Breakfast at Cascade Shores

This morning I woke up to a refrigerator that was sadly lacking in milk. I looked outside at the dreary rain-filled skies and sighed. What did I need to cheer me up? A bit of snow and some food in the belly. I figured the quickest way to get that was to go up the hill a few miles. So I drove up to the general store in Cascade Shores. It has a small breakfast counter now, with three indoor tables.

There must have been at least four inches of snow by the time I got up to Quaker Hill. The main road was fairly clear, though, and the snow on the trees is always a lovely sight.

There's not a big menu at the general store, but I liked the Denver omelet, and the hash browns were nice and crispy. I even got to pick my own soda from the general store. I don't know what they did to the English muffin, but I liked what they did to the English muffin. It was chewier and softer than usual. Maybe they grilled it?

The best part was listening to the locals banter with the waitress and cook about the weather and about business. I wrote a bit more on my werewolf story -- the deadline is 15 February! -- and enjoyed the coziness. Weird to call it coziness when there were three tables with hard-backed chairs, but I liked it.

I took Pasquale back and it was a winter wonderland. It was not clear like Banner Quaker Hill Road and the drop off on the right hand side was covered in fog and snowy trees. Lovely morning.


I forgot to comment yesterday here on the Challenger anniversary. It is shocking to me that 25 years have passed.

Yes, I have a story about remembering where I was when I heard. I was an aeronautical engineering student at RPI. I still believed that we would go deeper into space and I wanted to be part of that. As you can imagine, the interest in space was not unusual in a technical school like RPI, though there wasn't all that much excitement around the workhorse Shuttle program. Still, at every launch the Rathskeller in the student union building unfurled a projector screen and a cluster of geeks would watch. I was on my way to a noon class and I stopped to watch along with everyone else.

I like to say the class was "Fundamentals of Flight," but I can't really be sure of that this many years later.

So that's where I was when it happened. Engineering books in hand. I don't remember anybody saying anything. I think we all just walked away from the screens like zombies. And that's what seemed to happen to the space program, too, at least to an outsider. But I think it had been zombified when it first went into "workhorse" mode.

It seems a bit self-indulgent to think more about where I was when the Challenger exploded than about the families involved. But I'm a bit melancholy today and I don't think it's unusual. It truly was a discontinuity point for me and many of my generation.

Things I Forgot to Mention

  • Turns out you have to register for WorldCon (it's in Reno!) by the end of January to be eligible to both nominate and vote on Hugo awards. I am now eligible to nominate. I have until March 26. Recommendations for reading are welcome.
  • Whoever made North Bloomfield Road steeper also planted a bunch of blackberry brambles that have overtaken what little shoulder there is.
  • Wouldn't it be cool if the road was named Humbug Road? (That's the original name of "North Bloomfield."
  • I meant it about the recommendations. The only speculative novels I read that were actually published last year were Kraken, Mockingjay and Blackout. Although I enjoyed Mockingjay and would have nominated Hunger Games, I don't think it's worthy of nomination. The only short fiction I've read has been in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.

Rune stone, Sorunda, Södermanland, Sweden

Sven demonstrates his work on an early prototype of Candy Land.

If I nonchalantly hold this rock with my left hand, nobody will notice I broke it.

An early example of poor metrics. "See! I'm 90% done."

Zombie Pond

I finally got the bike out of the garage; there have been too many pretty days in a row for me to put it off any longer. Folks, I have to tell you that somebody has been out there making North Bloomfield Road steeper. I don't know how or when they did it. Sneaky.

I went across Wet Hill to the trailhead at the Indian Flat/Indian Trail intersection. I rode the Hirschman Trail down the switchbacks and back toward the Rood Center. This part of the trail is in great condition. It is a wide ride through the woods, across streams and up hills. For the most part, this bit (aside from the switchbacks) was fine even with my Kona. There were a few tight turns and it seemed like a lot more than a mile and a half, but it was a pleasant ride.

I knew that the trail went by the Hirschman Pond, which I've never seen, so when I came upon this, I assumed it was the named pond and was only whelmed. I took a relaxing sit-down on a rock and looked at the water. But this is not Hirschman Pond.


