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Shannon A.
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12th-Apr-2017 11:30 am - I AM LEAVING LIVEJOURNAL
politics
Because of their new fascist and censorious policies that are pro-Putin and anti-LGBT, I am leaving Livejournal.

I hope you'll join and refriend me over at Dreamwidth, which is neither anti-LGBT nor supportive of a monstrous state:

https://shannon-a.dreamwidth.org/
1st-Apr-2017 08:05 pm - In Which I Fail to Get a Sandwich
This morning I awoke with the plan to get a sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff and carry it into the hills with me. I was going to eat by the Steam Trains in Tilden and hoped to make it all the way to Wildcat Canyon Park before I dropped down off the ridge and circled back to Tilden to catch a bus back.

But, plans, contacts, the enemy, and all that.



Cheese 'n Stuff was closed in honor of April 1.

And huge swaths of Southside don't open before 11am. Because students are usually too hungover to be out and about before 11am on Saturday.

No worries, I recently identified Montague's Gourmet Sandwiches as a possible sandwich backup. I had to wait 30 minutes, but I figured the courtyard of the dorms right next door would be safe enough for me to work on my computer without getting mugged. (Results: marginal; I had a skeevy guy sit down about five feet from me, play with his headphones for a while, then leave when it was obvious I was keeping an eye on him.)

Montague's had no bread. Maybe at 11.30, they said. But it was obvious it was a maybe.

No worries, IB Hoagies isn't as good as a cold sandwich for packing up into the hills, but acceptable.

IB Hoagie's was closed with no explanation as to why, though it was by now 10 or 15 minutes past their 11am opening.

I vaguely considered getting a low-quality sandwich at Subway, but the one right next to campus seems to be price gouging students with higher prices than the one just several blocks further south. And I wasn't going to overpay for a low-quality sandwich.

So, Taco Bell it was. And by noon, when I thought I was going to be up at the Steam Trains, I was instead still ascending Panoramic Hill.



The problem, I suspect is that southside is just too dependent on students. And it's Spring Break. So, some of the stores just didn't bother to open, and Montague's had their bread order all messed up because they'd been closed earlier in the week.



With that all said, the hills were entirely beautiful. It's flower season. They're in full bloom and just covering the hills, which were yellow, red, purple, and gold. It was gorgeous.

It was also a rare clear day where you could mostly see the City, the Golden Gate, and the Marin headlands.

And warm! Wonderfully warm!



I made it from South Berkeley, up to the Steam Trains, over to Inspiration Point, then about a mile and a half up Nimitz Way, before I decided to drop down to the Tilden Nature Area.

But it was one of those days I could have walked forever.

(I actually walked about 13 miles.)
27th-Mar-2017 01:50 pm - In Which We Plan to Move to Hawaii
For years, K. and I have been back and forth about the possibility of retiring to Hawaii. But in late 2015, we decided that one way or another we were done with Berkeley.

Maybe (probably) we're just getting old and crotchety. But the kids these days, they got no respect. Actually, I think that an increasing percentage of the student body at Cal is more studious and quiet, but the ones who aren't seem to be getting louder, less respectful, and more over-privileged. Years ago, we moved out bedroom to the back of the house because of all the street noise, mostly loud, drunk kids. But for me the breaking point was some drunk kid trying to kill one of the trees that I raised from a pup.

Anywho, I've written about that all previously. The end result was that we started talking about moving somewhere that was not Berkeley. We were considering as close as Contra Costa, over the hills, and as faraway as the UK. It was going to be a stop before we considered retiring to Hawaii down the road.



But in 2016, K. and I went to Hawaii for our usual yearly vacation and visit with family, and when we got back, she said that she could imagine moving there.

So the four-year plan began.

We tentatively began to think about moving to Hawaii in 2020. Not retiring, but continuing to work from our little Pacific island. (The idea is that I'll stay with Skotos and/or Blockstream, as pretty much all my work is remote anyway.)



