Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Magic of Music

So, regular reader will know that I am part of a monthly pen and paper, role playing game.  This past Saturday we had our session, and a certain topic came up.

Just follow this logic.

In the GURPS Magic system, the kinds of spells are broken into Colleges: separate colleges for the four elements, animal magic, sound, light and darkness, etc.  Then there are ways of limiting the magic user like allowing one to only be able to cast spells in a single college, or only cast spells during the day, or (what my recently retired character began the campaign with) only being able to cast spells when singing.  This last are usually called Song Mages

So the next step in speculation is: who sings all the time?  Disney princesses.

Disney princesses have a tendency to be able to magically interact with animals.  They can speak with them, and sometimes control them.  And usually this is done through song.

(And yeah, this does kind of make Mulan into the Batman of Disney heroines, but still...)

But take this a little farther (and it even continues the Disney theme), what other famous character communicates and kind of controls animals?


Now, nowhere in the rules does it say that a song mage has to have any musical skill or talent.  So with only a gorilla's sense of music, Tarzan casts his spells to do what he does with the animals of the jungle.

This was about where we left it on Saturday, but I started applying this to other things.

What about super-heroes?  What do a lot of super-heroes have in common with Disney princesses?  They're orphans.  Is this another link to the hidden power of magic/super-powers?  Sure this doesn't work with Batman, but it does explain why Mulan can only talk with the spirit-powered dragon, but has no control over him or the cricket.

Ariel's powers are limited because her father still lives; she can speak with some of the fish (and the seagull), but can't control the shark or the eels.  Aurora probably gained hers from the good fairies because both of her parents are still alive as well.  Pocahontas is gifted by her grandmother.  Snow White - major animal song mage.  The trope is even mocked silently with Giselle.

For a full circle head spin, what super-hero (other than Black Canary) is most known for singing?

Mighty Mouse.

::mike drop::

Monday, October 13, 2014


So, Sunday, I met with some other geologists at the Oakland Public Library's main branch for a little CHG study session.  One of them had taken the exam last year, and not passed.  The rest of us picked his brain for what the test was like, and we went over questions of the type that he felt sure would be on the test.

We all decided that we hadn't been studying hard enough, but were going to focus the rest of the week.  Jennifer and I are going to keep out television off once I'm home.  She's going to read, and I'm going to do the end of chapter problems in my old textbooks.

I'll be in San Francisco on Thursday for the test.  Send all of your good thoughts and energy my way from 8:30 to 11:30.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Hati and Mani

So, I was reminded of a few things this morning.  One of the smallest is that if you take the time to setup a tripod prior to getting up to take pictures of a lunar eclipse, you'll probably fall back to sleep sooner afterwards.

I didn't do that though.

The first picture I took, I forgot to turn off the flash...

So the moon's there, but it's really faint.

So next, I turned off the flash, but didn't realize how much hand moved when supporting the camera, and it's a bit heavy with the zoom lens.

So I went to the closet and got out the tripod.

I took several pictures, but this one I think is the best.  What surprises me is how much the stars moved in just a 6 second exposure.  I have one shot I took that has a 10 second exposure.  Even the moon is blurred and slightly elongated from its movement.

Still, it was cool to see.  We were very fortunate to have fog only over San Francisco and not all over the Bay Area.

Also, for reference, Hati and Mani...

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Needing Your Support

So, my mom is going through a lot right now.  I'd recommend checking out her blog for the news.

I spoke with them this weekend, and then earlier this week when they left the hospital.

As she says, please keep them in your thoughts, and keep it positive.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hitting the Books

You might notice that I've added a new section to the right.

Back in June I applied to take the exam to become a California Certified Hydrogeologist (CHG).  I had to gather up three letters of recommendation from other CHGs or Professional Geoloigists (PGs).  It took a little work, but I got it all together, and after some additional questions from the Board, I was approved to take the exam.

The exam is in the middle of October, so now I have to study.

