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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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Welcome to week four, and how is the new year going?

I must admit to a bit of existential dread about the new president. I mean, surely we've had pathological liars in the White House before, though none so obvious. But it's really the combination of that lying with a high level of incompetence and a certainty that he's right that's scary. It's like Dan Quayle rose up to power, but if he was also a narcissistic, self-centered man-child.

The existential dread is the big picture stuff, and I look at the headlines with fear every morning at what he's done today. I've actually had to sign off of a few progressive mailing lists, because what they were sending out was pure FUD that wasn't helping my mood.

But it's the specific stuff that's even scarier. I'm the most worried about health care. Are my costs going to double in the next decade as the CBO has predicted if the Republicans have their way? Am I going to be out of insurance? The damnedest thing is that I'm pretty healthy. I mean, if I had such horrible insurance that it only covered catastrophes, my life probably wouldn't change. I can't even imagine folks that's not true for.

I've lost two of my familial elders since the New Year, heck since the inauguration: Bob's dad (my step-grandfather) and my Aunt Peg.

I probably knew Bob the elder better. We drove down to Los Angeles a number of times when I was growing up, to spend time with Bob's family, and he was the patriarch of the house.

I probably knew August Peg less well, because she lived out in St. Louis, but she was one of the family members delighted to see me when I visited summers long gone.

And all the losses diminish us. It's a somber start to the year.

OK, perking up.

It looks like our recent roof work was successful, as the torrential downpour of the last week didn't cause new leaks. Yay. And they're going to come back in to stucco over the wounds where our water heater was removed last year, after one of our last house problems (sigh!), which will be another thing off our list-of-stressors and our list-of-things-that-must-be-done-before-we-leave-this-house.

Our recent bathroom work was more so-so. I'm hoping that the handyman fixed the leaking problem we had since last year by grouting over the bottom half of the tiles in our bathroom. Our wall has definitely stopped leaking, I'm less sure about under the house. But the grout is much darker than what's on the other half of the tiles. And it looks really grainy. And there was grit all over the tiles. Days later we've got the grit mostly off, and I'm hoping a sealant will make the stucco itself look smoother and better. But the variegated look of the top and bottom of our tile is annoying.

Speaking of rain, I'm well and sick it. It's greatly impacted my exercise over the last few months. I've been getting 50k or so steps a week instead of my goal of 70k and my more typical excess of more than that. Oh, that's been partly the cold too. Altogether it just hasn't been that nice going out on weekends or evenings or whatever.

I've been trying to figure out alternative ways to exercise, but the success has been somewhat limited.

But, yay, we're heading out of our drought.

The state water regulators, meanwhile, talked about extending our drought restrictions during one of the heaviest days of rain after days of rain. Because they have no sense of irony. Or too much sense of irony. But that's generally their modus operandi.

Work has been good since the new year. I feel like the week off helped me get my mojo back, so I've been bouncing around, putting finishing projects on various projects that have been long standing, and feeling good about it.

I'm getting a bit more weighed down this week, because various people all want my attention. I suppose that's to the good, but less bouncy.

So that's 2017 so far. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Trump is the ugly.
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A Night at the Movies (Friday: 23). Kimberly and I rarely go the movies, but Christmas is our definitive goto movie day, because that's what we did on several Christmas days in the '00s when we were keeping to ourselves. So we went a bit early this year, and saw Rogue One right after I knocked off work on Friday. Great Star Wars movie; one of the best. Great characters, great development. Yes, its tone is different, but it had a tone of sacrifice and danger that I think is missing from many of the core films.

The Journey Home (Saturday: 24). We got up bright and early on Saturday to go down to San Marteen for the holiday. That's been our pattern the last few years and it's been quite nice staying over and having Christmas with the folks. But it's quite long to BART down to Fremont, then drive to San Marteen: over an hour and a half. I keep praying for the southern BART stations to open, but Warm Springs BART is entering its third year behind schedule. It's apparently been built, but they're losing trains between Fremont and Warm Springs. Theoretically, Berryessa is going to also open in 2017, which is the exciting one because it's right next to many folks I know, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Tichu! (Saturday+: 24+). We often play games while down in San Marteen, and this time around I brought Tichu because the Wiedlins are big card-playing folks. Rob, my Mom, Bob, and I played a couple of games on Saturday, and it went over great. (Then Jason and Kimberly joined us for a game on Sunday.) Well, Bob had some rather humorous problems distinguishing the phoenix and the dragon; I'm not convinced he realized they were separate cards at first and he never quite figured out their scoring and use. But even with that, everyone enjoyed the game, and I believe multiple folks wanted to get their own copies. (In fact, my siblings later made up their own deck for New Years!) It's definitely going into my bag regularly for future South Bay trips (except that I need to get a fresh copy soon, as mine is pretty worn from ~20 games).

I Am the Ping Pong King! Ko-ko-kachu. (Saturday+: 24+). There is always ping pong at the Wiedlin household, and I managed to remain undefeated against Bob, Rob, and Jason. (Well, undefeated in two-out-of-three sets; two of them came down to the rubber match.) I'll also admit that two of my opponents were somewhat intoxicated due to the beer & pizza from just beforehand. Probably primarily from the beer.

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas (Sunday: 25). Christmas morning at the Wiedlin house is fun and chaotic. Stockings for us kids and lots of presents that everyone is crazily opening their prezzies simultaneously. There was much loot, including a nice windbreaker, a nice jacket, some hiking shoes (all successfully tried out!), and a few games. Thanks parents and siblings!

Farm, Farm on the Range (Sunday+: 25+). One of the presents I got from Rob was Stardew Valley, a computer game that I'd mentioned, that he then ran out and gifted to me on Steam. I'd heard good things about this roleplaying farm-sim, and occasionally I play extensively through a game over my holiday break. This seemed like a good time to return to that old habit. Steam says I played it for over 20 hours, so it's definitely a success (and speaks well to my relaxing over the holiday!).

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas II (Sunday: 25). At home, late on Sunday night, Kimberly and I had our own Christmas. There were more stockings (prepared by her this year, with just a little help from me because she was feeling time-crunched) and more prezzies. Nice Hawaiian shirts, a TARDIS mug, and more wonderful Kimberly-created bookmarks. Yay.

