Vancouver BC) is wonderful, and so is some of the scenery, but not the tracks. It was sort of amazing to arrive at Seattle's battered old station, cross the street to the start of the Bus Tunnel (now closed for refurbishment) and take an electric bus underground, emerging in a station worthy of Moscow beneath the symphony hall. Then cross another street and you're at the art museum.

Florida badly needs urban light rail services, more local trains along the densely populated southeast coast, and perhaps a resumption of ferry service to Key West and/or Yucatan. Could Merida be the next Florida?

Posted by: Dave of the coonties | April 25, 2006 5:04 PM | Report abuse

pj: With thos references to the bright red and silver that song had to have been written about the old Rock Island line that ran down to Tucumcari, NM through west Texas. It was part of a through service jointly run by the RI and Southern Pacific from Chicago to LA.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 25, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Wrong sport there Mudge. Edmonton Oilers. We shall keep hockey to a minimum. Its not curling after all!

In the scale of 'Towering Inferno' movies, the new Poseidon movie will be out. I didn't think it needed to be remade.

I do know on the Flight 93 movie, they are showing a new trailer here, where the director, or some such personnage is talking about the story and why they are doing it now. I'd bet they are taking a lot of flak.

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

SCC: those references...

Posted by: ebtnut | April 25, 2006 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I've been commuting regularly to Reston, VA, from my home in Riverdale (Bronx). Recently, a VP in my company asked me why I didn't take the train instead of flying.
The closest Amtrak station to where I go is Union Station in DC. According to the schedule, the Amtrak trains take anywhewre from 2 hrs 55 minutes to 3 hrs 40 minutes.
The flight from New York-La Guardia Airport to DC takes 45 minutes. Advantage: airplane
There is a cost differential: the cheapest flight (nonstop) would cost over $400 roundtrip, while the trip on Amtrak costs half that. Advantage: rail.
I've left out the issues of getting to my final destination from the terminal, since, in either instance, an additional conveyance is required. I note, however, that if I wanted to rent a car at Union Station, there is nothing nearby.
But for me, the issue is how can I be most productive? Is it crammed into a train seat for 3 hours plus each way?
In the business environment in which we live and operate, it does not seem to me to make sense to choose to spend *more* time in transit than one has to.
I am a fan of public transportation. I believe in the rail model locally, especially the light-rail model for city metro areas as a way of reducing urban sprawl and limiting the need for automobiles in urban areas.
I question whether long-distance rail isn't something whose time has come and gone.

Posted by: Ed | April 25, 2006 5:07 PM | Report abuse

British trains may not be great, but there's something amazing about arriving at Durham station in a light fog, taking the path from the station to the riverbank, and suddently seeing the Cathedral rising on the other side. England can be like that--hours of boredom interrupted by enchantment.

Japan's Shinkansen (bullet trains) are hardly romantic, but they're so smooth and roomy that they're utterly comfortable. Not to mention that each city has a big station with every possible service.

Posted by: Dave of the coonties | April 25, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

E in DC - I found your anecdote on "Rhapsody in Blue" ironic. That a song destined to shill airtravel was composed on a train is truly one of the better cosmic jokes.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Pat, thank for sharing about your computer program called Jaws.

I'm deaf and I don't speak well and use a hearing dog. Ever since a blind man's guide dog boxed us in on a narrow sidewalk and did a discreet sniff of my dog's butt. The blind man stopped, assuming there was an obstacle.
My dog, curse him, was dead quiet. I finally started giggling and clearing my throat and praying he'd hear a particularly loud sniff over the traffic noise and move his dog on. I literally could not move one inch without jostling him or his dog.

Ever since, I've always wanted an ipod type thing with a remote microphone rather than headphones to communicate basic messages to guide dog teams. I know it IS courteous to announce my presence.

I just can't do it... and I'm worried I'll insult a blind person with my efforts at speech. Also, I hear about some dog-aggressive guide dogs riding the orange line and I really, really want to notify anybody with such a dog you know, we're here, please don't come here.

I tried pricing stuff for blind, and they're so expensive that I'm just stunned at the price gouging for products for the blind. Any websites you could send me to would be welcome.

It's time deaf people started utilizing text to voice technology. The problem is not knowing if the technology is broken or not, naturally.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 25, 2006 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I could be wrong, but I beleive that all the Flight 93 passengers' families signed off on the movie. Personally, I think it was wrong to package it as a theatrical release. I think it would have been better as something that people could watch in the privacy of their homes. The emotions evoked by watching the movie are probably not ones that I would want to feel on a "night out." But that doesn't mean I have a problem with others going to the theater if they want--the film makers have to make money somehow, afterall.

Posted by: jw | April 25, 2006 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Trains are so neat!

If we had one of those 300 mile/hour Japanese trains it would only take 9 and a half hours to go from New York City to Los Angeles.

I only took one once - an Amtrak from Detroit to New York City over spring break when I was 17 years old. I never told my parents. I just told them I was going camping with my buddies for spring break.

I met this pretty blonde on the train ride to New York and we were both really excited. We sat together and talked for the first hour. Then we went through a tunnel and she took my hand. We went and found an empty cabin and spent the train ride to New York having sex! It was incredible!

Man, I need to ride trains more. Ever since I turned 18 I do all my travelling by flying. I forgot the fun of trains. =D (Not the mention SMOKING CARS!!!!)

Posted by: Don | April 25, 2006 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Not to derail all the good train posts, but...I read the Pulitzer Prize-winning articles: Cheney's fashion gaffe, David Finkel's "Love in Tent 37," and the Iraq piece by Steve Fainaru. I mentioned that to one of my son's friends we email, with Wyo. National Guard, now in Iraq, and will send it over to him.

Meanwhile, down at the pharmacy to pick up a prescript., there was a National Geographic, new, on the me home, I guess you could say. Therein was JA' s "everything you ever wanted to know about saliva," and a great piece about the San Francisco earthquake. Will read it again, this evening. Thanks, Joel...

Posted by: thereIsaidit | April 25, 2006 5:27 PM | Report abuse

wilbrod - see that's fascinating! what does a hearing dog do? is he really as well behaved as we are led to believe? and is he "off the clock" at home or always on the clock? i love it when humans and animals can become mutually beneficial - besides, of course, the "love" factor...

tbg and 'mudge - you have a point about the movie - i guess it's just me thinking that it's too soon - i won't be seeing the movie...

Posted by: mo | April 25, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Ed, if you think you'll spend 3 hours crammed into a train seat, you must either be HUGE or you haven't taken the train. The seats on the train are easily twice as wide as those on a plane.

And you don't have to stay in your seat at all. You can wander to the club car to eat, drink, work or meet folks. You can plug in your laptop and use the seat tray to get some work done.

You should really look into how long it takes you door to door, not in the air or on the tracks. You can arrive at Union Station minutes before your train leaves and jump on it. No long security lines, no taking off your shoes or putting your stuff into a bin.

And rental cars are available at Union Station from Budget, Hertz and Alamo/National--just like the airport. And when you park your car, you are steps away from the gate.

[The worst thing about traveling from Union Station is no long-term parking. It costs about $18 a day. (And since a lost ticket pays a full day of parking, I'm tempted to "lose" my ticket the next time I park my car there overnight.)]

We usually leave from Alexandria. Much smaller operation. No parking, but easy access from Metro, the VRE or my sister's car.

[I sound like an Amtrak commercial.]

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 5:30 PM | Report abuse

dr, I suspect Mudge knows quite a bit about Oilers of all stripes. Further sports trivia that Mudge may know (speaking of Oilers)is that Warren Moon's early career was spent in Edmonton.

Dave of the coonties, I had the opportunity to see Merida in '98. It was the first time I'd ever seen a Mexican city that wasn't a border town or resort. Great city. IIRC, it was a ways inland, though?

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 25, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Gosh Don. Words fail me. Assuming your post survives, it certainly does suggest an advertising campaign that might just rescue Amtrak....

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Slats, glad you are back, several folks have wondered how your son-in-law and daughter are doing.

Posted by: newkid | April 25, 2006 5:35 PM | Report abuse

In an interesting way, I think Mr. Achenbach is getting to the heart of the difficulties in which we find ourselves. We have created a society who's fundamental energy source is oil. And that energy source is no longer cheap - economically or environmentally. We're going to need to change the paradigm. The train is part of that equation. Let me explain.

As I mentioned, we need a shift away from oil (and its cousin Methane) as our fundamental source of energy. Think about it, at its base, its foundation virtually everything ultimately depends on oil. If not oil, then what? Hydrogen? It's abundant but locked away in water and other substances, like oil and alcohol. And it's costly.

I propose that we should shift to electricity as our base or fundamental source of energy. Electricity? How can you say that? - I'm sure several of you are saying. Electricity isn't mined or harvested, it's generated with a powersource!

Yes I know. But, go with me for a little bit. Electricity does require generation, and for this to work, it has to be generation without generating greenhouse gases. So, we'll continue to need to harvest electricity from wind, solar, dams, tides, and yes, from nuclear. (Please don't write me off at this point.) Nuclear power safety and efficiency has improved, substantially over the past few decades. (I'll save the safe nuclear power argument for another time.)

As electricity becomes the fundamental energy source, hydrogen becomes the means for creating portable version of electricity for use in cars. High-speed maglev trains replace air transport. (See, I told you I'd get back to trains!)

We have to move away from oil as our fundamental energy source. Even if we start driving hybrid cars, and doing all the things to decrease our dependence on oil, ultimately we still run out of oil and generate greenhouse gases, just more slowly. And we end up at the same place - either a crawl or at the breakneck speed we're traveling at now. Or we have the option of doing it over. This time using a sustainable paradigm. It's our choice to make.

Posted by: InChicago | April 25, 2006 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Hey, here's an idea. How about a high-speed light rail line from downtown DC to downtown Baltimore. Service every half-hour. 40 minutes stop to stop. Maybe a connecting line into downtown Annapolis. Oh...we tore that up in 1935 and threw it all away. Never mind...

Posted by: ebtnut | April 25, 2006 5:40 PM | Report abuse

LOL Padouk!

I don't think it will be deleted, because it was hardly graphic. If a newspaper cannot discuss sex in a rational, non-obscene, then the first amendment's gone the way of the 3/5 compromise.

And Joel wants to discuss the merits of taking trains. I think America should be criss-crossed with 300 mile/hour trains. They're practically invented with America's size in mind! Why fly for 4+ hours across the country if you can take a train in just twice that time!

And one of the MAJOR benefits of taking a train over a plane is that you can get a cabin and spend the whole trip having sex! And trains are "romantic." You can meet "new friends." =D

Posted by: Don | April 25, 2006 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Steve-2, The WMSRR (Western Maryland Scenic Railroad) is worth anyone's. A nice way to spend an afternoon in the fall.

Also check out Cass Scenic Railroad in Cass, WV. It's a state park that preserves a logging railroad. Take the trip up to Bald Knob, pulled by a huffing and puffing Shay engine (with one or two Heistlers in the mix, IIRC). One of my absolute favorite places to go as a kid, and still fun as an adult.

Amtrak to NYC was fun the couple of times I did it. Amtrak from DC to Savannah, GA, was slow and tiring. Would have preferred to take a plane- 1 hour late going down, 3 coming back, dirty seats and windows, and a way smelly bathroom. Oh, and the guy in the back of the car watching porn furtively on his portable DVD player added an extra air to the trip.

Years ago C&O ran a modern steam engine for a year or so pulling coal up and down the Kanawah valley. The sound of the whistle always made me look. Sure beat hearing the deisels.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2006 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Mo, for some reason dogs are often unusually well behaved when another dog is sniffing their butt. Who knows why.

Yes, he IS normally very quiet, hearing dogs are not supposed to bark very much.

There are three basic alert types for a hearing dog:

WHAT alert (can be cued by WHAT command and trained to new sounds easily). Dog goes to sound, circles back and recalls to owner and bumps (my preference), paws, or jumps. The owner is alerted the dog has something to say. The owner gets up or says WHAT and the dog reacts and escort the owner to the sound.
My dog alerts me to tea kettle, microwave, toaster oven, kitchen timer, and even meat sizzling (and water boiling, when I tell him I want him to.) by this basic method.

Second alert is WHERE-- the dog bumps or contacts the owner and then indicates direction of the sound. My dog alerts on a walk to cars, people, etc. He is far better than any hearing aid I've ever had for this. I've been hit by a car and nearly hit by other cars, so I love this.

Third alert is DROPPED ITEM-- the dog stops, focus and paws a dropped item. When you're deaf you can drop keys and so on and never notice-- or not find where a coin has rolled to because you didn't see or hear it.

Additional alerts: smoke alarm-- must not go to the fire.

I trained my dog myself. It starts with extensive socialization as a puppy, confidence training, learning various obstacles, familarizing with various environments. It's a lot of work just to get a dog used to obeying and being calm in various environments.

He's gotten two canine good citizen certificates, and I'm doing formal obedience classes with him to get additional assistance on obedience.

He is nowhere near "perfect", but he will get there as I increase my skills in training and handling him and continue to increase his work focus.

He IS a good dog. He's better behaved than the average pet and more trained than most program dogs. He's alerted me to new things without any extra training-- a hallmark of a confident hearing dog.

I'm continually evolving new ways for him to communicate information to me, such as listening and letting me know if somebody is at home or not.

But this is not a dog you can leave home all day and walk a hour and expect him to be happy.

Hearing dogs tend to be rather alert types, and like a hyperactive 3 year old, they see everything and don't have off-buttons unless you train them to tune out stuff. That part takes forever.

I have to be sure his hips were sound, he was physically healthy, and keep him calm, trim and fit through exercise.

Then he is happy to veg at my feet when needed.

Guide dogs actually work similar to sled dogs-- they follow the handler's vocal commands... Forward, go, right, left, stop. What the dog DOES do is perform the task as safely as possible, and stop at obstacles, curbs, and lead to curb cuts. They have to factor in room enough for the blind handler, learn to notice overhead obstacles.

You don't actually tell the dog to go to the grocery store, although once a dog knows the routine, he usually will pause near familiar places-- "hey, you wanna go in there or not?"

That is one of the top misconceptions people have of guide dogs. LOL. If the dog was allowed to decide where to go, the dog'd take the owner to HIS favorite places, no question.

Using a guide dog is not dissimilar to a cane, just a lot faster, hairier, and noisier. Great if you like dogs. If you can't stand dogs, a cane is nearly as good.

Most guide dog users carry a folding cane as backup, anyway.

I've noticed my dog seems to know when the light changes and the walk sign comes on and I assume many guide dogs do too. I guess there may be a sound, I don't know.

Guide dogs can also be trained to retrieve dropped items the handler can't find. However, this is not a skill all guide dog schools teach, but when you think about it, a basic retrieve is simple enough to find a trainer to teach a fully trained guide dog, anyway. The other skills are more important.

Thus endeth my minilecture on dogs. I've done demos for children on the 3 major types of assistance dogs-- physical assistance dogs, hearing dogs, and guide dogs along with an overall speech.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 25, 2006 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Albert Einstein also loved trains, which partially inspired his theory of special relativity. He used the analogy often to illustrate the concept of different "frames of reference": namely that phenomenon we've all experienced as a train pulls out of the station and we wave goodbye to someone on the platform. Unless we can feel the effects of acceleration, sometimes it seems as if the PLATFORM is moving, rather than the train.

Special relativity also deals with the relative nature of time: time speeds up or slows down depending on how fast one is moving. Which if nothing else might explain all those Amtrak delays.

Posted by: Jennifer Ouellette | April 25, 2006 6:09 PM | Report abuse

New Orleans used to have one of the most extensive (and first I believe) electric rail system in the country. Once cars became highly available, most of the lines were torn up and forgotten. The Desire Streetcar Line is a famous one not forgotten (thanks Tennessee Williams). For a while, all that was left was the St. Charles St. Line running the length of the city (green cars). In order to bring in tourism, the Canal St. line was resurrected (with A/C in the cars!!) and reopened in the mid 90's (red cars). Since Katrina, only the Canal St. Line has been reopened however the red cars were flooded so they now use the St. Charles green cars on the Canal Line since the St. Charles Line is too badly damaged to be repaired before 2007. And actually, the St. Charles line was the first one in New Orleans connecting the original city of New Orleans (French Quarter) all they way to the "Resort Town of Carrolton" which has since been incorporated into the modern city of New Orleans. Prior to Katrina, many activists in the city were trying to build popular opinion to rebuild several of the lost lines.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | April 25, 2006 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Note to self: edit out run on sentences and overuse of words.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | April 25, 2006 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - thanks so much for your post. I will look at guide dogs of every type, and their owners, with renewed respect.

Unfortunately my dog goes ballistic whenever another dog gets within a few blocks - butt sniffin' or not. However, I imagine Cairn Terriers are not a recommended guide dog breed.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

peanutgallerymember run-on sentences are a sign of genius.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh to clarify-- hearing and medical alert dogs are technically 24/7, but actually alerting to sounds doesn't take much at home. Lots of time he'll be napping and hear the sound, wake up and come to me.

