In Which I Fail to See an Eclipse

Aug. 21st, 2017 07:09 pm
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[personal profile] shannon_a
Today was the solar eclipse. We aren't in the path of totality here in the Bay Area, but we were promised that a pretty big chunk of our sun would be missing, so I made plans.I'd leave the house between 9 and 9.30, walk up to the hill above Clark Kerr, enjoy the shifting shadows as I neared, watch the eclipse through my eclipse glasses, then walk home, and get a slightly late start to my work day.

Not so much.

The problem was Berkeley's frequent grayness. Friday the weather report said there wouldn't be any morning cloud cover, Sunday it said it'd clear by 9am, today it said we'd only get 50% of the sky by 11am. So I woke up and it was gray as gray, and I didn't plan to go much of anywhere.

Around 10 o'clock I walked out of the house, up to Telegraph, then looped back a few blocks up. The object was to at least be outside during the maximum eclipse that we got so that I could enjoy the eerie darkening of the sky.

Not so much.

We get such dark, gloomy gray in the mornings that if there was any darkening beyond that, I didn't notice it. So it was back at home by 10.20 or so and back to work.

Ah well.

Not the first time I've missed a celestial phenomenon due to Berkeley's gloom. I made great plans to see the first of our quartet of blood moons, but when I got up to an overlook above Lake Temescal all I could ever see was clouds; the moon was just as absent that day as the sun was this morning.

The gray gloominess is actually one of the things that bugs me about Berkeley. There was one summer several years ago now where it felt like it was gray all year long. I was going out of my mind by the end of it. And that's not necessarily figurative. I used to get depressed over winter, as the gloom really cut in, though in recent years Vitamin D and trips to Hawaii seem to have held that off.
Just this Saturday I was desperate to get away from the gloom, so I hauled my bike out to Pleasant Hill. As soon as I got through the hills (on BART) everything brightened up. I went from gray and 60 degrees to bright and 85. It was like a different world. I had a great bike ride and then when I got to the Lime Ridge Open Space I hiked around that for a while. (It was kind of hot and harsh, so I only went a mile or so and back.)

This morning, I thought about heading out to BART and going somewhere where I might be able to see the sun disappear. Orinda or Richmond. But ultimately I shrugged my shoulders. It seemed like a big disruption to the day to no guaranteed results.

So no eclipse today, though the sun had certainly disappeared.

I took to the hills in the evening, after dinner. And I saw a glorious sunset. Apparently all those clouds are good for something.
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[personal profile] shannon_a
Writing in my journal has been constantly lagging lately, as all of my free writing time has been going to D&D histories, and when I can manage it, a little something for Mechanics & Meeples. I think I may have turned a corner for that, but more of that in another (delayed?) journal entry.

For now ...

Last weekend, Kimberly and I celebrated our 17th anniversary. It's the furniture anniversary, and though we certainly have cat-scarred upholstery, we had no interest in buying anything new, because every new piece of furniture is something that needs to be expensively shipped to Hawaii on a container ship — or wastefully discarded.

I ran my Burning Wheel game at Endgame on our anniversary. How romantic!

But our celebration occurred afterward. Kimberly and I met at Millennium, which is now conveniently located on College Avenue, between Endgame and home (more or less).

We've eaten there for several celebrations over the years, and this is our third time eating there since they moved to the East Bay (and thus, our third year running). As usual, we had very tasty food ands great service (from our same server as last year, which Kimberly realized and I would not have). Very pleasant!

Since nothing thrilled us on their desert menu, we then went to Smitten Ice Cream a block away, which they slowly make your ice cream while you watch. It was tasty enough, but nothing amazing. But we're already spoiled by Ici, down the street. Mind you, the wait for Smitten to literally create your ice cream was shorter than the typical wait in line at Ici.

Then we had a romantic walk home through the mean streets of north Oakland and south Berkeley, with me pushing my bike and its pannier full of gaming supplies.

On Sunday, we continued our celebrations by taking BART out to Glen Park. This had been our plan, but Kimberly was somewhat reluctant because of the possibility of a big festival at Golden Gate Park making BART very crowded (especially now that they've stopped running more or extra trains for it, because BART sucks), and I was somewhat reluctant because I was feeling highly congested and wondering if I was coming down with something.

