DrumBeat II-10/24 (and the "are you going to Boston?" coordination thread as well)

Our space, your words. What could be better?
Arriving 4:15 PM, should be at the conference by 5:30 if the Gods are with me, where I'm staying I'm only a five minute walk from Boston University.

I'll take interview suggestions. I want to do one with Michael Klare because -- it's in the news -- Iraq is predictably falling apart. Civil War. I believe the consequences of that will be pretty big and the Shia'/Sunni conflict in the region will define the geopolitics of the Middle East (and therefore the oil and natural gas production there) for sometime to come. To see who's at ASPO-USA, check out the Speakers List. Any particular interest in anyone on that list? I'll take note while I'm still on-line.

I think that Michael Klare is an excellent choice to interview and I will eagerly await the transcript.
I would request Steven Strong. I think that PV technology will play just as important a role as wind in the future.
Whipple & Simmons; maybe Clark.
Engdahl connects the dots! Check it out drumheads, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/HJ25Ag01.html
Here's a link to the full article, so you won't have to wait for the second part to be published, http://www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net/Geopolitics___Eurasia/Russian_Giant/russian_giant.html
A long post for this evening...

The Great American Highway

"Nomad. I am a nomad. The odometer reached 70,283 miles yesterday. That's 4,000 miles a month for the last two months. I've lost count of the number of time I've driven 101--about twice a weekend (once = one way). I've got a tally in my gas records, and one day I'll count the 101 trips. I've driven 299 from Redding, and 36 from Red Bluff (twice)--once with my significant other in the car, admiring the wonderful scenery, the trees, the isolation, and a lone coyote on the eastern side. I've already seen snow down to 3,000' in the Siskyous. I drive 10-12 hours a weekend, keep two bags packed all the time, think in terms of being in two places at once--three tooth brushes (one for the road), do I need to get groceries before I go..."

I made that journal entry on 05 Dec 1998, near the beginning of what I call my "Highway 101 Nomad" era. My life companion had enrolled at Humboldt State University to get a master's degree in biology. I had a good job in Berkeley working for the Lawrence Hall of Science, a children's museum. For nearly two years, we lived apart. Nearly every weekend, I drove up to visit her. Sometimes she drove down, but mostly I headed north. Every so often, I'd go south to visit my parents, who lived in Los Angeles.

Highway 101 became my familiar, the length of California my home. This is when the realities of the carnage sank in. In a way, it is sad to think that it wasn't smashed insects or birds that caused the breakthrough. It was mammals, of all kinds.

Small herds of mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus, were always a joy to behold on the trips, but they also instilled a sense of caution. Dead deer were present on nearly every drive. I recall an Odocoilian that had been smeared down a twentieth-of-a-mile of highway by a semi, a voluminous splat followed by a two-hundred foot trail of crimson. Glad I wasn't that deer. Another time, while I climbed a low hill lush with stands of tanoak and madrona, I passed a freshly killed ungulate--it wasn't bloated by the sun. A little ways beyond, at a pull-out, sat a motorhome. I could see the driver in it clearly, sitting stiffly and staring forward. From a spinout I had on black ice many years in the past, I knew that stare. Driver shock, I called it. I understood immediately that this was the vehicle--the perso--that had struck that deer. A supposedly fun and relaxing weekend abruptly ruined by the death of a big, brown-eyed mammal, and potential loss-of-control of a massive vehicle. The road machine at work, demonstrating its indifference, its callousness toward animals of all kind.

Other mammals, of course, weren't immune to this brutality. Raccoons, Procyon lotor, for instance. I recall one that had been hit dead center of a truck's double wheels, which left most of the creature flat, save the peak of compressed flesh that happened to pass between the heavy tires. Many procyonids were simply shredded and painted down the slab by countless vehicles whose drivers didn't bother, or simply couldn't manage, to avoid the corpse. Such was the fate of mammals of all kinds. In this fashion, a powerful message was repeatedly written in blood: the road is a cold, indifferent creation that, like the indigenous peoples who have faced the powerful machine of progress world-wide, exists at the suffering of others.

