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Texas Electric Railway October 20, 2009

Posted by bibliosk8 in sustainability, urban/suburban life.
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railway 007I’ve been working in downtown Plano, Tx, for a few years now, and during that time my interest in transportation and urban planning have grown. Every time I’m driving around town and I see the DART light rail train, it just makes me smile. I love it.

Many people don’t know that between 1908 and 1948, North Texas had a very cool commuter rail system – the Texas Electric Railway. The system ran north/south from Denison in the north, down through Plano, Richardson, and Dallas, and all the way to Waco. It was a passenger system that ran electric trains that looked like street cars. Back in those days, Plano and Richardson were very small rural towns. The system allowed people to travel to the city efficiently. The cars could apparently reach speeds of 60mph.

I won’t try to tell the entire history of it here. The only place you can see one of the cars and learn about the system is the Interurban Railway Museum, in downtown Plano. Their website tells you a lot about the history.

Also, here is a D Magazine story from 1977: When Dallas had Mass Transit.

I’m going to try to make an appointment to go interview the historian there. I spoke briefly to one of the mean giving tours, who told me as a private company, the railway was not able to continue when faced with increasing requirements for more sophisticated control systems. Of course, as automobiles became popular, and the highway system was built, that probably put the final nail in the railway’s coffin, as it runs roughly parallel to Central Expressway and IH-35.

It is a shame that the government didnt’ help out. And its amusing that now, as the DART system expands, we are trying to recreate something we had 100 years ago. Over the last year of reading about these kinds of issues, I’ve learned that many of the great old street car systems that American cities used to have were bought up by the auto/highway companies, and shut down. They simply bought up the competing system of transportation, with the help of some government scumbags.

Anyway,  here are some pictures from the museum.

Farmer’s markets and luxuries October 20, 2009

Posted by bibliosk8 in sustainability, urban/suburban life.
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Saw this on a thread on the message board of kunstlercast.com, relating to the recent podcast there about food. One of the participants brings up some common objections to farmer’s markets as being mostly for the wealthy. I enjoyed Duncan’s (the host) reply. I think he’s exactly right.

Quote from: jarober on October 01, 2009, 03:42:32 PM

What you miss is simple: farmer’s markets are expensive luxury items, not a sustainable way to feed a large population.  For that matter, being a vegetarian by choice is an affectation of wealthy socities; poorer ones grabat tge (rare) opportunities for meat. 

There’s also this: “eating locally” means giving up on a lot of very healthy foods during off seasons – say hello to a whole range of banished 19th century nutrition problems.  If modern habits are so bad for us, how does life expectancy keep rising?

The whole farmers market-as-luxury argument makes me laugh.  Most of the really high prices at the farmers’ market are literally for “luxury” items — like fancy cheese, or gourmet peanut butter. Those items are priced as luxury items — DUH!

But I find that most of the food is reasonably priced. Although I do make it a habit of looking around before I buy. One farmer might be charging more or less for the same item.

Either way, you get what you pay for in terms of nutrition.  The eggs I buy at my local farmers market cost more than the runny, nutritionally-vacuous factory farm eggs at the supermarket. But they cost the same as the “organic” eggs in the supermarket. So I’d rather buy them from farmers who live in my community and whom I see every week.*

A lot of people who bitch and moan about the cost of food at farmers’ markets have X-boxes, plasma tvs, huge DVD collections, big houses and big cars out in the burbs. They have Jet Skis for the summer and Ski Doos for the winter. They take the kids to Walley World (or Six Flags or Disney World) once a year. Etc. Etc.

One of their favorite delusions is to pretend they can’t afford things like food at the farmers’ market because they’re just hard workin’ middle class folks who don’t have money for that fancy “green” food. That is their verbal patriotic totem. We’re not supposed to make them feel bad because they “can’t afford” to shop at the farmers’ market.

But the reality is that they can afford to shop at the farmers’ market. They just don’t want to. They don’t want to deal with the human interaction. And they don’t want to spend money on local food when they could be spending their money on trinkets at Target.

They could skip one meal at a restaurant per week and spend it on the “additional” cost of farmer’s market food. They could not buy that DVD set of Lost Season 5. They could cancel their cable subscription. They could carpool. They could pass on buying that nifty plastic banana slicer that they’ve had their eyes on at Wal Mart.

There are million ways they could make up for the “extra” cost of shopping at the farmers market. And in doing so they could also be help out their local farmers who usually belong to the real middle class in this country.

As far as the seasonal thing goes. If you need to supplement your winter diet with Frankenberries and Frankenanas, then go for it dude! Don’t use that as an argument not to shop at the farmers market at all!

My city has a year-round farmers market. And there’s an amazing amount of great fresh food available during the winter. The greens are grown in green houses. Some of the fruits — like the apples, have been frozen.

As far as life expectancy goes, if you believe that the corn syrup generation will outlive the previous generation then by all means…. dig in brother.

(* Another thing to consider: When I support my local farmer, I am also helping to pay for them to help conserve the agricultural landscape which I enjoy looking at and being in. I’m helping them keep the cul de sacs out of the country. Which also helps my city in many ways.)

« Last Edit: October 02, 2009, 08:07:02 PM by Duncan »

CycleBABBLE ride October 19, 2009

Posted by bibliosk8 in bikes.
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Here’s a story from SuburbanAssault.org, about a killer bike ride in Fort Worth. Actually, it is about Richard’s journey over to Fort Worth, from Richardson, using his bike, light rail, and commuter rail. It has links to some other coverage of the ride. It was a cool adventure for Richard!

IMG_5803 October 17, 2009

Posted by concreteguy in gardening.
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IMG_5809

Bees in our square foot garden. We have a lot of bees, which makes me happy.

Leafy greens – Oct 7, 2009. October 8, 2009

Posted by concreteguy in Uncategorized.
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garden 001

Originally uploaded by bibliosk8er

Planted this bed with leafy greens. In a few spots nothing came up, so I re-planted those spots last night.

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