Archive for the ‘commute’ Category

Plates on Tappan Zee Bridge Causing Backup

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

The construction plates on the bridge made me late for the first half of the week and then they moved the barrier so that the morning traffic had 5 lanes going east and only two lanes going west. I feel sorry for the people trying to cross the bridge going west in the morning.

Here are some pictures of the plates that caused all the trouble.

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Here is the view looking south from the bridge. You can see New York City in the haze. That’s the Empire State Building that you can barely see. I watched the twin towers turn into a pillar of smoke from this spot 7 years ago.

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Murray Leinster – Invaders of Space

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

ml_invadersI finished Invaders of Space in one day with about 20 pages left over to help me make it through the RNC last night. Since Labor day it takes me an hour or more on the bus each morning and about an hour on the way back, so I am finishing the books faster. I received another 100 books from eBay Tuesday night, I am SF rich, at least until around Christmas.

First off, the title Invaders of Space is misleading. There are no invaders. I imagine that the title was changed by some editor to make it sound more like a Man vs. Alien story. This is a very typical space yarn by Murray Leinster. It is about 65,000 words and a nice relaxed read.

Murray Leinster is the very essence of Science Fiction. When you look up Science Fiction in the dictionary you should see a picture of Murray Leinster. He wrote hundreds of stories for all of the Golden Age magazines and dozens of books. You can see some of the wonderful vintage Leinster book covers at http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/ml_gallery.html.

Invaders of Space is an adventure story complete with alien life forms on a remote planet and space pirates. I love space pirates, there should be a magazine devoted to space pirate stories.

The protagonist is the conventional well educated engineer type which is the standard for golden age fiction. These reasonable, analytic and logical white male protagonists are probably the chief flaw of the golden age of science fiction. The editors and target audience of the era were well educated engineering types and the fiction of the time reflects this. I can see why women, especially, have a problem with golden age fiction and even I, a reasonable, analytic and logical white male, find this type of protagonist a little tiring.

The plot is about an engineer who is waiting for his fiance at a space port. A ship with old engines comes in for a landing badly in need of repairs. The engineer, who happens to be a specialist in space ship engines, gives some advice. He is immediately shanghaied and forced to repair the engines. The ship is manned by space pirates and the ship they want to pirate is the one with the engineer’s fiance on it.

The plot moves forward with interesting twists and turns and the engineer manages to save the day, not by any technical feats, but by psychologically manipulating the pirates. It makes for an interesting plot.

On the plus side, the ingenuity of the engineer and the totally unexpected and interesting way in which he controls the crew makes for a unique plot. The planet where they are stranded has some interesting flora and fauna, but perhaps not that unexpected in a science fiction novel. The character of the pirate captain is truly nasty, although this is not really pursued. There is an alcoholic ships engineer, that is less interesting and more of a caricature.

On the negative side, the character of the fiance has only a few lines of dialog, no part on the plot other than a prop and is never actually described, although she is present in many of the scenes in the last part of the book. It is almost as though a woman has no place in science fiction. I don’t know why Leinster did this. The plot would have been much more interesting if the engineer’s future wife and the main reason that he was in all this trouble, could have had an important role in the book. Strong women dominated the movies in the 40s and 50s. Strong complex women characters were included in other fiction genres like detective fiction and even some westerns during this time. Why is it that SF seems to exclude women as being anything other than objects?

I love Golden Age SF. It annoys me to have to defend it against charges of sexism, especially when one of my favorite authors has written a book that is seriously flawed by what can only be seen as a sexist viewpoint.

There are at least 4 more Murray Leinster books that I have never read in the boxes out on the porch. I will be reading them soon.

Currently reading Hal Clement – Cycle of Fire.

(I am considering moving these little reviews to another blog. I am sure that no one who reads my blog really minds them, but these entries take up a lot of room. Let me know if you care one way or the other.)

Commuting Roundup

Friday, August 1st, 2008

I used the Tappan Zee Express bus to cross the damned bridge for the entire month of July. I missed the bus only once, but I caught a later one so no loss. I sat alone about 80% of the time. The other times the person was asleep (or pretended to be) or I had a fat woman who squelshed over the seat into mine, or a weird garlic smelling guy who wanted to talk about his emergency room trip last night.

I read 7.5 books, listened to 1.5 books on the iPod, but I wrote only about 500 words of fiction. The bus is not a good place to type.

I saved just about $250 in gas, tolls and parking. I did not include wear and tear on the truck, or depreciation.

The bus averages, on a good day, about 50 minutes each way. With my truck it takes a little less than that. I have to leave 15 minutes earlier than with the truck and I arrive at home about 1/2 hour later so I am losing about 15 or so hours of my life, but I made up for that by having some time to read. I spend an extra 1/2 hour at my desk every day and my boss seems to like that.

One bus driver got lost twice. He seems to have attention deficit and twice he has wandered off, missing a turn and then recovering a few minutes later. Once he turned around an went all the way back to the beginning and started over. He’s a nice guy and talks about alien abductions or secret government mind control projects to anyone who will listen, but he doesn’t seem cut out to be a bus driver.

Twice it took more than an hour and a half to get to work or get home. The bridge is always a question mark and a few times a month there is an accident or emergency pothole repair that delays the trip as long as two hours. Four times in the 20 odd years that I’ve been commuting, the bridge has closed down completely, and I’ve had to drive home by traveling 20 miles to another bridge. I don’t know what will happen if the bridge closes and I have no way to get home except the bus.

