Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who Doesn't Use Nazis as a Political Weapon?

Do any of these sound familiar?

-"We demand that the State shall make it its primary duty to provide a livelihood for its citizens."

-"The activities of the individual must not clash within the framework of the community and be for the common good."

-"We demand economic reform suitable to our national requirements;"

-"The passing of a law instituting profit-sharing in large industrial enterprises;"

-"The creation of a livable wage"

-"We demand the treasonable system of health care be completely revolutionized."

-"We demand an end to the status quo in which people die or rot away from lack of proper treatment due to the failure of their medical coverage, Health Maintenance Organization, or insurance policy. "

-"We further demand the extensive development of insurance for old age and that prescription drugs be made both affordable and accessible. "

-"We demand the creation and maintenance of a healthy middle class, the immediate communalizing of big department stores and their lease at a cheap rate to small traders, and that the utmost consideration shall be shown to all small trades in the placing of state and municipal orders. "

-"The primary land reform will be to ensure all members of the nation receive affordable housing. The party as such stands explicitly for private property"

-"setting aside land for national wildlife refuges"

-"By cleaning the urban, agricultural, and hydrographical (water) areas of the nation"

-"By creating legislation regulating the amount of pollution, carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases , and toxins released into the atmosphere"

-"And for the continued research and development of clean burning fuels and energy sources"

-"The state must consider a thorough reconstruction of our national system of education with the aim of opening up to every able and hardworking American the possibility of higher education and of thus obtaining advancement"

-"We demand the education of gifted children of poor parents, whatever their class or occupation, at the expense of the state"

-"To put the whole program into effect, we demand the creation of a strong central national government for the nation; the unconditional authority of the political central parliament over the entire nation and its organizations; and the formation of committees for the purpose of carrying out the general legislation passed by the nation and the various American States"

If one didn't know any better, one might think that these select quotes were taken from the Democratic Party's website. Some of these were almost stated verbatim by then candidate Barak Obama. There is only one problem. These quotes didn't come from the Democratic party, but actually from the National Socialist Movement. A more well known name for this group is Neo Nazi.

Now, before you fly off the handle, understand that I don't believe that the Democratic party is aligned (intentionally) with the American Nazi movement. This is merely to clear up why there are tea party protesters ignorantly displaying images of Obama and swastikas. They are not Nazis as Nancy Pelosi has subtly suggested, they are merely making a sophomoric connection between the Demoratic party and Nazis. I guess the nomination of a black man for president wasn't a clear enough signal that Democrats don't really see eye to eye with the Nazi party.

To be frank, the Nazi party in America has more in common with American liberalism than anything else. But there is a HUGE glaring difference: Nazis are white supremacists, Democrats are not. In fact, Democrats seem to command a huge portion of minority votes in this country and are champions of immigration reform and entitlements for all, regardless of race or gender.

In the name of fairness, there are certain items (not many) that are more aligned to American conservative ideals, like this gem:

-The state must ensure that the nation's health standards are raised by protecting mothers, infants, and the unborn By prohibiting abortion and euthanasia, except in cases of rape, incest, race-mixing, or mental retardation & By creating conditions to make possible the reestablishment of the nuclear family in which the father works while the mother stays at home and takes care of the children if they so choose"

Maybe it's time to give the Nazi talk a rest. Homeland Security should stop giving the false impression that Nazism is a right-wing hate movement because clearly it is not. Likewise, conservatives should realize that politics makes for strange bedfellows and awkward political alliances. There are certainly extremist groups that identify more with hardcore conservative values that could prove to be a political liability in the future.

Let's assume the best in both political parties with regards to intent, and that neither wants to usher in the Fourth Reich. The real point to all of this is that trying to label a political opponent, either directly or by association as a Nazi is idiotic.

Update! Just for fun, check this out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Economic Crisis

My area of expertise. Not really, I'm just an enthusiast.

A lot of people have chalked up our financial crisis to greed. In fact, this morning, the news was crowing over the bonuses of several companies on Wall Street in the wake of one of the biggest economic downturns in the last 100 years. Most reporters are asking what government can do to curb these excesses, and the answer is short of a frightening seizure of new powers over our ability to exercise commerce [somewhat] freely, there is nothing that they can do.

But why is this such a problem? I don't think that most people when asked point blank, 'what caused our financial crisis' would directly blame bonuses, though they may point to them as some sign of endemic greed. Instead, ask this: should a private business be allowed to squander its money as stupidly as it sees fit? Should Joe Schmoe who runs the lawn mowing business be allowed to give six figure bonuses to his employees free of government scrutiny ? (Questions of where this kind of revenue would come from for a lawn service aside).

The other thing that I notice in talk about 'Wall Street' is that there should be sweeping new regulations to prevent this kind of situation in the future. Fair enough, but again the question to ask would be, 'have regulations prevented economic trouble in the past?' It is hard to say because the greatest motivator for market regulation, the Great Depression, has yet to be, and God willing will never be, equalled.

In cursory terms, I would like to examine our market situation and all the talk of hybridizing our economy into a semi-free, heavily regulated marketplace. For the sake of the discussion, I will assume that the majority of economists are right, and that free market forces provide all of the incentive necessary to self regulate. This is not entirely the case, but it will make the exercise considerably simpler. Also, let's set aside greed as the prime reason for our recent woes, and rather pin it for what it is: motive.

Let's begin with a balanced economy where the price is a perfect reflection of supply and demand and that the ebbs and flows of the economy are suspended for a steady state. In other words, prices are not fluctuating, but everything is in equilibrium. In this economy, an investor is faced with a new opportunity unfamiliar to the economy at large. It is a speculative endeavor (Oooh! Scary!!) and nobody can really be sure what the accurate price of the completed product will be. The investor evaluates the pro forma, becomes familiar with the risks involved, and decides that the potential gains are worth assuming the risk. At this point, it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that a different investor would arrive at an entirely different conclusion, and pass on the opportunity. It is also reasonable to conclude that the risk involved would restrict the amount of money the investor is willing to commit to the project. After all, he knows what his money can earn elsewhere due to our static state environment. His only motive is the potential of greater gains.

