Sunday, January 17, 2016

Nimue's hair

Nim's been bugging me for nigh on two years to get some stripes put into her hair.  Being Nimue, she had a vision:  one black streak and one very light streak.  Quite different than the bright colors that others her age favor.  As a late Christmas present, I finally got around to taking her in to get it done.



Now she has expensive interesting hair.  I've decided it is "art gallery hair", as she looked right at home in the Cantor Art Museum over at Stanford yesterday :)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Federal Way post office: the black hole of mail distribution.

People sometimes gripe about the service from the post office.  I haven't had much reason to gripe...that is, until my most recent package sent.  Here is the saga (dates taken from the USPS package tracking):

Dec 14: I take a small package of Christmas presents for my niece and nephew to the little post office I always mail things from, congratulating myself for getting things taken care of in plenty of time.  I mail it Priority Mail because it is a busy time of year.  (note: this is supposed to arrive in two to three days).  Package goes through the main facility in San Francisco on its way out of the Bay Area.

Dec 16:  Package arrives at post office facility in Federal Way, WA. This is expected; it is the closest big sorting facility to its intended final destination about 20 miles away.

Dec 17: Package leaves Federal Way; I assume it will be delivered in the next day or so.

Dec 19: My sister-in-law sends a note letting me know to look out for stuff coming from them for Nim.  I ask "Did you get our package yet?"  Nope.  Hmmm.  Go look at tracking info; nothing new since it left Federal Way a couple of days ago.  Shouldn't take multiple days to go less than 20 miles.

Is it lost?  Wait a couple of days

Dec 20:  Package arrives in Cincinnati.  As in Ohio.  Uh-oh.  Must have gotten mis-routed, may now be late for Christmas.  It spent three days on a truck going from less than 20 miles away from the destination to over 2000 miles away.  Oops.

Dec 21:  Package scanned in Des Moines, IA.  At least now it is going in the right direction.

Dec 24:  Three days have passed, no sign of package, no new tracking information.  I went to the post office to ask about it, and got to talk to a grumpy clerk who told me to look up the tracking information online (I already had), implied that I must have addressed the package incorrectly (pretty sure I hadn't), and grudgingly gave me a 1-800 number to call.  I rode home, and called the number, only to get into automated phone-tree hell, which ended after I repeatedly said "Customer Service" and got a recording saying "Customer service is not available at this time".  With no indication when customer service *might* be available.  And it was only 3:15 pm.  Grrr.  Went back to post office and talked to other (more helpful) clerk, who looked at the weird routing, consulted with someone in the back, and suggested that it would likely arrive in a day or two and to file a claim if it didn't.

Dec 25:  Tracking shows packaged arrived back at the sorting facility in Federal Way.  Yippee!  Surely it will be delivered tomorrow.

Dec 29:  It's been busy with visitor and Christmas festivities, so I hadn't checked for a few days.  On checking, discover that package is back in Cincinnati.   ?????   Huh???  What kind of dumbhead sorting system do they have in Federal Way?  Look up Cincinnati zip code; it is nothing at all like the zip code the package is supposed to go to.  After 3pm, afraid to try to call 1-800 number again; they operate in a different time zone.

Dec 30:  Package shows back up in Federal Way.  Only one day transit time instead of three this time; someone in Ohio probably actually *looked* at the package, said "What on earth is this doing here?", and stuck it on a plane back instead of a truck.

I had great faith at this point. Even with the holiday weekend, surely it will make it in the next day or so.

Lo, foolish person.

Jan 3:  Tracking info now says Chicago.  Chicago??  @#$$#$%@ sort machine in #$%$%^#$* Federal Way doesn't know what the heck it is doing!!!!  Sunday, so I won't get a person if I call the 1-800 number.

Jan 4:  Finally get a human being at the 1-800 number.  She starts looking through the information.
Yes, I sent it on Dec 14
Yes, I wrote the address directly on the box (not on a label that could have fallen off)
Yes, I'm pretty sure I put the correct address on it.
Yes, I've successfully sent things to that address before.
Um -- no -- it wasn't a big box.
Their system shows the package at 14lb.  Um, no!  It is a small box containing two gift cards, a book, and a t-shirt.  I'm now picturing a small package becoming encrusted with barnacles as it ping-pongs repeatedly back and forth across the country.
The agent then looked at everywhere it had been, and pointed out that it should have been pulled by a human way back on Dec 16 in Federal Way, when it looks like the machine tried to scan it six times before giving up and routing it to Cincinnati.  Agent is as baffled as I am as to why it might have gotten stuck in an infinite loop between Washington and Ohio; she speculates that maybe it is stuck to someone else's package.  (What else would make it read at 14lb?)  I gave them the relevant addresses again, got a claim number, and a reassurance that the package with my tracking number would be looked at by a human the next time it was scanned, and that someone would call me at that point.    It was expected to be 48 to 72 hours, as the package was probably on a truck somewhere, trundling its way slowly back towards Washington.

Jan 6: package arrives in Des Moines, Iowa.  Again, I am optimistic that it is heading in the right direction, but also have morbid curiosity to see what happens if it goes through Federal Way again.
(Note that it has been 48 hours and I haven't received a call.)  At this point, it is so late that the saga has become entertainment for all involved.  Where will it go next?

Jan 7: Leaves Des Moines.

Jan 8: Arrives in Seattle.  Maybe it will bypass Federal Way entirely this time.

