Angela Brett

Mathematician and linguist by training, programmer by trade, physicist by association, writer by neglecting everything else.

Homepage: http://angelastic.com

May the Fourth Be With You


I’ve published both of these things before, but not both on May the Fourth. Here’s a video of the poem that I wrote about Star Wars before I saw it, along with a wrap-up of what I thought about the poem after seeing Star Wars:

And here’s a musical version of that poem, set to music and sung by Joey Marianer:

I’ve just noticed that the automatically-generated closed captions on that one say ‘sorry Bingley Lloyd’ instead of ‘stars were being made’, which is hilarious, but if you’re hard of hearing you’d be better off reading the text of the poem here instead. I don’t think I’ve added proper closed captions to my video of it either yet, sorry; I should have thought about this before today.

May the force be with Peter Mayhew always.

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Unintentional Haiku in the Mueller Report


Everyone’s talking about this Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, so I dusted off Haiku Detector and looked for interesting haiku in it. A friend pointed me to a text version, though it’s not ideal for finding haiku; it has many superfluous hard line breaks, missing or superfluous spaces, and so on, which make it harder for Haiku Detector to tell where words and sentences end. There were also page and footnote numbers included in the text. Eventually perhaps I’ll read through it and clean those things up. Haiku Detector found 105 ‘haiku’ in 18752 ‘sentences’.

There were, of course, several similar to this:

Harm to Ongoing
Matter 26 Harm to
Ongoing Matter

of which I think this is my favourite:

Harm to Ongoing
Matter – H a r m to
Ongoing Matter

Some headings formed haiku:

P . 6(e) 7.
Interactions and Contacts
with the Trump Campaign

Other Potential
Campaign Interest in Russian
Hacked Materials

Others which seemed to make sense and stop at actual sentence or at least clause boundaries were:

They are talking to
us. -It is a lot of risk. –
Office of Putin.

“If you have any
questions, I will be happy
to help contact him.”

“We understand all
of the sensitivities and
are not in a rush.”

We also sought a
voluntary interview
with the President.

It’s all because you
recused. AG is supposed to
be most important

He’s a showboater.
He’s a grandstander. I don’t
know any Russians.

you know, this Russia
thing with Trump and Russia is
a made-up story.

But I feel so-I
tell you, I feel a little
badly about it.

“I don’t want to talk
about that. No, I don’t want
to talk about that.”

The president has
issued no pardons in this
investigation.

President said, “I
don’t talk about that now. I
don’t talk about that.”

“Manafort really
appreciates the support
of President Trump.”

“Paul Manafort’s a
good man” and “it’s a very
sad thing that happened.”

The Supreme Court has
applied that clear-statement rule
in several cases.

No statutory
term could easily bear that
specialized meaning.

I understand these
documents already have
been produced to you.

Some were just amusingly surreal because of artefacts in the text:

113
Corney recalled he did not
114

This is the worst thing
that ever happened to me.
“508

815
The President responded,
“I never said that.”

If you imagine that’s the real end of the sentence, and slang for ‘get out!’, it sort of makes sense:

Not telling you to
do anything. Dershowitz
says POTUS can get

I haven’t read the report, nor am I likely to know enough about the surrounding events and characters to fully understand it (nor would I be able to do much about it if I did, not having the right to vote anywhere), but maybe these pseudorandom pseudopoetic snippets will bring some comic relief for those who have. Perhaps I’ll run it through NastyWriter next.

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My Performances on JoCo Cruise 2019


I’ve been going to JoCo Cruise since it started in 2011, and this year I finally had the nerve and organisation (okay, so actually Phil organised it) to take part in running a shadow event. What with this and MarsCon, apparently 2019 is my year for getting on stage at events I’ve long frequented.

There are many official celebrity guests on JoCo Cruise, but anyone can request a space and time to host their own events, whether concerts, crafting workshops, jam sessions, locksports seminars, hydrating face mask parties, PGP signing parties, space dog slideshows, scotch or foreign snack tastings, meetups of people who are various flavours of non-heteronormative, religious, merfolk, impaired, purple-haired, or scientists, or just a session of yelling at the moon. All of these things are real events that happened this year. This ‘shadow’ cruise, as it’s called, took up 292 of the 605 hours of programming.

