Chris X Edwards

My wife and I got to a restaurant to find it "Closed for weather" (<1' snow). I'll have to rethink: if we can walk there, it will be open.
2019-01-20 15:37
MSFT has some new poorly named thing they call C-shell that is not a shell and it is definitely not tcsh.
2019-01-15 09:55
Hypothesis:anthocyanin+other autumn leaf pigments do not protect the leaves, but poison them so they remain uneaten as healthy forest floor.
2019-01-14 21:17
"Twitter is the best place to get live updates about the things you care about most. Join today to see it all." lol
2019-01-14 17:14
@ID_AA_Carmack has a VR idea to impel grace. Reminds me of my idea to have VR racing games in AV cars that use the upcoming turn forces.
2019-01-14 14:44
Blah Blah
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Poor Weather For Normal Cyclists

2019-01-21 08:31

Shoveling the driveway this morning, I had to go back in and put on level 2 gloves. That was a clue. My driveway seemed dry but was slick like a skating rink. Another clue. However in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t see this before the attempt.

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In retrospect, I’m probably lucky to have made it alive.

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But no real problems on this ride. Feeling pretty smug.

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It’s much safer to fight the hardest weather than the easiest idiot drivers.

Unix Commands

2019-01-17 19:52

Fifty years ago some very hard core computer nerds at Bell Labs started punching cards with PDP-11 assembly code. This was the genesis of Unix.

That was a long time ago and things that old surely have no relevance today, right? Wrong!

Maybe you own one of those popular fruity computers — they run Unix.

Maybe you’re interested in doing something with Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud — those VMs should run Unix. Or maybe you have an account on a proper high quality web host — which mostly use Unix.

Maybe you want to play with a Raspberry Pi — as I recently noted, they are very cool and should run Unix.

Maybe you’ve screwed up your computer and you need very competent rescue tools to bail you out — you probably need Unix.

Or you want to be a cool hax0r dude — Unix will be extremely helpful for that. Maybe you’re trying to defend yourself from the hax0r dudes or trying to protect your privacy — I think Unix is essential for that. The Department of Defense agrees. The North Korean government does too.

Maybe you’ve figured out how to break into your telephone and wrest control from its predatory corporate masters — Android and iOS use Unix. Same with Chrome OS.

Maybe you’re trying to get a job with a cool company — maybe a major animation studio or NASA or SpaceX or Tesla. Or if not cool, at least lucrative, like finance technology or one of those handful of tech companies that controls your life — Unix everywhere!

It’s not just elite esoteric technology that favors Unix. I personally use Unix for everything I do with a computer all of the time. From writing software and building robotic vehicles to playing games and watching dumb YouTube videos, these days I use Debian Linux with the MATE window manager. I marvel at the patience and submissiveness of people abused by their non-Unix systems. There is a better way!

Unix is everywhere and ever chipping away at the bad non-Unix operating systems that persist like stubborn bathroom stains. Unix is an ancient technology that you can invest in learning knowing that you can leverage its power for the foreseeable future. So how much would you pay for this amazing product? Amazingly it is also (usually) publicly-licensed and utterly free in all senses of the word. The only price of admission is you learning about it and building skill with it.

Given that Unix is already extremely prevalent in today’s computing landscape and the fact that it is absurdly useful, it always suprises me when people have no idea about even the rudimentary basics. To do what I can to help with that, I have recently compiled a compendium of Unix commands that are useful to me. If you are a casual user, they might be worth having a quick look at. If you have a computer science degree or are some kind of computer professional, then it is essential (by my definition of the word "professional") that you be familiar with the whole list.

Chris' list of helpful Unix commands: http://xed.ch/help/unix

I started using Unix in 1987. (On a PC in 1990!) That’s a long time to use a particular computing technology. However, I’m hoping I’ve got that many more years of use still left because I will probably be using Unix for the rest of my life. I hope you can too.

