Tag Archive for 'Dallas'

My very first race

I ran my very first official race last weekend, the 11th Annual Trinity River Levee Run. Inspired by my 57-year old uncle who ran in the 2014 Chicago marathon, I accepted his challenging invitation to run in a race too. So, I started training for this Trinity race. Although I have been running since February 2014, I started training more seriously than ever as soon as I got home from Chicago in 2014.

Using a Polar heart rate monitor, Runkeeper for tracking my progress, and Gipis for a suggested training plan, and later Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art for instilling self-motivation, I got to where I ran in this first race. The race was purely against me. I didn’t compare myself with other runners. I knew I wasn’t as serious about running as the serious runners are. I just wanted to see if I could make myself go out and run systematically and perhaps improve my pace. I think one thing the made the idea of running long distance seem possible to me was when my uncle explained the paradox that in order to learn to run far and fast, one must run slowly with a slow heart rate of no more then 150 beats per minute (bpm). This seemed very attainable because I knew that I could maintain such a pace for a long time, even if I were dragging myself at first through the distance.

I am proud to say that since I got on the Gipis plan in November, I did not miss a single planned session except for a couple of weeks in early January when I was horribly ill with a cold, and then the very last session before the race because I feared heart problems after the previous session where likely due to lack of sleep, I think I overstressed my heart to where it fluttered longer than it ever had, not that it flutters often, to where it caused me to cough for a good 10 seconds. Other than that, not even snow precipitating stopped me.

selfie after a run when it was snowing

After a run when it was snowing

The night before the race, I attended a gong meditation session. If I had gone to sleep right after it, I probably would have slept enough, but I stayed up latter than I had planned. There also was a late e-mail stating that the course got altered due to impassable conditions caused by the recent wet and icy weather on the original route, so the race was fewer than 10 kilometers.

By morning, I was still sleepy but when the alarm clock went off at 6:30, I did not hesitate to get up as I told myself, “I trained too hard to show up late for this.” I had a good breakfast of my usual daily Lukasz Goulash, a cereal of Barbara’s Shredded Wheat, Fiber One, some Flax Seed mix from Sam’s, honey, over a generous amount of blueberries, and milk. I put the running bib on my shirt, packed a change of clothes in case I wanted to stay longer at the festival surrounding the run, strapped on my heart rate monitor. I couldn’t find the gloves I wanted to wear during the race protect my hands from the cold 0° C weather, so I got my nicer leather gloves instead and went out the door about 20 minutes later than I had planned, which was still over 40 minutes before the starting time, which was not a problem because I lived about 15 minutes from the starting line.

The drive to the race was a little discouraging because my GPS kept directing me to go over the Margaret Hunt bridge that was closed off for the race, so that made me loop around a few blocks a couple of times before I finally got myself on the street I needed to be. I should have paid closer attention to the driving directions provided in the e-mail from the race organizers. At this point, parking was very full, and I had to park about half a mile away from the starting line. It was 7:50 by the time I left my car to head towards the starting line. I wasn’t completely certain where I was supposed to be, so I ran in the general direction of the starting line. It was cold, so I thought it would be a nice warm-up to jog; however, probably due to my stress due to cutting so close to the start time, my heart rate was already around 170 bpm, so that was disheartening.

Once I got to the starting area, I saw a lot of runners not even close to the starting line. I recalled that there was a sprint across the 400m bridge that was to occur prior to the race, so I was under the impression that was the first event, which it probably was, except it happened at 7:45, not 8:00, like I misunderstood. I also didn’t quite understand whether the 5k race was to start at the same starting line as the 10k race for which I signed up, so I stood back from the starting line.

The fire department was to have a fire truck sound its siren instead of a starting gun, but the truck was not ready and there was no siren sound at the start of the race, and meanwhile, I am still about 50m away from the starting line. All of sudden, I heard the announcer say something like, “…you don’t just get up in the one day and run six miles. You train for this,” which is when I figured out the 10k already started. So, I ran up to the starting line and just ran through it while I started recording with my heart rate monitor and set my phone to start recording Runkeeper data. To my disappointment, my heart rate was already over 165, sometimes around 172, which I worried was way too high to finish the race. Fortunately, the race started on a downhill slope. I wasn’t sure what to make of the entire crowd far ahead of me, so I just focused on my pace because as it turned out, the crowd meant nothing since each person is measured individually based on personal start time.

I didn’t socialize with anyone during the race, though it seemed like almost everyone around me was socializing. After the first kilometer, I had to pee. I hoped there would be porta-potties on the route, but there weren’t any. Some well trained runners passed me who I overheard talking to other runners that they had started late due to a late arrival, so apparently, it’s not a huge deal to start late.

The morning was beautiful, with the sun shining through haze over the water grassy river banks, and the air was brisk. I felt a little cold at the start, but I was warm by the third kilometer. By the fourth kilometer, I took my gloves off and held them in my hand. There were race marshals directing traffic for folks who ran the 10k to separate them from the 5k runners on the same path, so one had to pay attention to instructions while running.