Such is the message that American drivers face all the time, one that is typically ignored. "It can't be helped," some would argue, "for I need to drive to work, and I live out in the suburbs." Indeed, many Americans are now dependent on cars. I, too, am dependent on a car for my daily commute.

With such dependence enters a kind of fate. Fate: a path that has been laid out before us by a higher force (a deity, say, or Nature). Road: a path that has been laid out before us by a higher force (progress). Americans, in essence, have created a situation where fate operates as never before. The road becomes the perfect metaphor for not only fate, but progress itself. In this manner, roads are a logical outcome of an industrial society that essentially values "regularity, punctuality, constancy and industry" over life. Many Americans have become bound by a technology that is so pervasive that it can only rarely be avoided. The pervasiveness of roads reinforces the progress mindset, despite its brutality.

One Sunday evening in late 1999, I rolled onto Highway 101 south, after a nice weekend with my mate. A forest of redwoods skirted past to either side as I rumbled down the superslab at about 60 mph. The sun hung low, casting a warm yellow light on forest giants that had sprouted before there was a "New World." These were trees that had reached ancient status long before the first roads were cut through them, and such roads happened over a century before my particular drive. Now the old redwoods stood above Western Culture's symbol of progress, silently awaiting their fate. "Awaiting their fate" may be a cliché, but it is an appropriate one, for the road embodies fate. The trees' fate had been determined when the continuity of the forest was broken by a roadcut, allowing the warm sun to reach deep into the moist, sheltered woodland, and enhance local evaporation. Highway 101 was an open wound on the land, one that, even as the forest tried to heal, was constantly agitated by vehicles and road maintenance crews. Most of the trees that I passed had dead tops. They suffered from "edge effects" and were dying. The road determined their fate, as it determines the fate of many lives.

I rounded a broad bend and cruised the straightaway that approached the exit to Meyer's Flat. Emergency vehicles blocked the road. Flares burned on the asphalt like brilliant red stars. I slowed, broken from my music-filled reverie. Police guided me toward the exit. The reason for this abrupt intrusion to my anticipated smooth and trouble-free drive was scattered across the road before me. The devastation was unreal, alien, seemingly impossible. A black Acura Integra was upside-down, crushed and mangled. A Chevy Blazer stood further down the highway, broken, smashed on nearly all sides--it had rolled, though it had returned to its wheels. Broken glass, personal effects, toys, trash, were scattered everywhere.

And bodies. They were covered up, but blood had seeped from under some of the canopies. War. That's the word that entered my mind as my stomach turned, and my arms began to shake. It looked like a war zone. A place far away, like Afghanistan, or the former republic of Yugoslavia, where people fought, and died. But the death was here before me, real, tangible, horrible. I rolled down the exit ramp, in shock. I pulled off the road in Meyer's Flat, and sat still, holding the wheel. Like the motorhome driver who had hit the deer months ago, it was my turn for that distant stare. What was I doing on the road? Was it wise to drive so many miles each week? Was there a way I could quit being the 101 Nomad? If not now, how soon?

My mate soon learned how shocked I had been--I called her shortly after. The visions occupied my whole drive back to Berkeley, and the return trip to Eureka at the end of the week. The memory returns every time I pass through Meyer's Flat. My life companion also knew that one of my coping mechanisms is to study things that frighten me. The next weekend, she showed me the article on that particular accident. Out in remote Northern California, such a carnage took on an importance greater than in the big city, and was an significant news item.

