Last month I linked a Randall O’Toole article. He calls himself “the Anti-Planner” and has standing appointments with the Cato and Heartland Institutes where he write and researches in defense of the car and traffic as the highest and best use of our transportation dollars.
Triangles: street railways
Brown=Horsecars, Green=Electric, Gray=Steam, Gas or Natural Gas, Orange=Battery, Light Blue=Compressed Air
Hollow Circles: Interurbans
Squares: Heavy Rail
Tilted Squares; Light Rail
I passed by a trash can this morning. Full to bursting, it reminded me of ownership, stewardship and care. I don’t know how long it took to get that full. but I hope someone empties it soon. How soon that happens depends on who owns it, and how important it is to them.
The trash can probably belongs to the city, but was is next to a city bus stop. The worst case would be if both the bus line and the city take responsibility for emptying trash cans. Then both will see the other as negligent, and the trash won’t get emptied until somebody starts yelling at both of them.
I hate semantics, long words and political correctness. Arguments should not be about the meanings of words, but the ideas they represent. I rarely see semantics used to clarify meaning. It is usually used to distract, confuse and wrestle the opponent down. If someone speaks plainly, I’d rather accept their words at face value than weasel my way behind the meanings of their words to sow division and defeat. If I am losing an argument, I’d rather deflect with a joke or recast my argument in the light of the new evidence. Not go off on some tangent about the correct usage of words.
Last Thanksgiving, I consumed too much. My family is a large one of four sisters and energetic, creative grandkids. SThanksgiving has become a contest to see who can plan and cook the most. My in-law in the food business excels at this. I made a couple apple pies that managed to leak and make the oven smoky.
I only iron my shirts on days I’m meeting with somebody. It makes me look better than my ordinary shambling ‘n’ shuffling appearance, and gives me time to focus on my clothes. I usually wake up when the cats demand feeding, and dress myself practically in the dark. But dealing with a hot iron demands that I pay attention in a well lit room to what I am doing, lest I burn the shirt, my hand, or the cat.
To my dismay and discovery, I find stains, rips and flaws while ironing that I do not notice while pulling clothes off the hanger n the predawn dark. This is useful, because it tells me what needs patching or dry-cleaning better than a comprehensive survey of all my clothes. I don’ t have time for that.
Walking on a trial through the woods, next to a stream, tells me things about the condition and threats to that stream that I would never get passing over a bridge at 30 MPH. The undercut tree roots, the milky water, the tiny fish.
Repairing my bike, I only see problems when I listen to the bearings and pluck the spokes. At a glance, it looks like a bike. Up close, I see how to make it a better bike. Sometimes the problems I find are puzzling, like adjusting the disc brakes. Again, on observation and reflection, the solution becomes apparent.
Lately, I have been wrestling with a chapter on history. The further I look, the more I find. The trick in writing it is to keep the revelation and surprise without becoming bogged down in the details. The rips are the important things, not the fabric.
I’m going to tell an untoward story of transportation and motherhood, which calls back to my experience in evolutionary biology, and forward to my desire to professionally encourage walking. I’d like to talk about what we got and what we lost by walking
Humans are the most upright terrestrial animal species. We are not the fastest runners on our two feet, but we are the furthest walker. Our advantage was stalking prey over long distances. This stalking was a lot easier with cooperation between several humans involved in the walking hunt. Communication and clear and complex languages probably evolved as they aided the efficacy of these hunts. Walking upright is aided by our huge butts, strong legs and heavy pelvic bones. Our arms and chest are not nearly as strong as our legs and pelvis, and we walk on our feet while every other non-primate walks on their toes.
While these physiological adaptations make us great hunters, they also make childbirth dangerous for the infant and mother. The mortality rate of humans in childbirth is much higher than for most other primates or carnivorous species. As a compromise, our infants are less developed than infants of most other species upon birth. They require more care. This is another factor that makes social humans living in large groups more fit than asocial ones living in small groups. Mothers had to stick around to raise their tiny kids if they wanted them to survive. And they needed support, the kind of support you would get from a village with a common and complex language.
I learned this week that dormant muscles really do go away. On Friday, biking for the first time in 2 weeks, I learned my quadriceps were not up to the task. Fortunately for my pride, it was early in the morning, and most of the witnesses were going the opposite direction at 35 MPH. This weekend, I broke up and assembled pallets for a gardening project. The wood they use for pallets is quite hard, and my elbow remembers that. I earnestly do not recall nailing into pine being that hard.
Four Advil and a good night’s sleep later, most aches were gone. But my elbow, the one closest to all the hammering, still hurts. There is a relationship between daily practice and condition I need to work on.
If I drove nails for a living, or biked every day, I would be in the condition I was in in college. I never wanted to swing a hammer nails for a living, though I do enjoy it. I did lift heavy things for pay for a while one summer. I was never more fit. Wiry or emaciated, even. Lifting 50 pounds of boxes in a two stack was no big deal then. I did not have a driver’s license then, so if I wanted to be 5 miles away, I gave myself 30-45 minutes and I got myself there.
The pain in my elbow yesterday was a call that I need to do more than type and mouse. But will I? Strength is made of a lot of weakness. And I have to be weak over and over again before I am strong. I’ll see in a couple of days when my elbow feels better.
Had some great conversations with transportation planners and transit geeks alike this Wednesday at the Central Maryland Regional Transit conference. One of the conversation topics was the crapulent state of federal financing of transportation in general, bur especially transit. A phrase I had not heard before was “original intent”, the Republican idea that gas tax revenues should be used for highway projects and nothing but. (I try not to pay too close attention to the machinations of government). If only it were not for transit and other “nonhighway” uses of the gas tax and other tax revenue, then surely we’d be able to fully fund all the nations highways and then some? Continue reading