Ursula Sadiq

"Hey, how did I get here?", asks the once and future geek. "Each step made sense along the way, didn't it?" Didn't it?

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So I went to the Philadelphia Art Museum (which is no longer on strike. yay) with a few friends. We saw a cricket cage for cricket fighting, which apparently is a thing. But only for male crickets, which begs the question: how does one tell boy cricks from girls?

Chasing this thread I learned about the Zen-Nippon Chick sexing method, practitioners of which are well paid in the chicken farming world. 

Anyway, go to museums folks. It expands the mind. 


<< part of my continuing series recording memories to assure myself I've actually been to the places I think I've been to>>

Whew, California. I lived there for most of my 30's, so I could fill a book. But instead, this much shorter entry:

When I was a child I recall my father once musing about having met some people that "smiled a LOT". Like so much so you noticed and wondered if they were selling something. When asked, it turned out it was just that they were from California, and smiling a lot was normal for them. So for many years, my concept of California was that it was a place of Hollywood, hippies, and people who smiled a lot. And that it was far away - I could never quite remember the difference between Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego... all were interchangeable in my head.

When I was looking at grad schools, I did apply & get accepted to Stanford and USC. But again, California was far away so I opted for CMU in Pittsburgh instead. Slight regrets on that front. Kinda wish I would have made it to California in the early 90s. I wonder how my life would have been different.

In the mid/late 90s I first visited California and the city identities solidified. SF is the hippies up north, somewhat seasoned by Silicon valley tech. LA is  Hollywood and beaches. San Diego is smaller and warmer and the border town. I had an all expenses paid vacation in the San Diego area (some perk that came with my first husband's job) and got to experience the gas light district, Coronado island, and had an excellent massage from a woman who was the masseuse on staff for the Icelandic olympic team. Around 1995 I started working remotely for a San Francisco Bay Area software company. Though I continued to live in New Orleans, this meant occasional trips to SF. I distinctly recall walking around SF one early visit thinking to myself "I could live here" - which was a rare thought for me: living in New Orleans set my bar pretty high for other places I was willing to live.  I liked how SF was walkable, with good transit, nice climate, and flower vendors on the street.

In 2005, after Katrina devastated New Orleans, I took a job just north of SF in San Rafael. I moved to SF and lived there until 2011. In my years there I was a city girl - goth clubs and sidewalk happy hours, wine tastings and harbor cruises. I had yet to experience the joys of the great wild outdoors - no hiking or camping for me then - unless you count Burning Man. In 2006 I was talked into my first Burning Man by my then roommate. And while I wouldn't call Burning Man "life changing" for me, it certainly has influenced much of my activities in the years since.

SF has this ambient level of zaniness that I love. It was always nice to get home from a trip and to see something like a grown man in a tutu and viking helmet nonchalantly taking his chihuahua out for a walk. No one would even raise an eyebrow. Wish more places vibed like that. 

When I make it back to California these years, I typically go to Los Angeles. I have a good friend there who throws lovely events in his house. Plus a few times I've been to "The Labyrinth of Jareth" masquarade ball held in downtown LA. Two of my favorite things to do in LA is Kura conveyor belt sushi and the Wii Korean day-spa. 

I might add some more detailed memories in the future but for now I'm closing this entry. Yes, I've been to California. I lived California. And I sometime still miss California most desperately.

I enjoyed this. I miss California too and I've never even lived there.
So Say We All.

I first visited the Bay Area in 1993, after hearing about it from my brother who lived in the Haight in the 80s. Lived in the BA 1999-2010, went to Burning Man in 98 and 2000. Agree with your assessment of the parts of CA, noting with amusement that you didn't bother mentioning the far north; no one does (unless it's literally on fire).

In 2010 we moved to VT because the climate writing was on the wall (it also helped that CA as a state was 37 billion-with-a-b dollars in debt and their infrastructure was noticeably crumbling). I have never stopped longing for those years there, and I cry for what's happening now even though I knew it would.
For Northern flavor, I could have added a bit about that Christmas Eve I spent at my roommate's father's house in Mendocino (complete with commercial scale grow room in the basement). I was going through some lonely times and it was good to have that visit as a distraction. My roommate got his father's dog a dog-shirt that said "Bitches Love Me'. And he also got his father a shirt saying the same thing. Dad's girlfriend was not amused. ...We drove home on Christmas and found a bar still open in the Haight, and joined the other sad sacks drinking cosmos and pretending it was just another day... Life is better now.


