Ringling Barnum advertise themselves as The Greatest Show on Earth. A pair of business professors suggest what the lot lice observed might also be billed that way.
While circus management devoted considerable expertise in developing procedures and equipment to shorten the logistics time and effort required to support the performance and movement of the circus, there were, in fact, two objectives. The first was concerned with the effective procurement, stowage, and transportation of the circus to meet its performance schedule. This goal was to synchronize all activities into a smooth and even flow in the face of many uncertainties. The combination of specialized materials handling equipment, precise operating procedures, and job specialization all contributed to the circus operating as a “well oiled machine.”

The logistics principles discussed here highlight the fact that what may well be considered new management ideas and procedures today were employed more than a century ago by creative, resourceful individuals in an industry where continuous and smooth, even flow were critical to success.
It's not often that an academic article includes vintage photographs of the runs, the lot, and even the efforts of a conscientious crew of tack-spitters, let alone a recognition that low-technology approaches can be used in an advanced way.
The flexibility in movement of circus resources was limited only by the rail track. By the end of the Golden Age, practically every community large enough to support a circus visit had been linked by rail. As noted in Figure 6, 743 different cities were visited during a 20-year period by the Ringling Bros. Circus, the Barnum & Bailey Circus or their combined circus.

At the other extreme, the circus employed low technology for the majority of its material handling activities. This lower technology consisted primarily of horses, elephants, and humans. Although these forms of materials handling resources might be viewed as relatively inefficient, they were extremely flexible—with the possible exception of elephants.
I'm glad the authors qualified that exception. A pair of rubber mules are steadier at raising center poles and tops than a team of horses, and if the switch engine is not available at the crossing, a pair of 0-2-2-0 Pachyderms will suffice.


Melissa Harris-Perry says as much.
I think we want to be careful, because no one wants to assume that any given physical body carries with it a set of political ideas, so for example, you know, Clarence Thomas sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States does not mean that Justice Thomas is representing, necessarily, the positions, the issues, even the Constitutional interpretation that is shared by the vast majority of civil rights organizations and by the vast majority of African-Americans. Simply putting women in a space, for example, had Congresswoman Bachmann ended up as the president of the United States, she might not have been representative of women's issues in the broadest sense, because so many women are, in fact on the side of reproductive rights and justice. On the other hand, it also matters to have a diverse cabinet, to have a diverse set of opinions and ideas.
The statement is progress, after a fashion. She's not denouncing Justice Thomas for not being the right kind of black, or Representative Bachmann for not being the right kind of woman, and possibly, just possibly, she's receptive to the possibility that a person who is not born with a particular bundle of physical characteristics might all the same recognize the struggles or triumphs that might be part of that bundle.

We used to call that empathy.


it's not too giant a leap to board the Flying Scotsman.
Buzz Aldrin has resorted to taking the East Coast train to Edinburgh after flights to London airports were hit by snowfalls today.

Aldrin, who piloted the successful Apollo 11 mission and became the second man to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, tweeted from his seat on East Coast’s London to Edinburgh service this afternoon:

“On the train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh after numerous airline mishaps – our First Class car is full so we’re slumming it in coach but all good.”
In Britain, coach, or standard class as they would have it, is not as roomy as a Superliner seat, but compared to an airplane, let alone a Command Module, it's spacious.  In the realm of Nigel Gresley, the All Weather Mode still is.
London Heathrow had been affected by some 250 cancellations, mainly affecting domestic flights to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle. The option was to switch to the train.

Passengers were praising East Coast and other operators for keeping trains running. Marc Roberts from Durham tweeted: “Lifting restrictions on travel times for all tickets today was a very smart public spirited move” – while another passenger, ‘Ed’, texted BBC News Online to say.

“Well done East Coast trains for lifting the travel time stipulations today - 10/10 for common sense, means I left two hours earlier from Newcastle to London. Train company which cares - thank you!”

East Coast spokesman John Gelson said: “We’re pleased Buzz Aldrin, possibly one of the most famous pilots in history, switched from the ‘plane to our train today. From his picture it’s clear he enjoyed his journey with us.

“As the snow continues to move across the country this evening, our people are working hard to prepare our trains and stations as well as we can. Additional engineering teams are based at key points on our route to keep trains moving, while Network Rail have snowploughs ready to keep tracks clear.
That's exactly as William Scandrett or Samuel Insull would have it.



Historiann asks her readers, "Is it really 'higher education' without tenured faculty?"  Read the essay, and the accompanying comments, and contemplate this.
Is higher education really higher education without faculty tenure?  I say no.  Just check out the loan default rates and unemployment rates of for-profit university alums, where tenure is non-existent, to public or private university graduates.  But our current generation of “leaders” suggest that they’re happy to follow Kaplan and Phoenix down the rabbit hole.  Like the failed leaders in our political life and financial sectors, it looks like today’s provosts are happy to chase fads and engage in an academic version of pump-and-dump:  “pump” up the adjunct rates and “dump” the tenured faculty while they run the clock out on their careers.

After all, they won’t be around when the price of a hollowed-out tenured faculty becomes clear.  They’re doing more with less now and reaping the rewards, so what do they care?
Yes, that's one of the effects of the all-administrative university.  And it's amusing to note those administrators responding to one of the incentives in the so-called Affordable Care Act.
Robert Balla, an adjunct professor of English at Stark State College, in North Canton, Ohio received a letter in which he was told that “in order to avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act…employees with part-time or adjunct status will not be assigned more than an average of 29 hours per week.” He told the [Wall Street] Journal that the move cut his $40,000 salary by about $2,000 and that he cannot afford health insurance.
No doubt there is a deanlet or deanling in the personnel department anticipating a large bonus.

It is worth contemplating where the price of a hollowed-out tenured faculty will be paid first.

The more aggressive an institution of higher education is at doing more with less, the more intense the competition to get into the most highly regarded institutions becomes.  News flash: middling students, returning adults, and strivers without the credentials, connections, or good high school guidance will be hardest hit.


As long as it's not the administration she works for.  Investor's Business Daily calls bunk.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., asked Clinton why neither her State Department nor the White House could tell there was no protest taking place in Benghazi — after President Obama spent weeks claiming during the campaign there was, to deflect from the fact that the supposedly defeated al-Qaida was alive and well and killing U.S. diplomats in well-planned, coordinated attacks.

Clinton responded by angrily asking back, "What difference at this point does it make?"

