Tell 'em what I took, man!

Reflections of a repatriated ex-patriot

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is it sloth or sheer genious?

This week's badass of the week award goes to this guy, simply for having the innovation to think outside of the fridge. Some people would say this device is just another example of the decay of a society already on the verge of social collapse. Compared to what though? Pet rocks? Surely this invention is less stupid then a lot of other crap.

See for yourself and make your own call.

Then take a look at some of the competition. Is a robotic beer arm really any stupider?


Friday, March 02, 2007

Later this month, after my initial move from Houston to Denver, Colorado, I'll be taking the California Zephyr from Denver to San Francisco to attend a friend's wedding. Although it's likely to be a scenic and enjoyable train ride, it occurred to me when booking the one-way 33 and 1/2 hour trip (I'll be flying back), how sorely we need more and better quality high speed trains to connect major cities in America. The only substantial corridor connecting major cities is the Amtrak Acela Express that links Washington DC to Boston via New York City. Even at a top speed of about 150 miles per hour it pales in comparison to its European and Japanese counterparts.

Many of course make the claim that since fuel costs are much less here than in Europe and the density of the U.S. population is so much less than that of Japan that high-speed trains here just don't make any sense. I can understand the logic behind that argument, but I think there are several corridors of cities that would be well-served by the kind of technology that is routinely enjoyed by people in all the other industrially advanced countries of the world. I'm not alone in this idea, as evinced by the proliferation of municipal, non-profit, and even corporate interest in building high-speed rail in the U.S. I was surprised to learn, for example that even here in Texas there is a group who have designs to create a network of high-speed trains linking Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas together in something called the Texas T-bone. It will likely be a cold day in hell, given the current political climate before this is realized, but it is at least heartening to see the growth of interest in the idea.

The airline industry which even with all the government subsidies has become an increasingly risky, difficult to sustain business in the U.S. has even jumped on the train bandwagon because they see it as way to get more passengers to airports that can serve longer distance flights. I mean really what's not to like? It's more fuel-efficient, it has a higher passenger capacity, it's less expensive to operate than an airline route, it's safe, and newer technologies are constantly being developed to increase the speed of these trains. People seem to forget that before the 1950s, trains were THE way to get around in the U.S. I found an interesting discussion about the issue of high-speed trains here. Also, I noticed that in Japan which has a mind-numbing array of variety when it comes to public transportation, there's a national train service and a growing privatized train industry. So I will not, WILL NOT, entertain any Limbaugh-esque argument that federal subsidies for trains will just create a welfare state of apathetic federal workers who sit around all day like they do in France, blah blah blah.

After all, providing high-speed energy-efficient rail as a supplement to already heavily-government-subsidized highway and airline industries is hardly any more a waste of tax payer money than the cash we have to shell out for this ill-begotten, reprehensible, unjustifiable war in Iraq!