The real life analog to this scenario was the CDO, or securities based on the mortgage. The major difference is the investor, not the risk or the return potential of an investment. Rather than examine details on the investment, people deferred their due diligence to a rating agency and failed to understand, or even attempt to understand what this investment was. But it goes further because this was a double decker of failure. Just as 'Wall Street' sold these CDO's, people having no business obtaining loans for homes and absolutely no grasp on the unchecked growth in home prices which greatly exceeded the rate of inflation, entered into investments of their own. Consider this a rickety piece of shit investment structure on a poorly laid foundation of American trustworthiness to pay back loans.

Few people, other than Donald Trump and compulsive gamblers are willing to put everything at risk on a single investment, and so they diversify (Benjamin Graham, anyone?) into several securities and investments with differing risks and returns (as a rule of thumb, greater risk=greater return potential). So, with hindsight, how could so many people invest so much money in something that was so risky? Well, personally I am left to conclude that for one reason or another, the risk was not perceived. In fact, this seems to be the case with most booms and busts. People see it go up, and for one reason or another, don't seem to recognize the increasing risk in holding these investments. This complicates things because the greater the price, the bigger the bubble, the greater the risk becomes for the stakeholder. Risk is now a moving target.

Was greed the prime motivator for entering these investments? Perhaps for some, but I would hope that this same greed would convince someone to preserve the gains they had made elsewhere. I don't know about the rest of America, but greed in my mind is synonymous with stinginess and most greedy people wouldn't simply give their money away to a risky investment. After hearing from my parents about people they knew involved with the Stanford group, the victims were not greedy, but thought they were preserving their wealth in a safe investment with a good rate of return. They simply didn't apply the rule of thumb and question the return they were receiving.

The risk was there in spades, and yet that failed to deter individual and corporate investors from investing heavily. With that being said, I suspect that no amount of regulation will prevent this from happening in the future. It will be a patch to our economic regulation that will prevent this particular investment vehicle from being used in the same way, but the basic problem remains. So what will regulation get us? I think it depends on the type. If we go the route of the FDIC in the future, where the government inherits the risks of the bank and its account holders, we will likely engage in riskier investments and see even more spectacular failures.

Imagine if there was a government agency that guaranteed that if you walked into a casino, made your way to the roulette table and bet it all on black that you would be able to recover your loss courtesy of Uncle Sam. How many people would go to the casino for the nearly 2:1 payout? I would suggest that part of why we flew so high and crashed so hard is our willingness to stupidly shift the inheritance of risk onto the government which is actually ourselves. If there is greed, it is in those who welcome regulation and a promise of economic support to engage in riskier behaviour at the expense of the tax payer (Read: Bailouts). This is a veiled attempt by the super wealthy to shift the burden of risk onto the middle class who have little clout in businesses in which they are invested, and bear a large tax burden. All the while, the wealthy have everything to gain and nothing to lose (a favourite scenario among investors)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thoughts on Justice

After having witnessed someone being arrested at Akard Station in Downtown Dallas, I was inspired to write on the subject of prison.

I personally have no first hand knowledge of prison, nor am I close to anyone with any real experience, unless spending a night in the drunk tank in the city jail counts. Personally, I don't think it does.

But the debate I hear from talking heads and politicos is over the purpose of jail, either as punishment or reform. Some would say that the point of prison is reform, others equivalence. I feel that the point of prison is in fact reform, despite how hard all of my conservative buddies would disagree with me. My reasoning is as follows:

If reform were not the point of prison, and there is no chance that any prisoner will be reformed while service time as sentenced, why then would we ever release a prisoner from jail? Why would we waive our societal right to self defense by allowing a criminal back amongst us knowing that nothing has changed to encourage this former prisoner to obey the law? I would respectfully submit that all persons believe, either intuitively or otherwise, that jail is in fact about reform. Either the experience is miserable enough that a released criminal would never think of committing the crime again, or there is some psychological shift that occurs that makes a previously irresponsible person willing to ignore the boundaries of society re-evaluate that position and have a different take from that point onward.

So, to recap, we all believe that prison is about reform, now the debate is merely about the method employed to bring about reformation. Conservatives more often than not subscribe to the idea of suffering, arguing that the experience should be painful, and that the pain will in fact produce the reformed prisoner. Liberals subscribe to the idea that a prisoner should be given tools that he may have lacked prior to his life of crime that will make him a productive citizen upon release and remove the temptation to commit crimes in the future. I feel that both of these are wrong or hopelessly naive.

This brings me to a concept that Americans don't seem to grasp well: Laws do not prevent anything, consequences of breaking the law are merely deterrents, and never entirely effective. How many times are we going to stupidly say, 'there should be a law against that?' Deterrents are only mostly effective, like a condom. it may be 99.9 percent effective, but we really do roll the dice every day. What this means is that any reasonable or rational person is aware of the laws, and given the severity of consequences for breaking those laws, will more likely 'self-enforce' and obey.

What then should be said of the most grievous offenders behind bars? I would argue that they are misfits, people who for one reason or another cannot respect the boundaries provided by society. Something greater is the cause of this criminal element, something that a mere deterrent was not sufficient to prevent. This is not true for all criminals, but one really must wonder about those who defy laws with knowledge of the consequences, especially when as severe as prison or even execution.

So, what is the solution to the problem? I don't know. In fact, there may never be a solution. Maybe prisoners should never be released from prison. Perhaps there is the possibility of reform for some prisoners. How do we decide which need a helping hand and which need to suffer a little longer? Again, there may never be a good solution to the problem, but I can guarantee that there will always be a heated debate.

I would like to offer personal axioms on the matter:
-Laws do not prevent crimes
-Deterrents work, but only to a limited portion of the population, albeit a vast majority
-Prison IS about reform, but there is a debate upon the mechanism

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Defining Success

This is an inspirational speech on success from perhaps a compassionate or even humanist perspective. It is a thoughtful study of all aspects from feelings of inadequacy to society's ideals of meritocracy and how they are impossible.

However, I feel that success is not a relative comparison between either like or unlike peoples, but rather about self direction. To me, success is linked to an action and desired outcome. For example, I earlier desired dinner, so with motive and intent I prepared my dinner. I have met with success in this endeavor because the result I desired ensued. What if I had not manged to make dinner in spite of my desire? Well we'll come back to that.

I feel that in a monetary respect, I am no where near the most successful of my peers. In fact, those who have studied more in demand fields are probably already earning far more than I do as a mere architectural intern. In my life, I will probably not earn as much as an investment banker, a lawyer or doctor. This is the aspect of success that the speaker addresses.

