Yesterday rode the Minuteman as far as Lexington; today explored the various Boscamberville roadway improvements.

In Boston proper, the cycle track around the North End is actually pretty awesome. But navigating through downtown Boston, especially the Scollay Square/Post Office Square area, is horrific. (I at least think I know how I'd get to work.) The bridge into Charlestown would be worth avoiding if there were any other way to go that direction.

The cycle track along Beacon Street in Somerville is somehow less impressive; maybe because the driveway crossings aren't as smooth and it's not totally clear what to do when it stops and starts and stops again.

"Sharrows" feel better than I give them credit for. They tend to communicate "sorry there's not bike lane for this block" to me, a little more than "you can take up this space in the lane which you legally could have done anyways".
Incidents of either dead trains or track problems extracted from ...where it is impressive that the editor can still come up with dead train rhymes.

Dec 2017 17 18 O R 19 G O R 20 21 O 22 O 23
24 25 26 27 R 28 R R R R 29 G O O 30 G G O R
Jan 2018 31 1 G 2 3 G R 4 5 B G O R 6 O R
7 8 G O R R 9 G 10 R R 11 G 12 O R 13

(Manually extracted. Didn't count "station closed due to flooding" incidents, of which there were multiple. And yes, on December 28, according to UHub, Red Line trains separately died at Alewife, Kendall, Porter, and Davis.)
The other end of the Erlang experiment is the libraries I was working with. My application was built on the Sumo Rest stack, built on top of the Erlang Cowboy HTTP server.

I found this finicky and prone to vague runtime errors. That's not important, though. The overall style of the system was pretty reasonable, and is probably a good way to write REST services in general.

Read more... )

The layout implications of this are useful and generic: one source file per type, where each type file defines its storage, serialization, and documentation; and one source file per route, where each route file has its own URL path, complete machine-processable documentation and metadata, and understands the standard failure cases. You just need the right high-level REST library in your language of choice to support this.
What do you get if you combine Haskell's basic functional style, Lisp's type system and object representation, a unique concurrency system, and a very good runtime?

Read more... )

In short, Erlang looks like a good language, a little dated, but I'd rather have good static checking and a robust library stack than an excellent runtime with okay libraries, especially if I can avoid peeking "under the hood".


Apr. 15th, 2017 07:15 am
The same username I have in the rest of the world, except for here, and my gmail, and my Flickr.

I've managed to find the half-dozen people who have said they're relocating in the current exodus, but not the people who thought the air was starting to smell funny when the new overlords turned out to be Russian years ago.

DW will probably get about as much use as LJ has been, which is to say, very occasional long-form blogging for a social audience that's not really suited to one of the newer trendier social networks.  But I'm there. - An emacs inferior mode for spim

(Also, apparently spim is still around and in use, to the point where people are writing new Emacs modes for it?)
The past decade in Boston transit has seen a massive increase in the number of CCTV cameras deployed around the MBTA system.  Several are seen in most rapid transit stations, newer buses have several apiece (and a video monitor showing you what's being recorded), and the monitoring stations are consciously placed in places like the South Station subway concourse where the general public can see them.  "Sure, Big Brother is watching you," the T says, "but it's for your own safety."

This rubs me the wrong way.

Meanwhile, across the pond, I also read the reports of the British Rail Accident Investigation Branch.  These are fascinating from an engineering point of view because they try to explain and analyse, in plain English, what actually happened and could be improved: maybe a lorry backed into a bridge pushing the 150-year-old brickwork on to the tracks, which a train hit 10 minutes later, but why didn't 999 contact the signaler to have them stop the train, and why was the damaged train allowed to continue at 100 mph after the accident cleanup?

The RAIB reports are also good for including pictures of relevant parts of an incident: here's a picture of the pin assembly on an intermodal flat car, here's what it would look like if it was hanging off the edge of the train, here's the picture of the train platform said pin assembly hit at 60 mph.  Depending on the incident, many of the pictures come from CCTV imagery, including pictures from remotely manually controlled level crossings and station platforms.

This use of CCTV imagery I'm very okay with; but it does actually depend on having cameras in a lot of places so that you can collect together a photographic history of the train.  "We're watching our infrastructure and our trains to make an already safe system safer" seems like a positive message; much better than "we're watching you".
Let's say, hypothetically, that Bernie Sanders wins the election, and even more hypothetically, pushes through national single-payer health insurance and a corresponding IRC change that employer-provided health insurance is no longer a deduction.  This of course causes massive upheaval in the health insurance industry; but what effect does it have on a typical employer?

