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About halfway through October I went up to Seattle to visit [ profile] shaterri and [ profile] quarrel for a long weekend, which involved visiting a few Seattle neighborhoods, walking around downtown, and visiting Vancouver and Granville Island. And—unsurprisingly, given that Shaterri is at least as much of a foodie as I am—various restaurants, from Poppy to Spur. I spent some time at Zig Zag Cafe, home of the quasi-famous (and terrific) bartender Murray, and tried Carpica Antica vermouth for the first time, and Victoria Gin, made—I think—up in Vancouver.

Shaterri talks up Seattle so regularly that one wonders if the Visitors’ Bureau is paying him (and if not, why not). But it’s an area that seems eminently worthy of accolades: many walkable neighborhoods, a great culture (by which I personally mean “coffee shops, brewpubs and restaurants”), and very, very green. Yes, it’s rainier and a little cooler than I’d personally prefer, but I suspect if I were offered a job in any major American city of my choice, that’d be the one I’d choose.

Of course, I’ve just started a job in the closest American city to me, San Francisco. This is the first time since I’ve been out here (seven years, as of next month) that I’ve worked in the city, and at least so far I’m really liking it. My commute is the longest that I’ve had time-wise, but ironically one of the easiest: I drive to the Millbrae Transit Station, which is usually about 20 minutes with traffic, then take BART into the city, about a 35-minute ride. Since Millbrae is the start of the BART line, I always have a seat in the morning; I usually start standing on the way home but get a seat before we’ve left downtown.

The office building I’m in is One Market Plaza; this puts me within a few blocks not only of the bay itself, but an amazing array of lunch choices. There’s a food court in the building itself and another one in Rincon Center, the next block over. And a row of restaurants and cafes along Steuart Street. And the Ferry Building sits right across the Embarcadero, with its array of permanent food stands and cafes, and a farmers’ market on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m used to taking long lunch breaks to go find interesting places to eat—but now I’m surrounded by them. (I see coworkers bringing their microwave lunches to work and I want to shake them and scream, “You are in one of the best food cities in the world and you are having goddamn Stouffer’s?”)

I’ve written before about my feelings of being tugged toward both urban life and—well, less rural than a particular kind of suburban life, the kind of place where you can see a lot of stars at night but you’re not isolated, where there are homes around but it’s not modern tract housing, and where urban life isn’t more than an hour or so away when you want to spend time experiencing it. (Shaterri’s place is actually pretty close to this ideal.) This job is the most exposure to true urban living that I’ve had—even though I go home to a very suburban community every night.

Yet I think I don’t really want to live in a big city. There are urban places that might tempt me: the Fremont area in Seattle, and I’ve mentioned the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland before. But San Francisco? Probably not. There’s not much greenspace in SF except in small pockets (and one huge one), it’s very expensive, and even in “nice” areas there’s litter in the streets. That last one is very striking comparing it to Seattle or Vancouver, but it’s not too hard to see even comparing it to other Bay Area cities.

But for now that’s not much of a concern; I don’t expect to move any time soon (I’m about to sign a lease here for another year). I don’t know if this contract will last the full six months—I’ve grown to assume that plans collapse on short notice—nor if I’ll be able to go permanent, but just going the full six months will help my finances considerably.

I’ve been considering trying to make a more concerted effort to write something in this journal at least weekly because, frankly, I need the mental exercise. This is a recurring promise I recurrently break, so no promises, but I’ll try.

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...and the first time I've bothered to use Flickr. Hopefully this all will actually work!
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I’m back from ten days in Costa Rica and a couple more in Florida recovering (long enough to at least take mom out to a day-before-Mother’s-Day dinner).

Was it a good trip? Of course—although it wasn’t entirely what I expected. See, I knew this was a group tour thing, and I knew that it was organized by a friend that my mom had met through the Florida Native Plant Society who was also a member of Audobon. So it would have a lot of Audobon people, but it wasn’t an Audobon trip. What I didn’t really fully understand was that this was a birding trip. What these people wanted to do was traipse around through the rainforest trying to snap photographs of elusive birds through telephoto lenses bigger than my first car.

So there was a lot of rainforest traipsing. This was a lot of fun, and not a lot of hard exercise—a bird-walk is not at all the same as a hike. The downside for me was that I’d shown up with a Canon G9 compact camera rather than an SLR, perfectly suited for taking touristy pictures in and around towns but not so good for zooming in bird-sized objects a football field length away. We didn’t get to see much of the towns except when the bus was driving through them unless we broke away from the group, and that only when we were in areas of Costa Rica that, well, actually had towns nearby.

