shannon_a: (Default)
The sleeping situation improved last night. I managed to get to sleep at 11.30, then slept through to 8.30. I felt much better in our meetings today as a result. Yay.

And the Blockstream meetings went fine. I have an increasingly large pile of notes for things to write about, I have good knowledge on how our products have done in the last year, and I conducted the other interview I needed to do for an upcoming article.

Then in the evening we had an adventure!

Christopher had previously picked out a "gaslight museum" in the west of the tiergarten. It's a path with almost a hundred classic gas lamps from all over. I put out the call this evening to head over there, get dinner, and walk the path, and was thrilled to get several other people interested in joining us. In the end, we had seven: me, Christopher, Rusty, Christian, Jonas, Russell, and his SO.

I was surprised that everyone was enthusiastic to walk out there, despite it being about two and a half miles, but they were anxious to stretch their legs after a day cooped up inside. My kind of people! So we had a nice, slightly adventurous walk out. Through Brandenburg Gate, and into the Grosser Tiergarten, and the adventurous part is that it was rapidly getting dark and so the paths more and more dim as the evening progressed.

We eventually saw an "S" stop, marking our exit from the park. (Yep, we totally could have taken public transit there.) My first pick for restaurant was too full, but my second pick, a hotel restaurant, even had a table for seven waiting for us. It was simpler food than the German extravagance I've been seeing. Most folks had black angus burgers. (Germany seems very beef heavy, which is the one thing I don't like about it thus far, as beef makes me sick.) I had a turkey club that included bacon and egg, so perhaps it was still a bit extravagant. And, we also had lots of great conversation. As I said, these were my type of people, several of whom I really click with.

The gas light museum was unfortunately disappointing. At least 50% of the lights, perhaps as much as 75%, weren't running. Many were also damaged. Some thought it was vandalism, but it could also have been lack of care, of some combination. In any case, many of the most classic gas lights that met my internal definition of what they should look like were dark.

Then our true adventure began, because everyone was also up for walking back. I'd previously looked up the Tiergarten after Dark, and people said it was safe, but very dark. And that there were foxes. We saw no foxes.

So followed most of an hour stumbling back and forth on crooked paths in the dark, lit only by iPhones, which only showed several feet ahead. Dark looking trees surrounded us. Nearly invisible pools and ponds shimmered past us. We saw one bunny and many bicyclists. We saw a guy looking for the "biergarten", who angrily told us it was a joke name when we asked him about it, and when we pointed out where it perhaps was, was afraid to go there because he was scared of the dark. We walked over and around a cool stone bridge and along a nice stream where someone saw a magic carp, and it took me a while to realize he was talking about a Pokemon. It felt like a long wander through limbo, but with much more laughing. Really, a great experience.

Eventually we returned to the streets and walked back through the Gate and toward our hotel like regular human beings.
shannon_a: (Default)
So I foolishly thought I'd solved the jetlag problem yesterday, because I spent an active day out in the sun, and then I got to bed on time (midnight) for the second night in a row.

Yep, not so much.

I woke up at a bit before 7am, and it quickly became obvious that I wasn't going back to sleep. So, strike one.

But during the day was even more troublesome. This was the first day of our Blockstream offsite, which is the whole point of coming here, and I was on the verge of falling asleep at times. I even rested my eyes from time to time, just because they were so heavy. Looking around (after I pulled them back open), I wasn't the only one.

This is the danger of holding our offsite in Europe. I mean, it's fair enough because some percentage of our employees are European (and I'm really pleased by the opportunity to be out here). But meetings in a meeting room with people talking just aren't the same thing as being out and about, so the jetlag hits harder. (Strike two.)

I did get what I was hoping out of today's offsite, which is a continued increase in my understanding of the company and where we are now. I wrote out lots of ideas for things I could write for Blockstream in the future, as we're looking for content for our blog.

I also talked with a couple of people to get specifics for one blog entry, and planned a meeting about another, both of which will need to be drafted by the end of the month. (Because it will continue to be very, very busy when I return.)

One other thing of note in the morning: I got to try out the hotel pool. This whole place is a former bank, and the pool was in the jewel vault. It's pretty cool subterranean pool. Pretty small. But it's even got big (original) pillars! In the pool!

Tonight was team-dinner night, so I hung out with the busdev team: James, Michelle, Chris, Ben R. , Alex, Kat, and me.

It was in an authentic German food establishment that had been recommended for that characteristic. People got very German foods, most of which involved large quadrupeds. I opted for a vegetarian dish that was a gnocchi-like pasta and some veggies and it was quite good.

However, we were there for like three and a half hours (all the German service has been extremely slow), and I'm just back now and exhausted.

I'm going to try to sleep early tonight and wake late tomorrow in the hope of being more awake tomorrow. We'll see if that works out.
shannon_a: (Default)
Today was so packed that it's pretty impossible to write about it all, at least while I need to sleep and get up tomorrow for work.

In short, I saw lots of Berlin by bicycle (or at least lots of central Berlin). The bicycling was thanks to Donkey Republic, a neat automated system where you just follow their app to the bike, then hit the unlock button and it's yours. Ridiculously cheap too: €10 for the day, and I believe hugely cheaper if you sign up for a yearly subscription. Knowing I was planning this, I even brought my bike helmet from home, and having used it all day, I made it worth the fact that I carried a bike helmet halfway around the world.

Also in short: I saw the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Building, parts of the Berlin Mauerweg, the Soviet War Memorial, the Grosser Tiergarten, the Victory Column, the Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie, the East Side Gallery, St. Mary's Church, the Fernsehtrum, the Neptunbrunnen, the Mauerpark, a game store, and the Gedenekstatte Berlin Mauer. I also saw quite a few different Berlin neighborhoods, some of them attractive and old, and I crossed the Spree River any number of times on any number of bridges.

As you might have sussed out, there was a lot of Berlin Wall in that day. That's in part because I really wanted to see it, because its fall was a pivotal event as I was coming of age, but also in part because a big deal is made of the scant remaining bits. The Topography of Terror was cool because it's preserved its wall as a historic artifact, showing how it was being torn apart, even before it came down. Checkpoint Charlie is a crappy tourist trap that feels like the Fisherman's Wharf of Berlin, hiding its wall in Berlin's Believe It or Not. The East Side Gallery is gorgeous and breathtaking because artwork has been painted on the Wall, though some has been unfortunately grafittied over (but more has been restored). The Mauerpark feels a bit sketchy, but was clearly a park that locals go to, the Delores Park of Berlin if you like, and it had people actively and openly painting new grafitti on segments that are clearly painted over regularly. Finally, the Memorial (Gedenekstatte) is an open-air museum, with lots of historical plaques talking about the Wall. (Whew!)

Pretty darned cool.

I also spent a couple of hours in the Tiergarten, which is a large, beautiful park. I loved the fact that the autumnal colors have come into the deciduous trees, and that leaves were falling. I loved the clay paths, which were great for riding. I loved the various pools and monuments within (especially the awesome Bismarck Memorial!), including ones to Beethoven and Wagner. It has definitely gone onto my list of great city parks.

Of the other places I visited, I think the St. Mary's Church stood out the most. Very old church (13th century) with lots of beautiful sculptures inside.

Many other places I just saw from the outside (like the Reichstag, the Victory Column, and the TV Tower). Some are just external monuments (like the Brandenburg Gate and the Soviet War Memorial), but it was great seeing them all and really soaking in the history of this town.

I found it a bit odd moving from Boston with its focus on the American Revolution to Berlin with its focus on WWII, but Berlin of course has a history that goes back far beyond that. And I really enjoyed how much I got to see by biking around today!

Also: bought a copy of Queendomino because I really wanted to get a German original game while here.

Also, also: had dinner with Blockstream folks, so that I didn't disappear today entirely
shannon_a: (Default)
My immediate discovery on sitting down in my seat on this United flight is that there's almost no room under the aisle seats. I've had similar troubles on other flights, but usually I can manage to get my backpack under; here's there's just no chance. Go United.

(There's also no leg room, and barely room to walk out in the aisle, but that's a whole other story, and about what I recall of United, though I'd hoped for better on an intercontinental trip.)

My backpack is forced to go in the overhead, which I hate, but I pull out my six necessities: laptop computer, iPad with 10 comic collections on it, novel, hand sanitizer, funky airplane pillow, and water bottle. I enumerate them several times over the course of the flight so that I won't forget anything when I get off.

Our plane leaves SFO about 30 minutes late. As far as I can tell, we spent the whole time taxiing. Honestly, not bad for my least favorite airport in the area. We're told we should still get in on time.

Shockingly, United is serving three different complementary meals: dinner, midnight sandwich, and breakfast (it's so intercontinental that they serve French toast). The dinner is BBQ chicken along with some goolash that I think might be potato and spinach but I'm not sure. It's surprisingly tasty, but about two-thirds of the way through the meal, other things interrupt it. I'll regret eating it anyway, down the road.

The interruption? That's when the lady at the window starts vomiting. Fortunately, she gets to a bag in time. She'd earlier spoken about not flying much, so I make the same assumption the flight crew does, which is motion sickness. But she says she was just getting over a "stomach flu". Two of my favorite words in the English, especially while trapped on a plane. (It's probably just one word in German; yep, Google says "Magengrippe".)

