31.10.18

TRICK OR TREAT ON THE TROLLEY.

The Fox River Trolley Museum continues to recover from the summer vandalism.


That's last Saturday's Ghost Story Train.  The cars are former Chicago single-unit Spam Cans which in their service life were equipped with trolley poles for off-peak service between Howard and Linden on the Evanston line.

The cars are suitably decorated inside, and storytellers rode the train, which shuttled to the forest preserve where children of all ages could disembark for a campfire, s'mores, and seasonal storytelling.

There will be a Polar Express train at weekends commencing November 18. Those trains will board at the forest preserve, and Santa will be at the North Pole.

I wonder if there will be ghost stories on the Christmas trains.  There's an allusion to telling ghost stories in "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."  "A Christmas Carol" is perhaps the most famous Christmas ghost story, but that was respecting a tradition, until recently honored by Railway each December, of telling ghost stories at that time of the year, which might not have been so wonderful in the absence of natural light.

30.10.18

THE ROCKETS OF HELWAN NEVER FLEW.

Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard have written a series of whodunits featuring murders or historical events: Killing Kennedy, Killing Patton, Killing Jesus, there are others.  Perhaps I should have learned from my relatively short reviews of these to leave Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in History on the shelf, but I got it at a bargain and we'll get a short Book Review No. 32 out of it.

There's not a lot that's new in his story, but perhaps I'm old enough to remember Heinrich Himmler committing suicide shortly after his captors identified him, and Hermann Göring committing suicide just before he was to be hanged, and Martin Bormann probably died trying to get out of Berlin, and the Israelis had to lay on a super-secret mission to kidnap Adolf Eichmann, as the usual sort of extradition conventions wouldn't have worked.

I did learn from the book that Israeli intelligence hoped to scoop up Josef Mengele as part of the same super-secret mission.  That failed.

My post title refers to a surprise.  Years ago, Frederick Forsyth's The ODESSA File comes up with a fictional story in the course of which Israeli intelligence prevents German rocket scientists working in the United Arab Republic (the Egyptian part, that is) from completing short range ballistic missiles to flip at Israel.  The truth, if Messrs. O'Reilly and Dugard are to be believed, is even stranger.  But you'll have to check the book out from your library to discover it.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT HAS BEEN A RESOUNDING SUCCESS.

Ned Ryun elaborates.  Is it really necessary to have a web site called "American Greatness?"  I'm afraid so.  Even the brightest among you might benefit by a modicum of repetition.
Just over 250 years ago, a small agrarian nation, 13 upstart colonies, threw off the yoke of the world’s last, most powerful empire. Our nation became the most technologically advanced, diverse, free, and prosperous country the world has ever seen.

It was founded not on the basis of any one ethnicity or the heritage of a single family, but as a creedal nation rooted in individual liberty, voluntary association, and a proper understanding of human nature. America’s Founders knew that man left to his own devices was no angel, but would rather seek dominion over his fellow man. They designed a system that divided and diffused powers, pushing most of the day to day management of government to the most local level possible, while checking the impulses of our national government with institutions designed to protect the rights of the people. It was a profound event in human history, which many thought could never last.
Yes, and apparently being the land of opportunity continues to motivate people to come here, that despite having opportunities to get out of their current circumstances in countries closer to home and more like their old country in language and culture.

WHAT EVIDENCE WOULD CONVINCE YOU TO CHANGE YOUR MIND?

The Cold Spring Shops position on academic inquiry is simple.
WHATEVER MAY BE THE LIMITATIONS WHICH TRAMMEL INQUIRY ELSEWHERE, WE BELIEVE THAT THE GREAT STATE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SHOULD EVER ENCOURAGE THAT CONTINUAL AND FEARLESS SIFTING AND WINNOWING BY WHICH ALONE THE TRUTH CAN BE FOUND.
These days, though, the limitations are internal, and the trammelling is for fear of offending noisy people whose priors are tight. “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive.” In the strange world of today's academy, though, the courage is in illustrating your trendy bona fides.

Today's excursion into strangeness starts with what appears to be straightforward enough: a mathematical model of greater variability in personality traits in one sex of a species compared to the other.
Darwin’s research on evolution in the nineteenth century found that, although there are many exceptions for specific traits and species, there is generally more variability in males than in females of the same species throughout the animal kingdom.

Evidence for this hypothesis is fairly robust and has been reported in species ranging from adders and sockeye salmon to wasps and orangutans, as well as humans. Multiple studies have found that boys and men are over-represented at both the high and low ends of the distributions in categories ranging from birth weight and brain structures and 60-meter dash times to reading and mathematics test scores. There are significantly more men than women, for example, among Nobel laureates, music composers, and chess champions—and also among homeless people, suicide victims, and federal prison inmates.

Darwin had also raised the question of why males in many species might have evolved to be more variable than females, and when I learned that the answer to his question remained elusive, I set out to look for a scientific explanation. My aim was not to prove or disprove that the hypothesis applies to human intelligence or to any other specific traits or species, but simply to discover a logical reason that could help explain how gender differences in variability might naturally arise in the same species.

I came up with a simple intuitive mathematical argument based on biological and evolutionary principles and enlisted Sergei Tabachnikov, a Professor of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University, to help me flesh out the model. When I posted a preprint on the open-access mathematics archives in May of last year, a variability researcher at Durham University in the UK got in touch by email. He described our joint paper as “an excellent summary of the research to date in this field,” adding that “it certainly underpins my earlier work on impulsivity, aggression and general evolutionary theory and it is nice to see an actual theoretical model that can be drawn upon in discussion (which I think the literature, particularly in education, has lacked to date). I think this is a welcome addition to the field.”
Then their troubles began.  You'd think people who work in higher education would understand the distinction between a positive theory ... an explanation, subject to further investigation, of why a phenomenon is present ... and a normative conclusion, here the error would be interpreting the model as prescribing that this is the Way Things Ought To Be.

But perhaps people who work in the higher education disciplines that are short on intellectual rigor and long on polemic say more than they intend to about the students who choose those disciplines.
No sooner had Sergei posted a preprint of our accepted article on his website than we began to encounter problems. On August 16, a representative of the Women In Mathematics (WIM) chapter in his department at Penn State contacted him to warn that the paper might be damaging to the aspirations of impressionable young women. “As a matter of principle,” she wrote, “I support people discussing controversial matters openly … At the same time, I think it’s good to be aware of the effects.” While she was obviously able to debate the merits of our paper, she worried that other, presumably less sophisticated, readers “will just see someone wielding the authority of mathematics to support a very controversial, and potentially sexist, set of ideas…”

A few days later, she again contacted Sergei on behalf of WIM and invited him to attend a lunch that had been organized for a “frank and open discussion” about our paper. He would be allowed 15 minutes to describe and explain our results, and this short presentation would be followed by readings of prepared statements by WIM members and then an open discussion. “We promise to be friendly,” she announced, “but you should know in advance that many (most?) of us have strong disagreements with what you did.”
In that story alone there's plenty to chew on.  Consider that "other, presumably less sophisticated, readers."  What is it about the Grievance Studies types that they have to condescend?  And promising to be friendly?  Come into my office, Joseph K., for a short chat.

Meanwhile, new evidence is being manufactured with a troubling result.
First, the National Science Foundation wrote to Sergei requesting that acknowledgment of NSF funding be removed from our paper with immediate effect. I was astonished. I had never before heard of the NSF requesting removal of acknowledgement of funding for any reason. On the contrary, they are usually delighted to have public recognition of their support for science.