My little corner of that was Angela Brett & Phil Conrad with Friends, later referred to as the ‘Hastily Assembled Entertainment Taco’, after the official event ‘Hastily Assembled Entertainment Burrito‘. The friends involved included Randy Parcel on vocals, Ryan Nathan on drums, Joey Marianer on vocals and ukulele, and Jeff Kahan on oboe. You can see the full show in the YouTube playlist below, or read on as I self-indulgently embed the specific parts I had a hand in, along with a few others from the open mic night.

Read the rest of this entry »

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My Performances at MarsCon 2019


I’ve been going to MarsCon, mainly for the Dementia Track of comedy music concerts,  whenever it’s convenient for me to get there before or after the JoCo Cruise. I’m a fan of most of the acts from The FuMP and other sites, and have contributed some of my own creations to The FuMP Sideshow.

This year, I finally had the nerve and the organisation to ask to perform at MarsCon in the two concerts where people not doing a main stage set can perform. In the FuMP Jukebox concert, where artists can each perform one of their original songs, I sang ‘Why I Perform at Open Mics‘, slightly censored as it was a daytime show:

I didn’t have the best breath control, as is often the case (and I was cold, which didn’t help) but I didn’t make any major mistakes, and Devo Spice complimented my rhymes later, so I’m going to count that as a huge success.

Then, during the Dementia Smackdown concert, where each artist covers another artist’s song, I sang the only cover song I know how to do — Chicken Monkey Duck, by Mike Phirman. Mike had kindly provided me with the accompanying video without his vocals, the same one he uses for his performances, so that I could perform it at open mics, so I used that at MarsCon as well.

Perhaps I should work on not staying at the back of the stage next to the exit, but otherwise, I did okay. Since this made me officially a performer in the Dementia Track, I was included in the Dementia Smackdown Wrestling. This is a simulated wrestling match between Dementia Track artists put together by JP Tuesday — my only input was providing a picture to model my avatar after. I won’t reveal how I did — watch it and see!

I also got a snazzy certificate for participating in the Dementia Track, which is currently tucked away safely in my luggage. All in all, it was a great experience.

After that I visited The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Kennedy Space Center, and of course, the JoCo Cruise, where the real Mike Phirman was a performer, for the third time — and if you think my performance of Chicken Monkey Duck was impressive, just wait till you see his sets on the cruise! I’ll upload my footage of it, and perhaps recount my other adventures, some time after I get home; I’m currently visiting the San Francisco Bay Area for a few more days.

In unrelated news, taking a job at a too-small-to-not-fail company has once again bitten me in the duck, so I’m looking for work again. If you’re at a reasonably stable company that needs a programmer with mathematics and linguistics training who can also sometimes write and perform weird things, let me know!

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With or Without U (U2 Parody)


Here are some parody lyrics to U2’s With or Without You which I wrote in response to a facebook comment back in May. It’s about time I shared them:

The contours of paramours
The velour of troubadours
They’re spelled with u
But in colour, labour day
with far-harbour ardour, neighbours say
They will write, without u
Write -or without u
Write -or without u
Not behaviour to condemn
Who has honour, humour them
Latinate roots for u
Spelled -or without u
Spelt -or without o-u-r
These are spelled
With or without u
And your dialect’s okay
And your spelling is okay
And you spell
And you spell
And your spelling is okay
My armour’s breached
There is no errour in yor ways
just flavour and splendour
And can I lend a vowel?
And your dialect’s okay
And your spelling is okay
And you spell
And you spell
And your spelling is okay
With or without u
With or without o-u-r
These are spelled
With or without u
O… O-U, O-R
With or without u
With or without o-u-r
These are spelt
With or without u
With or without u

Enjoy it with or without U2’s version playing along. I’d like to say that I used my Masters degree in linguistics to write this, but really, everything came from the -or, -our section of the Wikipedia page on American and British English spelling differences. I threw in a few other spelling variations for fun.

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season. For those who celebrate Christmas, vicariously or otherwise, here’s a playlist of Christmas-related things I’ve uploaded to YouTube, and the tag of Christmas-related blog posts I’ve written.

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NanoRhymo


November was National Novel Writing Month, which is a global event (‘National’ in this context means ‘More Official Than Other Made-Up Events, I Swear! Also, I Forgot There’s More Than One Nation’) in which people attempt to write 50000 words in a month. This is often abbreviated NaNoWriMo. I decided to go for an easier homophone, NanoRhymo.

