Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Monarch butterfly update: things are getting worse

Not good news:

The 2023-2024 census of monarch butterfly numbers found one of the smallest annual populations of the insects at the overwintering sites in Central Mexico.

The World Wildlife Fund-Mexico and its partners released the data last Wednesday, which highlighted that the presence of eastern monarch butterflies decreased from 2.2 to 0.9 hectares. According to the news release, this is the second worst year for monarch butterfly sightings with the 2013-2014 census holding the lead with 0.67 hectares. 

“Fewer monarchs hibernating in their traditional forest habitat in Mexico greatly concerns all of us. It’s critical that all communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, scientists and others continue to strengthen our conservation and protection efforts to support the monarch’s unique migration,” said Jorge Rickards, general director of World Wildlife Fund-Mexico in the news release.

This isn’t the first time the foundation found a decline in monarchs, last year’s data showed a 22% decline in the butterfly population, based on the number of acres the insects occupied in Mexico. Factors contributing to these butterflies' decline include herbicide application to U.S. breeding grounds, drought and forest degradation.

Here's the updated overwintering graph from It's pretty grim:     
Back in 2022 I noted that the overwintering monarch population seemed to he holding steady in the 2-3 hectare range for the past several years and expressed hope that it meant things had stabilized. Unfortunately after this past winter that no longer appears to be the case.

According to Monarch Watch founder Chip Taylor, the migratory monarch population is took a big hit from last fall's drought that extended from Oklahoma into central Mexico. This meant fewer flowers and therefore less energy-providing nectar that fuels the insects' migration and sustains them through the winter.

While monarchs are resilient insects, they're going to need more milkweed plants to lay eggs and more nectar plants to feed them in order for their population to recover from this past winter's low. So please plant your gardens accordingly. I also wonder if this news is what finally persuades the US Fish and Wildlife Service to declare the monarch an endangered species. 

Americans don't trust self-driving cars

I've always felt that one of the biggest obstacles to the viability of autonomous vehicles would be public acceptance. To that point, this recent survey finding that 93% of Americans have concerns "about some aspect of self-driving cars" is illuminating:

Safety is the number one consumer fear when it comes to vehicles that drive themselves, with 36% of Americans indicating they do not trust the technology to keep motorists and pedestrians safe on the road.

Technology malfunctions come in a close second, with just over a quarter of consumers indicating they are most worried that autopilot technology will malfunction on the roads.

Reliability, cost, hacking, vehicle lifespan and privacy are also among the worries Americans share, although these issues are not nearly as pressing as fears about how autonomous vehicles will impact road safety.

These safety concerns reflect reality. Although autonomous vehicles are purported to be safer than human-driven vehicles (they don't get drunk, drowsy or distracted, after all), on a per-miles-driven basis they are actually more prone to accidents:

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that self-driving vehicles are more than twice as likely as traditional vehicles to become involved in auto accidents. According to NHTSA data:

There are 9.1 crashes in driverless vehicles per million vehicle miles driven

There are 4.2 crashes in conventional vehicles per million miles driven

High accident rates have rightly contributed to consumer concerns—and recent recalls of Tesla vehicles have only served to heighten fears.

Tesla—often considered a leader in autonomous driving with nearly two million cars across the U.S.—recently recalled nearly all of its autonomous vehicles.

Tesla’s recall comes after an NHTSA probe revealed nearly 1,000 accidents occurred when autopilot was engaged. It has prompted significant consumer concerns, with 62% of survey respondents indicating they are not confident in Tesla’s technology following the recalls.

It's worth pointing out that the Tesla "autopilot" feature that was the subject of the recall is not intended to be fully self-driving and requires the driver to be attentive and ready to take control of the vehicle at all times. But a lot of Tesla owners were obviously not using it correctly, and a safety advocacy group recently spent money on Super Bowl ads denouncing Tesla and calling for a boycott.

Problems with autonomous vehicles being able to operate safely and effectively are partly why Cruise pulled their self-driving cars off Texas streets last fall, after they caused traffic jams in Austin's West Campus and Houston's Montrose neighborhoods. The antipathy towards the disruption they sometimes cause is probably why a self-driving car in San Francisco was recently set ablaze as well.

