If I cannot bring you comfort...

Very few things this year worked out quite how they were expected.  Well, I don't know how true that is: I'm not sure I expected much of anything.  But the year's almost over, whatever it was.

L is in the process of moving into his new place, and I'm not involved.  The current plan is to not even store anything at my place.  We'll see how long this lasts.

I'm in transition at the office; theoretically, my position is disappearing, though that doesn't mean I'm getting laid off or anything.  I've got plenty of things to do and bosses who like me.  But things will definitely change here in the next 6 months.

I've got two potential date situations developing.  Not sure if they'll go anywhere, but it's more than I've really tried to do in months.  I'm pretty much writing off OKCupid and going to other tools (starting with Tindr).  I can't do Grindr, since they don't have a Windows port, but perhaps that's a good thing :)

Related to that, I'm seeing a specialist about the whole Truvada as PrEP thing.  I'm not really liking the idea of a daily pill (though  I took a daily vitamin for years), and I'm far from being the most at-risk person out there.  I'm also not looking forward to the potential side effects.  But an honest look back at why I haven't dated much or "explored" much in the last few years has to include recognizing my (low but present) anxiety about HIV: I can name at least one occasion when that anxiety stopped me.  It's probably not something I'll ever mention to anyone I date, and I plan on still practicing safer-sex, but a reduction in risk is a reduction in risk.  Sex isn't necessarily the end goal, but it's hard to progress in dating much without sex - and especially in the gay community, sex is often an early requirement rather than a later one.

I never really got into the shape I wanted to be in. I've built up my chest and arms a bit, but my weight and belly fat are still what they were in April.  Now, there was the whole bruised rib thing, but that was better by June-ish.  Since then, I just haven't been able to make a dent.  So, I need to try something different.  We'll see.

I made it to Yosemite, which was a blast.  Didn't make it to Hawaii this year, and only slightly miss it.  Haven't gone on any other camping trips yet, but there are a few my hiking/camping group has planned that actually look interesting (and it's the middle of bloody winter, so it's not exactly the high season).

Haven't really gotten into swimming the way I wanted to, so maybe that will be how I try and get into shape.  Also never got that bike I've been talking about for ages.

I've made a few new friends and have been hanging out with some of them fairly often.

With L's change in situation, I put my foot down on finances.  Yes, I've said that before, but there's absolutely no reason why he can't survive without my help at this point.  He's even getting someone else to pay his first month's rent, so he should be able to build up a financial buffer.  But that's his business: mine will be getting back to a comfortable level of savings and being able to sock money away for a new car and more vacations.  I start getting four weeks of vacation time this year, and I've already got more than three saved up.  I need to start using them.

Also, with L having a roommate, I'm hoping he'll be less dependent on me for social contact.  I've already told him that we're not going to be doing the every-weekend thing, since he's further away now and still doesn't want to drive much; that'll free up time for dates and other activities.

Not sure if I'll pursue the business thing.  I mean, I need to know if I need a license to do consulting and such, but actually getting a D-B-A and registering as a business apparently has a lot of tax consequences.  As much as I love the logo I did up, I'm not sure it's worth it - especially as I've never made any money with my photography.  Oh, related to that, I finally told Flickr they can peruse my stuff for stock use; I'd disabled that when I was trying to work with other companies, but since none of that worked out, I might as well let Flickr do it if they want.  I've still got NC on everything.

Aside from the doctor's appointment tomorrow, I've no plans for NYE.  There's a hike going on (which I'll probably miss).  Also, a couple of friends were talking about having a small get-together, but since one of them is in Canada on a last-minute emergency thing (and not a fun one), that probably won't happen. So, it might be a quiet evening relaxing at home - which may not be all that bad, since it's supposed to be freezing (literally) tomorrow night.  I might even wake up early enough to wander out to the Rose Parade at some point (don't bet on it).

So, I guess that's my year in review, combined with a little bit of what is hopefully to come.  That wave function keeps collapsing; you never know what's going to happen until it does.  Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and keep your head up high - for the night is young, the air is crisp, and the stars twinkle in anticipation of your eye.

The night

Well, it happened.  L finally asked me about the room.

We were at dinner, and he was commenting that a place he's looking at is too far away (17 miles!!).  I said something like, if it's that or sleeping in your car, which would you take?

L: "You'd let me sleep in my car?"
Me: "Versus?"
L: "Well, staying in your spare room."
Me: "... Yeah, that's not happening."

After a bit more back and forth, he stopped talking.  And then stopped eating dinner (he was only about half-way through).  Fine, whatever.  I paid for the meal, and as we were leaving, he still wasn't talking (which is really unusual for him).  I asked if he still wanted to go to the movie ("The Imitation Game"); he said "yes".  That was, literally, the last word he spoke to me for the next half-hour, then the length of the movie, then about 20 minutes after while waiting for the car.

By this point, I was annoyed.  So, as we got in the car, I just said, "I guess I'm taking you home, then."
L: "No, I need to be out with people right now."
Me: "Well, I don't see any reason for us to hang out if you're just going to give me the silent treatment for the rest of the night."
L: "Is that what you think is happening?"
Me: "What else would it be?  Prior to this conversation, you've said one work since dinner."

We went at it a bit.  He said he was hurt, he thought I was his friend.  "I know you've said repeatedly that is your best friend, but I never thought..."
Me: "What, that I actually meant it?"
L: "Well, I mean... It's just..."

I laid into him a bit about bad decisions, about the people (including me) who have been shielding him from the results of his choices for like 10 years, of a few of the times where he's pulled shit, gotten caught/caught out, and ended up needing to be bailed out, etc.  He started by denying it all, then slowly had to admit I was right.

Then he started in with the emotional manipulative shit.  "It's hard to hate yourself."  Well, yes, been there.  "I'm not you, I can't just kill myself."  Okay, yes, been there too, but that's a shitty, low blow.  "How can you be friends with someone who is such a fuckup?" Not touching that one with a 10-foot pole, bud.  "I've made bad decisions.  I was afraid."  Sure, but mostly afraid of the outcomes of bad decisions you'd made prior.

L: "I never wanted to use anyone."
Me: "And, yet, 30 minutes ago you were perfectly content to spend a night with someone you didn't want to be around just so they'd drive you places and pay for your drinks."

Anyway, he kind of accepted it eventually.  At least, he wants to see a movie next week; we'll see how he feels tomorrow (it's entirely possible he'll work himself into enough self-righteous anger to blow me off lest I remind him again about how he's wrong).  But at least the conversation is out there.

