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.
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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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K. and I saw our newest musical at the Berkeley Playhouse today, Billy Elliot: The Musical. It was most excellent, and a good panacea to mediocre plays of late.

The well-known story (based on the film) is of a boy who wants to become a ballet dancer, in a '80s mining town, where it was even more taboo. However that '80s date is also key, because it's right at the heart of Margaret Thatcher's dismemberment of England and in fact the story is set during a mining strike.

And personally, it was that historical story that really touched me. Of people losing their way of life*. But it wasn't just about livelihood, it was about community. This mining village was truly a family, and many of the songs that touched me most ("The Stars Look Down", "Solidarity", "Once We Were Kings") focused on that.

However, it was also hard not to be touched by the pathos at the heart of many of these peoples' lives, and their stern determination to forge on (for example: "Grandma's Song", "Mum's Letter", and "Deep into the Ground").

It was really a beautiful distillation of a whole way of life.

Yes, Billy's story was touching too. Yes, the dancing was beautiful.

Oh, and I loved some of the staging too (which I expect comes right from the script). Billy learning to dance as police and miners play hide and seek, sometimes dancing on their own (that's in "Solidarity") and Billy dancing with his older self ("Swan Lake"). Beautiful.

Overall, my favorite Berkeley Playhouse play in a while. And 20 days left if you're in Berkeley and want to see it.

* Your political assignment for the week is to compare and contrast the miners of Durham with the blue collar workers of the Rust Belt, both losing their way of life, one turning to each other, the others to Donald Trump.
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On Monday we made our long trip home: Lihue to Kahului to Oakland.

Our trip out of Lihue was delayed by about 20 minutes, which would have been stressful as we had a short (1.5 hour) connection in Kahului, but we already knew that our flight out of Kahului was delayed by an hour, so no worries. It actually gave us enough time to sit down and eat lunch then sit down and read about 30 minutes worth of Golden Fool, our current read-aloud book.

The flight to Oakland was uneventful, though for the second flight in a row the *)(@#$@# in front of me put his seat back — and this on a flight where almost no one did. I hate those things, because then I have to put my seat back, and the result is still that I have my seat table almost jamming into my stomach and working on my computer is that much harder. Hate those things.

Lock all seat backs!

Still: 4 articles written, 1 article edited (so I could post it when I got home, for publication Tuesday morning), a full comic read (Extraordinary X-Men: Apocalypse Wars), and a book finished (The Hanging Tree).



After getting off the plane, my lower back was killing me. It only got worse on Tuesday, though it's since mostly cleared up, probably due to a steady diet of NSAIDS. I initially blamed the plane (and maybe those stupid reclinable seats), but after I wondered if it might have been the bike riding the previous day. The one other day I've had notable back problems in the last year was after I went bike riding in Kelowna. It could be that both of those bikes made me lean over more than my own bike does, and that contributed. I dunno. This time around I was also lugging around 40+ pounds of suitcase and doing the aforementioned awkward plane riding, so there were plenty of possible culprits.

(Stupid reclinable seats.)

Other than that, my health was quite good while I was in Kauai. My long-term health issues mostly disappeared (like last year), my allergies mostly disappeared (though less than usual, I still had a bit of a tickle in my throat for days).

This makes me all suspect that the health issues are mainly stress-related. I've actually long suspected that. (But other options include diet and how I work, since those both change in Hawaii too.)



I've been feeling pretty low-key since I got back from Hawaii. That's always the case. But I can already feel the stress bunching up my shoulders since my return.

My biggest stressor comes from worrying about future things that I have no (or little) control of. Will Skotos still be profitable a few years from now? Will my technical writing still be viable? Will I still have health insurance? There are always warning signs that any of these could be endangered ... and I don't know how to let go of these future possibilities. Or to judge their likelihood. Or to let the good possibilities weigh equally. (Perhaps we'll get our co-op play books to publishers, perhaps we'll get some game designs to market, perhaps we will start an RPGnet publishing arm, perhaps the insurance in Hawaii will be cheaper and better than the crap I get in California.)