She heads off to the bathroom, and my seatmate in the middle suggests we should all switch over and give her the aisle. I hate doing so, but she's of course 100% right, so we arrange that when she returns. We have to juggle food trays to do so, but none of us are eating any more at this point.

Here's why I absolutely hate red-eyes: I have a lot of problems sleeping on planes. So, a night spent in the air, which some people might find a nirvana where they can go asleep and awake at their destination is for me a hellish purgatory. I read and write until 10 or so. But I've been heading toward a 9pm bedtime in the last week, which means that I'm getting groggy. Thus begins a bit more than two hours of me putting away my computer or iPad, grabbing my head pillow, trying to sleep, and giving up.

Finally, a bit after midnight, the miraculous occurs. I sleep.

I manage about two hours of not-bad sleep, but then I'm woken. I don't realize why at first, because I'm sufficiently uncomfortable after seven hours of sitting in an airplane seat that I generally feel ill at ease. But I eventually figure out that some food is disagreeing with me. I blame the goolash, which I increasingly think of as having as a gross texture, which may or may not have been true at the time.

Waking up feeling sick? Bad. Waking up feeling sick on a plane? Priceless. Waking up feeling sick on a plane while trapped in the middle seat after giving up your aisle seat for someone who was feeling sick earlier in the flight? Yep.

The previously sickly lady in my aisle seat also sleeps like the dead. It's quite an effort to wake her the couple of times I get up and come back. She also wakes up with a shock every time. We eventually trade seats so I get my aisle back and she can sleep in peace.

All I can say is that at least I got sick while most of the plane was asleep, rather than when the long lines queued up at the lavatories around breakfast time.

When I'm feeling my worst, we seem to be crawling past Iceland. But time speeds up afterward, as I read through another comic and get back to some writing. Soon the maps are showing us over Frankfurt, albeit with 33 minutes of flight time (flugzeit!) left.

My seatmates and I have to juggle lots of stuff as we get off due to the seating hijinks. Meanwhile, the plane offloads amazingly fast.

A Lufthansa woman with a clipboard stands outside the plane, saying "Connections …" I vaguely recall this happening in the US in the '80s, when US carriers still cared about their customers. I tell her my flight and she tells me gate A19 and points me in exactly the wrong direction. I stare at the signs for a bit and figure it out despite my increasingly punchy state.

The reason for clipboard woman soon becomes obvious, because there are no departure boards this side of passport control, and obviously plenty of opportunity to go in the wrong direction!

Passport control takes three minutes, tops. There are about that many people in each line, and the curt passport officer asks them each, "Where are you going?", "Reason for trip", and "length of stay". I'm sufficiently sleep deprived that I actually can't do the math for the length of my stay.

Funny story. A few days before the trip I got confused and thought I was transferring in Hamburg, but it was Frankfurt instead. Easy mistake to make.

Anyhow, after that I looked at maps and discussions of Frankfurt, and people generally said it was a labyrinthine maze. Which is kind of redundant. But concourse "A" isn't at all. It was big. I picked up a couple of miles when I walked its length and back. But it's just a big V. So, it was easy to find Gate 19. Though I was grossly early at this point.

When I wandered around, I looked for food, deciding that I was ready to dare that dangerous substance again. Strangely, ever single food stall seemed to mostly have sandwiches. Tasty looking sandwiches. Strangely, they didn't seem to have grossly inflated airport prices either.

One other thing struck me unusual about the Frankfurt airport: it was quiet! You'd hear the very occasional announcements for the gate you were right next to, and the even more occasional announcement of gate changes, but that was it. No "don't leave your bags unattended" or other TSA-style scare tactics. No hearing every announcement for your entire concourse. It was actually … pleasant.

Part of the quiet in the terminal is apparently due to a lack of gate pestering. Thirty minutes before our flight to Berlin is to take off, everyone suddenly gets up with no prompting and starts queueing up in front of the entries. Some gate agent comes up and does something, and then everyone starts filing through.

These are fully automated machines at the entries, I should note: you scan your boarding pass, and the gates open. Another example of TSA-like FUD not being tolerated here.

I only hear one quiet announcement, saying that our flight is boarding.

(You'll note a lack of 1%ers getting early entry too.)

This flight is on a real Lufthansa plane, and the difference is obvious. The United flight was 10+ hours of tightly cramped agony. There wasn't enough room in the aisles or especially in the seats. I keep being afraid I'm going to hurt my knee from the obnoxious angle I keep it at.

Usually I expect puddle-jumpers to be worse than the big planes, but this little plane going from Frankfurt to Berlin has spacious seats. It's a whole 'nother world.

Another bit of German efficiency: they hand us our snacks as we board, rather than trying to do the speed-food-service that always cracks me up on the similarly short flight from Honolulu to Lihue.

(I hope, hope, hope that this means that when I fly a real Swiss Air plane back on Saturday it'll be more comfortable, but at the least it won't be a red-eye.)

At the airport in Berlin, as we wait for our luggage, we're told not to leave our bags unattended. Ah well.

The bus trip to the Hotel de Rome was simple and cheap.

Arriving there I found the plaza in front of the Hotel filled with thronging crowds looking in awe at digital images being projected on all the buildings around, including the opera house, a cathedral, a library, and the hotel. Saying they're light projections, however, just doesn't tell the story. They're absolutely amazing images that complement the buildings and sometimes are even animated as well.

Inside I check-in and am puzzled for several minutes by how to get my own lights on. It turns out that you have to plug your card key into the card key socket in your room to make everything work. Wacky. It's apparently the European way.

Afterward I wander down to the terrace lounge where I hang out with some Blockstreamers for a while, then Chris grabs me and a few of us take a tour of other light shows on nearby building. The most amazing is the Berlin Cathedral Church, over on Museum Island, which has a dozen or so shows by different artists. We see the last several.

Finally, we get apple streusels because it's Germany, and then I call it a night, while some others dive back into the Blockstream burly.
shannon_a: (Default)
T-14, 5am.

I wake. The general consensus is that you're jetlagged going east for a number of days equal to two-thirds of the time zones you traverse. I'm moving from GMT-8 to GMT+1, which would be six days of Jetlag, which isn't great when I expect to be in Germany seven nights. So, to help with that, I've been keeping East Coast time since I got back from Boston, which at least puts me to GMT-5. Four days? That just takes me to the last day of the Blockstream offsite. So it goes.

I look at my flight. I've been somewhat worried since the smoke has been causing massive delays at SFO. They're basically running like it's a rainy day, and shockingly SFO can't deal with a rainy day. Fortunately, international flights are the least likely to be effected, apparently because the FAA can't tell them not to take off, which is what they do to US planes headed to SFO on rainy days. Anywho, I look and I see my matching flight from last night was delayed 43 minutes. Oddly enough my plane coming in from Heathrow this morning is also delayed 43 minutes. Wacky.

What are the odds of that?

T-13, 6am.

When I got up, the 4am AQI (Air Quality Index) map said that the whole East Bay was in the USG range of 101-150. The news reports had suggested that we were going to have nasty air quality from late Friday morning to Saturday afternoon, so I'm momentarily hopeful that I can hike when the sun comes up. However, by the time the 5am AQI map comes up, it's reporting 170, which is in the unhealthy range.

So I shower instead.

T-11, 8am.

K. awakes and when she eats breakfast, I finish reading Heir of Sea & Fire to her, the second book in McKillip's Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy. I read the books originally in the '80s, and I've found them somewhat challenging to read aloud, because they're excessively picaresque and somewhat wordy and very reluctant to say what is happening. The first book redeemed itself with some great world-building, but both K. and I have been dissatisfied with the second. There's a great, strong female protagonist, but her agency is almost entirely destroyed, first by pointless wandering, then by acting as an emotional crutch to the "real" (male) protagonist, then by falling victim to his manipulations. We finish it up, and the last two chapters, which we read on Thursday and today, were actually pretty good. I put it away and toss the third book on the suitcase, because I have read to Kimberly over Skype before, but I actually don't expect to when we're in-between books, especially not with the 9-hour time difference.

It'll be challenging enough just talking to her.

T-9, 10am.

I finish packing. The clothes were all done Thursday night, but now that I'm finished with using my backpack for other stuff, I can fill it in too, with medicine, books, too darned many charging cords, electronic devices, munchies, and all the rest.

I'm also filling in a few gaps in my suitcase, and at some point I realize I should just throw my bike helmet in, because I'm seriously considering renting a bike in Berlin for my free Monday. (I've learned about a Berlin Wall trail, and lots of other interesting stuff.) It seems a little silly to drag a bike helmet a third of the way around the world, but I've got space in my suitcase, so why not?

T-8, 11am.

AQI is down to 120, in the USG range. SFO is largely running on time. My flight is still listed as on time, though the plane is coming into SFO 18 minutes late.

At some point I realized that even though I made reservations with Lufthansa, it's actually a United-operated flight. I hate United with a fiery vengeance, but it was tough making reservations through the corporate system that met my needs, so United it is. I hope Lufthansa doesn't let them beat passengers, as they like to, because there's no way I'm giving up my seat.

T-7, noon.

