Thursday, January 25, 2007

No time for the blog... (2)

... just the pictures!

M's kindergarten class visited the Ft. Worth Stock Show & Rodeo on Tuesday. One of the Stock Show mascots greeted the class as they arrived...

That is one BIG pig...

feeding llamas at the petting zoo...

Photographed outside a drugstore in Watauga.
Would the caller be able to talk but just not be able to hear?

Rainy Saturday in Saginaw. Jan 20, 2007.

Sunny Sunday in Saginaw. Jan 21, 2007.

Our Aunt Sue, my dad's sister, is visiting.
M gave her a lesson on how to play X-Box...
Stay tuned for more. We've got some exciting activities planned that you'll be able to read about in a few days...
np: Letterman re-run: guests Howard Stern (wearing a Santa suit and passing out Sirius radios as "gifts") and Gwen Stefani
nr: Bicycling magazine - February 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Another Taste of Winter

Winter rears its ugly head

On Monday morning, north Texas experienced a minor ice storm. The kids were already home from school due to the MLK holiday, and K stayed home and attempted to work from her "home office", with mixed results. On Tuesday, it was cold and cloudy, but dry. On Wednesday, we got about an inch of snow overnight and the city shut down, schools were closed, etc. K attempted to drive to work, but decided against it after a sliding 18-wheeler almost ran her off the road. And it looks like we'll be seeing more wintry precipitation this weekend. Hey, as long as it leaves my portion of the railroad alone, bring it on! Maybe I'll actually manage to get out and get a few photos. Speaking of photos, I haven't managed many train shots lately, but I did nab a couple on Tuesday...

our back patio on Monday

broken thermometer

Icy tanks roll through Keller on Tuesday...

Wednesday's snow

getting ready for a snowball fight

Even though I could do without the frozen stuff, the moisture is most welcome; it should definitely help to put an end to north Texas' prolonged drought. By April, this place should be as green as the English countryside. And we should see a much better crop of wildflowers than we did last year...

The railroad youth movement

Two of my good friends, fellow railfans who are in their early 20s, are fellow railroad employees and are therefore members of what I call "the youth movement", the demographic of new-hires and recent-hires in their late teens / early 20s. My friend Matt began as a conductor trainee when he was just 19, and worked as a conductor and dispatcher before becoming an engineer trainee late last year at age 21. Stephen joined the company as a management trainee last summer, after graduating from the University of Arkansas in May. I'd be flattering myself if I considered myself a member of their "youth movement" (although I was just 23 when I hired on in late 1995). But even with 11 years' dispatching seniority, I'm still a relatively young pup in the grand scheme of things. Another friend, Chris, is close to my own age and has been a dispatcher for with the UP for about as long as I've been with my employer.

It's cool to think that many times during the week, the four of us are all doing something that involves trains. At 4 pm on a Tuesday afternoon, Chris and I are at work dispatching them across Oklahoma (his territory crosses mine at Enid), Matt's running a locomotive across Kansas, and Stephen's out with a track maintenance gang near Memphis or Birmingham. On a weekday morning, or a Sunday afternoon, two of us might be out watching and photographing trains while the other two are "on the clock". Here we are, in our 20s and 30s, every day going to jobs that we take a genuine interest in -- and getting paid good money to do it. With so many Americans spending entire careers unable to say the same, we should probably consider ourselves fortunate... even if the company does occasionally screw us. Right, boys?
np: Hank Williams III - Risin' Outlaw
nr: Stephen Hawking - A Briefer History of Time
jfr (just finished reading): John McPhee - Uncommon Carriers

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It runs in the family

I celebrated my birthday on Sunday (sorry, I'm no longer at liberty to disclose my age). K's birthday was on the 4th, and Mom's was the 6th, so on Saturday we got together for a little family affair at Mom's. Mom's sister gave me a very nice framed 8 x 10 photograph from the family collection. It so happens that their father, who died at a fairly young age following an automobile accident, was an amateur / freelance photographer, and his portfolio includes a number of railroad subjects, such as the image below...

my grandfather's undated photograph, taken (presumably) somewhere on the Pennsylvania Railroad in eastern Ohio or western Pennsylvania

Unfortunately, the photograph was undated and the location of the photo is unknown. The locomotive on the right displays a Pennsylvania RR "keystone" logo on its smokebox, so I'll hazard a guess that the location is somewhere on the Pennsy in eastern Ohio or western Pennsylvania, which is where my grandfather lived for most of his life.

Anyway, it's cooler than hell to receive such a neat photograph as a birthday gift, and cooler still to know that it came from within the family. I guess my interest in photographing trains didn't just happen by osmosis; it's in my blood.

Who was I to resist, then, when I felt the urge to go out shooting on Sunday afternoon, and again Monday morning? Sunday's efforts didn't produce anything worthy of display here, but on Monday morning I got a nice shot of this transfer job, powered by two SD45-2s, working through Saginaw.

