How Maryland Does its Distance Signs

Credit: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Since a few of you shared my interest in why Pennsylvania and Maryland have different distances to D.C. and Baltimore on their highway signs, I figured I would ask the Maryland State Highway Administration how they measure the distance, and how it might differ from PA’s method.

Here’s what they sent me:

Good Afternoon Mr. Swift:

This email is in response to your question regarding how Maryland determines the mileage for post interchange distance signs.  In the case of Baltimore City, Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) measures from the location of the sign to the Town Hall.  In the case of Washington D.C., the SHA measures from the sign location to the center of the Elipse.   The mileage is generally rounded up so as not to display decimals or fractions, particularly when the distance is great such as the distance from the Maryland / Pennsylvania State Line to the Baltimore and DC destinations.

Interchange guide signs, which do display fractions, are typically rounded down to the nearest ¼ mile so that the motorist is aware that their exit is eminent and that time to make necessary lane changes is limited.

Thank you for allowing the SHA the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Cheryl Schreiber

Asst. Chief, Traffic Engineering Design Division

The Genius of Trump’s Language

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 17.18.33

This analysis is some of the best I’ve seen on the genius that is Donald Trump’s unconventional speaking style.

A Response from the Government

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 15.12.56

Driving back from St. Louis this Christmas, I finally bothered a government agency about something that had been bothering me: road signs.

After Breezewood — a town that makes me want to bring back earmarks so it can be paved over into a normal interchange — there are signs listing the distance to Baltimore, and to Washington. The mileage on one particular sign, as I recall (though I was groggy) varies. Normally it’s a two mile difference, but on another sign, it’s three miles.

So I wrote in:

To Whom it May Concern:

I am writing about the mileage distance signs on I-70 after an eastbound driver departs Breezewood.

I understand that, at some point in the future, the road splits and drivers can choose to head towards a variety of places, including Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland.

The first sign says they’re two miles apart, but 20 minutes later, the sign says they’re three/four miles apart. (Not exactly sure here, but point is, the mileage actually varies.)

As a kid, I asked my dad if the two towns were really only X miles apart and he helpfully explained to a 4th grade me that, no, this was the distance on that road system from that particular point, and in fact they were many miles apart.

My question is, why do the PADot signs have varying mileages for them, on the same road, just a few dozen miles apart?

How is this distance calculated? It just seems odd that it would vary on I-70 at one mile marker to another.

Thanks for your attention to my somewhat odd inquiry.

Two days later, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation wrote back:

Dear Mr. Swift:

I am responding to your email of Monday, December 28, 2015 concerning the Distance Signs on I-70 Eastbound since this matter falls directly under my area of responsibility.

The distance used on these signs is calculated from the location of the sign to the center city of the destination.  For a destination that is a considerable distance, there can be some variation in the distance depending on the specific route selected and the specific point selected for the center city.  There is no set national procedure for this process.  However, I do agree that once the two variables discussed above have been selected, there should be no variation in the difference in the total distance to each destination.

We have reviewed the sign on I-70 immediately east of the Breezewood interchange and the mileage indicated is South Breezewood 2, Washington D C 127 and Baltimore 129.  Thus, the difference between the distances to Baltimore and Washington D C is 2 miles and this difference should remain constant.  We have further reviewed the four remaining distance signs on I-70 between the first distance sign and the Maryland line, and in fact, found that the difference between the distances to Baltimore and Washington D C remains 2.  As an example, the Distance Sign immediately east of the Amaranth interchange has the mileage indicated as Warfordsburg 4, Washington D C 118 and Baltimore 120.  The last sign in Pennsylvania has the mileage indicated as Hancock 3, Washington D C 106 and Baltimore 108.  Based on the information you have provided, I can only conclude that there are signs you observed in Maryland that have the difference between the distances to Washington D C and Baltimore something other than 2 which may be the result of the Maryland State Highway Administration using different selection criteria than what I have discussed above.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on our transportation system and the possible conflict in our traffic signs.

Robert J. Pento, P.E. | Manager, Traffic Engineering and Permits

It was a great response! Very satisfying. I wrote back to say thanks, having written a few thousand responses to the public in my short tenure as a government employee, and noted that this was a response from a pro. Now I’ll have to find a Google streetview of that Maryland sign and bother them about the sign, assuming I didn’t misremember or am an undiagnosed dyslexic.

Together we can make change and bring consistency to highway distance signs.

UPDATE: Niels Lesniewski has found the offending sign. It’s just outside of Hagerstown. (And pointed out that there is a webpage dedicated to signs!)

12418966_853833588526_7484702042462011775_o

Vogue Writer Discovers Facebook is Political

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 12.27.02 PM

The days of the year are dripping to a close and news outlets are trying to milk the slow news cycle for every available eyeball with year-end summary posts. Mostly, they’re recaps of who died or summaries of the news (like Google’s Zeitgeist, which seems to get more left-leaning politically every year.)

Sometimes, however, they’re personal observations that turn into a naive 1,000 word writ-large assumption. Enter Vogue and a writer named Michelle Ruiz.

