howeird: (How_photog-viewfinder)
With Sunday reserved for football, having today off was mostly useless. The Tech Museum was open and the Star Wars exhibit was extended so I did the experiment of walking to the light rail stop (10 minutes, thanks to a very long stop light), and barely catching the 10:14 train because it arrived at 10:09 and did not wait longer than it took for us to get on board. I had to run to tag my Clipper card, and run even more because the train stopped at the far end of the platform, and there was only one car instead of the usual two. It took four stops before I got my breath back.

Got off at the Paseo stop, one stop before the closest to the museum, it took 40 minutes for what takes 20 minutes to drive. Paseo is a pedestrian mall, and I was hungry and thinking of stopping at Starbucks or the European bakery for some goodies, but didn't want to risk being too late to get a ticket at the museum.

The line was enormous. It was not helped by the crowd of morons gathered in front of the info desk, blocking not only the entrance to but the view of the ticket line. Once I figured I had to push through those people, it was about a block long line to enter the maze. 11:20 by the time I got a ticket and my entrance time was not till 11:45. At the entry, the Nice Lady said "you know that the Star Wars exhibit is in the other building?" Why no, there was no clue about that until right now. No biggie, just go out past the block-long line, out the doors, hang a left, around the corner to the attached next building. Got there at 11:30 because I'd stopped in at the cafe for orange juice and chips. There were two lines, one for xx:15 and xx:45 and one for xx:00 and xx:30. Again, poor signage had some 00 people waiting in my line, not knowing they could go right in.

The exhibit was large, and had a ton of stuff for kids, all kinds of experiments based on the science which was fictionalized in the movies. Many display cases of models used in the films, and some of the costumes. That part of the room was very dark, and the displays were harshly lit with halogen spotlights, and there was no flash photography allowed, so most of the shot I got are way high contrast. I had the lens pegged at 1.8, at 1600 ISO, and was surprised how few shots were too blurry to keep. Because of the crowds, especially the kids whose obnoxious parents would push them in front of others so they could take pictures of the kids in front of the displays, I did not get all the shots I wanted.

I like this one:

There's only one X-wing fighter, the glass display cases made for lots on interesting mirroring.

This model is about 6" tall

Lots of kids escaped parental supervision. Lots of parents just didn't give a hoot.

It took me an hour and a half to see everything twice. The full photo set is [ profile] here.

I took another hour or so to go downstairs and then upstairs in the main building to see other exhibits, but the ones I had not seen before were all kids hands-on things. I wanted to get a better infrared photo of me, but the tag reader was broken.

Back to light rail, just missed the train, was too walked out to go anywhere for half an hour so I sat on one of the benches. This time the 3:14 arrived at 3:20. Figures.

Long slow ride home. On the ride to the Tech, the only nasty was one perpetually whining/crying baby. On the way back we had a series of smelly homeless people and too many bicycles for the limited number of racks.

Home, the garbages had been collected,  and my new bigger garbage can was there, replacing the too-small one. I can finally throw away the packing materials and such which are not recyclable and have been sitting on the dryer and the laundry room counter.

On the carport stoop was a pair of boxes. One had the storage tub, which I managed to put the night table on top of. It's not a perfect fit, but good enough, and it raises the table high enough. In the other box was a 4-pack of 10-packs of Quaker low-cal oats variety individual serving pouches. My usual at-work breakfast. And a 200-count container of Centrum Silver.

Answered email and FB, then went to BASFA which meant I didn't have to make dinner. Very sparsely attended, but people still were talking among themselves when they should have been listening. [ profile] gil_liant scored several good puns. My rumor of the week won, I know not why. I did not manage to find a place for this pun: A new musical - Web Site Story.

Home, Domino yelled at me until I gave her Fancy Feast. She is now curled up in the bed between the file cabinet and the postal stuff rack.

Plans for tomorrow:
Giving a demo at 11
howeird: (Default)
The seller accepted my offer, without changes. The mfg rep is processing the loan paperwork with her lender, but I'm also on Lending Tree because the interest rates she quoted me are pretty high compared to what I have seen out there, especially for a <$150k loan. I checked with my insurance agent, they use someone else for mfg homes, but will give me a few $$ off for also having the car insured by them. I got a quote from progressive, they want twice as much. Both will only cover $150k, not the full replacement price. esurance gave me a quote from Safeco, which fielded it at 10% less, but their form did not recognize it was a mfg home, so that may be bogus.

Taxes come to about $50 a month. Utilities are not in the equation because I pay those now, Comcast says they serve that address so I should be good for cable and internet.

Work was pretty slow, so I found some more corporate online classes to sign up for. I watched one, 2 years old, on how cable TV is moving to IP, and while it was a well done marketing presentation, we've been selling in that field for about 10 years.

Team meeting had some revelations. Minor ones, though about two of the new company's local-ish offices moving to our building this month. Parking may get tight. 

Lunch with Automation Guy, we went to the Thai place which was too full last week. The key is to wait till 12:45. We can take lunch any time, but most of the worker bees in the neighborhood strap themselves into noon lunchtimes. Barn Thai is the sign on the place, and Automation Guy laughs that he expects to see cows inside. I explain that it's really pronounced "bahn" which means "house". Thai House because reverse word order (in Thai and most Asian languages, nouns come before adjectives, verbs before adverbs).

Back at work my tennis elbow was hurting a lot so I switched my mouse to left-handed mode. Did the same when I got home. I'm just ambidextrous enough to be able to do that.

UPS, three things to pick up, then home. As usual most of the mail went into the trash or the shredder, but there were two checks from a class action settlement against AT&T Mobile. One was for about $5.00 the other for 3¢.

Online, grabbed the last two months' statements from my 3 credit cards, and the last 2 from my CU and emailed them to mgf rep.  So we should be done with that load of crap until it's time for the park approval process. And she said we have most of that covered already.

On to BASFA because MNF was not a game I was interested in. Passed around the 3¢ check and got many amused/amusing reactions. Reviewed Les Miz, pocket review. It was lightly attended, so things went quickly, done in just over an hour. I got in a couple of puns, no zingers, though.

In other news, my last remaining uncle died this afternoon. Call from my Baltimore sister, who said our aunt asked her to make the calls. Sis said he died peacefully in his sleep, I said it was probably the only thing in his life he did peacefully. I phoned my aunt, their eldest son answered, I gave him my condolences and then talked to her. She was in shock, but managed to brave it out for a few minutes. Uncle Dave was a New Yorker. A Bronx New Yorker. He did everything forcefully and with supreme confidence. When I was a kid he kind of scared me, force of nature that he was, and kind of annoyed me because he always thought he was right, loudly. But during the past 10 or so years we'd been communicating a lot**, and oddly enough, he usually was right. He had dimensions to him which he had not talked much about until lately, which is a shame because if I had known as a child, I would have admired him more and sooner.

He was a WWII veteran of the combat engineering company which helped liberate Italy. He left a job as a welder to enlist. After the war he worked for 25 years as a railroad post office employee up and down the east coast. You can read more about that career choice here. His final job, I think, was head of customs inspections at JFK Airport. I know that was his job, he met me at customs when I came back from the Peace Corps. I'm just not sure it was his last one.

**He had macular degenration since 2007, so I started recording 15-minute mp3s messages and emailing them so he could "read" my messages without my aunt having to be there. She wrote most of the replies, being a retired executive secretary, but I had also taught him how to record messages, and he used that to communicate with friends. Elder son helped get him started. We corresponded about once a week, but he would phone if something in  one of my messages raised a red flag, or if he had some medical advice which needed to be shared urgently.

Plans for tomorrow:
howeird: (Weird Dream)
I am in some foreign country, scheduled to take the train the next morning. At the same hotel are two older women (late 60s early 70s) who are also going to take that train. I don't know where the train goes, but I know it is a long ride and this is a crucial leg of my trip which I have been planning for ages. The three of us go down to the train station just to scope it out, and return to the hotel.

After we have gone back to our separate rooms, I start getting my stuff together and can't find my ticket. Panic. Call the ticket office and they are sold out for tomorrow's train so I buy one for the next day. Then I think maybe I don't need the actual ticket tomorrow. The next morning I wake up, look out my window and see the train at the station. After half a minute it pulls out. 

I open up my envelope with the travel paperwork. Sure enough there is a grid showing seating,  my name is on it, but there's a note below my name: "has been advised".  At the top of the page is a severe weather advisory. I guess I didn't need to have the ticket after all, but now it's too late. I'm going tomorrow, anyway. Looking at my passport because I can't remember when it expires. I kn ow my driver's license expires this year. Trying to find the page in the passport with the expiration date, but it is all a fading blur as I wake up.

