Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Of Adrenalin Rushes, Oakland Trips, and Birthdays

Nearly two weeks ago was my birthday, and it was great. The day after I flew off to Oakland to visit with Carl, the Horde, and game at Big Bad Con. I had a blast and learned a few lessons that I am really glad I got refreshers on, and some that I really wished I didn't have to have refreshers on, but they were good.

Yesterday, I had quite the adrenalin rush. The church had rented a one-armed lift, a cherry picker with a basket. It was good to 40 feet straight up in the air. We started by plugging some places in the roof of the church at about 30+ feet in the air, and getting really antsy; but then Gary took it up into a tree with an electric chainsaw, in the rain.

I followed suit and found that it was a lot easier to do than I thought it would be, especially once I got down to actually sawing the limbs. The work itself made a far better focus than the height, and so the fear melted away in the details of the work. Jet had a blast sanding and spray painting safety rails for a ramp. John did a lot of work clearing out gutters. It was a good morning, we got a lot done, and I've been recovering for most of the rest of the weekend. But I wanted to write up at least part of my Bay Area trip. I think, tonight, I want to get to everything but the games during Big Bad Con, and detail the games, themselves, in my usual way...

My birthday was sunny and quite ordinary. I spent most of it doing errands and packing, and taking care of my allergy shots so that they would be done before I left. John and Jet had given me my presents on the weekend, and we'd gone to Johnny Carino's for dinner that evening. So the day itself wasn't extraordinary, but it was very enjoyable. I had a great time watching One Piece with Jet, talking with John, and writing a short story with Allie. One thing that did make it fun, however, was the 90+ birthday wishes I got on Facebook, the constant barrage of good wishes was amazing in its ability to raise my mood.

I managed to get my boarding pass, and everything went very smoothly the next morning. It was a late start morning, and Jet opted to go play with Tanner instead of driving me to the airport. So we got our hugs goodbye as John and I loaded the car up with my stuff. The flight was easy, and the pickup was practiced, as Carl has done this dozens of times before. It was wonderful to see him again, and we talked as he drove us into downtown Oakland to find the Homeroom.

Homeroom Mac and Cheese
It's a restaurant that does only macaroni and cheese. All kinds of mac and cheese, with half a dozen different kinds of cheese, a gluten-free option, and a dozen different things you could add or have as a side dish. I was awfully tempted by the Trailer Mac, which had Niman Ranch hot dogs mixed in it and was topped with potato chips instead of the infamous breadcrumbs. There is a mild dispute over the fact that Homeroom charges $.50 for their bread crumb topping. It's actually Panko, toasted fresh each morning, used to top the dishes, and then they broil it in order to make a crisp before serving it.

The number of forces was mildly overwhelming, but I also love that the waitress came up to us and asked if we wanted the iced tea or the limeade as drinks for starters. I chose the limeade and Carl took the iced tea, we were quite suggestible. We both decided on getting the classic mac & cheese, with a few additions. I chose the fresh green peas, caramelized onions, and bacon. Everything is better with bacon. I love what I got, sauce was velvety and rich, the noodles were al dente, and the cheese was a lovely sharp cheddar. The peas were firm and sweet, complementing the caramelized onions. The bacon added texture, smoke, and a meatiness that contrasted beautifully with the peas and macaroni. The surface of the macaroni was different than normal, a little rougher, as if it were made with brass dies rather than the more commercial stainless steel. I'm not sure, however.

We enjoyed our lunches. They were, however, large enough that there really wasn't room for the lovely desserts.

From there we headed to Menlo Park and Kepler's Books, where Cory Doctrow was going to give a reading as part of his Pirate Cinema book tour. He's going through all of the U.S. and into Canada on the tour, and he said he'd probably be on the road from last February until next February, given that he's releasing three books this year. He was great and came in early and answered random questions while we were all waiting for people to get there for the reading. The odd thing was sitting on this side of the publication fence and listening to him talk about things that are now a part of my everyday life.