(You can ask a similar thought question about the proposal of just giving a handout to every person in the country that should be able to provide basic food and shelter, and simultaneously reducing minimum wage to zero.)

Read more... )
(0) They removed the signal behind the Market Basket, and changed the area between Sherman St. and Alewife Brook Parkway to no longer be a signaled junction, which affects what the signal at Porter can show.

(1) Old signals showed red, unless the track was running in this direction.  New signals show a normal block signal aspect unless the track is running in the opposite direction.  (Or else, new control system makes it harder to set default "trains run on the right" routes and forget about it; but I'm pretty sure I've seen the old signals show red in both directions before.)

(2) The new signals take quite a while to reset to red when a train passes, like 10 seconds or so.  (It is possible that the train needs to completely pass the signal, but I don't think it actually works that way from watching two trains go by, and it would be odd for a new installation at this location anyways.)

This in combination means that the new default is yellow-over-red (approach) on both tracks; red-over-red (stop), probably on the left-hand track, means a train is coming from North Station; yellow-over-green (approach medium), probably on the right-hand track, means a train is going to North Station; and green-over-red (or -over-green, clear), for wonderfully geeky reasons, means a train has a route set all the way into a platform at North Station.  The outbound signals only show red/yellow/green; I have not yet observed whether these (or other new installations, like on the Lowell line) show flashing-yellow (advance approach) (rumor from the Internet is that they don't).
I've been thinking about starting the model railroad thing over again (having given away the previous half-finished layout in the renovation move).  One of the things I want to do differently this time around is build it in modules that I can take apart and put away somewhere, or rearrange to really take over the basement, or whatever else, and that I can start with a string of "I nailed track to plywood" modules so I can just run trains.

It turns out the subject line Googles reasonably, and comes up with at least three companies willing to sell things very much along these lines, at what seems to me to be an insane price.  Doing this requires a little bit of engineering design, some extremely basic woodworking skill, and a trip to your choice of wood store; or I can order a predesigned, precut, some-assembly-required kit for about $300 for a 2'x4' module (which may not scale the way I want).  This matches the last time I looked at electronics, which seemed to be similarly ridiculously marked up and wrongly featured for things I could build with some microcontrollers and motor drivers, though the electronics at least requires some technical knowledge.  I just don't understand this market and pricing, apparently.
Go is the new trendy programming language. In style it's kind of a backwards C, with an interesting amount of object-oriented features baked in. You can definitely get things done in Go, especially if you're not trying to interface to legacy systems.

As a modern language, though, the things it's missing seem odd. C++ has had parameterized template types as long as I've known it, and Java added them in eventually, but not Go, it's complicated. This means that basic functional-language primitives that are addictingly useful are essentially impossible to write. Remember 6.001? )

Most things in Go work by returning pairs of an actual result and a flag or error object. This does lead to making it more obvious to try to do some error handling, and it is "better" than both exception-based languages (where it's easy to ignore errors until they crash your program) or C's magic return value (where an int is an int, unless it's -1). But it also leads to more boilerplate. In which we briefly introduce monads )

There's one other oddity I've run into: When is nil not nil? )

Even so, the things that people find attractive about Go are still attractive. It's a compiled language, that isn't 30+ years old or owned by Oracle, that compiles reasonably obviously but can't obviously crash from pointer arithmetic errors. It's garbage-collected, which you may object to, but it beats the pants off of explicit memory management. The language includes maps and queues as base types, and if you secretly did like C memory management, you can relive the past with concrete arrays underneath slice views. I admit to having done almost nothing with goroutines, but the promise of the runtime having a select loop and thread management and synchronized channels in the core is much better than anything I've used that doesn't involve a big C library.
My father and I self-identify on opposite ends of the political spectrum.  This doesn't preclude reasonable political conversations: "here's how the recent T review was a debacle"; "you clearly aren't a Sanders supporter and Trump is a nut job, so which of the 732 Republican candidates do you support?"  It seems like we agree on the fundamentals of how government should work, just not what the priorities should be.  Fundamentally I feel like mainstream politics comes down on one of three positions as far as finances go:

  1. I think government services are important and they need to be paid for, so I'll concede paying higher taxes for them, even if they serve others.

  2. I think low taxes are important, even if they come at the cost of government services, some of which may benefit me.

  3. If we cut taxes, the magic growth fairies will make there still be revenue so that government services can still happen.

