Archive for the 'Wanderings' Category


17 January 2023 at 10:02 pm
by Jonah

Day 1

We drove the Tacoma down to San Carlos, Mexico for a week at the beach with the Serranos family, and spent most of our time kite flying / sand castle building or reading… definitely getting lots of vitamin D. It was nice to feel almost back to normal after both of us had battled a nasty case of RSV right after Thanksgiving.

San Carlos beach
Posada Condos

Berck’s birthday was December 18, and we all packed into the Serranos’ Suburban to drive to the next town over for caramelos, Sonoran style flour tortillas topped with steak strips and melted cheese. We came back to the Serranos’ condo for a multiple leches cake. Pepe lit two candles in jars he had bought to try to mitigate the smell of the fish he had fried in the condo earlier in the week. Berck made a wish that he wouldn’t catch Covid on his birthday and then failed to blow both out in one breath.

Both of us had scratchy throats.

Day 2

We woke up in the morning and realized that on our last day at the beach we were sick. I tried to read but ended up falling asleep on the condo’s couch and slept most of the day. Berck also napped. We’re not naturally nappers. Berck took one of the rapid Covid tests I had brought with me. It was negative. Maybe we had the flu? Pepe brought us some caramelos he had picked up for us for dinner. Neither one of us had much of an appetite.

Day 3

We had a horrible night. Berck was coughing, and I was congested. We were both restless. We got up and packed up knowing we had to begin the two-day trip home. Berck suggested I take a Covid test this time. This time there was no question.

Question: Which line is the bad line again?

I had some KN95 masks from work, so I donned one to check out from the front desk and get our deposit back. I also made Berck stop at a pharmacy so I could buy some cough syrup. Berck drove all day including the perpetual traffic jam to cross the border into the US (took us an hour and a half). I took some Xyzal, Sudafed, and Aleve, because my back was killing me, and just sat in the passenger seat of the truck and felt lousy.

We went through the drive through at a Jack in the Box stateside and got some burgers and fries and a Dr Pepper for Berck and a milkshake for me. I didn’t have much of an appetite and ended up only drinking half of the milkshake.

I found us an old roadside motel in Deming, New Mexico that had been renovated inside with nice carpet, a big fridge, a very comfortable bed, and a good shower. Berck was amazed that it didn’t smell like a cheap motel. We probably shouldn’t have been amazed that we couldn’t smell any cheap motel smell. I made Berck take some Mexican cough syrup so he’d stop his constant coughing. I didn’t really have a cough, just a ton of congestion. I took more Sudafed and Aleve and a Benadryl and passed out around 7 pm. I didn’t wake up until 12 hours later.

Day 4

Wednesday we got up and decided we should probably get some coffee and maybe something to eat. Berck told me to leave the key in the room and not check out at the motel’s front desk. I searched for drive throughs with breakfast in Deming and decided our best bet was a Wendy’s. We each got a coffee and a bacon biscuit. As we sat in our parked truck in the parking lot, Berck asked if the coffee tasted like anything to me. I took a sip and said it tasted exactly like warm water. Slightly bitter warm water, Berck added. We could have saved money and just asked for warm water.

I was feeling more like a human being, and even though I had already requested and been granted the day off as a vacation day, I plugged in my laptop and tethered to my phone and started going through a week and a half of work e-mails. My boss had asked me to draft an application for hearing, so I did and e-mailed her my draft. She replied, uh, were you going to add any witnesses? My brain was apparently less willing to work than I was. I replied that she better second guess anything I did for the foreseeable future.

Berck and I both dutifully informed the Colorado Exposure App that we had tested positive. The App then informed each of us that we had been exposed to someone with Covid-19. Yes, we had been exposing each other sitting next to each other in the truck all day.

We got a call from the Novavax vaccine trial study clinic asking if we could come in so they could collect our fluids to see how well our bodies were handling being sick. We told them we couldn’t come in that day as we were next to the Mexican border, but we could come in the next day.

We got home just before the snow hit, the storm that took out the electrical grid in Tennessee as well as Southwest Airlines. Berck had me make us some ramen, which is the only thing we could think of that sounded good to eat.

pandemic dinner

Day 5

Thursday Berck managed to get us scripts for Paxlovid at the CVS pharmacy inside the Target at Academy and Union. I called them and asked if they really wanted me to come inside a busy store to get the drugs, and they said that was my only option as they didn’t have a drive through. Berck drove us on the snowy road down into town, and I tried to get a KN95 to make a tight seal on my face before going in. Then I had to wander around the Target to find the pharmacy, trying to steer clear of shoppers. The drugs were free; all I had to do was give the pharmacy our names.

