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It has been a long time since I posted pictures

2015-03-30T08:56:54+00:00

It has been a long time since I posted pictures. Part of the problem is that I have not been anywhere interesting. Interesting to me, anyway. Well, there are pictures from last summer’s visit to New York City that I need to post. It’s good to see it as it was, before its destruction in a nuclear explosion in 2018. It’s interesting how much the locale has changed in three hundred years. It’s hard to imagine the hills and the valleys and the fields and the rivers as they were, coated as they are now with mountains of concrete and asphalt and a yammering froth of humans. But I can see it as it was, as it will be again someday.

This past weekend, I visited not one,but two deserts. Each has its own qualities, its own ecology, its own landscape, its own flora and fauna. I took samples of the landscape and of the flora. The flora will not transplant well, I’m sure, but I thought I would try, since I live in an arid part of the jungle. The fauna would die quickly no matter what, so I didn’t bother to capture any.

So. Pictures this week, perhaps.

Knowing when it’s time to move

2015-03-25T23:28:51+00:00

We aliens are nomadic. We don’t really have a home anywhere. Wherever we stop for more than two weeks is home. That’s why we’re good at our jobs.

We’ve been stationed in our current home for a decade now. Before that, we were home in another place for a decade. And so on and so forth.

We build a place, or fix up a place, and make it nice for ourselves. By the time we’re done making it nice, we tire of it. and we move somewhere else. It’s happened that way for the last few homes, so when we took up residence in the jungle, I teased darling wife that when we finished making the place pretty, it would be time to move again. She denied it heatedly. This is our forever home, she said. (Until we are recalled back to the Martian Empire, of course. In which case, the next pair of observers will take our place.)

Yesterday she admitted that she is tired of the jungle. She is tired of the heat, tired of the insects, tired of the mold and mildew, and especially tired of the tourists from the Northeast. The tourists are extremely unpleasant. They live crammed together in a concrete box, and it drives them insane. So when they come to vacation in the jungle, they are all snarling teeth and claws, tearing at each other and everyone around them. Darling wife grows weary of them.

I admitted that I miss trees and mountains and snow and wind. We have plenty of wind and mountains on Mars, but no trees and very little snow. I like those things on this planet. I don’t mind the heat and the insects and the mold, and the tourists are tolerable if you entertain yourself by thinking of ways to kill them.

Darling wife was gratified to know that I am not opposed to finding a different home in a cooler place with trees and mountains and no insects or mold or nasty tourists.

Like the lion who stays in the cage as long as he knows the door is open, though, darling wife will probably be comfortable in our current home for awhile. Because knowing that you can leave makes it easier to stay.

Yes, “Final Eyes”

2015-03-24T23:12:04+00:00

This tune from 1987 is still fresh and beautiful, so many years later. This is a nice copy.

How to interpret a LGBT activist’s language

2015-03-24T22:49:43+00:00

I thought this glossary of terms used by LGBT activists was very helpful. Not that I ever talk to such people. They’re all mentally ill, in my opinion. Deeply unhappy, mentally ill people. Accept who you are. And stop trying to change everyone else. If you know you’re not like everyone else, don’t throw it in their faces. Keep it to yourself.

That’s some friendly advice from an alien among you. I can live here because I make sure people do not know what I am. It’s safer that way. For me and for them.

Automobile lifestyles in Los Angeles

2015-03-23T00:43:11+00:00

I have seen a lot of cultural differences in Los Angeles. Los Angeles life mainly revolves around the automobile. Most people seem to spend a lot of time in their cars. If you park in a parking lot, at least 20 percent of the time, one of the cars next to you will be occupied. The driver is usually sitting and playing with his or her cellphone. I think this is because it takes so long to get anywhere on Los Angeles’ traffic-clogged roads and highways. If you have time to kill between errands, you might as well just sit in your car instead of trying to go anywhere else.

People who have a modicum of income will strive to drive a foreign car, even if they have to buy a used one. German, British and Italian cars are popular. And if they can’t afford those, Angelenos will buy a Lexus or an Infiniti to avoid the ignominy of driving a Toyota or a Nissan. I also did not know that Toyota makes a Lexus version of the Matrix wagon. It is called the Lexus CT, and I have seen a lot of them. They are not popular in the rest of the country, but they are in Los Angeles. Apparently Californians don’t understand that “Lexus” is Japanese for “you paid too much for a Toyota.”

Traffic is horrendous. The opening scene of Terminator 2, where the ruined highways are clogged with rusting cars containing decaying skeletons, is very appropriate. When the end comes, most Angelenos will die in their beloved automobiles, trapped in a traffic jam for all eternity.

I am glad to be back in my hotel, off the road. If ever I entertained the thought of living or vacationing in or near Los Angeles, this weekend’s traffic nightmares cured me of those thoughts.

The 2015 Jeep Cherokee – refined yet underpowered

2015-03-20T10:13:01+00:00

I am driving a 2015 Jeep Cherokee this week. This is not your father’s boxy, bouncy, rattly Cherokee. It’s basically a Honda CR-V. Or a Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-9, or Toyota Highlander. They all look the same, and they all fill the same ecological niche. Only with the Cherokee, you get the legendary Chrysler unreliability, higher price for the equivalent car (because of Chrysler’s steep labor costs and cushy union contracts), and a short overall lifespan. Don’t expect to take this car much past 160,000 kilometers. It’s not built for it – no Chryslers are.

Driving it isn’t bad. The instrumentation is clear, though there are too many buttons and displays. The interior is functional. The rear area is smaller than the old Cherokees, but that’s because it’s now an egg shape, just like most other SUVs. The nine-speed transmission is kept busy hopping through the gears, pushed by the underpowered 4-cylinder engine. If you want to get somewhere, you need to goose it vigorously.

The nice thing is that it drives smaller than it is, so it is easy to handle and precise to park.

If it wasn’t a Chrysler, I might be inclined to like it more. But I wouldn’t buy one without a 6-cylinder engine.

How not to run a website

2015-03-18T23:27:41+00:00

Darling wife is a fan of the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska. She once lived and worked there, so she has an appreciation of it. Me, I prefer races of machines, not animals. But the dogs are cute in their ferocious, wolflike way.

The Iditarod is a major event in the world of snow sports. Mushers (dogsled drivers) come from all over the planet, even from tropical or desert climates without snow, to compete in the 1000-mile, weeklong race. They train by having their dogs pull them on sleds or four-wheel All Terrain Vehicles across dry ground. If they use an ATV, they simply put it in Neutral gear with the engine off, and let the dogs pull the dead weight of the vehicle and the driver. It’s good strength and endurance training for the animals.

Because the Iditarod is a world-class event with only a regional appeal (Alaska and Canada), it’s difficult to get news about the race outside of those areas. So the Iditarod organizers put up a website to carry videos, pictures, interviews, and race updates. You have to pay money to get access to most of the content on the website.

Unfortunately the people running the website are woefully incompetent. The website’s design is poor, with multiple ways to access a page, but usually only one way actually works (or more often, none of them work). The server continually buckles under the load of its visitors. And whoever thought it was a good idea to put a chat window next to a video clearly didn’t realize that it’s just a big drain on bandwidth. When the chat window updates with a slew of comments, the video freezes.

And as visitors piled into the site to watch Dallas Seavey win the race yesterday, the server buckled again, killing the live video feed. The chat feed exploded with criticism, justifiably so. A lot of race fans, darling wife included, are very angry that their only access to the race was denied them at a critical moment.

If the Iditarod wants to attract fans and keep them, it’s going to have to work a lot harder at providing reliable access, especially when those fans are paying money for that access. Darling wife swears she will not follow the race anymore, because of IT team’s dismal failure of a website. It’s a shame, because she enjoys it so.

Perhaps I can convince her to watch the Dakar Rally and its related races instead.

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