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For now, don't think I'm ungrateful: I'm pleased and constantly amazed by how much has already been squeezed into a computer that takes less space than a trade paperback, and it's true that space trade-offs make it hard to squeeze in all the full-size ports I'd prefer. But most of these are features that exist in some form, and don't require anything to spring from the forehead of the Media Lab. I hope that by this time next year it'll be a smaller list of features I'm still looking for."
Can I post this and then delete it? Maybe. Does it exist 10 minutes from now? When is now? Why is Hitler, Who is Spain?
Earlier this month, I was at CES, looking at cool gadgets and shooting some video for Slashdot, and last week I did the same in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show. Since shooting video is something I'm (let's be kind) inexperienced at, esp. with camera-attached doodads (mixer, shotgun mic, lav mic, tripod), this got a bit awkward at times.
I tried a few different bag configurations on the CES show floor. What I finally settled on was this: In my conventional-looking (but Li-Ion battery-equipped!) PowerBag backpack, I carried very little -- basically, my laptop, some food, and whatever paper goods I picked up in the course of the show, like brochures, etc. For almost everything else, I had my Checkpoint Flyer, sans removable laptop case.*
- Mic packs (one receiver, one transmitter), mics (lavalier, handheld, shotgun) and mixer (and a few associated cords) went into the larger outer pocket
- flexible tripod (a Gorillapod knockoff from Vivitar) stuck, with one leg out, in the flexible side pocket
- camera, well padded, in the central portion; I kept its hotshoe mic-mount attached.
- headphone case fit in the smaller of the outer pockets (one of my favorite uses for that pocket!)
- spare batteries, SD card in the flat inner pockets
- notepaper and such in the large (magazine) pocket; gum and pens in the smaller (boarding pass) one.
(This list is not exhaustive; I was carrying wallet and other small things not here accounted for.)
I realized toward the end that the extra attachment points (sorry, custom work -- thanks, Tom! You really should put them on every Flyer
In Detroit, I did not carry around the backpack, and I switched from the Checkpoint Flyer to my Super Ego. The Super Ego is bigger, but I'm not sure it was actually any better as a video bag, because it lacks the nice top-zipping outer pockets on the Checkpoint Flyer, and it's not quite as easy to swing easily through a crowd. It still worked well for my purpose, though; I could put the camera away quickly in the central storage space when I wanted to have both hands free, and I stashed most cables and mics in the two outer pockets. (No room for the shotgun mic this way, though, so that went in with the camera itself.)
Upshot: Though neither is a specialized video bag (and I felt it at moments), both the Flyer and the Super Ego did a great job as impromptu production assistants
* Why not carry the laptop there? Because I was carrying a laptop too big for the inner case I have. That's why. Why carry the laptop at all? Because I needed it as a middleman to transfer files from my camera to the guy who put them into a watchable form, from the show's press room.
Governor Martin O'Malley
100 State Circle
Now that both Arizona and Utah have named official state firearms (Colt Single Action, and John Browning's immortal 1911, respectively), I think it's time that the great state of Maryland upstage these upstart also-ran states -- more like territories, really -- by officializing an official firearm as well. After all, Maryland has what is truly the most martial of all state songs. Citizens of what other state are enjoined to "remember Howards warlike thrust," or "avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore"?
Further, as a born Marylander, I have a gun in mind that reflects well the government of Maryland's view of citizens' right to carry arms for their own self defense and in the defense of liberty. Please consider any of the options from this entire line of products.
Of course, in light of modern circumstances in the Old Line State, the actual gun chosen should be locked up and behind glass, rather than out endangering the children.
- Some municipalities set arbitrary trick-or-treating times that differ from dusk-and-later-evening of the 31st of October. That's stupid.
- Some kids don't even say "trick or treat!"
Plans (as candy giver, short of a full-fledged haunted attraction):
- Sound effects
- Kids should be (mildly) scared in exchange for the dispensing of candy
- The stench of sulfur (or at least smokebombs)
- Candy should be a surprise -- in a black fabric bag or something, maybe something that feels gross (but quite hygenic, etc)
- Strobe lights
- rocking chair with no one in it
- hissing air
- bubbling cauldron
- maniacal laughter in the background
One day I'd like to find my detailed notes from many years ago on this topic
Dreamed I was in law school again, but it was more like business school (and not necessarily Temple, or Philadelphia), in that for one of my classes, there was a giant project made in cooperation with 3 or 4 others. One of them was Ryan L., a high-school classmate. In my dream, which took place near the end of a semester, but before the start of finals, I got an anxious call from Ryan, who had just put some finishing touches on our group's project. He was unsure whether it was truly ready, but the time to submit was upon us. I assured him that it was fine -- he and I had done most of the work on it, and his work in particular was very good.
