Day: June 16, 2013

It’s All About the SandIt’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.


Kinder than water and sand-free.


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


Nothing but a Day One Photo GalleryNothing but a Day One Photo Gallery

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 2013Sunday at BayCon 2013

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”




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.