Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The left lane is for passing only, damnit!

As somebody who has complained about left-lane slowpokes in the past, I add my full-throated approval to this TxDOT initiative:
The Texas Department of Transportation is installing additional “Left Lane for Passing Only” signs on all highways with a speed limit of 75 mph or higher. State law requires TxDOT to post these signs on highways where slower traffic is asked to stay in another lane.

“We want to make sure that travelers on our highways have a safe, efficient and enjoyable trip,” said Carol Rawson, TxDOT’s Traffic Operations Division Director. “Reminding the public that slower moving vehicles should use right lanes and that passing vehicles use left lanes will help
improve safety on our highways.”
Slow drivers on the left lane of rural interstates are a paramount source of annoyance to me, along with drivers who don't merge when they're supposed to and drivers who litter. Anybody who engages in any of these activities should have their drivers license immediately suspended, as far as I'm concerned, because they've proven themselves to be too stupid, too arrogant and too selfish to be allowed to operate a motor vehicle in mixed traffic.

It's pretty simple: if you're in the left lane, and somebody behind you wants to pass you, MOVE OVER. It doesn't matter how fast you're going, or how fast they want to go. If they want to speed, MOVE OVER and let them risk getting a ticket. The left lane should be reserved for passing traffic only, and slower traffic should keep to the right. It's amazing how many motorists fail to understand this rather basic, common-sense concept.
TxDOT expects installation of approximately 3,400 new “Left Lane for Passing Only” signs to be completed by summer of 2013. The signs are enforceable and violators can be stopped and ticketed by law enforcement.
Here's to hoping that, along with more signs, comes more legal enforcement of the "left lane for passing, slower traffic keep right" rule. In my experience driving along Texas interstates, it seems to me that the DPS is more than willing to bust people for speeding, but generally ignores people who drive slowly in the left lane. For everybody's safety and mental well-being, let's hope this changes. TICKET LEFT LANE SLOWPOKES!

UP 844 pulls into town

Kirby and I saw it in action in Denver earlier this year, but last weekend I got to see it up close and personal: Union Pacific 844, the "Living Legend" and the only steam locomotive never to have been retired by a major US railroad.
Union Pacific brought it down to Houston for the weekend as part of events marking their 150th anniversary.  The event was held at the Amtrak station near downtown. You can't appreciate just how massive UP 844 is unless you actually see it for yourself.
As big and fat as I am, I am dwarfed by the massive driving wheels of UP 844. There's just something impressive about the size and complexity of steam locomotives that diesels, for all their power, simplicity and efficiency, cannot replicate. This is not to say that I favor steam locomotives over diesel locomotives; railroads made the transition from the former to the latter for obvious economic reasons.
This is what the cab of Union Pacific 844 looks like. All those knobs and valves! Today's locomotive engineers, with their fully-computerized cabs, have it easy. Even though UP 844 is a steam locomotive, it does not burn coal, but rather #5 fuel oil, which is normally used for maritime purposes.
Even Abraham Lincoln made an appearance at the festivities. His presence is historically accurate; 150 years ago Lincoln signed into law the Pacific Railroad Acts that would incorporate Union Pacific into existence.
Anyway, I was impressed. Kudos to Union Pacific for keeping UP 844 up and running to remind us of what used to be.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Houston tops UTEP, 45-35

The University of Houston Cougars notched their fourth win of the season yesterday afternoon by beating the University of Texas at El Paso 45-35 at Robertson Stadium. The score should not have been as close as it was; the Cougars had built up  a 45-7 lead early in the third quarter but then coasted to victory, allowing the Miners to score the game's final 28 points.
"While I would prefer to start fast, if given the choice, we have to play 60 minutes and put people away when we can," UH coach Tony Levine said. "We have to get much better at finishing games."
Ya think, coach? To be fair, this was the first time all season the Cougars had led a game by such a margin, and keeping teams focused when they're leading by 38 points is not always an easy task. But this game turned out to be a lot closer than it needed to be precisely because the Coogs took their collective foot off the pedal and allowed the Miners back into the game. Luckily for the Coogs, the clock was their best friend in the second half.

