Extract from a 23 hour travelogue courtesy of Greyhound

Ohio

With visibility at barely 100 yards I couldn’t tell you a great deal about Ohio. It looks pretty flat, snowy and windy from here. Waking up creased and uncomfortable, Cleveland has a lot of work to do to ward off my rising rage, and the bizarre glut of heavy steel cantilevered bridges, as if they were a fad everyone wanted to be part of when they were built, aren’t cutting it. There are US flags on everything, from bus stations to bulldozers.

Outside downtown Cleveland, modern highrise become timber houses with pointed roofs swooping at a steep incline to persuade the snow to slip down, or bungalows squatting among the trees as if stooped like gleaners against the wind.

The road is lined with alder, birch, spruce and pine. Gusts of wind tear the powdery snow from roofs and trees and cars, creating wispy gauze phantasms that thicken and haunt for an instant and are gone. The storm covers everything in a flat whiteness, and the only contrasting colours come from the gaudy logos of fast food joints at the motoway turnpikes.

A pretty town with a pretty name, Elyria’s street is lined with well kept classic timber homes that exude turn of the century Americana. It also boasts JR’s Gospel Gift shop.

Beyond the towns is… nothing. The odd barn, grain silo, farmstead. But, even when the clouds lift to reveal the landscape miles away, all that can be seen is the vast expanse of the plains; barely any more, you feel, than would have been seen by the Sioux or Algonquians Chippewas and Sauk tribes who walked these routes between the lakes centuries before.

Indiana

see Ohio.


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New York

 

Night becomes day while I slip in and out of a truly uncomfortable sleep despite Greyhound's claims of extra legroom and comfort, for which they congratulate themselves heartily whenever possible. Outside is a bland cityscape - a hinterland-scape - of turnpikes, roadside diners and McDonalds, nondescript housing and brown inbetween-land somewhere in New Jersey. But my heart skips a beat when I turn to see, stretched across a window of bright skyline carved out against the barely lit foreground, the crests of Manhattan's spike-topped tower blocks and domes.

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Goodbye Montreal

 

Three months has gone by quickly, quick enough to remind me how quickly time passes even when you're not having fun, and actually doing really mundane things. Just walking around this city makes me realise how much I like it, even while realising how little I've scratched the surface of Montreal, or the huge expanse of Quebec - Canada's largest state - outside the city limits. The broad streets lined with bare-branched winter trees, improbably wide North American cars, and the brick triplexes that are unique to this city (a housebuilding split into three flats with a presumably lethal-when-iced stairway to each); the alleyways between streets one can look down that keep going for miles through block after block; the cafes and bars whose names I don't know and never visited, and all those I did; the 1960s metro, filled with modern art and stained glass, with trains running inexplicably on rubber tyres instead of rails; the easy beauty of your womenfolk, and they way they can veer from restrained European chic to dancing drunkenly on tables and bars in the blink of an eye, the tip of a cocktail.

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Linux on the move with acpi

Linux has good support for all sorts of varied and interesting hardware these days, right across the spectrum from esoteric mainframes to the common desktop PC. But configuring a computer such as a laptop or netbook to be energy efficient to save battery power can still be a source of frustration for linux users. Or at least it was to this linux user.

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Wine, a cruel mistress –
updating Debian’s ancient wine

Wine can indeed be a cruel mistress; the morning after the night before, after the sudo apt-get install has faded away and left you nothing but a jiggered system that won't run even notepad. I speak of course not of the mighty grape and what she gives us, but of wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator), the Win32 translation layer for Unix/Linux that does an excellent job of allowing Windows programs to run natively on Linux, often at great speed and without problems. And sometimes with problems. If you run Ubuntu or Fedora, you'll be blessed with recent updates from the 1.3 beta versions of wine, while the official stable version has languished at 1.2 for what seems like an eon. If you use Debian, then apt-get will only provide you with the even more Jurassic 1.0.3 version from the current stable (squeeze) repositories. The reasoning behind Debian's exceptionally cautious nature and glacial pace of rolling out updates is well known and well founded, and wine is hardly a core package. But that doesn't help in the slightest when you really, simply, absolutely have to install and run Deathspank right now.

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Things what I have seen in Montreal, #3

Cuisine edition: Quebec of course, being French-ish, has a long and glorious history of fine cuisine, masterfully prepared dishes of exquisite beauty and a general cultural appreciation of fine food that surpasses other, lesser nations. Here, then, are some of said cultural gastronomic treasures.

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The storm before the calm

 

There is a moment of doubt before taking your first pill, your first line of something, your first tightly wound rizla bomb or acid tab. There is, at least the first time, a fractional moment when the possibilities of what may or will happen swim up to the forefront of your mind, suddenly thick with doubt as you lift the narcotic to your lips, the pipe to your mouth, the note to your nostril, whatever. Do you jump? Will it ever be the same?

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Things what I have seen in Montreal, #2

This beast was just left on the pavement outside my hotel, along with piles of other detritus that had been tossed out of a flat that was being gutted. A lot more interesting than old saucepans and mattresses though.

 

It still seemed in pretty good nick too, complete with ancient 1970s (?) circuit boards inside that looked like some kind of 6th form electronics project to modern eyes. But looking closely revealed this:

 

 

So there you have it. I am going to rename this blog, Leslie on Reverb. Actually Bass Swing Bass Walk also has a certain ring to it.


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Things what I have seen in Montreal, #1

Despite being equipped only with a shitty phone camera, there are far too many things I stumble across that demand to be photographed. So I'll put them up. First, shop window edition.

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Montreal – a painted city

Spending days in a city with no one but the city herself for company goes something like this: wake up, breakfast, pick place on map, and start walking. Fortunately Montreal is a very walkable city. First thing that struck me was how I'd ended up, again, in Hackney. When I went to see a friend in Barcelona for New Year's several years ago we stayed in Raval, a down-at-heel barrio filled with Turks and recent immigrants and frequented by the usual low-rent arty types that find themselves in such places. Kebab shops, gyros, bars and haircuts - like Hackney. Then in Madrid, we stayed in Lavapiés, and found it much the same. Now my international tour of Hackney has crossed the Atlantic.

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On leaving town

Waking up in the morning and realising that today is the day that you pack your life into a handful of bags and move to a foreign country is a fairly odd experience. Months of talking about it, referring to it, explaining it to others using the same stock phrases and expressions, the same practised nuanced shrugs, gives way suddenly to actually doing it; actually packing, actually printing boarding cards, actually hurrying to the airport and actually panicking a little as what you’ve done seeps in.

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Using Ubuntu PPA packages with Debian or Crunchbang

Ah, the joys of package management. Every linux distribution flavour has it's own package management tool to ensure the otherwise near-impossible task of installing programs and their dependencies and updating them to the latest versions is made possible for mere mortals. Even the venerable Slackware. Ubuntu, based on Debian, uses the same apt-get and dpkg tools. But as the pace of development at Ubuntu is much quicker and has a broader reach of users and developers than vanilla Debian, Canonical introduced PPA - personal package archives - on its Launchpad service to allow developers to create and maintain their own packages that can be accessed by Ubuntu users through apt-get, without having to bring them into the Ubuntu official release package tree itself. While built for Ubuntu releases specifically, these packages can be used with Debian - and therefore Crunchbang - without much hassle. Two things are needed: firstly the location of the archive, usually an http:// or https:// web address; secondly the GPG encryption key that is used to sign the .deb packages, ensuring that the software you are installing on your computer with root permissions is, at least to a point, trusted.

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