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Shannon A.
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5th-Feb-2017 11:09 pm - Two Weeks Since the Inauguration
(1445 days left.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But great, relaxing, and badly needed.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the acting ...

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

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

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

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

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

(This is just the second play we've seen at Live Oak Theatre, the first being Rough Crossing, in 2001.)
2nd-Feb-2017 08:14 pm - Toxic Progressivism in Berkeley
Last night certainly highlighted Kimberly's and my desire to move out of Berkeley, as we had rioters far too close to our house and downtown businesses smashed up for the nth time in the last few years.

Yes, there were serious reasons to protest. Yes, having a Neo-Nazi speak on campus was a really stupid idea, and something we shouldn't be doing with our resources. If he wants to speak, he can get a box to stand on and crazy-rant on Telegraph. But I think some of last night's problems highlight serious problems that I have with progressivism as it's been practiced in Berkeley, and that's yet another reason that I think I'm ready to see the backside of this town.

I identify as a progressive. I believe that fairness and justice should be the foundation of any civilized society. I'd happily say I'm a Social Justice Warrior (and I laugh that some people think that's a slur).

But ...

Berkeley's Progressive Problems

Over-Acceptance. (Or, if you prefer, A Blind Eye.)

I feel like a traitor saying it, but Berkeley is too accepting nowadays. It acts like acceptance is the highest good, that if we accept all, no bad can occur. It totally ignores the fact that some behaviors are anti-social, or otherwise unacceptable.

I actually used to think this was farcical. I saw it in parents that let their children run amok, that wouldn't discipline them or tell them no, because they didn't want to impair their child's individuality or creativity. Totally ignoring the fact that they're the parents and the children are the children and their job is to guide and shape, to move their children toward socially acceptable norms.

Meanwhile, we're so accepting that we're willing to let a Neo-Nazi use our public resources.

And we're so accepting that we're willing to let the Black Bloc riot afterward like they have at every demonstration for the last eight years. (The only notable exception: The Berkeley High demonstrations — the several times the kids have marched out of campus and demonstrated have been totally peaceable, so kudos to them.)

Which is a way of saying that over-acceptance was the root cause of these riots on either side.

And that's not the only way that it's eating away at our city. The homeless are the other big problem, and that's pretty much the same issue. The politicians are literally giving away our public spaces to them, our parks and our sidewalks. They're letting this minority of people take away the commons that should be used by the majority. Because to do otherwise wouldn't be accepting or Berkeley enough. Yes, I have sympathy, but keeping these people on the streets isn't the way to help them. It's just those broken ideas continuing to break our city.

Over-Purity. (Or, if you prefer, Dogma)

Here's another way of looking at the problem: purity. There's a certain faction of our local progressives (and they're unfortunately now the faction in charge of our city government) who seem to believe that it's their road or the high road. They have their fundamental beliefs about how progressivism should work, and if things don't work like that, they refuse compromises.

I suspect this is some of the basis of our police letting the Black Bloc do as they will, and our Mayor letting the homeless do as they will. For me, it broke my own connection to the ultra-progressives in our local government when my city councilman provided the vote that destroyed the possibility of a rapid transit bus line running down Telegraph, right near our house. Because it wasn't green enough, or some such nonsense.

I personally didn't care about the bus line, but it was presented with a plan that would have revamped the entirety of Telegraph, including a protected bike lane that would have run along its whole length. So now, every time I have a car come too close on Telegraph or I have to swerve into traffic because the bike lane ends, I thank my local city councilman, who puts me in danger on a weekly basis because the planned renovation of Telegraph wasn't progressive enough ... and so never happened.

Over-Compensation. (Or, if you prefer, Cowardice.)

This is probably a cause-and-effect thing, but increasingly people seem to over-compensate when dealing with progressivism in Berkeley. I think that's why the police haven't done hardly anything about the last several years of riots: they fear the backlash they'd get, and so just let the rioters run riot.

Personally, I think that non-lethal weapons have no place when people are just protesting, even if they're blocking streets or highways or causing inconvenience. But when those protests turn to riots, when the protesters are destroying property and even hurting people ... that's when the police should be stepping in. And they should be using non-lethal crowd control methods, even if it results in some of the protestors getting hurt.

Yes, there are so-called innocent protestors still out there, but when the protest becomes a riot, they are now giving cover to the rioters. They should be given the chance to disperse, and if they don't the police should disperse them by force.

If there's whining afterward or not.

Otherwise, the police just aren't doing their job.

(And I'm sure they're not the only ones overcompensating toward the loud minority in Berkeley.)