Quarterback David Piland appeared to be no worse for wear from the brutal hit he received at SMU, as he completed 16 of 30 passes for 174 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Charles Sims amassed 119 yards and three touchdowns on twelve carries before sitting out much of the second half. The Cougars did fumble the ball twice (one of them coming on yet another special teams miscue), but they also forced six UTEP turnovers, including an interception that cornerback D.J. Hayden returned 97 yards for a touchdown.

With the win, the Cougars even their record at 4-4. Unfortunately, now their toughest portion of the schedule begins with two games on the road (at East Carolina this Saturday, and at Marshall in three weeks) and a visit from league-leading Tulsa at home two weeks from now.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall finally arrives

Perfect weather for football and Halloween.
It took awhile, but the first major cold front of the season finally got here:
The Houston area's summer finally ends Friday.

After running temperatures as much as 10 degrees above normal the last two weeks, Houston finally will see the onset of more seasonal fall weather after a strong front moves through.

The city hasn't had an overnight low temperature in the 40s since March 9. Thursday will be warm, but after the season's strongest front blows into the region Friday, most of the area should see temperatures in the mid-40s on Sunday and Monday mornings.
Sure enough, today I stepped outside to cool, cloudy, windy and wonderful surroundings. Before I went out this evening, I even had to dig around in the closet for a sweater that I hadn't worn since February. It looks like these cool temperatures are going to stick around for a little while, as well; the forecast doesn't even call for highs to get back into the 80s until Wednesday of next week.

Relief from the heat at last, and perfect weather for tomorrow's tailgate and football game! Now, if only the hapless Cougars could pull off a win...

You can haul ass, just beware of the hogs

The fastest highway in America opened for business earlier this week. Those willing to pay for the privilege can now travel at speeds up to 85 miles per hour on a portion of Texas 130, a toll bypass around Austin and surrounding communities along Interstate 35. There is a catch, however: you need to watch out for feral hogs when you drive:
But the fact that hogs played a part in at least two wrecks was no surprise to many who live in the Caldwell County area, where at least two of the collisions occurred. This is hog country.

"That is a known pig route," said Caldwell County Precinct 1 Constable Victor "Smitty" Terrell, who heard one of the hog-versus-vehicle crashes on his police radio Wednesday night.

Like Texas 130 has the highest speed limit, Texas claims the largest feral hog population in the U.S. - 2.6 million - and is so problematic that the state runs a contest called the "Hog Out Challenge," in which counties compete to take the most swine by killing, trapping, snaring or capturing them "for purposes of immediate slaughter."

Whether road kill counts is unclear.

Lockhart Police Departmen Capt. John Roescher spotted at least three dead hogs on the side of Texas 130 at U.S. 183 on Thursday morning.

The sight didn't alarm him "because we're so used to seeing that around here," Roescher said.
Feral swine aside, I remember that the Texas 130 bypass was a hot topic of discussion fifteen years ago, when it was still in the planning stages and I was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. Austinites hoped that the bypass would alleviate the hopeless congestion along I-35 through the city, and some people I spoke to even argued that the bypass should be free and I-35 should be tolled in order to discourage through traffic as much as possible. That wasn't going to happen for a variety of reasons, of course, and it remains to be seen if the completion of the Texas 130 bypass and its 85 mph speed limit will have any measurable affect on traffic on I-35 between San Antonio and Georgetown. Trucks, for example, account for a large portion of through traffic on this stretch of I-35, but don't appear to be too keen on using the new bypass:
Truckers will pay more than $24, but the American Trucking Association has called the road unsafe for truck traffic. Last month, the Arlington, Va.-based organization urged the Texas Transportation Commission to reverse its decision to allow an 85 mph speed limit and cautioned other states not to follow the example.

Truck driver Mike Wilsontold KVUE-TV of Austin his truck won't even go 85. "It's governed out at 75," he said. Another trucker, James Regenauer, told the station, "Anytime you got two different speeds set for two different vehicles on the same road — you know what I mean? It's going to cause a problem."
For now, this 41-mile stretch of Texas 130 is the only place in the country where vehicles can legally travel at 85 miles per hour. There was talk in the last legislative session of raising speed limits on certain west Texas highways to 85 mph as well, but so far there's been no further movement on that front.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A rather easy travel decision

I am thinking about attending a one-day planning seminar in Chicago in mid-November. I did some research and discovered the following:

• I can fly Southwest non-stop from Houston Hobby to Chicago Midway for $372 round-trip, or...