The ostensible reason for this request was that our paper was unrelated to Sergei’s funded proposal. However, a Freedom of Information request subsequently revealed that Penn State WIM administrator Diane Henderson (“Professor and Chair of the Climate and Diversity Committee”) and Nate Brown (“Professor and Associate Head for Diversity and Equity”) had secretly co-signed a letter to the NSF that same morning. “Our concern,” they explained, “is that [this] paper appears to promote pseudoscientific ideas that are detrimental to the advancement of women in science, and at odds with the values of the NSF.” Unaware of this at the time, and eager to err on the side of compromise, Sergei and I agreed to remove the acknowledgement as requested. At least, we thought, the paper was still on track to be published.

But, that same day, the Mathematical Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief Marjorie Senechal notified us that, with “deep regret,” she was rescinding her previous acceptance of our paper. “Several colleagues,” she wrote, had warned her that publication would provoke “extremely strong reactions” and there existed a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.” For the second time in a single day I was left flabbergasted. Working mathematicians are usually thrilled if even five people in the world read our latest article. Now some progressive faction was worried that a fairly straightforward logical argument about male variability might encourage the conservative press to actually read and cite a science paper?
I wan't aware that Charles Darwin is now "pseudoscience" or that "right-wing media" had suddenly acquired a capacity for intellectual inquiry the usual suspects in higher education more commonly doubt even exists.

It gets better.  Lead author Ted Hill finds another outlet for the paper, at least until higher education's version of the creepy pornstar lawyers go to work.
Igor Rivin, an editor at the widely respected online research journal, the New York Journal of Mathematics, got in touch with me. He had learned about the article from my erstwhile co-author, read the archived version, and asked me if I’d like to submit a newly revised draft for publication. Rivin said that Mark Steinberger, the NYJM’s editor-in-chief, was also very positive and that they were confident the paper could be refereed fairly quickly. I duly submitted a new draft (this time as the sole author) and, after a very positive referee’s report and a handful of supervised revisions, Steinberger wrote to confirm publication on November 6, 2017. Relieved that the ordeal was finally over, I forwarded the link to interested colleagues.

Three days later, however, the paper had vanished. And a few days after that, a completely different paper by different authors appeared at exactly the same page of the same volume (NYJM Volume 23, p 1641+) where mine had once been. As it turned out, Amie Wilkinson is married to Benson Farb, a member of the NYJM editorial board. Upon discovering that the journal had published my paper, Professor Farb had written a furious email to Steinberger demanding that it be deleted at once. “Rivin,” he complained, “is well-known as a person with extremist views who likes to pick fights with people via inflammatory statements.” Farb’s “father-in law…a famous statistician,” he went on, had “already poked many holes in the ridiculous paper.” My paper was “politically charged” and “pseudoscience” and “a piece of crap” and, by encouraging the NYJM to accept it, Rivin had “violat[ed] a scientific duty for purely political ends.”

Unaware of any of this, I wrote to Steinberger on November 14, to find out what had happened. I pointed out that if the deletion were permanent, it would leave me in an impossible position. I would not be able to republish anywhere else because I would be unable to sign a copyright form declaring that it had not already been published elsewhere. Steinberger replied later that day. Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “until it died.” Faced with the loss of his own scientific legacy, he had capitulated. “A publication in a dead journal,” he offered, “wouldn’t help you.”
Let's see if I understand this. It's possible to harass a politician in a restaurant. How does one harass a journal? Does anybody outside higher education even know where the discussion boards are, or the academic affiliations of the editorial board (it looks good on the c.v., but in practice it simply means "field specialist we go to for a lot of refereeing.")  And all because of family connections?  If academicians knew how to use luparas could they give the Outfit a run for the numbers racket?

But even a  recitation of Professor Hill's past service to the Cause doesn't save him.
I understand the importance of the causes that equal opportunity activists and progressive academics are ostensibly championing. But pursuit of greater fairness and equality cannot be allowed to interfere with dispassionate academic study. No matter how unwelcome the implications of a logical argument may be, it must be allowed to stand or fall on its merits not its desirability or political utility. First Harvard, then Google, and now the editors-in-chief of two esteemed scientific journals, the National Science Foundation, and the international publisher Springer have all surrendered to demands from the radical academic Left to suppress a controversial idea. Who will be the next, and for what perceived transgression? If bullying and censorship are now to be re-described as ‘advocacy’ and ‘academic freedom,’ as the Chicago administrators would have it, they will simply replace empiricism and rational discourse as the academic instruments of choice.

Educators must practice what we preach and lead by example. In this way, we can help to foster intellectual curiosity and the discovery of fresh reasoning so compelling that it causes even the most sceptical to change their minds. But this necessarily requires us to reject censorship and open ourselves to the civil discussion of sensitive topics such as gender differences, and the variability hypothesis in particular.
Empiricism and rational discourse are coherent beliefs. Coherent beliefs are dead.

The paper is available here.  Understanding of double-exponential (Laplace) distributions is helpful.

Volokh Conspirator David E. Bernstein notes, "It seems to me that an appropriate response of the bullying described in the story is to get the paper as wide a circulation as possible, and create a Streisand effect."  I'm in!

Reason's Robby Soave summarizes.
I can respect the University of Chicago's position, and I would not want the administration to punish a professor for denouncing research she finds problematic. I'm much more troubled by the actions of the journal editors, who seem to have acquiesced to activists' demands to kill a paper—not because its conclusions were faulty but because broaching the subject is forbidden. NYJM, in particular, did something rather cowardly: The journal should either stand by the material or retract it after an investigation. Opting to simply make it disappear is a terrible move.

The Intelligencer's editor was worried that publishing the paper could prompt "right-wing media" to hype it, but killing the paper in such a censorious fashion is far more likely to attract media attention—and not just from the right-wing. Neither Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker not [c.q.] Yale sociologist Nicholas Christakis are members of the right, yet both criticized the academic left's attempts to bury this research. Indeed, Pinker fretted on Twitter that the left's behavior in this matter would vindicate right-wing paranoia about P.C. censorship.
It might be more accurate to recognize that the Censorious Style in academic discourse is real.

29.10.18

FREQUENCY, CONNECTIVITY, AND INTERLINE TICKETING.

Just honor the tickets, I maintain.  I'm vindicated.
Amid reports that some passenger have been kicked off crowded trains on the Hartford Line, the state is asking Amtrak to add cars to some trips between Springfield and New Haven to relieve overcrowding.

“We’re really watching a new market emerge here,” James P. Redeker, the state transportation commissioner., said. “The good news is that the program is working, ridership is growing.”While the Hartford Line provides much of the train service on the four-month-old commuter rail line, Amtrak trains also serve the route. Redeker said he did not have an exact timetable because Amtrak does not have a lot of extra cars. Amtrak trains on the Hartford Line have two cars and Hartford Line trains have four.

Prior to the start of the Hartford Line in June, Amtrak transported about 725 passengers a day between Springfield and New Haven. That number has now climbed to 2,000 with the introduction of the Hartford Line, boosted by more trips, lower fares and no caps on ticketing.
In common with the rest of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, the Springfield service, connecting with the electrified line at New Haven, is by reservation, and reservations plus high fares mean low ridership.

