Vancouver

Ellyn and I visited Vancouver for the first time back in January. We did it sort of as a last minute thing. We both had some vacation time and a wild hair, so we took off! Without much of a plan – which worked out pretty well.

We got super lucky with the weather. Vancouver is supposed to be always rainy and it was mostly clear for us. A little rain one day and a bunch a couple of nights.

We ate a bunch of good Chinese food. We wandered around the city. We saw a bunch of pacific north west art. And we generally had a great time.

I think the highlight for me was going up to the top of Grouse Mountain and snowshoeing. The base of the mountain is just about 25 minutes from downtown via public transit – which is pretty cool. Then up the gondola.

Snowshoeing was amazing. It had been pretty warm for the previous couple of weeks with no new snow, so it was super spring conditions – hard pack with lots of ice. Snowshoes have these little kind of spiky things on the bottom, so you don’t slip. Ellyn kept asking what I was grinning about. We would walk up these 20-30 degree inclines that I knew were impossible without ending up on your butt a dozen times with no problem at all.

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An eventful day

Yesterday was an eventful day for me.  It started out with a particularly productive day at work.  Nice when that happens.  It was interrupted by a SpaceX launch.

No, they didn’t launch from the top of Cerro San Luis, though it kind of looks like it from the picture!  I had no idea viewing might be that good from the driveway.  I will be less motivated to drive down to Vandenberg in the future – though watching the landing there a couple of months back was really awesome.  I was able to see all the way through the first stage and some of the positioning jets firing during the return.  Then the second stage lit up and I could see that for a bit.  Next time, binoculars!

The next thing to happen was that I was able to see Venus, which was pretty close to the crescent moon, after watching the launch.  It looked just like a star, hanging there in the middle of the day – I had no idea what it was.  I checked back 30 minutes later and it was still near the moon in the same spot.  And again an hour after that.  Thanks to my friend Mark for pointing out it had to be Venus.  Anyway, it was visible until much after noon when we had some clouds roll in.

Finally, I experienced a kidney stone.  I don’t recommend it.  At 5:15PM I thought I had gas.  At 5:45 I sent Ellyn off to have dinner with Mom & Sis with my apologies.  By 6:30 I thought it was food poisoning.  Around 7 I had no idea, but there had been no movement, so to speak, and I was in quite a lot of pain.  Ellyn got home about 8, collected me, and we went to the hospital.  She knew it was serious when she suggested that’s where we were going and I said “yup” with no discussion.  I visited the ER, got all the best drugs, and was feeling no pain.  They did a CT scan and urine sample and gave me the news.  Turns out it was quite close to the bladder (which is good news, since that means it’s nearly passed).  We went home, I took some more drugs, and went to bed.  This morning all was fine.

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Half a century

Last week I turned 50.  That’s older than I ever imagined being, and it’s older than I imagine I am.  Maybe that’s because I think of 50 as old but I don’t think of myself as old.

50 years is both a long period of time and a short one.

It’s funny to look back.  I don’t really think of a time before computers and after.  Computers didn’t meaningfully  exists – to me – until I was about 12.  Maybe that’s too young to matter.  Cell phones didn’t exist until I was about 30.  I don’t really think of a time before cell phones and a time after – they are just something that happened along the way.  I do distinctly remember being handed a cell phone and not knowing how to use it.

It’s funny the things that happened that I don’t think about.  Everyone knows that cell phones are recent.  But I mentioned to a “young” co-worker that I skied growing up and he asked if I meant skiing or snow boarding.  I explained that snow boarding did not exist – and that was a revelation to him.  Is that what it is to be old?  To know when things came into being?  To have experienced transitions that younger folks don’t realize happened?

Looking externally, the world has changed much more and much less than one might hope.  Growing up, the threat of nuclear annihilation was absolutely real.  Just a given.  Not so much any more.  Russia was the big enemy.  Germany was divided.  South Africa was under apartheid.  None of that was going to change without a lot of bloodshed.  But it all did and with practically none.  When I was born we were at war with Vietnam.  Nobody had walked on the moon.  The world population was about 3.5 billion.

The year before I was born – 1967 – there were still 15 states with ‘Anti-miscegenation laws’ (barring interracial marriage).  Which is crazy from both perspectives.  As a nation we argue about the validity of complaints about the treatment of people of color, but anyone older than 60 can remember a time where it was illegal in about 1/3 of the states to marry someone ‘of the wrong race’.  On the one hand it’s nice to think we should just get over it.  On the other hand it’s shocking to think that we should already be over it.

50 years before I was born it was 1918.  It was WWI.  Airplanes were brand spanking new.  Automobiles were very recent.  Nobody had climbed Mt. Everest.  Television was not a thing.  Plastics were not a thing.  Interracial marriage was illegal in most states (which  did not yet include Hawaii & Alaska).  Women did not yet get to vote nationally.  The theory of continental drift was roundly rejected (pun intended).  The world population was about 1.9 billion.

There are people that are 100 years old.

