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Eleven Dead Armadillos, A Wood Pussy and 703 Lbs of Dead Rubber May 2, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, geocaching, hobby, New Mexico, Texas, weather, web & computers.
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I am back from the far eastern lands of Oklahoma (east of Muskogee, all the way to the capital of the Cherokee Nation). It was a tiring drive, although mostly in clear weather, and emotionally draining getting my mother squared away in assisted living.

Coming back was the spot where I got a bit antsy. I left in the rain, which cleared by the time I got out of Muskogee. This has happened a couple other times, fog or rain vanishing as if Muskogee has some evil Mordor-esque vibe to it. By the time I drove past the Firelake Casino outside OK City, the sun was shining and the clouds were breaking up.

A word about OK City. I have never liked the place but they have upped the ante on bad roads. It used to be the concrete freeways that would chip your teeth as you drove. This time it was the 6 lane freeways bottlenecked down to one lane. I hit Yukon, looked down at the stopped traffic that must have stretched 20 miles into OKC and decided it was time for breakfast at a McD’s. Ate breakfast, hunted for a geocache (had found one nearby earlier) and failed to locate it. A comment from a successful cacher said the coordinates were off 20m. Hunting around busy parking lots doesn’t thrill me. I didn’t find the cache. A handy traffic warning sign said the 45 min I’d spent already was down to 2 min. Got in the queue and inched through OK City. This is new freeway and open, for no good reason I could see since it lacked proper surfacing.

It was hardly better returning, but I hit it at 11am so the noon traffic hadn’t begun backing up yet.

Gasoline prices were less than in Abq, though one place topped $4. The week I was gone saw on road prices edge up about 10cents. (I tend to refuel at the same places since I know how far I can get on a tank of gas–31mpg this time around served me well).

While in Tahlequah, I found a couple geocaches in the Cherokee Cemetery. Tried for another one in an industrial park under the watchful eye of security cams, but I gave up when guys on riding mowers decided to cut the grass where I was wandering aimlessly. Logged another cache at the end of a road but failed to find one near a mural. OK, I’m a wimp. It was raining and the cache wasn’t immediately apparent. But I did find one hidden in (yes, *in*) a fire hydrant in Tucumcari behind the state cop shop.

Somehow I have never logged a cache in Texas. I forgot to look at a rest stop going. I stopped at one of the best rest stops I have ever seen (not too far from North America’s largest cross in Groom, complete with Golgotha nearby). Fabulous view to the north of not-quite Palo Duro Canyon scope. Great facilities, a tornado shelter. Supposedly wifi, but it was off. And my phone couldn’t connect so I was unable to hunt. Decided to boogey on through Amarillo because very black clouds were forming to the SW.

I don’t know from shield walls but I did see what wasn’t a verga. This was a solid column of black cloud coming from the pitch black layer above. I kept on trucking and the storm sorta slipped behind, only dropping a few splashes of water on me. That night I saw that a tornado had been sighted and flash flooding had occurred about an hr after I hightailed it. Hailstones the size of billiard balls were scoffed at by the weather clown–they hardly report until they reach grapefruit size now. But I was in NM. Crossing the border the sky turned blue, the clouds all vanished (all!) And the wind, hot and dry, kicked up. Home!

One Fantasy Football article showed up but getting reliable wifi/internet to return the edited version proved impossible until I got to the work computer at home. I more or less completed the Slocum Giant synopsis, started writing a short story and got a request for another.

On the way thru Deaf Smith County I saw what has to be a scary sight. A car marked “Federal Police.” We are truly going the way of post Weimar Germany. I did remember to grope myself before leaving so the TSA was robbed of that illicit pleasure. (I understand there is an app for that now)

Ah, yes, the title of this. I saw eleven dead armadillos, mostly on their backs and all 4 clawed feet pointing skyward. The 703 lbs of retread tires peeled away and littering the road is an estimate. It might even be a low estimate since there was a lot this time. And wood pussy? A skunk. (When I was in hs, the English teacher ordered the wrong movie version of The Scarlet Letter. Instead of a talkie, she got the silent Lillian Gish edition which has the memorable scene where Hester sees the skunk and the caption comes up, “Oh, a wood pussy!” This, of course, produced great mirth among 16 yr olds who didn’t want to see the movie, talkie or not).

Time to pay bills and get caught up on mundane things before settling in to work. It’s good to be back.


The Unseen World Around Us April 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, geocaching, history, ideas, New Mexico, outlaws, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, UFOs, writing.
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As you probably know by now, I am fascinated with the idea we go through life and see only a tiny fraction of it. This drew me to geocaching where most people go right by a cache and never know. This is a simple thing. The world–nature–is vastly more intriguing with its diversity and how new things pop up all the time, things we simply have not been attentive enough to see before.

