Tuesday's Activities Include: Dutch, MCAS viewing, walk, Julie's Place

R. went to T.'s school to view his MCAS-alt portfolio. He says it was fine.

I had my Dutch lesson. It was wonderful getting to see everyone after a break, and hear about Aruba. I've never been to any tropical islands (other than Kauai and Maui and Oahu, which are an entirely different thing). I sort of want to go, now! The kids are adorable; the older wanted to play tag and the younger is walking and objecting to me looking anywhere but at him. And really, isn't that how we all feel in life!

I had a nice visit and walk with M. and her dog. The kids had a good day at school. A. and I went to the grocery store, then had dinner at Julie's Place. We are continuing to read _The Wizard of Oz_, which is hilariously funny, because she keeps objecting to areas of disagreement with the movie. Really, order of operations matters!

Leggings on Airplanes -- Whatever Is the World Coming To?

Recently, there was a bit of a tweet storm about a United Airline flight which was boarding. Some of the people who were trying to board were turned away, and others in the area reported that the reason given was failure to meet the dress code. There was a perhaps 10 year old girl wearing leggings. United responded to the tweets initially by referring to the carriage rules, leading some to infer that, hey, you, flip flop wearing peon, you could be next. The discussion evolved in the expected direction: the people who were turned away did eventually fly after they dressed differently and they had been "non-revs", people flying on a pass from a United employee, and thus subject to a different dress code.

This might be the dress code in question:

"Dress code

Pass riders’ overall appearance should be well-groomed, neat, clean and in good taste.
Attire should be respectful of fellow revenue passengers, employees and pass riders.
Pass riders may wear denim attire (such as jeans), shorts that are no more than three inches above the knee and athletic shoes when traveling in Coach or Business cabin.

The following attire is unacceptable in any cabin but is not limited to:

Any attire that reveals a midriff.
Attire that reveals any type of undergarments.
Attire that is designated as sleepwear, underwear, or swim attire.
Mini Skirts
Shorts that do not meet 3 inches above the knee when in a standing position.
Form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses.
Attire that has offensive and/or derogatory terminology or graphics.
Attire that is excessively dirty or has holes/tears.
Any attire that is provocative, inappropriately revealing, or see-through clothing.
Bare feet
Beach-type, rubber flip-flops


I pulled that from here: http://www.flyzed.info/UA

A variety of the participants online (twitter and elsewhere) guessed that the people turned away were non-revs before UA confirmed, and there was a bit of commentary on whether the dress code was enforced uniformly (specifically: did the man in the group's shorts violate the length rule, or is this just another one of those Policing Women's Bodies things, like what happened to Nicola Thorp when Portico told her she had to wear high heels, which had all kinds of fantastic repercussions for dress code legality in the UK).

People who were already familiar with pass riders/non-revs generally were accepting of the idea that it is okay for airlines to enforce some rules on non-revs, as this is a privilege or benefit and it comes with some strings and one has to play along. Some took this a bit farther, moving well down the path of "Kids/Unwashed Masses/Millenials These Days".

I would like to make some observations about dress codes.

If a dress code exists so someone who is offering something of value can make a monkey do a trick in order to gain the something of value, then the argument that, "hey, these are non-revs, these are the rules" would make sense. I am _reasonably certain_ this is not the actual reason for the dress code. Altho, I could be wrong.

If a dress code exists so as to avoid giving offense to the paying customers, then this particular dress code probably needs to be adjusted, since it seems to be freaking out and/or pissing off paying customers, and the only defenders (other than UA, the source of the policy) seem to be taking the, hey, I'll be your trained monkey if you give me free flights approach. Which, as I noted, is not much of a defense. I will give my readers a little hint about how business works. You generally want the _paying customers_ to be pleased with what you are doing, and you don't really care too much about the people who are attempting to use your service for free. I know, airlines are a little screwy on this -- even JetBlue has taken to running advertisements along the lines of, '"I'd prefer to pay for my flight," said no one ever.' Really, JetBlue? I mean, I love JetBlue, but thanks for calling me No One. I have said exactly that. I fucking loathe frequent flyer programs, the customer behavior they encourage, the accounting practices which have mutated as a result, and the corporate insanity that has grown up as a result of those frequent flyer programs. Airlines are often _very not clear_ on how important it is to treat the paying customer with some respect (FlyerTalk DYKWIA forums are full of tales of the unwashed masses in First who paid for their tickets being treated badly by members of various elite programs who think they should get their seat as an upgrade instead. The unwashed masses love posting about this when it happens, because It Is Hilarious, but if we didn't have frequent flyer programs, this would stop happening. Probably.).

Returning to the dress code issue: In my entirely anecdotally based and unscientific opinion, boomers tend to like to show a lot of leg, gen x'ers tended to show more skin in slices (ew, that sounds kinda gross -- slits, v's, midriff, etc.), and Millenials tend to cover up a lot but wear very body conforming clothing. There are a lot of boomers, but they are flying less. There are even more Millenials, and they are flying more. (Wondering why I'm not mentioning gen xers her? Hey, just following the trend, which is to pretend we don't exist.) The dress code UA offers up (if I actually have the right one) shows some clear evolution: they've already given up saying no to jeans, sneakers and shorts, which I'm prepared to guess happened when the boomers were a lot younger than they are today. I'm betting there will be some changes to reflect Millenial attire.

And now, as long as I'm here, and assuming no one else read this far, I, for one would much rather see a Grooming Code that specified things like, Please Brush Your Teeth and Do Not Wear Scented Products. Bad breath in a seat mate is icky, and I'm allergic to nearly every fragrance ever invented.

In airline related commentary -- but having nothing to do with UA or leggings -- I watched the recent NCIS:LA episode, 767. I wish it hadn't been called a 767. I mean, if they'd picked a different jet, then at least some of the things they did on that plane (the crew rest quarters, maybe) would have made sense. If they hadn't _specified_ a jet, equally fine. But no.


Based on this, I think they must have actually been on a 777.


Maybe the 767 in the title referred to something other than the aircraft?

Sunday's Activities Include: track meet, Applebee's, horse

Team Verge had their meet. T. had signed up for nearly everything, but the coach or someone else helped him be a bit more selective. He got 3rd in the 200 meter. It was such a pleasure to see so many young people working so hard with enjoyment, and the environment was supportive in every way. I had not realized that you could have races that created the excitement and motivation of competition, without also triggering the negativity (disappointment, shame, comparison, etc.) of competition. Seeing this in action -- watching young people who had been at practice for weeks put out significantly greater effort for this special event -- was amazing to me. It was a beautiful moment where everyone learned a bit more about what these young people can do.

Also, all the parents and others on the sidelines were consistently supportive to all the participants. Wouldn't it be great if all athletic competition looked like that?

We went to Applebee's for lunch, as usual. After that, T. went to the horse. I had a nice convo with my friend M., and it was helpful to get some insight from her. She always has a down-to-earth and wise perspective.

After the horse, I got a long walk and had a long talk with K., who I usually talk to on Fridays. But I had sent her some email asking her for advice as well, and she offered some additional time on the phone and I took her up on it. It is days like this that make me truly appreciate how lucky I am to have friends who will take the time to listen carefully, think even more carefully, and then share their perspective honestly but with compassion with me. Sometimes, their advice makes me uncomfortable, but when a couple people are telling me the same thing independently, it is pretty hard for me to ignore it.

I was sad to learn that a friend of mine lost a close relative recently. She will be traveling overseas with her mother, so our chats will have to wait until her return.

It was not the easiest day, but it was a good one in many ways.

Saturday's Activities Include: Power Rangers, Cheesecake Factory, ice skating, McDonalds

I took T. to Burlington AMC to see Power Rangers. They didn't turn the lights down at the beginning of the movie and I was a little worried I was going to have high angle light glaring in my eyes the whole time, but they did eventually turn them down. I was hoping for stupid fun, and the movie delivered.

We had agreed ahead of time to go to the Cheesecake Factory at the mall for lunch. As I had feared, there was a bit of a wait (30 minutes is what we were told; 40 is closer to what we experienced), but we had phone/tablet/book to entertain us, and we even got a bench to sit on or a good chunk of the time. They dropped beverages and bread and butter and oil pretty quick after seating us, so we didn't even mind the wait for our food.

T. and R. went ice skating. The lunch outing did not take so long as to prevent T. from doing that.

I got a message from the town police department that the big booming noises were from Fort Devens. Excitement! And apparently more in coming days, but ending at 4:30 each afternoon.

R. took A. to a drive through McDonald's for lunch.

I Was Expecting Weather to Be The Problem

And yet, apparently trouble happened on a dry, sunny day in the Arizona springtime:


I have used this link, because it has the best detail on the crash. Police say the fault was not on Uber's side; a left turner failed to yield and this led to the Uber Volvo SUV winding up on its side pointing the wrong way. R. suspects the rollover occurred as a result of an effort to evade the left turning vehicle. Reports concur there were "no serious injuries", which is good.

This BI coverage has the good picture.


