Archive for the ‘Roads’ Category

Random notes: December 10, 2013.

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

One bright and lovely morning in September, on the first day of school, three traffic lanes that went from the streets of Fort Lee, New Jersey, to the George Washington bridge were suddenly shut down:

Cars backed up, the town turned into a parking lot, half-hour bridge commutes stretched into four hours, buses and children were late for school, and emergency workers could not respond quickly to the day’s events, which included a missing toddler, a cardiac arrest and a car driving into a building.

The lanes were ostensibly closed for a “traffic study”:

But the workers testified that the Port Authority already collected data on how many cars traveled in each lane, so such a traffic study would have been unnecessary.
The director of the bridge, Robert Durando, testified that in 35 years at the Port Authority, he had never heard of lanes being closed down for a traffic study.

The lanes were shut down for a total of four days. The Port Authority controls the bridge, and gave the order to shut down the lanes. And the members of the Port Authority are appointed by Chris Christie.

The mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, complained in a letter in September that the lane closings were “punitive” — Mr. Christie, a Republican, was leaning heavily on Democratic mayors to endorse him for re-election so he could present himself as a presidential candidate with bipartisan appeal, but the mayor was not going along.

So now the New Jersey legislature is holding hearings, and it sounds like there’s very little paperwork documenting exactly why the Port Authority decided to hold a traffic study on one of the busiest days of the year. It also sounds like there’s a lot of…obfuscation, shall we say?

On the one hand, I want to give this the “NYT covers a Republican politician” discount. On the other hand, there seems to be no dispute that three access lanes to the busiest bridge in the United States were closed for four days, and not for emergency repairs. That to me is simply inexcusable; in a case like this, I would support individuals taking it upon themselves to reopen the “closed” lanes, as well as the liberal application of tar and feathers.

Speaking of tar and feathers, here are some excerpts from yesterday’s testimony in the Kelly Thomas trial that are designed to enrage you:

“That would not be good proper police procedure,” [John A. ] Wilson [testifying as a "use of force expert" - DB], a 26-year FBI veteran, said when asked hypothetically about a suspect being hit on the head. Such a blow “is going to cause serious bodily injuries.”

Prosecutors maintain that Thomas was struck repeatedly in the face with the front of [Jay] Cicinelli’s Taser and that the injuries contributed to his death. Audio from the night captures Cicinelli saying he hit Thomas 20 times in the face with his stun gun.

Wilson also testified that when the video captures [Manuel] Ramos putting on latex gloves and threatening to punch Thomas, it was a show of force by Ramos: “It indicates there’s going to be contact made, or blood or some body fluid may be exposed as a result of a violent contact.”

In the video, Ramos puts on the gloves and tells Thomas, “See these fists? They’re getting ready to [expletive] you up.”

Wilson said officers should have stopped hitting Thomas after he started complaining that he couldn’t breathe and a pool of blood started forming on the concrete.

Morning coverage of the Spaccia conviction:

Spaccia probably faces a sentence similar to the 10 years to 12 years in prison that her former boss, Robert Rizzo, is expected to receive, prosecutors said. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption charges in October.

I promised more coverage of the LA County Sheriff’s Department indictments, but I’d be doing it anyway. There is a lot of “Wow” going on here.

The indictments allege two assaults on inmates and three on people who visited the jail. They also include claims that deputies wrote false reports to justify using force and conducted illegal arrests and searches of jail visitors.
A sergeant who supervised deputies in the visiting area of Men’s Central Jail was accused of encouraging violence and reprimanding employees “for not using force on visitors … if the visitors had supposedly ‘disrespected’” jail deputies, according to an indictment.

Remember, these aren’t inmates (not that it would be any better if they were): these are visitors. But wait, it gets better:

In one case, prosecutors say, an Austrian consul official trying to visit an Austrian inmate was arrested and handcuffed even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.

There’s even more. A crooked jailer smuggled a cell phone in for an inmate who was an FBI informant.

After the discovery, sheriff’s officials moved the inmate — identified only as “AB” in the indictment — and changed his name. They then altered the department’s internal inmate database to falsely say he had been released, prosecutors allege. Deputies continued to isolate the inmate even after federal authorities had told sheriff’s officials that a judge had ordered the inmate’s appearance before a grand jury, the indictment states.

