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Why Bridges Fall Down

They had a useless civil engineer on the Today Show who offered no insight whatsoever into the horrible collapse of I-35W in Minneapolis, and we're hearing contradictory (and defensive) statements from the Minnesota officials about whether the bridge was structurally sound ("While there were concerns about fatigue cracking, the engineers did not [determine] that dramatic action needed to be taken," [Gov.] Pawlenty said"). The Star Tribune quotes a former transportation official wondering if the vibration of the train underneath combined with vibrations of traffic on the bridge to trigger the collapse.

From a distance -- and this is obviously just a guess at this point -- it looks like a simple, tragic case of aging steel succumbing to gravity at rush hour. Too much weight. Look at the photos: Multiple large trucks were on the bridge doing repairs to concrete and guard rails. There are 18-wheelers, a dumptruck with gravel, a cement mixer. When did the collapse happen? At the very peak of rush hour, a few minutes after 6, with lots of people heading to the Twins game. A 2001 evaluation reported that the bridge had early signs of fatigue in the steel trusses. A 2005 federal report said it was structurally deficient. Exotic explanations (terrorists!) aren't necessary.

An aging country full of aging infrastructure and no consensus to do anything about it: That's the United States in the early 21st century. An old steam pipe explodes and creates a crater in midtown Manhattan. The Minneapolis bridge was distressingly average -- 40 years old. The norm, nationally, according to WaPo radio, is 42 years.

From USA Today: "The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed over a five-year period to modernize the nation's water systems, dams, runways, roads and bridges but that only about $1 trillion is being invested."

From the American Society of Civil Engineers website:

"ASCE's 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure indicated that between 2000 and 2003, the percentage of the nation's 590,750 bridges rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete decreased slightly from 28.5% to 27.1%. However, it will cost $9.4 billion a year for 20 years to eliminate all bridge deficiencies. Long-term underinvestment is compounded by the lack of a federal transportation program."

More numbers here:

"The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) strategic plan states that by 2008, less than 25% of the nation's bridges should be classified as deficient. If that goal were met, 1 in 4 bridges in the nation would still be deficient. There were 590,750 bridges in the United States in 2000; however, one in three urban bridges (31.2% or 43,189) was classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, much higher than the national average."

When you go through life you have to assume that bridges won't collapse, planes won't fall from the sky, buildings won't catch on fire, power lines won't fall onto the sidewalk and electrocute pedestrians, steam tunnels won't explode, and so on. Otherwise you'd go crazy, crossing your fingers ever time you took a step. [Actually I do that compulsively, but medication is helping.]

But for those systems to work, there have to be people who design them properly, inspect them, maintain them, and replace them when they're worn out. We don't typically know who these people are. We have to trust that such people are out there, looking after our interests. Are they? [Or does the money in the huge Transportation bills go to projects that maximize profits for special interests, Halliburton, Friends Of Ted Stevens (FOTS), etc.?]

Officials in the Metro Washington area tell us in this morning's paper that they're confident that the bridges are safe. I wouldn't be so sure. This area, like many places around the country, has a lot of old infrastructure. I spend a lot of time driving over Chain Bridge, the first bridge ever built across the Potomac, and rebuilt many times since that first 1797 structure. The pilings date to the Civil War. I don't think it's been rebuilt significantly since the 1930s. Here's a picture of a recent work crew.

The city's water comes to DC in an aqueduct built in 1853 and using the same, beautiful stone bridge to cross the gorge at Cabin John.

Much of the city's sewer system dates to the 1870s, when Boss Shepherd decided to do something about the swampiness of the capital.

Mayor Fenty was refreshingly candid this morning on WaPo radio: He said he's going to triple-check all the bridges. Then he talked about the old public schools, where students are supposed to go back to classes in a few weeks in baking heat without hardly any air-conditioning. Worse, Fenty said, the schools don't have the electrical systems capable of handling new air-conditioners. You could put in window units all you wanted, but they wouldn't work with the wiring in those old buildings.

The first parent meeting at my daughter's public high school was in the library and it must have been 90 degrees in the room at 7:30 at night. No way anyone could learn in that.

One basic rule of life: You get what you pay for.


Marc Fisher weighs in via the magic of our internal messaging system:

"If anything, the mayor, even with his refreshing frankness, is being a bit too optimistic. does the district, like maryland, exceed federal requirements and inspect all of its bridges every year rather than the every two years that the feds demand? Are the District's inspectors testing the supports on bridges for stress? How closely are the fatigued points along bridges examined? Are they x-rayed? I wouldn't worry quite as much about those sturdy stone bridges from the 19th century as I do about all those steel bridges from the 1950s and 60s that were designed to last only 40 or 50 years."

Via the boodle, here's some infrastructure news from Canada.

And a primer on infrastructure.


Stephen Baker at Business Week says Washington may be the right town for Web 2.0 (thanks for the link!).


More on infrastructure: Here's Stephen Flynn at Popular Mechanics saying pretty much exactly what I say above, except he actually knows what he's talking about:

" In January 2007, Kentuckians and Tennesseans woke up to the news that the water level of the largest man-made reservoir east of the Mississippi would have to be dropped by 10 ft. as an emergency measure. The Army Corps of Engineers feared that if it didn't immediately reduce the pressure on the 57-year-old Wolf Creek Dam, it might fail, sending a wall of water downstream that would inundate communities all along the Cumberland River, including downtown Nashville.

"The fact is that Americans have been squandering the infrastructure legacy bequeathed to us by earlier generations. Like the spoiled offspring of well-off parents, we behave as though we have no idea what is required to sustain the quality of our daily lives. Our electricity comes to us via a decades-old system of power generators, transformers and transmission lines--a system that has utility executives holding their collective breath on every hot day in July and August. We once had a transportation system that was the envy of the world. Now we are better known for our congested highways, second-rate ports, third-rate passenger trains and a primitive air traffic control system. Many of the great public works projects of the 20th century--dams and canal locks, bridges and tunnels, aquifers and aqueducts, and even the Eisenhower interstate highway system--are at or beyond their designed life span."


Science bloggers getting together. Where's my invite? (Shunned again.)

This Deep Sea News blog looks fun.

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 2, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake
Next: Bill O'Reilly Ankle-Bites Chris Dodd


Scary stuff, indeed.


Posted by: dbG | August 2, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Chain Bridge was overhauled in the late 70's. Made my commute terrible

Posted by: Tonk | August 2, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Civil engineers are among the lowest paid of the engineering specialties. Salaries are very low because most work is performed either directly or indirectly for the government and they bid out the design just as they bid the actual construction.

Most firms that do government design work have a high proportion of foreign born engineers because of the low pay. Firms owned by immigrants often have the inside track due to the way minority and small business set asides are defined and administered. We are indirectly outsourcing our infrastructure design. Sorry if that sounds all Lou Dobbs, but I'm just describing the situation.

Also, civil engineering isn't very sexy. One dig is that mechanical engineers design weapons and civil engineers design targets.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

First rate Kit, even though I'm not first.

I've been thinking a lot about infrastructure lately. As a city we have a brand new fire hall/community center to maintain (and the $6,000 mortgage payment to go with it, and that's a BIG deal). We have very little to deal with in the way of street maintenance, but what we do have could crush us. Nearby cities are worse off as they have city water and sewer systems that need substantial upgrading/repair.

I wonder how these little towns ever had the money to construct the city systems in the first place. We certainly couldn't afford it, even though not having a city water and sanitation system makes us ineligible for a lot of programs that could ease our substandard housing problems.

Posted by: frostbitten | August 2, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

It's not just infrastructure.

One of my tires has had a slow leak for, oh, six or eight weeks. This morning I found out why. As I was getting ready to fill it, I noticed what looked like a small rock in a tread.

It wasn't. It was a roofing nail, with the head all beat up.

It scares me to think about having driven through the construction zone in the mountains on that. God does take care of us. At least sometimes!

Posted by: Slyness | August 2, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

yello, so sorry to hear about your grandmother.

Posted by: Raysmom | August 2, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if the DC schools could hasten their upgrades for AC installation and more efficient heating systems if they also served as heating/cooling shelters in times of extreme weather. As we look at our local school, built for 160 but serving 20, thoughts like that do come to mind.

Posted by: frostbitten | August 2, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Infrastructure problems are everywhere in the country and, as frostbitten says, states must pony up at least some if not all of the cost of maintenance and repair. In the last couple of years Oklahoma has concentrated on repairing our many check dams in small streams and ponds. As terrible as the flooding was earlier this summer, it would have been much worse had not those check dams been in place.

For several years city and state leaders have worked with the feds to decide what to do about the stretch of I-40 that runs through downtown Oklahoma City. I won't go into the details of the plan, which are controversial in some ways, may have been affected by local politics and money (no! really?) and will directly and adversely affect rail transport through the state. However, they should do something soon. When Ivansdad & I moved here several years ago, we decided not to drive on that bridge unless absolutely necessary. Chunks of concrete would fall randomly from the bridge's underside. We don't want to drive on something homeless people won't sleep under.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 2, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Americans are terribly crisis driven. It's the only way, evidently, we can get a consensus. So I see this as part of a process. Two or three more massive disasters and suddenly it will be Job One.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 2, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Is that, along with the Bush administration, the bridge to the 21st century?