And one other minor downside for me: a preplanned tour that includes all meals pretty much just includes all meals at the hotels. This is great if you don’t want to think about food, but anyone who knows me knows that I want to think about food. I’d have been wandering into little dives trying to find good meals and impressing locals with the three words I know in Spanish (“cerveza,” “tequila,” and “baños”).

The first night of the trip was spent in San José, Costa Rica’s biggest city and only real metropolis. From there we went to Villa Lapas, a hotel near the Carara wildlife refuge, close (but not on) the Pacific Coast, that’s apparently famous for its (surprise) birdwatching. Two nights there, then onto Monteverde and the “cloudforests” there (i.e., high altitude rainforests) for three days, then finally another three days at the Selva Verde Lodge in the Sarapiqui Rainforest in northeast Costa Rica.

So. Did I take pictures? Funny story (ahem): technically, I took just over six hundred of them. When I started trying to organize and edit them, though, my laptop fritzed out its GPU. This is apparently a Known Issue™ with the NVidia 8600M that the MacBook Pro I have uses; Aperture, my photo editing/cataloging software, is very GPU-intensive, and mom doesn’t use air conditioning until absolutely forced. My suspicion is that being pushed up to sustained hard use in a pretty warm environment tipped it over. It’s working now, but I’m a little paranoid about restarting Aperture. When I do manage to get a selection of pictures up somewhere, though, I’ll put up a link.

And, naturally, we did break away from the group and explore Monteverde a little. We found a chocolate shop and café run by American expatriates, several little art shops, and—yes—a gourmet restaurant we had dinner at, a marvelous tiny place called Chimera that has a tiny kitchen with two women in it turning out dishes that look like they’re being plated for Food Network specials. My mom became slightly obsessed with the chicken tortilla soup they made (their version has chipotle, bacon and roasted tomato in it); I think I liked the heart of palm and spiced cashew salad at least as much, and was pleasantly shocked by the “firecracker apple cake,” a rich cake served with a side of chile-infused caramel and locally made vanilla ice cream.

Out of all the places we stayed, Monteverde had the nicest town, but Selva Verde was the nicest hotel. No, call it a lodge: the rooms were in bungalows, most of them off the forest floor and connected by wooden walkways. You weren’t near the rainforest, you were in it there. It was hot and humid but was surprisingly mosquito-free (although we did discover a bullet ant in the room, which was a bit adventurous). Even though we were essentially trapped there for food, the food was good and the bar was well-stocked (the other places mostly just had a cursory selection of bottom-shelf liquor, treating you like the captive audience they assumed you to be). I learned a new drink there (a “Tropical Tico,” with cachaça and mango), had my first real Pisco Sour, and taught the bartenders how to make an El Floridita.

Now, it’s time to get back to work, and have some more coffee. Yes, I did pick up a bit from a coffee roaster in Monteverde, too. I wasn’t sure what to expect—was it stale stuff packed for tourists who can’t tell the difference?—but it turns out to be fine quality.

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It’s occurred to me that I haven’t written about this at all yet, in large part because I’ve had most of my brain cycles devoted to client work recently. Part of the scramble is that I’m leaving on vacation on Friday, to Costa Rica. I’ll be gone for about two weeks.

This is a rather programmed “tour group” thing that I’ll be going on with my mother, so I don’t really know that I’ll have time to see anything other than what’s scheduled. I’m still debating whether to bring my DSLR or just the pocket camera. (The DSLR, a Nikon D70, obviously has better optics and would let me get some better shots, but the pocket camera is a Canon G9 and is no photographic slouch—and would be a lot less headache going through airports and less of a theft risk at hotels.)

At the moment, I’m doing laundry and looking back at the checklist of oh-yeah-I-should-do-that-a-week-ago things for the trip that I made, uh, a week ago. (“Get camera memory cards,” although the type changes depending on which camera I bring; get photocopy of passport; etc.)

I’d like to say that I’ve been making great progress on Claw & Quill without telling you all, but—as I said, most of the brain cycles have been elsewhere. I have been working on it to the degree I can—mostly exploring Pinax, which looks marvelous in some respects but is woefully underdocumented—but I doubt I’ll get a chance to make much progress in May unless I get myself sufficiently ahead in the client work (which is supposed to be online by June).

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Short notice, for which I apologize: I'll be back in Florida from the 20th through the 27th. The 21st is spoken for, as is (you don't say!) the 25th, with a probable visit to Orlando and [ profile] ladyperegrine on the 26th. I expect to be in Tampa generally on the 22nd and/or the 23rd, likely doing Christmas shopping at least part of the day, but able to work visits in around those times.
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Short report: best convention I’ve been to in years.