Other findings of the survey, which was conducted on 2,000 Americans in January 2024, include:

  • More than half (51%) of consumers are somewhat or very unlikely to own or use a self-driving vehicle in the next five years
  • 61% of Americans wouldn’t trust a self-driving car with their loved ones or children
  • Only 29% of consumers would be willing to pay a premium for a self-driving vehicle

In fact, according to the survey, only 30% of Americans actually are excited about self-driving vehicles in the future. The publishers of the survey conclude that "A widespread shift in public perception will be important if these vehicles are to become a dominant force in the U.S. auto market in the near future."

That's the way I see it, too. A decade ago, proponents of autonomous vehicles told us that the technology would be ubiquitous by now. Today, however, a future of self-driving cars looks further away than ever.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

College football's viewership imbalance

This graphic has been making the rounds on X (I will never stop calling it Twitter) over the past couple of weeks, and it is equal parts fascinating and concerning:

Over the past eight college football seasons, fully half of the sport's television viewership has been generated by just 18 teams. And all of those teams, with the exception of Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida State, either are, or as of this fall will be, members of the SEC or Big 10.

There's probably a feedback loop here. Networks figure that college football fans want to see these teams, so they are on TV more often, which means that more people end up watching them, even if only casually. These ratings also include College Football Playoff games as well as regular season and other bowl games, which gives an additional ratings boost to multi-year CFP participants like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State. But the resulting concentration of viewership is still stark.

The next five most-watched schools on this graphic were Texas A&M, Michigan State, Iowa, Oklahoma State, and TCU. In other words, you have to go outside the top 20 before you find any Big 12 schools. It's also interesting that historic powerhouses like Nebraska and Miami are absent, but both schools are a long way away from their dominance in the '80s and '90s (the Cornhuskers currently being on a streak of seven losing seasons in a row). 

I also, sadly, suspect that Houston sits among that bottom 10% on the right side of the graph.

The fact that so much college football viewership (and therefore, television revenue) is concentrated in so few schools, and that those schools mostly belong to two conferences, means that college football finds itself in an extremely unbalanced situation between the "Power Two" (the SEC and the Big 10) and everyone else (the ACC, the Big 10 and the Group of Five conferences). This has significant implications for the sport's future.

In that regard, last Friday's news that the SEC and Big 10 are "creating a joint advisory group of university presidents, chancellors and athletics directors to address the turmoil enveloping the (college football) industry" is raising some eyebrows among college football fans. Could the SEC and Big 10 be preparing to break away and create their own college football league, apart from the NCAA? It would completely change the sport as we know it, and not (in my opinion) for the better.

I love college football, but between this imbalance, the out-of-control transfer portal, and a completely-unregulated NIL system, the sport is simply not sustainable in its current form, and I worry for its future.

Stupid mistakes and shitty utility companies

Right before Thanksgiving, I made a stupid mistake. I was paying bills online through my bank's website, and for some reason I accidentally clicked the wrong button and sent a payment to the wrong company. I don't know why I made such a careless error; perhaps I was in a hurry or distracted (I really don't remember). But the end result is that a $2,700 payment intended for my Chase credit card went to Centerpoint Energy instead.

I didn't notice my stupid mistake until I checked my balance a couple of days later, but I wasn't too concerned. The Centerpoint account I accidentally made the payment to had been closed since I moved out of the house in Bellaire back in the summer of 2017, so I figured that the payment would be kicked back by Centerpoint's computers in a few days. In the meantime, I made a second, correct payment to Chase (I was lucky enough to have the extra money to do so), and waited. 

Days passed. Nothing happened. So I decided to call Centerpoint.

After spending some time navigating through their automated customer service system, and then spending some more time on hold, I was finally connected to a real, live customer service representative named "Claire." I explained to her my predicament; she quickly located my otherwise-closed account and opened a case for me that would be referred to Centerpoint's accounting department. She told me that a refund check would be issued to the address on file for my account (in this case, my parents' house) and it would take seven to ten days. 

Seven to ten days came and went. No check appeared at my parents' house. So I called Centerpoint again.

This time (after I once again navigated through their automated customer service system and spent a few more minutes on hold) I was connected to "Fran." She told me that the case the previous representative made for me was incorrect, and that she would file a correct one. She explained that the erroneous payment would go directly back to my bank and that it would take five to seven business days to process.

Seven business days came and went. No refund appeared in my bank account. So I called Centerpoint for the third time.