Now comes the Knowledge Corridor regional line, and it appears their tickets are good on Amtrak.  (Is anybody in the Chicago or Boston area paying attention?)
Connecticut Public Radio reported Friday that some with CTrail tickets and U-Passes, which give students at participating colleges unlimited travel on buses and trains, were getting kicked off Amtrak when those trains reached capacity.

The WNPR report cited two instances on the 4:32 p.m. out of Union Station in Hartford, and the long wait that followed for the next train.

Redeker said this may have happened for a couple of reasons. First, when Amtrak provides the service, it has two-car trains, while Hartford Line trains have four.

But it also may have more to do with past, ticket-selling practices at Amtrak. Before the Hartford Line, Amtrak worked on a reservation system, selling only as many seats as were available, at about 80 per car.

The Hartford Line removed caps on ticket sales. The incidents of passengers being asked to get off trains is probably tied to conductors filling in on the Hartford Line who normally work other routes, Redeker said. They probably aren’t familiar with the unlimited seating, he said.

“That’s completely unacceptable,” Redeker said. “We don’t want to see that, and I’m sure Amtrak doesn’t want to see that.”

Amtrak issued this statement: “Amtrak and CTDOT are working together to resolve the crowding issues that are occurring on some Hartford Line trains.”
It's not quite the freedom to choose any train the holder of a British Rail pass enjoys. It's a small beginning, though, if true.

PUT YOUR CONFIDENCE IN EMERGENCE.

I've long been skeptical of Wise Experts Coming Up With Standard Policies, that skepticism expressed simply as "The simplest explanation for the troubles the political establishment are having with the voters is that the political establishment is doing things badly. But nobody wants to admit it."  But that doesn't stop all the Regular Practitioners from doing all the Regular Things.  Generally that means seizing on some relatively simple difficulty as a "crisis" and chattering back and forth about how to Best Modify the Standard Policies.

The problem with calling every little thing a crisis is that you run out of words to properly characterize a big thing that might deserve that sort of attention.

Today, that's what set Rush Limbaugh off.
I think the media, in their natural state, drives more people to Trump each and every day.

I think they’ve been doing it since the Sunday shows yesterday with this. The attempt to politicize this, the attempt to blame Trump for this… They can’t help themselves. They have spent the past 2-1/2 years trying to get rid of Donald Trump. They have thrown everything they know into the public domain hoping to influence people to abandon Trump, and it hasn’t happened. So these two events come along and they think, “Ah, this is it!

“This has to be what it is,” they’re thinking, and they just can’t help themselves. They start blaming Trump for the synagogue shooting. They start asking the president what he’s gonna do about guns; does he have a different view on it, as though he’s somehow responsible. And what it does, it portrays — it gives away — the fact that as far as the American left is concerned, everything centers around Washington, that Washington is the solution for everything.

And how is Washington the solution? Washington is the solution because Washington is where the enemies of the left are gonna be punished, is where the enemies of the left are going to be dealt with. That’s the role of government, as far as the left is concerned. The government as an agent of power to enforce punitive, punishing policies on the enemies of the American left. That’s its purpose. So a shooting anywhere takes place; the left says, “What’s the president gonna do about it?”

The president had nothing to do with it in the first place! The president has nothing to do with gun control laws except as a supporter or opponent. Congress writes the laws! But the idea that Washington should be able to command anything at any time is what the left wants with the White House.
It's not the left, Mr Limbaugh. The phenomenon might better be understood as the Fatal Conceit of the Permanent Government.  Washington is the solution because if voters recognize that the best way to deal with Washington malfunctions is to rediscover the Tenth Amendment (or call an Article V convention) that will mean less influence to be peddled along K Street and fewer opportunities for journalists to hop into bed with elected officials or Cabinet level bureaucrats and fewer things to talk about at great length but to little effect on the Sunday shows (that is, when the Sunday shows deal with matters of substance, rather than handicapping the next election ... it's only two weeks until the presidential speculations will begin).

To see this, look no further than the transcript of Sunday's Meet The Press, one of the shows that set Mr Limbaugh off.  You can find the stuff Mr Limbaugh is referring to if you scroll around.  I want to focus on a segment that ran later in the show, after the first gathering of the Panel of Chin-Pullers, featuring Republican Steve Stivers of Ohio and Democrat Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.

Here's Representative Luján on Fixing Things.
Well, look, it's making sure that we're able to reach across the aisle and we can work in a bipartisan basis. What Democrats have been clear about is if we're fortunate to win back the House, which I believe we will, that we work immediately on lowering prescription drug prices for the American people. That we work on a bipartisan infrastructure package to make investments across the country. And that we work together to clean up Washington D.C., to find ways to overturn Citizens United, to address gerrymandering, to improve and increased transparency and disclosure across the government to restore faith in our political process. Those are all areas where we can work together and reach across the aisle and find some common ground.
Usual bromides, usual attempts to live at the expense of somebody else.  You have Citizens United (a Democrat gripe about corporate money in politics) because you have Washington involved in everything.  Less Washington, less reason to buy influence in Washington.  But that's not how Democrats roll.

Representative Stivers doesn't look much better.
I do think we need to come together not on any one's terms but on America's terms. We're Americans first. I agree with Ben that infrastructure is something that we all need and we need to come together on. Lowering prescription drug costs. I'm not sure why Ben didn't talk about lowering health care costs. We need to come together on lowering health care costs. And I think we can do that. We need to listen to each other no matter who takes the majority. And I think we're going to hold the majority. But no matter who takes the majority -- [here Chuck Todd butts in] -- it will be a razor-thin majority. And hopefully that will mean people will come together, Republicans and Democrats, to get things done. But I do worry about, you know, making sure that we do it in a way that we are focused on getting things done, not on just abolishing ICE -- [here Chuck Todd butts in] -- or doing the things that are on the extreme.
We can't talk about lowering health care costs until we have something resembling price discovery in medicine.  Just another failure of elite imagination.  But the elites have their Sunday shows and their crisis-mongering, and their grand constructions still haven't fallen apart.

Therefore, now is as good a time as any to question the permanent government's conceits, and mock their pretensions.

JUST. DO. YOUR. JOB.

During the summer, Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers characterized some of his receivers' efforts in practice as "piss poor."

He probably wasn't happy with converted receiver Ty Montgomery, currently part of the running back rotation, and probably no longer returning kicks.
Rodgers fully expected return man Ty Montgomery to kneel down for a touchback, given that the running back had been instructed by his coaches to do just that. Instead, Montgomery caught the ball 2 yards deep and raced up the middle of the field, crossing the 20 before being met by the Rams Ramik Wilson. And then, a green-and-gold nightmare: Wilson's hard hit on Montgomery dislodged the football, which the L.A. linebacker would recover under a pile.
The Packers are currently treating the oopsie, which spoiled an otherwise good opportunity for a visiting team to pay out the Rams before another visiting team paid out the Dodgers (Manny Machado swinging at strike three to end the World Series, sweet schadenfreude) before a stadium full of noisy Packer fans. There were more than a few noisy Red Sox fans at the Dodgers' park, as well.  Just another reason to understand that contemporary California is not as inspirational as Beach Boys California.

We'll see what goes on in the Packer front office and locker rooms this week.
"Aaron was hot," one Packers coach said. "And he had a right to be. He yelled, 'Take a f------ knee!' He was very, very mad."

