## My kingdom for a clean pair of clean socks

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 3:05 am

Some of the kids on the train seem to sleep the whole damn time. Not me. I put in many solid hours of programming, which made me happy. The train was delayed by six hours near the Arizona border due a trespasser on the tracks in the middle of the night. They didn’t go into any detail, but he may have gotten squashed. All the train staff were out there in the desert with their flashlights. We got stuck several times later due to air pressure hoses becoming disconnected. These midwest trains are monster lumbering machines.

As a result, we cruised into Chicago at 9:30pm instead of 3:45pm. The skyscrapers were a welcoming sight. I was out of food, very low on phone credit, and down to my last nine dollars in cash. I was heartily looking forward to Amtrak organizing some sort of a lay-over in a flea-bag hotel, going out for a drink and generally relaxing and getting myself sorted out with some quality time in the city the next morning.

To my dismay, I found myself on board the Lake Shore Limited train bound for New York within ninety seconds of detraining from the Southwest Chief train. Bollocks! Being a late-comer, I got the last available double seat at the front of the carriage with no seatback tray, no window, and directly under the bright light that is never turned off.

I made my bed. Now I’ve got to sleep in it. This time I put all my crap on the seat, put up the foot rests and inserted myself underneath. It was a little tight and I couldn’t turn over. Breakfast and dinner consisted of my last packet of trail mix and a two dollar cup of coffee. Lunch was the end of a stale chewy loaf of pumpernickel bread, some very floppy celery and peanut butter. It’s not all bad. Here is one of the algorithms I’ve got to solve:

Given a sequence of pairs of points,
(xi, ai), (xi, bi), where xi < xi+1 and ai <= bi, for i = 1,…, n
find the values ti with ai <= ti <= bi, where the path
(x1, t1), (x2, t2), …, (xn, tn)
is shortest.

Once again, there were these strange Amish milling around on the train. Some of the men had hooks in their jackets instead of buttons, but I don’t think it’s necessarily to do with decoration. The women wear these elaborate old-fashioned looking maid’s dresses which, if you look carefully, are held together with pins. Not safety pins. Actual pins. Ouch!

The mobile phone credit is down to the last three dollars. Who knew it burns up credit when people phone in? I got a sales call from a Bobcad sales guy. He must have got the number via my attendance at SolidWorkWorld. He didn’t seem to understand the concept that I write the software itself, and kept asking me what lathes and machine tools I use. I guess there are not many of us who write the software. But someone has to do it somewhere, don’t they?

I had one hour in Penn Station New York to get the “Hop on next train” stamp (they don’t call it that here), and depart on the Washington shuttle, which has internet and goes at the speed that trains are supposed to go! What do you think of that? Only 12 hours late in total. To call Amtrak a network is pushing the definition. It’s barely a skeleton, when you take account of the number of trains as well as the routes.

As recommended by a heart doctor, I did get a french dipped sandwich Philippes by the station, which probably accounted for my stamina and meant I didn’t want to eat anything for the first 24 hours.