I wonder what I'm going to do with the next three hours, and K. suggests I go for a walk, as I'll be trapped on a plane for the next 24 hours or so (minus nine time zones). The AQI is all the way down to 44, in the Good range.

It's the nicest it's been outside since I've gotten back from Boston, warm, with breathable air. You can really learn to take the latter for granted.

I deposit a check and pick up a package.

And hey, the clean air means that SFO has stopped doing their catastrophic rainy-day scheduling.

T-5, 2pm.

I decide to try and prepare one more history for writing on the (long) plane flight, and I do that for a little bit, but then I end up talking to K. most of the time until I leave.

And playing with cats.

T-3, 4pm.

I've decided to BART in, perhaps for the last time ever, because I'm now sick of their unreliability. I'm standing on the platform at MacArthur where there's supposed to be a timed transfer. There isn't. Ten minutes later a train comes by, stops at the platform, then heads off without ever opening its doors.

It's like a ghost train.

Part of the problem is that BART doesn't run trains to the end of all of its lines since its been expanding them, so only half the San Francisco trains go all the way to SFO. There's supposed to be another SFO train in another 10 minutes, but I decide to jump on the train that goes to Daly City. Best case, the alleged SFO train actually arrives and opens its doors. Worst case, I take a Lyft from Daly City to SFO.

(The next train does indeed show up, meaning that I only lost 20 minutes due to BART's increasing unreliability.)

T-2, 5pm.

Stupid United has very quick check-in. They get me my missing Lufthansa seat, check my passport, check me in, and take my baggage in less than 10 minutes.

TSA is less efficient (again) due to an asshole TSA employee at SFO (again). I'm starting to think that they hire based on that characteristic at that airport.

After I opt out (of course), the agent half-heartedly asks for a male opt-out agent as part of another request he's making, which is a good way to make sure it gets lost. It does. And he doesn't ever bother following up. 15 or 20 minutes later an actual nice TSA agent comes up, asks if I've been waiting for an opt-out, and then starts profusely apologizing because he's passed by me several times. He says, "Why didn't he call for an opt-out!?" I wonder that too.

We get along great and he's my best friend for 5 minutes or so.

T-1, 6pm.

The plan was to get to the airport two hours and fifteen minutes early. I get to the gate 15 minutes before they start boarding.

Looks like we're on time at least.

Within 10 minutes, all the jerks are lined up to the get on the plane, well ahead of their zone being called. Because they're too important for rules.

Next step. Germany. Or at least an airline seat for 10 or 11 hours.
shannon_a: (Default)
It's been 27 years since the Oakland Firestorm ripped through the East Bay Hills. 27 years minus exactly one week, which is to say it was this time of year. The Diablo Winds were whipping, the brush was dry as straw after a long, hot summer. The conditions were perfect for a disastrous fire, are always perfect for a disastrous fire this time of year in Northern California.

Twenty-seven years later, I can still see the scars of that Firestorm on the land. I mean they're not explicit. There's one memorial that I know of, up above Lake Temescal, but it's small and not well-loved. And the greenery, that all grew back. In fact, the first time I ever went up to Lake Temescal, admittedly more than a decade after the Firestorm, I was shocked to see that there was no indication that anything ever had burned.

But the problem is that the buildings grew back too, the over 3,000 houses and apartments that burned in the Firestorm. And they grew back larger and more invasively lying upon the ridgeline. For those families the nicer residences were probably just the slightest bit of repayment for what they lost, but it changed the character of the East Bay Hills forever.

I'm sure those aren't the only scars. There were 25 dead. I'm sure that many abandoned their beloved homesteads forever.

Fire is by its very nature transformative. Suddenly, harshly so.

I was on the highway when the Firestorm hit. Heading down 880 to Fremont with a friend, a trip that was all but unknown in those college days. I was helping Bill shop for a new computer or an accessory or something at Fry's Electronics, I don't remember what exactly. But as we drove south we saw the black smoke billowing out across the highway from the hills. I think we turned on the radio and heard about the fire, but we weren't concerned enough to turn back. I think we made it to Fremont and did whatever arcane computer purchase we were planning. You know, like buy an i486 computer or a 28.8k modem.

By the time we got back there were evacuations going on, and Bill was living in married student housing, just north of Clark Kerr. I thought of them as way up a huge hill at the time, but now I pass by them whenever I do one of my walks above Clark Kerr. Of course the apartments are abandoned now, in some process of being torn down. (Bill tells me that he lived in two different apartments up there, and when he was moved out of one, it was abandoned, and he later went back to that empty first apartment and saw mushrooms growing up out of his living room rug, so apparently this emptying of those buildings has been an ongoing process for a while.) Anyway, the point is they were in the hills, a fair amount north of where the fire got to, but close enough for the fire department to be concerned.

I put Bill and family up in my little one-room apartment, giving them the mattress off my bed to sleep on. It was totally inadequate, but it was a sucky day, and at least it gave them somewhere to rest their heads until they figured out what to do the next day. Did they go home or onto a shelter? I dunno, that's the edge of memory.

Heck, this is all the edge of my memory. I'm not really certain we made it down to Fremont. I'm not even certain that I haven't conflated two different friends. That's why asking people for their memories of things two or three decades gone by is tough. I do it all the time for Designers & Dragons, but when I get curious or conflicting answers, I do my best to remember how troublesome memories can be.

I mention this all because it's my only real touchstone for the North Bay fires that are ravaging Napa and nearby regions right now. And, as far as I can tell, it's a small inadequate touchstone. This time, we're losing hundreds of thousands of acres. Thankfully things are more spread out up there than in Montclair, Piedmont, and Forest Hills, here in the East Bay, but the loss in structures and lives is already comparable, and will certainly grow by the time it's all said and done.

So, I'm certainly aware of the horror north of us, the human suffering, and the ongoing uncertainty.

But I can also only truly understand what I'm seeing here, in the East Bay.

Smoke. That's what I see and smell.

It was with me Sunday morning when I woke, permeating the whole house (thanks to the windows we haven't yet replaced, and apparently never will). It made my eyes water and my throat scratchy.

The next few days weren't as bad. I even opted to go out for a hike Wednesday morning as the sun rose, and I couldn't smell any smoke in the air.

But then Wednesday afternoon was the worst. A cover of haze lay heavy upon Berkeley. The sun glimmered through like a warped orange spotlight. Everything took on tangerine tones. I decided to go grab a sandwich, because I didn't have quite enough lunchmeet to last the week, and to get some necessities from the drug store, notably including melatonin ... and I regretted going out. I mean, I was keeping to a slow pace to not breathe the gunk in the air in too much, and when you're thinking about that type of thing, you don't want to be out.

This morning I woke, and the first thing I smelled again was smoke. No hike today.

At least the sky looks better now that the sun's out. Maybe I can get some last hill-time in at dawn on Friday and Saturday.

The haze hasn't all been physical, but metaphorical too. Since Sunday night, when I headed off to bed about 24 hours after arriving back in the Bay Area, I've been feeling like I have too little time. The week is rushing by, and it's constantly felt like I'm leaving for Berlin almost immediately after returning from Boston.

This isn't helped by my keeping an early, east-coast schedule, to make the transition to Berlin time easier. (We'll see about that!) Bed at 9 or 10 makes me feel like there's no evening, and being up at 5 or 6 doesn't replace that lost time.

So the days rush by in a haze.

Work? That's not too bad. I cleared so much off my plate before Boston that I don't feel as rushed. Which isn't to say that I don't have plenty to do. The Rebooting the Web of Trust papers are coming in faster than ever before, and so I'm triaging the first ones before I leave. We've also got a real crisis coming up at Skotos, with one of our major game clients going dead in five weeks due to Netscape rewriting their whole Add-On system for their November 14 release, and I'm stressed about that replacement getting out in time. When I'm back from Berlin I'll have just three weeks and change left, and I'll need to go all out to make sure that occurs.

Home? That's a crisis of a different type. K. found out that she'd hurt her foot badly just before I left for Boston, and so was given a boot to wear. This week, she was told it's not really healing and she needs to pretty much totally stay off it. Which kinda sucks when she's going to be home alone for the next week.

So, much like before-Boston, I'm trying to make sure the house is stocked up with what she needs. Yesterday we tag-teamed laundry, with her doing the stuff that could be done sitting (like sorting and folding) and my doing the stuff requiring standing (like putting things into the machines and into the drawers). It worked well. But there's still prep to be done.

So, a little bit of a haze there too.

I am looking forward to Germany. Visiting Berlin is quite possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity and working with Blockstream for three days of off-site should help to keep me efficient and knowledgeable about the tech-writing I'll be doing for them in the next year. And I'll be seeing and interacting with a lot of people I like. It should all be great. After the grueling 11-hour plane trip.

But I'm also looking forward to getting home afterward (after a grueling 12-hour plane trip), to ending my October wanderings and returning to a regular sleep schedule and a regular gaming schedule and a regular time with my honey (and my cats) schedule.

And hopefully I'll be returning to a California that's not burning down.
shannon_a: (Default)
Back in Berkeley on Sunday Morning, I had no lunch food, so I went out to grab Taco Bell for lunch for Kimberly and myself.