After the little bridge at that little pond, the trail narrows a bit and the course gets more interesting for mountain bikers. My bike (which is mostly a road bike) was still OK for most of this part, but some of the turns are too tight for the geometry -- the front wheel and my shoes tend to blend a bit on the switchbacks. It became a real workout for me at this point, which is good, of course. It's a great trail back in this bit.

Finally, I came to the real Hirschman Pond. Here is a picture I stitched together from five iPhone pictures I took. It was automatically stitched together by CleVR. What do you think of the result?

Hirschman Pond

You can view a panning version on

After the pond, the trail become a single-track mountain bike trail. It also become really really muddy. I can see why Cement Hill has its name; much of the mud was white-grey like a good bit of mortar. It was also deep in spots. The bike was just not up for this; my tread couldn't get grip to go up the hills, I got mired in the mud, and there was a need for a jump at a couple of spots over drainage. With a real bike, that stretch would be a lot of fun. For me, it was a slog.

I know there's talk of handicapped access to the pond. I can't imagine it'll be along this trail. It would be nice to walk to the pond on a safer trail, but it would also be a shame to lose this track.

It was nice to find out where the Cement Hill trailhead was. It's directly across from the government center access road on Cement Hill, down a driveway marked 115. From the road, it looks like a residence driveway, what with the mailbox and all, but there is a little parking area and a sign inside that identifies it. Apparently, there is a house down the driveway further that the city owns. The trail skirts it.

Pictures and Monday Pop Quiz

Look: Successful pies!


And here is the birthday tree. This year's birthday tree is a Braeburn apple tree. It's the one in the middle. The tree on the left is the 2010 almond birthday tree. I think it grew six leaves last year. Have I mentioned that this is my birthday month? I'm kind of shy about that. I got a birthday card from Southwest Airlines this weekend. I know these things are automatically generated, so how did they miss by two weeks?

birthday trees

This is the final menu for the 13 States Feast. Can you match the food to the original thirteen states? (This is not food that was necessarily available at ratification; it merely represents my vision of each state.)

  • Goldfish Crackers & Pretzels
  • Horton Vineyards Raspberry Wine
  • Wagner Vineyards White Whine
  • Mini-Cheesesteaks with Cheese Whiz
  • Chicken & Slippery Dumplings
  • Maced Green Beans
  • Spicy Succotash
  • Cole Slaw
  • Okra Pilau
  • Pumpkin Bread
  • Bean Pie
  • Whisky Walnut Chocolate Pecan Pie
  • Berger Cookies

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch)

So, I was out in the backyard planting my birthday tree -- OK, to be more accurate and/or precise, the folks doing the direct physical labor were Prasad and his friend, the neighborhood boy whose name I can never remember. While these figments of my imagination toiled away, I sat on the porch and drank an amaretto and Coke Zero, the drink that had nearly gotten me thrown out of a bar once. OK, to be more accurate and/or precise, I ordered an amaretto and diet Coke and the bartender asked, "In the same glass?" Please.

"You could be out here helping us dig instead of contemplating your linty belly button," commented the taller kid.

"Dude, this is not a fuzzy navel. I shall teach you the science of mixology next. But for now, you must learn to finish the task."

Prasad paused in his digging to straighten his tie. "Sire, we are but mere children and do not deserve to be worked like this."

"Merely children! You are the farthest thing from 'mere,' young lad. In addition to being imaginary, you are my apprentices and shall one day be the greatest confidence men the world has ever known. And it is tasks like these that will get you there."

"How will digging a hole in the ground help us rip off rich pensioners?" asked the one who is not Prasad.

"He doesn't know. He read that Scottish book about lochs and it went to his head," replied the one who is Prasad.

"The Lies of Locke Lamora is not Scottish, funny lad. Locke is the name of our protagonist in this fascinating tale of a band of higher-functioning thieves. It's interesting you should misconstrue his name as naming is such an important part of the story."

"Imagine forgetting someone's name."

"Not only is this tale of thievery in a fantastical world surprisingly engrossing, it is also an excellent guide to parenting. Or so I imagine. "

Prasad adjusted his glasses after tapping down dirt around the base of the apple tree. "Actually, I found some interesting parallels with -- or should I say demonstrations of? -- agile software development. The entire set piece around acquiring clothing at the counting house was both an example of the value of failing fast and of iterative & incremental delivery. If he had not made the failing attempts, he would not have learned the details he needed for the final big push. And he would have failed utterly if he had gone directly to the final suit of clothing. It was the incremental and iterative that got him well-clothed. This book is about agile teams, no doubt."

"Oh, I disagree." The other lad dropped his shovel. "The book, like all books about robbing the rich, was obviously an intricate examination of the role of the individual in a corrupt society -- "

"What is it with Americans and their love of the savvy outlaw who robs from the rich? How can they admire him at the same time they hate socialism?"

"This is hardly a socialist screed."

"I beg to differ. Everyone from Robin Hood to Locke Lamora has been all about the redistribution of wealth, a core communist value." Prasad threw his shovel down, too, finally.

The kid with no name shook his head. "Locke and his gang don't want to redistribute the wealth. In fact, they don't seem to know what they want to do with it. What is admirable is the trickster who pulls one over on the powerful. The powerful tend to have money, true, but it's entrenched power that this is really about."

"Redistribute the power, then. Where is the power of the plucky individual? Like the Merry Men, stories of thieves' guilds are really stories about how individuals have no safe place."

"Except in community. Call it communitarian, if you like."

I grew tired of their debate. "What thieves are about is the quick and easy road to riches -- "

"Begging your pardon, sir, but there was nothing quick nor easy about these schemes. I think the intricate puzzle-piece nature of the scheming is what is compelling about these con-man stories. There's always a bit of work involved."

"Speaking of work," I said. "You two should go fetch the sequoiadendron for the roadside."

"What is this teaching us, exactly?"

"Some day, Prasad, you may be called upon to make a performance involving arborology."

"I thought you were going to teach us how to mix drinks next?" whined the boy whose name I might just be forgetting on purpose.

"Well, I was, I was, but you convinced me. It would be irresponsible to introduce alcohol to 'mere children' such as yourselves."

Georgia: Peach Pie?

Oh, I forgot to share:

You might remember that I was planning to make a mini-feast this weekend featuring foodstuffs that represent the original 13 states. I showed off my bean pie for Massachusetts. Well, here's my peach pie, representing Georgia.

dropped pie

What a mess! I think this is how cobbler was invented. Tomorrow, I'll be baking a chocolate-bourbon-pecan pie to represent Georgia, instead. The peach pie was a lot of work (you have to quickly boil the peaches and then skin them), though the peaches were nicely tart, and now the idea is filled with bad karma for me.

How's that for magical thinking?

Where Are These Flowers?

Isn't this cute? There are holes in the center of the flowers, but are they for looking in or looking out?

This ought to be easier than the last one. Where in Nevada County is this?

Flowers on a Fence

Once you get this one, there's a much harder one coming.

The Lone Grave/Rock Creek Trail

Well, that was an awfully quick contest. A few days ago, I asked you to identify the location of a fence with toys on it, and almost immediately, SR got the right answer.

Rock Creek

Last week, I went for a walk along the Rock Creek Trail. This is a nice little loop trail off the access road to the Conservation Camp. I figured the Conservation Camp was some museum for the CCC or something, but it turns out it's a state prison. I didn't know that was there.

The Rock Creek Trail will be interesting to look at when there are leaves and stuff, but even in winter it's a good break from city life. The creek has some nice bits of rapids and there's information about an old lumber mill in the area. You can take another road back up to Highway 20; you'll get dumped out between the 5 Mile House and the city. The road along here is mostly paved, and even my Civic had no trouble with the rough spots. I think this time of year probably gives the best feeling for the way you're clinging to the side of the mountain as you drive along. Recommended.

Rock Creek Trail

In between the 5 Mile House and the turn off for the Conservation Camp, there's a "Point of Historical Interest". I finally stopped to see what it was all about on the way to the creek. There's a white picket fence that surrounds the grave of a 3 year old pioneer. According to the marker, this is the grave of Julius Albert Apperson, who died in 1858. I'm not sure what triggered people to leave toys here, but it's sad on a sunny day. On a rainy day, it's probably full of pathos.

