29 July 2008

Observations, on and off the roads

Yesterday, I needed to make a run up to one of Louisiana's remaining "charity hospitals" to get a literal pain in my ass (more like my thigh) treated. What passes for healthcare for the poor and working poor in this state is a disgrace. I got in at about 11 AM. I got out close to 6 PM. One reason was that in a fairly busy emergency room, there was only ONE doctor. Just one, to handle about 35-40 people with varying problems.

Part of this is culture. Since many people in this state don't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, but don't earn enough to afford or aren't offered (as a job benefit or something) a private plan, they just go to the emergency room for the most minor of ailments. It's been this way since the Dawn of Time around here (as in, since my grandparents were little children, at least). This clogs them up when moderate and major emergencies happen, as must have happened during the day during my wait.

Another part of this is less people going into medical professions. LSU runs the hospital I went to, and it seemed badly short-staffed, especially with only having one doctor in the emergency room during the day.

Cost seems to be at fault on all ends, at least from my viewpoint.

I also noticed a few things about the roads, so don't fret.
  • Business US 51 in Hammond is getting a facelift. It looks like they're redoing (or at least smoothing) the concrete surface, and they're replacing the suicide center turn lane with a raised median and "classic" turn lanes.
  • I don't think they'll ever put up gates at the railroad tracks for all the minor crossing roads in Tangipahoa Parish. Fine. But could they at least put up STOP SIGNS?! A lot of them are regulated only by yield signs, for crying out loud. As such, I predict many more "train vs. car" articles in the blog, and much more senseless death.
  • Work is proceeding on Interstate 12 near LA 21 for (unofficial and ESTIMATED) Future Exit 61. When complete, this interchange will serve two functions - it will link to a new shopping center, as well as linking in an auxiliary manner to LA 21. (They tore down a rest area and a fairly decent park for this. Assholes. Seriously. What The F*ck?)
  • Work is complete on LA 22 in Mandeville. The new configuration is two lanes westbound, a center turning lane and one eastbound lane from the shopping center with the Rouses in it westward to the Beau Chene main entrance. West of there to the Marina entrance, it's two westbound lanes and one eastbound lane.
  • The surface of Interstate 55 is horrible for taking snaps. Still, I managed to gut out the pain enough to get a few. Filled my digital camera's memory in the process. Looks like I'll need to snag a SD card. (Or get the camera working with altaria so I can offload them on the fly.)
  • Many stoplights in Mandeville were either flashing red/yellow or depowered entirely yesterday, although they seemed to be brought back on line quickly.
  • US 190 through Old Mandeville has shifted to the future eastbound lanes, as they work now on the future center and westbound lanes. I'm waiting for businesses on the north side of the highway to bitch that customers can't get to them now.
I did take a few pictures while I was out, I just need to make them a little more viewable, then I'll post them online. That'll happen either today or sometime this week.

Edit: Noted in no uncertain terms that the possible exit number for the future exit is estimated and not official. -T

24 July 2008

Just Plain Wrong: Ubuntu Edition

Normally Genuine Windows is Just Plain Wrong by itself...

...but then watch the vid! I lol'd, even though it's a year old.

I wonder if you can still do that...

21 July 2008

Old Jefferson: Passenger vehicle vs. train... again.

NOLA.com - Amtrak train hits pick-up truck in Old Jefferson

(Actually, the passenger vehicle was a van... but who cares?)

I'm sure you can guess the train that was involved... well, if you're certain, then tell me. Vegas odds have it being the "City of New Orleans" Amtrak line from Chicago, though - the same route involved with many lethal train vs. car tangles in Tangipahoa Parish over the last few years.

This time, though, you can't blame the train. Can't blame the railroad, can't even blame DOTD. The van driver decided to show just how smart he was and try to bypass a lowered railroad gate. Instead of passing the train, the train clipped him and sent the vehicle rolling for 50 feet. The van eventually settled on its roof near a gas marker.

Real intelligent, smart guy. Instead of waiting for the train, he caused an even bigger tie-up on LA 48. I hope he heard the rubberneckers cursing and laughing at him all the while. I also hope he loses his license for this act of stupidity... but you know how things are. He'll probably sue Amtrak and win instead.

