Thursday, January 31, 2008

Weekend Assignment Results: When You Went

It was a somewhat light turnout for Weekend Assignment #200, which makes me think I should steer away from more sf topics for a week or two. I've created a file of future WA questions, and will select one shortly. Meanwhile, let's see what people decided to do when offered a trip in a time machine:

Would it matter if the offer came from this guy?

Saqib: "For my first trip I would want to travel into the past. But I probably wouldn't, due to concerns about contaminating the timeline."

Mike: "My first trip would be back to see Apollo 11 go to the moon. I'd want to be where I can see it launch and then watch the footage as it happens on TV."

CV Rick: "With all these possibilities, I have to go with my own curiosity. I would go back four thousand years and find out just what the hell those nutty islanders were doing with Stonehenge, and how it looked when it was maintained."

But if my friend were to persuade me to take a ride in the Wayback (or Way-forward) Machine, I think I'd like to visit when and where my parents grew up - New York City in the 1940's."

Unfocused Me:
"Stay home? Are you kidding? This is the opportunity of a lifetime! See important historical events, resolve debates, maybe even engage in a well-placed assassination or two!"

"If I only get one trip, it would be to go to Florence, Italy in 1504. Florence was clean and new. I'd use various disguises so I could experience it all."

I must say I was surprised by the level of caution exhibited by some of you about changing history. While it's true that many a science fiction plot, from "The City on the Edge of Forever" to "Back to the Future," has shown disastrous results, somehow I thought you guys would be willing to ignore or explain away the dangers. I will leave you with words of wisdom on the subject from two veteran time travelers:

"Tell you what, then, don't step on any butterflies. What have butterflies ever done to you?" - The Doctor

"The future is whatever you make it - so make it a good one!" - Doctor Emmett L Brown

I'll be back in a bit with the new Weekend Assignment. Hmm, now which one shall I....


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Thwarted Attempt to Sleep

I just finished reading a rather good Doctor Who novel by Gary Russell, when I meant to be taking a nap. I'm going to bed now. If I wake up during the night, I'll write a proper entry. I've been having trouble getting to sleep lately, even when I finally made it to bed. I therefore need this 11 PM attempt, really need it.

But I walked the dog again, and I finally solved my King Jor problem with the succession, more or less. I'll write up a quick note now before I forget what I had in mind.

As one of my Away messages says, it's "Nap time! Catch you later."


Update: Since posting this I've had a continuous, major allergy attack, which so far isn't impressed by the taking of two Benedryl. It's so bad that now, half an hour after taking the pills, my right ear is ringing and the left one is popping. See? Even when I try to be good, it doesn't work! But the succession note has been typed up, a Rani scene tweaked, and Cathma's family tree researched and discovered to be wrong. How can a fictional family tree be wrong? Simple. I've got her father related to Shela instead of her mother. Queen Genva's connection to the lord of Odamas is crucial to the plot of more than one book, so I made a note there, too.

Maybe a bath will clear my sinuses and my lungs. Off I go to try that.

(Only Some) Promises Kept

The scene outside McDonald's this morning

My little sidebar project has now turned into a major database creation project, the better to keep track of Robins through blog changes and name changes and life changes. It'll be worth it in the long run, but tonight I've barely gotten started, creating an Excel doc that so far has participants from the first six Challenges back in 2005 and the most recent eight Challenges in 2007-8. It's interesting, seeing who first turned up back near the very beginning, some of whom are still active today.

It's eaten up my evening, though. Well, that and the apples. And the dog. And the thing with my Dad.

There's a scene in Heirs of Mâvarin with the following text:

Del’s party of selmûnen and tengremen was almost to Mâshelamar. Farmers’ fields gave way to cultivated forests of oak and maple and orchards of apple trees in neat rows. When evening came they set up camp in one such orchard, outside Pomlebeth, where the humans dined on venison and roasted apples. Del wondered how so many apples could be ripe this early in the season. Then he noticed that nearly all of them passed through the hands of Gar Nabil first, and knew that selmûn magic was involved.
(Heirs of Mâvarin by KFB, page 249)

That got me wondering exactly how early in the season it actually was. I dug up the Word document that converts key dates from Mâvarin terminology to English equivalents, and read that the book starts on July 5th. This scene takes place a week later, on the 12th. Peak apple season, I read online tonight, is not until September, so mid-July is very, very early to expect ripe apples. When I was in junior high and high school, I used to eat several varieties of apples from branches grafted onto the apple tree in our back yard in Manlius. Seems to me I started doing that as early as July, but the summer apples were tart and sour, like a Granny Smith only smaller and less moist. That's sort of what I'm going for in the scene, that the apples are like that until magically ripened; but I may be pushing my luck with July. I may have to go with August, and change 40 or so chapters from the various books to accommodate the change. Well, maybe I'll leave it in July. Meanwhile, though, I had a good time reading about New York State apples online, got emotional for a moment upon reading the name of a familiar Central New York grower, and very nearly set off for Safeway for a Granny Smith or two. Didn't get a lot of writing in, I'm sorry to say.