I think the most striking thing was hearing Cory say that he liked to write a certain number of words each day, and that when he went back to them in the editing process, that he couldn't tell the difference between the words he'd written on a "good" day and the words he'd written on a day he was convinced everything he wrote sucked. That's something that everyone runs into on a varying basis, but I find that it's the professionals who write even when they don't feel like it.

The other thing I took away from what he said was that while in the old days, authors used to take notes in their notebooks when an idea or thought struck them, Cory found that when he wrote notes to himself, they were often too cryptic to figure out later. If he blogged about them, however, he had to provide context for others, and therefore, would have capture enough context for himself to remember, later.

Lesson: I need to remember to blog more often when it comes to ideas and thoughts about my own writing.

There was all kinds of interesting asides in his answers about how technology favors the attackers, how H.G. Wells assumed that all technology was "bad", but it's really all in how you use it. That things are not just changing quickly, but accelerating. How there will be, someday, this attack on "general purpose computing", and all I could think was that there already is that attack, just under the guise of 'making your computer safe.' When you're having to trust someone other than just yourself for your computer's 'safety', for kid "protection", for sniffing viruses, or a thousand other things that are everyday for Windows users. Granted the person I was with and most of the people in the know don't use Windows, it's still the default OS for the unknowing masses.

Most people don't understand that they can run anything, and that, perhaps, they should preserve the ability to do so. Most people don't care to be bothered.

I loved the ideas behind that crumb of reality. The reading was from Pirate Cinema. It turns on that in the UK there is a law on the books that says that anyone that is accused (not convicted, not proven) of copyright theft three times will have their entire household removed from the Internet for a year. The book follows a kid who does that, and the subsequent consequences on his whole family. It's fascinating, and I would never have learned of that law if I hadn't been there. *laughs*

Afterward, we both bought books to be signed, and I had mine signed over to Jet, as he might want to read that and Little Brother sooner rather than later.

From there we headed back to Carl's place, stopping by the Mecca that is In-and-Out Burger for a very satisfying late dinner. He came in to the hotel with me to help me with my stuff, and sat and talked with me for a bit before he had to go back to his place to help with a Kickstarter. He left me with the instructions of when to meet him in the morning, and it was all good.

The next day Carl picked me up and we headed West. There was a lovely, short stop to visit with diony and her bitty J., who was walking, talking, and demanding exactly the amount of attention a toddler ought. We got to sit and talk for a little while before heading over the hill to Santa Cruz.

We got together with flit and her dog Chance, who was very friendly and didn't mind being left alone as the three of us went to Zachery's for brunch. The food was delicious, and the waitress was really friendly. I got to talk with Flit about gluten-free options, and they prepared a Mess for her with a little extra care to not touch the same parts of the grill they'd recently done bread-related things to. I loved the chocolate swirl coffee cake, and the mini-Mess was lovely, a mix of potatoes, bacon, cheese, green onions, and other good things. There was, however far too much for me to finish, but Flit's husband was happy to take care of the leftovers. One thing to note was that the coffee was constant and very good.

Mermaid Toes
After brunch I walked with Flit out onto the dog beach and saw that the new leash law was being cheerfully ignored by everyone. Flit was very happy about discovering that they weren't enforcing things as strictly as she feared, and spoke about how she was going to be able to take Chance out on a walk there. That was cool.

I also did my ritual of dipping my toes into the surf. It's just something I always do, and I have fun with the question of whether or not I'll turn into a mermaid at the touch of the sea. I also really have enjoyed doing toenail polish since the trip with the Moms in April to Las Vegas. The pedicure there really convinced me that it was possible to wear blue nail polish. I found this bright turquoise at Target and really love layering it over a coat of white, as it shines that much more brilliantly.

