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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But carefully. I wouldn't want to lose my week of R&R.

SF Media

Jan. 10th, 2016 10:26 pm
shannon_a: (Default)
My media all seems to be science fiction lately:

The Expanse (TV). I've previously read the first four books of this series, and am very fond of them. (I'm awaiting the fifth book arriving in trade paperback.) Now, I've come to quite like the TV series as well. Its biggest problem is that it feels near-impenetrable. I have troubles figuring out what's going on sometimes, so I can't imagine how confusing it must be to a newcomer. But, I enjoy the density of the universe, I like its grittiness, and I enjoy the characters (now that we've got to actually know them, after a near-disastrous attempt to disguise who the main cast is in the pilot). Alex really stands out in a way he didn't in the books. [4.5 stars]

Orphan Black (TV). We've been watching the third season of this BBC America show after it finally arrived at Netflix. (They have trouble getting all the BBC DVDs for some reason.) This story of clones in the modern-day has a clever and unusual premise, and it's rather brilliantly led by Tatiana Maslany who regularly plays four very well-differentiated clones. Though I love arc shows, this one has a bit too much arc even for me, as it's all middle: not only is there no beginning and end to the episodes, that's also true for the seasons(!). I felt like we just dived right back in when season three opened. I continue to enjoy this show quite a bit, but it's a challenge for me too (and I don't love it quite as much as in the earlier seasons when it felt like there was more mystery in the air). Looking at GraphTV though, I see people thought the season improved as it went on. [4 stars]

Nexus (comic). I was thrilled to discover recently that a new Nexus collection was being published called "Into the Past", based on short serials that Baron & Rude had been producing for an anthology comic. This is a classic SF comic from the '80s about an empowered vigilante. It was brilliant in its original run, not just for its hero, Horatio Hellpop, but also for the SF universe it created. The newer stories lack something because the serializations don't allow for as much of that deep universe creation, but they're getting better as the creators adjust to the limitations of the format, so I'm looking forward to where it goes from here (and I'm also hoping that Dark Horse will at some point fill in the almost 20-issue gap of comics after the end of the original series that has never been reprinted in collections: #81 and #84-98 or something like that.) [3.5 stars]

The Dark Forest (novel). This is the second book in the series by Cixin Liu, where the first, The Three-Body Problem won last year's Hugo. I started the series in part because I was intrigued by translated Chinese SF and in part to give it support because horrible bigots in science-fiction semi-prodom were protesting against it. (They're real scumbags who did their best to stuff the Hugo ballot boxes, but more notably whine like little babies that all science-fiction isn't still written by overprivileged white men, like them.) Anywho, the first book was interesting; though this second one has some interesting bits, it's also mostly boring, the waiting for Godot of the alien set. [2.5 stars]

Star Wars: Aftermath (novel). After enjoying Star Wars 7, I picked up the first of the prequel novels. You see, my favorite type of storytelling is heavily sequential. That's what I'm a fan of comics and TV shows. It's also why I enjoyed long-lived licensed fiction, like the 60 books of Doctor Who: The New Adventures that I recently finished. Star Wars used to have that, before the Expanded Universe got the boot, and I enjoyed some of the far-flung stories I read (mostly comics), like Dark Empire and Legacy. I dunno, Star Wars may get there again as it expands out of its new foundation. But a third of the way in, this new novel hasn't grabbed me, mainly because it's about minor or new characters and because its setup of the new universe of the movies is moving at a glacial pace. [3 stars]
shannon_a: (Default)
Last night we were playing Between Two Cities, a game where seating order is very important. It thus has cards that let you randomize seating order. I drew one which read "Alphabetical by the Last Movie You Saw". I immediately knew this was problematic and said, "Everyone raise your hand who saw Star Wars last". I think 4 of the 7 had.

I chose a different card to determine seating order (number of letters in your first + last names, one that almost always puts me last in the seating order because shannon + appelcline = 17, something I came to bitterly realize when I was signing those 200+ Designers & Dragons late in 2014).

And that's a lesson in exactly how much a cultural phenomenon the new Star Wars is.

Kimberly and I saw The Force Awakens the Sunday after Christmas as our yearly Christmas movie. Star Wars was probably my first SF franchise, because (I think) I saw it when it first came out, at the age of 5 or so. It was definitely my first comic book (Star Wars #1, but one of the bagged reprints, not the high-valued original). But over time it's never been my top SF franchise. That's definitely Doctor Who, with Star Trek (especially Deep Space 9) coming in #2. And there are a few others that I'm a definite fan of, like Blake's 7 and Babylon 5. Put a number in a SF show title and I'm there.

