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November 30, 2003

A Little More I-5

I forgot to mention that the central valley is almost dead flat. Flat enough to rival northern Illinois. Observe this photo taken during one of the unexplained dead stops on I-5:

But after sunset it was really nice on the occasional curve to be able to see the lights of the cars twisting off into the darkness. The real topper came at the nighttime, southbound approach to Tejon Pass. Six solid lanes of red taillights being pumped up the twisty highway like an aqueduct of blood for L.A. Never saw anything like it before.

Filed under California | permalink | November 30, 2003 at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)

Dell Digital Jukebox Music Player vs. iPod

Fortune has some nice backhanded compliments for the Dell DJ in this fairminded comparison with the iPod.

The NY Times has an analysis of the history and success of the iPod.

Filed under Music,Technology | permalink | November 30, 2003 at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)


Went out and looked at vehicles at the I-10 Auto Mall in Indio. I think I want a compact pickup. In order to organize my thoughts I made this little table of likely trucks I saw today which I'm going to share with you:

2001 Toyota Tacoma $15,495 25,085 miles automatic Mfr. warranty thru 7/07  
2002 Nissan Frontier $13,459 20,501 miles 5-speed Mfr. warranty until ? Extended cab
2001 Ford Ranger $12,995 40,206 miles automatic 30 day, 100% warranty Extended cab
2003 Ford Ranger $10,995 18,4123 miles 5-speed Mfr. warranty until ?  
2001 Ford Ranger $ 9595 35,972 miles 5-speed 30 day, 50% warranty  
1999 Mazda B2500 $ 9015 27,154 miles 5-speed 30 day, 50% warranty  

If you have input to make, feel free to spew.

Filed under Automotive | permalink | November 30, 2003 at 08:05 PM | Comments (3)

Miami to Key West AIDS Ride

The Miami to Key West AIDS Ride earlier this month raised $172,000. I'm guessing that's gross. The actual name of the ride is either "The Southern Most AIDS Ride 2 (SMART Ride)" or "Bike It and B.E.A.R. It for AIDS." The article is ambiguous.

Filed under AIDS Rides | permalink | November 30, 2003 at 12:39 PM | Comments (2)


William has been having a nightmare time of it with a Dell PC. I've heard stories like this more than once and would never buy a Dell for myself, although I don't stop my friends from doing so.

While at Costco I saw some e-Machines flying out the door, so I checked the specs. This PC doesn't seem to be up on their website, so I can't give you a link. For only $700 you get a 120 Gb hard drive, 512 Mb RAM, a CD-RW/DVD and a MONITOR! It's only a flat screen CRT monitor, but it's also only $700 for the whole package. You could buy two of these for the price of a Dell and probably have fewer maintenance problems.

Filed under Technology | permalink | November 30, 2003 at 12:31 PM | Comments (1)


The drive to the Bay Area (I guess that's a name to be capitalized) was about 475 miles one-way, the biggest chunk of it on the [in-]famous I-5. Having done 3000 miles in a truck (actually a Ford Econoline van on steroids) I was cocky, but I-5 in a compact car on Thanksgiving weekend is a real rite of passage.

I joined I-5 on its ascent to the Tejon Pass. The road has about 6 lanes or so. Traffic was heavy, but not congested. Everybody was well above the speed limit (except the big trucks, of course). I was speeding too, of course, but keeping it under 80. So these L.A. SUV drivers have a not uncommon habit of coming right up to your rear end at 85-90 MPH, not dropping their speed until the last very few feet. Even though they could easily have switched lanes to pass me (even on the right if they wanted) they would hang there on my ass a minute or two waiting to see if I would flinch. They underestimated me. I never flinch from a fast, aggressive rear end approach.

On the other side of the Pass (4,165 feet) this silliness continued during the descent. The only difference was that the truck lane was now limited to 35 MPH. A couple of truckers thought that didn't apply to them. Even so, there was plenty of room for the expensive trophy cars of L.A. to behave like nuts. The weird thing was that as soon as we got to the flat of the central valley, all the nonsense stopped. It was as though these drivers had turned off, but there had been no exit.

After we passed the turn off for route 99 I was surprised to see that the much-vaunted I-5 dropped to only 2 lanes in each direction. I certainly would not support an expansion of the highway, even if California had a balanced budget, but 2 lanes is just not enough on this road.

