Friday, July 31, 2015
My Priorities for Metro Rail
So I write about the DC Metro Rail system, aka, the DC subway system, a lot. It is a major part of my life, like 90 minutes a day plus getting to and from the stations. That is 90 minutes when the system is running on time, which it doesn't do a couple of days a week. Delays add anyplace from a couple of minutes to an hour each way. There are perpetual problems, the doors break if they get blocked too many times. That is oldest issue in the system, dating back to the first day of service. Until this year all of the rolling stock entering service had the same door design that has been giving trouble for decades, they have never retrofitted the cars with a more reliable design. When doors won't close or won't indicate an all closed to the operator, the train goes out of service, either waiting for that car to be emptied and locked out by service personnel, or more commonly offloaded and taken back the yard for repairs. There are lesser problems with rails, switches, and brakes that lead to reliability issues.
Metro talks constantly about rebuilding to enhance safety, and safety is important, but what about reliability. Given a trade off of reliability or safety, I have reached the point of saying fix the reliability issues first. Here is why, I have been here almost 7 years, 10 people have died in active Metro train operations in 7 years (9 passengers and 1 train operator.) These were tragic and unnecessary deaths, but when you look at the millions and millions of passengers moved over 7 years, it is also a pretty safe system. It is safer then driving, it might even be safer then the stations - I think there have been that many murders in the stations in 7 years. I will take my odds on safety, what I want is a reliable system.
The trains also have to be comfortable, and for the most part they are, until the peak of summer when it is in the mid 90's with humidity to match and the air conditioning does not work in probably 5% of the cars. Ranking safety, comfort and reliability, I have to say for me number 1 is reliability, number 2 is comfort and number 3 is safety. No government agency screams about reliability or comfort, they scream about safety, but the system is relatively safe. If Metro wants to attract and keep fare paying riders, it needs to work on reliability and comfort.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Short Attention Span Theater
I don't know what it is today, but I can focus for about 10 minutes, then - I am off again. Looking at the web, thinking of the next great adventure, fussing about the latest idiot to cross my path. Usually I can focus for longer, but today - well I am already losing interest in writing this posting. It would be a good afternoon for a long meeting, one where I can drift in and out, but instead I trying to write a project summary report, a summary of four years of work.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
I like to be in control, I prefer to drive, to navigate, to call the shots. A lot of us are like this. It makes travel a challenge because there are a lot of things in travel that we have no control over. I can remember pitching a hissy-fit at an airline employee more then once, that there were planes out there, find one that works and get us in the air (it works that way when you are flying privately) or that the weather was not that bad - I have flown in worse. It didn't do any good, and only ruined the day of someone else.
Finally I made peace, I control what I can. I can control checking in early, being at the airport early, checking my bag before the cut off time, clearing security early, and being at the gate. Beyond that, I have no control. They won't let me schedule the flights, pick the planes, schedule the crew, fly the plane, load or unload the luggage. Once I have done my part, I turn the controls over to others, and sit back and roll with what ever happens.
I was in Charlotte one morning, the morning that the plane I was on backed into another plane, twice. Then the re-book flight cancelled. I had been traveling over 24 hours at that point. I stood in line with 50 other people waiting for two agents to re-route us. Ten people in front of ripped the agents a new one, I walked up and said, do the best you can, you and I don't control what has happened, I know if you could change it you would, but we can't, what can you do to get me home today? Both of us smiled, and I was on the next flight to the airport nearest to home that they could get me to that morning with a van ride booked from there to home.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Embracing the moment
I was headed up into the mountains of New Mexico, I left Albuquerque in the bright sunshine and headed north, as I started to climb, suddenly I was in the fog. The views and vistas I had come to see, were shrouded in the mist. I pulled over at a scenic overlook, and this is what I saw. Amazingly beautiful isn't it? I can curse the fog, or see the beauty in it. I choose to see the beauty. A couple of miles, and a few hundred feet difference in elevation and as quickly as I had driven into the fog, I drove back into the brilliant sunshine. Somehow I missed the fog.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Life in the rear view mirror
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Hearty English Food
|Scotch Egg Rolls|
Until John Gray at Going Gently, Scotch Eggs had never entered my consciousness. I think I had one in the fake English Pub at EPCOT once, but it was likely as fake as Ye Olde English Pub. A little research shows that this delicacy has been around for nearly 200 years. A hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded and cooked. Someone posted a traditional recipe a few weeks ago and I tried that. A few days ago I came across a recipe for the egg roll and decided to give it a try.
7 eggs - hard boil 6 of them
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (I used hot)
4 -6 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese - shredded
1 package frozen puff pastry.