Guide dogs and service dogs are much more off-duty when off-duty. Some people who train their own service dogs may own more than one service dog so they can work in shifts ;).

I trained him in the most relaxed and energy-efficient alerting I could think of for his build. No barking, no jumping unless he wants to.

Should he be old and three-legged, and I read him perfectly, he can just poke me with a nose and point.

It's out of the house that my dog has to truly work hard, remember all his training and use all his strength and patience.

It is indeed draining if I do an particularly long day out all day and he has to be very patient and wait for me.

Then when I come home, he'll run around a bit off leash to unkink his muscles, and then flop down to sleep. Completely comatose. That dog knows how to relax.

After his toughest working days, I've thanked him with a few days without any kind of duty work, no gear, just offleash exercise-- sniffing and running, plenty of sleep and play.

I do respect my dog as a partner, not simply as a pet or a tool and am always seeking ways to keep his stress level low and have him as happy as possible.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 25, 2006 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer modestly did not mention that she has an excellent physics blog:

Posted by: Achenbach | April 25, 2006 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Inside the US, I love the thought of trains much more than the reality of train travel. In Europe,though, it usually lives up to the romantic ideal many of us seem to have, at least in Western Europe.

The Metroliner & Acela from DC to NYC is a nice change, but it costs more than the Delta shuttle and as someone mentioned earlier, gets very crowded around Philly and then you have peoples' butts in your face and everyone is yapping on a cell phone. Bleah.
Never have I had a better experience than our train adventure from Barcelona to Avignon where we picnicked on wine, bread, fruit and salami from the outdoor market in Barcelona, or the trip from Vienna to Munich through Saltzburg and the lovely scenery. We were seated in those nice little compartments for 4 or 6 people so there was a bit of privacy and we didn't feel quite so much like cattle. Italy's train system is less reliable and not as clean. The Eurostar through the chunnel is a little bit of a let-down; there's simply nothing to see while in the chunnel except dark, but it's definitely better than the ferry.

I think the US government should send me to Europe for a few years to study their train systems so that I can make some recommendations on improving ours.

Posted by: Pixel | April 25, 2006 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer, we like stuff like that. Hope to see you here more.

Posted by: dr | April 25, 2006 6:57 PM | Report abuse

RD Padouk, LOL... one of the quickest learning shelter doggies I ever met was a stray cairn terrier mix.

Here's the scenario. He had seen me signal my dog to sit, down, for food, and then me unsuccessfully trying to get the other shelter dogs to do the same.

When his turn came, he did the commands perfectly just from watching what happened, like he was fluent in ASL.

Had I not already had a dog I would have looked at him hard to see if he was suitable for hearing dog work. If not, this dog would be great for SOMETHING.

But yes, pure terriers tend to be a bit too aggressive and too prey-driven for service dog work-- some types of bull terriers notwithstanding.

Parson Jack Russel Terriers have successfuly been used for hearing work, but they have a high prey drive, which can be hard to work with.

Some such dogs have been known to try and "kill the phone" if they get there first. I wonder if the owner is in fact conveying some kind of attitude towards the phone ;).

Terrier mixes, though, can have the best of terrier alertness with a somewhat less homicidal attitude towards other animals or inanimate objects ;).

As for dog aggressiveness, you have to socialize dogs from a puppy on to other dogs... or they forget social skills and go amok like little old ladies with umbrellas at passerbys like they're suspected muggers.

You can counter-condition dogs to calm down around other dogs. One common mistake little dog owners do is picking up a barking dog and holding it. The dog is 1) rewarded for its behavior 2)"backed up" by the owner 3) frustrated in its efforts to talk to the other dog and 4) developing a sense the owner might be afraid and calling on the little dog to protect his/her body or face from the other dog.

I NEVER let anybody holding a little dog approach my dog for a sniff-- I tell them the dog WILL snap at my dog because the dog is now above the other dog, that is a position of power, but really the dog is helpless to answer any challenges.

And if the dog was put down, the dog loses that power.

So the dog's only logical response is to snap the dog to warn the dog to back off and don't mess with him-- in hopes the dog will go away and the little dog doesn't have to deal with what to do.

Same with any tethered dog facing a bigger dog-- it WILL snap at the dog. If it's really shy around people, it will snap or bite people as well.

Which is why I really don't advise people tying dogs outside on sidewalks without supervision. Even a tiny dog can inflict injuries on passing guide dogs, dangerously trip them up, and/or injure a blind person.

And flexi-leads on city sidewalks? I know somebody who carries scissors to cut dogs loose if they get tangled up by a dog. Those leads are too dangerous to untie by hand.

Obedience train your dogs instead and only use flexileds for getting your dog in and out of cars.
This has been a PSA.

Also, use harnesses not collars on small dog. It's safer for them.

Any dog should be scolded and removed (not picked up-- just moved via a harness and a firm NO and command to move away) for trying to make trouble with passing dogs.

I live in a block with many, many dogs. Every dog that starts barking at other dogs promptly gets hauled inside. It makes for a quieter block. I would suggest this for your dog.

When a dog barks and the other dog leaves, the dog flatters himself it was his mighty dog barking that drove the other dog off. Therefore you want to prevent that event from happening by removing the yapper first and bursting his mighty dog bubble.

Posted by: wilbrod | April 25, 2006 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Let's here it for trains. If the federal government had subsidized RRs as it has airlines, train travel would be a lot better.

Certainly, security issues and airline financial problems have taken most of the "fun" out of flying.

Posted by: Railfan | April 25, 2006 7:11 PM | Report abuse

never was a railfan until I started working for the White Pass & Yukon Route up here in Gold Rush country, Skagway AK. Spectacular mountain/sea scenery on a historic narrow-guage rail originally built to carry would-be miners up to Lake Bennett, where, after passing the ton-of-supplies test with the Canadian mounties, thousands of hopeful folks built rafts to float the 500+ wilderness miles to the gold fields of Dawson City. This initial section of about 40 miles of track took just over a year to build (May 1898 to July 1899)and is considered one of the engineering wonders of the world. The last spike on the final stretch to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory was struck July 29 1900, for a total of 110 miles of track. The train was a bit late for the gold rush, but ran freight and passengers continually until 1982 when the ore mines in Canada shut down and it became economically unfeasible to continue as a passenger-only transport (a highway connecting the Alcan and Skagway was completed in 1978, allowing an alternative method of escape). In 1988 the White Pass re-opened as an excursion rail for cruise ship passengers which has blossomed/ballooned/exploded into a tourist attraction carrying over 430,000 people during its 5-month yearly season.
Oh yeah, and the White Pass was also a pioneer of container shipping and owned the world's first container ship, the Clifford J Roberts, which began operations in 1956.
Lots of history in this old rail town with lots of sons and daughters of the original railworkers still residing here, the two original depots restored and in use by the NPS as offices and a museum, and the White Pass & Yukon steam and diesel engines pulling original parlour cars out of the station up to three times a day all summer long....
An aside: I don't spend all my time here in the land that time forgot. A few months each winter I'm perched above the Truckee River in Verde Nevada (a stone's throw from the biggest little Reno) and you can set your watch by the passing of the westbound Amtrack, everyday between 400 and 430 pm (okay so it's an old, creaky nonbattery watch that keeps good-enough time), notwithstanding floods and snowstorms. I won't mention the times it gets stranded up there in the Sierra around Donner Pass in the snow.
One last aside: the most relaxing, slowest and most expensive way to get from Outside to the Land that time forgot (besides hitchhiking through Canada) is the Alaska Marine Highway. 1,000 miles at 10-20 mph from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. You're certainly not tired when you finally arrive....

Posted by: farnorth | April 25, 2006 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the insights Wilbrod. I must admit I have been guilty of lifting my little dog when she starts to go nuts. Now I know better. The funny thing about our dog is that she divides the world into two categories: people she doesn't know at whom she barks, and people she knows at whom she wiggles excitedly to the point of incontinence. There is no in-between. Perhaps a little canine Valium would be in order.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 7:37 PM | Report abuse

When I went off to college in Virginia, my parents dropped me off and that was pretty much it. I took the train home for holidays the first year or two. I could walk to the station in Williamsburg, and 6 hours later they would pick me up at the Trenton station. The train was the Colonial, and it ran every day from Newport News to Boston. Except for travel on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I found the train to be relaxing and low-key.

I remember one trip when I took a rifle home with me for Christmas break. It was an Olympic-calibre (sorry) Walther smallbore rifle in a large, flat plastic case that could hold nothing else. When I boarded the train, the conductor asked me what was in the case, and I told him. He asked if I had removed the bolt, and I showed him the bolt in my jacket pocket. That was it -- I stored the rifle case behind my seat and enjoyed the trip. It made for something of a conversation piece, but alas I never had Don's luck on any of my trips.

The powers that be are talking seriously about a high-speed rail system linking the various cities here in North Carolina. I have my doubts whether it will ever happen in this car-obsessed culture.

Nice article, Joel. Thanks.

Posted by: cranky | April 25, 2006 7:43 PM | Report abuse

ebtnut, thanks for the information about the train in the Southwest. That's good to know. I'll go listen to a "Rock Island Line" recording. I think I have one on a Jimmie Dale Gilmore CD.

Posted by: pj | April 25, 2006 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Great information, Wilbrod. Thank you.

Posted by: pj | April 25, 2006 8:00 PM | Report abuse

A dried up sandwich bought from a guy with a card table?

[Yeah, I know, those guys in the Monty Python skit were from Yorkshire, not Scotland, but whatever. (Actually, that card table dude *could* have been from Yorkshire.]

Posted by: Achenfan | April 25, 2006 8:08 PM | Report abuse

For real fun, there's nothing like riding cog trains. My husband and I have been to the Bernese Oberland in southern Switzerland twice and we really enjoyed riding them. There is one line with coal-burning steam engines, but most of them are electric. You can buy a regional rail pass and go all over the place. Old people like us will ride to the top of the mountain and hike down...that's the easiest way to say you've hiked the Alpine trails! One line, over a hundred years old, is in a tunnel that was cut through the mountains and takes about an hour to get to the top, where the station is at 10,700 feet or so. That one is expensive, and the station was overrun with Japanese tourists the day we were there. So one has to plan one's outings carefully, even on European vacations.

Posted by: Slyness | April 25, 2006 8:15 PM | Report abuse

I also liked Bruce's story about Vietnamese rail travel. Kinda puts things in perspective, eh?

And how 'bout those trains in India, with hordes of people hanging off the sides and sitting on the roof? (Not that I've ever been on one, or even been to India, for that matter. I've just seen it on the telly. I'm not sure I'm tough enough to go to India. I think it would be a case of, "Turkish-style toilets? LOOOxurry!")

Posted by: Achenfan | April 25, 2006 8:15 PM | Report abuse

[(. . . Yorkshire.)]

[You know, as much as we complained about the lack of a preview function, I'm finding that I rarely avail myself of it now that it's available. I'm just too impatient to go through that extra step before posting. Not that I don't appreciate having the option, of course. (Wouldn't want Hal to think I wasn't grateful.)]

Posted by: Achenfan | April 25, 2006 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Achenfan - I recall hearing somewhere that the Hong Kong airport is connected to the mainland with a way-cool train. I've been waiting all day to ask you about it.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 8:58 PM | Report abuse

"The Four Yorkshiremen" was the first thing by Monty Python I ever heard. (Kirk had a tape of it and played it for us during first lunch.) I suddenly realized that there was much more to the world than I suspected. I think of that sketch whenever I try to tell my offspring about how tough it was in the pre-Nintendo era. In other words, I think about it often.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 25, 2006 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Here's a description of train travel from New York to Key West (with a connection via ferry to Havana) in 1912:

...a direct link between New York and Havana [was] as amazing and enticing to travelers then as the opening of the London-to-Paris "Chunnel" became nearly one hundred years later. Soon after the Extension Special rolled into Key West, regular service to Havana began. As a Havana newspaper reported, "This train carries the latest design all-steel Pullman drawing room and Standard sleeping cars, is electrically lighted and equipped with electrical fans throughout. There is no change of cars beteen Key West and the Pennsylvania Station in the very heart of New York City."

The schedule boasted that passengers could leave Havana at 10:30 a.m. daily, except Sundays, and arrive in New York at 7:55 p.m. on the second evening following, though, owing to weather and other delays, it was a promise more often honored in the breach. The Key West-Miami run was listed as requiring only four and one-half hours, not much more than it takes to drive today, but locals who rode the route often reported the journey required the better part of six or seven hours.

One retired office engineer for the FEC divulged something of the truth of the railroad's policy. "Whenever a train was twenty-four hours late, it was never admitted," he told an interviewer. "The bulletin board would read 'One Hour Late,' failing to state it was one day AND one hour late."

But in the tropics, delays are relative. Vacation travelers from the firgid Northeast hardly minded a train puttering across a bridge at fifteen miles an hour if it meant they could stare down from their windows at schools of dolphin rolling alongside through the waves. And even the prospect of sitting before the gate of a closed bridge, waiting and watching as a line of glowering thunderheads swept across a white-capped channel, was not without its drama.

As a writer of the day enthused, passengers could "watch the stately procession of southbound ocean steamers which the great tide of traffic to the West Indies, and to Central American and South American ports. Nor is it at all fanciful to suppose that if he is wise enough to carry along a fishng line and bait, he may find sport from the car platform should the train happen to halt on the Long Key or Bahia Honda viaduct."

Last Train to Paradise, by Les Standiford, pp 209-210

Posted by: kbertocci | April 25, 2006 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see Ms. Ouelette on here, I was perusing her "Cocktail Party" blog just this afternoon.


Posted by: bc | April 25, 2006 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Yes, that's true, it's called the Airport Express, and it's very clean, comfortable, quick, and inexpensive -- far superior to taking a taxi. Trains depart every few minutes and take you right into Central Hong Kong. If you are traveling from the city to the airport, you can check your bags in at the train station, because the various airlines have check-in counters there. The train has individual video screens on the back of each seat to keep you entertained along the way. And just when I was thinking it couldn't get any better, last time I rode the Express I was approached to take part in a survey about how they might improve the service, including what kind of programs I might prefer to see on the video screens.

Luxury. [And I *really mean* luxury, not "LOOOOxurry!"]

Posted by: Achenfan | April 25, 2006 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Achenfan... a city with a cool airport train AND escalators to get downtown. What a place!

Posted by: TBG | April 25, 2006 9:56 PM | Report abuse


I assume you saw this article about applying to colleges from today's paper.

Posted by: pj | April 25, 2006 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Hi Achenflan, I took the Hong Kong express just after the new airport opened (my first time to HK) Amazing the glass wall off the terminal opened, the train whisked us off to downtown where we were greeted by three buses going to different groups of hotels About an hour from plane departure to check-in at the hotel. The one overlooking the covention center on the bay.

Posted by: bh | April 25, 2006 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Great post on dogs Wilbrod. It came at the right time. All my kids and my wife are begging me for a dog. Actually they are torn between another baby and a dog, which offers me a great stall tactic on both angles. However, when we do get a dog, it's going to be MY dog, I'll be it's master, but right now, I'm afraid that I might end up treating my dog like an animal, so I'm not ready to own one yet.
I am a little curious. Do strangers think your vision is more acute than the average bear since your hearing has been impaired? Strangers have this perception that I can hear better because the lost brain cells connected to my optical nerve now work for the hearing department.
the only site I use for adaptive equipment is
But I'm one of the worst resources on adaptive gadgets. I own exactly 2: Jaws and a cane.
If anyone could post a Helen Keller joke, I

Posted by: Pat | April 25, 2006 10:44 PM | Report abuse

While our train ride from Scotland to London left something to desired we had a great train ride from Zurich to Florence. Well almost great. From Zurich to Milan was wonderful through the Alps in a compartment car all by ourselves. BUT we had to change trains at Milan and on a friday evening the trains were packed and we didn't have a compartment reservation on the last leg to Florence. After seeing three trains come and go I spotted an American tourist girl and asked here how we could get to Florence that night, being how we had pre-paid hotel reservations at the Savoy in Florence. She said just get on. Put your luggage up on a rack in a compartment car somewhere you can watch it. Well it was quite a ride. We sat on the floor with all the students going home for the weekend. The conductor came through and didn't even ask for tickets. Via Italy. It was a short hop and we learned a lot about public transportation in Italy and got to sleep in our hotel bed that night. Needless to say we arranged a compartment reservation on the return from Florence to Milan. A nice gentleman at a Florence deli packed us lunch of green olive pizzas and open and recorked a bottle of Italian red to carry us over the alps on the return. A nice lady from Litchenstine (SP?) pointed out the spot where the train passes a church three time on the way up the alps.

