Friday, June 30, 2006

Tourist Time Over, Down to Business

The real reason I'm in the San Diego area is to attend Conzilla, the 59th Westercon. So today was moving day. We left the lovely park by the beach and settled in for the next few days at a different campsite where there was a space available over the holiday weekend. I'll be commuting in for the convention every day, so if there's anyone in the area who want's to meet, that's where I'll be.

It's been interesting, researching all the people I'll be wanting to meet. That's the thing about science fiction conventions. Even if you're lucky enough to be invited to participate ( and by inference be one of the 'attractions') there's so many more people there who are more experienced, more famous, and more interesting. Everybody, from the guest of honors (Guest of Honor:
Walter Jon Williams Artist Guest: Bob Eggleton Fan Guest: Bobbi Armbruster Toastmaster:Kevin J. Anderson) to the 'Other Participants' to the little kid with facepaint and a stuffed dragon in the hallway -- they're all likely to be interesting.

Guilty Secret: I love the little name badges with the special colored ribbons that say 'Participant' or 'Author' or somesuch. It's fun watching other people scan your badge and struggle to put a memory with your face and name. Of course, they can't, I'm not one of the prolific writers everyone knows, but people feel like they should know you. It gives me a perfect excuse to meet them. Everyone who's ever had a pet writing project opens up and tells me about it. I try to be encouraging, even when their ambition hasn't even gotten down on paper. Sometimes all it takes is just the right hint to get started.

Personally, I'm going to be on the lookout for graphic artists. I've GOT to get some cover art for Emperor Dad. I'll never be able to hire a big name, but artists are hungry too, and I'll be searching the art displays for someone whose style I like.

It all starts tomorrow.

San Diego Wildlife Park

Doing San Diego Zoo one day and then trying the Wildlife Park the next may have been a bit much, but Westercon is fast approaching and we're running out of time to get the touristy things done. We were warned that it was hotter inland, and it was. Still, I like the Wildlife Park much better than the Zoo. There's room for the animals to roam around. It's closer to what I've come to expect, after visiting so many wildlife refuges where the animals are living their natural lives there, not being kept for display.

Don't get me wrong. I like zoos. I'm perfectly willing to fund them and I know they serve a solid purpose. But, there's too many people, and when they start adding carousels and dinosaur exhibits, I get a little discouraged.

Still, after spending a while watching the gorillas and seeing the bonobos from the monorail, tonight's movie from my media center was "Mighty Joe Young", the 1949 version.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

San Diego Zoo

For a photographer like my wife, the San Diego Zoo is a must-see. We came prepared to take a lot of pictures. I brought my laptop so that we could offload pictures from the memory cards if she ran out. That was a mostly useless exercise. Part of the problem is that we are used to wildlife refuges, rather than zoos.

There are a zillion animals there at the 'world famous San Diego Zoo', but many of them were in photographically unfavorable positions. The aviaries where birds fly freely had the problem that everything was lit in spotty light, with sunlight filtering through the leaves. And many of the larger animals, like the polar bears and the hippos were behind glass -- scratched up distorted glass at that.

Still, the underwater viewing areas aren't something you can easily duplicate in the wild and we got some great views of the hippo. Being from Hutto, Texas, home of the only highschool with Hippos as the team mascot, that was one of our favorite spots.

But then, there were other times when the animals came right out in plain sight. Now I personally don't think this Great Blue Heron is a zoo resident. I just think that he likes the environment and dropped in -- right where Mary Ann couldn't get a good shot of him.

But we came back to the RV, tired and sore, and with lots of pictures. And I had the uncontrollable urge to pull Jurassic Park up on the media player and watch it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Campland on the Bay


For the most of this week, until the holiday days arrive, we will be staying at Campland on the Bay, the largest campground I'm familiar with. People, this place is huge. It's larger than my town, Hutto, TX in population. It really is a little city all its own. It appears to have its own police, along with a small army of workers, keeping the campsites clean and the dumpsters empty.

There is a beach on the bay, where you can rent all kinds of watercraft, as well as swimming pools and parks. Take a look at the map and see how many sites they have, and multiply it by an average of four or five people per site, mostly family groups. Just imagine how many little kids that makes. At this instant, there's a shuttlecock game going on in front of our RV, various skateboarders and bicyclists doing tricks on the steps of the little amphitheater, frisbee tossing, still another badminton game, baseball , skateboarders on the road, more electric tricycle things than I knew existed, and ordinary bicyclers. Just now, as I'm typing. Behind us is 'Girls Camp 2006', with about eight young ladies per site.