A half-a-block away from our house, I discovered that two drugged-out looking vagrants have started an encampment on the sidewalk. Which is no longer accessible for walking. They were still sleeping at 11am, probably due to the aforementioned drugged-up-ed-ness. They'd also spread a bewildering array of trash all about themselves, like a garbage can had exploded. One of them seemed to have shredded a mattress and spread the stuffing in a rough circle around him. The whole area stank of urine, suggesting that they'd been set up there for a few days. It was one of two times that I was almost overcome by the smell of urine in my 20 or 30 minute walk to Durant and back.

There's a point to this. Now that I'm safely(?) ensconced back at home, I'm reflecting over my trip to Boston, and what I think about it as a whole.

Really, I should say my trip to Cambridge, because that's the area that I really came to know, from Kendall Square and MIT to Central Square and IDEO to Harvard Square and Harvard to Davis Square and Doug's house to Alewife and the walk to my apartment.

And my conclusion is that Cambridge is very much a twin to Berkeley. It's an urban area with a heavy collegiate presence.

Except that Berkeley is the evil twin.

I mean, I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of living in Berkeley for the last 25 years. But Kimberly & I have also decided to move because it no longer suits us: in part because we've changed, in part because the world has changed, and in part because Berkeley has changed — and for the worst.

And, I'm certain there are things in Cambridge that would bother me too, if I spent more time there. In particular I suspect there's more privileged affluence there, though we see it here in our Hill-Dwellers and other NIMBYs. (Perhaps that should be my next book: Hill-Dwellers & Other NIMBYs: The Faux Progressives of Berkeley.)

But comparing them head-to-head on the first week of October in 2017, they had a lot of characteristics in common, but Cambridge seemed not just a nice place to visit, but somewhere you might want to live*.

* I am quite certain that there is climate there that I would find quite intolerable, but our week of October was wonderfully temperate, with it being in the 60s and 70s just about every time I stepped out of doors, from early morning to late night. I rarely needed a jacket or overshirt, but I also was never particularly hot.


Cambridge did have homeless, but not in nearly the same numbers as Berkeley, nor were they as aggressive, as privileged, or as threatening.

Cambridge did have students, but they were quiet, respectable, and studious, while still seeming like young adults who were enjoying themselves.

Cambridge had book stores every block or two along the main strip, while we're down to just one on Telegraph (and a few more on Shattuck).

Cambridge felt safe at any time of night, and the students all acted like it was safe. (NeighborhoodScout says that our violent crime rate is about 2x theirs, but I suspect that comparing South Side Berkeley to Harvard would paint an even different picture.)

It was enlightening to see an urban college town that was so very different from what we've come to expect of twenty-five years in Berkeley.

I did see the wider Boston area on Monday, Friday, and early Saturday, including Charlestown, downtown, and Back Bay. It all struck me as a practical, vibrant, and safe community.

Charlestown felt like a small-town-in-a-big-city, a place where you could still have community

Downtown had the hucksterism of San Francisco, with everyone trying to prey on tourists with their American Revolution cosplay, their InkJet-printed guides, and their offer of tours. But it didn't have as much of a carnival atmosphere. Then, you got over to Boston Common and the Boston Gardens and there was more of a sense of an actively used city.

Back Bay was hard to figure out, but it seemed more big-city-like than other parts of Boston, slightly more run-down, definitely filled with more vehicular traffic.

I already wrote about the traffic of Boston, which was horrible just about everywhere I was. In some places, there were humongous roadways set aside for the cars, and they flowed well, but were obviously a big vehicular blight upon the land, while in Cambridge the roads were just totally inadequate during rush hour.

The public transit, on the other hand, was great. It ran regularly and though the trains often forced standing, they weren't jammed, and that would usually go away when you escaped the central stops. You can get day, week, or month passes for all the non-commuter rails and buses, which the Bay Area seriously needs. My only particular complaint is that it's a radial system, which means that you have to go into Downtown to get from one line to another (absent use of very irregular commuter rails, or possibly buses). So if you wanted to go the 4.5 miles from Malden to Sommerville, for example, which are along the orange and red lines, you're either unnecessarily ducking under the Charles River twice, or else taking a long bus ride, all of which run 35-45 minutes. As compared to a 15-minute car ride (traffic willing).

And finally, I was surprised by how compact and accessible the city was as a whole. As I wrote when visiting the Museum of Science, what had been a long-ish train ride (to downtown and back) on the first day turned out to be almost as simple as a short train ride and a mile walk. I was particularly surprised by how little of an obstacle the Charles River is. Oh, you might have to walk a few miles to get across it, but there was a constant array of bridges and walkways.

So that was Boston.

I see why former residents are eager to return (and I've known a few).

The one thing I would have liked to do that I didn't? Bike. In Cambridge Heights we were right at the end of a bike path that could have taken me miles and miles to Bedford or Concord.

But there's never enough time.

And, so home again home again.

I was walking wounded when I got home. A huge blister on the bottom of the right foot, a large and painful blister on the heel, and my whole leg was feeling tight or twisted or something from walking wrong on it.

I kept Sunday as low-key as possible, just walking to Taco Bell and biking to the grocery store.

Today I also demurred on my morning hike into the hills.

And, it all seems to be healing. I've got hiking tomorrow morning listed as a ... maybe.

I'm somewhat distressed to find that I've now just got five work days left, then a free Saturday morning and early afternoon, then I'm back on a plane retracing Saturday's long six-hour trip (and going beyond).
shannon_a: (Default)
The upstairs joggers apparently left on Friday! There was no galloping 'to and 'fro at 6.30! So I was able to sleep until 8 on my last day in Boston. Yay!

The morning began with packing, following by the continuing B&B olympics. There was the 1.3 mile suitcase drag followed by the train squeeze and concluded by the B&B swap: I moved my luggage from the Cambridge Heights B&B to the RWOT house, somewhere that I could store it for the day.

And there was plans for the day, as our flight was at the later-than-I-would have liked time of 6.30pm. That would get me home way too late, since I'm going to try and maintain an East Coast schedule for the next week, before I head out to Germany, but it meant we had most of the day free.

I left the choice of where to go up to Chris, since I'd already seen so much of Boston, and we settled on the Museum of Science, out in the shadow of the Bunker Hill Bridge.

We T-ed down to Kendall, then walked out to the Museum, which turned out to be just more than a mile further. The more I traveled around Boston, the most I saw (and was impressed by) how interconnected it all was, even with the Charles River cutting between Boston proper and and other cities like Cambridge and Charlestown. So instead of taking the Red Line to the Orange Line on Monday, I could instead have walked out from Kendall, along the Paul Dudley White Bike Path (I hope they have a more concise name for that in Boston), then over to North Point Park, which I'd seen had nice paths going under the Bunker Hill Bridge into Paul Revere Park.

(Ah well; but my blisters say I got plenty of walking already on Monday.)

The Museum of Science feels like a more polished Exploratorium. The exhibits are more likely to be working (though we found several that seemed broken late in the visit) and they also have thirty-minute programs.

We got there just in time for their Lightning program, which they told us was one they were renowned for. It totally rocked (and rattled, but didn't really roll). They had the world's largest open-air Van de Graaf generator and a bunch of tesla coils, which they set off for various loud and electrifying spectacles.

They demonstrated that it's a car's metal body not its rubber tires, that protect you from electricity by putting two people in a metal cage and zapping it. But the really scary thing was that the demo guy touched the inside of the metal cage, because the electricity only transmits on the skin!

Then they concluding by setting off all their electrical devices simultaneously and using them to play a song. Ghostbusters, to be exact. 100% recognizable.

SCIENCE, B******!

We skimmed through the rest of the museum. We looked at waves over sand; played a prisoner's dilemma game; gawked at dinosaurs; and generally enjoyed science for a few hours.

After one more trip to the B&B, we ended up back at Logan airport.

Here I had an exactly reciprocal TSA experience to my one in San Francisco a week earlier.

At the security, I opted out of the body scanner. Personally, I think this is every privacy-conscious American's duty. The body scanners, along with the whole TSA apparatus, is pure security-theatre. It wastes our time and money and makes the public feel safe without actually increasing safety. Fortunately, with the body scanners, we've been given a way to protest: when we opt out, we increase the burden on the TSA. If everyone did, then they would be unable to use these machines, and we'd be one step nearer to reclaiming our air-travel freedom.

But no one else ever does.

Anywho, I got up to the scanners, but I was very hopeful that I could just walk through because they instead had the metal-detector lane open. If they hadn't been exceedingly slow dealing with bags, I would have been able to go right through. But instead, while I was waiting for my bags to go through the X-ray machine, they switched back to the millimeter-scanner lane. Dammit.

(At least the millimeter scanners aren't as bad as the backscatter machines, which were more invasive, and I am pretty certain will be causing cancer clusters in the next ten years.)

So as I said I opted out. And I ended up waiting 25 minutes for my pat-down.

But the difference from SFO, where I had an a*****e TSA agent who tried to intimidate me out of opting-out by claiming a 300minute wait-time, was that this time I had a friendly and apologetic TSA agent who called three or four times for the "male opt-out" when no one was arriving, and who explained how he couldn't leave his post and was all around totally personable and helpful, even while he mostly worked at his job of herding cats.

The thing is, I wouldn't have gotten out of the TSA area any more quickly if I'd opted in to the TSA's invasive technology.

