Train kept a Rolling

Having rejoined the working world, I am now lucky enough to be working for a company that it makes total sense to take the VTA Lightrail in to the office. I live about 1.1 miles from the Cottle station, a 20 minute walk from home. Then 50 minutes to get to Tasman station, and a 5 minute walk to the office.

Since driving the 18 miles takes between 40 minutes and an hour, and the train gives me a low stress travel versus the stress of stop and go traffic.

Over the last 7 weeks, I have learnt the following.

  1. The trains have wifi. Cool, and it is free. But it appears to be a single cellular connection. Ok to surf Facebook, but it is too inconsistent for logging into VPN. That’s OK, I prefer the solitude and reading my Kindle to working.
  2. The first five and a half weeks, not once was there a fare enforcement officer. I was beginning to think that it would be low risk to not swipe the Clipper Card and pay the fine if caught. Then in the last week and a half, there have been 5 verifications.
  3. Apparently, if you want to score some pot, near the Santa Clara stop is the place to do it. It seems like every day I see some dealing going on on the sidewalk or in that parking lot.
  4. It is (in general) worth timing my commute to catch the limited express. The express saves 6 stops, and about 10 minutes.
  5. $2.00 a trip is a pretty good deal. I figure that if I would drive, 34-35 miles round trip, at 21mpg and $3 a gallon (Stewie needs premium), that is about the same cost to drive and ride the train.
  6. Some smugness, to know that I am doing even a little bit to reduce my carbon footprint. Of course, I wipe that out by driving a sports car for fun.

Yep, it is a pretty good deal.

An aside: Taking the train is convincing me that one day I need to bum around downtown San José and take pictures. St. James park, the post office, SJSU, victorian homes, and others are begging to be captured.

NCIS at 13

A week or so ago, the magic icon on Netflix appeared, “New Episodes” for NCIS. Cool. Season 12 left with a cliff hangar of Agent Gibbs being shot by a child member of “The Calling” and I needed closure.

So, we tucked into some binge watching of the latest season of NCIS, re-watching the final episode of season 12 to get in the groove.

What a disappointment. It was a pretty weak closure of the cliff hangar (di Nozzo shoots the master mind in China), and then it got into the absurd. Seriously, they are called in to a massacre on a quasi “Doctors without Boarders” camp in South Sudan, and find out that the missing doctor is the husband of Jean Benoit? Are you fucking kidding me? How cheesy is that plot twist.

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What I learnt from Forza Motorsports 6

Pretty much the saving grace of the XBoxOne is Forza Motorsports 6 (ok, the latest Doom is pretty cool too.)  I splurged for my birthday, and bought the 6th version of this, and I was not disappointed.

VW Corrado from ForzaI began playing back on my old Xbox360, with Forza 2, and was hooked. The cars, the tracks, the physics were what made the game. Each major release upping the ante, making it more realistic, and thus more enjoyable. Ah, the modded VW Corrado I had in Forza 3, a joy.

Of course, it isn’t perfect, even when I bought a steering wheel it was a bit arcade like (and when I moves from Tucson, I sold that at a Garage sale). It is an Arcade game, but it still has enough realism to make it fun.

The 6th version brings the best rendering of the cars. Tracks that are both gorgeous and accurate. It adds weather and even night racing (the Nordschliffe at Nurburgring at night is haunting), and tacing in the rain makes all tracks challenging.

Things I have learnt:

  • Audi’s with their 4 wheel drive make navigating the courses enjoyable. As expected, the all wheel drivetrain gives a benefit in handling, all else being equal.
  • A race spec Honda S2000 is a monster, and hard to control. While in street trim it is a pleasure to drive, it is not for the faint of heart in race trim, getting squirrelly easy.
  • Hypercars are fun. I have (I won it in a spin) a Bugatti Veryon, and hooboy that is a fun car to drive. One day, I must buy (in Forza) a Koenigsegg, or Pagani. A Ferrari seems so mundane next to one of those hand built beauties.
  • The ‘Drivatars‘ (avatars of other racers that provide AI to the competitors) are fun. You see some really bad driving. Then you realize that you drive just as bad. I am sure that the drivatar based on my driving is as much of an asshole as I am racing directly.
  • While the simulation and physics are good, you still are given a lot of latitude to screw up and recover. Things that in real life would be race ending or even life threatening. Nothing like diving under a pack of cars in a tight apex turn and using them as bumpers to get around the corner (and pick up a bunch of places).
  • I should have bought the Porsche add-on package. It seemed expensive at $20, but as I see their catalog when buying cars for races, I am wistful. Sigh.
  • American heavy metal muscle cars are shitty to drive fast on the track. GT500 or Shelby Mustangs are just awful at going around corners.
  • I think I would really like to drive a WTCC Honda Civic. About $300K but it is an amazing piece of kit on the track.

Summary

Ok, I guess I shouldn’t be so harsh on the Xbox One. But the truth is I do mostly play Forza 6 on it. I am also able to play some of my old Xbox 360 games (the Namco Arcade Classics are fun on it too).

Hated Things: Whole Foods Market

As we were running out of the probiotic that we use for our greyhound (Jarodophilus brand) I needed to procure some more. When we lived in Arizona, there were several purveyors that I could go to that had it on the shelf.

Not so since we moved to California. The only market that seems to have it consistently is Whole Foods.

Groan. I cringe every time I have to venture a foot into that place. Perhaps it is the pretentiousness, the “we are better” atmosphere? Or perhaps it is the emphasis on organic produce and how much better it is (except it isn’t, and in fact the “approved” pesticides that they use are pretty awful. Or it is the row after row of homeopathy and naturopathy woo that they peddle to the new age fools that shop there.

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Exterior Detailing – The Products

The last installment of the Detailing Files focused on getting the exterior paint ready to be polished, by a very thorough washing using Dawn instead of a milder automotive specific detergent.

Now that you have a clean paint surface, mostly wax free (as is evidenced by there being virtually no beading of the water in the final rinse), you can begin the restoration of the finish.

This is typically a four step process (or five if you need to use a medium cut compound).

  1. Clay bar the surface – using detailing clay to remove embedded contaminants from the paint.
  2. Cutting Compound – Assuming that you have some fine surface scratches or marring to remove, a fine (or medium in really bad cases, followed by a fine) will get the surface ready for polishing
  3. Polishing Compound – this removes buffing marks and “swirls” in the finish to leave a smooth, clear surface
  4. Waxing or Sealant – A high quality carnuba wax coat, or a polymer sealant to provide protection to your finish.

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