Lessons from our 2016 vacation

In late July 2016 (about two months ago) my family took what might be our last vacation as a single nuclear family, heading across California and then up the west coast into Oregon. All told we spent 14 days on the road and traveled just shy of 4000 miles.

Here’s some of what we learned, in approximate order of occurrence:

We learned that the Salton Sea is ringed with a layer of dead fish – and all the magic that comes with that.

In Bishop, California we learned that if you’re not in town before 9pm on a Sunday night, your choice for dinner is Denny’s.

We learned that Yosemite National Park is aswarm through July with bugs; that they are more paranoid about bears than Yellowstone (we were asked to put even our toiletries in bear lockers); that by 11 am, Yosemite valley is flooded with tourists, like Las Vegas/Disneyland densities; that stocking the lakes with trout decimated the local frog population – which aggravates the mosquito problem, that the rangers make really strong coffee, that Tuolumne Meadows – where we camped – has one of the few general stores that is less than an hour’s hike from the Pacific Coast Trail – so consequently it was often filled to overflowing with backpackers; and that Glacier Point is totally worth the drive.

We also learned in Yosemite how our 2009 Hyundai Veracruz handles twisty mountain roads (decently, to our fortune). This sort of driving would turn out to be the rule rather than the exception.

We learned we really, really like our Veracruz for this sort of expedition. The only drawback is that there is an electric motor for every damn thing, and when they fail, the thing fails. Our sun-roof is now sealed with duct tape because it locked up without quite closing. We also learned that no one on the internet seems to know anything about the sun-roof on this particular model.

We learned from Penny’s relations in San Jose that it is possible to become just as trapped by high real estate prices as by low real estate prices.

We learned that the John Muir Woods are overrun by local joggers, and you can’t just expect to park there and look around.

We learned that Point Reyes National Seashore is a worthwhile detour, even though your best hop is at least five hours, and that it is riddled with hiking trails and fearless deer.

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Bongo (and the rest of the family) at Point Reyes National Seashore

We learned that the California coastal redwood is the tallest tree in North America, but it’s inland relation, the Sequoia, is the largest by mass.

As the highway leaves any small town, and goes down to a single lane, you will find yourself behind the ubiquitous LTDS = Local Truck Driven Slowly.

We learned that you can BBQ oysters, and that you can make them into a hamburger.

The the southern coast of Oregon is beautiful in every direction; and that nothing ever really dries there. Ever.

Ben learned that hammocks are defenseless against mist.

We learned that the ocean is colder than the rivers.

Penny and I discovered that we could be totally happy living in Coos Bay, Oregon – if we could find a way to make a living with our big city skill sets. (More a problem for me than Penny).

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Bongo in Empire, OR, which may or may not be a part of Coos Bay.

 

We learned that you can’t take a bad picture of Crater Lake, but you can spend more in their snack bar than we did in a Lost Coast tourist restaurant and I had oysters and whisky on the Lost Coast.

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Bongo at Crater Lake National Park

We learned that by day 10, your teenage kids are totally OK with you leaving them in the hotel for a few hours in order to have a couple drinks in a local bar. Totally OK. “Go on, you guys. Have fun. We’re fine.

We learned that 850 miles is perilously close to the most you can drive in a crowded van without everyone losing their mind.

We learned that you can spend $100 in Farrell’s Ice Cream Shoppe, and still not really enjoy yourself. This has nothing to do with the food quality or the service. It has to do with the over-sized portions of everything, and – yes – the cost.

We learned that even when it’s 100F in LA, our kids still want to go to an amusement park.

We learned that two straight weeks of vacation is long enough.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1qb-Uw4C46eJCMGwqBSMbHv7hWFY&usp=sharing

 

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It all depends upon expectations

Every 18-24 year old male in the United States will likely undergo that time-honored ritual wherein they wreck a car for no good reason. My son has just crashed through that rite of passage, and now we know that the waiting room at an impound yard is, in fact, the fourth circle of Hell.

We also learned that the daily storage fee was $32/day – not $15 a day like the Scottsdale police officer told my son. And getting it towed there – at police insistence – counted as his free tow under our roadside assistance plan.

Vehicular mishaps are excessively burdensome upon the working poor, because you can’t budget for them, and they have no other resources to re-direct. Consequently, the patient if bored folks behind the thick glass have to keep repeating the same sad litany of fines and documentation.

