I’ve been in my head a lot lately. The last few months have been a little quiet socially and I’ve done some traveling which is always good for rumination.


I went to Chicago at the end of September to finally meet my coworkers (after 2 and a half years working here). I like to consume media related to my travels, so I read The Devil in the White City, which traces the rise of Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893. The titular devil is HH Holmes who operated his murder mansion as a hotel catering to fair visitors. It sounds strange to say, but the behind the scenes of the creation of the fair was far more interesting than the murders.

While there were no major surprises in meeting my team, it was interesting to see people’s real personalities come out beyond the confines of a Zoom meeting.

While I was in town one of our team activities was a local park cleanup. The parks coordinator was quite a loquacious character. His version of Chicago – sports obsessed, strong working class vibes, chip on its shoulder about being compared to other cities, great wealth disparity between neighborhoods… sounded awfully similar to my idea of Philadelphia.

And yet I felt generally positive about Chicago, but speak about Philadelphia with qualifiers. Why? What’s the difference? Living somewhere vs visiting it? Small city vs large? East coast vs midwest? After some thought I hate to admit that it probably just comes down to money. Chicago felt wealthier, grander, and more cosmopolitan. Philadelphia feels provincial. I mean we still don’t even have a real tiki bar (I will not let this go…), and Chicago has multiple tiki bars including the very excellent Three Dots and a Dash.

NYC/New Haven

My mom visited again in late October. I think we might make it an annual thing. This time around we spent a little time out of the city. We spent a few nights in New York, and walked all over Manhattan (my mother’s endurance had me beat, I couldn’t keep up). During our stay we caught a broadway show*, visited a few colleges, saw Central Park, and went to the Met.

The third day we popped up to New Haven to hit the old stomping grounds. I felt uneasy about going back because I don’t have great memories of the end of college. It was all just a crazy blur. But my mom has always expressed this deep regret about not taking me to college since her family never encouraged her studies. It’s too bad that she carried that pain, because not being dropped off was not on my radar at all. I wanted to go alone.

I wasn’t sure what we’d do in New Haven, but we filled the day pretty easily.

I saw my old apartment.

And other old apartment.

Stopped by my old job. Same chill vibe among the workers, which made me happy.

We took a campus tour, ate some New Haven style pizza, bought some merch… New Haven was way nicer now and less grubby than I remember. On the train home I felt like I’d made some peace with the past. Everything that happened back then is gone and over now, truly.

Also my mom was really really psyched to be there again. So it was cathartic for us both.


When I decided to get tickets to a broadway show, I didn’t know what to book but since Phantom was closing after 35 years, that was the obvious choice. I had started the novel earlier in the summer but hadn’t finished it (because Raoul is a lame stalker).

I didn’t think much it, besides scouring for decent views, but after seeing the live Broadway musical, I was hooked – I was a “Phan”. I promptly became obsessed and sought out as many iterations of the story as possible. And there are a ton – dozens or more maybe. And then the fanfic…  wow what a rabbit hole. Ladies love Erik. On the Phantom subreddit I came across a fic where the Phantom berates Christine for eating a grilled cheese sandwich. LOL

It’s kind of a surprise that I never got into Phantom earlier. I love gothic horror, silent films, mysteries, monsters, and opera of course. The musical is just a way more romantic take compared to the book or silent film. It was sensual as hell, which I was not prepared for at all. Also it explores controlling vs healthy relationships, which is always interesting to me.

As I researched, I learned that many of the spectacular parts of the story had some kernel of truth to them. Like the chandelier in the Palais Garnier did really fall and kill someone. There really are 5 levels of cellars that lead to a subterranean lake beneath the building. There were rumors of a ghost haunting the opera, and various legends of men with deformed faces (whether from accident or birth) living within the opera. Wild!

