Epic journey to the south

This morning I took the bus to BART, changed trains in Balboa Park (having a look around as I waited), onward to Millbrae, to Caltrain, then I had thought I was going to take light rail to the Mountainview office but the stop was eliminated in 2015 so I caught a small shuttle bus (happily, accessible.)

I took notes ecstatically on the weird concrete wall patterns (different in every station) and which ones were like deep canyons; the bronze statues in their narrative cement cocoons in Millbrae; which stations were above ground; and lots of notes today and last night about the Ramaytush and other Ohlone people of the areas I was traversing.

Interspersed with Ingress and Pokemon catching it made a pleasant ride. On Caltrain I was even able to work a little bit as it wasn’t crowded and just felt OK to do, while it would seem obnoxious to me on BART. So, in between all that I started the process of releasing Firefox 66 beta 10 and answering bugmail.

Happy hour with some nice people from the office on Castro street – then all the buses and trains in reverse order, this time whenever I wasn’t in tunnels, looking up the art and artists and architects of some of the stations.

Some random observations – the platform floor in Balboa Park is very smooth marble, pleasant to roll across. The Millbrae complex (largest intermodal station west of the Mississippi!) is beautiful if you take a step back from it and admire its soaring winglike structures of steel, glass, and fiberglass.

Also noted: There should be more high density housing on the Peninsula near the BART and Caltrain stations. Some high rise apartments will not ruin your lives, NIMBYs!!

Neighborhood mural goats

I just met my neighbors who have the goats and it was so nice to chat with them! It turns out they have goats because they’re firefighters and they don’t want their yard to be overgrown and be a fire hazard. Therefore, goat gardeners! I suggested a goat window in their fence so we can all admire the adorable beasts.

Another neighbor is giving me a ridiculously nice end table (I am going to offer to pay though) As I was passing by when he was putting stuff out on the sidewalk & I asked about the table (not yet out but looked like it was in line.)

Had a nice chat also with Matthew from Bernalese as i obtained the perfect glasses to put inside Danny’s silly fake antique globe thing in his office (Inherited with the office I believe — and the same kind that I had in the houseboat, inherited from the houseboat owner.) There are tall straight glasses and then a nice cocktail or wine glass with a stem called a Nick and Nora glass.

I went out looking for Bob who lives across from the Safeway on the street to give him a good World War II book I got out of the free bin at Dog Eared Books. He wasn’t there so I will just keep the book in my wheelchair undercarriage till i see him next.

Also!! I heard a rumor the fabulous artist Crayone is going to paint a mural in our neighborhood. omgggg!

Balboa Park BART station, take 1

At the beginnning of the year I promised reviews of all the BART stations and that morphed into this game writing project. So, instead of going to a new BART station every week I’ve been writing the underlying infrastructure of the game; the ticketing system, the train system itself, and a skeleton of all the stops and train lines.

Now that I have a decent infrastructure I’m ready to bop around town and observe some stations. Last night’s adventure in Balboa Park, I didn’t have a lot of time to explore but I did get an interesting impression of this massive nexus for SF trains. The new glass and steel was in places very lovely while my experience of the station was still one of being in a confusing and rather dangerous labyrinth. The routes for wheelchair users are not clearly marked – at all – debouching at least twice into railyards where my path was unclear and led me to be about 2 inches from passing trains or crossing the tracks right after a train comes around a curve as I went from the station to the tiny mysterious platform where you wait for the inbound J train. Granted that’s in a railyard so not likely the trains would be going fast. But it’s unsafe.

Despite that I kind of enjoyed my wanderings and liked seeing the evening MUNI trains trundle into their little homes! (Huge long sheds for maintenance; I am so curious to see inside them a bit more!)

Balboa Park is the end point and railyard for MUNI as well as being a BART station, with Cameron Beach Yard and Green Light Rail Center for train maintenance. Historically several other train lines had railyards here.

The maze like brutalism of this station has a sort of charm when I consider that it’s in part because it’s a station designed around the needs of trains, not the needs of people. As it’s next to a highway, the surrounding landscape of the station is designed to hold space for trains AND cars, with pedestrian bridges as an afterthought. Like little ants or wheeled beetles we crawl around on the concrete and steel geography, lacking rails, in our unruly swarms. Servitors of the machine! Hail the mighty ones! Temple of the trainyard! etc.