The owner of the Acura had been an undergraduate at Humboldt State. She was driving northbound to Arcata, heading for a new week of school after a visit with her fiancé over the weekend. The driver of the Blazer was a mother of two who was transporting her children, and two children of a friend, southbound to home. For reasons unknown at the time the article was written, the Blazer veered into the oncoming lanes of 101. The stretch of road at Meyer's Flat is considered divided, though there was no divider, just a double-double yellow line. At the time, divided highways were posted 65 mph in California. Likely, both cars were traveling at this rate of speed when they collided. The woman in the Acura died instantly. In the Blazer, only the mother and one child survived. None of the children had been wearing restraints, and they were thrown from the vehicle when it rolled. The survivors were seriously mangled, and had to be hospitalized long-term.

Like a machine, the road, and the vehicles that are driven on it, are without feeling. The drivers themselves often tend to feign indifference, choosing to pretend that they are alone even as they participate in one of the grandest group activities yet devised. As a result, lives end. Young lives, old lives, full lives, empty lives. The road does not care. After each death, the road still is. The symbol of progress remains. Since the first automobiles in the United States, there have been about as many human deaths on U.S. highways as there have been Americans lost in all U.S.-involved wars combined. Even after millions of human lives have ended, the great slabs continue.

The road marks a kind of fate embodied in one of the greatest symbols of progress ever created. The road paints a powerful image of Americans moving ever-forward with unstoppable purpose. Due in part to these two traits, the road supports its own continued operation despite a carnage that most sensibilities immediately cry out against when the reality, suddenly and most violently, is revealed. In essence, the road, and its builders, have created a synergy that is a new and violent force of nature, one that the Earth in its multi-billion-year history has never before witnessed.

This new phenomenon will continue to spread across the globe.


Wolf Read

A psychiatrist friend who was doing neurology exams  for auto accidents stated to me " if it wasn't for denial ,none of us could drive".
More signs the US housing market is in trouble - major US lender cuts 5% of its workforce:


Oil has done for the US housing bubble - question is will the Fed be able to ride to the rescue and cut rates early next year before the damage gets too bad?

Exactly. In the late winter of 2001 in late afternoon, I was driving on a state highway in the NW Catskills sensibly trailing another car which was behind two milk tankers following each other. A deer ran down an embankment toward the first, missed it, dove between the two and landed on its knees in front of oncoming traffic, got up and jumped out of the way of an oncoming Jeep Cherokee and off the road. Seconds and hundreds of yards later, the 2 tankers, the fellow in front of me and I were going 20mph without anyone ever touching their brakes.Some lucky s.o.bs., the deer and the four of us, and the oncoming traffic. When you can, you don't deny it.
Did you ever think about how we each trust thousands of strangers to not cross that thin yellow line of paint every day?

Those strangers are the ones we call "oncoming traffic".

Those strangers include X% who are drunk or drugged out of their minds, or worse yet, reaching under their dashboard for a dropped ham sandwich just as your car approaches from across the yellow line.

(That last guy near killed me.)

(Warning: Oil CEO, Do NOT, repeat NOT, click on this picture. It may distract you and cause a pile up. Always look away,away from oncoming and wayward traffic.)

Damn straight.  It took me a few years to embrace it before I got rid of the last dangerous hormonal pangs of ohshitI'mgonnadie, but denial is a wonderful river, and it makes for wonderful waterfront property.
beautifully written.  Thank you
Sorry for sidestepping the issue of the this post but I just had to reply for I hit the panic mode just the other night in the same type of scenario.

I was driving a grain truck(18 wheeler)and with 35 ft trailer. empty back to the shop. I found I had no tail lights, no brake lights and no clearance/running lights on the trailer and 25 miles to go.

I had a partner driver in another rig following me when I lef the elevator so I was at least protected in the rear.

I was about 3 miles from the shop and safety when I came down a bottom(lower flat ground) running on a 2 lane state highway. Ahead was an entering road(blacktop county and also the road my farm is on). Two vehicles had pulled up to the stop sign. The road was entering on my right. They saw me with my cab lights and headlights running across the bottom at about 55 MPH(legal speed) and my emergency flashers were on and working.

