Thursday, July 24, 2014

Site Visitor

This week, I've been in San Rafael helping out getting the site characterized for the remediation scheduled for later this year.

Yesterday while I was sitting watching a well be destroyed, I saw something hit my knee.  I was about to brush it off, thinking it was debris being blown around, but I looked closer and saw that it was a ladybug.

I got my phone out and managed to get three pictures of it before it flew away.  The first shot focused more on my pants, so the bug is blurry, and the second I thought it was going to fly away, so it's not very composed.  But the third is almost perfect.  Once again, digital pictures allow for some amazing shots that I never would have taken with a film camera.


I encourage you to right-click on this one and open it in a new tab to see it full size.

Birthday Weekend

My birthday celebration began Friday night with a small group of friends hitting the tiki bars of the Oakland area.

We started at the Conga Lounge in Rockridge.  It had good drinks and a pretty good atmosphere, but was kind of small.

Then we went to the Kona Club in Piedmont.  This one had lots of room, and really nice decorations, but the place was pretty empty and the music was not fitting for the decor.

And then Baby Bear got to Forbidden Island.  It's always good at Forbidden Island, but you just have to be ready for the crowd.  Still I got to watch three Virgin Sacrifices be served, and the whole place ended up smelling like cinnamon from the effect.

Saturday, Jennifer and I did some painting, working our way around the downstairs.  We have one and a half walls to go.

Sunday, Jennifer took me to the Terrace Room for brunch overlooking Lake Merritt.  This place is gorgeous.  It has an amazing mural inside of the buildings around the Lake from almost 100 years ago.  The food and service were excellent, and afterwards, we sat in the sitting room finishing our mimosas and listening to a jazz trio.

Then we did a few laps around the lake, and rode home.  And once we got home, Jennifer made me cake with gourmet cocoa powder we had bought a couple months ago at Pier 39 for just such and occasion.  She use cake flour and made both the chocolate icing and the butter cream decoration frosting herself.


We're still eating on it, but it'll probably be gone tonight.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We Are Complete

It has been said on Facebook by one of us, and on the Master's blog, but on Saturday our GURPS group completed a 13 year long epic campaign.

It wasn't long after I returned to California from school that I was brought in on the creation of a new gaming world.  We met a couple times in Napa at a friend's house, and I was shown the huge sketch of the Eurasian-like continent they had drawn out.  Lines of national demarcation had been drawn, and some names had been created, but not yet all, and so we divided the world among ourselves.

NSM started with four countries as well as the history of the world, our photographer also got four as well a forest, our programmer claimed one, and the old school mate got two.  I was given two countries, as well as a group of islands off the north east coast of the continent.

The general feel of the countries had been discussed: the remnant of an empire, the rival neighbors, the desert nation, the northern pillagers, the home of movie-like monsters, and some less trope-based nations.  And the islands became an Elven nation.  Further negotiation gave me a range of mountains and the largest expanse of forest, and soon I was in charge of all the Elves in our world.

NSM had been destroying the old fantasy world provided by Steve Jackson Games, and so we decided when we would begin our new world.  Using the magic of the Internet, and free groups, we had our first adventure in early 2001, and NSM posted a summary of the game.

After a few months of hit and miss scheduling, we made a commitment to the group that the first Saturday (soon to become the second Saturday) of every month would be game day.  And aside from major events, we maintained this routine.

The party evolved from a semi-amnesiac Elf, a woodsman, a music teacher, a low knight, a thug, a voodoo woman, a monk, and a fencing rogue into a tightly knit party of near demi-gods.  The tropes remained, but they became integral to the characters and the plot.

The game evolved with the internet, and we tended to continue the game via email between our face-to-face sessions.

Now, as we wind down the last adventure preparing for the final epilogue, we can look back on what we co-created and I think we can be very proud of it.  And even with those who are no longer taking part, we share a bond that goes back that far.

And now, we have new characters to grow.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Emo Post

Sometimes there are things that happen that affect you deeply, and are completely out of your control.

When a friend gets a new job and they slip away from you, it feels like all you can do is grasp at the emptiness where they were in an attempt to catch them or bring them back.  It;s even harder when you were encouraging them during the interview process and rooting for them to get the job.

But at the same time you realize that their life is theirs, and nothing you can do will force them to come back into your life.  All you can do let them know that you will always be their friend, and hope that once everything settles down some of the good times you had will come again.

This may seem like a strange thing to write about, but it's just another small way that I'm trying to let this friend know that I continue to support them and look forward to any opportunity to see them again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Winner, Winner, Kryptonian Dinner

So a couple weeks ago, Neatorama called for submissions for a contest for superhero inspired tattoos.

