Quotulatiousness

December 22, 2017

Okay, Etobicoke drivers, now they’re just messing with your heads

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

A recently started reconstruction project of the confusing Six Points interchange will involve closing off existing access ramps and (eventually) replacing them with new ones. During construction, however, things are just insane, as this example shows:

The above map shows what the city calls its “preferred alternate route to access Bloor Street eastbound from Kipling Avenue” due to ramp closures.
Image via BlogTO.

As you can see, it involves three huge loops winding around four corners of the intersection. If the ramp weren’t closed, it would be a simple right turn from Kipling onto Bloor heading East.

“It is often said two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do,” wrote one Redditor in response to the graphic today. “In this case, seven rights make, uh, one right.”

“I don’t care what you say,” wrote another, “that ‘Alternate Route’ looks like so much fun, I might go there just to do it!”

Don’t forget your seatbelt.

December 20, 2017

Repost – Happy holiday travels!

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

H/T to Economicrot. Many many more at the link.

December 18, 2017

The Canadian | Mighty Trains

Filed under: Cancon, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Quest TV
Published on 19 Mar 2017

The Canadian is VIA Rail’s iconic passenger train, which travels between Vancouver’s Central Station and Toronto’s Union Station on a three-day, four-night journey. Mighty Trains takes the 4,466km journey, which traverses much of the country, through the Rocky Mountains, Prairies, boreal forest and lakes of Northern Ontario.

December 7, 2017

Fifty years since the end of the 20th Century

Filed under: Business, History, Railways, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In early December 1967, the New York Central finally had to give up on their famous passenger train, the 20th Century Limited between New York City and Chicago. Kevin Keefe tells the sad story:

The streamlined steam locomotive New York Central Hudson No.5344 “Commodore Vanderbilt”, as it left Chicago’s LaSalle Street station pulling the 20th Century Limited.
Photo via Wikimedia

I don’t know what I was doing on the afternoon of December 3, 1967, but I know where I should have been: on the platform of Union Station in South Bend, Ind., awaiting the passage of the last westbound edition of New York Central’s legendary 20th Century Limited. That’s right, it’s been 50 years since NYC pulled the plug on what was generally considered the “world’s most famous train.” The final runs of trains 25 and 26 were unceremonious, as depicted in various photos that ran in the March 1968 issue of Trains. But “unceremonious” doesn’t begin to do justice to the westbound edition: it arrived in Chicago’s La Salle Street Station hours late due to a freight derailment the night before in eastern Ohio. Just looking at these sad images from December 2-3, 1967, you can image how relieved NYC and its president, Al Perlman, must have been to be done with the train once and for all.

The economics that drove NYC’s decision were brutal. As author Fred Frailey reported in his terrific book Twilight of the Great Trains, the Century’s traditional patrons deserted the train. “On May 20, 1967,” wrote Frailey, “the westbound Century carried but 18 people in coach, 34 in the sleepercoach (budget sleeper) and 40 in sleeping cars; its eastbound counterpart had 31 in coach, 42 in sleepercoach and 20 in the sleepers. In other words, you could have seated almost everyone in one seating in the twin-unit dining car.”

Editor David P. Morgan understood the passenger-train economics that drove Perlman to kill the Century, but in that March ’68 issue of Trains he couldn’t suppress his disgust at NYC’s cavalier behavior for the last runs: “Such a train deserved better than the noiseless euthanasia it received. Kansas doodlebugs have been lopped off with as much ceremony.”

The most poignant images of that day are images of both trains 25 and 26 pausing alongside a wet platform at Buffalo’s Central Terminal, their two observation cars that night, Wingate Brook and Hickory Creek, headed in opposite directions to die forever.

Photos of the 20th Century Limited on the final run at the link.

November 30, 2017

“[W]henever I visit a newsroom these days, I instinctively feel unhealthy, like a 19th-century Lake Poet visiting an especially polluted part of London”

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh goes well out of his way to rub salt in the wounds of daily commuters, while basking in the glories of working from home:

When Statistics Canada puts its big brains to work on measuring the time devoted to commuting, and the various ways in which people drag their butts to work, I always read the results with the particular interest-fascination-horror of a permanent non-commuter. I am well into my second decade of working full-time, pretty much exclusively, from home. I’m dragged out of the house very occasionally for assignments and broadcast appearances, but most of what I do for a living happens a few feet from my bed.

None of it, I should specify, actually happens in bed (and relatively little of it involves actual writing). As most people who have to physically travel to a job seem to suspect, working remotely gives you a scary, even nauseating freedom to customize your working arrangements. I suppose most of us professional shut-ins find that we have to establish arbitrary rules and mini-disciplines to prevent our lives from becoming totally unstructured and unhealthy. “Bed is for sleep” is one of mine.