Posted by: bh | April 25, 2006 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Interesting posts from you today (as always. I much enjoyed your Boodle about a week ago branching beyond mine on the Athabaskan languages to inform us that many of the Native languages within the Arctic Circle are also linguistically linked.) As I have mentioned on several occasions, my uncle became deaf as a result of having spinal meningitis at Camp Roberts during WWII, yet went on to develop a meaningful and successful career as a graphic artist and designer. He became a lip reader, and, I vividly recall, his deafness after several decades affected his speech and intonation slightly. Both my cousins followed in his footsteps--Dale became a graphic designer, Sherri became an audiologist (yet, after years in these fields, both have branched into other fields of endeavor).

Is your deafness hereditary, since you mentioned, I believe, a reluctance to speak--not wanting to embarrass a blind person? Possibly Waardenburg syndrome? Is this how you come to know the subject of genetics with a fairly deep understanding of the material? I find, quite pleasantly, that I always learn something from you.

I think you first came to my attention with your post on the subject of viruses, mentioning that you had a relative who died of the Spanish influenza outbreak in 1908. Sometime later here on the Achenblog, you suggested at one time that I think of you at as a person at the back of a cramped, dusty bookstore with a small light, typing on your laptop, with a bobble-headed figure on one of the shelves. Or so this is what my perhaps faulty memory recalls?

As I may have expressed previously, I'm fascinated if you work in the field of genetics, or whether you are an avid bibliophile on the subject of genetics? Regardless of your answer, I am pleased that you are here on the Boodle.

In reply to Boodleaire:
Supercomputer Systems Inc. was located in Eau Claire, Wis, yet the company had a satellite office in Livermore. The company tapped into a large talent pool at Lawrence Livermore Labs, hiring some of the best young minds in supercomputing from there. The Christmas party was in Livermore because that's where the office was located, that's where the boss lived. We almost sold our home in Tracy and bought in Livermore when I was employed by SSI. It certainly would have helped my husband's commute, as well as potentially eliminating mine. In retrospect, if we had lived closer in to the Bay Area, we may not have moved to Texas. Interesting to learn that you are from Livermore. I share your pain about trying to get from Santa Barbara to Livermore via Amtrak--there are precious few routes.

My mother rode the extensive street car system of Los Angeles in its heyday, before automobile manufacturers convinced the powers that were that it was best to tear up the routes and lay down asphalt highways. I got my middle name because of a book my mother read while riding these streetcars.

I do remember using vacation to travel by train to and from Eau Claire. The Loma Prieta quake happened while I was in Wisconsin. On the return trip, all trains were halted at Sacramento (where I was disembarking anyhow), unable to head into Oakland because of the quake.

Posted by: Loomis | April 25, 2006 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, you have my vote for today's most memorable turn of phrase: "...bursting his mighty dog bubble." Hilarious! (Yip, yip, yip, yip!)

Posted by: Boodleaire | April 26, 2006 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Trains in the tropics reminds me of going from Singapore to Bangkok about 25 years ago. We went to the station in Singapore to start the journey Singapore-Penang-Bangkok, at 5 pm, just in time to see the shutter brought down for evening prayer and dinner. The railway station was an outpost of Malaysia in bustling, efficient Singapore which would never have allowed such an occurrence. We went back to the hotel, and found an overnight bus to Penang for about $10. All the seats not over wheels were taken, so that's where we had to sit, and got to experience several hundred miles of potholes. The two rest stops were shop houses cum bus stations, with an interesting Malay-Indian-Chinese mix of foods and eagerly sought bathrooms. Passed through Kuala Lumpur at midnight with nobody out on the streets, an eerie sight. For the last hundred or so miles, we (about ten remaining passengers) were passed to another bus going to Penang, so ours could return to wherever it was due to pick up another load. The second bus was ethnically Indian, with slightly suggestive yet fully clothed women singing pop songs, playing endlessly on overhead TVs. After a week at the beach in Penang, we finally got on the train to Bangkok. The AC made the 1st class cabin like a meat locker, so we spent the day in the dining car, drinking Thai beer and watching Malaysia and Thailand go past, and chatted with a Malay railway official traveling as an observer, who spoke no English but spoke German which my wife was fluent in and I knew somewhat. I was disappointed the food wasn't much, but the conversation, view and beer were outstanding. Later we slept on a bench in 2nd class in the midst of Malays and Thais eating interesting foods and talking all night, where we didn't freeze. Arrived at the outskirts of Bangkok just before dawn.

Also related to trains -- is there a better train song than City of New Orleans?

Posted by: jg | April 26, 2006 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Great Kit and Kaboodle today! I haven't ridden trains much, but I like the idea of them. I once took a train from Frederick, MD into DC - the swaying from side to side bothered me. The only other train I've been on was in Chicago, and it was fine. Seattle is supposed to have light rail soon and I'm looking forward to it. There was also an article in the Seattle Times today about how they're restoring the King St station to its former glory (I've never been inside it - was on my way to take the train to Vancouver on the morning of Sep 11, 2001 - but decided I didn't want to go out of the country after I heard about the terrorist attacks).

Nice hearing from lots of new folks today. And peanutgallerymember, welcome back! Pat, it's perfectly ok to abbreviate boodler names. kbertocci is kb, peanutgallerymember is pgm, I'm ml, etc. Really interesting to hear how you boodle and navigate Metro. Wilbrod, thanks for all the info about service dogs.

Slats, I was wondering how your visit went. Hope your son-in-law is on the road to recovery.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 26, 2006 2:05 AM | Report abuse

Such a moving...kit. Train rides are relaxing and enveloping.

Pat--your 1:09 PM post was so enjoyable. But please don't go splat. Keep that poker pointed.

Posted by: FF | April 26, 2006 2:13 AM | Report abuse

Hey, bh, I was just at that convention center on Sunday.
I went to take a look at the Forever Blooming Bauhinia Sculpture, and also to appreciate the view across the harbor. A group of very sweet Chinese children came running up to me and said, "Excuse me, can you take a photo with us?" When I said yes, they got all excited and started jumping up and down. As I was waiting for them to produce a camera so I could take their picture in front of the golden sculpture, I realized they wanted me *in* the photo -- they had quickly arranged themselves around me with the sculpture behind us, and two older girls (who also seemed pretty excited) snapped several photos. When they were done, they all thanked me profusely.

I must say I felt rather flattered -- had they mistaken me for a celebrity? (Rosie O'Donnell? Camryn Manheim? Angela Lansbury? That old lady from "The Wedding Singer" perhaps?) However, it soon occurred to me that since the sculpture is near the Reunification Monument, which commemorates the 1997 handover of Hong Kong back to China, the photo opp was probably more political than personal. Duh. Any old gweilo would have done. (The Bauhinia Sculpture itself was erected in 1997 and apparently is a popular photo stop for tourists from mainland China. The bauhinia flower is indigenous to Hong Kong and has been the territory's emblem since the handover.)

Goes to show, just as one shouldn't be too quick to take umbrage, one shouldn't rush to feel complimented. We should take nothing personally. I am determined to feel neither exploited nor flattered by this experience. But I'm glad I got to be in the photo -- to be part of this depiction of a no-hard-feelings attitude. (At least, that's my current interpretation of what the photo depicts. It still could be the children thought I was a movie star . . .)

Posted by: Achenfan | April 26, 2006 3:03 AM | Report abuse

well what a great Kit and Kaboodle tonight. I know myself that when trains are nearby for all your life you just dont sleep right if you can't hear them rumble past.

Oh... THE OILERS WIN!!!! yay hahaha

and yes I truly am a son of dr. sorry SonofCarl. if you dont like me posting with this name just say so.

Posted by: sonof dr | April 26, 2006 3:10 AM | Report abuse

There are some other scenic steam railroads out West. The ScienceSpouse and I, in our PKV (Pre-Kid Vacation) took a trip on the Durango-Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad. The best part was when the locomotive broke down halfway to Silverton. We got to stand around in an excruciatingly scenic wilderness, occasionally getting to watch locomotives chugiing back and forth while they switched our damaged locomotive for a working one. Then they offered a choice -- continue up to Silverton and spend the night, due to the late arrival, or head back down to Durango on a newly-constituted second train and receive some measure of refund (quantity uncertain). We took the latter option, had a beautiful ride down to Durango, and received a full refund on our fare. We had an entire day of scenic rail travel for free. It was great!

There also is an Ouray Narrow-Gauge Railroad in Ouray, Colorado. I'm sure there must be several other steam railroads around. I believe there's something in SW Pennsylvania, but I'm forgetting the name and any relevant details.

Off to bed for me.

Posted by: Tim | April 26, 2006 3:19 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, great information, and Pat, my mother was blind, and you're right about the price of items for the blind, very expensive. And so are items for deaf people too.

Great kit today, Joel. I love trains. For an outing, I used to take my children to Raleigh, NC on the train. That's not a long ride, but we would have breakfast in the dining car, and get a chance to see the sights before arriving in Raleigh. Not a lot to see but a nice ride. I live in what used to be called the Hub of the Seaboard Coastline Railroad Company. My grandfather worked for the railroad so we always had passes for rides. We had trains coming and going all times of the night and day. Now we just have the one line from Florida to whatever the northeast destination is, and that train is always late. Nothing but freight trains run now. We've revamped the old train station, and it is beautiful. As a child I rode the train from here to Washington and New York. The stations were beautiful, and so many people, everyone so busy. I miss the passenger trains. When I was a child, people used to take their lunch with them on the train because African-Americans weren't allowed in the dining cars. Many of those passenger trains were called "fried chicken" specials because people always had fried chicken sandwiches among other things. And we could only sit in certain cars, not allowed to mix. People even had to stand if a seat was not available until someone got off. And conductors at times could be really hateful and nasty. I still enjoyed the train ride, and I guess being a child and not fully understanding the treatment I received because of my color, I was able to enjoy the scenery and the ride. God is good people because I've come from a long way, and I do thank Him everyday. Hope everyone has a good day, and may God bless you more than you can imagine through Him that died for us all, Jesus, the Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 26, 2006 3:33 AM | Report abuse

Welcome, sonof dr! (Ha!)
I'm sure SonofCarl won't mind -- much.
Although the 'boodle is generally a one-membership-per-family deal, we always welcome guest appearances like yours.

Posted by: Achenfan | April 26, 2006 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Achenfan - But you are famous! The Chinese children just sensed that aura of celebrity generated by all international boodlers.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Ha! "Aura of celebrity" -- I like that.
Maybe those kids saw the BPH photos on the Internet.
("Hey, there's that jackass from the Boodle!")

Posted by: Achenfan | April 26, 2006 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Tim - I think you may be referring to the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania. It is a fun place to take the family. The locomotive is suitably impressive. The train trip is something of a glorified amusement park ride, but a very restful and pleasant one. There is also a large railroad museum for those with a historical bent.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for pointing me to the college-application article, pj. I didn't have a chance to see the paper paper yesterday. I'm glad to see that I've been following most of Jay Mathews' advice. It makes me feel so smart.

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 7:55 AM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, I really enjoyed this boodle. (Shouldn't the last post on the boodle be known as the boodle caboose?) Anyway, I like it when people tell stories based upon their personal experiences. Unfortunately, forums like this sometimes degenerate into people simple regurgitates what they heard in the news. Boodles like this are way more fun.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 7:57 AM | Report abuse

"Simple regurgitates" Sheesh. That's what happens when you hear footsteps from the boss..

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 7:59 AM | Report abuse

There is also a motel made up of caboose cars near the Strasburg RR in Pennsylania. I think it's called the Red Caboose Motel. Pretty cool concept and great for the kids. It's a little, er... run down. The time we stayed there they had no hot water. Just a small detail. But it was fun.

The Strasburg train runs right by it, so it's cool for the kids to see "their" caboose from the train.

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I think we should all call ourselves simple regurgitates. Good name.

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Like others, I do some of my best thinking of the day in the morning shower (remarkably, I'm not overly distracted by being in such close proximity to my own naked self).

This morning's thought:

Q: What do Rice, D1ck, Bush, Rove, and Snow have in common?

A: They're all four-letter words, of course.

I won't bother repeating the jokes about Snow asking for back pay, or my own joke last week about a new twist on the phrase "Snow job".

Well, I think there may be a headline somewhere reading "Talking Head Work Gets Tony Snow Job", but that's just a guess.

To TBG's point, "Simple Regurgitates" remains an availble Boodle handle.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I like to think of myself as a more complex regurgitate. I mean, I don't *just* regurgitate "What the Bleep" quotes -- I regurgitate other stuff, too.

Posted by: Dreamer | April 26, 2006 8:39 AM | Report abuse

So Tony Snow is taking the job as the First Simple Regurgitate.

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Strausburg is a great place to go for blood pressure relief. It's located in the middle of the Amish horse and buggy townships with sensuous names like Middlesex and Intercourse. While you are there, you may want to visit the toy train museum. which is walking distance from the Red Caboose Motel. My Father-in-law was one of the museum's cofounders. He passed away last year and now we have a few of the museum's toy trains on my wife's dresser. Trains are so romantic, they have a way of conjuring up such peaceful memmories.

Posted by: Pat | April 26, 2006 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I'll have you know I'm a complicated regurgitate, thank you very much.

*calling my analyst*


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 26, 2006 9:11 AM | Report abuse

TBG, I think you've got it.

Dreamer, we value your complexity.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Dear Heavens I have been outed. And since I have been outed, I shan't even take neener rights because genteel neener rights have already been used.

I don't watch a lot of hockey through the season. Too often the only people who show up for the game are the fans. But when teams play like that, give it their all, I really enjoy it.

Posted by: dr | April 26, 2006 9:16 AM | Report abuse

hey! what happened to the great dog postings???

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

oops - my bad... my browser was caching...

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 9:21 AM | Report abuse

mo... you shouldn't talk like that in public!

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Is it just me, or does the Rice/Rumsfeld visit to Iraq just confirm the idea of Iraq's "stooge government"?

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

My, my, Wilbrod is quite the dog behaviorist. Nice to see somebody who reads dog behavior as well as most dogs are reading ours... The "mighty dog bubble" has to be burst repeatedly for training purposes I might add. In some cases, mostly involving small terriers of the Parson Russell's persuasion, the bubble is so mighty that it can't be burst.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 26, 2006 9:35 AM | Report abuse

LOL TBG. Am I going crazy or have I really heard GWB saying the words "unnecessary tax relief" while surfing the channels last night ?

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 26, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

TBG and RD, masters of phraseology.

First Simple Regurgitate he shall be.

Posted by: dr | April 26, 2006 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. I'm up, and ready for the day, hope you are too. Truly hope it is a good day for all.

I'm not familiar with the "first regurgitate" as someone put it earlier. I keep thinking that perhaps this person was selected for this post because of what he brings to the marriage. He has a dowry that can be used to perhaps improve the numbers. I hope he's not thinking that will make him inclusive. Or maybe things are so bad, he will be a heard voice in this group.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 26, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I think he will be a heard voice because he's going to say only what they already believe. He'll bring nothing new except for maybe a few "spin" skills they may not already have.

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

This material about Leheigh Valley Railroad president Edward Eugene Loomis appeared in an article in the Spring 2005 Loomis Chaffee magazine about the mysterious Mark Twain walking stick crafted by William Willard of Hartford, Conn., for the 1929 reunion at the L-C school. The supposition is that Willard, who knew Clemens as a young boy, may have harvested the wood for the cane from the from the shoot of a Siberian poplar tree on the grounds of Samuel Clemen's Farmington Avenue home in Hartford.

Only 11 of the nearly 200 Loomis reunion-goers in 1929 signed Willard's Twain walking stick. According to the article:

Perhaps the most widely-known person to sign the stick was Edward Eugene Loomis, first vice president of the Loomis Family Association and president of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Edward took over Lehigh Valley's helm in 1917 [not too long after the Black Tom explosion:

The Black Tom explosion of July 30, 1916 in Jersey City, New Jersey was an act of sabotage on American munition supplies by German agents to prevent the materials from being used by the Allies in World War I. (Wikipedia)]

and successfully brought it through World War I's turbulent years, making it one of the most efficient carriers in the nation.

For more history about the railroad:

His influence on the railroad industry was so great that, years later, trains across the country stopped travel for two minutes in his honor on the day of his burial.

A distant cousin of The Loomis Institute founders, Edward was known as "a man of great executive ability," and a Hartford newspaper included him as "one of many prominent persons in attendance" at the 1924 Loomis reunion. His family was the only group whose arrival in Windsor was described by the newspaper: "Mr. Loomis with Mrs. Loomis and their daughter came in a private car which was attached to the 8:30 northbound train and switched into a sidetrack at the Windsor depot." When Edward attended the 1929 reunion, he probably arrived in that same private car, named Lake Forest.

