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Shannon A.
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15th-Feb-2017 03:13 pm - Hawaii: We Return Home
On Monday we made our long trip home: Lihue to Kahului to Oakland.

Our trip out of Lihue was delayed by about 20 minutes, which would have been stressful as we had a short (1.5 hour) connection in Kahului, but we already knew that our flight out of Kahului was delayed by an hour, so no worries. It actually gave us enough time to sit down and eat lunch then sit down and read about 30 minutes worth of Golden Fool, our current read-aloud book.

The flight to Oakland was uneventful, though for the second flight in a row the *)(@#$@# in front of me put his seat back — and this on a flight where almost no one did. I hate those things, because then I have to put my seat back, and the result is still that I have my seat table almost jamming into my stomach and working on my computer is that much harder. Hate those things.

Lock all seat backs!

Still: 4 articles written, 1 article edited (so I could post it when I got home, for publication Tuesday morning), a full comic read (Extraordinary X-Men: Apocalypse Wars), and a book finished (The Hanging Tree).



After getting off the plane, my lower back was killing me. It only got worse on Tuesday, though it's since mostly cleared up, probably due to a steady diet of NSAIDS. I initially blamed the plane (and maybe those stupid reclinable seats), but after I wondered if it might have been the bike riding the previous day. The one other day I've had notable back problems in the last year was after I went bike riding in Kelowna. It could be that both of those bikes made me lean over more than my own bike does, and that contributed. I dunno. This time around I was also lugging around 40+ pounds of suitcase and doing the aforementioned awkward plane riding, so there were plenty of possible culprits.

(Stupid reclinable seats.)

Other than that, my health was quite good while I was in Kauai. My long-term health issues mostly disappeared (like last year), my allergies mostly disappeared (though less than usual, I still had a bit of a tickle in my throat for days).

This makes me all suspect that the health issues are mainly stress-related. I've actually long suspected that. (But other options include diet and how I work, since those both change in Hawaii too.)



I've been feeling pretty low-key since I got back from Hawaii. That's always the case. But I can already feel the stress bunching up my shoulders since my return.

My biggest stressor comes from worrying about future things that I have no (or little) control of. Will Skotos still be profitable a few years from now? Will my technical writing still be viable? Will I still have health insurance? There are always warning signs that any of these could be endangered ... and I don't know how to let go of these future possibilities. Or to judge their likelihood. Or to let the good possibilities weigh equally. (Perhaps we'll get our co-op play books to publishers, perhaps we'll get some game designs to market, perhaps we will start an RPGnet publishing arm, perhaps the insurance in Hawaii will be cheaper and better than the crap I get in California.)

My second biggest stressor comes from overwork. From having too many things pulling at my time simultaneously. I do my best to allot out individual days for individual projects, so that I can really work on them without spinning my tires and ensure that they get their fair share of time ... but it's a struggle, especially when someone grabs my time with a request for something immediately needing attention.

My third biggest stressor comes from the political world. It's probably related to the first, as there are all these horrible possibilities for the future (but I miss the good possibilities, like Trump might be locked up in jail for high treason). This was better in Hawaii, when I mostly ignored what my very political friends posted. Maybe I need to revert to that. But I also came to the realization that using FB's new :angry: emoticon was just making me angry, and that wasn't helping anyone. So, no more of that.

I'd like to be able to clear my mind and head of these things, to not think about them, to be aware of dangers but not consumed by them. It'd improve my quality of life.



And so we're back in Berkeley, and I'm almost immediately reminded of the things I don't like here. Crazy guy on the BART platform at the Coliseum. A string of broad daylight armed robberies inside Berkeley cafes. A March 4th neo-Nazi (the so-called alt-right) march that's likely to turn into another riot that the police won't control.

Yep.

I just need to dislike them without constantly harping on them.
12th-Feb-2017 09:35 pm - Hawaii Day Seven: We Lose Mary
At Poipu, my dad and I lose Mary. We wait for her, and when she doesn't turn up, we wander around, but don't see her on the beach. It's a huge and busy beach. Finally, we dive into the water and scope out the snorkelers, but there's still no Mary. We finally decide that she must be on the opposite side of the tumbolo (which is actually gone again, but there's still an underwater rocky division between the two beaches).

We cease worrying.

(Something I need to learn to do in life generally.)

The water is quite nice, thanks to a beautiful, warm day. There's good swimming, and I spot no less than three picasso triggerfish — although perhaps it's just one, and it's really quick on its fins.

Less wonderfully, I spot the tail of an eel rapidly disappearing into a hole in a rock. Afterward, I find all rocks at Poipu very suspicious.

(This is not the first time I've seen an eel in the relatively shallow waters of that beach.)

When we shower after the swimming, Mary magically reappears and offers to hold my towel. We'd been waiting at different places, and indeed she'd gone to swim on the opposite beach.



The other particular event of the day was McDonalds followed by church. The McDonalds is because my dad goes early to teach Sunday school. The church is fine. It's a nice community. The preacher talks about being aware of what we have in life and being thankful for it, which is a nice message if you include God or not.



And now we're mostly packed and ready to hop on an airplane in the morning. Two airplanes, actually.

And so goes another trip to Hawaii.
11th-Feb-2017 09:50 pm - Hawaii Day Six: We Hunt for Balls
Saturday evening, after dinner, we drive up to the Kukuiolono golf course, to walk around the entire greens. It's a beautiful walk, first through a wooded area, then around the perimeter of the course.

We also have a fun goal: we keep an eye out for lost golf balls on the way. Most are in the roughage around the perimeter. Mary is even willing to climb down into ravines to rescue a few balls. The greatest bounty comes on the far side of a particular hole, where you hit the ball over a big valley. We actually glance around the (heavily wooded) valley a bit, but most turn up just past the valley, in the roughage before the green.

By the end of the attractive evening walk I have eight balls, six white and two yellow. All told, my dad, Mary, and I have come up with 29, five of them yellow.

Kimberly will take them back to the golf course tomorrow to give away, mostly to tourists. (Locals have plenty of balls.)



Speaking of looking for balls, I'm highly amused by all the Republicans reportedly fleeing meetings with their constituents in recent days, since said constituents started figuring out that their elected representatives are conspiring to take away their health insurance as part of their Republican Death Care system.

The politician most in need of our 29 balls seems to be Mitch McConnell, who was loaded straight into a SUV on the tarmac to avoid protesters at the airport ... only to find more at his home, reading the words of Coretta Scott King.

Anywho ...



Our other big event of the day was bike riding. It rained throughout the morning, but the weather reports called for the rain fading away around noon, then the overcast dispersing over the next few hours. So after lunch we headed east to the Kauai Path.

Mary didn't join us, but my dad did, and Kimberly was able to use Mary's bike. So I was the only one who needed to rent. I did, and we then headed north up the path.

It's a beautiful path, running alongside the ocean. Kimberly and I rode it some years ago, and we greatly enjoyed it despite (perhaps in part because of) our getting soaked by a sudden rain storm. But today, the weather was indeed clearing.

The evidence of the earlier rain was still there in the form of several huge puddles, some mostly blocking the path, some deep red due to the red dirt of Kauai. I rode the deep red ones very slowly, to not splash indelible red water everywhere. Eventually we made it to trail's end. I mostly had to keep in first gear to keep my speed down so I could ride with everyone else.

As we came back we started getting very intermittent drizzle, but not much, and Kimberly commented that the ride though beautiful wasn't as much fun as when we got soaked years ago. At which time the rain started pouring down. And Kimberly started laughing. (My dad loved it less.)

When we got back to the bike store, we then travelled the south part of the trail, which we'd missed previously due to the pouring rain. (Today's rain had by then mostly stoppeagaind .)

We noticed some scruffy and dangerous looking homeless people pretty much camped out right at the bathrooms on the south side of the path, which was the only such problem I've ever seen in Kauai.

But they didn't run out into the path or anything, so we made it to the southern trailhead and back.