All of which prompts me to pull out the fireproof box from the closet, and check. My passport is good through 2018. Whew.
howeird: (Train)
The trip on Amtrak to Santa Barbara was on time or early at every stop, but somehow it felt longer then the last three times, which weren't. I guess when you have seen the same scenery so many times, there isn't much left to hold your interest. One thing which surprised me is there is a huge hangar at Edwards AFB which has what may be the world's largest American flag painted on the side. Last time I passed by it had a NASA logo, no it sports a SpaceX insignia. weird that an allegedly commercial endeavor is given a building at government facility.

There were way too many small children on the train, but they didn't cry or scream, and mostly kept close to parental units.

I brought plenty of snacks, only made one run to the snack bar for a soda. I had a bulkhead seat, no tray, so I stayed in the lounge car until I was done. Should have also picked up a bottle of water. There was a water dispenser near my seat, but no cups. :-(

Oh wait, I know why it was boring. This is National Train Day, but there was almost nothing on board or at any of the stations. The first year, there were exhibits and live music at SLO and gifts for kids at SBA, but this year nothing at SBA (in the morning there was a free ride on one of the short spurs, but that ended by noon) and at SLO there was a lemonade stand, hidden in a corner.

It was a long slog from the train to the motel with a backpack and a carry bag with leftover snacks and my jacket, in the hot sun. The street which i usually take which cuts a couple of blocks off the trip is all dug up at State Street so I had to go the long way. Several jerks riding bikes on the sidewalk despite clearly marked bike lanes. Lots of smokers here too.

without the baggage and after it cooled down some, it was an easy enough walk back to State Street for dinner. There is a place on the corner with the. Perfect. Location, and it was almost empty. On a Saturday night! The prices are somewhat elevated, but reasonable for the location. I had th grilled salmon hollandaise with steamed spinach, and it was great. So was the house salad  and the coffee ice cream sundae. $38 after tax.

Plans for tomorrow:
10 am whale watching cruise
Wing it, staying overnight, returning Monday
howeird: (Train)
Lust, really. More on that later.

Work was boring until 4:45 pm, when boss asked me to replicate a possible bug which one of the engineers found in his code but had not tested on actual machines. Long story short, I did not have the right machines to replicate this, and by the time I was sure of that I had already missed the best train to SF for the Giants' game.

Made the next train, which got me to SF at 7 for a game which started at that time 4 blocks away. It took long time to climb to the top of the ramps where my seat was. The fog had rolled in, in was cold and windy. I bought a hot dog and then headed for "View Reserved Row 13". It was 13 more steep steps up. I got there, and discovered the seat I was looking for was on the other side. Back down, and vertigo kicked in. I was VERY high up, and the stairs are very steep. Instead of going up the other side I bailed. Walked down to the promenade and around to the SRO spaces by the splash section. By now tis the bottom of the 4th inning, and many Giants are hitting the ball. I left the stadium after the 4th run, I think. They scored 6 that inning.

Walked back to the train station, got the 8:40 back south, home by 10. Which is good because I have to pack for my Train Day trip in the morning - be at the station at 9 for a 10 o'clock Coast Starlight (padding because I need to park, get my tickets and a parking pass, put the pass in the car and walk back to the station again).

Oh, about lust. There are more beautiful women at the Giants' game, and in the surrounding neighborhood. The area which was once a shady, dangerous dump is now Yuppie Delight. There's even an upscale bowling alley.

Way Behind

Feb. 3rd, 2013 07:53 pm
howeird: (Default)
Well, the superbowl is not going at all well, so I thought I'd catch up on almost a week of lost journaling.

Last real entry was on the train Monday. Skip to Tuesday. They kept saying they were running late, but when we got to Sacramento we were more than half an hour early. The sun wasn't up yet. I stayed on the train, very sleepy. The rest of the stops we were early, but we got delayed somewhere south of Oakland, and managed to just make it on time into San Jose, about 10 am.

Home, feeling poorly, but managed to pet the cats, top off their water, unpack, shower & take drugs and get to work around noon.

There was a lot to do at work, but nothing worth writing about. They had a town hall meeting way too early, so I caught the replay. It was a pretty good update on the Arris acquisition, they gave a lot more actual information than we got when Google was buying us.

Can't remember lunch or anything except going home to very affectionate cats.

Wednesday my cold was still hanging on, work kept my mind off it for the most part, I had some bug fixes to verify and some automation to work on. Home, faked some soup for dinner from Chinese BBQ pork and a couple of frozen won tons. Bed, woke up often. Kaan mostly stayed on the foot of the bed.

Thursday I was able to wrap up an automation script which was just waiting on a bug fix. They fixed the bug and it was easy from there. Starbucks for lunch, I think. The one near the furniture store, not one of the usual ones. There was a Brigadoon rehearsal, I was feeling just well enough to go - not contagious, just a stuffed nose and a mild fever. This was a run-through of what they had done so far, and I had not been blocked in 3/4 of it yet. We did my solo, and I was very displeased that he has me take center stage for it, which doesn't match the lyrics. He has not made allowances for non-dancers, so I've had to make allowances for myself. It looks like we will keep rehearsing to the boom box, which sucks big time. Music rehearsals don't start till the 11th, which is bass akward. Normally you learn the music first.

The good news is there are lots of pretty women, and many of them hang around me a lot, since I am the candy maker. The bad news is the director has all of us onstage all the time, pretty much. It's one way to do the show, but I think it detracts from the leads.

There is a dance number which is annoying me a bit. We have a very tall ballerina of Amazonian proportions (except she has both breasts - big ones), who is beautiful, graceful and a joy to watch. The character she is dancing with is a foot shorter than her, has a significant paunch, and it just looks wrong. He has no dancing training other than country dance.

We're supposed to go at 9, he kept us till 10:30 to block the end of the dance (lots of ensemble stuff, some of which I can't do, I need to talk to him about that).

Home, crashed

Friday was not feeling much better, but not worse. Work was again busy and I was able to wrap up yet another automation project which was waiting for a bug fix. Can't remember what I did for lunch, but I know I didn't go with the gang because they went too early [again]. After work I went to Office Max and looked for something to ship the Boskone art show photos in. I found something perfect, except it was way expensive. The 10-pack of 12x18 envelopes comes in a box which was the right size, but it was $25. On my way out I found their cardboard boxes, and got one which was 18x18x12, and went home with that. Of course it was too small for 12x18 photos.

Faked some soup dinner, and went to bed way too late after making the bid sheets and control sheet for the art show. She sent us non-writable pdfs, there is no way I am writing by hand, so it was a lot of copy and cut and paste work. At least I had the titles on a spreadsheet already.

Woke up at 1:30 pm. The cold was worse. I got up and dressed and was headed for Office Max to spend that $25, but the  garbage needed taking out, and lo and behold in the cardboard recycle area was the box from an ASUS video display which was pretty darned close to perfect, and free. So I took that inside, packed things up, weighed it, went online and printed UPS shipping and return labels, taped it up and blacked out all the bar codes that were not UPS, and took it down to the UPS store. Got that done in time to be an hour early to meet Janice at Starbucks, where I was going to start this tome but Facebook distracted me.

Janice was just back from 2 weeks in NJ as a Red Cross volunteer working with hurricane Sandy victims, and was pretty tired, so she had me fill her in on Conflikt, and we'll talk about her adventures next week.

Earlier in the day while things were falling out of the freezer compartment at me, I saw I had raw chicken thighs and drumsticks in there, so on my way home I stopped at Safeway and picked up the chicken soup makings I didn't have - which was really only green peas and gizzards (but they didn't have any of those). Decided to add corn, and buy a couple of fresh parsnips because the one in the freezer isn't fresh and was kind of small. I also bought a pizza and cream puffs for Superbowl Sunday, and some frozen dinners.

Home, hauled out the huge cauldron and filled it with chicken soup makings. This is basically my mom's recipe, but a little more generic. She used Manischewitz mixes:

and added a chopped onion and celery and sliced carrots. I buy the barley, beans, and split peas in bulk, and I start off with a gallon of chicken stock, and add chopped garlic, bay leaf, salt, ground pepper. Mom cooked it the usual way, I make it crock style - low heat overnight so to meat comes off the bones and the bones are soft.

So that was my 1 am snack.

I is here

Jan. 24th, 2013 11:27 pm
howeird: (Weird Load)
After being 45 minutes late getting to San Jose, the Coast Starlight floored it and got to Oakland on time. They kept all the stops very short, even when we were on time, and made it to Seattle at 8:30 - about 10 minutes early. Last week they ranged from a n hour late to 45 minutes early.

Seattle rain. But I repeat myself.

when we got on the train, those of us in the sleeper cars were offered a chance for a late dinner in the dining car but when I saw that half of the people on their way were screaming-age children, I kept going and bought  hot dog and a soda in the lounge car.

