The train, before the climate changes

guts the Environmental Protection Agency

trainKelly has provided more questions.

What is your favorite mode of transportation, regardless of destination?

The train, the train, the train. It’s civilized. I like the light rail in Charlotte, NC. But I LOVE it in San Diego. If Amtrak didn’t have to share the track with commercial vehicles, it’d be way better off. And if cities had spent more money over time with their mass transit – the NYC subway, and especially the T in Boston – it would be top-notch.

When I see stories about traveling out west to Great Basin Star Train, designed to see the stars sans light pollution, I say, “I would do that.”

One pipe dream involves going to a bunch of Major League ballparks by train, maybe Boston to New York (2), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Miami and Tampa Bay. Then another route through the Midwest – Toronto to Cleveland, et al., and a third out west. I’ve gone to two games by train, from Poughkeepsie to the New York Yankees in 2018, and from San Diego to Anaheim to see the Angels back in the late 1980s.

I took the train when I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and to take the JEOPARDY! test in Washington, DC a week later.

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Incidentally, I had planned to write something about the sesquicentennial of the birth of the transcontinental railroad on November 24, 1869. The heads of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah, and drove a ceremonial last spike into a rail line that connects their railroads. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in U.S. history.

Most of my treks from Albany, NY to Charlotte, NC were by train. This includes a trip just prior to my mother’s death. That post, BTW, is the post on this blog that has gotten the most comments, bar none.

And I LOVE train-themed songs.

How pessimistic are you about climate change? (I am DEEPLY pessimistic about it.)

We’re doomed. We’re already seeing the changes, with more severe weather as the annual average temperature keeps creeping upward. If I thought the government had a strategy for attacking the problem, I might be cautiously optimistic. Instead, the US pulls out of the Paris agreement, promotes the use of coal, eviscerates the Endangered Species Act, guts the Environmental Protection Agency.

Check out Former EPA head Gina McCarthy knows why climate change activists aren’t getting their message across.

Movie review: Little Women (2019)

best picture nominee

Little WomenI’m not an expert on the writings of Louisa May Alcott. Thus I can only judge the new movie Little Women based on what I saw on the screen. I was most impressed. My wife, on the other hand, is seeped in the story. She enjoyed it immensely.

I understand that this is a reimagining. Writer/director Greta Gerwig drew on Louisa May Alcott’s life and letters, as well as the original source. It was not strictly chronological, which confused me early on, but it soon made sense.

We really enjoyed Gerwig’s previous film, Lady Bird, which also starred Saoirse Ronan. In Little Women, she plays a Jo March that is talented, but with doubts. The Oscar-nominated Ronan was also excellent in Brooklyn and Atonement.

It seems that Gerwig has developed a troupe, of sorts, besides Saoirse. Timothée Chalamet, best known in Call Me By Your Name, was a young musician in Lady Bird, and Theodore “Laurie” Laurence in Little Women. Tracy Letts embodied Henry Ford II in the Oscar-nominated Ford v. Ferrari; he was the father in Lady Bird and Mr. Dashwood in this film.

The former Hermione Granger

They were all fine performers, as were Emma Watson as Meg, Eliza Scanlen as Beth, and the always reliable Laura Dern as Marmee, among others. Apparently, the role of the aunt was expanded, which I suppose happens when one gets Meryl Streep for the role.

But Florence Pugh as Amy was a revelation. She was a force. The performer has been in a number of movies, none of which I’ve seen, and most of which I never heard of. Her Academy Award for best supporting actress nomination was well deserved.

I’d already put Alexandre Desplat’s original score on my wishlist. I’m glad he, Greta for adapted screenplay, and costume designer Jacqueline Durran all got Oscar nods. I’m sorry, though that Greta Gerwig got left off the ballot for best director; what remains is that burger joint, five guys.

Bubbling Under the Hot 100

Good Morning, Vietnam

Joan Armatrading
Joan Armatrading
One of the many music reference books – yes, I said BOOKS – that I own is Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100, 1959-2004. These are songs that didn’t quite make it to the promised land on the primary US singles chart.

There are several reasons. Some were regional hits. Some were B-sides of bigger hits but managed to nearly chart anyway. A few are re-releases that had charted higher in the past.

Since the book is nearly 300 pages long, I’m limiting myself to songs I actually own in physical form, either on compact disc or vinyl. You’ll recognize quite a few, I promise. This will take a while.

