Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Short Takes – 9-12-23

How staffers make Capitol Hill run. TheHill.com article. Part of a series on Capital Hill staffers. Pull quote: “According to Legistorm data, around 10,800 staff members work in member, committee or leadership offices. Most are under the age of 40, around half are women, and most are white.”

A year after New Shepard’s accident, Blue Origin may return to flight next month.Arstechnica.com article.  Pull quote: “According to two sources familiar with the company's manifest, however, it does appear that Blue Origin is finally getting ready to fly the New Shepard launch system again. The company's tentative plans call for an uncrewed test flight to occur in early October. If all goes well, Blue Origin is then planning its first crewed mission since August 4, 2022, to take place in mid-February of next year.”

Safety Advisory 2023-04; High-Impact Wheels Causing Damage to Rails and Track Structures. Federal Register FRA notice. Summary: “This Safety Advisory recommends railroads utilize Wheel Impact Load Detectors (WILD) to properly identify and replace high-impact railcar wheels that could cause significant damage to rails and supporting track structures. FRA's preliminary investigation of a recent train derailment in Gothenburg, Nebraska, indicates that high-impact wheels damaged the rail the train was operating over and caused the derailment. Current industry practices for using WILDs to identify and replace high-impact wheels could help prevent such incidents in the future.”

Open Meeting of the Internet of Things Advisory Board. Federal Register NIST meeting notice. Summary: “The Internet of Things (IoT) Advisory Board will meet Tuesday, October 24 and Wednesday October 25, 2023 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., Eastern Time. Both sessions will be open to the public.”

Autonomous truck platoons are a bust, but they work if you put them on rails. ArsTechnica.com article. Integration with positive train control systems may make this more usable, but still have the problem of opening gates at delivery locations. Pull quote: “Instead of a conventional train with one or more locomotive cars pulling a long chain of unpowered cargo cars, each rail car is a self-powered electric vehicle. "It's essentially like a skateboard where you can put individual metal containers on top, you can stack them two high," Howard told me. "They can stack together to make platoons—they push on each other. But the value proposition is that each individual car can break off and go to where it needs to go," he explained.”

USENET, the OG social network, rises again like a text-only phoenix.  Pull quote: “USENET, or NetNews, is a text-only social discussions forum, or rather a set of a great many forums, called "newsgroups," carried by multiple servers around the world. Although the original developers closed down their instance in 2010, that was just one server out of hundreds, and many are still running just fine. It never went away – it's still alive, you can get on it for free, and there is a choice of client apps for most OSes to help you navigate.” Ahhh, the sound of 4k phone modem connecting, I remember it well.

McCarthy opens impeachment inquiry into Biden without House vote. Axios.com article. Pull quote: “Zoom in: It's unclear that House Republicans have the 218 votes to impeach Biden, and some Republicans in both the House and the Senate are on record saying they don't think there's enough evidence to proceed.” Gives moderates cover pending development of an actual impeachment case, if/when.

Kemp declares state of emergency over inflation in Georgia. TheHill.com article. Pull quote: “The order will suspend gas and diesel taxes in the state. This would be the second time in two years Kemp has suspended fuel taxes.” Tax cuts that make sense for the middle class and poor.

FRA raises safety concerns about UP's rolling stock. ProgressiveRailroading.com article. Pull quote: “"The compliance of the rolling stock (freight cars and locomotives) on the UP network is poor and UP was unwilling or unable to take steps to improve the condition of their equipment," Bose wrote to UP CEO Jim Vena, President Beth Whited and Executive Vice President Eric Gehringer.”

Large Lithium Deposits Discovered in a Caldera on the Nevada-Oregon Border. HomelandSecurityNewswire.com article. Pull quote: “Three geologists from Lithium Americas Corporation, GNS Science, and Oregon State University have published an article reporting evidence that the McDermitt Caldera, on the Nevada-Oregon border, may hold some of the world’s largest known deposits of lithium — an estimated 20 to 40 million tons of lithium metal.”

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