• I can fly United non-stop from Houston Bush Intercontinental to Chicago O'Hare for $1,042 round-trip.

(American Airlines also flies between Bush Intercontinental and O'Hare. Their price was the same as United's. American, United and Southwest are the only three airlines which fly between the nation's third- and fourth-largest cities without requiring connections.)

Given that Hobby is the closer airport to where I live, Southwest (unlike United) doesn't charge a checked bag fee, drinks are $2 cheaper on Southwest, and it doesn't matter which Chicago airport I use because it's easy to get to downtown (where the seminar is) from either airport using the 'L', this is obviously a no-brainer.

Why is United charging almost three times as much as Southwest for a flight between, airports aside, the same city pair? Obviously, they think they can get away with it. Maybe they think their customer base is loyal enough, or prefers Intercontinental/O'Hare over Hobby/Midway enough, or disdains flying on Southwest enough, that they'll pay the extra cost.

Or, maybe it's just another reason why, as far as I'm concerned, Southwest is an exponentially better airline than United.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A girl and her dog

Genghis is my girlfriend Michelle's doberman-chow mix. Genghis was born in the spring of 1997, which would put him somewhere over 100 years old if the chart on the left (taken from here, which notes that a dog's "age" isn't linear to time and depends on size) is to be believed.

Since I've been in a relationship with Michelle, Genghis has become as much a part of my life as he is with hers. He seems to like me (especially when I'm in the kitchen, because he knows he'll get some scraps from cooking) and I enjoy having him around as well. Which is saying something, considering that I'm not by nature a "dog person."

Despite his age, Genghis has always appeared to be in good health. That's why we began to get concerned recently about some changes in his behavior. He was getting up, walking around and sitting back down more slowly and stiffly. He sometimes began to whine at night, as if he were in pain, and last week even yelped when he sat down. He began defecating in the house, which was unusual for him (and according to some sources, a sign that "the end is near"). Michelle was obviously concerned, and took Genghis to the vet last week.

It turns out that Genghis is fine; the vet, in fact, thought he was rather healthy for his age and expected him to live for another year, at least. Genghis, like a lot of old-timers (dog and human alike) has arthritis, and the muscles in his hind legs have begun to atrophy. That makes getting up, walking around and sitting back down more difficult and painful for him than it has been in the past. It also may have been a reason for his inside pooping, because it might have been too uncomfortable for him to stand outside long enough to do his business. The vet prescribed a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory for the arthritis and suggested that Genghis spend more time outside in order to ensure that he eliminates properly. So far, so good; Genghis seems to be walking with a bit more ease and I haven't stepped in any more of his messes.

That being said, the fact remains that Genghis has well-surpassed the lifespan that would generally be expected for a dog of his size and breed mix. Michelle understands this and is thankful for every additional day she gets to spend with the dog she calls "her everything." We know that the day will come when Genghis is no longer around. Even though Michelle says she is prepared for it, she knows that it will nevertheless be a very difficult time for her. It will be difficult for me as well. Which is why we're enjoying his company while we still can.

Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman recently posted up a new comic entitled My dog: the paradox. In it, he observes:
Dogs are an unfortunate creature to own because unlike children who turn into adults in their teen years, when a dog gets into his teens he dies of old age.

So you spend a decade and a half building an affinity for this weird little creature only to have its life extinguished.

Maybe that's why we love them because their lives aren't lengthy, logical or deliberate but an explosive paradox composed of fur, teeth and enthusiasm.

And you'll never meet a person who is so genuinely happy to be with you.

Should scientists be jailed for making bad predictions?

Six scientists and a government official in Italy have been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison for "failing to accurately communicate the risk" of an earthquake in L'Aquila that killed over 300 people in 2009.

This is a ridiculous and fundamentally ignorant misunderstanding of science on the part of the Italian court (and it wouldn't be the first time Italian courts have gotten science wrong). When earthquakes will or will not occur cannot be predicted with any kind of accuracy.
"To predict a large quake on the basis of a relatively commonplace sequence of small earthquakes and to advise the local population to flee" would constitute "both bad science and bad public policy," said David Oglesby, an associate professor in the Earth sciences faculty of the University of California, Riverside.

