31.3.17

AFTER THE WALL CAME DOWN.

Camburg, in Thuringia, was the station east of the Iron Curtain at which Deutsche Bundesbahn electrification ended and Deutsche Reichsbahn steamers took over.  The station would have to have been in the Communist sector, otherwise the Reichsbahn would find itself out of locomotives and crews.  Bundesbahn motormen would make unlikely defectors to the East.
The station built in 1874 in the tiny town of less than 3,000 people was an important stop along the journey between East and West Germany during the Cold War. An American train that ran daily between Munich and West Berlin passed through Camburg, and had to stop for up to 20 minutes to change locomotives from electric to steam engine, which was used more so in the East.

“The trains from Munich to West Berlin were a daily reminder to the people living in East Germany that these were trains they weren’t allowed to get on,” Olly Bond told The Local.
After reunification and electrification all the way to Berlin, there's a big, empty, redundant station. The Bonds (ah, the temptation: My name is Bond. Olly Bond) bought it.  They'll repurpose it as a cafe, or perhaps a bed and breakfast.  With working model trains.  And support from the local railroaders.
“One lady came and handed me her uniform and said ‘please have this’,” Olly recounted.

“There’s something about trains that appeals to big kids and little kids. The mayor herself was sitting at a table, glueing together a model train for her children.”

The short-term goal is to have a cafe set up this year, as well as holiday apartments for the summer and autumn.

Olly says that so far the small town community has been supportive of their efforts to revive a historic, local site, and the fact that they are outsiders - and the only Brits in the village - hasn’t been such an issue.
If DB Railfreight UK can run steam locomotives on Her Majesty's metals, why not have a British operated bed and breakfast trackside in Germany?
“I think they’re delighted that something is happening, and they might be surprised that it’s us that is doing it, but they’re happy that it’s coming alive,” says Olly.

“We are English and so we do love trains. It’s such a thrill to look out the window and see trains passing by.”

The couple is hopeful that their project could bring more tourism to the town, which could have a positive impact on the picturesque village that might otherwise be overlooked.

“I don’t think we’re going to radically change their way of life. We’re just going to make sure there’s a place to get a decent cappuccino.”
Yes, and there's a German tradition involving coffee and sweetrolls midafternoon, where watching the trains pass is a great extra benefit.  But with the Berlin - Munich Neubaustrecke now a possibility, will there be as many trains passing Camburg?

FABER HAD DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION. SPRINGFIELD HAVE OFFICIAL WARNING STATUS.

I can't make this stuff up.  And I have to publish today, because tomorrow is April Fool's Day.

But in the humanities, every day is Fool's Day.  These days, the fools are going after Springfield English professor Dennis Gouws.  He's being punished for being uncooperative after he was cooperative.
Gouws, a tenured English professor, was asked in 2005 by his department to teach a new course, “Men in Literature.” He liked it and kept on teaching it, eight times between 2005 and 2015. The college approved the course as a regular offering in 2010.

But in June 2015, [liberal arts dean Anne] Herzog wrote to him, demanding that he revise the course because an unnamed student had complained about its content because it dealt with men in literature. Since that was the title of the course, the content of the syllabus, and the substance of the class, it is a bit perplexing that Herzog saw merit in the complaint, but so she did.
Somebody must have been telling lies about Dennis G., because one fine morning he was arrested.  And now he is expected to recant or be excommunicated.
On March 27, Anne Herzog, the college’s dean of Arts, Sciences, and Professional Studies, wrote a letter to Gouws placing him on “Official Warning Status.” Herzog’s letter proffers a good deal of smug condescension and a small harvest of details, but none of that will explain what is really happening.
Yes, I'm mixing my historical references here, but apparently Professor Gouws got in trouble for posting theses to his office door.  The Holy Inquisition, Kafkaesque bureaucracies, the Diversity Weenies: of a piece.

But let's see if I understand this.  A new course gets through the curriculum committees, and all the other hurdles that stand between conception and catalog language.  And it's all for naught once somebody who holds the current Right To Be Offended cards lays down the Queen of Clubs?

If the Victimization Cards are played well outside the usual U.S. News suspects, is it important?

It's important, Peter Wood argues, to call out the petty tyrants at Springfield, because who knows how many academic gulags there are, without the notoriety of a Middlebury, an Oberlin, a Wisconsin, a Yale to keep vigilant eyes on them?
Let me grant immediately that this case has none of the rocket fuel of Middlebury College’s collective assault on Charles Murray and Professor Alison Stanger. Dennis Gouws is a relative nobody (sorry Dennis) at a no-name college (not sorry, Dean Herzog). Trader Joe’s, the trendy grocery chain, playfully offers knock-offs on popular brands, such as “Scandinavian Swimmers” for “Swedish Fish.”
Springfield, Scandinavian Swimmer notwithstanding, are in the same business as Middlebury, notes Mr Wood, and committing indoctrination and calling it sensitivity is an error, and it ought be called out.

Our universities are being run by terminally stupid people.

CLASSICAL LIBERALISM.

Reason's Deirdre McCloskey evaluates Three Influential Ideas from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Nationalism and socialism: influential in a bad way.  Expanded liberty: influential in a good way.  Go read the article.  Then heed his advice.
Read Adam Smith, slowly—not just the prudential Wealth of Nations, but its temperate sister The Theory of Moral Sentiments. And return in spirit to the dawn of 1776, when the radical idea was not nationalism or socialism or national socialism, but "the obvious and simple system of natural liberty" that allows all men and women to pursue their interests in their own ways.

It was a strange but very, very good idea. Still is.
Yes, although the temptation to Rely on Wise Experts rather than stand back and let emergence emerge is understandable.  But aren't there enough failures of Expertise now to make its doctrines as suspect as The Divine Right of Kings?

THERE'S NO DENYING DERIVED DEMAND.

Here's a higher education controversy from five years or so ago that's still current.  It's about the marketability of a college degree.  That's been part of the recent tussle among Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, the state legislature, and the University of Wisconsin. In Florida, governor Rick Scott wanted to tie funding, or perhaps tuitions, to the course of study.  That didn't play so well at Mother Jones, perhaps because the disciplines the governor viewed as socially unnecessary turned out a lot of Occupy types then and snowflakes now. Instapundit's coverage of the controversy noted the internal inconsistency of the intrinsic-value, spillover-benefit crowd.
After decades of selling college as an “investment” — and pricing it accordingly — it’s going to be hard for the higher education establishment to pivot to a college-as-personal-fulfillment argument. If it’s the latter, it’s a consumption good, priced on a par with a Porsche or Ferrari. Those shouldn’t be financed by debt, or bought by 18-year-olds. If college liberal-arts degrees, on the other hand, are to be sold as a public good, benefiting society so much that society should pay the freight, then (1) Society should have a much bigger say in what’s being taught; and (2) It might be nice to see some actual, you know, evidence of that.
These days, as Charlie Sykes recently put it, the pricing is more akin to buying a new Porsche each year for four or five years, and driving each off a cliff.  But a degree has components, and the mix of what's on offer matters, whether it's a private investment for private benefit, or public provision for spillover benefits.  At the margin, higher tuitions for socially dubious degrees might not influence the production of protesters making coffee.

