Gayle Madwin's Journal
                              25 MOST RECENT ENTRIES
Saturday, 23 February 2019
Saturday, 23 February 2019 3:44pm
Arizona! Day 4: Grand Canyon

It's time for me to hurry up and finish writing about our Arizona vacation two months ago, so I can move on to writing about other things! So here we go on Day 4, the final day.

On Tuesday morning, December 18, Barry and I woke up in the AirBnB we had spent the night at, just outside of Flagstaff. It was called the Mod Lodge. The blurb about it on the AirBnB site reads, in part, as follows:
The big red house at the base of the San Francisco Peaks contains within its walls Mudshark Recording Studios, the oldest running recording studio in Flagstaff in action since the mid 1970s. This historic Northern Arizona landmark was started by Phil Gall and has been recording local and regional artists for over 30 years! There are many tales in local folklore of visits to the studio by members of the Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead to Steve Miller and Linda Ronstadt.

It's a family's house but also doubles as a recording studio and has apparently been used by fairly prominent musicians for many decades. The original owner died recently, but the new owners are carrying on the business. The man of the house told us that he has worked for years with Tony Visconti, David Bowie's producer. Upon hearing that I'm a huge David Bowie fan, he told us some stories about Tony Visconti and some stories that Tony Visconti had told him about David Bowie. Mainly he told one story about how, in 1974, Tony Visconti and David Bowie and John Lennon were together in a room (John Lennon was a guest songwriter/backing vocalist on David Bowie's song "Fame" at the time) and David Bowie warned Tony Visconti not to mention Paul McCartney because it would set off John Lennon ranting about how angry he was at Paul McCartney. But Tony Visconti had recently produced Paul McCartney's album with Wings and was really angry because Paul McCartney hadn't credited him properly on the liner notes but had just printed "Thanks, Tony," with no last name and no indication of what Tony's role had been. So Tony Visconti complained to John Lennon about Paul McCartney doing that. And then John Lennon jumped up and said he'd been working on a song that had been reminding him of when he and Paul were kids and he'd been thinking of inviting Paul to work on it with him, but now that Tony Visconti had reminded him of what a jerk Paul was, he'd decided again not to invite Paul to work on anything with him ever again. And so David Bowie told Tony Visconti, "You just prevented the Beatles from getting back together!" and continued to blame Tony Visconti forever afterward for having prevented the Beatles from getting back together.

He told us that story just before we left. I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself, though, because I should start with when we woke up. This was the view from the enclosed patio adjacent to our room.

Mod Lodge AirBnB

Mod Lodge AirBnB

Click for more pictures from our fourth and final day in Arizona!Collapse )

Mood: busy

1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 28 January 2019
Monday, 28 January 2019 10:28pm
Arizona! Day 3: OdySea Aquarium and Lowell Observatory

On Monday morning, December 17, we were still in our hotel room when Barry got a phone call from OdySea Aquarium in the desert. Barry had bought us tickets to go there on Sunday, but since the open hours listed on Google were not accurate, we did not arrive until after it was closed for the day. Barry had then inquired about whether we could exchange our unused Sunday tickets for Monday tickets. They called him back Monday morning to say yes, we could get in on Monday with our unused Sunday tickets.

So, after helping ourselves to another elaborate and delicious buffet breakfast at our hotel and packing all our stuff into the rental car (because we would not be coming back to this hotel the next night), we drove to Scottsdale to visit the aquarium. OdySea Aquarium in the Desert could equally well be called OdySea Aquarium in a Shopping Mall. It was an anchor store of a large mall. There were kids sitting on Santa's lap and kids playing in a pile of snow that had been manufactured for them with a snow machine or perhaps hauled down from Flagstaff. There was a candy shop that we walked through, though we didn't end up buying any candy. There was also a place called Butterfly Wonderland that I decided we should visit if or when we go back to Arizona again. We looked around its gift shop, but the full Butterfly Wonderland experience was quite expensive, and we didn't have enough free time to spend there to justify the money.

Mostly we just spent our time at the aquarium. We saw fish! We even petted a lot of the fish. Or at least I did. Barry is more fish-averse and only petted a couple of them. But here is Barry petting a fish.

Barry at the OdySea Aquarium in the Desert

And here I am petting a ray.

me at the OdySea Aquarium in the Desert

Click for more pictures from our third day in Arizona!Collapse )

Mood: chipper
Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 20 January 2019
Sunday, 20 January 2019 10:41am
Arizona! Day 2: Riparian Preserve and Superstition Mountains

Since our hotel room didn't have a refrigerator, we ended up not being able to eat the food we had brought back there from dinner at the Desert Botanical Garden; we were too stuffed to eat any more of it until the next morning, when it would no longer have been safe to eat.

The hotel did, however, serve quite a good breakfast buffet of its own. A lot of hotels claim to serve breakfast buffets but make only the minimal effort to technically qualify as providing a "breakfast" "buffet." This one did the job properly though, with everything from cereal to waffles to bagels to muffins to a choice of red or green apples, plus a wide variety of spreads (peanut butter, jelly, butter, strawberry cream cheese . . .) and beverages (orange juice, coffee, milk . . .) We were quite satisfied.

Our first stop on Sunday morning, December 16, was the next used bookstore, the Bookmans in Mesa. As at the Bookmans in Phoenix, I read some riveting first pages in the autobiography section but then tore myself away and restricted my actual purchases to the fiction section. This time I picked up three books: Intrusions by Ursula Hegi, The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls, and Miss Grief and Other Stories by Constance Fenimore Woolson. I first discovered Jeanette Walls via her autobiography, which is much in the same genre of the autobiographies I was passing over during this trip. However, I don't remember disliking her by the end of it, and in any case, what I bought by her this time was fiction. I haven't read the latter two books I got from the Mesa Bookmans, but I did read Intrusions and enjoyed it very much. Intrusions is a novel into which the author keeps intruding to tell about her experience of writing the novel, and the characters, in turn, keep intruding into the author's life. It was published in 1981, and it felt to me very much a novel of 1981, with a distinctly 1981 tone to its feminist take on the difficulty of trying to raise children and also have a career. It felt very dated and very second-wave, but it was also brilliantly written, and I greatly admired the writing skill that went into it.

This second Bookmans declined to buy any of the books that Barry hadn't been able to sell to the first Bookmans. But Barry still had store credit left from the first Bookmans and used that to buy my three books for me.

Then we went to look at Barry's childhood home in Gilbert. Barry stopped the car by the curb, and we just sat and looked at it for a minute or two. Then we moved on again. We also stopped to look at the nearby canal. Then we stopped at a CVS pharmacy to buy some bottled water in preparation for a hike.

The hike was at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. This reserve is located very close to Barry's childhood home, but it wasn't there when Barry lived there. Barry's dad said it used to be a water treatment plant back then. But now it's a scenic natural preserve with numerous ponds - though a few of the ponds were drained of water when we were there. There was a long, winding bridge over a corner of one of the ponds that allowed us to get close to the ducks gathered there.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert

Click for more pictures from our second day in Arizona!Collapse )

Mood: pleased
Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 20 January 2019 2:28am
Arizona! Day 1: Desert Botanical Garden

So, Barry and I went to Arizona! We came back a month ago already, but it's taken me this long to write up the trip. And even now, I'm only writing up one day at a time from our four-day trip. The rest is coming soon . . . I hope. Wedding planning is keeping us busy! Wedding planning is now my all-purpose excuse for all delays in all things. Possibly including delays in wedding planning itself.

Barry grew up in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix that was somewhat out in the middle of nowhere at the time (in the '80s and '90s), but that now blends seamlessly into the Phoenix metropolitan area. He lived there until he went away to attend college at U.C. Irvine. I grew up in the Sacramento area and had never been to Arizona in my life, so we had been vaguely talking for a long time about Barry taking me to see the area where he grew up. The trip needed to happen in winter, because it is 120 °F in the Phoenix area in the summer, and we wanted to be able to walk around outside without dying of heatstroke. We had decided sometime early in 2018 that this winter would be the time for such a trip. On Sunday, November 11, as I was leaving Barry's house after a weekend we spent there together, I mentioned to Barry that I had some vacation time to use up before the end of the calendar year and that it would therefore be convenient for me if we could take that Arizona trip before the end of the calendar year - especially so I could save my 2019 vacation time for honeymooning instead.

I mentioned that in Barry's driveway, just minutes before I left. Only one hour later, when I arrived at my own house, there was an email already awaiting me from Barry in which he had already planned out our entire Arizona trip, including plane tickets, hotels, restaurants, hikes . . . he'd already worked out a detailed schedule for everything we would see and do on each day we were there. I was extremely impressed by how quickly he'd managed to plan such a detailed itinerary. Oh, and then there was the fact that his itinerary called for visiting not one, not two, but three different used bookstores in the course of our four-day trip. "They're not just any used bookstores," he insisted. They were Bookmans Entertainment Exchanges, an apparently quite important phenomenon from Barry's childhood, and it was apparently quite important to him for us to visit not only the Phoenix one but also the Mesa one and also the Flagstaff one. Clearly there are reasons why this guy is the right person for my English-major self to marry.

Barry's itinerary also called for making two separate trips to the same botanical garden on the same day - once in daylight and once after dark. Even being as much a gardener as I am, I thought this seemed a bit much. This fiancé of mine can be rather eccentric! But if Barry wanted to spend that much time with the same set of plants, far be it from me to tell him that plants are boring and we should hurry up and go do something else already. So I just told him he was rather strange and then cheerfully agreed to go along with his strange itinerary.

So, on Saturday, December 15, we got up at 5:30 a.m. to head to the airport. It was the first time I had boarded an airplane since I was thirteen . . . 29 years ago. My first taste of the post-9/11 airport experience. And once we were finally in the air, I could see the ground for more of the flight than I remember being able to do when I was thirteen. My memory of flying to Washington, D.C., when I was thirteen, is of being able to see the ground only for a short period just after takeoff and a short period just before landing; I recall the view being obscured by clouds for virtually all the middle of the country. This time, though, the skies were clear for a larger percentage of the trip. And Barry gave me the window seat so I could see as much as possible!

Here is the view from the plane window while we were still sitting on the ground at the Sacramento International Airport.

Sacramento International Airport (SMF)

Click for more pictures from our first day in Arizona!Collapse )

Mood: excited
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 18 November 2018
Sunday, 18 November 2018 10:33pm
Yosemite, and We're Engaged!

Barry and I went to Yosemite for the second time this year, from October 28 to 31. A certain exciting moment happened there, which I already gave away in the title of this post, but I'm going to try to stick to narrating this in chronological order.

So, I sort of decided in advance of this trip that I really wanted to get engaged during it, and I was probably going to be pretty seriously disappointed if I didn't get engaged during it. This was obviously problematic, because setting up an arbitrary deadline that required Barry's involvement and not even telling Barry about said deadline was clearly unfair to Barry. I tried to prepare some ways I'd be able to stop myself from being disappointed, but I had a feeling I'd probably still end up feeling disappointed anyway. So, taking a different tack, I tried to give Barry some advance warning. In a way, I already had: we'd agreed about two years ago on a time frame that we both felt would be an appropriate point for getting married ("in the third year of our relationship") and we'd arrived at that time frame; we'd subsequently agreed that we both wanted to wait for our most sickly and elderly pets to die first, and they both had died; we'd discussed engagement rings and I'd picked one out and told Barry about it a month or two earlier; we'd made several preliminary house-shopping trips; and I'd asked Barry, on one of the occasions when he was at my house earlier this fall, whether - since there is significant stuff I want to do to my house before we sell it - we could get married first and deal with house buying-and-selling afterward, and he'd said yes. So all signs were that we weren't on wildly different pages. But I still hadn't gotten Barry to specify what he wanted as an engagement ring, nor had he even gotten around to figuring out what size he wears. So it was hard to see how I could prepare a magnificent proposal for him when I couldn't possibly present him with a perfect ring. Also, frankly, it's very confusing to try to subvert the patriarchy by, if you are a woman, getting down on one knee before a man. It's just a weirdly submissive-seeming position to try to claim as a feminist act, you know? So I resorted instead to just dropping an inordinate number of hints, while also feeling bad about only communicating through hints, because in general I'm a great believer in just being bluntly direct about everything so as not to run any risk of misunderstandings.

This is why, on the weekend before our Yosemite trip, when I was saying goodbye to Barry in his driveway, I mentioned to him that according to the Internet being sprayed by the mist of Bridalveil Fall is supposed to improve your chances of getting married, and suggested that maybe I should take him to Bridalveil Fall while we were there. Then I also told him that if he really wanted to get me to stop looking at houses for a while (since we weren't really ready to buy yet), getting me focused on planning a wedding would probably be the one thing that would achieve that.

"So much pressure!" Barry replied, grinning. He must have gotten the hint, because apparently it was the day after that conversation that he placed the order for the engagement ring I'd told him some weeks earlier that I wanted.

And then it was the following Sunday morning, and we were stuffing everything into Barry's truck to go to Yosemite. I had printed out a bunch of directions to all sorts of places in and around Yosemite - more places than I really thought we were likely to have time to see - as backups in case the GPS on Barry's cell phone let us down. Barry had purchased some new rectangular bins to pack our equipment into, and he took a few minutes to work out the quirks of how to stack them and lash them to his truck's ladder rack so as to maintain a clear line of sight for himself. Then we were on the road! We listened to the mix tape I'd made a few trips ago, for our trip to Howard Creek Ranch Inn in 2017, of my favorite songs from various eras of my life; and we alternated it with some podcasts Barry wanted to listen to - primarily one called My Brother, My Brother, and Me, which involves three brothers intentionally dispensing bad advice to people. We stopped in the small town of Mariposa, where I bought Barry some gas, and then we entered Yosemite via the Arch Rock Entrance. We set up camp at the site I'd reserved for us, North Pines Site 103. There was a motorhome adjacent to us on one side, which was kind of nice because the people generally stayed inside it where we didn't see them, and there was a family of four from some European country on the other side of us, with children aged about one and four years old, speaking a language that resembled German but probably wasn't quite German. The one-year-old was a bit loud for a person in general, but probably rather quiet for a one-year-old. Here is our campsite, with Barry's yellow and black bins, my camp stove, and Barry's tent.

North Pines Site 103

Our campsite was directly on the Merced River, near the bridge over the river. You can see the bridge a bit at the left side of the photo above, but you can see it better in the photo below, which shows the view from right next to our tent.

Merced River from North Pines Site 103

Click for many more pictures and the rest of the story!Collapse )

Mood: ecstatic
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 26 September 2018
Wednesday, 26 September 2018 5:50pm
Br*tt K*vanaugh

Research has repeatedly shown that ethnically and otherwise diverse teams are better than homogeneous teams at challenging each other's perspectives and thoroughly weighing all the data to arrive at the best possible decisions. (If you're not familiar with the data, run a Google search on "diverse teams research.")

The Republican Party right now is severely lacking in diversity. That is why the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee have been and still are being incredibly slow to realize they should not confirm Brett Kavanaugh. I'm still not sure whether they will figure it out in time; they may indeed go ahead and confirm him. But because they are such an all-white, all-male club, if they do confirm him, they will do so without properly grasping the full consequences of doing so.

Simply put, it is practically impossible to imagine the Supreme Court continuing to be regarded as a legitimate authority worthy of respect by anything more than 50% of the nation's population. We already have Clarence Thomas, credibly accused of workplace harassment by Anita Hill, and we already have Neil Gorsuch, whose seat should properly have gone to Merrick Garland. That these things have been, to a certain degree, accepted may lead some people to conclude, wrongly, that confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh will also be accepted, even after - what, five now? six? - reported separate incidents of him committing sexually assault. But the difference here is the critical mass to alter the decision-making. With Kavanaugh on the court, the court will be ruling in an extreme far-right way on virtually every case that comes before it. And although that would still upset every left-leaning American even if Kavanaugh were the choir boy he pretended to be on Fox News, being upset by the outcomes of court cases doesn't always lead to considering the court itself illegitimate. What will indeed lead to a good 50% of Americans considering the court illegitimate is the combination of both constant far-right court verdicts and the knowledge that at least two of the justices have been credibly accused of sex crimes plus an additional seat on the court was stolen from Merrick Garland. With all of those factors added together, it will be completely impossible for the court to retain anything resembling its former sheen of legitimacy.

Knowing this doesn't solve the problem, of course. Having 50% of Americans cease to regard the Supreme Court a legitimate doesn't somehow automatically strip the court of its legal power. But it will be a major change that the nation will have to grapple with for quite some time. And the Republican senators who will make the decision about whether to confirm Kavanaugh or not do not even see it coming.

Mood: cold
Speak Your Mind
Friday, 27 July 2018
Friday, 27 July 2018 9:06pm
The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

I am now the answer to life, the universe, and everything! That started a week ago. But I've been neglecting LiveJournal for a while now, so I'm going to try to catch up a bit on the backlog before I write about birthday-related activities.

So, spring happened. I wrote about the garden tour already, but I haven't yet gotten around to posting this picture Barry took of me in his back yard in early May.

me in Barry's back yard, May 2018

In addition to all the plant reproduction that tends to happen in spring, there also tends to be quite a bit of feline reproduction in the spring. Accordingly, Barry has lately taken in a long succession of foster kittens. The first one, in June, was a grey/brown tabby who needed to be "socialized" because he was terrified of everyone. I named him Bolt, after the brown tabby in Neko Atsume, and also because, at first, he wanted to bolt away from us at every opportunity. But we successfully socialized him in no time. Here I am with Bolt.

me with Bolt, June 2018

me with Bolt, June 2018

The next one was a gray-and-white kitten whom I named Rascal, after the similarly colored kitten in Neko Atsume. Barry took in Rascal in late June and returned him to the shelter in early July. Rascal was also on the shy side at first, but not quite as shy as Bolt. He didn't initially act like a rascal, but he kind of grew into his name during his two weeks at Barry's house.

pictures of Rascal being a rascal and getting into fights with my hairCollapse )

The next two were littermates, two brothers whom Barry fostered together. These two were probably in the most desperate need of "socializing," because whereas Bolt and Rascal had initially just cowered from us, the first time I tried to pick up one of these two, I got my hand sliced up by the claws of a very panicked kitten. One of these two was a long-haired, mostly white kitten with a line of striped brown patches down his back and an eye infection that Barry needed to keep medicating. I named this one Garland, because the line of brown patches down his back reminded me of a garland. We also joked about calling him Merrick, for should-have-been Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland, but by the end of his stay with us, I had decided instead that his full name was Sir Garland Floofkitten.

Barry named Garland's littermate Kefka, because apparently Garland and Kefka were two villains in the Final Fantasy video game series. Kefka was the more powerful villain, and this seemed appropriate to me, since Kefka was the kitten who had sliced up my hand when we first met. Kefka was mostly a brown tabby, but with white paws and a white front/underside. Kefka's tabby bits had an unusual pattern; he was a ticked tabby rather than the more common mackerel tabby.

They were both adorable, and of all the kittens Barry has fostered, these two were the ones I've been most tempted to adopt. Alas, there are no open slots for more cats in our lives, since Barry already has three cats and I have one who is already upset enough about sharing me with Barry's three.

pictures of Garland and KefkaCollapse )

Speaking of Barry's cats, here are a couple of pictures of Barry's oldest cat, Jazz, on my lap.

Jazz likes lapsCollapse )

And just so my own cat doesn't feel neglected . . . here is Stardust.

The Legendary Stardust KittycatCollapse )

We also did various other stuff during the spring. We went to a friend's college graduation party; she acquired a degree in statistics from the University of California at Davis. We went to various board-game parties and to a friend's birthday party that was held in a board-game store. My mom had a birthday too, and Barry and I walked down to a creek in my parents' neighborhood with my family. We celebrated Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day and my brother's birthday. Barry cooked a bunch of meals for my family on those occasions.