Hike Any Mountain (Monday: 26). On my Monday back from San Marteen I needed some restful, relaxation time, so I did my most common medium-length hike up in the hills behind us. I walk up to the rear of Strawberry Canyon and then loop back over the top of Panoramic Hill. It's about two hours, has a nice ascent, and great views. I also wanted to try out my new hiking shoes, and they worked great. No slipping, nor sliding, not even after I hiked down some places that usually give me problems.

A Night at the Movies II (Monday: 26). I got Kimberly a few DVDs for Christmas, and we watched one of them Monday night: JasonBourne. She was a big fan of the first three, and I'm happy to say we were both quite pleased with the fifth-ish one. It was nice to see Bourne's super competence expressed in a new way, through more thoughtful and tactical work. We had some problems with the pile of coincidences implicit in the main antagonist, but other than that, this was a fine movie. I have no idea why Rotten Tomatoes rates it exactly the same as The Bourne Legacy (the pseudo fourth movie), because that was a big "Who Cares?" while this was entirely enjoyable and provided some nice closure.

The MOMA Has No Clothes (Tuesday: 27). Imagine a room filled with black sand. On the opposite wall is a shattered mirror. Off to another side is a picture of a hand holding a bean, way up on the wall where it's hard to see. A voice intones deeply accented gibberish. Wait, there's no need to imagine, because this crap is actually an installation at the MOMA in San Francisco. AKA, the sort of crap that gives modern art a bad name. Also there, giving modern art a bad name: a pile of red, white and blue bicycles, a triptych of entirely white canvases, an entirely black canvas, and an entirely blue canvas. MOMA should be ashamed of displaying that sort of thing. But we also saw great mobiles by Alex Calder, interesting cityscapes made up of individual photos, some other nice collages, and a beautiful set of dodecahedrons made with string and some sort of metal. It was an enjoyable four(!) hours at the MOMA, but probably our last visit while we live in California.

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas III (Wednesday: 28). Melody and Jared visited us on Wednesday to complete our trilogy of Christmases. We talked, we ate at Chevy's, and we exchanged gifts for gift cards.

Game On! (Wednesday: 28). This year I've mostly been coming home from EndGaming pretty early, because Kimberly has been going to bed early, but on Wednesday I splurged and told Kimberly I'd be home after she was asleep. As a result I got to play two long games: Orleans: Invasion and Key Harvest. Yay! It was a lot of fun!

Park Place (Thursday: 29). Kimberly and I like occasionally going out to Golden Gate Park, getting Andronico's sandwiches, eating them, and wandering around. So we did that on Thursday. I have a new appreciation for the park since I've been to New York, as it's so different from Central Park. It protects you from the city, whereas Central Park feels like a big bowl with city all around. Anywho, we walked around, and I kept getting turned around. It was fun. On our way out I climbed Strawberry Hill, and was impressed by the views.

On the Seventh Day He Rested (Friday: 30). After six days of running about, I mostly relaxed at home on Friday. Though I must admit I did a short climb above Clark Kerr (my 60-minute or so super-short walk up in the hills). And we ate dinner out. And we got groceries.

These Shoes Were Made For Walking (Saturday: 31). I had a casual morning on Saturday, but after lunch I decided to head out to Briones Reservoir, an EBMUD area that I've been wanting to explore for a while. Google tricked me into thinking Bear Creek Trail went right out to Bear Creak Road, but all that was there was an inaccessible fire trail. So instead it was another .6 miles up the road and 300 feet of ascent, which tired me out before the walk. The actual Reservoir is gorgeous with great hillside trails looping around it. And it was entirely empty due to EBMUD's policy of making it as hard as possible for people to use their trails. And best of all, there were benches every mile or so. I only walked about a mile and half out (then the same back), but I now really want to figure out how to walk the whole reservoir. It's 12.5 miles, or 14.5 if I don't bike up that steep hill, so it'll take some stamina and a full day. Maybe in Spring.

A Final Gift from 2016 (Saturday: 31). While I was out hiking, Kimberly was sickening with the flu. Thanks 2016, you rock.

Writing Like He's Running Out of Time (Saturday+: 24+). And finally, writing. In recent years, I've used my last week of the year to write really extensively, but this year (shocker) I decided to mostly relax instead. Oh, I did write whenever I was on a BART train, and there were quite a few. So I got a few histories done going to Fremont and back and bits and pieces on my other trips. But I'm probably a bit behind going into the new year. But, this post is done. My 2016 index for Mechanics & Meeples is done. My 2016 RPG year in review needs a double-check for important stuff and an edit and it's done. And then I need to see if it's possible to get a week ahead on my histories like I'd hope.

But carefully. I wouldn't want to lose my week of R&R.
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I've mostly been able to relax since I got back from Canada.

OK, that's not strictly true, as I worked four days last week and also have written six D&D histories since I've gotten back (3 on BART, 3 in Alvarado Park). But that's "relaxation" for me.

Wednesday was the first morning I didn't wake up itching as my antihistamines wore off. My rash is pretty much gone at this point (and I used up the last of my Canadian antihistamines this morning, so good timing.)

My dad and Mary are currently out from Hawaii. They actually came out the same day I returned from Canada, arriving in the Bay Area just a few hours after I did. We don't see a lot of them when they're visiting, because they stay with Melody and Jared, with my dad helping around the house and them both seeing friends. But we usually get together and visit at least once while they're out here, and that was on Wednesday.

It was my dad's birthday. After lunch at home, Kimberly and I took BART down to Fremont and met my dad, Mary, and Melody (Jared worked the day). The plan was to go out for a hike. Since K. still isn't up to hills, Melody and I figured out that the Quarry Lakes Regional Park would be a good choice.

This is a bunch of lakes just past the 'burb of Niles. I'm guessing they used to be quarries, but that's just speculation. (Actually, the web site confirms: "Gravel taken from the banks of Alameda Creek was used in the construction of the transcontinental railroad's western section.")

