I headed to the office, where I was able to get coffee and get caught up on e-mail and make sure Skype and my webcam were working with plenty of time to be ready for my 2 PM (4 PM Central time) panel at Capricon on "Trains: The Flying Cars of the Future" panel. I set myself up in a small two-person "phone conference" room we have here and the call came together as expected. I could mostly hear everyone else, and the video I could see was okay, although it froze in the last ten minutes of the panel. (The audio never hiccuped.)
A point I got to make based on the panel topic was that "flying cars," a la The Jetsons, with a flying car for everyone, is in my opinion never going to happen. Frankly, I'm highly skeptical of self-driving cars even if they don't fly. But widespread use of high-speed trains for passenger transportation in corridors where they make sense not only is practical, but it's actually happening in many developed countries, as opposed to the third-world nation that the USA is trying to turn itself into. I don't mean freight: US rail is very good at moving freight. I also don't mean using high-speed rail to the exclusion of all air transport. But in the 800 km/500 mi range, rail is IMO more sensible than air, and more efficient and safer than by automobile. It's just a matter of making the appropriate investment, which is very difficult and requires political will. We don't have a lot of that in the USA right now, not with a vast number of noisy people who insist that "we don't want no guv'mint!" and somehow think that "roads cost nothing" because it's a freeway, and similarly willfully-ignorant nonsense. Even in California, we're surrounded by anti-guv'mint, anti-rail idiots who somehow think that highways cost nothing and have infinite capacity, airlines don't cost the guv'mint anything and make lots of money, while actually spending money on train infrastructure is "ebil guv'mint subsidy."
But enough ranting. We talked trains for an hour-plus and I had a good time. Thanks to Steve Silver for inviting me to be a panelist this afternoon, and I hope I was a net positive contribution to the convention.
We have a television set in the breakroom at my office, so after the panel I watched some of the long-track speed skating and the 10 km biathlon while having lunch. I then went and dealt with my laundry (I only take a week's worth with me on these trips and need to get laundry done sometime in the middle of the two-week stints), and eventually headed over to Fremont, where I'm spending tonight only at the Holiday Inn Express. The the front-desk staff recognized me (the hat is distinctive) and gave me a one-class upgrade to my room. I'm only here tonight and move back to San Jose tomorrow in my quest for enough points to make my hotel stay (or much of it) in London run on IHG points. There apparently is a large group of very noisy people staying in the hotel tonight, running up and down the halls, yelling at each other, and similarly making noise. After having been a panelist at a convention this afternoon, it sounds a bit like I'm staying on the party floor tonight.