Thursday, July 24, 2008

A realistic article on Amtrak

Thoughtful articles about my favorite political subject, passenger trains, are hard to come by. This one, Train in Vain is a notable exception. The author, Ben Jervey, makes a cross country trip on Amtrak and reports his findings.

Jervey seems genuinely concerned that this country hasn't made a commitment to passenger rail, and he shows why Amtrak isn't all it could be. He gently, but realistically distributes responsibility for the problem to all parties involved, including Amtrak itself. In all, I am in agreement with him that Amtrak should be more than it is, and that economic conditions will likely force the matter sooner or later.

Which brings me to something I heard last night. Leon Panetta gave a talk to a group at my workplace. He expressed frustration with American political tendencies to govern by crisis. Our leaders habitually wait until a problem becomes so incredibly bad that it can't be ignored before working on solutions. Transportation in general, and Amtrak in particular, are perfect examples of the principle. Given that transportation affects the economy, the environment, energy policy, public safety, and overall quality of life, we need better national transportation policies which acknowledge the importance of passenger trains.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Our new store!

The upgrades to the Monterey Peninsula Toy Box continued this week with the addition of our new store! For lack of a better name, it is called the Monterey Peninsula Toy Box Store. It is stocked with guidebooks, maps, history books, art and photography books, literature and cartoons by local writers, locally made music, and our favorite subject, movies made on the Monterey Peninsula.

Our little shop is "powered" by, that megasized on-line retailer where you can get just about anything. Mind you, all I had to do was electronically gather a listing of Amazon's offerings of local interest and put them into an attractive home-grown package. Amazon does the rest. For this I'll make a little something off of each sale to help pay the Toy Box's bills. I hope you'll drop in and see if anything tickles your interest.

Regular Toy Box visitors may have noticed that I've also started adding those ubiquitous Google ads, both in this journal and in various places in the Toy Box. Google ads are funny things. They're designed to match the content of the page they're on. They're usually on target, but it can be amusing to see what they come up with.

For example, in my Republican Dictionary, wherein I poke fun at the modern GOP's use of language, the ads that have been showing up are for gay marriage services. How that happened is beyond me. Somewhat more understandable, on the page "Why a dog is better than a gun" ads were coming up for hunting supplies and puppies for sale. But today they had and inexplicable ad for FEMA disaster jobs. Anyway, watching to see what comes up is an amusing spectator sport.

All of these changes have taken a lot of time and work. But due to a lack of activity at work, I've had plenty of time to put these changes together. Let's hope it pay$ off with a little extra ¢hange in my pocket. Better that the ad revenue goes to me than to my former hosts at AOL, no?

Monday, July 14, 2008


The Business section of Saturday's Herald showed a crowd of people gathered outside the AT&T store in Del Monte Center. The headline read "SOLD OUT, THEN NOTHING."

What was all the fuss about? A new phone. Not just any phone. Only the sleek lines of the latest Apple iPHONE can draw such crowds. This thing does everything. No, wait. The first iPHONE did everything. This one can do more than everything. It can do anything! Even things that nobody has thought of yet! Hence the crowd gathering outside the store to be the first to do anything with a phone.

Unfortunately, when people tried to actually use them, the sheer numbers of new subscribers overwhelmed the system and nobody could get them working.

Why the rush to get something that will still be there tomorrow? Why not wait until the bugs are worked out? Because Apple has everyone hypnotized into believing their sleek products are the best because they look the best. Hence they must be obtained immediately, before the next best thing makes them obsolete.

My experience with Apple products is mixed, however. Yes, they're good. Yes they look cool. But they're not necessarily the best. When shopping for technology, I don't just go with brand reputation. I look for positive user reviews, ease of use, and compatibility with other things I have. On the compatibility score, Apple fails every time. Apple is usually only compatible with Apple. As I learned when I shopped for my MP3 player, Sony's Walkman beat the iPOD hands down on ease of use, compatibility, battery life, and price.

As someone who works with technology, my advice is to get off the iWANT bandwagon, and shop around for the best value. You may find the crowd isn't so "with it" after all.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The move is complete!

