Thursday, October 20, 2016

Situational Awareness and the Gods of Paranoia

Last night I think I was targeted for robbery.

Normally, I'd chalk thoughts like that up to being a paranoiac, but in the cold light of morning memory, I'm actually pretty sure I dodged a metaphorical bullet.

So I was getting home later than usual last night, having met former co-workers for drinks. It's dark. I exit my local BART station and slip my transit card into my wallet as I start to walk in the direction that will take me home.

There's a guy lingering beyond the turnstile. That's not all that unusual. Lots of people linger, waiting for friends or whatever.

This guy, however, is a bit off. His eyes were lingering on my wallet and I noticed that. And he's also noting my backpack (which has my work laptop and stuff in it). He starts walking in the same direction I'm going.

I'm not cool with this so I stop and adjust my pockets. The guy also stops, ostensibly waiting for the nearby bus.

Again, this isn't unusual, but there's something a bit off that makes me nervous about him.

I continue on. My path, if I keep going as I anticipate, will take me into a poorly-lit area in a minute or so.

The guy starts walking in the same direction again.

I stop and "check my phone", paying more attention to him. He's furtively looking at me now. I'm still in a lit area with people around. I put my phone away and make eye contact with him. He doesn't quite look away, but breaks eye contact. Dude couldn't possibly look more guilty and I realize I'm being sized up for possible robbery. He's got loose clothes and may have a weapon under his coat or in a pocket.

Still watching him, I change course to cut through a populated, well-lit parking lot and pointedly watch him. He doesn't keep pace with me and when I cross a street, I lose track of him. I cut through a busy area, constantly noting anyone behind or around me. I'm clear, as far as I'm aware. I take a longer route home, keeping in a lit area and pausing from time to time to see if anyone odd is around me.

I get home without incident.

I've taken a lot of martial arts over the years. I'm out of practice in a bad way. I would fare poorly in an actual fight. I'm out-of-shape and it's just been too long. But some lessons really linger. The last style I studied put heavy emphasis on self-defense, which had a strong component of situational awareness. In a nutshell, the lesson is that you should always be aware of your surroundings and if something feels odd, pay attention to it.

It's quite possible I misread the situation last night. It's possible there was no threat there and nothing going on.

It's possible I was paranoid.

I don't think that was the case. I'm confident some asshole thought I was an easy mark and wanted, at bare minimum, my backpack and possibly my wallet and phone. I think someone sized me up for a mugging. I think I avoided a confrontation that could have gotten me robbed and possibly hurt.

Now I want to track down my teacher and thank him. And I'm kinda freaked out.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Well, that's one argument...

Despite the compelling argument... just... no. Please no.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review: "The Wind and the Void" by Ryan Kirk

The third book in Ryan Kirk's Nighblades saga concludes the stories of Ryuu and Moriko, the ninjas-in-all-but-name badasses from the Kingdom as they face the dreaded Azarians, the foes from "World's Edge".

So... yeah. I have to admit I was a bit torn reading this book. On the one hand, I genuinely enjoy Kirk's characters and the world he created. I always get a bit of satisfaction in reading badass wuxia/ninja stories.

That said, I have to admit that "The Wind and the Void" finally got me tired of the whole "(s)he was amazed at how strong (s)he has gotten!" trope that was pretty much endlessly parroted throughout the book.

Kirk's story was pretty brutal and vicious, as the previous books were, and that doesn't bother me. What wore on me was how clear it was that the supernaturally-gifted protagonists were so far and beyond the mere mortal protagonists that it just started to get silly after a while.

The ending was abrupt and, frankly, some of the larger, overarching plots felt rushed and hollow. For all that, I still liked the series. Now on to some sci-fi for a while.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Big damn rock

I was in Boulder, Colorado this weekend. My first time in Colorado, truth be told.

A few things I observed:
  • That's beer country there. Lots of breweries and good ones at that.
  • The altitude kicked my ass in a bad way. Not just in drinking (a couple of beers knocked me on my ass), but in breathing at some points.
  • Boulder's got a lot of very attractive folk walking its streets.
  • It's interesting wandering about a place where pot's legal. Interesting in a good way.
Overall, I really liked Boulder. If I'd stayed longer, I expect I would have adapted to the altitude. By the second day, I was measurably better than the first so there's that. And Denver airport was nice and well run. I found it surreal that the restrooms were tornado shelters, but I suppose someplace had to be...

I also officiated a wedding. My first. It was... odd.

Fun, though.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Windows 10 and other observations

Deciding to take a long weekend, I've been noticing my PC has been trying to complete the latest Windows 10 update, an actual upgrade to the much-maligned "anniversary" version.

Windows 10 doesn't let one completely stop updates, alas. So I let it run. For hours.

In truth, it started earlier this week, botched out, and then restarted last night. It completed an hour and a half ago and then took another hour to install all the new crap and then finally boot up.

So far, so good, but I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And really tired of these ginormous updates from Microsoft.

I get enough of that every time I boot up my Ubuntu box.

Had a biergarten lunch in honor of the Oktoberfest season and autumn. The only other people around were parents looking to chat and have a pint while their kids ran around like maniacs.

Of course a pair of rugrats had to play a few feet from me. The kids were weirdly-fascinated by me while simultaneously being a bit shy (which is fine with me). Kids make me nervous. I hate the piercing sound of a child's crying, so I'm always a bit on-edge when kids are around. Inevitably, one will fall and get a little scrape or bump and then the banshee wail will cut right through my nice buzz from my beer and damage my calm.

So when I see kids doing dumb things, sometimes I'll say something. The mothers of the kids were paying some heed, but also distracted by the rare opportunity for grown-up conversation. One mother called out for the kids to stop climbing on rocks near me. The kids ignored her. After a moment, I noticed one rugrat was making headway on an unstable climb, so I called out that the kid should stop. Wide-eyed, the wee bairn stopped, stepped down and exchanged an uneasy glance with the other anklebiter. The mother, a bit bemused, thanked me and noted that the kids will probably listen as I said something.

Perhaps I look properly scary. That thought pleases me.

I'm burning through "The World of Ice & Fire" by George R.R. Martin. A gorgeously-illustrated history of Westeros, it's proven to be entertaining reading. Martin is a prolific madman, I'll grant him that. Just wish he'd finish up the damn series...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Vegas Baby

Just got back from a weekend in Las Vegas.

No, I'm not going to talk about what I did there. What goes on in Vegas... well, you know.

Still, I came back with some observations I feel like blogging about.
  • It's hot as fucking hell in Las Vegas in September.
  • There's a lot of douchebags in Vegas.
  • There's some excellent restaurants in Vegas.
  • There's a shocking shortage of good beer in Vegas. Oh, it's there, but hard-to-find.
  • It's impressive to think of the sort of engineering and planning that went into making a speck of desert into a playground.
  • It's hot as fucking hell in Las Vegas in September.