The Board published a list of material that I need to know, so now I get to go back through my textbooks and refresh myself.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Cycling and Football

Yesterday, Jennifer suggested riding the Iron Horse Trail again.  We decided to ride the entire trail, and planned to take BART all the way to Concord, then ride down to the trailhead on Olivera.

However, when we got to Pleasant Hill, the train was going to wait for over 10 minutes because of track maintenance.  So we decided we'd get off, get on the trail, ride to the trailhead, and then turn around and do the whole trail to Dublin/Pleasanton.

Yeah, but then we lost the trail in Concord around Willow Pass Road.  Looking at Google Maps today, we missed where the Iron Horse Trail splits from another trail when it crosses Monument Boulevard.  Good to know, and we'll try again another time.

We dodged walkers with baby carriages, cyclists who had more gear than sense, and dogs no being controlled by their owners.  And to top it off, Danville was having a wine festival that was adjacent to the trail.

We were very happy to make it to the BART station.

In total with all the back and forth, we did just about 33.5 miles.


Then this morning is the first Sunday of the NFL regular season.  It's a bit of a tradition for me to make Jennifer a special breakfast while she watches the pre-game show.

We made a quick race to Trader Joe's for necessary ingredients, and then using other stuff we had on hand, I made two breakfasts.  For myself, just a bagel eggwich with Kinder's peppered bacon:

But, Jennifer got eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, and a couple slices of bacon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Good Morning - 3, 2, 1...

Looking this quote up that I thought was Terry Pratchett, I learned it was actually from Will Durant.

"Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice."

A 6.1 earthquake (as of this writing) rolled through the Bay Area this morning.  It was centered south of Napa near American Canyon.

We were awakened by the shaking, and then heard a thump and something breaking.

We got semi-dressed and went downstairs.  The cats were fine in their room.  None of the glasses had fallen.  Then Jennifer called from a room upstairs.  A propped up piece of art had shifted forward and knocked two ceramic tea light holders to the ground.  One landed an the other, and that's what made them break.

Otherwise, we're fine.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ice Cream! We're Gonna Eat Ice Cream!

Last night, I had an early dinner at Barclay's.  It was wonderful as always, but they only have two desserts.  One is an apple crumble which is not for me, and the other is an ice cream and brownie thing which while being excellent is too much for one person.

So I went out looking for dessert in Rockridge.

Now, I get off BART at Rockridge every day, so there are a few things I see every time I go down College.  One is Zachary's Pizza, but once I stopped staring at that side of the road, I noticed a fancy light-up sign that simply says "Ice Cream".

So last night, I walked down to a shop called Smitten.

I looked over the flavors and asked if they offered tastings.  The cashier apologized and said that since each order was made right then that tasting wasn't possible.  That's when the large stainless steel tank that is the size of a beer brewing tank registered; that and the safety placard on it.  Then I looked at the flavors stations that had elaborate blenders with little hoses over the bowls.  And I asked, "So you make the ice cream with liquid nitrogen?"  And she smiled and said, "Yes, liquid nitrogen."


I got the TCHO chocolate ice cream with TCHO chocolate sauce.  I also only got two scoops because I was warned.  The scoops are a little bigger than the typical gelato scoop (maybe a circle made by my middle finger and thumb), and the ice cream in somewhere between regular ice cream and gelato as well.  It was very smooth and really rich.  I'm taking Jennifer there this weekend.


And speaking of TCHO chocolate, I was walking past their new factory at the corner of 67th and San Pablo Avenue (yes, it is actually that close to my home), and I could smell the chocolate.  I'm so looking forward to the factory being open for tours and tastings.

I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful thing like a chocolate factory only a couple blocks from home.  I'm sure it could be a lot worse...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Farewell, Grand Jester

Last night while Jennifer was doing some work, I read that Robin Williams had died.

We were fortunate enough to get to see him live three times at Bimbo's, but he affected us so much more than that.

I'm not a fan of Garp or the Nights at the Museum, but "Hook" is one of my favorite movies.  And I watched "Mork & Mindy" regularly when I was growing up.

