The Myth Of The Impala Mama
Posted on 02.18.17 by Danny Glover @ 1:50 pm

Finnish photographer Alison Buttigieg loves cats. The Internet loves cats. But these days Buttigieg hates the Internet because it’s lying about one of her cat photos.

It all started Feb. 11. Someone who knows her work as a wildlife photographer recognized a cheetah picture of hers online. That wasn’t necessarily a surprise  —  Buttigieg published the “remarkable” photo on her blog, Facebook and Instagram last November after it won an international award. But the flood of messages that started pouring in from strangers that day stunned her.

An intellectual property thief had stolen her photo, invented a feel-good back-story for it, and engineered a viral sensation  —  one that wasn’t exactly flattering to Buttigieg. The tall tale portrayed the three cheetahs in the photo as heartless killers, their impala prey as a self-sacrificial mother and Buttigieg as a fragile soul who sank into depression after documenting a feline feast.

“In the beginning I thought it was absolutely hilarious, even the trolling,” she told me in an email interview six days after the hoax spread. “But then it was suddenly really overwhelming when I realized there wasn’t much I could do.”

Buttigieg is an information technology consultant whose passion for animals and for wild places inspired a foray into photography. She has carried a camera on wildlife journeys around the world for 13 years and started taking the photographic aspect of her observations more seriously about four years ago.

“I see my photos as a means to spread awareness about wildlife and the need to protect them and their habitat,” she said.

Buttigieg has shot pictures on three continents  —  Africa, Asia and South America. Her favorite places include Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana and South Africa, and the Massai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. In September 2013, she was near the latter location, at the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, when she saw a family of cheetahs trap a lone impala.

Cats of all kinds fascinate Buttigieg because of their beauty and expressive faces. Cheetahs stand out in the felidae species for their speed, quirks and sounds. The guides at the conservancy knew she loved cheetahs, and a mother and two adolescents were near the camp during her visit.

Read the rest of the story at Medium.

Filed under: Blogging and Human Interest and People and Photography and Social Media and Technology and Travel and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment

The Realities Of Russian Life
Posted on 03.01.14 by Danny Glover @ 1:36 pm

Russia has been in the news a lot these days thanks to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and now the turmoil in the Ukraine. The coverage has triggered memories of my trip to Russia a decade ago.

I went there for about three weeks in May/June 2004 to visit the preacher our congregation supported in Nizhny Novgorod and to meet the brethren there. We also spent a few days site-seeing in Moscow. It was one of the most enlightening experiences of life.

I initially laughed like every other spoiled American at the gripes from journalists as they arrived in Russia last month to cover the Olympics. But an article about the #SochiProblems later reminded me that, sadly, they were reporting realities that Russians face every day.

Here are two telling excerpts from the blog PolicyMic:

  • “Most Russians don’t drink water from the sink due to fear of illness, and the ones who can’t afford bottled water just boil it and hope they don’t get sick. Only around half of Russians had access to drinking water that met reasonable health standards in 2002.”
  • “Russian corporations ended up denying their 70,000 workers wages, sanitary accommodations and, in many cases, basic human rights” while building Olympic facilities.

The article prompted me to revisit my Mission To Russia blog, where I made observations like these about life in Russia:

Filed under: Blogging and Culture and Human Interest and News & Politics and Photography and Travel
Comments: 2 Comments

The VRE Ticket Scofflaw
Posted on 04.24.12 by Danny Glover @ 9:13 am

Nothing aggravates me more as a commuter than watching other commuters repeatedly break the law, whether they are driving in the high-occupancy vehicle lane of I-66 without enough passengers or riding Virginia Railway Express without paying their fares.

Most of us commuters abide by the rules and pay our way, so I for one love watching the scofflaws get busted for their bad behavior. A case in point — this guy who has taken to riding the same VRE train as me in the evening but who apparently thinks he rides for free:

The first time I saw him, he made a huge scene by pretending to have lost his ticket after he boarded the train. He searched every pocket of his coat, his pants, his shirt and his bag. He lifted the VRE seat where he had been sitting and the empty one across from it. He scoured the floor. He obviously never found the ticket because he never had it, so he was fined.