Then, I went to class; I arrived later than I usually do, and so took a seat at the back. I hadn't brought my computer, but did have blank paper on which to take notes. The professor (who I think was just made up for the dream) announced that he wanted to use the class that day as a debate exercise, on the topic of so-called "smart guns." I remember thinking something like: "This is like having a detailed discussion about the number of angels on the head of a pin -- skipping over the more important question of whether there's any such thing to start with."
I immediately started writing down a few thoughts on my note paper, a list that read like:
- Doesn't exist
- Doesn't work
- Laws bind the law abiding
- hundreds of millions of plain old guns already
- 2d amdt
I noticed that in the back of the classroom (basically, right next to me), there was a giant plastic beachball, some sort of advertising tchotscke; I noticed that it was printed with the name of a local Volvo dealership, in particular. It was blue and white patterned, and 4 or 5 feet in diameter. I wanted to have a sharpie, in order to write down some arguments, and then just start tossing the ball forward.
1) Dreamed that I posted an innocuous message of good cheer / hello to the facebook profile of A. Promptly received cease and desist / stay-away order from her lawyers, which arrived in the form of two email messages. Boggled me.
2) Seemingly separate dream, with that one above as backstory:
a) Broke out, "V for Vendetta" style, from an alleged mental hospital that was actually a prison for political prisoners, in which the prisoners (me among them) were kept sedate through drugs and intimidation. An elaborate plan of distraction, revenge, and escape gained me my freedom.
b) I was lying low in or near NYC, and by chance met up w/ A, and actually had a pleasant and nice conversation over coffee, did some up-catching for a while, was pleased to hear of her life's successes. I hoped to be on her good list, or at least off the bad list, definitely a higher priority (at least for that time) than my ongoing evasion of the human authority figures.
15-minute nap (no pillow, low carpet, hot)
1) Real-life anime style terrorist attacks in my dream; the sides were neatly uniformed in their colorful future clothing, and everyone knew who were the bad guys, who were the good guys. My view of the action was cinematic, changing in perspective and composition every few seconds. Commandos in (red? or purple) overwhelmed the terrorists (in red? or purple) who were just seconds from launching their attack. A short shooting battle; after seconds, a few bodies on the ground on both sides, the others involved either disappeared on in pursuit.
2) Followed by: on a fairly fast train, daytime, going somewhere between Portland and Vancouver, BC, (or, I thought, This might be London) with a view out the large windows onto what I somehow knew to be the area west of the train, from which I could see only the buildings nearest to the train's path. Beyond that, and creeping between the buildings, was a thick grey-white fog. I was in a small compartment of my own, cognizant of how dream-like it was, but within the dream thinking how it would make a good setting for a science-fiction story, and yet mentally wishing into existence various buildings and other features, which resolved themselves as I imagined them into being. Complex buildings with swooping extensions of polished metal, others with elaborate lights. The buildings I saw I knew were mostly commercial or industrial, but they were well-kept and appeared to have been designed with aesthetics in mind.
(A multi-day omnibus)
3d July: Blake Family Reunion in New Market, TN. Guesstimate, 65 people in attendance, all descended from John Blake of South Carolina in some way, 6 or 7 generations back from me. Food, and the fun coincidence of discovering that a cousin of mine (Paul Blake) is a game designer who works for a company that licenses plush Monty Python toys. "Oh, ThinkGeek sells those," I said. Some fun boggling
Plentiful food and delicious babies, or the other way around. A very different kind of atmosphere than the reunion I'll be at in August. At the Blake reunion, not that everyone actually knows their identifier offhand, everyone at the Blake reunion who is a blood-line descendant (rather than married in) has a numeric code associated which indicates their place in the tree. There's also a formal "business meeting" aspect to the gathering (for the announcement of births and deaths), a signing book, nametags, etc. Some very interesting folks there, but in truth I don't know many of them except by sight. Talking w/ Paul, his wife Diane, and Sharon Blake (widow of Cleland Blake) was excellent -- best choice in seating I could have made, with 10-month-old Emily Blake presiding from the head of the table, too.
However, no fireworks, after there were apparently some complaints from milquetoast complaining types from the church on whose grounds the reunion annually takes place. I suspect this means my dad did not clean up the mess after he brought them in my stead last time. (And today might have been bad for it, anyhow; at least as the reunion was getting started, there was a funeral underway elsewhere on the church grounds.)This is too bad, because kids should have a chance to learn that fireworks are a fun, reasonable, appropriate thing to use, but they need to be respected -- careful of fingers, eyes, other people, flammable surroundings, and with plenty of water on hand. Thorough cleanup afterward, too, esp. at a place like the old Caledonian Presbyterian church in New Market. I don't want every kid to grow up to be complacent about idiot laws restricting their use, just like I don't want them to grow up thinking that guns contain their own malice aforethought.
Did some yard work, which felt good.