Over-Preservation. (Or, if you prefer, NIMBYism.)

And finally we come to my favorite pet peeve, NIMBYISM. Because the so-called progressives in Berkeley are so conservative that they don't want anything to change. Every new apartment, every new building, even the new bikeways get fought tooth-and-nail.

These people have weaponized the legal system to slow actual progress so much that a lot of builders are afraid to work in Berkeley. And if something is being worked on, expect it to take years and years to come to fruition. A decade isn't unknown.

It's literally the opposite of progressivism, but it's these same people that claim they're the big progressives.

The USA's Progressive Problems

I think there are some similar poisons in the progressive movement in the US as a whole.

I see some of the same purity, but I also think some things have gone too far.

The safe-spacing and trigger-warning in colleges has gone beyond providing a comfortable environment to the point where it's a new censorship, almost a new McCarthyism. And lets not even talk about micro-aggressions.

And I could say the same about some of depths of political correctness. Yes, Neil Gaiman is right that you can often just replace "political correctness" with "treating other people with respect". But I now look at the screams of cultural appropriation that come up anyone tries to pay homage to another culture, or I think about a white boy who was nearly assaulted a few years ago by a black woman for wearing dreadlocks, and I want to shout that it's gone too far. That's not treating other people with respect; in fact, it's the opposite.

Yes, I understand the strength and need for identity politics, yes I want to protected disadvantaged and minority groups. But I feel like we've gone so far down the rabbit hole that it's become the enemy.

Which is also to say that I understand why the Rust Belt can no longer vote for a democrat, even when the alternative was the literal Anti-Christ.

The problems with Berkeley have been bugging me for years.

The problems with national progressivism were a niggling worry for quite some time, but I finally put a finger on it after November's apocalyptic election.

And I'm still uncomfortable with it all because I feel like I'm being insufficiently empathetic. That it's traitorous to say that identity politics can become problematic when they go too far.

I remember that I felt similar things about affirmative action (and, yes, political correctness) back in high school, before I got out in the world, before I better saw and understood the bigger picture. So I worry that may be true again.

What do we want as progressives?


A society where everyone is treated well?

A society where we can feel safe?

A society where our most vulnerable have the same protections as our least?

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

But I'm not convinced that accepting anti-social behavior, that requiring total acceptance of our goals, that giving in to these overweening desires, that holding on to the past without reason, that censoring what people say, or that protecting cultures over people will get us there.

Quite the contrary.
1st-Feb-2017 10:56 pm - More Riots, Thanks Donald Trump
So we've got riots again in Berkeley. I came just a hairs-breath from getting caught up in them coming home tonight from Endgame. I BARTed in due to the possibility of rain and the annoyance of continuing health problems. I already knew there were riots going on when I was heading home, but the last I'd heard they were heading down Telegraph, which means toward Oakland.

No problem, I figured when I got off BART in Downtown Berkeley, I'll just keep an eye out for any splinters, but they should have been far away by then. I even grabbed myself dinner before going home. Which is about when I learned that a group of 150-200 rioters had headed down Durant and were now coming up Shattuck. Which means they were now directly between me and home.


Heading up Shattuck, sure enough beleaguered people coming from that direction reported a big demonstration, but said they were no longer on campus, so I headed up to Oxford, which fronts the campus ... and saw the whole demonstration streaming back onto campus. They'd apparently turned away from Shattuck, attacking the Bank of America and some of the restaurants on Center on the way. My guess is that they went after the Oasis Grill and Bongo Burger to protest the treatment of Muslims. (Those would both be Mediterranean or Mediterranean-influenced restaurants.)

Fortunately, I was able to skirt by the end of the rioting demonstration. Got a bottle thrown damned near me. Which seems to happen when I get near these things.

Got home safely.

I've gotten pretty sick of these demonstrations always turning to riots in Berkeley and Oakland, but I have to say, I understand this one.

The morons at the UC campus invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. He's a lackey at Breitbart and a member of the so-called alt-right. That's AP style, by the way, to say "so-called" or something similar if you use the tag alt-right. That's because alt-right is just a bit of Big Brother doublespeak to obscure the fact the so-called alt-right are actually white supremacists and white nationalists.

So, if that got a little confusing: UC Berkeley invited a Neo-Nazi to speak.

Just in case you're confused on free speech: free speech means the government doesn't try to stop your speech, not that they give you a platform. And, it doesn't apply to hate speech. So UC Berkeley inviting Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos. That was stupid. They don't have to tolerate his intolerance.

And so I think people are pretty rightfully and righteously mad. But, I'm pissed that they're breaking things again. I'm pissed that they're terrorizing our town (and me and my wife). And I'm super pissed that they attacked some people misguided enough to support the Nazi.

But damn, UC Berkeley, don't give Nazis a platform. Don't normalize them. Don't act like they're a normal part of free discourse in the United States.

That's Donald Trump's job.

The tail of the riot that I saw was all young. Mostly in their 20s.

I just bit my tongue not to say, "Maybe you should have voted."
28th-Jan-2017 08:37 pm - We Have Become the Enemy
Yesterday, our United States government undertook the most evil action of my lifetime. The president banned anyone with a passport from seven Muslim countries from entering the country. The only action that comes close is Ronald Reagan's utter contempt for the AIDS epidemic, which resulted in thousands of deaths amid a vulnerable minority. This may not cause as much death (though it could), but it's certainly causing as much misery.

If Trump had just sought to stem new refugees, he would only have entered xenophobia into our codified Books of Federal Law. However, he went further than that. He showed a total contempt and disregard, at a positively sociopathic level, for anyone from this countries. It doesn't matter if they have H-1B work visas or green cards. It doesn't matter if they were on the path to citizenship. It doesn't matter if they have highly sought-after skills that were improving this country. If they happened to be out of the country when Trump signed this order, they've been barred from re-entry. And, this order was so sudden, and so shocking in its scope, that there was no real warning. People going out of the country to attend conferences, to visit relatives, or just to spend a few hours in nearby Canada or Mexico can't return. It doesn't matter that their jobs are here, their family are here, their wives, their husbands, their children are here. It doesn't matter that their apartments and all their worldly possessions are here. They're not coming back.

It's vile. It's evil. It's inhumane.

Even worse, Trump entered an exception into his executive order that prioritizes religious minorities from those countries who are being prosecuted. That's right, using weasel words and the most evil governmental action in this country since the internment of the Japanese, Trump is trying to discriminate against Muslims and discriminate for ... Christians. It shows breathtaking contempt for not just the separation of church and state, but our entire Constitution.

Oh, and there's another exception: Trump banned travel from seven Muslim nations, and somehow didn't manage to include any Muslim nations where he himself has business ties. To be precise, he omitted all the Muslim nations that actually supplied the 9/11 bombers, notably including Saudi Arabia (especially Saudi Arabia) and the United Arabs Emirate. I personally believe that his fear-mongering has absolutely zero basis in reality, and that if anything white nationalists and Nazis are more of a danger to this country than the predominantly peaceful religion of Islam. But, if you accept Trump's premise, then you also have to accept that he's decided that his business interests are more important than our country's safety.

I am disgusted by Trump's actions. I am horrified at the military and police filling our airports, taking innocent people off to indefinite detention. I am sickened that Americans are not being allowed to return to their homes because they don't yet have full citizenship and Trump has decided to discriminate against their countries of birth based solely on fear-mongering, not on reality.

This can not stand. Today, xenophobia, bigotry, and hatred rule our proud country. This is not the Home of the Free. This is not the Home of the Brave.

It's the Home of the Detained and the Cowardly.
23rd-Jan-2017 11:30 pm - The New Year
Welcome to week four, and how is the new year going?

I must admit to a bit of existential dread about the new president. I mean, surely we've had pathological liars in the White House before, though none so obvious. But it's really the combination of that lying with a high level of incompetence and a certainty that he's right that's scary. It's like Dan Quayle rose up to power, but if he was also a narcissistic, self-centered man-child.

The existential dread is the big picture stuff, and I look at the headlines with fear every morning at what he's done today. I've actually had to sign off of a few progressive mailing lists, because what they were sending out was pure FUD that wasn't helping my mood.

But it's the specific stuff that's even scarier. I'm the most worried about health care. Are my costs going to double in the next decade as the CBO has predicted if the Republicans have their way? Am I going to be out of insurance? The damnedest thing is that I'm pretty healthy. I mean, if I had such horrible insurance that it only covered catastrophes, my life probably wouldn't change. I can't even imagine folks that's not true for.

I've lost two of my familial elders since the New Year, heck since the inauguration: Bob's dad (my step-grandfather) and my Aunt Peg.

I probably knew Bob the elder better. We drove down to Los Angeles a number of times when I was growing up, to spend time with Bob's family, and he was the patriarch of the house.

I probably knew August Peg less well, because she lived out in St. Louis, but she was one of the family members delighted to see me when I visited summers long gone.

And all the losses diminish us. It's a somber start to the year.

OK, perking up.