Every day, I tweeted a short poem inspired by a rhyme I’d found using the ‘Random‘ button on the rhyming dictionary I made, rhyme.science. I’ve been tweeting interesting rhymes from this for a while, so some days I generated a new random rhyme, other days I looked through the @RhymeScience Twitter feed to find one that inspired me. Try it yourself! You might need to click a few times to get an accurate, interesting rhyme; I’m working on a new version that has fewer incorrect words or pronunciations in it, but don’t have enough spare time right now to get that up and running.

Some of them were fun little ditties, others were more inspired by current events or politics than my writing usually is. I’m not informed enough on most such issues to write on them, but that’s where the rhymes led me, and I have just enough of an informed opinion for a rhyming tweet. There are a few references to sexual assault and one to the Holocaust, so proceed with caution if reading such things is likely to be traumatic for you.

You can see all the NanoRhymos by clicking on the tweet above and reading the whole thread. But for those who prefer reading a blog, here they are. I’m considering continuing to write a NanoRhymo every day until I get bored of it, or until I have enough to publish a poem-a-day calendar. What do you think?

Day 1, inspired by the rhyme cloned and unowned:

It didn’t seem so wrong —
you wanted to prolong
the perfection of their hearts.
A collection of spare parts
was made when they were cloned.
They’re fêted and unowned,
but I’m a pair, impaired them-prime;
what’s mine is theirs, and theirs to mine.

Day 2, inspired by the rhyme no sin and close in:

A Jewish saviour way back
was questioned about payback,
and bade that those with no sin
grab stones and gather close in
to pelt a sinful other,
but then, the saviour’s mother
(whose immaculate conception
had made her an exception)
came forward — oh, Lord!

I would have ended that with ‘came forward, and Lord guffawed’, but I wanted to keep it in one tweet. The short version is probably better.

Day 3, inspired by the rhyme disguise and FBI’s:

This guy’s disguise will fool your eyes, but not the FBI’s.
They prize the wise who recognise through lies, despise the spies.

Day 4, inspired by the rhyme DVD on and neon:

Noise and darkness, stink and heat
Senses strained to find a beat
Shout to strangers lit by neon

Go home, put a DVD on.

Day 5, inspired by the rhyme young can and drunken:

Drunken groping long ago
Young can learn it’s wrong, and grow
Admit mistakes and make amends
Ensure the waking nightmare ends

Day 6, inspired by the rhyme enlighten’d and bite and, the election in the USA happening that day, and apparently also dogs:

Frantic voters running frightened,
Heavy hearts, but heads enlightened,
Two years on, they’ve seen his bite and
barking mad demeanour heightened.
Doggedly, they’ll put things right and
chase a future slowly brightened.

Day 7 (actually posted on November 10, because I missed a few days and made up for them by posting a few rhymes in quick succession) inspired by the rhyme promise’s and Thomas’s:

Don’t believe every Tom, Dick, and Harry;
Thomas’s promises won’t hold true;
Richard’s switch’d leave you hanging;
Trust Henry? Then regret that too.

Day 8, inspired by the rhymes rushes, crushes, and (in non-rhotic accents) ushers:

The wise one rushes,
Telling all their crushes,
Finding out the answers: yes or no?
No, they’ll only blush, or
Yes, follow the usher,
Make some more advances in the back row.

Day 9, inspired by the rhyme cynically and clinically:

After loving declarations,
you should not yet have relations,
but evaluate the information cynically.
Ask for terms and motivations,
and when provided with citations,
then concur, and place your arms around them clinically.

Day 10, inspired by the rhyme flattery and battery:

Some fake care to prime their victim:
soften and enlarge with flattery,
and while most juries don’t convict ‘em,
often they are charged with battery.

Day 11, inspired by the rhyme aghast and gassed:

See the harrowed and harrassed
Seething horrors of the past
Browse and mull, and be aghast
Thousands, millions, people gassed

This one has a different rhyme scheme in different accents: ABBA with the trap-bath split or AAAA without. It’s probably about the worst way I could have demonstrated the trap-bath split.

Day 12, inspired by the rhyme borders and marauder’s:

Halt, ye marauders,
attacking our borders!
Just following orders —
you can’t come in here!
If we don’t mistreat you,
we’re worried that we, too,
will soon have to flee to
another frontier.
(But they’d give us shelter;
they’d surely do well to!
We’re good folk, just dealt a
harsh blow; we’re sincere!)

