Sepia, RB Office

Life Report/Trip Report

When last I posted way at the other end of this surprisingly long February, I had a job, and a potential house.  Since then, Tara and I have packed up, gone to a convention, moved across two and a half-states, and settled in at my parents’ house until we can get our San Diego house sold.

We actually started packing in late January, with the delivery of a PODS container (hereafter referred to as a/the pod).  It took some effort to get it loaded, largely due to a combination of lack of motivation, and never having the right things to put in it when we needed.  In the end, I suspect it could have had more volume, but was probably about where it needs to be weight wise.  At first, we intended to have the pod picked up while we were at Gallifrey One, but we were far enough behind that we postponed it until the following Tuesday.

Gallifrey One was nice, even if a combination of Tara having to go in for her last day of work in California, and trying to pack a few more things into the POD meant that we didn’t get there until after nearly everything but evening programming was done on Friday.  Comfortingly, most of the people I ran into up there didn’t see any problem with us being at a con less than a week before we were supposed to move.

We knew that we’d need help with the move, so we arranged for Ace Relocation/Allied Van Lines to pack at least some of our stuff and ship everything that wasn’t pre-loaded into the pod.  However, when I was talking to the Ace agent, I probably overestimated the amount we’d have packed, so both our estimate and the work order were short.  As it turns out, this was far from the only time where my communication skills failed.

On Tuesday February 16, the pod was picked up.  While this was happening, Tara and I grabbed lunch and headed over to Poway to pick up a Cruise America 25′ RV that would be our home during the final packing and moving process.  When we got back, we moved a few basics in – including Naga (who we wanted to have time to acclimate before adding the other cats).  We also got as much packing as we could done.

Wednesday morning the packers arrived early, and proceeded to do exactly as little as they could based on what was in their work order.  As a result, not even everything that we’d ask to be professionally packed was packed.  When the truck and loaders arrived, none of us were happy.  Given that Tara and I had crapped out on packing, we ended up contracting to have the loaders do a bunch of the packing (at a premium), which ended up taking the rest of the day Wednesday and into Thursday morning.  Additionally, this resulted in having things packed that shouldn’t have been – the worst being our mid-weight coats, and one of the cat carriers, specifically the more expensive soft one that Pabu needs to be in since she hurts herself on the bars of a regular one.

In retrospect, we should have gone ahead and had the pod picked up on Monday (or Friday), and had the packers there on Tuesday to pack everything.

As it worked out, Tara and I moved into the RV (parked outside our house, hooked up to an extension cord on a circuit that wasn’t rated for the full 30 amps required) on Wednesday night, with Naga.  This was the first (and so far only) time Naga has had us at night without other cats around.  But, she didn’t seem interested in snuggling – just making sandcastles in the middle of the night.

When we originally planned on using the RV, we figured that it would be easy and safe to put a tow dolly on it and pull Tara’s car behind.  However, the RV only has a 2,500 pound tow capacity, which Tara’s fairly light car exceeds on its own.  After a lot of back and forth, I finally it upon a solution during Wednesday night – Tara could fly back to San Diego in a week or so, and then drive her car back for about the same or less than the cost of the tow dolly.  (After a few refinements, Tara improved on the plan to avoid having to stay with anyone in San Diego, and we reduced the cost by using frequent flyer points)

Given the layout and bed size of the RV, Tara and I ended up in separate beds.  She took the bed that could be made out of the dinette, where I slept on the most permanent bed in the back (deciding that the over-cab bed would be better left to the cats).  This worked out since it kept her from needing to climb over me (or visa-versa) at night, and us from being crowded into a bed that probably wouldn’t have fit me anyway.

The rest of the cats joined on Thursday and managed to get along OK – albeit Naga and Pabu sometimes disagreed about who should snuggle with Tara at night, and none of them snuggled with me.

Late Thursday, we headed to drop Tara’s car off with the friends who will be keeping an eye on it, and picking her up at the airport when she flies in.  After that, we stopped at PetCo shortly before closing to get another soft-sided cat carrier, and, at Tara’s suggestion, some training pads to put under the cats in their carriers; as both girls have been known to have accidents when traveling.

