Drake & Josh at the Kepler Conference

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No, this entry has absolutely nothing to do with the old Nickelodeon TV show.  It’s just that while doing my edits on the very few photos I took last night, I found that half of them were titled Drake & Josh 1, Drake & Josh 2a, and Drake & Josh 2b.

No, wait.  Back up.

(Note:  if “Kepler” means nothing to you, go peek at this first:  NASA’s Kepler page.)

Last night was a public session during this week’s Kepler Science Conference at NASA-Ames Research Center.  Frank Drake—does anybody even faintly interested in extraterrestrial intelligence NOT remember the Drake equation?—was the speaker for a ‘sold-out’ evening at the Conference Center.

Drake with a glimpse of Lynette Cook's Art

Frank Drake          (with a glimpse of Lynette Cook’s Galactic Internet)

With the tiniest bit of encouragement, my husband “Clark” had scored a pair of the free tickets offered to the public by the Ames Events Program.  We even managed to arrive early enough to worm our way into decent seats just behind the “reserved for press” row.  Just between you and me, acquiring those seats involved summoning the chutzpah to ask a woman who was clearly saving a seat for her husband if she could shift left or right one seat to make room, either by claiming the aisle seat for her husband or dibsing the middle seats.  She chose the aisle-seat access.  As she moved over, so did the young man next to her, leaving us with one more free seat which was swiftly nabbed by someone in the next wave of arrivals.

So it all works out well.  One more person got a nearly-front seat (without having to ask for favors), we started the evening filled with gratitude, and the college student got to sit with David Morrison—NASA astrobiologist and SETI Institute leader—and his wife.  (Yes, that’s who the tardy husband was.  “Why didn’t you tell me?” I said to Clark.  “Well,” he lamely explained.  “I don’t see him with his wife at the cafeteria.” )  The student had taken Caltrain all the way from San Francisco and then hiked from the train station to Ames.  He was excited to be surrounded by so many astronomers, but instead of being daunted by that, he’d decided to get as many autographs as he could on his printout about the event.  Most people he asked for autographs from also gave him business cards and some asked for his name in return.    His name is Joshua Caltana.

So now you see where that strand is headed.

Meanwhile, there were a fair number of cell-phone photos being requested in the front-row group.  Frank with one Kepler astronomer.  Frank with another.  A photo of someone taking a photo of Frank with someone.  Was it noted that one of the people sitting in the front row a few feet away was Dr. Drake?   Oh, to be an official Press Person.  They really needed a proper camera with a bounce flash in that light.

A free public talk in the heart of Nerd Country is a strong draw, and traffic was backed up at the gate, we heard.  So there was a delaying action.  Kepler staff launched a putatively impromptu quiz game, awarding Kepler memorabilia to audience members who had the correct answers to crucial astro-trivia.  Alas, I was way too slow to raise my hand on the few I knew, Clark was not interested in playing the game, and Joshua’s answer to one question was just close, not correct.  So our Local Group did not win any of the tchotchkes.  Oh, well.  We didn’t come for prizes.  We came to hear “Frank”.

But finally, they tuned up the computer with Drake’s slides and let him speak.  He had a bit of a scratchy throat to cope with, and the Mac was balky about launching the animations on his slides, but he soldiered on with all those rapt faces in attendance.

So yes, I’m going to make you endure a summary of a great talk before looping back to Drake & Josh.  Or you can be lazy and scroll to the end.  Bear with me.  There will be cool links.

Drake does autographs

Drake does autographs (later, later)

So, the talk was entitled “Kepler and Its Impact on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.”  But Drake put it a little more strongly.  Kepler, he said, is one of the “most important events in the history of science.”   Not only has the Kepler team’s search for habitable planets spotted thousands of planets orbiting stars in the small portion of sky selected for study, their data are useful for sorting through those finds for planets which might fall in the habitable zone.  The sheer impact of numbers is amplified when we realize that Kepler isn’t looking everywhere and that the Kepler results strongly suggest that there are many many more planets out there that the current tools can’t locate just yet.

For one thing, Kepler’s detection technique relies on occultation—spotting a planet passing in front of its star.  Only planets fairly close to a star are likely to be sighted this way, because the farther out a planet’s orbit lies, the more likely that a slight tilt of its orbit relative to our plane of view would make the planet pass ‘above’ or ‘below’ the star—making it invisible to us.  For example, even just at Earth’s orbital distance, 99% of such planets would be missed.

But for now, the numbers are big enough to give us plenty of data to study and inspire us.  Drake’s presentation included a snippet of the Kepler Orrery in which all the planets discovered as of early 2011 dance their way through Kepler’s mission period.  If you’re not too hypnotized by that, you can try Fabryky’s 2012 updated edition.

Kepler results include information about the planets’ orbital distances, and the stars’ characteristics are well-known, so the likelihood of there being planets in their respective habitable zones is becoming accessible.  For instance, with a cooler star, the habitable zone is close.  But what affects the habitable zone other than the star and the orbital distance?  From studying our own solar system, even just our own planet, we know that the characteristics of the planet affect habitability.

The Habitable Zone:  Colorado University

So, then Drake moved into Phase II of his talk, which he later revealed should have its own title

Everything I Ever Needed to Know

I Learned in

Kindergarten   

The Solar System

Aiming for that laugh, he led us on a tour of our own locale.  On Planet Earth, habitability changes markedly if we go up in altitude or down into the ocean.  So the topography and water on a planet affect its habitability.  In the deep atmospheres of the outer planets, it’s been proven that there are altitudes at which temperatures—even so distant from the sun—are about what they are on the Earth’s surface.  He shared an image by Lynette Cook illustrating Carl Sagan’s notion of “floaters” evolving and living in the clouds of Jupiter.   Comb jellies accustomed to the arctic seas of Earth—or alien life evolved to a similar design—would be well-suited to the deep, dark ocean beneath Europa’s insulating icy crust.  Our focus on the traditional Habitable Zone defined by certain distances from each star, based on stellar conditions, means that these alternate conditions for life finally need to get some attention so that the Habitable Zone can be redefined to include these non-Earthly, yet potentially life-supporting situations.   He foresees the narrow band illustrated above being widened to include most of the outer planets…and even those wandering ‘rogue’ planets warmed by nuclear decay.

Next, Drake turned to the conundrum of M-type stars and their planets.  He’s now convinced—thanks to Kepler—that there are likely to be planets around most of these stars as well—and those cool M-types (more familiarly known as Red Dwarfs) are far and away the most common stars.  There are more of them than of all the other star types combined.  Until recently, most astronomers were convinced that a planet anywhere in the narrow old-style Habitable Zone of an M-Type would be so close that it would be tidally locked—with one face permanently facing sunward, dooming the planet to be boiling on one side and frozen on the other.   But those convictions are faltering in the face of new understandings about how orbital eccentricities—such as that of our own planet Mercury—can prevent tidal locking and instead force a planet into a resonance pattern.   (Is this breaking news—did you still think Mercury keeps one face to the sun?  Take a break with Universe Today’s article on resonance.)

Even for a planet that ‘succeeds’ in achieving a tidal lock, atmospheric scientists have decided (provided the planet does have an atmosphere), that mixing by the currents of gas moving over the surface, driven by the heat of a star, would more or less normalize the planet’s temperature, establishing stable conditions in a range of habitation zones.  Drake mused that residents of such a predictable planet would consider it nothing more than “wretched circumstances” to endure life on a rock which rotates constantly and varies its temperature patterns hourly, daily, and seasonally.

Drake never directly brought his famous equation into his talk.  But one critical factor is the length of time that a civilization might be communicating—the likelihood of our finding one another falls if our conversational eras fail to overlap sufficiently.   However, he reported “good news for people who afraid that we have been advertising our presence” and are worried about aliens being “about to invade.”  Our own passive “communication” to the Universe has been dropping off precipitously as our use of technology and energy has shifted.   We used to beam many megawatts of television broadcasts into space.  No more—we’re going with digital, satellite, cable TV now, meaning thousands of times less energy expended accidentally broadcasting to the stellar neighborhood.  Soon, the only signature of our technological civilization to a far-off society could be the lights of our night-lit cities—something we aren’t yet capable of looking for ourselves.  A very patient observer might notice our atmosphere heating up over time and deduce that we have been subjecting our planet to global warming.

Drake enjoys a chat about astronomy

Drake enjoys a chat about SETI

Drake said he is beginning to feel that it may be our moral obligation to start an intentional broadcast, to try to share what we have learned with unknown aliens in the far-off planetary systems.  His reading leads him to believe that altruism is a part of our evolutionary heritage and to hope that evolution elsewhere has instilled enough of that same drive to cooperate so that eventually we may be able to do the one thing that we can do over interstellar distances—talk.

What about the Fermi paradox?  Where are those others?  One audience member was convinced that visitors have been here already, but Drake sadly told him he’d checked out those same stories when he was younger, too, and was disappointed to find they were all dead ends, that the fantastic accomplishments of early civilizations on Earth didn’t rely on helpful aliens but on ordinary humans performing great feats.  Interstellar travel is too expensive, in energy terms, he thinks.  When pressed, Drake’s line is that the reason we haven’t seen alien interstellar travellers is that “the only ones who would try are the dumb ones—and they don’t know how.”

So after the Q&A, there was a little bit of meet-and-greet.  Yes, I got to shake Drake’s hand and tell him I enjoyed the talk and always like it when I hear something new.  He said, “well, I try.”  Our new acquaintance, Joshua, roamed the crowd collecting a few new autographs and working up to saying hello to Drake.  By that time, he was one of the last well-wishers.  Drake was surely pining for dinner (his companions were already talking about food), but he listened to this young student, gave his autograph, and then instead of grabbing his bag and dashing away, he stood up and chatted with him for a few minutes.  Ergo:  Drake & Josh 1, 2a, and 2b:

Drake & Josh 1

Drake & Josh 1

Drake & Josh 2a

Drake & Josh 2a

Drake&Josh 2b

Drake&Josh 2b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coda:  Clark was starved, I was hungry.  So we went in search of dinner.   We randomly selected an open restaurant, placed our orders.  And then Frank Drake and his entourage arrived.  (Well, is 2 people an entourage?  Let’s just say yes.)  So I conclude my report with a mention that Frank Drake finished his long day of Keplering with an omelet plate at Crepevine.  I hope he survived—the portions there are well on the way to having detectable gravitational effects.

 

 

 

 

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Day Two, Afternoon: From 20 Mile to Lone Cedar Camp

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We have been encouraged to shift about and ride with all of the guides, as each has different perspectives, stories, and expertise.  Still, Clark needed to simplify things this morning and so re-joined Christian in the sweep boat.  And it happens that Eliza and Todd also jumped back on the same boat as yesterday.   Smart move for them, as I was OK with staying in the back all day to deal with my sand-in-eye issue, so they got a full day up front.   This will set a new pattern for our partners in the Fab Five, as, with the possible exception of Lana, we’re all keen to ride up front as much as possible.  So our couples will be endeavoring to not ride too much as a foursome, as each pair wants the same seats as the other!

Today, plunging deeper into the canyon forces us to expand our minds in the geological direction as well.   As the day began, we felt ourselves all knowledgeable, having mastered the notion of a “formation”, that is, a group of rocks that is readily distinguishable from layers above and below.  Our first formation was the Kaibab Limestone so naturally we thought  a “formation” meant a layer of one type of rock. But then we had to come to terms with the Toroweap layer, sandwiched between the Kaibab Limestone and the Coconino Sandstone.  But that middle layer has three main types of rocks—and no one is calling it the “Toroweap Gypsum and Shale and Sandstone”, it’s just the “Toroweap Formation”.

Toroweap Formation first appears below the Kaibab

Toroweap Formation first appears below the Kaibab Limestone

The point is a formation has a recognizable structure that geologists use to build their maps and that even we non-geologists can spot as a distinct layer.  Its main observable characteristic is it seems more bust-up-able, so the Toroweap also introduced us to talus slopes.  Turns out the gypsum and shale are more susceptible to erosion, so the transition between Kaibab and Coconino is a sloping mess of tumbled and jumbled rock, providing footholds for vegetation and for wildlife.  The Hermit Shale, underneath the Coconino, also turns out to be a slope-forming layer.  So we are sometimes going past vertical walls but sometimes alongside rocky slopes hosting vegetation—and wildlife.

 

Big Rock Slide

One Big Rock Slide–from the Kaibab over the Toroweap talus slope to drop off the Coconino wall to the Hermit shale slope

Well, we thought we were so smart, but our comeuppance struck earlier this morning, when we descended below the Hermit Shale into something entirely new.  The Supai Group.  What the heck is a “group”???   Is this some kind of pun on “rock group”?  Are we supposed to be asking which layer plays “bass”?  Naw, it’s just that sometimes geologists find it helpful to describe an assemblage of formations as a “Group”.   There are four formations (is that another pun?) in the Supai—and we will have rolled through all of them by dinnertime.    Why “Supai”?  That’s the name of the people who live in the Grand Canyon, the members of the Havasupai Tribe.  Not coincidentally, “Coconino” is the old Hopi name for the Havasupai.  So far, the geologists seem to have been relying on the locals to come up with formation names—Kaibab and Toroweap are Southern Paiute words, which are usually translated as “mountain lying down” and “dry/barren valley”, respectively.   We’ll learn about the “Hermit” moniker later.

With all these complex rocks in the vicinity, after lunch we make a short run to a place for a hike.  We pull in at Upper North Canyon Camp…no, not to camp, instead to make the scramble up to the North Canyon pool.  It’s a try-out, Billie says, to see how the group fares on hikes involving some scrambling.  I’m having something of a relapse in my eye condition, so I (yeah, yeah, grumpily) stay behind to take care of that.  I like scrambling, but it’s not a good idea when you can’t see.  Meanwhile, Christian is also on break, left behind to keep an eye on the boats and any stay-behind passengers.  I think I’m the only one staying.  Oh, well.

When my eye is feeling better again,  I let Christian know I’m going to roam about in the area near shore, with my camera in hand.   It’s actually a relief to have a little time seemingly “on my own”.  (This has to go in quotes…there are tons of people around, no fewer than a dozen at any given time, as other groups leave and arrive from the river, or from up-canyon.)  I just ignore everyone else and find for myself some photogenic calcite lumps, fire ants, lizards, a garden of native plants (agave, prickly pear, and more), and a spot to video the rapids.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day 2

Heart of Stone

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day 2

White Rock & Friend

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day 2

Spray and Moss

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day 2

Grand Canyon Fire Ants with Straw

Rainfall at North Canyon

Rainfall at North Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is an effort to ignore just how popular this spot is.   I’ve already learned to be careful setting up a shot when folks are first pulling in to shore.    The very first thing guys do after shipping oars—whether they’re wriggling out of a kayak or beaching a raft– is stand up and urinate.  Another reason to roam a bit away from the beach.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day 2

Arrivals at North Canyon

While I may have enjoyed my little wander and my personal discoveries, I did miss the adventure of the day, so here are a few of Clark’s pics from the Reason So Many People Stop Here:

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day Two

Billie leads the group up North Canyon

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day Two

Florence heads up the drainage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day Two

Tiny reflecting pool

 

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day Two

The main pool, in the rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not far to camp, but it’s a fun ride.  We’re now in the “Roaring Twenties”, a sequence of lively rapids between the 20-mile and 30-mile rivermarks.    At camp, another benefactor appears.  Trillian (of the triad Art & Trillian & Barry) has a solid familiarity with the trials of irritated eyes, as she suffers with one of those ailments that interferes with tear production, so she shares a pair of vials of her prescription Restasis.  I was a little skeptical about “borrowing” a prescription medication, but it turns out to be just the right thing.

