Sunday, September 29, 2013


We did a weekend trip to Blacksburg to visit Josh and Gwen.

Drove past the Virginia Tech Quidditch Team, which I found bemusing. The whole point of the game, in the book, is that you're flying...running around clutching a broomstick just can't be the same.

Went to the Farmer's Market and bought apples.

Went to Boudreaux's, where they don't grasp the concept of "sweet tea". I said "sweet tea", I saw the waitress write "sweet tea" on her pad, what came to me was suitable for tanning leather. I had to tell the server to look behind the bar for Simple Syrup and add some of that. However, they did a decent job of the biscuits with andouille sausage gravy.

We walked a couple of miles in and around Heritage Park, including exploring a couple of shortcuts which totally did not involve multiple instances of trespass in any way.

At a consignment shop, bought them a table, and Josh found a couple of paintings of hussars in parade dress, which he promptly pounced upon.

Josh and I were discussing miniatures, which escalated to a 1/32 scale Santissima Trinidad, then to a 1:2 scale Santissima Trinidad, then to a full scale HMS Victory. With a huge air compressor in the hold, feeding the cannon, so they're not technically "guns", but we could still sail off Somalia. But we'd need modern engines and bow thrusters. The thought of Victory pivoting in place on thrusters was amusing. That led to the idea of Victory's hull above, a hydrofoil below. You see this sailing ship proceeding's sailing pretty's really moving right's rising up out of the water!  You'd need the sails to be holograms so they don't rip the masts off at that speed.
Of course there would be no possible justification for building such a ship (except "Science!"). You'd be...wealthy! And insane. But "wealthy and insane" is "eccentric", and that's okay.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I was in court today, as a potential witness. The defendant stole some material that I'm familiar with, and the prosecutor asked me to be available to testify as to the value. As it happens, the perp's lawyer saw that the prosecution actually had four witnesses present, and advised the guy to go ahead and plead guilty, which he did. But first we all got to spend a couple of hours listening to people petitioning for court-appointed lawyers, a couple of arraignments, one or two sentencing phases, and other such legal rituals. No drama, just people reciting their lines. But it was a new experience.

New Books

Swords of Exodus, by Correia and Kupari
Lord Geoffrey's Fancy, by Alfred Duggan

Monday, September 23, 2013


R I P Dawn Brain nee Grinnell after several years' illness.

Something of a shock when someone you know, several years younger, dies.

Mortise door

We're repainting Josh's bathroom (now that it's no longer Josh's) and somehow that has led to replacing the door. Which has led to getting a hammer and chisel and chipping away at the door in the space for hinges. Makes you wonder who came up with that idea, and makes you appreciate the men who could do it smoothly, by hand.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Byzantines Discover America

A month ago, Josh and I were talking about story ideas, and I mentioned "Byzantines Discover America" as a setting. Josh liked that idea, so we spent a fair amount of tonight chatting about what year the Byzantines would depart, and what would be happening in the Mediterranean at the time--Roger de Flor and the Catalan Company, the Seventh Crusade, the Principality of Achaea, and so forth. Slightly esoteric, but fun.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Mutt had bleeding from her mouth (dried blood shows up very well when it's on a white leather couch) so Diana took her in to Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital. They saw her right away, and lasered a growth off the inside of her mouth. Unfortunately she's stuck with a lampshade again for a few days.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Utah: Canyonlands Island in the Sky

It took quite a bit of driving just to get to Canyonlands. There are three sections of the park; I came in from the east to Island in the Sky. Once you get past the entry station and gift shop, there's a T intersection where you can go south and look over the Green River Canyon and out to Abajo and Lasal; the north road ends at a crater which might have been from a meteor, or a salt dome collapse, or something. Getting to the crater is a bit of a hike, maybe a mile or so on a fairly steep slope; with the altitude, the slope and the sun, it took a bit to catch my breath after getting to the top. You get to the rim and look down into a bowl with a center peak, all greys and whites, and wonder what could have caused it. There are plaques illustrating what would have happened for the salt bowl and meteor theories. It doesn't show the Mysterious Ancient Mine Pit theory, but you never know; maybe the Anasazi Aztec Atlanteans were into organic mountain salt.
The south end is more impressive, and could be called "Utah's Grand Canyon"--I suspect the main reason it's not as well known is because the Grand Canyon is an short drive from Flagstaff, while Canyonlands is a short drive from nowhere. Just like the Grand Canyon, there are cliffs, then slopes, then another layer of cliff and another slope, ending in a river cut. I stood out on an overhang and held my camera over the cliff, the sort of experience which makes you dizzy even when you're clinging to rock.

Driving through Utah

After leaving Canyonlands, I took Interstate 70 to Rte 24 to Rte 12. It was somewhat disturbing to see signs on I-70 saying "No services 100 miles"--better stop and fill the tank.