As Berck drove next to the Novavax trial clinic, he demanded I tear open the Paxlovid and give him his first dose. I insisted on reading the directions first. The directions are to take three giant pills in the morning and three giant pills at night. He parked in the alley behind the clinic and then gulped down the pills with the water I brought while I called the clinic and told them we had arrived. We put on masks and then were ushered through a back door into an exam room, where they took our vitals, snot, and blood. Well, they tried to take my blood, but as I hadn’t felt like eating or drinking anything, my dehydrated body refused to give up any blood. The phlebotomist stuck me three times and tried to make small talk asking if we had any plans for Christmas. “Well, we don’t now!”

The clinic’s doctor took us one at a time into the next exam room and gave us each a quick physical. He dangerously had us remove our masks so he could examine our throats and ran out the door when Berck couldn’t suppress a cough. He listened to our lungs and then said to us, “Your lungs sound fine. Take the Paxlovid, and you’ll both be fine.” I took my three horse pills once we got back to the car and Berck drove us home. We decided that was our morning dose and took our evening dose that night after I made us some more ramen. I cracked an egg to add to the water, but it seemed more viscous than usual. I tried to smell it and then realized I couldn’t.

Three in the morning and three at night

Later that evening I poured myself a bowl of cereal. I had forced myself to eat since Monday, and for the first time I felt hungry.

Day 6

Friday I was desperately trying to catch up on work. Berck was having a meltdown because he had started experiencing Paxlovid mouth. He described it as metallic grapefruit flavored hot garbage water. He realized that having the taste of anything in his mouth, anything else, made the maddening taste go away. He had nearly finished some gum we had lying around and begged me to go to the store and buy him some hard candy. I put together a pick up order at City Market, doing a search for hard candy and selecting one of each. I added some ramen and green onions to the order and scheduled it for the first available time of 2pm.

The loss of taste from Covid is actually a loss of smell. Your tongue can still perceive sweet, bitter, salt, sour, and umami. It can also taste spicy. Thus ramen with some sriracha tasted like…something at least. Berck determined that cinnamon candy worked pretty well, as well as sour candy. But keeping something in your mouth at times is kinda tricky. He got tired of eating candy really quickly. The only way he could sleep was by tucking some Extra gum into his lip like chewing tobacco and hope he didn’t choke to death in his sleep. I told him I knew he wasn’t dying because I could hear him coughing from the downstairs bedroom from my bed upstairs.

Day 7,

Here’s what I wrote on Christmas Eve:

I’ve lost 4 pounds in 2 days.

Finding anything to eat that seems appetizing is hard when everything tastes like nothing, and also I don’t feel hungry. I’m sure I’m also dehydrated because I get tired of just drinking water or anything else that simply tastes like water.

I woke up today with a tremendous headache. I thought I’d make myself a big cup of coffee and take some Excedrin, and of course the Paxlovid regimen. You have to take three enormous pills each morning and three more each night.

I took a small sip of the fancy coffee Berck roasts himself, remembered that coffee just tastes like slightly bitter hot water, and then immediately vomited. Except there was nothing in my stomach, because I only ate half of my ramen last night, and it had long since digested.

Later today I thought I’d make soup with the chicken I got at grocery pick up yesterday. I clocked out of work and did a grocery run because Berck is losing his freaking mind with Paxlovid mouth. To me, it’s like someone coated the inside of my mouth with anti-seize. To Berck it’s literally maddening. He calls the perpetual taste in his mouth “hot garbage water”. He begged me to buy him some hard candy.

We say we lose our sense of taste with Covid, but really we just lose our sense of smell. The tongue can still taste sweet, bitter, salt, sour, and umami. Ice cream tastes like sweet mucus, but noodles with a MSG flavor packet taste alright. We can also still sense spicy, so jalapeno potato chips are pretty good. Mint and cinnamon seem to also work on the spicy principle. Sour candy also tastes, because the tongue can still taste the sour and sweet in it.

So I went to the City Market website and selected one of each of everything under “hard candy”. I thought some protein with the night’s ramen might be nice, thus the rotisserie chicken. Today I put the carcass in a pot with water and turned the burner to high, then went downstairs.

