Smoke gets in your eyes

August 19th, 2015 No comments


We are not all that far from the wildfires. I think most of us could give up the spectacular sunrises and sunsets in favor of thousands less burning acres of land and forest.

As this is the opening day of the Con, we expected a large number of people to show up at reg to claim their badges.

And we got hammered. The line was there at the 0900 start and it took until about 1500 before the insanity stopped. Over 2400 picked up their badges, including new registrants. With mostly six but sometimes eight computers up, it was a lot of people standing in front of me. Someone who is pre-registered takes almost no time unless they want to update everything we have on them. But a new registration requires data entry and money collection. And that takes more than a minutes or two.

But I have to admit, this is the way I get to see Mike Resnick, Connie Willis, P.C. Hodgell, Larry Niven, Michelle Sagara, Brandon Sanderson and a host of other authors.  Yes, everyone stands in line to pick up their badges. Famous authors, not so famous scribblers, artists, normal fans, lots of kids-in-tow and the occasional stuffed toy.


Categories: Cons Tags:

Move – in

August 18th, 2015 No comments

There are two intensive work periods associated with conventions that are labor intensive but rarely seen by attendees. Affectionately or not so affectionately known by the moniker MI-MO the front half is MoveIn which means the ending half is MoveOut. World Con is entirely volunteer organized and run. That means that in the run up to a convention there is a core group of people putting in a lot of time and effort. Once the doors open at the location where the Con is to be held, the need for people drastically increases as the physical tasks start to mount up.

This morning I spent a significant time early (before the sun came up and sunrise) trying to figure out the nearest US Post Office Location. According to Google – there was one at 421 W Riverside as well as one down somewhere in the 500-600 block.

Wrong. 421 Riverside is a tattoo and piercing parlor so I think that whomever submitted those addresses really needs a new pair of glasses. Finally, I decided to believe the map I had rather than the Internet and found the main post office at – you guessed it – between 500 and 600 – on Riverside. Better yet? Even side of the street. It opened at 0800. By 0730 I was checked out of the Red Lion, luggage dropped off at the Double Tree and on my way down the sidewalk again to mail packages. New York City, Chicago and Georgia this time.

From then on, it was somewhere around madness and chaos. I put time into Registration, loading dock, and exhibits. When Noah arrived from the airport, he dropped off his luggage and came over; being put to directly to work. By about 1830 I was the walking stupid. We had opened up reg at 1500 being swamped for the next 90 minutes. Whomever thought that we wouldn’t be busy prior to the convention opening is just nuts. Why not come early, standing in line for 15 minutes or less then go on your merry way rather than take a chance of getting stuck in a line with all those poor souls who didn’t pay up front and at a lower rate?

We checked into the DoubleTree, swapped goodies (books, yarn and costuming coming my way – pantry supplies, nutella, chocolate and gummis going his), grabbed snacks from the Con Suite and I hit the bed.

After all – I had only been up since 0130. Not bad – internal time clock already starting to adjust…

Categories: Cons Tags:


August 17th, 2015 1 comment

Actually, it was a two USO day. After taking the train to Frankfurt early this morning and checking in at Lufthansa Rail-Fly I wandered to the USO. The hours changed several years ago as the number of service members stationed in Germany underwent a dramatic increase. Now open M-F 0700-1500, the hours pretty much cover the official arrival/departure times for service members and their families in transit. Imagine my surprise and delight to find it open at 0645. I was stopping to drop off 40 children’s books. (An aside – 35 more were added to the Heidelberg City Shelf on Saturday).

The flight from Frankfurt to Seattle was lovely. I was upstairs in a 474. We didn’t have small screaming/crying children or obnoxious adults. My seat-mate turned out to be an IT Systems manager for Lufthansa Systems with an area of expertise in GPS who lives and works in the Zurich area. So much for small worlds.

Arriving at Seattle – they have the Kiosks which means that my total transit time for immigration was 10 minutes which included the hike from the plane leaving plenty of opportunity to hang out at the baggage carousel for an extensive time period.

This was followed by a stop at the Seattle USO. I think the last time I came through Seattle was either 2011 or 2012 for a cruise and I don’t remember spending any significant time at the airport. This time I had over four hours between flights. The USO is amazing. For one thing – it is open 24 hours a day. There are great volunteers, food, lounge chairs in which one can sleep, a computer area, several other seating areas and a baggage holding area. The rest rooms have showers and real towels…..I managed to keep myself aware for several hours by drinking coffee and munching before heading through security to the Alaska airline gate.

Switching to Alaska Airlines for the short hop to Spokane, I was impressed. For a small airline, the service was great and friendly. Most of the local flights are prop planes with 22 rows or less of interior passenger seating which means essentially no overhead storage bins. They do plane side check of carry-ons.

I got to the hotel via shuttle after a kind fellow passenger made the call for me. There are draw backs to not having a stateside phone.

Book Count

1186+35=40= 1261 if my brain is working correctly.

Categories: Cons, Travel Tags:

Staff Chat

August 16th, 2015 No comments

As one of the registration team for Sasquan I am part of the routine “staff chat” mailing list. It makes for interesting reading most days. Few if any flames, which is more than balanced by an exuberant excess of bad, bad puns. For a while it was all about carts.

In any case, reading the dozens of messages coming through was a nice break from packing. Yep – packing as in suitcase. It didn’t take all that long to pack a week’s worth of clothes considering that no matter the weather outside – the convention center will be colder than I like. Took a bit longer to pack up some knitting. Three projects, all WIP. One I should be able to finish in the airplane.

