A religio-political tangent

As much as there ever was a primary thread.

I’m working on another book. Well, three or four of them, nominally in parallel. Because one at a time would be to simple 8-0… Anyway, I’m not much of a biblical scholar, but there are a series of related topics that are not “easy look-up” sorts of subjects on Catholic church teachings, monastic order traditions, and canon that I need to know so I don’t make too many , er, “fundamental” errors on the faith and teachings. If you know something about the Bible, and perhaps are a regular church-goer who would like to see that a SF books gets the basic correct and would like to weigh in a few thoughts, head on over to Not A Biblical Scholar and add your two cents worth.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park is the location of abandoned Native American cliff dwellings.

Although people had lived in the area for thousands of years the cliff buildings were used for less than 100 years. People left the area by 1285 due to a long lasting and severe drought.

In the upper left corner of the picture below you see a dwelling across the canyon from where Barb and I toured “Balcony House” as seen with the naked eye.


Below is with a 300 mm lens (~6X).


Below is a close up of the dwelling in the picture above.


Continue reading

Bryce Canyon

It was foggy when we started our hike through Bryce Canyon. This gave the area a surreal feel at first. But the fog burned off and we got some great long distance views as we finished. The hiking book Barb brought claims the Queen’s Garden and Navaho Loop trail is reputed to be the best hike in the U.S. if not the world. After hiking through almost unbelievable geological formations this is a believable claim.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.




Continue reading

Sea level to 9800 feet

Barb and I were on vacation for the last week. Friday (October 16th) we left home about noon and drove to West Port, Washington (on the coast) to visit friends for the weekend.

I saw a couple stickers on a car that indicated I was near “my kind of people”:


On Sunday morning we drove to the Seattle-Tacoma airport and flew to Las Vegas, arriving about 7:00 PM. We then drove to Brian Head, Utah arriving about 2:00 AM local time.

It was an interesting drive from Las Vegas to Brian Head. Just getting the rental car was an adventure. We “got a good deal” on a Jeep (I need lots of headroom) via Fox Rent A Car. When we checked in they told us it was an extra $10/day for a second driver. So much for the “good deal”.

We loaded all our stuff into the Jeep and started to leave when I noticed the low tire pressure light was on. I reported it and they said to take a different Jeep. We loaded our stuff into and started the car and the “Oil Change” light came on. We reported it and checked out the only small SUV remaining, a Rav 4. By adjusting the seat to the lowest position I could sit in by tipping my head to the side just a bit. And it smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. We were discussing going to a different rental agency when another Jeep, freshly washed showed up. We inspected it, found nothing wrong, and moved all our stuff into it and drove away. It wasn’t until two days later that we discovered the right rear door would not lock. We won’t be renting from Fox Rent A Car again.

The weather apps on our phones warned of heavy rains and flash floods all the way to Cedar City. The speed limit was 80 MPH on much of the interstate freeway in Utah but with the heavy rains I seldom drove over 55 MPH.

We needed to get some groceries and according to our research prior to leaving home there was a 24-hour Wal-Mart Super store in town. We arrived about 12:40 AM to find the store was closed. We drove around a bit and found a grocery store which was open. Barb went in and started shopping while I parked the car. When I walked in I was told they were closing in seven minutes. Barb and I coordinated our searches and dashed all over the store picking up various items. It was a bit of a hodgepodge of stuff and few things that weren’t quite what we thought we had grabbed off the shelves but it was good enough and we laughed at ourselves as we went through checkout.

We continued on to our condo at Brian Head, climbing up to 9800 feet above sea level, with the last mile or so pushing slush and snow ahead of the Jeep. We got into bed about 2:00 AM.

The next morning, Monday, we felt ill. I recognized the symptoms. It was altitude sickness. I would get dizzy every time I changed from a sitting or bending over position to standing. I was sometimes gasping for breath. We considered just staying there and getting better before we continued on to the National Parks. Barb looked up the symptoms and treatments on the Internet. Symptoms are similar to having drank too much alcohol and a hangover. Hmmm… so that’s what a hangover feels like. I’ve never had a hangover before. The treatment is to go to a lower altitude. You can avoid it by acclimating more slowly. Gain about 3000 feet per day they said. Great. We exceeded the recommended altitude gain per day by a factor of 3.27. No wonder we were feeling messed up.

