January '6


I think I might try to suck it up and watch His Royal Highness try to explain the state of the union this evening.



Much to Driver 2165's chagrin, the members of ATU 1005 approved our contract offer. I still don't completely like it, but I don't think it's as bad as he does.

Kassie and I volunteered at church to help a Burmese refugee learn to ride the bus. We got to his place yesterday armed with a stack of quarters, a pile of schedules and a plan to explain everything there is to know about riding the bus. Then he showed us his bus pass and revealed to us that he's been riding the buses already. Huh. So we rode with him to show him how to get to the place where he will hopefully be taking English classes. Then we rode back to his apartment. Then we went home. I think, if nothing else, the schedules were useful.

Kassie and I have nearly completely figured out our vacation. We're going to fly to Washington, DC and drive to Savannah, GA. Then we're going to work our way back up the coast to DC. We're planning to see the Outer Banks, Colonial Williamsburg and to visit my aunt and uncle at Indian Beach. I think we'll stay with my cousins in DC. I'm looking forward to it.

There is a small drawback to leaving on March 11.

Belle and Sebastian and The New Pornographers are playing March 12 at the Orpheum. Missing that show is causing me a very small amount of physical pain. Oh, well...



Awesome! Peter Griffin just sang "Shipoopi" for a touchdown celebration on Family Guy! That reminds me of my old college roommate Chad H., who played the kid (Winthrop?) in the University of Sioux Falls College's production of The Music Man.


I had another excellent week on the bus. I am happy to report that I'm quite sure that I don't have a bad day this pick.

The Daff, who I haven't seen for a very long time, rode with me the other day! I surprised him a bit when he got on the bus. He never really pays attention to the driver. I said, "I've been looking for you!" He looked up and yelled, "WHAT?!?" and stood there looking out the front window with his hand on his hip for several seconds before he paid. Fortunately, the seat to my right was wide open, so he sat and talked to me for his entire ride. It was great. He told me he's about to turn 41. He told me he quit smoking (again). He told me which bars he's been kicked out of and which ones won't serve him. It was fun to see him, of course. In spite of everything, he's a happy guy. I'll dig out an old picture of me and the Daff, because I like it. Unfortunately, I don't know where the original went. I think it disappeared when I made the move from my old computer to this one. Fortunately, it's on my server. Unfortunately, it looks like it has suffered from compression-related issues (which I only sort of understand).


It rained yesterday for the St. Paul Winter Carnival parade. Bummer. It's been way too mild this winter. I don't mind, of course, but it kind of sucks for winter sports people. And ice sculptors.



Today marks my fifth year at M*tro Tr*nsit. Since we always get our anniversary/hire date off, but I already have today off, I pushed it to Tuesday and I'll have a three-day weekend.

When I started, I had a five-year plan. Well, it wasn't much of a plan at all, I guess. I just figured after five years at MT I'd evaluate my life and employment situation. I thought I'd consider the following questions: Should I move on? Is another job or (horrors!) profession calling my name? Does it look like I could conceivably do something else at MT or the M*t Council (our parent organization) at some point?

Well, I don't think that my relief instructor gig will lead to a full-time instruction job anytime soon. There are a lot of relief instructors with a lot more experience and a lot more seniority than I have. But it is something. Most of the jobs that get posted require some kind of other-than-driver experience. So there is possibly some hope for a new job within the company somewhere at some point. Of course, it would help if I got myself a little more edumacation. Eh, that doesn't sound like much fun.

I still enjoy driving most of the time and I don't have a burning desire to do anything else. But if something came along that looked really interesting, I'd definitely move on. The only real problem I have with driving bus is the hours. But until I find something really compelling, I'm OK with the buses.

And let's face it, I'm 37. I probably could start over, but I sure don't want to...



Last week when I parked my car a street off Hennepin Avenue to make relief at Uptown Station, I took advantage of the fact that someone had taken a couple slats off the fence that surrounds Old Chicago's parking lot. That gap in the fence saved me about a block of extra walking. Today, as I drove up and turned around in the dead end, I watched as some guys from a fence company repaired the hole. Bad luck!

I'm not sure if it was John Uldrich in the minivan covered with johnuldrichforussenate.com in front of me on Nicollet this evening, but I assume it was. I do know that, even though his résumé is kind of interesting, I won't even consider voting for him if 1) he won't share his platform, and 2) he doesn't learn to establish himself in an intersection in order to complete his left turn when the light turns amber/red.

