Picture of the author on his fifty-fifth birthday

A ‘double-digit birthday’, as a friend of mine called it in his birthday wishes today. Also I guess once upon a time a number often associated with retirement, or at least with being old, as it seemed like AARP memberships once really started being pushed at age 55. (I’ve been received mail from them for several years.) In fact I’m still kickin’ at my job, and planning to stay until at least the modern retirement age of 65. Then we’ll see.

Martin Luther King Jr. day was yesterday, so Debbi took it off and we took the dog to Byxbee Park for a morning hike, and then took down our outdoor Christmas lights. Then we went to Sundance the Steakhouse for dinner, which is where I like to go every year.

Today I slept in, and then spent the morning playing Outer Wilds on our Nintendo Switch. This is very much my sort of game, going around collecting information to solve a mystery, and the story seems very rich. I just scratched the surface in the little time I played. I have a feeling I can look forward to crashing into things quite a bit, though. The game controls on the Switch are pretty awkward, and it would be nice if they had a Mac version, but oh well.

Then I met my friend Chad for lunch at the Park Station Hashery, before making a trip to Recycle Bookstore. (I didn’t find anything today.) I went for a walk to close my exercise goal and almost catch up on this week’s podcasts, and then I watched an author event with John Scalzi sponsored by my local library before we made dinner.

All my birthdays are pretty low key these days. I don’t think we’ve really “done anything” for them since going to Disneyland in 2020. But that’s fine. Once you’ve had enough birthdays you appreciate the quiet ones. We’ll see if I feel similarly in another 20 or 30 years.

Picture of a smiling black doggo
Domino enjoyed his hike!


I think it’s been a while since I’ve posted a photo of myself here, so that’s me up there, a few days after my actual birthday since I’m back-dating this entry. My hair has been doing some funky things in the front lately, it’s continuing to gray in little bits around the edges, and my face is developing those telltale signs that I’m not a young guy anymore. (The furrow between my brows is especially annoying.) I thought about being artsy and doing this in black-and-white, but that made me look terrible, so instead you get to see the color of my current favorite shirt. And my apparently larger-than-I-realized forehead.

Anyway, John Scalzi posts a portrait of himself each year on his birthday, so maybe I should do the same.

My birthday fell on Martin Luther King Day this year, which meant 3-day birthday weekend! Saturday we watched the 49ers obliterate the Seahawks in the playoffs (sad Pete Carroll is best Pete Carroll), and in the evening we went to dinner at Sundance the Steakhouse, which was as good as I’d remembered. We’d only gone once since the pandemic started – when they still had an outdoor seating area the winter of 2020-21 – and I’ve missed it.

Sunday we went over to visit our friends the Hoffmans, where Domino got to play with their pups, including their current foster pup who I think needed to get some orientation to other dogs. It has been raining like crazy in California for the last month, and there was more rain on Sunday, so everyone mostly stayed inside. I played Magic with their son D which was fun – introduced him to a different 2-player draft format – and then they made pot roast for dinner and a chocolate cake for dessert.

We had a quiet Monday, and Debbi made a cinnamon Chocolate Chip cake for dessert, which ended up especially moist and yummy. We ate some while watching Moon Knight as we’re still catching up on television series from last year.

I used to throw parties for my birthday, but even without the pandemic I think I’d enjoy having low-key ones, as I do in reality. I miss holding our summer open house parties, but otherwise I’m happy to see friends in smaller groups these days.


My birthday was Sunday, the middle day of a long weekend for me, as Apple gives us Martin Luther King Day off.

(Growing up in Massachusetts, we got MLK Day off every year starting – as far as I can find – in 1975. As a result I got my birthday off from school a few extra times. True to form I was completely oblivious about why we got it off. In hindsight it’s pretty spectacular that MA started observing it so early.)

We had a pretty quiet weekend, which frankly was fine with me. We had originally planned to go over to the coast on Saturday, but the volcanic eruption near Tonga triggered a tsunami warning across the west coast, and we decided to bail on that plan. For me, less due to worry about the tsunami – which wasn’t expected to present a danger unless you got too close to the water’s edge – as wanting to avoid idiots flooding (heh) the coast to see the tsunami.