Day 13, inspired by the rhymes (in non-rhotic accents) built a, kilter, and still to:

We’re all a bit off-kilter now;
we’ve lost a then and built a now,
but later’s what we’ve still to know,
and do we have the will to? No.

Day 14, inspired by the rhyme mathematician and proposition, and also Rudyard Kipling’s poem If—:

If⟹

If you see a proposition,
apply to it your intuition,
at length, exerting full cognition,
come to trivial fruition,
and restart with a new suspicion,
then you’ll be a mathematician.

Day 15 (actually posted on November 17, because I missed a few days), inspired by the rhyme compiling and unsmiling:

Robotic faces, cold, unsmiling,
hypnotic glaze of code compiling,
illuminating status lights
as humans wait for access rights.
Once it’s done, they wake anew —
the robots and their coders too.

Day 16, inspired by the rhymes amnesia and anesthesia, and whiskey and frisky:

Dull the pain with anaesthesia,
hoping for a brief amnesia
of harm sustained while he was frisky
(lapses blamed on too much whiskey)
Clear dark thoughts to fit some leisure:
dull clear thought with too much whiskey.

Day 17 (actually posted on November 18, because when catching up the missed days on November 17, I missed a day, so everything after this is a day late), inspired by the rhyme predestined and unstressed and:

If your plans have not progressed, and
stasis leaves you quite depressed, ind-
eed, you must stick out your chest, and
pray that you’ll be always blessed, and
loaf around, remain unstressed and
wait for that which comes predestined.

Day 18, inspired by the rhyme prick’d and afflict:

If Santa wanted Christmas cheer
to fill the Northern Hemisphere,
he’d send the elves to spread the word
to save yourselves and save the herd:
Inoculate yourselves; get prick’d!
Be those the flu will not afflict!

Day 19, inspired by the rhyme trustee can and deacon, although I ended up using 15 other rhymes for deacon and not trustee can:

Sea can weaken a Puerto Rican deacon.
We can be concerned, and we can sneak unspeakin’
or be concertedly connected shriekin’
so s/he can see kin be a freakin’ beacon.

Day 20, inspired by the rhyme Wozniak and Bosniak:

Once upon a time I met Steve Wozniak,
Who bought me a replacement when I lost me Mac
My life got weirder still; I saw a tokamak 🤷🏻‍♀️
And now I code for iOS to clothe me back
While Android code is handled by a Bosniak

It’s a pretty silly poem, but it is also 100% true (you can read the Wozniak story in even cheesier rhymes, if you like), and how could I ignore it when my random rhyme generator comes up with ‘Wozniak’?

Day 21, inspired by the rhyme xylem’s and asylums:

I’m committed to squeezing out a daily poem —
soon committed to a poetry asylum?
But pull enough good water up a xylem
and some day something sweet comes down the phloem.

Day 22, inspired by the rhyme Dulles’s and portcullises, and that time when I had about three hours to change planes in Washington Dulles airport but still only just made it, with an airport staff member running while pushing me in a wheelchair:

A change of planes is always an adventure
and no ride is as perilous as Dulles’s —
with far-off gates and queues there to prevent’ya
you’re sliding under plummeting portcullises.

This one is best read with low rhoticity and yod coalescence, to make adventure rhyme with prevent’ya.

Day 23, inspired by the rhymes routeddisputed, and (in non-rhotic accents) untutored:

In the untutored,
the pronunciation of ‘routed’
can be disputed,
so if you doubted
the pronunciation of ‘routed’
you’ve been outed.
(It depends on where you’re rooted,
so feud no more about it.)

Day 24, inspired by the rhyme fantoccini and Jeannie:

Jeannie, Jeannie, fantoccini
pulled the strings of her bikini,
made a pervy man look up it,
then she moved him like a puppet.

Day 25, inspired by the rhyme unstudied and ruddied, and the first image sent back from Mars by NASA’s InSight lander:

Freckled surface, still and ruddied,
sweeping spaces still unstudied,
far in space is InSight near;
insight can begin right here.

The freckles were actually dust on the lens, though.

Day 26, inspired by the rhyme Bernard would and hardwood:

A tree would never leave you;
it’s your steadfast, loyal bud.
A tree would never leave you;
it will root for you, come hail or flood.
A tree would never leave you;
it’s as solid as hardwood.
A tree would never leave you,
but Bernard would.

