SUVs are not sluggish, the Internet is not homogenous, and roads are not decongestants.
Blinded by Science
For the first 23 years after becoming licensed, I drove little Asian gas misers. When I moved to the Land of the Over-sized Commuting Vehicle, I found I could not see over, under, or around the plethora of pick-ups and vans. Furthermore, they were driven in such a stately manner that I wondered how anyone could stand to be bound to such sluggish modes of transportation -- if they'd moved any slower, they'd've been in reverse.
This lines up pretty well with Kara Kockelman's conclusions reported in "Seeing Red" ["Naked City," Feb. 4]. There is a problem, though: I eventually had occasion to actually drive a pick-up. I trod on the accelerator in accord with the assumption that maybe kicking the truck hard in the pants might get it to almost perform, and nearly went out the back window. Those things can move. Ergo, if those vehicles travel sluggishly, it is not because of the inherent limitations of the vehicles, but rather, because those vehicles are what sluggish drivers tend to purchase.
If Ms. Kockelman has been studying the performance of p-u's and vannas, and making determinations concerning them, without having any firsthand experience whatsoever of driving any, what does this imply about others involved in the traffic-control biz? Is this sort of hands-off activity the way Austin's traffic engineers operate? Do they actually drive? If so, do they actually drive these roads with which they muck around? If so, can they possibly be paying attention to what they've done when they do? Kockelman has opened a can or worms for us, but not the one she intended.
Democracy on the Net
Dear Austin Chronicle,
As an educator and computer software developer, I was quite dismayed to read in your roundtable article "Don't Believe the Hype" [Jan. 28] how many of your Internet experts totally missed the point on the social impact of the Internet. The reason that the Internet is largely immune from the purging of radical, unorthodox ideas is because of the almost complete freedom of access: Anyone can publish whatever they want without significant barriers and know that it will receive the attention it merits (admitting the limitations of the search engines). This makes the Internet different from the examples quoted about radio and TV, which are based on limited bandwidth available for broadcast and thus fall under the questionable administration of the money-influenced government sector.
In contrast to the worries expressed about the homogenization of the Internet due to massive corporate influence, my experience is that the rush to the Internet by all sectors of society, not just corporations, has led to a significant increase in alternative perspectives. As long as someone can buy a quite powerful used computer for $200-300 along with Web space and unlimited access for $20/month, I think we will see diverse opinions receive exposure in a way that is unprecedented in the history of this planet. Now the artists and writers (and musicians) lamented in the article can publish directly to the Web bypassing the restraints of money and even the prevailing tastes of society. As long as no one erects artificial barriers to the entry and flow of information (and this seems unlikely), the Internet will remain a powerful democratizing force as well as an unparalleled outlet for minority opinions.
Dean Anderson, PhD, MBA
Computer company president, educator,
founder of a nationwide Asian ISP and IAP
Stop SH 130
Not east SH 130, not west SH 130, not any SH 130.
Can you hear the echoes?
"If we just build the upper deck of I-35, it will relieve the traffic congestion." "If we just build MoPac, our traffic problems will be solved." "Expand 183, that'll do it." "360. Build 360." "Ben White, 71, elevate 183."
Sounds like a crack addict. "Just one more road, man, just one more road. One more road is all I need. I'll quit after that, I swear, just give me this last one. Then I'll quit, man, I swear."
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
When will we hit bottom? Brown air isn't enough. Ozone action days aren't enough. Nonattainment, will that be enough? Or do we have to become another L.A., another Houston? Will the feds have to cut us off cold turkey before we do something to change our behavior?
Who supports SH 130? The SH130.org Web site gives a very clear picture. Real estate associations, builders, and bankers.
This isn't about reducing traffic congestion. This is about opening new markets for land developers. This is about a government subsidy for land developers. Socialism for the rich. How lovely.
Not One More Road. Sounds a little crazy. Maybe, but who's the crazy one here? The people who said the upper deck, MoPac, 183 expansion, Ben White, 71 expansion would reduce congestion. The people who want just one more road.
Not one more road. Not east, not west, not anywhere.
James E. Burnside
Road to Enlightenment
In his letter of February 3, John Washburn misrepresents my views on roads. I am entirely in favor of improving roads in Austin. What I oppose are the building of new roads for cars and the widening of existing car roads.
Austin's roads need many improvements. Hazardous craters in the roads should be filled. All roads should be equipped on both sides with sidewalks with curb cuts for wheelchairs. Sidewalks should be kept in good condition by the city.
Roads should have bicycle lanes in which cars are not permitted to park. The city should discontinue its current practice of placing open garbage cans in the street and in the bicycle lanes.
Roads should be safely and easily crossable by pedestrians. More pushbutton traffic lights (like the one in front of the School for the Blind on West 45th) would be helpful.
In some districts (e.g., downtown), streets can be improved by being closed to cars, so that nonmotorized traffic can circulate freely and safely. If we had one car-free district, it would be so popular that we would soon have more.
Mr. Washburn uses the dismissive phrase "environmentally correct," as if "the environment" were a political fiction invented by the E.P.A. The environment is the world we live in. It is all we have. It is the foundation of all life and wealth. We keep behaving as if the world were all ours, to poison or pave over as we please. We can't go on doing this. Let's start stopping now.
Let's maintain the roads we have, and improve them to accommodate more nonmotorized traffic. But let's not build any more roads for cars, or widen existing roads to hold more cars.
Dream On, Babich
To Amy Babich:
Quit being such a hypocrite. You're so adamant about riding your bicycle (you want a bike path from Austin to San Antonio, yet you complain about the "long, scary bicycle ride" from the airport). Which is it? The airport is accessible to everyone, even the car-free public. There are cabs that run all night, and you can (gasp!) carpool with someone to the meetings.
