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OCTOBER 8, 2008   

Not digital...or maybe sort of?

Close-up of writing in journal lined for musicEven though I spend much of my time in a digital world, like this website, there's a part of me that likes the feel of paper and the look—not to mention the immediacy—of handwriting. At a bookstore in LA I saw the usual rack of Moleskine notebooks, expensive but nice with their leather covers and elastic bands to hold them closed.

The one I bought is ruled with the musical staff, groups of five lines. I got this rather than a standard ruled or plain notebook because I thought the musical ruling might cause me to write more melodically or more rhythmically. Seemed reasonable to think that somehow the physical structure of the page would affect my writing.

After 12 hours it's too early to say for sure, but I have found that I'm grouping thoughts, one per staff(?). Interesting that this non-digital approach actually seems to yield the sort of thought snippets that work well on the web, where long run-on paragraphs don't get read.

I even though that I could go back with a color highlighter and color-code certain topics or categories to make them easier to spot on the page. In other words, to make them more scannable in web-speak.

In a sense I almost feel that I've come full circle, with a non-digital form of writing content for the web. We'll see how this works out.

Union Station and the Coast Starlight

Map of LA area showing traffic concentration in different colorsI set the alarm for 6 a.m., which gave me time for a shower, coffee and a sticky bun, and two and a half hours to get from Mary's house in Westminster to Union Station in downtown LA.

The dreaded rush hour traffic was only stop and go in a couple of spots, pretty much as the Google map on my iPhone indicates here with red lines.

The 39-minute trip took me an hour and a half. It was great—I could stay calm and cool all the way. No repeat of the road rage incident a couple days ago.


Interior of LA Union Station waiting roomUnion Station is one of the great old train stations that used to grace all major cities, but the difference here is that Los Angeles has maintained (or renovated) it to its original glory. The stucco exterior and wood/tile interior are gorgeous.

After leaving LA, one of the glories of the Coast Starlight is that it hugs the coast for much of the route, giving views of the ocean that you can't get from the highway.

Here we're getting close to San Luis Obispo.

View of surf and oceanThe water and surf were beautiful, of course, but I also enjoyed the reds, yellows and greens of the vegetation growing in the sandy soil along the water's edge.

This picture doesn't do justice to the restricted but beautiful rainbow of colors in the plants and shrubs on the hillside.

Rows of vegetables stretching to horizonYou ride by mile after mile after mile of farms with mathematically laid out rows of vegetables, frequently alternating with rectangles of dark brown tilled soil. This is a huge living factory that produces much of the vegetable crop that we find in our grocery stores in the Midwest and the rest of the country.

No picturesque family farms with cows, chicken and an old John Deere tractor here. These are giant industrial operations which happen to produce things like lettuce, tomatoes, and the other things that end up on our burgers and in our salad bowls.

Books by Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan that I talked about earlier give a great explanation of how this system works—and why it's not good for us or the earth itself.

Oil wells with mountains in the backgroundIt's hard to get away from "Drill, baby, drill" along the California coast. In Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Santa Barbara and lots of other places you see on the horizon hazy silhouettes of offshore oil rigs.

When I parked my car on a Huntington Beach side street I was amazed to see working oil wells right next to houses on three of the four corners of the intersection of 2nd and Walnut.

Somewhere north of Paso Robles we passed through a quite large field filled with dozens of insect-like wells pumping steadily.

Train at station in Salinas, CAA brief station stop at Salinas shortly after sunset. We're running pretty close to on time, meaning I'll be getting off in Emeryville around 10 p.m.

The train has three coaches, a lounge car, diner, parlor car, at least two sleepers and a baggage car, maybe one or two others. It makes for a pretty impressive sight.

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