My bed was already made up, but for 2 people, with the bunk bed down. No tip for the attendant, who was nowhere to be seen, so I figured out the mechanism and pushed the bunk out of the way myself.

I was very tired, it had been a busy and frustrating day at work (I was on loan to a corporate department) but I got done by 4:30 and left early. Home, finished packing, spent some time with the cats. Got to Amtrak an hour early, plenty of parking, there was a greeter in the waiting area who chatted with all the Coast Starlight customers, but never bothered to call the train status line, so she didn't know the train would be very late until I told her. FAIL.

Mostly uneventful trip. Fitful sleep, but I got a lot of it eventually. I slept right through Dunsmuir and woke up at Klamath Falls at 7:40 am. It was not quite sunrise.

Got out the camera, fired up its GPS, and took a couple of shots just to mark the spot. The trip through the forests was not the winter wonderland it usually is this time of year. There was lots of snow on the ground, but none on the trees.  One of the delights of this ride in the 70s was it goes through places people couldn't go, and the only tracks in the snow were animal tracks. Now there are people tracks and snowmobile tracks all over the place . :-(

In fact, at one point in Umpquah National Forest, there was a snowmobile trail with a fancy milepost/map marker.

Not many pictures, it was very overcast, and then there was extreme fog.  

Breakfast was interesting. They impose 4-to-a-table seating in the dining car, and my table mates were a mother (60s) and her daughter (40s) and a skinny 30-ish man with many cheap tattoos, including bands across his knuckles. The man hardly said anything, and when he did it was too soft for me to hear. The daughter, however, had quite the tale to tell.

She had taken a cruise to Haiti to go zip-lining. It was for charity, she said. Everything was fine until she got on the plane in Miami to go home to Oregon, but suddenly she couldn't breathe. They took her off the plane, called an ambulance. She had a collapsed lung. Elven days in the hospital, somewhere in there her mom flew out to be with her. Bottom line is she can no longer take a plane. So she & mom got on the train. what caused the collapsed lung? 30 years of smoking. They said it was the pot more than the tobacco. So from no on it's nicotine patches and brownies.

Lunch the forgot to call the 1:30 reservations, I was late so  I was seated by myself. Yay! Obnoxious waitress, tried to tell me what to order.

Dinner was in the parlor car, I expected to be by myself, but they paired me with a librarian from Phoenix on her way to a big librarian convention in Seattle. Congenial but boring.

When I got out of the Kind Street Station I turned toward [ profile] susandennis's condo and waved, but I'm not sure she still has a view of where I was standing, thanks to a huge building going up in between.

walked through the cold and dripping atmosphere up and around to the Link light rail, tapped my Orca card and went down the stairs just in time to see the train pull away. Good thing I had my Seahawks stadium jacket and gloves.

Arrived at the hotel at about 10, walked halfway around th building before discovering it was the service entrance, then hunted for the reception desk which was well hidden. The signs point in its general direction, but stopped pointing 20 feet too soon.

Fining my room was also a crock. The directions from the desk were to go past the bar and turn right. She forgot to say to then turn left, and look for the elevator. And that my room was on th 2nd floor. The signage did not help either.

Got to the room finally, it is lovely and large, but no fridge. There's a cabinet for one but nothing is inside it.

Unpacked, changed shirts, went back to the lobby to use the free wi-fi (it costs $$ in the room) but ran into many of the usual suspects, some of them locals, and chatted first.

And no to bed, before I fall out of the chair.

Plans for tomorrow:

Sleep in
Lobby, see who is around. Consume mass quantities.
Con officially starts at 6 or thereabouts

3 tired

Jan. 23rd, 2013 01:10 am
howeird: (Train)
More than 2 tired.
Slept very little last night. Insomnia till after 3 am. What saved me from falling over at work is three separate projects cropped up at the same time, busy busy.

I haven't written anything about Sunday. It was a busy day with 2 blood pressure raising football games. The Cinderella teams won, which is Right. I like both teams, and while I would enjoy seeing my home team win, I'm perfectly happy to see the other team's city get trashed. Baltimore has a reputation for burning down significant sections of the city after national championships. Lately that's mostly been U MD.

At about 3 pm or so I started making Kourabiethes (Greek shortbread cookies) for the Brigadoon potluck, from the original recipe. They came out much better than last time, but I still overdid the flour a little bit.

The potluck was okay, there were a lot of salads which did not appear edible to me, but there was also a variety of appetizers. The cookies went over well until they cooled off and stuck together. I'd made about 3 dozen, I took home about 15. 12 seconds in the microwave and they separated out fine.

The potluck started a little after 6, and at 6:30, WAY too early, the costumer brought out a relic from Renn Faire who proceeded to entertain us with what he claimed to be the way an authentic Scotsman puts on a kilt. I sure hope they don't do our costumes the way he showed us - basically 15 yards of cloth folded into about 50 pleats and then belted. This may have been the way the warriors who lived in mud huts dressed, but it's not what the audience expects, and is entirely unworkable on stage.

This left very little time for introductions, but those are mostly useless to me, I forget names. Easier for me to read the cast list and look up faces online.

Read-through started at close to 8, thanks to a lot of bureaucratic nonsense which would have been better handled through email. They brought a boom box instead of an accompanist, so we had to sing over the voices in whatever not very good recording they had picked. At 9 it was time to stop, we had not made much of a dent in the show.

So we're not off to a brilliant start, but I've been in much, much worse. This cast is very friendly, there are many hot women, some remarkable voices and the music is very pretty.

The woman sitting to my left when we did the read-thru was a bit of a disconnect for me. She's ethnically Korean, but she has a gorgeous soprano voice, and no accent. The no-accent didn't surprise me, I know several Korean-Americans who speak American, but I don't think any of them sing unless they are drunk. Korean karaoke is not pretty.

I did learn one name, a drop-dead gorgeous woman in her 30s. Personal trainer/Pilates instructor. I looked her up on the cast list then on Facebook, and she appears to be married, darn it. I hate when that happens.

So that was Sunday.

I wrote about Monday  already

The rest of today was busy. Lunchtime I dropped the slides off at Costco to be scanned, the last 300 from my Thailand Peace Corps days. Then home, picked up the phone I'd bought on eBay which should have been here a week ago, and a very heavy box which had a big bag of cat food. This food is star-shaped, the same food in the smaller bags is pellet-shaped. WTF?

After work I took the eBay phone to Verizon and had them transfer my service to it. It downloaded my stuff from Google while I drove to Amtrak, got my tickets and a parking pass for tomorrow, and was pleased to see about 10 empty spaces in the parking lot.

Home, spent a lot of time updating the phone to the latest system & Android releases, and then grabbing the applications I like to have and setting them up.

That done, I packed as much as I can for the trip. Will add meds and toiletries in the morning. Cat food towers are topped off, will do their water in the morning. Litterboxes are clean. Took out some garbage. Chose which camera gear I'm taking.

Plans for tomorrow:
Work will be busy
Probably will go home for a short time before heading for the train station. Probably leave here at 7:15 to get there early enough to not have to rush.
howeird: (Train)
The purpose of this whole train to Reno exercise was to see snow-covered scenery from about Colfax to the mile-high summit, and maybe beyond. There was major snow in the higher elevations, October 22nd through the 24th, Nov. 8-11 and 16-18, but the last week has been like summer and it has all melted off the trees and all that is left is a trace covering in the shaded areas.

It's still beautiful scenery, but I've seen it so many times before.

The only good news is it means we won't be fighting snow on the bus ride back to Sacramento.

So kind of a wasted trip, there were things in the Bay Area I would rather have been doing. But you never know till you do it, y'know?
I left the hotel in Sacramento a little bit early to walk a few blocks to the downtown Starbucks, which also had no SAC mugs on display. I asked, they said they had been discontinued.

The place was way closer than I thought, so I was at the train station way early, more than an hour. I sat in the second row of benches for people needing assistance to get to the train (which translates as a 1-mile cart ride). The official writings claim the track is now 0.5 miles further from the station than it used to be, but they lie. That's just the first track, and it doesn't mention the steep incline or the stairs up to the platform at the end.

I don't know what 1800's genius designed them, but the benches in the station -all of them - have heaters inside, and metal grids at the top of each bench, about 18" wide and 12" deep, with about a foot in between each one, and I found myself sweating without knowing why.

The readerboard showed the train was going to arrive at 11:23 instead of departing at 11:09, so it was a longer wait. Finally, at 10:55, the nice man with the cart gathered us up for the first trip, and it was like a Disney ride through the wastelands. The new setup is open, but it is far from complete, he said. Apparently there will be a stadium in the middle. Huh?

As it turned out, the train actually arrived on time, there was a whole car of people getting off at SAC, which the Reno folks got to use, pick our own seats. Strange but true, the windows were clean.

