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Are Railways in Peril?

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National Rail Networks :: A Look Back in Time

The world’s first national rail networks were constructed in Britain, with the first inter-city line connecting the industrial midland city Manchester with the port of Liverpool in 1830.

So, are you wondering, which country forged a national rail network next?  France? Sweden, the United States?

It was Egypt. The Egyptian rail system connected ports on the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea until the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. Egypt’s rolling stock is still on track.  A recent issue of Future Rail magazine reports on Egypt’s recent purchase of 1,300 new carriages.

 

U.S.A.

In the 21st century some countries like the United States of America are not keeping up a commitment to passenger rail systems.

That’s a shame because rail travel offers faster, more efficient and ecologically favorable long distance travel than commercial airlines or private vehicles. Assuming, of course, the nation-state or region maintains and supports its railway systems.

A close look at an inventory of Amtrak rolling stock looks like an old used carriage auction block.  Check out the fancy Amtrak advertising videos promising sleek, fast locomotives in the northeast corridor of the country, the most reliable profit center. Don’t wait in line or online for a ticket because it’s fantasy at this point. Why aren’t the U.S. leaders embarrassed by their poor showing compared to the lightning speed trains of Japan, France, Germany and other European countries?

USA Civil War Era Rail Lines

Compare the dense network of railways in Northern states with sparse unconnected railways in the South. Image: etc.usf.edu

Back in the mists of time, the northern states of the U.S. had established a robust network of rail lines that connected with existing waterway transport and ports before the American Civil War.  The southern states also built railways, but the lines dead-headed inland rather than featuring radiating lines that used hubs to interconnect with other railways.  The absence of a connected rail network in the south was a factor in  defeat.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act into law on July 1, 1862.  This progressive action authorized construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.  American continental railroads, built by immigrant laborers, usually under cruel and dangerous conditions, were instrumental in opening the western wilderness to travel and trade.

 

FRANCE

I’ve spent more time and kilometers riding the SNCF railway system in France than any other country.  My first rail trip there was in 1966 on the boat-train from Calais (or was it Boulogne?) to Paris.  The wider-gauge British trains left passengers at the ferry dock and after the Channel crossing, you’d walk to the French carriages for outward bound destinations.  In the past I would ink my train travel routes on a map of France but the lines crossed and recrossed over the years to the point of obliterating the journeys and connections.

 

French rail network in the 19th c.

Image from Wikipedia.

France built short rail lines to serve the mining industry. Agricultural communities resisted rail development arguing it would infringe on France’s well-organized transport network of canals and other waterways.  Construction of long distance rail systems for commercial and consumer use started after 1842 with a network that could move goods for long distances overland.

RUSSIA

Russia, with distances far greater than the U.S.,  opened a single railway line from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1851. With more land distance than the U.S. to cover, and few or no western and southern ports, Russia understood the value of connecting the capital and to ports in the Far East. Russia opened the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1916, though portions of the railway were functioning as early as 1903.

MEXICO

My experience with Mexico’s Railway Network  is limited. During the early 1980’s, possibly 1981, my friend Don Tito and I boarded the Mexican railway by taking a Greyhound or Trailways bus from San Diego to El Centro, California and walking across the frontier to a train station in Mexico. I should consult a travel diary from that year to report the distances and ticket cost. I do not recall seeing a border wall at that time. The Pacific and Southwest Railway Museum in Campo, California owns carriages and locomotives of the San Diego and Arizona Railway that resemble the historic rolling stock we rode south through Mexico in 1981.

planetware.com-mexico-long-distance-routes-by-road-rail-and-ferry-map.jpg

We boarded the Mexican long distance train at a town just steps across the border that took us all the way south to Mazatlan, a gritty seaport opposite the tip of Baja.  I do not need to see again.  The train ride took two days and nights.  Or maybe it just seemed that long. It slowed to a long halt at towns so locals boarded to sell tamales, soft drinks and chiclets out of plastic buckets lined with heated towels to keep the food warm.

Source-_Alamy stock_north-america-mexico-guanajuato-state-guanajuato-woman-buying-hot-CYKCD0

Decades later, I lived in Mexico City and wanted to explore the country by train, but during the 1990s, the government had consolidated or terminated most passenger rail systems. Apart from a couple of tourist trains that run limited, scenic routes and a commuter rail system serving the capital city, Mexico’s passenger rail service is a distant memory.

Occasionally, proposals arise to create new passenger rail lines or high-speed rail links between major cities. But proposals are not reality.  Until some future date, the inter-city express bus service is adequate, sometimes stellar, but environmentally inefficient.

Ride on, rail enthusiasts!

 

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Gastronomica Reader :: Wikimania 2012

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The Gastronomica Reader
Univ of California Press, 2010.

What fun to find that the Gastronomica Reader , which includes my long article about Diana Kennedy and Mexican organic farming,  is on a book list run by an Estonian webrarian!

Fun because this connects directly to last week’s Wikimania 2012 in Washington, DC where I met a wikimanian from Estonia, Raul Veede.  Synchronicity and random serendipity are the most reliable indicators I follow in order to avoid the contrived pressures of marketing, crowd control, greed and aggression.  Long life the randomness of the internet and the global volunteer efforts of wiki writers everywhere.

P.S.  If you’ve used Wikipedia, consider making a donation.  What would we do without it?

Iatrogenic Disease :: Hello Hospitals?

