shannon_a: (politics)
San Francisco, Saturday: Right-wing neo-nazi enabler with permit for nazi-enabling rally decides at last minute to move his rally to some place he doesn't have a permit for. Unshockingly, city, which had prepared for right-wing violence at old location, doesn't allow last-minute move to new, unpermitted and unprotected location. Was there magic thinking that neo-nazis could find new rally location and counter-protesters couldn't? Do neo-nazis perhaps have rally telepathy? Or had neo-nazi enabling leader just realized they had almost no turn-out and wanted to be able to blame their failure on mean, mean city? Possibly, neo-nazis just couldn't find parking in city, especially not after last-minute move. Neo-nazi enabling leader then goes on run for day, ending up in Pacifica before finally returning to city for rally he called. There, he finds 20-25 depressed racists (or racist enablers) in Chrissy Fields. Meanwhile, thousands of counter protesters march the streets.

UC Berkeley, Saturday. UC Berkeley Police decide they might like to control crowds this time, rather than allow free reign to arsonists and anarchists, so they block off western crescent where Sunday's anti-hate rally is to be held. And then they go so far overboard that they literally become the fascists that the protesters are protesting against. They ban numerous extremely dangerous objects from the western crescent, like water bottles, backpacks, and liquids that aren't factory sealed. Because free speech can only be truly free when its practitioners are naked and thirsty. Berkeley residents initially respond using their favorite method: they write aggrieved letters to the editor from their home offices, looking out over their multi-million-dollar views. Not that they were going to the protest any way. Because it's not like a Safeway is being rebuilt or anything.

Berkeley Civic Center Park, Sunday. Today's bigotry-support rally is inexplicably labeled "Against Marxism", as if that's some sort of political force in the US. They might as well be protesting against Sufragettes. Maybe they're just trying to cosplay alongside the counter protesters, whose anti-Nazi protesting could be straight out of the 1940s.

Berkeley Skies, Sunday. The helicopters are buzzing the city by 10am. I imagine "reporters" perched in their vulture-mobiles salivating, hoping for the ratings-inducing violence they were denied in San Francisco yesterday. When asked, Berkeley rarely fails to produce a spectacle on command, full of drama and violence, signifying nothing. And the news vultures know it.

On the Ground in Berkeley, Sunday. I regret the fact that Kimberly, a week and a half into a sickness, isn't well enough to escape into San Francisco with me, as we'd planned, but I'll find somewhere else to go after lunch, lest the constant buzz of the vultures for 8 or so hours raise my stress to a breaking point.

Hills above Strawberry Canyon, Sunday. I bake my stress out in the blazing kiln of the East Bay Hills. As I hike higher and higher the antagonist thwip-thwipping of the helicopters soon becomes a dull roar, occasionally drowned out by the susurruss of Highway 24. I stop to write. I hike more. I ascend ever higher and as I drop behind a stutter ridge, the helicopter pollution fades away. The heat blazes to 90. The tension sweats down my back. I eventually decide to loop up to the Tilden Steam Trains and back, mainly because I can refill my water bottle there. I really need a second water bottle for some of these hikes. 

UC Berkeley, Sunday. So how do real people react to the UC Berkeley police's extreme fascism? They just refuse to enater the barricaded western crescent. Duh. Absolutely no one could have predicted that having such huge restrictions that a normal persona couldn't enter the "free speech zone" would result in people not doing so. Congrats UC Police, you have 3,000 people roaming the streets, totally uncontrolled and uncontained. Thankfully, these are the anti-hate folks, who responsibly protest according to the SPLC guidelines: away from the racists (and their racist enablers). So the UCPD's incompetency won't cause problems.

Hills above Strawberry Canyon, Sunday. I descend down some of the trails burned by last month's fire. The hillsides are dusted with white, and the path is covered with rocks. It feels like a metaphor for Donald Trump. The fire promised change, but all it did was burn away necessary vegetation, causing rocks to tumble down, creating a rubble-strewn commons. But that's not it at all, because Trump lied about everything he was promising before the election and afterward. A better analogy would be if the fire claimed there was no greenery above Strawberry Canyon, and then burned it all down, and you realized that the best you could hope for is that the greenery would eventually grow back to be what it was before Trump sullied the White House.

Civic Center Park, Sunday. The bad protesters are out at the Civic Center Park . And, I don't mean the racists (and racist enablers) because only about twenty of them show up. I mean the so-called antifa, who are our black bloc anarchists under a more publicly acceptable name. The fact that they come masked and armed to demonstrations really says it all. Predictably, they break into the park, assault people, and generally seem to create a riot all on their own. Bad news organizations call them far-left because the so-called reporters are far too stupid to understand that political beliefs do not run along a single line. It's these anarchists who have been the criminal drag on all of our Bay Area protests for the last decade. And they turn out to be the only actual problems in Berkeley today too. And beating up the racists, perhaps even the maybe-racists, that's a bad look. It lets them act like martyrs as they post their tear-filled screeds from their mother's basement. It maybe even targets people guilty of nothing more than stupidity or enabling of racists, neither of which deserves physical assault. Fortunately, the anarchists are outnumbered by a factor of ten or more, so pretty soon everyone goes to Ohlone Park to hear a sermon, and the whole day anticlimaxes just like Saturday in San Francisco.

In My Head, Sunday. My first reaction to these two days of failed alt-reich demonstrations is that white nationalists are really awful organizers, and that explains a lot about the White House this year. But a more optimistic side of me hopes that we've hit an inflection point. That the neo-nazis were morons to out themselves so publicly in Charlottesville with their zieg heils and their swatstikas. A year too late, so my theory goes, the more righteous right-wingers have realized that they're aiding and abetting awful human beings, and have decided to stop. So every right-wing demonstration since Charlottesville has been attended by just tens of people. Some have decided to demonstrate online instead, as pathetic as that sounds. Is it true? Time will tell. 

South Berkeley, Sunday. I descend from the hills. The helicopters are gone.
shannon_a: (Default)
Today was the solar eclipse. We aren't in the path of totality here in the Bay Area, but we were promised that a pretty big chunk of our sun would be missing, so I made plans.I'd leave the house between 9 and 9.30, walk up to the hill above Clark Kerr, enjoy the shifting shadows as I neared, watch the eclipse through my eclipse glasses, then walk home, and get a slightly late start to my work day.

Not so much.

The problem was Berkeley's frequent grayness. Friday the weather report said there wouldn't be any morning cloud cover, Sunday it said it'd clear by 9am, today it said we'd only get 50% of the sky by 11am. So I woke up and it was gray as gray, and I didn't plan to go much of anywhere.

Around 10 o'clock I walked out of the house, up to Telegraph, then looped back a few blocks up. The object was to at least be outside during the maximum eclipse that we got so that I could enjoy the eerie darkening of the sky.

Not so much.

We get such dark, gloomy gray in the mornings that if there was any darkening beyond that, I didn't notice it. So it was back at home by 10.20 or so and back to work.

Ah well.