The answer is that it makes all the difference in the world for the future of this country. An incumbent president covered up the truth about the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other American personnel during the climax of his re-election campaign, even puppeteered his United Nations ambassador to echo the lie on five TV shows, all to cover up the incompetence of the Obama administration's counter-terrorism policies.
More followup here, and the transcript, with the crying and the screeching in the embedded video.

The soon-to-be-former Secretary of State and the Vice President are already jockeying for the 2016 nomination.  We have much to look forward to.



July's posting began with high hopes for completing the Fifty Book Challenge for 2012.  January has almost passed, and only now, the lack of progress report for the second half of the year.  The links at the dates point to the reviews posted at the Challenge.  Some books are particularly good (+) and others, particularly bad (-).

  1. Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War 1941-1945, 12 July 2012 (+).
  2. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, 13 July 2012 (-). 
  3. Man of War: My Adventures in the World of Historical Reenactment, 15 July 2012.
  4. The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless, 25 July 2012 (-).
  5. Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance, 8 August 2012 (+).
  6. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden, 4 November 2012.
  7. War on the Waters: The Union & Confederate Navies, 1861-1865, 18 November 2012 (+).
  8. Bloodlands, 22 December 2012 (+)
  9. Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941, 23 December 2012.

Although it might appear from the gaps in Book Challenge posts that the day job is getting in the way, it is more accurate to note that the model railroad is crowding out the internets during down time.  That, and the Orange Bowl excitement ...

For this year, there is a first quarter report at Cold Spring Shops and at the Fifty Book Challenge, and a second quarter report filed on the first of July, also at Cold Spring Shops and the Fifty Book Challenge.

The bookworm ended this year a little shorter. Blame it on the drought.


There are a few books awaiting review, although those reports carry no presumption of making the fifty in 2013.

Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.


Yale University offers no-extra-charge courses on bartending, ostensibly so as to lessen drunkenness brought on by too-strong gin and tonics.
“We know underaged people are drinking,” said Director of Yale Catering Robert Sullivan. “We’re trying to see what we can do to make sure underage students understand what a drink is supposed to look and taste like.”

The courses, run by Yale Catering, are based on those Yale Catering hosts for its servers, with the exception that students do not have to be over 21 to attend because anyone over the age of 18 can legally bartend in Connecticut, Fiddler said. Students will be able to sign up online for courses in January, February and March starting next week.

[Training and Intervention Procedures] training teaches alcohol safety skills such as how to interact with drunk or unruly individuals and how to tell if someone has had too much to drink, as well as alcohol awareness facts such as the amount an average person can drink based on body type and gender, Sullivan said. Course instructor Jean-Michel Mange said a large portion of the TIPS course also focuses on liability issues, a topic particularly relevant for students who plan to host dorm or fraternity parties.

“People think it’s going to be moralizing, but it’s not about that,” said course instructor Jean-Michel Mange. “It’s to explain how technically, if you hold a party, what to do, how not to over-pour, to explain what can happen to the [host in terms of liability].”

Sullivan said that the pilot session’s attendees significantly overestimated the amount of alcohol that constituted one shot. The mixology course introduces techniques that reduce alcohol intake per drink — such as serving drinks with ice and using a pourer to regulate the amount of alcohol in a drink — and pourers were passed out to each attendee, he said.
I can understand that a trust-fund baby might not pack a shot glass along with the cardigans and the electronics, but surely there's a Salvation Army store near campus that stocks them.

At Phi Beta Cons, Nathan Harden elaborates, with career advice.
This new bartending class will be perfect preparation for the likely future jobs of Yale graduates in majors such as Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. It’s also much needed for students who have chosen Environmental Studies or the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration major.

The fact that the class is open to underage students will make it that much more effective. Students will have four whole years to master the martini before hitting the working world.
That is, if there will be any more white-collar jobs in ad agencies after four more years of hope and change.


Destination: Freedom comments on your tax dollars at work, with a little prodding from the aviation lobby.
However, the best (worst) examples of wasted energy and transportation resources are sometimes found in aviation. Not every military move needs to be via air-lift, and certainly not every business executive making a company helicopter trip into New York from a distant outlying point could really justify such extravagance..

Most notorious of all will be the annual display of hubris and status when hundreds of “1% types” arrive at the airport nearest the Super Bowl in their private jets. When we finally get a comprehensive description of “entitlements,” such folks must be included. Their opulence is subsidized by ordinary commercial aviation travelers. A little belt-tightening would be good for all of us, rich and not-so-rich alike.
Perhaps a coalition of libertarians and egalitarians might be able to impose fiscal responsibility, something along the lines of "Do we tax the waitress at the truck-stop to make the airport more convenient for corporate junkets?"  Heck, those corporations already pay for seat licenses as a condition of use of the sky-boxes at the stadium.



The last passenger trains on The North Shore Line tied up early on the morning of January 21, which was also a Monday that year, and that weekend featured some extremely cold weather.

We see the North Shore Line in action in the latter part of the 1950s.  Most of the railroad was double track, but there was never money to double the bridge over The Milwaukee Road at Sixth and Morgan.  There are southbound and northbound trolley wires.

That's the Town of Lake water tower in the distance.  It still decorates the grounds of a Milwaukee water treatment plant.  The North Shore Line initially built pile trestles between Austin Avenue and Harrison Avenue in Milwaukee, later filling them in.  That's why much of the embankment along the east side of Sixth Street is still in place.  It's just not cost-effective to reclaim the fill for use elsewhere, for example in futilely widening the interstates to make the traffic jams go away.

Past the Town of Lake, the railroad cut through a ridge.

An Electroliner ducks under Norwich Street.  There was a local car stop here once.

These Silverliners are passing under Wisconsin Electric's Lakeside Belt Line.  On maps of the era, this railroad was still The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Transit Company, and loads of coal were still being received from The Milwaukee Road at Powerton, five blocks to the west.  The spur track in the foreground might have been useful for recessing a line car or other work equipment, but it had no obvious industrial purpose.

An Electroliner at Ryan Road, early in 1959, with snow on the ground.

Racine, as viewed from an Electroliner, 28 September 1957.

The same place, in September 1958, with a northbound conventional train arriving.

Kenosha, 29 September 1957.  This must have been an outing.  The next northbound train will be an Electroliner.

The Electroliners generally met somewhere between North Chicago Junction and Waukegan Edison Court.

Illinois Railway Museum, August 2006.

The North Shore Line quit business at a time when railway preservation efforts were active, and a lot of the rolling stock and more than a little of its tradition survived abandonment.  That will be material for a subsequent post.


Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts calls out the stereotyping that any call to authenticity entails.
I have no natural rhythm, no criminal record and can correctly pronounce the word “ask.” I don’t curse nearly as much as I ought to. Oh, and I went and married my baby mama.

Obviously, my blackness is on life support.

Many of us have been taught that it is demeaning and delimiting when someone presumes to say who you are, how you will behave, what you think, what you like, and how intelligent you are, from the color of your skin. We have been taught that such behavior abridges the other person’s individuality.

But apparently, that’s only when white people do it to black people. When black people do it to black people, it’s called assessing your blackness, making sure you aren’t some “cornball brother.”

How enlightening to learn that. It is even more enlightening to discover that we have such easy-peasy rubrics to go by. You can’t be black if you are a Republican? That means Colin Powell isn’t black. Neither, if published reports are to be believed, are rappers LL Cool J and 50 Cent. Who’d have thought?

And if you can’t be black and have a white significant other . . . wow. There goes — what? half? 90 percent? — of all the brothers in the NBA.

Poor Frederick Douglass has a double whammy. He was a Republican and had a white wife. Who’d have thought this former slave, one of the towering heroes of African-American history, wasn’t black enough?
Keep that in mind as we celebrate Rev. King's birthday, and the civil rights cause.



The Powers That Be in London didn't want those smelly railways near The City.
To avoid disruption in the core, a Royal Commission on Railway Termini, appointed in 1846, drew a box around central London and decreed no line shall enter the cordon. [This box resembles the congestion charging zone adopted in the early 21st century, which aimed to reduce cars, rather than prohibit trains]. The result was railway terminals locating on the edges of the central region. London, like many cities, has no unified railway station, as the North, South, East, and West lines have no common intersection. The problem is worse though in London, as even lines from the north run by different organizations would be build adjacent (St. Pancras/ Kings Cross), or nearly adjacent (Euston), stations without convenient interchange. Later (between 1858-60) some penetrations of the box were permitted by Parliament, but most of the City of London (the original walled city where the financial district still lies) remained untouched. While preventing railways from severing the most densely populated part of the city, which would have been expensive for both the railways and the city, it created a need for a connection between the termini to allow transfers. The Metropolitan Railway, a private concern like all railways of the era but with some support from the Corporation of the City of London, was approved by Parliament in 1854. It aimed to connect the northern termini (Paddington, Euston, St. Pancras, King's Cross, and Farringdon, which was later added to the plan) to ease movement for through travelers.
The first bits of the Metropolitan Railway commenced operation in January 1863, with steam power. A commemorative steam train returned to Metropolitan metals of the weekend.
Transport for London, the new name for London Transport, ran a VIP special and followed up with public trips at a fare of $240 per person or 70 times the regular fare for a trip across London. More steam trains are planned to run Jan. 20, and those runs are already sold out. These have been the first steam trips on the London Underground in 50 years.

To get steam trains back onto the Underground network required much preparation. Metropolitan Railways 0-4-4T No. 1 was restored to working order at a cost of around $400,000; coaches, a mixture of authentic ex-Metropolitan Railways wooden bodied cars dating back to 1897 and normally in use on the Bluebell Steam Railway in Southern England, had to be brought in; and, the London Transport Museum restored its Metropolitan Railway Jubilee Carriage No. 353, a four-wheeled first class carriage built in 1892. Wales’ Ffestiniog Railway, which has extensive experience in working with wood coaches that are more than 100 years old, performed coach restoration work.
January 20, 1963 is significant in Cold Spring Shops ferroequinology, as it is the last full day of operation of the North Shore Line.  The London Underground festivities appealed to the people.  Going Underground was not able to use a press pass valid for a ride from Kensington Olympia, but did get pictures from Earl's Court.  It would make sense that the early rapid transit stations would resemble conventional railway stations, as Sprague and Yerkes and Belmont developed the electric subway concept in New York.

Go to Going Underground for additional coverage of the steam excursion.


Authorities in suburban Detroit had a thousand Section 8 housing vouchers to issue, and several thousand people queued for them.
Reports say the amount [c.q.] of people who showed up looking for assistance heavily outweighed the number of vouchers to be distributed. As the night was fading away and the sun started to shine, the crowd continued to grow as more and more people arrived. According to reports, only 1,000 vouchers were available for distribution. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people were in attendance.

When it came time for the vouchers to be distributed, police said there was a mad rush for the door, with people jockeying for position to be the first inside the building. Officers tried to control the crowd, but couldn’t. Fearing the situation was more than they could handle, event organizers shut the entire thing down and turned off the lights inside the building. Witnesses say that’s when things really got ugly.

Star Lee, of Romulus, described the scene as complete chaos.

“People just don’t have order to themselves, you know what I mean? People were fighting and throwing chairs, and that’s just not necessary. We were asked to just come and line up and, you know, make things simple. They shut it down before it even got started and it’s just sad because some people really needed this help, this assistance,” she said.
To the World Socialist Web Site, it's additional evidence that President Obama is no socialist.
Taylor is a multi-ethnic working class area that has been devastated by the collapse of the Michigan economy. The huge turnout points to widespread social distress, extending far beyond the city of Detroit. It exposes the lie advanced by the Obama administration that there is an economic recovery taking place. In fact millions of people are living in destitution or near destitution.
The material condition of the masses is worsening, and it's time to heighten the contradictions.
Extreme levels of social distress throughout the US will only intensify over the coming year, as the political establishment in Washington, led by the Obama administration, focuses its attention on slashing health care, pensions and all social programs that benefit the working class.
To the Blaze, particularly in the comments section, it's more evidence of Moocher Nation doing what the Welfare State has conditioned it to do.


Another Packer exit from the playoffs at the divisional round means tough evaluation times in the head office.
Under defensive coordinator Dom Capers the past four seasons, the defense has at times been unable to stop the run, unable to communicate consistently in the secondary and unable to stand up to hot quarterbacks. Its saving grace other times has been creating turnovers and getting sacks, but too often the season has ended on a disappointing note.

As the week goes on, [head coach Mike] McCarthy is going to have to decide whether Capers has lost his touch and no longer has the ability to keep up with the NFL's increasingly diverse offensive attacks or is a victim of Thompson's draft-only philosophy and neglect in acquiring the bruising linebackers and safeties it takes to compete with the physical offenses of NFC contenders San Francisco and the New York Giants.

As players are wont to do, the Packers defend Capers and his staff to reporters, refusing publicly to turn on the same guys who helped them win Super Bowl rings. But it was also clear after the loss what players were speaking of when they said they were out-schemed and underprepared against 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the read-option plays he used en route to breaking the NFL record for quarterback rushing yards with 181.