Posted by: Herman Krieger | August 2, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

"One basic rule of life: You get what you pay for."
WHAT! ARE YOU IMPLYING THAT WE SHOULD (shudder, wipe brow) RAISE TAXES? That would be calamitous! All our small businesses would have to move to China or the owners, and their employees, would starve to death! You can't imagine the ruinous effect this would have on our economy. Just think what would happen to the fabric our society if we had to actually PAY FOR the things we use, like roads, prisons, police, and lottery commissions. And, BRIDGES, why do you liberals insist on building bridges everywhere? Haven't you profigate spenders heard of BOATS?
This is MY money, and you liberals can't have ANY of it. It's MINE. All mine. Mine.


Posted by: CowTown | August 2, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Most schools designed well into the late 1960s did not include air-conditioning. Plenty of geezers out there will start grousing "Well, I didn't have air conditioning when I was a kid and I learned plenty just fine." Back in the day, the school year didn't start in the middle of August and last until the end of June. The lack of AC in schools affects districts with the oldest physical plant disproportionately. These districts also often have the lowest tax base. In our testing mad world, students in a comfortable climate controlled building will do better than kids in a hot drafty building. Would you work in an office without AC? Why would you expect your children to?

Adding air conditioning to a school is a multi-million dollar renovation that includes not just the air conditioning but also affects the plumbing, power wiring, ceilings, and windows. The electrical service is often the biggest road block. Adding power to a school is a major upgrade. Window shakers are the cheapest quick fix but are the most energy inefficient. A school board that does a cheap and dirty upgrade will pay for it in increased utility bills forever. Energy efficient and sustainable systems are design intensive and expensive to install.

//climbing off soap-box

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

"We don't want to drive on something homeless people won't sleep under." Sadly funny Ivansmom.

I've put off work long enough. Today's project is finishing a grant application for an after school program.

Posted by: frostbitten | August 2, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

>Here's a conundrum for the ages: if I have come down with a rhinovirus, is it possible for a rhino to come down with a curmudgovirus?

I've never heard of that, but some lawyers have curmudgoplasty for professional reasons.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 2, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Joel, that photograph you claim shows a recent work crew is obviously bogus. If it were a real photo, it would show three white guys standing around a hole in the ground and drinking coffee while they "supervised" a black guy down in the hole with a shovel doing actual work. You can't fool us *that* easily.

I, too, heard Fenty say all our local bridges were safe this morning. But as much as I like Fenty, I'd like to know why a honking big piece of concrete fell off the bottom of the overpass over Rt. 395 at 7th Street a couple months ago, narrowly missing a car and bringing morning rush hour on 395 to a dead stop.

The biggest problem with aging superstructure is our local, state and federal governments won't pony up adequate budgets to maintain/repair/replace, and are especially too chicken-s--- scared of doing so because of the GOP hysteria over "raising taxes," and "big government," and all that crap. Thank you, conservative Republicans everywhere. You're doing a great job running our governments and un-air-conditioned school systems. You selfish tightwad b@st@rds.

Sometimes the solution to a problem is to throw money at it, blasphemous as that might sound.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 2, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

yello-very good observations about school buildings. It really irks me when people try to compare per-pupil expenditures then say school system X should be doing getting better results out of its students "Why look at all the money they're spending!" Is all the money going out the uninsulated walls and drafty windows?

Posted by: frostbitten | August 2, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Yello, an architect told me, once upon a time, that buildings are supposed to last 40 years. That makes sense, when you think about it. After four decades, it's time to redo all the building systems - HVAC, electrical, plumbing, roofing, windows, etc. We've about done it all at our house, built in 1963. In big buildings, it can't help but be terribly expensive.

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother and hope the family can keep her at home and comfortable for her remaining life. Hospice is one of the greatest medical innovations of the last quarter-century. (I think I've said that before.)

Posted by: Slyness | August 2, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

That's right, yellojkt, and as Joel notes, in buildings from at least the '50s and back, the electrical capacity won't accomodate window units, much less major upgrades. This also makes computer use difficult -- you can donate all the computers you want to a school, but if it doesn't have the electrical capacity to handle them, the kids can't use them. Many of our neighborhood school buildings date back at least that far.

Several years ago Oklahoma City decided to tackle their huge school infrastructure problem. A coalition of business, city and community leaders worked with the school board to propose a special local sales tax, with the proceeds to go to school infrastructure improvement and maintenance, as well as the construction of new and replacement schools. It passed. While the devil is always in the details, the program is working and is a nationwide model for improving schools through public and private partnership. The physical plant problems are accompanied by a separate project track focusing on instruction and curriculum. Leaders recognized that the school problem had to be addressed as a whole. As the Man says, kids won't learn in stuffy, hot rooms no matter how good the curriculum and instruction may be.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 2, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I have a remedy, Mr. Curmudgeon. State legislatures should simply re-title all infrastructure projects as "border walls" designed to repel illegal immigrants. Never mind that some of these "walls" are to be laid sideways and will span rivers. Republican support will be immediate and quite generous.

Posted by: CowTown | August 2, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Well, but you know the neocons wanted the war. Does anyone realize what infrastructure, what medicine, what services will be impossible because of the billions spent for armaments and personnel for this war?
Ah, but the neocons wanted war. And they want more, too.

Posted by: fadeo | August 2, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

That's brilliant, Cows. And we could label all bridges and overpasses as "hardened" overhead bunker systems as part of the Star Wars missile defense shield the Bushies want. We could insist that every bridge and overpass have a little side room built into the abutment where citizens (not any of them there immigrants) could take shelter in the event of another al Qaeda attack.

And you can darn sure bet al Qaeda doesn't *want* us rebuilding our infrastructure, no sir!!!

[Gad, thinking like Karl Rove makes my brain hurt. I gotta stop this before I give myself a brain tumor.]

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 2, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Seeing the footage of the fallen bridge this morning, I thought of Henry Petroski's insightful "To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure In Design." and also of the times, some years back, I'd motored across that same bridge, assuming that it was as stout as any. Or as it needed to be. As our host noted, we go through life expecting bridges to stand, airplanes to stay aloft and so forth and we're disconcerted when they don't--forgetting that there are larger forces at work on them all the time, subtly (or not) undoing the work of engineeers, builders and maintainers.

Posted by: hdware | August 2, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Our problem locally is almost eveything is done on the cheap--and it does make one wonder where the money goes.

The biggest complaint of mine/ours about our city is low-water crossings. Around the city roads follow the contours of the land. It been obvious--oh, since about 1836 or better--which gullies or ditch areas flood and how much. Roadways could have been built to be elvated for short stretches, but, no, builders at the time just plunked asphalt down willy-nilly as the city and region were developed in patchwork fashion. So every time we get a good rain, lots of distress calls go out to emergency services for high water rescues. Only lately, are the people who drive around the barricades legally punished by being billed back a cool $500 when fire departments and EMS teams are called on. But intelligent street, road and freeway construction could have eliminated--and could continue to do away with--all this rescue brouhaha, both staffing and expense.

The I35 corridor is another example. The NAFTA corridor runs through San Antonio and Austin, added greatly to the congestion of these burgeoning cities. Even our newest freeway is only two lanes in both directions--real lack of foresignt, given the numerous building permits handed out. Perry and his gang have proposed a Trans-Texas corridor for vehicles and rail, but it involves seizing land by eminent domanin from farmers as well as employing a firm from Spain to do the contruction--neither of which is at all popular. So we in these two cities experience horrendous traffic jams--Austin all day, and we at rush hours.

Then there's the Medina Dam west of us, that the Army Corps of Engineers thought might collapse with the record rainfalls in July 2002, our most rainy July ever. Cracks were fixed, but we just had our second rainiest July in recorded history, but nowhere near the 2002 mark. The dam is still standing and getting older by the year.

We went out to a new state recereation area about five miles west of us on my birhtday in May, a Thursday. We were turned away because Texas State Parks has only enough money to keep this new park open Friday through Monday, so we drove an hour further west of us to another longer-established state park.

Joel's Kit raises many important points as well as questions. I'd say Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty and the feds have a lot of 'splainin' to do.

Posted by: Loomis | August 2, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

*blushing prettily* Thanks Joel.

Posted by: Yoki | August 2, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

And did you guys catch this, from the story on the FDA bonuses?

"Glavin, an English major who rose through the ranks of the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service before joining the FDA in 2003 as assistant commissioner for counterterrorism policy, collected $44,614 in bonuses in 2006 alone, according to the records. That accounts for 11.1 percent of all the cash bonuses exceeding $5,000 that were awarded to her entire 3,500-employee Office of Regulatory Affairs."

An *English major* was FDA's assistant commissioner for counterterrorism policy? And now she's chief of regulatory affairs?

Hmmmmmm. Wonder if she was a Bush appointee...?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 2, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad someone else noticed what a nitwit that civil engineer on the Today show was. When asked what could possibly have caused the collapse, he replied (almost a direct quote here), "Well, it could have been one thing, or it could have been another, or it could have been a combination of things." I don't blame him for not knowing, or not going out on a limb speculating, but I think news producers should check to see if their hastily assembled "experts" have anything useful (or even coherent) to contribute to our understanding.

Posted by: tedaco | August 2, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, while we're talking about infrastructure and doing things on the cheap, let us not forget a place called New Orleans, with its inadequately designed, built and maintained levees under the watchful eye of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Oh, and the wonderfil job the Bush administration has done putting the place back together since Katrina.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 2, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse


Good luck trying to raise taxes past Republicans who didn't want to pay for infrastructure in the first place.