Why four years?

There were a bunch of factors.

One involved a planned vacation to the UK that we've since decided was too expensive in advance of an expensive move.

There were other financial reasons too. I wanted to be sure that we weren't in Hawaii for too long before our budget loosened up due to houses being paid off. So that if I did have problems with my income, or our costs were higher than expected out there, there was an end-point after which we could refigure.

And finally, I wasn't quite ready to give up the Bay Area. A few years advance gave us the time to go see and do the things we wanted to. Like this year's Mt. Diablo project.



But, we both genuinely feel like we're on the path to Kauai at this point.

I figure that my current Burning Wheel campaign is my last RPG campaign, at least here in the Bay Area, and so I'm working to make it a good one, with a four-year plan of its own.

We've stopped worrying about improving the house with things like new windows and bathrooms and are instead thinking about things-that-need-to-be-done-before-we-move. (Up in the air: do we rent the house or do we sell it and get some rental property in Hawaii that doesn't have a mortgage.)

I've actually got a few Hawaii-related things on my TODO list already, starting with getting blood tests for the cats in early 2018. Less than a year away now.

Humorously, I'm also trying to manage my book to-read list based on our Hawaii plans, which had contained about 100 books last year, many of which I planned to get from the good local libraries. I managed to drop it to 75 in 2016, and want to continue down to 65 in 2017. A couple of Bay Area detective series are the most troublesome, because I have dozens left in each, but only the next one of each is on my list.

More generally, we're now categorizing things into whether they'll happen before we leave or not. I should be able to bike to Marin before we leave (2018?) and I should be able to BART to Berryessa (2018?). But BARTing to San Jose or biking to San Francisco both disappeared over the not-for-us horizon. I similarly shrugged my shoulders at the purist progressives who got elected to the Berkeley council last year: they will probably make the horrible homeless situation in Berkeley even worse, but it's unlikely that a truly good mayor would have made it better in our last few years here.



So, Hawaii here we come. Eventually.
The birthday festivities began yesterday. Well, not really. But, on my birthday's eve we have workers at the house all day. Plumbers spent about four hours taking out our old main stack from the second floor and installing a new one, then roofers spent another hour or so patching up the roof and rewaterproofing everything.

Seems to have all worked. (Fingers crossed.)

The big problem, as usual, was shoddy past work done on the house. At some point, running water got put in the house and for whatever reason both of the sewage pipes were put through the garage. Which is stupid, but this house is really tight on our lot, so it might have been required. And at some point plaster or stucco or something got mostly wrapped around the pipe in the garage that came down from the second floor. Which probably was not required and always looked ugly. So before the plumbers could take it out, they had to hammer the stony pipe covering away. It was a big pain, and shockingly looks much nicer now.

Still, total damage of something less than $2,000 to us, I think. We have the money, but it was intended to pay property tax in a few weeks. (We'll just have to sell a little stock, to pay various taxes, but I'd hoped to avoid that this year.)



Today was my birthday outing. I took the day off work, which I sometimes do for my birthday (particularly when it's weekend-adjacent).

K. and I were up bright and early and we went out to Cheese and Stuff to pick up sandwiches and chips and desert. We then long-hauled those out to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, out by Land's End in SF. It's always a long trip, since it's way in the back corner of SF.

It was raining the whole time, but the peristyle at the entryway has covered walkways to the sides. For some reason, every one enters the museum through the courtyard or the righthand walkway, avoiding the lefthand one like it's the plague. So, we were able to sit there, out of the rain, and eat our sandwiches.

Then it was into the Palace. We had almost 45 minutes before our viewing of the Monet exhibit, so we quickly walked around to our favorite exhibits: the Impressionist room, at the end of one of the arms of the museum and the Rodin sculptures in some of the center rooms. We also saw one of the visiting exhibits, a teeny room of art about letters, which K. and I both had a lot of fun with.