My second biggest stressor comes from overwork. From having too many things pulling at my time simultaneously. I do my best to allot out individual days for individual projects, so that I can really work on them without spinning my tires and ensure that they get their fair share of time ... but it's a struggle, especially when someone grabs my time with a request for something immediately needing attention.

My third biggest stressor comes from the political world. It's probably related to the first, as there are all these horrible possibilities for the future (but I miss the good possibilities, like Trump might be locked up in jail for high treason). This was better in Hawaii, when I mostly ignored what my very political friends posted. Maybe I need to revert to that. But I also came to the realization that using FB's new :angry: emoticon was just making me angry, and that wasn't helping anyone. So, no more of that.

I'd like to be able to clear my mind and head of these things, to not think about them, to be aware of dangers but not consumed by them. It'd improve my quality of life.



And so we're back in Berkeley, and I'm almost immediately reminded of the things I don't like here. Crazy guy on the BART platform at the Coliseum. A string of broad daylight armed robberies inside Berkeley cafes. A March 4th neo-Nazi (the so-called alt-right) march that's likely to turn into another riot that the police won't control.

Yep.

I just need to dislike them without constantly harping on them.
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At Poipu, my dad and I lose Mary. We wait for her, and when she doesn't turn up, we wander around, but don't see her on the beach. It's a huge and busy beach. Finally, we dive into the water and scope out the snorkelers, but there's still no Mary. We finally decide that she must be on the opposite side of the tumbolo (which is actually gone again, but there's still an underwater rocky division between the two beaches).

We cease worrying.

(Something I need to learn to do in life generally.)

The water is quite nice, thanks to a beautiful, warm day. There's good swimming, and I spot no less than three picasso triggerfish — although perhaps it's just one, and it's really quick on its fins.

Less wonderfully, I spot the tail of an eel rapidly disappearing into a hole in a rock. Afterward, I find all rocks at Poipu very suspicious.

(This is not the first time I've seen an eel in the relatively shallow waters of that beach.)

When we shower after the swimming, Mary magically reappears and offers to hold my towel. We'd been waiting at different places, and indeed she'd gone to swim on the opposite beach.



The other particular event of the day was McDonalds followed by church. The McDonalds is because my dad goes early to teach Sunday school. The church is fine. It's a nice community. The preacher talks about being aware of what we have in life and being thankful for it, which is a nice message if you include God or not.



And now we're mostly packed and ready to hop on an airplane in the morning. Two airplanes, actually.

And so goes another trip to Hawaii.
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Saturday evening, after dinner, we drive up to the Kukuiolono golf course, to walk around the entire greens. It's a beautiful walk, first through a wooded area, then around the perimeter of the course.

We also have a fun goal: we keep an eye out for lost golf balls on the way. Most are in the roughage around the perimeter. Mary is even willing to climb down into ravines to rescue a few balls. The greatest bounty comes on the far side of a particular hole, where you hit the ball over a big valley. We actually glance around the (heavily wooded) valley a bit, but most turn up just past the valley, in the roughage before the green.

By the end of the attractive evening walk I have eight balls, six white and two yellow. All told, my dad, Mary, and I have come up with 29, five of them yellow.

Kimberly will take them back to the golf course tomorrow to give away, mostly to tourists. (Locals have plenty of balls.)



Speaking of looking for balls, I'm highly amused by all the Republicans reportedly fleeing meetings with their constituents in recent days, since said constituents started figuring out that their elected representatives are conspiring to take away their health insurance as part of their Republican Death Care system.

The politician most in need of our 29 balls seems to be Mitch McConnell, who was loaded straight into a SUV on the tarmac to avoid protesters at the airport ... only to find more at his home, reading the words of Coretta Scott King.

Anywho ...



Our other big event of the day was bike riding. It rained throughout the morning, but the weather reports called for the rain fading away around noon, then the overcast dispersing over the next few hours. So after lunch we headed east to the Kauai Path.

Mary didn't join us, but my dad did, and Kimberly was able to use Mary's bike. So I was the only one who needed to rent. I did, and we then headed north up the path.

It's a beautiful path, running alongside the ocean. Kimberly and I rode it some years ago, and we greatly enjoyed it despite (perhaps in part because of) our getting soaked by a sudden rain storm. But today, the weather was indeed clearing.

The evidence of the earlier rain was still there in the form of several huge puddles, some mostly blocking the path, some deep red due to the red dirt of Kauai. I rode the deep red ones very slowly, to not splash indelible red water everywhere. Eventually we made it to trail's end. I mostly had to keep in first gear to keep my speed down so I could ride with everyone else.

As we came back we started getting very intermittent drizzle, but not much, and Kimberly commented that the ride though beautiful wasn't as much fun as when we got soaked years ago. At which time the rain started pouring down. And Kimberly started laughing. (My dad loved it less.)

When we got back to the bike store, we then travelled the south part of the trail, which we'd missed previously due to the pouring rain. (Today's rain had by then mostly stoppeagaind .)

We noticed some scruffy and dangerous looking homeless people pretty much camped out right at the bathrooms on the south side of the path, which was the only such problem I've ever seen in Kauai.

But they didn't run out into the path or anything, so we made it to the southern trailhead and back.

It was a fun ride. My dad and Mary do it most Saturdays, and probably Kimberly and I will sometimes do it when we live out here.
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Because a holiday in Hawaii is a regular occurrence, and because we hope to be moving here in a few years, we don't feel the need to fill every moment with experience. Not that we did in our first trip in 2001 either, which we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So today, after a few busy days, we mainly lazed around. We even opted not to swim because it looked too gray and windy. Instead there was much reading, some reading aloud, much talking, and some napping.

Yay, vacation.



My dad I did do a little walk around the golf course in the morning. It's a pleasant walk out around a path in the woods there, then out to a pavilion across the greenways. I'm already thinking about doing that forested walk in the mornings when I live here, after waking up and before starting work, because there's an entrance to that path about 100 feet from what will be our front door.



Being a Friday in Kauai meant that we went to the Hanapepe Art Walk in the evening. This is mainly an excuse to have some tasty food and tasty desert. Kimberly and I both got shrimp tacos from Rafael's Aloha Tacos then Tropical Banana Pie from the Right Slice. It was all great; the pies were particularly interesting because they were actually cut bananas in the pie (not as part of some custardy goulash) and there was also a lot of cinnamon. We both thought it tasted like it was prepared like apple pie, but it was bananas. We found it delicious.

And being a Hanapepe Art Walk, it started raining. Kimberly and Mary ran off to a jewelry store that she wanted to visit and my dad and I ran off to Talk Story, the westernmost book store in the US, which always has great stock.

We reunited some time afterward, none of us having purchased anything, but having enjoyed our evening.
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Eat, eat, eat. That's what we do in Hawaii. Breakfast at home, lunch at Snack Shack, Lappert's ice cream for a snack, then a three course meal at J.O.(2).

The three-course meal was of course the notable one. We usually go out for one fancy meal when we're here in Hawaii. This year, Mary was excited to take Kimberly out to a nice fish restaurant in Kapa`a. I'm not a fan of fish, but I gamely agreed.

Mary suggested I could get a seafood platter, which I expect to be good stuff like shrimp and crab, but it was oysters ... and a bunch of fish.

Ah well. We actually had fun sharing dishes around, so I tried a bunch of different fish and didn't get bored by any as I usually do. The seared (i.e., mostly not cooked one) was the best.



The other big event of the day was getting to see the house in the morning. This is our house that we intend to move into in a few years, currently being rented out. I hadn't seen it in about six years, and back then (many Berkeley riots, assaulted trees, and other stressors ago) we weren't really planing on moving. So this time we were considering it more carefully as a future home.

The house was a bit of a mess and all closed up, so I don't think we could appreciate it fully. It actually seemed smaller than I expected, but I think that's because it was empty last time I saw it. (In reality, it's larger than our Berkeley house). But, we could better understand the shape of all the rooms and what it viscerally felt like.

Overall, it was somewhat of a mixed blessing, seeing the house in somewhat of a state of disarray, but that might be a nice contrast when we start it afresh when we move out here.



Other than that, we also swam today and did a bit of shopping in the Poipu area. The swimming was great because we were at Lawai, which has terrific fish. I saw a really cool wrasse (I think) with iridescent blue-green coloration and a rainbow tail, but I can't find a picture of it on Google. The shopping was just hitting a favorites. Poipu is our old stomping ground from our first trip to Hawaii 16 years ago.
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Today, Kimberly was burned out after two busy days, so Mary and I decided to head out on our own to hike up Sleeping Giant. It's a hill out by Kapa`a that's just under 1300 feet.

Starting at a trail head to the west, we had a rapid ascent up the trail, but then the trail leveled out and if anything felt like it was going down. There was some quite beautiful terrain. A forest of pines. A path that went straight through a tunnel of twisted branches. A short walk down what looked like a creek bed. But I became pretty suspicious over the fact that we often seemed to be going down and that we were looping around the hill rather than going up.

A couple of miles later, past an outlook with a few picnic tables, we decide we were really certain that we were going down, so we turned around, and shortly after saw a sign that read .5 miles. Orienting ourself, we came to the conclusion that we'd walked about 2 miles, almost to the trail head on the east side.

So where was the top of the hill!?



Continuing back along the trail, we now saw a steady stream of quarter-mile markers (about ever quarter-mile), and I felt like we were definitely heading the right way.

Soon, some folks coming back told us the trail up to the top of the hill was at the 2 mile marker.

So, we continued along with more surety. And discovered it was now uphill all the way.

Twice, we passed people we'd seen earlier in our trip, and they were confused that we were headed in the wrong direction. We explained that we'd missed the trail up the hill.



So past the 2 mile mark was another one that said "end", and looking up from there we could barely make out a trail. Really, it looked more like two rows of perfectly aligned trees, but Mary thought it looked familiar, so up the tree boulevard went.

Soon afterward there was a more obvious path.

On the earlier trail, Mary had commented how easy the walk was, but here she said that she didn't remember this steepness. And it was steep. I've found one place that says it's an ascent of about 1000 feet in a bit over a mile from the entrance we came in. Me, I walk hills all the time, but I had to take some breaks.

Up near the top we started hitting large rocks, sometimes as high as 10 feet, that we had to climb up to continue.

And then, finally, we found some more picnics tables on a hill top. We rested there for a while!



But that wasn't the top. We now had to walk up to the chin of the Sleeping Giant. About halfway there we passed a sign that said "E d o ail!" and "go beyond this sign — please!" It had clearly been defaced and was clearly being ignored by absolutely everyone. We continued on after we climbed up one last rock we hit the chin.

The view there was absolutely breathtaking. You could see the ocean to one side and Wailua Homesteads to the other, one of the few places in Kauai where the houses really extend inland. It was also a bit acrophobia-inducing because you were sitting on a rock just several feet across and there was just drop beyond that on either side. Whew!

From there we walked along the face, which was a wider path, and eventually emerged up onto the forehead, which is a nice plateau at the top. More breathtaking views.



Then we just had to go down. It was a long way through switch back after switch back. I saw why they tired me on the way up.

Down past the tree boulevard we rejoined our old path and found it was quite a short walk to the trailhead we'd parked at. Whoops! (But, we enjoyed the whole walk!)



Lunch afterward at a Chinese restaurant in Lihue, then it was home for dinner.

After that there was Star Trek: Beyond, which had a nice plot, but even more actionitis that the other two nuStarTrek movies.



Number of falls: two (both well, well below the peak, when there was loose dirt)

Number of waterfalls: none

Number of explosions in Star Trek Beyond: one billion
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After breakfast and some R&R this morning, we headed out to the Moalepe Trail. Except, there was a detour to drop a check off with a handyman, and then no one knew what the trail name was. We were going to head all the way out to the highway, then back up into Kapaa via a known route, but I managed to figure out the name thanks to my Facebook albums from a few years ago.

We stopped at a bathroom in a park on the way (which I'd also sussed out from our previous travels and my handy iPhone), and were surprised to find that not only was it clean, but there were even bars of soaps there! My estimate was that a bar of soap would last in a California public bathroom for ... nope, already gone!

The trail itself was very nice. I'd walked it once before. It goes along a big green canyon, and then turns up and starts ascending into the hills by tree-covered paths. Kimberly and my dad decided to stop a bit before the end of the trail, but Mary and I continued on until we finally hit a bridge that's the "end" of the trail (and the start of another). There were even more beautiful views just past the bridge. (I could never decide if my dad and I had made it to the bridge the one time we walked this, but I definitely didn't see the big vistas on the other side.

We had lunch at Monaco's, a tasty Mexican restaurant, where I was shocked to discover I didn't have my billfold. That meant no Lactaid, but I was fortunately able to scrape the dairy sauce off my seafood tacos. (The billfold ended up being back at home, which was my top guess.)

We then needed to digest our food a bit before swimming, so we went out to Lydgate Park, and my dad walked us down to the "play bridge", on the opposite side of the park from the lagoon where our car was parked. It was the most amazing bridge ever. A huge, maze-like structure of inclines and stairs (and even a slide). Technically, it went over a little ravine, but it was obviously meant to be a fun structure in and of itself, not really a practical one.

Afterward we swam at the lagoon at Lydgate.

And that was our busy first day in Hawaii.

Need more sunscreen on my cheeks and forehead in future days. I got a bit red.

Animals seen: chickens, chicks, a mangy cat

Animals fed: chickens, chicks (sorry mangy cat!)

Mud height: mid calf
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So we are back in Hawaii and have settled into the folks' house.

As you might guess, that made today our travel day.

Because of the chance of rain, I opted for us to Uber in, where we usually take BART. It made the morning much simpler, and was only slightly more expensive: $22 instead of $17. I did feel like we rushed out of the house, though.

We've done the trip so many times that it scarcely phases me. I think this is our 11th trip to the islands and our 9th since my folks moved here, but I could be off by a year too many.

The trip was longer than usual. It was planned to be 6 hours in the air due to strong headwinds, and then we seemed to circle Honolulu for half-an-hour, though I couldn't be sure because the clouds were so heavy that I couldn't see anything. In any case, we landed in Honolulu at about 1.50pm, which was about 40 minutes late.

The reason for our delayed landing soon became clear because the departure and arrival boards were just dripping with blood. Everything was delayed and marked in red. At least two flights to Lihue were waiting. We have to guess that the storm and/or wind was worse before we landed.

On the bright side, our favorite lunch place now has a new balcony out over the Chinese cultural garden, which was pleasant. (Especially when compared to last year, when it was all boarded up.)

Unshockingly, our flight out of Honolulu was running about half-an-hour late, then we sat on the tarmac for quite a while. But we eventually arrived in Lihue only about an hour late. No biggie; as I said, the trip scarcely phases me any more.

Books read during the trip and at airports: Assail (~100 pages), Golden Fool (aloud in airports, ~40 pages), Rivers of London: Night Witch, Uncanny X-Men: Superior — Apocalypse Wars.

History articles written at airports and on planes: five and a half.

Sleep on planes: remarkably, as much as an hour!
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(1445 days left.)

After the election I spent a week or so freaking out about health-care, and what it meant for my future and our ability to move to Hawaii. I wasn't able to put it aside and not worry about it until I came to the conclusion that it was most likely that things would be OK in Hawaii because they had an HMSA before the ACA, and they'll probably have an HMSA after.

And then I pretty much tried to let go of the political fear, angst, and anger.

But Trump has made that impossible since his coronation. Every day there's been horrible stuff. I was right back stressing when I heard that he'd signed an executive order on day one determined to knock out the underpinnings of the ACA by telling the executive branch not to enforce it. And then there was of course the Muslim Ban. Lately the horribleness is almost farcical, like threatening to invade Mexico or hanging up on the Australian PM or signing an executive order to raise Nazi Stephen Bannon to godhood without knowing what he was doing. (He was reportedly angry about the last, but not enough to kick the Nazi to the curb.)

I dread looking at the news in the morning, but I don't know how not to, especially when this is stuff that's going to affect my life.

But I think I'm going to have to figure out how.



The last two weeks of work were very busy. I'd been so energetic and happy and working on projects for the first three weeks of the year, but then I had stress, stress, stress these last two weeks.

I initially diagnosed it as getting too much work in. And, there was a lot. For example I made four passes on a very technical white paper and I worked on some scripts and docs for Chris. All stuff that I hadn't been expecting. And I was trying to also get everything caught up and in good shape for my vacation.

But I think that was a misdiagnosis. The Trump evilness is what formed the foundation of my stress; an excess of jobs just built on it.



Last weekend I was supposed to start up my Burning Wheel game again, but I begged off because I was going out of my head with the thought of prepping and running it. Again, I misdiagnosed it as being solely work, but there's more going on.



Instead, last weekend ending up being quite relaxing. We'd had 4 or so days without rain, which has been a rarity this year, so I opted to hike up in the hills, which I haven't done to any great extent all year. It was a hike I've done before, though via a couple of variant trails: up Panoramic Hill, across the fire trails, along the skyline ridge trail, into Tilden, along the the ridge trails there, and then down, down, down until I get to a bus stop by Lake Anza.

It was a very pleasant walk because we've finally been hitting 60 degrees again. However, there was surprising amounts of damage from our recent storms. At least half-a-dozen big trees down, two of them blocking the trails. A couple of mud slides infringing upon the trail. Mostly non-muddy trails, except a few times were literal streams were running down the trail.

But great, relaxing, and badly needed.



Oh, and I didn't mention my other stressor of late: I've been having my ongoing annoying health issues again. They mostly had faded away during fall, but just before Christmas they picked back up again, and they've been quite annoying throughout January.

Dammit.

And quite bad this weekend in advance, of course, of our vacation.



I'm reluctant to visit doctors again, after the waste of time (and the pain) of way too many visits in 2016, trying (and failing) to figure this out.

But, I'll have new coverage in March with Kaiser (as an alternative to a $300! increase in insurance rates), so maybe when I do this year's physical, we'll talk.

But the doctors were so, so, so worthless in 2016 and so disruptive.



Calgon, take me away.
shannon_a: (Default)
Yesterday night, Kimberly and I went to see The Importance of Being Earnest, put on by the Actors Ensemble of berkeley up at the Live Oak Theatre.

I think we've grown somewhat spoiled by our local community theaters, Berkeley Playhouse and Shotgun Players, because they've bother grown to be entirely professional companies. While the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley, it was ... well, amateur.

I was somewhat forewarned when we were sitting in the teenie lobby, waiting for them to open the doors. A couple of old folks were there running things, and they were talking about stuff like maybe they should think about running some ads (for the show ending in a week) and how they had just 16 pre-orders (thankfully, the small theatre ended up being more than half full).

Inside the theatre, the sets were OK. Kimberly says the costumes were generally badly fitting, though I scarcely noticed.

The play somewhat disturbingly started with one of the servants sitting on stage reading for 10 minutes. As the clock ticked to 8:10 for a show that was supposed to have started at 8:00, with the servant on stage the whole time, I began to wonder if we'd tricked into some performance art BS. Fortunately we then got started for real.

But the acting ...

The big problem was Lady Bracknell, and that's a pretty big problem in "The Importance of Being Earnest". She was constantly forgetting her lines, and the rest of the time she seemed like she was on the verge of forgetting them. There'd be a lag, and then she'd blurt it out, stomping all over the actual content of the line along the way. Which is a shame because Bracknell of course has many of the best lines in the play. But we really didn't to appreciate any of them (except a couple I appreciated because I knew they were coming). The program book said the actress has been in theatre for 40 years, and even did some Off-Broadway, so it makes me feel bad that she might be losing what she loves to do.

