December '5


A dress or skirt worn over pants is a stuuuuupid look that I have whined about several times around here. I'm pleased to report that, five full years after I first saw it, and based purely on personal observation, it's a trend in decline. I doubt my personal pleas for it to stop had anything to do with it, but thanks anyway, hipster ladies. Now, about those big, ugly sunglasses...

That frees me to whine about another awful trend, often seen in the wide world of sports, but common enough in other places. It's the first-inital-abbreviated-last-name (or last name, if it's one syllable) nickname. J. Lo (Jennifer Lopez), C-Webb (Chris Webber), K-Mart (Kenyon Martin), J-Kidd (Jason Kidd). You get the idea. I tried to go by C-Ca for a while, but it never really caught on, so maybe it's just sour grapes. Based on my biweekly perusal of ESPN The Magazine, I don't think this trend is going away any time soon.

Why am I riled up about this today? I thought about it again when I read an article about J-Rich (Jason Richardson) in ESPN The Magazine. Then, just a few minutes later, I came across this story in today's Star Tribune. Excerpt:

Shultz is one of a growing number of young Americans in otherwise good health who are being stricken by the bacterial infection known as Clostridium difficile -- or C. diff -- which appears to be spreading rapidly around the country and causing unusually severe, sometimes fatal, illness.




I woke up at 3:00 this morning. I had to be to work at 4:00. We take our students out for one early morning and one late night. Our late night will be Tuesday. We will observe the New Year's holiday on Monday, so I had from noon today until 5:00 Tuesday off. I'll take it. One of the things we needed to do was show them a morning lineup. As you might expect, buses don't run as frequently early in the morning and late at night as they do during the day. So at the top of the hour, two buses from every route that's in service, one bus in each direction, gather within a few blocks of the each other downtown. Passengers don't have to worry about making a transfer if their bus gets to be a few minutes late.

It must have snowed all night, and it snowed all morning. Here's what the 5:00 AM lineup looked like, looking north up the Mall:


I came within an inch of being hit by a car on my way home. He was pulling out of an alley and apparently didn't see me coming down the street. It would have been a very low-impact crash, but I was able to get out of his way before he hit me. When I parked my car in my stall, I checked my passenger side to see if he'd nicked me. I noticed that the dome light in the car next to me was on. I saw that the driver's-side airbag had been activated and stuffed back into the steering wheel. The front passenger-side windshield was broken, but it was from the passenger-side airbag. The front of the car was dinged up and there was a big dirt clod stuck in the grille. Fortunately, it didn't look too bad. Bummer.

About a month ago, on November 25, I found a wallet on my bus. It looks like this:

Damn it, Pantera, this beer is warm! Get me another one!!!

It had a bunch of the usual wallet stuff including, if I remember correctly, unofficial identification and various cards, etc. I don't recall seeing any credit cards, but there was $45 in cash. I wrote it up and turned it in. I think the folks at lost and found try to track down the owner of valuables. I got it back today. All the wallet stuff was gone, but the $45 was still there.


I felt kind of bad, so I checked every pocket and fold to see if there was any kind of ID. I checked this pocket...


and found my Christmas bonus!


Needless to say, it was a good lesson for our students on the importance of checking for lost and found at every terminal!



I spent the day riding with one of the new drivers in service. She did well. Our fare structure is beyond ridiculous and she had a bit of trouble with that, but that'll come with practice. A lot of passengers understood that she was training and went out of their way to say something nice to her or otherwise make her day easier. (There are student driver signs on the bus, the new drivers don't have their uniforms yet, and I sit near the front with a notebook.)

We (I) got in trouble with a street supervisor. We passed another bus and made a right turn in front of it. I had consulted a schedule. That bus was going to sit for another minute-and-a-half and he had his four-way flashers on. We're allowed to make that move in that situation. Unfortunately, my driver didn't do it very fast, and we hit the intersection as the light went from yellow to red. The reality is that there is a point where it's no longer safe to stop, because we'd have to slam on the brakes. The mistake I made was that we had been working on this driver's speed all day (she drives a bit slowly) and I should have guessed that we wouldn't make it through the light. Of course, I tried to get her to hustle through the light in an effort to get her to move things along. I didn't get into any real trouble, but the supervisor's concerns have been duly noted.

I went into the convenience store at the 17 downtown terminal to use the restroom. On the way in, a nicely dressed woman with a faint British accent asked me, not nicely at all, when they were going to get going. I asked her when the bus was supposed to be there. She said 9:45. It was about 9:50 and I knew the 17 we'd parked behind was leaving at 9:55. I told her that, and that if the bus that was supposed to be there at 9:45 was coming from NE Mpls, then there could be any number of reasons why it was late. She got even snottier. She noted that there were two buses sitting up the street. I explained that the one was leaving in five minutes and the other was me, and we were training, so we weren't on a schedule. She said, "Oh. Training them to be late!" I stopped trying to explain. I wished her a nice day and went in the store. When I got back to the bus, I checked the schedule. The bus that she was waiting for was supposed to be there at 9:40. If she had arrived at the stop five minutes early, as suggested by M*tro Tr*nsit, she would have been right on time to catch it.