Have you ever sent yourself an e-mail, say from your work account to your personal account, or just to save something or give yourself a reminder, and then your phone buzzes, and you immediately check it to see who’s e-mailing you something and realize it was yourself literally seconds ago? Yeah, I do that every single time. Well, I went back upstairs later and thought, what’s that smell? Oh, yeah. I’m boiling a chicken and that’s why I smell something.


Berck’s fever finally went away yesterday. I only had a fever one day, and I’m definitely feeling better each day (except for today’s migraine).

Day 8, Christmas Day

My migraine continued for a second day. We binged watched the new season of Letterkenny. I made matzo ball soup, and it was nice to eat something that wasn’t ramen. At some point in the afternoon I asked Berck if he had enough energy to go open presents. In the evening, I had enough energy to light the Hanukkah candles for the last night of Hanukkah. Berck mentioned euthanasia less.

Day 9

We both had the Monday off for the Christmas holiday. I made myself some Scottish breakfast tea and cheese eggs and I could taste them! It was the last day of Paxlovid. We were both ready for the diarrhea and nausea to be over.

Day 10

Tuesday. December 27. I made myself some popcorn. Berck hates the smell of popcorn, so I try to only make it in the summer when the windows are open. But he was downstairs working for the first time in weeks and didn’t notice.

Day 11.

Wednesday, December 28. We were both feeling better. For weeks, we’d been planning to fly on New Year’s weekend to Gulf Shores, Alabama for Berck’s mom’s 70th birthday bash. I contacted friends in Mississippi on Facebook to ask if we could stay with them on New Year’s Eve. As I’d been sharing our Covid progress also on Facebook, I probably should have opened with the fact that we were recovering.

Day 12

Thursday, December 29. I made popcorn. Berck NOTICED because he smelled it and complained. He asked how long I’d been making popcorn that week. We both tested negative on rapid tests.

Day 13

Friday, December 30. A multi pound bag of cinnamon candy was delivered by Amazon; Berck almost threw it in the garbage. Berck felt OK enough to drive down to the Meadow Lake Airport and get night current. He had to shovel snow to get the airplane out to the taxiway. We each took rapid tests again and still tested negative.

Day 14, New Year’s Eve

We flew to Mississippi and joined our friends for a little New Year’s Eve party. Our hosts served us some delicious looking food. I could kinda taste the stuffed jalapenos.

Day 15, New Year’s Day

We flew the rest of the way to Gulf Shores, making sure to take Sudafed so our ears didn’t explode with our continuing congestion. We went to the store and got lots of beer. I picked out some Southern Pecan, which I try to get every time I’m in the south. But when I cracked open a bottle, it tasted like Rolling Rock.

Day 17

My brother took me out to a brewery, which had a Schwarzbier on tap, which I was excited to try. Disappointingly, it tasted like Rolling Rock. I bought a can of it anyway to take home.

Day 21

I opened the can of Schwarzbier I’d bought at the brewery to drink while taking a long walk on the beach. And… it tasted fantastic!

The End

Rally for the Lane

17 October 2022 at 6:14 pm
by Berck

Photos are up in the gallery. Now that lives in the cloud (and even fronted by Cloudflare), the gallery should be reasonably fast. Even if still somewhat ugly and dated. I’d kind of abandoned it for awhile in favor of Google Photos because it was so slow, but I also hate that Google Photos doesn’t have a decent “here are all of my shared albums” front end. But it does have the ability to search photos with something other than whatever I might have tagged them with. I’ll try to migrate some of the Google Photo albums back to the Gallery. I’ll need to survey the photo-hosting landscape to see if there’s something more modern for self-hosted photos. On the other hand, it kind of fits with the whole aesthetic of the blog, which continues to run the hacked “theme” from the first version of WordPress. It’s like a time capsule at this point.

Another web hosting note: Google disabled support for Feedburner, which is what I’d been using for e-mail notifications. I migrated the subscriber list to a new tool only to discover after it sent out its first email that there are ads. Which is not acceptable. I’ll see if I can switch to locally generated email again without ads. Given the fact that isn’t particularly reputable, I’m unsure if I can manage to make it generate email that won’t just be tossed into your spam bucket.

The weather on the way to Nashville was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, cool temperatures, and even a tailwind the whole way. But the gods of General Aviation always seek to remind us that traveling cross-country in a Cherokee is not practical, so I should have been ready.