In the eyes of many of Rodgers' teammates, his ire was justifiable. According to more than a half-dozen Packers players and coaches who witnessed it, Montgomery had thrown a tantrum of his own on Green Bay's previous offensive series, becoming noticeably enraged on the sideline after being removed from the game. At least one player believed there was carryover from that incident to Montgomery's decision to disregard his coaches' instruction and return the kickoff.

"They took him out (the previous drive) for a play and he slammed his helmet and threw a fit," one Packers player said. "Then (before the kickoff) they told him to take a knee, and he ran it out anyway. You know what that was? That was him saying, 'I'm gonna do me.' It's a f------ joke.

"I mean, what the f--- are you doing? We've got Aaron Rodgers, the best I've ever seen, and you're gonna take that risk? I mean, it's '12'! All you gotta do is give him the ball, and you know what's gonna happen."
We'll be following developments.

Historically, the Packer Way has involved patience, but it's been eight seasons since the Packers' last title.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns today parted ways with a head coach who amassed a 3-36-1 record.  The three wins and a tie all came in this season.

SECOND SECTION.  From today's press conference summary.
Montgomery expressed dismay at the questioning of his character and team commitment. [Head coach Mike] McCarthy didn’t go down that road, stressing his belief through a quarter century of coaching in this league that players care more than anything “about not disappointing their teammate.”
Plus
“There’s a lot of things to build off of, but the situational awareness, execution, communication down the stretch there, that was our failure,” McCarthy said. “We need to be better.

“There was frustration, disappointment, anger, all that in the locker room, because it was a game we expected to win, and felt like we may have had an opportunity to. That’s where we are.”
Coming up on Sunday, a nationally televised game from Massachusetts.

28.10.18

A CHRISTMAS MARKET, WITH ROLLER COASTERS.

It's beginning to look a little like Christmas, with the Christkindlmarkt season soon to begin.

In Hamburg, the preseasonal market includes roller coasters!

That description is all auf Deutsch.  There's an English translation.  It appears that this seasonal market is done shortly after the feast of St. Nicholas.  I wonder if a trip to Hamburg in July or August is in order?

IT TAKES A TARIFF BEFORE BIG STEEL SEIZES THE OPPORTUNITY?

Mainline railroad tracks these days comprise quarter-mile lengths of welded rail clipped to concrete ties, which eliminates a lot of bolts at the joint bars and spikes at the tie plates to work loose.  The longer the piece of stick rail the welding plant has to work with, the fewer weak spots there are in the rails.
By the 1980s, head-hardened rail was developed, cooling steel at a rate that provided additional strength. The new standard section became 80 feet, requiring 17 welds to create a quarter-mile length. Longer rail sections continued to be developed, but weren't as strong.

During this time, Union Pacific, Nippon Steel of Japan and Sumitomo Metal Corp. began discussing a revolutionary idea – manufacturing and shipping high-strength, head-hardened continuous-cast rail in 480-foot-long sections. With access to long rail, only two welds are needed to create quarter-mile lengths, representing an 88 percent reduction in the number of welds.

Union Pacific evaluated many options for the 480-foot rail sections, including U.S. manufacturers. The company selected the only supplier who met all the necessary requirements for length, strength and weight, which are essential in providing safe, reliable rail.
That might have been a missed opportunity for U.S. steel producers, but that doesn't come as any surprise.  I noted, fifteen years ago, the last time a Republican president was toying with steel tariffs, the reluctance of steel producers to compete.  "[S]ome of the majors spent more resources figuring out that thin-slab casting would not work, rather than investigating ways to make it work, which it does." So too, might it have been, with U.S. rail mills.  Nippon Steel, however, built the rolling and finishing stands, and commissioned a ship to transport the long rail.
Sumitomo designed "Pacific Spike," the first ship in the world serving as a long rail shuttle for Union Pacific. It’s outfitted with three cranes synchronized to simultaneously unload five rails weighing 10 tons. The rail is stacked three bundles high onto specially designed shuttle cars to be moved from the dock to storage.

Construction on the Port of Stockton's roughly 25 acres just finished. Typically, new facilities are built around old rail yards, but this one was designed nearly from scratch. The port has three tracks and two bridges, plus custom storage and welding facilities designed to accommodate the additional rail length.

The $18 million welding facility, equipped with a special overhead crane to lift the rail, began operations this week. Despite the unique nature of the process, standard weld techniques are used to create quarter-mile lengths, which are loaded onto a standard rail train and shipped out for use. UP's Engineering Department is still determining where the first long rails will be placed.
Pacific Spike began sailing, and the new quay and welding plant went into operation, in 2015.

Then came Our President, and his steel tariffs.  A rhetorical question from that post is germane.  "[W]hat prevented U.S. Steel from running the works at capacity in 2015 the better to undersell the competition?" That's the Granite City Works, which is one of Our President's bragging points, and it doesn't produce rail, but there are rail mills in the States.  And yet, somehow sending metal scrap or Australian ore to Japan to roll rails and load them onto Pacific Spike still doesn't offer domestic mills a business opportunity?

Meanwhile, Pacific Spike was recently held out of port.
Union Pacific is facing increased costs of around $4 million for each shipload of special “long rail” it imports from Japan unless it obtains a waiver from the federal government.

One shipment that took two weeks to cross the Pacific Ocean was held up for nearly six more weeks in San Francisco Bay until the tariff was paid, although a Union Pacific representative says the delay did not slow down the railroad’s rail replacement work.
That article suggests domestic steel producers didn't know how to do the engineering, or something. "When Union Pacific announced the beginning of the rail imports in 2015, it said Sumitomo had developed a means of manufacturing 480-foot rail with sufficient strength that domestic suppliers could not match, which is the basis for its tariff waiver filing."

Perhaps the engineers have done their homework, or perhaps the tariff is functioning the way the advocates of import-substitution intended.  The Association for Iron and Steel Technology reports that Evraz North America, operating the old Colorado Fuel & Iron rail mill in Pueblo, will build a plant to roll 100 meter rail sections.  Here's the elevator pitch from Evraz.  Interestingly, both Evraz and Steel Dynamics, a company started by Nucor veterans, both roll more rail than the Japanese.  Nobody, domestically, yet, rolls a 480 foot (roughly 150 meter) rail.

There is not yet an announcement of a Trump campaign rally in Pueblo, the way there have been near Granite City during the current Congressional elections.

POLITICAL ECONOMY, SUMMARIZED.

D. N. McCloskey, in Reason.  "In truth, libertarians sit nowhere on the left-right map, which merely captures a dispute about how to use the government's monopoly of violence. The right wants to use violence to support 800 U.S. bases abroad. The left wants to use it to boss poor people around. Libertarians want neither."

Libertarians understand emergence.  The political left and political right think they can manage it.  The balance of the article elaborates.

DISTRIBUTED NETWORKS, IMPROVED MASS TRANSIT.

Boston is one of the country's biggest college towns, with one of the world's quaintest rail transit networks, and online not-quite-advocacy but not-quite-ferroequinology might be helping improve the commuter experience, particularly at bar time.
One Sunday night two years ago, Marc Ebuña and Ari Ofsevit stayed up past 1 a.m. to watch the city’s transit system grind to a pointless halt.

