Now That's a Big Plane

Airbus A380 landing at Vancouver, BC airport.  Image from Seattle PI

An A380 visits Vancouver
Airbus' new behemoth was on proving flight


VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Steven Halinen was supposed to be in school Wednesday, but instead he abandoned his college classes to brave lousy weather and watch what will soon be the world's biggest commercial jetliner make a brief stop at the Vancouver International Airport.

Dawn was breaking as the double-decker A380, which will carry about 100 more passengers than a 747 in most airline configurations, approached the airport from the north over the Strait of Georgia after a flight of 14 hours and 25 minutes across the Pacific from Sydney, Australia.

"Oh, man, just look at that thing. It's huge," said Halinen, an airplane buff and would-be pilot who hopes to make a career in aviation management after he graduates from University College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C.

The A380 left around 4:30 p.m. for its return via the North Pole to Toulouse, France, the home of Airbus.


This was the first time an A380 -- five have been built for the test flight program -- visited an international airport in North America, and the event attracted a lot of local interest, despite the weather.

The A380 has been to Canada before. Last winter, it landed in Iqaluit, the territorial capital of Nunavut, for cold-weather testing.

No word on the Straphangers.


Snow in Seattle

It's clearly Shawna's fault.

Traffic skids to a halt
By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter
PREV 1 of 4 NEXT

Drivers inching their way through the Monday evening commute cursed the snow that returned to the Puget Sound region and shut down at least two highways while essentially turning others into parking lots for several hours.

Police couldn't keep up with cars careening across freeways, chain-reaction fender benders and motorists abandoning their vehicles on suburban roads. Jackknifed and stuck semi trucks blocked some highways, turning typical 20- to 30-minute commutes into several-hour affairs.

For the first time in at least a decade, Highway 9, a major thoroughfare in Snohomish County, was shut down much of the evening because it became "a complete sheet of ice," Trooper Keith Leary said. Highway 522 also was closed off and on throughout the night north of Woodinville.


Nutcracker 02

Seattle has long been known for its acceptance of alternative life styles. I suppose it makes perfect sense that this supportive environment would extend to the city's Nutcrackers.

This one proudly stands on a downtown street corner.

Nutcracker in a skirt

The name plate explains that it is a "Sugar Plum Fairy".



Free the Queen!

To protect the citzen of Seattle from harsh storms, our intrepid warriors tracked down and captured the evil and deadly Snow Queen. As long as she stays securely sealed in the Orb of Security, our mild, temparate climate will survive and we will prosper.


Seattle Snow Queen in a Snow Globe
Seattle Snow Queen in a Snow Globe
Seattle Snow Queen in a Snow Globe


An Inconvenient Truth

There is no question climate change exists. It is already having an impact on our forests.

Trees can't keep their stars up.

Christmas tree with weak stars

With just small amounts of snow, trees are now leaning into one another.

Christmas trees leaning in the streets


Christmas trees collapsing in the streets

We must change our ways.

Please, won't someone think of our poor, street walking trees?


Nutcracker 01

Even the Grim Reaper needs a vacation during the Holidays.

Seattle and the Annual Macy's Pacific Northwest Holiday Parade proudly give us the...

Nutcracker of Death

Step 1: Heckle a famous comic. Step 2: Be on the receiving end of a racist rant. Step 3: Profit?

Any residual sympathy I may have felt for the hecklers is now gone.

They should go bankrupt paying Richards' legal fees if this gets to court.

Men seek apology from ex-'Seinfeld' star


LOS ANGELES -- Two men who say they were insulted by actor-comedian Michael Richards during his racist rant at a comedy club want a personal apology and maybe some money, one of the men and their lawyer said Friday.

Cranberry Sauce

The host in a Turkey coma means it was a successful Thanksgiving dinner.

