Saturday, June 02, 2007

Catching up

When I let 8 or 10 days pass without a report, stuff tends to pile up and I'm forced to post "mega" blog entries like the one you're about to delve in to. Enjoy!

Catching up with the kids
Well, it's the 3rd of June and the kids have already been out of school for close to 2 weeks. May 24 was the last day (Jeers to the Keller Independent School District for turning them loose on me even before Memorial Day!) We celebrated M's graduation from Kindergarten on May 23.
M's kindergarten graduation

An expression of joy at Babe's in Roanoke

Doing the Hokey Pokey at Babe's

Meanwhile, we celebrated L's eleventh birthday at Joe's Crab Shack on the 27th and a week later at Texas Roadhouse. The staff of both restaurants had her doing "stupid human tricks" to provide the appropriate level of embarassment for an 11-year-old.

L impersonates a rooster at Joe's Crab Shack

Will it ever quit raining?

Don't get me wrong, I love the rain -- it could rain everyday through the end of August and I wouldn't complain, as long as it keeps the temperatures down. But it has been cutting into some of my bike riding time, and it has prevented the kids from getting out of the house as much as they probably should. One evening last week, they broke out and ran wild in the front yard during a downpour...

Enjoying a nice spring rain

Another day of liquid sunshine...

On the road

The rain hasn't kept me from shifting my bicycling into high gear... I racked up 453 miles for the month of May -- my highest recorded total ever for a single month. I did get caught in a heavy downpour during a ride last Sunday... had to ride through heavy rain with no available shelter (fortunately there was no lightning) for about four miles before it let up and by then I was completely soaked! But I've been having some good rides, and am hoping to increase my weekly mileage to as much as 150... I'll need the stamina if I'm going to ride the Century at the Hotter'n Hell Hundred in August...

This switch engine put itself in an Auto-Max sandwich.
Seen during a bike ride near Haslet, TX. May 31, 2007.

Still funny after all these years
FOX aired the 400th episode of the Simpsons a couple weeks ago -- this one was a takeoff on the popular action / suspense series "24". It's hard to believe the Simpsons have been around for close to 20 years. During the past few years, I haven't watched the new episodes as faithfully as I once did, but it's good to see that Matt Groening & co. are still churning out episodes worth tuning in for. I need to remember to program our DVR to record those.

The Simspons parody of "24" even included a Jack Bauer appearance...

Pop culture rap sheet

I could really give a flying turd whether Michael Vick is sanctioning dog fights, Britney Spears is in rehab, Paris Hilton is in the hoosegow, or Lindsay Lohan is passed out drunk in her car. I'm only interested in what Michael Vick is doing on the football field, and as for the others... well, I'm not interested in much of what they do at all.
But it IS interesting to see that fame and fortune doesn't seem to contribute much to the judgment skills of people who lack self control or who are easily influenced by those around them. And it's just as interesting to draw a few parallels between their problems and some of my own experiences at a similar age (albeit without the fame and fortune).
Passed out in a car at age 20? Oh, hell YEAH! Considering how much I used to drink, imagining myself in rehab or even in jail isn't that much of a stretch. ( Is anyone reading this who knew me during my sophomore year of college?) I suppose I'd be least likely to be involved in something like Vick's alleged dog-fighting ring; I just have no interest in that kind of crap. But fast cars? Maybe a little... Alcohol? You bet!
I'm fortunate, though, that I had the self control to prevent my bad habits from becoming too big of a problem in my life. For this, I credit the influence and values of my parents and some of my closer friends. And in that regard, I consider myself a HELL of a lot more fortunate than Vick and Britney, Paris and Lindsay, even with all of their millions.

Clusterf*ck, Texas
Take a look at the photo below... look familiar?

Northbound I-35W at Heritage Trace Parkway

If not, you must not be from north Texas... it's a photo of the traffic congestion we are enduring in the D-FW area on an increasingly frequent basis, on roads which should have been expanded YEARS AGO when our region's population first began to skyrocket. Even two-lane roads which once allowed hassle-free travel through sparse traffic are now virtual parking lots during rush hours, especially where they provide access between huge, new neighborhoods and the amenities which support them (grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants). In our part of town, alternate routes are often just as crowded, or sometimes don't exist at all. The freeways don't have enough lanes; they haven't for years. There's no margin for error; a lane closure due to an accident or construction can back up traffic for miles. The state spends millions to redesign and re-construct freeway interchanges, only to have the traffic pile up a few miles down the road at the next bottleneck. There is no mass transit to speak of... Trinity Railway Express has five stations here in Tarrant County on one line that goes to Dallas. City buses don't run within 3 miles of our house!