Checking Out The Raspberry Pi Zero

2019-01-13 16:16

I’ve always been a strong supporter of the mission of Raspberry Pi. As someone who is well known to obsess over quiet and efficient computing everything I heard about these little British computers sounded great. I wished them lots of luck.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t actually put these great products to use because I simply didn’t have an application that was quite right. For example, I had many applications for small, low wattage, remote, quiet file servers that should have been perfect for something like a Raspberry Pi but whenever I researched it, I always concluded that the hardware lacked the particular input/output capabilities I needed. Specifically, for example, they historically didn’t have gigabit ethernet or SATA connectors. For building my own small NAS boxes their CPU was more than sufficient and I loved the absolute control of the default Linux OS, but they were just barely not quite right.

I had recently been researching them again because I have moved on to new and interesting problems with different requirements. I was getting ready to buy a unit to evaluate when I had the chance to play with a Raspberry Pi 3 B+. It was a complete electronics experimenter kit, very nice. The entire kit’s purchase was apparently under $70 which I consider a fantastic bargain. I was extremely impressed with how smoothly it all worked.

My enthusiasm redoubled, I ordered a Raspberry Pi Zero W kit for $33. This machine is quite a wonder. The raw computer without accessories is only $22. This thing, in a case, is about the size of a modern car’s key fob. And yet it runs Linux just fine.

Here it is in action.

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It’s not just running (a somewhat lite) Minecraft, but it’s also running "chromium-browser" (8th htop item as shown). (Do you like how I blended a Minecraft snow biome with the one in my own neighborhood? I do love snow biomes!)

This is no computational powerhouse, but for the required resources (Watts, $, CCs) they are fantastic. There is a ton of potential here and I already have some fun plans lined up.

I think the popularity of the whole Raspberry Pi phenomenon is somewhat misattributed. The ostensible goal of the entire project was "education", getting kids to be nerds and placating the STEM gods or whatever. Over time I’ve become less credulous that intrinsic nerdiness can be sprinkled like pixie dust on people who are bursting with apathy (or even disdain).

No — where these boards have found their symbionts is with hard core nerds whose indelible phenotype makes them unable to resist playing with these toys. And here we are.

Buffalo - Autumn

2018-12-17 08:58

Being extremely busy caused my summer report to be a season late. As the solstice draws near I am slowly getting caught up and it is the right time to review autumn’s adventures.

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I basically spent all summer moving. Shutting down my lab at the San Diego Supercomputer Center was a huge operation as I did my best to help my patrons there face a post-me eventuality. I had a decade of industrial sized computer cruft piling up that had to be tidied. Then there was packing which sounds a lot simpler than it was. I’m not too materialistic, I don’t really own much furniture, and I got rid of about 20% of my stuff, itself a huge operation. But I do own a lot of tools. Heavy iron tools. The logistics of how to get this stuff across the continent was a serious project.

The trickiest problem however, was the homelessness. This was an extremely difficult problem. It was a long and stressful ordeal but the homelessness problem is thankfully now cured. However for people moving to a new city, this sucks and I still don’t have a good answer for how best to do it. I’m just thankful we weren’t trying to move the other way! We started out staying at AirBnB rentals. This is ok if you can book in advance, but that can be difficult because the more spontaneous you’d like to be with such a plan, the fewer contiguous days you’ll get. The longer your need for such accommodation drags on, the more complex this becomes. Towards the end of our homeless time in Buffalo, we were moving every few days. That is not as tiring as it sounds — it is way, way more tiring than it sounds. The reason is that we weren’t just vacationing (which is exhausting). We were dealing with tons of day-to-day stuff that needs a home. What do you do with a car packed full of very valuable possessions between check out of one place and check in at another? I eventually rented not one, but two storage units and shifting stuff around became a huge issue. Setting up a decent computer so that I could properly work became impossible and let’s not think about the internet access. Not wearing the right clothes as it got colder and never quite eating the right food really started to take a toll. This was a very hard autumn that was mostly defined by the quest to actually live somewhere (somewhere which wasn’t terrible and where we wouldn’t be stuck for a year).

The moving company I used cleverly compressed all my stuff into palletized freight and it apparently weighed over 4000 pounds. Here I am finally able to load each of those pounds from the storage unit into a truck and bring it "home".