Sitting in their respective apartments, they were monitoring a website that tracks Boston’s rapid-transit trains in real time. “I live-tweeted the late-night ballet, the last-trains ballet,” Ebuña says. Except what they were seeing was more of a citywide muscle spasm than an elegant dance.
At system closing time, or if the owl car service runs on longer headways, it matters that the last cars make their connections, lest passengers be stranded overnight or until the next owl car, particularly in sketchy neighborhoods.
Ebuña and Ofsevit, who had plenty of the personal experience waiting on trains during these puzzling delays, enlisted two fellow members of their advocacy group TransitMatters and did their own audit.

On that September night in 2016, Ebuña and Ofsevit could see the last trains on the Red, Orange and Blue lines, and the westbound Green Line streetcars, as they reached downtown transfer stations and stopped. The only trains still moving were two lonely streetcars on the Green Line’s E branch. Nothing could move until these two stragglers reached Park Street. Across Boston, Ebuña and Ofsevit knew, 56 buses, many carrying tired shift workers, were idling outside stations, awaiting the trains’ arrival before they fanned out with their last passengers. For a quarter-hour, the Green E trains had held up the entire system.

Ebuña took screenshots and fired off a tweetstorm that night. Ofsevit blogged about the 1 a.m. bottleneck the next afternoon. Another member scraped daily data off a transit website that tracks MBTA trains. The numbers showed that the last Green E train caused about 75 percent of the delays in the transit system’s nightly shutdowns.
That last car generally carried only one passenger.

It transpires that the car in question is still on the line, returning to Central Boston to lay up, as there is no terminal at the end of its line to pull into.  Thus the connecting cars and buses are waiting for one lightly-loaded car to return to Boston, long after all the other owl cars and buses have pulled in at car stations at the outer ends of their lines.  "What they found illustrates how good intentions can sometimes lead to inopportune outcomes."

Amateur Planner breaks down the scheduling difficulties, the possible improvements, and the lost overnight maintenance time, all for the lack of an Arborway car house.  Instructive, with lots of links to the social media communications that revealed the problems.

The better outcome, the article suggests, is for Boston to view itself as a city that never sleeps.
Many Bostonians work well into the night or very early in the morning at Logan Airport, at our hospitals, at restaurants and bars, and at businesses in the innovation sector that know no boundaries of the clock. This should surprise no one. It’s what great cities do. It’s what 21st Century cities do.  It’s what most other cities in the United States do: they work around the clock.

Our plan for overnight service would serve those workers, and respond to this clear and persistent need.  The owners of the highly regarded restaurant Myer & Chang spoke recently on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio program about how the lack of overnight service harms their employees, proving the point: by shutting down public transportation during late evening and early morning hours, we are doing a disservice to the hard working men and women who do not have “9-to-5” jobs.  If we want to be regarded as a vibrant city, and if we care about the people who work hard to make that happen, we need to offer them the convenience and dignity of 24/7 transit service.
Once upon a time that was understood, at least in song. "Now all night long Charley rides through the tunnels Saying, 'What will become of me? How can I afford to see My sister in Chelsea Or my cousin in Roxbury?'" (But did he ever return, no he never returned ...)

There's a lot more in the Politico article, including the ferroequinologist fine point about how the door trap and step-box configuration required for trains calling both at floor-level and street-height platforms slows loading and unloading at stations with street-height platforms.

SPLICE THE MAIN BRACE!

Mid-American Conference football may well be a money suck, and yet the successes come often enough that the boosters want to keep playing, even if it is on school nights.

Consider Eastern Michigan, where there is neither money for academics nor for sports.  But then there's the early-season surprise where the Hurons, er, Eagles without color (to distinguish them from the Marquette Warriors, er, Golden Eagles) kick a field goal and walk out of West Lafayette with a win.


A few weeks later, it's Purdue beating Ohio State, changing the title conversation in the Big Ten's Big Two plus MSU plus the refugees from the east coast division.

Now word reaches Cold Spring Shops headquarters of the Boneyard Flag hoisted in Provo, Utah.  "The Huskies had five sacks, eight tackles for loss, and created a key turnover in the game's final two minutes to edge [Brigham young] 7-6 on Saturday. Northern Illinois won despite totaling just 204 yards on offense and averaging 3.6 yards per play."  A few weeks ago, it was Brigham Young exposing Wisconsin in Madison, however Wisconsin remained among the high-ranked teams until yesterday, when Northwestern did what it often does to Wisconsin in Evanston.

Because some forty thousand Brigham Young fans were present for the Northern Illinois victory, the Mid-American continues to satisfy the attendance requirements for continued Division I (or whatever they call it these days) status.

And when Northern Illinois, or any other Mid-American team, does better against a common opponent than a Big Ten team does, the people in Knute Rockne's backyard who want to keep offering football, even on a school night, will suggest there is enough success given the constraints so as to not abandon the enterprise.

27.10.18

THE OLDEST, DEEPEST STATE.

Yes, the United State is a Constitutional republic of long standing, and yet, long before the Framers envisioned the Electoral College, there was the College of Cardinals in conclave assembled to elect popes.

It is not the case that the Electoral College was inspired by the College of Cardinals.

And yet, the cardinals, and the Vatican bureaucracy, and influential Italian families, could probably teach secular politicians, even Chicago politicians of the Irish Catholic persuasion, a few things.

Even if on occasion the Vatican came up with some clinkers, such as selling indulgences to build St. Peter's and losing Germany in the bargain.

That's an Andrew Greeley line, and he's back in Book Review No. 31, along with Sean Cardinal Cronin, auxiliary bishop John Blackwood Ryan, and some of the North Wabash Irregulars.  They're not finding missing L trains or murders covered up for a half century, rather they're caught up in the ultimate palace intrigue in White Smoke: A Novel About the Next Papal Conclave.

It's part a wish for the papacy to come.  The book appears in the middle 1990s.  Pope John Paul II serves for another ten years in real life, to be replaced first by a German cardinal and then an Argentine.  Whether those elections reflected the changes Reverend Greeley desired (and used his characters to express) or not I cannot say.  There are some interesting observations about Catholicism, and I suspect more than a little questioning of church doctrine on celibacy, chastity, and poverty.

It's part about reconciliation (the domestic discord of two secular protagonists serving as an allegory for Humanity, Sinning, yet Forgiven) and part current affairs (sex scandals and bad investments.)

The machinations of church politicians?  We have true believers, page 149.  "They are not very bright ... They will overreach."  There are cover-ups, page 203.  "For too many centuries we have hidden the truth in the name of protecting the Church.  That has corrupted us."  There are partial revelations of potentially disqualifying information, page 245.  "There is apparently no trickery too vile, too dishonest, too evil for his opponents."  It's a front-runner for the papacy being slimed.  There's media influence, page 304.  "Turner Broadcasting Systems and all affiliates will do everything possible to drive you from public office and hound you out of the company of decent, civilized human beings."  That's after a CNN reporter is kidnapped.  Read the book for the details.

And yet, the Roman Catholic Church carries on (yes, sans Moscow, sans Constantinople, sans Germany, sans Canterbury) as it has for well over a thousand years.  As long as the priests and the assorted Higher Ranks minister to the congregants, it is likely to continue to carry on.  The extension to secular life and secular orders, such as the governance structures of the United States, remain as an exercise.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

NO SALAD BOWL, NO SPRING WATER.

It's been what, two months since the conclusion of the O Scale convention in Rockville, Maryland, and a week since the Milwaukee Brewers season ended.  Perhaps that's an opportunity for a Performance and Practice featuring the operation of the Capitol Limited, the food having already been evaluated and found edible but a step backwards.

