Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ho ho ho (part 2 of n)

Once again, we participated in SantaCon (aka Santarchy), on December 14, 2008.

Lorien and Rich reprised their same roles as last year. Unlike last year (but like all other years), SantaCon was entirely in SF this year. But it has grown big enough that it started out as three separate contingents. We opted for the "classic" route starting at Fisherman's Wharf. All three contingents eventually united with each other.

It was kind of cold at times, but thankfully for the most part dry. Personal highlights included the Hasidic Santa klezmer band, Santa dancing to a recording of Adam Sandler's Hannukkah Song in front of the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Santa politely rampaging through the Westfield Mall.

For more pictures, go to our web site.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Turkey Days...

A flock of six wild turkeys has made itself at home near my office building since earlier in the fall. They mostly mill around the parking lot, road, and front door of the building, eating the landscapers’ primroses. They’re not in the least bit scared of humans or cars. In my opinion, they’re really taking their chances given the time of year, the state of the economy, and the relative dearth of vegetarians in Walnut Creek.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


We had a fun Thanksgiving visiting Florida. We stayed with Dave and Carol around Ft. Lauderdale -- Carol is expecting in March but managed to find the energy to host Thanksgiving dinner. Ben and Sara drove up from Miami with baby Chloe, and Elaine and Bill came down from New York.

While we were in the vicinity of warm waters, we managed to get our advanced scuba certification. We had originally gotten certified on our first visit to Thailand, in 2003. The motivation to do something a bit more came from our visit last fall to Israel and Egypt. At the most well known site in the vicinity of where we went diving in Egypt (the Blue Hole), local dive shops would only take divers with advanced certification.

Other than having to do some reading and excercies in advance, the certification basically consisted of 5 dives over 2 days, each highlighting one aspect in particular (wreck dive, deep dive, night dive, navigation, peak performance buoyancy). It was fun, the weather was good, and the visibility was very good. Although most of the rest of the people on the diving boats seemed to be locals who didn't feel the weather was as warm and balmy as we did. A bunch of them had gloves and hoods (we just wore full wetsuits), and felt the need to put on wool caps at the surface.

Last weekend we hosted our annual holiday beer tasting cocktail hour on Friday, and Lorien's company holiday party was on Saturday. And this coming weekend is SantaCon.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Yeah, it's pretty incredible. Crowds of people spontaneously gathering in the street, and it's political, but it's not a protest. It's a party. It's even enough for me to overcome my cynicism for a day and be excited, be hopeful, be proud to be an American.

Election night special

Tonight I have seen people of all ages and colors dancing in the streets of Oakland and Berkeley. I have seen cynical Oakland hipsters in a bar crying because of the words of a politician on TV. I've seen a gathering of about a thousand Berkeley students singing the Star Spangled Banner and chanting USA! USA! on Telegraph Avenue.

What did you all see today?

[posted by Lorien]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Are we there yet?

I'll be the first to admit that I don't actually particularly like Obama that much. He's very charismatic, and a good speaker, but he's still a product of the two party duopoly, and I don't really expect things to fundamentally change if he is elected president. He's not really a progressive, and I don't expect him to swiftly end the US occupation in Iraq, stop US imperialism, turn back the assault on the US constitution and civil liberties, provide for universal health care with a single payer system, reign in the military industrial complex, eliminate the concept of corporate personhood, end the "War on [some] Drugs", reinstitute a reasonable definition of what is patentable, roll back copyright to a reasonable length, close Guantanamo, end the Cuban embargo, etc. etc. etc., these are just a few of the things that come to my mind off the top of my head in what is probably the first political ranting I've done in this space (which Lorien will probably be annoyed at me for). And frankly, I think this country is way too conservative for any true progressive to ever be elected president, and I do realize that there is a limit to how much one person can possibly do in that office with even the best of intentions. (Although I'm shocked by how successful George Bush has been in using the power of that office to do so much harm.)