But I quite liked Star Wars 7. It was fun, it was exciting, and there was some point in the movement that sent nostalgic chills through me. (I can't remember the scene any more, but I teared up, and it had little to do with the current movie.)

[This part could be construed as a very general spoiler.] I was astounded how much Abrams cleaved to the original movie — not just with the plot beats (which were a little too cleaver at times), but also with the filming and style and directing (which was great). J.J. Abrams, Now With 95% Less Lens Flares (tm). What really astounded me, though, was how bad Star Wars 7 made the prequels look. In comparison with the maturity of SW7 they look like a bad kid's TV show or something.

Any who, the movie got me excited about Star Wars again, which was pretty much exactly what it needed to do. (Because it's all about me.) I'm currently reading the SW7 prequel novel (from the library) and have the SW7 prequel comic on my shelf (also from the library). I may even want to watch the non-trilogy film next year (though it'll depend on what else is out for our next-Christmas movie).
shannon_a: (Default)
Kimberly and I went out to the New Parkway today to see Totoro. I'd seen the film with Kimberly about 15 years ago, when we lived in North Berkeley, but it was well worth seeing again.

I'd never before thought about how Totoro is very much a children's-magical-exploration novel, like Narnia or Green Knowe. Young kids move into an old house amidst real-life troubles, and find a hidden magical world. I'm not sure I can say it's one of my favorite genres, because I haven't found those books as joyous in adult life, but it's definitely the genre that feels the most delightfully nostalgic to me.

Totoro ups the interest of this sort of story because it's from a different culture. And, indeed, it's a very different sort of story. Where the English novels are all adventure stories, Totoro is instead a very spiritual and experiential story. It doesn't need to focus on exciting adventures and danger: the idea of finding a magical world is sufficient in itself.

I also quite enjoy the depiction of late 1950s rural Japan. It feels like a whole world apart.

The one thing that bugs me about the movie is not getting enough info about what's going on at the start. Why did the family move out to this rural farming area? Why is the mom sick? Apparently more is explained in the novel and/or Miyazaki's personal life: Miyazaki's mother had spinal TB, and was in and out of a hospital for 9 years, so the hospital that the movie's mom is in is probably a TB sanitarium. There apparently was one in the area the movie is set, suggesting that the family moved there to get mom the best care possible.

Anywho, not particularly important for the sense of wonder that the movie focuses on.

This movie was my first visit to the New Parkway. Perhaps my first visit to the Parkway at all -- it's hard to remember, because Kimberly has talked about it so much. It's a nice community theater full of comfy seats (including loveseats and couches) where you can order food and get it brought to you during the show.

The setup of the theater is very nice. It feels like a very big living room, and I immediately felt fond of the other patrons as a result. However, the theater had troubles dealing with the sellout crowd for Totoro today. They had us standing in line outside until very late, and the movie ended up starting late as a result. They also had trouble getting all the food out to the lunchtime crowd. Ours arrived maybe halfway through the movie. However our friends K. and M. were there and didn't get their food at all! (They were kind enough to drive us home, and were off looking for food afterward, at about 3pm.)

So, a good day, even though it started out with annoyance. Kimberly and I literally waited 45 minutes for an AC Transit bus that should have shown up several minutes after we got to the bus stop. And that's along a major artery route (Telegraph Avenue). And that's why I bike instead of depending on public transit, as much as possible.

But the rest of the day was good.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
I had a good day at work on Friday, doing some totally creative work of the sort that's been in short supply while I've been working this year to get Skotos' feet under it again. The work was a little script related to Touched and it was apparently successful, as Chris liked it. (I did too!)

There are probably still a few more stressful weeks at Skotos while a couple of major issues settle, and while I decide what's actually getting done pre-Hawaii, but in March I hope to have more creative work (and less stressful work) on my plate once more.

After work on Friday, Kimberly and I had some nice plans for Valentine's Day.

We BARTed down to downtown Oakland and got some dim sum that we ate at Jack London Square. We sat right at the Bay and got to see the last vestiges of red and orange in the sky as the sun dipped behind San Francisco.

We read a bit of Knight of Shadows, our current read-along book, then went over to the Regal Cinemas at Jack London Square, where we had tickets for Winter's Tale, which opened the same day.