The Capitol still maintains a business-friendly westbound schedule, with a late afternoon departure from Washington, a midnight arrival, if all is going well, at Pittsburgh, and an early morning arrival into Chicago.  Passengers connecting from Pennsylvania points west of Philadelphia have a longish layover between the one day train and the Capitol.  Passengers from New York, Newark, Trenton, or Philadelphia can probably shorten their journey by catching one of the regional or Acela trains along the Northeast Corridor.

Illustrations below the jump.

HAVING FUN IS PROBLEMATIC.

One of the events at Milwaukee's German Fest this year was the Stihl Timbersports competition.


It seems like a logical event for a German company (the alpha codes describing the various products reflect the German names of the power tools) in Wisconsin in the summer, where losing the log-rolling competition involves a cooling dip.

But I sat in on some of the competition, which involves cutting within the lines (that's not so easy when your tool is axe or chain-saw and your work piece is an eighteen inch log and you're racing another logger and the clock) and had some time to rest and reflect.

That's always dangerous, even for a retired academic.  Events sponsored by beer companies.  Prizes include Ram pickup trucks.  Power tools.  Gasoline.  Flannel shirts.  Got me thinking whether some of my onetime colleagues would be put off by the entire endeavor.  That's quite likely, but I never expected the university or the economics department to entertain me.  I'm capable of that on my own, thank you very much.

But I also had time to reflect on whether there would be people working in culture studies or the like that might find the endeavor wrong in some basic way.  Yup.  (I read these sites so you don't have to!)

I may have chopped out a particularly egregious example of a possible anathema on timber sports, but what the heck?
The surface level attempts of the outdoor industry to grapple with equity and diversity is leading to further silencing, erasure, and exclusion. The problem is that most people at the top in the industry like to stick with safe words like “inclusion,” “diversity,” and “equity.” And they want to define these words themselves without addressing the root cause: the commitment to the construct of Whiteness, and the pervasiveness of White supremacy culture in our businesses, and the spaces in which we organize.

Practicing anti-racism in our workplaces, at festivals, at community gatherings, at home, even at our favorite national parks is key to creating a safer community for all because the violence of racism does not disappear in the woods or mountains. It’s there in our conversations, in our actions, and in our beliefs. The unintentional racism of the outdoor industry is just as hostile as the racism of the people who are lighting their Nikes on fire. We need to make visible how we White people have been conditioned from living in a White supremacist culture. Without examining our patterns, assumptions, beliefs, and actions, we will not achieve the authentic community that we claim to want and say we are all about.
That's about people who go walking or mountain biking or climbing in the national parks and other upscale, quiet retreats. No chain saws or pickup trucks necessary, and yet going to the woods to play is somehow privilege.  Sad!

And having competitions for women?  Perhaps it's all about the money, or perhaps it's being patronizing.  Seriously.
When I began to explore and understand how women managed to create a loud voice in the industry and mobilize change, I soon realized that their movement towards equity was accompanied by statistics that happen to be in their favor. In one of the panels led by some of the women who have been responsible for the recent changes, one topic that was raised involved the effort to cater to women who wore sizes 14 and up. It was openly shared that 67% of the female population in U.S. consisted of such type of consumers. I don't doubt that the women leaders on the panel believe that there should be equity in catering to these consumers, and that they truly want to create change, although I question why it took them a long time in the first place to finally include a line of products that cater to this group of women. Having said that, I must give credit to one company at the panel: Columbia. Columbia is one of the very few companies that has been catering to the plus size communities long before women empowerment became the biggest buzz word in the outdoor industry.

As I continued to attend the panels that addressed the issue of women empowerment, it became more obvious that the efforts made by companies were mainly driven by the fact that they benefit financially from catering to the marginalized segment of the market; hence, the point being, don't fool yourself into thinking these efforts are being done out of morality or altruism alone. Ultimately, it's the shift in the makeup of consumers that created the motivation for companies to finally give in as doing so translates into yet again accruing more wealth for themselves.
Put another way, a business that wants to discriminate in employment or in customer base has to pay a price for its discrimination.  That's messy, yes, but less messy than letting the angry voices in Grievance Studies dictate what is permissible, either in the marketing of outdoor wear or in the conduct of logging competitions.

26.10.18

RULES WRITTEN IN BLOOD.

At first it was great fun.  Indoor work, no heavy lifting, and piece rates that were generous by the standards of the day, particularly if you put a fine tip on your paint brush by licking it.  And the factory dust sparkled in your hair, and the boss didn't make an issue of you using scrap paint at the end of the week for nail polish, which lit up even in dim dance halls.

Then Mollie's teeth started falling out.  Grace ached too much to be able to dance.  Helen suddenly died.  Thus the travails of The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women, expertly researched by Kate Moore and material for a somber Book Review No. 30.

Ms Moore's focus is on the story of the women themselves, who painted luminescent dials for clock and watch faces useful for the war effort and perhaps frustrating for the insomniac who now easily sees what hour of the night it is.  Some died without any recourse from their employer or state assistance, some won their lawsuits, some gave birth to children who might have been adversely affected, some never bore children; a few lived a long time, albeit sometimes saved by radical surgery.

The policy dimensions of their story are instructive.  One New Jersey case dismissed a suit against the United States Radium Company noting, "Today, industrial methods which the [company] then employed would not be merely negligent but criminal.  But it should be carefully noted that this case must be decided on the facts as they existed in the light of the knowledge of 1917." (Page 306).  That is, judging past behavior on the basis of current standards, when, in 1917 radium-laced water was still on sale as a health tonic, and x-ray machines were common in shoe stores, effectively becomes an ex post facto law.  Subsequent lawsuits turned out more favorably for the surviving women, although in many cases, the awards simply covered escalating expenses for treatment or for the loss of income.

Subsequently, chemists and physicists figured out that radium is in the same column of Mendeleyev's periodic table as calcium, and the solid material in bone is calcium phosphate.  Radium itself is dangerous stuff: it has a half-life of 1600 years yet it decays to polonium, an isotope that has a much shorter half-life.  Thus, physicist Glenn Seaborg insisted on much more careful protections for Manhattan Project workers refining plutonium: likely a very good thing, for had plutonium dust blown around bomb factories the way radium dust continued to blow around dial-painting factories, the U.S. atomic bomb project might have unintentionally killed more U.S. citizens than the Japanese deliberately killed by the bombings.  A few years later, the presence of strontium isotopes after atmospheric bomb tests combined with the recognition that strontium is below calcium and above radium in the light metals column of the periodic table might have led to the passage of the ban on atmospheric nuclear tests.  It appears that received wisdom these days is that the natural background radioactivity of the human body ought not be augmented.  Thus, Ms Moore concludes, the radium girls did not die in vain.

All the same, the painting of watch dials with radium compounds continued, perhaps no longer with camel-hair brushes and certainly not with anybody licking brushes to a fine point: and yet, Ottawa, Illinois, one of the three major sites for dial painting, remains dangerous today, and that might not always be well understood by people moving into town.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

WELL, GOOD.

Jay Cost, "Progressives Suddenly Sound Like Constitutionalists."  Not, he notes, out of any sudden rediscovery of the wisdom of the Framers, but wasn't the point of enumerated, limited, and separated powers to prevent tyranny by a majority?

