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This morning, for the first time all week, the BART trains ran on time.

Apparently we don't need to elect Donald Trump after all.


So today was the third and final day of the third and not-final Rebooting the Web of Trust.

People were lower energy today. The crowd was a little smaller because some people had to go home and the three-quarters of the group still around were more likely to be staying at their tables and quietly working. But the time was clearly useful because we pushed about 15 minutes past our planned stopping point of 4 o'clock because people wanted to do just a little bit more work.

My group actually finished up a very rough draft of our paper, which is an engagement model applied to a refugee situation. The ultimate goal is to merge UN SDG 16.9 concerns with self-sovereign identity modeling. Yesterday, our group fleshed out most of this engagement model of a refugee arriving in a refugee camp and eventually receiving a visa, then I wrote about 75% of it yesterday and today.

There's still much to be done, including some revising of the text and some better integration of the narrative with the goals of the work. I wouldn't actually consider it a first draft for something I was working on individually. But as a group project in a time-constrained environment, I'm quite happy with what we got down, and the best part is that the other group members (in particular, Joe A., whose idea it was, and who will be lead editing) can now go through text and better tune it to his ideals, without time constraint.

(And I'll get to see it again afterward, as the RWOT editor.)

Our goal for these design shops has always been 3-5 white papers or specs, and I think we hit 5 papers in final form for each of the previous ones, with some stragglers that didn't hit our repository for various reasons (such as publication at another site).

At our final plenary today I recorded plans for either 12 or 13 potential papers, and I know that at least my original group absolutely drafted two complete papers during the conference itself. I think there was a little more of that and some strong momentum in the other groups for finishing what they got done during the workshop.

End result: I'm very confident we're going to considerably exceed our original goals this time around. There was even one code prototype, which we've never had before, and was another sign of the workshop's higher level of success.

Even better, almost all of these potential papers are true collaborations between at least two people (in a couple of cases, two people bringing together different protocols and meshing them, which is extremely cool) and in some a half-dozen or more people. This was something that was somewhat missing at the second Rebooting Web of Trust, which had more single-author papers, so I'm glad Christopher was able to restore it here.

I was bone tired when I got back to Berkeley today. Apparently three days of heavy social work will do that. I think I'm even more tired than after the five days of off-site in Canada last month, but I was more active here — more actively talking, more actively participating, and sometimes helping to lead.

So two days of rest(ish) will now be welcome.

I'm even expecting to mostly put aside my personal projects which take up much of my "free" time ... because I did most of the writing I usually would have over the weekend on my BART trips this week. (I outlined five D&D related histories on Monday and Tuesday night, in prep, and just barely managed to finish up first drafts of all those papers on my six BART trips.)

So tomorrow, some biking or walking (and, yes, some editing of those five histories).

Then on Sunday some Open Streetsing in Berkeley ... and maybe no writing or editing at all.

And then it's back to the regular work week, but Rebooting the Web of Trust III was my last really big project for the year (well, other than editing that excess of RWOTIII papers ... and preparing the fourth annual membership drive for RPGnet).

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As far as I can tell the whole BART system is falling apart. I mean in the last few years I've been noticing that maybe 1 trip in 10 that I take has a delayed train, which is much worse than ye olden days of the '90s when I used to take it all the time.

But today there were delays for the second day in a row (and I also know BART had major delays on Monday, because I saw them on my Google Maps when I mapped out getting to the Rebooting the Web of Trust events).

Today's delays started in the morning, when the delay was being quoted at 15-20 minutes due to an equipment problem between 12th Street and West Oakland. (It wasn't quite that bad.) Then this evening I found that there were claiming 10 minute delays in San Francisco due to … equipment problems. (It was worse.)

Then, to add insult to injury, once we finally made it back to the East Bay another train "cut" in front of us at 12th. So said, the BART train operator. She seemed surprised, perhaps annoyed. So we waited outside of 12th Street for some time.

Then, to add insult to insult, we also sat waiting outside of Ashby for some time because of a "police hold" on the train ahead of us at Ashby. Odds are that it was the train that cut us off at 12th Street. So, maybe they're excused if there was a Speed situation and the train couldn't drop below 50 mph ... until the crack squad of BART Anti-Terrorist Cops (BAT-CO!) finally dealt with the terrorists, them dragged them off the train at Ashby.

(More likely it was rowdy kids or a drunk or a homeless guy, because East Bay.)

If you're keeping track that's 3 major equipment problems, 2 police actions, 1 medical emergency, and 1 driver taking "cutsies" in 2 days of travel to and from San Francisco.

I actually wasn't annoyed in the morning because I headed out quite early in case any one wanted to get started on our project early. So the train running late didn't stress me at all. I just sat down on the floor (no seats on BART, of course), pulled out my computer, and wrote.

As it happened our group didn't gel until well after the start time, but from there we had a day much like I'd hoped, with a small group working on the 12-step use case / customer-support-model that we were planning. We talked about it for a few hours, and after lunch when discussion drifted to self-sovereign identity and other philosophical ideas, I just started writing. With some help from Z., we got about half of it first drafted. It'll be easy enough to finish tomorrow.

I was more annoyed by the BART problems in the evening, because the workshop went quite late and it felt like the last plenary dragged, as people described their projects, then took many questions, which were mostly references to other projects they should look at. An hour in and on public transit after that was ... unpleasant.

I was leery of this workshop running three days this time, but at least for my group, it's worked out well. We got things sorted on Wednesday, we got things outlined and written today, and we'll get things finished tomorrow.

Previously, at our first Web of Trust, the writing crashed straight into the finishing on the last day and it made things a bit frantic. But, it was kind of cool in a Project Runway running with scissors sort of way.

One more day, and then I rest. Saturday's Burning Wheel game was cancelled due to too many people being away or having babies, and I wasn't at all sad, because the day of rest after three days of heavy socialization will be welcome.
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Lucy Cat woke me up at 6.30 this morning. Bad Lucy Cat. No treat. (Actually, she got her treats anyway a few hours later.)

Today was the first day of the third Rebooting the Web of Trust design workshop. It was in San Francisco again, at a nice Microsoft space in SoMa.

It started annoyingly enough with BART delays. By the time I'd gotten in to SF, they'd said that that was a track switching problem between Embarcadero and Montgomery and a police action and the good 'ole "medical emergency". But they were quoting us 20-30 minutes delay, and the delay at least from Berkeley to Montgomery was only 11 minutes.

And so I got into the Microsoft space a few minutes before the hour instead of 15 minutes early. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get a big, beautiful high-rise space like we did last time in SF, but in contrast, the Microsoft space seems to be an actually used community workspace, which is its own type of cool.

It was nice to see a number of people I know from the identity and privacy name spaces and also to be well received by them, presumably because of the good work I've been able to put in on the previous two workshops (and on the papers afterward). And I suppose because it's also a number of people that I've had friendly interactions with over the last year.

As always, I was impressed by how quickly the workshop gelled and broke into individual groups, each working on their own topic. After the somewhat chaotic second Web of Trust, in New York earlier this year, I feel like this one is going to be better at producing some strong collaborative papers. (The second one did meet our goal of 3-5 papers, but they were more frequently single-author papers, which just doesn't generate the same type of creative innovation as a good group process can.)

I'm always a bit concerned if I'm going to be able to find a group that I personally can contribute to, but as always I quickly found myself stuff to do. There was one group that called to me, and within a short time I was pretty sure that I could contribute considerable writing to the group. In fact, Chris later came over to see if I could scribe for a different group, but we decided that I was better to stay where I was because I had passion for it already.

Today was mainly organizational and brainstorming. But if things go the way I like, we'll sit down tomorrow and write through the day.

Oh, and there was good food along the way. K. and/or Chris have really got that down good. I had Noah's Bagels and Cream Cheese for breakfast and then a taco and a fajita for lunch. (I can see already that I'll put on weight this week, but so it goes.)

As usual in SF, I walked out to Civic Center to come home. It was probably unnecessary, as this workshop is running a little later than the previous one (10-6 instead of 9-5), but I hit my 10,000 steps for the day shortly before getting home, so it was clearly the right choice to get my exercise in, despite the lack of time to go out and actually hike in the evening or something.

And that was Day 1 of what's literally the third design workshop I've attended sn the last year (since the first was last early November) and the fourth major group get-together like this (counting the Blockstream offsite in Kelowna).
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Cutting down those acacias at the start of the month was #2 on the list of things I was not looking forward to in October. And though the actual work wasn't that bad due to good tools and lots of work done in advance by my neighbors, I ended up being very sore for days.

