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23rd-Oct-2016 12:05 am - The Lafayette Reservoir
I was severely at loose ends today, between my gaming being cancelled, and not having any brain space to make alternative plans due to the Rebooting the Web of Trust design workshop. So, pretty spontaneously today I decided to go out to the Lafayette Reservoir.

I'd tried to visit one other time, while I was abike, and discovered they had annoying restrictions against bikes most of the time. It struck me as even more discriminatory today when I discovered that they were even banning bikes from getting up to the parking lot where all their gas-guzzling, environment-destroying cars were allowed to park.

But I digress.

The point is that I biked out to Rockridge BART, locked my bike up there, then BARTed out to Lafayette, with the intent to walk the mile to the Reservoir.

Of course I immediately regretted not having my bike when I got to Lafayette because I discovered the main path leading from BART to the downtown is blocked off through the end of November. So, it was a quarter of a mile out of my way to go back and forth to my intended place for lunch, Baja Fresh.

And then I discovered that the Baja Fresh had gone out of business, so it was half-a-mile out of my way, straight away from the Reservoir, to Taco Bell. (I later learned there were some acceptable restaurants along the way to the Reservoir, but I didn't want to take the chance of that not happening.)

And thus I ended up walking a mile and a half to get to the Reservoir, but I suppose walking was the purpose of the day.

The entrance to the Reservoir is an ugly asphalt-choked road with pedestrian paths a clear afterthought. But once I got up to the Reservoir proper, I found a lovely area with shaded picnic areas and entrances to the paths around the Reservoir.

I took the outermost trail, which runs along the edges of the Reservoir property line. It's in very challenging and hilly terrain that often jogs straight up then straight down and the whole trail is almost 5 miles. I quite enjoyed it; it was good hiking, of the sort I've enjoyed lately. I was also pleased to discover that it's not an entirely segregated path. There are about half-a-dozen official paths out to the local communities (most of them not marked on any maps). There should be more, but the existing ones at least help to make the path more of a community resource. (And make it so that you don't have to come into that main entrance to get into the Reservoir.)

One of the few marked alternate entrances to the Reservoir is at Meadow Park Ct. west of the Reservoir. Sadly the area seems to be inhabited by hateful NIMBYs who would fit right into many parts of Berkeley. They'd put up a sign at the clearly official entrance to the Reservoir saying that "iPhone Maps" was wrong and that if people were trying to get into the Reservoir, they should go to the main entrance off Mt. Diablo. I have to presume the area contains some ex-hippies-now-Trump-voters who have gotten pissed at people parking on their street to hike in the Reservoir, so they posted their little lying hissy-fit sign.

So, if you want to visit the Reservoir to hike, that's where I suggest you park. It's labeled "Lafayette Entrance 1" on Google "iPhone" Maps. You won't get the amenities of bathrooms and picnic tables, but you'll be on one of the main trails within 10 feet of entering the park.

I walked in and out of the park through some of the entrance along Moraga Way on my way back, and eventually left the park entirely atop a hill above Mt. Diablo Way. I'd been hoping that one of these routes would be more attractive and closer to BART than the main entrance, but I'm not convinced that's the case.

Though not ideal for walking from BART, several of them would be move convenient if you had a bike and needed to lock it up before entering the park — Lafayette Entrance 1, an entrance at the end of Paseo Grande, and an unmarked entrance up a semi-secret (but clearly official) stairway off of Calle La Montana were all straight off the street, which is probably superior to the quarter- or half-a-mile walk I had to make from the main entrance. So, if I was biking, I might take one of those.

Anyway, great hike. And quite relaxing, except when I had some college-age alcoholics behind me talking up a storm. "I try not to drink Monday to Wednesday," one says. The other replies "I try not to binge drink on the weekends." It's clear that they're both talking about extreme efforts of will. But then the second alcoholic follows it up with, "I feel like I'm pretty good at not drinking during the week. I mean Happy Hour, that's different."

So much for will power.

But I just, stopped, let them pass, then I had some nice solitude again, which was what I needed after three days spent Rebooting the Web (of Trust).
21st-Oct-2016 11:21 pm - Reboot Tres, Day Tres
This morning, for the first time all week, the BART trains ran on time.

Apparently we don't need to elect Donald Trump after all.


So today was the third and final day of the third and not-final Rebooting the Web of Trust.

People were lower energy today. The crowd was a little smaller because some people had to go home and the three-quarters of the group still around were more likely to be staying at their tables and quietly working. But the time was clearly useful because we pushed about 15 minutes past our planned stopping point of 4 o'clock because people wanted to do just a little bit more work.

My group actually finished up a very rough draft of our paper, which is an engagement model applied to a refugee situation. The ultimate goal is to merge UN SDG 16.9 concerns with self-sovereign identity modeling. Yesterday, our group fleshed out most of this engagement model of a refugee arriving in a refugee camp and eventually receiving a visa, then I wrote about 75% of it yesterday and today.

There's still much to be done, including some revising of the text and some better integration of the narrative with the goals of the work. I wouldn't actually consider it a first draft for something I was working on individually. But as a group project in a time-constrained environment, I'm quite happy with what we got down, and the best part is that the other group members (in particular, Joe A., whose idea it was, and who will be lead editing) can now go through text and better tune it to his ideals, without time constraint.

(And I'll get to see it again afterward, as the RWOT editor.)

Our goal for these design shops has always been 3-5 white papers or specs, and I think we hit 5 papers in final form for each of the previous ones, with some stragglers that didn't hit our repository for various reasons (such as publication at another site).

At our final plenary today I recorded plans for either 12 or 13 potential papers, and I know that at least my original group absolutely drafted two complete papers during the conference itself. I think there was a little more of that and some strong momentum in the other groups for finishing what they got done during the workshop.

End result: I'm very confident we're going to considerably exceed our original goals this time around. There was even one code prototype, which we've never had before, and was another sign of the workshop's higher level of success.

Even better, almost all of these potential papers are true collaborations between at least two people (in a couple of cases, two people bringing together different protocols and meshing them, which is extremely cool) and in some a half-dozen or more people. This was something that was somewhat missing at the second Rebooting Web of Trust, which had more single-author papers, so I'm glad Christopher was able to restore it here.

I was bone tired when I got back to Berkeley today. Apparently three days of heavy social work will do that. I think I'm even more tired than after the five days of off-site in Canada last month, but I was more active here — more actively talking, more actively participating, and sometimes helping to lead.

So two days of rest(ish) will now be welcome.

I'm even expecting to mostly put aside my personal projects which take up much of my "free" time ... because I did most of the writing I usually would have over the weekend on my BART trips this week. (I outlined five D&D related histories on Monday and Tuesday night, in prep, and just barely managed to finish up first drafts of all those papers on my six BART trips.)

So tomorrow, some biking or walking (and, yes, some editing of those five histories).

Then on Sunday some Open Streetsing in Berkeley ... and maybe no writing or editing at all.

And then it's back to the regular work week, but Rebooting the Web of Trust III was my last really big project for the year (well, other than editing that excess of RWOTIII papers ... and preparing the fourth annual membership drive for RPGnet).

20th-Oct-2016 11:04 pm - Reboot Tres, Day Two
As far as I can tell the whole BART system is falling apart. I mean in the last few years I've been noticing that maybe 1 trip in 10 that I take has a delayed train, which is much worse than ye olden days of the '90s when I used to take it all the time.

But today there were delays for the second day in a row (and I also know BART had major delays on Monday, because I saw them on my Google Maps when I mapped out getting to the Rebooting the Web of Trust events).

Today's delays started in the morning, when the delay was being quoted at 15-20 minutes due to an equipment problem between 12th Street and West Oakland. (It wasn't quite that bad.) Then this evening I found that there were claiming 10 minute delays in San Francisco due to … equipment problems. (It was worse.)

Then, to add insult to injury, once we finally made it back to the East Bay another train "cut" in front of us at 12th. So said, the BART train operator. She seemed surprised, perhaps annoyed. So we waited outside of 12th Street for some time.

Then, to add insult to insult, we also sat waiting outside of Ashby for some time because of a "police hold" on the train ahead of us at Ashby. Odds are that it was the train that cut us off at 12th Street. So, maybe they're excused if there was a Speed situation and the train couldn't drop below 50 mph ... until the crack squad of BART Anti-Terrorist Cops (BAT-CO!) finally dealt with the terrorists, them dragged them off the train at Ashby.

(More likely it was rowdy kids or a drunk or a homeless guy, because East Bay.)

If you're keeping track that's 3 major equipment problems, 2 police actions, 1 medical emergency, and 1 driver taking "cutsies" in 2 days of travel to and from San Francisco.

I actually wasn't annoyed in the morning because I headed out quite early in case any one wanted to get started on our project early. So the train running late didn't stress me at all. I just sat down on the floor (no seats on BART, of course), pulled out my computer, and wrote.

As it happened our group didn't gel until well after the start time, but from there we had a day much like I'd hoped, with a small group working on the 12-step use case / customer-support-model that we were planning. We talked about it for a few hours, and after lunch when discussion drifted to self-sovereign identity and other philosophical ideas, I just started writing. With some help from Z., we got about half of it first drafted. It'll be easy enough to finish tomorrow.

I was more annoyed by the BART problems in the evening, because the workshop went quite late and it felt like the last plenary dragged, as people described their projects, then took many questions, which were mostly references to other projects they should look at. An hour in and on public transit after that was ... unpleasant.

I was leery of this workshop running three days this time, but at least for my group, it's worked out well. We got things sorted on Wednesday, we got things outlined and written today, and we'll get things finished tomorrow.

Previously, at our first Web of Trust, the writing crashed straight into the finishing on the last day and it made things a bit frantic. But, it was kind of cool in a Project Runway running with scissors sort of way.

One more day, and then I rest. Saturday's Burning Wheel game was cancelled due to too many people being away or having babies, and I wasn't at all sad, because the day of rest after three days of heavy socialization will be welcome.
19th-Oct-2016 11:03 pm - Reboot Tres, Day One
Lucy Cat woke me up at 6.30 this morning. Bad Lucy Cat. No treat. (Actually, she got her treats anyway a few hours later.)

Today was the first day of the third Rebooting the Web of Trust design workshop. It was in San Francisco again, at a nice Microsoft space in SoMa.

It started annoyingly enough with BART delays. By the time I'd gotten in to SF, they'd said that that was a track switching problem between Embarcadero and Montgomery and a police action and the good 'ole "medical emergency". But they were quoting us 20-30 minutes delay, and the delay at least from Berkeley to Montgomery was only 11 minutes.

And so I got into the Microsoft space a few minutes before the hour instead of 15 minutes early. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get a big, beautiful high-rise space like we did last time in SF, but in contrast, the Microsoft space seems to be an actually used community workspace, which is its own type of cool.

It was nice to see a number of people I know from the identity and privacy name spaces and also to be well received by them, presumably because of the good work I've been able to put in on the previous two workshops (and on the papers afterward). And I suppose because it's also a number of people that I've had friendly interactions with over the last year.

As always, I was impressed by how quickly the workshop gelled and broke into individual groups, each working on their own topic. After the somewhat chaotic second Web of Trust, in New York earlier this year, I feel like this one is going to be better at producing some strong collaborative papers. (The second one did meet our goal of 3-5 papers, but they were more frequently single-author papers, which just doesn't generate the same type of creative innovation as a good group process can.)

I'm always a bit concerned if I'm going to be able to find a group that I personally can contribute to, but as always I quickly found myself stuff to do. There was one group that called to me, and within a short time I was pretty sure that I could contribute considerable writing to the group. In fact, Chris later came over to see if I could scribe for a different group, but we decided that I was better to stay where I was because I had passion for it already.

Today was mainly organizational and brainstorming. But if things go the way I like, we'll sit down tomorrow and write through the day.

Oh, and there was good food along the way. K. and/or Chris have really got that down good. I had Noah's Bagels and Cream Cheese for breakfast and then a taco and a fajita for lunch. (I can see already that I'll put on weight this week, but so it goes.)

As usual in SF, I walked out to Civic Center to come home. It was probably unnecessary, as this workshop is running a little later than the previous one (10-6 instead of 9-5), but I hit my 10,000 steps for the day shortly before getting home, so it was clearly the right choice to get my exercise in, despite the lack of time to go out and actually hike in the evening or something.

And that was Day 1 of what's literally the third design workshop I've attended sn the last year (since the first was last early November) and the fourth major group get-together like this (counting the Blockstream offsite in Kelowna).
15th-Oct-2016 11:54 pm - The Calm Before ...
Cutting down those acacias at the start of the month was #2 on the list of things I was not looking forward to in October. And though the actual work wasn't that bad due to good tools and lots of work done in advance by my neighbors, I ended up being very sore for days.

#1 on my list of things I was not looking forward to was an invasive medical exam this Monday. It was uncomfortable and sometimes painful and showed absolutely nothing, as I expected. But it was the last thing to do with this specialist, so I wanted to finish things off rather than wondering.

But what I didn't expect was pain and exhaustion for days afterward as my body healed itself. Yowtch. It took until Friday for me to feel decently good again. (well, not in pain at least, but still a little out of whack.)

Meanwhile, I'm still having issues, but I'm done for the moment. Next year when I get my physical, I'll talk to my doc about other specialists, possibly someone who can look into metabolic issues rather than going the physical route.

There literally was a storm yesterday. It was beautiful seeing the rain again. I realized that the last few times I saw rain were probably in Canada and in New York, so even moreso it was beautiful seeing the rain at home.

And, there's more storm scheduled for tomorrow, so as I write, it's literally the calm.

(And, what did I do in this calm? I hiked out to Orinda today, a nice walk up Panoramic Hill and down EBMUD trails that I've hiked before. It was beautiful Halloween weather: very windy, slightly chill, and gray. But I avoided the rain, though the trails were at times muddy.)

But there's also a metaphorical storm coming up. Next week is the third Rebooting the Web of Trust design workshop, which means that I'll be busy in the City helping out.

And then it'll be Saturday and I'll be running my first Burning Wheel game at Endgame.

So Wednesday through Saturday will be a busy storm.

But for the minute there's calm.

And there will be more calm afterward, as this should be my last bit of true busyness until the holidays.
2nd-Oct-2016 10:36 pm - This Weekend, I Am A Home Owner
On Thursday night, our bathroom door suddenly broke. It had one of the most jury-rigged knobs in the house, with a lever on the inside and a regular knob on the outside. And the lever had always been kind of loose, requiring quite a bit of movement before it caught. But on Thursday night it wouldn't turn any more if you pushed down, only if you pushed up.

It was actually quite a trick figuring out how to get the knobs off. I'd about given up, but then I brought K. in and when I did the same 'ole jiggling and pushing of the hidden latch, she just popped it off. We agreed that I'd clearly loosened it.

So the knob was easy enough to change at that point. I did that on Friday, but the problem was that it wouldn't latch correctly into he old strike plate. So I needed to install a new strike plate less than an inch away from the old one. Which was troublesome because of the screw holes.

Youtube to the rescue! Home repairers told me how to fill the old hole with toothpicks and wood glue, which I did Saturday night. It was literally the coolest home repair that I'd ever (successfully) done myself, really making me feel like a home owner.

Then after that all dried, I was able to put in the new strike plate today. Presto! It all works fine again and is a much better knob too.

(However, I just used an unused knob that was in the garage; I really need to change it out for one with a lock, but hopefully that will be super easy at this point.)

Today there was a big task on my TODO list: clearing the acacias with the neighbors.

Acacias suck. They're high allergen trees with hugely invasive root systems that grow like weeds. They've been a plague on our household for years, constantly cropping up. Sometime after our former neighbors left, a whole crop of them appeared along on our fence line, in the neighbor's yard, and four or five years on, they were attacking our fence, reaching over the fence to attack our windows, and probably sending invasive roots at our foundation.

So several months ago K. sent a very nice letter to our new neighbors asking if we could do something about them, and offering any help necessary.

Fortunately, our neighbors are quite nice, it turns out. There were some concerns about using poisons to try and more permanently deal with the acacias, but we finally agreed to deal with them at the start of fall, when the poisons were supposed to be more effective.

And then our neighborly wife had some time off last week and she took out quite a few of the smaller (I think) acacias, making it all look super manageable. Then the neighborly husband and I went out today to deal with the remaining four and to chop them up and cover everything up so that their kids wouldn't get into the poison.

We spent about three and a half hours, and it was actually quite nice, comradely work. The trees went down pretty easy between a small little battery powered sawer they had and a big bow saw I'd gotten. Then we stripped them and cut them up and filled a green bin.

(There are still a bunch of tree bits in their yard.)

Applying the poison and covering everything afterward turned out to be quite a bit of work just because there were so many of them.

But we got it done, and I again I felt like a home owner. One who even worked with neighbors!

A few hours later I felt like I'd been beat up, and I suspect I'm going to be sore as heck tomorrow, but it was still good work.

(And I got a good hike up to Inspiration Point yesterday, so it wasn't all work this weekend.)

Still one little bit of acacia-related trouble to deal with: I'm aware of two stumps on our side that I've cut back at various times. I need to cut one of the two back and them apply poison to both of those — but I decided it was a problem for another day. I've got it on my schedule for next Sunday.
Surprise! The new Berkeley Playhouse play isn't a musical. Oh, there are a few short numbers, and somewhat surprisingly this played on Broadway and won some Tonies, but it's not really in the same category as an actual music. And that was a bit disappointing, because I'd been looking for a light-hearted musical today.

Surprise! The new Berkeley Playhouse play is a comedy. Pretty full-throated. Oh, there's some serious theming about childhoods and responsibility and doing good. But there's a lot of funny too.

I suppose I should back up: Peter and the Star Catcher is a Peter Pan prequel. We get Peter and the Lost Boys and the first Wendy (Molly) aboard a ship. And Captain Hook is there too and even pixie dust, if you know where to look.

The play is divided into two parts: the first Act is about setting up all the parts and putting them into position, and was definitely the slower of the parts; the second Act is about dumping everyone on the island, setting off all those explosions, and seeing what happens, and is definitely the more delightful half.

The humor in the play was very mixed. It ran the gamut from fart jokes and slapstick to rather clever word play and playful anachronisms. Unshockingly, I found the first dull, but appreciated the last. Actually, I was humored by some of the slapstick, like god-save-the-queening a banana.

The connections to Peter Pan were well-done and fun, particularly in the few cases where they subverted expectations.

The staging of the play may have been the most notable thing, because it was innovative and interesting. I think part of this was used to hold up the flabby first half of the play ... but it did so. For example in one scene Molly races through the ship looking for pigs, with a series of ladders being used to represent his trip and the actors playing out momentary scenes as she burst into each room. There were lots of practical effects like that, representing the sea, flying, and more. They even fought with rock-scissors-papers.

Overall, I enjoyed the play, though some of it was over-the-top and some was under-the-belt. But, it was generally fun, and a fine extension of mythology. I love ever-growing mythologies.

It really makes me want to see Finding Neverland, to add to my trilogy of Peter and Wendy, Peter Pan, and now Peter and the Starcatcher.

(And I hope the next Playhouse play is actually a musical!)
25th-Sep-2016 11:48 am - From Canada to Fremont
I've mostly been able to relax since I got back from Canada.

OK, that's not strictly true, as I worked four days last week and also have written six D&D histories since I've gotten back (3 on BART, 3 in Alvarado Park). But that's "relaxation" for me.

Wednesday was the first morning I didn't wake up itching as my antihistamines wore off. My rash is pretty much gone at this point (and I used up the last of my Canadian antihistamines this morning, so good timing.)

My dad and Mary are currently out from Hawaii. They actually came out the same day I returned from Canada, arriving in the Bay Area just a few hours after I did. We don't see a lot of them when they're visiting, because they stay with Melody and Jared, with my dad helping around the house and them both seeing friends. But we usually get together and visit at least once while they're out here, and that was on Wednesday.

It was my dad's birthday. After lunch at home, Kimberly and I took BART down to Fremont and met my dad, Mary, and Melody (Jared worked the day). The plan was to go out for a hike. Since K. still isn't up to hills, Melody and I figured out that the Quarry Lakes Regional Park would be a good choice.

This is a bunch of lakes just past the 'burb of Niles. I'm guessing they used to be quarries, but that's just speculation. (Actually, the web site confirms: "Gravel taken from the banks of Alameda Creek was used in the construction of the transcontinental railroad's western section.")

Anywho, it was a nice walk around a park that I hadn't visited before. I've actually biked a bit of Alameda Creek on the opposite side, but I'd never walked the northward side or around the quarry lakes beyond. It was pleasant, California terrain. Lots of brown brush, but quite pleasant lakes (though the path was always further than the lakes than I would have hoped). We walked around the majority of the lakes, which was a pretty big distance. My FitBit records 2 hours of walking and over 10,000 steps, which would have been nearly 5 miles. Looking at my records, I can tell that I was walking slower than normal because only 76/128 minutes were up in the fat burning zone.

