Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Longest Shortest Month

Man, but I bet everybody has been pretty much hating this last few weeks about as much as me.  Look around, you can see it in their eyes - a weariness, a need to see the sun, the deep-down physical hunger to lay oneself down on a verdant bed of grass in the shade.  

So that's thing one: the weather has really dragged me down.

Thing two is probably more specific to me, although it's still very much weather related - on three seperate occasions in the last two weeks, I have done major cosmetic damage to my newish car.  First time was the day after the biggest storm, when the roads were a lot narrower than they normally are, and the hedges are substantially harder.  Doing a k-turn, I backed up against an icebank wrapped around a big hedge, and put a nice little dent in the rear fender.  Then, about a week later (after a small snow and the resultant plowing), I smacked the front right bumper pulling in my the driveway at about five miles an hour into half of a massive ice block that had been a mountain of snow next to my driveway, but the plow had cleaved it in twain and thoughtfully deposited a gibraltar-sized chunk into the driveway.  There was a loud and depressing crunch, and a quick examination revealed that the bumper had actually shattered at the corner.

THEN: two nights later, driving back from class in Midtown Manhattan, I smacked a pothole on the Palisdaes Parkway.  Hard.  Although I was going the speed limit, it was an immediate blowout.  I limped on until I could pull over at the closed Alpine Scenic Area.  On the plus side, I think I may have set a personal best time for changing a tire.  When I walked in the bedroom around 11:30 to tell Yesenia what had happened, she just laughed.  And really, what else can you do?

According to the assessor, the damage in full comes to around $1100 - which is good and bad news.  The bad news is that it doesn't quite reach my deductible (each item has its own deductible), but it's also about $1000 less than I'd been fearing.  So thank heaven for smallish favors.

But still, it does mean that my next few days are going to be a little complicated - dealing with insurance company, body shop, and car rental, all while still going to work, getting to class and watching with grim anticipation as the Polar Vortex rolls in for another round.  I mocked it once before, and now I understand its power.  I wish I knew what to sacrifice to it to appease the Angry God of the Northern Wastes - apparently, my fenders and front tire were not penance enough.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Story Ideas from the Subconscious

Here's what was in my head this morning when I woke up:

  • All the animals decide that the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics is their ideal platform to finally tell humanity to cut the crap.  They elect a single mare (named Winnie) to be their representative, and focus their willpower to grant her the power of speech for fifteen minutes.  During the ceremony, as planned, she breaks from the parade, shrugs off her rider, and walks up to the stands to address the stadium crowd and the viewers at home.  Everyone is impressed with the sophistication of what they think is an animatronic horse, and the animals' message to humanity is lost in a series of tweets and talking heads raving about Russian showmanship.
  • A famed architect has developed a method of finding the living spirit of a building by building a model of it out of dried straw, which he then converses with.  
  • The military convoy has gotten caught in a severe blizzard, and the soldiers have to find a way to survive in the frozen wastes for several days.

- D.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The 1 and Only

Like all epic quests of yore,
here is a map of the territory.
Normally, when I have business on the East Side, I park uptown around 116th and Lexington and take the 6 downtown.  Makes getting in and out quick and painless.  Yesterday, though, traffic across the GWB was slow and I felt like parking on the Upper West Side instead.  It's right around Columbia and I simply like the neighborhood better, and at the back of my mind was the possibility that we would grab dinner in the city and the area around 110th street and Broadway is packed to burstin' with great, diverse and not-too-pricey restaurants.

Of course, that complicates getting to the East Side, normally, with lots of transfers and adding a lot of time to your trip.  But we were meeting just east of Central Park (60th and Madison, to be exact), which is also right at the southern end of the park.  And there's a crosstown train right there, that you can conveniently pick up at Columbus Circle and 59th.  But I made great time coming in, and decided to simply walk from the Columbus Circle stop across town.  And it was lovely.

I met up with Yesenia, and on the way back, I asked if she wanted to walk back across town to get on the 1, or take the subway.  She opted for the walk.  And it was also lovely.

We got to the 1 at Columbus Circle around 4:30, so rush hour was just moving to full throng.  But we got on the train right away, and it was a partial express, up to 72nd.  Wonderful!  We'll be back at the car by 5:00, and home by 6:00 (if we don't eat in Manhattan, that is).

The train pulls in to 72nd street, and here's where the plan derails.  Not the train, of course - the train stays on the tracks.  It's just that it stops working and will not leave the station.  The doors close, the doors open.  They close, they open.


Close, open.

Close, open.

The conductor, with increasing agitation after each series of attempts, calls on the P.A. for some unknown persons at the back of the train to stand clear of the doors.

The train, already packed full when we pulled into the station, keeps getting somehow even tighter as the train sits in the station.  The minutes pass, five, six.  Then, the conductor, again:

"This train is out of service.  THIS TRAIN is OUT of SERVICE!  All riders must exit the train.  RIDERS EXIT THE TRAIN!"

We move as one out to the platform.  It's the only way we actually can move, we're all packed so tightly together.  Yesenia and I and thousands of other riders wait outside the now empty train.  Inside, a pissed MTA employee strides the entire length of the train, checking (I presume) for stragglers.

A couple of more minutes pass.  Then the automated station announcer:

"The. Next.  Uptown.  One train.  Will arrive in.  Twenty-five.  Minutes."

The entire crowd groans.  Yesenia has had enough, and starts up the stairs.  I follow, trying to discuss a plan with her.  "We're not getting a cab," I point out, "I don't mean that I'm opposed to taking a cab, it means that there's no way we're going to be able to flag one, now."

Yesenia: "How about the bus?"

"It's about the same speed as walking."

"We can walk."

"Fine with me."

We climb up to Broadway and proceed to walk the forty-three blocks to the garage.  Slushy lakes ring small mountains of dirty snow at every crosswalk.  Night has fallen.  And it's a forced march, rather than a lark.  I have not had anything to eat all day, except a cup of tea about ten hours earlier.  It is most definitely not lovely.

Every ten blocks, I call out the number of blocks remaining.  We hold hands.  Well, our gloves cling to each other with our hands inside.   We discuss dinner options.  Eat uptown?  Get pizza up in Rockland?  A few balloons are floated, but the pizza option is the mutually agreed upon conclusion.

About an hour later - after pausing at a favorite bakery to pick up some dessert carbs - we reach the garage.  It's another ten minutes there, while the lone employee deals with five customers and moves all the cars himself.

Surprisingly, after all that, at least the drive home is pretty quick.  And we discover that well-earned pizza is pizza that tastes good.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Illicit Rambler

Very VERY slow day at work today, as about 70% of the department opted to work from home, today. Which option sounds quite nice, but since I live about five minutes from the office, I felt that if anyone should be in-house in case an emergency design situation arose, it might as well be me.  But since the work is so thin, I'm sneaking a little time for a Rambler.  Such a rebel!

BTW: I can't imagine a more first-world 'problem' than an emergency design situation, but they seem to happen with depressing frequency in every industry I've worked in, and always seem to have life-and-death level impact for those that come running to you with them, creative brief held aloft in one hand, flaming like an Olympic torch.  And the sweat they're covered in?  Flop sweat, of course.

Anyway®, working from home would be wonderful, especially since Yesenia is also working from home today and the idea of both of us sitting on the couch by the fire firing off emails and tweaking code is almost painful to contemplate in light of where I'm actually sitting.  Which is a cube.  Under fluorescent lights.   Also a first-world problem, but you can still feel sorry for me.