Blocked Highways — A Modest Proposal for a Partial Solution

Have you ever been caught in a situation in which the highway, freeway, interstate you are traveling on is congested because all of the lanes in your direction are completely blocked — maybe for hours?

I have.

It happened several years ago returning to L.A. There was a hazardous materials spill several miles ahead of us and . . . Yeah, the “freeway” was completely blocked in our direction and it took more than two hours to edge our way to an off ramp, exit the freeway, find a parking space at a gas station, use the bathroom and get back on the freeway — in the opposite direction and get home several hours later than intended.

Oh, and when we did get home the freeway was still blocked.

Today, there is a brush fire north of L.A. and the I-210 is closed for several miles in both directions. (Oh, it’s also get-away day for the Labor Day weekend.) Rush hour traffic is backed up for a long way in both directions and it is slow work to get vehicles off the freeway and the limited off ramps.

My proposed partial solution? Let’s replace our solid K-rail barriers with movable/temporary, or pivoting, K-rails. If the solid K-rail barrier is replaced every mile or two (or three or five) with K-rails that can be moved by Cal-Trans and/or the CHP, then the open side of the highway can be used to evacuate vehicles that might otherwise be stuck for more hours than one’s bladder can stand (or sit or hold liquid).

It only takes being stuck in this kind of a situation once . . .

Diagram A — Traffic is moving freely in both directions. No problems (at least, no more than the usual problems).

Diagram A - D Blocked Highways
Diagram A – D Blocked Highways

Diagram B — There is an accident, or other incident, which causes the CHP, or other agency, to halt traffic in both directions. The only exits are the Off-Ramps, which are usually only single lanes and which get backed up quickly, too quickly.

Assuming a hazardous materials spill, brush fire leaping the highway, crashed airplane (yeah, we had one on the I-405 here recently), earthquake — You’re kidding, right? Here in SoCal? — both sides of the highway could remain closed for hours or longer.

All of our major highways carry several hundred thousand cars each and every day — including weekends and holidays. They are never empty. Any incident, much less a closure, causes problems, major problems.

In Diagram C the lanes are blocked in both directions and the Off-Ramps are used to take some of the cars off of the highway. But . . . some the K-rail barriers are either moved out of the way or pivoted to create openings in the center of the highway. This allows some of the vehicles that would have had to use the Off-Ramps to exit the highway to simply make a left turn through the no-longer-there-barrier and leave in the direction from which they had come.

They can then go back to where they were from or exit at another highway or off-ramp and find another route to their destination. This would reduce the wait-time for vehicles using the highway in both directions. (No waiting for four, or more, hours to find a toilet.)

Diagram D supposes a situation in which only one direction is completely stopped. CHP could block a lane or two on the opposite side of the highway and open the K-rail to vehicles from the blocked side.

This would slow traffic in the unblocked direction but would hasten the de-congestion of traffic on the blocked side. Again, no waiting for three or four hours to get going.

Diagram A – D Blocked Highways (PDF)

Monumental Thoughts on Charlottesville

Perhaps it is time . . . for a time (for all time?).

I was a teacher, now retired. I spent some forty years teaching middle school/junior high aged students. For most of those years I taught History (American and World), as well as English, Shop and Computers.

When the subject was the American Civil War, I remember dividing the class into two groups — North and South — for games. I also recall Sister Leanda doing this to our eighth grade class a half-century ago.

It is still being done. Last year I was walking through a park in back of one of our local middle schools and a class was playing softball divided into North and South teams.

There are statues, schools, monuments and other memorials to the leaders and soldiers of both the Union and the Confederacy scattered throughout the United States.

For most of my life I have given no thought to the negatives associated with some of these memorials. The recent events surrounding the Charlottesville, VA marches and protests and associated violence have changed this.

Once one opens his eyes it is quite easy to see how the memorials to those who tried to sunder apart the United States and preserve the institution of slavery affect those whose ancestors were slaves.

If the South had won the Civil War, the institution of slavery would have been preserved and might still be in existence. Of course, as slavery died for economic, as well as moral and political, reasons in the North prior to the Civil War, it might have also have done so in the South later in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries.

Judging by the events of the last two weeks, there are still people who feel as though the Confederacy should have won the war and that the “peculiar institution” should still hold sway.

The KKK and Jim Crow laws were instituted for the singular purpose of keeping the black man in his place and keeping the white man in control — politically and economically. In effect, a de facto preservation of slavery.

We were not the first people to enslave others and we are not the last to have done so. Slavery, in several different forms, still exists in our world and will not disappear in our lifetimes.

We cannot undo all the evils for which slavery has been responsible, but perhaps, we can further mitigate the effects of those evils.

No American alive today is, or has ever been, a slave owner or slave in the system as it existed in the antebellum South. But many of us are descendants of those who were.

Slavery and discrimination have left metaphorical scars and open ulcerated sores on many of those whose ancestors were slaves. And the recent events in Charlottesville have simply rubbed salt into these wounds.

Perhaps it is time to remove from public view, at least for a time, the monumental reminders of that age, now a century and a half removed.

The old soldiers and politicians who fought so long ago no longer care. (And, if the Christian God they professed belief in actually exists, I doubt there is either color or racial differentiation in either heaven or hell.)

Perhaps it is time to remove these hurtful reminders of an age long dead.

Perhaps we should all begin to agree with the sentiment behind those hopeful, if a bit hypocritical, words penned by Thomas Jefferson back in the days before the United States existed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, . . .”

“Men” now meaning men and women, white, black, yellow, brown and red.

It will not hurt us to put away these symbols and it may, just may, help our country.

Isn’t it worth the effort to try? Perhaps . . .

Focus — Confederate Monuments

Coyote — Cast off your old tired edibles?

Being retired and spending most of my time around the house, my thoughts sometimes run in strange directions.

About a year ago I began watching Andrew Zimmern’s show: Bizarre Foods. Some of the things he eats look quite appetizing and others . . . Well, I don’t think I’d try them on a bet and, possibly, not even if I was starving.

Tonight though, I went “hmmmm . . .”

I was fixing our dinners and in the background Zimmern was visiting the Bronx (NYC). Out of a cooler came a, legally caught, skinned coyote. It was then prepared and eaten . . . hmmmmm.

A popular and brazen coyote that was frequently seen cavorting and hunting in close proximity to people at Huntington Beach's Central Park was euthanized on June 21. This photo was taken by Dawn Macheca of Huntington Beach about two weeks before the animal was darted and then put down by O.C. Animal Control.
Picture by Dawn Macheca at Huntington Beach’s Central Park — OC Register

We have a surplus of coyotes in SoCal.

Tacos de Coyote, anyone?

The Travel Channel: Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern – “The Bronx” – Original air date: 7.12.2016.

Baseball — The Future of?

Baseball 2021

Jessee Traylor stepped to the plate and planted himself in the batter’s box. Left foot on the back line and front foot placed in a slightly open stance the Anaheim Angel shortstop made ready for the first pitch of Opening Day.

Harold Mein of the Oakland Athletics threw a 97 mph fastball that just missed the outside edge of the plate at Traylor’s

“Ball one,” proclaimed the Angel Stadium public address system as the schematic of the pitch’s location was shown on the new right field screen.

Jessee turned and grinned at umpire Billy Rourke, with whom he had a history of feuding, “Well, at least you didn’t get that one wrong.”

Rourke, although feeling a bit redundant in his crouch behind A’s catcher Torin Jones, said not a word.

Mein wound up and threw another 97 mph fastball; this time, just a half-inch closer, it clipped the corner of the plate.

“Strike one,” proclaimed the Angel Stadium public address system. This time the schematic lit up with the enlargement showing the ball edging the plate at Traylor’s knees.

“What a shame, Jessee,” said Rourke, as he grinned at Traylor. “I think I might have called that one a ball.”

“Yeah, right,” responded Traylor.

Traylor swung at and missed the next waist-high fastball, clocked at 98 mph.

Mein then threw an 84 mph curve that crossed the plate six inches below Traylor’s knees and at which he swung and badly missed both in time and space.

As he walked back to the dugout grumbling not quite to himself the embarrassing schematic was shown in slo-motion, much to the delight of scattered A’s fans in the stands.

Introduced just three years previously and subject to extensive testing in the minor leagues and major league spring training, the new “chipped” baseballs were making their regular season debut this opening weekend of the 2021 season.

And, not only were the balls chipped, but so were the bats, gloves, bases and shoes. The umpires wore body-cams in addition to all of the cameras surrounding the field.

baseballThe second batter, Mark Muskie, then came to the plate and entrenched himself in the left side of the batter’s box; Mein threw another curve. Muskie dug it out in a golf shot that headed to left field and hit the wall rebounding into the fielder’s glove. In a single motion he turned and threw to the shortstop standing on second base waiting on Muskie’s attempt to stretch an easy single into a double.

The shortstop’s glove, second base and Muskie’s right hand in a headfirst slide seemed to merge in a single instant and most of the fans in the stands thought the runner was safe.

“You’re out,” cried the public address system as the schematic of the touch appeared on the screen.

The sensors in the baseball, the shortstop’s glove, second base and the runner’s left-hand glove sliding into second base detected the contact between Muskie and the shortstop’s glove less than a millisecond before Muskie touched the base.

Two out.

And so went the game.

The computers adjusted for each batter’s individual strike zone–pre-programmed into the system, of course. Homerun distances were measured to the inch as well as to how far they would have gone if the wall or stands were not in the way.

Pitch speed was measured both as the ball left the pitcher’s hand as well as when it crossed the plate.

Bat speed and the ball’s velocity as it left the bat were posted alongside pitch speed after every swing and hit ball.

The speed of the hitters and runners on the base paths was measured as was the length and velocity of the throws made by the fielders. All became grist for the baseball stat machine.

The closest thing to an argument was a foul ball detected on a second strike in the fourth inning but was not noticed by the batter, the catcher nor by the umpire–but it was noticed by the sensors in the ball and the bat. And posted as such on the board. As Shakespeare might have said, “little ado about less than nothing.”

Play-by-play announcers and color commentators who couldn’t tell an interesting baseball story to save their lives now had a multitude of additional crutches in the form of these new stats to blather about to their poor listeners and, hence, “justify” their existence and jobs.

Younger fans and fantasy leaguers had more reasons to immerse themselves in their portable electronic devices and ignore the game itself. (Including one “fan” whose iPhone X was smashed by a foul ball–the only injury of the day.)

Older fans enjoyed the game, which ended in the tenth inning on a Muskie two-run homer and traveled 512 feet-4.37 inches into the parking lot. Some of them lamented the lost humanity of the redundant umpires, but a Vegas sports book opened a betting pool on when major league baseball would opt to eliminate umpires from the field.

Billy Pillgrim, whose company made the chips and sensors used in the bats, balls, bases and clothing of the players, just smiled and relished the future.

Plumbing Problems — Grrrrr . . . Part 2

Well . . .

Later that day I took Di to her hair appointment at 5:30 pm and returned to the sound of running water.

Yeah, it was the other toilet — in Di’s bathroom. The toilet would not shut off no matter how I adjusted things. (Dirty word, dirty word, dirty word)

So I turned off the valve at the wall and called the plumber. He came out the next morning and replaced the interior mechanism as he had done with the other toilet.

Total damage: kitchen, bathroom 1 and bathroom 2 = just under $450.00.

Better than flooding!

MARIJUANA and MARRIAGE in Washington State

On a single day, Washington State recently passed two laws.
They are:

1. Legalized gay marriage, and
2. Legalized marijuana.

Legalizing gay marriage and marijuana on the same day now makes perfect Biblical sense.

Leviticus 20:13 says:

“If a man lies with another man, they should be stoned.”

Apparently we just hadn’t interpreted it correctly before!