All of Logan's security checkpoint that day was a horrible mess. They were mostly out of bins to run items through the X-Ray machine. They were also being extremely picky about bags and other things pushed through that machine. So my bag got pulled for investigation, and it was only finally examined just when I was getting patted down.

(The culprit: a bag of cough drops.)

Chris treated me to a lobster roll at a restaurant there before we left. He thought I should get a bit of culinary taste of Boston before I left. Very tasty!

The flight was uneventful. I made regular use of my hand sanitizer in the hope of not getting sick ... just before I run off again on planes, next Saturday.

No one around me seemed particularly sick, but both the kid-filled Museum of Science and any airplane ever are awful petri dishes for disease.

And on Sunday I rest! It's kind of my only day of actual rest in this three-week period that I'm in the middle of.

One trip down ...
shannon_a: (Default)
I woke up Friday to an empty apartment. My apartment-mate, Heather, was out at the crack of dawn to catch her flight back to California.

Friday was my other full free day in Boston. My one regret for my New York trip was not seeing the big art museum. But, it was a trade-off. Do I see the city that I might not ever get to see again, or do I see a museum of artifacts perhaps like artifacts I could see elsewhere? This time around because I had one extra day, I felt like I'd come to know the city, so I was more willing to give up a day inside a big building.

And big might be an understatement. The MFA (Museum of Fine Art) is huge. I wandered it for six hours and at the end I just had to make a very quick walk-through the many areas I hadn't seen. I was also amazed how empty the place was, but I think that is in part its size. Again and again I found myself in a room empty of other people, sometimes without other people even in hearing distance. I mean, at one point I was in a room with 13 or 14 large Monets, all on my own. (How crazy is that!?)

I am so used to the cattle-car museums of the SF Bay Area where it's hard to move through the rooms, let alone see the pieces, that it was a pleasant, surprising, and weird change.

My first stop at the MFA was the impressionists, which I'd identified as filling one hallway and two rooms in the Art of Europe section of the museum. Two of those exhibits were fine enough: a dozen or so impressionist pieces each, almost all of which I'd never seen before ... but the third room, the Monet room, was amazing.

As I said, there were 13 or 14 Monets, and every single one was a large piece. Over half of them were also arranged into diptychs. There were two haystacks, two paintings of some valley, two winter scenes, etc. Monet's purposeful series were the most interesting because he'd intentionally returned to the same places to paint them in different seasons and in different conditions. The room also contained the largest Monet I've ever seen, of his wife in a Japanese kimono, that didn't look impressionist at all, but was very cool for the contrast. But the room as a whole was amazing. It was one of several times during the day when I exclaimed out loud, and had tears in my eyes looking at the beauty. (The latter may also have been in part due to short sleep every night I've been out here.)

After the impressionists I wandered a bit.

I made a very quick pass through the modern art wing's upper story, and it was crap. Mostly unicolor canvases or canvases with squares of a few colors. A sign nearby said something like "All art was modern once", but it misses the fact that not all modern art was unskilled hackery.

By then I'd gotten to the Art of Asia, and I found one of several very surprising exhibits. It filled two large rooms, each of which exhibited furniture from 16th and 17th century China, laid out into three smaller sample rooms. It was utterly astounding to see how these folks lived so well, so long ago, and I also really enjoyed seeing the artifacts of members of this different culture. I also saw some really beautiful Buddhas in the Asian exhibit, and then a full Buddha Temple, which I would have loved to sit around for a while, and enjoy the Zen, but it was unfortunately full of about 30 art students quickly sketching, and soon even that semi-silence was broken by a teacher rushing in to tell them how they should be correcting the errors she pointed out earlier. Not cool, and not very Buddha.

Lunch was in the cafeteria, which seemed to be the only crowded room in the whole museum. Then it was off to the Art of the Americas wing, apparently built just a decade ago or so. I spent the afternoon there, and it was pretty cool. I really enjoyed seeing some of the American artists, a lot of them associated with the Revolution, with Boston, or with both. Sargent was cool for his chameleon-like style, and he had a whole room. I also quite liked Copley for his beautiful portraits, his impressive detailing of textiles, and for his changing style when he moved to London.

As with the whole museum, utilitarian objects like chairs and even doors that matched the period were intermixed with the artwork. It made for a neat, more immersive experience. The Art of the Americas also contained a couple of complete room recreations, that unlike the Chinese rooms were meant to represent actual, specific rooms of period houses. (I later saw a British room that had been entirely transplanted, down to the wooden walls!)

Toward the end of the Art of the Americas I was thrilled to discover two more rooms of impressionism: one room of Bostonian impressionists, and one of American impressionists. There weren't as many amazing pictures as you see with the better-known European impressionists, but several of the American artists had a very intriguing style variant when they painted people into their impressionist art: they often painted the background with the broader brushstrokes of impressionism, then the portraits with much tighter, more precise brushstrokes.

After I finished all four stories of the Art of America — which went from indigenous art in the basement through art of our country on the first and second floor, to crappy modern American art on the third floor — I'd been at the museum for about five hours. It was getting close to time to head out, so I made a quick run through the Ancient World and the parts of Asia and Europe that I hadn't seen. The most impressive bits were entire rooms rebuilt from Egyptian stones. There was also a very interesting special exhibit of what looked like 1850s Japanese comic books. They were pretty amazing.

In fact the whole museum was pretty amazing, based both its size and the number of things that made me gasp. I mean, six hours, and I still hurried through a good portion of it.

I had a long walk back to the T because I walked through the Fenway, which turns out to be a genuine fen-turned-park. There were neat "victory gardens" in one part, which looked like gardens that apartment dwellers could rent and use. Some where even laid out as fun outdoor areas with chairs and such, and I reflected how in the Bay Area those would just have been destroyed by vandals. (There's a lot of ways the Bay Area sucks.)

From there I wandered up to the Charles River Esplanade and walked it from the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge to the Longfellow Bridge, then walked across that. I'd wanted to do that my first day out, but was too footsore by the time I got back to the Massachusetts Ave Bridge.

(Footsore was unfortunately a continuing trope of the trip.)

(Trope of the Trip is my new boy's band name.)

This latter part of the Esplanade was a much nicer park than the part by Back Bay. It was a beautiful walk, and the walk across the Bridge was nice too. It reminded me of the Golden Gate because it was crowded (though not *that* crowded) with bicyclists whizzing in between pedestrians.

I hopped back on the T at Kendall.

The day had a nice ending, hanging out with my college friend Doug O, a member of the CSUA and XCF and a short-term gamer with our group. We had sushi, something I never get in Berkeley because K. isn't a fan. We talked and caught up a lot while there. Afterward, we hung out back at his place for a while. It was great to see him; I was very happy he commented on one of my week's FB posts and asked if I was in Boston so that we could catch up. (I think I knew he moved to Massachusetts back in the '90s, but I'd lost track of exactly where he was.)

I ended up getting home at about 11, making it the trip's latest night ...

And the last one ...
shannon_a: (Default)
Here's my official write-up of day three of the RWOT5 Design Workshop:

The final day of the Web of Trust design workshops tends to be the quietest day. We get started a little later and then have a shorter day. Today we had six hours to finish up work on our papers, to get them to a first draft before we split apart and headed back to our homes.

Amazingly, rather than losing a few papers over the course of the workshop, this time they multiplied. The 8-9 planned papers, specs, and code repos blossomed to 16 by this final day. Some of the outputs were relatively short, such as a DID template and some DID method specs, but these are the exact sort of thing that can be valuably generated at a workshop of this type by bringing together all of the involved people and getting them talking.

Substantive work for almost all of the projects was uploaded to the drafts document folder by the end of the day. Overall, this is the highest amount of deliverables that we've ever seen for a RWOT conference, supported in large part by the highest turnout ever. With so much work that is rapidly maturing, it seems likely that we'll also see the largest amount of final work ever, over the next couple of months.

The final day of RWOT5 ended with a look at this fifth conference and at the movement overall. We're planning our next conference somewhere on the west coast, possibly Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Seattle, or Vancouver, possibly in February. The exact date should be announcefd at IIW, in two weeks.

Here's what I didn't write in the official record:

Tuesday was the most tiring day, in large part due to many hours of listening to presentations (and actively recording them). However, today was the busiest. I jumped up, worked in Joe's group to do some brainstorming, bounced to Lionel's group to offer some feedback, bounced to Joe's group to do some writing, then during the final plenary was simultaneously taking notes, updating our draft documents contents, and writing up the above synopsis of the final day. Whew!

Also, I've come to feel really confident with all this identity stuff. I feel like I was able to speak very articulately and offer insightful points and good explanations several times, and I no longer have any fear of speaking up to the whole group. Which is kinda cool.

After the workshop, I had dinner with my old friend Bill F., who gamed with us for years in Berkeley before moving eastward. It was great to catch up with him, to remember old times and old friends and to catch up with where we are now.

He's been out to California several times since he moved, but it's different to get to talk in person on a one-on-one basis. It was terrific to get to do so!

And I was super-touched and super-honored to learn that he'd considered me to be his best man at his wedding if his son hadn't been comfortable with it.

Anywho, the whole get-together was a high-point of an entirely good day.

I took the train back a bit, then walked the rest.