Then there is the “stuff” for various off-spring households in the U.S. I have clothing, books, spices and …. well stuff to pass along. Did I mention nutella, chocolate and gummi bears? Leaving tomorrow for Spokane via Seattle. The first flight will be comfortable Lufthansa. The second is a quick transfer via Alaska Airways. Smaller bag which will be a carryon for the second flight is all “stuff.” 1/2 of my regular suitcase is stuff… In return Noah is bringing me a few things which I don’t think will even fill the larger suitcase.

Wait! I am going to a Con! I am sure that I can find something to buy….

Categories: Cons Tags:

Back to Red

August 15th, 2015 No comments

I’m not even sure how long it has been since I made a Saturday afternoon Heidelberg Strikktreff at Red. I am thinking months and months. Probably this year although it could have been last. I just didn’t think of it last week. I am leaving on Monday so this was my chance.

Good decision. There were only a couple of women I didn’t know; but the rest? The core of the group over the last 5-7 years. Some I have known even longer.

There was some catching up. But mostly a sharing of current work and projects that had just been finished. Saturday afternoons are the time-out from all the rest of the week and challenges of living, surviving, working. Why spoil it?

Besides – when there were enough of us who don’t make it regularly it is just too hard to figure out what to say and how far to go back in the recitation.

I finished the yarn I had for the Ocean Wave and now await digging more out of somewhere it is stashed.

This is where I am. Size is currently ~ 2 feet by 3 1/2 feet. The measuring instrument in this case was my bare right foot. So go figure whatever you want.

end of 15 August

end of 15 August

Categories: Knitting Tags:

This year from the Oktoberfest …

August 14th, 2015 No comments

After conducting a thorough search on their website, I had decided that Paulander wasn’t making anything special for Oktoberfest this year. For that matter, neither were any other breweries.

Now that is just wrong. Remember, I don’t drink so it is not a question of wanting to taste something new and different. It is rather that it is a chance to add something new and stupid to the house. After all, I have been emptying out cupboards and closets. I deserve to add something….

Last year the local Rewe had cute bags and backpacks from Paulander on display by the 13th of August. We were there a couple of days ago. I spotted only a basket of beer. Kind of like the helmet of beer some ships have only from wicker. After thinking about it, I decided that this could be my toy. Besides, I am headed to Spokane next week and have promised decent chocolate to my son who is meeting me there.

Imagine my surprise when rounding the bend at the beer displays. There were two choices besides the basket! Paulander had come through with a bag and backpack in different colors than last year. Both are lined with water resistant cloth.  The basket is from the Hacker-Pschorr Brewery; two each of light, dark and radler in fancy top bottles.

three choices!

three choices!

I am contemplating uses for the basket; I am sure that knitting would be happy in a lined basket… The bags will will travel to Spokane before making further journeys.

Categories: home Tags:

What do I do with this?

August 13th, 2015 4 comments

I have this yarn –


My Silk. ~ sport weight - 175m/50 gm and 200gm total

My Silk. ~ sport weight – 175m/50 gm and 200gm total

It’s a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3rd mix of silk, cotton and acyrlic with a nice feel, shine and bounce. It’s not my color but it seems to want to be knit. But into what?  Never mind it is just a bit orange which is so not my usual color..

It is growing

It is growing


The blue will eventually be an afghan. It will be as big as it gets (i.e. till I run out of yarn…) . Right now it is just knitting back and forth as I listen to a course on Antimicrobial Stewardship. Actually both interesting and entertaining (except for one speaker who has an unfortunate voice quality of about a nasal six year old with a lisp. Neither cute nor particularly comprehensible).  I will finish up the lectures tomorrow, then go pay my fee, take the exam and hopefully claim my CME credits.


137 books this morning along with the 60 yesterday+ another 35 added to the previous 954 (which made it actually 989 I forget to include one trip to the community bookshelf and books dropped off at the Fraport USO).

Resulting in a whopping 1186 books gone. Of which 40 were childrens’ books, five cassette audio books and the rest a mash-up of mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance and politics. Guess which ones were George’s contribution……

Categories: Books & Tapes, Knitting Tags:

Also in the box

August 12th, 2015 No comments

We dropped off books this afternoon in Rohrbach, the next community down the B3 from Heidelberg. Apparently they have added a community bookshelf. While George talked to a neighbor who was walking by, I unloaded books. Sixty of them.

Children’s books in German, adult political books in both German and English and a miscellaneous collection of novels, romance, science fiction, fantasy and mysteries mostly but not complete in English.

I also found these in the box

say what?

say what?

The sheep card is unopened, the two photos have to date from Blue Factory days, the negatives don’t have a date but I am guessing about 1996, 25€ and a tube of K-Y jelly. It is the last one about which I don’t have a clue

Categories: Books & Tapes, packing out, Photos Tags:

Ocean Waves

August 11th, 2015 No comments

Although it wasn’t quite as hot today, I was dreaming of water. Oceans surrounding me; keeping me cool. Helping me relax.

Actually, since the self hypnotism wasn’t completely working I decided instead to completely check out. I had just downloaded Siren from Audible and was hoping it was better than the last Jayne Castle book (that one failed in a lot of pretty blatant ways.

On the side table next to my bed was this lump of knitting which had been marinating in dust since somewhere around the first of the year. Give or take, I claim oldtimer’s disease along with succumbing a complete lack of interest. Take an excess supply of singles fingering weight yarn that is seconds. Blessed with enough thick & thin sections that it needs to be knit double for stability. Add in a free pattern from Drops Studio ( which is offered in weights from fingering up past worsted. Cast on a few stitches. Knit a strip. Then follow with short row corner mitering before continuing along each edge. Makes for a rectangular spiral of sorts.