It was on Friday that I discovered more communications problems.  First, I thought that we were good for the carpeting people to be in on Friday, but I needed to sign the work order.  So, instead the carpeting was scheduled for Monday and we had to wait for the carpeting guy to drive over with the order to sign.

We did manage to get the cats secured into their carrier, and everything in the RV and my car ready to go on Friday.  But, instead of the 10:30 or earlier I’d hoped for, it was nearly noon when Tara took the RV down to see The Kid, and I took a detour to sneak some of the stuff from the freezer and refrigerator that weren’t worth cramming into the overflowing RV fridge to a dumpster, and then to see The Kid.

After leaving The Kid a bit before 1, I went to find a place to dump the electronics recycling off in El Cajon.  The first place I had an address for turned out to be closed, but I found a second.  However, the route to it was blocked by a major accident investigation, requiring detours both to get to the center, and then to get onto I-8 east after dropping stuff off.  As a result, it was after 2:00 when we stopped for lunch – not in El Centro as I’d expected, or Yuma as my most optimistic plans had hoped, but at the Golden Acorn Casino about half-way between the Alpine and the descent into the Imperial Valley.

It was also at this lunch stop that we discovered that three of the four cats had managed to pee in their carriers, requiring us to replace their pads.  This left us with too few to make it to Albuquerque on our original plan if the trend continued.  So, after a stop near El Centro, I ran ahead to the PetSmart in Yuma to get more pads (and more toys since the one we got seemed to help calm the kitties in transit).  I left word to have Tara meet me at the Pilot travel center towards the eastern edge of town.

However, my memory was very bad.  The travel center I was thinking of was a Love’s center not a Pilot, so Tara went right past it.  However, she found another place to stop before leaving Yuma, and called me so that we could meet up.  It was at this meeting that we determined that it wasn’t a good idea to press on to Coolidge as it was already dark and we were already tired.

So, we located an RV park with an opening less than a mile away, and I drove the RV to the park and got set up for the night.  I hooked up to shore power (for the first time in a real 30 amp circuit using the weird connector) and city water (not that we trusted it that much).  I skipped hooking up the sewer line because the ground connection in the park looked about the same size as the hose we had, and I didn’t think we had any sort of a coupler for that kind of connection.

Saturday morning, I decided that the trip to Coolidge was short enough that it was still worth our time to try to get preview night tickets to Comic-Con.  However, this delayed our departure about an hour from when we could have left.  However, I was also worried because the “black water” tank of the RV was already showing 2/3 full, and I wasn’t sure we wanted to keep going with it that full.  Still not believing I could use the local sewer, we ended up driving about 20 minutes back into Yuma to a gas station where we could dump.  We waited another 20 or 30 minutes for the two RVs ahead of us to finish dumping before we could dump and hit the road.  I let Tara run ahead, and stopped at an Albertson’s to get a gallon of bottled water (I’d been unable to satisfy my nighttime thirsts for anything resembling a reasonable cost with what we could get at gas stations or convenience stores).  I also grabbed some sandwich makings figuring that we wouldn’t want to find a place to eat along the way (Yuma to Coolidge has a paucity of places to eat until one gets to the exit in Casa Grande for Coolidge).

I met up with Tara at the only open rest area along I-8 in Arizona not that long after she got there.  However, it wasn’t quite as open as it should have been: the bathrooms were closed.  It was also hot.  So, we had to fire up the generator in the RV to comfortably have lunch.  When checking things at the rest stop, I discovered that the black water tank still showed 2/3 full.

After lunch, the trip to Coolidge was fairly uneventful (except for a detour due to the exit from Eastbound I-8 to Westbound I-10 in Casa Grande being closed.

We got to Coolidge, and parked into our spot at the RV park where Tara’s parents spend their winters (in a “park model” RV, which is an RV in name only) mid to late afternoon.  Tara’s mom had made us dinner, so we had a nice supper and then turned in for the night.

On Saturday, since it was daylight when we parked, I went ahead and hooked up to the sewer system, opening both valves under the seemingly understandable assumption that that was the way to do it.  Later, I read the fine manual tucked in a nearly hidden compartment in the RV, and discovered that in a park situation like we were in, they still wanted the valves closed until ready to dump.