The altered part of the route was on a service road that was rather scenically boring, running along a levee with no view of the river and some unattractive houses flanking the other side. I ended up running very near a lady who must have been in her seventies who ran at my pace. Or, maybe I should say, “I ran at her pace,” since she’s been alive longer than me. I wanted to tell her “good job,” but I chose to stick to my code of silence during this race. I could tell she was in a little bit of pain as she had a hobble and hunched. I kept checking my heart rate as I ran beside her, and my rate was too high to accelerate my pace, so I paced myself with this lady for probably three kilometers. Eventually, she slowed down or traffic on the trail just kind of forced me to navigate with acceleration, so I left her behind and didn’t see her again. I hope she did well because I was proud of her.

As I ran past near the starting line and vendors, there were finished runners standing on the route obstructing the running path, which I thought was both, highly inconsiderate and poorly organized to allow that to happen. There still were no bathrooms that I noticed, so I kept going; however, in actually I had run past them at that moment.

I had put my gloves in my pocket, and eventually one fell out of my pocket without me noticing. As I ran past a trash can after I had noticed I was missing a glove, I threw away the other glove. I liked those gloves, but I urged myself into detaching from this material item, the glove, whose weight was only going to slow me down henceforth and obviously had very little value without its mate. I needed a good excuse to get new leather gloves because these caused a rash on my hands to break out a little bit from some dander to which I am allergic to in these gloves that were getting old. This was the best excuse to get rid of them that I could think of.

By the eighth kilometer, the traffic was very sparse. I stopped a couple of times to stretch briefly and retie my shoes. After the last turn which put us onto the dramatic crossing of the Margaret Hunt Bridge, I started to feel my achievement. My heart rate was over 180 by this time since I just completed climbing and onramp. There were several families walking five or seven people wide obstructing passage as they were part of the simultaneous charity walk. I did my best to navigate around them but loosing some time.

At one point, I stopped feeling my body. It felt like I was running on a cloud without any pain. I checked my heart rate monitor to see if that affected anything, but it did not. I simply could not feel pain or fatigue, but my body was clearly working very hard. After about 30 second of this sensation, I felt my body again.

I took in a little bit of the beautiful architecture as I ran under the suspension structure of the bridge since I felt I deserved to take in the moment. I thought through my achievement: I made it this far by myself. No one told me to run. No one would get upset if I didn’t run or missed a training session. No one was there to hold my car keys or ID. There weren’t any self-organized cheering sections for anyone really, not like what I saw in Chicago, mile after mile of people cheering on strangers as they looked for their loved ones. At that time I didn’t know how many cumulative miles I had run since February 2014 or October 2014 as I don’t think about things like that, but I knew I had run further than I had ever run in my life before.

Then, with fewer than 200 meters remaining, I dashed sprinting for the finish line. My heart rate monitor displayed “out of zone” as I maxed out at 198 bpm. Crossing the line was very anti-climactic. Folks there were there for other people. There were no race organizers to tell me where to go after that. There was no place to sit that I could find. I finally found some water and free bananas. I used the bathroom, and then listened to the band play Beatles songs, which made me think of how I play those songs in a band back in Tulsa. They sounded slightly better than we do, so that means for professionals at a major city event, they sounded like the Beatle songs were too difficult for them.

According to my Runkeeper data, I had run 9.16km at 1:10:20 with an average HR of 170. I achieved three new records: Distance, Duration, and Calories Burned.

I stuck around the festival in case I saw someone I knew for the ‘yoga on bridge thing’ that was to happen later, or just to see who I would run into. I didn’t meet anybody. Only the RFID readers at the starting and finish lines knew that it and my bib with its RFID chip and I had crossed the starting and finish lines. I walked back to my car with soreness starting to settle in my tendons around my knee caps. There was a Saturday flea market near where I parked, so someone followed me to my car in her car to take my spot. Then, I drove home to rest, showered, and then I went to my favorite Sound Meditation class at noon, after which I went to see the new film Chappie in IMAX.

Later I checked online for my official time, which was 01:09:54 for a 9km.

screenshot of official results

Official results

Those 9 or 10 kilometers to the race were actually part of a long road for me to get there. They really were just the final stretch, less than 1%, of a much larger undertaking. To get to the finish line with these stats, including the race, I have ran 210 miles or 338 km since I started using Runkeeper in April 2014, not including hikes or walking. Since my pivotal trip to Chicago for the marathon, I have run 116 miles or 187 km. In 2015 alone, I have run 55 miles or 88 km. All these numbers mean is that it has been a long road.

This experience has taught me that I can do great things on my own.

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Uncle visiting from Poland

This past weekend, my uncle from Poland visited me in Dallas. He is retired and has been in the U.S. for a couple of months now visiting family. He decided to make a short tour of the South and Midwest by taking Greyhound bus from Tulsa to Dallas, and then the Amtrak train to Chicago, and back to Tulsa, his home base while in the U.S., by plane. Being very well traveled, the bus and train were modes of transportation my uncle was experiencing for the first time on this continent, and he enjoyed comparing these modes to their counterparts in our native Poland.*
Google map with numbered markers starting from Tulsa, Dallas, and Chicago