But I have met with a different kind of success. I chose a direction, oriented myself and my life, and provided motion, motivation toward a goal. Nearly 10 years ago, I decided to pursue architecture as my career path. Perhaps the impetus for choosing this goal wasn't entirely clear to me at the time, but I made a change and found success in achieving this goal. Several of my peers chose goals and failed to achieve them, but found alternate solutions or more favorable outcomes. I would label this 'failure' in the strictest sense regardless of the outcome. There were others still who wandered aimlessly, with no goal, no orientation and no drive to move toward those goals. So, which of these is the most noble? There is merit and worth in both success and failure. There is none in a refusal to act.

One of the best lessons I received in college was failing one of my structures courses. Nobody likes to receive an F in a class, but it was an eye opener for me, and I attribute this failure and the subsequent success that followed the second time around to my passing the most difficult portion of the Architectural Registration Exam.

Will people fail? Absolutely. And the speaker is right, there is an element of chance to it all. Often people tend to be in the right place at the right time, or even the wrong place at the right time. But I feel confident that in our world, people who try will have the support of those around them. We have such a conviction about trying in our country that I don't think we would allow anyone with the desire to succeed sink into oblivion. We are, however, merciless to those who would not try and rather blame their circumstances on fate or other more successful people.

When I was in highschool, we had honors night one night a year to celebrate the accomplishments of promising pupils in all areas of study. As a young attendee, I was foolish and derided those who would try and succeed. I was (and from time to time am) an arrogant ass who felt that I didn't need to prove my genius to the school. Far from being a genius, I was the biggest idiot in the room. Grades were determined mostly by work, not by thought alone, and I was too young and foolish to appreciate those who simply performed both, with the ultimate outcome being a superior performance.

Now this sophomoric idea manifests itself in professional snobbery, scoffing at the accomplishments and recognitions of great architects. Perhaps their style is not my cup of tea, but an AIA award or Pritzker prize is nothing to sneeze at. But I still find myself fighting the urge to recognize their successes because of the lack of my own.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crazies in the Park

Well today my wife had to travel to Albany on business, so I decided to dust off the camera and the ole' Linux box and do some photography. On my way out this morning, I walked through the park headed towards downtown when I heard a quiet voice a hundred yards away or so. It was a gentleman sitting on the bleachers behind the home plate of the parks baseball diamond. Walking away from him, I thought that he might have been on the phone. As I moved away from his position, his voice grew louder and louder, and it became apparent that he was holding a fictitious conversation with his 'dad' via a hand positioned as though holding a phone. His 'conversation' went something like this:

"Hey dad! I had the funniest thing happen today! Somebody came to look at my crotch and I mean that must mean he's gay, right?! Then another guy was leaning forward [possibly a critique of my posture] and that must mean he is gay! That's what gays do! [Presumably referring to another person cutting across the park holding a bag] And if they have a bag, that man is such a faggot gay faggity fag!"

When I reached the end of the sidewalk, he was yelling at the top of his lungs filling the entire park with his crazed speech. It was all I could do not to laugh as people listened in horror to this man. I guess he just wanted to be noticed, and I would say he succeeded. I had half a mind to flag down a passing police cruiser and see if they would lend a hand to this clearly disturbed individual.

The park has a lot of activity and never really feels dangerous, but homeless people and crazies like to hang out there to go BM in the public toilet, and because of its close proximity to a free clinic and the Baylor hospital complex.

For photos (no, not of the crazy hobo), check out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39968747@N08/

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thoughts on Our Healthcare Reform

There has been a lot of fervor on both sides of the debate for public healthcare in the last couple of weeks. Driven in part by our 24 hour news cycle and the endless need for talking points, the coverage has been continuous and abysmal. Even in our office there are hot debates on whether or not this is the right thing to do.

There is no escaping the debate. Even as I walked home yesterday, a person handing out pro-Obama care pamphlets was out on the streets. Just one month ago, there were Acorn operatives in front of the JPMC building. Personally, I think both sides have really missed the issue, and that is unfortunate, because they have hijacked the debate with talking points and misinformation. (As far as I know, there are no provisions in the bill for 'Death Panels,' though I haven't heard any Democratic congressmen mention a provision in the bill protecting us from the possibility)

The bill in its final form is not known yet, so it would be presumptuous to assume that we really know what this thing will be about. Having said that, Democrats should give these town halls a rest until they have a final version that they can stand behind, and Republicans should be patient before verbally acosting the frighteningly loyal followers of Obama.

The factor that no one seems to be talking about is the human factor in all of this. I oppose the idea of a government sponsored health plan because of how horrible people can be to one another. Let me elaborate with an annecdote. Have you ever been in a grocery store that lower class people shop in? Here in Dallas, the Walmart that we frequent is such a place, existing on the margin between one of the most affluent areas in Dallas, as well as a barrio. One of the things that you are likely to see if you shop there often enough are people who make use of WIC or food stamps. I guess never having been destitute enough to rely on such things, I never really gave much thought to what my existence would be like if I were.

They are given a list of groceries that are government approved, meeting certain nutrition and cost saving standards. If the family is together, often the child will want something like a frozen pizza or a piece of candy, but these are not approved items on the list. They are forced to forgo some of the simplest pleasures that our abundant society can produce, because they are reliant upon the government for subsistence. But there is more here at work than some nebulous concept of government and its benevolent offering of food. These forced savings and approved lists are because the sponsoring agencies don't want to draw the ire of the tax payer. Nothing could be worse for their offices than for a citizen to see their tax dollars being spent on expensive or even tastier foods, or liquer or tobacco. Though bleeding heart is not a term I would use to describe myself, I do feel sorry for these people when they arrive at the checkout line only to find out that the things they really want won't be paid for by the tax paying citizens of the United States. As the barcode scanner beeps, all of the more favorable items are taken away and stashed to be restocked. This is a horrible existence that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Though they do subsist and their nutritional needs are met, their quality of life in all of the less pragmatic ways languishes.

I imagine that there are some that are glad that the best things are not paid for by welfare, and that is exactly my point. We are a people warped on inflicting mutual suffering on one another. We all know that there is not the political will to eliminate this program outright, so the tax payers do the next best thing: ensure that nobody living on their dime is happy or satisfied. Don't believe me? Just look at the food stamp reforms that took place in the early 80's and then the welfare reform that passed in the mid 90's, with a Democrat president, no less!