#1 on my list of things I was not looking forward to was an invasive medical exam this Monday. It was uncomfortable and sometimes painful and showed absolutely nothing, as I expected. But it was the last thing to do with this specialist, so I wanted to finish things off rather than wondering.

But what I didn't expect was pain and exhaustion for days afterward as my body healed itself. Yowtch. It took until Friday for me to feel decently good again. (well, not in pain at least, but still a little out of whack.)

Meanwhile, I'm still having issues, but I'm done for the moment. Next year when I get my physical, I'll talk to my doc about other specialists, possibly someone who can look into metabolic issues rather than going the physical route.

There literally was a storm yesterday. It was beautiful seeing the rain again. I realized that the last few times I saw rain were probably in Canada and in New York, so even moreso it was beautiful seeing the rain at home.

And, there's more storm scheduled for tomorrow, so as I write, it's literally the calm.

(And, what did I do in this calm? I hiked out to Orinda today, a nice walk up Panoramic Hill and down EBMUD trails that I've hiked before. It was beautiful Halloween weather: very windy, slightly chill, and gray. But I avoided the rain, though the trails were at times muddy.)

But there's also a metaphorical storm coming up. Next week is the third Rebooting the Web of Trust design workshop, which means that I'll be busy in the City helping out.

And then it'll be Saturday and I'll be running my first Burning Wheel game at Endgame.

So Wednesday through Saturday will be a busy storm.

But for the minute there's calm.

And there will be more calm afterward, as this should be my last bit of true busyness until the holidays.
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Innovation comes from seeing two unacceptable choices, and finding the third way.

Many of us were leaving on the 10.40am flight from Kelowna to Vancouver. But everyone I talked to wanted to head to the airport around 9am. Though I suspected it would be plenty of time for the size of the airport, I was uncomfortable, in part because I knew nothing about Saturday morning traffic conditions in Kelowna or the length of lines for the carriers or for security at the airport.

Choice one was to wait around until 9am and stress about it the whole time.

Choice two was to take a cab of my own, wasting about $40C. Blockstream said to go ahead and do that, but then I would have waited around at the airport feeling bad about a totally unnecessary expense.

So, choice three: take the bus up to the college, which was a straight shot and pretty fast and then either catch a transfer bus or else walk the 2km to the airport.

It was easy to get out to the main bus transfer station in Kelowna, which I'd seen on one of my early morning walks. But from there, there were a few surprises.

  • It started to rain
  • I discovered my hiking shoes are no longer waterproof.
  • I was reminded how often there are no sidewalks in Kelowna.

In other words, it was a little more adventurous than planned, and my socks got a bit wet on the way, but I also managed to get some steps (2+ miles total by the time I sat down at my gate), and I managed to accomplish my goal of arriving early enough to feel comfortable without feeling bad about wasting money, because the bus ride was a big $2.50C.

It turned out that check-in and security at Kelowna International Airport were total non-issues … but how was I to know that, never having checked in there before?

Overall, Kelowna was a pleasant, modern airport. Not very large, but I compare it to Lihue. They both have 5-8 gates or so, but the Kelowna airport had a big holding room that all the gates ran off of and a bit of craziness where a high-tech system actually dynamically linked up check-in desks with gates. Not that it necessarily worked well. There were three different "Gates 6s" while we sat there waiting for our Gate 6 flight, and they couldn't get the the signs switched from the previous flight to ours; the desk clerk simply said that the signs at Kelowna sucked.

(In contrast, Lihue is quite rustic.)

In any case, g'bye Kelowna, I suspect I won't see you again.

Vancouver was the flipside of the Seattle airport coming in. It was much more pleasant. Its only downside was that it was a real maze, shunting us here and there, at least once up a narrow walkway on a mezzanine that looked out over the other maze paths.

Apparently the reason was pre-clearance. We actually went through customs in Vancouver, doing our declarations and being quizzed by a very surly customs agent.

There was actually a big delay at what was our SECOND security screening for the day, just before the surly customs agent. The woman just in front of us tested positive for bomb residue. And unlike SFO where they clearly have their machines set wrong, so they go off for everyone, in Vancouver they took the bomb-residue detection very seriously. And this messed up the whole line.

But we got through that, and then we talked to the surly customs agent, and then were out.

"In America", I said, though we were still in Canada.

And they still took Canadian funny money.

By the by: seven Blockstreamers on the flight from Kelowna to Vancouver, then six from Vancouver to SFO. As several of us pointed out: not smart. One crashed plane could seriously mess up the company.

(Apparently they've talked about this more than once, but that doesn't stop it from happening; my theorem was that they need a staff member to do the reservations if they want to avoid it, else everyone will just consider their own best interests. It's some sort of prisoner's dilemma-like problem.)

Like Hawaiian Airlines, Air Canada puts the scam cart out in advance of the drinks cart, trying to underhandedly trick you into buying food while they hold the free refreshments hostage.

(I heard someone behind me turn down one of those snacks when he saw how little he got for his $3. Scam!)

I had a final lunch with Blockstreamers in Vancouver, then when we got to SFO was encouraged to Lyft home with one of them because she's just 1.5 miles away from me. (Without her I would have just stubbornly taken BART, despite the fact that it's yet another bus-bridge day on the first world's most dysfunctional subway system.)

The last trek of the day was sadly trying. Traffic was horrible all the way into Oakland, on 101, 80, and the Bridge. And a massive truck tried to kill us on the San Franciscan streets by failing to make a right turn and then just sitting, blocking us.

It took just more than an hour to get home from SFO, which I could almost have matched on BART (though not today).

But, home at last. Whew.
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I woke up this morning and the back is still twinging a little bit, but clearly better. Meanwhile, the rash really definitely probably hopefully has faded from red to pink.

So hopefully both those ailments are headed in the right direction. The back was definitely less distracting over the course of the day, though the rash was still maddeningly itchy.

My original plan was to take out a bike again today. I'd been considering either riding across the bridge and up the hill on the other side or else going back to the Mission Creek Greenway and continuing on from where I left off. But with the aching back there was no way that was happening.

So instead I walked the waterfront again, like I did yesterday, but a slightly longer route than yesterday because I didn't have to head back into downtown afterward for medical needs.

It's definitely the most pleasant walk that's right here. I quite enjoyed it.

Fitbit says I walked 59 minutes, which is almost exactly as intended.

So, impressions of Kelowna.

The landscape is utterly beautiful. The city is in a basin alongside a lake, with mountains rising up to every side. It can feel a little claustrophobic, looking to every side, and seeing those hills (really) fencing you in. But it's also pretty cool to think that you could walk in any direction and go straight up a hill.

The city is a bit more urban than you'd expect for its locale or for its size. It seems to have some real big-city problems, most notably the aforementioned homeless and the major, busy highway running right through the center of town.

Its main industry seems to be lumber. The highway constantly carries logs into town and planed wood out of town. Out in the harbor there are huge circles of wood. (Why they dump them out in the Lake, I dunno.)

People out on the street are less friendly than I'd expect for a town of this size. There's an active aversion to making eye contact, and I definitely see fewer smiles on the street and hear fewer greetings.

However, the people that I've actually talked to are all extremely friendly and personable. I think the clerk at Mosaic Books was really the epitome. This was a locale on our scavenger hunt, and she already knew about it by the time we got there, so she was doing her best to help us spend precisely the $10 we were given to spend. Then, she helped us out with a number of locations and clues. And she was super nice throughout.

And that's Kelowna, BC.

The day was once more full of meetings, but everyone was very low energy, so some things didn't actually occur.

I managed to talk to the last few people I needed to talk to, as prep for writing next week.

And then the offsite was over.

Reasons this was useful to me (and presumably to Blockstream):

  • Learning who everyone was, what they did, and getting to actually meet them. By the end of the week I had somewhere in the 60-75% range competency on names. Yay!
  • Letting everyone know who I am and what I do!
  • Getting to learn more about the technologies I'll be writing about.
  • Getting to learn more of the ethos of the company, which should also be reflected in the writing.
  • Gathering information that would be harder to gather from afar, for the next writing assignments.

Overall, I was quite pleased I came, even if five and a half days of socialization was tough. And it wasn't just the day-time meetings, but the fact that socialization often went on for hours more.

Speaking of which, the final dinner was at a nice Indian restaurant, though it was also the least-Indian-staffed Indian restaurant I've ever seen. But, good food, good company, and good night.

Tomorrow it'll be back on a plane, though that trip will have a little additional stress thanks to social-cab dynamics.

You see, Blockstream reasonably says, "Try and cab pool" (because it saves money). And a number of us are leaving on the same 10.40 flight. So, we should cab pool in a couple of cabs.

