training update

I've been training three new drivers. As I mentioned, they passed their CDL tests a couple weeks ago. That's the easy driving test.

The next step for new drivers is to pass their in-service test. I've spent the last two weeks riding the bus while they practiced picking people up.

With the exception of a couple days spent on the 2 and 94 lines, and some time for miscellaneous other tasks, we were on the 17 the whole time. That's the route Nicollet Garage's safety supervisor tests them on. Back and forth, back and forth between downtown and Lake and France. I really like the 17 when we don't have to follow a schedule.

So I sat in the seat behind the fold-up seats and watched them. Are they checking their mirrors every 5-8 seconds? Getting close enough to the curb? Beeping their horn as they approach vehicles that might have someone near them? Are they looking in their mirrors before, and as, they change lanes? Traveling at an appropriate speed? Leaving themselves enough space between the bus and the vehicle in front of them? Pushing and pulling on the steering wheel when turning (not hand-over-hand)? Staying off the curb? Keeping an eye on stoplights? Pulling the emergency brake when people are loading or unloading bicycles? Checking the rear door, front door, right exterior mirror, middle interior mirror, left exterior mirror, turning on the left turn signal, checking the right exterior mirror again, then the left exterior mirror again- all in that order, before leaving a bus stop? Completely covering the brake and accelerator pedals with their foot? Being polite? Calling streets? Looking into their future? Staying on route? Getting the fare recorded correctly? Giving out the correct transfers? etc. etc. etc.

I find that it's much more tiring to ride the bus than it is to drive it, especially as an instructor. It definitely takes energy to keep up with and catch everything that my students are doing. Also, when I'm driving, I know when I'm going to brake, turn and swerve. My body is prepared for the motion. When someone else drives, it's all reaction. I've been a little sore.

Anyway. Today, they put it all together. They all passed their in-service tests.

I'm happy for them. I'm happy for me. Though it's up to them to get it right, and they deserve all the credit, I always feel like their performance reflects my instruction.

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and so it begins...

You know I'm sad about Trident Cinnamon's imminent demise. The hoarding has commenced!



help? or: why I hate myspace

I got an email the other day. It was from a guy who I haven't seen for quite a while. I met him through Jamie, my friend from grad school. As you can see, it was kind of from him. It was actually from him via MySpace, requesting me to join.

(click all images for larger version)

I have a MySpace account, but I never use it at all. I keep it so I can look at other pages, usually bands' sites. And I avoid going there at all. Why? This is why.

The email above was sent to my personal email account. I used my junk email address for my MySpace account. Anyway, I followed the link sent in the email. The following page came up on my browser:

OK, see the Click Here to Log In link? I clicked it because, as I just mentioned, I am already a member. It took me to this page:

So, as usual, it recognizes that I am a member (Hi, ____) and my login info is already filled in (probably from my browser, I suppose, but maybe from the site?). Here's where it gets a little maddening. I click the login button and it takes me to this page:

So... I Must Be Logged-In to do That? I have to be logged in to log in??? Nice. I click the login button again. I get this:

OK, great. It's my page. It's a freaking huge mess of words and ads and links and whatever. There is no order; it's chaotic and ridiculous. Kind of like 99% of the MySpace pages I've ever seen. And if you look, you can see that I'm in my own extended network! Brilliant.

So back to the original reason I'm there at all. I understand that it's way too much to ask that somehow I would be able to find a way to get to the guy's page who sent me the original email and acknowledge that he contacted me. Oh, wait. No, I don't understand that at all.

So, I'll just send him a request. Am I wrong in thinking that maybe I'd have something somewhere that indicates how I might request to add a friend? Isn't that what you do on MySpace? Add as many friends as you can? I have one. It's Tom. He's everybody's buddy. If I click on Friend Requests I can see that Vera wants to be my friend. But I know she's just like the rest: a cold-hearted vixen who just wants my money. Her profile will be deleted soon enough. But that seems to be where I receive the requests. I can't figure out how I send them.

I know how to get to his page. If the elusive friend request button is there, I can't see it.

So if anyone has the few seconds it would probably take to educate me on simple MySpace usage, I guess it might be kind of nice information to have. I mean, if every 12-year-old on the planet can figure it out, it can't be that hard, right?

I had hoped that when Google NewsCorp purchased MySpace, it would clean it up and make it more user-friendly. So far, it's still the same, horrible, ugly, completely unnavigable chaotic mess that it always was. And I hate it.



good morning

Oh, look! It's 3:46 in the morning and I am going to work in a few minutes.

We take the new drivers out for an early day, and today is the day. I guess it's so they can experience driving in the early morning in Minneapolis.

Frankly, the experience is just like driving around downtown St. Paul at 6:00 in the evening. Never seen downtown St. Paul at 6:00 in the evening? Very few have, my friend.



more than meets the eye

My mom got a new knee yesterday. I haven't spoken with her yet, but my dad said the surgery went well.

I can't be 100% certain, but I'm pretty sure her new knee looks like this:



I called the number on a package of Trident


I'm rather sad about this...


losing me?

Kassie and I are watching the first season of Lost. There's a lot of really, really painful dialogue and we're having a hard time suspending our disbelief.

