shannon_a: (Default)
With the constant rain of the last week, I decided to bike up the Lafayette-Moraga trail so that I could see the Moraga Falls about two-thirds of the way up that trail. They're very shy falls that only come out after extended and long rain. Otherwise, they tend to disappear almost as soon as the rain does.

And, the falls mission was successful. The falls were going as strongly as I've ever seen it. I'm not sure I'll see them again before we move, so that was terrific.

I had lunch at the picnic area just beyond. As I continued further, I was very disappointed to discover the last mile of the trail is STILL blocked due to a landslide at least two years ago. So I backtracked once again, as I have previously when I hit that non-marked, non-detoured trail. Then went out to the road. Well, it's not as bad as right afterward when the trail was blocked and also the bridge on the road just beneath it, which literally took you miles out of your way.

Circling around I did ride the last half-mile or so of the Trail, past the bridge, and that drops you right off at the Valle Vista Staging Area, the southernmost EBMUD hiking area. I've previously hiked a lot of the accessible EBMUD trails in that area, from St. Mary's College to the Laguna Rancho Park, and from the Laguna Rancho Park to the newly opened Carr Ranch. Since this is the next entrance to trails in that area, it felt like a nice complement, so I decided to brace the post-rain mud afterall.

After accidentally looping around the short Riche Loop trail, I decided to walk the King's Canyon Loop Trail, which is about six and a half miles. It was magnificent. Much of it runs along the San Leandro Reservoir. At the bottom it's kind of marshy swamp land, as a local river runs into the reservoir, which is pretty unlike other geography you find in the hills. There was also a near deafening chorus of frogs there. From there, you head up, and it's all very nicely wooded areas, but you regularly see the Reservoir off to the right.

I saw some people the first mile or two, but from there, the trail was all mine.

At the southernmost part of the trail, you get a beautiful view of Kings Canyon, which leads off to the Upper Reservoir. I enjoyed that for a while, before continuing on.

Out at the furthest edge of the loop, I came on one of the fire roads leading down to Laguna Rancho, which I could vaguely make out in the distance (or rather, I could make out some of the ostentatious houses near it, which I remembered from my last trip there). But from there I headed back. As usual, the EBMUD signage was horrible. I have no idea how I would have managed the loop without a hiking guide I found online, but with that I was able to pretty easily follow the paths as they went this way and that.

The hike back was the hardest because it went straight over a steep hill. There were some horses up near the top, though they looked sadly neglected. One came over and said "hi" to me for a while before he got bored and wandered off.

From there I dropped straight back down to the Valle Vista Staging Area. Which was good, because it was getting dark. There was one last car leaving the parking lot as I got there.

Great hike, overall. A very pretty area.

And my hiking shoes seem to be back in usable condition. I took them back to the shoe repair and they stretched the collars back a bit and softened them. Then because the shoes have always been a slight bit loose, I put some inserts in the back. And between those, I don't think I gave myself any new blisters from the walk (and certainly not the horrible abrasions from walking less than a mile that I'm still healing from after my first time out with the repaired shoes).

Mind you, I still had bandaids on the backs of my ankles, so that might have helped too, but that just means I need to drop some bandaids in my backpack.

(And I did have extra shoes that I carried the whole way around the loop, in case I had problems. But I think I'll be more trusting next time.)

Getting back from the Moraga area after dark is always a challenge. The last few times I did it, I took the Lafayette-Moraga Trail back, and that's always unpleasant because there are people walking in the pitch black that you have to avoid hitting.

This time, I took Moraga Way back to Orinda, and that's not pleasant either, because it's a fast, busy road with poor lighting. There is a bike lane the whole way, though at several places it gets uncomfortably narrow. I never exactly felt unsafe, but it was exhausting staying on high alert the whole time, so I don't think I'll do Moraga Way in the dark again.

Still, a good ride up and then down into Orinda.

One thing I'd still like to do in that area: the Rampage Peak hike which climbs all the way up to Antony Chabot Park from one of these EBMUD staging areas. (I'm not sure which; their maps are horrible.) The trick Is figuring out how to do that without ending up with a bike being the opposite side of the hill from where I end up. (Possibilities: a Lyft out to the trail head or a an early enough hike that I can round-trip, or maybe a Lyft down from Chabot back to the trail head.)
shannon_a: (rpg glorantha)
It was 25 years ago tonight that RuneQuest-Con began at the Columbia Inn Hotel, in Baltimore, Maryland.

It was a time of excitement and rejuvenation for RuneQuest and for the world of Glorantha. The line had fizzled out in the late '80s, but with the 1992 publication of _Sun County_ by Michael O'Brien, the RuneQuest Renaissance had begun. That same year, _King of Sartar_ had also appeared, suggesting a richer mythic background for the world than we ever could have imagined, but then at RuneQuest-Con, Greg Stafford doubled down with the 1994 publication of the "Vernacular Edition" of _The Glorious ReAscent of Yelm_, which revealed a whole layer of mythology beneath that which we knew.

But those professional publications were only half of the story of Glorantha in the early '90s, and perhaps less. Because the early '90s were the time when the Gloranthan fandom really exploded, starting with the Reaching Moon Megacorp crew in England. They'd been publishing _Tales of the Reaching Moon_ since 1989 and had kicked off the idea of Glorantha conventions in 1992, with Convulsions. The rich creativity of the authors for _Tales_ (and soon: many other fanzines) easily matched that of the professional publications ... and in fact soon those fanzine creators were writing for many of the professional books, starting with MOB's _Sun County_. Meanwhile, the yearly conventions gave this community the opportunity to really come together and for their ideas to multiply and cross-fertilize.

RuneQuest-Con was my first trip as an adult. I'm not sure I'd been out of California since my Washington DC trip in my senior year of high school. Now, five years later, I was making a recreational trip for something that I found enthralling (and with the support and encouragement of my friend Eric Rowe). When I went to RuneQuest-Con in Baltimore, I was a big fan of the system, because I'd played in weekly games throughout most of my college days. But I was less of a fan of Glorantha, because most of those games were set in my friend Eric's world, Erzo. But I did know Glorantha through its publications. I'd happily read through all the Avalon Hill boxes, through _Cults of Prax_ and _Cults of Terror__, through the amazing _King of Sartar_. But the convention was my first time for those abstract learnings to become concrete. And they did.

I happily played in _Home of the Bold_, where I watched over the last days of my doomed Orlanthi tribe while I hid away at Geo's. And I listened to seminars and I talked Glorantha fans, and I became entirely enamored by the setting.

It filled my creative output for a decade thereafter. I talked with Greg about the First Age, and wrote the history of that time for the LARP at RQ-Con 2. I talked about elves with Greg and would eventually write two books on the topic. I used these two expertises to fill the pages of _Tradetalk_ and _Hearts in Glorantha_ and offered other scattered bits for two local fanzines, _RQ Adventures_ and _The Book of Drastic Resolutions_.

The next year, I helped Eric put together RQ-Con 2 in San Francisco. (He did all the logistical work, including stuff I was supposed to do; I did the majority of the writing for the LARP, with support from him and Steven Martin and of course Greg.) And I got to make a trip to England the year after, to attend Convulsions 3D. After that, I faded away from the physical Gloranthan gatherings, in large part because I was now making no money, working for Chaosium (and afterward because working at Chaosium burned me out on roleplaying for a few years thereafter). Ironically, I still supported some of them, such as the day I worked up the original Hero Wars logo in an hour or two, so that Greg could have something to put on t-shirts for Glorantha-Con IV (I think). But even as I stepped back from the conventions, I still felt those connections as I wrote for the fanzines, until they faded away too. (Joyfully, Facebook has brought some of those connections back.)

(Tip of the hat to Rick Meints who wrote some memories about RQ-Con 1 over on his own page.)
shannon_a: (Default)
And so begins what should be our final year in the Bay Area.

We are diving straight in, doing our best to spend the whole year getting ready for our move to Hawaii. We're going to do our best to make sure we get something major done every month (this month: get our gardener and handyman who'll help prepare our house for sale going, which we still need to do) and we're going to do our best to empty the house of stuff that we don't need over the course of the year (this month: we've started with some games and clothes and oddments stuck in various drawers).