Except everyone else wants to leave at about 9am, which I find borderline insane for a 10.40am flight at an airport that's 20 minutes away without traffic. Sure, I'll agree that my desire to leave at 8am is crazy early, but 9am just doesn't leave any time for mishap.

So in the morning I need to decide to go my own way, or patiently but stressfully wait.

(There was the same dilemma at the faraway dinner on Wednesday. I waited though I was quite burned out by the end, but then leaped at the first cab.)

I'm sure it'll all go fine, and I'll be on a plane in exactly 12 hours.
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So, here's the problem with a five-day offsite.

The colds that just one or two people had at the start of the offsite begin circulating. An increasing number of people were coughing and sneezing as of this morning.

Also, if the environment doesn't agree with you for some reason, it'll start catching up with you. So last night I increasingly realized that my allergies were killing me, a change since I got to Kelowna consisting of head aches, fuzzy heads, and sinus pressure.

Also, burnout, of course. The intent was clearly to offset that problem with the scavenger hunt yesterday, to bring some light enjoyment to the middle of the week, but I can still see the fatigue setting in.

Oh, and I seem to have come down with a rash over night. It's not a bad rash, but it's itchy and it's all over. Except on my arms and head (mostly). So, pretty much everywhere that my clothes touch.

And, it's a total mystery. It seems most likely that it's an allergy. For example, it could be an allergy to the water I'm showering in. Or to the stanky wet beavers that I was pelted with at the scavenger hunt But, it's more likely systemic, like an allergy to a weird pollen on the Mission Creek or even to what I ate last night, which would probably be the Rainbow Roll, with all its seafood and its sriracha sauce.

Anywho, it was a little freaky to wake up, to be itching and scratching, and to finally wander into the bathroom and to see a rash all over.

Also, my lower back was hurting horribly when I woke up.

Again, it's a mystery. It might have been the bike ride yesterday, I suppose, since I leaned way over to ride that bike. But that was in the morning, and I was fine all day and quite active during the scavenger hunt. Or, it could be sitting in the chairs at the offsite all day. Or it could be I slept funny in the bed. Or it could be my kidney stone starting to move; that would really be lovely.

In any case, it was pretty bad in the morning.

Despite that I did go out for a walk this morning, though I occasionally regretted it when my back twinged bad, as it did quite a few times over the course of the day.

The walk was alongside the lake, a walk that I did coming back from Knox Mountain on Sunday, and it was quite pretty and nice. Part of the purpose was hitting a drug store on the way back. I picked up an antihistamine (for the rash and the regular allergies) and an NSAID (for the back).

The clerk asked me if I had a whatever super-value card and I smiled at the silliness of that idea, but politely told her no.

Before I headed over to the meeting rooms, I saw the menus for our food for the first time today (as opposed to just seeing the food out). I'd known one of the choices was always vegan, but I hadn't realized that the other was always ketogenic.

As one of the Brockstreamers said, it's like vegan + anti-vegan, and when you put them together you get a balanced diet (minus dairy).

The day was very trying between worry about the rash, itching of the rash, and paining of the back. (At least the other allergy symptoms didn't recur!) I probably seemed a lot more burned out than I actually am because of all that.

But, I did my best to stay on point and act like I wasn't hurting.

I got some more good info on products, which will be good for future work, and really took command of the writing that's been handed to me. The plan is to interview and otherwise take notes for everything while I'm here, then do the actual writing next week, and I'm well on the way to that, with just one talk to monitor and one interview to do tomorrow.

For the first evening, I really just kept to myself tonight. I headed out for a quiet dinner at Carl's Jr, which was also more comfort food than all the rich and fancy food I've been eating lately. Then it was back to the room where I called K. (who I'd missed for the last few nights) and have just been reading and writing since.

Alas, this probably means all the games I brought were wasted, because I was sure I could bring them out tonight, before I awoke to all those physical ailments.

Speaking of them:

The back pain was still twinging a little bit while I walked back from Carl's Jr., but was much better, and has largely faded now.

I am hoping the rash is fading too, but it's still itching, and any changes are slow enough that it's hard to see. By morning I'll probably know better, but fingers crossed.

As I was talking to Kimberly tonight, a march went by outside, chanting how they were going to "Take Back the Night".

I noticed they did it before full dark, perhaps so it would be safer.
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I woke up feeling a bit sick this morning. The food here has been quite good, but also rich, greasy, and spicy. The good(?) thing was that I woke up early due to not feeling that well, and by 7.10 or so I felt up to going out.

Food thus far: garden burger; breakfast burrito; peppered chicken breast; calamari po'boy; tofu scramble and something else; another garden burger, but I put this one together myself; fish tacos and truffle fries.

Pretty sure my getting out in the mornings isn't going to offset all that food (an extra meal a day!)

Anywho, this morning I planned a bike ride, because Hotel Zed will freely lend you bikes. So I got a 7-speed Cruiser and headed out.

The bike was in surprisingly good condition. Its gears and breaks were tuned better than my bike at home, and when I was on the streets if I went hard I just moved like a demon. (The fender banged along a bit, but that was a minor annoyance.)

My goal was to head south until I hit the Mission Creek Greenway. The roads down to the Greenway were great: some pathways along the side of the road, otherwise bike lanes. Occasionally I was running right alongside the lake and could see across beaches to the water. Otherwise, it was mostly pleasant houses, though occasionally the road got busy and less residential

And I kept on going right past the Greenway. I'd gotten confused by a map that showed a smaller Wilson Creek before the larger Mission Creek, and when I got to Mission Creek it was smaller than I expected, so …

At least 1 km on (look, I'm in Canada, and using the metric system!) I decided I'd missed the crick, so I turned back, and when I got onto the path that ran alongside the nameless creek, I soon found a sign verifying I was at the right place.

The path alongside the creek was dirt with gravel on top of it, except the gravel was all clear of a few ruts where tires had regularly travelled. The biking was slightly tiring because of the dirt and the need to watch out for the gravel.

The view was beautiful. The creek would have been a river in the Bay Area. It had rocks and trees running alongside its banks. If I had an image of an iconic Canadian river, this would pretty much be it. I biked for just over 6km, before emerging into a park, which was my sign to turn back.

It was back along a different road with another fine bike lane, then through the Civic Center park and back to Hotel Zed.

An 80 minute trip according to Fitbit. Without my 10-minute detour that's about what I'd planned for.

Onward to the Blockstream offsite for the day.

I am making a real effort to sit with different folks at different tables every day. It's a good way to get to know the folks at the company, which is definitely one of the purposes of being here. But oh it's hard not to just slink into my comfort space of people I know well.

But the people I know is increasing day by day.

(This morning I sat down with several of the engineers, and so I mostly saw laptop tops.)

There were meetings and presentations.

I got started putting together notes for some new writing. (Yay.)

The afternoon was the scavenger hunt. Except it was a "Quest" game. We were divided into teams of 5-6 and had 26 clues, which asked us to go to different parts of Kelowna (or rather, which hinted at different places in Kelowna, and we had to figure them out), collecting different information, and taking pictures.

At the start, I thought we were doing horribly, because we just went rushing off without knowing where any of the places were. I wanted to figure out where stuff was, then go in order to them. Nope, we rushed. (At least I was able to direct us to the war memorial in the park before we left it.)

And we ended up doing OK, and it was a lot of fun.

Personally, I kept seeing the connections to The Amazing Race.

  • There were a few spots where we had to do activities. At one of them half of the team pelted wet beavers at the other half, who had to catch them in their hats. They were heavy beavers too, and all dirty. We catchers (I was one) managed to catch a total of one beaver, but the ref give us pity points for the beavers that landed in hats and then bounced out. There were like half a dozen of those.
  • I kept insisting people reread clues when we got to the right places. (Thanks Amazing Race.) Often we had no idea what we were doing before that.
  • We had a number of envelopes telling us to do various things and pieces of paper where we were recording clues and a single pen. They all kept getting handed back and forth, and I was sure we were going to lose one. Never again will I mock an Amazing Race team for misplacing their clue while RACING. (I will.)

At the end we sang our team song, then got to hear our points. The top two teams (of six) were separated by just 5 points: 585 to 580 (I think!).

My team had the 580. Wagh!

But we'd already said the winning team were cheaters in our song. I dunno why.

Amusingly, my Fitbit didn't track most of that as exercise. Even though there was some running!

As I said, a lot of fun.

The evening was spent at a nice restaurant. Talked with people for many hours, and got in even later tonight, at 10.30.

I would have probably been home earlier but the restaurant chosen was accidentally 4 miles away, I think due to a misunderstanding about its address. So, it was cabs there and back.

The restaurant thought we were called Brockstream.

And that was hump day here in Kelowna.

