Monkey-brained Musings

Sunday, October 31, 2004
The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

I had intended to do a lengthy, detailed post in favor of the commuter rail proposal, responding to most of the objections raised by the critics. However, my ambition exceeded my time, and Mike Clark Madison did a great job in his column addressing most of the points.

Is the proposed Red Commuter Rail the best line or the ideal solution that we would have come up with in a perfect world? No. We live in a world of practicalities where we have to deal with the facts on the ground. There are six governing facts that have brought us to the Red Line:

1 - The voters rejected a more complex, more expensive proposal in 2000.

2 - Capital Metro already owns the rail line allowing them to put forth one of the most cost-effective rail transit proposals in the country.

3 - After the failure of the 2000 light rail proposal, Capital Metro studied several rapid transit alternatives. I served on the community advisory group for this project. It made one thing clear, there is no way to put rail along the Lamar-Guadalupe-Congress corridor, the route proposed in 2000, that will not be expensive, technically challenging, and politically divisive.

4 - Using the conservative ridership estimates required under Federal Transportation Administration criteria, Capital Metro estimates that the Red Commuter Line will carry ~17,000 riders per day by 2025. If the trains carry 200 people per hour during the peak times, the Red Line will provide 5 percent additional capacity on U.S. 183 at a cost equivalent to 2 miles of highway.

5 - If this rail referendum fails, it could be a decade or more before we get another chance. Capital Metro would likely have to fight aggressively to retain its full 1 cent sales tax authority. Michael Levy has already revealed the greedy lust among the road warriors for grabbing 1/4 cent or more of the tax authority.

6 - The referendum really comes down to choice. The proposed Red Commuter Line will provide us with a new transportation alternative. There is an expression where if the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Transportation is like that. If cars are the only way that we have to get around, roads look like the only solution to our traffic woes. Roads aren’t the only solution, though. The proposed referendum will give us a more diverse and more flexible transportation system with rail and expanded bus service, offering us more transportation alternatives.

The Red Commuter Line is a solid proposal and a good start to providing this region with a more flexible transportation system. As part of its proposal, Capital Metro has committed to studying circulator options to provide connections to the rail line in four areas: Downtown, Mueller/45th Street, Highland Mall, and Braker/Arboretum. A modern streetcar system may provide a great means of traveling within some or all of these areas or even between Downtown and Highland Mall. But, we aren’t going to get there if the proposed Red Commuter Line doesn’t pass on Tuesday.

Vote for the Capital Metro Rail Referendum. It will be at the bottom of your ballot, on the second screen, and if you vote a straight party ticket, you will also need to scroll down to vote on the referendum.


Signs I

Baylor beats Texas A&M. This augers well for Richard Morrison (Baylor alum) in his race against Tom Delay (A&M).

Signs II

Last night I was looking for the cordless phone. I pressed the locater button on the base station and heard the beeping coming from my desk. Only, I still couldn’t see the phone. Time to clean off my desk.


Thursday, October 28, 2004
In the Shadow of Deadlines

So here I am, with a deadline bearing down, the elections building to their crescendo, and with my inbox bulging with more than a hundred unread and unresponded to messages. I am sitting here grasping at ways to avoid looking into the gaping second act hole. I could fudge the deadline, but I’m not. I need to get this script done, and I am ready to have it done so that I can move onto another project. It will get done but it’s not going to be fun.

To further the procrastination, here is a meme that I picked up from Gareth:

*Wordpad or Notepad? Neither. I'm also a Mac User.

*What is your mother's father's middle name? Robertson. One more identity verification question lost to the public domain.

*How long does it take you to pee? As long as it takes.

*How did your parents meet? Bridge party (Hmm, and they wonder why I am a gamer).

*What's your favorite kind of yogurt? None really. Something with fruit if I have to answer.

*Favorite Disney movie? Bedknobs & Broomsticks, I suppose. Not something I spend a lot of bandwidth on.

*When's your favorite author's birthday? Even if I could decide on a favorite author, this would require research.

*How many cousins do you have? 3. Amazingly, we are all now here in Austin after having been scattered all of the country for the last two decades and scattered between Austin and Southeast Texas before that.

*Do you know how to use chop sticks? Of course. I was pretty good even before I went to Japan.

*Favorite kind of bread? I’ll be a loyal regionalist and go with corn bread.

*What song do you have set as your ringtone? No song.

*Pancakes or waffles? Pancakes, but I’m not particularly keen on either.

*What were you for Halloween when you were 7? The headless horseman.

*What's your favorite baseball team? (1) Yankees, (2) Giants (my cap got me some strange looks in NYC, and (3) Astros.

*Did you watch the summer olympics this year? Some. A bit of the opening ceremonies, the marathon, some other events. I followed them closely in the paper.

*What do you think a 'Mip Mep' is? An attempt to elicit a wild ass guess.

*What picture is your current wallpaper? Mac default

*What program do you use to listen to music? iTunes.

*Do you prefer carbonated or flat beverages? I favor free love of both carbonated and flat beverages.

*What's your favorite kind of accent? Central European.

*Name a country that starts with D? Denmark

*What's your opinion on Ken Jennings? I'm amazed that he is still up there. I wonder what his boss thinks.

*What's the funniest thing that happened to you at a Panda Express? Never been to a Panda Express.

*Name 3 movies that made you cry? The Royal Tennenbaums, Manon of the Springs, Mr. Holland’s Opus.