I still think he thinks he's going to manipulate/trick me into letting him stay here.  One would hope that after all these years he'd know not to pull that kind of thing on someone with limited empathy.

The movie was pretty good, if a bit depressing in the end (but how else could it be?).  And now, to bed.

A place in the sun

So, Palm Springs was fun.  The place was a bit more... let's say "frisky" than I was expecting, even at a clothing-optional resort, but apparently that's par for the course in PS.  Still, I did enjoy myself, spent a lot of time in the hot tub, and actually slept well and peacefully for a couple nights.

And then came back home and woke up at 5 am stressing out about stuff again.  Oh well.

On the good news front: heard a little bit about this issue at work, and the one part that I've ever been involved with is also probably the only part that is safe, so I'm pretty much in the clear.  Haven't heard about the rest.

Oh, and iOS 8 sucks, but I spent all day Monday debugging and finally figured out the two bugs that were breaking my company's application - one is definitely a bug, the other is possibly deliberate but a change from past OS versions.  At least I found work-arounds that seem to be functioning, so the client who was running into this problem is happy.

L sent me a message complaining that one room he's looking at (he still hasn't found a place) is 17 miles (!!!) from where he currently lives, implying that this is so far as to make it unreasonable.  I sent back something shooting that down handily, but I've also decided I'm done with him playing the victim.  I mean, he's more than welcome to do it, but I don't want to hear about it any more.

[... I feel like I need to qualify that "victim" statement.  I don't hold with blaming victims for what happens to them; that's really bad.  And L has had a few things happen that were just shitty luck or other people being assholes.  But L has also, on more than one occasion, tried to cheat the system, gotten caught or caught-out, and suffered as a result; he then tries to play the "woe is me" card, sometimes even changing his story on what happened to remove any fault from himself.  It's been minor in the past, but lately he's been ramping it up a fair bit - to the point where things that I was around for and witnessed are now being presented differently than as they happened.  And we're not talking about minor changes: things like "had to bribe a doctor to get a note saying couldn't do a deposition" to "but I wasn't well enough to do the deposition!"  If he's starting to believe his own lies, I'm totally done (there's nowhere positive that can go).]

Need to plan stuff for NYE.  I've got a meeting on the 30th I can't miss, but I could head out that afternoon and go somewhere maybe.  No idea where I'd go - most places are booked by now.  But I'm not going to spend NYE with L.  PS was certainly easy to get to, but it's probably even more of a party place for New Years than it was for Thanksgiving.  I still feel like running away to the woods somewhere, but the place in Guerneville doesn't have any cabins.

Decisions, decisions.

Not quite an underpants gnome

Step 1: Ask a very silly question about a tool commonly used at your place of employment.  As people repeatedly fail to answer said question, realize it's not so silly and that there actually may be a really bad problem.
Step 2:Inform Corporate Compliance, who respond with what amounts to, "... wait, WHAT?!"
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Profit... I hope.  Or maybe get fired.  Or maybe nothing.

We're still at Step 3.  CC is looking into it, but her initial reaction wasn't what I'd call comforting.

I'm actually not likely to get fired, except maybe in a "shoot the messenger" kind of way.  I'm possibly the only person on this side of the organization who hasn't misused this system, but that's because I don't use it at all and wouldn't need to use it in the incorrect way anyway.

And one of our clients is having a problem related to a known bug in iOS8, and I'm getting heat for it from various people.  "It's a problem with the OS, not with our app" doesn't help much, especially when there's no "perfect" workaround.  But I can at least be comfortable that it's screwing with Facebook and a dozen or more other major apps as well, so we're in good company.

Anyway, short work week.  I've booked two nights at a resort in Palm Springs, and I'm so looking forward to it.  I mean, it's just "one day" effectively, but I'm actually kind of excited.  L isn't thrilled, but screw him.  I'm pretty much out of patience with him.

Like, take Thanksgiving.  We'd talked last weekend, and he expressed an interest in going back to this nice Italian place by my apartment.  Fine.  So, after I picked him up Saturday, I asked if he'd made reservations yet.  "Sure, I got us a 6 p.m. at Paradise Cove."  "I thought you wanted to go to [Italian Place]."  "Nah, that's just too difficult.  You'd have to pick me up, then drive back to your town, then drop me off afterwards."  I said nothing (I was driving).  Him: "Or, well, I suppose I could have driven out to your place, but that's too much hassle."

So, let's compare.  Me driving 20 miles to his place, picking him up, and then heading another 30 miles to a restaurant at the beach: not too much hassle.  Him driving 20 miles to my place: so much effort it's not even worth considering as an option except as an afterthought.

We've had this argument before - last Thanksgiving, actually, when I complained that it made zero sense for me to drive 80 miles total to go to a restaurant 3 blocks from my apartment just because he didn't want to drive.  So, this year, he's apparently decided that it makes more sense for me to drive 100+ miles round-trip than for him to drive 40.

The room he thought he was going to get fell through.  More and more I find myself hoping he has to move back east to live with his sister.  And I hate feeling that kind of animosity towards someone.

Anyway, a weekend away at a clothing optional resort, spending as high a percentage of 48 hours as possible in the hot tub, will be a good thing.

I've also been playing around with maybe getting my company set up, but it's hard to justify when I probably won't have any revenue from it.  It's mostly just fun for now, in the same way that I used to have fun designing and building BBS sites in the 90s.

I did learn something maybe not-so-fun: it looks like I might need a business license to even do my consulting stuff while living in my current place.  Not sure how much it will be, and I doubt anyone would ever find out if I didn't, but it's in the city's laws.  I need to contact them and make sure; if it's cheap enough, I'll probably do it just to play nice.

This week's episode...

When last we left our hero:

So, L had his court date today.  He's got until January 5th to move out, which is far, far more generous that I thought anyone would be.  That may be too generous - it removes a lot of the immediacy that was actually getting him to do things.  But we'll see, and at least he (and I) don't have that hanging overhead for the moment.

It also means I can seriously consider going away for next weekend, even if only for a couple nights.  So, I'm checking out the place D told me about in Palm Springs; we'll see if they have any availability.

I also discovered that I've got four full weeks of vacation time saved up.  I probably ought to burn some no matter what, so I think I'll take time off for the holidays even if I don't end up going anywhere (though I may do a few days in Guerneville just to get away).