The USA is sooooo turning into another Brazil, or some other sh*thole 3rd world country. We have a wealthy elite that doesn't want to pay for anything! Any! THING!

Posted by: the real tony | August 2, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I propose that Congress enact a law suspending the law of gravity, at least until we can save up enough money from our International Bake Sale to pay for bridges, dams, etc. This would keep various infrastructure elements from "falling down," and obviate the need for new taxes, which is the bane of all Republicans in the galaxy.

Posted by: CowTown | August 2, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

>Why Bridges Fall Down

Because falling up would require FAA approval?

Posted by: Error Flynn | August 2, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

It's freakin awesome that we spend tens of billions of dollars in Iraq each month building (and blowing up) roads and bridges yet here at home our own infrastructure is falling apart. I'm glad W is such a forward thinker that he has us mired in Iraq for the next several years while nothing whatsoever is being done to overhaul our aging transportation and power infrastructure. Heckuvajob W!

Posted by: dan | August 2, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

The Post will have a real Civil Engineer discuss the collapse in a few minutes. As a product of Penn State from back when it was a blue-collar university, I do recall that civil engineering students were viewed kind of patronizingly by the CE and EE types. The university president was an EE, of course. He doubled the size of the university and developed its very own equivalent of a community college system--kind of an early example of a very practical engineering approach to higher education.

Florida is relatively lucky in that the old drawbridges in coastal areas have mostly been replaced, and urban growth has been fast enough that older bridges and such tend to get replaced. Right now, St. Augustine actually has a temporary drawbridge while the old downtown Bridge of Lions is being taken apart and replaced.

The state government, already on a tight budget, is facing huge cutbacks because not enough tourists are visiting, while the house-building industry has pretty much collapsed.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 2, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

One of the very surprising things about China was how modern and large the highways were. The airport for Xian is about 40 miles out of the city and there is a huge lightly traveled interstate quality highway going to it. It's nice to be in a command economy sometimes.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

There is a difference between infrastructure *maintenance* and infrastructure *expansion.* Infrastructure expansion is a much easier sell because the taxpayers get to see some salient benefit from the money spent. They see an immediate improvement in their quality of life through such things as less traffic or better water pressure.

Infrastructure *maintenance* on the other hand is inherently less compelling. The benefit is simply avoiding something bad that might happen in the fuzzy future. Things like a bridge collapsing or your tap running dry. (An argument could be made that Climate Change is a maintenance issue.) And, as we all know, those kinds of potential problems are much easier to ignore.

I think that Joel has indirectly illustrated this point. The need for air conditioning is an expansion issue, not a maintenance one. Maintenance is replacing an aging furnace. And I assert that the lack of air conditioning is bound to get more attention than replacing the furnace.

That it is, of course, until the furnace explodes.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 2, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Don't tell me if you've heard this already: What's the difference between a civil engineer and a mechanical engineer?
Give up? A mechanical engineer designs weapons, and a civil engineer designs targets.
Thank you. Thank you. I'm here all week. Thanks.

Posted by: CowTown | August 2, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, Discovery the other day had a special on Shanghai and said the construction in that city currently is 40% of the world's use of concrete.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 2, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Also, as Ivansmom points out, Infrastructure is messy because it is a mixture of local and national politics and priorities. Sure, more federal money is needed, but how do you guarantee that the local government pays it's fair share? And how do you guarantee that the money is even well spent?

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 2, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Is it possible any longer to use the colloquial expression "having a dog in the fight?"

Posted by: StorytellerTim | August 2, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, couple that crummy news about FDA raises at the Washington Post with this from the NYT today about the FDA decision to delay closing more than half of its inspection labs--some political pressure applied, I'm sure, given the recent public outcry and outrage over dangerous products from China. Last two grafs of this story caught my one good eye:

In a letter sent to Dr. von Eschenbach on Tuesday, John D. Dingell and Bart Stupak, both Democratic representatives from Michigan, asked if the purpose of the lab closings was to privatize the testing of imported foods. They cited a pilot program to assess doing just that.

Dr. von Eschenbach denied that the closings were part of an outsourcing plan. Later, however, he said the agency would consider certifying or granting credentials to private labs to do some testing work. He further suggested that the F.D.A. could collaborate more with Customs and Border Protection and the states in policing imports

Posted by: Loomis | August 2, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Oops, I am redfaced. Shamed. Yellowjkt already used that joke in his 11:43 post. And he told it better than me. >

Posted by: CowTown | August 2, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

">Why Bridges Fall Down

Because falling up would require FAA approval?"

Yes, Error. If it falls up far enough, we have to deal with NASA.

StorytellerTim, around here we still say "I don't have a dog in that fight." Sometimes we say "hunt".

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 2, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

None of this is anything new, and more's the pity. I'm sure Ivansmom will concur in that companies, no matter their size, will absolutely *NOT* under any circumstances think proactively. When I approach them suggesting the efficacy of performing an intellectual property audit (including a computer software audit), they look at me as if I'm nuts. Yes, this costs money -- depending on the company, it can get into several 10s of thousands of dollars. But if you're on the receiving end of an infringement lawsuit, the 10s of thousands is chicken feed in what it's gonna cost you to defend against such an action. Furthermore (writing a brief here), if some other entity is infringing on your valuable stuff, would you rather go after them, thereby enhancing the value of your company, OR would you rather stick your head in the sand? My experience has been that the sand is a pretty popular place.

Now that I've filed this rant, I'm outta here (except for peeking every now and then).

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 2, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I got a lot more engineer jokes but they are a little off-color. I will not tell you why the human body proves that God is a civil engineer.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes, the 1950's and 1960's. Ike gets his Autobahns, and the transporation slush fund gets under way. Most all the interstate system was designed and built in that period, generally using the low bidder. States only had to come up with 10% of the construction funding. And it was a huge jobs program. Back then, adding a penny to 35 cents a gallon gas wasn't a big deal. Now everyone wants to pass the buck and/or not pay the buck for all the maintenance that is now coming due. If indeed all those bridges, tunnels, etc. had only a 40 or 50 year design life, then that was being real short-sighted. Maybe the engineers were assuming that in 50 years we'd all be going around in our personal helicopters and all those highways would be turned back into grass.

Posted by: ebtnut | August 2, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

You said not to tell you, CowTown!

Haven't turned on CNN yet today. Yesterday when I saw the news, about a half hour after the bridge collapsed, I didn't even think about terrorism - I just figured it was due to "natural causes" of some kind. Which is scarier than terrorism, in a way. We have a viaduct here which we're dithering about how to replace. It has structural problems and is in a very bad place for when the earthquake hits. But there's no concensus on what to do about it, or who pays for it (and it won't be cheap).

The Clinton administration talked a lot about improving the infrastructure - not sure how much they actually got done, but I'd be willing to bet it's a lot more than the Bushies.

I'm taking a well-deserved day off - got to see and hear the Blue Angels as they practice for Seafair this weekend. One of the odd joys of living in Seattle - having fighter jets screaming overhead. I've always been glad they're on my side.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 2, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

SCC: transportation

Posted by: ebtnut | August 2, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

ftb-they suffer from the nearly universal aversion to calling a lawyer in early, which I don't understand at all.

Monday night at a community meeting about a proposed paved bike trail for our town, a property owner who is opposed because 1. no one will use it and 2. I don't want to grant an easement, said "I was talking to my daughter and son-in-law and they talked to a friend of theirs who is a new lawyer and he said there's no way he'd grant an easement."

When I suggested she hire a lawyer to look at her situation, the MN Recreational Use Statutes and the county wide trail insurance policy (which is on top of what the city would offer) she said "I don't want to hire a lawyer for $75 an hour." Luckily for us we can avoid her property altogether, and that of other people who refuse to work with us at all. At $100,000 a mile just for studies, design, and construction we can't afford to be paying for easements. At worst we're going to have to pay 100% of the eventual 5 mile trail, at best 20%. Luckily for us it is optional. We'd like to separate our pedestrians and cyclists from vehicles but we can just as easily leave things the way they are and continue to rely on the good sense of 9 year old bike riders on their way to the store.

Posted by: frostbitten | August 2, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Went to the science bloggers site. The list of 32 topics did not include geology, paleontology, earth sciences, or evolution (although one is Intelligent Design/Creationism.)


Posted by: Dooley | August 2, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think that some companies can and do think proactively. We have some examples of that here. In addition to the school infrastructure project, Oklahoma City has taken on a couple of other big infrastructure projects, including another city-wide sales tax, which were spearheaded by corporate and business involvement. There just has to be enough incentive -- and, as RD says, the incentive is usually some kind of crisis which justifies upending business as usual.

The problem with state government spending is twofold. First, most states have very limited resources, and transportation infrastructure just isn't at the top of most lists (not saying that's good). Second, of course, the money may not be spent where it is needed or as it is intended. The infrastructure catastrophe in New Orleans was exacerbated by local government spending priorities.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 2, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Back in the day when the United States spent so much on infrastructure, we also spent far less on social programs. We ask a lot more of our federal government than we used to. Are we willing to pay for it?

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 2, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Continuing on your train of thought, ebnut, weren't we supposed to be flying around with jetpacks in our giant-domed cities by now?

Posted by: CowTown | August 2, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Chicken before the egg. If civil engineers did not build it first, mechanical engineers, and electrical engineers would be out of work.

We are very civil about what we do, we are darn good natured too.

