Lake Valley Reservoir

After the recommendation of a faithful reader (thanks, faithful reader!), we went to Lake Valley Reservoir yesterday. I am now very sore from all the paddling.

It was indeed a lovely lake, and it had several islands.

lake valley reservoir island

And the interesting dam overspill/outlet is so easily approached, it's fun to walk along.

lake valley reservoir overspill

All-in-all, it was an enjoyable lake, with a few islands and some interesting shallows at the top end. I have to say, though, that Spaulding is still my favorite Nevada County lake, if only because Lake Valley Reservoir is over in Placer County!

Where in Nevada County: Panning Out

An easy one, I think.

He sure seems intent on the contents of his bowl. This guy is in Nevada County. The guy in Auburn is dipping his pan; our guy is giving it the eye. But where is he? Put your guess in the comments.

Where in Nevada County: Bridge

Where is this bridge?

Reno, Nevada

The Wee Toaty Explorers visited WorldCon today. This apple is ready with his badge and lanyard:


steampunk apple

furry apple


convention center

Probably the most visible set I've left behind in a while. Will they be there tomorrow?

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.

WorldCon Reno Day 4

I got bored with taking pictures of all the panelists, so I'm not foisting any upon you today. I think the most interesting thing today was seeing Cory Doctorow in the audience for a few panels and readings. I think it's neat to see the famous mingling with the hoi polloi.

Of course, Firefox doesn't seem to think hoi polloi is a word.

Oh, man, the cellist (Unwoman) in the noisy vendor area was awesome, too. I particularly liked the theme to Firefly/Serenity, but the music with words was good, too. :)

I'm sitting out the Hugo ceremony and will watch the live stream from the hotel. Good luck to everybody, especially the people I voted for! (Imagine there's a smiley face here; I have a rule against two emoticons in a single post.)

WorldCon Reno Day 3 Flash Fiction

One of the panels today was the Iron Chef Flash Fiction panel. Three contestants were three times (actually four -- there was a tie-breaker) given five minutes and a random ingredient to make a flash fiction story of about 100 words. I decided to play along from my spot on the floor in the back of the room. Here are my stories:

Ingredient: Shatner

The blue glow of the TV cooled the room. Bill fanned himself with an old TV Guide -- the kind still formatted in digest size. No other light shone in the room, nor across the city. The city was silent, but the heat shouted down.

Bill watched Bill on the screen -- Priceline or TJ Hooker, it did not really matter. Perhaps the heat had killed everyone else, or maybe they never existed. This also did not matter; certainly not to Bill.

For Shatner, there had always only been Shatner.

Ingredient: Cephalopod

Splash. Splish. The waves gently caressed the shore of the lake. Captain Jack sat in a deck chair on the rocks linking the lake. The quiet lapping waves lulled the captain to a doze, which was fine as he was retired and tired.

In his sleep, the Captain listened to the waves moving from gentle lapping to rigorous clapping and finally to violent clapping. The skies broke and water fell from all around. The cephalopod stood tall from the water.

Captain Jack opened his eyes to a calm afternoon sun and still water. He sighed.

Ingredient: Sword & Sorcery and Synchronicity

Gar drew his sword and tapped it on the back of the head of his dear friend Bob the Mage. Bob batted him away like a cat with an annoying feather toy, not really wanting to pay attention.

"She's the law around here," Gar told him.

"I don't care," Bob replied as he watched Shenna walk up.

"I know what you're up to." Bob shrugged.

Shenna stopped before the friends and frowned. "What brings you here?" She demanded.

Bob swooned. "Every breath you take, every step you take," he said, "I'll be watching you."

Shenna blushed.

Gar whispered to Bob, "What was that?"

Bob smiled. "Police talk."

Ingredient: Tea and Singularity

  • One part rosehips
  • Two parts black
  • Two parts white
  • One part jasmine
  • Two parts wind
  • A pinch of salutation
  • A (naturally) teaspoon of condescension
  • A modicum of decency
  • A touch of class
  • A bit of humor
Combine. Steep in hot water. Place next to a mirror and wait until the tea notices its own reflection.

A recipe for singularity tea.

WorldCon Reno Day 3

I'm tired, so I'm just going to tell this one exciting story and then push a few pictures your way.