It is her contention that 2015 is the year “Facebook got Political.

Um, what?

Granted, I run in some different circles. I realize it is not political for everyone else, and some people I am sure defriend me or mute me because I share links (perhaps too many) to political pieces, including my own.

“It used to be” Ruiz writes, “that only whacked-out distant relatives got political on Facebook.” I’m sorry, in what Facebook world do you live? I’m fairly certain everybody has a friend (like me!) who pollutes their feed with opinions they may not share.

“Lest anyone forget, this was a social networking site that trafficked in college party pics.” Yes. In 2004, but even then it was still sort of political!

“The unspoken rule was that it was a place for rustic wedding shoots, babies holding blocks bearing their age in months, and delectable dim sum brunches shot from above.” THIS WAS NEVER A RULE. In fact, it was quite the opposite: these are/were as annoying as political posts and an entire (now defunct) browser plug-in — which was amazing — was created to filter out such things. (Which is why my dog has his own Instagram.)

Ruiz further observes, almost comically:

This was the year I found out on Facebook that a guy I had a crush on in high school was, frankly, pretty racist (“Really? Black Lives Matter? All life matters!” he expounded in one status). Or that one of my favorite people to party with in college doesn’t share my passionate beliefs about gun control.

Ah yes, proof positive this guy is a grade-A racist. Just like Martin O’Malley.

It gets better. Ruiz was living in a Pinterest-board-like curated Facebook world, until just this horrible year:

Before this year, I can hardly remember posting anything political on Facebook. But as the discourse erupted every day on my feed, I felt more compelled to answer—and couldn’t resist in the cases of #BlackLivesMatter and gun control. For other subjects, I drafted impassioned statuses, questioned whether or not to hit “post,” and ultimately didn’t. Like journaling, just writing those statuses made me feel a little less fiery. As a commenter said on the aforementioned friend’s post musing about the new, über-political nature of Facebook: “There is a lot of frustration and anger about what is happening in our country on both sides . . . people feel they need a place to vent.”

And she couldn’t help it. COULDN’T. HELP. IT. She just had to respond! (Except when she didn’t.)

To her credit, Ruiz hasn’t gone full permaban on people who express (poorly or well) opinions with which she doesn’t agree:

As tempted as I’ve been to unfriend or unfollow those people with whom I don’t agree, I haven’t actually followed through.

But there’s no blame in that, no unwritten rule that it’s not cool. Facebook is already a big cognitive dissonance machine for many.

The contention that this is the year Facebook got political, to me at least, rings hollow. Not 2008, not during Obamacare, not during 2010, 2012, or 2014. This year.

Perhaps it’s the year that Michelle Ruiz’s strangely non-political Facebook world got political. I doubt that’s been the case for many other people.

 

What About the Browns?

Cleveland_Browns_game_program,_September_1946

The Browns snapped a seven game losing streak, yay! Johnny Manziel didn’t play terribly*, yay! Brian Hartline is injured for the rest of the season, boo!

(*I have stopped watching the Browns, so it could have been all dumb fucking luck for all I know.)

The narrative now, at least what I’ve seen on social media, is that Johnny is going to make an argument (on the field) for why we shouldn’t draft yet another quarterback.

There are a few games left in this dumpster fire of a season.

My prediction?

Johnny does reasonably well. The Browns don’t draft another QB. Another dumpster fire season, with Manziel playing a big role. We have 3 different starting QBs next season. Jimmy Haslam sells the team or floats selling it.

Now I am not saying we need to use our very high draft pick on a QB. When has that worked out for us? All that I’m saying is Manziel likely doesn’t have it, and next year’s season will be as bad or perhaps slightly better than this one.

I probably won’t watch.

What I Saw at the Trump Rally

IMG_20151202_202844892

Over at the WEEKLY STANDARD, I have a piece on last night’s Donald Trump rally in Manassas. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s a brief excerpt.

Manassas, Virginia
Make no mistake: Donald Trump is running a serious, well-organized campaign. Wednesday night, it showed.

I arrived at the Prince William County Fairgrounds last night for the Donald’s first big rally in the Washington metro area just as the doors were opening at 5:30.

Story continues below

The Secret Service, now entrusted with Mr. Trump’s safety, manned two security checkpoints for rallygoers. One for guests, the other for media. I did not RSVP as media, yet, I went to the media check-in booth anyway to see if my press pass would help me acquire a coveted campaign trail event credential.

It didn’t.

Unlike other events, where journalists with government-issued press credentials can sign in, the Trump campaign required that latecomers email Trump campaign coordinator Megan Powers to ask for one. If she agreed, she would tell the on-site staff to give a credential. Or not.

Powers, who graduated from NYU earlier this year, presumably wields a lot of power here, deciding who in the press does or does not get access to the press area. And with the Trump campaign’s recent history of denying credentials to reporters from various outlets, I wasn’t about to wait around and take my chances.

After all, I already had a ticket to the event, since I was one of the first to register as a guest. I was made aware of the event because after buying a red “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hat, I somehow ended up on an official volunteer email list for Trump supporters, and RSVP’d.

