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Choo-choo to New York

I had to get out of town. On public transit. I can't drive in Snowworld anymore. I'm on the Acela to New York and am admiring all the infrastructure: rails, wires, conduits, rowhouses, churches, prisons, electrical sub-stations, roads, bridges, warehouses, water towers, hospitals, schools, diners and junkyards. The strange thing is you don't see a whole lot of people. It's cold. They're inside, probably. Unless they're just not there anymore. Maybe something bad happened. Let me Google "apocalypse" to make sure there's no breaking news on that front.

I'm reading Phil Schewe's delightful book "The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of Our Electrified World." It's science writing at its best: smart, lyrical, full of stuff you didn't know.

Didn't Edison work somewhere right around here?

What hath Tom wrought?

I have wireless Internet via the Aircard and my cell has worked except for a couple of brief moments. Now that I think about it, maybe I should be outraged by the momentary disruptions. I should write an angry letter to someone.

Do people still write letters? How much is a stamp now?

It must be interesting, living in a house along the tracks. Hanging the clothes on the line as the strangers hurtle past.

Once you get to Wilmington there's pretty much one big city all the way to New York. A few patches of trees in central Jersey. But mostly it's people, and more people, and more buildings, and lots of low-slung towns that need a coat of paint. The infrastructure is aging, but so am I.

I've seen these same buildings and houses and warehouses and churches since I started riding this corridor in the 1970s. The train is an upgrade, but mainly because it has an AC outlet for my laptop. The vibrations are the same. The shimmies and shakes.

Can you overdose on flashbacks?

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 17, 2010; 11:21 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: A go-nowhere existence
Next: No thanks, I'll stay at the Super 8


My interest in snowboard cross may have been misplaced. Biathlon definitely seems more exciting-

And as an aside, living by the tracks is all well and good, as long as you don't live on the wrong side.

Posted by: kguy1 | February 17, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of flashbacks, everytime I read "Acela" I think of "Akela" in cub scouts and start doing the little chant "A-ke-la we'll do our best, dyb, dyb, dyb we'll dob, dob, dob."

In our cub scout group (pack?) there was also a wolf head to go along with this. This added a lot (again speaking of flashbacks) to the later reading of Lord of the Flies.

Posted by: engelmann | February 17, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Mr. A, you are such a tease.

Here you lead us on about Phil Schewe's book and that it's full of stuff you didn't know, and we're waiting for the juicy bits, but then you leave us dangling.

Just what does Mr. A now know that he didn't know before? And how will this impact the future of the Achenblog, yea, the future of life as we know it?

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

The Acela. That's the ritzy one that costs like $200 each way to New York. I have to take the Regional Metroliners, which are nice but they aren't the first class cushy cabins with their own waiting area in Penn Station and the free cocktails and bon-bons and fluffy pillows. I clearly need the WaPo expense account.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I very much like the idea of the "forever" stamp. But it means that I will never again know how much a stamp is, even though we still archaically pay our bills by mail.

Posted by: -bia- | February 17, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I haven't ridden the Acela yet. I'm hoping we can get to do that sometime when the sun shines and the snow doesn't. I'm thinking maybe Joel is working up to one of his prescient pieces for WaPo. One big issue that stands out is getting more power from where it is generated to where it is needed. If we're going to use more wind and solar power, the best places for those are in "flyover country". And overhead transmission lines are still the only real option for moving that power around.

Posted by: ebtnut | February 17, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I love trains. My grandfather worked on railroad lines for 50 years. I still have the watch he used. (A Hamilton 946 with 23 Jewels manufactured in 1907. But I digress.) Alas, I don't get the chance to ride in them very much any more. I am a creature of the beltway.

There's a train called "The Sounder" that connects Seattle to various locations to the south. The last time I visited the Pacific Northwest I rode it to my home town. And I was amazed at all the stuff I had never noticed before. I mean, I had driven along that corridor hundreds of times, but had never really bothered to look. Because, you know, I was driving.

That's part of the charm of trains. The view has just enough detail to be interesting, but not so much as to interfere with free association. Sort of like an Andy Warhol film, but with more plot.

Further, a railroad track defines order amidst chaos. There is a single line of uninterrupted continuity (or so one hopes...) with unquestioned right of way. This is something I find comforting, much like a trail meandering through the woods. But without the bears.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Friedman mentioned last night that 1.6 billion people are energy-poor, with no connection to an energy grid. To reinforce his point, he showed a picture of young black students--all male, by the way--sitting on traffic ballards under the lights that fringe the airport parking lot in Guinea, with what looked like papers in their laps. What were these young students doing?

Studying. Why there next to the lights of the airport parking lot? Because that's where the electricity is at night in Guinea.

Friedman also called out numbers during his program, on more than one occasion. In 1830, there were one billion humans. In 2008, there are one billion teenagers.

He also talked about Americome, if I wrote the term down correctly. Friedman defined the unusual term or word as 300 million people living like the U.S. IIRC, he said that there were 2.5 Americomes when he was born. Today there are eight or nine, including India, China, East Asia and Latin America. I feel the need to go check these figures in his latest book.

And the global impact if more areas in the world are added to the increasing number of Americomes?

Posted by: laloomis | February 17, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh Joel. Tesla, man. Tesla.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Acela takes 2 hours, 42 minutes from DC to NYC and the cheap seat is $133.

Legacy technology takes 3 hours, 17 minutes and the cheap seat is $74.

Acela better be more comfy cuz it sure isn't much faster.

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm jealous. I very much enjoy taking the train. It really is the only way to travel these days. I've taken both the Acela and the regional from Boston to DC/BWI many times to visit friends and family since I left the Annapolis area. It's great.

I stare out the window, lose myself in thought, doze, read, lose myself in my headphones and a little work that requires consecutive thought without the interruption of emails and instant messages, make friends with the guy in the Cafe car, drink beer, doze again. Lovely!

My one issue is that it's a perfect example of why we should not allow cell phones on airplanes. The difference in noise level between the quiet car and the normal passenger cars is like night and day. I've noticed the some folks will get on the train with nothing to do for a four or eight hour trip except talk on their phone. Amazing. It drives me crazy if I'm trying to work and the person next to me is on a two hour conference call with friends discussing various friends and family members' shortcomings.

Well . . . unless they have really interesting shortcomings.

Posted by: cowhand214 | February 17, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Friedman did emphasize that there are too many "Americans" in the world today. The Lord did not design the our planet for so many Americans, he said. These new "Americans" will heat up, eat up, choke up and smoke up this planet faster than anyone (there's a squiggle in my notes I can't decipher this I choose "anyone") can imagine.

He said there are five "fires" driving megatrends:

Energy and Natural Resource Supply and Demand


Climate Change

Energy Poverty

Biodiversity Loss

Posted by: laloomis | February 17, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Hi all!

My hubby and I took the AutoTrain on our honeymoon, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I've driven to FL countless times, and flown a few, but I would definitely take the train again. It had better scenery than the interstate, and we didn't feel like sardines. The food was much better than the airlines, and I really enjoyed sitting at a table in the dining car with other passengers to eat.