As I look at our healthcare future, I can't help but feel like millions will be put into this situation, only with access to health services rather than that tasty frozen pizza or ice cream. Is it so hard to imagine a government and people willing to say, "pick this faux cheese, not that Sargento block cheese" in the grocery store to also say, "pick asperin rather than a truly effective narcotic?" I hear cries from working citizens to drug test welfare recipients before giving them food or shelter. I presume that they would empower government to decide who amongst welfare recipients is fed and given shelter and who is not. What powers would such a citizenry bestow upon government regarding criminals and malcontents (read: Obese, Smokers, Drinkers, Drug Addicts etc.) accessing healthcare?

If it is only the some 47 million who are currently uninsured that will be the beneficiaries of this healthcare reform, this is a far larger segment of the population at the mercy of the public. Make no mistake about it, to borrow an Obamaism, public subsidy invites public scrutiny into your life. By necessity, and the will to survive politically, dominance and rationing will have to take place by the government to placate the masses who begrudgingly accept the idea of governmnet healthcare.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

DART Creates Options

This morning, the weather was nice. The sun was rising but still low in the sky as I departed for the train station from my house. I usually walk to the station, which is almost exactly 1 mile away. These are great times to clear my head or think about the days' tasks beforehand. Sometimes I just put in headphones and listen to music to zone out.

As I crossed under I-45 nearing Pearl St., I decided that I would walk all the way to the West End where my office is rather than take DART. This is the joy of DART. Some people would complain about the idea of having to walk some great distance to a bus stop or a train station, but I wouldn't. I like the exercise and the meditation. If these are good, then I can opt to go a little further, to walk some more, or just go to the next station down. I also like the idea of walking or biking all the way because of the added physical activity. I have been looking for a way to kick things up a notch, and this is the perfect fit. It really doesn't take that much longer because I don't have to wait for the train to pull into the station. Also, now I am burning closer to 400 calories a day with walking versus the 200 I was burning before.

I think most people would love to be within walking distance of where they work. The old Frank Lloyd Wright model of division of life into home and work just doesn't cut it anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ready to work out of my home or anything like that, but I imagine a lot of people just wish they were a little closer or more convenient to their work.

On the DART front, we are getting very close to the opening of the new Green Line which will run to interesting places like Fair Park and Victory Park which, thanks to the recession, is now within the price range of mere mortals! Someday soon, the train will run to Love Field, and eventually branch off to the Orange line with service to DFW Airport in 2013.

Oh yeah, and if you are looking for proof that the design profession is growing more stupid and gullible by the day, look no further than here. And another thing, is there some sort of food shortage in America that I am not aware of? Half of these ReBurbia entries have some kind of urban farming co-op. I could have sworn I read somewhere that Americans can satisfy their daily vegetable requirements for $.68 a day, or less than 10 minutes of work a day at minimum wage. Let's see, 10 minutes flipping burgers or countless hours toiling to grow veggies that are no where near as big or healthy as the stuff in the store?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thoughts on Energy

Does anyone remember when gas was $4 or more a gallon? J.T. remembers. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a firm believer in economics. I have unwavering faith that during those times, the demand for energy was sufficient to dictate the high costs that we saw. So, what happened in the meantime? Well, productivity and demand slumped, and the boom was over. Perhaps we saw an over correction when gas fell more than 50% in such a short time. From a human perspective, it seems that one form of suffering was merely replaced by another: lower gas costs, but rising unemployment, freezes on salary increases and so forth.

Well, this blog is dedicated to alternative modes of transportation, perhaps more out of mere curiosity than anything else. Never have I been concerned about my carbon footprint, or doing my share to help the environment. Making use of alternative methods has its own merrit, including health, relaxation and monetary savings. The idea of savings is eclipsed by the inexpensive nature of energy at the moment.

But I got to wondering what about our energy problem has changed. We seem to have forgotten about our out of control oil demand, but when the economy recovers, I think this demand will be back.

Texas is an interesting place to be with respect to energy. The state deregulated its energy market some time ago, before we moved here. Economics would dictate that in the presence of competition, prices should be reduced. However, just the opposite has occured. Prices here are higher than in areas that are municipally controlled. If anything, the deregulation has been a tremendous boon for environmentalists who would like to see the construction of efficient energy production facilities. Why would such a conservative gesture yeild such a liberal result? I suspect that it has something to do with the enhancements taking place to improve delivery and meeting future peak demands with reserve power.

The Texas power mix is awesome, with substantial parts coming from Nuclear and Natural Gas, and a below average portion of Coal. Though in the minority, Wind power is not insignifigant. With these cleaner power plants in action, as well as improvment to transmission lines and market place monitoring, we are paying more for these improvements. I suspect that areas not derregulated are not experiencing these improvements.

In the coming years, energy will continue to grow more expensive as our demand increases. I think Texas is inadvertantly well positioned to meet its energy demands. For those states who are still paying 9 cents a kilowatt-hour, get ready for rising prices in the green economy.

UPDATE: Today when I got home, there was a flyer on our door outlining the benefits of our new 'Smart Meter.' This is yet another example of the enhancements taking place. Oncor can track our usage remotely and check its status online every 15 minutes. Soon, we will be able to track our usage through their website as well.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Riding In Dallas

Somebody said in an article that Dallas is amongst the worst cities in the nation for cycling. Personally, I really enjoy riding in town. Drivers are curteous and respectful and seem to tolerate riders well. I think the complaints were more because Dallas planners have not provided any bike lanes on the roads. Personally, I am more drawn to the vehicular cyclists point of view on this matter. Bicycles are vehicles just like any other, they are no different from motorcycles and cars. And I really can't put my commute on hold until the city adds bike lanes (which, given parks and recreations paving and connections of bike trails, I don't really see much motivation for).

Of course, people should use some common sense. Bikes are slower, and don't really belong on interstates or high speed highways. Inner city streets though are slower, and bikes can keep up with traffic well. I especially enjoy passing gridlock on a bike. The article had unkind words for the high speed roads and 'crazy drivers' but doesn't seem to evaluate actually riding in downtown Dallas. I think it's downright pleasant.

My complaint, which is new, has nothing to do with drivers in town or speeds of traffic, but with the quality of roads. They are terrible. Today, I intended to ride to my office and back to warm up for working out. When I was pulling into the West End from Market Street, I hit a pot hole that I did not notice. Though I did not fall off the bike, I did hit my rear hard on the bike seat. Even as I type, it hurts to sit. I'm not really a fan of Obama, but after today I can get behind a shovel ready stimulus project to fix these damned streets.

