Price of Gasoline Over Time

The following graph summarizes the price per gallon of 87 octane gasoline purchased in quantities of approximately 30 gallons to fuel my full-size passenger van over the period January 2006 to March 2012 (click to enlarge):

California High Speed Rail

Discussion continues three-and-a-half years after California Proposition 1A was approved by voters in most of the counties that would be served by high speed rail service.


The decision to go forward with high speed rail in California was made back in 2008 when Proposition 1A was passed by a 52.6% to 47.4% margin.  All of the discussion in the press right now is just second guessing that 2008 decision.

Regarding proceeding with the high speed rail project during the bad economy, one thing you might try is adopting a long range perspective.  Put yourself 50 years in the future.  If high speed rail is successful, ‘future you’ will appreciate that California was bold enough to move ahead during a recession when prices were low.  It’s a big “If”, and it seems really big right now.  But air travel between northern and southern California has grown steadily over the last few decades, to the point where now all three Bay Area airports are operating at such high volumes that on days when weather is bad flights start backing up.  That means we are already pretty close to maxing out.

In the face of that strong and still growing demand, it’s hard for me to imagine HSR not being successful if we can get it up and running.

“Steve,” an engineer in California who works in a field that will benefit from the public spending

map showing counties that voted Yes on Prop 1A


Here we are the greatest nation on Earth and the greatest state in the nation and we’re proposing early 20th century technology for our high speed rail project.  Japan is currently working on a magnetic levitation (maglev) high speed rail project and will have it in service long before we can build our antiquated system.

This high speed rail project must go back to the voters in California.

The original cost estimate approved by the voters, $33.6 billion, was a blatant, fraudulent lie!  The most recent estimate of $98.5 billion proves this.  The lower estimate was designed to get voter approval to start the project, after which additional costs must be paid based on the “logic” that we can’t stop part way through, no matter the ultimate cost.

The estimate of a million jobs being created is also a blatant, fraudulent lie.  One job for ten years is NOT ten jobs!  This lie too was propagated to make the project appear beneficial.

There is no Federal money!  The US Congress cut all high speed rail projects from the past and current budgets.  In fact, there is no “government money”!  It’s OUR money, your money and mine.

There is no private money!  No one with any business acumen would invest in a dead loss project that has no possibility of any return.

Florida unceremoniously dumped their high speed rail project.  I’d hate to think that Floridians are more intelligent than we Californians, but it surely looks that way.

This high speed rail project appears to be just like The Big Dig in Boston only at a much higher cost!  That project was scheduled to be completed in 1998 at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion.  The project was not completed, however, until December of 2007, at a cost of over $14.6 billion.  The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it will not be paid off until 2038.

This project can never be completed for $98.5 billion.  Only after it has been started will we be told the actual cost.  Based on the way California is currently governed and the way government in general handles large public works projects, I’d say $300 billion might cover the actual cost.

“Glenn,” a retired engineer in California

Mr. Wemmick, on Loaning Money to Friends

“Mr. Wemmick,” said I, “I want to ask your opinion. I am very desirous to serve a friend.”

Wemmick tightened his [lips] and shook his head, as if his opinion were dead against any fatal weakness of that sort.

“This friend,” I pursued, “is trying to get on in commercial life, but has no money, and finds it difficult and disheartening to make a beginning. Now I want somehow to help him to a beginning.”

“With money down?” said Wemmick, in a tone drier than any sawdust.

“With some money down,” I replied, … “with some money down, and perhaps some anticipation of my expectations.”

“Mr. Pip,” said Wemmick, “I should like just to run over with you on my fingers, if you please, the names of the various bridges up as high as Chelsea Reach. Let’s see; there’s London, one; Southwark, two; Blackfriars, three; Waterloo, four; Westminster, five; Vauxhall, six.” He had checked off each bridge in its turn, with the handle of his safe-key on the palm of his hand. “There’s as many as six, you see, to choose from.”

“I don’t understand you,” said I.