Not the first time I've missed a celestial phenomenon due to Berkeley's gloom. I made great plans to see the first of our quartet of blood moons, but when I got up to an overlook above Lake Temescal all I could ever see was clouds; the moon was just as absent that day as the sun was this morning.

The gray gloominess is actually one of the things that bugs me about Berkeley. There was one summer several years ago now where it felt like it was gray all year long. I was going out of my mind by the end of it. And that's not necessarily figurative. I used to get depressed over winter, as the gloom really cut in, though in recent years Vitamin D and trips to Hawaii seem to have held that off.
Just this Saturday I was desperate to get away from the gloom, so I hauled my bike out to Pleasant Hill. As soon as I got through the hills (on BART) everything brightened up. I went from gray and 60 degrees to bright and 85. It was like a different world. I had a great bike ride and then when I got to the Lime Ridge Open Space I hiked around that for a while. (It was kind of hot and harsh, so I only went a mile or so and back.)

This morning, I thought about heading out to BART and going somewhere where I might be able to see the sun disappear. Orinda or Richmond. But ultimately I shrugged my shoulders. It seemed like a big disruption to the day to no guaranteed results.

So no eclipse today, though the sun had certainly disappeared.

I took to the hills in the evening, after dinner. And I saw a glorious sunset. Apparently all those clouds are good for something.
shannon_a: (Default)
Writing in my journal has been constantly lagging lately, as all of my free writing time has been going to D&D histories, and when I can manage it, a little something for Mechanics & Meeples. I think I may have turned a corner for that, but more of that in another (delayed?) journal entry.

For now ...

Last weekend, Kimberly and I celebrated our 17th anniversary. It's the furniture anniversary, and though we certainly have cat-scarred upholstery, we had no interest in buying anything new, because every new piece of furniture is something that needs to be expensively shipped to Hawaii on a container ship — or wastefully discarded.

I ran my Burning Wheel game at Endgame on our anniversary. How romantic!

But our celebration occurred afterward. Kimberly and I met at Millennium, which is now conveniently located on College Avenue, between Endgame and home (more or less).

We've eaten there for several celebrations over the years, and this is our third time eating there since they moved to the East Bay (and thus, our third year running). As usual, we had very tasty food ands great service (from our same server as last year, which Kimberly realized and I would not have). Very pleasant!

Since nothing thrilled us on their desert menu, we then went to Smitten Ice Cream a block away, which they slowly make your ice cream while you watch. It was tasty enough, but nothing amazing. But we're already spoiled by Ici, down the street. Mind you, the wait for Smitten to literally create your ice cream was shorter than the typical wait in line at Ici.

Then we had a romantic walk home through the mean streets of north Oakland and south Berkeley, with me pushing my bike and its pannier full of gaming supplies.

On Sunday, we continued our celebrations by taking BART out to Glen Park. This had been our plan, but Kimberly was somewhat reluctant because of the possibility of a big festival at Golden Gate Park making BART very crowded (especially now that they've stopped running more or extra trains for it, because BART sucks), and I was somewhat reluctant because I was feeling highly congested and wondering if I was coming down with something.

But, we persevered.

BART was crowded. And I was bemused how many dumb/new riders there were. Because if you're experienced rider going to Golden Gate Park you get off at Embarcadero, to catch the N-Judah line to the park as soon as you can, and hopefully get a seat. If you're a new/dumb rider you wait until the Civic Center, which is the last N-Judah crossover. Then you certainly don't get a seat on such a busy day, and maybe pay extra for BART too. So about half the crowd got off at Embarcadero, but about half waited until Civic Center. (And afterward the BART trains we were blissfully quiet, but we'd managed to get two of the last seats at MacArthur, so no biggie.)

We had tasty sandwiches out in the park and we enjoyed a walk out to the end and back along the bottom of the canyon.

And that was our anniversary.

Unfortunately, I indeed was getting sick. First cold in a couple of years, and in the middle of summer to boot. Very annoying! (But at least I didn't get a cold during any of my many travels last year or during this year's trip to Hawaii.)

It was never bad, but I was a bit under the weather throughout the week. Bleh.

Other stuff Kimberly and I have done lately.

We finally did another walk from our Berkeley Walks book. We had stopped around this time last year, because the returning students were making the local walks unpleasant for Kimberly, but in July we started with our third, the Berkeley campus walk. We finished it over two Sunday afternoons. Sadly, it was a bit disappointing. The authors seemed to totally punt all the discussion of architectural detail that made the southside walks interesting and also missed many historic details that we were aware of. Ah well. We did still find some interesting stuff on campus. I'd never been to the Women's Faculty Club before, because it's kind of hidden by Strawberry Creek, and I'd never been in the "new" business school, which has a magnificent court yard, where we read during our second walk.

And speaking of reading, we finished Assassin's Fate last night with a 2.5-hour marathon read, which concluded our massive 18-book read-aloud of the Robin Hobbs' 16-book Realm of the Elderling series. (We read two of the three newest books twice, once when they came out, and once as we were concluding the series, two or three years later.) It's our longest series ever to read-aloud (with the 11-book Gene Wolfe Sun series and the 10-book Roger Zelazny Amber series being next up, I think), and it's even more than that by page count, as the books tended to run 500-900 pages(!). Also a magnificent series, full of great characters, and sufficiently distant from the fantasy norm to be truly unique. We'll miss our Fitz and Fool reading, which has been part of our daily life since we started Fool's Assassin almost exactly three years ago. Whew
shannon_a: (Default)
The last weekend of June pretty much slipped by. I learned about Stewart Wieck's death on Friday evening. Though I only spent three or four hours writing and editing my memorial to him, it weighed on me much of the weekend.

And so the weekend slipped away.

This long Fourth of July weekend was much more active.

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

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

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

Two culinary notes:

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

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

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

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

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

And that was four days in three counties (Alameda, Contra-Costa, and San Francisco).
shannon_a: (Default)
One of the super-cool things about the hills behind the East Bay is that there are near continuous parks throughout them. More notably, there's a ridgeline trail which runs across them. You can literally walk from San Pablo to Castro Valley and never step off a trail except to cross the very rare street. This has long intrigued me, though it's actually an overly long distance to walk in a day.

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

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

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

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

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

The walk was glorious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A great day.

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

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

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

Condolences and support to my British friends, victims of terrorism and Theresa May.
shannon_a: (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: (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: (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?


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.
shannon_a: (politics)
So we've got riots again in Berkeley. I came just a hairs-breath from getting caught up in them coming home tonight from Endgame. I BARTed in due to the possibility of rain and the annoyance of continuing health problems. I already knew there were riots going on when I was heading home, but the last I'd heard they were heading down Telegraph, which means toward Oakland.

No problem, I figured when I got off BART in Downtown Berkeley, I'll just keep an eye out for any splinters, but they should have been far away by then. I even grabbed myself dinner before going home. Which is about when I learned that a group of 150-200 rioters had headed down Durant and were now coming up Shattuck. Which means they were now directly between me and home.