We're considering taking the Empire Builder from Chicago into Glacier National Park for our next trip. I'm a little wary about spending that much time on the train, though. Does anyone have an opinion on the fold-back coach chairs vs getting a roomette?.

Posted by: MoftheMountain | February 17, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

"What happends when flat meets crowded?" Friedman asked. (Flat defined as the rising of the middle class--via technology and jobs--from us to live like we live.)

Doha, Qatar, which has sprouted a Manhattan.

Dalien, China, which is the outsourcing capital of China. It also sprouted a Manhattan.

So, Joel, are you heading to Mana-hatta, the island of many hills?

Posted by: laloomis | February 17, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

LOVE the trains in europe! in america the trains always go through the worst part of towns. not so in europe! what a beautiful way to travel! and you get private little cars. best time ever!

when i was a kid, my mother and i took the train from dc to florida - now THAT was torture...


Posted by: mortii | February 17, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

I understand that there's some political momentum gathering to upgrade the Acela to a faster rail service, which makes sense. There's also been some talk in MD of MagLev (aka Magnetic Levitation, IIRC) systems to bring speeds up to 300 mph (not having to depend on wheels and associated friction/drag would definintely help), but I don't see a multi-billion dollar public investment like *that* happening anytime soon.

As you point out, the trains are getting better, and there's even Internet connectivity almost all the way there, even if the view's stayed more or less the same since the Johnson administration.

I'm not sure you can OD on flashbacks (or flashbacks of ODs, I suppose), but I believe it is possible to become Lost in Reverie. Danger, Will Robinson, danger! [Someone had to say it. I think.] A good soundtrack to that ride might be the "Them Crooked Vultures" CD, which I think as good a Led Zep update as there is these days. Seems timeless to me, as I think good art should be.

CP, I'm late to the party from yesterday, but -- you're a hero! I hope your neighbor's doing better today, and makes a full recovery.

Sorry, I couldn't watch any of the Westminster thing - I saw "Best in Show," and that was good enough for me.


Posted by: -bc- | February 17, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I thought Toyota recalled all the Acelas.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 17, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Infrastructure, Joel. Infrastructure is key. In local public policy circles, for years now I've advocated a state-sponsored investment fund, say 1 billion dollars, devoted to infrastructure improvement. It would aid in economic development (energy state!) and responsible use of resources. Of course, we have no money. We're still trying to completely fund the 1 billion state economic development investment fund.

I wish I could ride a passenger train. There is only one which stops in Oklahoma. It goes to Fort Worth and back. The only times I've needed to get to Fort Worth, the train wasn't a good option. Ah well. Someday.

Mofthemountain, I enjoyed your paean to the train but was taken aback at the mental picture of you sitting in the dining car, eating the other passengers.

Of course, you might be a bear in disguise. I'm told every blog needs more bears.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 17, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm horribly late in faxing multiple gold stars to CquaP for excellent first-responder activities! :-O

Ivansmom, I'm fairly certain the Acela is a bear-free zone.

The circus train, on the other hand...

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm trying remember the last time I wrote a real-life paper-based letter. I think it was last year when I wrote one to an elderly relative. Really, outside of thank-you notes, occasional greeting cards, and the rare Letter of Complaint over Shoddy Products (corporations still seem to respond to snail-mail complaints best) I fear all my correspondence has been electronic.

Sad, in a way. When I was in college I sent hundreds of letters to friends and loved ones all sealed with a smidgen of pretentious wax. Electronic letters seem far less elegant.

But at least there are fewer paper-cuts.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

d'oh - mofm - i see i booo'd... i'm sorry but the train to florida was awful - it took soooo long and you couldn't recline your seats to sleep - whereas the flight only takes a cpl hours... but i was very young and maybe am remember it as being worse than it was. maybe it made a lot of stops - the local to florida mayhaps...

Posted by: mortii | February 17, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the kudos. Neighbor is awaiting surgery later today. Imagine the backlog of last week. And, one orthopedic surgeon broke her wrist last week, on black ice.

Went to check the evil ice spot. Yep. Frozen scarlet droplets on ice. Reminds me of the Snow White story. Love the train. Love the tiny private cars, but they are expensive. The choice of that or recliner chairbeds really concerns your back's fussiness more than anything else. Entirely better than airplains for the cattle car lot (me, never advanced to first class).

Dare I admit? Curling is boring me but I love the miked sound feed...more fierceness than one would expect. Still LOVING the NordieDudes pants. Want some, in a smaller print and capri style.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 17, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I love traveling Amtrak. We do it all the time. If you avoid the DC-Boston corridor, and stay out the sleepers, it's very cheap, and it's so much more comfortable than flying. Wide seats, power plugs nearby, friendly folks also traveling and usually in a good mood.

Like roundtrip DC-Pittsburgh is around 80 bucks and a gorgeous ride through the mountains.

Taking the sleeper cars is great, though. Certainly don't do it to be cheap, but for the experience. Lots of fun.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 17, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

lol, I-mom. Duly noted, funny how inflection makes all the difference when you're rereading to yourself.

please edit it to: " eat with other passengers."

The Acela trainset can already go faster than it usually does. I believe its average is about 75mph on the Corridor, and its top speed is 150 mph. It's the track that needs updating. I really don't see that happening in the very populated Northeast without eminent domain or something. As mo obliquely pointed out, few people with a choice want to live near the tracks.

Posted by: MoftheMountain | February 17, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

It says “choo-choo-choose you,” and there’s a picture of a train.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 17, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

M o'the Mountain... get a roomette if you're traveling more than 8 or 10 hours. Really. Especially if the train runs overnight.

Besides, getting a roomette puts you in First Class and all meals are included, even if the train runs hours late (which it will) and takes you into another mealtime.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 17, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Well, one way you could deliver energy over long distances is to convert it to chemical energy and truck that stuff. Use renewable energy to electrolyze water, release the oxygen to the environment or compress it for industrial purposes, and compress the hydrogen to liquid form for transport.

How much energy can we recover from the H2? What happens if there is a transportation accident? Figuring that liquid H2, like pretty much everything, has a density of around that of water, and a tank car has a capacity of 34,500 gallons (ain't Google wonderful), we can estimate a weight of H2 per tanker car of 34,500X8.35/2000 = 144 tons of H2. How many cars per train? Perhaps 80, so estimate a train totes 11.5 kTon of H2. TNT, the standard for estimating things like nuclear weapons blasts, achieves most of its energy from chemical reactions involving rearranging its H, C, O, and N from a complicated organic molecule into a bunch of simpler ones. A reaction involving H2 will have a much greater energy density because we are weighing only the low-mass reagent, and we don't have to break any chemical bonds within the reagent. On the other hand, TNT reacts much more swiftly, whereas H2 must burn by the delivery of O2. So, let's estimate a roughly equivalent energy release if a transportation accident were to occur, although in actual controlled use we can probably get 4 to 5 times as much energy release as from an equivalent mass of TNT. Thus, a train can transport as much useful energy (controlled) as a few Hiroshima-size bombs, or as much as about half a Hiroshima-size bomb in accidental release. Surely no one would begrudge the transit of such a train through their home town? I would suggest re-engineering railroad beds to lie within a parabolic-cross section trench, located along the vertex line, such that the initial detonation from a rail accident would be focused and directed straight upwards until the retaining walls are destroyed, by which time most of the hydrogen will have been projected upwards to burn energetically, but non-explosively. You might also want to use smaller freight trains. Can't change the fact that bridges for roads must go over the rail lines. It would be much worse to put the rail line over the roadways, since you lose the ability to contain and control the blast in case of an accident.