In Texas, it is the law for cyclists to stay as far to the right as practicable. Well, as crappy as the pavement can be, that may be to the middle of the lane or further left. Moral of the story: Watch for pot holes if you don't want to break your ass.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bike Riding

So day one of the bike riding is over, and I have some thoughts to share. First, if you are going to ride in a large city, plan ahead. I planned a route over the weekend and even drove the route in my car to see if I thought that it would be relatively hassle free.

The ride to the office in the morning was great. It was nice and cool outside, and there wasn't too much traffic. The cars that were on the road were giving lots of room when they passed. In fact, there was only one instance where the cars were passing too close for my comfort, and that was at the intersection of Live Oak and Pearl Street. I think that the reason that this happened is because I was too far right. Although in Texas, bike riders are treated like any other vehicle, they are asked to move as far to the right of the lane as practicable. By taking a third of the lane, I think that drivers tend to give more room. Other than that, I chose roads that I knew wouldn't be too busy, and even if they were, there were plenty of stop lights to keep traffic slow enough for me to keep up.

Though I absolutely detest LEED, it is LEED that is responsible for my company putting showers and changing rooms in the building.

When I left, I knew that there would be an uphill portion to the return route (different from the morning route because most of the streets in downtown are one way). However, I was not prepared for how heavily travelled the route I chose is, and so I was forced to ride on the side walk until I could turn onto Liberty Street from Ross.

All in all, I felt way safer riding here in Dallas than I ever did in Baton Rouge. This is due in part to the abundance of lanes with slower traffic in the city. They have room to get around and I have room to pull over and share the road. Compare this to Baton Rouge, where you have several small two lane roads (Perkins, Broussard, Claycut, Goodwood etc.) where there are no shoulders or any room. Cars don't slow down and respect your presence as a vehicle.

The other thing that Dallas has is a wealth of bike trails, literally hundreds of miles, though none of these fall along my route to work.

Public Transportation and Its Role in Weight Loss

Since December, I have been losing weight. I know it't not nice to brag, but really it seemed to happen almost by accident. I had seen a physical therapist in late November and early December and was assigned certain back strengthening excercises. I performed them dutifully, and one day in February, I noticed that I looked a little thinner! I hopped on the scale and realized that I had lost a whopping 20 pounds!

However, physical therapy is not the only thing to blame for this success. I had also started walking to the nearest train station, which is about 1 mile from our house. I would hop on the train and ride to the West End where my office is.

I don't beleive that there is a one-size-fits-all diet and excercise plan that is great for everybody. However, I do beleive that there are three basic componets to losing weight the right way (rather than lipo-suction or starvation). When I lived in Louisiana, the Department of Health and Human Services started an ad campaign to combat obesity, which is a growing problem (pun intended). They called this the Louisiana Two-Step, and consisted of 'Eating Less and Moving More.' Sound simple enough, right? I have no doubt that this is a great way to live healthier and generally feel better, but I look at it slightly different.

The 'Two-Step' is really diet and excercise, which I think is way too broad to be effective for weight loss. I envision it as a tripod, with one leg being diet, the other two being cardio/aerobic and resistence training. It seems that when these three are put together, there is a greater chance for weight loss.

So, the physical therapy handled the resistance training. What about the diet and cardio? Well, if you're like me, you probably hate taking extra time out of your day to perform cardio. I decided that public transportation would play a central role here. Because I live in Dallas, a relatively large city, it's easy to get to transportation hubs. Since driving or riding would take me 20 minutes, why not just take an extra ten and reap the benefits of walking? I don't really lose any time out of my day, and I still get to work on time, so why not? So every day I was walking about 2.5 miles, and I would work out on Saturdays, so cardio six times a week.

And for the proper diet? My wife and I have found that cooking our own meals, even if not the healthiest and most well balanced, are a great step forward from eating out all the time. While we were planning our wedding, we ate out a lot and there were times where we would stress eat. Since then, our lives have become more relaxed and less stressed. We like to cook our own meals for the most part, and we think that cooking is fun, especially with easy recipies that taste great. We particularly love Sandra Lee's cook books. We tend to make smaller portions than we would recieve in a restaurant, so even if the meal is high in fat or calories, there are fewer of them on the plate.

So there you have it. Now, what kind of catchy dance has three steps instead of two? A Texas Waltz? No, I think not. But it is working and working well. To date, I have lost nearly 30 pounds and though the progress is slow, it is steady. Lately I think I am running up against a plateau. Personally, I think the way to beat it is to keep on track, and take the excercise up a notch. So to that end, I will start riding my bike to work, 4.5 miles a day round trip.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Updates

Well, it's been a while since I posted an update to this blog. First, I have discovered a group on Flickr that is dedicated to photos of people getting arrested on DART. Coincidentally, most seem to be at the bus transfer station in the West End. Check out my profile, user name tjsbocaj, on flickr to find the group!

Onto other news, I had a North Texas moment a couple of weeks ago on the train while riding to work. Normally as I approach the Pearl Street station, I happen to catch a red line train coming in from Plano and ride southbound to the other side of town. However, I was running a little late (like 5 minutes) and instead of the red line, a blue line train pulls up.

Now normally, I like to ride the blue line trains because they are less crowded and the people are nicer. I guess Plano people have a bad attitude. I would to if it was standing room only on a train north for thirty minutes! The train isn't too crowded, true to form, and I spot a bench about midway up the car. All of the other seats had single occupants and I think it's more polite not to unnecessarily crowd them. I take the seat and set my bag down to the side. As I look up, there is a rather heavy set, bald gentleman sitting in the seat in front of me. He seemed out of place because of his casual dress (jeans and a T-shirt if memory serves me right).

When I ride, I put in a pair of sound blocking headphones that look like ear plugs and go into the ear canal. These are wonderful for blocking out unwanted noise. Regretably, they could not block out unwanted light. This guy turns and begins to stare at me as we pull out of the Pearl Street station. For three stops, he offers an unflinching stare, never looking away. In my effort to avoid looking directly into his face, I spotted an unusual insect that looked like a wasp, but wasn't. Sort of like a flying cockroach.

It was flying around the car and swooping down on unsuspecting ladies' hair. People were moving about the car to avoid the insect. As we pull out of the Akard Street station, the insect comes to rest on a vertical grab bar across the aisle from the fat man. The lady in the seat with the bar was blissfully unaware of the insects presence.