Chasuble meanwhile was horribly overacted. And I couldn't tell if he was also forgetting lines or if the big pauses and stutters were more bad overacting. Earnest (Jack) was wooden. But things improved from there. Prism was OK. Gwen and Cecily were good.

And Algie, he saved the play. The actor was quite good, and he has most of the other really good lines. And he was very amusingly (and appropriately) constantly eating. He sometimes used this to purposeful humor such as one line he gave that was largely muffled by what he was eating, but which had to have been intentional because Jack then repeats what he says. And this all led to the funniest moment of the play, when Algie was eating muffins and accidentally spit some of it back on himself. He seized the moment (and the ejected muffin bit) and thew it violently down in great agitation, and you could see that he was just barely containing laughter. And on he went.

As for the play itself: it's Oscar Wilde. The play really feels like an excuse for everyone to spend two hours exchanging witticisms. And, if it feels a bit unbelievable at first, you soon lose yourself in the cleverness.

So, a fun play, thanks largely to the writing and the Algie.

(This is just the second play we've seen at Live Oak Theatre, the first being Rough Crossing, in 2001.)
shannon_a: (politics)
Last night certainly highlighted Kimberly's and my desire to move out of Berkeley, as we had rioters far too close to our house and downtown businesses smashed up for the nth time in the last few years.

Yes, there were serious reasons to protest. Yes, having a Neo-Nazi speak on campus was a really stupid idea, and something we shouldn't be doing with our resources. If he wants to speak, he can get a box to stand on and crazy-rant on Telegraph. But I think some of last night's problems highlight serious problems that I have with progressivism as it's been practiced in Berkeley, and that's yet another reason that I think I'm ready to see the backside of this town.

I identify as a progressive. I believe that fairness and justice should be the foundation of any civilized society. I'd happily say I'm a Social Justice Warrior (and I laugh that some people think that's a slur).

But ...



Berkeley's Progressive Problems

Over-Acceptance. (Or, if you prefer, A Blind Eye.)

I feel like a traitor saying it, but Berkeley is too accepting nowadays. It acts like acceptance is the highest good, that if we accept all, no bad can occur. It totally ignores the fact that some behaviors are anti-social, or otherwise unacceptable.

I actually used to think this was farcical. I saw it in parents that let their children run amok, that wouldn't discipline them or tell them no, because they didn't want to impair their child's individuality or creativity. Totally ignoring the fact that they're the parents and the children are the children and their job is to guide and shape, to move their children toward socially acceptable norms.

Meanwhile, we're so accepting that we're willing to let a Neo-Nazi use our public resources.

And we're so accepting that we're willing to let the Black Bloc riot afterward like they have at every demonstration for the last eight years. (The only notable exception: The Berkeley High demonstrations — the several times the kids have marched out of campus and demonstrated have been totally peaceable, so kudos to them.)

Which is a way of saying that over-acceptance was the root cause of these riots on either side.

And that's not the only way that it's eating away at our city. The homeless are the other big problem, and that's pretty much the same issue. The politicians are literally giving away our public spaces to them, our parks and our sidewalks. They're letting this minority of people take away the commons that should be used by the majority. Because to do otherwise wouldn't be accepting or Berkeley enough. Yes, I have sympathy, but keeping these people on the streets isn't the way to help them. It's just those broken ideas continuing to break our city.

Over-Purity. (Or, if you prefer, Dogma)

Here's another way of looking at the problem: purity. There's a certain faction of our local progressives (and they're unfortunately now the faction in charge of our city government) who seem to believe that it's their road or the high road. They have their fundamental beliefs about how progressivism should work, and if things don't work like that, they refuse compromises.

