Saturday, April 7, 2018

St. Louis for the second time

I'm currently in St. Louis, Missouri, halfway through a two-week trip for work. The last time I passed through St. Louis was during our cross-country road trip honeymoon, six and a half years ago. We stopped for a pretzel snack near the Arch but otherwise didn't see anything of the city. I remember it feeling kinda silly but also fun, to have pretzels of all things, in St. Louis. I also remember us being impressed with just how wide the Mississippi really is. It's one of those things where "knowing" it's a big river is really different from seeing it.

I wish Drew was here with me this weekend. Nostalgia feels more bittersweet when it can't be shared.

I'm going up to the top of the Arch later today; I don't usually do the typical "tourist" activities when I travel… but I don't want to let some stupid hipster notion or simple laziness keep me from doing something unique and iconic, either. Especially since the Arch feels kindred with the Space Needle. I'm hoping that I've explored enough of the area in the past week to appreciate the view, at least somewhat. 'Cause it feels like a waste to me, when I go to a scenic viewpoint but can't recognize anything that I'm looking at.

The "history-ness" of St. Louis feels more palpable to me here than in many places on the West Coast that I'm familiar with. The buildings here are old enough that I can't help but imagine past lives, past centuries superimposed on the landscape. According to a plaque on Fourth Street downtown, the Revolutionary War came as far west as here (presumably for control of the Mississippi River). Being in visibly-old cities gives me a sense of place in the larger country, world, history. It's like the sense of awe and connection to the universe I get when stargazing, except on a more human scale. Maybe I've just grown too familiar with Seattle to feel that way there, but I feel it here.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

We have a sailboat!!

Happily, there were no real surprises with the boat survey! The surveyor agreed that the sails were on their last legs but still serviceable — until they blow out and we have to replace them. So we'll budget for that eventuality and stay in the Sound for now.

The surveyor also pointed out the small amount of water damage around the chainplates where they attach to the bulkheads, which we had previously noticed and worried about, but in his opinion it isn't that big of a deal, just fix it. He said that the repair procedure Drew had researched sounded exactly right.

Of course, the boat gods couldn't let the purchase go 100% smoothly... So there was some minor drama involving a late-breaking second buyer offering cash at the seller's full asking price. We ended up agreeing to buy the boat at the slightly reduced price we'd previously agreed to, but finished the transaction a couple days faster than we'd wanted to, based on the surveyor's verbal comments rather than his detailed written report.

In any case, we now own the boat!

My friend Lee happens to be visiting the area this week, so we're going to motor around the Tacoma area and have a picnic lunch aboard our shiny new-to-us boat. :) I'm sheepishly excited to get to show the boat off to an enthusiastic friend, even if we won't be sailing with guests until I get a little more practice as crew.

Sadly, I'll probably miss the "delivery" sail from Tacoma to Ballard due to an unfortunately-timed work trip. But I absolutely am looking forward to all the other sailing adventures in our future!

The waitlist for day sails with us starts now! ;)


Monday, March 26, 2018

Sailing Anticipation

No change in the scheduled boat survey this wednesday, so there's really nothing "new" to report. That said, were both super excited (also nervous!) about the boat that will hopefully soon ours.

Like I mentioned before, it being only a 25' boat means it's less than many used cars. But it's still a couple thousand dollars, which ain't nothing. We both feel simultaneously excited but also worries about a large purchase (especially while we're still in the middle of remodeling the house!). To be fair, we'd be foolish not to think about that, so the very fact that we're also anxious paradoxically reassures me. And it's coming from a bucket of money that is explicitly not for "usual" expenses, so there's that.

Another Yamaha 25 popped up on Craigslist this weekend. The asking price is a couple thousand less than the one we've put an offer on... but it definitely sounds like a "project boat," not one that's ready to go. We're okay with having to update the sails and maybe even the standing rigging of a boat… but this other boat needs more work than that. So it was actually a good comparison against the boat we are looking at.

When I'm not thinking about the financial commitment, I'm daydreaming about new sailing adventures! We could join the Duck Dodge in our own boat. We could sail to one of the canal restaurants, dock at their pier, and combine a day sail with dinner. We could explore the cities of Lake Washington from their waterfronts. We could visit our friends who live on the Kitsap Peninsula by water. We could take a weekend or weeklong trip up to the San Juans, which I still haven't seen but I hear are beautiful. We could join local sailing clubs' potluck raft-ups, to become part of the local community. And especially, we could just go sailing nowhere it particular, enjoying the wind and the sun, the sky and the water, and the lively boat we sail with.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

We Should Buy a Boat

If all goes well, next week we should be the proud owners of a 25-foot Yamaha sailboat!

