Friday, November 14, 2008

A Little Oklahoma Road Geekery

On Tuesday afternoon as I drove along I-35 from Oklahoma City toward Dallas, I saw many reassurance shields for I-35. Most of them are the typical ones you see everywhere. However, I saw two like the one below just north of the town of Ardmore.

Look closer...the shield is not cut out, but is painted on a white, squared blank. Interesting? Only to us road geeks!

Oklahoma's New Dome

Oklahoma became the 46th state of the United States in 1907, and while Guthrie was its first seat of government, the capitol was moved to Oklahoma City shortly thereafter. The state capitol building was distinguished by two things. First, it had working oil wells on the capitol grounds. Second, the capitol had no dome.

To celebrate the Oklahoma centennial, the state finally finished its capitol building by adding a dome which was dedicated in 2004. I had never seen the new dome in person, so as I left town on Tuesday, I made a stop to grab some photos. Since it was Veterans Day, the building was closed, so I could not get any pictures of the interior of the new dome, which I understand is spectacular. Maybe next time I get down to OKC I will be able to take a look inside the rotunda.

The dome was dedicated on statehood day, November 16, 2002. It is topped off by a statue of a native American, titled "The Guardian", which was designed by former state senator and Seminole Nation Chief, Enoch Kelly Haney.

I must say that I think the dome really gives the capitol a look of completeness that I never really noticed before. It certainly now fits the mental image that capitols should be topped by domes.

Below are some other shots of the Oklahoma Capitol I took on Tuesday. Click Here to see a photo of the building taken in 1999 prior to the construction of the dome. You may also click on my photos for a larger version.

Statue titled "As Long As The Waters Flow", which was how long Oklahoma was to have belonged to the Indians under a United States treaty with the Five Civilized Tribes.

Oklahoma's Capitol Building and its new dome

Full view of the south side of the Capitol

Oklahoma City National Memorial

Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

The bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City remains the worst act of domestic terrorism in United States history. On April 19, 1995, 168 people, including 19 children, were murdered by a bomber who parked a truck bomb by the building. The site of the Murrah building is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial site, containing a reflecting pool, chairs representing the victims, and other artifacts. I had not been to the site since before the memorial was completed, until I stopped by for a few moments last Tuesday.

The perimeter of the site still has sections of chain link fence where people brought tokens of remembrance of the victims to the site. The picture below is

Chain link fence and items left by mourners at the Murrah site

Each end of the memorial contains a large gateway with the time of 9:01 on one, and 9:03 on the other, representing the moments in time just before and after the blast occurred. The reflecting pool is between them, and the field of chairs to the south side of the pool. The chairs for the children are smaller in size than the ones for the adults killed by the blast.

The Field of Chairs

Another view of the chairs

In what became an iconic image of the tragedy, the picture below was taken by a worker downtown who saw Oklahoma City fireman Chris Fields cradling the little dying Baylee Almon on the day after her first birthday. Below that famous photo is the one I took of Baylee's chair.

Chris Fields and Baylee Almon

Baylee's chair at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

It was a cool, calm day Tuesday, giving the reflecting pool a perfect image of its surroundings.

Reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

The 9:03 gate at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

A church across the street from the memorial site erected the statue below called "Jesus Wept". While I suppose it gives comfort to some, it only reinforces to me just how irrational religion can be. If Jesus is so powerful, why is he standing there, turned away, hiding his eyes and crying at the site of these needless deaths? Why didn't he cause McVeigh's bomb to simply not go off? Why did the truck just fail to start that fateful morning? No, instead, Jesus stands there doing nothing but hiding his eyes and crying at the place where he supposedly could have stopped this from ever happening in the first place.

Too late to cry now

Seen In North Texas

Yesterday, I was in the Dallas area on business, but still got to take a few interesting photos. My morning started before dawn, and I arrived at my company's offices in Arlington, Texas just as the sun was coming up. So here are a couple of things I saw near the office. As usual, click on any picture for a larger version.

First, I like how the moon was setting, yet still in the sky above Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, home of the American League Texas Rangers. So I pulled the car over to the side of the road, and snapped this picture through the open window.

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in the dawn's early light

Also nearby is the site of the new stadium being built as home to the Dallas Cowboys, and as the new venue for the annual Cotton Bowl game. Below is a photo I took of the stadium as it is now, followed by the architect's rendering of the finished stadium.

New home of the Cowboys under construction

New Cowboys stadium as it will look when completed (looks like a giant bicycle helmet)

Later in the day as I was heading to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, I stopped at a Kroger supermarket, where one of the famous Oscar Meyer Weinermobiles was parked in the lot. "Oh I'd love to be an Oscar Meyer Weiner!"

What's that guy doing hot-dogging all over the road?

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

This week I had the "pleasure" of flying twice on United Airlines. Well, the first flight was on a United Express partner regional jet from Denver to Oklahoma City. This was on Monday. On Thursday, I experienced what the marketing and executive geniuses at United implemented as their boarding policy that is sure to piss off most of their customers, and so needlessly. I saw it yesterday while boarding a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Denver.

This ridiculous excuse for an airline has decided to list a litany of customer classes who get United's "Special" treatment at boarding time. They have placed ropes beside the ticket taker at the gate, creating two for these elite classes, and the other for the rest of us, whose business United apparently no longer values. The difference? The elite groups board first, and in order of just how elite they are. The other difference is the red carpet treatment, and I kid you not. The lane for the elites have a red "United" rug for the people boarding first to walk across. No joke!

Now, as you can imagine, this only adds to the fiasco of getting everyone on board quickly. It is bad enough that this pathetically-managed air carrier has shot themselves in the foot by charging for every piece of checked baggage. That alone causes carry-on madness and overloading, which delays getting everyone on board and ready for departure. Now we have this little game. Every carrier treats its frequent fliers to perks, and that is fine. It is just that United has taken leave of their senses with this plan. Here is the boarding order:
  1. Premier Executive members
  2. Star Alliance Gold "guests"
  3. Global Services customers
  4. 1k customers
  5. United First customers
After all of these guys who obviously paid a lot more money to sit in the same cramped seats get on by walking over the red rug, the rest of us schmucks can finally start boarding to aircraft. And with all the carry on bags, a lot of the end up getting "gate checked" anyway.

Here is what United sent to its "most-valued guests" by email:
Beginning November 12, our Premier Executive members and Star Alliance Gold guests will board before Seating Area 1 customers through the Economy Lane.

The new boarding order will be as follows: Global Services, 1K and customers sitting in United First will continue to board first through the Red Carpet Lane, followed by our United Business customers.

Our Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold members will then be invited to board. After all of our most-valued guests are on board and getting settled, the regular boarding process of seating areas 1 through 4 will begin.

We strive to consistently reward you, our premium customers, for your loyalty. We hope that as a Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold customer, you enjoy this added benefit.
Yes, United has decided its other "guests" aren't so valued. It isn't that I care about walking on a silly little red rug in a roped-off lane. It isn't that I can't get on the plane first, as we all arrive at the same time anyway. It is the ridiculous delays that this new policy causes at the gate. United, your elitism is working against you in on-time departures and in public relations.

Just another reason I am a big fan of Southwest and Frontier. United, YOU SUCK! No wonder you keep losing gazillions of dollars, keep going bankrupt, and just can't seem to figure out how to run an airline. Stick that in your red rug and roll it! Hopefully a decently run airline will buy your remnants out of yet another bankruptcy...someone who knows how to run a business.