Fireworks in Knoxville -- quite a good show, esp. considering that some of the best views of the show (right by the bridge on which sits a city fire truck) are from completely uncrowded spots. Took some pictures -- I'm happy with how good some of them came out, even with my 4-year-old, AA-powered pocket cam. Show was only 19 minutes long; I wonder if it's because I just read (thanks to Ruthy Scotty pointing out the article) that fireworks shows are tending to be shorter, or because it's the case, that it seemed shorter than the two other times I've seen the city's display.
Afterward, we touched off just two fireworks: 1 was a plastic finned rocket (nice height, but the "burst" was pretty anemic), and the other was a "Color Me America" 20-shot square cake, perhaps 6 inches on a side, which was *excellent.*
5th July: Oak Ridge, TN. We visited the Museum of Energy at Oak Ridge -- well worth seeing. Replica of Little Boy, as well as (and this is the highlight) historical displays about the creation of Oak Ridge as a secret city ("Secret City" is a tag on all sorts of things around town). Many of the exhibits, as I remembered from the last time I was there more than 20 years ago, are oriented toward kids, but that's fine. I wish there was some higher-level content as well, and that some of the displays were better labeled, but I found no shortage of things to look at. Life inside the city during the war must have been very strange -- residents were pretty much there for the duration, and only after the war was its presence allowed on maps, etc. Interesting to see that even in this Federal microcosm, state segregation laws were in effect for housing and employment.
One of my favorite things: part of the museum (reached by descending an outside staircase from the 2d floor) is a reconstructed "Flat Top" (type B-1) house, one of the pre-fab housing types that filled up the city as it boomed to 75,000 residents. It's small, but seems to be a livable little unit. Says the sign outside, it's actually based on a plan from the TVA (gub'mint run amok), which had built similar ones for workers during dam construction in N. Carolina.
Later that day, we stopped for Korean food at a place I'll give a happy 2.5 stars, called Kaya.
On the way back, we stopped at the Fireworks Supermarket on exit 407 for a few sundries, incl. another "Color Me America," because that (it turns out -- oh happy day) is the "free gift" that a promotional sticker gets.
Brief stop at Bush Beans's new visitor center; the "country store" pretensions aside (plastic, sterile, overpriced), the small walk-through museum attached is free and well-done; historical exhibits about the company, but also about the modern history of canning, showing how certain labor-intensive jobs have been made easier, etc.
But the real destination was the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville. If I had more of an aviation background, I'd like this place even better, but even in my state of ignorance I find the planes and other artifacts worth several hours of fascination. Migs (17 and 21), a few helicopters (incl. a Bell 222, which I would like to have for myself, thanks), jet cockpits which you can sit in, a Mustang (no Spitfires at the moment), a replica Wright Brothers glider
Today is a work in progress. Working on Slashdot; later, will do some yard work. Talked w/ B&N rep. about the Nook I've got to play with, finally figured out where something I downloaded to the device disappeared to. I'm slow to the whole e-Book world, but am fairly impressed with the thing.
Dandridge, TN - this entry to be supplemented w/ some mile-marker notes not presently to hand.
Arrived TN Wednesday, shortly before noon, after a stop at Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis and another at the a Fireworks Supermarket in Missouri (and several rest stops). While the sales tax was only a hair lower than in TN, I decided to stock up for the 4th there -- sucker's game, but worth the playing.
Now in a small town east of Knoxville, from which I will later in the month depart for the Mid-Atlantic. Playing a bit today w/ the review-unit Nook I've got on hand; a neat device. Displays are tough: the e-ink of the Nook (and Kindle, and similar) really is impressive, in most circumstances, for reading text (as they're meant for). But I wish they were (optionally?) transmissive as well, so they could be used for reading without much environmental light. Yes, you could use a headlamp or a clip-on lamp, but that's awkward, and I'm dreaming the impossible dream. Excited about the now-available Pixel Qi screens; they're not as power efficient as the current e-ink, but I'm sure they're working on that aggressively, and a tablet-sized, general purpose computer with a daylight screen mode that's at least *pretty* efficient would be great. I'd be very happy to find something the size and weight of the iPad, but with something more like a Pixel Qi screen and a free / open source operating system.
- Oak Ridge's Energy Museum, and a museum about Appalachian life in Clinton, TN.
- Family reunion (my descent designator is 0534312)
- Fireworks on the 4th
- A visit to Knoxville's best bookstore, McKay's
- The Warbirds Museum in Sevierville, TN
- Some BBQ
- Perhaps an Orange Julius-style drink from Nan Denton's.
What else should I do in E. Tennessee?
Big Trip 2010: No. 6
Been a fantastic couple of days in Bellevue, NE. Relaxing, inspiring to see how well and happy are my relatives here -- a model family. Saturday, ate delicious enchiladas at local restaurant La Mesa, saw the "Bodies" exhibit in Omaha (Bellevue is essentially a suburb of Omaha, despite its separate identify), and had afterward with custard with blueberry and peaches. Yesterday, country-road exploring, and a too-short visit to a small local museum with artifacts and well-made displays about this area's history and culture.
