Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Double Dutch

by Jace Tue May 24th, 2011 at 03:08:13 PM EST

I don't want to look out my window today. If I did, I'd see through the haze that the harbor's filled with ships including a most unusual pair from the Netherlands. Well one's flagged in Curacao, I'm not sure if that still counts as being Dutch.

Biggest, fastest, most unusual cargo, I like to know all about these types of ships. They fascinate me in part because of their sheer audacity. You can haul a city's worth of cars, a mountain top of coal or a whole day's worth of oil (if you're Portugal), all in one ship! That there are 1.43 billion tons of shipping capacity available everyday in the dry bulk market alone is truly staggering! But then there are other ships that I'd rather not know much about at all. One of them is half of this Dutch duo out there in the anchorage today.

Read more... (20 comments, 946 words in story)

Yellow-Green Mountain State

by Jace Wed May 11th, 2011 at 04:40:20 PM EST

It's spring time! The leaves are out here in the big city, but Vermont is only on the verge of becoming verdant as seen along the state's railroads past and present.

The yellow-green leafed trees are massing in the valley ready to storm the hill.

Read more... (2 comments, 124 words in story)

Up North

by Jace Sat Mar 26th, 2011 at 08:15:39 PM EST

Resources became products at Whale Creek. Trees from forests no longer virgin, animals, earth were all sent to the various mills, smelters, tanneries and rendering plants to become processed and refined. Not long after the state abolished slavery, this was the industrial heart of New York. But no more, we have others doing this work for us now. In their place lies an immense new wastewater plant, the fabric covering visitor's center not yet completely torn off.

Read more... (10 comments, 694 words in story)

Tin Can Island

by Jace Sun Mar 6th, 2011 at 07:26:23 AM EST

Billy was a pygmy. He arrived in Washington in 1927 to a warm welcome by President Coolidge. Discovered by the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber company, Billy quickly gained popularity culminating with his appearance at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Retirement soon followed. With lots of offspring and plenty of friends, Billy was in all likelihood a happy, and a lucky, hippo.

The Verrazano Narrows bridge is almost 50 years old! That dawned on me the other day as I walked around Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island. It's hard not to think of the bridge in this park; it dominates both visually and aurally. The last of the great projects of Robert Moses, the Verrazano is still very much an icon of New York.

Sunday reading, posted with minor edit - Nomad

Read more... (4 comments, 855 words in story)

The Driest Place on Earth

by Jace Fri Feb 25th, 2011 at 02:30:27 PM EST

In the middle of the Atacama Desert in Chile stands the remains of Chacabuco. A one time mining town, Chacabuco was dusted off in 1973 to become one of a number of General Pinochet's prison camps. He picked a good place.

Read more... (9 comments, 777 words in story)

The Hustle

by Jace Sat Feb 19th, 2011 at 09:09:32 AM EST

The United States is a nation of hucksters. Sure we grow those amber waves of grain and we've got this thing about our 'weapons', but in our heart of hearts we're really just a bunch of promoters, hustlers, salesmen. And you name it, we'll sell it! Land, plants, animals, our beloved guns, hell, we'll even sell off our entire industrial base if the price is right. But since we dropped the bomb and became the big man on the block, we've been selling one thing more than anything else: ideas. Part of our nature is that we don't sell small, and it's no different with ideas; we go for the big concepts like freedom and the American Dream. Naturally you've got to periodically repackage these things to keep them moving. You can't keep hawking the same old capitalism and expect it to sell year after year without some sort of embellishment. So in the 1980's we tweaked the product and came up with a real seller: deregulation.

Now to sell anything, especially ideas, you need a good story with that happy ending. In the case of deregulation, that story has been the deregulation of the transport industry. Not only was this the first major industry to be freed from government control, it was also a smashing success. The results, as the pitch goes, speak for themselves.

Yet perhaps there just might be a little more to this story than what you've heard. In this diary and a couple of others that follow, I'll take a look at the deregulation of the rail, trucking and possibly the airline industry (if I can figure that one out), focusing on how and why deregulation came about in the first place.

Read more... (6 comments, 1663 words in story)


by Jace Wed Feb 16th, 2011 at 03:40:53 PM EST

The container ship CMA-CGM Utrillo is in port today. She arrived this morning after leaving Dunkerque about two weeks ago. Her stop is nothing out of the ordinary; just one of over 2,000 container ship calls in the port of New York this year.

The Utrillo is a relatively small container ship, only 30,000 DWT with a capacity of about 2,200 20-foot containers. She's owned by a British company, flagged in Cyprus and operated by a French line. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. So why is it that when I look out my window at this ship, I want to immediately run over to it and hop on board?