One of the new drivers got Speed for Christmas. Funny.



Yesterday didn't exist on this blog, but it was real enough in real life. Yeah, I keep fighting it, but I turned 37 yesterday. And I had a nice day.

Kassie and I spent Christmas Eve at her parents' house. Her brother Pete and his girlfriend Carys were there, too. I had a good time. I like her parents and enjoying talking with them.

We got up early on Christmas and drove to Wausau, WI to visit my grandparents. My mom and dad and aunt and uncle (Florida) were there. My grandparents live in a retirement community. We ate dinner downstairs in the dining room. The pie was good. Then we went to their apartment and opened gifts. Naturally, there were a lot of pictures taken.

We borrowed Santa from someone's front door.

We enjoyed each others' company for a while, then football came on. Some of us were Packers fans. That was the first game. Others of us were Vikings fans. That was the second game. Some people played cards and we still talked a bit, but the football did kind of put a little damper on the day. (And I wanted to watch it, so it's as much my fault as it is anyone's.) It was fun to see everyone, though.

Kassie and I got up yesterday and headed back. Except the year I celebrated my 33 1/3, I haven't wanted to celebrate my birthday since I was 20. But my friends were always home from college, or I had family in town, or I was somewhere with family, or whatever. There was always a reason that I had to celebrate. (One year when we had a delayed Christmas, I actually got to work on my birthday. That was cool.)

We did not celebrate my birthday yesterday. We dinked around in Chippewa Falls for a couple hours on the way home. I ordered a new pair of shoes (classic- just like grandpa used to wear...). We ate lunch. Last night, I got Chinese food and a couple movies for us. That's a nice day.

So after five days off, I go back to work tomorrow. Steve called me this evening to tell me what's going on. Sounds like we're practicing in-service driving. Cool.



(not in the mail yet...)



I need to get something on here to push that fish down a bit. I don't think we've seen my nephew for a while.

Last I heard, Santa makes Cayden a little nervous...



Have I ever mentioned that I have nightmares about freaky fish? I think I have. Usually they're prehistoric-looking fish, but sometimes they're just deformed. This is the kind of thing that'll give me nightmares.

here. Ugh. (AP photo)



Here's a quick question for the person who entered Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' Ooo Baby Baby: The Anthology into their computer, which made its way to the Gracenote database that my iTunes checked to find the info*: Why in the world did you feel the need to put the year each song was recorded into the song title field? I'm just wondering, because I had to go through all 52 songs and edit that information out before I ripped them to my computer.

Check this out:


We drove by this church the other day in the bus. I did a double-take when I saw their URL. Look at it. I thought it was pretty funny that Satan ended up in the middle of what I assumed to be a fairly conservative, bible-believing church's URL. But it turns out there's an explanation (of sorts). OK, then, back to whatever it was that you were doing...


*I have no idea if this is really how that whole thing works...


All the good news today, that I can think of right now:

Kassie got a B- in the class that she was most worried about!

The new drivers all passed their CDL tests! Oh, the relief.

After the CDL tests, we went to the uniform store to get their initial uniform issue (three shirts, two pairs of pants). I'm getting a new winter coat for work. We get a clothing allowance, and a new coat left me room for a couple new shirts. But I'm excited about the coat. I don't like the one I have now. It's really cheap and it's not very warm. The new one is warm. It has a lot of pockets. The lining can be removed and reversed for a lighter jacket. It has a hood. It will be nice.



The new drivers that Dorothy, Steve and I have been training take their Commercial Driver's License (CDL) tests tomorrow morning. They're nervous. So am I.

In a move reminiscent of the twelve days of Christmas, Kassie convinced me to unwrap a couple gifts from her this evening. I finally got a replacement pocket knife for my key chain, and then I got something very exciting:

The Vikings' MVP!!!



War on Christmas!


Kassie, helping to keep the Han in Hanukkuh

The real Christian-haters appear to be the folks at City Center. The photo on the right was taken there. It's easily the ugliest Christmas display I've ever seen. I guess there is your proof of the war on Christmas...



Spar wid me: You bredda Matt noh bopther gwan lik a rat. Because de rat him get a bend up by de cat. You sister Pat noh bother gwan like dat. Because we all know dat Elvis died fat.

I went downtown Thursday night to do some Christmas shopping. Yeah, yeah. I know all about, and am appropriately disgusted by, the horrors of consumerism, but I have to admit, I love being downtown at Christmastime. I guess it's the closest I get to really feeling like it's Christmas. Everything is lit up and decorated. It probably goes without saying that the whole scene really puts O'Reilly et al's claims of The War on Christmas to the lie. On the home front, my poor little fake tree and 385-song Christmas playlist haven't been cutting it. I've been told that it gets fun again when there are kids involved, and that makes sense. I have Kassie's gift sitting out and she's already been shaking it and begging me to tell her what it is, so you know, that's kind of like having a kid around.

Kassie and I are going downtown right now to do some more shopping (mostly for Kassie).

Maybe I'll actually write a bit more about transit-related things soon.