Edward and his private rail car also had a Mark Twain connection. Edward was married to Clemen's favorite niece, Julia Langdon. Before his death in 1910, Clemens and the Loomis couple shared the use of Lake Forest as well as New York theater productions, Clemen's grand 70th birthday party and private family visits in Edward's Fifth Avenue apartment. Edward and Julia attended to Clemens in less happy times. They escorted a weakened Clemens from a Bermuda vacation to his Redding, Conn. home, where he died a week later. Twain's body was carried to its burial in Elmira, N.Y., on Edward's private rail car Lake Forest, and Edward was named an executor of Clemens' estate.

The article concludes with another supposition: Perhaps Willard aimed to celebrate this association with Clemens by incorporating the famous writer into the walking stick. [curiously decorated with paragraphs of inked prose about Mark Twain's career and home and topped by a carved likeness of Twain]

Posted by: Loomis | April 26, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Great - my major contribution to this boodle is a typo. Oh well...whatever helps...

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

May I call myself simple regurgitates???

Posted by: jack | April 26, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

...or how abuot shrieking regurgitator...

Posted by: jack | April 26, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Since this is a slow morning on the A-blog, I'll submit a quick blog item I tossed together this AM, re. last night's American Idol and the search for WMDs.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Please ignore the atrocious sentence construction in my 10:13 AM post.



Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

When we have a really good boodle like this there isn't much incentive to write a new kit. Other than the usual obsessive-compulsive need to post something, and fears that, beyond 200 comments, the boodle becomes unwieldy. I have a notion to do some blogwhoring of sorts and try to get some media critic to take note of the boodle and its fine qualities -- the fact that it's not just Simple Regurgitates. The posts by Pat and Wilbrod are classics, for example.

I also have a story due. Like, 7000 words. Actually I have about 10,000 written but of those, only 5,000 are any good, and of THOSE, only 3,000 are probably relevant. And to be truly disciplined I should probably cut those, too, and start over. It's not what's unwritten that's the problem, it's what's already written. Stories get ruined the moment you start writing them. They're better in theory.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 26, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I'll stick with what works best. I used to ride the train reegularly from Syr. to NYC and, later in life from Lancaster(Pa.) to NYC. I once had the good fortune to be on a train that was overbooked and recieved a Pullman berth by myself for the inconvenience. I remember the scenery along the Hudson, and places like Renssalear and Newark. The latter is the only stop between Lancaster and NYC where the conductor used the PA system to tell people to be watchful of their children as they detrained.

Posted by: jack | April 26, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Anyway, were I to put up a new kit it would probably be based on this, from Gene's chat:

Washington, D.C.: My wife asked me a question that I didn't dare answer. Do you dare? How many times a day do you look at women in an appraising and appreciative way (read, sexual)?
Gene Weingarten: I am going to try to answer this bluntly and honestly, for the historical record.
First off, I tend to work alone, at home. During these business hours I don't watch TV, peek at porn, or even gaze out the window, since my home office is a windowless cell in the basement. So, in general, my lady-leering activities do not begin until roughly 6:30 p.m., when my wife walks in the door.
My solitude is unusual, though. So I will apply your question to the days where I leave my home, walk three blocks to the Metro, ride the Metro, work at The Washington Post, and repeat the commute.
Please remember that I am a 54 year old man, married, professional, respectful, not seeking romance, and pretty physically tired much of the time. The answer to your question is "50 to 65 times a day."
Most women probably regard that answer to be playful hyperbole, the province of the humor columnist. Most men probably regard that answer to be journalism. Which it is.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 26, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

"slow morning"?
What are we -- chopped liver? (As always, please don't answer that.)
Personally, I'd rather discuss regurgitation than cleavage.

Posted by: Achenfan | April 26, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Well, Joel, if you're interested in blogwhoring, that Kit should certainly lead to a great Boodle!

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

My worst out-of-order boodling ever.
Will I never learn?

Posted by: Achenfan | April 26, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I was highly amused by that Q and A in Gene's chat yesterday, too.

I'm a man and have no idea what it's like to walk a mile in women's shoes, but I will say that I don't think women have any idea what it's like In the Eye of the Testosterone Cyclone.

No matter how wretched you might feel, you have to deal with storm surges all the time. And it's a private battle, unfortunately.

Note: I am resisting making any jokes about Pandora's Box here. Won't stoop that low, no sirree.

Spring *is* in the air, isn't it?


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

As for that Weingarten quote, well, maybe it's the truth, but I find it depressing, which is why I tend not to read his chats -- don't need those sorts of constant reminders. Makes me wish I was a nun. (Actually, there is a nice Buddhist nunnery nearby . . . and they all have shaved heads -- the perfect solution to my flyaway-hair problem.)

Posted by: Achenfan | April 26, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Time for me to get some shut-eye.

Posted by: Achenfan | April 26, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Happy Administrative Assistants (formerly, Secretaries) Day everyone!

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | April 26, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I'll bite, A-fan:

Why do you find Gene's quote depressing?

Some might find those feelings healthy and life-affirming in the appropriate context.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I learn all sorts of stuff from Gene's chats.

I was glad to read that. I've always wondered and don't think that's the kind of information I'm going to get from my husband (or my son, thank goodness!).

Oh.. here we go! The Boodle is off!

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Makes me admire the fact that men can look anyone in the eye.

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Why is it depressing? It's life affirming. It's nature in the raw in the Season of the Rising Sap (see Tom Wolfe). Of course you have to be careful that you're not leering or being gross or disrespectful. You can make the case that it is incumbent upon a gentleman to appreciate the appearance of the fairer sex, and that to do otherwise is disrespectful, not to mention a sign of pulselessness, i.e., "Jack, you dead."

Posted by: Achenbach | April 26, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

A-fan, I should clarify "slow morning" as meaning "no new Kit yet".

I apologise.
And have a good night's sleep, ma'am.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

bc, that is SO scary. Don't do that again. "Life-affirming"...jeepers...did we take the same Manhood class at Bohemian Grove?

Posted by: Achenbach | April 26, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

It might be affirming something, but I'm not sure it's really life.

Ohhh.... I've got to go now.


Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

"Life-affirming" is clearly today's Male Justification For Anything.

I am going back to my terrible story.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 26, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

TBG writes, "Makes me admire the fact that men can look anyone in the eye."

Yes, but when we do we can't listen at the same time.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

OK, one more before I depart:
Appropriate context, yes. But what does that really mean? How many of the 50 to 65 lady-leering encounters Gene describes could be categorized as taking place in an appropriate context? (Appropriate in the eyes of both parties and any relevant third parties, I mean -- not just appropriate in the eyes of the leerer.)

Well, I'm probably just crabby and persnickety because I'm over-tired again. (Being over-tired involves either extreme crankiness or extreme giggling over one's own jokes. Nighty night, folks. Joel, it is now safe for you to post your Kit.)

Posted by: Achenfan | April 26, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Achenfan, I thought Caucasian women were gweipo?

Posted by: omni | April 26, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Joel, will you marry me?


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Ah, so the new non-kit is directly related to bc's blog commentary on 'weapons of mass destruction'.

bc, one question. Is cleavage one weapon or two?

Posted by: dr | April 26, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

What a poor, poor (and very likely human-less) world this would be if men did not appreciate the beauty that is woman in all her various forms.

And vice versa.

And speaking of vice versa, how many times a day do our distaff Boodlers appraise the males in their midst, silently or otherwise?


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 26, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Well, as Paul Newman likes to say:

"It's okay to work up an appetite walking around town, as long as you come home for dinner."

Posted by: kbertocci | April 26, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

A-fan, I think there's a difference between noticing and appreciating respectfully, and leering, or worse, predatory Aqualung-esque appraisal.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm dead??? Today was off to a questionable start...

Posted by: jack | April 26, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Hey all. I just finished my Islamic Art History final. Well, I didn't finish it. I failed it, but I had planned on failing it. So I was successful in accomplishing my plan to fail. Great architecture and art--absolutely gorgeous--and highly interesting faith and history, but I just don't think like a Muslim. I just couldn't get it. It took me all semester to admit that I don't get something. It was tough, but when at least I had accomplished it, it was a wonderful feeling. Cathartic, even. Ask me to think like a Mesoamerican, I've got it covered. I'm practically an Aztec! Think like a Greek? Piece of cake. My favorite civilization. A Roman? Easy. English medieval civilations? Sure! Ask me to explain Islam and its history and how art fits into it and my eyes go wide, my neck gets tight and I don't know what to do.

I went to sell the book back and they scanned it and said, "We're not buying this back." I just stood there until I could finally find the words to say, "You mean there's no way I can get you to take this book back? My only alternative is to throw it away?" (Keeping it hadn't even crossed my mind--gorgeous book, bad memories, written as though the reader already knows the material like the back of his/her hand. I have plenty of other gorgeous art history books that can serve as "coffee table" books.) She said, "One of those books you really don't want to keep, huh?" She laughed. I didn't. I said, "I will pay you, personally, to take this book back and hide it behind the counter." That's when she informed me of the donation box. I put it in there.

Posted by: Sara | April 26, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Good question, dr.

I'd consider cleavage as one weapon that consists of two parts, in the same way that a nuclear weapon is a lump of reactive material (plutonium, etc.) that requires the detonation of shaped explosive charges to start a chain reaction.

This is different from exposure to one part of the device, like the Janet Jackson "dirty bomb" incident.

Cleavage is a reusable bioweapon with a wider range of effectiveness than a "dirty bomb", due to the more commonly available media that can disperse it.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Ha! Cleavage as a dirty bomb. I needed that laugh. Thank you.

Posted by: Sara | April 26, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure this is entirely facetious...

Cleaveage WOULD be a "reusable bioweapon" in some cultures, no?

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 26, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

bc, Who decide's the difference? Where is the line drawn?

Posted by: sonof dr | April 26, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Great, I ask a question seconds too late.

And I'm an idiot, cause I only watch AI in the later stages when the truly atrocious singers have been elimnated. And I forgot to record last nights episode. I also missed the Queen episode and I really wanted to see that train wreck (ha, how's that for tying my post onto the topic).

Posted by: omni | April 26, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Achenbach says "Stories get ruined the moment you start writing them. They're better in theory." This is what every sculptor knows, the best sculptures are still caught inside their block of marble. Weingarten subjects is rather old hat and must have been studied quite extensively. I have a vague recollection of a statistic learned in a Human Sexuality course back in college. Men think about sex or sexual matters about 10 times an hour on average while it may be 3-4 times a day for women.There was no lab work involved in that course, unfortunately. The class was mostly female, quite a change for this engineering student. I was thinking about sex 10 times a minute in that course. Being 25 years younger may have contributed a little to this testosterone cyclone.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 26, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Joel, Achefan, bc, tbg, I'm laughing so hard I can hardly type this comment. It's definitely a slow day. Is cleavage one or two? You guys, I just don't know what to say about you. I doubt seriously if wives want to know this information because in knowing, what are they to do with it? And God forbid, men tell the truth about something like this. If one is married, do you tell the wife that you look at fifty or more women a day, and let the wife do what she will with such information? Sounds like risky living to me. Don't you guys have enough problems without adding to the list? And subtracting from the number of women gazed at does not help the matter either. If you say one, you're dead meat. I can't even comment on this without laughing. Okay, jump in guys and defend yourselves, I can't wait.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 26, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Morning all,

sonof dr (this is going back to last night) I take no umbrage at your handle. For some reason, boodlers-once-removed often make a handle based on the "regular's".

You may want your own, however. I recommend "Life Affirmer", which I would take if I was looking for a handle. Or maybe not.

Speaking of Gene's chat, particularly in the late teens, it would probably be easier to count the number of times the average guy is NOT thinking as described. Don't shoot the messenger, just reporting the facts.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

bc, isn't that the definition of a woman? A lump of reactive material surround by a shaped explosive charge?

(Hey, don't yell at me! HE said it, not me!)

(But when they set 'em up like that, ya just gotta go for it.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 26, 2006 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, Reading Terminal has been Disneyfied, and now it's part of the Convention Center. The old headhouse is still there, and you can see it, but it's cleaned up and underused.

On the other hand, a new train station was built in the 1980s to replace Reading Terminal, since the old Reading routes to the suburbs (now part of the SEPTA system) are still used. The new station, Market East Station, is clean and bright, but also well used by those masses of people that you remember from days of yore. And most of the old landmarks are still around.

Philly was and still is (to some extent) a train town. Philly's never had an extensive subways system, but our regional rail system is extensive, and you can go from any point to any other point on the system with a maximum of one transfer.

I've spent plenty of time at the Trenton station, and it's not a particularly pleasant place to be. But then, neither are airports. Give me trains any day over planes!

Posted by: Jay | April 26, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I had personally categorized the Janet Jackson incident as an Improvised Exhibitionist Device. Also known by a colloquial term. You know what I'm talking about.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Well, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but *I'm* certainly not thinking about sex. Let's go back to talking about trains entering tunnels, anonymous encounters in pullman cars, rhythmic rocking motions, the panic that ensues when something is "late," things with nice cabooses, trains entering tunnels, etc.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 26, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra - how do you know that Gene (or any of us for that matter) didn't look at his wife 40 of those 50 times?

To your other point, the risk/benefit ratio does not weigh in favor of full disclosure, which is why the majority of husbands wouldn't talk about this with their wives.

There's no defense, and nothing more to defend, than to build a defense against the sun rising in the east.

Scottynuke, yes, it is a reusable weapon, though it's effectiveness in widespread usage is reduced when employed repeatedly. However, it remains devastating in close quarters or mano a mano combat.

Cleavage becomes a "dirty bomb" when one or two components are completely removed from their housings.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Joel's drop in had me thinking about another matter though - how hard it would be to be continually generating kits. He really is a creative genius to be able to do this. Slate had a story the other day on a person giving up their blog:

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Re. Mudge's 11:32 AM comment:

*Jeez, Mudge...*

Was not goin' there, no way no how nosirree.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather discuss hump yards and humping rail cars than decolletés used as weapons of male distraction.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 26, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

From the gross-generalization files I offer you the following observations:

Women have an idealized self image to which they strive. The nature of this desired self-image differs from woman to woman.

Men have an idealized state of stimulation to which they strive. The nature of this desired stimulation differs from man to man.

When a woman can help a man achieve his ideal she is valued by the man.
When a man can help a women achieve her ideal he is valued by the woman.

When the two ideals are at cross-purposes - well, then you got trouble.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Trouble? Right here in River City?

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

With a capital T
And that rhymes with P
And that stands for...

(The multiple possibilities of both T and P, given the current Boodle drift, are left for the gentle reader to consider.)


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 26, 2006 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Lord. If I just had time to write a story about Janet Jackson...on a train. The humanity. The humanity. Someday...

Posted by: CowTown | April 26, 2006 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I have to say: I lived in Roma for about six months and every weekend took the train from Termini into Garibaldi at Napoli. It was the most beautiful way to spend a Friday and Sunday evening, I'm convinced. I only wish it were as common in the US. I live in DC and try to get up to NYC often, but with prices and time constraints, I can't seem to make the trip as much as I would like. It seems like, living in Italy, everything came together so nicely so that I could enjoy the relaxing train trip every week.

Posted by: ViewFromDupont | April 26, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Son of Carl, an excellent point. We do sincerely appreciate Joel and the work he does for us.

Which makes me wonder...Joel quit boodling and get back to work.

Ditto me.

Posted by: dr | April 26, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Joel's comment about the writing process reminds me of a comment a professor once wrote on one of my rough drafts: "I believe that buried within this mediocre ten-page paper is a brilliant five-page one. Now go find it."

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 12:12 PM | Report abuse

ahem - speaking as a female, we DO like to appreciate the physical allure of the male form as well... course, cleavage on a man is quite undesireable... (i'm thinking of the nether region cleavage)

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

When my son was 2 years old we had this gig that we would do on the playground. It was his idea so don't blame me. He would climb on the monkey bars that were about 5 feet high. When an inicent looking Mommy victim walked by, he would grab the highest bar and just hang over the ground. Of coarse, Mommies instincts would cause her to rescue him from the 3 foot drop. I can't tell you how many times he traveled across the playground with his nose in some unsuspecting Mommy's cleavage. Then I would get my chance to cop a feel during the handoff. Don't yell at me, he made it up. But, hey, that's my boy!

Posted by: Pat | April 26, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, your 11:32 had me ROTFL...lump of reactive material, indeed!

Having worked in a mostly-male organization for nigh on to 27 years, I can say that I may look but usually not in that way. However, I can relate to how men react. Years ago, before I attained grandmotherly age, I rode a shift at a fire station. At bedtime, I put on gym shorts and a (baggy) t-shirt to ensure proper modesty. One of the firefighters, however, became enamoured of me and later made a pass that I could have gotten him fired for. Fortunately, it was actually hilarious; I giggled for days. My husband wasn't so amused.

Sara, congratulations on achieving your objective with Islamic art. Hope you don't need the course to graduate.

Posted by: slyness | April 26, 2006 12:28 PM | Report abuse

oooo firefighters! don't mind lookin' at them! nosireebob!

