We Bought A Camper Van

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 9:01 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Kyle’s dream has come true. We bought a camper van.

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It’s a 1996 Roadtrek Popular 170. Here’s the inside:

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It has a toilet, shower, fridge, and two beds. Pretty good for a van-sized RV.

We went to Knapp’s Castle, the ruins of a mansion in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

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It burned down in 1940.

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An opera singer used to live there.

Cabin In Mt Tamalpais

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 7:56 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A couple of weeks, friends invited us to spend the night in a cabin in Mt Tamalpais. Can you believe the view off the balcony?

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We had a great time: lots of hiking, board games, listening to people playing music, and seriously, check out this view.

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And at night:

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And in the morning:

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Disneyland, Othello, and Hikes

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 8:11 am on Monday, March 19, 2018

Here are some things we’ve been doing lately:

Disneyland

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Even though I’ve lived in California all my life, I’ve never been to Disneyland. So we took Gideon down there, and had a great time.

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They do what they do well.

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Hikes

This is my favorite time of year to be outdoors in California. Everything is green and cool, the birds are super active, and there are yellow flowers everywhere. So I’ve been going on a lot of hikes.

I was excited to discover a new hike near my home that I didn’t know about. It was eight miles uphill, but I hardly noticed because it had gorgeous views of vineyards and forests the whole way. And then we were on top of a mountain!

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Othello In Ashland

As I mentioned before on here, I’m making my way through all of Shakespeare. So for Valentine’s Day, Kyle and I went to Ashland and saw Othello at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

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It was a good production.

2017 Was A Dumb Year, Hello 2018!

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 10:05 am on Tuesday, January 2, 2018

While everyone was moaning about 2016, personally it was a great year for me. But 2017 was pretty dumb. Just before Christmas, Kyle’s grandmother Ruth passed away. We just came back from her funeral in Kentucky. For much of the fall, most of California was on fire, including my own beloved Sonoma County. It looked like the fire might come into Petaluma, where I live, but luckily that didn’t happen. Still, lots of people lost their homes or were otherwise affected by the fires. And other dumb stuff happened too. My dad was sick with various illnesses, many things I tried to do failed, and Kyle had work strife that, while eventually resolved, was stressful. Finally, my friend’s cat Peja died, which doesn’t sound like much, but she was a special cat.

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Lots of good things happened too. For one thing, I signed with a literary agency.

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And I wrote a number of articles that I’m proud of. Some of these include:

Tight Wires Between Us: On “Difficulties of a Bridegroom” by Ted Hughes in LA Review of Books.

Why Aren’t There More Women Working in Audio? in The Atlantic.

Hollywood Loved Sammy Davis Jr Until He Dated a White Movie Star in The Smithsonian.

How Beatrix Potter Invented Character Merchandising in The Smithsonian.

Bountiful Beach Buffet: Fresh Seaweed Is Making Waves Among Foragers for NPR.

Murmur, a short story in Every Day Fiction.

I was also interviewed by CNN and on XRAY In The Morning in Portland, Oregon. This week there’s a Q&A with me on The Navi Review.

Gideon turned five this year and started kindergarten. Kyle, as I said, switched jobs and is now CSO at Purism. He also published a book, Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks: Server Security from TLS to Tor.

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For travel, I went to the snow in Tahoe, which was lovely.

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And Sequoia National Park, which was astounding.

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And Germany and Austria, which was one of the best trips I’ve taken. I blogged about it.

Part 1: Germany
Part 2: Castles
Part 3: Salzburg
Part 4: Hallstatt

Lots of other things happened. I went wine tasting and saw Laura Marling and Martha Wainwright perform at different points and sailed a blow-up boat in the river and went out to fancy dinners and generally had a nice life. I grew a big garden.

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Check out this bread I made. It looks just like bread.

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I’m looking forward to 2018 being better. I’m being optimistic. I’m going to read a lot of Shakespeare and paint insects and probably go to Greece. I’ll try to write my best work yet. Our country will … not suck so much … ? Well anyway, we’re going to Disneyland on Thursday, so that’s not a bad way to start the year.

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Happy New Year!

