Saturday, December 10, 2005

Speed Demons; Tulane/Grad School Selection

People here drive at amazing speeds. My 70 mph (~112.7 kmh) on the Interstate put me in the 'slow' lane. Cars were zooming by me such that the term 乌龟 was the first that came to my mind. It was only after I had bumped up to 90 mph (~145 kmh) that I achieved some sort of parity with those in the center lanes. A little bird told me it would be ~120 - 140 mph (~193 - 225 kmh) for those in the 'fast' lane.

Even under inclement conditions the average speed was around 55 mph (~88 kmh). No wonder watching Hot Wheels AcceleRacers gave me a distinct sense of déjà vu. Now I could finally put a finger to it and I wished I have those soundtracks to play while driving.

Thankfully drivers here don't horn or show you the middle finger when you road hog at 70 mph; they simply overtake you.

Edit: Perhaps readers are a little confused about this phenomenon of widespread speeding when there are posted speed limits (55 mph) and state police patrol on the highways. To get around this, most drivers employ the use of this technique called 'wolf-packs'. Like the WWII German U-Boats, this means you attack speed in somewhat coordinated groups.

Never speed alone. That is a surefire way to get a ticket. And never be the first or last car in the 'wolfpack', for obvious reasons. The bigger the group (and better to stretch across multiple lanes) the harder it is to be ticketed. Although the highway patrol has also devised a countermeasure, and I had seen this in use once. They would employ several cars, one to the front of the group and the other to the back. The rest would form up by the side. Voila! The whole group would be caught.

Then again, this is rather rare and most patrol vehicles tend to operate singly. But who is to say it won't call for back-ups?

As for me, I value my life more. Cars tend to be most fuel efficient at around 55 mph, and some of the smaller ones aren't meant to be pushed to such high speeds. Once on a road trip, we rented a SUV and at one tollway we maintained at 130 mph. There was hardly a rattle from the engine.


It was with a sense of resignation when I read that Tulane will be eliminating most of its engineering programs (as well as layoffs from its Med school; 230 tenured/tenure track profs to be shown the door and 50 of these would be from the College of Engineering) to cope with the costs of rebuilding in the aftermath of Katrina.

An irony, as some posters in slashdot had pointed out - that it would be the engineers that would be needed most to rebuild the city infrastructure (leevees, houses et al). And with FEMA and other federal agencies likely to pour billions of dollars into NOLA, Tulane with its Engineering School would be in a good position to be awarded some of the funds for research and prevention of future Katrina-type catastrophes.

Talking about being supportive of grad students, I wonder if one can classify Tulane's case as sending the grad students to the dogs. Pity those mid-stage engineering doctoral students. Their advisors themselves will probably be too busy looking for jobs elsewhere to care.

Additional tips when it comes to selecting graduate departments:

1. Avoid schools in areas that are susceptible to the wrath of nature (hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc).

2. Avoid schools in which your major department is relatively small/weak/unimportant in the eyes of the university's administration. Even if there might be one or several stellar scholars there. You wouldn't want to be left to fend for yourself if the university decides to eliminate your program.

Edit: More on Tulane's renewal plan here.


L'oiseau rebelle said...

Heh... my town is a relatively safe place (esp considering the neighboring towns), but one drawback is that the police have nothing better to do. I know of people who has been ticketed for going at 71-75 mph on the highway.

Also, the relative safeness of the town has resulted in the creation of the Parking Gestapo, who sneak around town without raising awareness until someone violates a minor parking rule, even for 5 minutes.

There was an incident here involving a Singaporean going at 120mph somewhere north of here. He didn't notice the police flagging him down, resulting in a car chase and having a gun drawn at him. Turns out a murder suspect escaped in a car of the same model and color.

On the other hand, I heard that in the nearby slum, I mean, big city, drivers regularly run red lights.

Unknown said...

Aha! Wolf-pack! Only recently have I thought of such logic while on the freeway. If you're in the middle, kinda hard to get caught, unless they do the things you mentioned.

I used to drive 80mph, but after a warning from the police, I went down to 70mph, even tho speed limit is 65mph.

I also dislike rude, fast drivers. If it's crowded, I tend not to give way to those who wants to overtake me. Patience lah. But then, what if the person who's speeding, his wife is delivering? lol.