Anywho, it was a nice walk around a park that I hadn't visited before. I've actually biked a bit of Alameda Creek on the opposite side, but I'd never walked the northward side or around the quarry lakes beyond. It was pleasant, California terrain. Lots of brown brush, but quite pleasant lakes (though the path was always further than the lakes than I would have hoped). We walked around the majority of the lakes, which was a pretty big distance. My FitBit records 2 hours of walking and over 10,000 steps, which would have been nearly 5 miles. Looking at my records, I can tell that I was walking slower than normal because only 76/128 minutes were up in the fat burning zone.

There was a cross-country meet going on while we were there, with many girls running around us. One team (the red team) was clearly doing much better than the other.

We also saw a SNAKE on the trail. Just a small little thing. It wouldn't have bothered me if Kimberly hadn't shouted about it, then for a moment I couldn't figure out where it was, so I could only envision a huge rattler pouncing on us. I screamed like a little girl.

Jared joined us afterward and we had dinner at an Indian restaurant in Newark that was shockingly empty. It was good food, and surprisingly my second Indian food in a week (the previous being in Canada!).

Overall, a nice day, good seeing family and hanging out. It was also the exact antidote that I needed after my exhausting week in Canada, nicely breaking up my week back.


Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:16 pm
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So the holiday season is officially over. I was back at work on Friday, even if it's the weekend now.

The Wiedlin Christmas. Kimberly and I went down to San Marteen on Christmas Eve. That's a grueling three hour or so trip by foot, by BART, and finally by car. I'd been hoping that Warm Springs BART would be open by this Christmas. (It was supposed to be.) Alas, no, we're still stuck in Fremont, which is not just several miles further north, but also quite a ways from the highway. (If you were designing a public transit end point, wouldn't you want to put it near the highway??)

As has been the case the last few years, we spent Christmas Eve with my mom, Bob, and Rob, with shrimp dinner as prelude, then board games afterward. (This year, Between Two Cities was well-received.)

My mom has three guest rooms in her house (one of which is mostly an office), and we've now slept in all of them due to various siblings being in various rooms for the long-haul at various times. We should unlock some sort of achievement.

It's nice staying over the night, then having a family Christmas in the morning (when Jason and Lisa show up from their other-family festivities). We had stockings and presents. Afterward Kimberly and I went with folks to walk dogs on The Loop, then I went to bike with Bob, who had a new bike. Then there was a tiny bit of game playing. (Jason can not read game rules!) Then a more traditional Christmas dinner, then an hour or so of Ping Pong. (I'm always surprised that I can still play decently well, with my once-a-year playing.) It was a very active Christmas, which would be foreshadowing for the whole holiday.

Jason insisted on giving us a ride all the way back home, which means it was only a 2-hour trek home (but 4 hours for him!).

The Mini Appel Christmas. Towarder the end of the holiday, Melody and Jared came and visited us. We talked, had lunch at Smart Alec's, talked, and exchanged some presents. They had to move their cars every two hours due to Berkeley's fascist parking laws (laws that they're now talking about extending to evenings and weekends, which I suspect would be the end of me being able to host gaming at my house). Any who, the Appel christmas was nice.

The Christmas Tree Ordeal. By the time Christmas came around, our tree was quite dry, the result of us having picked it up a few days after Thanksgiving. So we took it down the Monday afterward. That turned out to be a lot of work. The hardest bit was getting the slats of wood and tub off the base of the tree. That required screwdrivers, a hammer, and lots of prying. It took two of us and some trickery to get the final nail out of the center of everything. Then I had to cut the top couple of feet off the tree so it'd get picked up. That last work didn't seem as impossible, but took some hard effort.

So, we've now had the entire adult Christmas experience.

Shortly afterward, Kimberly ordered an artificial tree for next year.

The Other Stuff. We saw Star Wars and enjoyed it greatly (though I thought it hit too many plot beats from the original movie). We went to the Academy of Sciences. We went to Rick and Ann's for brunch. I did not do much biking due to lack of bike, at least not until Wednesday when I took the new bike out to EndGame.

The Presents. Lots of fun stuff. Kimberly got me an entirely delightful Dalek mug. Also a biking shirt that I think will be really nice in summer. There were many games from Wiedlins, including some new Feld games and Broom Service. And some books. I used cash to pick up many things including the run of Y: The Last Man in nice hardcovers and the Lord of the Rings deckbuilders, and Wrath of the Righteous decks for Pathfinder ACG and biking lights and gloves.

So that was Christmas.
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Met up with the Appels yesterday: my dad, Mary, Melody, Jarod, and new member, pup Koloa. (Kimberly was unfortunately unable to join us due to current struggles with meds.)

They picked me up at about 9.45. The plan was for 9.30, but they'd typed the wrong address into the Waze app and so Stephen Colbert (the current voice of Waze) correctly directed them to an incorrect address 12 blocks away, and then they had to drive across Berkeley, fighting with busy streets, to get back. I mention this mainly because overreliance on modern mapping apps was a theme for the day.

(That's foreshadowing.)

Our first stop was Land's End. That's the northwest corner of San Francisco. Kimberly and I have hiked there before, though that's five years gone I suspect. It's a great trail, very well-defined and pretty heavily used, but with beautiful views of the Golden Gate.

Unfortunately, it took us almost two hours to get from our house to Land's End. The Bay Bridge was awful (though my dad got to ride on the new bridge for the first time), and then the drive across San Francisco involved buses constantly pulling out at us and vehicles constantly illegally double-parked and causing us grief. We only got to Land's End around 11.30 or so, and even then there was a delay while my dad and I got some quick-energy from cookies and Mary had a whole salad for lunch (because she'd eaten breakfast at 6am).

The trail was nice, as ever. My dad was less-than-thrilled with the 10 or so flights of stairs, right in the middle, when you rise and then descend before heading on to Eagle's Point. But, there was nice scenery, nice company, and a dog having fun. It was great. There were also pictures taken along the way here and there.

At Eagle's Point we turned around and came back, with one change on the way back. When we got the Labyrinth, Mary, Melody, and I hiked down to see it (while Jared and my dad and the dog rested at the top). The Labyrinth is just a little spiral of stones that sits out on one of the promontories along the trail. It was recently destroyed by )*(#@_(#$ vandals, but we were happy to see it built up again. Melody and I each walked the Labyrinth and added a stone to it. Then it was back up to the main trail, which is a bajillion stairs (about 20 flights all told going to the Labyrinth and back). When I walked up those steps some years ago when Kimberly and I walked it, I was exhausted, but this time, I felt great. So, I'm clearly in better shape than I was several years ago. Yay, biking and Fitbit. (I turned out to have sore legs today though, presumably from the ~50 flights of stairs that I walked all together while out on the hike.)