Spent a few hours last night around the chiminea getting eaten by bugs, enjoying the fire, listening to fireworks all around the neighborhood (and it's not even July yet!). Tomorrow morning, heading out for TN by way of St. Louis, where I intend to stop at Pappy's Smokehouse for some takeaway BBQ. If I pass some other place first that looks as good or better than my (rather arbitrary) choice of Pappy's, that's fine -- I can stop there, instead. Or also. But St. Louis is famous for BBQ, and I intend to avail myself of it.
Today walked w/ Barry and Kay at the Riverfront Park, near the Con-Agra campus in downtown Omaha (where there was a great mini-display about the history of local restaurants), and then the three of us walked into Iowa over a pedestrian bridge. After this, a long time (never long enough) wandering through Bass Pro, looking at boats, tents, guns, bows, clothing, etc. Later, custard with (in my bowl) blackberries and peaches. Back home, for kimchi and rice, and just a handful of fireworks w/ Tanya and Sheena. Lesson: the big red stick labeled "BOOM STICK" is actually not silent. I thought it was labeled "Giant Smoke Stick" or "The Smoke Stack" or something similar, because my brain talked myself into that belief. However, after it turned out to be an alternative packaging for some quite-loud firecrackers, I (re)-read the tattered remains. "'Boom Stick.' Huh." The girls thought this was amusing, esp. after I had assured them of its silence, in keeping with the late hour.
Intent is to reach Eastern TN late Thursday or early Friday, depending on traffic, weather, energy, and whim. Driving at night this time of year is great, just for the fireworks that are going off near the highway. Plan: from Omaha area, south via 29 to I-70, and then east to St. Louis. From St. Louis, 64 east to Lexington, KY, where I will veer south onto 75; this will take me toward Knoxville, and I'll get onto 40 East.
m1493: Left Gabriel's place in Boulder after a fantastic few days of rest and good conversation, 7:15 a.m.
m1531: 8:15 a.m.: Still in Boulder, lost, inexplicably. I might, or might not, want to see the actual path I travel when this happens. I don't remember any gap in time, but somehow even traveling on what on a map look like straight lines on straight roads I get turned around, and sideways. Every which way but correct. In the end, I gave up on the shorter path I'd worked out on Google Maps (so simple, it needed no printing, just a few street names and right-angle turns jotted down), and followed the dumber-seeming, longer, rush-hour-style path that my GPS advised. It was dumb, long, and rush-hour jammed. On the other hand, I'm no longer circling Boulder punching holes into the roof of my car from the inside and exhausting my lifetime supply of profanity.
m1601 - Stopped for gas; had enough for probably 50 more miles, but my fuel light had come on (as it does at 1/8 of a tank). Had a Mad-Max / third-world / near-future experience when the first three gas stations I stopped at were bereft of gasoline. At the third of them, pinching myself and convinced this was reality rather than nightmare, I asked the clerk of the attached convenience store what was going on. Apparently the same fellow owns the ones I saw with no gas, and he had financial problems, so
m1628: Thought for a bumpersticker (is this already out there in the wild?): "The peasants are revolting!"
m1710: I-76 ends; I-80 begins.
m1757: Enter Central Time Zone
m 1791 - Wal-mart,N. Platte, NE: shrimp, rolls, shaving oil, shampoo, lemonade, ice, string cheese. Considered rotisserie chicken, gave up as too messy.
m1829: Gothenburg, NE: "YOUNG, SKINNY, WIRY FELLOWS. NOT OVER 18. MUST BE EXPERT RIDERS. ORPHANS PREFERRED." Hey -- an original stop on the Pony Express! A tiny thing (wooden cabin, moved from its original location for preservation in a park here); difficult to imagine what a job this must have been for the riders. Interesting to see how quickly the price of delivery on the Pony Express dropped; within the short (18 months) it was in service, mail went from $5 an ounce (and this was when U.S. money was worth something) to only $1.(The telegraph arrived in force.) Also, though I might have guessed that this was a private enterprise, I wasn't fully aware: the Pony Express was the endeavor of three men: Maddel, Russell, and Majors.
I got a fantastic (but of need too short) tour of the Gothenburg Historical Museum, too -- saw only one floor (the main one), and too quickly, but it was nonetheless worth the trip. This tiny museum is just across the way from the Pony Express station, and at least today has more volunteer staffers than visitors. Gothenburg: Swedish founder; he tried to get lots of Swedes to move there (and was successful), but Germans owned much of the nearby land, dominated politics early. A very early town for electrification, esp. considering its distance from the metropolises of the east; it was electrified just one year after the White House switched from gas to electric lighting.
Nice touch: on the way out of town, I saw a custom license plate: PONY XP.