"Coach Capers is a great coach," said linebacker Desmond Bishop, who spent the season on injured reserve. "You can't have a great defense and win the Super Bowl one year and then be kicked out the next year, or a year or two later. I don't think it should work like that at all.
Football is a rough game, and high-value free agents can be injured, as can draft choices.
But before McCarthy decides a coaching change is necessary, [general manager Ted] Thompson needs to examine his philosophy for stocking the roster with talent. Thompson devoted his first six draft choices last spring to defensive players, but did not sign a veteran free agent and made Capers and his staff make do this season with a bunch of rookies.

It's hard to have a successful defense when the roster is continually turning over and isn't allowed to mature. Whether that has been the case with the Packers is up for debate.

But what isn't is that Thompson has leaned away from acquiring big, physical players like Bishop in favor of more agile players like A.J. Hawk, Morgan Burnett, Brad Jones, D.J. Smith, M.D. Jennings, Sam Shields, Frank Zombo, Casey Hayward and Mike Daniels.

First-round pick Nick Perry was more in the Bishop style of physical player but was tentative in his transition from college end to pro outside linebacker and was lost for the season halfway through with a wrist injury. Rookie inside linebacker Terrell Manning might be able to add some pop to the lineup next year, but after battling a training camp illness the best he could do was contribute on special teams.

Safety Jerron McMillian, another physical type played like a rookie and the jury is still out on his future. His height will always be an issue. Cornerback Davon House looked like he might add some muscle to the defense, but he dislocated his shoulder in training camp and was not the same the rest of the season.
A little history: one way of writing the job description of a Packer head coach is "The next Vince Lombardi will develop the potential in the first-round draft choices of the past seven years."  It's harder to do that with a regular playoff team that picks late in the first round (although there might be some room for dealing this year).  I would note, though, particularly for any Chicago readers who might want to gloat, that improving the league's 32nd-best defense to the eleventh-best defense through the draft, and the team concept of next-man-in, is encouraging, and something to militate against an immediate regime change.  Experience, conditioning, spring free to recover.


The International Railway Journal analyzes improvements to The Alton Route.
While local officials are cautious about labelling the enhanced railway "higher speed," further infrastructure improvements which would double-track the entire route and provide sufficient capacity for additional services by 2030 are planned. At present only the 59.5km Chicago - Joliet section which is owned by CN, and 30.6km of the 46.7km section between Godfrey and East St Louis, which is owned by UP and Kansas City Southern, is double-track.

The Illinois Department for Transportation (Idot) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) signed and issued a Tier 1 Environmental Inspection Statement for the high-speed project in November, following the completion of a $US 1.25m federally-funded study commissioned in 2010.

The study paves the way for future funding applications by outlining four build alternatives for the improved line which will provide 177km/h operation on longer sections of the corridor as well as increase frequency to eight passenger services per day. Journey times will be between 3h 51min and 4h 10min, and patronage is expected to increase to 1.7 million passengers, or 2.7% of the estimated 62.2 million trips on the corridor by 2030.

The study notes that the improvements are essential for a reliable passenger service in the long-term due to the construction of a new intermodal terminal at Joliet by UP which will increase freight traffic on the line from five trains per day at present to up to 22 within the next 10 years. However, the study rejected increasing line speeds to 200km/h "due to the magnitude of improvements that would be required to support trains travelling at that speed." Ridership was also not predicted to increase sufficiently compared with the 177km/h option to support the extra costs and environmental impacts.
The article, written for a European readership, does not explain some of the complexities of U.S. track safety standards, and a Briton familiar with 125 mph diesel passenger trains coexisting with 100 mph diesel container trains on Brunel's Billiard Table is likely to cringe.  The good news, though, is that 110 mph Amtrak trains can coexist with 70 mph (or, if Union Pacific wants to, 80 mph) intermodal trains on the Alton Route, and intermodal trains are time-sensitive enough that they're unlikely to get out of course so badly as to completely disrupt the passenger train workings.  The other point to keep in mind is that passenger trains, particularly the thousand-passenger bilevel workings possible with the new cars and locomotives on order, require additional miles of braking and accelerating distances, and it's unlikely that the headways on the Alton Route are going to tighten in the same way they have on the Northeast Corridor, with the Acela Express leaving on the hour, and the regional train on the half-hour.

It's good news all the same, and I hope the correspondents for International Railway Journal had occasion to marvel at our unit coal, ethanol, grain, and potato trains, and at the stack trains.


Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds's latest USA Today column looks more closely at the ups and downs of the federal deficit.  Start with a chart.

Note that receipts started heading downward before George W. Bush assumed the presidency, but the gap started narrowing despite tax cuts and war.  Here's Mr Reynolds's interpretation.
In 2003, when we invaded Iraq (one of those "two wars on the credit card" that Obama likes to blame for the debt), and when we passed the Bush tax cuts (the other thing Obama likes to blame for the debt) revenue actually started to climb. The revenue and spending lines start to converge, and, as they head up to 2006 it actually looks as if the two might cross, with revenue outpacing spending.

Even the New York Times noticed, spotting unexpected increases in revenue in 2005, and in 2006 noting that a "surprising" increase in tax revenues was closing the budget gap. The heady possibility of surpluses was in the air. But -- look at the graph again -- everything changes in 2007.

What happened in 2007? The financial crisis hadn't struck yet. But we did elect a new Democratic Congress, with Democrats controlling both houses for the first time in over a decade. The trend immediately reversed, and became much worse with President Obama's election in 2008 and inauguration in 2009. (In fact, despite talk of "wars on the credit card," we could save a lot of money by cutting defense spending back to where it was in 2007.)

So does that mean that the ballooning debt is all Obama's fault? No. Most of those spending bills got Republican votes, too. But it does mean that, as Politico notes, Obama now owns the 60% increase in the debt that has occurred on his watch, and can no longer credibly blame Bush (under whom plenty of Democrats voted for spending bills).
Those Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and a President Bush burdened with his compassionate conservatism and beset with criticism over the wars against terrorism and the recovery from Katrina and Rita, well might have put in places fiscal policies and spending programs that rendered the economy weaker in the face of bursting financial bubbles.  There might be some productive research in progress on that link, or not.


Sycamore is literally flyover country, as it is directly under a westbound departure route for aeroplanes enroute San Francisco.  It's also a good location for an ordering office of convenience, and the Chicago area Regional Transportation Authority isn't pleased.
The Regional Transportation Authority alleges United Aviation Fuels Corp., a subsidy of United Airlines, has operated a "sham" office in Sycamore since 2001 after reaching an agreement to pay the town more than $300,000 a year – a fraction of what it would have owed in sales taxes in Chicago and Cook County.

"The only reason that United Fuels has an office in Sycamore is to attempt to create a sham tax situs (location) for fuel sales in a lower taxing jurisdiction," reads a draft of the lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press.

United officials say they have not seen the lawsuit, but that the Sycamore operation is legal.
You'd think Illinois officials would have caught on to the effects of their taxes on transportation equipment and supplies long ago. It is no accident that The Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha locomotives first hit home rails at Sturtevant, giving the Chicago and North Western a division of the freight it would not get had those locomotives been handed from The New York Central in Chicago.  The Electroliners also had a longer ride, reaching North Shore Line rails in Wisconsin.

But Illinois officials would rather go after tax-evasion schemes, as long as the legalities are cheap enough.
The RTA alleges that American Airlines is engaged in a similar "sham" business out of an office it rents in Sycamore's City Hall. But Matyas said American was not included in the lawsuit because the airline remains in bankruptcy, and that suing American would require litigating the case both in federal bankruptcy court in New York and in Cook County Circuit Court, where the RTA plans to file its suit against United. He added that the RTA does plan to pursue legal action against American at some point.
Chicago officials seem more interested in scoring political points than in considering the incentives their high taxes provide, even to other jurisdictions in the state.
The lawsuit is potentially embarrassing for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who earlier this year called United's decision to move its corporate headquarters to Chicago "great news for all Chicagoans."

When told of the lawsuit, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said: "The City has been supportive of efforts in Springfield to ensure corporations pay their fair share, but we have not seen this specific lawsuit and therefore cannot comment on it."

According to the RTA, the total sales tax rate in Sycamore is 9.5 percent, compared to 8 percent in Chicago. But the RTA contends the airlines are getting an even better deal: The two companies have entered 25-year agreements that call for Sycamore to "kick back" most of its share of the sales tax on jet fuel — as much as $14 million a year — in exchange for payments of at least $300,000 a year from each airline.
It's better political theater for Chicago's politicians to push the populist "fair share" stuff, but outlying communities are enticing business away with more favorable tax treatment of business transactions.


Ringling Barnum seek a trainmaster.
Ever want to run a circus train? You may have a chance, since Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, is seeking a trainmaster for its circus train operations. Ringling Bros. operates two circus trains that travel the country, and is the largest such operation remaining in the U.S.
My experience with a smaller operation probably isn't sufficient training for the big gig.

If you do have the background, here is the job description.  Not to count rivets, but I think the successful applicant requires a Single Car Brake Test Certificate.  Sounds like a good job for a veteran with experience moving military equipment by rail.  With the First of May approaching, there are opportunities for other trades and professions on the circus.



Michael Barone considers the placement of hinges in history.
In working on my forthcoming book on American migrations, internal and immigrant, it occurred to me that you could do this using the American-sounding interval of 76 years, just a few years more than the biblical lifespan of three score and ten.

It was 76 years from Washington's First Inaugural in 1789 to Lincoln's Second Inaugural in 1865. It was 76 years from the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 to the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Going backward, it was 76 years from the First Inaugural in 1789 to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which settled one of the British-French colonial wars. And going 76 years back from Utrecht takes you to 1637, when the Virginia and Massachusetts Bay colonies were just getting organized.

As for our times, we are now 71 years away from Pearl Harbor. The current 76-year interval ends in December 2017.

Each of these 76-year periods can be depicted as a distinct unit.
Without the generational constellations, the pattern, and the obsolescence of an existing social order still shows.
The original arrangements in each 76-year period became unworkable and unraveled toward its end. Eighteenth-century Americans rejected the Colonial status quo and launched a revolution, then established a constitutional republic.

Nineteenth-century Americans went to war over expansion of slavery. Early-20th-century Americans grappled with the collapse of the private-sector economy in the Depression of the 1930s.

We are seeing something like this again today. The welfare state arrangements that once seemed solid are on the path to unsustainability.
That's part of it, but when a social order comes apart, public spending programs are not the only institutions to be either destroyed or championed.


Years ago, Northern Illinois University might have been proof of concept for the West Coast offense.  Ideas diffuse in football more quickly these days, with the read-option running quarterback becoming all the rage.
Dom Capers and his defensive players will be left to answer one question the entire offseason: Why couldn’t they stop a quarterback they knew would try to beat them with his feet?

The Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator couldn’t devise much of anything that worked against San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his blazing speed in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park. Capers couldn’t come up with much to slow him down.
The carping from Packer Nation is loud today. I wonder if anybody studied the tape of Florida State's defensive schemes in the Orange Bowl.  According to long-time Packer Charles Woodson, the read-option might have been something a strong mid-major team might use to beat a weak mid-major or Division II team, but at the professional level, not yet, or perhaps next season?
This trend - the read option - may stick around after Saturday.

"I think the NFL is ready for it," Woodson said. "For years, they said it couldn't be done. They said the defenses were too fast. But you see a lot of young, athletic quarterbacks coming in that can run that zone read option. The more athletic guys you bring in, the more coaches you bring in that coach it, it's hard to stop."

Count [Packer outside linebacker Erik] Walden as someone who sees Saturday night as something bigger, too. The option is a “college mentality,” Walden said. But it’s a college mentality this NFL defense could not stop.

[Niner quarterback Colin] Kaepernick, he admits, is changing the position.

“I think so,” Walden said. “Now, they’re doing the recruiting out of high school. If you have a quarterback that’s able to run and able to be in the pocket and make passes, the sky’s the limit for a guy like that.”
A few other things went wrong in that game, including two turnovers in the second quarter, and two Niner scoring drives covering 93 yards.  It was enough for one pundit to declare a new elite team in pro football.


That doesn't stop some nattering nannies from looking for ways to kill the brand.  The estate of Hostess has some going concern value, with the bread lines already finding a buyer.
Flowers Foods, Inc., which makes the Nature’s Own line of breads along with the Tastykake line of cupcakes and sweets, said it had agreed to purchase several of Hostess’ best-known brands, along with 28 bakeries and other locations.