We'd both read the book and enjoyed it to various degrees of enjoyment. (We both found it a bit long and slow.) And, we both enjoyed the movie. It's absolutely beautifully filmed and the actors in it are all wonderful. The plot is interesting, and though it has some problems (it goes too fast and it over explains things) it was a touching movie that was a moving experience. I was also impressed by how non-Hollywood it is. It's been at least a decade since I read the book, but as far as I can tell it wasn't corrupted in the way that books brought to the screen often are.

I'm fairly shocked to see that the film has gotten awful reviews. But then I've often thought film critics were idiots. I mean they not only liked the awful The Hobbit 2: Elves with Swords, but actually thought it was better than the luke-warm The Hobbit 1: An Unexpectedly Slow & Long Journey. If a film gets outside their boundaries for what a Hollywood movie is supposed to be like, they seem to have particular problems. In any case, I say Winter's Tale is a strong movie, Neil Gaiman says it's a strong movie, and the critics think it's as bad as Raiders of the Lost Ark, which K. says they widely panned back in 1981.

After our movie, we BARTed back to Berkeley, had some Ben & Jerry's and called it a night.

Good Valentine's Day.

Today has been much more pragmatic. I got my hair cut, picked up a prescription (which CVS and my doctor were taking turns deciding who was most incompetent about getting a refill ... but I managed to finally get it done filled after FIVE phone calls over three days), and got groceries. Kimberly got a well-loved jacket into the jacket-repair shop. And we both napped. Apparently Valentining is exhausting.

Oh, and I finished watching Doctor Who today. When I moved to Berkeley in 1989, PBS had still shown only part of "Trial of a Time Lord", and as a result I never saw all of that or most of Sylvester McCoy's episodes. I've been catching up as they've been released on DVD and today I saw "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" which was totally weird ... and the last original episode of the show I hadn't seen.

Well, except BBC has released new episodes in the last year. I think there may now be six more that I haven't seen: "The Reign of Terror" (completed with animated episodes), "The Tenth Planet" (completed with an animated episode), "The Ice Warriors" (completed with animated episodes), "The Enemy of the World" (rediscovered!), "The Moonbase" (completed with animated episodes), and "The Web of Fear" (rediscovered!, with one episode sadly held together with still frames).

Unfortunately Netflix has become HORRID about getting BBC DVDs into their collection for some reason, so they only have one of those (and are still missing the back half of series 7 of the new show). I'm pretty excited to see never-before-seen Hartnell and Troughton episodes, as they were built on an aesthetic that largely disappeared from the show when it went color.
shannon_a: (Default)
This year, Kimberly & I opted to spend Christmas Eve & Morning with the Wiedlins, which turned out to be a great way to spend the holiday — all the best parts of the holiday, followed by some time on our own.

Christmas Eve, Bob surprised us by picking us up in Berkeley, and we had a nice ride to San Marteen together.
They had a surprise guest, Ulf, who is a former member of the flyball team my mom is involved with. He turned out to be a quiet, super nice guy, so it was actually nice to have him there.

His dog, Gandalf, was also present. A very sweet dog, though a bit unshaky on his feet because he's epileptic and taking a few drugs to deal with it. Poor dog! The house was absolutely filled with dogs, because my mom currently has three, and then there was Gandalf, and then when Jason and Lisa arrived, there was one more — all of them huge black and white dogs. There was much chaos at times, but most of the time, there were just tired dogs strewn about the house like so much driftwood.

We had a great dinner on Christmas Eve of ham, mashed potatoes, broccoli (with cheese), and crescent rolls.

Afterward, we played games. I'd brought 7 Wonders, since I thought we'd have a lot of people, but it turned out to just me four: me, mom, Bob, and Ulf. We played the first game entirely openly as I taught the rules to a non-Euro crowd, but everyone enjoyed it, and then we were able to play a second game with closed hands. It all went over well, and I've been asked to bring it again, now that folks were starting to figure it out.

Poor Rob was sick during the entire festivities, which is why he wasn't gaming with us. It sounded like a horrible flu, as it knocked him on his butt. Bob was also getting over a cold (from his recent visit to St. Louis) and Ulf was getting sick while we were there. So, it was totally a House of Plague. It'll be a Christmas miracle if Kimberly & I don't get sick now, for the rest of the holiday break.

Christmas morning we had a great breakfast (of which the grilled chicken sausages were the best part), and then we opened stockings and prezzies.

Then Kimberly and I had a long ride home, and we opened more prezzies.

And that was Christmas.

Among the prezzies I got were three games: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Bora Bora, and Expeditions: Famous Explorers. Thanks Chris & Mom.