Sunday morning, we slept a bit later than optimal, and still had to do a bit of packing before hitting the road.  This was slowed down when Tara’s mom insisted on feeding us before we left.  I also chose to take advantage of the city water to attempt to flush whatever was causing the black water tank sensor to read wrong, which both added to our delay in leaving, and resulted in me nearly being trapped in a squatting position (not wanting to put my knee down in the rough gravel of the parking pad).

Since before leaving, I’d been debating the best route from Coolidge to Albuquerque.  Google maps kept insisting that the fastest route was to take US-60 past Qumedo and then cut up to I-40.  I’d been preferring the route up I-17 to I-40 – knowing that the route down south through Demming and Hatch was much longer (even if Google kept claiming it was an OK alternative).  Finally, I (foolishly) decided that we should listen to Google’s advice.

This turned out to be a mistake.  First, there was a lot of construction around Superior Arizona, which slowed us down.  Then, Tara was so worn out by the winding drive down into the Salt River Canyon.  So, we switched vehicles, and I drove the RV up the less winding side of the Salt River Canyon.  Even so, by the time I got to Show Low, I decided that staying on US 60 was not a good idea.  So, I found the alternate route to I-40 at Holbrook (a short hop, albeit one that was a bet westerly).

One thing that did help was that on Sunday, Tara and I finally started taking advantage of the FRS radios we had with us.  (I finally, well after the trip confirmed that we could have been legally using a GMRS band and power off of my recently renewed GMRS license – but I didn’t know that then so our range was somewhat limited).  As long as we were within, more or less, visual distance of one another, we could communicate without phone service or the dangers of driving (a 25′ RV) while trying to use a hand-held phone.

However, it was already getting dark by the time we hit the New Mexico border.   I’d wanted to pull over at the rest area just inside of New Mexico, but they were closed (apparently for the night, as there were plenty of cars parked there, or just leaving, as we passed).  So, Tara suggested the Cracker Barrell in Gallup instead.

We appreciated the meal, and the time off the road, but it further delayed us on an already delayed day.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, albeit dark; and for me driving what I came to think of as a behemoth a bit stressful.  There was the side trip through Grants due to a badly labeled low bridge warning.

Upon arriving in the Albuquerque area, I followed family knowledge rather than Google and took Unser across the West Side.  Even at night, this was an odd trip knowing that the stretch from Paradise to Irving should have been known as Lyons, should haven’t gone passed either road, and the fire station on the west side of the road should have been a county station not a city station (or at least those were the condition when I last lived in Albuquerque and frequented Paradise Hills).

I also gave Tara the radio tour of some of the area – knowing that she was probably as tired as me, so having me make snide or tour guide remarks probably would be at least somewhat appreciated.

We got in late – after 10, and much later than I’d have anticipated or wanted.  (The fact that the clock in the RV was still on Pacific time probably added to me thinking it was earlier than it actually was most of the afternoon).

Monday, we dropped the RV off, and then got signed into both of our storage units – the original 10×30 unit the relocation agent recommended over having the local Allied agent store our stuff, and the 10×10 unit I added to deal with the extra stuff that we ended up hauling due to the movers not getting it.

Tuesday, I borrowed my Dad’s pickup and we took about half of the stuff we’d offloaded to the locker and put it away.  On Wednesday and Thursday we took over a few more loads and continued to organize and recover.

Friday, the movers arrived with our main load.  Due to the manager at the storage place finding an ideally placed unit, it took just two movers to unload and pack the unit (80% of the way from the back to the front, and all the way to the 15′ ceiling for much of that).

Yesterday, we took the last load up to the storage place (putting it in the large unit, since it was closer to the entrance and had room), as well as a few other errands.

Tomorrow, I start my new job – first with an online webinar with anyone else new to the contract, mostly at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, then by spending the afternoon at the badging office.  On Tuesday, Tara flies to San Diego and starts heading back this way with her car.

Sepia, RB Office

Life Updates

For the few people who only see my updates from my blog (or LiveJournal which mirrors my blog), here are a couple of updates on my life:

1: I have a new job.  I will be working at and for the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in (just south of) Albuquerque.  I don’t have a start date yet because they need to finish at least the preliminary security check.  That is in process, but there is still at least one piece of paperwork that needs to be completed and sent back to the contractor I’ll be working for – who are based in Huntsville Alabama.