To enhance this station there should be more maps and diagrams, even a lovely metal 3-D model on a little pedestal, for people to understand its structure more intuitively, and more information about the history of the yards and how the trains are maintained. More elevators would also be VERY NICE.

For the surroundings, I am very interested in my next visit to go to Pineapples a few blocks away and get a Dole Whip (non alcoholic) and then visit the park itself where I noticed the playground looked like fun and there was a lively skate park.

New coffee holder for my powerchair

I had a pretty nice bottle holder for a bike that fastened onto a little bar on my powerchair, with a velcro strap, but it was not firmly fastened enough and would slew sideways. Then while it was sideways I went through a narrow doorway and scraped it right off, breaking the strap and the doohickey that attaches the strap. I’ve had my eye out for a new one for a couple of weeks.

Today I picked up the perfect thing, a bottle cage holder attaching gizmo, called a Minoura BH100 . It is super perfect – you can change the angle, it clamps on firmly and yet has a quick release. That gives some little bolt holes for fastening on a bottle cage. Perfect as this means I don’t have to try to drill holes in the frame of my chair.

I had two choices of cage, and went for the slightly less sturdy option simply because it seems a little more flexible for my metal travel mug.

Which is also perfect by the way . . . I like these 10 oz Chantal travel mugs. Not plastic, very sturdy, easy to clean, can open it with one hand by pushing the button on top and close it again with the same button so it’s ergonomic and also easy to deal with while driving your chair around.

OK, I realize that means I spent 55 bucks on fancy gear but I love always having hot tea or coffee with me. Nice while taking the bus or doing errands. Saves me buying coffee at times but other times if I’m out and buying a drink I can fill up my travel mug. Very handy!

Other stuff dangling off the chair: I have a “baggolini” that fits perfectly on one of the arms, and can be worn facing inside (I have several inches to spare between me and the arms even on the smallest Model CI – I do wish they had an even smaller narrower size.) This is going to be modified soon to have quick release buckles and better adjustability, because I need it to buckle separately with 2 straps over the arm in different places and it would be nice to be able to easily take it with me. This might benefit from expert help from someone better at sewing than me.

Underneath in the basket thing, which still rattles though I keep trying to add foam and tape to muffle the sound, I have a pouch to carry the charging cord and a spare pen and some duct tape. And also a tiny camera pouch velcroed around a slot in the undercarriage with emergency supplies (money, tampons, handkerchief, inhaler, allergy meds).

The back still puzzles me a bit. The protruding horns to hang backpack on are too shallow to fit the backpack plus shopping bags that they’re realistically going to have. So I’m thinking of trying to make them longer with sugru. The other problem in the back is that the slot for velcro for a cane holder interferes with the backpack strap action. If I have my backpack (or shopping bag or bags) hanging on the back, then put my cane through the strap, then need to get the backpack or bags off again, they get all tangled up. Ideally I’d like the cane to slot securely (while folded) just under the seat so I can reach down to grab it instead of reaching behind.

Coding day and a lucky find

I wrote some truly horrible code today which I’m embarrassed will see daylight, but at least it works now. Getting the trains to report the time till arrival accurately posed some weird problems. There is surely a less clunky way to write it. BUT IT WORKS and I never want to think about it again. (Until I do, then will refactor mightly.)

Briefly went out in the sun and cold to do an errand and feed yatima’s cats. On the way home there was some pretty nice free furniture out on the curb. I have been meaning to replace the kids’ desk with a nicer one (which means a bunch of measuring and a time consuming errand and a conumdrum of getting a desk delivered). Their old desk is a very janky thing that is not quite a desk. Maybe it was a side table? It has a shelf underneath that stops you from putting your legs properly under the desk. And I had to repair one side of it with duct tape. But it was free and was on the sidewalk a block away.

And!!!! Now!!!! Another free desk just across the street from our house, a much better one, solid, sturdy, with one small drawer, very desky, just the right size (bigger) and painted a pleasant, not too childish, bright blue. It is in good shape but not so nice that you would need to worry about messing it up. As you may guess I got Danny to carry it with his mighty muscles across the street and then we both shoved it up the stairs. It looks super nice now. As usual, I forgot to take a “before” pic.

My feeling of triumph! The desk is good! I have arranged it beautifully in the room! I hope the kids will be impressed with me but of course mostly I just hope they like it and use it.

Danny has been livestreaming on Code Therapy a bunch today talking with someone named lambda malformation and some other …. probably Lisp nerds…. It’s soothing and he doesn’t seem to mind if I suddenly start cursing my screen or talking to the cat in the middle of his livestream.

