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Category: Personal

One Bag: Midway Point

A casual goal for the Europe two-week trip was trying a one bag approach to packing. Context, in case you’re randomly wandering across this: I’m nearing 50, I’m not in particularly great shape, but I have decent tolerance for roughing it. I’m also in the big and tall category, and was still able to find technical clothing that’d fit (albeit not with a ton of variety).

I brought an Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack, which is 55 liters of capacity spread among a main pack and a zip-on day pack. It doesn’t have as many interior compartments as I’d like but I made up for that with some packing cubes and all’s pretty well. I checked mine but I’m pretty sure I could have gotten away with carrying it on the plane.

Packing list (all clothing made with technical quick-dry fabrics):

  • 3 long sleeved shirts and 4 plain T-shirts
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 3 pairs of socks plus 1 pair of compression socks for the flight
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • iPad, Smart Keyboard, iPhone, lots of cables, and a universal charger
  • toiletries including a bottle of Dr. Bronners peppermint
  • Allbirds sneakers and a pair of sandals
  • Bathing suit
  • Light rain shell
  • Fold up travel hangars and a travel clothesline
  • Travel towel (invaluable for drying hand-washed clothing)

This all fits neatly in the Osprey with some room to spare. My plan was to hand-wash laundry every night or every other night. After a couple of iterations of this I think that would be perfectly possible but better to save it for necessity. We probably had to hand-wash at Disneyland Paris since it’s not a great place to find a laundromat, but I’m currently sitting at a brown cafe in the middle of Amsterdam drinking coffee and waiting for a laundromat dryer to finish up and that’s working out just fine for me.

Next time out I’ll add a pair of socks and a pair of pants so I can go a bit longer without feeling grotty. The shirt load out depends on the weather. If I expected to need long sleeves every day I’d want an extra long sleeved shirt. As is I’ve been fine.

The Allbirds aren’t great walking shoes but they’re okay. The ankle support is fairly poor. On the other hand, they’re very light, which is why I chose them. I’ll stick with them for travel purposes. Conversely, I wouldn’t bother with the pair of sandals under similar conditions. No point bringing something I’m only going to wear around hotel rooms.

Disneyland Paris Notes

We did a quick two-day visit, which is not all that long, but I think we gave the parks a pretty good once over. Disneyland Paris itself — the castle park — is spectacular. Walt Disney Studios Park is pretty dead but has a couple of excellent rides. And Disney Village is a dull shopping area.

As hotels go: I’d kill to have enough money to stay in the Disneyland Hotel casually. It’s literally part of the approach to Disneyland Paris, and it’s gorgeous. Sequoia Lodge was fine: less polish than I’d expected from a Disney hotel but I have no serious complaints.

I am really glad we made it out for a two day trip and would recommend it if you’re a big Disney fan and have the ability to get there. In more detail…

Quick Hit Princess Cruise Notes

S. and I took an Amtrak up to Vancouver last Friday, hopped onto Skytrain, had a nice lunch in Gastown, and boarded the Ruby Princess for a one day repositioning cruise down to Seattle. This frivolity is brought to you by the opportunity to check out a cruise line’s style cheap before booking a longer Baltic cruise in a couple of years. We’re gonna stick with Holland America but the Ruby Princess was fun.

We’re not experts in any way, but the Ruby Princess struck us as skewing a bit younger and more flashy than the relatively staid Holland America aesthetic. (Same corporate parent, by the by.) We spent two hours on karaoke and it was fairly awesome.

The main dining room food wasn’t great and the upsell for booze was kind of tiring. The buffet was better — the Indian food had some real spice to it and I liked the roast beef a lot. I also think Holland America’s buffet had more variety.

The open pool spaces were abundant but kinda inward turned. I really liked the aft pool deck on our Holland America ship, because it was very open and you got a great 270 degree view of Alaska. The Ruby Princess has a super-cool terraced aft pool, but it doesn’t have the same panoramic view.

I’d guess the ship was maybe 60-70% full. Judging purely by the karaoke, a lot of locals had the same plan we did — fun night out and some pretty scenery.

Definitely worth grabbing one of these if you live in a cruise ship port that has ‘em.

That Time I Tweeted

So the other day I quickly tweeted a few things.