The trip from Tulsa to Dallas

To my surprise, my uncle is quite well versed in navigating the Tulsa Transit system and has been leveraging the system to transverse the city. Luckily, a bus line runs directly in front of the apartment complex where my parents are living while they are migrating back to Poland and where he is staying during most of his visit in the U.S., so he conveniently caught a bus to the Greyhound station in downtown Tulsa (marker A) for the 10:45 bus to Dallas (marker D). At that moment, the trip already got delayed as the Greyhound bus waited 45 minutes for another Greyhound bus that was delayed and carrying a transfer passenger. The route was essentially down Hi-way 75, the typical route I take to Dallas, but the bus first stopped in Muskogee (marker B). He tried to send me an SMS about the delay, but due to a much unfounded miscommunication, he sent the messages to an old cell number of mine. I understood he did not have a cell in the U.S., but in fact, he is roaming on his Polish cell service in America, and each SMS text message costs roughly 60¢; nevertheless, it is a worthwhile cost for such critical communiqué.

Google Map of Oklahoma and Texas region with markers on Tulsa, Muskogee, Richardson, and Texas.

By around 17:00, Friday the 9th, I left my home for the Greyhound bus station in Dallas for my uncle’s planned arrival time of 17:25; however, his bus further encountered a second delay due to lane-closure and traffic congestion before Richardson (yellow marker C) resulting in, to the lack of my knowledge, a total of hour delay, about which he texted me again to the wrong number with an updated time. Naturally, first I pulled over in my car in front of the station hoping he would come out and see me, as he is familiar with my car. I noticed a dozen or so passengers exit the station, shortly after which security shooed away since they just stood in front of the station.

Street view of Greyhound Station in Dallas

Street view of Greyhound Station in Dallas

After ten minutes, I decided to circle the block and eventually parked and went inside. Inside, first I noticed a mucky smell of cheap deodorant in the very crowded terminal and that there was no time table board anywhere, and the only person who could help me, after a short investigation, was the gentleman whose job was to help passengers between the bus and terminal and who updated me about a 26 minute delay, which turned out to be obsolete information but better than nothing. Thirty minutes came and went, and rush-hour traffic got heavier outside the station as I decided return to my car thinking it was wiser to stay with my car. This resulted in me accidentally cutting off a pedestrian as I made a right turn in front of a police car, so I got pulled over but only given a warning. I circled the one way streets to find a parking meter somewhat in front of the station where I ultimately parked.

Finally, around 18:30, I noticed my uncle enter the terminal a little bit disoriented, so I yelled out to him, greeted him, and we walked back to my car. I was happy to learn he had the privilege to ride on one of the new Greyhound buses. First order of business was to acquire dinner to bring home, so we drove straight to Szechuan Chinese Restaurant on Lemmon Avenue where at 18:53, we ordered egg-drop soup to split between him and me, garlic pork for himself, chicken & shrimp fried rice for Monica, and sweet & sour chicken for me. Monica was very hungry by the time we got home after 19:00. We had plans to visit the NorthPark mall that evening to avoid the tax-free weekend rush the next day, but the travel delays postponed that plan. We spent most of what was left of the evening planning the following day.

New Greyhound bus

New Greyhound bus

A Saturday with my Uncle

We all woke up around 7:00. One of my uncle’s quests on this trip was to go native and share our normal routine in a condensed format. At 8:24, we got a couple of good and inexpensive breakfast burritos to go from La Victoria, a nice little restaurant in our neighborhood.

After breakfast, as we were loading my car, Monica noticed some desperate meowing, which turned out to be one of our cats crying on our balcony where we were spraying sunscreen on ourselves earlier. So, Monica ran back upstairs to let the cat back in. Fortunately, a mother always hears her baby’s cry because it was too hot to leave any animal outside, especially once the direct sun would hit.

We parked at my work parking lot downtown about 9:45, and went inside of my office to see the 360-degree view of the city from the 28th floor. Then, we walked over to the new Klyde Warren Park where we admired the surroundings and started a mission to find ice cream for Monica. By 10:45, we were ready to get out of the sun and go inside the Dallas Museum of Art to which admission is now free as of this year, but since the museum opened at 11:00 as did all the food trucks at the park, we waited in the shade of a tree on the west corner of Woodall Rodgers Fwy and St. Paul until opening time.

To our dismay, we had to throw away our water bottles to enter the museum, which was a bitter but fair trade for the nice, cool museum. We viewed the Hotel Texas exhibit of the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy that reunited “works that were installed in the president’s suite at the Hotel Texas during his fateful trip in 1963”.* For Monica to warm up again, we then viewed the sculpture installations in the museum’s garden, and then went back inside to view several more floors and sections of the museum. We saw art from almost every old continent, but we enjoyed the European Art the most.

Finished with the museum, we walked to the Pyramid restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel where at 12:42 my uncle ordered the salmon I recommended, Monica ordered the lobster bisque soup, and I ordered a deli turkey on pita bread. My meal was refreshing, but Monica was quite disappointed of her soup due to comparing it a similar dish from Bodean Seafood Restaurant in Tulsa, so after the fact, the manager gave her a free desert, an apple crumble, to go, which, although good, turned out to be more apple than crumble. The salmon was good, but my uncle was not as thrilled by it as I typically have been, though the dish was different than it used to be.

