Friday, December 21, 2012

IE & SO

Naturally, when I graduated, I wanted to start flooding the air around your head with witty blog posts about things that have happened to me on the bus.  But, given that I am in the middle of central Illinois right now, and far away from a bus stop, and it's cold outside, and my brain has gone right past sleep debt and into sleep bankruptcy, and I can't remember any funny stories off the top of my head, I've decided instead to write up a little bit on the philosophy behind this blog.  Hence the new tabs at the top of the screen.  Feel free to read, ask questions, argue cantankerously, etc.  If it bores you, don't worry too much about it.

Witty blog posts should resume early next year sometime.  Until then, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

THINGS I WILL AND WON'T MISS ABOUT BYU

For better or worse, BYU has been a major part of my life for 8 of the last 9-and-a-half years.  I have had many good experiences, and some experiences that made my soul want to escape from my body.  In order to deal with the shock of leaving BYU so suddenly after all this time, I have compiled a few of the things I will, and won't, miss about BYU.  That way I can refer to it when I feel the void in my life that school has occupied for so long.  Hopefully you also enjoy it.

WILL.  The Fine Arts Building.  The pianos everywhere.  The huge Christmas trees in the lobby.  The nerds everywhere.  Giving people directions and watching their eyes bulge when they realize they have to go up stairs, then back down stairs just to stay on the same floor.  Giving people extremely specific directions to walk around the balcony and stay on the same floor, then watching them immediately take the stairs.  Maybe I'm a jerk; such things amuse me.  The sound of heavenly choir music wafting throughout the building in the afternoons.  The sound of a saxophone quartet playing "I Feel Pretty" as you walk down the hall.  BYU's Fine Arts Building is its own fascinating, blog-worthy microcosm of the world at large.  I spent way too much time in the Fine Arts Building not to miss it at least a little bit.

WON'T.  The Math Building.  Some people have fond memories of the Math Building, I'm sure; I see it as a squat, dim, dank, poorly ventilated monument to the deliberate oppression and confusion of students.  I don't plan on philosophizing about mathematics for the remainder of my career, and if I did, I certainly wouldn't plan on doing it in a place without windows.

WILL.  The beautiful people.  It is a widely acknowledged fact that BYU has the most beautiful people.  If you disagree, you probably haven't been there and seen it.  BYU and its younger siblings are the only universities I know of where students are incentivized to take care of their appearance.  And it shows: you have a campus full of well put-together, clean-cut, fashionably dressed, fit people that astonishes visitors (one guest speaker, after her remarks were concluded, stopped and said: "I just have to say, you are all so BEAUTIFUL!  I've never seen so many beautiful people before!").  It sure doesn't hurt that those are the people you have to see every day.

WON'T.  Shaving.  Now, I'm not planning on getting all beardy all of a sudden (except right now, on vacation; commutergirl gave me permission).  But my facial hair grows fast, and I could never get away with not shaving.  At least now the Testing Center is not as strict as it used to be; I used to have to shave in the morning, go to class, come back home, shave again, then go take my test with a bleeding face because by 7:00 p.m. the Testing Center wouldn't believe that I had already shaved.  I'm sorry I got blood on the scantrons.  I won't miss shaving every day.

WILL.  The question on the end-of-course evaluations about how much time spent in class was productive to your learning.  For whatever reason, answering this question always gave me such a feeling of power.  Haha!  Only 20% of my time in this class was productive!  0% of my time was productive!  Take that!

WILL.  The question on the end-of-course evaluation about professors appropriately incorporating spiritual insights into their teaching.  I won't miss this question, per se, but rather the effects of it.  Some professors are genuinely good at bringing spiritual insights into their teaching; some bring it up once all semester or find extremely random and awkward ways to bring it up; some find extremely random ways to bring it up and incorporate it as part of their teaching style.  It was at best uplifting, at worst amusing, and always made my day a little brighter.

WON'T.  The discounted transit pass.  Did I say I won't miss the discounted transit pass?  Haha!  I meant to say I won't miss the LACK of a discounted transit pass.  I count the decision to discontinue the BYU Ed pass as the single stupidest thing BYU has done during my lengthy studenthood.  You have a campus in the middle of a residential neighborhood, miles from the freeway, with no road wider than two lanes on a side, and you think the answer is FREE PARKING?  Imbeciles.  Many of my friends have posited, and I agree with them, that these poor decisions are probably the responsibility of just one or two administrators who need to either retire or perish.  I'm okay with either one, but I wish they'd be about it quickly, so the rest of us can get on with our lives.

WILL.  The traffic lab.  The only people on campus who understand me . . .

Monday, December 17, 2012

TOP TEN REASONS TO RIDE FRONTRUNNER EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T TECHNICALLY HAVE TO GO ANYWHERE, #1

#1 To see the future now

FrontRunner is the future.  Trains are the future.  Transit is the future!  Why do I say this?

In an opinion piece written to the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month, two consultants who worked on the FrontRunner South project said this:

". . .the real beneficiaries of FrontRunner South will be those who follow us. In 30 years, the Wasatch Front population is projected to increase by more than 1.3 million people.

