Kevin and Lisa

Getting Out and About (Safely)

Things are starting to open up in Nevada, but that doesn't mean that Lisa and I feel all that safe. Still, we really wanted to get away from the house for something other than a shopping trip. I suggested we go to Fort Churchill State Park, about 25 mi / 40 km south of us on US-95A. The park preserves an old US army outpost and Pony Express stop. We've been here before and I've written about it when we last came here. For our purposes, it had the advantage of being pretty big, spread out, and unlikely to be crowded. We packed some sandwiches and cold drinks in the cooler and set off for Fort Churchill.

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We spent several hours hiking around the trails at Fort Churchill, and we plan to go back again, although we may have to wait until autumn to do so because soon it may be too hot to take long hikes. The 1 km Ruins Loop gives you a look at all of the fort buildings and is an easy walk from the parking lot.

Fort Churchill State Park is open 24 hours a day because it's also a good place to go stargazing. There are camping sites, but they are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

We got a lot of fresh air and sunshine (I'm glad I put on sunscreen and wore my long-sleeve shirt, hat, and sunglasses) and didn't feel like we were in any danger of being crowded. That's good for both of us and definitely worth the drive and the day-use fee.

I'll be writing this up as a place where you could stop for a while on a drive to Tonopah from the north. By then, we assume the adjacent Buckland Station Museum ($1 admission) will be open once again.
Let's Split

Last Burn of the Season

Today, Lisa and I tackled the remaining lawn debris, aiming to make this our last burn on this year's permit. During the week, I went out several times and spread and turned the brush and leaves to try and get them to dry out more, although a small amount of rain on Friday didn't help matters.

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That's pretty much the last of the burnable brush on our property or immediately adjacent to it that we can get disposed of this season. As time permits, we'll probably go out and cut brush from the trees along the fence line, pile it up away from the fence, and let it dry out. Maybe next October when burning is permitted again, we'll buy another burn permit and get rid of it. For now, though, we feel a lot better about getting dry brush and leaves away from the east side of the fence along our property and forming a slightly more defensible area to protect our house.

Incidentally, I've edited yesterday's post to include a photo of a truck that Lisa asked me to take for Chris Carson's benefit because she thought he might enjoy it.

Batteries and Bottles

My manager told me to take a half-day off today as we start the long holiday weekend, which in my case means my day ended about 9:30 AM. I've had another phone battery go bad on me (different phone; I carry a personal and a work phone) and needed to pick up a replacement from Batteries Plus in Sparks. Lisa also was looking for a replacement battery (a 12V deep-cycle gel cell battery for RV use), but the cells from Batteries Plus are all from China. West Marine had an American-made replacement, so we went there after the first stop in Sparks. Then it was WinCo and Raley's to fill up the groceries.

Lots more people are wearing masks, but there are still folks in the stores who both are ignoring masks and also doing random walks, making it hard to avoid them. As usual, this not only slows down our shopping, but also makes it much more stressful. I think we were in Reno/Sparks for at least five hours for what should have been relatively simple errands.

While in Sparks at Raley's grocery store, we spotted this truck, which Lisa asked me to photograph for a friend.

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Unfortunately, while unloading the groceries, Lisa dropped the ice-filled container with perishables including a bottle of Strauss Farms chocolate milk, which broke and made a mess. This took a lot of cleaning up. Worse, the spilled milk on the sidewalk attracted a bunch of bees. Now bees are good, especially non-aggressive ones like these that were mainly interested in the spilled milk, but we wanted them to go somewhere else, so we got out the garden hose and sprayer and Lisa sprayed a lot of water to try and rinse the sweet stuff away. Later, I sprayed a vinegar solution over the area in the hope of discouraging them.

Last year this time we were on our way to Tonopah to spend the weekend there at their Jim Butler Days festival. This year, we were planning to be at BayCon, which has been put off due to the pandemic restrictions. We'll not be making long Memorial Day weekend trips this year, much as we like the travel. But some restrictions have been lifted, so if we consider it safe enough to do so, we may make a day trip sometime this weekend if we feel up to it. Even though we have a big house and empty lots around us, there's obvious stress showing on both of us. It's a good thing we aren't living in a small apartment surrounded by others, or it would be much worse.

Edit, May 23: added the nuclear truck logo from Raley's.
Beware of Trains

Trapped on the Tracks

On Sunday, I was listing to railroad discussion on the scanner, as the Union Pacific dispatcher was talking to one train telling them that they would have to wait for a while after he put them in the siding, as there were several other trains, including a "no-fitter" (longer than any siding) heading toward them. The crew of the train radioed back that there was an additional complication: a car stuck on the railroad tracks ahead of them. I grabbed my camera and went to see if it was nearby, and yes, it was.

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After the trains cleared the area, I cautiously made my way over to the maintainer, who recognized me and I think knows that Lisa and I try to be good neighbors to the railroad. I asked if he or the railroad would want any of the photos or video that I shot, and he told me he didn't think so, explaining what his experience about such things has been. He tells me that idiots on the tracks are unfortunately all too common.

I'm glad I was able to get all of this material (click through the photos to see more on Flickr if you're interested), and even more glad that nobody got hurt and especially that a train didn't derail at speed hitting a trapped car.
Kreegah Bundalo

Void Day

I've been working some long hours at Day Jobbe, and my manager told me to back off a bit, even with some important projects going on. So on Wednesday I clocked off after only eight hours (as opposed to the up-to-12 I've been logging lately) and went to bed early.
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Tonopah Westercon

Shake It Up

[Manually crossposted because apparently the DW-to-LJ crossposting is broken again.]

