Sunday, December 18, 2016

I am not a former KGB.

Several days ago, I read someone’s blog which said that Donald Trump is destroying America’s linguistic infrastructure. And in defense of our linguistic infrastructure we ought to write down some words, every day. Or the words might be destroyed or forgotten due to Donald Trump.

I have some words today.
I am not a former KGB. You are probably not former KGB either. But, imagine what it must be like to be a former KGB. Imagine the delicious irony of seeing America’s Left recruiting the CIA to subvert a presidential election in the United States!  (Please, CIA, convince the electors to vote for our candidate! Because secret evidence of Russia doing something vaguely bad!) 

So very delicious!

“If you care about the country enough to be angry at the prospect of election-meddling, you should be terrified of the prospect of military tensions with Russia based on hidden evidence. You need not look too far back in recent history to find an example of when wrongly blaming a foreign government for sponsoring an attack on the U.S. has tremendously backfired.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Expedition to Christmastown 2016

It's that time a year again, when, we, like Leonard Nimoy, always in search of something, search for Christmastown.

The last time I searched for Christmastown was in 2013.  In those days, the train to Christmastown started in Watsonville and headed north on the tracks to a magical and mysterious location near the Buena Vista landfill.

this is not the train to christmas town 
this is not the train to christmastown

This year the Train to Christmastown is not called the Train to Christmastown at all. It's called The Polar Express. You get on the train at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in your pajamas,

you rock me like a hurricane #1
you rock me like a hurricane #1

and ride the train to the north pole to meet Santa Claus and his elves. Where the North Pole is located in/near/around New Brighton Beach State Park.

looks like a high tide
looks like high tide

And just like in 2013, I did not buy a ticket for the Train to Christmastown.  I would buy a ticket to a Metalachi themed holiday train, but that's not what the SCCRTC is selling us.  Instead, I parked at the parking lot near the beach,

China Beach
China Beach

and putting one foot in front of the other, I walked the train tracks down the coast to what I hoped to find was Christmastown.

cut eucalyptus
cut eucalyptus

I was reasonably confident I wouldn't get run over by a train while walking on the track on the first weekend of December, because, the Polar Express was canceled for safety reasons.  Now, it's not really clear if the train was canceled because of genuine concern for the safety of the pajama-clad passengers of the train, or by some bureaucratic snafu for failing to file the correct paperwork with the Federal Railroad Administration (Thanks Obama!).

following the track to christmastown
following the track to christmastown

The sadly hilarious yelp reviews from the last weekend in November suggested that there were some issues.

Nicole L says, "This was the worst experience ever... The scenery was pretty bad as the train when through mostly trailer parks and the train was rocking from side to side."

Meghan P. says, "When Santa did show up at the very end, he couldn't even interact with the kids because the train was rocking so violently from side-to-side almost the entire ride that he was about to fall over. The rocking of the train from side-to-side was for almost the whole hour long train ride. It was not just a slight rocking, but so much rocking that you physically had to hold onto the table to not crash into a window or your kid. It was uncomfortable and not worth the amount of $$ we paid."

eucalyptus litter
eucalyptus litter

Daffy L. says, "Yes, the train rocked somewhat but I cannot think of one tourist train that has a perfectly smooth ride. And it was certainly smoother than the disgraceful roads in the region. "

Laura G. says, "There were no singing elves. Santa seemed drunk and was not interactive. The train was rocking so much that my chair's legs kept lifting off of the floor. Santa and the waiters kept falling and one worker in a black shirt fell on my sister who is 8 months pregnant!"

There's so much going on about fake news in the news these days.  (Rigged elections. WMDs in Iraq. Truthers. Birthers. Moon Landings.  The usual stuff).  There's something about these reviews that doesn't seem quite right. It reminds me of one time where I watched a documentary about a different expedition to a possibly mythical location or creature, Incident at Loch Ness with Zak Penn and Werner Herzog.  I watched the DVD and then eagerly logged onto Netflix to read the reviews, only to think that many of the reviews might have written by Zak Penn and his buddies using multiple fake accounts.

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Is it possible? That all the reviews about rocking side to side were written by the nimby's at Trail Now?

