Fire Recovery

The fires that ravaged Sonoma County have been contained, but there is a long road of rebuilding ahead. Here is a list of organizations and institutions whose funds will be used in the local community. Links range from RCU’s general fund to several more specific funds in my fields of interest or otherwise close to my heart. Particularly as we get into the giving season ahead, please consider making a donation to one or more of these funds. Thank you.

Redwood Credit Union Fire Relief Fund

Redwood Empire Food Bank

I attended both the JC and SSU and had great experiences at both. Many current students, professors and other employees have been affected by the fires.
Santa Rosa Junior College
Sonoma State University

Sonoma County is home to many undocumented immigrants, a good number of them no doubt contributing the physical labor for the “Wine Country.” Anyway, due to their status they are ineligible for some forms of assistance, and possibly reluctant to engage the system for other forms they may qualify for. UndocuFund is raising money for this population.

For the creative community
Creative Sonoma

Trail rebuilding

And spend local!
Here is a list a friend compiled of restaurants whose owners have lost their homes.
Buns & Burgers, Larkfield
China Bowl Bistro, Piner Road
El Patio, 4th St. downtown
Fandees, Sebastopol
Gio’s Pizza, Yulupa Ave (near Kirin I think)
Goji Kitchen, Mendocino Ave
Homerun Pizza, Larkfield
Jeffrey’s Hillside, 4th St. (Near the Flamingo)
KC’s American Kitchen, Windsor
Kin, Windsor
La Texanita, Sebastopol Rd
Lala’s Creamery, Petaluma
Lee’s Noodle House, Hopper Ave
Lupe’s Diner, Windsor
Mai Vietnamese, Cotati
Mel’s Fish & Chips
Pamposh, Mission Circle
Royal China, Santa Rosa
Simply Vietnam, Cleveland Ave
Sushi Hana, Sebastopol
T4 and Poke, Mendocino Ave
Tex Wasabi, Santa Rosa
The Publican, Windsor
Tipsy Taco, Santa Rosa
Toyo Sushi, Marlow Rd

Gratitude Page

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East Wind Bakery

Another one of Those Places that I wanted to check out, but it closes before I’m back during the week, and one thing and another on weekends only just got to the East Wind Bakery recently. Wait, it’s been over three years since I first heard about it?! Anyhoo… It’s in a newish live-work development that doesn’t quite seem like a neighborhood, although many of the people who came in while we were there did seem to be regulars.

There was SO MUCH to choose from, and it all looked good, but I had to get a baonut (yes, donutized (deep-fried) bao) – pretty sure that’s not something I’m going to get just anywhere. Even that was a difficult choice, but I went with the Peanut Butter Maple Bacon. Super tasty. There were also savory choices, like Pork Belly Kimchi, and cross-cultural mash-ups like a Churro Bao. The croissants were a likewise variety of sweets and savories – we tried the Walnut Pear Goat Cheese and the Spam – both delicious. I was somewhat surprised to see mochi! And blue mochi at that! Bonus! Which was filled with ube (purple yam). There was pink mochi that was filled with red bean. Both of those were quite tasty as well.

I’m glad I finally made it, although it probably is just as well it doesn’t have more convenient to me hours! That you are what you eat thing, I’d be a baonut! That is to say – definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.

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Shone Farm CSA

Sadly – for me anyway – First Light Farm, my previous source of Veggie Box of Awesome, had a change of ownership and reorganization which included consolidating their delivery area. Which I can totally understand, both from an economic point of view and being more local/reducing the carbon footprint. Fortunately, the woman who let me know I was now outside the delivery area suggested I try the Santa Rosa Junior College Shone Farm CSA. Ding ding ding! Tell her what she wins

I decided to take the plunge and signed up for the whole season, and I’ve been super happy. The produce is super high quality and amazingly tasty, and it’s not just Veggies! There has also been a variety of fruit, including berries, apples, Asian and European pears, and watermelon. Perhaps due to the size and longevity of the farm, and the educational programs run there, there also is a larger variety in the fresh veggies, and some “beyond” items like dried beans and wheat berries.

In addition, there is a great e-newsletter, that has information about what’s in the week’s box, with general usage tips and how to store items – which has been super informative and helpful – along with specific recipes. I haven’t made it yet, but they also have events at the Farm, where you can U-Pick, and buy other items such as olive oil and wine.

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IONTW – October 7, 2018

King’s Hawaiian Bakery! I’m fascinated by the pictures of the production line. Here’s cool video of cookie cutters being made. and there’s a King’s Restaurant!!! Who’s in for a road trip to SoCal?