I'd been thinking about bringing out some of my board games tomorrow night, but after two late evenings I think I'll just be heading home to a quiet room if possible.
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Up at 7 this morning, which is more what I intended for my wake-up. I've been sleeping very restlessly since I got to Kelowna. I had thought the lack of two cats contending for my bed space (and somewhat less contentiousL one wife) would mean better sleep, but not so far. Apparently the different bed, the different acoustics, and who knows what else are disturbing me.

This morning I'd planned to walk Mill Creek, as much as I was able. Google Maps shows it as a long greenway from Okanagan Lake to the Parkinson Recreation Park, but the local maps show it not at all.

The truth was somewhere in between. The first four or so blocks up from the Lake indeed had dirt and/or brick trails, but then it started disappearing into backyards and occasionally even going underground. I had a fun time playing find-the-creek for a few blocks more, but then finally turned back, cutting through downtown to the lakeside on the opposite side of our hotel, then walking back. It was around 3 miles all said and done: a good start to the day.

Though the landscape — with the brown and green hills surrounding a basin — reminds me of California, the neighborhoods reminded me more of Missouri. Very quiet streets, often with no sidewalks on sidewalk only on one side. Quaint old houses, but in remarkably good repair. (Three of them even had historic signs out front, talking about their construction in the 1930s, between the wars, and at least two of them were typical examples of the imaginatively named "cottage" architecture.)

You got closer to the main drag, and there were big apartment buildings, one after another, and looking like the apartments were very small. These were less quaint.

And there's a remarkable amount of construction going on in Kelowna. I think I saw four major construction projects while I was out this morning.

I'd said that the homeless problem in Kelowna didn't compare to Berkeley, and I now take that back. It's endemic. I thought a socialist state was supposed to not have these problems, but I saw dozens of homeless people out this morning while hiking around — sleeping across some of the Mill Creek paths and a bit later congregating under trees in various parks.

Most of them didn't have the predatory look of the couple in the park yesterday. But some do also look like drug users. The "needle disposal" at the exit to a park where I had to step around a homeless sleeper seems to underline the problem.

The difference between Kelowna and Berkeley is that the homeless aren't active panhandlers. I wonder if there are some laws that cause that difference.

The day itself was very busy. Lots more serious talk today, including some work I can actually help with (yay!). Afterward, I hung out for a few hours at a restaurant chatting with some developers who I'll be writing for. All around good, because it felt like getting stuff done, or at least moving toward the same.

But I was around people from about 9.30 this morning to 9 this evening, which is quite a bit for me.

Tomorrow should be a bit of relaxation; I hear there's a scavenger hunt in the afternoon.
shannon_a: (Default)
I was up this morning at about 6.30. Darned sunlight. But I collapsed at about 10.30 last night, so no biggie.

I'd decided that I wanted to get out and about before the day's festivities began, to walk across the bridge. That's the William R. Bennett Bridge, which goes across Okanagan Lake.

The road is very busy. No surprise, it's the only west-east route in 25 miles in either direction. Which gives a good indication of how big the lake is. It's about 50 miles from north tip to south tip.

But, it's not that wide. At least not here. A plaque on the far side says this is where native tribes crossed the lake, waiting for low tide, then swimming a few hundred feet. (The bridge is between one-third and one-half a mile long.)

Anywho, it was a nice walk. To the south, the lake stretches out long and wide. To the north, Kelowna itself stretches out, and I could see it in front of Knox Mountain, which we climbed yesterday.

And it was back to the room before 8am.

My plan is for continued morning explorations, to get some peace and quiet, to earn some steps, and to rejuvenate my introvertedness at the start of the day.

The heart of the day was taken up with the beginning of the Blockstream offsite. This was mainly icebreaker stuff. An introduction to the company, a "bus stop" business exercise to determine the attitudes of people toward specific questions, blockchain pictionary, and then some breakouts for work products for the week.

The blockchain pictionary was very humorous even though I feel horribly unable to draw that sort of thing. I guessed "51% attack", "Bob", and sort of "satoshi" and successfully drew "Circle" and "Freicoin", but failed to draw "Alice".

Alice was pretty funny. She's one of the standard names used for case studies. The other is Bob. So I drew a girl and then a guy. And after that I stumbled for a while. I thought about Alice in Wonderland, but couldn't imagine drawing a smoking centipede. Maybe I could have managed a Queen of Hearts and a rabbit in a suitcoat. Or it might have looked like squiggly lines. I finally decided to draw a briefcase ("case", someone got that) and I tried a magnifying glass for study ("magnifying glass" they got, finally), but it was just a lost cause.

The particularly funny bit was that another person got up later and drew a girl and I shouted "Bob". And it was right.

I would not have managed Freicoin, but someone had earlier drawn altcoin (a circle with a slash afterward), and I just used that same symbol and kept motioning when people guessed various altcoins. Freicoin was like #6 or so. If I'd known that it was pronounced fry-coin I could have drawn the magnifying glass that earlier people had kept guessing was a pan. As was, I couldn't figure out how to draw "free" without being able to use dollar signs.

(I'm really awful at drawing. Me use words.)

The bus-stop exercise was conducted out at the park that's right across from our hotels and that was nice. Fortunately I had sun screen in my backpack after yesterday's hike without.

I'd previously noted that there were a few homeless in the park. (Nothing like certain horrible parks in Berkeley.) But they were much more aggressive, especially when we were conducting our exercise. They kept circling around the group, like predators looking to snatch away the weak (or maybe just the backpacks that were piled up). One of the staff members kept keeping himself between us and them.

There also seems to be a group of aggressive homeless just down the street, entirely blocking one of the side street sidewalks. Not entirely pleasant.

To a certain extent I'm finding my place at this off-site, which probably makes it trickier for me than for most of the attendees. I'm a contractor for Blockstream, which means I'm more part-time than part-time. I've worked with them on some major tech writing, and the results have been well received. But I've worked with three different groups doing different things.

So, between the one and the other I don't necessarily have a natural place in the Blockstream ecosystem.

To a certain extent, it doesn't matter, because I (and Blockstream) can get a lot of benefit from my presence here just by my learning as much as I can about the company and its technology. Then when someone next reaches out to me for tech writing or editing I'll be that much better informed. So for example today I learned some great details about a project I'd only been vaguely familiar with, thanks to a 15 minute overview.

And getting to know all the people will be helpful too.

But as K. could tell you (as she watches me work on various projects every night, except for the days when I forcibly put it aside to go do something), I'm not one to sit on my hands. So I'd like to be useful while here too, and that seems quite possible as the object is to actually do some things.

So I've telling everyone I know here that my writing skills are available this week. And hopefully work will evolve naturally.

And, in fact, plans are to have a working dinner shortly, to talk about some work I can help with.
shannon_a: (Default)
Kimberly says that Labor Day is her least favorite day of the year. It's because of the block party, a loud, raucous affair with blasting music that takes over the next block around lunch time and continues through the day. I've long thought that the people putting it on are horribly abusing whatever permit they get from the city, because it's decidedly not a block party, it's a party to which they invite all their friends from the entire East Bay.

But there are some fights to be fought, and some not.

So today I suggested to K. that we should go out to Glen Park, and we did. We were out of the house before 10 and walking up into the park by 11 or so. We had a nice lunch from the overpriced but tasty Canyon Market that we ate in the park and then hiked along the canyon walls, a trek that was supported (literally) by the new walking poles that K. got recently.

We really had no desire to come home afterward, so after the hike, we hung out at a park/playground for a few hours, me writing and K. working on her iPad, then walked back the long way to 24th & Mission BART.

Ironically, the first time we went up to Glen Park was Labor Day, 2013. I didn't write about why we went that day, but obviously we were avoiding the obnoxious block party then too. Afterward, we did the same walk down through Diamond Heights to 24th and Mission, and I remember being really tired out by it. Not at all today — not by the climb up the canyon and not by the walk down to the Mission. So yay for improved physical fitness (particularly walking) over the last three years.

And by the time we got home the party had only an hour or so left to go.

The rest of the weekend I've been out and about too. On Saturday I walked from our house up to Lake Anza in Tilden via the fire trails above Clark Kerr and Strawberry Canyon. I used to think that Tilden was far away, so it's pretty great to to hike up there and to think nothing of it.

On Sunday, I mostly lazed around, but after dinner I did a quick (well, 100 minute or so) 5-mile hike from the south side of Clark Kerr to the UC Botanical Gardens and back.

It's really cool to have all those trails to accessible, so close, and offering so many different possibilities.