Sounds like a plan! Make it so!

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 17, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

airplains and cows...forgive my logical, fuzzy SCC

And, this snow report. This morning, the crust was sufficient to hold my entire weight...I did not fall through. Little doggie went crazy last night on the firm snow. But, she is a wee thing. I held too.

But, by midday, I fell through, trudging through snow to the garage.

Biking is tricky, like walking. No edge and must be in the lane. Cars honking....well, my goodness, we need all take chill pills....

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 17, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Just saw your comment, mo. In recent years CSX and Amtrak worked out some of their differences, and the AutoTrain generally gets priority now, so it's about the same as driving straight through. Before that, yes, it was awful. From what I've heard, that is typical of the rest of the Amtrak system, though. The freight railroads usually don't give Amtrak the priority (after all, it is their track), so they can end up sitting for long periods of time.

Posted by: MoftheMountain | February 17, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

MotM: Here's the thing about taking the train from The Windy City to Glacier Nat'l Park.

First, there's Union Station. It's one of the most unfriendly depots in the country. Old, dirty, not connected to the city subway system, and hard to navigate with luggage.

So you deal with the disaster that is Union Station. You get on the train and about 29 hours later you get to the east side of the park. And it's still another 17 to Seattle, assuming you're taking the train to the end of the line. Comfort is essential for a trip of that duration. Spring for the max comfort you can afford. Your body, especially your back and legs, will thank you.

I would strongly advise against coach seats, and not just because of the comfort factor. In coach, your ability to rest is dependent upon your carmates' noise levels. The trip is torture if you're sitting with loud passengers.

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Hence why my company won't pay for Acela. Acela is much comfier. All the cars on an Acela are 'business class' compared to the Regionals which typically have one business class car, one dining car, and the remainder as 'coach'. You can also pay an extra $97 each way on Acela for first class. I have no idea what extra amenities that entails.

I ran into a former coworker once taking the Regional business class. I sat next to her and talked for a while until the conductor kicked me out. The seats are more comfortable, but not $60 each way more comfortable.

The biggest paradigm adjustment is that there are no seatbelts on rail car seats and every seat is either window or aisle. There is very little chance of air-rage on a train unless your phone rings while in the quiet car.

Also, each row of seats, even in coach, have a power strip, so running out of laptop battery power on a four hour trip is less of an issue.

Finally, no security issues or screening. I have literally arrived at the station as the train is pulling up. The door-to-door time can be considerably less on the DC-NY run since Penn Station is in midtown and on the subway line.

"Amtrak: America's favorite way to travel...with weed."

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

MsJS, All of those steel rolling on steel are legacy. The upkeep is very costly, but cheaper up front.

MagLev... that's the way to go. If it weren't so, then we wouldn't have all these old style (bullet type train manufacturers running so many fluff ads (like Siemens.)

Check this out>>>

What this short video doesn't say in its discussion of costs are the costs for steel systems. Plus as you aim to go faster with Steel on Steel, you raise your cost per mile with traditional (Legacy) systems.

Using an estimate of distance between NY and Washington of 328 km, at about 500 km/hr, we are talking about 45 minutes plus stops. The problem is that train right of way is based on speeds of sub 100 mph travel and, in many places follows paths that were our original "cart paths."

This thing is going so fast that you can't have a bunch of turns in it and there would be a great deal of local disruption.

Once it was running, however, plane travel between washington and NY would be legacy.

Think of it. It is possible that you could nearly allow the same amount of time to go from Columbia, MD for a date at the Kennedy Center as you would from Dupont Circle to the Met in NYC.

The problem, how do you run all the legacy technologies at the same time.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Weed, that's a great summary. Thanks!

Of course, if we could just beam where we wanted to go, I could come to DC for a BPH and still sleep that night at home.

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

bc, sorry, just spotted your post. I was always stronger on the math part...

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Massive BOOO. My 2:54 was a direct rejoinder to MsJS's 1:57. I should have realized I needed to refresh once or twice.

My one first class train experience was taking the Eurostar from Garde De Nort in Paris to Waterloo Station and back as a day trip. We had to go first class because we had promised our son a trip to London (he had a choice of that or Disneyland Paris and that's what he picked). Verrrry nice. I slept most of the way there since there is no scenery to look at in the Chunnel.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm with mo, I adore the rail system in Europe. So great to get on a train and go where you want to go, in comfort and with decent food! The last time I rode Amtrack, from DC to Charlotte, it was slow and the restroom was out of order in the car I was in. I hope they have improved.

My two favorite boyz discovered trains last summer, when their grandmother took them on a scenic mountain ride. Now they are into choo-choo and Thomas the Tank Engine. They got a train table from Santa and have to be forcibly removed, with great anguish, when it's time to eat or nap. This is exactly where we need the next generation to be. I hope we can rebuild the passenger rail system on this continent, to compete with air travel.

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Another pain about Amtrak travel is that on most routes, Amtrak is leasing the lines from CSX, who always gets the right of way. So lots of pulling over to let the freight trains by.

But I still love it!

Posted by: -TBG- | February 17, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Great post, Weed!

In the early 80s I worked on Mag-Lev with the Canadian Institute of Guided Ground Transport (now a private company, then a P3 with Queens, Dept. of Transport and others). We had a train set in the basement of the physics building. Very very cool. I really thought we'd have at least one operating system in North America by now. The naivete of youth!

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

slyness, I just checked and that restroom is still out of order.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

yello: I got that. If business takes you to Manhattan from DC, avoiding the airports makes great sense.

I once had a client in Times Square and loathed the trips between LaGuardia and their offices.

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Hiya all.

I do love the train. Always have. I never drove a car in Europe (notwithstanding my rustiness in driving a stick shift) because the trains were so tremendous . . . even the ones emanating from Italy (although we always knew which ones *those* were).

Air travel has turned into such a PITA. That doesn't mean that train travel along the Boston-NYC-Phila-Balmer-DC-down south corridor is a picnic, either, but I do like to watch the scenery go by while someone else is driving. A reinvigoration of train travel would be a good thing for the economy, thinketh I.

*disclaimer -- at no time have I ever, nor do I wish to, studied economics. I am not an economist, nor do I play one on TV. My thoughts and opinions emanate from pure instinct, coupled with a faint whiff of Keynes, perhaps.*

First of all, there is the boost in jobs for setting up and eventually maintaining the infrastructure. Second, there is the eventual development around train stations (and within the larger ones like DC's Union Station), so that means jobs and commerce. Third, people can cross state lines for the purposes of commerce (and I mean *legitimate* and *legal* commerce) much more easily. And there we are.