Read more... )
Last month's Asia trip included a couple of museums: the Shanghai railway museum, the Mint Museum of Toys in Singapore, and the Singapore World War II museum Reflections at Bukit Chandu.  This leaves me with a much better sense of what I appreciate in museums: they should be able to tell me some consistent story that I can appreciate and put in context.

Read more... )
As noted elsewhere, I've just gotten back from a week in Shanghai and a week in Singapore.  Both of these trips were very urban; the Zhujiajiao expedition involved a guide and a driver and two and a half hours (with traffic, both ways) in a car but otherwise we were on our own two feet and the rails.

The Shanghai subway )

The fast train to Suzhou )

I do want to note just how much this intercity train system is kicking the ass of anything in the United States, though.  "One stop per 100 km" roughly matches what long-distance trains like the Lake Shore Limited do; if they run 175 mph between stations instead of 80 mph then that can literally halve the time to Chicago.  Even the "fast" trains like the Acela Express have very short sections of actually being "fast", between Boston and New York the section south of New Haven is also 80 mph with sections like downtown Bridgeport being 25 mph.  I think something like this is the vision of the big California construction project but it takes both money and willpower to do it.  China is willing to do it; here we just can't commit.

Tax policy

May. 5th, 2015 07:05 am
Google News decided I needed to read this diatribe pushing Republican tax policies.  They all seem like terrible social policy to me.  I'd think the basic rules should be:

  • Taxes cover the cost of running government

  • People who can afford to pay more should

  • The tax code should be comprehensible by mere mortals

Read more... )
Hello from home, since I can't go to work because the T isn't running, in turn because the T says that if a third train gets stranded they'll have trouble evacuating people in the dark. My Facebook feed is largely blaming this on a combination of excessive weather and old equipment (a third of the Red Line fleet is 45 years old, with an expected lifetime of 30). Meanwhile, our Republican governor, apparently parroting the Republican line that everything can be fixed with budget cuts, is proposing to cut $14 million from the T's budget. Now, $14 million isn't actually useful capital spending in this context, oddly enough — the newest Blue Line train cars cost $2 million apiece — but if the T needs more spending, how does cutting its budget help? Perhaps more interestingly, our governor was elected in part based on his business credentials, could private business run the T better?

Read more... )
The ACBL's latest Web page redesign includes a page that gives your rank (inverse matchpoints) and percentile in a wide range of masterpoint categories, for instance where you are relative to all players that got any gold points this year. If you just copy-and-paste that page into a spreadsheet and do some basic math, you can find out the size of each category, which makes some interesting statements.

probably not interesting except to active bridge players )
Hannah Duston

In G.A.R. Park in central Haverhill is a statue of Hannah Duston. According to the story inscribed at the base of the statue, in the spring of 1697, she was captured by natives, but after two weeks managed to escape, slay every single last one of her captors, and return back to the European settlement. Applying modern values, this is a horrible story to start with, but building a statue celebrating the killing of "the savages" seems even worse.

Would you advocate removing the statue?

Read more... )

The Wikipedia article on Hannah Duston has more; of possible significance as well, this is reportedly the first woman honored in the United States with a statue.

I was not overwhelmed by Star Trek: Into Darkness. I'm a doctor, not a film critic )


Oct. 24th, 2010 01:51 pm
There's a ballot question this year to repeal sections 20 through 23 of chapter 40B of the Massachusetts General Laws. The existing law sets up a system where a developer can make a request directly to a town's Zoning Board of Appeals to get a single master permit for building limited-income housing.

What the law actually says )

40B FUD )

Question 2 FUD )

Is 40B effective? )

Is 40B abused? )

Personal revised opinion )


Aug. 1st, 2010 03:05 pm
Last night a group of us played Revolution, a newish Francis Tresham game about the Eighty Years' War )
Managed to squeeze in two days of biking this weekend with the Quad group, 54.94 miles yesterday (route map) and an additional 43.61 today (route map). Today's looks almost exactly like one of the "Beyond the Minuteman" route cards: go out on the Minuteman, wander around in Concord for a bit, and take the most direct route back to the Minuteman.

Yesterday's ride started slow for me but picked up, and seemed to turn into a reasonable hill-climbing day. Today's ride started at a reasonable speed but then slowed down a lot when I was heading home. I didn't feel too wiped out at the end of it, just slow. I'll take that as a weekend result.
Near-term, I'm planning on doing the Quad ride again this Sunday morning. Starts at 9:30 between Arlington Center and Arlington Heights, about 25+ miles depending on what routing options you pick, think of it as a "training opportunity" instead of "people who go faster than me". Any local interest?