And then there was my birthday. For this occasion, Barry not only cooked dinner (a Japanese dish called oyakodon, meaning "chicken-and-egg rice bowl," which went over quite well with my family of generally rather unadventurous eaters) and supplied birthday cake; he also brought a ladder and level to my parents' house and installed lights and a longer pull-chain on one of my parents' ceiling fans, used the level to straighten a tapestry that has been hanging crookedly on my parents' wall for years, and took measurements to laser-cut a decorative windowshade for the hemicircular window in my parents' bedroom, where my mom has for years been trying to block out the light with an ugly and irregularly cut piece of cardboard because she couldn't find anything for sale in the necessary half-circle shape.

And then there were the presents! Barry and I stopped by the Marysville Peach Festival on our way out of town, and Barry bought me a bottle of peach-infused honey and a bag of orange-zest-dipped cashew nuts there. At my parents' house, I received the following:

  • the YA novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (from my parents)
  • the novel Noonday by Pat Barker (from Barry)
  • the novel Sweet and Sour Milk by Nuruddin Farah (from my parents)
  • the play The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway (from my brother)
  • the novel Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant (from my parents)
  • the short-story collection How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer (from my parents)
  • the graphic novel My Boyfriend Is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Faris (from Barry)
  • the essay collection Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia by Gore Vidal (from my parents)
  • the memoir Educated by Tara Westover (from my parents)
  • one pair of red and white running socks (from my parents)
  • one pair of yellow and black running socks (from my parents)
  • one purple, grey, and pink water bottle with attached running belt (from my parents)
  • six pairs of blue and green gardening gloves (from my parents)
  • the wide-brimmed blue sun hat you'll see in photographs below (from my parents)
  • eight stretchy silicone airtight lids for pots, pans, and jars (from Barry)
  • a valve handle for my outdoor faucet that has been missing the knob to turn the water on with ever since I bought my house six years ago (from Barry)
  • a Roomba (from Barry)

So far, I've finished reading the YA novel and the graphic novel, started reading the play, drank from the water bottle, wore the hat, started up the Roomba, and eaten some of the cashews and honey. Good progress!

I scheduled a four-day weekend to celebrate my birthday. We spent Friday at the Peach Festival and my parents' house. On Saturday we packed lunches and drove to a swimming hole on Rock Creek, near the town of Storrie. This trip did not go as well as I had hoped. I had learned about the swimming hole in a book I own, which included a rock-climbing icon next to the entry for Rock Creek, but which did not say anything in the text about the swimming hole requiring difficult or dangerous climbing to get to. When we arrived, however, I was immediately intimidated. Usually I find that the easiest way to get to a swimming hole in a creek without any terribly difficult climbing is to get in upstream or downstream and wade through the creek to get to the spot I want. As long as I stay in the water, there's never any great height for me to risk falling from. But in this case, the entire width of the creek was blocked off by huge boulders, with no gaps for me to wedge between them. So the only way to cross was high up in the air. My sense of balance has never been great (I've never even learned to ride a bicycle!), and I did not have great confidence in the traction of the water shoes I was wearing.

There were three routes to choose from. The first one was a slanting rock ledge, maybe thirty feet above the ground, with some cables attached to a portion of it, and a rickety, angled wooden ladder leading down from the cables. We saw that route first. Barry looked it over and said he could probably make it but I wouldn't want to. I didn't even bother looking at that route from up very closely, but from what I saw of it, I'm pretty sure I would have felt a need for cables much sooner than the cables actually started.

A second route consisted of climbing over various boulders. Barry started to lead me along that route, but when we got to a substantial gap between boulders high over the water, he asked if I wanted to turn back, and I said yes. Again, he thought he could make it himself, but he correctly guessed that I would be more intimidated.

 The third route was another slanting, slippery rock precipice, but shorter and lower down, and without any cables. This one was about ten feet above the water, and it seemed be the favored route for six-year-olds, whose parents stood at either end or halfway along, reaching out to help them along. However much help they got, however, Barry and I both thought it was crazy to put small children at this much risk of terrible falls. And unfortunately I, being an adult, would have been much harder to catch than the six-year-olds if I fell.

Barry decided to take the cable route and see how things looked on the other side. In the meantime, I decided to stand around looking intimidated and asking people which route was the easiest. There was general agreement that the cable route was the hardest and that all of the routes were very hard. There was not much consensus about which route was the least hard.

Rock Creek picturesCollapse )

Feeling that all three routes were too dangerous for me, I opted to try to create a fourth route. I waded across the bit of water you can see above, to skip the slanting, slippery precipice. However, that left me at the bottom of the opposite end of the slanting precipice, with my way forward blocked by boulders. If I could have just gotten up the slant at that one spot I'd have been at the swimming hole. And there were things there for other people to hold onto, so they wouldn't be precariously balanced anymore, so I thought they would be able to help me up. But even when someone did reach down to try to help me up, it was just too steep for me to get up out of the water. So I gave up. I told the man trying to help me that I was giving up, and I asked him to pass on a message to Barry on the other side, asking Barry to come back for me. Barry received the message and became convinced I had suffered broken bones. He returned via the second route, climbing over the boulders, and was relieved to find out that I had merely chickened out and not injured myself.

Then we drove a little way back downstream to a different parking area to find a spot where the water was easier to access. My book about swimming holes mentioned this place too, but it directed us to walk on a path that we ended up deciding not to attempt, for fear of more dangerous routes. Even in the spot where we ended up stopping, we still had to ask some passersby for help at one point, when I couldn't get up a certain rock and Barry's shoes didn't have enough traction on the slippery slope for him to pull me up by himself. And somewhere along the way, I ended up pulling a rib muscle and smashing one of my toenails (my toenail has been blue ever since and will probably fall off eventually; my pulled muscle hasn't healed yet either). Although Barry was more capable of handling the climb than I was, he also regarded the routes as unappealingly dangerous and would prefer to avoid such places in the future. In short, Rock Creek is not worth ever going back to!

Nevertheless, once we finally found a safe spot to hang out, we did have quite a nice little swim. We ate our lunches by the water and then stripped down to our swimsuits. I washed out my skirt and laid it out to dry on a rock, because it had been significantly muddied when I had to slide down a steep rock on my backside. Then I floated on my back, and Barry climbed down a small waterfall and back up again. The water was not as freezing as it had been at the swimming hole on Cherokee Creek where I took him last summer, and I was pleased that he was more willing to get in the water here because of that. He still has a significantly lower tolerance of cold water than me, but this may be related to the fact that he grew up in Phoenix. I advised him that he would adjust to the water temperature if he stayed in the water for sixty seconds, and he tried it and said this was accurate.

pictures of us at Rock CreekCollapse )

That was on Saturday. On Sunday we were sore. Especially I was sore, because of my pulled muscle in my right rib area and my smashed right second toe. But Barry said he had some mildly sore muscles also. We spent Sunday at my house. Barry looked at my broken outdoor lamp and said he will install a new one for me next time he's here. Then we played the "I Know What I Want" scenario in the board game Fog of Love. We flipped cards to determine each of our genders, but I ended up female, and Barry ended up male. I worked as a florist, until I quit that job halfway through the game and moved to another city to become a pilot. I was a daredevil yet also a worrywart. I was also a workaholic. I named myself Jill. Barry named himself Anton; he was a Russian chef and hated children. He even hated having children eat at his restaurant. We met at a childfree speed-dating service, which I attended because my devotion to my florist shop did not leave me any time for having children. But my aunt became convinced that his name meant he was a follower of Anton LaVey, and she started spreading rumors on Facebook that he was a satanist. I telephoned her and screamed at her, and this upset Anton, because he wanted to have a calm conversation with her about it.

The goal we both chose to strive for was to be equal partners in the relationship, but Barry won the game with this goal, whereas I did not have quite enough relationship satisfaction to win. I could have had enough relationship satisfaction if I had chosen to cheat on Anton, but then our relationship satisfaction would have been too unequal for us to succeed at being equal partners, so then neither of us would have won. Besides, I didn't want to cheat on him. Though it did turn out, at the end of the game, that Anton was being a bit dishonest with me; he had claimed to be older than he really was, because he thought I would like him better if he were older.

Anyway, then came Monday - the final day of my four-day birthday weekend. On Monday we drove to the small town of La Porte, California (population 26), to tour the Gold Rush-era ghost towns in the area. I had already taken this tour once before, in 2013, with Susan, while she was sneaking around behind my back to flirt with someone else. But it was my idea - I found the directions and suggested it - and I wanted to go back, this time with someone emotionally and morally functional. So we went! We took my car. It was nearly 20 miles of driving on rough dirt roads; it might have been worth taking Barry's pickup truck instead. But we managed in my car. The first stop was some old mine tailings.

Mine tailings! And Barry among mine tailings.Collapse )

Next, we stopped at the bridge over Slate Creek. We stripped down to swimsuits again and waded over to two short waterfalls. This place is amazing! The rocks are amazing swirls of color in amazingly billowy shapes.

Pictures of us at Slate CreekCollapse )

Then we saw some ruins of old ghost towns!

Port Wine!Collapse )

Our last stop on the dirt roads was at Cedar Creek Ravine. Here we ran into an older couple who turned out to live in my area, in Yuba City. They were camping at one of the nearby campgrounds and had come to Cedar Creek Ravine to pan for gold. They had a pickup truck, and they warned us that the road ahead had been torn up by logging trucks and was too rough for my car. We didn't have much left we were planning to see anyway, so we took their advice and returned the same way we had come. First, though, we went swimming!

Swimming in Cedar Creek Ravine!Collapse )

There was only one thing on our Monday trip that didn't go quite perfectly, and that was my car. Just as we were almost out of the dirt roads, my car started having problems. I'd had to keep it in first gear on all the dirt roads, to get traction on unpaved hills. When we were about two miles short of returning to pavement, I found that I was having to absolutely floor the gas pedal to keep the car moving forward. And the "Check Engine Soon" warning light on my dashboard started intermittently lighting up and then shutting off again. The car kept moving, albeit slowly, but eventually the "Check Engine Soon" warning light stayed steadily lit. This worried us enough that we returned to Marysville a little sooner than we otherwise might have, opting not to explore the nearby Little Grass Valley Reservoir. We did stop for a delicious lunch on the way home though, at a cafe called One-Eyed Jack's, in the town of Clipper Mills. Barry stayed the night at my house, and when I dropped my car off for repair on Tuesday morning, he drove me back to my house in his truck. My car was diagnosed with a misfiring #3 sparkplug and repaired for $150, and then all was well again.

Whew! It's been a great birthday adventure. I have the best boyfriend! He makes my time with him amazing.

Mood: blissful
Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 26 April 2018
Thursday, 26 April 2018 12:52pm
Going Native Garden Tour

Barry and I hosted a garden tour!

Gardens Gone Native Tour (April 14)

Back around last November or so, Barry and I signed up to put his house on the Gardens Gone Native Tour, an annual native plant garden tour in the Sacramento area that happens every April. (My own house is too far out in the middle of nowhere to be eligible for the tour.) We had been intending to sign up since the previous spring, and planning to get various garden-improvement projects done over the summer, but the time sneaked up on us as time tends to do. We didn't get much garden-improvement done over the summer. But we signed up for the tour anyway, in November. A woman came out in early December to look at the garden; I wasn't there at the time, but Barry said she was enthusiastic about the plants but recommended that we install more paths for people to walk on and maybe collect a few pictures showing earlier versions of the garden and wildlife seen in the garden. All right, we can get around to that before April, right?

Well, very soon it was March, and I was rather frightened by how much wasn't done. We had bought some pavers in January and February to lay more paths, but I hadn't actually laid all the pavers, because there were plants in the area where the pavers needed to be laid, and I wanted to take the time to transplant the plants elsewhere. Alas, many native annuals do not transplant very well, especially if they're dug up from the ground rather than tapped carefully out of a pot, so my time-consuming efforts at transplanting them were largely wasted. So by early March, I gave up on further transplantation attempts and asked Barry to lay the rest of the pavers without attempting to save any more plants. (I asked Barry to do it because it pained me too much, emotionally, to ruthlessly murder so many plants myself.) I focused my own efforts on frantically pulling a hundred thousand weeds (cheeseweed, chickweed, bur clover, sourgrass, I could go on . . .) and was forced to admit to myself that I couldn't finish that either. There would have to be weeds there on tour day. So as tour day approached, I increasingly focused my weeding on the most visible areas, around paths, and on trying to create a new dirt path or two, in addition to the paver paths. Meanwhile, all the paver paths had vanished under floppy mounds of flowers, and even the formal cement walkway leading to Barry's front door became virtually unwalkable as flowers flopped onto it from both sides. Barry said he figured he could use an electric hedge trimmer to carve out the paths again on the day before the tour. But California poppies and other floppy annual wildflowers are not a hedge; if you trim a bunch of them back, the ones next to those just flop over to replace them. It's very difficult to carve out a path without ruining the look of the place. Rather than using an electric hedge trimmer, I decided to carve out the paths myself during the several days immediately preceding the tour. I removed an incredibly huge volume of plant material that week that wasn't even weeds - it was all very desirable flowers, but there just simply wasn't going to be room for people to walk unless we removed all those flowers. So I gritted my teeth and got it done.

Meanwhile, Barry had his own major preparations to make. He was laser-engraving 150 aluminum signs to label all the plants in the garden! I sent him the information I wanted on each sign and told him how many signs to make for each species, and he made me 150 beautiful aluminum signs like the one you see below. (You can hire him to make some for you too, if you want!)

Phyla nodiflora sign

Click for more pictures and more story!Collapse )

Mood: celebratory
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 17 April 2018
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 12:42pm
Anniversary Hike

On April 3, for the second anniversary of our first date, Barry and I decided to go on a hike to Pierce Canyon Falls. Well, first we decided to go on a hike, then we each separately found our way to this page about the Pierce Canyon Falls hike and each separately thought this would be a good hike to go on. So we went on it! We took the day off work and set out with our hiking boots on, my camera around my neck, and our backpacks filled with water, sandwiches, crackers, some miner's lettuce from my home vegetable garden, and a chopped carrot from Barry's home vegetable garden.

The web page's description of the trail was not as clear as it should have been. It should have mentioned that the trail has very little shade, the falls is usually bone dry even in early spring, and when the falls is bone dry, there's no clear indicator of when you've gone past it, so you end up hiking significantly farther than the 6 miles you had planned on. We hiked 7.6 miles and did not find any waterfall. It was rather exhausting. Even so, the scenery was beautiful, and of course, I had a fantastic boyfriend with me.

My relationship with Barry has never been anything but wonderful, yet I feel as if it's somehow managed to get even better since our Yosemite trip. I mean, the Yosemite trip itself - the fun we had during it - was part of that, but then the way Barry took care of me when I came down with the flu at Yosemite was another part of that, and then ever since - while I was recovering from the flu and then preparing for the Gardens Gone Native Tour that we signed up to put Barry's house on - it's just been absolutely continually reinforced for me that Barry really goes to continually amazing lengths to support me in basically every possible way. So I've been feeling even more grateful toward him lately than usual, but I haven't necessarily been spending as much time focused on him as I could be, while busily trying to perfect his yard. So it was important to me that I should mark the beginning of our third year together by taking the day off work and also off gardening to focus more on him for the day. He made it particularly easy to do that, though, by wanting to do something so much fun as hiking through beautiful California wilderness.

We started off with a 45-minute drive through farmlands and small towns to the town of Guinda. Shortly after passing a corner store with a mural of Mickey Mouse on its outer wall exhorting customers, "Please don't pee on the building!" we arrived at the end of the road, where Barry pulled off onto the shoulder (which was basically a ditch; it was mildly difficult to get his truck back out of there when we left) and parked. On foot, we pushed our way through a couple of gates that were set up to block cars. There was some farm equipment at one point along the path that was making musical sounds as the wind blew through the pipes. That was rather charming. There was also a creek that ran alongside the trail at various points.


Click for many more pictures!Collapse )

Mood: celebratory
Speak Your Mind
Friday, 9 March 2018
Friday, 9 March 2018 6:43pm
Yosemite and the Flu

We went camping in Yosemite National Park in the snow! And it was amazing!

And then I got the flu! And it was terrible! And it still is terrible!

But the unifying link is that Barry was fantastic in both situations.

We left for Yosemite on Sunday, February 25. We'd made the reservations back in December; it was my idea, and Barry had to be talked into it a bit at first. Then we'd spent December, January, and early February buying a lot of warm clothes to prepare for the trip, and worrying about whether we'd freeze to death. I started tracking weather reports from Yosemite Valley (it's important to search specifically for Yosemite Valley, because the weather in other parts of Yosemite can be very different) and following webcams that showed views from near our campground. I had reserved campsite #1 in Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley. A week before the trip, I packed my pets and most of my camping stuff into my car and went to Barry's house, so Barry and I could spend the subsequent week packing whatever was left to be packed (most notably, Barry's clothes and all our food) together at his house. In the final week, I read on an official Yosemite blog that people hiking at middle elevations in Yosemite should wear ice cleats, so Barry mail-ordered us some last-minute ice cleats. A few days after that, Yosemite announced that it was closing the Mist Trail for the winter - it turns out they normally do this every winter, but they hadn't done it this week until a few days before our visit because they hadn't gotten much snow at all this winter until a few days before our visit. The Mist Trail, otherwise known as the trail up Nevada-Vernal Falls, was the main trail I had been planning to hike on with Barry, so having to cancel that hike derailed my plans significantly. There was a detour available that would still have allowed us to see the tops of both Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, but it was a substantially longer hike, and I felt that if we were going to make such a long hike, it ought not to be just for the sake of seeing something that we'd be able to see on a much shorter hike if the weather were different. So I just brought a list with us of various possible hikes and figured we'd decide after we got there exactly what we felt like doing.

We packed the car on Saturday night with everything but the ice chest and Barry's hydration pack, which he wanted to fill before we left "so we'll have something to drink if you flip the car on an icy road and we're stranded." Then we got on the road first thing Sunday morning, leaving the pets in the care of Barry's parents. We took Highway 140 to the Arch Rock entrance because it's the lowest-lying entrance and therefore least likely to require putting snow chains on the car. (The entrance that I'm more used to taking is the Big Oak Flat entrance on Highway 120, which would have been a shorter drive.) The drive on Highway 140 was remarkably uneventful; compared to the steep cliffs on Highway 120, this seemed like a leisurely stroll, even when there did end up being a little snow and ice on the roads. Barry later commented that it had been a relaxing drive. We stopped for gas in Mariposa and began seeing snow on the roads almost immediately afterward: I pointed out snow on the distant mountaintops and a second later realized there was also snow by the side of the road.

We arrived in Upper Pines at about 1:30, only to discover that someone else's tent (but not their vehicle) was still in campsite #1. Campsite #1's inhabitants were supposed to have left by noon, but they had not. We flagged down a park ranger for help and got reassigned to campsite #111. I was a bit irritated about this, because I had spent time looking at the campground map back in December and trying to pick out the nicest campsite for us, and I had specifically preferred #1 because it had few neighbors and was located just across the road from the river. "Campsite #111 is actually, in my opinion, a little better of a campsite," said the ranger. I think he just uses that line to placate everyone, because I couldn't see anything distinctive about #111 at all. But it wasn't worth arguing over, so we accepted #111. It did at least feature a substantial piece of ground that was not covered by snow, so we pitched our tent in that spot.

Because hey, that was the other big surprise upon first arrival: The majority of the campground was covered with snow! For months, I'd been reading web pages of tips for winter camping but blithely disregarding all tips about pitching a tent in snow, because I didn't think there would be snow in the campground. I thought we'd have to drive uphill a bit to find snow. Even though the webcam view from near the campground did start showing some snow on the ground a few days before our arrival, the webcam hadn't made it look like a large amount of snow, and I figured it would all be melted away before we got there. Well, it was a considerably larger amount of snow than I had thought. Even so, we still didn't really need any snow-specific camping techniques. The ground was still accessible through the snow, so we drove our tent stakes into the ground as usual, unpacked our stuff, and set up our camp. I spent time duct-taping mylar blankets to the inside of our tent to reflect our body heat back to us, because a tip on the Internet had said this would help keep us warm. It turned out to be awfully difficult to get the Mylar blankets to stay up, and I'm not at all sure whether they made any difference for keeping us warm. Just laying one over the top of us would probably have done as much good with less trouble.

