Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Encroachment

Today has been mostly mundane.

Until just a few minutes ago, right outside my window.




The turkeys of Walnut Creek.

En Route

Yesterday morning was normal.  Cold, but normal.

Then around midday the winds started.  They were 20 to 30 mph with gusts 40 to 50 mph.  I could see the trees outside my office blowing and hear all of the debris hitting the building.  After a phone call, I was convinced it would be better if I walked rather than rode my bike home.

As I got to Walnut Creek BART, there were people everywhere outside the station.  Apparently, broken tree branches had blocked the tracks on the yellow line (Pittsburg/Baypoint <=> Daly City) between Concord and Pleasant Hill and somewhere south of San Francisco.  So they were only running trains that were between the two cut-offs.  But we had to wait.  Then they announced a train was on its way from Lafayette.  It arrived but on the opposite platform.  I and a few others ran and got on the nearly empty train, and then waited while it waited for everyone else on the opposite platform to come over.  At least I got a seat.  By the time I made it home it had taken closet to two hours.

Then this morning I had to take Emery-Go-Round back to BART, and that turned out to be a mess because since today is an almost holiday, they started the buses an hour later than usual.

I'll be working through lunch to catch up on my time today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advent: Day 22

So, Sunday when I was coming home from visiting mom in the hospital, there was a series of crunches from my right bike pedal.  I looked it over, and found the bearings had given out or fallen out.  Fortunately, the pedal still worked, and was just a little loose.

So, last night when I got home (I rode my other bike to work), Jennifer and I rode to Blue Heron Bikes in Berkeley.  We had found them while riding on the Ohlone Greenway under the Richmond BART line.  Not only did they trade out the pedals, but they also traded out my toe cages at no extra cost.  I was impressed with the guy who worked on my bike, because I had tried to unscrew the pedal and just had no success.  They have some beautiful bikes there too.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent: Day 21

Sunday, I spent with mom and dad at Kaiser.  Mom had a rough Friday and Saturday, and spent them in the hospital.  She's still there today (Monday), but we're hoping that she'll get to go home today.  She was tired, and dad and I took turns feeding her.  It wasn't that she was that weak, she just only had one good hand to use, because her left was covered in monitors and tubes.  But news was looking better for her, and when I left, dad was still asleep on the couch int he room, and mom was getting vitamins and probably going back to napping.

When I got home, Jennifer had gone domestic on me again, and was in the midst of baking bread, and preparing sausages and mashed potatoes for our Winter Solstice dinner.  Half of which I have leftover for lunch today.


Advent: Day 20

Saturday was a good day overall.  Jennifer and I went into the city to look at Christmas trees, and experience the season with people.  If you have not yet been to the AstroTurf covered Winter Walk, then I highly recommend it.  And be sure to be there in both the day and the night, because the free form benches light up at night and add a pretty note to the walk.

And since you'll be nearby, go to the Sutter Pub.  Boddington's, as well as others, on tap, and some really great food.


Advent: Day 19

Friday.  A day to look forward to the weekend.  And also one to see that Christmas is closing in just that fast.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent: Day 18

Let's just say that my review went very well, and I'm looking forward to the new year and growing opportunities at my company.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent: Day 17

Yesterday was an interesting day.  We had a low grade version of what at ETIC we used to call a "client fire drill".

Basically, a client PM had a presentation coming up today, and she needed us to fill in the facts on her presentation.  We had a quick conference call, and hashed out who as doing what.  An then we got it back to her in a couple hours, all set to go.

It was so much easier than some of the rush work we would have at ETIC.  At least this one had an understandable purpose.  The ETIC client work always seemed like arbitrary budget re-analysis.

But now, all is well, and I can relax and look forward to my annual review later today.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Pain of Waiting

So, yesterday on BART, I finished the third book in Scott Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards series.

The first book is quickly engaging and they were all books that I would rather have read than done anything else.

What I did notice was the subtle work Lynch had put into creating a culture that mostly treated men and women equally including same sex relations.

However, now that I'm done, I have to wait for the next books to come out.

So let's look at the series I'm in the middle of:

  • Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden chronicles
  • George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire
  • Charles Stross' Laundry Files
  • Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series
  • Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archives
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld

First off, I'll admit that it's a great dilemma to be in, because many other series have ended.