As I approached the El Dorado airport, I let Wichita approach know that I had it in sight, canceled IFR and set up for a midfield downwind entry to runway 2. An aircraft reported 5 miles south of the field, and I briefly worried they’d attempt a straight-in approach and conflict with my more-friendly midfield pattern entry. I needn’t have worried as they reported me insight and said they’d follow me in from a downwind entry of their own.

I came screaming onto downwind at 110 knots, because there was no one in front of me and 110 knots in a Cherokee is just like 250 knots in the jet. Or something. I pulled power to 1800 rpm to avoid cooling the engine too fast, and worked in some flaps as the airspeed dropped below 100. I kept it high and tight to make sure not to hold up the folks behind me. By the time I rolled out on final, I was high and still fast at 75 knots. Not a problem, because if a Cherokee is good at anything, it’s slowing down. I made sure the carb heat was on, even though the outside air temp showed 81F, and pulled the power to idle. Shortly after doing so, I realized that while the propeller was still windmilling, that the engine was *not* idling. I’d never had this happen before, and if you’d asked me, the flight instructor in me would have told you that you can’t tell if an engine quits on final when you’ve already got the power at idle.

This turns out to be false. I could absolutely tell, but if you’re slightly less attuned to the sounds/feels of your particular aircraft you might not be able to. Jonah, from the passenger seat for instance, did not notice the engine quit. I was in a fine position to land even with the prop windmilling, but my immediate instinct was two-fold: (1) keep that engine running in case you need it, and (2) did it *really* quit or am I imagining things? I shoved the throttle forward and after half a second, it restarted and produced power normally. Now, even higher, I went ahead and pulled it back to idle again to land. The engine quit again, and once I was in the flare, I was worried about being able to clear the runway and taxi back to the fuel pumps, so I added power again, and it restarted. Only, I couldn’t land like with power that, so I pulled it back to idle and let it die again.

After touching down, I managed to get clear of Runway 2 onto the crosswind runway, which would at least allow the folks behind me to land. As I turned off the runway, I added power too late to keep it running and it died completely. I was able to get it restarted with the starter, but taxiing in, it just wouldn’t run below about 1,800rpm. No amount of playing with the mixture made it happy.

My first thought was that this was related to the fact that I was running with automobile gasoline instead of avgas. It’s cheaper, lead-free, and my choice of fuel given that my plane came with the STC that makes it legal to run. But a couple of times before on very hot days, I’d had some trouble with fuel vaporization while waiting for takeoff. Even though the engine was cool and not hot, and it wasn’t a particularly hot day, I managed to convince myself that was the issue. So, once I got to the fuel pumps, I went ahead and filled one of the tanks with avgas, even though the only reason I’d decided to stop at El Dorado was the readily-available mogas. I still put the $1/gallon cheaper mogas in one wing, reasoning that it had never caused me trouble in the air before, and the other wing full of blue gas would eliminate the possibility that mogas was causing the problem.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, after refueling, the problem did not go away. I did a high-power runup for a few minutes to make sure I cycled through any mogas in the lines, but the engine still refused to run correctly below about 1,800 rpm. I could force it to run lower with a mixture sitting at near-cutoff and a throttle setting too-high for the desired RPM. I briefly considered that it didn’t seem to cause a problem at high power settings, so I should just continue to Nashville and try to get it repaired there. This is a stupid and potentially fatal line of reasoning, so I parked the plane out of the way on the ramp and pulled the cowl.

I first wanted to make sure there wasn’t a gaping intake manifold leak or something obvious causing the problem. I reasoned that it seemed a lot more like it was running rich than lean, and I started peering at the carburetor wondering where the idle mixture adjustments were and if maybe the float was stuck when a fellow wandered up and asked, “Do you need help?” he asked. “Is there a mechanic on the field?” to which he replied, “I am.”

He’d witnessed my unsuccessful attempts to get it to idle and immediately suggested a stuck carburetor float and suggested that whacking on the float bowl might dislodge it. This sounded very reasonable to me, only I had nothing with which to whack. He trotted off to his hangar and reappeared with an assortment of hammers.

