Sunday Jazz Concert: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman live at Detroit Jazz Festival

Jazz You Too

The weather isn’t a conversation topic or an icebreaker, that means it’s hot, the wind is helping to cool things a bit, so everything’s perfect! The concert is at the Detroit Jazz Festival 2014, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman deliver awesome music – the video quality is simply outstanding!

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Changes to mental health treatment

Dearest Someone,

Recently my therapy sessions with the clinical psychologist I’ve been meeting with for nearly a year have come to an end. Admittedly at first I was too overwhelmed to even begin thinking about how I felt about the upcoming changes. I really started struggling, as unexpected changes to my usually fairly smooth home life occurred alongside changes in my psychological support and therapy.

Through my community mental health team (CMHT) I’ve been meeting with a psychologist since last summer. Due to upcoming changes to the mental health services in Birmingham for under 25s it’d taken me a while to get used to my therapy/EMDR sessions with my psychologist. In Birmingham all mental health care for under 25s has been/will be transferred to a new service – Forward Thinking Birmingham

Despite the changes in mental health services I was able to stay with my psychologist and continue with my…

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Pioneer Railcorp has flourished for 30 years thanks to the foundation built by a devoted founder

The short-line holding company that the late Guy Brenkman built and nurtured his way has surpassed the three-decade mark. Pioneer Railcorp marked its 30th anniversary earlier this year.

Brenkman, who died in September 2013, founded the company in January 1986 as Pioneer Railroad Co. He later acquired its first property: an 18-mile leased line in Salem, N.J. The company renamed it the West Jersey Railroad and operated the short line until the mid-1990s.

Pioneer Railcorp — the name adopted in the early 1990s to reflect a bigger and more modern company — now owns 17 short lines and six other rail operations in 12 states that operate nearly 600 miles of track and serve more than 100 customers. Headquartered in Peoria, Ill., the firm manages the railroads through its Pioneer Lines subsidiary.

The company also owns a Pioneer Railroad Equipment Co. Ltd. subsidiary that buys and leases locomotives and rail cars, and offers car cleaning and light repair services, and a Pioneer Railroad Services Inc. subsidiary that provides car switching services.

A fourth-generation railroader from Peoria, Brenkman spent seven years switching cars for the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway, and many more years acquiring and renting real estate properties before he founded Pioneer. He had railroading in his blood and had always dreamt of owning and managing his own railroad company, says Betty Brenkman, his widow.
Pioneer Railcorp currently is headquartered in Peoria, Ill., but the company previously was stationed in New Jersey and Arkansas. Photo: Jeff Stagl

In the mid-1980s, Guy Brenkman was acutely aware of the high number of unprofitable lines that were being spun off from Class Is because of the Staggers Act and rail industry deregulation.

“Guy saw what was happening in the short-line industry and embraced it,” says Betty Brenkman.

The question he sought to answer was: How do you raise the necessary capital to form a company and acquire a line? Brenkman’s first acquisition attempt, a deal to purchase a Burlington Northern Santa Fe line in western Illinois, fell through in part because of financing.

So, after attempts to convince bankers to underwrite the formation of his company — which ultimately were rebuffed because he owned no railroads, had no railroad management experience and declared bankruptcy during his real estate days — Brenkman organized his own private stock placement to raise money for an initial public offering (IPO). He sold $1 shares at county fairs, Peoria-area businesses and trade shows.

By October 1988, the IPO had generated $235,000, attracting 1,800 investors in 41 states. Some of the funds were used to swing the West Jersey Railroad deal. Pioneer’s stock later split.

In June 1993, Pioneer shares began trading on the Chicago Stock Exchange. Pioneer was the first short-line holding company to be traded on a stock exchange, says President and Chief Executive Officer J. Michael Carr, who joined the firm in March 1993 as controller. Brenkman rang the bell at the exchange to mark the event.

“Our stock later became part of the NASDAQ small-cap listings,” says Carr, who worked in public accounting and banking prior to joining Pioneer, where he eventually served as chief financial, treasurer and president under Brenkman.

Then, in 2005, the company went private. The timing was good because Pioneer would have had a hard time continuing to comply with public company accounting and reporting reforms mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, says Carr.

Before he retired in 2006 and handed the reins to Carr, Brenkman generated enough capital to acquire more than a dozen short lines. He targeted small railroads that were privately owned by individuals, or families who grew frustrated with generating enough business to survive or complying with ever-increasing federal safety regulations.

“He would call them up and ask, ‘Do you want to sell your railroad?’” says Pioneer General Counsel Dan LaKemper, who worked with Brenkman for many years and has served the company since its early days.

Brenkman would chat a long time with a short line’s owner about his or her business or meet for hours over cups of coffee. He sometimes would stay up all night figuring out a bid for a short line, says Orvel Cox, a current board member and former Pioneer manager who had worked with Brenkman from Day 1.

Hyperloop May Be A Leap Too Far (Ali Hyperloop 16)

USA Today is sort of a “wanna be” major newspaper. But it is in all US hotels (even Donald Trumps)

Contrary to my usual style, I give time to those who may not always agree with my thoughts.