Germany and Austria Trip 2017 Part 4: Hallstatt

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 3:36 pm on Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hallstatt is a tiny town in Austria. It sits by a lake and is surrounded by mountains. I’m not kidding when I say it may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. Here’s a picture of the town from Wikipedia.

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To get to Hallstatt, you take a two-hour train ride from Salzburg and then a ferry across a gorgeous lake. While there, we walked around the town, saw a Catholic ceremony, and went to a 7,000-year-old salt mine. Salt has been mined in Hallstatt since the Iron Age. We took a tour of the mine, slid down mining slides, learned about its ancient history, and bought a ton of salt in the gift shop. I don’t have pictures because it was underground, but the salt mine was one of the highlights of the trip. Maybe the highlight.

Pictures of Hallstatt:

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Boat on the pristine water.

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Hiking in the Alps, looking down at the lake.

The town:

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There were lots of tourists, some annoying, some adorable:

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Another boat on the pristine water:

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The salt mine in the Alps.

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This was the Catholic ceremony, which was in German, so I didn’t understand what it was about. This little girl looks exactly like a Christmas ornament I had a child:

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Germany and Austria Trip 2017 Part 3: Salzburg

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 8:25 am on Thursday, October 5, 2017

I liked Germany, but I loved Austria. We spent several days in Salzburg, where they filmed The Sound of Music and where Mozart lived. I liked everything about the place.

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Like this view.

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The people there are so stylish. Is that Audrey Hepburn? No, she’s dead. It’s just a lady walking around.

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This is the glorious church where Mozart was the organist. Can you imagine?

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You can visit Mozart’s birth house. Here’s the clavichord where he composed Requiem and The Magic Feather.

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We also saw a marionette show of The Sound of Music. I wasn’t expecting much, but it was quite powerful and impressive. This is a shot from the scene where the Nazis take over and Von Trapp sings Edelweiss.

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Real edelweiss is an odd, muppety flower.

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Salzburg is a town of steeples.

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And amazing cakes.

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And random unicorn statues.

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There’s a delightful meadow growing beside the river.

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The street musicians are trained classical performers.

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There are several castles you can visit.

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This is the garden of Mirabell Palace. We saw a Mozart concert here.

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Sometimes children perform folk dances in the castle gardens.

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I love castles.

Stay tuned for one last vacation post. It’s about Hallstatt, one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited.

Germany and Austria Trip 2017 Part 2: Castles

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 7:14 am on Sunday, September 17, 2017

While in Fussen, Germany, we visited Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles, which were the homes of Mad King Ludwig. The history is fascinating. It’s well worth the side trip to see these castles, which were built in the 1870s. Personally, I liked Hohenschwangau better. You learn more about Ludwig’s family and it’s more leisurely and interesting. They kind of rush you through Neuschwanstein.

Here’s a tip for visiting the castles: You will have to take a 40-minute walk up a mountain to get to Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s quite a hike, although my 5-year-old was able to do it. There are horse-drawn carriages that go up the hill, which may be a better option, especially if you have trouble walking. Either way, you have to factor going up the hill and back down into your visiting time, so make sure you think about that when planning your trip.

(Also, reserve tickets online or get there first thing in the morning. The tours sell out fast.)

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Hey, it’s Neuschwanstein on a hill!

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And there’s Hohenschwangau. Let’s go there first.

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Hohenschwangau is fantastic.

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Look at the views!

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And this lion statue.

Too bad they wouldn’t let us take pictures inside. Oh well time for a break.

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Let’s eat a schneeball, a snowball, which is really a donut ball.

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Aw, those horses are kissing.
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Now for a walk up the Alps.

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That was hard, but here we are. Up close, Neuschwanstein is less fairytale, more scary fortress.

Too bad we couldn’t take pictures inside. Oh well.

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Here’s another view with Hohenschwangau in the distance.

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And the countryside. Time to hurry down the mountain so we can catch our bus. Thanks, castles.

Next up, Salzburg.

Germany and Austria Trip 2017 Part 1: Germany

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 3:41 pm on Thursday, September 14, 2017

This summer we went to Germany and Austria for vacation. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. It was also really long, so I’ll split it up in a few posts and try to touch upon the highlights. First up, general Germany. We went to Munich, Fussen, and Andechs. While there, we:

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Went to many beer halls.