I've been doing plenty of writing, of course, working on three really tough histories this week for DMSGuild (and ultimately for my sequel to Designers & Dragons). I can't quite say they're about three major products for D&D, but they are about two major products, and one other that was deserving of a major history. They'll be up on DMSGuild over the next two weeks and total about 6,500 words between the three of them.

And I'm getting ready for a semi-surprise trip to British Columbia. Oh, and I'd known it was a possibility since late July, I think. C. idly mentioned it and I realized I needed to get out of the house the next day to get my passport renewed, since that was just 7 weeks out at the time.

Surprisingly, my passport arrived just two weeks after I requested it. That helped make things stress free, especially since I was a bit worried about my name change, which had never been reflected on a passport. But no problem. (Apparently.)

Then last Monday, C. confirmed to me that I was being invited on the British Columbia trip, if I thought I could deal with all the people for a full week.

The reason is a company retreat for the blockchain company that C. is now working at, and that I've been doing tech writing and editing for. I really have little idea what to expect, but I've liked working with them, and I'd liked to be included going forward, so it seemed like a good thing to do.

The venue looks beautiful, but as I told C., I hope I actually get to see some of it, and not just be stuck in a hotel the whole time. (He says there are breaks in the schedule, but we'll see how it all works out.)

Anywho, I've been trying to get books read and histories and reviews and APs written before I leave; starting tomorrow I also need to get more serious about getting a few Skotos things out of my hair.

And then it'll be off into the blue for a week away from home. Busiest year in maybe forever, since they'll be my third major trip, after Hawaii and New York.

Lucky we aren't ending up in Hawaii for Christmas too, like we'd originally considered.
shannon_a: (Default)
I'm talking to the wife on Skype like I have every evening since I've been in New York. I even read her a bit of our read-aloud book, The Aeronaut's Windlass.

But as I do, I'm fading quickly. It's been a long four days.

13 hours earlier.

It's another night of bad sleep, or rather another night when I wasn't able to fall asleep for over an hour. Apparently I slept easily on Friday because I was so tired, and now after a day to bounce back, my body insists I'm still on Pacific Time again.

Chris and I make it out the door a little later than we did yesterday, which was a little later than Friday.

The design shop is exhausting.

That's largely because I have a constant series of tasks. I need to capture some of the work from yesterday. Then I need to scribe a talk. Then I need to store that data I was capturing. Then there's a paper I want to help on. Then I'm asked to give comments on another paper. Then there's more scribing to do.

I also talk to several different people, distracting me from my work. But they're good talks.

I'm of two minds on the way the workshop's being led. I find it too chaotic, but it does a good job of bowing to what the participants want. I get frustrated by it at one point, but at the end I think it could have the potential to produce good results.

The proof is going to be in the pudding. I feel like we have less final content than we did at the end of the previous design workshop. But maybe there's more enthusiasm to complete that work out-of-band? The next few weeks will tell the story.

And then I walk home one more time.

I walk the pedestrian-only blocks of Broadway, and they're mass chaos too. Tons of people. Street performers in furry costumes. Neon signs. vendors. Everything you would expect.

And I find the heart of Times Square this time. There is a little open space, basically a wide sidewalk where Broadway crosses 7th at a very acute angle (with Broadway briefly turning into that sidewalk). It's maybe not as crazy as those blocks of Broadway, but there are certainly huge displays everywhere.

It's all a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Right at Times Square there's a big vendor that sells Broadway tickets for that night at half-price. I see Finding Neverland which I would have liked to see is showing in 40 minutes and I could get tickets for half-price. I'm very tempted, but I'm so very tired that I decide I just wouldn't enjoy it.

And might even fall asleep.

I walk Broadway all the way to the corner of Central Park, and it's uneventful other than a trip into a three-story M&M story. It mostly has crap like M&M pillows. I imagine they must be chocolate scented. There aren't even any bags of M&Ms, just big M&M feeders offering milk chocolate M&Ms in weird colors. What a waste. It's all vastly overpriced (like $12.99 a pound for Chewbacca colored M&Ms), so I leave after a tour all the way up and down.

Then I walk through Central Park, taking a different route than last time. I gaze at the Sheep Meadow. I take Bow Bridge over The Lake. I Ramble. I wish Belvedere Castle were open.

Then I make the long east walk home.

A bagel sandwich comes with me up to the apartment.

After eating, I call Kimberly. We talk. I read. I fade.

Now it's time to rest up, because I have one day to see the whole city.
shannon_a: (Default)
The raindrops are occasional at first, as I walk along the Hudson River. But then, as I turn toward Central Park, they become more determined.

It's raining in New York.

Eleven Hours Earlier.

I wake up from a blessedly good night of sleep. Fitbit says that my sleep was still pretty disturbed, which I have to attribute to the FDR parkway thrumming away a hundred feet from my bedroom window, but I fell asleep within minutes of going to bed at 11.30 last night, and so when I wake up a few minutes before my Fitbit vibrates at 7am I've had a pretty full night's sleep.

Then it's up and very quickly out the door. And once again we're cabbing across the city.

Microsoft is hosting the ID2020 Design Workshop in the Microsoft building. The security here is better than the UN. There, we told someone a name, got an ID, then walked in. Here they actually require picture ID.

We're each issued a visitor's pass, much like at the UN. This time, though it's a functional pass. We insert it into a gate to get further into the building.

Just past the gate, we walk into an elevator. The door closes behind us, and we realize there are no buttons.

Which isn't ominous at all.

Our badges are magic, you see. When we went through the security gate, our badges told the elevator what floor we were going to. It then went straight to that floor.


This is my second design shop, and I'm pleased to find that I feel totally at home. I've been working with computer security since college, and in the last couple of years I've done considerable research (alongside writing and editing) about the current state of the industry.

I also know a number of the people at the workshop, because they were at the one in November. And I also know Chris' style for running this.

In the early parts of the day, I do a few report-outs — on the paper I lead-authored, on how we've been accomplishing our plans, on the editing process, and on the interesting lessons for programmers from ID2020.

I get a few compliments on the last bit, which pleases me, because I wrote it up late last night after a long day. The cleverness and ingenuity came from the ID2020 speakers, but I'm happy I was able to cull out seven notes of particular interest.

We start the core of the day with a fun exercise: everyone writes about where identity will be in 15 years. I later feel unimaginative because I take a pragmatic view of how I think a global identity could really be constructed. Many other people take imaginative flights of fancy which are in some cases awe-inspiring.

We then gather in groups and each group tries to consolidate what we have into a coherent vision, while simultaneously noting disagreements.

The results are too abstract, but the results aren't really the purpose. The point is in some ways an ice breaker: we learn who our fellows are. But the bigger point is probably to think imaginatively about identity, to map out the breakpoints, to define our terms, and generally to come to terms with the entire space. And here I think it was quite successful.

And it was kind of fun too.

I'm out helping to arrange lunch when the discussion starts about what topics people are going to be working on today and tomorrow. The idea is that everyone is going to break up into groups and each group is going to produce either a white paper or a spec. That's the design part of the design workshop.

Things seem a little chaotic. Some people are standing to the sides of the rooms with signs listing potential topics. Some people are milling around, then heading to those groups. Others are sitting around.

Still, it mostly seems to work. Several groups come together and seem enthusiastic. Some are a little too big and some are a little too small, but maybe it's better to have everyone into their groups so quickly.

The one problem is M., who no one picked.

However his problem is my solution, because I worry what I'll do during the group work part of these sessions. I offer to help him work on his project, and he agrees. So for the next few hours in the afternoon I talk with him about ideas, offer several of my own, and we fill out an outline while also writing down a lot of brainstorming ideas.

I have some concerns about if we'll get far enough tomorrow, but I'm hopeful.

When we clear the space up in the evening, the concern is making sure that our piles of paper don't get thrown out by a janitor. Because they look like trash, but they're actually something we want to record.

S., our great graphic facilitator, asks if I speak Spanish, because she wants to make a sign that says, "Don't throw this away." I tell her my Spanish is about 25 years rusty, but then I go to Google translate and look it up.

If I'm ever using Google translate for anything real, I then translate it backward, to make sure I have something halfway decent. This time I reverse my first translation and get, "Don't shoot this". Not exactly what I was planning.

Second try gets "no lo coloque en la basura, por favor", which I can tell isn't very good Spanish. (I think "lo" is the wrong word to use.)

But it's close enough.

Afterward, I walk the city a bit. The plan was just to walk three miles home, but I end up doing about twice that.

First I walk toward the center of Times Square. I hadn't realized it was a whole neighborhood. As I go, the neon lights increase, as do the number of theaters. I also hadn't realized that Broadway and Times Square intersected.

From afar, I've just seen New York in little bite-sized bits, and never known how they all went together. Now I'm starting to learn.