Georgia-based Flowers said Friday that it had signed purchasing agreements to take on buy Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Merita, Home Pride and Butternut bread brands from Hostess for $360 million. The company also plans to buy the ailing bakery’s Beefsteak Bread for an additional $30 million.
A sale of Hostess cupcake and sweets product to a manufacturer of those products might run afoul of the antitrust laws, the failure of Hostess to compete on its own notwithstanding.  There are, however, other potential buyers for the treats, as well as nay-sayers.
The New York Times reported that the divisions that make the snacks have drawn attention from “scores” of bidders.

The news was greeted with glee by Twinkie fans – and groans by those who feel the preservative-laden confections have passed their prime.
Including, not surprisingly, people who see Twinkies and their kin as Threats To The Public Health.  Take responsibility for your own private health, already.  If you think a Hostess dessert makes you fat, don't buy one.

Although it has been years since I've had either a Ding Dong or a Snowball, my morale would improve if those products also remained available to children of all ages.



David Swindle calls out the perpetual adolescents of the 1960s for the consequences, irrespective of ideology, of their wishful thinking.
The answer to both a Baby Boomer Liberalism and Baby Boomer Conservatism who refuse to act on the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Some born after World War II have shed their diapers and grown up; Boomer Americanism — a movement to define and promote American values — is the phoenix rising from the ashes of a conservative movement that officially died on November 6, 2012.
That's a Pajamas Media polemic. The good news is that more serious, systematic analysis is suggesting something similar.
[Family psychologist John] Rosemond believes that the changing society of the 1960s, when old methods were challenged and often rejected, led to a breakdown in parenting.

As a result, kids today, Rosemond says, are ill-behaved, impolite, beset with emotional problems and not as happy as kids were back in the 1950s. They're a mess.

"I realized in the late '70s, early '80s that a, psychological teaching was inadequate to explain human behavior, and b, a lot of theories proposed at that time were unsupported by research," he said recently from California, where he was speaking to several parents groups.

Rosemond's solution is a return to the child-raising strategies of 50 years ago. That's not what the authors of hundreds of contemporary "how to raise your kids" books might have in mind.

"Parenting books are a tremendously lucrative enterprise for publishers because of these neuroses that have been instilled in female parents," Rosemond said. "These books continuously raise the bar for parents."

He said that tried-and-true parenting methods are the answer. Society's willingness to try something new and unproven has failed, as evidenced in what he said is the unraveling of longtime values.

"Times always change with every generation," Rosemond said. "Every generation has brought innovation into civilization. The argument that we have to change is specious. ... when we became a fully fledged postmodern progressive culture, all that changed, in the 1960s."

What went wrong? And can 21st century society turn back the clock to 1955?

"You have to separate wheat from the chaff, which we didn't do," Rosemond said. "We embraced everything. We bought into the notion that we had to completely change the way to raise our children. No culture had ever done that before. People need to hold onto proven child-rearing principles in changing times.

"What I say in the book is we are not better off. These fundamental principles work — it doesn't matter if you use a cellphone or a landline, or if you drive the latest high-tech car or a 1960 Volkswagen. These principles work."
Mr Rosemond elaborates on his arguments in his new Parent-Babble: How Parents Can Recover from Fifty Years of Bad Expert Advice.  Fifty years: about the same time that the North Shore Line went out of business, and The America That Worked came undone, and The Best And Brightest promised victory over poverty, and Communism contained in Southeast Asia, and the three major networks began stationing more reporters in Washington than in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles.  I may not live long enough to see all the damage undone, but perhaps I can chronicle the beginning of the repairs.

I'll be encouraged when I see the end of the locution "It's the twenty-first century" as if that justifies some new barbarism.


Your tax dollars at work.  Statistical inference is not as easy as it looks.
Millions of people reach for an afternoon diet soda as a pick-me-up to make it through the rest of the day. But new research suggests sodas and other sugary drinks — especially artificially sweetened ones — could be related to depression.

According to the research, which will be officially released at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in mid-March, people who drink four cans or more of soda daily are about 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression than people who don't drink soda. Coffee drinkers are about 10 percent less likely to develop depression than people who don't drink coffee.
Without a rigorous causality argument, the researchers' summation is meaningless.
The National Institutes of Health study included more than 250,000 people between the ages of 50 and 71 and studied their drink consumption during 1995 and 1996. A decade later, researchers asked whether participants had been diagnosed with depression since the year 2000.

According to researchers, "the risk appeared to be greater for people who drank diet [rather] than regular soda."
Left unsaid: whether purchasers of diet pop might have been attempting to accomplish on the cheap what a more rigorous regimen of exercise and activity would have produced, and whether the coffee drinkers might have been energizing themselves for more productive activity.  Coffee, after all, is the fuel for theorems.
"Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk," Honglei Chen, who led the study, said in a statement. "More research is needed to confirm these findings, and people with depression should continue to take depression medications prescribed by their doctors."
That final sentence is a non-sequitur. The diet pop consumption precedes the diagnosis. It's journalistic malpractice to suggest that diagnosed depressives go off their meds and cold turkey on Tab, and pre-depressives who lay off the diet pop might become just as depressed over their adipose tissue as they might be about whatever ultimately gets them diagnosed.



Amtrak's long-distance trains are underappreciated alternatives for business travelers.  Last May, I filed this impression of the Texas Eagle.
In Longview, an attorney who remarked on my back-pack (certainly not an accessory to accompany a business suit and a court date) noted that the Texas Eagle was conveniently timed for business in St. Louis. Probably competitively priced, even in the sleeper. I didn't research those fares, but what I paid for the Chicago - Longview round trip came in as less than the Chicago to Longview round trip air fare, and my parking at Elburn and Metra connection to the train is cheaper than a rental car, choose any car in the aisle or not, and a hotel, which a business trip by air would involve. Eighteen hours each way on the train, however, may be a losing proposition commercially, the availability of cell phone service and wireless internet over much of the route or not. But Longview to Little Rock or St. Louis might work for the business traveler, although the Little Rock to Longview is for former members of the military or early risers or devotees of the red-eye, and you avoid the tender mercies of the Transportation "Security" Administration for the most part. As one passenger put it, he'd like the carriers to treat passengers like a guest, not a suspect.
What I wasn't aware of at the time, but what Travel and Trains brought to my attention, is that the airlines have been cutting back on service to smaller markets, and the hub-and-spoke networks have fewer spokes and longer layovers, as Joe Sharkey of the New York Times discovered, in the dynamic Sun Belt, no less.
[T]here were no flights out of Tucson that morning that would have got me to the strangely named George Bush Intercontinental Airport before I had to be there at 3 p.m. on a Sunday.