Some groups head out during the day to see the San Diego sites, but many just take advantage of this huge parkland area. Once it gets dark, the fireworks start -- Seaworld is just across the bay. You could take a rental jet-ski that way, I suppose, just don't turn right, that'll take you into Kendall Frost Wildlife Sanctuary , the campland's next door neighbor.

Hey, this isn't exactly my favorite campsite. I prefer scenic grandeur where my nearest neighbor is a few miles away, but this is a fascination place, especially for kid-watching.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Whale Watching in the Channel Islands

On Saturday, we took a 65 foot tour catamaran out of Ventura Harbor, with the original intent of seeing Blue Whales. Mary Ann had taken the trip two years earlier and had seen several, but this was early in the Blue Whale season, and we've learned from experience that wild animals don't really work on a schedule. At least we were on the boat on time -- except Mary Ann had to race back to the RV because she forgot to bring her lens cleaning kit. Here you see her heading down to the boat.


Mary Ann's lens of choice for this trip was her 800 mm, a huge hunk of iron and glass -- definitely not something you use hand-held. So, she brought her tripod and bungee-corded it to the railing.


Early on the trip out, we saw several dolphins. This shot was was from the third or forth group we saw -- a California White-sided Dolpin, they tell me. And no, Mary Ann didn't take this shot. I did with a little lens. I caught it just as it was blowing.



There were large numbers of animals out there in the Channel. Sea Lions playing in the kelp beds, and the occasional pelican startled by the oncoming boat.




But, this is what we do. Here, Mary Ann is taking photos of the Humpback Whales we saw. I was behind, running errands like taking each filled memory card down to transfer its photos into her laptop, so that she could keep at it, no matter how many shots it took.

Times like this are fun. Yes, I get my writing done, but helping her get her nature shots is important too.



Finally, after many whale encounters (I lost count -- more than a dozen, less than two dozen, all humpbacks), the captain couldn't stay any longer and we completed the tour, heading over close to the island and picking up day hikers that had been taken over by another boat. On the way we saw many sea caves, and one of them was so large that he took the entire two decker boat inside. Then, back across the channel, arriving an hour or two later than our official ending time. It was a nice time, and sooner or later, expect to see some spectacular whale shots over on Mary Ann's website.

Westercon Schedule


I received my official list of panels that I'll be part of for Westercon 59, Conzilla, in San Diego over this July 4th holiday. Of course, all they give you is the title, and a list of who else is likely to be on the same panel. Usually, I work out a list of things I'd like to say on these things, and then when it actually happens, the topic mutates and wanders far off into strange territory and my list is ignored -- but that's okay. I think that's how it's actually supposed to work.

Saturday 12:00: Technology of Writing (Salon B)
(With: John DeChancie, Sheila Finch, Deirdre Saoirse Moen, Vernor Vinge)

Sunday 17:00: Writing from a Non Human Point of View (Salon D)
(With: Steven Barnes, Sheila Finch, John Hertz, Karen Taylor)

Tuesday 14:00: The Economics of Ebooks (Salon A)
(With: Dawn Devine, Francis Hamit, Michael Ward)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My Other Internet

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I use satellite internet ... most of the time. However, this evening, a Saturday night, after getting out of the whale watching cruise, we were really too late to get the campground we had expected. So began a search for ANY available place to spend the night. The highway (PCH) was lovely, next to the ocean, except for the signs every few feet telling us we can't part there through the night. But, a phone call back to Malibu RV disclosed a campsite, which we booked sight unseen.
It's a fine campsite, except for the trees covering the entire southern sky. (You've seen the advert -- "All you need is a clear view of the southern sky.") So, satellite internet was out for tonight.

It was time to rummage for the cell phone cable, the one that connects my Sanyo 4900 to the USB port of my mac.

The Mac OSX comes with all the necessary drivers. All you have to do is select the phone, put in #777 as the phone number, and connect.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Fog Horn

Last night was the final day in Malibu, while Mary Ann took more surf pictures at sunset and tomorrow, we'll be taking a whale watching tour our of Ventura Harbor. So after her morning photoshoot, we packed up and headed up the PCH. Of course, we didn't take the time to plot our path, so we ended up at the wrong harbor, the Channel Island Harbor instead of the Ventura Harbor. I really don't like driving through cities. However, after detaching the Jeep and going scouting, we found the right location. Now we're parked, with a free overnight pass just outside the tour guide office, listening to a calm sea breeze and a fog horn sounding faintly every ten seconds.