My game is getting a little more fun and playable. I’m filling out 24th St. Mission station and its surroundings and I’ve started on 16th. Some of the puzzles are now in place. Next I might add conversations or more complex behavior with the NPCs (currently a tamale lady (not THE tamale lady), a flower seller, a street preacher, and a raccoon.

blue desk in a little room

Random encounters in the rain

Little bursts of heavy rain and the streets nearly deserted in the evening. Walking out of La Taqueria (the quality has sadly fallen off lately) we went by a couple of people huddled in a doorway, me hunkering down under 3 different scarves looking miserable. “Unnnnnnnnngh!!!!” said one of the huddled people, in a comradely way. “NNNNNNNGHHH!!” I answered, cringing back at them as we fought nature, red in tooth and claw or at least brutal in trickling wetness down the back of your neck.

A bit further on a guy came out of The Knockout just another spate of giant raindrops clattered down. “Nooooooo! Cold!” I shrieked. “Wet!!!!” “RIGHT!??????!!!!!!” said the guy, sharing the general outrage and dismay, a terrible sense of betrayal.

We ducked into the bar hoping it would pass. Emerging again 5 minutes later into slightly less of a downpour, we passed a girl in a woolly hat coming out of Pizza Hacker. She looked around as if she could not believe what was happening to her. So unfair!

How can our city do this to us!

I think it’s a thing now to play up our surprise as if we never fucking experienced rain before. It’s kind of cute.

Bus encounter of the day

I got on the bus just before a very old lady with a walker and a fancy hat, as the driver let the ramp down first and it makes more sense to park my chair before her walker, kind of shrugging and smiling a little and she nodded and smiled back. I am so relieved she isn’t annoyed. She is very beautiful, her skin drawn very fine over her high cheekbones. On the bus she asked me some questions about my chair. How much… What was the cause… She would like one maybe but feels she needs the exercise. She has a nice accent, faintly British sounding but African or Caribbean, I can’t tell. I talked about my free tai chi class at the senior center. Another lady got on with a very large wide walker and could not get past. “Mira….” she said, grabbing the first lady’s walker to fold it. “No, you can’t…” The walker was not foldable because the basket underneath was full of stuff including Michele Obama’s book. No, no, I’ll go back here (I slowly trundle further back on the luckily uncrowded bus) and turn around, then there’s room. The first lady didn’t want to scoot down a seat. So the one with the large walker was now able to go around and sit next to her. “What does that mean, Cowwwwwmoooca?” “….?” Comooooooca over there on that sign? I peer around the front of the bus. “Cumaica. I ummmm I don’t think that’s a spanish word it’s probably from some indian language like the name of a place. Maybe it’s Mayan? Or like, sounds more like an um, Taino or Arawak sort of language? I don’t know” THe spanish speaking lady nods when I sum this up as “una palabra de los indios?”. Well you can find out. Tell me what it means. “Ok… ok yeah I can look it up right now. (thumbing my phone) I love the internet. OK uhhh it’s definitely gonna be a place name. Yes! It’s a place in Nicaragua.” But what does it MEAN. I don’t know…. I’d have to dig a little more. Another lady gets on the bus, sparkly eyed, about my age, in a cute scarf. “Oh! You! You are so pretty. You look so familiar. You look beautiful, just like my mother!” “Well what a nice compliment. I like that. Thank you!” “Yes, you could be from my village. It is not really a village but it was. In Ethiopia. Where are your people from?” “I can’t really, we don’t really know a lot but actually I’m researching my geneology and making my family tree. ” “Well you can get the DNA” says the Ethiopian lady. “Yes I’ve been thinking about doing it. I’m going to do it. Did you know you can go to the place, in the East Bay they have a big place, the Mormons, and look up a lot of that history. I don’t know why the Mormons have it but they do.” I chime in. “It’s because they think everyone in their records goes to their heaven.” “They really think that?” “I guess so.” “Well…. huh. ” We all laugh at this.