Start by hard boiling 6 eggs, I prefer mine done, so 8-10 minutes at a nice boil, cover and let cool. Peel the hard boiled eggs. Thaw the puff pastry per the package directions. Beat the 7th egg in a bowl and have a basting or pastry brush handy. The pastry package I was working with had two sheets. I worked with them one at a time. Unfold the puff pastry on parchment or waxed paper. Flatten a thin layer of the sausage on about 2/3rd of the sheet of puff pastry. Place the eggs in the middle, sprinkle with about half of the shredded cheese, roll up - the paper layer will keep the pastry from sticking to the board and make this easier. Seal the edge with beaten egg. Transfer to a non-stick baking sheet. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Brush the top with beaten egg. Bake at 400 degrees F, for 30-35 minutes. Cool and slice. Can be served cold making it a great make ahead dish.
My office's summer gathering is Sunday night, I will post in the comments what people thought of this dish.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Stand Clear -Doors Closing
The police investigation took a while, meanwhile two very busy lines were blocked and later single tracking. The police declined to write an official report (why do we have transit police) and daddy was not charged. But 20 to 30 minute delays stretched well into the evening rush on two lines, inconveniencing thousands of commuters, I know, I was stuck in it standing on a platform waiting for a train that then moved at about half speed. It takes a while for metro to get things back in sync.
My father use to say, "never run after a streetcar or a woman, there will be another one along in a minute." My mother eventually cured him of saying this. But, why risk the safety of yourself, or your children, to try to jump onto a train after the warning to "stand clear - doors closing?" I posted a comment that the father bears at least some responsibility for this incidence on a story on Facebook. The comment received numerous likes and one comment, a mother who said "you must be a complete idiot." If there is a god, please watch out for her children, they need all the help they can get.
Friday, July 24, 2015
So what is in the picture above? I have to start with the base, the table. It has that wonderful book-matched veneer on the top. I bought it in a junk shop 25 years ago, it was painted brown and I figured I would strip it down and repaint it - the distressed look was "in." When the paint came off and the beautiful wood came into view, I couldn't paint it. Sometimes people are like that, you have to get below the layers to see the real beauty. The little gold book, it a collection of tiny printed photographs of a trip to Greece. The white object is a remote control dimmer for all of the lights in the living room in the house in Lexington (refereed to as the other house.) The stoneware box, holds postage stamps, it is on my desk in the condo now, the base of a lamp I bought in about 1982, in a furniture store at the corner of SR 50 and SR 436 in Orlando - a store long out of business. The end of a desk phone and the corner of a book - back before Kindle when books had to be printed on paper. All familiar, comfortable, known. We need comfort in life balanced with adventure.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Those who are connected with me on Facebook will know that I folded up the cane Monday night and stuffed it in my bag. I am walking without it. It is there if I need it. So far it has only come out once and that was to snag a handicap seat on an overcrowded metro train. I folded it up after I had a seat. I may never leave home without it.
I sent the neurosurgeon an email update this morning, saying thank you again for restoring my ability to walk. I know docs are paid well, but money cannot express my gratitude for the hours he put into helping me.
EPCOT - about 20 years ago
When we were leaving Orlando I was being secretive with my employer, they had a reputation of screwing over employees. Someone, and I know who, told my boss I was moving, and two weeks before when I was planning to leave, the company quit paying me - and I took a couple of weeks off rather then working up until we left. I never did get paid for the last two weeks that I had worked - the boss's answer to my demand to be paid was "sue me, I know you are leaving town in a couple of weeks, kind of hard to sue from 1,000 miles away." He was right.
So we had a couple of weeks of free time before we left Orlando. To break up the monotony of packing boxes, we indulged with visits to our favorite places every-other-day or so for a couple of weeks. The picture above was taken at EPCOT, far back corner of the World Showcase. The Pooh suit makes my sweet bear look four times the size he was.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Jay is home in the other house for a few days to sort out some paperwork and pick up a few things. In May he left there in a bit of a hurry when I called to tell him I was headed to the hospital. Among other things he left his passport behind, we are kind of going to need that later this year. So he arrived on Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening he noticed mildew in the laundry room then that the floor was squishy.
That led to discovering that the water heater was leaking. There goes a $1,000.
And drying things out led to this. And removal of the wood laminate floor in the kitchen and laundry room. The damage is covered by insurance. But, what a mess - he is doing much better today. He is becoming the champion of coping.
You can see through into the laundry room on the left and the kitchen directly ahead.
This may delay his delay his return to DC by a few days. I am so sorry he has to work through this alone, wish I was there. But he is so good at coping.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
My second trip to San Francisco, almost didn't happen. I had been scheduled for a couple of days work in Napa, and just a few days before the start date, the program cancelled. I had added a few days in San Francisco onto the business trip and had pre-paid non-refundable hotel reservations. I thought about it for a minute, and cashed in frequent flyer miles and went anyway. It was a great visit, with lots of wonderful exploring in the city.