Heading up Shattuck, sure enough beleaguered people coming from that direction reported a big demonstration, but said they were no longer on campus, so I headed up to Oxford, which fronts the campus ... and saw the whole demonstration streaming back onto campus. They'd apparently turned away from Shattuck, attacking the Bank of America and some of the restaurants on Center on the way. My guess is that they went after the Oasis Grill and Bongo Burger to protest the treatment of Muslims. (Those would both be Mediterranean or Mediterranean-influenced restaurants.)

Fortunately, I was able to skirt by the end of the rioting demonstration. Got a bottle thrown damned near me. Which seems to happen when I get near these things.

Got home safely.

I've gotten pretty sick of these demonstrations always turning to riots in Berkeley and Oakland, but I have to say, I understand this one.

The morons at the UC campus invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. He's a lackey at Breitbart and a member of the so-called alt-right. That's AP style, by the way, to say "so-called" or something similar if you use the tag alt-right. That's because alt-right is just a bit of Big Brother doublespeak to obscure the fact the so-called alt-right are actually white supremacists and white nationalists.

So, if that got a little confusing: UC Berkeley invited a Neo-Nazi to speak.

Just in case you're confused on free speech: free speech means the government doesn't try to stop your speech, not that they give you a platform. And, it doesn't apply to hate speech. So UC Berkeley inviting Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos. That was stupid. They don't have to tolerate his intolerance.

And so I think people are pretty rightfully and righteously mad. But, I'm pissed that they're breaking things again. I'm pissed that they're terrorizing our town (and me and my wife). And I'm super pissed that they attacked some people misguided enough to support the Nazi.

But damn, UC Berkeley, don't give Nazis a platform. Don't normalize them. Don't act like they're a normal part of free discourse in the United States.

That's Donald Trump's job.

The tail of the riot that I saw was all young. Mostly in their 20s.

I just bit my tongue not to say, "Maybe you should have voted."
shannon_a: (Default)
Ah, Berkeley. Went out to pick up the mail from downtown, and when I passed a doorway, someone started yelling threats and slurs at me and following me down the street.

Ultimately, I feel empowered rather than scared, because when he turned back to return to his lurkey-hole I resolutely pulled out my phone and auto-dialed the police. From his perch some 50 feet away he started yelling, "You better not be calling the cops", then took off walking fast in the opposite direction.

He was quite threatening and seemed like he shouldn't be on the streets. The police gave the impression that they'd *eventually* send someone to look into it. He was pretty distinctive with a black jacket and a gray hoodie under that, but he'll be long gone. Which means dangerous guy is still going to be on the streets to assault someone else. (They've been much better the other times I called about threatening street people, punks chasing me down the street, and people casing our house. Ah, Berkeley.)

(A police officer did call about an hour after the incident to say he was going to go look for the guy.)

Here's my attitude toward the homeless, tempered by 25+ years of living in Berkeley. We should provide food, shelter, and necessities to give them a basic standard of living. It doesn't matter if they're living on the streets because they've been forced there or because they want to. We're a rich society; we can afford to provide *everyone* with a basic standard of living.

But, if we try to do that at a super-local level, like Berkeley does, we just end up creating a problem where we're bearing more than our load. I've seen some stats saying that we have something like 4x the homeless population that we should in Berkeley, per capita, and that's because we're providing local solutions instead of working to make sure that the county and state provide global solutions. The problem feels even worse in Berkeley than you'd expect from the numbers, because it's a very compact, little town. If you measured per square mile instead of per capita, I wouldn't be surprised if we bear 10x the load of, say, Fremont.

But Berkeley takes an even more problematic step than that, and actively enables the homeless population to take over our public sidewalks and parks. Our new mayor just threw out a law passed by our old mayor that restricted people to two-square-feet of property on our sidewalks without permit, because he thinks it's OK that a minority take all of our common space. That wouldn't be acceptable if I did it, and it's exactly as unacceptable when a homeless person does it. The public spaces are for the public, not a small number of them.

shannon_a: (Default)
Goodbye to the Dream. I feel like I spent last week out of town (again). Three days of designworkshop were enough to totally fill my brain. It was only on Sunday night and Monday morning that I finally came out of my busy daze and started to remember the things I was working on the and the things I'd promised to people.

So, it's slowly back to work on personal and Skotos projects alike ... but it feels like it's been a million years.

Flying the Unfriendly Skies. I've been putting off getting tickets for next year's Hawaiian trip for over a month, but last night, with all of my October weights off my shoulders, I suddenly felt able to do so. And despite Hawaiian Airlines' ass-hattery this year, I went back to them.

Why? We have miles. In fact, we have more miles than I thought. I spent about 37% of the miles sitting on my account, along with $22.80 for tax and fees and was able to get our tickets to visit the folks next year.

So, I'm giving Hawaiian continued business, despite how they acted this year, but I'm not actually giving them any money. I can deal with that. And based on how many miles I have left, I should be able to do the same thing in 2018 and 2019.

Three years of free Hawaiian vacations! Woot!

The Defernestration Initiative. On Sunday morning, K. and I emerged from our house to find the tree in the median strip of our next-door neighbors entirely destroyed. It was literally ripped into multiple parts. My best guess is that on Saturday night a drunken college student tried to swing around on it. Whoops! (And then onward to more booze at the next party.)

This was one of three trees that were planted next to the apartments next to us about two years ago. Unfortunately, whoever was taking care of them did a bad job. Two died from lack of water. This third one survived its irresponsible upbringing ... but not irresponsible college students.

For those keeping score, drunken college students tried to kill one of our trees too, by backing a car into it. That was just before last winter, and it survived. But it was a year older than the next-door trees, and so better able to take the abuse.

Alas, what could have been five nice trees running along our side of the street has become two. The two in front of our house.

Open the Streets of My Heart! Sunday was Berkeley's fifth annual Open Streets, when Shattuck Avenue gets closed for a couple of miles and stuff happen. Kimberly and I walked it, had lunch at Saul's (on the far side), then walked it back.

Honestly, it was pretty mediocre. It was obvious that the event had been hurt by the last-minute cancellation last week (due to rain), because there just weren't as many vendors out. The crowds were more sparse too.

Every year, I've felt like the event has been a little bit less interesting than the year before. There were more actual fun things that first year, and our NIMBY merchants hadn't yet driven off the food trucks. Now? Pamphleteers, jewelry merchants, and advertisers.

Nonetheless, I always love being able to actually walk up Shattuck and back and feel for just a single day that we're not a car-obsessed culture. Yeah, it's just an illusion, but still ...

And K. did find some jewelry.

Winter is Coming. I fear that my evening hikes have come to an end for 2016.

'SFunny, it wasn't even a thing before this year. But early in the year, my doc advised against biking for a while (as part of a long and fruitless series of medical exams and procedures that brought me nothing but annoyance and pain), so I took up hiking in the hills above our house and I've come to really like the fire trails and other paths there.

But the rain has started to come down, and the trails are getting muddy, and soon enough we're going to lose a precious hour of evening sunlight.

