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Thu, 28 Mar 2013

The Future of Public Transportation in America

Look at this proposed “high-speed rail system” spanning the United States.

It’s an awesome idea to dream and think about, and as a fairly regular traveler between Dallas and Houston (4 hr drive) I had a lot of time to wonder why I couldn’t take a train.

What I realized is that air travel is less “infrastructure-intensive” than roads and rail-road tracks. There is this ~myth~ that train travel will cost $0 and will be totally awesome, but look at existing Amtrak routes and you’ll see that it’s not nearly as cost-saving compared to air travel as you think.

Looking up Amtrak, semi random route (NY to Pittsburgh… the “Pennsylvanian”), is $70-80 one way (Feb 27) and ~9 hr trip. Feb 27 round-trip air returning 1 week later shows ~$120-200 and is between 1.5 and 4 hrs.

With air travel, you have a relatively high fixed cost at individual points / destinations, but zero incremental cost between arbitrary airports. Compared to trains, air travel has a very compelling connectivity and flexibility advantage, compared to building tracks that only one train at a time can ride on between two fixed points.

So while I love the idea of a train network (especially high-speed train), I think that currently air travel has a lot of advantages (quicker, cost-competitive, and is less infrastructure-intensive).

What I’d really love is for Google’s auto-driving cars to take off and have a “virtual-car” / “virtual-bus-system”. Give me a smartphone app, charge me less than $1/mi and guarantee a less than 5 minute wait.

Taking advantage of local road infrastructure for “point-to-point” automated local travel is soooo much better than trying to build a new inflexible train infrastructure to compete with airports for city-to-city travel.

With auto-driving cars you could do some very interesting things with the idea of actual “road-trains” (what 18-wheelers are called in Australia, I think). Imagine a passenger-based 18-wheeler. Automated semi up front, interchangeable 18-wheeler, glassed-in passenger-trailer on the back.

It uses existing road infrastructure and has a far better story for reliability, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility. With point-to-point local travel via “GoogleTaxis”, dropping you off at arbitrary parking lots / concentration points with a few “GoogleTrailers” connecting you quickly and precisely for long-haul city-to-city trips.

And when GoogleAir starts up and you can do point-to-point travel (started / planned from GoogleMaps, of course) charged to your GoogleWallet at insanely low prices, with insanely high customer-satisfaction… well, wake me whan that happens because we’ll be living in the future of public-transit.

22:55 CST | category / entries
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Tue, 12 Mar 2013

Baked Tomato Rice with Sausage

This rice always turns out awesome. Very filling as a side-dish (or meal in itself) and resilient to modification and experimentation.

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large, oven-proof pot that has a cover…

Heat oil, cook onion and red pepper until onion is translucent (~5min).

Add garlic, thyme, cook for one minute more (do not burn garlic).

Add rice and cook for ~2 minutes until well coated and rice begins to turn translucent (do not burn rice).

Add chicken stock, tomatoes, bay leaf and boil ~5 minutes.

You will want the liquid to reduce somewhat, but the rice should still “float”, until it is almost a “soupy” texture.

Stir in basil, cheddar cheese, chives / scallions, sausage pieces.

Cover mixture, transfer pot to 350 oven for ~25 minutes.

Rice will finish cooking in oven, do not check it, but be sure to set a timer.

When rice is done, remove (carefully) from oven and fluff lightly.

Sprinkle with parmesan, return to oven uncovered just long enough to melt parmesan.

Remove from oven and serve directly from the pot.

23:18 CST | category / entries / recipes
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