All of my conscious writing and research is done strictly at a desk, whether or not I happen to be wearing pants. With that said, as I get older, I do find sleep to be a more important component of my overall work process. Naps can be magical, and the ability to get around a writing difficulty by means of one is something I would immediately miss if I became a miserable corporate prisoner/drone again.

This kind of consideration deepens the psychic divide between commuters and remote workers: we have trouble understanding one another’s worlds even when we have switched between them. Commuters shudder at the thought of an amorphous life with less social contact and minimal formal barriers between work and non-work. Indeed, I think working at home does make one a little dottier (note: this is not necessarily a practical disadvantage for a newspaper columnist). I suspect it may also discourage groupthink. It definitely cuts down on pointless meetings; and whenever I visit a newsroom these days, I instinctively feel unhealthy, like a 19th-century Lake Poet visiting an especially polluted part of London.

I’ve spent more of my time working from home over the last decade than sitting in the office (and therefore also needing to drag my carcass to and from said office), and I really do understand his viewpoint. It’s one of the things I anticipate with no joy at all, as any new job I’m likely to land will probably require a daily commute. On a good day, it’s about an hour’s drive to downtown Toronto, but there aren’t enough good travel days and taking public transit literally doubles that time. Spending four hours per day to get to work and back feels very wasteful, even when I can get in some reading on the way.

November 23, 2017

Transport regression

Filed under: Economics, History, Middle East, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR linked to this article, saying “This is hands-down the most interesting article on history of technology I’ve read in a very long time. It seems the Middle East, the cradle of the wheeled cart, completely gave up on wheeled transport for 1500 years – it was displaced by, of all things, camels. Among other things, this explains the mazelike layout of old Arab cities – they’re like that because they’re optimized for walking and animal-riding, not wheeled transport.”:

When the first motor car chugged defiantly off the road and into the desert an entire epoch in world history began to pass away, the epoch of the camel. After centuries of supremacy as a transport animal, centuries that had seen it become for millions of people the romantic symbol of the entire Middle East, the stalwart camel was at last facing unbeatable competition.

Yet once before this homely drama of competition between the camel and the wheel had been played out in nearly identical fashion, only in reverse. Once, in ancient times, the Middle East teemed with carts and wagons and chariots, but they were totally driven out by the coming of the camel.

For all the discussion there has been among archeologists about why advanced societies such as those in pre-Colombian Central and South America never invented wheeled transport, there has been little notice taken of the amazing fact that Middle Eastern society wilfully abandoned the use of the wheel, one of mankind’s greatest inventions.

It did not, of course, abandon the wheel in all of its many forms. The potter’s wheel remained, and so did the huge, picturesque norias, or waterwheels of Syria. But gradually over the course of the first four or five centuries of the Christian era, and perhaps even earlier, all wheeled transport in the area, from the grandest chariot to the humblest farm wagon, passed out of existence.

As late as the 1780’s the French traveler Volney could still note, “It is remarkable that in all of Syria one does not see a single cart or wagon.” Moreover, in the Arabic and Persian languages one is hard pressed to find any vocabulary proper to either the use or construction of carts and wagons.

The most common explanation of this phenomenon is lack of, or deterioration of, roads in the Middle East, and to be sure the old Royal Road of the Persians and the whole network of Roman roads at some time fell out of repair and then passed out of use. However, roads are built for wheels and not vice versa. Their decline paralleled that of the wheel; it did not cause it.

October 28, 2017

Yorkshire Airlines

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

esoftnet
Published on 17 May 2010

The safest way to fly!! More videos at http://www.esoftnetonline.com/crazyvideos.htm

October 19, 2017

America’s third-world air traffic control system

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In City Journal, John Tierney says there’s hope for improvement, but the crony capitalists might yet manage to keep the crappy system in its current state anyway:

Members of Congress are about to face a tough choice: should they vote to replace America’s scandalously antiquated air-traffic control system with one that would be safer and cheaper, reduce the federal deficit, conserve fuel, ease congestion in the skies, and speed travel for tens of millions of airline passengers? Or should they maintain the status quo to please the lobbyists representing owners of corporate jets?

If that choice doesn’t sound difficult, then you don’t know the power that corporate jet-setters wield in Congress. They’re the consummate Washington crony capitalists: shameless enough to demand that their private flights be subsidized by the masses who fly coach, savvy enough to stymie reforms backed by Democratic and Republican administrations.

While the rest of the industrialized world has been modernizing air-traffic control, the United States remains mired in technology from the mid-twentieth century. Controllers and pilots rely on ground-based radar and radio beacons instead of GPS satellites. They communicate by voice over crowded radio channels because the federal government still hasn’t figured out how to use text messaging. The computers in control towers are so primitive that controllers track planes by passing around slips of paper.