"If scientists can be held personally and legally responsible for situations where predictions don't pan out, then it will be very hard to find scientists to stick their necks out in the future," Oglesby said in a statement.
Indeed, jailing seismologists for failing to predict an earthquake is like jailing meteorologists for failing to predict when and where a tornado is going to hit, to which the Chronicle's Eric Berger asks:
What’s next, throwing hurricane scientists into the pokey for bad track forecasts? Putting Tim Heller in the slammer for having incorrect temperatures in the five-day forecast?
To be sure, I occasionally refer to meteorologists as "weather-guessers," but that's essentially what they do: weather is about probabilities and can rarely be predicted with absolute certainty. And, while I remain disdainful of the way the local news media handled the approach of Hurricane Rita in 2005 (causing widespread panic and a grueling, chaotic evacuation in which a great deal of needless suffering and death occurred), I really can't fault the local meteorologists themselves: they saw a massive storm coming, they were concerned about it, and they warned us accordingly. It would be utterly stupid to prosecute them simply because the storm didn't hit where they thought it was going to hit three days out. That's just not how meteorology works.

That's not how seismology works, either. Too bad a court in Italy doesn't understand that, nor the dangerous precedent their verdict represents.
"I can understand the grief of people who lost loved ones and the frustration that people feel when terrible events happen, especially ones outside their control," Oglesby said. "Convicting honest scientists of manslaughter does nothing to help this situation and may well put a chill on exactly the kind of science that could save lives in the future."

So far, at least two leading Italian scientists have resigned their posts with the government's disaster preparedness agency in protest of this conviction, which is under appeal.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Coogs embarrass themselves in 72-42 loss to SMU

The Cougars had been showing improvement during their three-game winning streak leading up to last Thursday night's game against SMU in Dallas. However, once the Cougars got there, the wheels fell off:
The Cougars committed nine turnovers and Piland left in the first half with a concussion as SMU delivered a thorough 72-42 whipping at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
SMU returned three interceptions for touchdowns, a fumble on a kickoff for another and Garrett Gilbert threw a career-high four touchdowns as the Cougars allowed the most points in their 66-year history.

The Mustangs scored 44 points off turnovers.
Yeah, it's a bit difficult to win when you make mistakes like that.

This game, in fact, was easily the worst of the season, even taking the disaster against Texas State into account. Everything that could go wrong for the Cougars did. Aside from the nine turnovers (six interceptions and three special teams fumbles) and quarterback David Piland's concussion (which allowed backups Bram Kohlhausen and Crawford Jones to see meaningful minutes for the first time this season), the Cougars committed 9 penalties for 73 yards. And while the defense was constantly being put in a tough position on account of the multiple offensive and special teams turnovers, they also yielded scoring drives of 75, 92, 75 and 75 yards.

So much for that improvement the team had been showing over the course of the last three games. The special teams miscues are especially troubling, considering that Tony Levine was special teams coordinator prior to being promoted to head coach. But there's plenty of blame to go around; this loss was truly a team effort.
If there were positives, Charles Sims accounted for four touchdowns, Daniel Spencer and Deontay Greenberry had a few nice catches, and Crawford Jones threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. Forty-two points and 560 yards are good enough to win on most nights.
There was nothing normal about Thursday.
"We've got to get things corrected," Levine said. "Some of it is technique, some of it is coaching and some of it is personnel. We'll figure it out when we get back to practice."
If I'd have to choose, I'd say the problem lies mostly with the coaching. This team was simply unprepared to play.

Next up for the 3-4 Coogs is Texas-El Paso at home. No word yet on Piland's availability for that game.

Infection time again

Last night, I began to feel a pain in my lower left abdomen. I was hoping it was simply gas pain, but when it didn't go away after a few hours, and knowing what happened the last time I felt this pain but didn't immediately address it, I drove myself over to a nearby emergency clinic.

The CT scan confirmed what I had suspected: another diverticulitis attack. Fortunately, I had caught it early enough: the pain had not yet become unbearable and the CT scan showed no abscesses or ruptures. No hospital stay for me this time; after keeping me there for a couple of hours to administer antibiotics intravenously, they gave me some prescriptions and eating instructions and sent me on my way. I will call my gastroenterologist next week to discuss next steps. I'm sure he'll want to do a colonoscopy after the swelling goes down, but what about long-term management of this problem?