Longer report... )

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Yes, as previously noted I'm among the group travelling to Suhl, Germany, starting tomorrow, headed there with [personal profile] jadedfox. I have no real idea what to say at customs (is this a business trip? a pleasure trip? got me!) and indeed don't precisely know who to look for to be picking me up, if anyone, and whether it's a trip to pick up both my duo and other GoH Steve Gallacci at the same time or if the two trips shall be handled separately by our hosts. I don't know whether I should hurriedly get some Euros in exchange at the airport, or wait until Germany, or be a boorish American and wave increasingly undervalued dollars at people when necessary. I am still not 100% sure of what stories I'll be attempting to read at the reading I blithely said I was going to do. (The thought of the moment is some or all of "The Narrow Road in Morning Light," the samurai story that will coincidentally be available for sale in New Fables #2 in the dealers' room, and a scene from the in-progress rewrite of A Gift of Fire, A Gift of Blood.) I am bringing things for the charity auction at the very last minute after continually sidestepping [profile] eosfoxx's questions about whether I was going to bring something for the charity auction.

In short, this will be an adventure! And one I'm definitely looking forward to.
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Work has calmed down, to the degree that the SaaS project I’ve been working on passed its demo milestone and indeed its first demo. This doesn’t mean things stop, not by any stretch, but it does mean that I have a chance to catch my breath.

The first three days of this week were a highwater mark of suck for me, at least for the last 12 months or so. I wouldn’t think I’d miss the lonely melancholia of my last journal entry, but the combination of hair-pulling bugs the first two days with a traffic ticket on Wednesday (for an “unsafe lane change,” a subjective charge I don’t agree with, but never mind) had me nearly in tears by Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday evening was one of the few times I can remember drinking with the hopes of getting sufficiently tipsy to destress, a success achieved with a mai tai, a rye and soda and a Kahlua-spiked coffee. Are two strong drinks and a nightcap all that’s necessary to get me tipsy? That night, apparently, even though I’ve had more alcohol at other points to less effect. I’ll chalk that up to stress as well.

Yesterday, Thursday, was better; work was essentially stone quiet for me, the product demo went off apparently with no significant glitches elsewhere, a restaurant I’d been waiting for months to open (the Oaxacan Kitchen in Palo Alto) was yesterday, and I bought two expensive things: a Canon PowerShot G9 and a bottle of Laphroaig 10 Year “Cask Strength” single malt whisky. I’m somewhat worried that both of these purchases were a response to stress, but I’ve actually been thinking about the G9 for months specifically for the upcoming trip, and “learn about single malt” has been a low-level to do item for years. (Although honestly, the choice to learn about single malt this week? Yeah, stress response.)

Today also promises to be quiet. I’ve decided to try and update my personal website, making it something more of a project showcase than it is, and likely putting more stories online there. This raises some interesting issues to chew on with respect to making “in print” stories available for free online; while my first instinct has always been that you don’t put stuff you still want to be able to sell up on web sites, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary, from the Baen Free Library to everything Cory Doctorow does to [ profile] haikujaguar’s writing experiments right here on LiveJournal. My growing suspicion is that putting a good chunk of Why Coyotes Howl online, for instance, is going to either have no effect on book sales or slightly increase it, and that having a three-month “exclusive window” for stories that get publication in periodicals is, barring contractual obligations, sufficient. Of course, I still want the print work to sell and my gut feeling is that “but it’s print! dude!” isn’t in and of itself sufficient for most buyers, so I’ll be chewing on that, too.

I’d like to have that website updated before the Eurofurence trip, but I don’t know how likely that is, because it’s occurring to me that said trip is in just over two weeks and it will behoove me to have some idea what the hell I’m going to do for an author reading. If anybody has any “you should read that story” suggestions, I’m open.

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I realize it’s become something of a cycle for me to go several weeks without posting here and then make a post which mostly consists of an apology about how little I’m posting. I’m going to try to stop doing that. Which is not to say I’m going to make an immediately-to-be-broken vow to post more; I’m just going to try to stop apologizing for it.

It feels to me like I’m posting a lot, but that’s one of the combined virtues and vices of Twitter. While I’m tempted to engage in a defense of Twitter, those who want to read a much better one than I could muster can read Rands’ “We Travel in Tribes”:

Via the LazyWeb convention, I expect reasonable, informed, and quick answers to most any question. Where I used to use Google, I now use Twitter for questions, because not only do I get the answer, I also get the opinion. And sometimes I get my world rocked with random, psychic, off-the-cuff, tangential information that Google will never give me because Google doesn’t know who I am.