The result: an enormous amount of time wasted by passengers, especially those traveling in the busy airspace of the Northeast. Because the system is so imprecise, planes have to be kept far apart, which limits the number of planes in the air — leaving passengers stranded at terminals listening to the dread announcements about “air traffic delays.” When they do finally take off, they’re often delayed further because the pilot must fly a zig-zag course following radio beacons instead of saving time and fuel by taking a direct route.

Surprisingly, the Canadian air traffic control system is the model to emulate:

The Trump administration is pushing Congress this month to turn over the air-traffic control system to a not-for-profit corporation supported by user fees instead of tax dollars. It would resemble Nav Canada, which has won high praise from the aviation community for modernizing Canada’s system while reducing costs. Nav Canada’s controllers use GPS technology and text messaging, as do the controllers at the corporation that has taken over the United Kingdom’s system.

October 6, 2017

Regulation and the unregulated sharing economy

Filed under: Australia, Bureaucracy, Business, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

This particular article talks about the situation in Australia, although it’s quite similar here in Canada:

Living in Australia sometimes feels like living in a bureaucrats’ version of a spaghetti western. The heroes are the brave and all-knowing public servants, while the villains are the naughty people who are too foolish to realise that government knows best.

Politicians and bureaucrats alike want to regulate first, ask questions later. It seems barely a week passes without someone trumpeting the expansion of the nanny state. And with each new crackdown, ban or tax, our freedom gets that little bit smaller.

Whereas once the government would at least go through the motions of citing things like market failure, all it takes now is for a politician to want to look tough or be seen ‘doing something’. So it is with the proposed regulation of short-term accommodation platforms like Airbnb and Stayz.

Sharing our home with someone is as old as time. Who has not stayed with a family member or friend, or the friend of a friend? The difference these days is that it is much easier. Technology allows us to stay in someone’s home nearly anywhere in the world.

The immense popularity of these platforms is simply staggering. Globally, Airbnb has just passed four million listings, more than the rooms of the top five hotel brands worldwide. Australia is particularly fertile ground for the company, with almost one in five adults having an account. The company claims Airbnb is the “most penetrated market in the world”.

For government, the platforms are confronting. With no red tape or government involvement, travellers are protected, bad apples ejected and quality maintained via hosts and guests providing reviews of each other using sophisticated technology and a trusted online marketplace. Airbnb says that, on average, a host could have a new reservation every day for over 27 years before experiencing a single bad incident. A track record like that would be the envy of any pub, hotel, motel or caravan park in the country.

The so-called sharing economy challenges the idea that people need red tape, regulations or government to keep them safe from harm. But that does not stop some from trying. Currently, the NSW Government is toying with a grab bag of Big Brother and nanny-state policies ranging from new taxes and caps, to licences, planning approval and complete bans.

No modern government has ever seen a healthy, flourishing market without feeling the need to insert itself into the process, usually justified by the need to “protect” consumers.

October 3, 2017

QotD: Generation selfie

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There was a whole section of the catalog I picked up in which the models obscured their faces with their phones by taking selfies. Unlike most models these days, who affect a look of unutterable misery (perhaps it is not an affectation, given that they are not allowed to eat and are treated like slaves), the models taking selfies looked very happy, at least in those pictures in which it was possible to discern their facial expression. Perhaps, then, it is in looking at oneself that true happiness lies, at least for some people.

Certainly, at every famous tourist site these days one sees whole troops of people taking pictures of themselves: me and the Mona Lisa, me and the Eiffel Tower, me and Big Ben, me and the Empire State Building, me and Mount Everest. It is the me that counts in these photos, of course; no one’s friends really care about Mount Everest, and even concern for the me is relative. A selfie with Mount Everest is like an alibi when one has been accused of claiming to have been there without having been there; the proof is in one’s phone, although it must be admitted that these days, with an ability to alter photos at will that would have brought joy to Stalin’s heart, anything can be arranged. I read in the memoir of a French model that, having starved mannequins to the size of minus 6, they are fattened up a little afterwards by computer at the printing stage: a remarkable testimony to mankind’s capacity to combine wickedness with stupidity.

The selfie is an example of the new social contract brought about by the social media: You pretend to be interested in me if I pretend to be interested in you. Thus, I agree to look at your selfie at Machu Picchu if you agree to look at mine at Angkor Wat. And this, after all, is as it should be, because it is a long way to go to either of those if no one believes you have been. A classic book is a book that everyone wishes he had read; a wonder of the world is a place at which everyone wishes he had been photographed.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Suit Yourselfie”, Taki’s Magazine, 2017-09-16.

August 30, 2017

James May loves airships! MORE EXTRAS – James May’s Q&A – Head Squeeze

Filed under: Germany, History, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 17 Mar 2013

You asked for it! In a previous episode of James May’s Q&A, James discussed the sad demise of the airship as a popular mode of transport. And during filming we literally couldn’t get him to stop talking about them! Clearly he loves airships and loves to talk about airships. A lot! Lucky for all you people we captured it all and can present it now as Exclusive Extended Extras on the rise and fall of airships.