It's going to be pretty much the same as my Arizona entry. I.e., I drove through it, ate fast food, slept in a rest stop. Unless I remember anything ANYTHING else. It's very possible I've been to Little Rock for some software training and just don't remember. I think maybe MAYBE as a newly minted graduate in 1993 I stopped in the town of Hot Springs and couldn't figure out how to engage with tourist trap spas. But I'm not sure

So yeah, been to Arkansas. Kinda. 

I should have driven across the river and stepped foot in Arkansas when I visited Memphis. Don't know when I'll have my next chance!

So it turns out I don't have many memories of Arizona. I've driven through it enough to see just a wee bit of it. 

In May 2021, while driving back from Utah hikes with my brother, we stopped at the Le Fevre Overlook in the Kaibab National Forest and gazed at the Vermillion Cliffs. We stopped and got gas in Tuba City. We drove through Hopi reservation and then in Navajo land. We got McDonalds at Window Rock right before we crossed into New Mexico.

In a similar underwhelming way, in September 2020 driving back from the proto-renegade burn in Nevada, I slept 5 hours in a parking lot behind a closed perhaps abandoned Chevron just off I-40. I remember being aggravated by not being able to find a proper reststop on I-40 after many many hours of driving. In the predawn I started driving again, then got gas & breakfast at 6am at a truckstop an hour down the road, before driving straight through to New Mexico.

I have Monument Valley on my short list, but it was pandemic closed in 2020 and 2021. And yes, I do realize there is a Grand Canyon there, as well as I'm sure other interesting things to see/do. I just haven't done them. 

But it still counts as having been there! I both ate and slept there! So yeah, I've been to (mostly through) Arizona.

Montezuma Castle National Monument was neither Montezuma's nor a castle, but it is pretty amazing.
I'll add it to the list.

So I went to Alaska a fair bit in the 1990/2000s. I went in August when the blueberries and tourists were plentiful, and in midwinter where locals were starved for outsider energy, and many other months along the way.

I visited Anchorage Alaska for my traveling software consultant job, supporting engineering firms that worked the oilfields. 

One of the things I found most impressive were the moose. I first saw one when it was running down the shoulder of the highway. And another a few days later from the window of the building where I was working. But my clearest memory of these massive animals was when I was walking one of the many trails in Anchorage. As I was coming up a gentle slope there it was, this GIANT animal, a mere 10 feet from the trail, munching away at some plant. It looked at me and kept munching. I was stunned, and too scared to walk past. So I just stood there. And stood there. And it just kept on munching. I wasn't scared of being eaten, I was scared of being trampled - this creature was HUGE. It was like 7ft tall and 1000 lbs. So there I stood, transfixed.

But after a while, a cyclist wizzed down past me in the other direction. And then another. And the moose didn't care and didn't move. So I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and heart pounding I walked past it. It just kept munching. 

I have lots of other memories of Alaska - the people there are pretty "cowboy" - lots of radical individualists. People looking for something or running from something. It's the only place that, when I was teaching a software class, when I asked the room to press the "cancel" button, EVERY LAST ONE of the students picked a different button. 

I drove down the Seward one day off, and took the harbor cruise. I bought an excellent windbreaker while there, that I have to this day. I saw a glacier up close and marveled at how the ice is baby-blue. I got annoyed at folks cutting their grass at 11pm, as the sun was still out. I would meet coworkers at "the best Mexican restaurant in Anchorage '' - also the only Mexican restaurant in Anchorage, barely a step up from Taco Bell. I laughed at the story of how a bear kept breaking into the local zoo, because that was where the food was. I planned to but never got around to heading up to Denali. I never saw a whale, which I'm good with since I'm terrified of whales

So yeah, I've been to Alaska.

Now I feel like I have.