The Spanish speaking lady with the big walker has to get off the bus. We prepare to do our do-si-do dance in reverse but the bus driver is angry. She is grabbing the Ethiopian lady’s walker but she’s holding onto it tight. “No! You don’t have to do that. She is going to move back there and then she is going around. ” MA’AM…. MA’AM… YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO ME says the grim bus driver lady. MA’AM YOU HAVE TO LISTEN. We are all arguing with the bus driver and trying to explain we have it under control. The bus driver wrestles the walker away from our dignified friend. “She took it. She didn’t have to do that. Well!” We all look at each other. The lady with the large walker gets off, ducking her head in apology at stirring up a problem. The bus driver gets back onto the bus with the walker. “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO ME” she scolds. “YOU SEE HOW EASY THAT WAS? YOU SEE HOW EASY THAT COULD HAVE BEEN? YOU ALMOST GOT THAT LADY FALLING OVER. YOU CAN”T BE TRIPPING THAT OTHER LADY.” “That isn’t how it was, you see, we were going to move back and let her get off.” she said firmly. I spoke up as well and said, that’s how she got on, we just moved for her and it was fine! But, we shrugged and let the driver keep talking. She finally went back to take the wheel. Behind the partition out of her sight, I stick out my tongue like a child, playing to my sympathetic audience so we can get a laugh out of our sadness. “What are you going to do. The truth is the truth.” says our queen. “She has a hard job. But she could have had more respect,” I say. We all laugh kind of like we just did at the Mormons’ database of heaven.

“My mother would like you.” our friend resumed. “The place where my village, not really a village, it is a PROVINCE, well, it was good, and the people were so friendly and good. Well, now, you could not even buy a house, a place just the size of this, this front of the bus, just so little, is 300 thousand dollars! You can’t live there.” “Well…. Someone sure got rich off of that,” I say. “They did, and you know who got rich from it…. ” No… who? “The ones who came to power. They got rich.” We all are thinking on that as the lady my age who looks like the 90 year old Ethiopian lady’s mom gets off the bus waving to us. “I am going to the doctor. The new one isn’t as good, because, they aren’t by the ferry building, so I don’t get as nice of a lunch.” We discuss the pleasures of the Ferry building and then I have to go. Sometimes the ephemeral nature of these bus friendships gets to me. I think that I will have a good old age someday. There will be moments of indignity but also we will have solidarity and a good time.

NERT graduation and a couple of hours in dressing rooms

Got my certificate, hard hat, vest, gloves, and ID card signifying that I have gone through Neighborhood Emergency Response Team training. Tonight was fun – it was all exercises like doing a search & rescue and triage, setting off a fire extinguisher (in the street, on a gasoline fire in a big metal box) and rescuing a CPR doll trapped under a pile of debris by shoring up a plank and levering it off her.

I also did a bunch of stuff for Firefox 66 beta 8 and then went shopping with a friend in the late afternoon, had a blast taking her to my favorite mens consignment shop then to a thrift shop on Market where there was a VERY drunk blonde lady (size 4) trying on pants while my friend was trying on shirts in the dressing room next door and I was just chilling out on a bench. Blond lady would come out and strut around and shake her butt in my face “These pants are totallly sexy they’re a yes! don’t you think!” I would agree and she would go “HOTTTTTT” and I’d go “yes, totally HOTTTTTTTT with TTTTTTTTTT on it” And then alternately admire or mildly disparage the fit of the button down shirts on my friend. Then at one glorious point the drunk femmy lady came out in a punky jacket, rejected it, but intersected with my friend and was like NO… YOU need this… this would look GREAT on you. And it did! High fives all around. She kept coming out of her little cubbyhole only in underwear to see what my friend had on next.

Very entertaining! I was really feeling like a fabulous fairy godless-being and very knowledgeable about pocket squares and so on. Super reminded of this, the best thread: https://twitter.com/trans_tho/status/999924229624639488

Bad Invention: Menstrual Sneezing Powder

There is nothing like a hearty chain sneezing bout to bring on a flood. And there is nothing more annoying than days and days of bleeding all over the place. OPPORTUNITY!

Why not help your Aunt Flo leave town faster by administering my latest and best invention, MENSTRUAL SNEEZING POWDER. Just snort it copiously on day 1 of your period and maybe the blood will fall the hell out of you, all at once.

It can be a cute little kit with the powder and a pair of maroon underwear and hipster packaging. I can see the cartoon art now as the adorable mascot sneezes herself all the way into space on a big flaming red rocketship. & an old-timey, scrolly font on it kind of like you’d imagine would be on a Victorian era box of snuff.

Also great during labor!

We shall make ONE MILLION DOLLARS with this genius invention. (I have to split it with Beth.)

Coughing works for this too, I bet! So get those sheep-sized tampons ready and smoke a bowl, remembering to inhale mightily.

You’re welcome!!!