We did watch a whole lot of football, seeing the Patriots and Raiders lose, but the 49ers improbably win against the Cowboys. My feeling about the 2021 Patriots is very similar to the 2021 Red Sox – rebuilding teams that surprisingly made the playoffs, and unsurprisingly lost in the early rounds. And Niners I are in the middle of a “still in contention, but kind of rebuilding too” phase, and I don’t expect them to beat the Packers this weekend.

We also went out to eat three nights in a row (Fri/Sat/Sun), which was nice. All outdoor dining – I think we’ve (still) eaten indoors exactly once since the start of the pandemic – but we hit a few of our favorite restaurants downtown. Sadly my traditional birthday restaurant has apparently suspended outdoor dining for the winter – perhaps a bit short-sighted as we’re in the middle of warm spell, with highs getting into the 60s most days in the last week, and likely to stay warm through the end of the month.

Debbi didn’t have Monday off, so I spent part of the day watching TV. I finished The Expanse, which as a series was okay. Started weak, got better, got exciting when they finally got out of the solar system, but ended with a fairly dull set of in-system politics and combat. (I’m not really into near-future in-system SF, so I was really hoping for a big ramping-up of the sense of wonder once the ring gate opened.) I thought most of the characters were pretty weak – especially nominal protagonist James Holden – so I wasn’t very invested in what happened to many of them. Overall, it was okay, but not something I’m likely to rewatch (unlike Babylon 5 and parts of Battlestar Galactica). I guess it only adapts the first six books, so there are three more they could do if someone else picks it up.


Three years in, my fifties feel like a blur. My face is getting those lines of middle age, with an annoying vertical one between my eyebrows. My knees are getting a little creaky, although they’ve been doing a good job lately where running is concerned. (A little weird to think that they’ve been holding up better through running than they did when I was biking regularly.) On the bright side, I still have all my hair, and most of it is still brown!

But time is starting to pass faster. The pandemic is obviously affecting all of this to a fairly large degree. I’m not a big traveler, but there are a few places I’d like to visit. I haven’t spent as much time with my friends lately as I’d like. It feels like everything is on hold, and is going to keep being on hold indefinitely.

Anyway, it was a good birthday, under the circumstances. I get a little less enthusiastic about my birthday each year, but I do look forward to the day that I can have people over to celebrate it again, someday.

Birthday Week

Last Thursday was my birthday, and we had a heck of a busy week around it!

For starters, we went to to Disneyland last weekend, flying down Saturday and coming back Tuesday, spending 2-1/2 days in the park(s). Since SuperShuttle has gone under, we tried Wingz, which is like Uber and Lyft except that they vet their drivers more carefully (or so I’ve read), and they primarily do airport transportation, where you can request a ride weeks ahead of time. Our trip to and from the Anaheim airport both went really smoothly, with friendly drivers who were on time and flexible. It was probably a little more expensive than Lyft, but not a lot. Would definitely recommend. We learned the difference when we used Lyft to get home from the San Jose airport on Tuesday and got a driver with a messy car with way too much air freshener.

The big change at Disneyland since our last visit (two years ago!) is the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (or “Star Wars Land” as lots of people call it). It’s still kind of in its formative stages, but it was pretty populated while we were there. The main ride, “Smugger’s Run”, is okay, being kind of a guided video game you play with 6 people, with excellent graphics. But the scenery in the area is the main draw, with an elaborate settlement with a large reproduction of the Millennium Falcon, as well as a small Resistance base in some nearby ruins (with a ride which opened the weekend after we were there). And also the second place in Disneyland that sells alcohol, a cantina you should reserve a spot in ahead of time. They also have a build-a-droid experience, and a build-a-lightsaber experience, and Debbi bought me the latter as a birthday gift. The lightsaber seems like it’s really high quality, with nifty audio and visual details.

Oga's Cantina
The interior of Oga’s Cantina.

We rode a lot of the old favorites, including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 3 times. The Indiana Jones ride is showing its age and broke down a lot, including twice when we had fastpasses to it. Space Mountain was slammed as usual, and Haunted Mansion has gotten very popular lately, typically with a wait time double that of Pirates of the Caribbean. We rode Star Tours twice, though its current Rise of Skywalker form is not as interesting as what it was after its overhaul a decade ago, when you could go to 3 different world on each ride. Hopefully once RoS leaves theaters they’ll put it back to mixing things up on each ride.

