31.7.10

ETIOLATED LIBERAL ARTS. A University of Minnesota professor calls out the regents.




The video is recommended without comment at 11-D, with brief comment by Veblen, with a quip at Pharyngula, and with a column at Inside Higher Ed.

There's a weblog chronicling the efforts of an organization called [University of Minnesota] Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education to stop the gutting of Minnesota's liberal arts departments.

Some years ago, we did an external search for a department chairman. The job announcement included among the responsibilities "participate in strategic planning in an era of downsizing." Herewith the results:



Our department directory puts me in mind of the train information boards in Milwaukee and Chicago in the years leading up to Amtrak. Somehow, though, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences here continues to run a surplus for the maintenance of other departments.

Professor von Dassow's use of the word "etiolated" is felicitous. Those College Board words exist for a purpose, sometimes to remind Others who got the high scores.

30.7.10

TRADEOFFS EVERYWHERE. I've long been a fan of Henry Petroski, with a recent review of The Book on the Bookshelf and a much-delayed (I found promises of a review as early as June 2005) review of Pushing the Limits, and I read a number of his other books long before I started Cold Spring Shops. Now comes Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design, and an enthusiastic Book Review No. 17. Turn to page 4.
[The engineer] pointed out the primary purpose of most things is to perform a function, and because the goals of aesthetics, user friendliness, and doing a job effectively can be in conflict, economics often becomes the referee.
Indeed. Go to page 10.
Some engineers even define the creative aspect of engineering as "design under constraint," to emphasize that what engineers do is always tied to the reality of the world and of the budget.
Minimize wx subject to y = f(x), forsooth. Now go to page 13.
Choices must be made among the conditions that satisfy the constraints.
The rest is commentary. Page 27.
Robert Frost once said that he would "as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down." Designing without constraint would be like playing baseball without fences or foul lines. Designing without choice would be like negotiating a maze with no alternative routes. Designing without compromise would be like having your cake and eating it too. Designing without fault is impossible. The result would not be of this world.
Incentives matter: the disposable paper cup is a substantial public health improvement on the communal mug, even in a Soviet juice dispenser where it's kulturny to rinse the mug before you put it back; but it was the prospect of profit that lead to the Dixie Cup.

Institutions matter: sport-utility headlights blind U.S. motorists because in the absence of a specific prohibition on high-mounted headlights, the design is permissible, but in France the absence of a specific permission for high-mounted headlights means there are none. Good stuff, well-written. Read and understand, particularly if you dream of the perfectibility of human institutions.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

29.7.10

WILD WEATHER. The Boston Globe has a photo gallery. There's something different about this tornado.



See if you can spot it without checking the caption.

The article doesn't say whether these lightning strikes are simultaneous, or if we're seeing a time exposure.



There's more spectacular stuff in the article.
THE PROPER COURSE OUGHT TO BE OBVIOUS. Robert VerBruggen finds something by Matthew Yglesias to agree with.
People who are plausible admission candidates at Harvard and don’t quite make the cut end up at Columbia or Penn. People who don’t get into Berkeley go to UCLA. And they all end up fine. There’s just absolutely no need to cry for someone who got into Bryn Mawr instead of Wellesley thanks to affirmative action or legacy preference or structural bias in the SAT or anything else. This is a made-up social problem. Every single American teenager who winds up at a selective college of any kind is in very good shape in a country where (a) most people don’t have college degrees and (b) most colleges aren’t selective.
Mr Yglesias suggests that philanthropy go to "non-fancy non-selective colleges with a proven record of helping kids from low-SES backgrounds succeed." It's simpler than that. Nobody (apart from USC sports fans?) rips on UCLA (motto: On! Wisconsin!) for admitting Berkeley's rejects. A Wisconsin-Milwaukee that now enrolls more Wisconsin residents than Madison does is a university where somebody ought to be asking how to serve commuter-first-generation-nontraditional-diverse students in a way that doesn't shortchange Madison's rejects. (Such a conversation might be taking place; I don't have sources on the Milwaukee campus privy to it.) Let me repeat the Cold Spring Shops position: in an environment of excess demand for perceived prestige, there are incentives to meet that demand. It doesn't have to involve rich donors or legislators.
LET'S GET TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER. The dean at Anonymous Community, before going on walkabout, confronts attrition in remedial math.

In a discussion this week with someone who spends most of her time working with students who are struggling mightily in developmental math, I heard an argument I hadn’t given much thought previously: students who have passed algebra and even pre-calc in high school frequently crash and burn when they hit our developmental math, because the high schools let them use calculators and we don’t.

Among math people, the calculator/no calculator divide seems pretty strong. I’ll admit an uninformed sympathy with the ‘no calculator’ camp, just because I’ve had several experiences in which the ability to guesstimate the ballpark of a correct answer helped me recognize a ludicrous answer when I saw one. Calculators offer precision, but they’re just and only as precise as the numbers you put in. If you hit a number twice, or leave out a digit, or place the decimal point wrong, you’ll get a precisely wrong answer. If you can do the basic math in your head, you’ll have a better shot at recognizing when something is wildly off.

That said, part of me wonders if we’re sacrificing too much on the altar of pencil and paper. It’s great to be able to do addition in your head and long division on paper -- yes, I know, I’m old -- but is it worth flunking out huge cohorts of students because their high schools let them use calculators and we don’t?

At my job, I use statistics all the time. Most of the statistics I use are computer generated. Excel and its progeny (I’m an OpenOffice fan, myself) can crunch huge sets of numbers much faster than I ever could, leaving me free to do other things. Although I like knowing that, in a pinch, I could do a whole bunch of arithmetic myself, I typically don’t. And in most jobs, most people don’t. I agree that it would be better to have the ability than not to have it, but if the cost of holding the line against calculators is turning half a generation away from college, is it worth it?

A bull session of prodigious length ensues, with the mathematicians and math faculty generally endorsing the develop-your-estimation-skills position, but with people who have done well in languages or writing whilst struggling with simple computation raising counterarguments.

Taken for granted in the discussion is the premise that expanding college enrollment is a good thing. Neglected in the discussion is any consideration of the possibility that K-12 isn't rigorous enough.

28.7.10

LECTURE PREPARATION IS WORK. University Diaries finds a London Times column that reinforces her case against reliance on presentation software.
All PowerPointers, like all burqa-wearers, look alike. They are asleep to the world, inside their coma of conformity.
Go to the column. Presentation software makes it easier to teach to the test, and it enables the non-aggression pact between professors and students.
A dependency culture on teachers is created, facilitated by PowerPoint and its non-Microsoft equivalents Keynote and Impress. When these students arrive at university, many academics perpetuate the problem. A lack of planning and preparation for a teaching session means too many walk into a lecture with a memory stick of PowerPoint slides. They have not written a lecture. They have written PowerPoint slides. They think these two things are the same. They are not. We see similar problems in conferences. Researchers are meant to present scholarship to colleagues. Instead they project PowerPoint slides.
It recalls the Soviet Union: the professors pretend to profess, and the students pretend to learn.

