Yangshuo: Guangxi Autonomous Region, China. Thanks for the Memories

Just Turn Left

I must say I miss working in the smaller towns around China; magical amazing days of initiation into TEFL that will forever stay close to me. The attitude and way of life is completely the opposite to that of say Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu or Shenzhen and yes, it is completely stunning!

Yangshuo: From the TV tower. Click to Enlarge

Things are always done in a more relaxed and less formal manner and it’s easy to get work, especially if there is a big tourist influx. Take Yangshuo (Yangers to the local expats) near Guilin for example. There are schools all over the place just ready to take on any foreigner for any length of time. People stay for a weekend, a week or a month. Even those who consider themselves regular teachers really only ever stay for around a year. Take your pick! (tx Wikipedia)


Excerpt from Just Turn…

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my studio


This is my space, and I want to be happy, just a little,
I paint and draw here, outside I should be doing other things,
I do better work if I stick at it, little by little,
I knew I would want to stay here all day, so I came prepared,
I have fallen asleep in my studio the other night, I have done it before,
here I can never feel sad or lonely, those things wash of my skin,
I sit and think about all the possibilities, open mind, so exciting,
rainy, steamy day outside my open windows,
breath in the air, and smile to myself,
I focus on my art with an open heart.

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SFJAZZ Collective: Do I Do (Stevie Wonder)

Jazz You Too

A great version from Stevie Wonder’s tune Do I Do by the SFJAZZ collective, a great fun listening to it!

Featuring Miguel Zenón (alto saxophone), Mark Turner (tenor saxophone), Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Stefon Harris (vibraphone), Edward Simon (piano), Matt Penman (bass), and Eric Harland (drums).
sfjazz collective

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Sen. Chuck Schumer wants more dogs to aid airport screening

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said today that one of the reasons New York City airport security lines are forcing passengers to stand idle and wait—and wait—is because New York City airports are short the necessary number of passenger-screening canines recommended to actually reduce overall wait times and improve security. Ahead of what is predicted to be a summer of long lines and continued waiting, Schumer is, today, calling for an immediate surge in canine teams at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to help speed up outrageously long security lines at New York City-area airports. Schumer wants the canine teams to work with new TSA agents the senator also wants deployed to New York City airports as soon as possible.

“As the dog days of summer roll on in, airport security lines need to roll along, too. But right now passengers are jammed in outrageously long delays. One simple, cheap and very effective way to speed up the long lines is by deploying a surge of highly-trained passenger-screening canines,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “As New York City airport wait times bog down, so waits the nation. New York City is a national hub and if we can reduce the wait times here, we can make the entire country move a lot faster. A canine screening surge in New York City could really take a bite out of time.”

Schumer added, “Coupled with a surge in actual TSA agents I am requesting here in New York City, highly-trained canine teams offer a unique way for the TSA to accurately and efficiently screen passengers standing in stalled security lines. That’s why the TSA should increase the number of canine teams at New York City airports as soon as possible.”

Suppliers of vegetation management equipment and services expect a busy year on the brush-control front

Vegetation management is a fact of life for railroads, and it can be a challenge to keep pace with nature’s progress. “One thing is certain: Vegetation will continue to grow and require maintenance on rail lines nationwide,” said Scott Balderson, president and chief executive officer of Dymax Inc., which offers a range of railroad maintenance equipment.

What’s also certain is that manufacturers will continue to develop more versatile, compact and mobile ways to remove brush and other growth that can interfere with rail operations.

In recent years, however, the increased prevalence of the emerald ash borer and pine beetle has complicated vegetation management efforts in some parts of the United States.

An Asian beetle that feasts on species of ash trees and likely arrived in the United States in the early 2000s on wood packing material carried in cargo ships, the emerald ash borer has cost municipalities, property owners and forest products industries hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Michigan State University’s Emerald Ash Borer Information Network.

“Some areas have already been completely destroyed, leaving no ash remaining, but other areas are soon to be caught in the crosshairs,” said Mike Heridia, president of All Railroad Services Corp., a full-service vegetation management company that serves the rail industry. “Some of our customers are doing like most owners of public and privately owned rights-of-way and completely removing the ash trees before they die. When ash trees die, there is no root system left to hold them up. When this occurs, the cost of tree removal increases by up to 500 percent, because of the danger to the crews trying to remove it.”

