Archives for June 2004

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the joys of downtown

I have to throw in one story about rural Minnesota vs. my life downtown. The night before the wedding everyone was invited to get pizza after the rehearsal. The wedding, and therefore the rehearsal, was in LeRoy, MN. The pizza place was in Spring Valley, a thriving metropolis of a couple thousand people about 15 miles away. My cousin and his wife live in New York, and on the way there she was talking about how crazy it is to her to have to drive 15-20 miles for pizza. I agreed, thinking about the variety of pizza places in a four block radius of my apartment.

Today I needed to get a cell phone charger for Kathy, to replace one she left in the hotel room in MN. I thought after going to the nearest Cingular store, which is maybe a mile away. I didn't want to go that far, though, so instead I walked to the corner of Spring & 6th, looked around and decided which of the three electronics stores I could see from there to try. I walked in and a minute later walked out with a $15 charger. Total distance from my building front door to the store... maybe 500 feet.

That's why I love civilization.

and i'm back

Several long days of silence there... Thursday, very early in the morning, Kathy and I flew out of LAX and made our way to Minneapolis. There we met up with my grandparents and headed south, bound for a wedding in LeRoy, MN. I didn't have Internet access for a few days, which really wasn't that big of a deal, but I did have several things that I was going to mention here and now can't seem to remember once I have the opportunity.

Travelling afforded me the opportunity to get started on volume 2 of Neil Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, The Confusion. I'm actually about 600 pages in at this point. I felt like Quicksilver bogged down in the middle, but I haven't really felt that about The Confusion. The reading's been pretty quick and easy to follow (well, as easy to follow as you can be in a 2700 page series).

Yesterday Minneapolis airport conned me into getting excited by WIFI signs, but then it turned out to be a for-pay system. $6.95 got you a day's access, but that wasn't worth it to me since I was only going to be there and using it for a little over an hour. DNS lookups worked without ever signing up and authenticating, though, so if you could hide your data somewhere in there you could eek out a bit of a loophole.

Driving through Minneapolis yesterday we noticed a light rail line from town to (almost) the airport that seemed to be unusually full and well-staffed. I guessed that it had to be an opening weekend. A newspaper front-page in the airport confirmed that this was the opening weekend for the Hiawatha Line. The stations and cars looked really nice, and with the line eventually connecting the airport and the Mall of America, I think it should be able to carve out at least a tourist nich for itself. I don't know enough of Minneapolis to be able to say how it will do for commuters. They're using a fare policy similar to LA's, with no fare boxes but random inspections to ensure compliance. The Bombadier cars they're using seem a little shorter than the Siemens P2000 cars LA uses on the Gold and Green lines, but I can't seem to find length or seat information for either right off.

Lots more I could say about how rural that part of MN is, but I'll refrain for now. Many towns with populations under 1000. 20 miles to go get pizza, etc.

It's good to be back.

which is it Metro?

I was just cleaning up my desk some and found a nice glossy bookmark-shaped "Metro Rail Bike Hours" card that Metro employees were handing out on Bike to Work day. When they handed me the card I didn't even look at it, since I'd read their Metro Bikes page online and ridden with my bike plenty of times before. Running across it just now, though, I took a look and found it very confusing.

bike diagramFirst, the back of the card includes a "Bike Location Diagram" to help you understand where on the car you can ride with your bicycle. That's good. The first couple times I rode it took a bit to get the hang of where it was I needed to be going, especially on the Gold Line, where the open space is directly next to the driver doors. But look at the diagram. What is that? Are they trying to tell me that bike positioning is the same of the Red and Gold lines? Those cars are very different. On the Red Line a car might look like (excuse my poor ascii art):

[|||   ||||||||||   |||]
[|||   ||||||||||   |||]

A couple rows of seats, open space, more seats, open space, and a final few rows. A Gold Line car on the other hand looks like:

[-   |||||||  -^^-  |||||||   -]
[-   |||||||  -vv-  |||||||   -]

The area in the middle is pretty narrow where the car articulates. The proper place to have a bike is to sit in one of the end seats with the bike across the driver door. Obviously that rules out the front of the front car, but since they run generally two car trains on the Gold Line that leaves you with the back of the front car, and both front and back of the back car.

How you're supposed to infer any of that from the diagram they give you, I have no idea.

Secondly, on the front of the card is a chart of the hours you can't take a bike on rail. Basically it's during rush hours in the commute direction, and you can see the chart at the aforementioned Metro Bikes page. Unlike the bikes page, though, the card puts the bi-drectional arrows on Gold Line as well, making it appear that no bikes can go on the Gold Line between 6:30 - 8:30 and 4:30 - 6:30. That's simply incorrect, and has to be a graphical mistake on their part.

In summary, the card was a good thought gone wrong.

yikes that's fast

I just went to download a new kernel and was in shock over how fast it went, so I had to go and download it again. Check this out (wget output shortened because I feel like it):

[JPL (eric@gonzo)-([Tue June 22  3:38pm])]
~: wget
Connecting to[]:21... connected.
Logging in as anonymous ... Logged in!
==> SYST ... done.    ==> PWD ... done.
==> TYPE I ... done.  ==> CWD /pub/linux/kernel/v2.6 ... done.
==> PASV ... done.    ==> RETR linux-2.6.7.tar.gz ... done.
Length: 44,006,970 (unauthoritative)

100%[====================================>] 44,006,970     4.62M/s    ETA 00:00

15:39:11 (4.53 MB/s) - `linux-2.6.7.tar.gz.1' saved [44006970]

Ten seconds to download a 40+MB kernel. At that speed it's going at over 1/3 the top speed of my ethernet card. Wow.

movie time

Yesterday on the way back from Union Station I made my way over to the LAPL Central Library. I intended to go check out a book, but it wasn't there so I wandered around the DVDs a bit, looking for something to watch. I'm pretty sure there is no unifying principle behind what DVDs they do or do not have. The selection is very random, and all of a sudden they'll have 6 or 8 copies of a movie you've never even heard of.