Instant Noodle Warriors


Nerd alert: What Did Ada Lovelace’s Program Actually Do? An argument for difficult tech tools. and, The Mother of All Demos (which, how did I go through a CS program and never hear of this? or is it just my faulty memory that I did actually hear about it but don’t recall…) When Women Stopped Coding

Mesmerizing visualization of wind over the Earth’s surface.

Tomorrow, Monday October 8, 2018 there will be a Ceremony to Observe One-Year Anniversary of Wildfires, hosted by City of Santa Rosa, California and County of Sonoma, in Courthouse Square, downtown Santa Rosa. Additional events throughout the county are listed here.

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2018 Columbia – Day 7

< previous day

And again I woke up before the alarm! Since we were inside the fence I figured I may as well enjoy it a bit – the grounds were pretty – so I walked around checking out the plants and flowers. We then wandered over to the restaurant for breakfast. I thought it was just the items out along the bar – “continental buffet”, but it turned out there was a menu as well! OK then, don’t mind if I do.

After breakfast we packed up and made our escape – er, checked out from all-inclusiveness – and walked over to meet up with the gringo gang at the Anaconda. From that hotel it was another short walk through a market area down to the docks for our three-hour tour.

Which may have been longer. Or shorter. I didn’t really pay attention to the time – it wasn’t like I had anywhere else to be! The first part was through town, along a channel with buildings and docks along the sides, then we were out into the main river, which was so wide across it seemed more like a lake.

We could see big riverboats. Our guide told us it was a 3-day trip to Manaus, a major town in Brazil about halfway to the ocean. Supplies coming that way from Brazil were cheaper than those from Colombia, which had to come by air.

He also told us the Amazon was second widest, to the Rio Plata, and second deepest, to the Congo. Leticia’s elevation of 96 m, about 315 feet, was a bit mind-boggling to consider in light of the distance the river still had to travel to reach the Atlantic Ocean. The water is either “white” – from the mountains (actually often brown from sediment) – or “black” – out of the jungle.

We were going to be travelling on the Javari River (AKA Yavarí or Javary), a tributary of the Amazon that goes into Peru, so we had to check in with the Peruvian Navy. Paperwork taken care of, we continued on into a medium-sized channel, which narrowed, and then we met a boat coming the other way that told us we couldn’t get through. Apparently the rainy season was over, water levels were dropping, and what had been navigable channels by boat no longer were.

There was, of course, some joking that it was a ruse to trick us into an ambush, especially when the “right” way became very narrow, and then we didn’t see the second boat for a while. Divide and conquer, it’s the oldest trick in the book.

It turned out they had been stuck. Rather than reading the channel and steering in anticipation of turns and obstructions, as our boat’s pilot did, the other pilot seemed to be of the school of point and hit the gas. The other boat was larger, but when they switched, our pilot did not seem to have a problem with the large boat, even in the narrow channel, where the other managed to rip the pilot’s shade structure off the smaller boat. Eric came to the rescue and helped him pull it back on board, and also noticed we were taking on water and did some bailing. Once a responsible boater…

Being on the boat was pretty cool though, being low to the water and then in the narrow channel with so much green all around. Trees and vines and flashes of butterflies and birds, and a sloth! overhead. Other boats, almost all much smaller – two or three passengers – glided by the opposite direction. The propellers were on long poles, and could be lifted out when necessary to avoid logs or masses of plants.

After a while it did start to seem like you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all … are we going around in circles? and if we were going slowly and there was no breeze the diesel fumes were a bit much, but, yeah. Eventually we got to the lodge where we’d be spending the night, sorted people into rooms, and hung out for a bit. As we watched from the porch an egret caught a fish, right near where the sewage pipe drained out.

The lodge was on stilts, with the current water level about a story down. It sounded like not that long ago they had been docking boats almost at floor level, and in another few weeks you wouldn’t be able to get there by boat. It was hard to get my head around that amount of water.

It turned out it going to be a while until lunch, so one of the boats went off to a “lake” (wide spot in the river) where folks could swim. Angela in particular was very eager and delighted to be swimming. The others had various degrees of excitement, but eventually got in. Being so nearsighted and not having bothered to put my swimsuit on, I just put my feet in the water. It was quite pleasant, and I did not get nibbled on by anything. Well, not anything that I felt anyway.

When we got back lunch was ready, simple but filling fare: lentils, rice, chicken and potatoes. And it turned out there had been a hitchhiker on one of the boats! Snake!!! Must have fallen out of some vegetation we brushed through. The guide had a firm hold on him, but I just looked.

