May 13th, 2014

Satan Claus

Semi-happy Return

Plan A worked this morning. I was out of the motel early enough to have breakfast at the legendary Sambo's. Banana Pecan Caramel pancakes sounded good, and while the taste was fine, the pancakes were thin and the pecans few and far between. Side of sausages were excellent. Service was spotty, especially when it came time to get my check. Not really a problem because I had two hours before the train was due, and nothing else to do.

Took my time walking to the train station with a very heavy backpack. Most of the weight was my laptop bag. Need to remember to pare that down, next time. It was already hot out, my phone's weather widget lied, said it was 57° so I wore my Sharks jacket to the restaurant, but packed it away before leaving there. It was more like 72°. And the sun was brutal.

Probably because they thought it would discourage the many homeless people who hang out there, they have removed all the benches from the large shady outdoor section of the station. Homeless don't mind, they just sit on their bedrolls. I found a bench around the side to sit on, but eventually moved indoors because people were setting fire to sticks of paper-wrapped tobacco.

It was a bit of a hike to get from the station to my sleeper car, but the attendant knew my name and had made a lunch reservation for me. Train was half an hour late, so at first this seemed like a Good Thing. It was in 15 minutes. I got there, and they assigned me the aisle seat, across from a French couple who spoke very little English, and next to a m iddle-aged man. The waiter took our orders, then claimed he could only find 3 of the 4 slips. So he filled out a 5th and had the French woman sign it. These slips are about a foot long, maybe 4 inches wide, and are in duplicate. You can't lose one. Looks like someone is padding his numbers.

As soon as he left, the man next to me introduced himself to the French couple, and aggressively left me out of the conversation, which he conducted in the most godawful French. Sounded like he had a year of it in high school, and no ear for the accent. All this was pissing me off, when the scenery changed from urban to ocean. I got up and left, went back to my compartment. I had bought a soda at the station, and had a couple of goodies from the motel's incontinental breakfast to munch on, plus some cookies and crackers if I got real hungry.

And took pictures, and generally admired the scenery. And pondered whether I should have excused myself in French to the couple before I left. Nah, let 'em wonder.

We were sidelined twice along the way, once for the Surfliner, once for Union Pacific. And we rarely reached full speed - UP must have been playing games with the signals again.

After a while I hiked the 6 cars to the lounge and bought a hot dog and a soda at the snack bar, and watched the scenery on the shady side of the train. Lots of places to sit, unlike the parlor car. Unlike the trip down.

Dinner was a different kind of adventure. I got the window seat facing LOD, with a very nice retired-but-younger-than-me couple across from me. Just as I was sitting down there was a commotion at the table behind me, where three young women in Muslim attire were talking very loudly, in a bit of a panic about something. Apparently one of them had hurt her hand badly, the women went back to their compartment in a hurry, and the waiter came back to tell us they would be arranging to meet an ambulance.

We were stopped in the middle of nowhere three or four times while we were eating, but didn't see any sign of an ambulance. The stop near King City seemed a likely place, but nada. We were seated on the side with a view of the freeway.

Had to put the camera away soon after dinner, what with being on the west side of the train and the windows were, as usual, filthy.

Gave me a chance to give a chance to an author Janice had recommended. Caroline Graham, her Chief Inspector Barnaby series. Most of them are older than Kindle, but I started on the oldest one which is, Faithful Unto Death. Janice compared it to Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford series. From 10,000 feet they are comparable, both set in small town England, the main characters a Chief Inspector and his staff, with a murder most foul to solve. Another comparison is that it's not always pegged as a murder right away.

The differences are enormous. Rendell writes like Bradbury, she omits needless words, and is scrupulous in finding the right ones. Her characters are introduced as they occur in the plot, with enough detail to tell them apart but not enough to overwhelm the reader. And she is clear about where a chapter or section ends and a new scene begins. Her descriptions of the homes, gardens and landscape are just enough to paint a basic picture and plant a clue when needed. Graham, on the other hand, packs as many words into a sentence as she can, preferring to use slang and England Countryside jargon instead of plain English. Her descriptions of houses and gardens require both a Comprehensive Flora of the British Isles and the color swatch pages from every British paint manufacturer. Her characters seem to pop in out of nowhere for a paragraph or two, only to return a few chapters later in a setting we don't recognize.

I think I'll finish this one, just to see how she resolves the suicide-which-is-probably-a-murder, the disappearance-which-may-be-an-abduction, the disappearance-which-may-be-a-murder and how many shades of blue she can name in 400 pages.

The train was later and later as we pushed north, we arrived in San Jose almost exactly an hour late. About 10 pm, which is pretty reasonable since I was parked in the Amtrak lot. Not so bad if I had taken light rail.