I looked at it. Mindless knitting. So mindless in fact that I had completely screwed up the short rows on one end. No sweat. Frog or adjust on the next round. Really? As if there was a decision at all. This is a project that is going to get dragged around and land unceremoniously in a chair. It doesn’t need to be perfect. While I was at it – I changed needle sizes from 4.5 to 5.0 mm and decreased the strip width from 15 stitches to 14.

one wooden hand carved basket from Africa

one wooden hand carved basket from Africa

center strip, now on the third outer strip

center strip, now on the third outer strip

now on the fourth side - and you can see the short rowed end

now on the fourth side – and you can see the short rowed end

I finished the book today. I knit, I played solitaire. I sorted more files. I finished a second audio book – Mary Roach’s My Planet which is a collection of columns she wrote about ten years ago. They are funny; it is too bad Angela Dawe doesn’t have the same ability as Emily Woo Zeller who narrated Gulp.

Head phones, iPad, blowing fan, ice tea, knitting. Not a bad day at all….

Categories: home, Knitting Tags:

Four tasks done

August 10th, 2015 No comments

It wasn’t a very eventful day. Simply cleaned more, finished the photo books. While I was at it – I ordered a mug from the same people on the principle that spending another four dollars would put me over the amount required for free shipping. Since the cost of the mug minus shipping wound up being a bare couple of dollars more than my original amount (have to love California sales tax) I considered it a win.

With a rapidly approaching 65th birthday, I registered for Medicare. Never mind it doesn’t pay outside the US. Never mind that I have full care through the VA anywhere in the world for emergencies, and for everything else with pre-authorization. Did I mention also covered for meds and dental? I made the inquiry on the application anyway.

Lastly I updated a few lists, read email and a bit more sorting on the photo back-ups. Just another simple day

Categories: home Tags:

A day with Shutterfly

August 9th, 2015 No comments

which started to resemble the proverbial fish without a bicycle…

Remember that Carmen and I cruised on the Star Princess this past February. From San Francisco to the Mexican Rivera and back – we enjoyed some sunshine and several days of relaxation. As it turned out, other than the day of whale watching, I wasn’t all that concerned with taking pictures which is now presenting a bit of a challenge.

Unlike a couple of the other photo books which I made (other companies) the book planning methods are not particularly user friendly on this site. The live chat worked wonderfully well – at which point we figured out it was my browser causing the worst of the difficulties.

Why am I going through the effort? Can you spell Free Coupon which expires the end of this month. Prepaid by Princess, it would be a real shame to waste it, now wouldn’t it?

Meanwhile – the heat wave has just broken and the thunder is booming and roaring. George got the last of the laundry in before the skies let loose.

And Stu has volunteered 7950 as a new guess in the “how many books does this insane lady have” while Cat concurs that she might need another bookcase as most don’t realize how many books can be lovingly packed into a small space.

Categories: Travel Tags:

The Book Pile

August 8th, 2015 4 comments

I waved good bye to our household goods; all boxed up and on their way to California. Actually it was 7 Aug 2014 but this is close enough. Since then, they were delivered. Shifted around several times. Several things have been relocated to storage since the house was under construction . A few things made the trip across the ocean and have (are finding) new homes.

Which still leaves the house here with its invaders (the four footed kind) along with the more than occasional house guest and friend. It also explains why I still have too much furniture here, a partial closet of clothes, knitting supplies and three storages + the garage full of what could most politely be called junk.

George has found a local agency that is similar to the Goodwill/Salvation Army. They take just about anything that can be redistributed, refurbished, gifted or sold. They don’t, however, take books.

You knew I was going somewhere with this didn’t you?

It was on 8 August last year that I asked everyone to guess how many books I had left over that needed to be redistributed. No guess below 4000 was allowed and I took pictures of my former studio. The offer was for a dinner gift certificate

Nana guessed an oodleplex
Cat bet me it was less than in her house (I have been there – it is a close call).
Alison picked 4444 (cost of a hearing aid)
Carmen 4567
April – 6289
Isobel – 4882
Mary – 5777
Steven – 5280 (feet in a mile)
Christian – 4997
Kim – 7012

and I started dropping off books anywhere I could manage
9 Aug – 148, 10 Aug 130 = 278, 11 Aug – 67 = 345, 12 Aug 72= 417. It wasn’t till Oct that I managed to off-load a dozen books on Zandra = 429,

And then I headed off to LonCon, Denver, the Legend, the Oasis (Chaos of the Seas), Serenade, before bopping to both Berkeley and Germany before the end of the year.

Won’t get into this year’s travel summary, but over the course of this past year I have managed to drop off another 537 books. Hardly a dent in the pile at 954 which is still looming mightily in the studio.

just a close up of the disaster..

just a close up of the disaster..

from the window size

from the window size

most of the children's books

most of the children’s books

as you enter the room

as you enter the room

Starting today – I am going to make a concerted effort and see how much I can diminish the pile in the next ten days. Secondly – if you want to compare the size of the pile – 8 Aug 2014 is the original post.

I am also going to reopen the bidding on guestimating the number of books. For those of you already in the running – I am going to honor last year’s effort at the end of the run. If you want to enter the new bit of insanity – please feel free to do so as you could be a double winner. Cat? I am assuming that you still want all numbers above the highest bidder to infinity? In any case, please add your vote to the comments on this post.

