Bay Area Inconvenience

I have taken public transportation to and from work daily for many years now. I also have traveled and used the public transportation system in numerous cities in the U.S. and abroad. And still, I cannot for the life of me understand who designed the self-service ticket machines that are part of the Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) system. I don’t generally have an issue with the BART trains, the service they provide or the stations, all of which are generally well maintained and serviced. But I do, however, have a problem with the BART ticket machines and the software design behind them.

First, they are not user friendly and require the user to have to add or subtract dollars (in $1 increments) or cents (in $.05 increments) from a starting place of $20.00 to get to the correct amount for purchasing a ticket. Secondly, there is no monthly pass or unlimited pass for daily commuters, which is an inconvenience and non-standard when compared to the public transport systems elsewhere. And then, I recently put money on my Clipper Card (the transport card used across multiple systems in the Bay Area) and it turns out that I can’t use that credit on the BART because it was converted into Clipper Cash, which does not work with BART if the Clipper Card is on “autoload” with a bank account or credit card. It sounds trivial, but it was shocking to learn that I just put $200 on a card only to learn afterwards that I couldn’t use that money on the transport system I intended to use it on.

Believe me, the BART service overall has been more reliable than the MTA’s Metro North Trains I used to depend upon in New York. But the way I am required to administer my ticket purchasing and account management through the BART system is not just an inconvenience, it is annoying and has cost me some money in the past. I’m less than hopeful that changes will occur anytime soon, though, given that we’re in California.  

Game of Thrones

I know I haven’t posted any blog posts or book reviews for a while, but that is because I have been busy with my reading/writing time reading Book Two, A Clash of Kings, of the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. I didn’t read Book One, but did watch the entire season that HBO created last year and found it extremely well done and outright impressive. After a few episodes, I was hooked on the story and wanted to see where it would go. Since the HBO series followed Book One so closely, I felt that I could jump right into Book Two, which I have done and wish I had more time to just sit and finish the book. I am not historically a reader of fantasy (or sci-fi, for that matter), but this story has just the right mix of realism and fantasy, without all of the mysticism or magic that accompanies other books of the genre, such that Game of Thrones is believable. Martin has created a whole new world, like unto our world that we know, but different enough that the reader recognizes its differences while still being able to relate to the overall way of life. Oh, and the characters, how deep and rich. There are scores of people passing in and out of Martin’s world and it takes some time to keep everyone straight, but they are well developed, believable, and all truly different. I simply do not understand how Martin sat down and developed the storyline and characters that he has, but like millions of people around the world, I am now one of the beneficiaries of his creativity and hard work.

Good Times and Bad

Another Presidential Election has come and gone. I’m not surprised, enraged or disappointed with the results. In fact, I believe the President’s influence plays less of a role to what goes on in this country than people tend to think. But yes, the buck must stop somewhere, someone must be accountable, and at times, a scapegoat is necessary, and alas, there is the need for a president. If one thing is clear, however, it is that the country is pretty evenly divided. Without getting into the political issues, the widespread belief is that change is necessary from our current course. How and in what form that change takes place is what is disagreeable. The coming years will be crucial to this country, but I am a believer in Americans, our country and the future. While not everything in our country’s or world’s future is rosy and bright, I believe that there is still hope and perhaps many good years ahead. The United States has had dark times in its past and has gotten through them. But as optimistic as I sound, it would be foolish of me to not prepare my family for difficult times in the near future. My advice then is to save money, get out of debt, store food and supplies and prepare for some turbulent times ahead – whether weather, economic or political, they are a coming.