All-Star Sinkholes

In the last few years, news of unexpected sinkholes swallowing cars, houses and people have made headlines with disturbingly high frequency. These reports are mainly coming from Florida, the U.S., where almost the entire state is karst terrain (made of limestone), which means it has the potential for sinkholes. Mexico, Belize and parts of Italy and China are also karst area, but the phenomenon of sinkholes suddenly appearing in apparently stable grounds is mostly American. Experts estimate thousands of sinkholes form every year in Florida alone.

Sinkholes form when water flowing underground has dissolved rock, mostly limestone and sometimes clay, below the surface, leading to the formation of underground voids. When the surface layer can no longer take the weight of whatever that’s above, it collapses into the void forming sinkholes. These sinkholes can be dramatic, because the surface land usually stays intact until there is not enough support. Then, a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur.

 

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A giant sinkhole caused by the rains of Tropical Storm Agatha is seen in Guatemala City on May 31, 2010. More than 94,000 people were evacuated as the storm buried homes under mud, swept away a highway bridge near Guatemala City and opened up sinkholes in the capital. (Casa Presidencial / Handout / Reuters)

 

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An aerial view of the damaged Gran Marical de Ayacucho highway in the state of Miranda outside Caracas December 1, 2010. Thousands of Venezuelans fled their homes after landslides and swollen rivers killed at least 21 people and threatened to cause more damage. (Photo by Miranda Government/Reuters)

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A construction vehicle lies where it was swallowed by a sinkhole on Saint-Catherine Street in downtown Montreal, August 5, 2013. (Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

 

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Pamela Knox waits for rescue after a massive sinkhole opened up underneath her car in Toledo, Ohio in this July 3, 2013 handout photo provided by Toledo Fire and Rescue. Toledo firefighters later rescued Knox without major injuries. Fire officials told a local TV station that a water main break caused the large hole. Picture taken July 3, 2013. (Photo by Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld/Toledo Fire and Rescue/Handout via Reuters)

 

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A stranded car is hoisted from a collapsed road surface in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, September 7, 2008. The road collapsed on Sunday afternoon and trapped the car in a hole, which measured 5 meters (16.4 feet) in depth and 15 meters (49.2 feet) in diameter, local media reported. Further investigation is underway. Picture taken September 7, 2008. (Photo by Reuters/China Daily)

 

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An aerial view shows the debris of a residential building and a destroyed road in the village of Nachterstedt, July 18, 2009. Three residents were missing in the eastern German village of Nachterstedt after their lakeside home and another building suddenly collapsed early Saturday into the water. A 350-metre stretch of shoreline gave way next to an old open-cast coalmine converted to a lake, about 170 kilometres south-west of Berlin. (Photo by Reuters/Gemeindeverwaltung Nachterstedt)

 

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Rescue workers remove a bus with a crane from a Lisbon street hole November 25, 2003. The bus was parked on a Lisbon street when the ground began to open up and gobble it. No casualties were reported. (Photo by Jose Manuel/Reuters)

 

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A truck is seen in a hole after part of the structure of a bridge collapsed into a river in Changchun, Jilin province May 29, 2011. Two truck passengers were injured, while the cause of the accident is still under investigation, local media reported. (Photo by Reuters/China Daily)

 

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Cars lie in a sinkhole, caused when a road collapsed into an underground cave system, in the southern Italian town of Gallipoli March 30, 2007. There were no injuries in the overnight incident, according to local police. (Photo by Fabio Serino/Reuters)

 

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A giant sinkhole that swallowed several homes is seen in Guatemala City February 23, 2007. At least three people have been confirmed missing, officials said. (Photo by Reuters/Stringer)

 

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A large sinkhole opened on East Monument Street in Baltimore in summer 2012. The sinkhole appeared above a 120-year-old drainage culvert after heavy rains, causing evacuations and closing the road. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun Photo)

1955 Lincoln Futura: the concept car that would become the original Batmobile

 

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The Lincoln Futura is a concept car promoted by Ford’s Lincoln brand, designed by Ford’s lead stylists Bill Schmidt and John Najjar, and hand-built by Ghia in Turin, Italy — at a cost of $250,000 (equivalent to $2,200,000 in 2016).

Displayed on the auto show circuit in 1955, the Futura was modified by George Barris into the Batmobile, for the 1966 TV series Batman.

The Futura’s styling was original by 1950s standards — with a double, clear-plastic canopy top, exaggerated hooded headlight pods, and very large, outward-canted tailfins. Nevertheless, the Futura had a complete powertrain and was fully operable, in contrast to many show cars. Its original color was white, and was one of the first pearlescent color treatments, using ground pearl to achieve the paint effect. The Futura was powered by a 368 cubic inch Lincoln engine and powertrain; the chassis derived from a Continental Mark II.