Categories: Books & Tapes, packing out Tags:


August 7th, 2015 8 comments

Yes, I know if you live in Perth or Scottsdale my attitude toward the heat is only going to be amusing. But, according to the official weather reports, it is 39*C here in Heidelberg which is way hotter than anyone here wants to know about or experience. Those of you in the US – just remember that air conditioning doesn’t exist. Not in normal buildings. Traditionally, you just open the windows and turn on a fan if it gets really hot. Really hot being defined somewhere around 32-33*C, not the current over 100*F for those who are still on the beloved but outdated English measurement system.

Our terrace faces south, the better to capture light. Which means it also gets plenty of heat in the summer even with the awnings fully extended. Opening the door to the terrace is out of the question as it just seems to invite the furnace into the dining room. Our bedroom faces west. I could pull the rolladen and keep the room cooler, but then I would be bumping around like a blind bat since the light fixtures seem to eat bulbs on a regular basis. The new energy saving bulbs certainly do save energy as they don’t seem to put out much light at all.

So here I sit in the dining attempting to clear out drives without a breath of moving air. Regular breaks are needed. The laundry room is quite a bit cooler – even after running a load of clothes. The back hall isn’t bad either. For that matter, the kitchen is a good source of snacks and cool. Who says that only teenagers stand in front of the fridge trying to make up their minds?

It was about an hour ago when my stomach said something about nice cold pasta salad or perhaps potato salad. I have pasta, right? And there are four baking potatoes looking much sadder for their sojourn in our house. Maybe they were hoping to be forgotten in their dank corner. Of course, it might be nice to have something other than potatoes….. I tossed in some chopped up onion and gerkins; then was faced by the challenge of the fridge. No mayo, no mustard and 1/2 gallon of vinegar.

It was at this point that I went for the pasta. Spicy Penne to which one could always add some garlic. Nothing is ever wrong with adding garlic. But see remark above about anything to use as a dressing. I don’t think the dusty can of german tomato/herb sauce I found in the bottom of the cupboard was past expiration and it seemed like just the thing to go with the mildly pink tinged pasta. Which was a lot spicier than one would think.

The sun is still up (1930) and heat is radiating off the terrace in waves. I think this calls for chocolate ice cream with strawberries…..

Categories: home Tags:

Still clearing out

August 6th, 2015 3 comments

Seriously – take a look at your backup situation. Exactly how many CDs, hard drives, DvDs and Flash Drives do you have lying around with some of your precious data tucked within? For some of those items – do you have multiple copies? So many that you don’t have a clue which is the best one, and which are faded and tattered bare imitations of the data which is so precious? For others, you are going to be lucky if what you want isn’t stored on a 5 1/4″ floppy buried somewhere in the garage/basement/attic/store room.

Never mind that it was probably saved on a medium which you can’t read any longer since you have advanced operating systems since, oh lets say 1984, 1990 or 2002? I am not thinking about all those unaccessible email files on Eudora or those backups of years of professional drivel on Outlook. None of which are readable.

But they are all precious and can’t be discarded? Right?

I am leaving out all those CF, SD, mini-SDs that just might fit in a camera that died several years ago. Or all those battery chargers, cables, cords, keyboard from computers which have long gone to an electronic graveyard helping to grace the landfills.

Obviously, I am still working on consolidating backups fueled by a fair amount of coffee and some really spectacular nectarines.

Categories: Travel Tags:


August 5th, 2015 2 comments

It is a new day and my sense of humor is somewhat restored. Made better by my husband getting back safely from Switzerland last night and taking me out for dinner on the way home.

I was getting pretty sick of nutella and string cheese (don’t ask).

For the last several days there has been a chorus of “oh poor me” signing a song in my head; distracting me with high levels of whine, self pity and other assorted irritants which has made me a not very popular person in this household.

Please consider that I am currently in Heidelberg and George, as mentioned above, spent the last two days in Switzerland. Leaves us all with the understanding that I haven’t been particularly fun to be around. Not for anyone else and certainly not for myself.

I have been attempting to sort out my multiple backup drives, consolidating important things like photos, edit a couple of articles, audiobooks and just generally be a bit more organized than I have in the past.

Never mind (grin). I will be fine. And here till the 16th of Aug.

Categories: Books & Tapes, computers, Photos Tags:

Backup try two

August 4th, 2015 No comments

Sure enough, the nightmare which woke me was true. My lack of patience with iPhoto resulted in the program attempting to back up everything twice. And execute both at the same time.

The end result wasn’t pretty. For one thing – I ran out of memory due to other programs being open which seemed to have slowed things down to a crawl. Secondly, instead of executing the backup in a simple, orderly and chronological manner, the idiot program seemed to be almost random in the order in which both photos and events were backed up. Somethings were backed up twice, some not at all. Some dates completely and some missing key events.

Summary? I need to do it again only keeping my impatience under control.


By (what is it now? 2220?) I have come to the end of the backup with an error message listing only 8 photos it was unable to export (not 6xxx). The whole flipping day. Dealing with the computer and the one program. Unable to do anything else so as to avoid slow downs.

Listen to me whine… wah, wah. Unable to spend money on Amazon e-Books. Unable to download from Audible, or Tantor or BigFish Games. Unable to Skype, FaceTime or otherwise drive others insane.  And it rained today which was my excuse for not accomplishing any more on the laundry front.

My sense of humor restored, I am going to finish listening to one of the free short stories by Jodi Taylor out of the St Mary’s series that was free on Audible followed by Lilith Saintcrow’s Trailer Park Fae, which, when you think about it, is such a wonderful contrast as to be almost obscene.


Categories: computers, Photos Tags:

Backing Up

August 3rd, 2015 No comments

which, to no surprise is involving a lot of forward motion as well. I had planned on backing up photos and sorting as I went while in Tanzania. Didn’t happen as there was this small issue. Forgotten/misplaced external hard drive. It’s not that I don’t have a few of them. Counting nine right now sitting on my dining room table. But it was that the one I thought I had packed was no where to be seen.