Remember yesterday's liars panel where I was a small audience participant? When I walked into the panel about historical accuracy today, Connie Willis walked up to me, shook my hand, and thanked me for being her straight man. I was just over the moon to have gotten a little attention from an audience, but getting remembered and thanked by Connie Willis was awesome.

So, I attended four panels and three readings today.

The aforementioned panel about treating historical accuracy in fiction.

history panel

A competition among panelists to write flash fiction given topics and five minutes. (I played along in the audience. I'll let you see my stories in a separate post.

flash fiction iron chef

A panel about the future of cities. Although Ian McDonald was supposed to be the moderator, he missed the session, so Cory Doctorow took up the reins. I think it was the best moderated panel so far.

future of cities

A panel discussion the definition of "hard" science fiction and whether or not it is destined to die.

hard sf panel

A reading by Kim Stanley Robinson from his work in progress and from his recent book, Galileo's Dream. (He did not hoot like a gibbon during this session.)


A reading by Lauren Beukes from her book, Zoo City.


A reading by Lois McMaster Bujold from her work in progress.


WorldCon Reno Day 2

One of the neat things about a WorldCon is that there are so many authors running around doing readings that you can take time to sample a bunch that you've never heard of doing readings. I like to take in a few to get a feel for different voices without laying down bread.

Sometimes, there's an extra reward. For example, Mary Robinette Kowal started off her reading with a shadow puppet show.

shadow puppets

Of course, one doesn't want to forget the established authors. I listened with great interest to this panel discussion about the New Wave, reviewing it from nearly 50 years later. Generally, there seemed to be agreement that the "movement" helped to bring more depth of characterization to the field but that the experimental elements died out in the mid-70s, at least from a selling perspective.

new wave panel

It goes the other way, too. If I had been David Malki, who demonstrated creation of his wonderful comic, Wondermark, I'd have been over the moon to have most of the questions from the audience actually coming from Cory Doctorow.


(The linked comic, by the way, is the one he created during the session.)

Since the con is in Reno, Nevada, there was a nice discussion of real gambling. I got some good etiquette advice for when I dress up as James Bond and saunter up to a table (always ask if the other players mind if you join).

gambling panel

And, finally, I got a little bit of attention in the middle of the Liars Panel, where Connie Willis, et al, try to tell the biggest lies possible.

liars panel

I was sitting in the front row at the beginning, but I had a little trouble with hearing some eating sounds, so I got up and walked to the back of the room where I stood for the rest of the session. Connie Willis indicated that this distracted her and I got to be a recurring callback for her: asking me why I couldn't bring myself to leave all the way and several times why I was still hanging around. She was kind enough to let me get in a few one-liners in response and all-in-all I enjoyed my 30 seconds of attention.

Update (from Day 3): Oh, man, you should read more on Day 3!

WorldCon Reno Day 1

So here we are at the 69th World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon). Here's a tiki dalek:


Some things haven't changed from the last WorldCon I attended. Cory Doctorow still looks vaguely like Ira Glass:

Cory Doctorow

Connie Willis is still my favorite. Here she is on a panel discussing the nerd hero. Apologies to Kristine Kathryn Rusch: every picture I took had Connie's hand in front of her face!

Nerd Panel

It was during that panel that I decided I want a bumpersticker that says: "I was uncool before being uncool was cool."

One big difference: I don't remember there being a large steampunk presence six years ago.


Finally, here's John Scalzi describing his exciting trip to the Creation Museum. The session was a hundred and one laughs, but you have to admit it's an easy target.

John Scalzi

More tomorrow, probably.

Crepes and Chalk

As a certain local blogger might say, here's a small-town scooplet.


Someone's moving into the old hot dog tent on Broad Street. I was so excited I stopped and took a terrible picture with my iPhone. I doubt you can make out the sign that says "Elevensies." I was so excited, in fact, that I overcame my debilitating shyness and poked my head in to talk to the folks setting up.

It's going to be a crepe shop. I have been craving a good street crepe since we moved here, so I'm glad they're setting up shop. They are planning to be open for a daily lunch crowd and on the weekends to feed the late-night revelers. There will be both savory and sweet crepes, along with an assortment of other delights. In particular, they pointed out that there would be cheesecake and "he is famous for his cheesecake."

Of course, I didn't pick up a name for the famous cheesecaker, but I look forward to this opening. They are aiming for this coming weekend.

I might have mentioned this before, but the World Science Fiction Convention (aka WorldCon) is in Reno starting tomorrow! So I'll miss the opening of this creperie.

I continued my walk up the hill and found this chalked on the ground on East Broad:


Indeed, I doubt a child wrote that...

Where in Nevada County: Oh, Deer

I think this is a rather recent addition to the median strip. The grass is plastic.

Where is this bit of civic improvement located?

"Real" Tour of Nevada City

On Father's Day, a bunch of cyclists come to Nevada City for the second-oldest bike race in the country. It used to be called the Tour of Nevada City, but now it's the Nevada City Classic. With the hills we have around here, this is one tough race.

But participants in the Tour of Nevada City only ride on four or five of our streets. The course is something like a mile point one. A real tour ought to cover a few more of our streets.

On Saturday I picked up a mission: ride significant portions of every single public street within the city limits. I used this border map I found on the wonderful web: if you type in 95959, you'll get Nevada City's boundary.

I started at Orchard because it's a one-way street. You might notice that my definition of "significant" changed slightly as the day went on. I didn't plan the route out beforehand, so I think I did a pretty good job of filling in the lines without too many repeats. The hardest section was the eastern section (Prospect Hill, more or less).

I left the house at 10:30. I got back home at 6:30. That's a long time for about 24 miles. I took a few significant breaks, including a long lunch lie-over at the North Ridge.

I also stopped to take pictures of as many road signs as I could.

It looks like I missed one major road: I didn't realize that Lower Grass Valley Road and Factory Street were even there! There were a few roads I skipped on purpose, because they were gated (Motherlode), marked private (Parkside), or looked private (Bridge Way). And I wish I had covered more of Gold Flat.

But still and all, I think the coverage is pretty good.

Roy Rogers in Nevada City

I keep trying to watch this movie, but I never get past 17 minutes before it stops loading.

Classic movies

Besides, I know there isn't any Roy Rogers in Nevada City. There's no fast food here at all.

Mad Men

Netflix streaming is really keeping me from doing anything productive. This is why we don't have a TV.

But I have to say this: Mad Men really knows how to lay out a scene. The use of mirrors is a great example. Like this scene from Season 3 (Episode 5):

Where in Nevada County: Wells Fargo

Where in Nevada County can you find this building?

Put your guess in the comments. (Note, I've altered the picture to remove on identifying feature: a name on a sign.)

Wee Toaty Annual Report

Two years ago, I was with a different company and they had me visiting Topeka, Kansas, for several trips. I was a long way from my home in Maryland and it was pretty easy to have eaten in all the restaurants in Topeka several times over. (Not that I'm complaining too much. I got to eat at the delightfully greasy Bobo's Drive-In, and Lawrence wasn't so far away as to be impossible.) The point is, if I was going to be a regular road warrior, I needed something to keep my hands busy in the evenings. And so I started the wee toaty explorer project.

On most trips, I take along some Crayola Fusion -- clay that hardens over night without any need for an oven -- and make a small bit of art that I install somewhere in the area and leave in the hopes that someone will pass by and enjoy the moment. (Actually, I kind of enjoy the times when I've seen people walk by without even noticing the little dramas going on in the world below them, too.) In two years, I realize, there has been a big shift in how careful airports are and I no longer bother trying to carry on the clay. Thank goodness Southwest doesn't charge for bags.

You can find last year's annual report at this link. You can find all the wee toaty explorers by clicking this link or the icon in the upper right hand of this post.

This year, I traveled less frequently, so there was a slight drop. Only 16 wee toaty explorers (down from 36) in 9 US states, of which 5 were new (down from 13). However, we did hit three countries on two continents again (this time adding Ireland and Germany).

I think my favorite one this year was in Alpharetta, Georgia:


Though I also enjoyed the Hawaiian pineapple worshippers, if only because I really liked going to Hawaii.

ceremony sign

And the best thing about this year might have been being able to return to the scene of an installation a year later.

So, there it is, another year, another set of wee toaty explorers. Looks like I'm not stopping any time soon.

Ask You/Ask Me

Hey, people who read this blog, I have a question for you. At least, I have one for those of you who live in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area.

For everyone, it's time again for Ask the Abbot, that irregular feature where you ask me any question you like and I'll answer as honestly as the law allows (as long as it isn't about my secret identity). Put your questions in the comments section. This is a great opportunity to come out of lurk-mode.

