shannon_a: (Default)
On Monday, my friends at Endgame announced that they're closing the Endgame Café on Sunday, so today at my weekly boardgame night at Endgame, I followed their instructions: I visited the café one last time and I tipped like mad. Oh, and I got one last Tilden sandwich. That wasn't in their instructions, but it should have been.

Personally, I go to Endgame for the games. I supported the café because it was important to the Endgame staff: a challenge that would keep them going through the next five years. Not because I particularly cared about the café on my own. But I do have to say, they made great quality sandwiches. Great bread, great turkey, great avocado. And I never got around to their breakfast sandwiches which looked terrific too.

Shockingly, le café was almost empty tonight. I usually find it somewhat crowded, with people at several of the tables. I expected this week it would be even more jammed than usual, as people made their last visits. But tonight there was Eric V., Eric L., Jefferson, Amy, and me, and that was pretty much it. Easy to see how that didn't work out when they had two staff working.

(But the café as a whole had various problems, including a very long rollout that I suspect ate up the capitalization that would have been necessary to loss-lead things like evening hours, until they developed a clientele. And the interaction between the game store and the café never worked out like it could have. But, that's pretty much all water under the bridge at this point.)

I suspect there are some hearts breaking at Endgame this week. Hard choices. My condolences to my friends there.

And hopefully the game store will go on.

(If you're in the Bay Area, you've got through Sunday to say farewell to the café. Go visit one last, tip like mad, and eat a Tilden.)
shannon_a: (Default)
The last weekend of June pretty much slipped by. I learned about Stewart Wieck's death on Friday evening. Though I only spent three or four hours writing and editing my memorial to him, it weighed on me much of the weekend.

And so the weekend slipped away.

This long Fourth of July weekend was much more active.



Saturday I went for a long hike in Briones Regional Park. HI, first-time Briones hiker. Hilly, uncovered, and hot. (I choose a day when it was only 85 degrees over the hills.) Still, it was nice to see. I was impressed by the size of the park. The view from 1500 feet, atop Briones Hill was awesome.



Sunday Kimberly and I went out to Golden Gate Park, mainly to see the Summer of Love exhibit at the deYoung. She has a membership this year, so we're determined to use it. The exhibit was mainly '60s hippy fashion and rock show posters from SF in 66-68. The clothing was the cooler of the two (thanks Project Runway). We enjoyed the exhibit, though the rock posters were getting old by the last room. But at least that final room had great music. Guthrie, the Doors, and others. Afterward we hung out in the Fern Grotto for a while and read, but it was too chilly to really hang out in the park for long. A notable change from 85 degrees two counties over the day before.

And there's now a deGas exhibit just starting at the Legion of Honor that we want to see.

Two culinary notes:

#1. We got sandwiches for lunch at the last Andronico's in the world. Safeway bought them all out last year, but for some ridiculous reason hasn't been allowed to change the name in San Francisco. Nonetheless, the store is mostly a Safeway now, including their sandwiches. Still OK, but not as good as Andronico's. I also got one of the world's last adult brownies, which lasted me three meals. And, I asked the check-out lady if I could use my Andronico's sandwich card, which had a free sandwich on it that I thought I'd never be able to claim. She said no, then took my card and gave me a free sandwich.

#2. On the way home, K. took us to dinner at the McDonald's in Berkeley. Unfortunately, it's often overrun by the homeless, which the staff do nothing about (and increasingly so in recent years). Today there was a particularly crazy guy who kept pacing around us, crawling around the floor, and playing the same 30-second clip from a movie or song on continuous loop. It didn't encourage either of us to return to that restaurant.



Monday I worked. But I spent the middle of the day in San Francisco at Blockstream.

I could totally deal with a one-day work week.



Tuesday was the last day of a holiday weekend. Even with the Monday gap. Nothing big was planned, but I made a quick walk from home to the Orinda BART station. Made it in under 3 hours, which was great.

And that was four days in three counties (Alameda, Contra-Costa, and San Francisco).
shannon_a: (Default)
Two Sundays in a row, Kimberly and I have bussed up to Tilden and hiked around, as part of her effort to get out and about more.

Last Sunday was very nice. We picnicked by Jewel Lake then hiked around the Loop Trail and up to the bus stop near Lake Anza along a very pleasant creekside trail that I love. We even stopped and wrote for a while at my favorite bench in Tilden, deep in the shade, near Wildcat Creek.

This Sunday was substantially less successful, because we're in a heat wave and today was apparently the hottest day of it. We picnicked by Jewel Lake again, and that was still very nice. But when we walked down the Wildcat Creek Canyon Trail we turned back almost immediately due to the heat. Then, when we were hiking through the Nature Area, Kimberly was getting increasingly overheated. When we stopped at the Little Farm she was very red-faced. After dousing her in some water, we headed back to the bus stop so that we could get her back to cooler places in the lowlands.

She still said she enjoyed the wildlife she saw, and we got smoothies when we returned to downtown Berkeley.



I actually made one other trip to Tilden in the last few days: Saturday, on my own, as part of my getting out and about on Saturdays, which I do while not gaming.

It was a fairly normative hike, from my house up to Lake Anza. Nine or ten miles. It was hot, but it certainly didn't feel as hot as Sunday.

I love being out on my own and just relaxing in nature.



I also did a lot of not-relaxing-in-nature in the last week. We had a BBQ scheduled for Thursday in advance of gaming, and that meant I had to get the backyard in order. So I spent about three-and-a-half hours between Monday and Tuesday, downing foliage in the backyard and filling our green bin. Twice.

I really don't understand how our teeny backyard gets so out of control. Our new neighbors behind us give just as little attention as we do to our (much huger) backyard. Last winter they grew clover up and over everything, totally covering their yard, but then spring came and it all died out. Now their backyard is certainly scraggly, but not particularly overgrown.

Meanwhile, we'd totally lost the entirety of our yard beneath ivy and bushes and purple flowers. It was probably an hour before the walkway leading from our fence to our back door was clear. And still the walkway around the back and side of our house are pretty impassable. (A problem for another day.)

But I definitely communed with nature. And fortunately my knee and ribs were mostly up to the task.



The BBQ that followed on Thursday was sadly less than successful. We could barely get any flames on the grill. The corn eventually got mostly cooked, but the various sausages went into the broiler, which did the job. (We think the grill was almost out of propane.)

The food was still quite tasty, despite the problems, but we did also have a less than successful game (the new Buffy co-op, which is flat-out a bad design).

Still, it was good company and that generally makes for good times.



And that was a week of communing with nature. Or at least a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday of such.
shannon_a: (Default)
Injuries. Managed to hurt myself again. Darn it. And this time it was a recycling injury. Sigh.

I was tearing down a heavy corrugated cardboard box on Monday and I was holding it up against my chest as I did, and somehow throughout all of that I managed to spasm my muscles and bruise my sternum and/or ribs. Or something like that. It's been aching for days, especially if I do anything spectacular like breathe. The worst has been sleeping. I can't cuddle with my cat at night, because that requires lying down on that side, and I can't escape her in the morning, which I usually do by turning over. Overall, the result has been a week of poor sleep.

It's been getting better day by day, but slowly. Frustrating. 


Computers. I've laid my old MacBook Air to rest. Or, at least, I'm filing it away for use as an emergency backup if I ever need it. Sadly, of all the Macs I've bought, that was the one that seemed to have some serious manufacture problems of the sort I don't generally expect from Apple.

In the end:
  1. The "1", "q", "a", and <delete> on the keyboard often stopped working, usually just when I opened it up and especially when I had it out somewhere cold. This was apparently a well-known problem with the MacBook Airs and had to do with the keyboard circuitry contracting away from the plug.
  2. The wifi constantly cut out, but would come back if I hit the little wifi icon at the top of the screen. This was not a well-known problem. Or, at least if it was, the only suggested solutions were software, and they didn't do anything.
  3. The battery was starting to die, and though it was still getting decent time with my usually low-energy use, it was to the point where the Mac was suggesting I replace it.
  4. The 120G of hard drive space was becoming inadequate as I continued to add PDFs for my work on the next Designers & Dragons book, on the entire set of TSR & WotC books for D&D. (After 4+ years of working with DTRPG, we've almost covered the full ~1000 or so, and that's a lot of PDFs.)
Only the first two were really manufacture problems, though they were extremely annoying, but the first three probably required hundreds of dollars worth of repairs, and that still left me with inadequate hard drive space. So, after getting the OK from Kimberly, I ordered a new one instead, on Monday, pretty much as soon as Apple announced the new MacBooks.

My new computer is a 12" MacBook. It's a little smaller than my 13.3" Air was, and that's taking a little getting used to, but it's still a full-sized keyboard, and my eyes are still good enough to read the screen at an increased resolution, so I think I willl get used to it. And it's 2 pounds rather than 3 pounds, which will be notable when I'm carrying it around up hills and on long hikes.

Oh, the process of migrating was a pain though. It just wouldn't work, and I eventually came to the conclusion that it was because the Air was one version back of the MacOS software, and the migration didn't work from that to Sierra. Not that Apple documents that, but some forums seemed to confirm it. So I had to unsync my RPG PDFs from my Dropbox to have enough space to upgrade to Sierra. (That's why I hadn't previously.) Then the upgrade wouldn't work either, because it couldn't install a helper. I finally managed to get the old computer upgraded after a reboot. Then I finally managed to get the Migration going after a reboot. Shockingly the Migration with both computers set next to my wifi router only took 30 minutes or so. But it took another day and a half to resync all those D&D PDFs, off of Dropbox.