So either I lost it, forgot it or misplaced it. In any case, it wasn’t with me which left me in Africa without the ability to back up my photos or permanently empty out my memory cards. When I stop and think about it, that particular backup drive is probably hiding out along with several other items (mostly underwear = smalls) that seem to have decreased in number as I went along.

Returning to the back-up. I first had to find the hard drives which only took a couple of minutes. Then there was the small matter of finding enough space on any of them for the thousands of pictures which seem to be inhabiting the largest portion of my MacBook. It would be nice to free up some space. Only going to happen after a back up. After all, one never knows when one of those totally lousy, out of focus photos might just be the key to ….

Perhaps I have been reading too many cozy mysteries?

In any case, my basic tendency is to delete after backing up rather than before.   Starting the program, I thought I had it figured out. Ten minutes later, I checked and a big nothing was happening so I tried the keyboard controls again. Another ten minutes and a box popped up so I could choose where to plonk those thousands of photos.

So far, so good? With me? Right. So was the computer.  It looked like hours so I went to bed, waking to realize that I was backing everything up.



Categories: computers, Photos Tags:

Ok, I voted

July 30th, 2015 No comments

for the Hugos.

Hello? I don’t know where you live, but I haven’t ever lived anywhere that there is much of anything to vote for at the end of July.

Small things around home – like do I sit inside or out? Do I sit in front of the fan? Do I drink this nice cold glass of water or just pour it over my head? Important things to me but of no relevance to anyone not in my immediate vicinity or responsible for mopping up my mess.

The end of July marks the closing of the Hugo voting. For those of you who aren’t SciFi/Fantasy fans – these are the annual awards nominated and voted on by fans. Nothing to do with which books are promoted by publishers. No committee of experts deciding what book/story/graphic novel/bit of art is the best from the past year. There are other categories as well – fanzine, pro-zine, podcast, long and short forms (think TV episode & movies), as well as editors and some fan recognition awards.

Most years the nominations are about what would be expected, the voting is without controversy. At WorldCon you find out if your concept of great matches everyone else’s. Anyone who is a member of WorldCon (last year and current year) gets to vote. In recent years (say, from when eBooks became popular) those voting are also provided a link which allows downloading of a personal copy of the written material.  It isn’t actually a bad deal, provided the fiction is worth reading.

And there in lies the rub. For various reasons, this year’s nomination and voting process turned extremely ugly and political. There was a group which decided to “stuff the nominations” in order to have some less well know authors have a whack at spaceship for their mantle. In response some extremely misogynistic group got their friends together to stuff the nominations.

Two significant issues: the first is that sometimes not well know is because you just aren’t that good. Both excellent writing and some heavy duty self-promotion are required. Real world, way it goes. The second issue is that I am a liberal – I believe in the right of the totally idiotic to be able to write whatever they want.  I can chose to read it or not.

But I don’t want them to tell me what I “should” be reading. Or flame those who question or have characters in their fiction which don’t conform to someone’s 1700’s view of skin color and gender superiority.  And the solution, apparently, for the second group which really can’t write at all it is to establish one’s own publishing house. Outside the US of course since the IRS believe that electronic publishing generates income. Authors with income should pay taxes.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, marking my electronic ballot which was blessedly free of hanging chad but not of “no awards.”  Must be that I am old fashion, but an internationally recognized award means something to me. And that means quality is required. Not a statement of “I’m important and deserve it!” but writing that is interesting, gripping and carries you out of this world. This year, for the first time, I couldn’t get beyond the first couple of pages of most of the nominees before quitting in disgust.

Here’s hoping the children pack up and go home, leaving the adults to discuss minor things like plot, consistency in word building and spelling…..

Categories: Books & Tapes, Cons Tags:

reading & Hugos

July 29th, 2015 1 comment

I seriously thought about what I should be doing this morning. Two loads of laundry won over cleaning. Then I remembered that the Hugo voting closes in two days and I hadn’t read everything.

There is such thing as intelligent voting and then there is blind pick and chose. Because of the all the controversy this year I am unwilling to take a chance on voting and felt the need to really be honest and objective.

And for the first time in my life I will be using the “no award” button because, frankly, in some of the categories the ballot stuffing by certain groups resulting in nothing worth reading much less awarding.

So much for an objective process based on quality in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy field. Perhaps all the pundits and essayists are correct in believing that most of the fans are influenced more than a little by factors outside what is on the page, screen or in their ears (podcasts).

Me? Drek is drek.

Categories: Books & Tapes Tags:


July 28th, 2015 No comments

home yesterday. no clue as to time/space continuum.

Categories: Travel Tags:

It takes a while to get home

July 27th, 2015 No comments

Picking up the tale at Midnight – security let us through to the holding area to wait for check-in. Please remember that Dar Es Salaam is somewhere between 4-6 M people. The outer portion of the airport is open to the world with a number of cafeterias, coffee shops, souvenir stands and dozens upon dozens of taxi drivers.

The inner area holds all of a dozen airline check in counter each equipped with an overhead electronic programable sign, desk, computer, personnel and a baggage scale. Unless you have checked in before, it is impossible to figure out where your airline is setting up for check in today.

Did I mention that my flight was not on the electronic overhead signs as even scheduled today? I decided not to worry since the security guy let me into the area. So we waited about 45 minutes: me, a number of obvious tourists, a few locals and an extended family party from, it turns out, the Ukraine, who were heading home after a holiday. Right after midnight they all stood up and sang happy birthday to one very embarrassed mom in the group and presented her with flowers.

This is Tanzania – just about everyone around clapped. Since we didn’t know the words – singing along wasn’t possible.

Pre-check followed by check in followed by heading to the Tanzanian Lounge (used by all the airlines). It was at this point we were reminded that the flight was delayed at least an hour. Passport control (Passport, exit form, digital pix, fingerprints) and off to the lounge along with the real Nigerian Business man, a Tanzanian-Danish couple and their 10 month old baby. Food in the lounge and lots of beverages; vegetable samosas, Thai veg soup, biscuits, cakes, croissants and a lot of fruit. I settled in with Wifi, electrical outlet and grogginess to wait.

I attempted to sleep most of the flight to Istanbul. By the time it was light out, we were over the southern part of Egypt. Believe me when I saw that it was sand as far as I could see except for the rare glimpse of the Nile wending its way north. We were too high to see any man-made structures until close to Cairo where we veered off toward the north-east across the eastern portion of the Med. Circling above the Bosporus and the city of Istanbul, we were low enough to see the massive extent of the city and the spires of the mosques.

After the surprisingly small size of the Tanzanian airport, Ataturk was like being dumped in the middle of an ant hill with people swarming everywhere. Nothing was made easier by the literally hundreds of people making their way slowly along more interested in their cell phones that the affects of their towed luggage against the ankles of innocent fellow travelers.

Coffee, olives, soup, crackers and lots of turkish candy got me through the waiting time before my next flight. This time, on a Airbus 330, the seats went all the way flat. Food was good, the power outlet worked and we arrived pretty much on time in Frankfurt.

By now I have learned what to say at Passport Control – I just told the guy that my husband lived here and that I was visiting for two weeks. He just stamped my passport without running it through the computer which means he didn’t get the whole list of how often and how long I am really here.

Luggage, ran for the train (wheeled crappy duffles are no where near as fun as good 4-wheeled luggage) and George picked me up in Mannheim. Home.


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Leaving Zanzibar

July 26th, 2015 No comments

hurry up and wait for flights. Those headed to the states leave out about 2000 this evening. Or so. Me? My Turkish Airways flight doesn’t leave till 0dark330 in the mornig.

Below is what the booklet said:

Day 6 – Jul 26, 2015 Zanzibar • Optional Prison Island Tour •

Today is at leisure to make your own discoveries or join an optional Prison Island Tour. Just off the coast of Zanzibar’s Stone Town, Prison Island was originally intended to house runaway slaves, however, it was never actually used as a prison. Today this tropical island acts as a sanctuary for giant tortoises—some which are more than 100 years old. You’ll enjoy the opportunity to interact with exotic wildlife and gain insight into its unique local history as you enjoy stunning views of white sandbars and the crystal-clear water that surrounds the island.
Later this afternoon, we fly to Dar es Salaam Airport and depart on our overnight flight home, via Amsterdam, arriving the next day.


We left Fumba Beach about noon. After dropping our bags off for safe keeping at the Swahili House we toured the main museum.  Now open to the public, the four buildings were the interconnected residence of Sultans one-ten.

Oops. Headed to the bus for the airport. More later (and the soccer shirts all fit in the suitcase !)

23xx addition: Van to Zanzibar Airport. Small plane to the mainland. Even cooler is when you get to sit in the co-pilot seat and enjoy the view of the coast, the city, and watch the runway come up to meet you.

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Spice Plantation

July 25th, 2015 No comments

None of us were sure what we expected, but the words “plantation” brought to mind historical thoughts complete with buildings, gardens and organization.

Nothing could be further from the truth. For several hours we wandered along twisting paths while learning about the various fruits and spices grown here. The plantings are totally and completely mixed. No neat rows, markers or signs of cultivations. Rather, mixed vegetation and a surprising lack of insects. We were handed various crushed leaves to smell and identify, were able to see and taste various herbs and spices in different stages of development and in general had a great time.

(and once again pictures will follow……

but for a starter we saw
coconuts, turmeric plants, star fruit, something that looked like a lemon but wasn’t, cardamon, jack fruit, bread fruit, nutmeg, mace, vanilla beans, pineapple, banana, cacao, casava, sweet potato, peppercorns, coffee, cinnamon, cinnabar, cloves, ginger, lemon grass, ylang-ylang …..

lunch back at Fumba Beach Lodge was lovely as usual.  Since none of us had signed up for any of the planned optional excursions and a sunset cruise was out of the question (both we had been on the water yesterday and the tide was going to be low to the point of wading in the water to the point of soaked in order to reach the boat) in stead we took a wander through the local countryside and villages lead by one of the gardeners from the Lodge.

Much better than a planned excursion and formal presentation – this was just a look without expectations. We did wonder at what everyone thought with this group of white folks walking past but tourism is the major local employer and we were not taking pictures without permission….

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Bubble, bubble, burn

July 24th, 2015 No comments

The Plan:

Menai Bay boat cruise
Today we’ll have a full day to cruise scenic Menai Bay by traditional Zanzibari motor boat. Located off the southwestern coast of Zanzibar, Menai Bay is the islands’ largest protected marine area that is home to extensive coral reefs, mangrove forests, sea grasses, and tropical fish. While discovering small islets such as Komunda and Miwi, we may even witness pods of dolphin swimming by. We’ll have the opportunity to swim and snorkel in the warm cerulean waters before a picnic lunch is set up for us on a sand island. Later this afternoon, we’ll have leisure time to relax or explore near our hotel. Dinner is at our lodge this evening.