Here things get a bit worse for specifics, because I was suddenly driving instead of noting: My KOA spot in Gothenberg was flooded. RVs are still fine, but no tent spots now. Wish I'd known that an hour earlier, so I could have immediately checked in instead at the Holiday Park in North Platte, quite a ways west. As it is, I ended up taking the next exit, reversing, and zipping again in the wrong directions (theme of the trip, it seems) to check in at
m1894: Where things stand. A mere 400 miles in the day, not fantastic, esp. because that doesn't represent 400 miles of net forward progress, but only about 300. Ah, well. Tomorrow will see my excellent step-brother-in-law-or-whatever (it doesn't matter) Barry, which I'm looking forward to.
Weather: Hot. 89 degrees at the airport, says wunderground.com. Even in Fahrenheit, that's a wee bit warm. Hopefully there will be some breeze as the evening goes on, by which I mean a wind strong enough to all but blow away my tent with me inside would be welcome.
Dinner will be shrimp cocktail and lemonade; first course (already in progress) is mozarella-and-carrot sandwiches on pumpernickel rolls with mustard and Old Bay. Some red onion, cucumber, mushroom or spinach would be nice, but bought none of these. Dessert: Boston cream donut. Fruit and nuts to follow.
Tonight: must write a postcard to my best-ever niece, and perhaps some to others as well. Plan to sleep deeply.
Mile 1367 of my trip; I'm in Cheyenne, Wyoming, less than 100 miles from Boulder. Travel with the new tires has been fine -- no problems noted, gas mileage seems as expected (or at least so close that I can't necessarily say there's anything wrong -- I am at 5000 feet after all, and climbing). Montana and Wyoming, both distractingly beautiful. Passed a Wall Drug bumpersticker, mildly regret not making it out that direction -- would definitely stop there if I was. In a few hours, I should have dinner with my cousin in Boulder, enjoying that city.
A few earlier notes-by-mile-marker:
Snow on craggy peaks south of I-90, make-believe clouds above. Hills just to the north, a golf course for giants. Blue sky to define blue.
m680: the Continental Divide!
m810: The CRAZY mountains
m927: Slept for several hours at the Christenson rest area, Montaina. Left after that nap, at dawn, 4:38 local time, beautiful sunset.
m963: Crossed the Little Bighorn River just as a train approached on the tracks to the south. A deer skittered across the road in front of me the same mile (slight brake, slight swerve, all was well).
m973: trotting coyote crosses the road ahead of me, 5:26 AM
m1006: Enter Wyoming!
m1034: Sheridan, WY; a big crennelated dome S. of the highway, with a set of bleachers next door. A school? Want to know more about this building -- I wonder if it's from the Monolithic Dome Institute.
m1087: Sign: "Middle Fork / Crazy Woman."
m113: Rest stop, napped for close to 2 hours. Remaining, 335 miles to Denver
m1149: My car's warranty expires (hit 36,000 miles)
m1254, road marker 117: trees i nhuge body of water -- a dam-formed lake? W
would like to go swimming in this right now.
m1295 - stop in Wheatland, Wy for groceries: grapes, yogurt, corn chips, tea, water
m1287: Cross the Laramie River
20100621 (Monday): Trip notes continue! These notes are of course sketchy and telegraphic, not meant to be all-compassing.
m375 (approx) Super 8 Motel, Coeur d'Lane, ID, where I spent the night for about $50 (with AAA discount). A hotel night I'd rather have avoided, but not so bad as things go. It may simply be luck in this location, but was far nicer than previous Super 8 motels I've stayed in before -- clean, pleasant, nicely appointed for my purposes, even had a fridge and microwave, and a nice selection of breakfast foods.
Left from CostCo in Coeur d'Lane, ID, with:
- 4 New tires (total damage, about $585 for the tires / labor / fiddly bits)
- 1 new wheel ($100 at local Les Schwab), the look of which I think is actually better than my factory tires, but I realize to many people the mismatch would be jarring. I don't care $300 worth at the moment to have a matching set.
- new GPS ($80 for a Magellan RoadMate; seems at least adequate for my purposes)
- 1 lb shrimp (I don't need the lettuce or lemon wedges, but Hey)
- 13 lb oranges
- fresh gas; CostCo was only a few cents cheaper than the local competition, but a few cents is better than nothing
Note: I'll have to revise this estimate if my tires fall off, but for now, I will say the tire crew at the CostCo were fantastic. I had to call them a few times (starting from my place stranded off I-90), was happy they had a set of compatible tires in stock, and they were courteous and helpful when I got there, helped me out of my predicament. (I got 3 of my new tires yesterday -- Sunday -- and the fourth this morning, after finding a compatible wheel on wihch to mount it; the fellows at CostCo put on my donut spare yesterday so I could get to a hotel, to Les Schwab, etc.)
