06 Jan

It’s chilly out here [photos]


the current Katabatic wastes of my front yard…

As I mentioned in the last progress report I broke my unchained days of walks outside due to falling asleep. Today when I woke up the first thing I promised myself was to just get out the door.

Now, it’s -10 outside, -33 with windchill.

What does that mean? I don’t even.

But I mentioned on twitter that since I’m about to write a book about Antarctica, it’d be great research. So I dutifully armored up:

-One Uniqloo heat-tech undershirt
-A long sleeve polo
-My Dr. Who scarf (present from my mum via the BBC store)
-A North Face 800 fill down ski jacket with hood
-fuzzy lined Ugg boots

I did a lap of our block back as it hit 20 degrees, with a windchill of -5 the other night. And have done some walking around town in below 0 windchill. Last week I misjudged the cold due to a momentary lack of wind, so went out in my leather jacket. When I hit Main Street and the wind, I realized I’d really screwed up, and was really shivering and struggling by the time I got to the coffee shop.

Today I stepped out into Arctic conditions. No wind in the backyard, so just -10. My reaction reminded me of the first time I experienced any cold (30 degrees when I arrived in the US from the Caribbean first time, a 54 degree differential from what I was used to).

It was really prickly, my face burned. Inside of my nose froze instantly, always a weird sensation. But it was bearable. The clothes were good, I’ve spent a lot of time playing with undershirt combinations that help keep me warm, and the North Face is pretty warm. I was feeling like I could get a few laps of the block, like I did earlier in the week.

Walking along the side street by my house was all good, but the moment I turned the block and into the wind, the -33 experience struck. Holy shit, that was brutal. Needles on the face. The cold sort of sucked the warm right out of my lungs. My eyes right away starting tearing up badly. My gloves were unable to keep my fingers warm (mittens are better suited to this kind of weather), so I had to put them into the down pockets of the jacket. I was feeling pretty uncomfortable by the time I rounded the block, mainly because I didn’t have my whole face covered in my balaclava (which I left off for the experiment). If I were really going to do my mile a day walk, I’d be wearing the balaclava for sure.

A couple times the wind gusted really hard, and even the down jacket seemed to give up the fight, but when it died I would warm up again (I’d almost want a smaller down jacket and a heavy outer shell if I lived like this every day).

The Uggs held up surprisingly well. My feet were never cold.

I decided to halt the experiment at a single block walk, as I have scarring on the inside of my lungs from the pulmonary embolism 5 years ago. It’s gotten a lot better, particularly in the last year or two, and I can walk in the winter now without feeling like I’m being painfully skewered through the chest and lungs. It’s just a mild discomfort now. But why risk being in the kind of pain that used to result in my needing to seek the ER, right?

When I got back I made a note to donate some money to homeless shelters who are out helping people who have nowhere. I found it uncomfortable to be out for 10-15 minutes in this, with expensive clothes that help me remain comfortable. I can’t imagine having nowhere to go, as I sit inside my very warm house in my PJs after a hot shower.


I took off my gloves to take that picture, and my hands never got warm again until I had that hot shower.

14 May

Photo: Redwood Copse in Davis, CA


This Sunday was the first time I’d walked among redwoods, or seen them in person. I found the quality of the light that reaches the ground interesting, due to their height. The upper canopy blocks sun, but then the light streams down in bands uninterrupted after that.

12 May

Whole Earth Festival

I’m currently hanging out in Davis, CA. I was invited to come out for the Whole Earth Festival and speak about my novel Arctic Rising on a panel with Kim Stanley Robinson.

The Whole Earth Festival is a yearly event in the quad of UC Davis:

Whole Earth Festival was born when an art class taught by Jose Arguelles had an “Art Happening” on the University of California, Davis campus in 1969. The students used art to involve visitors in the ultimate goal of learning about activism, wellness, and the environment. Whole Earth Festival aims to ignite passion, propel creativity, and leave visitors with inspiration.

Yesterday I had breakfast with Stan, which was a blast (both to get to meet him and also because I am almost never up for a proper breakfast, but when I go to the West Coast I get to order things like Waffles. And Brunch!). We planned out our presentations. After that he took me around Davis, which is a pro-bike, pro-pedestrian town. I fell in love a little with it.

I also wandered around the Whole Earth Festival a bit before my presentation:






The bookstore Avid Reader handled book sales (hi Nick!), and I was grateful to get to sign copies of Arctic Rising for readers.

After the reading I met Andrea Stewart briefly, who just won a Writers of the Future quarter.

I got to meet Andy Stewart and his wife, Mary (no relation to Andrea). Andy just recently finished Clarion and has a cover story (!) in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

And I spent many hours at dinner talking to Andy and Mary, Stan, and Stan’s family (who joined us: one of his son’s was reading A Long Way Gone). Fantastic people, all, and much nourishing conversation. Very invigorating. I’m grateful to Whole Earth Festival for having me out here.

11 May

Photo: Davis Farmers market

Davis, CA has one of the more well known Farmers Markets in the country. Kim Stanley Robinson showed me around this morning, as well other sights in Davis. The market reminded me of the islands, which had large and busy markets when I was growing up.