Episode 27 – Myriad Topics

Topics: Metacast, Transportationist, Email Encryption, Infrastructure Stimulus, Podcast Shout Outs, Extraordinary Contraptions

Websites and Citations:


The Extraordinary Contraptions My Space Page

Theme Music: Five Star Fall, Mercurial Girl, Magnatune.com

Episode 27 – Myriad Topics

Hello everyone. Welcome to talking traffic episode 27. My name is Bill Ruhsam and today is January 5, 2009. Today’s topic is rambling and diverse, and not particularly transportation related. I would have made this episode 26.5 and Called it a straight metacast, but that’s not entirely what it’s about. While I will discuss some elements of information that are related to production of this podcast, etc., there are other things to focus on and around. So, here’s the rundown. I’ll give you a table of contents with time stamps if you only care about bits and pieces.

One: Metacast topics. This starts immediately after the this list, so stay tuned. Don’t touch that touch wheel!
Two: My discovery and coming of age as a transportation commenter. Starts at 3:30
Three: Encryption and why you should. Starts at 5:30
Four: Infrastructure Stimulus. Starts at 6:30
Five: Podcast pimping. Podcasts that you might be interested in. Starts at 12:00
Six and Last: Wrap up and Rock Band Pimping. A band that you might like. A whole song to end the episode. Starts at 15:00

Without further ado, here we go with Metacast topics!

Last episode I talked briefly about the length of time since episode 25. I’ll apologize again for the severe and epic breach of contract that was…nevermind. I’ll apologize for taking 3 and a half months to get the last one out, but I won’t promise to never do it again. For greater detail, go to my personal blog at www.evileyebrow.com and do a search on the word Ironman. Not the movie.

Also in the metacast arena, I’d like to start having some guest bloggers and possibly interviews on this podcast. I’ve got a brand spanking new audio setup now which will let me be a bit more professional, including the use of multiple microphones. This is something that you can look forward to, although I don’t have a schedule, a topic, or a guest as yet.

Another bit of metacast news: in order to start promoting this site more, I’ve developed some business cards and will be putting out a fancy line of blog headers and link images, etc. These will be marked in their brevity and simple=ness because of all the things that I am NOT, graphic designer heads to list. Look for them on the website. Again, no schedule.

Lastly, if you just can’t bear to be without my voice, Podcastle’s story this week is De La Tierra and I am the narrator. I enjoyed reading the story, and I hope you will enjoy listening to it. One thing that reading for Podcastle has taught me is how much practice I need in order to read a tale effectively out loud. It’s harder than I thought. I don’t have kids, so I don’t have that sort of practice. De la Tierra was fun and hopefully Rachel Swirsky will ask me to narrate for Podcastle again.

Okay, that’s it for metacast stuff. On to topic two, which is how that I feel that I’ve “arrived” if only a little bit.

One of the transportation blogs I read is the Transportationist, which is prodeced by David Levinson of the Nexus Research Group on Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems. Dr. Levinson, along with co-author Kevin J Krizek, graciously allowed me to receive a free copy of his latest book, “Planning for Place and Plexus. Metropolitan Land Use and Transport”. I just got it in the mail on Friday so I’ve barely cracked the cover yet. I’ll be mentioning it in the next few episodes, I’m sure. But, just for kicks, I’m going to read you the summary on the rear jacket of the book.
It sounds like it’s a bit beyond the normal down-to-earth focus of this podcast, but I’m sure I’ll get good material out of it and can talk to you more about planning.

Topic Three! For the last little while, basically since I read the book Little Brother by Cory Doctorow I’ve been more and more interested in making all of my email communications flow over encrypted channels. This has less to do with any paranoia that I’m secretly harboring and more to do with being prepared “just in case.” I’m cataloging this under disaster preparation. Sometimes people can look at you strange if you tell them that you have a three month supply of food and water cached in the basement, but if anything bad were to happen, you’d be the hero of the neighborhood. Likewise, it’s unlikely that anyone right now *needs* encryption to get by on a day to day basis, but if for some reason you suddenly did need it, you’d already be setup and going with a network of people around you similarly equipped.

So this shout out is a call to action. Join those of us who are pushing for standard, broad-based and over-arching email encryption. It’s not difficult and it just might help out in the long run. Check out my blog post on the topic over at my personal blog, the evil eyebrow. There’s a link on the show notes. If you already happen to be running Privacy Guard, you can find my public key on the website.

Topic four! A real transportation topic, now. Infrastructure Stimulus. Not a day goes by when I don’t here something new rattling around about what’s going to be passed by congress, or what Dubbya is going to do in the last days or what the Obama Team is pushing for. It’s amusing to turn on CNN and listen to them prattle along. Just a few days ago I heard an NPR story about the steel industry begging for national infrastructure financing so that their orders will go back up. It seems like everyone is on board with an infrastrucutre stimulus of some sort. But what will it be?

while listening to President Elect Obama’s weekly address, I was entertained, slightly, by one of his statements: “we can’t just fall into the old Washington habit of throwing money at the problem. We must make strategic investments that will serve as a down payment on our long-term economic future.” So, don’t throw money at things. Instead, Invest!

Never mind. That statement I regard as fluff. The more interesting one came right afterward. “We must demand vigorous oversight and strict accountability for achieving results. And we must restore fiscal responsibility and make the tough choices so that as the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down.”