It's amazing to me how much Twitter and Facebook have siphoned off what I otherwise would have probably consolidated into longer blog posts. But really, I miss the more "coherent" nature of a post here — especially when I can use my Neo N2 smartpen that my mom bought as a gift to replace my clunker, less reliable Livescribe. :)

Anyway! Rather than "catch up" on all that's been going on in my life since I last blogged (returned from my year in Mexico, new job at Pivotal Labs, remodel continues apace)... I'm going to jump right into the exciting thing going on right now:


We are in the final stages of buying a sailboat! The survey happens next Wednesday, and if the surveyor finds nothing egregious, we'll be exchanging money for boat! I might be excited. :)

She's a Yamaha 25II, built in 1977. So a rather small boat, really, but plenty of space for a couple to do daysailing and short trips, plus space to bring a friend or two along if they don't mind being cozy. Her lines are well-laid out, all coming back to the cockpit where you can reach everything you need to control without having to scramble all around (as you have to on some bigger boats). Other advantages of a smaller boat: the physical forces generated by the sails are less, so some things you can have a chance of manhandling when necessary, and it's less likely to hurt you quite as badly if things go wrong. (But things can still hurt you even on a small boat; you still gotta pay attention!)

Finally, a 25' boat turns out to be significantly cheaper than even ones a few feet longer. Drew* says the price can really jump even for a 31' boat. But we spent more on a then-13-year-old Toyota Tacoma pickup truck than the purchase price of the Yamaha. (Double, actually, if I do the math!) Her sails will need replacing soon-ish — the genoa is the original 1977 sail! — but they're in usable shape for daysailing right now. And the seller's asking price is substantially less than what other Yamahas have sold for... just about the cost of a new set of sails, in fact. ;) so that seems fair to us, plus we get to pick out the characteristics we want in the new sails.

I've only taken a 2-weekend sailing "class" (I found the instruction disappointing) in tiny FJ's back in 2016, and have been out as mostly a passenger (rather than crew) on the Yamaha's test sail and on a club's Catalina 24'. I'm scheduled to take a weekend ASA Keelboats 101 class at the end of April, but really I've done practically no sailing yet. So yeah, it might seem a little crazy that we're buying a boat "so soon."

But really, Drew is the one buying the boat, and sailboats are anything but new to him. He grew up on a different Yamaha 25' before his family moved into a larger Jeanneau 45'. While I was taking my little FJ classes, he was more seriously getting back into sailing. While I was in Mexico, he was joining friends for day sails and Duck Dodges. He'd made a Craigslist alert for Yamaha sailboats and been keeping an eye on how often they came up for sale, in what condition, and for how much. So when he saw this Yamaha in nearby Tacoma, we went to see it.

I've been enjoying learning how to sail. It's like a whole new language of nautical terms, so that appeals to the language nerd in me. There's a whole new welcoming community of sailors that I didn't know existed. There's lots of hands-on skills to practice, master, and geek out about. And I'm just plain excited to have new adventures to share with Drew.

Hopefully by this time next week, we'll be working out the logistics of transferring the boat to our ownership! :D

*Forrest is going by Drew now (it's one of his middle names).


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Using Livescribe for a Year

The Livescribe 3 has its annoyances but overall I'm still happier to use it than not. But if I were buying a new smartpen now, I'd probably buy a Neo N2.

A year ago, I bought a Livescribe 3. It costs $150 and requires special paper (which you can print yourself, if you don't want to buy a pretty Moleskine or other notebook), so it's not just a simple impulse buy sort of gadget.

Several folks have asked me what I think of it. It's a little complicated, so I've decided to write up my thoughts in one place, here on my blog.