All the National Parks we were visiting were at a lower altitudes so we decided to continue on schedule in the hopes of feeling better when we got to lower ground. We went to Bryce Canyon, at an elevation of over 8000 feet, and went on a three mile hike down and then up out of the steep canyon.


We felt much better…

Details on our adventures with lots of pictures to follow in more blog posts.

Stupid research

Sometimes people do stupid research. I don’t know how this came about but it might have been they realized the question they really wanted answered was too difficult and they settled for something that was easier and was similar. Or it could have been any number of other things including just total crap for brains. I used to be research scientist for the government and I understand how these things happen. But still, I’m annoyed with this:

When two researchers at Chapman University in California began to study whether tall heterosexual men have had more sex partners than other heterosexual men, they assumed the answer would be “yes.” There was already extensive academic literature showing that height signals dominance, physical (and hence heritable) fitness, and social status to women who are seeking sex partners.

What I suspect they really wanted to measure was whether tall men had a larger selection of sexually interested women. Or that the women interested in them were of higher “quality”. But measuring those items would be much more difficult than asking people how many sex partners they have had. In essence, I suspect, they ended up using quantity as a proxy for quality.

As a result they ended up with rather uninteresting results:

To their surprise, that’s not what they found. Tall men don’t have a history of more sex partners than men of average height or most short men, according to their study in the latest online issue of Evolutionary Psychology. After dividing respondents into different height groups, the researchers found that every group of men taller than 5 feet 4 inches had the same median number of sex partners: seven. Only men classified as “very short,” or between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 4 inches, had a significantly different sexual history. They reported a median of five sex partners.

Because they are using quantity instead of quantity there are numerous other factors that enter into the result. They hint at this some:

There’s another important thing to keep in mind when interpreting this data: The number of sex partners people have had might not be the best indicator of how desirable they are. It’s possible that someone might be highly sexually desirable but choose a monogamous or celibate lifestyle for an extended period of time. Also, “sex” was not defined in the survey, so participants might have differed in their interpretation of “sex partner” when providing their responses.

And there are other things as well.

What about men who find their mate “settle down” quickly? If tall guys have a better selection of quality women to choose from then might not they have fewer sex partners in their lifetime? Or at least the higher quality available early in life counteracts the increased availability of potential sex partners to the point the substitution of quantity for quality renders the results meaningless?

And what about men who pay for play? If short men have trouble finding willing sex partners might they not pay for someone that was more interested in the money than in the height of their customer? That could counteract the expected results as well.

If they really wanted to explore the height issue I would suggest they do some sort of “speed dating” testing. Or a test where two or more groups of women were given the same “online” profiles of men but the groups were told different heights for the men. Then see how many women were interested the men of the various heights.

I do know this, several women have agreed with Barb that it is important their man is as tall or taller than them. Barb is 6’ 1” and that severely curtailed her selection of men. This explains how I, being 6’ 3”, lucked out and she settled for me.

Smaller is better, maybe

In the “learn something new every day” category.

The furnace doesn’t kick on much during the summer here in the PNW, and for 4-5 months of the year we just heat with the waste heat from appliances and electronics, controlling the temperature mostly by opening windows. Locals know the drill. Well, with fall rolling around, eventually it was time for the furnace to kick on and move a little warm air around. But the spousal unit pointed out that it was still a tad chilly in the house, even after turning the thermostat up. Continue reading

Alpaca farm

Daughter Xenia and I went to an alpaca farm today. Here are some of the pictures:



The two pictures below were taken at the same time. The one on the left by Xenia and the one on the right by me:

They have a variety of colors and some enjoy having their neck scratched (neck scratch photo by Xenia):

They have some very odd (to me) toes:

They are raised primarily for their fiber. It has some interesting characteristics (from Wikipedia):

Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, similar to wool. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America, and sweaters, socks, coats and bedding in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States.

Alpaca fleece is a lustrous and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and bears no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Without lanolin, it does not repel water. It is also soft and luxurious. In physical structure, alpaca fiber is somewhat akin to hair, being very glossy. The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool. Alpaca fiber is also flame-resistant, and meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards.

Flame-resistant? Wow.

We saw people carding, spinning, and weaving the fiber:

Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years and I found them to be far more interesting than I expected.

Core sand

In restoring a couple of late nineteenth century cider mills, I’ve had to reproduce a number of iron castings. To produce a hollow space, or a flange, as part of a casting, a hardened sand “core” is placed inside the mold cavity.