Posted by: dr | August 2, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm much more willing to pay for infrastructure maintenance *and* social programs than pointless, unnecessary wars. But then, I'm one of those bleeding heart liberals.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 2, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

*homeBoodling with a flip-floppy tummy* :-O

yellojkt, there's a Federal agency or two that certainly appreciates CEs...

I long for the day when politicians can just stand up and say, "We must spend $X dollars to obtain Y benefit, and we can do that by imposing Z as a tax for the next 10 years" without being lynched.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 2, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Speculation: I don't see how the collapse can be blamed on simple excess weight and age: only two of the eight lanes were open. Quarter of the maximum traffic, however large the trucks...

Posted by: tooz | August 2, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

And the interstate highway system of Eisenhower's time was built so we could escape nuclear attacks, right? I think improving schools because they are shelters in terrorist attacks, etc, are good ways to sell this stuff, in a cynical way. Way better than it makes sense to invest in the education of everyone, as well as safety.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 2, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Actually, mostly, it was built for defense against conventional forces.

Posted by: omni | August 2, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

The interstate system was authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956. It had been lobbied for by major U.S. automobile manufacturers and championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower- who was influenced by both his experiences as a young soldier crossing the country in 1919 following the route of the Lincoln Highway and his appreciation of the German autobahn network - as a necessary component of a national defense system. It would be able to provide key ground transport of military supplies and troop deployments.

Posted by: omni | August 2, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Hey, wade-a-minnit. There's a guy named "Joel Achenbach" quoted in that Deep Sea News Blog. Shameless self-promoter, he.

Posted by: CowTown | August 2, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing." -Steinbeck "Travels With Charley"

"The interstate highway system is a wonderful thing. It makes it possible to go from coast to coast without seeing anything or meeting anybody. If the United States interests you, stay off the interstates." -Kuralt "A Life on the Road"

Posted by: omni | August 2, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

The more common version of the impetus for the interstate system is that Eisenhower was so impressed with the autobahn system for troop transport that he decided we needed one too. Before then, troop conveys across the country would take weeks.

My grandfather who was in the Signal Corps both before and during WWII used to have tales of long trips on old back roads.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

omni beat me to the comment while I checked Wikipedia for confirmation. They agree with him. Hmmmm.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I remember my mom telling a story about a school trip from Philly to DC back in the day. IIRC it was twelve hours compared to todays three.

Posted by: omni | August 2, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

yello, that's actually a copy paste from wiki. But it did confirm what I already knew (ha, I learned and remembered something from highschool after all). If I typed it out you might have gotten there first.

Posted by: omni | August 2, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

The only President of the United States to be an engineer was Herbert Hoover, a graduate of the inaugural class of Stanford.

Jimmy Carter is often cited as being an engineer, but his degree from the Naval Academy does not have a major designated. He worked in the nuclear submarine program under Rickover and held the position of Engineering Officer on a diesel submarine.

Jeff Foxworthy, on the other hand, has a degree in electrical engineering and worked at IBM before starting his career in stand-up comedy.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"The interstate highway system is a wonderful thing. It makes it possible to go from coast to coast without seeing anything or meeting anybody. If the United States interests you, stay off the interstates."

omni... Son of G and I traveled about 1,000 miles by car during the past week and probably only about 100 of that was on Interstates. You can drive a hundred miles out of your way to avoid Interstate driving (and we often do), but the time will pass so much more quickly.

We saw some amazing stuff and met some wonderful people that folks who travel to *get* somewhere rather than to *travel* somewhere will never experience.

[By the way, I'm just climbing out of bed after returning on the red eye from Las Vegas]

Posted by: TBG | August 2, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Although Fisher's really been on top of this case, I hope this isn't premature...

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 2, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

omni, I was around "back in the day" when a lot of those highways and interstates were first built. I was 8 when the Pa. turnpike was extended from its eastern terminus at Valley Forge, "all the way" to Bristol, near your old stomping grounds, and I was 10 when the Northeast Extension opened, and 11 when they opened the bridge linking it all to the Jersey turnpike. So I remember what it was like back then traveling around the country on two-lane roads that went through every town and village. I think I was in college when the Atlantic City Expressway was built. Prior to that, the only way to go "donnashore" was across the two-lane Tacony-Palmyra bridge (which cost a nickel!!), then down the Black Horse Pike (two-lane) or the White Horse Pike (two-lane). Sometimes took four or five hours coming back on a Sunday night due to the long back-up at the bridge.

And you know what a joke the Penna. Turnpike is today--imagine that it was once state-of-the-art.

He11, I remember when Levittown (the Bucks County one, not the Long Island one) was built. Bucks and Montgomery (Pa.) counties back then were "the country"; "suburbia" didn't exist. (And I went to elementary school in a four-room country schoolhouse. The school system had a grand total of one school bus, driven by Mr. Mann, the school janitor. By the time I was in junior high, the systen had "exploded" to TWO school buses; a guy named Smitty drove the other one. Which kinda ruins my story about walking ten miles uphill through snowdrifts to school, but I guess that's the price of modernization. No, we urchins had to push Mr. Mann's school bus ten miles uphill through snowdrifts because there weren't any gas stations.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 2, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Stupid zero tolerance policies run amok again:

This might cheer you up though:

Posted by: omni | August 2, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Mudge, you sound just like my mom, and my aunts and uncles. In my day when it snowed, we only had to get off the bus for 20 minutes while the driver put the chains on the tires. But I do feel I must say, this was during the mini ice age of the late 70's. Brrbbrbrrbbrrr, twe-twenty m-m-minutes isss a lo-long t-t-time.

Posted by: omni | August 2, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

"Yeah, I remember my mom telling a story about a school trip from Philly to DC back in the day. IIRC it was twelve hours compared to todays three." Just you wait, omni, it'll be back to twelve soon enough. To save myself the trouble of slipping into full-on geezer mode, I'll just defer to authority:
Monty Python's Flying Circus -
"Four Yorkshiremen"

Aye, very passable, that, very passable bit of risotto.
Nothing like a good glass of Château de Chasselas, eh, Josiah?
You're right there, Obadiah.
Who'd have thought thirty year ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking Château de Chasselas, eh?
In them days we was glad to have the price of a cup o' tea.
A cup o' cold tea.
Without milk or sugar.
Or tea.
In a cracked cup, an' all.
Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.
The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.
But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.
Because we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, "Money doesn't buy you happiness, son".
Aye, 'e was right.
Aye, 'e was.
I was happier then and I had nothin'. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.
House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, 'alf the floor was missing, and we were all 'uddled together in one corner for fear of falling.
Eh, you were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in t' corridor!
Oh, we used to dream of livin' in a corridor! Would ha' been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House? Huh.
Well, when I say 'house' it was only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it was a house to us.
We were evicted from our 'ole in the ground; we 'ad to go and live in a lake.
You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us living in t' shoebox in t' middle o' road.
Cardboard box?
You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t' mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi' his belt.
Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at six o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of 'ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!
Well, of course, we had it tough. We used to 'ave to get up out of shoebox at twelve o'clock at night and lick road clean wit' tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when we got home our Dad would slice us in two wit' bread knife.
Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.
And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... they won't believe you.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | August 2, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

And no discussion of bridge disasters is complete without a reference to the Tacoma Narrows collapse:

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks k-guy.

Posted by: omni | August 2, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

*bowing to k-guy*


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 2, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, Does your joke have to do with the routing of the *birth canal*?

Posted by: bh | August 2, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

About two days ago, before the bridge accident in Minnesota, I stop driving across the bridge that takes me to the Center. I don't know why, but I took the road that crosses the railroad tracks, which is much worse.

In our small town we have an underpass that is so old, when it rains, waters just runs down like a flood. The trains run on top of this bad boy. I am so afraid it is going to cave in. Nothing, absolutely nothing has been done in the way of fixing the problems or rebuilding. We used to be rail town so there are tracks everywhere, and bridges over these tracks. I suspect that this is a situation that impacts many small towns.

We spend our money on wars and what the rich deem necessary. And the rich don't want to pay taxes, so that burden falls to the middle class or what used to be the middle class, and the poor, yet they(the rich) want to have the say in everything.

It may take some more bridges falling(I hope not)in order for something to be done about our decaying country.

It is sad your reasoning for crossing a bridge is based on the homeless. I'll bet in their wildest dreams the homeless would never guess that. It did not come to my mind either, and I'm a government check away from being homeless.

I see insurance owners lost their battle with the courts. I will never understand why there is so much hate for the people in New Orleans. It is almost like they are blamed for what happened to them.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 2, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

This same story was on the back pages of our local paper's A section today--Bush threatens to veto an infrastructure bill just passed by the House:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House overwhelmingly passed a $20 billion water projects bill Wednesday night despite a promised veto by President Bush, who complains the bill is laden with costly pet projects and shifts new costs onto the government.

"I regret that we're in this situation. But we're going to have to do what we have to do," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., rallying support for a bill loaded with Army Corps of Engineers projects such as restoring wetlands in coastal Louisiana, improving hurricane protection in New Orleans and adding new drinking water and wastewater treatment plants.

This year's bill includes some $3.5 billion for Katrina-damaged Louisiana, plus more than $2 billion for projects in California and $2 billion for Florida, mostly for restoring the Everglades. Another $1.95 billion is included for seven new locks on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers and $1.7 billion for repairing the region's ecology.

Anyone know what Bush considers pork in this bill and why his knickers are so tied in a knot?

