Kevin Standlee: Fandom Is My Way of Life|
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|Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017|
|Snow Deposit, Snow Return
The latest storms lashed the Sierra Nevada yesterday, closing a long stretch of Interstate 80 and causing the Nevada Department of Transportation to issue an advisory to big rigs asking them to please not come to Reno and to try and find places to lay up east of the area. (This was good news for the truck stops in Fernley.) Last night, it finally got cold enough for snow to start falling again here in Fernley.( A Slight AccumulationCollapse )
The storm has moved on, the skies have cleared, and as of noon today, nearly all of the snow has already melted except in shaded areas. Current Mood: cheerful
|Welcome Back, Amtrak!
Amtrak normally runs two trains a day across northern Nevada: Numbers 5 and 6, the west- and east-bound California Zephyr
. However, for the past several weeks, service has been suspended and the train's Chicago-Emeryville (for San Francisco) run has been truncated to Salt Lake City, due to various mudslides, washouts, and other weather-related disruption. This messed up gridlore
's plans to come to Reno, which is a shame on multiple levels.
I could find nothing on Amtrak's web site about the service disruption, other than when you tried to check the train's status, you got a "cannot provide status due to a service disruption; call us for more information." It would have been nice if they'd given us Westerners the same courtesy they do when the Northeast Corridor services are disrupted. I found out what was happening from a railroad fans message board.
Union Pacific and Amtrak finally got things back together, and two days ago, the first westbound Zephyr
started for the west coast again.( Coming Through... SlowlyCollapse )
I heard #5 on the radio scanner as the engineer acknowledged the signals at East Fernley putting it into the siding to allow for a meet with an eastbound local freight (the "Fernley Flyer"). Thus the train, which normally blows through on the main at the maximum allowed track speed of 70 mph, was coasting along on the siding. They were only delayed a few minutes, though, as the "Flyer" arrived just as Amtrak pulled up to West Fernley.
I'm not sure when eastbound service will be restored. The train that came through westbound this morning isn't visible on the Amtrak "track a train" map, and there's a train #6 showing eastbound between Fernley and Winnemucca that I didn't notice going by this morning. If it's really there and not a mistake on the Amtrak system, it might be a set of equipment deadheading to get equipment back where it belongs. Current Mood: cheerful
|Tuesday, February 21st, 2017|
|Slack Jawed, Not Much to Say
Not feeling particularly well today. It's probably one of those times when it's a good thing that my team only meets by video conference call. Hard to spread human viruses that way. Managed to get some work today, but am feeling like it would be a good idea to go to bed early. Current Mood: sick
|Monday, February 20th, 2017|
|To the Land of Instant Death
Yesterday, with the weather not too bad, Lisa and I went for a ride out to the Hot Springs area about fifteen miles east of Fernley off Interstate 80.( Stay on the RoadCollapse )
There are a number of geothermal plants in the area, including a large set south of Reno. It's likely that most of the the electricity we use here in Fernley is from geothermal sources, although there is also a large natural-gas plant between here and Sparks. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Sunday, February 19th, 2017|
|A Tree Tries to Grow in Fernley
As is our custom, we bought a small "living Christmas tree" in December. We've kept it upstairs out of direct sun (but with lots of indirect sunlight, and out of the heat) since then. These past few days, it served notice that it was time to take action.( Trying to GrowCollapse )
We have now put the tree outside, where it will start getting direct winter sunshine. Later this year, when summer heat approaches, we'll have to shelter it some. Our last attempt to raise one of these trees ended up with the tree dying in the heat of summer. Fernley isn't really the best place to try and grow a spruce tree; however, there are some evergreens around town including the north side of Fernley House, so we know they can live here if they can get enough water. Current Mood: optimistic
|Saturday, February 18th, 2017|
|Beautiful Downtown Fernley
As is my habit these days when I have a weekend at home with no commitments, I walked to the Wigwam restaurant-casino, had breakfast, and used a free-play-with-purchase-of-meal coupon to try and win my breakfast back. Today I got lucky. After that, I walked off breakfast by going to the post office. On the way back, I was struck by how nice the snow-capped Pah Rah range looked from downtown.( A Nice Little TownCollapse )
Fernley is not likely to win any "most beautiful city" awards, but it does have its moments.