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[Photo too disturbing to publish goes here]

Flesh, cells and protein rot.  You’ve seen vegetables disintegrating into piles of squashed odor and off-beat color.  You’ve smelled rancid milk.  You didn’t eat that meat or the fish that seemed a little off. You know that wounds are risky sites.

Social niceness keeps us in the dark about the decadent reality of human flesh. It rots fast.  My great grand-aunt went  to gangrene (we’re so sorry, it was a hospital infection, as they used to say) while in hospital care  for a broken bone in a suburb of Washington, DC that begins with B.  I was six years old and I’ve never forgotten the odor, her pain and death.

Political and business interests avoid revealing the facts of iatrogenic disease, which is a fancy name for infection that starts in medical settings — clinics, emergency rooms, ICU, surgeries, waiting rooms, examining rooms, and all the other places where practitioners of all stripes wear latex gloves but forget to wash their hands.

Read more about staph infections and the many ways they are transmitted in medical settings.  Know the symptoms and act immediately to secure proper care.  Understand how to protect yourself from infection after or during emergency care settings, particularly in certain states, provinces, regions and countries where you’d think medical care is universally top notch, but in fact, it’s not.   Not by a long shot.  Read Ivan Illich’s book Medical Nemesis.

The key to evaluating medical care  is not counting how many successful transplants or open heart surgeries occur, nor how many elaborate imaging and analytic processes are on offer, but knowing the incidence of staph infection acquired during brief emergency room encounters or infection associated with routine procedures will help you keep your flesh, and your life.

Does the U.S. Center for Disease Control weekly Morbidity and Mortality report include iatrogenic staph infection numbers?  Australia started publishing the numbers in 2011.  Does your state or country?

Did you know common staphylococcus aureus infections are resistant to medication?

Look at this mess of medical malpractice and lack of knowledge management reported by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.  Here’s a fast solution —  Each patient on intake receives a secure wiki page in the hospital’s online LAN on which all comment, diagnosis, data, treatment and symptoms are noted so that all practitioners, family and institutions caring for the individual can monitor progress and decline.  Maybe it will prevent decline and iatrogenic disease and death.  Wikis can be created in seconds. Any medical idiot can add content and there are certainly plenty of them to go around.

Florida  2012

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57431162-10391704/aimee-copeland-24-battles-flesh-eating-necrotizing-fasciitis-following-zip-lining-accident/

“…was zip-lining last Tuesday near her home with her friends when she suffered a cut on her calf that required 22 staples to close. She came back to the emergency room at Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton, Ga. …”

Perhaps the staphylococcus aureus infection and subsequent necrotizing fascists commenced but after contact in the emergency room where her leg was stapled (!) together.  The cut wasn’t the source of infection, but the subsequent emergency room contacts infected her.

Florida 2012

http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/257238/3/Starke-man-dies-after-fight-with-necrotizing-fasciitis

Florida – Tampa

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2163297/Flesh-eating-bacteria-Lisa-Maria-Carter-sues-Tampa-hospital-losing-hands-feet.html

South Carolina 2012

http://www.wtsp.com/news/health/article/255604/12/Another-woman-victim-of-flesh-eating-bacteria

“It’s caused by two usually common bacteria, streptococcus and staphylococcus aureus …”

commonly found in hospital emergency room settings as well as on the human body.

Resources:

http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0303critic/030313illich/Frame.Illich.Ch1.html

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5953a1.htm?s_cid=mm5953a1_w

http://www.fidanoski.ca/medicine/staphylococcus-streptococcus.htm

http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/state/golf-outing-palm-frond-leads-to-flesh-eating-disease-necrotizing-fasciitis-for-florida-man

http://www.amazon.com/American-Way-Death-Revisited/dp/0679771867/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287503475&sr=1-1

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18476182

Written by patwa

18/07/2012 at 1:11 pm

Mapping Party :: Congressional Cemetery Washington DC

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OpenStreetMap.org holds a mapping party at Congressional Cemetery on Sunday, July 15 10 a.m. to 3 pm.

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. Two major driving forces behind the establishment and growth of OSM have been restrictions on use or availability of map information across much of the world and the advent of inexpensive portable satellite navigation devices.

I heard about this project at Wikimania 2012 which is going on this week at George Washington University and other venues around town including  Tech@State events.

Written by patwa

14/07/2012 at 7:09 pm

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Earth

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I recently learned about a project initiated by Everett Pompeii — a college student currently in Japan.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Earth

Here are his words:
 “The more people you inspire to get out there, the better off the world is (in my view, anyway). Before we get too far, a bit about me. I’m a college student from the US, but I’m studying abroad in Japan.
On the way here, I backpacked and hitchhiked through most of Australia, New Zealand, and the East Coast of the US. I’m currently working on a how-to manual specifically for travelers like me; it’s called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Earth.  The project is on a crowd-sourcing website called Kickstarter, and it runs until June 29, 2012
7:00 PM EST.”
Everett asked me for advice and a blog post might help spread word about his project.  Does he know I have about 20 different blogs? Check out his travel blog to learn more about this enterprising nomad’s paths.

Written by patwa

13/06/2012 at 5:55 pm

Pyrenees Pilgrimage on Kindle

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e-Books are just right for travel -lightweight, infinite, a personal library.  After CreateSpace handled the formatting, I uploaded the text and images for Pyrenees Pilgrimage, my recent book about walking across France through the Pyrenees Mts. It’s for sale in Kindle format on Amazon.  

Written by patwa

15/01/2011 at 4:27 am

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