Still, new computer. Very happy because of all the annoying problems with the old one.

Not being ble to type an "a" can make rticles hrd to write.


RPGs. I've been running my Burning Wheel campaign since sometime left year. I'm enjoying creating an original campaign world in conjunction with the players and I'm enjoying slowly unravelling their story. I have some qualms that the story might be too mundane thus far and that I need to be more accepting of sea changes as the campaign goes forward. But, so far so good.

My only real issue is a pretty common one: I find the prep of adventures stressful. Usually I feel like my Friday nights before games are very rushed as I try to jam together adventure prep along with my usual writing prep. And, I also feel pressure that I prep well so that we can have fun the next day.

So this week I tried something new, based on a thread on RPGnet. I modeled my prep after a game called Agon: prep an adventure with one goal, three sub-goals, and one or more complications for each sub-goal. It's very similar to the system of three complications that I was laying out for Mouse Guard that helped me to minimize my prep time there while still producing good adventures.

I've varied this up a little. I try to introduce at least one notable locale each adventure and at least one notable NPCs, and I try to reuse one or more NPCs from past adventures. So my notes include all of that too. But still, that's less than a page for an adventure, and the actual plot-ty part of the adventure is minimized, making the prep easier and keeping options more open for the players during play.

But there's another thing in Burning Wheel: it's very player-focused. So I bit the bullet early in the week and I prepped four adventures in this style, one for each player in the game. Voila! I now have full prep done, well before Friday. And hopefully I'll be able to do the simpler prep necessary for a replacement player-oriented adventure after I run each.

Sure enough, this Friday I was unstressed. Or little stressed.

The next test was whether my slightly shorter prep was sufficient to run an exciting adventure ... and sadly I didn't get to find out. When I got to gaming on Saturday, Mary could tell that I was in low spirits due to lack of sleep (from my ribs) and due to exhaustion (from offering support for K. in a hard time). So she asked without prompting if I wanted to play board games instead, and I nearly collapsed in relief into that idea. We played 7 Wonders and Agricola. I did horribly in the first and came in second in the second, probably highlighting how worn out I was.



Vacations. And we are already making plans for Hawaii next year. My step-mom is putting together a family vacation, where she, my dad, my sister and her husband, and Kimberly and I will all spend a week together on the Big Island next year. We had a lot of fun hanging out with everyone at Melody and Jared's wedding, so I'm quite looking forward to this, and it'll also be a nice opportunity to visit a different island.

Mary has also talked about doing the same thing on a different island in 2019, maybe. If that indeed happens, then we quite amusingly will not see Kauai again until we move there in 2020.
shannon_a: (Default)
One of the super-cool things about the hills behind the East Bay is that there are near continuous parks throughout them. More notably, there's a ridgeline trail which runs across them. You can literally walk from San Pablo to Castro Valley and never step off a trail except to cross the very rare street. This has long intrigued me, though it's actually an overly long distance to walk in a day.

(The Bay Area Ridge Trail actually is supposed to circle the whole bay. Heck it even goes through Ed Levin Park and Alum Rock Park, two of my stomping grounds when I was growing up in the South Bay. But it's not all complete, nor is all of it as continuous as in the hills that are just above Berkeley.)



I've walked a good range of the trails above our local area. In various segments I've walked as far south as Sibley Park and as far north as Tilden and down to the San Pablo Dam Reservoir. (Mysteriously, the ridgeline trail doesn't continue along the ridgeline to Wildcat Canyon Park.)

But Saturday I decided to make my biggest effort ever, by walking from my house, up Panoramic Hill, and above that to the Ridgeline Trail, then walking it south into Sibley, then into Huckleberry, then into Redwood Regional Park, then down to the Chabot Space & Science Center.

That final destination was chosen because it was one of the rare places up near the ridgeline where I could catch a bus back to BART.


So Saturday I was out of the house by 10 am, and it was off to the races.

The walk was glorious.

The trek up the hill was hard because I took it fast, but it got me to the ridgeline trail before 11.30. It was one of the time I was panting and breathing hard.

As usual, I had to hop a gate at the top of the hill, because EBMUD sucks and purposefully blocks access to the ridgeline trail from the fire trails that exit above Strawberry Canyon, just across the street.

The walk from the so-called Scotts Peak Trailhead to Fish Ranch Road was glorious. I love the sweeping views of eastern CoCoCo, and then you slide back to the other side of the hills. There's some close grass there that I was a little nervous about because the rains have led to a snake season. And I heard some buzzing just off the trail in some of that thick grass that made me very nervous, but I quickly moved through. And enjoyed the great views.

The walk from Fish Ranch Road to Old Tunnel Road was beautiful too. I love the heavily forested paths.

In Sibley now. The walk from Old Tunnel Road to the Sibley Staging Area was trying. It was more uphill than I remembered, and some of the path was deeply cut by running water. Still, the area remained so gorgeous.

At 12.30 I had lunch at Sibley, then wrote for a while, then fixed an issue at RPGnet, then finished my article. At 1.30 I headed on.

Following the Ridgeline Trail brought me further back into Sibley than I usually go. More forested trails. I really need to explore the rest of the park sometime. Is there really a volcano back there?

There's no sign when you cross into Huckleberry, but suddenly there's a huge valley spread out before you. You cut down into the valley, cross the stream at the bottom of it twice, then start moving back up. It was gorgeous too.

Except that heading back up revealed my one problem of the day. A .11 section of trail was marked closed until made safe. (Which usually means a 1-10 year delay in East Bay parks.) There was absolutely no other way to get through Huckleberry, from Sibley, so I decided to hike up to see if the problem was something I found safe enough or too dangerous. The answer was a big landslide below the trail. I'd actually seen it from below as I walked up the creek, before cutting back, and had been awed by it. Here it just kissed the edge of the trail and I tested the ground and found it totally firm. So I continued along, staying well away from the edge. No problem. Curiously, there was no such trail-closure sign at the top.

(And that's a trail that really needs to be fixed, as it's the only way to get through that part of the ridgeline trail. For want of a .11 trail segment, a ridgeline trail was lost.)

Huckleberry and Redwood Regional don't quite touch. But, much as in the area between Fish Ranch and Tunnel Road, there's a segment of trail through the land in between to keep you walking in beauty.

I took my other break for the day just outside of Redwood Regional, where I was pleased to see a bench. Four squares of chocolate and one issue of a comic book.

Then it was over a small ridge and into Redwood Regional, where I circled around the East Ridge Trail and the West Ridge Trail until I got to Chabot Space & Science Lab. I think of that as the main commuter trail that gets you to the interesting parts of Redwood Regional, but it's actually attractive too, looking over another big basin, this one facing south.

While in Redwood Regional, I checked Google Maps to see how much longer it would take to continue on to Castro Valley BART. Four and a half hours. Huh.

As I neared Chabot, I realized that I was going to just miss the 4pm bus, by a minute or so. So, I picked up my pace and got there at 3.59. This was the other time I was panting and breathing hard. No bus. No bus at 4. No Bus at 4.01. I finally decided that AC Transit was playing their usual game of randomly skipping a bus every once in a while. The bus arrived at 4.07.

Then it was down to Fruitvale BART. (On the bottom five of my list of BART stations.) Then it was six(!) stops home. Yep, I walked six BART stops along the ridgeline!



Total walk, 6 hours (minus an hour for lunch). So, five hours or so for reals. 13 or 14 miles. Exactly 300 flights of stairs when I got home. Hours of beauty.

A great day.

And nice to see other people frequently using and enjoying the trails. I saw people on every major segment, and quite a few people when I passed by some of the staging areas, at Old Tunnel Road, at Sibley, in Huckleberry, and in Redwood Regional. (The last is clearly the most popular, but it's also the biggest.)

I'm a little sore today, primarily my legs (from walking) and my back (from carrying my backpack with computer for writing).



And I got home from my day of walking in beauty to discover more horror in London, as another terror attack seems intended to push the British people to the conservative, Islamophobic platform in the upcoming snap election. Just as seemed to be the case in France several weeks ago. I don't even understand a world any more where terrorist groups theoretically fighting for Muslims (in horrible, misguided, evil ways) are purposefully supporting Islamophobes to in turn drive recruitment for the terror organizations. It's like the snake has eaten its tail and disappeared inside itself.

Condolences and support to my British friends, victims of terrorism and Theresa May.
shannon_a: (Default)
No, I don't really do "relaxed" weekend.

And no, I still can't write a journal entry within a week of time.


Saturday was a gaming day. It's my Burning Wheel campaign, but the idea has always been to vary it up with other games that expand the overall world. So we started off with three sessions of Microscope over a few years time before getting into the regular Burning Wheel groove for almost ten sessions.

Then, this Saturday, I decided that I didn't want the stress of story prep intruding onto the holiday weekend, so I offered up the first of my interludes, a game of Kingdom. We learned about the Alchemist Guild deep in the past of Eligium. It went well. The roleplaying was more intense than usual, which caused some tension, and we were all pretty tired by the end. But it was an interesting game, and we definitely learned more about our history.


Sunday was a hiking day.