And that was pretty much Land's End, the hiking and active part of our day.

Melody found us a nearby deli to have lunch at (a successful use of mapping technology). There was a bit of a wrangle about finding somewhere with outside seating so that Koloa could join us (another continuing theme for the day), but I came up with a solution to that: we got our sandwiches, and then drove a couple of blocks over to Golden Gate Park. After driving a few blocks through the Park, we found a picnic table, with parking nearby-ish. Voila!

(My dad was impressed with how well I knew the area, and I told him that though I don't get to SF much, when I do I'm walking or biking, and so I get to know the territory much better.)

The sandwiches were good. Three of us had Dutch Crunch, and it was good. There were chips too.

I was tempted to title this entry, "If you value your life, travel not to Point Reyes." Because that was our next destination. My dad had wanted to see it because he never had, in his decades in the Bay Area, and Jared and I had both glanced at Google Maps and seen that it was just an hour from Land's End.

So it seemed reasonable.

What we hadn't really realized is that Point Reyes is vast and empty. Though part of it is just an hour from San Francisco, you can keep driving and driving and driving and find nothing but roads for hours.

Our road to Point Reyes started when highway 1 diverges from 101. I saw a really cool bike trail there that seemed to be running on a wooden pier through a marsh or something. Looking at the maps now, I think it might have been a trail around Coyote Creek near Sausalito, but I'm not sure. 1 runs to the coast, and then up the coast. Unfortunately, early on it's way up in the hills, so you don't get great views until you drop down to Bolinas Lagoon (but that was beautiful). And it's full of twists and turns. Fortunately, there's was Bonine all around at lunch, thanks to my dad's supply and the supply I pilfered from Kimberly before I left.

Eventually we diverged from 1 and started heading deeper into Point Reyes, toward the Point. We were past an hour into the trip by this point, as we were well into the Park, and also often going slower than the speed limit on windy roads. (Stephen Colbert kept telling us there were traffic jams ahead, and as best I can figure, it's just because many cars in that area go below the speed limit, because they don't want to die.)

Coming up on two hours, we were deep into the Park and getting close the point, and zeroing in on some signs that promised beaches and a lighthouse. We finally chose Drake's Beach mainly because it promised bathrooms. On the way, the Waze app largely failed, telling us that we were driving through fields well before we got to the Beach.

Drake's Beach was cold and gray and very windy. The visitor's center there was closed, even though it should have been either open or just closing (because it was drawing up on 5pm). The bathrooms were open, though, and huge. There was a changing area that you could have fit a couple of king-sized beds in. Given the conditions of the beach, it was presumably for changing into parkas.

A lady walking her service dog on the beach told Jared and Melody not to walk their non-service-dog, lest they get ticketed. She suggested South Beach instead, which I picked out on a nice map on one of the walls of the area.

On the way away from Drake's Beach we saw the bizarrest thing: a huge elk head poking up over a hillside. There was presumably an elk attached. It had antlers from here to eternity. It seemed so over-the-top and larger-than-life that I figured it must be a statue or something, but Melody says it moved. (Perhaps it was just being blown by the gail-force winds.)

It was another mile to South Beach, where we find another wind-swept, frozen, post-apocalyptic wasteland. This was a pets-allowed beach, so Koloa frolicked around after her 5 or 6 hours in the car to that point. Fun was had by all. Except Mary, who hid in the car to avoid the gail.

We probably spent a total of 15-20 minutes on those two beaches. Tops. Then it was back in the car to escape from Point Reyes.

There were map-nav problems on the way home too, because we'd lost cell signals about 5 miles before we got to the Beaches. We hoped we could get signals back before we had to make the decisions about which way we were going as we got back toward civilization. Fortunately, my AT&T eventually picked up (and so we used Google Maps instead of Waze for the navigation on the way home).

We were fortunately able to take a different route home, which cut straight across the peninsula before dropping us back on 101. It was much less winding, and I found it much prettier. That's because the landscape was much more what I think of as typical California. Lots of hills, mixed green and brown.

Strangely: there were big rocks deposited here and there. Some were man-sized, some much larger. I don't tend to see rocks like that dotting the landscape in our local parks, so I was curious what was up with that.

And then we hit the Richmond bridge, and there was more horrible traffic. Because, apparently, bridges suck when you're not biking them (but they also suck when you can't bike them, which is currently the case for two of the three Bridges we rode over on Friday).

By now we were trying to figure out the meal-with-a-dog question again. Someone suggested we could maybe take something home, and I called Kimberly to get her OK on that. An hour and thirty minutes or so after we left South Beach, we thus pulled up into Oscar's, where we bought burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries to take home.

Kimberly had the cats locked up by the time we got home, so Koloa was allowed in the house.

After the meal, though, I let Callisto out, and she was pretty OK with the dog. She kept sniffing him and laying down to watch him (safely out of reach!). She never seemed particularly concerned or worried about him, even though he's 4x her size. Well, except when she got stepped on by a backing-up Koloa, and then she went and hid out in the Dining Room for a bit, to clean herself.

So that was the big day with the Appels. The company was great and Land's End was great, but there was way too much driving afterward. My dad was pretty apologetic about picking Point Reyes, but none of us were too upset about it. Jared and I had both looked it up and raised no concerns, and as I said, it wasn't some place I would have ever biked too.

We all can say we saw Point Reyes now, and probably won't again.

I was dead exhausted by the time the family left around 9pm or so. Too tired to do anything but read, and much to Kimberly's surprise, I then went to bed early (something I pretty much never do, because I can't fall asleep).

I'm still worn out today. I had to have a fruit soda to get my energy up enough to role-play, but then managed to stay alert and awake for the afternoon. (Hopefully that tiredness is from the day full of driving and socializing, but Kimberly appears to have come down with a cold, so I may now be fighting that off too.)
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Ever since my dad and Mary moved to Hawaii, Kimberly and I have taken care of my sister's cat, Tai Chi (a/k/a Guest Cat), on a regular basis, whenever she visited them. For a while, when Melody was in college, it was twice a year, and so Tai Chi got very familiar with our house, and the stalking Lucy kit and the hissing Munchkin and Cobweb old ladies.

