On U.S. railroads, oil is the new coal

Fifty years ago, there were 20 large U.S. railroads with storied names. Coal was king, the top revenue-producing commodity the rails carried, even after their own locomotion switched to diesel. But the Interstate highway system bankrupted the railroads, as regular merchandise moved to trucks. It wasn’t just that. Rail service…


Marriage is a triangle

This weekend’s edition of Time magazine (suggested slogan: “It’s free online because you haven’t subscribed to any magazines since Clinton was president!”) has an interesting column by Jessica Bennett on how millennials approach the idea of marriage, which posits that many of them would like to beta-test their relationship first,…


The myth of affordable housing

Political discourse in recent weeks has focused a lot on “affordable housing,” with people disputing what constitutes affordable, sometimes for economic reasons and sometimes because they’re trying to make a point in the gubernatorial or legislative campaigns. But affordable housing is a myth, even if we could agree on the…


Music Post: The human voice as a musical instrument

Some music with words is all about the words. No one ever listened to Bob Dylan, or 2 Live Crew, just to hear the musical phrasing; it was mainly about the words. Even with Steely Dan, when the music is superb, the words are significant, and part of the appeal of…


Bloody Marys and the difficulty of nailing down history

Starwood’s St. Regis hotel chain is celebrating what it erroneously calls the 80th anniversary of the invention of the Bloody Mary cocktail, as I discovered this morning when I was assigned to interview two nice people from the St. Regis resort at Princeville. The chain assigned its chefs and beverage…


Eastern Ukraine’s deadly buffoons

It’s not a chapter of American history one often hears about, but American settlers moved to Mexico, promising to behave as Mexican citizens, only to rise up in a separatist movement and create the Republic of Texas, intending from the start to turn that republic into one or more U.S….


Winners from Hawaii Coffee Ass’n cuppings

There was a tie this year in the commercial cupping competition at the Hawaii Coffee Association Sixth Annual Cupping Competition. Rich Wicklander’s Aloha Hills Kona Coffee, a typica varietal, tied with the Maui Mokka coffee that Kimo Falconer’s Maui Grown Coffee grows above Lahaina. For coffee civilians, there are two broad kinds…


A caffeinated weekend in Kona

I’m back on the Traffic Isle after a lovely weekend in Kona. Let me start with a Kona sunset photo that is atypical because of its striking portrayal of the weather front that brought so much rain to other Hawaiian shores while we in Kona remained sunny, hot and dry….


Disaster and new social media

The Malaysia Airlines jetliner shootdown in eastern Ukraine is a calamity, a crisis, a tragedy – and a milestone in the evolution of news coverage that officials and troublemakers ignore at their peril. Never before have social media played such a big role in getting information to the world fast….


Music Post: Theme and Variations

President Kennedy said America would go to the Moon, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. I think composers write music in a theme-and-variations format, not because it lends itself to good music but because it doesn’t. Variations on a theme is a form of hotdogging it,…