Dean Dad, who had not yet revealed himself as in the Pioneer Valley, noted that there are internal markets in higher education (to staff the core courses) as well as the labor markets.
The usual ritualistic bleating about “market-based reforms,” on the one side, and “learning for learning’s sake,” on the other, fails to account for the paradox. What students want to take, and what employers want students to take, are not the same thing. If you want colleges to discount the former in favor of the latter, you have to pay for it. Otherwise, colleges will do what they have to do, and those anthropologists will just keep on coming. If the governor of Florida wants to snuff out psychology, he’ll need to pony up some serious cash to make all those small STEM classes sustainable. Failing that, he’s just blowing smoke. The markets have spoken.
Perhaps, but the tension between supporting core learning (whether that's for individual intellectual development or for those spillover benefits) and career preparation has been with us for a long time, and getting the mission right involves more than ensuring an entry-level job after three or four or five years.  And somehow, the evergreen disciplines manage to find staff (that's another story in itself) to meet the demand, whether it's from curriculum committees, from student intellectual curiosity, from the current hot fields at the job fairs.

PLAYING SMART.

The young ladies who earned a chance to hang a banner weren't neglecting the student part of student-athlete. Six Huskies Collect Academic All-MAC Accolades.  That's a new high for the team, and they led the Mid-American in a different sort of scoring category.  Their majors or intended majors: nursing, accountancy, two in pre-physical therapy (the cartel now requires a doctorate to practice physical therapy), biological sciences, and communicative disorders.

It has long been the tradition that anyone who dresses for practice dresses for graduation.  That's still the case, even with a professional league, a recruiting combine, and all the rest.  Well done.

30.3.17

PEACE IN OUR TIME.

Britain's Swanage Railway will be hosting the largest gathering of Bulleid Pacifics since British Railways dropped steam operation.

Among the locomotives present, Battle of Britain class (the large Pacifics, in the British Railways 35xxx series) members named Sir Keith Park and 92 Squadron as well as a Spam Can temporarily renamed Lord Dowding.  And 357 Squadron will be on display in its nearly-restored form.

Mainline steam support services are on offer from DB Cargo UK.

TODAY'S TRENCHANT OBSERVATION.

It comes from a Strong Towns post on Facebook recommending an article suggesting infrastructure people rethink the methods of financing the public roads.
Policy discussions on transportation funding always assume that the demand is there and all we really need to do is find a consensus way to meet it (tax, borrow, spend). What if that assumption is not true? It's not.

What if we gave everyone lobster and steak and only asked them to pay for hamburger? Would we then assume an insatiable demand for lobster and steak? Of course not.

Without a direct pricing mechanism, transportation demand forecasting is a joke. Voters will always demand more than they are willing to pay for. Always. That's not greed or selfishness; it's human nature. We need a system that compensates for human nature, not exploits it.
The generalizations are straightforward.

WHEN YOU DENY COHERENT BELIEFS, YOU GET INCOHERENCE.

Helen Pluckrose, who marinated as a toddler in second-wave feminism, experiences her mugging by reality.
People are often confused about what postmodernism is and what it has to do with feminism. Very simplistically, it was an academic shift pioneered by Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard which denied that reliable knowledge could ever be attained and claimed that meaning and reality themselves had broken down. It rejected large, overarching explanations (meta-narratives) which included religion but also science, and replaced them with subjective, relative accounts (mini-narratives) of the experiences of an individual or sub-cultural group. These ideas gained great currency in the humanities and social sciences and so became both an artistic movement and a social “theory.” They rejected the values of universal liberalism, the methods of science and the use of reason and critical thinking as the way to determine truth and form ethics. Individuals could now have not only their own moral truths but their own epistemological ones. The expression “It’s true for me” encapsulates the ethos of postmodernism. To claim to know anything to be objectively true (no matter how well-evidenced) is to assert a meta-narrative and to “disrespect” the contrary views of others which is oppressive (even if those views are clearly nonsense.) The word “scientism” was created for the view that evidence and testing are the best way to establish truths.

At its height, postmodernism as an artistic movement produced non-chronological, plotless literature and presented urinals as art. In social theory, postmodernists “deconstructed” everything considered true and presented all as meaningless. However, having done this, there was nowhere else to go and nothing more to say. In the realm of social justice, nothing can be accomplished unless we accept that certain people in a certain place experience certain disadvantages. For this, a system of reality needs to exist, and so new theories of gender and race and sexuality began to emerge comprised of mini-narratives. These categories were held to be culturally constructed and constructed hierarchically to the detriment of women, people of color and LGBTs. Identity was paramount.
And thus we find ourselves in a weird world wherein Moslem face-veiling is a diversity to be embraced and airline pass-riders required to dress professionally are oppressed, and hoop earrings are no longer preppy fashion.  And, as the author suggests, the mini-narratives serve as ways to divide the grievance communities among themselves.
The intersectional feminists were not even internally consistent. In addition to the cultural relativity, the rules change day by day as new sins against social justice are invented. We opposed the radical feminists for their extreme antipathy towards men but at least they shared a bond of sisterhood with each other. The intersectional feminists not only exhibit great prejudice against men but also turn on each other at the slightest imagined infraction of the rules. Having not the slightest regard for reason or evidence, they vilify and harass those imagined to have transgressed.
Somewhere the pickup artists are chuckling.

By all means read and understand the essay in full.

"WE DON'T THINK YOU SUPPORT THE ACADEMIC SIDE."

The Faculty Senate at Northern Illinois University has a frank and open exchange of views with current president Doug Baker.
The Faculty Senate postponed a vote of no confidence Wednesday against President Doug Baker, instead exploring the possibility of faculty involvement in the presidential evaluation process.

A vote of no confidence would formally signify the faculty’s lack of support for Baker, although no actions against Baker could result from the vote.

Discussion of the confidence vote first arose in a Jan. 25 Faculty Senate meeting during which members addressed Baker’s Dec. 22 email to the NIU community in which he announced upgrading NIU’s Whistleblower Policy and revising employment policies as a result of “weaknesses in internal controls, some limited compliance violations, and lack of clarity of policies across multiple units,” that occurred in 2013 and 2014, according to the email.

The motion to take the confidence vote was proposed in a March 24 email from Michael Haji-Sheikh, assistant professor of electrical engineering.

“I believe that the university hasn’t been well served by this president and administration,” Haji-Sheikh said after the 3 p.m. meeting Wednesday in the Holmes Student Center, Sky Room.
Let's say that I built that new headquarters for Cold Spring Shops and set aside my F-U money for a reason.  And yes, that involved too many management fads, too much special education, too much affirmative action, and too much expense-preference behavior by the administration.  Remember the chief inspiration officer?

The good news is, the faculty are rediscovering (reclaiming?) their proper role as stewards of the university.
Although the vote of confidence was postponed, members of Faculty Senate were able to work with the Board of Trustees about presidential evaluations prior to the Wednesday meeting.

“This is our immediate response, and this provides an opportunity to show goodwill on our part and collaboration on our part toward the Board of Trustees,” said Faculty Senate Speaker Greg Long during the meeting.

The Faculty Senate proposed a resolution in which they requested involvement in the Board of Trustees’ presidential evaluation process, particularly when Baker’s contract ends in June 2018. The resolution also requested formalized involvement of staff, students, instructors, alumni and community members in the evaluation process.

In an email to Long, Trustee John Butler proposed incorporating faculty voice in the review process. Butler alludes to prior conversation between himself and Long about the potential involvement.

“You expressed particular interest in the manner in which representatives of the faculty, supportive professional staff, operating staff, and students will participate [in evaluating the performance of the president],” Butler said in the email. “The assessment pool will certainly involve such representation (as well as trustees, the president’s direct reports, and representatives from external stakeholders such as the Alumni Association, Foundation Board, community leaders, etc.).”

A formal decision regarding faculty involvement in the evaluation process has not yet been proposed during a Board of Trustees meeting.
There are no stakes for the external stakeholders to hold without a functioning university. Restoring a state of good repair in faculty governance will be a proper course.