“Choose your bridge, Mr. Pip,” returned Wemmick, “and take a walk upon your bridge, and pitch your money into the Thames over the centre arch of your bridge, and you know the end of it. Serve a friend with it, and you may know the end of it too,—but it’s a less pleasant and profitable end.”

– from Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

Blackfriars Bridge, 1769 – 1869

World’s Greatest Employee

I came across this list of “essential duties” in a job posting; I wonder if they ever found this person:

QUALIFICATIONS AND COMPETENCIES: To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

1. Synthesizes complex or diverse information; collects and researches data; uses intuition and experience to complement data; designs work flows and procedures.

2. Generates creative solutions; translates concepts and information into images; uses feedback to modify designs; applies design principles; demonstrates attention to detail.

3. Identifies and resolves problems in a timely manner; gathers and analyzes information skillfully; develops alternative solutions; works well in group problem solving situations; uses reason even when dealing with emotional topics.

4. Manages difficult or emotional customer situations; responds promptly to customer needs; solicits customer feedback to improve service; responds to requests for service and assistance; meets commitments.

5. Focuses on solving conflict, not blaming; maintains confidentiality; listens to others without interrupting; keeps emotions under control; remains open to others’ ideas and tries new things.

6. Speaks clearly and persuasively in positive or negative situations; listens and gets clarification; responds well to questions; demonstrates group presentation skills; participates in meetings.

7. Writes clearly and informatively; edits work for spelling and grammar; varies writing style to meet needs; presents numerical data effectively; able to read and interpret written information.

8. Balances team and individual responsibilities; exhibits objectivity and openness to others’ views; gives and welcomes feedback; contributes to building a positive team spirit; puts success of team above own interests; able to build morale and group commitments to goals and objectives; supports everyone’s efforts to succeed.

9. Looks for ways to improve and promote quality; demonstrates accuracy and thoroughness.

10. Demonstrates knowledge of Equal Employment Opportunity policy; shows respect and sensitivity for cultural differences; educates others on the value of diversity; promotes a harassment-free environment; builds a diverse workforce.

11. Treats people with respect; keeps commitments; inspires the trust of others; works ethically and with integrity; upholds organizational values.

12. Follows policies and procedures; completes administrative tasks correctly and on time; supports organization’s goals and values; benefits organization through outside activities; supports affirmative action and respects diversity.

13. Displays willingness to make decisions; exhibits sound and accurate judgment; supports and explains reasoning for decisions; includes appropriate people in decision-making process; makes timely decisions.

14. Sets and achieves challenging goals; demonstrates persistence and overcomes obstacles; measures self against standard of excellence; takes calculated risks to accomplish goals.

15. Prioritizes and plans work activities; uses time efficiently; plans for additional resources; sets goals and objectives; organizes or schedules other people and their tasks; develops realistic action plans.

16. Approaches others in a tactful manner; reacts well under pressure; treats others with respect and consideration regardless of their status or position; accepts responsibility for own actions; follows through on commitments.

17. Demonstrates accuracy and thoroughness; looks for ways to improve and promote quality; applies feedback to improve performance; monitors own work to ensure quality.

18. Meets productivity standards; completes work in timely manner; strives to increase productivity; works quickly.

19. Observes safety and security procedures; determines appropriate action beyond guidelines; reports potentially unsafe conditions; uses equipment and materials properly.

20. Adapts to changes in the work environment; manages competing demands; changes approach or method to best fit the situation; able to deal with frequent change, delays, or unexpected events.

21. Is consistently at work and on time; ensures work responsibilities are covered when absent; arrives at meetings and appointments on time.

22. Follows instructions, responds to management direction; takes responsibility for own actions; keeps commitments; commits to long hours of work when necessary to reach goals; completes tasks on time or notifies appropriate person with an alternate plan.

23. Volunteers readily; undertakes self-development activities; seeks increased responsibilities; takes independent actions and calculated risks; looks for and takes advantage of opportunities; asks for and offers help when needed.

24. Displays original thinking and creativity; meets challenges with resourcefulness; generates suggestions for improving work; develops innovative approaches and ideas; presents ideas and information in a manner that gets others’ attention.