I also got some cool books on biking. Pedal Revolution is a neat looking book what the more innovative cities are doing about biking, while Bike Snob mocks biking snobs. (Amusingly, both Kimberly AND her mom got me Bike Snob; we're returning the one she got, since dupes would be silly, and I've ordered _Caliban's War_ instead, a space opera book). Kimberly also got me Soon I will Be Invincible, a super novel that I'm certain I've heard of before. I look forward to them all — but especially Pedal Revolution. Thanks Kimberly (& her mom!). Oh, and I picked up a book that analyzes the first two seasons of nuWho and a new Gene Wolfe book with an Amazon gift cert: thanks Lisa & Jason!

There were also stockings full of candies and pens and other various things.

Overall, a great Christmas.

In the evening, I wrote all the section dividers for _Designers & Dragons_, since my schedule says I start editing today. So I violated my usual no-work-on-Christmas rule.

But it was pleasant enough work, and I indeed get it done.

For Christmas Evening, K. and I went out to see our traditional Christmas movie. Despite some reservations, we saw _The Hobbit 2_. Well, despite reservations, and because there was nothing else showing that sounded particularly great.

It was pretty mediocre/bad. I often found myself (correctly) predicting the lines, which always means the writing is badly cliched (including getting the climatic final two lines of the movie word-for-word; one of them even slipped out in advance of the movie itself, which made K. laugh). The writing was actually overall quite bad, between bad dialogue and a plot that often didn't make sense (if you looked at it too deeply) and which was mainly a bunch of boring ways to keep anything from happening.

Worse, it felt like Peter Jackson was purposefully satiring himself, especially when those elves started jumping around and killing orcs in ways that obeyed no laws of physics and really didn't matter much for the plot. The absolute worse was when the (totally hot) red-headed elf healed Kili and was surrounded by a big white nimbus, and the audience broke into spontaneous laughter which was clearly *not* intended by this supposedly moving and spiritual scene. That was the "elf orgasm" scene. Really, really bad.

I was also pretty annoyed that they took my favorite scene in the book, the barrel escape from the elves, and they entirely ruined it by turning it into a computer game action scene that went on so long that you were bored by the end (much like the similarly boring falling-through-the-orc-caves scene from the first movie).

In general, The Hobbit 2 felt to me like it was one of those C-grade movies like _Barbarella_ that people might enjoy and laugh at decades later, but for its campiness, not because it was any sort of quality movie. Whereas _The Hobbit 1_ felt stretched, this one felt stretched ... and poorly written besides.

Good things about it: the aforementioned hot elf chick (who was pretty much a Mary Sue); Smaug being totally scary (before he turned into a blithering buffoon who could have been tricked by a 7-year old); and a few bits about Watson's discussion with Smaug (before it turned into another dull, overly long action sequence).

Yeah, we'll watch the third, because we watched the first two. (It's now too late to stop.)
shannon_a: (Default)
Monday — The Hobbit Kimberly & I usually have movie and dinner on Christmas, but since we had other plans this year, we did that on Christmas Eve. In many past years, we've seen great fantasy flicks (Lords of the Rings Harry Potter, Narnia) — and als Golden Compass, hich was fantasy and was a flick, but wasn't great — and so we were disappointed when those movie series came to an end and/or moved to summer. Thus I was thrilled to see the old tradition become viable again this year with the release o The Hobbit I. We even read alou The Hobbi toward the start of the year to prep ourselves.

And we were both quite pleased with the movie. Great characters, great directing. I loved the addition of the Meeting of the Great to pu The Hobbit n better perspective with regard t The Lord of the Rings; I loved the inclusion of songs, particularly the two dwarf songs, which were terrific; and I loved the appearance of Radagast and the whole Necromancer subplot (please, let that be movie #3 as some sites hinted at a few years ago!). Some of the fighting went on too long, especially in the goblin mountains, and I thought some of the special effects looked poor, especially in the first part of the movie — which might mean it was an artifact of the faster frame rate. I'm also unconvinced with the whole pale orc plot, as they haven't done anything interesting with it yet.

After the movie we made out traditional trek to the great local Vietnamese restaurant to find it closed. It's really a Christmas tradition (including the bit where we discover that it's closed). We ended up having bento boxes at the Japanese restaurant formerly known as Manga Manga.

