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And the morning wasn’t the only new and different ride today…

January 28, 2008, 10:43 PM

My morning commute certainly wasn’t the only thing new and different about my commute today. My evening commute brought me on board Rohr 1133, where Metro was presumably testing a few things. Unlike on Breda 3283, where the changes were designed for passengers, the changes on 1133 appear to be designed more for Metro’s internal use than for the passengers, though passengers certainly benefit from some of the changes as well.

First of all, on Rohr 1132 and 1133, Metro is using different interior lighting. I don’t know if it’s a change in the light bulbs, a change in the covers over the light bulbs, or a little bit of both, but the light was much whiter – significantly different from the way Rohrs normally look. I got a photo with my cell phone that hopefully demonstrates what I mean:

As you can see, the light is much whiter, showing off the true color of the unadulterated Rohr interior, which actually looks quite nice when viewed in pure white, and not with a yellowish tint.

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Categories: WMATA

And now my opinion that the lean rests are a bad idea is also based on actual experience.

January 28, 2008, 9:38 PM

It seems that January is the month for the Red Line to get all of Metro’s test cars. You may remember that I got Alstom 6105 on the 17th. Well, this morning, I got Breda 3283, which, you may recall from an earlier Journal entry, was being used to test a new seating pattern.

Let me quickly refresh you: All of the side seats next to the center doors, as well as the two rows beyond those on both sides of the center doors, were eliminated in favor of sets of six side-facing “cloth-based” bus seats. Metro also removed eight seats from the blind end of the car and installed leaning rests for standees, ran a ceiling grab bar back into the blind end (which normally has no grab bar, making it a no-man’s land for standees), installed spring-loaded metal “straps”, removed all the windscreens except for those around the center doors, removed the railfan window seat near the cab, and added two three-handled grab bars at the cab end of the car. They also recarpeted the car in the same style used on the newer rail cars, and changed all the seat cushions to the “colonial burgundy” color. Because of that color change, doing away with all the orange that Metro loved so much during the 70s and 80s, it’s somewhat ironic that the new bus seats that were installed were what color? That’s right – orange. Then Metro also slightly refurbished Breda 3282, which is 3283’s mate, as well. All of 3282’s seat cushions were replaced with the “Potomac blue” color, and it was also recarpeted. However, 3282’s floorplan was unchanged, as it is likely a control car in Metro’s experiments. 3282 has been refurbished at least since late September, as Katie and I saw it on the Green Line at Fort Totten with the blue seats on that weekend that she was in town.

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Categories: WMATA

And the second day of the consulta went equally well.

January 28, 2008, 8:24 PM

The second day of the consulta went just as well as the first. We had a slightly smaller crowd, but it still worked. We couldn’t get into the Frederick Cultural Arts Center right off the bat on Sunday due to the fact that a church had services in there at 11:00, so we started out at the Frederick Coffee Company for the first hour and some. There, we discussed affinity groups, protest tactics, and even “protest fashion”, which was kind of like What Not To Wear: Black Bloc Edition.

Then we went over to an area about a block away from the Arts Center, and had lunch, courtesy of the local Food Not Bombs. There, they had a selection of vegan food, as well as what’s called freegan, meaning it’s stuff that was obtained for free after being cast off by the primary purchaser.

From there, we got into the Arts Center, and prepared for a workshop on police tactics. However, before that got going, while everyone was setting up, Jeff and Maddy had a chance to be wacky with a cart that was in there.

Jeff pushes Maddy around on the cart
First Jeff pushed Maddy…

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Categories: Activism, Frederick

Day one of the “Unconventional Action” consulta went very well!

January 26, 2008, 9:39 PM

Day one of the “Unconventional Action” consulta in Frederick, Maryland went quite well, indeed. The main thrust for the consulta was to prepare for the protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, as somewhat indicated by the banner inside:

Consulta banner

However, with Denver and St. Paul being out of range for many of us (I have neither the time nor the funds to go), it also worked well for things to apply in that hotbed of activism that’s right in our own backyard – our nation’s capital, Washington DC.

We discussed a lot of stuff, too, mostly related to protest tactics and community organizing. We started with discussion on how to combat gentrification (with handouts!), took a break, and then moved onto discussion about the logistics of the RNC and DNC. Bridges, hotels, locations of various buildings, perimeters, etc. Very interesting stuff. And lots of handouts! I like handouts.

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Categories: Activism, Frederick

In Memoriam: Greta, February 12, 1994 – January 24, 2008

January 24, 2008, 7:18 PM

Greta by her bowl in the kitchen, December 25, 2007

This is the entry I’d hoped not to ever have to make. Sad to say, Greta has passed on at the age of 13 years and 11 months. She died peacefully at home. Everyone whose lives she touched will miss her dearly.

Greta was quite the dog. She was very protective of the family, barking loudly and continuously at anyone who would visit that she didn’t know. She knew the drill when the doorbell rang, too – she would be the first at the door, barking her little head off. She would also do the same thing if a doorbell would sound on the TV. But she would always give a little doggy smile whenever she saw us.