This time the service representative I spoke to, "Tiffany," said that the refund request had been ordered by the accounting department, but that it would actually take ten to fifteen days to process (and perhaps even longer, since by now we were approaching Christmas). She suggested I call my bank to see how long it takes them to process refund payments once they're received. (I did, and the bank representative I spoke to said such payments are usually processed within two to four days of initial receipt.)

Christmas came and went. No refund appeared in my bank account. I was becoming frustrated. Would I ever see my money again?

So I called Centerpoint for the fourth time. This time, the service representative I spoke to, Angela, confirmed that the refund had been ordered by the accounting department, but that it actually takes up to thirty business days for it to process, and because of upcoming holidays - New Year's Day and Martin Luther King Jr., Day - it could take even longer. She said that the case was still "open" in their system, meaning that it was still being processed.

The New Year and MLK Day came and went. Still, no refund appeared in my bank account. So I tried to call Centerpoint again. However, due to the freezing weather that was affecting Houston at the time, people were obviously having trouble with their gas and customer hold times were an hour or more. I decided to wait one more week and call again.

When I called Centerpoint for the fifth time, I got Angela again. She told me that the payment had been processed and I needed to call something called "CheckFree" to see where my payment was. She gave me a phone number for the company, but could not give me any sort of tracking or other identification number for the payment. At this point I had completely run out of patience; as politely as I could, I told Angela that this situation was not acceptable. If I did not get my accidental payment refunded soon, I was going to file a complaint with the city, or the Public Utilities Commission, or even speak to an attorney.

As I suspected, the number she gave me to CheckFree (which is apparently an ACH payment processor owned by the financial services company FiServ) was useless. So I began contemplating my next step. Should I start with an email to the City of Houston's public utilities complaint department? Should I copy my district councilmember? Are there attorneys out there that have dealt with these kinds of issues that won't charge me several hundred dollars just to talk to them?

And then, lo and behold, two days after I called Centerpoint for the fifth time (and over 60 days after I originally made the erroneous payment), guess what finally appeared in my bank account? The refund came with an email from my bank stating that the payment had been "refused by the payee," as if it were an automatic action on the part of Centerpoint and not the result of my calling them five separate times over the course of two months.

Apparently, a lot of people have had similar issues with Centerpoint not returning inadvertent payments in a timely manner (see here and here, for example). And if I were an unaccountable utility monopoly like Centerpoint, I'd probably dither in returning accidental payments too. Perhaps the corporation figures that, if they continually give people the runaround by telling them a different story every time they call customer service and slow-walking refund payments in their accounting department, some people will just give up and allow Centerpoint to keep their money.

But I wasn't going to be one of those people. $2,700 is a lot of money, and Centerpoint was not entitled to it. I'm thankful that my financial situation is such that I could go a couple of months without that kind of money in my account. But what about people who made similar mistakes who were not as financially well-off as me? 

Online banking may have made obsolete the hassle of writing out paper checks and mailing them, but it also makes it easier to make a dumb mistake like I did. This was the first time I've ever made such an error. After this experience, I am determined that it will be the last. 

Houston to host seven 2026 World Cup matches

The 2026 FIFA World Cup match schedule is set, and Houston is hosting seven games at NRG Stadium: five group stage matches, and two knockout round games.

It was already known that Houston was going to be a host city for the 2026 World Cup. Now we know the number of games and their dates. Houston is one of sixteen cities in the United States, Mexico and Canada to host the quadrennial tournament, which will be expanding from 32 to 48 teams. 

Next to the Olympics, this is the biggest sports event that Houston can possibly host. It's even bigger than the Super Bowl, when you account for the international audience. Needless to say, local leaders are excited:

Houston Mayor John Whitmire released a statement after Sunday's announcement, "I am thrilled to hear that FIFA has unveiled the game schedule for the 2026 World Cup, including the soccer matches that will be played in the City of Houston. Hosting such a prestigious event will provide an incredible opportunity for our city to showcase its culture, hospitality and infrastructure on a global stage. We are committed to working closely with FIFA to ensure that all preparations are in place to welcome the world and provide an unforgettable experience for players, fans and visitors."

Not to mention the boost it will bring to the local economy.