Camera battery was down to 1/4, so I put in the first of my two spares, but it was also down to 1/4. When I took it out I saw th big black X I'd marked on the bottom, which really should have been a "?"  because I wasn't sure it was having trouble holding a charge could have been the GPS too). Now I'm sure. So I'm down to my last spare. I don't expect to be taking pictures from the bus.

Without the snow, I didn't take as many pictures as I might have. But that's okay, they are already in my portfolio from previous trips.

Arrived half an hour early, probably because there were not a lot of passengers after SAC, and the weather was so good.

Silver Legacy is a short walk from the station, it was actually longer to walk through the casino and across the skybridge to the reception desk. Bought a 24-hour wi-fi card, found my room on the 17th floor. Very big, 2 Queen beds, not much of a view with their big faux geodesic dome in the way. Just in time for sunset, and for three fire trucks to pass by. Deja vu.

Checked out the wi-fi, it wouldn't log in with Chrome, had to switch to Firefox. 

Found a quicker way out than the way in, and walked to Starbucks about 5 blocks away. No Reno mugs, they said there never have been, but they had a Lake Tahoe mug. Never been there, so no.

Back to the strip, I needed a baseball cap. I took my Thailand floppy hat, but it just doesn't hack it, gets in my face too much. There is a series of cheap souvenir shops on the main drag, all owned by the same people, which have made their windows opaque with murals of local scenery and trademarks. They are all out of business. :-(

The last remaining large souvenir store on the block had a a sale on a Reno cap which was just what I was looking for. I can see why it didn't sell - the design is too subtle. No one even the least bit buzzed would recognize it as a Reno hat. Also found a nice mug for <$2, compared to $10 for the Starbucks model. and a T-shirt which says "What happens in Reno goes on Facebook".

Time for dinner. I knew dessert was going to be at the ice cream/bakery in the El Dorado, so I scoped out their restaurants for dinner, but all of them were too dark to read in, including the buffet. Next to the ice cream place was a small eatery, they had a nice well-lit table which worked. Excellent service, fast, country fried steak was okay, way too much mashed potatoes, could have used more string beans and red bell pepper. Yummy.

Then next door for a banana split. Bad timing, the people ahead of me had ordered banana splits for all 8 of them, so by the time mine came up they only had to-go containers.

Parked myself facing the bar TVs, the last CRT TV screens left on the planet. Did not watch the Notre Dame game as much as I watched the cocktail waitresses. Very sexy outfits at the El Dorado. After dessert I went to the sports betting place and watched the last 5  minutes of the Notre Dame game from there, surrounded by people who had money on it. Mostly on Notre Dame.

Back to the Silver Legacy, time to get ready for bed.

Plans for tomorrow:
Amtrak bus leaves at 11:25. I will probably have time for breakfast first
Switch to Capitol Corridor train to SJC
Hope my car is still in the parking lot where I left it.

SAC ajawea

Nov. 23rd, 2012 10:39 pm
howeird: (Train)
Of course I was up early the one day I didn't have to be. Was done with my morning PC stuff by 8:30, I think, watched some TV, maybe college football, put my legs up with ice on the painful knee. Got so bored I went back on the PC.

I gave myself an hour to find parking just in case Amtrak's lot was full, which it was, with no one leaving any time soon. After touring the neighborhood and finding that it was ll permit or metered parking,  I asked at the Amtrak desk if they had any suggestions, because all the other parking was Caltrain, which doesn't allow overnight parking. She said "Storage parking lets you stay for 72 hour) and pointed me vaguely in the direction of the HP Pavilion lot, which does not.

So I asked the the HP Pavilion lot, the attendant says he is asked that a lot, but has never found an answer. I had time to drive downtown and park somewhere and take light rail back to the Amtrak station, but did not think any of those lots allowed overnight, or more than one night. I tried the almost completely empty lot which used to be a supermarket, which is now a city lot, I read the fine print on the pay station and it said there was a 72-hour limit, but it would only issue tickets good till 3 am the next morning. So I paid for 3 1-day tickets for my numbered slot, and will hope for the best. There are no events at the pavilion till Dec. 6, so I should safe from being towed.

Got to the platform 20 minutes early, and was puzzled because the electronic sign on the train said it was #730, but there is no #730. Mine was 734. It said Sacramento, though, and there were a lot of people waiting for the doors to open. Which they did 9 minutes before the 12:50 departure time.

I got a good window seat on the non-sun side, and spent some time configuring my camera's GPS unit. I had sent it in for a firmware upgrade, and of course they had wiped my configs in the process. The new firmware took longer to find a signal than the old firmware, but other than that it seems to work. I only took a few pix, then put the camera away and went to the cafe to get a hot dog and a root beer.

I had the pair of seats to myself until we got to Martinez, and the car pretty full. Of course the widest jock on the train sat next to me. Some people just don't think.

The scenery is very pretty, and I mostly watched, except for some napping, but I have taken those photos many times so I left the camera in the back and didn't disturb Jock, who had whipped out his laptop and put his tray down on it. I was hoping he ws getting off at Davis, but he stayed till SAC.

They have totally redone the station. It is now mega-huge, the tracks are underground and a mile from the station. There is a LONG ramp up which is too steep for anyone in a hand-driven wheel chair. They must have spent a couple billion on this renovation, but they left out the passenger in their planning. There is a cart between the train and the station, but when we got off the train they made it sound like it was for people who could not walk at all. I'll be using it tomorrow, for sure.

Outside the station, I popped into Starbucks, but they have removed all the Sacramento/California mugs and replaced them with Jesus mugs. Okay, not really Jesus, but you get the idea.

As I came out, there was some emergency vehicle coming toward the intersection where I was going to cross, so I walked toward the next one a block away, but as i was walking no less than seven fire trucks converged on the building across the street. So I took off my pack, took out my camera, put my pack on again and started taking pictures. About 15 firefighters with air tanks on their backs went in the front door of the place, it's an apartment building, and they were followed by about 8 more who were carrying folded hose, red blankets, a blower, a squeegee, grappling hooks (like for closing windows with eyes on the latches), axes and I forget what else. A fire engine left the front of the building to let an engine-length rescue truck in, and a ladder truck whipped out its ladder and put it up against an open window on the 3rd floor.

Meanwhile, personnel from the other five trucks continued to unload stuff and get hoses ready.

Seven fire trucks, one rescue unit and a supervisor's car. And not a single policeman to direct traffic, which was weaving between the emergency vehicles on one of the busiest roads in the city. No police ever showed up in the half hour I was there. The light started to fade, and when it got too dark for good pix, I put the camera away and walked to the hotel.

There was no smoke. No one was taken out of the building. There was no dramatic ladder rescue. I'd bet real cash dollars that this was the most over-responded to false alarm in the city's recent history. Maybe the state's.

Check-in was delayed by the customer ahead of me checking out who had to read all the fine print on the page before paying. Got a nice room with wi-fi on the 2nd floor overlooking the pool, which I forgot was heated year-round. There were people swimming till it closed at 10.

Ditched my bag, grabbed my Kindle and went to Old Town, and there's another change. Used to be from here all you had to do was cross the street and cut through a parking lot. Now that parking lot is a multi-story garage, and while cutting through is what I did, it's much longer than just crossing at the corner.

I ha planned to try a place called Fat City, but when I got there it was where I'd had dinner my last visit. So I walked to the waterfront, and took a peek at the "Polar Express" which is what they have renamed the steam engine train. The steam engine is in the barn covered with Xmas lights, they are running a diesel. :-(

Looked at the riverboat's menu, nothing caught my eye. The next place on the row was blaring jesus music, no thanks. Next one again had nothing of interest on the menu and the last one was packed to the gills with screaming children, and there was a 50-minute wait.

Walked around old town and finally found this place called Ten22. Bizarre menu, but some interesting stuff on it. Stunning hostesses and buswomen. The person who told me the specials was not my waiter, he was off somewhere else, and finally got to me after 10 minutes. But people checked up on me in the meantime, so it was not so horrible. I ordered the elk steak, which the menu said ws served with creamed spinach and something that sounded like potatoes and cauliflower au gratin. And I ordered the house salad, no choice of dressing, vinaigrette is built in. The salad arrived quickly, in the hands of a very pretty blonde who seemed to love the feel of the pepper mill. It was a lame item, just a few spring leaves in vinaigrette, with a couple of string onion rings on top. Tasted fine, though. Somewhere in there my waiter came by to apologize, he said the bread was being warmed up. As it turned out, what he forgot to add was it was being warmed up on the truck which just left the bakery in San Francisco.

The steak made it to the table in decent time, about 15 minutes, and it was HUGE. Thick and large. It was pretty good. The au gratin was okay, the spinach was not really creamed, as much as pan fried and drizzled with something off-white.