I knew that, having already had one diverticulitis attack, another one was likely sooner or later. I was hoping that they'd be five- to ten-year occurrences, but right now they're on track to be occur at two-year intervals, give or take. I had been trying to prevent them by taking lots of fiber (in the form of whole grains, leafy vegetables and fiber supplements) and avoiding constipation; obviously that strategy didn't work out for me this time around (and, for what it's worth, a study was published early this year that suggests that high-fiber diets worsen, not lessen, the condition that underlies diverticulitis, although not the infectious attacks themselves).

I get to take medication and eat a soft, mostly-liquid diet for the next week or so, but I'm nevertheless glad I recognized the problem and decided not to "wait for the pain to go away" but rather addressed it early. But I'm now worried that I'm either going to have to live with an annoying and chronically-reappearing disease for the rest of my life, or go under the knife to get part of my large intestine removed. Neither option appeals to me.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Maybe we were on to something...

When I was younger, my friends and I conjured up an entire earth-like planet, full of countries we controlled which were oftentimes at war with one another. I, for example, was the dictator of the Tigre Empire (as in T. Gray... get it?). It was involved in a long-running border war with the Colon Empire, whose emperor was my friend Colin. I still have the folder full of yellowed, quarter-century-old papers with all the names, capitals, flags, and maps of the planet's countries around here somewhere.

The planet's location? Alpha Centauri.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Coogs even record with win over UAB

Although I would have preferred more touchdowns and fewer field goals, there really wasn't too much to complain about in Houston's 39-17 win over Alabama-Birmingham last Saturday. In addition to kicker Matt Hogan's six successful field goal attempts - a Conference USA record - the Cougar defense finally discovered how to properly execute a pass rush and sacked hapless UAB quarterback Austin Brown eight times. Meanwhile, running back Charles Sims rushed for 133 yards - his third 100+ yard game in a row - and quarterback David Piland had another decent game, completing 32 of 44 passes for 362 yards and a touchdown.

With the win, what a few weeks ago was the most disappointing team in college football is now .500 and on a three-game winning streak. They head into the second half of the season showing  week-by-week improvement and what once looked like a disaster of a season is turning into one that could possibly see the Cougars go bowling.

However, the Cougars will have a short week to prepare for their next game, on the road against SMU Thursday night. The Ponies are nobody's idea of a powerhouse, but the Cougars need to continue to pressure the quarterback show more efficiency in the red zone than they did last Saturday if they expect to come away from that important divisional game with a victory.

Finally, while I know that the University of Houston is at the mercy of the television networks with regard to start times, the program really needs to avoid 11 am kickoffs as much as possible. They just don't work in Houston: too many people have other activities (kids' soccer, etc.) to attend to, students don't like to wake up that early on weekends, and even in mid-October it can be very hot. Such was the case last Saturday: the crowd was small, and I came away from the game with a nasty sunburn.

Defacing or stealing political signs is weak sauce

Because nothing says "I'm a cowardly loser who can't intelligently participate in the political process" like defacing a mural of our current President:
A mural of President Obama that’s become a landmark in midtown Houston has been defaced and essentially destroyed in what looks like an act of political vandalism.

Someone splashed red paint across the image of the president displayed on an outside wall of The Breakfast Klub, a popular midtown dining spot.  The restaurant’s owner quickly had the damaged painting covered with whitewash, but pedestrians walking down the street could still see streams of paint streaming down the wall.
I am familiar with this particular mural on Alabama Street between Travis Street and Spur 527 because I see it every time I drive into downtown. The mural has been defaced several times before; each time the owner has had it repainted and will do so once again. 
Meanwhile, a wave of Obama sign thefts continued in the upscale neighborhoods west of Rice University.  One homeowner, a retired Navy veteran named Joe Santamaria, was so irritated after his second Obama sign was stolen out of his yard that he decided to post a warning notice in his yard.

The warning sign cautions sign thieves they’re trespassing and vows that if the sign is stolen, Santamaria will donate $1,000 to the Obama campaign.
That's probably one way to handle it. But it's unfortunate that it happens to begin with (and to be sure, partisans on both sides are guilty of it).