It was a fun ride. My dad and Mary do it most Saturdays, and probably Kimberly and I will sometimes do it when we live out here.
10th-Feb-2017 09:16 pm - Hawaii Day Five: We Laze About
Because a holiday in Hawaii is a regular occurrence, and because we hope to be moving here in a few years, we don't feel the need to fill every moment with experience. Not that we did in our first trip in 2001 either, which we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So today, after a few busy days, we mainly lazed around. We even opted not to swim because it looked too gray and windy. Instead there was much reading, some reading aloud, much talking, and some napping.

Yay, vacation.



My dad I did do a little walk around the golf course in the morning. It's a pleasant walk out around a path in the woods there, then out to a pavilion across the greenways. I'm already thinking about doing that forested walk in the mornings when I live here, after waking up and before starting work, because there's an entrance to that path about 100 feet from what will be our front door.



Being a Friday in Kauai meant that we went to the Hanapepe Art Walk in the evening. This is mainly an excuse to have some tasty food and tasty desert. Kimberly and I both got shrimp tacos from Rafael's Aloha Tacos then Tropical Banana Pie from the Right Slice. It was all great; the pies were particularly interesting because they were actually cut bananas in the pie (not as part of some custardy goulash) and there was also a lot of cinnamon. We both thought it tasted like it was prepared like apple pie, but it was bananas. We found it delicious.

And being a Hanapepe Art Walk, it started raining. Kimberly and Mary ran off to a jewelry store that she wanted to visit and my dad and I ran off to Talk Story, the westernmost book store in the US, which always has great stock.

We reunited some time afterward, none of us having purchased anything, but having enjoyed our evening.
Eat, eat, eat. That's what we do in Hawaii. Breakfast at home, lunch at Snack Shack, Lappert's ice cream for a snack, then a three course meal at J.O.(2).

The three-course meal was of course the notable one. We usually go out for one fancy meal when we're here in Hawaii. This year, Mary was excited to take Kimberly out to a nice fish restaurant in Kapa`a. I'm not a fan of fish, but I gamely agreed.

Mary suggested I could get a seafood platter, which I expect to be good stuff like shrimp and crab, but it was oysters ... and a bunch of fish.

Ah well. We actually had fun sharing dishes around, so I tried a bunch of different fish and didn't get bored by any as I usually do. The seared (i.e., mostly not cooked one) was the best.



The other big event of the day was getting to see the house in the morning. This is our house that we intend to move into in a few years, currently being rented out. I hadn't seen it in about six years, and back then (many Berkeley riots, assaulted trees, and other stressors ago) we weren't really planing on moving. So this time we were considering it more carefully as a future home.

The house was a bit of a mess and all closed up, so I don't think we could appreciate it fully. It actually seemed smaller than I expected, but I think that's because it was empty last time I saw it. (In reality, it's larger than our Berkeley house). But, we could better understand the shape of all the rooms and what it viscerally felt like.

Overall, it was somewhat of a mixed blessing, seeing the house in somewhat of a state of disarray, but that might be a nice contrast when we start it afresh when we move out here.



Other than that, we also swam today and did a bit of shopping in the Poipu area. The swimming was great because we were at Lawai, which has terrific fish. I saw a really cool wrasse (I think) with iridescent blue-green coloration and a rainbow tail, but I can't find a picture of it on Google. The shopping was just hitting a favorites. Poipu is our old stomping ground from our first trip to Hawaii 16 years ago.
Today, Kimberly was burned out after two busy days, so Mary and I decided to head out on our own to hike up Sleeping Giant. It's a hill out by Kapa`a that's just under 1300 feet.

Starting at a trail head to the west, we had a rapid ascent up the trail, but then the trail leveled out and if anything felt like it was going down. There was some quite beautiful terrain. A forest of pines. A path that went straight through a tunnel of twisted branches. A short walk down what looked like a creek bed. But I became pretty suspicious over the fact that we often seemed to be going down and that we were looping around the hill rather than going up.

A couple of miles later, past an outlook with a few picnic tables, we decide we were really certain that we were going down, so we turned around, and shortly after saw a sign that read .5 miles. Orienting ourself, we came to the conclusion that we'd walked about 2 miles, almost to the trail head on the east side.

So where was the top of the hill!?



Continuing back along the trail, we now saw a steady stream of quarter-mile markers (about ever quarter-mile), and I felt like we were definitely heading the right way.

Soon, some folks coming back told us the trail up to the top of the hill was at the 2 mile marker.

So, we continued along with more surety. And discovered it was now uphill all the way.

Twice, we passed people we'd seen earlier in our trip, and they were confused that we were headed in the wrong direction. We explained that we'd missed the trail up the hill.



So past the 2 mile mark was another one that said "end", and looking up from there we could barely make out a trail. Really, it looked more like two rows of perfectly aligned trees, but Mary thought it looked familiar, so up the tree boulevard went.

Soon afterward there was a more obvious path.

On the earlier trail, Mary had commented how easy the walk was, but here she said that she didn't remember this steepness. And it was steep. I've found one place that says it's an ascent of about 1000 feet in a bit over a mile from the entrance we came in. Me, I walk hills all the time, but I had to take some breaks.

Up near the top we started hitting large rocks, sometimes as high as 10 feet, that we had to climb up to continue.

And then, finally, we found some more picnics tables on a hill top. We rested there for a while!



But that wasn't the top. We now had to walk up to the chin of the Sleeping Giant. About halfway there we passed a sign that said "E d o ail!" and "go beyond this sign — please!" It had clearly been defaced and was clearly being ignored by absolutely everyone. We continued on after we climbed up one last rock we hit the chin.

The view there was absolutely breathtaking. You could see the ocean to one side and Wailua Homesteads to the other, one of the few places in Kauai where the houses really extend inland. It was also a bit acrophobia-inducing because you were sitting on a rock just several feet across and there was just drop beyond that on either side. Whew!

From there we walked along the face, which was a wider path, and eventually emerged up onto the forehead, which is a nice plateau at the top. More breathtaking views.



Then we just had to go down. It was a long way through switch back after switch back. I saw why they tired me on the way up.

Down past the tree boulevard we rejoined our old path and found it was quite a short walk to the trailhead we'd parked at. Whoops! (But, we enjoyed the whole walk!)



Lunch afterward at a Chinese restaurant in Lihue, then it was home for dinner.

After that there was Star Trek: Beyond, which had a nice plot, but even more actionitis that the other two nuStarTrek movies.



Number of falls: two (both well, well below the peak, when there was loose dirt)

Number of waterfalls: none

Number of explosions in Star Trek Beyond: one billion
7th-Feb-2017 06:49 pm - Hawaii Day Two: We Get Muddy
After breakfast and some R&R this morning, we headed out to the Moalepe Trail. Except, there was a detour to drop a check off with a handyman, and then no one knew what the trail name was. We were going to head all the way out to the highway, then back up into Kapaa via a known route, but I managed to figure out the name thanks to my Facebook albums from a few years ago.

We stopped at a bathroom in a park on the way (which I'd also sussed out from our previous travels and my handy iPhone), and were surprised to find that not only was it clean, but there were even bars of soaps there! My estimate was that a bar of soap would last in a California public bathroom for ... nope, already gone!

The trail itself was very nice. I'd walked it once before. It goes along a big green canyon, and then turns up and starts ascending into the hills by tree-covered paths. Kimberly and my dad decided to stop a bit before the end of the trail, but Mary and I continued on until we finally hit a bridge that's the "end" of the trail (and the start of another). There were even more beautiful views just past the bridge. (I could never decide if my dad and I had made it to the bridge the one time we walked this, but I definitely didn't see the big vistas on the other side.

We had lunch at Monaco's, a tasty Mexican restaurant, where I was shocked to discover I didn't have my billfold. That meant no Lactaid, but I was fortunately able to scrape the dairy sauce off my seafood tacos. (The billfold ended up being back at home, which was my top guess.)

We then needed to digest our food a bit before swimming, so we went out to Lydgate Park, and my dad walked us down to the "play bridge", on the opposite side of the park from the lagoon where our car was parked. It was the most amazing bridge ever. A huge, maze-like structure of inclines and stairs (and even a slide). Technically, it went over a little ravine, but it was obviously meant to be a fun structure in and of itself, not really a practical one.

Afterward we swam at the lagoon at Lydgate.

And that was our busy first day in Hawaii.

Need more sunscreen on my cheeks and forehead in future days. I got a bit red.

Animals seen: chickens, chicks, a mangy cat

Animals fed: chickens, chicks (sorry mangy cat!)

Mud height: mid calf
7th-Feb-2017 12:11 am - Hawaii Day One: We Uber and Fly
So we are back in Hawaii and have settled into the folks' house.

As you might guess, that made today our travel day.

Because of the chance of rain, I opted for us to Uber in, where we usually take BART. It made the morning much simpler, and was only slightly more expensive: $22 instead of $17. I did feel like we rushed out of the house, though.

We've done the trip so many times that it scarcely phases me. I think this is our 11th trip to the islands and our 9th since my folks moved here, but I could be off by a year too many.

The trip was longer than usual. It was planned to be 6 hours in the air due to strong headwinds, and then we seemed to circle Honolulu for half-an-hour, though I couldn't be sure because the clouds were so heavy that I couldn't see anything. In any case, we landed in Honolulu at about 1.50pm, which was about 40 minutes late.

The reason for our delayed landing soon became clear because the departure and arrival boards were just dripping with blood. Everything was delayed and marked in red. At least two flights to Lihue were waiting. We have to guess that the storm and/or wind was worse before we landed.

On the bright side, our favorite lunch place now has a new balcony out over the Chinese cultural garden, which was pleasant. (Especially when compared to last year, when it was all boarded up.)

Unshockingly, our flight out of Honolulu was running about half-an-hour late, then we sat on the tarmac for quite a while. But we eventually arrived in Lihue only about an hour late. No biggie; as I said, the trip scarcely phases me any more.

Books read during the trip and at airports: Assail (~100 pages), Golden Fool (aloud in airports, ~40 pages), Rivers of London: Night Witch, Uncanny X-Men: Superior — Apocalypse Wars.

History articles written at airports and on planes: five and a half.

Sleep on planes: remarkably, as much as an hour!
5th-Feb-2017 11:09 pm - Two Weeks Since the Inauguration
(1445 days left.)

After the election I spent a week or so freaking out about health-care, and what it meant for my future and our ability to move to Hawaii. I wasn't able to put it aside and not worry about it until I came to the conclusion that it was most likely that things would be OK in Hawaii because they had an HMSA before the ACA, and they'll probably have an HMSA after.

And then I pretty much tried to let go of the political fear, angst, and anger.

But Trump has made that impossible since his coronation. Every day there's been horrible stuff. I was right back stressing when I heard that he'd signed an executive order on day one determined to knock out the underpinnings of the ACA by telling the executive branch not to enforce it. And then there was of course the Muslim Ban. Lately the horribleness is almost farcical, like threatening to invade Mexico or hanging up on the Australian PM or signing an executive order to raise Nazi Stephen Bannon to godhood without knowing what he was doing. (He was reportedly angry about the last, but not enough to kick the Nazi to the curb.)

I dread looking at the news in the morning, but I don't know how not to, especially when this is stuff that's going to affect my life.

But I think I'm going to have to figure out how.



The last two weeks of work were very busy. I'd been so energetic and happy and working on projects for the first three weeks of the year, but then I had stress, stress, stress these last two weeks.

I initially diagnosed it as getting too much work in. And, there was a lot. For example I made four passes on a very technical white paper and I worked on some scripts and docs for Chris. All stuff that I hadn't been expecting. And I was trying to also get everything caught up and in good shape for my vacation.

But I think that was a misdiagnosis. The Trump evilness is what formed the foundation of my stress; an excess of jobs just built on it.



Last weekend I was supposed to start up my Burning Wheel game again, but I begged off because I was going out of my head with the thought of prepping and running it. Again, I misdiagnosed it as being solely work, but there's more going on.