Home, unpacked, uploaded the photos to the PC. Filled in missing GPS data, cropped a few, decided I don't have time tonight the clean them up and post on Flickr. I am very happy with one shot taken on the boat ride, of Christina the 2nd mate. Actually I'm happy with most of them, but this one in particular.

Plans for tomorrow:
Process & post photos

Don't Vote

Story Time: Why I Believe Voting Makes No Difference

As we go through the primaries and on to the November elections, Social Media™ fills up with graphics and memes and other missives to the effect that if you don't vote, you have nothing to complain about the government being a pile of festering cow pies. Makes me very angry to see those, because your vote does not make any difference at all. Money runs this country, and if we all withheld our votes, no one would be elected, hence the country could not be effed up any more than it already has been.

But of course I do vote in every election, great and small, because if I didn't, I couldn't say "I voted, and it made no difference."

Recently one of my friends told me that if I felt that way, I could write my congresscritters, because they read their mail.

That's a crock. I write my reps, and my senators, and all they do is reply with whatever answer they have already made up their minds to.

Just to show how far I can go to express my political beliefs, here's a story.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan was running for President. I lived in Washington State, where polls showed him running away with the GOP primary. There was almost no chance Carter would be re-elected if Ronnie was the Republican candidate. A group of 30 of us in and around Seattle decided to make our voices heard, and try to block Reagan's nomination.

To do this, we needed to be able to vote in the state GOP primary. To do that we needed to be elected Republican Precinct Committeemen. Between us, we lived in 18 different precincts. I joined the Republican Party, paid my small fee to get on the ballot, and ran unopposed in my almost totally Democratic precinct. I won the seat. All 18 of us did.

At the time, there was an anti-war, socially liberal but fiscally moderate Republican congressman named John Anderson, whose name was on the GOP primary ballot. We chose him as our candidate, and went to the state convention as delegates pledged to him. I found this item in his wikipedia page: "Anderson increasingly found himself at odds with conservatives in his home district and other members of the House. He broke with the administration on Vietnam, was not always a faithful supporter of the Republican agenda, and was a very controversial critic of Richard Nixon during Watergate."

At the convention, there were 40 of us Anderson delegates from around the state. George Bush had about 500 delegates and their very smarmy campaign manager tried to buy our votes. Bob Dole, Howard Baker and John Connally were also in the race, but I think by this time they had bowed out in favor of Reagan.

Just before the convention started, Anderson left the GOP and declared as an independent candidate, with Patrick Lucey, as his running mate. By the rules of the convention, we were still pledged to Anderson, he was still on the ballot, so we stuck to our guns.

I have to say that the state GOP chairman was extremely gracious, he allowed our nominating speeches the full allotted time, and he stifled any and all calls from the floor to have us disowned.

Reagan won on the first ballot. It was something like 1200 to 40.

I voted for Anderson in the November election, but the tally was:
Ronald Reagan/George Bush, Republican       43,903,230  50.75%  [489  90.9%   electoral votes]
James Carter/Walter Mondale, Democratic     35,480,115  41.01%  [  49    9.1%   electoral votes]
John Anderson/Patrick Lucey, Independent        5,719,850   6.61%  [    0    0.0%   electoral votes]

In 2008 I voted for Obama, because he promised to withdraw our troops from Bush's war in the middle East, do away with "don't ask, don't tell", and discontinue Bush's bank bailout program. How has that worked out?

So in 2012 I wrote in Hilary and Bill for Prez and VP, respectively, not being 100% certain that Bill could legally hold that office.

This election I will be voting against all incumbents. They'll probably get re-elected anyway. They will definitely continue to follow wherever the money leads them.

Back To Work

Some projects came up which I had been waiting for, I got to watch AMC's Matrix Marathon, as much of it as I could stand, to see if our new direct feed was clean. It wasn't. It was better than what we had from the satellite, but not enough of an improvement to be able to run QA testing against.

And yet another non-company product to test which customers want to use to put video onto our boxes. The company has blocked the site where it can be downloaded, so I'll spend some time in the morning doing that from home. I can do all the testing from here, I think.

90° outside at 6 pm, I went straight home, opened all the doors and some windows and turned the fan on. It was only 85 inside.

Fast forwarded through the NFL draft, stopped after Michael Sam was drafted. He was one of the last taken. Looking at videos of his play, and listening to the commentary, he doesn't seem to be that good, especially for the position he plays. His order in the draft seemed more based on his performance than on his sexual preference. Of course the mainstream media will spin it, has spun it the other way. In the final analysis, he was taken by his home town team, which placed last in their division last year. It seems a good fit.

Played the last two episodes of Elementary which were on Tivo. It has turned into a soap opera. Very sad. I think this was the final one of the season, and it was a cliffhanger, with To Be Continued stamped boldly between the lines.

Plans for tomorrow:
Find ffmpeg online, see if it will convert a JPEG into an MPEG transport stream which can be uploaded to our box.
??? if it is hot, maybe see a movie.