My favorite ride used to be the Californian Screamin’ coaster in California Adventure, but they’ve reskinned it using The Incredibles – a film I’m not much of a fan of – and we didn’t get to ride it because – you guessed it – it broke down when we had fastpasses. Oh well! Alas, the nifty “tour of California” theme of California Adventure has now been erased by the Disneyfication of the park over the last decade, so it’s lost a lot of its charm. The new Lamplight Lounge is pretty nice, although I don’t think it’s displaced the Hearthstone Lounge for me (the best kept secret on the property, I think). A Bug’s Land is being demolished for – I believe – a Marvel superhero area, presumably to integrate with the Guardians of the Galaxy ride behind it. We also road Soarin’ twice, which is also not as great as its previous Soarin’ Over California incarnation was.

Anyway, that and our tired feet aside, we had a good time and will try to go back sooner than another 2 years!

My actual birthday rolled around on Thursday and I treated myself to my free Starbucks drink in the morning to go with the scones Debbi baked for me. I had a pretty quiet day at work – lots of people were busy so I went to coffee by myself, and in the rain yet! (But, I love rain.) The original plan was for me to grill hamburgers for dinner, but instead we went downtown to Don Giovanni, which was yummy.

And Friday we went to Sundance the Steakhouse, which is what I always pick for my “official” birthday dinner. Their Moscow Mules are especially yummy for some reason, and birthday mud pie for dessert is also a nice bonus. Debbi noticed that some of the crew from Fox’s NFL broadcast show were eating there, including Jimmy Johnson and maybe Terry Bradshaw, but we didn’t want to stare so I’m not sure. They were in town of course because the 49ers were hosting the Green Bay Packers in The NFL championship on Sunday.

Saturday I went to Isle of Gamers for the Magic Theros: Beyond Death prerelease. I had a pretty good deck, I thought, although nothing obviously broken. My first match was a tie, but with 2 more turns I think I could have won it. I won my second match easily, and then tied my third match (and we barely started the third game). I think I played pretty well, but a 1-0-2 record was just barely better than break-even. Well, it beats a sharp poke in the eye! I can confirm that the card Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is a house. It almost singlehandedly won 3 games for me.

The deck I ran was close to what’s shown here.

Sunday we finally took down our Christmas lights, a week later since we were away last weekend, and then we watched football for the afternoon. The Niners annihilated the Packers, as the Packers’ offense was sloppy and the defense had no answer for Raheem Mostert’s run game. It was kind of embarrassing, really. The Niners face the Chiefs in 2 weeks in the Super Bowl.

I had today off for Martin Luther King Day, and Debbi didn’t. I think in 2023 MLK Day will fall on my birthday and I’ll get it off work for that reason (something that sometimes happened when I was a kid, as MLK Day was a holiday for some of my childhood in Massachusetts). I took care of some long-standing chores and finished Charles Stross‘ latest Laundry Files novel, which means I’m caught up on his books for the time being.

And that was about it. Not a bad, um, ten days of birthday celebration of various intensities. But I’m kinda ready for life to get back to normal for a few weeks, anyway. More rain in the forecast tomorrow, so that’ll make me happy.


I turned fifty years old on Wednesday. It hardly seems possible!

I’ve treated my birthdays as very low-key in recent years, and this was mostly not an exception. Wednesday Debbi came into the bedroom before I got up with a pair of giant balloons for the number “50”. Later on I thought they spelled “SO”, as in “I am SO old!” She also put “Happy Birthday” signs around the house, and bought me boxes of See’s Candies.

I took Wednesday off from running, but I did go to work. I’d planned to put aside some of my current projects and instead work on some stuff I wanted to work on for a day. Instead I put them aside to work on putting out a fire. Best laid plans! But hey, I did get the problem solved. And I left early to pick up comics, where the owner of the store told me Debbi had stopped in and given him her credit card number to pay for my haul for the day. So I picked up a few extra things, which I think was her intention. She also cooked dinner. A pretty great birthday!

Friday night we went to Sundance the Steakhouse for dinner, which is one of my favorite restaurants and one we’ve gone to often for our birthdays. The complementary dessert for my birthday is great too.