This afternoon, I went to an organizational meeting of the Fernley Democratic Club. It was nice to see that there were other people in this city who haven't fallen prey to the nihlist madness that seems to have overtaken a lot of my fellow citizens. Organizing at the grass roots level like in my city is about all I can do right now. The chairman of the local group commented that I had a good speaking voice. I explained my history with presiding over complex, contentious meetings, albeit for WSFS rather than mundane politics. One of the organizers knew about the Hugo Awards (but not the Puppies and such) and so I explained that I'm also one of the site maintainers for The Hugo Awards web site. Whether I can do a whole lot at our local level, I don't know, but I'll try to go to meetings at least. Current Mood: optimistic
|Friday, February 17th, 2017|
|How Much Snow?
I realized today that I forgot to post the pictures I took at the Donner Summit Rest Area on my way west last Sunday.( Buried Rest AreaCollapse )
This was on a sunny day some days after the previous storms had subsided sufficiently for Caltrans to do their usual excellent job of clearing the roads. I've never seen this much snow up top before. I bet the skiers are happy. Current Mood: cheerful
|Thursday, February 16th, 2017|
|Out of the Wind
It's a good thing that I got nine hours of sleep on Tuesday night, because I needed it for the drive home Wednesday. Because I couldn't leave until after my cleaning and checkup at the dentist, I didn't get away until 1 PM, and thus traffic was already starting to clog up over Altamont Pass, and by the time I got to Sacramento, it was crunch time there as well. It's just as well I spent some time visiting my sister at the long-term nursing facility, because that let some of the traffic up to Roseville disperse. Once I got past there, it was pretty much clear roads to Fernley. I got home just before 10 PM. Lisa helped me unpack the Rolling Stone
and I fell into bed.
On the drive up, I passed the Caltrans crews working on the mudslide on the westbound lanes of I-80 at Baxter. Westbound traffic was being diverted off I-80 onto CA-20 for the detour through Grass Valley to Auburn, but big rigs were being held at the CA-NV state line. When I entered Nevada, I saw a very long line of trucks parked on the shoulder westbound. Miles of rigs parked anywhere they could park. The shoulders aren't wide enough everywhere, but based on what I saw, the backup effectively was at least as far as Fernley, almost 50 miles west of the state line. Just before I went to bed, I saw that Caltrans had reopened the highway and was letting all traffic through. It bet it was a long slow procession as hundreds of big rigs started up and headed west.
Today we had high wind warnings again, as the storm moves toward us. It wasn't as windy as the big winds last week, but I'm still glad I didn't have to be out in it other than to bring a wheelbarrow-load of logs from the garage to the wood-box.
I'm grateful my manager let me time-shift sufficiently to come home yesterday, but these drives are getting harder on me when I can't budget recovery time. Fortunately, there's not much happening this weekend and I should be able to get some rest. Current Mood: tired
|Monday, February 13th, 2017|
|Spring Is Visible
Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Giants Spring Training camp in Arizona. Soon we will have baseball again!
On the other hand, there have now been fresh mudslides along I-80 in the Sierra Nevada. I'm glad the hill waited until today to fail rather than falling down on me as I was driving through Baxter yesterday.
On the gripping hand, the water level is down in Lake Oroville, water is no longer flowing through the damaged emergency spillway. The immediate crisis is past without a catastrophic failure of the emergency spillway that would have sent a "30 foot high wall of water" down the Feather River, but they still need to release a lot of water to make room for what's coming very soon. Authorities aren't saying when they think it will be safe for people in the evacuated areas to return to their homes.
My nephew is in Sutter (which is high ground and relatively safe). Many of my relatives are in the Yuba-Sutter area. I have heard nothing from any of them. My father and stepmother live in the hills above Lake Oroville and I expect are okay. My mother lives in the Yuba County foothills far from the floodplain. In that area, the problem is more of people panicking over news stories that imply that Oroville Dam collapsed, which it did not. Current Mood: jubilant
|Sunday, February 12th, 2017|
|Through Mud and Sun to Fremont
It was a mostly uneventful trip from Fernley to Fremont today, although I wasn't expecting an hour delay at the Nevada-California state line as a long line of vehicles inched their way through the area was where one of the mudslides was being cleared.
I stopped in Sacramento and visited my sister for 30 minutes. Not much change to report there. I gave her some Aero chocolate bars that Lisa had given me for Kelli.
