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Rick Keir's Journal

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4th May 2011

6:56pm: Dar Williams - Amalee
I was requesting some CDs from the library, and found out that Dar Williams had also written two children's books, Amalee and Lights, Camera, Amalee.

Definitely recommended. Amalee is about an 11 year old girl whose father is seriously ill, and who has so much family-by-choice that it feels like a Joss Whedon story (minus the vampires!). The sequel goes on to deal with her just starting adolescence, and she is more concerned about figuring out herself, who she is, that the more usual adolescent novel that is all about sex. Bonus points for having a gay male character whose orientation just is, rather than being a major focus of angst and crisis.

As you might expect from a lyricist, Dar can turn out some very striking sentences. Examples:
"Your shorts say 'safari' but your shirt says 'meeting the girls for lunch'.
and
"I also thought of two girls I'd been not-really-friends with in the sixth grade: Ellen and Hallie. They had always been good at finding the most clever way to say a mean thing about a person. [...] I'd stopped being friends with Ellen and Hallie - or maybe they'd stopped being friends with me - but they still visited my mind from time to time when I was wearing pants that felt too tight or I had an idea that felt stupid."
Current Mood: happy

9th January 2011

12:28am: Croce's
Having a wonderful time.Mostly boring food stuff - you've been warned.

Dinner tonight at Croce's.. We got there about 7:30 after wandering the Gas Lamp quarter of San Diego (including a stop at the Altitude Sky Lounge in the Marriott, which is a rooftop bar with no cover. Like about 3/4s of the people on the roof at 5pm, we just walked in, looked over the rail at San Diego, and left. Spectacular view. I'm glad they don't try to keep it locked up or charge cover. The Altitude Lounge staff were very friendly even tho it was obvious we weren't there to buy a drink.

At Croce's, someone came by and asked if I'd "like to buy a rose for the lady", but I had to say that "she knows me too well." She does, too -- 32 years last August. It occurred to me, when the flower lady came by, that of my four closest male friends, one is Sean, another is Mary's first boyfriend, and one of the other two is gay. One of my closest female friends was Mary's best friend in high school.


Around 8:30, the night's band, Agua Dulce, started. Latin music, we enjoyed our food and took our time over the meal. Afterwards, Mary said "I really like eating slowly!".

Picture behind cut, and some menu memoriesCollapse )

Sleepy. Bed now.
Current Mood: sleepy

19th November 2010

11:22pm: what we ate
because I want to remember:

We went hiking from 2 to 5 in the redwoods, while it rained. We were cold and wet when we got to College Avenue, where we wanted to try out a new restaurant.

Our dinner at À Côté, was a gift from Mary and Sean because "you've been working so hard". Hot toddies were a big hit, and hunger made the meal all that much better. Three different appetizers: mussels and a cream sauce with garlic; a kind of rabbit pate that came with quince jelly, mustard and pickles, ready to be spread on pieces of toasted bread; and "moroccan chicken in phyllo with Mint Yogurt, Mache and Oranges".

For dinner, we ordered two of "pomegranate braised duck leg with Couscous, Almonds and Dried Apricots", and one of "pancetta wrapped coho salmon with Sun Chokes, Cipollini Onions, Crispy Artichokes and Brown Butter Vinaigrette". There's a nice review of the place on SFGate at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/25/DDB11ER0RT.DTL

Then we went to Crepe Vine down the street and ordered dessert crepes.

In other memories:

One of the best times Mary had this trip were when she and I stopped at Le Zinc in Noe Valley. Tired and footsore as well as thirsty, we ordered lemonades. We got a pitcher of water and another of sugar syrup, plus a thing of squeezed lemon juice. She had a great time making up her own glass "It's like doing chemistry with Mom!". She's repeated this comment more than once a day every day this week.

A second great time was when we found a slope in the trail with a bunch of pine cones, and played pine cone golf, which consisted of trying to kick the cone so it would bounce down the trail as far as possible. This was harder than it looked - the trail was bendy and we kept having our cones stopped by branches, roots, and odd bumps in the trail. Many comments of "that was great!" for the rest of the hike, possibly because she skunked both Sean and me both times we played :).

And a third great time was the hot toddies, enhanced by our being generally pretty chilled and damp when we sat down.

Of course, the best time this week was having Sean get back home, but that wasn't really part of my vacation - just hers!

28th May 2010

12:42pm: for my friends at Wiscon
I have come down with something sore throatish. I've been hiding in my room and sleeping when I can.

If I seem unenthusiastic this weekend, that's why. Rest assured it isn't you. Carry on!

23rd February 2010

12:54pm: here comes the sun...
walked over to Engineering at lunch to buy coffee, just to get outside into the sunlight.

When I printed my March calendar page this morning, I noticed that sunset will be at 6 pm, welcome after the days where it was before 4:30. Then Daylight Savings Time kicks in and all of a sudden the sun isn't down till 7 PM.

There was much rejoicing.
Current Mood: hopeful

18th January 2010

4:04pm: It never rains

Second time in my life I've been to San Diego. It poured the last time too.

Blisters on feet and I've lost 4 pounds. Marys favorite question is "where are we going hiking tomorrow?"

Counting the remaining hours.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

13th January 2010

11:17pm: Shiny Happy People
How to get a goodl hotel: when Sean first moved to San Diego, Mary and I both did some web searches for "inexpensive san diego hotel", and got a list of places which were humdrum and small. For this trip, I looked in the guide books for "great places to stay", and for about $50 a day more we have a suite with a full kitchen. When I was a college student, my older brother used to tell me "It only costs a little more to go first class" (insert video clip of my niece saying "Dad?" while raising her eyebrows), and in this case, he was right.

Park Manor Suites is absolutely fabulous. We booked a freaking huge one bedroom suite for $160 a night, which gives us a full kitchen (four burner stove, oven, full refrigerator, sink, plus pots and pans and a few dishes). Queen bed for Mary and Sean in the bedroom, murphy bed in the living room for me. The living room has a low chest of drawers, a writing desk, a coffee table, a games table used to hold a TV, a sofa, two wing chairs, and two end tables with lamps. There's a dressing area that, in a college town, would be called a room, with a big closet, a decent size safe (not the crappy kind that's only big enough for some jewelry, and can be opened with a can opener), an ironing board and a dressing table. This really is a suite - there are two doors between me and them, which is good 'cause they're sleeping and I'm typing. Oh yeah, there's a balcony with a table and two chairs also.

When I booked the room last night, I told the guy on the phone I really appreciated how friendly he'd been, and he assured me that all the staff - front desk, restaurant, housekeeping - were really friendly. And they have been.

A few of the online reviews suggested this place needed to be updated, because they were written by philistines. The style and furnishings of this place remind me of the house I grew up in, with added wifi. Well maintained old furniture is better than new, as you will find if you ever try to buy nice old pieces of furniture.

I am very amused by some of the comments: the one about "Over the weekend of my stay (New Year's 2010), I noticed an abundance of international and gay travelers" which is not surprising, as the Hillcrest neighborhood is San Diego's gay/lesbian/whatever district, and the one about "I was greeted by the most cheerful, helping guys. Joe was able to answer all of my many questions", because Joe was the guy I got also. The part about being gay friendly turns out to be important, because as Richard Florida notes in The Creative Class, many straight people like me have learned to use acceptance of the GLBT population as a quick index of how well they'll like a place. Open minded places tend to be well run and fun for everyone including straights.

getting startedCollapse )

book shopping and food natterCollapse )
Current Mood: content

12th January 2010

10:25pm: In the desert, you can't remember your name
Overlook Trail, Palm Canyon Oasis trail, and finished with a slot canyon. There's a bit of driving between them. The slot canyon was gorgeous and fun, as was the oasis, and before that, the overlook. The park has a lot of varied hiking and scenery, with the minor flaws of (1) trails are far apart, and sometimes need considerable off road driving to reach the trailhead, and (2) geez, there are a lot of tourists here. We hiked alone out to the oasis, but we took our time and enjoyed the sights, so when we got there we'd accumulated four other groups of hikers who arrived a few minutes after we did. To quote a German friend's complaint about their trip to Yosemite: "Everywhere! German tourists!"

