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Outdoor Caligula, trains, MST3K and eateries

Back when I lived in a house in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, I would often bring Caligula outside with me in the warmer months to work in the garden or just generally relax outside. He had a 50 foot lead that allowed him to explore, but not get close to the road or into the poison ivy-ridden woods. He enjoyed these visits to the outdoors, chasing chipmunks and laying in the grass in the sun. Simcoe was less interested in outdoor time, in spite of numerous attempts, she was always a bit too afraid and didn’t like wearing a harness.


Young Caligula, gardening in Pennsylvania

Fast forward to today. Caligula has been living in a high rise in downtown San Francisco for over seven years! We haven’t brought him out during all this time. I’d loosely mention taking Caligula out to a park here and there, but Simcoe didn’t like being left alone and she’d often react badly when we brought Caligula home from the vet (hissing, growling, for days!). And I figured she still wouldn’t be interested in coming along for the outdoor adventures. Now that we have just Caligula, it was time to revisit outdoor adventure plans. This past weekend we brought him to Golden Gate Park, where we found a quiet patch of grass not too close to anyone else and enjoyed some food (picked up from a Mexican food truck) as Caligula wandered around on a short leash.

We weren’t sure what to expect. I’d never brought him to a public park before, and I’m sure the car ride over wasn’t his favorite thing, but he loved it. My often lazy cat spent the hour and a half there wandering around our blanket, and then dragging me around so he could explore further.


Caligula in Golden Gate Park

Eventually we rounded off our day as the wind picked up and it got a bit cooler, but I’m really happy that he had such a nice time. I know I’ve been pretty down since losing Simcoe, and I think he’s really missed having his snuggle buddy. It was a good way to cheer all of us up.

I’ve mentioned that 2017 has been a tricky year for me, but I’ve started to feel better. Instead of spending so much non-work, non-traveling work watching TV, I’ve transitioned back into reading. My interest in other hobbies has picked up too, I’ve started moving away from so much computer work and decided to get more serious about my interest in model trains. When I was in Philadelphia last time I picked up a starter train set at a toy show, and I’ve now started to refresh my memory on some of the other basics. I subscribed to Model Railroader magazine, and am now somewhat overwhelmed with how much opportunity there is to learn and explore. I’m also struck by the fact that hobby-wise I’ve mostly focused on digital and outward-focused projects. This will be one of the first that gets me back to hardware, but it quickly occurred to me that it can be pulled into a bunch of the electronics projects I’ve idly wondered about over the years. Arduinos and sound-activated controls for a model railroad set? It’s totally going to be a thing!

Increasing the scale, we decided to go back to Philadelphia over the week of Memorial Day. As we were musing about travel, my interest in trains distracted me into talking about cross-country railroad trips and MJ seriously suggested we finally do it for this trip. After geeking out over routes for a couple hours, MJ secured tickets for us on the California Zephyr which we’ll take the entire length, from Emeryville to Chicago in one of the bedroom compartments. From there we’re taking a Capitol Limited to Washington DC in a Roomette and then on to the Northeast Regional to Phliadelphia in Business Class seats. How long does this trip take, you ask? We’re leaving from San Francisco’s temporary TransBay Terminal at 7:50AM on Friday the 26th and arriving in Philadelphia at 5:15PM on Monday the 29th. From there we’re taking the SEPTA regional rail from 30th street station in Philadelphia up Trevose, where the train drops us just over a mile from our townhouse. So it takes a long time and train is not cheaper. Traveling how we are, in the bedroom and roomette is actually considerably more than flying. For us, it’s all about the experience. I’ve not seen much of the center of the country, there are beautiful places I’m missing out on. Taking a train through over the course of a few days is a pretty exciting proposal, I’m really looking forward to it.

With all this train stuff, I realized over the past year how much more adventurous I’ve gotten with rail-based public transit. I’m slowly starting to default to it where it makes sense time-wise, and sad about missed opportunities to take it in the past.

I also recently finished reading Train by Tom Zoellner. He takes several journeys on train lines all around the world, and weaves a tale that blends his experience on these routes, conversations he has with fellow train passengers and a hefty dose of history about each line, and those which are naturally related to it in some way. It was a beautifully written book, and made me even more excited about our cross-country journey! I recently finished the audiobook for Ringworld. I read the book years ago, but never really got into the series. I decided this time around to buy the series as audiobooks and start making my way through them. I got an audiobook of If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran which has so far been incredibly engaging. Back to the pages, I’ve been reading Madeleine L’Engle’s The Arm of the Starfish and my second book by Brene Brown, I thought it was just me, but it isn’t.

But OK, I’m not just spending lots of wholesome time reading. The new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) came out several weeks ago and I’ve been doing my best not to binge watch. I slowly made my way up to 1105, the episode that has my name in the credits because of the Kickstarter campaign. I then went through the next few pretty quickly, they’re just so good! And MST3K has been an important part of my life since I discovered it in the late 90s on the SciFi channel. I don’t remember how I found it, I must have just stumbled upon it in my general watching of the SciFi channel. It’s what made me join my first IRC server to chat with fellow fans. It was there that I met my ex-husband who introduced me to Linux, and dove into IRC client scripting and creating websites. Later I helped a pile of fellow fans run an MST3K fan site, which was tricky after the show stopped airing, but gave me my first experience scouring the internet for stories, which I later used in my work on the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter.

I had my doubts about a reboot of the series, on the one hand we had many of the original cast and crew members participating, but on the other they suddenly had big names and cameos being announced as part of the project, and there was a real risk of the show getting more serious than I would enjoy. Thankfully, my fears were not realized. The show is just as silly and campy as it ever was. They didn’t let a budget or big names go to their head, it has the feel and jokes that I came to expect from MST3K.

At home things are chugging along. As I write this on an early Friday morning before work Caligula is in super snuggle mode and is curled up against me. He’s been like this since we lost Simcoe. We think he’s lonely, as my trip to SLC this week didn’t leave him the happiest (MJ was at work all day). There is a temptation to get him a new kitten friend, but every time I think about it I get sad and realize I’m not ready for it. Plus with all my travel lately I don’t really have the time to train a new kitten, who will have claws.

Speaking locally, this past month we’ve seen the closing of two Italian establishments in our area. A.G. Ferrari has closed all bay area locations. It’s a shame, that was my go-to spot for fresh Parmesan cheese and Italian bread. Umbria, my favorite Italian restaurant in the city, and conveniently on our block, has closed. We made our way down there on their final night, finding ourselves in the midst of other random diners, as well as family and friends wishing the owner a fond farewell. There were speeches, stories, hugs, and tears, which we were included us in. Thankfully this is not the end of the story for them! They’re moving up to Glen Ellen in Sonoma, with progress being tracked on their #WheresGiulio website. We’ll have to visit when they finally open, but I’ll really miss having such a great local place.

We’ve also been carving out bits of our weekend to actually catch up on boring adult things. Our dining area has always been a den of chaos, and I’ve finally started tackling that by picking up a new piece of Ikea furniture so we have a place to pack things into. The chaos still mostly exists, but it’s starting to be tamed and some things are now put away, hooray!

I think this weekend will be a stay in one. I have a ton to do here before I depart for two weeks. And a busy work week is on the horizon with attendance at DevXCon on Monday and a journey (ferry + car service) up to Napa on Wednesday to speak at a conference on Thursday. Then the rise-with-the-sun trek over to the TransBay terminal Friday morning to catch that train across the country. It’s all exciting stuff though, I wouldn’t trade next week for a boring one even if I could.

 




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