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Shannon A.
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15th-Aug-2014 10:35 pm - Shortbread Anniversary (& Others)
So this last Tuesday was the 14th anniversary of my and Kimberly's wedding. It used to be called the ivory anniversary, but that's no longer PC, so husbands give their wives shortbread cookies now. For those married less than 14 years: take note.

We had dinner out at Skate's on the Bay, which is located out on the Berkeley Marina. It's actually hanging out over the Bay, which means that it's going to be the first up against the wall when the Global Warming Revolution comes.

The staff was all very nice and attentive, and the sea food was good, but we were really paying for the view, and we definitely got that. Per our request (and we had reservations, of course), we got a window seat looking west. That means that as we ate we got to watch the sun slowly drop down through the sky, then behind the Marin Headlands. We really couldn't have asked for a much nicer day to watch the sun set. There were enough clouds about to paint the sky interesting colors, but not enough to block out the view. And having a day in Berkeley when we could still see the sky at 8pm is nothing short of miraculous.

Overall, it was a nice evening when we got to just relax and enjoy each others' company. Then we got to enjoy the fresh (but cold) air out on the Bay for about 5 minutes before the bus came and took us home. (Yeah, we took the bus to our nice anniversary dinner, and that's not the first time we have; last year it was a different bus to downtown Oakland, then a walk to Jack London Square.)

So that was our shortbread anniversary.

It was good to have some downtime because the week leading up to the shortbread anniversary was just exhausting for me. As I wrote last week my RPG history book, Designers & Dragons when live on Kickstarter the previous Monday.

I'd suspected it would be emotionally draining, but it was even moreso than I thought, plus there was the work figuring out stretch goals because the Kickstarter took off so spectacularly, plus there were questions to answer, plus a history to suddenly rewrite, plus, plus, plus ...


I could really tell how tired I was on Saturday. (After I ran an RPG session!) I got home and only then realized that my bike odometer/speedometer wasn't working. The fact that I hadn't paid attention to it the entire way home means that I really wasn't paying enough attention to be biking ...

So on Monday I went up to Lake Temescal and did some quiet writing there from dinner time until the sun went down, and then on Tuesday we had our anniversary, and then I did some gaming on Wednesday and Thursday. And between all of that I've destressed. The Kickstarter has revved down to its long-term burn, which helps, and we've probably figured out the stretch goals for where it's likely to run ...
6th-Aug-2014 11:25 pm - 12th Night
So I should admit that I'm not a big William Shakespeare fan. The plays are old enough that I find the language slightly impenetrable and so I have to constantly concentrate to hear what's being said, and even then some of it goes by.

With that said, the 12th Night being put on by the Shotgun Players (and just extended for another two or three weeks) is phenomenal. When they decided how to stage the show, they got pretty much everything right.

Great Set. They basically created a huge space with a wooden floor and wooden walls and a few other nuances. It gave the impression that there was no backstage and indeed everyone stayed on the stage all of the time. So you got to see characters react when they weren't on stage -- to initial discussions of them and also to events that later affected them. It also gave the whole play a personal, intimate feel, like you were watching a troupe of friends who were putting on a play for you.

Great Costumes. In particular, Olivia's household were all made out as bikers, which gave them a real dark and gritty feel.

Great Music. Did I say music? Yeah. That's what made the play really rock. Literally. A lot of the verse is set to song, with many of the actors frequently playing guitars. Some sonnets were used as musical interludes. The music had a lot of different textures, and really added to the play. Malvolio's speeches were mostly set like beat poetry, over his guitar playing, while other songs were clearly rock. An awesome heavy metal piece closed out the first half of the play. Overall, it was spectacular spectacular, with lots of guitar work, some piano, and tons of percussion -- much of it using the wooden floor and walls of the stage.

Great Actors. And there were great actors too. Almost everyone in the cast. Feste was a stupendous physical acrobat, while Viola and Olivia were both very talented singers, and their duet was one of the high points of the play. And Orsino was pretty terrific too ... and apparently was the music director too.

And it's a fun play too, with mistaken identity, gender confusion, and confused lovers.

So, overall a terrific, terrific evening of 17th century drama with 21st century sensibilities.