New York New York – Ryan Adams, #112 in 2002, filmed 9/7/2001. I put this on a mixed CD in my early blogger days.
Baby Please Don’t Go – Amboy Dukes – #106 in 1968
Show Some Emotion– Joan Armatrading – #110 in 1978; I LOVED her albums of that era
What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong with the Tommy Goodman Orchestra – #116 in 1968; #32 in 1988, due to its inclusion in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam
The Shape I’m In – The Band, #121 in 1973; B-side of Time To Kill (#77 pop)

The Beach Boys

I gave a friend their box set, and when she knew she was dying, she wanted me to take it back
Why Do Fools Fall in Love, 101 in 1964; B-side of Fun, Fun, Fun (#5 pop)
She Knows Me Too Well – 101 in 1964; B-side of hen I Grow Up (To Be A Man) (#9 pop)
Cottonfields – #103 in 1970
Marcella – #110 in 1972
Barbara Ann – #101 in 1975 rerelease; #2 in 1966
Wouldn’t It Be Nice – #103 in 1975 rerelease; #8 in 1966

The Beatles

I have some interest in this group.
From Me To You, #116 in 1963; #41 in 1964
I’m Down, #101 in 1965; B-side of Help! (#1 pop) The only B-side of The Beatles first 21 regular Capitol/Apple releases not to make the Top 100
Boys, #102 in 1965; one of a series of singles released on Capitol’s green label “The Star Line”

I Can’t See Nobody – Bee Gees, #128 in 1967; B-side of New York Mining Disaster 1941 (#14 pop)

David Bowie

I have a fair amount of his output on LPs
Space Oddity, #124 in 1969 on Mercury Records; it hit #15 in 1973 on RCA Victor
Let’s Spend the Night Together, #109 in 1973
D.J., #106 in 1979
Ashes to Ashes, #101 in 1980

It Don’t Matter to the Sun – Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines, a fictional character for a proposed movie, The Lamb, starring Brooks; B-side of Lost in You (#5 pop)
Please, Please, Please -James Brown – #105 in 1960, though #5 on the R&B charts in 1956, and a live version went to #95 pop in 1964

Next time, I’ll get much further into the alphabet.

Spectrum “communications” cluster…

My calm demeanor had deteriorated

spectrumI had thought to “break away from the box” in the new decade. The sheer, and repeated, incompetence of Spectrum, part of Charter Communications, has made this mission-critical. And it started off so casually.

Thursday: I get home from the choir rehearsal. Deciding to watch JEOPARDY! before going to bed, I turn on the TV. Soon, the DVR flashes 10:41 several times and dies. OK, stuff happens.

Friday: Taking the disconnected DVR with me, I take the bus to Colonie Center. I go to the Spectrum store. Unable to discern how one gets into the queue, I ask a customer. He tells me I need to talk to the guy talking to someone in the corner. I’m seventh in the queue, and 15 minutes later, some other rep takes my old device and gives me a new one.

Interestingly, it doesn’t have the time on the front. “Do you WANT that? You can get Spectrum Mobile…?” Don’t try to upsell me. I just want to walk into the room and see the time. I was so annoyed, I went to the Christmas Tree store next door and bought a $5 analog clock.

When I get home, I think I’ve reconnected the wires correctly. Yet I get the message:

You’re in Limited Mode

“We’re sorry, your Spectrum receiver is in Limited Mode and some features may be temporarily available.” Actually, there are no features that are available.

“We’re working to resolve this issue, but please check your cables for a loose connection that could affect your service.” I think it’s my technological incompetence in play.

Friday evening: I call the help line for Spectrum. This is always a chore. The automated system wants to offer “help” even when I know it won’t solve the problem. When I finally talk to a real person, he tells me something useful. I was under the old Time Warner/Spectrum.net account. The DVR is for the newer Spectrum.com service. They gave me the wrong DVR. NOT my fault – yay! (40 minutes)

Saturday: I call the ordering department. This guy promises me a recurring monthly charge of $80 less what I’m paying for now. The package also offers a greater number of channels, what they call the Silver level. He also suggested AppleTV+ which I decided to try on our second TV. He needs a payment, though. I use my primary credit card.

(Sidebar: the charge was rejected on my Chase VISA because I don’t use it often enough. I’ll have to make some small charges with it.)

Later, I check the email confirmation. “The technician is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday” between 11 and 12. At an address in the 321 ZIP Code of Florida.

The great undo

Sunday: I call the ordering department again. I have to explain, in great detail, what has happened so far, a recurring theme. He has an email address and phone number for me. They are both incorrect. Essentially, he has to undo what the previous dude did.