But, Tai Chi's last visit was two years ago. Graduation and a job kept Melody (and Jared) away from Hawaii for a while after that, then when they visited last year, my folks (who were out for the wedding) housesat and catsat for them. So when Tai Chi returned a bit over a week ago, it had been a while.

Unfortunately, this new visit was very tiring. The main problem was Callisto. She constantly growled and hissed at Tai Chi, which would have been annoying but OK. Unfortunately, she also quickly escalated to trying to attack Tai Chi. We deterred her about a dozen times over the course of the visit. And that was only when we were allowing the cats to all be out in the house under careful monitoring. During the workday, our cats were usually locked up in my office, which they don't mind at all and which let Tai Chi have the run of the house. Then, during the night and during the weekend, Tai Chi was more frequently locked up in the Guest Room while our cats had the run of the house.

We were really surprised by the troubles. Callisto had actually met Tai Chi before. He last visited after we'd had Callisto for about a month. And, she's the friendliest cat in the world with people, and she's the one that's constantly trying to make friends with Lucy. So to have her try to attack Tai Chi was ... shocking.

And, it was a real pity, because Tai Chi was friendlier than he'd ever been. Purring and rubbing up against us and climbing all over us if we laid down in "his" bed in the Guest Room. (A bed that he vomited on twice, being Tai Chi ... which led to multiple washings of the comforter and sheets.) So, he could have had a really happy week if not for Callisto.

Instead, it was a tiring week keeping cats separated them and keeping an ear out while they were out together.

Tai Chi was actually not the only bonus animal at the house over the week.

K. hosted writing group at our house on Thursday as part of her hopeful recovery from coughing and we let her friend C. bring her service dog, Suzen, to the group. I wouldn't want most dogs in our house, but Suzen is somewhat trained and very friendly, so I didn't have any concerns. I encouraged Lucy to stay up in my office, because I didn't want my little scaredy-cat to have a heart attack, and Tai Chi stayed locked up. But Callisto hung out downstairs and didn't seemed worried at all, though she skirted very carefully around Suzen while moving about when I was (briefly) downstairs.

(While told me that the Callisto/Tai Chi problems were entirely territorial beef, not fear.)

Then when Melody and Jared came to pick up Tai Chi on Sunday they brought their dog, Koloa. She's a fast-growing pup of a year or so. She didn't actually come into the house, but the five of us went out to the soon-to-be-dearly-departed Oscar's, then ate our bounty at the nearby Ohlone Dog Park. We got to see Koloa race around and be crazy and watched Melody discourage her from jumping on people and tables. It was pleasant visit, and a nice bit of time out at a dog park.

Then Melody, Jared, Koloa, and Tai Chi went home.

Callisto was almost immediately relieved. She was lounging about by Sunday evening, clearly relaxed for the first time in 9 days, having finally driven the interloper from the house.

Heard from the sun room earlier today while I was working: "Mmrrrrhhhh!" "Mmrrrrhhhhh!" "Mmrrrrrhhhhhhhhhh!" That'd be the plaintive noise that Callisto makes when she's afraid Lucy is going to get her. And sure enough, Lucy, who is a third of the size of Callisto, was looming over her and threatening/playing. (Lucy has a poor understanding of which is which.)

Yep, that's the cat that spent 9 days trying to kill our visitor, begging the 5 pound cat not to hurt her.

(We did theorize that Callisto was so aggressive because she wasn't just protecting herself and the household, but also her Lucy kit.)
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I can't believe it's been a month already since we got back from Hawaii. Seems like we were out there just yesterday!

Various stuff seems to be falling into place.

We ordered some new blinds last week, to replace ones in the the redone windows. Sadly, those will take past the end of the month to appear, because we're ordering one out-of-house blind from 3 Day Blinds (but that's what we wanted). We did the same thing ago last time we ordered from them ~2010, and we joked they were actually 3 Week Blinds.

Our house painters will be out here tomorrow to start a few days of work cleaning up the outside of the house with regard to those same windows (and generally redoing the trim, which will result in several windows looking the best they have since before we moved in).

And tomorrow I get my new glasses from the new optometrist. Barring some wacko problem with the lenses, I have faith that he tested my eyes right when the people at BOG just made wild guesses about reading glasses. Which means hopefully glasses that finally work. Finally. A year later.

In another week, more things will have fallen.

Yesterday we had Jared and Melody out for our fraternal-sororal (familial!) Christmas gathering. Yeah, it's been that sort of year. They were busy in January, and then K. was sick before Hawaii, then Melody was sick afterward .... and then it was March 14th. (And poor Melody was still coughing something fierce.)

Anywho, we had lunch at Remy's Cajun La Fiesta and cookies at Pacific Cookie Company and we talked for an hour or two, but then they needed to get back to their pup at home.

Overall, I've actually spent most of weekend working on stuff from my personal TODO list. I've been running through all my different categories of work rather than concentrating on anything, so I rescued a few old board game articles from my BGN articles (and republished them at Mechanics & Meeples), worked on some D&D Classics histories, cleaned up some links for Designers & Dragons, worked on a board game review, and have done various work related to my Moorcock project.

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My dad says that he's been taught here in Kauai that you don't go into the water if there's no one else out there. This was relevant today because somewhat shockingly the winds (and thus the waves) were even higher than yesterday. After we had a very tasty lunch at the Beach House — a restaurant next to Lawai Beach that Kimberly and I haven't eaten at since November 2001 — we looked at the beach and saw no one out in the water, so we moved on.

But I was a little puzzled by the axiom, because it suggests that there's no way to get the beach cycle started, because no one would ever be the first person in. So, I came up with a solution. "Who's the first person in the water, then," I asked. And then I almost immediately answered "Ah. of course. A tourist."

(My dad says less prosaically that it's really to do with water conditions, which I presume means that the axiom only comes into play when you worry about whether it's safe to swim.)