Another lovely freshly-prepared dinner.  This time, it’s grilled chicken—with a choice of sauces.  Clark is ecstatic.  I think he goes back for seconds.  Matt works out his golf technique with the help of some driftwood.  Like Clark, he’s looking forward to the Master’s this coming weekend;  unlike Clark, he will be at home in time to watch the whole tournament.

During dessert, the portable grill becomes a firepit for our circle of chairs.  TitleThe crew breaks out some toys—horseshoes and a set of glow-in-the dark bocce balls.  Everyone is in the mood for some relaxation.  I’m in the mood for taking more pictures.

We made over close to 20 miles today (even with that annoying person whining in the back of the sweep boat).  We’re having wonderful weather.  A little drizzle during the hike just added a little variety without causing any problems for anybody.   We’ve stopped at Lone Cedar Camp, which is big enough for folks to spread out a bit.  Our tent is tucked into the lee of a large rock, and I persuade Clark to try putting up the flysheet tonight (the excuse being it might rain again).  The combined effect is to reduce somehat the quantity of sand infiltrating our tent this time.

Wishing I owned a sleep mask—or that I’d happened to pack one of my several headbands—I fashion an eye covering from a spare pair of long johns (well, let’s say “elegant thermal underlayer”) which serves to keep my head warm in the night and to keep the Restasis (and the extra tears it produces) in and to keep the sand out of my eyes.  At least no one at all can see how silly I look—Clark is already fast asleep.

 

Day Two, Morning: From Soap Creek to Lunch at 20 Mile Camp

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Well, the narrative for the morning of Day Two will be slim on personal observations.  I missed about half the day to a wrestling match with sand.   To squelch the urge to overindulge on the topic of having sand in one’s eye, I’ll attempt to fill the void with some post-trip discoveries and stolen photos from Clark’s morning shoot.  Yes, I hear you, “Big deal, I’ve had sand in my eyes!” and indeed I will have sand in my eyes plenty of times on this trip, but this Day Two Experience was like having had a disgruntled Brownie spend the night firmly packing sand into my eye socket.  That is, I woke up half-blind.  As a person who deals with hay and dust and animal hair/dander and agricultural dust regularly, I have rather a lot of tricks to deal with grit in my eyes, so it is difficult to express just how embarrassing and frustrating it was to have to seek help.

This is our first de-camping morning, and here I’m a useless cussing chump clumsily using a full-size water bottle to squirt water into one eye while both eyes fill with helpful, blinding tears, and Clark packs two people’s gear into bags and takes down the tent pretty much by himself.   Meanwhile, someone loaded plates with breakfast for Clark and me, so we’d not miss out on blueberry pancakes and bacon.  Despite my frustration and handicap, it turns out to be possible to swiftly consume a large quantity of this bacon.  Pancakes not being finger food make them problematical, though tasty.  Clark doubles up on bacon, not being a fan of pancakes contaminated with healthy antioxidant-bearing fruit.

So anyways, off we launch, all attired in our waterproof gear, for our run through Soap Creek Rapid.  I wish I had the chameleon’s skill of moving one eye while keeping the other still, so I could watch with one eye and not worry about damaging the cornea on the other.  Oh well,  I can deal with missing the visual portion of the rapids we ride—first the thrashing-wet Soap Creek, then a couple of what would be mere riffles but are actually more exciting in the uncertain dark, then the lightweight  Sheer Wall Rapid.

Approaching Soap Creek Rapid (courtesy of Clark)

Approaching Soap Creek Rapid (courtesy of Clark)

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day Two

Sheer Wall Rapid (courtesy of Clark)

It’s not a big drop—though my readings indicate it used to be much more problematic.  For the early explorers like Powell, who were not really equipped to run rapids, Sheer Wall was one of those that required extra effort to scout routes for portaging the boats .  Due to the “sheer” walls of rock rising from the river at that point, Powell’s crew were forced to scramble up tricky gaps in the rock and cling to uncertain ledges.

As Clark’s photo shows, the rapid at Sheer Wall is very short, and for us is more like a 2-foot weir over the debris-flow from Tanner Wash.  (Though, of course, with higher or lower water flow, it will be different—facts of life on the Colorado.)  Hikers coming down from the Rim can enjoy some fabulous experiences upstream in Tanner Wash.  While at river level, it’s an bland-looking open canyon, if one can climb up or around the dryfalls or pour-offs that form a barrier to up-creek hikers, there is a slot-canyon experience to be found, plus beautiful delicately-layered staircases as the creekbed cuts through the Coconino sandstone.  Follow the link to John Crossley’s photos—these thumbnails are just a screenshot of a single page on his site.

 

John Crossley's Tanner Wash page

John Crossley’s Tanner Wash page

And keep in mind that the hiking guides I’ve found share the opinion that these views of Tanner Wash are out-of-reach for anyone other than a technical climber or an experienced traveller on the only-slightly-marked go-arounds, if approaching from river level.  So we’re not heartbroken by missing that side-trip.

 

 

 

While there’s a certain novelty in surfing blind, my mood is in the dumps, so I’ll admit to wasting too many available conversation opportunities by whining.   It is suggested I wash out my eye by dunking my head in the river.  The river full of sandy water.  Yep, that would certainly work. Well, it would shut me up for a bit, I suppose.

Well, it does beat drowning, which is a recurring theme in the history lectures we hear on the trip.   Surprisingly, the first to make it through, John Wesley Powell, didn’t lose any men to the river.  (However, of the four who decided to hike out partway, three fell prey to old-fashioned death-by-human.)   The brilliantly tight-fisted Frank Brown, who considered it sensible to sink his cash into Robert Stanton’s project of surveying the Grand Canyon at river level for the purpose of building a railroad (in order to profit from the transport of coal from Colorado) also considered it a waste of money to invest in life preservers on a treacherous river.  He drowned just downstream of Soap Creek when his boat flipped over.  Two more of the men on that expedition drowned a couple of days later and the rest of the team hiked out South Canyon.  Stanton came back a year later—with life preservers, this time.

We pull ashore for a short break and then—cue trumpets and cymbals—Florence appears at my side and in short order she produces—from her accessible drybag, no less—a perfect, traditional blue glass eyecup, exactly like the one my family always had in our medicine cabinet.    “I always carry an eyecup,” she says.  And my trip is saved!  It’s going to take some time and more patience, but there is nothing like having the right tool for the job.

Now that I can see a bit, I learn that this “short break” is in part a chance to scout House Rock.

Barry scouts the rapid with Curtis, Jimmy, Christian, Will, Billie, Krista, and Erika

Barry scouts the rapid with Curtis, Jimmy, Christian, Will, Billie, Krista, and Erika

It’s the first rapid on our trip with any potential trickiness to it, and this will be the first time that the crew will see it this year.    Every year, things change as floodwaters shift material, rockfalls contribute to rapids, and flowrates change.  The Grand Canyon River Guides even keep a record of the changes over time, under their “Adopt a Beach” program.  For instance, here  you can see how  one of the beaches I didn’t see this morning has changed.

The thumbnail view of GCRG's Adopt-A-Beach page for Salt Water Wash

The thumbnail view of GCRG’s Adopt-A-Beach page for Salt Water Wash

Rafting the Grand Canyon, April 2013, Day 2

Scout’s-Eye view of House Rock Rapid

 

There’s a little scramble to get a sightline to House Rock.  The guides are all together discussing the best route through the obstacles they see. I take a peek at the view and snap a few photos of my own before I need to stumble back to more-level ground to give Florence’s eyecup another workout before it’s time to re-board and run this rapid.  It is definitely more fun with eyes open to see the waves coming.

 

 

Lunch is a stop at 20 Mile Camp—we are really Making Time today—for a lesson in creative use of groceries.   For those of us who love cream cheese, there are bagels and cream cheese, while salmon fans can choose cream cheese blended with grilled salmon from last night.  And there is the always-available peanut-butter & jelly option for the non-cheese-consumers, like Clark and Barry-the-vegan, or anyone who just doesn’t care for bagels.  And fruit, of course.  Did I mention our caretakers make sure we have plenty of fruit and veg in our river trip diet?

But here we are at the entrance to the “Roaring Twenties”.  No more flat water for a while.  Did you know that you can explore the canyon via Google Earth?  You can take the do-it-yourself route and just install the software and do your own scans (which should be even cooler and in more 3-D soon, according to announcements made at Google’s I/O event this spring!)   Or you can hook up with experienced Earthers like Riverbrain, who have put together stats on the river, rapids, and camps with zoomable satellite views from DigitalGlobe and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency, no less.

Touring the Colorado River on Google Earth

Touring the Colorado River on Google Earth

Eyes in the sky on 20 Mile Camp

Using Riverbrain to zoom on on 20 Mile Camp

 

 

Year of the Comet?

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This is an exciting year to be looking at the sky!

Comet Pan-STARRS, back in March, was a thrill–if you had clear skies or access to a space telescope.    Here is NASA’s STEREO view of that comet:

Comet Pan-STARRTS (courtesy of NASA)

Comet Pan-STARRS (courtesy of NASA)

 

 

 

 

In October, our intrepid Mars exploration robots and satellites will have a close call with a comet–and there is even a possibility that it will strike Mars:

Comet 2013 A1

Comet 2013 A1 (courtesy of NASA)  See video here.

 

 

 

 

Aaaand…in November, Comet ISON will appear.  This one has been billed as The Comet of the Century, and while other comets have had similar billing and flopped, we’ll have many opportunities to view and learn from its passage.  It may be visible to the naked eye by mid-November, but there’s a chance of an uptick in brightness when it hits perihelion on November 28th (aka Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.).  Many turkey dinners will be sitting cold while astronomy fans dash out with their solar-protection lenses to attempt to spot a brighter-than-Venus comet wheeling close to the sun.  Then will come a few days of frustration until the comet emerges from perihelion in the morning sky, hopefully trailing a dramatic tail.  Sky and Telescope predicts the finest view will come on December 14th, with a huge tail–perhaps spreading across as much as a fourth of the sky–will gleam brightly in the dark sky just after moonset.

In the meantime, and especially during those days it’s seemingly out-of-sight, ISON will be generating considerable science.  NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory will have eyes on the comet, as previous sun-grazing comets have yielded masses of information about the sun as well as the passing visitors.  And the twin “STEREO” (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) stations can be expected to contribute their views for potential 3-D detail.

 

Monday at BayCon 2013

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There are fewer options on the final day, and the available time is short, so opportunities for plans to stray from reality are fewer.  We’d expect less divergence…here are the results of our field test:

Time Frame What the Plan was What really happened
Monday morning Sleep in a bit, then go to session on James Bond vs Dr Who, and finally pick up art if I win any auctions.

One of Patricia McCracken's Little Dragons came home with me!  Find your own here http://www.patriciamccracken.com/miniprint.html

One of Patricia McCracken’s Little Dragons came home with me! Find your own here .

Did sleep in.  Fed horses & scooped manure, too.  Didn’t arrive until close to noon.Trekked to the Art Show first to pick up the two pieces I’d bought, but then also discovered my single bid on the dragon-butterfly print was the winning bid.  So paid and went to look for that panel talk.  JB vs DW still ongoing, but after a half-hour I figured I’d had about all I needed on the topic.  So no regrets about turning up so late. 

My next move was to get my art safely into the car, though I did make a detour to make sure there was no boffering available today.  Dang.  Just another panel talk going on in what had been Boffer Central.

 

So I betook myself down to the Gaming Room to buy a coke and eat lunch.  Two older teenagers who had joined in on the dancing last night were there playing some form of D&D.  The one thing I haven’t done at this convention is play games, and it looks like that will have to be another time.  For now, I just have to settle for having spent some time hanging out in the Gaming Room.

Monday afternoon Go to session on “how to build a spaceship.”  Go home!

First firing of the Falcon 9-R advanced prototype rocket. Via Elon Musk on Twitter. Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/102692/spacex-tests-falcon-9-r-advanced-reusable-prototype-rocket/#ixzz2WVt42LYG

First firing of the Falcon 9-R advanced prototype rocket. Via Elon Musk on Twitter.   At least there is a good place to read about the topic I skipped:  start here.

 

MKB's latest novel in the Star Wars universe

MKB’s latest novel in the Star Wars universe

 

 

California Autism Foundation

California Autism Foundation

 

diy

 

 

 

 

 

It was easier to walk to the media tie-in panel from the Gaming Room, so that’s where I went.   I hadn’t actually looked at the list of panelist, so it was a pleasing surprise to see Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff  there, in her capacity as a leading author in Star Wars novels.  Her panel partner, Kevin Andrew Murphy, works also in gaming tie-ins and had a much more positive spin on the quality of that literature than the board-game guy in yesterday’s panel.  Overall, I gained a much better picture of life as a tie-in fiction author.  And an appreciation for authors who can face intense fans in the middle of a panel.    Btw, about half the people in the audience are people I recognize.So things were winding down, including the dealer’s room.  So I went on up to the closing ceremonies.  In between that and the “hiss and purr” session, there was some dead time.  I poked my head into the Art Room to see how the art auction had wrapped up.  One of the women I remember from dancing last night was clutching the steampunk flamingo.  Turns out it hadn’t had any bids, so the artist had offered it to her at a lesser price in order to avoid hauling it home.  Good for her! 

Next stop:  the Gaming Room, for one last donation to the California Autism Foundation (the beneficiary of the Charity Vending machine) from which I gained a Coke for myself and an accidentally-vended ginger ale which I could donate to one of the nearby volunteers.

 

I was determined to stay for the critique session because I wanted to praise the DIY idea.  The downside was having to sit through a huge laundry list of facility complaints and an equally lengthy recitation of praises for hotel staff.  However, managed to retain my nerve enough to actually participate in the “programming” discussion.

 

After that subject was concluded, I took off for Nob Hill.  Not the SF landmark, the grocery store.  Got home before the guys and even fixed dinner for everyone.  Does tacos count as dinner?

 

It’s All About the Sand

OK, Time for Our First Entry in SECRETS REVEALED!!!

#1  It’s All About the Sand

Approaching a Grand Canyon rafting trip, all you think about are those thrilling rapids, the blazing sun, and the electrifying/drenching thunderstorms. Your packing list is heavy on waterproof gear, quick-drying clothing, sunblock, and hats.  But at least half of your time is spent in the Kingdom of the Sand Demon, and you will be reminded of that for weeks to come, as you find sand in yet another impermeable item.

Think of it this way:  the glistening white sand beaches along the Colorado River are formed of particles eroded from a mile of rock—much of it sandstone, no less, and almost all of it the product of eons of marine sedimentary deposition—with the grinding-down happening over five or six million years.  All those thousands of thousands of years of tumbling in the river yields sand so fine that it blows right through your tent walls.  Yes, really.  You will snuggle down to sleep in your little tent with the windows and doors zipped tight (because you did notice all that sand out there and were even sharp enough to notice that the wind tends to shift its direction and roar turbulently down the canyon every evening).  And you will wake up with a layer of dust-scale sand all over your gear, your sleeping bag, your mat, and your face.

Yes, beautiful sandy beaches!

Yes, beautiful sandy beaches!