Our campsite, February 2018

Slightly shaken by the discovery of just how much snow there was, but also excited about the snow, and pleased about having successfully set up our campsite, we walked to the nearest shuttle stop to have a look around the rest of the park.

And took pictures of each other, of course.Collapse )

Mood: grateful
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 4 January 2018
Thursday, 4 January 2018 1:57am
Christmas/New Year's Celebrations

2017 was an exhausting year for me at work. December was the only chance I got to take many vacation days, so I took off every Friday in December and also the whole week between Christmas and New Year's. I wish I felt more recovered than I do, but I guess I am somewhat recovered.

On Friday, December 15, we started off my last three-day weekend by attending a British panto-style performance of Beowulf at a theater in West Sacramento. It did a rather amazing job of completely altering the tone of the original epic (turning the story into a farce) while still somehow remaining mostly faithful to the original plot structure. They did add a love interest for Beowulf (King Hrothgar had a daughter named Hrothmund, who incidentally had neon blue hair) and made up a second, even more unlikely romance between Grendel's mother (a monster in the original epic poem, and the dame of the panto, played by a man in drag with blue lipstick and some monstrous garb) and Beowulf's assistant, Wiglaff (a man in the original epic poem, and the boy of the panto, played by a woman in drag). In the panto version, Grendel's mother revealed that the dragon was Grendel's father. In the panto version, Beowulf was ridiculously bad at talking to women and therefore began his romance with Hrothmund by pelting her with terrible pickup lines until he eventually found some sufficiently inoffensive ones that she was inexplicably won over. And in the panto version, Beowulf only died temporarily, being soon resurrected through the power of Hrothmund's singing. Also, in the panto version, the entire cast sang a version of Prince's song "1999" with the lyrics altered: "One thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time/So tonight we're gonna party like it's 999." Then they enlisted the audience in pelting the dragon with hollow plastic balls until we defeated it. It was a good time, and I was glad I had bought tickets.

Two days before Christmas, Barry and I helped my now-former lodger and her boyfriend move in together (and thus, helped her move out of my house). No more lodger! Barry asked me whether I'm feeling happy to be rid of her or sad to lose the rental income. I'm feeling neutral. The amount of rent I was charging her was the appropriate amount to compensate me for the amount that she inconvenienced me. She didn't inconvenience me very significantly, and the amount of rent she brought in was about equally not very significant to me, so it doesn't make a very significant difference in my life whether she lives there or not. She and I saw remarkably little of each other anyway, because she worked the night shift most of the time, and our weekends were on different days. This was the first time in my life I've ever had a platonic, non-family-member roommate, and it will probably also be the last time, but it was a pretty good experience, and I certainly don't regret having tried it.

Earlier this fall, we applied this fall to add Barry's house to the Gardens Gone Native garden tour this spring. A woman came over in mid-December to photograph the garden. I wasn't there at the time (she came on a day when I was working), but Barry showed her around. She suggested that the garden should have more paths so people will know where to step. Having attended the garden tour last year, I was very much aware already that the garden has far fewer paths than most gardens on the tour and knew that we will need to add at least a little more of a path, so I'd been thinking about what would look good. I think square exposed aggregate pavers will best pick up the pattern of the exposed-aggregate sidewalk along one side of Barry's house. So Barry and I went to Home Depot together and looked at stepping-stones for his yard. Home Depot only had round exposed-aggregate pavers and square other types of pavers, so Barry researched and located a better source for the type of pavers I want. We hope to buy some soon.

While we were at Home Depot, Barry bought some bolts he needed and two more trailing rosemary plants for me to plant in the three big planter boxes he built. I also recently mail-ordered some other non-native food plants and planted them in those planter boxes: twelve lettuce plants, six cilantro plants, two broccoli plants, and two chives plants. Barry's food garden is looking really good, although the actual harvest doesn't always amount to all that much compared to how promising the plants look.

Barry and I were also very busy preparing for Christmas this year. Barry always has a bit of a Christmas rush on his lasersmithing products. This year, he also volunteered to make Christmas dinner for my family, and he practiced making it ahead of time just for the two of us during the three-day weekend of December 15-17. It turned out exquisitely both times. He made sous vide tri-tip (which he cooked in, of all places, an ice chest), as well as corn casserole, mashed potatoes with vegetarian gravy, and glazed carrots; I made garlic bread. We invited his parents to join us at my parents' house, and his parents brought lasagna. For dessert, Barry's parents bought chocolate cake, my mother made brownies, and Barry made Bananas Foster. Both dinner and dessert ended up being a huge amount of food - all of it delicious, so I would have liked to just keep eating and eating, but I was soon stuffed.

The various dietary restrictions for the various parents were a bit complex to navigate. In the future we should remember not to buy pre-seasoned meat for family dinners, because it has too much salt in it for my mother to be allowed to eat very much of it. And the vegetarian gravy, because it used soy sauce in lieu of meat to accommodate Barry's parents' vegetarian diet, also had too much salt for my mother.

Anyway, it was a good Christmas. Barry brought a bunch of board games to play with our families, but we ended up not having any time to play any of them. We used up all the available time cooking and exchanging gifts. Barry gave me a bunch of different-colored elastic cinch belts that I'd asked for (in lavender, teal, white, and navy blue), a hori-hori knife, some non-tying alternative shoelaces for my running shoes (in neon yellow and royal purple), some cocoa and a "hug mug" for drinking hot chocolate from, some chocolate candy, some lasercut wooden dividers I'd asked him to make for my silverware drawer, and a cardboard starship Enterprise (original NCC-1701 model) from the board game Star Trek: Panic. He also gave Boston some sweet potato-wrapped dog biscuits and Stardust some cat treats. I gave him a bunch of exotic candy types I found at Grocery Outlet, some flannel-lined and fleece-lined pants for our upcoming Yosemite trip, and three dress shirts: one that's mostly white with blue floral patterns like old china on the sleeves, pocket, and other trim; one bowling shirt in sky blue and white, and one solid reddish-purple shirt.

Other presents I received included the following:
  • royal blue running socks (from my parents)
  • royal blue garden clogs (from my parents)
  • green, blue, and purple gardening gloves (from my parents)
  • dish towels with stripes and pictures of striped cats</i> (from my Aunt Kitty)
  • a scented candle and scented face lotion (from Barry's parents)
  • the novel Blow Your House Down by Pat Barker (from my parents)
  • the novel The Joke by Milan Kundera (from my brother)
  • the novel Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (from my parents)
  • the novel The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (from my parents)
  • the novel The Peony Pavilion by Tang Xianzu, translated by Cyril Birch (from my parents)
  • the memoir Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi (from my parents)

And then we spent five days and four nights at a New Year's party in Santa Rosa. Barry's friend Corey bought a house in Santa Rosa this summer, for several million dollars - a house of more than 7,000 square feet, on six acres, adjacent to a lake in one direction and with a view of the city skyline in another direction, located behind not just one but two separate gates to keep out riffraff. All the doors in the house are about twelve feet high. The master bathroom looks like a palace, and the master bedroom's walk-in closet is an entire room and has a built-in island in the middle of it. The two shiny Porsches take up only a small portion of the six-car garage. The main kitchen contains two dishwashers, two sinks, two refrigerators, and so on, but there's a second kitchen upstairs and a third kitchen in the back yard. There's also a fireplace in the front yard and a firepit in the back yard. The back yard also features a swimming pool, a hot tub, a bocce ball court, and an outdoor TV mounted on the wall. One of the seven and a half baths in the house is located next to the pool and has an exterior door.

And it all could have burned down very shortly after Corey bought it, when so much of the rest of Santa Rosa burned down. But this house narrowly escaped the fires, and so Corey had a party. There were 27 of us at the party, so some people did end up in sleeping bags on the floor, but Barry and I got a bedroom of our own - the largest one, I think, other than of course the master bedroom suite. Barry was a sort of co-host of the party, because Barry suggested the idea and helped organize it and got to invite his entire social circle, including many people who had never met Corey before. In fact, rather more of the people at the party were from Barry's social circle and not Corey's than were from Corey's social circle and not Barry's. But a large number were in the overlapping social circles, having already met both Barry and Corey.

Anyway, it was a five-day board-gaming party, so we pretended it was a small gaming convention, and someone even created plastic photo ID cards on little lanyards for everyone. Barry created, at Corey's suggestion, a "vendor hall" to sell his lasersmithing merchandise, including some convention-related swag (engraved with the fictional convention name and the year 2018).

There was a ton of food, and much of it was interestingly unusual. Corey made a turducken dinner one night but otherwise declared the event a pot luck and asked everyone to bring food. Everyone did bring food, a whole lot of it. One of Barry's friends from grad school brought an immersion circulator and made sous vide steak several times, much like Barry had made on Christmas. Barry was planning to make Bananas Foster again, but he got caught up in playing board games and never quite got around to it. Meanwhile, one of the few guests who arrived as early as we did is a professional cake decorator and spent a long time making a huge and very fancy cake designed to look like the game board and game pieces of the board game Takenoko. I'm not familiar with the game, but the cake was very impressive, and it was interesting to watch her make it. It was made of a bunch of different hexagons of different cake flavors (white, chocolate, and strawberry) with sheets of different-colored chocolate folded over it as frosting - she said she used chocolate because it was easier to work with than fondant, but it didn't look like chocolate: it came in colors such as green, yellow, and pink. There were pictures pressed into the top surface somehow or other, and then tall stacks of edible game pieces placed on top of that.

Corey also had a fridge stocked with bizarre sodas. Over the course of the five days, I had a Peanut Butter and Jelly soda, a Bubble Gum soda, and a Sweet Corn soda. Barry had a Praline Cream soda, a Teriyaki Beef Jerky soda, a Prickly Pear soda, and a Celery soda. He tasted all of mine, and I tasted all of his except the Teriyaki Beef Jerky soda. We agreed that the Praline Cream soda tasted best. Barry said the Teriyaki Beef Jerky soda tasted worst. Someone else tried a Teriyaki Beef Jerky soda and decided that although it tasted awful by itself and didn't taste much like Teriyaki Beef Jerky, it did pair well with actual Teriyaki Beef Jerky.

One of the most popular games at the party was one called Fog of Love that Barry bought recently and started playing with me in the weeks preceding the party. It's a two-player game in which the two players to pretend to be two fictional people who are dating each other. They make up names and personalities (the personalities are based partly on cards selected at the start of the game), introduce themselves to each other under their new names, and tell each other, improv-style, about their personalities. They then have a bunch of dating conversations that are partly guided by scripts on randomly drawn cards. The players can play as any combination of genders. I've played it four times now, always with Barry. The first time, we were a gay male couple: I was a firefighter named Truman, and Barry was a fashion designer named Pat, and we were on a first date. The first date ended up including some excursions that made no sense on a first date, like spending a weekend at a cabin in the woods, but anyway, overall, the date (which seemed more like an entire relationship) went pretty well. The next time around, we played as a lesbian couple: I was a police officer named Serena, and Barry was a baker named Lisa, and we had been high school sweethearts. A card prompted us to discuss whether we had ever broken up: I said we hadn't, but Lisa said we had, although only for five minutes. She seemed, however, to have somehow had some sort of sexual experience with someone else during those five minutes, because another card informed us that I had found a sex tape showing her with someone else, and she said it was from those five minutes. Yet another card prompted me to confess that I was secretly older than I had pretended to be; I managed to avoid playing that card, though, because I would have had to have been a cop posing as a high school student and having a relationship with an actual student, and that seemed a bit much for me. Instead, I introduced Lisa to my gorgeous friend Alex and waited to see what would happen. Lisa proceeded to cheat on me with my gorgeous friend Alex. The game went seriously south for me at that point.

We played both of those Fog of Love games prior to the five-day New Year's party, but we played two more Fog of Love games during the New Year's party. In the first of those two, I was Prince William Robert, the heir to the (alternate-universe) British throne, and Barry was Quarrel (pronounced "Carol[e]"), a woman who worked as a wedding planner. We were giving our relationship a year to see how things went, but before the year was over, I suggested that we open up a joint bank account, and I put all my royal money into the joint account, giving her full access to it. Then my best friend died, and then it turned out she'd been cheating on me with my best friend, and then it turned out she was also cheating on me with a bunch of other people, and then she drained our joint bank account and ran off with all my royal money. This made a great story to tell to the other guests at the New Year's party. I was a bit miffed about being cheated on for two games in a row, though. I demanded a rematch a couple of days later. This time, I was a criminal named Moe (I named myself Moe after Corey's hairless cat) and Barry was a female florist named Bella (he named himself Bella after Corey's dog). Moe and Bella ended up having a great relationship, because Bella converted to a life of crime to be a good partner to Moe (and also because, despite being a criminal, my character was somehow a very honest, kind, and generally good-citizen type, if only because those were the cards I happened to draw). There was no cheating this time around, although Moe had one secret: he was pretending to be older than he really was. I told Barry, after the game was over, that I'd drawn a card that gave me a chance to cheat on him but I hadn't used it, and he said he'd drawn a card that gave him a chance to cheat on me also and he hadn't used it either. We were trying our best to get married in that game - it's fairly easy to propose and get engaged in the game, but considerably more difficult to actually get married. Bella proposed to Moe, and Moe accepted, and then we both tried to draw as many cards as we could from the "serious" deck because that was where the wedding ceremony was. At the end of the game, the wedding ceremony card was left on the very top of the deck; we could have drawn it and gotten married if only we could have agreed on one additional question. The additional question that tripped us up was the question of what should be done with the toilet seat. Bella was a submissive sort and encouraged Moe to do what he wanted, so Moe said the toilet seat should always be left up, but what Bella had meant was that the toilet seat should always be left however we had used it. This was enough of a difference of opinion that it prevented us from getting married.

Many other pairs of people also played this game together at the New Year's party, including at least one pair of ostensibly straight men, who played as a lesbian couple. It was entertaining to watch.

I tried to keep track of all the games I played. I think this is a complete list:
  • Star Trek: Panic: Barry and I successfully completed two missions, rescuing a disabled ship and defeating an Orion vessel.
  • Paradox: My recently ex-lodger and her boyfriend gave this to Barry as a Christmas present. It involves making rows of matching-colored objects. I played it with Barry, Scott, and John. John won, I was second, Barry was third, and Scott was fourth.
  • Sea of Clouds: This is a pirate-themed game. I defeated Barry, 57 to 41.
  • The Fox in the Forest: This is a trick-taking card game for two players. Barry defeated me.
  • DropMix: This game is played with a smartphone plugged into an electronic device that senses DropMix music cards. Each card plays the vocal track or certain instruments from a given song, and the cards can be combined to make an odd combination of various songs. There are competitive and cooperative versions of the game. Barry and I played this game competitively several times (we each won at least once), and we also played a cooperative version once.
  • Terraforming Mars: I had played this once before, with Barry, without using the option to play as specific corporations (you can choose whether or not to draw cards of corporations and play with the special abilities of a particular corporation) and finished in a virtual tie with him - I think he defeated me by only one point. At the New Year's party, we played it with Dave and Gabe and used the option to play as specific corporations. Barry won, followed by Dave, then me, then Gabe.
  • Crokinole: This is basically a sports game for non-athletes. It's two-player fingersports: you use your fingers to try to aim disks at other disks across a circular board. I started playing it with Tim, who was also new to the game, and we both played from a farther-forward line than is usually allowed, because the instructions suggested that newbies should do this to avoid being hopelessly frustrated. I was in the lead against Tim after three rounds, but we got interrupted before finishing the game. Later I played a full game with Barry, in which Barry played from the farther-back line while I played from the farther-forward line. It started out as a fair fight in the early rounds, but I ended up winning fairly decisively. We decided that in the next game, we should both play from the farther-back line, but Barry should play by tournament rules and I shouldn't. This should give me a somewhat smaller advantage over him. We didn't play a second game at the New Year's party, but Barry informed me that he owns his own specially crafted, one-of-a-kind, designer Crokinole board. His Crokinole board is purple and is named Violetta.
  • Web of Gold: This was one of Barry's favorite games during his childhood. Every player plays as two characters at once: a gold miner and a venomous spider. Your gold miner must find gold and bring the gold back home; your venomous spider can spin webs to trap, bite, and kill the other gold miners. Unfortunately, finding gold involves a lot of random rolls of the dice, so it's easy to get a string of terrible luck. I played it with Barry, John, Charlene, Charlene's husband Carlos, and Barry's grad-school friend Cheryl. Charlene and Carlos took early and commanding leads over the rest of us, and Charlene won.
  • Shakespeare: This is a game about competing theater companies that are each trying to put on the best Shakespeare play. Disappointingly, putting on the best Shakespeare play seems to be measured simply by investing money wisely in expensive props and actors. Confusingly, the actors don't even have to all be playing characters from the same play. I asked Barry to play this game with me, but I ended up not liking the game that much. Barry defeated me.
  • Twilight Imperium: This is Barry's favorite game. It is usually played with about six players and usually takes an entire day to finish. I started playing a scaled-down, three-player version of it with Barry and Rebecka, but we stopped after three hours and didn't finish the game. You each play as one of various alien species that all have different special abilities. I was playing the Emirates of Hacan, Barry was playing the Federation of Sol, and Rebecka was playing the Xxcha Kingdom. We each took over various planets, but the main prize to be taken was the planet of Mecatol Rex. I took Mecatol Rex first. Barry battled me for it and won but took a lot more damage in the fight than he had expected. Barry and I were about evenly matched and both had a large lead over Rebecka. I was preparing to re-invade Mecatol Rex and battle for it again when we stopped playing.

Barry played many more games than I did. He played so many that he hardly got any sleep: one night he came to bed at 5:45 a.m. and set an alarm to wake himself up at 10:00 a.m. so he wouldn't miss either the evening board games or the morning board games. This was only a little more extreme than what he did on all the other nights we were there.

We had a white elephant gift exchange in which all the gifts were board games. I didn't have any board games suitable for giving away, but Barry had three of them, so he supplied Rebecka and me with gifts to give away. When it was his turn to choose a gift for himself, he chose to steal the game Ladies and Gentlemen. When it was my turn, I stole Ladies and Gentlemen from Barry because that made it twice-stolen and therefore no longer stealable. Barry then tried for various other games and had them stolen from him before he eventually ended up with a game called Circus Flohcati.

On New Year's Eve, we all went outside and watched the ball drop on the TV mounted to an exterior wall. Some people made s'mores over the firepit. Barry and I had already made s'mores a couple of days earlier and didn't feel a need to do it again. Someone handed out tiny, celebratory "poppers" on which you pull a string to make a popping noise. Various people expressed concern that Richard was drunk. Jordan expressed an intention to go get drunk with Richard. Barry poured sips of champagne into plastic cups for various non-drunk people and himself. I poured apple cider into a plastic cup for myself. We kissed and toasted and walked around the side of the house to watch fireworks along the skyline.

Welcome, 2018.

Pictures!Collapse )

Me with Moe the hairless cat.

Moe and me

Mood: cheerful
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Wednesday, 6 September 2017 10:03pm
Boston, and Various Less Important Things

My dog, Boston, is dying.