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

mo, while there are lots of good looking firefighters, your taste is still catergorized as "questionable" given your penchant for Vin Diesel. Speaking of which, I saw an old video last night with Vin's separated-at-birth twin, Right Said Fred ("I'm too sexy").

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

SoC - i like the "bad boy" type - hey, sara likes vin as well! speaking of which, yes, back to american idol and chris d. (smokin!!!!!!)

bc - what do you think about elliott? he's a good singer but he just doesn't have any charisma! i think chris is doing the best...

(hope my raging hormones don't kill the boodle!)

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

They fit right in, mo, never fear...

The hormones, I mean! *LOL*

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 26, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

mo, you crack me up!

Well, someone had to say it...


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm just kidding, mo. Still, I would put Vin as more the "bad actor" type.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"Eye of the Tesosterone Cyclone"...I like that phrase.

I have no difficulty discussing such things with Mrs. Dooley. Not after her statement to me, while watching Howie Long in "Firestorm", "Now that's a MAN!" I think she thinks the same way about Vin Diesel.

Posted by: Dooley | April 26, 2006 12:58 PM | Report abuse

SoC - you think i look at vin cuz of his ACTING? that's like going to tom cruise for psychiatry advise! i can admit the shallowness of my admiration! if i want good acting i turn to adrien brody (who, incidently, is easy on the eyes as well)...

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

mo, excellent points and I couldn't agree more (especially after a moment of self-reflection on my own tastes - I'm on the Achenrecord as having picked 7of9 over Janeway). But then you had to go after Brody.... ;)

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I've heard several people refer to Elliott as "the Leprechaun", so I've had a hard time getting past that.

The guy can sing, that's for sure.
As long as he sticks to his comfort zone he's good.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse

does anyone know when the American Idol website is updated with pictures and videos of last nights show?

Posted by: omni | April 26, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I watched (listened) American Idol with my family last night:
Catherine put her cleavage on display and her dress almost fell off. She had to put her throat in overdrive to sing the part. The guy with the teeth sang so well it made paula cry. Kelly Pickler went sour and really stunk. The guy that looks like he's trying to take a dump while he sings was pretty mediocre. The 17 year old and Chris did good, but not spetacular. I rarely watch TV, but AI is an exception. I think the worst part is when they advertise the evening news with the standard exclusive coverage of the latest sicko. I wish they would get rid of the news plug, it's just plain reguritatable.

Posted by: Pat | April 26, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha!
The Moveable Type word wrap duplication bug strikes me again at 1:07.

Since when did Hal put the "Stay On Topic" feature in?


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Pat, I'm guessing you're not the same Pat who was in here yesterday.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Pat, sometimes it's hard to recognize people just by their typing style, but (begin italics)I (end italics) know it's you.


Posted by: kbertocci | April 26, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse

And what's up with husbands and wives who can't discuss the Weingarten subject with each other?


I tell my husband everything: it's safe, he never listens, hears or remembers. He tells me everything, too: he might as well, I know it already.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 26, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

why not, bc? The (listened) clarification was good.

I though I had missed more than two kits since I last visited. This kit seems to have brought in LOTS of boodlers...I like that.

About trains, in Colombia, they stopped maintaining the tracks years and years ago. A portion of the main line traveling north-south fell into the Cauca River in the 80's. Up to that point, politicians would promise to bring back the rail system if they were elected. At that point, they figured nobody would buy that since the expense would have been prohibitive.

I never rode the train in Colombia, but I guess it would have been similar to the Vietnamese train ride described in an earlier post. Cows, not water buffalo, though.

Posted by: a bea c | April 26, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Sorry I cannot contribute much to the "Training" of America's NE, but when I travel to Europe I have made it a policy to never rent a car. Your observations of train travel in America; the experience is only amplified in France. The TGV delivers a blazing 250 MPH dash (to say nothing of the luxury level of the TGV cars), what a great way to meet the locals and driving stress, what stress? The costs always seem reasonable-I've never rented a car in Europe (believe it-not in 34 years of travel) but what American traveler renting a car hasn't been ripped off by the +35% add-on in local taxes,fees,fees and more fees.

Posted by: Mike M | April 26, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Erk! Joel, you there? Hal? Any other WaPo staff personages? Howie Kurtz's column has a serious mistake that needs to be fixed toute sweet: He refers to James Brady as a "spokeswoman," third graf, in

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 26, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

A couple of memorable views riding back and forth from Zurich and Florence were the Swiss military. Going down the train stopped in a small mountain side town and 30 or 40 Swiss solders got on in uniform with their rifles and wives and childern and spread out amoung the available seats in the chair cars. The Swiss minimize the cost of troop movements. Coming back we were admiring a beautiful green valley below between the granite walls above the valley and we saw a man with a staff walking five brown cows with the large bells around their necks. They were walking past a Mirage jet fighter parked in the driveway between the houses. I often wonder it the man was the ultimate multi-taske. Cow milker by night and jet fighter pilot by day?

Posted by: bh | April 26, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Kurtz writes: "...but what is the Web for if not expanding on all the stuff you couldn't fit into the paper".

Understatement of the year if Brady was previously a spokeswoman.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I missed that (listened) part.
See, I can't look and listen at the same time.

My mistake, Pat.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

SCC tasker

Posted by: bh | April 26, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

(i)I (/i) thought chris did awesome last nite! tho i'm not sure if that's my ears or my hormones talking... and i hate brian adams songs...

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Well Mudge, the title of Kurtz's piece *is* "Foxy Spokesman", isn' it?

That is funny, though.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

kbertocci, some folks get uncomfortable with those "Weingarten" kinds of discussions.

I think that people - even married ones - have different ideas of what "safety" and "trust" are.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

bc: I'm thinking they have a different notion of what "intimacy" and "marriage" are, too (different from mine, I mean).

Posted by: kbertocci | April 26, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Good grief, I got a double word repeat! Is that extra points?

Posted by: kbertocci | April 26, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

who needs the schemer? we'll do our (i)OWN (/i) stinkin italics!

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Good one KB, I thought we might had gotten italics. You made me look.

Posted by: Pat | April 26, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

kbertocci, I think you nailed it at "intimacy" and "marriage".

Pat, I'm giggling here.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

One more for mo, I think Chris will make it to the top 3, but I don't know if he can garner enough votes to win it all.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Warmest regard to Boodle persons, I say hello:

Please accept apology as you do not know me, but to write I am to you, so that perhaps you can help on a difficult matter that may result in financial service advantageous to both you and myself. I realize you know not my identity, so for this I apologize and hoping this letter finds you in excellent health. Allow me to introduce: I am Kermoo John, last surviving son of Mr. Henry L. John, the formerly accountant to a banking firm handling matters for Texas Congressperson Thomas DeLay of Texas, Mr. Jack Abramoff of K Avenue in District of Washington, Mr. Duke "Randy" Cunningman also of Congress until recently, and other persons who you may have heard in newspapers.

Before the untimely death of my father, three brothers, two sisters, an uncle with a cholesterol problem, three spinster aunts, four nephews, two step-nieces from a previously unknown relationship, a goldfish named Roger, a grandfather, and other close relatives, my father managed to obtain $126 million in funds coming from campaign contributions and also consulting fees from lobbying efforts belong to Indian tribes owning casinos. Here is problem: these fund are in large trunk previously my father had in famous Red State of Texas. After purging of my family and arrest, indictment, and/or conviction of DeLay, Abramoff, Cunningperson, etc., I am now in exhile in Blue State. My old homeland district in Red State has been cruelly re-districted, and many Democracy persons in Texas were forced to flee into Oklahoma and other places, such as I have. Been.

This is where you are coming in. In return for your honest services to go to Red State for my behalf to obtain trunk full of much money ($126 million) left to me by my father, accountant for corrupt political persons in Red State, I am willing to share with you your own 25 percentage of the $126 million in trunk, which is placed in safe U-Store-It storage place in Red State. I know from reading Boodles you are honest persons and would kindly accept to help me obtain trunk with $126 million in it. After you help me to receive trunk with $126 million, I also would like your assistance and warmly advice to investing money in stocks, bonds, real estates, and so fourth, as I know nothing of these matters. (However, I am interested in several recent Silicon Valley IPOs, as well as a diversified portfolio of no-load mutual funds combined with several low-ante hedge funds, and one or two undervalued blue chips that have outperformed their benchmarks). But as I have say, I know nothing of these things so your advice for which I pay you also 15 percent is much desireable to me, as well as to your own benefits.

I know your Boodle hearts is good and I trusting you to saving me, not like that scheming Hal person, who is not invite to help me obtain trunk with $126 million from Red State. You know drill: sending me all your telephone numbers, bank accounts, credit cards, etc. so I am verifying your sinceritude in helping me to obtain trunk with $126 million from despicable Red State.

In most gratitudes,

Kermoo John
Somewhere in Blue State exhile

Posted by: Kermoo John | April 26, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

A funny review of "Lestat" on Broadway, and not a positive one.

Submission for jw's Quote of the Day:

"..., as Lestat sucks on,..."


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm rooting for Kat, cause I like her voice, AND she makes Ryan look ridiculous when stands next to him towering over is shortiness.

Now can any one answer my question about updates to the AI webpage, or am I the only one who even visits the place?

Posted by: omni | April 26, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

and also cause I think she's really pretty.

Posted by: omni | April 26, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Kermoo John... you had me at 'hello.'

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Well guys, gals, it's time for me to wrap up my work at home day. The kids are getting home from school and I need to do the Daddy thing. My wife had jury duty again today so I missed another chance to have sex in the office. She's in the same building as the terrorist trial. Same batBuilding different batJury. Thank Goodness.
See ya all tomorrow...

Posted by: Pat | April 26, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Hey, even Hax will say that there's nothing wrong with checking other people out--as long as that's really all you're doing.

Posted by: jw | April 26, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Kermoo John (ahem)-

Please to be accepting names, SSNs, and PayPal account information that I have muchly been collecting in exchange for $126 million?

Would you consider this Deal or No Deal for junk in trunk?

Beta Carotene

Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

*mourning the demise of the boodle*
poor, poor dead boodle!

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse


Apparently I'm always missing chances to have sex in the office. How was I to know?

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

ok - i booo'd AGAIN! something is wrong with my refresh - i keep hitting refresh - seeing no posts and close out and go back in - see no posts and assume boodle is dead... i am a maroon...

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Warmest regard to maroon:

Please accept apology as you do not know me, but to write I am to you, so that perhaps you can help on a difficult matter ...

Posted by: Kermoo John | April 26, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

darn john! if only you had gotten to me this am - i already got into a partnership with a gentleman who had written me from Nigeria - seems there's some money in a bank in switzerland that a relative of mine had opened and then died without next of kin! how amazed was i? well, he's promised to help me get the money for a small cut... i'm shocked to get two offers in one day! but i thank you for your generosity and wish you luck! i'll be the millionaire sunning on the coast of cancun!

Posted by: mo (maroon) | April 26, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

the death rate in your family is truly appalling, do you happen to keep poultry in the house (or hut) ? Maybe, just maybe, the avian flue has made it to Nigeria...

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 26, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if a lot of bloggers are going to quit. Tapper is mysteriously hiatussing. Various bloggers are getting book contracts. You had that piece in Slate by the blogger who quit. Now here's a City Paper piece on Ms. Cox, the writer formerly known as Wonkette, saying she needs to get back to blogging because her mainstream essays aren't good:

This would be a good subject for a kit on a day when I am not taking a chain saw to reams of badly written copy.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 26, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Note to Pat and TBG: Your chances for sex in the office go up considerably if you don't require a party of the second part.


Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

joel - the problem with blogging is that it's HARD! i also wonder how much really personal information i want to share with strangers who may (or in most chances with my blog may NOT) be reading - also, i have to be discrete b/c of my job... and i'm not a good writer - and i have add - and i don't use punctuation correctly or caps... *sigh* and i'm pretty darn boring!

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

mo - Hey at least you get to have a blog...

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Pat first:

"Why is Helen Keller's leg yellow?"
"Because her dog's blind, too."

I don't get the "visual acuity" thing too much, because I wear glasses, but I've heard the "your other senses become sharper" myth.

I tend to think of in terms of weaker, less reliable stimuli coming to the fore of your consciousness in the absence of the strong stimuli. For instance, I once learned the kitchen door was opening because I'd see the kleenex in the box jerk from the gust of air that I couldn't feel. I would then see people enter from the kitchen. I learned the association unconsciously.

But "kleenex alert" is not applicable everywhere nor in the dark. So it's very limited.
I am aware of shadows, and will respond to that, but frankly, hearing footsteps behind me would be more reliable every time.

I guess I do pay more attention to various stimuli in other senses because I don't hear people yakking in my ear all the time, but it does not, and cannot replace hearing.

Deaf people have a good awareness of body language, but without the ability to interact fully with the person, they are limited to guessing at what the body language means and trying to accumulate social skills from experience.

So for instance, I was uncomfortably feeling that a teacher I had once had a serious illness of some sort, because I had a teacher who acted like that before she died. But under the rules of society as I understand it, I can't ask a person if they are struggling with a serious illness out of the blue. What if it's just a different kind of stress?

One thing I use heavily is my memory when it's working, pattern recognition skills, to figure out what should be going on without feedback from other people.

I think it's quite the same for blind people, because of all the unreliable sounds that could mean many different things, depending on context.

Om, back to dogs. When you think about it, dogs are continually guessing at what we want and what they should be doing if you don't actually tell 'em what to do.

RD Padouk's dog sounds rather friendly.
She could calm down a LOT with some basic obedience and the family applying consistent calming behavior every time.

Barking is a call to the pack. It can be social, but usually can means
"Oh beejesus here comes this big person and I'm a little dog, and I need to get a big person over here RIGHT NOW."

The dog is not aware there's anything wrong with his barking. It's just what he's always done and the family's always been fine with it ;).

One method to debark a dog that SHOULD work for a terrier (I don't know for sure!)

1) Work on the behavior you want instead of barking. Do this in a quiet place.

Be consistent. If you want the dog to come and sit by your side, maybe nose your leg to communicate the news a stranger is coming, train that behavior on command, name it with treats. You need to also have a release command-- "Okay boy, all done now" to let the dog go to greet the person if you like that.

You need to always end on a success if possible. If a dog fails, you can't let the dog remember the failure, but do it again and help the dog do it right step by step with lots of treats and praise so the dog feels very successful and remembers that the most.

So train the behavior first, quietly. Train the sit by the side first, then the call to the side on command. Practice this behavior in front of family or friends until firm.

If door manners are a problem:

He is not allowed to greet family or friends (firm rule) unless he does this behavior first, and has gotten released from it.

Leash him at all times if need be, until he has this cold.

Then you set up one or more scenarios with 2 big bad strangers to the dog.

Before they come, interact with the dog, distract, as normally as possible, with lots of treats or toys.

I had my dog in a down right before the dog is aware of the stranger, feeding him and feeding him, if he got up, I'd just correct gently and coax him to keep eating. It usually breaks the bark hysterically habit, and that's the chink you want... the dog having the memory of staying calm just once.

That's good... when the stranger leaves (keep it very brief and successful), tell him good boy and then go do something else fun.

Your body langauge is very important. Act calm, and the dog will be calm, because you are the leader (right?).

Okay, second scenario: Again, you have arranged so you are aware of the stranger coming before the dog is.

This time, just wait until the dog is aware and then immediately command the behavior, once.

Praise for the behavior if he does it immediately, (great dog!) then repeat the command and hold him by your side as you slip him treats in a steady stream... have a dozen in your hand, feed one by one..(tiny ones!)

Keep him in that position. Act calm as you talk to the stranger, a brief greeting.

If he did great, that's enough for the day. You can practice another day with a new stranger to be sure you both remember what to do.

If he didn't do too well, walk him away from the stranger, immediately. Try again in a short while once your dog calms down. Then put him in the position and try again with the stranger.

No scoldings needed.

I had a very bad time for a bit because I would forget to train my dog on behaving around family and friends.

Now I have to remember he can't rush to meet friends until I say he can, he can't get free pets until he has done at least a sit or a down willingly and does not act overly rowdy.

So it's a matter of discipline with him because he is definitely the kind of dog that will test what I mean if I fail to be consistent.

Hope this helps, RD Padouk... if nothing else your dog will enjoy the treats.

And by treats, I mean something really good-- not dry biscuit, liver, tiny chopped meat, tiny pieces of boiled egg.. the kind of thing he NEVER gets given.

You will find your dog looking at you with utter devotion. Enjoy it while it lasts ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 26, 2006 3:52 PM | Report abuse

SCC "Do not use dry biscuits, BUT tiny pieces of liver, meat, hard boiled egg-- the kind of thing a dog never gets given."

Hot dogs slices are OK, they're popular.

However, my dog prefers tiny diced chicken, and it's less salty too for the dog.
I've never met a dog that didn't like hard boiled eggs (although they can constipate a dog).