Toodley Boodley for now. Cya later.

Posted by: -ftb- | February 17, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I see no one has had the courtesy to answer the question Joel asked about stamps, so I guess I will just have to do it.

Joel, stamps are now $14.95 each. Yes, it's a little more costly than what you eremember, but then, what isn't? Fortunately, you don't have to buy them by standing in long lines at small, dark buildings built in the 1930s with WPA money and featuring gorgeous murals painted by closet socialists and anybody named Diego, because the U.S. Postal Service no longer exists. Nowadays you order stamps by going online and applying to order them that way (have credit card handy). They will be delivered to you by Fedex within 48 hours, in a one-size-fits-all container, so for optimal purchsing, buy enough stamps to reasonably fill up the box (large enough to hold three volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary).

The application process allows you to become what is known as a "Seasonal Stamp Ticket Holder," kind of like buying a season ticket to the Redskins or the Nationals. (Did I mention that since the Post Office no longer exists, it has been "privatized" and is now operated by the private sector? In this region, the National Stamp Franchise is owned by Dan Snyder and Ted Leonsis.) There is a $100 minimum order.

As before, stamps come with a very wide variety of designs, available for very modest additional fees. The Official Authorized Redskins stamp is only $29.95. The Wizards stamp is $26.50, or two for $34.00.

You probably ought to be advised that stamps no longer come with adhesive on the back, and one no longer "licks" stamp to affix them to envelopes. (The best thing about stamps and mail is that it allows one to use the word "affix," which would have died in the last century otherwise). No, licking stamps is unsanitary and presents the risks and hazards of germs as well as infection from tongue paper cuts. (The human mouth is full of germs, as you may know.) Instead, you must purchase a stamp affixation kit for $18.95 that allows you to affix a stamp (or stamps) to the envelope. This kit has been approved by both the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Good luck. Hope this has helped.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 17, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

LOL, Weed. Since that trip was taken Christmas week 1994, we can assume Amtrack is a little behind in maintenance.

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. If Tim wants to transport hydrogen on the rails, I'm going to figure out a way for me to travel in a pod in a pipeline. That'll be the future: people travel in pipelines, and energy on the highways and by Amtrak! This will make sense!

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Jkt's comments about not having much to look at may be true for MagLev east coast... since it is possible that the best way to make the trip is through tunnels. What really interested me was that, like the DC Metro, you have to allow air to escape from the tunnel in front of the train. (you know those sidewalk grates that provide us with the occasional Marilyn Monroe moments!).

I recently heard about using suction to draw the trains down the tunnel.

To me, the trip to NYC just introduces way too much hastle to do for fun, but if it were no more than a commute, wow.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

So what you're saying is that, not unlike the Washington Racial Slurs Football Team, these stamps are licked before they even start?

Posted by: kguy1 | February 17, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

That's OK, rt

I like MagLev well enough -- made a working scale MagLev train for an 8th grade science project after seeing one on the cover of Popular Science. It worked well enough in scale, but needed a lot of tuning and development to make it right. Do we Americans have the patience for such things in these days of short-attention-span Internet time? I'm sure today's CAD/CAM and engineering/modeling test systems are much better than I was at 12, but I stuck with it when it wasn't working exactly as I'd envisioned, and found the resources I needed even when it meant sacrifice beyond what I'd budgeted.

Fortiutude matters. And I hope we have what it takes to make MagLev really work, if we decide to invest in it.

On a related note, I'm not sure there was a flying car on that PM cover, too.


Posted by: -bc- | February 17, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I am skeptical about the potential of transporting people up and down the east coast -- or anywhere else -- by using giant pneumatic tubes. It's not the technology that bothers me (I think it'd work). It's the PR problem presented presented to advertising copywriters, ad people, marketing geniuses, etc. I mean, what could AMTRAK's new motto be? "AMTRAK: We suck you all the way to New York." "AMTRAK and George Bush welcome you to the InterTubes." "Travel by AMTRAK: The food in our club car sucks too!"

(I hope you realize I have been very gentle with this line of speculation.)

And then, now that our beloved Mother Tongue is burdened with prefixes "e" and "i" in front of everthing, pneumatic travel will inevitably be called pTransit or some similar abomination. "I'm taking the pTrain to Boston." There will be pHobos hitching rides on pTubes. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Film Festival will rob the pUnion-Pacific, and Michael Buble and Harry Connick will sing, "Pardon Me, Boy, Is This the Chattanoga pChoo-pChoo?"

It will be psimply awful.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 17, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

There's money - $8 billion - in the stimulus plan for high speed rail. Mostly track updates (some in this area is to keep Amtrak from having to wait for freight, IIRC). And just a drop in the bucket to really make rail a viable alternative.

My kid took the train from San Francisco to Seattle - once - so he could bring his bike. The train was 6 hours late.

Posted by: seasea1 | February 17, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse


for someone who's tendencies run more to artist than engineer, I have had the opportunity to listen to many of the points on the MagLev v. traditional (civil war based technology) and there are working MagLev systems of all sorts-short haul and long; fast and just convenient.

The problem in looking at cost comparisons between the two technology types seems to be that of the initial cost of investment and then maintenance. Oh, and also how the rapid rail systems are run.

The MagLev system is wildly more expensive and that number is easily the first one (as in the Video that I posted above) that anyone looks at. Well, the problem is that traditional rail requires constant costly maintenance that actually is involving the company basically replace a good portion of the infrastructure in a time period basis.

The proof of this is that the Japanese, with the best bullet train system are looking into replacing that technology with their very extensive evaluation and development process. Why do all that? The maintenance costs in Japan are also astronomical. Maybe, 3 to 5,000 workers are on the train tracks at night every night maintaining the system and replacing or fixing tracks and beds.

The MagLev runs on cement causeways. They can be adjusted by a two man crew, as needed. Sensors on the trains, themselves, can also provide instant data feedback as the trains run down the track.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

As part of the Aichi World Expo in 2005, they built a maglev demo project to the fairgrounds. From Tokyo it was a two hour Shinkansen (bullet train) ride (we took the relatively slower Hikari, not the slightly faster Nozomi) to Nagoya.

From there we transferred to a commuter rail that took us to the mag-lev station. The mag-lev was rather underwhelming in that it was functionally identical to the people movers found at most modern airports and more crowded.

Hikari train:

Nozomi train:

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Laloomis, thanks for the introduction to the new unit, Americome. That truly is the challenge for the world, for our children and peace in the world. How do we meet the expectations of a world of people who want to live like Americans and how will the intense competition for resources that aspiration will create.

There is no moral ground from which to stand and deny those aspirations and trying to meet them without exhausting all resources and/or getting into a worldwide conflict is not an easy knot to untie.

Energy is key but it will take a concerted effort in all areas from atomic through wind to meet the demand or a technological end run for which there are few candidates.