So—once you think about it, there is no mystery.  Ultrafine sand plus forceful winds equals sand in everything.  Most of the time it is a minor annoyance, an opportunity to bond with your travelmates: “Yep, I have sand in my beer/cocoa/coffee/soda/water, too.” Sometimes, it’s just another technical chore, such as brushing the sand out of your waterproof camera housing.  But sometimes, it’s a way to mark yourself as a seasoned river-runner:  the clean, safe water supply at Phantom Ranch was “turbid” (nanoscale sand, yes?) when we stopped by—so Billie advised the crew to pump water through the team’s super-filters for refills, instead of simply using the Park Service’s ready-to-use water, in order to avoid giving the new arrivals an unpleasant surprise on their first day.  We old hands merely filled our bottles at the tap and chugged the wetness gratefully.

On occasion, it’s more than annoying (see my Day Two Morning whine-session).   To quickly recover from the more-than-annoying times, bring the following:  an eye cup and a tube of liquid tears.  If you have any dry-eye issues, make sure to bring your medication.  If your weight allowance allows, tuck in a bottle of pH-balanced eyewash.  If you don’t need these supplies, fine.  But if someone else does, you will make a friend for life!

And to save those supplies for being a hero, apply an ounce of prevention.  If you’re a side-sleeper, face away from the tent walls.   Tuck a headband in your gear—if you find yourself waking up with sand in your face, use the headband as a night-time eye covering and wash your face in the morning.  Shake the sand out of your sleeping gear before packing it away in the morning.  Try to keep your hands reasonably clean—humans are always putting their fingers in their eyes, but you sure notice it more when you rub sand into them!  And if you must sleep under the stars, tent-free, choose a less-comfortable spot out of the sand-blow.  (You’ll realize the guides don’t concern themselves with tents—but they are usually bunking down on their boats.  On the water.  Away from the sand.)

Keep in mind, this is no excuse to Avoid The Trip.  Just one of the Secrets they don’t tell in the literature.  To paraphrase one of Clark’s favorite poets, Robert W. Service, “It isn’t the river ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your eye”.

Want to read the real quote, and more?  A good place to start is Goodreads.  Yes.  Pun intended.

And remember, add $10 to your budget for:

A proper eye cup.  Bring your old glass version if you have one--this the the best out there now.

A proper eye cup. Bring your old glass version if you have one–this is the best plastic one.

adforeyewash

Kinder than water and sand-free.

liquidtears

Helpful dose for irritated eyes…not the stinging “red out” stuff.

 

This is just a gallery of photos from the first day in the Grand Canyon.  Not in any particular order, either.

To see the photos in full format (and, in the case of vertical images, the full view), double-click on any one image, then use “previous” and “next” buttons to move around.

Yes, of course, the images are copyrighted.   Says so at the bottom of the page AND in the image IFTC’s.  Trip members–read the details, though.  You got  rights!  And if you can’t figure out the who’s-who, just email me, OK?

 

Sunday at BayCon 2013

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The last full day of the convention is truly the moment when plans and results can be expected to diverge the most.  One must combine shifts in plans from the ORIGINAL plan with adjustments in expectations resulting from events of the first few days.  Here is how this instance worked out:

Time Frame What the Plan was What really happened
Sunday morning See if there’s something different to do in the Arduino II workshop and if not, go to the Dr. Who birds-of-a-feather (BoF) get-together.  Sit in on the panel discussion on how to differentiate among various dragons–if that is boring, go on to the live podcast of Poe’s “The Raven”.

Trish Henry's Butterflytastic Arduino Organ Housing

Trish Henry’s Butterflytastic Arduino Organ Housing

And My Own Finished Arduino Project

And My Own Finished Project

 

 

Costume Swap find, ready for Regency dancing.

Costume Swap & Dealers’ Room finds, ready for Regency!

 

Actually made it to the Arduino workshop at 9:30.  They were still getting things organized for the second session, so maybe that counts as being on time.  It was the same projects, but with fewer participants (it being 9 a.m. on Sunday), so there was plenty of room for me. 

I joined a table where two others had chosen the same project–a master-crafter who put together her project in half the time I needed and an astronomer from Reno who had watched the annular eclipse not far from where I had been.

 

In time, I got my software downloaded, wiring connections made, taking advantage of help from Arduino Labs’ Larry Burch & his friend Tim Laren & the soldering wizard whose name I failed to get.  Got all my decorations done and even sort of got it working.  The mapping of the connections isn’t quite right on the scale, but I can reprogram at home.  Yay!

The costume swap took place in the back of the DIY room while we were hot-gluing our hardware.  When the swap was over, the person-in-charge called out, “Last call!  If you want something, take it!”  We tech DIY’rs were stalled waiting for turns to get software downloaded at the time, so several of us rummaged through the pile.  I found a long dress that was part of someone’s costume for something & one of the other women encouraged me to give it a try.  Hey, I could squeeze into it—so now I have a dress to wear for Regency dancing tonight!

 

And by the time we were all done, it was after noon.  I carried my prizes out to the car and ate lunch.  More peanut-butter-or-jelly, but with salad today.  Forgot to pack chips.

 

Next:  plenty of time for a purchasing visit to the Dealers’ Room.  Found a piece of jewelry (a necklace in a vaguely steampunk style) within my budget and bought it.  Sweet.  Finally feel “dressed for SF”.

Sunday afternoon Go to session on getting the “swords” right in Swords and Sorcery, then to the Cassini Mission panel–the ONLY real science panel at this con.

American 1890's belly-dancer "Little Egypt"

American 1890′s belly-dancer “Little Egypt”

 

 

NASA-CassiniTitan

Cassini at Titan? Missed this panel!

 

 

 

What the youngsters don't know about kaffeeklatsch

Can you believe what  youngsters don’t know about kaffeeklatsch?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember WorldCon 2002?

Remember WorldCon 2002?

 

 

 

 

 

 

LMB signs my copy of her first appearance in Analog! Yesss!

LMB signs my copy of her first appearance in Analog! Yesss!

 

And Installment IV--signed, too.

And Installment IV–signed, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ewww.  The Swords presentation turned out to be extremely in-your-face (literally) factual, with photographs of people with cuts and blood and so on.  Double-icky.  I exited swiftly and dashed to Mary Cordero’s belly-dance workshop.

 

Oh, now, that was so much super-fun!  Learned basic belly-dance techniques, picked up some dance history, practiced and played with movement, and had fun in a roomful of women.  Well, let’s be honest, two of the drummers were  guys and one brave man was trying the dance himself.

 

Most people think belly dance is only for women, but clearly Mary is not one to put up barriers–and there’s a strong tradition of men (and not just gay men) involved in the art form.  Check out “Whose dance is this anyway?“  I have also since learned about Tahtib, which is stick-fighting, like Eskrima, and would be a totally cool addition to this con, as it blends boffers and belly-dance.

 

This “women’s dance” is real exercise, so I pulled off my overjacket and scarf, to discover I’d put on my butterfly shirt backwards.  Oh, well, I pulled my arms in and switched it around.  We’re all “girls” here, right?  Mary kept the workload light, so we ended up a little sweaty but not exhausted.  She passed out random badge ribbons and encouraged us to come to her party later.

 

Luckily, I was already prepared for my first change-in-plan, which resulted from my stumbling into signing up for the Guest of Honor Kaffeeklatsch.  The deal is “bring your own coffee” so I took time to cool down from belly-dancing and then sought out a cup of tea (using my Inner Gail to persuade the store clerk to rummage in a drawer for more English Breakfast teabags). Others brought drinks, but coffee was not a popular choice.  While waiting to begin, the key discussion item was whether “kaffeeklatsch” is  a real thing (from which I discover I am now on the “other side” of the generation gap) and whether the activity should be renamed because no-one brings coffee.