This bill, as the article ppints out in its concluding graf, is uniting two senators who are usually polar opposites on environmental issues, Senate Environment Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and the committee's senior Republican, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who vow to get it through the Senate.

Posted by: Loomis | August 2, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

yello, sorry about your family member that is sick. I hope you can make her comfortable during her hour of need. Good thoughts your way.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 2, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

*clap clap clap* Outstanding, k-guy!

Posted by: Yoki | August 2, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

FIRST CURMUDGEON: So, ye watched Monty Python, didja now, lad? Back in moy day we dinna have no Monty Python; we had t' watch Howdy Doody fer our entertainment, and we were d@mned happy to watch it, too!

SECOND CURMUDGEON: Howdy Doody? Bah, you were darned lucky, then. Ye musta had all three stations on yer television. We only got two stations, and for amusement we could only watch Bertie the Bunyip onst a week on Saunday mornings, when me Da' wasn't beatin' us with a belt.

THIRD CURMUDGEON: Bertie the Bunyip? Bah! We could only get Sally Starr, which weren't no fun a'tall, and onst a munth mayhaps we could watch all five minutes of "Action in the Afternoon," which they filmed out on City Line Avenoo, ya know.

FOURTH CURMUDGEON: Yer all spoiled rotten! We could only get a test pattern o' that blasted Indian, and in order to get even that we had t'send moy wee brother up on t' roof t' stand in freezing cold atop the antenna and gather up TV signals by hand and force into the wee ends of the antenna arms, 'n' 'e was d@mned happy to do it for us, too, until he died o' the pneumonia, bless his soul.

FIRST CURMUDGEON: Bah, at least you had a TV! We had nuthin' but a cardboard box what we cut a hole in the side and stuffed in't moy wee brother Michael, th' dog and two cats inside and pretended we were watching Marlin Perkins wrassling with a lion and two tigers on Wild Kingdom. And we were d@mned glad to have it, too!

SECOND CURMUDGEON: That ain't nuffing; at least you had a cardboard box. We dinna have nothing but a little wee radio box wi'out no picture tube whatsoever, and only sound come out of it! An' we listened to Fibber McGee and Molly ahn it, and the Green Lantern!

THIRD CURMUDGEON: Bah, at least yon had a radio box. My Da' use to beat us with a broken beer bottle t' make us 23 kids dress up in togas and create immobile tableux representin' the Sack of Troy, the Tearstains of Niobe, and onst he made us present the tableaux of Laoco'on and His Sons Surrounded by Tormentin' Snakes, an' we luvved him all the more, fer it, too! An' I got to play one o' the boa constrictors devouring the Laocoon's firstborn. Ah, good times, good times...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 2, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the Pants Judge is going to be can-exed.

Posted by: Raysmom | August 2, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

That Yorkshireman routine reminds me of the situation in Cuba, where everyone's poor and the government makes sure no one isn't. While I'm sure everyone would like to have somewhat more food and maybe better buses, by now probably no one wants anyone else to be any better off than average.

The Post had an excellent Discussion on Cuba today. I very much agree with the expert's bottom line that Cuba has terribly deficient infrastructure and is 30 years or so behind the Dominican Republic, not to mention Mexico or Costa Rica in developing its tourism potential. His conclusion is that once the Castro regime fades, Cuba won't be of much interest to the US, except perhaps as a source of poor immigrants.

On the side, the Caribbean's being hit by the red palm mite, a south Asian critter that infests palms. It may be a very serious conservation concern (the region has some wonderful native palms, some with very limited distributions). Not to mention that the mite sucks the life out of cultivated palms. It'll probably show up in Florida soon. Yuck.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 2, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Lovely, Curmudgeon and Kurosawaguy. Very funny.

One problem with infrastructure bills of any kind is, arguably, they're always "pork" to someone. For every bridge to nowhere, you have a project that is seriously needed in a particular location. If you don't happen to live in that location, it is just a giveaway. Why, all that Katrina reconstruction is just a gift to those folks in New Orleans and the Gulf, right?

Cassandra is right - as is true in so many other contexts, the people making these decisions often don't have to live day-to-day with the consequences, and don't much resemble those who do.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 2, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't think anyone's posted this link yet, but it's a video of the bridge actually collapsing, taken by a fixed security camera:

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 2, 2007 4:42 PM | Report abuse

this is a drive-by, but here's some good analysis about why the administration is hanging on to gonzales:,8599,1649013,00.htm?cnn=yes

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 2, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

>where everyone's poor and the government makes sure no one isn't.

Yeah, but they have a better infant mortality and literacy rates than we do and more doctors per capita.

To say nothing of all those '57 Chevy taxis.

Posted by: Error Flynn | August 2, 2007 4:55 PM | Report abuse

The New Republic defends its stories by Private Beauchamp:

If DoD can fabulize the Tillman story for as long as they did, I can't wait for the "official" version of these incidents.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Yes, our Minnesota governor, wishing to be the darling of the GOP in '08 for the VP position on the ticket, vetoed a bi-partisan transportation bill last session that was much needed to address transportation infrastucture and other problems. Mr. tough guy on no new taxes. You're right. You get what you pay for. And, we just got it big.

Posted by: dennob | August 2, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Yah, but you got a great new stadium, dontyaknow

(Just kidding. I live in the Great Lakes Area too. Minneapolis is an awesome town)

Posted by: CowTown | August 2, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

In case you want a break from the bridge tragedy (I watched the news conference on CNN with the police responders and was in tears by the end), here are some pictures of the Blue Angels over Seattle:

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 2, 2007 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, in my opinion that architect that builds for 40 years is a cheap con artist. There is absolutely no reason to build something that is disposable and indeed must be disposed of in 40 years. It's criminal, if not in fact, in ethics. I work in civil engineering and barring earthquake, whatever is in my power to affect I am not happy with unless I think it's at minimum a 100 year structure, 95% certainty. The planned obsolescence mentality is ruining many things. I refuse to cowtow to it. "Starter homes?" Don't even get me started...

Posted by: Jumper | August 2, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I completely agree, Jumper. In this town we have fire stations that were first opened in 1929, but both of them have been taken down to the four exterior walls and totally redone. To get any building past 40, you have to keep up with the maintenance. He11, to keep a body going past 40, you have to do lots and lots of maintenance!

Posted by: Slyness | August 2, 2007 6:30 PM | Report abuse

OMG, THIS is a picture!

(Completely off topic, but I couldn't resist. Those of the female persuasion will understand.)

Posted by: Slyness | August 2, 2007 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm with ya, Jumper, on the 40 year benchmark.

I could see it applied to some structures -- tool sheds, outhouses, etc. -- but things like bridges, office buildings and homes should be expected to last at *least* 100 years (assuming regular maintenance and repairs are kept up).

There are quite a few 150 year+ homes around here that look as good as they did brand new. Some of them even have the original roof (slate). Give a team of real craftsmen good quality materials and a reasonable amount of time and you'll get a 200 year+ structure.

Heck, my own house -- a cheap "starter" from the 50's -- is built better than the McMansions they're slapping together today. The roof trusses are single boards that span the entire house -- none of that pieced-together pre-fab guano that requires a load-bearing wall every 10 or 12 feet. I could rip out every interior wall of this house and the roof wouldn't sag an eighth of an inch.

That's not to say they didn't skimp on other things, but structurally speaking no corners were cut. Most of the problems with our house are related to things that previous owners added or installed -- or failed to maintain.

Posted by: martooni | August 2, 2007 6:50 PM | Report abuse

yes, indeed-y, Slyness, I understand. Sean Connery in a doesn't get any better than that.

Posted by: Kim | August 2, 2007 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Kilts? Am I to understand that this is considered hot by modern women?

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 2, 2007 7:17 PM | Report abuse

No, it's more Sean Connery than the kilt. Guys around here wear the utilikilt - have never seen anyone particularly attractive in one. Maybe it's just me.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 2, 2007 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Sean Connery in a kilt...with a lace jabot! Be still my beating heart!

Gorgeous, just simply gorgeous.

Sorry, guys, I just couldn't help myself.

Posted by: Slyness | August 2, 2007 7:47 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing as permanant as a temporary arrangement. When I lived in the Philippines in the 80s, there were thatch houses on base that went back in some form or another to 1910 or so. Many of the metal quonsot huts were 1940s and 50s vintage.

Here in HoCo they were going to structural steel studs and gypsum board for the interior walls of the schools instead of concrete block. You have to build schools tough. They call it institutional construction for a reason.

That said, you also need to allow for flexibility and adaptive re-use. No one imagined the amount of wiring and data cabling that is needed now. And no one can predict what buildings will need in the future. The newest trends is to make sure buildings can be disassembled and recycled when they are obsolete.

The levees in New Orleans were designed for a 100 year storm (which seem to come by about twice a decade). That is fine for some Florida subdivision where everybody will take the insurance settlement and skidaddle. For a major city, you have to think in millenial spans.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 2, 2007 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, very funny, but it's all lies. You had Fraggle Rock only on TV back in those caveman days, didn't you?

Reposting from last boodle.

The lost word treasury:

I recognized a few words and could easily suss out a few more, like Omni observed; a lot of words are clearly related to words we use today.

penintime= peni (almost) + intime (intimate, near). Unfortunately this word begs to be slurred and its sense thus lost. Pentime! Teatime!

To temerate= to profane, to break a vow. Boy, some people really have the temerity to do anything, don't they?

One looked like a misspelling to me: Visotactile. That'd be visuotactile in modern usage, but as this was coined in Shakespeare's time, the spelling could be worse.

Some of those words are still in use in agriculture and mining which of course occupies very few people nowadays. Uviferous is still around.

Some words are pretty darn lost or forgotten, of course. How could the wirty dird filter forget surgation???

some words should be resurrected (even if only to be recinerated).

I liked "yelve" myself. I yearn for my trusty yelve everytime I see Bush speak on TV, don't you?

And we could always use more rhymes/near-rhymes.

Admiring the "Gymnastics and pugnastics" of an aerial dogfight, for instance.

"To Nudify is not to Pudify"-- Slogan of The Pedantic Nudists of America.

And I had already seen kexy before and instantly thought, "When did I go from sexy to kexy?"

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 2, 2007 7:58 PM | Report abuse

I was intrigued to hear that the structures that fared best during Hurricane Andrew (1992, wasn't it?) were the Habitat houses. Strapped down the best, IIRC.

I'm with you, martooni, on the soundness of structures built 40 years ago. Give me a 2x12 rafter put in place with multiple nails over engineered lightweight trusses with gusset plates that penetrate a quarter of an inch. The latter fail very quickly in fires and other emergency situations.

A local architect/planner whom I know helped with the design of Katrina Cottages and is exploring using the concept as the building blocks for schoolrooms. The idea behind them is manufactured walls that come as a piece so that construction only takes a couple of weeks. Lowe's is selling them.

Posted by: Slyness | August 2, 2007 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Mostly, with a big fake roman buckle belt and matching helmet, those kilts are totally bc's style-- for better or worse.

"Ave Imperator! Mortimuri te salutemus."

Prince Charles likes kilts a lot. He was vacationing in Scotland when Diana was killed, and they showed him on TV in a kilt as he went to identify the body.

My brother: "Why is Prince Charles wearing a skirt?" Because he likes a healthy breeze around his McDuff?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 2, 2007 8:07 PM | Report abuse

>homes should be expected to last at *least* 100 years

According to the neighbors my house was built somewhere around 1870, so it's 137 and counting. When I bought it the home inspector said "Post-Civil War for sure, you can tell by the mortar around the stones in the foundation" so that kinda ties in.

Yeah, there are a few cracks in the plaster here and there and some funny noises in the plumbing, but this place isn't going anywhere. 40 years? Feh.

Posted by: Error Flynn | August 2, 2007 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I just wanted to state that an excellent way to deal with the anxiety of crumbling infrastructure is to split some oak logs.

I feel so much better now.

And I am sure that the feeling in my right hand will return real, real soon.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 2, 2007 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Also - that Deep Sea News blog is interesting. I used to do some work for the Navy and rubbed elbows with a lot of oceanographers and submariners and the like. And big bro has a degree in marine biology. The oceans are fascinating and not terribly well understood. Sometimes I wish I had gone into that area.

Except, of course, for the fact that I can't stand getting my face wet.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 2, 2007 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I know a physicist who works in the field-- mostly working on models for forecasting temperature and currents.

It seems to involve weather balloons and satellite pictures rather than scuba diving. It sounded very interesting to me, although I'm sure he had to learn a lot over time.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 2, 2007 9:11 PM | Report abuse

When I was in high school, the oceans were supposed to be the Next Big Thing after the Apollo Project.

Didn't happen.

Ocean science grads are, fortunately, retrainable. They make surprisingly good wetland and terrestrial biologists. Even a guy I know with a Ph.D. in jellyfish.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 2, 2007 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of making infrastructure last, the city of Portland, Oregon spent lavishly to gut City Hall and the main library, then recreate the interiors within the old walls. A little bit like what Munich did after the war, but done pre-emptively before an earthquake had a chance to flatten the buildings. The historic firehouse in my modest neighborhood got a slightly less rigorous "earthquaking" while the two big Interstate bridges evidently needed only some modest strapping and reinforcement to ensure that everything would hold together when shaken.

Florida could use programs to rebuild older neighborhoods. In good neighborhoods, it's often workable to strip an older house to the walls (sometimes leaving the roof trusses), then create a new house utilizing the old slab and parts of the walls. In crummy neighborhoods, applying eminent domain would be unpopular, but could benefit the community. Riviera Beach has attempted that approach, seemingly without much success.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 2, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of Katrina Cottages, modular prefab housing ought to be standard in much of the US. In Florida, though, you need too much concrete for wind resistance to make it work.

A local guy has come up with a design for wind-resistant clapboard siding that may go commercial. This, or something similar, could be really useful for reinforcing houses to the north of us.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 2, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

There are places with 800 year old walls. The idea that one must demolish the structure to replace the wiring is ludicrous baloney.

Posted by: Jumper | August 2, 2007 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, loved the Sean Connery photo. He is one man who definitely improved with age.

My boss and I were discussing the bridge collapse and he made a comment that before computers were used to calculate the designs, bridges were more likely to be a bit overbuilt to allow for any miscalculations. Now they are all built to within a fraction of the allowable specs. Not much room for error if something small should fail. However he did mention that if either of the bridges to Cape Cod ever went down, there wouldn't be any survivors. The steel is all overhead and they are at a much greater height over the water. Not a comforting thought, believe me.

Our house is over 40 years old and still standing. Of course the previous owners did upgrade the electrical and heating systems. And the new kitchen should last forever.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | August 2, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Sneaks, for describing a bridge I travel twice a day (although the location is different).

This graph from todays WaPo piqued my interest, and having read the e-mail, it's perfectly true. Butler makes Brad the Cad look good:

"We understand that writers are notorious gossips. We understand the bitterness of divorce. We understand that the modern media age, with its proliferation of cable television, radio talk shows and personal Web sites, has led to vast amounts of self-absorption and over-sharing. But the main thing we understand is that rarely has being one of Ted Turner's girlfriends looked so good."

The e-mail:

Posted by: dbG | August 2, 2007 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Okay, getting this over so I can go to bed. With malice and forethought I did kill the boodle.

Posted by: dbG | August 2, 2007 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what to say to that one.

Whether the ex would have appreciated that kind of detail sharing is entirely up to her, but you do see why they're divorcing, aren't they?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 2, 2007 10:37 PM | Report abuse

I admit, that e-mail cries out for parody once people get over being stunned.

The thing is, I bet a lot of it was a nearly accurate paraphrase from her Dear John letter, too.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 2, 2007 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Well, yes. I never understand why people confuse the private with the secret.

Posted by: Yoki | August 2, 2007 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Stephen Hunter's review of "The Bourne Ultimatum" is a lovely piece of writing, and shows why I like Hunter's reviews so much.

Favorite line: "which is like trying to figure a trig problem in your head in the prison shower with the Noble Pagans MC."

Second favorite line: "For a while the movie plays its games in various sordid European locales, but eventually it moves to New York, figuring if it can make it there, it can make it anywhere."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 2, 2007 10:51 PM | Report abuse

As we routinely tell our employees, if you can't live with your e-mail plastered on the front page of your local paper, and your mother's hometown paper, DON'T commit the information to paper.

Unringing the bell never works well.

Another don't for the new employee orientation manual.

Posted by: Pacifica | August 2, 2007 10:59 PM | Report abuse

We have new bridges being built to nowhere, while our aging bridges (and electric lines, and pipes that deliver water, and roads, etc.) are literally falling apart.

Truthfully? Governing is a stoic affair. Collect taxes from people who do not want to pay them to pay for the infrastructure and services that keep our nation a vital player on the international stage.

Our leaders in DC want to be rock stars. They want wars against distant enemies who are in possession of fuels that should be becoming obsolete because they are being replaced by renewable energy sources. Why? Because powerful companies making billions of dollars a year want to keep making billions.

If we do not start electing the best and the brightest in policy, what kind of future do we have? We allowed a guy people want to drink beer with become president, and then let his barfly buddies run the country. So, what did we get? Well, what do barflies usually have happening in their lives? They hit rock bottom, losing their homes, families, et al. This is no model for people to have in government.

The devastation of New Orleans was predicted 20 years before it happened. The American Water Works Association has been calling for improvements in decrepit water delivery systems long before the DC lead-contaminated household water debacle happened in 2003. In 2005, this bridge was recommended for replacement, although in language that wasn't going to upset the locals, eh?

Government needs serious people, not people who want to spend a trillion dollars of taxpayer money so they can open up oil fields to big oil, outlaw gay marriage, decide the productive rights of other people, impose religious choices on people and pretend that big business is not responsible for the illegal immigrant problem in this country.

[Irony: I am the crazy because I admit to being liberal. I believe in pooling a certain amount of our affluence for the public good. Wild, isn't it?]

Posted by: LiberalTarian | August 2, 2007 11:27 PM | Report abuse

I like the barfly comment, LiberalTarian.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 2, 2007 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Listening to Stephen Colbert making Michael Behe (of intelligent design) look ridiculous on irreducible complexity (a creationism favorite for 50 years), and Behe doesn't even realize it.

I'll have to make sure I get the transcript.

Posted by: Dooley | August 2, 2007 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Dooley, did you like the last two minutes of Colbert, where he did that piece in memoriam for Ingmar Bergman (in black-and-white, of course), which included the parody of Bergman, and ended with the classic last scene from The Seventh Seal, with the small band of people who'd escaped Death in long shot silouette as they joyously caper over the hill--followed by a capering Colbert as well. You guys gotta catch the rerun tomorrow at 8:56.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 3, 2007 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Make sure you let me know about the transcript, Dooley. I was watching a documentary instead.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 3, 2007 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Pretty classic ending. I liked the I-69 conspiracy, too.