  • Kim Harrison's Tales from the Hollows
  • Jim Butcher's Codex Alera
  • Robert Jordan's (with the help of Brandon Sanderson) The Wheel of Time
  • Frank Herbert's Stories of Dune
  • Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide of the Galaxy
  • Fred Saberhagen's Books of Swords
  • Larry Niven's Ringworld (so it would seem)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winner, Winner, Football Dinner

So, on Cyber Monday I entered a drawing on Mission Athletecare for a chance to win a football signed by Reggie Bush.


Sometime last week (I think), I got an email saying I had won.  I really didn't think anything about it because, you know, it was an email, and I didn't know if it was real.

It was.


I'll just say that Jennifer is very happy.  She is almost as speechless as when I proposed to her.


Advent: Day 16

Crowded?  Perhaps, but it's going to look so good when it's done.


Advent: Day 15

This weekend, Jennifer said that the advent tree was getting crowded.  There's still 10 ornaments to go...


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent: Day 14

And so Sunday.


Today was a day to be out and enjoying the weather while we could be fore the return of rain.

We enjoyed ourselves at Bay Street in Emeryville, and rode all around town.

Advent: Day 13

Not much to report for the day.  Saturday was pretty quiet.

But we did go to see "Big Hero 6" which I thought was was a lot of fun.  I think a this of the fun was seeing what parts of San Francisco they had Japanified.  I vaguely recognized some of landmarks from Tokyo.  But I liked the story, and the animation.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent: Day 12

And so, we're halfway through decorating the advent tree.


I'm certainly looking forward to a beautiful dry weekend before the rain returns.



Friday, December 12, 2014

Morning Thoughts

A few things on my mind as I rode to BART this morning:


  • I was amazed in one residential section where all of the cracks in the road had sprouted grass or moss, and hen lit up by my headlamp were that new growth bright green contrasted with the black of wet asphalt.

  • I also had the fun of occasionally seeing my breath in the cone of light from my headlamp.

  • Walking to work (via public transportation) is a very different workout.  This morning my thighs are a little tender, and I actually feel like I have shin-splints.  They're probably from the boots I wore yesterday.



Advent: Day 11

And so the storm has mostly passed, and we're all still here.

It was interesting to watch what happened with it.  It started in the North Bay and hovered there for the night, and then the beginning of the morning it moved through the East Bay.  Winds were high all across the north state, but the terrible rain and winds didn't linger for us.

Instead it moved down tot eh south bay.  I watched the radar most of the day, and the cell of yellow, orange, and red just hovered over Monterrey Bay throwing the occasional pseudopod up towards us.  It was still there last night when I went to bed, and now this morning it's moved all the way down to LA.

You all have fun with that.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent: Day 10

So, for any who are curious, I did not ride my bike to day although I did go into work.  The winds were blowing at 33 mph when I woke up, and forecast to be anywhere from 30 to 50 mph for the day.  Rain I can handle, but gusty winds are too much.  Also, I'm glad I'm not up in the mountains; apparently they've measured winds up to 135 mph in the Sierra this morning.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent: Day 9

So yesterday I was back at work.  I'm tending to get up a lot and walk, just to keep my back moving. Riding my bike is fine, and laying down is fine both on my back or on my side.  It's just sitting that bothers me.

I'm just glad there were no helicopters last night.

So, Monday there was a protest march in Berkeley that went down to Interstate 80 at University.  I knew something was up because there was a helicopter hovering over that way.  Then three more moved in like something out of Vietnam.  Those were likely from television.  That happened when the protesters blocked the freeway.  And they kept circling and hovering around Emeryville until after the 11:00 news slots.  Then they went away finally.

The police helicopter did not.  They were tracking people or groups until the wee hours of the night. And of course it was a night where we wanted our window open.  It got pretty loud sometimes.  Jennifer said there were times the searchlight on the helicopter passed over the window.

At least last night it was quiet in our area.



Monday, December 08, 2014

Advent: Day 8

Jennifer asked me this morning when she put her decoration up, "Why did you do all candles?"  I told that's just the way I like to do it.  But now it's all free style.  There is one more candle, but it's a different style.


