Thursday, May 24, 2012


I went to Los Angeles and back twice within two weeks. Once by train and once by plane. That was fascinating because you realize just how different the perspective is between the modes of transportation. The train gives you a sense of the vast distance. However, since it was a clear day and I had a window seat, the plane gives a sense just how much the great American desert was shaped by water. I love flying over the southwest US! The terrain is utterly breathtaking from the air. I still prefer the train, though. Air travel never leaves me feeling relaxed and happy like train travel does.

If you find yourself in LA, here are some recommendations:
  1. Eat at a restaurant called Lemonade: Healthy, fresh, and utterly delicious. I would also recommend Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica and Poquito Mas in Burbank.
  2. Hike in Griffith Park. It is not strenuous hiking, but make sure you bring good sneakers and water.
  3. Avoid the 405. The stories are true. It is a tedious nightmare even at non-rush hour times. The other freeways were no worse than Austin at rush hour and the city streets are surprisingly easy to navigate.
  4. Expect people to run red lights and then honk at you for being a careful driver. Those folks are a bit impatient. However, they do let you over if you have your signal on.
  5. Talk to people. While I love Texas and her people dearly, I think LA residents may give Texans a run for their money in terms of friendliness.
  6. Stay at Safari Inn in Burbank ( or Vagabond Inn in Pasadena ( I was particularly pleased with Vagabond Inn seeing as it was the nicest $70 hotel I've stayed at anywhere in the US. Clean, secured hallway at night, free parking, free wireless, free breakfast, and walking distance to lots of restaurants.
  7. Visit the Cal-Tech campus if you are in Pasadena. It may not be worth a trip on its own if you are on the opposite side of town, but it is a beautiful campus. Also, if you peek in the windows as you walk around you get to see labs that the rest of us can only dream of playing in.
  8. Don't listen to the reviews for Corner Cottage in Burbank. The breakfast burritos aren't really all that. It was fun to watch them make them in mass, but pretty much any breakfast burrito I've got in Austin has been better.
  9. LA is cheap to visit. Hotels are reasonable, food is cheap, activities and entertainment are often free. I'd always heard it was expensive, but aside from real estate, it is very reasonable.
  10. Use the Metro Rail. It is easy to use and quite efficient. I went from the airport to Pasadena which involves transferring to 4 different lines. Even with the transfers it was easy and fast. The trains run frequently and there is enough to do within walking distance of the stops that there is really no need to rent a car if you are just going to LA for fun.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


We took the train to and from Los Angeles this past week. It was awesome! I love trains, so I may be a little biased. If you have never taken a long trip by train, you should try it at least once. Here are some tips:
  • Book a roomette if you are making an overnight trip. They are great. During the day you have two chairs facing one another and at night they convert to bunk beds (surprisingly comfortable beds at that). There is a shower and three bathrooms in each sleeper car. All of your meals are included. You have plenty of privacy when you want it and your own temperature controls. Coach looked pretty rough by comparison. I used to travel coach on Amtrak as a kid, but never overnight. It did not look fun.
  • The dining car food is pretty good. They feed you plenty, so leave the snacks at home. I would bring a large water bottle and consider refilling it or buying a new one at the stops. I was more thirsty than usual and the bottles of water they give you are tiny and disappear pretty quick (our sleeper car attendant started rationing them). There is perfectly drinkable tap water, but the way it is pressurized means that more water ends up on you and the floor than in a cup or water bottle (and regular sized bottles won't fit under the spigot).
  • Get out and walk around at the "smoke stops". It feels good to stretch your legs. Don't stray too far because they will leave you. We heard stories from our attendant about near death experiences of people clinging to the side of a moving train. The station at Tuscon is great both inside and out, so definitely check that out if you stop there.
  • You don't need to bring much to do. You get three meals a day where you sit with other people and chat (it is mandatory to share tables at meals). It was fun to meet new people from all walks of life. We met a reporter, a professor, a lead dealer, a freelance writer, and a copper mine blast technician. They were all nice and I really enjoyed learning about their professions, where they were from, and where they were going. I finished one book, but other than that enjoyed the scenery and talking.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Birth Control

Kids: I love them! I enjoy meeting other people's kids. I wish there were more kids in the family to play with at holiday gatherings. However, there are so many wonderful things about not having kids. Young people out there, think long and hard before you decide to have children. Take responsible steps to ensure you only have children when you want to.

Lots of people talk about how wonderful having kids is. Some people even get incredibly upset when they can't have kids. Let me point out but a few of the great things about not having kids:

  1. You have a lot more free time.
  2. You have more money to do fun things.
  3. You can watch dark comedies whenever you want.
  4. You can wake up and go to bed whenever you feel like it (within the constraints of your job).
  5. If you don't feel like cooking, you can have wine and cheese for dinner.
  6. You can have a smaller house.
  7. You can have 2-seater vehicles.
  8. You have much less responsibility.
  9. You have much less stress.
  10. You feel bad when you neglect your cat, but they can't send you to jail for it.
  11. Your house stays cleaner.
  12. You can be alone with your thoughts on a regular basis.
  13. Your carbon footprint is smaller (if that matters to you).
  14. You are not contributing to overpopulation (if you think that is an issue).
  15. You don't have to deal with anyone until after you've had coffee.
  16. You have less laundry.
  17. You never have to deal with head lice.
  18. You never have to deal with morning sickness (or other unspeakable horrors of pregnancy).
  19. If you are married, there is much less to argue about.
  20. You get to choose how you want to make the world a better place with the time and money that would have gone into raising children (not all reasons are selfish!).
This isn't an anti-kid rant. This is just some encouragement to find happiness in yourself first. Children can't complete you (neither can a spouse). You will only be truly content when you can be happy with yourself.

Whatever choice you make on this issue, just make sure it is your choice. You can find happiness on either path.