*Favorite Roald Dahl book? Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang

*What's your favorite joke? Here’s one I enjoy retelling:

Two guys were having a great day playing golf, but the women in front of them were playing slowly. One finally said, “I’m going to go ask if we can play through.”

He got within a wedge shot of the green when he turned back. “Funny thing,” he said, “that’s my mistress playing with my wife.” They continued to play for a few more holes, but the waiting just grew. Finally, the second guy said, “That’s enough, I’ll go ask them if we can play through.” He got up almost to the bunker in front of the green, before he too turned around.

When he got back to his playing partner, he remarked, “Small world, ain’t it?

*How many Oompa Loompas does it take to screw in a light bulb? According to the book, the 70s movie, or the new movie? Why don't you ask the screenwriter?

*Do you like haunted houses? Shouldn’t you have asked this after the Disneyland question?

*Favorite ride at Disneyland? Indiana Jones.

*What site hosts your e-mail? Multiple accounts.

*How many Cheetos can you fit in your mouth at one time? I am happy to not know the answer.

*Do you have any strange habits? Stranger than replying to memes?

*Do you like the smell of Sharpies? Usually no. I’m not a big huffer.

*What did you eat for dinner yesterday? Chicken soup, schnitzel, potatoes, and cole slaw.

*Do you save things or throw them away? I am a big pack rat.

*What does your favorite away message say? Any message saying that I am gone on a fabulous trip is a good message.

*What's your 14th interest? Huh?

*Move your head from left to right 20 times, then up and down 14 times. You didn’t say “Simon says.”

*What posters do you have on your walls? The walls are kind of sparse right now. I have got a reproduction print of a chinese painting of people crossing a mountain pass on horseback and a Dali print of the King of Hearts. I have a “I am a Killer D Fan” poster leaning against the wall.

*What year is your car, or the car that your parents drive? 1997.

*What do you like on your omelet? On my omelet, it’s salsa but only occasionally. In my omelet, I like many things, particularly mushrooms, cheese, spinach, and garlic.

*Describe your wallet. Worn leather. Bank cards on the right. Ids on the left. Club cards under the bank cards. Hold out 20 in back.

*Did you like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Most definitely.

*Favorite Shakespeare play? Hamlet.

*Say a word in Spanish? Dijo una palabra en Espanol

*Favorite Olympic event? Swimming.

*Flip a coin. How did it land? Heads. So are you backtracking somehow to compile statistical data on this?

*Favorite way to express amusement over the web? I am laughing so hard I can barely type.

And all that made me feel: Calmer, amused.

Soundtrack: All Things Considered.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Vote for Commuter Rail

I have a lot more to say about this, but for now, here is a message from New Ways to Connect:

Early voting has started and I want to remind you the urban commuter rail proposal is the last item on the ballot.  I hope you will vote FOR commuter rail because it is a common sense plan that not only addresses our transportation crisis, but also will help us manage Austin’s growth and land use patterns.  The proposal is feasible and cost effective because it uses existing track and does not require new taxes. 

There has been some discussion that Cap Metro’s funds should be used to reduce the need for tolls.  This is a false and misleading assertion.  Voters passed the sales tax for public transit over years ago and those revenues cannot be easily diverted.  A vote against rail does not mean Cap Metro funds will go to road projects. Furthermore, the $60 million set aside for commuter rail would barely build 1.5 miles of road.  Finally, a vote against rail could result in Austin losing millions in funds from the federal government that could help us with our transportation needs for both roads and transit projects. 

Commuter rail has widespread support from community, neighborhood, environmental and business groups, as well as a diverse group of individuals.   These groups have studied the proposal and understand it is an important first step in providing more transportation choices for Austin residents.  Please join me and all of the people and groups listed below and vote FOR commuter rail.  If you need information about early voting or have questions about the proposal, please call the commuter rail campaign office at 472-4435. 



Up All Night

So, how well did you sleep last night?


Building in Intensity

The New York Times is reporting that hurricanes are expected to increase in intensity throughout the century so that they will be a half-point stronger on the five-point scale by 2080. This increase would represent an 18 percent increase in average rainfall within 100 km of the storm centers, a 6 percent increase in maximum surface wind speed, and a 14 percent decrease in atmospheric pressure at the center of the storms. No big surprise here as it has long been understood that global climate change was likely to produce stronger storms. Warmer waters and higher temperatures in the Sahara mean more energy is being added to the systems that produce hurricanes. What is significant is that this finding is the result of a comprehensive analysis of a half dozen climate simulations from institutions around the world.

As Florida has brutally learned this year, the trend of relatively quiet storm seasons that has persisted over the last 30 years has ended. While this study is independent of the normal cycle of lulls and increases in hurricane activity. What this study suggests, though, is that if we are moving into a more active storm cycle, then the storms are likely to be even stronger than what previous storms.

Also, much has been made of Florida being hit with four storms, so far, this season. No state has been hit by four storms since Texas in the late 19th Century. Considering Florida’s geographic location between the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, I find it hard to believe that this is so unusual. It is probably more reflective of the limited data set (only some 150 years) that we have for comparing hurricane seasons.

The study was published in The Journal of Climate by the federal Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.


The scattered musings of Jeb Boyt, Austin Texas. A collection of the random bits that scamper through my monkey brain. This blog is my personal record. The opinions expressed here are my own and are in no way associated with any employer, board, commission, organization, or other entity that I may be affiliated with. So there.

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