The man has been on the train several times since but hasn’t been asked to show his VRE ticket. His luck ran out yesterday, and this time he made more of a scene, accusing two different VRE attendants of harassing him. The charge this time: riding with an invalidated ticket.

The rider blamed a faulty machine at Union Station, one that no other riders had mentioned. The VRE attendant who ultimately issued the fine reminded him that he is obligated as a rider to let a VRE attendant know of such a problem before he boards the train.

The cheater’s response, and I quote: “I’m gonna bring a lawyer with me the next time I ride, and I’m gonna sue you all for harassment. … I’ve spent $25,000 on VRE over 10 years’ time.” (At $150 a pop for riding without paying, I’ll bet most of his commuting investment came in the form of fines, assuming he’s even telling the truth about that.)

His stories aren’t believable, and neither are his threats. My guess is that I’ll see this rider on the train soon, without a lawyer and probably without a ticket. I’ll look forward to watching him get fined again.

Filed under: D.C. Commuter Diary and People
Comments: None

Redneck Repair In The D.C. Subway
Posted on 02.28.12 by Danny Glover @ 7:50 pm

When things break in the D.C. subway system, the world’s brightest engineers gather in a room to brainstorm the best solution. And when all their genius ideas fail, they resort to the most reliable redneck repair — duct tape!

This photo is from the Metro Center station, the hub of the entire subway system. I also saw another duct-tape repair in another station.

Filed under: D.C. Commuter Diary and Government and Just For Laughs and Photography and Redneck Humor
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A VRE Train Wreck Avoided
Posted on 09.23.11 by Danny Glover @ 8:17 am

A couple of weeks ago, amid a rain-saturated week, thousands of riders on Virginia Railway Express had to catch cabs or find other rides home when VRE canceled some service during the Thursday evening journey. Many people spent hours stuck in commuting limbo and no doubt were furious.

After seeing this picture, which VRE published in a newsletter for passengers this week, they should be grateful to VRE, as well as the rail owners CSX and Norfolk Southern, for avoiding a tragedy:

But VRE passengers also should be outraged that the rail lines didn’t impose speed restrictions earlier Sept. 8 — and that VRE didn’t pressure the rail lines to do so (at least so far as we riders know). The policies in place for determining when to slow trains for safety reasons and when to let them chug full steam are utterly nonsensical and thus both aggravating and dangerous at the same time.

The proof of this was evident a few weeks before the pictured ballast collapse on the Fredericksburg Line. The aggravation reached a pinnacle Aug. 18, when Norfolk Southern imposed speed restrictions of 15 miles per hour during an evening commute that barely got the tracks wet.

It was a knee-jerk decision driven by the same kind of mentality that prompts schools and local governments in the Washington area to close at the mere chance of snow or ice rather than visible precipitation. Our “turtle train” arrived more than an hour late, long after the few sprinkles had fallen. VRE fielded numerous complaints and shared that customer aggravation with Norfolk Southern.

That aggravation, followed days later by a legitimate earthquake-induced nightmare commute for VRE riders, likely led to Norfolk Southern’s dangerous leniency in imposing flood restrictions during heavy rainfalls the week of Sept. 4.

After catching grief from both VRE customers and VRE as a client, the rail company didn’t want to repeat its mistakes of the recent past, so it erred in the opposite direction. This, too, is the reaction of schools and local governments after they are rightly mocked for closing prematurely.

All of us VRE riders are glad that the long-distance vision of a locomotive engineer avoided tragedy Sept. 8, and we truly appreciate the commitment of both VRE and Norfolk Southern to our safety. We just wish they would exercise better judgment about when to impose speed restrictions based on fears of flash floods that could compromise the tracks.