Upd*te complete

Just a short upd*te... the Highways of St Tammany pages one and two are finished now (except for LA 1129, which will be added during the night).

If nothing else, you don't have to deal with me announcing the upd*ates to those two pages anymore, unless St. Tammany gets any more highway designations. Yay.

Some truckers on road too sick to work? Shock!

USA Today - Study: Ailing truckers causing fatal wrecks

After writing about the pileup in St. Louis last week involving a trucker barreling into stop-and-go traffic, I started to worry about some of the most important people on the road - those hauling freight or people long distances using trucks or buses.

Part of this can be blamed squarely on government. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency responsible for dealing with unfit truckers, hasn't acted on even one of eight recommendations that could cut down on the number of wrecks involving someone who shouldn't be behind the wheel of a rig in the first place. One would set a minimum standard for whom is "fit" to drive, another would prevent "doctor shopping" by truckers to get a "pass" medically when they shouldn't.

Now, don't confuse my thinking these would be good ideas for holding anti-trucker opinions. I know how important truckers are, and if I stayed in one place long enough, I'd get a CDL and get on the road myself. If I called for pushing out doctors who shouldn't be doctors anymore due to health problems, would I be anti-doctor? No, if anything I'd be thinking of the whole profession by wanting to phase out people who can't do the job. People with sleep conditions or blackouts really shouldn't be on the road. It's common sense, and public opinion may cause it to become yet another needless legislation of a no-brainer.

The main problem keeping unhealthy truckers on the road is pay. As it is, just keeping the truck going is consuming more and more of a trucker's pay, to the point where some are taking home very little of it. There's those damn fuel costs rearing their head again. Sadly, this combined with long tenures behind the wheel mean that those truckers who shouldn't be on the road have to stay there anyway because they can't retire or just take another job.

There's got to be another solution besides "durr... legislate common sense", but we as a people need to find it.

Lafayette: Loop and I-49 connector slow to get funding

The Daily Advertiser: Proposed road projects tied up

Funding crunches seem to be hitting everywhere these days, and Louisiana is proving to be no different. Lafayette's wanting to build a connector for I-49, an elevated freeway roughly covering the existing Evangeline Thruway route. This looks like it would be the "missing link" for the future route. There's also talk of a toll loop, which on a preliminary basis would connect I-49 near Carencro, I-10 near Scott and US 90 near Youngsville. (Personally, I think the loop would see little use as a toll road, but that's my opinion... this from someone who used to go out of the way to I-55 or I-10 to avoid Causeway tolls when gas was cheap. ...Anyway.) They think tolls will pay for the loop, but they can't find the startup money for it.

I can think of a few projects around the state that could use work first, to be honest. Still, as the price rises for everything and even state Departments of Transportation start feeling the hurt, I'm not optimistic. Until oil prices crash, I see DOTs struggling even to fund emergency maintenence, unless taxes go up drastically... and people can prove to be NIMBYs about taxes just as easily as they can about roadways or other development.

20 July 2008

Boulder, CO: Kids, don't do acid. You might catch the stupid.

KMGH-TV: 'Bridge Troll' Arrested After Confrontation With Deputy

After a long two days of working on the site, I needed some lulz. This prime example of drug-addled stupidity sure qualifies, even if it's from last Sunday. At least the idiot was being a "troll" of the classic sense instead of the Internet sense.

Witnesses told police that (Robert) Hibbs and Bradley Boville, 19, were demanding $1 from joggers and bikers who attempted to cross the bridge.

Whatever happened to "answer three questions or thou shalt not pass"?

Regardless, this is why you shouldn't touch harder drugs. Just park yourself at the gateway and stay there.

19 July 2008

Major site upd*te

Since I've been housebound, I've been working here and there on "Accueil."

The Highways of St. Tammany page has seen an upd*te, adding distance to the existing entries and new entries for US 190-X (Covington business route/Old US 190/Old LA 36), US 190-Y (Slidell business route/Old US 190), LA 16, LA 21, LA 22 (Another Old US 190), LA 25, LA 36, LA 40, LA 41, Spur LA 41 and LA 59, completing Page 1. Started on a Page 2 as well, with entries for LA 433, 434, 435, Spur 435, 437 and Spur 437. I'll be working upward from there as soon as I compile a list of 4dla routes and make graphics for them, and can be bothered to do a writeup on LA 450.