I perhaps shouldn't have done the walking, though it was so beautifully temperate outside, and all around a very pleasant walk.

That's because I have a blister on the right foot that's been getting worse the whole time. I've walked a lot while out here, but I also packed dress socks for the three days of the conference, then walked 4-6 miles each day in them. Whoops! But when I packed I was expecting to me 8 or 9 blocks from our work space, not 3 miles.

Thankfully, Heather, my apartment-mate these last days, had a big bandaid. I hope that'll be enough to keep it from worsening tomorrow.

Because tomorrow I once again get to see Boston, not just white boards and computer screens.

(What follows: Vacation Day, Flight Day, Weekend Day, then five workdays, before the next trip ...)
shannon_a: (Default)
Rebooting the Web of Trust days are tough, full days of work. This middle time in Boston has fallen into largely the same cycle that my time in New York did a year and a half ago. I get up, get ready to go, then stumble out the door to a vehicle. We're driven to the RWOT center at which point 10-11 hours of work begin. Afterward nice people that I like invite me to dinner, but I'm much too tired for any more group interaction. I walk home, finding dinner somewhere along the way. There, I shower, call Kimberly, and write about the day. By that time I hope I have an hour left to read and wind down, but it's usually less. I read for a bit, turn off the lights, then wake up something less than eight hours later, with not quite enough sleep under my belt.

Wash, lather, repeat.


Here's a writeup of Day Two of RWOT that I did for Chris:

Day Two of Rebooting the Web of Trust V was largely about creating our outputs: the white papers, specs, and code that are the purpose of the design workshop. We seem to still be working toward eight papers plus a new iteration of the DID spec. The particular group I was working with, which is building a DID-related user-engagement model, met its goal of assembling a full outline of what the 15 stages of user engagement would look like for a DID system. This was the important part because it was where our (large) group was able to talk through all the ideas, taking full advantage of our collaboration. The hope is to first draft the text tomorrow, but it was the collaboration today that was critical to get while everyone was together

We were interrupted about an hour after lunch to see "demos". I think many of us wanted to continued working, but on the other hand these demos were hugely aspirational. That's because they were seven examples of actual software that had been built related to decentralized identifiers (DIDs). The aspirational thing here is that DIDs didn't exist before the first Rebooting Web of Trust workshop, just 23 months ago. In that time, quite short in the epoch of internet standards, they've gone from not-even-an-idea to a spec funded by the US gov't to something being considered by the W3C to something being supported in software by multiple people. We've long hoped that we could influence the next generation of the Web of Trust, and DIDs are proving that we can.


And that was pretty much the day. We finish up tomorrow, and then I've got plans to have dinner with a couple of college friends and to see the city for one more day, with the MFA Museum being my prime stop planned. Then it's another day on a plane and a break of six days before my next trip.
shannon_a: (Default)
We have a basement apartment. I was woken up at 6.30 this morning by someone sprinting back and forth upstairs in combat boots. My apartment-mate, H., was even less pleased because she'd also been woken at 2.30, that time by a wailing baby.

This, I suppose is the danger of Air B&B's where they've subdivided the house to within an inch of its life.

We'd scheduled to call our Lyft around 7.30, to take the 15 minute trip through Harvard to Central Square. Except it took us 10 minutes for our Lyft to arrive, which would have been unheard of in Berkeley at 7.30 on a Monday. Then it took 30 minutes to make the 3.5 miles. We were about 15 or 20 minutes late.


Stupid traffic.

The day's work for Rebooting the Web of Trust V was exhausting, in large part because it was 11 hours long, from 8am to 7pm. Despite what Victorians thought, man was not meant to work that long. My brain was a fried egg by the end.

Here's what I wrote officially for the Web of Trust GitHub:

The first day of Rebooting the Web of Trust V was our meet, greet, and setup. We seemed to have more than 50 people, which I suspect is the largest RWOT design workshop to date.

After some initial discussions, we soon began talking about "weak signals": subject matter that might be of interest to the members of our group, but which they might not know about. These covered a variety of topics, from interesting theories like the "Identity Mental Models" to interesting problems like that of "offline solutions" to interesting report-outs like "BOPS". These "lightning talks" were scheduled for two hours, but we ended up about double that because of the interest and discussion.

The main point of RWOT is of course to generate papers, specs, and code. So, with the day rapidly escaping from us around 5pm we fractured into a number of different groups. Here's where the participant numbers really paid off: we're currently planning for eight papers from seven groups, plus a revision of the DID spec from our DID spinoff. Now, often a paper or two doesn't survive first contact with the enemy, but we've nonetheless started in on a very healthy crop of projects on a variety of interesting topics.

People afterward headed out for dinner and then home to think about their topics. Tomorrow will largely see the start of the paper brainstorming and writing. It'll be the main work day, with some report-outs on other topics scheduled for mid-day when people fade a bit.

(Cool, C. asked me to write that, and it served as most of this journal entry too.)

When everyone headed off to dinner, I most definitely did not, because I would have begun murdering people if I didn't get some quiet and solitude at that point.

I walked the 3.5 miles home to Cambridge Heights. The first mile or so, when I passed through Harvard, was very cool. Beautiful, historic looking buildings. And the students don't seem to yell and squeal as much as the students at home in Berkeley. Maybe it's just because it's midweek.

The last couple of miles were less exciting. More typical neighborhoods, albeit with prettier buildings on average than in Berkeley, and then the emptier area near the reservoir that we're across from.

Despite the desolation, I passed two Dunkin' Donuts, one a mere block after the other.

I resisted the urge to stop. Barely.
shannon_a: (Default)
The first order of business today was switching B&Bs. I had that last-minute B&B last night, which was perfectly OK, but small. Today I was theoretically moving into the big Rebooting the Web of Trust house.

Except while I was on the plane, Chris let me know that because of the challenging bed situation at the RWOT house, and my desire to have a private room to retain my sanity, he'd reserved another place about 3 miles out for myself and another RWOT guest.

Great, I was very appreciative of the privacy and I also thought it sounded like a nice walk at the end of each day of RWOT, so I was 100% jazzed.

But the irony was that I'd chosen my overnight B&B in part because it was around the corner from the RWOT house. It would have just involved a block of schlepping.

Instead, I got to explore the train and bus system to get out to whatever the name is of the area that our new apartment was in, near Belmont. But it was easy. One stop up the Red Line, then a walk through the Harvard Station to the bus repository, at which point I grabbed a bus that took me to within three blocks or so of my new house. There are a couple of busses that arrive between 0-3 blocks away.

The new apartment is a nice little basement apartment that smelled pleasantly like wood when I opened the door. Two bedrooms, and a common area of living room and kitchen that are likely to not be used much.

After that it was time to head into the city. This time I walked out to Alewife Station, the end of the Red Line. It's about a 25 minute walk, so there's no really fast ways from our B&B to the main parts of the city, but much of the walk is along the "Fitchburg Cutoff Bikepath", which varied from very nice to gorgeous. It's along the Mystic River, so there's a lot of nice greenery there.

Then it was the Red Line to the Orange Line to North Station, then a fun walk across "removable bridgeways" and locks, all under the "Zakim Bridge" or "Bunker Hill Bridge", which is a beautiful cable-stay bridge that is less than 15 years old.

The main point of the day was to walk the Freedom Trail which is a literal brick path that threads through the streets of Charlestown and Boston.

The highlight was early on, The Bunker Hill Memorial, which is apparently on Breed's Hill. There's a cool monument there, and you can walk up 294 steps to the top. I'm very good at climbing, but it was still challenging, and coming down even more so. (A few hundred steps away from the monument and my leg muscles seized up for a second and weren't up to full snuff again for hours.) There was also a nice museum right across the street that had a great miniatures setup and a voiceover that described the attacks on Bunker (Breed's) Hill. Very enlightening.

The Old North Church is cool because that's where Paul Revere's lanterns were supposedly hung.

Paul Revere's House was cool as a place to see what a really old house would have been like in historic times in Boston. Much nicer than I would have guessed.

The Old State House is cool because it's a gorgeous old building and also because the "State" stop on the Blue and Orange Lines is in its basement. (I learned what a couple of stops were today!)

I saw three different cemeteries, and they didn't start out very interesting and got less-so. It was kind of neat seeing such old stones in such good condition, but then I dozed off. I did stop and see the graves for John Hancock and Paul Revere at the last cemetery.

The Massachusetts State House has a big golden dome, as if Donald Trump lived there, but the only mention I heard of Donald Trump today was someone saying "F* Donald Trump, F* that guy." While taking a picture of his wife with a donkey.

I ended in Boston Common, which is a nice public area, but what I really loved is the adjacent Boston Public Garden which feels much more secluded and is much better tended. (They were both quite crowded.)

And I ended the day by walking through Chinatown to the Rose Kennedy Greenway. I walked along a bit of it, and then when I saw how much more there was decided to hop on a train and get back to Cambridge.

After dinner, I helped a bit with the setup for the design workshop tomorrow.

I finally found the name for the mostly empty area where I'm staying. It's the Cambridge Highlands. So there you go.

Got home and met my apartment mate, Heather. She apparently needs downtime after conferncing too, and so the RWOT house didn't work for her either. I think we both got lucky with the shared need for quiet.