My own use of Twitter is more prosaic, granted. I’ve had conversations on it, I’ve asked questions (and gotten responses), and I’ve learned a few interesting things. Mostly, though, it’s where the minutiae of my life ends up going these days: stuff that I’d like to share but not enough to write a journal post about.

This does leave me wondering what to actually write about here. I’ve done essays on occasion and I suspect I still will. I’ve sometimes tried to start other blogs elsewhere—a link blog, a tech blog, a political blog (twice)—and all of them have been false starts. I may try to resurrect the link blog, but, y’know, I may not. Tech stuff might as well go here. Political stuff I tend to be reticent to get into. I’m interested in discussing politics but not so much arguing politics; attempts to merely talk about current events a few years back left me feeling rather singed. Besides, looking for things to be outraged about has decidedly limited appeal.

At any rate, I’d like to commit to writing something weekly, but I’m not going to—not yet, at least.

What’s been going on? Work, mostly, and mostly office work. I haven’t gotten appreciably farther on Gift of Fire, nor on the new Claw & Quill software. At the beginning of the month I visited [ profile] shaterri, [ profile] quarrel and [ profile] ladyperegrine in Seattle, which was a wonderful if slightly whirlwind visit. (I have a photo album of that you can visit if you’re so inclined: “Seattle” is the main one, with a food porn type one of the visit to The Herbfarm taken on the iPhone.) Starting tomorrow evening, my mother will be in town to visit for the long weekend; we’ll be staying in Emeryville for no specific reason other than availability and the likelihood of exploring some of the Oakland area, which actually has a lot of interesting there there.

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In about 30 hours, I’ll be leaving for a whirlwind trip to Seattle to visit a couple friends. To friends also in that area I haven’t gotten in touch with yet, which is a fairly large number, I do apologize: I’m not kidding about the whirlwind part. I’ll be driving to the airport directly from the office tomorrow, and driving directly from the airport to the office on Monday morning, and Saturday and Sunday plans are pretty much being put together by others. If I can, I’ll come back to the Seattle area sometime for a week, or at least a long weekend.

The reason for this whirlwind-ness is the cloud to the silver lining of gainful employment: fewer vacation days, unless I’m allowed to just take some off without pay. As I’m planning a trip to Eurofurence (insert glance in [ profile] cheetah_spotty’s direction), that’s going to be five or six days chewed off right there; given other smaller trips I’m planning, I’m likely to bump into my 10-day holiday allotment as it is.

This does bring up another issue: this is likely to be the first Anthrocon since 1998’s that I’ve missed. Boo hiss! I don’t think it can be helped, though. I’m hanging onto my AC hotel reservation for the nonce and keeping a search on plane tickets running in case a Really Good Deal (ha!) happens, but between travel costs and travel time I suspect I’m going to have to table plans this year. As they say: more info as it develops.

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I have about an hour at the airport before my first flight, so I’ve commandeered an outlet and am taking the time to do a little catching up here.

As my last entry implied, my “post-Christmas” was busy, but just as much of the holiday for me as Christmas itself and the days leading up to it. I saw [ profile] haikujaguar for the first time in… well, a couple years, at the least (since the last time she and [ profile] elusivetiger were out in California). I saw an old friend (and former roommate), David, for the first time in eight years, since he moved to the D.C. area, and met his partner. And, yesterday I got to see [ profile] ladyperegrine and have a wonderful evening with her and two Tampa area friends, talking at a cafe and later having dinner at Seasons 52.

I’ve had problems since I’ve moved out to California with mild eczema (ick!), which I mention only because I seem to have confirmed one of my suspicions about it—it’s a combination of dry weather and dust allergy. After moving to the new apartment it lessened somewhat, and it’s just about gone now, after being in my mom’s considerably less dusty place—and Florida’s considerably more humid weather.

Of course, that humidity’s also one of the things I don’t miss about Florida. My mom tends not to air condition unless it’s over ninety or so—to her, seventy-five degrees is cool weather—and yesterday it drizzled rain and remained cloudy in the evening, which means the night stayed humid without cooling much. I don’t think I slept well the last two nights in particular.

On the flight out, I’m doing something I avoid when I can: checking a bag. Some of the little stocking stuffers I got were things like cooking sauces and shampoos, and since we all know that liquids in containers over three ounces are dangerous when exposed to overhead luggage racks, I couldn’t bring it with me. I do hope it arrives at SFO at roughly the same time I do.

It’s still nearly an hour before the flight, and about twenty-five minutes before boarding starts, so I may get up and wander around a little. Tampa International’s not a particularly interesting airport to explore, an ironic side effect of it being very well-designed for an airport’s main function: getting you between your plane and your ground transportation (or vice-versa) as efficiently as possible. But it’s reasonable comfortable as airports go, and—in a welcome break from the “charge as much as we can get” attitude of many airports—offers free wifi throughout the buildings.

I’ll see people in a few hours on the other coast, and decide whether I want to do more for New Years’ Eve than sleep. In the meantime: Happy New Year.

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It’s been a good Christmas, overall. The day itself was quiet, just my mother and I in early morning, and a friend of hers coming over for breakfast. We have our big dinner on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day, and [ profile] hellesfarne came up to join us.

Today begins a marathon, of sorts, seeing people in various parts of the state: in an hour I drive down to St. Pete to visit an old friend and former flatmate. Tomorrow evening, I’ll be down in Tampa to visit [ profile] haikujaguar and other friends. Saturday, off to Orlando to visit [ profile] ladyperegrine, probably in the company of [ profile] hellesfarne again. Sunday, my last day out here, I expect to spend at home, helping my mother set up her computers with OS X 10.5 (a gift I got her, which is slightly self-serving: I think I’ll be able to provide remote tech support for her more easily using iChat’s screen sharing).

I don’t know what I’ll do on New Years’ Eve yet; I’ll be back in California then, my flight arriving around three in the afternoon. It could be a quiet evening at home, it could be a trip into San Francisco on BART to see fireworks if such happen there, it could be a get-together with friends.

My Christmas vignette from a couple days ago was posted with a quasi-riddle of why the main character is a collie. There were a few inventive responses, but only [ profile] kereminde guessed that it’s because collies are shepherding dogs. Jean (the collie) had, after all, spent all those years watching over her flock by night; this was the Christmas an angel appeared to her with news of salvation.

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It occurs to me that I haven’t given any notice to folks of when I’m going to be in Florida, and the time is getting closer. (I still have done virtually no Christmas shopping. This is dire, even for me. But I digress.)

I’m flying in on December 19th and out on the 31st, so for practical purposes I’ll be around on the 20th through the 30th. Also for practical purposes, I’ll be occupied on the 24th and the 25th, although friends without any Christmas plans might be folded into ours, depending. I am almost certainly going to have to do Christmas shopping at least one day between the 20th and the 23rd. Beyond that, I’ll be doing my best to see everyone who expressed interest, if I can figure out how to do all the scheduling. (I’ll be staying in Ridge Manor, which is roughly equally inconvenient to both the Tampa area and Orlando area.)

I can try to schedule meeting people in groups if appropriate. I can even drag them shopping with me. Just be aware that if you haven’t explicitly said something, I am almost certain to fail to include you, not out of latent animosity but because I am simply rather scatterbrained. :)

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As usual, it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Perhaps I’m simply getting out of the habit of journaling? I hope not, since I don’t have anything else on the horizon to replace it, use of Twitter notwithstanding. Of course, between that and Coyote Tracks (my “tumblelog”), it’s possible my need to parade myself before the internet at large is satisfied.

As I mentioned in passing, Anthrocon was a lot of fun. I don’t have a lot more to say about it, in retrospect: all of you I met, I enjoyed meeting, and as usual, there’s a few I wish I’d spent more time with. The panels I was on were generally fun, the Iron Author stories were appropriately awful, and I got to see a little more of Pittsburgh than I did last year, from the pleasantly upscale Shadyside to the “Strip district,” said to be the up-and-coming hip neighborhood. It reminds me a lot of the areas in Oakland around Jack London Square: a warehouse district that’s had some businesses for decades, is starting to get clubs moving in for that grungy bohemian vibe, but is still very much a working warehouse district. As mentioned on Twitter, I did make it to Primanti Brothers for lunch, which seems to be something of a Pittsburgh tradition (and it is pretty good).

Yesterday was my first experience with jury duty. I’d originally been given a summons for the week of the convention but deferred it until this week. In Santa Clara County you’re on “standby,” checking in twice daily until they tell you to report to a courthouse the next day; I checked in Monday, and got told to report to the Hall of Justice yesterday to meet the Superfriends be assigned a “panel” (a group of potential jurors) and wait to see if I actually got called. Many people don’t; my panel did get sent to a courtroom for a specific criminal case, and I watched the whole process of selecting a jury, but I wasn’t actually called to serve. The Hall is just far enough away from the downtown center to make walking somewhere interesting for lunch problematic. I ended up at “House of Bento,” a Japanese fast food place that’s taken over the location of the Juicy Burger that used to be on First Street. (I think there was another very short-lived occupant between those two.)

Now, it’s back to the office and back to attempting to set up a server for the demo of the web product I’ve been working on. It’ll be nice to have, after a decade, possibly worked on a web site that I can actually give someone a URL to—with very few exceptions, everything I’ve worked on has been for internal company use at various employers.