This includes changing the service call from Florida to my Albany, NY address to Tuesday at 1 to 2 pm. He also notes that AppleTV+ would NOT be a good choice for me, and I get remove that. (100 minutes)

I get the email conformation, and the amount is far greater than what I had been told.

Monday: I call the billing department. The previous person had expressed admiration with my calm demeanor. By this point, however, that had deteriorated. The prices I had been quoted by the Saturday guy was for new customers only. What she could do was give me a $25 credit towards the Silver upgrade for the month, since I would not have taken it had I known the cost.

She also asked if I knew that I would be charged $50 for the installation on Tuesday. I did not. As I had asked for her supervisor, she said someone would call back in a couple hours. (40 minutes)

More than four hours on the phone later…

Tuesday: I receive a call back for the supervisor who deals with stuff when issues “escalate.” He apologized profusely, and agreed to waive the installation fee. It would not have applied if the Spectrum store had given me the right DVR box in the first place. He is also crediting the money I spent on Saturday, though it might take a few days. (25 minutes)

The technician showed up a few minutes after 2. He had gone to a house two doors down, then called me from his cell to see if I were home. He started fixing the cable, determining the box the store had given me was, in his word, “junk,” and switched it out. Then he replaced the modem so that it was four times faster. Why didn’t that happen before? Then back downstairs to finish with the cable.

After he left, I checked the channel choices. Far fewer than I had been promised. The local channels, C-SPAN a couple shopping channels, and TBS, pretty much. I went to the Spectrum website, found some instruction, rebooted the box, and suddenly I had the channels I desired.

In the next couple days, I got to see the shows on demand that I had recorded but had not watched, such as a 60 Minutes from the week prior, and the Kennedy Center Honors. Still, this was an organizational clusterf@(# at a level I do not believe I have ever experienced. My resolution in 2020 is to get a divorce from Spectrum and its alleged “communications” services.

January rambling: Liar, con artist

Fahrvergnügen

I Love the 20s
xkcd – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
This means you’re free to copy and share these comics (but not to sell them).

The Decade of Democracy’s Decline.

He’s a Liar, a Con Artist and a Snitch. His Testimony Could Soon Send a Man to His Death. A Twitter summary.

1 Billion Animals Killed in Australia Wildfires Is “Very Conservative” Estimate and Its Government Must Stop Denying Climate Crisis.

Why Is Middle School So Hard for So Many People?

Go Green: Eco-Friendly Products We Should All Be Using.

“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.” Henry David Thoreau

‘Here We Go. The Chaos Is Starting’: An Oral History of Y2K. (You may get a popup asking you for an email address before you can read the story.)

How New York’s Bagel Union Fought — and Beat — a Mafia Takeover.

Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens And Bring Back Hymnals. BTW, I own a hymnal from c. 1850.

I ignored warnings from friends and family not to marry my husband. Was I making a big mistake?

Jan Žižka ‘the One-Eyed’ is one of that elite band of great military commanders.

Football Hall of Fame: Congratulations, Coach Cowher.

I Was Captain of the Team that Loses to the Harlem Globetrotters Every Night.

Buck Henry, R.I.P..

Now I Know: How a Flush Beat a Checkmate and The Astronauts Strike Back and The Best-Selling Volkswagen Doesn’t Have Fahrvergnügen and The Soccer Star Who Helped Someone Else Reach Their Goal and Why Public Toilet Seats are U-Shaped.

Cadet Bone Spurs Wags the Dog

Remember Normal Presidents?

7 Stunning New Pieces of Impeachment Evidence Just released by the House.

How He And Mnuchin Slipped Billions In New Tax Breaks To Corporations.

The Year The Press Tried — And Failed — To Stand Up To Trump.

“Men do not learn much from the lessons of history and that is the most important of all the lessons of history. ” – Aldous Huxley

The cost of deceit over Iran and North Korea.

Noam Chomsky: US Is a Rogue State and Suleimani’s Assassination Confirms It.

Trumpist Evangelicals Respond to Christianity Today.

MUSIC

A decade of pop.

It’s Been a Long, Long Time – Kitty Kallen and the Harry James Orchestra.

Spontaneous – Neil Innes.

Never Gonna Give You Up – The Newfangled Four.

A Week and a Day – Boys II Menorah, with James Corden.

Overture in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn.

Playing for Change: Soul Rebel, featuring Bunny Wailer and Manu Chao. |

Coverville 1292: The R.E.M. Cover Story.

On the Beautiful Blue Danube.

You Can’t Stop the Beat – Masters of Harmony.

Main theme from Star Wars – Attacca Quartet.

Imagine – MonaLisa Twins.

Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars.