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alternator [Feb. 20th, 2016|11:35 pm]
[Current Location |Alameda, CA]

Somewhere on my drive to Byron today, the alternator belt gave up the ghost.
Battery light was on the whole drive home - ignition finally pooped out in West Oakland. Naturally my cellphone battery was also dead, so instead of summoning a yuppie transit car, I hoofed it all the way home - three miles including the horrible Posey Tube (underwater tunnel built in the 30's). So that was today's urban adventure.

* Hopefully my car will survive the night in West Oakland.
* It's parked right in front of a Porsche repair shop. Maybe I'll just have them fix it on Monday. Or I'll go out tomorrow with a new belt and some wrenches.

Some questions you may ask:
* Why didn't I drive directly to AutoZone when I saw the red battery light?
* Why don't I have backup phone charging capability?
* Why not take the bus instead of walking?
* Why not use the excuse of a car breakdown to go in and talk to the cute and interesting employees at that new bakery that I walked by? Maybe they would flirt with me and comp me an Uber. Now we'll never know.

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update [Feb. 17th, 2016|12:41 am]
There's been at least two happenings worthy of an update in recent weeks-

* I moved to Alameda!
* We detected gravitational waves!

Well we actually detected the gravitational waves back in September, but this was just announced publicly (and the papers released, etc) last Thursday, to much fanfare. More about that that in another post, presumably.

And: Alameda! The new place is the second floor of a giant old house with glorious hardwood floors, just two miles from my work, and walking distance to the beach! The landlord is very shady and is renting out rooms individually - hence, random housemates! It's an adventure and so far I'm very happy with it. Housemates are Wayne and Anisa from Los Angeles -- Wayne is a postdoc at LLNL and Anisa is an actress -- and Serena, who works at a book publisher during the week and some coffee shops during the weekend. And two cats! Cats and dogs living together, what will happen next.
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Loyalton wknd II [Jan. 19th, 2016|09:42 pm]
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[Current Location |Loyalton, CA]

So Maria and I drove out to Loyalton again (an hour north of Truckee) for a winter weekend adventure. My uncle Mike's partner Andrea has a house out there, in Sierra Valley, in a little tiny town in the least populous county in all of California. It's cozy with a wood stove and Victorian furniture.

We went snowshoeing in a gale, in a heavy cold rain accompanied by strong gusts of wind. But we were attired appropriately for a short jaunt in such conditions and therefore were happy. My first time snowshoeing! Happily the rain turned to snow, and after an hour or two tromping around we returned to base.

Returning to the Bay Area, I enjoyed driving back via CA-49, a circuitous mountain road that visits several terribly idyllic small oldtime mountain towns, like Sierra City and Downeyville. The Yuba river was a gushing torrent in the canyon, and long sinuous white cataracts added highlights to the canyon walls. Dinner in Nevada City at Three Forks Brewing.

A cozy and fun winter weekend was had. Nonetheless still a bit envious of my colleagues and their Ski Weekends. Gotta do a little social networking to get invited on such a jaunt.
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full time [Jan. 19th, 2016|09:29 pm]

Goddamn, a full-time job is time consuming.

I appreciate that this full-time dedication allows us extreme productivity -- as an economy -- in which goods and services and gizmos are produced at such a dizzying pace.

But I think something is lost when everyone has their nose to the grindstone, unable to pursue their other interests, to dabble. We are all such specialists. Division of labor is goddamn efficient but it might not be the best way.

I fantasize about 50% time, about using that using that extra time to go explore the world and report on it. Grapple with matters like modern land use. Figure out where our water comes from and go and report on that. And learn to paraglide, of course, and read books.

Perhaps a more practical approach - endeavor to put in more efficient hours, to get stuff done, to eliminate that inevitable whiled-away time.
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A Christmas Memory (circa 1986) [Dec. 25th, 2015|01:37 am]

There's nothing quite like Christmas as a kid, is there? Usually we went to my grandparents' house in Camarillo, itself a wonderful adventureland complete with a train, treehouse, junk drawer, candy jar, not to mention my wonderful grandparents themselves. I remember lying in bed (or maybe even on the floor, if the house was packed with aunts and uncles and cousins, as it often was) on Christmas Eve being so excited I didn't know if I'd ever be able to fall asleep, to be in turn transported to Christmas morning. Well, that's exactly where I find myself now at this very instant, Christmas Eve in Camarillo. No longer does the material windfall of Christmas Morning keep me up at night - now it's a chance for reflection, and in this case writing a blog on the internet.

One time in the even deeper past we went instead to my great-aunt Lois's house, in Lafayette, up in the Bay Area. Or, actually, now that I think about it -- maybe my great-grandfather's house - a place now lost to memory - in Los Angeles? One of the great things about being small is that the world is so big, and this strange house full of so many people - it could be infinite.

Well nigh comes Christmas morning and the livingroom is full of presents, and my great-grandfather Bampi is handing out gifts. For me he had the Cadillac of them all, a bright red Radio-Flyer wagon! I don't know what ultimately happened to that wagon, but glimpses of it in various stages of oxidation in the following years flash before my mind's eye.