And yes, as promised, I walked the dog.

Tuffy loved it of course. Me, I had a backache by the time we returned from what was actually a fairly short walk. That's why I need to do it. It's vital to start getting the exercise I've neglected for two or three years. But I have to start with something relatively easy. Hence the dogwalking.

Sent to my dad: pictures from the local railroad museum

When I got back I called my Dad, to get his take on the primary. He's leaning toward Hillary right now, and I'm leaning toward Obama, although I told Hillary's robocall survey the other night that my current choice was Edwards. I have less than a week to decide! But anyway, talking to my Dad reminded me that I promised him photos from my Round Robin railroad shoot two weeks ago. (He's past president of a railroad museum). So I spent an hour or so filling an email with eighteen large photos, including three from Dillinger Days. I hope Ruth's email server and online connection can handle it!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I just spent the last three hours updating my "Active Robins" list on my sidebar. (I'll have to leave any work on the one in the Round Robin blog for tomorrow night.) I accidentally saved just before adding the last person, which kept me from properly counting the names being added. But I think it came to a total of five veteran Robins who became active again in recent months, and another eighteen who started participating since I last bothered to update the list. Wow! And there were at least three people listed twice before, two of whom, if I recall correctly, haven't posted a RRPC entry in the past six months. What a mess! But it's better now, and you folks finally get some well-deserved linky goodness.

Why did it take me so long to do this? The short answer is that I'm terribly lazy about stuff like that. Give me photos to edit or an entry or article to write and I'll happily slog away at it for hours. But blog housekeeping duties? Not so much. I wouldn't be at all surprised if I have blogs listed on my sidebar that haven't had a new entry in a year. I don't like taking people off my sidebar, so rather than checking things out properly I tend to let it slide. The only reason I finally faced up to it tonight, aside from the fact that it fit in with the vague idea I had for tonight's entry, is my desire to acknowledge all the wonderful Robins who have come along recently, and the early Robins who migrated out long ago, only to fly in this winter and snatch up a juicy new Challenge or two. (Yes, I know. Annoying metaphor, ain't it? I'll stop now.)

But it's got me thinking about the advantages of steady effort, and my usual failure to take advantage of them. The Round Robin blog's sidebar I try to keep up with at the time of each Challenge, and although there are some errors and omissions it's not nearly the mess that my personal list was. I should update the church's new blog every week, not every two or three weeks. I should do dishes every night, rather than wait until we're out of forks. I should start walking the dog every night, as a prelude to getting back to the gym. I should put books away as soon as I finish looking something up. I should spend ten minutes a day cleaning my desk. But I don't do any of that. Not on a regular basis, anyway. Whatever it is I'm up to tonight always seems more urgent, more rewarding and fun. Then suddenly it's time for bed, and then some.

I know I can do better than this. I got through all that homework in late 2002-early 2005 to finally get my bachelor's degree, in accounting, yet, while working full time. Before that I wrote 1100 manuscript pages of Mages of Mâvarin in something like two and a half years, all but about 30 pages of it new stuff, taking only two nights off in all that time (one to have my gall bladder out, the other on suicide watch). I lost 70 pounds once, long, long ago.

Maybe if I tackle one thing successfully, I'll get in the right mindset to make a steady effort in other areas. I've only missed on night this year on the novel, for example. That's, well, not fabulous, but it's a start, even though some nights it was only for fifteen minutes at the end of the night. I'm on page 247 of the Heirs edit. That's got to count for something. And hey! I updated the sidebar!

Okay, okay. As I head off to bed in five minutes, I'll take a moment to at least put some dishes away. And tomorrow evening, Tuffy gets a walk! Feel free to nag me if you see me online, and I haven't announced my fulfillment of this little plan on Twitter or AIM.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Monday Photo Shoot: What's in the Box?

For the next Monday Photo Shoot, let's take our cameras indoors for something a little different:

New Monday Photo Shoot #5:
Somewhere in your home is at least one box you haven't opened a while. Open it up and show us what's in it!

Casa Blocher, the Museum of the Weird, is full of boxes. Some of it is stuff waiting to be sorted into the categories Keep, Sell, Give Away, Trash and Recycle. Some of it is to be disposed of Over Karen's Dead Body, or at least only after considerable grief and negotiation. The rest is fairly non-controversially to be kept, if only we had a better place to put it.

This particular box happens to be at the top of a stack of boxes in the den. A clue to its contents can be seen in this first photo, but I didn't notice when I selected it. Let's have a look!

