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Friday was scheduled to be my last day at work before being laid off, but on Friday I accepted a new job, so I headed to Barry's house in a very good mood to spend my four-day Fourth of July weekend with Barry. My lodger was also spending the four-day weekend out of town, at her boyfriend's house, so I didn't have a pet-sitter handy; therefore, I taped some pee pads into the back seat of my car for Boston (she's incontinent on most car rides these days) and brought her along with me to Barry's house. I also brought three loaves of frozen bread dough (we made two loaves over the course of the weekend, although one of the loaves we made was from the remains of an identical package already at Barry's house), a bag of barbecue potato chips, a loaf of pumpernickel bread, two bags of Muenster cheese, and a big package of thinly sliced turkey sandwich meat. The last three items, I brought simply because I happened to have recently made a sandwich out of them and mentioned it to Barry via instant message, and Barry had said it sounded good, and he did not have the ingredients on hand to make an identical sandwich, so I decided I would bring them with me and make him an identical sandwich.

Upon arrival at Barry's house, I found Barry's pickup truck parked diagonally across two spaces of his three-car driveway, and the back of his truck filled with a mix of 50% dirt/50% compost to fill up the third planter box that Barry recently built. He had parked the truck diagonally for easier wheelbarrow access. I put Boston in Barry's back yard and went inside to eat a delicious dinner of Pasta-Roni and some side dish that we both seem to have forgotten the precise identity of. We also watched some Battlestar Galactica.

On Saturday morning, Barry made waffles, and then we tied Boston to the roof rack of Barry's truck while we filled up the planter box with the soil mixture from Barry's truck. Barry did all the wheeling of the wheelbarrow over to the planter box and dumping its contents into the planter box; I stayed at the truck, where we had two shovels, and we both shoveled the soil into the wheelbarrow until we got the truck emptied out. When the truck was fully emptied out, the planter box still wasn't as full as I wanted, so I drove to Home Depot and bought a big bag of some more dirt, plus a bag of mulch to spread on top of it, and some plants to put in the new planter. I bought a variety pack of six eggplants, a variety pack of six bell peppers, one prostrate rosemary plant, and two chili peppers. After I got them planted, I showed Barry the labels from the plants. He was freaked out by the ghost pepper and showed me a YouTube video of some guy eating a tiny piece of a ghost pepper and moaning a bunch and then deciding he needed to go to the hospital. I agreed to unplant the ghost pepper. We both were kind of disturbed to discover that Home Depot would sell such things without some sort of biohazard warning label.

I chatted with Mikie for a bit, updating him on my new job, while Mikie was attending the World Pride celebration in Madrid and while I was watching Barry shoot zombies in a PlayStation game called Killing Floor 2. I also set out a loaf of frozen bread dough to thaw and rise.

Then Barry got a call from the Yolo County animal shelter about a new pair of foster kittens, and we went to pick them up together. They are about eight weeks old - old enough to be adopted - but they've contracted the cat flu and need to be in foster care until they recover. One is a medium-haired calico girl, and the other is a short-haired grey tabby boy. We immediately started calling them Fluffy and Not Fluffy, respectively, but it soon became clear that they had such starkly obvious personality differences that it seemed a shame to name them only by their appearances. Fluffy looks far sicker, appearance-wise, because the nictitating membrane on one of her eyes is constantly closed and protruding slightly (which tends to happen in response to any eye injury; it can be the feline equivalent of a black eye). However, she is very active, like any healthy kitten, and she starts purring instantly at the slightest petting. Not Fluffy, on the other hand, looks pretty healthy (he had a visibly runny nose for the first day but looks fine now), but he is the most sedate and immobile kitten I've ever seen; he spends pretty nearly 100% of his time sitting, usually in kitty loaf position, with all four paws hidden underneath him. The only movement I've seen from him has been just walking a few steps between his food dish and his cat bed, not running around pouncing on things like kittens normally do (and like his sister does). Also, we couldn't get any purr out of him for days! It took until Monday (the third day we had him) before I finally managed to coax him into purring. After that I was able to get him to purr fairly reliably; however, it always took several minutes of petting to coax him into purring, whereas his sister would always purr instantly at the first touch. So we decided that Fluffy's full name is Fluffy Active Purr Paws, and Not Fluffy's full name is Not Fluffy Not Active No Purr No Paws (because usually none of his paws are visible). I suggested just calling him Not for short.

Both of them wanted nothing to do with food for the first 24 hours or so. The animal shelter staff had told us that the kittens didn't seem to be eating, and that it might be because their noses were so stuffed up that they probably had trouble smelling the food. Barry gave them a dish full of canned food, a dish full of dry food, and some treats, in hopes that they might find something to their liking.

Click for kitten closeups! )

Here they both are on my lap on Saturday, the day we got them. They are in characteristic positions here, with Fluffy standing up and responding to petting, and Not sitting down, largely ignoring his surroundings.

me with Fluffy and Not

For dinner Saturday night, Barry made cacio e pepe, which he proudly assured me was authentically Italian. It was delightful. We ate it with homemade bread, while we finished watching Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica. Barry says there are board games for each season of Battlestar Galactica, and we are now at the right point to play the first of them.

On Sunday morning, we found that the kittens didn't seem to have touched any of their food. Barry placed Fluffy in front of the dish of canned food and managed to induce her to start eating some of it. Not continued to refuse food for a while longer. We had seen Fluffy drinking water even before we coaxed her into eating food, but we weren't certain whether Not had drunk any water. I started to worry that his motionlessness might mean he was more seriously ill than Fluffy and maybe even at risk of dying. I put him on my lap and started petting him, and got him to start leaning his face to one side as I petted his cheek. Then I asked Barry to pass me the water dish, and I held the water dish in front of his face and petted his cheek so that he leaned his face practically right into the water. His whiskers got wet, and then he finally started drinking. Hooray! A little later, I did the same thing with the canned food and got him to eat some of that. After that they both started eating and drinking much more regularly. Here is Not on my lap on Sunday.

me with Not

On Sunday afternoon, Barry took me out for a hot date at the grand opening of the new makerspace in Barry's local library. I had told him I wanted to do something to celebrate my new job, and my narrow escape from the previously looming threat of unemployment, and we had tentatively settled upon the idea of getting some soft-serve ice cream from a food truck. But we arrived earlier than we probably should have and had time to kill before the makerspace opened, and the food trucks weren't there yet either. And it was hot! It was definitely a hot date, but not entirely the kind of hot that I was hoping for. And when we wandered around looking for somewhere to eat, all the restaurants that were open at all on Sundays had closed before 1:00.

Finally we discovered that Steve's Pizza was still open, so Barry bought us a small pizza there. Then we went on to the makerspace when it opened at 2:00. It has one laser (much smaller than both of Barry's two lasers), a woodshop with a bunch of other wood-cutting tools, some 3D printers, some metal-soldering devices, a button press, an iron-on design maker, a sewing machine, and some knitting/crocheting classes. Barry had brought a flash drive with him on which he'd designed a product in advance that he wanted to print out on one of the 3D printers, but the makerspace requires people to take classes on how to use each type of equipment before being allowed to use the equipment independently, so he just signed up for the 3D printing class. He also used the button press to make a button advertising the makerspace, and then used the sewing machine to sew a design onto a paper card and matching envelope.

Using the makerspace is free, except that people have to pay for the materials they use there. Users must have a library card, and the costs are charged to their library card account.

There was also a garden outside the makerspace, planted with tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. I may have been somewhat more interested in the garden than in the makerspace. But I can imagine that some of the makerspace might eventually be useful to me someday.

We left the library at 3:00, when the food trucks were being set up, but we found out that the food trucks wouldn't actually start serving until 4:00. We didn't want to wait that long, so instead we went to a grocery store and bought a big tub of "double chocolate" frozen yogurt, a big tub of "orange-vanilla swirl" sherbet, a smaller tub of "peanut butter chocolate chip" "healthy" alternative ice cream, a coconut-flavored non-dairy whipped cream, a "healthy" alternative chocolate sauce, and a jar of maraschino cherries. We brought this pile of loot back to Barry's house and assembled a banana split for each of us (using the three flavors we had bought rather than the traditional chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry), with a cherry on top of each. It was fantastic.