It began with my usual inability to find a sandwich in south Berkeley. I had found a sandwich-making place I hadn't found before called Tivoli Caffe. So I visited there to pick up a sandwich before I walked up the hill. But, they were closed for the whole Memorial Day weekend. So was Cheese & Stuff. IB Hoagies was closed and not opening until noon. Top Dog was closed. I finally ended up at Taco Bell again. Ah well.

Afterward I walked up Panoramic Hill to the fire trails, then up to the top of the hill. It was chilly and overcast, and I was literally walking up into the clouds. By the time I got to the top of the hills, I was in then.

I took a break at a bench on the Bay Area Ridgeline Trail, just over the top of the hill. It's got a beautiful view of the Siesta Valley Recreation Area, down to the teeny super-rich community of snobs in Wilder. I stopped there to write for a while, but that was about when the sun came out, and it soon became too bright to really read my computer. So I walked down through the EBMUD trails until I got to Orinda.

I'm always shocked by how short that walk is, from Berkeley to Orinda. About an hour and a half up the hill and about an hour and a half down the hill. I always think about walking the St. Stephens Trail on to Lafayette afterward, but Google Maps inevitably shows it as another hour, and I inevitably decide it's getting late and I get on the BART in Orinda instead.

So it was on Sunday.



Monday was hanging-out-with-Kimberly day.

Unfortunately, the Labor Day Salsa "block" party on the next block, which attracts huge crowds of people from Oakland to Richmond, and which results in hours of loud music shaking our house, has spread like a disease to also be a Memorial Day Salsa "block" party. So, we were definitely desirous of fleeing the house, but K. is too tired currently to want to go with far.

So, we waited until about noon and then headed out to grab some lunch (Taco Bell again!) and take it to campus.

Once there we ate, then read-aloud from Fool's Assassin, then did our own things for a while. (I had my computer, full of work, as usual.) Eventually some hellacious almost-inaudible buzzing noise settled onto the entire southeast side of campus, and we moved on.

There was then yogurt and drug stores and a haircut for me. Unfortunately, we still had a few hours of Salsa when we got home. K. and I both went to our offices to hide, but my office turned out to be not protected. It has windows on three sides of the house, and though the Salsa party was on the opposite side of the house from my office and windows, it still boomed through the room like a panel truck with its roll-up door flapping all around.



Monday was also the day we said farewell to our exercise bike.

Pretty much, Schwinn sucks. They manufacture crap.

More precisely, we got it a few years ago. It didn't work when we got it: the wheel had no resistance. So a repairman came out and fixed it and it worked. briefly.

Unfortunately for the next year, K. didn't really use it because she wasn't doing well and I didn't really use it because my doctor was keeping me off bikes.

So some 10 months or so after the repair, one of us sat down ... and found the wheel had no resistance.

Though the parts warranty hadn't expired, the labor warranty had, and Schwinn told us this was clearly labor, and so we were on our own.

But, it was an easy repair, they said, taking only a phillips screwdriver. The kind Schwinn liar even told us what pages in the manual to use to repair things.

So Sunday night we finally sat down to look at the instructions, which had been sitting around for a few months. And, they were horrible, and they had little to do with the bike we actually had. I fooled around with it for about an hour and came to the conclusion that a pedal wrench was actually needed to get things open.

We'd already decided that the bike's poor quality control meant that it wasn't worth bringing to Hawaii. Rather than having a non-functional bike in the house for a few years, we opted to drag it out on the street Monday afternoon with a free sign (and a clear statement of its condition and all the supposed "instructions" attached). Our theory was that we could at least benefit from the annoying Salsa party because there'd be people leaving and heading to their cars and one of them might pick up the non-functional bike and take it home.

Sure enough.

Mark that as our last purchase ever from Schwinn, once a sign of quality, now a sign of horrible manufacture and poor customer service.




That wasn't our only experience with crappy companies over the weekend. The other was Jack Richeson & Co., Inc. K. bought a very nice easel from them, and we tried to set that up on Sunday night after our failure with the exercise bike.

The instructions were atrocious. Worse than 10 IKEA books. There were no illustrations of many of the parts and very minimal explanations of what to do.

But, we figured it out and did fine until we got to the last part ... which required a bolt that they had not included.

So K. sent them mail and requested our '2 1/4" bolt'. They sent back the requirement that we fill our a four-page warranty form and send it back along with a receipt and a declaration of where we'd purchased it, in order to get our $2 bolt.

I did so, but I wasn't very happy about it, and I very politely told them their ridiculous bureacratia made me think poorly of the company.

So the next day, one of the owners mailed me back and apologized, but also explained why it was really wonderful that they had a system where I had to fill out and scan four pages in order to get a 2 1/4" bolt. Nonetheless, I was mollified, especially when they said they were sending the bolt priority mail, to arrive on Friday, along with some nice paint brushes for K. as way of apology.

It's Friday. No bolt. No paint brushes.

Crappy companies.



Don't even get me started on the self-righteous asshats at Spamcop, who darkened my door late in the week.

Suffice to say: I've learned that they're now buying dead domains and reusing previously valid email addresses as spam traps. Which is all kinds of morally and possibly legally wrong. Their excuse is that the domains are really old, but if they think data on the internet has expiry dates, they're fools.

(They're fools.)

So, if you're not a spammer, and you ever find the need to sue Spamcop for defamation and/or prior restraint of trade, I'm your man. I now know where the bodies are buried because an arrogant Spamcop engineer explained to me what they're doing as he tried to bludgeon me into believing he was right and I was wrong.

(And this complaint will just have to serve as a substitute for exposé that I want to write but don't want to get involved with.)



My goal in any holiday weekend is to revitalize myself for the wear, tear, and work of everyday life. I quickly discovered that I failed, because my Tuesday or Wednesday I was at wit's end about a variety of problems.

But that was due to the problems (and the ongoing stressors in our life currently) as much as anything.

Maybe this weekend.

I just plotted out a really cool hike.
shannon_a: (Default)
From a post that I never got around to finishing this week because I was too busy.



So thislast weekend I had a free Saturday due to lacking of gaming. My knee was feeling 70% or so better, but I thought, "I better stay off of my hills, just in case". So instead I opted to bike up to Montclair, and from there hike around Joaquin Miller park.

My theory was that I'd do my climbing on my bike, which doesn't have much impact on my knee, and then enjoy one of the hilltop parks.

Yeah, except Joaquin Miller isn't a hilltop park. It may be 600 feet up or so, but there's a lot of steep hillside above it, going up to the top of Shepherd Canyon.



Why was the week busy? My head was down as I was working on Bitcoin documentation during the workday. Then I'm always busy in the evening writing or gaming. It was all quite interesting work though, so my days were filled, but enjoyably.



After figuring out where to lock my bike near Joe-Quinn Park, which is often a problem, I went in at the northwest entry. It was a creekside trail. Totally beautiful. Except it started climbing up pretty steeply. First there was slope, then more slope, then steps.

Whoops!

As I hit steps I started using my (unhurt) right knee to lever myself up. And boy that was slow, going up a single step at a time. I finally got to a crossroads above the creek and there was ... more steep slope going up.

Magnificent views, though. It was obvious that I was climbing up above canyons because green forest was spreading out below me.

Eventually I had to give up on the climbing with my right knee thing, because my right knee was starting to hurt.

And I was pretty astounded that I was getting winded, because I thought I was good on hills. But this was a lot of hill.



Tonight, at the end of the busy week, I got a bit of a reprieve. I went to Safeway for the week's groceries and it was quiet as a tomb. Astounding! The store was a little less crowded than usual, but the big difference was no students yelling in their outside-voice.

So very, very restful.




I rarely had a cellular signal when I was up in the higher hills of Joe-Quinn, which was problematic because I didn't have a map either. I knew there was a picnic area somewhere up there but I wasn't sure where exactly.

I found an old horse arena or something, with a fence fallen down.

Then I found some locked bathrooms.

This is all thanks to Oakland's lack of attention to the park, which is unsurprising; East Bay parks are better upkept, though they're been problematic too in recent years.

Anyway, I was good at finding open spaces. Then I pretty much stumbled across the picnic area. It was hidden in a curve in a road.

I sat there and ate chocolate and wrote for a while, atop the world.



Right, restful, except it's almost 1am and I'm still writing, which I'm not supposed to do near bed times.

But, I was researching for D&D histories, then I stumbled upon a link to a former website full of D&D designer posts that I was able to access from beyond the grave at archive.org. Then I needed to brush up on the Kingdom RPG for tomorrow. Then there was more writing and researching. Then I was printing sheets and references for Kingdom. Then I found this partial post in my buffer.




I was a bit worried about the climb down, but I took a different route and there were no stairs, just lots of slope that was easier on my knee. It was all very pleasant walks through forested areas. I did a bit more writing at a camp, then I got to the "civilized" parts of Joe-Quinn, which are off to the southwest. I was pretty astounded that my huge uphill climb had been equalled by my easy downhill climb.

There are two dog parks in civilized Joe-Quinn, which were mostly empty, because why would you take your dog to a dog area at a huge park?

There was an amphitheater pretty much hanging off the hillside, which I'd love to see a play at before I leave the state.

There was a magnificent water cascade going down from the theatre, except it's apparently turned off.

Then it was around a few more paths, down to the road and a half-mile or less back to my bike.



I mostly managed not to hurt my knee on the hike, and yet another week later it's feeling almost normal again.
shannon_a: (Default)
Monday night, I decided to bike up to Lake Temescal after work.