Similarly, pine beetles attack old or weakened pine trees. Experts suggest that climate change has increased the size and severity of the pine beetle outbreak in North America. The insects, they say, have a significant effect on the capability of trees to remove greenhouse gases (or carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere.

The damage caused by pine beetles and the emerald ash borer are just a couple reasons suppliers of vegetation management equipment and services expect to be busy this year. Progressive Railroading recently asked a sampling of contractors and equipment providers to discuss their product offerings, as well as how 2016 is shaping up, business wise. Their emailed responses follow.

All Railroad Services Corp.

All Railroad Services Corp. (ARS) offers a variety of vegetation management services, including brush and tree cutting (both on-track and off-track), pole-line removal, wood-tie removal, land clearing projects and specialized cleaning of yard tracks. ARS also offers emergency services under the most extreme weather conditions to help keep trains rolling.

The company provides more than 300 pieces of equipment to Class Is, regionals, short lines and transit authorities in 26 states.

In terms of business activity, ARS officials expect 2016 to be better than 2015.

“Right-of-way maintenance isn’t something you can just stop,” President Mike Heridia said.

Asplundh Railroad Division

Part of Asplundh Tree Expert Co., Asplundh Railroad Division provides both herbicide and mechanical cutting services throughout North America, and has eight fleet and office facilities in the United States and Canada. The company’s services include cutting and mulching limbs, trees, vines and brush, as well as mowing, crossing maintenance, ballast or trackside brush spraying, and fire suppression services.

In addition to traditional hi-rail aerial lifts, chippers and spray trucks, Asplundh maintains a fleet of specialized units such as its Eco-Cutter dual-action cutting and spraying machine, hi-rail side trimmers with telescopic booms and a spray train that can hold up to 80,000 gallons.

With GPS and vehicle-locating technology installed in all of its vehicles, Asplundh can ensure railroad personnel know exactly where Asplundh crews are on the track and obtain an electronic record of where herbicides were applied or vegetation was cut.

“Over the last several years, we have been able to really adapt our operations to our customers’ needs for specialized technology and equipment,” said Regional Manager Randal Haines. “We’ve been able to improve efficiencies and reduce track time, which in turn enables our customers to expand their vegetation management programs and increase the overall amount of work completed on a yearly basis.”

Brandt Road Rail Corp.

The Brand Rail Tool is a brush-cutting product that also can be used to handle materials and move dirt. It features a 200-horsepower auxiliary engine, rail-car braking system, AAR couplers on each end of the machine and heavy-duty rail gear, and it can travel up to 30 mph on rail.

Among Brandt’s newest products is the RTB 130 hi-rail backhoe, a multimodal excavator and wheel loader in one versatile machine. Mounted on a John Deere 710 base chassis and powered by a 130-horsepower engine and high capacity hydraulics, the RTB 130 can accomplish a variety of tasks, including brush cutting, and its reach can extend 26 feet.

“Things are looking positive for 2016,” Sales Manager Shaun Gettis said. “We have expanded our sales team and are very excited for some of our new products coming on line.”

Dymax Inc.

Dymax has a long history in rail maintenance, and it has an even longer one in providing attachments for vegetation management. The Dymax Limb Shear offers safe and fast pruning of branches and limbs. Meanwhile, the Dymax VortexMax resembles a mower and is designed to “obliterate vegetation of up to six inches in diameter,” President and CEO Scott Balderson said. As a result, the VortexMax “makes short work of small trees and runaway brush,” he added.

These work tools operate best on hydraulic excavators, he added, and when paired with the RailRider MP, they offer a complete hi-rail solution to vegetation management. The MP series of RailRiders is available in eight-, 12- and 20-ton excavator models, and the carts are propelled by the excavator’s hydraulic system without any modifications to the excavator. This enables the machine to be a high-rail workhorse, while also working in the right of way, under bridges and any other areas not accessible from the rail, Balderson said.

“Though Class I capital spending will be down somewhat in 2016, maintenance work will continue,” he added. “We believe that with our improved products and newly introduced products, along with demand from outside North America, sales growth will continue in 2016.”