Nevertheless, what a relief it would be to have someone in the White House who doesn't make me cringe with every word that comes out of his mouth. Someone who's actually intelligent and articulate. Someone who doesn't make me feel that I have to be embarrassed or apologetic every time I'm out of this country.

And the sense of hopefulness around here is encouraging, even if I feel it is somewhat misguided. (I was going to say delusional, but that's a bit too harsh.) I can't imagine anyone having been motivated enough to paint a picture of John Kerry on the side of their house (the picture here is from our neighborhood). And I even was able to overcome my cynicism enough to suggest that we do a set of Obama-themed pumpkins for Halloween. I then discovered that we weren't the only ones. (I'll let you know if one of our pictures gets posted there.)

So hopefully things will be just a bit brighter on the morning of November 5. We really could use at least a bit of a counter balance to the past 8 years. And if not, well, maybe we'll have to really start seriously thinking about heading a bit further north.

And I really hope that California Prop 8 fails. It would be really sad to have friends of ours have their marriage taken away from them because of other peoples' prejudices.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

New moon trip to Yosemite (or, Yo Semite, shanah tovah!)

I know I said I was going to do catchup with all of our summer activities, but I'm still excited about our backpacking trip to Yosemite last weekend. We took Friday off and spent 3 days in the back country. Rich and I have always been somewhat reluctant to go to Yosemite because of the crowds, so we reserved our permit 6 months ago. However, we learned when we went to pick up the permit Friday morning that we would have had no problem getting one on the spot. We saw fewer people on the trail than we ever have on a backpacking trip, except for one rainy weekend in Lassen a few years back. We even went more than 24 hours without seeing a single other soul, which was definitely not what we expected.

We hiked north out of Tuolumne Meadows, about 8000 feet near the east end of the park. The trail was a semi-loop, and the way out was about 7.5 miles. We camped at the middle of the three Young Lakes (elev. 10,000 ft) at the base of Ragged Peak.

On day 2 we left our camp and hiked off-trail up to the top of an 11,000 foot ridge. We had meant to go up to a 12,000 foot peak (White Mountain) but I was getting light-headed at that elevation and didn't want to fall off the mountain.

On day 3 we headed back, finishing the loop (another 7 miles) with some spectacular views of the Cathedral range. On our hike home, we could see a storm gathering in the distance, as you can see by going to our full album here.

Overall, the weather was gorgeous - warm but not hot in the day and not too cold at night. We chose that particular weekend because of the new moon, and both nights we lay out in our sleeping bags looking at amazing stars. In the day and especially in the afternoon the fall light and the changing colors made everything golden.

And of course, this was that last new moon of the year, leading to Rosh Hashanah. Happy new year, Yo Semites! (as a Tshirt at the new Contemporary Jewish Museum in SF proclaims)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My poor dice...

So I've got this pair of fake leopard fur, fuzzy dice that hang from the handlebars on my commuting bike, wrapped over my ding ding bell. Like the ones people used to hang from the rear view mirror or their car -- does anyone still do that?

They're kind of pointless, and kind of silly, but I've grown quite fond of them. I've had them on my bike for a number of years now -- I think I got them sometime around 2002 or 2003 from a housemate that got them along with a bunch of stuff that a friend of his/her's (it's complicated) was discarding when cleaning our her closet (along with other fake animal print items, if I recall correctly). I've gotten a disproportionate number of complements over the years for such an inconsequential bicycle adornment. Lots of people have admired them, and one even offered (practically begged) to purchase them (I declined).

Which brings me to this evening. I'm leaving work, walking to my bike in the parking garage of my office. As I'm getting on my bike, I notice there's one die on my bike. Yup, just one. The two dice should be connected by a short piece of yarn, but its mate is nowhere in sight.

I'm not sure why this is troubling me so. It's just a stupid pair of dice. But somehow I've gotten sentimentally attached to them. Perhaps this is just a sign that it's time to move on, and put something else that's fun worthy on my bike. (Riding along with a single fuzzy die doesn't appeal to me much.) Or that I shouldn't get so attached to things.