It looks like our recent roof work was successful, as the torrential downpour of the last week didn't cause new leaks. Yay. And they're going to come back in to stucco over the wounds where our water heater was removed last year, after one of our last house problems (sigh!), which will be another thing off our list-of-stressors and our list-of-things-that-must-be-done-before-we-leave-this-house.

Our recent bathroom work was more so-so. I'm hoping that the handyman fixed the leaking problem we had since last year by grouting over the bottom half of the tiles in our bathroom. Our wall has definitely stopped leaking, I'm less sure about under the house. But the grout is much darker than what's on the other half of the tiles. And it looks really grainy. And there was grit all over the tiles. Days later we've got the grit mostly off, and I'm hoping a sealant will make the stucco itself look smoother and better. But the variegated look of the top and bottom of our tile is annoying.

Speaking of rain, I'm well and sick it. It's greatly impacted my exercise over the last few months. I've been getting 50k or so steps a week instead of my goal of 70k and my more typical excess of more than that. Oh, that's been partly the cold too. Altogether it just hasn't been that nice going out on weekends or evenings or whatever.

I've been trying to figure out alternative ways to exercise, but the success has been somewhat limited.

But, yay, we're heading out of our drought.

The state water regulators, meanwhile, talked about extending our drought restrictions during one of the heaviest days of rain after days of rain. Because they have no sense of irony. Or too much sense of irony. But that's generally their modus operandi.

Work has been good since the new year. I feel like the week off helped me get my mojo back, so I've been bouncing around, putting finishing projects on various projects that have been long standing, and feeling good about it.

I'm getting a bit more weighed down this week, because various people all want my attention. I suppose that's to the good, but less bouncy.

So that's 2017 so far. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Trump is the ugly.
11th-Jan-2017 11:19 am - Water, We Hates It
So the weather services were predicting a truly apocalyptic storm this last week. Especially over the weekend, they were pretty much saying, "Stay inside if you don't need to go out, or you might die."

It was pretty ridiculous, especially when you saw the hours of mere drizzle throughout the day.

Despite the inanity of their hysterical warnings, the truth is that it was an unusual amount of rain for such a short period, and that does put pressure on our infrastructure. So, rivers are raging, and aquatic park is flooded.

And, and our house is leaking.


What a crappy start to the year.

The problem is in the back of our kitchen, between the cupboard, back door, and bathroom. Water is coming down through the big beam that marks the original back of the house and also through one of our new windows.

And darn it, I hate mysteries, and this is another one. Because the rest of the ceiling, including the five feet or so of ceiling between those two places, looks fine. So where is the water coming from? Dunno.

(Presumably: from the flat roof right above, one of two small flat roofs in our house, both representing extensions of the original house.)

Oh, and let me say, water suddenly coming down in your kitchen at 6pm, when there is a storm thundering by outside: not very pleasant for your stress and mental health, especially not when poor Kimberly has been sick abed since New Year's Eve.

I thought for a minute we might be in luck, because our roof has a shocking 18-year warranty on the workmanship and a 40-year warranty on the materials.

Except, it turns out, not the flat roofs. Those only had a 10-year warranty.

(I can't really complain about that; flat roofs are tricky.)

Here's the real problem: when we put in that flat roof, they had to rip out the house's old deck. No problem. It was rickety, looking like it'd been built by an 8-year-old with misshapen Lincoln Logs(tm).

We just finally rebuilt that deck several years ago. 2012, I think. Then we just spent a hard day improving its weatherproofing last July.

And now it seems likely that they're going to have to rip it out again to get to the roof.


(The deck was totally sour anyway: it gets too much sunlight and that reflects off the white walls, and it all turns into a blinding furnace. So it's never gotten a lot of use. But, darnit, it was also supposed to improve the value of the house when we rebuilt it, so I don't want to be right back where we started.)

This is just a continuation of water hating us over the last year.

First we had our old water heater go out and we were forced to replace it with a tankless. And now it looks like our installers did something bad with the electricity because we've had the circuit pop three times. Want to know when it did last? That'd be this morning, as I stepped around recycling bins under leaks, to get to the bathroom.

Second we had the mysterious leak in our bathroom which was never entirely solved to my satisfaction. I *think* the problem was poor grouting in our new tub area by our ex-contractor, as regrouting parts of it seem to have lessened, maybe even solved the issue. But our handyman didn't investigate the tub very thoroughly, and so there's still cracked, broken grouting I can see with my naked eye.

The lesson here seems to be: don't engage in home improvement. Too many of our problems seem to come from work we've had done. Like the deck and bathroom.

Current status: wait and see. Hope tonight's storm doesn't do too much damage.