Longer term, I'm thinking about maybe doing the CRW Spring Century again (May 16) since yesterday was more successful than I had expected and the date doesn't conflict with the bridge schedule. And I'd also like to do Climb To The Clouds (July 18) and actually make it up to the top of Wachusett this time (the road to the summit was closed last year). Takers?
My current work schedule may be dumb, but at least it allows for afternoon biking. Thursday I managed to forget my evening commitment (oops) but did get to orbit the Fells for around 15 miles. (Route map)
I spent last week at the North American Bridge Championship in Reno. Most of the week was spent at the hotel hosting the NABC, but we did manage a trip into the city proper. Read more... )
What happens if you try to ask the much-discussed Google bike directions service how to get out to 495? The results are less impressive than they could be (and didn't match my obvious routing).

Read more... )

So yeah, this isn't really going to replace the Rubel paper maps for my local trip planning any time soon. I appreciate the effort, but for longer-distance trips so much of the engine depends on having good data that just isn't there right now.

Yesterday was incredibly nice out, and I figured it would be a good day to take my bike out and call it "spring". I waffled some on which way to actually go, and so cleverly avoided the Mystic Lakes in favor of a plan that would skirt the Fells and go straight into the big rotary at plan. The ultimate route involved climbing the hill on Waltham St. in Woburn and Arlmont Hill from the Arlington side, plus (in an attempt to involve the paving disaster that is Forest St. in Arlington) a little climb up Johnson Rd. in Winchester. (Route map)

The short conclusion from this, I think, is that there is some success in my attempts to use the gym to not totally atrophy over the winter. The various hills were, if not easy, at least continuous: winning on the traffic lights, I didn't stop between the light at Park Avenue and Mass Ave in Arlington Heights and the light at Route 60 in Belmont, for instance. Speed was not quite there, maybe 15-16 mph on the flat parts, and it didn't feel like my endurance was there either (though I wasn't really out that long).

Maybe next weekend, weather permitting, I'll go get thwomped by the Quad ride. And maybe I'll think about doing the CRW Spring Century again this year and hope for less rain.

Le Havre

Dec. 15th, 2009 10:18 am
Last night's gaming brought us the first half of a game of Le Havre. It has a feel fairly similar to Agricola or Stone Age but felt more straightforward than either to me. It did tend to run long; the box said "100-200 minutes", we were running somewhat slowly, and got maybe halfway through in maybe two hours of playing.

I found the core dynamic of the game pretty easy to get into, which is nice in this sort of game. For doing the usual "first time playing this game" floundering I didn't feel like I had ruined my chances for the mid-to-late game, though since we stopped I also didn't get to find out whether my gamble would actually work. There are several types of resources, and on each player-turn two chits enter an "offering" pool. On your turn you then have the option of either taking all of the resources on offer of a single type or using a single building, with the additional option of spending money to buy a building. You can turn resources into buildings using the building-building building.

The interesting dynamic here is that money-as-cash is worth the same in victory points as value-in-buildings, so spending money to buy you a building doesn't directly help you win the game at all. You can get resources from other players who want to use a building you own, and in some cases owning buildings helps you get more resources from other buildings. Mostly, though, it feels like the way to win the early game is to turn small amounts of resource into valuable buildings.

I'd love to try this again, playing it through to the end. There is a "short game" option, which it looked like really was just a shorter version of the real game with only one or two minor changes (as opposed to the crippled option some other games give you as a "suggested first game"); no idea if that makes the game sufficiently shorter that you don't need to transition from an agriculture to an energy economy. Sadly, weeknight evenings just aren't the time to try to play 4-hour games.
I've gotten less than one ACBL masterpoint per hundred miles I've biked this year.

On Saturday I did finally accomplish the "four centuries in one year" plot, riding the whole of the Granite State Wheelmen's Seacoast Century. For being a much much flatter ride it also wound up taking me longer (8:45) than some of the earlier ones I've done this year; obvious factors I can add into that are an extra water stop, having to walk across five bridge crossings (including the pretty long one north from Portsmouth), and fighting the interminable headwind southbound. Also, we wound up waiting for the bulk cargo ship Gypsum Integrity to pass (especially frustrating because the lift bridge had just closed when it showed up). There was also some company; [ profile] fredrickegerman rode the metric century plus the first 17 miles of the full century, [ profile] nuclearpolymer and [ profile] proven rode the tandem for the half century. (Route map)

I feel like I did a bad job of pacing myself on this one. Also that I wasn't eating enough, which was a little odd, since I also felt like a pigged out a little bit the first time at the Maine rest stop (but was hungry 10 miles later). And unlike last week, where killer hills need buff thighs, I was feeling this week's ride in my calves.