Ah. Magazines. But what sort? Science Fiction? Media? Disney?

No, it's the Beatles! The Newsweek, sadly, is from December 1980. They're not all from that era, are they?

Marvel, People, some tribute magazines, clippings (including a Playboy interview with Allen Klein) ... some are definitely from the wave of post-assassination publications, some definitely not.

Here are some samples: a 1977 Crawdaddy interview with George, a November 1980 profile of John in Esquire, a Yoko Ono interview in a New Age magic magazine, Musician profiles Ringo, and People looks back at the British Invasion. Good stuff! And there are a few non-Beatles items in there too, including husband John's high school diploma. Yep, this is definitely a Keep box.

Your turn! Find me a box, open it up, and photograph some or all of the contents. Is it full of books? Jewelry? 1980s clothing? Baby toys? Old photos? You tell me! Post your pictures to your journal or blog, and come back here and leave a link. I'll share your finds with the world next Sunday night/Monday morning.


MPS Results: Found, Up in the Sky!

What did people find in the sky to photograph for last week's Monday Photo Shoot? Let's see:

Carly: Fireworks!

Julie: Chinaberries!

Martha: a kite surfer's kite!

Gina: Geese (and more)!

Kiva: the moon, just before moonset and sunrise!

A nice variety this week. Thanks folks! The new Monday Photo Shoot will be posted shortly.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Round Robin (Part Two): Over, Under, Behind and Through

Here, as promised, is my follow-up entry on Tucson landmarks. I'm not actually going to show you all the famous ones; for one thing, I've covered some of them in the Round Robin "Railroad" entries, the Dillinger entry, the Monday Photo Shoot and in a few entries last summer when I had jury duty. No, tonight I want to show you two more interesting bridges, another shot of an historic hotel, and some odd, non-landmarky-sights I stumbled across two weeks ago, trying to get back to the Historic Depot after crossing the Diamondback Bridge. First off: one sight filmed from the car on the way downtown that day:

As far as I can tell, the Lizard Bridge (don't know that that's the name, but what else could it be?) isn't open yet. It doesn't seem to actually go anywhere. If I had to guess, I'd say it's another pedestrian bridge from the guy who designed our friend the giant snake. It's visible from the highway I take downtown, the one that comes out just a few feet from the Diamondback Bridge. I've never figured out where the lizard bridge might be in terms of surface streets.

That day when I reached downtown, I turned onto a detour that looked as though it might get me through the construction to the rail station. It didn't work. (Looking at a map now, I see it was probably Stevens Ave., off Fourth Ave.) Between me and the depot, as seen above, were a fence, heavy equipment in a rather dangerous-looking construction site, and the railroad tracks. Up ahead, the road dead-ended suddenly. I asked a local for directions, but her suggestions were what I would have tried next anyway. But I made friends with her dog, so it was worth the effort.

The Historic Depot is on Toole Ave., across the street from the Hotel Congress, built in 1919. Last weekend I told you about the hotel's must infamous guest, John Dillinger, who was captured in Tucson a few days after staying there. It's a National Historic Landmark. The place is still very 1920s inside, but it's also the hub of the local music scene, and the coffee shop has great food in a surprising variety. When I tried to eat there two weeks ago, the hostess asked whether I was there "for the storytelling," for which all the tables were reserved. I sat at the bar instead, ate hummus and chatted with the bartender. But all that was after the walk. Let's get back to it!

From the Hotel Congress and the rail station I made my way down another street under construction, passed some zombies, and turned left onto Broadway. I tried to photograph some murals based on old pictures of people walking downtown, but I'm not happy with the results. Besides, I'm saving those for another entry. Eventually I got through the crosswalks and under the Diamondback Bridge itself to get to the footpath marked with this turquoise-colored railing. It took me up past this interesting old building on a bit of hillside, up to the Diamondback tail and the bridge's entrance.

As I mentioned last night, the other end of the bridge empties out onto a long pedestrian footpath. Eventually I got to the end of this and out onto a street - the same one I'd been on earlier, where I'd seen the Historic Depot from behind! I followed a detour sign and found myself in the Iron Horse neighborhood, obviously named for the nearby railroad.

Following a sign for a bike route to downtown led me to more back streets, viewing the seamy side of several landmarks from behind. This building, for example, apparently belongs to the Old Pueblo Trolley, which goes up and down Fourth Street, Tucson's student/counterculture district. In the yard here were two or three derelict trolleys. I don't know whether they were to be refurbished, scrapped, or stripped for parts.

Still following the railroad tracks, trying to get through at one of Tucson's old bridges, I passed a couple of fenced enclosures containing old railroad cars. At least I think that's what they all were. Several were heavily and artistically tagged with colorful graffiti. One was wrapped in yellow plastic, as if to cover up an obscene word or image from the graffiti peeking out at the edges.