Then we took Boston for a walk to a different grocery store, where Barry bought more celebratory foods - this time for dinner rather than for our pre-dinner dessert. I stayed with Boston in the parking lot while Barry went inside and did the shopping. As soon as we finished walking back home, I put on fluorescent yellow and teal running clothes and went out for a run, leaving Boston and Barry behind this time. (Boston would be able to keep up with me, but I didn't want to have to worry about encountering off-leash dogs - although this is significantly less common in Barry's neighborhood than in mine.) I ran in various loops through Barry's neighborhood for 20 minutes; attempts to retrace my route on MapQuest later suggest that I went about two miles.

I came home just as the last of the daylight was fading away, and took a shower, and then Barry started barbecuing steaks and chicken and also pineapple on his back patio. Barry's neighbors kept setting off early fireworks, though, and Boston is terrified of fireworks, so Boston kept trying to shove her way into Barry's house anytime we opened the door a crack. We did not want her in the house, because she is incontinent and because she was dirty from being in the yard and because she is unlikely to get along well with Barry's cats. So I stationed myself in a chair on the inside of the sliding glass door with a book (To Be or Not to Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North, the cartoonist of Dinosaur Comics fame) while Barry was outside with the barbecue, and by coordinating, we were able to hand things through the door to one another while keeping a free hand available to wrangle Boston as needed. We made a good team.

Dinner was amazing! And over dinner, we continued our progress through the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 by starting to watch Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II. Also, Barry made a point of congratulating me several times on my new job during our celebratory dinner, and my need for a sense of celebration was fully and properly sated.

Monday was our designated day for staying in and not doing much. I did some gardening, made another loaf of homemade bread, and also made Barry a sandwich with the sandwich materials I had brought from home. We finished watching Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (Internet connection problems had interrupted us halfway through it on Sunday night) and started watching Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica. Barry made deviled eggs in preparation for the Fourth of July party we were planning to attend the following day, and we ate leftover barbecued amazingness from the day before.

Tuesday was the party! First we stopped in at Barry's parents' house for half an hour and watched an annual hot-dog eating contest with them. Then we went a few blocks away to the house of one of Barry's friends who was throwing a party. The party was not really Fourth of July-themed in anything other than the date it took place. It was really a board-game party, and more specifically, a party for a particular group of friends (including Barry and the host) to play the next couple of installments of their ongoing game of Seafall.

We arrived at the same moment as the car containing all five of the other guests, so we all went to the front door at once. We were greeted by the host cursing and exclaiming that he and his girlfriend were still in their pajamas and had thought they had invited us for four hours later. Uh . . . the Facebook invitation said 10:00 a.m., not 2:00 p.m.? They let us in and quickly changed clothes and scrambled to do the minor grocery shopping and cleanup tasks they had planned to get done before we arrived. The party got started in earnest at about 11:00 a.m. Four of us girlfriends weren't part of the ongoing Seafall legacy game. The host's girlfriend largely vanished and removed herself from the party, but the other three of us - me, my lodger, A, and her co-worker S from the local air force base - gathered at a second table to play board games of our own. (Side note: S also could have become a lodger in my house; when I told A I was scheduled to be laid off at the end of the month, A told me that S was interested in renting another room in my house. It might have been quite financially helpful if I were to be unemployed for a very long time, but I had a feeling I wouldn't be unemployed long enough to suffer any major financial straits, and I plan to continue living in my house myself for a while longer, so I said that I thought having two lodgers at once would make my house feel excessively crowded. To me, anyway! Apparently both of them would have been fine with it. Anyway, it was kind of nice to know I had the option, even though I was also relieved to have the freedom to decline that option.)

Although the host's girlfriend did not join us for board games, she did join us for lunch. Since she hadn't originally planned to join us for that either, the host had gotten it in his head that there were only eight people at the party, rather than nine, and so he only barbecued 8 steaks for lunch at first, rather than 9. Then he discovered his mistake and went back out to barbecue the ninth. He was having a bad day with numbers. It worked out all right, though.

At our table of three, we started off by playing the storytelling game "Once Upon a Time" that Barry bought me in Fort Bragg. I was the only one of us who had played the game before. We played it twice; I won the first game by concluding our collaborative story with my designated sentence, "Although his wound healed, his heart remained broken forever." (The story was about a king who fell in love with a princess and wanted to marry her, but he was caught in a forest fire and unable to escape because of an injury he had received earlier in the story. The king's son heroically rescued the king from the fire, and the princess fell in love with the heroic prince rather than with the king.) S won the second round of "Once Upon a Time," but I don't remember what her ending sentence was. I remember that our collaborative story that time involved a witch queen who had kidnapped the child of a king in a neighboring kingdom, and my designated ending was supposed to be "Her courage had made her rich," but the witch queen's behavior did not lend itself very well to claims of either courage or becoming newly wealthy (she was presumably already wealthy to begin with, being a queen), so I could not gain enough control over the story to direct it toward my ending.

Next we played Five Tribes, which A and S had played before but I hadn't. I found their attempts at explaining the rules to me hopelessly confusing, and no one seemed to want to hand over the rules and just let me read them for myself, so I resigned myself to just trying to learn by observation as we went along. I soon figured it out, and I actually ended up winning the game by a thoroughly decisive margin. I did not like the game, though. I thought the mechanics were boring and stupid. I won it mainly because A and S kept bidding a bunch of money to get to go first in each new round of play, whereas I saved up huge stacks of money just by bidding nothing on every turn except for one single time when I saw an exceptionally good move available and bid quite a lot of money to get the first chance at it. But by simply not spending any money unless I could see a clear, guaranteed profit resulting from my expense, I became vastly wealthier than A and S, and my wealth translated at the end of the game to enough score points that I won the game quite handily.

After that we played Gloom, another storytelling game, one that only A and S had played before. We each got assigned a family of five, with cards describing the five people in the family. Our job was to make our own assigned family members die more miserable deaths than the other two families, by drawing cards describing good and bad events and assigning the bad events to our own assigned family and the good events to the other players' assigned families. I took an early lead by a small margin, but then A and S both ganged up on me and started using all their turns to make my assigned family happy all the time, rather than ever making each other's assigned families happy, and I couldn't fend them both off at once. S kept complaining through much of this game that she thought we were ganging up on her instead and this did cause me to occasionally aim my happiness cards at S rather than at A, and pretty much as a direct result of that, S won this game.

Finally, we played Tokkaido, a game that I had played once before with Barry and his parents. A and S had never played it before. The idea of the game is to compete for who can have the most fun on a vacation in Japan. The primary obstacle to having fun is a shortage of money, and although there are places to earn some money along the way, you can't get a job at those places if someone else has gotten there first and taken the job before you could. I took an early opportunity to earn money that put A at a major disadvantage, because she was particularly in need of money then and had to skip a bunch of fun tourist attractions to find somewhere else to earn money. I'm not as sure how S ended up at any disadvantage, but somehow A and S both finished the game with dramatically fewer points than me.

So in the final count, I won three games that day, and S won two, and A won none at all. (Or at least, that was the final count at the point when I left the party. A and S stayed longer than I did, so hopefully A got a chance to win a game or two at some point.) Before I left, people were joking that I am a board game shark and that being a board game shark is a requirement for dating Barry. Someone asked me whether that was a stated requirement in Barry's OKCupid profile. I said no, and if it had been, I would have assumed I didn't qualify. Someone else said that this is the definition of a shark, that they don't seem like a gaming afficionado but they somehow keep winning even when you didn't expect them to be good at the games.

Barry won the second of the two installments of the ongoing Seafall game that they played that day, and he is now ahead by one point (90 to 89) in the ongoing Seafall campaign. He says he would rather be behind by one point, though, because being behind confers advantages.

Barry and I had agreed in advance that I would leave the party before he did. I left at 5:00 and went back to Barry's house so I could defend Boston from fireworks. Barry stayed until around 8:00 or so, I think, and then went back to his parents' house. He had planned in advance to spend the night at his parents' house and have them drive him home the next morning. Alone at Barry's house, I mostly finished the job of pruning away all the dead brown remains of the spring annuals in Barry's front yard. All my efforts in the past month have left his yard still covered with dry straw, but at least now it's horizontal straw rather than vertical straw, and this makes it easier to see the remaining live green plants that were previously being blocked from view by dead annuals.

I also gave the foster kittens their eye drops and started packing to leave, but then Barry messaged me that his mother was driving him home that night rather than the following morning, so I decided to stick around for an extra half hour or so to see him again. We had some more of those celebratory dessert foods we'd bought at the grocery store two days earlier, and they were fantastic all over again. Then I loaded Boston back into my car and drove her home to Marysville, seeing some fireworks along the way (although not all that many in the middle section of the drive, because not all that many people live in most of the area between Barry's house and mine).