But what I will remember the most about Robin Williams are his stand-up albums.  I got a cassette copy of an album from a friend in high school, and then another from friends at church.  I know now that one of those would have been "Reality, What a Concept" and the other was "An Evening with Robin Williams" (that's the video, the album was "Throbbing Python of Love").  These became much like the early works of Bill Cosby: only a few people my age knew about them before the big album came out.  Everyone knew about "Bill Cosby: Himself" and everyone knew about "A Night at the Met".  And then there was a drought of stand-up albums aside from Comic Relief.

The times I saw him live, he was "Working on Material..." were in preparation for "Live on Broadway" and "Weapons of Self Destruction".

Jennifer and I thoroughly enjoyed "The Crazy Ones", his latest TV show, and could see the joy his cast had working with him.  I have to wonder if the cancellation of the show contributed to his depression.

Memories of him will always bring me back to some of the more joyful parts of my life as I laughed alone, with my friends, and with my wife at the antics, wizardry, and occasional genius of Robin Williams.

I will certainly feel the loss.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

My Book Report

So let's see where we are.

I have recently read the latest Kate Daniels book, Magic Breaks, from Ilona Andrews.  In keeping with the theme, may I just say the the manure carts never stop hitting the windmill.  I was happy for the forward which states that while the book may seem like a last book, they are under contract for three more.  It is another wonderful continuation of the series, and I highly recommend it.

Then I tried to read a new series beginning with Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines.  I had scanned a recommendation from iO9, and it soon disappointed.  I had picked it up because it was described as a good story with super powers.  Since i had recently read Steelheart, I thought another in that vein might be good.  Then the zombies appeared.

I have to figure there is a geek somewhere in Japan that doesn't like anime.  On another island in the Land of the Rising Sun is another geek who is tired of Kaiju.  And sometimes I feel I'm the only geek in the US that doesn't like zombies.  I've read one zombie book (Death Troopers), and was kind of "meh..." about it.  I've only watched two full zombie movies, and those was "Sean of the Dead" and "Zombieland", and that's only because they were comedies.  Now it's not like I'm disparaging Doctor Who, but zombies are a big wedge of the geek pie chart.

(Oh wait, I also saw "28 Days Later", and then maybe 20 minutes of "28 Weeks Later".)

In Ex-Heroes (not really spoiling anything, this is revealed pretty quickly), a meteor falls to earth and seems to be the catalyst for some people getting super powers.  Then somehow (I stopped reading before this reveal) that also starts creating zombies.  I think I could have made it through, but then Clines started in on the graphic descriptions of the zombies.

Look, I get it.  There are dead-ish bodies walking around.  They're rotting and missing limbs, appendages, or digits.  And they're the full cross-section of the population.  We all have seen it.

So I moved on.

I read a few of the short stories in George R.R. Martin's Rogues.  The Neil Gaiman story was great as was Patrick Rothfuss'.  But they were each about supporting characters in a great book and a great series.  It just made me want more.

So this morning, I had a little time, so I started going through my library of e-books, for something else.

I moved over the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia, and the Huger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  But then I saw the Kage Baker folder.

I remember reading the Company series, having started it early on, and reading each book as it came out.  I quickly wondered how it would be to read it straight through.  And so that's what I'm doing now.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Go and See and Laugh

So Friday night, Jennifer, John, and I went to see "Guardians of the Galaxy".

If you haven't seen it yet, you must.  All the descriptions are right.

It has the buried epic potential of "Star Wars".  It has the humor of "The Fifth Element".  I'm not sure if I agree with the parallels to "The Last Starfighter", but then it's been a while since I've seen that one.

And then there is the overall connection with the Marvel movie-verse.

Yeah, yeah, I know it has an official name, but if it is called the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) then if Warner/DC gets their act together will Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman be in the DCCU?

Anyway, to digress further, while I did read some Marvel comics as they came to me as a kid, and I watched the horribly animated "Spider-Man" cartoons as a kid, I've been a DC guy.  Even after stopping reading comics, I've wanted DC to get off their ass, get their shit together, and get moving on their own movie-verse.