K.W. Reese Inc.

Founded in 1972, K.W. Reese Inc. specializes in railroad right-of-way widening, danger tree removal and storm restoration services for railroads, private rail owners and transit authorities in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.

The company performs most of its work with hi-rail-equipped bucket trucks, chippers and grapple trucks, which reduce the risk of flying debris from mechanized clearing equipment. Trees can be removed safely from just a few feet away from buildings and other structures, company officials said.

As a full-service railroad contractor, K.W. Reese also can perform other services during the same work window, including ditching, tie replacement and derailment cleanup, said President Jeffrey Reese. Crews are available around the clock.

Knox Kershaw Inc.

Knox Kershaw offers a Diamond Mowers Inc. brush cutter attachment for its KSF 940 Snow Fighter/Ballast Regulator, which allows for the control of light brush and grass, the company said. Mower heads are available in rotary and flail styles.

The boom actuator comes with 90-degree movement forward and 75-degree movement backward. It also offers high-load bearing capacity and a breakaway feature to prevent stress on the boom. The brush cutter arms can be mounted on one or both sides of the machine, and the saw-blade option passes close to the track to cut through fallen debris.

“Our machine and parts sales remain strong in 2016 and we are always striving to improve and innovate,” said Sales Manager Jaky Felix. “In the vegetation control segment, we expect an increase in sales because more and more customers are discovering the brush cutter attachment and have been impressed.”

Loftness Specialized Equipment Inc.

Loftness Specialized Equipment Inc. manufactures the VM Logix line of compact equipment for right-of-way vegetation management. The line includes mulching head attachments and compact mechanical tree trimmers designed to clear vegetation in areas larger equipment cannot easily access.

“We expect a strong 2016, as there is always a need to maintain right of ways,” said Product Development

Supervisor Bill Schafer. “Additionally, there is a lot of potential for compact equipment to play a much larger role in this industry, due to the increased efficiencies that can be gained.”

In January, Loftness introduced a redesigned mulching head for its Carbide Cutter line.

Available in 61- and 71-inch cutting widths, the new Carbide Cutter G4 features a larger variable-displacement piston motor to provide more torque and quicker recovery than previous models. It also boasts a new positive-cogged belt drive to more efficiently transfer horsepower to the rotor, and the primary shear bar is now adjustable to vary particle size and production rate.

Other additions include a redesigned body to help prevent internal build-up of debris, new skid shoe adjustments to allow grinding below grade and improved hose routing to reduce the chance of damage.

Mitchell Rail Gear

Mitchell Rail Gear’s vegetation management solution is “economical mobile equipment that can get on/off track quickly,” said President Estel

Lovitt Jr. Equipment offerings include the company’s track skid steer loader or backhoe loader equipped with Mitchell Rail Gear’s suspension system for traveling over uneven track. The track skid steer loader and backhoe loader — the backbone of many railroad track construction repair sites — can accommodate a variety of bucket, snow blower and brush cutter attachments.

“With the attachment system, machines can travel to overgrown vegetation areas and get off the track to take care of problem areas without shutting down the track for long periods of time,” Lovitt said. “The mobile equipment can be used in the winter for blowing snow off the rail and for vegetation control during the warm season.”

Lovitt expects strong sales this year, thanks to increased demand for versatile mobile construction equipment.

NMC Railway Systems

NMC Railway Systems continues to expand its line of hi-rail equipment to combat remote vegetation growth. One of the company’s most popular pieces of equipment is the CHX20E Hi-Rail Excavator, said Sales Manager Mark Anderson. The CHX20E features a 20-ton capacity and enables railroads and rail contractors to utilize multiple tool functionality, including brush cutters with a 36-inch diameter.

The flexibility of the CHX20E provides operators access to remote rail areas to manage potential overgrowth early in the season, the company said. When paired with a Rototilt, the operator has the ability to rotate the attachment head 360 degrees, allowing for full maintenance of vegetation overgrowth.

Combating vegetation early is key to controlling potential overgrowth, Anderson said. Pairing the brush cutter attachment with the hi-rail excavator provides operators access to remote track lines before trees bud.

