They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Monday, December 29, 2008

More Metro

Today we decided to go to the Eye Masters at Christown to order some new glasses for Susan. It took 14 minutes to get to the station and about a 3 minute wait for a train. This was the first day of regular hours for the trains, which started at 4 something in the morning. There were no more volunteers to help people but the trains are still free through Wednesday night. The train was a bit crowded but we were able to get a seat by lowering a 3 seat panel that was folded against the wall. The seats would have been filled if people had known what to do... We got a the end of the line at 19th Ave/Montebello around 11:20. There was a small line of people waiting to get on the trains. We saw several TSA and Department of Homeland Security people on the platform. Although the station faces the mall, it is not completely an enclosed mall anymore. The stores that face 19th Avenue (Target, Ross, some others and some new still empty stores) do not connect to the mall. You have to go all the way around to JC Penney (in what I think was the Monkey Wards when we shopped there 20-25 years ago) to get into the mall. The stores that are in the mall include Penney's, Costco, Walmart, Bath and Body works and a few smaller stores. I bought some olive oil and a blu-ray disk in Costco while Susan ordered her glasses. Then we headed back to the station, this time going behind Target which I think was shorter. There was a huge line but the nice Homeland Security man advised us as to how to avoid the crowd and we got on a train relatively quickly. It was full leaving the station and got fuller at 7th Avenue and Central/Camelback. We got out at Campbell to have lunch at Pane Bianco. Unfortunately it is closed on Mondays. It is open until 3 Tuesday-Saturday. So we walked to the Indian School stop. There were a bunch of people waiting and when the train came it was so full that few go on. We then waited another 20 minute or so for a train and when its doors opened it was no better. We got anyway, to the protest of some of the people inside. Welcome to mass transit, folks, get used to it! The problem was that over the weekend the volunteers were making sure that the trains left the endpoints only partially full so that people could get on elsewhere. There was no one to do that today, so getting on it was very difficult. But get on we did. We got off at Encanto and ended up getting lunch at Schlotzky's, where it was nearly two and there were a bunch of non-business-types eating. I attributed it to the metro but the proprietor grumbled that it wasn't helping him one bit and would not. Anyway, we walked home from there, 3.5 hours all told but an interesting experience. We had planned on riding to Tempe for dinner tonight but decided to wait for Friday when they started charging people and the crowds would thin out. Still I might try my trip to Mesa tomorrow morning if I get up early enough.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I was at the opening of the Metro (light rail) this morning as an "ambassador". My assignment was to answer questions, give directions, etc. My shift started at 8 although the trains did not start taking on passengers until 10. I arrived at the Encanto station about 7:55. I had not slept very well, didn't feel good and it was really cold out, the exact circumstance under which to stay in bed but I had been waiting for this for years, literally, and was not going to miss it. We got our instructions and orange vests and then stood around for a couple of hours. I really needed coffee but had been afraid to consume liquids if I was going to stand out there for 4 hours. There was not much of a crowd waiting. By the time that 10:00 rolled around, there were maybe 20 or so people waiting on the platform. At 10:09, the first train (shown here), a northbound train heading to 19th/Montebello (Christown) rolled in, and a southbound train arrived before the northbound one left. The trains ran were supposed to run every 10 minutes in each direction but were pretty erratic. The station became fairly crowded as my shift progressed and there decidedly more passengers wanting to go south than north. On a few occasions the trains were so crowded that people refused to get on. Susan arrived a little after 11:30 and on my advice got on a northbound train (see picture). She went one stop up to Thomas and then walked back. By that time I was done so we squeezed on a southbound and got off at 1st Ave/Jefferson. We walked around a bit, found the booth where I picked up a t-shirt and key ring as reward for the volunteer work. We then got on at 3rd St/Washington and rode back to Encanto. As the day has progressed the crowds at the stations and at the parties has seemed to grow considerably. It was a good thing to get in early. It was all very cool. Trains are free through the end of the year. I think I might wait until about Tuesday and ride the full length of the lines. You can see more pictures here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

BUY the Big 3

GM, Ford and Chrysler are once again testifying in Washington, this time with a plan. They want $34 billion in loans. Michael Moore has what sounds like a better idea. In his Daily Beast article he suggests that the government just buy them. Pointing out that all of the outstanding common stock of GM could be purchased for about $3 billion, he makes a pretty good case. Detroit would have to put up the companies' assets as collateral, and when they inevitably defaulted on the loans, we'd own 'em anyway. By buying them now we could save some money, dismiss the bozoes who run the 3 outfits, and retool them to make green vehicles, light rail cars, etc., the very things we need going forward. Moore is not exactly one of America's leading economists, and there is probably something wrong with the proposal, but it is entertaining and makes sense to me...