Then even more excitement on the way home. I was flying from SFO to Atlanta, for the first time ever I had paid to watch the movie, someplace over Texas, suddenly the movie stopped, the cabin lights went out and things went silent in the airplane cabin. Less then a minute later the flight crew came on over the intercom to tell us that the cabin lights had gone out, and we would be landing in Dallas. We went from 38,000 feet to on the ground in Dallas in less then 10 minutes. The electrical system on the plane had failed, one of the generators had failed, and the surge had caused the other two generators to fail, we landed on battery power. When we came to a stop at the gate, there was smoke coming out of the engine cowling on the right hand side. How exciting! The airline re-booked us, I made it as far as Atlanta that night, spent the night in a very nice hotel and flew on home the next morning.
Monday, July 20, 2015
I keep three basic sizes, a 20 inch "carry on" good for a one or two night trip - if I am not carrying a lot of extras. A 24-26 inch bag, for trips of 2-5 nights. This is my general purpose utility bag, if the trip is purely leisure, in warm weather, I can get a week or more out of this size. Even full, I am able to keep these under 40 pounds and easy to haul. I also keep at least one large bag, 28-29 inches. I have to watch these or they run overweight. I use them for longer trips, or road trips giving me the freedom to pack carelessly. Sometimes I carry two bags, the mid sized and the carry on. I have done this on longer trips to Europe, carrying the small bag on board and checking the larger one. I also do it when I drive to Florida and spend a week with family, I pack the smaller bag with what I am going to wear coming and going and carry it into the hotels between here and there, and the larger bag I pack with what I am going to wear while I am in Florida.
It is time for a new mid-size bag, the current one suffered a puncture
on the trip to Hawaii. Shopping I go.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Well that was unexpected
Friday, July 17, 2015
Thursday, July 16, 2015
She was widowed around the time I was born, and lived in a second floor apartment in her youngest daughter's home for a decade. That ended when the daughter's alcoholism made that no longer safe. She then moved in with my Grandparent's on the farm, literally around the corner from my parents home. By that time in life, she was legally blind with a lot of health issues. She walked almost everyday up and down the sun porch on the back of the house and spent hours listening to the radio. I can remember her speaking in Welsh, once or twice, as a child it frightened me. When I was a teenager, she got sick one summer, she was in the hospital for a while, then admitted to a nursing home. She spent the rest of her life between a couple of nursing homes, surviving a broken hip. Her mind remained strong, but her spirit was broken by illness and isolation in the nursing home. She died during the summer of 1977, my last summer on the farm.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Computers - Making Our Lives Better - Sometimes
So I was having this weird problem with Microsoft Word. If I had a document opened from one drive, and went to open a document from another drive, Word would crash, and have to shut down and start over. It was not allowing me to have two thoughts from different sources at the same time, well it would, when it got over it's "spell" both documents would be open. A couple of minutes of lost time, but then I could do what I wanted to do. So I emailed "customer care" and asked the IT people to fix it.
I know, I know, never call in the IT guys unless it is truly broken. To fix this they decided they needed to reload Word, it is easier to reinstall Office, then it is to just reinstall Word - oh my! When they finished, not only did I have the same issue with Word, but Outlook wouldn't allow me to log into the server, meaning no email and no calendar. I tried, and failed. The network administrator tried, and tried, and tried and I went to lunch, and he tossed the machine and replaced it. So when I came back from lunch lots of things were missing. I have spent the afternoon getting software reinstalled, email syncing to my phone and recovering my calendar. It does appear that we fixed the issue with Word - after about four hours and simply replacing the machine. It is s good thing I am not being compulsive about being productive today. Sometimes I understand why the windows in the office building don't open, if they opened we would either throw windows machines out the windows, or jump.
Now I can't print. Well I can, my print requests are going to someone's desktop printer in Chicago. I am in DC.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
The Start of Another Day of Fun!
Monday, July 13, 2015
One of my doctors suggested that I try swimming to work on the muscles in my back. At one time I swam 100+ miles per year, now that was 25 years ago, but as they say you never really forget how. The condo has two pools. An indoor pool that is open year around and a large outdoor pool that is open in the summer. I have lived here about 6 years and had never used the pools. I decide to start using what I am paying for. Pleasantly, within 10 minutes or so I remembered how to swim. It feels good to move, my endurance is steadily increasing.
I came home Friday afternoon a couple of hours early, the weather was bright and sunny with a temperature in the high 80's, so I headed off to the pool for a nice swim. I finished my laps (15 minutes) and was lounging in the water. I looked around and realized that I was surrounded by a crowd of large, fuzzy, hairy older people. It looked like a geriatric bear festival. In the Gay community bears are large, kind of round and hairy. Bears are a subset of the community, people who are
I have never been to a bear festival, but I have seen the pictures and there I am Friday afternoon in the middle of a crowd that would fit in well in the middle of any Palm Springs Bear Bust. Well not exactly, they were all sober, and the average age was just shy of decomposing.