When I was done, one of the comely buspersons gathered up my plate, but now there were four people at the table next to me, and my waiter ignored me while he served them. After about 10 minutes I had a chance to ask for a dessert menu, which he brought in a few minutes, and then left me for 7 minutes (by this time I was using my stopwatch). I told him I'll skip it. He brough me the check right away, and then disappeared again for 5 minutes. The fellow who had told me what the specials were (I think he was the bar waiter) took care of my payment. I did not leave a big tip.

There are plenty of places for dessert in Old Town, and I decided to go to Fat City, remembering something about having enjoyed dessert there. I told the nice lady as I walked in i was just interested in dessert, she recommended the world famous banana cream pie, so I ordered that and their "nutty Irishman" coffee. The pie was mostly banana and not much cream, with a meringue topping. It was okay, but not world famous quality. But the service was, so she got a big tip. The coffee was very alcoholic, so i sipped slowly.

Back to the hotel, this time going around the parking structure, following some other folks.

Nice view of people in the pool, one of them of the female bikini-top-wearing persuasion.

Good wi-fi connection, too. But not A/C outlet by the desk, so I'll charge the laptop overnight from one on the other side of the bed.

Plans for tomorrow:
Sleep some.
Maybe watch some football
Check out and be at the station by 10 am. Take the cart to the 11:09 California Zephyr to Reno
Reno by about 4
Silver Legacy hotel
Walk around town
Try for a mug at Starbucks
howeird: (Train)
Slept in, had to shut the door on Domino's yelling.

Watched some of the Detroit-Houston game, but shut it off in disgust when the head ref made a game-changing bad call, and compounded the error by refusing to let the play be reviewed. It was a touchdown play, ALL touchdown plays are required to be reviewed. The review refs upstairs failed by not correcting him. This guy was arrogant and wrong, and it cost Detroit the game. I hope he's fired and fined.

Diddled on the computer, refreshing my memory of things to do in the afternoon in Sacramento and Reno. Found some stuff, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Can't remember if I posted about this yesterday, but I went online and bought a "pleather" SF Giants jacket and a world series champ patch to sew onto it. Also bought another internet radio because the standard radio in the kitchen craps out when I turn on any appliance. And it doesn't receive Thai or Seattle programs.

A little after noon I headed over to Eric's, who lives in the apartment-like codos at the same address as Janice's duplex-like condo. Eric is the brother of Logan, who worked with me the two times I was at Kasenna. They are from Corvallis, which means they know all the Pacific Northwet jokes. Both are major league computer geeks, Logan is also a huge fan of alternative music (he used to be a DJ at a Corvallis radio station) and stand-up comedy.

Conversation with Logan while Eric tended the kitchen, which included some catching up (but not much because we see each other from time to time and follow each other on FB). We traded elephant stories, but his included projectile diarrhea, so he wins. Then we inevitably moved on to Tila Tequila and her feud with the Jugalos which are a very rude subset of the Insane Clown Posse's fans. You can read the story here. Unfortunately, the rest of the story is she ODed on prescription meds, which caused a brain aneurysm, and she came out of that partly lobotomized, with paranoid delusions of being persecuted by The Illuminati. Click for videos of her before and after. Very sad. Of course we also chatted about computer stuff - Logan worked for Hotmail when Microsoft bought it, at a similar time to when I worked for the Windows Media group in Redmond.

Eric brought out the food - a wonderful spread. He had made a whole turkey but carved enough for our small gathering, lots of dark meat, stuffing, mashed potatoes and yummy dinner rolls. I passed on the pan fried Brussels sprout halves. Had I not recognized them for what they were I would have tried some, they looked so good. But looks and taste are not always parallel.

Dessert was both pumpkin and apple pie.

At about 4 we were all fading so I took my leave.

Home, watched the Redskins-Cowboys game, which was much better. Lots of scoring on both sides, not a lot of mistakes on either side, and the refs only blew a few calls, none which changed the game, though there was one non-call which would have delayed a touchdown by one or two plays had it been called.

Gave the beast her whipped cream treat and put away the laundry in between games. And ran the dishwasher through another dry cycle, because everything was still damp. I may need to ask Maintenance about that. But first I'm going to enjoy my trip, and call them back to fix the new toilet.

The story about the toilet isRead more... )

The final game was a rout of the Jets by the Patriots. The Jets literally handed over the ball three times for touchdowns. Every now and then the Jets would make a great play, but it wasn't enough to be in the game. It was kind of fun, especially since we have a family rivalry going with some of my NYC family.

Broke out the pistachios for snacking, had some pickled herring and some celery with Onion dip. Domino was very interested in both of those.

At halftime I packed what I needed for the trip except for last minute toiletries & insulin. The Ultrabook in its neoprene sleeve fits perfectly in the laptop sleeve of the day pack which I got as swag from an internet convention. Only taking along a pair of T-shits & undies/sox, the camera with an extra battery and the phone charger. The Kindle will go in the outside front open pocket and meds and Hgl metering stuff in the front zippered pocket. Water bottle goes in a holder on the side. I also packed a folding knapsack Just In Case. I'm planning on making surgical strikes at Sacto & Reno Starbucks (the Sacto one is next door to Amtrak, the Reno one is a bit of a walk) for mugs to add to my collection.

Plans for tomorrow:

Train leaves at 12:50 from SJ Amtrak, I'll drive there by noon in case their free parking lot is full & I need to park in the neighborhood.
Arrive in SAC around 4 pm. Walk a couple of blocks to the hotel, and after check-in walk a few blocks to Old Town for dinner and maybe some entertainment.
Saturday the Reno train is due to leave at about 11 am, and get there just after 4. Then back at 11-ish on the Amtrak-run bus to SAC and train to SJ
howeird: (Train)

This is the best whale shot I got Sunday. We were maybe 50 feet away.

Monday morning the plan was to walk across the street to the Carriage museum, and see what they had there. Backstory: When I worked for the Daily Astorian in Oregon in 1973-4, my friend Hilary (with one "L") who had directed me in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, invited me to meet her friend and his carriage collection. I did a photo spread for the newspaper. Her friend was quite a legend in the science fiction community, though I was mostly unaware of it at the time. I just knew him as Graham. Hilary and I are still in touch (last week she sent me a cool card - she always addresses the envelopes in calligraphy, so no matter what is inside, the envelope is a keeper.). He was Graham Doar, who wrote several early sci-fi TV classic episodes back in the late 40's, early 50's.  Anyway, I went there knowing photos would be amusing for Hil.

This one caught my eye

It's a very interesting museum, lots of carriages but also a huge collection of saddles and tack. Very poor display, though. Most of the vehicles are up on a ledge or out in the back parking lot not on formal display. The saddles are behind glass, and some clever person designed signs for each one set inside a horse shoe, but they are too small to read.

It's free, it's worth going to and making a small donation. There were no humans anywhere near the displays  when I was there.

Checked out of the motel as a family of 6 Japanese tourists invaded the alleged breakfast offerings. I had seen two of them the day before - they were hard to miss. Two women in neon pink, one in very tight jeans and one in stretch pants. Both had amazing round bubble butts. Turns out they were a mother-daughter team. More on this family later.

Walked to the main drag, the bus went by when I was half a block away. Decided waiting half an hour for the next one was less painful than walking 20 minutes. It was 10:15, I was in no hurry.

Bus took 2 minutes to go that 20-minute walk distance. Win. Walked a block to the 24-hour coffee shop, had iced tea and one of their giant almond croissants. Wandered across the street to the train station, an hour and a half early. My Kindle kept me entertained, and so did the occasional eye candy, which included the Japanese family. They were seated in front and to the side of me. The way it broke out was: young man and young woman, in their 20's, maybe married, maybe just engaged. His parents and her parents. He was really cute and had that Japanese assertiveness gene, and I just really wanted to TMI here ) But that passed quickly when he showed his romantic side. As soon as they were seated, the young couple plugged in their laptops and tried for a wi-fi connection, of which Amtrak has NONE. FAIL!. He figured this out in no time, put his computer away and fired up a Japanese soap opera on her machine, and they snuggled together and watched it. Later in the trip, he gave his dad some help with a new tablet. Nice guy, I wish him well.

The camera went off by accident, I swear. :-)

Her dad, OTOH, was extremely annoying. He sat there much of the trip cracking sunflower seeds with his teeth, using his cavernous mouth as a sounding board. It sounded like cracking walnuts in a cave.

The train was packed. I was lucky to have no one seated next to me, but my "window" seat had the divider between the windows, so totally crap for photos. I hardly took any. The lounge car had three or four very loud drunks and no empty seats. Where were all these people going on a Monday? Sheesh.