Saturday we did some chores, but we also had some cleaners over to do a serious cleaning of the house, especially the bathrooms and kitchens. We haven’t had cleaners in since we moved into this house, and it took the two of them about 4 hours to get through everything. But man, it sure looks better, especially the master shower, but also just much less dust on everything. Jackson followed them around while they were here, which was pretty funny; even the vacuum doesn’t faze him much.

Finally, today we threw a small party with friends and their kids. It’s been a while since I had a birthday party – maybe since 2012? I had a good time, although I think a couple of the kids were a bit bored at times. But I carried my friend Itai’s younger daughter around upside-down a bunch of times, so I think she had a good time. And cake from The Prolific Oven and ice cream from Rick’s is always yummy!

It’s no surprise, I guess, that 50 doesn’t feel much different from 49. I’m not sure whether it feels much different from 40, either. I’ve been pretty lucky that my hair isn’t graying very fast – mostly just at the temples – and my body is in pretty good shape considering I’m someone who’s not in great shape. A few aches and pains, but nothing chronic. I’m still able to run 14 miles a week.

In some ways I don’t feel that much different from when I was 25, but in other ways I do. Little (and big) life experiences and lessons add up over time. It’s a perspective I don’t think I could have had when I was 25. Maybe other people do, but it’s the sort of thing I wish I should share to those who don’t, if I knew how.

It is weird to think that I’m pretty firmly past the halfway point in my life – hardly anyone in my family during my lifetime has lived to 100 (only one person that I know of). That’s a little bit of an illusion since not all of my childhood feels like I really lived it, so maybe I’ll make it to 90, and I have a pretty good chance to get to 80. 30 years is a long time.

But it’s still weird to write something like that.

Anyway. I don’t make many New Year’s resolutions, but this year I decided I would talk less about my age and longevity at work. It’s a little too much like bragging, and I already know that I work with lots of younger people who are as good or better than I am at our jobs. And maybe it feels a little too fatalistic. Hopefully that will be an easier resolution to keep now that this birthday has passed.

But, as they say, age is just a number. And a birthday is just a day. And every year has a whole bunch of them

Another Year Older

Yesterday I had about as low-key a birthday as I can recall having. Last year we took the day off and drove up to Cal Academy, but this year I didn’t even take the day off. Well, I did take it off from going to the gym, and went this morning instead.

In the morning I opened presents (yes, I still get presents!), which was a nice set of stuff. One thing Dad gave me was a DVD set of the Doctor Who Black Guardian trilogy (which includes one of my five favorite stories, “Mawdryn Undead” – man I wish they could release Paddy Kingsland’s music from that separately, as it’s amazing). But when I opened it I noticed it included two copies one one of the three DVDs in the box, and none of “Mawdryn Undead”! Some sort of assembling problem where the DVDs are made, I guess. Fortunately, Amazon has a straightforward exchange system, and they sent me a new copy of the set which arrived today – and I didn’t even have to return the old one!

I had something of a blah day at work, unfortunately, as I was juggling a bunch of different projects, and that sort of juggling isn’t exactly what I prefer to be doing. Maybe I should have taken the day off after all.

Along the way I got a call from Dad, and about 50 happy birthday wishes on Facebook. I wonder how many I got last year?

In the evening we went to Sundance the Steakhouse for dinner, which was yummy as always. I was good and didn’t indulge in too much food during the day so I was able to enjoy all of my dinner. Though I was still too full at the end to get dessert!

Not perhaps the most memorable birthday, but I didn’t feel like making a big fuss this year. Maybe next year.

Birthday Week

My birthday was this past Wednesday, and Debbi and I took the day off to go do something fun.

We had breakfast at the Depot Cafe in San Carlos. It was quite there for a change (we usually go on a weekend), so I got to look at all their train photos and memorabilia. Afterwards I talked to my Dad before we headed up to San Francisco.

Our destination was the California Academy of Sciences, which I felt we hadn’t been to in long enough that a mid-week visit would make for a nice birthday trip.