Posted by: edbyronadams | February 17, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

According the Wikipedia article on it, the Linimo mag-lev that was put into service in 2005 had several problems, including that it doesn't run when the cars are overloaded and the magnets can't lift the train and passengers.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

And where does America's love affair with the automobile fit into all of this?

And the fact that the U.S. is a geographically large country?

Or would maglev be limited to the U.S. northeast corridor?

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Big BOOO coming here, but this is my first chance to check in today.


The biathlon was way more exciting than I thought it would be. At first I thought, "Cross country skiing with target shooting? Why?" but I got sucked in.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 17, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Also, Sheldon really likes trains.

Props to anyone who catches this reference. :)

Posted by: Sara54 | February 17, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Sheldon on Big Bang Theory.

Hi, Sara.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 17, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

You have it upon my major comment on the economies of train service in North America versus Europe or Japan. The vast distances of our country and the decentralized infrastructure is a much bigger hurdle to overcome. It is not a drop-in slam-dunk solution.

For example, about 30% of the population of Japan lives in the Greater Tokyo megapolis, making a hub and spoke transportation system very practical. Kyoto to Tokyo is less than three hours by bullet train, or about the same as Amtrak from DC to New York.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Mudge. Kudos to you.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 17, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

So. I know who won the women's ski race (downhill?). Wouldja all like to know now, so that you aren't forced to stay up until midnight waiting for Costas and NBC to finish showing those *expletive* repetitive commercials?

Lemme know.

I'll check back in momentarily.

Posted by: -ftb- | February 17, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse


Last night they showed the winners of "later" events on the 6 o'clock news and just spent a good two minutes beforehand saying, "If you don't want to know and you want to watch later tonight, turn away from your TV."

And then while they were up, "So, there they are. It's still up. Don't turn back yet. Not yet. I'll let you know when they're off the screen. Okay. It's safe to look at the television screen again."

I looked.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 17, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Trains are nice if you have money and time to go first-class as I did once upon a time.
No driving, no pat-downs, you can lie down or walk around and nobody's in your personal space.
Travelling as pleasure. What a concept.

Never took Acela, though.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Too late, I already saw the result on the WaPo front page. And to prove that I'm not the only cranky left coaster:

Posted by: seasea1 | February 17, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is misunderstanding my concept: we already have gas pipelines all over this land. Many of them are over 3' in diameter and would comfortably hold a pod with a a fancy Ikea recliner built into it. That is if Ikea makes recliners, of which I'm unsure. But you get the idea: the infrastructure ALREADY EXISTS, it's the pods which are the only new technology.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

The only two overnight sleeper trains I have ever taken were in Italy back in 1984 and in China (from Beijing to Xian) three years ago. Both times they were less than comfortable and the privacy issues were bothersome. But they are a little like time travel. You fall asleep and wake up at your destination. But I do that on most forms of transportation where I am not the vehicle pilot.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Are Canadians too nice to win medals:

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

But, Jumper, wouldn't the pipelines 'splode? I mean, with the added weight and whatnot? I want my Star Trek transporter.

Posted by: seasea1 | February 17, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I saw that in one of the James Bond movies. They used a cleaning plug to transport a defector. Then some evil genius tried to take over the world.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Not sure if still the same, but one of the funny things about Eurail passes in the early 90s was that the pass was first class so you'd sometimes be the hobo sitting up with the business travellers.

If a person actually wants to be somewhat rested on arrival, you have to pay for something to stretch out on.

Posted by: engelmann | February 17, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Rats. Foiled again.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

had to share this with you guys - my co-worker sent to me - no idea of the origin...

It's winter in Virginia
And the gentle breezes blow,
70 miles per hour at 25 below!
Oh, how I love Virginia
When the snow's up to your butt;
You take a breath of winter air
And your nose is frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
I guess I'll hang around.
I could never leave Virginia
'Cause I'm frozen to the ground.

***author UNKNOWN

Posted by: mortii | February 17, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree with MsJS's 4:13. Our passenger service is still wedded to our freight lines for a reason, and it's not because the freight lines want them around. It's never been economically feasible to build a separate passenger-only system on a national scale. It is DC-NY and around major cities, there's enough demand and enough people, but not elsewhere. Even the AutoTrain only still runs because of the snowbirds.

I would also challenge that today's diesel electric and electric locomotives are anything like the horizontal boilers used in the civil war era. That's like saying your Prius is no different from a Tin Lizzie (or the earlier steam-driven cars).

Thanks for the suggestions, all. We'll probably do the roomette. The coach seats on the AutoTrain went back pretty far and had a footrest, sort of like a recliner, but the comfort and the passenger noise are good points.

Posted by: MoftheMountain | February 17, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Home from work, big day building for the US in Vancouver and Whistler.

I like trains, travelled a few times by train, nothing exotic but a leisurely way to travel. Had an elderly great aunt once who remarked to me how she thought the level of service on trains had declined, no one to draw your drapes anymore.

Just saw Stephen Colbert interviewed on the Canadian network covering the Olympics - humorous, like his new role as Asst. Team Psychologist - Speed skating.

Posted by: dmd3 | February 17, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Mo, that sounds like it could be about Virgnia, MN.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Tiger Woods is going to speak to a small group of friends on Friday at the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse. Selected members of the media have been invited.

Do I sense a "Free Tiger Woods [Part 3]" kit in the near future?

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

It was The Living Daylights, the best of the Timothy Dalton Bond movies. I love the C-130 fight sequence with the loading door down because I have ridden in the cargo holds of C-130s and had that fear.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

ftb, I already know who won the Women's Downhill, and I'm not planning on watching NBC's coverage tonight, but I'm DVRing it anyway. *Love* the downhill, and I will watch it.

I'll take the MagLev if it's available and if it makes sense. Always wanted to fly on the Concorde back in the day, but oh, my, the price of seat! And if I had $20M to fly the Soyuz up to the ISS, I'd take it.

Enjoy the flying cars, and transporter beams, kids -- I'm learning to jaunte.

Though I'll always have a weakness for sport bikes and cars...


Posted by: -bc- | February 17, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Can someone send some belts to the boys at the half pipe venue at the olympics, way to many wardrobe malfunctions - I am so old.

Posted by: dmd3 | February 17, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Let it be noted that they don't male everyone smile.

Posted by: engelmann | February 17, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

DMD -- let's take up a collection and send me to Whistler and Cypress where I can stage an intervention.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 17, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Just skimmed through Paul Farhi's Live Chat from last night - he said he was going to ask Joel to join him some night. Tonight Lisa de Moraes will be along.

Posted by: seasea1 | February 17, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

It would be perfect for you CP, weather is gorgeous, flowers are blooming there, plus you can correct the fasion wrongs at the Olympics.

Posted by: dmd3 | February 17, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Stop in the name of fashion
Before you break my heart

One great ease in my life is that CPDUDE and friends do not reveal their bottoms or briefs or boxers, etc. The pants are low slung, between hip and waist....they have cool cred bar non. But, the pants are as pants should be.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 17, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

CqP, may I come with you, if I promise to carry the sewing machine and luggage with the fabric and notions? Please? I promise I'll be lots of help!

This looks like fun, it would be worth a trip downtown:

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, in every duel the second is so important. YES. We shall bring ScottyNuke to carry the stuffs. He will be happy because he shall be paid in ski time.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 17, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Apparently all regular skiing at Whistler right now is the stuff dreams are made of, fresh power everyday.

Posted by: dmd3 | February 17, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Someone said SkiTime????? :-)))))

*counting the hours until a long skiing weekend with NukeSpawn* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh, we will be the sewing team everyone will want! I can do all the boring prep and cutting stuff while you design and create the gorgeous costumes!

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Curling. What evil force made me find this sport so fascinating. And the American teams to bad.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

DMD- is the "ready" command in speed skating a simulated voice?

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 17, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Shani Davis -- gold...apparently, he coaches himself...Yoki, he loves Calgary.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 17, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Murrican Shani Davis just won the 1000m skating thing. Another Murrican came third, unexpectedly. Go guys go!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Great race by Shani Davis. Not sure about the speed skating starts watched earlier when they had the problems with the one pair, one skater going one thinking there was a false start. Would like to state - There was no ICE delay tonight.

Posted by: dmd3 | February 17, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, y'all. Welcome to another edition of “What’s Baking at the Olys.”

Today we’re going to bake a simple chocolate cake. Really simple. One-layer, frosting optional. Heck, even the mixing bowl is optional. Perfect for those on whom esthetic detail is lost, if you get my drift.

It’s a personal adaptation of the Cockeyed Cake recipe in Peg Bracken’s “The I Hate to Cook Book.” BTW, the spine in my copy is cracked at that page, I’ve baked variations of this cake so often.

The ingredients:
1.5 cups flour
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
0.5 tsp salt
5 tbsp. canola or other light cooking oil
1 tbsp. vinegar (can be omitted if you want a slightly sweeter result, but it does bring out the chocolate flavor)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 9 x 2 square cake pan.

Sift the five dry ingredients together, right into the pan. Make three grooves in the mixture. Put the oil, vinegar, and vanilla into the three grooves and pour the water over the whole thing. Mish-mash with a spoon until you can’t see the flour.

Bake for 30 minutes.

When cool, frost if you want. I usually don’t. I’d have to clean up the bowl afterwards.

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

I used to paint C-130s. Summer job. Lots of prep work.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I love your hydrogen post Science Tim. A few corrections are in order though. 34 000usg cars are for ligthweight Liquid Petroleun Gases (LPG) UN1075, a shipping name that covers many evils. A condensed gas, not a compressed one, to start with. These are low vapour pressure product which condensate if you look at them sternly. A well worn joke of mine: they are flammable liquids north of 60. Some heavier LPG (like, butane) are loaded in 28-30 00 usg cars because of their specific gravity. Propane is in-between.
Compressed gases are transported in tube racks/tube cars, never in tank cars. Think 20" diameter pipes with convex heads, about 24 ft long. They are arranged in bundle, say 4x6x2 on racked flat cars. When sh!ts happen the theory is that most will survive the trauma thanks to their designs and self closing valves. Theory works, mostly.
The other option is Hydrogen, refrigerated liquid. It's mostly transported by road ($1m per trailer) but there are some cryogenic tank cars, all builts for the Apollo/Shuttle program. They are vacuum insulated double wall stainless steel cars. Rather expensive puppies. Hydrogenated oils put some life back in the market but the capital costs are intimidating.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I actually meant H2 compressed to the point of liquefaction.

I suspect the cost of the rail cars is trivial compared to the cost of building rail lines to defeat the effects of multi-kiloton explosions that might take place anywhere along the line.

Pipelines might be more effective than I originally gave credit for. The cryogenic H2 will freeze the surrounding soil out to a distance of several feet, I expect, thus effectively sealing any leaks from the pipeline with ice-plugs. Above-ground pipelines would be a complete disaster -- the very last thing you'd want would be to have cryogenic hydrogen spontaneously evaporating at a leaky joint or just due to insufficient insulation, exploding the pipe, which would probably make a spark and resulting a super-humongous Olympic torch. Below-ground pipelines only, please.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 17, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

There has been screw ups - but at least we can still laugh at ourselves,

Posted by: dmd3 | February 17, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Just spent 10 or 15 minutes over in the Paul Farhi/Lisa deMoraes chat and you know what? You guys are soooooo much better. Better comments, better company. No surprise, of course.

Basically a lot of whining and complaining over there.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | February 17, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Any other Canucks enjoying watching Peter Forsberg again?

Posted by: dmd3 | February 17, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Ah, you were speaking in jest. Just to give you the willies, Lowest Cost Bidders may be transporting Hydrogen, refrigerated liquid, around your town.
ASME, the assembly of dinosaurs, is unlikely to allow for Hydrogen, condensed compressed gas, anytime soon in an ASME pressure vessel.
A vessel to that code would be an exceptional beast. A tank car, a feast.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

I owned a house backed along the tracks, although it was strictly a freight line. This was in the late 80's, small-town Ohio. The house was pre-Civil War, ghost included, in decent condition and our monthly mortgage including taxes and escrow was $250. This might tell you something about the value of houses along the tracks.

What was really interesting about the house was its backyard had been a stockyard affiliated with the railroad. You could grow anything in that yard, and I did.

I'd look out my kitchen window to see deer and/or cows on the hills of the local farm across the tracks.

It was one of the most private places I've ever lived. One of my friends always commented you could walk around in your underwear in the backyard and nobody would ever see you. She lived in a more populous part of town. There must have been 20 houses on her street.

Posted by: -dbG- | February 17, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

The Sweden Red Wings beat the Germans (Ya!) 2-0. The Boches did very well,

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

The Live Chat folks are pretty much the same bunch each night, and they have their moments. Figure skating has the most snark potential, of course.

I caught some of the cross country skiing this afternoon. Never saw that raised foot motion before - looked like they were hopping, almost.

Posted by: seasea1 | February 17, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

used to ride the amtrak between syracuse and the City. the segment along the Hudson was beautiful.

Posted by: -jack- | February 17, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Gee, where is everyone? I usually come by here late in the evening and find there's a lot of reading to do to catch up with all of you!

I'm waiting for the kids to get home from their very first rock concert. The band's State Radio, which I gather is low-key and alternative, but I imagine it was an experience for them. Even though it's a school night. They went as a gang of five girls, and they called to say they're on the way home.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | February 18, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Tesla, man. Tesla.

Posted by: laloomis | February 18, 2010 1:13 AM | Report abuse

I miss my west by god train,but there are plenty of trains around here.Most of the places i hike in patapsco state park have the csx line running through it.i have gotten some nice pictures of the trains there.also some cool pics of trains on the thomas viaduct over the river.the one thing that hasn't happened is i want to flatten some coins,namely state quarters on the tracks,but "one of these days" i will be sucessful.

my commute takes me over several train tracks and i always sneak a peak to catch a train sighting,just makes me feel so good,when i do see those beautiful lights.

have a good night everyone.....