We spent a while attempting percussive carburetor adjustments, starting the plane with no change, and re-attempting hammering. After a few times, we both agreed that wasn’t likely to fix the situation. I asked if he would disassemble the carburetor so that we could see if the float was stuck, or if there were some other similar problem. He politely refused, saying that his approach to carburetors was simply to replace them if they didn’t work. My approach to carburetors is to take them apart, clean them, and put them back together again which tends to solve everything wrong with them. And this carburetor was likely to be much, much simpler than the ones I’m used to disassembling. But I’m not allowed to work on my own FAA-certified airplane, because I’m not an FAA-certified mechanic.

My new mechanic called an aircraft parts shop in Wichita that said they could get a carburetor overnight. Wichita is sort of aviation central, with almost all of the U.S. based aircraft manufacturers based there, but still, this was lucky. I was prepared to have to rent a car and drive all day to Nashville.

Overall, it worked out much better than I would have imagine. I’d stopped in El Dorado a half-dozen times before and almost never saw another human being there, and here was a mechanic on demand who was able to fix my plane overnight! Things could have gone much worse. I asked the airport manager if I could take the courtesy car overnight. He said that normally wouldn’t be a problem at all, but there was a fly-in of sorts that evening and he wasn’t sure if it might be needed to shuttle folks to nearby hotels. He let us borrow it, but asked that we come back in a few hours to see if anyone needed hotel rides.

The hotel available with the fewest credit card points turned out to be a disaster. Both rooms they attempted to give us had smoke alarms chirping every 60 seconds. He tried to offer us a third room, but I refused. Normally, it’s impossible to cancel a room like this, and smoke alarms chirping sounded like I might need to work to make a case. But fortunately, I’d reserved a room with a king bed and they didn’t have any of those available. I don’t mind sleeping in a room with a queen bed at all, but this is the sort of excuse that easily gets me out of the reservation. It worked, and we moved across the street to the Super 8, which was clearly owned by the same people, but was $10 more expensive, seemed quite a bit nicer and had no chirping smoke alarms.

We hung out at the fly-in for a little bit where a taco truck provided dinner. We didn’t stick around for the screening of Airplane on a giant projection screen set up in one of the hangars, and the airport manager let us keep the car overnight.

The plane was ready to go the next afternoon… I recommend refueling in El Dorado.


9 May 2022 at 10:07 pm
by Berck

I asked Jonah if she wanted to come to Austin with me for work. I wasn’t being all that serious about it, but she was. Until she checked the weather and discovered that the temperature was mid-80s. That was weeks ago. This week, the week that I’m here, the high is at least 95 every day. Humans apparently voluntarily decide to live here. I told her it was no big deal–they have air conditioning. Joke’s on me, my employer hosted the welcome happy hour on a rooftop bar.

After the work thing, I wandered around the streets of Austin by myself. I passed the Floppy Disk Repair Company on my way to a promising place with live music called Shiner. It stopped being promising when I got to the door and was greeted with rap. I was going to just go back to my hotel, when I decided that the Floppy Disk Repair Company must be a bar, since even in the days when it was relevant, there wasn’t much in the way of repairing floppy disks. The well-groomed guy outside told me I couldn’t go in without the code, and gestured at a numeric keypad. I shrugged and kept walking… “BUT!” he said, and I stopped and turned around. “If you tell me a joke, I’ll let you in.” I thought for a minute, pretty sure that I had absolutely no interest in going in, and decided to tell him my best joke. “What’s purple and commutes?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “An Abelian grape!” He actually did a good job pretending to laugh, then let me in. I wondered if he’d have had the same reaction to the dead baby varient.

There was only one couple inside a very dark bar. The music was some sort of innocuous ska, and the bar stool reasonably comfortable. I was presented with a menu of very fancy cocktails but ordered a scotch. The bartender with his shirt unbuttoned to the navel poured me a Laphroaig, noticed that there wasn’t really a whole second pour left in the bottle and poured me the rest. I thanked him and spent the next hour watching fairly normal bar things happen and walked back to my hotel.

My hotel is… weird. I love that they describe it as spacious because it is exactly the opposite of spacious. It’s the first hotel room I’ve been in outside of Europe where the toilet is in the shower. It’s nice, but small. Which is fine, since it’s not like I’m going to spend much time here.

New Hampshire

13 November 2018 at 8:00 pm
by Berck

I’ve managed to talk my way out of coming to New Hampshire so far, but most of the rest of the competent folks at work have put in their shift. I reluctantly agreed, not because of any dislike for New Hampshire, but because the purpose of the work trip seems to me to have little value.