Advent: Day 7

And one more day down.  I'm thinking that tomorrow I will be close enough to normal that I will go back to work, but today, I'm keeping it calm, and staying on the couch or the bad.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Advent: Day 6

And Sunday too.  Although I did get a little pop of release and I can sit for a while.

If things aren't better in the morning, I'll be going to a doctor.


Advent: Day 5

So, it's not been an easy weekend.  Friday I developed a stiffness in my back.  It didn't seem too bad, but by the evening it was uncomfortable to sit.  Fortunately, laying on my side was easy enough, so I slept.  But when I woke up Saturday morning I could barely stand up straight.

So I ended up spending most of Saturday in bed.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Advent: Day 4

Aside from free-form, advent Tree decorating, Jennifer also breaks the "we put the latest ornament on before bedtime."


Yesterday, I had forgotten to take a picture of the tree, so I asked her to email me a picture.

Today's came unsolicited about 5 minutes ago...

Also, in my opinion (one which was occasionally debated based on some real tree ornaments) the wreath is upside down.

But we all know the first rule of life club: You do not argue with redheads.

Advent: Day 3

In the following photo, you might notice a pattern emerging.


When I was growing up, there were strict rules for decorating our 3D tree.  (I'd call it real, but it was artificial.  It looked awesome though.)

We used to use colored lights for the bottom two-thirds of the tree and then white lights on top.  In the white light area went birds, angels, and the like.  Over time the inside would get filled up first with plain balls and then the more special ornaments went up on the outside.  Finally, the icicles would go on either as tinsel or the glass ones we first bought in Maryland.

I tend to follow that rule when I do my tree.

I do; Jennifer does not.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Advent: Day 2

So Jennifer made her first addition yesterday:


Now, I'm planning on bouncing to the other side for my next piece.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Advent: Day 1

So this is the first addition to the tree.  I'm sure that one piece at a time will seem subtle, but the fun will be to see the growth and change.

This year the progression will be a collaborative effort as Jennifer has said that she wants to add pieces as well.  She's going to decorate on even nights, and I'll decorate on odd nights.  Then on Christmas Eve we'll put the last piece on together.


Monday, December 01, 2014

A New Series (for me at least)

So through another io9 recommendation, I'm reading the Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch.

This weekend, I finished the first book The Lies of Locke Lamora, and it's pretty amazing.  The world is deep, the characters are full, and the revenge just keeps coming.

I have to say, I really like the maps too.

They're books that I'd love to see turned into movies.  The first book has so much visual to it that I'd love to see it.  And the second book Red Seas Under Red Skies has a perfect sequel opening.

Advent: Day 0

One of the oldest parts of Christmas to me is my Advent Tree.  There are twenty-four ornaments that get pinned onto this, one every night saving the star on top for Christmas Eve.


It's seems very simple, but it's different every year.  First I would point to where I wanted the puffy, sequinned piece pinned.  And eventually I was old enough to pin them on myself.  I think my only regret is that I don't have a picture of the past forty-five variations.

So this year, I'm going to take a picture every day to show the countdown to Christmas.

Lots of Photos Before Christmas

So, it's been an interesting time lately.  I've been spending Wednesdays evenings with my parents helping out while mom is in chemo.  Of course that didn't happen this last week as I had a cold that started Sunday night, and I couldn't risk giving it to mom.

So Thanksgiving was quiet as I dealt with congestion and a sinus headache from the bouncing barometer.  Jennifer and I made an early morning run to storage to get our containers of Christmas decorations.


And that stack is over 6 feet tall.  We meant to take a picture for scale, but forgot.  The six boxes on the bottom are 64-liter Really Useful Boxes.  They're amazingly sturdy.  I remmeber seeing a photo once of a Mini Cooper sitting on top of four RUBs.  [I found a video]


So anyway, they're really great.  We're considering converting all of our storage boxes to them.  Plus there's the added bonus of being able to see what's inside if you get the clear ones.


So we like angels.  The one on the left is the tree topper,a dn was the first we bought as a married couple.  We got the little one next to it later because it matched so well.  Then we just started accumulating angels.  They end up scattered throughout the flat surface decorations.




And here is the finished tree.  

The following are the flat surfaces that got decorated with different colors and lighted garlands.


Obviously next to the tree.



Behind the couch.



The corner of the entryway.