All routes are signed, of course. :P

17 July 2008

Like Slater, she loves the Linux.

You may know this, or you may not. Well, I'm here to be telling you. I'm a Linux user. Been one since 2004. Started with Redhat 9, now I'm using Xubuntu 8.04.1.

I think I've finally gotten this particular Linux install the way I like it. You see, my old desktop bit the dust last month. I got tired of doing piecemeal repairs, so I got a new (ok, used) machine to replace it. It works decent under WinXP, but I spend a lot of time logged into the Linux partition instead.

Anyway, here's a screenie.

(Warning: It's a .png file, so it may take some time for those of you on dialup to see, should you click to the fullsize. It's worth the wait, though.)

Try doing this with your Windows install without spending enough for a week of food or pirating a bunch of skinning software! Basically, here's the details that you need to Google to make yours anything like mine (assuming you use the *NIX):

XFCE theme: Symphony
GTK theme: Unity
Icon set: Black-White
XMMS skin: Glorification Reborn (Actually, it's a Winamp skin)
Wallpaper: The Birth of Europa
Font: Purisa
Terminal font: DejaVu Sans Mono

16 July 2008

I can't drive 55, either.

So, just about everybody and their mother has sounded off about the possibility of the return of the NMSL. About time I did the same, to cap off a Slow News Day.

Oh, hell no.

The situation is much different now than when "55" was enacted in the first place. Back then, there was a real and present fuel shortage. If I remember my history (seeing as I wasn't even alive back then), there were huge lines and rationing of fuel.

We're not at that point yet. The only lines are at the stations offering cheap fuel (compared to other stations nearby). There's no shortage. If anything, production's been getting bumped up. Last time, OPEC was pissed off at us. They must love us now, considering how much the sheep are willing to pay.

The last time, the government had no choice but to enact some measure to rein in the idiots wasting a scarce resource. This time, there's still plenty of fuel.

And the last time, America's automotive lineup was anchored by guzzlers. Today... well, OK, some things don't change... but people are learning. Today, cars are built with their optimum mileage being achieved at higher speeds. We're not all using the Powerglide mated to a 305 anymore, you know. Today, the varying engine/transmission/"rear end" combinations and superior aero packages offer better mileage at higher speeds.

My own car's optimum mileage was achieved at an average over 70 MPH - 35 miles to the gallon at about 3750 RPM in sixth gear. Keep in mind that it's a 20-year old 4-door hatchback with always-on 4WD and the "extra" gear for the six-speed manual added as an extra low gear. I'm sure many other motorists can say the same, many more than can say different. (About their mileage, anyway.)

No, a new National Speed Limit won't solve a damn thing. It would only be a placebo to try to divert the people from those who are really to blame... speculators. Seems like if a pin drops anywhere in the Middle East, oil rises another $2. Tropical wave forms in the Atlantic? That's another $5. Bush speaks? $0.01 a word. The market for oil was deregulated, so now the price continues to move up, severely screwing over many Americans, and these thieves laugh all the way to the bank. This kind of action only hastens our demise.

So a speed limit won't do a thing, S&DDAM, no matter how much you whine for one. It'll only screw people, no matter how many Congresspersons hop onto the bandwagon to placate their herds and cover their asses. The speculators are the real terrorists, and they need to be stopped NOW, while the damage they've done can be undone. Otherwise, prepare for Eternal Destitution. We're heading there in a handbasket, and fast. And it's getting more cramped by the day.

Truck barrels into rush hour traffic - 2 dead, 16 injured

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - 'He kept... hitting cars'

Let me get my callous, uncaring moment out of the way. LOL @ article title. Ok, now I'll act like I care about my fellow human for the rest of this writing.

I was thinking about posting this one to the newsgroups, but then I thought about S&DDAM's response...

"Give that MURDERING speeder in that missile of death the CHAIR! Heh-heh-heh. The CHAIR! Heh-heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh."

...and I decided to make it blog material only and let someone else draw the stupidity out. That and Google Groups doesn't allow for a killfile.