In NM there are cemeteries all over the place, but who is buried int hem? Some terrible outlaw who never achieved the status of Billy the Kid or Blackjack Ketchum? Or just plain folks, putting in their time, working sunrise to sunset and then…dying. Unnoticed, or perhaps noticed only for a very short while by a very few people?

New discoveries in NM caverns possibly give us more powerful antibiotics. Who woulda thunk it? Back in 1986 the Lechuguilla Cave was discovered. It’s the 7th longest cave in the world and the deepest in the continental US. And antibiotic resistant bacteria have been found in it.

Which brings up the point, what antibiotics? Turns out these may be brand new ones. What else may be found here? It is near Roswell. Could those crafty UFOnauts be hiding down there, knowing it is the deepest point they could reach without digging? Are those antibiotics potentially from Out There, brought to Earth by the 1947 saucer crash? Or perhaps your ideas run more to thriller. If there is a bacterium, can it be used as a terror weapon? Only the antibiotic from the cave can save us?

More than 1200 new species of plants and animals have been found in the Amazon since 2000. What might James Cameron find diving into the Marianas Trench? That’s a long way down and hitherto unexplored.

Panspermia might be a way of repopulating lost species on earth. Comets and asteroid impacts can blast away huge chunks of earth (imagine finding those dinosaurs from ’40s and ’50s pulp stories on other planets!) And then return it.

So much of nature out there, unseen.

Ren Fair Geocache Fail March 20, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, fantasy, geocaching.
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Geocaching has appealed to me since I was first introduced almost a decade ago. High tech treasure hunt, they call it. More than 1.6 million caches worldwide (I need to step up my game. Why, I am only, uh, 0.00088% of the way toward collecting the whole set).

I got a special souvenir for my geocaching alter ego on Feb 29 since that was leap day. (You get them for special events and for every state you’ve found a cache in). I tried to find one not too far from my house and have failed. Twice. I will give it a third try but am flummoxed as to where else to hunt to “Do the Dew.”

Similarly, I decided to see if there were any caches at the Az Renaissance Faire when I was there a couple weeks back. One showed itself to be only dozens of meters from where I was autographing. Off I went to log the cache. The description made no sense. Prior hunters left curious messages of query and failure. And I decided something was wrong when the cache should have been in the middle of:

A cache here? I don't think so.

OK, coordinates can be off by 10 m or so. This put me on the far side of the shop in the midst of trailers where Ren Faire performers and shop owners camped. Not likely. So, I have to count this as a failure, unlike the abovementioned cache, on the part of the person hiding the cache.

Here are some other pix taken at the Ren Faire autographing. Mike Stackpole and Miguel (of Don Juan and Miguel), yhos holding a copy of Stink of Flesh, Sarah Mullen Rua playing the harp.

yhos with Stink of Flesh

Harpist on the green

Huzzah! The AZ Ren Faire! March 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, fantasy, geocaching, weather, writing.
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Wind at 50mph, gusts to 68. Snow. It didn’t look good for my flight out of Abq to Phoenix and the Arizona Renaissance Faire autograph session. But the plane got off quickly (flying into such a wind meant the plane only had to get up to about 70 mph on its own to get airborne, though I am sure the pilot used full power). Great flight, lovely weather in Phoenix.

Mike Stackpole picked me up and off we went for dinner at a new Mexican restaurant. The next night we had dinner with Don Juan and Miguel at a BBQ place run by a friend of Mike’s. Wolfley’s has great food. Great conversation and Ron Wolfley topped it off with free desserts (I was stuffed to the point of potential explosion–and I regretted not being able to scarf up more).

Saturday, all day autographing at Lady Chamberlain’s Book Shop at the fair. Ann Chamberlain said this was her best day ever and she’s been at the fair for at least 5 years, maybe more. Don Juan said the estimated gate was 15,000 and a goodly number came past the store where Mike and I were set up since this was on the way to the joust.

We fielded the usual questions asked of authors at autographing: where’s the restroom? Which way to the joust? Did you write those books?

I sold all but two copies of Ogre Castle, all the copies of Desert Bob’s Reptile Ranch, surprisingly all but one of Stink of Flesh (this is a very heavy family oriented exposition) and, huzzah! No other titles were left. All gone.

Good meeting “Taos” from Second Life. Somehow, those avatars convey nothing about the real person, which is probably the point (though Taos towered over me, which was unexpected). And tea with Don Juan, Miguel, various Tortuga Brothers, the guy running the joust and others was simply fun (and makes me think I need to reevaluate my initial distaste for tequila).

Overheard: A woman telling her kid that the Middle Ages were in the 1800s.

I’ll have more about my geocaching adventure at the fair tomorrow. I leave you with a picture of Miguel and me.

Me and Miguel

The Pressure Builds January 31, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, geocaching, ideas, iPad, science fiction, space, westerns, writing.

I have just finished the rewrite on God of War 2 and have been doing a lot of westerns. That means, yes, it does, the pressure is growing within my fevered brain to turn to some science fiction. I did the short novel Gateway to Rust and Ruin, and this whetted my appetite for longer work. Reading Greg Benford’s article in Reason fueled the fire. (I grew up in El Paso festooned with V-2s along the road as decoration and von Braun’s vision was mine, too–still is. I don’t care if we get out to Mars and beyond a la “Man Who Sold the Moon” or if NASA grows a pair and actually does something again in manned space exploration. I just want it done.)

While not good water discipline, standing under the shower affords me a chance to just think. The rush of the water gives a white noise that drowns out the phone ringing, the cats meowing for food, traffic in the street and, probably the low level hum from the quantum foam in my brain. The signal rises and I can think of … stuff. I am working on a new sf novel and hope to have more about this in a week or two after I’ve had the chance to work out a more detailed synopsis.

I might have to go for a long walk or two or even go geocaching for the first time in ages to hone the ideas. (If I log a cache on Feb 29, I get a nifty logo on my geocaching account.) This is another way of letting the ideas sort of roil around, then go pop like popcorn in a microwave. A downside to working like this is that I have to remember what great ideas I’ve come up with…

…look, a squirrel!

Sorry about that. When ideas arrive, they aren’t necessarily permanent ones. Which is why I write down everything as soon as I can. But the iPad shorts out in the shower and paper gets so soggy.

I leave you with the cover on God of War 2.

God of War 2, coming in September

Wrapping Up November 6, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, conventions, e-books, food, geocaching, iPad, iPhone, movies, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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Odds and ends. First off, today’s the centennial of Roy Rogers’ birth. The King of the Cowboys.

Next is my website being down. Think it might have gotten hacked. Guru Leif has been informed and will see if it can’t get back into action ASAP. Or at least RSN.

One benefit of face to face meetings such as at World Fantasy Convention, is brainstorming. Or maybe that’s barnstorming. Mike Stackpole, Nathan Long and I got together and have plans brewing with a potential launch on a brand new project come January. And not satisfied with this, Mike’s come up with another project playing off the successful Chain Story concept. Working idea is heroic fantasy and killer stuff. That’ll develop and be a couple months later than the aforementioned steampunk project. The benefit of WFC (or any other con) is tossing out an idea, having it turned over and inside out and revised and added to and subtracted from and coming up with a synthesis better than any of the people involved could have come up with alone. Writing may be a solitary profession but group effort pays off now and then, especially in these days of VIPub. Pooling talent and information is so necessary.

Also at WFC, I got the chance to do some geocaching, with Alice Henderson as well as on my own. I’d bought my android smartphone in June with an eye toward using it with Square to accept credit cards for my book sales. The more I use the phone, the more things I find to do with it. Reading ebooks isn’t as easy as on my iPad but it can be done. The 3G connectivity I lack on the iPad comes in quite handy, though. I can’t say this is a tool for any writer but it is proving useful. I put on the geocaching app and found it quirky but adequate for the task. That sums up the other apps, too. At one time it struck me as peculiar to use a cell phone to call someone who was only across the room–but it is less so now. The sheer immensity of bouncing a signal off a tower, maybe going to a geosynchronous satellite and then back is so….stfnal. Great for getting in touch with people, especially on a 40 acre hotel site such as WFC’s this year. And with internet google capability, factoids can be summoned up fast (as well as maps, restaurants and all the rest of things con goers need).

This is what I found about Angels Flight in LA. And am I wrong thinking this was used in a terrible movie of the great Lawrence Block book 8 Million Ways to Die?

World's shortest railroad

Old Towns and Research November 2, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, education, geocaching, ghost towns, history, hobby, ideas, music, New Mexico, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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After leaving LA, I dropped down to San Diego, mastered the (easy) trolley system and zinged down to their version of Old Town. Relatively recent compared with Santa Fe or even Old Town in Albuquerque (California’s was settled some 60 years later) But this is the first European settlement in California so was fodder for the western fiction research mill.