The ride was mostly uneventful until San Luis Obispo, where there was a crew change. The new conductor made the announcements which th previous crew had neglected, such as "drunks will be put off at the next stop". They sobered up pretty quickly. He also pointed out interesting sites and sights, and gave some Little Known History. For instance, who knew that Norma Jean was the first Castroville Artichoke Queen? One thing he missed, though, as we passed through San Miguel, I saw a sign on a bar called The Ranch, which said "We Now Serve Mexican Food", as if it was the only non-Mexican place in town and had succumbed to popular demand by offering tacos or something. When I got home, I found them online [ profile] here. It appears to be a gay show bar, which only serves Mexican food.

We were side-tracked once, and for some reason we didn't start up again until 15 minutes after the other train had passed. There was a lot of slow going, for no apparent reason.  Even though we were a little bit late, we were not late enough to get a true sunset over Elkhorn Slough, so I faked it with manual shutter/f-stop settings.

Nice sepia tone look was the result.

We arrived in San Jose just about on time, I drove home to a very vocal cat.

As usual, all my best photos are here:
howeird: (Train)
Restless night. Went to bed @ 10, to sleep @ 11 (?) Up several times. 7 am alarm got zapped immediately, and I was out of bed in 10 minutes. Did all my morning stuff, finished packing, decided to bring a pair of jeans cutoffs after all and finished packing again.

Out the door by 8:10, at the RR station by 8:30. Parked, got my tickets, got the parking permit, back to the car to put the permit on the dash and find a better spot than next to the dumpster. Got my stuff out of the car and into the station, which was much less of an eye candy parade than on weekdays. It seems they have added two more tracks, and shifted Caltrain to them.

They now have someone to hustle Amtrak passengers to the right platform and the right place on the platform in plenty of time. Train was about 5 minutes early, but hustler got us out there 20 minutes early, promising it would be there in 10.

Coast Starlight: There was a lot of slow going, for no apparent reason, and the fastest piece was pulling through santa barbara at the end of my trip. We were early to all the stops, as a testament to how very padded the schedule is.

There were two annoyances on the trip. Last one first: A boy of about 10 was playing his gameboy with the sound up just enough to be at the edge of hearing for me, two rows ahead and across the aisle. His parents finally shoved earbuds into his head, maybe half an hour later. This was at Paso Robles, where a dozen people got on without tickets because the ticket office is closed weekends there, and they had not gone online to reserve one which could be printed at the machines. The conductor passed right by the kid twice, and stood about 5 feet away, but didn't say a word. He was too busy chatting up the ticket buyers.

The other annoyance started as soon as  got seated in San Jose. The guy one row ahead, across the aisle was on his phone for half an hour, trying to get someone in LA to help him figure out the sales catalog. The LA guy finally tells him he has to go, it's his daughter's graduation. And I'm thinking, "you're on a train, it's Saturday, put the work away already".

But no, he figures he will attack this on his own. He fires up his Sony Vaio industrial strength laptop, uses his cell phone as a wi-fi hub, and tries to make a VPN connection. It keeps dropping on him. He's on a train, we're going through places where there is no data signal, but what does he do? He calls his tech support person. He tells the person he is sure it is a hardware problem, must be the vibration of the train has scratched the hard drive. He has apparently not noticed the 8 other people in our car who have their laptops running just fine. I don't know what his support person told him to do, but what he did was run either a surface scan or other last resort operation on his hard drive. The kind that takes several hours. He expected it to run for a few minutes. The fact that it was running at all should have told him there was  no hard drive issue. Anyhow, he sat there for about an hour watching the useless progress bar in the dialog box, then set the machine aside and read a magazine, then went back to reading his catalog. The good news is it got him off the phone, and kept him off. And probably kept him from doing any real damage. .

He finally went to the snack bar, which gave me a chance to see him from the front. 50-ish hippie wannabe, long brown hair in a pony tail, work shirt and pants, and very worn hard-toed work boots. It finished as we were approaching Santa Barbara. I'm glad I was not going to be there for the trip to LA.

Just as an aside, I worked for Sony laptop QA a few years back, and those Viaos  had to withstand a drop of 6". No way would a little train rattling affect them.

Oh, one more annoyance, but it's a given on Amtrak. They never wash the windows. One would think that on their premier sightseeing train they would wash the windows at every stop.

As always, the scenery is always interesting, often beautiful. I'll post pix when I get home.

Walked from the station to the Day's Inn. The plan was to plug in my phone (it was down to 50%) and get online and write this, then go to dinner at one of the harbor restaurants, and find the boat I'll be whale watching on tomorrow afternoon. It was a slightly longer walk than I thought, and when I got there the power was out. Strange but true the electronic key worked. But nothing to plug into, no wi-fi. And it was chilly out there. Fog had been the order of the day, and it was much cooler here than San Jose.

So I put on my windbreaker, popped my kindle into a collapsible pack, slung my camera over my shoulder and headed for the harbor.

The lights were out at the intersection.

None of the harbor restaurants were open, they closed when the power went out.

I got some interesting shots of a sea urchin fisherman unloading his catch with the help of a forklift and a long rope because there was no power to the winch on the dock.

So, plan B. I walked about a mile and a half to the Santa Barbabra Fish House. I don't know why I didn't stop at the first place I saw. This was the 4th (skilled the pizza place and the Mexican one). What attracted me was the sign outside which said most of the fish were caught locally. Big fat lie.

When I walked in it was about 7:30 and it was still light outside. I was able to read the menu no problem. I was seated immediately, but it took 5 minutes for a waiter to show up. I ordered a sparkling water and a cup of clam chowder. After I had finished the watery, bland chowder in the tiny cup, he took my order. It took me a long time to decide because nothing on the menu was local. Atlantic salmon, snow crab, Chilean sea bass, Maine lobster, Mahi Mahi, and on and on. The only item which stood a chance of being local other was petrale sole, so I ordered it.

It arrived 20 minutes later. Meanwhile, the sun had gone down and there was not enough light to read by. I sat there, ignored, couldn't catch any waitperson's eye. There was a bread plate, but no bread. When a minion finally slipped my oerder  onto my table and ran away, the sole  tasted soapy. The waiter asked me if it was excellent, and I told him it was ok. He asked what they could to to make it taste excellent, but I had no idea. He ignored me for about 15 minutes, I finally flagged him down for my check. Paid cash, over-tipped. Will be posting a nastygram on Yelp.

Walked back, looking for possible sweets. Checked out the coffee shop  - free wi-fi, open 24 hours, but they had run out of cakes & such. I'll probably park there after the cruise tomorrow.

As I got closer to the harbor, I saw all the lights were on. The motel was lit up too, wi-fi is working but I needed to get the login code from the office.

So I'm happy enough.

Plans for tomorrow:
Free breakfast in the hotel office, but it's a tiny place so probably will need supplementing outside.
Hit the local camera store and see if they have a better x-300mm zoom than the one I'm using. It doesn't seem to focus past 200mm.
Buy a sweatshirt or jacket to take on the cruise. It's going to be very cold, if today is any indication
Play tourist
whale watching cruise at 4pm

Lights Out

Apr. 21st, 2012 02:12 am
howeird: (Train)
It's 1:28, my apartment's lights are set to turn off at 1:30. I will push the magic button to turn them back on when that occurs.

It was a day of Fri. Work brought a new test to document and run. It was one of those which took a few seconds to set up, then push a button and wait 15 minutes. Then test to make sure pushing the button didn't change anything. And then change something and repeat the whole mishmash.

Went to Andy's BBQ with five of the gang, had the tri-tip sandwich because I didn't want to pay for and couldn't finish a platter. Took the meat off the buns - that was the whole sandwich, no tomato, lettuce, onion or anything. Not even a pickle.

After work Plan A went into effect: CalTrain to Milbrae BART to SFO. Lots of waiting because the train from my local station does not always stop at the Milbrae BART. Kind of a WTF, you would think all trains would stop there.

Left work at 6:30, got to SFO at 8:15.

Looked for the EVA desk, found it pretty quickly, except it was being the Air New Zealand desk (a whole row of them, actually) and the sign said EVA did not open till 9:30 pm. Found a food court, but was not thrilled with the lines. Not long, just not moving. At that end of the terminal there is a fantastic display of old microscopes. Probably about 70 of them. Took my time crossing the terminal through that display, found the other food court, which was not much better but I did manage to get won ton soup before 9.

Shrimp won tons FTW!

9:30, EVA, found the desk on the end for ticketing - the other dozen were checking people into their flights. The nice lady said she could not make reservation changes except for that day's flights, I would have to call the number I already had called. Since I had called the national 800 line, she suggested calling the SF office (I had that number). Will try that Monday. They keep office hours, not airport hours.

On the way back to BART there was another display, this one of old automatons. Toy-sized things like a bear which plays the cymbals, a man in a wizard suit playing hide the bean, lots of other neat antique stuff.

Except for the displays, it was a wasted trip, and they did not really make up for the 5 lost hours.