The opening game of the World Cup will be held at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on June 11, 2026, and the final will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on July 19, 2026. The entire schedule can be viewed here; if you're interested in tickets, you can register for updates here.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

2024 Houston Cougar football schedule released

Earlier this week, the Big 12 announced the fall 2024 football schedules for all the teams in the conference, including Houston (we already knew who all of Houston's opponents were going to be, but until this announcement did not know the dates):

    Sat Aug 31     UNLV
    Sat Sep 07      at Oklahoma
    Sat Sep 14      Rice
    Sat Sep 21      at Cincinnati
    Sat Sep 28      Iowa State
    Sat Oct 05      at TCU
    Sat Oct 12      (off)
    Sat Oct 19      at Kansas
    Sat Oct 26      Utah
    Sat Nov 02     Kansas State
    Sat Nov 09     (off)
    Sat Nov 16     at Arizona
    Sat Nov 23     Baylor
    Sat Nov 30     at BYU

The game at TCU may occur on Friday October 4th instead of the 5th, while the game at Arizona may occur on Thursday November 14th or Friday November 15th instead of the 16th. The game at Kansas will be played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, because Memorial Stadium in Lawrence is undergoing renovations.

There are some advantages to this schedule. There are two bye weeks, one of which comes at the season's midway point and another before its final quarter. These will both provide the team some much-needed recovery time as they navigate a tough Big 12 slate. The Cougars only have one instance of back-to-back games on the road, and those two games are separated by a bye week. The Cougars also have back-to-back home games against Utah and Kansas State, which will likely be two of their toughest opponents.

All that said, there's no sugarcoating: this is a brutal schedule for the Cougars. Eight of their 12 opponents played in bowl games last year, and four of them ended the season ranked. The Cougars played six of these teams last year and only beat one of them (Baylor). Given all the work that new head coach Willie Fritz has to do rebuild this team, anything more than three or four wins from this schedule will be a significant overachievement.

I'm eyeing the Arizona game as a possible roadie. Mid-November should be a delightful time of year in Tucson, and I have family there that I can visit as well.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Texans don't suck anymore

Last Saturday the Houston Texans were thoroughly defeated by the Baltimore Ravens, 10-31, in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The Texans didn''t even score an offensive touchdown.

And I am not upset about it. Not in the least.

If you had told me last August that the Texans - with an 11-38-1 record over the previous three seasons, a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback - would win ten games, the AFC South and make it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, I would have told you to lay off the drugs. To say that the Texans exceeded expectations in 2023 would be a bit of an understatement. 

Head coach DeMeco Ryans deserves to be named NFL Coach of the Year, and quarterback C.J. Stroud NFL Rookie of the Year, for what they have accomplished this past season. 

There's still a ways to go before the Texans can be considered an elite franchise. They still have some holes to fill and some big decisions to make as the draft and free agency negotiations approach. The NFL, furthermore, did not do the Texans any favors by giving them a brutal 2024 schedule. But the 2023 season laid the groundwork for a successful run: at the very least, the Texans have finally climbed out of the hole that former head coach Bill O'Brien left them in through his mismanagement.

And that is worth celebrating.

Sean Pendergast has more.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

An airplane-free 2023

2023 is coming to an end, and it's been a bit of an anomalous year for me in that I went the entire year without stepping foot on an airplane. This is the first time since 1992 - over 30 years ago! - that I did not fly for any purpose.

Sure, it's a bit weird for an aviation geek like me to go an entire calendar year without flying, but that's just how things worked out: the only big, long-distance trip I took this past year was a road trip with my family, and I had no other events, be they personal or work-related, that required me to fly. So I didn't.

And I didn't really miss it, either. Between long security and check-in lines, flight delays, fees for checked baggage and other services that airlines used to provide for free, rude employees both in the terminal and in the skies, small and uncomfortable seats on the plane itself, and unruly, disruptive passengers, commercial air travel has become a real pain in the ass. Unless you have the financial means and/or frequent flier miles to fly business or first class, and can avail yourself to perks like TSA PreCheck, priority boarding, and airline lounges, there's really nothing glamorous or enjoyable about traveling by air.  

This isn't to say I'll never fly again, of course; commercial aviation, for all its headaches, is a necessary form of travel (and in many cases, the only practical one). So I'm sure I'll be flying again at some point. Like I said, 2023 was something of an anomaly; it was just nice to go an entire year without standing in line at the check-in counter, or taking off my shoes to pass through security, or sitting in a cramped seat with no elbow room, or being jostled by turbulence, or fighting through the hordes of people at baggage claim to retrieve my luggage.

Regardless of whether you plan to fly in the coming year or not, I wish anybody who may be reading this a safe, happy and prosperous 2024!

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Ralph Anthony "Tony" Trainello 1950-2023

"Uncle Tony" was Corinne's uncle; I first met him not too long after I began dating her. I only had the pleasure of knowing Tony for a few years, but I will always remember him for his hospitality and generosity. Whenever we went up to "the farm" - Uncle Tony and Aunt Lori's ranch halfway between Teague and Mexia - he would always be waiting for me with a warm hug and a cold beer. 

The last time I saw him was in late July, when Corinne, Kirby and I stopped by there after visiting my aunt in Temple. He was happy and healthy and was proud to show off his new "toy" - a griddle that he used to cook hamburgers for all of us for lunch. I had no way of knowing at the time that, only a matter of weeks later, he would be gone.

Tony's sudden passing cast a pall over the entire autumn; his loss has been especially hard on Corinne. Tony was like a father figure to her, especially after her own father passed away. In fact, Corinne's original plan for our wedding (before the pandemic forced us to change everything) was for Tony to walk her down the aisle.

Tony did not want a formal funeral ceremony and no obituary ran in any newspaper. However, at a remembrance for him on the farm a couple of months ago, a pamphlet containing a testimonial of his life was distributed to attendees. I am reproducing it here, with very minor edits for clarity, and with Aunt Lori's permission:

Ralph Anthony Trainello (Tony or Apaw to us) was born on July 4, 1950 in High Point, North Carolina. Tony never knew his father as his parents divorced shortly after he was born. Tony and his mother, Betty, moved to Dallas where they lived with his beloved grandmother, Elizabeth, in the early '50s. Soon his mom met and married Kenneth Bracey and they became a family. Tony's brother, David, was born a few years later. Tony Graduated from H. Grady Spruce High School in Dallas in 1968. He then moved to Houston where he pursued a degree in Construction Technology while holding full-time jobs in engineering firms and moonlighting at night by drafting for mechanical, electrical and plumbing companies. It was his afterhours drafting job that paid for the 68.5 (and eventually 92.5) acre ranch be bought in 1979 in Freestone County, Texas, naming it Patton Creek Ranch. He became interested in this area while visiting with his best friend, Tony Miller, who owned property in Freestone County. They both dreamed of one day retiring to their ranches and spending time sitting together on their porches. Sadly, both were taken too soon, and they were never able to fulfill their dream together. 

In 1980, Tony married Becky and from that union two beautiful daughters were born, Jennifer and Megan, of whom he couldn't be prouder. 

In the late '80s, Tony was contacted by Maryann Schroder, from New York state, who turned out to be his half-sister, the daughter of his father. Her difficult and vigilant searching resulted in the beginning of a new and loving sibling relationship.

Tony and David built the ranch house during those first few years after he bought the property with the help of the children's uncles and grandfather. It was to be a "deer camp." But it became much more than that. 

Tony's career of 46 years in the engineering and construction business was rewarding and fruitful. His most challenging and satisfying years were those spent at Pollock Electric and Trio Electric. The Pollock family allowed him to manage large projects (the buildings which he never failed to point out as he drove through Houston) and provide for his family and the company. He prided himself on treating the company checkbook like his own and was often found scouring the company warehouse/surplus for parts he needed for a job rather than buying new. He mentored many young men during his career, but sadly, he always said that he didn't think, in the scope of life, his work mattered. It mattered, it mattered...

In 1995, Tony met Lori and the love story blossomed into marriage in 1998. They raised the two girls into beautiful, educated and successful women with families of their own. Tony wasn't a "sleep in the bed dog person," but Lori came up with one, so he became a dog person... Gretel, then Brooke and now Maddie... He loved them all, his faithful companions...

Tony loved fishing with his brother David and grandson, Brody. Kid fish tournaments at Fairfield Lake State Park were a favorite of both Brody and his granddaughter Bryleigh. He was a patient teacher to his grandchildren and, well, to all of us... He would tell Brody that all the things he was teaching him, together they would have to teach Mason, his third grandchild, once he was old enough. He loved the time with his grandchildren and, no doubt, they went home with stories... So many stories. Camping became a passion after retirement and he loved exploring Texas State Parks. In May, a trip to the Devis Mountains to celebrate 25 years of marriage, with a day trip to Big Bend National Park, was a special blessing and a long-time dream realized.