Eventually I walked far enough that I though I might see something.  Could it possibly be Christmastown? Or is it a homeless encampment?

is that christmastown? or a homeless encampment?
is that christmastown? or a homeless encampment?

Oh my god! It's Christmastown!

Santa's sleigh next to the clock tower
Santa's sleigh next to the clock tower

It's Christmastown!

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This is Santa's thrown room. The other chair is for his elf side-kick.

Santa's throne room!
Santa's throne room!

deflated blowup reindeer
deflated blowup reindeer

candycane at christmastown
candycane at christmastown

When I made my way back from Christmastown, I was slightly sneaky, and took side trail to the tracks, and I found that I wasn't the only tourist in search of Christmastown that weekend.

Tourists walk the tracks. In search of Christmas Town
Tourists walk the tracks. In search of Christmas Town

The next weekend I visited the boardwalk, where you board the train that takes you to Christmastown.

hot dog on a stick
hot dog on a stick

across the trestle to Christmastown
across the trestle to Christmastown

to see the recently FRA  approved Polar Express leave the boardwalk to Christmastown

climbing the train to christmastown
climbing the train to christmastown

the squeaking means quality!
the squeaking means quality!

Maybe the train made it to Christmastown. Maybe the train made it back from Christmastown.

The complete flickr set of photos of the expedition to Christmastown is here:

Monday, December 12, 2016

Santa Cruz Holiday Parade 2016.

some photo highlights from the Santa Cruz Holiday Parade 2016.

Happy Howlidays
happy HOWLidays

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seems like a nice dog


Santa Cruz Derby Girls
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Mr. Butterfly
mr butterfly

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We heart Gateway School

we heart gateway school

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cookie baking
cookie baking

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high five! Santa Claus!

girl scouts


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food not bombs
food not bombs


ride it like you stole it
ride it like you stole it!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hogwarts Derby Cup 2016 hosted by Santa Cruz Derby Groms

This is a Hogwarts Derby Cup, a Hogwarts themed derby tournament.

This is a map of Hogwarts:

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The tournament features four teams.

the Ravenclaws

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the Glycerins

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the Puffinstuffs

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and the Gryffindoors

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The game is played in the normal way, but every once in a while a wizard jam occurs, which is played by special wizard rules. The choice of which wizard rule to play by is determined by the sorting hat.

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A list of the wizard rules.
  1. clockwise jam.  A jam is played by the normal WFTDA rules, but clockwise instead of counter clockwise.
  2. overtime jam.  A jam is played by using the overtime jam rules of the WFTDA.  The jam goes the full two minutes. There is no lead jammer. Both jammers score on the first pass instead of the second pass.
  3. +2 super blockers.  The weekend prior to the Hogwarts Cup, I traveled to see the WFTDA championship tournament.  There were many instances during that tournament where all the blockers on both teams were playing defense and no offense. And I wished more than once that there were some blockers available that could play offense. This wizard rule partially addresses that wish.  Both teams field skaters as usual, plus two "super blockers" that wear sideways pivot helmet covers.  The super blockers obey the usual rules for derby except they are exempt from the WFTDA pack definition rules. They can play offense or defense or harass the opposing jammer without having to pay attention to where the pack is. And since I shoot with shorter focal length lenses than what is typical for roller derby, these jams tended to produce photos with more skaters filling the frame than most.
  4. blockers freeze.  The refs yell "freeze" every thirty seconds and they have to freeze (and let the opposing jammers go by) for ten seconds.
  5. broom flight class.  This is an old fashioned match race.  Jammer vs jammer (no blockers).  Whoever finished three laps before the other wins the jam and scores five points.  And they have to do it while carrying pool-noodle brooms between their legs.

 some photo highlights!

this is what wizards eat: levitating cupcakes that you have to snatch out of the air.

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these are the broomsticks


some broomstick flight school!

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Lord Moldemort

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 some clockwise skating

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also the jam timers and some of the refs used their "wizard sticks" for officiating.

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more highlights!

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If your name is Evil Alice, the sorting hat will probably place you on the Slytherin team.

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all the photos can be found on flickr here:

and on zenfolio (for prints) here: