2009 Notes

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New Guide Dogs Rain 1 Cats Shop & Solar Gigi Job 1
DART Green Line 1 AA Center DART Green Line 2 Dallas owned hotel Rain 2
 
  With the addition of notes for the fall, this becomes the first page of my large web site that will be posted to www.mikegigi.com and not updated to the old site, http://users.ticnet.com/mikefirth/ which will be shut down completely by the end of the year because of costs, duplicate access paths, and failure to accommodate mobile e-mail access. Also nice to have the name.
 I am embarrassed to say that when I came in to work on a Fall 2009 Notes and found this page, it had been posted for most of 2009 with the title 2008 Fall Notes at the top.  So much for keeping up.  Then I looked through that version and tried to decide whether to mix fall notes in with a rewrite or add stuff at the end or do a new page.  As it turns out ... well, there isn't a new page and both of the other two have been done with a bunch of internal hyperlinks to connect the parts where helpful. See some jump points above.
 
  Beginning this rather earlier in the year than the 2008 notes, most of what has been happening is small in scale.  We have no less than three blind friends anticipating getting new guide dogs.
  Suzanne Whalen is back home after caring for her widowed father into the new year and waiting for the Seeing Eye to come up with a wheelchair guiding dog to replace Caddo after the failure in training of two last year.  She is functioning better after a winning settlement with nasty Unum but still is working on physical therapy for her wrist, injured in a fall from the chair.
  Gigi's blind lawyer and friend Karla Westjohn in Omaha is changing to the Seeing Eye and will be off later in April having recovered from surgery where Gigi went up for a couple of weeks to help with lifting and shifting and got to deal with snow several inches deep.  Gigi took Amtrak up, but flew back on 7 day advance purchase because of their messy schedule - Because the Texas Star, which connects the northern east west train line through Chicago with the southern through San Antonio doesn't actually match in Chicago, Amtrak has contract buses to connect Springfield with Burlington in Illinois to avoid an overnight stay in Chicago.  But coming back, it still doesn't work accurately giving one a choice of probably missing via the bus and paying for an overnight in Springfield or certainly missing in Chicago and paying for a hotel there.
  And closer to home, Kiem Densmore who is returning to Guide Dogs of America fell through the cracks on an assigned date and a departing employee and instead of being there now will have to wait until August. [And finally went in September.]  Kiem is the mother of 4.9 year old Darlie Dawkins whose blind father Jim owns the Ford Expedition in my driveway which I get the use of in exchange for driving him around several hours a week.  I also drive her on occasion and they pay for their gas and he pays for vehicle costs.  At 12.5 miles per gallon, using the vehicle is a lot easier at $2 a gallon than it was at $3.89 when it didn't get used much at all.  Jim has owned a vehicle since college and now Kiem owns a tacky old one driven by her nephew.  [Kiem is pronounced Kim, the change being made at 16 in teen rebellion.  She has worked on the floor customer service at the Greyhound station for several years.]
 
  This year has started off very dry in Dallas with a sudden and needed increase in rain this month as nasty storms hit the country north of us.  I am feeding a couple of outdoor black and white cats, one of which was captured after I grew to like it, so I got it fixed and released it.  Took a couple of weeks to get moderately friendly again.  I gauge a backyard cat by toleration distance - a 20 foot cat will run off that far on my approach as opposed to a 2' cat that still won't let me touch her/him but won't run far.  Spots continues as a purely indoor cat, spending a lot of time on the bed or awaiting me.
  I have been putting some effort into organizing the garage/shop to make it accessible to me with some stuff having been moldering for a decade or more.  Not doing any glass melting recently although still working on metal to blow glass into.  I am still maintaining the website and spend/waste a lot time dispensing information on Yahoo Answers, which I find relaxing and distracting.  My projects since Christmas have been focused on playing around with reflecting the sun for decorative purposes.  I had just expanded a long time desire to make a sun follower on a small scale to a bigger mirror when I found problems with the small mirror design which has led me into programming again and working with servos from RC work.  Over the holidays I picked up a 12 volt gate closer mechanism from brother-in-law George Fisher and was stimulated to make a motorized mount for the big pieces of mirror found at the curb. So images are here.  Once somewhat functional, I expect to bounce sun beam from tracker along the side of house and into windows through colored glass, prisms, and other mirrors.  This is not exactly original having been noted from art projects at various museums down through the years.
 
  Gigi has been dealing with her frustrations with the economy with a lot of knitting and reading and shifting her target on a job/business/education.  She had hoped to work on a master's in rehabilitation counseling, but the only place to take that in Texas is essentially out of reach because it is all evening classes in Denton with no reasonable transportation back (unless my driving up there every night to get her is reasonable) and the realization that there would only be one place to work in our area. But a masters in regular counseling is available as evening classes from the same school (University of North Texas) but at a campus here in Dallas at the south end of the Red rail line. (DART continued)
  [Follow-up]  It now seems unlikely that Gigi will do the grad school  She worked very intensely to get her Braille Proofreading Certificate and has been getting work doing that. She is also working intensely on her Nemeth Code for mathematics certification which will get more work.  A good connection  has resulted from her going at the American Council of the Blind of Texas [ACBTX] conference in September.
  On the other hand, the conference also resulted in her getting the common flu.  She came down with it overnight before the last day and thus missed the train back the following day, Monday.  Suzanne stayed there with her, but Gigi was still so sick Wednesday that they gave up and took my offer to drive down and bring them back.  So I drove down for five hours or so in the rain. Coped with many blocks of narrow one-way streets with no parking to get to the Walgreens they used not far from the walk-in clinic, stayed over night seeing none of the sites of San Antonio, and drove back Thursday.  It took several days to recover after that.  Suzanne was given Tamiflu because of her exposure to Gigi and came down with a much milder case later in the week. I didn't get anything, perhaps because  either Gigi or I wore a mask when we were together in the room or in the car.  While driving down, I stopped at a Walgreens and bought a flu shot.

 [This is important to us, but not personal if you want to skip]  In a bit of irony, about half way through Gigi's planned graduate work, the DART Green rail line will open the full length to far north metro Dallas to be met by the Denton A-Train that will almost certainly run well into the evening.  The short middle section of the Green line through downtown Dallas will open in a few months for the State Fair in September while the rest opens in December 2010.  When done the south end will serve the relatively poor area beyond Fair Park, the park, Baylor medical center, and the Deep Elum entertainment area while the middle will pass through the same downtown stations as the Red and the Blue but continue north instead of south as they do and connect to the American Airlines Center, the Market and Hospital Centers and Love Field and then north through the richer commuter lands of North Dallas, Carrollton, Plano, etc. to achieve the fundable goal of getting cars off the road and saving on construction costs.  I would find the overlap of routes downtown convenient but cluttered but a promise exists with the feds to have a second route through the other side of downtown and they are working that out to shift the Green line there, crossing the other routes once. (more)
  Rates are going up, of course, but all the buses now have bicycle racks on the front and the trains are getting an added middle section so that getting wheelchairs on and off is much easier - once station edges are built up - about half done.
  The "wonderful" American Airlines Center and adjacent Victory plaza into which the City dumped a lot of tax breaks for some very rich people to keep the Mavericks and Stars in the city (having "lost" to Arlington, the Dallas Cowboys who were never in the city) turns out to be badly conceived and designed with very upscale shops that decidedly not upscale basketball and hockey fans want to visit even if they do walk nearby from West End train station, but the majority of people still come in cars to the huge parking lots that are on the other side of AAC from Victory and only half the "street" and upscale housing was built so it isn't much street like.  And now the mayor wants us to pay for a convention center hotel. [which passed a referendum, only to suffer from too high interest rates on bonds.] 