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 18, 2010 1:46 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Joel, people still write letters and use Post Office stamps to mail them. I buy them by the book, which usually runs about eight dollars and some change. Of course, the corporation or receipent of the letter doesn't respond because they figure if you're writing letters you're already dead, so why bother.

And yes, I love riding trains. My grandfather worked for the railroad, and we got free passes to ride. Where I live was the crossroad for every train in the country, and trains passed through here a lot. Not so now. There was one train called "the chicken bones special". It got this name because African-Americans couldn't afford the dining car so they brought their food, and the main course was fried chicken. And many times if they could afford the dining car, they were not welcomed there. This train originated in the north, and traveled down the eastern seaboad to the last point in Florida, and back again. I rode that train many days.

When my children were small we used to ride the train to Raleigh, NC to see my parents. We made it special by eating in the dining car, and just enjoying the sights as the train moved closer to our destination. It wasn't a very long ride, but it was fun for us.

Bad news from the Robert Woods Foundation and the University of Wisconsin concerning our county here. Out of 100 counties we rank 87th in a study concerning health, and 92nd in morbidity(?). The underlying causes poverty and a lack of everything that would pull us out of this rut. I'm not shocked. We've been a tier one county for ages, and that just won't move. It can be moved, but it would take a jolt of something, and a big one at that. I wanted to cry when I read that report.

I'm up early this morning because the leg was hurting so bad I could not lay in the bed any longer. Just really painful. I probably did too much yesterday. It was almost 8 when I got in last night, and I started at seven.

Mudge, Yoki, Martooni, Scotty, Lindaloo, and all the good people here, do have a great day.

Slyness, hope all is well with you and family. I talked with my dad yesterday, went to see him. He and my aunt went to a restaurant in Rockingham, and rode right by my apartment, but did they stop? No. Relatives, got to love them, and everyone else. Nothing is impossible with Christ.

Posted by: cmyth4u | February 18, 2010 6:01 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Cassandra! I hope the leg is feeling better now. Were you home when your dad and aunt went by? I'm afraid I do that sometimes, just too intent on what's on my mind so I don't remember to make a contact that's right in front of me. A bad habit.

Wednesday is a busy day for me, like it is for you. I'm looking forward to today, with just my own activities to think about. Gotta hit the grocery stores! And Elderdottir wants to meet for lunch.

Mr. T is out of town so I don't have to cook today (yay!!). Do you think he remembered to turn off his alarm? Of course not. Good thing I don't mind getting up early, at least during the week.

Posted by: slyness | February 18, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

I've heard of the chicken bones special. How delightful to have a first hand account.

If you were outside in the Baltimore area at about 6:50 a.m. this morning, you got to witness a glorious sunrise.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 18, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

The sunrise wasn't too shabby over here, yello...

Side note -- The halfpipe bronze medalist, Scotty Lago (no relation) hails from my old stomping grounds in New Hampshire. :-)

And yes, Shriek, ASME code-compliant pressure vessels are wonderful things.

*trying-to-contain-myself-less-than-24-hours-from-vacation Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 18, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Miami was kinda cold yesterday, nicer this morning. Crisp. I'm here for a bit of scientific recreation, a conference on rip currents. Which apart from being interesting, are a very serious public health problem. It was really good to talk with the CDC representative. Disclaimer: as a retired government biologist, I'm used to being a "consumer" of science--listening to people who know what they're doing, and figuring out what to do. Coastal geomorphology and such is a stretch.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | February 18, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Spring must be coming, it was daylight (well, almost) on my ride to work. We're up to 10.5 hours of sun a day. Woohoo!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 18, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Hey; Be careful out there. Other neighbor has broken her to the ER. But, taking care myself.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | February 18, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Good grief CP. Be careful. I never realized you lived in such a dangerous place! And bless you for being such a support to your neighbors.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 18, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

*faxin' CquaP and her neighbors some of those big inflatable hollow balls for bouncing safely off the ice* :-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 18, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

You guys need big orange warning tape everywhere. I'm starting to get melt across my driveway requiring additional salt.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 18, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Hola everybody. I'm back from the wild, suntanned but otherwise unhurt from adventures in paradise. I'll tell you more about the trip once I've had coffee and feel more human.

Did I miss anything?

Posted by: badsneakers | February 18, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Welcome home, Sneaks! I'm looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

We had a thousand comment boodle on the Olympics the other night. Live commenting on the events enabled me to keep up with what was going on, and explained why it was important. Another great use for the boodle!

Posted by: slyness | February 18, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

*struggling to breathe after ROFL from Sneaks' question* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 18, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Bad, welcome home. Yes, you missed a lot, mainly about the Olympics. But I think I can sum up a good deal of Oly boodling as follows: we like Canadians, and, for the most part, we like most of the costuming and clothing (emphasizing "most of," not saying "all"). So far, we seem to like almost all the winners, or at least, we have no objections to any of them. Some Canucks have won some medals, and we Murikins are happy for them. Likewise, some Murikins have beat some Canucks, and the Canucks have been happy and gracious about it. Curling seems to be increasingly addictive and subversive, slowly edging its way into the public (boodle) consciousness.

That's about it.

Meanwhile, a week or so ago, Salon published the following piece, which I thought was pretty good and worth reading: "Voodoo Histories": When smart people believe dumb things.
From 9/11 to the moon landing, how conspiracy theories have changed history -- and why we must fight back.

Covers Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Naomi Klein, JFK and Princess Di, DaVinci Code, Pakistan, birthers, etc. A major villain: the Internet (what have I been telling you?).

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | February 18, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Tom Friedman, p. 56, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded"--for the sake of proper attribution, correct spelling, the right numbers. (Much of Friedman's presentation on Tuesday at our Tinity University can be found in this, his most recent book):

Cities all over the world have caught America's affluenza--surely one of the most infectious diseases ever known to man. Tom Burke, cofounder of the group E3G--Third Generation Environmentalism, a nonprofit green consultancy--likes to put it this way: Think of America as a unit of energy. So one "Americum," as Burke puts it, "is any group of 350 million people with a per capita income above $15,000 and a growing penchant for consumerism." For many years, there were only two Americums in the world, says Burke--one in North America and another in Europe, with small pockets of Americum-style living in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

"Today," he notes, "there are Americums taking shape all over the planet." China has given birth to one Americum and is pregnant with a second, which is due in 2030. India has one Americum now and also has another on the way, also due by 2030. Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan constitute another Americum. Russia and Central Europe are nurturing another Americum, and parts of South America and the Middle East still another. "So, by 2030," says Burke, "we will have gone from a world of two Americums to a world of eight or nine."

These are America's carbon copies.

