Where In Nevada County - 30 May

Happy Memorial Day. I suppose it's possible there's more than one place you'd find a sign like this. I just like the way it's rolled out into the middle of the street during certain parts of the day. Is that to make it extra-noticeable or to keep from having to post it in someone's yard?

I'll bet this sign is not up today!

Explain this to Me

Every time I see a headline or a comment along the lines of, "a Federal court ordered California to release a bunch of prisoners," it seems like it's followed by an article that says, "a Federal court ordered California to cut its prison population to within 137.5% of its designed capacity within two years."

It seems to me that it's California's decision to follow the ruling via release rather than other options. At the very least, the options to build more prisons or to farm prisoners out to other states for pay occur to me. There might even be other options. Now, you might say that those are too expensive, and I might agree, but it really sounds like people are saying the court imposed a solution, when they simply stated what make sense: If something is well over 137% of capacity (which is the target here, so we must be higher), then we're not doing it right.

And surely we can all agree on that: if you're going to make a certain level of laws and insist on incarceration, you gotta pay to put the people somewhere.


Folks, I know I've mentioned this before, but I wanted to bring it back to your attention because there is a special Memorial Day sale going on.

The 69th World Science Fiction Convention is being held a mere 90 minutes away in Reno this August. In addition to getting to vote on the Hugo awards (and see the winners awarded), WorldCon gives you the opportunity over five days to see lots and lots of science fiction and fantasy writers and to listen to interesting panel discussions, not to mention mingling with other real readers and fans. There's generally a huge hall just filled with books and signings, as well as lots and lots of talks. Because I have done so, I know it is possible to go and have something to do for the whole convention without getting dressed up in a geeky costume or listening to science fiction folk music.

But if you want to do that, that's cool, too.

I'll be there and I hope you will, too. I can't say when it'll be so geographically convenient again.

Check out this Green With Envy Trailer

Now, I'm a big fan of looking at Amy Adams, but that's not why I'm sharing this. Trust me: watch this and stick with it at least until 58 seconds have passed.


Hey, people, if you've got a bike and you don't maintain it yourself (or, like me, you are obsessed about clean hands) I recommend going to your local bike shop and getting a tune-up. I took mine over to Tour of Nevada City and I'm sure having a de-greased/clean chain and wheels has improved my biking by 25%.

Yesterday, I finally rode down to the circle and coming back up Old Tunnel Road wasn't by any means easy, but it was much easier.

Where in Nevada County - 22 May

Where in Nevada County do you have to be to take this picture?

Good Morning

I had a dream last night that I was standing on line to audition for a show of some sort. They handed us paper and told us that when we got in for the audition, we'd have to sing a "sketch song," which in the dream was: you make up new words to a song and draw pictures while your sing it.

I woke up around 4 and my mind was working so hard trying to make pictures and new words for the Gilligan's Island theme song that I couldn't fall back to sleep.

That's all.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (by N.K. Jemisin)

I have a special technique for starting charcoal. I like to stack the bricks in a hollow cone with the top removed like a blown volcano. I feel like this makes a nice chimney to draw oxygen into the center to really get the fire going. It's a little more work at first, because the rounded blocks are not always cooperative when being stacked.

It's even harder when your imaginary friend appears suddenly behind you, making you lurch and knock all the bricks down.

"Annabel Lee!" I cry at her and start stacking again. "Look what you made me do." I like to douse each level of bricks individually with lighter fluid. This way, none of the bricks miss their fuel by being buried too much. Having to restack means that I don't know exactly which bricks have been soaked and which have not, so I give them a good spray again as I go along.

"You should get a grill," Annabel Lee helpfully suggests.

"They're dangerous." I start another row. "What book is worrying you today? You're always worried about an author more than me."

"I worry about you, too, but it's a secret. I just read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms."

"I only counted twelve or thirteen." I finish the row of bricks. "I don't really like books about gods."


"Because any constraints an author puts on gods feel artificial, fake."

"It is fiction, after all."

"Well, sure, but look at her world-building. That's fiction, but she does a great job on making it real and believable. I like the scenery and society; it doesn't feel artificial."

"You're fine with a floating city, but don't talk to you about gods?"

"Gods with limitations feel fake and gods without are boring. You spend too much time wondering why the main character doesn't just ride her motorcycle god to all her country's enemies and kill them?"

"Because she has some ethical boundaries, perhaps?"

"It might be interesting if that's what was being examined. The truth is, though, that she's just a pawn. She never does anything of her own volition. Things happen to her. We're just on a theme park ride through the wonders of the world the author has built. I don't even remember what the main character's name is."


"Whatever. Doesn't matter. Nothing's her fault. I want a character trying to control her own destiny."

"She has a terrible family."

"Can you imagine that? She doesn't have to deal with a crazy great uncle or imaginary sisters."

"No, but they're not trying to kill you."

"Says you." I withdraw a match, strike it and toss it onto the coals. The lighter fluid catches with a big WHOOSH! and flames sprout high enough to singe the plant overhanging the back porch. I jump up and start smacking the leaves with a towel. "Now look what you made me do!"