Inexperienced teaching staff shortcut preparation and break the key mantra in the use of educational media. They read slides. When I was taught how to construct text-based supplementary materials, the rule was simple: if a teacher shows text, do not read it. Let visual literacies operate where they work best. Let auditory and oral literacies function where they are at their most efficient. Do not waste student time by reading what is before them on a screen. Less text is better text.

Think about the lectures, seminars and conferences you have attended in the past five years. Think about how many presenters used PowerPoint slides as notes for speaking. They either spent the entire session glued to the podium or looking back to the auditorium’s screen. Both systems perpetuated a single flaw: they read the text visible to the audience. Such an action is offensive to those who take the time to “listen” to a session.

This flaw in presentation and speaking leads to the final – and most serious – problem for our students. Such presenters have written their entire script on PowerPoint slides. Students recognised this strategy. Therefore, why should they attend a lecture or seminar when everything that is said is on the slides? That is not laziness on the part of a student. They are being logical. There is no benefit in attending the class.

The use of the technology, however, leads to problems further on, which is the principal point of the column.

When teachers confuse writing with PowerPointing and preparation with the construction of slides, it is no surprise that students also skip stages in reading, thinking and writing. This issue is not simply “about” PowerPoint. It combines with the use of low-level textbooks to create a learning experience of monotony, conformity and mediocrity.

Some of these tendencies are caused by the post-CNAA (Council for National Academic Awards) obsession with learning outcomes rather than learning. The desire for quality assurance rather than “quality” has manifested as ongoing mediocrity. When examining and moderating assignments and dissertations, I read bundles of papers that are unerringly the same. This is much more than the same teacher presenting a singular view to a class. The students have restated, and rarely reordered, the bullet points on lecture slides. When reviewing the teaching file, I match the PowerPoint presentation to paragraphs in the assignment. The students attained learning outcomes. Whether they actually learnt anything is debatable.

PowerPoint has not caused this problem. Its poor use is harming staff and students. It is making staff believe that they have prepared for a teaching session. It is making students think that they are taking notes, when they are simply copying slides prepared by someone else.

I see the British are making the same error U.S. higher education has, letting the theorists of the Colleges of Deaducation call the shots. But attaining learning outcomes is not the same thing as developing your jive detector, or becoming proficient at understanding a concept and communicating it.

That's what inspired the column: student paper drafts that lacked content.
Flaws with writing, drafting and editing are easy to address. But this year, a new problem emerged in the feedback sessions. Half the cohort demonstrated no flow between ideas. It was as if each paragraph was written in isolation. To diagnose the cause of this strange structure, I asked to see their notes from module readings. Each student pulled out notes from the lecture and seminar. I replied that they looked fine, but where were their engagements with the readings?
The first few paragraphs of the column are checklists for conducting research and drafting papers. I'll probably incorporate them into the senior paper class (yes, we're using the College of Deaducation language, capstone) I sometimes teach.
AN ARGUMENT THAT GENERALIZES. In a commentary on the effects of class privilege, Mahablog correctly notes a clear career-killer.
In most of the U.S. an adult whose articulation, syntax and verb conjugation skills signal IGNORANT HILLBILLY is seriously handicapped.
A Roger Kimball essay on a different phenomenon provides the generalization.
At its core, as Samuel Huntington pointed out in Who We Are, the United States is based upon certain “Anglo-Protestant values” that generations of immigrants had absorbed and made their own in the process of becoming American citizens.
There ought to be a less inflammatory way to describe those values (or skill sets?) in order that people, no matter their background, do not signal their lack of fitness for responsible tasks.
IMPROVEMENTS IN THE ART. The Transportationist recommended a Tim Harford column on the popularity of board games. It's a good column. The column includes a picture of the Ticket to Ride game, which won a German prize in 2004.



Financial Times photo by Charlie Bibby.

That picture reminded me of a board game I had seen on display at the California State Railroad Museum.


The Streamlined Train Game is simpler, with a spinner, or perhaps a die roll determining the movement of each player's pawn. Ticket to Ride has relatively simple instructions, but it appears to include elements of the somewhat more complicated Rail Baron (now out of print?). But games evolve from earlier games. Here's Mr Harford on a game called Settlers of Catan.

Settlers of Catan superficially resembles Monopoly. The board is assembled from hexagonal tiles, but the components include wood houses that look much like Monopoly buildings. The idea is ­similar, too: players use resources (money in Monopoly; timber, wool and other commodities in Settlers) to build property; the property then collects further resources, and the process of expansion continues.

Yet after Monopoly, Settlers was a revelation. Monopoly ends in the slow strangulation of the weaker players and usually feels stale long before the official end, assuming it isn’t abandoned along the way. Settlers didn’t take long – perhaps an hour – and even as it was coming to an end, every player was still involved. In Monopoly, many choices can be made on autopilot; in Settlers, there is scope for skill throughout a game: the decisions always matter and are always interesting. Settlers has its own elegant economy, in which the supply and demand for five different commodities are determined by tactics, luck and the stage of the game. Players ­constantly haggle, wheedle and plead. It’s convivial experience, a game of incessant banter. In the course of an evening, I was hooked.

Monopoly evolved from an earlier game that unintentionally simulated something very different.
[As designer Lizzie Magie] she developed her concept, she unwittingly created a model of competitive capitalism that illustrates the difficulty of creating a monopoly.
The slow strangulation of the weaker players is a feature; that's why there are models of economic hysteresis.
That the game does not have to have an end raises the possibility that many games will not end. So, also, can it be with business competition, whether as taught in the textbook or as observed in industries without strong scale economies or network externalities. With sufficiently many players, the pattern of initial ownership of railroads, utilities, and properties can be one in which no player acquires a monopoly in the first few trips around the board, and no proposed trades of properties (Boardwalk for Kentucky, Mediterranean, and $100) are mutually satisfactory. The resulting infinite loop is loosely a competitive equilibrium, although the game loses realism in that no housing gets built.

Monopoly's title even suggests a possibly successful strategy, if you are in the position of building houses.

There is, however, less play value in a parlor game that takes a long time and in which players are eliminated sequentially. (Participants in Risk or Diplomacy parties sometimes have to hang around to heckle the remaining players.) Settlers apparently allows all players to keep playing, perhaps leaving even the ones with no chance of winning in a position to determine who can.