I'm going for a walk in a few minutes. My current novel has much of the action taking place on a sailboat and there are a zillion candidates just behind me. Maybe I can get some research done.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Life in a Campground

This morning is a rest time. Yes, I'm doing some writing, but I'm also taking long delays to look out the window and watch the children playing. Some times of year, RV'ing is strictly for old gray-haired people, but here in Vacation Time and close to a city, many of the campers have small children. It is interesting to watch.

Back when I was grade-school age, I can remember playing various war games. Cap pistols and cowboys and indians were a staple. When I was a little older, I can vividly remember being Marines, fighting against invisible, un-named 'others'. This was post WWII and pre-Vietnam. Somehow I completely missed Korea. By the time I was a teenager, it was home-made explosives against no one, just for the enjoyment of the fireworks.

Watching out the window, I see war games are still as present as ever, but the framework has changed. Fighting Indians is no longer PC, I guess. Probably the same with current-era military play. But mystic swords and capes, along with Spiderman action figures, still give young ones the same experience. Of course I wonder what they'll be doing as teenagers. I know my daughter, now married, still has a nice collection of cutlery, from ornate daggers to batleths. Enough to get her put in jail in Britain, I hear. Times change, but people stay the same.

View from My Office


While Mary Ann was off taking pictures of roses, I parked along the Pacific Coast Highway (near Malibu Seafood) and worked on my current novel. Imagine me with my laptop perched on the steering wheel, struggling to get past a difficult scene, while the waves churned off to my right.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Internet

Camped at a Road Side Park near El Paso TX
Living in an RV on the road, we early on decided that we had to have a reliable internet connection regardless of where we were. One option was the cell phone, but that only works when we're in Sprint digital coverage area, like on an interstate highway or in a large city. Places like Yellowstone or Death Valley, or in the Rockies have to have another option. We added a satellite dish.Steerable Satellite dish by Motosat

The technology is no different from the Direcway dishes installed on houses, with one difference. The dish on houses can be pointed by a technician once, and since the satellite doesn't move, you're done. On an RV, it has to be pointed every time you move.DW7000 modem

A Direcway setup has the dish and the modem. In my case we have a DW7000 modem, no different from a residential house installation. It handles the transmission and reception of the satellite signals and outputs a standard ethernet connection. All setup and configuration is handled by an embedded website, so all you have to have is a web browser.

The Motosat system also has a D3 controller. This box includes a GPS system that locates where you're parked and then calculates where the satellite ought to be. It sends the signals to the motors on the roof and steers the dish to the proper location. You can see three control buttons on the front of the D3. On the far left is a power button. On the right are two buttons. Search and Stow. One press tells the controller to go find the sateliite, the other tells the dish to stow itself in preparation for moving. Each operation takes about five minutes -- just one of the regular things you have to do when setting up or getting ready to move.


Finally, we have a Linksys wireless router added to the mix so our laptops are free to move about the cabin, or out to the picnic table outside. Personally, I prefer the Apple airport hubs. They seem to have better range and are much easier to configure, but this one came free from the installer, so I'm using it for now.

Motosat, the company that invented the steerable dish I'm using, also is my ISP, at about $80 per month. Of course, this is a low-end setup. It will provide about DSL bandwidth on a dynamic IP over most of the continental US, as long as I don't park under a tree. There are other options, for extra cash, for greater bandwidth, more coverage area, static IP's etc. Of course that might take a bigger dish as well.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cars the Movie

Wow.

Okay, I knew it was from Pixar. I expected high standards. I viewed the video podcast series they put out to promote the movie, so I expected technical excellence as well.

Then, the movie was released and I glanced at the first review I saw. It said, basically, a good movie, but the weakest of the pixar offerings.

No way. It was excellent. It took me about 30 seconds into the movie to get over the gimic, that these were talking cars. After that, it was just great storytelling, with animation standards so high that parts were photorealistic.

But it was the story. Time and time again, that's the Pixar edge. It's the story.

And it didn't hurt that I grew up in Amarillo, on Route 66.

Rest

The events of the past weeks have dwindled away. Daughter Debra's wedding is all finished. The journey from Texas to California finished. Nephew Jon's wedding went well. And the trip up to Malibu completed. My sister Martha has left us to be with her son David, so now it's just Mary Ann and I, sitting at Malibu RV, on a cliff overlooking the waves, just resting, sleeping late, and tinkering with our respective computer projects. Maybe we'll get energetic enough to tackle something new before too long, but for now, just listen to the sound of that surf below.

Friday, June 16, 2006

MySpace? Ok.

Just to see what all the fuss was about, I wandered over to MySpace and set up an account. It's cluttered and busy, and although I tried to turn off all the options, it still has a lot of distractions. Still, anything that points a link back to my website is good, isn't it? I can see setting up dozens of empty pages on all the latest and greatest personal networking sites, but it seems fruitless to do anything more than link back to here and HenryMelton.com. It's like those restaurants where you can put your business card on a bulletin board along with a hundred others.

Of course, it could be that I'm just a grey haired old coot that doesn't get it. I can live with that.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Under a Palm Tree

Today was the hot, dry drive along the southern border through Arizona and California to San Diego. For part of the journey, it was like passing through a valley of giants. Huge dust devils, a hundred feet across or more, and towering high into the sky were walking their way across our path, and more than once I slowed down to avoid being in their path as they crossed the interstate. Even then, there were times when our huge boxy RV was shaken by crosswinds, or we passed through a dust cloud where I couldn't count on visibility. Heading into Gila Bend, we saw a pickup and trailer jacknifed in the median, with several guys standing around, wondering what to do next.

Gas was $3.07 for that fill-up, and with this rig, I have to run the credit card through twice because the pump shuts down automatically once you exceed $99 on a single purchase.

But, then, we crossed the final mountain range and it was downhill for 4000 feet down to the RV park in San Diego. We parked under a set of palm trees and then oops, the satellite system didn't find our 89W signal. I tried several times, then finally had to move the RV a few feet. It seems I was trying to punch the microwaves through the tree. I know from experience -- that just doesn't work.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sunset at Gilbert Ray

After discovering our broken gray water tank, and unsuccessfully attempting to get it fixed in El Paso, we headed on to Tucson. No water for washing does put a crimp in our plans, but carefully chosen campgrounds and waterless hand cleaners, along with a substantial supply of paper plates will allow us to keep on going.

Tucson is one of our favorite desert cities, and Gilbert Ray campground is our favorite stopping place. There's a mountain barrier between us and the city, but with a nice pass to get there. We went in to attempt some banking (unsuccessfully) but stopped at Lerua's for a nice supper, and then a dash back to camp so Mary Ann could get some photos in.

Lerua's Fine Mexican Food
(520) 624-0322
2005 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85719

Adventure 1.5

It seems that the tire was just part of the problem. The detatched tread slapped up against the gray water holding tank and punched a hole in it. We didn't notice the problem until we stopped and took showers.

Next stop, find another RV repair place.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Adventure for Today

We had an interesting event today, and normally, it would have gone into a blog entry, but I was driving and Mary Ann had her Sprint phone connected to her laptop and already had her blog already done long before we stopped for the night.

So without further ado, go look at Mary Ann's Blog.

Texas Highway Rest Areas

We swooped through Ft. Worth to pick up by sister Martha and headed off toward California. We didn't get too far, because it was getting dark, and there was a handy highway Rest Area. I like Texas rules. Some states have a very limited parking time at their rest areas, but Texas gives you 24 hours, certainly long enough for an overnight stay. Pull the drapes to cut off the light. The generator noise is no issue because you're parked among big rig trucks anyway and their engines drown out our little generator's sound.

Raise the satellite dish and check the email, browse the web, and post a blog. But now its about time to get moving again.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Word is Go

Finally, I have a starting date for my next trip. Tomorrow. We will be leaving for California, first to take in a my nephew's wedding, and then later on, to attend Westercon. The trip should last from June 12 thru July 8, a bit short, but it should get us on the road and back to a traveling state of mind. (You know, I always tend to double the l's in the travel words, but that's British english, not US english. I need to fix that.) I'll firm up the schedule as we go, but the first leg will be to Ft. Worth to pick up my sister, then out Interstate 20, merging with I-10 all the way to San Diego. After the wedding, we'll do a few things like whale watching tours farther north, and then back to San Diego for the July 4th Westercon science-fiction convention where there will be a few events I participate in, and then once that's done, another race across country to get back to Texas for a July 8th wedding.