2006-12-30 15:53
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Christmas was good, as it always is. This trip has been the longest chosen vacation I’ve taken in years (as opposed to “enforced vacations” of unemployment) and it felt a little surreal. Of course, I don’t get paid time off, so the tacit trade is that I don’t have to worry about how many vacation days I have.

I spent yesterday hanging around with Scott (“Mirage”) in Tampa, ending up with a nice dinner at a restaurant near where he lives in Apollo Beach, and [ profile] hellesfarne came up for both a Solstice party my mother threw on the 22nd and for Christmas Eve dinner. (That dinner was the first time I’ve cooked salmon, and I’m surprised at how well it came out!) I had a wonderful time having dinner with [ profile] ladyperegrine a few days ago. I’m unhappy that I’ve managed to miss [ profile] haikujaguar; it seems her husband was sick earlier this week, and she was later in the week, and plans for a get-together never came together.

This is a traditional time to be, if not making resolutions, at least thinking about the new year. I might resolve to get back in the habit of more regular journal postings than I’ve been making over the last few months, I don’t know. More seriously, I’m thinking about my various projects and moving them forward. Claw & Quill has been a “coming soon” placeholder page for a year now; in 2007 I need to actually do something with it, whether or not the plans are as grand as I’ve considered.

I have a feeling—a premonition, if I may be so bold—that 2007 is going to be another year of changes for me, but I’m not sure as of yet what those changes will be like. My financial goal is to cancel out my outstanding debt, finally, and rebuild my savings; the big caveat there is, of course, that it’ll only be possible if my current contract continues for all or most of the year (or another one of comparable salary level starts again real quick). My debt will be reduced by about 50% by the end of January from where it was in August, but it’ll likely stall there as I start frantically stockpiling money for the self-employed, nothing-withheld tax bill heading my way in April, which will be many thousands of dollars.

If things really do hold fast and the debt and savings end up where I want them to be, I might see if I could convince my current employer to let me telecommute a few days a week. Then I’d consider moving somewhere on the outskirts of the Bay Area where rent is, well, somewhat lower, with the expectation that I’ll just have a commute from hell once or twice a week and be hanging around home the rest of the time. There are many, many “ifs” in that thought, of course.

2006 has been a turbulent year for me but not a bad one, all things considered. Am I looking forward to 2007? I don’t know. I’m happy, but have a strange sense of melancholy-tinged ennui. Another friend mused earlier today on the dilemma of contentment; I rephrased his question as Am I content with what I have now, and if not, why not? and he replied that it also came down to If I am not content, is it possible for me to be content at all? Upon putting the two side by side, I think the second is implying a bleak answer to the first (“Perhaps I am not content with what I have now because it is not possible for me to be content at all”).

I look back at my time working for Intermedia as a contented time, and one I keep striving to get back to; the job that didn’t work out earlier this year was one I imagined would be “like Intermedia” (it wasn’t). Yet, I was keeping a journal back in 2000, and I was frustrated at my lack of advancement ability within Intermedia, frustrated at the Tampa job market, frustrated at my failure to have followed up on opportunities out in Silicon Valley when the dotcom boom was in full force. A picture of contentment that was not.

Of course, it’s easy to lament what we don’t have and give what we do have short shrift. Maybe the secret of contentment is simply not to do that.

No matter your own state of contentment, best wishes for the new year.

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A few observations about the flights:

  • I’ve taken at least two plane trips a year every year since the mid-’90s, and — from a traveler’s perspective — the TSA beats the snot out of the private firms they replaced. With the mall security types before this, it was rare to get a screener who didn’t seem resentful. (Who were you to make his life difficult by trying to get on a plane?) TSA staff tends to be professional, usually courteous, and despite the perception that they’re making you jump through more hoops, the lines move faster.

  • This is the first time I’ve flown Southwest in years. I used to always go to them as my first choice for monetary reasons, but more recently I’ve been picking American Airlines when I can (for their slightly better leg room). The trip I took to AnthroCon in Pittsburgh I took on Midwest Express, and that one round trip was enough to make them my “choose whenever available” airline, particularly when they have their “Signature Service” flights available. (Think first-class seats throughout the plane, although no, alcohol isn’t free.)

  • Having said that, leg room ain’t everything. I took only two flights, but as it turns out, with three stops. The first leg of the second flight, from LAX to Kansas City, was spent next to a loud Italian guy complaining about this not being a direct flight because direct means nonstop. (“This would never happen in my country,” he said. Okay, I’m no world traveller, but I’m reasonably sure that flying between the two farthest-apart airports in Italy is not quite as long a trip.) For the second leg, I moved up to the very first row of the aircraft. Leg room—but a man whose shoulders were a bit wider than the seat to my left sat down next to me, making it slightly crowded anyway.

Of course, it’s been a few days since I’ve been here. My mother and her friend (and remodeling contractor) Mark are out buying new things for the bathroom remodel he’s working on. Strictly speaking, this isn’t the first quiet moment I’ve had since I’ve arrived, but it feels like it is. Mom tends to be going a lot, and she doesn’t have much truck with this whole silence thing. I’m afraid I still have some Christmas shopping to do and it’s being an effort to carve out enough time to go get it done. I’m hoping for today, although there’s the mild dilemma at the moment that, of course, Mark and mom are out in her car, which I would need to borrow to go anywhere.

The difference in climate between San Jose and the Tampa area manages to take me by surprise every visit back now. As I write this, it’s 36 out there, and 76 here; the high there is going to be about 60 and the high here is going to be about 80.

At any rate, even though I don’t have anywhere to go yet and can’t go anywhere yet, I feel like it’s time to get ready to go. How’s that for coyote logic?

chipotle: (default)

My flight heads out tomorrow morning at 10am, so I’m aiming to be at the airport at 8am. I suspect that the people who want to see me on this trip have already gotten in touch with me, but I’ll be reachable once I’m in Florida via typical net methods anyway. (There may be a challenge in that I suspect my mom’s wifi network has been set up with an authorization scheme that the friend who set it up for her won’t have documented. I’ve downloaded the Airport Extreme manual so I know how to reset it.)

I’m pretty sure I have everything that I need already packed, save for a few things that aren’t going to be packed until the last minute. I’m going to be making a checklist, I suspect, in just a minute before I go to bed, though, so I have a marginal chance of actually finding those last-minute things tomorrow morning.

For those of you I won’t see until after Christmas, have a happy one. (Or whatever winter holiday you do—or even don’t—celebrate.)

chipotle: (Default)

It’s about 8:30 in the morning* and in addition to making coffee I’m: printing. Printing printing printing. After a bit of waffling, I’ve decided to print out all six copies of the story here; that’s 162 sheets total, printed on both sides. Yes, it’s a fairly long story, about 13,000 words. I’m cautiously happy with it, though.

Also over the weekend—well, technically at work on Friday, but I was able to work from home, so it felt like part of the weekend—I did a code audit, examining a client’s code for style and security holes and writing a quick summary. This is something I haven’t done before, and it’s pretty interesting. Not much I can actually write about without violating privacy and/or being boring to all but the geekiest reader, mind you.

And I’ll fess up to something: I didn’t work at home on Friday, I worked at a Panera in Concord. Why? Because I had lunch in West Berkeley, at Café Rouge. According to (endless) discussion on Chowhound, this French bistro has—yes—one of the best burgers in the Bay Area. And, y’know, the buzz was right. They really do. It’s a messy burger, though—even cooked medium, it was very juicy. After that I went to Sketch Ice Cream, a gourmet place across the street, and had toasted cashew ice cream. Yes, most of their flavors seem to be that unusual, and their ice cream is thick and similar to gelato. (This is something I really like, although not everyone does—it’s actually made with milk, not cream, and while it’s very smooth, it’s relatively low in butterfat compared to most ice creams.)

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m going to be flying out to Florida in two weeks—and that starts on Sunday. (I give the dates I’ll be out there as the 18th through the 30th, although technically I’ll be flying in on the 17th and out on the 31st.) Those of you in Florida who want to see me and haven’t gotten in touch with me should.

I suppose I should start Christmas shopping soon.

*Well, it was 8:30 when I started writing; I didn’t post until lunchtime!

chipotle: (beer)
Actually, notes from the table: specifically a table at the Rogue Ales Public House in San Francisco, at a window table. Looking out the window is a surprisingly pleasant street scene. (I tried to take a picture with the cell phone, but the camera is just so unrepentantly awful.) The pub has three or four dozen microbrews and imported beers on draft, including a lot of ones from the Rogue Ales brewery that you can't easily get anywhere else.

So why am I here, you may ask? Given that I have relatively little money and shouldn't be gallavanting off to the Big City? Good question. My BART ticket is already paid for, though (you prepurchase transit tickets and they function like debit cards), and I felt like hiking somewhere a little more urban today. So I got off at the Embarcadero station, headed up to the corner of Montgomery, Washington and Columbus--right by the base of the Transamerica Pyramid--and walked up Columbus into Little Italy. Every other shop along Columbus is a neighborhood cafe (usually Italian, given said neighborhood) or a coffee shop. The pub here is actually right across from a little park. And, while it doesn't have free wifi, I've discovered there are 16 wifi networks that the MacBook is picking up--statistically speaking, I figured one would be open, and indeed it was.