25. Able to read, analyze and interpret general business periodicals, professional journals, technical procedures, or governmental regulations. Able to write reports, business correspondence, and procedure manuals. Able to effectively present information and respond to questions from groups of managers, clients, customers, and the general public.

Sloan Career Cornerstone Center

The Sloan Career Cornerstone Center is an ever-expanding resource for anyone interested in exploring career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, computing, and healthcare.  Explore over 185 degree fields and find out about education requirements, salaries, networking, pre-college ideas, and career planning resources.  Browse interviews with hundreds of professionals who offer candid insight into their own diverse careers.

Got Motivation?

I think this set of three thigh MRI cross sections speaks for itself:


Mumbai was Bombay

Mumbai, known prior to 1996 as Bombay, is most populous city in India and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of about 20.5 million. Mumbai is also the richest city in India. Mumbai lies on the west coast of India and has a deep natural harbor.

What is Your Conceptual Continuity?

My question in the car yesterday was not so much which is the correct word to use, but, given that Christopher Hitchens said “may not,” was he denying permission or offering a choice.

In this alleged transcript, he uses both “can not” (can’t) and “may not” in consecutive sentences discussing the same topic.  Clearly, what he means is that we do not have permission to say the thing or that we would be wrong to say the thing; he is not offering us an option (may or may not).

HITCHENS: You can’t say of the Big Bang, which is the foundation of the natural order, that it’s a suspension of what it starts. You may not do that.   source

Apostrophe:  The Crux of the Biscuit

In the dark
Where all the fevers grow
Under the water
Where the shark bubbles blow
In the mornin’
By yer radio
Do the walls close in to suffocate ya?
You ain’t got no friends
And all the others: they hate ya
Does the life you been leadin’ gotta go?

Well, let me straighten you out
About a place I know …
(get yer shoes an’ socks on people, it’s right around the corner!)

Out through the night
An’ the whisperin’ breezes
To the place where they keep
The imaginary diseases

Out through the night
An’ the whisperin’ breezes
To the place where they keep
The imaginary diseases . . .

This has to be the disease for you
Now scientists call this disease “bromidrosis”
But us regular folks
Who might wear tennis shoes
Or an occasional python boot
Know this exquisite little inconvenience by the name of:
Stink Foot

Ya know, my python boot is too tight
I couldn’t get it off last night
A week went by, an’ now it’s July
I finally got it off
An’ my girlfriend cried
You got stink foot! Stink foot, darlin
Your stink foot puts a hurt on my nose!
Stink foot! Stink foot! I aint lyin’,
Can you rinse it off, do you suppose?

Here Fido … Fido …
Come here little puppy … bring the slippers
Arf, arf, arf!
Sick …

Well then Fido got up off the floor, and he rolled over
and he looked me straight in the eye
And you know what he said?
“Once upon a time, somebody say to me”
This is the dog talkin’ now
“What is your conceptual continuity?”
“Well I told ’em right then,” Fido said,
“It should be easy to see
“The crux of the biscuit
“is the apostrophe.”
Well you know, the man that was talking to the dog
looked at the dog, and he said,
Sort of staring in disbelief,
“You can’t say that.”
He said,
“It doesn’t, and you can’t, I won’t, and it don’t,
it hasn’t, it isn’t, it even ain’t, and it shouldn’t
it couldn’t”
He told him, “No, no, no”
I told him, “Yes, yes, yes”
I said, “I do it all the time”
(Ain’t this boogie a mess?)

The poodle bites, the poodle chews it

album cover, Apostrophe, by Frank Zappa

Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges

The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges profiles 308 institutions of higher education in the United States and 3 in Canada that demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation. The 220-page guide is the only free, comprehensive, annually-updated guide to green colleges.  A PDF of the 2011 Guide can be viewed here.

Perpendicular Grammar

When a company’s marketing department puts out junk like this, can the company’s product or service be much better?:

“This is accomplished by winning and managing work, developing and mentoring staff, focusing on continuous process improvement and to embrace the established record of excellence to stay first in the minds of our competition.”