150 years ago – just 3 of my lives back to back – it was 1868.  5 years into the reconstruction after the American civil war.  Radio is not yet invented.  The electric bulb is not yet invented.  I guess people read a lot.

This country is just short of 250 years old.  That seems like a long time, and maybe it is.  But it’s just 5 of my life spans back to back.  Maybe I’m old and that’s a really long time.  But that’s not how I feel.  I feel like there have been a lot of changes very very recently and we really don’t have all that much experience.

I look back and I’m impressed with all the progress we’ve made.  I’m aghast at where we started.  I’m shocked at how well things are going in general.  I’m frustrated that they aren’t going better.  I’m hopeful because we haven’t all killed each other and in general most  things really do seem to be going in the right direction.  Slowly, and yet insanely quickly.

Is being old the ability to blather on for a long time?  If so, I’ve been old for a while 🙂

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Our Gracie

Today we lost our beloved cat, Gracie.

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She was always a fiercely independent cat, and you all know how she came and went as she pleased.  She would sometimes go on walkabout, and stay away from home for 24+ hours a few times a year, usually when the weather turned nice in the spring or summer.  We would always worry about her, but she always came back to us, and acting nonchalant about it.

She came home late last night, having been gone about 36 hours, but this time, something was wrong – she wasn’t eating and looked tired.  We  took her to the vet first thing this morning, and turns out she was in extreme kidney failure.  She got rapidly worse even after they tried to give her some fluids, and the vet said some of her kidney numbers were so high they were off the charts, and her chances of recovery were very slim.  We know Gracie would never want a life filled up with medications and vet appointments, and so we made sure she was comfortable and brought her home.

Gracie first showed up in our life about 8 years ago, she was probably a few years old by that time and had been abandoned and living rough.  She was a wary cat, who was happy to be being fed, but took her time warming up and learning to trust us.  We let her call the shots as a rule  (no picking up!  no touching of feet!) and she was more affectionate every  year.  She loved spending time with us, corralling us for yard patrol, hanging out on the sofa in the evenings, or coming in to say midday hellos to Kurt working from home.  She’d taken to welcoming  Ellyn at the head of the driveway every night when she got home from work.  She was even friendly to house guests in the last few years.

Looking back at the last few weeks, we imagine there might have been some subtle signs she was feeling off, but we’re really not sure.  Tuesday morning before work Ellyn caught her doing her sun salutation routine, and they had a nice chat.  And that night she slept with us in our bed, which is pretty rare for her.  We’re so grateful some of our last memories with her were so mundane and happy.  We laid her to rest at the edge of the pomegranate bush, which was one of her favorite napping spots.
We’re glad to have been able to share our home and life with her.  She was an excellent cat.  We will miss her a lot.
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Just passing through

My parents have both moved to San Luis Obispo.  They’re now within 3 miles of home.  I’m hard pressed to come up with a reason to stop in Los Angeles anymore.

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The Werle homestead of 44 years

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A SLO week

We had a really fun week. We visited two restaurants in town that we’d never (in 10 years) eaten at, and we went down to Vandenberg to watch a SpaceX launch.

The first restaurant is Koberl at Blue.  It’s one of the fanciest places in town.  We’d stopped to look at the menu several times and the vegetarian options were few-to-non-existent, so we’d always gone elsewhere.  This time we’d set out for elsewhere and it was closed for good, so decided to take another look – and now they have a full page of vegetarian options!  Dinner was yummy.  Ellyn’s wine was yummy.  Dessert was yummy.  Next time we’re feeling very fancy it will certainly be an option.

The second restaurant is Oasis.  It’s a Moroccan styled restaurant and we’d taken away from it once before, but never dined in.  Oh – and I’ve often bought from their stand at the farmers’ market (which is right in front of their place).  Honestly, I can’t say why we’d never been in.  Ellyn’s sister and her beaux are visiting this weekend, and since we went to Morocco with them last year, it seemed like the thing to do.  And it was!  The food was really good.  We’ll be back!

Friday morning we headed down toward Surf Beach to watch the launch from complex 4.  It’s just a bit over an hour south of SLO.  We weren’t sure where exactly we would park, but it became obvious about a mile from the beach that we had arrived.  It was really cool to see the mix of folks that show up for a launch.  Across from us was a Tesla, and behind that was a Harley Davidson.  There were folks in campers, there were kids in pajamas (launch was at 7:17AM).  It was awesome.

 

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The lunar eclipse

Ellyn and I got up early the other week to see the lunar eclipse.  For us it was about 5AM – though Ellyn had had trouble sleeping and got up a couple of times before that.  We went outside for about 15 minutes and had a bit of a magical viewing.  The moon didn’t change much during that time, but there was a shooting star right next to it that we both saw, and one of the local barn owls (who we often hear screeching). swooped through the neighbor’s yard right below the moon.  And we’re having a ridiculously warm spring, so it was probably in the mid 60’s – but no sign of the fog that we often have in the morning hours.  All in all, pretty awesome.

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Not my picture

Ellyn named Moonface nearly a decade ago.  I never saw it.  But after the eclipse it makes more sense to me.

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