Gongol.com Archives: January 2024

Brian Gongol

January 13, 2024

Iowa Impaired driving

Extreme conditions have a way of pressing questions that otherwise go without much notice, even if they are worthwhile. The extreme Arctic blast that set the stage for a below-zero NFL game in Kansas City and rendered Interstate 80 impassable is a good example. ■ With winter conditions making driving either unsafe or impossible across much of Iowa and wind chills so low that frostbite could take only minutes, it raises the fair question: How do we expect people to travel when they don't have personal automobiles? ■ It's a cliche to bemoan America as an "auto-centric society". And it's naive to think that the automobile will be displaced as our country's primary mode of transportation. It's not just a matter of implicit and explicit preferences that have gone to road construction for generations -- we also just don't have the kind of population density that many of our peer rich countries do. ■ Germany has 84 million people in a land area slightly smaller than Montana. We have 335 million people (almost exactly four times Germany), spread across Montana and 49 other states. And Germany isn't exceptional -- other G7 countries are denser still. The densities involved -- and their consequences for other forms of transit -- are simply not comparable. ■ But cold weather travel shutdowns should cause ordinary people to wonder: If I had to rely on public transportation, how far would I have to walk and how long could I wait for a bus to arrive? If wind-driven snow can close the highways, are there blizzard-resilient modes of transportation we should think about building as backups? If snow removal from the streets is a matter for public works departments, why do we rely on private property owners to clear the sidewalks? Unusual conditions ought to spur some unusual thinking.

Weather and Disasters Curse the torpedoes, full steam ahead

If ever there were a behavior that screamed "Please suspect this vehicle of running drugs", it's driving a car with Florida plates at 94 mph across Iowa during a blizzard. And not just any blizzard, but one that rendered two-thirds of the state all but impassable. A portion of Interstate 80 just west of Iowa City was shut down by stranded trucks and other accidents, which speaks to exactly why we have automatic closing gates on Midwestern on-ramps. ■ For what it's worth, if traveling through snowy places, always go with a flattened cardboard box in your trunk. If you should find yourself spinning your tires on ice, wedge the cardboard under the tire, sticking out in the direction you intend to go. It's a simple hack that can create instant dry traction when badly needed. One Iowa driver set his car on fire by spinning his tires for too long. ■ We complain, of course, but the Midwest isn't the only place where winter storms bite. Over a long enough time horizon, every state but Hawaii is a cold-weather state. (On the other hand, frostquakes are an unusual phenomenon for which Iowans and our neighbors ought to be prepared.)

Humor and Good News What happened to key changes?

(Video) Bass lines, key changes, and ballads of intra-band divorces and breakups are all endangered species in contemporary music. We used to be a proper country.

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