Without warning, a big rig plowed into stop-and-go traffic on Highway 40 (or I-64, if you prefer - I'll use the local vernacular). The driver of the truck is being questioned. Two are dead. Another 16 were injured.

The investigators aren't elaborating on a cause yet, but they don't think it was drinking or drugs. They don't think it was the ongoing roadwork on 40, either. So what was it then? Blowout? Brake failure? Did the accelerator stick? We don't know yet. There's one theory I have, though. Truckers have been hit EXTREMELY hard by fuel prices lately, so hard that some are gambling the truck holds up for a week in order to get the most from their pay. (The rest are just praying.) It wouldn't be unheard of for one to skimp on maintenance to save a buck in these trying times. (Though, that's not to say all do. I hate stereotyping.)

They also said no video was recorded, though MoDOT employees did see it happen on video. Shoddy. That could have helped to unravel the "why" in this tragedy. Instead, what's left amounts to eyewitness testimony... somewhat reliable, but it can be blown away like a road sign on a rural Louisiana highway.

Still, the trucker survived. Better to have the person who was actually driving available to question. There's a good chance they'll be able to get to the bottom of this due to that stroke of luck.

Pity the same stroke of luck worked against the two dead.

Edit: I'm labeling this under "Reckless Driving" now, since it turns out a cellphone may have been a factor. - T

15 July 2008

Indiana: Protests mar ribbon-cutting for I-69 extension

AP (via Indianapolis Star) - Protests, celebration frame I-69 work

Since, eventually (read: most likely not within my lifetime), I-69 is supposed to run through Louisiana, I've looked at the entirety of the progress needed for the route. Surprise, surprise. Anti-freeway forces have been responsible for holding it up a lot just within Indiana. Not just on the extension going on now, but on the proposed (and abandoned) in-city routing of the existing route as well. So right now it ends at a 3di. What a disgrace. (Only the ending at a 3di part, though. They could have routed it along part of the I-465 loop (as they did with I-74) to end at another 2di, I-70.)


"Police officers arrested more than a dozen protesters Monday as they blocked the entrance to an asphalt plant that will supply materials to build the 142-mile highway linking Evansville and Indianapolis. The protesters, who will be charged with trespassing and resisting arrest, had bound themselves with chains, police said."

The anti-freeway movement is alive and well in Indiana, but we all knew that, right? However, you'd think Mississippi's DOT was running this project, because at this point it is going to go through even with vehement opposition. Even with the environmental impact, a judge has said that those impacts don't constitute a violation of law. In essence, a big fat "Nothing you can do, bugger off already" to the opposition.

As a result, the project will be starting soon, and the stretch that I figured would be one of the last to get done will instead be getting off the ground very soon.

Ah, the hopelessness-inspiring inevitability of it all...

Another DOT faces troubles with projects

Denver Post - Asphalt deficit gives CDOT a bumpy ride

For those of you who may or may not know, after Katrina hit, I moved out to Colorado for a year or so. I still keep an eye on the old homestead, and this disturbs me.

I posted a few weeks ago about Mississippi getting hit with a shortage of funding, and how that may affect their future projects. Now, another DOT is getting hit, but for a different reason. Projects on I-25, among others, are being hit by an asphalt shortage.

"A shortage of liquid asphalt is occurring, in part, because oil refiners are concentrating on producing more profitable finished products from crude oil, such as diesel fuel, said Tom Peterson, executive director of the Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association.

Refiners also are processing more light crude petroleum, which produces less asphalt than heavy crude, Peterson said."

So we can blame the speculators for more than making the cost of a fillup run more than a week's food. We can also blame them as the roads collapse underneath us. Demand's still pretty damned high for gasoline and diesel, so of course something's going to get reduced. In this case, it's asphalt. As well, a special polymer CDOT requires is also in a shortage due to increased demand around the world and a disruption at two European factories that make the stuff.

In short, this is only the beginning. Some DOTs are shifting more to concrete paving because of the shortage and price of asphalt. In some cases, it's becoming more practical to use it. Soon, others may not even have a choice in the matter.

Man jumps from I-10 bridge...

