The Robertson Tunnel

The Robertson Tunnel

Since it has been a few years without any further unexplainable events, I have decided that it is safe to relate a tale of one particularly unusual day I had that continues to make me question our place in reality, or perhaps question my own sanity.

At the time, I lived south of Portland and commuted back and forth to work during the week via Trimet which included passing through The Robertson Tunnel.

If you, the esteemed reader, live in the Portland area and have ever taken the Trimet MAX Light Rail then you are likely familiar with The Robertson Tunnel. If you don’t live here, then you can check out that Wikipedia entry on it.

On a Monday morning I was coming back to work after a week off for vacation. I am on the MAX heading through Portland towards my place of work in Beaverton. It’s a nice, sunny morning as the train enters the Goose Hollow Transit Center, the last stop before the tunnel.

Perception of Time is a funny thing when you’re occupied in mundane tasks, like a mostly boring commute that you take daily, and I remember this morning’s trip through the tunnel seemed to feel like it took longer than it usually did. I disregarded the feeling as the imagination of my idle mind.

The MAX pulled into the Washington Park MAX Station without incident and headed out through the rest of the Tunnel. As the MAX exits the tunnel I was surprised to see that the sky on the other side of the tunnel was overcast, rainy, and kind of an unusual color.
Oregon is a state of fairly schizophrenic weather that can regularly go from good to bad so, although a bit weird, I pretty much just wrote this latest incident off as normal.

As the MAX headed down the tracks towards Beaverton, I looked out at the highway and noticed quite a few sleek and futuristic looking cars driving by. “That’s cool”, I remember thinking.

As a tech geek I like to keep up on the changes in technology and I do know that many new hybrid, electric, and even ‘self driving’  vehicles have been coming out. As such, my mind attempted to justify this latest peculiar incident but I was still slowly getting an uneasy feeling that something just wasn’t right.

As the MAX pulls into my stop, the Millikan Way MAX Station, I get off and start walking to my work which is only a few hundred yards from the stop. Between the MAX stop and my work is one of the many Nike owned properties and buildings in the Beaverton area that I walk through daily. On this morning I noticed some new construction that I didn’t recall seeing before I had gone on my vacation.

“Wow, they really work quickly”  I was thinking.

I headed into work and went to my desk. I’m generally always the first one in my department, the IT Department, to get in every morning so it was nice and quiet. I started my morning with the usual, routine activities like making coffee and logging into my PC.

When I attempted to log into my PC I was surprised to find that my password didn’t work. I had been on vacation, sure, but I know that I hadn’t forgotten my password.

Yet another unusual incident for this day but there was far more to come.

I tried to justify this latest incident as maybe something happened in the week while I was off that caused a need for my boss to change my password. I logged in using our department Administrator account and changed my account password and went on with my work day.

There were some unusual things that had caught my attention and contributed to my ever growing feeling of unexplained uncertainty. Things like some of our manufacturing machines in different locations than they were before my vacation and names on our company phone list that I didn’t recognize.

My ever logical mind struggled to justify this strange day I was having.

Well, we have been doing a lot of hiring lately, and our manufacturing floor does rearrange stations a lot.”

My attempts to justify this truly bizarre morning were starting to not be enough and my feelings of unease were get worse.

My boss arriving for the morning had been the final strange incident of the morning that pushed me to start to question whether or not I was losing my mind.

“Oh, hey. Good morning Mike. Glad to see you survived your vacation. You decided to shave your goatee off, huh?”

I HAVEN’T SPORTED A GOATEE IN NEARLY 20 YEARS!

My boss is a great guy and we like to joke with each other but this statement wasn’t made in a humorous manner and was just one more strange occurrence that made me start to feel like my mind was shattering.

Thankfully, the rest of my work day was uneventful and I was starting to think that I was just imagining all these incidents as anything but normal.

 

Until I was back on the MAX and heading back home for the day.

 

The MAX headed back through The Robertson Tunnel and pulled into The Washing Park stop. While at the stop, some of Trimet’s Transit Police came onto my train.
This is a fairly normal occurrence on the train because they often check for riders who were trying to ride without paying proper fares but these guys looked different than I was used to seeing.

Trimet Cops were often dressed in nearly as SWAT Team uniforms but these guys were downright scary looking. They were in full combat gear and, while they were sort of half heartedly checking other riders’ fares, they seemed to be specifically heading straight for ME.

I had my wallet out and was showing off my annual Trimet pass as one of the cops approached. He glanced down at my pass and then looked at me.