I’ve been saying for awhile that I’ve been to every state in the U.S. except for Alaska, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. I was able to come up with a concrete example for every state except New Hampshire. My airline flew into MHT, so it seemed likely I’d done that at some point, but my logbook says I haven’t.

So now I’ve been to New Hampshire. It’s a weird state to have missed, but being an airline pilot is a weird way to see the country.

For whatever reason, the folks who went a year ago managed to go during prime leaf changing season, but the event this year was a few weeks later and the few remaining leaves are brown. The weather is not hot, which is good, but of course I’ve missed a big snow storm at home. It always snows when I leave home. (Home. I have a home, now. I don’t think I’d have said that a decade ago.)

As I watched an airline pilot go through a known crewmember checkpoint, I wondered if flying for a living is any better than it was a decade ago. There was only one known crewmember checkpoint in the country at the time I got furloughed. The airlines are now more desperate, and the pay is slightly better, but I’m not sure the quality of life has improved at all. My biggest complaints were that 5-on, 2-off is a stupid schedule for anyone, but is especially asinine for commuting pilots.

So my complaint wasn’t at all about travel. I like travel, though I hate flying in the back of airliners. The old Southwest biddies managed to keep the cabin temperature at about 78F on the way over, and I find that sort of heat in a closed airline cabin to be claustrophobic-inducing.

I miss geographic displacement. It’s good for the soul. But spending all day in this building is not:

This is my coworker unboxing our stuff. People I work with make questionable decisions regularly. That’s a box that was shipped on a pallet. It contained a single 4U rackmount unit that could have been shipped via UPS had it been packed in, you know, a normal box. The room is a lot bigger, but we’re under NDA’s so I had to make sure that I didn’t photograph anything anyone might care about.

I spent 10 hours in there yesterday, mostly working remotely and offering moral support to my coworker who dealt with other people. Our particular product, for some reason, has fans that at full volume produce noise levels comparable to a 737 at takeoff. I spent much of the morning figuring out how to throttle them back, but even so, the noise was bad. About 15 minutes before we left, I experienced piercing tinnitus unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I actually thought someone else had turned on something louder than our box, before I realized that it was all in my head. It persisted for an hour before it finally started to fade. I was worried it was going to be permanent, and I don’t think I’d have been able to live with it. So today I brought my noise-canceling headphones.

We managed to get what we needed to get done a little early today and headed out shortly before 3pm. I gave Gopal the choice of visiting a submarine or heading up the coast. He picked heading up the coast.

I managed to get the second-best rental car I’ve ever had by pure luck. I always choose “compact”, but more often than not I get “upgraded” to some American barge. I usually argue when this happens, and the rental companies never understand why I don’t think it’s an upgrade. I didn’t get upgraded, and was shocked to discover that my car was a loaded Ford Focus hatchback. It’s the same basic car as Jonah’s, only with more comfortable leather seats, heated seats, power seats, sunroof, heated steering wheel, navigation system, fog lights. It has a better turning radius, more comfortable suspension and more pleasant interior that Jonah’s car.

It’s also grey, (the second-worst color for a car), has a terrible automatic transmission (actually, it’s one of the best automatics I’ve ever used, but all automatics are terrible), isn’t very fast, doesn’t make a very good noise, is front wheel drive, exhibits a fair amount of torque steer for not actually producing any torque, and did I mention it has an automatic transmission?

The best part about it is that I know where everything is, and the second best part is that it has Android Auto. Which means I don’t need to use the terrible ford-supplied navigation system and can, instead, have google maps on a giant screen where it’s convenient. I don’t know how anyone ever found their way around New Hampshire without GPS.

I’m taking some amusing joy in knowing that I get to drive around in a Ford Focus rental while Jonah is driving around in a GMC cruise ship waiting for her Ford Focus to get fixed.

Here’s some photos.

I’ve always thought Kennebunkport was one of the more ridiculous place names and was surprised to drive through it accidentally.

My plan was to meander up to Portland, getting there about the time it got dark and find a good dinner. It gets dark at about 4:45pm here this time of year, so I misjudged by a bit, and ended up hopping over to I-95 after it did, since there didn’t seem much point in driving the winding beach roads in the dark.

Kelsey eventually returned my phone call. I’d called him because I knew he’d have a good recommendation for a place to eat in Portland, since he’d just spent weeks there. He did, and it was fantastic.