This morning, Barry brought the foster kittens to the animal shelter for a checkup. I was kind of expecting that Not would be put up for adoption immediately, because although he's inactive, he looks very healthy now, visually. I knew Fluffy was not in adoptable shape yet because of her eye, but the vet's diagnosis was much worse than I expected: the vet has scheduled Fluffy to have her eye removed next week. She will be a one-eyed cat forever! Unless her eye unexpectedly recovers somehow within the next week, anyway. We are wishing Fluffy's eye the best possible health outcomes, but apparently the odds are not good for her eye. Anyone within traveling distance of Yolo County, California, want an adorable one-eyed kitten? She is a very high-quality kitten, as fluffy and purry and playful as you could ever wish for. Having only one eye will damage her chances of being adopted. Hopefully she'll be okay. Anyway, she has a week to try for a miraculous recovery, and also her brother Not will remain with her for this week to keep her company.
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Barry and I spent June 10-13 at Howard Creek Ranch Inn in Westport, California. We also stopped at Jackson Demonstration State Forest on the way there and back, and while there, we made side trips to Jug Handle State Natural Preserve, MacKerricher State Park, Seaside Beach, and Russian Gulch State Park. And now I'm going to show you pictures of all of it!

First, on our drive there on Saturday, we stopped in Jackson Demonstration State Forest. This is the largest of eight demonstration state forests maintained by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which uses them "for experimentation to determine the economic feasibility of artificial reforestation, and to demonstrate the productive and economic possibilities of good forest practices toward maintaining forest crop land in a productive condition." (Source.) We were trying to follow these directions that I had printed out in advance so we could go hiking on the "Chamberlain Creek Trail and Camellia Trail," which turned out when we got there to have yet a third name, the "Waterfall Grove Trail." I'm not sure why one three-mile trail needs three different names. Anyway, I had neglected to alert Barry to put the specific trailhead turnoff into his cellphone to give us directions to the trailhead rather than just to the forest as a whole, so we ended up having to double back for a few miles before we managed to find the turnoff. Then the directions neglected to mention that we needed to drive the last 5.5 miles on poor-quality dirt road, which was not entirely fun in my two-wheel-drive Nissan Sentra. And then when we finally made it, the sign seemed to indicate a different trail than the one we were looking for!

Waterfall Grove trailhead

Click for much more! )
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It's time again for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! I haven't participated for nearly a full year . . . the last time I managed a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post was in April 2016. After that, posting about the beautiful new boyfriend I acquired early that April took precedence over posting about the plants I was acquiring. But the plants have also been beautiful, and I've planted about half of them at the beautiful new boyfriend's house, so today I bring you Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day from both our houses.

I have a backlog of garden from the past 11 months that I haven't posted yet, and in the past, whenever I've missed a few months of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I've included my backlogged photos in the new month's post. This time, though, I've missed more consecutive months than ever before, and I simply can't possibly catch up with the backlog. Instead, for now I'm just going to try to keep up with the current blooms. Maybe when the current bloom season winds down, I might have time to go through the backlog and post some 2016 photos in the appropriate months of 2017 (June photos in June, July photos in July, and so on).

I will post about Barry's house first. And for this first picture, I do have a couple of comparisons from earlier in the year!

Here is my beautiful boyfriend's front yard, as of a few days ago. In the lower right, you can see the "Native Plants live here!" sign I received during the Fall 2016 California Native Plant Society sales. They were selling these signs but also giving them away to people who spent a certain minimum amount of money on plants. I always spend a lot of money on plants at these sales, so I got a free sign. I may get another one this spring or next fall for my own house. I gave the first one to Barry because his front yard is more nearly pure native than mine. It is all California native, and almost all locally native, except for two crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) and a Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), which were the only plants in the front yard when I first went to Barry's house. The crepe myrtles (located on either side of the driveway, not visible from this angle) were planted by previous homeowners, coppiced (chopped down to ground level) before Barry bought the house, and covered with lawn. They resprouted after Barry bought the house and are now chest-high shrubs. I might try to kill them in the future. The Chinese pistache tree (visible below, currently leafless) was chosen by Barry and planted before he met me, and I plan to leave it alone, because it is a reasonably well-behaved and ornamental tree that is plausibly more marketable than a lot of the native options - and besides, if I tried to replace it now, it would take some years for a replacement to achieve comparable size (not that this tree is very big yet, but it is not fresh out of a pot, either) - so leaving it there could be a meaningful selling point for the house.

The plants currently blooming in Barry's yard are baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), the only flowers you can see in this picture; Cedros Island vervain (Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'), behind the Chinese pistache; cream cups (Platystemon californicus), on the other side of the driveway; and California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus), in the back yard. Well, and the deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the foreground of this picture. Also present in abundance, but not blooming yet, are Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii), white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), bird's eyes (Gilia tricolor), blue globe gilyflower (Gilia capitata), mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena). There's also plenty of other stuff that's less abundant, but those species are the ones I expect to make the biggest showing in the next few months. The Douglas' meadowfoam and California poppies at my house have already started blooming, but the ones at Barry's house were seeded later in the season because I was trying to beat back the weeds to make room for them, so their bloom season is being delayed due to their delayed planting time. Otherwise, they should start blooming sooner at Barry's house, because it is (as the crow flies) nearly 35 miles south of mine, and bloom season moves progressively northward over the course of the spring. None of the baby blue eyes at my own house have started blooming yet, but the ones at Barry's house are at peak bloom now.

Barry's house, March 2017

Click for more! )
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The weekend before this last one was a quiet weekend at Barry's house in Woodland. We had originally planned to spend it at my house in Marysville, but then Barry's board-gaming friends suggested a game day that Sunday, so we spent it at Barry's house. I arrived to find that Barry had just bought a gigantic new TV, 65 inches across. It came in an even more gigantic box; the box filled up pretty much an entire wall of a room. Barry is giving me his old TV, because my only TV at the moment is an ancient CRT one, which Barry seems to like for its nostalgia value (he plays similarly antiquated video games on it), but which is useless for actually being able to receive any TV stations. We are thinking of putting Barry's old flatscreen on top of my fireplace mantle, but we haven't transported it to my house yet. Barry is also giving me a Playstation 4 to use with it, because apparently he had an extra Playstation 4 lying around.

We finished watching The Legend of Korra that weekend on Barry's new TV, and then Barry spent most of Sunday playing board games with four of his friends while I did a little more weeding in Barry's back yard. It was a quiet weekend.

Between the two weekends, there was a little flurry of discussion in which I made plans to probably acquire a temporary roommate this spring. Barry has a friend of several years who has a girlfriend of several months who needs a temporary place to stay in Marysville while working at the nearby air force base. I've met her several times, played board games with her, and thought she seemed very nice, so I offered to rent her a room of my house. Well, first I agonized a bit over whether it would be a terrible idea to make such an offer, because I've never had a roommate before. But after consulting with two different friends of mine who are landladies, I decided I was comfortable with it and made the offer. I still need to move some stuff out of that room, see if I can locate the key that goes to that doorknob, and prepare a rental agreement, and also I assume she'll want to come look at the place before she makes a final decision to move in. But I set a price for her and sent her a link to a map and some pictures and description of the place, and it seems like she'll be moving in. It should be for about two or three months, and she might be working night shifts, and she'll probably have weekends on different days than I do, and we'll each probably be spending our weekends with our respective boyfriends, so we may not actually see that much of each other. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how it goes. And if for some reason it goes badly, it should be over before very long.

Also there was a bit of local news on Tuesday when the main, concrete-lined spillway at nearby Lake Oroville developed a hole in the concrete. This was a bit alarming to all the local people, and I was following the story each day, looking at new pictures and video of the hole, but the experts seemed to be handling the situation. Things did start to sound a little more worrisome as the weekend approached, because it was decided that the water level in the reservoir would be allowed to rise enough to start spilling over the emergency spillway on Saturday. The emergency spillway had never been used before in the whole history of the reservoir. Unlike the regular spillway, the emergency spillway is not lined with concrete - it's just a dirt hillside - and is not gated - there's no way to stop the water from spilling over it except by lowering the lake level below the height of the emergency spillway. Anyway, I saw somewhere on Friday that if a problem developed with the emergency spillway, it would most likely develop on Saturday, so I was bearing that warning in the back of my mind throughout this past weekend.