25.7.10

REVISE THE PRECIPITATION PROBABILITIES? Last Thursday, I was returning from the North Woods. There was steady rain from Green Bay to Milwaukee, although that quit to permit me to procure some of the items not so readily available south of the Cheddar Curtain. A radar monitor in a rest area on Interstate 43 showed a line of storms to the northwest, but it was severe clear all the way to DeKalb, and neighbors (who might not have had the radar view) were doing yard work and watering their yards. The Milwaukee radio, however, is with increasing frequency reporting severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings and preempting the Brewers broadcast. It's bizarre listening to this play out while it remains sunny and warm here, with only a hint of clouds on the far north horizon. Milwaukee got it Thursday night into Friday morning. Lost in all the coverage of flooded roads and sinkholes and water in Nicolet High School was the front, stalled over Freeport from Thursday evening until early Saturday and leaving enough rain to isolate Pearl City. Friday night into Saturday morning was Chicago's turn, with water on the Eisenhower Expressway near the Congress Park L station and near Illinois-Chicago. Despite three or four inches of rain at DeKalb, apart from the East Lagoon going out of its banks, the water pretty much stayed inside the levees and drainage ditches, unlike August 2007. To take the position that if a hundred-year flood occurs in 2007, it ought not occur in 2010 is to risk committing the gambler's fallacy. On the other hand, probabilities can be revised in light of new information, a sensible action whether or not one sees anthropogenic climate change behind the more frequent deluges.

24.7.10

DESPITE DONALD RUSSELL AND PATRICK MCGINNIS. I begin tonight's Trip Report with an observation David P. Morgan made on page 21 of Trains for July 1967.1
[I]t is conceivable that by 1970 one will not be able to circle the West by rail. The indispensable link, Southern Pacific's San Francisco - Portland Shasta Route is down to single-train service; and that schedule — the overnight Cascade — can scarcely escape the consequences of the company's belief that "the long-haul passenger train has outlived its usefulness."

And when and if the passenger train does return, its format will not be recognizable. The airliner configuration of CN's Turbos and Pennsy's Corridor M.U.'s make no allowances for the trappings of old — for Pullman porters and table meals and drawing rooms and full-length lounges and shoe lockers and E units and all the other implications of the noun "limited." Thus it behooves us who recall and rejoice in the old order to renew acquaintance with the orthodox passenger train as often as we can ... while we can.
Those Turbos combined all the redeeming features of aircraft construction with fixed-formation consists. A few of the Corridor M.U.s remain as control cars for push-pull train sets, some powered by boxcab electric locomotives.

If you would seek the Vancouver, Wash. station, which is surrounded on all sides by track in a heavily industrialized area, this sign will point the way.


There may be no E units, but what I said.
Look carefully the next time you see a highway sign giving the location of a train station. There's nothing like a bulldog nose to announce a train.
Instead of an electric M.U. or jet fuselages (or bus bodies) on rails, the Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle to Portland to Eugene corridor trains use the Talgo design that so intrigued Patrick McGinnis.


27 June 2010

The trains ordinarily have specially-painted diesels at each end. This Genesis unit looks a bit out of place. It was also on the point of the train I rode into Portland on the 28th. The fares are time-sensitive. I purchased a ticket TO Portland just before train time: $10. My return ticket, on the 6.15: $7. I asked the agent about the fares, he said there must not have been much advance demand for the return. I then asked to book my Portland ticket for the 29th to see if there was a cheaper rate. Yup: $9.

The trains are still the classic Talgo formation of lots of short cars articulated together. The interiors feature rotating bucket seats rather than the Spanish pattern facing pairs of seats that displeased Northeastern riders. The televisions give the train location and time to the next stop.


A few of the sections labelled coach have 2-1 seating. The automatic air-operated doors between cars make a fair amount of noise, and with the short cars, there is a lot of coming and going. While the doors are open, riders can hear the air-suspension bellows huffing and puffing. There's a lot of that on the curves at Vancouver.


Here's a going shot of the 6.15 ex-Portland after it has set down its relatively few Vancouver passengers and taken up a few more.

The Portland station is well-cared for, and it gets busy at train time. In the manner of many a traditional through station, passengers walk along a platform to a designated crossing area, and thence to the station. The platforming of trains so as to provide safe passage requires some thought. Milwaukee's two nineteenth-century stations offered the same challenges.


The sun continued to shine on my trip. The station is listed.


The passenger flow through the station put me in mind of London's Marylebone. No potted plants, fewer shops, and fewer trains. There was a full-service sundry shop where I purchased a Great Northern hat. As far as I know, no European station offers neon signage in this style. (It's different from the Illinois Central style at Memphis.)


Countdown shutters are useful.

28 July 2010

I did ask the station master's permission before taking these pictures. I saw Amtrak's new photography policy conspicuously displayed at several stations.

The Builder that left Chicago on June 27 was on time, or close to time, on Wednesday the 29th. The Red Lion, whether deliberately or not, assigned me a room with a great view of the river.


Talgo trains have an unusual boarding procedure, in which entraining Portland passengers check in and receive a seat assignment and a boarding pass that doubles as a seat check. At other stations, the conductor punches tickets as passengers board. (This has been a common practice elsewhere on Amtrak. Station dwell times are somewhat longer as all tickets are checked before passengers board.) The conductor at Vancouver teased me that I could "ride my bike" to Portland. (With a recovering arm and an Acela kit bag, I doubt it. But the Red Lion courtesy van will take guests to the end of the car line just across the river.)

The Talgo got me to Portland with ample time to stow that kit bag in the Metropolitan Lounge (something Mr Morgan didn't mention at Union Station or any of the other big city stations on his 1967 trip) and find lunch on the town.

Amtrak 11 Coast Starlight, Portland - Sacramento, 29 - 30 June 2010: Genesis diesels 136-192, baggage car 1247, transition sleeper 39019, sleepers 32044-32030-32051, Pacific Parlour Car 39973 Santa Lucia Highlands, diner 38058, Sightseer Lounge 33025, coaches 34029-34512-34018-31018-34508. Pullman porters? Each sleeper has a car attendant assigned, and the car attendant has a basket of champagne to hand out to passengers. Table meals? Included in sleeper fare (something Mr Morgan noted CNR doing in 1967) and on the Starlight, sleeper passengers can choose between the regular dining car menu or if they're adroit enough, special meals served in the Pacific Parlour Car. Drawing rooms? The across-the car family bedroom (Bedroom F, a mnemonic?) at one end of the lower level offers more space, and a shower. Full-length lounges? Southern Pacific had some single-level triple-unit kitchen-dormitory + diner + lounge cars offering 110 feet of passenger space. The Sightseer Lounge + diner + Pacific Parlour Car offer more passenger space, although the Parlour Car is for sleeper passengers only. (On the Starlight, a goodly number of well-off and possibly influential people were riding. Writers, artists, scholars, entrepreneurs. That's probably a Good Thing. There's something in catering to the first class trade.) Shoe lockers? Contemporary sleeper passengers are more likely, as I did, to bring only sneakers along. There's probably no interest in having dress shoes shined. E units? Only on the station signs. A multiple-engine platform for a genset, someday?

