The Atlantic’s In Focus photoblog has a three part series of the year in photos, including this shot of a volcanic eruption:
For a century "kibosh" has taxed the ingenuity of etymologists. It was prominent enough in lower-class London speech to attract the attention of Charles Dickens, who used it in 1836 in an early sketch, but little else is certain. Claims were once made that it was Yiddish, despite the absence of a plausible Yiddish source. Another hypothesis points to Irish "caidhp bhais," literally, "coif (or cap) of death," explained as headgear a judge put on when pronouncing a death sentence, or as a covering pulled over the face of a corpse when a coffin was closed. But evidence for any metaphorical use of this phrase in Irish is lacking, and "kibosh" is not recorded in English as spoken in Ireland until decades after Dickens’ use.
I hate Nickleback, but this Motown Tribute to nickelback is quite good:
New York Subway, 1973:
Las Vegas, 1972:
The LA Times has an interesting article about John Charles Ward, a guy who was an drug smuggler for 30 years. I’ve never understood why people like this, who would make $110,000 per trip from California to Pennsylvania would, keep doing it year after year. They have to be adrenaline junkies.
“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,” says Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see how you can make that claim.
- How many people died a Fukushima? 2
- How many people died at Chernobyl? 64 (so far, but the death toll could reach 4,000 according to the World Health Organization).
- How many people died near the Union Carbine plant in Bhopal India? According to Wikipedia:
The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Others estimate 3,000 died within weeks and another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases. A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.
It’s too early to know the long term effects of the disaster at Fukushima, but it doesn’t seem possible that it will be worse than Chernobyl and it surely isn’t worse than the disaster in Bhopal.
So how exactly is Fukushima the “worst industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind?
Elizabeth Kolbert explain in The New Yorker how New York overcame its horse manure problem in the late 1800s:
In the eighteen-sixties, the quickest, or at least the most popular, way to get around New York was in a horse-drawn streetcar. The horsecars, which operated on iron rails, offered a smoother ride than the horse-drawn omnibuses they replaced. (The Herald described the experience of travelling by omnibus as a form of “modern martyrdom.”) New Yorkers made some thirty-five million horsecar trips a year at the start of the decade. By 1870, that figure had tripled.
The standard horsecar, which seated twenty, was drawn by a pair of roans and ran sixteen hours a day. Each horse could work only a four-hour shift, so operating a single car required at least eight animals. Additional horses were needed if the route ran up a grade, or if the weather was hot. Horses were also employed to transport goods; as the amount of freight arriving at the city’s railroad terminals increased, so, too, did the number of horses needed to distribute it along local streets. By 1880, there were at least a hundred and fifty thousand horses living in New York, and probably a great many more. Each one relieved itself of, on average, twenty-two pounds of manure a day, meaning that the city’s production of horse droppings ran to at least forty-five thousand tons a month. George Waring, Jr., who served as the city’s Street Cleaning Commissioner, described Manhattan as stinking “with the emanations of putrefying organic matter.” Another observer wrote that the streets were “literally carpeted with a warm, brown matting . . . smelling to heaven.” In the early part of the century, farmers in the surrounding counties had been happy to pay for the city’s manure, which could be converted into rich fertilizer, but by the later part the market was so glutted that stable owners had to pay to have the stuff removed, with the result that it often accumulated in vacant lots, providing breeding grounds for flies.
The problem just kept piling up until, in the eighteen-nineties, it seemed virtually insurmountable. One commentator predicted that by 1930 horse manure would reach the level of Manhattan’s third-story windows. New York’s troubles were not New York’s alone; in 1894, the Times of London forecast that by the middle of the following century every street in the city would be buried under nine feet of manure. It was understood that flies were a transmission vector for disease, and a public-health crisis seemed imminent. When the world’s first international urban-planning conference was held, in 1898, it was dominated by discussion of the manure situation. Unable to agree upon any solutions—or to imagine cities without horses—the delegates broke up the meeting, which had been scheduled to last a week and a half, after just three days.
Then, almost overnight, the crisis passed. This was not brought about by regulation or by government policy. Instead, it was technological innovation that made the difference. With electrification and the development of the internal-combustion engine, there were new ways to move people and goods around. By 1912, autos in New York outnumbered horses, and in 1917 the city’s last horse-drawn streetcar made its final run. All the anxieties about a metropolis inundated by ordure had been misplaced.
At a Paul Simon concert, a fan yell up from the crowd that the first song she ever learned on the guitar was a Paul Simon song, so Simon called her up to the stage. This is what transpired:
You would never know it from what politicians say, but the U.S. has the best rail system in the world. It’s not the best passenger rail system, but it is by far the best freight rail system. Warren Meyer explains:
Writers like Thomas Friedman and Joel Epstein in the Huffington Post have eulogized China and its monumental spending projects. These are the same folks who, generations ago, tried disastrously to emulate Mussolini’s “forward-thinking” economic regime in the National Industrial Recovery Act. These are the same folks who wanted to emulate MITI’s management of the Japanese economy (which drove them right into a 20-year recession). These are the same folks who oohed and ahhed over the multi-billion dollar Beijing Olympics venues while ignoring the air that was un-breathable. These are the same folks who actually believed the one Cuban health clinic in Sicko actually represented the standard of care received by average citizens. To outsiders, the costs of these triumphal programs are often not visible, at least not until years or decades later when the rubes have moved on to new man crushes.
Which is this: The US rail system, unlike nearly every other system in the world, was built (mostly) by private individuals with private capital. It is operated privately, and runs without taxpayer subsidies. And, it is by far the greatest rail system in the world. It has by far the cheapest rates in the world (1/2 of China’s, 1/8 of Germany’s). But here is the real key: it is almost all freight.
As a percentage, far more freight moves in the US by rail (vs. truck) than almost any other country in the world. Europe and Japan are not even close. Specifically, about 40% of US freight moves by rail, vs. just 10% or so in Europe and less than 5% in Japan. As a result, far more of European and Japanese freight jams up the highways in trucks than in the United States. For example, the percentage of freight that hits the roads in Japan is nearly double that of the US.