You know those "how many places have you been to" quizzes. Well, I've been to a lot. But sometimes I'm not sure I've been to a place. So I'm starting a series where I record memories from the places I've been. Starting with US States, and starting alphabetically. 

So, Alabama.

In the late 90s and into the 2000s I was a corporate employed traveling engineering software consultant/trainer. I went to lots of engineering firms to set up and teach the niche software we sold. (REBIS AutoPLANT if you must know)

One place I went to a few times was Birmingham, Alabama to work with Southern Company. I set up & customized software there, and did some training. I have strong recollections of one guy there Mike who was just smart and cool and great to work with. 

I also remember staying at some boutique hotel downtown where in an adjacent shop they were selling "sheet powder". It was lovely smelling talcum powder that apparently in the past people used to put on their sheets before they turned in for the night. I was young and frugal so I didn't purchase any. Today I probably would have, since I've gotten better at balancing my *now* self with my *future* self. I'm naturally future oriented, meaning I tend to not give now-me enough life enjoyment/experiences. But like I just mentioned, I've gotten better at that balance.

In the early 90s I worked for an offshore company (Schlumberger) and we sometimes left from a dock in Alabama. But I don't remember much about that. I do recall on the drive to the dock once my crew talking about how one of the engineers had decided to be vegetarian. And how incredulous they were about that. Good old Lousiana men just couldn't wrap their heads around not eating meat, not even seafood. 

If I think of more Alabama memories I'll add them later. But yeah, I've been to Alabama. Though not recently.

I often have the same problem. Have I been to Rhode Island? My parents tell me I've been to Rhode Island, but I don't remember it.

I also tend to focus on my future self at the expense of my current self. Any tips for improving the balance, other than just being cognizant of the imbalance?

I lived in Birmingham for a year and change circa 2009-2010, living in Five Points South. It had a robust and welcoming tech scene and I met a lot of great people there, who knows maybe I even met Mike (did he ever wear a utilikilt?). I never made it down to Mobile or the gulf coast though.
Being aware of the imbalance is the biggest step. Then it's become easier to give yourself permission to act. I don't have any real useful tips.

Mike might have worn a utilikilt. He had the demeanor, but I don't recall every seeing him in one.
Love it.

I don't backpack. I do hike, but I don't carry my overnight gear/food with me. But lately I've been thinking I might want to ease into that. 

So I'm thinking a one day 5 mile hike out. Sleep out in the wilds, then hike back out the next day. Then work up to 2 days. 

Tent+Sleepingbag+pad = 10 lbs. Food and food gear = 4 lbs. Extra clothes 1 lb. So, 15lbs. Can I carry 15lbs 5 miles? That's like the weight of 2 gallons of milk. Oof. Maybe this isn't THAT much in a good backpack? Dunno.

I already have a route picked out for my trial run. It will start in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners PA.  I will hike the Appalachian trail to Toms Shelters, via the Camp Michaux historical site/ruins. That's like 4 miles. Which really is only 2 or so hours of walking. ... Maybe if I'm not dead from that, I'll keep going to the Birch Run Shelter. That would be 10 miles total.  And then hike back out the next day. 

Ideally, I will sleep in the shelter and not pitch my tent. So I'm planning to go to REI and buy a tiny/light/just-in-case tent. Guess I should get a backpack and sleeping pad too while I'm at it. (I have 4 or 5 sleeping bags already)

I'm thinking April 11ish - before the heat and the bugs and the crowds arrive. I wonder if I can get in "carry 15 lbs & hike 5 hours" shape by then? 

Anyway, it's nice to dream.  

Sounds like a fine plan.

My Connecticut ride definitely taught me that unnecessary ounces should be left at home.

So, Aruba. I spent 14 days in Aruba with my 10 year old. Here’s my thoughts about the trip, mostly from a things to do perspective.

TLDR - Recommended things to do

  1. The Rancho Loco Horseback ride to the Natural Pool. 

  2. Reflexions beach club

  3. Petroglyphs in the National Park

  4. Book a Snorkeling cruise 

  5. Climb California Lighthouse


You can certainly go to Aruba and just lounge on the beach the whole time. There are certainly tourists who do that, and hotel resorts that cater to that. But I’m the type of traveler that wants to do stuff. So this is stuff to do. There are lots of good places to eat/explore on the island. Do get a rental car to facilitate this exploring. 