Use what your dog dies for, is basically the idea ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 26, 2006 4:01 PM | Report abuse

dr, late to the boodle today, but am here to take my well deserved lumps regarding that dang hockey game.

I must now return to crying in my beer.

Posted by: jlessl | April 26, 2006 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, my genetic disorder is probably more akin to yours than to Waardenberg syndrome. My disorder is a variant form of a variable, common, but underdiagnosed syndrome.

Alas, I am not odd-eyed, striped, white or grey-headed, nor wide-eyed. My mutant forays do not include visible changes in color (except for freckles).

From the clues you're dropping I am actually guessing something like Paget's disease or Osteopetrosis in your case, but those two are probably too "common" (hah) to be your disorder.

You said something about kidney and compared your disorder with dysosteogenesis, which makes me think of osteopetrosis (which is also overgrowth of bone), but so many kidney diseases can affect bone.

The chinese have a saying "Kidney rules the bone" in recognition of this.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 26, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

"hiatussing". Nice.

I guess the larger question is: What is blogging, from a literary perspective?

Some folks document what they think are interesting occurrences in their lives, or what they think is interesting about themselves.

Some use it as a short free-form newspaper column - observations, thoughts, reaction, etc..

Others use it to manifest clever, interesting ideas or humorous bits.

But does good blogging (whatever that is) mean that a given writer has skills that translate from blogging to, say, newspapers, magazines, or books?

A good writer *is* a good writer.

To dip into bc's Big Steaming Pot 'o Bad Metaphors for a second, let's agree that figure skaters and NFL Offensive lineman are athletes (they ARE athletic).

An 6' 4" 340 lb. OL's strong suit is not going to be getting into a skimpy outfit and trying a triple toe loop on center ice, any more than you'd want a 5' 100 lb. waif (of solid muscle, no less) trying to stop a defensive end on a bull rush.

Both the lineman and the skater need training, physical skills, dedication and the mental capacity to adjust to changing situations in order to be successful, but neither is suited for what the other does. Even though they're both good athletes.

Blogging may not be for everyone, just as writing books or newspaper content (ahem) isn't.

The preceeding message is brought to you by Faulty Thinking.

Posted by: bc | April 26, 2006 4:28 PM | Report abuse

did a little googling and now see what the big fuss about KatCleavage is:

Achenara, see ya tomarra.

Posted by: omni | April 26, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

is anyone else having problems with their refresh on here??

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Back to trains. The only place that Amtrak really serves is the northeast. Aside from the problems with lateness, the problem with service in the rest of the U.S. is that the network is too sparse to make reasonable connections if you are going North-South or vice versa.

My retiree father wanted to take the train from El Paso to Salt Lake City, which is just about due north. He gave up when he was told that he'd have to change trains in either San Diego or Chicago. There are no North-South connectors in between. If you do not drive and you want to see the country, the train is a much more pleasant experience than the bus. Would that it went somewhere we want to go.

Posted by: mmcjprof | April 26, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse

jlessel we were extremely civil neenering above. Might be my turn next time. Just think positive, at least there is beer at the end of this.

Posted by: dr | April 26, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

oh my, omni, link was quite disturbing. First time all day I've thought about sex. Only 64 more times to go. Looked like she was nearly ready to spill the beans, metaphorically speaking. OK, that's 63 left. And why is that blog called "whizbang"? (62 left). And who is the person in the red dress on the home page? (61), and why is mo have trouble with her refresh button? (60) And while we're on the subject...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 26, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Bloggers are part of the modern landscape and as a group are here to stay. I know the boodle is chock full of bloggers, and I've seen some of their websites and it's all very cool.

Having said that, there's nothing quite like actual payment for services to sort the wheat from the chaff. After all, with respect to the 6'4" 340 lb NFL OL, take out the "NFL" and he's just a really big dude who likes football.

For the Achenrecord, I think that many bloggers are excellent writers, or quasi-columnists, or observational diarists.

I hope we're not getting too far ahead of the kit-to-be-named-later, because this is an interesting topic. I am really curious what drives people to make the leap from occasional postings to having your own blog (presumably unpaid).

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I wanna play Faulty Writing Analogies, too!

Let's go with BC's example.

Could bboth figure skaters and linebackers do nicely in martial arts given some training?

(Mind you, my money'd be on the figure skaters to learn the necessary skills quicker).

And it is quite likely that linebackers might have the better skills for baseball than figure skaters-- the stop and go action, teamwork, and the patience for endless ump arguments, for one thing.

Now for my analogy! A lil' lead up...

I once talked to a jock who was NOT handy at all.
I asked, "but what's the difference between swinging a hammer and a bat?"

It was like asking "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" from his expression.

"I don't know."

My bet is that the REAL reason is that hordes of people don't cheer when you hammer that nail home with a hard line drive.

Novelwriting is a lot like carpentry... not much cheering going on in the process.

While with blogging the feedback is fairly quick.
With journalism, feedback is medium-fast. So different temperaments are gonna do better at different things.

I'm straining through a Dickens Novel: "Bleak House" and once again I notice every chapter is nearly a character sketch, a complete scene.

So the book has an infinite number of scenes and I'm getting a little lost in the endless "hark, see the mastiff sleeping" bits. So I am breaking up the reading.

I've always wondered whether Charles Dickens has many blind fans or not-- his books seem to be half description.

From what I learned in English class, Dickens wrote his novel week by week, every chapter or three printed in a magazine and he could see his fans lining up at shops for the next chapter.

He'd have liked blogging.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 26, 2006 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - Thanks very much for the tips. At least we have a strategy now. I'll update you in a few months about our spectacular progress. (Ya hear that little dog - SPECTACULAR PROGRESS....)

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, great posts.

This business about hypersentitivity of other senses when one is gone is very resilient. It is played up recently in the movie "Ray" on the life of Ray Charles (I'm thinking of when he hears the hummingbird).

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse family moved to columbus,wi in 1967
where i was able to see firsthand the end
of THE MILWAUKEE ROAD passenger train era. was still possible to see HIAWATHA
train sets as they had looked in the 1950's
with SUPERDOME cars and the raymond loewy
designed glass enclosed OBSERVATION cars...
...that era came to an end in the early
1970's with the advent of AMTRAK and the
OBSERVATION LOUNGE cars were removed from
...30 years later the united states is now
seeing firsthand that the love affair with
the automobile came with price tags that
only now are being seen and felt...the road
building of the 1950's and 60's having not
ever solved fundamental capacity issues...
at it's best in sparse population areas and
at it's worst in high population areas... after the last 10 year binge of suv
and pickup trucks $3 dollar a gallon fuel
is getting the attention of many who maybe
never went thru the first oil crisis(1973)
or simply decided to forget about it...
...bush2 has pretty much spent the last 5
years doing little or nothing about real
changes in american patterns of energy use
...basically his take has been to preach
the drill for more and nevermind that talk
of using less or driving smaller,less fuel
using vehicles...and he has been rewarded
for his expansive use it now view...he is
...trains can be third world creatures of
miserable existence or up to date fleeting
and smooth in form and performance...
...american examples of rail travel are for
most now either commuter centered or the
less than sparkling intercity attempts that
AMTRAK barely holds together...
...perhaps with better and more forward
thinking americans could have done better
with modern surface rail travel...the costs
of not doing so are only now going to come
into view...if a quarter of all federal
spending on defense had been invested into
modernization and upgrading of rail travel
in the usa since 1975 all americans could
have been now fully aware and proud of such
look forward thinking...sadly that did not
happen and now must make do with freeway
laced urban centers and the sprawl of
suburban spread that are often not at all
connected to reduced fuel usage needs... will take leadership of a sort the
usa may not be able to find to work out
the fiscal and social equasion of 21st
century american transportation issues...
...sadly other parts of the world have
waded into the same in
thailand fuel cost increases are very
threatening for many...and yet bangkok,the
once "venice of the east" has become a
traffic snarled bowl of freeways,toll-ways
and traffic clogged streets...air quality
is awful...and the congestion literally
translates into linear parking lots during
parts of the day...with the costs of fuel
now only bringing on more acute problems...
...the SKYTRAIN and newly built subways are
steps in a better direction...expensive to
build with long lead times but certainly
worthy of being repeated to help bangkok
become more liveable...
...americans will need to evolve to better
thinking on where to spend money...more
aircraft carriers and jet fighters or a
better urban and suburban transit setup...
...more interventionist acts in oil lands
or a firm decision to slow the demand and
use what is available more wisely... 1955 the united states had for that
era state of the art rail equipment and
operation can only hope
by the year 2055 that the united states
will have invested in and advanced it's
surface/rail travel venues to reflect what
is now possible in europe or parts of asia takes leadership and foresight
to move ahead...and a will to put money
into longterm public improvements...not
silly "earth day" moments or shallow public

Posted by: an american in siam... | April 26, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

argh! this is getting frustrating!

Posted by: mo | April 26, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Come on guys! I want to hear more cool train stories - and I'm tired of stories about how great the scenery is! LOL

Posted by: Don | April 26, 2006 5:43 PM | Report abuse

bc... please note that Pat is the one of us who reads with his hands.

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

On the one local hand...
(since americaninsiam mentioned fuel cost increases...both stories reported in today's paper)

Jeorge Zarazua
Express-News Staff Writer

BEEVILLE -- Texans don't like to be messed with, especially in this rugged South Texas county not far from some of the state's major independence battlefields.

So, it was only a matter of time before Bee County Judge Jimmy Martinez said someone had to stand up to tackle a national epidemic striking at the heart -- and pockets -- of local residents: Rising gas prices.

This week, Bee County became the first in the state, **possibly the country**, to pass a resolution asking motorists to boycott fuel pumps beginning Monday.

County elected officials said they would ask others in the state to follow suit.

But the boycott call is targeted only at Exxon Mobil gasoline until retailers agree to drop the price to $1.30 a gallon. Martinez said he's especially miffed about reports that former Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond received a retirement package worth $400 million.

The median annual income here [southeast of San Antonio] is about two-thirds of the state average of almost $40,000. Many can't even afford to travel to nearby hospitals for treatment, he said.

while on the other hand locally...

Vicki Vaughan
Express-News Business Writer

Tighter gasoline supplies and stronger refining margins helped Valero Energy Corp. log record profit in the company's first quarter, the company said Tuesday.

San Antonio-based Valero, the nation's largest refiner, said net income rose to $849 million, or $1.32 a share, compared with $534 million, or 96 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.

"We had the highest first-quarter earnings in the company's history," Valero CEO Bill Klesse said, "and the outlook for the rest of the year is even better."

Klesse added that Valero's big, geographically diverse refining system is paying off, as the company earned record profits despite extensive maintenance at its refineries in Texas City, Corpus Christi, Krotz Springs, La., Memphis, Tenn., and Aruba during the quarter.

Valero's earnings were reported on a day when President Bush announced he would suspend regional clean-air specifications for summer-grade gasoline and halt deposits to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve this summer.

In a conference call with analysts, Klesse said that although the company is "very supportive" of Bush's actions, he doesn't believe much can be done in the short term to increase the gasoline supply.

Indeed, higher prices haven't dampened Americans' thirst for gasoline, with demand up 1 percent year to date.

Posted by: Loomis | April 26, 2006 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod's dog training method is exactly right. I haven't had a dog for a long time, but when I was training one, the advice was "do NOT use food to train, the dog should obey out of love for you and a desire to please."

I soon found that my dog would rather obey and love an Archway Grandma's Oatmeal cookie. Broken into eight or ten dog bites, I could usually count on one (or maybe one and a half) cookies to teach one command.

Yes, it should have been more healthful food, but it was particularly good when the dog learned more quickly --- I could eat the remainder.

Posted by: nellie | April 26, 2006 6:50 PM | Report abuse

nellie - I like to put myself in the dog's place. Imagine we were "kept" by super-beings who fed us nothing but nutritionally-correct people food. (You know, like high-fiber tofu.) In such a world it would be hard to overstate how cooperative I would be for a Grandma's Oatmeal Cookie. (Even more for the lemon ones...)

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 26, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

RD --- and wouldn't you dream of the day they filled your water bowl with a nice cabernet?

Posted by: nellie | April 26, 2006 7:15 PM | Report abuse

For a bowful of cabernet and a Duncan Hines Chocolate Lover's brownie, I think I'd happily do my owner's laundry, clean their house, and walk myself on those cold winter mornings. I'd even happily allow myself to be -- you should pardon the expression -- fixed.

Posted by: Snarky Squirrel | April 26, 2006 7:22 PM | Report abuse

I think I'd rather be a cat substitute. Most of the perks and none of the expectations. Snarky can do the tricks; I'll be over on the couch looking disinterested.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 26, 2006 7:29 PM | Report abuse

But first before the dog knows what you want, you gotta get his attention, then teach him.

Do your kids obey you out of love? Well, yes... but there are going to be times that your kid is going to plain disobey you because the kid has something he wants more at the moment.

Do you say "If you really loved me, you'd do the dishes every night?" to your significant other?

Why should a dog be expected to understand that love= living up to all the expectations that he was not even told about, even when it's not fun and he might say "if you really loved me, you'd let me pee on every tree in the world, because I LOVE THAT!"

Right now, clicker training is in vogue. Before that was motivational training (food/treat based)... and before that was Koehler punitive-based training "Fear of God" obedience... apparently they used ear pinches to teach retrieves. WHAT IS THAT?

You don't need a clicker to clicker train. It's just a version of operant conditioning.

First, you teach the clicker sound (or "good boy!") means a treat is coming. This does not always have to be food.

Depending on the situation, it's a reward-- letting the dog sniff pee mail, play with a toy, greet people, and so on. The key is to find something the dog wants.

It requires a lot of thought about what the dog finds rewarding.

I found operative conditioning theory to be the most useful for helping me work through complex training issues.

One thing positive reinforcement teaches you to do is to look for what you want to reinforce-- i.e. what is the correct behavior you want and will consistently reinforce, why, and when. And what are the steps in that behavior? Also, the theory says "train the last behavior first. It builds confidence if the animal is moving towards familiar behavior. It's not obvious, but it works.

I probably could have used this when I was doing light switch work. My dog got up on the wall just fine, but he had problem hitting the light switch because he couldn't see it under his nose, and he had problems doing the motion correctly.
Had I trained him on the light switch on a floor, he could have mastered where it would be.
As it happened, my dog pulled a MacGyver and brought me a rubber cap from a toy. I put it on, and it was large enough for him to find and grab, and after a few times, he knew what to do for the final step.

Then he was able to do the light switch without assistance.

So that is an example of why "final step first" works. If you want your dog to be sitting by your side, you train the side sit-stay on command.

(By the way... the 4 D's of a stay:


You are right by the dog in a quiet place. The dog is likely on leash. You encourage the dog to keep in a sit-stay with praise and food and repeating the stay command. Then you tell the dog a relase command and praise him.


You move around the dog, close by, you put your leg over the dog, do anything and silly. The key is to teach the dog that he must wait until you say time's up, and then he can move. Whenever the dog breaks the sit stay, put him back in the same sit-stay position, same spot. With good timing, the dog catches on after 1-2 times that he has to sit-stay. Once the dog is successfully ignoring distraction, finish up quickly with release command, praise and treats.


You increase the distance slowly in the sit-stay. This has to be on leash at first.
If the dog breaks the stay, corect, and keep at it until the dog is comfortable having you a full leash's length away. Success! Reward the dog.

Later on, you can repeat distance for more duration, and distraction.

The last D is "Diversity". You do this in as many environments as possible so the dog is used to staying on different surfaces, inside and outside, with different people around.

This is how you get a dog from "yeah I heard of sit-stay, what of it?" to actually obeying consistently ;).

Anyway, after this big STAY skill:

You want a good recall on command, and all the other components of the behavior, then put them together, come and sit, and get the chain longer until you're ready for the moment where the dog sees the stranger and goes all anxious, you tell him the command and he goes, oh, I know what that is, that's easy and goes and does it.

Once you have clear expectations of your dog, a lot clicks in place.

For teaching tasks, I prefer to use target training-- it's natural for an ASL user-- The system I am trying to learn uses something called an intermediate bridge. which is kind of "yeah, you're doing right, keep going."

The trouble with clicker training is that you say "good boy!" and the animal will stop and wait for a reward. And if the animal is confused, you have no way to nudge the animal in the right direction.

So training can go slow if you're not sure how to get the animal to understand what you WANT. Also, the animal learns subconsciously through simple association, like I learned a jerking kleenex means somebody is coming in. No thought whatsoever.

Again, think of what behavior you WANT from your dog, not just what you don't want.
Too many people go "my dog jumps on people."

Well, hello, if you just simply tell your dog to go to a down-stay in a place where he can watch everybody and reward him by calling him for pets, the dog won't be jumping on people, getting yelled at, and thrown in a room where the dog is barking hysterically because the dog has no idea what the ruckus is except that the stranger must be all to blame.