However, our purpose in going to the museum today was to see "Monet: The Early Years", and it was awesome. It contains about 40 paintings from 1858-1872, which means that we saw some of his pre-impressionist pieces (but most were trending toward impressionism). It was amazing to see him working in such a realistic style. But what I found particularly interesting was that by 1865 or so, he was varying between clearly realistic work and impressionistic work, apparently based on audience (and whether something was a "sketch" or finished piece).

The art was all beautiful. Some of it we'd seen before at the series of great impressionist exhibits that we got in several years ago. A lot more was new. We got to enjoy the Magpie again (and realized how faded K.'s print has gotten) and many more. The descriptions of the artwork were also written very well, with lots of discussions of Monet's technique and his character, all of which was intriguing.

I was thrilled to see another big (mostly) impressionist exhibit while we're still here in the Bay Area.

And now we have a year's membership to the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the deYoung, since the tickets for the Monet exhibit were almost the same price as a membership. I already know another exhibit we want to see, which is on the Summer of Love, showing up at the DeYoung in just a few weeks (and staying through the summer). The great thing about the membership is that we can go and have a day in the Park, and just stop by the museum to visit that, without feeling that we're "wasting our money" or something.



We headed home afterward. Hanging out in a cafe for a while, we worked on our current read-aloud book, Fool's Fate, and then were enticed to eat dinner there too. After we got home, K. played a two-player game with me (Saboteur: The Duel) in large part so I could review it, then we watched the first episode of Legion.

Reviews: Fool's Fate (excellent), PIQ Berkeley sandwiches (very good), Saboteur: The Duel (ok), and Legion ep 1 (very intriguing, but I feel like we just got to the premise.
Yeah, I'm a workaholic — or at least an accomplishmentaholic. You can tell because I even set goals for my leisure activities.

So this year I want to spend some time out at Mt. Diablo, to hike around and really explore the area. I got a big map from the folks at Save Mount Diablo to help.



I went out to Mt. Diablo for the first time on Saturday. Or, rather, I went to one of the connected parks. There are many of them. I chose the park closest in to downtown Walnut Creek, Howe Homestead Park, which reaches quite a ways into Walnut Creek itself.

Howe Homestead Park is a little bit of nothing. There's a grassy area with a few picnic tables and a bathroom. And oddly a barn. Not particularly attractive, not particularly well-used. I ate lunch at one of the picnic tables, a sandwich I'd brought over from Berkeley.

From there it was up some very poorly maintained paths that had weeds growing into them all over. The worst was when the weeds were spiny thistly things. Even stepping carefully, I had them stabbing at me. These initial paths were all on a narrow, wavering strip of land that connected Howe to actual park I was heading for.

But eventually the so-called Kovar Trail brought me into Shell Ridge Open Space.



Shell Ridge is one of three major parks that are to the northwest of Mt. Diablo itself. There's Shell Ridge, which directly adjoins Diablo Foothills to the south of it, and then somewhat further northeast there's Lime Ridge.

The further I got into Shell Ridge, the cooler it was. Pretty soon I was surrounded entirely by green, rolling hills. I felt like I was in the shire or something as I walked the narrow paths between the relatively sparse trees in the middle of green greenery.

Every once in a while, I'd turn a hill and suddenly a big brown lake would be in front of me. They were like hidden little gems ... despite the signs that warned the water wasn't fit for humans or their pets.

Parts of the park were quite deserted, particularly when I hit its easternmost edge. But there were people along the ridges and in the west. I heard hikers complaining about bicyclists destroying the path ("Look at those tire marks! Right there in the mud!") and I heard bicyclists complaining about cows destroying the path ("Look at that trench, you'd think a tank or something made it, but it was a cow.") [One presumes he spies on cows at night to be sure.] And, yeah, some of the paths were a mess. I imagine the cows sitting around, blaming the hawks ("Look at those holes! Those darned birds fly down and root around!").