But I am on a different time zone so got to OT a couple hours before it opened. I took the $10 plunge and had installed the android geocaching app on my cell phone. The 2 hours gave me a chance to try it out. I found 3 caches, one in Presidio Park, another on 1769 Hill and yet one more virtual cache showing how metal rusts in salt air. By the time I had wandered around, it was opening time for the museums.

Life is tough all over. I had breakfast at a restaurant that boasted that it had been established in 2010. In today’s economy that might be long-lived. From here hiked up the hill to the Mormon Battalion Museum. Very slick, very cute girls in period costumes, interesting high tech video presentations, had the chance for some hands on examination of props since I was the only one in the “group” (not peak tourist season, I’d say), got a couple teeny gold nuggets, and was surprised when I asked about music of the era and one guide disappeared and came back later with a handwritten list taken from a contemporaneous journal. Very kind of her to supply this and info will certainly be used (but I’m not likely to order a free copy of Book of Mormon or send one to a friend). The Mormon Battalion has a monument between Abq and Santa Fe (and a geocache, btw) and it was good seeing the end of the 2000 mi trail in San Diego. Not sure I buy all the achievements of the Battalion but they might be true. Will look to see if they actually started the first newspaper in Northern California (California Star–ok, looks factual since Alta California grew out of CStar–founder Samuel Brannan was the first Gold Rush millionaire, but some conflation is going on. Brannan wasn’t part of the Mormon Battalion, coming around the Horn in 1846. And, hmm, this might be the second trailing The Californian from Monterey) or were responsible for first finding gold at Sutter’s Mill (but I certainly think they worked to build it so might well be true). All a bit before the time period considered the Wild West but great background.

On to Whaley House, supposedly the “most haunted” house in California or the US or somewhere. The best that could be conjured was it was built on an Indian burial ground. NM is built on an Indian burial ground, fer Pete’s sake. Nancy Holder later said it was the site of public executions. So why didn’t the period-dressed guide say this? Mostly like restored houses elsewhere in the West, but renewed my interest in writing a western that simply has no mass market. Ah, VIPub. When I get time. Mike Resnick ought to be proud–he had a lot of copies of The Buntline Special on the museum bookstore shelf.

To the World Fantasy Convention itself soon and the VIPub vibe building like a tidal wave there.

Mormon Batallion Museum

Forever Fungus October 8, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, geocaching, ideas, inventions, movies & TV, music, sense of wonder, Time, writing.
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Or maybe spores. I didn’t even know there were such things as bacterial spores. But the time capsule from the old Bellevue Hospital has a test tube full of them. But what are they? Gee, have we seen this sci-fi movie a millions time over? But this is real life.

I have always been fascinated with the notion of time capsules and what they pass along to the future. Big things (or things that become big) are never really included because the society will move those right along without help, thank you. And who, other than Steve Jobs, is able to look at something and know it will be bigtime? So the trivial is placed in the capsules for the most part which might be the best possible things to include. These give clues as to ordinary life that likely never gets recorded because, at the time, it is too trivial to even notice, and a chance for ordinary folks to have some fun.

Time capsule time: what would you put in one being buried today? What book or techno gadget or item ought to go inside? Newspapers might be interesting, not for the news but because by the time the capsule is opened nobody will have seen one. But putting in a CD or iPod loaded with music is likely to be a losing proposition. Think how computers have changed in the last 30 years. If I found a 3.5″ floppy from my old Apple ][e, I couldn’t read it. I suppose old Apple drives are around that could read it but the technology would have to be reinvented, whether our next door neighbors in 2111 are ready to flit off to Alpha Centauri for a well deserved vacation or Neanderthals more interest in painting their brand new cave wall.

Print books last centuries. Ebooks don’t. What good would a cell phone or digital camera be? DVDs of movies? The icloud will be long gone, faded into electronic mist and Johnson noise. Unreadable. I think a roll of duct tape might be interesting, even if it would age poorly. Styrofoam packing beads (aka “ghost shit”) reflect a great deal about us. What could we put in to amuse and amaze our ancestors 100 yrs from now? A gold coin? Mostly we have moved on to a culture that’s transient. The 51″ TV ain’t gonna fit (or work). How do you roll up a URL to display then? A set of Wikipedias? Would a Kindle maintain its e-ink page over 100 years? As my dad used to say, “You can’t beat a drum for a Christmas present.”

Maybe the Bellevue scientist who put his bacterial spore in the time capsule was right. Communicate by sending a plague forward in time. That’ll show ‘em!