Just a few days ago they listed their favorites, and called for votes.  I was catching up on my feeds from being on vacation, or I wold have posted it and asked for my friends to vote for me.

This afternoon, I got an email letting me know that I had won the "staff choice award"!

I get two free t-shirts from the Neatoshop, so I chose the best of the few Superman options called The Pledge, and a Miskatonic University shirt.

I'm all kinds of excited, and will post a link to the results when they post them.

Back to Work

Today I am back to work after a week of time off.

Jennifer and I went to visit some friends where we had to fly.  I discovered a couple years ago, that flying in a Utili-kilt is really great.  Plus there's the added bonus of watching people's reactions as I walk by.

This time, the TSA was a little more relaxed about me.  They even showed me on the screen why they needed to pat me down.  Essentially, it's the rivets and buttons; they show up as little points of interest all up the sides and in the front.

However, the best part was my return trip and getting on the first plane.  After I scanned my boarding pass, the agent complimented me on the kilt.  Then she asked me where I was traveling to.  I said, "San Francisco."

She said, "Ohhhhh."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Relief is Relative

It says a lot for how hot it has been in Lodi lately that today seems like a relief to be forecast to only reach the mid-80s.

Sunday apparently it was unbearably hot nearing 110, and Monday wasn't much better hitting 106. And that was with a breeze from the west.  Nothing like a hot dry wind blowing across you to make you want to hunker indoors.

Yesterday was a little better being in the high 90s, but the wind was still there.

This morning bike ride to the site was almost pleasant.

Almost.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Solar Freakin' Roadways

So there's not much time left on this campaign, but I watched the video again, and I wanted everyone to hear about it, so I'll shout out to may tiny cross-section of the internet.



And if you'd like to get in on it, there are still eleven days left ,as of right now, to get in on their Indiegogo campaign.

So if you have the wherewithal, go and do.  And if not, then share the video.

One. More. Week.

I am nearly done in Lodi.  This is the last week.

After five and a half months, I will get to sleep in my own bed seven nights a week.

And I won't have to deal with the insane temperatures of the valley anymore either.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What Monkey? Where?

So, I discovered today just how easy it is to get back onto caffeine.

Last weekend, Jennifer and I were at Safeway, and they had Sobe on sale.  Now, I'm still upset that the Dragon flavor is gone, but I salve the wound with Citrus when I think about it.  So I got four bottles, and went on my way.

Unfortunately, we forgot to go to Trader Joe's, so I only had the half bottle of lemonade for my lunches. 

So, Monday morning I had one on my way to Lodi.  Then i had one for lunch on Wednesday after my lemonade had run out.  Then Thursday there was a pizza party lunch, and I was too weak to say no to a Coke (or two).  Then there was Friday's lunch, and I had one Sobe left.  So of course I needed something to drink on the drive home...

Then today about 2:00, I started getting a headache.  By 4:00, it was pretty bad, and my temperature was fluctuating.  I had a craving for chocolate, that ended up being like how Robin Williams describes taking a quaalude after having cocaine (like throwing bricks in the Grand Canyon).  Then I had a sudden thought about how good a cup of tea would be.

As I was choosing my tea, it hit me that it'd been over 24 hours since my last hit of caffeine.

About halfway through my first cup of tea (I'm on my third cup of Peet's Gunpowder now), my headache faded away.

So yeah, it's just that easy.  I'm going to stick with tea this weekend, and just go lighter through Monday.  Probably David's jasmine and Ten Ren's Dragonwell.

Then this week, I'll wean myself off of it over the coming week.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hair Has Ears

So, it's been a while since I got my hair cut.  How long?  Before I was in Lodi, so sometime late last year.

Thursday morning, I decided to schedule a haircut, and found an opening for this Friday.  I didn't say anything out loud until last night talking to Jennifer when I told her when my appointment was.

Now for many months my hair has been manageable; it's styled fine.  I'm getting it cut just because it's past my eyebrows and the styling options are dwindling.  Now while in Lodi, I've been showering at night, putting in mousse and lightly styling in the morning.  I wear a bike helmet when I ride, and a hard hat most fo the day, but the hair still needs to be managed.

This morning?

Worst.  Bed-head.  Ever.

And so, today between wearing a hard hat, for the first time in Lodi, I'm wearing a baseball cap.

How does the hair know?

The Biggest Difference

So on the tail end of the California heat wave, what's the biggest difference I've found between Emeryville and Lodi?

Today both are starting at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Emeryville's predicted high: 75

Lodi's predicted high: 95

Enough said.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Chapter One, The Bride

I've said before that while I do get up early, I do not quite rise at the same hour as Ninja Space Monkey.  This morning as I was getting in the elevator at the hotel (yes, still in Lodi), I received a YIM beep.  NSM has sent me a link to a webcomic that we regularly read: Alina Pete's Weregeek.  Specifically, today's strip:


Now anyone who knows me and/or has read this blog, has surely discovered my deep and abiding interest in "The Princess Bride", and I have read the book as well.  I even wrote in for the bit that William Goldman teases about.  I think I have the letter folded up inside the book.

