Happy Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Day!

Yes, that's a real holiday. If you feel like celebrating it instead of (or in addition to) Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving, I'm still maintaining a list of charities accepting donations. I also have a few photos to share, as my parents made it back on-island last week, and I'm posting photos as I get them. Common themes include plants getting their leaves back and downed telephone poles.

Meanwhile in California, although my mind is partly in the Virgin Islands, life goes on. One quarter ended, and another began. One person left my team, and another joined. I'm most of the way through performance reviews. I finally switched to swimming at work, after a few weeks of very chilly swims at home. The garden still has some tomatoes and lots of basil. The strawberry plants are spawning clones. The citrus trees (shrubs?) have many decent-sized fruits and are still flowering. The few peppers have yet to ripen.


Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria.

What a month! First Irma, then the outskirts of Jose, and now Maria. Can this hurricane season just be over already? This time there was less wind, but a lot of rain and flooding on St Thomas. My parents' house had some flooding (not sure how much), and presumably their roofless apartment got even more flooding. And poor St Croix and Puerto Rico (which have been so great in aiding St Thomas, St John, and the BVI these last two weeks!) got even more of the wind.

PS Here's crisismap's imagery from September 15-16.

PPS Donations still welcome.


Google's response to Irma.

I was really excited to see aerial imagery of the Virgin Islands on the crisismap. (Warning: super high-res; do not try to load the full-size images without a good connection.) I was able to see the extent of the damage at my parents' place and check up on my favorite beach. has a public donation matching campaign. Google (like many companies) also matches employee donations, including to many of the charities I mentioned in my previous post.


Hurricane Irma.

It's been a long few days. My parents are fine. They left St Thomas for Florida just before the storm, and (after many flights) are now visiting me. Their property sustained a lot of damage, but their house is relatively okay, and their tenants are staying there now since there's no roof on the rental. We have intermittent contact with several people on-island. We've heard from many of our friends that they are okay and are waiting to hear from others.

So it's bad. Seriously bad. Lots of damage on the island and elsewhere. We've been through all this before; I'm a survivor of Hugo (I wrote about my Hugo experience a few years ago) and Marilyn -- and their aftermaths. It's like that or worse. But somehow, one day at a time, the islands will get through.

But it takes a long time and requires a lot of resources. If you happen to be near somewhere that is collecting goods to ship into the Virgin Islands or other islands impacted, please do so. For the rest of you, I've compiled a list of charities. If you do the social media thing, please share a link to that page (not to my blog, which can't handle as much traffic) or some of the funds mentioned. Please donate what you can. (Coworkers, there's also an internal version of this doc with links to donate directly.) If you know/trust me, you can also send me money on paypal, and I promise to get it put directly to good use.

If you're looking for more info about the current status of the Virgin Islands, here are some VI news links to get you started. If you're on-island and somewhow reading this, stay safe!


Brief mid-quarter update.

Work has been busy, and at times in a more reactive mode than I would like. Another person joined my team, I got a new manager, and there is now a wheelchair-accessible path to my building. I attended two summits, actually did some work, and then gender and politics foregrounded themselves, and now it's already the second half of the quarter.

I've been reading a lot (even for me), swimming and doing foot exercises at home, and trying to get out more. In the past month I went to Pescadero Beach, to the farmers market in town twice (via wheelchair), to a bookstore, had breakfast with P and dinner with V, swam with S and C, and went to a counter-protest.

The garden is doing well. We have half a dozen different types of tomatoes, piles of basil, a few strawberries, and will eventually have peppers. (Photos.)

Oh, and there was a solar eclipse this morning. (Photos.)



Karl and I visited his family in Montrose, Colorado for the Fourth of July. We went to a parade in town, had a barbecue, and watched the fireworks from their house in fields of barley. We also went to Grand Junction and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We hung out and talked and played games, and I swam in their endless pool. (Photos.)

Next we went to Simon's Rock's 50th reunion (no, we're not that old; yes, our college is that young). I used to visit quite often, but I hadn't been back for a reunion in five years. Getting there was a bit of an adventure, with us getting in late just before the car rental closed and discovering they didn't have the car we'd specifically rented to easily fit a mobility scooter. So we got to sleep around dawn and then spent much of the day picking up a new car and the scooter. We'd rented a nice house right by campus to share with five other people for our own mini-reunion, and we met up with our housemates and many other alumni at a reception in the evening and stayed up late talking.

There were classes in the morning which sounded interesting, but I opted instead to have a leisurely bagel breakfast and swim and then to go to the nearby W.E.B. Du Bois historic site (Du Bois was born in Great Barrington). Then we went to campus, where we caught up with lots of alumni and some faculty and staff (Karl and I both worked there after we graduated) and saw student artwork and a documentary. We skipped the big dinner and chilled out at the house and went out for dinner, and I returned to campus for a late-night bonfire. (Photos.)