Activities like defacing murals, stealing yard signs, tearing bumper stickers, and the like are illegal (last I checked, vandalism and trespassing were criminal offenses), as well as infringements upon another's right to free speech. But they're also weak, crude and rather pathetic forms of political intimidation.

Are the people who engage in these kinds of activities really so insecure in their own political beliefs that seeing an opposing political sign sets them off in a fit of childish rage? Are they really that intolerant of the beliefs of others, and of their ability to freely express themselves?  Do they really think that by doing these kinds of activities, they're going to change the outcome of the election in any way (other than by, say, making their own side look desperate and thuggish)?

If you see somebody stealing or defacing political signs, confront them. Ask them what they're so afraid of and why they can't respect other peoples' property or right to free speech. Or call the cops and report their criminal behavior.

If you are somebody who steals or defaces political signs, GROW THE FUCK UP. You're just making yourself, and your side, look stupid.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Houston 44, North Texas 21

My mixed loyalties: a Mean Green hat and a Cougar shirt.
AKA the Mean Green Cougar Red Bowl! This was UNT's first visit to Houston since 1980, and a game I had been looking forward to, for obvious reasons, since it featured my two favorite schools.

It was also the best game that the Cougars have put together so far this season, as they won handily. Running back Charles Sims had the best day of his career, rushing for 210 yards and scoring a touchdown on 21 carries. He also caught five passes for 55 yards and another touchdown. Quarterback David Piland, meanwhile, continued to show improvement, completing 31 of 41 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns; he also rushed for another. Piland was, to be sure, helped by the fact that receivers are no longer dropping passes the way they were the first couple of weeks of the season, which speaks to the improvements being made by the team overall. Other good news: the Cougar offense gave up no turnovers, kicker Matt Hogan connected on all three field goal attempts, UNT kick returner Brelan Chancellor was held in check, and the team as a whole was only flagged four times for 30 yards.
David Piland directs the UH offense in the first half. He had a good outing, but RB Charles Sims was the player of the game.
This isn't to say that everything went well; the Cougar defense showed a disturbing inability to tackle or pressure Eagle quarterback Derek Thompson as they yielded 483 yards of total offense to North Texas. The defense was particularly embarrassed late in the first half when Mean Green running back Jeremy Brown broke six (!) tackles on his way to a 48-yard touchdown run, and North Texas rammed the ball down the Cougars' throats for another easy score early in the third quarter. North Texas didn't see the endzone again after that; I'm not entirely sure if that's because the Cougar defense made adjustments or UNT's offense just packed it in (they didn't seem to play with much of a sense of urgency in the second half, and they also threw two interceptions). Hopefully it's the former, but the defense still remains very much a work in progress. Proper tackling is a fundamental aspect of defensive play and I just don't understand why this defense is having such a problem with it.
The Green Brigade performs at halftime. They were larger, louder and had a more interesting show than the the UH band.
North Texas can take pride in the fact that they won halftime; the Green Brigade is a much better band than the Spirit of Houston. I know the bands are entertaining, not competing, I know that UNT is known for its music curriculum, and I know that caring about halftime at all is lame, but still...
The Spirit of Houston has new uniforms this season and a lot of people I know don't like them. I haven't formed an opinion.
The really disappointing aspect of the game was the attendance. The crowd was announced at 25,746 but considerably fewer than that number were actually in the stands, and the number would have been even worse had it not been for the two or three thousand fans (and band) that North Texas brought. Student turnout was particularly disappointing. It just goes to show that Houston's fanbase is among the most fickle and fair-weather in the nation: if you're not winning, they're not coming. A lot of people sat through the first two losses at Robertson and decided that it just wasn't worth their while to return. The pregame tailgating scene was as desolate as I had ever seen it.
The stadium was only about two-thirds full for this game. A lot of people have given up on the Coogs after their 0-3 start.
That being said, the Cougars are now on a two-game winning streak and can even their record if they get past Alabama-Birmingham next Saturday. This is a home game against a team whose only win is against an FCS school, so the Coogs should be expected to do so, especially since the team is inarguably improving from week to week. The Eagles, meanwhile, fall to 2-4 and continue to struggle.
UNT quarterback Derek Thompson rolls out. He ended the day with 252 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns.
In spite of the fact that the Cougars have won the last four meetings against the Mean Green, UNT still leads the all-time series between the two schools, 6 games to 7. This is the end of a one-off home-and-home series with North Texas, but I hope the two schools schedule each other again in the future.