Leave Portland 2:25:05. Last call for lunch. Parlour Car steward taking reservations for wine tasting, $5 on the Starlight, was free on the Builder. Wisconsin cheapness wins. The Starlight has a special booklet detailing the train consist, which includes an arcade car (the baggage area of a coach converted with a few video games) and a movie theater downstairs in the Parlour Car, the menus for the dining car and Parlour Car (these are different in each direction and for each day of the trip) and the wines and cheeses (not Wisconsin, meh, same wines, pass) provided at the tasting event. Take siding at Gervais 3:18, 12 by with 11 cars 3:21, on move again 3:23; Salem 3:41 - 3:45.


Willamette University claims to be the oldest university on the Pacific Coast. This softball field looks like it's on the wrong side of the tracks, compared to Mary Bell Field. Time to walk the train.

The Santa Fe put a service counter on the lower level of its lounge cars. This has become the movie theater, with screenings as listed in the booklet.


Upstairs, a few large rotating seats, as ought be the case for a parlor car, some tables for groups, and tables for dining or for cards. The cash bar is at the far end.


I saw nothing on this car that looks like a food preparation area, perhaps the special meals, which are served on a different schedule from the dining car seatings, must be heated in the dining car, which has a full-length kitchen on the lower level.

Albany 4:15 - 4:19, Eugene 5:07 - 5:18, chance to hit the platform.


Superliner cars are taller than the Santa Fe high-levels that inspired them. The Pacific Parlour Cars are rebuilt from lounge cars, and are I believe the only former Santa Fe high-level cars still running.

A gentleman I struck up a conversation with in the parlor took this picture.


Eugene, Oregon, 29 June 2010

Beyond Eugene, the climb into the Shasta Range begins in earnest. The beginning of the trip follows the Willamette Reservoir, which, despite a protracted rainy season, is still low.


A dam or so further upstream, it looks full.



A sedan and a minivan tangled on Highway 54 close to the tracks, taking out a power pole, and both cars were close to the tracks, but not so close as to damage or block them. Dinner reservation for 7:30, fashionably late, encounter some O Scalers headed for the convention. Chemult 8:31 - 8:37, Klamath Falls 9:51 - 10:00. Bless me this is pleasant, riding on the rail. Bedtime. Car attendant knocks 5:00; Sacramento in half an hour. Arrive Sacramento 5:32. Plenty of time to hang out in station before Eleven leaves; grab a cup of coffee upstairs before detraining. Check luggage. Starbucks in station complex.

The Sacramento station is busier than Portland's, but not as tidy. Pigeons in and out of the open doors.


Mural commemorates the groundbreaking for the Pacific Railroad.

(to be continued)

1Volume 27, No. 9.
A TOUGH OLD GUT. Winston Churchill called Italy and the Balkans the soft underbelly of Europe, but Ernie Pyle characterized the Italian campaign more accurately. Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 explains why. Once again, as in An Army at Dawn, history has occurred, and Book Review No. 16 cannot contain spoilers. It's a thick book. It's also well-written, and I finished it in a couple of days of System Improvement Time. That clears the shelf of completed books from the planned Liberation Trilogy, as the third installment has not, to my knowledge, been released.

Again, some vignettes from Patton prove to be based on history, again, some of the coalition troops behaved badly toward the indigenous population, and again the Germans fought hard. This time, however, the conflict was not as much first string against first string as was the case in Africa, because Genls Montgomery and Patton along with some of their units redeployed to England, and Genl Rommel, perhaps with some reassigned troops, prepared the Atlantic Wall. That left an Allied command dominated by Genl Mark Clark to push back Germans commanded by a Luftwaffe officer, Albert Kesselring. It wasn't quite "I will fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," although references to Marcus Aurelius Clarkus recall discontent with Genl Grant pushing into Virginia. Great, too, was Genl Clark's discontent when, a day after the successful invasion of Rome (Hitler had a lucid moment and declared it an open city) Operation Overlord began in Normandy. The fall of Rome, however, presaged a continued unremarked slug further into Italy, with Allied and German units moved to the south of France, on neither side in quantities to materially affect the pace of the advance.

Mr Atkinson emphasizes the constraints military logistics impose on a war plan. If a demonstration in Africa is necessary either to placate Stalin or to protect the British Empire, what next? Provisioning an army proves to be easier than repositioning it, as there is insufficient transport to bring reinforcements to Britain from the United States for Overlord and return the African forces there at the same time. Landing craft can only be in one place at a time, and craft used to land on Sicily and later on Italy proper are also required for Overlord. Thus a protracted slog in Italy becomes the least bad alternative, given that troops are in the Mediterranean theater. The slog does clear German naval forces out of the Mediterranean, and the slow advance allows construction of air bases from which heavy bombers can reach all of Germany.

I will repeat my griping about endnotes. A lot of research went into The Day of Battle. It's described, in an end section, on a page-by-page basis. There are no endnotes as I understand them, with numbers. My preference remains for footnotes at the foot of each page. That's a combination of scholarly discipline and old-fashioned stubbornness, the other approaches are cheaper if less precise.

There are numerous maps in the book, which clarify the situation in each battle zone. It frustrates, however, to have each map limited to the area of operation of one invasion force. The Italian campaign began with an invasion from Sicily to the Salerno area; this was followed up in an improvisation with a second landing at Anzio with the hopes of getting behind the main German lines. Italy, however, unlike the James River area, is too mountainous for a successful invasion closer to Rome to rapidly get to Rome. The Salerno force had to slug past Monte Cassino and numerous other hills. The Anzio force had to link up. These forces were often close to each other, but the operation-specific maps don't make clear how close or how far they were.

The Day of Battle does clarify much about a relatively neglected campaign of World War II. I await the third installment.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)
FALSE DICHOTOMY? A Power Line post parses a Rasmussen poll that attempts to classify citizens as mainstream or as political class. One observation seems to give polemicists something to work with.
America's Political Class is far less enamored with the virtues of a free market. In fact, Political Class voters narrowly prefer a government managed economy over free markets by a 44% to 37% margin.
Government management can mean Gosplan or targeted taxes and credits or subsidies (whether by a Brain Trust or by The Machine or by Act of Congress) or a central bank or provision of a system of property and contract rights. And one of the questions that supposedly allows Rasmussen to classify voters is really asking how much credence voters give to the Public Choice Hypothesis.
Some people believe that the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Has the federal government become a special interest group?
One might both answer that question in the affirmative and favor greater government involvement in commercial affairs, often precisely to prevent business from corrupting government.
Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors?
Fighting Bob LaFollette and Hiram Johnson would understand.
POUND YOUR FIST AGAINST THE DASHBOARD. Years ago, the Chicago and North Western sponsored Chicago radio traffic reports with messages extolling the convenience and comfort of their Commuter Streamliners. In those days, the service (perhaps with a bit of creative accounting) turned a profit. Today, Metra operates bilevel successors to the Commuter Streamliners with tax support. Suburban commuters are more favorably disposed to so spending their taxes.

