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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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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IONTW – July 29, 2018

So maybe you missed National Ice Cream Day on July 15, but – for a few more days – it’s still Ice Cream Month. Some places to partake. The ice cream revolution is upon us! (h/t to Mr. Phil) And, is it revolutionary or revolting … Mayonnaise Ice Cream?!

Speaking of missing, who knew July 23-27 was Landmarks Week? Although, the more I think about the word landmark the weirder it gets, but here are some very cool pictures of iconic structures under construction to make up for it!

Hashi being called chopsticks is always a bit grating, but neat collection of wrapper origami. I definitely have room to up my game.

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2018 Colombia – Day 4

< previous day

Another leisurely sleeping in-ish sorta morning, and down to the mill for huevos revueltas and cafe con leche. I could get used to this!

Therese was staying at the same place, and had mentioned going swimming and how wonderful the pool was. We wandered back to check it out. Wow! Beautiful rock work and fresh water flowing in one end and out the other!! Oh, I wonder if it was the mill pond?

Ross – who didn’t actually end up going – had mentioned that Dan had figured out about a bike ride for today, so we decided to see about getting in on that. By the time we got to Ciclotrip, he (Dan) wasn’t there anymore, but had reserved bicycles for a bit later on. We figured out we actually needed a couple more bikes to accommodate everyone, and, since we were there went ahead and got set up.

The bikes were in various states of well used. After being a bit dubious about the state of the front tire on the initial offering I got, I ended up on the bike of one of the employees. It didn’t have grips. Oh well, it was a bike.

As we were wrapping up, the others arrived and got set up on their bikes. ? went over the route with us, marking lines on a paper map, and showing pictures of landmarks – both for navigation and points of interest – on the computer.

We set out up the main road that Eric and I had walked on the day before, and soon were past the Museum and where we had turned. It felt good to be seeing some countryside by bike, although I was noticing the altitude a bit. Or at least that’s what I’m going to blame my labored breathing on.

There were occasional regroups, and stops for bug spray and/or sunscreen application, and taking pictures. There were great views of the mountains. One of the times we stopped Erin decided to turn back, we heard later that she found a quiet back road to return to town.

We stopped at a crossroads store for some snacks and drinks, and then continued on to the waterfall. The directions had included something about parking the bikes, and I’d been thinking it would be just off the road to the waterfall, but it turned out to be sort of a nature park and several waterfalls!

We actually had to wait for a guide, but that turned out to work out pretty well, as the clouds that had been picturesque had become a bit threatening and did, in fact dump some rain while we were there under the roof at the entrance gate. Some Colombians also showed up, so apparently it wasn’t just a gringo tourist thing. In fact, the guide gave the tour in Spanish, so I didn’t get a whole lot out of it, well, between that and lagging at the back taking pictures.

Even without knowing what there were, I enjoyed looking at the plants and colorful flowers. WOW! ALLTHEBROMELIADS!!! Which I’m used to seeing as generally small houseplants. There they were big and growing ALL. OVER! On the ground, in the trees. Super cool. The river and waterfalls – which turned out to be plural – were very pretty also.

Oh and speaking of trees, there were some that had what looked an awful lot like acorns, although the leaves did not look oak-y. There was some debate about it, but then we saw a sign saying Roble. OK, oak it is. Huh, well I guess even the ones in the States have different shaped leaves depending on variety.

After completing the waterfall tour we got back on the bikes and started on the return arc of the loop. There were views galore, and a herd of brahmas, and a turkey! (The feathered kind.) The route description had included some other points of interest, but with the length of the waterfall stop we were feeling like we needed to keep moving to get back before the shop closed. Towards the end I think we went a slightly different way than described but we still ended up back where we started.

There was milling about of the bike returning, and talk of the foods, and some of us wanted to clean up before dinner. Since it – dinner that is – wasn’t going to be right away – I got helado! OK OK, I would have gotten one even if we were going to dinner right away. I think that was the guava. I tried to get things that I couldn’t – or are not so common – at home.

We went back to our hotel and went for a swim in the magical pool, which we had to ourselves. It was not bathtub warm, but warm enough. I’m not sure how deep it was, since I kept my head above water, but much of it I could not touch the bottom.

For dinner we met Dan, Erin, Braxton and Therese at Kumina, a Colombian Caribbean restaurant that Erin had found for having vegetarian options. There were six options on the menu, and the owner had pictures on his cell phone. Everything looked good, and over the course of the evening amongst all of us we ordered the entire menu. Everything was super tasty, although several of them seemed to be basically the same ingredients, just in different configurations – changed ratios and/or form factors. Yes, there were arepas! One with a fried egg inside – which usually I’m not so keen on fried eggs, but here it worked – and another that was sweet-ish, with anise seed.

After dinner there was a bit of walking around, and more ice cream, and then talk of drinks, but the place the drinks was going to happen at ended up being louder than Eric and I were up for, so we headed back to our hotel by a slightly different route than we’d been on before, which happened to take us past a shop with amazing looking cakes.

Well, past meaning we stopped and looked, and then went in. And, after some debate, got a piece of cheesecake with agraz sauce – final decision tipped by not knowing what agraz was so figuring I’d probably never had it before. It was a small purple berry that the intarwebs Spanish to English translate said was sour grapes. Huh. It was a little tart – probably not something I’d have again, although the cheesecake was pretty good.

And again fell into a relatively early, restful sleep until BOOM CRACK CRACK! Fireworks?! It sounded like it was right in the hotel’s car park. Then it kept going. Long enough for me to find my glasses – that I’d uncharacteristically left in the bathroom – and open the shutters and look. OK, not right here, but big ones that looked to be probably over the square. Wow, Angela and Jon were really doing this up! Wait, why didn’t they tell us? Oh that’s right, it was the anniversary of the founding of the town!

more photos

June 11, 2018

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Ice Cream Trail

One thing I look for when I travel is ice cream. OK, not just when I travel. Whatever. Recently I was in Pleasanton for training for work, I hadn’t thought to check the intarwebs, but then the office at the hotel I was staying at had a card for the Tri-Valley Ice Cream Trail. Ding ding ding!

There were five listings for Pleasanton, all within walking distance – which was the number needed for fulfilling their current passport promotion – but I couldn’t quite justify hitting them all in the short time I was there. Meadowlark Dairy sounded the most local, so I hit that, and then Almare Gelato, which is the second location of two, so also seemed pretty local, which I like to support when I can.

The trail also has a number of intriguing sounding spots in Dublin and Danville, neither of which I get to so much, but who knows – I mean if there’s ice cream… – and also Livermore, which is on the way to The Ranch, so I may get to 5 before the end of September, but even if not, still a Happy Trail!

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Almare Gelato Italiano

Italians? In Berkeley?! OK yeah, I know. It’s just so easy though! Although I suppose I should give it a rest, as I didn’t actually go to the one in Berkeley, but the satellite branch in Pleasanton.

It was a cute brick store front with an awning and patio seating area. I managed to not be distracted by the tasty looking selection of chocolates, cookies and other treats in the front of the shop – remember the primary objective – ICE CREAM! Er, gelato. I’m still not exactly sure what the difference is.

Anyway, there was a nice selection of about a dozen flavors, for the most part pretty standard. The one thing that seemed a little unusual was the Toasted Almond with Caramelized Figs – according to the website it’s famous, so maybe a signature flavor? but for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. I went with coffee. Good solid flavor and nice and creamy.

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