Out in the hallway by the front door.


On the way into home proper.


And our bookshelves.


And the final photo is of Oscar and Felix who while they were very upset during the decorating phase, they do like curling up under the tree.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thoughts on Video

So, I was taking a moment to watch this below video of the snow storm in Buffalo:



and when the pilot brings the drone back to take a selfie, I had a flashback to when we moved back to California, and I recorded a video tour of the new house for family and friends.  There were a few times in bathrooms and bedrooms where I caught myself in a mirror, and broke the description of the house with, "Cameraman."

It was on a compact camera that used magnetic tape.  We then transferred the video to VHS tapes for distribution.  This was in 1986 and most everyone's VHS players were standardized.

This had not been the case just a few years prior when we had lived in Kentucky and done another video of our redone backyard with new brick patio and flower mounds.  We recorded our tour at what we assumed was the normal speed because our VHS player could record up to 6 hours of material on a cassette.  Unfortunately, the friends we sent our tape to did not have that format on their player and could only record 4 hours of material on a cassette (maybe only even 2).

So what happened?  Apparently it was like watching a poorly cranked film on playback.  The dog and I were accused of extreme hyperactivity and it was recommended that I cut back on the sugar.  And we were asked if the scenic flower mounds were Indian burial mounds.

At the time of this writing, the snow drone video has been viewed over 300,000 times.  And yet 30 years ago, we couldn't even get our video to be properly watched once.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New Tech and Old Tech

So, almost a month ago, I bought a new external hard drive, and shuffled around our home network a bit.  The way it had been was an network attached storage (NAS) with an external via USB, plus a smaller external attached directly to my computer.  Our music collection (as well as shared photos and other documents) was on the NAS-external, and syncing our iPods was something we would do over a weekend.  It was just slow.

With the new external, I moved the small external to the NAS and each laptop got an external.  Then the real shuffling began.  The NAS and its external are formatted with a UNIX file system.  So there was a bit of file movement to perform.  And some other things as well.


  1. Attach new external to my laptop, and copy (over wifi) complete contents of old NAS-external to new external.
  2. Connect old external to my laptop, reformat, and copy contents.
  3. Connect small external to NAS, reformat.
  4. Connect old external to Jennifer's laptop, redirect iTunes look locally for files
  5. Redirect iTunes on my computer to look locally for files
  6. Spend some time deleting music of Jennifer's from my external
  7. Spend more time renaming folders for consistent naming.
  8. Realize the majority of folders have been renamed, so re-import music for iTunes.
  9. Reorganize playlists
  10. Attach iPod to re-sync, get notice that Windows needs to run a disk check.
  11. Check disk crashes iTunes, making restart necessary.
  12. iTunes requires Restore of iPod, but Restore locks up iTunes, and three repeated attempts yields same results.
  13. Attempt Restore using Jennifer's laptop, locking iTunes again.
  14. Setup appointment at Appel Store - Genius Bar.
  15. Go to Apple Store.  iTunes not seeing iPod, but Genius gets it working after a few restarts of iPod.  iPod is Restored, but iTunes is not seeing the iPod.  I am wished luck.
  16. Plugging iPod into computer brings up Checkdisk requirement again.  I hold my breath and do it again.  This time no crashes.
  17. iTunes require a Restore of the iPod.  I hold my breath, and do it.  Again, no crash.  Trying to hide excitement.
  18. After Restore, iPod begins syncing.

Now, as I mentioned before, syncing the entire iPod (an iPod Classic with 160 GB) used to take from Friday night and often run all weekend and might be done by Tuesday morning.  I was about 30% synced in less than 3 hours.

And so, happily, when I got up this morning the sync was complete.  So all is well, and I can put off buying a replacement for a while.  But I may buy one anyway, just to have a spare.




Friday, November 07, 2014

New Madness

So, you should know that I'm a regular reader of science sites.

io9

Gizmodo

Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy

And so today io9 had the follwing article on the removal of information from a textbook as the Republicans continue their anti-science, over-religious attempts to control the country.

The links referred to in the site are for Rachel Maddow's site.

And a biologist's site.