I enjoy fresh fruit these days. In the Pacific Northwest we have some of the best, most natural ingredients available. And for Thanksgiving, that means cranberry sauce that is thick, with real berries, and not shaped like a can

But I like the stuff shaped like the can. The solid gelatinous goop screams Holiday. How do I balance these flavors of fresh fruit with my desire for the log of fruit?

I made my own.

It's easy. I got my recipe from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.

You will need:

  • 4.25 cups (about 1 pound) of fresh cranberries
  • 1.75 cups of water
  • 2.00 cups of sugar
  • Cinnamon Stick
  • Several cloves

Wash and rinse the cranberries.

Then boil them with the water until the skin bursts and the mixture is bubbling.

Run the mixture through a food mill (or food processor).

Put the resulting mixture back on the stove and add the sugar.

Add the cloves and cinnamon stick in an herb bag (remove it before canning).

Boil it until it almost gels (take a tea-spoon, scoop some out and let it drip on a plate away from the stove -- if it slides off in big gloopy drips, it's done).

Finally, pour the mixture into half pint or pint canning jars (straight sided or freezer jars), and process them in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes at a rolling boil.

Then let them set for 12 hours and you have fresh, canned cranberry sauce. When you are ready for some tasty sauce, simply scoop some out of the jar. Or just turn the jar upside down on the plate and the log will ploop out.

This recipe will make 4 half pint jars:

Or 2 one pint jars:

Or 3 half pint jars and half of a one pint jar:

Well preserved sauce (except the half jar) should keep for up to 12 months so you can relive the joys or horrors of Thanksgiving in the middle of May. And, while it's great with a spoon, I'm told it should also be great with butter and toast.

Open and serve up a cylinder of cranberry sauce, and now the Holidays can begin.


Michael Richards (Kramer) on Letterman

I started this as a comment on Jon's Michael Richards post, but then I sort of got carried away.

Richards' apology was the most awkward and unusual moment I've seen on TV this year. It was raw and unrehearsed.

He obviously felt terrible about his racist rant and took responsibility, but I don't think he quite got it. I'm not sure referring to "afro-americans" was the best strategy, and the section where he talked about Katrina was just bizarre.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but even in his apology, he still appeared to be homogenizing the African-American population, as though it were one single entity he offended, with a single set of concerns and priorities.

The key problem with his rant - and why everyone is still talking about it -- has nothing to do with him spilling hate from stage. IT was because he used "THE N WORD" and offended people. If he was just derisive when he tore into the hecklers, this never would have made news.

I think he's sincere; I think he knows he did a bad thing. I think he honestly wants forgiveness. And I think he knows he's wrong but doesn't know why.

And I'm sure that whole apology had something to do with Jerry Seinfeld calling him up earlier that day and saying something like, "You'd better come on Letterman tonight and apologize because I will NOT have you screwing up the release of the 7th season of Seinfeld on DVD this week."


This Just Seems Like a Really Bad Idea

Look, no signs: 'Naked roads' are safer, Europeans believe
Drivers appear to behave better without the clutter


IPSWICH, England -- Tear down the traffic lights, remove the road markings and sell off the signs: Less is definitely more when it comes to traffic management, some European engineers believe.

They say drivers tend to proceed more cautiously on roads that are stripped of all but the most essential markings -- and that helps cut the number of accidents in congested areas.



A Wall of Books Part 04: Powell's

Powell's Books Image from Wikipedia.org

I'm in Portland, OR for a couple days, and that means a trip to Powell's is on the agenda. I've mentioned Powell's before. From their website:

From humble storefront beginnings in 1971 on a derelict corner of northwest Portland, Powell's Books has grown into one of the world's great bookstores, with seven locations in the Portland metropolitan area, and one of the book world's most successful dot-coms (www.powells.com), serving customers worldwide.

Powell's is significant enough to merit its own Wikipedia entry.

Powell's Books is a chain of bookstores in the Portland metropolitan area with origins in Chicago, Illinois. Powell's headquarters location, Powell's City of Books, is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the United States[verification needed].