There are two or three interesting old bridges/underpasses downtown, and I can never quite get a handle on which is which, or why going north takes me onto one of them, and going south leads me to another. I think only one of them is actually one way. The detour I was on forced me past the Fourth Ave. one, but let me onto the Sixth Ave. one, which may or may not be the same bridge I used to drive through onto Stone Avenue. I kind of think that's a third bridge. A policeman who testified at the DUI trial when I was on jury duty last summer called it "the Chute."

This was the first time I covered one of these underpasses on foot! I really like the look of this old tunnel, despite the graffito and the water damage.

After going through it, I went over it. Note that some of the globes on the elderly streetlamps have been vandalized, or maybe just broken.

From there it was only a block or two back to the rail station. I ate at Hotel Congress, took a few shots of the depot at dusk as my camera batteries started to give out, and headed home.


Round Robin (Part One): Crossing the Snake

Yes, it's Round Robin time again! This week's topic, Landmarks, comes to us from RRPC co-founder Carly of the blog Ellipsis.

Tonight and tomorrow night I'll be posting some of the photos I took in downtown Tucson over the past couple of weeks, but held back until now. This entry is all about one specific landmark; tomorrow I'll be covering two very different examples of the same kind of structure, and a few other landmarks along the way.

Those of you who saw the announcement entry for the "Landmarks" Challenge have already seen a piece of the thing I'll be showing you tonight. But what is it? Can you tell?

That's only a small part of it. Perhaps if you see the whole thing at once, it will be a little clearer what it is:

(I've uploaded larger-than-usual versions of this photo and a few others on, so feel free to doubleclick for a closer look!)

Still not terribly clear, is it? Unfortunately, I've never found a really good vantage point for photographing the whole structure. Trees and traffic signals get in the way. But how about if I zoom in on the other end of the thing? That should identify it for sure!

Yes, it's a snake, a giant snake made of steel and concrete. To be specific, it's the Diamondback footbridge that crosses Broadway Blvd, immediately east of downtown Tucson, Arizona.

Our Diamondback undulates over cars and concrete, near appropriate desert landscaping.

It even looks snakelike from underneath, although a real snake would find this position precarious, if not downright impossible.

The Diamondback Bridge is more artistic than functional. Few pedestrians have any reason to cross it, except as exercise. To get to it from the south you have to climb up this path, and turn right at the rattle. To get to it from downtown you have to walk several blocks (as I did), and through a few ground level crosswalks. But that's hardly the point, is it? One doesn't really cross this bridge to get to the other side. One crosses it because it's part of a fun and pretty walk that quickly leaves the downtown traffic behind.

Here, for example, is a guy out walking his puppy. Don't tell Animal Control, but the puppy's not on a leash!

Once you get across Broadway, the bridge dumps you inevitably onto a pedestrian footpath with no obvious exit to either side:

Two weeks ago when I took these photos, I followed this path at least half a mile, finally exiting onto a quiet residential street in an historic neighborhood. I was very close to the old rail depot, but on the wrong side of the tracks, with construction in between. What I saw on the rest of that long, interesting walk I leave to your imagination - until tomorrow night!

A quick note of explanation to those of you who may be new to the Round Robin Photo Challenges: Unlike the Weekend Assignment and the Monday Photo Shoot, the RRPC is once every two weeks rather than weekly, and the topic is announced in advance for a specific posting date. You can post up to six days late, but for maximum traffic to your blog we recommend posting on the announced day. For further details, please see our Welcome Entry. We've been delighted to see lots of new Robins joining us recently., but there's always room for you!

Now go see what the other Robins have found for this week's Challenge:

Linking List

Carly - POSTED!

Karen - POSTED!
Outpost Mâvarin

Sandra - POSTED!
Strong Chemistry

Betty (canceled due to illness and a death in the family)
Biker Betty

Jill - POSTED!
Letting Crazy Take A Spin

Martha - POSTED!

Lisa - POSTED!
Lisa's Chaos

Sandy- POSTED!

Shorty ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!
I Couldn't Help Myself

Gattina - POSTED!
Keyhole Pictures

Life is Like a Lunchbox

Rachel ***Welcome New Member***
Rachel Schell, Spokane Photographer

Janet - POSTED!

Vicki - POSTED!

Kim ***Welcome New Member***
Rainy Day Diamonds

Marie - POSTED!
Photographs & Memories

Chris-seas Corner

It's all about me!