I need to clear that with one of my coworkers, just to make sure he's not planning on taking time off either.  But since he's been burning through sick and vacation time recently with a series of low-grade disasters, I'm not sure if he's got the time off to take.  But I want to make sure he has the option if he wants it.

The deal at work went through: we're officially forming a new company for the project I work on.  Papers were signed today, press release goes out after Thanksgiving.  Not at all sure what this means for me long-term, but the CEO of the new company almost point-blank asked if I could work with them, and my director hinted that my at-work availability would be limited (and also that I was "minimally incentivized").  So, I may get a side contract out of this for a few hours a week (I think 10-20 would be easily doable, time-wise, but I'm not sure how we'd work it out; maybe work will let me do a 10/4 AWS and do this on Fridays or something).

The complication with that is determining compensation.  My typical consulting fee for something like this would be ~$125 an hour, but it's also possible I could get stock or something.  I don't know.  I'll have to see what they offer (if they offer anything), and then go from there, but I think a combination - say, lower consulting fee combined with some kind of equity - would be most acceptable to me.  I've never worked for/with a startup like this before. 

I'm also - theoretically - officially being compensated as a co-developer, but I still haven't seen anything that says how much or of what.  In fact, no one's really talked to me about it at all except in vague terms, but my director said it's official... whatever that means.

I thoroughly impressed most of the people at work this week with a couple presentations, but I also may have found a major hole in security.  So, it's possible I'll burn through all that good will by being the messenger that gets shot.

Until next time...

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

... It's all been said.

So, the tired thing seems mostly gone.  I'm still sleeping more heavily than usual, but that's not necessarily something I can complain about.

A friend - let's call him L - is about to get evicted; I don't know if I've mentioned him before.  He's over 65, has no real job (he tutors for under-the-table money and recently started getting a small Social Security payment), and yet has been living in a $1200-a-month apartment for years.  Yeah, bad combination.

He's also spent most of the time I've known him trying to "cheat the system", as it were.  Like, taking jobs just to get an address/secretary but not really doing the job he was hired for, or trying to find legal loopholes or lawsuits he can pursue (all of which fall apart).  The sad part is, he's moderately intelligent and could actually pull his own if he tried, but he's convinced himself he "deserves better" and that he shouldn't have to work at it.

Well, now he's got a court date in a week that will result in an eviction in early to mid December.  Most of the people that could have at one point helped him have gotten tired of bailing him out of the years and won't do it any more (including me, to a point; I have a spare room and there's no way in hell he's coming to live with me), and he's putting at-best token effort into finding a new living situation (which would be hard anyway without his reluctance).  I wonder how much of his stalling is to try to "pin" me into caving; he hasn't actually asked me if he could move in yet, so I assume he's saving it up as a "I have no more options" play (which he does pretty regularly).

I really don't want to see him homeless, but the three things I will not let people mess up are my job, my finances, and my living situation.  I tend to cave more on the second than I'd like, but never entirely, and I have no intention of caving on the other two.  I didn't get him into this situation, and I've been doing everything reasonable to try to get him to stay out of it (he hasn't even started packing, as an example of the denial, and he hasn't paid rent since August).

I admit I feel a slight bit of guilt, as I'm generally driven by a "fix all the things" imperative.  I'm a "guardian" by personality: I find a way to solve people's problems and help them.  But I am not responsible for his situation, and I will not compromise my health and well-being because he refuses to deal with reality.

And it's a good thing I'm still a little tired lately, because that's the only way I can sleep at night.  Mostly, I can say I'm doing enough by 1) taking boxes over to his place this weekend as a "start packing you dimwit" thing (he'll get depressed and maybe even cry, but it's time he started facing facts) and then offering a place for the boxes to get stored for a while so they don't get lost (I can keep them in the living room at least, or maybe in the spare room closet depending on how much there is).  That's about the last of my good will on the subject.

On to less depressing news, I've made a couple of friends on the hike.  D and M started coming a couple months ago, and I probably mentioned them off-hand.  We hung out together a few weeks ago and had a blast (including D's husband), and we'll probably do it again.  I floated the idea of hitting the clubhouse at my apartment, since it's got a full kitchen and, more importantly, a pool table.  That seemed to go over well, so we'll see if we can make it happen.

D was also talking about places he and his hubby have gone for weekends or short breaks, and it sounds like they also do the clothing-optional thing pretty often (including having hit up a couple of the resorts I've been to).  So, I might have friends to go on a weekend getaway with at some point.  Though I think my next might just be a weekend in Palm Springs, maybe Thanksgiving weekend.

... I might have to time that last one carefully, though.  I mean, it wouldn't look too good for me to be off lounging naked in a hot tub when L is getting evicted, especially if I need to get his boxes to my place.  But we'll see how things go.  If his move-out date is less immediate, I can have dinner with him on Thanksgiving and then justify slipping away for the weekend.

Anyway.  Stuff's happening at work that may result in a slight sort-of pay increase on top of any annual raise.  I don't know most of the details yet, but I'm theoretically being included as a co-creator of a product and thus getting a share of licensing fees.  At a minimum, it's a few thousand dollars a year after taxes; it could be a fair bit higher than that, though, depending on the exact details.

Still haven't finished doing my personal business site.  I really need to put that together.  Maybe I'll get back into it this week; I really just need something to showcase photography and talk about my consulting stuff, so it doesn't have to be super-fancy to start with.  Just enough that I can get new business cards printed with the logo and web site address.  Oh, gotta get that DBA as well, come to think of it, but that's just a matter of getting to the clerk.

You know, as an addendum to this, I keep thinking about what would happen if L had to go back east to live with his surviving family.  He'd be miserable, but it would sure simplify my life a fair bit.  And that seems pretty callous to say, but it's also true: L is the focus of most of the stress in my life (a big reason why no-way no-how is he living with me).  I don't wish that result on him, but I can't say I would be horribly upset if it came to pass.

Running on low

I'm tired.

It's not the time change.  I've been physically and mentally low-energy for a few weeks now.  It got bad enough last Sunday that I thought I was coming down with something, but I never did.

It's been affecting my fitness routine: I just get home and don't have the drive to do anything.  Which, of course, is probably making the issue worse, so I'm going to try to get back into it at least a bit this week and see if it helps.

It's been affecting my diet: I found myself not eating dinner a couple of times just because I was too blah to get up and make something.  I then found myself ordering in or getting fast food more often, which is bad.  Time to shift back into eating reasonably again.

It's been affecting work, though not horribly: I find myself procrastinating more.  Part of the problem is likely that I've also had a whole bunch of stuff dumped on me in the last few weeks, so every day ends up being chaotic.  Today was actually the first day in over a week that I haven't had hours of meetings scattered throughout the day.