Belgian fries fried in duck fat.

Duck poutine. Fries fried in duck fat, duck confit, duck gravy, and a duck egg sunny side up.

I second his recommendation of Duckfat in Portland.

Horn OK Please

11 March 2018 at 10:46 am
by Berck

India is a mess.

I tend to be more sensitive to sensory input than most people, and India is constantly in a state of assaulting all my senses.

India is absolutely full of smells, and almost all of them are not pleasant. The streets smell of vehicular exhaust, rotting garbage and urine. The inside of most places seem to be heavily artificially scented with perfumes and incense, none of which I find pleasant. Restaurants are the only places that actually smell good. I find even the inside of my hotel room to be quite unpleasant for a few minutes until I adjust.

It’s hot and sticky. I am poorly adapted to hot climates. I sweat constantly, everything gets sticky and I just want to take a shower. I’ve taken 3 today. I set the thermostat to 19 degrees in hotel room, a temperature that it’s only able to reach when the sun has set. It mostly hovers around 21.5, which is still cooler than whatever passes for room temperature in India.

And then there’s the noise. Here’s a video I shot on my walk this evening. I took it at an average intersection in Bangalore that wasn’t particularly busy and at a time of day with overall light traffic.

At first listen, it seems likely completely arbitrary and capricious use of the horn. Sadly, it’s far worse than that. In India, they actually believe that it’s polite to honk as you’re passing someone in order to let them know you’re there. The back of every single truck has a hand-painted slogan that reads some variation of, “Horn OK Please”, or “Sound OK Horn”. They are actually requesting that people honk at them so they know that they’re there. This is completely insane in a modern city, and is mostly insane anywhere else. It’s the driver’s responsibility to check his mirrors, not the overtaker’s responsibility to notify the driver that he’s passing.

Some parts of India have realized that this is a problem and have tried to address the problem by banning the phrase on trucks but it’s such engrained behavior that I’m not sure it can be changed. Rickshaw drivers tend to suffer hearing loss at disturbing rates. Surely someone must think, “Gee, it would be a lot nicer to be a person in India if I didn’t have to listen to this honking all the time.”

I can only presume that there are traffic laws India, but it doesn’t appear that they’re obeyed. It makes sense that they refuse to pay any attention to the painted lane markers because the roads can’t handle the traffic. It makes sense that they ignore the absurdly slow posted speed limits. It probably doesn’t make sense that they drive the wrong way on a divided highway because they can’t be bothered to find the next break in the median. Overall, though, I would rate your average Indian driver as far more competent than the average American driver. They pay attention, have excellent situational awareness, and don’t take up unnecessary space.

I think the “Horn OK Please,” mentality reflects the general problems I have with India. I’m not sure if there’s any city planning at all, or if anyone stops and thinks before building or modifying a structure. There’s trash all over the place, but there are teams of street sweepers on the highways. That is, women with small brooms, who push the trash into a pile. I’m not sure that the piles ever get picked up, but it seems that given the city is only about 25% covered in debris piles that some of them must get picked up some times.

The infrastructure is generally a mess. Here I am, walking along one of the better sidewalks in a wealthy part of Bangalore:

After I get past that, I encounter:

From what I gather, the local government in power in Karnataka has decided to launch a massive bit of infrastructure overhaul just before the elections. I’m not sure it’s going to engender the good will they’re hoping for. Here was the scene outside our restaurant this afternoon:

But even if things are trash-free, not dug up… what is going on here? This is typical. What is in this building, anyway? Is the place I go for a lampshade the same place I go for a kingfisher? Is the whole place the Brooklyn Tap, or is that upstairs? Maybe the lamp shades are on the roof?

I do like my hotel. There are some strange things, like the security. In addition to the xray/magnetometer dance every time I come and go, the elevators scan my room key, but poorly. The bed is a bit hard. The light switches are confusing, and everything turns off if you don’t have a room key inserted. But what’s best is the shower. It’s definitely the best shower I’ve had in a hotel room. I should post a picture of it. Maybe tomorrow. I’m sure that the water saving laws in the U.S. would prevent such an awesome shower.

In short, I’m glad I’m getting to see (at least this little part of) India, but I have no intention of spending my own money to buy a plane ticket to get back here. And I didn’t even get to the fact that I can’t walk anywhere without being harassed.