We actually swam at Poipu, but over on the kiddie lagoon, because it was the only area with swimmers. I'm actually not convinced it was a great choice, because it's all very shallow and there are lots of rocky areas. Which means that we were getting battered around by waves which caused both my dad and I to scrape up our feet more than once. It also took some work to find a safe way out of the water, and then we were literally sandblasted.

But the swimming was absolutely hilarious. The waves were just so extreme that I couldn't help but laugh. Several times. Some of which resulted in my getting a mouth full of salt water.

Amusing swimming, but exhausting.

Today was of course Valentine's Day. The folks took us out for a nice lunch (at the aforementioned Beach House) where we could see crashing waves the whole time. Before swimming at Poipu we also went to an overly commercial craft fair in a tent that had a few nice stalls with jewelry. K. was liking some dichromatic glass earrings, but not wanting to spend the money, so I was very pleased to be able to buy them for her. It really seemed to make her happy.

So, it was a nice Valentine's Day, even without our usual dinner our alone. (We said that our dinner at Azure on Waikiki was our Valentine's dinner.)

We had a last dinner that my dad and Mary cooked. We washed as many of our clothes as we could (everything but the delicates). And we packed our bags.

Farewell (again!) to Kauai. And to the Hawaiian Islands, for we've now had time to explore two of them a bit.

But the calm and restfulness from the trip should last for a few weeks at least.
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We sit at the one covered picnic table in Hanapepe, but the rain's coming down at a 45 degree angle, and so it's hitting me and Mary anyway. Yep, it's raining at the Friday night Hanapepe Art Walk.



We're sitting around the house for a lackadaisical morning. I've been up since 7.30, but I'm unsurprised that we're not moving 'til 11, because that's how our vacations usually go. Not that I mind at this point, because I really have zero plans for the rest of this vacation. Now that we're over from Oahu, our main purpose is seeing the folks.

But by 11 we've decided that we're definitely going to Poipu to swim and to somewhere around there to eat, in some order. But we haven't really decided which.

So we just go.

We're most of the way to Poipu, apparently having decided that swimming is first on the agenda, and then we have to pull over so my dad can take a call from one of his renters, who is having some neighborly problems.

Kimberly and I step into a little store there, the same place we bought our first slippas back in 2001, and it starts raining. It's pouring by the time we get back to the car with some emergency Bonine supplies.

So, maybe not swimming just yet.

It's back to Koloa then, where we pick up some lunch, which goes to Poipu with us. The idea being that we wait for the rain to stop while we eat ... but it's actually stopped by now anyway. So we eat our lunch, but it's amid very high winds. I'm keeping a hand on my styrofoam container the whole time so that fish and chips don't make a wild escape, leading to delighted chickens.

The rain doesn't come back, so my dad and I head out to the water afterward. But boy is that wind still going. There are just a few people in the water. I dive right in. I'm usually a big baby about the water temperature, but with the wind and the clouds overhead, the water doesn't seem that bad.

We're bobbing in the waves for a while, swimming some, sucking down some salt water as the waves crash over us. It's really impressive. I know I've never been in waves that high and continuous, and my dad doesn't think he has. We both feel perfectly safe because we're both strong swimmers, but boy it's impressive out there. The swimming wasn't as nice as at Lawai yesterday or at the Magic Island Lagoon on Wednesday, but it's totally memorable, and I'm going to be back bobbing in those waves again when I lay down tonight.

There's some ice cream at Lappert's (for Kimberly) and some shave ice at Jo Jo's (for me) afterward. The shave ice is in Waimea, and I'm at first reluctant to go all the way out there. But it turns out that it's just like an hour from Poipu to Waimea and then back home. I haven't even finished the shave ice by the time I've gotten home.

So, Kauai's getting smaller the more times we're here.

Unsurprisingly, there's napping afterward for everyone involved.

Which brings us to the evening and the Art Walk in Hanapepe. It's not nearly as wet as the pouring rain last year, but the rain comes up a few times as we walk around.

Kimberly finds some good jewelry.

We all get some food.

I visit the westernmost book store in the US, but don't quite find anything that's worth loading up our already maxed-out luggage. But as usual I'm impressed by their SF&F selection. Lots of long runs of various series, many of them quite new. I'm tempted by a series called "The Lost Fleet" which I was recently looking at, and they've got 5-6 books of the extended series, but not the first one. Shame, as I would have picked a few of the books up as another series to remember Kauai by if they'd had them.

Too much eating in Kauai! Fish and Chips, shave ice, Chicken Pot Pie, and Chocolate Pie with a few spicy additives just today. Whew!
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Mellowing out, sitting around the Family Room at my dad and Mary's house in Kauai. 10pm. Must to bed in the next hour or so, so that I can wake with the sun. So, a bit of writing, then some reading. Then perhaps some sleeping.

Another pleasant family dinner tonight with more of the same spaghetti, chicken, shrimp, salad, and bread as last night, followed by chocolate cake. Followed by The Princess Bride.

Today was our Poipu day, when we repeat many of the things we loved from our initial trip to the area in 2001(!!) when we spent two weeks(!!) in the Poipu area.


A t-shirt from Pohaku T's. They are currently fighting the good(??) fight against a diarydairy farm in the area. Because cows are evil. And they are. Beef bad. Dairy products bad. (They both make me sick.)

An ice cream from Lappert's. Really more my dad and K's thing than mine, but I happily went along with Lactaid in my pocket. Love Potion #9 is apparently chocolate with raspberry sorbet and dark chocolate chunks. Been that way since 1956. I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a bite. Quite tasty.

A swim at Lawai Beach, the best snorkeling spot I know of on Kauai. Lots of amazing fish. No dad though; he discovered his swim trunks were back at the house. I am the man that swims alone.

A trip to Spouting Horn. My dad and I saw spouting; Kimberly bought jewelry.

A quick visit to Mary's store at the Poipu shopping center.

Lunch at Poipu Tropical Burgers. Been eating there since 2001.

Nothing amazing, everything pleasant and nostalgic and filled with family.
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When we got into the Honolulu airport today, we made a beeline for the Burger King. K. was hungry, and I was sorta hungry, and we had no idea when we'd be eating dinner because my dad was held up with his own business, also ironically in Honolulu. So we shared some chicken strips.

It seems to have become part of our routine. We (almost) always eat in the Honolulu airport. And we've taken to grabbing some bagels (or other foods from Starbucks) at Oakland when we arrive in the early dawn.