And somehow, I'd like to keep watching. Stupid American.



the call of the wild

I woke up this morning to the sound of Jeff puking up sticks and assorted other. As I checked on the mess he was making, a bald eagle flying across the front yard caught my eye.

I looked out the window and saw another one. It was a young one. Eventually, I think it saw me, but it didn't seem to care.

So yeah, we went to Kassie's parents' cabin this weekend.

Anyway, Jeff was outside looking at the eagle. He was interested, but not interested enough to mess with it.

He sat safely up the hill, about 75 feet from it.

We had a good time. Jeff loved the lake. Kassie's cousin got a picture a lot like this one, but much cooler.

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All three of the guys I've been training passed their CDL road tests. Sweet.



new drivers, kind of

Last week the class of thirteen new drivers that I was helping with got broken up into five groups of two to three drivers each. Each group is assigned an instructor to teach them to drive and pass the Commercial Driver's License test. (This is what I was doing a couple weeks ago.)

Based on my experience with the larger class, I'm guessing that no one is unhappy with the students they got, but I have to say I think I lucked out. All three of my guys have driven school bus, and they don't have many bad habits. I've had to get picky about a few things, but for the most part, it's been smooth sailing.

We saw a new bus parked at one of the garages. I like the headlights.

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unpopular with the fans

It's safe to say that I won't be taking 3rd place in my fantasy baseball league this year. Or 12th. I believe there's some hope for 13th, though, if I can just hang in there...



Mississippi Tim

Governor Pawlenty has been named Governor of the Month by the National Governors Association.

Coincidentally, he has also been named

Jackass of the Lustrum


Congratulations, Tim!



Why is it so hard to find regular Trident Cinnamon gum?


a few pics from the last week

Kyah and Cayden, my niece and nephew.

I thought it was a good idea to pitch with one hand and try to get a photo with the other. This was right before the ball hit Cayden on the forehead.

Jeff, Sammy. Sammy, Jeff.

Kassie said she sees this all the time, so she didn't find it nearly as funny as I did.

Banjo, tail end of the dump. I believe the next move is: consume what has been dumped.

Andy, Ben. Ben, Andy.

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playing horse in Northfield

I guess if you are:
1) a rich, white Northfield High student,
2) a heroin addict,
3) responsible, along with "packs" or "cliques" of your pals, for an upswing in crime in the Northfield area,
4) and the cops know who you are,
then you ought to feel lucky that you're not an African-American gang member in nearby Faribault. Because apparently, then you'd be someone to be concerned about. But as it is, you know, you really, really, should stop doing naughty things, OK? Please?

Kind of reminds me of another story of a rich white guy getting away with it...


change in venue

When I applied at M*tro Tr*nsit, I filled out an application and turned it in. I went to a meeting with a dozen or so new employees at the Human Resources office where we signed up for a physical. I passed the physical and I was hired.

Now, applicants go through a relatively lengthy and rigorous process. They take at least one written test (I think they might take two or three) and have an interview.

Naturally, I'm in favor of the more selective process. Better drivers make a better company, which means more job security. (At least I'd like to think that's the way it will work...) At the very least, it means that on the whole, it ought to be easier to train new drivers. Approximately 15% of all applicants make it to the first class. Of course, that includes people who choose not to take the position for whatever reason.

I spent Monday through Wednesday in a classroom with brand-new part-time drivers.

I have a few minor pet peeves when it comes to group situations at MT. I'm guessing that these might be universal, but since I've never been to a business meeting or conference, I don't know.

One of them is the person or people with an endless supply of really stupid questions. (Yeah, yeah... no such thing, right? Wrong.) Another is the avalanche of stories started by one person with an anecdote about, say, someone driving like an idiot while on their cell phone. Everyone has at least one of those stories and some groups want to share all of them. And finally, there always seems to be someone who doesn't know how to listen and take turns speaking.

I'm happy to report that this class has none of those flaws, at least to the point where I want to shove an icepick into my ears. As far as I know, I will be back with that class tomorrow.

I arrived at the Instruction Center on Thursday and was told that I'd be doing something different for the rest of the week. I was assigned to three students from the class ahead of the one with which I'd been working. It was their first day on a bus.

I had to tell them how to turn on a bus. And drive it. Cool.

When I was at The Coo studying to be an elementary teacher, the teaching of reading was of particular interest to me. This kind of felt similar, and it was fun.

It's been at least a year since I went out with drivers on their very first day, and the last (and only) time I did it, I was being mentored, so I just watched. I got some quick advice from some of the full-time guys and took off. My assignment was to begin to get them prepared to take their Commercial Driver's License test.

Day 1:
I showed them how to pre-trip a bus. We spent a while working on left turns. Then backing. Then right turns. And right turns some more. If they hit a curb on the driving part of the CDL test, they immediately fail. We drove around southern Bloomington for hours.

Day 2:
We drove around. A lot. We worked on what their eyes, hands and feet were doing, and how what they're looking at and how they're moving affects how and where bus is in relation to everything. We also went over the air brake part of the test and practiced the straight back and the alley back. Here's one of the guys practicing the alley back:

The rear bumper is supposed to end up in the box created by the four cones at the back.

I enjoyed my two days with those guys. I was asked to leave comments in their jackets (training folders). I left them in a crass approximation of haiku.

I hope someone finds that amusing...

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