Read the rest of the item.

Definitive Guide to Winning Thanksgiving Political Arguments

Don’t have them.

 

like1

Ben Carson or Teddy Ruxpin?

I just love this video.

JLENS Tribute

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 6.35.45 PM

Goodnight, sweet prince.

Colbert’s Late Show Interrupted by Hecklers

colbert

As Stephen Colbert’s new show is in its first week, the show has, so far, had a bunch of top-notch guests. Last night, for example, Joe Biden was on the show — complete with the press corps in tow… chomping at the bit as to whether he is going to run for President.

But, the show appeared, at least to the audience to have been stolen by some New York City cabbies.

I’ll turn things over to Sarah, who claims to have been seated in the audience for yesterday’s taping. She posted a litany of tweets about incidents involving Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (disclosure: who I met at the Uber DC launch party many years back.)

Since there are so many Tweets about this (what happened to blogging?) I am going to put her Tweets into a sequential, linked monologue. (Last word of tweet is link.)

Here we go:

So, so excited to see this interview. Some insane stuff went down. I’ll talk about it if they don’t show it. First thing got cut. Extremely edited. Makes sense.

Two separate times during the interview with Uber guy, some cabbies in the balcony yelled stuff and interrupted the conversation. They were criticizing Uber’s disruption of the NYC cab system, and they were very aggressive and made everyone rather uncomfortable.

I mean, I don’t blame them, their argument is valid. But I initially thought it was a bit, but the crew started looking around frantically. Instead of having the men removed, Stephen acted with complete respect and control. He listened intently to what they had to say. When the guy finished, Stephen said that he was planning on asking a similar question, and politely asked the man to be seated.

He then turned back to the interview and addressed exactly what the man had yelled about. It was very smooth.

The whole thing was cut, tho.

Then five minutes later, another man got up and yelled something else. The Uber guy started to talk back to him, but Stephen calmly touched his arm and quieted both him and the cab driver in the balcony. He said that he would ask the man’s question “in a more respectful way.” Then he again respectfully asked the man to sit down, and he asked exactly what the man had yelled about. Very, very smooth transition.

Both encounters and all references to them were cut for the air. The Uber man actually had some decent (prepared) answers to the questions, & Stephen was able to make it funny, but Biden deserved more air.

But – it was truly remarkable to see how Stephen handled the whole interview. He easily could have had the men removed. But instead, he truly listened to what they had to say and directly incorporated their concerns into the interview, completely smoothly. It was incredible to see how well Stephen handled it all. Absolute class and respect, the whole time.

And he had complete, *complete* control over the entire theatre. The audience, the band, the crew – we were all confused/a little scared, but Stephen calmed and quieted everyone. He didn’t call for security, he just dealt with the men and then continued an excellent interview. It was a fantastic thing to watch happen.

He handled it with class and earnestness & showed just how skilled he is as a performer and host.

I’m actually sort of sad none of it made the cut. They must’ve talked for at least 15 mins, & what they showed was kind of awkward & short. But I understand why they didn’t show it all.

I’m just glad I got to witness it and see in person just how phenomenal Stephen Colbert is. Sorry I just tweeted like three essays, but I wanted to put it out there. Important stuff.

Confused? So am I. Unless you were in the audience tonight (some WH poolers were, but this didn’t make the pool report, so I assume they missed it) there is no way of knowing what was said, what Colbert did, and what made it to air.

However, some reporters from Business Insider and BuzzFeed were there. I suspect they’ll have more substantive reports come morning. Until then, a few questions/thoughts:

  • Why let hecklers get away with it? In this instance, after Colbert reacted, allegedly, nicely to the first cabbie, yet the second later chimed in. Would the same thing have happened if you just kicked the first one out? Perhaps.
  • Letting hecklers go into a monologue, and listening until they finish just seems like a bad idea. I’m not a producer, but that’s bullshit. Subjecting guests to that is a dumb move.
  • Only Colbert and his writers know if it is indeed true whether Colbert was “planning on asking a similar question” to the ones the hecklers brought up. This could just be a disarming tactic, but it could become a very bad precedent. Granted, only the people who are in the audience know what was said in the room and what aired or didn’t air.
  • BUT, consider that on any given night, reporters from BI and BF, or any other outlet are in the audience… you never know who is there. If you start caving to hecklers and suggest you were about to ask their questions to calm them down (Colbert is democratizing the questions, as we saw with Jeb Bush) you only encourage people to act badly. And it’s weird if you ask the questions they asked before you, and don’t air them. Seems crazy.
  • If guests know you might make them answer questions from the audience to keep hecklers at bay (albeit reworded by the host) that might cause good potential guests to forego the show. After all, Colbert doesn’t have subpoena power to require guests to appear, there are alternatives.
  • Which is an interesting question, heckler tactics aside: Do you offer a cushier interview or do you let things run like the wild west? In television, it can go both ways.

Which way will Colbert go? Perhaps we’ll find out in the late morning.