Trump Trade War to Save the Planet

One of my Facebook friends shared out a tidbit that was new to me.   Giant container ships produce really bad sulphur-based air emissions.   That in itself is not surprising, since they burn heavy “bunker” oil for fuel.   But the extent of their air emissions is staggering.

Just one mega-container ship gives off as many emissions as 50,000,000 cars. That’s right, one ship equals 50 million cars.     The world’s 15 largest ships put out more pollutants (nitrogen and sulphur oxide) than ALL of the world’s cars added up.

By slowing down trade, President Trump can save the planet.   His actions to put the brakes on the number of trips made ferrying containers full of cheap Chinese junk to American Walmarts will reduce the global production of greenhouse gasses by more than several solar farms.

The cargo capacity of a container ship is measured in ‘TEUs’ or ‘twenty foot equivalent units’.    The six largest in the world are all owned by the Orient Overseas Container Line, the two largest each have capacity for more than 21,000 TEUs.

That might sort of make you resent the costs of air emissions testing of your car.

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William Phelps Eno’s Rules of the Road

This is a post prompted by questions from Ms. Sawatdeeka about traffic flow and traffic rules. Where did the rules of the road come from? Our story begins in New York City in the 1870s. A nine-year old boy was riding in a carriage with his mother and they got caught in a traffic jam. Horses had to be backed up with a wagon and another carriage, and an hour was spent sorting things out before anyone could proceed.

That was typical for any city and had been the way of things for centuries. People would go the best way they could. Traffic was a problem wherever you went, but at the speed of horsedrawn carriages and wagons, crashes were rare.

That traffic jam really impressed young William Phelps Eno. He thought about the problem many times over the years. His father and his mother’s father were both growing wealthy in real estate, and after going to Yale he joined the family business and prospered.

When he was forty years old, in 1900, Eno published an essay about his proposal for rules of the road. He said that if the rules were simple, easy to understand and follow, and were enforced, that movement on all city streets could be improved.

He provided such eloquent arguments and the problems of traffic congestion were so severe that his proposal quickly was circulated among the city fathers. They decided to adopt Eno’s proposed rules of the road as an ordinance. After much debate and a flurry of articles in the newspapers, the rules of the road were implemented in 1903.

It was an instant success. In fact, it was so successful that people were amazed at the difference it made in the time it took to go a few blocks through the city. Stop signs were an innovation of the rules of the road. Everyone driving on the right side of the road, with faster traffic passing on the left, were innovative. City life was much improved.

Eno’s proposed rules adopted the general practice of driving on the right. That had been general practice for a very long time, lost in the dim mists of the past, but it had never been law, except on a few toll bridges.

To that, Eno added the stop sign. If you are on a minor street, you have to yield to the traffic on the major street; you don’t get to dart out and jam your way into the traffic flow. Pedestrians have to wait until there is a gap, but then once they get out into the street, carriages or cars have to yield to the pedestrian. If you are going to park so you can load or unload at a business, you have to be parked in the direction of travel on the right.

The improvement was so dramatic that visiting Frenchmen begged Eno to present his scheme to the Académie Française. Paris hosted a demonstration project at the Arc de Triomphe in early 1905, and adopted Eno’s rules of the road later that year. Soon, the rules of the road were being implemented all over the world, including lots of places that never bothered with formal adoption.

One of the graybeard professors who taught traffic to me in the 1970s said that when the British adopted the rules of the road, of course they chose the opposite side, because they were not going to do anything the French and American way. But I have seen historians say that keeping left was an old British tradition, and that it was the Americans who switched the pattern. (Evidently, the way a Conestoga wagon was constructed lent itself to keeping right, on account of the location of the brake lever, and this was in imitation of earlier carriage designs, so that passing on the right had been an old tradition in America. But it had not been a rule, just the common way things were done.)

Eno’s simple project brought order into the chaos of traffic just in time for the motor age. I do not see how the automobile could have flourished as it did without the rules of the road. The 1908 Model T was built with the driver position on the left, and American cars from all other manufacturers soon followed suit.

Eno continued to develop his ideas and wrote subsequent papers. He wrote a bulletin for police enforcement. He wrote a paper about harbor traffic. In 1921 he made a grant to set up a foundation to work to improve traffic safety. The Eno Transportation Foundation still works to improve traffic safety. They moved their headquarters to a suburb near Washington, D.C. about thirty years ago.

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How intuitive is our traffic system?

Ratburger, I’m interested in your take on this.  If an individual from the distant past, say the 1600’s, was plunked down in one of our cities, how long would it take he or she to grasp our traffic system just by riding around in the car with one of us?  This is assuming that our driver is obeying all the rules, of course, and not sailing through stop signs like they do out here.

Also, I’m sure there would be variables with each time traveler: is he/she literate, noticing of color, English-speaking ?  Let’s assume that our candidate is all three. However, imagining an illiterate peasant, as many of our ancestors likely were, might be even more to the point.