It was a very regular destination for me a couple of years ago, some place that I'd often visit on the weekends and in evenings, but it fell off my itinerary early last year when my doctor (pointlessly) asked me not to bike for a while.

So, I think I only went there once in 2016, when I hiked through it, up to Sibley Volcanic Regional Park. And I don't think that I've ever ridden my "new" bike up there.



My purpose was to go and see some new biking infrastructure. There's now a "cycle track" where Broadway takes the turn toward Temescal at Keith. This is a two-way protected bike path off to right side of the road (as you go uphill). I have to admit, I was confused by the usefulness of a cycle track that's just a block long, but it gets you around a tight corner and it gets you past the area where cars are merging onto 24. So, it's actually a nice bit of safe riding that gets you past the hurly-burly. (You still have to deal with cars merging off of 24 on Keith, but I've never had any particular problem with them.)

Past that one cycle track block there are now marked bike lanes all the way up to Temescal (and if Google Maps is to be believed, all the way up to the North Oakland Regional Sports Center). This is nice too, as I'd ridden that road many a time and found it slightly uncomfortable with the cars whizzing by on the previously unmarked road.

It's all about a year and a half late if I remember correctly which year this was promised (2015?), but definitely a nice addition to the local infrastructure.

Now if we could just get the promised improvements done to Tunnel Road, on the other side of 24. That's coming up on eight years late, and I can't even get Berkeley to update their two-year-out-of-date Highway 13 Corridor Improvements Project page despite two different polite requests.



One of the things that shocked me about the bike lanes up Upper Broadway is that they've totally replaced all on-street parking. Mind you, the on-street parking was totally irrelevant. It's only use was up by Lake Temescal, for people who refused to pay the parking fee in the big lot at the park. But the City apparently decided that it was more important for bikes to have a safe route on the street than for cars to have unnecessary parking ... which is really a sea change. (And something that needs to occur more often: roads are primarily for transit, not for parking, and if the two come into contention, transit needs to win.)

Of course, we'll see how that actually works out on a warm summer day. I'm actually thinking about heading back in this direction on Saturday, which should offer a prime look at whether it's yet another place where Oakland talks a good talk, but then doesn't enforce it when cars block the bike lanes. (Their regularly blocked "protected" bike lanes on Telegraph are the best example currently of Oakland's lacsadasical attitude toward enforcement.)



I was also surprised that the ride up to Lake Temescal was pretty easy. That used to be a hard hill. But maybe I was so focused on keeping pressure off my wounded knee that I didn't notice the huffing and puffing.



I was really pleased when I got up to Temescal. It was like seeing an old friend again. I hiked halfway around the lake, tossed my computer done and wrote and edited for a while, then hiked back to retrieve my bike.

The lake seemed more crowded than I remembered in evenings. Quite a few people out at picnic tables talking and eating and hanging. Much more than the handful of fishermen, joggers, and dog walkers that I used to see. Dunno if it marks a change in the last year and a half or just a busy evening.
shannon_a: (Default)
So last, last weekend, the first weekend of May, I had a marvelous Saturday hike. It was one of my favorite routes of late: east from my house, up above Strawberry Canyon, and then into Tilden. It's really nice, because it gets me on trails (or at least stairs) about a mile from my house, and from there I can go anywhere I want along pleasant hiking paths.

So on Saturday, I choose a very challenging route: up around the fire trails above Strawberry Canyon (as usual) and then into TIlden. But from there I decided to walk the southwest side of Tilden, around Grizzly Peak, then to take the western most trails along the entire length of Tilden, until I got to Jewel Lake, which is the last civilized point in the north of Tilden, on the way to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.

Most of these trails were new to me. Grizzly Peak Trail took me westward, and it was a nice trail running along a hillside, with the Wildcat Canyon to my right. It's the opposite side of the Canyon that I usually walk on. The only downside is that you could occasionally hear the cars whizzing by on Grizzly Peak Blvd., just the other side of the ridge. Then I walked Selby Trail northward for a few miles until I hit Canyon Drive, the big steep road coming out of the north side of Tilden. There was a bit of Selby Trail in the middle that was just ugly grassland, but most of it was wooded and very pleasant. Past Canyon Drive it became Memory Trail, which took me around the Nature Area and eventually dropped me down to Jewel Lake. Success!

Fitbit says I walked a total of 4 hours while up in the hills. For the day I made 12 miles and 199 flights of stairs. (Clearly my Fitbit gamification is beginning to fail me, because I didn't bother for that last fight to get my 14th Castle [200 floors] badge.)


There was one weird thing on the hike: I got up to the Island picnic area, and it was full of Porsches. There was apparently a Porsche convention, with people coming from all over the west to talk to other Porsche owners. And someone thought that the optimal place to worship wasteful spending and overprivileged living was a public park.

The cars were all sitting in the Island parking area, and about half of them had their hoods open or their trunks open or both. Some people had stuff sitting in their open trunks, which made it obvious they'd never been to Berkeley before, though the muggers and thieves don't usually make it up to Tilden. The cars all had signs in their windows identifying who the owner was, where he was from, and what model his car was. Meanwhile, the Porsche owners were sitting in the picnic area talking about their real leather seats and how infrequently they had to rebuild their engine. As I said: Weird.


There was a lot of up and down in my walk as I hit heights near Grizzly Peak and near Canyon Drive. My left knee started twinging was I was hiking down Memory Trail.

A lot of the trails in Tilden are becoming increasingly wild. Some have been "storm damaged" for years, others washed out by dripping pipes. Some of my early trails for the day were a wee bit overgrown, but Memory Trail was the worst because it had steps that look like they're maybe a foot and a half tall or so each. They've clearly expanded over time and they were all a muddy mess too. It was obvious that either no one has been back here to look at the state of the steps, or else they don't care. Anyway, as I hopped down those steps billy-goat like, that was when my knee really started to get going.

But I didn't think about it much at the time. Every once in a while when I'm on a big hike one of my knees starts twinging if I'm doing a big descent at the end. This was no different.



No different until I kneeled down Sunday morning, and I had some excruciating pain in that knee. Yowtch!

It was quite a surprise, and in retrospective I can only think of one reason that I might have particularly hurt things. I had lunch at the back of Strawberry Canyon where there's a nice bench in front of a stone wall, and I tend to sit on it sideways so that I can read or work ... with my left leg under me. So maybe I hurt the knee some then, then some more when climbing up and down hills.

Dunno. It didn't really dramatically, surprisingly hurt until Sunday morning. I guess I got something tight or inflamed or something and when I put all my weight on it kneeling down ....



So it's been mostly hurting for the last week, though I think maybe it's getting better. It's more feeling vulnerable and awkward now, rather than hurting.

I've stayed off hills for the last 10 days, and I didn't bike until last Friday. It seemed fine then. And fine for my Saturday gaming.

So apparently the biking is OK.



I'm hoping I'll be OK enough to hike on Saturday, though I may need to figure out somewhere that's not all hills.
shannon_a: (politics)
So let me get this straight.

(1) Ten months ago, FBI director Comey makes an unprecedented decision to politicize not charging Hilary Clinton for using a private email server by deriding her IT policies in a press conference, going against DoJ policy in doing so.

(2) For the next four months, Donnie Trump uses this press conference as the backbone of his campaign, saying that she's "Crooked Hilary" and we should lock her up.

(3) Russian hackers break into Democratic emails, posting them over next few months. Trump publicly encourages them to break into Hilary's emails too.

(4) Six months ago, Comey sends an unprecedented letter to Congress saying they were reopening investigations into Hillary based on what would turn out to be largely repetitive emails that Hilary had nothing to do with.

(5) Statisticians say Comey's letter probably decided the election. Trump is elected 45.

(6) When called before Congress, Comey reveals that he's been investigating Trump's connections to Russia too, for over a year. But he never felt the need to give press conference or send letters about that.

(7) Comey continues to lead investigation into Trump's Russian connections.

(8) A week ago, Justice Department is told to find an excuse to fire Comey.

(9) Meanwhile, Grand Jury summons go out related to Trump/Russian connections.

(10) Hours later, Comey is fired. Trump is shocked, shocked to find that screw-ups were going on in the Hillary investigations. Ten months ago. You know, with that press conference that Trump built his campaign on. 

BUT HER EMAILS.

)*(#$)@(*#$)@.
shannon_a: (Default)
My second Fitbit Charge HR died last week. And I really mean died. The two arms just popped right off the central watch and when you looked at it afterward, you couldn't see any indication that they'd been affixed in the first place.

It was no surprise and no shock. That Fitbit's arm bands started bubbling and getting loose a year ago, and even though it was slightly out of warranty I got Fitbit to send me a replacement at the time because it was just several months after my first Fitbit Charge HR did the same thing. But then B. over on FB suggested buying a sleeve for it. So I got one, and it kept the peeling armband from looking bad, and perhaps it kept the vulnerable components under from totally breaking, like was the case with my first one. And I got an extra year of use out of it.

So now I'm on my third and last Fibit Charge HR. Experience says it'll start falling apart in 5-9 months. And I'm sure I won't get them to send a fourth Fitbit because we're now like 14 months out of warranty.

I have really conflicted feelings about Fitbit. Their software and gamification are all spot on, but the manufacture of that Fitbit Charge HR was just awful. One of the worst consumer electronic goods I've ever bought, since two fell apart to the point where I asked for warranty replacement with 15 months or so.