Posted by: Dooley | August 3, 2007 12:14 AM | Report abuse

>a Ph.D. in jellyfish
that is excellent.

re: email article
i gotta slow down. for a few seconds, i thought butler was leaving
his wife for turner.

tbg, did ya make it home ok?

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 3, 2007 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, your 6:36 Pm link to Sean Connery was breathtaking. What a hunk of man, uuhummm.

Thanks for a needed diversion from an otherwise tragic 24 hours. Bridge inspectors...GET BUSY!

Posted by: birdie | August 3, 2007 1:44 AM | Report abuse

I like the stone bling. Also, the 18th-century pianist frilly tux and the kilt look good together. As for the rest, he's a bit old for me.

I had an ex with Sean Connery eyebrows, though, which I liked.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 3, 2007 2:38 AM | Report abuse

I thought the e-mail was remarkably snide and passive-aggressive, saying far more about him than her. Every reason he cites shows the seeds of her failure as he sees it, not his. His attempt to label his e-mail *the full and nuanced story* and asking people to use all of part of the e-mail as they see fit? Reminds me of . . . the White House gang.

Yoki, great news. Perhaps the celebrant(s) can be polled for date/time.

Posted by: dbG | August 3, 2007 4:16 AM | Report abuse

Hey, where is everyone???

*TGIF Grover waves*

And why is the bunker's radio on???


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 3, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

*waving to S'nuke, one handed as I slug down some mud* Right here, brother. I'm Mr. Mom today. I have some plumbing tasks to do , including replacing a toiled valve. I might loose the children on this task and see how they do. All I have to worry about is the possibility of a waterfall spontaneously pouring through the beadboard ceiling in the foyer.

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 8:25 AM | Report abuse

is this thing on?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle. Local news is all over reports that the I-35W bridge was first categorized as deficient in 1990.

In '94 we sold a house in Kentucky built in 1895 and bought a newly constructed house in NoVA. I have no doubt the 1895 house will survive at least until 2095 if routine maintenance is done on the roof, though it wasn't always before we bought it. Without major reconstruction to the point where little of the original is left I cannot imagine our 1994 house still standing in 2094. We only had it 11 years and we replaced the flooring on the first floor.

Posted by: frostbitten | August 3, 2007 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Scotty--
Hi, Cassandra and everybody...

Scotty, I won't be able to boodle today because I just heard a program about how to keep your employees from wasting time at work and I'm completely inspired to maximize my productivity.

And if you believe that, I have a bridge I could sell you (can we still use THAT expression?) or some waterfront property...Florida is lovely this time of year; it has rained every single day since the drought ended.

Boodling, efficiency in time wasting: I can not only waste my own time, but OTHER PEOPLE'S time as well!

Posted by: kbertocci | August 3, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

scc: toilet...toiled is the procedure one follwed on the throne.

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

scc: followed...harumph *reminding self how to type*

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Don't worry, jack, we understood what you were saying.

Posted by: Slyness | August 3, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

>Thanks, Sneaks, for describing a bridge I travel twice a day (although the location is different).

dbG, you well know my feelings about that darn bridge. Please carry some bungie cords and a large umbrella with you, just in case.

LiberalTarian, you sound like some kind of commie pinko. I like that kinda talk.

I'm of the belief there are a lot more Libertarians out there than than people think because they have some sense of community and disavow the more extreme positions of the party and end up thinking they must be Democrats.

Sort of a vast Compassionate Libertarian Non-Alliance.

Posted by: Error Flynn | August 3, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

As a regular Gawker/Wonketteer in addition to my full time responsibilities as Boodler, I have been following that Robert Olen Butler with full schadenfreude fascination. It shows why the guy won a Pulitzer. The writing is a masterpiece of nuance and ambiguity. He tries to be honest and open and comes across venal and bitter.

My theories on what he was really trying to say:
1. He's bragging that the only man big enough to steal his wife is Ted Turner.
2. He makes sure everyone knows his wife is no picnic with all sorts of emotional and medical baggage.
3. She is jealous because he is the more famous writer.
4. Those grapes were probably sour anyways.

Yellojkt's Law: Writing a blog (or sending bulk personal e-mail) is like spray painting your diary on a truck stop overpass.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 3, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

One of my mantras is that it is futile to blame all the world's ills on stupidity and evil. Under the right situation we can all be stupid. And, I assert, under the right situation we can all be evil. The trick, I think, is to avoid those situations.

So when I think about problems like infrastructure and the like, I wonder how we can change the mechanics of the system to work better. And I'm not exactly sure, but certainly something must be done to make infrastructure maintenance "sexier."

Perhaps tax credits or increased percentage of supplemental federal funds to local governments who make maintenance a priority. Maybe looking at tweaking the liability laws. Or maybe simply a better effort to communicate to the public the need to postpone shiny new improvements so that local governments have the money to keep the stuff we already have in place.

I mean, a reduced commute time because of road widening is all well and good, so long as this doesn't mean the bridge I need to cross is going to collapse because of it.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 3, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be nice if the bunker radio time warped and was tuned to te old WHFS...

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

That be a piece of heaven jack.

Posted by: omni | August 3, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all. I have "a whole Boodle of reports" to both write and read today. Will pop in when able. Have a wonderful Friday! We have a long weekend and I am very much looking forward to it.

Posted by: Yoki | August 3, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Great job, Snuke! You sounded sooo knowledgeable and professional!

Posted by: Slyness | August 3, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I miss the Daily Feed.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 3, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I heard, among other things, that the Twin Cities' bridge collapse may have beem related to failure os some of the fasteners that held the girders to the anchoring structure on the shore. If amusement park rides can be over engineered for safety's sake, there must be some way to make fasteners more resistent to metal fatigue. Maybe some one could figure out how to make a composite fastener. In our county, we have numerous bridges made of wood plank that have been coated with many layers of macadam or asphalt. If, when I'm driving the school activity bus, I disregard the weight limits annd the bridge collapses under whe weight of the bus, I'm pretty sure that State law mandates that I personally pay for the repair. There are days when I regret having a CDL.

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

When I first moved out here in 1987 WHFS was the only radio station I listened too because they were the only folks who still played "New Wave Music." You know, the music of my college years and hence the best music ever created. At the time I knew absolutely nobody and took solace in listening to Weasel and Bob Waugh and Damian and all the other regulars.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 3, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Commercial driver's license

Posted by: omni | August 3, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

jack - I think that CDL is pretty cool. I am always amazed at the skill set of the boodle.

So the next time we want to rent a Blue Bird Xcel 102 to haul the boodle someplace we know who gets to work the gears.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 3, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

RD, I also moved out here in 87, and only listened to WHFS.

And a Happy Shout Out Happy Birthday to Evangaline Lilly.

Posted by: omni | August 3, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, omni. When I was going to JMU I lived with a fellow from Bethesda. He had lots of tapes made from the programming on WHFS. I'm fortunate to have a couple of then among my cassette collection, but haven't played them for years. By now I'm sure the technology exists to go from cassette to CD, but I probably can't afford it.

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Too kind, Slyness, that was probably the Valium talking... ;-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 3, 2007 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I'd be honoured to drive, RD. Maybe the short bus would be best suited for our cadre.

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Slyness. I trust that all is well. Are you in the Queen city or on the mountain?

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' all...

Got the house all to myself today so I'm free to scratch, belch, toot, turn up the stereo, leave the toilet seat up and (if the mood strikes me) run with scissors. And nobody can stop me. I'm suddenly in the mood to hear Alice Cooper's "School's Out".

Actually, I think I'm going to spend the day out in the shop (where I can do all that stuff even with Mrs. M and the Bean around -- man cave rules, y'know). Nothing like playing with power tools after two pots of coffee.

The only potential interruption to the festivities is the fact that my Dad is in town from Peru. He actually got in yesterday, but we haven't heard from him yet. More than likely, he hooked up with one or more of my uncles and a bottle or three of scotch.

So it goes.

Peace out, my friends...


Posted by: martooni | August 3, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

RD... you would probably really really really like "Radio Nigel". Go to and enter that in the search box. Their motto is "we don't play *that* 80's music".

When was the last time you heard "Stukas Over Disneyland"?

Posted by: martooni | August 3, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

jack - it isn't hard to go from cassette to CD as long as you are patient and have a computer with a sound card and CD burner. (If you don't you need a new computer)

The simplest way is to connect the red and white outputs of your cassette player to the inputs of your computer. (If you have an older cassette player connecting the headphone output to the mic input will work too) You might need to get special connectors, but these are cheap.

Then you need to scrounge up a recording program, but there are scads of freebies on something like After you have created the wav files you just burn them to CD using any of the many free programs out there.

There is lots of info on the internet about this.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 3, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

From E.J.'s column today:

'I'm not in the habit of giving advice to Bill O'Reilly, but there's always a first time: Liberal rage at Rush Limbaugh not only was useless, but it actually strengthened his credibility with the right. (I speak from experience.) Bill, I bet Markos loves what you're doing.'

[But it works both ways: O'Reilly attacks Kos to boost his own ratings. Did anyone see the Dodd "interview" last night? Unbelievable. I'll see if I can post a transcript or YouTube later this morning.]

