Recently METRO released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the new and controversial university line. The basic gist is that the mostly-Richmond line is the most cost-effective and least disruptive, and the stupid, raise-the-rail-above-59 plan championed by Rep. Culberson was the least cost effective and most disruptive. Intermodality gives a great summary of the report, and is a great place to keep up with Houston mass transit in general.
Kurt Cagle at the O’Reilly XML blog reviews an interesting sounding new book, The Upside of Down:
By his analysis, systems are, for the most part, the expressions of networks of semi-autonomous actors, each of which both consumes and produces energy, which he extends to include information, as the encoding, transmission, decoding and processing of such information all require energy. He looks at the decline of Rome from the standpoint of energy usage and the degree to which energy return on investment (EROI) plays on the life-cycles of e culture; in general, when EROI is high, the cost of producing energy is small compared to the return of that energy, and cultures or related systems that utilize that energy tend to start growing and developing interconnections. For instance, consider Rome of about 150 BC, when it was a somewhat largish town on the banks of the Tiber river, selling salt and related resources to its neighbors.
However, as a system grows, its boundaries also grow, and the stresses that act upon those boundaries increase as well. In order to manage those stresses, the interconnectivity within the system increases, and the components within the sytem become more efficient and specialized. Rome grows wealthy on the salt mining, but in order to feed the slaves in the salt mines it needed to expand to take in the Latiums and Etruscans, who had generally better farmland (vast solar collectors of energy), while at the same time building better roads and infrastructure to support this expansion.