First off, you should be warned that there are several MAJOR caveats in my Livescribe recommendation:

  • The older, non-smartphone-only pens, have a little LCD screen that dies every 2 years, according to user reports on their support site. (Despite this, some of those users say they just buy a new one every 2 years. Crazy.)
  • Speaking of their support site, no one has replied to posts their in 7 months (as of today).
  • Two things the OCR does not handle well: separating paragraphs, respecting indents, and crossing out mistakes. (Three things. I'll come in again.)
  • Their software looks like it was designed by Big Corp. Meaning, it works, mostly, but its usability is not that slick. Some tasks have more steps than they really need to have. Sometimes you have to "turn it off and back on again" before it actually works.
  • Every once in a blue moon (ie, months will go by just fine), the software just flat out refuses to do its OCR magic on a paragraph or two. Tech support is stumped as to why this is, so I just had to manually transcribe those couple paragraphs.
  • It's a tad bit bulky, although just this side of doesn't-get-in-my-way.
  • Its ink cartridges, while not totally proprietary, are a little hard to find. I've ended up ordering mine (including red, green, and blue inks!) off Amazon and it shipped from Japan in a couple days. :P


Now, why do I like it so much if it's got these significant drawbacks?

  • It's a fun tech toy. ;)
  • The OCR works amazingly well, maybe 90-95% accurate. (It even understood most of my husband's messy handwriting!) I always proofread what it generates, but usually I only have to clean up the equivalent of a typo here, a typo there.
  • Because its output is "just text", I can email that output to a computer script that then does all sorts of magic to it. (Eg, I wrote a program that guesses where paragraph breaks are, turns *asterisks* into italics, looks for custom syntax like "#Flickr: foo" and inserts HTML that displays & links to my Flickr photos, etc. Or, if the text starts with #NaNoWriMo, it processes it slightly differently, then hands it off to a different program that sticks the text in my Google Docs while updating a Google Spreadsheet & the official NaNoWriMo word counts.)
  • I really, really hate transcribing. I don't mind proofing, but I hate transcribing.
  • I love, love, love how it enables writing in the dark. When I'm working on a piece of fiction, it seems that my brain always comes up with an extra scene or two while I'm trying to fall asleep. I used to lose these scenes, or scribble notes that I'd then dread to transcribe the next morning. With the Livescribe's OCR, it's just as easy to transcribe neat daytime writing as messy nighttime scribbling. For example, the last short story that I wrote, 80% of it was done in the dark when I should have been sleeping. Because of my aforementioned scripts, I was even able to know what my updated word count was while still lying in bed. :)
  • When I do have problems every so often, their email-based support staff has always gotten back to me within a couple business days.


Livescribe isn't the only "smartpen" on the market. It's the only one I've used, but I did do a little bit of searching around to see what the competition was like:

  • The Neo Smartpen, which sounds like a direct competitor to Livescribe. It's $170, so right around the same price point. It looks slimmer, thus less crampy to write with. It also lets you print your own paper. And several Amazon reviews by previous Livescribe 3 owners unanimously prefer the Neo N2. If I'd known about it (and/or if it had been out when I was looking), I would have strongly considered it instead.
  • There is an entirely different design of smartpen, which lets you write on any paper you want, but requires you to clip a sensor to the top of the paper. But my research turned up lots of users complaining that if anything got in between the sensor and the pen, it could get distorted and confused. So I wouldn't recommend that other design, although feel free to do your own research. ;)

If you're still interested in getting a Livescribe after all that, here's my referral link: ;)


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wandering around Querétaro


He estado quedándome con una familia de Couchsurfing por mis primeros días aquí en Querétaro. Hoy la otra huésped, una alemana, se fue, y la familia me llevó al centro mientras la llevaban a ella al terminal de autobuses. Por eso, no empecé el día en el centro del centro, sino cerca de los arcos del acueducto, a una distancia corta del centro.

Me reí a mí misma por llamarse en mi mente "el acueducto romano" en la mente, como si fuera construido por los romanos. :P

Caminaba por las calles hasta el centro, tomando fotos de iglesias, árboles, estatuas, y otras cosas de la ciudad de Querétaro. Hacía mucho calor (para mí, al menos: 28°C o 82°F), así que compré un raspado de limón de un vendedor que estaba al mirador de los arcos. Fue tan dulce! No pude terminarlo por la dulzura demasiado fuerte porque estaba demasiado dulce, sólo comí el hielo raspado de arriba, que contó con lo mínimo del jarabe donde el jarabe era menos fuerte.

Encontré el Palacio de Gobierno en un lado de la Plaza de Armas. Miré los murales de la independencia y la revolución. Entonces un tipo (con una etiqueta de nombre) me invitó a escuchar su plática sobre la historia local con los otros visitantes. El tenía un humor un poco extraño, y usó muchas frases coloquiales que no entendí bien, pero me gustó a pesar de esto.

Después, regresé a un restaurante inglés/indio/thailandés que había visto más temprano en el día. Mientras caminaba, vi a un cura bendiciendo un coche de una familia. Muy extraño.