Good News: We were happy to lead the year off with some good news: the latest attempt by the insurance companies and/or hospitals to screw us out of money got dealt with when HealthNet agreed to pay for K's anesthesiologist from her surgery last year. I really don't exaggerate when I say that over the last two decades we've gotten tens of thousands of dollars of bills that the insurance company was supposed to pay and we had to fight about.

Secret Gaming: Gaming has begun at Secret, the Wednesday-night Endgame replacement. It's very close to Endgame, but about half-a-mile toward Jack London Square. The neighborhoods start to get a little seedier as you move further away from the Oakland Convention Center, and this place is almost directly under the Nimitz Freeway (which is LOUD), but it turns out to be a very nice venue. Just a quiet room in a converted Victorian that reminds me of a fraternal hall or something. It's got a stage for small shows and three tables across the other wall for our gaming. We had 10 people or so and two tables the first Wednesday, then 13 people or so and three tables this last Wednesday. It's been a good group of the nicer and/or more serious gamers from Endgame, and after the uptrend of people in the second week, I've got my fingers crossed that it'll manage to stick around.

Sunday Gaming: I got lots of games for Christmas, including Charterstone, a Legacy resource-management and village-building game. I'd been super-intrigued by it because of the idea of building up a village over 12 games, but all my local gaming friends had expressed a lack of interest, in part because of its relatively simple mechanics. Well, Kimberly to the rescue. She agreed to try it out with me, and we've now managed two games of the twelve (though they really have the second game set up as a continuation of the first, so the first, learning game was slow and the second was fast). I do agree the mechanics are simple, but I'm enjoying it, and am particularly intrigued by how our village will develop over the course of the next ten games, as we unlock new things and build them. As I was writing for this, I got lost for a moment in what I'd like to do next game ("get my gold up to four; unlock the constructed tile I held onto; and see what it allows me to build") and that's an example of why Legacy games work.

Bad Shoes: My biggest problem of the year so far: shoes. Yeah. For my great hiking shoes from two Christmases ago, I wore through the inside of the back of the heel, exposing the plastic stiffener there. Or as I call it: the plastic pain device, because it cut up my heel last time I tried to hike. But, because I largely used them for hiking on dirt paths, the soles were still good. So I took them to a shoe repair store and they said they could fix it by covering over the inside back with leather. Great, I thought: half the price of new shoes and more ecologically sound. Do it, I said. I got shoes back with an entirely stiff collar and when I took them out for a walk of less than a mile, they literally wore holes in my ankles. MUCH worse than they were before. So I took them back, and they've theoretically softened the collar, but I couldn't really measure if they wore right now because I still have painful holes in my ankles. Maybe in a few days. Meanwhile, I discovered that I'd worn most of the soles of my normal walking shoes smooth. They're just from September or so, but they were apparently a bad purchase without solid enough soles. They're probably still OK for a month or two, but not in the rain or in the hills. And it's been raining. So last week I was feeling like I had no good shoes to wear out of the house. Well, hopefully the hiking shoe problem is solved (if not, it's back to the shoe repair one more time for more softening), and today I made it out to Target and got some new walking shoes that will hopefully fix the other problem.

Writing: I have been lagging in my writing since the new year, alas. I've just been feeling lazy/needing more downtime. But maybe I finally turned it around last week by starting in on some Mechanics & Meeples articles. I first-drafted the first, and I'm now working on a second and have notes for a third, which all told will take me to the end of February. And then I'd really like to get back to Designers & Dragons so I at least have the majority of the new books in a very raw form by the time we move.

Working: And of course it's been back to work for two weeks now. It's been the usual work I've had for the last several years, which is trying to balance way too many priorities, but I'm acutely aware this should be the last year that's the case because I'll be cutting down on my work and simplifying after we've (hopefully) sold the house next year.

The Last Days: Generally, I'm aware that these are my last days in California. We could move as early as January 1st next year. That's when our house should be available, and it's entirely possible that it'll be a day when we can get cheap tickets. (Though there are two parts to our move date: when tickets are cheap after the holidays, and when the Kauai Humane Society is willing to meet us at the airport to inspect our cats' paperwork.) But if not January 1, then surely within the week thereafter. So this day next year, we should be living in an empty-ish house in Kauai, waiting for our books and games and extra clothes and looking to fill it with new furniture. So I now know that I've been to Secret two times, and there now only 50 more this year, and that's likely it for me. And that I won't be seeing the first two weeks of winter in California again, and that when I'm annoyed by the students returning from winter break in a week or so, it'll be the last time. Because it's the beginning of our California end.
shannon_a: (Default)
I have a long tradition of taking off the week from Christmas to New Year's. And, I try to keep myself busy.

Saturday (the 22nd). I headed out to Walnut Creek where I spent Christmas money on new jeans and a new flannel overshirt. (Exciting!) Then I biked the Iron Horse Trail from Walnut Creek to Pleasanton/Dublin. I always like getting out and about on my weekends, but it's a little harder in the winter when it's cold. So, bike rides are preferred then, and it's usually a little warmer that side of the hills because there's less overcast.

Sunday (the 23rd). We saw the Wizard of Oz.

Monday. Kimberly's foot is still recovering, so we weren't up for a BART ride down south, but Bob was kind enough to pick us up to attend this year's Wiedlin gatherings. Christmas Eve was as always a fun mix of family, games, and tasty food. The only downside was that the dogs have gone wild in the last year. For some reason, Joy got upset at us staying in the guest room at the end of the long west-east hall in the house, and so every time Kimberly or I stepped out its door, she started barking up a storm and got Hope involved too.

Tuesday. We began Christmas with a tasty breakfast, as usual. We waited longer than usual for Jason and Lisa, but that's because they have a new child. Kimberly and I met our first nephew, Julian. And he was mostly a lump, spending all his time nursing, sleeping, and having his nappies changed. But as Lisa said, he's in the potato stage. We had good Christmas presenting. I got great books, great games, a nice pull-over sweater, and other things. We played more games, had a good evening dinner, and then Rob was kind enough to drive us all the way back to Berkeley (at which point Kimberly and I had our own stockings and presents).

Wednesday. During the day I took my hiking shoes out to a shoe repair store, because I'd rubbed through the backs, unmasking the plastic pain devices under the fabric in the heel. But, the soles still have a lot of life, so repair was the answer. (Exciting!) Then, I went to the last night of Endgame board gaming.

Thursday. Definitely, my laziest day of the holiday. I lounged around the house reading and napping until dinner time, at which point I read a bit to Kimberly (we're still on Hawaii, but drawing near the end). Then, I had my friends over for a couple of games of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy's Mask.

Friday. We always see a movie around Christmas, and this year we chose Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse. We decided to see it down at Bay Street, and that caused problems because they've made the rather ill-considered decision to go over to reserved seats in their theatres. So (1) we couldn't properly reserve seats that would have accounted for Kimberly's scooter; (2) we had to reserve in advance and thus pay their $3.50 "convenience charge" to guarantee ourselves anything like good seats; and (3) we got to watch people call in the management to evict people from the seats they'd stolen as we were trying to watch previews. Good times. (Well, the previews sucked anyway: they were all either very religious or very kid-focused.) But the movie rocked. One of the best super-hero films I've ever seen. Not only did it have great and funny writing, not only did it to a great job with a whole host of Spider-men, but it also made excellent use of the animated form.

Saturday. For my last Saturday of the holiday, I came up with a great adventure: taking BART out to Pittsburg Central to explore Black Diamond Mines. The BART ride went one stop beyond the old Pittsburg Station, on the new "DMU" trains that have totally squandered the potential of BART in Eastern CoCoCo. You have to change trains at a special platform east of Pittsburg, and you hop into a teeny, lightweight car that feels like it's held together with paper clips and tinfoil. Despite claims that there would be space for bikes in the DMUs, neither one I got into had anywhere for bikes, so I had to stand there awkwardly, holding my bike for five minutes each way. From Pittsburg Center it was a five-mile bike ride to Contra Loma Reservoir, and from there I walked up into the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, where I did a several-mile loop. It was mostly empty and there were some nice vistas, and I got to explore one of the "mines", a 400-foot tunnel that failed to find coal. I went about 100 feet in before I got too spooked by the possibility of rattlesnakes hanging out. Overall, it was a nice day, though I was home late.