The musical production itself is interesting because the version on broadway hasn’t changed much from its original incarnation 35 years ago. Watching the show is like… time travel in a way. And some of the show’s staff have been there since the very beginning! This American Life has an interesting story that’s about Phantom’s orchestra, and what its like to play the same music every night for decades. TLDR: it drives you insane, but you do what you gotta do for money.

Phantom lead to me seeking out more musicals, which I guess is something of a new hobby (which continues to baffle Ryan). From lurking the broadway subreddit I’ve learned a lot of new terms and history, which is fun. Les Mis happened to come through Philly a few weeks after I saw Phantom, so I caught that. After listening to a few cast albums, I got into Hadestown, so now I’ve got tickets to see that in NY at the end of December. And I’ve got to see Phantom again before it closes for good, so we’ll be daytripping into the city to see that in January.


All of my fall was spent knitting baby things and I’m so glad that’s done!

This blanket was 30,000 stitches.

The leafy pattern up close

And this one was 40,000 stitches but I was able to memorize the pattern so it was actually much faster.

And just for funsies I made a baby Yoda robe.

It’s gonna be a long while before the recipient can wear it.

And yet another pair of socks of course.


Our first international travel in 3 years! I’ve got a ton of photos so I’ll do a separate post on my trip. I left inspired by the harsh beauty of winter in Scotland.

Puppy Trials

Since the start of November Bogie has been having seizures. The first two were scary but manageable, but once we returned from our trip to Scotland Bogie immediately had his 3rd and worst seizure in 3 weeks, and at the emergency vet he was put on meds to stop his ongoing attack (which we had been avoiding since once you start the drugs, it’s for life, every 12 hours… forever….).


At first he was so zonked out from the medicine that he turned into a little dog zombie who had forgotten all his potty training. He’d just look you in the eye and pee right there. But then the drugs made him restless, and he paced endlessly. For the first day or two back home from the hospital he barely slept, just walked around for hours, clicking his nails on the wooden floors.  We put up baby gates just in case he fell down the stairs since he didn’t have great motor control.

To limit the pacing, we tried crating him in our bedroom at night. Since he still didn’t have control of himself he peed and pooped in the crate on his cushion. Then when we let him out, he walked through the poop and dragged it all over our bedroom at 2 in the morning. I thought I was going to cry and throw up at the same time, it was so sad. After that we decided to take turns sleeping in the living room so that we could let him out quicker. We dragged the mattress for my daybed down to the living room, and things were weird for a little while.

It’s been about three weeks on the meds, and Bogie is mostly back to normal. He takes his pills 2x a day and we’ve taken him to a doggie neurologist. I’m glad he’s feeling better, but who knows if the drugs will actually help manage his seizures. So far the longest we’ve gone without a seizure is a week? 10 days maybe? I try not to count the days between seizures because I don’t want to be disappointed.

This has been going on for a month now but I don’t think the enormity of what this could mean has hit me yet. We’ve joined canine epilepsy groups on Facebook, which has mostly been a helpful resource, but there are frightening stories from people who have had their entire lives upended. They don’t travel, they don’t go out, they’re taking care of the dog all the time and then in some cases it dies from too many seizures or too long of a seizure. Sigh.

We’re nowhere near that level of life upheaval, but things are still up in the air. I just hope the meds can contain his seizures to a manageable level. Scary stuff!


Budapest Baller B-Day

My birthday is at the end of November. It’s kind of a melancholy time, surrounded by the stress of Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas season. A few years ago I started to go on birthday trips. Game-changer. Going out of town gets me out of my head and while of course I can’t avoid taking stock of my life, usually the trip reinforces my choices, helping me feel ready to deal with my family’s criticisms come Christmas.

Last year I went to Mexico City. In years past, Vancouver, New Orleans. Sometimes I have a particular place in mind, sometimes not. This year Budapest came up as an option on Google Flight’s Explore feature. With a flight price of about 600 from SF, and AirBNB prices of 30/night, it was a no-brainer. After a little googling, I also decided to tack on a trip to Vienna, since it was only a few hours away by train.