Hopefully Lorien is right in her assessment that the yarn just wore through. I can't imagine that someone would have actually cut it, unless perhaps the building management is passive aggressively trying to get back at me for the various verbal altercations I've had with them over the years. And there are far more valuable things that I leave on my bike worth stealing than a synthetic, cube shaped, game oriented, faux animal covered, piece of fluff.

And maybe I'll just happen to spot them on the street tomorrow morning if I take the exact same route. Okay, maybe not.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Summer 2008 Catchup - Seattle

We've been bad about posting, mostly because it's been a very busy summer. We'll try to catch up, starting with our trip at the end of July to visit Chip and Karen in Seattle. We spent a weekend up there, which was great - I hadn't been to Seattle in 8 years and had forgotten how much I like it there. These are both pictures from Chip's camera - we may post some of our own once we get them off the camera.

On the Saturday, we drove to the eastern Cascades and climbed Iron Peak, a tough but worthwhile hike. Here's Rich juggling rocks at the peak with Chip and Karen's dog Sydney looking on.

On Sunday, Chip took us sailing. There was decent wind and we got to see the area from the water. The second picture is Karen, Rich and I on the boat.

By the way, I'd like to make a shout out to the Silkies, who just welcomed baby Salem into the world. Congratulations!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fess up, people

My first of apparently 12 issues of Field and Stream magazine showed up in the mail this weekend. Who thought it would be funny to get me a subscription to a hunting magazine?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mazel Tov x 3 (= 54 ?)

After not having been to a Bar Mitzvah in decades, there were three all on the same day, June 14. Lorien's cousin Josh had his Bar Mitzvah in Toronto. Dan, the son of Rich's cousin Gidon, had a Bar Mitzvah in Israel. And in San Francisco, Kathleen, the wife of Rich's friend Scott, who recently converted to Judaism (she's the one who sang the first song at our wedding), had an Anshei Mitvah, which is basically the adult equivalent of a Bat Mizvah. And on top of all of that, it was also Judy's birthday.

We went up to Toronto for Josh's Bar Mitzvah. Lorien's brother David flew all the way in from Australia.

The Bar Mitzvah was in the back yard of Josh's house. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first, but it was actually quite nice. And with a real rabbi (or so we're told) and a real Torah and real service -- all legit. And it was a much nicer scenery than many of the synagogues that I've been to. Although it had one bit that was unique to being in a suburban backyard -- that was when the breeze started blowing and the smell of the neighbor's cooking bacon for breakfast wafted across the crowd. Oh yeah, the remants of the Midwest floods that had been pelting Toronto with rain for many days on end took a break for the Bar Mitzvah.

I can't say as much for the lack of rain the next evening, for the reception on a boat on Lake Ontario. Not being able to access the top deck of the boat, and piddling around close to shore, were some unfortunate consequences of that. But we did get some cool looking skies and lightning at least. And there was plenty of room below decks on the boat for the crowd.

Rich's aunt Batya flew in from Israel to visit her sister Sarah right around the same time. Not exactly at the same time, because of Dan's Bar Mitzvah of course, but she arrived a few of days later. So we decided to hang around long enough to be able to visit her. Here we are in Sarah's apartment, Batya, Lorien, George, Judy, and Sarah.

California is burning

As Lorien mentioned, there are a lot of fires in the state. I think about 800. Luckily none of them are too close by, but there's enough of them that it is affecting our air quality a bit. Although living right across from the Golden Gate probably makes it not as bad for us right here -- Lorien says it's worse over the hills where she works.

The sun has this other worldly glow, kind of like a sunset, except it doesn't need to be totally at the horizon to look like that. This picture is from early this evening, from our back porch.

Happy Solstice!

We returned from Toronto (blog post to come) to the middle of a heat wave here in the Bay Area. When we took off from T.O., the pilot said that it was 32 degrees in SF, Rich and I looked at each other puzzled, wondering if he meant 32 Fahrenheit. 32 celsius is pretty unusual hereabouts.

Anyway, the picture was sent by Becka and Mike who were visiting last weekend. It's the latest sunset of the year over the Berkeley Rose Garden. All the roses had been baked brown by the sun, but it's still nice to get some heat now and again, especially since Toronto is the new England, or perhaps Vancouver, weatherwise.

This was the last day before the lightening storms started up the several hundreds of fires buring in NorCal. Now there's smoke blocking the sun all day long and the outside smells like campfire. And not in a good way. Don't worry about us, though, there aren't any fires within more than 50 miles of here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

bike rides

On the topic of bike rides around here (see my recent post), the nytimes just had a related article, Turning a Century in California. (free reg required, or use bugmenot) We're thinking about doing the Marin Century after reading that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Anniversary Weekend, Part 2

In case you're wondering what constitutes an 8-course tasting menu, here it is, provided by the restaurant. The portions were pretty small and elegantly presented, although we may have gorged ourselves on cheese. The "Sally Jackson" at the bottom of the page is a note scribbled by our waiter about a cheese we particularly liked and hadn't seen before. As a formerly fussy eater, I was proud of myself for going along with the tasting without knowing anything about what it would be in advance (although we requested no fois gras for ethical reasons). I ate everything that was put in front of me and enjoyed it. Rich and I split the wine pairing, to give our livers a bit of a rest. Overall, one of the best meals I've ever had.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

bike, sniff, bike, sip, eat

Here's a quick recap of some of what we've been up to for the past couple of weeks...

Two weekends ago, we drove down to the Santa Cruz area to participate in the Strawberry Fields Forever bike ride. Lorien (and Arnab and Alicia) did the 100K ride, Rich (and Matt) did the 100 mile ride. It's a good thing it was the weekend before this one, as I think the area we were riding through was pretty close to the Summit Fire that started last week.

Shortly after the ride (like the next day), I came down with a cold, which I'm still fighting to overcome. Copious amounts of motzah ball soup and pineapple juice (not together) got me a lot of the way there, but it's still lingering on.

Thankfully, I recovered enough that we didn't have to cancel our plans for this past weekend. Our second anniversary is coming up (tomorrow, actually), and to celebrate we went away for the weekend to a bed and breakfast up in Geyserville, in northern Sonoma County. We relaxed, rode our bikes around the wine country, visited some wineries for tasting (and ended up coming back with quite a bit of wine), and had a fabulous dinner (really a 4 hour, 8 course, dining experience) at Cyrus, a restaurant in Healdsburg.

Here are a couple of pictures from our wine country adventures. We biked around some of the same areas from the Wine Country Century (that we did last year, but not this year), but it was a bit more casual and relaxing to be doing it at a slow pace, stopping for wine tasting whenever we got the inspiration. And bringing our commuting bikes (with attached milk crates) instead of our road bikes made it a lot easier to haul around the growing number of wine bottles that we acquired during the day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

warm nights

For the second night in a row, I'm sitting out here well past dark out on the back deck, wearing short sleeves and shorts, and it's fairly comfortable. That might not sound like a bit deal to those of you that are used to warm summer nights, but it's pretty unusual out here.

Yesterday was warm, today was downright hot. I never thought I'd be uncomfortably hot biking to work in the morning, but today I was.

But the warm nights are kind of nice, and we had dinner outside on the deck.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Roses on Rose St.

The season vaguely known as "winter" here is well behind us, and our garden is blooming and growing.

The rose bushes on the side of our house (the ones we didn't realize were there until after we had bought the house) are doing great this year. We've got enough that we've been having freshly cut roses inside whenever we want them. Which is a lot.

The wisteria picture is actually from a few weeks ago. It's long past blooming now, and merely continuing in its quest to take over the world. It's practically ready to head in the back door of our neighbors behind us, but they don't seem to mind.