Carl availed us of towels when we got back to the car, and then whisked us into downtown Santa Cruz. While we were waiting on Carl to get comics at the comicbook store, Flit lured me, quite brilliantly, into a local dress shop. Most of the dresses there were made locally and they did quite well with custom made dresses. It's not a place I would usually have even looked twice at, but on the way in, my eye caught a glimpse of a sheer dress in a swirling set of sea blues, gems, with no back at all, but the whole thing was beautiful. I tried it on and it fit, perfectly. Flit thought it did a marvelous job with the way my back's made and the tone of my tan. As I was looking at the dress in the mirrors, there was a baby just screaming in the main room.

Momma had to leave the poor tyke to try something on with her two girls, and he was perfectly safe, but all my Momma nerves made me go kneel before him and try and give him my hands and wrap my touch around him. He stopped the completely inconsolable crying, but grabbed at my wrists, rocked in his restraints, and cried a more "Why aren't you picking me up?" kind of cry. It made me very sad, as I couldn't just pick up someone else's baby, and he was quite sad about that, too.

Momma made it out, and he calmed pretty quickly, once she could pick him up; but I was rather frazzled, wanted something nice, and I knew that how much I really had liked the dress when I first saw it. So I bought it. It was on sale, for only $100 when the original tag was for $295. And there was a big part of me that really wanted it.

We went to Hidden Peak Teahouse immediately after that, as that was our original target. It used to be known as Chaikahana, and didn't have a space for serving tea. The new tea house has that, along with snacks. They offer an enormous menu of teas, and three different ways of serving each type. They also had and outdoors serving area that worked out really nicely. We sat out there and got one of each type of service. Flit got the gung-fu service with the Yixing pot, I got the gaiwan, which is a covered teacup that can be poured from, and Carl got a regular teapot with a filter that worked out just fine.

It was a lovely space to sit, sip tea, and enjoy a bittersweet chocolate confection that they had on their menu. The fruitiness and spices of it went beautifully with the green tea I had.

Unfortunately that's also when sincere buyer's remorse took me over, as I wasn't at all sure where I'd wear such a summery dress, especially since I don't usually wear dresses as I have the usual unfortunate girl tendency to not like how I look. Both Flit and Carl were good about encouraging me without pressuring too much, so I kept it.

We dropped Flit off at home, and she showed me her lovely pantry full of gluten-free condiments and I wrote them down for Kelly. That was good. We were able to talk for a while, and I was able to give Flit her commissioned socks! Back in the summer one of the ladies on Google+ was having financial problems because her cat needed medical attention. She sold custom-dyed yarns, and profits from those sales would go to cat care. Flit asked me to buy enough yarn for socks for her along with enough yarn to pay me for knitting them. Carl got the job of measuring Flit's feet, and did an admirable job because the socks fit perfectly when she tried them on.

I was very satisfied with those results, especially since I made up a particular wave pattern for the instep and ankle of her socks.

From there we headed to Los Altos and Chef Chu's. It's a traditional stop for us when I come to visit, and usually everyone in the area likes to come eat there with us. We had Trip, Cera, Ken, Christie, Chris, Teo, Susan, Bryant, Carl, and I. Marith couldn't make it and I did miss being able to see her. The menu ended up on one of my cards, as it was easier to write it down than to try and remember it. We had the following:
  • Pork and Preserved Mustard Soup
  • Potstickers
  • a Pork Bun for Teo
  • Beef Sticks
  • A whole Tea-smoked Duck
  • A Whole Fish in ginger garlic sauce
  • Snow White Chicken
  • Pan-seared Black Pepper Steak
  • Claypot with beef and basil
  • Peashoots with garlic sauce
  • Roast Pork Chow Fun
  • Szechzuan Green Beans

It was quite a feast. The best part was being able to catch up with everyone and see how their lives had turned the last year. The number of people went to Cold Stone for ice cream afterward, and it was nice to find out that Susan and Bryant going to be at Big Bad Con for at least part of the weekend. Susan had moved from the East Coast with Bryant, and it was really nice to get to talk to her in person.

Carl drove us back to Pleasanton. He dropped me off at the front door of the hotel, and I went and packed everything because we were leaving the next morning for Big Bad Con.
Tags: adventure, travel

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