2: Tara and I have an accepted, but contingent, offer in on a house in the Sandia Heights neighborhood in the Sandia foothills in far northeastern Albuquerque.  We’ll be moving to Albuquerque in a few weeks and living with my parents until we can close the sale of our house here.

3: Speaking of our house here in San Diego: it should be on the market about the time as when we leave town.  We’ve got some minor fixes that need to be done and will be easier done on an empty house.  We also believe that the house will show better without the cats in residence.

Sepia, RB Office


This morning, I was called into a meeting with my bosses boss.  As soon as he asked for the meeting, I was pretty sure what the meeting was about, and I was right.  I have been given a sixty day notice that my job is being eliminated.  I am getting generous severance package, and Qualcomm is providing outplacement services which I plan on taking full advantage of.

I sent some more job applications out, before seeing advise from the outplacement agency not to start sending applications right away.  However, I’ll wait until I talk to them on Monday before doing anything more.  But, I intend to be as aggressive as I can in looking until I find something.

My hope is that I’ll be able to find something during the next sixty days that I can start in mid-December or early January.  Obviously, I’d prefer something in San Diego, or possibly parts of Orange County where I can fairly easily commute from Rancho Bernardo.  A job that could be 100% telecommuting would be the same as any job in San Diego.  If I have to relocate, we’d probably prefer Albuquerque since there is family there, and we have contacts who have contacts who might know how to deal with The Kid – who would probably have to relocate with us, but not live with us.  The Chicago area (at least as long as we could move back to the Bartlett/Hanover Park area) would be in play, as would Silicon Valley (provided the job was good enough to deal with the cost of living).  I’d consider Seattle, but Tara is less sure since we’d be further from family.

I’ve started reducing expenses – suspended piano lessons, reduced the number of DVDs Netflix will deliver, dropped premium channels, canceling newspaper, etc.

There are a few other things I need to do soon.  I need a new suit since my really nice suit fit about 100 pounds ago.  I’m sure that there are a couple of others, but I cannot think of any.

I’d appreciate prayers/good thoughts.  I’ll accept any job leads that you want to provide (thank you already to Glenn and Susan – I’ve followed up on your leads already).

Sepia, RB Office

Musical Updates

For much of the year, and into last year, I have been (was) taking music lessons.  First voice lessons and then piano lessons.  Of the two, the voice lessons have been more successful.  However, those ended in the spring when my instructor moved away and I’ve not resumed them with a new instructor – at least not yet.

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Sepia, RB Office

Brief 2015 Hugo Award Finalist Reviews

Note: This post was drafted back when I was actually reading through the various Hugo Award Finalists (and then voting on a category by category basis). It was hidden until after the awards were announced (or should have been announced - I'm counting on the ceremony to start on time and run less than two-and-a-half hours) as I'm part of the 2015 Hugo Awards subcommittee, and I don't want anyone to accuse me of stacking the deck. Because of being delay posted on my blog (, it didn't automatically cross-post to LiveJournal

I'll present the categories in the order I read (or otherwise finish consuming) them; and the works in the order I voted for them.

Best Short Story


At first, I was having a hard time liking this story. But, as it went on there was a good balance between ideas and action which makes it stand out in this category.


Again, at first I wasn't liking this story. It does drag the action out a bit - and it is almost entirely action, with just a few bits of history and a not quite out of context Bible quote. Having a short story drag its action is a bit of an accomplishment, but not a good one.

No Award

"A Single Samurai"

This story was all action and background. Now, that isn't necessary a bad thing, but in this case it resulted in a pretty boring story. Even if I didn't read a lot of short stories in 2014, if I'm this bored, it isn't a Hugo worthy work.

Asside: when I was regularly playing paper and pencil RPGs, I'd often find long, drawn out, combat boring, so I think that my standards aren't the same as others as to what makes a story boring.

"On a Spiritual Plain"

This story is short, and has one pretty good idea. But, the execution still results in a story that is almost all idea and little action. And the action that is there is pretty mundane.