Secondly, re: your statement "Even people with cars are not crazy about driving to the new airport" ["Postmarks," Feb. 4]: I have a car, and I drive to the new airport, I enjoy the drive! It's especially nice to drive back at night with the top down. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.
Next, the sheer stupidity in this week's letter did me in; you finally hit a nerve. You wrote: "The new airport should be easily accessible by bus -- and by nonmotorized transportation users: walkers, bicyclists, wheelchairists." Just what the hell is a "wheelchairist"? You seem to think that using a wheelchair is some sort of sport. Actually, folks who use a wheelchair do not roll downtown from their houses that are far away. They put them into cars, vans, buses, or cabs!
Please stop it, Amy. Just because you choose to ride a bike, please stop believing that you can rid the world of cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc., and make everyone else use a bike as their sole means of transportation, too. Some of us just don't wanna, OK? It frightens me that you have this fantasy about being on City Council, with your one-track agenda. You've now managed to piss off the motorized transportationists as well as the disabledists. Move out to the country, Amy. Try Kerrville: You could probably get a seat on the city council there.
Carist, bikist, canist, wheelchairist, planeist, boatist,
Say 'No' to Rail, Roads
In the January 28 issue ["Postmarks"], Amy Babich wrote, "Slowing down the economy would result in slower population growth, slower road building, slower pollution of air and water. And anything that slows down an orgy of building and population growth will help preserve everything we love in Austin."
Bravo. Couldn't agree more. Here's a suggestion about slowing municipal growth, building, and spending. We start by pulling the plug on the bus company and stopping rail in its tracks. Vote no on rail and the mayor's road bonds.
Robert P. Gerstenberg
The Diversity Molehill
Just a quick note on the Margaret Moser story on the "Delbert & Friends" sea cruise ["Sea Cruise," Feb. 4]. The comments about a lack of diversity among the on-board musicians by Ellen, the harmonica-playing Chicagoan, seemed a bit off-base to me. The diversity of the passengers on board was about the same as the musicians. The story stated, "on this boat of mostly all-white baby-boomers," she expected a "darker" shade of blues.
C'mon Ellen, these are Texans who want Texas music. A good point was made by a fellow drummer who said the cruise was called Delbert and Friends.
Should this "darkening" of every fiber of our society continue? I don't think so. This is "African history" month, but somehow this squeaky wheel effect on the entire country has gotten under my skin! Why on earth do 11% deserve to be included in 50% of everything going on? My heritage is from the Mescalero Apache tribe, but never do I see anyone complaining about Native American representation being absent. The largest tribe of indigenous Americans are living in Third World poverty on the Navaho Reservation and could use all of our help. Maybe Ellen should think about that the next time she or someone else complains about the lack of black actors on television or black musicians on her sea cruise.
Meat the Opposition
I disagree with Ms. Daniel's attempts to close the restaurants and stores that serve meat in the Tarrytown Shopping Center. I like to compare your actions to a river with many forks. Your efforts are like a dam that cuts off only one channel. One blocked channel barely affects the flow of the river. No matter how hard anybody tries to hinder meat consumption, people will continue to enjoy meat products. My family and I shopped at The Grocery and Mike Adams Hardware before they were forced to close. We eat at Formosa and Holiday House restaurants. We choose to eat meat and should not have our choices limited by your beliefs.
Ranchers who raise cattle, poultry, or other animals raised for consumption will lose their jobs and livelihood if people no longer eat meat. If people are prohibited from eating meat then cattle will become extinct because there is no other use for them. How does that help the animal?
If people stopped hunting deer and birds and catching fish those animals would become overpopulated. Other animals eat meat. Why shouldn't humans?
The larger part of the population in this world eats meat. It is not fair for one person to try to control the habits of other people by forcing businesses to close. I would not close all the salad restaurants to try to and force Ms. Daniel to eat in meat-only restaurants.
Sarah Ruth Christian
Alvin's Grand Opry
I just read Mr. Gray's review of the Alvin Opry ["Live Shots," Jan. 28] and was quite delighted to see a piece so on the button.
I was at the performance that he reviewed and agree with everything he had to say, well maybe except Gene H.'s singing, but he is right.
I am, as my Norwegian grandchildren say, "an older adult," but I enjoy taking my mother there for entertainment.
I agree that Susie-Q is a piece of work, but I am sorry that he missed Jeff Gambrell, the gum-chewing drummer who spends his off time daylighting as a policeman at the local community college.
Thanks again for such a nice review. While it's not Austin City Limits, we locals do enjoy the night of relaxation and entertainment.
I wish that Charles Jones ["Postmarks," Feb. 4] and all his "-- execution advocates" cronies could understand that the world is not black and white and blaming that which you do not understand solves nothing. But it was obvious that a solution was not his focus when he stated Erica C. Barnett omitted "the fact that drug abuse on the part of Larry Robison was the cause of his mental problems." I would like to know with what authority Charles Jones writes. Does he have a psychiatric diagnosis for this man? A drug history perhaps? Does he know which came first?
I ask Mr. Jones to make room for the reasonable possibility that had Larry Robison's "mental problems" been addressed properly by the system to begin with, maybe there would be no need for pity at all. Had the system protected Larry Robison from himself and others, could six lives have been saved?
Freedom of speech is a right that accompanies responsibility. Is blaming a victim of our limited social system and justifying their murder through misinformation and bigotry something like the "same old rights-with-no-responsibility story"? Mr. Jones, I pray that someday you and yours can do better. In the meantime, hopefully you will not have to experience an addictive disease or mental illness of which you may be genetically predisposed. Actually, I'll bet it would be a very enlightening experience.