It's been affecting my social life: not that I have much to begin with, of course, but I've been making even less effort than usual.  Of course, feeling like I'm out of shape (see: fitness and diet) and being lazy in general does help with feeling like dating or going out much.  Yay for more vicious circles.

I'm not sure what's going on.  I may just need a vacation; I haven't really taken any "me" time since my birthday, and that was 4 months ago.  I know I've been jonsing to get away for a weekend, but money's been a little tighter for a variety of reasons: it's hard to justify blowing a couple hundred bucks on a hotel when you have to drop $1200 for new tires.  Maybe I should do something for Thanksgiving.  I dunno.

Anyway, I've got a hike in... 2.5 hours here.  And another Thursday.  It'll be totally dark up on Mount Hollywood, but there's enough ambient light from the city to see by usually, and I carry a flashlight just in case.  I'll try to do at least a couple of days' lifting at some point.

I did manage to get it together enough to re-balance and re-allocate my retire funds (all four of them).  I mean, it only took an hour or so, but I've been putting it off a while.  I also up'd my contribution another percent or so, so there's me being all adult in at least some small way.

I need to do laundry, and plant my garlic, and transplant my tomatoes.  I managed to trim one basil bush back yesterday, but I need to do the other still.  And I should vacuum and clean and sweep and...

I've never really been someone who gets depressed, though I know that's what this looks like.  I'm wondering if maybe I don't have a mostly-asymptomatic version of what's been making everyone around me sick for weeks at a time.  All I want to do right now is go home and crawl into bed and take a nap.

Oh well, time to go home.

I have a weight problem.

See, I'm 6'2" and 168 lbs (as of this morning; that's 1.88m and 76 kg).  That's a BMI of 21.6 (well in normal) and a body fat percentage of ~17.6% (according to my scale, which seems to track with other measurement methods).  I wear size 32 pants and a medium shirt.

I have a weight problem.

I was a "blocky" kid through junior high.  I hit my growth spurt one summer: I went away 5'8" and came back 5'11" and didn't put on any weight.  I had a license for years that reported me as 6'1" and 118 lbs (~53.5kg).  Yes, 118 - that's not a typo, and it was accurate until I hit 18.

I have a weight problem.

From that growth spurt up until age 24, I was the stereotypical "skinny twerp", "twig", "bean pole", whatever you want to call it.  I ran track and never got muscular legs.  I worked out with the field guys and never got any kind of chest or arm definition.  I ate as much at meals as guys who weighed 50 lbs more than I did, and I never put on any mass.

I have a weight problem.

I got my first "real", corporate job shortly before my 21st birthday.  I moved up in the ranks, and by the time I was 24, I started having a lot of pressure and responsibility.  Stress finally did what no amount of effort on my part could do: between the ages of 24 and 29, I gained weight.  It was my 9th anniversary at the company, just before my 30th birthday, when I saw a photograph of myself and shuddered: I had a visible paunch and puffy cheeks.

I have a weight problem.

In a coincidence, I'd started cutting back on soda a few weeks earlier (I do this periodically as part of ADHD maintenance); I changed to just cutting out sugared sodas entirely and watching what I was eating.  I'm not entirely sure how much I weighed when that photo was taken; by the time I bought a scale and had been watching what I eat for a couple of weeks, I was 196 lbs (~89kg).  That was March.  By the end of August, I was 155 lbs.

I have a weight problem.

I discovered a small, congenital hernia in late August and had surgery to repair it in October.  The weekend before, I was 152 lbs (68.9kg).  Between fasting for the surgery, the trauma of it itself, and the malaise after (medications and such just throw my appetite way off), I was 147 by the end of the week.  When you're already cutting back calories, you don't have any reserves to draw on.

I have a weight problem.

When I went in to get my staples out (a couple weeks later), I was 145 (65.7kg).  My doctor mentioned it, and I told him my history.  He said simply, "You're putting on weight.  I want you to get back to about 170-175 and stay there for 18 months."  It took a while to put on, about six months, but I did.  And I stayed there for 18 months.

The 172 I ended up at was a relatively healthy weight, at least by the numbers.  I was pretty active - that's when I started taking vacations and traveling.  I was hiking and biking and swimming and doing all sorts of things.  But I still looked "off" in my eyes and felt "off", like it wasn't really my body.

I have a weight problem.

Almost to the day, after 18 months at that weight, I started explicitly exercising.  Running had always been easy (other than weak ankles), so I went back to that.  I also got a gym membership and started back at weight machines and some free weights.  For 2 years I tried various things, and while my weight fluctuated between 160 and 175, I never managed to put on any muscle.  None.  You could still cound my ribs, and I still had a pocket of fat just below my belly button.  Nothing changed.  I'd get down to 155 occasionally, see I still had the same fat, and get discouraged and go back up to 170.

I have a weight problem.

I got a personal trainer - an ex-Olympian from Germany.  I told him my history, and we tried everything he could think of for 6 months.  I'd get a little stronger, but I never built up any muscle definition or changed body composition much.  He finally just told me he thought something might be biologically wrong with me and recommended I talk to my doctor.  I said goodbye to him and had tests done; testosterone was slightly low, but everything else was fine.

I have a weight problem.

I changed jobs at 33, and moved just after my 34th birthday.  The new place had a gym, a swimming pool, and was "walkable" to everything.  I also had more space, so I bought some exercise equipment that the gym didn't have.  I talked to my new doctor, explained what I was planning to try, and he said he saw no issue with it.  So I started a routine of pretty much zero cardio/aerobics other than walks around the neighborhood (running had always been my staple).  I focused entirely on weights - free and machines - and "resistance training".  The day I noticed, for the first time ever, that I was getting some arm definition, I nearly cried.

I have a weight problem.

I've tried various supplements - I've got access to medical journals and always look to see what the ingredients have published; I've never noticed any difference with any of them.  I've used science-based reasoning on selecting protein shakes and vitamins.  I've since added some yoga and started doing a bit of aerobics (I still hike and walk a lot anyway).  I've also switched mostly to body weight exercises, though I'm starting to add some freeweights back into the mix.  Today, I have a slightly defined chest and am building up my arms a bit.  I've got some visible abs, though they're mostly still under a fair bit of body fat.  And that paunch is still there under my belly button, though it's slightly smaller.

I have a weight problem.