She also knew how to give love and receive love, as Greta was Mom’s little baby, always small enough for Mom to hold in her arms. The two of them had a great time, too, as they would sit and watch television together, and Greta could always be found near Mom in the house. And as all domestic dogs should be, Greta was spoiled rotten, getting just about anything she wanted. Talk about a great life.

And now, all I have to say is, Greta, you will be missed…

Categories: Greta

“Are you running Linux? Looks like you’re running Linux.”

January 21, 2008, 5:04 PM

Yes, as of this writing, the Lappy is officially running Ubuntu Linux. So this is exciting. My Linux experience is presently quite limited. The antiquated computer at the Infoshop runs Ubuntu Linux, and so I’ve gotten some experience there with Linux. Plus I’ve also had some (and by “some” I mean “very little”) experience with the Unix command line, which Linux also uses, both at the Infoshop, and in the Mac OS X training class I went to up in Philly last November. It seems like it’s a pretty good system, and once I figure out how it works, it should serve me well. After all, I’ve learned how to use Mac OS X, so I can figure out Linux. At first glance, Ubuntu Linux kind of reminds me of Mac OS X a little bit.

So yeah, I still have no idea what I’m doing on Linux, but I’ll figure it out. Still, it seems I’ve entered the ranks of computer users who use Linux. Scary…

Categories: Computer

World’s best bumper sticker ever…

January 20, 2008, 8:33 PM

Tell me this isn’t the best bumper sticker ever:

"The road to hell is paved by Republicans"

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Categories: National politics

And Greta’s back home again.

January 18, 2008, 10:34 PM

Well, we can all now breathe a sigh of relief. Greta’s back at home, and doing better. She’s on a special food for kidney patients, and she’s drinking her water. But at least now she can sleep in her own bed again, because the vet’s office stresses Greta out tremendously. Always has, too.

Is Greta totally out of the woods yet? Probably not. But at least she’s improved to the point of being able to return home.

Categories: Greta

Of all the cars in Metro’s fleet, I was surprised to get…

January 17, 2008, 9:34 PM

First of all, let me say I had my first Alstom ride on the Red Line this morning. The Red Line is still mostly Rohrs, though as of late, it’s had quite a bit of Alstom-manufactured cars coming in. However, up until today, I’d never gotten an Alstom for my regular Glenmont-to-Dupont-Circle-and-back commute.

So this morning, I’m at Glenmont, waiting for my train on the platform. Alstom! And not just any Alstom, either – I got Alstom 6105, which is part of the first pair of cars to have “resilient” flooring rather than carpet. I first discussed these cars back in the early part of December. Recall back then that my reaction was neutral to slightly positive. Now that I’ve ridden the non-carpeted pair, I’m confident that Metro can shed its carpet and still do just fine.

First of all, this particular color doesn’t show dirt very well. There was some crud on the floor, but the gray color with little flecks in it didn’t make it too obvious, therefore I had to actually look for it. It’s just about at that happy medium to where dirt gets hidden, it seems. Then of course to clean this you just have to run a mop over it. Additionally, it harmonizes well with the remainder of the decor, which didn’t change. These Alstoms still have the white walls, white ceiling, white seat frames, gray armrests, and “Colonial Burgundy”, “Potomac Blue”, and “Chesapeake Sand” colored cushions. One thing I was concerned about was sound, and I was pleased to say that I noticed no major differences in noise levels with the non-carpeted floor vs. the carpeted floor. So I think that this “resilient” flooring thing is in the end probably a good thing, as long as Metro decides to go with a color that doesn’t show dirt, and also works with all the various color schemes they have come up with or might come up with in the future, especially since this flooring is supposed to last a long time. Thus that gray color they picked here is probably a good choice.

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Categories: WMATA

Now let’s talk about this… for a very small amount of oil, you’re producing three times more greenhouse gases than conventional methods, and destroying one of our natural treasures? Um… NO!

January 16, 2008, 9:14 PM

After work today, I went to a small demonstration outside the Canadian Embassy at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 5th Street NW in DC. The demonstration was about the Athabasca Oil Sands, also known as the Alberta Tar Sands, on the occasion of the Premier of Alberta, Ed Stelmach, delivering a speech at the Canadian Embassy promoting the extraction of the oil from the Alberta Tar Sands. I quote from the press release handed out at the event:

The Canadian province of Alberta is in possession of a rare natural resource known as the Alberta Tar Sands, which can produce a very small amount of low-grade petroleum only after undergoing an extremely energy intensive and wasteful process. This process produces three times as many greenhouse gases as conventional oil production through extreme localized degradation, and is being referred to as the most environmentally destructive petroleum endeavor of all time. On his first visit to the U.S. the Canadian Embassy will host a talk by Ed Stelmach promoting the extraction and use of Alberta Tar Sands.

It was quite a festive event, too. RCDC was in attendance, as was my usual group of friends that I see at protests – Jeff, Luke, Maddy, and Olga. I also got to see Isis. And Brendan, a coworker of mine from Food & Water Watch, was also in attendance. Plus there were several people dressed in polar bear costumes, and a number of people played “O Canada” on kazoos as we protested Ed Stelmach’s visit to DC.