"The Parliament of Beasts and Birds"

The part of me that likes when Christian ideas cross with science fiction really wanted to like this one - even if Wright's screeds about a TV Show predisposed me to dislike his stories. But it was just talking, and more talking, and even more talking. And the dialog, or I probably should say "Parliament," was all philosophy and at the end theology. Its last sin (a pretty ironic term in this case) was that from the beginning I pretty much knew where it was going to end.

Best Novelette

"The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale"

At first this story was kind of slow, but it was short enough that the initial slow action wasn't a big drawback. However, I did, mostly, solve the mystery well before the narrator. The fact that it is ranking first, tells me that this is a pretty weak field.

"The Day the World Turned Upside Down"

An interesting idea, and well executed. I think my main issue was dealing with the suspension of disbelief over the interesting idea. The juxtaposition of the narrator having his world both figuratively turned upside down by the loss of a long-time girlfriend, and then literally being turned upside down is its biggest strength.

I'll note that this story was translated from, I believe, Dutch. Yet the setting didn't feel either particularly European nor particularly American. I don't know how much of that is from the original, and how much is how the translator dealt with some of the descriptions.

No Award

"Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium"

Not a bad story, but I don't think it is Hugo worthy. The idea is interesting, but the execution ends up kind of dull.

"Championship B'tok"

This isn't a Novelette, this is an outline of the first part of a large series. After spending much of its time skimming over world building and character development, it just ends. It leaves character threads hanging, the main action hanging, and just about everything else hanging.

This one also gets special mention for being yet another case of abusing apostrophes to make a language alien.

"The Journeyman: In the Stone House"

This has a similar problem to the last one. Except being the beginning of an incomplete story, it is the middle of an incomplete story. Now, the prior story exists, which might help explaining some of what is going on.

But as a stand alone piece, all of the aspects of the story are left lacking. The worldbuilding is rushed through or implied (I'm guessing that this is a case of a world that has fallen back to being psuedo-medevil), and the main characters are more caricatures - broad outlines. The secondary characters are even less developed.

My Nominations

For reference, I nominated the following for Best Novelette:

  • The Ghosts of Bourbon Street Seanan McGuire

  • Stingers and Strangers Seanan McGuire

  • Bury Me In Satin Seanan McGuire

  • Snakes and Ladders Seanan McGuire

(Yes, they are all InCrypid stories by Seanan McGuire - but I nominated almost everything I read from last year, at least if it was good. And I really like these stories)

I'd probably still rank these above just about everything in the above category.

Best Novella


I enjoyed "Flow" a fair amount. It is a pretty straightforward explorer's story, with the protagonist learning about parts of his world beyond his original ken, and nearly getting into serious trouble

No Award

Yes, only one novella seemed Hugo Worthy to me.

One Bright Star to Guide Them By

This wasn't all that bad of a story. But, as I was reading it, I couldn't help by see Narnia shining through. This left me feeling off until a friend summed up what it was quite succinctly: "Bad Narnia Fan Fiction."

"The Plural of Helen of Troy"

This story was hard to follow - coming from a collection of shared-world stories (I gather based on the title of the collection it comes from). It is a mish-mash of alternate history, time travel, and paradoxes. But, instead of being intriguing as this could/should be, it was just confusing. The stories not-quite back-to-front ordering added to the problems, even if it was necessary to hide the outcome.

"Pale Realms of Shade"

I didn't finish this story, which means I probably should have left it off my ballot (but it is there at the time of writing). After reading a not insignificant part of the story, my feeling was that I needed to re-read (re-listen to) Seanan McGuire's Sparrow Hill Road (one of my Novel nominees) to wash the taste of it out of my brain.

Like the Rose Marshal ghost stories in Sparrow Hill Road, "Pale Realms of Shade" is a ghost story told, in first person, from the perspective of the ghost. In this case, it was combined with an attempt at a Noir feel and Celtic urban fantasy. Again, this resulted in a bit of a mish-mash that became unreadable.

Big Boys Don't Cry

I didn't finish this story either. But, it did do something very important for me: it convinced me that I don't like the type of military SF that is mostly combat.