As I glanced back in front of me, I noticed the guy taking off one of his shoes. Without telling anyone, he swung as hard as he could at the bug. The impact scared the daylights out of the woman in the seat who I am sure thought she was being assaulted. All of the other passengers that were in the car must have thought the same thing, and began a stampede for the car behind us. Just as this was happening, we were pulling into the West End station, and with a grin I slowly disembarked from the train, knowing that a call to the DART police was sure to ensue.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Update and More

As promised, I went to the Tea Party, and what a party it was! I've never seen so many conservatives in one place before, and I was glad to see that they are finally fed up with out-of-control government spending. I was also glad to see that the event stirred up anger and concern on the left. I think that when talking heads on liberal news outlets spew hate speech, they are sufficiently scared, and that brings joy to my heart. Their fear is the first glimpse of a possibility that conservatives are ready to hold elected officials accountable. Conservatives have been in a lull during the Bush years and turned a blind eye to the growing budget. To Bush's credit, until last year, the deficit was shrinking year after year. This was not due to 'budget surpluses' like those during the Clinton years (which were largely the last big hurrah for Social Security before baby boomers started to retire, FYI we have to pay back those surpluses with interest!) This was instead due to tax cuts that actually increased revenue! Economically, times were strange under the Bush administration because for the majority of the term, both inflation and unemployment were low. Usually, its one or the other, as we are learning right now (deflation=high unemployment) I credit those times to the tax cuts. But I digress. Even under Bush's plan, we were on an unsustainable spending spree and the Obama administration has merely made an already bad problem worse. Perhaps what people are starting to realize is that in tough times, Americans need unprecedented liberty, not regulation and handouts.

There has been little news on the DART front lately. The biggest waves have been made by the selection of an alignment for the second route through downtown Dallas. Personally, I am in favor of an alignment that stops at City Hall. I learned from an employee of the DPW that there is actually a section of the underground parking for City Hall that was designed to recieve a DART rail stop, knowing that the second alignment was negotiated a while ago. I also beleive that the city hall recieves a reasonable amount of traffic, both from employees and citizens. There is something civic about having City Hall as accessible as possible.

I wait impatiently for the opening of the Green line. I cannot express how much I want to take a rail to and from the airport. This couldn't be more true for DFW. Parking there is not cheap, and it is a good ways from the city. The current rail station at Centerport is not very convenient, and I have to jump trains from the TRE to the DART light rail, which is the least of the annoyances.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Transportation Adventure Time!!

This is a last minute decision, but I will be taking a DART adventure to city hall for the Dallas Tea Party on April 15th. I know it seems ironic to protest taxes by travelling via a method largely subsidized by taxes, but it was a decision that Dallas made that was appropriate to Dallas. My grief is with Washington, who no longer seems to feel the anger of over-burdoned tax payers and job creators.

I know that this probably won't change any minds in Washington, but my hope is that it will unite and spurr conservatives into action to elect accountable, principled conservatives to office.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Downtown Plano

Well, as promised my wife and I went on a journey via DART train to Downtown Plano. Though the area is small, there was considerable life to be had. Several shops were open, as well as the Austrian restaurant that we set out to try. We walked from our house to the Pearl Street Station because my wife refused to ride a bus (FYI the station is about 1 mile away). During the entire walk to the station, there were a string of complaints about having to take the DART to Plano rather than driving.

We finally boarded the train and were on our way. As the train progressed north, more and more passengers disembarked. On the way, I pointed out the Park Road Development to my wife (One would hardly notice it otherwise). 30 minutes later (which I stress because driving probably would have taken about as long) we finally arrived in Downtown Plano. The area is like an old fashioned downtown from Small Town, USA.

Immediately next to the station is a 'medium density' residential development similar to what is all the rage in Uptown. One small block over was the main drag, with several art and antiuque shops. Though we are not that into antiques or vintage stuff, it was still nice to see anyway. There were some interesting art pieces in the storefronts of some of the shops.

The Austrian restaraunt was very good, good beer too. Afterwards, we found a small wine shop which had wines for sampling. The wine lady (not sure if I should call her a wine master) was very polite and helpful, and allowed us to sample some wines from Argentina and Texas. We bought a couple of bottles and headed back to the station.

We were having such a good time that we decided to stop at Mockingbird Station for a couple of margaritas. By the end of the day, we both enjoyed the experience.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Park Road Development

I am back from the Park Road development. When reading about this thing, I was under the impression that it was a TOD (Transit Oriented Development). I now realize that the term is used loosely. A couple of the articles that I read, including one from DART, celebrated this new 750 million dollar development, stating that it would be a catylist for change in the Five Points area and along Park Road. Some readers posting on 'Unfair Park' were quick to remind readers that the area has had the greatest number of violent crimes in Dallas for the last couple of years. The areas on the other side of the tracks (literally) from the development thus far look unchanged. Of course, the development is new and change takes time.

I had read that there would be some kind of connection between the Park Lane station and this new development, that some kind of walkway would connect directly to a plaza or mezzanine. No such connection exists, and there was no sign of a connection being built. Instead, pedestrians get to cross Park Lane on foot, and walk back under the tracks to a drive in front of a parking garage.

The development seems to diminish its' own presence, and the interior where most of the shops and restaraunts will be is not directly accessible. As an anecdote, when I was leaving the office to travel to the location, my coworker asked me where this development was, to which I replied "the big parking garage with apartments across from the mall."Initially I found my self wandering the art school campus that was left in tact, which was private and unassuming. There were no straight paths or views out to the surrounding area. After walking through pleasantly shaded plazas on the campus, I finnaly arrived at the main street of the development.

The buildings are handsome, a kind of post modern style with a splash of Texas Hill Country chic. from every building and frontage rose the tops of parking structures. Being a self-styled post modernist myself, I appreciated the honesty and dimantling of the myth that the store facades created. Most of the shops were vacant, though the Dick's Sporting Goods was open, as well as a Nordstrom Rack. The steet scape was very nice, every detail seemed appropriate down to the benches, planters and street lights. The street plan is essentially a crucifix, with the long leg parallel to Highway 70, and the short leg dying abruptly at the dart rail. It was strange to see such a dense fabric stop dead at the tracks. It was almost like a clif's edge that you dare not cross.