We didn't have class today. The full-time instructors meet approximately quarterly for instructional and general housekeeping purposes. Today was that day, and since Steve and I are shadowing Dorothy, we attended.

Lunch was potluck. I made an apple pie. I planned to make two pies last night, but half my apples weren't cooperating, so I only made one. I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't get to enjoy a pie at home. However, just under half the pie was left over, so I got some pie to take home, and it's probably good for my girlish figure that there wasn't more.

In the afternoon, some speakers came from a couple local police departments to talk about diversity. Specifically, they talked about the Somali, Latino and Southeast Asian cultures, whose populations are significantly represented in the Twin Cities.

They did a nice job. They just got started about two months ago so they are still getting their presentation in shape. However, I did find it quite humorous that they used the phrase "going Dutch" in their PowerPoint presentation. You know, in a diversity seminar!



I finally got to take my pants off! Even with 25% of my radiators turned on, my apartment is hot. I finished my laundry and now my pants are off for the night.

I had a pretty decent week at work last week. We have a good class, and I really like the new drivers. One of them gave us a scare and had to retake a test, but it all worked out. Hopefully, that's the last we see of that.

It's kind of a strange situation. Technically, it's Dorothy's class, but Steve, the other relief instructor, and I do most of the teaching. Dorothy has taught parts that she felt she needed to, but mostly, she just keeps an ear on us and interjects as necessary. But Steve and I have slightly different teaching styles, and there isn't really any kind of lesson plan for us. We pretty much just do whatever comes around in the New Driver Handbook. I think it feels disjointed. And I never get fully comfortable in this sort of situation until I have real ownership of something. I expressed my concerns about continuity to the new drivers, but they all assured me that they were doing just fine with the way things have been going, so I relaxed about it. From a personal perspective, it's been a nice break from driving.

Our union president was in the hospital after a heart attack, so our newly elected president, Michelle, who is now the acting president, came in to talk to the new drivers and sign them up. I was relieved to see that she looked nice. She was wearing a blouse and dress slacks. I have expressed some apprehension about her election, I know, and I'm not fully comfortable with her as the face of our union, but she did pretty well with the new people and I'm not completely pessimistic about her leadership. I think I just don't want to be pessimistic. (I voted for you, Pete!)

I took today off. I had two floating holidays that I could use before the end of the year. I checked with Dorothy and Steve and we decided that today was good. I also have the 23rd off. We were already going to get the 24th-26th off (Saturday, Sunday, and the holiday pushed to Monday). The 26th is my birthday, so I pushed that to the 27th. I'll have a nice five-day weekend right around Christmas. I like that.

Kassie is swamped with schoolwork right now. She's almost done for the semester. I know I can't wait.



My holiday greeting cards arrived today!




It was fun to see Jamie this past weekend. We laid low Friday night. Saturday, we went to the MCAD art sale (where Kassie joined us), lunch at Quang, out shopping, then dinner at La Bodega.

I started the mentoring program at the Instruction Center today. I know the other participating relief instructor from the class I took last winter, and I quite like him. I was pleased to find out that we'll be working with Dorothy, a full-time instructor with whom I get along very well. It sounds like we'll be doing some of the teaching, starting tomorrow. There were fifteen students (new drivers) scheduled to be in this class. Three showed up. So that's kind of nice.

I don't know what to do with my time this evening. It's still an hour before MNF.



Wow. Saturday Night Live is terrible. I know it hasn't been really good for a long time, but still. Some "comedian" named Dane Cook is hosting the show. His monologue at the beginning of the show was about twenty minutes of pure pain. The musical guest has done one song so far and well, if you like John Mayer or some other similar purveyor of insipid dreck, then James Blunt is your guy!

And yet, the TV is still on...



Passengers tell me that I'm a good bus driver. Not often, but fairly frequently. Today, about a third of my bus told me that I'm a bad bus driver. Naturally, it all started with a guy who didn't want to fold his stroller before he got on the bus. It ended with a lot of people shouting at me. It was crazy. I'll probably tell the whole story on here in a few days. The amazing thing to me was how quickly the anger and hatred surfaced. Hey, I'm just a bus driver...

It's been about eighteen years since I got my driver's license. Every vehicle I've ever driven regularly- a '74 Ford LTD, a couple Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagons, an '82 Oldsmobile Delta 88, an '85 Mazda RX-7, a '93 GMC Sonoma, my scooter and a whole lot of Gillig Phantoms at work- have been rear-wheel drive. My latest car, a '94 Corolla, has front-wheel drive. For years, I've been hearing how much nicer front-wheel drive is in the snow. It's not like I didn't believe it, but I'd like to report that I'm now a firm believer.

Jamie, who I met in grad school and with whom I took the road trip this summer, is coming to Minneapolis this weekend! She's coming with a friend whose son goes to MCAD, and it's time for the MCAD art sale. Since I have Saturday off, I get to go, too! And it's across the street! Love it.

Tomorrow is the last very early morning for me in a long time. Of course, the drawback to my sweet schedule for the next seven weeks is that I'll have to get up earlier than I'd like. The 10:00 and 12:00 starts that I picked were looking pretty nice. What I need is a 10-3 job. Anyone hiring?



November '5