Well, this morning was interesting.

Downed lines on the train track

Everyday I take the Broad street subway to Suburban Station, where I catch the Norristown line to Norristown, and from there a work shuttle to the office. Yes, it’s a long commute. And sometimes its fine, but other times…… today, after passing through Conshohocken, one stop away from Norristown, the lights flickered. Not too unusual. But then the train stopped. And a train roared by us going the other way, with a huge rattling noise, and some snapping cables hitting windows. Yup, the lines were pulled down. The train going the other way had snagged the overhead wires, and pulled down about half a mile of overhead catenary wire. According to a Philly.com article, the overhead lines were installed in 1933, and 15 of the 19 power substations were built in 1931 or earlier. Great. No wonder Septa is so awesome.

Commuters on the move

Of course with live wires all over the place, we weren’t allowed off the train at first. Classically, a pregnant lady was on my car of the train, and very vocal… “I’m 5 months pregnant, I can’t stay on this train for 3 hours!” Luckily, not too long after we stopped, the conductors (who looked more frantic than any train conductors I’ve ever seen) told us we could wait on the train for an undetermined amount of time, or we could walk a half mile back to the Conshohocken station, where shuttles would come by at some point to get us to another station. So off the train, for an exodus down the tracks. Two trains full of people trekking along. I met up with another colleague from the work shuttle, we chatted about Dune as we walked (I’ve been reading it on the commute, and its come up a few times) and kept a look out for other folks from the office.  We walked the tracks by crushed bleached deer bones and random broken glass. One woman fell and hurt her knee, some folks with medical training stayed to help her, and called an ambulance. Once we got to the station, my fellow-Dune-reading friend and I wandered around a bit looking for the shuttle and looking for other workers. There was no sign of the shuttle, no one knew when it would show up, and the work shuttle from Norristown wasn’t going to wait. So when eventually we ended up a group of 4 displaced work shuttle riders, we called a cab and made our way to the office.

So yeah. When they canceled the late shuttle last week, I thought it was time to get a car, as much as I hated the idea of it. This morning reaffirmed it. I’m pretty sure I’m going to hate driving. I’m going to hate parking. I’m going to hate traffic, and I’m going to hate that I finished paying off the second of my three school loans last month just to continue paying the same amount of money for a car. But I’m going to love not relying on Septa. The subway stinks, literally… it smells like the rotting death of something. It is dirty and the ground is still sticky and muddy from the rain 4 days ago. The regional rail is late a good 2/3rds of the time, and completely shuttle-missing late at least once every two months. Yeah, its great to read, its great to be able to knit. It’s nice to meet some of my co-workers and commiserate about the trek. But Septa- You Suck. You need to be taken to the ground and re-made. You aren’t making enough money because you don’t have enough riders because you’re completely unreliable. You’re ticket booth sales people are cranky and nasty (though the commuting-time conductors are usually really really nice!) and the high-speed drivers are totally unpredictable- muttering stop announcements and speeding past platforms or driving insanely ridiculously slow. Fellow riders are rude or walk s…o…. s….l….o….w…. that I miss my connection by seconds. You change schedules with no announcement or notifications. You notify of delays 20 minutes past the time it would be any help, if you notify at all. Your system is flawed. Completely and utterly flawed, and I will not miss you, no matter how bad the traffic gets.



Me and Chip (I didn't hit him in the face though)

Holy paintball batman. Never thought I’d throw on the fatigues and run around playing army in the woods. But it was really fun! (Even without the fatigues). Chris plays on a softball league with a bunch of our friends, and Mauer (the organizer of the team) decided paintball would be a fun end-of-season event for everyone. If we had over 20 people, we would be able to play on our own field, so it was come-one-come-all. I’m not on the softball team, and originally hadn’t planned on going. I still wasn’t sure when I woke up in the morning that I really wanted to go. But Chris convinced me it would be fun- and it was! It was really beautiful weather, and a fun day to run around in the woods. Only a few of us had ever actually played before, so it was a really fun group of people to go with. A few editors I’m friends with ended up going, and a bunch of Paula’s doctor friends, so I definitely wasn’t the only non-softball person there. We split up into pink and green teams (marked by an armband) at the beginning of the day, and aside from a little shifting, mostly stayed on the same teams the whole time.  My team wasn’t so great on the communication part of team-work, though.

The Great Escape (yes, they played music from the film)

We ended up losing all the larger games, although we kicked butt in the 6 on 6 (vs the 12 on 12 larger games) “Great Escape” course. Every game was some variation of capture the flag. One hit and you’re out, you hold your gun up and walk off the field. Doesn’t sound complicated, but it was surprisingly tough to figure out if you were hit or not. Sometimes they wouldn’t break, in which case you were still in. Sometimes it would hit your gun or your mask, and you wouldn’t feel it, but would be counted as out. Theoretically you could call the refs over for a paint check, but hearing anyone in the masks was tough, so they weren’t always on top of it. We played a massive game on the castle field at the very end, our two teams against another large group, with a bunch of kids. At first we joked around about feeling bad about shooting kids- but they were evil! They called us names, wouldn’t go out when hit, and consistently shot at people walking off the field. The parents were worse sports than the kids- not being very sportsmanlike examples for the children, that’s for sure. It was fun to be able to storm a castle, but next time I think we’ll stick with our group.


The Great Escape course was brand new, so the refs were still figuring out how to control it. You’re not supposed to shoot someone closer than 15 or 20 feet, but on a course like that, its tough to avoid. My team won the first round with lightening speed. The second round was confusing, and I don’t think anyone won (the refs stopped paying attention to the game to discuss how to judge something, and the four or so of us left couldn’t figure out who was still in the game). I did get Chip in pretty stylish fashion for that game, though, which was fun :-) I also had the Hollywood film move of the day, when I ended up one of the last people on my team, and a girl from the other team ran by me with the “bomb” to put into our base. I got her a whole bunch of times, very dramatic, and she lunged forward to throw the suitcase in the window- it would have been a fantastic death scene in a cheesy action movie. Of course, we lost anyway. Oh well. Pretty sure this will become a tradition. Next year I’m going to try to get some of my dancer girls in on the action. Yay!


Yeah, we're hardcore

(All photos stolen from Mauer’s facebook page…. I didn’t bring my camera up to the field, figured I’d just end up breaking it. Although I did actually take the one of the Great Escape field.)


Machu Picchu (from treehugger)

I just have to share this story, its a bit crazy! My grandfather and his lovely lady friend Jane (girlfriend I suppose, but it seems strange to be calling Jane a girl) are currently on a tour of waterfalls in South America. This one has been quite a trip. There have been very heavy rains, and Machu Picchu is in a state of emergency. Helicopters are air-vaccing about 2,000 tourists, but each helicopter can only carry about 35 people. Last night’s update (before the evacuation started, I think) was that Jane and Gramps were in a hotel watching a raging river right outside their window. Today the dam went. Jane has been active with the EMTs in her area for a while, that emergency training came in handy! She got herself and my Grandfather to higher ground and helped calm down the folks who were panicking. I know I should be concerned about their safety, but Jane’s emails have had such a sense of adventure throughout this whole thing! I feel like everyone in my family has  a bit of “wow, that sounds like fun!” combined with “glad they’re safe” running through their heads. Jane and Gramps are lucky, they were among the first evacuated. Other folks are still stranded. I hope the situation evens out soon, but with the rains continuing, who knows.

***update: Gramps and Jane on BBC video! (by the helicopter, you’ll see Gramps first, in white shirt and suspenders: then the camera pans ahead to Jane, who is wearing a blue jacket). Thanks to Aunt Lou for sharing the link! ***

Hippos!!!, originally uploaded by ducksRfriends.

A nice relaxed new years eve this year… followed by a weekend full of small adventures. The best one was to the aquarium. The hippos were amazing. So big and so graceful. I know they can be super aggressive, but they just look so calm. I was mesmerized by them. They were so close! A lot of the exhibits at the aquarium are really well designed- good views of creatures and lots of hands-on for the kidlets. My favorite was definitely the hippos. The Jules Verne room was pretty cool, too. Full of jellyfish. A fun adventure to start out the new year.