Archive for March, 2009

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Strange Door Holding Experience

March 26, 2009

As I was walking through the tunnels today a woman in front of me stopped to hold open one of the doors, but the way she was holding the door made me think she was waiting for someone, since unlike most people when they hold open doors, she stopped in the middle of the doorframe and looked past me, so I assumed that she she was waiting for someone else and until that person caught up, she would do her best to keep anyone else from entering the door. I probably stood there for about 10 seconds, waiting to see what she would do, when she finally said, in a rather persnickety manner, “Well, are you going to take the door?” Mind you that while she was saying this, she was still looking over my shoulder and past me, as if she were talking to someone behind me. I turned around to see who she was talking to and when I saw no one there, I realized she was talking to me. I quickly extended my hand to indicate that a successful door-holding-handoff had occurred and then, after having made sure once again that there was no one behind me, continued through the door on my way to work. All I want to know is, what the &*%*% was that!?!?

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I’ve been googled!

March 19, 2009

Yesterday, I experienced the internet version of winning the lottery:  I was googled!!  My neighbor informed me that he had been online looking for information about the Van Dorn Metro/Shuttle issue (see previous post) and that my posting was #1 on the google hit list!  Woohoo!  I never realized that the only thing needed to fill this deep, yawning chasm in my soul was to be googled!  The only problem is I think I’m becoming addicted to the high associated with being googled, so much so that I may have to start googling myself…this sounds disturbingly familiar to something I was warned about in 7th grade sex ed…

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Let’s go to the Metro

March 18, 2009
Final Update:  U-turns are authorized!  Hazzah!
Further Update:  Supposedly there was a meeting between the Metro people and the shuttle people on Monday to try and figure out a solution to the problem of too many shuttles at the Metro stops.  The solution currently being implemented is that any shuttle under 27 ft can enter the kiss and ride but any shuttle longer than 27 ft has to pick up and drop off on Eisenhower Ave.  It remains to be seen whether or not U turns will be authorized. 
Another update:  Dr. Gridlock has responded to my query!  His response courtesy of Metro:  We love shuttle riders but there are too many of you, so until we figure out how to deal with you, you’re screwed.
Update:  Apparently an interim decision has been made that allows the shuttle drivers to drop off and pick up passengers at the Kiss and Ride – the catch is that the shuttles cannot loiter, meaning that you either time boarding the shuttle just right or you wait 15 minutes for the shuttle to return so that you can then reattempt a running leap onto the shuttle while it is still moving in order to prevent any loitering from occurring. 
Today was one of those days that really taxes your faith in humanity and unfortunately, it all took place while riding the Metro.  It started when the shuttle I take in the morning was forced to drop us off on the street near the metro stop, since WMATA has decided that shuttles can no longer pickup/drop off passengers on metro property.  This all started a few months ago when Metro made the decision that all shuttles had to drop off and pick up passengers on the bus loading side, instead of the Kiss and Ride side as they had been doing for years prior. I didn’t consider this a big deal and all seemed to be going fine until yesterday when it was announced that shuttles can no longer enter the Van Dorn metro property and instead must pick up and drop off passengers on Eisenhower Ave.  Again, not the end of the world, but it was beginning to become irritating. 

It finally came to a head last night when one of our shuttle drivers got a ticket while attempting to follow his instructions to pick people up at the Kiss and Ride, which he had been told was now allowed by WMATA.  As more and more disgruntled passengers embarked onboard the shuttle from the Eisenhower Ave spot (since they had not been notified to do otherwise), more and more people began to voice their unsolicited opinions regarding the reasons behind WMATA’s decision, new policies, emails that had been sent out, and the normal things people complain about when their routine has been upset.  All of these rumblings convinced the driver that he should go back to the Kiss and Ride to pick up the passengers who were under the impression that the Kiss and Ride was now, once again, the designated, WMATA approved, pickup/drop off spot.  As the shuttle driver entered the lot, he was immediately pulled over by a cop who promptly had him turn off the shuttle and issued the driver a ticket.  My entire role in this process was passive, as I was quietly sitting there on the shuttle, enjoying my post-work, pre-gym meditation session, until it occurred to me that the shuttle wasn’t going anywhere for a long time.  Without interrupting my peace of mind, I simply stood up, walked off the shuttle, and walked home.  Problem solved, or so I thought.  This morning I learned that the shuttles were still restricted from entering the Van Dorn Metro lots but would also not even be allowed to use the bus loading area to make a U-turn, forcing them to go down Eisenhower Ave in search of a place to make a U-turn, effectively adding an additional 10-15 minutes to the total trip time.  We have now officially entered the land of the ludicrous, and WMATA is its reigning monarch.