As it turns out I never make it to quite the center of Times Square. I'm actually confused by the lack of squares, as I expected a big open space, like Union Square in SF. When I get back to the apartment I see that the center of things is really where Broadway crosses 7th Ave, so I'm going to try again, after walking Broadway from 42nd to 47th Street, which is apparently now a Pedestrian Plaza.

(Maybe tomorrow; I may or may not be carrying a bunch of those identity stories we wrote today.)

Then I walk out toward the Hudson. There's a path alongside it, and it's OK. Too often, it's quite far from the water, blocked by fences. But I have a nice walk out to the river at Pier 84 and can look up and down the waterway.

I'm actually more impressed by the cycleway that runs alongside the pedestrian path. It's fully protected (by a median) and two-directional.

The bicyclists that I saw heading up the east side of Manhattan yesterday seemed like daredevils, weaving in and out of traffic. This instead seems like the sort of route I'd enjoy.

It's also quite gloomy as I walk, and that turns into full rain as I turn toward Central Park.

No problem, I brought an umbrella.

I actually looked at the weather reports in Berkeley, and saw that rain was forecast for this Saturday. It was one of the things that reminded me how darned amazing the internet was.

Twenty years ago, you might have been able to get that information on the Weather Channel. Painfully as you waited for them to scroll through the whole country.

Thirty years ago: nada.

At the entrance to Central Park I get a chicken gyro from a street vendor. I've been seeing vendors all through the city, but most don't post their prices, and I'm not willing to get potentially bilked.

But this vendor does. I just have to wait a second for him to get into his food stand, because he's also running the hot dog stand next door.

I tell him not to make it spicy, and he agrees.

However, when I get the pita, it's not what I expect. I expect a really rich, creamy gyro sauce, and what I get instead is kind of an acrid sauce. It's yellow instead of white. It tastes very foreign.

I like it, mostly.

But I hope I don't regret it.

I eat the pita as I walk through Central Park.

And I love the Park.

Not far in, there's a playground with a huge rock looming over it, and I gleefully climb up it. This was perhaps not the best choice, because it's getting slick with the rain. But I manage not to kill myself on the way down.

I thought it was a unique landscape feature, but it turns out that the Park is full of big rocks. I really mean big rocks. There are people standing on them, walking around them, and sitting on. They're all over.

I am amused to discover that the lawns in Central Park are all in jail. They have fences around them. There are entrances, so that people can enjoy the lawns, but the Park keepers roll them closed at dusk.

They're all open when I enter the Park, and closed by the time I leave.

The walk is great. The landscape is very pedestrian friendly and very attractive.

There are trees all around but also plenty of walking space.

I get to the mall, and at the start find a statue of William Shakespeare. I want to take a selfie for K's amusement, but there's just no way in the rain.

I walk up the mall and see many other statues, alongside lines and lines of benches, all with shiny metal plagues on them — sometimes in memory of people, sometimes just listing names, sometimes just listing romances.

I finally turn east at 79th, to head out of the Park.

It's a bit of a walk to get there, but then I'm home.

Another long day in New York.

It's 8pm when I arrive home, 8.5 miles of walking under my belt (shoes) for the day.
shannon_a: (Default)
We wander up and down the open hallways of the third floor of the UN. The escalators we came up only go up. The stairs have all been blocked off. We can see the exit in the distance, through the big front windows that look out over Manhattan and through the open area that drops all the way down to the first floor.

We're just not sure how to get there!

19 Hours Earlier.

As I walk into the luggage claim area at JFK airport, I see a Dunkin' Donuts.

That's my first impression of New York City.

It's 11pm by the time I'm leaving the airport, thanks to the delays in the flight. On the road to Manhattan we avoid the obvious route, across the Queensboro Bridge, because it's apparently under construction and only has a single lane open.

Meanwhile, we see a gridlocked line of cars heading toward the airport.

We take the slightly longer route across the Triborough Bridge. (I can never figure out what the driver is saying when he names it for me. We just don't use the word "borough" on the west coast). Then we drive FDR Drive down along the East River. (Not a river.) Pretty soon it's bumper to bumper traffic too, because of yet more construction.

That's my second impression of New York City: rush hour at almost midnight.

The apartment Chris is renting has small bedrooms, a small bathroom, and a nice-sized living room. It's a real honest-to-goodness New York apartment.

(And so much nicer than a hotel, let alone the fact that it allows me to stay into next week to explore the city a bit while I'm here. So, yay.)

It takes me between an hour and two to get to sleep. Stupid time difference going the wrong way.

I finally manage, and I sleep pretty well from that point. The bed is surprisingly comfortable. It's rare that I sleep in a foreign bed and don't wake up sore the next morning.

In the morning we cab to the UN. We receive our access badges out front by stating our names.

This seems like very weird identity management for a conference all about identity.

The conference ("summit") is based on UN Sustainable Development Goal #16.9. The SDGs are a set of goals that were signed last September to make the world a better place by 2030. #16.9 called for getting everyone a legal identity by 2030. That's what ID2020 is all about.

No, I don't know why it's called ID2020 instead of ID2030.

I can't properly explain the sense of awe created by being at the UN to work on a global issue that's been committed to by many of the countries of the world. It's breath-taking. It's awe-inspiring. It's really, really cool.

I mean, I'm just a support player here. Come tomorrow I'm going to help Chris out at a design workshop that runs Saturday and Sunday, working with tech guys to produce white papers and specs that might make some of these ideas a reality.

But, it's pretty neat to be supporting something this big.

I'm shocked by how free a rein we have in the UN. I mean, if we wandered dramatically off course, the ubiquitous guards might have something to say about it. But we wander pretty freely.

The summit is in the Trusteeship Council room, which was once used to talk about trust territories. (There aren't any any more.) It's a beautiful room that looks exactly like a council room in the UN. It's got wooden long tables, some straight, some curved. They all have an array of buttons so you can turn on your microphone. It's pretty cool.

The Security Council room is right next door, and that's even cooler. I mean for gosh sake, matters of importance to the whole world occurred right there! I stick my head in at one point and soak in the majesty.

The summit is all about exchanging information between the bureaucrats who run the world and the techies who change the world. It's mostly panels, with a number of people each giving their opinions on various matters related to identity.

I continuously take notes of the high points, in part to sift through them for things to mention at the workshop tomorrow, in part to keep myself focused and listening to what people are saying.

It's generally pretty fascinating, and sometimes heartbreaking when we hear about the problems associated with lack of identity.

At around 4pm, the guy running the show idly mentions there's coffee available back in the snack room. (I'm sure that's the official UN name. Or maybe it's the Snacular Council.) He clearly hopes that most people won't head out, because we're running late.

He apparently doesn't know how hungry and/or tired summit-goers are by 4pm.

Fifteen minutes later he finally starts the next panel, but the room is still half-filled.

And not long after that the UN2020 Identity Summit is over.

A number of us wander the halls for a while, unable to find our way down.

Which underlines my point that we really have amazing free rein.

I decide to walk home. It's about 2 miles from the UN to the apartment.

On the way I see another 4 Dunkin' Donuts and about a half-dozen bagel stores.

I've been feeling good all day, but by the time I get home some of my chronic symptoms are flaring up.

Darn it.

I get myself Burger King for dinner as comfort. Truly a quintessential New York meal.

But it's still been an amazing, good, interesting, enlightening, awe-inspiring day.
shannon_a: (Default)
Weekends are my panacea. They're my tonic. They're the time that I rest and relax from the busyness of the week. They allow me to work hard and return refreshed. Without them, it feels like the burdens on my shoulders grow larger and everything grows tighter around me week by week.

So, it's important that I get to actually relax on the weekends and when I don't, when I dive back into the week without true weekend, it's like diving into another exhausting day without a night's sleep in between.

Sadly, last weekend wasn't that restful.

Saturday was very busy because roleplaying was at my house. So the morning was spent cleaning and chatting with Kimberly, then folks arrived and we started gaming, then the gaming ran late, then Kimberly & I chatted with Donald & Mary for a while after gaming. It felt like I didn't come up for air until 7pm. (Then Kimberly and I watched TV, ate dinner, went for a walk, and it was 9pm!)

Sunday was better, though Kimberly & I spent a lot of time moving from one activity to another. After dinner it seemed like finally time to relax ... and then an attack on RPGnet ate up the next several hour of my evening. Dammit.

This all felt busy in part because I've been roleplaying less. It's certainly something I want to do, but the sessions have been a bit unpredictable since before Thanksgiving, so it's an activity that I'm less used too. (Hopefully that'll be changing around in the near future).