With no shortage of parking available, it seems as though public transportation was the last thought on the developer's mind. Just about every acre not occupied by street housed a parking garage of some order. Also, I noticed no shuttles running between the Northpark Mall and PRD. Perhaps the service simply hasn't started yet, or maybe there isn't enough yet to see in PRD to justify the expense. Overall, the development was nice, but the pedestrian approach is uncerimonious to say the least. I suppose that a TOD is nothing more than something you wouldn't mind walking to from a train station. By that logic, the arts district could be considered a TOD, or any other number of developments.

Perhaps I am jaded, but judging by this development, 750 million dollars doesn't buy much in the way of a great development.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Tap For This Weekend

My wife just informed me that my cousin and some of her friends want to have a girls night out, so I will be on my own tomorrow. So I have made a plan for the evening, begining with a trip to Cedars and the absinthe house down there for happy hour. After a couple of drinks, I will go up to the Park Lane Development just to see it. If it is anything near as cool as the website says it is, then I should be in for a real treat. I think that most shops and restaraunts will be open in the summer, but the streetscapes should be in place, and I would like to see what a 3/4 Billion dollar development looks like!

After that, it will be on to dinner. I have not selected the locale yet, but I know that there are a couple of restaraunts in the area of Park Lane, and if that doesn't pan out, there are restaraunts at Mockingbird Station, Cityplace or the West End that would all be good.

For Saturday, weather permitting, we will take the train up to Downtown Plano and try this Austrian restaraunt there that everyone says is great, and see some of the shops up there.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brief Cost Analysis

I think everybody likes to see a dollar benefit comparison from public transportation versus personal transportation. Well, here's mine:

My car (on a good day) has a fuel efficiency of 28 miles per gallon. My daily commute would be about 4 miles round trip every day. This means that for a daily commute, I would consume .14 gallons of gas. Not bad! This multiplied by 20 gives an average monthly gas consumption of about 2.85 gallons a month for getting to and from work. Now, take this and multiply by the cost per gallon of gas, currenly around $1.85 and I have a monthly cost of about $5.29

To put this number in perspective, I would have to work roughly 16 minutes per month to afford my gas. Now before I continue, I should mention that my public transportation pass is $25 a month, so thus far public transportation seems like a bad deal. The real cost of commuting to work is in parking the car. Downtown Dallas doesn't let you park for free, there are metered spots, which are not appropriate for 8 hours a day, then there are pay lots. The cheapest is one with a price negotiated by my office for $25 dollars a month. So add this in, and now my public transportation saves me $5 dollars a month! (I just got 15 minutes of my life back!)

The public transportation is also pre-tax so the real cost is likely somewhere around $22. All of these numbers are conservative. My car is probably not as efficient in the city as 28 MPG, so all the better for public transportation. One other benefit is that I recieve a discount on my insurance for utilizing public transportation more. I wish I knew the actual dollar amount...

The next factor in cost is time. I used to walk to work every day, and it took me about 25 minutes to get there, a little longer to get back because of vehicular traffic. If I leave the house at 7:15, I can usually be at the office by 7:40, so 25 minutes. Getting home, because of the bus schedule, takes me roughly 35 minutes (right on par with walking to our previous residence)Driving myself, as I do on occasion due to inclement weather, I can get parked and in the office in about 20 minutes. So to me, the issue is a wash. It just happens to take a while to get there, even within 2 miles of my office.

Simply put, until traffic and commute times get worse, the public transportation will probably be no more or less efficient. However, for remote cities like Plano or Garland, the idea of a trouble free 'park and ride' commute would be a tremendous added benefit. To me, it would be worth it to avoid all of the crazy drivers in Dallas!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Train and a Haircut

Yesterday, I went to get a haircut after work, taking the train to Uptown from the West End. This was very convenient. However, my wife had to pick me up after on her way home from work. Otherwise, it probably would have taken me 30 minutes to get home when a 5 minute car ride would have sufficed.

This kind of brings me to an idea I've been kicking around with regards to transportation and planning. I call this idea 'Rail Scale' (not to be confused with 'Whale Tail') Trains are extremely helpful in hyperlocal transportation, like Downtown Dallas where each station is no more than about a quarter mile from the next, or in semi-regional transporation where each station is a couple of miles apart (like all the park and rides starting with Mockingbird Station in the north) and is supplemented by either parking for commuters or access to transfer stations for busses. These are of course less convenient, which is why I think the park and ride structure is a smart one and will become more popular in the coming years.

I have long said that adding lanes to a highway are a bit like adding another notch in a fat persons' belt. The only answer to releiving traffic from the street perspective is to add more streets in parallell. Multiplicity of strees if you will. Since Dallas is out of room, and there is a strong movement by the amalgamation of cities in Dallas county to slooooooooow traffic down in their towns, this seems more and more impossible. Not to mention that there is only so much expansion room for the other highways. Leftover options are to 'double up' and stack highways, try to expand existing highways, time lights etc.

I suspect that the growth of the area will exceed the capacity of these roads, and that ridership on public transportation will likely increase, with the park-and-ride as the crowning jewel. It's not the utopian system that EcoNazis dream of, where every man is set equal by their reliance on public transportation to save mother Gaia, but I think its a great free-market idea, letting those who think it's worth it make use of transportation, and letting nature take its course.

Let's be honest, there is a price to be paid in exhange for less fuel consumed, fewer hours in gridlock traffic, and that price is time and flexibility. It simply takes longer to get from A to B, and requires more planning to time connections or rides. As the equation changes, this price will seem all the more reasonable to more and more people.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wonderlust

Not really one of my better stories, but when I first moved to Dallas, I would on occasion go out drinking with my co-workers. At that time, I walked to work nearly every day, so I didn't drive to happy hour, but rather would hitch a ride with a friend. One night, some people decided to go to a bar on Knox-Henderson, way out of my striking distance on foot, or so I thought.

A couple of Maredsous later, I decide that I need to get home to my wife. Nobody in the bar really looked interested in leaving, so I slipped out of a side door. On a side note, Dallas is not an easy town to navigate. It is a quiltwork of grids that each face a different direction and it is very easy to get turned around, or think that you're headed in the right direction when that may in fact not be the case. Luckily for me, Highway 75 was near by and easy enough to find.