Can you say, “obstruction of justice”? I knew you could. But it gets even better:

Stephen Leavins, a lieutenant in the unit that handles allegations of criminal misconduct against sheriff’s employees, was accused of directing two sergeants to confront an FBI agent working on the investigation outside her home. The sergeants — Scott Craig and Maricella Long — falsely told the agent that a warrant was being prepared for her arrest, prosecutors said in court records.

They tried to intimidate an FBI agent? Does LACSD make it a practice to hire and promote deputies who are dumber than a bag of hair?

For a while now, I’ve felt like the HouChron is trying to become more like BuzzFeed; if you look at their website, there’s a huge emphasis on slideshows and listicles. I generally don’t like linking to that crap (though the slide shows of fair food are often interesting) but here’s an exception: historical photos of Bonnie and Clyde. The HouChron isn’t kidding around with the “graphic photos” warning, either; there are a couple of photos of Bonnie and Clyde after the shootout. (There’s also some nice photos of a couple of their guns, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

(Yeah, it is tied to the mini-series, which I didn’t watch, but the photos are still interesting on their own.)

Edited to add: Grammar question. “A FBI agent” or “An FBI agent”? “A FBI informant” or “An FBI informant”?

Random notes: July 15, 2013.

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Early in his career, Stephen King published several novels using the name Richard Bachman. (In 1985, after he was exposed as the real Richard Bachman, Mr. King announced that Mr. Bachman had died of “cancer of the pseudonym, a rare form of schizonomia.”)

And King continued to publish books as Bachman long past the “early” point of his career, including The Regulators and Blaze. Sorry, something about the NYT‘s phrasing here annoys me. As does this:

He then started reading the book. “I said, ‘Nobody who was in the Army and now works in civilian security could write a book as good as this,’ ” he said.

Nice bit of casual snobbery there, pal.

(This is actually the first Rowling book I want to read, though I don’t intend to pay an inflated price for a first.)

My heart goes out to any of my readers who are in LA:

Ignite 8,500 gallons of gasoline in a two-lane freeway underpass just north of downtown, and you have a prescription for another round of Carmageddon come Monday morning.

The fire erupted when a tanker truck overturned in a small tunnel connecting the northbound lanes of the 2 Freeway with the northbound lanes of the 5. Thick black smoke was seen for miles.
The intensity of the tunnel fire has so compromised the roadbed of the 5 that freeway traffic at this point would lead to greater damage, Caltrans said.

Chandler reported that rebar was exposed. “It was so hot that the concrete is now brittle,” he said. “It is like a popcorn ceiling. Crews are chipping away at it with hammers.”
The narrow confines of the tunnel, about 300 feet long and only two lanes and a shoulder wide, magnified the intensity of the blaze.

This is one of the best things I’ve read in the past few days.

And this is another of the best things I’ve read in the past few days: “A Statistical Analysis of Nerf Blasters and Darts” by Shawn O’Neil and Kate Drueen.

As seen on the road…

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

riverstyxroad

Yes, that is a real road sign.

And where does River Styx Road go to? If you guessed “River Styx“, take two gold stars and advance to the next blue square.

We would also accept “the River Styx Bridge” as a correct answer.

The Bridges of Cuyahoga County.

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Well, just one bridge, really.

I keep thinking of these as “Egyptian”, but they’re not, really: they’re Art Deco.

bridge1

bridge2

bridge3

These are a couple of the pylons, known as the “Guardians of Traffic”, at the ends of the Hope Memorial Bridge in downtown Cleveland. (AKA the “Lorain-Carnegie Bridge”.) We drove across this bridge several times, since it is the best route to the Westside Market. (“The bridge connects Lorain Avenue on Cleveland’s west side and Carnegie Avenue on the east side, terminating just short of Progressive Field.” Heh. My mother observed that everywhere we went in Cleveland, it seemed like we had to drive past Progressive Field. By the end of the trip, she was rather tired of it. In comparison, I think we drove past Browns Stadium twice, and Quicken Loans Arena once.)

The “Hope” in “Hope Memorial” is William Henry Hope, Bob Hope’s father. Mr. Hope was a stonemason who worked on the pylons when the bridge was built.