Original clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug5UafJFEYc

James May’s Q&A:
With his own unique spin, James May asks and answers the oddball questions we’ve all wondered about from ‘What Exactly Is One Second?’ to ‘Is Invisibility Possible?’

August 3, 2017

QotD: Improved quality of life doesn’t always show up in GDP figures

Filed under: Business, Economics, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

We economists marvel, too, but we also wonder how free apps fit into GDP. They do have their long-run downside, as we forget how to read maps and plot routes ourselves. (Anybody out there remember how to work a slide rule? No? That’s not a loss for computation but it does mean lower average numeracy.) But in the short run they save billions of hours in wrong turns not taken and trillions of cells of stomach lining no longer eaten up by travel anxiety. Not to mention their entertainment value.

But hardly any of that very big upside shows up in GDP. In one respect, in fact, GDP goes down. I used to buy maps, including travel atlases. I’m unlikely to do that anymore. Maps purchased by consumers are a “final good or service” and thus do enter into GDP. Maps I interact with online but don’t pay for aren’t GDP. So well-being has gone up — a lot — as a result of Google Maps. But GDP may well have gone down.

In fact, apps do produce some GDP. Google sustains itself in part by selling ads, including to retailers and restaurants looking to pay for prominent mention on its map display. Its ad revenue is an intermediate input into GDP. Many of the entities buying Google ads are in the business of selling “final goods or services” and if they’re money-making, the prices of their goods have to cover the cost of their ads. So by that circuitous route the “value” of the apps does end up in GDP.

But what’s the relationship between what advertisers pay for my eyeballs and the value of the app to me? The two are not completely unrelated. The more I use the app the more I’m likely to buy the advertised products, presumably. But in practice, the probability of my buying is pretty small while my benefit from the app is pretty big. How strange that miracle apps can change our lives but not our GDP.

William Watson, “How using Google Maps on your summer road trip messes with the GDP”, Financial Post, 2017-07-18.

July 13, 2017

Words & Numbers: Do Airlines Charge Too Much?

Filed under: Business, Economics — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 12 Jul 2017

This week on Words & Numbers, James R. Harrigan and Antony Davies tackle the issue of airline pricing. Why do they charge what they do? What do those prices mean? Is it too much and are passengers being ripped off?

May 16, 2017

11 Things to see in Athens

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Mar 2017

On February i got a few days away to relax from everything. I left you with some automatic videos, so you wouldn’t be without new documentaries and i went on holiday to Athens, Greece. I wanted to share a little bit about what i saw. This video is the first video made by me. (Be good, please!)

May 1, 2017

The Canadian Pacific Railway – 1920s Across Canada by Train, All ABOARD!

Filed under: Cancon, History, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Apr 2017

Historical footage of the places and highlights of one of the greatest train journeys in the world, a trip across Canada from sea to sea on the Trans-Canada Limited, Canada’s fastest transcontinental train.

The Trans-Canada Limited was considered as one of the world’s finest trains in its time. The concept of this train was that of a de luxe ‘Hotel-on-Wheels.’ It was the world’s longest-distance all-first-class sleeper train, with the fastest time across the North American continent from one ocean to the other.

The Trans-Canada Limited was operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was inaugurated in 1919, just after World War I, and lasted until 1930.

As a result of the economic depression following the great Stock Market Crash of October 1929, it was cancelled in 1931. As with any other CPR passenger train, the equipment was the very best available, yet in June of 1929 the whole train was completely re-outfitted with 10 brand new sets of cars – each set costing in excess of one million dollars.

This early travelogue documents travel across Canada by rail, introducing major cities and places of interest. Traveling over 3,600 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific takes five days to by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The journey starts in Saint John, New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy. Highlights of the trip are: Algonquin Hotel; salmon fishing. Quebec City is the oldest city in the North America; The Chateau Frontenac Hotel towering over the St Lawrence.

Montreal is Canadian Pacific headquarters and Trans-Canada Limited. Ottawa is the capital of the nation. Toronto is the Queen City. Niagara Falls is connected to the French River and Georgian Bay. [edit: no, unless you include the Niagara River, Lake Erie, the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, and Lake Huron] Canadian Pacific steamer carries its passengers across the Great Lakes.

Winnipeg to the prairies and across the prairies through Regina and Saskatoon. Arrival at Calgary and Edmonton. Banff and Lake Louise are located in the Canadian Rockies. Through the Rockies, the train ends in Vancouver where English Bay and Stanley Park are located. The city of Victoria gives an image of England on the Pacific.

Source footage: The National Archives of Canada – https://www.canada.ca/en/library-archives.html

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