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Fri May 01, 2015 at 06:00 PM PDT

How To Read A Seismic Hazard Map

by terrypinder

Now that the USGS has preliminary come up with a way to quantify the short term hazard of potentially induced earthquakes it’s important to know what these maps are and mean.

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For the last year, I and several others have covered the rise in seismicity in Oklahoma and Kansas. The earthquakes in these two states, coupled with earthquakes in Texas, Colorado, and Ohio, represent a significant increase in the background seismicity in the US east of the Rockies.

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Before we go any further, please note that the title above is snark. And below? There will be more snark.

oh and there will be profanity, lots of it, i just feel I better put that up front, above the fold, so we're all on the same page.

K?

Okay. Let's dance.

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I was tasked to write a far more comprehensive piece about Amtrak and the recent Supreme Court Ruling and the Amtrak reauthorization bill currently in the Senate. I think I’ll talk about them in reverse order.

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Last week I wrote about what I thought would be a summer SCOTUS decision regarding Amtrak. The case was decided today.

SCOTUS voted 9-0 to vacate and remand. I actually expected this, but didn’t expect the 9-0 vote. If you recall, in 2013 the DC Circuit declared Amtrak was a private entity and that the non-delegation doctrine had been violated. SCOTUS has said otherwise, that Amtrak is indeed an arm of the government, and they’ve sent the case back to the circuit court to reconsider, as there are several unresolved issues.

We’ll see what happens.

Full decision is here. I highly recommend reading it, especially Alito's concurrance.

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The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) changed the law governing Amtrak. In the past, Amtrak was at the mercy of freight rail companies because most of its trains run on tracks owned by freight rail corporations, despite the fact that Amtrak does have priority over freight trains. With PRIIA,  Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration could then create binding standards, and penalize freight rail corporations who did not comply. This would increase Amtrak’s notably abysmal on-time performance.

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When the opportunity came about to contribute an entry to Write-On I jumped. And of course, I’m going to talk about my favorite thing in the whole wide world: worldbuilding.

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A comment in a diary about CAHSR got me thinking.

The comment faulted the Obama administration for not having the national HSR system, so grandiosely proposed in 2009, open for business in 2010—something that simply is not possible in the United States, or many other places outside of China. It’s not because of the lack of money (well, actually it IS to an extent, but that's a another diary), but it’s because our legal planning processes take a very, very, very long time.

It occurred to me that many people really don’t know how a project, especially one as grand as national high-speed rail, gets from paper to public open for business, and that unlike places like France, Italy, even the UK, and of  course China, there are a lot more entities to deal with. The Feds. States. Local governments. And then “The People.”

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When I was a kid, I took the trolley to middle school. The streetcar line, one of the last vestiges of Philadelphia's once extensive suburban interurban network is one of two on their own semi-exclusive right of ways: one takes you from 69th Street Terminal, the transit hub for much of Philadelphia's western suburbs, to the county seat at Media. The other takes you into the dense inner suburbs of southeast Delaware County.

I never really considered how lucky I was. The trolley was just there.

Philadelphia's trolley network once was so extensive a person could, on a single ride, take the trolley from Center City or Upper Darby's 69th Street terminal all the way to Allentown. Or out to West Chester, or as far as Lancaster.

Lots of cities in the US had trolleys. Most were not publicly owned, but they provided an essential public service.

And most are gone now. The Depression killed many lines. Then GM came along and killed the rest. The rise of cheap automobiles, the creation of the interstate highway network, and the conversion of many lines to buses sounded the death-knell for the interurbans that connected suburbs to central cities. The aforementioned trolley line to West Chester was gone by the 1950s when they widened the road to support the suburbanization of Delaware County (it's a bus route now). Most of the right of way on the trolley line to Allentown is occupied by a utility right of way. The only surviving part of that line is the Norristown High Speed Line. In the western suburbs, only the Norristown HSL, Route 101 and Route 102 trolleys remain.

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Tue Dec 09, 2014 at 02:48 PM PST

Be More Like Buzzfeed?

by terrypinder

Hey, hear me out before you scream.

I want to talk about the Rise of Buzzfeed, and the apparent decline in writing on this site. Are they related? In a way, I think, yeah.

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It certainly has been a photogenic year for volcanic eruptions, from Japan to Iceland to Hawaii to Indonesia. At present there are at least 38 volcanoes in some form of eruption.

And now Cape Verde.

It is clear now that the ongoing eruption at Fogo in the Cape Verde Islands is not sparing the towns in the Cha de Caldieras area. There had been some indications that the eruption was slowing and that the town of Portello and Bangaeira could be saved, but as of December 8, it appears that much of the settlement is being overrun by lava flows and the lava continues to flow at close to 300 meters per day.
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Yeah, the headline is not the Onion.

But anyway, James Watson, one of the discoverers of DNA is pleading poverty. You see, ever since his odious racism became public knowledge, no one really wants to invite him to their sciency playdates. Aww. Poor thing, the dear.

It's made him lose salary to the point that like many seniors, he's deeply impoverished, or so he claims.

He's now sold his Nobel Prize for $4.7 million, at auction.

The anonymous buyer paid US$4.76 million, including the buyer's premium that goes to the auction house, participating by phone in the sale held at Christie's auction house in New York City. That is the highest price ever paid for a Nobel medal, far outstripping predictions that Watson's prize would sell for $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
(Oh, and for someone who is pleading poverty? inspect the following blockquote, from the same article at nature linked above.)
He plans to donate some of the proceeds to Cold Spring, where he still draws a $375,000 base salary as chancellor emeritus
damn, that's nice.

He does claim he'll donate some of the proceeds to medical research. That's fine and good, but I see someone probably not learning that the reason he was declared "persona non grata" was that he is so odious a person.

EDIT
no one is likely reading this now.

But, no, Watson pleading poverty is not an invention of mine.

The scientist has apologized for his remark but his offensive comments have made him an outcast and this negatively affected his income.

"No one really wants to admit I exist," Watson said. "Because I was an 'unperson' I was fired from the boards of companies, so I have no income, apart from my academic income."

in addition, said information is contained in the link at the very bottom of this diary. And here. Which is the same link.
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