 

It was a pleasant group “visit” with Lois McMaster Bujold, though likely it was on the torturous side for our hostess.  My suspicions that she is a member of our society of introverts was confirmed, even as she was peppered with questions about the Vorkosigans and the culture Chalion and her other novels.

 

We were a very mixed bag of folks…but we had more in common than admiring “LMB”.  One guy went to ConJose for his first SF con and he described the line I was standing in to get Bujold to sign a book for me at my first con.  The “girl” across from me was also in the Arduino workshop with me–she tried to get Lois to accept her glowing Arduino badge as a gift, and succeeded in getting her to keep it for the session.

 

Bujold had already announced that she’s rather tired of working in the “Vorkoverse” but attendees were brimming with ideas of stories they’d like to hear.  Near the end of our allotted time, however, the talk ranged more freely, and the participants chatted more among themselves about television and science and child-rearing and books, so at least Bujold had a chance to not talk a little.

 

When it looked as though the session was ending, she agreed to a photo with Ruth (my fellow Arduino-ist) and to sign my Analogs. Mysteriously, (or not-so, with Analog’s mid-month issues), I was missing an issue.  But, as she puts it, I could choose to make my life mission to find that last issue and get it signed.  Or not.  I’d only asked her to sign one, and she offered to do them all.  Like me, she regrets doing the three-name routine, as it makes her name soooo long to sign.

 

But six o’clock rolled around and the last few deep fans were still reluctant to set her free.  I made my exit hoping that would provide a route out for her.  She’d taken the head-of-table chair, which left her with a difficult path to make a graceful retreat.  I nearly knocked down a one-year-old who was toddling about right outside the door, but her mother was reassuringly calm for both of us.  I have to mentioning this, as she’s one of the people I have kept meeting all weekend!

 

When the rest finally emerged, I walked along with them and we exchanged some info, as we clearly have some interests in common.  I met Ruth’s sister and daughter and the daughter’s friend.

 

Oh, well, time to go get dinner and go to boffers.  It’s a bit of driving, but I made it to a Subway and scored a tuna salad.  I was so hungry it was a challenge to not tear into the salad box on the drive back.  And then I nearly left my sword in the car!

Sunday night Go to the Firefly LARP and then do Regency Dancing, and listen to concerts if any run that late.

Who's Boffer, eh?

Who’s Boffer, eh?

 

 

 

 

Why "Lena" is already so good--this is her dad!

Why “Lena” is already so good–this is her dad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Cordero (right), shares the fun and treats at her Belly Jam Party

Mary Cordero (right), shares the fun and treats at her Belly Jam Party

 

Tech meets Tambour at Belly Jam

Tech meets Tambour at Belly Jam

 

 

 

 

Regency dancers take over

Regency dancers take over

Representatives of PEERS turn out in the best costumes.

Representatives of PEERS turn out in the best costumes.

Our Dance Master takes a turn at the waltz.

Our Dance Master takes a turn at the waltz.

 

 

Thirteen--original artists...on Amazon.

Thirteen–original artists…on Amazon.

Well, the kids were at boffers.  That is, Ruth’s daughter and her friend.  Or their clones, anyhow.  I ate furiously, anxious to get in on the action while there were still some kids around willing to teach me how to play.  There was also an older tween-aged girl there with her mom, impatiently waiting for her dad or one of her dad’s friends to come and battle with her.  She clearly felt not well-matched with the younger kids.  So I said I’d play as soon as I finished.

 

“Lena” gave me a basic lesson and then thrashed me soundly.  So the other girls’ main battle became over who had dibs on playing the newbie next.   If memory serves, I did manage to beat one of them once.  Maybe twice.  There was absolutely no way I could have won against my tutor.  It is a very energetic game and not as violent as it might be.

Here are the rules, as taught by the Kids of Boffers:  1) No trying to hurt the other person 2) No head shots, at least not on purpose 3) If you’re hit on the arm or leg, you’ve lost that limb and have to do without it, so hop if you lose a leg, kneel if you lose both, switch hands if you lose your sword arm  4) Hits to hands or feet don’t count.  5) Torso hits are deadly.

 

I did my best performances when killed, of course, as death scenes are generally fun to do.  They all knew the old Monty Python Black Night routines and a few random Shakespeare quotes were tossed about.  These people were all around the age of 10-13.  The first girl’s dad (aha!  He’s a professional sword-fighting instructor!) finally appeared and played a couple of rounds with her.

Another of the skilled adults gave one of my smaller opponents a good lesson in using her dagger-and-shield.  She was a lot fiercer after that!  There were older (bigger) people there, kindly not taking me on.  Two members of the Silicon Valley Screwts, the quidditch team, spent the hour bashing one another.  And several were more eager to play boffer baseball.  When the kids who were battling me headed out, so did I.

I had intended to go to the Tucker and Tinney concert, but then remembered about the belly-dance teacher’s party.  She’d be disappointed if her students didn’t come.  So I found my way to the “Party Floor” (another first) and stayed a while.  She had snacks and drinks and music and drumming.

 

It was another hour of re-meetings.  The professional-swordfighter family was there–their daughter is also good at drumming.  Turns out the family is from the town next to mine.  And the Arduino guys were there.  And a writer from one of the panels I went to….whose reading I missed because I had to leave early.  And another woman from the class.

 

We all did some dancing.  Mary handed out some “Bellyrina” ribbons.  The swordfighter dad used me as a demo model to describe to the writer how traditional dance positions matched up with swordfighting moves and also how he and his wife would act out dramas in which the lady would join the fray and surprise the opponent.

 

I finally slipped out with my shoes and dress and boffer, explaining that I really wanted to do some Regency dancing, now that I even had a dress to wear.   And so spent the next three hours doing country dances.  The dance master would teach one set, guide us through the full dance, and then announce a brief waltz for a break.

 

There were plenty of people to ensure we could all appropriately switch partners around each time and, given the predominance of women in the group, to allow the women to switch genders from gent to lady and vice-versa.  We did a half-dozen or more dances before the dance master called “time” at 12:30 after his group’s signature piece, the Congress of Vienna waltz.

 

There was supposed to be open filking in the main music hall, so I slipped in there just as they were starting a new song.  The Bohnoff’s sang a couple of pieces, someone sang something I can’t name but which went up very high indeed while accompanied by Betsy Tinney playing “the flute part on the cello”, and someone else did the old silly song about writing a science paper and stuffing it with drivel to get published.

 

There was a request for something within the theme, so Maya sang Vixy & Tony’s “Thirteen”.  Someone’s daughter jumped up to sing one her own favorites from the same album (“Emerald Green”) and then two of the adults did their parody versions, one of which was a gentle bit of humor about the Emerald City but the other one upset the first singer as “horrible”, being a song about Soylent Green.

 

The musicians all had their computers and tablets out, pulling up lyrics and chords.  I even got to make a tiny contribution, rescuing from under a chair a small accessory the guitarist dropped under his chair.

 

But then it was nearly 1:30 and boffers would close at 2.  I ducked into a restroom on the way downstairs and swapped from dress to pants again, but the doors to the convention center were already locked–to my disappointment and the sharp dismay of one of the boffer organizers who wanted to get their stuff out of the room.  I followed her back to the lobby, where she sought help from the hotel staff and I added a contribution to the Welcome To BayCon whiteboard.  “Allons-y” has 2 ells in it, kids.

 

Time to grab a Coke from the Gaming Room’s Charity Soda Machine and get home.

 

Day One, From Paria River to Soap Creek

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Gulls at Water's Edge, Below Vermilion Cliffs

Gulls at Water’s Edge, Below Vermilion Cliffs

Red & White (Moenkopi & Shinurump)

Red & White (Moenkopi & Shinurump)

 At this point we are beginning our Grand Canyon geology lessons.  At the outset, back in those early times when we thought it a struggle to manage a simple footwear change, we were sitting just above the Kaibab formation—the same mostly-limestone layer that forms the tough, weathering-resistant rim of the Grand Canyon.   And for the first stretch, we glide along in the shadow of the formation that lies above the Kaibab—the Moenkopi, a formation which is recent enough to offer up dinosaur bones to patient and industrious paleontologists.   Our journey will take us much further back in time than the dinosaurs, deep into the pre-Cambrian, a thousand million years ago, when our most ancient ancestors were just beginning to try enough cooperation to form multicellular life.  Today, though, we will just take a dive into the top of the Permian period.  By the time we camp, we’ll be down in the Hermit formation, where the rocks date back 280 million years.   Just Google “Grand Canyon Layers” and you’ll find a hundred diagrams of the geology of the Canyon.  One of my favorites is this one, by Professor Charles Cowley  of the University of Michigan’s Astronomy Department, because his essay does a super job of explaining the terminology and relationships…and also links to off-Earth “geology”.

Layers of the Grand Canyon (Cowley)

Layers of the Grand Canyon (Cowley)

Shortly after we set off, the Kaibab limestone shows up at the shoreline (Kaibab).   By the time we stop for lunch, at Three Mile Camp, we’ve already dropped below the Kaibab Limestone into the Toroweap Formation (composed of mostly limestone and sandstone).

Toroweap Formation first appears below the Kaibab

Toroweap Formation first appears below the Kaibab

 

 

 

And we’re getting our first look at the variety of shapes to be seen in the rocks.   I keep seeing faces and Clark keeps seeing assemblages that look like built structures.

I see faces:  Big Giant Head

I see faces: Big Giant Head

 

Clark sees buildings:  "masonry" cliff

Clark sees buildings: “masonry” cliff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may seem early to stop for lunch, as we pull in to shore after just under an hour on the water, but keep in mind that we started the day at 6 a.m.  and everyone is ready to practice off-boarding if it leads to serious snacking.  Remember the Guest Uniform described at days’ beginning?  Here Lois & Lana model these fabulous costumes.  Well, maybe not exactly fabulous in appearance, but just you try to find an outfit that keeps the sun from frying your skin and also keeps you from succumbing to hypothermia when it turns cold and wet.

Lois and Lana Rockin' the River Style

Lois and Lana Rockin’ the River Style

 

 

 

Check out the elegant lunch service, with the bottomless Blue Jug of Water prominently featured.  But lunch is a quick meal, and we’re back on the water in no time, heading off to see the famous Navajo bridges.   This will be our last glimpse of modern structures until we reach Phantom Ranch.  Eliza and Todd graciously take the back seats, so Clark & I get to ride up front and take photos of the rest of the group

Boats on the way to Navajo Bridges

Boats on the way to Navajo Bridges

The bridges are just a mile downstream.  I’m torn between admiring the elegant designs  (there is just nothing like a beautiful bridge) and spotting the first appearance of the Coconino Sandstone layer.

The Navajo Bridges pass overhead

The Navajo Bridges pass overhead

 

 

First appearance of the Coconino Sandstone

First appearance of the Coconino Sandstone

 

Over the next couple of hours, we’ll enjoy a whole sequence of firsts:

1)       Our first California Condor sighting!

 

Condor! Condor!

Condor! Condor!

 

 

Condor!!!

Condor!!!

2)      Our first real rapid, Badger (Sorry, no photos from me.  I was too busy hanging on. Oh, how I will laugh at myself in just a few days!)

3)      Our first bighorn sheep sighting!  Well, our first back end of a bighorn, anyhow.

Bighorn sheep in hiding

Bighorn sheep in hiding

4)      Our first bonafide landmark—Ten Mile Rock.

They call it "Ten Mile Rock"   Why?

They call it “Ten Mile Rock” Why?

Whatever is it named after, we wonder?  It’s not even close to ten miles across.  Did someone think it looks like the number ten?  Or the Roman numeral  X?   If anything, it looks like the letter Z.   So why is not not called “Zorro Rock”? But most importantly, this landmark is what our Trip Leader is looking for, as she is aiming for…

5)      Our first camp!  We pull in at Soap Creek Camp, where we receive in short order, the Lecture on How to Assemble Tents,  The Lecture on How to Use the Bathroom, and the Lecture on How to Know When to Show Up for Meals.   (The secret there is:  listen for the conch.  Yes, a blast on a conch shell.  As if we are rafting down a river on Lord of the Flies Island.  Luckily, the minimum age for this trip eliminates the risk we’ll be attacked by a tribe of feral boys.)

Soap Creek Camp is just upstream from Soap Creek Rapid, which makes Badger look like a couple of kids splashing in a wading pool.  The last of the day’s sunlight gleams across the river, making it glow golden.  Irresistible!

Clark at Soap Creek Rapid

Clark at Soap Creek Rapid

 

Big Shadows and Soap Creek

Big Shadows and Soap Creek

Standing Wave at Soap Creek

Standing Wave at Soap Creek

Clark and I ramble about for a while after tent set-up, skipping the “hors d’oeuvres”.   Dinner is a fabulous service of grilled salmon, asparagus, and salad.  (Poor Clark!  He didn’t ask for an alternative to salmon, but doesn’t care for seafood. )  And dessert is a humongous cheesecake, which disappears in short order.

Each person is responsible for washing-up his or her own dishes.  Critical item for anyone considering taking this trip—bring a pair of dishwashing gloves!  After a few days in the desert dryness, all the hand-washing and regular river-soakings will leave hands dry and cracked.  Alternative—con your travel partner into doing your dishes for you.

Night comes quickly when you’re tired.   I find myself following my flashlight beam along the trail to our elegant bathroom well after sunset.  But I need not be anxious about being in such a vulnerable situation, in the dark, on my own.  Because I’m not alone.  Peeking around the edge of the rock there  is a tiny translucent scorpion.   Hello there, little guy.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell the others you’re here.

Bark Scorpion (copyright Noah Charney, licensed under Creative Commons)

Bark Scorpion (copyright Noah Charney, licensed under Creative Commons)

Saturday at BayCon 2013

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In this exploration of theory and practice of bayconning, the divergence between plans and reality appeared to be diverging after only two days.  Will this trend continue?  Or will it stabilize?

Well, what can you expect?

Time Frame What the Plan was What really happened
Saturday morning Attend either the panel on how cultural norms affect people with autism or the one on how masquerade works.  Then go to the panel on Fans of Color.  About time.

QueenOfHunger by LEHLight

Queen Of Hunger by L. E. H. Light

 

Tankborn, by Karen Sandler

Tankborn, by Karen Sandler

 

Griffin's Daughter by Leslie Ann Moore

Griffin’s Daughter by Leslie Ann Moore

 

 

 

Remembered I have my first 5k run in exactly one week.  Did a training run, helped with horse chores for the morning, made sure my goldfish got fed and cat got his meds.  Got to con about 11:30, squirreled around to find the room for the Fans of Color panel.

Last door on the hall.  What a great panel, wish I’d been there the whole time.  Highest concentration of folks-of-color ever–on panel and in the room.  Great discussions.Especially interesting to hear real people—not canned advice-mongers–talking about how to deal with multi-ethnicity and whether or not any individual should be expected to represent their ‘race’ (or really, culture, since race is technically meaningless) to others.  There seemed general agreement that if one is uncertain about another’s background, it’s much preferred to be asked than pigeonholed in the wrong category.  As well as some shared amusement at turning people’s expectations upside-down.

All of the published writers in the group complained about the difficulty of marketing their work when the standards in cover art lean strongly to picturing characters as white, regardless of how they are described in text.  At the same time, they were each somewhat philosophical about bending a bit in that regard if it could get someone to pick up the book in the first place.