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Looked at the scenery.

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Ate sausages, especially weisswurst:

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Walked around towns.

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Looked at art.

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Sat in meadows.

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Admired the Alps.

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Wore out our son.

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Visited a 900-year-old monastery, where we also drank enormous beers:

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In short, Germany was great.

Next up, castles!

Sequoia National Park

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 11:37 am on Thursday, May 18, 2017

This has been a busy year so far. I planted a garden, went on many hikes, watched Laura Marling perform, saw a parade, and attended a lobster and rose tasting, where I eavesdropped on rich people arguing about servicing their Audis. I learned that an Audi oil change costs $100, but the service agreement is $700, so if you’re only going to keep the car for three years, it’s better to pay for the oil change out of pocket. However, the other rich people argued, what if your Audi is a lemon? Then you could be out thousands. What then, huh?

I also took several small trips. I went to Monterey, visited the snow in Tahoe, and wrote in a cabin in the redwoods. But the best thing we did was take a spontaneous trip to Sequoia National Park.

I mistakenly thought that sequoias looked like coastal redwoods. Not at all. They are orange, for one thing. Their bark is flat, scratchy, and brittle and spongy at the same time. Imagine a bunch of giant orange trees on top of a huge granite mountain, and that’s Sequoia National Park. Pictures:
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Kyle by sequoias

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Looking up at one of the trees.

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We came upon this cute family holding hands around the tree.

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General Sherman, one of the biggest trees in the world.

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Ranger holding up a pine cone

We also climbed to the top of this:

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That’s Morro Rock. There was a staircase going up to the top. It looked like this:

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Here are some views from the top:

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Gideon also climbed the rock. I was proud of him. Here we are as a family, at the top. This was right at the moment Gideon started acting squirrely and scared us by flopping around.

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No one died.

Goodbye 2016, Which Wasn’t So Bad For Me

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 12:37 pm on Tuesday, December 27, 2016

There’s no arguing that 2016 was a terrible year for the nation as a whole, so I feel almost guilty saying that it was a great year for me personally. Almost every month was full of exciting, fun, or interesting events, and the year felt very full and rich for us.

Sorry.

I mean, 2016 was the year I went up in a hot air balloon. How can I think it was all that bad?

Work went well this year. I attended two artist residencies, completed a draft of a new novel, studied with Paul Harding, was a finalist in a novel contest, spoke on the radio in Ireland and Australia, and published some of my best work so far. Here are my favorite publications from 2016:

We traveled a lot this year. We took a 3,000-mile RV trip to Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Vancouver. Kyle spoke at a computer security conference in Amsterdam, and I took smaller trips to LA, Humboldt County, and Monterey. I also went to Cuttyhunk Island Writer’s Residency and to Wildacres in North Carolina, which was a wonderful experience.


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Is it just me, or are double rainbows becoming more common? I saw at least 10 this year. The best was a full double rainbow that ended in a Montana lake. I’m not sure why this is happening, but I like it.

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I spent a lot of time in nature this year, in the redwoods and the Blue Ridge Mountains, on boats and islands, beside glaciers, in national parks, and near my home in Sonoma County. As such, I had many close encounters with wildlife. I saw a bear, buffalo, elk, big-horned sheep, a bald eagle, two tiny screech owls, a weird spider, deer, chipmunk, and many other creatures.

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Look! A Baby Buffalo!

In 2016, Kyle and I worked at home full time and Gideon attended preschool. He’s starting to read and write. We remodeled our kitchen and added two more chickens to our flock, bringing it to a total of four. I got pretty good at baking bread, but of course my husband one-upped me and made croissants. I went mushroom foraging too, although I’m pretty terrible at it. (Don’t worry, I won’t poison myself.)

As usual, I planted a big garden. I discovered that ground cherries are prolific and delicious and that glass gem corn is disappointing, but makes good popcorn. My mulberry tree continue to be the most delightful plant ever. I killed thousands of box elder bugs—no exaggeration—and they still ate all my nectarines, and a raccoon or fox or skunk ate most of my figs.

Next year, I’m going to be more protective of my fruit.

There you go. A New Year’s resolution.

Happy 2017!

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