The clientele of the two centuries was also visibly different. On the CRW century if I could keep a 16 mph pace and finish in under 8 hours, I'd be towards the back of the pack. This week there were many more riders without clipless pedals, several more racks, more than a couple tandems; I almost always felt like I was "in the group" even when I was pretty visibly lagging coming back. I passed the hand-powered recumbent about three times. It also apparently was a big Team in Training event, with jerseys from pretty far away (Hudson Valley, Long Island, Pennsylvania) and per-group helmet thingies (one group had giant silver stuffed Hershey's Kisses). They also seemed to have their own water stop at Cape Neddick, which I didn't quite get.

Missed attraction: the Fun-O-Rama at York Beach.

There was this theory that I might attempt all three CRW centuries this year, and today was the third of three. It was in fact quite scenic and quite rural, to the extent that the pre-ride spiel included a mention that there was nothing at all between a store at mile 34 and the rest stop at mile 52. I'm not convinced it's actually easier than Climb to the Clouds, in that CttC had the one GIANT CLIMB, a couple of moderate climbs, and the rest rolling hills, whereas the CRW Fall Century had several hard climbs — no single climb was as big as Mille Hill Road, but there were at least a couple of places where I was running a full mile or more in my bottom gear.

I was again a little worried about prep for this ride but it came out okay. Significantly, I did not fall over around mile 60, and while I was definitely slowing down around mile 90 I'm willing to accept that. The whole thing, climbs and all, came in at 102.88 miles, in about 7 hours 45 minutes. (Route map; incomprehensible graphs)

Read more... )

With the CRW fall century coming up this Sunday, this past weekend was the time to take a nice, relaxing 50ish mile ride. Instead, I did the Quad ride, good for 55 miles, but comparatively intense. The variant du jour was the dinosaur ride down Route 4, which as a bike ride is more notable for the two moderate climbs than anything else. As a positive sign, I did okay on both climbs, and was still alive climbing up inside 128 in Lexington. I was starting to lag just a tiny little bit on the last mile before Arlington, with the one unfortunate side effect that the new woman who was following us didn't know to stop at Starbucks. (Route map)

Major plan for during the week is to bike to Littleton tomorrow (much like this) for a work thing, for, say, 23.78 miles each way. It'd be clever, but at this point unlikely, to hit the gym tonight; Thursday or Friday night would be clever too. Weather is tentatively looking good for Sunday (clear, high around 71). Still planning on the Seacoast Century the weekend after next too...

I feel like I should get into having more of a schedule/plan for things, and try to a little more actively do things I want to do. Historically I've had this vague fear of scheduling myself to the point where I can't do spontaneous things, but "spontaneous things" these days seems to be "lounge around playing SimSig Cambridge", which does eventually run out of useful entertainment value. Things that come to mind:

  • I'd like to get more board gaming in. Right now a lot of my game cycles are taken up by bridge, which is okay as far as it goes, but I haven't even played anything as pedestrian as crayon rails in ages (modulo a recent evening of Dominion). But, this requires other people, and I feel like everyone else is already overscheduled.
  • For that matter, I'd like to be a little better at bridge. Playing regularly helps a little bit, but sometimes I feel like I'm missing some little detail in play that everybody else knows (more experienced people in our group talk about "leaving tricks on the table" and this usually isn't at all obvious to me).
  • I'd also kind of like to resurrect the model railroad project in some form. Maybe I don't need to finish the project in the basement per se but instead learn how to do things "correctly". Maybe what I'm after is a club, which would get me a larger layout, more expertise, and possibly people more motivated to build trees than I am. Maybe that's TMRC, except that student groups are for students (AFAICT TMRC is still run by the people who founded the AI Lab, though) and the TMRC evening seems to be Wednesdays (the night [ profile] narya is home).
  • I should keep up the gym plot. It's good for me, even if the sequence of get home, sit around for a bit, work out, come home, shower, eat dinner tends to take up the entire evening.

With the CRW fall century coming up in two weeks and the Seacoast Century the weekend after that, it seemed like a good long weekend to get two days of biking in. The weather was quite accommodating, and I successfully went 54.5 miles on Saturday (map) and 49 on Sunday (map). I guess "successfully" for Sunday was pushing it a little; I was visibly sagging going up Strawberry Hill Road in Concord, fell out of the group heading for the airport route, and limped back home along the bike path. It was still 100 miles in two days, though, which is good to be able to do, and suggests if I do in fact sufficiently rigorously hit the gym the two centuries should be fine.