So I'm going to need to figure out how to get my evening exercise again. Maybe nighttime bike rides, maybe Dance Dance Revolution which I haven't done in a few years.

But winter is (sadly) coming.
shannon_a: (Default)
In Which My Hair is Butchered. K. was kind enough to cut my hair on Sunday, which she had done once before with the newish electric razor we have. Because of the long hiatus between the two instances she got confused about what the proper setting was for the razor, which was amplified by her trying to cut with the cover on backwards. When she was done, I had no hair. Quite literally. Between my hairlessness and my Van Dyke, I just need a black porkpie to look like a sociopathic drug manufacturer.

In Which My Cat Escapes a Harness. I've wanted to harness train Callisto since we got her, so K. and I started in on that in the last couple of weeks. Except she totally freaks out when the harness is on, moving like her back is broken, scuttling like a crab, etc. She also tries to lick it off continuously. To try and show her the benefits, we took her out to the deck last week, and that seemed to work OK. But then K. took her out to the front yard and sat with her on the steps. She apparently got freaked out, because when I opened the front door to see how things were going, she bolted for the foyer so hard that she somehow slipped out of the harness. I think we're done harness training her.

In Which I Hike. I am once again on no-biking duty because it would upset a test my doctor has requested. So instead I hiked from Lake Anza, through Tilden, and down home on Saturday. It was a nice long hike. I also did my more typical 70 minute hike this evening, up the fire trails and back down Panoramic Hill. Lots of beautiful views on both those days (though Saturday was a bit hazy).

In Which I Also Walk. On Sunday, when K. wasn't busy butchering my hair, we went out for a long midday walk, traversing another half-a-walk from our Berkeley Walks book. This time we did the first half of the Southside walk, which took us from Telegraph & Bancroft, up toward College and back. (I figured it was the time to do it before the streets filled with returning students.) I knew a lot of what we saw and even predicted some of sites. However, I added dates and details to my knowledge base. Most surprising was that the Togo's was designed by Julia Morgan. That is, the storefront on Bancroft that had a Togo's twenty-five years ago (and the Double Rainbow Cafe on one side and something else on the other) was a Julia Morgan design. The only major change mentioned was that the interior courtyard used to be open. We still have half that walk to do, then another 16 in the book.

In Which the Health Problems Continue. Saw a Doc last Wednesday, to no great results. We agreed that all the drugs had done little good. So he's now got me scheduled for more annoying tests (c.f., no biking), which are to look for unlikely but scary things. If that doesn't turn anything up, then it's off to different specialists. The psychological weight of this (really, of constantly feeling uncomfortable) was really getting to me last week, but I managed to lighten it a bit by taking some music out with me on some of my walks and dancing and singing as I went, without caring who thought I was crazy. (I rarely care who thinks I'm crazy.)

In Which Our Anniversary is Coming. K. and I will be celebrating our 16th Anniversary on Friday at Millennium. Yay.
shannon_a: (Default)
The Bathroom Blow-up. We finally have at least one fully functional bathroom, but it came at cost.

The problems with our upstairs bathroom started when I knocked our upstairs sink out of the wall. This knocked the piping out too. No problem, we decided to take this as an opportunity. We ordered a new faucet, with the goal of having a plumber come into the house, repipe the sink and install the new faucet. (Really, faucet installation is something we should be able to do ourselves, but this sink is very hard to work with, and I just bloodied my knuckles last time I tried.)

So the plumber comes in to do the work on Tuesday ... and the next thing I know, I hear sawing and hammering. It turns out that we've got corroded and rotten pipes leading out of the sink into the wall. And so he took care of all of that in order to get things back together.

Meanwhile, we've been showering upstairs because the downstairs shower currently has some sort of leak. (We had a handyman in today who seemed to have a much better handle on what was going on than the plumber we wasted money on last week; he should be sending us a quote soon.) Anyway, the upstairs shower doesn't work well. The diverter only gets about half the water up to the shower head, and after you shower, the faucet drips, sometimes extensively, sometimes for days. So, having a plumber out, we asked him to look into that too.

First up, it turns out that the tiles and pipes have been installed pretty much on top of each, which makes it very hard to get at the piping without breaking anything. This is typical of the DYI badness that occurred in this house before we bought it, and that we've slowly been undoing.

Second, more rotten pipes. In fact when the plumber pulls out one of the knobs, it literally comes apart. This one requires a trip to a nearby hardware store to get a replacement.

Total damage was a bit more than $700 (including the cost of the faucet, which we ordered from Amazon last week). I'm not particularly upset about it, because this was really 16 years of deferred maintenance, and if we're ever going to rent the house out, the shower in particular was one of those things that needed to be fixed. But, it would be nice if we didn't keep having big expenses.

Now mind you, we still have a somewhat unstable console sink, but we're looking into getting a second leg for it. Otherwise, that bathroom is looking pretty good at the moment. Other than the cat litter all over. The shower and sink now are both much better.

The Passport Progress. Last Friday I applied to renew my passport. This came up suddenly, but fortunately I've got all my identity papers together.

(Which will be really useful is Trump is elected president. Ba-Dum-CH!!)

So I ran downtown to go to CVS and get a new passport photo, which is where I hit snag #1. CVS doesn't have a photo department any more. I suppose that's not too unusual in a new world of digital photography, but it surprised me. They have crappy little photo computers and they say that you should call over an employee if you need a passport photo. But this CVS has also been doing its best to replace all of its employees with semi-functional autocheckout machines. So I waited a few minutes, but their only employee was busy checking out other customers who refused to use the machines, so I left.

Fortunately, Google Maps told me where I could get a passport photo, at an actual photo place in Shattuck Square, and it was quick and easy, other than discussions about whether I should wear my glasses. (Consensus is no, because the gov't now uses passport photos for biometric bullshit and they couldn't manage a picture of my super-glasses without glare.)

So next I went to the US Post Office to get all my papers checked and turned in. Except I wandered up and down the hallway where the passport office used to be, and there were just closed doors. I finally asked at the front counter and they said, "Oh, our person who does passports is out for a couple of months, so we're not doing them right now."

Really. Our main government office that does passports in Berkeley staffs it with just one employee and if she's out sick, that's it.

(My brain goes: "So you have to wait a few months until she's back if you want a passport." But I just say "thank you" to the postal clerk who seems really apologetic and clearly realizes how asinine this is too.)

Somewhere in city hall actually does passports too, but it's by appointment only. Fortunately I'd found one other passport office in central Berkeley: Cal's RSF. (That's the campus' Recreational Sports Facility.) I was a little trepidatious about going there while not being a student, but it was easy. You walk in, the customer service window is right there, and they run all the paperwork for you. Easy. (Also: much more efficient than the passport lady hiding in the bowels of the US Post Office, from my past experience.)

Now the question is if the US gov't actually issues me a new passport. You see, I changed my name when I got married to a combination of my and Kimberly's former last names. But at least in California that's not really recognized anywhere on the marriage certificate. I think it's just assumed that either the wife takes the husband's name or nothing happens, and that would be easy to see from the certificate. Back after our wedding I was able to get my social security card updated easily enough and my driver's license with some determined arguing (that ultimately paid out, as surprising as that is with a gov't bureaucracy). Given that, I'm a bit nervous about sending the passport application out into the void, but fingers crossed.