I found a rather amusing lost and found item on my bus this evening. It was an RCA personal compact disc player, manufactured in 1998. I popped it open to see what someone had been listening to:

AOL 7.0
NOW No Credit Card Required!
Try it Today!
1000 Hours FREE
for 45 days




My fellow Cambus coworker and TL reader Dan S. sent me some interesting pictures of a bus that Cambus acquired from Rochester, who had purchased it from M*tro Tr*nsit. Thanks, Dan!

This Cambus bus had blown its turbocharger. It was repaired and was left idling to burn off excess oil. No problem there. Apparently there was a pool of oil left on the muffler and it ignited during the subsequent test drive.

(click for gallery)

The engine compartment was OK, so Cambus purchased former M*tro Tr*nsit bus 1903 from Rochester, who purchased it for its engine and transmission. Cambus used parts needed to repair the fire damaged area and salvaged everything else that might be useful for future repairs.

(click for gallery)



My grandfather is getting inducted into the Central Wisconsin Baseball Hall of Fame. Although I guess he was a heck of a softball player, he's being recognized for his work as the chaplain for the minor league baseball teams that have played in Wausau over the years. He's pretty excited about it. My parents and aunt and uncle will be there to see it.

Also, check out my old friend Jerome in this video over at Minnesota Stories. I stop by that site regularly and I was surprised to see someone I know. He shows up at about 2:52, right after the shock and awe woman (who is pretty great as well, by the way).



I've been thinking about a couple news items from last week.

First, it seems that the rich are getting richer; the poor are getting drunk poorer. Of course, that's only news to... oh, about 51% of the country, um, most of whom are affected. All but the richest one or two percent of the people in the US have lost and continue to lose economic ground, and it doesn't even matter if you went and got yourself a fancy-schmancy college degree.

But apparently the kids getting those fancy degrees these days aren't all that smart anyway. That's cool; they won't ever figure out they're getting screwed.



I did some substitute teaching when I got out of college. I student taught second grade and, had I gone into teaching, would have preferred to teach primary grades. However, I asked to sub in junior highs because I liked junior high kids and I had fun in their classes.

I drove the 4 today and it felt like some of those days I spent in a junior high. Only I was dealing with adults.

I had to ask a guy to turn down his music. He was sitting in the very back seat. I have no idea what he was playing it on, but it sounded like I assume it would sound if you listened to music with your cell phone's speaker.

Then I had to ask two guys if one of them needed to get off the bus when one of them started screaming at the other. The screaming guy was on his cell phone and the other guy told him to shut up. The screaming guy actually came up and apologized to me. That was cool.

Then some women got on my bus and told me that a guy was hassling them at the bus stop. So I called Control and tattled on him.

But the 4 is one of my favorite lines. I like the people who ride it and I like the places it goes. I drove for eight hours and made four-and-a-half trips. I love long trips; it makes the day go faster.

I got creeped out a bit on my last trip when my stop request light and chime went off. The bus was empty. It was on my last trip and it was dark out. I didn't pick anyone up for several minutes after it happened. Fortunately, I knew what caused it. I had gone over a set of railroad tracks and the bump triggered it. But knowing the cause didn't stop me from thinking that if I looked into the bus from the reflection of my windshield, I'd see someone sitting in the middle of the bus who wasn't there.



As expected, we rejected the contract offer. I gave the contract more thought and looked it over with Kassie, who knows a lot more about contracts than I do. I think it's a decent offer, given the political reality of our situation.

So now that we've sent our board back to the table, I hope we can get a two-year contract and get a few other things fixed.

I'm driving my picked work for the first time. So far, I like it pretty well. I drove the 21 on Saturday. I'm sure you remember all the crying I did about that 17 I was doing on Saturdays for the last two picks. I had such a lovely day on the 21, I thought something must be wrong. I get a layover on Saturday? Several? I can keep a bus on time on Saturday? I talked to the woman who's driving that piece on the 17 this pick and she kind of hates it.

Yesterday I drove the 6 for a few hours. It's a relief-relief at Uptown Station. That means I'm starting and ending my work there, making relief at about 11:30 and being relieved at about 2:30. I like that because I can drive over there and park my car on a side street about a block from the station. I got lunch at Rainbow (the grocery store, not the Chinese restaurant) and went back to the garage where I had about 45 minutes to eat it before I went back out again. I finished my day with a 578, 554 and 18. With the exception of a trip on the 6 where my gas pedal broke, I was able to stay on time all day. I have the same work again today.