Not hot, but very dry - I can tell by how much water we're drinking when we stop, and how few pit stops any of us need.

Hiked Alcoholic Pass today -- hard on the ankles going up, but then very pleasant and scenic along the top of the pass. Hard on the toes going down, rock and sand and steep, so your toes get jammed in the front of your boot.

We wanted to do a second slot canyon today, but it was mid afternoon when we started down the sand road to the trailhead. We eventually decided to leave the car and walk (we weren't in a four wheel drive), and after a while we ran into two 4WDs coming out, who told us the trail head was still 1.5 miles away, before you got to the actual canyon. We decided to call it a bad idea to hike a canyon as the dark fell and then drive out on a non-road after dark, so we turned around and headed back. We're sleeping in Encinitas but will be taking in San Diego tomorrow.
Current Mood: tired

9th January 2010

9:44pm: the days are just packed ...
as Calvin said.

Quail Gardens yesterday, a botanical garden near San Diego. In the late afternoon we went to La Jolla to the beach, but owing to traffic, total lack of parking, and not understanding the distance from the entrance to the actual beach, we only saw a few minutes before sunset. We went on to D. G. Wills Books in La Jolla. A great used and new bookstore, with the packed to overflowing decor of the truly great bookstore. One of the owners helped me out, chatted with me about his photo books, showed me some good books from his local history section that covered Anza Borrego, and just made the whole thing a very pleasant expedition. I did buy a lot of books, but

Today we went to Ramona (hawk watching for a couple of hours), Dudley (baked bread), Julian (pie) and Anza Borrego (sleeping here and hiking). We only had time for a short hike before dark but it gave me an idea of what hiking in the desert is like (scrambling over rocks, because it's hard to distinguish the trail from non-trail). We've rented a three bedroom house, with full kitchen, a garage, and washer/dryer, for (drum roll) $110 a night. I've been pleasantly shocked by how much more you get just renting a whole house than you do for a hotel room. Admittedly, this doesn't work as well for events like WisCon, but if you're doing outdoors stuff, sites like http://vrbo.com and http://homeaway.com are well worth looking into.

Pictures and perhaps some details eventually, but for now the days are just packed, and the nights contain clean up work (packing for the next day, clearing photos off of memory cards and into a semi-organized library, recharging all the various batteries), plus planning where we're going. I have Sean's computer down here and hope to get a little time at night to figure out what's making it slow (apart from the whole Windows sucks thing).

Getting up early. Bed soon.
Current Mood: happy

7th January 2010

10:31pm: got legs?
Breakfast at St. Tropez in Encinitas, lunch outdoors at the Pannikin, a converted railroad station. Good meals, both of them. In between, we went to Swami Beach (surfers) and the meditation garden above it. Rested a bit in the afternoon, because I'm getting wussy for being on my feet for hours, then over to another beach where we walked at sunset. The fog came in just as the sun went down, covering it as it touched the ocean. Tonight, I set up the wireless access point we bought at Fry's yesterday, and then used it to surf for accomodations (we should have done this sooner, but it's just been a busy season for all of us and it's hard to commit for three very different people without firm plans).

It looks like we might do 3 days in the desert, hiking, and 3 days in San Diego. The desert is the problem because the accomodation choices are so limited and a lot of them are damn expensive (houses that rent by the month for people who want to golf at a resort, i.e., people with expense accounts). The hotels are all small (7, 12, 14 rooms) and get very mixed reviews...some with way too many complaints about cleanliness.

Nice dinner, Sean and Mary made us cold shrimp with some mango and a hottish sauce, and then some cooked zucchini to go with it,a nd a glass of inexpensive red wine. Music on Sean's boom box is Marc Cohen...and now we're going to bed.
Current Mood: happy

6th January 2010

11:05pm: Next stop, Sean's place

Sean & Mary picked me up, lunch at OUTDOOR cafe. Met two of his new friends, saw Up in the Air, really enjoyed it. Two hour Thai dinner and talk for the five of us, then back to Sean's place where I configured Marys laptop to disable trackpad when an external mouse is plugged in (the secret is to get the LATEST trackpad driver in order to have this option).