But, we persevered.

BART was crowded. And I was bemused how many dumb/new riders there were. Because if you're experienced rider going to Golden Gate Park you get off at Embarcadero, to catch the N-Judah line to the park as soon as you can, and hopefully get a seat. If you're a new/dumb rider you wait until the Civic Center, which is the last N-Judah crossover. Then you certainly don't get a seat on such a busy day, and maybe pay extra for BART too. So about half the crowd got off at Embarcadero, but about half waited until Civic Center. (And afterward the BART trains we were blissfully quiet, but we'd managed to get two of the last seats at MacArthur, so no biggie.)

We had tasty sandwiches out in the park and we enjoyed a walk out to the end and back along the bottom of the canyon.

And that was our anniversary.

Unfortunately, I indeed was getting sick. First cold in a couple of years, and in the middle of summer to boot. Very annoying! (But at least I didn't get a cold during any of my many travels last year or during this year's trip to Hawaii.)

It was never bad, but I was a bit under the weather throughout the week. Bleh.

Other stuff Kimberly and I have done lately.

We finally did another walk from our Berkeley Walks book. We had stopped around this time last year, because the returning students were making the local walks unpleasant for Kimberly, but in July we started with our third, the Berkeley campus walk. We finished it over two Sunday afternoons. Sadly, it was a bit disappointing. The authors seemed to totally punt all the discussion of architectural detail that made the southside walks interesting and also missed many historic details that we were aware of. Ah well. We did still find some interesting stuff on campus. I'd never been to the Women's Faculty Club before, because it's kind of hidden by Strawberry Creek, and I'd never been in the "new" business school, which has a magnificent court yard, where we read during our second walk.

And speaking of reading, we finished Assassin's Fate last night with a 2.5-hour marathon read, which concluded our massive 18-book read-aloud of the Robin Hobbs' 16-book Realm of the Elderling series. (We read two of the three newest books twice, once when they came out, and once as we were concluding the series, two or three years later.) It's our longest series ever to read-aloud (with the 11-book Gene Wolfe Sun series and the 10-book Roger Zelazny Amber series being next up, I think), and it's even more than that by page count, as the books tended to run 500-900 pages(!). Also a magnificent series, full of great characters, and sufficiently distant from the fantasy norm to be truly unique. We'll miss our Fitz and Fool reading, which has been part of our daily life since we started Fool's Assassin almost exactly three years ago. Whew

Genetics Summit

Aug. 18th, 2017 10:43 am
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[personal profile] liveonearth
It's a free, online, educational event about how to interpret and act on your own genotypes.  There will be some fascinating lectures here, and some very basic ones.  I definitely want to hear the one about ketogenic diet.  You can sign up here.

QotD: What Dawkins would say to Trump

Aug. 18th, 2017 07:45 am
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[personal profile] liveonearth
"Mr. Trump, you appear to be laboring under the delusion that you have the necessary qualifications to be president. The manifest failure of almost everything you have attempted during your first six months, coupled with the anarchic chaos that pervades your White House, should give you pause--or would give pause to any person of normal sensitivity...

Get all your news, not from FOX but from all the sources available to a president, many of them not available to the rest of us. Announce your decisions after due consideration and consultation, not impulsively on Twitter. Cultivate common good manners when dealing with people. Do no be misled by the crowds thatcheer your boorish rudeness: they are a minority of the American people.

Listen to experts better qualified than you are. Especially scientists. Be guided by evidence and reason, not gut feeling. By far the best way to assess evidence is the scientific method. Indeed, it is the only way if we interpret "scientific" broadly. In particular--since the matter is so urgent and it may already be too late--listen to scientists when they tell you about the looming catastophe of climate change."

--Richard Dawkins, when asked by John Horgan in interview, "What would you say to Trump if you had his ear"?