29.3.17

THE CHINESE Z TRAINS WORK.

The Silk Road Intermodal get down to business, and the competition notices.
China to Europe rail freight services are ‘no longer carrying volumes that can be ignored’, and the air cargo sector must start taking the threat to its traffic seriously, Marco Bloemen, Senior Vice-President at air freight consultancy Seabury, told the International Air Transport Association World Cargo Symposium in Abu Dhabi on March 14.

‘Depending on where the trains are heading to, it takes around 14-17 days, which is a very nice alternative compared with air freight that takes around five or six days and ocean freight that takes 35-40 days’, Bloemen said.

Seabury’s data shows that rail freight volumes increased at a compound annual growth rate of 65% between 2013 and 2016, reaching 511,000 tonnes last year. ‘This is a serious flow’, said Bloemen. ‘I realise most of the commodities will be coming from ocean freight, but even if it is only a share, say 10% of air cargo that is travelling on rail, that is 50,000 tonnes of freight and that is a big number. It has an impact and is growing fast.’

Bloemen said the largest commodities carried by rail were raw materials with a 33% share, machinery parts at 16%, automotive at 15%, high tech at 12%, consumer goods at 10% and fashion at 6%.
We're still not looking at Santa Fe Transcon style volumes, and yet there's a lot of upside potential in those automotive components, machinery parts, and consumer goods.  Plus, perhaps, autoracks?

TEACH THE CONTROVERSIES.

Rob Jenkins of The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal suggests that college graduates still can't think because they haven't been taught how to think.
Traditionally, the “critical” part of the term “critical thinking” has referred not to the act of criticizing, or finding fault, but rather to the ability to be objective. “Critical,” in this context, means “open-minded,” seeking out, evaluating and weighing all the available evidence. It means being “analytical,” breaking an issue down into its component parts and examining each in relation to the whole.

Above all, it means “dispassionate,” recognizing when and how emotions influence judgment and having the mental discipline to distinguish between subjective feelings and objective reason—then prioritizing the latter over the former.

I wrote about all this in a recent post on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae website, mostly as background for a larger point I was trying to make. I assumed that virtually all the readers would agree with this definition of critical thinking—the definition I was taught as a student in the 1980s and which I continue to use with my own students.

To my surprise, that turned out not to be the case. Several readers took me to task for being “cold” and “emotionless,” suggesting that my understanding of critical thinking, which I had always taken to be almost universal, was mistaken.

I found that puzzling, until one helpful reader clued me in: “I share your view of what critical thinking should mean,” he wrote. “But a quite different operative definition has a strong hold in academia. In this view, the key characteristic of critical thinking is opposition to the existing ‘system,’ encompassing political, economic, and social orders, deemed to privilege some and penalize others. In essence, critical thinking is equated with political, economic, and social critique.”
That "critique" is a tell. Lefties like using it. In its place, it's useful. Too often, though, advocates of presenting only the dissenting point of view take it for granted that people who grew up in the mainstream of political, economic, or social orders understand the intellectual foundations for that order.  Which they don't.  Here's Professor Jenkins, at The Chronicle, on why not.  "[W]e live in a society that increasingly makes it easy for people to get through the day without having to think very much."  That's as it should be.  But being conversant with the possible reasons the way things currently are is they conferred evolutionary advantage on adherents and adopters alike might not be sufficient either.  Yes, understanding that argument can be a basis for responding to, perhaps even refuting, dubious critiques.  But understanding only that argument makes for a weak teacher of the controversies.  Here's Western Ontario's John "Eclect Econ" Palmer to that point.
I believe that I never really learned to think critically.

Most of us do not think critically. Most of us do not question and examine things most of the time. My reflecting on the article that Otis sent helped me realize this fact. Well, at least it is a fact from my own biased perspective.

What helped me begin to think critically the most was being subjected to arguments, both in person and in print, from very smart people who had different views from my own. Only when this happened did I approach the possibility of thinking critically; it happened only when I was challenged in fundamental ways.
Which left him in a bad place if a disciple of deconstructionist Marxist humanist socionomology asked a question in class.
I expect we are no different from our deconstructionist marxist humanist socionomologist elitist interventionist colleagues. We all have our own versions of (or approaches to) truth; we all want students to challenge and think critically about views other than our own. ... with one set of exceptions: they may question and criticize us so long as they accept and believe our answers and rebuttals.
Better, that they be able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their opening position, and of the rebuttals.  (But perhaps a red diaper baby is at the same disadvantage dealing with a cultural conservative that a whitebread suburban kid is dealing with a cultural deconstructionist: neither have ever had to check their premises.)

What better setting, then, than a college or university, to play with ideas without someone problematizing things.
I wonder if the best way to teach critical thinking to university and college students is to subject them to the very best thinking, writing, speaking, and debating on many topics: The very best from all perspectives.

Perhaps that was one thing my education at Carleton College did for me. We had numerous outside speakers who presented various critical and different views about many different topics, and we were required to attend seven out of ten of these presentations (called "convocations") during each ten-week term. I don't remember much from those presentations, but they must have contributed to the overall tone of criticism, exposure, exploration, and questioning.
But there's a trap academic departments fall into, that in which "fit" leads to a form of epistemic closure in which, for instance, a Carleton economics department becomes a salt-water department on a smaller scale, while a George Mason or Clemson become fresh-water outposts on the coast.  But if the department and the ethos of the college, let alone a university of colleges, comprise a larger epistemic closure, students still lose out on the opportunities to test their wits.

Perhaps, as Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and Pennsylvania historian Jonathan Zimmerman suggests, the universities ought engage in joint ventures so as to spice up the bull sessions.
Although right-wing pundits love to bash American colleges as bastions of left-wing political correctness, the PC problem is restricted to a handful of highly selective institutions. Most of the 4,000 post-secondary schools in the United States echo the broad spectrum of national opinion, not the die-hard liberalism of the elite colleges.

So it might surprise you to learn that the majority of American undergraduates describe themselves as "moderate," not liberal (or conservative). And when we look more closely, we find that they often don't fit our standard political categories at all. More than half of self-identified liberal students support capital punishment, for example, while nearly half of conservatives back gun control and abortion rights. And in 2011, several years before Trump proposed building a wall along the Mexican border, 42 percent of American college students favored a fence or wall to control illegal immigration.

That's not a sentiment you'll hear openly voiced at Penn, of course. The only way we could discuss it - or anything else involving Trump, really - was by partnering with another institution.
That's something Yale, the hothouse of snowflakes, to mix a metaphor, didn't know how to do when Rigoberta Menchu showed up to give a talk at Southern Connecticut State, on the other side of the New Haven tracks!

That might also be a reason to consider the land-grants and the mid-majors.  The students might have other things to do, and they might have pragmatic objections to the usual deconstructionist cultural stuff.  That doesn't stop Student Affairs from indoctrinating.

NO CAUSE FOR COMPLACENCY.

Thomas Barghest characterizes Tyler Cowen's new The Complacent Class as a "neoreactionary manifesto."  It's about the cycles of history, or perhaps as a Hegelian dialectic that never resolves.  Put another way, Fourth Turning stuff.
Though our lives have become unprecedentedly stable, continued Progress is not assured. Cyclical history is becoming more predictive. We are not meeting our expectations and our systems are fragile. Civilizations rise and fall. Ours appears to be falling by several measures. And Dark Enlightenment is coming whether you wish it or not.
Yes, the institutional structure in place to win World War II was not robust against other challenges, and eventually the new challenges overcome a structure that didn't emerge to meet them.  Perhaps that is Dark Enlightenment, or perhaps it is a rediscovery of the Ancient Verities.  Or perhaps, the emergence of those new walled cities?
These are the mechanisms that successful cooperative superclusters use to preserve themselves today, and they are not the exclusive preserve of the left. Half our battle, therefore, is just to convince modern elites that it’s OK to do what they’re already doing, defending their own small incipient patchworks from outside invasion, and thus free them to do it more purposefully and elegantly. And in the meantime, doing it consciously, we’ll also do it better.
Be careful though ... doing it consciously becomes the way toward better being the enemy of good enough, plus a bite in the tender parts from the Law of Unintended Consequences.  That's how the Great Power Saeculum fractured, after all.