Powell's City of Books is located on the edge of downtown and the Pearl District, occupying a full city block between NW 10th and 11th Avenues and Burnside and Couch Streets. It is open 365 days a year, and contains over 77,000 ft² of floor space.

The inventory for its retail and online sales is over four million new, used, rare, and out-of-print books.[1]; since 2005 it has also offered DVDs, with an inventory of over 40,000, available online only. At its retail stores, it follows the somewhat unusual practice of shelving new and used books side-by-side. It buys thousands of used books a day in order to keep its shelves well-stocked.

Powell's employees even have their own union.

But enough of that. Between my GF and I, we spent more than $200. But what you are really wondering is, "What did he buy?"

  • 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus -- Charles C. Mann
  • The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime -- Jasper Fforde
  • Anansi Boys -- Neil Gaiman
  • The System of the World (Baroque Cycle)-- Neal Stephenson
  • The Best American Travel Writing -- 2006
  • A Scanner Darkly -- Philip K. Dick
  • The Millionaire Next Door -- Thomas J. Stanley
  • Count Zero -- William Gibson
  • The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip K. Dick


A Bolex?

I'm not sure what I find stranger -- the brevity, the lack of pictures, or the fact that is made the online edition of the paper at all.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Need a cool business-card holder?

It's a box ... no, it's a Rolodex ... no, wait, it's a bolex!

When it's inverted, Josef Ziesler's design transforms from a mild-mannered maple box into super business-card holder. The accordion shape can even hold pens and pencils.

The Accordion Card/Pen Holder is $35 from the Museum of Modern Art, 800-447-6662; moma.org. (Frances Somers)

The Flight Home

Bose Noise Reduction HEadphones

  1. Plug in head phones
  2. Turn on notebook
  3. Launch Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode through TiVo To Go.
  4. Discover corrupted audio on the show.
  5. Make sure headphones are plugged into the notebook right.
  6. Raise volume
  7. Hear corrupted audio on the show.
  8. Try another episode
  9. Hear corrupted audio on the show.
  10. Check software settings.
  11. Hear corrupted audio on the show.
  12. Check detailed software settings.
  13. Fail to understand detailed software settings.
  14. Try changing random things that might be related to sound.
  15. Hear corrupted audio on the show.
  16. Uninstall new Codecs.
  17. Hear corrupted audio on the show.
  18. Reset notebook to setting three weeks old when the damn thing worked.
  19. Hear corrupted audio on the show.
  20. Decide machine must be broken.
  21. Hear corrupted audio on the show.
  22. Give up.
  23. Decide to write a book review.
  24. Discover book is in the overhead blocked by tons of carry on baggage because I didn't think I'd need it.
  25. Check to see if corrupted audio file went to Confession to redeem itself. No dice.
  26. Hear corrupted audio on the show.
  27. Realize I have another notebook I can try. Fire up other notebook.
  28. Discover none of my USB flash drives are big enough to move the TV files from the broken notebook to the good one.
  29. Give up completely and plug headphones into iPod.
  30. Hear corrupted audio on the iPod.
  31. Silently scream "What the hell?!" so I won't be asked to step outside somewhere over the mountains.
  32. Rip the headphones off my head
  33. Accidentally push the cable plug the rest of the way into the headphones.
  34. Hear perfect audio on the iPod.
  35. Try Law & Order: Criminal Intent again.
  36. Hear perfect audio on the show.
  37. Undo earlier "repairs"
  38. Sit back and enjoy the first 5 minutes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.



Ladies and Gentlemen, that tone means the Captain as turned on the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign for our descent into Seattle. Please turn off and stow all personal electronics at this time.

Check to make sure your seatback and tray table is in the full upright and locked position. Make sure your carryons are stowed in either the overhead compartment or completely underneath the seat in front of you. Make sure your seatbelt is fastened low and tight across your waist.

Flight Attendants will be coming through the cabin one final time to collect all remaining service items regardless of their contents.

We'll be on the ground shortly.