I still don't feel like "me", like how my brain thinks I should look - but I'm closer.  My pants hang off my hips rather than off my stomach.  My shirts hang off my chest slightly.  T-shirts that used to be loose have started getting a little tight in the sleeves.

But I look in the mirror and still don't like what I see.  I don't know that I'll ever like what I see.  I don't know that I'll ever like what I see.  I don't want to be a muscled jock - I don't even like the look.  Mostly, what I want is that belly fat gone, to see a little bit of abs and definition in my stomach.  That's the holy grail at this point, and I know it'll probably never happen.

I also know, intellectually, that I'm the healthiest that I've ever been: I've weighed less, but I've never had more lean mass or strength, and my endurance is probably as high as it ever was.  None of that "matters", though, if I still feel like a stranger in my body and in the mirror.

Every time I look in the mirror, I have have to push back the "just lose weight" feelings.  I know, from long experience, that there's a thin window of calories I need to consume in order to maintain muscle but not add weight - I have to stick between about 1200 and 1700 a day, with a lot of that being protein.  I know, from long experience, that my body "wants" to maintain a weight between 160 and 170, and that any attempt to push below this would have to be unhealthy.  I know, from long experience, that the only way I'm ever going to get to where I want to be is by eating normally and using exercise to drive the weight changes I want (both gaining and losing) and that this is a very slow process.  I know, from reading and study and experience with others, that anorexia and bulimia and other weight disorders are very real things and that I don't want to go anywhere near them.

But that doesn't make it any easier to look in the mirror.

I have a weight problem, and it's in my head.

I'm not writing this for sympathy or compassion: I'm me (that's humor, in case you missed it, but also mostly true).  I don't need support; I've got a handle on these issues and have been controlling them for about a year now.  I don't need - and don't want - "but you're hot/cute/sexy" comments; honestly, those tend to be more counter-productive than helpful, because all they do is reinforce the notion that physical build is a central component of attractiveness.  But this kind of thing needs to be talked about.  It was only in the last couple of years that I finally realized I had a weight problem - a mental weight problem - and that this was driving otherwise unhealthy behavior, and it was only accepting that fact that has helped me build healthy habits.

I'm posting this so that other guys reading here can know that if they feel the same way, they're not alone. Only 5% of men have eating disorders, but 42% of men with eating disorders identify as gay.  By the math, that means that almost a quarter of the gay male population. Gay or otherwise, unhealthy body image or food habits don't make you weak or a failure.  But it is something that you can fight against, and if you need someone to fight alongside you, there are resources to do so.

Some light reading:
Eating disorders in diverse lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. "Results: Gay and bisexual men had significantly higher prevalence estimates of eating disorders than heterosexual men. There were no differences in eating disorder prevalence between lesbian and bisexual women and heterosexual women, or across gender or racial groups. Attending a gay recreational group was significantly related to eating disorder prevalence in gay and bisexual men." [Emphasis mine]
Eating Disorder Center of Denver
A Hidden Epidemic

The Great Divide

(... no, this isn't about Everquest.)

I went on another hike last night with the gay outdoors group I joined.  Technically, it was the same hike as last time (Charlie Turner trail to Mt. Hollywood), just a different night and a different set of people.  This was definitely an older crowd than the first time I went: ages are hard to gauge, but I was easily one of the younger people there.  That isn't a problem, but it does mean a different dynamic.

To over-simplify, there is an observable difference in how people approach being gay that seems to be related to when they came out.  This is only an "age" thing to the extent that there is a pretty significant change in the 90s in attitudes towards LGBTQ folks in our society, or at least in SoCal; that means that, on average, people since the 90s started coming out at a much younger age and with less social resistance than people before that.

That emphasized point is probably the key.  I officially came out at 13 in 1991 to damned near anyone, including my friends at school (and it being high school pretty much everyone else as a result).  My mother met (and actually "caught" me in bed with) a boyfriend at 16 - and made us breakfast.  I was only picked on once in high school, never got threatened with being kicked out or abandoned, and only had one friend react badly (he was pretty religious).  Hell, I even got asked to teach a class at my Catholic church - by the head priest (obviously before I walked away from religion).

This "experience profile" (if I can call it that), while thankfully more and more common since then, was fairly unusual at the time and almost unheard of before that.  Most of the people I've met who came out before adulthood in the 80s or earlier were all "forced" into it - either by discovery or other factors - and almost universally had extremely negative responses.  Certainly, everyone I know who was an actively gay teenager before 1990 had been kicked out of their house and was either living in youth hostels or had found someone older to act as a surrogate parent/guardian.

I also realize there are exceptions, but the general gist is that guys who were gay before the 90s had to be able to take care of themselves, which means most were college age - or even later - before being openly gay.  Even today, this still happens with guys from some of the more conservative families, but it's rarer and rarer.  You also have more people today coming out in a "second-wave" kind of sense, after years of marriage or simply having never felt (or accepted being, in some cases) gay.

So why does it matter?  It just seems to me like these experiences create two very different mindsets between those who were "gay as kids" in a sense and those who weren't, similar to how there are different mindsets towards technology between those of us who grew up using computers and those who didn't.  Obviously, the former group couldn't have existed without the efforts and advances of the latter (in both cases), but that doesn't make the assumptions and approaches between the two groups any less different.

The diaspora of the "gay community" out of the "ghettos" and into the historically-straight world is one aspect of this difference.  To a lot of people older than me, of course predominantly-gay communities should exist and will continue to exist.  To a lot of people younger than me, of course gay people go to straight bars and are perfectly accepted; who needs to have a gays-only place?  One younger couple I know has parties where both of their parents show up and everyone has a blast; many older guys I know only officially came out to their parents after 40, if ever.

And perhaps more significantly, a lot of older guys see being gay as central to their identities (I assume it's often because of the price they had to pay to be openly gay), whereas a lot of younger guys see it as incidental (because it's always just been part of who they are).

Neither is right or wrong.  Neither is better or worse.  Neither is absolute.  But they do tend to be different, and that difference shows up in subtle ways if you listen for them.  I'm kind of caught in the transition between generations - in as much the same sense as I'm "transitional" between those who had computers growing up and those who didn't (I did, but most of my age group didn't until later).  Being 37 and looking like a 20-something doesn't help (I actually heard/saw one of the hikers whisper to someone else, "Who's the twink?" while looking at me).

But therein lies the problem.  I explicitly joined a "gay outdoors" group with the hope that it would be more "outdoors with a slice of gay" and not the other way around.  I mean, I enjoy talking about pride and entertainment and coming out experiences and all that - sometimes.  But I also want to talk about other things that have nothing to do with being gay.  It's possibly just the nature of the couple of hikes I've been on, so I'm going to try one of the camping trips to see if that may be a different crowd or something more like what I'm looking for.  And I'll probably keep doing the hikes - I actually enjoy them, mostly.

It isn't explicitly an age thing, though it seems to correlate with it.  But if I'm going to be combining "outdoorsy" with "gay", I'd like the emphasis to be on the former rather than the latter, and most of the people I've met so far seem to be the opposite.  I'll just have to give it time and see.


Yosemite Falls
So, I'm back from my vacation and back at work...

- at least in theory -

... But it was definitely a fun time and much-needed.  Yosemite is actually closer than I thought: it was only 4 hours from my friend's house to the campground (which, granted, was outside the park's southern end, but still pretty close).  Considering the drive to San Francisco from there is about 6 hours, that surprised me.

Camping was actually pretty fun.  I think I'd like a campground that has running water next time, as that was pretty much the only thing that was an inconvenience (the stream was too far away and too shallow to use for any kind of bathing).  Even that wasn't a major issue, though; we were only there four nights, and there were showers at the lake nearby if we really needed them. I just did a sort-of sponge bath most mornings using the melt water from the ice chest: if nothing else, dipping into freezing water is a fast way to wake up.

Mariposa Grove
We hit Mariposa this first day, Sunday, under the impression that it would be slightly less chaotic than the valley itself.  It very well may have been, but there were enough people in the grove to still make it busy.  We took the tram to the top of the hill and hiked down, which ended up being brilliant - not only because it was easier down than up, but because most people didn't bother taking the trail.  So, we had a fair amount of people-less forest to wander through on our way down.

Most evenings we went to town after the park; really, this just involved a 3 mile diversion, since we had to travel the same route to get between the campground and the park anyway.  But it also provided an opportunity to use a flushing toilet and an actual sink.

Chilnualna Falls
On the way back to the campground on Sunday night, we went looking for open areas where we could get some star shots.  Matt hadn't really done that before and, since I had, we figured we'd play around a bit.  We ended up finding this open area, probably 100-150 feet across, just a few miles up the hill from the campground.  It had obviously been used for parties a few times, as there were both remnants of campfires as well as various bits of broken glass and such.  Luckily, no one was there on Sunday, though, so as soon as the sun was down, we took our tripods and headed out.

Night shooting is a little different: the goal is a balance between enough light from the stars to make them really stand out and not leaving the shutter open long enough to get "trails" (unless that's what you want).  There's actual math that goes into figuring out the maximum shutter time: every lens focal length has a "field of view" as an angle measurement, and the earth rotates at a constant speed.

The Milky Way behind trees
So, let's say your FoV is 60 degrees and your sensor is 4000 pixels along the direction of movement; that means each degree is about 67 pixels.  The earth does one rotation in a day and thus 180 degrees in 12 hours, meaning 15 degrees an hour or 1 degree every 4 minutes.  Which means we'll see a shift of  67 pixels in 4 minutes, or about 1 pixel every 4 seconds.  So, to get no trail at all, the longest we can leave the shutter open is 4 second (again, assuming a 60 degree FoV and 4000 pixels along the axis of movement).

The math isn't quite exact, but it's close enough that one can approximate things pretty well.  In reality, a single pixel of movement - or even two - won't be noticed, as most "noticeable" stars will take up a few pixels themselves.  Regardless, you can get some pretty nifty pictures if you do it right.

Matt also wanted to play with illuminating the surrounding trees via flash, so we had some (rather silly) attempts which succeeded mostly in frightening away the local critters.

Yosemite Valley, "tunnel" view
Monday and Tuesday we actually went to the valley floor; even on a weekday, it was still a bit of a madhouse.  Since we were up late on Sunday night, Monday morning we got out late and had to deal with most of the yahoos.  Tuesday, though, we got up extra-early and were at Bridalvail Falls by about 7 am.

We headed to Yosemite Falls after that and - by taking advantage of a dried creek bed - hiked up to an awesome vantage point near the base of the lower falls.  We spent probably a half-hour or more taking photos there - Matt was practicing "glassing" the waterfalls - before heading back to the car and up to Glacier Point.

Halfdome from Sentinal Dome
Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome have some pretty awesome views of the valley.  The hike up Sentinel Dome wasn't bad except for the last 500 feet, which are of course a scramble up the side of the dome itself.  The scene from the top is worth the effort, though, even in the heat.

We've both decided that we want to go back next year, around early May, when the waterfalls are more dramatic.  I'm thinking we might even try some of the longer hikes - out to Halfdome or even longer ones - and get wilderness permits for overnight camping.

The solar charger and battery worked pretty well; it takes pretty much a full day of sun to charge the battery using the panels, but it gives about four full charges on my phone, Matt's iPhone, or either of our tablets.  It also charged them pretty quickly.

I may post about the second part of my vacation, but that was just to Guerneville - which, while relaxing and fun, is something I've done many times before.

One of the after-effects of this vacation, though, is that I seem to have no attention span: I can't sit and do one thing for more than 30-40 minutes without feeling the need to get up and move around.  I'm also back to exercising, including walking a fair bit, which I'd stopped prior to the trip due to my rib injury.

Oh, and I've signed up for a gay outdoors hiking/camping/etc. group out here.  They've got a short hike tomorrow night that I'm going to join them on - just an easy one in Griffith Park - and I'm hoping that this'll be a new way to not only meet people and make friends but also get out more and do more camping and eventually backpacking kinds of things.

For now, though, that's it.  I'll leave you with a shot of my favorite hot tub in the world.

The hot tub at Highlands Resort

Stealth Blog

Wow, so, this kind of fell off the radar.

Not that anything interesting has happened in 3.5 months.

I'll be 37 in just under 3 weeks.  I also got carded at the movies on Saturday.  That used to annoy the hell out of me, but now it's just silly.

[... Actually, let me explain that.  Obviously, I look younger than I am.  I always have.  Part of it is that I have a small torso and long legs, so even though I'm 6'2" I "look short" unless I'm standing right next to something or someone for a height comparison.  The bigger part, though, is that I didn't really physically start maturing until about 18 or 19, so that at 22 I still looked like a 13-year-old.  I didn't "grow into my face" until I was about 25, at which point I started to look like late-teens.  I pretty much haven't changed a lot since then, though being a bit more muscular has helped bump me to the "twenties" category at least.