In Utah, going from one place to another means you drive through a National Park, a National Forest and a State Park on the way. And so, on the way from Canyonlands to Bryce, I went through Capitol Reef, Anasazi State Park, Dixie National Forest and Escalante / Grand Staircase / Petrified Forest.

Utah: Arches

Drove from Green River to Arches National Park. For much of the trip there was a hot air balloon visible off to my right--it turns out there's a place offering balloon rides off Rte 191.

Arches Park is immediately east of the Moab Fault; there's a V shapped valley with a high western escarpment and a lower one (but still high) to the east. From the highway, you follow a windy road up the eastern face to the top to get to the arches--or more accurately, the roads which lead to arches. Where the strata have a hard stone cap, that stays in place while the softer stone underneath it erodes. If it's a stone fin, think of it as a square; the middle of the square gets thinner and thinner until it's gone, and what's left is an arch. The opening of the arch gets wider and wider and eventually the center collapses and you're left with two stacks and a lot of rubble between them--that's what formed Sheep Rock (not Shiprock, which is more famous but is also in New Mexico).
There aren't actually all that many arches, or at least not that are visible without some hiking--more like "five" than "lots". There are also balanced rocks, cliffs and so forth, and those are impressive, but if you're expecting a panorama of five hundred arches, you're going to be disappointed. One of the arches is Delicate, and depending on how much hiking you want to do, you can go the long way and stand under it; or a short walk and get a more distant view; or what I did, which is climb to the high overlook. For the amount of effort it took to get there and the view I got, I should have either taken the long hike to the arch itself, or just used my zoom lens from the roadside. The most imposing presence actually was LaSal Mountain, off to the east.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Utah: Colorado

After finishing Dinosaur National Monument, I drove to Dinosaur, Colorado, where I stopped at a kitsch shop and looked at souvenir rocks and herbs and such before getting an ice cream and driving on. The owner said Labor Day was his last day open; after that he'd work in his garage and generally hang out. He said winters didn't usually get below 30°, which sounded really attractive until he added "except for that one winter when it got down to fifty below and everybody's pipes broke".
From there it was Route 139 down the western side of Colorado, through an area more verdant than Utah; mountainsides actually had trees rather than scrub. One part looked like our farm--creek gulley with water trees, grassy flood plain, hills with dry trees--except it was five to ten times the scale of the farm.
There was a slow climb up to the top of the Douglas Pass, then a long winding descent, like Bent Mountain's switchbacks except with a wider road and more shoulder space, so rather less of a feeling of "if I stray a few feet I'll go over the edge and plummet into squish".
At Loma I turned west back to Utah, driving on I70 across a plain, or enormous valley with mountains bordering on the distant north and south. In the distance I could see one lone mountain rising above everything else, with bluffs at its feet and a storm at its head--LaSal Mountain.  But that was a long way away, and in between, vast barren stretches. How did anyone look out across this landscape and say "Yeah, let's try to cross that, because who needs water anyway?"
Finished the drive at Green River UT, about 230 miles for the day.

Dinosaur National Monument

Started off with a drive to Jensen and the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument. There's a visitor center at the base of a hill, and a shuttle tram which takes us up the hill to another visitor's center. Inside, there's a wall of bones. At some point, a river flooded and washed bodies into a pile, and this wall had a jumble of fossil bones, large and small.
After that a group of fifteen follow a ranger on a hike. There are small bits of bone, a vertebra, a fossil clam, a fish scale. Nothing terribly impressive and some of the fossils are only notable because a white arrow is painted on the stone to mark where we should look. The main point of the hike is to tell us how the strata were laid down: one layer from a river, another from an inland sea, a third from a new river, unrelated to the first and running north-south rather than the earlier east-west. There's brown sandstone, gray shale, olive sandstone, rusty red, and more. Now the strata are rotated, on edge, so that as you walk a hundred yards horizontally, you're walking across layers of time.
At the east end of the park there are petroglyphs, pictures chipped into the stone by the Fremont people, over a thousand years ago. There are lizards, humans, bighorn sheep, a couple of pinwheels and other obscure symbols. And cut into a manganese stain, there's a kokopelli with his flute; the kokopelli is in profile while all the other human figures are frontal views. What made the Flute Player different? And many of the carvings are well above ground level. I imagined the conversations that must have taken place:

"Yo, Scrawny Bear."
"Yo, Quivering Lizard, 'sup?"
"Nothing. You?"
"Hey, it's Saturday night, I thought you and Sheep Girl were...?"
"Oh. Sorry, bro."
"It's cool."
"Got any hooch?"
"Nah. Hey, you know what would be really cool?"
"We get some ladders, like, you know, eighteen feet tall.  And we lean them on the cliff up there."
"And then we get some, you know, pointy rocks. And we, like, spend hours and hours chipping pictures into the cliff."
"I know, right?"
"That would be awesome!"