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Categories: Activism

Please get better, Greta…

January 16, 2008, 8:24 PM

Many of you know Greta, our brown dachshund, who has been part of our family since 1994. In fact, you may recall just yesterday, I was delighted to receive a picture of Greta from Mom.

Unfortunately, when a dog reaches an advanced age, though (Greta’s 13, almost 14), things don’t work as well as they once did. Greta had to be taken to the vet today, and it turned out to be some serious kidney problems. So Greta’s staying at the vet for the next two days for some serious treatment, getting all of her fluids in harmony again, and seeing what the deal is. I hope Greta makes it through this.

Meanwhile, if you could also think nice thoughts about Greta as she gets through this rough time, I would really appreciate it.

Categories: Greta

I so love it when Mom sends photos of Greta…

January 15, 2008, 6:43 PM

And here she is:

Greta in the kitchen

Yeah, Greta is perhaps the one I miss most being in Maryland now, as Greta, unlike the rest of them, doesn’t use the phone.

Categories: Greta

Brakes and rotors and lights, oh, my!

January 12, 2008, 2:31 PM

Well, the Sable got its Maryland inspection today and failed it. However, everything that was wrong with it could be fixed, as I expected. I knew I needed new brakes, but I didn’t think I needed both front and rear brakes at the same time. I figured just rear. Then I also needed new rotors. Greeeeeeeeeat. Meanwhile, a couple of lights were out on the car, and they’re going to fix that as well.

However, what surprised me was not what didn’t pass, but what did. While I was in Philadelphia in November, one of the hinges on my back window cracked through, rendering it useless. The window was in no danger of falling out due to several other attachment points’ being sound. I discussed it with Dad and sent him a photo, and he said it was a fix we could probably do ourselves, and it would be fairly easy to do after we got the part. But in the short run, while I was still in Philly, since the loose hinge was rattling, it was highly annoying to hear while driving. And the idea of a three-hour drive back to Maryland with that rattling the whole way was more than I was willing to handle. So I made a quick fix on it right before I got on the turnpike to go home – I went to a convenience store, bought a small roll of duct tape, and taped it all back together. And it held. I didn’t have to hear that thing the entire way home.

And now, I still haven’t fixed it. And that part passed inspection. I was waiting for them to say something about that, and nothing.

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Categories: Mercury Sable

Looks like Metro’s going to take a BIG leap forward when it comes to rail car design with this next set of cars…

January 12, 2008, 8:13 AM

When Metro next orders rail cars, signs are pointing to this being a very different kind of rail car from the Rohrs, Bredas, CAFs, Breda Rehabs, and Alstoms that we know on today’s Metro, according to WMATA and The Washington Post. I read in Friday’s issue of the Express about Metro’s unveiling of the new design. Take a look…

Metro 7000-Series car concept drawing
Image: WMATA

Metro 7000-Series car concept drawing Metro 7000-Series car concept drawing
Images: WMATA

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Categories: WMATA

I should have gotten “Technology Czar” put on my new business cards…

January 10, 2008, 7:40 PM

Yes, if it’s in the office and it plugs in, takes batteries, or has a screen, it falls under my domain. One of the fun things about my job is that when we get some new electronic toy, I get to be the first one to play with it and figure out how it works. Case in point: We got this new direct fax system, where everyone now has their own fax number. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to fax something than I’ve been with this. Usually, I hate to fax stuff. The conventional fax machine is a pain in the butt, you see. You put your number in, feed the document, and then maybe it will work if the moon is in the proper alignment with Betelgeuse, Pollux, and Deneb. So yeah, I got the new system running today, in my newfound role as “Phone Czar”, and I faxed. I think I sent about six faxes. And they all showed up one after the other as a PDF in my inbox. How nice! No longer do we have to wait for the fax machine to slowly spew out what we want. Now, it just dings into the Email. Yay!

Meanwhile, it’s been eight months to the day since I moved up here, and I’m embarrassed to say that my car still has Virginia plates. That’s a bit of a work in progress. I have a Maryland driver’s license, and I’m registered to vote in Montgomery County, but legally, the car is still from Stuarts Draft. I’m getting a Maryland inspection done on it this weekend, so things will hopefully be going on that front soon. I just can’t get over how long it’s been since I moved, and that I still don’t have Maryland license plates. Well, at least I’m getting more time than I expected out of my Virginia registration. My Virginia plates’ month is April, and I figured, that’s 35 bucks down the drain, as I was expiring and, at the time I went in to renew, I knew I was moving up to the DC area, but not exactly where yet, but probably on the Maryland side (it’s a tad pricier in northern Virginia). And with that move happening within a month’s time, I was convinced bad timing had cost me 35 bucks for about a month’s worth of use. That’s what, $1.16 a day for a month’s worth of useful registration. After all, the 35 bucks is less than the ticket I’d get if I’d adopted a wait-and-see attitude about it and went around with an expired tag waiting to figure out where I would be living. However, it’s taken me ages to do anything with the whole car thing (I’ve been busy, yo!), so I’ve stretched that registration out to nine months. Still, yeah, time to get that done…

Categories: Mercury Sable, Work