(Editor’s note: I travel the Manassas Line and actually telecommuted the day before and the day of the track collapse covered in this blog post to avoid delays. I was stunned that the rail companies took so long to impose speed restrictions, tweeted my disgust as I watched the real-time updates on VRE’s Twitter account, and was mortified when I saw the picture of the ballast collapse.)

Filed under: D.C. Commuter Diary and Government and News & Politics and Photography
Comments: None

The Case Of Metro’s ‘Serial Pooper’
Posted on 07.02.11 by Danny Glover @ 12:11 pm

If you want to see the incompetence of bureaucracy, look no further than the case of the “serial pooper” at a Washington, D.C., Metro station.

The Washington Examiner reports that earlier this week, a Metro passenger complained to a station manager about a pile of human waste on a bridge between the Metro station and property managed by another commuter train, Virginia Railway Express.

Rather than immediately assign one of Metro’s overpaid workers to clean the mess, the station manager made excuses about why it wasn’t Metro’s responsibility. He said the feces were on VRE’s property.

Metro eventually power-washed the bridge while VRE staffers watched, but by then, another pile had appeared, thus leading to the “serial pooper” theory.

So to recap: For four days, a pile of poop sat on a bridge while bureaucrats at two government-funded transportation agencies squabbled over who had to clean it up. Meanwhile, a That’s bureaucracy for you.

Filed under: D.C. Commuter Diary and Government and News & Politics
Comments: 1 Comment

The Mini-Blizzard Of 2011
Posted on 01.30.11 by Danny Glover @ 2:52 pm

I arrived home to a snowy scene after my Wednesday evening commute. For once I was glad to be a VRE passenger because I heard nightmares of eight-hour commutes (and more) on the snow- and ice-slicked roads. Some people stayed in hotels for the night rather than brave the nightmare traffic.

It was a mild storm compared with the blizzards of December 2009 and February 2010 in the Washington, D.C., region but still bad enough to make the next morning’s commute a challenge.

I did not rise to the challenge. Instead, I opted for telecommuting. I could have taken VRE, but it was running on a limited schedule and wasn’t worth the hassle. Plus who wants to walk through piles of unshoveled snow on D.C. sidewalks to get to work?

Filed under: D.C. Commuter Diary and News & Politics and Photography
Comments: None

The Mechanical Incompetence Of VRE
Posted on 11.24.10 by Danny Glover @ 11:29 am

This was my life yesterday morning, which ended in my wife having to drive 30 miles round trip to rescue me and a stranded friend so we could salvage part of the workday:

Tuesday morning’s commute for riders of Virginia Railway Express went from bad to worse as first an engine failure then a brake malfunction stranded 1,600 commuters 20 miles outside of Washington and caused at least a two-hour delay for Manassas Line riders.

It all started when Train 328 broke down between the Manassas Park and Burke Centre stations around 8 a.m. The following train, No. 330, was coupled to it and its engine began hauling both trains roughly 45 minutes later, according to VRE.

But the aging engine wasn’t powerful enough to push the 14-car load up a hill heading into Burke. So in a scene straight out of the children’s tale, “The Little Engine that Could,” the chained-together trains backed up and “throttled up at a higher speed to get over the ridge,” according to spokesman Mark Roeber.

After pulling into the station around 9 a.m. the coupled train’s warning system signaled a brake failure. Cabs and buses were dispatched to the station to take riders into Washington or to a nearby Metro station, while some passengers opted to wait for the problem to be fixed. Others simply gave up and went home.

I reported the news on my Facebook and Twitter feeds as it happened, including posting the photo above of the scene at Burke Center just after passengers started bailing on VRE en masse.

As the Examiner noted, yesterday’s nightmare was not an isolated incident. Persistent breakdowns and delays, including two nightmares that I avoided last week thanks to VRE email alerts and a loving wife-turned-emergency-responder, have plagued the Manassas Line since summer. I have a loyal readership of Facebook friends and Twitter followers who love reading about the misery in real time.