As usual we got tickets for the planetarium as soon as we arrived, and then headed for the tropical rainforest, which is probably my favorite part of the museum. Since it was a Wednesday there were a bunch of school trips visiting too, and we spotted a couple of them trying to get butterflies to land on them (and a couple did!). None landed on me, but I did get some good pictures of butterflies (and slightly less good ones of birds):

Brown Butterfly Orange Butterfly
(click for larger image)

The elevator out of the rainforest drops you in the aquarium. I’ve always thought the aquarium is merely okay, but it does have a few nice sights:

Tropical reef


The planetarium’s show this time is on earthquakes, with some pretty nifty CGI simulating the 1906 San Francisco quake, and good aerial views of fault lines and recent earthquakes. They had an exhibit on earthquakes and continental drift augmenting the show (or maybe the show was augmenting the exhibit), including a small shake room to demonstrate what the 1906 and 1989 quakes felt like. (The 1906 quake was long, about 90 seconds.) Someday I imagine we’ll get to feel one of these for real. I can wait, though.

We spent a while looking at the museum’s Foucault pendulum, which I remember from the old museum:

Focault pendulum

I wish I’d gone to the old museum once more before they tore it down (it was replaced because it was not really earthquake-safe, as I recall); it was a pretty neat old building, and my memories of it are pretty fuzzy.

The new building has a living roof, which we always visit. They had a telescope with a solar filter on it which we looked through, and saw a couple of sunspots (they look like dirt on the lens, really). Then I remembered the panoramic photo feature on my iPhone and took one of the roof:

Rooftop panorama
(click to enbiggen)

That’s about a 180° view, by the way.

Since the Academy was pretty quiet on this mid-week midwinter day, we ate at the cafeteria, which was surprisingly good! They really need more seating there, though.

We also saw a short film called Dinosaurs Alive!, with CGI recreations of dinosaurs, plus some paleontological stuff. Having been a dinosaur fan since I was a little boy, I feel almost like I’ve spent my life watching the progress of animation of dinosaurs, and one thing that’s always the case is that in every film there’s never enough of it! But it was an okay film. Evolution is awesome.

All told we were there for about five hours, and we decided to become members for the year, so we’ll be going back a couple of times this year.

We had a quiet evening of pizza and comic books to wrap up my actual birthday.

Unfortunately Debbi – who had been fighting something off for much of the week – cratered that night and stayed home for the next two days. Thursday in particular she felt awful. By Friday evening she was feeling better and we went to one of my favorite restaurants, Amber India, for dinner.

Other than running some errands yesterday, we’ve had a pretty low-key weekend. We’re having our bizarre midwinter summer right now (highs in the 60s), doubly odd since it got quite cold shortly after Christmas and stayed that way for a couple of weeks. It’s been nice, but I am looking to the rain coming back sometime soon.

Birthday Trip

I had a nice birthday today. I’d debated going up to San Francisco to Cal Academy, but I didn’t really feel like getting up early to get there before the holiday crowds rolled in.

So instead we got up at our usual time, and Debbi made scones. Somehow I forgot to open my presents in the morning – Debbi thought I was just waiting until this evening, but no, I just forgot. Blackjack and Newton were happily lying in the sun in the family room. A nice lazy morning.

Late in the morning we drove down to Santa Cruz for the day. We had lunch and did some shopping downtown. Then we stopped at the surfing museum (Flash required, lamely enough) – it’s fun enough, but we were mainly there for the views of the ocean:

Then we went to Natural Bridges State Beach. It’s one of several stopovers for monarch butterflies migrating through California, and I’d hoped we’d seen a bunch of them. We were disappointed to only see a few; perhaps February is better for swarms. We did have a nice walk around the park and a visit to the beach to see the natural bridge for which the park is named:

Did you know Santa Cruz has a natural history museum? I didn’t. But we didn’t visit it this time; maybe next time.

We had dinner at FJL, and are wrapping it up watching the premiere of Alcatraz, which is okay. I rather wonder what any of the last inmates of the prison back in 1963 – if any are still alive – think of the premise, that they all disappeared and are coming back in the present day. The show greatly exaggerates the conditions on the Rock, from what I understand, too.

A pretty nice birthday, really. Way too short, though!

Birthday Weekend

My birthday is tomorrow, and Debbi and I have the day off to enjoy a long weekend together. It’s not a “significant” birthday, so I don’t feel much older. 🙂 But it’s nice to have some extra time off.

I threw my usual birthday party last night, and it was nice to not have to worry about how many people would fit into our house, like it was in the townhouse. A lot of people couldn’t make it, but we still had about a dozen people show up over the course of the evening. I made a huge amount of Mai Tais, which were fully consumed by the end of the night, and bought a couple of cakes from the Prolific Oven which about half of which got eaten.

