Mad Times

“To be sane in a mad time is bad for the brain, worse for the heart.” – Wendell Berry

July 24th, 2008 at 2:54 pm


Peaches should not be crunchy.

Insert rant about insanity of optimizing food to survive an epic journey from tree to mouth rather than for something crazy like… I don’t know, taste maybe?

July 23rd, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Paying for roads

Sightline drew attention today to an article that points out that for an expensive stretch of road, the cost of building the road cannot be recovered from the gas taxes generated by traffic on that stretch of road. It’s kind of a specious argument since road funding is kind of like insurance where the cost and benefit are spread across the entire network so asking that every subset pay for itself is naive at best.

But the idea that gas taxes pay for roads is one that comes up frequently in discussions of transportation equity especially between car folks and bike folks. The argument is that people who primarily ride bikes aren’t entitled to use the road network because they don’t pay gas or vehicle taxes.

The fact is that while those revenue sources do contribute to road funding, they are far from the only source. Roads are funded from a complex array of sources. And the real kicker is that it’s different for every state.

Here in the northwest, if you look at funding sources for just local roads and streets you might be forgiven for believing that vehicle-related taxes pay for your roads. In Idaho, Montana, and Washington, 95-100% of local streets are paid for with vehicle and fuel taxes. In California, only 59% with the remainder coming from the general fund. In Oregon, only 47% of the funding comes from fuel and vehicle taxes with the remainder coming from federal sources.

However when you look at highway funding, you find that here in the Northwest less than 50% of funding comes from gas and vehicle taxes. The rest is made up from a melange of other sources: state general funds, bonds, local government funds, and especially federal funds.

What those sources of revenue have in common is that they predominantly come from the pockets of drivers, cyclists, walkers, and bus riders alike.

July 4th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Clever Cycles

Stoked bakfietsClever Cycles sells cargo and city bicycles and related gear in Portland. I visited them about a year ago just after they first opened the store. I just heard that they’re closing. Not for good, just for a two-week vacation. In the middle of summer. A bikeshop. Are they insane? Turns out it’s not lack of sanity, it’s lack of bikes. They’ve been doing so well they’re sold out of all their bikes. How cool is that?

July 2nd, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Computer demise

Our IT guys have been rearranging the network at work the past few weeks. I got an email asking if it was okay to change the IP address on the machine named “hugo”. Hugo is a Sun Sparcstation 10 that was assigned to me in about 1993. It runs SunOS 4.1.4 which was the last BSD-based Sun unix before the SysV-based Solaris took over. The machine has been running in a rack in our computer room with no keyboard, mouse, or display since about 2002.

I told them to go ahead, but they were unable to access it. It was responding to pings, but wouldn’t answer to telnet. There are a handful of other machines of similar vintage in the same rack so I logged in to one of them to see how long it had been since it was last rebooted. 764 days. That’s over two years running continuously without a reboot for systems that are 15 years old. (These systems are all on UPS power backed by a big old diesel generator)

Since there was no display handy to show what was going wrong I tried power cycling it. It didn’t come back. The system hadn’t been in active use for a while so extreme measures weren’t called for. Time of death was 2:51pm 6/26/08.

I just didn’t think its passing should go unremarked. How old is 15 in computer years?


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