Ride Along

11 February 2016

Dear J—

We’re in the midst of our annual ridership survey on Caltrain and the folks who are on these early trains – thank you for coming on and counting us. Hopefully the numbers collected will boost the case for electrification and more frequent service, although there are those who would posit that more trains means more time spent stopped at intersections. If you’re losing your mind over the two minutes you spend waiting for the train to cross, or if your route takes you across the tracks multiple times, well, I believe there are better routes or perhaps you should try leaving earlier. Seriously. All people pushing me to make your schedule: well, perhaps we should have started sooner.

Also this: three people on the platform, and SB 102 runs with Bombardier cars, meaning two doors per car, six car consist: twelve doors total. Why are you lined up in front of me? Why do you not get on the train and find a seat instead of milling about in a confused fashion in the doorway?

Randy rant over. I’m hoping that electrification means we can continue to bring bikes on board; there’s a long and glorious history of that and if we went to BART-style cars with no dedicated bike racks; the contract will be awarded later this year so there’s that to think about.

Mike

Disposal

10 February 2016

Dear J—

You start asking yourself if the title/headline came first or the article, sometimes. We have to be watchful of all the things we do, as time wears on and there’s more and more people on the earth. You drive through some parts of the country and you think there’s no way we’re running out of physical space to be housing everyone, sure, but we could probably stand to be more densely situated and then there’s the question of food, of course. Do we have enough or are we wasting too much; I sometimes wonder how we can have such perfect-looking produce in the stores and then I realize what a culling process it goes through before it arrives there.

How can there be so many and what does it mean? So many people, so much garbage – there’s parks here in San Mateo that are built on the old landfill, which was on the edge of the Bay, and what does that mean anyway for the people who are here today? How much more future do we leave to our kids?

Mike

Young

9 February 2016

Dear J—

I’m not, as I had feared, the youngest person at work, but people who have younger kids all have left so there’s that, I suppose. There’s a marked difference in experiences, though, and that’s fun to see. I remember being in my first job and thinking that I was never going to be able to figure this out; there was too many different things to keep rack of and the worst part was I kept making mistakes.

Here’s the key: make new mistakes; in other words, learn from what you’ve done and recognize traps (ITS A TRAP) when they come up. Now I know you want to do this, but stop and consider that irreversible course of action. It’s silly to consider that that’s the basis of quality assurance, but there you have it: write down what you learned and give someone else the chance to not make the same error.

Mike

Night Shift

8 February 2016

Dear J—

I know, it’s strange: yet I still do miss the night shift and all it entailed, between getting up late and going to bed at odd hours and having the afternoon to be thinking about what to do and maybe a hike before resigning myself to the inky dark night and early morning cold, marching forward to stay awake at 0200 and holding court on the engineering decisions of the day, knowing intimately what issues had arisen and what you needed to turn over to the next set coming on board.

I felt important and though the legacy was small it was still passing the torch on to folks yet to come. Hey, I handled that. We did. Together. Then of course came the things we couldn’t handle and didn’t, and here you are in the gloaming twilight, hoping for some rehash of the glory days, right? Or is that a sunrise you see instead?

Mike

Golden

4 February 2016

Dear J—

Well, the New Year is nearly upon us and there’s a lot I should be doing in preparation but it’ll have to settle for eating some cookies and trying to dodge traffic for the rest of the week, at least until after Sunday. As usual I’m not taking much if any time off and meanwhile we’ve got enough as it is, don’t we? 

I suppose we could try going up to the City – we’ve got train cards and it’s fairly cheap to do so, but there’s some walking, and then there’s some complaining and rather than try things I end up having to force them into doing it and then no one’s pleased by it. No. One.

Tomorrow I spend the day with the lawyers on our legal case; two and a half years on and this is reaching the end of the string. We should be so lucky to have cases like this more often, but at the same time it feels a bit like ambulance chasing, following around and asking if they might need some technical analysis after the pain has subsided.

Mike

Water

3 February 2016

Dear J—

When they talk about lead poisoning in Flint it reminds me of Bunker Hill back from when I was growing up. That was a limited number of lead poisoning cases and the threshold they established was a cool million per child, payable once they turned eighteen and that seemed like all the money in the world at that time, though I guess weighed against future earnings and medical costs, it was really only a pittance at best.