My son is technically working poor, but he has literally no other expense he has to worry about at the moment. So even though he thinks his life is over, this is actually a nuisance for us and not a crisis. Not everyone in that dingy, airless room was so lucky.  There was one party literally wailing.

Another guy, though, was super-stoked that no one at the impound yard stole anything out of his vehicle. “That’s the way to run a business.” he exclaimed loud enough for me to hear him some distance away. It all depends upon expectations, I suppose.

Business Insider reports:

After decades of stagnant wages, 73 million Americans — nearly one quarter of our population — now live in households eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a benefit exclusively available to the working poor.

This is all in argument for raising the minimum wage:

We have been raising the minimum wage for 78 years, and as a new study clearly reveals, 78 years of minimum-wage hikes have produced zero evidence of the “job-killing” consequences these headline writers want us to fear.

A consume driven economy needs a large, viable consumer base or, you know, there’s a crash.

And now our friends the octopi – who are multiplying wildly, and no one knows why.

http://gizmodo.com/swarms-of-octopus-are-taking-over-the-world-s-oceans-1777790453?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_facebook&utm_source=io9_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Which leads to this:

 

And finally, over on Curious Continuity, Legends of Tomorrow is Breaking My Heart.

Now you know.

A Few unrelated standards

Watching your child’s team get clobbered in basketball is decidedly less painful than watching then get clobbered in baseball. Bad basketball is still kinda funny. Bad baseball is just painful.

That said, while I’m not boycotting the Suns’ lost season (this one), I’m not arranging my life around Suns games anymore.

If you divide the world GDP by the global population, you get $8400 – or thereabouts per year for every human being. I was curious.

The standard speed of a motorized hoist for a theatrical application is 179’/minute. That was the closest they could get a commercial gearbox (from Hoffing – so this is sometimes called the Hoffing Standard) to the actual speed of three stagehands hauling a fully-loaded batten. I don’t have the numbers the stagehands achiueved, but that’s where the 179′  came from.

For the writers – the scientific plausibility of a work of science fiction is called – among fandom – its “hardness”.  TV Tropes compares it to the Mohs Scale of geologic hardness. Mike Brotherton has a similar scale, and better thought through.

Learning via You-Tube – gravitational lensing

Now you know.

Notes from my new and nifty sky chair

Which I bought at the Renn Faire with money I made from phxsunsnews.com

It’s like a hammock – only a chair – and mine has armrests and a cup-holder -because its a deluxe!

If it had a fold-out desk and a plug strip – I’d live in the damn thing.

I added the sheet clipped to the thing for shade.

[photo by Julia Padegimas]

Also at the Renn Faire, my kids learned to make noise for digereedoos. We all learned how predatory birds have far more relative grip strength than humans. And we learned that jousting at the Renn Faire has more in common with pro wrestling than with the rodeo.

According to the American Psychiatric Group I have autism or nothing.

They found the part of the brain that governs spirituality

Boredom doesn’t cause death, but it causes behavior that leads to death.

On that subject, I have been assigned by my day job to comeup with a power point tutorial on basic theatrical carpentry.However dull that sounds – it’s actually worse than that. Power Point is like a slide show, only with bullet [yawn] points, and without the exciting possibility that a slide might be upside down or jam.

Writer’s Group Notes

We couldn’t remember the name of the software that kept track of plot threads for you, so here’s a round-up of the better writing software.

It’s Ross Sea – not Ross Bay. My bad.

Space elevators are only practical at or near the equator, since they rely on inertia from the Earth’s rotation tohold ther tension. At or near the pole (like my fictional Ross Spaceport) you need something like a Space Fountain. Cooler anyway.

Other random nonsense

Zombie fiction authors,in general, are apparently relatively conservative. Witness the fall-out to the possibility of gay zombie fiction.

Zombies are also at war with Unicorns. I don’t know why? Unicorns are liberal?

Ok – who wouldn’t want to slaughter such a thing?

“The First Follower can make the difference between a leader and a lone nut…”

Finally, some props to Eric Turner – who didn’t steal my blog title after all.

Now You Know

No snow, just random facts and links

On the back of the menu my children bring home from school, there is often filler material. This must be sourced from some national syndicate, because this month’s filler is about snowflakes.