That's likely not what devotees of Governance by Wise Experts are thinking.
I doubt we shall see any “strange new respect” coming from progressives for our constitutional regime. Indeed, modern progressivism’s defining methodology is that it wants to do away with much of our old system of governance. This is as central to the ideology as the desire to improve the welfare of the common man (who were the primary concern of the Jacksonian Democrats, who were extremely sensitive to violations of the constitutional order). Rather, I expect progressives, for now, will not connect the dots between their current frustrations with being out of power and the virtues of a constitutional system that limits the powers of majorities. But once return to political power, they will declare that the perfect order has once again arrived.
That's what makes judicial review valuable. Plus Militant Normals who vote.

YE WHO NOW WILL BLESS THE POOR, SHALL YOURSELF FIND BLESSING.

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will be making its annual tour, calling at several State Line locations.

Sunday, December 2:  Pingree Grove, 9.45 am; Byron, 12.45 pm; and Savanna, 3.15 pm; all in Illinois.

Thursday, December 6: Bensenville, 3.15 pm; Gurnee, 5.50 pm; in Illinois.  Sturtevant, 7.20 pm; Milwaukee, 8.35 pm; in Wisconsin.

The train will be on the Route of the Hiawathas on December 7, calling at Wauwatosa, Hartland, Oconomowoc, Watertown, and Columbus, with further calls along the LaCrosse and Milwaukee Division on December 8.

There is still hidden misery in the United States, and it's possible to see some of it from the tracks.  The point of running the Holiday Train is to help reduce food insecurity in communities along the line.  The entertainment is incidental to that mission, and the performers get it.

25.10.18

BEYOND FOXCONN.

Illinois is not a good place to do business.  Wisconsin is, and there are signs of extensive construction going on in Kenosha and Racine counties west of The Milwaukee Road and east of Interstate 94.  Some of this is Foxconn related work, and some of it appears to be logistics and light manufacturing.  I'd feel better if some of the industrial plants hard by the tracks had spur tracks and loading docks suitable for box cars, one of these days the logistics model based on 53 foot containers and overtired truckers is going to fail.

Wisconsin, however, is among the leading states for new jobs added in manufacturing.  Now comes Komatsu, the Milwaukee successor to Harnischfeger and Bucyrus-Erie, moving its offices and manufacturing plant to lakefront property.
Komatsu Mining Corp. will build a $285 million headquarters and manufacturing campus along Milwaukee’s harbor, creating 443 jobs.

It would cover 54 acres on the waterside Solvay Coke property on East Greenfield Avenue, with 2.5 million square feet of offices, manufacturing and research and robotics labs, according to Thursday’s announcements from the company and state of Wisconsin. Komatsu would grow to about 1,000 full-time jobs in the Milwaukee area through the project.
The old coke works is a brownfield site, likely to require extensive cleanup before even a hoist factory and offices are built there. As far as the job creation, well, some of that is a reallocation of work from elsewhere.
The company earlier this year renewed its labor contract with the local United Steelworkers union. Since that time, it has increased hiring and transferred more manufacturing operations to its Milwaukee headquarters facility from China. Komatsu also decided the Milwaukee plant will produce the company’s first P&H 4800XPC, which is the largest mining shovel Komatsu has ever made. Engineers in Milwaukee designed that shovel.

“We are preserving existing jobs, laying the groundwork for new employment opportunities, investing in the workforce of tomorrow, and helping attract talent to the area,” said John Koetz, president - Surface Mining at Komatsu Mining.

Komatsu’s project marks another major manufacturing development for southeast Wisconsin. Past deals of this scale have been in Racine County with Foxconn Technology Group, or Kenosha County with gummy-bear maker Haribo. The Komatsu announcement is just south of downtown in Milwaukee, where Mayor Barrett has been urging companies to bring more manufacturing jobs.
Bucyrus-Erie used to make some huge draglines, which had to be shipped to the pit in pieces, assembled on-site, and they generally were dismantled afterwards.

It's not just liquid crystal displays, steam shovels (sorry if that's archaic these days) and Gummi Bears.  The financial sector is doing well as well.  We saw Northwestern Mutual's new headquarters during the summer (as well as the bears) and BMO Harris Bank (or whatever they trade as these days, I lose track) have more offices taking shape, along the car line.


That's the southwest corner of Milwaukee Street at Wells.  Northbound streetcars pass this way.  Years ago, the Fourteen line streetcars and trackless trolleys used this street, in both direction.

There's so much new construction that the weather-forecasting flame of the Milwaukee Gas Light Company office tower is almost obscured.


Conveniently, there was neither a change in the weather, nor in the immediate future, rain or snow, permitting the blue (meaning no change) flame with some gold trim, conveniently Milwaukee Brewer colors.  We'll be watching the BMO bank and Northwestern Mutual office towers for lead times.

Toward the end of the First Era of American Greatness, that tower took less than a year to build and occupy, including working around the property of a tavern that was in foreclosure, and building basement vaults under the sidewalks.

SPONTANEOUS ORDER TRUMPS SOCIAL ENGINEERING.

I've been complaining about this for years.
The landscape architects at Northern Illinois University have this silly idea that people should walk on sidewalks, even if the sidewalks are laid out with a view toward looking pretty on a rendering than actually being where they are useful. So people take the most direct route. In an attempt to steer people onto the sidewalks and give the grass a chance to get started, the groundskeepers have placed sawhorse barriers to obstruct some of the more useful shortcuts, and their willing accomplices in the English department's building have posted signs exhorting people to use the sidewalks. As. If. Perhaps one of these years the groundskeepers will opt to lay some sidewalks where people will use them.
The pedestrians, predictably, lay out the minimal paths, and the landscape architects supervise the installation of bushes or fences to make people Go The Approved Way.

The good news is, even the technocracy-friendly Guardian sees the value of emergence, or, as they have it, desire paths.
Desire paths have been described as illustrating “the tension between the native and the built environment and our relationship to them”. Because they often form in areas where there are no pavements, they can be seen to “indicate [the] yearning” of those wishing to walk, a way for “city dwellers to ‘write back’ to city planners, giving feedback with their feet”.

But as well as revealing the path of least resistance, they can also reveal where people refuse to tread. If you’ve been walking the same route for years, an itchy-footed urge to go off-piste, even just a few metres, is probably something you’ll identify with. It’s this idea that led one academic journal to describe them as a record of “civil disobedience”.

Rather than dismiss or even chastise the naughty pedestrian by placing fences or railings to block off “illicit” wanderings, some planners work to incorporate them into urban environments. This chimes with the thinking of Jane Jacobs, an advocate of configuring cities around desire lines, who said: “There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them … that we must fit our plans.”
Too often, though, town infrastructure is all about the lines put on paper in something resembling an orderly fashion, whether they're useful or not.

RUNNING BEYOND THE WIRES.

Railroads have experimented with such technologies for a long time.  The tri-power locomotives of the 1930s capable of drawing power from an overhead wire, or running on batteries in areas where neither wires nor combustion were desirable, or running on diesel and recharging the batteries for extended range were an early version.  The technology of Hamburg's plug-in trackless trolley is also present in Milwaukee's new streetcar, which runs on batteries on short stretches of its line.

Now comes Stadler's Flirt Akku multiple-unit car, which is capable of venturing far from the overhead wire.
The traction equipment and the most important mechanical components are the same as are used on conventional Flirt EMUs, but the powertrain has been rebuilt and the battery installed. ‘This concept has allowed us to significantly reduce the development and approval times, and to ensure a high level of reliability’, said Steffen Obst, Head of Sales at Stadler Germany, adding that he hoped the Flirt Akku could help to reduce or eliminate emissions and encourage more people to travel by train.