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Although it was pouring rain the whole time, the weather here can have a sense of humor. Right when the truck was loaded, the sun came out.

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You can see my brand new hand truck there; the movers bought it for me after accidentally stealing mine in an understandable mistake. Overcoming an endless procession of such hurdles typifies the process. I was without my belongings for three months. If you ever want to get that feeling of being a kid at Christmas, just pack everything you own up and put it in a storage unit for several months. The stress and frustration of living without basic provisions will make reclaiming them a joyous occasion.

I’ll probably have more to say about buying a house in New York, but for now, let’s just say that it was much harder and more stressful than I thought it should be for people with immaculate financial discipline. It certainly took a lot longer than I thought it would. While we struggled to make the most out of the challenge of not having a place to live, the world did not sit still and wait.

As I mentioned, this region is heavily forested, and the autumn leaves in deciduous forests are one of the planet’s most magnificent spectacles. Here is a small sample of that process taken in Ontario at the Niagara Escarpment, the long bluff over which Niagara Falls fall.

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Photos don’t really do it justice and I didn’t get a lot of great photos of the colorful leaves. (Or Leafs as they spell it in Toronto.) Not only have I been super busy with the aforementioned moving but also my new job. One of the things I did for the latter is play with a drone. Here are some practice shots I took that show the beauty of the area as autumn sets in.

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That extremely nice area is about a ten minute walk from my house. The whole area is basically a cold swampy forest which is a lot nicer than I just made it sound. It’s super nice!

By the end of October, amateur recreational boaters were pretty much done for the season — but we professional recreational boaters were still at it.

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In fact, one thing my wife and I joke about is how much of Buffalo shuts down "out of season". We kept wanting to do touristy things (kayak rental, zoo stuff, outdoor seating at restaurants, etc) and we kept hearing "only open between Memorial Day and Labor Day". Or worse, like our neighborhood pool, "opens late June and closes at the end of August" unless it’s "a cold, rainy day". Awww.

The leaves are falling and the "too hot" problem is rapidly curing itself. Autumn is happening and I’m super busy with a thousand things. Interject into that some big adventures with my job involving big ships. At the end of October, I volunteered to drive to the remote end of Quebec to visit a ship in Port-Cartier. This involves going so far north that I didn’t need to wait for winter — I chased it down where it was already underway.

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Here I am standing in front of the St. Lawrence River. That was a pretty brutal drive, about the same distance as driving from Buffalo to Florida. Unlike driving to Florida, I got to drive for the entire day in a blizzard. Fortunately the rented Canadian car (Ford Edge, made in Ontario) and I were up to the challenge.

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Here I am in Port-Cartier celebrating not sliding off the road over a cliff and into a fjord. The landscape here reminded me exactly of Norway and there is even the Saguenay Fjord National Park to let me know I’m not the only one who thought so. Spectacular natural beauty to be sure, but kind of stressful to drive so much on wilderness roads in a snow storm. The most common street sign was to warn of moose which thankfully did not become an issue.

If there’s one thing that I can say about the people of Quebec, it is that ils n’aiment pas parler anglais. For that reason, my interactions with the locals were brief and slightly comical in the same way that hovercraft sometimes become full of eels.

I was supposed to board the ship while it was loading and do some extreme weather roboticist stuff. But ships aren’t great at keeping rigid schedules and the Quebecois running the port were even less great at it. They sent the ship to sit at anchor to await loading. I went out with the ship for the day and it ultimately was delayed there idle for over three days. In the end, I had plenty of time to do everything I had come to do.

It was pretty nice really. Quite an experience. This far up the coast, the water is saltwater, the Atlantic Ocean. This is where foreign ships come to load up with grain and iron ore. There were four other ships killing time at anchor. Here’s a shot taken on Halloween.

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The scenery was fantastic. I got to see fin whales. I don’t know if I would be up for a 200 day tour, but I’d definitely rather ride along on that kind of commercial ship than a normal vacation cruise ship.