Mr Barghest might get that.  He concludes, "We can do without the idols of Progress. We don’t need permission and we don’t need popular support. We can do it in our own backyards."

Bet on emergence.

TEN YEARS AGO.

We were contemplating gated communities, when they were the local warlord's castle keep.

Everything old is new again, this time adapting McMansions as latter-day castle keeps.
Keith Krumwiede, who teaches at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, envisions an alternative reality in which McMansions are used as building blocks to create small communities not unlike medieval villages or 19th-century communes. These “estates,” aggregated from real house plans used by big homebuilders such as Toll Brothers and Pulte, are set in Krumwiede’s fictional domain of Freedomland.
No, this is not an early April Fool post.
Each 10-acre estate site is only one quarter of a larger 40-acre parcel, three-quarters of which would be farmed. This grid is embedded in a larger checkerboard plan, in which three-square-mile townships alternate with nature preserves. While distant from contemporary thinking about urbanization, the checkerboard plan derives from no less an authority on the American way of life than Thomas Jefferson.
Bishops' reservations, bubonic plague, and marauding Picts optional?  But the reference to Thomas Jefferson, more specifically, to the Northwest Ordinance (and perhaps to the land grants offered to railroads, using the alternating sections previously surveyed) suggest that the technocratic urge knows no bounds.
The houses themselves weren’t necessarily the problem; it was the development patterns that were really problematic. Just the wastefulness in terms of resources, the social isolation that comes with detached dwellings, enclaveism. And I thought, “What can I do? Can I urbanize these houses?”That was the first take, so there were a lot of really weird aggregations that resulted when I just started to play with how I could use these as puzzle pieces and put something else together.
But the curving nests of culs-de-sac that place two McMansions that share a back yard a mile drive apart are an earlier incarnation of Intelligent Design. The castle keep and accompanying hovels were, at least, organic.  I shy away from using "problematic," but perhaps it is the planning imperative, even as farce, that is the problem.  Sorry, vanguardism isn't emergent.
My hope is that when people get through the critique of the culture that is the strongest message in the book, they then start to get down to ideas about new forms of association and new possibilities for living together.
More Experimental Prefigurative Communities of Tomorrow? We're not talking about Thomas Jefferson here, it's more like Robert Owen.  Mr Krumwiede recognizes as much.  But he persists.
There was a period where I imagined that I was working for some delusional dictator who wanted to please all of his citizens, and Freedomland would be that place. Everyone could have what they want, but strangely, no one would get exactly what they wanted—which I think is always a consequence of that [promise].
And that, dear reader, is why Wise Experts ought not be granted too much authority.  To see this, we need look no further than Robert Kwolek in Huffington Post (!)
A myriad of ballooning laws and regulations are making it all but impossible to build the fine-grained mixed-use city districts which are paramount for high quality urbanism and walkability. Regulations are making it more and more difficult for small developers who actually care to compete with large developers (you know, the guys who lobbied for added complexity in the system in the first place). It’s quite ironic that the government is always talking about boosting the economy, but when it comes down to it, their involvement is, more than anything else, a hindrance.
That would be as true if some contemporary Robert Owen decided to use Pulte house plans to convert Section Eight (ah, the wonderful multiple uses of that term) from underutilized land to New Bailey and Motte.
Whereas in the not too distant past our villages and towns grew organically, planned and built locally with knowledge that had been accumulated over thousands of years, today the most simple of tasks, even a new sidewalk, requires an expensive and extremely time-consuming process of permits, studies, and the involvement of dozens of consultants and government departments. The result is that the regular citizen is hardly involved, and the final product insanely expensive and vastly inferior in both logic and beauty to what laypeople once built.

In fact, the most beloved neighborhoods of the 19th century were largely built with very little government involvement. Not only very little government, but very little so-called experts in general. In the 19th century, you didn’t have specialists separated into architects, planners, builders, surveyors, and dozens of consultants.
Trust in emergence.

Put another way, should a latter-day walled settlement make sense, we'll see them happening, without any prompting from Wise Experts.

28.3.17

PLANDAMPF ON THE LONG DRAG.

How else can I introduce DB Cargo UK's promotion of its support services for steam trains?  "DB Cargo UK has provided the crew for some of the world’s most famous steam locomotives including the Flying Scotsman, and Tornado."  They, and one other company, do for British train enthusiasts what Union Pacific do Stateside, where the locomotives might be as famous, and surely bigger (a Northern, a Challenger, and soon a Big Boy.)  844.  3985.  4014.

But the ironies: a German operating company bragging on steam excursions running on Brunel's Billiard Table and the other famous cross-country routes.  Will we see a Merchant Navy plated Sir Winston Churchill in steam?

LEARNING CURVES.

Tallahassee Democrat sports pundit Corey Clark has good wishes for former Northern Illinois and Wisconsin assistant coach Sue Semrau, whose Florida State squad finished play last night.
I want Sue Semrau to get to a Final Four. The Florida State head coach won the 400th game of her career on Sunday night — officially she’s at 378 because the NCAA vacated 22 of her victories because of that wide-ranging academic scandal from a decade ago.

But vacating wins is moronic. And I don’t recognize it. Because when Semrau’s Seminoles trounced Missouri 77-55 at the Tucker Civic Center on Sunday night to advance to the Sweet 16, it was the 400th time she walked off the court with more points than the other team.

Hence, it was her 400th win.

And man I’m hoping she gets to at least 402 this season.

Not just because she’s been so nice and considerate and patient with me over the years (and trust me, I ask some really dumb questions), but because she deserves it. She’s accomplished virtually everything else a college coach can accomplish.

Elite Eights, National Coach of Year awards, Sweet 16s, regular-season ACC titles.
There's nothing easy about the getting there. Mr Clark continues,
It didn’t happen overnight. Heaven knows. There were plenty of down times as she was building this thing. Some painful losses, some painful seasons, some painful lessons.
Twenty seasons on one job, where even in the non-revenue sports headquarters' impatience often manifests itself.  Northern Illinois are on their fifth head coach since Sue Semrau and Jane Albright headed to Madison to develop Badgerball.

CONSIDER TRADE-TESTED BETTERMENTS ON RAILS.

Craig Newmark linked to a Harvard economist's contrarian view on using public moneys for high speed trains.  It's not about the trains so much as it is about horizontal equity.  A sample: “The Bay Area isn’t sufficiently wealthy and productive to pay for its own trains? Why does a Walmart employee in Alabama have to pay for a Google or Apple executive’s train?”  Go there, to dip into the political economy of the benefit principle.

For the spikes and fishplates, let's go to Florida and Texas.  We will continue to follow the emergence of Florida's Brightline trains,  which initially will be deluxe commuter trains, or perhaps comparable to California's Regional Rail service, with some Japanese-style transportation and land development thrown in.  It won't be as fast as California's Moonbeam trains, but it will soon be running, and there might be an operating surplus to invest back into the property.