I learned that I prefer reading print to listening to books on the ipod. I really like listening to books, but reading is a better experience, even on a bouncing bus. I never did get motion sick. The bus trip is short, so I may not have had time.

I am going to continue my commute for at least August. When September comes around, the bus might have teachers and students going to the colleges in Westchester and the city and I have a feeling that seating will be at a premium. The high gas prices will have more of an affect in the fall when new commuters have to make a decision on how to get to their jobs or classes. The bus stops at the White Plains Metro North station and about half the passengers get off there to take a train into New York. The other half gets off at the Galleria mall where, I suspect, they work in one of the stores. I am the only one who gets off at the Westchester Government Office building.

Alan Garner – The Owl Service

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I bought a couple of cartons of books from Forest J. Ackerman’s Garage Mahal garage sale. Forey was moving and getting rid of his books. I bought some lots where there was at least one book that I was interested in. The other books were an odd mixture of whatever was on hand.

Since I’ve been reading during my commute, I have been trying to find books to read. I have read most of the books that I own and I don’t want to spend much on new books if possible. I’ve been looking in eBay for odd lots, but so far nothing looks good.

Most of the odd books in the Ackerman lots had titles like “Book 3 of the Magic Ring of the Dragon Wizard” or some such garbage. I don’t want to even try to read these. I will be creating a site where I will trade books or send out books at a minimal cost for mailing.

One book that I tried to read was The Owl Service by Alan Garner. This is a book about magic in Wales. It has lots of talk and nothing much happens. The text is well written, even beautiful in some passages, but it never grabbed me. I am not the intended audience. I like fantasy, but I need a little tension in the plot, but not this endless examination of the internal reactions of uninteresting people.

This is the first book on my commute that I decided that it was a waste of time to finish. Life is too short.

Anyone want it? I’ll send it out media mail for $1 (payment through paypal). It would be better to wait as I will put together a box and weigh it, soon.

E85 Ethanol in Rockland County

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I’ve been researching converting the truck to flex fuel. It turns out that the engine only needs a little computer programming to run gas or e85 Ethanol or any combination. The computer is capable of detecting the alcohol and adjusting the engine so it works. The engine computer plug-in costs around $400.

There is a station in Spring Valley, about 3 miles from my house, that sells E85. As far as I can tell it is about $1 or $2 cheaper than gas. If I use 10 gallons a week that’s at least a $10 savings. So it pays for itself in less than a year.

I would like to try this, but $400 is too much for just an experiment. There is supposed to be an e85 pump in West Nyack and they are popping up all over the place, so availability is not the issue that it once was.

Here is the cheesy video that that Gas Station put on YouTube.

Cleaning out the Camera

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

I’ve got about 5 blog posts worth of stuff here so let’s start with a picture of a very hot Max on the glider on the deck.

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I took some pictures of the Blueberry Bushes. These will mostly be eaten by birds before I can get at them, though.

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Last weekend we went up to Haverstraw for the Farmer’s market. It was disappointing as there were only three stands. I bought some Blue Potatoes, which I love.

I took some pictures from the Ferry dock. $10 to go to wall street from Haverstraw (30 miles). This is the way to go if I get another job in the big city.

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The hill there is Hi Tor, famous from a play by Maxwell Anderson. I worked at Hogan’s Diner one summer with Maxwell Anderson’s grandson. He was amazed that I had actually read some of his grandfather’s plays.

The mountains on the Hudson river have cool names, although they are hardly mountains, just hills. The names, starting at Nyack going north are Hook, Tor, Bear and The Storm King.

I wanted to show how hard it is to type on the Bus. No room for my knees and no room to put my elbows when I type. Last week I finished my second week of bussing. On Thursday the bus driver got lost on the way home and it took an hour and a half. On Tuesday I got involved with a program, missed my bus and didn’t get home until 6:30pm.

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Here are some bus pictures of the TZ bridge.

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Panasonic "Let’s Note" is Back

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Last Winter, the little Panasonic ToughBook “Let’s Note” that Justine brought back from Hong Kong, rolled over and played dead. I took it apart (like a puzzle box – about 30 screws) and I pulled the hard drive. I was able to pull lots of information off of it and then format the drive, but I was never able to get the little ToughBook to work.

Yesterday afternoon, it was raining and I didn’t fell like doing anything ambitious, so I thought that I’d try one more time before I put it up for sale on eBay for parts. I put it on the dining room table and operated on it for an hour.

It now works!

It is a nice little machine, but the drivers are not to be found anywhere. Panasonic acts like this version of the ToughBook (called Let’s Note in Hong Kong) does not exist. I can not find the drivers for it.

I have drivers for the video, the wireless and the touchpad because they are made by other manufacturers and I got their drivers, but the Ricoh card reader seems to be Panasonic specific and I can’t get the Sound to work. The drivers at Panasonic are all keyed to a bios model number and don’t load if you use the wrong one.

It is good for the bus, though because it is very light and small. The keyboard is cramped and I can’t touch type on it because the punctuation, delete and backspace are all in the wrong places. I might get used to it, though – I was pretty good at it last Winter when it died.

Tomorrow morning I will use it to try to write a “Stranded” flash for AR. I have a few ideas so I will “blue sky” them into a document and then on the way back, look and see if any of them have wings. So far, my ideas have been bland. I need a conflict that can resolve in under 1000 words. I don’t like flash that are like extended jokes. I don’t like flash where the resolution is to reveal a hidden fact: e.g. the narrator is dead or is an alien or is in a VR game. A flash with a punch line sucks. I want to make it a real story.