Many, many weekends at the ranch that became his final early home brought joy to so many friends and family celebrations... Everyone was welcome there and he was in his glory hosting. But equally as joyous was the time spent there in quiet, peaceful reflection. As much as he loved camping, coming home to the ranch never got old... It was his absolute happy place, closest to heaven as could be. He loved the Lord and no doubt he is with Jesus.

Tony's Graduation to Glory was on September 3, 2023. He considered family Lori Trainello, his wife of 25 years, daughter Jennifer Fulcher and husband Joel, daughter Megan Morfin and husband Mike, and grandchildren Jae, Hanna, Keila, Bryleigh, Brody and Mason. Also his brother, David, and sister in law, Debbie, nieces Emmy (Dave) and Natalie (Barry) and nephew Nathan and their families, sister Maryann and husband Roger and their family, sister in law Cheryl and niece, Corinne (Thomas) and nephew Aug (Val) and their families along with so many great nieces and nephews. And so many friends and neighbors he considered family. 

Tony always said the three tall oaks at the south end of the yard reminded him of the three crosses on Calvary. He would often do his morning devotional looking out on those trees. Tony's wish was to be cremated. As a place of remembrance, a marker will be placed near the grove of his oaks. Bryliegh and Brody, with the help of their parents. lovingly built the beautiful white cross where the marker will go eventually; probably something very simple, like the cross, as he was a very simple, humble man. We believe he would like that. 

"Well done, good and faithful servant!"

From Matthew 25:21

Hyperloop shuts down

It was a dumb idea, championed by a guy who thinks he's a lot smarter than he really is:

HYPERLOOP ONE, A futuristic transportation startup highly touted by Elon Musk, is shuttering its airless tubes.

The company is laying off employees, selling remaining assets (which include a test track and machinery), and closing its offices, Bloomberg reports. After hiring more than 200 people in 2022, remaining workers — who are tasked with supervising the asset sale — were told their employment ends Dec. 31. All of Hyperlooop One’s intellectual property will be handed over to majority stakeholder, Dubai-based DP World.

The billionaire estimated in a 2013 proposal that a pod would be able to whisk passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes and “feel a lot like being on an airplane.” After its founding in 2014, the buzzy startup raised around $450 million in venture capital funds and other investments, and even constructed a test track near Las Vegas to develop its technology.

For a moment, things looked promising for the company that vowed to end traffic once and for all. Originally founded as Hyperloop Technologies, the business changed its name to Hyperloop One in 2016, and then rebranded to Virgin Hyperloop One after Richard Branson invested in the company and joined its board of directors. After an exodus of top execs, Virgin dropped its name from Hyperloop One after opting to focus on cargo rather than passengers.

The Hyperloop - a vacuum-sealed tube through which magnetically-propelled pods are theoretically able to travel at high speeds due to low air resistance - is little more than a gadgetbahn: an unproven technology in search of a need. Riding on the Hyperloop would not "feel a lot like being on an airplane:" the passenger pods would be a lot smaller than an airplane and have no windows (because they would be traveling inside an either elevated or subterranean sealed steel tube), and passengers would be subject to intense G-forces and vibration as the pods accelerated. Any sort of damage to the hundreds-of-miles-long steel tubes - a crack or a small hole - would allow air into the vacuum and render the technology useless. Equipment malfunctions or power outages would leave passengers trapped in their sealed pods until they were somehow rescued. A Hyperloop journey would be claustrophobia-inducing and perhaps even terrifying.

The Hyperloop is not financially or politically feasible and it offers no advantage over existing and proven forms of transportation technology, such as commercial aviation or high-speed rail systems in use in Europe or Asia. (Perhaps, in fact, Hyperloop was little more than a ploy to stop construction of California's [admittedly controversial] high speed rail project.) A decade after Elon Musk first trumpeted its prospective benefits, it remains little more than a (vacuum-sealed) pipe dream. 

It's time to consign this dumb idea to the trashbin of history. And it's also time for credulous media and "tech-savvy" influencers to stop hyping impractical, pie-in-the-sky ideas like Hyperloop just because they're championed by a blowhard asshole like Elon Musk.