Sunday. We completed our trilogy of media when we saw Arcadia.

Monday. And I ended my holiday with a gaming day out in Eastern CoCoCo with two Erics. In recent years, I've done more biking and hiking during the holidays, but gaming may be something I'm missing in Kauai. So, we played Near and Far, Thunderstone, and Ghost Stories to end out the year. Then I came home on BART, feverishly finished my year-end RPG review and Kimberly and I drank some Martinelli's to mark our penultimate year in the Bay Area.
shannon_a: (Default)

Kimberly and I have a long history with Tom Stoppard. Indian Ink at ACT was one of our first dates. We picked up some Tom Stoppard play books in Ireland, but found that reading plays aloud on your own is hard. We watched Invention of Love, again at ACT, that same year. We saw Rough Crossing at the Black Oak Theatre, and it was good unlike our more recent experience there. (What a difference more than a decade makes!) And we rejoined Shotgun Players so that we could see the Coast of Utopia Trilogy, which debuted there instead of at ACT.

So tonight's Arcadia at the Shotgun Players was, I think, the seventh Stoppard play we've seen together.

But we'd read it aloud before, I think as part of Kimberly's old reading group. That's where it's easy to read plays. (And Kimberly saw it previously when it debuted at ACT way back in 1995.)

Great play. It's a narrative in two parts, jumping back between the past of the early 1800s and the present of the late 1900s. We have the historic drama of a country estate at the verge of the Regency Era and the modern tale of academics ("academics") trying to figure out what happened. It's rather delightful as a mystery, with both halves of the story advancing the narrative, and it's rather delightful to see what the modern-day people get right and wrong. As an amateur historian myself, I really identified with their amateur historians in a way that I probably didn't when I read the play around 1999. It was particularly instructive seeing them talk about KNOWING something is right, but not having the ability to prove it (and then sometimes BEING wrong afterward).

But this is all mixed with math. With a very melancholy and symbolic discussion of themodynamics, with fractal geometry (though for some reason that phrase isn't used). And it all melds together wonderfully. It's a story about intuition and genius, about right and wrong guesses, about the inevitably of loss.

In many ways, this feels like a turning point to me for Stoppard, where afterward his plays got denser and more multilayered, and I didn't love the ones that came afterward like Invention of Love and The Coast of Utopia nearly as much. Oh, they had Stoppard's cleverness and wordplay, but they were on the edge of comprehensibility. Whereas this one takes those more complex ideas, but holds them back just enough (and explains them just enough).

Anyway, I did love this one in a way that I couldn't possibly have loved just reading the play almost two decades ago.

It's been extended at the Shotgun for another three weeks, so definitely go see it.

shannon_a: (Default)
I first journeyed to Endgame on October 13, 2004. I'd given up in disgust on Games of Berkeley a few days earlier, after waiting five minutes for someone to come to the register to ring my purchase. At the time I said of my new store, "I like their store which is clean, quiet, and friendly. I also liked the people who came to play, who were generally adult and mature, not a bunch of kids. I also find the idea of trying out games I don't actually own and getting to play games I want to without having to worry about other folks or doing reviews all exciting, so I expect I'll return."

Funny story: Kimberly walked downtown with me that October evening. She headed back home, and I hopped on BART. Arriving in Oakland, and warily making my way into the store, I soon found myself invited to a game of Alhambra. I sat down and began to play, but about two-thirds of the way in, one of the staff came upstairs to ask if there was a "Shannon" there. I identified myself, and they handed me the store phone. Kimberly was on the other side of the line. She'd left her keys in the house when she went out with me, and was now locked out. She was calling from one of our neighbor's houses. So I finished out my game of Alhambra and then around 8pm was right back on BART to go home and rescue her. I picked her up from the Border's store, and we went home.

But I did return to Endgame, in fact continued to return for 14 years. And that was one of the last times that Kimberly locked herself out of the house.

(One of the things I love about that story is how much it dates itself, with the call to the Endgame landline, from a neighbor's landline, and the wait in a Borders.)

Last night, December 26, 2018 — or 14 years, 2 months, and 13 days later — was my last gaming night at Endgame, and quite possibly my last visit there. The store has descended through generations of owners since that 2004 evening. Though it's had problems with overcrowding in recent years, in large part due to a conflation of board game and D&D nights, the board gaming has been as great as ever. I've gotten to play hundreds of games I don't actually own with lots of great and smart and strategic players; I didn't know how I was going to replace any of that in Hawaii, but now it's gone a year early.

But one could also see the creaky edges of the store. They went all in on a cafe about five years ago, to give themselves a new challenge, and that crashed and burned. More recently, they just haven't had the expertise to order the great strategy games that they used to. Though I bought fewer games in recent years due to my apostasy from the Cult of the New, it's also been that the type of strategy games that I love most has been a lot less available from Endgame. (I've had to special order the last several Aleas, for example.)

Despite that, I'm going to miss it fiercely. I can now feel what Kimberly has said, that all of the things we love most are disappearing from the Bay Area in advance of our departure for Hawaii. It's going to make cutting those last cords that much easier.

And Endgame, it will live on, in a way. J. is making the Secret space available for Wednesday night gaming. It's just several blocks on from Endgame. WIth that and the maintenance of the same game night, we hope that we'll attract the best of the same crowd.

I will do my best to support the new space in its early days, to help it achieve critical mass, but I'm also talking with Eric L. and Sam (and Mike B.) about doing a final Pathfinder ACG adventure before we leave, the first half of the "Wrath of the Righteous" path that we didn't previously run. So, I might be varying my ex-Endgame gaming up a bit.
shannon_a: (Default)
The first musical I can vaguely recall seeing is The Wizard of Oz. No, not the movie (though I of course saw that too, many times, as it was one of those movies that used to be an annual special, back when there were such things). But, The Wiz, I think, when it showed at the magnificent outdoor Muny in St. Louis in 1982.

So it was delightful to see The Wizard of Oz proper at the Berkeley Playhouse today, as we count down our musicals here in the Bay Area. It was in general a charming production, based on the 1987 RSC production.

It was a very close adaptation of the movie, with all of the notable songs, even The Jitterbug (originally in the movie, but cut, and its footage lost). There was some great dancing, including the aforementioned Jitterbug and the introduction of the munchkins. (What does it say that out of the almost dozen or so munchkins, only two of them were boys, and one of those two, who seemed a bit nervous to be on stage, was the mayor?) Dorothy was great and so was Marvel/Oz (who was a woman, which is the gender-color-blind casting that's much more common for the Playhouse).

The staging was also great. I loved the neutral colors in Kansas immediately transferring to a vivid color scheme when we hit Oz. (Though the munchkins actually had too many colors: it was noted their color was blue, but then they wore the whole rainbow; while for some reason the Winkies always had purple in the background, when that's of course the color of the Gillikins, duh.) We had a rainbow lit across plinths for most of the play, then they became emerald plinths when the cast got to the Emerald City. (Is the rainbow LGBT flag derived from Oz? Apparently not, despite the multiple connections to Judy Garland, though the six colors of the rainbow lit across the plinths mirrored the modern LGBT flag.)

Something that I don't remember in other version of the Wizard of Oz was an extended scene set in Kansas where we met not just Gulch/The Wicked Witch, but also the three farmhands who are the twins of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion.

Overall, a lot of fun. Not deep, as it was definitely one of the Playhouse's kids' offerings, but better than the modern-day Disney tripe they've done for kids in recent seasons.

Kimberly and I were also very amused by how much fun someone had with the music running in the theater before the play and during the intermission. The first amusing song we noted was "Ease on Down the Road" (which is from the Wiz). Later we heard, Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (albeit, without the "What a Wonderful World" mash-up, which is a bit of a waste), "The Wizard and I" (from Wicked), and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (from Elton John). There were a few others we couldn't positively identify, but I'd like to see that whole playlist.

Anyway, that was the end of the year at the Berkeley Playhouse, though we have another play next Sunday at Shotgun.
shannon_a: (Default)
Last night, a bit before midnight, I start hearing strange sounds outside. Hooting and huffing, like an owl and a wolf, maybe some moaning. Then the first outright yell cuts loose. That one catches Kimberly's attention; she never likes intrusive sounds, but particularly not a crazed shriek in the night. Amidst this I also hear banging about of trash cans, quite possibly the ones right next to our door.