The Futura was a success as a show car, garnering favorable publicity for Ford. It was released as a model kit and a toy, and in a much more subdued form its headlight and tailfin motifs would appear on production Lincolns for 1956 and 1957, such as the Lincoln Premiere and Lincoln Capri. The concave front grille inspired the grille on the 1960 Mercury Monterey and the 1961 Ford Galaxie.

 

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The Futura played a prominent part in the 1959 movie It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. For the movie, it was painted red, as the white pearlescent finish did not photograph well.

The concept car was subsequently sold to auto customizer George Barris. Having originally cost $250,000, the Futura was sold to Barris for $1.00 and “other valuable consideration” by Ford Motor Company. As the car was never titled and was therefore uninsurable, it was parked behind Barris’ shop, sitting idle and deteriorating for several years.

 

 

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In 1966 Barris was asked to design a theme car for the Batman television series. Originally the auto stylist Dean Jeffries was contracted to build the car for the show in late 1965, but when the studio wanted the car faster than he could deliver, the project was given to Barris. With the short notice, Barris thought the Futura might work well, and using Jeffries’s initial car, decided that its unusual winged shape would be an ideal starting point for the Batmobile. Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to modify the car’s metalwork. Barris went on to build three fiberglass replicas using the frames and running gear from 1966 Ford Galaxie cars for the show circuit, three of which were covered with a felt-like flocking finish in the 1970s. Barris later acquired a fourth replica, a metal car built on a 1958 Thunderbird.

Barris retained ownership of the car, both after its conversion to the Batmobile, leasing it to the TV studio for filming and after production of the TV series ended, displayed in Barris’ own museum in California. It has also been displayed in the Cayman Motor Museum on Grand Cayman Island.

Barris sold the Batmobile to Rick Champagne at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction on Saturday, January 19, 2013 in Scottsdale, Arizona for US4.62 million dollars.

 

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You Can Never Be Too Careful

I saw this older gentlemen during the winter with his cane, and more interestingly, wearing his helmet. Winnipeg streets can be treacherous in the winter as they are covered with ice and snow. So a slip could lead to a head smack on the sidewalk. A helmet would help in that scenario.

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Today I saw the old guy walking by again. And lo and behold, he had his helmet on.  The sidewalks are dry and clean. Very good traction. But this fella isn’t taking any chances.  He is really protecting that noggin.

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Ten Ugliest Cars Ever Built

I’m not much of a car person.  These days, with a few exceptions, cars all look-a-like to me.  Little boxes with wheels that are fighting each other for space on the streets.  The pick-up trucks are even worse.  Big metal contraptions driven by incompetent drivers who bully the little cars for space on the streets.  Lets go shopping at the mall and I’ll park my armoured personnel carrier (F-250 pick-up) in the multi-level parkade with the low ceiling, concrete pillars and tight spaces.  This is the kind of mind-set the body shop owners love. 

There are some good looking vehicles out there like the Corvette, Camaro and PT Cruiser.  I kid about the latter.  And conversely there are many ugly cars out there.  The Nissan Cube looks like it was made for a timid family of nerdy geeks. 

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But throughout time there have been some magnificently ugly cars out there.  And here is a list of the top ten ugliest of all time.  m

#10

Pontiac Aztek

Malformed atrocity with a big body that is way too big for the wheels.

 

#9

Mercedes Benz G-class

You can’t argue with its capabilities, but the Geländewagen won’t win any beauty contests. Like a lot of Teutonic heavy metal, it was designed to do a job and do it well. Little attention was paid to the aesthetics, and so the G-wagen is a stout, dour fraulein.

 

#8

Fiat Multipla

It came wrapped in sheetmetal that resembled nothing less than a tumor growing on the face of some poor unwitting car.

 

#7

Yugo GV

Yugoslavia’s attempt at mass automobile production, enough said.

#6

Chevrolet Chevette

The Chevette has no redeeming qualities, except for maybe that so few of these atrocious little cars are still around.

#5

Ford Mustang II

The Mustang II, which was essentially a Ford Pinto with a pony emblem on the grill.

 

#4

AMC Pacer

From the asymmetrical doors to the big-forehead (think Neanderthal) profile of the greenhouse, it’s simply not a looker. Is it any wonder that AMC went under after crafting such a turd?

 

#3

Citroen 2CV

French attempt to make a Beetle.  In addition to looking like a metal snail, it was possibly as slow as one, starting out with a 9-HP two-cylinder.

 

#2

VW Thing

VW knew it was weird looking– I mean, who names their car a Thing without consciously being aware of the fact that its appearance can best be described as bizarre.

 

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Reliant-Regal

 

The Regal is notable for having just 3 wheels. And that’s about it. It’s slow, unsafe, and didn’t sell very well.  And the word ugly is to complimentary.  A real chick magnet Eh!