"A rail transit line is permanent infrastructure that can accommodate dramatic ridership growth at modest cost. Unlike highways that must regularly be widened and rebuilt to boost capacity, rail transit can meet higher demand by adding more cars and increasing train frequency. Our children and grandchildren will enjoy the fruits of today's hard work and investment."

 What does this mean?  It means that a train line can double or triple its capacity without significant infrastructure investment, unlike a freeway, which must be remade periodically to meet growing traffic demands.  It means that twice or three times the amount of people can be transported to and through downtown Salt Lake City, or downtown anywhere else, without materially increasing the number of parking spaces.  It means businesses like, oh, Adobe, can establish major centers (the current building is supposed to be the first of seven) near train stations without clogging the roads of nearby freeways and neighborhoods and filling the air with noise and smog.

Utah has weathered the recession very well.  We've made some dramatic gains in the past few years where others are simply trying to cut their losses.  There's no reason we can't continue to grow and develop for years to come.  As we grow and develop for years to come, there will come a point where we simply run out of room for more cars.  The people who would rather die than not take their cars to work will die, rather than not take their cars to work, but everyone else will have to find other ways to get to work, or school, or dinner, or whatever.  And that's when transit will really get cooking.  It's cooking now, but you haven't seen the half of it yet.  As transit becomes a more viable option for more people, it will move out of the fringe of our society and into the mainstream.  It will better and better serve the communities it connects.  And I'm excited to be there when it happens.

And you can see the beginning of it all today, if you ride FrontRunner.

See you there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TOP TEN REASONS TO RIDE FRONTRUNNER EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T TECHNICALLY HAVE TO GO ANYWHERE, #2

#2: To remember the past

Trains are not new.  Not by a long shot.  There was a time when trains shaped America, connected it, and transported all its people.  Trains brought the trappings of civilization to my ancestors in the west.  They transported some of my ancestors to the west!

In my family history is the story of a young man returning to Utah from his mission in Europe.  When he got home, he complained to his mother about how boring the train ride across the Great Plains was.  "Mile after mile, for three straight days, everything the same!'

"I know, dear," his mother said.  "I walked the whole way . . ."

More recently, there was a time when streetcars adorned every street in downtown Salt Lake City.  There was a time when the best basketball players at Spanish Fork High School were from Salem, because the people from Salem had to catch the train to school early in the morning, and so had time to practice before school.  There was a time when everyone took trains!

Also of historical interest, some route numbers shown on this map (1, 2, 3, 18, 19, 20, 23) persisted until the 2007 redesign.  I suddenly noticed that one day and was newly fascinated by the map for longer than I care to admit here.
One of my colleagues, contemplating this map, said, "doesn't that seem a bit excessive?"  Do you really need a streetcar down South Temple, and 1st, and 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th, and 5th South?  Well, it depends on your development pattern.  There was a time when plenty of people took streetcars down all these streets, because there were places to go.

You can read elsewhere about America's awkward transition from streetcars to buses (and get wildly different takes on the matter).  Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree that cars have reigned supreme around here for many decades now, even if that reign is becoming harder and harder to maintain.  For a long time, when we talked about trains, we talked about them in the past, wistfully imagining what it would be like to get anywhere you wanted all the time on transit.

Now, we can remember the trains of the past when we ride the train.  And I'm very grateful for that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FRONTRUNNER WAS LATE!

In related news, you're not dead!  Please move on!



P.S. I WILL finish the top ten list soon, but it's finals week.  Sorry.  Don't hate.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

TOP TEN REASONS TO RIDE FRONTRUNNER EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T TECHNICALLY HAVE TO GO ANYWHERE, #3

#3:  To pass cars

If you haven't seen this video yet, you really, really should.



I like everything about this video, but I especially like the part where the bus is passing cars in traffic.  That doesn't happen on the bus here most places, because the bus doesn't have its own lane.  But FrontRunner has its own track.  And I guarantee that when traffic is bad on the freeway, or the weather is bad, or some other reason that makes driving an absolute nuisance happens, people will look up from their driver's seats and feel a strong compunction as the train flies past them.  Which it will.

(since you asked)


Even if you don't have to go anywhere, you may still enjoy watching the daily commute during rush hour.  When you're not in it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

TOP TEN REASONS TO RIDE FRONTRUNNER EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T TECHNICALLY HAVE TO GO ANYWHERE, #4

#4 For the Scenery

I grant you that the view on either side of Central (North or South) is liable to tickle your eyeballs.  But there are some lovely places FrontRunner North passes through, and I'm sure the Narrows and other areas on FrontRunner South will be quite nice in the spring.  My favorite part of the view, though, even in the places where it's not a feast for the eyes, is that it will not be of the tail lights in front of me, nor of repetitive green signs telling me where to go and not to go.

I know which view I prefer


I would suggest, if you're interested in the view, that you sit up top, or at least on the ends of the car.  My experience with FrontRunner North has borne out that the view is better the higher you are.

So, sit back, let the countryside fly by, and enjoy the view.