In Texas, a private venture, Texas Central Partners, continues to battle local landowners and the petro-pickup complex to build its own Houston to Dallas high speed line, so far, without any aid from Washington.  And unlike California, there's little Regional Rail service to speak of.  As I noted previously, this service might have a better chance if power companies and railroad promoters could work together more closely on rights of way.

FROM SILENT TO SWADDLED IN FOUR GENERATIONS.

A recent column suggests the latest cohort of young people might be "the most conservative since World War II."
They’ve never known life without the Internet, and have grown up surrounded by instant access to the world’s harsh realities on their smart phones.

These young people are products of conflict and recession. They can only remember a news cycle “marred by economic stress, rising student debt … and war overseas.”
Much as was the case with the babies coming of age in Depression and War, eighty years ago.  That cohort was too young to serve in World War II or, for the most part, Korea, and too old for Vietnam.  In public life, they were the process worshippers that gave us process, nuance, and failure.  And the "Silent Generation" tag surely didn't apply to the overly verbose representatives of that cohort in any faculty assembly.

The current crop have in common with their saecular counterparts, at the beginning of the Great Power Saeculum, fiscal prudence.  "Eight out of ten of these kids identify themselves as 'fiscally conservative,' and they prefer saving to spending—at rates not seen since the Silent Generation."  Future conservatives, though?  Perhaps they will recognize, in their counterparts' relaxation of social constraints in response to the excesses of fascism, the consequences of no social constraints.
According to one British study conducted by global consultancy firm, The Guild, almost sixty percent of Gen Z respondents in the U.K. described their views on “same-sex marriage, transgender rights and marijuana legalization” as “conservative” or “moderate,” compared with a whopping 83 percent of Millennials who called themselves “quite” or “very liberal” on these issues. The Gen Z participants were even ten times more likely than Millennials to dislike tattoos and body piercings!
The article uses the labels "X" for Thirteeners, "Y" for Millennials (or Snowflakes) and "Z" for the cohort whose identity has not yet emerged.  It also argues, from a religious perspective, that something other than cycles of history is at work in creating this cohort's collective personality (if there is such a thing.)  Yes, there are signs that this cohort will be "adaptive," to use the Strauss and Howe Generations taxonomy, but it's likely that Contemplative People are paying too much attention to the behaviors of a subset of the cohort, in much the same way that all Baby Boomers (until the emergence of Donald Trump as politician) appeared as latter-day hippies, and all Millennials take on the coloration of the spoiled coastal snowflakes.  History may rhyme, but the cadences will be irregular.

OVERCOMING REPUGNANCE.

Harvard's Alvin Roth, who has given a lot of thought to allocating resources by methods other than price, uses the term "repugnant markets" to describe situations in which allocation by price makes people squeamish.  Market allocation of organs for transplantation is one such situation.

And yet, organs for transplantation are scarce resources that have competing uses, and as such, present a rationing problem.  In the absence of price incentives to donate, the supply is likely smaller, and recipients, who do not get to bid for their transplants, have to provide some other case for their worthiness.

That works against people dealing with various disabilities.
Transplant decisions can be hard. How long should a drinker be in recovery before he is eligible to receive a new liver to replace the old one destroyed by alcohol? Should a homeless person with no safe place to keep his anti-rejection medications receive a kidney?

Doctors feel the tug of “lifeboat ethics”: With only so many organs to go around, some must die so others may live. Still, we rarely deny stents to patients with coronary-artery blockage even if their diets are poor and they do not exercise. That’s because stents are not rationed. But with organs, the bar is high: Wise stewardship dictates that scarce resources go to those who can maximize the health benefits.

It doesn’t have to be this way. To reduce or even possibly eliminate the organ shortage, we should reward people who are willing to give an organ to save a life.
"Altruism is not enough," note authors Sally Satel (herself a two-time transplant patient, once with a little help from Virginia Postrel) and Kurt Schuler.

23.3.17

SURF AND TURF ON THE RAILS.

Longtime Passenger Rail advocate and Trains columnist Kevin Keefe remembers the King's Dinner on Illinois Central's Panama Limited.
The fixed-course dinner included a cocktail, fresh shrimp cocktail or crab fingers, a fish course, and a broiled steak, all accompanied by a 13-ounce bottle of Bertolli Vinrosa wine, still a fairly well-regarded brand. For dessert, there was apple wedges with cheese and a choice of liqueur. It must have been quite a meal.

As if you hadn’t already experienced the dedication of the dining-car crew, IC President Wayne Johnston underscored the railroad’s commitment to the train by offering devout thoughts of the day on mealtime cards.
The chicken and rice on Amtrak's contemporary City of New Orleans?  "Pretty good."

Once again, the bean-counters of Washington want to do away with the long-distance trains, and the food service is likely to be called out as a boondoggle.

THE CASE FOR VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY.

Northern Star columnist Ian Tancun welcomes the return of a College Republicans chapter at Northern Illinois University.
Stereotyping people is a dangerous and destructive practice. Instead of writing people off simply for having an opposing viewpoint, we should be engaging each other in discussions. Even peaceful protests accomplish more than shaming or stereotyping.

“I do appreciate people who have healthy protests. I think it’s very important for people’s voices to be heard, regardless of my own political background,” said Kelly Strauf, vice chair of NIU College Republicans. “Like the women’s march, I thought that was a beautiful thing for women to do. It’s extremely important for their voices to be heard as much as a man’s.”

I support peaceful protests. I support healthy debates. Both are helpful in allowing people to express their opinions and discuss their differences. I wholeheartedly condemn all the negative stereotypes being hurled at Republicans.

As a Democrat, I would not expect to be judged based on the actions or words of Hillary Clinton, even though I voted for her. This misguided belief that all Republicans should be judged for the actions or words of Trump is unacceptable.

The most useful way to combat stereotypes or misinformation is through education. I encourage students to start having open dialogues with people who have opposing viewpoints and discuss the differences. It is through this process that these unjustified stereotypes can be discarded and progress can be achieved.
Indeed.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE GENERAL WILL.

That doesn't stop people, whether their banner is Regulation in the Public Interest, or National Greatness, from looking for one.  Whatever the motive, it does not end well.  Daniel Larison owns the Trenchant Observation for Today.
Insisting on having a grand national purpose is what leads to destructive and abusive policies carried out in the name of realizing that end. It is not something that people in a free country need to have, nor is it something that we should want.
Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness.  The failing of Pax Americana is that in beating back the misguided Grand National Purposes marching under various totalitarian banners, too many leaders fell in love with the Grand National Purpose of A World Safe for Democracy.  Or something.  And maintaining that purpose becomes costly.

A GOOD PLACE TO BE FROM?

The Chicago Area Lost More Residents Than Any Other U.S. County Last Year.  There are many reasons people are leaving.
More than any other city, Chicago has depended on Mexican immigrants to balance the sluggish growth of its native-born population. During the 1990s, immigration accounted for most of Chicago's population growth.

After 2007, when Mexican-born populations began to fall across all the nation's major metropolitan areas, most cities managed to make up for the loss with the growth of their native populations. Chicago couldn't.

Now, native Chicagoans are heading for the Sun Belt states — those with the country's warmest climates, like Texas, Arizona and Florida. During the years after the economic recession of the mid-2000s, migration to those states paused but started up again because warmer states in the South and West have affordable housing and better job opportunities.

While Chicago suffered the largest population loss of any metropolitan area, the greatest metropolitan population gains were in Texas and Arizona. The Dallas-Fort Worth- Arlington, Texas, metropolitan area gained more than 143,000 residents in 2016, and the Houston region gained about 125,000. The Phoenix area gained about 94,000 residents and the Atlanta region gained about 91,000 people.
Meanwhile, the conventional wisdom in Chicago is that residents and businesses don't pay enough in taxes for the privilege of living, working, and profiting in Illinois.