There was a cross-country meet going on while we were there, with many girls running around us. One team (the red team) was clearly doing much better than the other.

We also saw a SNAKE on the trail. Just a small little thing. It wouldn't have bothered me if Kimberly hadn't shouted about it, then for a moment I couldn't figure out where it was, so I could only envision a huge rattler pouncing on us. I screamed like a little girl.

Jared joined us afterward and we had dinner at an Indian restaurant in Newark that was shockingly empty. It was good food, and surprisingly my second Indian food in a week (the previous being in Canada!).

Overall, a nice day, good seeing family and hanging out. It was also the exact antidote that I needed after my exhausting week in Canada, nicely breaking up my week back.
17th-Sep-2016 10:45 pm - Kelowna, Day Seven: Home at Last
Innovation comes from seeing two unacceptable choices, and finding the third way.

Many of us were leaving on the 10.40am flight from Kelowna to Vancouver. But everyone I talked to wanted to head to the airport around 9am. Though I suspected it would be plenty of time for the size of the airport, I was uncomfortable, in part because I knew nothing about Saturday morning traffic conditions in Kelowna or the length of lines for the carriers or for security at the airport.

Choice one was to wait around until 9am and stress about it the whole time.

Choice two was to take a cab of my own, wasting about $40C. Blockstream said to go ahead and do that, but then I would have waited around at the airport feeling bad about a totally unnecessary expense.

So, choice three: take the bus up to the college, which was a straight shot and pretty fast and then either catch a transfer bus or else walk the 2km to the airport.

It was easy to get out to the main bus transfer station in Kelowna, which I'd seen on one of my early morning walks. But from there, there were a few surprises.

  • It started to rain
  • I discovered my hiking shoes are no longer waterproof.
  • I was reminded how often there are no sidewalks in Kelowna.

In other words, it was a little more adventurous than planned, and my socks got a bit wet on the way, but I also managed to get some steps (2+ miles total by the time I sat down at my gate), and I managed to accomplish my goal of arriving early enough to feel comfortable without feeling bad about wasting money, because the bus ride was a big $2.50C.

It turned out that check-in and security at Kelowna International Airport were total non-issues … but how was I to know that, never having checked in there before?

Overall, Kelowna was a pleasant, modern airport. Not very large, but I compare it to Lihue. They both have 5-8 gates or so, but the Kelowna airport had a big holding room that all the gates ran off of and a bit of craziness where a high-tech system actually dynamically linked up check-in desks with gates. Not that it necessarily worked well. There were three different "Gates 6s" while we sat there waiting for our Gate 6 flight, and they couldn't get the the signs switched from the previous flight to ours; the desk clerk simply said that the signs at Kelowna sucked.

(In contrast, Lihue is quite rustic.)

In any case, g'bye Kelowna, I suspect I won't see you again.

Vancouver was the flipside of the Seattle airport coming in. It was much more pleasant. Its only downside was that it was a real maze, shunting us here and there, at least once up a narrow walkway on a mezzanine that looked out over the other maze paths.

Apparently the reason was pre-clearance. We actually went through customs in Vancouver, doing our declarations and being quizzed by a very surly customs agent.

There was actually a big delay at what was our SECOND security screening for the day, just before the surly customs agent. The woman just in front of us tested positive for bomb residue. And unlike SFO where they clearly have their machines set wrong, so they go off for everyone, in Vancouver they took the bomb-residue detection very seriously. And this messed up the whole line.

But we got through that, and then we talked to the surly customs agent, and then were out.

"In America", I said, though we were still in Canada.

And they still took Canadian funny money.

By the by: seven Blockstreamers on the flight from Kelowna to Vancouver, then six from Vancouver to SFO. As several of us pointed out: not smart. One crashed plane could seriously mess up the company.

(Apparently they've talked about this more than once, but that doesn't stop it from happening; my theorem was that they need a staff member to do the reservations if they want to avoid it, else everyone will just consider their own best interests. It's some sort of prisoner's dilemma-like problem.)

Like Hawaiian Airlines, Air Canada puts the scam cart out in advance of the drinks cart, trying to underhandedly trick you into buying food while they hold the free refreshments hostage.

(I heard someone behind me turn down one of those snacks when he saw how little he got for his $3. Scam!)