En el restaurante comí curry amarillo thai y pollo a la mantequilla. El curry fue más como un caldo (pero todavía con un buen sabor). Y el pollo a la mantequilla no tenía nada que ver con el plato del mismo nombre de los restaurantes estado­unidenses, porque sus especias fueron completamente distintas (pero todavía con un buen sabor :)).

Por el resto del día, andaba por las calles del centro hasta que llegué a un café, donde me senté para leer y escribir.

Corrected by Ines and Juanfry.


I've been staying with a Couchsurfing family for my first few days here in Querétaro. Today the other guest, a German woman, left, and the family dropped me off downtown while they took her to the bus station. Because of that, I didn't start my day in the *middle* of downtown, but near the aquaduct arches instead, a little ways from downtown.

I laughed at myself for calling it "the Roman aquaduct" in my head, as if it were built by the Romans. :P

I walked through the streets toward downtown, taking photos of churches, trees, statues, and other things in the city of Querétaro. It was really hot (for me, at least: 28°C o 82°F), so I bought a lime-flavored shaved ice from a vendor who was at the vista point for the aquaduct. It was so sweet! I couldn't finish it because it was too sweet, I only ate the shaved ice at the top, where the syrup was least strong.

I stumbled upon the Palacio de Gobierno along one side of the Plaza de Armas. I looked at the murals about the Independence and the Revolution. Then a guy (with a nametag) invited me to listen to his talk about the local history with the other visitors. He had a strange sense of humor, and used a lot of colloquial phrases that I didn't understand well, but I enjoyed it despite that.

Afterward, I returned to a British/Indian/Thai restaurant that I'd seen earlier in the day. While I walked, I saw a priest blessing a family's car. Very weird.

At the restaurant, I ate yellow curry and butter chicken. The curry was more like a broth (but still with a good flavor). And the butter chicken was nothing like the dish by the same name in American restaurants, because it had completely different spices (but still with a good flavor ;)).

For the rest of the day, I wandered through the streets downtown until I arrived at a cafe, where I sat to read and write.


Saturday, February 21, 2015



Durante las seis semanas que estaba en Guanajuato, nunca tenía ganas de escribir. No sé por qué era así, pero mi teoría es que estaba allí por suficiente tiempo que desarrollar una rutina, y ésa no incluía escribir.

Y ahora que me he traslado a Querétaro, de repente quiero escribir otra vez.

Es un poco triste. Quiero tener una rutina que sí incluye la escritura. Y por eso, me he inscrito en otro reto de HTLAL: escribir 100 páginas y grabarme 100 horas de hablar. Para forzarme a escribir y hablar más, lo que es sorprendentemente fácil de evitar.

Quizás puedo encontrar a un compañero de estudio, como un compañero de ejercicio pero para la mente. ;)

Corrected by Moiradora y Diego.


During the six weeks that I was in Guanajuato, I never felt like writing. I don't know why that was so, but my theory's that I was there for a long enough time that I developed a routine, and it didn't include writing.

And now that I've moved on to Querétaro, suddenly I want to write again.

It's a little sad. I want to have a routine that does include writing. And so I've signed up for another HTLAL challenge: write 100 pages and record 100 hours of talking. To force myself to write and talk more, which is surprisingly easy to avoid.

Maybe I can find a study buddy, like a workout buddy but for your mind. ;)


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Couchsurfing with Luz's Family in León


La línea de inmigración y la aduana fue muy larga y lentísima. Pero al final, no había ningún problema con mi visa de residencia temporal ni con las cosas de mi mochila. (Pero todavía tengo que ir a la oficina de inmigración para finalizar mi visa — el sello del aeropuerto solo me autorizar a estar en México por 30 días.)

Después de obtener mi sello oficial, encontré a mi anfitriona de Couchsurfing, una mujer de casi mi edad que se llama Luz. Ella viva en León con su familia (pues, no con sus hermanos ya casados) y es posible que me quede en su casa hasta ¡viernes!

Todos los miembros de su familia son amables — encontré a sus padres y a un hermano. (También a uno de sus primos, él que nos manejamos desde el aeropuerto, pero él no hablaba mucho y no se quedó después de llegar a la casa. Pero sí le gusta la música metal, al menos de Rammstein... :))

Cuando llegamos a la casa, admití que tenía un poco de hambre. Afortunadamente había una tienda al otro lado de la calle. Salimos, ella compró pan dulce y jugo de naranja para mí — le dije que le pagaré por algo para ella mañana — y regresamos en menos que cinco minutos. Los dueños de la tienda eran una pareja amable, pero el hombre estaba tan cansado que se equivocó del cambio dos veces. (Con sonrisas y risas, no fue nada malicioso.)