Robinella ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!
Robin's Nest

Janet ***Welcome New Member***
From The Planet Of Janet

Suzanne R - POSTED!
Living . . . Suzanne R's Life

Nancy - POSTED!
Nancy Luvs Pix

Pamela ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!
The Dust Will Wait

Nekked Lizard Adventures

Duane - POSTED!
Life, the Universe and Everything

Gina - POSTED!
Gina's Space

Momma***Welcome New Member***
Sandcastle Momma - POSTED!

Molly ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!
Return of the White Robin

Sarah - POSTED!
Charish Me

Kiva - POSTED!
Ecletic Granny

Jama Hameed ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!
A Moment In Time

Jennie ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!

More about the bridge:

Our Metal-bending Work - Snake Bridge, Tucson AZ

'Basket Bridge' is missing link | ®

Tucson region receives ‘Gold Award’ as bicycle friendly community


Friday, January 25, 2008

Weekend Assignment #200: When Are You Going?

Here we are at a milestone: the 200th-ever Weekend Assignment. John Scalzi assigned the first 196 of them, which makes me very much the new kid still in that respect. I've been participating since Weekend Assignment #7, though. In honor of the 200th in the series, I'm going with a topic that's been on my mind since high school, over 30 years ago.

Weekend Assignment #200: You've recently become friends with someone who unexpectedly reveals that he or she has a time machine, all tested out and ready for adventures. Your friend offers you one round trip to anywhere, anywhen, backwards or forwards in time. What's your destination? Or would you rather just stay home?

Extra Credit: The first trip is so wildly successful that your friend offers you one more trip, this time in the opposite direction. When are you going this time?

Okay, so it's not the most original topic evah. Scalzi actually wrote a time travel assignment, back on February 24, 2005; but its focus was a bit different, limited as it was to witnessing an historical event. Also, for Weekend Assignment #100, he asked for future facts about yourself. And I gave time travel-related answers to a few topics that weren't really designed for that, including the first Weekend Assignment I ever wrote about. Nevertheless, I think there's enough play here for some fun entries, especially from the science fiction fans among you.

As for me, if I only get one trip, I'm going for the sure thing, something I know I can see on a specific day, and that will have emotional resonance. That all boils down to one key word for me:


We know what the Beatles were up to, day by day in 1962.

Thanks to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn and others, we know where the Beatles were and roughly what they were doing pretty much every day from 1961 on, and a lot of days before that. With my friend's help I could arrange to visit the Garden Fete at St. Peter's Church, Woolton on Saturday, 6 July, 1957, just in time to see John Lennon meet Paul McCartney for the first time. Skipping over the Quarry Men and Silver Beatles eras, and their Hamburg gigs at the Indra Club and the Kaiserkeller in 1960, I could zero in on Thursday, 9 February, 1961 at lunchtime, when John, Paul, George and Pete, unadvertised, played the Cavern Club for the first time as Beatles.

But I think I'd have to go for Sunday, 19 August, 1962, their first Cavern appearance with Ringo instead of Pete Best. The following Wednesday, the 22nd, Beatles were again at the Cavern Club, appearing before television cameras for the first time as they performed Some Other Guy. Maybe my friend would let me stick around for that session, too.

For a trip to the future, of course, I can't look up the most likely date and place in advance. I would skip the next fifty years or so, on the grounds that there's a good chance I'll see that chunk of the future in the normal course of events. Too far forward, though, there's a chance the planet isn't there any more, or is uninhabitable. Assuming my friend has already done some exploring, I think I'd simply ask him (or her, but I think it's him) to surprise me.

So how about it? Travel in time in your mind, or, at least plan the trip! Write it up in your blog or journal, and come back here and leave a link to your entry in the comments. (A link to this entry in your blog would also be appreciated.) Then stop back in a week to see what everyone else came up with.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Weekend Assignment Results: Searching for Sleep

For "Weekend Assignment #199: When Do You Sleep?", I asked everyone what their weekday sleep schedules looks like, and whether it adds up to adequate sleep. By and large, the answer appears to be "not so much":

Becky: "In this house it's 'sleep when ever the opportunity arises.'"

Carly: "I am sleeping really well these days, especially since last summer, when I set about changing my sleeping schedule 360 degrees."

Mike: "No matter what I do though I am usually tired and cranky by the end of the week."

Barbara left here response in the comment thread. Here it is in full: "I am not going to play just comment. I would be a night owl if it wasn't for family and work. I used to be a night owl and felt great,got a lot done too. Now I get up early and go to bed early, boring but effective for me."

Saqib: "When I am bound to a work schedule I find that “early to bed, early to rise” is the best policy."

Vicki: "We have a love/hate relationship, sleep and I."

Arachne Jericho
: "I treat Ambien like the ambrosia it deserves to be."

: "I work second shift and usually stay up most of the night, then sleep until it's time to get up and get ready for work -- usually around the crack of noon."