Kimberly has been a total champ and contacted several roofers, including the people who did the initial work.

(I was going to say poor work, but actually the roofing has been fine up until this, and I can't argue with a flat roof having an issue 17 years later. But they did awful work on the gutters, which they literally left dangling from the house until we argued them into coming back to fix it. I was a bit offended, however, by their attitude today, because it was so two-faced. When we thought it might be under warranty they had no one available for days, then when we realized it wasn't because it was the flat roof we were "at the top of their list", and then they called back and said, oh, since we were in Berkeley, they didn't do repair. So much for the top of their list and that extremely high level of service they provide to out-of-warranty customers.)

But, there's no one scheduled to see us yet, let alone solve the problem, let alone tell us the cost in decks and dollars. Kimberly is continuing calling about, and I've told her to let me know if she gets too tired out, as she is still recovering from the flu.

Edit: A Few Hours Later, The End of the Story? After calling numerous roofers and setting up a few appointments for tomorrow, Kimberly got someone to come out today.

They arrived, immediately spotted that the roofing material wasn't well-attached to the stucco, and recaulked it. They did ominously say that the roof should be replaced sometime, due to the poor work (c.f. our problems with the original roofers), but that again hits the deck problem, so we'll hope there aren't any more issues and that they did solve the problem.

Cost was $350, which is a lot for half-an-hours work, but they said it was their minimum, and I had no particular objection after an evening and morning of stress.

So fingers crossed.
A Night at the Movies (Friday: 23). Kimberly and I rarely go the movies, but Christmas is our definitive goto movie day, because that's what we did on several Christmas days in the '00s when we were keeping to ourselves. So we went a bit early this year, and saw Rogue One right after I knocked off work on Friday. Great Star Wars movie; one of the best. Great characters, great development. Yes, its tone is different, but it had a tone of sacrifice and danger that I think is missing from many of the core films.

The Journey Home (Saturday: 24). We got up bright and early on Saturday to go down to San Marteen for the holiday. That's been our pattern the last few years and it's been quite nice staying over and having Christmas with the folks. But it's quite long to BART down to Fremont, then drive to San Marteen: over an hour and a half. I keep praying for the southern BART stations to open, but Warm Springs BART is entering its third year behind schedule. It's apparently been built, but they're losing trains between Fremont and Warm Springs. Theoretically, Berryessa is going to also open in 2017, which is the exciting one because it's right next to many folks I know, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Tichu! (Saturday+: 24+). We often play games while down in San Marteen, and this time around I brought Tichu because the Wiedlins are big card-playing folks. Rob, my Mom, Bob, and I played a couple of games on Saturday, and it went over great. (Then Jason and Kimberly joined us for a game on Sunday.) Well, Bob had some rather humorous problems distinguishing the phoenix and the dragon; I'm not convinced he realized they were separate cards at first and he never quite figured out their scoring and use. But even with that, everyone enjoyed the game, and I believe multiple folks wanted to get their own copies. (In fact, my siblings later made up their own deck for New Years!) It's definitely going into my bag regularly for future South Bay trips (except that I need to get a fresh copy soon, as mine is pretty worn from ~20 games).

I Am the Ping Pong King! Ko-ko-kachu. (Saturday+: 24+). There is always ping pong at the Wiedlin household, and I managed to remain undefeated against Bob, Rob, and Jason. (Well, undefeated in two-out-of-three sets; two of them came down to the rubber match.) I'll also admit that two of my opponents were somewhat intoxicated due to the beer & pizza from just beforehand. Probably primarily from the beer.

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas (Sunday: 25). Christmas morning at the Wiedlin house is fun and chaotic. Stockings for us kids and lots of presents that everyone is crazily opening their prezzies simultaneously. There was much loot, including a nice windbreaker, a nice jacket, some hiking shoes (all successfully tried out!), and a few games. Thanks parents and siblings!

Farm, Farm on the Range (Sunday+: 25+). One of the presents I got from Rob was Stardew Valley, a computer game that I'd mentioned, that he then ran out and gifted to me on Steam. I'd heard good things about this roleplaying farm-sim, and occasionally I play extensively through a game over my holiday break. This seemed like a good time to return to that old habit. Steam says I played it for over 20 hours, so it's definitely a success (and speaks well to my relaxing over the holiday!).

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas II (Sunday: 25). At home, late on Sunday night, Kimberly and I had our own Christmas. There were more stockings (prepared by her this year, with just a little help from me because she was feeling time-crunched) and more prezzies. Nice Hawaiian shirts, a TARDIS mug, and more wonderful Kimberly-created bookmarks. Yay.