m441: passed the place where I spent far too much of yesterday morning and afternoon with my disabled car, trying to be vigilant for more debris. Don't want to repeat that experience.
m444: Montana welcomes me! Reminded me of how close I'd been to the state line when I had to be hauled back nearly to Washington.
m562: A waddling duck and her two tiny ducklings (each of which I think could have fit into a yogurt container) just barely survived their trip south across the road. No one else in sight, so I swerved slightly, which I think made the difference.
m589: Rest stop in Montana, time for some oranges, an egg, a yogurt, a sm. chocolate bar, some prunes, and to fiddle with the new GPS, which I eventually got to admit is in Mountain time. Never owned a Magellan before; so far, I'm pretty pleased with it; I like the system of creating custom searches which can be saved for easy re-use. (So far, I've made ones for Starbucks, and Camping.) One thing I noticed -- and I wonder if this is tied to the wheel / tire replacement -- is that my speed as shown on the car's speedometer is slightly higher than that shown by the GPS. With my previous GPS (which I believe was stolen, several months back), the car's speed tracked the GPS's display pretty well.
Should be in Denver in plenty of time for dinner tomorrow; only a few days later than the estimate I had this time last week. At least one of the friends I'd hoped to see in Colorado will be traveling while I'm there, and my friend Don recently succeeded in selling his house in Colorado Springs and moving to California, so (though I regret being unable to see them) my Colorado time will be better spent than I'd feared.
20100620 trip update
Mile 374 - Idaho, with a flat tire.
Flat tire! In Idaho! On Sunday! If anyone would like to bring me some orange juice or just water, that would be great. Find me at the willow Creek pull-off, approx. mile marker 71 on Eastbound I-90.
Cause: Though I didn't see whatever it was, I heard the THUMP as (I suspect) I hit a piece of construction debris; I saw a lot of cones that had been hit as I was driving in the narrowed lanes of this construction area, I wonder if it was part of one of those. A few minutes later, my tire pressure indicator came on, just about the time my handling went downhill. (Not hugely -- good control the whole time. Took the next out off the highway, which is the historical-marker pull-off marking the lead-silver mines of Willow Creek Slide, if I have the nomenclature down right.
Effect: Now, the big(gest) problem with getting a flat tire on a Subaru is that if it turns out the tire must be replaced, you're supposed to replace the whole quartet. Even finding a place (an open place) within a hundred miles with the right size tires has been difficult, at least by the standards of 21st Century America. One shop (the tire center at a Wal-Mart in Smelterville), which AAA called to check and then reported to me had the right size tires (and to which I then arranged a tow), turned out *not* to have the right size; I'm glad I called to inquire about the price before I got towed there. So far I'm at 4 calls to AAA, 3 with the towing company, and at least five candidates for tire shop.
Les Schwab has some locations along 90, but all closed on Sunday. So, against my hopes of forward progress, I'm waiting for a tow truck (and it will be a wait yet) which will take me to CostCo in Coer d'Lane, which is a pretty good haul in the wrong direction, but which has a set of tires with my name on it. Best case scenario is that my tire is diagnosed as fixable, which I view as unlikely. Worst case scenario: I am hit by fragment of space debris, which nicks an artery, so I expire just before help can arrive. I suspect the outcome will be somewhere in the middle. Cheaper than death, but well over zero.
Other than that, the trip's been pleasant -- some rain, but mostly pleasant driving. Last night, lightning storm of high caliber at the rest stop where I stopped for a quick 7-hour nap. I've taken some notes which I'll try to transcribe later, about bits seen along the way. Took being stuck with a flat as a good oppty. to do some repacking, too -- though the car's as always fuller than ideal, at least now it's far more logically arranged: I can the stuff (all soft) behind the driver's seat now if I want to recline for a nap, for instance. Listened to a few episodes of EconTalk* and have been listening from the beginning -- despite some overlap in what I've heard -- to Ian rankin's "Fleshmarket Alley" (a D.I. Rebus mystery). Soon, some music, too -- I even have a 10,000 Maniacs disk in the player that I hadn't realized until last night.
*(Rivers on Polling was pretty good -- slightly dry delivery, but the content's interesting; as EconTalk goes, I'd give it a B-, but that's a decent grade. Russ Roberts on Equality I'd give the same grade; I'm glad he switches it up sometimes, but overall prefer the episodes with guests. Have 20 or so hours' worth to go on that disk, so all's well!)
About to set out from Seattle for
Yes, I live in a basement. But that basement is being demolished for revamping, and I have some family events that I'm looking for over the next several months back East. So I'm taking a very low-altitude cruise (zero feet from the ground, that is) that direction, via CO and NE, and then looping back via FL and TX in October; I intend to give occasional updates about the trip as the days go on.
The state of thing: As always, leaving later than I originally intended, and then later than a few intermediate targets, but that's perfectly fine. Oil changed yesterday, odometer at 34,850 (or is it 34,580?), trip meters both set to Zero.