The aftermath was wild. The first tweet got just over 1 million impressions. Around 48K people interacted with it. 8K likes. Jake Tapper is now following me, but I’m more fanstruck by Eric Heisserer.

The retweeter with the biggest audience was Cory Doctorow, at 437K. He also picked it up for Boing Boing, although he didn’t ask. On the one hand, he didn’t need to ask. On the other hand, Dorkly politely checked with me first. On the third hand, someone at Boing Boing photoshopped Trump’s hair on top of Eric’s head. Meh, screw them.

After Doctorow, the retweeter with the most followers was this voice actor whose name I’m spacing, at around 100K. From there it follows the usual distribution. I spent two days hoping nobody with a million+ followers would pick it up. “OK, guys, you can stop telling Critical Role to look at this now.”  I watched it spread through liberal online journalism Twitter (you know, Vox et al) and through Catholic Twitter (“wait, is that a Jesuit priest?”). If I had to guess I’d say it was mostly spreading through tabletop gaming circles, though. That’s just a kinda wide set of circles now.

I only had a handful of people yelling at me. Some people felt I was naive for thinking kindly of Catholics; those people kind of missed the point. I met and chatted with a few really cool people and I have about 500 new followers, all of whom I followed back. I will trim a few over time (sorry, but if you retweet Louise Mensch as a reliable source I’m gonna be elsewhere) but in general I feel like I have expanded my Twitter universe in a cool way. I also reconnected with a few old friends and had a brief but nice conversation with my freshman year roommate, which oddly allowed me to let go of some stuff I’ve been carrying around for decades.

Three reporters chatted with me. None of them found a story in the tweets, although one guy has another angle he’s working on. I think that’s correct. I don’t have a good enough memory of that year to build a story. I just had an emotional anecdote with a killer stinger and a call to action.

I’m really happy about the call to action.

Final lesson here: tell your stories. You never know what’s going to resonate.

We Did A New Thing

I was expecting the whole cruise ship experience to be cheesy as hell and possibly not enjoyable without a heavy dose of irony. However, at the tender age of forty-eight, I am keenly interested in new classes of experience and the idea of using a very large ship as a sort of hermit crab shell was intriguing. Also, Alaska.

My short review: that was actually reasonably fun. Alaska is flat out gorgeous and historically fascinating, so you should visit it if possible. There is no way to visit southeast Alaska from the contiguous 48 without a significant investment of time and money; given that, it makes a bunch of sense to unpack your stuff into a big floating hotel rather than unpacking and packing and flying and unpacking and packing and so on. I wouldn’t recommend a cruise for the sake of the food, the entertainment, or the social opportunities — YMMV on the last, I’m a bit of an iconoclast — but all of the above are just fine as side elements to a cruise focused on seeing the sights.

Details: we took Holland America’s MS Noordam on a six night cruise departing from Vancouver. We spent a day cruising the Endicott Arm, stayed in Juneau overnight, and stopped for most of a day in Ketchikan. We also had two full days at sea.

In a little more detail…

New Travel Gadget

I’d been using the Wirecutter-recommended Accell Home or Away travel surge protector for travel until recently. It’s really good, but it only has 2 USB ports and when I started traveling with an external battery, that was too few. One USB port for my phone, one for my tablet, and none for my battery? Sad. In theory maybe I stop traveling with my tablet but then I add in my headphones, which charge via USB, and I’m back where I started.

Plus I just got this watch, so.

Anker 6-USB Port Charger Thus, I picked up Anker’s 6 port USB charger. It’s not a hub; it’s a small brick around the size of a very full men’s wallet that plugs into a wall outlet and charges a bunch of USB devices at once. I don’t imagine it’d do great with six items plugged into it, but it’s fine for phone and tablet and external battery. Anker’s other gear has performed very well for me (cables, car USB adapters), and this seems similarly solid from one trip’s worth of experience.

Speaking of Kindness

Every year, if at all possible, I walk to raise money for suicide prevention. It’s an important cause for me because four years ago, my friend and housemate Wyatt Parkinson killed himself in the house we (and Susan) lived in. Susan found him. It’s a really horrible thing to have happen.