Hike Any Mountain (Monday: 26). On my Monday back from San Marteen I needed some restful, relaxation time, so I did my most common medium-length hike up in the hills behind us. I walk up to the rear of Strawberry Canyon and then loop back over the top of Panoramic Hill. It's about two hours, has a nice ascent, and great views. I also wanted to try out my new hiking shoes, and they worked great. No slipping, nor sliding, not even after I hiked down some places that usually give me problems.

A Night at the Movies II (Monday: 26). I got Kimberly a few DVDs for Christmas, and we watched one of them Monday night: JasonBourne. She was a big fan of the first three, and I'm happy to say we were both quite pleased with the fifth-ish one. It was nice to see Bourne's super competence expressed in a new way, through more thoughtful and tactical work. We had some problems with the pile of coincidences implicit in the main antagonist, but other than that, this was a fine movie. I have no idea why Rotten Tomatoes rates it exactly the same as The Bourne Legacy (the pseudo fourth movie), because that was a big "Who Cares?" while this was entirely enjoyable and provided some nice closure.

The MOMA Has No Clothes (Tuesday: 27). Imagine a room filled with black sand. On the opposite wall is a shattered mirror. Off to another side is a picture of a hand holding a bean, way up on the wall where it's hard to see. A voice intones deeply accented gibberish. Wait, there's no need to imagine, because this crap is actually an installation at the MOMA in San Francisco. AKA, the sort of crap that gives modern art a bad name. Also there, giving modern art a bad name: a pile of red, white and blue bicycles, a triptych of entirely white canvases, an entirely black canvas, and an entirely blue canvas. MOMA should be ashamed of displaying that sort of thing. But we also saw great mobiles by Alex Calder, interesting cityscapes made up of individual photos, some other nice collages, and a beautiful set of dodecahedrons made with string and some sort of metal. It was an enjoyable four(!) hours at the MOMA, but probably our last visit while we live in California.

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas III (Wednesday: 28). Melody and Jared visited us on Wednesday to complete our trilogy of Christmases. We talked, we ate at Chevy's, and we exchanged gifts for gift cards.

Game On! (Wednesday: 28). This year I've mostly been coming home from EndGaming pretty early, because Kimberly has been going to bed early, but on Wednesday I splurged and told Kimberly I'd be home after she was asleep. As a result I got to play two long games: Orleans: Invasion and Key Harvest. Yay! It was a lot of fun!

Park Place (Thursday: 29). Kimberly and I like occasionally going out to Golden Gate Park, getting Andronico's sandwiches, eating them, and wandering around. So we did that on Thursday. I have a new appreciation for the park since I've been to New York, as it's so different from Central Park. It protects you from the city, whereas Central Park feels like a big bowl with city all around. Anywho, we walked around, and I kept getting turned around. It was fun. On our way out I climbed Strawberry Hill, and was impressed by the views.

On the Seventh Day He Rested (Friday: 30). After six days of running about, I mostly relaxed at home on Friday. Though I must admit I did a short climb above Clark Kerr (my 60-minute or so super-short walk up in the hills). And we ate dinner out. And we got groceries.

These Shoes Were Made For Walking (Saturday: 31). I had a casual morning on Saturday, but after lunch I decided to head out to Briones Reservoir, an EBMUD area that I've been wanting to explore for a while. Google tricked me into thinking Bear Creek Trail went right out to Bear Creak Road, but all that was there was an inaccessible fire trail. So instead it was another .6 miles up the road and 300 feet of ascent, which tired me out before the walk. The actual Reservoir is gorgeous with great hillside trails looping around it. And it was entirely empty due to EBMUD's policy of making it as hard as possible for people to use their trails. And best of all, there were benches every mile or so. I only walked about a mile and half out (then the same back), but I now really want to figure out how to walk the whole reservoir. It's 12.5 miles, or 14.5 if I don't bike up that steep hill, so it'll take some stamina and a full day. Maybe in Spring.

A Final Gift from 2016 (Saturday: 31). While I was out hiking, Kimberly was sickening with the flu. Thanks 2016, you rock.

Writing Like He's Running Out of Time (Saturday+: 24+). And finally, writing. In recent years, I've used my last week of the year to write really extensively, but this year (shocker) I decided to mostly relax instead. Oh, I did write whenever I was on a BART train, and there were quite a few. So I got a few histories done going to Fremont and back and bits and pieces on my other trips. But I'm probably a bit behind going into the new year. But, this post is done. My 2016 index for Mechanics & Meeples is done. My 2016 RPG year in review needs a double-check for important stuff and an edit and it's done. And then I need to see if it's possible to get a week ahead on my histories like I'd hope.