When one considers the insanity that is an essential part of California, and ponders "where do I start?" a reasonable person might first think "voter education." How to educate the California voter to respect democracy and balance it with republicanism (small "r")? Maybe the League of Women Voters? But then one gets on I-5 and sees a much more immediate need: the repeal of separate speed limits for trucks. It was merely an inconvenience when I was driving the truck, but put yourself in a car on a heavily trafficked highway on a holiday weekend in California and the unnecessary danger created by the 55 MPH truck speed limit becomes obvious. With only 2 lanes and a 15 MPH (theoretical) difference in speeds, every time you come to a truck, ALL the cars have to get over to the left lane, roughly doubling the density of traffic there. You have some drivers (like me) who spot the truck, sigh, and move over to the left lane to join the long line struggling to get by. The immediate result of that is you could have a dozen or more cars stringing along in the left lane waiting to get up to that truck. Now, the sporty L.A. driver with his trophy SUV is not about to sit and wait safely like me, hoping to get an "attaboy!" from his high school driver's ed instructor. No. They shoot up the right lane until they are about 10 feet behind the truck. They sit there and wait for a space in the left lane that is just about the right size for parallel parking and pop themselves over (we are not even going to talk about the turn signal issue here, as it is so minor compared to this other grossly dangerous behavior). When they pop in like that, the car behind them needs to slow down a bit because, remember, they are probably one of the safe ones who think that 5 feet of clearance at 75 MPH is a bit too tight. Sometimes they even touch their brakes. This causes a little ripple to pass down that long line of cars in the left lane (where I am trying to be patient). Sometimes it's a big ripple. I found myself sometimes putting on the brakes to drop from 75 to about 40, then back up to 75, then down to 40 and back again, all within less than a mile just while passing one truck. Fortunately California drivers hit each other only very rarely. And I knew I wasn't in Massachusetts or New York because no one was stupid enough to honk.

Anyway, lots of times while sitting in the left lane waiting to pass I realized the truck we were aiming for was actually going faster than I! After about a dozen times you begin to think those nuts who shoot up the right lane might be taking the best approach. I only gave in to their wicked ways once, and that was when I found myself sitting behind some old guy in the left lane who seemed to have no ability to perceive the traffic around him as his speed drifted between 65 and 70 MPH. Obviously he was never going to pass the truck, which was doing 70 itself.

Wednesday was the worst day because there were LOTS of trucks. Returning home on Saturday the traffic was still heavy, and we actually came to one long dead stop (I have no idea why), but there were a lot fewer trucks. When there were no trucks around, traffic moved between 75 and 80 with no nutty behavior. This separate speed limit for trucks needs to be repealed except in a few special places, like Tejon Pass. I don't know if Californians ever drive in other states, but it might surprise them to know they are in a severe minority on this speed limit issue.

Just so you know it wasn't Pure Hell here's a nice autumnal photo I caught at one of the rest stops.

autumnal tree and car

Filed under Travel | permalink | November 30, 2003 at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

Home Shopping

While doing some laundry today I ran into Linda, who is on the board of trustees for this gated community in which I find myself living. She gave me the lowdown on things. It seems there is, in fact, one alleged drug dealer in the place, and he's about to get the heave-ho. She repeated the oft-heard warning about buying on "Indian land" (i.e., on the reservation) because you have to pay land rent forever. I asked her about the other oft-heard warning about buying too far north so that you are victimized by the incredible winds. Here we are in the northernmost habitable dwellings in Palm Springs and she says it's not too bad here, except maybe April through June. Just north of this community, another development is being built. The distance from here to there is only the width of one street, but Linda says she would never consider buying there because it's going to be too windy. It's like the grass is always greener on my side of the fence.

Go here for a panorama of that more northern development, behind which you can see the windmills and San Gorgonia.

Linda tells me the units here (all 1-bedroom) are going for about $90,000, which she consideers an outrageous price, since she paid only $30,000 a few years ago. That's no way to look at it.

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | November 30, 2003 at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)


I drove up to the San Francisco Bay area to celebrate Thanksgiving at Bill & Emrys' fabulous place in Concord. What a time! Here are thumbnails for a few photos I managed to squeeze out before the martinis and wine kicked in. The food was wonderful, and we didn't have to watch any football (although somebody did turn on the Macy's parade).

Thanksgiving (1)

Thanksgiving (2)


Filed under Photography | permalink | November 30, 2003 at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2003

Local Weather

I mounted a thermometer today that includes a hygrometer, so I can tell you reliably that it is 58.6° right now at about 6:40 PM (a bit chilly I think) but the humidity is only 25% (so it's a dry chilly).