There was a 6.5 earthquake 56 km / 35 miles northwest of Tonopah, Nevada this morning. It woke me up just after 4 AM. Given that I'm used to sleeping through passing heavy freight trains running 80 m / 260 ft north of our house on the Union Pacific mainline, that's really saying something. Lisa (who has been up at night and sleeping days lately) also felt it.

Reports I've seen show that Tonopah itself was mostly unharmed although groceries did fall off shelves. It appears that the worst damage was a large crack across US-95 near the epicenter. That required US-95 to be closed between NV-360 and US-6 while NVDOT made emergency repairs. The highway reopened around 2 PM today.

Where I live in Fernley is about 125 mi / 200 km (as the crow flies) north from the epicenter of the 'quake. People reported feeling it from Portland to Phoenix and Salt Lake City to San Diego.

Western Nevada and Eastern California do get earthquakes. When I lived in Bishop CA, I was there when we had a swarm of 6.0 quakes (three in four days as I recall). Although the major earthquake faults on California's west coast get more publicity, the inland area have their own share of activity, mostly as I understand it volcanic in nature. There are numerous hot springs throughout this area, and you don't get hot springs without hot rocks down beneath the surface, and that means geologically active areas.

I'm glad to hear that there were apparently no injuries or serious damage other than the cracked roadway.

The Trouble With Tumbleweeds

This morning was nearly ideal conditions for doing another brush burn before our permit runs out at the end of May. I should have set the alarm for 4:30 (my normal Day Jobbe start time), but did manage to turn out at 6 AM, get a cup of coffee, and then go work on reducing hazardous burnable brush to safe piles of ash with Lisa. Lisa had already strung the garden hoses and sprayer and brought out the garden rake and shovel.

Conditions were ideal. There was virtually no wind other than an occasional light puff of breeze, and there were low clouds shading us from the rising sun. We managed to get rid of a flammable nuisance, and also some dry brush.

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If you've never been around areas where you have a lot of tumbleweeds, you may not realize just what nasty little firebombs they could be. With no wind, a water hose at the ready, and conditions being relatively safe, we decided to demonstrate what happens when you set a loose tumbleweed alight by dropping it onto the fire.

These things are dry and when not crushed down are mostly air. They go whoosh and burn instantly. In case of any wind to speak of, they blow away spreading embers, which can lead to huge range fires. In our case, the growing mountain of dry brush accumulating on our fence line makes us very nervous.

As the overcast began to burn off, we began to make the pile an ex-fire.

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We hope to do one more burn before the month ends. There's really only this one safe place to do the burns (everything else is too close to the house, cars, or other potentially flammable things), so I need to spend time this week raking up the rest of the tumble trap and other loose brush from the fence line and to drag it over to the burn area to form a new starting pile plus an extra pile a safe-but-convenient distance from the burn pile to make it easier to feed the rest of the burnables into the main fire.

We're not fire bugs. Disposing of this dry brush now means it is much less likely to catch fire when we're not standing nearby with a hose. We need to improve the defensible space around the house.

Signing On

The hits keep coming from the North Lyon County Fire Protection District.

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I'm still employed and busy, so I haven't quite got into that "what day is it" mode, but I can certainly understand how others are getting there.
Tonopah Westercon

Westward, Ho

I'm pleased (and relieved) that the joint announcement yesterday that Westercons 73 and 74 were both being postponed a year seems to have been received so well as it was. I have answered a few people who didn't seem to get that if Westercon 74 had not been in a position to move forward a year, Westercon 73 was very likely going to have to be canceled, which would have been awful for lots of reasons. Thanks to the easy-going, convention-friendly attitude of our facilities in Tonopah, we were able to make room for our friends from Seattle, while also allowing Westercon 74 the time we'll need to restart our own plans.

One oddity of the "Westercon Two-Step" is that Westercon 74 is going to end up with the longest lead time of any Westercon ever held. Westercons have never been selected more than two years in advance, and here Tonopah ends up being selected three years before our actual convention dates. Even now, as our counter on the web site shows after we reset the start date, we are 783 days out from our convention. However, given that 2020 looks to be The Year of the Great Pause, it doesn't actually give us any more effective time, as much of the "extra" time is unusable.

Yesterday after most of the announcements were posted, I went to the Westercon 74 web site and edited the Westercon History List there, changing the dates of Westercons 73 and 74 and inserting a gap in the table between Westercons 72 and 73 with a note explaining the first-ever year without a Westercon since the convention's founding in 1948. Because Westercon, unlike Worldcon, was founded after World War II, there was no "war gap" the way there is between Worldcons 3 and 4.

People have contacted us to point out that the dates on the front page of the Westercon web site are still showing the old dates. Unfortunately, there's been a strange technical problem with the site that prevents some things (including that box) from being edited. It might be related, but the Westercon site was down for a while today. With luck the bug will be fixed soon and we'll be able to get the rest of the site updated. My thanks to Cheryl Morgan for working on it today for us.

The new Westercon 74 logo I posted yesterday had a minor error in it: the little "SM" bug had shifted to the far right beyond the 74 when I was rebuilding logos with the new dates. I've fixed it and the new icon shows the bug in the right place. "Westercon" is a service mark; "Westercon 74" is not.