After eating it was back on the boats – this time all hands – for dolphin hunting. and me without my harpoon… OK OK. It was dolphin spotting. And not just dolphins, but PINK RIVER DOLPHINS. I saw some water swirls, some fins, and one for sure where more of the back came out of the water and it was very definitely PINK. Which, I’m generally not so much a fan of pink, but exception was made in this case. I couldn’t really tell from what we saw, but our guide said they can get quite big – at largest they approach 3 m long, and 200 Kg!

Beside the dolphins there was quite a bit of bird life: terns, night herons, swallows, kingfisher, some bright yellow bird (not Big Bird), egrets, and the most ginormous hummingbird I’ve ever seen. It was interesting how same same but different – many of the birds we also have in Northern California, but seeing them somewhere else was pretty neat. Ohand the vultures had black heads! We were also treated to some very dramatical skies, with piles of clouds and a bit of rain.

Back at the lodge I got in some hammock time. I’d always figured you’re to get in along the axis of hanging, but apparently if you go off axis it’s possible to get more horizontal. Hmn. A few of us played some cards, and then it was dinner time. Someone said it was rice-a-roni – actually pasta, which seemed bit short when we get there, so I just went with the rice and sausage.

After dinner there was another boat ride, in search of nocturnal creatures, but I felt like I’d fulfilled my RDA of boat rides and forewent that one for a nice time playing cards and chatting with Eric and Braxton. After our game Eric and I went out to the back to look at the stars. We could see a glow on the horizon – ah, Luz de Leticia? we guessed, there was also lightning from the remnants of the storm, and I did see a shooting star.

We were drenched in DEET, but it was nice to see the bats out doing their part. A man came up from the river carrying a Very Large Fish – holding the head about his waist, the fish stretched nearly to the floor! Whoa. I wondered what it was. And whether it might show up on the menu the next day.

Ah yes, the serenity of a generator. And the incongruity of the locals watching DirecTV. Modern technology, for better and worse.

Even off boat I was still feeling the motion of it a bit, but it stopped before I went to bed. But then the whole structure we were staying in did move when people walked around. Not alarmingly, but enough to remind you weren’t in a building with a concrete foundation on solid, dry ground.

We cocooned ourselves in the mosquito nets. I wondered when the generator would go off, and if I’ll be able to fall asleep – which apparently I did – since when I woke it was profoundly dark and the only sounds were of the night creatures. Well and the snoring (although I guess that’s a night creature noise too, haha). Then there was some light show on the ceiling (the walls did not go all the way up) as someone went to the bathroom, but I was able to fall back to sleep.

more pictures, and videos!

June 14, 2018

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2018 Columbia – Day 6

< previous day

I had no idea what time it was but if felt like the alarm for sure should have gone off. Maybe that’s what happens when you get enough sleep? When it was get up time we went downstairs for breakfast, and then across the street to the ATM for more dinero. Modern technology. Pretty amazing, and so convenient, to have a little piece of plastic that can get you access to your cash halfway around the world, but also faintly disturbing in some ways. Anyhoo.

On the way back to the hotel I was intrigued by a woman on the corner making foods – I think arepas and I’m not sure what all else. She indicated that if I was not buying something there was a charge for taking a picture. Yeah, it’s all a business, I suppose.

We checked out, leaving our not-needed-in-the-jungle luggage, and got a cab to the airport. We had aerosol cans of bug spray so had to check a bag, and then went the opposite direction from out gate at first, but we figured that out. At security there was no line, but for some reason I got wanded and they took my shoes and ran them through a scanner. Even with all that we had plenty of time before our flight. We got some snacks and cold beer, at first I think its 16000 but oops, its 60000. Guess airport prices are high everywhere.

Jon asked, “Do you like broccoli?” Seemed a little random, but yeah, I like broccoli. “Good. You’ll be looking at the top of it for 3 hours.” Hahaha. Right. (Although actually the flight was not that long.)

Although she had been several times, Angela was super excited to be going again. Her first visit was in 10th grade on a school trip, she said only about a third of class went, and that it was unusual for Colombians to go to the Amazon. Sounded like the thought was that if you were getting on a plane anyway you may as well go someplace else. She thinks it’s changing, but many Colombians feel that other places are better and go there for vacations. Guess that’s a common theme around the world too.

When we got on the plane I was surprised to be right in the front row! Eric had splurged on few extra centimeters of room for us. The pilot said we’d be going right, then left over the Amazon forest or jungle – I forget which word he used, and that it was 32 degrees and cloudy in Leticia. In fact, there was cloud cover most of the way, so not so much broccoli but rather cotton batting we were looking at the top of. About a half hour from Leticia we got below it, and there were puffy clouds, vegetation, rivers – I wasn’t in the window seat but I didn’t see much sign of man visible from the air. Eric thought we might be turning to stay in Colombian air space, but at one point the trace does show us over Brazil. We both forget to pay attention to when we cross the equator.