Apperson Grave

The marker says:

Born June 1855 - Died May 6, 1858
A pioneer who crossed the plains to California who died and was buried here. The emigrant trail followed along this ridge and through Nevada City. The marking of this lone grave perpetuates the memory of all lone graves throughout the state of California.
Point of Interest Marker


Hey, this is kind of a neat idea: A writer in the isolated wilds of the Yukon finds a virtual writing group in which to workshop his stories. Seems like a good way to get that needed feedback even when you can't find locals. Of course, the addition of a computer anything into a writer's life seems to lower the overall output, but a little discipline and the incentive of the kinds of deadlines these groups enforce will probably balance that.

If you're interested in writing and writers, don't forget that this year's World Science Fiction Convention is being held in Reno, a short trip away. The last one I went to was in Glasgow and last year's was in Australia, so it's a treat to have one so dang close. If you become a member before the end of this month, you can make nominations for the Hugo awards and even after that there'll be time to vote for the winner from the final ballot. Updated: You have to be a member by 31 Jan to vote on the finals, too. Prices go up after the end of February. (The Hugo awards are voted on by fans; the Nebula awards are voted on by writers.)

I'll be sure to weigh in when the nominations for novel are out.

2005 Hugo Nominees

Where in Nevada County...

...can you find this collection of left behind toys?

toys on fence

Something Else to Worry About

Maybe there's a super storm in California's future?

...a 300-mile stretch of the Central Valley was inundated from 1861-62. The floods were so bad that the state capital had to be moved to San Francisco, and Governor Leland Stanford had to take a rowboat to his own inauguration, the report notes.

Comics Readers in Marysville (or Dobbins)

One of my favorite cartoonists is Stephan Pastis. Looks like some reader in Marysville wrote in to the newspaper with a suggestion:

Your comics section would be greatly enhanced if you left a blank space in each location currently occupied by “Get Fuzzy,” “F-Minus,” and “Pearls Before Swine”: the clean white paper would be a significant improvement in each case. Add “Stone Soup” back to the format and you will have raised the quality of this section by an order of magnitude.
So Pastis has some fun with other uses for the space if his Pearls Before Swine cartoon is removed.

Scotts Flat Lake is Still There, Folks

And somebody topped it off!

Yesterday was another beautiful sunny day. When the temperature jumped into the 60s, we put the kayaks on the car and popped up to Scotts Flat for a quick paddle. The water was frigid cold, but we only had to step in it for a moment when boarding. After that, it was a lovely ride around.

January Scotts Flat

The people on the right down there hand-built their kayaks from a kit. Those were some lovely kayaks, but I like not having to worry if I scrape mine on something. The boats were from Chesapeake Light Craft, which means they were from home!

Here's a water level comparison shot from back in October:

October Scotts Flat

Wrong Target Audience?

This poster is at the Borders down the hill. The books are _Eat, Pray, Love_, _Twilight_, and _A Reliable Wife_.


I haven't gone over to North San Juan for cheat day lately. What with the holidays and all, my eating habits haven't really been anything to cheat from. But this week has been back on the wagon: eating at home every day, fairly reasonable portions, lots of vegetables. That means Friday is cheat day and I can eat whatever I want. Having a cheat day was what made my diet successful in the past because it's easier to hold out when I'm only a few days away from a cheat. Sadly, I've been so far off the diet since October, that I really can't say I deserve a cheat day.

Still, I wandered over to NSJ for lunch today for a bite at Toki's. This place is a real dive, folks, but I enjoy stopping in for some greasy food and a look at the local fauna. They're interesting to watch.

I noticed that most of the pictures are gone. It used to be that every spare inch of the walls was covered with old photographs and junk, but they're down to only a few pictures above the stove, now. I think the pictures used to be of old customers and the owner and stuff. I didn't bother to look at the menu, but the display case didn't have all the Asian items in it that used to be there. I wonder if the ownership has changed? I hope Toki's OK.


I hear you asking, "So, Abbot, what did you do for your birthday? What kind of tree did you get?"

Well, I haven't gotten a tree yet, but I will.

At any rate, I spent Sunday wandering around in a fog.

There's a neat quality to the fog around here. It comes and goes. And sometimes it crouches just above your head like a cat getting ready to pounce.

