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Woke up in my clothes again this morning; Don't know exactly where I am

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January 8th, 2013

05:45 pm - He said, hey, I know it's dangerous, But it sure beats Riker's!
Pittsburgh has had a rash of stupid drivers. Not that drivers here were necessarily ever sane, but it's been a year of notable issues.

On Friday night, Gwen and I went to see "Jack Reacher" at South Side Works Cinema. I arrived by bike, she by bus, and we went to Wine Loft next door for dinner, then enjoyed 2 hours of Pittsburgh porn as the backdrop for the action flick. Afterwards, we decided to hoof it 10 blocks to get cocktails. As we came home around 11:30, we saw what turned out to be the aftermath of this, just a couple doors from the apartment I lived in before moving in with Gwen. No good comments come to mind. In fact,Collapse )

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May 22nd, 2012

09:22 pm - Hear ye, hear ye, punks and folks and journeymen
So, this happened.

The road that brought me to this point has been a strange one, alas one where radio stations are roadkill. And it's not the first time I've ended up listening to a lame-duck radio station. The sound is familiar to me, one where much of the day is tunes being spun by a radio automation system, with no voices to be heard other than canned ads. It's a lonely sound.

Want to know how ClearChannel (well, realistically, a smaller local group they bought after it was consolidated into larger groups a handful of times) did this to me before, and at about the same time pretty much wiped out the chance for Pittsburgh to have alternative radio?

The long and winding roadCollapse )

So yeah. Back to the desert, I'm guessing. Enjoying it while I can.

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February 27th, 2010

12:43 am - Doesn't anybody ever know That the world's a subway
After a cold, snowy walk across the South Side that included a discussion of the "Wheel of Fish" game show from the film "UHF", I hunkered down at the Beehive to write some code and sip tea. Soon enough, I remembered there was a hockey game on I wanted to see shortly, and I was at least 20 minutes on foot from home 5 minutes before the game.

While it took me a minute or two because I needed a new plugin, I proceeded to open a browser and watch the game on TV, legitimately, in its entirety. Atypical for me, yes. Of course, I stopped to consider this later. Likely, using my iPhone I could have watched it online, as well.

For much of the time I worked at CMU I commuted from Westmoreland County. A bus trip lasted about an hour including the walk to the bus, and generally disrupted online work, and indeed any internet usage until the final years I had at CMU. Now, things have advanced to the point where I likely could have watched that game on the bus ride.

In the late 90s, I watched a lot of TV, and I drove 30000 miles a year. Today, I watch far less TV, and my car will get somewhere between 8000 and 13000 miles in a year, I bet. While it's not the case that the direction I am going is necessarily the right one, I do wonder what the world will be like when as the telephone is, the television becomes ubiquitous.

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February 7th, 2010

02:07 pm - A mean idea to call my own
I've spent some time the last few days working on MacOS kernel module stuff for OpenAFS. At the moment, trying to fix something which we'd previously left unimplemented, I've got a situation that results in a deadlock. I can, to a limited extent, figure out where, but not why.

Many people have people they can talk to when they get stuck. I appreciate that as someone who started with a mature distributed system, I am standing on the shoulders of giants, and so I don't think I'm anyone special. This just drives it home. It's not so much that it's lonely at the top. It's lonely on the shoulders.

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January 25th, 2010

02:14 pm - You'll pray for proof, I'm probably makin' this up
You may (but probably don't) recall this old entry where I mentioned an incident in Covington. A little light on the details, though.

Actually, a lot light on the details. Well, a Twitter conversation about Spanish Jesus (that's a literal quote) reminded me of this particular day.

I was in Cincinnati, actually Evendale, visiting a client of my then-employer. For whatever reason, we finished somewhat early in the afternoon, and I headed out, into the city. Camera in hand, I looked for spots where I might try some interesting railroad photography.

In fact, I found some spots. A few of the pictures are online, even. The first group were in Devou Park, Covington, KY, which has a nice overlook of the valley. The next group, where I'm up close to the tracks? Well, there, the story starts.

From Devou Park, I noticed what was obviously the old Covington railroad station. Upon driving down the hill, I looped for a bit trying to find somewhere to leave the car which seemed reasonable, then walked under the railroad viaduct and up the embankment to the tracks. No signs warned me off, but I stayed back from (and off!) the active tracks. Across the tracks, a guy popped his head out, ducked back, then came over and talked to me. It was rapidly clear he was no threat: he had trouble walking, and carried the odor of cheap spirits.

His first comments were in Spanish, and I thought I heard something about Jesus. Remembering very little of high school Spanish from 15 years earlier, I fumbled out "no me hablo espanol". He switched to broken English, and asked me if I believed in Jesus. "Yes". As his friend came tottering up, he thanked me for Jesus. Uh. Ok. His friend, hearing him, did too. They asked if I had a light ("No"), said something bidding me a good day, went back across the tracks and resumed (I assume) drinking.

A train passed, and I took pictures. Then, another did. Deciding that I was a bit conspicuous, I figured I'd leave. The guys hadn't popped out again, and the trains didn't blow their horns as they passed the spot they'd gone, so I assumed they were out of the way and minding their business.

As I decided to run down the embankment, a police car passed. I hoped he hadn't noticed, and turned to walk back under the viaduct to my car. As I started under, "Sir, please stop."

I turned to face a Covington officer. He asked what I was doing. In what was perhaps a dumb move, I slowly pulled my coat back with one hand (the other hand, thankfully, visible) to reveal my camera under the coat. At this point he figured it out, and said, "Sir, we have a report of a holdup in the area, and you match the description of the suspect." He asked where I was from ("Pennsylvania."), why I was here ("had a break from work, out taking pictures.") and finally asked if I'd seen anything ("just a couple guys drinking by the tracks").