39. Seethe


Shatner-Palooza: Howie Who?

In light of NBC's shocking success with "Deal or No Deal" (a show for those who find Wheel of Fortune too taxing on the brain cells) ABC is rolling out "Show Me the Money" starring everyone's favorite celebrity William Shatner.

Attempting to share the stage with him are 13 stripp -- I mean dancers. The hold scrolls that reveal dollar amounts when a contestant yells "Show Me the Money"

Shatner doesn't ask them "Is that your final answer?" Instead he asks, "Do you want to lock in your answer?" Contestants have to answer challenging questions such as:

Who makes chocolate kisses?
What show featured the Soup Nazi?
What sport is featured in the movie No Holds Barred?

The first contestant on the show is a guy who makes Boy George look like Al Bundy, NTTAWWT.

He comes up on stage with his "Murse" or Man Purse. Shatner asks him what he has in it. He has lip balm and his good luck Shania Twain ticket. The rest of it is empty -- leaving plenty of room for prize money.

To begin the game, Shatner says, " I don't know that this will interest you, but we have 13 beautiful dancers..."

They are the Million Dollar dancers. The music comes on, and the dancers dance. Of course we get to see Shatner cut loose as well.

Really, most of the show seems to be an excuse for Shatner to dance. It's almost like he's Ellen's long lost grandfather.

The phrase that will pop up on T-Shirts in a few weeks? "Ladies -- Let's Dance"

How can you not love a show where William Shatner says, "I want you to visualize Paul Rubens."

ABC has the first 12 minutes posted on their site. Check it out or wait until the show premieres on 2006-11-22.


Now I Believe OJ is Innocent

OJ Simpson picture

O.J. Simpson to discuss killings

"O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes," the network said in a statement. "In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade."

The interview will air days before Simpson's new book, "If I Did It," goes on sale Nov. 30. The book, published by Regan, "hypothetically describes how the murders would have been committed."

In a video clip on the network's Web site, an off-screen interviewer says to Simpson, "You wrote 'I have never seen so much blood in my life.'"

Really? I didn't know you coul Nudge-Nudge-Wink-Wink homicide.


A Message From Corporate

TO: All Employees
From: System Support

RE: Outlook Web Access is unavailable

Outlook Web Access (OWA) has not been accessible today and is still unavailable. You can access this web site ONLY through VPN. We apologize for any inconvenience and will send out another email when more information is available.

Thank you,
Systems Support


If you can read this email, you do not need it.
If you can't read this email, this is the reason you can't read it. We'll email you to let you know when you can read your email again.


Book Review 08: What is data?

The deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He’s got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit had sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books.

Page 1

Pokemon first made news in the US not for it’s addictive and silly characters, but because in 1997 it hospitalized hundreds of Japanese children. A scene filled the screen with flashes of light and induced seizures around the country. The phenomena is described as Photo Sensitive Seizures and inspired new TV regulations around the world.

The idea that seemingly meaningless visual input can cause the brain to misfire plays a key role in Stephenson’s prescient novel, Snow Crash.

The book began life as a graphic novel, but eventually the author turned to the more traditional format. It’s easy to see how the book would work as a comic. Stephenson describes the action and takes us into characters’ heads in ways the seem custom made for thought bubbles and six panel pages.

Stephenson wrote the book in 1991, when the Internet was something few people had heard of. There was no web and no point and click interfaces as there are today. No one could envision the DotCom nova that exploded 5 years later. The internet was still the province of email, FTP, USENET, Gopher, Archie, Veronica, and MUDs.

In this dark and funny dystopian cyberpunk novel, Stephenson weaves a complex plot covering Sumerian creation myths, commercialization and fragmentation of American culture, the collapse of the Soviet Union, Neuro-biology, the nature of linguistics, media ownership, 3rd world refugee migration, and modern Pizza delivery.