Expect a few blog entries out of this.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Why Self-publish?

For years, decades actually, I held tightly to the idea that the only legitimate market for my stories were the official magazines and book publishers. My beliefs have changed just slightly. I would still strongly advise old-fashioned publication for new writers. Nothing gives you instant recognition and feedback like a paying market putting your words out there on the shelf.

However, while I have a shelf of stories that have succeeded that way, there are many others. Just a moment ago, I received the following:

Dear Henry -

Thanks for letting us have a look at "The Green Tornado." This is a good, solid sf story and we enjoyed reading it, but in the end we had to decide it's not for us. We do wish you every success finding a good home for it, and we're happy you thought of XXXXX.

We look forward to seeing your next submission.


With the magazine title x-ed out, because I don't want to point fingers at any particular market. This happens to me all the time. They read the story. They like the story. But it doesn't match the magazine. After circulating a story to all the available markets, and getting similar responses everywhere, I get the feeling that it's just my voice. A Henry Melton story can be good, but just not match any of the current magazines.

Does this mean I give up? No, Green Tornado still has a list of markets I haven't tried yet, but if it should happen that the story doesn't match any of them, it still would fit nicely in another self-published chapbook, along with several published short stories all in the same universe.

Self-publishing gives me an additional option. And if for no other reason than the hope of getting orphan stories into the hands of readers, it is now on my list of viable options.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Life after Pub-date

The life of short story fiction is erratic, unless it's one of those very rare monster classics. You write the story, after months or years, it finds a few pages in a magazine or an anthology, and then after its short selling season, it vanishes off the radar -- in most cases, forever. Hey, if it was good enough to be published once, it's likely still good. I think every short-fiction author imagines an anthology of old favorites. I certainly did.

After several requests for real paper copies of some of the short stories I have available on my main web site, I decided to put together one or more chapbooks, that together will be the "Henry Melton's Best Short Fiction" anthology I dream will still come to be.

All this self-publishing stuff gives me the giggles. For so many years, I held firmly to the mantra that I had to send all my stuff through the established, ISBN-toting publishers. Maybe the grey hair is giving me the courage to try a few additional communication channels between my archives and real live readers.

So here comes Looking Back at Looking Forward, containing three short SF stories from the '70s and '80s. Of course it features the big one, Catacomb, that has gotten so many nice reviews in the gaming forums. Do I expect to sell a million copies? Hardly. But some people just like real paper pages and some of those like autographs.

The original magazines age so rapidly, and my copies are mine. I'm not selling those. So until I find a publisher for ten unpublished novels, it'll be handy to have this at conventions as well. Something to have in my hand for all those smiling faces who've never heard of me.

And three more old stories get a new life.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Jeep

This week, my Jeep rolled past 250,000 miles on the odometer.

Back in 1996, I got a call from Mary Ann while I was at work, asking what color I wanted. Never fashion conscious, I just wanted something dark and inconspicuous. I was told to come by the Jeep place after work. There, Thomas, by son, had already picked one out for me -- the one on the showroom floor of course. I didn't get all the bells and whistles, but it was very nice -- the first Jeep I had. The first convertable, although hardly the push-a-button-to-take-the-top-down kind of convertable.
But it's my favorite car of all time. Over time, I got a few things like the winch, and the tow bar, visible in the photo.


I knew we were going to be taking it on mountain roads and I just loved the idea of a winch. To this day, I've never had to winch myself out, but I've rescued quite a few other vehicles. It's also been handy for yard work, hauling tree branches and such.

Today, for the first time, I had the windshield replaced, and I'm surprised how much clearer everything is. It seems that a quarter-million miles had left the surface very lightly pitted. Actually, it's more miles than that. Since we bought the RV, the Jeep's been riding behind (thus the tow bar) for an additional 50,000 miles that doesn't show up on the odometer.

By the way, with oil changes every 3000 miles like clockwork, the engine has outlasted every other vehicle I've owned. I've had the computer replaced, a cracked oil pan (in Death Valley), a broken manifold, transmission linkages broken, a radio ripped out, and assorted other problems, but to this day, it still gives good service and I don't forsee trading it any time soon. (Unless this blog entry jinxes it. And even then, I'd try to get a new Jeep Wrangler.)