Tuesday — The Wiedlins. n Christmas Day proper, Kimberly, Lucy, and I opened our presents in the morning. I got some great t-shirts from Kimberly, all three of which have already been worn (ninja biker, kiddy dungeoneers, Van Gogh TARDIS). There was also candy and other neat stocking stuffers, including neat bookmarks, a little A-Z book, and a CD that Kimberly had made. Lucy got a laser pointer which sh loves nd a harness which she tolerates (and which we hope to soon take her outside with).

We got down to San Martin pretty late in the afternoon afterward, and there were more presents there. I got some biking gear (a new windbreaker which proved great when I tried it out on Wednesday; amazingly warm and amazingly breathable, especially since it's waterproof; and some gloves) and also some more Abercrombie books and some warm house slippers which have been put to great use. There was great Ping Pong and terrific food and good company. I think there were about 17 people this time, including my siblings and Bob's siblings in main. As has been the case in some recent years, we drove down to San Martin with Andy & family and returned with Jason and Lisa ... and Kimberly slept on part of the way back.

Wednesday — The Rest. And on the third day we rested. I took myself out to lunch, picked up pending packages, and did lots of writing and editing. In the afternoon, I took my bike out for a ride, as I try to do every couple of days. The weather was beautiful, so I decided to try and replicate my ride up Tunnel Road to Sibley. The ride was harder this time, as second rides often are, but very doable. Once I got up the hill I headed over toward Montclair again, then headed back down to civilization. Then there was more writing and editing in the evening. Yup, that's my definition of rest.

Thursday — The Appels. Yesterday, my sister Melody and her guy Jared came up for lunch. We talked, ate lunch at Bongo Burger, visited an art store together (Jared being a artiste), and talked some more. Overall, a good time was had. Melody was kind enough to give us each gift certificates at Amazon. Mine went to purchase th Doctor Who aHistory ook — which is a timeline generated from 40 years worth of show,  audio, and books. I've heard great things about it, so am looking forward to consulting it as I continue reading through the 7th + 8th Doctor book series.
shannon_a: (Default)

Went into San Francisco today to go to the Castro Theatre to see the Sing-A-Long Sound of Music. I've seen the movie before, but I was surprised by how good it actually is. Beautiful landscapes, great directing, moving story lines. And Julie Andrews is amazingly beautiful in the movie.

The Sing-a-Long portion was also fun. I always find music very cathartic and singing together in a large group even more so. I joined in for most of the songs, and thankfully had a big bottle of water with me, to keep my voice fresh. There were some silly props handed out at the door, which were mostly cards to hold up at various times. I didn't have any interest in trying to sort through the bag of props during the movie, and so planned to ignore them, and then lost track of the bag to no great lost. There was also a little popper, which would have been fun. They were meant for The Kiss, but some were fired off at various times. They added nice dramatic underlines to various events. Then The Kiss finally came, the air filled with pops, and you could see little electric sparks all around the hall, which was pretty cool. 

So, all around, a good experience, but ... oh, so tiring.

We left the house at 10.40, got home around 6.30. We were actually at the Castro for a bit more than 4 hours and it was just jammed with people, which increased the tired-ness quotient even more.

We also had pretty rotten transit both ways. We had to carefully plan, because BART is so inadequate on Sundays, running trains to SF only every 20 minutes. Then we found the train just jammed. This was the case on all the BARTs we took. Heading toward Market Street, it was clearly brainwashed consumers heading off to do their mandatory Christmas shopping, and heading down the peninsula from there, it was tourists going to SFO. 

(I'm now going to be a lot more reluctant to go into the City on a weekend in December.)

Things were made worse at our "timed" transit at MacArthur because we ended up waiting on the platform for 15 minutes, because BART wasn't even keeping to their ridiculously pitiful Sunday schedule. And then on MUNI ... our train kept getting stuck just before it got into stations, waiting long minutes and then pulling up the last 5 feet.

As I said, rotten transit, even for the Bay Area.

Also, we had a so-so lunch experience. We went to the Carl's Jr at Civic Center, which we've gone to a few times this year because Kimberly got some coupons from her mom, and we found bad customer service, too many homeless people being allowed to run rampant in the restaurant, and real confusion at how to apply a coupon. All things we'd seen when we went there for dinner the two other times, but not to the same extent. I think that'll be our last visit to that Carl's Jr, since it seems more inclined to cater to the bums of Market than to us.

The bad transit and so-so lunch added some stress to the day, and have left me more tired than I otherwise would have been, but it fortunately didn't spoil the movie-going-and-singing experience. I'm pretty much ready to collapse now, though. (And so that history article I was supposed to edit tonight will just have to wait until tomorrow night.)

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