“This isn’t your train. You need to come with us!” He said.

Um, ok, this is weird because my annual pass is definitely not expired but I sure as hell wasn’t going to argue with these guys, especially not with the way this bizarre day had been going.

As I exited my MAX car with these heavily armed cops, the train pulled away and continued off into the tunnel. The cops guided me towards the tunnel elevator that leads up to the Portland Zoo that’s 600+ ft. above the Washington Park stop.

They shoved me into the elevator with a cryptic statement “Stay on the elevator. You can exit when you come back down. Your train will be the next one.” With that they pressed the button and sent my elevator up.

Ok, what the fuck! This entire day is just creeping me out!

When I came back down into the tunnel I looked around. Those cops were nowhere to be found, which was strange in itself since the Washington Park stop was underground with limited ways to get out.

In fact, the entire station looked somehow different than it looked earlier that morning but I wasn’t really able to ‘put my finger’ on just what exactly was different.

With great relief, the remainder of my commute was totally uneventful. As I exited The Robertson Tunnel on the next MAX train, the sky was back to being bright and sunny and the rest of my commute home went as it had always gone.

What a truly strange day that had been!

The next day, Tuesday, I uneasily headed out on my morning ritual commute but was quickly relieved to see that nothing unusual was occurring.

That is, except for what was missing from my previous day’s trip. There was no unusual cars on the highway and even the construction at the Nike campus wasn’t there.

I was beginning to think I had totally imagined the entire previous day, until my boss came in.

Oh, hey. Good morning Mike. Glad to see you survived your vacation. You decided to take one additional day to recover, huh? Next time just call and let me know you’re not coming in, ok?”

 

………………………………………

 

Those unexplainable events haunt me to this day, years later.

Is there more to The Robertson Tunnel than just a normal transit tunnel through a hill? Is there something almost supernatural to the precise, geometric designs of the tunnel.

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Are there stories to the cryptic artwork that covers the walls of The Washington Park MAX Station that our rational reality isn’t realizing?

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I have no rational explanation for that day and you can judge my story for yourself but all I can tell you is that for months after that fateful Monday commute, I chose to take the bus all the way to work and avoided that godforsaken tunnel that still creeps me out today.

 

 

 

 

My 2 cents about Random LinkedIn Invites

I got motivated to throw my 2 cents out following a discussion on LinkedIn that came up on my feed that one of my connections had commented on. It was concerning how we should all just accept every invite we get because it increases our ‘network’. Since LinkedIn won’t allow their users to make posts longer than just a couple paragraphs I figured I’d rant here.

This discussion was primarily around receiving invites to connect out of the blue from individuals in the recruiting/headhunting professions.

While I very rarely get invites to connect from Recruiters because my skills aren’t really all that in demand I still disagree with the notion of accepting invites just because.

I generally always decline invites from recruiters, when I do get one, because I know that they are sending them because they’re simply clicking down their “People You Might Know” list and sending to everyone indiscriminately.

Like it or not, a Recruiter/Headhunter is only as successful as their contact list and the scope of their ability to network with people in the industry that they are recruiting for.

They’re selling a service and the more people in their contacts list that they can sell to, the more successful they are.

This isn’t in question and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply the nature of the position.

However, as such, it is far more beneficial to the recruiter sending out the invites than it is for the individual receiving the invite.

Blindly accepting an invite, on the off chance that a recruiter, who really knows nothing about you, ‘might‘ one day have a position you’d be a fit for will simply clutter your feed with posts that you likely don’t care about.

In the meantime, that recruiter gets to mention their considerable range of contacts as a selling point to people they ‘do‘ have a position for. They get to have a “500+ Connections”, etc. on their profile which looks impressive.

Like it or not, those of us on the receiving end of random invites are simply being looked at as a commodity and means to an end.

This isn’t a negative attitude, it’s a harsh reality.

Being a Recruiter/Headhunter is a tough job and is beneficial and necessary for the industries they server, but, like it or not there’s no incentive to simply accept invites on LinkedIn blindly UNLESS someone is actively looking for a new role, in which case THEY would be the ones sending a recruiter the invite.

So, if you’re a Recruiter, take a moment to actually put yourself in the position of the one you’re sending an invite too and don’t go getting all bent out of shape if they decline your request.

Initial Thoughts on the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones

Initial Thoughts on the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones

Ok, full disclosure, I’m not a professional product reviewer, so my “review” is more just a gadget geek’s perspective and initial thoughts on whatever I might be trying out and feel the urge to write about.