Now, I'm sure most people have had minor experiences with age discrimination as kids or teens; we often look back and laugh it off as "probably deserved it" or "I really was naive", but it's a real thing.  It's harder to laugh off when you're 25 and still have people telling you things like "when you actually get out of school and have to face the real world".  It's even harder when you're 30 and they're still doing it.  I actually have snapped, thank you very much, at people in the last few years who try to pull that on me professionally.

So, yes, looking young is something everyone thinks is a huge benefit and I shouldn't complain, but please understand why something as innocuous as getting carded bugs me.]

My dad is/was the same way, though if anything I'm "better/worse" (depending on perspective) than he was: smoking and drinking really do age you, physically, so that by the time he was 40 he actually looked early 30s. 

What else - oh, I'm going camping in 2 weeks.  Well, I'm actually taking 2 weeks off to go camping and to the cabins in Guerneville and maybe something else, but the camping is first.  4 days in Yosemite with a friend I haven't hung out with since high school.  He's a pro photog, so we'll be dragging the cameras and tripods everywhere.  Should be fun.

Well, assuming I don't have problems with the hiking, which I guess does bring up something that happened.  I dislocated a rib in late April (gardening can be dangerous), which totally screwed up by fitness schedule leading up to the trip.  Basically, I couldn't do any real exercise, even walking more than a mile or so, for 6 weeks.  To this day, I still feel it a little after my workout, but not to the point of being more than just a slight muscle tension.  I should be okay for the hikes, but there's always the possibility that I'll over-do it.

I'll try to post some pics after the trip.


Shadows of shadows passing...

It's raining here, pretty heavily in general though it had lightened up at lunch.  For most of the world, a rain shower isn't a big deal; to most Los Angeles natives, it is, if anything, something to be glad about.  However, most of the city is populated by transplants who came here fleeing snow and ice and rain and all manner of precipitation; to them, clouds in paradise are the end of the world.

Realistically, there's a legitimate danger from flash floods and such in various places - contrary to popular belief, LA is not a desert but a basin surrounded by hills and mountains; I have streams and a literal waterfall within walking distance of my apartment in non-drought seasons.  The canyons, though, are mostly rock and stone and, thus, become very quick to develop falls and slides with even a slight bit of moisture.

Sitting here, at work, I've actually gotten more than a handful of local-area flash flood warnings on my cell.

It's actually a random coincidence that I've lately been thinking about my next vacation and to where I'd like to go.  At the moment, I have enough frequent flyer miles to go pretty much anywhere in at least business class, round-trip; the question, though, is how much I want to spend on the rest of the adventure.  Like, I do want to go to Kauai at some point, and I've even picked out the hotel where I'd like to stay; it's just that it's $300 a night.  I also still want to go to Europe (mainly Ireland and London to start), the Caribbean, Key West (yes, it's basically the Caribbean, but still), Cairns, and French Polynesia as well.

Decisions, decisions.

I might just stay in-state (it's been ages since I've been to Yosemite or the sequoias, and I didn't get to Guerneville this last winter so I'm kind of missing trees) for my birthday and save up miles and money for something larger or grander later.  I have a couple of months before I really have to make a decision, however.

Hope everyone's doing mostly well.

Ding dong the ridge is dead

For those who don't know (which is probably most of the world), the massive dry spell California has been suffering since December was being caused by a high-pressure ridge off the coast of Alaska.  It was diverting the Jetstream north a bit, which then hooked down almost across the rockies and created the "polar vortex" effect that the Midwest and Eastern US has been enduring (and which seems to be also causing massive flooding in the UK).

This high-pressure ridge was there for so long without moving or dissipating that it became half-jokingly known as "the ridiculously resilient ridge".

Now, blue skies and 80-degree temps in January are nice to a point, but you have to realize that Central California is one of the major food production areas in the country (and in some areas in the world): less than 1% of the nation's land by area creates over 8% of the produce in the country.

This ridge, by forcing the Jetstream to skip California, has been endangering the US food supply in a massive way.

Until last weekend, when it finally broke apart.  SoCal has only gotten a few showers, but there is now flooding in parts of the state north of San Francisco, and hopefully the snow pack on the mountains will begin to build up.

The ironic part is that the driest January in California history is likely about to head into an El Nino wet season.  Bring on the rain!

I'm heading to Tampa for a conference next week.  I'm not necessarily looking forward to it - I'm spending the entire time hanging out in a hall at a booth, mostly by myself - but it'll be something different at least.

During the dry spell, I noticed a few hummingbirds coming up and poking at the little white flowers on my basil plants.  This seemed kind of desperate to me, so I bought a shepherd's hook and a hummingbird feeder and kind of nestled it in the middle of the basil.  Since then, I've had at least three hummingbirds come by regularly - including one who likes to "stand guard" and chase others away except for the one female that I think is his mate.

They're actually pretty comfortable with me.  I was out watering my plants earlier - including the planter where the feeder sits - and they'd buzz up, "zot" at me a bit (this kind actually makes noise, kind of like an electric click), and then start drinking out of the feeder.  I can even move around the patio slowly and they don't get jumpy.  I think I'll call the guard "Henry"; as I was heading outside to water, I just randomly thought, "I hope Henry doesn't get too mad at me," so I guess that's his name now.

Kai moe


The food had been delicious, but she wasn’t really here to eat.  This, though – the shoreline, the late afternoon sun on the waves, the exotic flowers – this was a feast for the eye.  Sure, a lot of it was typical stuff she’d shot dozens of times before, but she never tired of this kind of nature.  That’s why her editor had sent her out here: she had an eye for beauty, and a knack for catching that rare perspective.
                She caught sight of movement along the shore – a slight shadow cast up from the waves: a small crab, crawling between two indentations.  Careful not to move too quickly, she raised her camera – always ready in her right hand – and zoomed in, focusing on the shelled scavenger just as it came to a small crest in the sand.
                Click.  The sound of immortality.  She glanced at the playback on the LCD and nodded to herself, then looked up without standing to see if any other surprises might lie along the shore.  Behind her, the rest of the tour group was still eating, the noise of their conversation and cutlery barely carrying over the waves crashing some ten yards in front of her.  She closed her eyes momentarily, feeling the warmth of the sun on her face compete with the slight spray of mist from the ocean.
                Opening her eyes, something made her scan to the right.  Here, the smooth shoreline was interrupted by a long finger of volcanic rock that reached out into the ocean, a remnant of some eruption long ago.  Waves and time had eroded it, breaking it in places, but as her eye followed along, it still bore up to the crashing of waves along its sides.
                But there, at the end, was something she hadn’t expected.  Someone was standing at the edge of the finger, facing out towards the sunset.  She was maybe a five hundred feet away, but, by build and stance, she suspected it was a man, young or at least young-looking, lean but muscular.  He wore no clothing that she could discern, but his skin was so tanned that a jerkin or thong could easily blend in.  He stood there, right foot slightly behind left, knee bent with right heel off the ground, arms hanging loosely at his sides.
                The sun was almost touching the horizon now, and the warm orange glow it cast bounced off of him.  She could only see him in partial profile from the left and rear, but even at this angle, he seemed to radiate with the sun.  Even his hair, whatever color it was naturally, appeared as almost a liquid gold in the reflected sunset.
                This was a moment that couldn’t be missed.  She braced herself again, legs slightly cramping from the long-held crouch, and raised her camera.  Through the telephoto lens, she could make out more details – he indeed wore nothing but some kind of white necklace.  His left eye seemed closed, and his breathing a slow, regular movement.  The stance was almost meditative, and she framed the shot – his body, the camera slightly below and shooting up even at this great distance, the barest top of the black rock, and the crashing waves – and pressed the release.
                Click.  She glanced down at the preview and saw she’d timed it perfectly – the merest traces of a crashing wave seemed to frame the body.   Out of some curiosity, she used the preview’s zoom function to enhance a portion of the shot, narrowing down on his face: high cheekbones, defined jaw, and the barest hint of a smile.  She smiled at that smile.  What it must be like, to be out on that rock.
                Her legs started to protest, and she slowly stood, still facing the man out on the finger.  She turned towards the sun to find other subjects when she heard someone behind her say, “There’s some naked dude on the rocks out there.”
                She smiled to herself, and said over her shoulder, “He’s not entirely naked.”  She did not say, “He’s wearing a necklace,” because while that made her first statement technically true, she knew it wouldn’t satisfy.  But, from this distance, no one else was likely to be able to tell anyway.
                “Oh,” came the young male voice, “cool.”  She thought that was all and started to position for a shot of the last bit of the setting sun reflected off the waves when the voice said, “I wonder what he’s doing.”
                She remembered the closed eyes, and the smile, and the relaxed stance.  As she framed a couple standing in the tide with the sun behind them, she said only one word.  “Listening.” …

                … Sensation was total.
                Through closed eyes, he saw the heat of the sun.  On bare skin, he felt the cool of the pacific, the warmth of rays, the breath of wind.  Through his feet, he felt the pounding of the waves against the rock.  From his nose came the smell of the ocean, salty and sweet.
                But the sound… that was what he sensed the most.  Standing here, a hundred feet offshore, the roar of the wind and waves engulfed him.  A reef just beyond his perch and stretching north broke the waves early in this cove, the remnants crashing into the rocks that seemed to amplify the sound and echo it back at him.  The closest he’d ever come to this sensation was standing in front of a speaker at a club in Milan and feeling the music radiate through him.  He almost felt like part of the waves, like he shattered and reformed with every roar.
                He always missed this, and he always came back to it.
                The light on the back of his eyelids changed slightly, and he opened them to see the sun crossing the horizon.  Clouds in the sky looked like streaks of fire and smoke.  He watched as it slowly sank until there was barely a sliver left.  Just as the last bit settled behind the sea, he dove head-first, timing his jump so that he entered the water in a trough between waves.  If he missed his timing, the ocean would smash him back into the rocks, but he never missed.  Almost in defiance, the next wave turned out to be a rogue, and the crash and surge shot water over the rock taller than his head had been.
                When it passed, there was no sign he’d ever been there…

                … As soon as the sun had set, she glanced back over at the finger of rock, but the man wasn’t there.  She quickly looked down the length, then down what she could see of the shoreline, but there was no sign of him.  He’d simply vanished.
                Oh well, she had her shots, including of him.  She’d combine these with some from earlier in the day and make a spread for her editor.  She capped her lens as she turned and walked back up the sand to the dining area, the rest of the guests generally heading in the same direction.
                “Get anything good?” asked one of the guides.  She looked at him and smiled.
                “Maybe.  I’ll have to see when I get back to the room.”
                He grinned slightly.  “Get a shot of guy on the rock?”
                She blushed at this, though she didn’t know why.  “Yeah, actually, and I think that one came out well.”  Then she shrugged, saying, “I couldn’t pass it up.  He looked so…”
                When she lagged, he offered, “Peaceful?”
                He nodded and started walking towards one of the vans.  “Yeah, he always looks like that.”
                “You…” she started, then moved to catch up.  “You’ve seen him before?”
                Nodding again as he opened the sliding door on the van, he said, “Yep.  Not often; I think the last time was 6 months or so ago.  But when I do, it’s always at sunset, and always on that rock.”  He motioned his head towards the other guides.  “They’ve seen him too, same story.  It’s a bit of a ‘thing’, you know?”
                She opened the front passenger door to the van and hopped up into the seat.  She turned to him as she buckled her seat belt and asked, “Does anyone know who he is?”
                He closed her door and leaned against it, talking quietly through the open window.  “I think the staff here know.  I’ve heard them refer to someone as ‘ka mea nāna nā moe’, which means ‘the dreamer’ or ‘the visionary’.  They call the beach by those rocks ‘kai moe’, the sleeping shore.  They’ll never answer a direct question, though.”
                “Are they afraid?” she asked quietly; people were getting into the van now, and she had a sense that this was a private conversation not for their ears.
                “Not afraid, no,” he said, shaking his head.  “More like, respectful, or even proud of a secret.  I don’t know that I blame them.”  He backed away and went to shut the sliding door now that the last tourist was in.
                She leaned out and asked, “Why not?” as he passed by to walk around the front of the van to the driver’s side.
                He climbed in, put on his seat belt, and put the key in the ignition.  She figured he wouldn’t answer, but at the last minute before starting the engine, he paused, leaned towards her, and said, “Just looking at him out there makes me feel at peace.  If you knew someone who could do that, would you risk telling anyone?”
                And then he turned the key, called back to the group to hold on, and put the van in gear.  And as the wheels kicked up dust and rocks behind them, she looked in the side-view mirror and glanced the end of the finger of rock – kai moe – once more and had to admit that, no, she wouldn’t. …

[I'm not sure where this is going to go - if anywhere - but I like how it's come out so far.]