Along these lines, what are some of our weaker traffic laws that should be abolished?  For me, left turn on green in areas with heavy traffic is both frustrating and foolhardy. There should always be green arrows for  left turns, not go-at-your-own risk green lights or those blinking yellow arrows that have cropped up around here lately.

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This Week’s Book Review – Moon Tracks

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

Readers of all ages can enjoy ‘Moon Tracks’

By MARK LARDAS

Apr 16, 2019

“Moon Tracks,” by Travis S. Taylor and Jody Lynn Nye, Baen, 2019, 256 pages, $24

What will life be like on the first lunar settlement?

“Moon Tracks,” a science fiction novel by Travis S. Taylor and Jody Lynn Nye, explores that question. A story around the first moon buggy race around the moon, it’s a sequel to “Moon Beam,” a novel about the Bright Sparks.

These teenagers star in a science-oriented reality video show produced on the moon at Armstrong City. At 7,000 people, it’s the largest lunar city. Led by Dr. Keegan Bright, the Sparks do science and engineering on the moon for an audience on Earth and moon.

Billionaire philanthropist Adrienne Reynolds-Ward has offered $1 million for the winners of an 11,000-kilometer race around the circumference of the moon by a crew of four racers. Twenty-six teams from Earth have entered racers. Of course, the Bright Sparks are entering the race.

They’re building Spark Xpress. Although the hometown team, and the best and brightest on the moon, their competitors are the best and brightest from Earth. The Sparks have to finish their entry to race it. Then they have to beat the other teams. While the race is to the swift, it’s also to the most reliable.

The teenage Sparks end up being too optimistic in their development schedule, and must make up lost time to complete Spark Xpress on time. They do this largely due to the newest Spark, Barbara Winton. Her talents at improvisation and organization, honed on the family’s farm get the Sparks past this challenge.

The race proves as challenging. The moon’s terrain is hostile and unforgiving. An additional obstacle is provided by TurnTables, a social media game, broadcasting music. Rare hard-to-find tracks are spotted along the course proving a Lorelei luring teams into misfortune. A real-life accident involving Dr. Bright forces the Sparks to mount a rescue, endangering race participation.

“Moon Tracks” is a young adult novel, but in the sense Heinlein defined how he wrote juvenile — write the best story you can with teenaged protagonists. Taylor and Nye have written an exciting story which readers of all ages can enjoy.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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The Zombie Car Phenomenon

Several years ago, while I waited on the curb at the San Diego airport watching traffic flow by, I noticed something about the cars. They were different from the local vehicles in Northwest Montana, and although I’d lived in San Diego for twenty years, I had never made the connection. It wasn’t just the obvious preference for SUV’s and Subarus in the rugged north—no, it was something else, too: the city vehicles were shiny and updated. Many of them looked high-end. I thought of the beaters I often spotted in my Montana town—the 80’s sedans, the classic trucks, and the boxy early style of Subaru—and it made me realize the degree to which residents of my town make do with what they have. I was proud to be one of them.

In recent months, this trend toward junky vehicles seems to have gotten worse—or better, however you choose to look at it. Before I explain, however, I have to admit that my own little red car has its own issues. I will remove the log from my own eye first. This is a beloved vehicle that won’t quit, even though we’re at 198,000 miles. Each blemish tells a story. The longish dent on the driver’s side—that was a tangle with a tall stand of bamboo at the side of our driveway when we were in San Diego. My husband could not understand how I did that, as I had backed down our long, steep driveway a couple thousand times by then. I could understand, because I had backed down that impossible driveway two thousand times without incident, and it was only a matter of time before it got me, especially now that there was a giant, unforgiving stand of bamboo to complicate things.

Similarly, the dust-up with the deer happened because it had to, because a decade had gone by with no incidents in a landscape dense with these thick creatures (or thick with these dense creatures, if you prefer). My daughter and I were deep in an interesting discussion when she said, “Mom, deer!” By the time my brain processed the emergency, it was too late to stop. I had, however slowed down enough to give a witless, fleeing animal a good bump with the front of the car and a quick but frenzied backwards sprint when she got caught on my side mirror for a few moments. To my relief, she and her compatriots then dashed off into the woods and there was no need to bring anyone back to the site with a gun. The encounter had left a visible dent, however. Later, a friend helpfully brought attention to it by inscribing “Bambi” in the layer of dust coating my car.

Even with its dents, dimples, and rusted out spots, my vehicle does not yet resemble what I would call a “zombie car.” Zombie cars are vehicles still in service that are so badly damaged they look uncannily like animated car corpses. An obviously totaled vehicle will swing by in the turn lane, with damage so telling that one could do an accurate play-by-play of the accident, and the visceral reaction is “Whoa!”