Our neighbor Juan came by. He teaches salsa dancing, and later in the evening we put on some of his music and he got both Debbi and my friend/cow-orker Kelly dancing. (I resisted grabbing the camera and taking pictures.) I also saw Trish and her boyfriend Jared for the first time in quite a while. Susan and Subrata came by with Ajay; I think Ajay got a little bored with the big-peoples’ party until I pulled out one of my Hot Wheels cars (yes, I have Hot Wheels cars) which kept him entertained for the next hour or so.

(At one point Susan suggested she and Ajay go explore the house. She asked him who had to go with him when he goes upstairs. He was being a little shy and hesitated, so she said, “You can only go upstairs with a g–?” He didn’t respond, so I said “Gorilla!” That sort of humor goes over pretty well with a 3-year-old and his parents.)

I often feel like my parties are kind of underwhelming, but everyone seems to have a good time, so I’m probably overthinking things. I always have a good time, anyway, and I’m glad people came.

We watched both football playoff games yesterday. While the Patriots’ victory over the Broncos was a laffer (all the pundits have made the expected jokes, but the long and short of it is that Tim Tebow is no Tom Brady), the 49ers victory over the Saints was memorable and exciting, and gave the home crowd some great memories. (And then today the hated Giants stunned the 15-1 Packers giving the Niners home field advantage in the NFC championship game next week. I expect “low scoring” will be the term for that game.)

(I’m a little disappointed that it won’t be a Patriots/Packers Super Bowl, as the “no defense bowl” might have seen over 100 total points scored.)

Today we went to the Moss Beach Distillery for brunch. We had an epic food coma afterwards and collapsed on the couch for a few hours before running some errands, but mostly we had a quiet day at home. Which the cats appreciated, of course.

The Answer

Today marks another orbit around the sun for me, and this year I’ve turned the age of The Answer – a frivolous connection, but one I was happy to play up when talking about it.

I threw my annual birthday party last night. I’ve been doing less well as the years roll on at planning my party in advance, I think because I get back into the swing of work after New Year’s, then get distracted by things like my book discussion group, and then worry about inviting too many people, or too few, or something. Anyway, this year I didn’t send the invitation until last Wednesday night. On the other hand, a late invite does tend to polarize the responses – people are either available or not, and probably not going to have something else come up. Anyway, maybe I’ll do a little better next year.

We got a pretty good turnout this year, spread out over more than 8 hours: My cow-orker Joar and his wife arrived earlier with their infant daughter E. E was very well behaved, and was fascinated by the cats once she saw them. (The cats, of course, took one look at her and said, “Oh hell no.”) And our friends Lisa and Michel came by with their daughter I, who is now three, and who loves when she visits to spend the whole time playing with me. So I had to tell her every so often that I was going to go talk to other people for a while. She was very well behaved about it, too. She was full of energy, so I did play with her for a while.

We broke out the cake (from the Prolific Oven) and ice cream (from Rick’s) before the folks with young kids left. An eclectic group of folks from in and out of work showed up, which was nice since for a little while I wasn’t sure many would show up. But the usual fun time was had by all, and I’m grateful to everyone who came.

Today was my actual birthday, and I threw the party yesterday so that I could pretty much sit on my ass all day. Other than the Patriots utterly collapsing against the Jets (reminiscent of their “barely showed up to play” Super Bowl performance against the Giants a few years ago), it turned out to be a pretty good plan. Debbi took me out for brunch, we took a little walk to Starbucks, and otherwise just stayed home. I cooked dinner, did some reading, petted the cats, and hung out with Debbi.

I also did a Scars of Mirrodin draft on Magic Online, and my birthday gift to myself was that I won the draft, after never advancing past the second match in previous tries! It wasn’t even particularly close, as I had a decent bit of luck but also felt like I was generally playing better than my opponents, playing patiently much of the time and pressing my advantage when I had the chance. I only lost one game of the seven I played. Definitely a nice outcome – maybe I’m generally getting better.

Seems like the weekend has just flown by. Unlike some folks, I don’t have tomorrow off from work. Still, despite my worry about lining things up for my birthday each year, I always do enjoy celebrating it. It’s been a good time.