Then the bear crowd started to grow, as the men started to arrive and join in.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Saturday, July 11, 2015
From John at http://disasterfilm.blogspot.com/
Well I Never
- I have been to 48 US states, and 11 countries
- I am well into my second career
- In 1989 I took part in the US National Sprint Triathlon Championship
- I kissed a girl in the first grade
- I have earned two college degrees with honors (BA and JD)
- I failed the first grade
- I married a woman once - it didn't work well for either of us
- I have been to the Disney Parks in Florida over 100 times
- I toured EPCOT when it was under construction and was a guest at a pre-opening party
- I once had tea with the Archbishop of Canterbury
- I tried to learn how to fly as a teenager - never mastered the landings
- I have touched the Liberty Bell
- I photographed Ronald Reagan
- I have been a licensed Real Estate Broker since 1980
- I sold three houses on New Year's Eve in 1988
- I am mildly dyslectic
- I learned to read without learning how to spell (16 and 17 are related.)
- I recently had a huge Schwannoma removed from my spine
- I have owned 15 cars (I only regret parting with one of them.)
- I am moved to tears by the recording of the first manned landing on the moon, I remember where I was when it happened
- I was just across the river from the Space Center for the first Space Shuttle launch
- I am ill prepared for retirement
- I regret most,the opportunities I passed on, not the risks I have taken
- I am going to ride a Zeppelin later this year
- I have touched a moon rock
Friday, July 10, 2015
Empire State Building
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
I am ready for my closeup!
A couple of times a year I get an opportunity to indulge in my agrarian roots. I like farms, and farm animals. I grew up in the middle of farm land, now we were not real farmers, bees are kind of hard to herd, but there were herds of cows, and pigs and flocks of chickens, ducks and turkeys around. Occasionally neighboring farmers would plant wheat or corn in the couple of tillable fields on the farm, for a decade there was five acres of alfalfa in the back corner of the biggest field. I like the look of crops growing, all the neat rows, the maturing, the abundance of grain.
I have driven a tractor a few times, kind of fun, the first time was a monster four wheel drive machine, capable of tilling 100 acres in a day. There was a time when I thought I wanted 10 acres in the country with room for pigs and chickens, but farming is hard manual labor. I don't do manual labor. But I can admire a nice farm, when I travel I am always on the lookout for a farm, or country fair.
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Travel Penguin was rather taken by all of the wonderful water, fortunately he didn't dive in. I have fished him out of the Mediterranean, and a gator infested swamps in Florida, but I don't think I could get him out of this, he'd wash up in Niagara by the Lake, sipping Ice Wine no doubt.
Monday, July 06, 2015
Back to the World of the Living
For a couple of weeks I expect that my health will be the center of a lot of conversations, I am looking forward to that not being so. I am slowly returning to the world of the living.
What have I learned:
1) You never know when you won't be back tomorrow.
2) Don't assume that you know what is happening in your body
3) Most of the people in healthcare are there for you
4) Healing sometimes hurts
5) To move forward, sometimes you have to push
6) Some things take time
Sunday, July 05, 2015
Saturday, July 04, 2015
Happy Independence Day
Friday, July 03, 2015
Back Into the City
Thursday, July 02, 2015
TBT - The Castro
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Back to Meeting Land
I am about to dive back into the land of endless meetings, emails and phone calls. I have been doing a few conference calls from home, frankly I am better organizing calls from at from home, then some people are at their offices. Wednesday I am headed into the City to attend a meeting. It is an important one, and will be the first official work function since early May. Meeting with an assistant cabinet Secretary about the future of the project that funds most of my work. If she does not have the Presidents phone number, her boss does.
I once watched a training video titled, "Meetings, More Bloody Meetings," produced by John Cleese. After Faulty Towers, he went on to produce office training videos for a few years. They were rather interesting. My office email disappeared from my phone a week ago. It was suppose to go in May when I went on extended paid medical leave, but somehow, they didn't kill my phone access. As a result I have stayed in contact with what was happening, until last week. The only ugly part of that is my calendar was also wiped off my phone, I only keep one calendar, and it is gone. The first week I was in the hospital, I billed 30 hours of work, all done on my cell phone. I have joined meetings by conference calls from the car, the beach, mom's house, not a bad way to make a living. I have responded to office email from interesting locations, a cruise ship off the coast of Alaska, I think my all time favorite response to an office email started out as follows, "I am having lunch in Brussels and have a moment to respond." That is dedication - or insanity. There is a fine line between the two.
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