When I got to Fremont, I saw the news that the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam was in danger of failing and that downstream areas, which includes where lots of my relatives live, were under threat. I called my mother, who lives in the Yuba County foothills and is not in the flood zone. I tried to explain that reports that the dam itself had failed were untrue, albeit that the actual situation is not great. Clearly many people don't understand the difference and assume that if the emergency spillway fails, all the water in the lake drains out. As one person on Twitter helpfully explained, there's a difference between 30 feet of water and more than 800 feet of water draining from the lake. We haven't heard from my nephew, but he lives in Sutter, and that is high ground. Even if the entire lake were to drain, Sutter stays dry, albeit it temporarily becomes an island.
I'm writing this entry on my phone, which is harder than a regular keyboard, so more updates will have to wait Current Mood: worried
|Saturday, February 11th, 2017|
This morning Lisa and I drove into Reno bright and early to get our shopping errands done.( High Water in the TruckeeCollapse )
Our first stop was the Atlantis Hotel-Casino, where I cashed in the ticket for my bet on the Australian Open.( Not a Job I Would WantCollapse )
Collecting my winnings for betting on Roger Federer to win the Australian Open, we decided to spend them on brunch at Toucan Charlie's, and were in fact the first customers at the counter when they opened. (This is the source of today's post title; thank you, Roger!) I enjoyed the breakfast, but the buffets have stopped agreeing with Lisa. There are just too many things in the food, particularly food dyes and additives to which she's sensitive, that make her ill.
We did manage to complete the rest of our shopping and got home just after 1 PM. Lisa, who has mostly been up nights the past week or so, went to bed along with travelswithkuma
while I started doing my laundry and packing the RV.
In the most recent storm, all of the trans-Sierra routes have been hammered and closed at various points, including US-50 (rockslides), CA-70 (flooding), and most importantly, I-80 (major mudslide). The only alternative was a detour from I-80 onto CA-20 to Grass Valley, then CA-49 to Auburn. This would work, but was likely to be slow and crowded as a major freeway was being funneled into a two-lane mountain highway. To my relief, this evening Caltrans announced that they'd managed to clear the mudslide and that all lanes are now open again. I'm off to the Bay Area in the morning. Current Mood: optimistic
|Friday, February 10th, 2017|
|To the Bay, Maybe
The storm that blew through starting yesterday managed to not do significant damage despite the high winds. (We do need to get the pole saw and go after a tree that is banging on the house in the wind, though.) Fernley had it easy by comparison. Lots of other places have been flooded. Interstate 80 was closed west of the CA-20 junction due to mudslides, forcing traffic into a long detour through Grass Valley.
The next two days are supposed to be clear. I hope Caltrans can get the roads back in repair because my plans are to go to the Bay Area this coming week, it having been two months since I last showed my face in my nominal office in Fremont. Looking at the long-range forecast, I have a feeling that it will be a two-week stint, assuming I can get through on Sunday, because I probably won't be able to come back the following weekend if the next set of storms materializes as predicted. But living out of the RV means I only have to replenish consumables, which is doable, and I generally carry a month's worth of my various medications with me for trip like this, so I should be okay. Assuming I go. I won't be able to make the call until Sunday morning, I expect.
Meanwhile, tomorrow we need to run into Reno if possible and restock the house, and get the Rolling Stone
ready to roll again for the first time since early December. Among the important things is to make sure that propane furnace will light off properly. It did so when we tested it in January, but when it goes a long time between uses, air builds up in the lines and it can be reluctant to light off. While the Bay Area isn't anywhere near as frigid as Fernley, I do prefer to be able to light off the furnace when the alarm goes off and give it a few minutes to bring the inside of the RV up to a comfortable temperature before getting out from under the warm pile of blankets. Current Mood: hopeful
|Thursday, February 9th, 2017|
|Blowing a Gale
Literally, in fact, as winds today were gale force, with gusts up to 100 km/h. The plastic sheeting over the travel trailer is holding better than you might expect, although it's very noisy when the wind blows. A few of the tie-downs worked loose and a couple of them broke, but there are so many of them that the structure as a whole has held together. I helped Lisa tie down the broken/loose tie-downs, as well as helped her add more tie downs and also toss a rope across the roof to go all the way around, top and bottom, to help hold the sheeting at bay.
We have a longer-term plan for protecting the trailer, but it needs to wait for better weather and more hours of sunlight so that I can work after Day Jobbe hours.
The lights have flickered here several times but have not gone out, unlike other parts of town the past few days, were falling trees brought down power lines.