But carefully. I wouldn't want to lose my week of R&R.
18th-Dec-2016 12:49 pm - A Mighty Ride
On my free Saturdays (when I'm not gaming), I like to load up my computer on my bike (or in my backpack) and go out for a ride (or a hike), the idea being that while I'm out I can sit down for an hour or two in some beautiful place and do some of the writing that I've queued up while I tell passersby that No, they don't have wifi in the middle of this park. Unfortunately, this practice becomes a bit troublesome in the wee parts of the year because of the rain and the cold. More than once I've sat out bundled up to the max, wearing overshirt and jacket and my fingerless gloves so I can type, and still been shivering at the 40-something degree weather.

So Friday night I had a brainstorm. What if I took BART somewhere, doing one of those adventures I've been wanting to, and then I could write on (the less beautiful) BART, then keep in constant motion while I was out of the train, increasing my chances of being warm.

So that's what I did yesterday.

I've been wanting to visit Lake Chabot for years. It looked like it was a pretty easy bike ride from Castro Valley BART: just a few miles, and not too much uphill. So that was the plan, except I forgot that the Castro Valley line of BART is horribly inefficient. You get off at San Leandro, and then you wait 13 minutes for a "connecting" train. It's one of those things that makes it obvious that the people who schedule BART don't use BART.

At San Leandro, I pulled out my iPhone and it told me it was a 24 minute bike ride to Castro Valley, so I did that instead of waiting+BARTing for a similar length of time. (Wait, you think, you could have just sat and worked, which was the whole point of BART — except that the San Leandro station is raised, which means it's open to the air, which means that it's horribly cold.)

I enjoyed biking through San Leandro into Castro Valley. I discovered there's a bit of a ridge between them, but there was just one block that was super challenging, and then it was down into Castro Valley and lunch at Wendy's.

Mmmmm ... baked potatoes.

Warm baked potatoes.

Lake Chabot was even more beautiful than I'd guessed. It's just a few hundred feet above sea level, but it feels like a mountainside lake, with the hills dropping steeply down to the water. The first 1.5 miles are absolutely spectacular, with a paved trail allowing you to whiz around the Lake, usually 50 or so feet up.

Oh, and there was a little cafe, which is almost unknown in our East Bay parks, and which was well appreciated because I'd forgotten to pack a cookie. (The cookie I got there was sadly just adequate.) But here was the funny thing about the entrance to Lake Chabot: they steadfastly refuse to give out maps. Almost every East Bay Regional Park has a little kiosk near the entrance where you can grab a map of the area. Lake Chabot instead had very intricate map signs. It did repeat those at several points in the trail ... but eventually you got to a point where they weren't there any more, and then you cursed the penny pinchers who decided a profusion of permanent signs would ensure that printed maps weren't needed.

Because they still were.

Any who, past the end of the paved trail there was a stair and walkway across one of the marshy ends of the lake. I found it a very confusing design, because it was clearly marked at part of the bike path around Lake Chabot, but it was also so narrow that a person would have troubles getting around a bike coming from the other direction, let alone another bike. And, there were poles at very end that made it quite difficult to get a bike in and out. (I had to lift my handlebars about a foot to exit.)

On the other side, I continued the now-dirt path around the lake, and it was a little challenging because we had torrential rain on Thursday, and it was still muddy here and there. Eventually it got to a big climb, and I decided that if it were still pavement, I might try it (sure I would have!), but mud+gravity was too challenging to fight.

So I ended up walking my bike up 300 or 400 vertical feet, which was the most challenging part of the day.

And I said goodbye to the beautiful lake.

Anthony Chabot Park is above Lake Chabot Park. No, I don't understand why they split a single area into multiple parks there, when they're all run by the same people.

I'd been angsting for a bench for a few miles, so I could eat my cookie, and I finally found full picnic tables as I got to the top of the ridge (now about 700 or 800 feet up) in Anthony Chabot. So I ate my cookie, and I read Captain America, and I even did a bit of writing with my jacket off, because the walk up the hill with my bike had got me super-heated.

And, I was very pleased to find that here at Anthony Chabot Park, there were maps. So that's maybe the benefit of breaking the park up: map nazis are limited to smaller areas. (Which makes me think fondly of breaking up the United States.)

The East Bay Regional Park maps are usually quite good, and so I was able to pick out all the ridge lines and paths. To this point, I really hadn't decided where I was ending up for the day — whether I'd be circling the lake and exiting in Oakland, San Leandro, or Castro Valley, or whether I'd try to keep climbing higher. But, looking at the maps I decided that I was most of the way up the hill, and I might as well keep going.