So, I've been a part of a book group for a while and we've settled down into a regular monthly meeting. The joy of meeting regularly cannot be overstated, if only because it eliminates so many logistical headaches. For the last two months, we've met at a wine tasting bar in Grass Valley. This has been a great location because it has plenty of comfy seating, it isn't crowded at 5:30 and, well, honestly, there's alcohol and a little food, too.

But I found out that the owner has been hanging around late to let us use the place even though he'd normally be closed. That's making me feel guilty because sometimes there are ten of us, but sometimes there are only four, and that's hardly enough business to stay open late for. (Two sodas and two glasses of wine do not a business make.)

What I'm looking for from you: Recommendations of other places that would be open on a Wednesday evening, that would be easy to host an unpredictably sized gathering, and doesn't require reservation. Put them in the comments and I'll be awfully grateful.

Best Pies

So I took my imaginary great uncle up to the Best Pies Pizzeria in Truckee. I wanted to continue my quest to stop by every restaurant in the county and I thought if I brought along Leadbelly, then that moocher, Bertie, wouldn't show up and eat half my food.

Of course, the trade-off with my imaginary great uncle (on my sister's side) is that Great Uncle Leadbelly is kinda cranky in public. Still, he kept quiet when we walked in and got on stools at the bar. He didn't speak up until I ordered.

"Pepperoni? I thought we were going to the 'best pies' place," he complained. "I like pie."

"Ah, but what kind of pie?" I asked after the server had moved on. "These are pizza pies, man."

"I was hoping for cherry."

"Don't," I waggled my finger at him.

"I didn't fight against the Italians in the war to come back to eat their food," he said. I sighed.

"Pizza's not Italian," I said. "And you didn't fight the Italians."

"Sure, we called them Romans back then, but I helped hold the line at Hadrian's Wall."

I stared at him. "You've been vague about your war experiences, but that's ridiculous. There weren't any Americans fighting the Romans.""

"What, you think the US would shirk her duty to an ally like Scotland?"

"It's not that--"

"Sonny boy, who do you think created the shout, 'FREEDOM!'?"

"Shh, Great Uncle, really."

A different server arrived with the slices of pizza. My face fell.

"That's cheese pizza," Great Uncle Leadbelly pointed out. "We ordered pepperoni."

"Is everything OK?" the server asked.

"Well," I mumbled and stumbled (I'm not good with confrontation), "I think I ordered pepperoni from the other one, but whatever."

"Oh, no problem, I'll take care of it." She took the slices away.

"You sure you're related to me?" Great Uncle Leadbelly asked. "I don't know what shape we'd have been in if you'd been leading the charge against the Brits. You'd whisper something like, 'I wouldn't object to a bit of freedom, if it's all right with you chaps and whatever.'"

"I thought we were fighting the Romans."


The server returned with slices covered in pepperoni. "Don't worry, I'll take her out back and give her a good beating for messing up your order," she said.

My eyes went wide and I blushed, I'm sure. But Great Uncle Leadbelly had a ready response, "You know--"

"Don't," I said. I was sure he was going to ask if he could watch.

"I'd take her outside with the threat that I was going to beat her and then give her a big hug. Really freaks them out. That's what I used to do for him."

"Huh?" the server asked.

"That explains why I don't like people touching me," I said. The server just shook her head and walked away. I forget that other people can't hear my great uncle's voice.

The pizza was good. It was New York style, and you could actually fold it and eat it with one hand in the proper way. I tried to ignore my great uncle and watched some game on the TV over the bar.

After I paid the bill and we walked out onto the street, I told Leadbelly that we were going to visit Great Aunt Iva next. His eyes went round as saucers and he mumbled something.

"What?" I asked. "Couldn't hear you."

"Nothin'" he said very quietly. We walked to the corner where there are four entrances and three stop signs. I pointed it out to Leadbelly.

"I guess it's because of the train tracks," I said, "but there are a lot of these (n-1) stop sign intersections in the county. We've started calling that a factorial intersection."

I turned to see how he took my wittiness and saw Great Uncle running down the street away from me.

"Great Uncle!" I shouted. "It's only your sister!"

And I could only hear one word, shouted lustily back: "FREEDOM!"

Where in Nevada County: Splish Splash


Where do you have to be sitting to take this picture?