For Flint it’s the inaction that gets me: why should it take so long to come up with a viable repair plan? We have decent remote tools and technologies, but the attention is more focused on attention grabbing donations and glad handing political opportunities. How long would it take to install filters for every house, for neighborhoods, or is it better to gut the infrastructure and start anew? Where’s CC Myer when you need them?

Mike

Tripping

2 February 2016

Dear J—

Someone pointed out that Grease was originally released in 1972 (the musical) and set in 1955, which capitalized on the greasers-jocks-nerds dynamic of the 1950s popular at the time; this twenty-year gap occurs all the time, driven by consumers with enough money and creative talent maturing enough that stuff from twenty years ago is nostalgic and wonderful. Perhaps this is why I’m sitting here in a Nike jacket that dates back to the 90s. 

At any rate, if the equivalent of Grease were released today, it would be set in the 90s and probably would feature a boy band of some sort. The kids would be called out to participate in something like Survivor. We would have blogs, not diaries. Double entendres would abound, possibly with clever winking emoticons. It’s hard to think of that time – your time being young and wonderful as now being part of the past but this is the steady march. Besides which, I like this year better than last year, and that’s been true for all of them so far, so I can’t wait to see what next year brings too.

Mike

Titled

1 February 2016

Dear J—

We went to watch Kung Fu Panda 3 yesterday morning; the earliest show we could catch was 10AM at Tanforan, so we finished up our breakfast and hustled up to the old racetrack. It was so early, in fact, that the mall was not even open and we had to come around through the food court instead of cutting through Target like I thought we could. Mall theaters are interesting; the prior evening’s cleanup did not appear to have occurred and the snack stand was in disarray; we instead had to scrounge up trays from where we could in order to share the popcorn. 

In the back of my mind I was remembering how I’d read the Kung Fu Panda series was immensely popular in China and not just from a novelty standpoint, not just because here was something set in China that didn’t exoticise it in a fawning manner (cue cymbal crash and twangy pentatonic scale), more that it was like a plausible legend of yore, albeit with talking animals. During the closing sequence – what would be the happily-ever-after epilogue in the book – they started playing Kung Fu Fighting but instead of singing in English, they went with Mandarin and I love them all the more for it. Clearly, KFP3 was written as celebration of their largest market, which isn’t the United States.

Mike

Wonder Full

29 January 2016

Dear J—

If I haven’t said it before, work has moved. We’ve been in the new building for a month or so, and the routine is getting easier to deal with: I know it takes longer, since we moved south and east, but I think the commute is easier for most of my coworkers. I’m happy with that, and hopefully it’s cut down on the time they have to spend in traffic. Since I’m on a bike and train most of the time, there’s little traffic for me to deal with either way, and my commuting stress is low, though the commuting time is somewhat high. I’ve signed up for a three-zone pass for next month but I may revert back to a two-zone pass considering that going from Sunnyvale to Santa Clara isn’t a huge burden.

Yesterday I brought in donuts from the bakery/restaurant I had been buying from at the old location so instead of having to bike only a mile or two with donuts I ended up going eight miles with donuts yesterday morning. Folks were less impressed with the donuts (though they were undeniably tasty) than they were with the fact that I got them there on a bike in the first place, which mystifies me: I have a rack, and the donuts don’t weigh much; why shouldn’t I bring in donuts if I like? I’ve yet to find the engineer who doesn’t appreciate them.

I’m happy with my commuting choices, though venturing a bit too close to smug, I think. I’m lucky to be able to ride the train, let’s just say, and everything is gravy on top.

Mike

Catch I Can

28 January 2016

Dear J—

Growing up in Cheney and listening to KXLY AM 920 you’d hear different programs depending on what time of day: at the top of each hour, CBS News and Bob Schieffer, more likely than not; at night Larry King and then Bruce, the guy from TalkNet would show up and usher you into sleep. First time caller, long time listener. Great show, buddy. One of the fun advertisements was talking about heading to Alaska for hunting at Ketchikan, which was just as funny a name as we would have in Washington but brought to mind other two-K words like Kodiak, some rugged vision of the frontier beckoning us forward.

Mike


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