The book is filled with big ideas, including:
  • Nature of computer viruses
  • Nature of biological viruses
  • Language Acquisition
  • Hardware vs. Software vs. Wetware
  • How homo sapiens became human beings

  • The history of creation myths and biblical stories

While filled with cool technology, ancient mythology, and enough violence and gore to make Rambo uncomfortable, Stephenson still writes it with his tongue planted firmly in his cheese. The first character we meet is a pizza delivery guy. How do we know he’s important to the story? Well, his name is Hiro Protagonist.

Hiro Protagonist
Last of the freelance hackers
Greatest sword fighter in the world
Stringer, Central Intelligence Corporation
Specializing in software-related intel
(music, movies, and microcode)

I had trouble with some of the ancient history. I probably should have been taking notes while reading it, because I kind of got lost in Hiro’s discussions with the Librarian. Fortunately, in chapter 56, Stephenson creates an expository section where he explains everything we would know if we had been paying attention. There are some elements in the book I still don’t grasp; it will take another reading or two.

A weakness of the book may be Stephenson’s hesitation. He doesn’t push his point to its logical end.

The story is about the parallels between biology and information. He treats the computer virus as though it’s different from the biological. He draws parallels between binary code and ancient ways of viewing the world. Mythical characters become programmers, but only in the metaphorical sense.

“Neurolinguistic pathways in your brain. Remember the first time you learned binary code?”
“You were forming new pathways in your brain. Deep structures. Your nerves grow new connections as you use them – the axons split and push their way between the dividing glial cells – your bioware self modifies – the software becomes part of the hardware.”

Page 126

Juanita sighs, looks tired. “There won’t be any diagnosis,” she says. “It’s a software, not a hardware, problem.”
“They’re rounding up the usual suspects. CAT scans, NMR scans, PET scans, EEGs. Everything’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with his brain – his hardware.”
“It just happens to be running the wrong program?”
“His software got poisoned.”

Page 199

But it’s almost an arbitrary delineation. Biology IS information. Taken to the next level, there is no difference between the biological and the informational. They are the same. That’s the point he’s hinting at but he doesn’t quite take us there. I don’t know if that’s intentional, or if it’s because he wrote the novel in 1991.

Since then, we’ve seen increasing convergence between technology and biology. From wireless headsets to the proliferation of portable computing to continual connections to the Internet to cutting edge limb replacement research, technology is a more integral and invisible part of our lives.

The book is not just big ideas, though. It’s also has some witty story telling. The pace is surprisingly quick. And Stephenson isn’t just focused on the technology. He brings out the emotion in his characters.

Some of the most moving sections on the story border on the cheesy and contrived, but are still a fun read. Chapter 65 tells a great story of the group camaraderie of strangers. And Fido’s story, which appears throughout the book, reminds us how being caring can pay unexpected dividends down the road.

In future entries, I may drill into some of the big issues. In the meantime, here are some topics for discussion in your next book group:
  • The Raft is analogous to the brain with its quasi-organic growth and increasingly complex ties among constituent parts
  • Biology is Data and vice versa
  • How is the Internet like the Metaverse? How is it changing?
  • What is the nature of language?
  • Gargoyles are always connected. How is that like our culture today?

If you enjoy cyberpunk realities, dystopian futures, paleo-Christianity and ancient creation myths, or sword fighting, you will find something to enjoy in Snow Crash. It’s well paced, with a reasonably tight plot, compelling characters, and unexpected laughs. Readers can appreciate it based on big ideas, or on the engaging story. And I would look forward to a movie version of it, if I wasn’t convinced Hollywood would screw it up.

The Best Line From Saturday Night Live Last Night

"In a ironic twist this week, Iraq brought regime change to the United States."


You know you're travelling a lot...

...when you are on a plane doing trip reports and you can't remember what city you just left.

(It was Hartford, CT)

Only in NY 02: Train Thief

I don't know what I like more about NYC. They fact that these storie happen, or the way the Daily News writes about them.

Train buff's latest loco-motion

His love of trains has put him back on the fast track - to jail.