SD45-2 6480 leads a southbound yard transfer through Saginaw. 1/8/2007.
other family matters
I could write pages upon pages about the family connections I have to the football programs of the Dallas Cowboys or the Ohio State University. My interest in football is deeply rooted in my exposure to both teams through members of my family. Unfortunately, in case you hadn't noticed, both the Cowboys and the Buckeyes performed rather poorly in their final games of the season.
The Cowboys had a win over Seattle within their grasp, and couldn't close the deal. A classic example of "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory". But then who were they kidding? exposed them as playoff "frauds" after they lost to Detroit in Week 17, and I agreed. Would they have gotten past Chicago or New Orleans later in the playoffs? Highly doubtful. I'd say it's time to take a good hard look at some changes that need to be made, possibly starting with the head coach. And if they make the right moves, they'll be in better shape to make a Super Bowl run next year.
Ohio State, well, what can I say about last night's National Championship loss to Florida? The Buckeyes were clearly outplayed (hell, it almost looked like they forgot to show up!) I was optimistic when Ginn ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but they sure didn't show us much after that. But I've gotta admit, if the Buckeyes were going to lose to an SEC team, I'm glad it was Florida, and not Tennessee or Arkansas (with apologies to my friend Stephen, an "Arkinsaw" alum). I've generally been impressed with what I've seen from Chris Leak, and you could do a lot worse in the head coaching deparment than Urban Meyer. Hmmm, maybe Jerry Jones would like to make him an offer?
See y'all next time!
np: Grateful Dead - Dick's Picks Vol. 21, Disc One

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Holiday Re-cap

Christmas at Whiskey's

Christmas went as smoothly as could be expected. K's family always visits from out of town (her older sister and nephew from Round Rock, and her other sister and brother-in-law from San Marcos). And K's parents always come up from Arlington to spend the day... and Mom was there. So we had 11 at the table for Christmas dinner. Fun!? M got a bike, L got a digital camera (Fuji Finepix F-470 -- same as mine), I got some new train books and a maintenance stand for my bike, and K got a small fortune in gift certificates to Pottery Barn -- enough to order that new kitchen table and chairs that she's had her eye on. A good time was had by all. At least until the Cowboys-Eagles game came on.

a rainy day on Christmas Eve

hanging stockings

Christmas morning

K, her sisters, their dad, and a family tablecloth

New Years at Whiskey's

We enjoyed a quiet New Years Eve at home this year. This year was the first year in recent memory that I've had both New Years Eve and New Years Day off from work. We probably should have taken advantage of it; I would loved to have gone to Love & War in Texas (Grapevine) on New Years Eve to see Ray Wylie Hubbard. But since K doesn't like cigarette smoke or rowdy drunks (I don't know what's wrong with her) we decided to just stay home instead. M passed out by 2200, but L stayed up for the long haul, duking it out with me and K for bragging rights in a round of Mexican Train.

So now it's 2007... and nothing much has changed. The kids have gone back to school, the house is still a mess, and it's still too cold to go ride my bike. My comfort threshhold is somewhere in the low to mid-50s... below that, I don't ride. I've got plenty of stuff to do around the house, though... working on a few new web pages, assembling some "Whiskey's Favorites" music compilations, organizing family photos, and finishing up a railroad-themed photo essay I started about 3 years ago. Blog time will be limited; don't bother checking for updates more than 2 or 3 times a month.

Left behind

The large number of empty beer and liquor containers left behind on the side of the road by my fellow citizens never fails to amaze me. Now, I've done a fair amount of drinking during the course of my life (ONLY after I turned 21.... uhh, yeah) but I can't recall a time that I was ever too busy to find a trash can for my empties instead of just pitching them out on the side of the road. A recent walk through Keller provided an opportunity for a study in the drinking habits of those who have more important things to do than to properly dispose of their garbage. I'm sure you're as surprised as I am that they seem to prefer lower-end, "discount", mass-produced American beers. I don't recall seeing many empty Samuel Adams or Guiness bottles. Busch quart bottles, on the other hand? OH YEAH! I'm not sure what this all means, but there are a lot of scumbags out there who don't give a second thought about throwing their trash all over the state of Texas. And apparently, a sizeable percentage of them enjoy cheap, low-quality beer.

Few and far between

The Christmas holidays kept me far too busy to go out and attempt any photography. I went several days without even seeing a train, which is pretty unusual for me. I'm over on Denton Highway in Keller / Watauga -- adjacent to the Choctaw Sub -- several times a week, and usually at least see something in passing. I finally made it out on Friday for a walk along the tracks. Of course it was cloudy, but I did catch a couple, including a northbound led by a tired-looking former Conrail GE...

A Conrail GE leads a northbound through Keller. Jan 5, 2007.

Angelina & Neches River boxcar


np: ESPN Sportscenter: Cowboys-Seahawks re-cap... Dallas really blew it tonight... heh, just wait 'til next season!