It's like a part of the journey.

So, rewinding, today was the last day on Oahu. We just stayed there for two nights and a full day in between before continuing on to see the folks on Kauai. But, we made good use of our partial day ... good enough use that it was worth delaying our departure to mid afternoon.

At the crack of 8.30 or so we hiked out to the Ala Moana Beach Park, which was just 15 minutes or so west of the condo. We went through it to Magic Island, which is somewhat mysteriously named, because it's actually a peninsula, and not very magic (unless you're a jogger apparently, there were a lot of them; and more homeless than we've seen anywhere else in Hawaii).

Magic Island may have been the name of the resort that was supposed to be built here in the '60s, when the peninsula was created, but still ... it's a peninsula not an island.

The Magic Island Lagoon is at the end of Magic Island, and I swam there. It's called a lagoon because it's got a wall of stones at the ocean-side of things, but the wall actually dipped down every 20 or 30 feet, providing inlets to allow water in. So it was more lagoon-like.

A very nice place to swim too. The water was relatively clear, but if you were out by the wall, you could watch the waves thundering through those breaks in the wall ... then quickly petering out. It was very cool.

I swam myself tired (probably helped by the fact that I was awake at 6am after being woken a few times in the night by a rattling window, because there were very high winds in Oahu the whole time we were there). Then we walked around the park a bit more. Then it was off for a quick pre-airport lunch, then a shower, then some cleanup and relaxation ...

And that was Oahu.

We liked it enough that we want to go back and see more some day.

The flight to Kauai was uneventful. We met Mary at the airport, since Dad was still on Oahu. After the obligatory stop by Costco, we went home and Mary cooked up a little something, and K. and I ate lightly.

Dad is expected home in 15-45 minutes. We have chocolate mousse Costco cake waiting.

And now the vacation transitions from a frenzied couple of days of travel and seeing Oahu to a more relaxed few days of hanging out with family.

Cat sitter says missing cat was found today.
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Our two-and-a-quarter-day vacation ended today amidst the smell of smoke and falling rain.

It began at Hill House, where Kimberly & I slept on a futon in the spare bedroom last night and found it much more sleepable than the super squeaky beds in the other room. It was a very thin futon mattress, and so we both had a few issues with lying on slats, but overall it was a perfectly OK experience. We'd also learned our lesson and opened the window before the night.

(For whatever reason, the house really got hot and warm in the evening.)

It continued at the Smith Flat House, which was the same place that we had the "rehearsal" dinner on Friday night. (There was no actual rehearsing.) This time we had their brunch buffet, and it was tasty, particularly the potatoes and bacon.

Because of the light rain (and the smell of smoke) we sat inside this time, in their Cellar. This was apparently an entrance to a gold mine in Ye Olde Times. Now, it's just a basement room with beautiful, old walls and a well in the main room (now filled with cement a ways down to keep it from flooding the cellar), and a back room that was once used to store dynamite and has cool explosive marks on the walls as a result. Or so it came to me from our waitress, and to her through who knows how many levels of the telephone game. But some of that is surely true.

We had 10 for the brunch, including all of the Appels. It was good to see Don, Judy, Bob, and Peg one more time before we left. Even after the brunch we all talked outside in the (drying, now less smoky) parking lot for a while before we headed our separate ways. It was so terrific to talk to family that I hadn't seen in quite a while (and to learn that a few of them keep current on me through my FB posts, like when I link this LJ post). There was some talk of having a family reunion in a couple of years for Grandma's 100th birthday. If it happens, I'll definitely try my best to attend.

The whole weekend made me think about how family evolves.

Janet and Jim, Jared's parents, were so very welcoming — much the same experience that we had with the Martinezes when Jason and Lisa got married. I could almost feel the community knitting together as two more families joined.

Meanwhile, I saw how the Appel family continues to define itself around Grandma. It made me think of her siblings, who probably created similar family definitions around themselves, and how Judy must be a matriarch to her own family of children and grandchildren now. And Bob & Peg too; it's weird to think of them all as the grandparents for different families. And those family units spread out as the family tree widens into leaves.

So balanced with that joining together, we had a slow falling apart, as the community of people ebbs and flows.

Or maybe I just didn't get enough sleep due to squeaky beds.

The trip home was a slow rewind as we sadly left the Sierra-Nevada foothills behind. Dad commented that it'd been a long, long time since he'd been that route, driving 50 west, and it's the same for me. We used to all go into the mountains for snow skiing and camping and water skiing when I was growing up, but I haven't done any of that since I think one trip shortly after I moved to Berkeley.

I miss the snow.

We got home and found very affectionate cats who were also somewhat crazy. It was clear they'd been playing with each other while we were gone, as they were both in aggressive and playful moods, but I expect that'll quickly fade to Lucy's usual intolerance.

But one of the reasons we got Callisto was so that Lucy wouldn't be so pitifully lonely while we took trips.

When I was in Placerville, I mostly put my work things away. I did polish the index for one letter of Designers & Dragons: The '00s ("C"), but then I got to a complicated letter ("D", which includes Dungeons & Dragons) and I decided to leave that for my return.

Then I was sitting on the patio behind the Mills' house last night, listening to the conversations about me, looking out into the woods, and for a moment I couldn't even conceive of being back home tonight for work tomorrow.

But back I am.

I'm polishing "D" up right now. The whole index is due on the 28th, and that'll be my last major element for the print Designers & Dragons books.

And tomorrow it'll be back to Skotos. Fortunately, Chris has asked me to immediately dive into some writing I'm working with him on, which will give me something interesting (& creative) to work on for my first day back.
shannon_a: (Default)
Today Melody and Jared got married.

The event was at Jared's parents' house, which is up in the hills above Placerville. On the maps it looks pretty close to the freeway, but it turns out you have to go up and around any number of windy streets to get there. The house has a real rural feel to it as a result, deep in a wooded, hilly area. The house and the land were both beautiful.

We all had some concerns about smoke from the King Fire, but the winds were very well behaved today, and there was barely a hint of smoke or fire. What there was was a constant stream of helicopters and planes landing at the nearby airport and then lifting back up to bring water to the blaze.