Filed under: Business and D.C. Commuter Diary and Government and News & Politics
Comments: None

Leaf Oil Trumps VRE Locomotion
Posted on 10.21.10 by Danny Glover @ 10:16 pm

The U.S. Postal Service has no official creed, but it has this inspiring myth going for it: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

The Virginia Railway Express could use a strong dose of postal pride because today we riders received an uninspiring, excuse-filled message from the CEO about how we can expect bad weather to make our lives miserable. Rain and the flash-flood warnings it occasionally brings are the bane of his existence.

“While we all know it, it is easy to forget what a strong force water can be,” CEO Dale Zehner wrote in his monthly e-mail. “Flash floods can cause instability in the tracks. Or worse, depending on the force of the water, a flash flood can wash out a section of tracks. Because of this, Norfolk Southern’s operating rules require all passenger trains to operate at restricted speed, under 15 mph. For our Manassas Line riders, this can be quite a long commute.”

Tell me about it. I lived that nightmare commute a few times during the summer. The bad news is that I may have to endure it again this fall, this time because of something worse than mere water — leaf oil. Here is Zehner’s explanation:

In autumn if leaves are falling at a time when there are significant amounts of rain and wind, the falling wet leaves end up on the tracks. Wet leaves then stick to the rails like a bad case of static cling. As the trains roll over the leaves, the wheels act as press that extracts the oil from the leaves, which then cause an extremely slick set of tracks. Our long-term riders on the Manassas Line know that when that set of tracks is an uphill grade, delays can be extensive, even worse than flash-flood restrictions.

In other words, we may be living in the 21st century, but leaf oil still trumps locomotion.

I have the sinking feeling that I’ll be getting another batch of unwanted free-ride certificates from VRE over the next few weeks because of extra hours on the train. The question is how many hours I will endure before I decide I’d rather drive to work and fight the highway traffic.

Filed under: Business and D.C. Commuter Diary
Comments: None

The Tea Partier’s Guide To D.C.
Posted on 08.23.10 by Danny Glover @ 6:51 pm

Here’s some helpful advice for tea partiers who will be visiting the nation’s capital in coming weeks for various political events:

If you are on the subway stay on the Red line between Union Station and Shady Grove, Maryland. If you are on the Blue or Orange line do not go past Eastern Market (Capitol Hill) toward the Potomac Avenue stop and beyond; stay in NW DC and points in Virginia. Do not use the Green line or the Yellow line. These rules are even more important at night. There is of course nothing wrong with many other areas; but you don’t know where you are, so you should not explore them.

The warning reminded me of a scary experience I had not long after moving to Washington.

While I was in graduate school at American University, I had to interview one of the leaders of the Libertarian Party for a paper, so I arranged an interview at the party’s headquarters. I soon wished I had conducted the interview by phone because party HQ was in one of the worst part’s of Washington.

I had worked in Washington for a couple of years by that point, but I lived in Virginia and didn’t really know much about the city. I generally only knew how to get to work by Metro and how to get to the most famous sites so I could play tour guide when family and friends visited. None of those areas seemed particularly dangerous, even to an easily intimidated small-town boy like me.

But I knew Southeast was the wrong part of town when I noticed all of the graffiti and the bars on every business’ windows. I really became scared when my cab driver tried to convince me to let him drop me off on the wrong side of the street from the Libertarian Party’s office and about a quarter-mile past all the businesses. I demanded that he make a u-turn and drop me at the office.

After the interview, which was in late fall, I was horrified to realize that there wasn’t a cab in sight for me to hail back into a safer part of town. I had to walk to the nearest Metro station, which was two or three blocks away. It was the spookiest walk of my life.

When I told my classmates the next day where I had been, they all thought I was nuts for going to Southeast. I wish they had been so forthcoming about D.C.’s bad neighborhoods before the interview.

Filed under: Culture and Travel
Comments: None

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