Ah well. K's Charge HR II seems to be holding up, so I may be thinking about one of those come Christmas-time. If #3 lasts that long. I wish these devices could have held out for a Charge HR III though!



After work last night, I went out to buy some shoes.

I've got some gray tennies that aren't worn through all the way, but they've always been a little bit tight. And, since I started having some dull pain in my right foot lately that seemed (maybe) to get worse when I wore the gray tennies, it seemed like a time to replace them.

I biked up to El Cerrito to the discount shoe store there ("DB Shoes"). As I told K. at the time, I'm not going to get to casually bike out for this type of light errand when we live in Hawaii. But, there are pluses and minuses to every locale.

DB Shoes has been my primary location to purchase shoes for a decade or so. And, I was distressed when I got there to see big "Going Out of Sale" signs. Fortunately, the sale didn't seem to have been going on for long, as the shelves weren't yet picked clean. But everything was in complete chaos. Apparently, the sale brought in all the Ross and Wal-Mart shoppers, because they threw everything on the floor when they were done.

The chaos made it hard to find shoes, because the boxes on the shelves had little to do with the sample shoes nearby. It also looks like the tennis shoes of a year or two ago were going heavy on nauseating colors because I opened some boxes to see what they had and found florescent orange, puke yellow, red-white-and-blue, and other grotesqueries. (A few all red shoes actually caught my fancy, but not my size.)

I spoke with an older gentleman when I was there. He kept talking about how kids-these-days were ruining old fashioned retailers by buying everything on Amazon. And he could get shoes cheaper here! He told me a few times how his daughter had gotten him shoes for $70 off Amazon and they were $50 at DB Shoes. I agreed that sounded pretty dumb (and stereotypically lazy Millenial). But I said I really didn't know how you buy shoes online because the sizing is so inconsistent. He agreed with that too.

It's often hard to figure out the price at DB Shoes because they have marked prices, then marked discounts. It was even harder last night because there were multiple levels of marked discounts, and it was obvious many discount signs had gone missing and many shoes had moved. I finally found a pair that fit well and I liked, but it was marked $110. That felt like a no-go, even if the nearby 40% off sign was correct, but I brought them up to the register to check, and they were actually $40. Good enough.

I actually wanted to stock up with more pairs, both because of the sale prices and because I don't know where my next shoes will come from. But I couldn't find another acceptable pair in the whole store even with a fair amount of looking.

Farewell, DB Shoes. We sorta knew ye.
shannon_a: (Default)
Urinetown. That's pretty much San Francisco, isn't it? Maybe Berkeley too? Except the play says it's all our towns.



We actually went the play today with our friends M. and K. and daughter M. I think this is a first for us at the Playhouse, as we're usually solitaire goers. But we had a nice lunch with them at the Blue House in the Library Gardens, then a nice walk through campus (after walking a few scummy blocks of downtown Berkeley), then we saw the play. It's a nice bit of community and hanging out.



So, the play. It's satire and social commentary. It's about corporations taking over and plutocracy given precedence over human necessities. (Yes, like peeing.) It's also about rebelling, and how the rebellion can be as bad the corpocratic fascism, though I find the message gets a bit more muddled there.

That's because the play is also about Broadway, about the expectations of musicals, and how artificial some of them are. There was a lot of fourth-wall-breaking in the person of narrator Officer Lockstock. And there was a lot of exaggerated shock ("Whaaaaaaaat?") and more useless pirouetting than I've seen in two or three musicals. A lot of it was pretty hilarious, which is a good way to couch serious commentary. But the messaging got a little confusing because of those two competing issues: was the way the rebellion became what it despised actually about the rebellion against corpocracy or was it a strike against the happy endings of musicals. I dunno.

Throughout the early part of the play, I felt like every song came from a different musical, which was cool. Some of it felt very classic, and some of it felt modern. Near the end of the first act, everyone started waving flags as they rebelled, and that was the first one where I could directly spot the influence, which was of course Les Miserables. Then the second act started off with Russian dancing, which was clearly influenced by Fiddler on the Rooftop (To Life!) and Kimberly quickly recognized the finger-snapping of the next song as influenced by West Side Story. That was another fun element. (And it turned out that we got many of the direct references, though I later discovered that the wonderful gospel song that I couldn't recognize but seemed so familiar was influenced by "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat", from <I>Guys & Dolls</i>; and I've never seen two of the other influences <i>The Threepenny Opera</I> and <I>The Cradle Will Rock</i>).

Overall a fun play, a thoughtful play, a weird play, and for at least one scene a shocking play. As usual there were great actors at the Playhouse, including Lockstock (our narrator), Hope (our female lead), and Little Sally (our youngest rebel). I'd recommend it, except that was the last performance.
shannon_a: (Default)
Some years ago, I biked up to Point Pinole for the first time. Following my Bay Trail maps, I biked down Atlas Road and hit a dead-end. My map clearly showed a bike bridge over the railroad tracks at the end of road, but it was nowhere to be found. I walked up and down along the tracks, sure it must just be non-obvious, but there was nothing. A bit of online research indicated it was supposed to have been constructed two or three years earlier.

But it was not to be found.

I ended up riding down Giant Road to find the main entrance. It was always the least pleasant part of visiting Point Pinole because it's a narrow two-lane road without good protection for bikes that goes right by the local jail on the north and is ugly and surrounded by gravel and roads to the south.

In any case, that experience was my first indication that (1) bicycling and pedestrian projects in the Bay Area are delayed for years and years; and (2) the governmental organizations don't bother updating their web pages for us plebeians.



The Atlas Bridge finally went in last week, somewhere around a decade after it was supposed to open, so this week I went to explore it.

I was very amused when I got down to the end of Atlas Road and saw the bridge, because it's a huge concrete monstrosity: two lanes for vehicle traffic, plus a wide protected pedestrian and bicycle lane set off to the side, plus two different massive cement ramps to get up to the walkway: one for bikes and one for wheel chairs.

I contrasted that to my search for a tiny little wooden bridge some years ago. It's funny when our preconceptions of reality are proven wrong.

The joy of the bridge is that (1) it provides easy access from the east, which means easy access from Hilltop Mall; and (2) it opens about halfway into the park. Before, the only access was from the south side, and Point Pinole is quite a large park.



I spent a few hours out at Point Pinole, writing in my "outdoor office". I'd forgotten how beautiful that park is. And I got a nice bit of writing and reading done. It was really a great day.



But wait, that's not all. Last week also saw the opening of yet another way into Point Pinole, a 1.7 mile path that leads south through the Dotson Family Marsh. And that was how I exited the park after my afternoon of reading and writing.

I can't say I found the muddy marsh very attractive, but you do get the Bay off to the side. Oh, and you get to exit via an attractive rifle range, to the constant drumbeat of gunfire. Still, a wonderful alternative to Giant Road.

And once you're off of rifle road, you're on the Richmond Parkway, or more precisely the part of Richmond Parkway that has a protected bike and pedestrian path off to the side. Which means there's now protected Bay Trail all the from Atlas Road down to the Richmond Greenway. Even more impressively, you can now ride from north Berkeley to Point Pinole and hardly ever touch the street. (There's one nasty discontinuity in the middle of the Richmond Greenway, and a minor but annoying discontinuity in the Ohlone-Richmond Greenway connection, but other than that and a couple of blocks here and there of riding on quiet streets, it's a wonderful biking journey.)

There's also plans to run trail past the Atlas Bridge, along the rail line there. In fact, they've got the first 100 feet or so of it done, for what that's worth. That will provide continued Bay Trail access along San Pablo Bay, though they've got a long way to go there. I've ridden up there through Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, and into Vallejo, and the Bay Trail is very disconnected.



South of Point Pinole, the next two big (but comparatively minor) Bay Trail parks are at the West Contra Costa County Landfill and the Wildcat Marsh. They're just west of Richmond Parkway, and there's long been a plan to use Bay Trail to connect the two of those. I'd seen word that it was finally finished some time ago, though there wasn't a big opening celebration like with the two new Point Pinole areas.

In any case, I veered over there on my way home today to see.

Sadly, this part of the Bay Trail just isn't getting very good attention. I suspect it's because the city of Richmond is responsible for it, and they've done an impressively half-assed job on lots of different trails in the city.

So the trail between those two areas is all loose rocks, which is horrible to bike on. And there are plants overgrowing everywhere, often in the middle of the trail. It mostly runs between high chain link fences, and it keeps jogging right and left. A few times I was certain the trail was blocked, and didn't actually go through (which was the case last time I tried to ride this trail, after it was supposed to have been done), but no I eventually got to the back end of Wildcat Marsh.

It would have been better to ride the off-road trail right next to the busy Parkway though.



Wildcat Marsh is sadly another badly neglected Richmond park. I've been there before, and it was in the same sad state it was today. There's hardly ever anyone there, and there's not much to see.

The main trail is supposed to go under Richmond Parkway and lead you to the Wildcat Creek Trail on the other side. But, the underpass has either been filled with water or mud every time I've been there. It was clearly built wrong. There was something new this time: a permanent sign that talks about the temporary detour if you want to get over to Wildcat Creek Trail.