He told me the tracks were private property, and I declined to comment that they weren't posted. Instead I asked if he knew any good spots I might take pictures. Surprisingly, he told me of a spot behind a business about 15 blocks south, and when I got there, idling BNSF and Union Pacific power awaited me. I snapped a few shots, then headed back toward Ohio.

I've been back to Covington since, but never again has anything quite so bizarre happened while I was.

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January 12th, 2010

07:59 pm - Yeah, hey, I want to travel south this year
Yesterday, already in the car before 8am and with a camera handy, I drove to McKees Rocks knowing that the Pittsburgh and Ohio Central Railroad crews go on duty around 8. Sure enough, as I drove past, they were walking out to the trains.

After about 30 minutes of following them and snapping pictures in what light snuck through the crowds, both crews vanished into areas I couldn't access. Figuring on looping back home via Greentree so I could work, I took a couple backroads there, and when I got there, surprise! A train hidden deep in the yard, moving. I figured I'd snap a shot and then go home. Nope, heard the crew get permission to run east to Connellsville. Knowing the plan, which is rare, I decided to follow.

I spent the day until about 3:15pm chasing and photographing the train in the snow. Sadly, an overcast day and shooting pictures with a snowy background makes for a lot of fun with exposures, but I had a good day anyway. I got to Banning, maybe 30-40 (rail) minutes from Connellsville, before running out of time and returning to Pittsburgh.

Today I have had probably my most productive day in months. Moral? Unsure. But it does seem to indicate I need to take a break more often than I have.

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January 3rd, 2010

12:52 pm - And my mind, askew, lost and unpacked
I was a rotten kid. At the same time, it's how I fell into the engineering mentality, which for better or for worse is definitely a marketable skill.

Several times over recent months, people have pointed out that there are things I do simply because I don't like being told I can't have or do something. That's true. I view it as an opportunity denied. If there's an opportunity, I'd like it too, even if I choose not to exercise it.

As a kid, as a consequence of whatever, sometimes (probably often) fairly, sometimes unfairly, I ended up getting punished for whatever. Inevitably this involved being sent off to contemplate whatever instead of doing something more enjoyable.

For me, well, ok, did (whatever) wrong. Got it. Now what?

I haven't managed to invent a time machine yet, so lacking a way to fix it, I can't say as I've ever particularly fancied whiling away the time. You told me I can't do X? I'll follow the letter of what you said. You said nothing about Y or Z. Perhaps Y and Z add up, circumspect, to what X would have been. Not my problem. If you want me to sit around bored, what exactly do you expect I'm going to do? Think about what I did? Yup. Did that. Now what?

So when I pick something up, look at it, turn it over, take it apart, try to find a way to do it differently, better, whatever... being told "no" is how it started, because "no" is often not an acceptable answer.

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01:41 am - A little piece of mind that I know better than the plain disgrace of all my letters
The snow has returned to Pittsburgh, and left, several times since Christmas. It can't make up its mind. I thought I didn't want it, and well, I don't want to shovel it, or track it inside.

Looking at the snow makes me realize I'd like to be back in Stockholm in winter, at least for a while; my mind is synthesizing the sound of the Roslagsbanan running in the snow, something I heard (and saw, and rode) on my last trip, now too long ago.

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December 24th, 2009

06:36 pm - All anguish, pain and sadness leave your heart and let your road be clear
In what were for me darker times, Greg Lake's 'I Believe in Father Christmas' quietly became my standard of the season. A wistful song, it's final verse tells us that we sow what we reap: "The Christmas we get, we deserve."

Today, I am reminded that I have not always, and still sometimes am not, all I can be. I don't give as much as I could, which is entirely unfair given that I almost certain have whatever I might reasonably ask for in life. I am healthy, able-bodied, I have food to eat and a roof over my head.

Greg Lake and most of the music he was involved in has passed out of the body of material I regularly listen to. Still, there is this, and each year as I hear it I quietly cry: I still live in fear of getting the Christmas I deserve.

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December 23rd, 2009

11:53 am - These bandages cover more than scrapes; cuts and bruises from regrets and mistakes
Another year is nearly by. I won't quite make my goals. Single, check (divorce final 2 weeks ago). Homeless, check (sold in May). Broke, not quite. I'm net negative, but close.

Reflecting, there's more I've failed at. Regrets are easy to have, and I certainly have 13 years of Catholic education to thank for my ability to feel guilty, too.

I said after I sold my house that I'd start volunteering with an organization that rehabilitated houses. Hopefully in the spring I'll schedule that in, and make it happen. Hasn't happened, yet. I'm hoping perhaps to interest some of the other members of HackPittsburgh in joining me at least once, as the more people you have, the more you can get done... at least if you're organized.

Similar, but different, I swore I'd make more of an effort to enjoy life, lest I approach the misery I've had before. I've done reasonably, but sometimes I miss. Biking, for example, I find therapeutic. In spite of that, I had fewer 20 miles rides this year than last, and most of those were the 20 miles I can pretty much stumble out the door onto. I've done more biking-as-transportation than ever before, at least.

I also failed at getting out as much as I'd like for railroad photography, but in some way that's constrained by my inability to find others available for it, and my lack of desire to sit in a car in the middle of nowhere by myself for the more interesting things I might see; I could, again, take the pictures in stumbling distance, but largely, I have, and it's old-hat.

2010, like each year before it, offers an excuse to try to "do it better". Here's hoping that I will.

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