Boston and my cat, Stardust, had their annual vet appointment three weeks ago, on Saturday, August 12. Stardust continues to weigh more than ever each year; she's now 14 and a half pounds but seems healthy aside from being rather rounder than the vet would prefer. Boston weighed 52 pounds, which was exactly the same as she had weighed every year for the past five years. However, Boston needed to be scheduled for getting her teeth cleaned, and because she's getting old and has had urinary incontinence for the past year, the vet wanted to do blood tests and a urine culture on her first to make sure she didn't have any health conditions that might make it dangerous to anesthetize her for dental work. Well, the blood test results came back showing elevated liver enzymes. The vet said sometimes dogs just have temporarily elevated liver enzymes because they ate some bad food or something, but it could also be a sign of something more serious, like Cushing's syndrome (although if that were the issue, Boston would likely be overweight, which she wasn't) or liver tumors (although if that were the issue, Boston would likely be losing weight, which she wasn't). Although Boston had no other symptoms, Boston's age (which is uncertain, but she is at least eleven and a half) made the vet more inclined to suspect serious health problems, so she wanted to do an ultrasound on Boston to check for liver tumors.

Well, this past Saturday, September 2, I brought Boston in for her ultrasound. When I checked her in, the receptionist asked me to weigh her again, on the same scale I had weighed her on exactly three weeks earlier. I was shocked to find that Boston weighed only 46 pounds this time. When we got in to see the vet, the vet asked me whether Boston had been eating less than usual or more than usual. I said, well, in the past she has usually left a bit of food uneaten in her dish every day - that is why her weight has been perfectly stable for years, because she always eats just exactly the amount she needs to eat and leaves any excess in her dish - but lately she has been eating all the food in her dish. The vet wrote that down, and we waited in line for an ultrasound (there were two other dogs who needed to go ahead of us because they were getting ultrasounds as part of preparation for surgery). I didn't get to go with Boston for the ultrasound, but when the veterinary assistants brought her back out to me, they said she was extremely eager to return to me. Then Boston and I were called back in to talk to the vet again.

The vet said that Boston has a liver tumor that is "larger than a softball but smaller than a volleyball." There is only one tumor, not multiple tumors, so it may not be cancer, but it is still going to kill her, because it is reducing her liver function and pressing up against her gall bladder. The vet said it might or might not be possible to surgically remove the tumor, but even if the tumor were surgically removed, it would be likely to grow back. Also, the vet said that one of her own dogs had a similar liver tumor, definitely benign in her case, at about the same age as Boston, and the vet had her dog's tumor surgically removed, but the dog died a year later anyway - not from the tumor, but from other old-age health problems. Surgery for Boston, if it is even possible at all, would be expensive and unpleasant for Boston and would also run some risk of killing Boston, because it is dangerous to anesthetize her when her liver isn't working right and therefore might not process the anesthetic adequately.

I said, very slowly, "My . . first . . . inclination . . . is . . . not . . . to . . . intervene . . . because . . . she is an old dog . . . and it might not prolong her life all that much . . ."

The vet seemed to find that an entirely reasonable decision. She let me know that if I want to consult with a surgeon to discuss whether or not it's even possible to remove a tumor that is so large and so closely pressed up against so many vital organs, she can certainly make an appointment for me to discuss it, but even if it is possible to remove it, it could easily end up just causing Boston suffering and not prolonging her life significantly. So I am pretty sure I am going to just to let Boston live out her remaining life without attempting any surgical interventions.

The vet said Boston is still feeling pretty good right now and doesn't realize she's sick, although I assume she probably realizes she's been hungry lately. The vet advised me to just let her eat as much food as she wants from now on, because the tumor will cause her to need a lot of food. Also, Boston does not have to get her teeth cleaned after all, because anesthetizing her would be unsafe, and because she isn't going to live long enough for her teeth to start bothering her. The vet thinks she won't live more than a year and could die as soon as within a couple of months. I'm just supposed to keep an eye on her and see if she still seems to be enjoying life, and when she no longer seems able to enjoy life anymore, then I should bring her in to be euthanized.

It was a great stroke of good luck that her annual vet visit happened to fall when it did and happened to lead to the blood tests that it did, because if the timing had been any different, Boston could have lost an even more devastating amount of weight before I even realized anything was wrong. The fact that she lost 11.5% of her body weight in only three weeks gives me the sense that this tumor could kill her incredibly fast.

I have a lot of feelings about this. I'm extremely upset, but also pretty sure that I'm not nearly as devastated as I would be if it were Stardust who was dying. I never set out to be a dog owner, and I've never felt I'm really cut out for solo dog ownership. I've just been muddling through it because Boston was very tolerant of my failings and I figured that despite my failings, Boston is probably better off with me than she would be with a whole bunch of bickering other dogs in my creepy ex's household. I will never be a dog person, and I'm not at all sure I will ever own a dog again, but to the extent that any dog can ever be right for me, I think Boston has been the right dog for me. But it just isn't the same as with Stardust, whom I intentionally set out to adopt, and fawned over and photographed obsessively from her earliest kittenhood and have generally felt pretty confident that I was an ideal match for.

Boston apparently spent the earliest known years of her life being abused by dogfighters. She was brought in to one vet's office twice to be sewn back together after having been very badly torn up by other dogs. The second time she was brought in to the same vet's office in such bad condition, the vet told the owner that he had to give Boston up or else they would report him to the SPCA for dogfighting. (I'm not sure why the vet's office couldn't do both, but I guess this way the owner still agreed to pay for having Boston sewed back together again.) The story as I heard it, or the best guess at the story, although I'm not sure how such things are guessed at, is that Boston was probably not particularly being trained for dogfighting herself, but rather was being offered up to the owner's other dogs as a practice victim, badly outnumbered and outmatched and set up in advance to badly lose every fight. In any case, it was not a good life for her, and although her fur hides her scars well, I'm told that her whole body is heavily crisscrossed by scars under her fur. My ex, Susan, saw her after the second surgery and said she had a ton of stitches everywhere. Also, for as long as I've known Boston, one of Boston's ears has had very limited range of motion because of injuries - her right ear is frequently perked up, but her left ear can't perk up and only swivels from back to front.

Anyway, a vet tech at the vet's office that confiscated Boston from the dogfighting owner brought Boston home to recover from surgery. Then the vet tech asked Susan to watch Boston for a few days, because the vet tech lived next door to Susan and was in the process of moving to a new address. And then the vet tech apparently just skipped town and never came back to pick Boston up. Less than two months later, Susan started dating me, and Susan said she wasn't really bonding with Boston. So Boston bonded with me instead. And then when Susan finished wasting six years of my life and getting me into major financial entanglements like buying a house together while assuring me that she regarded us as being already "as good as married" despite the lack of legal recognition and yet then sneaking around behind my back with another woman . . . then she said, oh, Boston wouldn't get along well with this other woman's dogs, so I would have to keep Boston. And then a few months later it apparently struck her that maybe dumping Boston on me wasn't very considerate (a remarkable breakthrough since it doesn't seem to have ever struck her that sneaking around behind my back with another woman wasn't very considerate, or that moving in practically next door to me with that other woman a few months later wasn't very considerate - but perhaps she is more able to comprehend the importance of considering Boston's rights and needs than the importance of considering mine), so she offered to take Boston. But there was no reason to believe Boston's chances of getting along with the other woman's dogs had suddenly improved any, and Boston seemed happy enough to stay where she was, so I kept Boston.

The thing is, Boston hasn't ever been really intentionally adopted as a pet by anyone in her life. Boston was adopted by a dog-fighter to be a practice victim rather than a pet. She was confiscated by a vet's office and a vet tech took her home for a while but then dumped her on Susan. Susan kept her for longer but then dumped her on me. And I've kept her the longest of anyone in her life. And yet I never set out to be a sole owner of a dog, and I do not consider myself particularly good at being the sole owner of a dog, and I do not consider myself a dog person.

Boston has suffered through an awful lot of rotten luck in her life. I do think, however, that if she would talk, she would say that I have given her a pretty good life. And I would say in return that she has been a pretty good dog, the best dog for me personally that I am ever likely to find. I just have never been so confident that I was the best person she could have found. But I was the best person she actually did find, and I guess that has been enough in Boston's eyes.

While writing this I managed to work myself into an hour-long shrieking-and-sobbing-at-the-top-of-my-lungs fit, to the point that even Stardust eventually got concerned (Stardust is not at all the kind of cat to whom concern for others comes easily) and started meowing questioningly at me and eventually even came over and jumped on the bed and rubbed against me a little, although it must be said that since she stayed only just barely within arm's reach and then left entirely after less than ten minutes, she does not get particularly high marks for her rather half-hearted attempt at comforting me. Then I thought that surely Boston herself could probably hear me from outside and was probably concerned for me herself, so I went to the back door and turned on the light to look out. But Boston is lying stretched out on the lawn, not more than fifteen feet from where I was shrieking but seemingly oblivious. She didn't even move when I turned on the light. Well, I've had the sense that her hearing hasn't been particularly good for the past year or so, so she might simply be able to sleep through any noise these days. And I gave her a big, fancy meal of canned dog food a couple of hours ago, so maybe she needs to sleep that off.

I guess that is enough to write about Boston and her impending death for now. There were other things I wanted to write about. It's just that that one kind of superseded the others. Hmm.

My lodger moved back in yesterday, after a month away at her boyfriend's house while recovering from knee surgery. When I told Barry she was moving back in, he said, sounding slightly surprised, "So the arrangement is working for you, then?" And I said basically yes, it's working well enough. She's very polite, and when she's working the night shift as she'll be doing for the foreseeable future now, I hardly even see her, so having her here doesn't really have much effect on me other than me needing to leave some space for her in the refrigerator and freezer, give up a room in the house to her, and be quiet during the daytime - though I would pretty much always be quiet during the daytime anyway, since why would I have any reason to be loud when there's no one here to talk to? (Well, it's good she wasn't home during my crying fit, though.) She is not much company, but she is polite and causes no problems and pays rent, so I have nothing to complain about.

I spent Labor Day weekend at Barry's house. I brought the Labyrinth board game that he gave me for my birthday, and we played it for the first time. It is a cooperative game for 1 to 4 players; since we were playing the 2-player version, we each played two characters. I played Sarah and Ludo, while Barry played Hoggle and Sir Didymus. Our goal was to rescue Sarah's little brother, Toby, from Jareth, the Goblin King. Mostly it involved an awful lot of dice-rolling, trying to defeat various obstacles that the Goblin King placed in our path by rolling higher numbers with our own dice than with the Goblin King's dice. I thought this made for rather dull game play, but I do have to acknowledge that it was very faithful to the movie. I did at one point draw a card that required Barry to quiz me on the call-and-response lyrics to the David Bowie song "Magic Dance":

Barry: You remind me of the babe.
Me: What babe?
Barry: The babe with the power.
Me: What power?
Barry: The power of voodoo.
Me: Who do?
Barry: You do.
Me: Do what?
Barry: Remind me of the babe.
I passed, and eventually we defeated the Goblin King together - well, all of us except Hoggle, one of Barry's characters who fell into the Bog of Eternal Stench partway through the game and smelled bad forever after and therefore couldn't stay with the rest of the group. So Hoggle lagged behind, but it didn't matter, because the rest of us defeated the Goblin King and rescued Toby. Barry asked what I wanted my little brother back for anyway. I said, well, Barry is a little brother too. Perhaps I just had to defeat the Goblin King to get Barry.

We also played Code Names: Duet for the first time. And also for the second, third, fourth, fifth . . . perhaps ten times? It didn't take long to play, and we kept losing, so we kept playing again in hopes that we would eventually win. It is a cooperative game, so the only options were that we could both lose or we could both win. We eventually gave up without ever winning. The game is played with a bunch of cards that have words on them, and each player has to give one-word clues to try to get the other player to spot the randomly assigned winning words. We both had trouble coming up with good one-word clues or guessing each other's one-word clues, but in the final couple of games I was particularly bad at it. Barry gave me "accelerator" as a clue to try to get me to guess two cards reading "floor" and "coast," but I wasn't thinking of those meanings of "floor" or "coast," so instead I guessed "memory" (a memory accelerator is a computer thing, you can Google it) and "break" (because it is pronounced the same way as "brake" and I thought Barry might be intentionally playing with homonyms). And then, in the final game, I gave "annoying" as a clue because I wanted Barry to guess four cards reading "salad," "troll," "quack," and "hit," but I overlooked the fact that two other cards reading "sand" and "volume" could also be readily classified as "annoying" and both would cause us to lose the game immediately. Barry's first guess was "sand," so we lost.

I planted some more plants at Barry's house - another purple tree collard to go with the existing two, a couple of new strawberry plants, a new type of native sunflower, a small native checkermallow, and a native scarlet beardtongue. And I harvested the ripe chili peppers from the 'Super' chili pepper plant I planted there. Barry was afraid to eat the chili peppers because they're supposed to be so hot, so I suggest dehydrating them and powdering them to use as seasoning. Barry dehydrated them in his toaster oven and then powdered them with a mortar and pestle, and I transferred the resulting powder into a spice jar. It didn't end up being a very large amount of powder, but I suppose it doesn't need to be. I also noticed that one of Barry's tomato plants has small green fruits on it, and there is a honeydew melon plant in bloom, and a couple of pumpkin plants in bloom.

Barry said he was annoyed with a sunflower plant that was blocking the passage around the corner of his house. I had already chopped down one of its stems in July to clear the passage, but a new stem had fallen into the way since then. I told him he could feel free to chop the plant down himself. He went and got a sword from his garage and started to swordfight it. "This probably isn't the most effective tool," he noted, which was a huge understatement, "but it's a fun tool!" Boston and I watched the show with amusement. After the fight was over, I got out a proper pruning tool and used it to neaten up the remains.

Barry did quite a praiseworthy job of producing new and interesting dinners while I was in a weekend-long "I have no idea what kind of food I might want to eat right now" funk. On one of the days, I brought him some herbs from the garden - basil, oregano, thyme, and sage - and he made them into a scrambled-egg sandwich (well, he omitted the sage because he said it didn't fit).

We finished watching Battlestar Galactica on Saturday and started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Sunday. We've both seen Star Trek: The Next Generation before, but it and Star Trek: Deep Space Nineare the only two Star Trek TV series that we haven't yet watched together, with each other. We also talked about new shows to watch. I'm a bit frustrated by the long wait for new episodes of several shows we've been watching - Transparent, Humans, and Sense8 - although with Sense8, we already know that all the new material we'll ever get is one finale to somehow wrap up all the loose plot threads from the canceled show. Barry is interested in starting to watch The Tick, and I am interested in watching at least one episode of Steven Universe.

Also I watched while Barry started playing Uncharted: The Lost Legacy on his Playstation. He had been saving it to play it while I was there to watch, as I also watched him play Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Although I wouldn't call its script great literature, it is pretty good as video game storytelling goes. First of all, the storyline is centered around two women, and the art depicts them as normal humans rather than exaggerated sex objects, and they have individual personalities with character development. This video game totally passes the Bechdel test! On the other hand, the wildly unrealistic game mechanics still have these women perpetually narrowly escaping death by grabbing onto cliffs and ledges, supporting their entire body weight with one hand while also bleeding from numerous bullet wounds. It's not at all believable, but it's the same way the male characters are portrayed, so hey, at least it's not sexist.

Oh, and I introduced Barry to Craigslistlieder and Facsimile for Flute and Lawyer, two musical compositions of which performances are available on YouTube. I learned about both of them via dcjaywalk's LiveJournal.

Also I got to wear two brand-new dresses for the first time. One is red and white, and the other - the one I like best - is pink and yellow plaid. Barry called the pink and yellow plaid one my "Starburst dress" and said that looking at me in it made him think of a pack of Starburst candy. I think this is a fine effect for me to have. (It's this dress, but with sleeves.)

So that was this past weekend. In addition to this past weekend, I still need to write about the past two visits before then. Barry was away for two weekends, visiting his brother in Austin and then selling his lasersmith wares at Gen Con in Indianapolis. He returned home on August 18 and promptly came over to my house the next day. I spent pretty much all of August working on creating and lasagna mulching new flower beds in my front yard for several hours each night after dark when it got cool enough for me to be able to work, and I did not make an exception that night - I told Barry I would be digging for several hours during his visit, and he could join me or not, as he liked. He did join me for a little over an hour, and did some very fast digging, much faster than mine, but then he exhausted himself and had to go inside and lie down.

On the following weekend, he stayed at his house without me on Saturday to have a board-game party for the most exciting of the new games he bought at Gen Con, Twilight Imperium 4. I had been considering participating in the game, but I had too much work to do, so I stayed at my own house. Barry came to my house after the game and stayed through Monday evening. Once again, after the sun went down each night, I spent several hours digging and placing cardboard for my new flower beds. This time around, though, I found ways to make better use of Barry's talents by asking him to spend that time doing other outdoor tasks that I didn't know how to do myself. He fixed a whole bunch of my sprinkler heads that had stopped rising or swiveling or spraying properly, and he fixed my back gate latch in which the screws had been perpetually re-loosening themselves for years. He repositioned the latch to stop putting unsustainable pressure on the screws. The result looks a little odd, but it works much better than before.

At one point while Barry was here, Stardust curled up next to me on my living-room couch and was very cute, until I made the mistake of trying to pet her. This turned out to be not at all acceptable to her, and she immediately ran away. I asked Barry whether he ever has this problem with his cats. He said no, he only has the problem that when Jazz is curled up adorably next to him and he tries to pet her, she becomes determined to climb onto his lap when he doesn't want her there. He then questioned whether Stardust is really my cat. She is definitely my cat, but she only tends to show it in negative ways. For example, although she has taken to Barry infinitely better than she ever took to Susan (because she is a cat of fine judgment, clearly), one of the times when Barry picked her up during this visit, Stardust was not in the mood and made her displeasure known. Barry hastily put her down and remarked regretfully that that interaction had not gone well. I said that when I have an interaction with her that doesn't go well, I have to watch out for my ankles afterward, because usually the moment I put her down while she's in an angry mood, she will turn and chase me around the room, tackling my ankles and biting at them. She's not sure enough of Barry yet to tackle his ankles. She only bites at his fingers when she's sitting above his head, looking down at him from atop a tall bookcase. This is how I know she's my cat: because I am the one she's most comfortable attacking. Well, at least she doesn't pee on my stuff or intentionally wake me up early like Jazz does to Barry. She has some redeeming qualities.

Stardust is getting old. Boston is probably about the same age as Stardust but has apparently about finished getting old. Jazz is actually the oldest of any of them, by quite a bit, but I guess she's likely to outlive Boston. What is a tumor "larger than a softball but smaller than a volleyball" doing in Boston's liver? Doesn't it know that it's not wanted or needed there? What is the deal with liver tumors in general? Liver tumors killed David Bowie. Now one of them is going to kill Boston, too? I want to get a voodoo doll shaped like a tumor and stick pins in it to cause harm to tumors. I don't know what else to do.

Here is Boston in Barry's yard on Sunday, next to the remains of the sunflower that Barry defeated in a swordfight. With, as always, one ear unable to perk up. Boston is eleven and a half, or possibly somewhat older; I don't know how long she lived with the dogfighting owner, only that she was an adult when she was rescued from there. Usually vets estimate adult animals' ages by their teeth. Boston's teeth were already terrible when she was rescued, but it seems unlikely she could have survived for all that long there, so her teeth (and the rest of her) may have been prematurely aged by the extreme stress. Anyway, she is at least eleven and a half, and probably not all that much older. She is a good doggie.

Boston in Barry's yard, September 2017

Mood: crushed
8 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 6 July 2017
Thursday, 6 July 2017 12:34am
Four-Day Fourth of July Weekend with Barry

Friday was scheduled to be my last day at work before being laid off, but on Friday I accepted a new job, so I headed to Barry's house in a very good mood to spend my four-day Fourth of July weekend with Barry. My lodger was also spending the four-day weekend out of town, at her boyfriend's house, so I didn't have a pet-sitter handy; therefore, I taped some pee pads into the back seat of my car for Boston (she's incontinent on most car rides these days) and brought her along with me to Barry's house. I also brought three loaves of frozen bread dough (we made two loaves over the course of the weekend, although one of the loaves we made was from the remains of an identical package already at Barry's house), a bag of barbecue potato chips, a loaf of pumpernickel bread, two bags of Muenster cheese, and a big package of thinly sliced turkey sandwich meat. The last three items, I brought simply because I happened to have recently made a sandwich out of them and mentioned it to Barry via instant message, and Barry had said it sounded good, and he did not have the ingredients on hand to make an identical sandwich, so I decided I would bring them with me and make him an identical sandwich.