Bed now. Very happy. Warm.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

12:57am: Any routers to mend?
Continuing a travel tradition, I have done computer maintenance for my host, in this case my sister and brother-in-law. I got their wireless working again after a support tech had told them several bogus things, added an Airport Express to extend the network into the study, got a new wireless printer installed, and showed my sister how to add a plug-in for iPhoto so she can more easily upload pictures. I told my sister that I should be a modern day tinker, walking down the street calling "Routers! Routers to mend! Any routers to mend!".

We took my niece to school in the morning and then had breakfast with my nephew's preschool, where he kept introducing me as "This is my Uncle Wick!" His teacher told me he kept talking about me yesterday. The niece has been taking pictures with the little point and shoot camera I bought her for Christmas which makes me happy - she's young for a camera but she's using it, which is the main thing - I told my sister to just view it as a consumable which would need to be replaced eventually. Generic point and shoots are fairly cheap if you shop the Internet for a model that's older than 6 months.

Good chats with my sister in the day. An after- school trip to Fry's, where she looked at tripods for her camera and I showed her a cheap USB adapter to let her read the cards from her camera onto the computer instead of using the cable.

Very busy. Kids need a lot of attention. Played "throw the pillow" every chance they got. If I'd been willing, I think we could have played that till they dropped over from exhaustion.

Having fun. Meeting Sean and Mary tomorrow. Bed now.
Current Mood: tired

4th January 2010

2:48pm: Trains, Mr. Frodo!

Sorrano Valley on the Coaster. We just passed a guy with no shirt.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

10:52am: On the road
Heading out for two weeks in southern California, seeing my sister and her family, and then going hiking with Mary and Sean (Sean is working down in the San Diego area so they're running two households this year).

And I see my flight will be boarding soon, so this may cut off quickly. Yes, there I go!

Tip for those of you coming to Wiscon - check to see if you're on a CRJ (Canadian Regional Airjet, which is most of what United flies in/out of Madison), because the overhead compartment is smaller on these planes. I fly with a Thinktank "Airport Antidote" backback because I know it will fit into the overhead or under the seat, while many carry ons don't. Judging by the boarding line, a number of people this morning didn't know this, and ended up having to gate check their bags.

Manbagaholic nattering behind linkCollapse )

On the ground in Denver early, so time for a decent lunch before my next plane. In San Diego, I've still got a 10 minute bus ride and an hour on the train. Objects in motion remain in motion.

O'Hare is nice this time of year,
I check my bags, and find my seat,
and buy a beer
and settle in.
Such is my life here on the road
now my seatback is up, tray table stowed ....

-- Jonathan Coulton, "Skymall"
Current Mood: excited

19th December 2009

4:45pm: a few travel hacks
Getting ready for a trip to visit OMM and Sean just after the New Year.

I'm connecting thru Denver, so I Googled "Denver International Airport Gate Maps" and downloaded maps of each concourse, organized into two albums depending on whether I wanted food or the gate (alas, the maps are small enough that you can't really have a usable map with both on them, but hey, that's why albums exist, to help you distinguish stuff like this).

Then I started collecting useful, mostly free, iPhone apps. "Metro" gives you access to mass transit schedules around the world. "SitorSquat" helps you locate the nearest toilet. "Mailbox Find" finds the nearest mailbox, UPS or FedEx location; "OpenTable" helps you get online restaurant reservations, "Wi-Fi Finder" finds free wi-fi, "Cheap Gas" finds gas stations, "Point Inside" helps you find your way around shopping centers. Some of these are only useful in big metro areas, while other use existing web-based databases to work in much smaller towns.

I also loaded up on some free e-books in case I get stuck in transit (Denver International in January is a gamble to connect thru, but then, so is O'Hare).