 

Self-published authors have more control over cover art but need to make their own choices to draw readers;  Leslie Ann Moore chose cover art in which her lead character is pictured from the back, but directed the artist to be sure the character’s hair was like her own natural African-American hair, so the observant reader looking for books with “people like me” in them would be quickly clued-in while the casual browser would be first attracted to the scenery the character is contemplating and by then have the book in hand, ready to purchase.

 

Afterwards, chatted briefly with Heidi Stauffer, a Ph.D. candidate at the UCSC Earth Sciences department who happens to be Singaporean-American as well as female.  She also sees a dearth of women in her field and is politely exasperated by people assuming she’s Mexican-American.     I got her card to share with my Berkeley Earth&Planetary Sciences son.  It’s a relief to talk to someone who isn’t characterizing climate change as something that is “controversial”.

Saturday afternoon Eat lunch, then go build something in the Arduino workshop, then stop in to the Bujold autograph session and, if time, go to a panel on self-promotion for writers.

Donate!

Donate!

 

 

 

 

 

Arduino Labs Workshop--Organ

Arduino Labs Workshop–Organ

 

 

 

 

 

Sandra SanTara is also Windwolf Studios

Sandra SanTara is also Windwolf Studios

Daniel Cortopassi does more than Cat Art

Daniel Cortopassi does more than Cat Art

 

 

On the way to the parking lot (where my lunch is hiding), spotted sign for the blood drive.  Well, why not?  The Stanford Hospital van was parked in front of the hotel, cookies and juice prominently on display.  “Is this where the free cookies are?” I kidded.  And up into the van, for filling out electronic forms which repeatedly want to know if I might have BCE or HIV.Fortunately, the blood transfusions I had for surgeries in the 1960′s don’t count, so I was declared qualified to enjoy having a needle in my arm for fifteen minutes.  Felt dizzy partway through, but helpful nurse-in-charge had practical suggestions to get rid of that feeling.  Got more than cookies, too.  As a first-timer, was awarded a cool key-chain and a brag sticker, plus they had badge ribbons, pretzels, juice, and…wait for it…ice cream!  Ice cream was so solidly frozen, I ended up eating a snickerdoodle and a bunch of pretzels and taking the ice-cream to go.And just in time, too…barely made it to the Arduino workshop.  This was totally great, but we only had time to get most of the way through building and decorating our boxes, collect our electronic parts, and pay, before time is up.  Have to come back in the morning to finish during the second workshop.I’d forgotten to bring any Bujold books with me today, so no point going to the autograph session.  And sign-ups for tomorrow’s Kaffeeklatsch with Bujold  had been at 9 a.m., so, oh, well, at least I got to listen to her reading.  Stopped at info desk to pick up a newsletter.  And there was the sign-up sheet, with only 5 people signed up so far.  Weird.  I put my name down, fast.  Then read the form.  Oh, ah, they moved the session from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and so the sign-ups had only just started.  Woo-hoo.

 

Feeling lucky for the moment, I turned back and sought out the Art Show, signed up as a bidder, and took a serious look at the offerings.  Found two small pieces with “direct sale” prices I could afford and paid for them.  And placed a minimum-bid on one of the butterfly-dragon prints, positive I’d be outbid, but enjoying the feeling of taking part.

 

Finally, decided it was time to retire for a delicious “lunch” of a peanut-butter-or-jelly sandwich and some chips, in the quiet of my personal car.  Plus, it being late afternoon, I was able to move the car close in.

 

Back into the venue, for a stroll through the Dealer’s Room.  Not too overwhelming.  Maybe worth coming back later.  One of the people from the Fans of Color session was reading upstairs, so I ducked into that session.  Dang.  Her name was last in the list, but she had read first, instead.  I listened to two readings and started to feel faint in the hot, stuffy room.  Out again.  Time to sit a bit and review the program for the evening.

Saturday evening Play Through the Looking Glass Croquet, then go watch the Masquerade and go next door to give my sword a try-out in the Boffers room.  Take in some music.  Maya and Jeff Bohnhoff are playing.

BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

The Two Alices setting up croquet

BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Wonderland croquet team in action

 

 

 

 

 

BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Tops! Amazon Warrior, Katniss, Knit Klingon

 

 

BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Strange Synergy–My Favorite

 

 

BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Songs of Chalion

 

 

Keepers of the Gongs--Klingon Auction

Keepers of the Gongs–Klingon Auction

 

BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Top-Earning Merchandise

The first step was to wonder (pun intended) where the croquet would be happening.  The Pocket Program says,  ”Other 4.”  What???I continued my Dealer’s Room stroll out the back door of that room, and there encountered Alice.  Actually, Double-Alice.   Two of them, that is, one a traditional blue-dress Alice, one a scarier white-pinafore-with-blood-on-it Alice.  There were no Flamingoes.  But they did have handmade (yes, made by Scary Alice) PVC wickets, proper mallets, and rather bouncy croquet balls.The hallway turned out to be problematic for croquet, as it was also the hallway for the dealers and shoppers exiting the Dealers’ Room, as the stores close down for the day, AND it was also the hallway in which participants and audience were queuing for the Masquerade.    There was an issue with Scary Alice having left her petticoat in her hotel room. One does NOT play croquet with no petticoat on.  But, in due time, we were set up, we had seven players and a patient Gofer guarding the end wicket, and the game was conducted.Traditional Alice forged swiftly into the lead, I had a lucky break and overtook her, coming to a turn-end at the entrance to the final wicket, but Green came up behind, knocked me clear, and won the game!  Naturally, we had agreed to continue until all completed the pass.  It took a couple of turns, but, yes, I came in second, so have time to take some pictures while the rest finish.  Yay!

And am starved.  And it is still some time before the masquerade, so I stop at the little store and buy a sandwich.

 

I got myself back at the Masquerade hall a few minutes after 7:30, but, uh, it was over bar the judging.  Wow.  Fast.  Probably they started at 7 instead.  Oh, well, I could sit and watch the robots from RoboGames dance about while the judges finished and watch the awards and take some pictures afterwards.  My personal fav–the group of women dressed as Dr. Who villains, plus K-9.  Today was my day to wear my Tom Baker Dr. Who scarf.  In fact, during the croquet game, a passer-by awarded me a “Jelly Baby?”  ribbon for my Whovian-ness.

 

I peeked into the boffers room briefly, but the Stanford nurse had been very firm about “no strenuous activity for 24 hours”, so instead I hiked to the music room.  There was a Bujold-themed performance coming up.  When I arrived, a harpist and a guitarist were in the middle of their last piece.  Then Diana Paxson and friends arrived in Chalion costumes, explained the concept–she wrote songs using the themes from Bujold’s book, and with the help of the previous pair, Margaret and Christoph, they performed five songs to the “Chalion” gods.  Then they forced Bujold to stand and be applauded, too.

 

Enough music for now…there was supposed to be a panel discussion on science fiction down the hall.  I’m kind of dozy in the small room, but Altoids help and the discussion is relatively lively.  I’m annoyed to be embarrassed when the response to my question about fiction related to games (one panelist had said he works in gaming) was “it’s sh***”.  Great place to find a closed mind.  Good questions from the one young teen in the audience did get some reasoned responses.  Still, kind of relieved to head back to the music room.

 

However, on the way, I heard gongs and laughter from another room and stopped in to watch the Klingon Slave Auction in progress.  It’s fun for a bit and nice to see people bidding each other up to donate to the Make-A-Wish foundation.  But there was a concert I wanted to see!  And I just barely caught the last few songs from the Bohnhoffs and feel sorry I didn’t get to hear more.  Maya K.B. has always been one of my favorite Analog short-story writers, but I’ve only just learned what a good singer she is.  Darn, should have skipped the panel talk.

 

 

© 2012-2014 Vanessa MacLaren-Wray All Rights Reserved