But anyway, I ran across a copy of In Like Flint. I had seen bits before, but never the whole movie, so I picked it up and watched it last night. Good times. Fully worth the bike ride over. Since rentals are free I'm hoping to start taking chances on their more random selections and go for quantity, if not necessarily quality.

rail classics

Pulling out of Union Station on the Gold Line you pass a small rail yard full of classic passenger cars. Today, however, the yard was empty.

Curious, I did a little research.

I'm pretty sure the Rail Excursions car is one I normally see there. Their special itineraries page lists a June 22-23 trip from LA to Seattle, so perhaps it's off getting readied for that.

Another candidate is the Overland Trail, a car which normally runs LA to San Diego, but which Thursday will be leaving on a trip to Portland. I would imagine this trip would include a few other cars as well, so that may be an explanation.

ahh... i love LA people

Magilla and I just got back from the Ralphs over on the corner of 3rd and Vermont. It's a little ways from downtown, but it's pretty much the closest thing we've got. The trip back from there is cool because coming into downtown the eastbound lanes split off to become 4th street, which then proceeds both above and below the normal cross streets, not intersecting one until Olive.

But anyway, this post isn't about 4th street, although it does take place there.

So we're on the way back, on 4th, approaching Spring. The light's green, which means we're starting to slow to wait for pedestrians to clear. Crossing toward us on one of those three wheeled mobility scooters is a big black lady, probably in her 60s. We're slowing as we approach the intersection, but she sees us and starts jokingly waving an arm and a leg like "oh no, jump, i'm going to get hit!" As she passed she was having a good-natured laugh, and turning the corner Magilla and I just looked at each other in confusion. And then we both laughed.

That kind of thing needs to happen randomly more often.

the impossible isn't as rare as it used to be

An article on about the Expos and White Sox talks about the two home runs hit by Expos outfielder Juan Rivera -- both in the 2nd inning. I saw that and thought "Wow, that must never happen." Well, I was wrong. Apparently it's not all the uncommon of a thing for a player to hit two home runs in the same inning. To quote the article:

Rivera became the first major league player to hit two homers in one inning since Pittsburgh's Reggie Sanders on Aug. 20.

It was the fifth time a Montreal player hit two homers in the same inning, and first since Mike Lansing did it in the sixth inning of a 19-3 win in San Francisco on May 7, 1997.

[Andre] Dawson accomplished the feat twice for the Expos. His record of six RBI in an innings was set Sept. 24, 1985, in the fifth inning at Wrigley Field against the Cubs.

Crazy. The pitcher who gave up all the runs was making his first major league start. After the game he was sent back down to the minors.

generation next

This week's Downtown News has a cool article on Caryn Coleman, who with husband Sean Bonner owns the gallery sixspace and runs The article's part of Downtown News' series "Generation Next."

The article should make Sean happy... To quote from a recent post of his:

Since this is continually mistaken in articles written about us, we've felt the need to spell it out a little more clearly. The name of our art gallery is "sixspace" - that's all one word and lowercase. It's an aesthetic choice yes, but one that we'd appreciate you respecting. For some reason writers in the past have felt the need to write it as "SixSpace" or "Six-Space" or as two words and this is painfully incorrect.

The Downtown News correctly writes:

the gallery named sixspace (lower case intentional)

my exercise routine

I'm not much of one for going somewhere and working out. I'm lazy, and somehow those two don't quite work out well together. What I will do, though, and what I have done twice in the last two days, is play some ping-pong. We have a table in the gym area on our roof and Wednesday I finally bought a pair of paddles and a six-pack of balls.

Last night Kathy and I played, and she put me to shame. I'm not one to try and make excuses, but I did hit about 75% unforced errors, so I think I beat myself just as much as she beat me.

Today, though, playing Magilla I was a little bit more acurate. The shot's starting to come back and the range finding is getting better. I think a few more days of training and I'll be right back into game shape.

truth in advertising

I find it oddly comforting that at the moment I am number one on google for random boring stuff. googlefun also says I'm number one for crossdressing stereotypes assumptions, for which it points people to my gender and the internet essay.


I first mentioned Coupling here about a year ago, when the first clips from the NBC version started to show up. I first saw the show well before that, though, and in the days before New Years 2003 VHS copies of a BBC America marathon through seasons one and two eased me through the removal of my wisdom teeth.

Now, it's season four. I'm not going to talk plot, 'cause I really want everyone to do whatever they must to obtain the show and watch it. But the plot's really not important to why I'm writing.

Tonight I finished season four. At the start, I had my doubts. Seasons one through three were without question the funniest sitcom I've watched. But season four started off on the wrong foot, coming back without Jeff. Not anyone's fault, but a bad mark just the same. Oliver was the new guy. They played him for the cheap laugh. He comes in to some physical comedy. Not really that funny.

But hold on... Stephan Moffet has a plan. He knows where he's going with this, even if you don't. You see, this is British television, not American. In America a season would have 22 episodes written by 8 different writers. A season on the BBC may only have six episodes, but each one of them is written by the same mind. And so the characters can evolve. The tone can change. All of a sudden you realize that even though this is still the funniest thing you're apt to see on tv, now it's also a show with a heart.

We'll see if Coupling returns for a season five. Every time it gets harder and harder to bring the original cast back together. I hope they find a way to make it happen, even if it would most likely be a couple years down the line. I don't get hooked on tv shows very often, but this one's got me.