Posted by: Achenbach | August 3, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Best reporting this morning about the bridge collapse in Minneaplis during Wednesday evening's rush hour comes from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Structural deficiencies in the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed Wednesday were so serious that the Minnesota Department of Transportation last winter considered bolting steel plates to its supports to prevent cracking in fatigued metal, according to documents and interviews with agency officials.

The department went so far as to ask contractors for advice on the best way to approach such a task, which could have been opened for bids later this year.

MnDOT considered the steel plating at the recommendation of consulting engineers who told the agency that there were two ways to keep the bridge safe: Make repairs throughout the 40-year-old steel arched bridge or inspect it closely enough to find flaws that might become cracks and then bolt the steel plating only on those sections. ...

The option to monitor through inspection was one of two suggestions given to the department in 2006 by URS Corp., a San Francisco-based construction management consultant.

Some close observers of MnDOT continued to speculate Thursday that the decision to monitor instead of fix deficiencies in the bridge was driven by financial concerns.

Posted by: Loomis | August 3, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Note this from bottom of front page bridge story:

'Schulz, the Northwestern professor, said his "strong suspicion" is that NTSB investigators ultimately will discover that the construction work was involved. "They unhooked something, or disconnected something" that affected the bridge's capacity to withstand traffic, or the closing of some lanes led to "eccentric loading," he said.'

[Eccentric Loading is the story of my life.]

Posted by: Achenbach | August 3, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

That info about Eccentric Loading is fascinating. Maybe the story isn't about our degenerating infrastructure and the collapse of Western civilization. Maybe the story is about measuring twice and cutting once.

Or "No, no, don't pull on that, you don't know what it may be attached to"

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 3, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

>I'm suddenly in the mood to hear Alice Cooper's "School's Out".

martooni, if you want some inspiration for our Presidential campaign make sure you listen to "Elected", I think it's on that album.

Posted by: Error Flynn | August 3, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Did everyone see this, in the Times, about Hillary's college letters?

Posted by: Achenbach | August 3, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

July was our wettest month on record--over 13 inches. My yard lapped it up--the grass needs mowing ever 5 days, palms and heliconias are popping out new leaves, orchids I stuck on oak trees this spring are growing.

I suspect the cause of the Minneapolis bridge collapse will be figured out pretty quickly, and it'll turn out that lots of other bridges are at risk of doing likewise. Of course stock prices of construction companies rose rapidly yesterday, so obviously that's what a lot of other people expect.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 3, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I'm annoyed that professor let the NY Times copy the Hillary Rodham letters. They'd be suitable material for her presidential library.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 3, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, that picture made my morning.

Yellojkt, I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother. I wish her peace of body and spirit for the rest of her days.

I hope I have the wisdom to enjoy old age. I figure once I get past really accepting all this white hair, I'm good to go.

Posted by: dr | August 3, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I agree that it seems rude to publish the letters now. Still, they hardly contain anything to alarm the Clinton Campaign, although I am sure the far right will find *something* ominous in them.

But sheesh, what ugly pants.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 3, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I have been listening to Alice Cooper's radio show when heading out at night. He is really funny.

He usually play one or more of his less known tunes.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | August 3, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Joel. Someone on CNN wondered how much decking had been removed and whether the demo tool of choice was a jackhammer or a concrete saw. The hypothesis was that removal of too much decking would lead to uneven loading on the bridge girders and trusses and this, coupled with vibration, harmonics, metal fatigue, and other physics related stuff that I don't understand, would cause catastrophic failure of the entire structure.

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I want to thank everybody over the past few days about the condolences in advance for my grandmother. I was glad I saw her when I did and I have made peace with the knowledge that that was the last time I will see her alive. I am glad my family is going out of their way to make her final months restful and calm. She is over 90 years old and has lived a very full life.

My other grandmother had a long slide into dementia as she aged and towards the end my mother discouraged me from seeing her because it would mean nothing to her and would disturb me. Aging and death are tough to navigate gracefully under any circumstances. You guys are the best imaginary friends anyone could have.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 3, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Hey, martooni! Ya gotta take a look at this! Your next vehicle, fer shur. The moment I saw it I thought of you, mainly because of the woodwork on it.

There was a terrific headline in yesterday's edition of The Onion. I really admire this joke, not least because the entire thing is only five words (that's amazing right there). Headline: "Egyptologists Discover Cure for Egypt."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 3, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Somewhere deep in my closet I have all the letters from a girl I knew in junior high. I moved away after ninth grade and we started a pen pal relationship that lasted all through high school and well into college.

Perhaps someday she will become a famous national figure and I can air her dirty laundry. Much more embarrassing would be if she kept my letters and could eventually chronicle my tales of youthful indiscretions. Not that I am ashamed of anything. Just sayin'.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 3, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, the other Onion headline that made me laugh yesterday:

Heroic Man Rushes Into Movie Theater, Saves Four Seats

Posted by: kbertocci | August 3, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I didn't have a friend like Hillary's who would correspond with me in college. I wrote regularly to my parents and my mom sent me all those letters recently; I thought my daughter might be interested in reading them, but she wasn't. I didn't pour out my heart to my parents like I might have to a close friend, but I did a pretty good job of documenting the highlights of the college experience.

I wrote a lot of letters to friends, too, and I prided myself on the letter I got that said, "This is the first letter I've ever written in my life."--As I said, my high school classmates weren't like Hillary's.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 3, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

It's great that your grandmother has lived such a full life. Her exit sounds vastly better than dementia, which is not merely loss of memory and ability to recognize others, as I learned with my late father.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 3, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, when that van is commercially available, I will want one!

Boss, I thought EJ's column this morning made lots of sense.

dr, glad you liked the photo. I thought it was stunning. And I picked it up from the British Monarchy website, of all places!

Yello, my brother was so confused for the last five months of his life. It was tough to cope with, but I'm glad I was there to help my niece navigate the maze.

jack, we're in the Queen City this weekend, go to the mountains next on Wednesday. So far this summer, it has hit 80 there just twice. Beats the heck out of 90+ that's daily here.

Posted by: Slyness | August 3, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Two words, Martooni: Unfinished Sweet.

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Interesting article on Hillary. I think I have to agree with the emerging consensus on the pants. That three webpage article was more insightful about the college experience that the entirety of I Am Charlotte Simmons, by the way.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 3, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Bridge tales are starting to come out on MN Public Radio. One couple who escaped from their vehicle as it sank in the river were on the way to a hospital where their 2 year old daughter had been emergency airlifted for treatment of injuries suffered in a fall at home.

Posted by: frostbitten | August 3, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I had pants like that, but in my defense I was still at an age where Ma Frostbitten bought the clothes and I wore them or suffered the threat of having to go naked.

Posted by: frostbitten | August 3, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I am all too familiar with the concept of eccentric loading. I know a. It's bad, and b. It's increasingly why I end up having to work such freaking long hours.

Eccentrically loaded people, well that's another story. Nah, come to think of it, it usually doesn't end so well for them either.

Martooni, good to see you with another day 1.

Posted by: dr | August 3, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

In 1969 those pants were groovy

Posted by: omni | August 3, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I NEVER had a pair of bell bottoms. My parents wouldn't have it. They wouldn't allow me to buy Janis' Pearl, either. Too counter culture, or more likely, too close to what they percieved as the anti-war movement. Dad was, at that time, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and a huge supporter of Nixon. Little did they know of the wonders of hanging out with folks into the Grateful Dead when, a number of years later, I went off to college. I sense my parents' ashes stirring...

Posted by: jack | August 3, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Mudge... I'm drooling, man...

200HP hybrid? Sure beats the whopping 65HP I get at 15mpg.

Looks like that's based on the concept bus VW put on hold a few years ago. I don't know why they dropped it then -- people were going bonkers over the New Beetle at the time. I remember thinking that a New Bus might do wonders for the resale value of the Old Ones.

At $69K, though, I don't imagine many hippies could afford one. Heck, my house was only $49K. But I must admit that is one way cool ride (assuming they can pull it off).

Posted by: martooni | August 3, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

New Kit.

Posted by: Yoki | August 3, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

This is what happpens what higher and higher taxes create fat and bloated govts.! They collapse under their own weight. Why isn't the media doing anything responsible like investigating govt. waste, inaction, and ineffiency? ARE THEY TOO BUSY ACTING AS THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE FOR THE LIBERAL LEFT?
Btw, apparently there are a lot of left wing nuts with nothing to do all day but post off topic crap and conservative bash on blogs. It's like CB radio for the left wing trailer trash hillbilly crowd!

Posted by: ricardo maxwell | August 5, 2007 6:58 AM | Report abuse

"We behave as though we have no idea what is required to sustain the quality of our daily lives."

I don't I can barely sustain my daily life as it is. But I do know, because I lived in Ann Arbor that if you put salt on the roads and you do not protect your car's underside. It will rust.

They paint the Golden Gate Bridge every year to protect it against the saltly sea air. When was the last time the trusses on that bride were painted? Perhaps it was not designed for that heavy a moving load over that long a period of time, and rust and small fractures did their work?

It will be interesting to see what comes of the report. Meanwhile "we behave as though we have no idea what is required to sustain the quality of our daily lives."

As I said, I can't sustain mine as it is. I hope the people we elect can do better.

Posted by: Kxrc | August 7, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: 87a3mvxarp | August 14, 2007 8:05 AM | Report abuse

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