Best Novel

Note, I didn't read the excerpt from Skin Game. Being part of a long-running series that (from what I understand) has a lot of continuity, I didn't feel that I could enjoy or judge the story. Also, at the time of this review, I was still reading The Goblin Emperor, but had read enough to make my judgements and cast my ballot. Plus, I was getting to where I was going to start seeing preliminary results in testing and wanted to minimize my influence.

The Goblin Emperor

I'm enjoying this story a lot. It is a coming of age story, with a lot of unique elements. On top of that, the author is doing a good job of revealing a world that is both unlike ours, and unlike your typical fantasy world - even if characters are referred to as "elves" and "goblins."

If I have any complaint, it is her odd use of older speech forms in the dialog, but not in the text nor the internal monologue.

The Three Body Problem

Again, a very enjoyable story. There is what I have to conclude is a definite flavor coming from the setting in modern China, but it also resonates with the parts of the world I'm more familiar with. If anything bothered me significantly, it was some possibly out-of-date information regarding nearby star systems.

The Dark Between the Stars

At first, I was liking this a fair amount. But, I quickly grew tired and quit listening for two reasons. First, the information carried over from the author's previous 7 book series in the same universe seemed to becoming something that was really needed to understand and follow the story. But, more importantly, the story quickly found itself in a "many lines, all waiting" situation. Having read (OK, listened to) about 1/3 of the story - around 18-20 chapters, I'd only seen 3 characters having more than one chapter as the PoV character. On top of that, most of the story lines appeared to be independent, with no indication of how or why they might be interconnected.

Ancillary Sword

I know Ancillary Justice was last year's Hugo Award winner. But, I couldn't get through the first chapter of the excerpt. Not only did there seem to be a lot of information from the first book that was needed to understand what was going on, it was sounding or feeling like the setup for yet another military SF drudge story.

Sepia, RB Office

Possible WSFS Proposals

First, a proposal I’m very tempted to tack onto B.1.4:

I move to amend B.1.4 by adding {somewhere} “provided that the Hugo Award Subcommittee of a Worldcon can elect to continue the previous process of counting nominations until one of the following conditions is met:
– A prior Worldcon has used the revised method.
– They have received and accepted (1) pusedo code, programming code, or mathematically rigorous formal specifications for the program to count the nominations, and (2) a set of sample data that contains sample nominations from at least 2/3 of the number of people to cast nominating ballots in the largest category over the last three years.

Second, some year in the future, I’m tempted to make the following motion:

I move to amend the WSFS constitution by making the following changes:


1.5.x: Members of the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon shall be allowed to purchase a Hugo Award Nominating Membership for no more than a regular supporting membership, and for no more than $20.00 USD or the equivalent in local currency, adjusted upward by inflation as reported by the United States Department of Commerce.  These memberships shall only grant the right to participate in Hugo Award Nominations, and shall grant no other rights.

3.7.1 The Worldcon Committee shall conduct a poll to select the nominees for the final Award voting. Each member of the administering Worldcon granted full voting rights, the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon as of January 31 of the current calendar year and persons with Hugo nominating memberships shall be allowed to make…


Sepia, RB Office

My Radical Agenda

For a moment, let’s pretend that I’m somehow made, simultaneously, into both the President and the entirety of congress, here are some of the radical ideas I’d have – which probably go to show how far reality has pushed me from my former libertarian-ish views.

  1. Progressive tax reform – reinstate the higher tax brackets starting at either $1,000,000.00 or $10,000,000.00 of income.  Also adjust the corporate tax and capital gains taxes so that corporations are encouraged to invest long term and pay dividends rather than raise their stock prices.
  2. A “basics” package for all U.S. Citizens, including
    • Basic education: PreK – College (4 years)
    • Basic income, paid to all citizens over 16 who are not full time students
    • Basic health insurance: no deductible, pays 80%-100% depending on purpose of visit, choice of appropriate provider (urgent care over ER), etc.
    • Basic access to housing with water and heat.
  3. Massive investment in infrastructure – repair first then maybe a new WPA
  4. Plans to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.  This should include fuels from what would otherwise be waste products, and fuels produced in non-agricultural areas.
  5. Reduction of military involvement in training and direct action in foreign countries.  Retrain them to be ready to perform humanitarian missions, including rescues of persecuted groups.
  6. Ensure that the military has the equipment it needs – but only what it needs, not what congress decides it needs.
  7. A more open immigration system, and an expedited asylum system.  Immigrant parents of US citizens should also get the basics package until their child is independant; by which time they should have had enough time to become naturalized citizens in their own right.