Upon arrival at Barry's house, I found Barry's pickup truck parked diagonally across two spaces of his three-car driveway, and the back of his truck filled with a mix of 50% dirt/50% compost to fill up the third planter box that Barry recently built. He had parked the truck diagonally for easier wheelbarrow access. I put Boston in Barry's back yard and went inside to eat a delicious dinner of Pasta-Roni and some side dish that we both seem to have forgotten the precise identity of. We also watched some Battlestar Galactica.

On Saturday morning, Barry made waffles, and then we tied Boston to the roof rack of Barry's truck while we filled up the planter box with the soil mixture from Barry's truck. Barry did all the wheeling of the wheelbarrow over to the planter box and dumping its contents into the planter box; I stayed at the truck, where we had two shovels, and we both shoveled the soil into the wheelbarrow until we got the truck emptied out. When the truck was fully emptied out, the planter box still wasn't as full as I wanted, so I drove to Home Depot and bought a big bag of some more dirt, plus a bag of mulch to spread on top of it, and some plants to put in the new planter. I bought a variety pack of six eggplants, a variety pack of six bell peppers, one prostrate rosemary plant, and two chili peppers. After I got them planted, I showed Barry the labels from the plants. He was freaked out by the ghost pepper and showed me a YouTube video of some guy eating a tiny piece of a ghost pepper and moaning a bunch and then deciding he needed to go to the hospital. I agreed to unplant the ghost pepper. We both were kind of disturbed to discover that Home Depot would sell such things without some sort of biohazard warning label.

I chatted with Mikie for a bit, updating him on my new job, while Mikie was attending the World Pride celebration in Madrid and while I was watching Barry shoot zombies in a PlayStation game called Killing Floor 2. I also set out a loaf of frozen bread dough to thaw and rise.

Then Barry got a call from the Yolo County animal shelter about a new pair of foster kittens, and we went to pick them up together. They are about eight weeks old - old enough to be adopted - but they've contracted the cat flu and need to be in foster care until they recover. One is a medium-haired calico girl, and the other is a short-haired grey tabby boy. We immediately started calling them Fluffy and Not Fluffy, respectively, but it soon became clear that they had such starkly obvious personality differences that it seemed a shame to name them only by their appearances. Fluffy looks far sicker, appearance-wise, because the nictitating membrane on one of her eyes is constantly closed and protruding slightly (which tends to happen in response to any eye injury; it can be the feline equivalent of a black eye). However, she is very active, like any healthy kitten, and she starts purring instantly at the slightest petting. Not Fluffy, on the other hand, looks pretty healthy (he had a visibly runny nose for the first day but looks fine now), but he is the most sedate and immobile kitten I've ever seen; he spends pretty nearly 100% of his time sitting, usually in kitty loaf position, with all four paws hidden underneath him. The only movement I've seen from him has been just walking a few steps between his food dish and his cat bed, not running around pouncing on things like kittens normally do (and like his sister does). Also, we couldn't get any purr out of him for days! It took until Monday (the third day we had him) before I finally managed to coax him into purring. After that I was able to get him to purr fairly reliably; however, it always took several minutes of petting to coax him into purring, whereas his sister would always purr instantly at the first touch. So we decided that Fluffy's full name is Fluffy Active Purr Paws, and Not Fluffy's full name is Not Fluffy Not Active No Purr No Paws (because usually none of his paws are visible). I suggested just calling him Not for short.

Both of them wanted nothing to do with food for the first 24 hours or so. The animal shelter staff had told us that the kittens didn't seem to be eating, and that it might be because their noses were so stuffed up that they probably had trouble smelling the food. Barry gave them a dish full of canned food, a dish full of dry food, and some treats, in hopes that they might find something to their liking.

Click for kitten closeups!Collapse )

Here they both are on my lap on Saturday, the day we got them. They are in characteristic positions here, with Fluffy standing up and responding to petting, and Not sitting down, largely ignoring his surroundings.

me with Fluffy and Not

For dinner Saturday night, Barry made cacio e pepe, which he proudly assured me was authentically Italian. It was delightful. We ate it with homemade bread, while we finished watching Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica. Barry says there are board games for each season of Battlestar Galactica, and we are now at the right point to play the first of them.

On Sunday morning, we found that the kittens didn't seem to have touched any of their food. Barry placed Fluffy in front of the dish of canned food and managed to induce her to start eating some of it. Not continued to refuse food for a while longer. We had seen Fluffy drinking water even before we coaxed her into eating food, but we weren't certain whether Not had drunk any water. I started to worry that his motionlessness might mean he was more seriously ill than Fluffy and maybe even at risk of dying. I put him on my lap and started petting him, and got him to start leaning his face to one side as I petted his cheek. Then I asked Barry to pass me the water dish, and I held the water dish in front of his face and petted his cheek so that he leaned his face practically right into the water. His whiskers got wet, and then he finally started drinking. Hooray! A little later, I did the same thing with the canned food and got him to eat some of that. After that they both started eating and drinking much more regularly. Here is Not on my lap on Sunday.

me with Not

On Sunday afternoon, Barry took me out for a hot date at the grand opening of the new makerspace in Barry's local library. I had told him I wanted to do something to celebrate my new job, and my narrow escape from the previously looming threat of unemployment, and we had tentatively settled upon the idea of getting some soft-serve ice cream from a food truck. But we arrived earlier than we probably should have and had time to kill before the makerspace opened, and the food trucks weren't there yet either. And it was hot! It was definitely a hot date, but not entirely the kind of hot that I was hoping for. And when we wandered around looking for somewhere to eat, all the restaurants that were open at all on Sundays had closed before 1:00.

Finally we discovered that Steve's Pizza was still open, so Barry bought us a small pizza there. Then we went on to the makerspace when it opened at 2:00. It has one laser (much smaller than both of Barry's two lasers), a woodshop with a bunch of other wood-cutting tools, some 3D printers, some metal-soldering devices, a button press, an iron-on design maker, a sewing machine, and some knitting/crocheting classes. Barry had brought a flash drive with him on which he'd designed a product in advance that he wanted to print out on one of the 3D printers, but the makerspace requires people to take classes on how to use each type of equipment before being allowed to use the equipment independently, so he just signed up for the 3D printing class. He also used the button press to make a button advertising the makerspace, and then used the sewing machine to sew a design onto a paper card and matching envelope.

Using the makerspace is free, except that people have to pay for the materials they use there. Users must have a library card, and the costs are charged to their library card account.

There was also a garden outside the makerspace, planted with tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. I may have been somewhat more interested in the garden than in the makerspace. But I can imagine that some of the makerspace might eventually be useful to me someday.

We left the library at 3:00, when the food trucks were being set up, but we found out that the food trucks wouldn't actually start serving until 4:00. We didn't want to wait that long, so instead we went to a grocery store and bought a big tub of "double chocolate" frozen yogurt, a big tub of "orange-vanilla swirl" sherbet, a smaller tub of "peanut butter chocolate chip" "healthy" alternative ice cream, a coconut-flavored non-dairy whipped cream, a "healthy" alternative chocolate sauce, and a jar of maraschino cherries. We brought this pile of loot back to Barry's house and assembled a banana split for each of us (using the three flavors we had bought rather than the traditional chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry), with a cherry on top of each. It was fantastic.

Then we took Boston for a walk to a different grocery store, where Barry bought more celebratory foods - this time for dinner rather than for our pre-dinner dessert. I stayed with Boston in the parking lot while Barry went inside and did the shopping. As soon as we finished walking back home, I put on fluorescent yellow and teal running clothes and went out for a run, leaving Boston and Barry behind this time. (Boston would be able to keep up with me, but I didn't want to have to worry about encountering off-leash dogs - although this is significantly less common in Barry's neighborhood than in mine.) I ran in various loops through Barry's neighborhood for 20 minutes; attempts to retrace my route on MapQuest later suggest that I went about two miles.

I came home just as the last of the daylight was fading away, and took a shower, and then Barry started barbecuing steaks and chicken and also pineapple on his back patio. Barry's neighbors kept setting off early fireworks, though, and Boston is terrified of fireworks, so Boston kept trying to shove her way into Barry's house anytime we opened the door a crack. We did not want her in the house, because she is incontinent and because she was dirty from being in the yard and because she is unlikely to get along well with Barry's cats. So I stationed myself in a chair on the inside of the sliding glass door with a book (To Be or Not to Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North, the cartoonist of Dinosaur Comics fame) while Barry was outside with the barbecue, and by coordinating, we were able to hand things through the door to one another while keeping a free hand available to wrangle Boston as needed. We made a good team.

Dinner was amazing! And over dinner, we continued our progress through the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 by starting to watch Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II. Also, Barry made a point of congratulating me several times on my new job during our celebratory dinner, and my need for a sense of celebration was fully and properly sated.

Monday was our designated day for staying in and not doing much. I did some gardening, made another loaf of homemade bread, and also made Barry a sandwich with the sandwich materials I had brought from home. We finished watching Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (Internet connection problems had interrupted us halfway through it on Sunday night) and started watching Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica. Barry made deviled eggs in preparation for the Fourth of July party we were planning to attend the following day, and we ate leftover barbecued amazingness from the day before.

Tuesday was the party! First we stopped in at Barry's parents' house for half an hour and watched an annual hot-dog eating contest with them. Then we went a few blocks away to the house of one of Barry's friends who was throwing a party. The party was not really Fourth of July-themed in anything other than the date it took place. It was really a board-game party, and more specifically, a party for a particular group of friends (including Barry and the host) to play the next couple of installments of their ongoing game of Seafall.

We arrived at the same moment as the car containing all five of the other guests, so we all went to the front door at once. We were greeted by the host cursing and exclaiming that he and his girlfriend were still in their pajamas and had thought they had invited us for four hours later. Uh . . . the Facebook invitation said 10:00 a.m., not 2:00 p.m.? They let us in and quickly changed clothes and scrambled to do the minor grocery shopping and cleanup tasks they had planned to get done before we arrived. The party got started in earnest at about 11:00 a.m. Four of us girlfriends weren't part of the ongoing Seafall legacy game. The host's girlfriend largely vanished and removed herself from the party, but the other three of us - me, my lodger, A, and her co-worker S from the local air force base - gathered at a second table to play board games of our own. (Side note: S also could have become a lodger in my house; when I told A I was scheduled to be laid off at the end of the month, A told me that S was interested in renting another room in my house. It might have been quite financially helpful if I were to be unemployed for a very long time, but I had a feeling I wouldn't be unemployed long enough to suffer any major financial straits, and I plan to continue living in my house myself for a while longer, so I said that I thought having two lodgers at once would make my house feel excessively crowded. To me, anyway! Apparently both of them would have been fine with it. Anyway, it was kind of nice to know I had the option, even though I was also relieved to have the freedom to decline that option.)

Although the host's girlfriend did not join us for board games, she did join us for lunch. Since she hadn't originally planned to join us for that either, the host had gotten it in his head that there were only eight people at the party, rather than nine, and so he only barbecued 8 steaks for lunch at first, rather than 9. Then he discovered his mistake and went back out to barbecue the ninth. He was having a bad day with numbers. It worked out all right, though.

At our table of three, we started off by playing the storytelling game "Once Upon a Time" that Barry bought me in Fort Bragg. I was the only one of us who had played the game before. We played it twice; I won the first game by concluding our collaborative story with my designated sentence, "Although his wound healed, his heart remained broken forever." (The story was about a king who fell in love with a princess and wanted to marry her, but he was caught in a forest fire and unable to escape because of an injury he had received earlier in the story. The king's son heroically rescued the king from the fire, and the princess fell in love with the heroic prince rather than with the king.) S won the second round of "Once Upon a Time," but I don't remember what her ending sentence was. I remember that our collaborative story that time involved a witch queen who had kidnapped the child of a king in a neighboring kingdom, and my designated ending was supposed to be "Her courage had made her rich," but the witch queen's behavior did not lend itself very well to claims of either courage or becoming newly wealthy (she was presumably already wealthy to begin with, being a queen), so I could not gain enough control over the story to direct it toward my ending.

Next we played Five Tribes, which A and S had played before but I hadn't. I found their attempts at explaining the rules to me hopelessly confusing, and no one seemed to want to hand over the rules and just let me read them for myself, so I resigned myself to just trying to learn by observation as we went along. I soon figured it out, and I actually ended up winning the game by a thoroughly decisive margin. I did not like the game, though. I thought the mechanics were boring and stupid. I won it mainly because A and S kept bidding a bunch of money to get to go first in each new round of play, whereas I saved up huge stacks of money just by bidding nothing on every turn except for one single time when I saw an exceptionally good move available and bid quite a lot of money to get the first chance at it. But by simply not spending any money unless I could see a clear, guaranteed profit resulting from my expense, I became vastly wealthier than A and S, and my wealth translated at the end of the game to enough score points that I won the game quite handily.

After that we played Gloom, another storytelling game, one that only A and S had played before. We each got assigned a family of five, with cards describing the five people in the family. Our job was to make our own assigned family members die more miserable deaths than the other two families, by drawing cards describing good and bad events and assigning the bad events to our own assigned family and the good events to the other players' assigned families. I took an early lead by a small margin, but then A and S both ganged up on me and started using all their turns to make my assigned family happy all the time, rather than ever making each other's assigned families happy, and I couldn't fend them both off at once. S kept complaining through much of this game that she thought we were ganging up on her instead and this did cause me to occasionally aim my happiness cards at S rather than at A, and pretty much as a direct result of that, S won this game.

Finally, we played Tokkaido, a game that I had played once before with Barry and his parents. A and S had never played it before. The idea of the game is to compete for who can have the most fun on a vacation in Japan. The primary obstacle to having fun is a shortage of money, and although there are places to earn some money along the way, you can't get a job at those places if someone else has gotten there first and taken the job before you could. I took an early opportunity to earn money that put A at a major disadvantage, because she was particularly in need of money then and had to skip a bunch of fun tourist attractions to find somewhere else to earn money. I'm not as sure how S ended up at any disadvantage, but somehow A and S both finished the game with dramatically fewer points than me.

So in the final count, I won three games that day, and S won two, and A won none at all. (Or at least, that was the final count at the point when I left the party. A and S stayed longer than I did, so hopefully A got a chance to win a game or two at some point.) Before I left, people were joking that I am a board game shark and that being a board game shark is a requirement for dating Barry. Someone asked me whether that was a stated requirement in Barry's OKCupid profile. I said no, and if it had been, I would have assumed I didn't qualify. Someone else said that this is the definition of a shark, that they don't seem like a gaming afficionado but they somehow keep winning even when you didn't expect them to be good at the games.

Barry won the second of the two installments of the ongoing Seafall game that they played that day, and he is now ahead by one point (90 to 89) in the ongoing Seafall campaign. He says he would rather be behind by one point, though, because being behind confers advantages.

Barry and I had agreed in advance that I would leave the party before he did. I left at 5:00 and went back to Barry's house so I could defend Boston from fireworks. Barry stayed until around 8:00 or so, I think, and then went back to his parents' house. He had planned in advance to spend the night at his parents' house and have them drive him home the next morning. Alone at Barry's house, I mostly finished the job of pruning away all the dead brown remains of the spring annuals in Barry's front yard. All my efforts in the past month have left his yard still covered with dry straw, but at least now it's horizontal straw rather than vertical straw, and this makes it easier to see the remaining live green plants that were previously being blocked from view by dead annuals.

I also gave the foster kittens their eye drops and started packing to leave, but then Barry messaged me that his mother was driving him home that night rather than the following morning, so I decided to stick around for an extra half hour or so to see him again. We had some more of those celebratory dessert foods we'd bought at the grocery store two days earlier, and they were fantastic all over again. Then I loaded Boston back into my car and drove her home to Marysville, seeing some fireworks along the way (although not all that many in the middle section of the drive, because not all that many people live in most of the area between Barry's house and mine).

This morning, Barry brought the foster kittens to the animal shelter for a checkup. I was kind of expecting that Not would be put up for adoption immediately, because although he's inactive, he looks very healthy now, visually. I knew Fluffy was not in adoptable shape yet because of her eye, but the vet's diagnosis was much worse than I expected: the vet has scheduled Fluffy to have her eye removed next week. She will be a one-eyed cat forever! Unless her eye unexpectedly recovers somehow within the next week, anyway. We are wishing Fluffy's eye the best possible health outcomes, but apparently the odds are not good for her eye. Anyone within traveling distance of Yolo County, California, want an adorable one-eyed kitten? She is a very high-quality kitten, as fluffy and purry and playful as you could ever wish for. Having only one eye will damage her chances of being adopted. Hopefully she'll be okay. Anyway, she has a week to try for a miraculous recovery, and also her brother Not will remain with her for this week to keep her company.

Mood: kittens!
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 28 June 2017
Wednesday, 28 June 2017 7:53pm
Tiny, Adorable Foster Kittens

As I mentioned in passing before, Barry recently fostered four tiny, four-week-old foster kittens. The animal shelter did not loan out this batch for very long (they were at Barry's house for less than a week), so we did not even really get around to naming them. We did toss around some potential names, though, and for the sake of having something to remember them by and to distinguish them from other, future foster kittens by, I suppose those will now be their names, from our perspective: Flour, Sugar, Grill, and Smoke. There were two white ones (Flour and Sugar, a boy and a girl), a black girl (Grill), and a grey boy (Smoke). This was the first batch of foster kittens that I helped pick up from the animal shelter myself. Here I am with the two white ones.

And here are all four of them in my lap together.

Now, it should be obvious that one thing you need more of in your life right now is more pictures of tiny, adorable kittens. I am here to provide for your needs.

Kittens! Tiny, adorable kittens!Collapse )

Mood: kittens!
Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 24 June 2017
Saturday, 24 June 2017 5:15pm
Howard Creek Ranch Inn and Two State Parks, a State Natural Preserve, and a State Forest

Barry and I spent June 10-13 at Howard Creek Ranch Inn in Westport, California. We also stopped at Jackson Demonstration State Forest on the way there and back, and while there, we made side trips to Jug Handle State Natural Preserve, MacKerricher State Park, Seaside Beach, and Russian Gulch State Park. And now I'm going to show you pictures of all of it!

First, on our drive there on Saturday, we stopped in Jackson Demonstration State Forest. This is the largest of eight demonstration state forests maintained by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which uses them "for experimentation to determine the economic feasibility of artificial reforestation, and to demonstrate the productive and economic possibilities of good forest practices toward maintaining forest crop land in a productive condition." (Source.) We were trying to follow these directions that I had printed out in advance so we could go hiking on the "Chamberlain Creek Trail and Camellia Trail," which turned out when we got there to have yet a third name, the "Waterfall Grove Trail." I'm not sure why one three-mile trail needs three different names. Anyway, I had neglected to alert Barry to put the specific trailhead turnoff into his cellphone to give us directions to the trailhead rather than just to the forest as a whole, so we ended up having to double back for a few miles before we managed to find the turnoff. Then the directions neglected to mention that we needed to drive the last 5.5 miles on poor-quality dirt road, which was not entirely fun in my two-wheel-drive Nissan Sentra. And then when we finally made it, the sign seemed to indicate a different trail than the one we were looking for!

