Day 22: They Started It, Really

My parents arrive today.

Dad is teaching a statistical analysis in the laboratory workshop at a local biotechnology center next week, so they’re using our place as a B&B and base of operations. I need to stop by the Ferry building to pick up some special ingredients so my muse and I can make dinner for them.

First things first, time to stop to hang with acrobats for a few hours.


Alan, E-Beth and Kendra are a blast to fly with.


Michael is doing some setup for the upcoming shows.

I wasn’t able to find everything I was looking for at the Ferry Building, so we had to improvise a bit, but it turned out really well. Dinner at home:

  • A tasty Burrata (my muse’s idea, and a good one), with tomato, basil and olive oil
  • Steamed clams in a spicy wine sauce
  • Seared grouper and asparagus
  • Gelato, macaroons and a blueberry tart
  • Wine we brought back from Ingrid’s vineyard

Over dessert, we tell them about Secret Plan 170, which involves them (and will likely require an armed escort, but just for a few days). They’re up for it. In fact, they can’t wait.

Random assertion: If you enjoy cooking and traveling with your parents, they have surely done their job well.

Steganographic data: 1864/2.2

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Published in: on June 8, 2008 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Day 17: Acrobats and Puzzles

If you want to see some live acrobat performances, the Circus Center’s most talented students will be performing in two different shows in June.

Kids are welcome, and you can get tickets and information here.

Today I met up with one of those good friends you can learn a lot from. Dave Litwin is an acrobat (you expected that) and an inventor (you might have guessed that too), but his serious superpower is this: He finds solutions, very very quickly.

This wiseguy can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute while carrying on a conversation, and less than 30 seconds if he’s Focused. Last year, he started teaching me how to solve them. I’m not fast, but he’s working on me.


This is a small part of Dave’s collection

He also invents puzzles, and builds them at the TechShop. You can actually order a handmade puzzle from him. After lunch, he showed me a prototype of a new one he’s working on.

In 1991, Dave and I built a computer together, but that’s another story.

Random assertion: Focus (with a capital “F”), is a gift which allows a person to dedicate every breath and motion to a single task. It can be used to accomplish astounding things, but carefully. As with any tool, it wants to rule the user.

Steganographic data: 1876/3.2

Day 5: Playtime

I had some excellent curry with Erick at the Liberties Bar on Guerrero and 22nd, then went face down (read: sound asleep) in a good sci-fi book at the sunny park nearby with a nice view of the city.

Collected info about volunteering at the Exploratorium and the National Parks Conservancy (hoping for some kind of manual labor which doesn’t involve computers). I’ll fill out applications and see where it goes.

Wednesday nights every week are for acrobat training. Specifically, flying trapeze. This is what I was doing when I met my muse.

Note: You can take a class on any weekend morning! You’ll love it. Check out the class description: “Beginning drop-in class – Prerequisites: none.

Remember the training room from Day 3’s post? Here’s how it transforms into a serious aerial playground:

The “board” is a thin platform high off the ground we use as a jumping off point.


Scott and Melissa on the board

Scott Cameron (in the picture above) was my first flying instructor. If you’re just there for fun, he can help you have a great time. If you’re ready to get serious, he can teach you anything.

Here, Melissa’s ready for takeoff, with Alan and Jonah standing by. She’s wearing safety lines, because the trick she’s doing is a new one. On the right, Jennings is ready to keep her safe, no matter what.

. .

Jennings has a great many special abilities (more than most in the school), and an awesome sense of humor. I’ve literally trusted him with my life, too many times to count. Including tonight:


That’s me on the left, with Jennings catching.

Notice that there’s padding on one of the ceiling beams:

Why on Earth would you pad a 35-foot-high ceiling beam?
…eh, so we don’t bruise our knuckles and foreheads on it. That’d be me in the rafters:


Melissa on the board, while I’m getting all up in the ceiling

Here’s one of those difficult-to-photograph moments. That blurry smudge in the middle of the picture is some rapidly-flipping UFO wearing the same red shorts and black t-shirt as me.

It’s actually good that the photos don’t come out so well. When you need to use this stuff for real, you’re usually trying not to be photographed. If there’s no proof, there are fewer awkward questions to answer.

It’s late when I get done flying, I’ve got net marks on my back and parts of me hurt, but I feel so good that I won’t even try to sleep yet. Wednesdays rule.

So instead of sleeping I took apart my computer to repair some damage my cat did to it today (everything’s a toy for her, as you can see in this post). The computer is old, but it’s been through so much with me that I’m kind of attached to it, and I really like using it. Repair job worked again, so I’m able to type this sentence. Whew. Now a walk to Firewood to get some quick late dinner.

There’s a line around the block to see the midnight showing of the new Indiana Jones movie at the Castro. I’m not in the line, but I’m sure proud of my friends at work who made it happen.

Random Assertion: Technology will never be so advanced that whacking it on the table can’t fix it.

Steganographic data: 1880/2.7

Day 3: Good friends with special skills

Was contacted by Erick “flying is my day job, but the other stuff I do is even cooler” Methot. Friends in Ixtapa need a flying trapeze catcher for the week. Alas, being “on call” for work means no leaving the country for me. Maybe next time. Erick does a brilliant Austin Powers impression, baby.

Science: Mom and Dad had joined forces to write for three different biotech training grants, and today they were awarded all three. That’ll create a lot of future scientists. That’s something my folks do well.

This post is going to be a little too long (I swear tomorrow will be short), but there are things you need to know about.

Today I went back to the place I met my muse. I go there to get my ass kicked about once a week. For almost fifteen years, here’s where I’ve been going after work for acrobat training:

The location’s not secret (755 Frederick St.) but most people never notice the building. It’s one of those places you just don’t see unless you know to look for it.

Here’s what it looks like on the inside:

Dominic is hanging by his feet, almost 30 feet in the air. He’ll zip toward the ground head first, stopping suddenly just above it.

. .

On his first attempt today, the strap burned right through his glove. Tomorrow he’s going to try another material for the gloves. Where would you use this move? It’s a tall city. Where wouldn’t you use it?


Master Lu Yi and Sam Payne

Sam is a smooth one. I’ve seen him use tango to captivate a lovely woman, without either of them touching the floor. That doesn’t work for everyone.

Master trainer Lu Yi is respected worldwide, and very charming. If you train under him, he will find your weaknesses, and then he’ll pound on them until they are your strengths. Need to learn levitation, vanishing, or telekinesis? Lu Yi can teach you this and more, if you’re dedicated and unafraid. Over the years I’ve watched kids who train with him grow up to be young adults with startling superpowers, each unique.


Master Lu Yi with a student

After acro, I got punched by a standup comedian I work with. (adult content warning for this link) In the evening, I was planning to go to Berkeley for some special skills training, but had to postpone so went to see Goldfinger at the Castro instead.

Random assertion: If you think you don’t know any serious acrobats, you’re probably wrong. They don’t always talk about it.

Lesson taught: These things are going on around us every day, but you won’t see them unless you’re looking.

Steganographic data: 1890/7.0