Only downside? A long flight, but of course that can’t be avoided. I packed 5 beauty masks from my Allure Beauty Box. I used the first one on the flight from San Francisco to Zurich. This one is to depuff your eyes!

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Fall is here. I know because Trader Joe’s won’t let me forget. They’ve really bet the house on pumpkin spice. But also it’s that magical first week in October, which means it’s Fleet Week AND there’s the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. So tons of sailors are roving in packs all over town, and bluegrass fans will soon be swarming Golden Gate Park. There’s a buzzy energy in the air right now. Biking around in this weather feels great.

I don’t think I’ll be able to go to the festival or even a friend’s birthday party because I’m dogsitting, and Hopper is pretty needy and whiney. Can’t even write this blog post! He wants attention. This is a two week gig, which I feel like I regretted immediately after accepting. I always book these sittings in the hopes of treating it like a writer’s retreat. Go hole up in a big apartment in a sleepy part of the city, be focused, and knock through my to-do list as best I can. It never works out that way. Since I got home from work today I’ve watched a Lady Gaga documentary and made a chocolate cake mug(or is it ‘mug chocolate cake’. Wait it’s ‘chocolate mug mix’, what?). Now it’s almost bedtime. Where did the time go?

Having long stretches of time where I can do anything often leads to me doing nothing. The same thing happened when I went to North Carolina with Ryan for a week. I had high hopes of working on some personal projects, but it just didn’t happen. I returned home refreshed and newly interested in paddleboarding, but also feeling guilty for squandering the time.

That was nearly two months ago!! and I still haven’t made progress on my side projects. I’m feeling worse and worse about it, which is no good. It’s completely artificial pressure. I need to figure out a more realistic way to move forward and be productive, at least a little bit every day.


In general since about April I’ve been in a weird place emotionally, mostly due to work. April started a period of being bounced around from project to project, having to ramp myself up on a new codebase and fit in to a new team (or company!) each time. I was on Project #1 from April to June. Then for a week or two I worked at another agency, pitching in at the last minute on a high stress launch. I came back to the first project after that. Then from the end of June to August, I did staff augmentation at an entirely different company. Then at the end of August I finally came back to Grio for Project #4, but we moved offices, so that was also different.

Changing projects in April was incredibly disorienting, which I suppose was to be expected because I was on my previous project for nearly a year. Then heading in to be a contractor at other offices, it felt like I didn’t even work at my company anymore. I saw my coworkers like once or twice a week when I came back to the office for free lunch.

It takes me a few weeks to feel like I’m up to speed on a project and starting to really contribute, and when I’m changing projects every 6-8 weeks, I don’t get very much time to feel good about the work I do. Mostly I’m just stressed out trying to prove myself, I have a few weeks of rocking it, then it starts all over again. Currently I actually feel pretty optimistic about my new project. There is the usual deadline stress, but I’m working with people I like and learning React Native, so at least I’m growing.


What else..? I was incredibly saddened when Anthony Bourdain died. My food and travel hero, RIP. I was up extra early, picking up my bicycle at the shop when it came over the radio. It just felt so surreal. I stayed away from all the news, and even now I can’t bear to watch any Parts Unknown episodes on Netflix, even though I know they’re going to take them down soon.

I still think about it from time to time, and it worries me that you can fight your whole life against depression, live what appears from the outside to be a meaningful and fun life, and still not make it. I don’t get as depressed as often as I used to thanks to bupropion, but I’m terrified of going back. What if it stops working? My depression was never that bad, but I don’t want to go through feeling down like that ever again, especially since now I know that I don’t have to.


Travel to see friends and family has been happening steadily. Spending time with my people has added some reassurance to a generally unstable time work-wise. In July we went to the Yuba River with friends. We stayed in a really nutty Victorian house that had some terrifying bedrooms. Ryan almost drowned. Nobody got sunburned. We broke an oven door and were losing puzzle pieces down the sink.