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After completing that adventure, I drove the 20 hours back in a straight shot. (It seems I’m good at that sort of thing.) Although it rained a lot and I hit Toronto at the wrong time, without a blizzard the return trip was much less of a challenge.

Back home, autumn was well underway. This was taken at the edge of my neighbor’s yard on the bike trail that connects my back yard to our very nice nature park.

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The house we bought is so-so (and fixable) like any 1970s house, but the location is magnificent. As I write this, my view is pretty much as shown here.

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We have not even come close to taking these trees for granted yet. We appreciate and marvel at them every day.

My wife and I were scrambling to prepare the house for winter and some winter previews came to town. A few days of raging winds pretty much cleared the trees. Then we had pretty much a solid dumping of snow every week, usually when I needed to be somewhere! I was pretty delighted when some people (Nordic) skied on the path behind my house. There has been quite a lot of snow.

On Thanksgiving we were thankful to have the opportunity to avoid Thanksgiving completely. We went to Canada where it wasn’t even happening. It was definitely a great day to do touristy things at Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls, NY is quite a sad run down place. I saw a boarded up KFC there and that’s pretty bad. It’s puzzling how it could be so awful because Niagara Falls, Ontario is quite nice. Certainly clean, functional, and inviting to tourists.

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There is a bridge between downtown Buffalo and Fort Erie, Canada that lights up with different colored lights — that is not the Rainbow Bridge (it’s the Peace Bridge). This is the Rainbow Bridge (on the left, by the rainbow). Hopefully this image will help me stop confusing the two.

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What can be said about Niagara Falls? It is awesome in the original sense of the word. If you haven’t seen it, you should. I enjoy seeing it in its seasonal variations.

At the end of November I got to spend another day on my favorite ship as it transited the Welland Canal. Here is a nice photo which not only explains exactly what the Welland Canal is all about, but shows how much fun it is to drive to Canada in a snowstorm to go spend the day on the forecastle of a giant ship.

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It’s actually pretty fun! The only non-fun part was when some Canadians lost control of their car in front of us, spun out and kicked up a wall of snow that dumped on our windshield blinding us. My colleague was driving and I was thinking, we will be super lucky if we miss hitting them. We were super lucky. Once on the ship, we had a very interesting and productive day. Quite pleasant.

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It was tricky making a such a complex transition from hot desert life to cold winter life. I’ve been worrying about the house, my stuff, my clothes, my car, my tires, my snow tools, etc., but I’m finally getting on top of it. The winter preludes we’ve had so far have shown me that I am still quite good at dealing with winter.

This is good since it’s beginning to look a lot like… Christmas? No. Like some freakish place that actually gets snow in December! I’ve seen a lot of different lists ranking cities by how snowy they are — this one seems typical and shows Buffalo topped only by its near neighbors in Erie, Rochester, and Syracuse, but implausibly beating Anchorage. I don’t know if that’s accurate but I think it’s reasonable to conclude that winter in Buffalo, NY involves a prodigious amount of snow.

Here’s a look at our forest a few days ago.

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It’s been a scramble to get ready for it, but ready I am. Winter is coming! Bring it on!

Buffalo - Summer

2018-12-16 07:38

Buffalo. I have had an adventure this year!

Like this guy, whom I visited at the Buffalo Zoo, I now live in Buffalo, NY.

Buffalo Zoo Buffalo

There are worse places to live. And I was living in one. What surprises most people is that where I had been living for the last couple of decades is widely regarded as extremely nice. There are definitely some nice things about San Diego, California — some people even think it is America’s Finest City. Yet for me, Buffalo is better.

Before global warming San Diego may have been a perfect temperature, but now it is always perfectly a bit too hot. It is too crowded — with more people flooding in every day. Since I’m not a millionaire or a gambler, I’ve felt it prudent to rent an apartment rather than "own" a house/jumbo loan. I had a great job in San Diego, as good as it gets for someone like me. But for someone like me, the whole city is a professional dead end. I’m certain that when my (SF-born) grandfather moved there in 1953 it was very, very nice. But today, I feel like that delicate oasis in the Sonoran Desert has become as inhospitable as its surrounding geography.