We had intended to drive up to Canada but decided we were too exhausted and made other plans. We wandered around campus the next morning and saw a few more people, and then it was back on the Mass Pike to drive to Boston, where I dropped Karl off and went past my old apartment and had dinner with another Simon's Rock friend, and then down to the Hartford airport for my hastily booked red-eye on a boisterous flight ...

Back to the Virgin Islands. I was just there, but the lure of short flights, having a known place to stay and rest, and an ocean warmer than that near Cape Cod was too great to resist. I enjoyed 4 days of swimming at Magens, saw a bunch of people (mostly at the beach) and turtles (entirely at the beach), and took many naps. I also went star gazing one night. (Photos.)

I returned to Massachusetts for a second reunion, this one at Hampshire College, for the math program I attended for two summers in high school and that I have supported ever since. It was an eclectic weekend of math talks, multitudes of yellow pigs (I successfully bid on a yellow pig hat), cheesy math animation, a talent show, singing, catching up with or meeting former instructors and students. (Photos.)



Three of our tomato plants have ripe tomatoes! We had some disappointing pea plants and harvested them and the last of our beets, replacing them with even more tomatoes. Our strawberry plants, on the other hand, are doing quite well, and we have small fruits on all our citrus plants. We also planted fenugreek, cilantro, and basil. Photos.

Now that the weather has warmed up (okay, gotten downright hot!), I'm mostly swimming at home, which means I do less actual swimming and more exercises. It also means I'm not scheduling around pool hours as much. I went to the farmers market in Mountain View one weekend (by wheelchair) and the one in Sunnyvale two other weekends (by foot, and only part of the market). I've been up for some other socializing as well, including tea with D and my old team and a games day at P's.


Beach to Beach Swim.

From NY, I continued east to the Virgin Islands to swim in the Friends of the VI National Park Beach-to-Beach Power Swim, which had been recommended to me by C on my previous visit. Having never done it (nor any other swim competition) before, I wasn't sure which category to swim. I opted for the intermediate course from Maho Bay to Trunk Bay.

It was a very different swim than my usual wave-free swims at well-protected Magens Bay or in swimming pools. In particular, the section around Windswept Reef made for very slow swimming. Like many other swimmers, I missed a buoy (which was hard to see over the chop) and had to backtrack a bit; I also later swam past the exit and turned around again. In retrospect, the course was shorter than I had estimated, and I wasn't tired or overheated at all; I could have easily done the long course ... maybe some other time. I was swimming just to complete it rather than for speed, but it was nice to see that I placed around the middle of the pack, swimming ~2.25 miles in about 70 minutes (roughly 3500 strokes, if I counted correctly).

I stopped briefly at a few other beaches, but all the rest of my swims were at Magens -- twice daily, early in the morning and again in the evening. This didn't make for ideal turtle-watching conditions, but I did see turtles also every day, as well as spotted eagle rays and crabs. I was welcomed by the regular beach staff (yes, they really do remember me), and I met a new lifeguard who gave me mangos and tamarind. The beach was deserted during the week, and the weekend crowd was all local. I saw a handful of people I knew (former teachers and parents of classmates) and watched and listened to some parties (including someone dancing on a hoverboard and someone spinning fires. I contributed to the entertainment by juggling briefly.

I'm often told there are no seasons in the tropics, but this is not true. The sun set at a different angle, the days are slightly longer and warmer, and there were no Christmas winds. Instead, there were mangos everywhere, flamboyant trees in bloom (something I've missed seeing for years), and a proliferation of iguanas and parakeets. There were almost no tourists, in contrast with Christmas time. And in the summer it's hot enough that my mom swims.

Fort Christian recently reopened, so I visited for possibly the first time since I moved off-island. I also enjoyed the relocated St Thomas Historical Trust Museum.

I caught up with a lot of people, including my parents, C, H, M & P, and L. Finally, there were some some unexpected moments on the trip, including seeing a film about Neruda, and meeting Senator Tim Kaine and hearing him play the harmonica.




The most recent foot interventions have been helping a lot, which means I've been more active: going out a few times and having some quite long swims. I caught up with my previous co-manager S who was visiting, had dinner with V & A, and had a joint birthday lunch with P.

And then it was time for another work conference in NY, this time to the fancy Mohonk Mountain House (ooh!, aah!). I was familiar with the area, having gone to school an hour and a half away. Long days of work are hard for me, as is wheelchair transit in a space with erratically sloped floors, but use of the pool, a massage, and good food with an abundance of desserts really takes the edge off. I even got someone to push me on a very short bit of a trail. I enjoyed meeting new people, seeing some people I worked with a decade ago, and especially getting to know the people on my team better.

I took advantage of the location to visit my former housemate A and her husband B in Pittsfield the weekend before the conference. A and I watched B complete a half marathon and then we hung out in a park with other participants and spectators, we talked about gardening and food and work, played board games, got chocolates, and made dinner and ate outside. It was an extremely pleasant weekend; it's hard to believe how infrequently we've seen each other since I moved to California.


Goodbye beta, hello production-ready.

Cloud Spanner is now production-ready.

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