I have high hopes for sending photo post cards to my non-digital family members, either from iPhone camera shots or from pictures I sync from my laptop. I've got Bill Atkinson's "Photocard", which lets me design a picture post card and address it. It gets printed and mailed by a high quality printer, and you pay for it with credits you can buy with PayPal, for between $1.50 and $2.00 (volume discounts). You can send e-cards with it for free.

Unrelated but funny: I saw a Youtube video of the Indigo Girls, with a comment "The great thing about seeing them in concert is there's no line in the men's room!"
Current Mood: working
4:29pm: Range of motion
Saw the ortho doctor on Thursday, got x-rays, was told that I didn't need to see them any more, to get an exercise and physical therapy program from my HMO, and that, in a year or so, my arm would be back to normal. Okay, so that last bit wasn't so hot, but basically its good. I have most of my range of motion back after cracking my humerus in my right arm, and the motion I don't have is mostly the backwards reach, which is not as important. Going forward or up I'm the same in both arms.

I am glad I have good health insurance, and I hope that this Christmas will bring better health insurance for more Americans.
Current Mood: happy

22nd November 2009

11:21pm: old movies
Lucy and I have been on an old movie kick lately, watching the Marx Brothers, Peter Sellers (A Shot in the Dark, The Mouse That Roared), and now onto Audrey Hepburn. I'd never seen Funny Face, nor even really known what it was about. It has Audrey Hepburn as a bookstore clerk turned model, working with a photographer called "Dick Avery", using real photos taken by Richard Avedon and Bill Avery. However, Fred Astaire's "Dick Avery" is definitely not a Russian/Jewish New Yorker: he's Fred Astaire. Too bad, as Avedon is himself fascinating.

Damn, Audrey Hepburn dominates the screen. I've only ever seen her in a couple of televised versions (i.e., commercials!) of Sabrina, and when I was a teenager, in Breakfast at Tiffany's, and My Fair Lady as a small child. Those didn't leave any impression, probably because I wasn't old enough to appreciate them. I had no idea ... well, just insert a Keanu Reeves "whoa" here. She's also does a great dance number, which was bastardized with an AC/DC soundtrack for a Gap commercial a few years ago. To quote Opus from Bloom County, "Half Naked Exploding Porpoises!"

The movie's also got Kay Thompson, who wrote the Eloise books, as a silly cariacture of a fashion editor, the kind who decides on a whim that women everywhere will wear pink:
Red is dead, blue is through,
Green's obscene, brown's taboo.
And there is not the slightest excuse for plum or puce
—or chartreuse.
Which left me humming "Pretty in Pink", by the Psychedelic Furs, which is emphatically NOT about fashion.
Current Mood: contemplative
11:04pm: quick shoulder and travel update
saw the orthopedist on Thursday. The humerus is definitely healing properly, no surgery will be needed. Physical therapy started.

Still taking pain meds - had to go back up after work trip to Iowa City with co-workers this week. Long car rides, hotel beds, and sitting around a conference table day not conducive to keeping pain under control.

On the plus side, really enjoyed spending time with peers. It's always good to meet with others who do the same thing you do, which usually means travel, as we don't run to a lot of redundancy in job duties around here.

Also on the plus side, Iowa City was very pretty: felt like it had gotten as big as a downtown can before they start knocking down the nice stuff and building modern glass and steel atrocities, and then stopped growing.
Current Mood: thoughtful
10:59pm: I love my granola eating, Birkenstock wearing town
I was walking in my neighborhood when I saw a woman pull her car up by a house, get out, and pick up two big bags of leaves and some moldy pumpkins that had been left out for the city's leaf collection.

My neighborhood: where even your compost gets trash picked.
Current Mood: amused

11th November 2009

9:48am: Armistice Day
"Some of you young men think that war is all glamour and glory,
but let me tell you, boys, it is all hell."

-General William Tecumseh Sherman
Current Mood: thoughtful

2nd November 2009

6:01pm: Zombie Library Terminal
Zombie Library Terminal
Zombie Library Terminal,
originally uploaded by rdkeir.
The Sequoya branch of the Madison Public Library has self checkout terminals. They offer English and Spanish directions. Lately, theyve offered other choices, such as "Pirate" one day, "Pig Latin" another (anScay ourWay ookBay owNay). Saturday, they had "Zombie", so no matter what you did, the voice said 'BRAINNNNZZZZZ".