A mold that uses one or more cores is a “core mold” and the form used to produce the core is a “core box”. There are different types of cores, but the sodium silicate or “water glass” core sands were very common at one time, and are still used. You just need a source of CO2 to harden the sand, and you see my make-shift CO2 generator in the background. It uses soda and vinegar. It’s what I had on-hand.

Core boxes, cores and a makeshift CO2 generator.

Core boxes, cores and a makeshift CO2 generator.

The sand is mixed with about six percent by weight of sodium silicate, which acts as a binder. That makes a slightly “wet” sand that can be packed into the core box. Carbon dioxide is then pushed through the sand under pressure, it reacts with the sodium silicate and hardens it in seconds, resulting in what you might call a form of concrete. The now rigid core is placed in the sand mold, the mold is closed and the hot iron poured in. Once it cools the new part is shaken out of the sand, and the cores are readily broken out from inside the part.

In this case I’m making new bearings to support one of the rollers in the mill’s grinder box. I had a new restoration up and running last season, only to break that bearing because I’m an idiot and used an oak stick as a stomper to push some apples down into the machine. Oak; bad. It jammed the roller and the running, 40 pound flywheel popped the bearing in two. POW! We’ll see in a few days whether this new bearing works out.

Foundry is awesome.

Shaggy Mane!

Now that we’ve gotten a little rain, the wild mushrooms are coming out in force. Shaggy Manes aren’t common at my place, but they’re common enough you might want to know about them. They’re another edible mushroom likely to be found on laws and other locations similar to the habitat for the Meadow Mushrooms we’ve been using, or on roadsides in the back country. It’s called the Shaggy Mane for obvious reason. I found this one, solitary, on my lawn about fifteen yards from a nice fruiting of Meadow Mushrooms this afternoon. You’ll find them singularly, or in small groups.

This one is fairly small. They can be twice that size. Note the tall cap hanging down from its attachment point at the top inside of the cap, and the color fringe on the gills, which turn darker with age, and eventually melt into a black liquid. These are fragile mushrooms.

Still edible, but they're better before the cap has started to turn black at the bottom.

Still edible, but they’re better before the cap has started to turn black at the bottom.

Eventually the cap will turn into a black goo, so use them up right away.

Eventually the cap will turn into a black goo, so use them up right away.

They’re not as good eating as the Meadow Mushrooms, but they’re more than OK, and they’re easy to identify. They don’t store well, so use them up in a day or two. Don’t over-cook or else they become watery.

See if you can find some. They’re not as easy to spot because of their camouflage-like appearance among the fall leaves. Here’s some more information.


There was a bank robbery here in Moscow, ID this afternoon. Somedude with a big bushy black wig, black-face makeup and loose clothing walked out with an undisclosed about of cash and got away. No story at all on how he got someone at the bank to hand over the cash, as it is reported as unknown whether was armed.

I believe it would be good bank policy to immediately open fire on anyone who attempts to rob the place, no questions asked, but that’s just me.

Update to car burglary


The insurance company called and resolved the details of the claim. I should be getting my compensation any day now. Most of my replacement items are in hand already.


The responding officer replied to my email asking if the guy the caught on Thursday was involved in my case:

Hi Joe,

I believe the guys caught were not involved in your prowl and I have not heard of any of your property popping up yet but hopefully soon.

Side note:

Ry pointed out the stupidity of attempting to evade a police dog close on your tail:


Anyone who flees on foot when the cops have a dog is a god damned moron.

At that point, you can either go to prison, or go to the hospital and then go to prison. You’re not going to outrun any German Shepherd, and chasing and biting people is literally this specific dog’s favorite thing. Motherfucker loves to bite people. He’s probably spent most of his life, since he was a puppy, being trained to chase and bite motherfuckers. This shit is like the Super Bowl and Grad night all rolled together for him.


He does that every time, and his handler pretty much NEVER lets him do his thing. And now, this time, miraculously, he has. He’s let go of the harness, and now this majestic beast is at last fulfilling his purpose as a living missile, and my god is he ever thrilled about it.

And you, with your stumpy little human legs, overabundance of slow twitch muscle fibers, and soft, delicate skin, are going to try to run from this 80 lb mass of muscle and enthusiasm with a bear trap on the end? Good luck, you stupid, stupid asshole. I’ll see you in the Timothy Treadwell Memorial Ward for People Who Predictably Had Their Shit Ruined by Large Predators. Shine on, you idiotic diamond.

I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and there were tears running down my face. But maybe that is because for now I have a “special place” in my heart for people who steal things from cars.

I hope these are the guys

About two weeks ago my car was burgled.

Yesterday the police caught someone that could have been involved (see also the police news release):

One of two alleged burglars attempting to rob a home on 123rd Avenue N.E. was tracked down and apprehended by one of the Bellevue Police’s K-9 units early Thursday morning.

The suspect, a 25-year-old Bellevue resident, later admitted to committing a dozen different vehicle prowls in the area overnight.

After the suspect refused to surrender, Roc was sent in to apprehend him. The man was later treated for a dog bite received during his arrest.

A dozen in one night! I look forward the police finding the storage unit or wherever they have been stashing the stuff. There were some things I discovered missing after I sent in the insurance claim and the police report. Maybe I will get those back.

This is Roc:


I’d like to give Roc a doggy treat to thank him for chewing on the guy.

My car was burgled

I went out to the car (Ford Escape) to go to work this morning and noticed stuff from the console scattered all over the seats, the doors ajar, and a plastic bin I keep “car food” in on the ground behind the car. A quick check in back verified I had lost a bunch of stuff.

I called the police. They said someone would be there within an hour, I sent an email to work, and I sat down to wait.

The police officer was really nice and made a report of the things I had lost and was able to obtain a fingerprint off of the lift gate. It could be mine but there is a chance it was the bad guy. I went to work and was looking at the stuff on the seat. There were several things made of smooth plastic and metal that had been removed from the console. I sent the officer a email asking if he would like to attempt finding fingerprints on those items too. He came to the parking garage where I work and spent another 45 minutes or so with his fingerprint brush and making various things black with the dust. He found another print and took it for his report as well.

He told me that there were three car prowls in my neighborhood last night and eight a short distance away the night before. My hope is that with someone this active they will make a mistake or two and get caught soon. I’m been doing some things to increase the odds of a mistake leading to their apprehension. I want something or someone to trip them up.

My losses include:

There were some other things as well that brings the total loss up to about $1800. I didn’t realize how much stuff I kept in there. The back of the Escape was completely covered with a tarp too.

They didn’t break any windows but it’s possible it wasn’t locked. I always lock it when I leave but from my bedroom with my key in my pocket the remote key will sometimes lock (or unlock) the car when I bend over.

Miscellaneous stuff: The cop was wearing the same Surefire flashlight holster and a nearly identical flashlight to mine. He is part of the bomb squad and we talked about explosives some. I shot at the same match as someone he knows in his department a couple weeks ago in Marysville.

Sasquan post, obligatory

It’s been an interesting week and a half. School starts this Tuesday, but I didn’t have a job lined up yet as of ten days ago (and the spousal unit was getting worried about that fact). The septic system had a pump die, needing replacement. And Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention that was being held in Spokane this year was fast approaching. The latter normally wouldn’t mean much, except that this year I had been nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best new SF writer, and my publisher had encouraged me to go. Continue reading

Bainbridge Island Swamp Lake

Last Sunday Barb and I went for a hike on Bainbridge Island. We were meeting friends from the peninsula and as this is about halfway between our homes and them liking the outdoors as much as we did we decided to go on a short hike through the woods to Gazzam Lake.

We planned to leave at 8:30 AM to catch the 9:35 ferry but we were ready to go at 8:20 and left early. We arrived at the ferry dock, paid for our ticket, and were told we were going to be on the 8:45 ferry. Essentially we arrived just a few minutes before it was scheduled to leave and just had to drive onto the ferry and it took off. Excellent timing! The only problem was we were now 50 minutes early to meet our friends.

Continue reading

Grandson Bryce’s first hike in the woods

Since his parents don’t really care for hiking in the woods Barb and I took it upon ourselves to take Bryce on his first hike. It was a short walk, about 1.1 miles round trip. He walked the entire way except for when I carried him about 100 feet at the place the trail was very narrow with a steep drop off to sharp rocks on one side.

He seemed pretty happy with the whole adventure. He did seem to think throwing rocks in the water was more interesting than looking at the waterfall though.

WP_20150808_10_34_18_ProPhoto by Barb

WP_20150808_11_16_27_ProHe switched things up a bit by throwing a stick too.

Photo by Barb



All indications are that he had a good time.