The ceremony itself was surprisingly short: Jared and Melody suddenly materialized at the front of the crowd and quickly agreed to wed and exchanged rings. Jared kissed Melody, who afterward laughingly asked if he wash't supposed to wait until the officiant (one of Jared's friends) said to kiss the bride. Kimberly claimed I was crying because I'm such a sentimentalist, and I said it was just smoke from the fire.

In general, it was a really nice day. Jared's parents did a wonderful job hosting everything. Before the ceremony, Janet produced great appetizers that were catered quality (or better) and then afterward there was a great dinner including Jim's wonderful grilled pork ribs and great salad and other stuff. There were three cheesecakes for the cake, one of which was chocolate and therefore very yummy.

The backyard where the ceremony was held directly backed up on woods and there was a lot of wildlife at the event as a result. We saw a half-dozen deer wandering a hundred feet or so above the backyard at various times, looking enviously at the grassy area. Then when we were eating dinner a praying mantis suddenly appeared in one of our centerpieces. I finally had to move him to safety out in the flowers in the backyard when it began looking like he was going to leap upon my dad.

The surprise visitor at the party was (literally) rain on their wedding day. Well after dinner had descended into talking we began to see sheet lightning and hear thunder, and then rain began to patter down on the tents covering the eating area. It lightly rained for 5 or 10 minutes before it let off. A pretty wonderful end to the day after six months of dry (and three years of drought).

Now that we're back on the House on the Hill, the thunder and lightning is continuing with increased vigor. The lights even flickered out for a second with one of the strikes, but fortunately bounced back on. We did, however, lose our internet for a while. And some of the thunder rolls and rolls and rolls. We never get this sort of weather in the Bay Area, so I'm loving it.
shannon_a: (Default)
We are staying in the House on the Hill, and it is trying to kill us.

I suppose I should back up a moment. Yesterday morning, my dad and Mary picked up Kimberly and me and whisked us off to Placerville for my sister Melody's wedding. I enjoyed Californian landscapes and conversations with my dad on the ~2.5 hour trip while Mary and Kimberly mostly slept. We had some hijinks in Sacramento where I pointed out that the highway exits had finally started using the "Exit" numbers, and my dad thought I meant we should exit the highway right away, and so we ended up touring through some very nice areas of Sacramento west of the American River. Thanks to my iPhone, we nonetheless made it to a Denny's in Sacramento without too much trouble.

Finally arriving in Placerville just before 2pm, we found the house that my dad and Mary had rented for us four, Melody, and her fiancé Jared. It seemed immediately attractive from the outside, a relatively modern house in a brown California landscape with some nice windows high up showing off a master bedroom (for use by the bride & groom). Walking inside we were similarly impressed with a living room with twenty-foot high ceilings and nice windows at both floor level and loft level.

But we didn't know the house was going to try and kill us.

The main problem is neglect. It hasn't gone too far yet, but you can see the house has been on the rental market for a couple of years without receiving a lot of care. The coffee table is getting banged up, some of the blinds don't work right, and one of the toilet paper holders is broken. A fan wobbles dangerously if you turn it on. A zip line running down the hillside out back doesn't work, in part because it needs oil (or something) and in part because there's no way to get up on it anymore. We think a tree house might have once provided that path, as it's mentioned in the two-year-old hand-written house rules sheet, but we found the remnants of the treehouse in a pile of plywood and nails.

However, you can also see how the owners went cheap when they converted to rental. The living room, the master bedroom, and the sub master bedroom are built out nicely, but once you get to the other bedrooms, it looks they were decorated on a severe budget. For example, the bedroom that Kimberly and I chose has a stool instead of a bedside table and the two beds in it are just a mattress, (optional) bedspring, and metal frame. Worse (and this was the really horrible part) the two beds in the room both squeaked loudly if you moved the least bit. Kimberly and I actually slept on separate beds because I was pretty sure I'd be woken up when she shifted around. So, that was the first way the house tried to kill us.

It also looks to me like our bedroom was once an office or something; one of the beds abuts the window so that the curtains don't close right (which got me an eyeful of sun this morning), and the closet has also been converted so that there's no easy way to hang stuff (and especially not long stuff). What's up with that?

In addition, some of the work in the house has a do-it-yourself feel to it. The fairly new windows in the house, which look almost exactly like the new windows we've had installed in at home, are either super tight or else incorrectly counterweighted, so they're hard to open. However, the place the house tried to kill me this morning was in the shower. It has a handheld shower unit and the builders put it at exactly the level where if you bend over to adjust the water temperature BAM you smack yourself right in the eye. Which I did. Hard. Hoping I didn't bruise my face before the wedding.

Anywho, that's the killer house we're living in.

It's a pity, because the house has nice bones and is on some nice land. I suspect the people renting it thought they were going to make more money than they actually did, and have gone cheap as a result, which is unfortunately common in rental situations.

(And it was very nice of my dad and Mary to rent this space, and it's 100% better than staying in a hotel.)

Last night we had the pre-wedding dinner with family. We had 15 people, which also included Jared's mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and my dad's siblings. It was the first time I'd seen the more far-flung Appels in about a decade, and it was nice to see them. Kimberly and I sat between Uncle Don and Aunt Judy at the dinner. I had good talks with Uncle Don, and Kimberly enjoyed talking with Aunt Judy, so it was all good, and the dinner was quite good too.

The wedding is this afternoon. For the moment we're just casually sitting around our house. It's actually kind of cool, as it's the only time the six of us have ever shared a house.

Oh, and I neglected to talk about how Placerville is trying to kill us: there's a huge fire burning in the hills above us: the King Fire. It's maybe 15 or 20 miles from where we're staying, but it was only 5 or 10 miles from where we had the pre-wedding dinner last night. As we stepped out of the cars at that restaurant, we immediately noticed a helicopter bobbing up and down not far away, presumably loading water from a nearby lake. Then we discovered that our table had bits of ash on everything. We had the staff move it under covering and clean it up a bit.

Today the (outside) wedding is around the same place. It was apparently very smoky in the morning yesterday, but less so in the afternoon. Based on the wind patterns that Wunderground reports, we'll probably see the same today. Since the wedding is at 4.30, all should be well.

Just saw a baby deer bound through the back yard. Beautiful!

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