QotD: All life is interrelated

Aug. 15th, 2017 12:20 pm
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[personal profile] liveonearth
"All life is interrelated.
We are all caught
in an inescapable network
of mutuality,
tied into a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one destiny,
affects all indirectly."
--Martin Luther King, Jr

QotD: The Fruit of Love

Aug. 12th, 2017 09:52 am
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[personal profile] liveonearth
“The fruit of love is service.
Prayer in action is love,
and love in action is service.”
– Mother Teresa

**new tag: service
shannon_a: (Default)
[personal profile] shannon_a
Last Tuesday, Kimberly went to pop some corn in the microwave and the circuit popped instead. Or that's what it seemed at first.

I poked my head out the door, looked around carefully from druggies from People's Park (this morning's homeless hijinks: an ice-pick stabbing in front of Ben & Jerry's in downtown!), and when the way was clear scooted out to our electric box and flipped the switches that were most likely for the kitchen. (They're very poorly labeled, or unlabeled, and the circuits aren't entirely logical.) I came back inside and K. told me that she'd been able to pop corn again for several more seconds, then it shut off once more.

Further investigation revealed the problem was the outlet. If it was used for power for more than a few seconds, it went out. Not good. It kind of made me nervous, but for the moment we extended our microwave extension cord to run to the next outlet in the kitchen, which we'd replaced some years ago due to flakiness (hmmm ... I sense a pattern), and popcorn was popped.

So Wednesday I went to our fixit website of late, Thumbtack. I put out a request to fix our bad outlet, plus a problem we'd been having with a switch, which rebounded whenever you pushed it down too hard. And since I was there, I put in a second request for a tile repairman for our continued downstairs bathroom problems, after I didn't get any Thumbtack response a week or two earlier, and a third request for a handyman to fix a variety of holes and cracks that have appeared in our walls over the last 17 years.

Within an hour I had someone offering to do both the electrical and handyman work. I was a little leery of someone who wasn't a full-time electrician, but his profile listed electrician as his main category in Thumbtack. He also had good reviews, so I figured, good enough.

Sort of.

Our handyman ended up spending around six hours at our house last Thursday and Friday. The amount of work he did was uninspiring, as was the quality.

Certainly, our house has challenges. It's over a hundred years old and it's had bad work done in past times. So the bad outlet was apparently very tightly packed and hard to work with. The bad switch (and associated outlet) was jammed in between uncut tiles, had a faceplate that wasn't really the right size and after it got accidentally shattered, we learned that that size was no longer being made.

But our handyman also didn't seem that good. Oh, he could do the basic work. He clearly knew how to rewire electrical wires. And he knew the basic techniques for patching our holes in the wall. But, given anything more challenging, like a switch and outlet where there wasn't a cover that could easily slip into the old spot, he was at wit's end, leaving me to troubleshoot. And he was also very sloppy. (If I wanted sloppy, unfocused home improvement work, I'd do it myself). And, he was also very messy. I spent almost an hour cleaning up after his first day of work, seriously messing up my Thursday evening's schedule.

After those six hours of work, we have:

  • An outlet that's working again, and just slightly crooked.
  • A switch and plug that may look better than they did before (and work cirrectly now), but which aren't wholly professional, and where the plug isn't totally stable in the wall.
  • Six or so patched holes, none of which are painted (because he couldn't get us a paint match) and a couple of which look very rough (due to sloppy work and a lack of texturing).


I mean, things are improved. Our two big electrical problems aren't problems any more. Some bare wall is covered. But I'm thinking about presentation nowadays, and most of this work fails the presentable-enough-to-increase-the-value-of-a-house test, to various degrees.

Our biggest lesson out of this is: don't use Thumbtack. I think we've gotten four people from them, and three have been disappointing. There was the handyman who built us OK shelves (but failed a little bit on that presentation), but just threw up his hands over our bathroom problems after working on them for a while and even cutting holes in our wall; there was the other handyman who worked on the bathroom and made the situation worse by grouting over our grout with a different color, which then started washing away weeks later; and there was thi electrician-handyman who did OK work but was very bad at finishing and polish. We did get a good roofer from Thumbtack, who did solid work on our leaking back roof and resealing our repaired garage roof, but 25% aren't the odds I want when having someone work on our house, especially when presentation increasingly matter.

QotD: Get Your Facts First

Aug. 9th, 2017 02:02 pm
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[personal profile] liveonearth
"Get your facts first,
then you can distort them
as you please."
--Mark Twain

July 2017

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