After stumbling, somewhat intoxicated, across a couple of heavily trafficked intersections, I decide that I need to get my ass on a train. Regrettably, there is no train station anywhere nearby, so I start walking south along the highway, knowing that I would eventually come accross Cityplace. Though my recollection of the proceding events are hazed by my state of sobriety or lack thereof, I believe that I walk about as far as I can stand and notice a McDonalds, and damnit, I want some Chicken McNuggets! I go in and have my fill, and then contemplate calling my wife for a ride home. That would have been the rational thing to do, especially given my state. However, greater forces prevailed and I decide to resume my journey.

I finally reach Cityplace and begin my descent underground to the station. I can't help but notice unsavory looking characters hanging around, sleeping on steps or park benches. But I was drunk, and probably thought I could take them in a fight if I had to. This is where things got a little confusing.

I never actually recall getting on the train. A rare blackout for me. The next thing I remember is being jarred awake by jerky stop at the Pearl Street station. Personally I thank God for the clarity in that moment, for the wisdom to disembark the train there, and not somewhere past Union Station. I step out and look around, being the architect I look up (naturally) and see the Adams Mark Hotel. Where the hell am I? I picked a direction and started to walk. Luckily, I saw a bright lit square upon the One Arts Building and was able to find my way back to the apartment. My wife was shocked at my stupidity. In retrospect, so am I.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Buses

A couple of thoughts on DART

-The people who ride are really nice to me, until they find out that I don't carry cash.

-The buses are clean, if a little stale smelling.

-One time, the roof hatch on the bus leaked on my pants. Yes, I'm sure it was the roof hatch.

-If the passengers don't talk to you, chances are good they aren't looking for a handout. Ironically, these are probably the people you would rather be talking to. (see note above)

-Taking the DART does take more time than simply driving. Most of this extra time is simply waiting for the bus/train to show up.

-Times aren't all together inconvenient, though locations of stops and stations can be.

-Bus routes are confusing.

Trip to Nowhere


Though this was some time ago, I am reminded of a time when my wife had to work very late, and so I was on my own for dinner. With my office being only three blocks from a train station, and since I was walking home every day at that time, I decided to travel to a new venue and try something different. At first, I was thinking about going to Mockingbird Station. There are some good restaraunts there, as well as ice cream. And I am a man who loves his ice cream. So I hop on a blue line train and off I went. En route to Mockingbird, I glanced over at the diagram of all the train stops for the line, and I noticed that the line ended at Downtown Garland. Perfect!

Surely, there are all sorts of cool restaraunts in downtown Garland, right? So we finally pull into the station (I was about the only person left on the train anyway) As I disembark, I notice on the schedule that service is infrequent and that there aren't many evening trains that head back to Dallas. Making a mental note, I head into town. As I walk, it becomes very obvious that there is no one there. The place is like a ghost town. All of the stores are closed. None of the restaurants were open. There was even an old style town square a la Back to the Future style, sans the people.

Moral of the story? Downtown Garland sucks, don't go there. Thats it. Those are 60 minutes of my life I will never get back. And I will never forget...

First Adventures in Public Transportation


I suppose now is as good a time as any to explain the purpose of this blog. In short, growing up in Baton Rouge, there never was a truly robust public transportation system that everybody used. It is a driving town, and will probably remain so for years. Not that I have a problem with that, its just not dense enough, the commutes not painful enough...yet. My wife and I moved to Dallas about two years ago, and we have lived near the center of town. Since we just moved, I will finally have to be reliant upon public transportation. My reasons are simple: I don't want to pay for a parking spot at work, I like saving money on gas and I like the added excercise.

I am an Architectural intern, and in school was and at work am constantly subjected to intellectual discussions of the city, and sooner or later the topic turns to public transportation. The largest proponets are EcoNazis, who I think have no idea what relying on public transportation is like. Most, I imagine, have never and will never ride a bus if they can help it. I am not an EcoNazi, and I don't use public transportation to save the earth, just to get to and from work, and on occasion, other destinations. My goal is to have a 'Public Transportation Adventure' every two weeks, or twice a month.

So without further adieu, the first adventure...

Yesterday, I had to personally deliver three rather large architectural models to a site in San Antonio. I rented a car in Dallas, drove it down, and dropped it off and flew back to Dallas. Upon arriving in Dallas, My boss needed to leave immediately to pick up his two kids from daycare. I called my wife to let her know I had touched down, and she offered (wisely I might add) to pick me up after getting off work. Her office is not too far from the DFW airport. I said 'no, don't hassle yourself, it's cold and rainy and traffice will be terrible.' She insisted and so did I, and eventually I won. I knew there was a shuttle to the Centerport station where a train could take me back to Dallas. The shuttle was there waiting when I exited the terminal, and I boarded.

I was the only one on the shuttle, apparently remote parking and trains are none to popular in DFW. I arrived at the remote station and transfered over to a shuttle for Centerport. When we arrived, there was little to behold. The station was more like a light rail station with some undersized coverings (it was very cold and raining sideways), and roughly three people waiting including myself. During the ride, I erroneously interpreted the train schedule and thought that an eastbound train would be by shortly. Unfortunately, I was looking at morning times, and the train didn't arrive for another 25 minutes.

When the train finally arrived, I welcomed the warmth and dryness on the inside. The train was clean and well lit, and punctual. There were only two passengers in my car. Thirty minutes later, we were in Dallas as promised, pulling into Union Station. I love it when things are on time! I promptly moved over to the nex platform to catch a DART rail up to the east transfer station downtown. I glanced at the schedule for the bus route I use, and realized that I would be cutting it close, or I would have to wait another thirty minutes in the rain for the next bus. When the train pulled into the Pearl Street station, I ran like hell to make it to the transfer station. The transfer is a city block away, so in the process, I was soaked in the pouring rain.

Freezing my ass off, I happily boarded the bus, all the while thinking of how to apologize to my better half. A few minutes later, I reached my stop and walked home in the cold rain. My wife was staring at me through the door shaking her head :P All told, the trip took about an hour and a half, though it would have been shorter had my plane landed on time. As the experience goes, I would only recommend this route to the airport on a few conditions. First, that you have plenty of time to wait on various modes of transportation (I had to make four transfers to different systems). The TRE line is definately the limiting factor here, because it runs infrequently. Second, that you are travelling light. Any more than a carry on and this trip would be a workout you don't want. Third, and finally, that the weather is nice. Nice enough that you would take a leisurly walk in the park. In general, be familiar with the schedule of your route. None of the systems mesh perfectly and try to avoid close calls. It's better to wait fifteen minutes than to experience the frustration of missing your ride by fifteen seconds (I know, its happend to me before)