Today, it’s the Trekz Titanium Bone Conducting Headphones by Aftershokz.

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My overall opinion could be summed up as “Situationally Awesome” so let me elaborate with more details.

Technology wise, these HEADphones (not EARphones) function by transmitting the their audio input as vibrations that transmit through your jawbone and are interpreted by your eardrum as sound. They go more ‘in front of’ your ear, than in them, right at the base of your jaw.

As someone who wears glasses, I have actually had to literally ‘flip over’ a pair of Motorola over the ear Bluetooth headphone before, so that Left and Right were swapped and the headphones curled ‘up’ into my ear, because they literally hurt my ears to wear, due to my glasses. These do not do that because they don’t curl down into my ear. They fit in such a way that they don’t conflict with my glasses, which is fantastic.

Plus, unlike my Skullcandy Hesh 2 Bluetooth headphones that I also use, these don’t make me look like Princess Leia and make my ears all sweaty and gross.

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Due to the size and placement of the buttons they do contain tiny speakers that are more so you can hear the tone and greeting by “Aubry”, which they have named the voice message that says “Connected” and greets you when they power on. If I had to guess, I’d say that’s probably the name of the woman who’s voice it actually is. These speakers don’t do much for actually playing the audio, which is good because they won’t be heard by anyone around you, unlike normal audio headphones.

They’re very well constructed and water resistant. The kit you get when you buy them contains a decent quality carrying case, some actual earplugs (if you want to block out the surrounding noise while wearing them, which admittedly seems a little redundant to me), a pair of rubber Fitbands to help them fit on people who don’t have as fat of a head as I do, and an INDUSTRY STANDARD micro USB charging cable.

I capitalized “industry standard” because, to me, this is a big deal. I’ve purchased wireless Bluetooth headphones before that I had to throw away because I lost the proprietary power cord they came with and the manufacturer didn’t sell the cord separately.

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They’ve got the standard Volume Up/Down buttons as well as a Multifunction button that allows you to Play/Pause or Skip music tracks, Answer, End, or Reject calls or Transfer amongst Call Waiting calls, Voice Dial, or Redial, all depending on the pattern of presses of the button or duration that you hold it in for.

Tech Specs, for the diehard geeks who care about these types of details:

Frequency Response: 20Hz ~ 20KHz

Sensitivity/: 100 +/- 3dB

Microphone: –40dB +/- 3dB

Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth v4.1

Compatible Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP

Wireless Range: 33ft (10m)

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Ion

Continuous Play: 6 hours

Standby Time: 10 hours

Recharge Time: 1.5 hours from dead to fully charged

Weight: 1.27 oz (36g)

Warranty: 2 Years – I highly recommend Registering yours on their website for ease of dealing with any warranty related issues that might come up.

There is also a Blue/Red LED that blinks in different patterns, depending on what is happening, but this is pretty standard for any wireless headphones.

 

Now, the reason why my overall opinion is “Situationally Awesome” is because, depending, on your use case, they may not be what you want. In the IT Industry we often joke about how some sort of problem is “a feature, not a bug” but in the case of these headphones this statement is totally true.

The pure nature of how these work, by transmitting audio into your inner ear without blocking outside noise, means that in a noisy environment these are going to be difficult to hear. Jogging along noisy streets, or on a plane or subway, etc. these will not be as good as normal headphones. This, however, is a negative that is essentially by design.

Amusingly, there’s also a psychological aspect negative if you happen to be a Public Transit commuter like I am. Often times, let’s say “interesting” individuals on transit who like to randomly start talking to whomever is near them, or people taking polls, etc. will be an issue but they generally don’t bother someone who’s wearing headphones. With these, I can see that not being a good of a deterrent.

Another thing that some might cringe at is that they are not inexpensive. Mine were around $125US. However, they’re very well designed and manufactured, they come with a 2 year warranty and the company is excellent with customer service, and the technology and the company is fairly new, so the price may well continue to drop as they increase sales. All things considered I don’t regret spending the money at all.

Pulling a weekend shift working in the Server Room or just at your desk, or in the case of my employer where the Manufacturing floor personnel are allowed to wear headphones and listen to music but are required to only use one headphone so they can still hear, these would be awesome. In any environment that is fairly quiet but you still need to be able to hear these would be quite useful.

Plus, while I don’t know from actual life experience, I can see these being beneficial for anyone who is Legally Blind, since they would not have their hearing blocked while using.
Possibly even someone who is Deaf as well since they can feel the vibrations of audio. That’s something I would be very curious to know how well they work.