Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

August, 2008:

Odd Lots

  • I'll be staying at the Westin Tabor Center in Denver for Worldcon, so leaving messages there is one way to reach me if you don't have my cell number.
  • I like the word “feckless”—it describes so many people so completely, without an excess of venom—and often wondered if there were a word “feckful” to describe the opposite state. Yes indeedy: Both words come from “feck”, an old Scots root from which we also get “effective,” but somehow “feckful” never caught on with non-Scots speakers of English.
  • This mystifies me. 3.7 miles per hour is a modest walk, and this doesn't look like something a disabled person would be likely to get on and stay on. And if you're a guy and don't stay on it, ouch! That vertical pillar between your thighs could go to a very bad place…
  • And speaking of Odd Things That Go, here's a cross between a Smart car and a Unimog. (Again, thanks, Pete!)
  • And also speaking of Odd Things That Don't Go: The concrete thingie we saw in Ogallala (see my entry for August 5, 2008) bears strong resemblance to the Czech Hedgehog (thanks to Bishop Sam'l Bassett for the link) but I'm pretty sure it's a closer relation to the A-Jack and the Xbloc, both of which are used for building breakwaters. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for spotting those for me.)
  • Amazon has purchased ABEBooks, from which I have purchased most of the used books I've read over the past three years. I don't know if this is good or not. Actually, I don't know if this is bad or not. The best we might hope for is retaining the status quo.
  • The Fat Nazis are once more struggling to keep ground gained long ago. It's gotten to the point where I just don't trust medical advice anymore. I eat lots of protein (meat, eggs, and peanuts), lots of dairy, a fair amount of fruit, as much vegetables as I can choke down (which I admit is not much; they mostly taste like poison to me) some carbs (but not a lot) and almost no sugar. I cut obvious fat off of meat and then stop thinking about it. My blood chem and pressure are good. I weigh less than I have in 15 years. On nights when I can sleep well, I feel great. For me at least, this war is over.

Worldcon Whereabouts

We'll be staying at the Westin Tabor Center at Lawrence and 17th, which is a few blocks from the Convention Center, but not a bad walk. (I've done it before.) Haven't checked in yet, and won't be there until tomorrow afternoon, staying until Saturday.

Back in Time for Worldcon

Well, we're not hobbits but we're back—having returned late yesterday afternoon, a whole week later than we thought we would, but we just didn't get as much done out in Chicago as we had to in the four weeks we'd allowed. The trip was hot, but dry; we saw no rain all the way across a route we now would know blindfolded. The weather broke a little by the time we got to Ogallala, and so we decided to take a day to recuperate on the clean sand shores of Lake McConaughy. It was a little hotter than I'd like, but the water in the shallows of the south shore was 83°, and even out up to my neck my little Kodak photography thermometer showed 74° down off my right hip.

We started out on the north shore, but the flies were out in force, and after less than an hour we packed the puppies and the chairs back into the car and drove around to the south shore. We stayed there most of the rest of the day. I flew my supposedly cranky parafoil kite, but in the strong breeze off the lake it performed flawlessly, almost skyhook-style, sitting stock still at 200' while pulling my 80-pound test line so hard the line was humming loud enough to hear above the racket from the ubiquitous jet skis. Carol and I swam while QBit and Aero watched, distressed, from the shore. They were willing to frolic in the water if we frolicked with them, but when we went out to deeper water for some simple swimming, they sat on the sand, dodged waves, and whimpered.

While filling up at the local Shell station for the last stretch home, I spotted the item at left used as a traffic barrier. It was about waist high. I've seen these before, mostly larger and piled up on shorelines as breakwaters, but I've never been able to determine what they're properly called. They're not exactly caltrops (they have two points too many) but they're clearly related, at least structurally.

There was high overcast our last day on the road, and even though the temps were in the mid-90s, the lack of glare made the driving a great deal easier. We got back just in time to dinner with Laurraine Tutihasi and her husband Mike Weasner, who were on their way to Worldcon in Denver from Tucson. We knew Laurraine from our Rochester NY days 25+ years ago, and Mike is the Web's leading authority on Meade ETX telescopes.

About an hour after parting with Laurraine and Mike, a carload of friends also on their way to Worldcon arrived, this time from Chicago, to spend the night and then head up to set up Steve Salaba's huckster table early this morning. Now, I'm a black belt car packer, but I have met my match, and then some: There wasn't a wasted cubic centimeter in that minivan. There was just enough room in the back seat for one person, blocked in on all sides by coolers and shelves and boxes of plush puppets and stuffed animals. (Note the “Bambi butt” that worked its way out of an overstuffed box toward the left.) It's not how I would have chosen to travel to Worldcon, but Steve, Bonnie (shown), and Eloise are all Worldcon pros from way back, and rotated positions in the vehicle often enough so the person in back didn't get suicidal.

We were away from Colorado Springs during the worst heat spell in several years, and when we got in the front door the temperature was 85 degrees, and the air rich with plasticisers and solvents still being driven from the woodwork. It was hot for awhile while we cranked open every window to get some less toxic air through the place, but it had to be done. I'll willingly admit that I'm still exhausted from our trip, but we're recuperating, and one more good night's sleep should do it. Then, probably Thursday morning, we're off to Worldcon ourselves, if not for the whole stretch then at least long enough to see Nancy Kress again (along with numerous other friends we used to see every Worldcon) and get a sense for what the SF convention scene is like these days. We used to go to Worldcon almost every year, but eventually real life intervened. I have a soft spot for Denver Worldcons; at Denvention 2 in 1981 I had two stories on the Hugo ballot. I lost, of course, but wow: What a rush that was!

Becalmed in…Nebraska

It really is Nebraska. It just feels like Hell. As we pulled into North Platte about an hour ago, the 4Runner's outside thermometer read 108°. And outside, well, we're reminded of a mild summer's day in Scottsdale, except with three times the humidity. In short, uggh.

We're on our way back to Colorado Springs from almost five weeks in Chicago. We got our new niece Juliana baptized and almost everything else on our substantial do-it list done, but it took more time and energy than we thought.

Just like, well, always.

We spent last night in Newton, Iowa, the former home of Maytag, back when there still was a Maytag. The hotel we stayed in was awful enough that I will issue an all-points avoidance notice: Whatever else you may do to abuse your body, mind, or soul, do not stay at the Newton, Iowa Holiday Inn Express on 4th Street. Unless, of course, you wish to confront:

  • Mold growing on the walls. Not the bathroom walls, either. The walls in the main room.
  • A hole in the ceiling. It was too dark to see where it went, but it was about 1 1/2″ in diameter and looked like it had been poked with a piece of pipe. (This makes you wonder what the ceiling was made out of.)
  • Wireless Internet that did not work, would not connect, and kept giving me weird error messages. At least it was free.
  • Carpeting that smelled like dead fish or ocean bilge. Or both.
  • Stale Raisin Bran at the breakfast bar.
  • Coffee (again, at the breakfast bar) so bad I couldn't force a second cup down.

You've been warned.

Now, we like Nebraska and have been here a lot. However, there is a local weirdness I'm seeing that I don't entirely understand: Mid-grade gas is cheaper than regular. Gas is generally a bargain here, especially compared to Illinois. Why Plus should be 15c a gallon cheaper than the low-octane mix remains a puzzle.

We're going to stop at Lake McConaughy tomorrow morning (it's about fifty miles west along I-80) but if the heat remains as bad as it was today, we may dunk and run the final 275 miles to the Springs rather than spend the day. There's no shade there, and at some point I just can't deal with long periods in that kind of heat, lake or no lake. We won't know until we get there. I'll keep you posted.