I don't know if it's all of BART, but that train which goes back and forth between Milbrae & SFO is disgusting. Filthy. The fabric cushioned seats are coming apart, I sat under a section of weatherstripping about 6 feet long which was hanging from the ceiling. And the noise through the tunnel is horrible, and has got to be way above OSHA-approved levels. 

Caltrain, OTOH, has some nice new cars, and is maintained pretty well. Except the first car I boarded on the trip home was sweltering - no air conditioning or fan, and the windows don't open. I switched cars and all was well.

I'm worried about my memory. My doctor's nurse called, trying to get me to come in for a blood pressure test. It is now about 25 minutes, from work or home, to her clinic. The central clinic which is HUGE is only 5 minutes away, but somehow she couldn't find a way for me to take the test there. I told her it was really not possible to do this, and besides, what kind of blood pressure test would it be if I'm rushing to get there and back? I told her I had a meter at home, and could take a week's worth of readings and fax them in. She was okay with that. She asked what my readings have been, and I remembered them being normal, about 120/65. Got home, pulled out the meter, and it was still in its case from when I moved in October. The batteries were dead. I was sure I had used the machine a few times since then, but obviously not. Took my BP and it was through the roof. Not surprising. I have gained weight, not exercised, and all which goes with it, since the new job.

It's just that I clearly remember using my home machine to take my BP recently. Argh.
Plans for later today:
howeird: (Weird Dream)
I am on the Coast Starlight northbound. We are stopped between stations for no apparent reason. One of the crew is in our car, telling us he has no idea why we are stopped or when we will be getting going again. He's in a jovial mood. He has been chatting, asking people where they are going and what their plans are. I tell him I am going to Seattle. He says I missed the stop - but I can get off in Lynwood**, and catch a ride back. He points out the window, and there is Lynwood not far away. I ask if I could walk it from here, but he says they can't let me off between stations.

I'm in a panic, and get my pack out of the overhead and start shoving my stuff into it. My paper note pad falls out of the front pocket, and I remember I have my itinerary pasted in it. And I see that there's no reason to panic, I have an overnight stop in Seattle before I need to get to the airport.

IRL Seattle is the last stop for the Coast Starlight, and  **Lynwood is on the other side of Lake Washington from the city, Amtrak has no service there.  Also, what was pointed to as Lynwood was a much larger city. It looked a lot like NE Portland, near Lloyd Center.
howeird: (Train)

Sunday was checkout day from the con hotel. They gave me a 12:30 late checkout (I'd wanted 3 pm) so I rushed a bit. Kicking myself for that now. First order of business was to get to the art show and take down my photos. Nothing sold. I was disappointed mostly because it meant I had to haul everything back home. Had I set the minimum bid lower, things probably would have been different. I think I promised [ profile] laragoth her photo if it didn't sell. Happy to send it, just need an address. [ profile] lemmozine, Break Time For Xena is yours if you still want it, and we can figure out a fair price. Message me here or on FB.

Whatever. I was out of there by 10:30, back to the hotel and packed and checked out by 11, which was their original check-out time. I parked my bags with the bell desk, and headed to the con, where I heard [ profile] figmo, Moira Greyland and Cecilia Eng concerts, then back to the Atlantis and their Al Fresco cafe. I ordered this WTF dish, shrimp and scallops Alfredo spaghetti. The shrimp, spaghetti and sauce were great but the scallops were undercooked. I should have sent it back, but I thought I was in a hurry. It was gatting close to 3 pm, which is the time the previous day's train left Reno. Amtrak's info line said my train was not due till 4:30, which meant I really ought to be there around 3 for baggage check.

Which I was. Caught a cab from the hotel, which took 10 minutes because the outbound cabs sat around the corner out of sight from the inbound cabs. Got a valet to find one for me.

This time there was someone at the window and I was the only one in line. The attendant tried to talk me out of buying the Emeryville-San Jose bus ticket, he had not read the memo that the bus was a connecting one for the Reno train, and it would wait for us. I checked the portfolio of unsold photos and my carry-on filled with dirty laundry. Put my knapsack on my back, which had some snacks, my laptop, the new Kindle and some minor camera gear and headed down the street to Harrah's, where I played my favorite slot machine, Wizard of Oz themed, but it needs all 4 seats played to get the full effect, and I was only joined by one other person for most of it. Put in $45, got out $30 in an hour of play.

Back to the station, the train was now due in at 6:15 pm. At one point what looked like the delegation from Conflikt walked into the waiting area. Tony & Vixy, [ profile] hsifyppah and a couple of others whose names escape me at the moment. And in a few minutes they heard something on the speaker, took the elevator upstairs and vanished. I see they took the Amtrak bus to Sacramento to connect to the Coast Starlight northbound.

A new author from Colorado Springs struck up a conversation with me, name of Alastair Mayer. He said he was a new writer, but he's not a young person. We chatted till my train arrived, he was going the other way, it was also late but only by 2.75 hours.

The train did arrive at 6:30 or thereabouts, and there were plenty of empty seats, thanks to the chronic lateness of late. We had about an hour of daylight, boo hiss. I like this train because normally it is a daylight trip through beautiful country both ways, but not anymore.  The snack bar guy said it was not Amtrak whose rails were washed out, it was freight lines in the north (MT, WY) and the freight trains were hogging the rails, and making a mess of things for Amtrak. Congress recently outlawed this, but I guess the freight companies are using a bogus emergency clause. We kept losing time, a lot of long stretches at 20mph which usually are 90 mph. Frustrating.

We got to Emeryville at about 1 am, it took 20 minutes for them to bring the bags around. There was a bus to SF but none to SJ. No problem, I took my ticket to the agent, he took the Amtrak part and pointed me to a pre-paid taxi which got five of us to SJ by 2 am. Had I taken the Reno agent's advice, I would have been paying $75 or more for a taxi. :-(

Drove home, had some cat petting and housekeeping to do before I could go to sleep. Set my alarm for 7, Moto orientation in SVale at 8:45. More about my first day in another post.

howeird: (Train)
Up 15 minutes before the 5 am alarm. Showered & drugged and finished packing and out the door by 5:30. Amtrak station by 6, when they open. Still enough people ahead of me in line to make for a 15-minute wait to get a parking permit. Did not help that most of these people were buying tickets, and did not know prices or options.  Rushed to put the permit in the car and haul my stuff to Track 4 to catch what I thought was a 6:24 train, but turned out to be 6:40. Got a good seat, and wonder of wonders my portfolio fit with room to spare in the overhead compartment, along with my snacks bag.

Uneventful ride to Emeryville, arrived at 7:40. Next train not due till 9:10, another 15 minutes in line to check my suitcase - thanks to two women ahead of me who had 12 items to check, and couldn't put down their cell phones while doing so. Still, no rush but it would have been nice to not stand in line so long. Another Sci-fi fan whom I'd seen around struck up a conversation, and at 9:10 when there was no train in sight we went outside to see what was up, which is when they announced the train would be 20 minutes late. Got there 20 minutes later than it was supposed to leave, and then stuck around till it was 35 minutes late. We made up a tiny bit of that on the scenic ride to Reno, but only a little. The fan sat next to me, and we had some interesting conversations. I watched him make some chain mail pieces. Now I know why he looked familiar. Did not take too many photos because it was foggy early and was on the wrong side of the train most of the trip. Got some good ones of people tubing and rafting on the Truckee River late in the ride. Scarfed up two small bottles of chocolate milk, two sliced apples (all from my cooler), and a couple of ding dongs. Did not touch the many other snacks I'd brought, partly because I wasn't hungry and partly because it would have meant hauling the snacks bag from the upper compartment, which meant crawling over the guy next to me.

Arrived in Reno, baggage took a while to arrive, but mine was about the 5th off the cart, got a taxi right away, $12 fare to the Atlantis. Checked into the hotel, they gave me a room with 2 Queen beds, I'd asked for one King. But it wasn't worth hassling about. Dumped most of my stuff in the room,grabbed the portfolio, walked the two miles to the convention center to register, get a MIMO badge, check into the art show, and was presented with two panels at right angles to each other instead of the promised two panels side by side which I'd designed my layout for. It was not a total fail, but robbed me of several square inches of space which I needed. Took the missing space out in shorting the space the Con bid sheets took up. Some are half under the photos. The left panel looks fine, the right panel is way crowded.I am not pleased, especially since I had asked the show director specifically what the panel layout space would look like, and she said I had a 4'x6' contiguous panel. Boo hiss. I'm not complaining that my display is almost the last one out of the 100 in the show, even though I was one of the first to sign up. I should, but I'm not.

It did not take long, only 11 photos to hang and I pretty much know the drill after 4 other cons.

Back to the room to drop off the portfolio, now filled with con program, art program book, con water bottle & note pad. Also changed into shorts and took off the Hawaiian shirt, leaving the Conjose T-shirt.

Saw lots of BASFAns, also saw [ profile] lemmozine on my way to registration, but he was deep in conversation with someone at a desk, so I just waved as I walked by. He did not see me. Was seen by [ profile] johno, [ profile] kevin_standlee, [ profile] bovil, [ profile] maurinestarkey, [ profile] kproche. I think I saw [ profile] cmdrsuzdal  on the train, walking by very quickly, and I saw [ profile] lisa_marli at the dessert stand in the buffet as I was being seated.

10 pm, I am beyond drained. Nitey nite. Actual con starts tomorrow.
howeird: (Train)
Finally got dressed at noon, after much time online. Updated my phone's data to include my travel info, did some apartment hunting (found two possibles), printed the Worldcon program grid using the printer's double-sided feature, only to find they put Sunday between Thursday and Friday. On purpose. They wanted to have Friday and Saturday on separate pages. Okay, it saves them an extra sheet, but it means I needed to waste paper by printing single-sided to put Sunday where it belongs.

Started writing my packing list.

The car badly needed a wash, thanks to bird foo from the last 3 places I'd parked and the inside of the windshield not coming clean with Windex. I ordered some glass wax, but it's coming from Vermont by pack mule, and won't see it until I am back from Reno. Got in the car, pulled out the dozen car wash coupons, and they were all expired. Back to the apartment, found a Safeway receipt with a current coupon. Car wash was way busy, 10-minute wait to drop off the car, but pretty quick turnaround after that.

Home, watched some of the Raiders game on the new TiVo, pleasant surprise that the image is more vivid than the old TiVo. Aspect ratio is better too. It did not help the Raiders' play at all, though. And how I hate watching football played on a field with a baseball diamond in it.

Coffee date with Janice at 4, went to Starbucks at 2:30 and used the extra time to organize the Hugo entries on the Kindle into their various groups, and transfer the program grid too. It's too small to read at 100%, I'll have to up the font size when the time comes. But am super-impressed with how good it looks.

Long chat with Janice about my blind date last week, and her not being at the SJ Jazz festival (which is like a Catholic missing Easter Sunday mass). She is off to SE Asia on a tour just as I'm coming back from Reno. I'm jealous, partly because I'd like to take the tour and partly because her DDG single RN next door neighbor is going with her.

Home, printed out my Amtrak bar codes for Tuesday's trip. Also includes a return trip a week from Monday, which I probably won't be on, but don't want to cancel until next Sunday, or if I get a solid confirmation before then of an 8/22 start date at Moto. If it slips to 8/29 I'll use that train ticket. As soon as I get to Reno, I'll cancel the SJC-RNO leg of my 8/19 Southwest Airlines ticket. Will keep the 8/21 RNO-SJC leg till the last minute.

Plans for tomorrow:
Call the CPA, arrange to meet sometime during the day
Shop for train snacks
Visit two apartments (if time allows)
Early bedtime for 4:30 am wakeup
howeird: (Default)
Is anyone else here old enough to get that joke? Did not think so.

After my weird dream it was a low key day.  Did some low key shopping, kind of a loop in the morning, starting at CVS which had given me a $5.50 monthly rewards coupon which I used on $6 worth of paper plates, which were at the top of my shopping list. CVS does not carry anything else on the list for a reasonable price.  On to the Rose Market, which was a regular stop back when I was addicted to halvah. They also carry all the spices for growing my own pickling mix. Or so I thought. Coriander seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaf, cumin seeds, but no dill seeds. Then to Safeway for frozen stuff and seltzer. They had dill seeds, I bought two jars but they are kind of pricey.  Home, I ordered a huge packet online for about what I'd paid at Safeway for one small jar.

Had another of the Friday batch of pickles, but I'll wait a while to eat more. They need at least a week, and the longer they soak the better. Looked up a salt-free recipe in a pickles book I have, but it's a no-cook formula. I think I can do low-sodium with the spices I have. But that won't be for a while yet. I have 6 jars of 4 pickles to munch through yet.

Spent much of the afternoon processing the photos from the trip. Not a total loss, but only about 160 posted to Flickr out of 500+.  A bunch of my favorites behind the cut )

Hgl reading of about 80, meant I needed some sugar, so I went to Starbucks and had a frappucino. From there to Piazza's for some frozen matzo balls and to see if they had any good new cheeses. Nope. But they had wings, and I figured the Sharks needed all the help they could get tonight, so I bought a package. Also got some of their house mild Italian turkey sausage, which was a couple of dollars a pound less than any of the commercial ones. And there will be white fish for breakfast tomorrow, if I have breakfast tomorrow. Which is iffy.

When I got home, the toothpaste from amazon was there, but not the microwave. It was due today. Did some stuff in the kitchen, and when I was done the microwave magically had appeared on the patio rack. The UPS guy didn't bother to ring the bell.

Unpacked it, set it up, and as I feared it was too small.  Packed back up, went online for an RMA, ordered the right one.

Made dinner in the old microwave, took my wings & veggies out to the livingroom and turned on the hockey game. Sharks were up 1-0 in the 3rd period. I guess Detroit saw what I was doing, and scored three unanswered points to tie the series. Sharks Choke on Wings - Film at 11. :-(

I'm not a sports fan, but I like to see the local teams win big. I have no idea why. It may explain why I still wear my Seattle SuperSonics windbreaker. Or not.

Got calls from two recruiters about the same contract opportunity at Tivo. Told the one from India I was not interested. Told the local woman from the locally owned company to submit my resume. It's not prejudice when it is learned from experience.

Plans for tomorrow:
Bring the car in for its recall and 35,000 mile check-up
Chat with a recruiter about a contract at Tivo
Coffee with Janice
howeird: (Train)
I was in Starbucks on The Alameda plunking away at a journal entry after getting back to SJ too late to avoid rush hour, posted it, and it is gone. It is not even on my netbook, which generally saves the last item I was working on, posted or not. Hmmm.

Not much to say about today. I was up on time, had breakfast at the motel lobby, finished packing and walked to the train station an hour earlier than I'd planned. I got to watch the LA passengers leave. This time I was taking the Pacific Surfliner, which is the local version of the Coast Starlight, sort of. Instead of LA to Seattle, it goes from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. It was supposed to depart Santa Barbara at 10:15 to make a 12:50 bus connection to SJ.

It was 35 minutes late getting into SBA. The conductor blamed it on having to "hand-crank" three wheelchair passenger on board, but I don't buy that for an instant. Maybe 5 minutes of the lateness was due to that. When the train was announced as pulling into SBA, it was a false alarm - a long, long, empty freight train was coming in from the other direction, and the Surfliner was delayed until it went by. So much for the alleged Amtrak right-of-way law.

We were later and later into each stop, and got to SLO an hour late. The bus is an Amtrak bus, and it starts in SLO, so it had to wait for us. I knew the bus would not be as comfortable as the train, but did not expect my carry-on to be too big for the overhead rack. And I did not expect the restroom to be "for emergencies only".  Because we were so late, the driver announced that they would not make the usual food stop in King City, but he forgot there were passengers to let off there, and the 5-minute drop-off ended up being a half hour restroom and food stop. If I had known, I would have gotten off the bus and grabbed some food, but by the time it was clear this was not going to be a short stop it was too late.

The bus made more stops than I had expected. Paso Robles, King City, Salinas. We arrived in SJ about 5:30, and not wanting to fight rush hour traffic, I drove half a mile to a Starbucks on the Alameda where I spilled half an iced venti chai latte, finished the rest while plunking out the mystery posting, and then walked a block and a half to a place called Tee Nee Thai, which caught my eye because of the pun. It is a tiny space, and in Thai "Tee Nee" means "In here" or "over here".

The seating is cramped, tables are too close together, and it was a surprise to see a white guy as host/waiter. Two Thai women showed up later. I ordered Something Different™: Tee Nee Special Duck which said it was boneless duck grilled with garlic and served over Chinese noodles. It was delicious, but those noodles were not Chinese. They were some very thin ramen-like wheat noodles, and they were (blasphemy!) served with a knife because they were basically a bird's nest, impossible to handle without cutting. I may eat there again, but I'll stick to what I know. And I'll ask the white guy if he speaks Thai.

Home, got the photos onto the PC. I don't think there will be much going onto Flickr. The window glare on the trains and bus was worse than I thought, ISO 1600 was noisier than usual, so pretty much none of my en route photos are worth uploading. There are some from the LandShark ride and walking around town which are not so bad, except the camera keeps screwing up the exposures.

Completely forgot about BASFA. Oh well.

Opened the pickles which I'd put in the fridge Friday evening. This batch is milder and crunchier than the last, which was the whole point of trying again.

Plans for tomorrow:
Make an appointment for the car recall/35,000 mile checkup for wednesday.

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