The workshop starts tomorrow, which is the real reason for being here.
shannon_a: (Default)
Saturday morning I was up at 6am, nearly on East Coast time, other than a bit of insomnia before following asleep the night before. I made it out of the house at 6.30 for the day's hike ... but was back within 10 minutes to take my morning pills. Whoops! So I was out of the house before 7am.

The plan was a hike up Panoramic Hill, across the fire trails above Strawberry Canyon, then to some bus stop in or around Tilden Park. And, it was a beautiful hike. The mornings have been warm, so I had my jacket off by the time I got to the Hill. It was slightly cool, slightly damo, and just overall wonderful weather for hiking. I was delighted by the emptiness of the trails, which largely held until 9am or so. Then I started seeing people out with their dogs. I was also delighted by over a half-dozen rabbits, hopping along the trails (and quick to vacate when I came by). I just about never see rabbits up there, so seeing half-a-dozen on the same day was astounding. I finally got out my camera to take a picture of the next, but there were no more. (That was about when the dog walkers started appearing, and the owner of one very happily bounding dog indeed told me that his pup has spotted a rabbit.)

I eventually landed at the bus stop at the top of the stutter ridge above TIlden, at the corner of Wild Cat & Grizzly Peak. I made it to downtown by noon, even after two stops during the hike, one to read a bit of my copy of <i>The Old Guard</I>, and one to eat lunch. It made me think that I should sacrifice a couple of hours of sleep some Saturday morning, to do another 7am hike, but this time keep going until the late hour or exhaustion stops me! I could make it further than I ever have before! (And set myself a new Fitbit record, as I managed 32,000 steps on Saturday with just my 7am-noon hike.)

Anywho, the hike was enjoyable and restful, exactly what I needed before a plane trip, and what will be three days of busy work, from Tuesday to Thursday.

Later in the day, I finished up any number of chores around the house, some for myself, some for K., who is supposed to be staying off of her foot so that she doesn't dislocate a toe before her ligament heals. Then after dinner I got to packing.

I was just finishing up and getting ready to wind down for bed when I got a call from C., saying that the AirBnB he'd rented for us for Sunday night was short the sofa bed that was to be mine, having substituted a psychiatrist's couch instead(!). WTF!!

So here I am, on the edge of going to bed before a 5am flight, and I don't have a room for the next night, nor have I ever sent up an AirBnB account. Yeah, my relaxation is blown away and I'm now super-stressed. Joy. Cue 60 or 70 minutes of frustrating work, trying to setup an AirBnB account, going through multiple device to take a picture of my ID clear enough for AirBnB to read, and finding a barely-acceptable BnB among all of the various subpar options that have a bed available the next night. By now I'm 30 or 40 minutes past my bed time and way too wound up. So I stay up another 20 minutes before deciding to give bed a try. I'm *still* too wound up, but at least the insomnia isn't as bad as the previous evening. I'm asleep within 1 hour instead of within 2.

I'm running a little slow in the morning, and I'm only actually ready to go right when I wanted to head out the door. And that's when I call Uber (because good 'ole third-world BART doesn't run early Sunday morning). It takes agonizingly long minutes before anyone accepts my request, and when someone does he's on the Bay Bridge, listed as 19 minutes out. (He makes it in more like 13.) Still, plenty of time. I try to arrange my airline trips with enough time for a couple of problems.

Problem #2 is the huge line at bag check-in at JetBlue, despite the fact that most of the international terminal is empty. But that only takes 5 or 10 minutes.

Problem #3 is just a TSA attitude problem. I tell them I'm opting out of the naked-xray machine, as everyone should to kill this invasive, unnecessary, and poorly performing machine, but which no one else does. The jerk TSA agent is clearly pretty pissed at this, which is something I've never seen before. He spitefully tells me. "I don't know how long it'll be. It could be 5 minutes, it could be 30 minutes." Whatever, you TSA dick. It's 1 or 2 minutes, as usual.

Surrounded by sickies, as usual, on the plane. The guy over in the window seat is coughing and sneezing and snuffling from the moment
I sit down. The woman next to me, in the center seat, starts sniffling continuously after her meal. As usual, I think it'll be a miracle if I'm not sick in two days time. Which would be just as the RWOT conference is start. I continuously use hand-sanitizer that I've wastefully packaged in a quart bag to satisfy another of TSA's ridiculous and useless, fear-mongering procedures. The second I'm off the plane, I will step into a bathroom to wash even more thoroughly. Because airplane cabins are little petri dishes of recirculated disease.

But on the flight, JetBlue's legroom and wifi continue to rock. They're at the top of my list of airlines to fly because they're adding amenities rather than removing them or charging for them, like the rest of the misbegotten industry.

We circle Logan airport in Boston for twenty minutes because of a crew "painting lines on the runway". 3.30pm in the afternoon seems like a sort of bad time to do that.

JetBlue's ever-intriguing "map channel" soon shows us entirely flipped around on our flight path, as if we were heading right back to San Francisco. Soon after our plane icon begins to spin, as if it were careening wildly out of control.

(Fortunately, we were running early before this waste of time.)

Upon landing, the public transit proved to be a little more challenging than expected. The plan looked easy enough: take the Silver Line to the Red Line.

Except the Silver "Line" is apparently just a bit of branding. It's a bus, and it's a bus that was so crowded that I had to yell and cajole to get people to back up enough to get me and my suitcase in. Then I had to do the same to help some other people get in. Then it turns out that they're not running the Red Line under the Charles River during weekends, so it was off the train, up the stairs, onto one of the line of waiting buses, through the streets of Boston via grossly inefficient directions, then eventually to a stop two stops up the line, and back down the stairs and onto the train.

I got in to the AirBnB about 6pm.

I had grave concerns about my B&B room, but it looks fine. A bit of floor space, a couch, a pretty spacious bathroom. Oh, it's got fresh air problems and a stair outside right next to the bed and a bit of a musty smell in the bathroom, but it gets at least a B-.

After settling I went and wandered a bit, theoretically looking for dinner, but that was an excuse.

I wandered through MIT and was pretty surprised to find it right in the middle of the city, with major roads cutting through it.

I got back down to the Charles River and found it very attractive. I crossed it on a well-lit bridge full of students going to and fro. The sun had set by now and toward the end of the bridge I saw quite a few people with cell phones out, pointed toward the reddish sky. I looked at them as I passed and saw: photo software; photo software; photo software, hunting a Pokemon.

After a bit more wandering I ended up near Fenway Stadium, found some dinner, then circled back.

Man, the roads in Boston are invasive. Huge, gaping scars cutting through the city. I had to take quite a bit of effort to get around some of them!

It was entirely dark by now, and I was a bit leery of some of the neighborhoods which seemed big and urban, but everywhere there were students with cell phones out, totally oblivious to the world around them. So, not as muggy as Berkeley, I figured.

Eventually I made it back home, a bit footsore.

Tomorrow is my free day before the design workshop begins.
shannon_a: (Default)
Today we saw Sister Act: The Musical at Berkeley Playhouse. I've never seen the original, but it looks like the plot points are largely the same. The big difference is in the music. Apparently, the original had pop music from the time, while this one has original music, much of it with a disco feel, because the time period has been moved back to 1977-1978.

One of the things that amused me about the play is that it feels like someone sold it as "The Sound of Music, but set entirely in the nunnery". You see, a stranger comes to town (the nunnery / the Van Trapp estate). She teaches the residents (nuns / children) how to sing. They're brought together by this. Then villains descend (gangsters / Nazis) and the nuns gang up to protect the outsiders (the Van Trapps / Deloris). The musical even highlights this similarity by having Deloris gush early on about the nuns fighting the Nazis in The Sound of Music, then having one of her nuns sing a quick do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do.

Early on, I was troubled a bit by some of the racial politics, as the play was mocking the differences between an urban black woman and this largely white monastery. But it quickly moved on, and the rest of the musical was about the unifying powers of music and sisterhood. Something that really charmed me about the excellent writing of the musical was that it did a great job of strongly characterizing several of the characters, so that it didn't feel like a play about just Deloris, but also Sweaty Eddy, Mary Margaret, and the Mother Superior (at the least).

The most disappointing thing about the musical was that I found most of the women's songs just OK. I think that's because most of them didn't reveal character, like the best musical songs do. Instead they tended to reveal themes (e.g., Deloris' initial song was about heaven, then she and the nuns sang many songs together that were well-constructed religious songs that blended Deloris' jazzy gospel with religious teaching). But I also don't love gospel; it's OK. The exception was Mother Superior, who had some intriguing philosophical songs, where she was often talking to God. Oh, and Mary Margaret's "The Life I Never Led" was pretty good. So maybe it was just Deloris and the Nun Ensemble's songs that weren't as great as the rest.

The best songs, obviously, were then from the men, which was a bit sad in a play peopled by so many strong women. Curtis Shank had a great murder/love song about Deloris called "When I Find My Baby", that we think may be what made some people decide at intermission that perhaps they didn't want to return for the second half with their children. Then Sweaty Eddie had "I Could Be That Guy", an "I Want" song, but one that really went to the core of his character, that had some great choreography, some shocking costume changes, and made him the star of our local show due to the terrific performance.  Then the bad guy's henchmen had a hilarious song about seducing nuns called "Lady in the Long Black Dress".