Recognize that Aruba is a small island. 100k people, 20 miles long (the long way!) Like 6 miles across. Still, you probably want to rent a car. 

Also it’s a desert. Think Arizona climate (if you’re familiar with AZ), that also happens to have beaches. Beautiful beaches. On one side of the island (the west) are lovely swimming beaches. On the other side, they are super rough/rugged/don’t even think about getting in the water beaches. (Sad story: while I was there, apparently a vistor went into the water on the rough side after the tour guide said it would be ok. And drowned. Just don’t.) It’s always 80-90 degrees. Year round. And breezy. Super breezy. Make sure your hat fits tight, or has a chin strap. And bring a hat - it’s hella sunny out there!

There are lots of cool lizards out and about. Little ones, big ones.  I especially like the blue ones. And some sizable iguanas. The cat sized one that hung out by our condo we named Big Liz. They have the goofiest run. There are a bunch of birds around too which are fun to watch. In particular we saw Magnificent Frigatebirds (which we call demon birds because of their silhouette), brown pelicans, cool orange-black Troupials, and a wacky looking large bird which I think was a Crested caracara. Aruba’s national bird is a burrowing owl, but we didn’t come across any. 

^^ These bird pics aren't my photos, just ones I found that look better than the photos I took ^^

There is no fresh water source on the island, unless you count the occasional rains. Beats me how people used to live here in the precolonial/colonial times. We did see a cistern from colonial times that supposedly held 3-4months of water. But it barely rained while we were there. Again, not sure how they made it work way back then, maybe it rains more than I recognize? Today they have a desalination plant, and the tap water here is some of the best I’ve ever had. They even bottle it.

The main industry here is tourism. And like 70% of the tourists are from the US. (Even though it’s just 15 miles from Venezuela - you can even see the mainland on a clear day.) English is spoken everywhere. US dollars are accepted everywhere. I mostly used my visa, except for tips and that one bakery that was cash only.

Packing tip: you’re going to want to bring snorkel gear to look at all the cool aquatic life. Or at least a great pair of swim goggles. Bring sun protection. Bring water shoes. 

The highlight:

We booked an afternoon horseback tour at Rancho Loco to the Natural Pool. After about an hour on a horse, you get to a natural pool. It is the only(?) protected place to swim on the east side. And it was fabulous. Rough waves hitting the other side of the protected rock wall, spraying water high. And a calm pool to hang in. This is 100% bucket list material. It doesn’t get any better than this. 10/10 would go again.  This makes Ursula's "Best Of" list (a list that I've just decided to start).

If horses aren’t your thing, you can hike in for about an 1.5 hours each way. So 3 hours roundtrip. Or rent a off road capable vehicle like an ATV. ATVs are icky IMHO, and walking would be arduous in this climate for me, let alone for my 10 year old. But the horses, that was awesome, and the payoff of the natural pool was so worth it. I also liked the romanticism of pretending it was cowboy times while on the horse. Even if my butt was sore for 2 days after. (Note, the horses only take people who weigh less than 235 lbs. Even though technically the horses can carry larger people, the ranch doesn’t want to stress them.)

Other things to do:

And then some days you just want to sit at a beach club and chill. I didn’t really check out the options; I found one I liked and went there twice. It is called Reflexions, and it’s just a few minutes north of the airport. You can watch the planes land - the airport is close but not obnoxiously so. Sometimes people wait on this beach until they see the plane land before they go on a pickup run. We'd get there around 1pm, stay till sunset. Sometimes they have DJs or bands. There is a small swimming pool in the bar (which frankly got gross later in the day, but the kid loved it), lots of chairs with umbrellas or covers to be had. And some excellent drinks. And good food, a step up from your typical bar fare. 