The Health Hijinx. So when I saw my specialist about my chronic problems (again!) last month he laid out a plan to try out some drugs and supplements over a period of 6-7 weeks. It's possible that increasing my alpha blocker helped a little, but the day I was scheduled to start up a totally new drug I was still having some symptoms, so I went ahead with it.

And this damned thing seemed to make my chronic symptoms worse. I gave it 10 days hoping that would fade, as I had great hopes for the drug, but no dice. So a week ago Saturday I discontinued it entirely, after 10 days of use.

My increased discomfort seemed to recede, but I'm still doing worse than I have in months.


I'm back to see the specialist next week to report in, but I'm beginning to lose hope they're going to do anything useful.
shannon_a: (Default)
A ranger from EBMUD wanted to talk to me personally about my experiences last Saturday, and though I've moved on I was willing to give him the time in the hope it'd be helpful ... but he was every bit as dismissive as I expected.

Obviously, this transcript is approximate, from memory.

Me: Why is Cal Shakes allowed to block the trail leading down from Scotts Peak Trailhead?

EBMUD Ranger: Well, it's not even a real trail. It's just a fire road. You could have been cited for walking on it.

(Implication: It's your own fault that you walked a mile to a dead end because you walked a non-trail.)

Besides, they've been there a long time.

(Implication: Long-lived companies are more important than short-lived people.)

Me: I find it not being a real trail problematic when there's no warning sign up at the top of the trail.

ER: Well, maybe a warning went missing. I don't remember seeing it last time I was there.

In any case, the other two trails leading off from there are clearly marked.

(Implication: It's your own fault that you walked a mile to a dead end because you should have magically intuited that the lack of a sign in that direction meant there was no trail. Despite the obvious trail.)

To be clear, it's a real wide, well-cleared path going down; this is absolutely not a case of going rogue off trail, it's a case of walking down the clearly established road. Yeah, I do think the other two directions from that intersection are marked Skyline Trail or maybe Bay Area Ridge Trail, but that doesn't tell me the other route isn't a trail. In fact, the trail down to Cal Shakes is a better trail than the southern Skyline Trail, which practically disappears into the weeds at points.

And this particular path is also marked on Google Maps, on a big map of the local trails over at Clark Kerr ... and I expect elsewhere.

ER: But Cal Shakes' signs down at the bottom aren't allowed. They didn't get permission for those.

Me: Well, yeah, I didn't think placing signs in watershed lands was OK.

ER: But they do have a lot of problem with lookie-loos, so ...

(Implication: We care more about the problems of our leasers than the rights of the people that ultimately own the land they're leasing. Or the land itself.)

ER: But the area is controversial.

(Implication: Hey, maybe I'm actually empathizing with the problem for a brief moment. Or maybe I'm just saying you're yet another whiner about this issue.)

Me: I didn't have any problem with Cal Shakes. They seemed to have created a really nice venue and to be doing a good job of caretaking the land. I just think you should be able to pass through from the trail.

ER: Why would you even want to go down there? It deadends in 24.

(Implication: I'm back to utterly invalidating your experience.)

Me: No, there's actually an overpass over 24. I was going to the Wilder Fields on the other side, which is a bunch of soccer fields and a park. And from there you can go to Southern Orinda.

ER: Huh.

(Implication: That doesn't fit with the narrative that I'm trying to impress upon you.)

But you'd have to go over a gate at the bottom to get there, so it obviously wasn't a trail.

(Implication: It's your own fault that you walked a mile to a dead end because you should have known there was a gate at the end.)

(Me: Whatever. He clearly didn't call to get any input. He just wanted to mansplain why I was wrong. Ah well, might as well see if I can accomplish anything else, and since he was talking about gates ...)

Me: Could you maybe tell me why there's a gate at Scotts Peak Trailhead. It seems badly placed when it connects directly to the firetrails in the UC Berkeley lands.

In other words, this should be an official entry point to the EBMUD trail system at Scotts Peak, because the path comes right out to the gate, but EBMud doesn't make it accessible. They want you to go a a half-a-mile out of your way to the Steam Trains/Tilden entrance, down the busy and somewhat dangerous Grizzly Peak Road, rather than just crossing the street.

ER: It's for your own safety ...

(Implication: He's never had to walk down Grizzly Peak Road to get from the UC fire trails to the EBMUD trails.)

... so that if you get lost we can see your car is parked there and know you're missing.

(Ah ha! Implication: We can't even conceive of someone walking out to our trails.)

Me: But why not allow that at the Scotts Peak Trailhead?

ER: We just don't want hikers to enter there.

(Implication: Fuck hikers. We're EBMUD.)

Me: Thank you very much for your time.

(Implication: Yeah, the same to you bud.)
shannon_a: (Default)
On Saturday I went out for a hike, as I discovered that I was missing walking the hills when I was just biking two weeks ago. The plan was to go to Orinda again, as that was a super-neat hike last time, but this time go via the alternative EBMud trail that leads to Cal Shakes.

The hike up the hill was terrific, as usual. I made it from the Bancroft Steps where I had lunch with K. up to the peak of the hill in just an hour. Near the top, I found a side path that I've been searching for the last few times I'd been there. I'd seen it on two different maps, in two slightly different places, but hadn't been able to locate it in reality. This time, I finally spotted it (further back than the first map had shown and slightly shrouded by trees and bushes). The path was somewhat ill-kept, but it provided a way up to Grizzly Peak that didn't require going up an unnecessary and quite steep hill, so it was somewhat superior as well.

Cal Shakes. Once I crested the peak, the new EBMud Trail was sadly disappointing. It was a straight shot down to Cal Shakes and it was a little too steep as a result, and it had loose dirt all over. Then as I got near the bottom I discovered that there's another battle going on between private and public land use. Someone (presumably Cal Shakes) has put up amateur-looking signs near the bottom of the trail warning you that you're walking into a deadend, and sure enough when you get to the gate at the bottom of the EBMud trail, it opens up into Cal Shakes' parkland, and they have further signs discouraging you from entering.

I was quite disappointed with Cal Shakes. Trying to block off a public trail like that really speaks to someone who doesn't deserve to be part of our community. Worse, they actually lease the land from EBMud, which means that EBMud seriously dropped the ball by not listing continued access to their watershed trail as a requirement of usage. I mean, maybe we can't expect a corporate interest to protect the public lands, but that's supposed to be EBMud's job.

Before I walked down to Cal Shakes, I'd had a future vision of getting tickets to their plays, and getting there by hiking up the hill, then down this trail. I mean, it's pretty much the only place the trail goes. I imagined throngs of people streaming up the hillside in the twilight as a play let out. But now it seems likely that Cal Shakes would try to turn me back at the bottom of the trail, even with tickets in hand. And, in any case, because on their antisocial behavior, Cal Shakes can bite me. (Ironically, Cal Shakes' current Managing Director is family of a friend, someone who I've met. But I'd bet the land usage problem predates her.)