The first car, a black car was sitting there waiting and waiting and watching  and suddenly decided as I got real near to dash out making a right turn. He made it but barely and then the white mini-van behind him started to do the same. I was now on my brakes but a trailer without a load has not as good braking power as when loaded. I almost locked the trailer brakes but that was the wrong thing to do. I slowed enough for the black car to make it but the white van was going to get T-Boned, totaled and the occupants killed since I weighted at least 30,000 and had a huge mass heading right at them at now about 50 mph.

What could I do? I grabbed the line for the airhorns and laid on them and didn't let off all the while flashing my high beams over and over. I saw the guy finally  shift into reverse and back up real fast. He made it. My heart was almost into tachycardia. I was cussing and braking and pulling on the horns.

So everyone lived. Another lesson learned about the inane stupidity of four wheelers and the ideas they have of death duels with 18 wheelers.

The above story or a near version happens to me quite regularily. When will these people learn? Never.

So I have learned to drive differently. I never never give a 4 wheeler a break. I never let them make the decisions if I can force the issue. I don't let them pass when they shouldn't be passing if I can help it. I drive slower than I should and they have to swing back and forth on my rear bumper cussing all the time. Like today when I was 'bobtaling' 40 miles in yuppie traffice. A bobtailed tractor simply has almost no braking power. It has tremendous torque  though. You must drive extremely carefully for if a 4 wheeler shoots around you, pulls in front and brakes for a right turn? You will hit him with your far less braking power. So I drive real slow when bobtailing and let them cuss and rant and rave. They always give me the bird when passing. Piss on the assholes. I want to live and perhaps they would like to as well if they just knew it.

Pushing an 18 wheeler is described as hours of tedious driving interspersed with periods of sheer panic. I have seen it all and don't particularily like it so I only use my CDL and drive during the harvest to help my friend.

I pity the over the road long haul drivers. I pity the idiots that try to play deadly road games with a vehicle that weights 80,000 lbs.

My story and all true. No sources given. I am the source.



Thanks for sharing that with us.

I knew this insurance defense lawyer who specialized in trucking accidents. The stories he relayed to me about civilians playing mouse and elephant games with tractor trailers made the hairs rise on the back of my neck every time.

What where those bufoons thinking? (Most of them being deceased or crippled for life because when it comes to truck versus civilian car, the car often does not fair too well during the joust.) Did they actually expect a multi-ton vehicle to stop on a dime when rolling at 60 plus MPH? Yes they did. They had no clue about the laws of inertia. They didn't undestand what E=1/2 M*V^2 means. (Kinetic energy increases as the square of velocity --and the mass of a fully loaded truck is not trivial.) And they paid for their ignorance with their lives (death or permanently crippled, the latter usually being worse).

We are all in a hurry to get some place. But it is far far better to be late and healthy than to be a cripple for the rest of your life because you felt a trucker was wasting your precious time. You'd be amazed at how much spare time you have on your hands when you are a quadripalegic and vegetating in a hospital bed.

I (Alan Drake) have checkec in Buckminister Hotel already staing till Sunday if anyone wants to meet.

Local transit advocate forwarded the following to me for the Sunday after the conference.

The Association for Public Transportation has several items of note for public transportation advocates and commuters:

                               Greenbush Map (Boston Globe)          This coming Sunday, October 29, APT will sponsor an inspection tour of the soon-to-be-completed Greenbush leg of the Old Colony South Shore lines.  The Greenbush line cost a one-half billion dollars to rebuild and is a lesson in both the benefits and costs of large scale transportation projects.  While the tour will be very informative for general interest, it will be especially valuable for anyone interested in advocating new transportation initiatives such as: Green Line extension to Medford/Somerville, commuter rail to South Coast (New Bedford & Fall River), North South Rail Link, Red-Blue Connector at Charles, Green Line restoration on the Arborway, commuter rail to Nashua/Manchester etc.  But, to take part in this tour, you must register today.  Price is $25 for APT members, $30 for non-members.  There will be a limited number of tickets sold on the day of the tour for $35, first come, first served.