There is a national park that takes up like 20% of the island. (That arid rugged east side mostly). You need a car or a tour to get there. In this park, about a 20 minutes drive inside the park is a cave with petroglyphs (and colonial graffiti). Also, bats inside. And lizards outside. It's cool, especially if you are keen on petroglyphs like I am. Definitely worth doing.  (Actually, that natural pool I mentioned above is also in this park. You’d ATV/hike from inside the park. The horses came up another way.) BTW: Google maps sent me to someplace that was certainly not the park entrance. Get close then follow the signs instead of wherever G sends you.

There is a lighthouse on the northern tip called the California Lighthouse. Not sure why it’s called that, something something about a ship called California that sank when it was being built? I’m sure you can google it. Anyway - Go! Pay the $5! Climb the zillion steep steps on the spiral staircase up! See the amazing windy views! Deal with your kid then being too terrified to climb back down! Good times. Also, at the bottom, get a fresh coconut from the coconut guy. And watch his pet parrot peck at your kid when she invades its personal space, terrifying the kid. Haha. More good times. Another $5 well spent. 

The final thing I really can recommend is take a snorkeling “cruise”. I did Jolly Pirates, but there are others. Some include lunch, some do not. Most all include an open bar. And they include your snorkeling gear. They almost all stop at the same 3 or 4 places. Though this one seems to have different spots https://www.tranquiloaruba.com/ (next time!) The snorkeling in Aruba is some of the best. One of the standard snorkeling spots called Tres Trapi is just offshore. You can actually drive to it, in case you want to go back and experience more snorkeling but not take a second cruise. 

We also visited the small free National Archaeological Museum Aruba. I like to hit these sort of historical museums at the beginning of a trip to get an awareness of a place’s backstory. It’s where we saw the cistern and learned about the petroglyphs, and about the pre colonial and colonial times.


No food recommendations - why? I’m not a foodie. I noted portions are large. I enjoyed everywhere I ate, but I’m so the opposite of picky. Also I was feeding a kid, so we didn’t try anything exotic. So we stuck with meals of burgers, pasta, chicken and poffertjes (dutch small puffy pancakes). So I don’t have much by way of food recommendations except ask around, and use your google-fu. The restaurants here are good, but it's not cheap. Expect US prices or maybe even a tad bit higher. 

We went to the closest burger joint called Local Store several times. It had this cool mural on the side that among other things, incorporated imagary from the island's petroglyphs. How cool is that! 

Other things:

Some things that we coulda shoulda done is 

  1. the gold mine ruins. 

  2. another rock & petroglyph site called Ayo Rock Formation..

  3. the butterfly house. If you go at the beginning of your trip, you can go back any time for the next 7 days. 

Saving these for next time!

There is also a “private” island beach club “De Palm Island”. It’s like $100 for a day of all-inclusive fun. I didn’t do it, but maybe next time. Maybe. I was pretty content at Reflexions. But on the other hand, seeing flamingos would have been cool.

There are on the southern side a few more beaches, and another town called San Nicolas. Baby beach is the big name, there is also a super deserted beach calle Boco Grandi. It looks very peaceful, but the kid had seen it before and said it was boring. So we didn’t go. San Nicolas has a bunch of cool murals, plus is known for the bar “Charlie’s” but I forget why. I do know the licence plate of my old camper is on the bar, as are a zillion other plates. It’s the Delaware tag that says “Guppy”. If you see it, send me a photo!

I didn’t really do any nightlife because I had my preteen in tow. I did get out for 1 night to the Renaissance downtown for a sunset DJ set and their rooftop (no kids allowed!) club. That was sweet, and would be cool to do again with adult friends. Assuming I can talk someone into traveling with me.


Horse ranch https://www.rancholocoaruba.com/en

National Park http://www.arubanationalpark.org/main/

Reflexions Beach Club https://www.reflexionsaruba.com/

Jolly Pirates https://www.jolly-pirates.com/

7/23 '21 2 Comments
Great travel piece.
Thomas Boutell 7/24 '21
I’m unnaturally puzzled by A J C Henrique. “Went in 5201M”? With some sort of tripod? Did they measure 5 kilometers from the carving?
Brian Rapp 7/24 '21

Big news! I've picked a color palette for the interior of the van!

That's all really. 