I find Cal Shakes' printed claims that their land is private property particularly interesting, by which I mean a lie, since even their website acknowledges that they're leasing EBMud land. I mean, I suppose public land can kind of become private when leased out by the gov't, but it makes Cal Shakes look even worse when they're using that semi-privatity as a bludgeon to deny the public's right of passage past a public trail that connects to that public, leased land.

It's a pity, as the Cal Shakes environ is really pleasant. Three different picnic areas, heavy woods, a nice amphitheater. But not for the public's use. Not even to walk through. Not even for the hikers who have gotten their permits through EBMud and ultimately own the land that Cal Shakes is leasing.

To which I say shame on Cal Shakes and on EBMUD, who are both proving themselves poor stewards of the public trust in this area.

I've sent a comment on the new EBMUD watershed masterplan to suggest that people should be absolutely forbidden from blocking access to EBMUD trails, if EBMUD is kind enough to lease them land. I don't really have a dog in the fight of whether Cal Shakes is allowed to continued to violate the public good, because I doubt I'll be going down that direction again (especially as they've made it obvious they don't want my business as a walker from Berkeley), but it'd be nice to see this never happen again, and that's the exact sort of thing that a new masterplan should address.

Wilder. Cal Shakes is really in the middle of nowhere. The only (other) access is Highway 24, which is one of the reasons that K. and I had previously never gone (though they run a shuttle to the Orinda BART station).

But across Highway 24 there's a a park called the Wilder Fields and beyond that a subdivision that imaginatively calls itself Wilder too. The Wilder streets there don't exactly connect to Orinda proper, but they come within a few feet of doing so, and some close inspection with Google Map's satellite view suggested to me that you could just walk from one to the other. So, I thought it was worth trying to get from Wilder to Orinda proper (and that was the whole precept of my hike).

Man, is it in the middle of nowhere though. You get past the Siesta Valley EBMud area (which is beautiful due to the creeks in the area) and you're suddenly in desolate California scrub.

The Wilder Fields were nice enough. I mean, they were mostly soccer fields, but there was nice landscaping around them and picnic tables and a clubhouse. I would have stayed here and written some, but I'd already gotten some work done on the trails higher up, and now I was slightly anxious about whether I was trapped in Wilder or not. I'd also killed my iPhone by not charging it properly the night before, and so I no longer had maps of where I was(!).

So I hiked through the desolate lands of Wilder. There were signs up for "custom homes" and some of the houses that had been built looked like grotesque McMansions. Probably a pretty good place for dot-commers to live, right there on 24. As long as you don't want amenities like a commercial district. Or neighbors. Or grass. There were far more empty lots and some houses under constructions and lots of barren brown hills that looked sort of depressing in their starkness. Not where I'd want my multi-million-dollar McMansion to go. Unless I was a coyote or a rattlesnake.

(And a rattlesnake needs a McMansion about as much as a fish needs a McBicycle.)

Anywhow, I'd drilled the streets I needed to walk into my head, since I'd seen my iPhone was just at 10% charge when I started up the hill, and I was able to successfully hike those. And in the end, all that divided Wilder from Orinda proper was a gate across the road. I assume it's intended to keep plebeian drivers away from the McMansion subdivisions.

Orinda really shouldn't allow it any more than EBMUD should allow the barrier against public access in the Siesta Valley lands.

A bit past the gate, I took a left on Moraga Road and walked the bike lane back to Orinda BART. It was not a particularly pleasant walk because the street was busy, there was no sidewalk, and drivers liked to straddle the bike lane divider.

I was back home before 5pm, which was impressive because I left K. at the bottom of Panoramic Hill around noon, stopped to write for a while on EBMUD lands, then walked back home from Rockridge BART, with an emergency gummi stop at Safeway.

I don't regret the walk. I like to explore new areas, and I'd been wanting to check out this particular route. I was thrilled to succeed. But, the EBMUD trail was too dry, crumbly, and steep; the Cal Shakes area was too selfish and fascist; the Wilder area was too rich and desolate; and the Moraga Road walk was too loud and unpleasant.

So, I don't needed to repeat it. Which is why I said that I don't have a dog in the fight for Cal Shakes' annoying blockage of public access.

Berkeley Walks. Then, because that wasn't enough walking on Saturday, K. and I finished up our first walk from Berkeley Walks on Sunday. This was the other half of the Elmwood walk. It took us across College, up Etna, back on Piedmont, and up and down Russell. This half of the walk was shorter, but there was more nice architecture to see, including several Julia Morgan houses. We even read the history of Julia Morgan in the book while sitting in the courtyard of the Julia Morgan Theatre (where we regularly see musicals ... inside the theatre, not in the courtyard).

We had a most odd experience at the north end of Etna. We're standing in front of a pair of houses, looking at them and quietly reading from our Berkeley Walks book and an old lady on one of the porches says something. Both of our days of Berkeley Walking we've had people talk to us on the street with interest, so K. assumes it was her saying something friendly and asks, "What did you say?"

The old lady refuses to reply, so we go back to reading, and when we're no longer paying any attention to her, she pipes up again and says something like, "You move along or I'm going to call the police."

I usually don't do well with people telling me what to do, but this is so ridiculous that I don't lose my cool. I just tell her that we're on a public sidewalk and can do whatever we want. Then I tell her she should call the police if she wants to. Then I say, "Go ahead!" A day later, I imagine I then said, "That's what I thought."

But I don't think I actually did.

So we go back to our reading and "move along" only when we bloody well feel like it.

For the rest of the walk we marvel at the craziness. In fact, I think it might be literal craziness for a while, because she sounded strangely paranoid and had no concept (or care) for what was normal in society. I figure she's one of the people that could use the sort of long-term mental health care that we no longer offer as a society post-Reagan.

But later on I decide she might just be one of the overprivileged older people who dwell in the nicer parts of Berkeley. They're certainly not the majority, but they're a loud minority that damages the city through their refusal to let things change ... and perhaps through insane demands to not stand on their sidewalk.

The theme of the weekend: peoples' disrespect for the public commons — whether it be Cal Shakes blocking public trails; the Wilder builders gating public roads; or a crazy old lady annoyed that people should stand on the public sidewalk in front of her house.

And in two of those three cases, we get the secondary theme of our public government not protecting the commons like it should.
shannon_a: (Default)
A busy few days.

On Saturday I ran a Mouse Guard game at Endgame. This is the first RPG I've run since my Kingmaker campaign ended last year, and a rare diversion into more indie play.

I thought it went well. The players seemed to enjoy themselves, and the game system really encouraged more roleplaying and more thoughts about a character's motives, exactly as I hoped it would. Meanwhile, I didn't feel overwhelmed like I have with some indie games (Dying Earth comes to mind). They can be really exhausting, but this one didn't feel like that, perhaps because it gives players lots of ability to choose what they're doing.

