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April 13, 2018

Nixon Library

Photos from my visit to the Nixon Library a couple of weeks ago.

Nixon Museum Entryway
This video shows the corridor through which you enter the museum
with iconic images of the troubled '60s on both walls, leading to what I suppose is intended as the solution to all of the problems: Nixon. I added the music which is "Scene II: Interlude" from Orpheus by Stravinsky.

1972 Electoral Vote Map (9047)
The 1972 electoral votes
. I'd forgotten that in addition to Massachusetts, McGovern also carried the District of Columbia.

Apollo 11 Memorabilia (0028)
A moon rock and the phone Nixon used to talk to the astronauts
. I tried, but couldn't get, a clear shot of buttons attached the phone. They're for different extensions in the White House and were labeled "Haldemanm," "Ehrlichman" and so on.

Little Red Book (2609)
Can you believe it?
Right there in the Nixon Library a copy of Mao's Little Red Book.

Marine One (1826)

Nixon Birthplace & Childhood Home (0037)
Nixon birthplace and childhood home
. It is still in the exact location and with the same orientation as when Nixon's father built it.

Nixon Library (0040)
View of the library from the Nixon home.

Nixon Library Entrance Lobby (1829)

Sock It To Em button (0033)
Nixon wore this button on his Whittier College letter jacket.
I was very surprised that he was so far ahead of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. If you are old enough, you surely remember these six seconds from that show:

The 18½ Minute Gap (0031)
They had a substantial exhibit about Watergate that did not try to whitewash the scandal
. I have already listened to the 18½ minute gap, so I skipped this part of the exhibit. They had a display showing the locations of microphones used by FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ and Nixon. Nixon had WAAAAAY more than any other President and was the only President who put a recording device in the President's office at Camp David.

Casualties Report From January 1969 (0025)
Casualty report from Vietnam for January 20, 1969.
Do you recall these casualty reports being delivered to the public weekly on national news? Every time there was some number of Americans killed, then the number of ARVN (south Vietnam) soldiers killed would be something much larger than the American number, and finally the number of Viet Cong and NVA (North Vietnam) would be a astronomically higher than either of the other two. For example, for the current week shown in this photo there were 185 Americans killed, 336 ARVN and 2,742 VC and NVA. I think if you add up all the reported numbers killed for the VC and NVA throughout the entire war it would indicate every resident of North Vietnam had died at least twice.

Bob Dole Quote (1286)
Everybody's entitled to their opinion.

A Turning Point In History (0032)
How might history be different if someone had bought him some train tickets?

The complete set of photos can be seen here.

Filed under California,History | permalink | April 13, 2018 at 08:47 PM | Comments (0)

April 9, 2018

Low Clearance On New York Parkways Results In Bus Crash

Here's the news story about a bus striking a low clearance bridge on the Southern State Parkway on Long Island. "Major David Candelaria of the New York State Police...estimated the height of the clearance to be less than 10 feet." The article says it was an 8-foot clearance, but the signs say 7' 7". I'm really surprised the state police are so far off estimating the bridge height. The parkways in NY state were intended for passenger vehicles only, so designers intentionally made the bridge clearances low in order to discourage any future legislature from opening up the parkways to trucks and buses. Here's an interesting article that discusses the motivations of Robert Moses, who designed this particular parkway, to make these bridge clearances even lower than they are on other New York parkways. The primary accusation made against Moses was that he was rabidly racist (apparently a proven fact) and he didn't want low-income people (who he assumed would be mostly black or Puerto Rican) to come by the busload to the parks and beaches that are connected by the parkways. The author identifies one beach that was obviously designed for bus access, so he thinks the racism story may not be true.

The comments are very interesting. The ones from locals are like "Driver's fault, everyone knows about NY parkways," "Driver's fault, everyone in the northeast knows about NY parkways," or "Driver's fault, there were warning signs." I've been on NY parkways just a few times (when I lived in the northeast), and while I greatly appreciated their aesthetics, I wasn't consciously aware of the bridge heights, so I think there's just a lot of New Yorkers who think everyone knows all about New York.

The article says the bus passengers were returning home from Europe. I assume, therefore, that they were coming from one of the NYC area airports and heading east (the accident site is east of any airports). In fact, it seems most likely they were coming from JFK airport because from JFK you can get on the Belt Parkway from either I-678 or the JFK Expressway. The Belt Parkway then takes you to the Southern State Parkway.

I used Google Streetview to search for warning signs and the photo below shows the first (and only) warning sign that the parkway is for passenger cars only. This is coming from I-678. I could find no similar sign for those coming from the JFK Expressway.
First Warning Sign Entering Belt Parkway From I-678 Leaving JFK Airport
First (and apparently only) warning signs entering Belt Parkway from I-678 leaving JFK Airport
.

I used the New York State database of bridge heights that the Post author referenced. You've got to zoom in a lot before it becomes useful. I would expect a state department of transportation database of bridge heights to have both the highest and lowest clearance heights from both directions, a total of four heights. But the NYDOT only lists one height (the lowest) for each bridge. They only distinguish the different heights for either direction if the bridge has two arches. One arch bridges get only one height. IOW, inadequate.

Searching for info on the typical height of intercity buses, I found that the limit is 12 feet, but I didn't find any particular bus models taller than 133 inches (11' 1'). The extra 11 inches is probably a safety margin to allow for heavy snow on the road surface or changes in the height of the road due to repaving. I found a couple of trucker forums where drivers claimed that posted clearances in New York State are 12 inches lower than the real clearance. If those claims are true, then an 11' 1" bus ought to fit under any New York bridge with a labeled clearance of 10' 2", giving a tight one-inch safety margin.

Using that state database and following the route of the bus, the first bridge that appears too low for them is where the Belt Parkway passes under 130th Avenue. The photo below shows that underpass.
NB Belt Parkway Under 130th Avenue
NB Belt Parkway under 130th Avenue.
The 9' 8" warning sign is the lowest clearance in the right or left lane. If the bus had been in the center lane at this point, the clearance there might have been a nominal 10' 2" or more (11' 2" in reality, if we trust the alleged 12-inch safety margin) and the bus would have cleared it with an inch to spare.

As the bus transitioned from the Belt Parkway to the Southern State Parkway, it would go under the nominally 8' 6" bridge shown below.
First warning sign on EB Southern State Parkway coming from Belt Parkway
First warning sign on EB Southern State Parkway coming from Belt Parkway
. If 8' 6" means 9' 6", the clearance over the leftmost lane would need to be at least 17 inches higher than that over the right lane. It's possible.

BTW, the only height clearance warning signs I could find on the parkways were the single signs mounted on each bridge, small and usually white, although some were yellow as shown in the photo above. On entrance ramps I could usually find one standard "No Trucks" sign and two diamond signs showing the clearance of the first bridge to be encountered. The sign on I-678 is the biggest, flashiest warning I could find and even that one says nothing about low clearances. There were no "No Trucks" signs on the parkways, other than a single one at each entrance ramp. There were no "Trucks/Buses Must Exit" signs at any exit.

The next underpass has a nominal clearance of 8' 11", but that sign (white) is obscured by vegetation, as you can see below.
EB Southern State Parkway under Elmont Road
EB Southern State Parkway under Elmont Road.
An additional 15 inches of clearance would be needed for an 11' 1" bus (again, assuming the NYDOT actually deducts a 12-inch safety margin from their signs). There might be 15 inches difference between the righthand edge of the road and lanes number 2 or 3 (counting from left to right).

Then we come to Fletcher Avenue where the nominal clearance is 7' 8" which is only one inch higher than the underpass at Eagle Road where the bus accident happened.
EB Southern State Parkway at Fletcher Avenue
EB Southern State Parkway at Fletcher Avenue.
Google Streetview sometimes pixelates the height signs because they appear to be similar to license plates, which Streetview routinely pixelates, but the NYDOT database says this one is 7' 8", and that does not appear to be inconsistent with the pixelated sign. There would need to be a whopping 28 inches of additional clearance in lanes 1 or 2 (left to right) for the bus to pass under it, but pass under it the bus did.

Continuing east, the next bridge at Corona Avenue is nominally 9' 3". The next very low clearance bridge is at Franklin Avenue where the nominal clearance is 8' 7". After that the bus passed through four underpasses that seemed to have a nominal height sufficient for the bus to clear. And then they came to Eagle Avenue which is nominally only 7' 7", shown below.
Eagle Avenue Bridge Across Southern State Parkway Looking East
Eagle Avenue bridge across Southern State Parkway, eastbound.
.

aerial view of Southern State Parkway and Eagle Avenue
Click to go to the Google aerial view
of the interchange of Eagle Avenue and Southern State Parkway.