A railroad tunnel through the Andes

This would be very cool, should it actually come to pass:
South American engineers are trying to tackle one of the continent's greatest natural challenges: the towering Andes mountain chain that creates a costly physical barrier for nations ever-more-dependent on trade with Asia.

Instead of pushing cargo over a 10,500-foot (3,200-meter) pass that is often blocked by snow for weeks, they plan to build the longest tunnels in the Americas right through the mountains. That would make billions of dollars worth of Chinese electronics, Chilean wine, Argentine food and Brazilian cars cheaper and more competitive.

The proposed $3.5 billion private railway known as the Aconcagua Bi-Oceanic Corridor would link train and trucking hubs on both sides with a 127-mile-long (205-kilometer) railway, including twin 32-mile (52-kilometer) tunnels. Construction would take 10 years, but once completed, it could save millions of dollars and carve days off shipping times.
The existing crossing, which includes a two-mile-long tunnel between the two countries, connects Argentina's National Route 7, which stretches all the way from Buenos Aires, with Chile Highway 60, which continues on to the Pacific seaport of Valparaíso. The highway at this crossing is a narrow two-lane road which negotiates multiple switchbacks (especially on the Chilean side) and is clogged with truck traffic when it's not closed due to snowfall. There used to be a railroad linking the two countries at this location as well, but it has been out of use since the early 1980s. The result is a bottleneck hampering trade between Chile, Argentina and Brazil, which are three of South America's four largest economies:
Currently, much of the processed soy oils, wine and meat Argentina sends to China, as well as Asian electronics destined for Brazil, must first sail around the tip of South America, adding nearly 3,000 nautical miles and another week to the trip. Shipping by rail between Atlantic and Pacific ports would unite the most productive regions of Chile and its South American neighbors, making trade more competitive for all involved.

The shipping cost would drop from $210 to $177 a ton for cargo that now moves between Cordoba, Argentina, and Manzanillo, Mexico, the closest major port with direct rail links to the eastern United States.

"This project is just what's needed," said Mauricio Claveri, an economist with the Abeceb.com consulting firm in Buenos Aires. He called it a strategic necessity for the Mercosur nations of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela to develop more efficient trade links with China, Japan and Southeast Asia.
The plan is for this project to be privately built and operated by a multinational consortium, which would then recoup their investment through usage fees. The Chilean and Argentinian governments would provide loan guarantees, but public money would not be used to build this railroad. Bidding on this project has yet to occur.
The train engines, which would be powered by electricity rather than coal or diesel to reduce the environmental impact, are to link a transportation hub in Lujan de Cuyo on the Argentine side with Los Andes, Chile. The tunnels will descend from Punta de Vacas, Argentina, at 7,851 feet (2,393 meters) above sea level, to Saladillo, Chile, at 5,039 feet (1,536 meters), both below the steeper slopes and higher altitudes that get paralyzing snow each winter.

The initial phase would open a single tunnel and cost $3.5 billion with a capacity of 24 million tons of cargo a year. Depending on demand, the capacity could grow to 77 million tons and the total price tag to $5.9 billion by adding a second tunnel and additional rail lines on either side. As many as four mechanical excavators will be used to carve through the mountains.
I suppose the railroad could also carry passenger traffic in addition to cargo if the demand were there, but that's obviously never going to be its primary purpose. The tunnels would be among the longest in the world, just a few miles shorter than the Gotthard Base Tunnel set to open in the Swiss Alps later this decade. They would nevertheless be an incredible engineering feat for Latin America, not to mention a huge boon to its economy.

There are, to be sure, several hurdles this project must clear. In addition to the technical challenges of tunneling 32 miles through the Andes, there is the question that invariably arises when infrastructure projects of this magnitude are proposed to be constructed entirely with private funds: will it really be profitable, or will the Chilean and Argentinian governments be forced to come to the project's rescue at any point? And then there are the usual risks associated with doing business in Latin America: political unrest, economic instability, and corruption.

Nevertheless, and in spite of its cost and the obstacles it faces, this seems to me like a reasonable, feasible and beneficial project and I'm hoping to see it happen. Time will tell.