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | November 25, 2003 at 06:38 PM | Comments (0)

Local Views

Here's the roughly westerly view from my current abode:
Mountain View (1)

That's Mt. San Jacinto, of course. At night I can see the lighted tramway cars going up and down on some parts of the route. The very middle of the tram line is visible, so I can see the two cars pass each other at night. There should be some local myth that if you hook pinky fingers with the man you love while watching the tram cars pass, then you'll always be together...or something like that.

You can't see the tram cars in daylight, but at certain times of the day you can see the reflections from the cables.

And this photo is the roughly easterly view where you can see the Little San Bernardino hills.
Mountain View (2)

Filed under Coachella Valley,Photography | permalink | November 25, 2003 at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

Digital Photography Ebook

The 123 of Digital Imaging has been getting positive reviews. If you are new to digital photography or are simply clueless about it (people who still have not figured out how to rotate their images send me photos of themselves hovering sideways), then give this a try.

Filed under Photography | permalink | November 25, 2003 at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Strike Continues

The strike against the 3 supermarket chains is continuing, and now the Teamsters are giving it more support. I heard an interview with a Teamster official yesterday. He sounded eager to actually put the supermarkets out of business. I'm wondering how he thinks that will benefit the unions? First, all workers laid off, and then the replacement supermarkets that will eventually move in will surely NOT be union.

Yesterday I checked out Costco, which is about twice as big as the Waltham Costco where I usually shopped. Silly me, I had forgotten about the strike AND Thanksgiving. The parking lot was about 99% full with people parallel parking in the driveways of the shopping mall area. ALL shopping carts were in use and the line of people waiting to get their receipts checked as they left the store was interminable. I decided it was best not to do any buying, but just wandered the store a bit. I needed a GPS device (which they sell).

Trader Joe's continues to do a land office business as well, with all check out lanes in use and no rest for the cashiers.

Anybody got any idea where I can find kefir in the valley?

Filed under Coachella Valley,Shopping | permalink | November 25, 2003 at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

I Have Something Nice to Say About USPS

I should have mentioned this earlier, but I've been busy. Besides my Brighton address, I had a PO Box in another zip code in Boston. When I dropped off my forwarding address there, the clerk at the desk asked how much longer the rent on my box had to run. I told her I was paid up until July 2004, whereupon she said they would refund 6 months of rent to me by mailing a money order to my new address. What an amazing concept! I didn't actually expect them to follow through, but that money order for $24 reached my Palm Springs address before I did! I figure that'll cover about 150 miles of gasoline on that Budget truck.

| permalink | November 25, 2003 at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2003

Gallup to Palm Springs

Here are the remainder of the photos from my quick trip across the country:

Paper Lantern
Somebody in Gallup stole our GNI decorating ideas!

Frosty Vehicle
There was frost when we woke up in Gallup.

Gallup's Plaza Cafe
The delightful Plaza Cafe in Gallup.

Arizona Welcome Center View
I'd say Arizona rest stops win in the pure beauty category.

Arizona Welcome Center

The Arizona welcome center. Very nice, but not nearly so lovely and helpful as Oklahoma's, and not nearly so friendly and helpful as New Mexico's, but it was here...so it beats Texas and Missouri.

Snakes & Insects
Arizona warns us of both snakes and insects (are scorpions insects? I don't think so).

Faith & Leon
Some traveling biology student provides us with a couple of educational illustrations.

Arizona (3)
Arizona scenery.

A couple of panoramas of Arizona scenery along I-17.
Arizona Panorama (1) Arizona Panorama (2)

San Jacinto (2)
We didn't waste any time taking photos between Phoenix and Palm Springs, but here was my view upon awakening in Palm Springs the next morning.

Filed under Photography,Travel | permalink | November 24, 2003 at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2003

More Photos Of The Trip

Photos covering Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Gallup, New Mexico.

A couple of attempts to photograph a power plant in Tulsa:
Oklahoma Power (2)

Oklahoma Power (1)

Here's David H. seeing us off as we leave his place in Tulsa.

Oklahoma Autumn
Beautiful Oklahoma.

Hubcap & Self
I find myself in a truck hubcap.

Me & My Truck
My truck and me.

Old Truck
Somebody else's truck in Yukon, Oklahoma.

MFC Farmers Coop
A farmer's coop in Yukon.

Me & Michael P.
Me and Michael P. (from Washington, DC) in Yukon.

Our Truck
Our truck and our motel view of a very flat Oklahoma.

Yukon Coop Mills
Yukon coop mills.

Oklahoma Rest Stop
Even a run-of-the-mill Oklahoma rest stop is pretty nice.