Not that there's much point, because Wildcat Creek Trail is one of Richmond's many incomplete trails. It's supposed to connect the Bay Trail to Alvarado Park, which would be amazing. But, it's a mess. You can't get to the Trail from the west because of that washed-out underpass, there's a discontinuity in the middle of the western trail, and they've never finished the eastern trail. And, it's been so long since they worked on it that much of the path is now overgrown (and not that well used, but better used than the Marsh).



I opted to BART back from Richmond BART because the eastern section of the Richmond Greenway is currently blocked off. The city is finally working on that connection between the Richmond Greenway and the Ohlone Greenway that is now also a decade overdue. Sadly, it's not going to be the pedestrian bridge originally promised, which would have whisked you from the Ohlone Greenway to the Richmond Greenway in seconds, but at least it'll redirect the end of the trail to one of the stop lights there.



Despite bitching about the sad state of pedestrian and bike work in some parts of Richmond, today was a terrific day being out. Great biking, great new access to Point Pinole, great writing in a beautiful environment.
shannon_a: (politics)
There are more riots on the calendar today.

You see, it's all the fault of self-interested sociopath Ann Coulter. The idiots at some of the Republican clubs at campus thought she'd be a good invitee for a speech. Because inviting Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos turned out so well.

(To be clear, as far as I know, Ann Coulter isn't a Nazi like Milo. He wrote for white nationalist fronts before he was kicked out for talking up the benefits of child molestation. She just says whatever horrible thing comes to her mind in an attempt to stay in the spotlight and sell more books.)

But, the campus wouldn't give Coulter a place to give her speech, because they rightfully said they couldn't offer security. They finally were able to find a venue for a little later, May 2. She refused, and she kept everyone in suspense until the last moment about whether she'd be here today, even claiming for a while that she'd be talking in Sproul Plaza. This means that all of the right-wing warriors had already gassed up their rusted-out pick-up trucks and told their moms they wouldn't be in the basement for a few days.

Then, Coulter cowardly cancelled at the last moment. Result: right-wingers still coming this way. Helicopters circling overhead. Riots in the forecast. Coulter gets a new book deal.



One of the frustrations about living in Berkeley through these monthly riots (not an exaggeration: we had the Nazi here in February, then March 4th in March, then whatever the excuse was for the latest riots two weeks ago, now this), is seeing how badly the media gets it wrong. Even the local media at Berkeleyside.

The problem is that they keep calling the intolerant black-garbed fighters the "antifa" or even the "extreme left". The antifa is the name they've picked for themselves, but that doesn't mean we should accept their framing. Antifa has noble connotations, and they are anything but. And, they are most definitely not the extreme-left or the left of any sort. These are the same black-bloc anarchists who have been turning Berkeley and Oakland protests into riots for the last eight years. But the media is too lazy to do the research to understand that distinction. But these anarachists are not liberal, not progressive, not even conservative. They're the scumbags who want to tear down everything just because they love the destruction.

As for the "right" that's showing up at these demonstrations, I can't say for sure, but I suspect they're the same white nationalists and racists who were at the heart of Trump's rise to power.

So this isn't extreme right v. extreme left (as much as the media likes that framing). It's black-bloc anarchists versus white nationalists.

And I wish they'd all get the hell out of our town.



You want a much more Berkeley response to this BS? That would be Respect Berkeley who will "stand in nonviolent witness" to today's rioting.

Which sounds to me like what the Berkeley police are already doing.



Here's the hope: the anarchists can't make it to the riots because it's a weekday, and they're working their soul-sucking jobs, wearing their nametags that say, "Hello, My Name is Bob, How Can I Help You?"

The white nationalists will be standing around Civic Center Park, waving their Captain America trashcan lids, not understanding that only the cosmic-cube-warped Nazi Steve Rogers would love them. And wondering why they don't get to beat anyone up.

What if they threw a riot and no one came?



That's the Hope.
shannon_a: (Default)
Today, I returned to Mt. Diablo. Or, rather, I trekked further south this time, had lunch in Rudgear Park, then headed up into the Diablo Foothills Regional Park.

The Rudgear Park was quite busy with people picnicking and walking and following their children riding in electric toy cars. I find that the more affluent an area is, the better used its parks are, and the Rudgear Estates area of Alamo seemed quite busy.

Yet when I got over to the regional park, the people mostly disappeared. I can kind of understand, because the paths in from the west were almost non-existent, just like out by Howe Homestead Park last week.

But from what I can see, people don't walk into these parks (as these western entrances allow). No, they drive in (going to other trailheads, deeper in).



Meanwhile, in Berkeley, pro-Trump and anti-fascist supporters are literally clashing.

Ironically, the police are siding with the fascists. At least philosophically. They've banning pocket knives and signs with poles from the protests.

Yes, Berkeley cops, those could be used as weapons to assault other people. But you haven't suddenly been anointed as the Minority Report police, tasked with preventing FutureCrime(tm).

No, you're supposed to be guarding our home and our rights. And, after long years of absolutely failing to guard our home town because of your cowardly fear of the aging hippies who might squawk if you hurt an anarchist who is breaking windows and burning businesses, now you've failed at protecting our rights too, in fact have preemptively taken them away.

Good job, you.

It appears that Trump has even normalized fascism in Berkeley.

Fortunately, just like Trump's fascism, our cop's fascism is probably illegal.



I do know about this, because I check in with my mail while resting on an uphill hike and get the local police alerts. But I read that the protest is confined to Civic Center Park, and so I opt not to call Kimberly, who I know is in North Berkeley, to suggest she come home by cutting through the campus.

Later, the protest does spill out onto the streets. No word if the police again idly stood by while peoples' lives and livelihoods were destroyed.

But Kimberly opted to cut through campus on her own.

(Though she was shaken by the third instance of Berkeley rioting in three and a half months, and hours of buzzing, hovering helicopters. I hate those things too.)



Things are much quieter out in the Diablo Foothills. I'm circling eastward.

Kimberly commented to me after my last trip this way that she remembers Mt. Diablo being pretty barren, and that's pretty true. There are trees here and there, but for the most part, you're not walking through trees: you're walking from one tree to the next, with barren grasslands around you.



Coming up on one of the several small, dirty ponds I pass over the course of the day, I notice a man talking to a woman. (Yeah, there's a few people now, as I get deeper into the park, and closer to one of those parking lots in the interior.) She explains she doesn't have a map, but gives him directions. He runs off, a dog trotting behind him.

As I circle the pond, he returns and heads off down another path.

And then a few minutes later he comes back from that direction and passes me again, this time heading the same direction I am.

He remarks that these paths are confusing, and I smile.



I tell him I have a map if he'd like to see it, but he says he has his phone.

And I think, "Yes, and it's working so well."



When we're coming up on Old Borges Raunch, I pass him, and it's because he's standing staring at his phone. Clearly lost once again.

I think he'll probably ask me to see that map now, but he never does.



Old Borges Ranch has some animals and a barn and about a half-dozen tractors on display, one with gear work wheels, and some other farm-y stuff.

I remember the farm-y stuff at Howe Homestead Park, and don't really understand this obsession with the area's farming heritage. Maybe it's just more recent there than it is here, on the other side of the hills.

Man-with-dog passes me again as I'm exiting the Ranch area. With a single path before him, for the moment, he seems a lot more confident.

Though he sure walks a lot for a runner.

Eventually he and the dog disappear, never to be seen again.



Soon, I make it out to Castle Rock, another regional park.

There's yet another entrance here, past an Equestrian Center. There are also piles of picnic areas, including one having a very loud DJ constantly announcing prizes for people from across the country.

I keep an eye out for precog psychics, rabid Saint Bernards, and dead bodies, but don't see any.



The prizes seem to be for runners competing in some sort of hill run.

I see the first of them about a quarter mile past the loudspeakers. A couple sitting there shout encouragingly to her that she's just a quarter mile or so from the end.

She says, "A quarter mile? No, it can't be!" And there's such hopeless despair in her voice that I can't really figure out how long she thinks a quarter mile is, but it seems really, really long.



A bit further on, I offer some encouragement to runners too. But I pointedly don't tell them distances.

I use weasel words like "close" and "almost there".

And as we get further and further from those loudspeakers, and as the runners look more and more tired and less and less fit, I stop doing that.



I'm astounding to discover that Castle Rock doesn't refer to a Maine town after all, but instead to huge rocky outcroppings that are rising up to the east of me.

They're utterly awesome. Beautiful and cool, and I want to hike up and around them, but not today because it's coming up on 2.30 pm, which is when I wanted to make sure I was circling back to my bike, abandoned out by Rudgear Park.

Which is just as well because Castle Rock is closed from February to July due to falcon nesting or something.

So I'll have to try and remember to head out there in fall after it cools down over the hills and before it starts raining.

(And I'll have to figure out how to get closer to Castle Rock with my bike, so I don't have to hike two or so hours to get there.)



Some of the paths I come back in are horrible. Totally, entirely destroyed by cows. I see one bicyclist trying to come up one of these paths, and even though most mountain bicyclists are determined to never show weakness in the face of adverse terrain, even he finally admits defeat and starts walking.

His bike still is going BUMP-BUMP-BUMP and looking like it's going to shake out of his hands.



Later I take one of my cutbacks to get back to where my own bike is. I'm, by the by, feeling increasingly smug about not bringing it into the park — especially when I find that Stonegate Trail is barely extant. And it's all muddy or dried hoof prints.

Bleh. But brief.



My favorite hiking of the day is actually after I leave the park proper.