Yesterday I again did the Quad Cycles ride. I seem to have this bad pattern going where I'll do a big ride or hit some other distraction, take a week or two off, and wind up almost starting from scratch, so yesterday's ride was "only" 63 miles and I was pretty wiped when we made it to Starbucks. (I think I'm still on track to hit the September centuries.) After speculatively eyeing the weather for most of the week, it did wind up being a beautfiul day, especially when you were moving, though I also discovered the joys of iced Gatorade when I got home. (Route map)

Read more... )
100 (or less) pretty flat miles along the New Hampshire coast. The half, metric, and full century rides go up a little bit into Maine; the full century also dips down into Massachusetts. Last weekend of September (could be either Saturday or Sunday or both), $35, registration closes 31 August.

I have my eyes set on the CRW fall century the weekend before, but I could use another T-shirt, and this is almost certainly an easier ride; if there was interest in riding this one socially I'd be up for it. More details online.

I figured a reasonable goal for yesterday would be to try to hit South Street in Needham, and while I accomplished this it just wound up being too hot to really go fast or far. Maybe actually getting out in the morning instead of starting after noon would have helped; so would have going with the usual group. Still, 42.52 miles. (Route map)

Also, the vaguely productive thing I did today was generating KML files from the data I have lying around so it can be plugged into various Google tooling. (Route map) If you want to look at everything all together this file can be plugged into Google Earth; Google Maps doesn't seem to want to try to display more than 8 routes at a time and doesn't even try on the rest.

I don't necessarily dream that regularly, but when I do my dreams seem to show up in a very well-defined world, and I'll occasionally even have multiple dreams in the some world. Hours or weeks later I won't necessarily remember the content of the dream but I'll remember the world. So a couple of months ago, where there was the futuristic deserted subway line built by a long-lost civilization cross-platform from the "normal" subway...I could draw you a map of where the abandoned-yet-running Orange Line went (and it was definitely the orange Line) and what surrounded the southern end of the line (it definitely went south from the station where I found it) but I couldn't tell you anything about how I got there to start with.

A week or two ago there was a commuter-rail oriented dream. (Funny how trains keep showing up in these.) From The City the main rail line left to the northwest; after some complicated underground winding around out of the central station (the downtown was kind of twisted, too) it became a three-track main running along an eight-lane freeway. Once you got substantially out of the city this became a freight line running off to Somewhere Else, but the last passenger station was maybe ten miles further out than I was. But there was a north-south main road, that led to a university sort of area; and if you knew what you were looking for there, you could find an abandoned interurban line that eventually would connect back to The City's streetcar system.

Last night I wound up driving outwards along the freeway. Actually, I was steering, and someone else had the brakes and accelerator. And this was kind of a problem, because there kept being police cars stopped in the middle of the highway, and my copilot wouldn't slow down, so I kept dodging, even the big pile-up in the left lane. Somehow we did wind up stopped, and trying to get away in an abandoned taxi...but part of this involved digging around in the arm rest to find bits of jewelry that I had lost, and somehow turning up the ex-cabbie's wedding band, which somehow made me flip out a lot. (And that's when I woke up, and decided trying to fall asleep again during a thunderstorm was a bad idea.)

I've sort of lost my view of what downtown The City is like, other than that it's sort of like Boston except more vertical, including some weird streets with bridges over other streets.
I was a little worried about attempting the CRW Climb to the Clouds century today, but it turned out fine. A key detail this time around is that it wasn't raining, so I got to see some of the scenery places like Justice Hill Road instead of it being this interminable damp uphill slog. Mile Hill Road was too much Hill for me to do in one pass, but with three or four stops it wasn't a big deal. End result was 101.54 miles in about 7:45. (Route map)

Even if I wasn't riding with "the pack" this time (I thought the ride started at 7:30, the first departure from Concord was actually at 7:00) I did a much better job of keeping up, and that was a huge psychological help. I did start to run out of steam around mile 60, but when I decided I just couldn't handle the next hill and stopped about 20 people came up from behind me and passed me. The water stops were similarly busy, and the parking lot at the start area quite well populated by the time I finished.