Waterfall Grove trailhead

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Mood: pretty good
Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 18 May 2017
Thursday, 18 May 2017 4:11pm
May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses . . . but Mostly at Barry's House

I'm several days late for May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but here I am at last. Let's just say I was somewhat delayed by the fact that I set my boyfriend's front yard on fire . . . with hot pink flames made out of flowers. Specifically, mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) - a species known for putting on a big show in late spring, much like its cousins whose common name is farewell-to-spring.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)

But I will show you more of that later. Right now, three different versions of my gardening self are having an argument about their vastly different gardening skill levels. It is clear to all of them that the me who gardens in Barry's front yard is the most talented gardener, and the me who gardens in Barry's back yard is the least talented gardener, while the me who gardens at my own house is somewhere in between. But they are arguing over the finer details of that. They all have different advantages: Barry's Front Yard Me (BFYM) and Barry's Back Yard Me (BBYM) have an ever-so-slightly milder climate than My House Me (MHM) . . . not so much that you'd really notice, if you're a human, but if you're a plant who spends all day long and all year round outdoors, you might. The two houses are less than 40 miles apart as the crow flies, and they are both in the Sacramento Valley, and they both see similar levels of frost in winter and similar levels of heat in summer. But the summer heat cools off slightly more at nighttime at Barry's house. On the other hand, MHM generally has a somewhat shadier garden than BFYM or BBYM. And then there's the soil. BFYM has several inches of pure compost on top of the native soil and a couple of inches of storebought cedar woodchip mulch on top of that. MHM has basically no compost but an inch or so of fairly dense mulch in most areas, made from a mix of storebought cedar woodchips and the naturally occurring detritus of the garden plants. BBYM has basically no compost and also very little mulch - just a very thin scattering of some sort of black-dyed woodchips and some twigs dropped from nearby redwood trees.

And they are going to hash out the results of their different garden conditions in photographs here. On Dreamwidth, not on LiveJournal, because apparently I have finally managed to write an entry that is simply too long for LiveJournal to handle, and so LiveJournal has refused to post it. New achievement unlocked? Not really an achievement I'd like to repeat, though.

Mood: accomplished
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 17 April 2017
Monday, 17 April 2017 2:23am
April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses

This is my boyfriend with what I have done to his yard. His life used to lack flowers. Now he is completely inundated with flowers.

He does not know yet, as I do, how much the mass of his garden will shrink back down, by June or July, to a tamer and more traditional-looking garden. But there are enough perennials under the mass of annuals that there will still be a decent garden here in summer and winter and fall. It just won't be like this anymore. Until next spring, that is. Each spring we can do this all again.

Like last month, I'm going to cover both his yard and my own yard in this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post, because I'm the primary gardener at both. (Almost the only gardener, for most of this year - but lately, Barry has been starting to help me out pretty regularly with the weeding and learning to recognize more and more plants, so I may have to give him a lot more credit next year!)

I'll start with Barry's yard. It turns out that I actually took more photos of his yard than I did of my own yard this month. I can't get enough of it lately.

Barry in his front yard, April 2017

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Mood: busy
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
Tuesday, 11 April 2017 2:19am
Mavis Henson Field

This is my first time cross-posting between LiveJournal and Dreamwidth. I have the same username on both sites. I'm not sure yet which one will be my primary account in the short-term future, but LiveJournal is no longer feeling to me like it can be relied upon to have much a long-term future. I do not think LiveJournal's Russian management is likely to attempt to impose significant free-speech restrictions on English-language accounts, because Vladimir Putin has little reason to care about what Americans writing in English think of him. However, I think LiveJournal's business decisions lately seem designed to drive the company into the ground. As I understand it, the main reason LiveJournal acquired such a large userbase in Russia in the first place was precisely because Russian users wanted to host their journals somewhere that wasn't in Russia or subject to Russian law, so the decision to move LiveJournal's Russian free accounts to servers in Russia can only scare Russian users away. LiveJournal's Russian paid accounts are apparently not being moved to servers in Russia, which I guess might be some incentive for Russian users to pay for their accounts, except that those users are still forced to accept LiveJournal's new terms of service that apply Russian restrictions on political (and LGBTQ+) speech. Between that and the fact that their friends with free accounts must be leaving in droves, I can't imagine that this is a sustainable way to run a business in Russia. I can only infer that Putin and his underlings must have offered LiveJournal's Russian management a large enough bribe for suppressing free speech to make it wothwhile to them to utterly destroy LiveJournal's profitability. Meanwhile, we English-speaking users are relatively fewer in number, and furthermore, LiveJournal's management has now also destroyed the main remaining incentive for English speakers to pay for their accounts, because LiveJournal is now displaying ads on all journals, whether paid or not, to users who aren't logged in to a paid acount. Sure, paying for your account will still spare you personally from seeing ads on LiveJournal, but come on - if that's all you want, you can achieve that goal just by installing a free adblocker. The real motivation to pay was to have a journal that didn't look like trash to anyone else who visited it. Now, whether you pay or not, anyone who visits your journal will see giant banner ads on it. This is a stupid way to run a business. If paid accounts weren't profitable for LiveJournal, management could have raised the prices. By making paid accounts no longer worth paying for, management is making themselves wholly dependent on ad revenue alone, while simultaneously driving away users, which means they will receive fewer hits on their ads. This cannot possibly be a sustainable business model.

I've been on LiveJournal for almost 16 years, and I have a permanent account here. I have a big stake in the site's survival, because as long as it survives, I get to continue benefitting from all the perks of a permanent account (including a considerable amount of photo hosting, which Dreamwidth doesn't provide). But I have no actual ability to stop the site's management from making suicidal business decisions, and that is what they appear to be making lately. Therefore, I am not expecting the site to survive very much longer, and I'm trying, regretfully, to prepare for its demise as best I can.

Anyway, let's get on with this.

This past weekend, while Barry spent most of his time playing and/or running board games at ConQuest Sacramento, I went on a portion of the Gardens Gone Native Tour. I just went to the two gardens in Woodland and the six gardens in Davis, out of the total of 28 gardens. I don't think it's actually possible to see all the gardens in one day unless you really hurry through them. I might have made a gardening friend at the second garden I visited; I struck up a conversation with the homeowner/gardener and gave her Barry's address and invited her to see the native garden I've planted in her yard, and gave her my own email address so we can talk native plant gardening. We agreed that it's nice to know someone else who has a native plant garden nearby. The next garden I visited after that was the only other one that made a strong impression on me; in that garden the homeowners weren't home, but the woman showing people around the garden explained that the homeowners had been ripping out California golden poppies (the state flower) and purple needlegrass (the state grass) because they didn't like the look of them. I remove a few purple needlegrass seedlings myself when they show up where I don't want them - or I transplant them to Barry's house - but I thought it was rather hilarious that anyone with a native plant garden would be ripping out California golden poppies because they don't like the look of them.

Anyway, after I finished the portion of the tour I wanted to see, Barry wasn't home yet, so I decided to go back out in search of native plants in a different location: Mavis Henson Field. This is a local park of sorts that I found out about via the LocalWiki entry for Mavis Henson Field, which makes it sound like a great place for seeing wildflowers. But I had tried to find the field once before, with Barry, and we had failed to find it. This time, when I tried again, I realized that the directions on LocalWiki were inorrect; the field is on the opposite side of County Road 25 from where the directions claimed it was. But I figured out where it was because it was supposed to contain a lake, so I looked for a lake. The field still did not turn out to be a good place to see wildflowers, though, except maybe for the select few wildflower experts who are allowed into the fenced area where the meadow and vernal pool habitat are. For the rest of us, it is a pretty good birdwatching park and a decent place to see some native shrubbery, but it's the wrong place to go to see annual wildflowers.

Still, I took some pictures while I was there. I didn't feel comfortable taking a lot of photographs during the garden tour, but taking photographs of Mavis Henson Field was unlikely to bother anyone. So now I'm going to take you on a photographic tour of Mavis Henson Field in Woodland, California. Here are a silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons) and a Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) among miscellaneous grasses alongside the parking lot. In the background, a family is riding bikes on the gravel path around the lake.

Lupinus albifrons (silver bush lupine)

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Mood: happy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 8 April 2017
Saturday, 8 April 2017 1:26am
Cache Creek Nature Preserve Anniversary Date

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of our first date, Barry and I spent Monday afternoon at Cache Creek Nature Preserve, walking on the trails and having a picnic in a gazebo. In this journal entry I'm going to share the photos I took there.

These are silver bush lupines (Lupinus albifrons) in the parking lot. They're a species that grows wild around here, but these were obviously planted. They were part of a native plant garden in the parking lot area, where most of the plants had signs to identify their species. 

Lupinus albifrons (silver bush lupine)

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Mood: loved
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 10:53pm
March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses

It's time again for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! I haven't participated for nearly a full year . . . the last time I managed a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post was in April 2016. After that, posting about the beautiful new boyfriend I acquired early that April took precedence over posting about the plants I was acquiring. But the plants have also been beautiful, and I've planted about half of them at the beautiful new boyfriend's house, so today I bring you Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day from both our houses.

I have a backlog of garden from the past 11 months that I haven't posted yet, and in the past, whenever I've missed a few months of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I've included my backlogged photos in the new month's post. This time, though, I've missed more consecutive months than ever before, and I simply can't possibly catch up with the backlog. Instead, for now I'm just going to try to keep up with the current blooms. Maybe when the current bloom season winds down, I might have time to go through the backlog and post some 2016 photos in the appropriate months of 2017 (June photos in June, July photos in July, and so on).

I will post about Barry's house first. And for this first picture, I do have a couple of comparisons from earlier in the year!

Here is my beautiful boyfriend's front yard, as of a few days ago. In the lower right, you can see the "Native Plants live here!" sign I received during the Fall 2016 California Native Plant Society sales. They were selling these signs but also giving them away to people who spent a certain minimum amount of money on plants. I always spend a lot of money on plants at these sales, so I got a free sign. I may get another one this spring or next fall for my own house. I gave the first one to Barry because his front yard is more nearly pure native than mine. It is all California native, and almost all locally native, except for two crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) and a Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), which were the only plants in the front yard when I first went to Barry's house. The crepe myrtles (located on either side of the driveway, not visible from this angle) were planted by previous homeowners, coppiced (chopped down to ground level) before Barry bought the house, and covered with lawn. They resprouted after Barry bought the house and are now chest-high shrubs. I might try to kill them in the future. The Chinese pistache tree (visible below, currently leafless) was chosen by Barry and planted before he met me, and I plan to leave it alone, because it is a reasonably well-behaved and ornamental tree that is plausibly more marketable than a lot of the native options - and besides, if I tried to replace it now, it would take some years for a replacement to achieve comparable size (not that this tree is very big yet, but it is not fresh out of a pot, either) - so leaving it there could be a meaningful selling point for the house.

The plants currently blooming in Barry's yard are baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), the only flowers you can see in this picture; Cedros Island vervain (Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'), behind the Chinese pistache; cream cups (Platystemon californicus), on the other side of the driveway; and California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus), in the back yard. Well, and the deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the foreground of this picture. Also present in abundance, but not blooming yet, are Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii), white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), bird's eyes (Gilia tricolor), blue globe gilyflower (Gilia capitata), mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena). There's also plenty of other stuff that's less abundant, but those species are the ones I expect to make the biggest showing in the next few months. The Douglas' meadowfoam and California poppies at my house have already started blooming, but the ones at Barry's house were seeded later in the season because I was trying to beat back the weeds to make room for them, so their bloom season is being delayed due to their delayed planting time. Otherwise, they should start blooming sooner at Barry's house, because it is (as the crow flies) nearly 35 miles south of mine, and bloom season moves progressively northward over the course of the spring. None of the baby blue eyes at my own house have started blooming yet, but the ones at Barry's house are at peak bloom now.

Barry's house, March 2017

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Mood: accomplished
7 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Wednesday, 15 February 2017 2:00am
Evacuated! And Also, Two Weekends Plus Valentine's Day <3

The weekend before this last one was a quiet weekend at Barry's house in Woodland. We had originally planned to spend it at my house in Marysville, but then Barry's board-gaming friends suggested a game day that Sunday, so we spent it at Barry's house. I arrived to find that Barry had just bought a gigantic new TV, 65 inches across. It came in an even more gigantic box; the box filled up pretty much an entire wall of a room. Barry is giving me his old TV, because my only TV at the moment is an ancient CRT one, which Barry seems to like for its nostalgia value (he plays similarly antiquated video games on it), but which is useless for actually being able to receive any TV stations. We are thinking of putting Barry's old flatscreen on top of my fireplace mantle, but we haven't transported it to my house yet. Barry is also giving me a Playstation 4 to use with it, because apparently he had an extra Playstation 4 lying around.

We finished watching The Legend of Korra that weekend on Barry's new TV, and then Barry spent most of Sunday playing board games with four of his friends while I did a little more weeding in Barry's back yard. It was a quiet weekend.

Between the two weekends, there was a little flurry of discussion in which I made plans to probably acquire a temporary roommate this spring. Barry has a friend of several years who has a girlfriend of several months who needs a temporary place to stay in Marysville while working at the nearby air force base. I've met her several times, played board games with her, and thought she seemed very nice, so I offered to rent her a room of my house. Well, first I agonized a bit over whether it would be a terrible idea to make such an offer, because I've never had a roommate before. But after consulting with two different friends of mine who are landladies, I decided I was comfortable with it and made the offer. I still need to move some stuff out of that room, see if I can locate the key that goes to that doorknob, and prepare a rental agreement, and also I assume she'll want to come look at the place before she makes a final decision to move in. But I set a price for her and sent her a link to a map and some pictures and description of the place, and it seems like she'll be moving in. It should be for about two or three months, and she might be working night shifts, and she'll probably have weekends on different days than I do, and we'll each probably be spending our weekends with our respective boyfriends, so we may not actually see that much of each other. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how it goes. And if for some reason it goes badly, it should be over before very long.

Also there was a bit of local news on Tuesday when the main, concrete-lined spillway at nearby Lake Oroville developed a hole in the concrete. This was a bit alarming to all the local people, and I was following the story each day, looking at new pictures and video of the hole, but the experts seemed to be handling the situation. Things did start to sound a little more worrisome as the weekend approached, because it was decided that the water level in the reservoir would be allowed to rise enough to start spilling over the emergency spillway on Saturday. The emergency spillway had never been used before in the whole history of the reservoir. Unlike the regular spillway, the emergency spillway is not lined with concrete - it's just a dirt hillside - and is not gated - there's no way to stop the water from spilling over it except by lowering the lake level below the height of the emergency spillway. Anyway, I saw somewhere on Friday that if a problem developed with the emergency spillway, it would most likely develop on Saturday, so I was bearing that warning in the back of my mind throughout this past weekend.

This past weekend started out quietly. Barry and I planned to spend Friday evening through Sunday evening at my house and then, because I had taken Monday and Tuesday off work, to spend Monday and Tuesday at Barry's house. Barry arrived around midnight Friday night. On Sunday we went to Marysville's Second Annual Historic Faire, which involved going on guided tours of the Mary Aaron Museum and Marysville's Chinatown. It wasn't the best tour of Marysville's Chinatown that I've been on, but it was worth taking Barry on it. Afterward we ate lunch at the Szechuan Chinese restaurant. I ordered the almond chicken, which was okay, although I only ate about half of it. We took the other half home, and I let Barry eat it. There were a lot of carrots and squash and bamboo in it, all of which were acceptably edible in my book, but not especially enticing - I ate them while I was hungry and lost interest in them as soon as I was a little less hungry.

On Sunday we watched Enterprise and Barry glued pieces of wood together to make stuff for his customers. Around 5:00 p.m., I noticed on the Internet that low-lying areas of the city of Oroville were being evacuated. This was disturbing, but I didn't see any details about what exactly was going on. Anyway, Oroville is half an hour's drive north of Marysville, and Marysville was not being evacuated. I quickly put the news out of my mind, and we continued watching Enterprise in my living room. The blinds in my living-room window were cracked slightly open, and at one point I noticed a fire truck coming down the street and commented on this to Barry. I also noticed a car behaving kind of oddly, stopping in front of my house with its lights on, and I commented on that too. Barry commented that there seemed to be unusually heavy traffic in front of my house. I still didn't give it much thought, though, until Barry's dad texted him to ask whether he had heard that Marysville was under a mandatory evacuation order. Barry's dad didn't even realize that Barry was in Marysville with me, but his text was the first we both heard about the evacuation. Barry was actually already packing up to go home anyway, but I had been planning to spend a few more hours taking care of stuff around my house (such as preparing that potential rental room!) before getting on the road to follow him. I was a bit shocked to find out we were being ordered to evacuate. Basically everyone in Sutter County was evacuated, as well as the southern portion of Butte County and the western portion of Yuba County - an estimated total of 188,000 people - because a hole was now developing in the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville. The information we were looking at on the Internet said that the emergency spillway was expected to fail within the hour. This statement had been posted on the page we were looking at 19 minutes before we were looking at it, which implied that the spillway was now expected to fail within 40 minutes. I knew that the water wouldn't arrive at Marysville immediately, but I was not sure how long it would take. And under the circumstances, it didn't seem especially wise to spend ten minutes Googling for further details and trying to verify how fast the water might travel.

Barry asked me whether I wanted him to stay and help with anything. I said no, he should just get on the road right away, and I would follow soon afterward. He kissed me, told me he loved me, and got on the road. Then I looked around and tried to figure out what to do next. I felt myself doing some very weird prioritizing as I tried to mentally take in the situation. What do you think you would do if you had just a few minutes to grab whatever is most important to you and rush out of town? Whatever you think you would do, you are probably wrong, because you are probably thinking about it in a non-panicked mindset. When you try to think while in a panicked mindset, thinking doesn't work as well, and you end up spending five minutes brushing your teeth while trying to figure out whether this is really serious enough that you should leave in fifteen minutes or unserious enough that you should take 40 minutes. And then spending ten minutes taping protective seat-coverings to the back seat of your car to protect the seat from your incontinent dog, while wondering all the while whether the ten minutes you're spending on this might cause you to no longer have a dog or a car or a life at all - and yet, if you don't do it, you'll probably have a big mess to clean up later, and you'll probably wish you had done it. I took the time to finish doing that.

I started out slow and started to feel more and more urgency as the minutes passed. I started consciously reminding myself that I had a lot to live for, a wonderful boyfriend waiting for me. I had at first planned to let Barry know what time I left my house, as I usually do when I'm coming to visit him, but when I tried to message him, my computer was slow to respond, so I just closed it and got out of there. I grabbed my cat and my dog and my personal laptop and work laptop and two days' worth of clothes, threw us all into the car, and got on the road. I was a little over half an hour behind Barry.

Once I actually got on the road and turned on the news on an AM radio station, it became clear that the risk was significantly less immediate than I had initially thought, both because water was no longer flowing over the emergency spillway and also because the experts were reporting it would take at least 24 hours (possibly as long as 36 hours) for floodwaters to travel from Oroville to Marysville. [Edit: That information seems to have been inaccurate, though: detailed simulations here suggest it would take about nine hours for floodwaters from a collapse of the emergency spillway to reach my house.] The mandatory evacuation order had been expanded to the Marysville area at around 5:45, and we had seen it an hour or so later. I got on the road with my pets at 7:30, and by then, the most urgent danger had already passed: officials had released enough water down the damaged main spillway to lower the water levels to the point that water was no longer spilling over the damaged emergency spillway.

But by then I was already on the road. Not that I was moving very fast! It took me an hour on Highway 70 just to drive the length of the local high school. I kept wondering, during all that time, whether I should pull over at the next side street, park my car, take my dog with me, and run back home to pack a few more things I now realized I wished I'd brought with me. I didn't pull over, though. Nothing I wished I'd brought with me was really all that urgent. And I didn't want to lose my place in the nightmarish line of stopped cars. There was a stoplight up ahead where a gigantic line of cars from a side road was merging with the gigantic line of cars I was in, and the side road seemed to have a vast advantage. If I'm ever evacuated from Marysville again, I need to try to remember to stay on the side streets as long as I can, and postpone merging onto the highways. And I also need to remember that if the floodwaters are coming from Oroville, it's okay if traffic jams make it take four hours to get out of town, because I should have a good nine hours before the floodwaters arrive in Marysville.

It took me nearly two hours to get to the other end of Marysville (a distance I could have traveled on foot in less than half that time, even loaded down with belongings as I was) and a little over four hours to get all the way to Barry's house (which is normally a little under a one-hour drive). Barry made it to his house a bit more quickly than I did, because he had the benefit of a GPS advising him about which side streets to take to avoid the main flow of traffic, but it still took him nearly three hours.