When people find out that I moved to Buffalo from San Diego, they are usually dumbstruck. How could someone do that? I ask them what they think is so great about some place like Southern California and they almost always lamely say, "the beaches". When I lived in San Diego, I never used to go hang out on the beach — exactly like 99% of all San Diegans. I also find this quite ironic because the Great Lakes have miles and miles (and kilometers and kilometers) of extremely nice beaches. If for some weird reason, you like getting sand in your shoes, we totally can do that here.

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This particular one is near Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and it is lined with a beautiful bike/hiking path.

Beaches are an obvious similarity once I point it out. But there are some weirder things these areas have in common. For example, here is an upside down house.

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The inset image is the weird house on the top of the engineering building at UCSD which I used to be able to see from my office. Technically, the upside down house is in Canada, but it is still almost as close to me as my mother’s house in Ocean Beach is to UCSD.

When I first arrived, I stayed in an old house in the middle of town. It seemed like kind of a hipster place (and locals have affirmed that impression). It actually reminded me exactly of North Park in San Diego. And what is it called in Buffalo? North Park.

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Here I am in their classic era cinema which is truly magnificent. Really one of the best. The image playing on the screen is a shot of the exterior and the inset image is North Park in San Diego.

One thing I liked about my job at UCSD is that because of the atrocious parking situation, I was compelled to either ride my bike to work or do about 20 minutes of walking each way to my car. I enjoyed walking through the (relatively car-free=safe) university campus. Here in Buffalo, it turns out that my office is located at the western periphery of the University At Buffalo.

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Here is a photo of UB’s non sequitur faux antiquity-inspired columns. It reminds me a lot of UCSD’s non sequitur faux Stone-Henge-inspired columns (shown in the inset). It turns out that I walk or bike through this campus very often since my parking spot is at the northern periphery of the campus. The reason that parking spot is a big improvement over my UCSD one is that it is in my driveway.

That photo of Lake LaSalle on the UB campus hints at the real attraction here: water. This area is not a desert! If anything, it is a swamp. A swamp with enough of a cool breeze to keep mosquitoes and alligators under control. It’s incredibly nice in fact. If you’ve been living in a desert for a long time seeing some water can be really pleasant.

One thing I’ve always said about England is that if you want to see the nice parts, tour the canals. They were frozen in time in about the late 18th century. It turns out that the same is roughly true here. When you think of canals in North America the main one that people have heard of is the Erie Canal. I had heard of it but actually had no idea where it went or why it was built. Now I have considerably more knowledge about it.

Although it is very strangely not labeled on Google Maps, the Erie Canal does exist and here is where the modern format of it exits into the Niagara River.

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It is called Tonawanda Creek here — does that look like a mere "creek" to you? Not if you’re from California it doesn’t!

As you can see, it is quite a pleasant place with a pleasant climate. Here it is farther up stream at one of the most opulent dog parks I’ve ever seen (the bridge connects to the Bark Park Island).

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In old times the canal was carved right through what is now the city (that route has been filled in) and it emerged into Lake Erie downtown in a place they call Canalside. They’re doing a lot of urban renewal in this area and it’s quite pleasant.

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Even more pleasant in my opinion is Delaware Park.

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This was taken just before we ate at the Terrace Restaurant shown on the right side of the photo. Often restaurants with amazing views don’t live up to expectations with the food, but this one sure did.

The zoo is located here as are several museums. The whole place is incredibly beautiful.

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But there are not just canals and lake-sized lakes in parks. This area has ocean-sized lakes!

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Here I am at work out on Lake Erie doing my job. Yes, I am a professional recreational boater. Seriously. Career opportunities here have been optimal! This shot was actually taken from the Canadian side of the lake with the Buffalo skyline ashore in the background.