I walked about a block through fancy-dancy houses, but then there was a path that cut back to where I started.

At first, it was another heavily overgrown path.

But then I got down to a creek bed and it became very pretty.

And then I turned a corner and there were beautiful and vibrant flowers in a variety of brilliant colors off to the side.

Totally, not the sort of thing you ever see on a hiking trail. But there was a house just about the flowers and it had some sprinklers to keep them alive.

A wonderful bit of joy at the end of about 10 miles of hard hiking.



On the way home I stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up some emergency supplies to offset the trauma back in Berkeley.
shannon_a: (politics)
When I was growing up in the '80s, the USSR was the evil empire. Communism was bad.

Red, white, and blue. So Proudly we hail. Yippee-Ki-Yay, Mother Fucker!


Then the Soviet Union collapsed. The Berlin Wall fell. The specter of our youth died. It was a brand-new world.



I joined Livejournal on October 30, 2002, just short of fifteen years ago. I was following in Kimberly's footsteps, as I'd been working to emulate her idea of keeping a regular journal since I met her.

My first journal briefly commented on an article about the death of Senator Paul Wellstone, who had passed a few days earlier. My post was indicative of the increasing polarization of the US political system. I wrote about "President" Bush, with his title in quotes because of the illegitimacy of his election, which was decided by the Supreme Court.

Then fourteen and a half years and 2201 journal entries flew by.

The more things change, eh? I don't even use the word "President" when referring to Trump. He hasn't earned it, and he likely never will. And his illegitimacy is even greater, because by all indications he committed treason by working with Russia, who was engaged in illegal espionage to get him elected.

Russia. The remnant of the USSR.

Remember them?
 



I don't have a strong memory of Russia becoming a world threat again. Looking back, though, it was obviously a Y2K problem.

President Yeltsin resigned on 12/31/99, handing the control of the country to Putin, who's held it through various titles ever since. But, my first visceral memory is the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. I remember it as a uranium poisoning delivered at the point of an umbrella under direct orders from Putin. Heck, I remember Putin administering it himself, walking down the street in London with his umbrella in hand and a bowler hat on his head.

(Memories aren't reliable.)

In any case, it was my first sign that the Evil Empire was back. That an evil fascist reactionary had taken control of the biggest part of the former Soviet Union.

And he was so evil. It was like the head of Hydra had climbed out of the TV screen to take over the world.

I'm sure he has a white cat that he strokes obsessively.
 



Meanwhile, Livejournal, which was founded just nine months before Yeltsin stepped down from office, was sold to Russian interests in December 2007. Though LiveJournal's influence was probably already fading in the American blogging field due to the advent of Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006), its name had become synonymous with blogging in Russia.

I think many of us were somewhat concerned by the move. We wondered if English support would fade away, if Livejournal in the western world would go into decline. And, it did. My friends slowly disappearing might have been the result of the FB/Twitter-induced decline. However, the new level of neglect toward the software was more obviously a result of the Russian purchase. I still can't use rich text on Livejournal because it's been buggy for years (a decade?), such that if you backspace after you're in italics, you start erasing random text (or something like that).

However, the Russians who used Livejournal were probably even more concerned. They knew their country was heading back toward fascism; their blogging platform suddenly existing without that fascist space must have been terrifying.



Even here on Dreamwidth, rich text still doesn't have horizontal rules, which makes it less than perfectly useful.

How does everyone else get by without horizontal rules!?



Surprisingly, it took a full nine years for the other shoe to drop.

In December 2016, Livejournal moved their servers to Russia.

Then, in the last few weeks, they unveiled a new fascist TOS that makes them beholden to the Russian regime.

Literally, Livejournal is now under Russian law. And they spelled out two of the laws more specifically.

First, it's now illegal to talk politics. Various bloggers suggest that it's out of fear of criticism of that monster Putin, in advance of his new "election".

Second, Livejournal is now subject to Russia's homophobic, anti-LGBT laws.

So, it's not just Russian censorship, it's Russian mind control: a bigoted effort to change society by going after some of its most vulnerable members.

(And there's more, like popular LJ accounts being forced in register in Russia as media outlets, believe it or not.)



That's why I'm abandoning Livejournal like a bigoted, hateful, and sinking ship. If you're on Livejournal I hope you'll take the earliest opportunity to do the same.

Your content is no longer safe there. You're now supporting a repressive state. There's news out this week about concentration camps for gay people in Chechnya. Livejournal has become a part of that problem and is making it worse with their censorship of LGBT topics.



In moving my content to another site, Dreamwidth was the obvious choice. It uses the Livejournal software, and is run by ex-LJ people. The import was easy (though it took two days and I'm still waiting on the comments), and the interface is largely identical.

My only concern is that Dreamwidth isn't as well-known as Livejournal, and so if I want to move the journal again, it becomes more problematic.

And, that might be problematic, because I have an idea of spinning up a VPS some day to run a multi-site WordPress with my Livejournal, my Mechanics & Meeples, some iteration of my Designers & Dragons, and possibly my web site too. It's better to have all that stuff under my control, not at other services, as they are now.

But, that's not a problem for today, and especially not when my Bluehost site for M&M has been paid out for the next three years or something.
 



And that's why I've abandoned Livejournal.

Screw Putin. He's a sociopathic monster.

Meanwhile, the LGBT community has my fullest support. You are my brothers and sisters, and you deserve the same rights and respect as everyone else in the world.
shannon_a: (Default)
This morning I awoke with the plan to get a sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff and carry it into the hills with me. I was going to eat by the Steam Trains in Tilden and hoped to make it all the way to Wildcat Canyon Park before I dropped down off the ridge and circled back to Tilden to catch a bus back.

But, plans, contacts, the enemy, and all that.



Cheese 'n Stuff was closed in honor of April 1.

And huge swaths of Southside don't open before 11am. Because students are usually too hungover to be out and about before 11am on Saturday.

No worries, I recently identified Montague's Gourmet Sandwiches as a possible sandwich backup. I had to wait 30 minutes, but I figured the courtyard of the dorms right next door would be safe enough for me to work on my computer without getting mugged. (Results: marginal; I had a skeevy guy sit down about five feet from me, play with his headphones for a while, then leave when it was obvious I was keeping an eye on him.)

Montague's had no bread. Maybe at 11.30, they said. But it was obvious it was a maybe.

No worries, IB Hoagies isn't as good as a cold sandwich for packing up into the hills, but acceptable.

IB Hoagie's was closed with no explanation as to why, though it was by now 10 or 15 minutes past their 11am opening.

I vaguely considered getting a low-quality sandwich at Subway, but the one right next to campus seems to be price gouging students with higher prices than the one just several blocks further south. And I wasn't going to overpay for a low-quality sandwich.

So, Taco Bell it was. And by noon, when I thought I was going to be up at the Steam Trains, I was instead still ascending Panoramic Hill.



The problem, I suspect is that southside is just too dependent on students. And it's Spring Break. So, some of the stores just didn't bother to open, and Montague's had their bread order all messed up because they'd been closed earlier in the week.



With that all said, the hills were entirely beautiful. It's flower season. They're in full bloom and just covering the hills, which were yellow, red, purple, and gold. It was gorgeous.

It was also a rare clear day where you could mostly see the City, the Golden Gate, and the Marin headlands.

And warm! Wonderfully warm!



I made it from South Berkeley, up to the Steam Trains, over to Inspiration Point, then about a mile and a half up Nimitz Way, before I decided to drop down to the Tilden Nature Area.

But it was one of those days I could have walked forever.

(I actually walked about 13 miles.)
shannon_a: (Default)
For years, K. and I have been back and forth about the possibility of retiring to Hawaii. But in late 2015, we decided that one way or another we were done with Berkeley.

Maybe (probably) we're just getting old and crotchety. But the kids these days, they got no respect. Actually, I think that an increasing percentage of the student body at Cal is more studious and quiet, but the ones who aren't seem to be getting louder, less respectful, and more over-privileged. Years ago, we moved out bedroom to the back of the house because of all the street noise, mostly loud, drunk kids. But for me the breaking point was some drunk kid trying to kill one of the trees that I raised from a pup.

Anywho, I've written about that all previously. The end result was that we started talking about moving somewhere that was not Berkeley. We were considering as close as Contra Costa, over the hills, and as faraway as the UK. It was going to be a stop before we considered retiring to Hawaii down the road.



But in 2016, K. and I went to Hawaii for our usual yearly vacation and visit with family, and when we got back, she said that she could imagine moving there.

So the four-year plan began.

We tentatively began to think about moving to Hawaii in 2020. Not retiring, but continuing to work from our little Pacific island. (The idea is that I'll stay with Skotos and/or Blockstream, as pretty much all my work is remote anyway.)



Why four years?

There were a bunch of factors.

One involved a planned vacation to the UK that we've since decided was too expensive in advance of an expensive move.

There were other financial reasons too. I wanted to be sure that we weren't in Hawaii for too long before our budget loosened up due to houses being paid off. So that if I did have problems with my income, or our costs were higher than expected out there, there was an end-point after which we could refigure.

And finally, I wasn't quite ready to give up the Bay Area. A few years advance gave us the time to go see and do the things we wanted to. Like this year's Mt. Diablo project.



But, we both genuinely feel like we're on the path to Kauai at this point.

I figure that my current Burning Wheel campaign is my last RPG campaign, at least here in the Bay Area, and so I'm working to make it a good one, with a four-year plan of its own.