Twice, I go to upstair windows to try and spot who it is making these sounds. I look out toward the ever-under-construction apartments next door and out across our swath of sidewalk, and can't spot anyone.

Callisto is disturbed by the sounds too, moreso the hooting and huffing than the yelling as far as I can tell. She's running all about the house, also trying to figure out where it is.

I should note, though these types of sounds haven't intruded on house before to this extent, they aren't unknown in Berkeley. Through its policy of permissiveness and refusal to stop homeless vagrants from illegally camping on our streets, illegally taking over our parks, and illegally shooting up drugs in all of these places, the Berkeley City Council has made our city a "Holy Land" for the homeless. No, that's not hyperbole. There's been at least one newspaper article that puts it in those terms, quoting homeless who travel from all over to get to Berkeley and partake of the city council's laissez faire attitude. And, one city obviously can't resolve all the homeless problems of the entire Bay Area, so we have a constantly overflowing petri dish of people with severe mental health problems and severe drug use problems, and that often leads to people nonsensically (and threateningly) shouting, screaming, huffing, howling, and hooting in the street while stumbling around smashing trash cans and whatever else is nearby.

And, I've been threatened both in the street and in restaurants by some of the same, but as I said, it hadn't intruded upon our supposedly safe domicile before.

Going downstairs after my second fruitless window search last night, I see that this time it has. A disheveled gray-haired man in a ripped jacket begins sporadically banging on the glass panes of our front door, huffing and hooting as he does.

That is the point at which I call the police. Non-emergency line, but I let them know he's right at our front door and that I feel threatened. No, he doesn't have a weapon that I can see, but at that point he's sat down on our front steps, so I can only see his back.

They say they'll send someone out.

A minute later the vagrant starts banging really hard on our glass panes, and I'm afraid he's going to smash them. I pick up the landline in my hand, ready to dial 9-1-1 and get an immediate response. I also quickly consider where the best weapons are in the house. The thick, wooden closet rod in the art-room closet can be popped out of its sockets. That's probably the best choice. The banging stops. A minute later the police show up. It's a long wait.

I hear bits and pieces of the conversation. He says, "I'm very cold", the first articulate words that he's said since beginning to haunt our house. They also get a name out of him, though it takes a few minutes. They get the first name first, then the last name a minute or two later.

With the police having successfully cleared the area, they bring in an ambulance a few minutes later, then they're all off.

I open up the door several minutes later to survey the damage, and I see two drops of blood on our bottom two steps. So, apparently he was both physically and mentally wounded, and that's probably why he was banging on the door. This freaks me out even more. I fill a pitcher with water and pour it out over the bottom steps, standing as far away as I can. Then I do it a second time.

I feel bad for not letting in someone who was hurt and seeking help. I mean, I feel like that goes against the basic morals of the human species. But everyone who has lived in Berkeley for more than a few years is haunted by the murder of Peter Cukor. Basically: paranoid schizophrenic vagrant shows up at Cukor's house and starts messing around in his yard, exactly as happened to us last night; Cukor goes out to confront him, and is bludgeoned to death. And that's not even to speak of the regular knifings that occur at the various homeless encampments, the continuous arson, the sexual assaults, the 1500 police calls that occur just at People's Park every year.

Some wag came up with the phrase "the homeless aren't harmless" and that's unfortunately true.

I don't want to ignore the very real challenges that the homeless face. I do want to get them help and support, but we can't do that at a city level; all we do is endanger the other 99% of our residents in exchange for trying to help the 1%.

Seriously, fuck Berkeley for creating not a Mecca for the Homeless, but a Black Hole of Homelessness.

Seriously, fuck Berkeley for making me constantly choose between compassion and my personal safety.

I feel like their permissiveness, their horribly misguided and doomed-to-fail attempt to be good, is contributing to making me a worse person.

And that's the second time that I had a very uncomfortable vagrant encounter in the last week. On Tuesday, I went to have lunch at McDonalds. They always have a problem there with not policing their lobby, and it filling up with vagrants. So I sat down next to a table where there were two. Whatever. 

And as I'm eating a third vagrant sits down in the chair across from me so he can talk to them. He ignores me, so again, whatever. 

And then he starts asking what stuff they got and how much it is, and it's obvious that there's a drug deal going down, literally at my table at McDonalds.

The price is more than he's got, so he stomps off. And he comes back a few minutes later, thankfully looming over their table instead of sitting at mine, and he's somewhat angrily trying to negotiate down their price. And I'm starting to be worried there's violence going to erupt. But, the two drug-selling vagrants are cool as cucumbers. They finally give him his drugs for what he can afford.

And I don't see a reason to go back to that McDonalds unless I'm getting something to go.

And seriously, fuck Berkeley for allowing a homeless encampment to exist at Shattuck & University for months and months, in the literal middle of our downtown, and thus forcing this business to decide whether it's going to put someone in danger trying to police the vagrancy or whether it's going to allow drug deals go on in its premises, the ultimate result of the city's permisiveness.

Last night, Kimberly said she felt we did the right thing. We got our hooting intruder help quickly, through the police. And we did it without endangering ourselves.

She's right. I'm sure she's right.

But, I worry, I catastrophize. Is he going to show up at our house again, banging on our door? Is someone going to come after us for not providing aid and support quickly enough? Is he going to claim he hurt himself banging around our property in the night and that's it our fault? is there more blood out there that might be a literal biohazard?

Most likely we'll never hear of it all again.

Most likely I'm just fretting because I'm feeling vulnerable because my personal sanctuary was assailed last night.

This morning I could see the outside better, and I noticed that our nighttime visitor had thrown our trash can a full ten feet.
shannon_a: (Default)
Today we had a Thanksgiving buffet at Trader Vic's, another fancy-dancy place on the waterfront, replacing our Thanksgiving trip to HMS Lordships in the last few years because HMSL decided to shut down earlier in the year.

I felt a little dazed when we hit the restaurant, like I couldn't believe that suddenly here it was, Thanksgiving. It's been such a hectic week (with the smoke and the RPGnet upgrade) and such a hectic month (since Kimberly's surgery) and such a hectic year (since Kimberly discovered her foot was broken) that there was an unreality about it suddenly being a holiday.

The buffet at Trader Vic's was comparable to that at HMSL. The Thanksgiving fixings were all there, and good. The seafood was more limited than HMSL, but there was tasty shrimp and crab. I missed out on some of the extensive salads from HMSL, but the desert was both more extensive and tastier. They had some particularly great chocolate-covered strawberries which were like 10x than the chocolate-fountain strawberries from HMSL.

Trader Vic's also has a Polynesian theme, and as I told Kimberly, it's like we're getting our early introduction to Hawaiian holidays.

For many, many years Kimberly and I have had a tradition of marathoning a TV show on Thanksgiving. This year we choose American Crime Season 2. Perhaps not holiday appropriate, but a brilliant show on the causes and repercussions of crime. We watched Season 1 last year at Thanksgiving and it was just so good. I can't believe it ran on network TV. This year has been equally successful.

We actually started the show several days ago, but we saved the last five episodes for today.

(And there's one more Season that we can watch on our last holiday on the mainland, before our traditions potentially change, but we'll see if we can wait that long to watch it.)

And I am so thankful that the smoked cleared for Thanksgiving.

The two weeks before Thanksgiving were awful. For 12 or 13 days straight we were smoked in, with the air quality mostly Unhealthy, but dropping to Very Unhealthy for almost 72 hours straight last week.

When it was Unhealthy, I limited my exertions to short, calm walks of a mile or less, if I really needed something.

When the AQI tipped to 175 (which is halfway up Unhealthy), I stayed in the house.

It got as high as 250 at its worst (which is halfway up Very Unhealthy).

This means I've gotten poor exercise for two weeks, More notably, I haven't gotten the relaxation I typically enjoy by getting out and walking. My only bike rides in the last two weeks have been to the grocery store and to Greg's memorial. I think it's been three weeks since I've gotten out and really enjoyed myself in nature. And I know that 72 hour count, because I just stayed in the house during that time period.

It's been tense, claustrophobic and stressful.

The winds finally started blowing on Tuesday night. The rain started dropping on Wednesday. The air quality was good by the time I went to Endgame on Wednesday night.