August was North Carolina with Ryan’s family. My racism antenna was on as soon as I saw my first confederate flag on the highway. Ryan thought that these people were neo-nazis because of their license plate (looks like NO 88), but no, they just went to Duke. Phew.

There was lots of food, and lots of time in the water. Ryan and I bought a puzzle one of our first days there, and we were able to complete it by our last night.

Before we left we went to a BBQ place that according to one Google review had a picture of a grand wizard on the wall. Walked all over the restaurant very casually eyeballing every frame and couldn’t find it. The BBQ was great, so I really hope that review was bogus.

Went to Los Angeles in early September. It was fairly uneventful, I didn’t even take pictures! I guess it’s nice that seeing my family doesn’t have to be a big eventful thing. I’ll be headed back there in November and December as well.


Puzzles. Ever since the encounter with puzzles in Oak Harbor, puzzles have been a mainstay, both on the road and at home. We’ve been ordering our puzzles off of Amazon, and have leveled up to using this puzzle wrapper thingie that lets you roll away your puzzle when you’re not working on it. You can see it below in the New Yorker puzzle. It’s pretty low tech (a big piece of felt, a cylindrical balloon and some elastic bands to hold it together), but it works! I was thinking of starting a puzzle club to share my puzzles with friends, since how often do you do a puzzle the second time?

Ryan did this insane 2000 piece Times Square puzzle all by himself.

I worked happily on most of this New Yorker puzzle. Back in 2009 the magazine was 4.99 an issue. Now it’s  8.99!


Well ok now I reaaaaallly need to go to bed. Til next time!


A couple of weeks ago I headed up to the Seattle area with my friend Alyssa to visit Jill and see what her new PNW life is all about. She asked me to bring a little taste of the SF coffee scene as her present for her boyfriend Brett’s birthday. Four pounds of coffee ended up getting me stopped and screened at SFO security. The TSA agent was SO confused. Oh it’s coffee? And another one… and more coffee…. and.. more? 😀

Got in Friday evening and had to drive back the hour and half to the island where they live. Stopped off at a distillery for a yummy dinner. As a tourist, I felt like I HAD to get the local liqueur flight.

The Bonfire Toffee Liqueur was THE BEST. Sweet and ridiculous. Great poured over vanilla ice cream. Probably also good in your coffee.

On Saturday we went whale watching. Basically it all looked like this for three hours. Iphones galore.

The whales were out and about, thanks to Jill’s A+ work summoning the whales with her super powerful whale tank top. 

We saw some good breaches and some whale tail action, but the real star of the day was this massive Stellar sea lion reigning over his harem. He was taking a nap at first, but as we rode by, he staggered up, looked around, and started showing off for us. Good job Mr. Sea Lion! Rock that girth!

Pooped out after all that hard work whale watching  🙂

Later we got to visit the naval base where Brett works. I learned about the controversial “Sky Penis“, which has its own patch and Christmas ornament, apparently. I really wanted a photo with the patch.

We went out for mussels at this local dive that had some amazing taxidermy.

Then a romantic walk on the beach for sunset (it was like 9pm). Well, not so romantic… we were kicked out by a grumpy park ranger. 

I slept on the couch in the living room and woke up to this serene scene every morning.

On Sunday we went to a local park for a cookout celebrating Brett’s birthday. The morning started misty, but things cleared up by the afternoon. We explored the park a bit before and after.



Deception pass bridge

The same bridge from a distance

Top of our little trek. Awesome view, right?

Ran into a log that looked like a bear head.

We headed back home on Monday, and got to take the ferry back as part of the shuttle ride. The ride was only 15, 20 minutes max, but they had so many puzzles out on the tables for riders to work on. Alyssa went nuts working on a puzzle at Jill & Brett’s house, so of course she was pretty psyched to find them out in the wild.

On the shuttle ride back to the airport we saw a guy drinking matcha from a rubber cup.  He carried around a thermos of hot water and kept topping up. It seemed like a precarious situation, but kudos to him for doing what he wanted?