Linking

It has come to my attention that I've been lax in the tradition of providing links to people who linked to you. I have been reluctant to build a huge link list, and I've finally figured out why.

Back in the early '90s, when I was the first person in Motorola to host a website, and I spent a good part of my time promoting this new way of exchanging information, I realized that no one would use it if they didn't have the addresses of the servers. There were no search engines back then.

So, I began an indexing service. Every time I discovered a new web, or gopher, or wais or ftp server inside the Motorola network, I provided a link and a description. Soon a good fraction of the servers out there linked back to my list, and it became the single most visited page on the Motorola Web, far eclipsing the traffic on all the real business related pages I hosted.

Time went on. Soon there were hundreds of links, and I was getting regular emails from people I'd never known, from contries I didn't realize we had offices in, asking for an entry into the index. About the time I was making several edits a day, just to correct links that had gone bad ( I had automated the link-checking) I gave up trying to do it all by hand. I set up a form, and let a script do the adds. The only problem with that were the people who liked to click the submit button a dozen times, and those that cut and pasted their web descriptions out of Word documents with all the ugly text that that created.

By the time Motorola IT took it into their head to provide a master uber-website and charge departments by the page for their contributions, I figured the index was no longer needed and retired it. But it had a good multi-year run.

So, when I looked over at that link list to the side of my blog, that you have to hand edit the html to maintain, and realized that I have hundreds of links worthy to occupying a slot, I shivered and put it off. I am not going to try to automate blogspot's template code.

So, now the issue is, which links do I include and who get's their feelings hurt when I leave them out. I know I can't link everyone, and the more I add links, the harder it is for people to find the archives. Hmm. This is a problem.

For today, I've made a few edits. I'll be thinking out a good policy. Maybe a rotating list of ten? I'll have to make it easy to maintain, or I won't keep it up. For those of you who've solved the issue, I'd like your inputs.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bonus Points for Marketing Efforts

All this effort at making contact with the world, hoping to sell my novel at 3 bucks a pop, has yielded a nice bonus. People I haven't talked with lately are writing me. Some are simple emails of encouragement from old friends, and I really need those. Tonight I was pointed to Bill Crider's blog where he'd mentioned my efforts to sell Emperor Dad. I've known Bill for some years now, but never had his email -- thus he wasn't on my original mailing list. Bill found out about it through Scott Cupp, which isn't surprising. Scott, who I met a zillion years ago, has time after time introduced me to so many interesting people.

Bill Crider is one of those people I deliberately seek out at science fiction conventions, just to be sitting nearby when he talks. Year after year, I'd arrange to be near the comfortable chairs at Aggiecon or Armadillocon where Scott and Bill, and Joe Lansdale and others would sit and talk for hours. I barely said a word, soaking up the stories about books and movies, and listening to inspired insanity rarily seen in real life.

Bill's mystery novels are collected on a shelf beside my bed and are one of the rare set of fiction I'll buy hardback the first chance I get. I'm sorry I didn't realize he had a blog, and now that I'm aware of it, I'm looking forward to mining that long set of archives.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I Need a Camera

Not too long ago, I had one. It was a nice pocket camera, in contrast to the professional Canon's my wife has. Somehow it vanished, and I am reduced to using one of hers. But ... I never have it handy when I need it. Today, I'm in Galveston. We're moving furniture and attempting to hang pictures on the wall of the condo. And there were so many opportunities to take a picture.

Just a moment ago, the volcano erupted (the 10pm eruption) from the Rainforest Cafe down the street, lighting up the sky with the yellow flames, clearly visible from my seat in the (brand new) chair. Earlier today, while waiting for Mary Ann to get a piece of glass repaired, I watched the pelicans soaring above the San Luis Resort. One of them must have banked too steeply and too tightly, because I watched in fascination as he flapped furiously -- with just his left wing. I'd never seen a bird do that before. I didn't realize a bird could soar with one wing and flap with the other. At least Brown Pelicans can.

The pelicans are one of my favorite things in Galveston. Our condo is part of a giant 20-some story wall, facing the sea breeze, and thus the source of one of the best updrafts around. The pelicans come straight at us from the gulf, or down the coast, catch the updraft, and then bank around for multiple passes, majestic and serene, gaining altitude all the while.

I'd love to include a couple of snapshots in today's blog entry, but alas ... no snap.