We have much to look forward to.

20.3.17

THEY'LL GET TO HANG A BANNER.

Northern Illinois's women's basketball team stayed close to South Dakota State, a team that some of the sports pundits had as a bubble team in the Big Dance.  Ultimately, the home floor advantage was with South Dakota.  The young people who played in that tournament game put in a lot of work from the end of their 2015-2016 season, one that did not end as well.
Just 374 days ago, March 7, 2016, the NIU women's basketball ended its season at Western Michigan in the First Round of the Mid-American Conference.

With just nine healthy players suited - one of whom started the game after breaking her toe in the hotel pool the night before doing rehab - the Huskies fell to the Broncos, 94-52, and closed Head Coach Lisa Carlsen's first season with an 11-19 record.

Losing only one starter from that team and returning three seniors to be, the group committed in the offseason, pushing each other in a grueling boot camp competition and organizing team workouts. Little did the 10 returning players from that team realize that it laid the cornerstones for the 2016-17 season through its losses and offseason conditioning, working to #RestoreTheGlory, the team's adopted mantra for Coach Carlsen's second season.

Fast forward to March 16, 2017 and NIU secured its first 20-win campaign in two decades, its first winning season in the last 10 years and its first conference championship game and postseason tournament appearance since 1995.

Battling through adversity and coming together as a team throughout the 2016-17 season, the Huskies closed the year in the First Round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament at South Dakota State, 94-84.
They've surely summoned the echoes, and what I saw of team morale and unit cohesion suggests they'll be hard at work over the summer.
In the postgame radio show, The Voice of the Huskies Bill Baker, who has now called all 10 of the Huskies postseason games since 1990, said in reference to the program's first playoff appearance in over two decades to Carlsen "someone has to take that first step and to that first tournament and that was you in just your second year. Good things will happen when you play the game right and when you win, there's a chance for postseason and championships."

Carlsen's response was profound, simple and straight to the point.

"When (players) get a taste of all the hard work paying off, I think that's where you build your program into a perennial contender. We want the ability to compete for championships year after year like they have here at South Dakota State. Once you give the kids a taste of that and they understand what that feels like, if you can continue to build that culture, you have the opportunity to continue that year after year.

"I feel like our young kids do understand that and we can continue to develop them with the understanding of 'this is the expectation.' No longer is the expectation to hope and pray to play postseason basketball; (we) work hard enough to deserve that. Hopefully this is a stepping stone that's pushing us in the right direction and is something that we can build on," she said.

The Huskies goal entering the season was to hang a banner from the rafters at the NIU Convocation Center. Through hard work, determination and belief as a group, the 2016-17 NIU women's basketball #RestoredTheGlory, writing a new chapter for the program's success that will live on in the Huskies annals for years to come.
They have summoned the echoes. And Chicago area television have been paying attention.  Here's a WGN feature on departing team captain, soon to be Lieutenant Ally Lehman.

Fair winds and following seas.

NONE OF US IS AS DUMB AS CONSENSUS.

Doggone it, I really wanted to lay off of the Wise Experts for a day or two, but this one is too juicy to pass up.

During the college basketball tournament, the business types get their knickers in a twist over how much time is lost at setting up office bracket pools (or perhaps the fillip to morale the office pools provide) and I was guilty of teasing students, this time of year, "You know, if you devoted half the time you put in on your brackets to indifference at the margin conditions ..."

And if you aspire to bigger things, there's the ESPN Tournament Challenge.  As of this morning, out of over eighteen million entries, all of eighteen have the round of sixteen correct.  It is likely that substantially more than eighteen will have the round of four correct, and a non-trivial subset of those will name the team that cuts down the nets.  (But that will be neither last year's winner Villanova nor Duke from the year before that, and Connecticut's men have been cheering their women classmates for some time already.)

But the failure of more contestants to identify the round of sixteen is a signal of a system failure.  The Wise Experts are up front about rigging the competition, something that promoters of wrestling have long been accused of.  As ESPN's Eamonn Brennan has it, "It's about doing what the bracketing principles and procedures are supposed to do, especially with top seeds, teams that have spent months earning their spots. It's about rewarding those who deserve to be rewarded."  That is, the teams the Wise Experts would like to see meeting each other either in the regional finals or in the round of four get to go through the weakest opponents first, while the middling-strength teams get to test their mettle against each other in a game or two before they get to take on the deserving rich.  And sometimes there's a Cinderella story, although the folks who rig the system are getting better at Cinderella-proofing (or is it George Mason-proofing?) their show.  In 2007, for instance, the round of sixteen comprised no worse than a five-seed.

This year, the Wise Experts whose job is to rig the system started releasing their rankings about ten games into conference play, signalling their likely top sixteen teams. We had, for instance, Purdue somewhere in the initial top sixteen, Wisconsin outside that list, and Michigan seems like a dream to me now.  Those are the three Big Ten teams still playing.  Wisconsin entered the tournament as an eight seed.  Former players, who had the current starters developing as reserves, were skeptical of that seeding before a tip-off occurred.  "Minnesota, one of six other Big Ten teams in the tournament, received a No. 5 seed. The Golden Gophers finished one game behind Wisconsin during the regular season, lost both meetings to the Badgers and were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament."  That five can often be a kiss-off, as the twelve beating the five is frequently a good bet; then the expected outcome is the four gets through to the round of sixteen.  Minnesota was the first five out.  "Wisconsin plays Virginia Tech in the first round on Thursday. If it wins, it’ll likely face defending national champion and top overall seed Villanova on Saturday."  Villanova performed as expected against Mount Saint Mary's.  Then they had to play Wisconsin.  Oops.
In Buffalo, unlike in Salt Lake, the No. 8 seed in question was not [Northwestern] making its lovable first NCAA tournament foray but a roster whose seniors have been to two Final Fours and three Sweet 16s and played in 15 NCAA tournament games in the past four seasons -- the most tourney-tested group of players in the sport. In Buffalo, unlike in Salt Lake, the No. 1 seed's path to the second weekend went through one of the most underseeded teams in the 2017 NCAA tournament field.

Yes, Wisconsin was underseeded. Throw out the Badgers' past accomplishments (the selection committee certainly does), and there remains no actual basketball explanation for why Greg Gard's team was seeded where it was. The Badgers entered Selection Sunday 25-9 with a 12-6 record in the Big Ten -- same as Maryland, a No. 6 seed, and one win better than Minnesota, a No. 5 seed that Wisconsin beat twice.
That's Mr Brennan again, and it's the data-driven obsession of sports pundits that deprived East Coasters of the expected Villanova - Duke showdown in the attic of Penn Station.
Why did this happen? Because even as every coaching staff tracks its per-possession performance and Las Vegas builds books based on advanced analytic projections, the people responsible for deciding how the sport's most important competition is structured can't be bothered with all that much more than the RPI [a performance index -- ed].

Wisconsin's RPI was 36. Its nonconference strength of schedule -- which is based on RPI -- ranked in the low 300s. Its "best" wins -- which is to say "best" according to the RPI -- included only two against the top 25.

If you live in the selection committee's world, it isn't hard to understand how a team with Wisconsin's résumé could end up playing the top overall seed on the first weekend of the tournament. If you live in the real world, it's impossible to fathom.
On the other hand, if the Wise Experts got it right, you might give yourself a good chance of winning the Tournament Challenge simply by picking the picks of the Wise Experts and their algorithms.  And the winning team would pay Hillary Clinton a visit in the White House, but I digress.