Though I find Shakespeare tough, I have seen a number of his plays performed. I was trying to figure out what they all were earlier today, and I think it's: King Lear (ACT, high school); Anthony & Cleopatra (Berkeley Rep); Much Ado About Nothing (Berkeley Rep); Romeo & Juliet (Shotgun Players, John Hinkel Park); Richard III (Royal Shakespeare Company, London, nosebleed seats); Troilus and Cressida (Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon); A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare in the Park); and now 12th Night (Shotgun Players). Might be missing some though. Some of the comedies blur together for me.
5th-Aug-2014 10:16 pm - Designers & Dragons Kickstarter
So Designers & Dragons, my RPG history book, went out to Kickstarter yesterday. It's here if you want to take a look.

I'd say it was a roller coaster of emotions, but really it's just been an emotional high. The Kickstarter is just 36 or so hours old, but it's done exceptionally well. We've had 1,000 people sign on to get the book in some form, raising $40,000 to date. Before things started yesterday, I was pretty confident that we were going to raise the $22,500 needed to fund all four books, but this has really been beyond my expectations. And we're just a day and a half into to a month-long marathon. In any case, I'm very grateful to all of our backers, and very happy that I've been able to build up a group of enthusiastic fans while I've been working on this project, and very grateful to Evil Hat who has clearly contributed many terrific fans of their own.

Of course Kickstarters have their most popular period in the first and last 48 hours, so I should remember not to get depressed when things slow down to a trickle over the next month. For now, though, I feel like I'm on a sugar-caffeine high -- and I haven't had either all day.

This is all particularly gratifying because I've been working on Designers & Dragons for almost a decade. That's a lot of my time and effort, plus emotional energy, gone into it. I started the project in 2005, writing about Imperium Games mainly because I wanted to figure out what had happened to them. Then I wrote more and started publishing some at RPGnet and then I got a publisher enthused about the project who unfortunately decided otherwise just as I was finishing up the book. Then after a year or two of burnout in response (one of my lowest points creatively, I must admit), I started working on an updated edition of the book that Mongoose published but with a print run that was a lot shorter than I'd hoped (somewhere in the 550-700 range; the book was released to the mass-market around Thanksgiving and out-of-print the next March, as I recall). And then after it went out of print, and I recovered my rights, I started talking with Evil Hat almost immediately about an edition that could go out further and to more people, as I'd imagined it. Another year and a half or so of solid work followed.

With absolutely nothing bad intended toward the previous two publishers I worked with, Evil Hat has put together the edition I'd always dreamed of. I think the division of the book into four decades is a brilliant idea that was partly or mostly thanks to Fred. The books use tons of art, like I'd always wanted them to. (At this point I've collected about 2,000 covers of RPG books.) And the editing on this new edition is strong.

And, as I said, the response on Kickstarter is gratifying. I've heard multiple people say that it's very enjoyable reading, and that's something that I've always prided myself in for my writing -- that it's casual and hopefully enjoyable -- but that hasn't always been appreciated.

So, good days. Though even the surplus of good emotions has left me a little emotionally drained ...
29th-Jul-2014 10:12 pm - Wipeout!
So the busy-ness has continued.

Two weeks back I got to take a couple of days off after my second (and final) dental appointment for the year and after completing the proofing of the '90s Designers & Dragons book, but then it was right back to more Designers & Dragons work. This time it was polishing the index for the '80s book. It's very tedious work of the sort that I can do, and that I can do well, but that I don't have a lot of patience for, and that I find exhausting. I spent about 13 hours over it over 9 evening and weekend days and was pretty exhausted when I was done.

I finished up on the index on Sunday (alongside editing 4 DnDclassics histories and polishing a Mechanics & Meeples article and writing the first draft of the first half of an article for WotC) and then yesterday evening I totally collapsed. From the time I got off work I did absolutely nothing worklike. I spent some time with Kimberly, played an iPhone video game for much of the evening, and then sat down and read a long graphic novel (The Infinity Gauntlet) cover-to-cover. It felt like a lost evening, which is a fine thing, and was clearly needed. Whew.

I've been thinking I should have a lost night each week.

Tonight I figured that I'd mostly relax, other than first-drafting a board game review. Except I started to receive the layouts for Designers & Dragons: The '00s to proof. Ah well. At least I'm not getting indexes and layouts at the same time!

So things remain a little too busy, but Designers & Dragons is coming along ... and soon enough my part in it will be done. Still pending (but none of it actually waiting for me yet): 6 more sections of layout for the '00s book (following the 2 I worked through tonight), index for the '90s, and index for the '00s.
14th-Jul-2014 08:03 pm - An Overly Busy Week
So the last 7 days have been overly busy.

The main culprit was Designers & Dragons. Over the course of the week I had to proof all of the second-draft laid-out pages for the '90s book. That would have been a fair amount of work in and of itself, but unfortunately our layout guy and I couldn't coordinate our schedules well, so I ended up doing the proofing on my busiest days of the week, which meant that on Wednesday and Thursday I was going over pages until midnight.

As a free bonus, I also got the proofed pages for the '00s book to go over on Friday night, so that was another late night of juggling priorities.

All of the document-checking wouldn't have been that big of a deal if it weren't a really busy week otherwise. I also had an RPG session to prep for on Friday night, an RPG session to run on Saturday, and a play to see on Sunday. Plus an article to finish for Hasbro over the weekend and at 1-3 histories to write for DnDClassics over the weekend, so. Yeah.

I marked today as the official end of my overly-busy week because I had a dentist appointment and an optometrist appointment scheduled today. And I figured after that, the world would be calmer.

The dentist appointment was the first in several years. (Bad me!) I'd had problems with my last dentist feeling like a bit of a dental-cultist, so I moved on but hadn't ever found a new one. But this year I was encouraged by K. getting out to the dentist and by me having some recurring pain in my jaw. So I got out there today and unsurprisingly there were big problems with tartar build-up (probably causing the pain) and unsurprisingly they had to do a deep cleaning. So I was at the dentist for two hours and I get part two tomorrow evening. Yay, me. So much for my busyness and stress ending today; ah well.

The optometrist appointment was like my 15th this year or something. Seriously. We still don't have glasses that work right and we've been trying since February. These newest glasses had distance and reading that didn't work in my left lens; however, once more I felt validated by scientific measurement: when the doctor measured my eyesight with the glasses they were off by half a diopter! (While when he measured my eyesight with his steampunk tools, he came up with the same measure he always had, so the problem continues to be the manufacture.) The reading glass measurement continued to confuse him because I generally see better everywhere but in the reading lens. I underlined very carefully that the reading glasses were the biggest problem for me at this point (because I still couldn't really work on a computer, though this 6th or 7th try was better than most). The whole glasses thing just fills me with major annoyance at this point and I generally put off visiting for a week at a time every time I need to go back in.

Despite the extra dentistry I'm still hoping things are quieting down now. I do have some DnD histories that I'd like to get written, to stay ahead of the game, but tomorrow night after my dentist appointment I've committed to just relaxing. I have an '80s index to work through for Designers & Dragons starting this weekend, and I've also got plenty of DnD histories to work on, and I need to get started on the next Hasbro article soon. But none of that should be quite as crazy-making, so things should be quieter any minute now ...
13th-Jul-2014 03:03 pm - Shrek the Musical
Saw Shrek the Musical at the Berkeley Playhouse today, and it was pretty terrific. I enjoyed the original movie when I saw it, but always found that it had two flaws: an overly obnoxious Donkey and too many flatulence jokes. Shrek the Musical was both less annoying and less flatulent.

(Did you see what I did? That was almost a flatulence joke?)

The Musical has a lot of the delightful elements of the movie: deconstructionist faerie tales, lots of faerie tale critters, messages about acceptance, and lots of humor. There were also fun references to books and faerie tales as well as some meta-commentary on the faerie tale genre.

However, The Musical also really nailed the music. Not only is there a lot of variety and lot of really upbeat fun, but the Musical also constantly references other Broadway shows. A few great songs from Rent were satirized in the Donkey's first song; "76 Trombones" (which we just saw in The Music Man) briefly blared up through a song late in the play; and the last lines of "Defying Gravity" (from Wicked) ended yet another song. Overall, the music was very strong, but the references just made it that much more fun.

I loved almost every song, and there were some terrific dancing numbers too. Among the great songs: Don't Let Me Go (Donkey, with the Rent asides), I Know It's Today (Fiona, a song lasting 20 years, sung consecutively by three actresses), What I'd Be (Shrek, about being a hero), I Think I Got You Beat (Shrek & Fiona, other than the fart-and-burp-contest ending), Freak Flag (the faerie tale cast, although disappointingly there was no flag run back and forth like there should have been), I'm a Believer (the whole cast, yes from the Monkees, with amazingly frenetic energy for a show ender).

Berkeley Playhouse's production was also pretty great. Great costumes and make-ups that generally raised the bar for what I've seen over the last few years; a curious flat set that was meant to look like a pop-up book and was a really interesting visual; and really terrific designs for the Dragon numbers.

I hold with my analysis that my favorite broadway shows are the recent ones (Rent, Wicked, Avenue Q, Seussical, and now Shrek). Overall, well recommended. Go see it at the Berkeley Playhouse before it ends in about three weeks. There were too many empty seats today!
6th-Jul-2014 11:30 pm - Go Fourth!
I spent a pleasant three-day holiday weekend mostly out in the sun.

On Friday I biked up to the Berkeley Rose Garden, which really isn't that far away, and spent much of the afternoon writing. The plan was then to have a nice Fourth of July dinner at Oscar's, but we discovered it was closed(!!). So K. and I have Cancún instead. Viva el cuarto!

The main goal of Friday was writing, but the main goal of Saturday was biking. I was a bit indecisive as to where, but finally settled on the Richmond Inner Harbor. There's really beautiful trail around the Bay from Point Isabel to the Harbor, and I rode it all. My total by the time I got home would be 21 miles. I also (unsurprisingly) did some writing out at the Harbor.

As is often the case when I go toward Richmond, I was annoyed by the gaps in the Richmond Greenway and researched if anything was being done with them. The huge gap in the middle has apparently made it onto a five biggest biking gaps list</i>, and I agree; the gap in the connection to the Ohlone Greenway was apparently last talked about in 2010, and sadly no longer includes a cool bridge over San Pablo, per the original plan. The last two times I was on the Richmond Greenway, the eastern half was heavily filled with dog feces then the end was partially blocked by immigrant workers who hang out around the Taco Bell (which is next to a Home Depot where immigrant workers are picked up). If Richmond doesn't get off its butt soon and finish the trail, the eastern half is going to fall into disrepair like the unfinished Wildcat Creek Trail in San Pablo, dead before it's done.

Anywho ...

Today K. and I were supposed to go out to Alameda to a hamburger place and then around San Leandro Bay, but she ended having too bad of a headache, so we didn't. (Ironically, I plotted out the trip years ago, but something prevented it at that time too.) Instead we largely stayed home, other than a trip out at dinner to eat Subway and watch dogs. One dog with a squeaky toy was very enthusiastic in his bounding and squeaking.

As you might have guessed, over the course of the entire weekend there was much writing: five DnDClassics histories, half of an article for Hasbro, some updating of Designers & Dragons: The '00s, polishing of a Mechanics & Meeples article, and lots of editing. I'd been somewhat stressed about the number of things on my TODO list at the start of the weekend, but I ended up getting it all done in good time. So, despite not being a totally work-free weekend like I did two weeks ago, it was a pretty relaxing weekend with lots of biking and sun and writing and reading too.

But two failures to hamburger (or chicken sandwich with fries, as the case might be). I may have to fix that at lunch tomorrow.
6th-Jul-2014 02:25 pm - The Great Skotos Machine Move
So when the new year dawned, I came to the conclusion that there needed to be some changes at Skotos and I made a list of them. #5 on my list was to move all of the Skotos machines. There were two possibilities for how to do this: finding a new colo facility and moving the machines to the cloud, and the latter possibility was super-intimidating because it meant rebuilding our entire fleet of machines from scratch. So I made that my last priority and dove into everything else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the move being done and the Skotos retrofits being done, everything is looking good at the moment on the work side of my life, which makes me calm and happy.
28th-Jun-2014 10:35 pm - Day in San Francisco
Kimberly's mom and brother have been in town since Thursday. I didn't see them on Thursday because they were headed to bed before I was off work, and on Friday I just saw them for dinner, but today we headed out to San Francisco.