Day 27, inspired by the rhymes ultimata, weight a, and (in non-rhotic accents) eliminator:

The real eliminator
is bearing all the weight a
gazillion ultimata
can have on the enforcer.
Can they just divorce a
person they adore so
much because they made a
gaffe they said would force it?

Day 28, inspired by the rhyme conceal’d and kneeled:

They saw the violence, and they kneeled,
did not kowtow, and did not yield.
A shout of silence that conceal’d
the loudest power they could wield.

Day 29, inspired by the rhymes miss a, Alissa, and (in non-rhotic accents) kisser:

🙂: “Why would you miss a
girl named Alissa?”
🙃: “She’s a good kisser;
don’t you dismiss her!”
🙂: “But so is Melissa,
also Clarissa,
even Idrissa,
why just one Miss, huh?”
🙃: “Not gonna diss ya,
just not down with this, yeah.
I’ll follow my bliss, you
kiss them and I’ll miss ‘lissa.”

Day 30, inspired by the rhymes becharmed, unharmed, in non-rhotic accents calm’d, and in non-rhotic accents with the father-bother merger, glommed:

Onto magic guild they glommed,
vibes they quivered, nerves they calm’d.
Vicariously thus becharmed,
they came through escapades unharmed.

NaNoWriMo is over, but tune in on Twitter to see if NanoRhymo continues!

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I sang on stage 😳


In the last post I mentioned that Joey Marianer and I sang ‘I Love Your Body‘ on the Open Phil Broadcast on Radio Orange. During that interview we promised to perform it at the Open Phil open mic that was coming up, so we did:

You can skip to 6:48 if you don’t want to hear me explaining who Joey is, pretending I’m not thrilled that he sets my words to music, and talking about my YouTube channel and Jonathan Coulton’s transition from code monkey to internet superstar, followed by Joey challenging Lill to a laugh-off and finding good positions for the microphones with help from Grey Sweater Guy.

I set the stage before this with another slightly disturbing love poem, Don’t Slip on the Ice, but it’s not the first time I’ve performed that one on stage, or even the best performance of it on video, so you’ll have to click on the link if you want to see it.

After we finished this song, I cajoled Joey into singing The Elements by Tom Lehrer, which he had previously planned to sing but didn’t feel up to doing in the moment. He got me back for that by getting me to sing it with him when it turned out he was indeed not quite up to it in the moment:

This is one of those songs, like Chicken Monkey Duck (which, technically, I have also sung on stage, but it feels more like a rap), where you can amaze people just by knowing the lyrics, so confidence in singing ability (of which I have very little) is not essential, though it is quite difficult to sing fast enough.

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In which I appear content with content in which I appear


I’ve been having a pretty relaxed month, but my life is ridiculous, therefore so far in September I have appeared in a music video, a radio broadcast, and a podcast.

The music video is Molly Lewis’s ‘Pantsuit Sasquatch‘, for which I recorded my feet walking up to a tortoise sculpture on a playground:

This joins the six other official music videos I have contributed to, and five unofficial music videos I’ve made. I guess I just like being in music videos.

The radio broadcast (which you can also listen to online) was episode #9 of the Open Phil Broadcast on Radio Orange. The broadcast mostly features regulars at the Open Phil open mic in Vienna. Each episode features an interview with and performance by two acts; I shared this one with Adrian Lüssing, also known as The Cliff.

It was an honour to be invited to participate in the broadcast, and it was made extra awesome by the fact that it happened while Joey Marianer, who has been setting a lot of my poetry to music, was visiting Vienna, so he participated too. I recited They Might Not Be Giants, then he sang his version of it, then we sang I Love Your Body, with Joey singing the first part and me singing the second part. Yes, me singing. This is about the first time I’ve sung for an audience, and the third time Joey and I had sung that song together, and it went on the radio. I think it went pretty well, though! We performed it again a few days later on the Open Phil stage, and I’ll post video of that once I’ve uploaded it.

The podcast was episode #60 of Wrong, but Useful, a recreational mathematics podcast by @icecolbeveridge (Colin in real life) and @reflectivemaths (Dave in real life). I was invited to be a special guest cohost. I’m not sure I contributed very much, but I once again recited They Might Not Be Giants, because the hosts had heard me perform that at the MathsJam Annual Gathering last year. I have to admit, I had not actually listened to the podcast until I was invited to be on it — podcast listening is something I usually do while commuting, and lately I’ve been noncommutative. However, before episode #60 was recorded, Joey and I listened to episode #59 together, and I’m happy to report that the answer we came up with for the coin-flipping puzzle was correct.