And how can you fault lyrics that rhyme "Mary Magdalene" (twice, I think) and "transubstantiation" (once, I think)?

Good actors and singers, as usual. Sweaty Eddy was the hit, as I said. A few tripped up lines, because this was opening weekend. 

Irreverent and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. It's showing for the next month.

shannon_a: (Default)
I'm going to be traveling in October, and thus I've started waking up earlier in the morning, trying to get myself on East Coast time (and closer to European time). The waking up earlier can leave me a little tired, but it pays out when I'm actually able to sleep on the earlier schedule when I'm back East. However, what really frazzles me is the lost of time in the evening, and everything gets pressed closer together, and I don't have the time to do everything that I want to do.

On the bright side, my usual pattern while cycling earlier is to go out for a one-hour hike above Clark Kerr first thing in the morning. This wakes me up in the early hours, and also helps me expend energy so I'm more likely to sleep at night. And I get a nice, physical intro to the day, and I interact with some people (and their dogs) even before I work.

The weather's been particularly nice. I usually shed my jacked before I get to the hills. And today we got bright blue and clear skies too. The Golden Gate Bridge was about as crystal clear as it ever gets

Anywho, short evenings aren't the only reason I'm frazzled. Lots of stuff going on too.

With help from a Facebook friend, I found a general contractor to take a fourth try at our downstairs tub, and K. actually got him out here last Saturday. He is pretty confident that the problem is that the proper, legally required waterproofing wasn't put in behind the tile walls. I had pictures of the tub under construction, and he said, yeah, it looks like they just put greenboard behind the tiles, which is how you did this sort of thing thirty years ago.

I can totally believe it given the problems we had with the initial bathroom guy, and I'd about come to the conclusion that all of the tile needed to be ripped out and new stuff installed. Which is what he wants to do. He can't do the work until December, but his estimate is about $1500 + materials, maybe $2000 total, which sounds reasonable at this point. (Though not reasonable in the scope of things where we had this bathroom renovated exactly five years ago!)

In the meantime, he offered to put up some plastic on the walls to make the shower usable again. Since the upstairs shower is much less nice this seemed reasonable ... but we didn't realize quite what he intended. So we've got hard plastic walls up now in the downstairs tub, in front of the tiles, which will definitely do the job, but is a bit wasteful for something only intended to last a few months. So it goes.

Meanwhile, our neighbor suggested a gardener for us. I'm always leery of that type of ongoing cost going into our budget, but we came to the conclusion this year that we wanted to start having our front yard look like something other than a prairie wasteland, so that we'll have good Google Maps pictures years before we sell, and so that we'll really have it on the path to looking regularly nice by the time we sell.

So K. had been scheduling with him, and he finally made it out on Wednesday, very late, and only after K. gave him block-by-block instructions because he ended up at the wrong place twice before getting here. He seemed nice and very conscientious and responsive to our desire to have the yard thoroughly deweeded, then something planted when it's all dead. The deweeding is supposed to start on Monday, and then it'll be three months before we're clear of weeds, and then he'll do some planting as winter edges toward spring, maybe in February. He thinks that succulents will grow best, and I'm totally OK with that if they look good and aren't cactus.

Meanwhile, Lucy has been having bathroom problems very intermittently for a while, so when I was concerned with that last weekend, K. suggested that we should bring her in, so I wasn't worried about her on my trip(s). So we did, and it was suggested we up her wet food from once a week to every day, which is a big pain, but we're trying it out.

It had also been years since we'd taken Lucy into the vet, and the vet suggested a senior screen. It was expensive, but we agreed. It came back with her being in very good health, other than her level of dehydration that we were seeing. In fact they said our little ten-year-old cat's kidneys looked more like a two-year-old cat's. Given we lost both of our older cats to kidney disease, we were extremely relieved to hear that.

What else? What else? K hasn't been doing entirely well lately, which certainly contributes to household stress. I've been very busy during my work-week trying too simultaneously juggle too many tasks and also do things necessary to prep for our trip. I had an extremely productive work week last week, but that sort of thing comes at a cost.

And today I finished up "Book One" in what I intend as a trilogy in my Burning Wheel Clockwork Campaign. Perfect timing, as I managed it just before my trip, but that's a topic I'd like to dedicate an entry to later.

Tomorrow: Sister Act. (Meanwhile, pedophile-apologist and Neo-nazi-supporter Milo Y. marches on Sproul Plaza, probably resulting in helicopter riots.)
shannon_a: (Default)
Point Pinole (Saturday). I actually wasn't that good at beating the heat on Saturday. But, when I'm not gaming, it's the day I go out and adventure, and I didn't want to waste my adventure day. So, I headed out to Point Pinole on my bike. Actually, I was sort of beating the heat, because I wasn't hiking. A carefully paced bike ride can be pretty cool in comparison, and it was quite nice until I got to the hill leading up to Hilltop Mall. By then I was a bit overheated, so I stopped, rested, and drank. Then I walked up the hill with another stop in the middle. And then it was over to the mall, which is air-conditioned (or, on Saturday, sort of air-conditioned). Unfortunately that also meant that it was quite a shock coming out of the mall, now towards 1pm or so. By this point, it was clearly hot, in the 100 or so degree range. Point Pinole is downhill from Hilltop Mall, but it was still work. Fortunately, when I made it out to the point of the Point, and sat down in the shade, it was cool, as I expected: about -10 degrees for being out at the point, about -10 degrees for being in the shade. I was stunned by the heat while r for a while, but then I was able to enjoy myself reading and writing. The bike ride back, though, that was some real work, but I only went as far as Richmond, then took BART back.

The Bedroom (Saturday).
Our upstairs cools poorly and that's a problem on a super-hot day. It was looking like it was going to be unsleepable, but then K. set a fan to blasting the bed. That worked, for me at least. K. unfortunately still found it unsleepable.

Legion of Honor (Sunday).
Where's cooler than Point Pinole? How about The City! Not on Saturday, when it was over 100, but on Sunday it had cooled down to 80 or so: a tinge of hot with a breeze of cool. Our goal was the Legion of Honor museum, where they had a exhibit about Degas and the millinery trade. I'm always happy to see impressionists. It indeed was pictures of men with hats and women with hats and exhibits with hats. We laughed long and hard at a woman (with hat) riding a geese-mobile, which is a poster I've seen before. We were less bemused by entire dead birds mounted upon hats. (In fact, K. seemed quite disturbed by them.) Overall, it was a nice exhibit, other than the avian corpses. Some nice works by Degas, Manet, and others. Some nice works by more representational artists in the same period. Some nice hats. I've decided that I should add a straw boater hat to my collection. It's such a long trip out to the Legion of Honor just to see a single exhibit that we'd hoped to then walk over to Golden Gate Park, enjoy the park, and stop in at a 'zine show there, but K. was unfortunately feeling sick by the time we were done, and so we passed.

The Hills (Monday). A holiday monday! But I didn't feel much need to wander further after two busy days. I did hike up above Clark Kerr after lunch and wrote and read for a short time on the hillside. But then it started raining! I had to put my computer and book away, but I didn't mind meandering a bit more in the warm rain. It disappeared all too quickly.

Streaming (Weekend). Over the holiday weekend, we also watched some shows on streaming: Orphan Black and 11.22.63. I've always had a somewhat uncomfortable relationship with streaming. The first streaming show we ever watched was Pirate Master, back in 2007, and it was horrible. It was a frustrating challenge to watch every episode because of constant, long pauses. Then we got a Roku, and its streaming of Netflix was really bad too. We've been OK with Netflix in more recent years, through our Tivo, but then we hit Orphan Black on BBC America this weekend, and it became obvious that streaming is still a poorly understood (and poorly programmed) art form. Not only did the show frequently pause, often losing images and even dialogue, but multiple times it also died out and restarted at the beginning. At least six times over the course of three episodes. Fortunately, we've got the rest of the season, from episode four up on the Tivo, and fortunately 11.22.63 has been doing better after some jerkiness in the first episode. But streaming: I don't get why people are so eager to use such a substandard delivery method. Netflix is literally the only streaming service I've ever used that was reliably good ... and even that was ruined when we tried to use it on the Roku, a device built for streaming!

(Tuesday). It has cooled at last.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not so much.

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

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

Not so much.

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

Ah well.

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

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

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

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

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

For now ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, we persevered.

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

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

And that was our anniversary.

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

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

Other stuff Kimberly and I have done lately.

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

And speaking of reading, we finished Assassin's Fate last night with a 2.5-hour marathon read, which concluded our massive 18-book read-aloud of the Robin Hobbs' 16-book Realm of the Elderling series. (We read two of the three newest books twice, once when they came out, and once as we were concluding the series, two or three years later.) It's our longest series ever to read-aloud (with the 11-book Gene Wolfe Sun series and the 10-book Roger Zelazny Amber series being next up, I think), and it's even more than that by page count, as the books tended to run 500-900 pages(!). Also a magnificent series, full of great characters, and sufficiently distant from the fantasy norm to be truly unique. We'll miss our Fitz and Fool reading, which has been part of our daily life since we started Fool's Assassin almost exactly three years ago. Whew

October 2017

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 91011 1213 14
15 16 17 18192021


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 19th, 2017 05:36 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios