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Shannon A.
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11th-Nov-2015 11:17 pm - The Rover, by Aphra Behn
Tonight we saw The Rover at Shotgun Players, which is a pretty cool piece of theatre because it was written by the first (known) professional female playwright, about 80 years after Shakespeare.

I will now speak heretically: I've never been a great fan of Shakespeare. The dialogue is the big problem, because I have troubles understanding it, but it also rarely catches my interest. (I'm more interested in his historical plays — and in fact am fond of Julius Caesar and some of the Henry and Richards — less interested in his comedies, though last year's staging of Twelfth Night at Shotgun, which was spectacular, certainly showed me I could be won over.)

Anywho, I could clearly see the connections between Shakespeare and Behn (who was a fan of the Bard). Her The Rover was another comedy of romance where the characters have obstacles put in their way, but eventually pair up. It was the story of a young rake, tamed by an even more rakish woman. It had language that was hard to understand, but not quite as hard as Shakespeare. However, it also had elements of its own. There was threat of sexual violence and some serious gender politics, neither of which I'd expect from your typical Shakespeare.

I enjoyed it. Not jumping out of my seat applauding, but it was a fun play, occasionally funny, and occasionally uncomfortable. It had a great Act IV (or so) where we quickly intercut through characters as they intersected while running across the city of Naples. (And I love that sort of thing.)

The most interesting bit was (unsurprisingly) the role of woman. There were four different women in the play, and to a large extent, they were all masters of their own fate — choosing their men and choosing their destinies. The one who talked the best game (the courtesan) fell the hardest, and the one who initially seemed the most controlled (the would-be nun) proved the strongest. Like I said, gender politics. And I expect some pretty shocking ones for 1677.

Interesting and wroth seeing.
6th-Nov-2015 11:57 pm - Screw Our Balkanized Health System
I've been a bit under the weather the last two and a half weeks. I had some sort of nuisance infection or inflammation or something that's been a regular irritant to me and driving me a little batty.

Problem #1. My GP closed up shop several months ago. I knew I should get a new GP because our health system is so screwed up, but I put it off because I didn't have an immediate need to see one. So a week and a half ago, after I'd already been feeling subpar for a week, I got off my butt, found a new GP, and made a first appointment. But as is the case for most doctors, they put an obstacle in the way of new patients. So my appointment was scheduled for three or four weeks out.

Problem #2. Urgent Care is the answer, you say? Sure. Except my BlueShield health plan sucks rocks for Urgent Care. I was actually on the exchange last year and the Urgent Care sucked, so I went to a lot of trouble to get an equivalent non-exchange health plan this year, because the broker I used to use for insurance said the non-exchange plans typically had better doctor list than the exchange plans, even though they were equivalent plans. Because. Well, I finally looked up the urgent care for my new plan in recent weeks ... and it sucked exactly as bad.

What do I mean by suck? I can only find two Urgent Cares when I search on their site. One was 15 miles away in Marin, which is the uncivilized backwood of the Bay Area (mostly because BART doesn't run there), while the other was 81 miles away in Sacramento. It looked to me like they might as well be on the moon.

But after a particularly bad morning this Monday, I decided maybe I would look into the Marin urgent care after all. So after two days at the Web of Trust designshop, and one day catching up as a result, today I got myself going a bit after nine.

It turns out that it's not too horrible to get to the backwoods. You just take a 40/42 bus from the El Cerrito del Norte BART and 30 minutes later you're across the Richmond Bridge in San Rafael. Mind you, the Urgent Care was 3 miles south of that, past Larkspur, in Corte Madera. But I was able to bring my bike, and the path in that direction looked pretty good. (It was.) Of course the whole bringing the bike across the bridge thing is a crapshoot, because the buses only have space for three, but that's better than most buses that only have space for two. (On the way there, all three spots were filled, on the way back, I was the only bike.)

About thirty-five or forty minutes after landing in San Rafael, I landed at the Urgent Care in Corte Madera (with the extra time spent due to inaccuracies in Google Maps, which doesn't seem to believe in bike trails that are overpasses, and in figuring out where to go on trails that don't all connect yet).

And upon arriving at the Urgent Care, I heard, "No, we don't do Urgent Care for your PPO plan." When I expressed disbelief, they said, "Yeah, we've been getting a lot of people in with this problem; we're trying to get on the network." Apparently the confusion is caused because they do chiropractic work for the plan, or something moronic like that.

I managed not to slam the door on my way out, but just barely. Understand, it was about two and a half hours after I'd left the house by this point, because backwoods.

So I called up Blue Shield, to see if they could do a damned thing for me, without much hope.

  • When I asked them what options I had, they said, "Well, it looks like there's an Urgent Care 81 miles away."
  • When I said that seemed far, they said, "Yeah, it does."
  • When I asked if there were any other options, they double-checked that the Sacramento Urgent Care was really on their list, then said, "Sorry, we can't give an out-of-network referral when there's an option within 100 miles."
  • When I asked if there were any other options, they said, "Let me check if you have Emergency Room coverage".

    • Yeah, that's right, the option that the morons at BlueShield offer is Emergency Room coverage because they won't offer rational urgent care, even though that doesn't make financial sense for anyone.

  • When I asked if they'd at least take the Marin Urgent Care off their list, because it doesn't offer in-network Urgent Care, they said, "Well, our team is doing a big update of our online web site this month because it's so far out of date." No duh.

Fuck you very, very much Blue Shield.

(Note to self: consider filing a grievance with Blue Shield, because they said that was the only way to complain; and see if they're violating ObamaCare rules, which were suppose to require improved access to stuff this year.)

I should say that the woman I talked to in customer service was all of polite, helpful, and aghast, and I kept my temper with her, and when I was done told her I knew she'd done the best she was able and I appreciated it.

So that was my non-doctor-appointment that I spent 4 or 5 hours getting 'to and 'fro.

Lesson Learned: Call and insist on absolute verification of insurance before going on a far trek.

At this point it's possible that my problems aren't as problematic as they were two and a half weeks ago, which might mean they're generally going away. I hope. So I guess it'll be the new GP in 13 days. If I can talk about a specific problem at our first "meet and greet".

Fortunately, Chris and I had talked a bit yesterday, and when I told him I was planning a huge doctor expedition, he'd said, "I was going to suggest you might just take the day off", because of the busyness and stress of the week. So, I felt like I didn't have to rush home. Which was very nice.

After lunch I thus didn't rush straight back to the bus. I headed sort of in the right direction, but I took nice paths along creeks and riverlets and it was really pleasant. It calmed my mood and gave me something to appreciate on my otherwise wasted trip.

On the way in to Corte Madera, I rode a really cool path called the Cal Park Hill Pathway. Parts of it were elevated, which is something that more cities need to look at it when they can't otherwise create a safe ground-level bikeway. Then it went straight through a tunnel (which got built in 2010 according to my Googling) which keeps the bikers from having to do a couple of hundred feet of climbing to go over a small hill. The overall Pathway was short, but it was some of the best bikeway I've seen in California for really considering the challenges of traffic and terrain alike. At the moment it ends abruptly not long past that tunnel, but they were working today on the next step (which involves more elevated biking).

(That was actually one of three bits of bikeway I saw being worked on today.)

Once in Corte Madera, I really got to appreciate the beauty of the area, which is surrounded by lush, wooded hills on three sides, with marsh and bay on the fourth, just beautiful.

Then on the way back I rode alongside several canals and rivers, which is really my favorite type of biking.

Unfortunately, when I got home, and went upstairs to do a few last bits of work for the day ... I discovered that RPGnet had suffered an attack which took me hours to sort out.

So, suck start to the day, suck end to the day, but some pleasant travel to and fro a worthless doctor in between.
"Designers, you have eight hours and $0 to create a white paper or a spec. Make it work."

Which is to say that I now know what the Project Runway designer sings.

Yesterday at Christopher's Rebooting the Web of Trust workshop, I did my help any groups that I thought could use an outside eye or ear.

Today, I instead focused on a single group that that had gotten stuck with the definition of what the Web of Trust really was, and joined them to write a short white paper with them. The result was a Project Runway experience — and it was the Project Runway experience where you didn't get anything done on your outfit on the first day, and come back, and then have to power through the whole thing.

It was a fun experience, if a tiring one. We produced a paper, "Rebranding the Web of Trust". It's got good content, but it's not what I'd call a first draft. Too much mess in the organization. But that can be cleaned up (and cleaning up papers is precisely what's on my TODO list for next week, so it's only fair to include the one I co-authored.)

Here's another weird correlation to Project Runway: on the show, the designers always hate working in groups. They despise it. They bitch, they whine, they cry. I've always felt for them because I hated groups in college, to the point that I made up an imaginary lab partner for one of my lower-division CS classes.

But the folks at Rebooting the Web of Trust seemed to really excel in the group environment. Oh sure, sometimes the work fell out when discussions within a large group got too deep. But generally there was real, solid collaboration going on, full of people respecting each others' ideas and building on them. I think one group managed a 14-page paper thanks to really good organization of the group allowing collaboration in separate parts. Heck, there was even good intergroup fertilization. At one point a group working on reputation asked the Rebranding group I was with for some feedback on what we were doing with our definition of Trust, which resulted in them getting some (great?) insight and us refining the model we were working on. Win win.

Two personal addendum to that:

Brian, the superb facilitator, early on today said that we should try and positively reinforce discussions by saying "Yes and ..." rather than "Yes but ..." I constantly fought to think about it when considering other peoples' contributions. At one point I responded to something that someone suggested with a "Yes but ..." and got a negative response to my addition. I then said about the same thing again, but said "Yes and ..." and this time I got acceptance. Huh.

Overall, I was sufficiently humbled by the excellent cooperation that I saw around me that I tried to emulate it. In general I'm fine at cooperation in certain environments like roleplaying and tabletop gaming. But I've never been that good at co-op work. So again and again I had to work hard to accept other peoples' contributions and go with the flow. Or to argue to a point where we could compromise to include everything in the same model. And I'm quite sure it was to the benefit of what we were working on.

So that was Christopher's Rebooting the Web of Trust designshop. The individual collaborative groups generally have the next few days to work on their papers. I, meanwhile, am putting it aside for a few days so that I can catch up on other things that need work. And then I get to work on Editing the Web of Trust for much of next week ...
3rd-Nov-2015 10:05 pm - The Web of Trust, Day One
Today I attended the first day of #RebootingWebOfTrust and I'm exhausted. This is Christopher Allen's design shop to kickstart the next generation of decentralized trust technologies.

Here's what I learned.

BART Sucks. It's been a long time since I took BART during rush hour, and I'm pretty shocked by how jaw-droppingly horrible it's become. The train was almost 20 minutes late in the morning due to "a police matter at the Plaza", and that was unshocking. It seems like about 1 in 3 times I ride BART nowadays, there's a notable delay.

However, the absolutely jammed trains were surprising. Very tight standing room only all the way from Berkeley to Embarcadero. Coming back was even worse, though I got a seat that time, because I was bright enough to walk up to the Civic Center before boarding. (Boy does Market Street go to Hell between Powell and Civic Center.) By the time we got to Embarcadero they needed those Japanese workers who cram people onto trains. (The driver eventually had to tell people to get back and wait for the next train.)

BART literally should be running twice as many trains during rush hour as they are, from what I saw.

Decentralized Trust People Rock. The workshop was a collection of people who were not just smart, but nice, and able to work in groups. I was astounded by how low the ego was for these top-class security and privacy folks. They were happy to listen to peoples' ideas and really think about them before producing a collaborative work that everyone contributed to. Co-operative work is often hard, because people take over groups, and though there were certainly leaders, they weren't controllers to the same extent.

San Francisco is a Nice Place to Visit … The conference room for the workshop was up on the 23rd floor of Three Embarcadero Center in the Financial District, and it's got an absolute stunning panoramic view. You could see the whole Bay, from the Golden Gate Bridge in the north to the Bay Bridge in the south, and even the Richmond Bridge off in the distance. The Marin Headlands, Angel Island, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, every bit of it was visible … and very clear thanks to the rain we had yesterday.

But on the way back to BART I was reminded of why I'm happy I don't live in San Francisco. Because the streets were just jam-packed from Embarcadero to Powell or so, reminding me that SF (unlike Berkeley) is a real city. Then you start hitting the edges of the Tenderloin, and the crowds clear out, but what's left isn't that pleasant.

So, beautiful city, ugly city.

Security & Privacy Are Fun. There are a lot of fun topics under discussion. Stuff related to reputation and trust, PKIs and decentralization. Though I find this sort of all-day-around-people sort of thing very exhausting in and of itself, the topics were something that kept me interested. I'm looking forward to seeing the papers that come out of this.

One more day in San Francisco tomorrow.
27th-Oct-2015 10:57 pm - Farewell to Oscar's
I ate at Oscar's for the last time on Columbus DayIndigenous People's Day, two and a half weeks ago. We'd known Oscar's was going for a while, since there were big newspaper articles on the topic five months ago. At the time "Oscar" (not his real name) said that they'd be there through the summer, and some of their staff said four months. It made four and a half.

(I feel like I'm speaking about someone who has just expired from a fatal disease, but managed to hang in longer than the doctors expected.)

My history with Oscar's begins in 1990. I think. Who can really remember back that long? I know I went there for the first time after an OCF meeting on Berkeley campus. Or maybe the CSUA. It was definitely one of the computer clubs. One of the old-timers said that it was a tradition to trek down to Oscar's after the meeting, and so many of us did. I suspect I ate a burger and fries.

Over the years, I'd sometimes eat at Oscar's with regularity, such as when I lived on nearby University and when I worked at Skotos' northside office. And sometimes I'm sure I went months, perhaps even a year, without visiting. In recent years, I'd been visiting there regularly again. Probably every couple of weeks. When I heard of its impending demise, I started eating there once a week, like clockwork, and maybe a bit more. So I probably managed 15-20 final visits.

However even before the announcement of the closure, I'd been eating at Oscar's enough that the staff had gotten to know me. Both of the regular grillers knew my order: chicken sandwich and fries. One of them often threw the chicken on the grill even before I got in the door. (Sometimes I'd be riding by on the way to the Ohlone Greenway and places northward, and worry that he'd throw a chicken on the grill because he saw me at the stoplight.) Their Friday-night griller knew Kimberly too, and asked after her when I'd sometimes show up sans wife to bring food home to her, because she wasn't up to going out.

As far as I can tell, Oscar (not his real name) shut down Oscar's because he was tired of running his own business. And I can certainly understand that feeling. He didn't really seem to be a people person, as witnessed by his refusal to give newspaper reporters his name. (He just acknowledged that he was the owner and said that Oscar was his father.) So, even absent the stress of running a business, I can see why you wouldn't want to keep running a cash register day in and out.

Why will I miss Oscar's? Well, it was a warm, fuzzy piece of nostalgia that was one of the few businesses that I care about to last out my tenure in Berkeley. (The other one off the top of my head is Moe's.) But I also liked their food. They cut their chicken breasts just right: very thin, unlike the overly thick and inevitably dry chicken breasts that most burger joints serve. Their fries were also cut thin and though they were greasy it was a rather thin veneer. Something about them made them my Platonic ideal of fries and no one else cooks them that way. Finally, their condiments — a mix of thinly cut lettuce and mayo with a thick cut of onion on top — was equally delicious. At first I didn't eat the onion, but I came to enjoy it over the years. Heck, I even liked their ketchup, which was just a little sweeter than the usual.

The closest we have left to Oscar's is The Smokehouse. They're tasty; I go there on occasion. But they're not the same. Their food is all greasier and sloppier, where Oscar's was so clean and simple it could convince you it was healthy. (The thin veneer of grease on the fries suggests otherwise.)

A week and a half ago, on Berkeley's fourth Sunday Streets, I walked by Oscar's to make sure they still had their hours posted, and they did. So I went back for Monday lunch ... and they were gone. Their hours had been taken down in the wee morning hours and the parking lot was blocked off. Apparently, they'd finally gotten their delayed construction permit that morning.

Farewell good burger place. Go gentle into that good night, because there's no other choice at this point. I wish the vegan fast food restaurant that's to appear in your place no success at all.

(Rage, Rage against the dying of the bite.)
19th-Oct-2015 06:42 pm - Riding & Walking
I haven't been writing much lately. Actually, that's entirely false. I research and write thousands of words a week, making progress on a number of books that probably wouldn't see the light of day until at least 2017. But I haven't been writing here on my journal much lately.

And that's because life mainly continues on its its normal patterns. Skotos continues in its normal patterns, albeit with more tension & busyness than I'd like. Home life continues in its normal patterns, albeit with K. having more problems right now than I'd like.

So let me write briefly about the non-normal patterns: adventures in movement.

A couple of weeks ago I went into San Francisco with the goal of biking around the Presidio. I did, and it was very nice. Growing up in the Bay Area, I of course remember the Presidio primarily as a military base, and I've just been vaguely aware of its changes over the last few decades as it got turned over to the Presidio Trust and transformed into a big park. Which is why I decided to thoroughly explore it, biking around its perimeter (and hiking here and there too). I was surprised how many of the trails are bike friendly — a nd for my last trail of the day, Lover's Lane, which cut up and out of the park, I was willing to walk it.

The trails in the interior of the park are quite nice, with lots of heavily wooded trails. Then over to the west you have beaches. I dropped down to Baker's Beach when I learned there was a tour of Battery Chamberlain on that day. This was originally a set of four bunkers and 6" guns that existed to protect the west coast (in the same way that the TSA protects airplanes). The bunker itself wasn't that amazing, though it was a little sad to imagine poor soldiers living there, out in the middle of nowhere. There was also a ranger demonstrating how the gun worked, and that was cool.

I got to see some nice views of the Golden Gate Bridge too, while doing my biking. Overall a nice day.

This last Saturday I instead BARTed over to East CoCoCo. I biked around Lafayette and Walnut Creek, but my main goal was the Ygnacio Canal Trail, which may be the last major trail in East CoCo that I hadn't explored. There are a couple of other big canal trails in the area, but I actually like this one better because it was a very small canal — just a foot or two deep and two or three feet across. The trail also ran right at canal level, which meant you really got to enjoy it.

There was also some walking this weekend, courtesy of the fourth annual Sunday Streets in Berkeley. K. wasn't feeling up to braving the throngs, but about an hour before the Streets closed I decided I could really use some sunlight and exercise in the day, so I hiked up to North Berkeley and back along most of the 17-block block party. It was nothing particularly amazing, as I've seen this three years previous. There were people walking on Shattuck (which still looks post-apocalyptic to me) and there was live music here and there and there were a few different biking-related stalls (including a sample protected bike lane that I'd love to see on the horrid stretch of Hearst between Fulton and Shattuck; and a free tune-up area that made me wish I had my bike with).

My lesson learned for the day: you can walk to North Berkeley and back a lot of faster if you don't have to stop every other block for stop lights and cars. Yet another sacrifice we've made on the altar of our automotive country.
28th-Sep-2015 11:40 pm - Dark Side of the Moon
Last night Kimberly and I travelled up to Lake Temescal to see the SUPER BLOOD MOON.

It was actually (and amusingly) my second bike ride up to Lake Temescal for the day. I dropped Kimberly off at a get together in Rockridge around 4pm, biked up to Lake Temescal, edited 3,500 words (and read one issue of Swamp Thing), biked back down, picked her up, and then up we went again.

It was Kimberly's first ride up into the hills like that, and she did great. Mind you, I know the terrain between Rockridge and Lake Temescal very well, so I carefully directed when she should get off her bike and walk, and when it was OK to ride again (to avoid biking the really steep stuff). I remember well getting up to Lake Temescal for the first time, 'lo these many years ago, and feeling like I was about to pass out, and I didn't want to repeat that experience for her.

So, we made it in 25 minutes or so with a bit of walking.

At Temescal we found a bench on the North side of the Lake and sat down to read Mad Ship for a while. It's the 7th book in our mega-Robin-Hobb read aloud that we're now over a year into. We finished up a short chapter around 7pm and then started to look for the moon.

And we looked.

And we looked.

We talked with other people, also looking for the moon.

They stumbled away in despair.

And we looked.

We wandered back and forth around the nearby grass.

We wandered up onto the high path running along the west side of the Lake, and got to an overlook which allowed us to look eastward across the lake and hills.

And we looked.

We wandered back down.

The minutes kept ticking by. Soon it was 7.40, almost an hour after moonrise.

No moon.

Eventually we decided that some combination of the very slight haze in the sky and the fact that the moon had risen already mostly eclipsed were keeping us from spotting it in the sky.

So, we decided that we'd had our adventure, and biked back down to civilization.

Ironically, the bike ride back down was at least as trying for Kimberly as the bike ride up. That's because it's almost pitch black on the roads near Lake Temescal. I'd mentioned this, but hadn't made a big deal about it, and Kimberly had probably never ridden in conditions that dark. So, she got a bit concerned about the safety of the ride, but managed it, and all was well when we emerged back in Rockridge.

Afterward, Kimberly took us out to dinner at Cactus. Now, with less screaming children and better quality food again.

Then we went to Trader Joe's to pick up "necessities" like Pita Chips and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

As we crossed the Trader Joe's parking lot, we were puzzled by a security guard holding his phone up toward the eastern sky, like an offering to the star gods.

I was bemused, but assumed he was just crazy. Because, Berkeley. Kimberly said, "Look!"

There, in the sky was a quarter or so of a moon, the other three quarters dull-red in the eclipse.

We'd found it at last.
20th-Sep-2015 04:58 pm - Avenue Q, by Jeff Whitty
Today Kimberly and I saw Avenue Q at the Berkeley Playhouse. This was their first "adult" musical (Things I cannot unsee: puppets having sex on stage), and it was one that I was quite looking forward to. That's in part because I've become fond of these more modern Broadway plays (see also: Rent, Seussical, Wicked) and in part because I already knew and enjoyed many of the songs (see: For Now, The Internet is For Porn, If You Were Gay, It Sucks to Be Me, Everyone's a Little Racist).

I appreciated the social messaging of the songs I already knew, but I was surprised to discover that I hadn't grokked the overall theme of the play. Avenue Q is an ode to Millennial angst (cf "It Sucks To Be Me"). It's about people searching for their purpose in life (cf "Purpose"), worrying about their jobs, and desperately seeking love (cf "A Mix Tape", "Fantasies Come True", "The More You Ruv Someone").

What I really love is the play's answer to this Millennial angst. Avenue Q suggests that people just need to be more Zen — to stop thinking only about themselves (cf "The Money Song") and to stop worrying about the future (cf "For Now"). It's really terrific.

I'm also amused how songs I'm familiar with from a musical make so more sense when you actually see them performed. Like with "It Sucks To Be Me", there's a line that introduces Gary Coleman, and I'd always assumed that it was some humorous aside, not realizing that he was a major character in the play.

For the Berkeley Playhouse production, I was quite impressed with the actors, who were often simultaneously singing, expressing emotions, and expressing emotions through their puppet. Wow! We got seats way to the front of the theatre, and it was a play where I thought that really paid off.

I also discovered that there were two songs that I wasn't familiar with that I really liked: "Schadenfreude" and "I Wish I Could Go Back to College".

Hopefully this "adult" experiment will be successful for the Playhouse, and they'll be putting some more adult shows on their schedule in future years. I'd love to see Rent (performed live; I've seen the recording they did of one of their later performances) and Book of Mormon. And Wicked, but that could probably be shown to their regular audience. All I Know from today is that they had a big audience and way more college students than I usually see.

Anywho, a good show, and a week for good plays.
16th-Sep-2015 10:37 pm - Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl
Kimberly & I saw Eurydice at the Shotgun Players tonight. Much like Antigonick, the first play of their year, it was post-modern and experimental. Unlike Antigonick, I loved it (as did Kimberly).

The play was a very modern take on Eurydice, which I think helped. Antigonick instead tried to push experimentalism into the classic era, and it stuck out that much more.

But the experimentalism in Eurydice just ... worked. Kimberly seemed to think that it was because it was used in more moderation, helping to characterize without taking over the play. That might be right, but I also thought it was about 83% less pretentious. It was experimental, but it wasn't purposefully opaque. It sometimes shocked, and it sometimes caught you unaware, but that's not a bad thing in live theatre.

What do I mean by experimentalism? There was a lot of dancing at the very start, with few words. Hades was initially presented as a heavy-metal infant. Water was a constant presence on the stage, through metal pails and faucets. A house was made out of string.

But, like I said, it worked. In fact, the moment I was totally won over was when Eurydice died and that was somewhat experimental. She climbed out over a balcony and tried to walk down a great, precarious stairway made out of buckets. It collapsed, of course. But you only really saw the first step as the lights went out, then there was a deafening clatter of metal buckets in the dark. Then, when the lights finally came up again, it was just a single spotlight, shining on Eurydice from far, far above her. It was beautiful.

(In general, the directing and staging were both superb.)

The other beautiful bit of post-modernism? The stones. I'm certain they were intended as a traditional Greek chorus ... but they were totally subverted, taking on their own characters, and really making the play joyful.

The show was very much Eurydice's story, not this Orpheus-as-hero claptrap that's the more common modern-day take on the myth. It's largely about her stay in Hell, and how her father slowly brings her back to life before Orpheus shows up and is given his traditional challenge.

My interpretation was that Eurydice purposefully rejected Orpheus when they were coming out of Hell, running up to him and shouting him name to force him to turn back. She later apologized to him, saying she'd been afraid (of returning to life? of being with a man she barely remembered? of leaving her father? that was never stated.). Kimberly hadn't seen that from her viewing. And that's good theatre, that not only makes you think, but lets you come up with different answers.

I was a little less sure about the messaging of the the end of the play, which is about everyone dipping into the river Lethe as things get worse and worse for them. It starts with the father, who Lethes himself when he thinks Eurydice is gone. Then, Hades is preparing to take advantage of Eurydice ... and the fact that he's played by the same stalker who drove her to her death originally made it all the creepier. Then Eurydice follows her father into the Lethe, and then Orpheus shows up dead too ...

And that was our rather tragic ending. What more can you expect, I suppose?

Great play. I thought this would be the one that caused us to cancel our season tickets for next year, but instead I think it convinced us to stay on. They're announcing their new plays on Sunday, and apparently they're going to be playing them in repertoire.

Still coming up this season: two classics, The Rover (which I have no opinion on) and The Mousetrap (which I'm looking forward to).

PS: I can only remember one other play so obsessed with water, to the point that they had a huge pool on stage. That was Ovid's Metamorphoses. Hmmm.

PPS: The (outstanding) star of the show is even named Megan Trout.
12th-Sep-2015 11:05 pm - A Day in the West
Met up with the Appels yesterday: my dad, Mary, Melody, Jarod, and new member, pup Koloa. (Kimberly was unfortunately unable to join us due to current struggles with meds.)

They picked me up at about 9.45. The plan was for 9.30, but they'd typed the wrong address into the Waze app and so Stephen Colbert (the current voice of Waze) correctly directed them to an incorrect address 12 blocks away, and then they had to drive across Berkeley, fighting with busy streets, to get back. I mention this mainly because overreliance on modern mapping apps was a theme for the day.

(That's foreshadowing.)

Our first stop was Land's End. That's the northwest corner of San Francisco. Kimberly and I have hiked there before, though that's five years gone I suspect. It's a great trail, very well-defined and pretty heavily used, but with beautiful views of the Golden Gate.

Unfortunately, it took us almost two hours to get from our house to Land's End. The Bay Bridge was awful (though my dad got to ride on the new bridge for the first time), and then the drive across San Francisco involved buses constantly pulling out at us and vehicles constantly illegally double-parked and causing us grief. We only got to Land's End around 11.30 or so, and even then there was a delay while my dad and I got some quick-energy from cookies and Mary had a whole salad for lunch (because she'd eaten breakfast at 6am).

The trail was nice, as ever. My dad was less-than-thrilled with the 10 or so flights of stairs, right in the middle, when you rise and then descend before heading on to Eagle's Point. But, there was nice scenery, nice company, and a dog having fun. It was great. There were also pictures taken along the way here and there.

At Eagle's Point we turned around and came back, with one change on the way back. When we got the Labyrinth, Mary, Melody, and I hiked down to see it (while Jared and my dad and the dog rested at the top). The Labyrinth is just a little spiral of stones that sits out on one of the promontories along the trail. It was recently destroyed by )*(#@_(#$ vandals, but we were happy to see it built up again. Melody and I each walked the Labyrinth and added a stone to it. Then it was back up to the main trail, which is a bajillion stairs (about 20 flights all told going to the Labyrinth and back). When I walked up those steps some years ago when Kimberly and I walked it, I was exhausted, but this time, I felt great. So, I'm clearly in better shape than I was several years ago. Yay, biking and Fitbit. (I turned out to have sore legs today though, presumably from the ~50 flights of stairs that I walked all together while out on the hike.)

And that was pretty much Land's End, the hiking and active part of our day.

Melody found us a nearby deli to have lunch at (a successful use of mapping technology). There was a bit of a wrangle about finding somewhere with outside seating so that Koloa could join us (another continuing theme for the day), but I came up with a solution to that: we got our sandwiches, and then drove a couple of blocks over to Golden Gate Park. After driving a few blocks through the Park, we found a picnic table, with parking nearby-ish. Voila!

(My dad was impressed with how well I knew the area, and I told him that though I don't get to SF much, when I do I'm walking or biking, and so I get to know the territory much better.)

The sandwiches were good. Three of us had Dutch Crunch, and it was good. There were chips too.

I was tempted to title this entry, "If you value your life, travel not to Point Reyes." Because that was our next destination. My dad had wanted to see it because he never had, in his decades in the Bay Area, and Jared and I had both glanced at Google Maps and seen that it was just an hour from Land's End.

So it seemed reasonable.

What we hadn't really realized is that Point Reyes is vast and empty. Though part of it is just an hour from San Francisco, you can keep driving and driving and driving and find nothing but roads for hours.

Our road to Point Reyes started when highway 1 diverges from 101. I saw a really cool bike trail there that seemed to be running on a wooden pier through a marsh or something. Looking at the maps now, I think it might have been a trail around Coyote Creek near Sausalito, but I'm not sure. 1 runs to the coast, and then up the coast. Unfortunately, early on it's way up in the hills, so you don't get great views until you drop down to Bolinas Lagoon (but that was beautiful). And it's full of twists and turns. Fortunately, there's was Bonine all around at lunch, thanks to my dad's supply and the supply I pilfered from Kimberly before I left.

Eventually we diverged from 1 and started heading deeper into Point Reyes, toward the Point. We were past an hour into the trip by this point, as we were well into the Park, and also often going slower than the speed limit on windy roads. (Stephen Colbert kept telling us there were traffic jams ahead, and as best I can figure, it's just because many cars in that area go below the speed limit, because they don't want to die.)

Coming up on two hours, we were deep into the Park and getting close the point, and zeroing in on some signs that promised beaches and a lighthouse. We finally chose Drake's Beach mainly because it promised bathrooms. On the way, the Waze app largely failed, telling us that we were driving through fields well before we got to the Beach.

Drake's Beach was cold and gray and very windy. The visitor's center there was closed, even though it should have been either open or just closing (because it was drawing up on 5pm). The bathrooms were open, though, and huge. There was a changing area that you could have fit a couple of king-sized beds in. Given the conditions of the beach, it was presumably for changing into parkas.

A lady walking her service dog on the beach told Jared and Melody not to walk their non-service-dog, lest they get ticketed. She suggested South Beach instead, which I picked out on a nice map on one of the walls of the area.

On the way away from Drake's Beach we saw the bizarrest thing: a huge elk head poking up over a hillside. There was presumably an elk attached. It had antlers from here to eternity. It seemed so over-the-top and larger-than-life that I figured it must be a statue or something, but Melody says it moved. (Perhaps it was just being blown by the gail-force winds.)

It was another mile to South Beach, where we find another wind-swept, frozen, post-apocalyptic wasteland. This was a pets-allowed beach, so Koloa frolicked around after her 5 or 6 hours in the car to that point. Fun was had by all. Except Mary, who hid in the car to avoid the gail.

We probably spent a total of 15-20 minutes on those two beaches. Tops. Then it was back in the car to escape from Point Reyes.

There were map-nav problems on the way home too, because we'd lost cell signals about 5 miles before we got to the Beaches. We hoped we could get signals back before we had to make the decisions about which way we were going as we got back toward civilization. Fortunately, my AT&T eventually picked up (and so we used Google Maps instead of Waze for the navigation on the way home).

We were fortunately able to take a different route home, which cut straight across the peninsula before dropping us back on 101. It was much less winding, and I found it much prettier. That's because the landscape was much more what I think of as typical California. Lots of hills, mixed green and brown.

Strangely: there were big rocks deposited here and there. Some were man-sized, some much larger. I don't tend to see rocks like that dotting the landscape in our local parks, so I was curious what was up with that.

And then we hit the Richmond bridge, and there was more horrible traffic. Because, apparently, bridges suck when you're not biking them (but they also suck when you can't bike them, which is currently the case for two of the three Bridges we rode over on Friday).

By now we were trying to figure out the meal-with-a-dog question again. Someone suggested we could maybe take something home, and I called Kimberly to get her OK on that. An hour and thirty minutes or so after we left South Beach, we thus pulled up into Oscar's, where we bought burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries to take home.

Kimberly had the cats locked up by the time we got home, so Koloa was allowed in the house.

After the meal, though, I let Callisto out, and she was pretty OK with the dog. She kept sniffing him and laying down to watch him (safely out of reach!). She never seemed particularly concerned or worried about him, even though he's 4x her size. Well, except when she got stepped on by a backing-up Koloa, and then she went and hid out in the Dining Room for a bit, to clean herself.

So that was the big day with the Appels. The company was great and Land's End was great, but there was way too much driving afterward. My dad was pretty apologetic about picking Point Reyes, but none of us were too upset about it. Jared and I had both looked it up and raised no concerns, and as I said, it wasn't some place I would have ever biked too.

We all can say we saw Point Reyes now, and probably won't again.

I was dead exhausted by the time the family left around 9pm or so. Too tired to do anything but read, and much to Kimberly's surprise, I then went to bed early (something I pretty much never do, because I can't fall asleep).

I'm still worn out today. I had to have a fruit soda to get my energy up enough to role-play, but then managed to stay alert and awake for the afternoon. (Hopefully that tiredness is from the day full of driving and socializing, but Kimberly appears to have come down with a cold, so I may now be fighting that off too.)
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