But that Christmas morning I was a bit ungrateful, perhaps - I might have even said "Is that all?" Or at least -- I looked disappointed. My great aunt, noticing my state, suggests we find another thing. And somewhere in the house she finds this electronic gizmo. I remember it clearly: its green, faux wrought-iron spherical plastic enclosure, the power cord. When you plugged it in and it warmed up a little bit it started chirping like a bird! An electronic bird.

This was glorious! This electronic chirping ornament followed me for years, a prized component of my treasure trove. I took it apart, I put it back together, I took it apart, and so on. It's the sort of thing that nowadways would be digital and run on a small battery and be disposable, but back then it ran on 120VAC and was fully analog and I'm surprised I didn't electrocute myself.

Whatever happened to that captivating contraption? Surely lost in some move or purging of junk. Perhaps my parents, tired of its ear-piercing electronic cries, accelerated its departure. But could I find another one today?

Surprisingly, typing "green spherical plastic electronic bird chirper" into Google reveals the thing indeed, on ebay, titled: "Vintage Electronic Chirping Bird Christmas Silver Filigree Plastic Ball Ornament". This may be the thing indeed! Or perhaps a slightly later model of it, and not in the right color.

And there is a modern, battery-powered version on Amazon, and almost every review hints at a story not terribly unlike the above. This vintage chirping bird contraption is apparently a cherished memory of many: http://www.amazon.com/Vintage-Silver-Chirping-Christmas-Ornament/dp/B002SS5LHO
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11/6 test-day + banya [Nov. 7th, 2015|07:01 pm]
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Test day at Makani means waking before dawn, up at 5:30am to walk a still-sleepy little dog, then drive twenty minutes to Alameda island, the city streets curiously devoid of traffic. Call time is 6:30am. I'm wearing a blue hard-hat and a matching blue Patagonia nanopuff jacket - it's cold out and I use the heater in the Vanagon. Donuts and coffee. Briefing at 6:40. The wing comes in on its semi-tractor-trailer and the crew gets to work lifting it up into flight position. I go to work setting up the command center.

In the early pre-noon I shadow an interview at the Tower; it makes me feel better about my programming skills and a bit excited to actually interview candidates myself. (Would it be too cruel to give them an option of easy, medium, or hard difficulty? Even the easy questions often tell us what we need to know.)

Back at the test-site, they've been successful in the first test objectives and are setting up for the next test. I eat some leftover bbq and go to work in the command center. The tests have a little drama but are ultimately smooth and successful. There are high-fives. The crew swarms to attack the take-down chores and I attend to mine.

Evening: Banya with Maria and her friends Alice and Breyden. Alice lived in Syracuse and worked at Meteor and lived in a hexayurt in Berkeley; Breyden came from Australia and has quite a funny monologue on the subject of sausage rolls and other Australian delicacies. We dined on borscht and discussed "applied rationality" before returning for a round of naked sauna and cold plunge.
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11/3 full circle [Nov. 3rd, 2015|01:09 am]
I voted today! In San Francisco, since that's where I was living when I registered, last year when I moved here from Germany. It's been exactly one year, and it's fun to see things come full circle: Halloween, the World Series, the dark evenings, the stormy weather, the holiday party invites. That was an exciting time - my airbnb apartment in the Mission, the Day of the Dead parade outside, even holed up with my weird illness, binge-watching True Detective, watching the sunrise through bay windows.

Now I'm at home in Berkeley. It's the coldest night of the season so far (53 degrees with a forecast low of 47). I went out to dinner with vdb at Plum Bar in downtown Oakland for a little catch-up. Zuhair made a wood-fire in the fireplace. It rained all through the night last night -- perhaps the first rain all year. It feels like Autumn.
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10/27 Sunrise hike! [Oct. 27th, 2015|10:26 pm]
[Current Location |Redwood Regional Park, Oakland, California]

Sunrise hike!
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10/15 Ryan visit! [Oct. 15th, 2015|11:08 pm]

Flying with Ryah

Ryan is here! He swapped apartments with some friends he met in Argentina, and who now live just a few blocks from me. His g/f Lynda also flew out from the weekend, and I took them flying. The area around Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge was closed off for the Fleet Week air show, and Half Moon Bay was fogged in, so instead we went east into the Central Valley: Oakland - Byron - Rio Vista - Nut Tree. I'd like to land at all 200+ airports in California, and this flight checked two new ones off the list. The Nut Tree (Vacaville) airport is adjacent to a better-than-typical freeway shopping center; we had ice cream at Fenton's before flying back to Oakland.

Steffen is also visiting - a student from the lab where I worked in Germany.

Gave Ryan, Evan, and Steffen a tour of Makani today.

Have to be up bright and early tomorrow morning for flight testing!
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9/20 tea in a tree! [Sep. 29th, 2015|09:40 pm]
[Current Location |Oakland, CA]

Tea in a tree! Multi-level treehouse!

Multi-level treehouse!
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