Most suburbanites support investing more in mass transit than roads, sharing the long-held stance of a large majority of city residents, the poll found. Suburban residents also said they are driving less and taking more advantage of expanded suburban train and bus service in communities where the automobile has been king.

Drivers who said they would back spending more on mass transit cited the growing stress associated with congestion; high gasoline prices; and, to a lesser degree, the environmental and financial benefits of riding transit instead of inhaling belching emissions from cars.

Growing stress? Those North Western commercials stressed the stress forty years ago. I suppose forty years of residential and population growth with only incremental expansion of the expressways would augment the stress.

The opinions represented in the poll mark a reversal from the prevailing attitude dating to the 1970s in the suburbs. Back then, residents and their elected officials complained that there wasn't enough transit service to justify the amount of taxes collected outside Chicago to subsidize mass transit. They opposed seeing any of their tax dollars going to the Chicago Transit Authority.

But worsening traffic congestion — the Chicago area is one of the three most-gridlocked regions of the U.S. — may have a lot to do with the shift in public opinion.

Drivers using the Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate Highway 290) since the spring have suffered through some of the longest travel times in memory when some lanes were closed for a resurfacing project. It got so bad that even some of the most die-hard motorists parked their cars and rode the train, boosting Metra ridership on several rail lines.

Traffic congestion is worse than it was five years ago, according to 45 percent of suburban residents in the Tribune/WGN poll, conducted July 8-14, and a slightly smaller percentage of Chicagoans who were polled. Only 13 percent of city and suburban residents — men and women equally — said the stress caused by traffic congestion is not as high as it seemed a few years ago.

The article notes substitution effects from rising parking charges downtown —bid-rent curves just won't go away — and from rising fuel prices. It also quotes a Metra passenger who would like to see some circumferential rail lines to supplement the radial lines, something that would help Joliet residents with jobs in Naperville, or Great Lakes recruits headed to Elgin or Aurora on liberty. It also notes that Illinois's pay-for-play culture hurts the reputation of the three transit authorities.

On the other hand, that construction-induced congestion is simply repairing damage to the existing lanes or perhaps converting shoulders into an additional lane. There is probably no combination of tolls and excise taxes that can cover the full cost of additional expressways, even if the politicians can find room for them.
WELCOME BACK. Bob Uecker returns to the microphone, and Jim Edmonds hit the go-ahead home run late enough into the game for a Get Up, Get UP, Get OUTTA HERE! Friday might have been swamp-out day. It was also Bob Uecker Day in Milwaukee.

15.7.10

MARKING OFF. System Improvement Time. Thanks for looking in.
THE SUBURBAN LINE ISN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE. Portland's Tri-Met operates several light rail lines, a commuter train, and something it calls a streetcar. There is an extensive free-ride zone downtown, and the system sells a day pass for $4.75. The car lines follow routes that aren't immediately obvious to me. I attempted to work in some of the system subject to the constraints of a 10:30 Talgo departure from Vancouver and a 6:15 return. (I subsequently learned that one of the rapid transit lines is almost within walking distance of the Red Lion, if one is up for a walk across a Columbia River bridge.) The lines cross downtown, where the cars operate on one-way streets.


The system is slowly being expanded. On my return from Vic's Hobby Shop to the station, I followed a new track along Grand Avenue back to Holladay Street, in order to board a car in the free area. The new track crosses a buried old track at Halsey Street. Perhaps additional track will be unearthed?


Most of my riding went north or east of downtown. There was a bit of a holdup at first, as all service was suspended owing to catenary troubles along Holladay.


I hope that pruning hook has a fiberglass or wood handle.

I was looking for a classic suburban downtown and an opportunity to get some local food. (That's doable in Sharon Hill or Media, Pennsylvania, or Shaker Heights, Ohio.) It's different in Greater Portland. The Gresham line terminates at a large parking lot. The line to Clackamas Town Center terminates near a parking deck and a sizable shopping mall. (Come to think of it, a Pittsburgh line terminates near South Hills Mall.) Noodles provided the exotic meal. Pretty tasty and reasonably priced.


There's a contest to write transit-promoting haiku.


The light rail service is distinct from the streetcar. Streetcar stops are less elaborate. Here, the streetcar line passes through the center of Portland State University. It's more accessible than, say, the Chicago Transit Authority at Illinois-Chicago.


The streetcars are low-floor Skodas, successors to Boston's two rooms and a bath cars.


I had some time to explore both Vancouver and Portland away from the trains and the car lines. Here's a statue of Captain Vancouver, cartographer.

The Esther Short Park in central Vancouver has this simulated rapids for kids to play in. Some of the Portland parks also had watery play areas, a welcome change from decorative fountains and ponds where wading is discouraged or forbidden (are you listening, Chicago?)


Portland has bubblers. I'm surprised that somebody hasn't raised a fuss about water splashing off people's dirty faces and back onto the bubbler head.


Portland's Union Station is well cared-for, it will feature in a subsequent installment.

Yes, there is blue-state smug, if you know where to look. Esther Short Park hosted a Recycled Art show, where this 1974 electric car was on display.


Ferroequinologists will remember that The Milwaukee Road turned its electrification off in 1974.

And Portland sees fit, for some reason, to brag on its public toilets.


Whatever. The Red Lion on the Columbia is a good place to rest, and a Joe's Crab Shack and a Mexican themed tavern are also riverside, an easy walk from the hotel. More on the Talgo trains in the next installment.

(to be continued)
WORKING TO CROSS PURPOSES. On one hand, there are some in higher education who fret about supposed sex imbalances in higher education enrollments. I've been following this story for some time. Four years ago, I noted this.

Anybody remember something called "internalization?" It was wrong, we were instructed, to engage in stereotyping of people in order to prevent those characterizations from becoming self-fulfilling prophecies? And to point out shortcomings consistent with stereotypes was to engage in blaming the victim?

Apparently those rules don't apply to contemporary boys, who can be dosed with Ritalin on the slightest provocation, or regarded presumptively to be louts or rapists. (I exaggerate, but I have encountered enough of such thinking to be more than a bit displeased when it arises.)