"As long as you're controlling your own destiny, eh?" Annabel Lee pats me on the head and disappears.

I'm not a pawn, I'm a rook. But sometimes I think the rest of the world is playing backgammon.

Santa Monica Boulevard (Until the sun comes up)

Oh, oy. First I ran out of superglue. Then I found I had left my camera switched on. No battery. So this poor wee toaty explorer is only documented by iPhone photos.

Why is a tree riding a bicycle? It's from a comment on our local bike group email list. It does sometimes feel like if a driver hits a tree it's more important than if a driver hits a bicyclist.

I have to admit, though, that I'm not a fan of "Share the Road" signs. It's not because of interpretation of the text, though. I object to specific signs that remind drivers of generic rules. Unless otherwise posted, a bike always has the same rights on the road as a car. I feel like signs like this denigrate that. I think you could infer that it's only true wherever they bothered to put up such a sign.

I've got the same beef with "Slippery When Wet" signs. I've always assumed that wherever these signs are posted, the road is somehow more slippery when wet than other roads. But I'm not convinced that's really true.

So, that's what you come here for, right? The Abbot of Unreason's views on random road signage.

I took a third picture, but it is of my thumb. I tell you, this does not bode well for the talk I'm giving today.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here.

Did I Forget to Mention the Rattlesnakes?

Yes, yes I did.

Weekend before last, we went looking for Shingle Falls. I had seen it on one of those touristy Nevada County maps and then looked it up. It's supposed to be in the Spenceville Wildlife Area way down in the south part of the county. From Nevada City, you actually have to leave the county to get to it.

(By the way, a Wildlife Area is not the same as a Wildlife Refuge. They have shooting ranges and hunting seasons.)

The directions I found had us taking Hammond-Smartsville Road off of Route 20 and then turning left on Smartsville Road. We drove all the way to Beale Air Force Base on the northwest side before turning back. It turns out that Smartsville Road is now called Chuck Yeager Road. It's almost immediately after leaving Route 20.

After not finding Smartsville Road, we also never found Shingle Falls. However, there was a nice sign at the parking lot:

fairy falls

So we went looking for Fairy Falls, instead.

We never found it. Instead we found these:

two snakes


Why, yes, they were quite startling. And right off the path, too, nearly to the falls. And with the adrenaline rushing, I thought it best to wander back to the car. It was hard to concentrate on figuring out where the falls were with these snakes hissing in my ears. Sure, they were maybe four feet from the path, but I didn't know if they'd freak out or what.

I mean, I was freaking out, why shouldn't they, right?

At any rate, I suspect they were a little too interested in each other to notice the rest of the world, so I snapped these shaky pictures and we headed home, never seeing the falls. We'll have to get our boots before trying next time.

Sunny California

Listen up, folks who still live in other parts of the country. This is what sunny California looked like this morning:

I thought I left the snow in Boulder.

Honestly, though, I shouldn't complain too much: This is one of the three reasons I moved here. In fact, I'm disappointed I have to drive down to Silicon Valley this afternoon for a one-day gig tomorrow. (And fly down to L.A. on Wednesday afternoon for a short talk on Thursday morning.) The closer we get to summer, the less I like being down in the lowlands.

I do wish we could get in the kayak, though... And since we're talking about disappointments, I'm sorry to miss the Amgen bike racers fly through town tomorrow. Hope they're safe up there in Tahoe today.

Where in Nevada County - 15 May

Another in our series.

Where in Nevada County can you find this monument to the "Ladies of the Evening?"

monument to ladies of the night

The text of the commemoration:

The Ladies of the Evening

To commemorate that ubiquitous segment of society who have been unacknowledged: who, though obscure, made an essential contribution to the settlement of the west.

Does your city have a marker to celebrate the world's oldest profession?

No I in Team (Boulder)

Been hanging out with my colleagues in Boulder, Colorado. Since it's company HQ, I don't let the wee toaty explorers free so often here.


But you wouldn't keep something like that locked up, would you?


Of course, I'll call this "No I in Team."

team i


longer shot of alley

This one was inspired by a t-shirt.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here.


I was thinking I'd write a long post about this article that suggests people who are easily distracted have bigger brains, but, well, there's a squirrel in my yard.

Where in Nevada County - 09 May

And it's another in our series.

Where do you have to be standing to see these numbers painted on the ground?

painted numbers

And, of course, there's the bonus question: "What are these numbers for and why aren't they in order?"


Something about this picture I took at Lake Frances (near Dobbins, CA) yesterday makes me think of 1983.


Where in Nevada County - 02 May

OK, let's try to do this weekly.

Where do you have to be standing to see this?


The sign says, "NOT FREE BOX RESPECT IT". So the bonus question is, "What does the sign mean?"

Return to Campbell

Well, I'm back in Campbell, almost exactly a year after my last visit. Do you remember these guys?

I don't usually bother checking back in on the wee toaty explorers, mostly because they're almost always gone within an hour or two. (Sometimes, they're even taken while I'm still snapping pictures!) But these guys were a little off the beaten path, so I thought I'd wander over to take a look this evening.

And this is what I found:

No sign of the banana or the fires, but now we know what a year of weather will do to the apples!