We took BART and hopped on to the F once we got into The City. It runs along the Embarcadero and would have been a nice ride other than the fact that it was entirely, totally, grossly jammed. With tourists, one guesses. On the bright side, I did get to admire the shiny new(ish) green-painted bike lanes on parts of Embarcadero. It's been a long time since I've biked out there and today's trip made me want to do so again!

We hopped off at Pier 39, which I haven't been to in huge spans of time. No great loss. But we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, then Kimberly and I lazed around while the in-laws played some zombie-killing "7-D" game, then toured shops on the Pier. I took in the views of the Bay for a while, which are beautiful (except the sea lions have been missing for a week again; there were many tourists looking at the entirely empty sea lion area, with a lot of confusion on their faces!), then K. and I laid out in one of the main plazas for a while. Surprisingly pleasant.

After a brief stop in the Museum Mécanique over at Pier 45 (which sucked much less than when I went there years ago, in part because it's now actually filled with machines and people) we then went to Johnny Rocket's. This was part of food craziness: apparently the in-laws don't really eat lunch, and no one told K. and me this, so we got hungry and had to eat around noon, then hours later they had to have a little something -- which was really a full meal, but at 3pm or something. Anywho, K. and I had ice cream and stole fries at this second lunch (and ended up not eating dinner).

The trip had been slightly stressful for various reasons, so K. and I were happy to end it with a trip to Ghiradelli. She got her favorite (malted milk balls) and I got my favorite (non pareils) and we each picked up a fancy Ghiradelli chocolate bar that we hadn't seen elsewhere (mine was dark chocolate with cherries and almonds and was quite good).

Our plan was then to bus back to the Civic Center, with the hope that this would allow us to actually get seats on BART heading back to the East Bay, despite Pride events in the City this weekend. Good plan, with one problem: the bus didn't actually go to BART today due to Pride events, and so we had to hop off a few blocks early, walk through the Tenderloin and then fight with crowds of Priders. Fortunately, Pride seemed to have mainly cleaned out the scumminess of the Tenderloin, and the Pride crowds were big but not we-can't-get-through-big. And there were lots of women in bikinis, presumably because today was the dyke march. Yay, Pride.

(Generally, it was nice to see a bit of Pride, and K. and I even showed off our Straight Ally-hood with some nice rainbow shoelaces that she had. As I told her, I really need to get at least one piece of rainbow clothing of my own!)

And the BART plan paid out because we were able to sit at Civic Center and by the time we got to Embarcadero, we would not have been able to.

We've now dropped the in-laws off, and our part of the visit is over as they're leaving early in the morning. As I said, there were some stressors, but I was able to keep my Zen and not spoil the hard-won calm from my recent vacation. The only downside is that I didn't get a nice bike ride this weekend, as Friday night and today were busy and tomorrow I'll have groceries, writing, and other catch-up.

Ah well, the fourth is coming up!
22nd-Jun-2014 10:12 pm - Mini-Vacation
So, 2014 has been a stressful year. Much of that was Skotos, which needed to be revamped in several ways, and part of that was K's health problems, especially the cataracts and the headaches.

Well, 6 months later those issues are largely resolved. Kimberly has shiny new eyes and new reading glasses on the way and hopefully the headaches are phasing out. And the Skotos revamp is mostly done. To be precise I mostly finished the sixth and final element in my master plan last week, which was the movement of the whole company to the cloud. (Chris and I still need to remove the physical hardware from our ex-colo, but that's just a little bit of non-stressful drudgery.)

So, in honor of that, and to try and get my groove back and destress, I took last Thursday and Friday off. But, more than that I entirely swore off work for four days (not even any of my free time writing!), so I've had a mini-vacation with no obligations.

When you're constantly working, it's a little hard to fill the time without having things to do. I basically read, watched a little TV, and did some bike riding.

The books: The Black Book, by Ian Rankin (5th Rebus book, a good read); Blackout, by Connie Willis (time travel / WWII, very enjoyable with the other book in the sequence expected in the mail tomorrow); "Summer Falls", by "Amelia Pond" (enjoyable pseudo-Doctor Who story); and the end of Stonewielder, by Ian Esslemont (fantasy Malazan, not as good as Erikson's Malazan).

There were several different comics, including two large anthology collections: Archer & Armstrong Deluxe Volume 1 (very enjoyable buddy/superhero/comedy) and DMZ Deluxe Volume 2 (very enjoyable near-future warfare/political commentary.

On Thursday & Friday I did some minor bike riding, up to the Shepherd Canyon Trail the first day and up to Codornices Park the second day. However my major bike-riding was a trip out to Pittsburg / Bay Point on Saturday. I've long gazed at two long bike trails in the area: the Delta de Anza Trial and Marsh Creek Trail, which together are supposed to encompass a total of 26 miles of trail, and so I finally decided to explore them on a long weekend when I had no obligations.

I did enjoy the ride; I always enjoy exploring new places. However, I was also somewhat disappointed by the trails (and the locale in general).

The trip started out in Pittsburg, which was generally more run-down than I expected. The trail itself was poorly designed, full of jogs left and right and also some pretty dramatic ups and downs, which altogether make it a poor transit trail. It was also a "brown way" rather than a "green way", full of dying brown shrub with nary a tree to be seen.

When you hit Antioch, things improve somewhat. Before that you could occasionally see a nice canal trail, but rather mysteriously it was all fenced off. But in Antioch the Delta de Anza trail was allowed to merge onto the canal trail. It was all still brown, but you had a nice waterway and the trail became straight (if still somewhat meandering as it followed the canal). The whole area was also obviously more affluent.

I eventually left the trail at a big discontinuity that occurs at Deer Valley Road. I got lunch there (having been on the trails for close to two hours by then, and afterward decided to take a more direct route to the Big Break Regional Shoreline, traveling roads through the rest of Antioch and into Oakley (which was incorporated just 15 years ago!).

Again, I was somewhat disappointed on arriving at Big Break. For being a regional shoreline, you barely get to see the water (the delta). At the entrance to the park you can get to the water, but then you're passing by greenery and tract homes (and brownery) and you only get a very distant view of the water again when you reach the end of Big Break. It was pretty shocking after all the nice parks I've been to near the Bay. The end of the Big Break pathway should have led me to the Marsh Creek Path which I then could have taken (more or less) to the end of the Delta de Anza path ... but I discovered the Marsh Creek Path was closed June-October 2014. Talk about bad timing for a trip out that far! But, it was honestly just as well because the back-end of Big Break was a full 16 miles from the BART station, so I'd already traveled far and had a long trip back.

On the way back I opted to take the road that was closest to Suisun Bay, and again was surprised by the area's lack of attention to the wildlife surrounding it. I'm not sure I saw the Bay the whole time, because the main road is set back from the water quite a bit, and refineries and other industrial crap have been allowed to take up the space in between.

Things I did see while in Eastern CoCoCo: lots of broken glass (particularly on the Pittsburg trails); a disturbing amount of road kill (particularly on the Antioch roads); lots of dead, brown plans; and some good quality pathways.

Like I said, I enjoyed the exploration (and a total of 43 miles of riding!), but there was absolutely nothing that made me want to go back to the places I explored in Eastern CoCoCo. Except maybe the three Taco Bells I passed in my trip.

I was a bit puzzled how I might ever get to explore the Marsh Creek Trail that I missed this time, since it's so far from BART, but it turns out that the Eastern CoCoCo BART extension is currently under construction (though in a totally stupid way involving lower quality trains that people will have to transfer to east of Pittsburg). So, come 2016 or 2017 (the date's been slipping), I can take another trip to 10 miles east of Pittsburg, which will put me on the Delta de Anza Trail around where I left it yesterday. (And just a few miles from Marsh Creek)

So, am I relaxed after four days of mini-vacation? I'm not sure. I'm certainly eager to get back to my projects like Designers & Dragons and DnDClassics and such.

And hopefully I'll discover that my four days off have had a beneficial effect as I move forward.
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