The Reality was even better. The local boats are Dhow, hand built single mast sailing vessels that have come into the current century only by adding an outboard motor (with wooden tiller) to the back. The instructors, crew, boat, gear and lunch were all provided by the lodge. All that was required of us was to have a good time. You can see the Dhow, the group and the general good time. I’m not posting how everyone looked soaked from diving, snorkeling or wading in from the boat (out to the boat, to the beach, from the beach, to the shore – each just far enough apart to get dry between).

Dolphins –

humpback dolphin

humpback dolphin

Blue Bottle Jellies

this guy

this guy

does this

does this

Our beach where we had lunch

the beach

the beach

looking out from the beach

looking out from the beach

the view from the Dhow

the view from the Dhow

small sand crab

small sand crab

Loading up to come back – and arrival

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Fumba Beach

July 23rd, 2015 No comments

Leaving Stone town, we headed toward one of the nature reserves. Would you believe Red Colobus monkeys (Zanzibar) ? Blue Monkeys? How about Mangroves?

How about all of the above with a side of mahogany tree?

As we arrived, there was a blue sykes monkey – so now I have a decent photo…



found in the forest

the monkey forest

the monkey forest

Red Colubus Monkeys – Zanzibar subspecies

and a mangrove swamp with white, red and black mangroves whose water varies from cms to a meter deep depending on the tides. The water is still and the reflections are amazing…






Then there was the seaweed farm located on the coast



which included a wonderful hike out to the beds in the shallow but always covered portion of a particular Indian Ocean beach flanked on both sides by dozens of kite surfers.


to make the day complete we arrived in plenty of time for briefings, snacks, dinner and bush babies.




and yes, they are primates

and yes, they are primates


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Stone Town

July 22nd, 2015 No comments

located on the biggest island in the Zanzibar Archipelago, is old. Very old as in evidence of human habitation going back 20,000 years, give or take. So it wasn’t young when the Arabs arrived, nor when the Portuguese identified it as a great shipping point. But what did change with the arrival of all those from Europe and the Mid-East was the name and the construction of the buildings.

Did I forget to mention those from Asia? Sorry about that.

Rather than temporary homes, limestone became the main building material. Zangi (black people) became Zanzibar and the area became known as the Spice Islands. Think pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon. Today it is the home of tourism, some spice, a World Heritage Site and a lot of people. Not so much on the spice although there is plenty for sale, both raw and spice mixes, in the markets.

This morning we walked through the narrow twisted streets of Stone Town where pedestrians, bikes, scooters and hand pushed heavy wooden wheeled carts are the only possible forms of transportation. Looking at old buildings, interesting doorways, and stores tucked behind wooden barred facades,

yes, that is yarn (acrylic) in the bottom of the display case

yes, that is yarn (acrylic) in the bottom of the display case

the calls to prayer were an ongoing reminder that the population is 95% Muslim. That and the women’s dress made it pretty obvious.

The Old Slave Market over which was built an Episcopal Church (which became a guest house after a new church was built.

original church built over 8+ underground slave chambers.

original church built over 8+ underground slave chambers.

the fish market,


spices –

all indicative of that which was was easily bought and sold.

This afternoon’s adventure was headed up by Bonita, the hotel manager on a rare afternoon off. Visiting fabric sources, stores in front of stores on the narrow streets and opportunity to add to my spice collection made for a lovely afternoon. We ended at Livingston’s on the beach where we relaxed, unfortunately a month too early for the Jazz Festival.

Dhow's on the water

Dhow’s on the water

sunset from the roof

sunset from the roof

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And on to Zanzibar

July 21st, 2015 No comments

And today it got complicated since 10 of the group area heading home on KLM via Amsterdam this evening.

Me? I’m off to Zanzibar….

According to the brochure:

After breakfast this morning, we’ll depart for Arusha, where we’ll enjoy lunch and bid farewell to those travel companions who are returning home today. Then, we transfer to Arusha Airport to board our flight to Zanzibar Island, known as Unguja to the locals. Upon arrival, we’ll check into our hotel. This evening dinner will be on our own.


Lunch was at a restaurant close to the airport. Not bad at all, but we have had better, especially the food at the Serengeti Camp.  Farewells were said to those heading home then the five of us (plus our tour leader) headed to the airport. For those that have been in Africa, it wasn’t as large as Livingston but had a full share of  shops….  It was also our lucky day – there were enough people wanting to fly to Zanzibar that we took a much bigger plane than originally scheduled (and me with my extremely heavy backpack).

leaving Arusha

leaving Arusha

The distance isn’t large – 16-30 miles from the coast (the nearest most distant point of the largest island)



Chaos ensued at the arrival airport – but we managed to get our luggage and out of there in a reasonable time. Our Hotel is called the Swahili House. Built in the 1800s, it transitioned from private ownership to public hotel via revolution and political change.  In any case the view from the roof dining area is amazing – and the architecture is amazing ….

and the sunset was pretty impressive from the roof top

looking toward Africa

looking toward Africa

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Ngorongoro Farm House Valley Lodge

July 20th, 2015 No comments

Discover Ngorongoro Highlands

Today we’ll have the opportunity to explore the surrounding village of Karatu and the Ngorongoro Highlands for a day of Learning and Discovery with our Trip Leader. We gather for a Farewell Dinner this evening. Day 12 will include A Day
in the Life experience at an Iraqw village and local school.

My Reality

The setting is peaceful, the greenery lush, and the wifi is free. Did I also mention that the food is excellent along with being way too available. After excellent food, but not much appetite in the Kilimanjaro Highlands I have the feeling that those pounds that vanished are bent on returning. The cuisine is a mix of local African dishes and western style offerings. So there is porridge in the morning, but it is oatmeal here rather than maize. There are eggs to order and meats. But there are wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables.