After lunch, I braved the wind to go get a haircut (the shop is only three blocks from my house). Anything loose was flying about, including plenty of tumbleweeds making a break for the railroad tracks. Video below: Current Mood: releived
|Wednesday, February 8th, 2017|
|A Cab Ride You Wouldn't Want
Here's video released yesterday from the National Transportation Safety Board in relationship to a train derailment and fire at Casselton ND on December 30, 2013. Their finding was that a defective axle on the grain train (that's the train with which we're riding initially as the video starts) caused the train to derail. A crude oil train (you'll hear the crew calling that they are a "key train" which means they're carrying lots of flammable material like oil) coming the other way plows into the derailed cars and crashes off the rails itself. The oil tankers rupture and a big fire ensues.
Things to note is when the first train (grain) goes into emergency braking involuntarily — that's because the train air line broke when it derailed, triggering an emergency braking. This is different from the oil train voluntarily going into emergency because its engineer "big holed" it (hit the emergency brake). By the time the oil train went into emergency, it was too late, though.
This video mostly has no sound until near the very end, when you hear the radio call of a railroad signal maintainer (truck visible earlier in the video) calling that he'd seen something go wrong, and of the crew of the oil train calling after they'd derailed and crashed off the rails telling the dispatcher they were on fire and that they were getting out of their train immediately.( One time I wouldn't have wanted to be riding on the trainCollapse )
Personally, I'm amazed the crew of the oil train stuck around as long as they did, and that they escaped relatively uninjured from what could have been a deadly pile-up. Current Mood: impressed
|Tuesday, February 7th, 2017|
|Led By The Nose
I note that when the Vice President had to use his casting vote in the US Senate today to confirm a Secretary of Education who I don't think in her heart believes in the concept of universal public education, there was someone standing there with a cue card for him. My guess is that the VP knows so little about this "presiding officer" stuff that the Senate Parliamentarian had to write it all out for him to read off a card.
As WSFS Chair, I don't have a "casting vote" (that is, can only vote to break a tie), but the more subtle "can vote whenever it could affect the result," because I'm a member of the organization, not just its presiding officer. (The US VP is the nominal presiding officer of the Senate, but is not actually a member of it.) This means that I can vote to break or make
ties. (Ties lose.) I could also vote if it would affect various sorts of super-majorities like 2/3 or 3/4.
In the years that I've presided over WSFS meetings, I'm trying to remember if I have ever been in a position to use my vote. I think it may have happened once, and in the particular case, I think I elected to not vote and to allow the vote to stand as it was. I have a feeling that if I ever vote to make
a tie (and thus defeat a motion), there will be a lot of confused people who think the Chair only votes to break
ties because that's what "sandlot parliamentary procedure" says. Current Mood: depressed
|Monday, February 6th, 2017|
My thanks to those of you who made suggestions about what to do about the case of "computer elbow" I developed. I've made some changes to my work environment, including the armrest and the angle of my keyboard, and things are getting a bit better. I'm also staying away from the keyboard a bit more in order to give my right arm a rest. We'll see if it it continues to improve. Current Mood: optimistic
|Sunday, February 5th, 2017|
|This is Why We Deprecated "Nominee"
Last night the Hugo Awards/WSFS web sites got a brief flurry of questions about an author describing himself as a "Hugo Award nominee" and asking for clarification about the term. No work by the author in question has been shortlisted for the Hugo Award. Whether the author received at least one nomination for a Hugo Award is not something that can be proved or disproved, inasmuch as Administrators do not release individual nominations, only those works/people placing in the top 15 positions. The particularly claimed work didn't make the "We Also Heard From" list.
Complicating matters were claims that someone from the "Worldcon PR Department" had sent e-mail confirming the "nomination." Well, there is no such thing as a "Worldcon PR Department," the e-mail came from an address that is now shown as invalid, was signed by someone who has never to my knowledge (which is rather extensive) been involved with administering any Hugo Awards and is certainly not a member of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee and the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. (HAMC could at least conceivably be misinterpreted to be the "Worldcon Marketing Department" by people unfamiliar with how Worldcons, WSFS, and the Hugo Awards work.) The e-mails also had references to "worldcom
.org" which is an organization that has nothing to do with WSFS or with the World Science Fiction Convention.
I answered the e-mails (one of which was from the author in question), and after doing so, posted a clarification
post to the Hugo Awards web site. (This post was also there to try and confirm that e-mails from me are actually from one of the few people who actually is authorized to speak officially on behalf of WSFS and The Hugo Awards web sites.)
Colloquial usage (and official usage until recently) used the term "Hugo Award nominee" to mean "a person or work that appeared on the final Hugo Award ballot." However, a few years ago, some people started calling themselves "Hugo Award nominees" because a single person nominated them for the Award. Such claims generally were made by people who knew the Hugo Award was prestigious, but who had no idea how it worked. (I suspect many such people assumed that there was a Select Group of Judges who made the decisions.) I tried for a while to respond to such claims, but mostly got abuse for my trouble, as people informed me that the "plain meaning" of "nominee" included "anyone who received even one nomination." While technically true, it certainly subverted the intent of the term "nominee" as used at that time. Furthermore, we saw news reports taking such claims at face value, with reporters not particularly interested in any sort of nuance. After all, if you're "nominated" for the Academy Award, that means you're on the short list. Presumably it means the same thing with the Hugo Awards, right?
Reacting to this abuse of terminology, WSFS a few years ago officially deprecated the term "nominee," except in a very narrow technical sense dealing with the counting of nomination votes and the determination of eligibility. The official term for a person or work shortlisted for the Hugo Award is "Hugo Award Finalist." This can be objectively determined, of course, and there is the actual list of finalists for each year on the Hugo Awards web site. The term "Hugo Award nominee" has no official meaning. Hundreds and probably thousands of people and works are "Hugo Award nominees" every year. It only takes one nomination to be a "Hugo Award nominee," and of course you can always nominate yourself. (No Administrator I know would ever want to have to enforce a restriction against self-nomination.) The WSFS Mark Protection Committee ignores claims regarding being a "Hugo Award nominee," because they have no official meaning. At best, they are overly enthusiastic reactions by authors to fans who really like those authors' works.
I suppose we should be grateful that the Hugo Awards have gained sufficiently in stature that someone saw value in pretending to be an official "PR Department" for the World Science Fiction Society. Nevertheless, it does feel somewhat strange to find people making such claims. Possibly there are people out there convinced that WSFS is a Big Media Corporation with lots of money and Big Bucks to be had. The reality, which is that there are a bunch of volunteers putting in lots of time and no small amounts of money, to put on an event and to help perpetuate an organization that they love, may be simply too difficult for some folks to comprehend. Current Mood: thoughful
|Saturday, February 4th, 2017|
|Last of the Snow
Remember this from the series of snowstorms that hit Fernley a few weeks ago?( Peak SnowCollapse )
Three weeks later, and the picture is somewhat different.( One Last SnowballCollapse )
Besides the tiny remnant out front of the gate, there are a few bits here and there in the north lee of the house, where there's no direct sunlight at this time of the year and therefore only air-temperature melting is in effect. While it has been warmer these past few days, it hasn't been that warm, and with roughly 20-30 cm of accumulated snow at the peak, it's taking a while for the last bits to go away.
It's relatively clear in Fernley, but the Sierra Nevada is taking more snow, which is good. We really don't want any rain up there right now. Let's have lots more snow and let it accumulate until we need it in the spring and summer. Current Mood: optimistic
|Friday, February 3rd, 2017|
|Batten Down the Hatches
This morning dawned sunny in Fernley, but to the west a storm approached.( Clouds Rolling InCollapse )
It has been (relatively) warm the last few days and most of the snow has melted except in a few sheltered spots. As this storm moved toward us, the wind came up and there was a bit of rain, but not much more. This, however, is only the edge of a series of storms, and the effect is much worse up in the mountains, where the chain controls are back up on I-80. My initial plans to go spend a week at the Bay Area office next week are scratched.
Those firelogs we bought are working out quite nicely. They burn for a long time and produce very little smoke or ash, while keeping the living room warm. (It has helped that the temperatures have been above freezing all week.) Instead of my having to bring four or five armloads of cordwood from the wood pile every day, I bring one wheelbarrow load (about 15 logs) every two days from the garage. (We keep the logs in the garage because they can't be allowed to get wet, given that they are mostly compressed sawdust.) The only drawback is that it's unwise to burn more than two of the logs at a time (they get too hot) and therefore it's difficult to keep a fire going all night long. Lisa has been up nights this week and has seen to the fire. When that's not an option, we still have almond and walnut with which we can fill up the fireplace and still expect to find coals burning the next morning. Current Mood: cheerful
|Thursday, February 2nd, 2017|
I continue to experience "tennis elbow" pain primarily caused by too much time on the computer. I can't help the work-related stuff (although I'll look for an elbow brace and I've been putting additional padding on the arm-rest of my work chair), but I am spending a little less time behind the computer when not required for work. Current Mood: determined