Old vs. New routes

Old vs. New routes

My question is, “Given Metro’s financial troubles and desire to attract more riders, why is it making it so difficult for their riders to get to the station? Is it because the bus drivers and taxi cab drivers have more clout than the shuttle drivers or is it part of Metro’s plan to force shuttle riders to use Metro buses to get to the stations, effectively placing more money in Metro’s pockets?”  Either way, it’s quite irritating and does nothing but display the inept leadership that Metro riders are continually forced to endure.  And to make it worse, I really like Metro!  I’m not one of those people that finds fault with every decision WMATA makes, in fact, I think the system works rather well!  But this decision I simply can’t understand and can only hope the people will rise up and restore logic and reason to the land of Metro. 

 

Anyways, to wrap up why today destroyed my faith in humanity, or at least the portion that rides and operates Metro, once I got on the train, there were no seats because an Army guy decided that he didn’t need to move his bag off the seat to make room for people to sit down.  Way to go, jackass.  Then, once a seat did open up, the fat ass sitting there refused to honor the sacred space between the two seat cushions, effectively crushing my small frame against the armrest.  In dire need of commuting therapy, I sought out the sage consul of Dr. Gridlock from the Washington Post and am anxiously awaiting his prognosis.
Location of the different pickup/drop off points. All in all, not that big a deal, until the decision was made to not allow the shuttles to use the lots to make a U-turn. See next pic for the consequences of this decision.

Location of the different pickup/drop off points. All in all, not that big a deal, until the decision was made to not allow the shuttles to use the lots to make a U-turn. See next pic for the consequences of this decision.

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Plastic Bags at the Grocery Store

March 12, 2009

One of my all time pet-peeves has got to be when people place each different type of fruit/vegetable at the grocery store into their own individual plastic bags.  It’s not that  I don’t understand the reason why people do this – ease of weighing and determining cost of each type of fruit/vegetable, it just bugs me because of the extraordinary amount of unnecessary waste it generates, and I don’t even mean in terms of environmental effects, since I don’t believe that my individual actions have any meaningful effect on the environment (see free rider problem, or just listen to George Carlin’s bit about Earth Day).  To me, the excessive use of plastic bags represents the loss of society’s innocence.  Think back to just a couple decades ago – people would put all their fruits and vegetables in one bag and the cashier would ring them up.  No wasted plastic, no time lost trying to open the damn bags, just pick up your fruit/vegetables and put them in your collective bag.  Today, we are so concerned that our food be ‘sanitary’ that we feel that we need to hermetically seal everything we eat.  Never mind that all those fruits/vegetables we are so carefully preserving for the apocalypse have already been exposed to every type of bacteria imaginable, so all you are really doing by placing the items in a plastic bag is ensuring that the food will get trapped in a bacteria infested petri dish!  Free your fruits and vegetables, let them breathe, regain your lost innocence, join in the quest to rid America of our dependency on little plastic bags!  I know it’s asking a lot, but fight that near irrepressible urge you have to try and protect yourself against nature – I know it’s tough, but your fruits/vegetables (and maybe even your soul) will thank you in the end.

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Boogie Fever in the AM

March 10, 2009

080609_zohanAfter getting off the Metro in the morning I can either walk outside or take the tunnels to my building.  If the weather is nasty I tend to take the tunnels, which along with the obvious benefit of dryness and warmth, also carries with it the added promise of hearing music being piped throughout the tunnels.  Today’s music choice was, “Stayin’ alive.”  Awesome.  The best part of hearing ‘Stayin’ alive’ at 7:45 in the morning is watching the other people who are trying really hard not to act excited at hearing disco on their way into work.  I chose to do the opposite and fully embrace the disco, gliding down the hallways, and fully committing myself to that infectious disco beat.  Oh, I get some looks.  The only time I’ve gotten more looks was when the song was ‘Sex Bomb’ by Tom Jones.  That was an awesome way to start the day!  If the whole world had to listen to ‘Sex Bomb’ on their way into work, everyone would be much happier.  I want to meet the person who does the music selection for those tunnels and thank them for doing their part to making this nation a little better, one disco beat at a time.