It was gray when I started, but the sky had gotten blue by afternoon and I was increasingly aware of how exposed all of the trails were. I was hot, worn-out, and thirsty by the time I did the last huge climb up and down a ridge-line trail. (Note to self: bring more than one water bottle.)

When I looked at my Save Mount Diablo map afterward I was shocked by how teeny of a bit of ground I'd covered on the huge map. Apparently my work is really cut out for me in exploring the Mount Diablo area this spring (at least until it gets too hot over the hills.)

Paths I walked were: Kovar Trail, Fossil Hill Loop Trail, Briones-Mt Diablo Regional Trail, Corral Spring Trail, Deer Lake Trail, Upper Buck Loop Trail, Lower Buck Loop Trail, Costanoan Trail, Sulfur Creek Trail, Costanoan Trail, Ginder Gap Trail, Briones-Mt Diablo Regional Trail, Indian Creek Trail, Fossil Hill Loop Trail, Summit Ridge Trail, and Kovar Trail. I was out for about 3.5 hours and covered about 8 miles. A little bit on the slow side, but there were hills and sun.

The Save Mount Diablo map was a godsend, as there were no maps available at the park and Google Maps was almost entirely useless for paths in the park. Heck, the Save Mount Diablo map didn't even have all of them, but it had enough to figure out where I was. Mostly.



Meanwhile, back at home, we have ... more leaks.

No, seriously, like the third different leaks this year. Water was coming down the walls of our garage from the bathroom above. We had a plumber out on Thursday and he confirmed that our cast-iron main stack coming down the wall has split. It goes down our wall and into our garage through the roof. Pro tip: don't build your sewage lines through your garage.

Yeah. So.

The plumber and a friend are coming back on Thursday morning to replace a good chunk of the main stack. Then a roofer is coming out Thursday afternoon to at least try and protect the roof that's going to be cut apart around the pipe. Then rain is coming in Thursday night.

That's going to set us back at least a few thousand, just when I had shored up some cash for property and income tax in April.

Yeah. So.



Oh, and leak #2 for the year is back. That's the downstairs bathroom leak that we've been fighting with for at least six months. I thought our grouter in January had done a crap job, and sure enough the grout is already starting to wash away and we've got damp in our crawl space under that bathroom again.



Friday is my birthday. K. and I are planning to go see a Monet exhibit in the City. Hopefully circumstances will allow us to do so.
K. and I saw our newest musical at the Berkeley Playhouse today, Billy Elliot: The Musical. It was most excellent, and a good panacea to mediocre plays of late.

The well-known story (based on the film) is of a boy who wants to become a ballet dancer, in a '80s mining town, where it was even more taboo. However that '80s date is also key, because it's right at the heart of Margaret Thatcher's dismemberment of England and in fact the story is set during a mining strike.

And personally, it was that historical story that really touched me. Of people losing their way of life*. But it wasn't just about livelihood, it was about community. This mining village was truly a family, and many of the songs that touched me most ("The Stars Look Down", "Solidarity", "Once We Were Kings") focused on that.

However, it was also hard not to be touched by the pathos at the heart of many of these peoples' lives, and their stern determination to forge on (for example: "Grandma's Song", "Mum's Letter", and "Deep into the Ground").

It was really a beautiful distillation of a whole way of life.

Yes, Billy's story was touching too. Yes, the dancing was beautiful.

Oh, and I loved some of the staging too (which I expect comes right from the script). Billy learning to dance as police and miners play hide and seek, sometimes dancing on their own (that's in "Solidarity") and Billy dancing with his older self ("Swan Lake"). Beautiful.

Overall, my favorite Berkeley Playhouse play in a while. And 20 days left if you're in Berkeley and want to see it.

* Your political assignment for the week is to compare and contrast the miners of Durham with the blue collar workers of the Rust Belt, both losing their way of life, one turning to each other, the others to Donald Trump.
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.
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