And sometimes it seems like there isn't anywhere else in the world.

Umbilical Contemplation

Today's tweet: What did Admiral Bellybutton use his telescope for?

So, half my job involves spending days at a time standing in front of and working with teams of strangers. A couple of times a year, I get to stand in front of dozens or a hundred strangers and do my little routines. I really enjoy working with new folks, and even more I like performing.

But put me on the floor with a bunch of strangers and without a script and I freeze.

What's up with that? I wandered down to the Sierra Commons last night (our local co-working facility/business incubator) for a tech talk. It was a good presentation; I learned a lot about "big data." And any time I can spend an evening where the word "eigenvalue" naturally rolls off the tongue, it's a good time. But I couldn't actually talk to anybody.

The other half of my job involves me sitting alone in my office . Sure, I get to look out onto these lovely pine trees (and an almond tree), but I've had days where I hardly leave the room, let alone the house. I wonder if I'm becoming too isolated.

This week, to get out of the house, I'm going to stop buying 2-liter bottles of soda. The new rule is: if I want a soda, I have to walk down to the Bonanza Market for it. Since I'm addicted to caffeine, that oughta get me out of the house.

The Bank Experience

I just went down to the bank for the first time in something like forever. The Brunette usually takes care of the financial things, but the Brunette is away in Africa these next two months, so I am left to re-learn how to make deposits and pay for things.

What really struck me today is how awesome it is to be able to transact business with a human teller without being separated by some ridiculously thick plexiglas barrier.

Of course, it doesn't make up for the fact that the county is afraid of science.


Stolen from Flavor Country, who got it somewhere else:

A Youtube user thinks NASA is “the most fascinating, adventurous, epic institution ever devised by human beings”. We agree. That same guy thinks NASA has no idea how to promote itself. So he made this commercial for them. It’s beautiful.

Go See

Here are some links and things.

Drawing for a Game Board, 01/05/1904

Game: I meant to point this out back on the 5th, but I forgot. So, since this is my birthday, I thought I'd point you to the birthday of Monopoly. That's a drawing for the patent of the game that eventually became Monopoly. It was patented on 5 January 1904.

Crime Scene Investigation

Dioramas: Check out this series of dioramas called No Country for Small Men. Some are grim, but they're all awesome.

Painted Dioramas: While we're on the subject, Amy Bennett goes one step further. After she makes the dioramas, she makes paintings of the scenes. Go see!

Milk: I assume that's going to require actual fat-containing milk. Looks like drugs might help, too.

Finally: Don't forget that the Every Page a Painting project has begun. Right now, it's a Frankenstein page painting every other day.

The Abbot is Full of Beans

slice of bean pie

So, yesterday I made a Boston Bean Pie. Here are my impressions upon finally tucking into a slice this morning (keeping in mind that I've never tasted the real thing):


It's very sweet and and the texture is slightly less than smooth. I expect that's because I used the raw sugar. The spices are pretty much the flavor of the thing, I guess. I don't really detect the beans at all (though I don't have what you might call a discriminating palate). The closest pie I can come up with for similar flavor & texture is probably sweet potato pie. But it's not quite as solid as that. I suppose it's not a surprise that it tastes a lot like the inside of a red bean bun.

At any rate, I like it and it stays on the menu! I'll probably cut the sugar back a little bit and serve with some sort of non-dairy whipped topping. Only 11 states left to go!

Cooking with the Abbot

almost all the ingredients So, my book group recently read Ratification, a book about the individual states reviewing the Constitution. In addition, the next meeting is in my very own home. As I will be hosting this alone (the Brunette is away in Africa), I'm going to experiment on the people in the book group with a fancy set of vittles. I'm going to try to present something from each of the 13 original states. Not food from the appropriate era, mind you, but modern food that represents each state. I figure I can do this with a mixture of entrees, desserts and drinks. If you have any suggestions, please put them into the comments. There are more than two weeks before the meeting.

Extra Credit: Name the albums that are playing when the iPhones appear in the pictures!

A Fortnight Does Not An Iteration Make

I think that tweeting has done something to my brain so that I'm not able to think in long form any more. There's a longer article here, inside this mess, but all I can think to say is fewer than 140 characters.

A timebox is not an iteration.