Rest Stop Shelter
Somebody in the DOT probably got an award for this design.

Rest Stop Signs
Our first snake warning.

Entering New Mexico
We enter New Mexico "Land of Free Public Internet Access"

Blue Spruce Lodge
Neon in Gallup, New Mexico

El Rancho Motel (3)
El Rancho Hotel sign.

El Rancho Motel (2)
The entrance to the El Rancho Hotel.

El Rancho Motel (1)
The El Rancho MOTEL, where we stayed.

I gotta take a break now, but I'll get the photos from the last day of the trip posted soon!

Filed under Photography,Travel | permalink | November 23, 2003 at 09:17 PM | Comments (1)


It seems we had a 3-something magnitude quake epicentered near Indio yesterday and nobody slapped me up side my head to call my attention to it.

quake map

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | November 23, 2003 at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

Photos of the Eastern Half

The card readers have revealed themselves to me, so now I can show you some photos from the trip from Boston to Palm Springs. The east half for now:

Here's our truck which felt huge while I was driving it, but mysteriously shrank to kiddy proportions when parked next to its big brothers. We quickly learned not to pull too far into a truck space because incoming truckers wouldn't see us until they had already started to pull into our space.
Our Truck (1)

Ohio Highway Memorial (2)
At an Ohio rest stop, a memorial to all who died building highways in the state.

West of Columbus, Ohio, we stopped for our Waffle House dinner. We give you exterior and interior shots:

Waffle House (3)Waffle House (4)

The view from our motel room a few miles west of Indianapolis, an island of motel hell in the middle of the country darkness. We had had a little rain.
Motels In The Rain (6)

Blue Star Memorial Highway (1)
Illinois Blue Star Memorial highway.

Truss Bridge (4)
Fancher Pony Truss Bridge on display at an Illinois rest stop.

A photo of the whole bridge can be seen here.

In Missouri they have spent considerable sums to erect these attractive display cases at the rest stops. Their one and only purpose is to display a single map. But they specified a display case that opens in the center, so if the map were centered the state capital would be obscured, so they shove the map to one side. Depending on which way they shove it they obscure either Kansas City or St. Louis. Oh, by the way, whatever they use to mount the maps doesn't work, so they fall down.
Missouri Map Case (7)

Chandeliers fashioned from antlers in the beautiful Oklahoma welcome center on the Will Rogers turnpike:

Oklahoma Rest Stop (9)Oklahoma Rest Stop (8)

Photos of the western half of the trip will come later!

Filed under Travel | permalink | November 23, 2003 at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2003

Getting to Palm Springs

If you're starting to make your plans to escape winter by visiting me, here are a few pointers. First, you can fly right into Palm Springs! The runway is paved! Honest, it's big enough for a 747 to land. The airport is right in town, so a cab ride to my place would not be expensive. I've even walked to the airport, but you'd probably not want to do that.

If you're connecting to Palm Springs from LAX (or any other LA area airport...probably true for San Diego and Las Vegas, too) you'll come here on a little puddle jumper thing. I like skimming over the top of the mountain with the wind pushing the plane back and forth, but if you don't want that excitement, you should connect through Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago or some other farflung city so you'll get a bigger plane.

In any case, there is an unavoidable price premium for flying right into P.S. You can get around that by flying into Ontario airport (ONT), renting a car there and driving to Palm Springs. I mean, you'll be renting a car anyway, right? Ontario is only an hour from Palm Springs by car and is fabulously convenient to I-10. You just pull out of your parking space and head east.

A couple of friends have said they want to come here by Amtrak. Unfortunately, Amtrak service seems to have been discontinued. If you're wanting to do it the rough way, Greyhound stops here.

Of course, if you're driving yourself, you'll find us here on I-10.

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | November 22, 2003 at 05:45 PM | Comments (1)

Palm Springs

I'm still looking for those card readers which will allow my photos to leap from the dark innards of memory to thrilling life on your monitor! Today, after a little shopping trip to Hadley's Orchards so David could get some souvenir food to take home to Boston (he returns home tonight) we toured the wind turbines and took a walk in the Coachella Valley Preserve.

Today I found all my coffee tools and my green and black teas, as well as my juicer! Where the hell is the yeast for the bread?

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | November 22, 2003 at 05:03 PM | Comments (0)

Family Guy

Fox is considering renewing the Family Guy series! A potential victory for art and intellectualism! DVD sales of the first 28 episodes of the program have made it the top selling TV show in that medium.

Filed under Television | permalink | November 22, 2003 at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)