It was warm when we got off plane – definitely warmer than anything we’d had yet on the trip, but somehow not as hot or full on humid as I was expecting. Not that I was disappointed about that. The press of people inside around the baggage claim was a tad oppressive, but we survived, collected our bag, paid the tourist tax, and went outside to get a taxi to our hotel.

We were following motor scooters, which would periodically swerve for no apparent reason. When our taxi slowed and also took evasive action I realized it was to avoid epic potholes. Way beyond Sonoma County size.

Again I hadn’t really looked at all the lodging options, figuring any of the ones Angela had suggested would be fine for a night. So I was a bit surprised when the taxi discharged us at what looked like a Disneyland safari ride. We entered the compound and tried to check in. Something with the check in took a while, I’m still not exactly sure what, but there was a restroom, and a gift shop where we got ice cream bars. The shop had AC, which felt pretty nice.

There was another couple also checking in, and the concierge(?) shepherded us all over to a seating area between the front desk and the restaurant. He brought some cocktail, which looked good and I was about to drink, but Eric noticed it had ice and remembered and reminded me that was an ixnay.

We got a WhatsApp message that the guide was at the Anaconda, where most of the folks were staying. I took our money over while Eric held down the fort at check-in. When I got back we were set with a room and … wristbands?! It was like Disneyland. Or going to the Amazon for people who want to go to the Amazon without going to The Amazon. All-inclusive, stay in the compound, eat at our restaurant, do our activities… Hmn. It wasn’t exclusively gringos anyway, and there did seem to be a lot of family groups, which I suppose I can see it making sense for. Anyhoo.

Angela had been telling us about the parrots, which sounded like something we needed to see, and so, after a little relaxing in our room we headed to the park. Unsure of what the beverage situation would be, we stopped in at a market. I wandered around a bit, as it always interests me to see markets in other places – the foods, and how they are arranged and displayed. We got some water, beer, and – hey we’re in the jungle – tropical fruit Gatorade!

We found the bird park – although it was still light out and the birds weren’t coming in yet, the deposits and their smell left no doubt we were in the right place. We walked around a bit waiting for the sunset. There were a bunch of vendors set up, with various trinkets and food stuffs. I was intrigued by what looked like a self-contained soft cart with a generator for power. There was a picturesque church across the street, and we found the rest of the gringo group on a corner with two shops. “Ice cream and beer! I arranged that, ” Jon declared.

The streams of motor scooters were something else to watch while waiting for the birds. There were various configurations of people and cargo, with a family of four being the most people we saw on one scooter. Well, assuming it was a family – man, woman, two children.

Then the sun fell in the west, and the parrots began to trickle in. As the dusk deepened, the trickle thickened to streams, then torrents of birds, wheeling in flocks and pouring out of the sky onto the trees in the park. Fluttering in and around the branches, sometimes settling, sometimes rising and circling. The visuals were amazing, and then there were the vocalizations – thousands of “hi, honey, I’m home!” Apparently they have figured out there are no predators in the city park, so they can roost and sleep in peace at night, then fly back to the jungle during the day.

Eventually we got our fill of watching the birds, and realized we were also done with people-ing for the day, so passed on the group dinner excursion and headed back to our hotel. On the walk back I saw a cat sleeping on the floor in a store and realized it was the first one I had seen.

Dinner was actually included with our stay, so that worked out all right. I had arroz chaufa, a Peruvian dish, and Eric had the BBQ chicken tamarind. Both were pretty tasty. There were two guitarists who played during the dinner.

As we headed to our room a BAT! dove over the pool, whee! and then there was dance music playing at the pool bar even though no one there. We looked around a bit to try to figure out how to turn it off, since it was right outside our room, but no luck. It was a little quieter when we were inside our room, but still not super conducive to getting to sleep. I channel surfed a bit while Eric showered – thinking maybe I’d find better music to cover the bar music, no dice, but I did see a bit of Mr. Bean and the Simpsons in Español. Before I showered I went out again, and that time found someone to turn the music off! Ah, blessed silence! And another full night of glorious sleep.

more pictures, and videos

June 13, 2018

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2018 Columbia – Day 5

< previous day

It was going to be our last day in Villa, and I realized I didn’t really have any pictures of the main square, which is actually noteworthy as one of the largest in the Americas at 120 meters by 120 meters. According to the Lonely Planet guidebook it was also unusual in that it kept to the traditional name of Plaza Mayor, rather than being named after a figure of historical importance, as is the case in many Colombian cities. So we got up a bit earlier than we had been, and headed over. It was nice to see the streets in the quiet of the morning, almost deserted except for kids in uniform, heading to school. Ah, right – there are people who actually live here and have a regular, doing things like going-to-school, life. Oh and then there was the military squad, doing some marching drills in the square.