“We’ve seen an increase in demand for machines that allow for multiple tool functionality like those in our hi-rail product line,” Anderson said. “Units from our hi-rail product line not only provide easier access to remote track lines for spot rail maintenance work, they also increase productivity on rail maintenance projects during open track windows.”

Rail Construction Equipment Co.

Rail Construction Equipment Co. (RCE) expanded its Railavator hi-rail excavator product line in 2015. Four new Railavator models now support a brush cutter and come in sizes of 85G, 135G, 245G and 250G, accommodating cutter heads up to 72 inches wide.

RCE’s brush cutters can be customized by excavator model (high rail and conventional) and size of tree grinding and brush clearing heads. The available mowing heads allow users to make clear and clean cuts without the hazards of flying debris.

“Uncontrolled vegetation is a safety and operational issue, so it continues to be a maintenance priority to our customers,” said Sales Manager Dennis Hanke. “We’ve noticed a mix of strategies in the current marketplace. Some railroads are building up their own maintenance fleets, while others are continuing to hire contractors.”

Michael Popke is a Madison, Wis.-based freelance writer. Email comments or questions to prograil@tradepress.com.

Cuomo unveils scoping report, website for LIRR expansion

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo late last week released a draft environmental impact scoping report for a proposed expansion of MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).

MTA Long Island Rail Road’s Mineola station on the Main Line
Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The document outlines options for modifying grade crossings as part of the project, which calls for adding a third track along 9.8 miles of the railroad’s Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville. To ease local traffic congestion, construction work at the crossings would take place on an expedited timetable, with each project expected to wrap up in nine months or less, LIRR officials said in a press release.

“A third track on the main line is crucial to the future of Long Island,” said Cuomo in the release. “This project will make the LIRR more reliable for millions of customers, while also eliminating multiple dangerous train crossings along the main line.”

LIRR will hold four public hearings to give local residents, business owners and elected officials a chance to review the proposal. In addition, the MTA has launched a new website where the public can learn more about the project and provide direct input.

To date, there have been more than 80 meetings with local stakeholders.

Montreal transit agency unveils train maintenance center

The Agence metropolitaine de transport (AMT) last week inaugurated its new train maintenance center in Montreal’s Lachine borough.

AMT will use the Lachine Maintenance Center to maintain commuter trains that travel on the Candiac, Saint-Jerome and Vaudreuil-Hudson lines, agency officials said in a press release.

The facility has enough space to accommodate 13 train sets. It also features a service inspection workshop that can contain a train set of 10 cars and two locomotives, as well as a major repair shop containing heavy equipment such as a bridge crane, a 100-ton decoupling table and automated inspection systems. Other equipment includes an automated train wash that cleans the exterior of a train set in five minutes, AMT officials said.

The $118.9 million project (in Canadian dollars) was funded by a public-private partnership known as PPP Canada and other national and local government sources.

“The government of Canada is proud to support projects like this one, which will provide a long-term solution to the development of public transit in the Montreal metropolitan region, in addition to improving the reliability and safety of the network for its passengers,” said Canada’s Minister of Transport Marc Garneau.

Given the lack of connections between the CN and CP networks, the AMT opted for two locations: the first for trains operated on the CN network and the second for trains on the CP network.

For efficiency purposes, the maintenance sites must be located in a maximum radius of 10 kilometres from the downtown terminating stations (Lucien-L’Allier and Central Station). The period between peak hours will be used to inspect and maintain trains.

Visit the pages devoted to each maintenance centre to find out more :


Bernie Is Pointing to a “New Way” – Well, the “Old Way”

“In politics, the Third Way is a position akin to centrism that tries to reconcile right-wing and left-wing politics by advocating a varying synthesis of right-wing economic and left-wing social policies. The Third Way was created as a serious re-evaluation of political policies within various centre-left progressive movements in response to international doubt regarding the economic viability of the state; economic interventionist policies that had previously been popularized by Keynesianism and contrasted with the corresponding rise of popularity for economic liberalism and the New Right. The Third Way is promoted by some social democratic and social liberal movements.” – Wikipedia

s this the last gasp of a dying political philosophy? Will the “Third Way” ushered in by Bill Clinton end with Hillary Clinton? I do not see a Third Way candidate emerging as the leader of the Democratic Party again. I believe the centrist movement will die with the end of the Clinton machine. Let’s look back at the history of the Democratic Leadership Conference, the architects of the “Third Way” in America.