Instead, last weekend ending up being quite relaxing. We'd had 4 or so days without rain, which has been a rarity this year, so I opted to hike up in the hills, which I haven't done to any great extent all year. It was a hike I've done before, though via a couple of variant trails: up Panoramic Hill, across the fire trails, along the skyline ridge trail, into Tilden, along the the ridge trails there, and then down, down, down until I get to a bus stop by Lake Anza.

It was a very pleasant walk because we've finally been hitting 60 degrees again. However, there was surprising amounts of damage from our recent storms. At least half-a-dozen big trees down, two of them blocking the trails. A couple of mud slides infringing upon the trail. Mostly non-muddy trails, except a few times were literal streams were running down the trail.

But great, relaxing, and badly needed.



Oh, and I didn't mention my other stressor of late: I've been having my ongoing annoying health issues again. They mostly had faded away during fall, but just before Christmas they picked back up again, and they've been quite annoying throughout January.

Dammit.

And quite bad this weekend in advance, of course, of our vacation.



I'm reluctant to visit doctors again, after the waste of time (and the pain) of way too many visits in 2016, trying (and failing) to figure this out.

But, I'll have new coverage in March with Kaiser (as an alternative to a $300! increase in insurance rates), so maybe when I do this year's physical, we'll talk.

But the doctors were so, so, so worthless in 2016 and so disruptive.



Calgon, take me away.
Yesterday night, Kimberly and I went to see The Importance of Being Earnest, put on by the Actors Ensemble of berkeley up at the Live Oak Theatre.

I think we've grown somewhat spoiled by our local community theaters, Berkeley Playhouse and Shotgun Players, because they've bother grown to be entirely professional companies. While the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley, it was ... well, amateur.

I was somewhat forewarned when we were sitting in the teenie lobby, waiting for them to open the doors. A couple of old folks were there running things, and they were talking about stuff like maybe they should think about running some ads (for the show ending in a week) and how they had just 16 pre-orders (thankfully, the small theatre ended up being more than half full).

Inside the theatre, the sets were OK. Kimberly says the costumes were generally badly fitting, though I scarcely noticed.

The play somewhat disturbingly started with one of the servants sitting on stage reading for 10 minutes. As the clock ticked to 8:10 for a show that was supposed to have started at 8:00, with the servant on stage the whole time, I began to wonder if we'd tricked into some performance art BS. Fortunately we then got started for real.

But the acting ...

The big problem was Lady Bracknell, and that's a pretty big problem in "The Importance of Being Earnest". She was constantly forgetting her lines, and the rest of the time she seemed like she was on the verge of forgetting them. There'd be a lag, and then she'd blurt it out, stomping all over the actual content of the line along the way. Which is a shame because Bracknell of course has many of the best lines in the play. But we really didn't to appreciate any of them (except a couple I appreciated because I knew they were coming). The program book said the actress has been in theatre for 40 years, and even did some Off-Broadway, so it makes me feel bad that she might be losing what she loves to do.

Chasuble meanwhile was horribly overacted. And I couldn't tell if he was also forgetting lines or if the big pauses and stutters were more bad overacting. Earnest (Jack) was wooden. But things improved from there. Prism was OK. Gwen and Cecily were good.

And Algie, he saved the play. The actor was quite good, and he has most of the other really good lines. And he was very amusingly (and appropriately) constantly eating. He sometimes used this to purposeful humor such as one line he gave that was largely muffled by what he was eating, but which had to have been intentional because Jack then repeats what he says. And this all led to the funniest moment of the play, when Algie was eating muffins and accidentally spit some of it back on himself. He seized the moment (and the ejected muffin bit) and thew it violently down in great agitation, and you could see that he was just barely containing laughter. And on he went.

As for the play itself: it's Oscar Wilde. The play really feels like an excuse for everyone to spend two hours exchanging witticisms. And, if it feels a bit unbelievable at first, you soon lose yourself in the cleverness.

So, a fun play, thanks largely to the writing and the Algie.

(This is just the second play we've seen at Live Oak Theatre, the first being Rough Crossing, in 2001.)
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