The photos of the wrecked bus in the Post article show much greater damage on its right side than on its left, so I think it was in the right lane and hit it at 7' 7" (or 8' 7" in reality) which would be about 23 inches lower than the top of the bus.
Bus Crash

Bus Crash

Bus Crash

The bus driver is a professional, so he should have noted the one warning sign he went under when going from I-678 to the Belt Parkway (if indeed that was his route). And he should have known that buses were prohibited from parkways. The bus company is based in New Jersey, so I think it's save to assume they do a lot of driving in New York State. In addition, the driver should have noticed his hairbreadth clearance under some of the bridges before he got to Eagle Avenue. If he'd been paying attention, that alone should have caused him to question the wisdom of his route.

The signage, however, erected by the NYDOT is all consistent with the assumption that every driver knows you can't take a bus (or truck) onto a parkway, and every driver knows there are very low clearance bridges. But that's a bit like the reasoning "but I had the right of way" as you lie dying on the pavement somewhere. Three vehicles a year strike this bridge! How many hit the other very low clearance bridges on this parkway? Construction of the Southern State Parkway began in 1926. It's been 92 years and no one has ever felt the need to upgrade the signage?! "In December [2017], Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $4.3 million project to install an electronic warning system that detects when oversize vehicles enter parkways." Here's what the NYDOT claims in that article: "An over-height vehicle entering would break the beam, triggering a warning message on a full color LED variable message sign display. The warning would indicate that the vehicle is over height and alerts the driver of impending bridge strikes ahead," but if you look at the photos you'll see the sign falls far short of what they claim.

Overheight Warning System
Full color LED? I don't think so. This is old technology, certainly not any color but amber. I don't think these lights are LED or I wouldn't see so many burned out elements both out on the road and in this photo. If they are truly LED, they could do a lot more with them than simply display crude dots. As for "The warning would indicate that the vehicle is over height and alerts the driver of impending bridge strikes ahead," uh, I don't think so. If the sign in the photo actually does that, it's going to have to scroll three or four message displays to do so, and the offending vehicle will have passed by the sign already. In addition, the sign is placed too late. Is the driver of the truck or bus supposed to back up or do a u-turn across the grass or just stop and call the highway patrol to assist? In the photo it appears that the detector is actually placed AFTER the warning sign, so its only real function would be to alert following drivers to get their cellphones ready to record the expected crash.

The NYDOT seems to work on the assumption there are no stupid or ignorant drivers on their roads. Most other states have learned the folly of that assumption when dealing with potentially life-endangering road hazards. In California there are generous warning signs where stupid or ignorant drivers might do the wrong thing. The bus driver is technically at fault in this case, but the NYDOT is doing less than the minimum to try to mitigate the risks of these low clearance parkway overpasses. The very least they could do is use the standard big yellow signs that are mounted on bridges directly over the roadway...and clear the damned vegetation!

There are at least a couple of low clearance bridges elsewhere in the United States that are routinely struck by high clearance vehicles. Go here to read and view videos about the infamous 11' 8" bridge in Durham, North Carolina. Note the extremely generous warning signs for the stupid or ignorant. Even so, plenty of drama still happens.

Filed under Architecture,Automotive | permalink | April 9, 2018 at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 5, 2018

Arriving At Burning Man, last year

Self Upon Arrival in Black Rock City, 2017.
My shirt is clean; my tent behind me is not yet covered by my shade structure, so it's midday of my first day on the playa last year, 2017. Photo by George Post who is always there when I arrive and always still there when I leave and I'm beginning to suspect he might live out there all the time.

The umbrella hat, to my surprise, proved very practical. Kept my head well shaded, well ventilated, and the headband did not irritate me. That was what I expected to be my main objection, but, no, it's fairly comfortable. Not practical in wind, however.

If somebody wants to give me a word balloon, send it complete (not just an idea or suggestion) to me at RonsLog@RBGilbert.com

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | permalink | April 5, 2018 at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)

Gigapan Aerial Image of Black Rock City 2017

The Gigapan image is here. Below is the view of our Burner Buddies camp.

BurnerBuddies

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | permalink | April 5, 2018 at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)