Ordering Chaos August 20, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, geocaching, New Mexico, science, sense of wonder.
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Two mandelbrot sets to go, please. Oh, not like that. Not exactly. The inimitable ScottD mentioned that Fractals Rock! was a new 3rd Friday occurrence at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. Never having seen the show and hearing good things about it from all and sundry, I (figuratively speaking) plunked down my money (credit card) and hit their first 3rd Friday show.

Wow. Amazing stuff, drilling into and out of mandelbrot sets. You need to dig into imaginary numbers recursion for how these mathematical sets are created, but the smallest change in the equation gives wildly different view of the universe. False colors just like so many of the best astronomical photos, but this only brings out the details. The infinitely infinite recurring details.

What was awesome came in the 3D fractals–without using the silly glasses. It won’t be long before more can be done in 3D without a lot of fuss.

I’ve always liked such pretty pretties and even use something similar on the covers of some of my books. But the idea that there are so many fractal patterns around us also appeals to my geocaching nature. So much is either hidden or we simply don’t see it unless we look (or know how to look).

An acid trip without the acid (my brain moves slow enough now to appreciate all this, I suppose). And one that struck me as being assimilated by the Borg.

Only in Texas July 3, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in geocaching, history, weird news, Wild West.
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All these (as space filler until I get back to actually doing my own blog) from Mike Thompson.

Love the sun?
Sun City, Texas 78628
Sunrise, Texas 76661
Sunset, Texas 76270
Sundown, Texas 79372
Sunray, Texas 79086
Sunny Side, Texas 77423

Want something to eat?
Bacon, Texas 76301
Noodle, Texas 79536
Oatmeal, Texas 78605
Turkey, Texas 79261
Trout, Texas 75789
Sugar Land, Texas 77479
Salty, Texas 76567
Rice, Texas 75155
Pearland, Texas 77581
Orange, Texas 77630
And top it off with:
Sweetwater, Texas 79556

Why travel to other cities? Texas has them all!
Detroit, Texas 75436
Cleveland, Texas 75436
Colorado City, Texas 79512
Denver City, Texas 79323
Klondike, Texas 75448
Pittsburg, Texas 75686
Newark, Texas 76071
Nevada, Texas 75173
Memphis, Texas 79245
Miami, Texas 79059
Boston, Texas 75570
Santa Fe, Texas 77517
Tennessee Colony, Texas 75861
Reno, Texas 75462
Pasadena, Texas 77506
Columbus, Texas 78934
Just Texas
Pep, Texas 79353
Smiley, Texas 78159
Paradise, Texas 76073
Rainbow, Texas 76077
Sweet Home, Texas 77987
Comfort, Texas 78013
Friendship, Texas 76530

Feel like traveling outside the country?
Athens, Texas 75751
Canadian, Texas 79014
China, Texas 77613
Dublin, Texas 76446
Egypt, Texas 77436
Ireland, Texas 76538
Italy, Texas 76538
Turkey, Texas 79261
London, Texas 76854
New London, Texas 75682
Paris, Texas 75460
Palestine, Texas 75801

No need to travel to Washington DC
Whitehouse, Texas 75791

We even have a city named after our planet!
Earth, Texas 79031

We have a city named after our state:
Texas City, Texas 77590

Energy, Texas 76452

Blanket, Texas 76432
Winters, Texas 79567

Like to read about History?
Santa Anna, Texas 76878
Goliad, Texas 77963
Alamo, Texas 78516
Gun Barrel City, Texas 75156
Robert Lee, Texas 76945

Need Office Supplies?
Staples, Texas 78670

Want to go into outer space?
Venus, Texas 76084
Mars, Texas 79062

You guessed it. It’s on the state line.
Texline, Texas 79087

For the kids…
Kermit, Texas 79745
Elmo, Texas 75118
Nemo, Texas 76070
Tarzan, Texas 79783
Winnie, Texas 77665
Sylvester, Texas 79560

Other city names in Texas, to make you smile……
Frognot, Texas 75424
Bigfoot, Texas 78005
Hogeye, Texas 75423
Cactus, Texas 79013
Notrees, Texas 79759
Best, Texas 76932
Veribest, Texas 76886
Kickapoo, Texas 75763
Dime Box, Texas 77853
Old Dime Box, Texas 77853
Telephone, Texas 75488
Telegraph, Texas 76883
Whiteface, Texas 79379
Twitty, Texas 79079

And our favorites…
Cut and Shoot, Texas 77303
Gun Barrel City, Texas 75147
Ding Dong, Texas
West, Texas (it’s in Central Texas)
and, of course,
Mule Shoe, Texas 79347

Lone Star Flag