  [Oct 29] And that hotel thing turns out to be twisting the fate of the Green Line.  The Green Line opened to considerable success just before the State Fair opened in September then suffered huge embarrassment because of too much success.  Weather was nasty for much of the fair but the last weekend bloomed bright and sunny.  The legendary Texas-OU (Oklahoma University) Red River Rivalry was scheduled for late morning on Saturday.  DART announced special trains that would run every ten minutes from the north end of the Red Line through the Y straight to the Fair Station at the front gates - no transfer.  Further, Green Line trains would run every ten minutes from Victory Station for people coming from Ft.Worth on the TRE and those transferring from the Blue Line.  Now this every ten minutes is actually what the rush hour rate was, but it all depended on perfect timing getting through the Y and that fell apart.
  First of all, thousands of people from north Dallas, etc., jammed the trains.  DART now claims it said for two weeks ahead that people should allow time for delays, but I saw little of that and a lot of promotion for going to the Fair by train.  The jams prevented people from getting on and off quickly and in one case disabled a train for 10 minutes because a breaker tripped and the driver could not get people to move to let him reset it. The protocol that DART set up said that if a train missed its merge slot, it had to wait as much as ten minutes, so that delayed all the trains behind it.  Some people missed the first two quarters of the game (in the Cotton Bowl) after paying several hundred dollars for tickets. Then, of course, 60 or 70,000 fans left the Cotton Bowl after the game and instead of staying for the Fair, thousands went to the Station to catch the promised extra trains back - more chaos.  DART had to call in buses to get people away, had extra workers to guide people and jam them on trains, etc.  Sunday was almost as exciting because of the huge ordinary crowds that came out for the beautiful last day of the Fair and the highly promoted free opening of the (AT&T) Performing Arts Center.
  Oh yes, the Green Line and the Hotel.  The Green Line has proven very nice on ordinary days because our local 60 bus meets it at Fair Park. Getting on the Green means Gigi can catch her Red and Blue rides to north Dallas and Garland without either a longish walk or taking the slow bus ride through downtown traffic and slow train ride back from Union Station.  She can also take the Green to much nearer her church downtown on Sunday.  Well, that only works because the Green Line stops at the same downtown stations as the Red and Blue.  But it seems there was a promise to the federal government to have a second line through downtown.  And when the convention center hotel was rammed through (to be owned by the city - no possibility of losses, they lied) it suddenly became desirable to have the new route run by the Hotel, making the line longer and much more expensive because of more tunneling. Desirable means the City Council (see Don Hill scandal not included here) wants it.  And it turns out that DART, seeing losses of tax revenue in recession, has over spent its income.  So the new route has been delayed for another 2 years to about 5 years out.  Meanwhile, planning goes on for the Orange Line which will bring people directly from the north end of the DFW airport and add more trains.  The new routing will mean that there is only one transfer point between the Green and the Red-Blue.  Perhaps it will be still be faster than crawling through downtown is now.
[A bit of history:  The construction schedule for DART's trains back when made it clear that planners expected the heavy traffic to be from southern Dallas into downtown and out to the nearest rich towns - University and Highland Park. Stating it plainly this is black and Hispanic maids and yard workers coming from home to work.  But they put a station at the front gate of the zoo and (white) families riding the train and avoiding parking fees and the long walk from the lot found the train was fast and comfortable filling it on weekends when it was supposed to be empty.  They added more trains and when the route was extended north the Red Line to downtown became the most popular.]
  After years of having an Arts District with a couple of arts places scattered across it,  The (AT&T) Performing Arts Center opened to great hoopla.  I went, in part because all the buildings in the area were open for inspection for free on Sunday afternoon.  A clue that there would be a crowd was the distance that street parking was full (free on Sunday.).
   The lack of rain at the beginning of the year has been thoroughly overcome since then.  We were consistently over the average for most of the first months then had 9.9" (as measured in my back yard) in July - average 2". August was short but September came back with 9.5" (vs. 3.3) and this month has seen 12.6" (vs. 2.5) with a chance of more tonight.  The ground is squishy in most places!  2009-10-29

Contact Mike Firth
1019 Martinique, Dallas TX 75223-1445
214-827-7734
push together: mike firth at sbc global dot net
http://mikegigi.com