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Be a cat, do crimes

Started: 2023-09-27 21:06:18

Submitted: 2023-09-27 22:32:42

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Seeing John Scalzi on tour promoting Starter Villain

Sci-fi author John Scalzi published a new book this month, Starter Villain and went on a small book tour to promote it. His tour included a stop in San Francisco at the American Bookbinder's Museum, organized by SF in SF with book sales by Book Shop West Portal. I picked up a ticket to attend the event on Wednesday evening, the 20th of September.

This happened in the middle of a week in which winds from the north brought wildfire smoke from northern California and Oregon into the greater Bay Area. I opened Purple Air and started watching the air quality in my neighborhood, and I noticed that my own sensor was marked as unreliable on the map because it was only reporting one of its two channels. I found instructions from Purple Air on cleaning a sensor, which included vacuuming the sensors to remove any debris that had gotten stuck (or spiders that had decided to hang out in the sensor). Somewhat to my surprise this actually worked; when I plugged my sensor back in (and mounted it with a screw on the wall in hopes of making it less likely that it would get blocked by debris again) it started reporting data on both channels and the live map marked it as reliable again.

A "reliable" reading just meant that I could accurately measure my AQI as above 150, which put it in the color-coded "red" region, which I took as my signal to not spend more time outside than I had to. On Wednesday morning the air outside smelled like stale campfire and my AQI reported 154. The reading bounced around the maybe-unhealthy and probably-unhealthy ranges depending how the wind was blowing. I wanted to collect all of my sensor readings into a big time-series graph but it wasn't clear that I could actually do anything with the neat data visualizations.

(For my birthday, Kiesa got me an eight-channel home thermometer with a base station featuring a color LCD with a fancy graph of the last 12 hours of temperature. I set up Weewx to capture temperature data to a time-series database, though it's mostly capturing data in the blind because I haven't set up any of the reporting or visualization I'd want to actually see fancy graphs of the temperatures in various rooms in my house. If I were ambitious I'd put a couple of the sensors in my fridge and freezer and set up alerting so I could tell when I need to plug them into my generator in a power outage.)

When I left home on Wednesday afternoon to drive to San Francisco for the book tour event I brought with me an N95 mask to wear outside. This mask came from the box I bought five years ago when I was going to be downwind of the Camp Fire for Thanksgiving; I've used the masks intermittently since then mostly for home repair projects. (I had the supply of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic but didn't end up wearing them at all; I spent the first two years wearing home-made reusable cloth masks before switching to mass-produced KF-94 masks when we found a reliable supply.)

I stopped for supper in the Mission. The air outside was noticeably smoky, but as soon as I put my N95 mask on the smoke went away and was quickly replaced by an artificial plastic smell of the mask itself — a smell that I now associate mostly with repairing (and, in particular, sanding) drywall. The mask was significantly tighter than my KF-94 mask, and I began to wonder whether the normal mask is really providing the protection I'm expecting of it. But the N95 mask was warmer, too; once I got to the museum I switched back to my KF-94 because it was much more comfortable.

"Node" at Yerba Buena Station

On my way to the American Bookbinders Museum I walked past the new sculpture "Node" at the new Yerba Buena/Moscone station on the Central Subway. This weird sculpture climbs into the air like a magical beanstalk, tapering to a point seemingly cantilevered over the empty space over the sidewalk next to the stalk. (From my pictures I can't actually tell how the upper part of the stalk is shaped. I have two different pictures from two different angles and they both look like the upper part is going away from the camera, and they can't both be right. I may have to consider that an impressive illusion by the sculptor.)

John Scalzi at the American Bookbinders Museum
John Scalzi at the American Bookbinders Museum

John Scalzi appeared on schedule at 19:00. He read a short story in which Wil Wheaton is killed by Crocs (the plastic shoes) on the Planet of the Crocs, which apparently came into being on a JoCo Cruise in a sequence of events that effectively ended up with John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton daring each other to write stories about Crocs. He talked a bit about his plans for his church (office space for his merchandising empire) and about cosplay (almost no one dresses up costume as characters from his books because he doesn't provide physical descriptions in the text so no one has anything to go on to create their own costumes). There was an intermission followed by audience Q&A, which was interesting except that I don't remember much more about it.

The Q&A ended and the audience lined up to get their books signed. I ended up somewhere near the end of the line because I stayed seated waiting for the line to die down but it never quite did. My copy of Kaiju Preservation Society is probably somewhere in Calvin's room, so if we're lucky, we might see it by the time he goes to college in four years. Instead I brought to be signed my copy of The Last Emperox, the book published in March 2020; we had tickets to see him on his tour but the event was canceled like so many other things were that month.

With my books signed I left the museum, swapped my N95 mask back on against the dubious air quality in the skies above the city, and began the trek back home.

"Node" at night

I caught the T line through the Central Subway one stop from Yerba Buena to Powell, which gave me the chance to actually use this new station for the first time. (I've ridden through the Central Subway several times, but never gotten on or off the train at this station.) Compared to the other new underground stations, this station is relatively shallow. The escalators from the street level to the concourse, and from the concourse to the platform, are not particularly long. The concourse is small and the station platform unremarkable, except for the construction delays that turned a couple of miles of tunnel into a megaproject.

Central Subway tunnel in Yerba Buena Station
Central Subway tunnel in Yerba Buena Station

I transferred to BART at Union Square, then drove the rest of the way home from Daly City.