It was 1985, and Walter Mondale had just lost to Ronald Reagan. Many Democrats were pointing to Jimmy Carter as the only Democratic candidate who had won the White House since LBJ. They were looking for a way to nominate a moderate Southerner instead of Northern liberal. We will focus on the US, but the “Third Way” movement had already swept through Europe, with politicians like Tony Blair in the UK and Gerhardt Schroeder in Germany. The idea was that they could be socially liberal while being fiscally conservative.

The first attempt for the DLC was the 1988 Presidential election. It was the first “Super Tuesday.” A bunch of Southern states – Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia – came together and held their primaries on the same day, with the goal of nominating a Southern moderate. Jessie Jackson spoiled their plan and had the best day. The results did nothing to boost the prospects of their rising star, Tennessee senator Al Gore.

The centrist movement did not surrender; they instead recruited another Southern rising star, the governor of Arkansas, William Jefferson Clinton.

The DLC wasn’t the beginning of the move to the right by the Democrats. After Ronald Reagan clobbered the Democrats in 1980, a young congressman from California named Tony Coelho took over the DCCC. His philosophy was that the party needed to compete for corporate money. What he told the corporations was that as long as Democrats controlled the House they (corporations) were going to have to deal with us. The logic was that it was cheaper to influence the incumbent Democrats than to fund challengers in districts that were safe for Democrats. Coelho was successful, he convinced Tip O’Neill to hire Chris Matthews, and the rebranding of the Democratic Party began. It was the end of the days when the Democrats were the party of working people. They were now the party that was competing with the Republicans for corporate cash. That cash of course came with strings, and big business got the results they were looking for. Here are just a few things the DLC and corporate cash brought to the billionaire class.

Welfare Reform. The New Deal, the war on poverty, had become the war on the poor. Despite strong opposition from labor and other traditional constituencies of the Democratic Party, the Clintons and a Democratic Party-led House of Representatives forced millions of people into deeper poverty. The Clintons have championed welfare reform for over 20 years, despite study after study showing that it has severely harmed poor families and driven a historic number of black and Latino children into deep poverty. In the early 1990s, they designed a strategy to lure white voters back to the Democratic Party: capitalize on white disgust toward “dependent” black and Latina mothers on welfare. It wouldn’t have passed in the ’70s.

Crime Bill. Okay, Bernie voted for this too. But would it have passed through a traditional Democratic Party-controlled House with opposition from the Black Caucus? The mandatory minimum sentences and other measures have led to a country that leads the world in incarceration. There were some good portions of this bill. Those portions would have gone forward in a progressive Congress without the bad parts that were there at the request of the “new Democrats,” who again were exploiting white middle class fear of black criminals. The Clinton-led centrist Democrats were reaching out to the same electorate that Donald Trump is reaching out to in 2016.

Deregulation. This may have been the biggest win for big business. Deregulation of the banks plus the telecommunication and agriculture sectors of the economy benefited the billionaire class at the expense of consumers. The Democratic Party was no longer looking out for the interests of the little guy. They became one of two parties that were in the pockets of the one percent. Deregulation of the banks has created a banking industry that is now too big to fail. The question is if the Democrats hadn’t moved to the center to do the bidding of the one percent, where would the country be today?

Bernie Sanders is not proposing anything new. Bernie is trying to bring the Democratic Party back to its roots: The party of FDR and the New Deal, the party of LBJ and the war on poverty. Of course there were flaws. Dixiecrats, Hawks, Blue Dogs were there. It wasn’t a perfect party. But Labor, feminist, civil rights, environmental, and peace groups had a much larger influence than they do today It’s time to end the “Third Way” and move back to the old way. This time we can let the bigots take the hawks with them. The Dixiecrats have already left.

As Harry Truman once said: “Given a choice between a fake Republican and a real one, the public will choose … the real Republican every time.”

The time has come to stop trying to be more like the Republicans to compete for corporate cash. It’s time to be Democrats again and represent the people. As Bernie Sanders is showing, the people will reward the party that represents them.

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News