Well, maybe not ALL. . .I have talked to the local who I want to put my ceiling fan in. He said he's busy, so call him in a week or two. Which I will. Moving at the speed of Delaware, huzzah!

I bought (but have not unpaked) ceiling planks. I stuck on 16 sound deading CLD tiles. I put in one batt of insulation. I have been informed that the rest of my insulation has shipped. I bought mildew proof string to help secure the insulation.

I have a late night of online tabletop gaming planned with some west coast friends (Nemesis anyone?) If I wake with any energy tomorrow, I'm going floor wood shopping. If not tomorrow, then Saturday. Or Monday.

Little by little I'm chipping away at getting this van build done.

1/14 '21 5 Comments
Nice color choices. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this goes.
So pretty! Warm and cool and vibrant and comforting. It's basically sunlight and shadows.
Sean M Puckett 1/15 '21edited
I would give an arm to learn how to tell warm vs. cool colors. I have watched 37 billion videos on it and I just can't latch onto it.

Is one of those yellows cool and one of those yellows warm? If so, which one is which?
Both yellows are warm and the teals are both cool.

So far as I'm aware, the only time you have warm or cool variants of a color is when that color is grey. If I'm honest, I have a very tough time telling warm and cool greys apart unless they are side by side.

(Folx should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong in any of this. I'm impressively clueless when it comes to color theory.)
Matt Lichtenwalner 1/18 '21edited
Nice! Those are some mighty fine colors, and it sounds like you really are making progress. Slowly, perhaps, but progress nonetheless.

And that Nemesis game looks pretty badass too.

I’m isolating. So I took myself for a long drive into the countryside. It wasn’t an aimless drive, I had a quest. I was looking for a Mason-Dixon stone. 

The western border of Delaware southern terminus is at the Transpeninsular line, at a point half way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, along a latitude line starting at Fenwick island. This was a mistake, it was supposed to start at Cape Henlopen, but in 1732 Lord Calvert submitted the wrong map to the presiding English court establishing the border. The erroneous map labeled Fenwick as Cape Henlopen, so the line started about 24 miles south of where it should have been. This had the effect of making William Penn’s Delaware bigger and Lord Calvert’s Maryland smaller by about 1000 square miles (which is like 40% of Delaware. Delaware is only about 2500 square miles in size today. )

Anyway, half way along this Transpeninsular latitude line is the midpoint, which I visited in a previous post.

Way up in northern Delaware, a 12 mile circle was drawn around the town of New Castle. The western border of Delaware goes from the Transpeninsular midpoint to a point tangent to the 12 mile circle. This Tangent Line does not go “true north” in longitude but slants ever so slightly westward to hit the tangent point. Once the border hits the 12 mile circle, it heads true north* to 39°43′20″ N, which is the latitude to the Maryland-Pennslyvania border. This is the Tri-State marker point, found in White clay creek park**.

Anyway, Mason & Dixon put markers down every mile along the Tangent Line, which every 5 miles dropping a more ornate Crownstone, carved with the crests of both Penn and Calvert. I decided to go look for one or two of these markers. 

So I drove out the Hickman Delaware, about 40 minutes from Dover. I had recently received a book called East of the Mason-Dixon Line by R. Nathan. The text is available online too, at https://archives.delaware.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/156/2018/08/East-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line_-A-History-of-the-Delaware-Boundaries-Roger-E.-Nathan.pdf

Page 95 talks about how to locate these two monuments, but vaguely - it doesn't give actual coordinates or directions. I have since found a much MUCH better source. It's called waymarking.com. Searching on MASDIX Tangent gets you all the markers and how to find them!! It's going to be a fun quest now!!!

Anywho, the Crownstone at mile marker 25

And the sad worn marker 26 one mile north in Hickman proper

Proverbs 22:28 : Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

*actually, the border follows the 12 mile circle for just a wee bit more before turning north. This gives Delaware an extra 0.02 square miles. Apparently the 12 mile circle trumped the north line in the negotiations of border location.

** Today the MD-PA line goes straight to the arc, and the little wedge was given to Delaware. But that happened later, around 1920. I didn't draw that on my map sketch.

1/10 '21