My focus has been on the stability, or not, of the Surf City equilibrium. A Minding the Campus essay by Charlotte Allen gives reason to return to the internalization argument. It's going to be hard to entice men to register in order to provide the women with a social life when the men become presumptive villains in the classroom.

There are many possible reasons why men would rather not sign up for education courses. For black and other minority men there are probably too many better-paying career opportunities elsewhere. It's natural that if you belong to the first generation in your family to graduate from high school and enter college in the first place, you probably want to enter a profession that will enable you to pay off your student loans relatively quickly.

Furthermore, many ed schools seem to have an Anybody But White Males policy in place when it comes to awarding the scholarships, fellowships, and grants that ease the financial burden on education concentrators. Take Stanford's School of Education. The American Association of University Women awards grants ranging from $18,000 to students enrolled in master's programs in education at Stanford to $20,000 to students enrolled in doctoral programs. Only women are eligible for these generous stipends. Other Stanford fellowships earmark minorities, but only certain favored minorities: "African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American, Pacific Islander," according to the terms of one fellowship. It's ironic that men constitute a distinct minority in education programs but never qualify for "minority' financial aid.

The most troubling reason for young men's lack of interest in learning how to be K-12 teachers, however, may lie in the content of many ed-school's curricula, often: loaded with political correctness, lame psychobabble and useless Marxist and feminist theory, all at the expense of subject-matter content and practical instruction on teaching difficult concepts or maintaining order in a classroom. General bias against men, especially white men, seems to be the rule. When the NEA released its 2008 survey detailing the paucity of men in K-12 classrooms, several commenters on psychologist Helen Smith's "Dr. Helen" blog expressed disillusion and bitterness with an ed-school pedagogy that made them feel unwelcome.

Ms Allen buried the lede.
Ed schools need to think hard about their female-favoring curricula and financial-aid policies that are turning off male students in droves.
Her argument might generalize to the rest of higher education.

14.7.10

CHICAGO'S CLOACA. The city calls it the Sanitary and Ship Canal. That's a misnomer.

Chicago has a rare distinction among major American cities: It does not employ a disinfection stage at its three main sewage treatment plants.

The result is a river and canal system running so thick with fecal coliform that signs along the banks warn that the contents below are not suitable for "any human body contact."

Notwithstanding the bacteria, the canal is also an expressway for invasive species in both directions.

The canal had indeed been a forceful solution to the city's 19th century sewage problem. But by the beginning of the 21st century, the true costs of destroying a continental divide - which some conservationists refer to as Chicago's "original sin" - were finally coming into focus as water, waste and noxious species mixed in a manner nature never intended.

Pipe-clogging invasive mussels from the Caspian Sea region - which have shredded the Great Lakes' food web and cost billions of dollars to industries and municipalities - rode Chicago's canal waters out of Lake Michigan and into the rest of America. They were followed by round gobies, a prolific predator of native fish species' eggs. Today a fish-killing, ebola-like virus is threatening to spill inland from southern Lake Michigan, an invasion that could have dire consequences for fish farmers in the South.

Those fish farmers brought in the Asian carp as a way of boosting productivity. I'm told it's tasty for a bottom-feeder, and there's a lot of export potential.

The drainage canals are pretty, but not exactly recreational waters.

The leafy North Shore channel is a training ground for college crew teams, as well as high school rowers, many of whom see the dirty water as the best route to a varsity letter, and perhaps college scholarship.

Space for all rowers is tight on busy training days, and on weekends they have to dodge droves of kayakers and canoeists.

All of them float past the warning signs lining the banks that caution against any body contact at all.

Only a fool - or an unsupervised child trying to beat the heat on a hot summer day - would purposely take a dip in the North Shore Channel, but that doesn't mean people aren't getting wet.

New Trier Township High School assistant crew coach Hope Poor says her kids are schooled to wash well after practice, scrub popped blisters and keep their heads above water on the rare occasion someone takes an accidental plunge.

They serve, however, as freight transportation corridors, and closing the canal without provision for transportation will be costly. Chicago does not think of Lake Michigan as both water source and water sink, and that would change.

The postcards of a shiny city perched on the shore of a deep blue lake belie an unfortunate reality for the Chicago area. Pockets of it could be headed for a water shortage in the coming decades if the region doesn't stop flushing billions of gallons of water away a day.

Chicago is unlike every other Great Lakes city in that it doesn't pull its water from the lake, use it and send it back as part of a sustainable water management system that allows people to live and industries to thrive without diminishing the lakes.

In this sense, Chicago really isn't a Great Lakes city at all; it is just another American metropolis that has a limited freshwater supply heading into a century where many believe water will supplant oil as a primary economic driver.

The 1900 river reversal means virtually every drop Chicagoans take from the lake - whether it's to wash cars, brush teeth, fight fires or make ice - is a drop sucked away from the lakes and sent to the Gulf of Mexico.

That's why the U.S. Supreme Court decades ago slapped a 2.1 billion gallon-per-day cap on Illinois diversions from Lake Michigan.

It is an immense amount of water - about 20 times what Milwaukee takes from the lake per day - but it might not be enough.

Chicago's western suburbs, like Milwaukee's, are dependent on an ever-shrinking groundwater supply, and it's probably just a matter of time until they'll push to poke their straws into Lake Michigan for a share of that 2.1 billion gallons.

Compounding the problem, the amount of water available right now isn't even close to 2.1 billion gallons because every drop of rain that falls in the south-flowing Chicago River watershed is a drop that counts against its court-allowed allocation.

Kenosha County, where the Root River, which drains into Lake Michigan, and the Des Plaines River, which drains into the Illinois River (on the opposite side of the sub-continental divide), could be Conflict Zero in a future civil war.

The canal system, however, provides relief capacity for railroads and highways that are congested with little relief in sight.

Freight train tonnage is expected to grow 70% by 2030, according to a report LaBelle's group put together called The Metropolitan Freight Plan.

The roads are similarly choked, and getting worse faster than most people may realize. In 1982, the average Chicago driver spent about 16 hours a year in traffic jams. By 2002, that number had grown to 56 hours, and it has been projected to reach 80 hours - the equivalent of a typical person's two-week annual vacation - within the next 25 years.

Truck traffic is driving much of the problem.

In the next 25 years, according to the report, the number of trucks on Chicago-area roads is going to grow by a staggering 80% and will account for more than half of the extra vehicles on Chicago-area roadways.

Yet at the same time, some people are beginning to eye the massive canal system as an underutilized asset.

"Fifty percent of commercial goods nationally go through this region, $570 billion is on trucks, and $380 billion is on rail, and they're subject to all kinds of constraints," says Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Great Lakes and Chicago's inland waterway transportation systems are really not part of that, and they need to be integrated into it."

To meet that challenge while separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River calls for some thought.

The Alliance for the Great Lakes report offers a glimpse of how it might be accomplished.