I've finished lunch here (which may be dinner, too)--a kobe beef burger (!). It was good, as expected, although it makes me want to get a patty from their supplier (Snake River beef, I think) and cook it at home on the cast iron pan. I'm about to have a taster, at least, of a chipotle ale. C'mon, I had to, right? But on the way back to the BART station--which is a bit of a hike, I have to say--I'll be stopping at the relatively famous Caffe Trieste.

My impression that I could indeed be happy living in San Francisco proper--or another sufficiently metropolitan downtown--is of course just being reinforced by all this. As much as I like going into proper wilderness to recenter myself, I'm pretty sure I could get used to an urban lifestyle the rest of the time.

I'm not being a complete layabout, though--I'm making, uh, notes. Notes on an idea for a mildly interesting web application I'm disturbed there might be a market for. I'll worry about it if I ever get past notes, of course. Notes are the easy part.

(N.B.: The Chipotle Ale taster has arrived and it's... better than I honestly expected, although I probably shouldn't have doubted: these guys really are pretty good damn brewers, good enough to take what seems like a novelty item and make it work. Their smoke ale is better, though.)
chipotle: (furry)

So. Back from AC. I’m all but expected to give a convention report, but I’m not all that good at such things. Short form, though, it was a great con. One of the best ACs I’ve been to in years.

Yes, the convention center was big, and they weren’t perhaps making the best use of space—although I don’t know how much of that really had to do with the convention center’s assignments and such. Finding a way to better utilize the skywalk between the hotel and the center would be a great thing.

Having gotten the requisite nits out of the way, it was just a helluva lotta fun. Random highlights, not all of which are directly related to the con:

  • The Sofawolf party, and hanging out with people I don’t see very often. This included the Germans who actually, like, remember my old stories and are still fans, and who also kept plying me (and anyone else who didn’t actively resist) with Jaegermeister. It was also amusing watching [ profile] unclekage act as Crux’s de facto agent for a bit.

  • Getting badge art from Ursula Husted, one of the relatively few times I’ve (gasp) gotten a small comission done at a con.

  • Meeting [ profile] kereminde and [ profile] malkith0 for the first time, and Missy Vixen and Miateshcha’s players again.

  • Being subject to [ profile] krdbuni’s “Iron Author” contest as a judge of horrifically bad stories, yet again. (Wait, this was a highlight?)

  • Dinner with [ profile] jadedfox at Tonic, the surprisingly good restaurant and bar right across from the hotel.

  • A long random conversation with Wendingo, who I only know in passing online but who was pretty cool in person.

  • Being amused at how, well, visible the con was in Pittsburgh. Despite pot shots from a few bozos (I suspect mostly spurred by the morning bozo radio show that [ profile] reality_fox heard), the considerable media attention was fairly positive, and some businesses stayed open just to catch convention attendees.

  • One of those businesses was a sandwich shop a block away from the hotel. In addition to having great food for the price, they have entertainment, sort of: while we were there a (non-congoer!) guy angry that the “restrooms for customer use only” was being enforced broke off the valve lever from one of the soda machine spigots. A clerk spotted this, shouted, and three of them chased the vandal onto the street and pummeled him as he fled.

  • Flying Midwest Express. Despite the godawful time I had to leave Monday morning to fly out, it’s the best airline experience I’ve had since, well, airlines actually had service. (Remember that?)

There are complaints I’ve seen that AC is just “too big” for you to see everyone you want to see. Yet you don’t have that frustration at a smaller con precisely because not everyone you want to see is there. I saw [ profile] cargoweasel, [ profile] animakitty, [ profile] bluedeer and a few others entirely in passing (in fact, with Anima, I believe it was after he passed by that I thought, “Hey, that was Anima,” and I never saw him again!). My favorite smaller furry con has been Conifur Northwest, but since they screwed the pooch this year,* maybe I’ll consider something else—depending on budget, which is going to take a while to recover from the spending over the last month, though. (I’m spending money like I have it.)

On the plane ride back, I read an advance copy of [ profile] ursulav’s novel. Not a graphic novel, but a prose novel. I’ll write more about that later, but for now I’ll just say I’m pretty impressed.

* While I understand they had difficulties with the hotel, they knew they’d have to switch from the 2006 hotel before the 2006 convention. Given that we’ve seen other cons in similar circumstances figure out something other than “damn, gotta cancel,” it’s hard not to suspect the con committee just dropped the ball on this one. (And let the ball roll under the sofa. Then set fire to the sofa.)


chipotle: (Default)

February 2018

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