In a white-board world, hyperloop sounds ideal.

Take a sleek pod, place it in a vacuum-sealed tube and let it float frictionless above its rails using tested magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology at speeds up to 800 mph. Picture a puck effortlessly racing across an air hockey table and you have the idea, one that can already been seen in action on Shanghai’s speedy maglev train.

By erasing the vehicle-clogged arteries of our national highway system and those aging miles of transcontinental railroad track, commute times get slashed and fossil fuel gets saved. What’s not to like?

Yet moving this transportation alternative from sci-fi vision to real-world ubiquity involves financial and logistical roadblocks that call into question its wisdom, according to technology and transportation experts.

The issues raised include hyperloop’s cost (a 350-mile run between Los Angeles and San Francisco has been estimated at $6 billion or more), technological demands (tubes would have to be straight and vacuum-tight to keep speeds high), practicality (short hops would not make sense) and comfort (humans might not go for travel that feels like a roller coaster ride lodged in tunnels).

“I sense a bit of hucksterism right now that’s helping companies raise money,” says Ralph Hollis, a research professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University who is an expert on maglev tech.

His concerns range from whether endless links of welded tubes can retain the vacuum integral to maintaining high speeds given the inevitable geological shifts in California’s earthquake country, to the physiological impact on passengers of speeds that approach the supersonic.

“A lot of different things have to go right for this to really work, business, legal, technical,” says Hollis. “Demonstrating that it runs isn’t really enough.”

“That it runs” refers to a recent demo in the Nevada desert, where Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One successfully launched its maglev-enabled sled across a 100-yard track. The company plans to build a five-mile enclosed loop by year’s end. More boldly, last week it announced a Russian partnership to explore a new Silk Road route across Asia.

Hyperloop One has taken the lead in this tube race, raising $90 million and boasting investors such as GE Ventures and SNCF, the French national railway company. A rival concern, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, announced in March that its futuristic pods could appear first in Slovakia, where officials are studying a proposal.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle facing hyperloop is the poor reception offered to its slower cousin, high-speed rail.

Consider that for its size, the U.S. has only one such run – Amtrack’s Acela Express line along the Northeast Corridor — while smaller England and France each have an example, the Eurostar and TGV respectively.

In 2008, California voters approved $10 billion in funding for an ambitious San Francisco to Los Angeles bullet train akin to Japan’s Shinkansen, but it has yet to make headway. The $68 billion effort, which uses an alternative to maglev technology, was able to gain some initial traction thanks to billions in federal funding, but has been bogged down in lawsuits from aggrieved communities and by cumbersome land acquisition deals.

“Just getting a maglev train here would be great, but the U.S. is a strange place. Most people consider high-speed rail a boondoggle,” said Jim Mathews, spokesman for the National Association of Railroad Passengers .

Mathews, a former Aviation Week editor, says he’s learned not to bet against Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX and Tesla Motors and drew up the concept of hyperloop in a white paper three years ago.

But he’s not the only one doubting appetite for such projects, especially in the U.S.

John Macomber, senior lecturer on infrastructure and urbanization issues at Harvard University, says he remains unclear “why hyperloop would be more valuable than trains or airplanes. I know speed matters, but maybe not that much,”

Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd is unfazed by suggestions that Hyperloop One is a moonshoot or boondoggle, preferring instead to call it simply ahead of its time. It’s focused on developing a proof of concept that can be licensed to investors with the cash and desire to build hyperloop.

As for the high price: Lloyd notes Hyperloop One is keenly focused on generating profits by overhauling the existing freight transportation system. It even has sketched out a proposal that would see cargo ships unload their containers on floating docks outside Long Beach and into waiting hyperloop pods miles off-shore, thus freeing up lucrative shoreline real estate currently taken up by the city’s sprawling port.

If we suddenly did make this hyper-leap to hyperloop, what would it be like riding in a windowless tube at such blistering speeds?

Carnegie Mellon’s Hollis says that his own experiences aboard Shanghai’s maglev train, which can hit 300 mph, “involves a lot of being jostled around due to the steel rails that expand and contract (with weather), leading to something that can be like a bumpy airplane ride.” He adds that the tubes will have to be arrow straight otherwise deceleration forces generated by curves will be transferred to passengers.

The design of Hyperloop One’s systems are for gradual acceleration. In the first 90 seconds of acceleration and the last 90 seconds of deceleration, a passenger would feel G forces similar to those in a Honda Civic merging onto the highway, says Lloyd.

Hollis says that 1G forces — equivalent to a person’s body weight — are acceptable and what one might experience on a roller coaster. “But not everyone likes roller coasters,” he says.

Planets and Such

20160421_150208

In the picture

they are sharing the world

between the two of them

she is holding it in her

outstretched arms

they stare at the

illuminated center

like it is precious

like it is everything

big glowing planet

for a moment on unspin

they ponder its frailty

and place

in the backdrop

of their existence

holding it there momentarily

before it bounces from them

into the galaxy

lost within a spiraling universe

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