The unit has a maximum speed of 140 km/h and range of 80 km in battery mode. The battery can be charged from the overhead electrification, from a fixed shore supply at termini and from regenerated braking energy. The three-car unit has 154 seats and capacity of 310 passengers, and is quieter than a comparable diesel vehicle.

The design is ready for production, and Stadler estimates that Flirt Akku units could be used to operate 80% of the non-electrified routes in Germany. It also sees opportunities for the Flirt Akku in Austria, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and other countries with a significant amount of non-electrified routes.
The concept has potential Stateside, for instance in extending high-density light rail services past the end of electrification, or, perhaps, as a way of getting South Shore Line commuter service from Chicago to Valparaiso without installing the overhead wires between State Line and Valparaiso.

THE EMPTINESS OF CULTURAL STUDIES.

A defender of Business as Usual in the academy trading under the perhaps prophetic handle of Ozymandias attempts to defend the core principles of culture studies that the recent grievance studies hoaxes brought to light.  It's mostly lame stuff.  Consider this.
Imagine I published a paper in a theology journal arguing that it was a good idea to adopt a certain liturgy because it would help people praise God. Later, I announced that this was a hoax paper which proves that theology as a discipline celebrates delusional thinking. Certainly, many people believe that theism is delusional. But the ‘hoax’ paper doesn’t address the subject at all. All it proves is that you can publish papers in theology journals which work from the premise that God exists, which is also provable by (for example) picking up any theology journal and looking at the table of contents.
What relevance that passage has to the physiology or psychology of fat studies (my conjecture: culture-studies types created fat studies as a way to avoid studying physiology or psychology) escapes me.

It gets better.  The hoaxers switched a few words out in a passage from Mein Kampf.  Look on Ozymandias's works, and despair.
See, if you listen to Nazis in order to figure out how to educate people into being Nazis, that’s bad. But that does not mean that it is somehow wrong for a social work journal to ever talk about the concepts of culture change, education, and listening. There is nothing wrong with culture change, education, and listening as long as you don’t use them as tools to help you kill seventeen million people.
I suppose it's a good thing "cultural Marxism" is a misleading description.
Most of what gets lumped under the heading of cultural Marxism is really about personal choices about lifestyle or belief, not politics. But "political correctness" frequently tumbles over into actual attempts to suppress expression, which is indeed worrying. And the conspiracists have a Frankfurt School theorist to blame for that: Herbert Marcuse.

Marcuse, who after World War II taught at major American universities such as Columbia and Harvard, and who is thus often fingered as the Typhoid Mary of cultural Marxism in America, advocated the suppression of nonleftist ideas. "Repressive tolerance," his paradoxical phrase, suggested that allowing sinister right-of-center ideas to spread was not true intellectual tolerance but its enemy.

Marcuse was hardly the first to come up with a justification for silencing one's political foes. "Repressive tolerance" is merely a contextual restatement of the ancient attitude that only true, appropriate, and acceptable ideas should be freely expressed. Marcuse stated his terrible notion with the kind of tribute vice pays to virtue, claiming the ideas he wanted suppressed made true tolerance impossible. But Marcuse didn't invent the idea that "error has no rights"—the very traditional Catholic Church did. Yes, he wickedly promoted "the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care," but that doesn't mean he's to blame for everyone who now wants enforced political correctness.

The commitment on the part of today's progressive undergrads to suppressing distasteful speech comes not from a deep understanding of some larger intellectual tradition with a goal of world domination but from a simple (if mistaken) calculus about the morality of hurting people. As frustrating as this attitude can be to civil libertarians, many students genuinely believe that certain expressions seen as hostile to oppressed minorities either directly cause actionable harm to those people or unjustly contribute to an overall atmosphere of danger for them.
Put another way, culture change, education, and selective listening (or hectoring and condescending and calling it "dialogue") are tools to help the Diversity Lobby silence millions of people.

If you care about logic, none of it makes sense.

23.10.18

HE FIGHTS.

I'll devote a short Book Review No. 29 to Kurt Schlichter's Militant Normals: How Regular Americans are Rebelling Against the Elite to Reclaim Our Democracy.

It's difficult to distinguish an "elite" from "anyone else" and public intellectuals with, shall we say, more conventional credentials have previously struggled with the same theme.

Perhaps it is less important to attempt to distinguish, particularly in the way Mr Schlichter does (yes, people who put on airs and give their spawn odd, androgynous names are off-putting) Rulers from Ruled, and more important to count the ways in which the Rulers have messed up.

Page 92:
Progressivism, a disease of the Elite, is notorious for its preference for governing through the wisdom of detached, neutral experts who will be guided solely by the best of science and philosophy.  These great minds will not be subject to the passions and prejudices of lesser men and women.  Their fact-based, logical rule will usher in a new age of enlightened governance.

And they've been trying to impose a regime of rule by experts, with varying levels of intensity, since the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century, and everything's gone great since.

Wait, what?
Sorry, no, not since Plato, and it's impossible for experts to govern so wisely anyway.

But brains trusts are a thing popular among Democrats, and Mr Schlichter suggests those Republicans who are skeptical about brains trusts are too quick to cower in the face of "People.  Will.  Die." rebuttals.

That is, people other than Donald Trump, who saw the failure and said "We are being governed by stupid people."  Or as Mr Schlichter argues, page 114, "Our institutions are terrible."  Turn to page 151 for the bill of particulars.
The Elite simply seeks obedience and control, and it tries to strangle any new birth of freedom in its crib.  In every instance, the Elite seeks to maximize its own authority at the expense of the Normals.

It attacks the basic concept that Americans are suited to govern themselves, and substitutes the reign of experts.

It prioritizes the institutions of society over the purpose for which those institutions allegedly exist and over the interests of Normal citizens.

It resents and rejects accountability, because those concepts assume that the Normals have the moral standing to hold the experts and the institutions to account.
At this point, dear reader, you might wonder how an unprepared outsider such as Donald Trump becomes the champion of the Militant Normals.  It's about the failure of expertise, and macroeconomic torpor and "you didn't build that" and nation-building wars that got a lot of Normals maimed or killed to little effect, and in Mr Schlichter's formulation, there are a lot of people hard done by thanks to the Experts who ask, page 193, italicized in the original, "Do I vote for the guy who lays pipe with supermodels and porn stars, or for the woman who won't let me get a high-paying job laying the Keystone Pipeline because some weather cultists in Palo Alto object?"

That's almost enough to excuse a contrast at once funny and silly.  Page 234:
How about an assistant adjunct professor at some law school who pens a tome titled something like Transgender Issues in Uniform Commercial Code Article 9 Jurisprudence? Is there any chance, even the slightest possibility, that someone is going to come to him and say, "You know, you contribute nothing to what we are doing here, and you need to go away."
Yes, that's exactly what that "adjunct" means.  The author might share the aesthetic preferences and the irritable mental gestures of the tenured Elite, and yet, he's in a position as precarious as an oil country worker during the Obama years.

But perhaps I cavil too much.  Mr Schlichter observes, throughout the book, that the Normals are militant only because the Elite govern badly.  An Elite that "shares and respects the basic values of those it leads" and governs wisely and modestly will not provoke militancy.  An Elite that doubles down on condescension and deplorable-shaming?  The next iteration of populism might be less pleasant.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)