The plan is to run a total of four-five sessions of Mouse Guard, then if we like that use it as a springboard for a longer Burning Wheel campaign.

On Sunday K. and I took a first walk guided by Berkeley Walks. We picked the Elmwood walk as our first from the book. It's a bit more than 3 miles.

We liked Berkeley Walks when we saw it at the Berkeley Book Festival because it appeared to be full of details about the various houses and neighborhoods that you were walking through. We didn't realize quite how full. We did a bit more than half the walk, but took 2-3 hours doing so. We'd walk several houses (rarely, a half block or a block), then we'd stop, read about the next way point, and examine the house that was being described.

There was some history in the book, which I expected (though actually less than I would have hoped). However, there was much more architectural detail than I expected, and both K. and I found that fascinating. We slowly began to recognize architectural styles ("colonial revival" was quite popular) and also architectural elements that we hadn't know. Now I sort of know what a dormer (a roofed structure that projects out from the plane of a roof) and a mullion (a vertical divider between panes of glass or between windows) are.

We'll finish up the Elmwood walk on another Sunday, then there are many more in the book.

On Monday I worked, but also visited my specialist to see the results of some recent tests.

So, I apparently have a 4mm kidney stone. It's still in the kidney, so it's unlikely to be causing any of my current, chronic problems. But, joy. Massive pain sometime in the future.

The doc is concerned that the next stage of testing for my chronic problems would not be insurance-covered, because insurance companies suck at doing their job. Combined with the fact that my symptoms have perhaps lessened in the last few months, we're trying out some new drugs and supplements.

(More joy.)

So far I've doubled up on the alpha blocker I was taking before and it's making me a little groggy during the day and a little light-headed when I stand up, but hopefully that'll go away in the long-term.

Not thrilled about the idea of any of this doing anything ... but onwards we go.

And on Tuesday I worked, and on Wednesday I video-conferenced about a paper. And now it's Wednesday night, as another week flies by ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Just before I left for New York City, my specialist told me that I could cautiously start biking again. Though I was still having (and am having) ongoing symptoms, the inflammation she had been seeing was gone. None of this particularly surprised me, as I never felt like my symptoms lined up with an inflammation-related diagnosis.

But, I was happy to be able to bike again.

(And I had a CT scan today to look for other organic issues as the annoying next step; I've now got a CD of my innards which my doc will look over next week.)

Despite the fact that I never particularly believed that biking had anything to do with anything, I've carefully followed my specialist's orders. Including being cautious about starting up again. So, I biked out to Endgame the weekend after I got back from New York, but I also continued to BART and bike some.

Then, this last Saturday, I went on a recreational bike ride.

I believe it's my first recreational bike ride since January(!), an impossibly long time ago. And, it was practically my only bike riding since March, when I stopped entirely except a few required trips to the optometrist.

I was also practically starting out from scratch with my new bike, which I just got in late December.

My destination on Saturday was the Wildcat Canyon Trail, a ride that I love dearly, but which I hadn't done since the rains started in November. (Ah, rain, I recall it fondly, and not just because I kept getting wet in New York.)

Still, I was careful. I BARTed up to El Cerrito Del Norte. But, from there I biked up to the Alvarado Park in Richmond, then turned around to ride the Wildcat Canyon Trail through Wildcat Canyon Park, into Tilden.

I'd been afraid that my hill-climbing muscles had atrophied in the last four or five months, and I think they somewhat have.

There are three major (but short) climbs within Wildcat Canyon, then a longer slope to get onto the roads in Tilden Park, then a major (and long) climb to get out of Tilden Park. They're always challenging. Even at my peak, most rides I'm only able to bike 1 or 2 of the climbs in the Canyon. I always bike the slope up to the roads, but then it's 50/50 whether I walk out of Tilden on the shorter route or take the longer route and perhaps ride, but perhaps walk part of it.

But on Saturday I actually biked all three of climbs within Tilden. The last two were very difficult, and I could feel that I'd lost some muscle as I was sometimes putting my legs down and having almost nothing happen. But I feel like I've also built up some endurance and improved my cardio-vascular fitness in four months of regular hiking, and I think that allowed me to keep going. So, it was tougher, but more doable, weirdly enough.

(I was also able to ride the slope leading to the Tilden roads, but then I walked the quarter or half-mile short route out of the park.)

I enjoyed seeing the park again, although it's somewhat the worse for the half-a-year I've been away. Storm damage has closed one of the major routes into the park, and that means that it's been like that for months and they haven't repaired it. (Unrepaired storm damage is becoming an increasingly big problem at many of our local parks; it seems to be accumulating in Redwood Regional and Tilden and Wildcat year after year.) Meanwhile, the whole top of the hillside was cut off for fire abatement work.

Fortunately there was a clear path through from Alvarado to Jewel Lake, then around to the roads, and up and out of the park.

The thing that surprised me the most about the ride was how good I felt. How healthy I felt. Now, I don't think biking is any healthier than hiking, and I'd been doing some darned good hikes, but the fact that I was doing something that I'd been denied for many months for health reasons made me feel better (even if the core problems linger).

The other thing that surprised me was that I missed my hiking! I've really come to enjoy walking our nearby trails in recent months. If I'd had a place to lock up my bike inside Wildcat Canyon, I would have left it a while and hiked up and down a hillside.

I mean, I've always hiked a bit, but I really came to enjoy it more in the last few months, so I guess I've found a new hobby.

And now I can choose to specifically bike to somewhere to hike, if I want.

(And so far, no worsening of symptoms or anything from the biking; I continue to watch it carefully, and I'm going to continue to do some BARTing over the next week or two, but I hope I can continue on. Of course the annoyance is that my chronic symptoms have always continued, which makes it slightly hard to measure if they're getting worse.)

That was Saturday. I had some other stuff that I wrote today about the Berkeley Book Faire on Sunday. But Livejournal gets flaky about its autosaves when you write something on one computer, then recover the autosave on another computer. So, when something or another killed my Safari it wiped out that last part of this journal entry (and my editing!).

Suffice to say: beautiful open air book festival; less beautiful content because there was too much crazy Berkeley stuff; and a great row of food trucks, which I wish we'd known about in advance. K. and I got a book of Berkeley Walks that we liked for how much information it had on its walks, and I got her a cute "K" necklace cut out of a book cover.

And that was the weekend.

And since then, I worked and hiked on Monday, and I worked and CTed and voted today. And I've been feeling burned out in the evenings again and not getting reviews and histories I wanted done. So it goes.
shannon_a: (Default)
We were supposed to be roleplaying on Saturday, but somehow it fell through. It was honestly a bit frustrating, because we'd planned the date a month and a half ahead, when people were constantly scheduled in the interim. Then we'd replanned it weeks ahead, when we choose between two weekends. But still the gaming weekend arrived and there was cub scouts and new jobs and extra hours.

And no gaming.

So it goes in adulthood gaming.

And that's how I ended up crawling through a jungle.