Darius McCollum, the legendary transit buff who tried to steal a 60-ton Long Island Rail Road locomotive, was busted yesterday by the NYPD with all the makings for another caper: an MTA badge, an MTA-style construction helmet and how-to manuals on running trains, police said.


Great Spin, Mr. President

Congratulations to the Bush administration.

After last night's election -- the most successful election for the Democratic party since 1992, we all thought we'd be focused on the party's agenda today. The news would be interviewing winners and devoting the entire day's and evening's reports to what went wrong with the Republicans.

Instead, the Bush administration's made sure all media outlets were talking about him and his decisions. They are talking about Rumsfeld, and who Bush will replace him with, and what Bush will do in Iraq now.

Not the Democrat's new agenda. The Republican's new agenda.

Congratulations on taking the story back.

Newsweek Columnist on TSA

I don't feel like ranting about the PR Sham that is TSA today. So I'll let Anna Quindlen do it for me.

The full article is avialable at MSNBC.com

As a frowning agent tossed the stuff, I had a mental picture of terrorists seizing control of a passenger jet armed with mascara wands. Which is no sillier than most of what passes for airport security.

This is not merely an inconvenience. The whole cockeyed system has become a symbol of the shortcomings of government programs and responses. It's expensive, arbitrary and infuriating; it turns low-wage line workers into petty despots. And instead of making Americans feel safer, its sheer silliness illuminates how impotent we are in the face of terrorism. The hustle and bustle at U.S. checkpoints is window dressing, another one of those rote, unthinking exercises that are the hallmark of bureaucracies, like "Bleak House" with luggage.


By contrast, the TSA screeners are so poorly trained that this summer more than half of a group tested on recognizing explosives and other banned materials failed. And undercover federal agents have managed to get all sorts of weapons past security checkpoints—perhaps while workers were confiscating hair-care products. Meanwhile, much of what goes in the cargo hold of commercial planes hasn't been screened at all. And while there are allegedly terrorist watch lists in existence, the airlines don't get a look at them, and it's plain that the bored men and women comparing boarding passes with picture IDs aren't using them. In fact, many of them scarcely look up to see if the passenger matches the picture.

Some days I suspect that Osama bin Laden could get through the line if the name on his driver's license was the same as that on his ticket and he wasn't packing Oil of Olay.

Airport security lines should be places to check for egregious breaches, like handguns or box cutters in carry-ons, not a first—and last—line of defense.


Good Luck, Howard Dean

The polls open in just a few hours, and it looks like the Democrats are likely to win the House this year. They also have a chance to win the Senate.

Can you just imagine the last minute meetings in the upper echelons of the Democratic party right now? They haven't been in this position in a look time. They must be holed up with coffee, cigarettes, analysis and white boards brainstorming last minute strategy and trying to answer one key question:

What do we need to do to snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory?

Good luck with that, boys.

St. Louis 04: Push Poling

At the Museum of Transportation, I learned about push poling.

Sometimes in a railyard they would want to move a car that did not have an engine on the same track. They would use a pole and engine on a parallel track to push the car. It sounds frighteningly dangerous. Here's how the Museum describes the procedure:

Dimple-like sockets are often found at the lower corners of freight cars, on the ends of locomotive pilot beams and on the rear corners of tenders. These were needed for a type of switching called "poling."

The car to be moved was not on the same track as the locomotive. This could be because the track was too weak to support the engine, or it could be that if the car were pulled out, it would not have been at the desired end of the engine.

The trainman positioned one end of a push pole in the dimple-like polin socket at the corner of the car, then the opposite end was carefully aimed at another socket on a slowly approaching engine. After contact was made, the trainman got out of the area; then the engine gave the car a shove. A brakeman would frequently ride the car to operate the handbrake so the car could be kept under control. When the speed slackened, the pole would drop to the ground.

This type of switching was very dangerous and was used only as a last resort, and is not done today.

You can see the dimple for pole on this locomotive in the lower middle portion of the picture.

