Mental Distractions

20 May 2022


Modern travel

I decided to join D for part of her planned trip to Plum Village, so I'll be there for her "Lamp Transmission" ceremony. That meant booking flights. There are less options today, following the pandemic, and many trips to Bordeaux involve travel of 20 - 30 hours or more. I struggled for a couple of hours with Expedia, trying to find something cheap and convenient, but eventually gave up. D came to the rescue with E-Dreams, which, in this case, seemed to have more options with the cheapo companies like Veuling, Wiz and whatever. She was able to find a cheaper flight, which I eventually booked.

One thing I learned along the way is that it is much easier to book a flight to France than to order a rail ticket. (It's true that Air France offers rail arrangements sometimes instead of connecting flights.) I have previously had more success with the SNCF website (and previously have had their telephone app), but this time the experience was awful. First, in order to make any booking, one has to log in. For that to happen, after the password log-in they send a confirmation code by email. After that there's a CAPTCHA. That's already three kinds of verification. But a couple of minutes later, a message popped up telling me that I had been blocked, due to suspicious activity, so I simply had to give up. I was using an up-to-date Vivaldi browser, which uses the same rendering engine as Chrome and matches it for all other browsing features. I have Privacy Badger installed, but nothing that blocks ordinary javascript.

Travel is becoming quite a nightmare in our era. Booking rail tickets in France, India, and no doubt in many other countries, is a horrible experience dressed up in the guise of being sophisticatedly modern. Here in Israel we just had a foreign guest who took a bus from the local junction, only to discover that tickets can no longer be purchased on the bus itself. She managed to reach Jerusalem only due to the kindness of a passenger.

Plane, bus and rail companies, whether private or government-run are guilty of the worst form of ableism. Our modern pretenses against all kinds of discrimination against people with disabilities, are a complete sham. They challenge even mentally fit people with their byzantine arrangements, and only work very well if one is equipped with a smartphone full of surveillance apps. The situation is getting worse, not better. If all of this somehow helped to reduce carbon emissions, by making travel less popular, there might be an advantage, but the ones who travel most are not those who feel challenged by these difficulties. And the relative complexity and inconvenience of public ground transportation favors travel by planes and private cars.


I made good progress today, especially on the matter of file transfers. I discovered earlier that although WebDAV had seemed to work, it actually is only presenting the server folders in read-only format. I cannot change anything. The configuration there is too complex and I gave up on WebDAV just as I've given up on GIT, so it was back to FileZilla. Then I discovered Rsync, which, although I knew about it, had never actually used. It's powerful and amazing. It's also very quick (at least for what I need it for) and simple to use from the commandline, once you get the syntax right. Furthermore, it's something that I can execute from within Emacs (where I'm now composing this blog).

So now, for blog posts, I only need to a) save the file b) publish it locally and c) rsync it to the server. All of this happens within emacs itself. When I grow more proficient, I will probably set up a macro to handle these operations even more quickly. Update: done, easily enough. That's a nice thing about emacs, and probably the Lisp programming that underlies it - that it can be used on a simple level, but provides the opportunity to grow with it. When Stallman talks about the advantage in open source programs that the code is up-front and visible, people like me think that that's all well and good, but the majority of us are completely unable to read code. However when I look at Lisp code, understanding it seems within reach.

Browser colors

I noticed today that the colors in Vivaldi are brighter than those in SeaMonkey or Chrome. The blue color that I have been using in this blog appears purplish in Vivaldi. I tried to find something about this in the settings and it looks like there may be a configuration option for this, but I didn't succeed in changing anything.

Tags: software travel
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