I've gotten pretty adept at climbing the hills behind our house. This Saturday I did some writing up on the Clark Kerr campus in the early afternoon, then went for my Saturday hike. I took the Stonewall Panoramic Trail up to the West-East Trail, then took an unnamed Fire Trail up to Grizzly Peak Blvd and the Scotts Peak Trailhead.

The Scotts Peak Trailhead always baffles me because it's clearly labeled, but there's just a locked gate there, despite that being the only easy way to access the Skyline Trail from the Strawberry Creek fire trails.

Anywho, gates with horizontal bars up and down them do not deter me.

The Skyline Trail from Scotts Peak Trailhead to Fish Ranch Road was the first bit of new trail for me for the day. It's part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, so I was excited to walk it. I don't expect I'll ever walk the whole thing, but I was nonetheless happy to fill in a gap.

I've definitely now walked it from Volmer Park in Tilden to the main entrance at Sibley. I've also biked it in Tilden from Inspiration Point to where it inexplicably leaves Nimitz Way to run down to San Pablo Dam, despite being a "ridgeline" trail. And, I may have walked some of it in Redwood Regional Park (though it appears to run along the west ridge, not the east ridge, so I haven't actually walked much of that). Oh, and I've seen trail markers while out in San Francisco. (I wish there were better maps of the whole thing, but the maps are all broken up into little sections, and they don't do a good job of showing the context of where they are.)

Anywho, the segment that I walked was very nice. A lot of it ran just east of the ridge, which meant I got great views of Orinda, Mount Diablo, and places in between (and often could pick out the path I walked to Orinda the other week). But there were also some sweeping views of the Bay. Much of it was across lands filled with high, dry grass. It's obviously heading toward fire season, but it was still attractive on Saturday (and a unique landscape).

Eventually I scrambled up a pseudo-path right next to Fish Ranch Road, to escape to my next destination.

The Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve is weird. The maps aren't consistent about what it contains, and neither Google nor Apple Maps shows any trails on the half of the Preserve south of Claremont Road, covering Telegraph Canyon and Gwin Canyon. But, when I hiked through Summit Pass (where Claremont, Fish Ranch, and Grizzly Peak meet) a few weeks ago, I discovered a big map and an entrance down into Telegraph Canyon.

So, I put that on my mental list of places to check out, and later when I got to a networked computer I discovered official Claremont maps showing some trails in that southern area ... though they weren't consistent either. Everyone agreed there was a north-south Gwin Canyon Trail running along the western side of the Preserve, but there was disagreement over whether there were trails running down the hillside.

But I was confident.

So on Saturday I walked by that map up at Summit Pass and started heading downward. And there were indeed trails — two of them, The Summit House Trail and the Willow Trail. They were a bit overgrown up by Summit Pass, but they got very cool as they entered the woods. There were trees looming all over, but also occasional clearings. I considered sitting down in one and writing on a tree log ... but decided it was getting late.

And these trails, they were beautifully curated. Whenever the path got too steep, wooden steps made the going easier. And as the trail cut back and forth across a creek there were simple wooden plank bridges.

I was totally loving it, considering it one of the best trails I'd found in the area.

There's a gate out to Claremont Road at the bottom of the Summit House Trail. I checked it out because I wanted to double-check I knew where I was. But my real goal was the Gwin Canyon Trail, which is the one that cuts across the bottom of the Preserve. I felt the need to check where I was because the Gwin Canyon Trail was unsigned ... which was a bit of a surprise, as the previous trails were extensively signed every time they met.

I grew more confident as I crossed another bridge over a creek. This one was even finished, showing that the people working in the Preserve were just upping the quality of their work.

But a bit past that the trail was suddenly covered in really fresh dirt. And a bit past that it was suddenly angling off the side of the hill, making walking along it tough and adventurous. I went out along that shaky dirt slope for a bit, but ultimately decided I must be doing something wrong.

Fortunately I remembered a path up off the side of the trail, just after the bridge, so I backtracked to that, and figured this must have been a side trail created after the avalanche or whatever.

So I took that for a while, and eventually it dropped back down to what I thought was the original trail, but if so it was pretty poorly upkept.

And soon after that I lost the trail.

And I backtracked and I lost the trail.

Again and again.

A few times I pushed through brush and bush that I figured must have overgrown the trail.

And after a bit of that, I was pretty much in the middle of forest with no trail to be seen.

Now I wasn't exactly lost in the wood. I could literally see Claremont Road much of the time, but it was across a creek, and going down and up its sides looked all but impossible.

I also had my cell phone. But the problem was that it didn't show the trails so even with GPS, I couldn't accurately figure out where I was in relationship to the supposed trail. I did have a PDF of the Claremont maps on my laptop, so a few times I cross-referenced the two, and I was staying close to where the trail should be (thanks to the creek and the hills making it easy to stay on course), but I couldn't find it.

Meanwhile I was crashed through the wilderness. There wasn't a lot of ground cover back in the woods, but it was a lot of work to crash through it because dead trees and branches kept getting in the way.

I was slowly making my way along where the path was supposed to be, but I do mean slow. I figured I'd eventually get back to the opposite side of the park where I could exit, but I really wasn't sure how long it would take.

(I called K. to let her know I'd be late for dinner because I was sorta' lost in the woods.)

Often when I'm out in the wilderness, I worry about (1) snakes; (2) poison oak; and (3) poison ivy in that order. But as I crashed further and further through foliage I got less and less worried about it all.

But there was still no trail to be found!

After about a quarter of a mile in about 45 minutes I came up with a new plan. I pulled up the altimeter app on my phone; since my maps of Claremont showed the height in 10 foot increments, I thought this might be a more accurate way to find the trail. It actually showed me within 10 feet or so height of the trail, but I finally decided it must be above me. So I crashed upward ...

And voila!

Slightly poorly upkept trail!

I walked the last half-mile or so much more quickly. I was surprised to find the last bit was considerably uphill, so I was quite tired when I exited the park. I'd expected that 1.11 mile traversal of the Gwin Canyon Trail to take about 20 minutes, but it had taken about an hour twenty.

I emerged in the rich hills far above the Claremont Hotel. On the way down I noticed a nice-looking Asian guy out getting his mail, and I asked him if he would be willing to get me some water. He immediately volunteered to get me a bottle, and I smiled and explained that I was just looking to get my water bottle refilled with tap water. He was happy to do so.

By the time I got home my Fitbit was reading over 30,000 steps and over 250 flights of stairs. Those were record highs for me, but beneath the next badge levels. The gamification systems won me over and I went for a walk after dinner to get me the 35,000 step badge and the 300 flight of stair badge.

I was then sore on Sunday.

I've since found some discussions of the Gwin Canyon Trail that claim it ends .6 miles from the far terminus that I was walking toward. This might explain what happened. I now suspect there's a .4 mile or so gap between that fresh dirt past the bridge and where the trail picks up.

If so, it'd be nice if they didn't mark the darned trail on the maps ... and maybe put up some warnings where it disappeared!

(But it looks like it's in process one way or another.)

And that was the Gwin Canyon Adventure.

September 2017

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