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Thoughts on Wall-E and Buddhism

March 6, 2009

Update:  After watching Wall-E for the umptienth time I have found another great example of religious theory:  Near the end, after Eve has replaced all of Wall-E’s parts and is attempting to retrieve his personality, Wall-E starts to take the junk he had previously collected and compacts it into a little trash cube.  This is a great example of the idea of the ‘sacred and the profane.’  In short, sacred and profane is an idea that explains why some things develop holy religious connotations and others become evil.  In the case of Wall-E, a piece of junk becomes sacred only when Wall-E determines it to be so and places it in a place of honor (such as his home).  However, the exact same item reverts to junk once Wall-E stops considering itself sacred, such as the end when he crushes his treasures into a cube, thereby rendering them profane.  The point is simple, any religious item is considered holy simply becomes society accepts it as such, and as soon as they forget it’s sacred it becomes profane.  There is nothing inherently sacred about an object other than that bestowed upon it by its worshippers.  Or so goes the theory…

 

Wall-E's search for happiness through material goods will ultimately fail, as no object is permanently capable of satisfying his curiosity, therefore the only way for him to find happiness is by ridding himself of his materialistic desires

Wall-E's search for happiness through material goods will ultimately fail, as no object is permanently capable of satisfying his curiosity, therefore the only way for him to find happiness is by ridding himself of his materialistic desires

Update:  As my friend Jason (link to his blog on the right)  pointed out, Wall-E starts off with Wall-E collecting all sorts of stuff, thereby seeming to validate a materialistic lifestyle.  However, one could also argue that the acquisition of material goods continually fails to bring Wall-E happiness as no object is capable of permanently satisfying his curiosity, hence his need to keep collecting (a concept known in Buddhism as ‘Samsara’) and it is not until Wall-E abandons his search for happiness through material goods by pursuing a relationship with Eve that he truly finds happiness.

 

I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism lately.  I took a course or two in college as part of my religion studies and always found it to be an interesting philosophy (or religion, it depends on who you ask) on how to approach the world.  I’m trying to incorporate various aspects of Buddhist philosophy into my life,  such as abandoning thoughts of the existence of a soul and attempting to disconnect myself from certain aspects of the material world.  I’ve found that doing this has helped me to take a more dispassionate view towards my job – by separating my sense of identity from my job, I am able to focus solely on doing what my job requires, as opposed to getting caught up in the personal feelings and attachments that develop when one identifies themselves based on what they do for a living.  Interestingly enough, the idea that people define their sense of self based on their jobs is probably one of the reasons nothing gets done in this town, for at the core of the issue of identifying yourself by your job is the problem that you cannot admit when you have made a mistake because to do so would be tacitly admitting that there is something wrong not just with your decision, but with who you are as a person.  Not a pleasant thought and one that I think keeps a lot of people from being able to objectively analyze a situation. 

Strangely enough, one of the things that really got me back into studying Buddhism was the movie, “Wall-E.”  Aside from the obvious environmental message (which, ironically enough, the director stated was  intended only as a plot device and not a political message, so take that right-wing nuts – more on this in a future post) the movie also raises a lot of important Buddhist concepts, namely the dangers that come from not detaching ones self from material goods and the idea of ‘no soul.’  Regarding the materialism theme – the obvious message is that failure to detach ones sense of self from the material world will ultimately result in ones destruction, whether it be physical or spiritual.  Does this mean that one should sell off all their material possessions and live the life of a wandering mendicant?  Well, for me, no, but it does show that one should not define themselves by their material possessions.  In other words, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ should be avoided.  The second theme, what defines a person, is more interesting and occurs at the end of the movie when Wall-E is broken and has to be fixed by Eve.  She basically replaces every component of Wall-E, his eyes, legs, body, and most of all, his circuit card (i.e. brain).  By the end, there are very few components to Wall-E that are original, which brings up the question of,  ‘how does one define oneself.’  In the case of Wall-E, if you remove his original legs (which the movie shows he has done many times prior to the ending) is he still the same robot?  What about if you remove his eyes?  Still the same?  What about his circuit board, or, brain?  After Wall-E is done charging after having had his brain replaced, he is no longer the same and has reverted back to his original programming with no indication of the personality he displayed throughout the movie.  This would seem to answer the question of ‘no soul,’ in that once your brain has been replaced (or for humans, you are determined to be brain dead) you are no longer the person you once were and therefore are a different person.  However, after Eve’s pleas, Wall-E eventually regains his memory and personality.  The question here is, ‘if his brain has been removed and all his parts replaced, what part of him still exists that allows him to remember who he is?’  I suppose the answer would be, ‘his soul,’ and therefore contradict the ‘no soul’ concept.  Interesting stuff to think about, especially in terms of morality and medical ethics.  And all this plus a bag of popcorn!