If I'm ever evacuated from Marysville again, I also need to have plenty of gas in my car. I'm the kind of person who never lets my car get below a quarter of a tank of gas, and on this particular day I had half a tank of gas in it. I was extremely glad I didn't have any less that that, because the radio was reporting a major run on gasoline at all the nearby gas stations, with huge lines to wait in, and many stations were rationing limited amounts of gas per customer. A quarter of a tank would have been just barely enough to get me to Barry's house under normal circumstances, but with the traffic as backed up as it was tonight, having only a quarter of a tank would have made me extremely worried. Although, in the end, it didn't seem like spending four hours driving to Barry's house actually used up noticeably more gas than spending one hour driving there would have, so I also want to try to keep in mind in the future that sitting in traffic, unable to move for hours does not really seem to use up gas at any noticeable speed.

Anyway, eventually I made it to Barry's house. He said that worrying about me while he waited for me to arrive had made him realize how much he loves me. This is similar to other things Barry has said; it is a different type of thing than I would ever say. Barry seems to be taken by surprise when he feels strong emotions, and he also seems to treat these emotions as important guides to base future decision-making upon. Whereas, although I don't generally think of myself as being especially aware of my emotions all the time compared to the average person, I think I must be more aware of my emotions than Barry is of his - and more aware even of Barry's emotions than Barry is himself - because whenever Barry expresses surprise at noticing strong emotions in himself, it seems to me not in any way surprising whatsoever. That is, I am not the least bit surprised that Barry would feel such emotions, and I would also fully expect the same emotions in myself and feel equally unsurprised by them there.

But also, perhaps more importantly, I do not tend to treat my emotions as important guides to base future decision-making upon. The question of what feelings I actually feel tends to seem to me largely irrelevant to my decision-making; when making serious and important decisions, I'm far more likely to base such decisions on an intellectual analysis of what emotions I feel I'm justified in having, rather than on a gut-level assessment of what emotions I actually do feel, because my first instinct in reacting to my own emotions tends to be a certain wariness of being overly influenced by them. That is, it is easy to sympathize with anyone who pours out a sob story, but if you give in to every sob story you hear, you may get swindled by a lot of con artists. I can't say, however, that my wariness of trusting my emotions has seemed to make me particularly immune to being manipulated; if anything, I'd say I'm more easily manipulated than the average person. But it's possible that I'd be even more easily manipulated if I were more inclined to trust my emotions; it's unclear (to me, anyway) whether my vulnerabilities arise mainly from being distrustful of my emotions when trusting them more might sometimes offer important insights or whether my vulnerabilities arise mainly from simply having strong emotions.

Anyway, I was glad to be safe with Barry at his house. Barry's parents took us out to lunch on Monday, and then we went to pick up Heathcliff - Barry's new laser. Barry's old laser arrived in a cardboard box wooden crate with the name "Cathy" inexplicably written on it, so the laser became known as Cathy. Barry recently decided to buy a second laser, the same size as the first, to increase his production capacity, so he was seeking a name for it. He thought it should be the name of a cartoon character, since Cathy is the name of a cartoon character, but his mom suggested Heathcliff because Cathy and Heathcliff are the names of the couple in Wuthering Heights. I approved of this suggestion and pointed out that Heathcliff is also the name of a cartoon cat. The new laser is now named Heathcliff. Anyway, I went with Barry and his dad to the U-Haul place to rent a trailer to pick up the new laser in, but the electrical connections in Barry's dad's SUV failed to work properly with the taillights on the trailer, so they had to hook up the rented trailer to Barry's pickup truck instead. The pickup truck only has seats for two people, so I stayed at Barry's house while Barry and his dad went to pick up Heathcliff. Then I helped Barry remove the plastic wrap from around Heathcliff. Heathcliff still isn't quite operational yet, because Barry needs to finish installing some ductwork to vent the exhaust out of the garage, but he's getting there.

Barry and his parents joked about my status as an evacuee; Barry called me a refugee and warned that the president would like to deport me to Syria. It was strange to see news reports about evacuees and realize I was one of them. It's like being a minor celebrity, but not in a good way, and in my case, not in a particularly significant way at all. I must have been one of the least inconvenienced evacuees ever, because "evacuating" for me only ended up meaning that I left my house for Barry's house a few hours earlier than I'd planned to, and brought my pets with me when I otherwise would have left them at home. The mandatory evacuation orders were lifted on Tuesday afternoon, so I went home Tuesday evening at the same time I'd previously planned.

For Valentine's Day, I gave Barry two heart-shaped boxes of candy and a red box, about 3" × 3" × 3", decorated with Valentine stickers and filled with similarly decorated hearts cut out of wrapping paper, with little one-sentence reasons on each of them saying why I love him. There was a total of 25 reasons in the box, and enough stickers on each of them to make those 25 paper hearts fill up most of the space in a 3" high box. Also Barry's cats gave him a Valentine's Day card, which I may have assisted them in picking out and signing. Barry gave me a heart-shaped box of candy, a bunch of strawberries dipped in white chocolate, and a helium-filled balloon with a picture of a bear holding a heart that says "I Love You" on it. Also he showed me a game he is building for me out of wood, resembling a board game I liked when we played it before.

a Beary balloon from Barry

Barry had asked me questions in advance about what kinds of things I wanted for Valentine's Day, and I had advised him to go for visual impact: "Go into the store, look around, and see what catches your eye first. Buy that." This is how he ended up buying the balloon and a heart-shaped box of chocolates that was purple. I feel that this strategy worked out well. The fact that one heart-shaped box of chocolates was purple was a good reason to buy me that one rather than another one, and the bear balloon is perfect because Barry's name is Beary (and also Berry and Beri and other variations . . .) and Barry is a bear. I think too many people treat Valentine's Day as a time to spend a ton of money buying generic, personality-less presents, and I think the best presents, especially on Valentine's Day, are more about personality, less about money. Which is why, when shopping for Valentine's Day stuff for Barry, I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of heart-shaped stickers and resolved to make something out of them (and I did).

This was sort of our first Valentine's Day together and sort of our second, because last year on Valentine's Day we'd been corresponding obsessively for three weeks, but we had agreed not to meet in person for another month and a half. (Last year I sent him a copy of a picture of him, with a heart-shaped frame around his face; he sent me a picture of me with a different heart-shaped frame around my face.) Things were looking promising, but there was still a potential for them to be derailed before we even met. I am glad we stuck together and actually met.

Although I'm back in Marysville now, the situation at Oroville Dam is still a bit iffy and seems likely to remain so until the end of the rainy season. I expect to be coming and going a bit, and keeping more of my stuff at Barry's house than usual so as to protect it in case Marysville does flood. There is another rainstorm expected on Thursday, and if another mandatory evacuation order is issued, I hope to be better prepared for the next one.

Mood: pleased
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Wednesday, 23 November 2016 11:46am
Yuba City Sikh Parade, Star Trek, Election, Swanwatching, Foster Cat, Etc.

I keep meaning to post some garden pictures, but I'm having trouble getting around to it, first because I have this wonderfully exciting boyfriend to write about instead, second because I now have over six months' worth of garden pictures to post and therefore it'll be time-consuming to catch up, third because I've been having to work ridiculously long hours all this year that have left me with extremely little free time to split between this and everything else I want to do, and fourth because things keep happening in the world that require attention . . . such as that terrible little election we just had. But I still intend to get around to posting some garden pictures soon. And in the meantime, I'm going to write about the four days Barry and I spent at my house up to and through Election Day: the evening of November 4 through the morning of November 9. And a little postscript about the two more recent weekends, too.

When Barry arrived on Friday evening, I had a pork roast in the slow cooker, and some red and yellow potatoes as a side dish. We were talking about the Star Trek: Voyager DVDs we've been watching at Barry's house, and Barry mentioned that he discovered recently that the Amazon Prime subscription he has for his lasersmith business gives him access to all the episodes of Enterprise, so we decided to start watching our way through the first season of Enterprise. I think we started right away, that evening, with the first episode. By the end of the day Tuesday, we had watched the first 22 episodes.

The next day, Saturday, Barry and I went for a walk to the Feather River. We had previously (on our first date) walked to the Yuba River from my house. I don't walk to the Feather River as often, because the walk in that direction leads past larger homeless encampments, with off-leash dogs that I can't take Boston past, and because it's a less scenic walk, to a riverfront that itself is less scenic (by which I mean that there's not much wilderness left along that riverfront - there are a bunch of soccer fields along it). But I wanted to show Barry both the rivers I live within walking distance of, so we set out toward the Feather River.

It took a while to find a way past the chain-link fence surrounding the soccer fields and make our way past the soccer games to the riverbank, but we made it eventually. There is a small strip of wilderness I've been to before that we could have gotten to if we'd walked far enough along the bank, but it wasn't readily accessible. We walked out on some broken asphalt under a bridge and explored the place a little, then headed back away from the riverbank. Barry saw what looked like a water fountain and decided he needed a drink. But the water fountain was full of trash and did not have any water. We kept walking and saw another one, this one very near to a well. We tried that one too, hoping that it might be supplied by the well, but there was no water there either. Finally we decided to climb across the levee and buy water from the grocery store on the other side. As we walked, we were talking about the graffiti we saw all over the bridge - various people professing eternal love for each other (I wondered whether any of them were still together, if in fact the love had ever even been reciprocated in the first place) and occasional other statements. We passed some graffiti that said "Fuck bitches get money," and I asked Barry whether he thought it meant "If you fuck bitches, you can get money" or "Fuck bitches; focus instead on getting money." Barry said he thought it was neither, but rather the graffiti artist's do-do list: "First, fuck bitches; second, get money" . . . there was no third thing to get around to doing, apparently. Graffiti artists should learn to punctuate if they want to make themselves understood.

Anyway, we made it to the grocery store. I hadn't brought my purse, but Barry had brought his wallet, so he bought us water and trail mix. Then I said I wanted to walk across the bridge to the other side of the river for a few minutes before we went back to my house. So we walked across. We saw more graffiti on the walk over, mostly more people professing eternal love, and Barry said something about people having such an instinct to proclaim their love by writing it on their surroundings. He asked whether I wished he had spray paint with him and would vandalize the bridge in my honor. I said no, I much preferred for him to have water and trail mix.

On the other side of the bridge - the Yuba City side, as opposed to the Marysville side - we tried to climb down to the water as I remembered having done two years ago, but it wasn't as easy as I had remembered it being to get down to the water. I suggested that we walk a little further upstream until we found a spot where we could reach the water. We walked to the recently developed Willow Island Park and followed its pedestrian path down to a small strip of beach, where signs informed us about salmon in the river. With my finger in the sand at the very edge of the water, I wrote "I love Barry." Then we turned back and headed for my house. We took a somewhat different route on the way back - more through the center of town rather than around the edge of it. We walked to Ellis Lake and were accosted by a very friendly loose dog whose owners were outside with it - they and the dog were on their own property, overlooking the lake - and the owners were embarrassed because the dog took an instant liking to us and tried to follow us home. Eventually they got their dog under control, but we had to stop walking for a minute or two so they could catch up with it. Then we continued walking again. A goose on the shore a little ahead of us dove into the water as we approached. Then we were past the lake, and then a bit later, we were home. And we watched more Enterprise, of course.

On Sunday we went to the Yuba City Sikh Parade. I was pretty certain this would be a big hit with Barry, and I was right. It is always a big hit with me too, but it's even better suited for Barry, because Barry likes Indian food far more consistently than I do, and this event is all about free Indian food. It is a religious holiday in which Sikhs give out free food to everyone in sight, as a matter of religious duty, an obligation to take care of one's fellow people. I like it because there's something about walking down a street crowded with people offering all the free food you can eat to everyone in sight that never fails to inspire a renewed faith that random human strangers can be very nice people and there's hope for humanity yet. And besides that, in an age in which Trump has sowed all manner of racist hostility, this is an event in which the streets of a very Republican and very pro-Trump neighborhood are flooded with brown-skinned people wearing turbans and salwar kameez, and there is no evident hostility toward them from any of the white people present, because come on, it's pretty hard for even a Trump voter to react with hostility when being offered tons of free food.

There is a custom of politeness, however, for when the first parade float passes by. The first parade float carries the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text, and when it passes, it is considered polite for everyone, even the nonbelievers in the crowd, to cover their heads. Before leaving the house, I searched for some Indian scarves I had previously used for this purpose, but I seem to have gotten rid of them. I didn't especially like them; I just didn't have much else I could use for this purpose. I settled on a shawl, a silk-and-velvet shawl with a beaded picture of a peacock on it that I bought some years back while going through an intense craving to own all the peacock-blue clothing I could find, whether or not it had actual pictures of peacocks on it. This shawl doesn't go well with most of my clothes, though, so to find some clothes that it did go with, I pulled out a dress I generally reserve for rare special occasions. And then, because the dress is not much below knee-length and bare ankles are disapproved of in Sikh culture, I added a pair of black tights. Basically I ended up dressed to the nines. Barry was very impressed and very delighted. Two Sikh women at the parade also complimented me on my peacock shawl.

After struggling a bit to figure out where to park, I parked at the Home Depot, and we set out from there, walking a few blocks to the parade area. Then we spent a good hour or so sampling all the Indian food. In one of the lines, I declined a lot of what was being offered, because it was too vegetabley or too spicy-hot for my tastes, and was then given twice as much bread as other people at the end of the line, because apparently my plate looked too empty. We both ate until we were completely stuffed. And then the parade showed up, and I started taking pictures.

Parade pictures!Collapse ). . . And then it was over. Barry has been suggesting ever since that we should go back to the Sikh Parade again, as if it were held every day or every week rather than just once a year.

Since we had parked at the Home Depot, we went shopping there upon our return to the car. Barry was working on fixing several things for me - a dripping showerhead, a chainsaw with a loose chain, a fluorescent light that was being very slow to turn on, and a cat fountain Barry gave me that was leaking water because it was missing an O-ring. He looked for parts at Home Depot, but he didn't know exactly what he needed, so we went home first, and then Barry went back out again to buy what he needed. He ended up giving up on the dripping showerhead - he told me it needed a new cartridge, but he encountered some brass parts and didn't know whether they were soldered and was afraid of wrecking them if he tried to continue, so he advised me to call a plumber. I did, and the plumber confirmed that it needed a new cartridge, and the plumber fixed it. Barry is still working on the chainsaw; he thinks it might need a new tension pin, and I asked him to help me figure out how to buy a new tension pin for it. He's also still working on the cat fountain. But he fixed my fluorescent light for me! I had replaced the tubes in it a couple of years ago, but Barry replaced the ballast in it and also repaired the acrylic light covers I had cracked.

When Barry wasn't working on fixing things, we went back to watching Enterprise for most of the rest of the Sunday and Monday. At some point during this, Barry mentioned that he has trouble telling the difference between two of the characters on Enterprise: security officer Malcolm Reed and chief engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker III. I think Barry had previously mentioned to me that he has trouble recognizing faces, but I had just thought, well, I don't think I'm all that great at recognizing faces either; I didn't give any further thought to it. But now it suddenly made a big impression on me because Barry had cited an actual example of two faces he has trouble telling apart, and those two characters do not look at all like to me. I mean, they're both white men probably in their thirties (late thirties for Malcolm Reed, early thirties for Trip Tucker - okay, I just looked up the actors' ages, and during the first season of Enterprise they would have been 39 and 32, respectively), but beyond that, I don't see a resemblance. One has dark blond/light brown hair and the other has dark brown hair; one is plainly older than the other; their faces do not look similar to me. They also have completely different accents (English versus Southern), but Barry has no trouble recognizing them once they start speaking; he just has to wait until after they start speaking before he can tell which is which. Barry is faceblind! Upon realizing this, I spent much of the rest of our extended weekend together periodically asking him follow-up questions about it, trying to get a better idea of how it affects his perceptions and how it has changed his life experience. It seems to be a major factor in kind of a lot of the things we have in common, which is kind of weird since I'm not faceblind (just maybe very slightly below average at face recognition). Though it turns out that maybe my mother is, and my mother also influenced me in a lot of the ways that I have in common with Barry. My mother had very bad vision for much of her childhood and did not get glasses until she was a teenager, so she thinks the face-recognition part of her brain didn't develop well because her vision was so bad during much of the time when it would normally have been developing.

Barry has no comparable explanation for why he might be faceblind, but he has explanations of how it affects him. He said he was always hopeless at team sports when in school because he couldn't recognize who was on his team and who wasn't. This was kind of similar in effect to my own experience; I was always hopeless at team sports when in school not because I couldn't recognize people but because I inevitably tuned out when the teacher started explaining the rules, so I inevitably ended up unsure which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for or which direction was first base in softball. In second grade I voluntarily signed up to play in a soccer league but then tuned out when told which goal to aim for, so I spent the entire season deliberately slowing down whenever I got anywhere near the ball, because I didn't know which direction I was supposed to be kicking it. And in softball I intentionally struck out every single time I ever batted, all the way through all my years of school, because I wasn't sure which way was first base and didn't want to risk humiliating myself by guessing wrong. And because after a certain point, asking someone to tell me which way was first base or which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for would in itself have been humiliating. (I also tuned out when other class activities such as spelling bees and that kind of thing were explained aloud, but with most things other than sports, the class would take turns, and I generally had time to figure out the rules from watching what other kids did before my own turn came up. There was less taking turns in sports, and also I was so uninterested in sports that when someone else did occasionally get a hit and run to first base, I would promptly forget again which way they had run.) Anyway, although the causes were a bit different - perhaps I had an auditory processing disorder? - it seems like Barry and I had a similar experience of school sports.

I said I often have trouble following the plot of old black-and-white TV shows, because too many of the characters in the era when they were made tended to be white men, usually all dressed virtually identically and with virtually identical haircuts, and when you additionally take out all the color so I can't even distinguish between things like blue suits and brown suits, I usually can't tell all the white men apart from each other. Barry said he has the same problem even with more contemporary, color TV shows, and it's why he doesn't watch much TV - and also why he does watch Star Trek, because the different colors on the Starfleet uniforms and the different alien species' markings usually make it easier for him to tell the characters apart on Star Trek than on most other TV shows. This is another thing we have in common, not watching much TV other than Star Trek. In my case, my not watching much TV other than Star Trek was strongly influenced by my mother's not watching much TV other than Star Trek.

I asked Barry whether his trouble recognizing people made it hard for him to make friends, and he said yes. I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in distinguishing which race people belong to, or in "reading" people who are in drag or transitioning between genders. It was difficult to pin down in anywhere near precise terms how much trouble "most people" have in distinguishing people's races or birth-assigned genders might be, but the impression I ended up with was that Barry "probably" has slightly more trouble with this. Then I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in reading people's facial expressions, and he said yes, he mostly reads people's body language. This led into another thing we have in common - that both of us were cheated on in our last relationships, and both of us felt similar shock and betrayal, and both of us reacted in similar ways. Both of us could hardly comprehend the idea that anyone, much less someone we'd loved and lived with and trusted for so many years, could behave in such an untrustworthy manner, and both of us feel that we have below-average abilities to see through liars and recognize when they are lying to us. Both of us have learned the hard way to be a bit distrustful of our own tendency to be trustful.

For some reason I asked Barry whether he ever has the experience, as I sometimes do, of suddenly feeling a very strong sense that the person he's talking to is feeling a certain way in response to something he's just said, but of being completely unable to explain to himself what it is about that person's behavior that is conveying that. He said no, he tends to analyze and dissect people's body language very consciously and can't recall ever sensing an emotion from someone else without being conscious of what it was about this person's behavior that was conveying this. I would like to always be conscious of what it is that gives me the impression people are feeling a certain way, because not being sure why I have that impression leaves me not quite sure whether I'm just being paranoid or just engaging in wishful thinking. But sometimes things are just not that clear.