In hindsight, I wish I’d mentioned my linguistics degree while we were chatting about English and poetry and such. I also wish I’d said something about the fact that nobody on episode #59 noticed that the diameter of the Fields medal in millimetres happened to round up to the number of the podcast (that is, 64, not 59. You don’t expect mathematicians to give each podcast episode only a single number do you?)

This reminds me, I need to register for the MathsJam Annual Gathering soon. You should too, if you can get to it. It’s a lot of fun! And who knows? Maybe if you go, you’ll end up co-hosting a podcast.

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What’s the difference between European sleeper trains and US sleeper trains?


A while ago I posted about the difference between couchette cars and sleeping cars in Europe, mentioning that I wanted to compare that experience with the newly-introduced lie-flat sleeper buses in New Zealand. Well, I tried that, but the bus turned up hours late, it was not a sleeper bus because the only sleeper bus had had some water damage, I sat upright without sleeping all night and did not get the promised free onesie until I complained on Twitter, and the bus company has now gone out of business without any help from my hypothetical damning blog post.

However, earlier this year I took a five-day train journey from San Diego to Minneapolis (between JoCo Cruise and MarsCon) so now I can compare that with the European sleeper trains.

The most obvious difference is that in the USA, you can take a five-day train journey and stay in the same country, whereas in Europe, I’ve only ever travelled for one day or night at a time. On European trains, you keep all your luggage either in the room with you or on a luggage rack elsewhere in the carriage, and carry it off yourself, which makes sense for a one-night trip. On Amtrak you can check in your larger luggage, and pick it up from a carousel at the end of your voyage.

I was travelling with Joey Marianer (you know, that guy who sings things I write sometimes!) and we were booked to take the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Portland, then the Empire Builder to Minneapolis.

Our train from San Diego to Los Angeles broke down, and then the new engine which had been brought into service to pull us along also broke down. We ended up getting off that train in San Juan Capistrano and waiting for a train to Los Angeles, from whence we took a bus to Bakersfield, and then a train to catch up with the night train we were originally scheduled to be on in Martinez, twelve hours later than we were scheduled to get on it. Our checked luggage made it to our destination despite all the changes of route, and I’m still not sure how.

Luckily, we had a few other JoCo Cruise sea monkeys with us for most of that part of the voyage, so we could commiserate together. I’ll comment on it more in the sections below. Compare them with the corresponding sections in the European couchette vs. sleeping cars post if you want more detail on both sides of the comparison.

Amenities

There were no washbasins in the rooms, as there are on European trains, but there were basins and even showers, with provided towels and soap, at the ends of the carriages. It’s possible that European trains had showers as well, but I never noticed as I shower in the mornings but I always got off the train first thing. Unsurprisingly, they were the kind of shower that only runs for a minute or so each time you press the button, and rarely gets warm. Good enough to clean up when you really need to, but not pleasant.

During the day, we could either stay in our room or visit the observation car, where we had spectacular views of snowy landscapes. Photos from a moving vehicle don’t do it justice, so I captured an hour and a half of video:

Both the train and the replacement bus on the first day had tables, but the tables on the bus were too shaky to play card games on.

Evening Goodies

You’re not given any kind of welcome package on these trains. Given that people could be joining them at any time of day and staying for multiple days, and full evening meals, towels, etc. are provided throughout the journey anyway, such a gesture wouldn’t make too much sense. I’d have appreciated earplugs, though, and I like the newrest slippers from European sleepers as souvenirs.

Sleeping Place

While on European trains I’ve travelled alone and shared a four-to-six-bed room with strangers, occasionally lucking out with a room to myself, on Amtrak you book by the room, and fill it with whichever people you are travelling with. We booked a two-bed roomette — that’s two bunk beds, in a cabin just big enough for someone to stand next to the beds. There wouldn’t have been room to keep our suitcases in the room, but there was a slim cupboard where we could put some things. During the day, the top bunk was folded away and the bottom bunk was folded into two seats facing each other, with a fold-out table between them.

In terms of comfort and bed linen, the beds were closer those in the sleeper cars in European trains rather than a couchette. I’m told that the top bunk was more difficult to sleep on due to movement and noise.