After lunch, we walked a block and caught the free M-line tram to Uptown at 14:00, and unfortunately, the air-conditioning on it was not working. We rode to West Village in Uptown to get some dessert, gelato from Paciugo at 14:27. The gelato was quite fulfilling. We took the next tram at 14:57 back to the my parked car.

At home, we freshened up and rested a bit to leave for dinner and the mall. We chose to eat at Velvet Taco, which was received very well by everyone mostly due to its originality and freshness. Afterwards, we went to NorthPark mall where we were on a mission to find my uncle a postcard, from Texas Treasures, and a bucket hat for his photographic expeditions. At the store Texas Treasures, he also purchased a personalized keychain which flashed his name on one side and had the Texas flag on the other. I also purchased for him a gift set from the Art of Shaving store. We circled the entire mall observing the art from the Nasher collection, and despite visiting several department stores, we only really found one bucket hat, which was by Lacoste but in a bad color at Macy’s. It was Monica’s keen sense that directed us to stop in the Lacoste boutique on the way back to the car where a white hat in the same style was on sale. The clerk had to pull it out of storage, it was the last one, and it was marked down, a remarkable find. Then, we drove home, drank some blueberry tea and called it a night.

Sunday with my uncle

True to my uncle’s tradition while in America, he and I went for a run Sunday morning, though we walked most of the time during our run due to talking. I let him use my heart rate monitor, and he put me to shame with it because he is in such great shape, for any age, that he barely entered into the aerobic zones. He had a top BPM of 133 with an average of 98 over 35 minutes. I could tell my BMP was hitting 150s sometimes, but he runs every day.

"Breakfast #2" with ham from Allgood Cafe .

“Breakfast #2” with ham

Afterwards, he wrote his post card, I stamped it for Poland, and we dropped it in the mailbox on the way to our favorite breakfast place, Allgood Café in Deep Ellum. There was a thirty minute wait at the diner and was quite warm inside, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the food and each others’ company. Each of us ordered renditions of their “Breakfast #2”, which is scrambled eggs, short stack of pancakes with fruit, and sausage though he ordered the ham. The coffee was excellent too.

On the way home, my uncle summarized his dining experience, as this was his last one with us, to that he enjoyed all by the Pyramid very much because all of the food was original. The Pyramid did not seem worth the money we paid, but it was not bad but nothing special in his opinion, to which Monica concurred. We all agreed the old menu from the previous chef at the Pyramid was better than the new one.

From the moment we got back home, it was a brief time until the train. My uncle finished packing; we had some tea and talked for a while. Soon, 15:00 came, so we all got in the car to drive to Union Station for his 15:40 train. The parking there was less than optimal as there is practically no short-term parking, and I reluctantly paid $5 for parking at 15:33. The train was about 10 minutes late; it was supposed to arrive 15:20 but arrived around 15:40. We waited inside the station for a short while, too short for me to take in the historic element of the place. We moved with the crowd to the platform—in the heat. An attendant scanned my uncle’s ticket and direct him to the last car on the train. There, we listened to another attendant explain a few things about the train. My uncle stepped inside to drop off his luggage, and then came back out to take final photos with us and say good-bye.

We began to miss him immediately. The following day, my uncle sent me an SMS that he arrived to Chicago and went looking for the metro to the airport, and I queried the Amtrak website to learn that his train arrived to Chicago 6 minutes early. Late that evening, I received an SMS from my mother that he was back in Tulsa safe and sound.
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* He noted that on Greyhound, the bus driver announces all of the stops, including listing all stops at the top of the trip, and knows exactly how many passengers to expect at each stop. In Poland, the PKS bus drivers do not know how many passengers will board at subsequent stops.
Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013. Print.

Our First Independence Day celebration at Dallas’s Fair Park

This was our second Independence Day celebration since we moved to Dallas, but our first to go watch fireworks. Not knowing the too much about how the annual celebrations look like here in practice, we thought that one can’t really go wrong seeing “the city fireworks”; plus, entrance to the celebration was free. We were going to go with a friend who unfortunately had to bow out the day of due to a late deliverable at work.

Planning how to get to and from the celebration without a car took some effort. We figured it would be too crowded to deal with a car, but public transit should be alright, especially a train. Since the nearest station is not walking distance, I decided that we will park Downtown in a covered parking, and take the green line DART train from Akard to Fair Park. We brought lawn chairs, though we debated whether it was worth our while, but I think eventually it was proven to be worth our while. Thankfully, we were able to bring in our own water bottles. I wore sunscreen and a ball cap, but it didn’t feel like it was necessary starting at 7:30 pm Downtown. We worried that we may regret not having bug spray, but bugs did not bother us all night.

Our Green line DART train appraching Akard Station.

Green line DART train appraching Akard Station.

When we got to Akard station, I purchased us two Day Passes. After about a 10 minute wait, the train arrived, and most seats were taken after our stop. At the next few stops, many more passengers and kids got on to make it standing room only. At Deep Ellum, a seemingly nice name but with bad body order stood next to us until our destination.

When we disembarked the train along with the large crowd, we had to wait for the train to move, so that we could cross the tracks and walk towards the Fair Park. There was one police officer watching all of the people walk in, mostly checking for what they were carrying, but he did not stop or talk to anybody. We made a round around much of the park, down alongside the 700 foot reflecting pool toward the Hall of State where in front a stage was set up. We perused to identify a good vantage spot for the fireworks later and to evaluate what sort of food vendors were on site.

After walking around toward the lagoon with swan boats, we stopped at one vendor near the Cotton Bowl main entrance who was selling ice cream sandwiches where I ordered a Nutella and almond ice cream wrapped in two “hot cake” cookies that tasted like pancakes. It was an overload of sugar, and I got some of the melting ice cream on my shirt and camera case. We walked back around to the reflecting pool, near the entrance to the park. We purchased a couple of beers and set down our chairs to wait for the show to begin. We were surrounded by a significant crowd in our area, and some individuals had to sit down on the concrete because their feet were hurting. I’m glad we brought chairs, and it wasn’t too hard to carry both chairs the entire time leading up to then.

The fireworks show began a little bit late. Allegedly the show was timed to live music, but I we were too far away to hear anything. We were one of the few people sitting, and many standing were blocking our view slightly, but we saw enough. As soon as the show began, the large swarm of people adjusted their standing location, walking past us, because some of the pillars, trees, or monuments were blocking their view. I thought the fireworks would go higher into the air, but from our vantage point, the fireworks got up between pillars and buildings. I thought the fireworks show was a little thin, which later my observation was supported by a news report that half of pyrotechnics did not launch.

Immediately after the show, people started walking to the gate. I honestly started to get a bit worried how we will get home in such a crowd, which I extrapolated could last for at least an hour. Fortunately, it was relatively under control. Nevertheless, we walked back to the Fair Parks DART train station where it was like a mosh pit at a rock concert. The train arrived on time, and it approached the station extremely slowly probably because many people were standing too close to the edge of the platform.

Crowd swarming train at Fair Park

This is just a portion of the massive crowd attempting to enter the train.

People flooded the train, and yet still the vast majority remained on the platform. I was disappointed knowing that the next train was not supposed to arrive for another 30 minutes. So, we turned around and walked back into the park to use the bathrooms. At least 15 minutes have passed; we walked back to the station where a Red line train pulled away with people. This surprised me because only the Green line goes this way. Shortly thereafter, a green line appeared ahead of schedule. I also noticed DART busses running as Shuttle Busses, and my interested piqued trying to understand where those are running, many of which were mostly empty.

We got on the Green line back to Akard. It felt a little weird because the voice that announced the stations was turned off until about Pearl station. At our stop, I tried to be vigilant, but it was kind of deserted. A large party walked behind us, and a squad car and what probably was an undercover car were parked in a parking lot talking, so the walk back to the garage felt safe.

The beer and the massive amount of sugar upset my stomach. I also really wish there would have been some announcement on the DART website that there was going to be special event service running because that would have lowered my stress about getting home.

Architectural lecture by William Pedersen

A good friend of mine invited me last minute to see an architectural lecture at the Dallas Museum of Art by the world-renown architect William Pedersen. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is one of my friend’s and mine favorite buildings in Dallas, and Pedersen designed it. Pedersen is one of the lead architects of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project in New York City, which he considers to be a project of a lifetime.

The presentation was memorable for me in that Pedersen had searched for a fundamental exercise in structural design equivalently analogous to musical scales. So, he showed photos of how he balanced random rocks on the beach as one such exercise. He walked us through some of the most important aspects of his creations, many of which won awards, emphasizing balance and motion. He considers the Rockefeller Center in New York as the greatest architectural achievement of all time because it balances nobility with humility. This is why the grander or larger the building, the simpler it must look. He also stated that it is very difficult to achieve simplicity because underneath it is very complex.

Afterward the lecture, everyone walked over the Federal Reserve building for a reception (marker B). There was airport-like security but nicer to get in. After we got our free drinks and viewed the exhibit, we actually got a chance to talk with Pedersen, where we commented that we comparing the Federal Reserve building to something mathematical, like Bach. My friend called it lyrical, but I disagreed and call it a stationary interval. I asked him whether he considered proportions of intervals found in the well-tempered scale. Although he was very intrigued with the question, he stated he did not consider that because he does not know anything about music theory and responded that everything plays off the golden mean. I tried to relate the intervals to which I was referring to physics rather than music theory. Interestingly, although it became time for him to go and someone started ushering him away, it was apparent he wanted to continue this conversation. The upside is that because Pedersen does not use harmonics or frequency proportions found in musical scales, I won a bet with my friend, so he had to pay for dinner.

Here are some photos I took of the Federal Reserve building back in October 2012 during the Klyde Park opening. Click on the images for full resolution.
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas as seen from Klyde Park

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas close up

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas as seen down the street a block away

Channeling My Ancestors by Having No Hot Water

I haven’t written much since we moved to our new place, but here’s something to remember. For about the last 26 hours, we have been without hot water, and there is no estimated time of resolution. The last estimated time was today afternoon, but that hour came and went.

I went to work today without bathing, but I did what I could. This evening, I decided I was going to bathe one way or another. Meanwhile, cold delicate laundry was not a problem. With no hot water into the late evening, I decided I was going to heat my own water on the stove in pots and dump boiling water into the bathtub partially filled with cold water.

First, I cleaned my bathtub because I did not want to sit in more dirt than I already had to. I started boiling water in my one electric kettle and all pots I have. I filled up the bathtub halfway with cold water, and then started hauling the freshly boiled water to the tub. I knew it would take at least two rounds of this, but it ended up taking about four rounds to get not even lukewarm water. The whole ordeal took almost an hour, and with each trip from the stove to the bathroom, I felt more and more in touch with ancestors who filled up bathtubs this way their entire lives.

I’m glad I could be resourceful in time of need.

The Job Interview which landed my job

It was sometime around the last week of February 2012. My recruiter gives me a call about “putting me forward”, or to request permission to submit my resume to Project Management Office at Tenet. I hesitated because I thought that I could ideally hit the ground running at a new job, and the job description sounded intimidating to me considering the high profiles with whom I would supposedly be dealing. It turned out I don’t deal with that many high profile people, but they are always close by. I gave the go ahead to submit my resume. I got a call back a few days later that I am invited to an interview.

During this while, I have been working with my friend Frank Wantland to help him set up his website Compete for People where he offers great personal career building and coaching. I highly recommend him. So, I shared with him the news that I got my job interview, so he actually offered to give me a mock interview, which is why I can recommend him. I think the preparation with him really helped because the interview was nothing like what anyone imagined it would be.

I left for Dallas after work on March 6, 2012. It was a very windy day. It was so windy that there were power outages throughout the city. One outage was at work, where for whatever reason, the backup generators failed to supply backup power, and I became stuck in parking garage at work because the simply boom barriers operated only on electricity and would not let the cars through. I had to wait in a growing line of cars. Fortunately, it was not rush hour yet. There was a doctor in a Corvette who really wanted to leave, so I helped hold up the boom barrier as much as we could given that there was some play in the mechanism, and his low Corvette managed to drive under undamaged. The rest of us had to wait for a maintenance personnel literally to dissemble the boom with a socket wrench.

Once I made it home, I think I actually had one more work call, and then I hit the road. I stopped by my favorite gas station fill up for the trek, but the pumps were not working. So, I drove across the street to another station where the pumps could take my card. By that time, the wind was so bad that I had difficulty operating my trunk lid to do some final checks before I got on the high way. If I believed in divine intervention, I would have surely thought that all signs were pointing for me not to go. Later it would turn out that at best, these were proverbial signs of the storm yet to come once I got the job.

I arrived safely in Dallas a little later than I wanted to. I took some wrong turns as I was trying to avoid constructions, which of course is not marked on my GPS. My plan was to drive down High way 75 through downtown and back up through I-35, but being from the small town of Tulsa, seeing all of these tall buildings down the 75 corridor, I thought I already was downtown; mind you it was nigh time by now. So, I took Loop 12 to shoot across to I-35. It ended up taking about the same of time that the original plan would have.

My interview was at noon, so I took my time to relax in the morning. Did some yoga stretches, got dressed, ate, and drove downtown. Parked my car in an open lot outside of the Fountain Building, and it started raining, and parking cost $5, which is quite a bit for a Tulsan who virtually never pays for parking.

The Fountain Building is beautiful, so I immediately saw myself working there thinking how awesome it would be to work in such an awesome skyscraper. I met my recruiter in the lobby who gave introduced himself and then walked me up to the corporate lobby, which to me looked like something out of a movie when the protagonist steps into the big-bad pharmaceutical corporate lobby. The view was spectacular where I could see a little the DART tram below and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in the distance.

My boss to be was running late but came and got me and took me to another floor to a small conference room for an interview. My other boss to be was on the phone. Wearing my new suite and not being used to wearing suites, I got hot, so I mentioned that I felt warm. The response was to take off my jacket, and this was in a somewhat condescending tone as if I should know when it is appropriate to remove my jacket.

The interview basically consisted of me answering to one request: “Tell me what you have done.” I was already thrown off because I was really only equipped to respond to a different open-ended request of “Tell me about yourself”, to which I prepared a 2 minute summary of my life that lead to project management. Immediately looking back after the meeting, I should have answered it like a politician answer questions by answering question he wished he was asked, not exactly what he actually was asked. This started becoming evident to me once I realized that there were no more questions. I essentially had to fill up the entire hour of just talking about myself. Fortunately, I was warned about this, otherwise, like any normal person, I would have been sweating thinking something is going terribly wrong.

They were impressed that I drove this far for the interview, and I made it clear that I would move for this position. So, at the beginning of the interview they asked whether I was prepared to enter the consulting industry considering that I would be leaving full-time employment to take this. I answered in my typically cautious manner, “I believe so,” to which they replied, “That is not a very confident answer.” So, I corrected myself with, “Yes, I am prepared.”

I talked about my knowledge of Cerner, BMDI and Code Upgrade projects I did with them that spanned several facilities in our (St. John’s) health system, yet they still held the position that I worked for a small organization, and that I may not be able to handle a large organization. I explained the health system has over a thousand beds, but that is just one blip on the radar for an organization that has over fifty hospitals across three time zones and is Cerner’s number one client.

Considering I could appreciate from the roots up what an EMR implementation is like for a hospital, I knew there has to be a catch as to how they can manage so many implementations at once without even knowing the application. This position turned out to be very high level.

I had a few questions for them, but I think one thing that I speculate solidified my entrance was when I stated, quoting Jacque Fresco and his Venus Project , that I believed one should arrive at decisions rather than make decisions. I could see that impressed at least one of them, which was later validated as they impressed upon me that they do “fact-based reporting” where if something is not documented, we do not treat it like fact.

I felt I exhausted my material for after 40 minutes, but they said they allocated a full hour for me, so they will give me a full hour. I just had to start improvising.

After the interview, I felt like it did not go well at all and could not pinpoint why, of course. I drove home later that evening feeling a bit exhausted but happy for the memories and experience.

I am writing this 8 months after the fact, and I many times looked back on this very pivotal moment whether I missed any red flags regarding their personalities. I think I only chose to ignore those as my desire to move on in my career was very strong.

Day One: Traveling to Nahant

Our trip to Boston from May 5 to May 8, 2011, was to meet up with family friends and celebrate their cousin/niece’s graduation from the Berklee School of Music. Monica and I have never been to Boston, so that added to the attraction of the trip. The family get-together was splendid beyond my expectations. Organizers of the trip reserved an ocean-front rental house in the little island town of Nahant where we were lucky enough to have our own bathroom and bedroom with a view of the ocean.
Google Maps full flight path TUL to BOS via DFW
Map of full flight path from Tulsa to Boston

Preparing for Departure

Typically, I like to prepare comprehensive and robust checklists for anything that requires more than seven codependent tasks. Not that “seven” is a hard rule, but the human mind can track seven items simultaneously—plus or minus two. In contrast to our New York trip, I thought that I would relax a bit and forgo a detailed travel checklist. After all, it has practically become a joke that I organize so much. We reviewed our latest checklist a day or two before departure, and also checked the weather, which ultimately neither helped us determine what clothes to truly pack, nor the actual weather that we encountered. Weather.com stated that each night and day would be low of 40°F and high of 60s °F with some chances or rain. Our first day was 75°F.

The night prior to departure, friends of mine offered to drive us to and from the airport, which I accepted. We were surprised that they offered because his wife had knee surgery the same weekend. I knew she was having the surgery, but I forgot it was that same weekend and would have refused the offer. I guess they feel more grateful than they should be about my generosity to their computer issues.

One thing I really wanted for this trip was to have a web-accessible security camera to check in on our dwelling during our absence. I ordered the camera a week prior to the trip, but configuring everything regarding the camera (i.e. recording to my Linux server, e-mail notifications of motion) took significant time but was well worth it because we could see our pets and know they were alright.

Departing the Dwelling

I agreed for my friends to pick us up between 15:45 and 16:00 at our apartment, but they were at our place at 15:40. We were still packing to the last minute and got in their car and left at 16:00.

At the Airport in Tulsa

We arrived at TUL by around 16:20 and checked in with no rush. We got our boarding passes with the seats I requested over a month ago when I purchased the tickets. This time, we shared one piece of luggage that we intended to check, and it cost $25 one-way. Monica did not get a chance to eat before we left our place, so we started to search for food. A nice lady working at Great American Bagel just outside of security told us that there are many more restaurants behind the security checkpoint, so we decided to go through security to search on that side. Simultaneously, I sent a text message to a friend who works part time for TSA, asking him whether he was currently working. As it turned out, my friend was working, and he was working exactly the same conveyor belt through which we happened to go. We talked briefly to possibly hang out after the trip. He enjoyed Monica’s pink netbook (because laptops have to be put in their own bin on the conveyor).

With plenty of time to kill, we walked past all of the eateries, and Monica opted for the Great American Bagel after all, on the secured side of the check point. So, the food and price would have been the same on either side of the checkpoint. GAB was in the other concourse than from where our flight was leaving, so we had to walk past the security checkpoint again where I saw a coworker, a contractor, who was traveling home. I forgot that since it was Thursday afternoon, all of the contractors were leaving to go home for the weekend. I was slightly concerned that I’d run into other contractors, but it was too late in the date for any of the other contractors to still be in Tulsa.

We sat down at a table at our concourse for Monica to eat her food. I ran briefly away to check the status of our gate. We used the bathrooms before we headed to our gate, and we were already the last ones to board the plane.

Flight TUL to DFW

Google Maps flight path TUL to DFW
We departed on time and traveled with no major incidents, but Monica forgot to turn off her cell phone and the captain came on over the PA during the departure off the runway and said, “someone forgot to turn off their cell phone, so please turn it off immediately. Maybe there were other phones still on as well, but hers would have been one of them then. We opted to keep our backpacks under the seats in front of us. My backpack was so thick that it barely fit under the seat. I also under estimated just how much that reduced my leg room, but I managed to find a comfortable position on all flights. We touched down at DFW just before 18:43.

Dinner at DFW

We arrived in DFW at gate C26, and our flight to Boston Logan (BOS) was from gate A25, so we took the tram. It was my first time ever to travel on DFW’s new tram, the Skylink. It was quite nice, and there are separate routes for each direction, so one no longer has to go all the way around the entire the two American Airline terminals to go back one stop.