Sadly, during those two weeks of smoke, winter fell. At first I thought the chill was the smoke, but we've definitely lost summer and hit winter now.

And now I'm being kept at home by cold rain instead of smoke. Still, it's definitely an improvement, as I *can* go out for a walk if I want, but not really a hike where I can lounge about and work up in the hills.

But we'll see what tomorrow brings. (The forecast says rain.) There are three more days of holiday, and for now the smoke is blissfully gone.

shannon_a: (Default)
Here's what I wrote at RPGnet about the conversion of the forums from vB4 to XF, an arduous process that took up much of my week.

I previously ran a test conversion over on a test machine. There were two notable problems in the test conversion: first, smilies in signatures broke the conversion; and second the whole process died on trying to convert avatars. I figured out both those problems (with help from XenForo folks on the first), and was able to run the test conversion process in 32-33 hours. Afterward we discovered that most things had converted properly, with the biggest problem being permissions, which were frankly a mess. I figured out how to get our old URLs converted to the new URLs using an add-on, and that was the last possible show stopper. So, we had a potential new forum software. After comparing it to vBulletin 5, which we also testbedded, we decided we liked the feel of XF better, with some prime advantages being the very fluid use of dynamic HTML5 features and the vibrant add-on community. To be specific: we thought it was enough better for our purposes that it offset the increased work that a conversion would take over a simple upgrade, as well as the work users would have to do to learn the new system.

So I started the conversion process on the real forums Saturday evening, with the expectation that it'd be done Sunday night, and I could bring the forums back up Monday morning. Unfortunately, we hit three problems in the process which notably slowed things down. The total conversion time ended up being more like 100+ hours, about three times what was planned.

First, I made the mistake of running the conversion through our normal RPGnet setup rather than using a special machine for it. This means that the web server (where I was running the conversion) was separated from the MySQL server (where the conversion actually occurred). I'd considered this, but figured any latency would be minimal, because the two machines were on the same network, talking via private IPs, where there's little network contention. My round trip time is about half-a-millisecond. Though that's a lot bigger than the twentieth-of-a-millisecond or better round trip time when a machine talks to itself through network ports, I felt certain that any slowdowns would be from disk access on the MySQL side of things and that the network lag would be irrelevent.

I was wrong there, and at a guess that more than doubled the upgrade time. It's possible that there were other issues contributing to the general slowdown. These servers are built on cloud computers; they're not like the shared computers of the '00s, where you could really be hosed if someone else whose virtual machine shared hardware with you was doing a lot of work. But I have seen definite variation in disk access speed for some of my computers that do LOTS of disk work. So it could be we got lucky on the test machine or unlucky on our real server. But I find it most likely that putting that half-a-millisecond network connection between the web server and the MySQL server created most of our slowdown.

Second, sometime in the first 30 hours or so, a batch of a bit more than 100 entries from RSS feeds got put into the new database in a set of sequential and incorrect post ids. This caused a problem on night #2, when the conversion program, which seems to convert posts is a somewhat random order, found the first of the correct entries for those post ids, tried to create it, and couldn't because there was something already there. This halted the conversion process until I woke up in the middle of the night, stumbled to my computer, found it halted, stumbled back to my bed side table to find my glasses, then stumbled back to the computer to figure out what was going on and how to fix it, all at about 5AM. This then happened 100+ more times over the course of the upgrade, but with less stumbling. Most of it was right at the end, where the process was halting every minute or so.

It's less obvious what happened here, but my best guess is that even though the forums were off, some other process wrote to the forums and somehow this caused the disruption. This might have been the RSS feed readers built into vBulletin (though the feeds that got duplicated were for old messages, so I'm not really sure). It also could have been the automated morning posts of reviews, columns, and news — especially since the problem occurred the first time that any of those automated messages got written during the upgrade process (Monday morning, around 1am PT, which would have been an hour after they were written).

Third, the process halted two times for absolutely no reason, and recovered itself when I woke up the computer that was running the web browser. No idea why that was. I restarted my web browser and it went away, so maybe there'd been some leak in the browser that was causing problems.

Problems two and three both had an uncanny ability to knock the conversion offline while I was either sleeping or away from the keyboard. At least three times they knocked it out within half-an-hour of my going to sleep, even though they'd been working fine for many hours beforehand. All told they probably wasted 10-12 hours of the update doing nothing, which I found super-frustrating.

So, what would I do differently? To combat problem #1, I would make sure the browser and MySQL database were on the same machine. To combat problem #2, I would make sure the database was moved from its normal position, so that nothing unexpectedly wrote to it. I probably wouldn't worry about problem #3, but if I did, I could just restart the web browser after a day or two of work.

To accomplish those things, I would:
  1. Turn off the forums.
  2. Clone the database machine. (Rebuild it from its backup.)
  3. Get the cloned machine into order at its new IP address.
  4. Add a web browser.
  5. Install XenForo.
  6. Run the upgrade on the cloned machine.
  7. Copy the converted database over to the main database machine.
  8. Copy the XenForo install over to the main web server.
One of the reasons I *didn't* do that this time, is that It seemed like it added opportunities for problems to crop up, with all the moving of files between slightly unlike machines. But in retrospect, those potential problems were better than the slower upgrade.

But, lessons learned, not that I plan on doing this again :).

There were two other lesser problems.

First, for some reason one of the board notices (our "Trump" notice as it happens) totally broke the boards when they came back up. I couldn't access them at all until someone over at XenForo very quickly pointed me to that problem. That message went up after I branched off the testbed database, so it was literally something I couldn't have known. (The date was causing the problem, and I reset that and it was fine, but I think we've since cleared out all the notices.) This was literally such a bad problem that I though the upgrade was toast for about an hour on Thursday morning.

Second, page URLs weren't redirecting right, even though I'd had an add-on that was working right over on my testbed. This turned out to be because our real machine is slightly different from our test machine because it uses a more efficient web server called LiteSpeed rather than the standard Apache used on our testbed. I assumed this was the problem from pretty early on, it just took a while to figure out how to get them working in the different environment. If I was being 100% professional, I should have made sure my testbed was identical to our real setup, but we run RPGnet a little by the seat of our pants, using the time and resources we can eke out to do so, and in this case I was comfortable with the difference, and confident that we could find solutions if the variation caused problem (and we did).

And that's the story of the upgrade.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
RPGnet. I hate doing big upgrades on RPGnet. I'm currently working on what I think is the third, after vB2->3, vB3->4, and now vB4->XF2. The problem is that the forum is huge, so when any changes are made to the table of posts (which was somewhere north of 10M posts last time I converted and is now closer to 20M), it takes a long time. The last conversion I did was awful because there was at least one "ALTER TABLE" which took 12 or 14 hours to do all on its own, with no milestones or save points along the way. Ayyyy.

This time around I testbedded our conversion and it ran 32-33 hours on that test machine. It was also a much better conversion, constantly saving its state. So, you could see it crawl along, but you knew if it halted at any point (and it did here and there), it could just restart.

But now that we're onto the REAL conversion, which I started Saturday night, things are going slower, likely because of the difference in the machine setups between my testbed and my real setup. We're almost 40 hours in, and the post table is likely to be about 64% when we hit that milestone. It could easily run into Tuesday night, which is much longer than planned.

I mean, there's nothing I can do about it, and this far in, it's best to let it finish, but I hate sitting here, knowing our very popular forums are down, and not being able to do anything about it. At least it's still the (long) Veteran's Day holiday.

Oh, and that's not even speaking of how I woke up at 2.30 last night certain that something was wrong. I stumbled into my office, logged into my computer ... and found the upgrade process had died! (Is it really paranoia when they are out to get you?) For some mysterious reason, it had created a duplicate post and gotten stuck. I fumbled with it for several minutes and managed to get it going again, but the rest of the night I slept somewhat fitfully. Now I just hope that nothing is corrupted. I just need to test that the forwards from the old forums line up correctly when we're (finally) done. (Boy, that would suck if after all of this, the conversion didn't work right.)

Dark Skies. We continue to have crap out in the air for the fourth day running. Yeah, things are clearly worse north of here, where the worst fire in recorded Californian history continues to burn, but I'm going stir crazy. I feel stuck in the house, and even here I'm aware that we're breathing crap because about half of our windows are old and don't seal as well as modern windows. Today the AQI is still 175, which is square middle of the "unhealthy" range.