Posted by: laloomis | February 18, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Mudge, for linking to that amazing article. There is a book called "Voodoo Science" that makes a similar argument about how smart people can end up advocating absurd scientific positions, but at least in that case you often have the hope of redemption from the laboratory. Voodoo history seems much, much harder to disprove, because so much of it is about the narrative. The power of scary stories.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 18, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

From yesterday's NYT, "Environmental Advocates are Cooling on Obama." And the article mentioned Chicago's Exelon Corporation and how its employees have been some of Obama's biggest campaigns contributors over the years? Gee, I think he only person to have mentioned Exelon on the Achenblog--some time ago, mind you--was me. And polar bears, why that was a slide in Tom Friedman's presentation at Trinity that he didn't use.

Polar bear grafs:

Mr. Snape said his group was particularly disappointed that the administration did not designate the polar bear as endangered by global warming and that it could not push a climate change bill through Congress.

“You can’t get anything right,” he said, “unless you get the polar bear right.”

Closer to home, the nuclear lawsuit by our own utility and its stake in the South Nuclear Project was settled yesterday:

On the heels of yesterday's settlement of the nuclear issue, our local utility is expected to O.K. a rate hike today:

Posted by: laloomis | February 18, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. The Ivansclan was mesmerized by curling last night. It is the first time we'd all been able to watch. Even without any clear idea of what was happening, it was fun. We decided it was similar to tiddlywinks and shuffleboard, except with an expensive heavy rock, a lot of ice, nifty brooms, and skill required.

Sara, I got the Sheldon reference, even though I'm hours late.

MsJS, that there baked good is called "wacky cake" here. It was a staple of our elementary school cafeteria, their best offering by far and my only food memory remaining from that school. I still make it sometimes but not in front of Ivansdad. He thinks he doesn't like vinegar and objects if he sees it as an ingredient. In so many recipes, he just doesn't know it is there.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 18, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I admit, Ivansmom, that I am increasingly helpless against the sly allure of curling. I watched the US/Swiss match with a level of anxiety far out of proportion to its objective importance. I wanted that last rock to curl into place with the same intensity that some look to a game-winning field goal.

Alas, it did not.

It is a cruel, cruel sport.

But I am told that the parties held after the matches can be epic.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 18, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Friedman did say he's Dick Cheney on climate change. Dick Cheney (&Pals) launched a long war on a one percent supposition. (For more on Cheney's One Percent Doctrine, see Ron Suskind's book of the same name.)

Friedman said if there's a one percent chance that the climate change folks are right, then it's time to launch the green revolution--not the green buzz or the green party--but a real green revolution. See Friedman's chapter in "Hot, Flat, Crowded," titled "365 Easy Ways to Save the Earth." Hey, Friedman read Tuesday night the long paragraph spanning pp. 203-204.

*good thing the folks at Trinity were able to scrounge up a copy of "Hot, Flat, Crowded" for Friedman to read from while on stage. Trinity (specifically, Ambassador Hannah Schweitzer) had borrowed my copy of "Hot, Flat, Crowded" for about five minutes for Tom to use, before returning it--and about 90 minutes after I'd had a run-in with campus police. What a backstory! Probably get around to fleshing out the story one of these days. *w* Oh, the supreme irony of it all! *w*)

Posted by: laloomis | February 18, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

My wife's Pennsylvania Dutch aunt used to make a cake similar to the one MsJS describes. As I recall, its claim to fame was that in olden times it could be made in the dead of winter when neither fresh butter nor eggs were about. In addition to being tasty good, it's great for folks with egg allergies.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 18, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Add to "the sly allure of curling" the music celebrating it:

The D*k Van Dy*es "Curling"
The Weakerthans "Tournament of Hearts"

Posted by: byoolin1 | February 18, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Goof morning, y'all.

Warm muffins, coffee and OJ on the table.

RD_P, a dear friend's son is a good enough curler to have attended the U.S. Oly team tryouts. When asked about post-match festivities, he gives you one of those "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" looks.

I-mom, I can totally see wacky cake as a grade-school cafeteria staple.

Mudge, I loved the link. Many thanks.

Cassandra, it's definitely hard to figure out how to pace oneself. While the consequences of overdoing aren't fun, the fact that you had enough stamina to overdo in the first place can be encouraging in an ironic way. I honor you for your determination and spirit.

Sneaks, welcome back! Scotty, have fun schussing!

CqP, your neighbors are so fortunate to live near you.

Off to refill.

Posted by: MsJS | February 18, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I think my own electrical circuits are starting to fry. My husband has resumed a noctural work schedule this week--with a reasonable set of total hours--and my schedule has been following his. So, last night, as I was attemting to drift off to sleep after midnight, these following events or individuals were firmly lodged in my brain, in no particular order: movies and the upcoming Academy Awards, the three-day water seminar at Trinity, Tom Friedman at Trinity, Roman Polanski and Gstaad, Brit Robert Harris' fiction "The Gift."

Are water wars anything new in dry climates?

The water heist [in Polanski's film "Chinatown"] is inspired by true events that took place in the Owens Valley in the early part of the twentieth century. Valley owners were duped into selling land for a reclamation project that was actually a viaduct while land owners in the arid San Fernando Valley sold out for chump-change to insiders who knew where the water was going – the S.F. Valley. The Owens Valley subsequently dried up and is still a source of dispute. The genius of Townes script is how beautifully the personal story of Evelyn Mulwray mirrors the water plot and the doomed valley – Townes plot has the power of archetype. How unusual then to discover he was not pleased with the ending, that he and Polanski fought over it. Towne saw a happier ending. Polanski pushed for the tragic ending the film has today. He wrote it himself a day before shooting. Since then Towne has applauded the decision.

The fierce competition for oil--when it was plentiful or when it isn't so much any more?

Originally, Paul Thomas Anderson had been working on a screenplay about two fighting families. He struggled with the script and soon realized it just was not working. Homesick [for his childhood home of Southern California], he purchased a copy of Upton Sinclair's "Oil!" in London [Oh. My. Goodness.], drawn to its cover illustration of a California oilfield. As he read, Anderson became even more fascinated with the novel and adapted the first 150 pages to a screenplay. He began to get a real sense of where his script was going after making many trips to museums dedicated to early oilmen in Bakersfield.[Oh. My. Goodness.] He changed the title from "Oil!" to "There Will Be Blood" because, "there's not enough of the book to feel like it's a proper adaptation." He wrote the original screenplay with Daniel Day-Lewis in mind and approached the actor when the script was nearly complete.

And for the current subject of "The Missing Seven Paragraphs," well, there's always Harris's "The Ghost" and Polanski's movie based on this book. *w*

Posted by: laloomis | February 18, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

New Kit.

Posted by: laloomis | February 18, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

RD, I'm trying not to get too attached to curling; in the normal course of things I won't have the opportunity to watch in person or on TV, and I don't want to enjoy it so much I pine away. I am amazed at the combination of skill and luck, and just how invested one can become in where that rock drifts.

Wacky cake is a good example of what we call a Depression recipe around here. Mostly dry staples, no milk or eggs required. I may have to make MsJS's version this afternoon. We have all been sick so long, a chocolate cake might be good medicine.

I don't know why exactly but I find it amusing that Scottynuke is looking forward to leaving DC and finding some snow.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 18, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

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