I suspect this is some of the basis of our police letting the Black Bloc do as they will, and our Mayor letting the homeless do as they will. For me, it broke my own connection to the ultra-progressives in our local government when my city councilman provided the vote that destroyed the possibility of a rapid transit bus line running down Telegraph, right near our house. Because it wasn't green enough, or some such nonsense.

I personally didn't care about the bus line, but it was presented with a plan that would have revamped the entirety of Telegraph, including a protected bike lane that would have run along its whole length. So now, every time I have a car come too close on Telegraph or I have to swerve into traffic because the bike lane ends, I thank my local city councilman, who puts me in danger on a weekly basis because the planned renovation of Telegraph wasn't progressive enough ... and so never happened.

Over-Compensation. (Or, if you prefer, Cowardice.)

This is probably a cause-and-effect thing, but increasingly people seem to over-compensate when dealing with progressivism in Berkeley. I think that's why the police haven't done hardly anything about the last several years of riots: they fear the backlash they'd get, and so just let the rioters run riot.

Personally, I think that non-lethal weapons have no place when people are just protesting, even if they're blocking streets or highways or causing inconvenience. But when those protests turn to riots, when the protesters are destroying property and even hurting people ... that's when the police should be stepping in. And they should be using non-lethal crowd control methods, even if it results in some of the protestors getting hurt.

Yes, there are so-called innocent protestors still out there, but when the protest becomes a riot, they are now giving cover to the rioters. They should be given the chance to disperse, and if they don't the police should disperse them by force.

If there's whining afterward or not.

Otherwise, the police just aren't doing their job.

(And I'm sure they're not the only ones overcompensating toward the loud minority in Berkeley.)

Over-Preservation. (Or, if you prefer, NIMBYism.)

And finally we come to my favorite pet peeve, NIMBYISM. Because the so-called progressives in Berkeley are so conservative that they don't want anything to change. Every new apartment, every new building, even the new bikeways get fought tooth-and-nail.

These people have weaponized the legal system to slow actual progress so much that a lot of builders are afraid to work in Berkeley. And if something is being worked on, expect it to take years and years to come to fruition. A decade isn't unknown.

It's literally the opposite of progressivism, but it's these same people that claim they're the big progressives.



The USA's Progressive Problems

I think there are some similar poisons in the progressive movement in the US as a whole.

I see some of the same purity, but I also think some things have gone too far.

The safe-spacing and trigger-warning in colleges has gone beyond providing a comfortable environment to the point where it's a new censorship, almost a new McCarthyism. And lets not even talk about micro-aggressions.

And I could say the same about some of depths of political correctness. Yes, Neil Gaiman is right that you can often just replace "political correctness" with "treating other people with respect". But I now look at the screams of cultural appropriation that come up anyone tries to pay homage to another culture, or I think about a white boy who was nearly assaulted a few years ago by a black woman for wearing dreadlocks, and I want to shout that it's gone too far. That's not treating other people with respect; in fact, it's the opposite.

Yes, I understand the strength and need for identity politics, yes I want to protected disadvantaged and minority groups. But I feel like we've gone so far down the rabbit hole that it's become the enemy.

Which is also to say that I understand why the Rust Belt can no longer vote for a democrat, even when the alternative was the literal Anti-Christ.



The problems with Berkeley have been bugging me for years.

The problems with national progressivism were a niggling worry for quite some time, but I finally put a finger on it after November's apocalyptic election.

And I'm still uncomfortable with it all because I feel like I'm being insufficiently empathetic. That it's traitorous to say that identity politics can become problematic when they go too far.

I remember that I felt similar things about affirmative action (and, yes, political correctness) back in high school, before I got out in the world, before I better saw and understood the bigger picture. So I worry that may be true again.



What do we want as progressives?

Progress?

A society where everyone is treated well?

A society where we can feel safe?

A society where our most vulnerable have the same protections as our least?

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

But I'm not convinced that accepting anti-social behavior, that requiring total acceptance of our goals, that giving in to these overweening desires, that holding on to the past without reason, that censoring what people say, or that protecting cultures over people will get us there.

Quite the contrary.

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