We've stopped worrying about improving the house with things like new windows and bathrooms and are instead thinking about things-that-need-to-be-done-before-we-move. (Up in the air: do we rent the house or do we sell it and get some rental property in Hawaii that doesn't have a mortgage.)

I've actually got a few Hawaii-related things on my TODO list already, starting with getting blood tests for the cats in early 2018. Less than a year away now.

Humorously, I'm also trying to manage my book to-read list based on our Hawaii plans, which had contained about 100 books last year, many of which I planned to get from the good local libraries. I managed to drop it to 75 in 2016, and want to continue down to 65 in 2017. A couple of Bay Area detective series are the most troublesome, because I have dozens left in each, but only the next one of each is on my list.

More generally, we're now categorizing things into whether they'll happen before we leave or not. I should be able to bike to Marin before we leave (2018?) and I should be able to BART to Berryessa (2018?). But BARTing to San Jose or biking to San Francisco both disappeared over the not-for-us horizon. I similarly shrugged my shoulders at the purist progressives who got elected to the Berkeley council last year: they will probably make the horrible homeless situation in Berkeley even worse, but it's unlikely that a truly good mayor would have made it better in our last few years here.



So, Hawaii here we come. Eventually.
shannon_a: (Default)
The birthday festivities began yesterday. Well, not really. But, on my birthday's eve we have workers at the house all day. Plumbers spent about four hours taking out our old main stack from the second floor and installing a new one, then roofers spent another hour or so patching up the roof and rewaterproofing everything.

Seems to have all worked. (Fingers crossed.)

The big problem, as usual, was shoddy past work done on the house. At some point, running water got put in the house and for whatever reason both of the sewage pipes were put through the garage. Which is stupid, but this house is really tight on our lot, so it might have been required. And at some point plaster or stucco or something got mostly wrapped around the pipe in the garage that came down from the second floor. Which probably was not required and always looked ugly. So before the plumbers could take it out, they had to hammer the stony pipe covering away. It was a big pain, and shockingly looks much nicer now.

Still, total damage of something less than $2,000 to us, I think. We have the money, but it was intended to pay property tax in a few weeks. (We'll just have to sell a little stock, to pay various taxes, but I'd hoped to avoid that this year.)



Today was my birthday outing. I took the day off work, which I sometimes do for my birthday (particularly when it's weekend-adjacent).

K. and I were up bright and early and we went out to Cheese and Stuff to pick up sandwiches and chips and desert. We then long-hauled those out to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, out by Land's End in SF. It's always a long trip, since it's way in the back corner of SF.

It was raining the whole time, but the peristyle at the entryway has covered walkways to the sides. For some reason, every one enters the museum through the courtyard or the righthand walkway, avoiding the lefthand one like it's the plague. So, we were able to sit there, out of the rain, and eat our sandwiches.

Then it was into the Palace. We had almost 45 minutes before our viewing of the Monet exhibit, so we quickly walked around to our favorite exhibits: the Impressionist room, at the end of one of the arms of the museum and the Rodin sculptures in some of the center rooms. We also saw one of the visiting exhibits, a teeny room of art about letters, which K. and I both had a lot of fun with.

However, our purpose in going to the museum today was to see "Monet: The Early Years", and it was awesome. It contains about 40 paintings from 1858-1872, which means that we saw some of his pre-impressionist pieces (but most were trending toward impressionism). It was amazing to see him working in such a realistic style. But what I found particularly interesting was that by 1865 or so, he was varying between clearly realistic work and impressionistic work, apparently based on audience (and whether something was a "sketch" or finished piece).

The art was all beautiful. Some of it we'd seen before at the series of great impressionist exhibits that we got in several years ago. A lot more was new. We got to enjoy the Magpie again (and realized how faded K.'s print has gotten) and many more. The descriptions of the artwork were also written very well, with lots of discussions of Monet's technique and his character, all of which was intriguing.

I was thrilled to see another big (mostly) impressionist exhibit while we're still here in the Bay Area.

And now we have a year's membership to the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the deYoung, since the tickets for the Monet exhibit were almost the same price as a membership. I already know another exhibit we want to see, which is on the Summer of Love, showing up at the DeYoung in just a few weeks (and staying through the summer). The great thing about the membership is that we can go and have a day in the Park, and just stop by the museum to visit that, without feeling that we're "wasting our money" or something.



We headed home afterward. Hanging out in a cafe for a while, we worked on our current read-aloud book, Fool's Fate, and then were enticed to eat dinner there too. After we got home, K. played a two-player game with me (Saboteur: The Duel) in large part so I could review it, then we watched the first episode of Legion.

Reviews: Fool's Fate (excellent), PIQ Berkeley sandwiches (very good), Saboteur: The Duel (ok), and Legion ep 1 (very intriguing, but I feel like we just got to the premise.
shannon_a: (Default)
Yeah, I'm a workaholic — or at least an accomplishmentaholic. You can tell because I even set goals for my leisure activities.

So this year I want to spend some time out at Mt. Diablo, to hike around and really explore the area. I got a big map from the folks at Save Mount Diablo to help.



I went out to Mt. Diablo for the first time on Saturday. Or, rather, I went to one of the connected parks. There are many of them. I chose the park closest in to downtown Walnut Creek, Howe Homestead Park, which reaches quite a ways into Walnut Creek itself.

Howe Homestead Park is a little bit of nothing. There's a grassy area with a few picnic tables and a bathroom. And oddly a barn. Not particularly attractive, not particularly well-used. I ate lunch at one of the picnic tables, a sandwich I'd brought over from Berkeley.

From there it was up some very poorly maintained paths that had weeds growing into them all over. The worst was when the weeds were spiny thistly things. Even stepping carefully, I had them stabbing at me. These initial paths were all on a narrow, wavering strip of land that connected Howe to actual park I was heading for.

But eventually the so-called Kovar Trail brought me into Shell Ridge Open Space.



Shell Ridge is one of three major parks that are to the northwest of Mt. Diablo itself. There's Shell Ridge, which directly adjoins Diablo Foothills to the south of it, and then somewhat further northeast there's Lime Ridge.

The further I got into Shell Ridge, the cooler it was. Pretty soon I was surrounded entirely by green, rolling hills. I felt like I was in the shire or something as I walked the narrow paths between the relatively sparse trees in the middle of green greenery.

Every once in a while, I'd turn a hill and suddenly a big brown lake would be in front of me. They were like hidden little gems ... despite the signs that warned the water wasn't fit for humans or their pets.

Parts of the park were quite deserted, particularly when I hit its easternmost edge. But there were people along the ridges and in the west. I heard hikers complaining about bicyclists destroying the path ("Look at those tire marks! Right there in the mud!") and I heard bicyclists complaining about cows destroying the path ("Look at that trench, you'd think a tank or something made it, but it was a cow.") [One presumes he spies on cows at night to be sure.] And, yeah, some of the paths were a mess. I imagine the cows sitting around, blaming the hawks ("Look at those holes! Those darned birds fly down and root around!").

It was gray when I started, but the sky had gotten blue by afternoon and I was increasingly aware of how exposed all of the trails were. I was hot, worn-out, and thirsty by the time I did the last huge climb up and down a ridge-line trail. (Note to self: bring more than one water bottle.)

When I looked at my Save Mount Diablo map afterward I was shocked by how teeny of a bit of ground I'd covered on the huge map. Apparently my work is really cut out for me in exploring the Mount Diablo area this spring (at least until it gets too hot over the hills.)

Paths I walked were: Kovar Trail, Fossil Hill Loop Trail, Briones-Mt Diablo Regional Trail, Corral Spring Trail, Deer Lake Trail, Upper Buck Loop Trail, Lower Buck Loop Trail, Costanoan Trail, Sulfur Creek Trail, Costanoan Trail, Ginder Gap Trail, Briones-Mt Diablo Regional Trail, Indian Creek Trail, Fossil Hill Loop Trail, Summit Ridge Trail, and Kovar Trail. I was out for about 3.5 hours and covered about 8 miles. A little bit on the slow side, but there were hills and sun.

The Save Mount Diablo map was a godsend, as there were no maps available at the park and Google Maps was almost entirely useless for paths in the park. Heck, the Save Mount Diablo map didn't even have all of them, but it had enough to figure out where I was. Mostly.



Meanwhile, back at home, we have ... more leaks.

No, seriously, like the third different leaks this year. Water was coming down the walls of our garage from the bathroom above. We had a plumber out on Thursday and he confirmed that our cast-iron main stack coming down the wall has split. It goes down our wall and into our garage through the roof. Pro tip: don't build your sewage lines through your garage.

Yeah. So.

The plumber and a friend are coming back on Thursday morning to replace a good chunk of the main stack. Then a roofer is coming out Thursday afternoon to at least try and protect the roof that's going to be cut apart around the pipe. Then rain is coming in Thursday night.

That's going to set us back at least a few thousand, just when I had shored up some cash for property and income tax in April.

Yeah. So.



Oh, and leak #2 for the year is back. That's the downstairs bathroom leak that we've been fighting with for at least six months. I thought our grouter in January had done a crap job, and sure enough the grout is already starting to wash away and we've got damp in our crawl space under that bathroom again.



Friday is my birthday. K. and I are planning to go see a Monet exhibit in the City. Hopefully circumstances will allow us to do so.

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