Then it was back for breakfast, which today had a twist – there was a choice of the papaya as juice or as cut up fruit! With some sign language and repetition we were able to get that sorted. And when we were midway through our meal Therese appeared and joined us.

We finished and took our leave, and headed up to the Paleontological Museum, which was not open yet, despite what the website had said. We waited a bit, and someone did come along and open the gate and go in, but they shut it behind them in a way that did not seem promising. We asked, and sadly it was not going to be opening. I didn’t have the energy or Spanish to try to wheedle an entrance.

For Plan B, I headed back into town for a little hunting and gathering. The place we had rented the bikes from shared space with a made in Columbia arts and crafts shop. It was one of those places where I pretty much just wanted to buy EVERYTHING, but there were space constraints to consider. Sigh. I was able to find some carry on friendly items.

I’d also seen a candy store, but when I went toward where I thought it was I ran into a parade! Wow, fireworks, a parade … oh yeah, must be more celebrations of the town’s birthday. I watched for a little bit, and probably could have crossed it, but backtracked and went to another store that was more a general souvenir store but did have caramelos de miele. (Honey caramels!) Mr. Cake was not open yet, but I found a more regular bakery and bought some snacks for the road.

Then there was the gathering of gringos. All the gathering of people and luggages gave enough time for me to get another helado! Eventually we were on the road back to Bogotá.

The field trip stop for this leg was the town of Ráquira. “… both because it’s pretty and because handmade goods there are plenty and cheap. If anyone wants to buy a wooden spoon or 10, this is the place. You’ll want to have cash.” was the word from the Chief Gringo Herder.

Or 100. Or hundreds. Holy Schmoly! There were lifetimes supplies of spoons, and mugs, and dishes of all shapes and sizes! And alltheterracottapots, for so much less than prices in the States. Except then there would be the getting them back to the States. There’s always some catch. There were woven goods and textiles and hammocks galore and a miscellany of tourist trinkets. It was simultaneously fascinating and disturbing.

We wandered about, looked in a few stores, checked out the village church. The original time amount got extended, as some people ended up having a meal, but eventually everyone found their way back to the busses and we got back underway to Bogotá.

Even zipping by at motor speed it was neat to see the countryside. We passed a big lake that I didn’t remember seeing on the way out. And it was milking time! There were two-stall milking corrals in the corners of fields, with a person hand milking. Then someone would be standing with a milk can at the road. In one spot I saw a truck collecting the milk from several people at a crossroads.

A number of us were going to be joining in on the jungle excursion, and Angela had had us all get on the same bus so she could go over the schedule and answer questions. It really was amazing how, in addition to planning a wedding, she and Jon had coordinated logistics for helping people get to Colombia, and then on to a remote part of the country that many Colombians have never been to. It was also cool to see how excited Angela was about going to the Amazon. She’d been several times before, and kept saying how much she loved it and mentioning different cool things they had seen.

As we got close to Bogotá the traffic thickened. I was very glad someone else was driving. There were some chaotic seeming moments at merges, with motorcycles and a few bicycles(!) threading the needle but somehow it all worked out.

We were disgorged back at the Hotel Ibis, traveling forward in time a few centuries, back to the anonymous functional box of a room, although this time the mirror image floor plan from our first room. There had been dinner plan chatter on the bus, but (surprise) we wanted simple, quiet and  close to the hotel (and get off my lawn!) so went across the street for a burger again. But this time we knew that tocino meant bacon!

Back at the room we were able to separate things that didn’t need to go to the jungle and things that did in such a way that we could take one of our larger sized backpacks and leave the other at the hotel. It was nice to have a congenial travel companion who was willing and able to consolidate! Once that was done we settled down for another full night of sleep! More woohoo!

more pictures

June 12, 2018

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IONTW – August 12, 2018

Perseid meteor shower! Don’t forget snacks!! Night sky atlases of the past, and some modern-day scientific illustration.

Another grueling fire season in California. Rob Decker at National Park Posters is donating part of the proceeds of sales of his Whiskeytown National Recreation Area poster to recovery and restoration.

Next weekend – August 18 and 19 – Saturday the Shone Farm is having the monthly Pick and Sip Saturday, also SFR is hosting a 200k brevet to celebrate RUSA‘s 20th anniversary. All weekend – ACCORDION FESTIVAL in Cotati! Sunday – nesting in Marin.

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