Read more... (27 comments, 605 words in story)

What is Modern?

by Jace Sat Jan 1st, 2011 at 04:17:25 PM EST

I have always enjoyed looking at early photographs of what was once 'modern': brand new steam trains, the latest ships, ever more imposing structures. At one point these may have been the epitome of design and manufacture, of human achievement, of control, but now one can look at them 100 years later in wonder, with the occasional smirk or sense of shock. When looking at the latest and greatest features of today's landscape, I often ponder which will be our steam locomotives, our airships.

But more recently, I've been pondering something more basic than the technology itself and that is: what is it for something or someone to be 'modern'? Is it simply a comparison of old and new, of bad and better, or is there more to this?

Why of course there's more (otherwise this wouldn't be much of a diary!). My contention is that to be modern is to have it all figured out, to be in control, or at least to be in more control than the previous generation. How so and what this means, is what I hope to explore in this and a few following diaries.

Right or wrong, there seems to be a common perception that to be European is to be modern. But to explore the concept of being modern, we'll travel to the west to a land that, despite its name, is anything but new. It is in different ways primitive, archaic, even pre-modern. It is a land where attempts to become modern have often failed, sometimes spectacularly. Welcome, my friends, to Newfoundland!

For those that have not yet had the chance to visit, I've included some photos in this entry which serve to both give a sense of the land and also to introduce areas that I want to further explore in future diaries.

Cape Spear, the eastern most point or North America, was originally known as Cabo de la Spera, or Cape of Waiting. Post-glacial isostatic rebound, the process that exposed the rocks closest to the shore, is a relatively recent phenomena but the rocks themselves are ancient sediments shed from long gone mountain ranges. That some of the earliest mountain ranges in North America were here should not be a surprise; Newfoundland has long been on the leading edge of the clash between old and new, the collisions of continental and oceanic plates that is plate tectonics being no exception.

The next stop on our tour is Cape St. Mary's home to the vast sea bird nesting area known appropriately as Bird Rock. Home at the time to thousands of Gannets, Bird Rock is a testament to the real wealth of Newfoundland: the fisheries. Just offshore to the east lies the Grand Banks one of the richest and most productive areas of the world's oceans. Or at least, it was. Overfishing caused by modern fishing equipment and techniques decimated the stocks of Cod, Haddock, Capelin and a whole host of other fish so much so that in 1993 Canada issued a moratorium banning all Cod fishing on the parts of the Banks that lie within its waters. That moratorium is still in effect.

Moving back north, but still in Eastern Newfoundland, we see the Maersk Dispatcher coming through the Narrows and into the lovely fjord known as St. John's harbor. This ship is an all purpose offshore oil field support vessel known, understatedly, as an Anchor Handling Tug. She is modern in every way with the latest fire fighting equipment, accommodations and an advanced dynamic positioning system that allows her to hold position even in the roughest weather the North Atlantic has to offer. She and her sister supply ships based out of St. John's shuttle equipment and crews to and from the Hibernia, Terra Nova or White Rose Oil fields all located just inside Canada's 200 mile territorial limit. The development of these oil fields has brought much needed money to the province, at least for the time being.

There are only two ways to travel across Newfoundland by land: walk, bike or drive your ATV along the former right of way of the Newfoundland Railway now known as the eastern leg of the Trans-Canada Trail, or drive across the island on the not so modern Highway 1. Newfoundland is a big place. It takes eight hours to drive west from St. John's across the island and then another four south to the ferry terminal in Port aux Basques. It is also a very sparsely populated place. Except, that is, for the Moose. So prolific are these great animals that they seemingly have all of Newfoundland scared. Everywhere you go, you hear stories of close encounters with Moose. Road signs come with grim statistics: 622 accidents with Moose last year, 23, no make that 24 fatal accidents this year. This particular sign is just one of the reasons we started calling them 'Moose-lim terrorists'. Contrary to what one might think, the Moose are relatively new to the island, their numbers having grown rapidly thanks to an abundance of food and habitat.

We'll conclude our trip at the Railway Museum in Corner Brook, just south of the bend in the road known as Deer Lake. Here we have a photo of something clearly old tech: a wedge plow from the Newfoundland Railway. This plow and the others like it were crude instruments used in the never ending task of keeping the 900 mile (1,450 km) long railway open year round. The main trunk line was constructed during the railway boom years of the late 1800's with some branches added after that. Like most other railways, it was intended to be not so much for transportation but rather for economic development. It was to bring modern life and large scale industry to the island. But, like the island itself, the railway never really was a financial success going in and out of government ownership throughout its existence before being ripped up in 1990 as the government prepared the nationally owned Canadian National Railway for privitization. For Newfoundland, that might just have been one of the best short-sighted decisions ever made!

Comments >> (9 comments)

News and Views

 July 2024

by Oui - Jun 30, 148 comments

Your take on today's news media

 June 2024

by Oui - Jun 1, 192 comments

Your take on today's news media

Occasional Series
Click for full list