Instead, I had to fly out the day before, book a hotel room and then spend the next day moping around the Houston airport till 3 p.m. — bored, indolent and increasingly irritated by those annoying constant security announcements threatening arrest to anyone making “inappropriate remarks or jokes concerning security.”
The pathetic, try-weakly Sunset Limited might have been a better option. Seriously.
My Houston itinerary, for example, took about 24 hours from my front door to my destination, including the night’s lodging. It cost $432.79 ($348.60 in one-way airfare and $83.29 for the airport hotel, not counting meals.) By train, the total time would have been about 25 hours on a section of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, which stops in Tucson and Houston on its long haul between Los Angeles and New Orleans. The train fare, including a private roomette with a sleeping berth, would have totaled $577, all meals included.

It’s almost 1,000 miles from Tucson to Houston, so the train-versus-plane option — though it would have worked for me on that trip — is less persuasive there than on Amtrak routes of roughly 500 miles with overnight schedules, when you’re going to be sleeping anyway.
The newspaper of record reinforces a point I've often made, about the value of intermediate stops.  Here's a short list of recommended trains for business travellers.
Richmond, Va., to Savannah, Ga., on the Silver Meteor route between New York and Miami; Charlottesville, Va., to Atlanta on the Crescent, which goes from New York to New Orleans; Eugene, Ore., to Sacramento on the Coast Starlight between Seattle and Los Angeles; and Chicago to Buffalo on the Lake Shore Limited, which goes from Chicago to New York and Boston.
I'd add Williston, N. D. and the Twin Cities in either direction, Denver to Omaha, and Pittsburgh to Chicago. The opposite direction on some of these routes doesn't always work as well for business travelling. And book your sleeper reservations early: if the boss says "I need you in Pittsburgh tomorrow", the train might already be sold out.

The good news is that some of the Cold Spring Shops wish list is beginning to pay off.
More travelers are considering trains to travel between cities in the Midwest, spurring new efforts to upgrade to higher-speed travel along Amtrak rails.

Ridership of inter-city rail on Amtrak routes in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan grew 35 percent from 2007-2012, according to Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission calculations.

In February, the rail service installed new safety systems that allow trains to reach up to 110 mph between the town of Porter in Northwest Indiana and Kalamazoo, Mich. The Chicago-to-St. Louis route began operating at 111 mph in October.

“For any reason people drive up I-94, they could travel the Wolverine,” Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak, said of the route from Chicago to Detroit that passes through Northwest Indiana and Kalamazoo. “Either for a weekend commute, family business, medical consultations at a larger hospital.

“Some are also just riding for fun or tourism.”

Increased ridership is encouraging more investment in passenger rails from states and federal governments.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is conducting a Chicago-Detroit corridor study that will determine the feasibility of building a double-track passenger mainline for the 50-mile leg between from Chicago and Porter.

Also, Amtrak is weighing plans to purchase new trains that can reach up to 125 mph to run on routes in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and California.
Some years ago, I posted a picture of a Michigan train detouring on the South Shore Line at Ogden Dunes, Indiana. (Can't locate it expeditiously, sorry.)  That might work as a replacement for the old New York Central: double track the South Shore from the west side of Michigan City to Gary, run on the South Shore to Kensington, get on the old Illinois Central passenger tracks at Kensington, and use the planned reinstallation of the Nickel Plate flyover at Grand Crossing to get into Union Station.


In the buildup to the Divisional Playoffs, sports pundits freshwater and saltwater contemplate elite playoff quarterbacks.
[Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers] owns the best career playoff passer rating (105.4) in NFL history, and his post-season winning percentage as a starter (.714) is better than [49er Joe] Montana (.696) and compares favorably to [Patriot Tom] Brady (.727) and [Giant] Eli Manning (.727).

“He’s a big-time preparation player as far as what he puts into each game, and that won’t change this week,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’ll be clutch for us like he always is.”
In the modern era, a team has to win at least two playoff games to reach the Super Bowl, which is a third win. But you have to look into the league's history to find higher winning percentages for quarterbacks.  Regular readers will know one.  The saltwater pundits identified another.


New year, same theme.  I'll have more to say about it in the coming days, but I'll let Michael J. Petrilli (via Joanne Jacobs) open the conversation.
Isn’t it possible that U.S. public schools have gone too far in the direction of accommodating the disruptors at the expense of everyone else? Been guilty of “defining deviancy down,” in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s words? As Eduwonk Andy wrote yesterday, it’s probably because charter schools are willing (and able) to enforce discipline that they are so popular with parents. That wouldn’t be true if they had to retain chronic disrupters.
Yes, there is a social waste in deeming eight-year-olds to be chronic disrupters. There is also social waste in allowing a few chronic disrupters to prevent any learning from taking place.


The new 787 Dreamliner would not be mistaken for Baldwin's attempt to pack the power of a heavy electric locomotive into a single diesel carbody.  It didn't work out, because the internal plumbing of a diesel-electric locomotive requires more care in its arrangement than the external piping of a steam locomotive.
Had it been a reliable locomotive (those early turbochargers and big cylinders posed lots of engineering problems, and Baldwin's pipefitters never figured out that joints in lubricating lines ought be kept at a distance from the wiring harness) it would have allowed economies in dieselizing many passenger trains that were a bit much for a 2000 horsepower diesel but overpowered at 4000.
Those who do not remember the past ...
Another Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan Airport aborted a scheduled takeoff after a fuel leak appeared. And the Wall Street Journal is reporting that United Airlines, inspecting its own new 787s in response to the fire, found "improperly installed wiring" near the after electronics bay.

The aft electronics bay, which stretches along the underside of the fuselage just behind the Dreamliner’s wings, is one of the 787’s vital nerve centers. It’s filled with generators, batteries, and wiring that allow the new Boeing jet to rely upon electrical power more than any aircraft ever built. For example, where cabin ventilation systems traditionally make use of thrust-draining "bleed air" piped in from the plane’s engines, the 787’s air conditioning runs on electrical power provided by generators. To save weight, many of the 787’s control surfaces are moved by electronic servos and sensors rather than heavier hydraulics.
That additional electric power comes from lithium-ion batteries, which recharge more quickly, but have a propensity to overheat under quick-charging conditions.  And some airlines might be taking a page out of Union Pacific's manual.  Ferroequinologists will recall that Union Pacific was negotiating with Baldwin for some freight Centipedes, but either failed to place or cancelled the order after word of the type's troubles on The Pennsylvania Railroad.
While it is not unusual for a brand-new type of aircraft to encounter teething problems as it enters the world’s commercial fleet, 787 customers were already bristling that their planes were being delivered 3-1/2 years late. Some have demanded billions from Boeing in compensation for the delays, and others have cancelled their orders outright. Boeing has 800 more orders for the 787 on the books, worth about $200 billion, so you can bet the aerospace giant is rushing to try to eliminate these embarrassing incidents.
The company is putting the best possible face on the situation.
"I want to reiterate that we continue to have extreme confidence in the 787 airplane and the 787 ideas," Mike Sinnett, vice president and 787 chief project engineer, said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

Sinnett acknowledged, however, that "clearly there are issues." But none of those issues are devastating enough to make Boeing believe that the aircraft is unsafe, he said.

"Just like any new airplane program, we work through those issues … We're not satisfied until our reliability and performance is 100%," he said.
We wish Boeing well. We also note that the Centipede was originally a genset locomotive with modular power plants, ideas that could not be brought to fruition for another sixty years.  Composite hulls plus electronic control systems plus a number of other new ideas might give two generations of aircraft designers something to work with.

But the Dreamliner still loads and unloads through one door.


In the final college football polls, Northern Illinois finishes at 22 in the coaches' poll, and 24 in the press poll.  State bragging rights go to, horribile dictu, Northwestern at respectively 17 or 16.  Whatever.  I repeat last year's observation. "Monday to Friday, come here to be an Excellent Student and stick around for the steel band or the Avalon Quartet." And study your economics, or prepare for the CPA examination.



The Atlantic's Derek Thompson directs reader attention to the real College Problem.

His explanation:
That 60 percent [dropping out or never attending] imposes real costs -- not just on themselves, but also on the country -- in the form of lower wages, lower tax revenue, and more welfare services and resources demanded from government. It's fine to point out that college isn't perfect for everybody, or that, like every investment, it has varying returns, or that taking out $120,000 in debt on an art history degree from a mid-level institution is a risky bet. But the obsessive media focus on these kind of stories distracts news audiences from the bigger picture. We have an education crisis in this country that starts with tens of millions of young people who are electing to cut short their education before or just after high school. Solving that crisis starts with information about the real returns to a smart college investment, not scare-mongering.
Focus also on that 33% noted as "in college": if those individuals are being offered consolation-prize degrees from disaffected or consolation-prize faculties, or subjected to potted identity-politics curricula and student affairs re-education, or viewed as indentured servants subsequently to be milked for taxes, their situation, too, is a potential social waste.


Robert Borosage finds little to like in the end-of-year tax compromise.
We need to address inequality frontally.  That requires much more than small marginal increases in taxes for millionaires.  It includes raising the minimum wage, empowering workers to organize and bargain for a fair share of the profits they help to generate, limiting perverse CEO compensation schemes.  It includes a financial transaction tax that might curb Wall Street gambling.
Without an end to public policies that do nothing to develop human capital and life-management skills of the next generation of workers, marginal tax rates and union organizing are ineffective.


Barry Rozner of the Daily Herald offers his perspective on the Orange Bowl.
So it was with much difficulty that 35,000 Huskies fans trudged out of Sun Life Stadium Wednesday morning — at least I think it was Wednesday morning here by the time it finally ended.

It was rather sad, actually. This was a game NIU could have won had their offense done anything at all, had their offense been anything resembling their regular-season offense.

The defense did its part against Florida State, but NIU QB Jordan Lynch had a rough night, and when he's not right, there's nothing much right about the NIU offense.

Yes, FSU has a terrific defense, but there were plays to be made and NIU simply missed them.

Lynch was impatient in the run game and forced throws when he had time. On this night, and unlike the entire season, Lynch didn't look like one of the top offensive players in college football.

Being chased to the sideline late in the third quarter, his interception deep in FSU territory with NIU down a touchdown — not long after recovering an onside kick — was the pivotal moment in the game.

It was still a two-score game with 11 minutes left and again on FSU's side of the 50 when a turnover turned it into a 21-point rout.

So it was a bit of a tease, seeing NIU march down the field in the third quarter with a chance to tie it, but even Kirk Herbstreit would have to admit that the Huskies made a game of it.
That characterization seems about right, on offense the team looked to be too tightly wound, perhaps understandable for a debut appearance on a big stage.

That debut was delayed, and delayed, and delayed, as ESPN's talking heads just couldn't wrap up their coverage of the Rose Bowl, where Wisconsin's last attempt to win the game came a cropper heading toward the north end zone, echoing a Wayne Cook failure back in 1994.

The event was fun enough to watch from a local bar, at least until halftime, and with some strong drink on tap at home for the end.
The worst part after the game was seeing the faces of the NIU students who had made the long trek to Southern Florida. They knew they faced a miserably long bus ride home, a trip made longer by an ugly fourth quarter.

The announced attendance was 72,073 and it was easily half NIU fans. What made it tougher is that many who made the trip probably spent money they could have used for more important things.

But moms and dads, aunts and grandmothers, teachers and friends told these kids that this is what they should do, that this opportunity will never come again, and that one day they will want to say they went to this game.

After a frustrating defeat, and enduring taunts from the FSU faithful, there were no smiles as NIU students loaded onto their buses.

But a new dawn brought a bright, warming sun, and the reminder that this was a gift of the most unexpected kind. It was the chance of a lifetime, and with a couple hours' sleep and three cups of coffee Wednesday morning, I remembered that the journey to the Orange Bowl was a huge victory.

NIU in the Orange Bowl. Seriously? I still can't say it without laughing.

Once the students return to campus, and ponder the miracle that was this BCS bowl berth, they will smile again.
Perhaps so. Classes resume January 14. The university allowed reporters from ESPN to observe pre-game preparations in DeKalb and in Florida, and evidently the coaches did their homework.
After lunch, NIU holds its daily special teams meeting. Linebackers coach Kevin Kane begins with the punt team, followed by McNutt with the punt block/coverage team. McNutt notes that FSU has a weak side to its punt shield.

"I need one guy to run through it," he says.

[Special teams coordinator Mike] Uremovich then shows a graphic that displays special teams rankings from college football guru Phil Steele. Florida State ranks third nationally, followed by NIU at fourth. "We've gotta win here," he says.

NIU ends up winning the kicking game in the Orange Bowl, pulling off two surprise plays and making far fewer mistakes than Florida State.
We're used to those special team tricks. Florida State did not appear at all prepared for them, although unleashing a fullback to do his best swift-of-foot-was-Hiawatha impression to reverse the field position doesn't happen often in the Mid-American. The column provides additional technical information about preparations and outcomes.