And it's not just the roads and highways... you should have seen the line at the post office the last time I went to buy stamps. This was at the large, Jack D. Watson post office intended to serve all of north Fort Worth. I was there between 11 am and noon on a Friday morning and they had ONE WINDOW open. The line of customers stretched nearly all the way out of the building. And the only self-service stamp machine that accepted credit cards was out of order.

Want more? Our kids attend crowded schools... the school districts literally can't build them fast enough to keep up with the growing population. Wal-Mart is always packed with customers, and there are never enough checkout lanes open. Every summer, we are told to ration our water for lawn use... even when the lake levels are up, the water infrastructure can't meet the demand, and the water mains start to break. The air quality is terrible and gets worse every summer.

It's a simple fact that our quality of life here in north Texas is declining. And it's due in large part to the failure of our elected officials to plan and properly prepare for the increasing population. I think I can tough it out until the kids are out of school, and I might even finish my career with the railroad here. But I have no intention of sticking around here for the long haul. As soon as my obligations to my kids and my employer have been met, I'm GONE, baby!

In the meantime, here's a proposal -- everyone who has relocated to the D-FW "Metro-mess" during the past 6 years has to leave. We'll handle it on a "last in, first out" basis. If you just moved here, beat it... call up Atlas or Mayflower and tell 'em to take you and your stuff back where it came from. For my friends who are recent arrivals... sorry, dudes... it's not that we don't want you here... north Texas just isn't ready for you yet. Here's the deal -- as soon as our local and state governments have installed the infrastructure to accomodate you (roads, transit, water lines, amenities) without inconveniencing the rest of us, you can come back. If nothing else, I'll sell you my house when I leave.

np: Rangers at Mariners

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Blogger BEK said...

The problem with laying the blame on our elected officials is. . . .we elected em. None of us want higher taxes, or to make the hard choices that come with dealing with growth. So the problem is us. I hate it as much as you do, Whiskey. I'm highly pissed that the state thinks it can privatize our freeways, which we've already been taxed to use with gasoline fees, by turning them over to a private management company (does that Cintas name sound familiar???) who can pretty much turn around and charge what they want. Toll tags? Won't need em. Their camera will photograph our license plates and send us a bill every month.

I only came to Texas because my job is here. It was interesting for the first few years, but in the last five or six years, I'm started to really hate the place. Not to make blanket statements, but the citizenry, in general, while friendly, are intolerant, narrow-minded, and not too well educated in our public schools. They drive like idots. The stereotypes of Texans are mostly true. They're low-class, often slow-witted, impatient, hot-tempered and mostly folks I'd rather not associate with if I didn't have to. Folks here profess to love "texas" but trash the state up with bad makeup, horrible boob jobs, crappy homes, shoddy workmanship, and no regard to the environment. Hello, TXU? could you build another coal-fired powerplant down the road? Hello, big Natural Gas company? Feel free to put your drilling rig on my land for $300 a month, suck the gas out of the ground, pollute my aquifer, and suck out my drinking water.

It's pretty sad when you go to vote and there's largely only one party running for office. So the folks here get what they deserve--lines, bad roads, ignorance, high crime, divorce, alcoholism and drug rates, and some of the most crowded prisons in the country. Is it surprising that most of the mothers who murder their kids (mostly because "God told me to do it!") are from Texas? The sun has gotten to their heads.

And I didn't even mention George W. Bush.

Yep, this place sucks. And I'm out of here as soon as I retire, simply because I can't afford to quit anymore and leave before then!

11:37 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Several weekends ago Beth and I drove out to Brownwood and Brady for a weekend to get out of the Metroplex. The scenery was beautiful (the flowers were still blooming in bunches), and traffic was sparse. And, of course, no toll roads (at least, not yet!). I've always thought I could live someplace like that -- just give me a place to sleep, an open road, and at least a few trains nearby to chase, and I'm pretty much set.

But of course Beth and I own a place in Plano now, and my job certainly wouldn't follow me out into the sticks. I don't think the missus would like being that far away from the malls, Costcos and restaurant choices either.

I guess it's true what they say, you win some, you lose some.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...


I guess I'm glad I live in the Austin area, as at least the roads aren't that horrible, there is a relatively nice bus system (Capital Metro), and we're getting commuter rail on the old SP Llano Branch by next summer.

Of course, Austin is still having problems. But it doesn't seem to have all of the problems that the Metroplex has (thank goodness!)

And at least here, in response to bek, the people aren't ignorant, and there definitely is a regard for the environment (in Austin that is, where I actually live, up in Leander, it's a little different). Besides, I am still in public schools, and Leander ISD seems to be keeping up swell, building at least 1-2 schools a year.

I have no desire to leave my home state. That being said, my family is moving out 20 miles into the country.

9:49 AM  

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