I had  a few hours to burn at the airport, but luckily I get Priority Pass membership with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which gives me access to a bunch of airport lounges. Spent the time drinking free manhattans and eating a fantastic tuna melt. Great end to a great trip.


Travel was one of my goals for 2017, and near the middle of the year I was disappointed with myself for not making more happen. I’d spent two weekends away – a conference in New York, and a wedding in New Jersey. Since I went full-time at my job in April, by the middle of the year I still had barely any vacation time saved up. I decided to make the most of my company’s liberal work from home policy, and stretch some long holiday weekends. Where that wouldn’t work, I bit the bullet and took unpaid days off.

I ended up packing in the trips in the latter half of the year: Morocco in September, New Orleans for a conference in November, Mexico City for Thanksgiving, and Palm Springs for Christmas. I never posted about these trips because I’ve been so busy, and then it felt like the time has passed. But I’ve been daydreaming about 2018 travel, and I thought it would be fun to reminisce, and to think about where else to go based on how I felt about these trips.

Google Slides apparently lets you import your Google photo albums, so I thought I would try that this time instead of individually uploading photos (part of the reason I put off blogging about these trips at all). Seems a shame there isn’t an easy way to make an embeddable slideshow with comments via Google Photos, but I had fun putting random text boxes as commentary all over my photos. There’s a ton of photos, but the sets get smaller as you scroll down.

September: Catching up with an old friend in Morocco

My friend Jill was spending part of her summer in Morocco in order to ride horses on the beach, and this seemed like a perfect chance to visit, especially since I’d missed visiting during the three years that she lived in the country. The trip itself was cathartic, something long overdue. But to start with, things felt difficult. I was anxious about offending people, wearing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing. And you know how in Thailand/Southeast Asia there is that saying: Same same, but different? Yeah, Morocco was just different.

Marrakech was hot as hell and stressful, but I didn’t find the stress invigorating, like in Bangkok or Phnom Penh. After checking out some of the sights of Marrakech, Ryan and I quickly moved on to Essaouria, a beach town where Jill had rented an apartment for a month. Once we got there, things became much easier. No heat, a nice breeze, plentiful seafood, oh and Jill handled everrrrrything – thanks Jill! Basically we ate a lot of tajine, drank a lot of NesCafe, checked out the sights, went to a winery, and just chilled out. It was nice.


  • Hearing the call to prayer several times throughout the day, including the wee hours. It was very moving.
  • We took a ‘grand taxi’ to the winery. It’s basically a large car going in a certain direction, and you can buy a seat. When all the seats are full, the car takes off. It was a new mode of transportation to me, and I definitely would not have coordinated it myself if Jill weren’t there to make it happen. On the way back, we caught the same taxi. The driver recognized us, I guess we stuck out as three foreigners walking down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.
  • Meeting all the wonderful cats of Morocco. They were everywhere. The kitties by the sea were much more well-fed compared to the scrappy city cats.
  • Watching Girls Trip on a laptop, just like in college
  • Came in way way under budget, less than half of what I’d budgeted for.
  • Riding camels on the beach. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really fell in love with camels. Rudyard Kipling got it wrong, they’re sweet and hardworking animals.


  • Being taken to a carpet shop on our city ‘tour’ and getting the super hard sell. We didn’t want to buy a carpet! Really, how often does that work?
  • Being hungover
  • The actual travel. Getting there takes forever!

November: RubyConf in New Orleans

I enjoyed going to the annual Ruby Conference in Cincinnati in 2016, so when I learned that the next event was in New Orleans, how could I say no? And I don’t even code in Ruby anymore, that’s how good it is. My mom had just finished up a job, so the timing worked out and she joined me for my trip. My conference was three long days, but we managed to fit a lot in during off hours.