It suggests that the most logical place to explore restoring the destroyed divide would be on the Chicago River, about three miles west of Navy Pier.

One dam-like structure here and you would effectively solve the problem for Navy Pier and Wilmette, where a second canal flows in from Lake Michigan and eventually merges with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

That would mean the water currently treated at the North Side treatment plant would flow back into Lake Michigan instead of down to the Mississippi, requiring sewage treatment upgrades.

A structure at this location about 3 miles west of the lake would still allow thousands of Chicago tour boats and private vessels to sail along much of the downtown river and into Lake Michigan - a huge advantage over putting a barrier at the lakeshore near Navy Pier.

A second barrier could be installed on the Calumet River near the Lake Michigan shore, south of downtown, the report suggests. This would prohibit the free flow of barges into the lake, but it has an advantage in that much of the sewage and storm water discharges from that area would still flow away from Lake Michigan.

There are two smaller access points to Lake Michigan on the Grand Calumet River and Little Calumet River that would need to be plugged with some type of physical barrier, perhaps a berm. Neither have heavy commercial navigation.

As for the areas where barges would be blocked, [Illinois Senator Dick] Durbin and others expect the new Army Corps study to explore options to transfer that cargo overland, or perhaps transport entire barges overland.

I saw pictures once of a barge elevator in the Netherlands or north Germany that did this, and the Allegheny Portage Railroad did so on a somewhat larger scale.
WHAT THE MANAGEMENT MEASURES, IT GETS MORE OF. Emory's Mark Bauerlein remembers what College Used To Be Like.

There was certainly a fair number of loud [parties] every Friday and Saturday throughout De Neve Drive and along Fraternity Row, plus a few mid-week open doors with beer flowing inside. But something else, too. About half the guys I met spent three or four hours a night in University Research Library (URL---we called it "Urinal"). They rose around 8 or 9am, grabbed a quick breakfast in the dorm cafeteria, speeded down the hill to classes before and after lunch (it was the quarter system, with classes meeting four hours a week), then spent the late afternoon shooting hoops or throwing a football, then dinner at 6, then a trip to the library by 7. If you arrived after 8, you couldn't find a seat. Each night, sitting in a carrel, I heard the tardy ones sidle by searching for spots and wandering floor to floor.

The other half of the guys I met had other plans. They weren't much interested in college, or they dealt drugs, or they played sports all day, or they were just plain screw-ups. The diligent ones recognized them as such, and even though we enjoyed them there was no cachet of "cool" given to them. (Freshman and sophomore year I drifted perilously toward the latter group now and then.) Those who studied hard didn't consider themselves superior, nor did they fit the nerd mold. They played high school football and drank Henry Weinhard. But they studied hard without groaning or crowing, taking their 20 or so hours a week as customary.

Professor Bauerlein has established his curmudgeon credibility previously, and it's time for an E-T-T-S moment.

That's why a remark at this story in the Boston Globe on college homework is so annoying. The Globe highlights research appearing on the average number of hours per week that college students log doing homework. The latest study puts the figure at 14 hours per week on average. That figure tallies with similar surveys such as National Survey of Student Engagement and a large University of California study from two years ago. "In survey after survey since 2000, college and high school students are alarmingly candid that they are simply not studying very much at all," the story notes.

According to the recent study (by Philip Babcock, an economist at UCSB, and Mindy Marks, an economist at UC-Riverside), in 1961, students averaged 24.4 hours per week, and by 1981 it had already fallen to 16.8 hours.

And yet, "Some question whether college students ever could have studied 24 hours a week ---roughly three and a half hours a night." That's the annoying remark. It isn't given any attribution in the Globe story, and one wonders who the "some" are. In any case, though, the notion that 24 hours a week of study time is unimaginable . . . well, what to say? It amounts to 3.5 hours per night. C'mon, that's not all that much. If you got to URL at 7, you read and wrote till 8:45, then took a half hour break before going back to the library for another hour and three-quarters. Not a big deal. That left an hour for a couple of beers at home. On Saturdays you could get your hours in right after lunch and leave the night open.

I worked part-time all through college and by my third year joined the 20-hours-of-homework group (I took five years and some summer school to graduate). I got bored, tired, distracted, and jumpy in my library station, but never thought, "This is just too much homework---it's not realistic."

(I got to the library quickly enough after work to snag one of the carrels with a phonograph. Sign out a symphony, pull out the notebook, get it done.)

It does not follow, however, that student slacking is the sole, or even the primary reason, for reduced study time.

If the people who think the 24-hour estimate is a fantasy are professors, that might explain the opinion. When it comes to the reasons for declining hours, Babcock and Marks have one unpleasant surmise: "What might be causing it, they suggest, is the growing power of students and professors' unwillingness to challenge them." Professors have downgraded their authority, dropping the "dynamic where a professor sets standards and students try to meet them." Instead, Babock and Marks believe, we have a situation in which "both sides hope to do as little as possible."

This gets us to a rational explanation. The more homework students do, the more material professors have to grade. Or, the more they assign, the more they have to penalize students who don't complete it. High workloads also lower student evaluation scores, especially when one professor requires it and colleagues in the department don't join in.

But the evaluation form and the customer-service mentality are neither necessary nor sufficient.
What's the incentive for a professor to demand an hour of work per night for his or her course alone? Students don't like it and they complain. They send emails asking for adjustments, and when they don't follow the complaints spread. The chair of the department doesn't want to deal with complaints and neither does the dean. Parents shelling out bundles for tuition don't want their children to come home with "C" grades.
On the other hand, a reputation for being demanding sends some of the slackers elsewhere. There are, however, other incentives at work.

Most of all, professors at institutions with high research and/or service demands can only regard rigorous teaching as a danger. They fill out annual reports each year, but neither amount of homework time nor weekly office hours nor out-of-class student engagement meetings are recorded there. They don't increase their salary and they don't get promoted and they don't garner professional prestige by forcing students to bring rough drafts to the office for review/discussion.

The only thing that pushes back against these incentives is professional virtue. Teachers do it because it's the right thing to do. But the rest of the system conspires against virtue, and its near-complete defeat is nicely illustrated by the "nobody did 24 hours of homework" comment. Instead of being a standard professors should sustain, 20+ workloads now appear to many an unreal, and perhaps unjust or sadistic, expectation. Let it go, let it go . . .

On one hand, it is possible to quantify and reward teaching effort. There's such a thing as a writing intensive course in our evaluation system. On the other hand, the big points go to the articles in major journals and the grants. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as major journals and grants boost academic reputation, and the excess demand is not for remedial college. But when headquarters pretends to pay us (nearly twenty years of no real pay increases) while rescinding searches, downsizing departments, and proliferating committees and task forces, does it come as any surprise that Atlas might shrug?

