Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SHA engineer Barb Solberg is an idiot.

In today's Gazette SHA engineer Barb Solberg comments that she doesn't "know if the bike and pedestrian improvements would help reduce the traffic on BRAC-affected road."  What an idiot.  I don't have the background to be able to quantify the reductions, but it seems self-evident that better infrastructure for bike and pedestrians would mean fewer cars.  What is wrong with the state of transportation planning and civil engineering education that Ms. Solberg is able to make such a statement with a straight face.  Call her at 1-888-228-5003 or via e-mail to

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Shep Smith Deserves a Medal

Shep Smith deserves a medal for so perfectly summing up the arguments against torture. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Info on BRAC

So Mr. Jeffrey Miller, Transportation Program Manager, for the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda asked me to meet with him today to discuss ways to improve bicycling at NNMC.  Although I should be studying gastrointestinal physiology, I gladly took him up on his offer.  We talked for about 45 minutes this afternoon.  He had emailed me after finding my flier on a bike with regards to setting up a NNMC bicycling listserv. 

He made the argument that the community wanted BRAC and that much of the transportation issues stem from already too much traffic, and thus the traffic increases of BRAC are not that much.  I would somewhat agree but also point out that the traffic demands of 2500 more employees and another half of a million patient visits are not insignificant.  He also told me that by the time they found out about Bike-to-Work day, it was too late to set up a pit stop at NNMC.  He hoped that they would be able to next year.  I also learned that the bike racks at the quonset huts (I only know about them because of the NNMC website.) had been moved to somewhere around the Joint Task Force building.  He also was unable to tell me exactly where the BEQ bike racks were that I was unable to find the other day.

I told him that the biggest single thing the Navy and DOD could do to improve bicycling would be to have one or more actually bike lanes through the gates onto base.  He seemed receptive to the idea, and we discussed different options.  I pointed out that the single most important aspect would be a good connection to area bicycle infrastructure.  I also told him that, although twenty dollars is not much money, NNMC finding a way to implement the Bicycle Commuter Act would be a great impression on the community.  Overall, the gist of my points were that even though SHA controls the area infrastructure, there are little, affordable, actions that the Navy and DOD can take to both improve the situation and take the high ground in encouraging all modes of transportation, which lessens the traffic for drivers. 

I also suggested that the security forces receive some training on regulations concerning cyclists.  I've had issues with the police not properly understanding the rules and when I politely inquired at their office on separate day, two senior officers, one DOD and one MA, were unable to adequately explain the interaction between military regulations and state and county traffic laws.  They could not tell me which rule I was breaking when I passed a stopped car.  Further, a classmate of mine had an officer incorrectly stop him for not having lights and reflective clothing on during the day.  Yet, OPNAVINST 5100.12H CH-1 clearly states that such equipment is only required from sunset to sunrise.  Mr. Miller seems very receptive to this idea and stated that he has a very good working relationship with a chief in the security forces, so hopefully there will be some improvements.

I didn't ask him how he personally commutes to work everyday.  Perhaps I should have.  Nevertheless, I'm skeptical if things will change.  I've got at least three more years on this base, so I'll schedule in my calender to write a post on this blog comparing cycling now and then.

Somewhat insultingly Mr. Miller found it comically that a member of the NIH Bike Club  and I have been communicating regarding these issues since he is in regular contact with his counterpart at NIH.  Mr. Miller seemed to think that this member and the other members of the NIH Bike Club should have inquired with him or his NIH equivalent regarding numbers of cyclists on NNMC.  I don't think he understands that besides the fact the only people who cycle in the face of daily threats we face are a bit zealous and crazy about cycling, that one of the major benefits of cycling is the community it builds.  Not only do we no enjoy getting fat in our cars and enjoying God's beautiful world, but we don't like the disconnect the sitting in a metal and plastic box while stuck in traffic breeds.  I can't think of a single case of road rage I've had while on my bike directed at another cyclist.  When someone is in their car, it's so easy to see them as not a person but as some type of cyber creature on wheels. 

The type of community that cycling creates is such that even though I haven't even actually cycled with the NIH Bike Club member, he/she invited me to his/her church because of its strong community.  My wife and I attended church there last week and look forward to meeting his/her spouse this Sunday. 

I gave Mr. Miller's email address above, but don't email him regarding SHA's issues.  If SHA can't get things right, Mr. Miller can't make them.  However, I would urge anyone with specific suggestions or ideas for NNMC itself, which somewhat limits things, to email him. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Open Source MANPAD Contest

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia and any other country threatened by a large invasion prone neighbor should pool money for a annual open source weapons design contest.  I would envision at least two separate categories: one for helicopters and one for armored vehicles.  Both contests would offer a series of prizes for best designed and deployed systems.  The problems are stated and no other constraints are given.  Any team can approach the problem any way.

All current MANPAD and personal anti-armor weapons systems are the products of bloated defense establishments and legacy thinking going back to the dawn of the computer age.  Today's world offers the tools for any technically inclined individual to design and build a usable system.

All entries must be completely open source so that in the second iteration of the contest any team can use any aspect of another teams previous entry.  This will ensure maximum innovation each year. 

The winning systems should not even go into production nor should any attempt be made to prevent potential adversaries from knowing the details.  The plethora of possible threats upon any invasion will prohibit any usable defense. 

If any government chooses to use the intellectual gains of such contests, they would best do so merely by stocking throughout their country the commercial off the shelf (COTS) parts so that in the event of an invasion partisans can assemble weapons systems as best fits their needs on the ground.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NNMC Bicycle Count

Today I conducted a survey of NNMC bicycle racks at lunch.  The NNMC website lists the following racks:
  • Staff garage,
    Bldg 54
  • Visitor Garage,
    Bldg 55
  • Underground
    garage of bldg 61 (BEQ)
  • Comfort zone
    (Bldg 23)
  • Quonset Huts
The NNMC website fails to list the USUHS rack.  I was unable to find the BEQ or Quonset Huts racks.  As for determining commuters I don't think not counting the BEQ matters since any bikes parked there during the day are sailors who are at work on base.  I asked one security guard about the Quonset Huts, and he had no idea were they were.

Rack location
Number of Bikes
4 were very dusty
Staff Garage
ELCON Enterprises had a golf cart blocking access to the racks
Patient Garage
no available room
Comfort Zone

This would say that right now on a nice, but not warm, early spring day there are 22 bicycle commuters.  I also left fliers on all but the dusty bikes for a NNMC Bicycle listserv.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pirates Just Don't Understand

Abdullahi Lami just doesn't understand the classic paradigms of the world, cops and robbers, cowboys and indians and pirates versus the navy.  Pirates go about and do their thing.  We kill them.  Plain and simple.