I tend to feel that vehicles that wind up on their side are badly designed vehicles, however, other people do not agree with me. This particular SUV has all kinds of features intended to make sure everyone steps out of the vehicle after a rollover in fine shape.

Friday's Activities Include: walks, El Huipil, Wizard of Oz (the movie)

I did the long loop with R. and the short loop with M. I had a great convo with K. in the morning. I did a little disposal of paperwork, real and virtual. R. and I had lunch at El Huipil. A. and I watched the Wizard of Oz. We've been playing a Zynga match 3 game that is based on the movie, and so A. kept saying, "I recognize THAT" about various visual elements in the movie and lines. She didn't have any trouble grasping the surrounding frame vs. the dream idea, and she recognized the characters from one in the other with only a little help. I explained that is a series of books about Oz, but in the books, Oz is not a dream, it is real. She's all over reading those, so R. started reading the first one (we have a really pretty unabridged full color illustrated large format one). I'm super excited to get her through the series. I haven't reread it in a while, but I feel like this is going to be so much fun. Inevitably, my fond memories will be modified by the experience, but I'm okay with that, too.

Trash apps

I got to thinking the other day: wouldn't it be wonderful if there was an app (instead of a website) that would let you do things like, say, vacation hold your trash pickup, change the pick up day so you could have the trash picked up the day before a vacation or the day after a vacation, tell the charity vans you have things you would like them to come get, tell a service that you had just cleaned out an attic/basement/some other house and would like to have them bring a dumpster, etc. I figured, it would be good for private haulers -- it would simplify collecting payment if the app handled it, and it would probably increase their business. It would be an enormous convenience to customers, not having all that crap sitting around waiting for us to figure out where to take it and then finding the time to take it there. It might lead to the same kind of blurring of boundaries and re-investment that other platforms have caused to taxi fleets, limo companies, etc.

There are a bunch of What Day Is Your Pickup Day apps, on a city by city basis, and a couple that do the same thing for larger areas. That's not really what I'm looking for, especially since the times I have that question are usually weather related. It would be interesting to know whether those are just databases, or if they actually get push updates for weather related pickup day changes. Waste Management has an app that includes What Day info, account management features and a method for requesting a "bulk pickup" or an extra pickup. The bulk pickup categories for my account include: Furniture, Appliance, Large Yard Waste and the ever handy "Miscellaneous". Subcategories enumerate items of furniture (include Sofa with or without a bed), appliances, etc. Poking around in the app, I took a look at the holiday schedule and, in the course of hitting the arrow back, stalled and got an error message "Connection problem. Please try again" which suggests that while the app has some useful features in the front end and in terms of what kinds of services you can set up using it, it has some bugs that need to be worked on (hitting the "Home" button in the app -- not the apple button -- which in theory went to the same place, did work). The app does not appear to support "vacation hold" or "resume pickup" features, altho I think you _can_ do this by calling customer service.

Mr. Bin, in Canada, may also help schedule one-off pickups; I'm not sure.

A company called Spoiler Alert specializes in food: connecting food that is going to hit its expiration date soon, and people who might be able to use it. That's a great idea -- get a little money to one group, save another group a bunch of money, and reduce waste in the food system as a whole. It's exactly the kind of thing that makes the world a better place, while simultaneously reducing GDP. Our economic measurements really ought to do a better job of this stuff -- Spoiler Alert is a lot like a negative line count day for a programmer. Generally, those are our most productive days, but almost no one who measures productivity recognizes them as such.

A company called Rubicon does some of what I am looking for (enter an address, find a company that will pick up whatever you are trying to get rid of). They've been around a while, with a business focus. They did exactly what I wanted to see, which align incentives to divert: private haulers have to pay tipping fees, so they are motivated to find ways to get paid for something rather than pay to dump it (recycling). More recently, they got a city of Atlanta contract for 6 months to help the city with diversion.


Santa Fe is using them for data collection:


And then there are much, much, much smaller operations, such as Pick Pink in Manhattan, Kansas:


With Waste Management -- the biggest residential trash hauler in the US -- offering a somewhat credible app and service associated with it, it will be interesting to see how companies like Rubicon and Spoiler Alert evolve. According to a source from 2006 linked from the WM wikipedia entry, WM + Republic handle about half the solid waste in the US by volume. However, as near as I can tell, Republic is smaller than WM, and I don't think they serve half the households in the US, so I've got my doubts about some of these estimates (estimates associated with solid waste in the US specifically, but everywhere, really, tend to be really not very accurate, shall we say? Or even comparable).

Until a few months ago, my WM service involved guys lifting the bins; that has since been automated (so it's a guy driving the truck and there is a claw that lifts the bins). Solid waste associated truck fleets are among the largest truck fleets in the company. This is clearly an area ripe for further automation.

ETA: I wanted to mention "Donation Town", a website not an app, which I ran across. It is a really interesting idea, but too lightly implemented to be useful (as yet). Type in a zip code, find out who does what kind of charity pickup in your area. This kind of data is still way too distributed; it would be a huge project to get it all into some kind of database and make it usable by a service and related app.

Wednesday's Activities Include: T.'s half day, gymnastics, Roche, lost glasses, Julie's Place, etc.

Wednesday is T.'s half day. I had a walk with M. in the morning, but it was so cold and windy that, at the dog's promptly, we turned back early.

I picked up T. and we went to Starbucks. Then he had gymnastics. We stopped at Roche Bros. on the way home. T. had a sitter; A. did not. However, she did have a play date scheduled. She was really worried when she got home because she'd had a not-so-good interaction with the little girl the play date was with, during indoor recess. We talked about it, and I said, well, whether they cancel or not, you can apologize for your part in this the next time you see her. We worked on that for a while. We had cupcakes. She did her homework. I got out a Disney magazine for her reading homework. And the playdate was not canceled. A. said her apology. The other little girl immediately said she herself had just been having a bad day and everything was fine. The other mother had not even known there was a problem.

This is how friendship is _supposed_ to work. I love it!

After the play date, A. and I went to Julie's Place for dinner. Throughout the afternoon and evening, I was trying to track down T.'s missing glasses. We still haven't found them, but we are not completely out of places to call. R. has ordered a couple replacement pairs. We're going to have him leave one at home and one at school, and if the original shows up, he can continue to carry that around. Also, I found a very plain black messenger bag that he can use instead of his backpack at school and (minus the home log binder and lunch box) to carry his various items around when he is out and about. Perhaps that will reduce the risk of losing things. He doesn't seem to like to keep things in his pockets, but instead takes them out every time he is sitting down.

Tuesday's Activities Include: many walks, cupcakes, equinox reading, a movie

My Dutch lesson was canceled because of frenetic activity getting ready for something later this week on the other side. I was sad, but happy for them because they are going to Have Fun!

I got many walks. I did the 1 mile loop twice by myself, once with M., once with A. She was on the scooter and I was walking/jogging to keep up. We encountered three of the four members of the T. family. A. recognized them and said hi. If there was a response, it was a mumbled one from the father. I also said hello and got nothing back. Well, no one can say we were rude, at least.

A. came home with library books. One was a cookbook. This is a new development. Usually she gets two craft books, and then renews them until the teacher sends home a note saying she wants me to buy them for her, I order them used on Amazon and A. will then give in and get new craft books. I think she is down to the last craft book in that series, so she brought home a cookbook and asked to make cupcakes. I initially attempted to delay this, but then decided we might have enough time before the sitter arrived, but we could at least get out the supplies. Turned out we had everything: box cake mix, paper baking cups, confectioners sugar, food coloring. So we made the cupcakes and then made the white icing. We started to make the colored icing, and when she was making the first one (red) it came out pink. Before she added more, I asked her, do you really want red or do you want pink. Of course, pink! Then before she made blue, I asked, do you really want blue, or do you want purple. I know my kid. She said, purple! I asked, do you want to do what is in the picture in the book or do you just want to do pink and purple cupcakes? Guess what the answer to that was? So we made a pink iced cupcake for her and a purple one for me. I put chocolate sprinkles on mine. She didn't care for the taste of the icing plain (confectioners sugar and water) but she liked it on the cupcake, and wanted to know what it worked that way. That is not an easy answer to come up with. Other questions of the day: why do people say water is blue? And why does the sky look blue? She's _that_ age.

In theory, we had two sitters, and R. and I had a reservation at 29 Sudbury. In practice, T.'s sitter texted saying she had to cancel. Fortunately -- or unfortunately, as the case may be -- I had sent T. off with A.'s sitter. If I had sent A. with her sitter, we could have brought T. to the fancy restaurant, because that usually works out with him and rarely works out with her. However, she didn't want to go and wanted to swap sitters so we had to cancel the reservation and had dinner at Julie's Place instead, which is fine, altho it is surely no 29 Sudbury. (Yes, I called and told the restaurant we were canceling. They were grateful. They are really nice people over there. Maybe we'll go later this week.)

I read _A New Beginning_ and part of Rupert's Tales about Estara to A., thus satisfying her reading requirement for school and satisfying my desire to transmit important family values to at least one of my children at least four times a year. I really like the Rupert's Tales books. I feel very emotional (in a good way) when I read them out loud to A. She really likes them, too.

I ran roomba downstairs and did some other cleaning. I eventually got tired and sat down on the couch and watched the first half hour of Star Trek: Beyond. Wow, did the Enterprise take some damage in that first half hour. For some reason, the idea of the two races arguing over what turns out to be an important thing that one of them stole reminded me a lot of _Home_.

I had a couple brief convos with my sister; I mistimed my first call and then I was at a restaurant when she called back, and then I was really tired when I finally remembered to call her back. Maybe later this week.

_Murder on the Orient Express_, Agatha Christie

This was a book group selection for Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name) public library's adult book group. I believe I first read this book -- along with a lot of other cozies -- as a pre-teenager. My mother was a fan then, and continued to be a fan right up until in recent years she ceased to be able to read. Other favorite authors included Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers (I preferred both of them to Christie, but I did not then bear Agatha Christie any ill will -- I did like the Tommy and Tuppence books best, IIRC, which I may not because honestly over 30 years have passed since I last read any of these books).

Spoilers! En voiture, mes amis, unless you've decided to stay a few nights and see the sights rather than board the Wagon Lits.

The first chapter is set on a different line, the Taurus Express, the stops along which read like a summary of recent extended conflict: Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad, Aleppo. Here we first meet Hercule Poirot, the mustachioed and bald Belgian with the egg shaped head, Mary Debenham, a governess headed home to England, and Colonel Arbuthnot, headed home to England from years in India.

Poirot intends to stay in Stamboul, but receives a telegraph recalling him to another case. With more difficulty than anticipated, he gets space in the unexpectedly full first class of the Orient Express. He carefully observes the various passengers in first and second class. He initially shares a room with someone he first saw at the hotel in Stamboul he was briefly at, but when an additional carriage is added to the train, an officer of the rail line switches to the new carriage and Poirot gets his own room.

Of course, his neighbor is murdered in the night and the game is afoot. The novel has been out since 1934 or thereabouts and has been made into movies and short TV series and then riffed and homaged to yards past its death. I think we all know the basic premise of the book: Everyone Did It.

Having gotten the major spoiler out of the way, what's it like reading this thing in 2017? Well, I guess the first and most obvious comment would be how thin the motivating crime feels. The standin for the Lindy baby kidnapping -- a ripped from the headlines plot point if ever there was one -- did not age well. Decades after everyone involved in the Lindbergh case died, we now know a fair number of unsavory things about Charles and his feelings about his son, that make the source case seep through in weird ways to the thinly fictionalized version.

The second, and most offensive aspect of the novel is the relentless ... bigotry? Ethnic stereotyping? Racism? Because the "races" in question are all (western) European, and because we ultimately learn that several people are not the "race" they present as but actually someone else enacting their own stereotype of the "race", it's all more than a little weird and creepy.

Completely by accident, I stumbled across a Wikipedia entry about Graham Greene's _Stamboul Train_, which predates this novel by a couple years, is set on the same train, and shares a variety of attributes with this book, but which honestly sounds a helluva lot more interesting and nuanced -- altho who knows how _that_ would hold up if read now.

I would observe that reading this book in the late 1970s / early 1980s, the world was at least marginally recognizable. I had myself been on multi-day train journeys, albeit always in coach. Borders were still enforced in the areas through which the train passed, and it was still difficult to identify a common second language in which to conduct business with a stranger met on a train. Reading this book in 2017, it is difficult not to feel that this book has receded a great deal further in time. Between WW2, the peak of the Soviet era, and the creation of Europe leading to English being adopted essentially throughout the area as a common second language, it just isn't possible to relate to the world of the people on the train. Which is probably the other half of why this has become an increasingly difficult story to adapt to TV and movies. (That's not stopping anyone -- I think Dr. Who did it a few years back, altho it is worth noting their version involved a Mummy.)

Hercule Poirot is a wildly implausible character in so many ways it's hard to know how to enumerate them. The use of stilted English (word order and other grammatical oddities, not to mention word choice) at least on the surface intended to convey that conversations are occurring in French (and yet still dotted with largely useless interjections in French -- but never German, even tho some convos are also conducted in German) probably did once successfully resonate with people accustomed to talking to people for whom English was a second language and who themselves word-for-word translated expressions from their own language of origin.

Finally, the book is just way too clever for its own good. I'll probably update this after our discussion.

ETA: We had a person in the group who knows Swedish well enough to not believe the Swedish characters version of stilted English at all. Our group settled on the usual Agatha Christie observations: characters not really believable or differentiatable, difficult to feel a sense of place, highly contrived plot, etc. It was a nice discussion, but a little short.