Endgame. And it's now been three days since I learned about Endgame closing. I wrote about it in Mechanics & Meeples today, but it's wasn't particularly cathartic, as I'd hoped it would be. Really, I think, I need to talk with friends there and see if there are any alternatives to see folks from that community and to get in my day of most freeform board gaming, where I'm most likely to play new and interesting and strategic stuff. But I can't do that until Wednesday, so for that moment it looms.

Really, this should all be looking better by the end of the week, and none of it's horrible for me, but you put it all together and it's a dark cloud looming over the new week.
shannon_a: (rpg glorantha)
Today was Greg's memorial in Berkeley, a gathering of 40 or 50 friends and family in the same backyard where he and Suzanne were married long ago. Fortunately, the smoke wasn't nearly as bad in Berkeley today, so we were able to congregate as planned.

It was an amazing gathering of tribes: Greg's roleplaying tribe, Greg's sweat lodge tribe, and Greg's home clan (his family).

It was great seeing the Gloranthan tribe again. There were a lot of folks that I hadn't seen since the '90s, when the Gloranthan fandom was at its height: Jeff O., Mike M., Neil R. I also got to finally meet Jeff R. The Gloranthan fandom was really something amazing in the '90s, a vibrant and creative community. I got to interact with it briefly at RQ-Con and RQ-Con 2 and one of the UK cons, but I also participated as an author, in Tradetalk and Hearts in Glorantha. Seeing those people again, so many years later, makes me very sad about the dissolution of that community in the '00s due to any number of circumstances, but very happy that some of them have come back together to push Glorantha forward. But I wish the old fandom was still there, still existed as more than a shadow on Facebook, because I'd like to be a member of it again.

It was also great seeing the Pendragon tribe. Steve W. represented, along with some of line's current editors and authors like Roderick R. and ones that I didn't previously know like David L. and David Z. There were also a number of people there who were just fans of Pendragon, each talking about how Greg had shown them his marked-up, underlined Le Morte d'Arthur (which I also remember seeing back in his office in Oakland). Glorantha is Greg's big flashy masterpiece, but Pendragon is great in a totally different way: it was enlightening hearing a few different people say how it had helped to bring real life to gaming, where people could have families, die, and pass on their legacy, where they could live and love.

It was an impressive assemblage of gaming personas, some of whom had travelled quite a distance to get there, which is reflective of Greg's importance to the industry. (I travelled a mere two miles, but wasn't quite the only person who'd biked over.) I was amused when one of the authors asked for an introduction to someone, only to learn that person was the ultimate publisher of what he was writing ... and then a few minutes later he started talking about this five-book history of the industry that he'd enjoyed and Steve W. smiled, pointed to me, and said, "Shannon wrote those."

Greg was a spiritual person, and many of his fellows were there, his sweat lodge tribe. Much of what they said went over my head: discussion of ceremonies and dances and men's groups and women's groups. But they also sang several songs, and I found them moving. They had a native American feel to them, and they were about coming together in unity, about living love, about helping each other. It was entirely uplifting, and I could immediately see why you'd want that in your life.

And Suzanne was there too, and their kids, and it was great to see them and support them.

Damn, just a month since he passed. It seems forever ago.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
Endgame announced today that they were closing. We've just got seven Wednesdays of board gaming left.

I looked through my blogs and discovered that I started gaming at Endgame toward the end of 2004. That means that I've been there almost every Wednesday night for 14 years, or through about 30% of my life. I estimate that I've played somewhere in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 games there. I met great people, some of whom I still game with and many more of whom have moved on. I've got to play hundreds of games from other peoples' collections there. I've enjoyed parties and tried to avoid buying things at auctions. I've run entire roleplaying campaigns there.

I made the contacts that resulted in the second, much more successful publication of Designers & Dragons.

I know my story is far from the only one like that.

Obviously, my severance from Endgame was inevitable, since Kimberly and I are leaving the Bay Area. But I've lost out on my last 50 or so games there, with the friends I've made over the last decade and a half, and I've lost my gaming home base when I come back to visit (and everyone staying in the Bay Area has lost much more).

The election was on Tuesday, and it was somewhat disappointing. But that was primarily due to the southeast where Democrats really underperformed. They'll still pickup about 35 House seats and lose 2 or 3 Senate seats, which is just slightly low of the median of reliable analytic sites like 538.

But, we were hoping for more. We were hoping that the polls were oversampling conservatives after the embarrassment of 2016. We were hoping the blue wave, which did crest over Washing D.C. really would be a blue tsunami.

And that disappointment has given the idiots in the media the ability to roll out the newest nefarious instance of bothsidism: the Democrats won the House but the Republicans retained the Senate. I mean, it's a particularly shitty frame, because even in the Senate the Democrats won far more seats than the Republicans did (more than 2x as much, it seems likely), they just had more to defend.

But that shitty frame has corrupted the coverage and given Trump and his sociopaths the cover they need to keep doing horrible things while claiming the people are with them. (They're not.)

There's going to be another reckoning in 2020. (Unless Pence and his cohorts 25th Trump as soon as he's more than halfway through his term. That's what I'd do if I was a soulless manipulator intent on climbing the ladder of political power.)

And I am sick of constantly smelling smoke. I feel filthy.

It's another fire up north, and a particular horrible one from the reports. Huge damage to structures, some people dead, lots displaced. But the Bay Area is impacted too. The air was crap yesterday and today the sun went orange again. It's just like last October, when we had the horrible Napa fires.

It does seem like these constant huge fires are another result of the climate change that Trump and his pet GOP continue to deny. And that's another reason I'm happy to move to Hawaii (though it's looking like hurricanes are becoming more common there; we're just f***ed all over this world).
shannon_a: (Default)
I don't think I've been out to San Francisco recreationally all year. That's in large part because BART does most of its track maintenance on the weekends, and this year this were maintaining track around West Oakland. That means that about every other weekend all summer they were doing bus bridges into the city. Spoiler: you never want to bus bridge on public transit if you can avoid it, and you especially don't want to while hauling a bike. So the couple of times that I thought about heading into SF for a Saturday, because it was warm and there wasn't a big event going on out there, I couldn't because of the bus bridge.

But, it's autumn so the construction is down, and it was unseasonably warm this first Saturday in November, and I decided to get out to SF while I still could, with my main goal being to bike up to Golden Gate Park and around it.

Standing on the BART platform, I was pleased to see one of the new BART trains arriving. There are just a few of them on the tracks, so this was a special treat. By some definitions.

Clean: CHECK. Ugly as sin with day-glo colors: CHECK. Lots of space due to lack of seats: CHECK.

I was most surprised by the lack of bike space, because bike space is one of those things that BART has been highlighting on these new trains. The old cars have two spaces for bikes, one by each set of doors. You can easily place one bike against the wall, and you can more delicately lean one or two additional bikes against that first one. Easy bike space: 2. Total bike space: 6. The new BART cars cut that in half, and though they now have racks, that doesn't make up for the lost space. You can in fact only fit two bikes easily in the three rack spaces because the third has to be squished in the middle, backward. Easy bike space: 2. Total bike space: 3. In other words, there are going to be a lot more people forced to hold their bikes on the busier routes. Thanks BART for thinking of the future.

(I took two non-new trains over the course of the day, and each time someone laid their bike against mine; if the same went on at the other half of the car, that's more bikes than the crappy new cars could support.)

The Park was great. I love Golden Gate Park because it's so big and lusciously green and has so much different stuff in it. I biked all the way through the park out to Ocean Beach, enjoyed the beach for a little bit because it was shockingly warm and not windy, and then biked back up to Spreckels lake (where I wrote for a while) and then biked up to Stow Lake so that I could hike up Strawberry Hill (where I read for a while).

It turns out that Strawberry Hill to home (via walking, biking, and BARTing) takes about the same amount of time as the top of Tilden Park to home (via walking and bussing).

In other news ...

We're now 14 months from our planned move to Hawaii, and that means I've started to see some lasts.

When I got my glasses from optometrist last Thursday, I told him I probably wouldn't be back. My next glasses would usually come no earlier than October 2020, which should be after we're well settled into our island home, and enjoying the fact that winter isn't coming.

When we started the always-hated daylight-standard time on Sunday, I realized that this would be the last time I had to face its full wrath. This year we get four horrific months of it getting dark while I work, but next year it should only be two, before we move to the land without clock resetting.

And as of today, I think I've voted for the last time in California, which may mean that was also my last experience of going down to my polling place and filling in a ballot, because Hawaii is testing out all-mail voting in Kauai, starting in 2020.

In yet other news, the work on the house next door that started while I was in Toronto (at the end of September) continues. They actually disappeared for two full weeks at the end of October, and we sat watching to see if their unprotected wood-framed back area was going to get rained on, but they got lucky, and the one storm that was supposed to come in during that time disappeared. Now they're back waking me up every morning, but gone by 3pm or 4pm. Weird.
shannon_a: (Default)
Monday, it was back to the vet with Callisto. Her mouth was healing nicely, with the only problem being some food getting in under her sutures. We were given the OK to put her back on dry food, and told that would actually help with the problem because it'd abrade the knots in her sutures and make them come out, after which they'd heal. (Our vet told me that dogs don't heal so easily because of their alien anatomy, but a cat would be fine once the irritants were gone.)

This was perhaps my only visit to the vet ever, with cat in tow, without Kimberly, because she was of course recovering from her own surgery.

Speaking of which, on Wednesday I went with Kimberly to her podiatrist for her first follow-up appointment. Her foot is apparently doing well, with minimal inflammation. On the downside, Kimberly's been having more foot pain since she went out to the doctor's and let him poke at her foot.

Since Kimberly is much more coherent than in the days right after her surgery, I was able to load her into a Lyft Share full of students, then walk down to Endgame for my normal Wednesday night gaming.

And Thursday was my follow-up, in which I picked up my new glasses. My main prescription had only slightly changed, but these are progressive lens, and that carried quite a bit of annoying history with it.

You see, the idiots at Berkeley Optometric Group (BOG) incorrectly prescribed me progressive lenses about six years ago because I was having headaches. They didn't bother measuring my close-up vision, they just decided that since I was over 40 and suddenly having headaches, close-up vision was clearly the problem. It wasn't: I was having allergies whose main symptoms were headache, throat-ache, and fuzzy head.

But those glasses worked OK (because the close-up lens was pretty weak). Then, two years later I got new glasses and they upped the value of the progressive lens, again without checking my close-up vision. After which we went through a half-year of back and forth when none of their glasses worked for reading things up close, and they were TOO STUPID to figure out that it was clearly the progressive lens. They finally fired me as a customer after using up my insurance coverage for the year because of their own stupidity.

So I went to my current optometrist, Dr. Kiyomoto, and he immediately figured out the problem and prescribed me new glasses without progressive lens, but we're now two sets of glasses later, and I'm starting to have problems with small print. So, it was clearly time for progressives for real, but I was somewhat cautious about them, thanks to BOG-trauma.

But, I got the progressive lenses, and I picked them up yesterday and I had some problems with them at first, mainly with feeling that print didn't have enough contrast. But, I got used to them over the course of last night's Pathfinder Adventure Card Game session, and now everything seems very clear and crisp. And hopefully I'm slowly figuring out how to automatically adjusting how I'm looking at things to seem them most clearly.

And there certainly aren't all the reading problems from my BOG-stupid glasses.

In other news, I became an Uncle yesterday. And, we got verification that our cats succeeded at their Titer tests, meaning they can be legally brought into Hawaii once we get one more rabies shot. (Call that step3b in our work to get ready for the Hawaii move.)

And because I went to Endgame on Halloween, I got to see some costumes, which is always fun: good costumes at the 12th Street Station, and the usual sucky masks and wigs in Berkeley.

And now I hopefully get a more restful weekend.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
So Kimberly's on the road to recovery from her foot surgery, but I stayed home this weekend to ensure that she got any support she needed. It's really not been that much work. She's needed stuff sherpa-ed around, but that's been the case for the last year, just at a slightly higher rate of need this week.

Except that it's taken slightly more energy staying ahead of her, making sure that I suggest ice for her foot and food for her stomach from time to time. And it's taken slightly more emotional energy keeping track of how she's doing. But the most exhausting days were probably Thursday and Friday when she was still largely incoherent, and those were over with by the time we hit the exhausting weekend.

Also exhausting: the large-scale disruption to routine. I did take out an hour for a walk up the hill and back yesterday and about the same for a walk to Trader Joe's today. But for the most part I've been hanging out at home, and that's really stretched out the day without any of my normal recreation.

Part of that has probably also been that I've been heading upstairs in the early evening, after Kimberly decides that she's likely down for the night. So it's like I get a whole extra evening on top of the regular evening, where I hang out in bed with the cats and read and write.

And the cats continue to need extra food care. Wet food three times a day, plus dry food for Lucy whenever she requests it.

And I had horrible allergies Friday and Saturday, leaving me with a throbbing head and light-headedness all day!

And, I've had a lot of writing that I had piled up for this weekend, and that's surely added to the feeling of busyness and exhaustion. I finally listed it all out for myself yesterday, because I was afraid of losing track of it, and I realized that I had four projects that I wanted to complete, or at least move as far as I could toward completion, this weekend.

Mechanics & Meeples required my second article on decision making, which I had notes on, but which turned out to be 2k of writing. That one's done at least.

Designers & Dragons needed my next article, a look at Art & Arcana. I got a draft of that, which still needs some editing and pictures.

Designers & Dragons also needed some work on my FFG history update, the last of my revisions for the German translation, where I finally got some notes back on it this weekend. I got through all the notes, am going back and forth on a few questions, and then it's off to a final edit.

Bitmark has been requiring some work on a few different blog articles that I'm working on. One is done, and another is scheduled for the next few evenings.

So, I actually still have a decent amount to do on these, but it feels like the bulk is done as I have at least complete drafts on everything.

I did leave the house for a few hours this evening. (Kimberly slept while I was gone.) The Art & Arcana crew was in town, and the hope was to hang out for a bit, but they got called away to something else. I very briefly met Jon, Michael, and Kyle, and then they were off. But then Jayson Elliot (TSR Games), Jason Thompson (beautiful D&D maps and other stuff) and I hung out at Jupiter for a while and talked. They seem like good folks, and it was nice connecting to some locals that I'd only chatted with online in the past.

This coming week things hopefully start to quiet down. Callisto is having her check-up in about 12 hours, then I hope to to return the cats to normal free-feeding. Kimberly is doing better day by day and has her first follow-up on Wednesday. (I meanwhile should have glasses arriving on Thursday, so it's totally a week of follow-ups.)

Hopefully by Wednesday and Thursday I can return to Endgame and a PACG game at my house, then also hopefully, a more relaxing weekend next week this time.
shannon_a: (Default)
Last night I dreamed that I was gamemastering a very improv, freeform roleplaying adventure for three players, and I woke up thinking, "I have to stop dreaming about that! If I'm going to go to all the trouble of running an adventure, I don't want to do it for a dream."

So I fell back asleep, and I dreamed about preparing the next volume of _Designers & Dragons_ as part of a Kickstarter. And I woke up and I thought, "Oh no! I figured out how to put together that next book, but it was part of a dream, and now I've lost all that work!"

Then I fell back asleep and dreamed about putting together "The Adventure of the Lost Green Duck" for Chaosium, and when I woke up, I didn't worry about that at all.
shannon_a: (Default)
The surgery festivities sort of started on Wednesday night thanks to a helpful confluence of events. My old Cal and gaming friend Doug O. was visiting the area, and so we'd arranged to go to EndGame together on Wednesday night. He mentioned that he'd hoped to also see K. and also asked about dinner plans that evening. K. and I put that together, and we decided to all go to dinner at Angeline's in advance of the two of us going to Endgame.

This was nice because it meant that K. got a nice dinner out, at somewhere she'd been wanting to eat for a while, before her surgery. And she and Doug got to say "hi".

(And then Doug and I went to Endgame where we played two games of Jump Drive and one game of Innovation with Eric V. in a tight 100 minutes or so. I won the Jump Drives, Doug won the Innovation.)

This morning, I was up at a bit before 5am. K. had been up far earlier, so that she could get her last drinks of liquid before 3.30am, but I figured 4.50 would give me twenty minutes to get ready before our planned departure at 5.10. There was the usual frustrating 10-minute wait for a Lyft car that time in the morning, but we made it to the hospital a few minutes before K's check-in time of 5.30am.

We need not have hurried. On the desk was a sign that read, "Check-in desk opens 5.30am". That explained the nine or so people lounging about in the chairs in front of the desk. One of them had been told to be there at 5.00am, but it was overall insane to get everyone there just as the desk opened.

Finally, the desk opened and people politely went up one a time to check-in, though twice we had to ward off ravening hordes who'd come in after 5.30am, and didn't understand that there were people waiting around in the chairs. It took about 15 minutes to get the four parties ahead of us checked in. I wearied of hearing the woman at the desk ask people if they were in the parking garage, then telling them how to get down to the actual surgery area.

(Seriously, Kaiser was soooo much more efficient.)

Then they checked K in. No, we weren't in the parking garage, yes thank you for the directions.

One of the other people waiting for surgery was a phlegm factory, clearly very sick. We stayed as far away from her as we could, and hope that neither us will get sick right during K's recovery.

The surgery was down in the basement. We walked there, turned over K's admission papers to the surgery admissions, then waited as they called almost everyone else in. K finally went in and they prepped her while I waited longer in the lobby. They finally called me in and I found her in a gown, wrapped in a heated air mattress. They still hadn't given her any anesthetic and she was still waiting. We waited for her podiatrist, and then things finally got started. By the time they wheeled her off it was 7.35 or 7.40, for a surgery that was supposed to have started at 7.30.

But that was the last time we'd be running behind schedule all day.

I wandered out to try one of Starbuck's egg sandwiches (review: tasty), but that was mainly to stretch my legs and give myself something to do. I was back at the hospital by 8.15, and by 8.45 K's doctor stopped by to talk with me and report all was well. I waited another 45 minutes or until I was brought back to the stage-two-recovery room.

My time in the waiting room flew by in large part because I was prepared. I'd loaded up an iPad with comic TPBs from Hoopla, like I do when I fly, so I read Superman Earth Two V3 (good) and Jeff Lemire's Royal City V1 (OK, which was disappointing) and started Rick Remender's Low.

In the recovery room, I found K happily drinking a small can of something; she apparently didn't get two drinks this time. We called her friend giving us a ride and after some final checks, we were out of the hospital by 10.15, about forty-five minutes earlier than planned.

And that was the surgery, at least from the non-surgical side of it.

After lunch we both napped. (I took the day off work specifically so that I could nap after the surgery, so that I didn't have a crappy day trying to work on no sleep.)

And now we're in the recovery stage, where her pain drugs are likely to keep knocking her on her butt until she doesn't need them any more.

But hopefully, that'll be just a few to several days, and after a long year hopefully she'll be walking again ... sometime soonish.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
So it's now been one week since Callisto's surgery, and she seems to be doing well. She's maybe a little tired some of the time as her poor mouth heals, but I've also seen her racing around the house, stalking her sister, chasing her sister, fleeing from her sister, trying to bite me, and otherwise being a little tortie menace.

(And in other good news, her kitty cat insurance paid just less than half of her costs, with the main reason for refusals being that things cost too much here in California, even though their numbers are supposed to be adjusted for different communities ... but half is great.)

However, the one thing that no one told us before the surgery is that she wouldn't be able to eat dry food for two weeks afterward ... so we've been fighting THE FOOD WARS ever since.

The biggest problem is having to get wet food down for her several times a day. I think I've settled on three: one small can in the morning, one in the afternoon, and then either a small or large can at night, depending on how much she's been eating.

What's shocked us is that she got to the point where she couldn't eat all of her wet food, which has never happened before in her life. But, apparently you give it to her three times a day, and she can only gorge herself so much.

And it turns out, when she's had an excessive fill of wet food, she'll get picky, and won't eat food if it's too old, or not just the right type. (This from the cat who used to beg me every morning for the scant remnants of Lucy's wet food, the dry crumbs that she hadn't eaten in the night.)

Speaking of picky: Saturday.

I went on what's apparently a cursed hike on Saturday. I took the bus up to Jewel Lake at Tilden, had lunch there, then hiked up the back of the canyon to Wildcat Peak. Now when I'm down at Jewel Lake (and anywhere else along the base of Wildcat Canyon) I don't tend to have cell reception, but as I walk back up the canyon side, it eventually comes back.

So last time I did this hike, some months ago, when I got far enough up the canyon wall to get cell reception, I suddenly got a flurry of messages from Kimberly telling me that she'd had an accident on her scooter and had hurt her hand. She downplayed it, so I didn't come home immediately ... but we end up at the ER very late that night.

This time, I got up into cell-reception area and got a few messages from Kimberly saying that she was worried about Callisto who wasn't eating her food and seems to be acting pained. So I reversed course and came home. I think I made it in about 80 minutes from the Rotary Peace Grove to my house, which is very good time, but I took the most direct route down the hills to the bus and caught the bus just as it was trying to pull away. (The ass of a bus driver than left behind two students who were literally at the door right after he closed it, saying "I can't wait for everyone." I would probably have argued with him more, but I didn't want to get kicked off the bus when I was trying to get home to make sure Callisto was OK and that Kimberly wasn't too upset.)

The problem as it turned out was just that I'd tried to give Callisto a special reward of a different sort of food, because I was afraid that she was bored of the constant Fancy Feast, and that's not how cats work at all. We give her some more pain med just in case, then gave her some Fancy Feast, and all was fine.

The other participant in the food wars is of course Lucy. She likes her dry food. She does accept wet food as a treat, but not one that she really wants that much of.

So, I have to constantly put a little dry food out for Lucy, let her eat for a while, and then put it away. I also sneak her dry treats sometimes.

Callisto carefully watches if she's in the room with the dry food, but politely waits until Lucy's done, then makes a lightning-fast charge at the dry food, while I simultaneously make a lightning-grab for the food bowl, to put the dry food back away. It's like something out of manga.

I'm not convinced that either cat is getting their normal amount of food, and it's all a constant trial getting them even that. But they're probably getting enough for it to be OK for two weeks.

And, we're past the halfway point of the food wars. On Monday, Callisto has her follow-up appointment. That's a day before they said we could start giving her dry food again, but I'm hopeful they'll give the immediate OK.

But of course before then, Kimberly has her foot surgery on Thursday. Which means I'll spend Friday and the weekend managing the FOOD WARS and I suppose the FOOT WARS too. (The assumption is that Kimberly will be groggy from painkillers and needing a lot of help for 3-7 days.)
shannon_a: (Default)
Dreamgirls opened our final full season with the Berkeley Playhouse. We saw it yesterday, its last day showing.

I knew that Dreamgirls was about the emergence of a female music group in the 60s and 70s, but I'd been expecting a kind of feel good musical about women making their mark on their world and finding success. Instead, we got something much deeper.

For one, I was surprised to find out that it was really about the black experience in the music world, and the extreme compromises that required. We also got a great tour through the influence of black music on the mainstream in this time period, focusing on R&B and soul, but also touching upon doo-wop, taking a large detour through funk, then ending with disco. There was even a pretty terrific showdown between soul and disco versions of the same song toward the end. (Soul won, suggesting that compromise wasn't always needed.)

I was also surprised to discover how closely the story of the "Dreams" in the musical followed the career of the very-real Supremes. This meant there was a lot less of the feel-good and much more of the very real portrayal of the problems implicit in a touring band, as an early member is thrust out despite her superior voice and others rise up, as affairs and payola complicate everything, as varying dreams lead to heartbreak and bold new directions.

The songs were generally strong. There was also a great conceit early in the musical where songs would develop out of conversation into musical numbers and then would be repeated as musical numbers sung by Jimmy Early and the Dreamettes. "Cadillac Car" and "Steppin' to the Bad Side" both developed like this; the latter was my favorite song in the play. I also adored the Jimmy and the Dreamette song sung in Miami where they try very hard to sing to a white audience, but eventually move back to their natural sound. (Jimmy similarly descends into full funk in a late song.)

Overall, a strong musical with lots of good songs that were also different from what we usually hear.

A nice article about the musical trend: The Real Dreamgirls.

January 2019

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