Sepia, RB Office

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill Business District

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood’s major business district is along Central Avenue – which carried Route 66 from 1937 until it was decommissioned – stretching from Washington Boulevard on the east to Girard on the west.

Ernst Haas Photo looking east on Central at Carlisle, Circa 1969

Ernst Haas Photo looking east on Central at Carlisle, Circa 1969

When I was in college at the University of New Mexico, which is located just west of Nob Hill, running from Girard to University mostly north of Central, I would head into Nob Hill with some frequency, mostly to do shopping at War Games West.  While I did walk up Central on at least a few occasions, and biked up Silver, one block south of Central, at least once, I’ll confess I mostly drove up Silver to the parking lot at Silver and Amherst that served War Games West and the rest of that block of buildings.

But, my recollection was that most of the other businesses in the area weren’t that interesting.

Over the last few years, Tara and I have discovered that at least the section from Richmond on the west to Carlisle has a number of interesting and eclectic shops, and is always worth a visit when we are in Albuquerque.

Much of the development along Central was started after 1937.  But a major development was done in 1946 and 1947 when Robert Waggoman built the Nob Hill Business Center, the first modern (i.e. car oriented) shopping center in New Mexico (according to Wikipedia), and possibly west of the Mississippi (according to a reference I’ve misplaced).

Nob Hill Business Center is a Streamline Moderne style building with hints of the New Mexico Territorial style.  The structure is U shaped around a small, but probably sufficient in 1947, parking lot.  The parking lot faces Central, and the building runs along the other three sides of the block bounded by Central on the north, Carlisle on the east, Silver on the south, and Amherst on the west.  There are store fronts available that both face the parking lot, and the three outside streets.  Since Silver is up Nob Hill (the geographic feature) from Central in that area, most of the Silver frontage is made up of the upstairs sections and backs of the stores.

In the two interior corners are two larger store spaces.  My understanding is that, originally, these were occupied by a grocery store and a drug store.  The remaining store fronts are available for smaller shops.

Now, the two corner shops are occupied by the La Montanita Co-op grocery store, and a salon and day spa.  But there are two stores in between that we like visiting.  One is a gallery (whose name I’ve forgotten) and the other is Beeps, which I can only describe as an eclectic store as it carries toys, jewelry, novelty kitchen accessories, and other interesting things.  We used to also enjoy browsing at the design shop that used to face Carlisle at the northern end.

Continuing west from Nob Hill, we pass an Asian “street food” restaurant in the building that was occupied by the late lamented War Games West when I was in college, and later Bow Wow Records.

A bit further down the block is The Flying Star Cafe‘s original location.  When I was in college, their easternmost storefront (one storefront west of the former location of War Games West) housed a Double Rainbow ice cream parlor (possibly only until 1987).  As I understand it, the franchise owners wanted to go a different way, and converted the shop into the first Flying Star.  Since then, they’ve taken over every storefront west until a small alley.  The rest of that block has two free-standing buildings, one a fairly mundane building containing a pizza parlor, and another housing a Starbucks.

The building containing the Starbucks was a KFC when I was in college.  But I think it was built for something else – but more recently than when much of the rest of the area was built up.  It is a fairly long and narrow building with a rectangular footprint. But its roofline is mostly a half-cylinder, except at the front it is cut in a circle.

Continuing into the next block west is an Arby’s and one of several sushi restaurants along this stretch as well as business well off of Central.  I’d guess that, like the Starbucks, this is a newer development with even more parking.

The block after that has Kelly’s Bar and Grill, located in what was a Ford dealership, and later (or at the same time) may have been a Texaco station.  I’ve never been to Kelly’s – too many other favorites to go to a place that could be found elsewhere – but it has a good reputation.

Kelly’s apparently leases part of the building to a Cold Stone, and to a flower shop.  The rest of that block is occupied by the Hiway House motel, and a Korean barbeque located in what I think was once the motel’s lobby and check-in area.