But the Wizards of Smart are going to double down on Applying Expertise, perhaps with Better Index Numbers.
That's why the National Association of Basketball Coaches asked the committee to join the rest of the sport in the glories of modernity and why the genuinely smart, often forward-thinking folks at the NCAA responded by summiting with some of college basketball's best statistically inclined minds. It's why a new metric might soon replace the RPI -- maybe as early as next March.

Because the bracket could be better. Because it should be. Because days such as Saturday, when the top overall seed faces a team such as Wisconsin, shouldn't happen -- not this early, anyway.
Put another way, a committee with better information ought to have a better chance of rigging the system so as to dispose of the champions of obscure conferences and the upper middle finishers in the power conferences more effectively.  They're unlikely to consider other pairing approaches, such as the Swiss system used in chess tournaments (they could avoid a challenge the tournament director faces by allowing the higher-rated team to wear its home uniforms, there being no first-mover advantage to contemplate) or even partially random approaches.  Perhaps pick the top sixteen teams, then fill in the pairings for the rounds of 64 and 32 by drawing names.  That might be the end of those Tuesday "first four" games, two of which generally involve teams that earn the honor of crash-test dummy, but that wouldn't be all bad, either.

I suspect, though, the Wise Experts will set things up in such a way as to make the seedings better predictors of the outcomes in the early rounds, even if that annoys the people on Tobacco Road.
When the committee released its initial rankings in February, it regarded precisely zero Big Ten teams among the top 16 seeds. Ultimately, none received any seed better than Purdue’s four in the Midwest. Faced with skepticism all season, the Big Ten has mounted a powerful rebuke in the bracket.
The Atlantic Conference fans? In the same position as Lyndon Johnson's "best and brightest," all of Hillary Clinton's position papers, and the Atlanta Falcons. "Duke is a standard bearer and was viewed as a serious title threat. Ditto Louisville. In its worst visions, the ACC could not have imagined a Sweet 16 with both Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino cast as observers." Yes, and the Smart People thought they had a matchup for the ages of Duke at Villanova in New York.

Wisconsin?  Recruit, develop, season the young players, and prepare for the next 40 minutes.  There's beer in the cooler, whatever the outcome.

THE DEFLATING TOURNAMENT BUBBLE?

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel pundit Christian Schneider is less than impressed with the Big Ten's Drang noch Osten.
Video of the crowd from [9 March's] Northwestern-Rutgers game suggested America may have been in the throes of a months-long zombie attack.

Yet the move from the Midwest to Washington, D.C., is only the Big Ten Conference's most recent step on the path to becoming a national laughingstock. That trek will be complete next year when the conference, desperate to dip its straw in the East Coast's money milkshake, will be holding its tournament in New York's Madison Square Garden. The catch is, in order to make the schedule work, the Big Ten will have to move its conference tournament up a week to allow the Big East to run its tournament at the regular time.

That means the Big Ten Tournament will be running at the same time as the minor conferences and low mid-majors who typically only get one team into the NCAA Tournament. In order to push itself on an unwilling set of fans, one of the nation's great leagues is subjugating itself to all the other power conferences. No more distasteful exchange of money for services has taken place in New York since Eliot Spitzer resigned as the state's governor.
That comes with the addition of three teams from east of the Alleghenies (Penn State, solid in football, inadequate in basketball, some decent nonrevenue teams; Maryland, decayed in football, solid in basketball, some decent nonrevenue teams; Rutgers, let us draw the curtain of charity) to a conference redolent of factories and fields.  Mr Schneider's characterization: "The list of embarrassments endured by Big Ten fans in the name of expanding the league's money stream is a long one."

And moving the conference tournament from Indianapolis or Chicago (or the new barn in Milwaukee?) to the attic of Penn Station?  Sad.
But now, at least in terms of basketball prestige, the Big Ten has been eclipsed by smaller leagues such as the Big East, which is basically made up of Catholic basketball-only schools that fell out of the major conferences' pockets while they rummaged for spare change. The 10-member Big East is going to send seven of its teams to the NCAA Tournament, the same number as the 14-member Big Ten. There are few off-nights in the Big East. (And will be even fewer when traditional power Georgetown gets back on its feet.)

While traditional rivalries still exist in the Big Ten, the league has been watered down by its recent additions. And the move to New York could have negative effects for the conference as its teams move on to the NCAA Tournament. How are the league's teams going to fare in the Big Dance after sitting around for almost two weeks while the other major conferences are battling for tournament spots?

Everyone knows that college athletics is a business first and foremost, which is why so many conferences have realigned in recent years. But the Big Ten's current Dash for Cash is a shameful level of greed that even Gordon Gekko would consider excessive. Instead of showing up at Madison Square Garden next year with tournament tickets, fans may just as likely be brandishing restraining orders.
Those realignments, though? Put together a weak Lackawanna with a weaker Erie and you get a railroad the wags referred to as the Weary Lack-o-money.  Take the undersized steel plants of Republic and the undersized steel plants of Youngstown and call the larger collection of undersized steel plants LTV Steel (playing off the sixties conglomerates craze, anyone remember that?) and you have to account for more distressed properties in bankruptcy court.

So yes, we're in the middle of March Madness and all looks well.  Behind the scenes (and on the ledgers?) the ominous signs materialize.

19.3.17

WORKING ON THE RAILROAD.

The Chicago Area March Meet is an occasion to get enough construction done to run trains.


Freight and passenger trains, and a circus train, something you'll soon only be able to see in model form.  Enjoy.

14.3.17

FREQUENCY, CONNECTIVITY, AND AESTHETICS.

Travel and Trains considers the case for Regional Rail, outside the Amtrak and 403(b) state-supported nexus.
In order to have a fighting chance at profitability, passenger trains need passengers. Lots of them. Enough ridership to generate enough revenue to make the enterprise work. As a practical matter, that means any new for-profit passenger service has to operate along high-density corridors or, at the very least, provide a connection between two major markets.

It’s encouraging to note that there are a surprising number of corridors that might be able to support profitable passenger trains: Los Angeles-San Francisco; Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati; Dallas-Houston; Chicago-St. Louis; Chicago-Minneapolis; Denver-Salt Lake City; Tampa-Orlando; Miami-Orlando; and a few more.
Unfortunately, locals aren't crazy about additional passenger trains, because of property values, or something.
Brightline [commencing service in Southeastern Florida] has run into passionate opposition from some of the residents along the route which already exists for the parent company’s freight operation. The residents claim that Brightline passenger trains running at speeds of 100 miles per hour on existing track will mean the end of there [c.q.] world as they know it.
Yes, there are good blue-state liberals in Connecticut who are on board with spending public money on infrastructure, as long as it's not straightening out the New Haven because that might make it harder to get to the yacht club or the tennis courts, and we will continue to follow the opposition of people in Chicago's northern suburbs to improving the Hiawatha service.

Perhaps, once the additional trains are running, we can think about making them look better.

Here's a Brightline set, apparently on rebuilt Florida East Coast tracks.



Provide a common profile to the coaches and the power car and you get the Mark Twain Zephyr (which will still win the creature comfort contest with that parlor-cafe-observation.)


Unattributed photograph retrieved from Railway Classics.

Or you could mimic the profile of an Electroliner.


In those days, two flag hoists took care of the pennant races in baseball.

More important than the aesthetics, though, might be interline ticketing.  These new train services will have their own fares and ticketing, and on lines where they share tracks with Amtrak, there's the potential for ill will as a new passenger gets on a train with the wrong ticket.