This past weekend started out quietly. Barry and I planned to spend Friday evening through Sunday evening at my house and then, because I had taken Monday and Tuesday off work, to spend Monday and Tuesday at Barry's house. Barry arrived around midnight Friday night. On Sunday we went to Marysville's Second Annual Historic Faire, which involved going on guided tours of the Mary Aaron Museum and Marysville's Chinatown. It wasn't the best tour of Marysville's Chinatown that I've been on, but it was worth taking Barry on it. Afterward we ate lunch at the Szechuan Chinese restaurant. I ordered the almond chicken, which was okay, although I only ate about half of it. We took the other half home, and I let Barry eat it. There were a lot of carrots and squash and bamboo in it, all of which were acceptably edible in my book, but not especially enticing - I ate them while I was hungry and lost interest in them as soon as I was a little less hungry.

On Sunday we watched Enterprise and Barry glued pieces of wood together to make stuff for his customers. Around 5:00 p.m., I noticed on the Internet that low-lying areas of the city of Oroville were being evacuated. This was disturbing, but I didn't see any details about what exactly was going on. Anyway, Oroville is half an hour's drive north of Marysville, and Marysville was not being evacuated. I quickly put the news out of my mind, and we continued watching Enterprise in my living room. The blinds in my living-room window were cracked slightly open, and at one point I noticed a fire truck coming down the street and commented on this to Barry. I also noticed a car behaving kind of oddly, stopping in front of my house with its lights on, and I commented on that too. Barry commented that there seemed to be unusually heavy traffic in front of my house. I still didn't give it much thought, though, until Barry's dad texted him to ask whether he had heard that Marysville was under a mandatory evacuation order. Barry's dad didn't even realize that Barry was in Marysville with me, but his text was the first we both heard about the evacuation. Barry was actually already packing up to go home anyway, but I had been planning to spend a few more hours taking care of stuff around my house (such as preparing that potential rental room!) before getting on the road to follow him. I was a bit shocked to find out we were being ordered to evacuate. Basically everyone in Sutter County was evacuated, as well as the southern portion of Butte County and the western portion of Yuba County - an estimated total of 188,000 people - because a hole was now developing in the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville. The information we were looking at on the Internet said that the emergency spillway was expected to fail within the hour. This statement had been posted on the page we were looking at 19 minutes before we were looking at it, which implied that the spillway was now expected to fail within 40 minutes. I knew that the water wouldn't arrive at Marysville immediately, but I was not sure how long it would take. And under the circumstances, it didn't seem especially wise to spend ten minutes Googling for further details and trying to verify how fast the water might travel.

Barry asked me whether I wanted him to stay and help with anything. I said no, he should just get on the road right away, and I would follow soon afterward. He kissed me, told me he loved me, and got on the road. Then I looked around and tried to figure out what to do next. I felt myself doing some very weird prioritizing as I tried to mentally take in the situation. What do you think you would do if you had just a few minutes to grab whatever is most important to you and rush out of town? Whatever you think you would do, you are probably wrong, because you are probably thinking about it in a non-panicked mindset. When you try to think while in a panicked mindset, thinking doesn't work as well, and you end up spending five minutes brushing your teeth while trying to figure out whether this is really serious enough that you should leave in fifteen minutes or unserious enough that you should take 40 minutes. And then spending ten minutes taping protective seat-coverings to the back seat of your car to protect the seat from your incontinent dog, while wondering all the while whether the ten minutes you're spending on this might cause you to no longer have a dog or a car or a life at all - and yet, if you don't do it, you'll probably have a big mess to clean up later, and you'll probably wish you had done it. I took the time to finish doing that.

I started out slow and started to feel more and more urgency as the minutes passed. I started consciously reminding myself that I had a lot to live for, a wonderful boyfriend waiting for me. I had at first planned to let Barry know what time I left my house, as I usually do when I'm coming to visit him, but when I tried to message him, my computer was slow to respond, so I just closed it and got out of there. I grabbed my cat and my dog and my personal laptop and work laptop and two days' worth of clothes, threw us all into the car, and got on the road. I was a little over half an hour behind Barry.

Once I actually got on the road and turned on the news on an AM radio station, it became clear that the risk was significantly less immediate than I had initially thought, both because water was no longer flowing over the emergency spillway and also because the experts were reporting it would take at least 24 hours (possibly as long as 36 hours) for floodwaters to travel from Oroville to Marysville. [Edit: That information seems to have been inaccurate, though: detailed simulations here suggest it would take about nine hours for floodwaters from a collapse of the emergency spillway to reach my house.] The mandatory evacuation order had been expanded to the Marysville area at around 5:45, and we had seen it an hour or so later. I got on the road with my pets at 7:30, and by then, the most urgent danger had already passed: officials had released enough water down the damaged main spillway to lower the water levels to the point that water was no longer spilling over the damaged emergency spillway.

But by then I was already on the road. Not that I was moving very fast! It took me an hour on Highway 70 just to drive the length of the local high school. I kept wondering, during all that time, whether I should pull over at the next side street, park my car, take my dog with me, and run back home to pack a few more things I now realized I wished I'd brought with me. I didn't pull over, though. Nothing I wished I'd brought with me was really all that urgent. And I didn't want to lose my place in the nightmarish line of stopped cars. There was a stoplight up ahead where a gigantic line of cars from a side road was merging with the gigantic line of cars I was in, and the side road seemed to have a vast advantage. If I'm ever evacuated from Marysville again, I need to try to remember to stay on the side streets as long as I can, and postpone merging onto the highways. And I also need to remember that if the floodwaters are coming from Oroville, it's okay if traffic jams make it take four hours to get out of town, because I should have a good nine hours before the floodwaters arrive in Marysville.

It took me nearly two hours to get to the other end of Marysville (a distance I could have traveled on foot in less than half that time, even loaded down with belongings as I was) and a little over four hours to get all the way to Barry's house (which is normally a little under a one-hour drive). Barry made it to his house a bit more quickly than I did, because he had the benefit of a GPS advising him about which side streets to take to avoid the main flow of traffic, but it still took him nearly three hours.

If I'm ever evacuated from Marysville again, I also need to have plenty of gas in my car. I'm the kind of person who never lets my car get below a quarter of a tank of gas, and on this particular day I had half a tank of gas in it. I was extremely glad I didn't have any less that that, because the radio was reporting a major run on gasoline at all the nearby gas stations, with huge lines to wait in, and many stations were rationing limited amounts of gas per customer. A quarter of a tank would have been just barely enough to get me to Barry's house under normal circumstances, but with the traffic as backed up as it was tonight, having only a quarter of a tank would have made me extremely worried. Although, in the end, it didn't seem like spending four hours driving to Barry's house actually used up noticeably more gas than spending one hour driving there would have, so I also want to try to keep in mind in the future that sitting in traffic, unable to move for hours does not really seem to use up gas at any noticeable speed.

Anyway, eventually I made it to Barry's house. He said that worrying about me while he waited for me to arrive had made him realize how much he loves me. This is similar to other things Barry has said; it is a different type of thing than I would ever say. Barry seems to be taken by surprise when he feels strong emotions, and he also seems to treat these emotions as important guides to base future decision-making upon. Whereas, although I don't generally think of myself as being especially aware of my emotions all the time compared to the average person, I think I must be more aware of my emotions than Barry is of his - and more aware even of Barry's emotions than Barry is himself - because whenever Barry expresses surprise at noticing strong emotions in himself, it seems to me not in any way surprising whatsoever. That is, I am not the least bit surprised that Barry would feel such emotions, and I would also fully expect the same emotions in myself and feel equally unsurprised by them there.

But also, perhaps more importantly, I do not tend to treat my emotions as important guides to base future decision-making upon. The question of what feelings I actually feel tends to seem to me largely irrelevant to my decision-making; when making serious and important decisions, I'm far more likely to base such decisions on an intellectual analysis of what emotions I feel I'm justified in having, rather than on a gut-level assessment of what emotions I actually do feel, because my first instinct in reacting to my own emotions tends to be a certain wariness of being overly influenced by them. That is, it is easy to sympathize with anyone who pours out a sob story, but if you give in to every sob story you hear, you may get swindled by a lot of con artists. I can't say, however, that my wariness of trusting my emotions has seemed to make me particularly immune to being manipulated; if anything, I'd say I'm more easily manipulated than the average person. But it's possible that I'd be even more easily manipulated if I were more inclined to trust my emotions; it's unclear (to me, anyway) whether my vulnerabilities arise mainly from being distrustful of my emotions when trusting them more might sometimes offer important insights or whether my vulnerabilities arise mainly from simply having strong emotions.

Anyway, I was glad to be safe with Barry at his house. Barry's parents took us out to lunch on Monday, and then we went to pick up Heathcliff - Barry's new laser. Barry's old laser arrived in a cardboard box wooden crate with the name "Cathy" inexplicably written on it, so the laser became known as Cathy. Barry recently decided to buy a second laser, the same size as the first, to increase his production capacity, so he was seeking a name for it. He thought it should be the name of a cartoon character, since Cathy is the name of a cartoon character, but his mom suggested Heathcliff because Cathy and Heathcliff are the names of the couple in Wuthering Heights. I approved of this suggestion and pointed out that Heathcliff is also the name of a cartoon cat. The new laser is now named Heathcliff. Anyway, I went with Barry and his dad to the U-Haul place to rent a trailer to pick up the new laser in, but the electrical connections in Barry's dad's SUV failed to work properly with the taillights on the trailer, so they had to hook up the rented trailer to Barry's pickup truck instead. The pickup truck only has seats for two people, so I stayed at Barry's house while Barry and his dad went to pick up Heathcliff. Then I helped Barry remove the plastic wrap from around Heathcliff. Heathcliff still isn't quite operational yet, because Barry needs to finish installing some ductwork to vent the exhaust out of the garage, but he's getting there.

Barry and his parents joked about my status as an evacuee; Barry called me a refugee and warned that the president would like to deport me to Syria. It was strange to see news reports about evacuees and realize I was one of them. It's like being a minor celebrity, but not in a good way, and in my case, not in a particularly significant way at all. I must have been one of the least inconvenienced evacuees ever, because "evacuating" for me only ended up meaning that I left my house for Barry's house a few hours earlier than I'd planned to, and brought my pets with me when I otherwise would have left them at home. The mandatory evacuation orders were lifted on Tuesday afternoon, so I went home Tuesday evening at the same time I'd previously planned.

For Valentine's Day, I gave Barry two heart-shaped boxes of candy and a red box, about 3" × 3" × 3", decorated with Valentine stickers and filled with similarly decorated hearts cut out of wrapping paper, with little one-sentence reasons on each of them saying why I love him. There was a total of 25 reasons in the box, and enough stickers on each of them to make those 25 paper hearts fill up most of the space in a 3" high box. Also Barry's cats gave him a Valentine's Day card, which I may have assisted them in picking out and signing. Barry gave me a heart-shaped box of candy, a bunch of strawberries dipped in white chocolate, and a helium-filled balloon with a picture of a bear holding a heart that says "I Love You" on it. Also he showed me a game he is building for me out of wood, resembling a board game I liked when we played it before.

a Beary balloon from Barry

Barry had asked me questions in advance about what kinds of things I wanted for Valentine's Day, and I had advised him to go for visual impact: "Go into the store, look around, and see what catches your eye first. Buy that." This is how he ended up buying the balloon and a heart-shaped box of chocolates that was purple. I feel that this strategy worked out well. The fact that one heart-shaped box of chocolates was purple was a good reason to buy me that one rather than another one, and the bear balloon is perfect because Barry's name is Beary (and also Berry and Beri and other variations . . .) and Barry is a bear. I think too many people treat Valentine's Day as a time to spend a ton of money buying generic, personality-less presents, and I think the best presents, especially on Valentine's Day, are more about personality, less about money. Which is why, when shopping for Valentine's Day stuff for Barry, I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of heart-shaped stickers and resolved to make something out of them (and I did).

This was sort of our first Valentine's Day together and sort of our second, because last year on Valentine's Day we'd been corresponding obsessively for three weeks, but we had agreed not to meet in person for another month and a half. (Last year I sent him a copy of a picture of him, with a heart-shaped frame around his face; he sent me a picture of me with a different heart-shaped frame around my face.) Things were looking promising, but there was still a potential for them to be derailed before we even met. I am glad we stuck together and actually met.

Although I'm back in Marysville now, the situation at Oroville Dam is still a bit iffy and seems likely to remain so until the end of the rainy season. I expect to be coming and going a bit, and keeping more of my stuff at Barry's house than usual so as to protect it in case Marysville does flood. There is another rainstorm expected on Thursday, and if another mandatory evacuation order is issued, I hope to be better prepared for the next one.
queerbychoice: (marble)
I keep meaning to post some garden pictures, but I'm having trouble getting around to it, first because I have this wonderfully exciting boyfriend to write about instead, second because I now have over six months' worth of garden pictures to post and therefore it'll be time-consuming to catch up, third because I've been having to work ridiculously long hours all this year that have left me with extremely little free time to split between this and everything else I want to do, and fourth because things keep happening in the world that require attention . . . such as that terrible little election we just had. But I still intend to get around to posting some garden pictures soon. And in the meantime, I'm going to write about the four days Barry and I spent at my house up to and through Election Day: the evening of November 4 through the morning of November 9. And a little postscript about the two more recent weekends, too.

When Barry arrived on Friday evening, I had a pork roast in the slow cooker, and some red and yellow potatoes as a side dish. We were talking about the Star Trek: Voyager DVDs we've been watching at Barry's house, and Barry mentioned that he discovered recently that the Amazon Prime subscription he has for his lasersmith business gives him access to all the episodes of Enterprise, so we decided to start watching our way through the first season of Enterprise. I think we started right away, that evening, with the first episode. By the end of the day Tuesday, we had watched the first 22 episodes.

The next day, Saturday, Barry and I went for a walk to the Feather River. We had previously (on our first date) walked to the Yuba River from my house. I don't walk to the Feather River as often, because the walk in that direction leads past larger homeless encampments, with off-leash dogs that I can't take Boston past, and because it's a less scenic walk, to a riverfront that itself is less scenic (by which I mean that there's not much wilderness left along that riverfront - there are a bunch of soccer fields along it). But I wanted to show Barry both the rivers I live within walking distance of, so we set out toward the Feather River.

It took a while to find a way past the chain-link fence surrounding the soccer fields and make our way past the soccer games to the riverbank, but we made it eventually. There is a small strip of wilderness I've been to before that we could have gotten to if we'd walked far enough along the bank, but it wasn't readily accessible. We walked out on some broken asphalt under a bridge and explored the place a little, then headed back away from the riverbank. Barry saw what looked like a water fountain and decided he needed a drink. But the water fountain was full of trash and did not have any water. We kept walking and saw another one, this one very near to a well. We tried that one too, hoping that it might be supplied by the well, but there was no water there either. Finally we decided to climb across the levee and buy water from the grocery store on the other side. As we walked, we were talking about the graffiti we saw all over the bridge - various people professing eternal love for each other (I wondered whether any of them were still together, if in fact the love had ever even been reciprocated in the first place) and occasional other statements. We passed some graffiti that said "Fuck bitches get money," and I asked Barry whether he thought it meant "If you fuck bitches, you can get money" or "Fuck bitches; focus instead on getting money." Barry said he thought it was neither, but rather the graffiti artist's do-do list: "First, fuck bitches; second, get money" . . . there was no third thing to get around to doing, apparently. Graffiti artists should learn to punctuate if they want to make themselves understood.

Anyway, we made it to the grocery store. I hadn't brought my purse, but Barry had brought his wallet, so he bought us water and trail mix. Then I said I wanted to walk across the bridge to the other side of the river for a few minutes before we went back to my house. So we walked across. We saw more graffiti on the walk over, mostly more people professing eternal love, and Barry said something about people having such an instinct to proclaim their love by writing it on their surroundings. He asked whether I wished he had spray paint with him and would vandalize the bridge in my honor. I said no, I much preferred for him to have water and trail mix.

On the other side of the bridge - the Yuba City side, as opposed to the Marysville side - we tried to climb down to the water as I remembered having done two years ago, but it wasn't as easy as I had remembered it being to get down to the water. I suggested that we walk a little further upstream until we found a spot where we could reach the water. We walked to the recently developed Willow Island Park and followed its pedestrian path down to a small strip of beach, where signs informed us about salmon in the river. With my finger in the sand at the very edge of the water, I wrote "I love Barry." Then we turned back and headed for my house. We took a somewhat different route on the way back - more through the center of town rather than around the edge of it. We walked to Ellis Lake and were accosted by a very friendly loose dog whose owners were outside with it - they and the dog were on their own property, overlooking the lake - and the owners were embarrassed because the dog took an instant liking to us and tried to follow us home. Eventually they got their dog under control, but we had to stop walking for a minute or two so they could catch up with it. Then we continued walking again. A goose on the shore a little ahead of us dove into the water as we approached. Then we were past the lake, and then a bit later, we were home. And we watched more Enterprise, of course.