That being said, if you've seen the movies (and after this weekend with a loan from John, I am), then this compilation is grab-you-by-the-balls moving:

And then, once you're all caught up on the MCU, specifically "Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier" and "Guardians of the Galaxy", then you will enjoy this comic from Texts from Superheroes:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Non Sequitur

Two things.

First, I finished Charles Stross' latest book The Rhesus Chart yesterday on my way home.  I have to say that it was a fun read, but not up to the rest of the stories from the Laundry Files.  It feels a bit like Stross was lining things up for a future story.

It's kind of like the Bill Cosby album "When I Was a Kid" and he tells the story of him and Weird Harold coming home from the monster movies and trampling a wino in fear.  Then he says, "I told you that story to tell you this one." and goes on to tell about the time he got trampled by Fat Albert after trying to scare him with a Frankenstein's monster statue.

I still enjoyed the book, but I am really hoping for an amazing next one.


Second, have you heard about Endura Cool by Mission Athletecare?  Because this stuff is amazing.

Jennifer and I came across a commercial for the towel one day while watching non-network TV.  The Dish Hopper doesn't automatically skip on non-network, non-prime time shows, and we get complacent sometimes and forget.  So we catch the occasional commercial, and this one intrigued us.

I was done with the long project in Lodi, but I knew I'd be going back out into the field, and summer is here.  All I had to do was go to a Lowe's.

I happened to be going back to Lodi for a brief visit, and knew where a Lowe's was, so I stopped in.

I ended up buying two items: the towel and the multi-cool.  I use the multi-cool as a turtleneck every time I ride home now because of the whole 20 degree difference between Walnut Creek and Emeryville, and how hot the BART trains get in the sun.  I use the towel both when I first get into the office and home.  I wet it, wring it, and snap it, and then just drape it over my shoulders.

The multi-cool keeps me cooler while I'm riding, and the towel accelerates my cool down when I'm done riding.

Last week I was in San Rafael, and I used the multi-cool under on my head under my helmet with the tail hanging down my neck and tucked into my shirt.  It was a wonderful cooling feeling.

I cannot recommend this family of products enough.  I think they should be included in first aid kits for cooling heat stressed individuals.  I also wager that they would be great for helping cool someone with a fever.

But then remember, I'm a geologist, not a doctor... Jim.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Quest of the Past

This starts strange, but bear with me.

So, I was in the men's room...

And I look in the stall next to me, and I see turquoise Converse high tops next to me.

I was immediately sent back in time to my senior year of high school.  I'm not remembering when exactly in the year it was, but I'm thinking it was near the beginning of the basketball season.

One of the more spirited members of the band was putting together the Rally Band.  When asked what a Rally Band was, he would say that it's like a pep band, but because "rally" rhymes with "valley" then the Ygnacio Valley Rally Band sound better.

Now our colors were turquoise and gold, and so it was decided that the uniform of the Rally Band would be yellow t-shirts with appropriate school-spirited designs, combined with jeans and turquoise suspenders and matching Converse high tops.

And so began the quest.

I remember a group of us canvassing Sun Valley Mall and the surrounding stores, looking for these shoes for everyone.  Unfortunately they were in short supply, and few of us ever got our hands on a pair.


Saturday Jennifer and I spent the day at Pedalfest at Jack London Square, and we had an amazing time.

The festival used the new(ish) indoor farmers market building for free bike valet, so we rode over and then dropped our bikes off knowing they would be safe.

Then we went around gathering up free stickers and stuff.

There were lots of local bike shops present, but also biking accessories and bike supporting groups.

Jennifer made a bracelet at the Oakland Public Library booth out of an old inner tube, a snap, and a bicycle stamp.

We both signed up at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's booth for Spare the Air alerts and got free bike lights.

We're also supporting Measure BB for Alameda County for the spreading of bike lanes like the green strip up 40th Street in Oakland, as well as funding to BART for their new cars for better bike parking on the train.

Jennifer got some saddle bags for her bike, and I got a new t-shirt.

And we got these little guys for our bikes from Raven Bike Registry.

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.