Appropriately, they changed the usual picture of "How to Scan" with one featuring "Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice And Zombies".
5:58pm: Life notes
Arm slowly getting better, 5 more weeks in a sling. God bless pain killers. I am down to half the original dosage. My big worry now is that, as my arm hurts less, I'll be tempted to use it more, which will interfere with the bone healing.

I was too tired/full of painkillers to deal with Trick and Treaters so I slept thru that on Saturday. Lucy and I had a mostly quiet birthday weekend. I remain astonished at my friends who are on chronic pain meds, as I am not particularly injured or in pain.

However, last night our neighbors Kathy and Gary did have us over for a combined birthday dinner, with their two youngest kids. Another neighbor, Michelle, came over with her daughter and daughter's friends, plus a birthday cake and some ice cream. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to Lucy and me. That was about right - something pleasant but not a full blown party.

Lucy and I exchanged various gifts: I'm reading John Keegan's new book on the Civil War that she gave me, while she's flipping back and forth between two new cookbooks.

I've gotten better at typing with MacSpeech Dictate (it works surprisingly well, PROVIDED you have version 1.5.5; I've read many bad reviews of the earlier version).

Quick iPhone tip: there are many different iPhone camera apps, most of them combining a way to trigger the iPhone's camera with some kind of art filter (fisheye, vignette, wild colors, etc.). I rearranged my iPhone's app screens so that there is one camera application on EACH page of apps, always in the upper right hand corner. That way, I can get to my camera quickly no matter what "page" I'm on.
Current Mood: medicated

23rd October 2009

3:19pm: kids say ...
last night I was talking to my sister. She asked her son "Do you want to talk to Uncle Rick?"

He did, babbling in that way kids do where you can neither understand the words or the context. He said goodbye, and she got back on the phone, when suddenly, frantically, he thought of one more thing to say.

he giggled, and then very clearly said "STUPID HEAD!" and started laughing.

I was laughing, too, though my sister was of course stuck in trying to reinforce good behavior in the small ones.

While I was at the clinic on Wednesday, in between X-rays, I read Michael Lewis's Home Game (excerpt can be found at http://www.cookiemag.com/entertainment/2009/05/home-game-excerpt), which is a very funny book about his kids, and just the sort of thing you want to read when you're waiting for the opium derivatives to kick in and make your shoulder stop hurting. It opens with a hilarious story about his kids and things you shouldn't say, which I won't spoil for you: go to a bookstore and read the intro, and if you like it, buy the book.
Current Mood: amused

21st October 2009

7:32pm: Easier than telling friends one on one .... shoulder injury
While dashing across the street this afternoon I tripped and came down hard on my right shoulder. I spent the rest of the afternoon at GHC, where they sent the X-ray image over the network to a radiologist at UW (and how cool is that, this is something I saw at Internet2 some years ago, and now it’s running in my local HMO!)

Awesome tech aside, however, the radiologist wanted more X-rays because they found a small crack. He or she finally decided I could wait overnight to be seen. So the GHC guy put me on pain meds and into a sling, and are sending me to the UW Ortho clinic tomorrow. More details after I see the docs.

This is not horrible, as long as I'm on pain meds (1/2 hour to next pill and the old one is still working, hurray), but sleeping will be a pain, driving is out for now, and I am no longer a touch typist.

I’m lucky to have both good insurance and an excellent HMO. Many people in America have neither. Support the public option, Medicare-E (for Everyone).
Current Mood: sore

20th October 2009

1:57pm: Conan, what is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Or, if you're an IT guy, to know that you've just given your second presentation for your Fall awareness series, and that LCD projectors, multiple adapter cords, and blown projector bulbs are in your past, at least for a while.

In other news, it turns out that a Google Image search on the seemingly innocent term "old professor" will turn up some extremely NSFW images, even on the first page.
Current Mood: relieved
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