On Sunday we went to the Yuba City Sikh Parade. I was pretty certain this would be a big hit with Barry, and I was right. It is always a big hit with me too, but it's even better suited for Barry, because Barry likes Indian food far more consistently than I do, and this event is all about free Indian food. It is a religious holiday in which Sikhs give out free food to everyone in sight, as a matter of religious duty, an obligation to take care of one's fellow people. I like it because there's something about walking down a street crowded with people offering all the free food you can eat to everyone in sight that never fails to inspire a renewed faith that random human strangers can be very nice people and there's hope for humanity yet. And besides that, in an age in which Trump has sowed all manner of racist hostility, this is an event in which the streets of a very Republican and very pro-Trump neighborhood are flooded with brown-skinned people wearing turbans and salwar kameez, and there is no evident hostility toward them from any of the white people present, because come on, it's pretty hard for even a Trump voter to react with hostility when being offered tons of free food.

There is a custom of politeness, however, for when the first parade float passes by. The first parade float carries the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text, and when it passes, it is considered polite for everyone, even the nonbelievers in the crowd, to cover their heads. Before leaving the house, I searched for some Indian scarves I had previously used for this purpose, but I seem to have gotten rid of them. I didn't especially like them; I just didn't have much else I could use for this purpose. I settled on a shawl, a silk-and-velvet shawl with a beaded picture of a peacock on it that I bought some years back while going through an intense craving to own all the peacock-blue clothing I could find, whether or not it had actual pictures of peacocks on it. This shawl doesn't go well with most of my clothes, though, so to find some clothes that it did go with, I pulled out a dress I generally reserve for rare special occasions. And then, because the dress is not much below knee-length and bare ankles are disapproved of in Sikh culture, I added a pair of black tights. Basically I ended up dressed to the nines. Barry was very impressed and very delighted. Two Sikh women at the parade also complimented me on my peacock shawl.

After struggling a bit to figure out where to park, I parked at the Home Depot, and we set out from there, walking a few blocks to the parade area. Then we spent a good hour or so sampling all the Indian food. In one of the lines, I declined a lot of what was being offered, because it was too vegetabley or too spicy-hot for my tastes, and was then given twice as much bread as other people at the end of the line, because apparently my plate looked too empty. We both ate until we were completely stuffed. And then the parade showed up, and I started taking pictures.

Parade pictures! ). . . And then it was over. Barry has been suggesting ever since that we should go back to the Sikh Parade again, as if it were held every day or every week rather than just once a year.

Since we had parked at the Home Depot, we went shopping there upon our return to the car. Barry was working on fixing several things for me - a dripping showerhead, a chainsaw with a loose chain, a fluorescent light that was being very slow to turn on, and a cat fountain Barry gave me that was leaking water because it was missing an O-ring. He looked for parts at Home Depot, but he didn't know exactly what he needed, so we went home first, and then Barry went back out again to buy what he needed. He ended up giving up on the dripping showerhead - he told me it needed a new cartridge, but he encountered some brass parts and didn't know whether they were soldered and was afraid of wrecking them if he tried to continue, so he advised me to call a plumber. I did, and the plumber confirmed that it needed a new cartridge, and the plumber fixed it. Barry is still working on the chainsaw; he thinks it might need a new tension pin, and I asked him to help me figure out how to buy a new tension pin for it. He's also still working on the cat fountain. But he fixed my fluorescent light for me! I had replaced the tubes in it a couple of years ago, but Barry replaced the ballast in it and also repaired the acrylic light covers I had cracked.

When Barry wasn't working on fixing things, we went back to watching Enterprise for most of the rest of the Sunday and Monday. At some point during this, Barry mentioned that he has trouble telling the difference between two of the characters on Enterprise: security officer Malcolm Reed and chief engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker III. I think Barry had previously mentioned to me that he has trouble recognizing faces, but I had just thought, well, I don't think I'm all that great at recognizing faces either; I didn't give any further thought to it. But now it suddenly made a big impression on me because Barry had cited an actual example of two faces he has trouble telling apart, and those two characters do not look at all like to me. I mean, they're both white men probably in their thirties (late thirties for Malcolm Reed, early thirties for Trip Tucker - okay, I just looked up the actors' ages, and during the first season of Enterprise they would have been 39 and 32, respectively), but beyond that, I don't see a resemblance. One has dark blond/light brown hair and the other has dark brown hair; one is plainly older than the other; their faces do not look similar to me. They also have completely different accents (English versus Southern), but Barry has no trouble recognizing them once they start speaking; he just has to wait until after they start speaking before he can tell which is which. Barry is faceblind! Upon realizing this, I spent much of the rest of our extended weekend together periodically asking him follow-up questions about it, trying to get a better idea of how it affects his perceptions and how it has changed his life experience. It seems to be a major factor in kind of a lot of the things we have in common, which is kind of weird since I'm not faceblind (just maybe very slightly below average at face recognition). Though it turns out that maybe my mother is, and my mother also influenced me in a lot of the ways that I have in common with Barry. My mother had very bad vision for much of her childhood and did not get glasses until she was a teenager, so she thinks the face-recognition part of her brain didn't develop well because her vision was so bad during much of the time when it would normally have been developing.

Barry has no comparable explanation for why he might be faceblind, but he has explanations of how it affects him. He said he was always hopeless at team sports when in school because he couldn't recognize who was on his team and who wasn't. This was kind of similar in effect to my own experience; I was always hopeless at team sports when in school not because I couldn't recognize people but because I inevitably tuned out when the teacher started explaining the rules, so I inevitably ended up unsure which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for or which direction was first base in softball. In second grade I voluntarily signed up to play in a soccer league but then tuned out when told which goal to aim for, so I spent the entire season deliberately slowing down whenever I got anywhere near the ball, because I didn't know which direction I was supposed to be kicking it. And in softball I intentionally struck out every single time I ever batted, all the way through all my years of school, because I wasn't sure which way was first base and didn't want to risk humiliating myself by guessing wrong. And because after a certain point, asking someone to tell me which way was first base or which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for would in itself have been humiliating. (I also tuned out when other class activities such as spelling bees and that kind of thing were explained aloud, but with most things other than sports, the class would take turns, and I generally had time to figure out the rules from watching what other kids did before my own turn came up. There was less taking turns in sports, and also I was so uninterested in sports that when someone else did occasionally get a hit and run to first base, I would promptly forget again which way they had run.) Anyway, although the causes were a bit different - perhaps I had an auditory processing disorder? - it seems like Barry and I had a similar experience of school sports.

I said I often have trouble following the plot of old black-and-white TV shows, because too many of the characters in the era when they were made tended to be white men, usually all dressed virtually identically and with virtually identical haircuts, and when you additionally take out all the color so I can't even distinguish between things like blue suits and brown suits, I usually can't tell all the white men apart from each other. Barry said he has the same problem even with more contemporary, color TV shows, and it's why he doesn't watch much TV - and also why he does watch Star Trek, because the different colors on the Starfleet uniforms and the different alien species' markings usually make it easier for him to tell the characters apart on Star Trek than on most other TV shows. This is another thing we have in common, not watching much TV other than Star Trek. In my case, my not watching much TV other than Star Trek was strongly influenced by my mother's not watching much TV other than Star Trek.

I asked Barry whether his trouble recognizing people made it hard for him to make friends, and he said yes. I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in distinguishing which race people belong to, or in "reading" people who are in drag or transitioning between genders. It was difficult to pin down in anywhere near precise terms how much trouble "most people" have in distinguishing people's races or birth-assigned genders might be, but the impression I ended up with was that Barry "probably" has slightly more trouble with this. Then I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in reading people's facial expressions, and he said yes, he mostly reads people's body language. This led into another thing we have in common - that both of us were cheated on in our last relationships, and both of us felt similar shock and betrayal, and both of us reacted in similar ways. Both of us could hardly comprehend the idea that anyone, much less someone we'd loved and lived with and trusted for so many years, could behave in such an untrustworthy manner, and both of us feel that we have below-average abilities to see through liars and recognize when they are lying to us. Both of us have learned the hard way to be a bit distrustful of our own tendency to be trustful.