Anyway, it seemed as if he discovery that Barry has trouble recognizing faces helped explain a whole lot about him. But then, a week or so later, I found an online test for faceblindness - the "Famous Faces Test." (You can Google for various versions of it.) Barry scored 85% on a version of it that said an average, non-faceblind score is 85%. I took the same version of the test and scored 81%. So now I don't know what to make of that. Websites about faceblindness do note that some self-identified faceblind people may get high scores on the test. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any test that diagnoses faceblindness with much reliability at all, in terms of correlating with people's self-diagnoses. Faceblindness seems to be almost always self-diagnosed, to the point that now I'm not sure to what extent it's even a real diagnosis at all. That is, there have been a few people who abruptly lost their previous ability to recognize faces as a result of a brain injury, so it seems to be a real thing for those people; and any ability that can be lost in midlife can presumably also be never developed, in some rare few people; but it is not clear whether it's really at all common for people's facial recognition to vary all that much from normal levels. Presumably some people are some degree better at facial recognition than others, but we might all get the impression that our abilities in this area differ more dramatically than they really do, simply because different people focus on different details when recognizing people - so, for example, the difference between Malcolm Reed and Trip Tucker might be completely obvious to me and incredibly subtle to Barry, but there might be some other pair of people who would look incredibly similar to me and incredibly obviously different to Barry.

I don't know. Anyway, that was a big topic of discussion between us for a while.

I was a bit sunburned after the Sikh Parade, due I think to the combination of being outside a couple of hours for the parade and also being outside a couple of hours on the previous day when we were walking to the Feather River. So on the day after the Sikh Parade, when Barry suggested going for another walk, I put on sunscreen first. We just walked to the dollar store and looked around in it, then left without buying anything. Along the way, I tried to give Barry a botany lesson, because I'd been weeding my front yard immediately before our walk, and I wanted to share that experience with him. I told him about seed leaves (the first leaves that sprout from a newly germinated seed, which look different from the leaves that will grow later), and how most plant species are dicots, meaning that they have two seed leaves, but some are monocots, meaning that they have one seed leaf. The information didn't really stick with him. At some point I will do some careful weeding while he has time to sit and watch and listen to me, and I will manage to convey to him at least the general sense of how I think when I'm weeding, and some sort of vague overview of botany. In the meantime, I explained to him that the seedlings coming up in the planter boxes at his house from the seeds I planted there are very likely seedlings from the seeds I planted - I mean, they're sprouting from newly purchased, storebought dirt and compost that shouldn't have any weed seeds left alive in it - and he expressed that lovely sense of wonderment that every new gardener feels upon realizing that the seeds planted last week have magically turned into tiny baby plants.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Two days after the Sikh Parade was Election Day. Barry had already voted by mail, but I voted at my local precinct on Election Day. I had taken that Monday and Tuesday off work, because Barry was staying at my house, and the reason he was staying at my house was that he wanted to go with me to the Election Day party that my friends Alyson and Jackie had organized. It was an all-Clinton party in an almost-all-Trump part of the almost-all Clinton state of California. It was also a very lesbian party. Barry was one of only two men there; the other man was a neighbor of one of the lesbians, and had put up a Clinton yard sign, which had been stolen, and his yard sign had gotten him invited to the party.

There were lines at my precinct when I voted, even though I voted at an uncommon time of day, in the middle of what would ordinarily have been my workday, because I had the day off work. I wondered then whether it was a bad sign about the election's outcome, that turnout was high in my very pro-Trump neighborhood.

Barry and I had a 45-minute drive to the party that evening, and there weren't any election returns coming in yet when we left my house. But 45 minutes later, the very first thing we were greeted with upon walking in the door at the party was the news that the election was a nailbiter and things were not going well. It only got worse from there, of course. By the time we went back to my house, we had a very bad feeling that we were very likely to end up with Trump as president. There was some degree of room for doubt until we woke up the next morning, but it wasn't all that much.

On the drive home, I drove through some drifts of tule fog and suggested that Barry might want to stay overnight with me so as to avoid driving home in tule fog. He had planned to go home late Tuesday night, but he ended up going home first thing Wednesday morning instead. The morning was a bit of a daze. I found that I had to consciously remind myself that not everything in my life depended on who was president - that I had not, for example, entered into a romantic relationship with Barry contingent upon the president being a Democrat, and therefore I could continue to date Barry even with Trump in office. It simply was not the way I had been expecting the future to go. I had known, of course, that having Trump elected president was a real possibility, but since worrying about it wasn't likely to help anything, I had mostly been choosing not to worry about it.

The following weekend, Barry and I didn't see each other at all. I had bought tickets for a swanwatching tour as part of the California Swan Festival, but Barry came down with a cold that made him too sick to drive here that Friday night and too sick to go swanwatching that Saturday night, and I had a ton of work to catch up on anyway, so I advised Barry to just stay where he was, at his own house, and focus on getting well, rather than coming to my house just to be sick and maybe get me sick when we wouldn't be able to do much together. I did go on the swanwatching tour myself. I carpooled with a family from the nearby town of Lincoln - Rick and Mayumi and their two very well-behaved small children (ages maybe 4 and 6). I liked them. They were plainly introverts, so we were all happy to be silent together. And I figure they were probably not Trump supporters, because neither of them was white (Mayumi was presumably from Japan, given her name, and Rick appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent). And we all cared about looking at tundra swans, so we had that in common. I took swan pictures, and maybe I'll post those later, but I didn't really get anywhere near as good a view of the birds, or as good of photos of the birds, on this tour as I did on a similar tour two years ago. Mostly I just got pretty sunset pictures, which are nice, but not entirely the point of the tour. I told Barry I want to take him on the tour route in January, just the two of us, with me acting as tour guide. We may get a better view of the birds when there aren't so many other people around to scare them off.

And the next weekend after that, I went to Barry's house. He has a new foster cat named Lois - an adult cat this time, maybe two years old, being fostered for six to eight weeks while she recovers from surgery after being found injured, probably bitten by a dog. Lois is extremely cuddly. I haven't gotten around to taking any pictures of her yet. On Saturday we bought a truckload of dirt to finish filling up the second planter box he built, and then Barry had friends over to play board games while I worked. Although it rained all weekend, on Sunday I weeded his front yard anyway and planted seeds in it. We also found time to continue watching Star Trek: Voyager and one episode of Enterprise (which we switched over to because we were being sat on by cats and therefore couldn't get up to put in the next Voyager DVD).

This coming Sunday is Barry's birthday! He will be 35. We have much to celebrate.

Mood: busy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 18 September 2016
Sunday, 18 September 2016 11:49am
Camping at Silver Lake

Barry and I went camping! At Silver Lake Campground (near the town of Quincy), which I also camped at last year. Last year I was camping alone except for Boston. This year I brought Barry and also Boston. I think, though, that this was Boston's last camping trip. She seems to be getting too old to handle camping anymore. After our six-mile hike on our second day there, Boston was hobbling and limping so that I was afraid to attempt any further hiking, and on our third day there, Barry noticed she had peed in the back seat of my car, and during our third night there, she peed all over the foot of the sleeping bags, while we were sleeping in them. It's common for older female dogs to lose bladder control, so I'm assuming that's what's going on. Her legs seemed to be fine when I got her back home, so I'm assuming that was just temporary sore muscles or sore foot pads or some such thing. The discomfort while walking might have contributed to her failure to ask to be let out of the car or the tent to go pee somewhere else, but I had also noticed a suspicious stain in the back seat of my car when I was packing for the camping trip, so I think she also peed in my car when I took her to and from the vet's office a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, we had originally planned to stay four nights and five days, but we decided to go home one day early because Boston had peed on the sleeping bags and we didn't want to sleep in dog-pee-soaked sleeping bags. And I would like to avoid encountering that problem on any future camping trips.

We encountered several other problems as well, including running out of drinking water and getting stuck on a dirt road with speed bumps on it that were so high that they were completely impassable at any speed in my Nissan Sentra. But solving problems together is an important relationship-building experience, right? So, we solved our problems and emerged just fine, and also had a wonderful time. We hiked to Rock Lake and Gold Lake, went swimming in Gold Lake, drove to Snake Lake, and drove to the town of Quincy to buy more drinking water. And we took lots and lots and lots of pictures.

Running out of drinking water was actually semi-planned. It isn't easy to pack two adult humans, one medium-sized dog, and five days' worth of camping gear into a Nissan Sentra, and my Nissan Sentra doesn't even have a roof rack for extra space. Barry has a pickup truck that might have fit our stuff much better, but it has no back seat for Boston, so we squeezed everything into my Sentra instead. But we scrimped a bit on drinking-water space because the campground is not far at all from the town of Quincy, so I knew we could easily buy more water there if we ran out.

Anyway, we packed everything into my car and set out early Wednesday, September 7, with a bunch of Barry's and my CDs to listen to along the way, and we arrived at the campground in early afternoon. We parked in campsite 1 and got out and walked through the rest of the campground on foot to decide which campsite we wanted. There are 8 campsites in the campground, with sites 6 to 8 closest to the lake shore, and a large gap between sites 5 and 6. Last year I stayed in campsite 2 because sites 1 to 5 were all empty, and I wanted to be far away from the numerous people who were at the other end of the campground. This year there was only one other person there when we arrived, and that person was in campsite 7. We selected campsite 6 for ourselves, because there was an adequate distance between campsites 6 and 7 for us to still feel isolated, and there was no other campsite any nearer that anyone could move into later.

This is Silver Lake. We camped alongside it - across a dirt road from the shore at the far right.

Silver Lake

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Mood: pleased
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 31 July 2016
Sunday, 31 July 2016 5:03pm
Presidential Election

I have some things to say about the presidential election. Specifically, from my perspective as a registered third-party voter (Peace and Freedom Party!), as a woman, as someone who cast her first-ever vote in a presidential election for a third-party female presidential candidate (Marsha Feinland) running against Bill Clinton in 1996. And as a lifelong Californian voter, a voter in the most populous of states and one of the most decidedly non-swingy of states.

If you live in a swing state, what I'm about to say may not apply as much to your situation. But for me personally . . . I have never seen any sense in pretending that the votes I cast in presidential elections are going to make any difference in terms of who becomes president that year. The number of people I would have to persuade to change their votes to hand over California's 55 electoral college votes to anyone other than the Democrats is ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, though - I believe it's very important to vote. Voting makes a real difference in people's lives. If more good people in California had bothered to show up to cast votes against Prop 8 in 2008, thousands of couples would have been married years earlier. They couldn't be, just because too many voters failed to go fill in one little bubble on their behalf. But the votes you cast that are most likely to make a real difference are the local ones - for mayor, for city council, for or against local ballot measures, that kind of thing. State-level elections are harder to swing, and in national-level elections, Californians have hardly any voice at all. We only get two senators to represent our 38 million people, just like Wyoming gets to represent its fewer than 600,000 people, and our lack of senators results in a lack of electoral votes as well, and since our electoral votes are awarded in winner-takes-all manner, it's been 28 years since our electoral votes last failed to go to the Democrats. (George H. W. Bush won California in 1988. California had been solidly Republican for a while before that, but demographics and political parties have changed, and we're not at all likely to go Republican again anytime soon.)

So the most important thing I wish left-wing activists would focus on during election years is trying to persuade people to vote, rather than trying to persuade them to vote for any specific candidate. Feeling browbeaten and pressured to vote for a particular candidate can sometimes actively turn people against that candidate, but the message "We desperately need you to bother to vote!" tends to be received much more welcomingly than the message "We desperately need you to vote for this specific candidate!" And persuading more people to vote tends to strongly favor left-wing candidates and left-wing causes all up and down the ballot.

And this is a big part of the value in having third-party candidates on the ballot. Many people, unfortunately, will not bother showing up to vote if there's no one on the ballot that they're comfortable voting for in a prominent race such as the presidential one. Many people pay very little attention to the races further down the ballot, and simply say to themselves that if the choice is between two presidential candidates they hate, then they'll stay home. Giving these people additional choices, even if those choices have no real chance of winning, can help persuade them to bother going to the polls - simply to "send a message," because having a candidate in the race whom they can express agreement with lets them feel able to send the message they want to send. So having third parties on the ballot, especially left-wing third parties, tends to benefit Democrats in down-ballot races by helping bring more left-wing voters to the polls. And down-ballot races are the ones most easily swung.

This is why I'm a registered third-party voter. I was a registered Democrat when I cast my vote for Marsha Feinland of the Peace and Freedom Party against Bill Clinton in 1996. In 1998, the Peace and Freedom Party was removed from the California ballot - the only state whose ballot it had been on to begin with - because its gubernatorial candidate that year didn't receive the number of votes that the Democratic-controlled California state legislature had decided to require third-party candidates to receive for their parties to remain on the ballot. For the party to get back on the ballot, it needed to obtain a minimum number of voters registered as being affiliated with it. I changed my party registration to Peace and Freedom to help the party get back on the ballot, and the party was restored to the California ballot in 2003.

I have never been a fan of the Clintons. I didn't like Bill Clinton in 1992 because he was a philanderer and a centrist, but I was too young to be eligible to vote against him then. In 1996 I was struggling with the question of whether or not I could stand to vote for him when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby ensuring that I will hate his guts for the rest of my life. (Hillary Clinton could have dissociated herself better in my mind from her husband's actions on this issue if she had "evolved" more quickly on marriage equality, but instead she was among the slowest prominent Democratic national politicians to "evolve," and Bill Clinton has been quoted as saying, when he was president, that he thought she was homophobic, which certainly did her no favors in my book.) In his second term, Bill Clinton continued making me angrier and angrier at him; the "welfare reform" he was proud of achieving was pure Republicanism with a sticker labeled "Democrat" stuck unconvincingly on top. As for Hillary Clinton, I never had anything against her personally when she was first lady. But when she became a senator, she was one of the very large number of Democrats in Congress who voted in 2002 to authorize George W. Bush to invade Iraq. On the day of that vote, I immediately vowed never again to vote for any of those Democrats for any office ever again, because the vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was the most transparently stupid and evil and utterly unjustifiable Congressional vote I'd ever seen. And in the 14 years since then, I've stood by that vow. I had always voted for Senator Dianne Feinstein until she voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, but I never voted for again after that. I voted third party against John Kerry (for Leonard Peltier of the Peace and Freedom Party) in 2004 because John Kerry had voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq.

So if this were even remotely close to a normal election year, I would be perfectly primed for voting third-party against Hillary Clinton. And I don't feel there's any especially compelling reason not to do so - I have no illusion that my vote as a Californian is going to make any difference in who becomes president. I will cast my vote in the presidential election purely to send a message. Yet I'm feeling that I'm more and more likely to break that vow I made in 2002 and actually vote for Hillary Clinton this year, simply because there are so many competing messages associated with the candidates this year that I think voting third party this year would tend to lend itself to drastic misinterpretation of my intended message.

Frankly, I'm not sure what a lot of this year's "Bernie or Bust" contingent really stands for. I'm sure there's some legitimate feeling of wariness of Hillary Clinton because of her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, and I share that sentiment. I'm sure there's also some debatably somewhat legitimate wariness of Hillary Clinton because of her husband's Republican-like policies as president; I rate this as "debatably somewhat legitimate" because, although I do think it says something that she's married to the guy, I'm not at all sure - being the daughter, myself, of a Democrat happily married to a Republican - that it says all that much. People can be married to one another, even quite happily married to one another, and still each have their own quite distinct individual views on political issues; I think there's a sexist tendency to assume women's political views must be identical to their husbands', and I think Hillary suffers somewhat in the esteem of many left-wing voters due to this sexist assumption. I also think there's some completely illegitimate and blatantly sexist panic going on in which Hillary Clinton is being falsely painted as having emotional problems simply because the sexist stereotype of women in our culture is that women are somehow emotionally out of control.

On Facebook this year I've seen numerous people accusing Hillary Clinton of being a sociopath, a narcissist, an egomaniac, a pathological liar . . . I don't understand this. She is a politician, so naturally she seeks political office, promotes her qualifications for that office, and engages in some degree of political machinations and manipulations. But I don't see how she's in any way more extreme about this than any other national-level politician. I have some very strong disagreements with her about policy, but as for her sanity and emotional stability, I think I've never seen any comparably prominent politician whose sanity or emotional stability could ever exceed hers. If you want to accuse a Clinton of being a narcissist, you should be accusing Bill. Narcissism is strongly correlated with cheating on one's partner; it is not at all correlated with putting up with being cheated on by one's partner. The same goes for sociopathy. That right there is pretty strong evidence that whatever else Hillary Clinton may be, she is not a narcissist or a sociopath. And I simply don't see any evidence for egomania in her. She wants the job of president and promotes herself accordingly, but the same has been true of every presidential candidate ever. This isn't egomania; it's the same thing you do when you want a job and you have relevant qualifications and so you list those qualifications and try to explain to the job interviewer why you're the best candidate for the job.

What I want to know is why there was no loud, angry, "Howard Dean or Bust" contingent in 2004 comparable to the loud, angry "Bernie or Bust" contingent this year. And why there was no loud, angry, "Jerry Brown or Bust" contingent in 1992, and no halfway meaningful primary challenger at all to Bill Clinton in 1996. How were John Kerry or Bill Clinton any less disappointingly right-wing than Hillary Clinton is? I completely acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is disappointingly right-wing, but John Kerry and Bill Clinton were even worse! And though so many people seem loath to admit it, there is some value in the fact that at least we got a woman as our disappointingly right-wing candidate this time around. I'd definitely have vastly preferred a different woman (you know, the one with the initials E. W.), but the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman does in fact count for something. Her being female will have an impact on the culture. For the better. It's not everything, but it's something.

I definitely feel that a substantial portion of the resistance to Hillary Clinton is motivated by sexism, even though, simultaneously, I also definitely feel that there are some very good reasons to feel resistance to Hillary Clinton.

When I've voted third party in the past, it's been with the hope that some Democratic strategist somewhere would look at the election results and see that the Democratic Party lost some voters to a further-left candidate and recognize that they might regain those voters by moving further left themselves. This year, though, I'm not feeling confident that the Democratic Party's strategists will necessarily infer that from votes cast for left-wing third parties. I think they might at least as accurately infer that the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman is what's scaring most of the third-party voters away from her. And the other thing is that the Democratic Party isn't the only party that can be sent a message here, and they're not necessarily the party most severely in need of a message this year. The Republican Party has this year nominated a significantly more blatantly racist and misogynist and all-around despicable candidate than they've ever managed to before - a con man and promulgator of racist "birther" conspiracy theories who is slow to disavow endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan and regularly retweets posts by members of known hate groups. There are two different messages the Republican Party could potentially learn from this year's presidential election results: that choosing such a person will cost them the election in a landslide or that choosing such a person is a viable option that might be worth trying again in future years. They might choose to learn the latter lesson even if Trump loses, as long as the race is close enough. And by "close enough," I mean the number of votes for Trump versus the number of votes for Clinton - because those are the numbers the Republican Party is likely to look longest and hardest at. So, in full recognition that my vote in the presidential election will serve simply to send a message, and despite the fact that I'm not thrilled at the idea of having to let either one of the Clintons anywhere near the White House again, I'm feeling like, this year, the message I want to send is likely to be best sent via a vote for Hillary Clinton.

And if, unlike me, you live in a swing state, and your vote might have some potential to do more than just send a message, don't forget that the balance of the U.S. Supreme Court depends on this election. This is the first time in my lifetime that we've had a chance to reverse the conservative tilt of the U.S. Supreme Court, and I'm 40 years old. Whatever happens this time around, there might not be another such chance in our lifetimes.

Mostly, though, just please bother to vote. For whoever. Going to the polls is an improvement over not going to the polls.

Mood: not fully decided yet, but getting there
12 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Friday, 8 July 2016
Friday, 8 July 2016 4:49pm
Bike Parade and More Kitten Pictures

I was in a bike parade for the Fourth of July! And I can't even ride a bike!


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Mood: cheerful
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
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