In front of our gate, A25 was a small food court. We decided to order some McDonald’s because we had no idea when we would eat again. I purchased a Filet-O-Fish, and Monica had a kid’s meal double cheeseburger. We sat down on the outer edge of the food court where we faced the main corridor of the terminal and faced our gate. I barely finished my sandwich, and the next thing we realized that our gate was empty because everyone had already boarded.

I dumped the rest of my food in the trash and carried my drink. Monica packed up the rest of her food to carry onto the plane. Monica had to make one more bathroom stop, but the bathrooms were kind of far away. I haven’t flown much recently, and things have changed a lot since 9/11, one of those things being the flat LCD screens displaying the status of boarding the flight, including standby passengers. The gate agent called final boarding call. Seeing that there were still standby passengers on the list, I got worried that our seats might be given away. I finished my drink and threw the cup in the trash. The lady called final boarding call a second time. Out of a nervous reflex, I started sipping Monica’s kid’s size drink, which full holds only four or five of my gulps. I accidentally almost finished off her entire drink, which essentially rendered her food inedible because she requires a beverage to eat her food. As it turns out, it is perfectly fine to speak with the gate agent to notify that we are here and that we will be ready to board shortly. To make it worse, what seemed like no line was actually a long line inside the jet bridge of people waiting to take their seats on the plane. There was certainly no need for me to worry. That was one of my first of many personal mistakes on this trip.

Flight DFW to BOS

Google Maps flight path DFW to BOS
We did not know until this flight that non-alcoholic drinks are still free. Food was available for purchase, but we did not need to purchase any. There weren’t any menus in the seat pockets in front of us, so we had to ask for a menu. Basically, food for purchase on the plane cost for one person what two meals just cost us at McDonald’s, so we were glad we could skip that. Monica had water; I had tomato juice, which was Mott’s brand. We stayed awake the whole flight talking even though we were a little bit tired.

Arrival to BOS and drive to Nahant

Our flight arrived about 15 minutes early. When we disembarked our plane, I sent a text message to our friends who were now in Boston that we have landed. We got our checked luggage from the baggage claim. Myriam and Ajith found us shortly after that. We hugged and then walked to where Chris was waiting with the van, which was his parent’s van that they drove 9 hours to Boston from Canada for this celebration. Just to believe their trek, I took note of the Canadian license plate, which reminded me that I am not in the presence of a subject to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second. On the ride to the house, we learned that Monica and I will get our own bedroom, which has its own bathroom. Monica was very excited about the news, and I was equally excited to learn that our bedroom had a view of the ocean. I felt like I would experience the life of a millionaire this weekend.
Google Maps marking BOS and Nahant house
We arrived at the house about 20 minutes later, about 1:00 in the morning, where we were astonished to first learn that the house backs up to the Atlantic ocean. It was practically pitch black outside, so we could not see the ocean, but we could sure hear it.

Settling in at the Nahant House

The house on Nahant Island was huge. There was food still set out from dinner, and we were invited to eat. We started greeting the other guests who arrived before us and haven’t already gone to sleep. Everyone else arrived before us except for Adam and Gabby. I planned our flights to carpool with Adam and Gabby, but their flight was delayed quite a bit and Chris was nice enough to make a trip from the house to the airport just for us. We took our luggage to our bedroom. I changed into a warmer shirt because it was sort of cold in the house, and then hung out with everybody.

When it was time to pick up Adam and Gabby from the airport, only Ajith and Chris went, during which time we experienced a power outage about 1:30 in the morning. At the time, we could not assess whether the power was out only for us or for our neighbors as well. We wanted to notify the power company of the outage, but we had no number to call, so we tried to call the landlord who naturally did not answer the phone at that time of night.

I suggested calling 9-1-1 with the prefix that it was a non-emergency call. I should have done the talking because Bisha, one of the main organizers of the trip, made a joke out of the situation and actually argued with the dispatcher. We then decided he should call 4-1-1, which resulted in similar comical results but did not seem quite comical to me in total darkness.

Of all the times I traveled with a flashlight, I did not pack one this time, so we resorted to using our cell phones for light source but most batteries of these cell phones were dying. I had our fully charged netbook which was super bright. Bisha then resorted to calling all the phone numbers he had for the landlord where he finally got an answer. Also by this time, Ajith and Chris arrived with Gabby and Adam who confirmed that the entire island was dark.

Eventually, our eyes got used to the darkness, and the ocean was visible under the clear moonlit sky. It was quite amazing how powerful nature is. It always amazes me how our predecessors lived without electricity up until only about one-hundred years ago. I kept saying that it’s ironic that we’re waiting for the power to come on to turn on the lights just so that we can turn them off and go to sleep. Some of us started getting ready for bed, and then later a crewman came around 3:00 to check our breakers to make sure that the house would turn on immediately after electricity became available again. Bisha asked the crewman whether we were safe on Nahant Island and whether any murders could take place during the darkness. The crewman answered in his heavy Asian accent that the island is very safe.

We went to bed without power and woke up to power. By that time, it was quite hot in the room, so I opened the window, and to my amazement, I finally saw for the first time our view of the ocean and the air smelled wonderful coming straight off the water. I pulled the blinds completely shut for the window directly in front of our bed. The sound of the waves helped me sleep well into the mid-morning.