For some reason I asked Barry whether he ever has the experience, as I sometimes do, of suddenly feeling a very strong sense that the person he's talking to is feeling a certain way in response to something he's just said, but of being completely unable to explain to himself what it is about that person's behavior that is conveying that. He said no, he tends to analyze and dissect people's body language very consciously and can't recall ever sensing an emotion from someone else without being conscious of what it was about this person's behavior that was conveying this. I would like to always be conscious of what it is that gives me the impression people are feeling a certain way, because not being sure why I have that impression leaves me not quite sure whether I'm just being paranoid or just engaging in wishful thinking. But sometimes things are just not that clear.

Anyway, it seemed as if he discovery that Barry has trouble recognizing faces helped explain a whole lot about him. But then, a week or so later, I found an online test for faceblindness - the "Famous Faces Test." (You can Google for various versions of it.) Barry scored 85% on a version of it that said an average, non-faceblind score is 85%. I took the same version of the test and scored 81%. So now I don't know what to make of that. Websites about faceblindness do note that some self-identified faceblind people may get high scores on the test. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any test that diagnoses faceblindness with much reliability at all, in terms of correlating with people's self-diagnoses. Faceblindness seems to be almost always self-diagnosed, to the point that now I'm not sure to what extent it's even a real diagnosis at all. That is, there have been a few people who abruptly lost their previous ability to recognize faces as a result of a brain injury, so it seems to be a real thing for those people; and any ability that can be lost in midlife can presumably also be never developed, in some rare few people; but it is not clear whether it's really at all common for people's facial recognition to vary all that much from normal levels. Presumably some people are some degree better at facial recognition than others, but we might all get the impression that our abilities in this area differ more dramatically than they really do, simply because different people focus on different details when recognizing people - so, for example, the difference between Malcolm Reed and Trip Tucker might be completely obvious to me and incredibly subtle to Barry, but there might be some other pair of people who would look incredibly similar to me and incredibly obviously different to Barry.

I don't know. Anyway, that was a big topic of discussion between us for a while.

I was a bit sunburned after the Sikh Parade, due I think to the combination of being outside a couple of hours for the parade and also being outside a couple of hours on the previous day when we were walking to the Feather River. So on the day after the Sikh Parade, when Barry suggested going for another walk, I put on sunscreen first. We just walked to the dollar store and looked around in it, then left without buying anything. Along the way, I tried to give Barry a botany lesson, because I'd been weeding my front yard immediately before our walk, and I wanted to share that experience with him. I told him about seed leaves (the first leaves that sprout from a newly germinated seed, which look different from the leaves that will grow later), and how most plant species are dicots, meaning that they have two seed leaves, but some are monocots, meaning that they have one seed leaf. The information didn't really stick with him. At some point I will do some careful weeding while he has time to sit and watch and listen to me, and I will manage to convey to him at least the general sense of how I think when I'm weeding, and some sort of vague overview of botany. In the meantime, I explained to him that the seedlings coming up in the planter boxes at his house from the seeds I planted there are very likely seedlings from the seeds I planted - I mean, they're sprouting from newly purchased, storebought dirt and compost that shouldn't have any weed seeds left alive in it - and he expressed that lovely sense of wonderment that every new gardener feels upon realizing that the seeds planted last week have magically turned into tiny baby plants.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Two days after the Sikh Parade was Election Day. Barry had already voted by mail, but I voted at my local precinct on Election Day. I had taken that Monday and Tuesday off work, because Barry was staying at my house, and the reason he was staying at my house was that he wanted to go with me to the Election Day party that my friends Alyson and Jackie had organized. It was an all-Clinton party in an almost-all-Trump part of the almost-all Clinton state of California. It was also a very lesbian party. Barry was one of only two men there; the other man was a neighbor of one of the lesbians, and had put up a Clinton yard sign, which had been stolen, and his yard sign had gotten him invited to the party.

There were lines at my precinct when I voted, even though I voted at an uncommon time of day, in the middle of what would ordinarily have been my workday, because I had the day off work. I wondered then whether it was a bad sign about the election's outcome, that turnout was high in my very pro-Trump neighborhood.

Barry and I had a 45-minute drive to the party that evening, and there weren't any election returns coming in yet when we left my house. But 45 minutes later, the very first thing we were greeted with upon walking in the door at the party was the news that the election was a nailbiter and things were not going well. It only got worse from there, of course. By the time we went back to my house, we had a very bad feeling that we were very likely to end up with Trump as president. There was some degree of room for doubt until we woke up the next morning, but it wasn't all that much.

On the drive home, I drove through some drifts of tule fog and suggested that Barry might want to stay overnight with me so as to avoid driving home in tule fog. He had planned to go home late Tuesday night, but he ended up going home first thing Wednesday morning instead. The morning was a bit of a daze. I found that I had to consciously remind myself that not everything in my life depended on who was president - that I had not, for example, entered into a romantic relationship with Barry contingent upon the president being a Democrat, and therefore I could continue to date Barry even with Trump in office. It simply was not the way I had been expecting the future to go. I had known, of course, that having Trump elected president was a real possibility, but since worrying about it wasn't likely to help anything, I had mostly been choosing not to worry about it.

The following weekend, Barry and I didn't see each other at all. I had bought tickets for a swanwatching tour as part of the California Swan Festival, but Barry came down with a cold that made him too sick to drive here that Friday night and too sick to go swanwatching that Saturday night, and I had a ton of work to catch up on anyway, so I advised Barry to just stay where he was, at his own house, and focus on getting well, rather than coming to my house just to be sick and maybe get me sick when we wouldn't be able to do much together. I did go on the swanwatching tour myself. I carpooled with a family from the nearby town of Lincoln - Rick and Mayumi and their two very well-behaved small children (ages maybe 4 and 6). I liked them. They were plainly introverts, so we were all happy to be silent together. And I figure they were probably not Trump supporters, because neither of them was white (Mayumi was presumably from Japan, given her name, and Rick appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent). And we all cared about looking at tundra swans, so we had that in common. I took swan pictures, and maybe I'll post those later, but I didn't really get anywhere near as good a view of the birds, or as good of photos of the birds, on this tour as I did on a similar tour two years ago. Mostly I just got pretty sunset pictures, which are nice, but not entirely the point of the tour. I told Barry I want to take him on the tour route in January, just the two of us, with me acting as tour guide. We may get a better view of the birds when there aren't so many other people around to scare them off.

And the next weekend after that, I went to Barry's house. He has a new foster cat named Lois - an adult cat this time, maybe two years old, being fostered for six to eight weeks while she recovers from surgery after being found injured, probably bitten by a dog. Lois is extremely cuddly. I haven't gotten around to taking any pictures of her yet. On Saturday we bought a truckload of dirt to finish filling up the second planter box he built, and then Barry had friends over to play board games while I worked. Although it rained all weekend, on Sunday I weeded his front yard anyway and planted seeds in it. We also found time to continue watching Star Trek: Voyager and one episode of Enterprise (which we switched over to because we were being sat on by cats and therefore couldn't get up to put in the next Voyager DVD).

This coming Sunday is Barry's birthday! He will be 35. We have much to celebrate.
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Barry and I went camping! At Silver Lake Campground (near the town of Quincy), which I also camped at last year. Last year I was camping alone except for Boston. This year I brought Barry and also Boston. I think, though, that this was Boston's last camping trip. She seems to be getting too old to handle camping anymore. After our six-mile hike on our second day there, Boston was hobbling and limping so that I was afraid to attempt any further hiking, and on our third day there, Barry noticed she had peed in the back seat of my car, and during our third night there, she peed all over the foot of the sleeping bags, while we were sleeping in them. It's common for older female dogs to lose bladder control, so I'm assuming that's what's going on. Her legs seemed to be fine when I got her back home, so I'm assuming that was just temporary sore muscles or sore foot pads or some such thing. The discomfort while walking might have contributed to her failure to ask to be let out of the car or the tent to go pee somewhere else, but I had also noticed a suspicious stain in the back seat of my car when I was packing for the camping trip, so I think she also peed in my car when I took her to and from the vet's office a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, we had originally planned to stay four nights and five days, but we decided to go home one day early because Boston had peed on the sleeping bags and we didn't want to sleep in dog-pee-soaked sleeping bags. And I would like to avoid encountering that problem on any future camping trips.