I’m walking again this year, in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am looking for donations, that being the point of the walk. We’re also happy to have company. The first walk we did was right after it happened, and it was tremendously important to see hundreds of other people mourning the same kind of violent occurrence.

If you can’t give, or if you’re one of the generous people who’ve given already, a link to this post or to my fundraising page is also appreciated.

Suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in the United States. The suicide rate in the US Army is at an all time high. (I write that most years, because it keeps going up.)

The number to call if you’re feeling suicidal, by the by: 1-800-273-TALK.

Thank you for reading.

Circles

So here I am back in the SF Bay Area. What goes around, etc. In related news, I’m employed again, so that’s good. The first week on the job was good; I am looking forward to making the second week even better.

We found a house up in Redwood City, which gives me a half an hour commute to Palo Alto for work and puts us in reasonable range of the city. It’s also pretty convenient to 280, which makes Santa Cruz and San Jose very feasible. I like the location — hadn’t ever lived up there before but I think we’ll enjoy it. Fingers crossed.

Hobee’s is still Hobee’s. Fry’s is still Fry’s. There are good farmers markets which I wasn’t smart enough to take advantage of the last time I lived here. Kepler’s has gone way downhill, which is sad.

Housewarming party to come as soon as we get settled.

Austin Rain

Lake Travis, 46 feet below normal It’s intensely green in Texas right now. The rhythm is familiar to me from California: long months of brown, followed by intense green while it’s raining. In February, we had 3.04 inches of rain, up from an average of 2.34 inches. January averages 2.1 inches, but we had 4.7 inches this year. November and December were above average as well. We need it after the summer; when Susan and I got here, the ground was hardtack dry.

These days it’s lush. Our neighborhood is leafy, tree-lined, and half the mornings we find water dripping off the leaves onto the streets. I take Ranch to Market 2222 to work. It curves between the hills and the Colorado River, cut into the side of the hills, leaving cliffs on my right as I drive up into the Hill Country. You go right past West Bull Creek Preserve; it’s beautiful green open space out here, for the most part. Lake Travis, shown from last summer above, isn’t far.

FM 2222 My office window looks out over more greenery. It’s due to be developed sometime; there’s an apartment complex right to the left, in fact. They had three buildings planned in this office complex back in 2006, but only two have been built so far and one of ’em is empty. Recession. I think it’ll pick up again; this is a pretty busy area and it’s a natural for expansion, with a lot of residential real estate and decent services nearby. Right now, though, mostly green.

Austin: Week Four or So

Our new neighborhood, Brentwood, has a neighborhood mailing list. It’s awesome. Very friendly, lots of informal freecycling, requests for notaries, that kind of thing. Discussions of suspicious activity. It’s the back of the fence stuff you used to see all over the U.S., just on Yahoo groups.

For the last week or so, there’d been this ongoing duck saga. “Duck sighted in our front yard.” “Duck seen waddling down Woodrow.” “Oh, thank you so much! That’s our daughter’s duck!” “Duck crossing Justin.” So on.

On Thanksgiving, Susan and I went out for a walk down Woodrow up to Anderson, which is a pleasant mile or so there and the same back. When we were almost there, we passed… a teenager looking somewhat glumly at a duck. The duck looked like it was ready to run. “Hey,” I said, “It’s the duck!”

She looked at us with the sad eyes of a teenager who’s going to be That Kid With The Duck for a good while. “Yeah. It’s our duck, we finally found it. Mom got another duck to try and lure it back, but that didn’t work, but she’s on her way over.” So we moseyed onward, and when we passed her on the way home her mom was there with a duck cage. The end of the duck story. There wasn’t a post about it, perhaps because she convinced her mom to pass on further duck-related anecdotes.

Susan pointed out that while Somerville’s got a nice neighborhood feel to it, it’s unlikely that the duck would have lasted a week. I mean, it’s Thanksgiving. Someone would have eaten it. “Whattya want? It’s a duck in the street, it’s nobody’s duck… c’mon, it’s Thanksgivin’, we’re hungry. Duck’s tasty.” Probably true.

Austin’s still cool. It’s a good area for walking, so we’re walking more. The food is still insanely tasty. (Noble Pig: yum. Elevation Burger: quite good.) We should get our bookshelves next week. All is well.