So I set off for a ride through Anthony Chabot Park heading north. Because it was so cold and wintery I was able to ride the roads, with almost no interference from cars, which was nice due to the slight muddiness of the paths. The ride through the Park was overall quite nice. Some hills, yes, but nothing I couldn't deal with. And lots of beautiful scenery.

I eventually opted to exit at the Marciel Gate, which put me onto one of the main roads up in the hills, by now on the other side of the ridge line. On another day I might have ridden the trails that continued north, but ... mud. The benefit of riding Redwood Road was that I got to see out to the Upper San Leandro Reservoir, which becomes a very pleasant stream as you head further north.

Redwood Road eventually branches, going west toward Oakland as Redwood Road or east toward Moraga as Pinehurst Road. There were also some possibilities of heading into Redwood Regional Park — and I'd long thought what a nice trip it would be to walk through all those parks along the ridge, but not on a cold, muddy day.

I generally thought it would be much more pleasant to travel through Moraga (and Lafayette) than Oakland, so the decision on the route depended largely on what looked doable. Because I was quite tired by this point. I was pretty sure both routes were mostly downhill, but the route to Moraga clearly started with some up. It didn't look too steep, so I gave it a try anyway.

200 or 300 feet of vertical ascent later, I'd had about enough, but just as I passed the Pinehurst Staging Area for Redwood Regional Park I crested the hill and it was downhill from there.


In Moraga there was one unpleasant surprise: the southern end of the Lafayette-Moraga trail is closed. It looks like there might have been a landslide. The signs said it would be closed until East Bay Regional Parks could make it safe. Based on similar signs around one of the trails in Tilden for the last few years, that might mean "forever".

In southern Lafayette there was one pleasant surprise: a waterfall along the trail which I haven't seen falling for years was going. It was great. I took selfies.

In downtown Lafayette there was a final pleasant surprise: the BART train pulled up just I got to the platform. No sitting on another cold, elevated platform for me.

The total ride was about 29 miles with 2500 feet of total vertical ascent. By both criteria I think that was the most challenging bike ride I've done all year. Definitely the most in the last 9 or 10 months.

I thought I was going to be sore as heck today, as I have been the last few times I biked in the hill, but not so much. Yay.

Oh, and I got two articles mostly written, which is less than on a typical free Saturday, but not bad.
15th-Dec-2016 03:25 pm - Street Threats
Ah, Berkeley. Went out to pick up the mail from downtown, and when I passed a doorway, someone started yelling threats and slurs at me and following me down the street.

Ultimately, I feel empowered rather than scared, because when he turned back to return to his lurkey-hole I resolutely pulled out my phone and auto-dialed the police. From his perch some 50 feet away he started yelling, "You better not be calling the cops", then took off walking fast in the opposite direction.

He was quite threatening and seemed like he shouldn't be on the streets. The police gave the impression that they'd *eventually* send someone to look into it. He was pretty distinctive with a black jacket and a gray hoodie under that, but he'll be long gone. Which means dangerous guy is still going to be on the streets to assault someone else. (They've been much better the other times I called about threatening street people, punks chasing me down the street, and people casing our house. Ah, Berkeley.)

(A police officer did call about an hour after the incident to say he was going to go look for the guy.)

Here's my attitude toward the homeless, tempered by 25+ years of living in Berkeley. We should provide food, shelter, and necessities to give them a basic standard of living. It doesn't matter if they're living on the streets because they've been forced there or because they want to. We're a rich society; we can afford to provide *everyone* with a basic standard of living.

But, if we try to do that at a super-local level, like Berkeley does, we just end up creating a problem where we're bearing more than our load. I've seen some stats saying that we have something like 4x the homeless population that we should in Berkeley, per capita, and that's because we're providing local solutions instead of working to make sure that the county and state provide global solutions. The problem feels even worse in Berkeley than you'd expect from the numbers, because it's a very compact, little town. If you measured per square mile instead of per capita, I wouldn't be surprised if we bear 10x the load of, say, Fremont.

But Berkeley takes an even more problematic step than that, and actively enables the homeless population to take over our public sidewalks and parks. Our new mayor just threw out a law passed by our old mayor that restricted people to two-square-feet of property on our sidewalks without permit, because he thinks it's OK that a minority take all of our common space. That wouldn't be acceptable if I did it, and it's exactly as unacceptable when a homeless person does it. The public spaces are for the public, not a small number of them.

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