First of all, as noted in my previous entry, the Monterey Peninsula Toy Box has moved from AOL's free service to one that costs just pennies a day. The new address is

This is also to be my last Mental Notes entry in the AOL Journals service. When I learned that Google's free Blogger offered so many better formatting options I felt it was time to move this journal as well. AOL's service works just fine, but the format is just darned UGLY!!! Sorry AOL, but you aren't keeping up with the Joneses.

So my new Mental Notes journal can be found at I'll see you there!

Addendum, October 10, 2008: This entry was originally posted on AOL Journals. The old AOL archives have since been merged with the new Mental Notes on Blogger.

I have moved!

Well, folks, as I noted in my old Mental Notes page on AOL Journals, big changes have occurred at the Toy Box. A few days ago I moved the Monterey Peninsula Toy Box away from the free AOL Hometown hosting service to a more formal service that costs just pennies a day to maintain. The service I chose is InMotion Hosting, which from extensive research indicated reliable customer service. And with their 90 day money back guarantee I don't feel I'm taking too big a gamble on the move.

If you've gotten this far you may have noticed I have started placing banner ads in the Toy Box. AOL was doing this anyway, so I figured I should get a piece of the pie and have more control over the ad content. Most of the banners thus far are in my visitors guide. I have become an affiliate with Expedia, Best Western and the National Geographic Store, which I feel would be of interest to my readers. If you click those banners and make a purchase you will help support the Toy Box and all of its delightful free content.

I have also moved this journal from AOL's blog to Google's Blogger, primarily because Google provides much more elegant looking templates and a much larger variety of formatting options. No other reason, really, for otherwise AOL's Journals worked just fine. They're just darned UGLY!

However, I don't want you to miss out on the fine (?) content of my old journal, so a link is provided in the sidebar under Related Sites.

You may see the format of this new Mental notes journal change from time to time as I look for the best layout and design. So don't be alarmed if things look different on your next visit.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Changes are coming!

Big changes are coming to the Monterey Peninsula Toy Box. Our old AOL address, with the hard to remember URL of will soon be giving way to an easy to remember address. Actually, we have an official domain name but it hasn't been publicized much. I am the proud owner of, which has pointed to the AOL servers for a couple of years.

AOL's free hosting has served me well for eleven years, but it's time to grow up. Or at least enter puberty (hey, I'm only 11!) The Toy Box will soon be moving to a "real" hosting service. Your old bookmarks to the AOL addresses will no longer be valid.

I'm doing this in the hopes that this labor of love might provide some modest financial reward. AOL has always placed banner ads across the top of my pages. I figure if there's gonna be ads, I should get a piece of the revenue. So it's time to move.

So I'm going commercial. It is my intention to present ad content that is relevant to my readers. I hope to offer links to places where you can buy books about our area, movies made here, places to make lodging reservations, and that sort of thing. Not big banner ads for which are only relevant to AOL.

Note, however, I will not be accepting ads or payments from local businesses directly. I fully intend to remain free from the corrupting influence of anyone who might have a financial stake in my site's content. My job as webmaster is to provide an unvarnished look at the Monterey Peninsula, not one that is sanitized by the local tourism industry.

To keep enjoying access to the Toy Box, update your bookmarks to the address Do it now. Until the move takes place, that address will still take you to the old site. Once the new site is up and running, it will automatically take you to our new home.

Just to reassure you, the content will still be the same old junk, with one exception. The Hatton Canyon Freeway pages will be taken off. The information there isa little dated, and most of it is no longer relevant. I am, however, thinking about adding a page to the history section to tell the story of how Carmel slayed the evil Hatton Canyon Freeway dragon.

This journal will also likely move, but not right away. I've never been too pleased with AOL's design options, which are very linited. Eventually, I hope to have a Mental Notes journal that matches the design of the rest of the Toy Box. But that is a fairly low priority, and it may take awhile.

So remember, WWW.MONTEREYPENINSULA.INFO. Not dot com, not dot net, but dot info, for information about our favorite place.

Addendum, October 10, 2008: This entry was originally posted on the old AOL Journals. My AOL archive has since been merged with the new Mental Notes on Blogger.