We encountered several other problems as well, including running out of drinking water and getting stuck on a dirt road with speed bumps on it that were so high that they were completely impassable at any speed in my Nissan Sentra. But solving problems together is an important relationship-building experience, right? So, we solved our problems and emerged just fine, and also had a wonderful time. We hiked to Rock Lake and Gold Lake, went swimming in Gold Lake, drove to Snake Lake, and drove to the town of Quincy to buy more drinking water. And we took lots and lots and lots of pictures.

Running out of drinking water was actually semi-planned. It isn't easy to pack two adult humans, one medium-sized dog, and five days' worth of camping gear into a Nissan Sentra, and my Nissan Sentra doesn't even have a roof rack for extra space. Barry has a pickup truck that might have fit our stuff much better, but it has no back seat for Boston, so we squeezed everything into my Sentra instead. But we scrimped a bit on drinking-water space because the campground is not far at all from the town of Quincy, so I knew we could easily buy more water there if we ran out.

Anyway, we packed everything into my car and set out early Wednesday, September 7, with a bunch of Barry's and my CDs to listen to along the way, and we arrived at the campground in early afternoon. We parked in campsite 1 and got out and walked through the rest of the campground on foot to decide which campsite we wanted. There are 8 campsites in the campground, with sites 6 to 8 closest to the lake shore, and a large gap between sites 5 and 6. Last year I stayed in campsite 2 because sites 1 to 5 were all empty, and I wanted to be far away from the numerous people who were at the other end of the campground. This year there was only one other person there when we arrived, and that person was in campsite 7. We selected campsite 6 for ourselves, because there was an adequate distance between campsites 6 and 7 for us to still feel isolated, and there was no other campsite any nearer that anyone could move into later.

This is Silver Lake. We camped alongside it - across a dirt road from the shore at the far right.

Silver Lake

Click for much more! )


Jun. 29th, 2016 12:01 am
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So, when I went over to Barry's house on Friday, he surprised me by revealing that he'd picked up foster kittens earlier that day. Four tiny adorable foster kittens. And now I'm going to show you the pictures we took of them while I was there.


Kittens!!!! )
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My adorable boyfriend who has an affinity for his fellow adorable creatures brought home today four itty bitty teeny tiny five-week-old kittens to foster for two weeks until they reach adoptable age. This means there are currently seven cats in his house. The adorableness level had exceeded all tolerable limits. And I don't even have my camera with me! I will have to borrow his. I will do that later. For now, it is simply necessary to exclaim, KITTENS!!!!
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On Sunday my wonderful boyfriend and I went to Lake Berryessa. I don't remember ever having been to Lake Berryessa before, and it seems ridiculous for me not to have been there before, because I've always lived within a 1.5-hour drive of it, all my life, and for much of my life I lived within a 1-hour drive of it, and it's a pretty big and readily accessible lake to just randomly never go to. But now I've been to it. It was Barry's first visit there also, but his previous neglect of the place was more excusable than mine since he grew up in Arizona and only gradually worked his way north from there toward this end of the state.

I researched the trail options the night before the hike and quickly settled on two: the Smittle Creek trail, which is a fairly flat, 5-mile round-trip, out-and-back trail between Oak Shores Day Use Area and Smittle Creek Day Use Area, and the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, which is a rather steep, 4-mile loop trail at the far southeast end of the lake (the nearest end to us). I decided on the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, because it was nearer to us. However, when we arrived, we found that the trail was closed , shut off behind a chain-link fence for repairs.

So we decided to look for the Smittle Creek trail instead. However, we were already out of range of cellphone signals, and we remained out of range for the rest of the drive, so Barry's cellphone would not give us directions. What it did do was show where we were going (using GPS) and where our intended destination was. It just didn't tells us where any of the streets were between us and our intended destination. But we set out to find our own way, using tried-and-true methods such as "Look for a right turn somewhere. If you see a right turn, take it." Barry was driving, and I was watching our GPS dot move around on his cellphone. Eventually we found the correct turnoff - actually, we found our way all the way from Stebbins Cold Canyon trail to Smittle Creek trail without taking a single wrong turn at any point, and with no particular stress at all over getting lost. Barry even said he likes getting a little lost now and then. This is a very desirable attitude to have when lost. I feel that I have now confirmed that Barry is a good person to get lost with.

This is a basic view of the lake from along the trail, before I get into the chronology of the pictures I took.

Lake Berryessa from the Smittle Creek trail

Click for more pictures. )
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So, last Sunday my lovely and adorable boyfriend and I celebrated our then-impending one-month mark by wandering Table Mountain in search of waterfalls. Okay, it wasn't specifically planned as a celebration of the one-month mark, but it served the purpose anyway. One of the many great things about this new boyfriend of mine is that he takes excellent photographs of me, such as this one he took on Table Mountain. It probably helps that he's just very good at giving me reason to smile.

me on Table Mountain, May 2016

But I took a lot of pictures there too, and mostly I'm going to be showing you the ones I took.

Pictures from Table Mountain )
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My boyfriend is ready to be publicly introduced in his LiveJournal identity! He is [livejournal.com profile] berialpha. His journal and his profile are both quite blank at the moment though, so you're just going to have to take my word for it that he is great. He is the greatest BeriAlpha in all of human history. There may not have been any other BeriAlphas in human history, but if there had been, they couldn't possibly have compared to him.

I now have pictures of Barry and me together! His mother took them with my camera, at my request, in his parents' back yard. Despite a slightly unfortunate glare from my glasses, I think I like this one best.

April 23, 2016

But here are a few more. )
queerbychoice: (marble)
I went to Barry's house today! We arranged that it would be while he was away at a music class. I was there for exactly two hours. In that time, I managed to plant all 29 plants I'd brought with me, and also labeled them, and left 18 oranges and a thank-you note on Barry's front porch, and took home in return a potted ponytail palm houseplant, a note from Barry, one of Barry's business cards (carved out of wood: a laser-cut piece of wood, laser-etched with his contact information, to advertise his lasersmith services) and a bag of homemade taiyaki pancakes, shaped like fish and filled inside with red bean paste.

I had already eaten most of the taiyaki pancakes before it occurred to me to photograph them, but here are the last three. They are good! Barry is good at making food!

His note says, "I made taiyaki pancakes! It went okay. If the taste isn't right, take them home to try with peanut butter or chocolate sauce. The filling is red bean paste."


I was systematic about the planting. There was not a second to waste! He had left the gate to his back yard open for me, so I carried all my plants and my trowel back there and assessed the space, then started pacing off measurements with my feet and placing the potted plants where I wanted them to go. I first placed all the ones that will become large plants: incense cedar, Western redbud, toyon, mock orange. Once I'd decided where all of those should go and placed the pots accordingly, I took my trowel and planted them. Then I moved on to choosing spots for the smaller plants, starting with the ones I had just one of, and progressing to the ones I'd transplanted from volunteers in my garden, of which I had many individual plants per species. The large plants all went in the back yard, but for the small plants I put plenty in the front yard also. It seems like I must have looked odd to the neighbors - a stranger planting plants in a garden that wasn't mine - but I guess burglars are not known for planting plants in people's gardens, because there were plenty of neighbors around and none of them paid the slightest attention to me.

I basically landscaped his entire property today: front yard, back yard, side yards, everything. Only thinly - I'd definitely want to put in additional plants over time - but once these plants grow a bit larger, there shouldn't be any area in his yard that looks too obviously empty.

When everything was planted, I went around putting little index-card labels next to each plant and weighing them down with pebbles. I'd written the index-card labels in advance, so I only had to write a few extras for instances where I'd separated the transplants from my own garden into more separate plants than I'd expected when writing the labels at home. I'd also brought the pebbles from home, to spare myself time looking for them.

And then I sat on the bench on his front porch for a minute to write a final note, thanking him for the taiyaki pancakes.

When I got home, there was an email waiting for me that began this way:
Hooray! You're real! Our relationship was not just a long con so you could rob the house while I wasn't home!

You scored a lot of big points tonight, Cynthia! Not only doing very efficient work and getting lots of plants in the ground, but also for respecting my schedule and my property, for being reliable, all that jazz.

I'm over-analyzing your note :) Purple ink on lilac paper, you really do have a favorite color!
Soon thereafter, before I even had a chance to reply, I received a follow-up that began this way:
I just looked around and found all the plants, which was a lot of fun. Remember how I said that I hadn't really had an emotional impact from our conversations yet? Well, there we go. Seeing some physical connection to your presence is making me all kinds of happy.
So that's very good. April 5 is the earliest his divorce might be final. So I'm just counting down the days until April 5 for a first date.
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