Unfocused Me: "Short answer: my sleep schedule is unhealthy and likely to lead to heart disease and unsightly wrinkles."

Bea leaves her response in comments also: "I sleep between 11:00pm and 5:15 a.m during the school week. I don't ever stay asleep, though. I do stay in bed when I wake up because I don't want to wake up any further, and I generally fall back asleep. I think my snoring keeps me awake... that is, when I snore, I wake up. I used to think it was my husband snoring, but it's me! delightful discovery. I take naps on the weekends to make up for my lack of sleep during teh week. You on the other hand need more sleep. Day or night, you are not getting enough Zzzzz's!"

: "On weekday mornings, my alarm is set for 4:30, so staying in bed until after the sun comes up feels like a luxury."

: "I usually set my goal to be in bed by 1am, and usually make it by about 2am... except for those occasional nights when I just can't seem to quiet my mind to sleep."

: "My sleep patterns are determined by my dog, my husband, the project I'm working on, and deadlines."

It's good to see I'm not alone in having sleep issues, but even better to see that a few people here get it right, and have good tips to pass on. And just a thought: why does it seem as though the morning people are more disciplined about it than us night owls? Or is it that the daytime world is more compatible with that schedule? I'll have to think about that one.

Thanks, everyone! Weekend Assignment #200 (!) should be posted in an hour or so.


We Love Our Internet - But Sometimes, Not So Much

Soothing image #4866

Tonight's online time-wasting has been slightly different from most nights' time-wasting:

1. We need the form to get the form. John discovered that he never got his car registration renewal notice in the mail. In Arizona that's essentially the new registration itself, except that it's not valid until marked as paid. In practice that means that either you go wait in line at the MVD, mail it in and wait for a new copy to arrive by mail with tags attached, or go online and take care of it, print out a receipt, and wait for a new one to arrive by mail with tags attached.

The online renewal option, from a site called, is generally efficient and painless, but not in this particular instance. Because John doesn't have the renewal, he's worried about going to the emissions place without the renewal. and without the emissions printout, he can't register online and get the new registration form. I navigated ServiceArizona for a while on his behalf, but basically he's going to have to let the emissions people take his info from the old registration. He'll be fine, really. But the online portion of the process was a bit Catch-22ish tonight.

2. Wikipedia is depressing me these days. First there was a push to delete "nonfree" images (any image the copyright holder hasn't released into the wild) unless they had some sort of fair use explanation attached to the article or the image. Then it had to be attached to the image. Then it had to say certain things in a way that a software bot can read it. Then it needed a separate one for each use in an article, with the article name attached. Then the article name had to be written in a specific place so the bots would see it. And now, even if one goes through all those hoops, there are people looking to delete as many fair use images as possible anyway, based on the strictest possible interpretation of guidelines. So I've been trying to fix the images I uploaded, but I'm sure I've missed a few here and there. And meanwhile, every day some article I watch has an image deleted because whoever uploaded it isn't on Wikipedia anymore, or doesn't care enough to jump through the hoops, or because someone or some bot accidentally deleted something that did have a valid fair use rationale. Suddenly there's no picture of Madeleine L'Engle, Annette Funicello, the Mickey Mouse Club logo, and on and on. The only image on each of various Doctor Who episode articles is falling daily, almost unnoticed. Debate rages about whether an article about the Doctor is allowed to have one tiny image of the Fourth Doctor as part of a changing faces montage, and a second image as part of a detailed discussion of the Doctor's changing tastes in clothing, most notably the long scarf he used to famously wear. And the Back to the Future Timeline just survived another challenge to its existence. Honestly, it feels like the forces of repression and paranoia are out to strip Wikipedia of anything remotely informative or fun. That's not quite what's happening, but it feels that way. Last night I uploaded a "free" image of the Hotel Congress to Wikipedia. Try to clamp down on that, anti-image warriors!

And remember all the stuff I wrote nearly a year and a half ago, when a certain person made my Wikilife miserable for months on end, saying horrible things to me and others for not wanting him to turn the Disemvoweling article into an attack on the technique and its inventor? After a year of peace, that's all started up again, too. This time, somebody else with an axe to grind is trying to claim that the technique (which consists of taking all the vowels out of someone's comments) is used to stifle dissent. The problem is, the example given, according to the moderator, at least, is actually about making rudeness harder to read. And now the person who called me names throughout that previous dispute has turned up again to spew more bile. Frankly, I'm not even going to read what he wrote this time, much less try to negotiate with him and this other person. Lt smn ls dl wth t fr chng. I feel a little guilty about that, but I can't face the aggravation again.

3. Please log in again, even if we make it impossible. I tried to pay bills online the other night. Most of them were no problem, but one well-known credit card bank's web site said the site was unavailable, and to try again later. So I tried again tonight. I was redirected to a page that said my login had timed out, and to login again. So I clicked the login link, and was sent to a page that said my login had timed out, and to login again. This wonderfully frustrating time loop took place no matter how I tried to get to the login screen. I even deleted two cookies for that bank, whereupon the page got hung up in and endless loop and wouldn't load at all. And the asp still said my login had timed out.

Then I went to the site using IE instead of Firefox and got right in. D'oh!

Enough. The more I work on this entry, the more annoyed I get. Time for bed!


Wednesday, January 23, 2008


New Mexico side trip, 2006. The smudges are...well, I'm not sure.

I'm getting antsy, and I think I know why. Getting out of my rut of driving between home and work long enough for a couple trips downtown has reminded me that there are other places I'm like to go, places I can't visit and return from in a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon. I realized when I wrote about Wyatt Earp a week ago that I haven't been to Tombstone, AZ in at least fifteen years, and it's not all that far away. I haven't seen the Grand Canyon since the early 1990s. My solo trip to New Mexico to see my godson and do a little exploring was in April 2006. I didn't even get to Disneyland last year.

And that's all trivial compared to the longer trips I long for: Cleveland to see my brother, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and A Christmas Story House; Wilmington NC to see my dad and maybe visit the Smokies for the first time in a couple decades; Hawaii, where I've only ever seen Oahu, and that for only 3 days including jetlag; and Great Britain, where I'd like to get well beyond London and Liverpool this time.

Farther out, even more inaccessible for reasons of time and money, I've always wanted to visit Kenya and Greece and Australia and New Zealand. I used to read books like Born Free and The Lion, and pore over books about mammals of the world. I may still have a travel poster for Australia that I painted in junior high. Heck, I want to see it all: the whole world. There and Back Again, of course, but the There part is more of a problem than the Back Again.

But I'm less than six months into a new job, and I'm not entitled to time off yet. The company has a PTO (Paid Time Off) system, something I never heard of until the temp job I had last summer. Even if I had the money, I don't have time to get very far.

Nevertheless, over President's Day weekend I'll be at Gallifrey One, the Los Angeles Doctor Who convention. I'll probably rent a car to spare my own, and drive the eight hours each way all by myself for once. It's well worth it to get the heck out of Tucson for a few days. I love the place, but I'm going stir crazy here.

Once I get there I'll have to skip Disneyland and memorabilia shopping in Hollywood. There's just no time for that, or a side trip to the beach, or that movie cowboy museum, or the Guy Williams memorial bench at one of the missions. Those things will all have to do without me until some future vacation, when money and time are both more plentiful.

Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy and India Fisher, 2004

But at least I'm going to Gallifrey. Okay, I'm not really visiting the Doctor's home planet. Showrunner Russell T Davies destroyed it with his keyboard anyway. But I'll be among Doctor Who writers and actors and fans, a few of whom may even vaguely remember me from the 1990s when I used to attend the con every year, and was writing the Doctor Who trading cards. All I'll have to do is get out of that other rut that holds me back: my shyness.


Sunset at the Rio Grande, 2006.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Caught in the Act!

Mostly just pictures tonight, so I can go to bed earlier. Also, there's not much to be said about these shots. I knew that Tuffy did this, but this is the first time I've actually caught her at it, especially on camera. I had just given her a dog biscuit. She really wanted it, but not to eat. Not just then, anyway:

Step 1: Dig a hole in the yard, which John has recently dug up for leveling.

Step 2: Nose the dog biscuit into the new hole.

Step 3. With nose and paw, cover up the hole.

Step 4: Display a dirty snout while begging for more.

Step 6: Repeat until the humans stop giving out biscuits.

In other news, I arranged today to work late for eight days in February so I can take Friday the 15th of February off from work. That's the first day of Gallifrey One, the L.A. convention I used to attend every year until money and year-end accounting pressures made it all but impossible for me. In the old days I used to go with friends, but Tracy's dead and Teresa doesn't live here any more. John doesn't want to attend, so this year I'm going alone. Unless...are YOU going too?

On the writing front, yes, I'm still working on the Heirs edit. I'm on Chapter 5, page 205. It's mostly little wording issues at the moment, no dramatic changes; but I have rooted out some awkward text from the distant past. It kind of surprises me that there's any of that stuff left!


Monday Photo Shoot: Look! Up in the Sky!

I've considered three different ideas for this week's Monday Photo Shoot, and took one or more photos for all of them. The one we're going with is similar to a couple of old Scalzi MPS topics, but not quite the same. I'll explain about that in a moment:

New Monday Photo Shoot #4: Show us something in the sky. It can be clouds or colors or birds or planes or planets or flying pigs - anything at all, really, just as long as it's visually interesting.

John Scalzi's very first Monday Photo Shoot was Sunsets, and he also did Blue Skies, Cloudy Days and In Flight. None of those concepts are off limits for this one, but if you can find something that doesn't fit these categories, so much the better.

Here's mine:

When I set out for Subway this afternoon, I noticed these three jet trails, heading off in three different directions. It struck me as odd that the third one was much thinner than the others, and turned at that big angle. There was no sign of any actual jets, although I live near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Heading home with John's salad, I saw many more bands of white crisscrossing the sky. It was hard to tell what was man made and what was actually clouds.

Your turn! Let's see something that's floating, flying, or hanging in, coloring, churning, filling, or piercing a sky near you! Post the picture to your blog, and come back here and leave a link in comments. I'll post the results on Sunday night the 27th.


MPS Results: Have You Been Downtown Lately?

The building in downtown Tucson with zombies on the side.
You can see why I couldn't get a good angle on the mural!

For last week's Monday Photo Shoot, I asked you to show us a sight from wherever passes for "downtown" where you are. The crop of responses was thin but delightfully varied:

Julie comes up with a clock and a pub in downtown Plano, and explains the town's strange name.

Martha shows us a garden and a unique museum in downtown Sarasota.

Carly goes all out, with shots of her beloved San Francisco, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, and the heart of the Haight/Ashbury district.

And, last but most unusual of all,

Laura gives us Albany and New York City by air!

Thanks, ladies! I've been a little discouraged about the future of the Monday Photo Shoot, but your entries have kept it alive.

The new MPS topic will be posted shortly, as soon as I figure out what it is.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

More Stories About Buildings and Food

This title popped into my head earlier this evening. It's not entirely appropriate, but it's a Talking Heads reference and I'm going with it. So there.

Vintage vehicles in front of the Historic Depot

For the second Saturday in a row, I headed downtown to Toole Avenue today, camera in hand, to bring back photos for you folks from a locale that's uniquely Tucson. This time the primary destination was not the historic train depot but the building across from it, Hotel Congress, which opened in 1919.

John Dillinger reminisces for a modern audience.

Having determined last night that the John Dillinger reenactment was today, I decided to try to photograph it. I didn't set my alarm, though, and woke up late enough this afternoon that I only reached the Hotel Congress a minute or two after "Dillinger" began to address the crowd. I know this because I heard shots fired right after I left the parking lot just north of the train station.

Dillinger breaks the fourth wall as his gang is frozen in time.

The crowd was substantial, and with my late arrival I couldn't see a thing at first, although the actors were miked and I could hear just fine. I shifted around until I could see a little bit, and then resorted to holding the camera over my head and pointing down slightly. This actually did get me some usable photos, along with dozens of pictures of people's backs. Of the 152 shots I had when I got home, I probably deleted about 40, which is highly unusual for me. I also recorded a few brief films, but had trouble seeing the "standby" indicator. I consequently shot a couple minutes of upside down footage of someone's legs, and stopped recording just as I reached the only moment when I had a clear view of anything, as a car drove away from a bank robbery. D'oh!

Dillinger's portrayer talks shop with "Don Diamond."

The script was pretty good, a mixture of real history, character study, soliloquy and local humor. The guy who played Dillinger spoke to the crowd as if from beyond the grave, knowing what the rest of his life had been like after his Tucson arrest, and explaining the context of it all to the modern-day audience. One bit that was played partly for laughs was an exchange between Dillinger and a savvy shoeshine boy. Paying in advance for the next day's shines, the gang leader asks the boy's name, and advises him to invest in land because "nobody can steal it from you - unless you're an Indian." The boy's name is given as Don Diamond, a legendary land speculator who was active in Tucson for a good chunk of the 20th century. He was only six years old when Dillinger came to town in 1934, but what the heck.

The performances were mostly excellent. (The two cop characters in the robbery sequence were a bit broad.) I looked at reproduced photos of Dillinger and gang member Harry Pierpont inside the hotel afterward, and the casting was very good visually as well as in terms of the acting itself.

After the reenactment I photographed a bunch of the vintage cars that were parked nearby as part of the event, but had a bit of trouble with backlighting. Then I ate at the hotel cafe again, sitting at the bar and chatting just a little with the bartender there. This time I had lamb medallions with mango sauce, and afterward brought John a hummus plate like the one I had there last week. Good stuff!

Then I headed over to the train station to read the Wyatt Earp plaque and photograph the statues again. By this time it was 6 PM, though, and conditions were not good for taking those shots. It was too dark to photograph Doc and Wyatt effectively without flash, and with flash the statues were way too light and odd looking. Oh, well.

As with last week, I could come up with a bunch more words and pictures, but I won't. I'm still working out exactly what I'm saving up for which future entries!

(See also below for my stop-gap entry on this subject.)