Go-ings On

Thanks to my friend Scott Morse, I’ve recently been learning Go, one of the oldest games in the world. While the mechanics are beguilingly simple (Liam caught on quickly enough to put up a good fight in his first game), the strategy is incredibly deep. The complexity that emerges from such simple rules reminded me of Conway’s Game of Life, for which Go turns out to have been an early inspiration. If anybody would like a match, I’m “SeanMcTex” on the Internet Go Server.

In other news, my group at work had a picnic last friday along the river. We have a bunch of good cooks, so the food was great, and the kids and adults all had fun swinging on the nearby rope swings over and into the water. [Maggie->] made me laugh — she didn’t like jumping into the water, so she would patiently wait in line for her turn, take the rope firmly in hand, push off, and swing way out over the river. Clinging tenaciously, she would then return to her launching point, alight on the shore, politely hand the rope to the next person in line, and go back to the end of the queue to do it all over again.

The best part, however, was that a couple of the attendees brought out kayaks and offered to share them. The kids were, of course, all over them right away, and had a grand time padding around the nearby island, hunkering down to float beneath a footbridge, and cruising upstream to meet other boaters. Passing tubers were referring to [Liam->], who cruised around for an hour straight at one point, as “River Patrol”. Seeing how much the kids were enjoying the boats, Brianne Corn very generously offered to let us borrow her boat for a few days, so we strapped it to the top of the van and headed home.

Since Mondays are my night to have a little self-indulgent time, I decided last night that I needed to go for a paddle. I grabbed my flashlight, took Brianne’s boat up to the river, unloaded it into the water, and set off with a plan to paddle from Rio Vista Park up to Sewell Park and back again.

The first thing I noticed was that the river is much darker at night than I’d expected. While the nearby footpaths are reasonably well lit, there’s very little illumination to help your night vision on the water itself, and what there is often shines into your eyes rather than on the water. Paddling quietly past ill-defined shore, occasionally hearing the sounds of people talking, not being sure what was making those nearby splashing sounds was downright spooky. While the lighting situation was better once to Sewell Park, the oddities continued, as I saw something plowing through the water that I took to be a dog until it went under and didn’t come up. Nearby observers helpfully suggested that they thought it might be a huge snake.

Once I turned around and started back downstream, the boat felt winged. I raced past the placed I’d plodded through on the way upstream, but as I approached the railway bridge, a freight train thundered overhead, horn blasting with an awful roar that sent my heart into my throat. Something loomed out of the water ahead — an egret, on inspection with the flashlight. More distant laughter from shore. And then I was back to the park, happily pulling the boat from the water. It was a fun adventure, but creepy enough that I don’t think I’ll repeat it solo.