At least we're talking about adding trains to the Passenger Rail network.  First get the trains running, then give them free rein to 110 or 124, then tweak the schedules for connectivity, then work on interline ticketing.

FILLING IN BRACKETS ON PI DAY.

The circular constant figures in the Gaussian normal curve, yes, but be careful about how you apply the law of large numbers in a small tournament pool.
Perhaps [Wisconsin industrial engineering professor Laura] Albert McLay’s most important advice came at the end of her blog post: “It’s random.”

Doing your research might help you win in a smaller pool, but the more people get involved, the more likely it is “that someone will accidentally make a good bracket with a bad process,” she wrote.

This is the frustration amateur bracketologists know all too well: You can spend hours making well-researched predictions, but it feels like the office pool’s winner will always be someone who barely put any thought into his or her picks.

“A good process yields better outcomes on average but your mileage may vary any given year,” Albert McLay wrote.
Yes, and in the large national competitions, perfect brackets are rare, even with a goodly number of entrants correctly forecasting the final four and the champion.

That observation in the second paragraph is an example of a blind squirrel finding a nut.  With as many tournament pools as there are, there will be a lot of nuts and a lot of lucky blind squirrels.

HIGHER EDUCATION'S SELF-DESTRUCTION.

You know it's gotten bad when Middlebury, a New England finishing school with little by way of big-time sports, has a professor on the concussion protocol.

How bad?  J. Michel Metz envisions The Coming of the Second Dark Ages.  Here's the money quote.  "In the last 20 years academia has raced headlong towards their emotional masturbatory techniques, not away from it. When these 'academics' started to realize that their Very Important Research™ was being ignored, they decided to change the vocabulary to sound more scientific."  He then shows readers a number of Real Peer Review's Greatest Hits, to summarize, "We are entering into an era of academic irrelevancy. At this juncture, it is virtually impossible for a layman to understand the difference between scientific rigor and multi-syllabic emotional excrement. The academic has no clothes, and to point that out results in beheading by collective fiat."  Or getting called a lot of names.  Sometimes the only intellectual riposte is "Stuff it."

Rod Dreher's "Out Of Academia’s Ashes" suggests that there might be a regeneracy in place, but you won't find it at Middlebury, or at most of the hothouses that still cling to their U.S. News standing (and sometimes they show up in the bowls and March Madness).  But I digress.
N. [a friend attempting, against the odds, to do a humanities Ph. D.] told us that he was assisting a professor in an upper-level undergraduate class in his discipline and was shocked to see that none of the students could write a coherent argument across several paragraphs, Most of them couldn’t even lay out a basic argument in a single paragraph.

Someone at our table on staff at a classical Christian school chimed in to say that the military service academies told their headmaster that they prize graduates of these schools because unlike so many of the graduates of mainstream high schools, the classically educated kids know how to reason.
There's a lesson for the land-grants, mid-majors, and regional comprehensives, if they'd but take it to heart.

Both of the linked posts are mini-dissertations that will reward careful study.

13.3.17

WIN ENOUGH TO KEEP PLAYING.

The University of Toledo women's basketball team will be representing the Mid-American Conference in the NCAA Tournament.

Along the way, they spoiled Senior Night at Northern Illinois University.


But the youngsters got a sack race out of the event.


And Northern Illinois will be the host institution for the collegiate golf tournament to take place just off the Way of the Zephyrs in the latter half of May.  Thus a spectator gets a chance to sink a looooong putt on a slick surface to get a pass to the event.


The target is a standard miniature golf hole, with a model of the collegiate golf trophy above it.  I'd rather take my chances with a tatty piece of all-weather carpet and a windmill than with attempting this shot.

Then Toledo won a play-in game at home, and three games in Cleveland against higher-seeded teams, including a final game that Northern Illinois led after thirty minutes, to get into the Big Dance.

The Smart Types had Toledo in as a thirteen seed or so.  They will play as a ten seed to Creighton's seven.  Something about the body of work outside the conference plus that tournament run must have looked good.

Northern Illinois accomplished enough during the season and conference tournament to get an invitation to the National Invitational Tournament.  They open at Brookings, South Dakota, in South Dakota State's arena.  Four other Mid-American teams, season leader Central Michigan, runners-up Ohio and Ball State, and Kent State will also play.

IN PLACE OF A PAIR OF E8 UNITS.

The Cascade Corridor will be the first Passenger Rail route to get Siemens SC-44 Charger diesels.
Top speed of the Siemens SC-44 is 124 mph from 4,400 hp generated by a Cummins QSK-95 prime-mover built to Tier 4 emissions standards.

Firm orders and options total 66 units by the states of California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri and Washington. Brightline of Florida has ordered Charger-powered integrated trainsets from Siemens.
Dare I modify the Cold Spring Shops "Free Rein to 110" campaign to start agitating for 124?  The Cascade Corridor is a curvy coastal route along the shelf where the Cascade Range encounters Puget Sound, not exactly terrain for fast running.  The diesels might have to deputise for electrics in Maryland.  But it's on the lines out of Chicago, whether formerly used by the Chicago Mercury or the Hiawathas or the City of New Orleans or the Nebraska Zephyr, where these diesels have a legacy to live up to.  Heck, there's an earlier Silver Charger in preservation in St. Louis.


Siemens photograph retrieved from Railway Age.

Now, if industrial designers could make passenger locomotives that didn't look like someone was attempting to cut a pat of butter off a cold stick!  Sure, powering four axles with a single prime mover is an advance over powering eight axles (plus four idlers) with four prime movers the way a pair of E8s did it.

But the original Silver Charger cut a more attractive profile on a short train.


Unattributed photograph retrieved from Railway Classics.

Note, the short General Pershing Zephyr had a cafe-parlor car at the rear that puts today's Amclub cars to shame.  Yes, that's a baggage compartment in the power car, this is not a diesel locomotive for a long train.

Before the E8 came the E5, with four thousand horsepower in the four prime mover, eight powered axle configuration.  Silver Speed would be another good name for a passenger diesel.


Unattributed photograph retrieved from Railway Classics.

These diesels were good for 117 mph on level track, and on occasion, they'd do every bit of it.

Perhaps part of Making America Great Again is Making Passenger Trains Fast and Attractive Again.

THE PUNCHLINE IS "STIRRUPS."

But there's nothing too weird for Student Affairs types these days. Campus-Wide E-mail Tells White Girls to Stop Wearing Hoop Earrings Because It’s Cultural Appropriation.  Seriously?
“If you didn’t create the culture as a coping mechanism for marginalization, take off those hoops, if your feminism isn’t intersectional take off those hoops, if you try to wear mi cultura when the creators can no longer afford it, take off those hoops, if you are incapable of using a search engine and expect other people to educate you, take off those hoops, if you can’t pronounce my name or spell it … take off those hoops / I use ‘those’ instead of ‘your’ because hoops were never ‘yours’ to begin with,” Jacquelyn Aguilera wrote.

Now, I do understand that these students are upset, but here’s the thing: Deciding to personally bombard an entire student body with your feelings about hoop earrings is absolutely bananas. I mean, it would have been one thing had Martinez just gone the typical SJW-student route and written an op-ed about why people need to be more earring-woke, but she actually, seriously thought that this issue was important enough to warrant alerting the entire school — and there are not enough desks in the world for me to bang my head on when I think about how insane that is.

Now, I can admit that I did not invent hoop earrings. Hell, I can even admit that I’ve never done any research on the history of hoop earrings.
I'm old enough to have lived some of the history of hoop earrings.

A less gaudy version was part of the understated, early Eighties Preppy Handbook style.

The later, larger version figured in a blonde joke.