Food

On a European train, your ticket includes breakfast in bed just before you’re scheduled to get off the train, and perhaps a snack or drink when you board late in the evening. When you’ve booked sleeper cars on a multi-day Amtrak voyage, it includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the trip, in a scenic dining car. There are about five choices for the main course of each meal, and the choices were the same on both trains. You can have whichever meal you want, even with extra sides and toppings, and salad and dessert at dinner; only alcohol costs extra. This was a good way to ease into the real world after being on a cruise ship with unlimited included food — we just had to get used to having only one main course at each meal. Here’s a menu.

Passengers not in sleeper cars can also eat in the dining car, but they have to pay for their meals. We could go to breakfast at any time during a certain time window. Reservations are taken for lunch and dinner, with sleeper passengers getting first pick. Tables fit four people, and we were usually seated with other passengers, which often led to interesting conversations. On our first night, we were seated with a couple who had also endured the replacement train/bus debacle, so we had something to talk about.

On that note, for the first day of our trip, we were not on the sleeper train so did not have access to any of these nice meals. We got a partial refund for that. On one of the trains there were tea, coffee, and mini-muffins available for free, and on one there was an enterprising announcer trying to make more money out of our predicament:

The sea monkeys we were with shared some of their food (they were not taking a sleeper, so had packed food for their shorter journey), and another passenger shared her home-grown mandarins, in exchange for some ukulele music and IT help from Joey, as I recall. There were many friendly conversations. [Note: these experiences may not be available on your Amtrak sleeper train adventure.] We bought some food at the station in LA while waiting for the bus to Bakersfield.

I’ve now written almost 1200 words, mostly as an excuse to show you my one-and-a-half-hour-long video of scenery. Do look at the description of that video if you like the quality Josh Woodward soundtrack and want to know which songs they are. Also, check out my friend Joseph’s Patreon, as he not only makes music and stories but also provided some great hugs and conversation while we were changing trains in Portland.

If you are still interested in visiting New Zealand despite the lack of motorised beds, read up on some kiwi facts I made up, which were quite popular on Twitter.

Happy travels!

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Really Boring Skullcrusher Mountain


Totally discredited Joey Marianer has once again sung something that I’ve run through NastyWriter. This time it’s Skullcrusher Mountain, by Jonathan Coulton. I published the nastified lyrics on the NastyWriter tumblr.

 

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Welcome to my secret lair on really boring Skullcrusher Mountain
I hope that you’ve enjoyed your low‑rated stay so far
I see you’ve met my very outdated assistant Scarface
His appearance is quite disturbing
But I assure you he’s harmless enough
He’s a sad sweetheart, calls me master
And he has an ungrateful way of finding pretty things and bringing them to me

Oh, and I’m so into you
But I’m way too smart for you
Even my pathetically weak henchmen think I’m crazy
I’m not surprised that you agree
If you could find some vicious way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You’d see the negative voices that control me from inside my angry head
Say I shouldn’t kill you yet

I made this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the horrific feeling that you don’t like it
What’s with all the clueless screaming?
You like phony monkeys, you like broken ponies
Maybe you don’t like dumb monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a bad pony making a crazy gift for you?

Oh, and I’m so into you
But I’m way too smart for you
Even my ridiculous henchmen think I’m crazy
I’m not surprised that you agree
If you could find some purposely phony way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You’d see the disgraceful voices that control me from inside my mindless head
Say I shouldn’t kill you yet

Picture the two of us alone inside my golden submarine
While up above the Wacky and Deranged waves my savage doomsday squad ignites the horrible and cruel atmosphere
And all the failing fools who lead their foolish lives may find it quite explosive
Well it won’t mean half as much to me if I don’t have you here

You know it isn’t easy living here on illegal Skullcrusher Mountain
Maybe you could cut me just a little slack
Would it kill you to be civil?
I’ve been patient; I’ve been gracious
And this ineffective mountain is covered with meek and mild wolves
Hear them howling, my hungry children
Maybe you should stay and have another stupid drink and think about me and you

Oh, and I’m so into you
But I’m way too smart for you
Even my false henchmen think I’m crazy
I’m not surprised that you agree
If you could find some deranged way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You’d see the incompetent voices that control me from inside my inept head
Say I shouldn’t kill you yet
I shouldn’t kill you yet
I shouldn’t kill you yet

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