This school serves chorizo for breakfast (not every monring). It will not get snow. Regardless, I now know that 15 inch diameter snowflakes once fell in Montana, that the average snowflake falls at 3.2 miles/hour, and that “snirt” is a Canadian word for the dirty snow that blows across the prairie.

I’ve been trying to do a slideshow on Examiner, and I’ll get there – but the first attempt is sad… You’d think for a feature that is known to drive traffic, they’d find a way to make it easier to use.

If you’re like me, and you have wasted the last six or seven years using the internet to work Know Your Meme will get you caught up on all the  internet fads (is that still a term? Or has it been replaced?).

15 random facts about coffee. Yep.

Empathy and stress reaction may be genetically linked.

Now You know.

 

Writer’s Group Notes for 9/10/09

The last time I posted I got 52 hits within 24 hours. My normal rate is like six. There are two possibilities: a particular phrase ranked high in a search engine, or the link I left on the meet-up site got clicked – a lot. The only way to test this is two seperate entries (though they both share this paragraph).

This entry tests the writer’s Meet-up link hypothesis. That would be the Central Phoenix Writer’s Meet-up on whose behalf I “organize” the Thursday night splinter cell.

I don’t have a whole lot of notes from that meeting. I was somewhat distracted by my beloved children doing homework/fighting at the table behind me. I do have some links – and we’ll get to those presently.

My son learned some things about writing:

* Copy down the actual writing prompt – that is how you stay on topic.

* Research first, then write.

* The advantage of a word processor is that you can move text around. The advantage of a draft on paper is that you can’t accidentally obliterate 100 words in two keystrokes.

* Writing well means ignoring whatever silly thing your sister is doing to distract you.

* The sooner you get down to writing, the sooner you’re done, and you can let your beloved Father, who has been glowering at you on and off for several hours, have his precious laptop back.

We all had to learn those lessons as young writers (swap “laptop” for “electric typewriter”). Most of us, like my son, learned them the hard way.

He didn’t finish the essay at the coffee shop. We didn’t print out a final copy until midnight. One of many reasons this blog is 24 hours “late”.

LINKS:

Galaxy Express on digital SF Romance sales

YA author Mary Pearson discusses what YA lit is and isn’t.

Aussie scribe Lee Masterson on word count categories

Writer’s Digest interviews Anne Tyler about flawed characters among other things.

And from way back in WD’s backlog, a subject constantly bouncing around in my mind: Too Many Ideas Syndrome:

Cynthia Whitcomb, who has sold 70 screenplays and seen 29 come to the screen, puts on a chef’s hat instead. Her advice: “Think of your ideas like pots on the stove in the kitchen of your creative mind. Lift the lids and look inside. One of them is always closest to being soup. Write that one first.”

My son could use that advice.

Lookee there, it’s past midnight.

Now You Know.

WesternCon 62 Wrap-up

Back home, where the AC is not so cold at all…

More lessons from WesterCon 62:

Having two separate names for a Con does NOT help promoting it at all.

If you held a panel “Living with Asperger’s” – you would probably fill the room – for an hour of awkward conversation. [So ya know: this is not simply a casual interest of mine.]

If you’re a panelist and you go off at length about problem panelists dominating the conversation – guess what? Yeah. Horrified attendees will mock you on their blogs.

Sometimes the panel you most looked forward to attending turns out to be the least informative. So it goes.

In RPG’s at least, e-book sales did not measurably eat into print sales. Something for the rest of the publishing industry to note.

And now, in no particular order, links I have written down in my notes for one reason or another:

RPG Now for RPG e-book and more. Also: Warehouse 23 – for everything by Steve Jackson Games.

Middle-Earth for middle-graders: MEAG

If you’re going to self-publish, at least do it right with outfits lke this:

AZ Publishing Services

Looking for an agent, or just info about agents: Agent Query

and/or Query Tracker

(Oh – and agents do not frequent fan-orientated cons. They already have slush piles.)

Because I drank their booze and didn’t pay for it: The United Federation of Phoenix (Hooray! two, maybe three extra hits…)

Claudia Villa, costume designer who helped Kelly Sparrow (aka my daughter.) BTW, I’m best known around the Con as Kelly Sparrow’s father.

And she’s been warned that this is the last year she can get by on cute. Next year, she needs to work a bit more on her costume.

Pirate parties are the best.

Now You Know