Speaking of the wisteria, I finally managed to most clear a bed that had previously been dominated it. We took advantage of the new space to plant some corn.

In non-farming news, this past weekend saw the return of cocktail hour -- we had been on a bit of a hiatus with Lorien studying for the PE. It was also a weekend for birthday parties -- Matt's 40th and Ben's 30th, both on Saturday night.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Itchy and Scratchy

Unfortunately there was a little downside to Wildflowers II. I seem to have caught some poison oak or poison ivy or some other poison foo, and the hike from a few weeks back is the most likely culprit (probably when I had to venture off trail to retrieve my errant camelback bite valve). After a week or so of some downright unpleasantness, I seem to have turned the corner and am finally getting better.

I'll spare you from including any pictures in this post...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wildflowers II

We went to Tahoe again this weekend, primarily because we had to go back sometime within the next few weeks to retrieve our winter gear before our lease on the house is over for the season. It was a bit hard to get in the mood for snowboarding with the overly warm (okay, hot) weather. On Saturday we did go snowboarding, which was still fun, although by the afternoon it was getting a bit too slushy.
Rather than repeat that on Sunday, we packed up and headed out of the mountains and into the foothill. Right by the highway exit in Colfax is a hike down into a valley (along the Stevens trail) to the North fork of the American River. Lots of wildflowers were in bloom! It was hard to imagine that the day before we were surrounded by snow.

Strawberry season is here

Mmm... tasty... and cat-like!

Wildflowers I

Now that I'm free of studying, I was really pushing to get outside and enjoy the springtime. Every year it seems that something gets in the way of us seeing the wildflowers that grow in various spots around California, but not this year. Last weekend we lit out for Point Reyes for a hike along the coast. It's been a pretty dry spring, so while there were plenty of flowers, there wasn't the carpet of colour that Rich and I had imagined. But there were sea lions, which was good, and it was a brilliantly sunny, if somewhat blustery day.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Cleaning

The snow in Tahoe is melting, it's getting warmer (well, okay, maybe not right now, but it certainly was hot a week ago), and it was time for the seasonal beard to go. But I decided to have a little fun with it over the course of a week rather than shave it off all at once. I feel (and look) quite a bit different now.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

One Laptop Per Cat

Selena has decided on an alternate interpretation of OLPC

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I'm free!

(of the PE exam). I'm looking forward to resuming whatever it was I used to do for fun.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

my XO laptop is finally here!

It took a long time (3 months), but I finally got my laptop from the Give One Get One program from the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) today. I've been spending most of tonite playing around with it. The biggest problem is that the keyboard is VERY small for adult hands. But I'm getting a little used to it. And it's a lot easier to use now that I installed Opera (the browser that comes with it kind of sucks). Anyway, here's a picture I took of myself sitting in front of it, using the built in camera.

Monday, March 10, 2008

So ya wanna be in pictures...

I spent time on Sunday as an extra in a movie they're shooting in San Francisco about Harvey Milk, starring Sean Penn. For those of you who might not know, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay San Francisco supervisor, who was murdered in City Hall along with Mayor George Moscone. (I had never heard about any of this before moving here -- although maybe that had to do with my age at the time.)

It was kind of fun, although unusually hot and sunny and I ended up with a bit of a sunburn. The scene they spent the most time shooting was one in which Harvey Milk gets up on stage to give a speech at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day. The best part was during one take, where instead of giving his Harvey Milk lines, Sean Penn instead went on a rant against George Bush, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and the likes. I think he got even more cheers from the crowd for that than when he was acting. Maybe they'll put it on the DVD extras for the film.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The world's largest dandelion

Ok, perhaps it's not exactly a dandelion, but it sure looks pretty damn close to me. Doing some weeding in the yard this Sunday getting ready for Spring planting (yes, it's not that far away in California), I couldn't resist taking some photos of the largest weed we have in our backyard.