...Jumping tends to be a way to try and test strangers, as well as solict rough play-- so my preferred stay position to correct this is a DOWN-stay. That is a submissive position, and also very hard to jump up from-- unlike a sit.

I always put large dogs in a down around small children. It's safer, it teaches the dog his role to the child, and it prevents the dog from knocking the child down, and teaches the dog to relax and calm.

I don't think this is your dog at all, RD Padouk, but I will add one comment about dominant dogs.

A dominant dog MUST be obedience-trained-- it will help change its attitude.

A dominant dog will have great difficulty obeying the downstay, precisely because it is a submissive position. This skill MUST be drilled throughly until the dog does it, no excuses, first command, the dog doesn't stall or ignore.

Serious professional advice is mandatory... make it good advice. Yhe right advice should involve "no free lunch" or "work for food", and should not involve punitive techniques.

This "work for food" is basically positive reinforcement, with no option to disobey. The dog doesn't get dinner if they don't obey a sit and lie-down. Simple as that.

Also the trainer will look at the problem behavior and probably tell you that dogs DO NOT get to pick when they play or when they get petted, go out doors first, and so on.. all that is dog for "prima donna".

These unfortunately are a very bad match for owners who lack assertive traits and consistency. They need firm obedience training and an owner who understand dog behavior, and often wind up in shelters. But with the right owner who TEACHES them they can be fanastic dogs with a huge spark for any task they do.

Now, most dogs actually suffer from lack of confidence. Submissive urination, barking when a stranger's back is turned, and shying from people. They need different techniques that focuses on building confidence and various skills, always positive.

One easy way is to be sure people always have treats for the dog-- strangers always giving the dog treats. In that way the dog learns all people are nice. You can specifically give people food to give to the dog if you don't want the dog blimping up from junk food.

Also, obstacle training and Agility can be really good for building a shy dog into a sparkler. Kind of like outward bound.

My old dog was kind of fearful, and I remember she was totally convinced she couldn't jump a huge garbage can I had put down for her. I was. It took a few times of run throughs before she finally took the plunge and-- jumped it cleanly. She was shocked. I took her around again and she did it again.

After that she would freely jump smaller items anytime. I also had her on various obstacles. It helped her confidence a lot.

An objective eye can tell you how to tone down your body language or habitual patterns if it's throwing your dog off.

A common error is petting a nervous dog-- it reinforces the anxiety rather than calming it. It's better to walk the dog away from the stimuli and then take additional steps to calm the dog as needed.

If you had just been scared, say, nearly being in a car accident-- that's NOT the time to be cuddled and told poor baby.

You need to be out of the experience, then accept comfort later when calmed down... that reinforces the "you're safe" feeling rather than the scary feeling.

Wow... dog training is soooo lengthy to explain.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 26, 2006 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm back after tax season. This is a long kit and boodle, but about trains, a favorite subject. I grew up in a town where the *400* went by everyday 1/2 block away. We used to put pennies on the track to be flattened, before it went by. Now, I occasionally ride a commuter train and consider it a great way to go someplace.

I don't know how I'll survive the new rules and all but see that the boodle is still steaming along after the kit. I read your kit, Mudge, about the signal flags and really enjoyed it, plus the Ed Fitz takeoff song by SonofCarl but haven't caught up on much else.

Spring is coming to the boonies and the corn is being planted.


Posted by: boondocklurker | April 26, 2006 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back from your tax cave boondocklurker.

My bro-in-law is a self-employed CPA/tax-preparer. Even though he works in the basement of their house, I don't think my sister and the kids see much of him from Christmas to mid-April. I think he slept from last Tuesday until yesterday.

Too bad you had those two extra days this year. Everyone in the US except for the tax-preparers were thankful for those extra days.

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 8:56 PM | Report abuse

That's a lot to read, wilbrod.

Didn't mean to offend about the "men looking at women" thing, just thought it was really funny.

And they called those trains going north/south that stopped in my town, "chicken bone specials" because folks traveling on those trains usually had chicken in those bags, leaving chicken bones in the trash. There were several passenger trains that came through daily and at night. It seems so long ago. Sometimes the trains had to stay for hours because of repairs, and folks would get off and spend their time in the station or at the diner in the station. The diner was owned and operated by a Greek. So many people made stops there, not only passengers from the trains, but folks from the surrounding towns too. It was the only place that stayed open all night, and there was someone always there, no matter the hour. Just a real busy place with the trains and people coming in for food after partying all night. Now the place is so empty and dead, not a person, no diner, all one hears is the noise of the freight trains. It's like a ghost town. The hustle and bustle, the sounds, the life, the movement, the faces, the smell of coffee and food, all gone. The station has been recreated to its original beauty, but without the trains it seems lost. I miss those trains real bad.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 26, 2006 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, it's funny that you mentioned the Greek diner because my dad tells me the story of how he traveled back to DC from San Diego after WWII (he was in the navy) and the train took about a week, stopping in little towns along the way, sometimes for hours at a time. He managed to score a berth in one of the only pullman cars, pulling rank even though he was a something like Chief Petty Officer, but it was apparently enough.

There was always a Greek diner near every station they stopped at and Dad would seek it out and be treated, as another Greek-American, like a long-lost son. Often they would try to fix him up with a daughter.

He always got a great meal and just general family treatment. He said that a couple of times they sent him back to the train with a case of beer.

He said that trip was one of the best times of his life. He was returning home after a war, seeing the country, just enjoying being a young man on the eve of his life. (He didn't know at the time that the best was yet to come!)

Posted by: TBG | April 26, 2006 9:36 PM | Report abuse

it must be nice to live in the northeast corridor where things run on time! for my senior trip we took the train from kentucky to NYC. our train was supposed to leave the station around 7 am, so we were there around 5:30 or 6 to do a baggage check and to make sure everyone found the place on time.

said train departed my home town at about 10:30 that sunday morning -- three and a half hours late and about five hours after we arrived at the one-room station house.

from there we only proceeded to become even further behind and almost missed our DC connection. after that, however, we made it just fine, arriving in NYC sometime around 3 the next morning -- nearly 24 hours after we had first gathered to leave. if the rail system worked everywhere as well as it works up there, i would be all for it. as of right now, unfortunately, i just can't support it here.

Posted by: quietone | April 27, 2006 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke asked (many hours ago), "how many times a day do our distaff Boodlers appraise the males in their midst, silently or otherwise?"

Speaking only for myself here, but I don't usually find myself appraising and appreciating total strangers, only males I know. It's the total package that interests me, not just the physical body. Maybe that's a difference between men and women, or maybe it's just a difference between me and someone who's more inclined to appraise and appreciate a variety of strangers he or she encounters on the street in any given day. Maybe a bit of both. (Im trying to avoid generalizations here -- not all differences are gender related, although I do realize that men tend to be visually stimulated whereas women are more likely to be led by their emotions. And I admit that appreciating one individual fully is probably more of a betrayal of one's partner than appreciating 50 to 65 attractive strangers in passing and then forgetting about them entirely. Probably more flattering to the object of the affection, though.)

I'm reminded of the film "Eyes Wide Shut," directed by the late Stanley Kubrick. Throughout the film, the Tom Cruise character meets and appreciates many beautiful women, some of them naked, and almost has sex with a prostitute before his cell phone rings and duty destroys the opportunity. In fact, he seems to have many opportunities during the course of his day-to-day life, and often it's only circumstance that prevents him from taking advantage of these opportunities. His wife, played by Nicole Kidman, finds herself in far fewer such situations. She is propositioned by one man at a party but laughs off his advances, explaining that she's married. During a heated argument with her husband about some women she saw him with at the same party, she tells him she once became infatuated with a stranger who looked into her eyes in a hotel lobby while the couple was vacationing and that she couldn't stop thinking about him. She admits she would have given up everything -- even her daughter -- to run away with this man. ("If you men only knew . . ." she says.) Understandably, the Tom Cruise character finds this revelation to be very painful. (What's he to do with the information?) In another scene, the engaged daughter of one of Cruise's dying patients tells him she's in love with him, which he finds totally shocking -- he has barely given her a second thought.

Again, it raises the question of which type of behavior is more of a betrayal to one's partner: the physical interest in multiple women on the man's part, or the more emotionally intense interest in one other man on the woman's part. Maybe both behaviors are equally hurtful, but in different ways.

And is all this life-affirming, or depressing? Maybe both.

[At the end of the film, both Cruise and Kidman experience extreme shame and regret over their behaviors, and their relationship is ultimately strengthened.]

Posted by: Achenfan | April 27, 2006 1:39 AM | Report abuse

Someone mentioned jury duty. That would make a wonderful boodle topic -- I was just on a jury for four days this week and last. That's a super inkblot test.

Regarding petrol prices, does anyone recall "The Natural History of the Automobile" by Ivan Illich which I think was a book, although I can't Google it anywhere. I remember hearing it read aloud on ABC radio in Oz, 15 minutes every day, in the 70s. That was before Illich became known for "deschooling".

Posted by: jg | April 27, 2006 2:20 AM | Report abuse

Thanks TBG for the welcome back. The two extra days this year for filing taxes helped avoid a few more extensions, but it is nice to only work 8-9 hrs a day instead of 12-18. The night owl thing is hard to break. It will probably take me until next tax season to catch up on all the kits and boodles I missed. I guess I better learn to skim, like Joel.

I was on a jury a couple of times and the first time was an eye opening. It is amazing what one learns about the American Justice system. I agree it would be a good topic for a Kit and Boodle.


Posted by: boondocklurker | April 27, 2006 3:38 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. I'm up, and really feeling sad this morning. Feel like crying this morning, but I've laid it at the feet of Christ, and I believe with all my heart He will work it out. Have a good day, and know that you are loved by God through His Son, Jesus.

Joel, I'm wondering if it is possible to get a tee shirt. I've seen in comments where folks talk about a tee shirts at th e porching hour? I would really love to have a tee shirt if one exist. I think this blog of yours Joel is a wonderful gesture, and you're not so bad yourself (smile). And the good folks that stop in and comment are the best.

I've read this morning here at the Post that Iran is really doing the "I don't care, I'll do what I want" conversation, and I wonder is this going to be a real bad problem? The thought of Iran with nuclear capability is frightening to say the least. Is it just talk or is there something really there? Can they back up the talk?

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 27, 2006 5:03 AM | Report abuse

Good thread. Took the train into Memphis, then hitched a ride on the Pony Express to the Bluegrass. I stand to be counted among those Knights who say "neee". I plan on winning the Kentucky Derby from off the pace. There are five rabbits this year, but we Cali kittens love the fast track dirt that first Saturday in May, and I dig in. If not I, Point Determined, then my Baffert brother Sinister Minister will win in gate-to-wire fashion exploding by lengths from the outside three wide out of the second turn, should speed prevail.

All in all balancing the five rabbits (which would go against the relay race composite strategy to beat the singled chalk-eating favorite were that there were a dominant 3 year-old) and weighing the contenders based solely on speed factors, with six or seven out of twenty to handicap a winner therefrom, Sharp Humor who was second by a neck in the Fla. Derby to the undefeated Barbaro, is a good value bet with probable morning line odds in the range of 15-1 or 17-1. Barbaro, undefeated, will bring odds in the range of 7-2 to 4-1. But, boy, did they race close at nine furlongs, whereas the Derby is ten.

There a lot of statistical geniuses on the Achenblog, but a racing form is not enough, if only because it provides too much information with respect to an actionable handicapping angle. Wheat from chaff: examine size of field of past performance winners and track conditions - trudge in the sludge sloppy track winner in the Wood Memorial, and the field plenty scarce for prep races in the Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, and Santa Anita Derbies, fielding between 5-8 runners, whereas the extra furlong added distance Run for the Roses hosts 20 runners, the best 3 yos du pays. This time The Race in the Sport of Kings is more competitive and friendlier to handicappers than anything since 2002.

To single a winner before knowing post positions and final jockey connections would be foolish. But the field is thick. 7-8 horses are in shape to win. All things being equal, if Sinister Minister comes off at greater than 10-1, put some dollars down on him in the win-place. The field needs to take shape and the post positions have to be known before getting crafty on the exotics. But watch out for the West Coast ponies on that fast dirt at Churchill Downs.

- Free advice from a five-meet-in-the-black amateur horseplayer who gives ESPN, TVG, and the Cartoon Network equal time on the boob-tube.

Posted by: Point Determined | April 27, 2006 5:10 AM | Report abuse

cassandra, cheer up! I can hook you up with a t-shirt. Email me your mailing info and what size/color you want (easiest colors: newspaper gray or the infamous lime green, but other colors are also possible).

Posted by: kbertocci | April 27, 2006 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, Karen (kbertocci) is the source of the shirts and she will fix you up nicely. I have one, and it is draped on my bulletin board at work, near my Carbucks mug.

I will post a kit later this morning. Political this time.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 27, 2006 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Having grown up in Mt. Prospect, Ill., a lingering memory was of the hazards of going over the tracks at the Chicago-Northwestern train station. About the only o[pportunity we had to do so was on the occaision of piano lessons, as mandated by Mom. My brother and I (my borther leading, of course) soon drove the piano teacher to insanity and she refused to instruct us...thus ended the adventures over the tracks.

Posted by: jack | April 27, 2006 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Amazing how much Point D can put out with the hunt-and-hoof method...


Loomis, thank you for the observations, but I think I was aiming more for the literal mirror-image behavior from the Boodlettes. Do your collective mental eyebrows never go up when the occasional Vin Diesel walks by? (yer welcome, mo)

And Cassandra, speaking as one informed on the basics but uninformed on the specifics of what Iran actually has, I have to say Tehran's statements are primarily bluster for their internal audience, to distract them from the less-than-prosperous conditions created by that theocracy.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2006 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Are you talkin' to me? Are you talkin' to ME?!?

Posted by: Achenfan | April 27, 2006 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Hey, where's yellojkt?
And Bayou Self?

Posted by: Achenfan | April 27, 2006 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Today is "Take Your Child to Work Day." My two children are going in to work with me for a few hours.

The Republic Will Survive.

I hope.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 27, 2006 8:38 AM | Report abuse

There are little ankle-biters running all over the place here, and the ate all the good stuff in the cafeteria!

Posted by: jw | April 27, 2006 8:43 AM | Report abuse

You train-lovers are crazy. I used to take the train from DC to Chicago to visit my girlfriend, but it takes 10 times (literally) as long as flying, because the train is always 2 hours late. Plus, it's just not cost efficient, especially if you want a sleeper car. Flying is usually the same price or slightly more expensive, but talk about value for money!

As for trains in Europe, they're even less reliable and even more expensive, not to mention the competitio: the ultimate in cheap transportation, RyanAir!

Sorry, trains are a thing of the past, except for the wealthy, it would seem.

Posted by: SOCO | April 27, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

jw - "little ankle-biters"? Ha, ha. Hadn't heard that one. Thanks for the a.m. chuckle.

Posted by: jlessl | April 27, 2006 9:17 AM | Report abuse

are not
are too

are not
are too

are not
dee two


Posted by: omni | April 27, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

took me 47 hours and 43 minutes to come up with that one.

Posted by: omni | April 27, 2006 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke, Vin Diesel no, Jean Luc Picard, yes.

Posted by: dr | April 27, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

You tawkin to MEEEE????


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2006 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Frankly, I'd rather look at Patrick Stewart too.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Achenfan, I appreciate your observations and your perspective on the man/woman thing.

I think that this is an area where we are so fundamentally different that it's difficult to comunicate clearly with folks that don't share the same perspective.

I suppose all we can do is tell the truth as we see it and deal with that.

For the record, I do not care who or what my wife looks at. If she locks eyes with someone and continues thinking about them, I can't control that. Honestly, I expect that to happen from time to time; she's only human, and neither of us are perfect. Either our relationship can withstand our imperfect humanity or it can't. So far, so good.


Posted by: bc | April 27, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke writes:
Loomis, thank you for the observations, but I think I was aiming more for the literal mirror-image behavior from the Boodlettes. Do your collective mental eyebrows never go up when the occasional Vin Diesel walks by? (yer welcome, mo)

I'm not sure what your first sentence means. What observations--about trains and oil prices? You want to know if I can become visually aroused by a visually arresting male (like mo and firemen)?

Of course. Having been an art major, some of my favorite classes were life drawing--both the female and male form. It's a challenge catching and capturing on paper or canvas proportion, shape, volume, and the harder details like feet, hands, and face. And I mean capture in the classic sense, an idealized beauty of the body, as portrayed by the Greeks, Romans--even Leonardo da Vinci, before modern art movements and painting methods (such as pointillism) began to play with or distort the human form.

Since I'm not much of a television watcher (Wilbrod, I missed all refernces to Northern Exposure, having seen it maybe once or twice and I have a very limited knowledge of who Van Diesel is--in general not preferring the uber-muscled), I'm not so much attracted to flat-screen personas, prefering to eye-rove in everyday life. I think because of the art training, I look a great deal, but am extremely discriminating as far as what really pleases me.