The big disappointment was that the road up to the summit of Wachusett was closed. They made up the four miles by tacking them on to the end in boring parts of Concord, which was a little sad as well. But, I didn't die coming down route 62 in Princeton at 42 miles per hour...
Saturday's traditional games-on-campus mob included both a run of Notre Dame and a game of Stone Age. I enjoyed Stone Age (even if I failed to pick a winning strategy, and for that matter failed to divine what a winning strategy would be), but I definitely picked up that it had the same "bootstrap first, then get victory points" nature that Notre Dame does.

I find playing Notre Dame very straightforward, largely because it has three mega-rounds that correspond loosely to the three phases of the game. In the first round you need to either get all the blocks or all the gold, and ideally you can use the "move three blocks" specialist action to then transfer that to either the park or the hospital. Then in the second round you need to not die of the rat apocalypse, level up the park, and start getting VPs, and in the third round do whatever you need to do short-term to get the most VPs. In the first round you can get away with not sending someone to Notre Dame, but in the third you absolutely must to get your park bonus points if nothing else. There is a very clear distinction to me in between when you need to be in start-up mode and when you need to be in final-sprint mode.

Stone Age at least had the same nature. When do you transition between getting more workers and farms, and trying to mine your way to expensive buildings? Part of my problem, I think, was that my maniacal focus on picking up the green cards meant that I'd skip infrastructure in favor of VPs in the early part of the game. (And another was that the same maniacal focus meant that I'd spend an entire round to get three wood to get a green card, but that wasn't worth as many points as trying to spend the same resources to build a building.) Settlers doesn't really have that nature, because the things that get you VPs are the same things that get you more ability to do stuff. Puerto Rico to some extent does (do I grow new plantations, get people, or ship/sell stuff more VPs/money?) but you can also build up infrastructure on other peoples' turns, and with buildings providing both special powers and VPs there's some overlap in the "builder" action.
From the National Weather Service climate report: June, 2009 was 4.7 degrees below normal, and had 16 days with at least 0.01" of rain (normal is 10 days). But, the 3.22" of total rain is exactly normal.
In the names our ride gives bits of the route, today was River/Monument, Strawberry Hill, Dinosaur, 62 to Concord, reverse River/Monument, reverse Dinosaur, Airport; or if you prefer a list of towns, we went through Arlington, Lexington, Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, Acton, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Billerica, Bedford, Concord, Carlisle, Bedford, Billerica, Chelmsford, Carlisle, Concord, Lincoln, Lexington, and Arlington. At any rate, all of this going around in circles was at least on an absolutely gorgeous day ("it's stopped being March in June") and came in for me at 82.13 miles. This was a little longer than I was planning, and I was seriously thinking of bailing the second time we got to Carlisle Center (ca. mile 60), but I got talked into the longer route and it was good for me, and I even did a good job with the big hill just inside 128. Yay me. (Route map)
My current personal laptop is four years old in August, and it might be getting towards time to replace it. (Heavier than I like, extended battery makes it a weird shape, not great screen resolution, occasional hardware problems with the wireless dropping out, but otherwise works fine.) The current candidate, for a couple of reasons, is a Lenovo T400. Around hardware and Windows issues I tend to live in a cave until I really care, though, so can the greater interwebs help answer a couple of questions?

Read more... )
I figured it might be clever to put a new head on our mop, since the current one is getting kind of ratty. So off I went in search of an 8.5" Roll-O-Matic sponge/scrubber mop head. Sounds straightforward, no? It turns out that places that sell mops -- Home Depot, Target, Star, Stop and Shop, those kinds of places -- only sell one or two brands, but each brand has a slightly different way of connecting the mop head to the rest of it, and only sell heads for their brand of mop.

Hello, Amazon.
Out of all of the inventions to come out of the United States Treasury, I hadn't realized the value of the soda token until recently. In New York buying an LIRR ticket with a $10 bill, the machine gave me back these yellowish coins a little larger than a quarter. "Great," I said, "what do I do with these, trade them one-for-two for $2 bills?"

But then I discovered their true purpose. Rather than futzing with the bill reader on the soda machine at work (only slightly less irritating than the T's Charlie Ticket fare gates), I can put one of these magic soda tokens into the machine, and get a cold can of Coke and a quarter out! Much easier than trying to pick out four dimes, two nickels, and a quarter from the loose change in my pocket, particularly since the soda token is the largest coin I have.

Weather aside, this was an absolutely gorgeous ride. It was practically all rural roads, taking the long route through Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover, quietly ducking into New Hampshire, and returning via the nice part of the Merrimack River in Amesbury and Merrimac. I even caught the train stations in Wakefield and Topsfield for paying attention. In all this came to 101.80 miles for me (route map, since to my surprise my treacherous GPS batteries didn't die).