Some people may quibble about the water quality of the Great Lakes. Poor Cleveland had their river catch fire a few times and now the whole region has a bad reputation. But thanks to Big Government, things have taken a serious change for the better with respect to Great Lake water quality. I’ve been quite impressed with how clean Lake Erie and Lake Ontario seem. I would much rather swim in any water course in this area than in Mission Bay near my former apartment in San Diego.

Here is a photo of one of the world’s most incredible places, the Niagara Gorge. A few hours previous to this photo, all of that water pictured was in Lake Erie, and soon after it will all be in Lake Ontario.

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Besides the conspicuous raw power of Niagara Falls dropping one giant lake into another, I was impressed with how clean these rapids looked. To me they didn’t look far off of the Aare River which flows through Bern Switzerland, the ne plus ultra of beautiful river water. Good thing because my drinking water now comes from the Niagara River!

A lot of people fuss about water, especially when it falls out of the sky. I, however, love the wet climate. What the treeless part of California has taught me is that I respect and appreciate trees. Because it rains sometimes, Buffalo has some serious trees! The forests here are absolutely gorgeous.

Here I am near the previous photo climbing out of the gorge.

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This shot is a bit of an anomaly because it is one of the very few places where it is not completely flat. The main thing I miss about San Diego is being able to ride my bike up Mt. Soledad every week.

Although it is very flat here, somewhat south of Buffalo there are some pretty decent sized (skiing happens) hills. Hills covered in forest! With actual trees! Live trees that haven’t burned yet!

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This forest was on Grand Island which is a freakishly nice place. At least the parts we explored.

I’d say the biggest buzzkill for the whole area is Borellia. Borellia is a kind of bacterium that causes Lyme Disease. If you think it’s a pain for humans, these poor arachnids are now even more reviled than they used to be.

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Although this sign is in Canada, the area hardest hit by this problem seems to be Pennsylvania — check out how the CDC's 2016 Reported Cases Of Lyme Disease plot shows that the Lake Erie shoreline is especially severe there.

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And although the sign in the photo exonerates American dog ticks for Lyme disease, that species does spread Tularemia, a tick disease named for a county in central California. Ticks are a problem everywhere but it does seem like San Diego’s rattlesnake problem (I’ve personally found them at least a dozen times while hiking) is preferable to the ticks.

Speaking of Canada, the closest large city to where I live is actually not Erie, PA or Rochester, NY — it is Toronto, Canada. It is actually possible to see Toronto from across Lake Ontario in certain places. The way you know you’re looking at Toronto is the CN Tower.

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We visited it and are glad we did, but we don’t ever need to do that again. You know you’re in Toronto the same way you know you’re in Los Angeles — you’re sitting in traffic. Seriously, check out the freeway in that photo.

When it comes to understanding a region I have a superpower which gives me enormous insight — my cycling. When I first arrived in Buffalo, I rode as much as I could and I quickly came to understand the place. There are some not so nice places, sure, like anywhere. There are some nice places. And there are some absolutely stunningly nice places! When I’m thinking to myself, "Wow, this is just like Holland!" that is a serious compliment and not one I often have occasion to give in North America. But the bike paths along the river and canals, and through the forests are amazing.

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I fell in love with this area right away!

You may notice that the leaves are tinged with color in that photo. You may wonder why I’m posting this about summer when it is December. With the months of homelessness and instability involved with moving, I have been incredibly busy and I am indeed a season behind in posting this.

Here’s a photo of me that I include to show that I’m riding without a shirt. I think that’s necessary because some people imagine Buffalo as some permanently frozen Lake Effect place like Antarctica.

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In fact, my biggest annoyance upon arrival here was that it was too hot. No hotter than San Diego, but still… Too damn hot! That’s summer. There’s a lot of potential here in the summer and I’m looking forward to next summer. The lake breeze is always nice!

However when I would tell people that it seemed too hot to me, they’d always say, "Just wait until winter." My biggest complaint about San Diego is exactly that waiting for winter no longer cures the "too hot" problem. Well, reporting to you a season late I can give you a solid prediction of how I’m going to feel about Buffalo’s heavy duty winter. Let’s just say that winter is way more afraid of me than I am of it! I love it here!

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