And there are two huge caveats. The first is that spark that must be in the man's eyes and personality--that life or animating force that must rivet my attention. The second and more important feature or factor that can usually be discerned in five minutes *or less* in a man is what happens when the man opens his mouth to speak.

If it's just looks that one is after, then I tend to label that male as a poster boy or catalog material. Eye candy, but an empty shell.

For myself, I find that I always want the creme de la creme--I want the good- or pleasant-looking man who can engage me mentally for days on end. Personality and brains figure into looks.

That's when the neurons in my nervous system really start firing--that's when my mental eyebrows start knitting furiously.

Posted by: Loomis | April 27, 2006 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm betting Joel Kits about Journalistic Integrity and the Snow Job.


Posted by: bc | April 27, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Achenfan pegged it, I think...

Highway to the Danger Zone:

And I admit that appreciating one individual fully is probably more of a betrayal of one's partner than appreciating 50 to 65 attractive strangers in passing and then forgetting about them entirely.

and probably nailed, as did Kubrick (didn't see the move "Eyes Wide Shut") the crux of the situation between the sexes:

Again, it raises the question of which type of behavior is more of a betrayal to one's partner: the physical interest in multiple women on the man's part, or the more emotionally intense interest in one other man on the woman's part. Maybe both behaviors are equally hurtful, but in different ways.

I think the bumper sticker I saw inside the historic (small, cramped, crowded, funky) Winsted, Conn. diner says it all: "Lord, please don't lead me into temptation. I can find it easily enough all by myself."

Posted by: Loomis | April 27, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I think one of most interesting things about this whole train boodle is how spoiled we in the NE corridor are by relatively good train service--and how bad it seems to be outside that corridor.

Good national train service may indeed be "a thing of the past," as SOCO says, but it doesn't necessarily have to remain that way. (Not that I expect the current WH incumbent to fix it, of course.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 27, 2006 9:50 AM | Report abuse


Random car question. The oil-change interval for my car is 10,000 miles (that's assuming you use VW-502 certified synthetic).

Now given that a lot of my driving is of the frustrating DC-area variety, should I drop that down and change the oil at 5K? We're talking and extra $50-$60 or so each year for a filter and 5 quarts of Mobile 1 so there isn't really an economic reason not to, and yes I realize I'm answering my own question.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Posted by: jw | April 27, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Amen, LindaLoo! Give me a man who can think and treats people well over eye candy any day of the week!

Posted by: slyness | April 27, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Dunno, bc, Joel might kit over the FEMA thing. I'm really fascinated by this morning's article--the Senate is saying not only that the Bush Admin actually screded up--but even worse, they took a perfectly good organization that was working fine and had a good rep--(i)and they actually broke it beyond repair(/i). That is REALLY saying something.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 27, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

SCC: screded. Or screwed. Take yer pick.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 27, 2006 10:07 AM | Report abuse

A man's intelligence, and curiosity, and tolerance and awareness of all sorts of people is much more sexually attractive to me than is his being handsome. A man who is engaged in the world and its events is the man that makes my pulse race.

And to the much younger women out there--have patience--good men do improve with age. They decide that having a female partner that might not be the prettiest, but is intelligent, sensitive and caring, is much more important than what they "thought" they wanted when they were in their teens and twenties.

I've been married, and divorced twice, with a long interval in between the two marriages while I raised my two children, now grown, alone, and successfully. So I speak from experience when I tell you that I have many male friends, some of whom would like to have it become more serious and I just tell them honestly that would be a good way for the friendship to be ruined.

Posted by: aroc | April 27, 2006 10:08 AM | Report abuse

amo jr is here with me @ the power plant, today. She is great at letter-folding and envelope-stuffing. She is 8.

We'll be going on a tour at 11:00am and then lunch at 12:00pm.

Posted by: amo | April 27, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

And don't forget that a man standing at a kitchen sink, talking to you about your day, with his arms up to there with soap and the pile of clean dishes bigger than the dirty ones is much sexier than Brad Pitt* any day -- or night -- of the week.

And to see a man emptying the dishwasher, too... Oh my gosh.. be still my heart.

*But maybe not Paul Rudd.

Posted by: TBG | April 27, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Hey! With all this talk about sensitivity versus eye candy, doesn't PERKY count for anything? Some of us are sensitive AND eye candy AND perky, all at the same time, ya know.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 27, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

mo--be honest, how happy are you that Kellie Pickler is gone!!!

Posted by: jw | April 27, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse

jw, as bad as I feel, I really had to laugh at that description, "ankle biters", never heard that one before. My uncle used to call children, "crumb snatchers", the man had no children. But he was good to me and my sisters and our mother.

Thanks, Joel and Karen.

Appreciate your getting back with me, scottynuke. Even if it's just bluster, it is unnerving. I can't imagine these folks with nuclear weapons, they love killing, and since they kill each other, I don't see them hesitating to kill Americans, who they seem to hate with a passion. Excuse the spelling.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 27, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Was FEMA working? How hard had it been tested prior to Katrina? I mean I know there were some bad things happening in the last few years, but did they test Fema like what Katrina and all of last years hurricanes evoked? It was not just one storm, but multiples last year, close together and hot on the yeels of the previous years problems.

From a hurricane perspective, last year was cummulatively worse than anything recorded that has gone before. Perhaps that should be in the last hundred years.

Posted by: dr | April 27, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Scc heels

Posted by: dr | April 27, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

'Mudge, you are right on target about FEMA. I was at a conference several weeks ago with some folks in the upper reaches of the fire service in North America, and the consensus of that group was that FEMA should come out of DHS and be a cabinet-level agency, as it was before. The deputy director of FEMA spoke, and he had harsh things to say about the current state of affairs. In fact, I think tomorrow is his last day on the job, he is so frustrated at the mess. Here's the ultimate irony: FEMA has good, competent people who are prevented from doing the necessary job by the politics above them. Man, I'm ready for 1/20/09 to be here!

Posted by: slyness | April 27, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

RD- I think it's so great that you're taking your kids to work with you. You sound like a good person. I certainly hope they enjoy it.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 27, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

dr, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 exposed problems with FEMA that James Lee Witt, Clinton's director, was able to correct. It was a well-functioning agency until W's minions destroyed it.

Posted by: slyness | April 27, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Hey, jw, I don't actually watch American Idol (I don't think I can afford to destroy any more brain cells), but I have to say I avidly follow Lisa deM's columns about the show, and I'll really miss reading her deliciously catty hits on Kellie.

Does anyone else think that selecting a new press secretary with the last name of Snow reveals a hitherto unsuspected sense of ironic humor in our president? Nah, me either.

Posted by: Snarky Squirrel | April 27, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

dr: In 1996, the Mississippi River flooded for most of its length in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and parts South. FEMA's response was quick and comprehensive. And, they were very influential in persuading municipalities to toughen up their zoning standards to keep people from building (or rebuilding) in the "100 year" flood zones.

There were hurricanes during the Bush I and Clinton Administrations, and FEMA was largely uncontroversial because it did its job well. Katrina / Rita were exceptional storms, and no one could have expected FEMA to obtain the same results. Still, it most definitely could have done much better.

Posted by: CowTown | April 27, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

The problem is that FEMA was never designed to be the actual responder. They wrote checks, provided training, coordinated logistics, etc. That's why the M stands for "management." Notice they aren't called the Federal Emergency RESPONSE Agency. In the last few years DHS has tried to make FEMA something that it's not, when what they really should have been concentrating on management.

There's a great system called the Incident Command System, which operates on the principle that you don't need to bring responders--they're already there in state and local agencies. Instead, people are trained in pre-defined positions, so that when the system is activated, you have a command structure which everyone understands and can follow. This never happened, because while in theory it sounds good, no one (like the LA governor) wanted to actually turn over control and give up power. So instead of a unified command, FEMA ended up having to deal with separate agencies that were still following their individual chains of command rather than the ICS chain of command as the system was designed. Not the only problem in Katrina, but definitely a major one.

Posted by: jw | April 27, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

So, jw, we're back to blaming the governor of Louisiana. Somehow I don't think that's what the Senate report is going to say.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 27, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm not blaiming her, I'm just saying that she resisted turing over control. I think I even read a quote where she said something along the lines of, "I had no idea what a Unified Command was, and I didn't want to give up command of the National Guard."

Posted by: jw | April 27, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

But that was 14 years ago, and 1 major disaster level hurricane hitting the coast (there were other storms in the same period but much smaller scale).

I am just wondering about the cummulative effects of the last several years of disasters. 2004 was a very bad season for much of the gulf coast, and 2005 worse. Does the cummulative effect play into how much work Fema was able to do. And how much of the after disaster stuff relates directly to the city issues of New Orleans. Last year was complex, and I guess I find myself wondering about all the contributing factors. I'm not disputing Fema did a bad job at all, but just am trying to understand what other factors contributed? It just seems that if all that is looked at is the politics of the thing then part of the picture might be missed.

I only see headlines and what is online about the whole FEMA problem, so my query is missing a whole lot of stuff people with real paper access already know.

Posted by: dr | April 27, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

jw, exactly so about FEMA not being a first responder sort of agency.

And Boodlettes, I agree with everything you say about what's really important in appreciating the opposite sex. Easy on the eyes is nice, easy on the heart is rare and to be cherished and protected.

I'm just lucky enough to be with someone who's in the intersection of that Venn diagram. :-))))))))

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

And, not to be cynical, but even if the LA governor was 100% responsible, the Senate would never say that. People want heads to roll, organizations to change, and that means blame has to be at the Federal level--would anything be changed by blaming Mayor Nagel and Gov. Blanco? I think that's how it should be. If Nagel and Blanco failed, it wasn't in their leadership, it was in their lack of coordination--and that ultimately was the responsibility of the Feds.

Posted by: jw | April 27, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

In mo's case, it would be a Vin diagram.

Posted by: Achenfan | April 27, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

*Faxing gold star to A-fan* *ROFL*

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2006 10:55 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!!!

And you were right, bc. Sort of. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

jw, that explains a lot. The 96 flooding took place in a lot of very industrialised areas, good road access, good equipment on hand, lots of highly motivated people on hand who don't go through this a lot.
The Gulf coasts has a lot less industrial activity outside of the major centres, and people who after the last several years must be worn out with major disaster affecting their lives. Did this and does this affect a lot of what is happening now with respect to how fast the cleanup began and how the ongoing work is done?

Posted by: dr | April 27, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

dr, I think any reports that come out of Katrina are going to be impossibly complex--I mean, if you wanted to, you could construct a "fault tree" and at the very bottom of that tree would be the decision to settle New Orleans in the first place. And there are branches on that tree for everyone-the Army Corps, state and local governments, even the people themselves who, through years of conditioning, decided it was ok to stay and ride out the storm (and yes, I'm aware that many people couldn't have left if you wanted to). It's an enormously complex problem to decide who is to blame and who *should* be blamed. It would be an understatement to say that blaming people who chose not to move loved ones out of the city in advance of the storm would not be productive in the least, but their share of blame is real nonetheless.

Posted by: jw | April 27, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

According to the FEMA site, 1996 had the most declared natural disasters in the past ten years. There were 48 in 2005, including Katrina, so it's not like FEMA just had a lot of plates in the air. I think among the "other factors" influencing FEMA performance were (a) what jw identified above, and (b) the fact that FEMA was made part of DHS, and (c) had inexperienced managers running it.

Posted by: CowTown | April 27, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I gotta update my blog that the Threat Condition is now Yellow.

jw, you did answer your own question about the engine oil. Regular Mobil 1 does have a marked breakdown in viscosity after about 6,000 mi or so, though not enough to be a problem. Your mileage may vary.

And as much as I like Achenfan and Kubrick, I found "Eyes Wide Shut" to be the most interesting movie of 1960. I didn't connect with any of the characters, and found the juxtaposition of 1960 story and 1990s graphic imagery to be offputting. But that's just me.

I feel compelled to add here that I have sole dish duty in the house. Along with a lot of other things...


Posted by: bc | April 27, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

But jw, it can hardly be Blanco's fault if she never heard of the Unified Command thing. If FEMA is supposed to be about "management," as you claim, would part of it's job be to brief EVERY governor about how it works and what to do when the ---- hits the fan? Personally, I don't think governors should be turning over command of their national guard troops to just any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Michael who comes along and says, "Hey, I want to borrow your army -- and sorry for the short notice."

The issue is not and never has been whether or not Blanco and Nagin screwed up and how much. They did. But FEMA was the NATIONAL agency RESPONSIBLE for coordinating the subordinate jurisdictions.

This is just more dodging of responsibility. When you are the outfit that is supposed to run something, you don't complain that people aren't listening to you. You fix it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 27, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra. I am a good person. I tell that to everyone.

The BYCTW day went pretty well, although my son kept trying to poke into places he wasn't supposed to go, and my daughter got overwhelmed from being around so many people. Nevertheless, they both said it was fun, and they didn't cause any major international incidents.

Plus, they thought it was way-cool that we have our very own Burger King.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 27, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: mo | April 27, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Pity it's so expensive!

Posted by: Dave Smith | April 27, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, you never rode the morning commute trains while at Princeton. No the trains are not punctual, nor are they impervious to the weather. Wet leaves have slowed many NJ Transit and Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor.

What is worse? Being stuck in an airport concourse or sitting next to someone who had a garlic-laden lunch while stuck in the Hudson River tunnel.

Trains could be a great way to travel, but not here in the US.

Posted by: Jon | April 27, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Trains are great! If they'd only get the fares into the reasonable range (make them cheaper than air fares), I think they'd find a whole new generation of riders. As it is, there's not many bargains to be had.

Posted by: Job | April 27, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

OK, this is now my favorite blog of any anywhere in the cyberworld. Where else can you reminisce about great train trips, bash Bush, read a great St. Vincent Millay quote and get a recipe for oatmeal bread?

You folks do tend to stray from the topics a bit, but like my dogs, you're adorable strays. ; )

Posted by: wenholdra | April 27, 2006 3:21 PM | Report abuse

It seems a little late to return to trains, the putative subject of this Boodle, but I must toss in a reference to Ashland, VA, known to East Coast train travelers as the first place you see out the window south of Boston that isn't an industrial slum or piney-woods swamp.

The grandest houses in the town, Victorian mansions known locally as "the painted ladies," line either side of the tracks. The residents actually find having zillion-ton freight trains rumble by 20 feet outside their living rooms endearing, although they do spend an inordinate amount of time straightening pictures on the walls.

I lived in Ashland for 27 years, a block from the train stop (the station was closed in the 1970s), a location that allowed me to walk to New York.

Ashland, 75 miles south of Washington, is one of the best places in the country to take photos of trains, if you're into that sort of thing. In July and August, the sublime local tomatoes (Hanovers) can be purchased at the farmers' market behind the town hall, a block west of the tracks.

Posted by: allbetsareoff | April 28, 2006 1:29 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: mo | April 28, 2006 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Way late for boodling, but another great train song is Scott Miller's "Amtrak Crescent". There's a link to a video that includes part of this on his web site:

(Beware the language, NSFW with the speakers loud....)

Posted by: Les | April 28, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Trains are inherently safer, cleaner and cheaper than any other form of transportation aside from walking. But this country has skewed priorities. Railroads pay for track maintenance and dispatchers. Taxpayers subsidize the airline industry: FAA provides controllers and local governments provide airports. As far as being on time, tell that to the air passengers who regularly have their flights canceled with no recourse but an expensive and dingy airport hotel and a 24-hour delay.

Bring back trains. Yes! And steam engines too!

Posted by: TR | May 1, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: mo | May 1, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Maybe someone has already pointed this out, but I think the cliche "the trains run on time" is not generally used to describe successful societies. It's used to describe fascist societies, especially Mussolini's Italy. Although, apparently, this was a myth:

I love trains too--just thought it was worth pointing out.

Posted by: reader | May 4, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

My freind has ridden and trains and planes before.She told me that whenever she flew,it was pure misery.She always had to wait for the slow planes,the airlines were always crowded with hot,stale air and hardly ANY legroom,and the seats were small and very uncomfortable.The airlines also took FOREVER to get to their destinations-she said she could've gotten there faster by driving or taking a boat or train.The scenery was just the same boring clouds for hours and hours.
But whenever she took the train,she was happy.Spacious train cars,wonderful meals,no hot stale air to breath,plenty of legroom and nice,comfortable seats.The scenery always changed and never stayed the same,and the train always got to its destination pretty quickly.

Everyone-take my freind's advice-turn your backs on the very slow airlines with the hot stale air,and start taking the train'll find that once you've ridden the train a few times,you'll never want to experience the misery of flying ever again.

BTW-I've heard that planes drop out of the sky frequently,while train crashes happen once in a blue moon.So,you are safer on a train that a jetliner.

Posted by: Snake | May 11, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Hi! Very interesting! pbtoknbgj

Posted by: John S | June 30, 2006 8:29 PM | Report abuse

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