This will be a guided tour in a climate controlled motor coach, lead by T and construction firm project managers.  (The tour will start at ~8:45 AM and end at ~2:45 PM.  Full details are on the registration form.) The motor coach will pick you up at either the Plymouth/Cordage (for train commuters) or Kingston (for auto commuters) train stations. Please note ­ train & subway fares to meet the motor coach and/or return to your starting point are not included in the pricing listed below.  (Subway / train fares will be an additional $3.00 to $6.00 per person.)  Although there will not be a lunch stop, you can bring your own as, it is too late to order a box lunch in advance.  Soft drinks will also be available for purchase on the motor coach.  Please use the form from the URL below to order tickets.  For further information, please contact APT's Barry Steinberg by phone: 617.773.7495, or e-mail: bmsteinberg@earthlink.net .  Further information will also be on the APT website:  www.car-free.com.      ALL ABOARD!!!

Click on the following URL for a downloadable registration form for the tour:  http://www.car-free.com/apt/Greenbush_Tour2006.pdf

          NSRL Spider Map with 9 line pairs.      On another topic of interest, APT has placed on its website www.car-free.com a hard hitting position paper on "An Integrated Regional Rail Network for New England".   One of the most significant advantages that the Northeast has over other parts of the country is it rail network.  However, this rail system is working at only a fraction of its potential as it desperately needs certain critical investments.

The keystone for this vision is the construction of the North-South Rail Link.  The NSRL, by connecting North Stations and South Stations in Boston, will extend the Northeast Corridor Acela service northward and will facilitate commuting and transportation throughout the region.  This road map, which has been lead by former Amtrak Vice-Chairman, Massachusetts governor, and democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis is likewise supported by elected officials, business leaders, and advocacy groups, including the Association for Public Transportation.  Please read it and give us your comments.

Click on the following URL to download the report:  http://www.car-free.com/papers/NSRL_Exec_Summary.pdf

Best regards,

Richard Arena
The Association for Public Transportation

Richard J. Arena
President, The Association for Public Transportation, Inc.
P.O. Box 51029;  Boston, MA  02205
rarena@car-free.com    www.car-free.com
APT Hotline: +1.617.482.0282   Direct: +1.732.576.8840   Fax: +1.732.576.8839

Many of the old rail lines are being converted to bike paths in New England.  But I guess it wouldn't be too hard to convert them back to rail lines if need be.
Unfortunately, trail to rail never happens.  Experience has shown that once the hikers & bikers get a corridor (even with a proviso that it is "reserved" for future urban rail use) that they are unwilling to share (most US RR ROWs are 100 feet wide, plenty of EU examples of narrower shared rail & hike/bike ROW) with a new rail line.

Thus, the advice among rail advocates is let weeds grow and not allow development of hike & bike trails.  Else the future  rail line will have the added burden of dealing with activist hikers & bikers which may kill the entire project.

Poor state of affairs, but that is the US reality.

Best Hopes,


Unfortunately rail to trail never happens.

That's because we've had trucks running and we haven't needed to, yet.  Cynus is right that those lines are being preserved by being bike trails for when we need to convert them back to rail lines.  The reality is that the lines that haven't been preserved have gone back to the farmers/private landowners and will be very difficult to ever convert back to rail lines.  I'm an avid "Rails to Trails" member and railroad supporter as well.

The advice I have heard from others is, if the transit authority or other gov't organization can buy the old RR ROW,is to NOT convert it into a hike/bike trail.  There are several cases where long range plans for light rail lines on old RR ROW could not be converted into actual plans because of hiker/biker resistance.  For all intents and purposes, the ROW was lost for transportation due to recreational demand.

Urban Rail lines were not built due to the unwillingness of hikers & bikers to shars the ROW (there was and is room for both).

In New Orleans, I try hard to keep good relations with the bike groups.  For my Desire Streetcar plan, we replaced 4 traffic lanes with 2 traffic lanes, 2 bike lanes and 2 streetcar tracks.

Best Hopes,