But this was my movie in college.  As I've said, I wore out two VHS tapes watching it before I got the DVD.  Becasue of this, NSM told of a coworker of his (and future coworker of mine) as a teller at Wells Fargo who tried to stump him with a quote.  I'm not sure of the quote itself, but it wasn't an altogether obscure one.  NSM threw out the countersign with a bit of derision, and asked the guy if he didn't realize how many times I had watched it.  NSM would watch it with me, but while he was working on our next game.  He picked up a lot on a subconscious level.

Magnets, the Inverse Cube Law

Last week I received another purchase from Kickstarter in the mail: my Polar Pen.

If I remember correctly, I read about the Polar Pen Kickstarter on iO9 or Gizmodo.  They linked to the sales pitch video, and I was hooked.

I had missed out on Buckyballs, since they were alarmistly forced from the market in the US, and out of business.  I had put off buying them, thinking they would be available for a long time because they were so popular.  I was even leaning towards the Buckycubes, but alas, it was not to be.

I once again agree with George Carlin.

So, I wasn't going to miss out on another cool magnet toy.

I remember when neodymium magnet started coming out.  I bought a tiny one in a plastic disc from my mineralogy class in college.  The disc was about the size of three dimes stacked together, and open up to give a small disc to hold onto while the other half holding a half centimeter diameter cylinder magnet dangled from a thread.  It was perfect for detecting iron in the samples were had to identify in class.  We found that the magnet was a little stronger than the typical bar magnets, and tended to show minerals were magnet when they had not been described that way in our texts.  Our teacher was a bit surprised, but said to make note of it, and add it to our practice flashcards.

Now I have to get home this weekend, and find where I have that stashed...

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Tentacles... -NT-

This weekend I finished Kraken by China Miéville.

I had said that the style of language used took some getting used to.  I found that I needed more focused time to get into it.  In a way it was like when I have read books from the 1800s (Wells, Verne, Dumas, etc.); language has changed, and it takes work to get into the rhythm of the words.

That being said, the story was incredibly original and intricately woven together.  I really liked that no one seemed to know how the world was going to end, even when so many were working to read the future.

Also the trope of the extremely evil pair, while much like Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin from Pratchett's The Truth and Croup and Vandemar from Gaiman's Neverwhere, is creepily explored in the book.

Now, I must move on and see what is next in my library.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Smell of Pain

So when I was little, I think 4 yeas old, I was running down a ramp in Louisville's Belvedere.  I was with my parents, but I broke away to run downhill.  Being little, I fell and face-planted before the term was in wide use.  I hit my upper lip hard enough that it split open.  Other than the pain, I don't remember much about what followed.

I'm sure my parents applied tissues or something to staunch the bleeding, but it was found that the bleeding wouldn't stop.  So off to a hospital I went.  I ended up getting three stitches in my lip and was limited to foods I could take through a straw (Kool-Aid, Campbell's Soup, etc.).

I would swear that I was screaming through most of the suturing, but Mom denies that.  But since that day, one of the things I would remember upon waking from nightmares was this chocking chemical smell.  It was a sensation that would linger for minutes after I woke up.

When I started working in environmental, I started wearing nitrile (non-latex) gloves to prevent contaminating myself with chemicals of concern.  The first time I opened a box and the smell hit me, I finally knew where the nightmare smell had come from.  The doctor(s) that worked on my lip must have worn nitrile gloves (or something similar) and that smell stayed with me.

I kind of let the connection fade over time, but today I opened a new box and the smell hit me taking me right back.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

What is it...

What is it about the tale of Superman that touches me so deeply?

I'm sitting here watching "Man of Steel" and each flashback, each time he manifests a new power each time he does what Superman does, I get choked up.

There must just be just something about it that triggers me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Proximal Reading

So, today at lunch, I had the most amazing experience.

I was reading Kraken by China Miéville which was referred to me by a friend.  It's a bit of an odd book.  The language is semi-colloquial British, and then there's the strangeness going on in the book, and then there's the strange characters int he book with their own strange speech patterns, and so all in all, it's a bit strange.

So I'm reading at lunch, sitting at my table in the little rented house, and I'm getting into the book.  Then as I sank into the book, it was like I felt my friend sitting next to me.  It was like she was in the non-existent chair next to me reading her own book.  I just wanted to turn to her and say, "This is a pretty messed up part right here."

It was that real.  And I've never had that feeling before.