Today the majority of the group went off on cultural activities. Visiting a family, a market, dropping off food at an orphanage. Perhaps stopped by a school – I wasn’t too clear since it is so not my thing. (all of which is a long discussion related to too much seen in too many countries and not needing to go there anymore).

Instead – I posted the pictures from the last five days, took a few of the lodge.

Found that the Wifi worked well enough to download books from amazon but not to update Apps.

Other wise, checked out the gift shops, bought napkins.

Tomorrow five of us head to Zanzibar and the other ten back to the US so it is farewell dinner time….

Oh – there was a Maribo Stork refusing to leave the vegetable garden

looking for a free lunch

looking for a free lunch

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Ngorongoro Caldera

July 19th, 2015 No comments

Ok, haul that geology out of its resting place. Caldera – that central area of the volcano that collapses with the eruption. So you will see this particular feature (the Ngorongoro Caldera/Crater) listed both ways on maps.

The Blurb provided by OAT –

Early this morning, we drive to Ngorongoro Crater. We descend to the floor of Ngorongoro for some game-viewing. The caldera of Ngorongoro marks the ancient walls of a collapsed volcano, which was probably once the size of Mount Kilimanjaro. The circular crater is some twelve miles across, with steep walls of more than 2,000 feet. The crater’s rim is 7,500 feet above sea level, the highest altitude we reach on our trip. Because of a permanent supply of water and a precise balance of predator and prey, most of the wildlife remains here year-round. The forest areas are home to herds of bull elephant, including some large, old “tuskers.” There are several prides of lion, and many packs of hyena and jackal. If lucky, you may spot a bat-eared fox or a pair of cheetah. These predators stalk the numerous wildebeest, gazelle, and zebra. Here thrives a stable population of rhino, as well as herds of buffalo and groups of hippo. The birdlife is equally diverse, ranging from the scavenging vulture and bustard to the magnificent eagle and crested crane.

Apparently what happens is that animals wander down, the eating is good and they don’t leave. But, since there are few trees, you don’t find young elephants or any giraffes at all. Because of the amount of recreational traffic (read here safari vehicles) most of the animals and birds don’t seem to be bothered. This is a conservation area: no one lives here but Maasai are allowed to graze a small portion on one end. That area is grazed down to practically the soil.

Packing and leaving out of the camp this morning


On the way

looking into the caldera and across

we saw
and the reason for being able to see all the hyenas and jackels had to do with the lions having lunch

at the end of the day we stayed at Ngorongono Valley Lodge

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Full Day on the Serengeti

July 18th, 2015 No comments


Game-viewing drives

(and I am sparing you the rhetoric. Hey, we went out, saw a lot of animals, swatted at the flies and had a great time…) Seriously – we headed to the Western side of the park on the rumor that there were a lot of wildebeasts… Incredibly true. Once I am home hopefully I can get Dani to take the video and turn it into something worth watching. Nothing like seeing thousands of animals suddenly appear from across a riverbed, thunder down within a hundred meters of where you are sitting before changing direction, picking up speed and heading across the plain.

Pictures today are in the order taken….

and ignoring flat tire #3 (same vehicle, same tire, third day in a row.) since the guys are pretty speedy, especially with a leopard hunting in the area

tour leader and the other two drivers

tour leader and the other two drivers

But then we came to the Wildebeasts ….

To top off the day – there were lions…
personally I think he is pretty scruffy, but I suppose youth is an excuse.

and then, we saw their potential supper on the way back

Grant's Gazelle

Grant’s Gazelle

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Big Cat Day

July 17th, 2015 No comments

Explore Serengeti National Park

The cabins - front sleeping room and back section with shower and toilet

The cabins – front sleeping room and back section with shower and toilet

You will rejoin the group after breakfast for a morning game-viewing drive. The Serengeti stretches over 5,700 square miles of plains, riverine bush, and acacia woodland, with a dominant environment of acacia grassland. But from the comfort of our bush camp, there is never a rush: We go where the animals are. We can return to a promising area, or range further afield.

As it turned out, this was the day of the cat. Lions, leopards, cheetah were all out and about in spite of the temperature. And more importantly in spite of the tsetse flies. Day biters, these nasty flies are mostly found in brush areas or those with large numbers of herbivores.

I have divided up the pictures, but there are a lot of them…and not all in the order in which we saw/photographed them…

Secretary Bird
Which nest rather messily on top of acacias (one of the 43 species of this tree any way). So the pair – taking off, taking a hike, and crossing the road – after all – there may be snakes on the other side…

Those animals which you expect to see
include wildebeast (gnu), zebras, & elephants

and the antelopes
skipping the Thompson’s, Grants, Impalas, water buck and bush bucks…

More birds
(especially for Linda and Alison)


which are incredibly shy, hard to photo. Even in the park they are quite endangered (killed off by leopards, lions, hyenas…) but apparently willing to have a discussion with Gnus..

Mother Leopard
who hangs out in her own tree – stomach full.

sleeping cat

sleeping cat

but makes a couple of trips up and down while we watch. Note that she stores “lunch” up in the tree on both sides. Don’t enlarge the pictures with dangling antelope legs if it will bother you

Leopard Cub
guestimated to be about 4 months old. Mom is hanging out in the larder tree. Way too many vehicles and tourists for the young one who woke up, got bothered and took off….

Two Lion Prides
The first was hanging out in the sun under a tree – or rather – he was while watching his five ladies look for a snack. Before turning an irritated look our way

the second pride was a bit more scattered with one young male feeling lonely, a couple of lionesses at look out and the king off on a seduction walk

Monkeys behaving badly

And days end


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