Monday, February 21, 2011

Wasting Money

Originally uploaded by lotus_07

I keep hearing supposedly intelligent people repeating things that they have seen on the news or on the web about how money is being wasted on things that aren’t doing any good, or are costing too much, or shouldn’t be built for one reason or another.

The constant barrage of these endlessly forwarded news clips, YouTube videos and web links is really starting to annoy me. If only because the people that are forwarding these via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook are being duped and don’t realize it.

The latest Facebook post that pushed my button was regarding the ‘boondoggle’ that is the Phoenix, Arizona Light Rail system called the ‘Metro’.

The Metro has been in operation for about 2 years now, and by most accounts, the people that use it like it. I have used it numerous times and it is a nice inner-city light rail system.

However, all during its planning and construction, there were special interest groups yelling and screaming about how much money it was costing and how the money could be spent on better things that were more beneficial to the population as a whole.

Then I read this little blurb on Facebook earlier today, posted by someone I know, who re-posted it from somewhere else. It reads as follows: “So Phoenix could have bought every single light rail rider a brand new Prius, and given them 10,000 miles of free gas a year...and it would have cost 1/3 of what we spent on light rail? Who could have seen this coming...this guy”...which lead to this “Link” about the story in Forbes Magazine.

A nicely written piece that totally misses the bigger picture.

We didn’t want to build the light rail system in Phoenix. We were mandated to. This goes back to the basic concept, that many people that LIVE in this country, don’t really know HOW this country works.

Since the end of the ‘War for States Rights’ (you called it the Civil War in social studies), the Federal Government has been the arbiter of how the states do things. It is a carrot and stick approach. The Federal Government will offer a state 200 billion dollars to improve their state infrastructure if the state builds a regional airport. If we don’t build the airport, then the 200 billion goes to some other state. Since the airport only costs us 50 billion to build, it is sort of a no brainer to build the damn thing, even if no one uses it.

The concept here, is that the Federal government steers the overall direction of the country by giving states incentives (or conversely, withholding incentives ) to do certain things. If the planners at the Federal level want to increase the availability of jet travel to the masses over the next 20 years, airports have to be built.

With regard to the light rail system in Phoenix, it was the same thing. We have WAY too many cars in Phoenix, and the freeways are overly congested which makes pollution very bad. The Feds knew this and also knew that if left unchecked, it would get much worse, because Arizona wasn’t about to do a damn thing about it. So here comes the Federal stick.

Arizona was told that if they did not start to reduce auto miles traveled significantly over the next 50 years, the federal government was going to start withholding Federal Highway funds. Translation, build mass transit or fix your own damn bridges and freeways. The yard stick to measuring the states compliance is the level of particulate pollution in the Phoenix Metro area measured at yearly levels.

How much the ‘Metro’ system cost isn’t the issue. Quality of life 50 years down the road is the issue. In 50 years, no one is going to be driving Prius’ and gas is going to be over $10 a gallon and there will be millions of us that have to get around this city. How are we going to do it? Bicycles? Since, per the Forbes article, the Metro has reduced 20,000 cars a day from Phoenix streets, that is one big boatload of pollution that I don’t have to breath in.

I often times don’t agree with what the Federal Government does, but in this instance I think they have the right idea. So if you don’t like the Metro System, shut your damn mouth and walk to work you idiot.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Working Late


My Desk Lamp / Sony Mavica FD73 - Solarize Mode

I have said it before, and no doubt, will keep on saying it. Things change. Inevitably, sometimes without us realizing it, until the things in our memory no longer appear recognizable.

The most recent change I have noticed is ‘free time’. It is gone. I have the scrape, claw and horde for it. Free time to do anything or nothing, or just do what I want. It seems like a distance memory.

Case In Point: At my office we are short staffed. Pretty much always have been, and I am sure we always will be until I retire. The economic crisis (both state and federal) haven’t helped much, nor have the hiring freezes and the lack of training, not to mention the lack of proactive thinking and foresight. All of this makes Brucie busy, busy, busy putting out fires and solving problems for others that aren't well trained or lack basic logic skills.

Most of this busy-ness at work comes from not knowing what I will be doing on a daily basis. Every day when I walk into the office I have no clue what I will be doing. I know what is on my calendar regarding what I was hired to do. But most of those long range projects were placed there months ago and have simply been pushed back, time after time, to the present day. Maybe someday, I will get to those projects.

But adversity is the mother of invention. If I can’t complete the work I was hired to do because I am doing the work of others, I can find a work-around to fix the problem. The fix is to work late.

Originally, this worked great, I did what I could during the day, bobbing and weaving around the unexpected chaos that arises on a daily basis. Then when everyone started to trickle out the door around 4:30pm, I started working on the long range projects that I was hired to do in the peace and quiet of an empty state office building. Little insignificant projects, like developing exception reports to find bad data in our database and developing an electronic document managment system (EDMS) that could cut our operating expenses by a third. I got so much work done between 4:30pm and 7:30pm. It was amazing.

Until recently, when I realized something. I wasn’t alone anymore. More and more of my office-mates, aren’t going home at 4:30pm. In fact they aren’t going home till after 8pm. Most of these are the new hires, that have been dumped on from the get-go.

Which of course, means that if they can't figure something out at 7pm in the evening, who do they go to? They look to see if my office light is still guessed it, unpredictability and chaos have followed me to after hours.

I can’t even find any free time late at night, after work, in my office.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Out Of The Past

Forgotten Memories

I have a bunch of projects in the wings for this web log. Some have been there for quite some time. Suffice to say, I don't lack for content, I just lack the time to get it all organized to post here.

I am going to start one of these projects today, and it will probably take me a long time to finish.

I am an avid photographer. I have been taking pictures since I was in college and continue to do so to this day. I wouldn't classify myself as a professional or an artist, although I occasionally impress myself by what I have learned. I can't say why I do it specifically, but one of the reasons is a fear of forgetting.

If we are not reminded of the past, we tend to forget it. The little things that make us who we are get lost in the fog of memory and are forgotten. Who here, can remember what their first grade classroom looked like, or your first Christmas tree or the dashboard of the first car you made-out in? They are important, but all too often gone from our memory.

We don't just live in the here and now. We are made up of a string of events going all the way back to our birth, and beyond.

Before the advent of digital video, there was motion picture film. It wasn't used by many and is all but gone now. 8mm, Super 8mm and 16mm movie film was the only way to document moving images up until about 20 years ago. I used to do a lot of home movie production until it became impossible to find the film and develop it. I have reels of the stuff along with film tins of 8mm that I have picked up at garage sales and thrift stores. Probably in excess of 40 hours worth.

These are all memories stored away and unseen by anyone. Some of it I took, but many of them are memories of people I never knew.

So I am in the process of digitizing the collection and posting it on my YouTube channel. The first installment is posted at the link above. I have no idea who these people are, except for what was written on the film box. They were young and appear to be frolicking in a river sometime in the 1940s. They were someone’s friends, parents, co-workers. They are probably all gone now, with nothing left except a head-stone...and possibly this film clip.

I will be posting more weekly on YouTube and coming back here to post some summaries of them on a monthly basis over the coming year.