NOLA.com - Man jumps from I-10 bridge to get water

...What, you thought I was leading in to a suicide? Nah. This idiot just decides to jump off a bridge on an Interstate to get water for this car. As much as the Deathmaschine's overheated on me in the past, I've never thought about jumping off of a bridge, especially the Longest Continuous Viaduct In The World. (The article failed to mention this, but at milepost 217 on I-10, that puts you near the Bonnet Carre Spillway, 3 miles west of I-310's north terminus.)

Anyway, yeah. Mix a little idiocy with a little desperation and you have a blog post. Enjoy.

Just like that...

Gah. Just after I post about how his level of idiocy has declined, he's come up with this doozy (reply after mine) of a flame, and one completely unrelated to the topic at hand as well.

I take back what I said in the last post... he's just as much of a dip as Aunt Judy... *sigh*

Rec.autos.driving idiocy on the rise

Generally, I peek in on a pair of NG's on a daily basis... sometimes more often. We all know about the constant CalBoggery in m.t.r, as evidenced by two of Comrade Yamamoto's recent blog posts (and one lulz-inspiring classic), but within r.a.d, a worse demon posts there... worse than ten CalBogs. Even worse than all the bicycle-haters there put together fifty times over.

I'm speaking of Aunt Judy of course, a.k.a. S&DDAM, a.k.a. Dumbshit. This thing makes Calbog look like a civilized person on the Internets. Out one side of its mouth, it spews garbage about the "crime" of doing more than 55mph, and it condemns everyone still living in any wreck in which a life ends, even when they're, you know, not at fault. (They must have been SPEEDING! No? Then they were DRUNK! Neither? Screw it, give them the CHAIR! The CHAIR, I say!) Out the other side of its mouth, it talks about how it fails to even routinely maintain its own vehicle, how it's proud of running an insane number of miles on a failing tire, and other trash that make it look like a hypocrite of a degree that eclipses any politician.

And what am I getting at here? There should be an OSTT for r.a.d as well, mostly centering on this piece of garbage. Where CalBog only seeks to annoy by posting incessantly but benignly, Dumbshit inflames people on purpose. It's one thing to try to ignore the car wreck, it's another when the idiot who started the wreck in the first place is also lobbing rocks at your car. Still, I think he can be ignored successfully.

Anyway, rant (and blatant advertising of Slater's blog) over. I think I'll plan a ride now...

12 July 2008

Back on the road

Seems someone dropped a bicycle off for me yesterday or Thursday night, without me knowing. Ok, I was hoping to get the Deathmaschine back on the road, but this works too. Might be able to take some new snaps soon after all, probably within the next week or so.

03 July 2008

More flames for the hometown drunk

NOLA.com - Price stopped for drunk driving in 2006, chief says

Why am I not surprised at all by this? Of course, if he's done it once, he's done it before. Now we know. He's a habitual drunk who uses his position to escape justice.

I still say the bastard needs to resign, of course. Or be arrested. I was sickened enough by Mandeville becoming a haven for idiots with seven-figure debts, but now I'm seriously pissed off. Just because you're a politician doesn't mean you can break the law. (Yes, that's supposed to be true even here in Louisiana.) Mayors are supposed to be subject to the same laws as everyone else. Instead, favors get done, while if anyone else did the same things, everyone would be clamoring to put them under the jail. Part of this is due to the fear that the big bad Mayor will make your life a living hell if you're the unfortunate cop that actually shows some backbone and does the right thing. Part of this is the good-ol'-boy network that still tries to run things around here. Either way, it all has to stop.

The Causeway officers who screwed up by letting this pass have paid for this injustice with their jobs. The Chief of the Causeway Police has resigned in disgrace. It's time to call for Price's job now. We have no need for an alcoholic with no regard for safety or the law to be in power of anything more substantial than a one-acre lot... certainly not to be in power of a town or a vehicle.

So, not only do I call here for Price's job, I'm also calling for his license.

01 July 2008

No pictures today.

The story is, I was going to go out and take some pictures today while I was out running errands. I would have caught the southern terminus of LA 21 and of LA 1077.

However, along the way, before I snapped even a single shot, I wrecked my bike and got hurt in the process. The injuries to me were relatively minor. The bike's another story, though. It would be repairable if daytime temperatures weren't so insanely hot.

So, as it is, I'm sidelined. Meh.