R.I.P. Luke



The members of ATU 1005 met to vote on our contract today at the Minneapolis Convention Center, conveniently located ten blocks from my apartment. I'm not good at guessing the size of crowds, but it didn't look like there were a lot of us there.

Going into the meeting, I thought that if we were presented with something that wasn't absolutely horrendous, we should suck it up, take it and do everything we can to make sure the Smilin' Gov doesn't get reelected. Given the players involved, whose stated goal is to privatize transit, I didn't expect much from the other side of the table.

Certain classes of employees- clerks, data collectors, timekeepers, etc.- got long overdue raises and I'm happy for them. There was a lot of language pertaining to the rail side, to the aforementioned clerks etc., to maintenance workers, and to instructors. There was very little said about plain ol' full-time bus drivers.

There are big problems with running time, with layovers, and with work rules in general. I've whined about some of the problems; some I haven't said much about. There was quite a bit of concern raised about this contract's failure to address some of these problems.

We were offered raises of 1.5%, 1.5%, and 1.75% over the next three years, with no retro pay to cover the last few months that we've worked under the old contract. The lack of retro pay was a big sticking point with a lot of drivers.

They are also offering an optional health care thing and quite honestly, I didn't really pay attention when we read through it. There will be more information about it in the future.

It's a three-year contract and the question was raised whether or not we'd benefit from a two-year contract instead. The political climate in Minnesota is such that it's likely that we will elect a much more transit-friendly governor in November. (Of course, the stupid Dems better find someone who can beat the Evil Pretty One.)

Overall, it's not really a good contract.

But to be fair, there are a lot of positive changes in there. They aren't significant, but they are good. We have better ways to manipulate our time off. We have longer to file grievances. They are required to respond to us when we fill out an OCR. There is a recognition of domestic partners, but I don't know the precise context for that; it's somewhere in the health care area. We'll get more time off from the operator recognition program (showing up and doing our job).

During the course of the meeting, I wavered on my decision to vote for it if it wasn't horrible. I was nearly convinced that I should vote no. But I ultimately voted yes for it, very reluctantly. I sat with a once and future Nicollet driver who was also torn. He voted no so we could cancel each others' votes.

But from the sound of things, I'm guessing that we will reject it. That would be fine; it just means that they'll go back to the table.

Here's why I am OK with my yes vote.

A couple hundred dollars in retro pay would be nice, that's for sure, but it's not enough for me to get too upset about.

I agree that a shorter contract, some work rules changes and better raises would be nice, but I'm convinced that we're not going to get any of that from this administration (well, the shorter contract might not be too farfetched, I guess). Our ATU board have been wrangling over the details of this contract for six months. And I know, because I asked, that they spent quite a bit of that time trying to get working conditions improved. I think it's a given that we won't get any more money out of them.

I'm concerned that it will be rejected, we'll go back to the table and we'll come out of that with a contract that's the same or worse than the one we're looking at now. I'm also very aware that public opinion will likely go against us as we don't seem to have a very adept spin machine and the Met Council does. Ultimately, I don't think we can expect anything better. It's bad, but I know it could be worse. I expected it to be worse. Like it or not, we have to deal with the turd in office and his minions and the turd in question is dead set on making our lives more difficult.



As promised:

Duke (not duking)



According to the Internets, bearcoot is a[n archaic?] word for a kind of eagle, black or golden, used by Central Asians (Kirghis? Tatars?) for hunting.

According to a dream I had the other night, a bearcoot is a very small bug that lives briefly on bears and can be harvested. They are white and sold in boxes. A box full of bearcoots resembles a box of coarsely-granulated salt. Bearcoots are useful for making lemon pie, lemon pudding and other lemon-flavored treats.

Dorothy, Steve and I are riding along with our students today on their first day driving their own work. Tomorrow they're completely on their own. I had a good morning.

Steve and I will probably do ride-alongs for the rest of the week. We will ride along with drivers who have been in accidents, or have had complaints, or have asked for a ride-along for another reason.

Then I go back to work Saturday.

Duke is doing well. I have a picture for you, but it's in my camera at his house.



I'm watching Duke, so I probably won't get much written in the next week or so. He looks quite a bit thinner than the last time I saw him.

Our students passed their in-service driving tests, which means they'll be on their own next week. It also means that I'll go back to driving on Saturday the 14th.



It's about 6:00 AM and I've noticed that I've been getting a lot of hits from Yahoo! Search from people looking for a clip of Flutie's dropkick. I never did find a clip online, and every time I thought I was close, RealPlayer crashed my browser. Oh, how I hate RealPlayer. So, if you're looking for a clip of Doug Flutie's dropkick, I don't have it and I don't know where to find it. I did finally see it on the news the other night, though.

In other news, Diane actually had to drive a bus last night. She's often on call, watching the television. She got done about four hours ago.



Congratulations, Corey and Tara! I have a niece!

Kyah Marie, 8 lbs. 20 inches.




The Vikings fired Mike Tice after a lopsided win over the Bears' second team yesterday.

I've never been a coach-hater. For instance, despite what the press thought Vikings fans should think about him, I liked Denny Green. I probably didn't care for Les Steckel much, as the only thing I remember from that year is run it up the gut, run it up the gut, run it up the gut, punt. But I'm not much of a Tice fan at all. I think his teams consistently underperformed and I think he got outcoached on game day way too often. He seems like a nice enough guy, though, and I hope he finds work coaching someone's offensive line or something.

Ever since I was a kid and visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, I've been fascinated by the dropkick. A dropkick, as defined by the NFL's rule book, is "a kick by a kicker who drops the ball and kicks it as, or immediately after, it touches the ground."

I'm not sure of the connection between my visits to the HoF and my fascination with the dropkick, but I got a magazine there with all the HoF players and I think I first read about the dropkick in that magazine. I used to read about old football players a lot. Jim Thorpe was one of my heroes. And I swear my dad told me he used to be able to dropkick.

When I was little, I always wished I could see someone dropkick a ball. I couldn't understand why it wasn't part of the modern game. (The shape of the football changed and made the bounce less predictable.)

If you clicked the link above, you've read that Doug Flutie successfully drop kicked an extra point yesterday. Whoever is in charge of that website is on the ball! (sorry) So now I'm all excited. I'm trying to find a clip of the kick online, but so far I haven't been able to find one.



Happy New Year!

It's time for me to babble about the music I listened to last year. I never hear as much as I want to, but on the other hand, I don't usually get to give new music as many listens as I'd like. Since I can't listen to music while I drive the bus, sometimes I think an office job would be OK. I didn't get terribly excited about a whole lot of stuff this year. But I'm not the type of person who thinks that there's not any good music being made anymore. I tend to assume I just haven't found it yet. Anyway, here's what I heard in 2005:

Music, 2005
(lists with commentary here)

Here are the records I really liked, in alphabetical order:

The Decemberists- Picaresque
Destroyer- Notorious Lightning and Other Works
Kraftwerk- Minimum-Maximum
Low- The Great Destroyer
Eric Matthews- Six Kinds of Passion Looking for an Exit
Maxïmo Park- A Certain Trigger
Colin Meloy- Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey
The New Standards- The New Standards
Pernice Brothers- Discover a Lovelier You (and Nobody’s Listening)
Rogue Wave- Descended Like Vultures
The Sugarplastic- Will
Brian Wilson- What I Really Want for Christmas

The Go! Team-
Thunder, Lightning, Strike

Here are records I really liked, but was somewhat disappointed by:

Brendan Benson- The Alternative to Love
The New Pornographers- Twin Cinema
John Vanderslice- Pixel Revolt

I liked these records:

Bullette- The Secrets
Devin Davis- Lonely People of the World, Unite!
Robbie Fulks-
Georgia Hard
Petra Haden-
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out
Melodious Owl-
Transition EP
Mercury Rev-
The Secret Migration
Polara- Green Shoes +4 EP
Erich Strack-
The Long Road Home
Kevin Tihista-
Home Demons Volume 1
Wolf Parade-
Apologies to the Queen Mary

I liked these records, but they disappointed me a bit:

Eels- Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
Bob Mould- Body of Song
Palliard- Palliard
Supergrass- The Road to Rouen

I wish I had my money back:

Mike Doughty- Haughty Melodic
Kathleen Edwards- Back to Me
The Fiery Furnaces- Rehearsing My Choir
Ben Folds- Songs for Silverman
Sleater-Kinney- The Woods

I did not hear these artists' records in their entirety, but I would probably like them, based on what I did hear or already know about them:

Andrew Bird
The Kaiser Chiefs
Okkervil River
Sigur Ros
Sufjan Stevens



December '5