I understand not taking one’s car to the body shop after being creamed in an intersection. One, it’s expensive. It makes more sense financially to just drive your older car into the ground. Not only are your insurance rates stable, but your permanent registration is still working for you. Two, body shops are pricey. No matter what the problem is, no matter how subtle the damage, the employees always announce that they have to order the whole piece from the manufacturer, and that item always costs a healthy percentage of the car’s current value. (I’ve experienced when they opted to not order the piece, when a teenager hit our parked car and was liable. I learned that it’s best to believe what they say and let them order away. In this case, someone at the body shop had whaled away on our panel with a hammer and then painted over that, leaving a mass of stipples. It gave me the heebie-jeebies.) Three, it costs a lot to have your car fixed, and it’s not a sensible expense given how brutal this area is on vehicles—potholes, dirt roads, salt, filthy slush, and impatient drivers at intersections all take their toll. It’s better to pay the rent than maintain a sleek, gleaming car.

Other mutilations I’ve noted lately: gaping, sightless holes where headlights should be, missing back windows crisscrossed with duct tape, a hood (and possibly the whole left front of the vehicle) secured with a rope. Cars go nonchalantly by with driver-side doors caved in, whole sections hideously ripped off, mangled bumpers. Rope, tape, tarp, and other materials at hand are pressed into service to make the thing driveable as soon as possible. My favorite fix is on a small, grey car that just happens to be in our church parking lot every day. Apparently, the front and back bumpers were having a problem severe enough to necessitate the use of black zip-ties as stitches. There are small series of them, front and back, in a careful ‘X’-shaped pattern. One can’t help but appreciate the resourcefulness of whoever saw fit to do this. And he did a nice job.*

I know our area has come a long way since the eighties, when more families subsisted on venison, and residents had to drive all the way to Missoula for Easter dresses. That’s what I’ve heard from native Montanans, anyway. Now our town offers Costco, Target, REI, many grocery stores, chic shops, a grand movie theater, chain restaurants, quiet planned neighborhoods, multi-million-dollar estates, Internet everywhere—almost anything you could get in urban California. But the sordid state of our region’s vehicles show that perhaps Montanans haven’t changed all that much. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*Not to be sexist, but of course it was a “he.”

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Damn winter….

Damn winter…

Well, this morning my 09 truck would not start, battery problem. So I used the 96 to get to work. Parking the 96 in the employee’s lot steam was emanating from beneath the hood. Upon opening the hood and closer examination  I found that the bushing on the water pump was leaking. I nursed it halfway home to Wally-World and purchased two gallons of 50/50 antifreeze mixture and a new battery for the 09. One gallon or the premixed antifreeze went in the vehicle and I nursed it home. I jumped the 09 with the new battery to get it started and drove it into the driveway. Changed out the battery and I hope it’s good to go in the morning. But probably all my radio stations were wiped because of the battery change.

Damn winter…. Too cold to replace the water pump, ( about #5 for that vehicle ), gonna have to take it to a garage and pay to have it done.

Damn winter…. Batteries will usually go when it’s either extremely cold or hot.

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Ion-powered aircraft flies with no moving parts

Ladies and Gentlemen, we truly live in a wonderful age, an age of inventions not ever imagined by anyone before us, (us being those of this time).

Continue reading “Ion-powered aircraft flies with no moving parts”

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it really has me worried….

A little over a year ago I purchased a vehicle, a Dodge Ram 1500, circa 2009. Since then I put new tires on it, mud flaps and step bars. It runs great. It looked great, not a spec of rust on it.

On the way to work someone rear ended me. His insurance company admitted the fault. I’m driving a rental car, paid for by them. I finally came to the appointment time to have it repaired. I dropped it off yesterday, and the repair shop, a good one, increased the estimate from what his insurance company said, ($3,600),  to around $9,000. Similar vehicles cost in the area of $14,000 today. I still owe $8,000 on it. I had a good deal when I bought it, maybe about $5,000 less than what it was worth because of higher mileage.

I fear that his insurance company may say the vehicle is totaled. It’s still drivable, still runs great, at a minimum it needs a new bumper and brackets for the bumper and a tailgate.

Damn it, I liked that truck and hate to have another insurance company, not my own, say it’s totaled when it’s not.

I’ll just have to wait until his insurance company contacts me or the repair shop.

Any suggestions or similar experiences with anyone out there?

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New York and Chill

The Grand Ave subway station in northeast Queens is a madhouse at 7:15 am. Young people tryna get to school, grownups tryna get to work; it’s crowded; it’s uncivil; nobody gives way; nobody is polite; elbows are out; people are squished; if I don’t get on this train I’m gonna be LATE. (Continual delays and disruptions  are a microagression against all New Yorkers, but I’ll let others moan about that).

However, the same station at 7:00 am is nice. It’s tranquil. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. There’s a place to stand, maybe even a seat.

So I leave my house much earlier than I need to, just to have a peaceful ride to the city.  I spend the extra time at Starbucks composing original content for all you fine people.

So yes, I’d rather wake up earlier, and get to work earlier, in order to have extra time to chill.

How is your commute? Would you leave your house earlier just to avoid unpleasantness?

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