  • Catching a couple of jazz shows casually
  • Visiting the oldest pharmacy in the US, now sponsored as a museum by Walgreens
  • Taking a plantation tour and being incredibly satisfied that our tour guide was a black man dressed in killer period appropriate costume.
  • Introducing my mom to grilled oysters
  • Going back several nights later to eat more grilled oysters 🙂
  • On the final day we lucked out with a private cemetery tour. I saw Nicolas Cage’s future tomb, y’all. There are lipstick kisses all over it, and I think they’re probably Nicolas Cage kisses.
  • Accidentally sitting at the VIP lunch table and meeting some famous Ruby folks. All incredibly friendly, of course.
  • Drinking hurricanes with my mom at Pat O’Briens


  • Literally walking face first into a metal pole and bruising my face.
  • Being hungover from hurricanes

Thanksgiving: Birthday with Bae in Mexico City

When I think about it now, celebrating my birthday in Mexico City was a series of unfortunate events. I broke a tooth. Ryan got food poisoning and was in bed for a day and a half. The internet at our AirBNB died. We waited 45 minutes in line to pick up our lucha libre tickets only to learn that we were in the wrong line and needed to wait another 45 minutes in another line. Our airline pilots went on strike the day of our flight home. And yet… I was so determined to have a great birthday that I think I willed myself into letting it all slide. We made it through each shitty roadblock and I’m just left with really happy memories of Mexico City. It’s a great place. Putting it up there with Barcelona on my list of personal happy places.


  • Coming back to the apartment everyday and being greeted by the kitty of the house. She would follow us upstairs, run ahead and rush into our apartment, and then immediately start meowing for food. On the final day she lucked out and got some tostadas from the super fancy ContraMar. On that day we also learned that that our cat friend had a sister!
  • My first Lucha Libre match included a Trump worshipping badguy. I learned that Mexican grandmothers can be rather salty when it comes to their wrestling.
  • The Museum of Torture. Cruel, but fascinating.
  • Eating tacos on the street.
  • Going to the CDMX equivalent of a Denny’s
  • Climbing pyramids 🙂
  • Cramming into the local bus back home from the pyramids, and getting to stand at the very front of the bus, right behind the window. It felt like we were flying down the freeway, especially since our young and attractive bus driver was blasting EDM. He had good taste, BTW.
  • Visiting the most amazing public library I’ve ever seen. People actually come here and study, folks!
  • Rushing to the famous 24 hr churro place at 6am before heading to the airport, only to find the one employee hiding in the back of the kitchen, sleeping.


  • Uh, basically the stuff that I mentioned above. Ryan was really sick, and I found myself Google translating ‘stomach flu’ before I nervously headed out in search of Pepto. Also, our apartment was in a great location, but right next to a crosswalk, so we slowly went insane from the crosswalk sounds.

Palm Springs: A Different Christmas

I didn’t want to stay in town for Christmas. Palm Springs is a chill place close enough to make going out of town not a huge deal, and with Ryan’s points, we got our hotel for free. PS is about an hour away from Los Angeles, so I invited my mom to come for the holiday. She didn’t know much about the town, but I think we showed her a good time 🙂


  • Last time we came to Palm Spring the aerial tramway was closed. Glad we tried again. It’s an amazing view and really a technically impressive feat!
  • We visited Elvis’s house you guys
  • Saw an amazing show at The Purple Room
  • My mom played her very first game of checkers
  • Visited some great tiki bars
  • Went to see The Darkest Hour, but stumbled upon a poppin’ Auntie Mame dress up boozy movie night


  • I got food poisoning. It’s not a trip unless someone gets food poisoning. This time Ryan bought the Pepto.

Some Places I’d like to go in 2018:

I’d like to do more long weekend trips, but most of the places I had in mind are pretty far, and it would probably be hard to work from home, since the time difference is drastic… Hawaii, Cuba, South Africa, Ireland, Portugal, Hong Kong, Berlin, Senegal…

Next up: Atlanta. Right.. now. Seriously, going to the airport… :)  Going to spend a weekend visiting Jill’s new city.