Archive for the ‘aging infrastructure’ Category

Welcome, DC Commuters

February 10, 2009

Welcome DC Commuters

Rich Green of Arlington, Virginia is upset. He drives his car across the Potomac to his job in Washington, DC five days a week and there are potholes in the road.

“Most of the potholes seem to stick around for months, and they can get to be more than six inches deep,” he wrote to the Washington Post. “Who is responsible for this section of road, and why don’t they repair the potholes …?” he asked.

Mr. Green did not ask who is responsible for causing the potholes or suggest who should pay for repairs.

Others fill in these potholes lacunae in Mr. Green’s complaint:


Acqua Alta

December 3, 2008

Acqua Alta

It wasn’t quite this bad in Venice, but the high water (acqua alta) was deep these past two days, up to 5 feet, 2 inches (“1.56 meters” to natives). This was the worst flooding in the ancient island city In 22 years, endangering the city’s wealth of art and architecture, a major part of the legacy of Western Civilization.

The waters are now receding, but Venice has been flooded 50 times between 1993 and 2002 due to subsidence of the underlying soil and rising sea levels due to global warming. Projects are under way to mitigate future flood damage


McCain Two-Point Campaign

November 3, 2008

McCain Two-Point Campaign Program

[The picture says it all.]

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Big Three Bailout?

October 29, 2008

Big Three Bailout?

General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler are whining to the Treasury Department. It’s no fair! Banks, financial services companies, stock brokers, and insurance companies got bailouts. They  want bailouts, too!

Sure, Detroit’s big Three were bleeding money before the credit crisis. Having bludgeoned Congress into deferring decent fuel economy standards, they couldn’t give away their SUV gas-guzzlers when fuel costs skyrocketed. Unsold inventory and the credit crunch reduced the number of retail car dealers. The same can be said for credit furniture stores and credit jewelers; will they get bailouts?

GMAC Financial Services and Ford Motor Credit are already getting part of the Federal commercial paper bailout.


Pentagon Rebids Flying Tanker Contract

July 9, 2008

Pentagon Rebids Flying Tanker Project
Above: NotionsCapital high-mileage Aero-Tanker (artist’s concept)

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that the contract already awarded for an updated mid-air refueling aircraft will be withdrawn, and bidders will have to go through the bidding process all over again, for the third time.

The contract, which may eventually be worth $100 billion and last 20 years, had been awarded to Northrop Grumman and the European company EADS. Sore loser Boeing, American maker of previous Air Force tankers, objected, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a Congressional agency,  reviewed the bidding process and found it flawed.

The fact that this is a U.S. election year, the cancelled contract winner included a European partner, and Boeing claims it is an American company (it just happens to use lots and lots of imported parts) has absolutely nothing to do with this decision. Absolutely nothing. Nothing whatsoever. No way, no how.


Hubble Telescope Upgrade

July 6, 2008

Hubble Telescope Upgrade
Artist’s concept; not to scale.

While NASA spends most of its budget producing exciting, life-threatening spectacles in competition with Robbie Knievel, the next NASA Humans-In-Space Stunt actually has a scientifically-defensible aim: updating the Hubble Space Telescope, greatest space observatory in the history of Astronomy. 

On October 8, 2008, seven astronauts are scheduled to blast through the atmosphere in the aging, creaky, Atlantis Space Shuttle to make a service call on Hubble, 350 miles above Earth, repairing seventeen years of wear-and-tear from vibration and space dust and installing state-of-the-art instrumentation, including Wide Field Camera 3, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, and one of those newfangled digital TV converter boxes.


Space Shuttle Lands in Florida

June 17, 2008

Space Shuttle Lands in Florida

The aging space shuttle Discovery wheezed and rattled back from its mercy mission to the International Space Station on Saturday after successfully delivering a Russian-made zero-gravity toilet and French-made bidet. U.S. astronauts assumed the latter was a zero-G drinking fountain.


Triumph in Outer Space

June 5, 2008

Triumph in Outer Space

Another landmark engineering triumph for the manned space effort as a new hydraulic device was installed at the International Space Station.

To the great relief of the international crew, space station flight engineer Oleg Kononenko ended a tense situation at the orbital facility, installing new Russian equipment — exactly like the part that failed! — recently delivered by the USA’s elderly Discovery Space Shuttle. (more…)

The Biggest Sport in Town

May 28, 2008

The Biggest Sport in Town

The Council of the District of Columbia is voting again on giving waterfront property and $150 million to a private business.  The business, the D.C. United franchise of Major League Soccer, happens to make a product I enjoy: fun.  The waterfront property, Poplar Point, was criminally neglected by (of all people) the National Park Service, and needs renewal as badly as other stretches of the Anacostia River shore.

But public financing of sports facilities is always a losing propositon for taxpayers, and the $150 million subsidy would be raised by the old Shell Game.


Buddy Lanes

May 22, 2008

Buddy Lanes

This morning National Public Radio aired a story on “slugging,” informal carpools, and NotionsCapital will post about this later. First, though, a few thoughts about the highway feature that makes carpooling more attractive, High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. HOV lanes reward drivers carrying passengers (who might otherwise drive their own cars) by allowing use of the faster, less congested lanes.

The purpose of HOV lanes is reducing traffic congestion. Period. It is not saving polar bears or oil or reducing air pollution or encouraging use of hybrid and electric vehicles. Losing sight of this endangers the whole system. That is why the HOV-2 designation is either an interim measure, a cynical wink at the concept, or a sick joke. Allowing driver-only hybrids in HOV lanes, of course, is an abomination, unworthy of further consideration.