A reliable source tells me:

When the Cavs were in the playoffs, the city put Cavs sweatbands on the foreheads of the two closest to the Q, where the Cavs play.

There’s really no good place to park near the bridge and the pylons, so these photos were taken either with the iPhone camera or compact cameras, by myself and my mother, out of or through the windows of a moving rental car, while trying not to obstruct traffic. If I get a chance to go back and the weather is nice, I plan to get some better pictures with the big camera.

TMQ Watch: February 5, 2013.

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Today’s the last TMQ of the season!
Hurrah, hurrah!
No more “cosmic thoughts”!
Hurrah, hurrah!
The readers will cheer and the blogger will shout!
And we’ll all feel happy after the last TMQ of the year…

(more…)

When are we going to get to the fireworks factory?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

How about “never”? Is “never” good enough for you?

A truck laden with fireworks exploded on an elevated expressway in central China on Friday, unleashing a blast that threw vehicles 30 yards to the ground below and killing at least nine people, state news reports said.

Random notes: December 26, 2012.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

The NYT was running a little behind yesterday, and didn’t post their Charles Durning obit until later in the day. (Also, thanks to Lawrence and Guffaw for their comments yesterday.)

Likewise, the A/V Club is operating on holiday time: they did publish a nice obit for Jack Klugman, but have not gotten around to Charles Durning yet. (Edited to add: the A/V Club’s obit for Durning is up now.)

On the night after Christmas 40 years ago, two buses carved a thin line across the vast blackness of the New Mexico plains. They carried 58 young people and seven chaperones from Woodlawn Baptist Church in South Austin, the passengers still reveling in the merry holiday glow, en route to a religious retreat and skiing in the eastern New Mexico mountains.

19 people were killed when one of the buses crashed. 16 of them were teenagers. This is one of those bits of Austin history that I was previously unaware of; I commend the Statesman story (and the sidebar about how horrible the highway bridge was) to your attention.

There goes Toyko.

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Paging Andrew! Andrew to the white courtesy phone, please!

At least seven people were feared missing and several dead after about 150 concrete panels fell from the roof of a tunnel on the main highway linking Tokyo with central Japan.

Random observation.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

At least 90% of the time (if not more), when someone tells me “you shouldn’t burn bridges”, that person has just finished pouring gasoline all over the structure in question, and is now standing in the middle of the bridge flicking their Zippo.

Making the news personal.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I wouldn’t ordinarily make note of the five guys arrested for conspiring to blow up a bridge in Ohio. Terrorist plots are a dime a dozen these days, and it seems that many of them turn out to be a bunch of losers who couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery without help from undercover FBI agents.

But I’ve noted before that I have family in the Cleveland area. Some of them live in Sagamore Hills, and I’ve driven over the Ohio 82 bridge many times while visiting them.

Here’s what that bridge looks like in Google Maps satellite view:


View Larger Map

And here’s your Google Image Search results for the Ohio 82 bridge. It is a nice looking bridge, I have to admit.

Random notes: April 30, 2012.

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Beware of the leopard.

The “Three Cups of Tea” lawsuit (previously noted in this space) has been tossed.

The guardrail bore no scars from the S.U.V., for there was no impact; police investigators said the driver had lost control, and the vehicle first struck a Jersey barrier at the center median, and then veered sharply to the right, hitting a curb that propelled it directly over the guardrail.

Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Those poor people.

Random notes: April 18, 2012.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Invasive species are good eating.

Frankly, yeah, I can see eating tiger shrimp. The Asian Carp…well, it makes me think of the old joke about how to prepare carp. (Nail it to a board, prop it in front of a fire until one side turns black, turn the board over and wait until the other side turns black, then throw the fish away and eat the board.) I’m not a big chili fan, but nutria bourguignon could be interesting. And as for feral hogs, let me just say two words: feral bacon.

This one goes out to Andrew: how to replace a bridge in a weekend, instead of months.

Oh, look! Greg “Three Cups of Tea” Mortenson is being sued for fraud!

The lawsuit is asking a judge to order that everybody who bought the books be refunded. Whatever money is left over would go to a humanitarian organization selected by the plaintiffs’ attorneys and approved by the court.

Would it shock you to learn that one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs was also involved in the James Frey lawsuit?