Jan 8: Delivered to final destination.  For real.  A mere 25 days and three trips back and forth across the country after being mailed.  I could have hopped on my bike and *ridden* it from California to Washington and then gotten back home in that time.    My brother looked at it and couldn't find any reason for it to have gone so far astray.  The address was correct and "couldn't be clearer",  in his words.

Maybe the post office in Federal Way knows how happy I was to escape that town after I graduated from high school and is taking karmic revenge decades later.

I never did get a call back, so have no idea if the claim helped, or if the package merely made it through because it didn't go through the black hole that is the Federal Way mail distribution point on the final leg...

(Merry Christmas, by the way!)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!  Click to bring out the sun.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Experiences

Apparently Nimue has never had pop rocks before.  (Thank you Linda!)

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!

The lights are up at our place!

'Tis the season for sleeping, eating, reading, and making of stuff... Due to the (comparatively) cold and damp weather we 0W20-blooded Californians have had (ooh, it got down to 40F, brrrr!) we haven't really done as much outdoor recreation, yard work, or house maintenance as we might prefer. That's largely been supplanted by less active pursuits, but the upside is a surge in creative output. Also, there's been time for family-friendly hikes and visits with friends; if this continues a few more days, I might even get my latest batch of beer bottled up!

I hacked out a spoon of sorts with my Christmas present of sharp cutting tools, and Anna started planning what she would do with her gift of a pile of electronic parts. Nimue immediately got to play with her coveted computer drawing software, and we all got to read our Christmas books while cozy in new socks.

Before, during and after Christmas day, we played around with making 3D-printed, randomly-generated snowflake tree ornaments. Anna found the original concept on the web (where else) and then I made an LED-illuminated version. Anna figured out that they could be spray-painted and coated with glitter, and now they look pretty spectacular.

Most recently, we went for a hike up to Black Mountain on Christmas Day. Through the edges of the Ridge Winery vineyards, and the clear air left by the previous day's rain, we got to enjoy a crisp but lovely day.

The day after, we walked around the levees of the Baylands trails. We came across a bunch of guys dressed for standing around in the cold and damp... at first I thought they were duck hunters (it being that time of year) and indeed, I spotted a fair number of ducks that they had bagged earlier in the day. But they all had big fishing rods set up, too. My mom asked one fellow, as we walked by, what they were fishing for -- to my great surprise, he said they were after sturgeon!

I had no idea these huge, ancient fish came in to the SF bay today; certainly they did once upon a time, but the only stories I had heard, even from when I was a little kid, had to do with sturgeon up in the Sacramento river. But apparently they do come in, following the tide - our fishermen were anticipating hooking a big one within the hour. Along the way, I spotted what must be the coolest marsh-travelling vehicle ever - the "Aquamog"!
Behold - the Aquamog!

We also took a ride on the Niles Canyon railway - a chilly ride from Sunol down to Fremont and back, on a charmingly decorated vintage train festooned with lights inside and out. We had a great outing, despite the preponderance of loud small kids whose enthusiasm sometimes drove us out into the "open" railcars -- which really made for better photos anyway, and weren't *that* much colder than the enclosed cars in any case.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Cat card test

I've been messing around with some JavaScript stuff using p5.js lately and made this dorky cat Christmas card.

I know it all runs well on our machines, but would like to know if it works right on the computers belonging to the parental/grandparental units.  Can you let me know four things:

Can you see the cats?
Do they change when you click on the image?
Do the hats appear when you hover the mouse over the circle in the center?
Does it meow when you click?

(I already know the clicking/hovering response is a little weird if you are looking at this on a mobile device; it assumes you are using a mouse)

Merry Christmas from the cats.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Early season snow!

We spent part of the long Thanksgiving weekend up in Downieville, and actually got to do some cross-country skiing on early-season snow at Yuba Pass.  Yippee!

There wasn't that much of a base, but the snow that was there was fluffy and made the trees look nice.

24 degrees while we were out skiing.  Brrrrr!

The snow that had been in Linda's yard had all melted, but she still had a deer with attitude.  We did not, however, see the bear that decimated the apple tree and Halloween pumpkin.

Happy winter to all!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Foolish Kitty

I recently have been experimenting with new art techniques and, with the help of an interesting prompt I found on one of my favorite art sites (how will you deal with the chills of November?), came up with this foolish kitty and his "ice-kold" lemonade stand. I wouldn't count on making too much money, but them again, his tips jar is half full...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Albino redwoods

Over the weekend, Nim and I had the opportunity to take a short hike into a normally closed part of La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve to go see some albino redwoods.

Albino redwoods, you ask?  They are redwoods that have a genetic mutation that means they don't have any chlorophyll.  What they do have are roots that can grab onto a neighboring redwood and parasitically absorb nutrients that way.  Not a very efficient feeding mechanism, so they don't usually get very big, but it is interesting to see a mass of white redwood sprouts growing near the base of another tree.

The needle shape and habit are different too -- wide flat needles that sometimes curl up on themselves.

Almost a snowflake!

Sometimes there are normal sprouts mixed in with the white ones.

It was raining slightly, and Nim decided to be a small woodland creature.

Spiderwebs accumulated not only water droplets, but entire water films.

On our way out, we wandered around in the mud to find a second albino redwood mass; this one sprouted out of a normal redwood partway up the trunk.  Apparently there is some sort of virus that leads to the mid-trunk sprouting.  It's gotta be pretty rare to get this combination of the virus and the genetic mutation together!