 

Subway Pushers of Japan

The Japanese rail network is known throughout the world for its superiority and punctuality. In the capital city Tokyo, nearly 40 million passengers ride the rail every day, heavily outweighing other modes of transport like buses and private cars. Of these, 22% or 8.7 million take the subway.

The Tokyo subway network is a transportation marvel. On most lines, trains come every 5 minutes apart, on average, and during peak times, they tend to run every 2-3 minutes. That’s about 24 trains per hour going in one direction. Despite so many trains, the subway is extremely overcrowded, especially during rush hour. This page from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has data (from 2007) detailing the level of congestion at different stations of Tokyo’s subway. As you can see, nearly all of them run at over capacity with a few running at 200% over rated capacity.

 

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“Oshiya” or “pushers” at Tokyo’s Shinjuku station trying to pack as many passengers as possible into the carriages during rush hour in 1967. Photo credit: CNN

In order to fit twice the number of passengers into a subway carriage, the stations employ uniformed staff known as oshiya or “pusher”, whose goal is to cram as many people as possible into the subway tram. These white glove-wearing personal actually pushes people into the train, so the doors can be shut. This is so surreal, it has to be seen to be believed.

 

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When pushers were first brought in at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, they were called “passenger arrangement staff” and were largely made up of students working part-time. Nowadays, there are no dedicated “pushers”. The station staff and part-time workers fill these roles during rush hours.

Although a Japanese phenomenon now, subway pushers were an American invention and originated in New York City, nearly a century ago. They were not very well-liked because they were known to push and shove passengers with hostility. The vigor with which the guards often did their job earned them the reputation as “sardine packers”. Their brutality sometimes made national headlines. “The Anxious Subway Guard Who Guillotines His Passengers” —screamed a headline, and “Long Suffering New York Subway Riders Cheer Man Who Hit Guards” —reported another.

Pushers became out of fashion with the introduction of automatic door controls and automatic turnstiles. As the sadistic sardine packers began to lose their job in the 1920s, their demise were mourned briefly. Several movies about subway workers came out during this period including Subway Sadie (1926), Wolf’s Clothing (1927), The Big Noise (1928), Love Over Night (1928) and so on. Subway pushers were also depicted in a 1941 biographical movie called Pusher — the story takes place during World War 1.

More recently, in 2012, Hong Kong- based photographer Michael Wolf created a photo series named Tokyo Compression, where he captured the traumatized and pained expression of commuters as their faces were crushed against the windows. These pictures show how horrible and shameful the situation inside the subway is. Bodies are squished so tightly against one another that most people can’t physically move. Short persons suffer the risk of getting smothered against the coat of their fellow passenger. Getting off at the right station require strength and determination, and fire hazards and emergency evacuation are serious issues. The subways are also fertile grounds for pickpockets and gropers.

 

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Japanese commuters wait in line for the next train, while people pushers push passengers onto the Yamanote line subway train during the morning rush hour at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan. The daily ritual is performed to maximize the number of commuters on trains.

 

“Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.” Plato.

 

The Widest Freeway in the World

Where else? Houston, Texas of course.

 

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When constructed during the 1960s, the I-10 Katy from Houston, known as the Katy Freeway, was built with six to eight lanes wide barring side lanes, being modest by Houston standards because existing traffic demand to the farming area of West Houston was relatively low. As the population and economic activity increased in the area vehicular traffic increased, reaching an annual average daily traffic (AADT) of 238,000 vehicles just west of the West Loop in 2001.

In 2000 increased traffic levels and congestion led to plans being approved for widening of the freeway to 16 lanes with a capacity for 200,000 cars per day. An old railway running along the north side of the freeway was demolished in 2002 in preparation for construction which began in 2004. The interior two lanes in each direction between SH 6 and west I-610, the Katy Freeway Managed Lanes or Katy Tollway, were built as high-occupancy toll lanes and are managed by the Harris County Toll Road Authority. The section just west of SH 6 to the Fort Bend–Harris county line opened in late June 2006. Two intersections were rebuilt (Beltway 8 and I-610), toll booths were added, together with landscaping as part of Houston’s Highway Beautification Project. Most of the section between Beltway 8 and SH 6 had been laid by September 2006 and work was completed in October 2008.

Tolls on the managed lanes vary by vehicle occupancy, axle count and time of day. High occupancy vehicles may travel for free at certain times.

 

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Interstate 10 (I-10) is the major east–west Interstate Highway in the Southern United States. In the U.S. state of Texas, it runs east from Anthony, at the border with New Mexico, through El Paso, San Antonio and Houston to the border with Louisiana in Orange, Texas. At just under 880 miles (1,420 km), the Texas segment of I-10, maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, is the longest continuous untolled freeway in North America that is operated by a single authority, a title formerly held by Ontario Highway 401. 

 

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