En la casa otra vez, comí mi pan y bebí mi jugo. También pregunté sobre estos pedazos de cosas que resultaron ser tamales de azúcar. Lo calentó y lo probé. No fue muy dulce, solo un poquito; el sabor de masa nada mucho más. No fue mi nueva comida favorita, pero me gustó y lo comería otra vez.

Después de comer, Luz me mostró la habitación mía. Era un espacio sencillo pero cómodo, y era obviamente donde ella practica su música, porque hay un piano y también otros instrumentos.

En la mañana, quizás vamos a ir juntos al museo de arte e historia. Luz me dijo que ha necesitado una excusa para ir, y soy yo esa excusa. :)

Corrected by Maria.


The immigration and customs lines were very long and extremely slow. But in the end, there were no problems with my temporary resident visa nor with the things in my backpack. (But I still have to go to an immigration office to finalize my visa — the airport stamp only authorizes me to stay in Mexico for 30 days.)

After getting my official stamp, I found my Couchsurfing host, a woman almost my age who's named Luz. She lives in León with her family (well, not with her married brothers) and it's possible that I can stay with them through Friday(!).

Everyone in her family is friendly — I met her parents and a brother. (I also met one of her cousins, who drove us from the airport, but he didn't talk much and he didn't stay after dropping us off at the house. But he did like listening to metal music, at least Rammstein... :))

When we arrived at the house, I admitted that I was a little hungry. Luckily, there's a shop across the street. We went out, she bought sweet bread and orange juice for me — I told her that I'd buy something for her tomorrow — and we returned in less than five minutes. The owners of the shop were a friendly couple, but the man was so tired that he gave the wrong change twice. (Which smiles and laughs, nothing malicious at all.)

At the house again, I ate my bread and drank my juice. I also asked about these little pieces of something that turned out to be sugar tamales. She heated it up and I tried it. It wasn't very sweet, just a little bit; not much more than masa flavor. It wasn't my new favorite food, but I liked it and would eat it again.

After eating, Luz showed me my room. It's a simple but comfortable room, and it's obviously where she practices her music, because there's a piano and maybe some other instruments too.

In the morning, we might go together to the museum of art and history. Luz told me that she's needed an excuse to go, and I'm that excuse. :)


Flying to Mexico


En mi puerta del aeropuerto LAX, casi todos los otros pasajeros eran hispanohablantes. Me parece que los americanos angloparlantes no visitan la ciudad de León con frecuencia... La agente de la aerolínea cambió mi asiento porque se requieren pasajeros que hablan inglés sentados en las filas de emergencia.

Hablé con dos mexicanas, ningunas las que hablan ni una palabra de inglés. Incluso les ayudé con los anuncios de los agentes.

Para pasar el vuelo (que duró 3 horas) vi "Frozen: Una Aventura Congelada" por la enésima vez (pero solo la tercera vez en español). Me resulta aún más fácil entender cada tiempo que la veo, y queda entretenida.

Corrected by DavidLz.


At my gate at the LAX airport, almost all the passengers are Spanish-speakers. It seems like English-speaking Americans don't visit the city of Léon often... The gate agent changed my site because they require English-speaking passengers in the emergency exit rows.

I spoke with two Mexican women, neither of whom spoke a single word of English. I even helped them with the agents' announcements.

To pass the time on the flight (which lasts 3 hours) I watched "Frozen" for the umpteenth time (but only the third time in Spanish). It's becoming easier to understanding every time I watch it, and it's still entertaining.


Leaving California


¡Omgomgomg estoy en el avión, ya saliendo del aeropuerto de Oakland, California! Estoy tan emociante, y también una poca ansiosa. Voy a extrañar me de mi familia, mis amigos, mi ciudad, mis gatos, y sumamente mi marido. Pero, como me dijo mi amiga LisaD, esto es una aventura de "la única vez de la vida", así que me enfoco en "emociante." :)

Corrected by BennyDelon.


Omgomgomg I'm on the plane, leaving the airport in Oakland, California! I'm so excited, and also a little scared. I'm going to miss my family, my friends, my city, my cats, and especially my husband. But, as my friend LisaD said to me, this is a "once in a lifetime" adventure, so I'm going to focus on "excited." :)