I had a final lunch with Blockstreamers in Vancouver, then when we got to SFO was encouraged to Lyft home with one of them because she's just 1.5 miles away from me. (Without her I would have just stubbornly taken BART, despite the fact that it's yet another bus-bridge day on the first world's most dysfunctional subway system.)

The last trek of the day was sadly trying. Traffic was horrible all the way into Oakland, on 101, 80, and the Bridge. And a massive truck tried to kill us on the San Franciscan streets by failing to make a right turn and then just sitting, blocking us.

It took just more than an hour to get home from SFO, which I could almost have matched on BART (though not today).

But, home at last. Whew.
16th-Sep-2016 10:40 pm - Kelowna, Day Six: So Long Farewell
I woke up this morning and the back is still twinging a little bit, but clearly better. Meanwhile, the rash really definitely probably hopefully has faded from red to pink.

So hopefully both those ailments are headed in the right direction. The back was definitely less distracting over the course of the day, though the rash was still maddeningly itchy.

My original plan was to take out a bike again today. I'd been considering either riding across the bridge and up the hill on the other side or else going back to the Mission Creek Greenway and continuing on from where I left off. But with the aching back there was no way that was happening.

So instead I walked the waterfront again, like I did yesterday, but a slightly longer route than yesterday because I didn't have to head back into downtown afterward for medical needs.

It's definitely the most pleasant walk that's right here. I quite enjoyed it.

Fitbit says I walked 59 minutes, which is almost exactly as intended.

So, impressions of Kelowna.

The landscape is utterly beautiful. The city is in a basin alongside a lake, with mountains rising up to every side. It can feel a little claustrophobic, looking to every side, and seeing those hills (really) fencing you in. But it's also pretty cool to think that you could walk in any direction and go straight up a hill.

The city is a bit more urban than you'd expect for its locale or for its size. It seems to have some real big-city problems, most notably the aforementioned homeless and the major, busy highway running right through the center of town.

Its main industry seems to be lumber. The highway constantly carries logs into town and planed wood out of town. Out in the harbor there are huge circles of wood. (Why they dump them out in the Lake, I dunno.)

People out on the street are less friendly than I'd expect for a town of this size. There's an active aversion to making eye contact, and I definitely see fewer smiles on the street and hear fewer greetings.

However, the people that I've actually talked to are all extremely friendly and personable. I think the clerk at Mosaic Books was really the epitome. This was a locale on our scavenger hunt, and she already knew about it by the time we got there, so she was doing her best to help us spend precisely the $10 we were given to spend. Then, she helped us out with a number of locations and clues. And she was super nice throughout.

And that's Kelowna, BC.

The day was once more full of meetings, but everyone was very low energy, so some things didn't actually occur.

I managed to talk to the last few people I needed to talk to, as prep for writing next week.

And then the offsite was over.

Reasons this was useful to me (and presumably to Blockstream):

  • Learning who everyone was, what they did, and getting to actually meet them. By the end of the week I had somewhere in the 60-75% range competency on names. Yay!
  • Letting everyone know who I am and what I do!
  • Getting to learn more about the technologies I'll be writing about.
  • Getting to learn more of the ethos of the company, which should also be reflected in the writing.
  • Gathering information that would be harder to gather from afar, for the next writing assignments.

Overall, I was quite pleased I came, even if five and a half days of socialization was tough. And it wasn't just the day-time meetings, but the fact that socialization often went on for hours more.

Speaking of which, the final dinner was at a nice Indian restaurant, though it was also the least-Indian-staffed Indian restaurant I've ever seen. But, good food, good company, and good night.

Tomorrow it'll be back on a plane, though that trip will have a little additional stress thanks to social-cab dynamics.

You see, Blockstream reasonably says, "Try and cab pool" (because it saves money). And a number of us are leaving on the same 10.40 flight. So, we should cab pool in a couple of cabs.

Except everyone else wants to leave at about 9am, which I find borderline insane for a 10.40am flight at an airport that's 20 minutes away without traffic. Sure, I'll agree that my desire to leave at 8am is crazy early, but 9am just doesn't leave any time for mishap.

So in the morning I need to decide to go my own way, or patiently but stressfully wait.

(There was the same dilemma at the faraway dinner on Wednesday. I waited though I was quite burned out by the end, but then leaped at the first cab.)

I'm sure it'll all go fine, and I'll be on a plane in exactly 12 hours.