Don’t forget that this quote is with respect to the, quote/unquote, “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan”. This plan, according to all the buzz and the obama/biden transition team, will include funding for “Infrastructure”, renewable energy sources, health care Information Technology modernization, and other worthy causes. This is a transportation podcast, so we’re going to focus on infrastructure. Especially with respect to that last quote with its “vigorous oversight and strict accountability”. Firstly, let’s define infrastructure.

When I hear the word infrastructure, I think roads, but that’s because it’s my job. I am aware that the term encompasses much more than the nations streets, highways, and bridges. For example there is the railway network, including light rail and transit. Then there is the electrical grid, which is definitely a national and international grid. Just ask the citizens of the northeast, midwest and southern Canada who experienced the blackout in 2003. Then we have the locks, dams, levees and other water control devices which are overseen by the Army corps of Engineers and rarely get any good press (because good press about a levee is rather boring. “Yessir, no water here”). Also we have the nations ports and harbors. Those are infrastructure. then there are sewers and water systems, petroleum distribution pipelines and gas pumps. Airports and telephone and most importantly for addicts like me, the internet. All these things fall under the term “infrastructure”, but what is the government going to invest their strategic funds in? At the moment, we don’t know.

As I said, this is a transportation podcast, so my focus is transportation infrastructure. Which brings me back to the quote. “We must demand vigorous oversight and strict accountability for achieving results. And we must restore fiscal responsibility and make the tough choices so that as the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down.”

I’m used to justifying a project based on various factors like traffic congestion, or benefit cost ratio, or economic need. However these don’t always work and play well together. It’s very difficult to roll the “benefit” of an economic development roadway into a benefit cost ratio when you have harder numbers like the expected reduction in fatalities to go up against. Georgia is running into this problem right now with it’s Project Prioritization Process. The stated goal was to have a metric or spreadsheet that you could stick every proposed project into and have a project priority spit out. This would allow the state to gauge projects strictly “by the numbers” which would reduce the number of extraneous projects that are on the book. Unfortunately, while that is a laudable goal, it is much more easily said than done. So, in order to, again I’m quoting, “demand vigorous oversight and strict accountability” what exactly are they going to measure? It’s hard to see a concrete return on investment for a roadway project. You can make assumptions, but unless you use a fiscal tool such as Tolling or Congestion Pricing, no money actually comes out of a road that you’ve built. So how do you gauge the effectiveness of an infrastructure project? I’m not going to answer that. I want you to think about it, because your congress critters will be voting on this very soon and they need your input. If you have an idea, send it to them. It’s important that we as citizens be part of the process.

Topic number five! Podcast Pimping!
Recently I’ve been a total slacker keeping up with the podcasts in my feed. I still listen to them, though I had to declare podcast bankruptcy on a few of them and just skip all the unlistened-to episodes. In no particular order, here is a list of my favorite podcasts.

  • Talking Traffic! Of course. You’re listening to it.
  • Podcastle. This is a Fantasy short story podcast which I must disclose I have some non-remunerative interest in. I’ve narrated two stories for podcastle and the second should be released on Tuesday. Go have a listen at podcastle.org. The editor, Rachel Swirsky, does an excellent job picking storys for the podcast.
  • Escape Pod. Escape Pod is the science fiction counterpart to Podcastle. It is run by Steve Eley who is an acquaintance of mine here in the Atlanta Area. Escape Pod always has excellent stories and I highly recommend it. You can find it at Escapepod.org.
  • Tri-Talk, a triathlon podcast. This is an hugely wonderfully, awesomelly, and other adverbs, excellent podcast for people who are training for triathlons. Unfortunately, the podcast has gone to a once every so often schedule, but all the back episodes are still there and Ihighly recommend it. You can find it at www.tri-talk.com
  • 12 Byzantine Rulers: This is a history podcast about the history of the Byzantine Empire as seen through the reigns of it’s rulers. There are 18 episodes and they are all worth listening to. You can find it at www.12byzantinerulers.com. Look on the shownotes for that link.
  • Screenspace. Screenspace I must disclose, is a podcast done by my Wife, Dr. Jennifer Bowie. She does a blog and podcast on issues related to and focused on design. Give it a listen. You can find it at screenspace.org.
  • Pheddippidations: i won’t even try to spell it for you. go to the show notes and look fro the link. This is a running podcast from a man who goes by the pseudonym of Steve Runner. It’s a good inspirational podcast, although I wish mr. Runner would proselytize his catholic faith a bit less.
  • The last podcast I’ll mention is EXIF and Beyond, a great photography podcast. This podcast focuses on some of the nitty gritty issues surrounding professional and amateur photography. I won’t even attempt to give you the url. Just go to the show notes.

The very last thing for this episode will be a shout out to a Steampunk rock Band whom I happen to be aware of. They are the Atlanta-based Extraordinary Contraptions. You can listen to their album, Inappropriate on Purpose at their myspace page www.mypace.com/extraordinarycontraptions where you can also download the music. To end the podcast, I’m going to hook you up with one of my favorites from that album, This Kind of Love. Don’t think I’m depressed because of the lyrics; I don’t listen to lyrics. I listen to melodies and harmonies, which this song is full of.

Thanks for listening to this sorta-episode of Talking Traffic. As always, this episode is released under a creative-commons, 3.0 attribution non commercial no derivatives license, except for the end music by the extraordinary contraptions who retains all rights. The other music you heard is by five star fall and can be found at magnatune.com If you have any comments or concerns or think I’m being too cynical with my politics, drop me a line at Bill@ talking traffic.org or just leave a comment on the shownotes.

Til next time, have a great new year.

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