I think things also felt extra busy because of the lack of bike-riding. Usually even when I roleplay I bike out to Endgame and back, and that gives me an hour to stop my head from a'whirring, but that wasn't possible on Saturday. (Sometimes in the past I've gone for a bike ride before gaming at my house, but this Saturday I was up late the previous night because I'd had problems sleeping and Kimberly was unexpectedly home in the morning and it was raining part of the time, so ...)

I made up for things a bit on Monday. Because I'd been working on Sunday night, I knocked off a bit after 2pm, then bike up to Lake Temescal, where I wrote and read some up in the park. It was pleasant and did indeed remove some of the stress that accumulated (and more importantly didn't disperse) during the weekend.

On the ride I was a bit irritated to find that I'm still having troubles getting up to my cardio zones while biking, thanks to the upgraded med level for my blood pressure. I've been trying to get 30 minutes of activity a day, minimum, and I ended up with only 17 on Monday because for much of my ride up to Temescal and just about all of it back, I was sitting below the fat-burning zone that marks the start of cardio fitness. Grr.

My heart rate is definitely lower than it has been. However, the biggest problem seems to be that my Heart Rate Recovery is through the roof. My pulse rate drops extensively and quickly the second I stop exercising ... which apparently can nowoccur if I just take it easy while biking for a minute or two. That's generally supposed to be a sign of very good health, but when trying to exercise, it's a bit frustrating.
shannon_a: (Default)
Ugh. I feel like I had a mostly lost weekend, which is a bummer because they're when I rest and rejuvenate after the week.

Skotos. Things started off annoyingly on Friday night. I've been doing some upgrades to Skotos' machines, to try and make them as safe as possible before the holiday seasons (and to make sure they can stay up-to-date going into 2016). After three updates that went mostly well, I ran into troubles on my fourth upgrade of the week, late on Friday. I stayed a bit late on Friday to track down a few show-stopping bugs, which were annoyingly known issues with the upgrade that hadn't been addressed in documentation or upgrade patches. A few more problems proved intractable in a short period of time, but were also lower priority, so I managed to put them aside for the weekend. (Mostly.)

Unfortunately, the Skotos hits kept coming. On Saturday I discovered a new problem that was somewhat higher priority, and I worked on that for a while, until I was able to at least see the boundaries of the issue (and decided it also wasn't a quick fix). Then on Sunday I had to offer some support for a GM facing some annoyances.

I didn't eat up more than two hours of my weekend time with all these issues, but they managed to overhang my time and gloomify it. (The major problems have since been dealt with, now that I'm back to work on Monday.)

Bike. Saturday is my biking day if there's no East Bay roleplaying game scheduled. Except this weekend I got delayed until after 11am by screwing around with Skotos problem #2-ish. And then I got out to the garage and remembered that I was unhappy with my brakes. They'd gotten off-kilter in recent weeks because the wheel had gotten pretty badly out of true, and the best compromise I'd been able to work out involved brakes that were too loose ... and getting looser. So I decided to recenter my brakes ... except I pretty much couldn't.

Another half-an-hour or so of that and I decided it was bike shop time. I'd sorta known that when they'd first gone off-kilter, but that was just before Thanksgiving, and I wanted my bike for that weekend. But now it's time had come.

Missing Link verified that the wheel needed to be trued. We also agreed to put some new brake pads on, because the old ones were mostly gone. So, I sadly left the bike behind, dreams of my day of (chilly) biking gone. They did call me about 3pm to say it was ready, so after I rushed out I took it out for a spin. Though I couldn't do my usual, relaxed day of biking — eating, writing out in a park, and biking again — I could at least do the biking bit.

Fitbit says I did almost exactly 2.5 hours of biking. I went up to Richmond, out to Port Richmond, around Port Potrero, and back. I had some nice views, got some nice exercise, and enjoyed myself, but it wasn't the relaxing Saturday I usually enjoy.

(Re: the out-of-true problem. It was probably caused by my increasingly structurally unsound large panniers bashing into my back tire at inopportune times. I've since ordered some *much* better large panniers which will be more structurally sound and glow brightly in headlights and ward off rain ... but they still won't be quite as good for carrying the largest packages.)

Play. And Sunday Kimberly and I saw a play of which I've already written. Enjoyable, but again, not relaxing.

That was pretty much the theme for the weekend, which is why it feels lost.

Writing. I also didn't get much of the weekend writing I usually do done, in large part due to the lost Saturday and the play Sunday. I'd planned to finish up my DnDclassics and Mechanics & Meeples writing for the year ... but didn't quite make it. At this point I have all my DnDClassics articles drafted, and I'm maybe halfway through the last Mechanics & Meeples articles. But I need to finish the Mechanics & Meeples and edit everything.

Ah well.

There's big relaxation coming up in just a few weeks! If I can just get ready for Christmas!
shannon_a: (Default)
"Designers, you have eight hours and $0 to create a white paper or a spec. Make it work."

Which is to say that I now know what the Project Runway designer sings.

Yesterday at Christopher's Rebooting the Web of Trust workshop, I did my help any groups that I thought could use an outside eye or ear.

Today, I instead focused on a single group that that had gotten stuck with the definition of what the Web of Trust really was, and joined them to write a short white paper with them. The result was a Project Runway experience — and it was the Project Runway experience where you didn't get anything done on your outfit on the first day, and come back, and then have to power through the whole thing.

It was a fun experience, if a tiring one. We produced a paper, "Rebranding the Web of Trust". It's got good content, but it's not what I'd call a first draft. Too much mess in the organization. But that can be cleaned up (and cleaning up papers is precisely what's on my TODO list for next week, so it's only fair to include the one I co-authored.)

Here's another weird correlation to Project Runway: on the show, the designers always hate working in groups. They despise it. They bitch, they whine, they cry. I've always felt for them because I hated groups in college, to the point that I made up an imaginary lab partner for one of my lower-division CS classes.

But the folks at Rebooting the Web of Trust seemed to really excel in the group environment. Oh sure, sometimes the work fell out when discussions within a large group got too deep. But generally there was real, solid collaboration going on, full of people respecting each others' ideas and building on them. I think one group managed a 14-page paper thanks to really good organization of the group allowing collaboration in separate parts. Heck, there was even good intergroup fertilization. At one point a group working on reputation asked the Rebranding group I was with for some feedback on what we were doing with our definition of Trust, which resulted in them getting some (great?) insight and us refining the model we were working on. Win win.

Two personal addendum to that:

Brian, the superb facilitator, early on today said that we should try and positively reinforce discussions by saying "Yes and ..." rather than "Yes but ..." I constantly fought to think about it when considering other peoples' contributions. At one point I responded to something that someone suggested with a "Yes but ..." and got a negative response to my addition. I then said about the same thing again, but said "Yes and ..." and this time I got acceptance. Huh.

Overall, I was sufficiently humbled by the excellent cooperation that I saw around me that I tried to emulate it. In general I'm fine at cooperation in certain environments like roleplaying and tabletop gaming. But I've never been that good at co-op work. So again and again I had to work hard to accept other peoples' contributions and go with the flow. Or to argue to a point where we could compromise to include everything in the same model. And I'm quite sure it was to the benefit of what we were working on.

So that was Christopher's Rebooting the Web of Trust designshop. The individual collaborative groups generally have the next few days to work on their papers. I, meanwhile, am putting it aside for a few days so that I can catch up on other things that need work. And then I get to work on Editing the Web of Trust for much of next week ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Today I attended the first day of #RebootingWebOfTrust and I'm exhausted. This is Christopher Allen's design shop to kickstart the next generation of decentralized trust technologies.

Here's what I learned.

BART Sucks. It's been a long time since I took BART during rush hour, and I'm pretty shocked by how jaw-droppingly horrible it's become. The train was almost 20 minutes late in the morning due to "a police matter at the Plaza", and that was unshocking. It seems like about 1 in 3 times I ride BART nowadays, there's a notable delay.

However, the absolutely jammed trains were surprising. Very tight standing room only all the way from Berkeley to Embarcadero. Coming back was even worse, though I got a seat that time, because I was bright enough to walk up to the Civic Center before boarding. (Boy does Market Street go to Hell between Powell and Civic Center.) By the time we got to Embarcadero they needed those Japanese workers who cram people onto trains. (The driver eventually had to tell people to get back and wait for the next train.)

BART literally should be running twice as many trains during rush hour as they are, from what I saw.

Decentralized Trust People Rock. The workshop was a collection of people who were not just smart, but nice, and able to work in groups. I was astounded by how low the ego was for these top-class security and privacy folks. They were happy to listen to peoples' ideas and really think about them before producing a collaborative work that everyone contributed to. Co-operative work is often hard, because people take over groups, and though there were certainly leaders, they weren't controllers to the same extent.

San Francisco is a Nice Place to Visit … The conference room for the workshop was up on the 23rd floor of Three Embarcadero Center in the Financial District, and it's got an absolute stunning panoramic view. You could see the whole Bay, from the Golden Gate Bridge in the north to the Bay Bridge in the south, and even the Richmond Bridge off in the distance. The Marin Headlands, Angel Island, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, every bit of it was visible … and very clear thanks to the rain we had yesterday.

But on the way back to BART I was reminded of why I'm happy I don't live in San Francisco. Because the streets were just jam-packed from Embarcadero to Powell or so, reminding me that SF (unlike Berkeley) is a real city. Then you start hitting the edges of the Tenderloin, and the crowds clear out, but what's left isn't that pleasant.

So, beautiful city, ugly city.

Security & Privacy Are Fun. There are a lot of fun topics under discussion. Stuff related to reputation and trust, PKIs and decentralization. Though I find this sort of all-day-around-people sort of thing very exhausting in and of itself, the topics were something that kept me interested. I'm looking forward to seeing the papers that come out of this.

One more day in San Francisco tomorrow.
shannon_a: (Default)
Windows. Massive power tool usage was going on downstairs today, often shaking the whole house. The cats were locked in my office, to keep them safe from open doors, and Lucy was frequently cowering while even Callisto was super jumpy. Poor cats! Poor me, as it was one of a few stressors for a stressful week that will continue through to Sunday.

This first stressor was the result of new window installation, which will be continuing through tomorrow. Six windows total are being replaced, including all of our most troublesome ones and all of the really crappy aluminum-frame windows — put in by the butcher who did so many horrible things to this house sometime before we moved in (though this is one of the last major signs of his incompetence).

Generally, we try to use some of the interest we've earned on our savings to do some house work every couple of years; the last major work was the bathroom a few years ago now, so it was definitely time for something new, and several of the windows had long bugged us as cold sinks, wind magnets, and shoulder wrenchers, so we're very happy to see these replaced. Our hope is that the back of the house will be warmer, the winds will stop blowing through our bedroom, my games and books will stop fading, and we can open more windows in summer.

Still, lots of people were moving about the house today and there were lots of thudding noises.

Fortunately, I was able to reduce at least some of the stress thanks to K. She noted that she was listening to a movie on her headphones so that she didn't have to hear all the banging about. Afterward, I started blasting music in my office off of my laptop (which I got some cute little speakers for last year), and that helped.

As of the end of the day, four of the windows are done, but the two more troublesome ones are in process. The installers ripped out lots of wood to get these done, and they found some surprises in how things were constructed. (Basically are walls are like a Twixt bar, with many, many layers.) Hopefully they'll be able to resolve that tomorrow, when they're supposed to finish all the major work. (Fingers crossed.)

In the meantime, the house is a bit of a wreck. K. and I have set up a temporary bed room in the family room, because our bed room has no drapes, no blinds, and a light coating of debris.

Eyes. Today was also my return to the optometrist. A new optometrist, I should say, because the folks at Berkeley Optometric Group wasted most of a year failing to get me acceptable glasses, then wasted another few months processing a refund. They finally cleared everything by the very end of January ... by which time I already had an appointment scheduled with my new optometrist, Dr. Kiyomoto, today at 4pm.

Sadly, after about 20 visits to BOG last week (a literal count), going to an optometrist has become very loaded and a bit stressful; I noticed it on my last few visits to BOG last year. I certainly wouldn't have planned the new optometrist visit the same day as window work, but that's how it ended up.

Anyhow, I spent about 2 hours at Dr. Kiyomoto's office. He was very thorough (and also explained everything a lot). He didn't explicitly say it, but it looks like the doctor at BOG who fit me with progressive lenses four years ago was an idiot. Then when they upgraded my progressive lenses last year, it made the problem even worse.

The problem? I just barely need progressives, so they were making it harder and harder for me to read, not easier.

We'll see if this theory holds out when the new glasses arrive, but I'm hopeful.

Reboots. The third stressor is upcoming. Every single machine at Skotos is going to get rebooted this weekend due to some required security work. Most of them should come back fine, but a couple need to be managed more carefully, and there's always the potential for horrible problems on a reboot.

Very annoyingly, I have to deal with this both Saturday and Sunday morning, and I also have to do a bit of work while gaming on Saturday.

Again, this shouldn't be a big deal, but the logistical requirements are stressful, as is the potential for downside.

On the bright side, I can have a restful Sunday afterward, because K. is going to a class, so I can do whatever I want, wherever I want.

And that's the week of stress. Which is now at least one out of three parts done.
shannon_a: (Default)
So when the new year dawned, I came to the conclusion that there needed to be some changes at Skotos and I made a list of them. #5 on my list was to move all of the Skotos machines. There were two possibilities for how to do this: finding a new colo facility and moving the machines to the cloud, and the latter possibility was super-intimidating because it meant rebuilding our entire fleet of machines from scratch. So I made that my last priority and dove into everything else.

After returning from Hawaii in March most of my other changes were done or well under way, so I slowly started looking into pricing out colos and cloud computing. Rather surprisingly, colo facilities weren't that interested in acquiring new business. My two queries to our current colo facility on changing over to a smaller sort of rack went unanswered (which would prove an ongoing problem with Evocative / 365 Main throughout this process), while my queries to another local colo were only answered slowly and unspecifically and when I asked to set up an appointment to view their facility, their email responses stopped. (Months later, they still haven't responded to that query.)

Fortunately, looking into the cloud went better. I had presumed that we'd be going with someone big like Amazon, Google, or Microsoft, but I found their pricing scheme overly technical, making it hard to measure real costs. Much to my surprise the smaller cloud companies were both more reasonable and more reasonably priced — perhaps because they specialize in this stuff. I eventually settled on a company called Linode, in large part because they announced a revamp of their cloud platforms the day I was finalizing my research. Which meant that they de facto had the most up-to-date platforms for the cheapest prices. (Those up-to-date platforms include entirely solid-state storage, as opposed to to hard drives full of spinning metal, and though that meant that our storage was tighter than I'd like it was a thrilling possibility because it meant faster and more reliable storage.)

I started experimenting with moving services to Linode in April, beginning with RPGnet under the theory that it was our most server-intensive service. I was happy with the results, so I gave notice to our current colo facility (though it took them 6-7 weeks to definitively confirm our termination, which is all sorts of ridiculous). By the end of May I had Skotos' major services moved to Linode and by the second or third week of June I had everything moved. I omit the huge amounts of stress involved in this process, in part due to moving black-box services (like the Skotos games) and in part due to moving complex, critical services (like email). But, I promise you the stress was there. To start testing life-without-colo machines I first turned off their external network interfaces about two weeks ago, then turned off their power about one week ago. Then this last Wednesday Chris and I emptied out our colo rack entirely, a process that took about 3 hours and involved some blood and sweat but not (as far as I know) tears.

Though the process was intimidating I am thrilled to be in the cloud. Our machines have all jumped ahead about two generations, with clear improvements in CPU and huge improvements in storage access. They also will presumably keep improving in the future without us having to buy new machines. For me, I'm never going to have to sit around on the colo floor again, praying that a machine reboots, waiting impatiently while I listen to the maddening buzz of thousands of machines and air conditioners. I'm never going to have to make an emergency trip there on a Saturday morning, hoping I can finish things up and go on to gaming. I'm never going to have to figure out how to get a replacement power supply to replace a de-smoked one at 6pm on a Friday night. I'm guessing there still will be problems with the physical machines that we're running on, but they will be fewer and they'll be dealt with by more efficient staff with access to platoons of identical replacement parts. Oh, and we're saving a lot of money by doing this; colo just wasn't the right choice for us when we were down to 7 servers (12 under the new cloud setup) and had a rack with 39 "U"s of space. Cloud totally rocks in almost every way.

There are two slight downsides to the cloud. One, you always have to wonder if someone else can impact your machines, since they're all virtual. That was a big problem in early days of cloud computing, but thus far I haven't definitively seen any indication of something like that. Two, you have to have some concerns about the cloud company just folding up and disappearing, but Linode is big enough that I hope that won't be a worry.

There's still some rebuilding of processes to be done on the new machines, to make sure that all of our administrivia is taken care of correctly, but the new machines are working and working great ... and perhaps just as importantly I now know precisely how these machines are built. I'm more in-tune with the sysadmin of what we have than I have been since working at the Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Astrophysics (a UC Berkeley / NASA project) in the '90s.

With the move being done and the Skotos retrofits being done, everything is looking good at the moment on the work side of my life, which makes me calm and happy.

September 2017

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