And here is a close up of the dimple.

locomotive push pole dimple close up

This reminds me that my job really isn't that bad.


St. Louis 03: Museum of Transportation

I had a couple spare hours in the middle of the day, so I asked the NeverLost lady where I should go. She suggested the Museum of Transportation.


It turns out St. Louis has a Museum of Transportation. I saw that and thought, "Ooh. Cool. Infrastructure. I like infrastructure."

Does that surprise anyone?

I thought it would be focused on shipping an aircraft. It actually focused on railroads and cars. That actually made more sense, since St. Louis isn't known as a Mecca for large ocean going container ships. I suppose that's my Seattle-centric attitude influencing my expectations.

Most of the museum is outdoors, and it was lightly raining. That kept most of the tourists away and meant I had those monstrous collections of steel to myself.

The scale of the locomotives is amazing. I don't even want to think about how they got these monsters to the museum.

6597 gallon railroad tanker car, Museum of Transportation

This locomotive began service in 1876 and continued hauling cars until (presumably) 1951. In Seattle, I don't often see equipment that's 130 years old, let alone large mechanical equipment.

From the Museum Placard: Marmora Boston and Albany -- 1876 4-4-0 American type passenger locomotive, #39 was christened the Marmora when it was built in 1876 at the Boston & Albany's Springfield, Mass. shops. Designed by Master Mechanic Wilson Eddy #39 was one of one hundred Eddy Clocks known for their precise running and clock like dependability and is the only surviving example. It features a link-and-oin coupler, an oil headlight and two steam cannons rather than a steam dome. Donated in 1951 by Purdue University.

This is the most unusual train I saw.

From the Museum Placard: Aerotrain Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific -- 1955 One of two experimental demonstrator Aerotrains (#2 and #3) built by GM with a new light weight construction and low center of gravity concept, powered by 1,200 hp futuristic locomotives. Initially in mainline service, they rode poorly at high speeds and had very high noise levels. Purchased by the Rock Island Railroad, they were in suburban Chicago passenger service until 1965. The locomotive and two cars were donated in 1966 by the Rock Island Railroad.

From the Museum Placard: Aerotrain Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific -- 1955 One of two experimental demonstrator Aerotrains (#2 and #3) built by GM with a new light weight construction and low center of gravity concept, powered by 1,200 hp futuristic locomotives. Initially in mainline service, they rode poorly at high speeds and had very high noise levels. Purchased by the Rock Island Railroad, they were in suburban Chicago passenger service until 1965. The locomotive and two cars were donated in 1966 by the Rock Island Railroad.

The coolest trains I saw were the snow plows.

This one is a more traditional wedge plow. It's pushed by another locomotive. Or several. It forces the snow off the tracks and to the side so freight can get through.

Museum Placard: St Louis Southwestern Maintenance of Way -- Wedge Snow Plow Made from a steam locomotive's whale back tender by removing the fuel tank and placing the plow on the water tank which was filled wiht rock to weigh it down. The plow would be coupled to one or more locomotives which would push it through the snow. Donated in 1995 by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Museum Placard:  St Louis Southwestern Maintenance of Way -- Wedge Snow Plow Made from a steam locomotive's whale back tender by removing the fuel tank and placing the plow on the water tank which was filled wiht rock to weigh it down. The plow would be coupled to one or more locomotives which would push it through the snow. Donated in 1995 by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

And here's a more modern snow plow.

From the Museum Placard: 900081 Union Pacific 1966 Designed and built by the Union Pacific Railroad in the Omaha Shop, the rotart snowplow is the heaviest ever built weighing 367,400 lbs. Its cutting wheel could throw snow far to either side of the track as it was pushed forward at four to six mph. It is not self propelled and must be pushed by 3 or 4 locomotives. Number 900081 is powered by a GM/EMD 16 cylinder 3,000 hp.turbocharged diesel engine that drives an electric generator which provides power to turn the 12' rotary blades at up to 150 rpm. A steam generator heats the cab, prevents the fuel and water pipes from freezing and can thaw our the cutting wheel if it gets stuck. The plow engineer controls both the plow and the trailing locomotives. This snowplow is 52' 2inches long, 17' high, and was last used in Green River, WY in the mid 19080s. The circular windows in the front of the plow revolve to keep them clear of snow. Sonated in 1994 by the Union Pacific Railroad.

They have small car museum as well. They tell the story of the rise of the Motel, including the Coral Court Motel.

Coral Court Motel rebuilt at Museum of Transportation

Coral Court Motel rebuilt at Museum of Transportation

And what car museum would be complete without a classic Model T?

Ford Model T at Museum of Transportation

If you like trains and appreciate cars, the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis is worth several hours. Visit early in the day, when it's rainy, and you'll have the place to yourself.


Bob Barker Movie Plans

Bob Barker Portrait

Bob Barker recently announced his upcoming retirement from The Price is Right after 35 years hosting the show, and 50 years in televsion. Bob Barker is truly a television icon and will be missed.

However, he is not completely retiring. He may do movies. But he does have words of caution for potential casting agents:

He said he'd take on a movie role if the right one came along, but filmmakers, take note: "I refuse to do nude scenes. These Hollywood producers want to capitalize on my obvious sexuality, but I don't want to be just another beautiful body."



Army fight donkeys in Iraq. No, not Democrats -- Actual donkeys

Arms-bearing donkeys intercepted

Iraqi security forces intercepted six donkeys carrying 53 anti-tank mines and an anti-tank rocket near the Iranian border in Iraq, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

The action took place in eastern Diyala province about 3 miles from the border, where the Iraqi forces had been patrolling, the U.S. military said.

Two men in the area ran away before they could be captured, and the donkeys were later let go after a coalition forces explosive experts team safety detonated the weapons.

So the Iraqui Security Forces, to whom we hope to entrust the security of Iraq if the US pulls out, can't catch donkey handlers.

So coalition forces released the donkeys after detonating the explosives. Either those were mild expolosives or pretty tough donkeys.

Pro-War Interpretation: We are clearly winning the war in Iraq. We've reduced them to fighting with donkeys.

Anti-War Intrepretation: It's time for a new approach. We're losing Americans lives everyday to people who are fighting us with donkeys.


St. Louis 02: Culinary Wonderland

Hardee's Burger

On 2006-10-26 I went Hardee's to buy breakfast of 10 people.

Like most places that are proud of their accomplishments, the store in O'Fallon, IL (15 miles outside St. Louis, MO) posted their City Search award for Best Hamburger in St Louis.

CitySearch is a dotcom company that hosts web portals for cities across the US. The residents of the area can vote for the best whatever in their town.

And in 2005, that meant the best hamburger in St. Louis was at Hardee's.

At first, I thought it was kind of silly. But then I realized how sad it is.

Sure, St. Louis is the corporate headquarters for Hardee's.

But it still means the best burger in this metropolitan area of 2.1 million people is a mass-produced fast food product. The epitome of the highest quality burger available to the people is reduced to the 3-Ring Binder of a franchise owner.

Often we hear complaints that American culture is becoming more homgenized than ever. Pretty soon the Wal*Mart-McDonalds-Starbucks-Microsoft beast will swallow the entire country and tunr it into one giant strip mall with Canada and Mexico nothing more than the parking lot wasteland of America.

The fact the Hardee's makes the best burger in St. Louis proves this is already happening.

A great burger doesn't have to be expensive. But surely there is some diner or pub in the town that makes a tastier burger -- the kind of place that would be distinctly St. Louis. The kind of place you can't copy and reproduce around the country as though you were some giant Kinkos.

A burger with the flavor of the region -- made by people whose lives are invested in success of their of business should be available someplace. The kind of burger that people put their heart into. The kind of place where the staff put their sould into the restaurant. Surely the people of St. Louis deserve that.