The next block is where the eclectic nature of the area is most apparent.  In that block, in addition to a restaurant or two and a store selling smoking supplies, is a vintage clothing store, Masks y Mas – which specializes in mostly Mexican arts and crafts largely focused on Dias de Los Muertos – and Astro-Zombies – a comic book store with a good selection of comics and graphic novels, and a whole lot of other geeky toys and games.

The north side of Central through that area has some more mundane stores, including a dry cleaner, Kurt’s Camera Corral, a Redwing Shoe store, and Disco Display House, a party supply place.  These were all there when I was in college, as was The Guild arthouse movie theater.

There is also a block where there is a complex with shops on the lower floor and condos on the upper levels.  This is less than two years old, since it was strikingly out of place to me; more so than it would have been if it had been built in the prior 23 years.  But it also has been there long enough for one business to go out of business.  Most of the business there are pretty mundane.

On the north side is also where we find a Satellite Coffee, owned by the same people as The Flying Star – which yesterday was full of hipsters and nerds in the mid afternoon.  There are also a couple of clothing boutiques catering largely to the hipster demographic.

As I said at the top, Tara and I always find it worth a trip.  On the other hand, I still will miss War Games West and we’ll miss the design shop.

Sepia, RB Office

Musical Ambitions

I'm reposting here two posts that went initially to Facebook and Google+, one from October 25, and the other from October 26:

October 25:
(Tara will probably complain, but) I picked up a Jamstik as a late birthday present/right hand exercise. It arrived the other night and I've been working through the tutorial.

I've already figured a few things out, however:
- I'll probably want to still get a real guitar and take lessons from a live person. I don't know whether to go through the Poway Adult School, Palomar College, or go the private lesson route.
- I need to build up the calluses on my left hand.
- my (literal) fat fingers make it hard for both of the chords the tutor has tried to teach me: E and A.
- the tutor program has an "arcade mode," based on Guitar Hero and the like. I find this much harder to do since I have some eye-hand coordination issues that still require me to do too much thinking before fretting the correct string(s). Even in the other mode, I pick the wrong string a high percentage of the time.
- I find it easier to use headphones - otherwise the actual sound of the strings kind of distracts me.
- I need to stick with this in order to get myself up to the level I'd like to be at: enough to at least accompany myself in filk type settings (which, sort-of includes the monthly worship sessions at our church)

October 26:
I did a bit of noodling tonight. Mostly working on E and A chords. I still have to look at reference and think to get my left hand correct.

I'm also having a problem with the E chord that tends to make the Jamstik sense the third string (C?) as being fretted on the second fret, not the first. I don't think it is because I'm swapping my first two fingers. I also think I'm going to need to trim my nails.

I located a place for lessons. I decided to give their voice lessons a try first - since I already own the instrument.

(I also need to decide if I should get an electric guitar so I can practice without disturbing Tara. On the other hand, that is what the Jamstik is for.)

{If this shows up twice - it is due to a glitch in how the Wordpress plugin that is supposed to post all of my Wordpress blog posts over to LiveJournal works when I post from my iPad)
Sepia, RB Office

Writing Again

For the last week or so, I’ve been dabbling with writing.  I’m not resuming As of Yet Unnamed Fantasy Story.  Instead, I’m working on something that I doubt I’ll be sharing (or at least sharing broadly and publically) for personal reasons.

However, doing this has brought a couple general things up that I’m going to share:

I’ve been using Scrivener ( for this.  I’m finding I really like how it works.  It lets me organize things, draft scenes and sections, store notes, etc.  It also takes care of formatting the story – it will even generate .epub and .mobi formatted e-books directly (albeit without the ability to embed fonts).

What I’m writing is alternate history.  Especially for real-world and alternate history, I’m finding that the Internet now has tons of good (and not so good) places to get information to ensure at least some accuracy.  My story touches the legal system, and I’ve been able to track down both a general overview of the legal process, and the actual laws of the state where my story takes place.  This has let me make surgical changes in history but make sure that they (I think) fit somewhat seamlessly into an otherwise recognizable world.

Google Maps and Google Street View are also quite useful in visualizing settings that I’ve not actually been to – or haven’t been to recently.

If my next project is more shareable, I’ll let you know how my dabbling comes out.