Tag: commuting


mabfan‘s excellent novella, “Sanctuary” (ANALOG, September 2005) has made it onto the preliminary Nebula Award ballot in the category of best novella. It has been well over a year since I read the story and so I decided I would re-read it on the train into work this morning.

I have been commuting on the Washington Metro (subway) for well over 4 years and I have never missed my stop. Regular commuters understand this. Even if you are not consciously paying attention, you “know” where you are and when you are supposed to get off the train. Because of Michael’s story, however, I came closer to missing my stop today than ever before.

In the mornings, the Yellow line now stops at my metro stop, meaning I can take a single train all the way into work. When I got on the train this morning, I sat down in my usual seat, pulled out my copy of ANALOG, and started to re-read “Sanctuary”. I had forgotten how good the story really was and I was immediately engrossed in it. In some ways, it reminds me very much of an Isaac Asimov story because there is a lot of dialog and action is secondary. (I say this as a compliment, as anyone who knows me knows that Isaac Asimov is my favorite writer. Many of my stories are like that too.) So here I was reading about this alien who had requested sanctuary in a Catholic chapel on a space station. I forgot I was on a train. I forgot that I was on Earth. It felt as though I were in that chapel, watching the events unfold.

About one third of the way through the story, as I was finishing up a scene, a bunch of people were getting off the train. I didn’t think anything of it, until I heard the conductor saying, “…next station, Crystal City.” This was my stop! I managed to get off the train before the doors closed, but it was a close call. I cannot remember the last time that I was so engrossed by a story that even my subconscious stopped paying attention to my surroundings that much. I think it is a good sign for Michael’s story, as far as the nomination (and even the award goes).

Four stories made the preliminary cut and I have read two of them. I also read, and really enjoyed shunn‘s novella in the April/May 2006 ASIMOV’S, “Inclination”. At this point, I am torn as to which I like better. I still need to re-read “Inclination”. (I posted my initial response to the story here. And I need to read the other two stories.) But I have to say that I think Michael’s story has a slight edge so far. And for those interested in some odd coincidences, here are some interesting ones about these two stories and their respective authors:

  • Both stories are centered around religious themes
  • Both stories use single-word titles
  • Both stories take place on space stations
  • Both authors are long-time LJers
  • mabfan has blogged extensively on Jewish themes; shunn has blogged frequently on Mormonism
  • Both authors have been nominated for Nebula awards before, but neither has won

Incidentally, if you are interested, a portion of “Sanctuary” is currently available on ANALOG’s website. You can find it here. Many of Michael’s stories are also available on Fictionwise. Check out his fiction page for more information and links.

Dilemma: at this point, I want to just close my office door and finish reading “Sanctuary”. But I have a busy morning and I don’t think I can do it. I would ordinarily do it at lunch, but I am having lunch with someone today. So I won’t be able to finish it until later this afternoon. But if I don’t try and finish it now, I know that I will be thinking about the story all day and that will throw off my concentration. Gee, thanks a lot, mabfan!

Metro confusion

On Sunday, the yellow line in the DC Metro began running all the way up to Fort Totten. I normally take the green line to the yellow line to get to work. With the yellow line going to Fort Totten, that means I can switch only two stops before mine, and I can sit and ride longer before I have to switch. So this morning was the first chance I got to do it.

I was a little confused. The green line came at 5:06, as usual, to PG Plaza. But one minute behind the green line, according to the electronic boards, was a yellow line train. I figured that had to be a mistake since PG Plaza is two stops beyond Fort Totten. So I got on the green line and got off at Fort Totten to switch to the Yellow line. A minute later, at Fort Totten, the yellow line came. And there were people on it, meaning that it had, in fact, stopped at PG Plaza and West Hyattsville. If this is actually the case, it means I can now take one train all the way into work, which is incredibly convenient. The problem is, everything that has been announced say that the end of the yellow line is now Fort Totten. But that is not how the train behaved this morning.

When I got into work, I checked WMATA’s website and found this announcement, which didn’t really clarify things. And the new system maps show the yellow line terminating at Fort Totten. So what gives? People clearly got on the yellow line at PG Plaza, West Hyattsville (and probably College Park and Greenbelt too). It makes sense since Greenbelt is the end of the line and why would the train skip stations? But it has not been announced officially.

I’m so confused!

Four years in Maryland

Today, August 1, marks my “official” 4 year anniversary living in Maryland. “Official,” because I actually moved out here on July 28, 2002, but I didn’t start up at work until August 1, so I use that date, because it’s a nice round number.

I was reminded of this upcoming anniversary a few days ago when I received in the mail a renewal for my car registration. Has it been four years already?

It also marks a more obscure anniversary: four years of having never driven into the office where I work in Arlington, Virginia. Back when I lived in L.A., I commuted for eight years between Studio City and Santa Monica. It was 20 miles, and I left early enough in the morning (5 AM) to avoid traffic. But that same 20 miles at 5 PM usually meant I’d get home at about 7 PM. When I moved to Maryland, one of the big pluses was access to the Metro. There is a Metro station about 1-1/2 miles from my house. I take the Metro to work every day and it’s a half an hour each way. The Metro stops underneath the building in which I work, which is very convenient in the winters.

It is a matter of pride with me that I have managed to avoid driving into work for four years. I wonder if I can pull it off for another four?

A new re-fueling record

I have passed my previous record of number of days without having to put gas in my car. Since moving out to the DC area 3-1/2 years ago, I went from driving 16,000 miles/year in L.A. to under 4,000 miles a year in the metro DC area. That number is also slowly shrinking.

Today is officially 43 days since I last put gas in my car. This was back when Jen was visiting, on December 28. My previous record was 41 days.

Now, the car is almost on empty, but I drive so little that I think I can make it thorugh the weekend without putting gas in the car. That would put me at 45 days. At that rate, it means that I put gas in my car about 8 times per year. I put in a full tank, which is 10 gallons. At current prices, that’s $2.36/gallon or $23.60 per tank multiplied 8 times and:

I am spending about $188.80/year on gasoline.

Compare that to the $100/month I spend on metro (DC subway) travel and parking and you can really start to see how commuting costs compare. In L.A. I was filling my car up with gas every 6 days. That comes out to 61 times per year. The prices were cheaper than, call it $1.50/gallon. That means I was spending $915/year in gas. My communting costs include parking, which is $3.50/day. All-in-all, I was spending about $1,000 year in L.A. and I’m spending about $1,400/year in DC. That would seem as though it was $400 more expensive to take the train than drive. However, you also have to factor in wear and tear on the car and most importantly, the opportunity costs lost when driving. That is, I can spend 1 hour/day on the train (half an hour each way) reading, sleeping, whatever. That is an extra hour a day that I did not have in L.A.