However, just in case these should go away, here are the pages (545 and 546) that are being ripped out of the seventh edition of Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections textbook:



Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Stop the Madness

So we have six or seven smoke detectors at home.  They are wired into the building's main power, but they also have a battery backup.  Apparently, the detector sends a check regularly through the battery  to check its voltage and ensure that it is in working order.  If that voltage (maybe current?  Dammit Jim, I'm a geologist not an electrician!) is too low to run the detector, then the detector chirps.

Perhaps this is common knowledge to people, but last night I had a bit of a situation as all four upstairs and one downstairs detector began chirping when we were heading to bed.  They did this for half an hour.  I tried pushing the silence button (which usually works), and changed out the batteries in them.  Nothing worked.

Now to forestall any admonishments, I know you're supposed to change out the batteries every 6 months.  I just wish they lasted that long.  These things have been 9-volt vampires and end up getting changed when they chirp.

Finally out of frustration, I called our property manager and asked him if he had any tricks to get them to be quiet.  (And yes, they did chirp a few times during the conversation.)  He said to completely disconnect the ones that were chirping completely from power.  I ended up only having to do that to two of them before they all quieted down.

Apparently there are new code laws coming into effect in 2015, and so next year we will be getting new detectors that have their own 10-year battery life and not be connected to power.  He is coming by today to install three of the new detectors in the most important locations: master bedroom, guest bedroom, and upstairs hallway.  The rest will get replaced next year.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Book Nook

So, I'm going to be moving on to some non-fiction for my next book.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was lots of fun.  It was so much more than I expected it to be after its beginning.

Then I read Patrick Rothfuss' The Slow Regard of Silent Things.  I cannot begin to describe how reading this novella makes me feel inadequate in any sort of field of putting words together.  This book has no dialogue, but there is conflict, and action, and tension.  It takes place in Rothfuss' Kingkiller world, and had me riveted the entire time.

But now, I'm on to Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent.  I'm not sure where I came across the book, but this may be another Kinja/iO9/Jezebel reference.  It initially strikes me as a Black Like Me kind of book, but i'm intrigued.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Really? I'm Not That Hungry.

So, I'm apparently on the part of my reading book list that I have acquired from web page recommendations.

Graham Joyce's Some Kind of Fairy Tale left me wanting.  It builds up in the beginning, and then doesn't really go anywhere.  I read the whole thing for the conclusion, and it wasn't very satisfying.

Then I tried M.R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts.  I found the basic description of the book intriguing, and the writing style was captivating.  And then it became a zombie story.  Maybe it's not a true zombie story, but it's damn close enough that I got disgusted with it.  Add to that the fact that it's about the study of the children of zombies, or maybe children infected with the zombie virus, and I was appalled.  I don't think I got past 50 pages, and life is too short to read books you don't like once you're out of school.

NEW BOOK!

And, so I'm moving on to Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.  I'm already finding it very interesting.  Much like The Confessions of Max Tivoli it is a mundane world seen through the eyes of a person in an extraordinary situation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Big Test

So, it's been pointed out to me that I didn't talk about how my test went last Thursday.

The test was supposed to start at 8:30, so I decided to make it an easy morning.  I slept in until 6:00, got ready, and walked to Emery-Go-Round at 7:00.

I only had to wait a few minutes, and the shuttle showed up.  Then I had only 1 minute to wait for a San Francisco BART train.

The testing center was at California and Davis, and I was glad that I had talked to a previous test taker and my dad about what it was like.  First, I was supposed to take everything out of my pockets, and put all that I carried into a locker.  Because, they do treat you like you are a criminal.  I was only allowed to bring a calculator and the key to the locker with me into the test.  This compared to engineers who were taking the California Seismic portion of the Professional Engineer test, and were allowed to bring 3 text books and a binder of references.  I was even given special test center pencils.

The test itself was 3 hours long and consisted of 85 questions.  I'll save you the math: that's about 2 minutes and 7 seconds per question.  It went pretty well.  I had four primary equations memorized as well as a few conversion factors, and there were a few other equations provided in other questions.  I ended up finishing about 30 minutes before the clock on the test said the test would be complete.  I checked through those questions I had marked to go back to, and I was done.

And so now, the waiting begins.  It will be about 90 days according to the guy I studied with which puts it into the new year.

Again, I'll keep yo all posted.

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?

Tarzan.

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

Ka-Runch!

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."

SCIENCE!

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:


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