12.7.10

MAKING THE BEST OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES. When I returned home, there was a message from Amtrak time-stamped noon on Friday, June 25, advising me that some of my trip to Portland would be by alternate transportation. As far as I know, there is nobody on Amtrak's payroll with the title of seer, anticipating diesel troubles and signal failures in Wisconsin. I learned from other conversations on the train that the previous day's Builder was going to turn at Whitefish with a rockslide in the way, or would have been turned at Whitefish with bus service in substitution had the rockslide not been cleared. The message was probably anticipating another day of bus substitution around the rockslide. Just as well I had left before the message came in: a long bus ride on mountain roads in the middle of the night isn't exactly vacation travel. In any event, Sunday, June 27 begins in Sandpoint, Idaho, with a 5:20 departure. I can now claim to have seen some of Idaho by day, although I have yet to step off a train or otherwise set foot in that state. On the approach to Spokane, the conductor alerts all passengers destined to Portland or changing trains at Portland to prepare to detrain for substitute transportation, a bus. I make some inquiries and discover that passengers ending their journey in Portland or detraining in Vancouver, Wash., may stay on the train. The announcement primarily affects a large party on a Glacier Park package tour that will be continuing their journey on the Coast Starlight to California. These passengers will be bussed to Klamath Falls, Oregon, to intercept the Starlight there. The Starlight is due Klamath Falls around 10 pm. The Builder arrives Spokane 6:29:10. Some passengers are going to have to entertain themselves in Klamath Falls for a few hours. Some passengers on the Super Dome excursion recommended I try a Red Lion hotel near the Portland convention center. It's sold out, but one on the Columbia River in Vancouver has an attractive rate. It's real close to the Vancouver station, and I ask to detrain there rather than in Portland. No problem, the faster they unload the train at Portland, the better the chances of turning it to head east that afternoon.



Spokane has a new station with an island platform. The traditional station became a visitor center for a world's fair (does anybody do world's fairs any more?) Burlington ran a few freight trains in both directions while the Builder was serviced and divided.

There was time to wander along the platform and check out this classic bakery.


The diesels are serviced off the platform, and I did not see the power that relayed Seven to Seattle. Seven got away at 7:14, and 84-21 tied on to 34027-33049-31027-32048 for Portland. Under way 7:34 according to the conductor's radio, 7:32:47 on my watch. Lounge attendant makes an announcement about the air conditioning in his car. The automatic cycling isn't working, so he's controlling it manually, meaning the car will sometimes be very chilly. He also announces that cinnamon rolls and bottled water will be put aboard for all coach passengers at Pasco.

Eastern Washington looks almost as arid as the Gobi Desert, although the surroundings are not as hardscrabble.

The ruins of Milwaukee's overpass at Lind witness our passage. This overpass is in the gap between the electric operations west from Othello, Washington and east from Avery, Idaho.


Milwaukee bought six trainsets for the Olympian Hiawatha precisely to have sufficient time to turn a train at each end of the line. That expenditure was probably not the one that broke the railroad.

Arrive Pasco 10:24, take on rolls and water, walk around the platform (another new station), leave 10:34:40.

Beyond Pasco, the railroad uses the Columbia River valley, and the terrain loses its steppe-like qualities. The sleeping car attendant sets up the sandwiches put aboard at Havre. Good sandwiches, and lots of them. Sleeper passengers offered seconds (I passed) and the remaining sandwiches and cinnamon rolls were made available to all takers. It's commendable that emergency provisioning is possible for the trains, although more reliable equipment, whether we're talking about control systems on ten year old diesels or cooling systems on thirty year old lounge cars, would be more commendable.


A barge tow, power lines for the Bonneville Power Authority, all that's missing is Woody Guthrie singing "Roll on Columbia". Wishram 12:30 - 12:35; Bingen - White Salmon wait for freight train, make station stop 1:15:37 - 1:16:22.

The Columbia River gorge works like a wind tunnel. The winds were destructive of Milwaukee Road trains on its crossing, but they make for thrilling wind surfing and dinghy sailing. The latest method of riding the winds is called kite boarding, which involves controlling a small spinnaker with kite strings to propel a surf board.


That's The Dalles, Oregon, on the Union Pacific side of the river, and Mount Hood in the background.


If you're going to be delayed on the Empire Builder, at least be grateful that it's not your usual Pacific Northwest overcast. Passing trees made getting a good picture of Mount Hood challenging, but I was up to it.


There were no ships of plenty locking through at Bonneville as we passed. The conductor made another announcement, advising passengers headed for Washington points on the Talgo train to detrain at Vancouver rather than attempt the connection at Portland. Arrive Vancouver 2:25. The Builder will turn and attempt a 4:50 departure for Chicago. I'm headed to the Red Lion for a long shower and a nap. Passengers headed north will have about an hour layover in Vancouver.

(to be continued)

ANTICIPATING SHERMAN'S MARCH. In the early days of the Southern Rebellion, the senior generals east and west dithered and delayed, while ambitious junior commanders did what they could subject to the objections of their superiors. Grant and Sherman ultimately emerged as the commanders, and the Army of the Tennessee as the instrument of victory. Before them, however, was Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, also an aggressive commander, who secured the improbable cooperation of a smuggler named James Andrews in an attempt to isolate Chattanooga prior to investing it and moving to Atlanta. The project, in military histories as the Andrews Raid, and on film as The Great Locomotive Chase, failed.




The received version of the chase makes for great theater, with trains jumping gaps in rails and boxcars left in position to derail the chasing locomotive or to destroy bridges.

The reality is not as dramatic, although what actually happened is compelling enough, and well-told in Russell S. Bonds's Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor. Mr Bonds has investigated official records, located photographs of most of the protagonists of the chase, reconstructed what happened in those six hours from a stolen train making an unauthorized departure from Big Shanty, Georgia to the same train running out of fuel near Ringgold, Georgia. The raiders might have missed some opportunities to impede their pursuers. The capture, imprisonment, trial, and execution or exchange of the raiders receive the attention they deserve. The Medal of Honor that many of the raiders won has a most humble beginning. An agrarian republic with little use for a martial tradition has to make up the techniques and trappings of industrial war as it goes along, learning lessons that the French and the Prussians ignored to their grief two score and three years later, and also creating a medal that only later became special recognition for extraordinary acts.

I'll leave most of the details out of Book Review No. 15, noting that a careful reader will learn much, and that the raiders described their unit's ultimate objectives in terms anticipating Sherman's March. General Mitchel is an intriguing figure. Mr Bonds credits him as prototype for Walt Whitman's Learned Astronomer, and had he lived, the lineup of field commanders in the west might have been imposing indeed. (To this day, Fort McPherson in Atlanta is a subtle reminder to aspiring secesh.)

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)