First stop planned: bagel shop, to cash in my "Sandwich Club" chits for a delicious Double Lox Deluxe sandwich. After that, gas. After that
Now, to shower, print out my trip manifest, and zip eastward.
Thus it begins!
Yes, that's you in , balding dark-haired driver with the silver Altima and serious look. Maybe you're serious because you are worried that you'll run over a pedestrian when you fail to stop at an all-way stop / pedestrian crossing, like the one at 15th and E. Aloha in Capitol Hill (Seattle), which you did about 3 minutes ago. (8:35 today, 15th June, 2010.)
I was about to grouse that I wished I could rearrange the "tabs" (panel buttons showing individual apps) in the default Gnome taskbar
Tabs, for me, are right up there with Tags as underrated improvements in user interfaces. This is great.
Several dreams last night; the ones fading fastest were about travel, I think all about road trips. Ski trip was part of the plan, and one of the trips I think included the mysterious western stretch that appears in many of my dreams, with glowing sunsets, mesas and plains. In one bit, I remember wearing an all-white snow suit, thin but quite warm.
The craziest one:
Perspective: sometimes 1st, sometimes 3d person.
I'm a detective, played by the heavyset curly-haired Irish guy who's often in the role of maverick detective, whose name I can't recall. [Note: looked it up: his name is Colm Meany.]
Along with some other detectives, at the scene of a death chalked up to suicide. (Actually, I think that the body was missing, so we weren't even certain that there'd been a *death* but that was the presumption.) Something about the scene puzzled me. The killing took place at the kitchen table of a small house or apartment with a very eccentric owner, or at least one with strange decorating taste. Over the table were several (three, I think) hanging ceiling lamps, unevenly spaced. One of them in particular had caught my attention (the other two were identical, and on one side; this one was hanging over the other side of the table). The shade was bulbous, composed of segments of glass or ceramic, in orange-yellow, black, and white, with circular decorations forming a band around the shade about half-way up. These decorations reminded me of eyes, and then it struck me: the lamp, though purely abstract at a quick glance, was actually based on the head / face of the cartoon character Daffy Duck, and the decorations that looked like eyes really did represent eyes. If you looked at any single pair of eyes, you could see Daffy. The yellow-orange parts were his bill, and what had seemed like random variations in the surface color resolved themselves into subtle details of Daffy Duck. (Does Daffy Duck have any actually subtle details? No matter.) The realization might have meant nothing in itself, but I noticed another instance of the eye-decoration pattern, at the same height as the eyes on the lampshade, in a line going around the brightly papered wall. It looked to me like each eye on the lamp had a matching eye on the wall, which I confirmed with a straight-edge. The lamp's off-center position over the table worked to make this straight-line relationship work, but it wouldn't have otherwise.
The other detectives were looking at me oddly now, but they seemed to agree that there was something intriguing about this now, even if they didn't think I was doing anything to understand the crime (if there was one). I noticed that one of the "eyes" on the wall looked slightly different from the others; it was behind the place where a diner might have sat on the narrow end of the table, away from the rest of the kitchen. I tapped the wall there, and found I was able to break into the plaster at that point, and pull from the wall a small glass jar (with a screw-on top), which contained at its bottom two small dark items. I did not open the jar, and handled it carefully, in case there were fingerprints to be found. In the dream, I remember being certain of what the items in the jar were (microfilmed blackmail material? Some secret recording device?), but now I don't remember what the actual conclusion was. However, this discovery immediately changed the tone of the investigation; suddenly, everyone seemed to believe that this was more likely a murder, and that the victim might have been tortured by a killer seeking the location of the hidden jar.
One of the few bright spots I find in the federal income tax form is the checkbox that one can tick to divert some money to a presidential campaign fund. (Short and sweet WP article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_Election_Campaign_Fund)
It's not because I like or approve of public funding of political campaigns (talk about adding insult to injury!), but because it gives a very small piece of tax-money decision-making to the people from whom the money is being taken in the first place; essentially it means the mechanism for collecting taxes functions also (albeit weakly) as a sort of self-executing referendum.
Given that I think publicly funded campaigns (not to mention income taxes per se) are an awful idea, I think there are better uses for such a checkbox, but all the same. Aiming for optimism here!
Thought experiment: How about a tax system that asked in the payment process a forward-looking question like this of anyone paying a net income tax:
"I do not approve an increase in my effective tax rate.[ ]" or
"I do approve an increase in my effective tax rate. [ ]"
"I want $3 of the amount assessed by means of this form to be used for the reduction of the national debt. [YES/NO]"
What do you think about using income tax forms (while there's an income tax system) to essentially ask people how the money being collected can / should be spent? What "Money for X / no money for X" questions do you think should be asked? (Or, if you think it's a bad idea to have such taxpayer discretion, Why?)