Biking in the rain wasn't actually so bad. I maybe went a little fast at the start, hitting the first rest area at mile 47 right around 3 hours, and so after the second stop at mile 76 I was pretty much crawling home in that "mild rises make me shift into my bottom gear and curse the world" sort of way. I wonder if focusing on longer rides would help; if I'm going to do CTTC I definitely need to practice climbing.

Was I the very last person back? It wasn't obvious; the home base was starting to be cleaned up when I got back around 4:20, and I didn't see anyone come in after me, but I also wasn't obviously being followed the way [ profile] narya and I were when we did CTTC. Overall the support was present but minimal, and if you're actually traveling light you could definitely get by on the water and food at the stops. In a couple of places I would have liked to see a couple more arrows, and I would have liked the cue sheet be a little closer to reality (especially where it could have said "no really ignore the 'road closed' signs").

I finally got passed around mile 88 by the guy riding the century on an ancient fixed-gear bike. The fully enclosed recumbent was cool, particularly given the weather.

New York City of course has two major train stations these days. Pennsylvania Station handles all Amtrak service in and out of New York, plus New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad; Grand Central Terminal, historically the stomping grounds of the New York Central and New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroads, is the Manhattan end of Metro-North trains. Of these the Metro-North commuters by far get the better deal.

Grand Central has an outpost of the New York transit museum (more a gift shop with a small exhibit space) and I took some time there to look around. My first thought was that it could reasonably compete in the "Classy European Railway Stations" competition: several concourses filled with little shops, a small grocery, lots of granite and marble, pleasantly art-deco ticket windows, and so on. There's a downstairs level with lots of fast food options, and a restaurant on the main concourse. I did eventually find the transit museum outpost, which was worth the visit if not huge.

I then bopped over on the Ⓢ train to Times Square (very strong signs that there used to be a 4-track connection between the Times Square shuttle and the 7th Avenue IRT line) and took a ① to Penn Station. You might notice peering at my Flickr that there are no pictures of Penn Station. From the concourse this is basically three stations. The NJ Transit area is somewhat nice but has few amenities. The Amtrak station seemed to redecorate aiming for "sterile" and got "vaguely oppressive". The Long Island Railroad section is dark, and crowded, and generally not a place you really feel like hanging out. (And it's a good demonstration that just because you put shops and restaurants in a place it doesn't mean it's attractive.)

Because I could, I took LIRR out to Queens. The trains were quite comfortable, and felt oddly larger than typical MBTA stock. Seeing real position-light signals in action was a little strange, but (after some deciphering) there they were and they seemed to be showing reasonable things. It was a pretty fast, pretty smooth ride out, not a bad way to go if that's what your commute winds up being...just with that horrible station at the inbound end.

SimSig, a British railway signaling (US: railroad dispatching) simulator. From what I can tell it started life as a free-demo-shareware product until Network Rail noticed it and contracted with its author to turn it into an internal training program, and the formerly-paid content got released as free-as-in-beer (so remember to note the registration codes from the download page). The two maps I've tried so far are the Liverpool Street map (not too exciting) and Didcot (actually pretty busy).

(This falls into a bizarre category of things that must be too geeky for anyone but me to appreciate, except that two or three people I've mentioned it to have come up surprisingly interested.)

Brief user manual )

The system also has the ability to have multiple networked players dispatching adjacent districts, if the maps are set up for it (the Swindon-Didcot-Oxford-Reading maps at least apparently are). LAN party, anyone?
Today we'll put the (route map) link early, because it's a good illustration of the "only two roads in Carlisle" problem. We left Arlington and went the usual way up the bike path, west on 225, down River Road, out up Strawberry Hill Road, and thence to Carlisle Center. I joined a small subgroup that went out via Great Brook Farm ("no dinosaurs and a mile or two shorter, but much prettier"), and we regrouped at the 4/225 split in Bedford. With an eye towards distance, we went west on 225 again, going straight to Carlisle, straight to Concord, and then back via Hanscom. From Arlington Heights I struck out on my own up Middlesex Turnpike to Lexington Street to Horn Pond, and came back from there, totaling 72 miles in all.

It was apparently an "on" day for me, and I was able to keep up with the group pretty well. The downside of this is that I burned myself out by about mile 50; I was on my own (but not last!) between Carlisle and Concord, and had to stop climbing the hill just inside 128. The extension to hit 70 miles was somewhere in between "tired, wanna go home" and "really should get in some distance if I'm doing a century in two weeks".

Speaking of that century... )
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