[Aside: asking taxpayers directly, rather than indirectly, how their collected monies should be spent could be done whether or not the underlying tax system is an income tax or some other form. I'm prompted to donate small amounts to charities, for instance, every time I visit the local Safeway grocery store.]
Several vivid ones, two remain w/ any detail
1) Working in Manhattan. Commuted to work by something between subway and light rail, from within the city someplace. Sara H. and Dana B. worked in the same building, along w/ some other I knew, but names not coming to mind. Dana, Sara and I would say Hi freqently, walk together to / from transit spots, etc. One day, on such a walk in common, Dana and I both leaving the office for something (coffee?) in the afternoon, bump into AQL, who it turns out worked either in the same bldg or nearby. She said Hi when there was no other choice; I made introductions, overall seemed an inoffensive encounter, though it made the bottom drop out of my brain for a bit. That same day, have a similar, less awkward encounter, meeting up by chance w/ Eileen Liu, who I didn't even know was in the city but it turns out was working there as well. Mentioned earlier meeting w AQL, which surprised her as well. I knew that Becky was around, too, which I mentioned to her.
2) Eating w/ some people (mid to late evening) in a slightly fictionalized Seattle: Jake, ScuttleMonkley (Patrick McGarry) and -- weirdly! but it seemed very normal at the time -- J. Moyer. We driving to a place that might be called low-brow haute cuisine (like the sort of places that sell only hamburgers and mac-and-cheese, but very gourmet). In this case, they sold a small menu, specializing in I think chicken, stuffing, and fries, though I'm sure there were also green vegetables like spinach. The food was served, counter service, in cafeteria trays with wells (rather than plates, bowls, etc.), but not ordinary ones: they were translucent plastic, broad ovals rather than rectangles, with deep wells (though more the size of a small platter than typical cafeteria tray). There was a funny trick to ordering there, too -- something about the dessert portion was dependent on how you ordered; if you said some phrase (which was not secret, but not the default setting) you got a double portion of the desserts, and they were reputedly excellent, things like apple crisp and blackberry cobbler. Paper displays in the seating area prompted, something like "Are you getting the Double Dessert?" Again, sort of a gussied-up comfort / fast-food touch. It was somehow related to an optical illusion that relied on the shape of the wells in the serving tray; they *could* serve a half-portion in such a way that it looked like all that was intended, but if you asked for the double portion, they'd happily provide it -- it just didn't *look* anything like doubled, more like a margin-of-error difference in portion size.
Though I was skeptical of the contrived / twee feel of the set-up (seemed very cookie-cutter kitsch -- I don't need an irony supplement in my food), I did actually like the meal we had, and admired the efficiency of the actual operation. The serving tray system and counter-service system -- self-bussing, too -- cut their need for staff, meant less interference with the (rather cramped) dining area, making that small area workable for customers. I meant to but forgot to order the stuffing, but it smelled good. I was going to sample some of Joe's or Patrick's, but the extra bit that one of them had left was raided by the other.
More on the location: this was around where Seattle's Pioneer Square is in real life; slightly south and east of downtown. A sort of arcade mostly of restaurants, wrapping around a small square of grass (Maybe 100 or so feet on a side), in a neighborhood of similar spots; there was auto traffic, but one-way and meandering; the single lane of cars goes slowly, because they're looking for parking, and because there are pedestrians (and because anyone who is *leaving* needs to back out of the angled parking slots into the same lane). The parking is on both sides, though, at least in points, and sometimes it's doubled up (two cars in a long diagonal spot; the 2d car is trapped by the 1st, so I guess this works best if there's a two-car party of diners) who know they'll leave the same time). The whole arcade of restaurants (perhaps some other shops, too, but no homes that I noticed) was full, lots of people strolling around in the pleasant weather, shirt-sleeves and polo shirts. SMall trees interrupt the sidewalk at spots; some of the restaurants (all of which have quite narrow faces to the sidewalk) have a few tables out front as well. There were homes and apartments nearby, but connected by footpaths and conventional streets, rather than the European-feeling narrow car path here. The restaurants were mostly 1-story, perhaps some were two-stories, but there was nothing very tall. Reminded me a bit of the stretch of California street where Mashiko is (in West Seattle); bookstores, for instance, would have fit in well.
Funny thing happened on the way there: in one of the double parking slots on the left, I notice a car (silver sedan, obviously a semi-high-end car; Mercedes? Sebring? Lexus?) with its lights on. I regret not knowing how to reach the owner to tell him his lights are on; Jake immediately looks up the license on a notebook or tablet computer he has along, and says "Ah! It looks like the owner just spent [some exact amount, like "$17.24"] on an entree at a restaurant called [and here he named it]," and showed on-screen an image of his credit-car receipt, along with the menu of the restaurant. From the price, he was able to tell what dish he'd ordered. We contacted the owner (text message? phone?) to let him know about his car.