Friday, December 29, 2006

This Year's Travel

For the past few years I've been traveling a significant part of the year. I like to say I'm gone half the year, but 2006 was more like a third. I like to keep records, but it's hard. On a given day I can go several hundred miles and pass through multiple states. I've settled on recording the location where I spend the night, and be content with that. I try to record each night's location on a calendar and then count up the days at the end of the year.
Mary Ann's travel is not quite the same as mine. Occasionally I go on a research trip or to a convention, and sometimes she has a photography event that I can't make. But for the most part, we're together.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Wake

It was shaping up to be a nice family Christmas. Debra was hosting -- her first Christmas as a married lady. Thomas was home from Dallas, and took Mary Ann and I out for a good steak dinner.

But when we came home, Fluffy the dog was nowhere to be found. It was a cold and rainy night, so I pulled out the big black mace of a flashlight and started walking about, checking under the cars and in the garage -- his favorite places to wait out the rain. No luck. Mary Ann was getting seriously worried, but I was less so. Fluffy was well trained to stay on the property and in general I trust animals to behave in their own best interest. I just assumed he'd found a nice warm place to hide and didn't feel like getting out. He was old and moving slow these days.

But down by the pond, I saw him, lying in the grass, soaked in the rain watching me. I told him to get up and come up to the house, and after a moment, he tried. He moved slowly and could barely stand. Now I was worried. We got him to the house and Debra arrived, ready to help. They cleaned and dried him, and although he was warm, he still could barely move. Mary Ann called our best Animal Expert, Bettye Baldwin, and found a pointer to an Animal Emergence Center in Round Rock. It was nearly midnight on Christmas Eve, but we carried him out to the car and headed off.

Whether human or animal, waiting is a big part of any emergency center visit, but by one A.M. Fluffy had been examined. By two, all the tests were in. The best guess diagnosis was liver cancer, and the Vet didn't expect him to live another three days. It was a really hard call, but Fluffy had reached the point that when fed, it he accidentally nosed the bowl a few inches away, he couldn't move himself closer to reach it.

It came to me that he had gone down to that place by the pond to die. He'd gotten a warm bath and all cleaned up, and loved on by his people, but it hadn't changed the inevitable. I sent the rest of the family home and attended his quiet peaceful death there in the examining room.

There is a corner of the property where almost all of our dogs are buried, and I brought him home, wrapped in his shroud.

It was nearly three o'clock on Christmas morning when I got home, and every one was still there in the living room, talking about Fluffy, the other dogs we've lost, and the two puppies at Debra's house. I pulled up a chair and listened and talked. It was a wake. Fluffy's wake. Good memories, laughter, and a few wet eyes.

I finally sent Debra and Jonathan home while they were still awake enough to drive, with no one planning to get up early.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Health, or the Lack of It

Nothing makes you appreciate your meds more than suffering without them. I am diabetic (II) and have had allergies since I was a child. As a result, I have a sizable tub of pill bottles. Luckily, I can fit my daily dosages into the little day by day case. On trips, I sort out two or three weeks worth at a time, and then I don't have to deal with the tub as often.

Unfortunately, a combination of the wrong credit card number and a bad delivery left me without my allergy medicine for a few weeks. At first, nothing bad happened, so my fear of instantly falling down in a coughing fit was eased. I had been on Allegra for three or four years now, and have been very pleased. It was a wonderful change.

As a child, I had hay fever like clockwork. Anything that stirred up dust and mowing the grass were certain to start the drips. When I moved to Austin, there was a brief period when I thought leaving the dusty Texas panhandle had cured by allergies, but that was not the case. Soon enough, I started reacting to all the pollens in this area. It seemed as if I were doomed to a life of regular sneezing fits and bulk purchases of tissue boxes. What's worse is that once or twice a year, it got a lot worse and developed into an infection.

Then, I discovered Allegra and it all went away. Oh, a particularly bad exposure to dust or mold pollen might have me sneezing, but my life-long pattern of allergies had been contained. The only worry now was how to keep a reserve of the pills a ready, even when we were traveling for months at a time.

And that fear finally became reality. The credit card charge failed, and since I was on the road, the company's letter telling me the shipment had been delayed didn't reach me. By the time I realized what had happened, I was about a month without the pills and starting to feel sensitized to the pollens again. I cleared up the charges, but then we were out of town again when the shipment should have arrived, and either it was misplaced or it was lost in the mail.

And it was too late. I was down with the allergies just like in the old days. Tissue piles like snow drifts started building up around me. By brain turned fuzzy and I knew what was coming next. The drips went to my lungs and I feared an infection was just waiting around the corner. I got a fresh prescription from my doctor, and he handed me a few Zyrtec samples to hold me until the Allergra shows up.

So, I am improving. The drips have stopped, but I have yet to clear out my lungs and I'm working very much under-powered. But I have re-affirmed my appreciation of the new generation of anti-histimines and resolved to be more vigilant in keeping my supplies stocked.

It's an age thing, isn't it? I can remember back in my twenties when I wouldn't even take an aspirin tablet for a headache. Now I just want to stay as healthy as I can. I don't have time to waste on sickness I can avoid. I've got stories to write.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Traveling the Road, Writing Science Fiction

I ran across the Six Word Memoir Contest on the Smith Magazine blog. It's an interesting exercise. Go visit and look at what other people have posted.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Yellowstone 1994

While working in my office, I heard a strange chime. It was my Newton, off in the corner, gathering dust, but still gamely trying to remind me to update a configuration file. That particular file hadn't been in use in ten years, but the Newton didn't know that. I opened it up and rummaged through the notes and ran across a trip log from a family vacation trip to Yellowstone in 1994. I checked and it was one I hadn't already added to these archives, so I'm adding it now. The background -- Debra was 10. She's now married and living in Georgetown. Thomas stayed home, one of the first family vacations he opted out of, spending most of his time with friends.

So, straight out of the Newton with just a little formatting and no editing, a trip to Yellowstone:

Mon 7/25
Trip Log
* Sunday we headed north across new Mexico and spent the night in Pueblo Colorado
* Monday we traveled up through Colorado and Wyoming to spend the night at Riverton Wyoming
* Tetons Emergency Number
307 739 3300
* Tuesday Set up camp at the Gros Ventre campground at Tetons lunched in Jackson rode the tram at Teton Village special presentation on wolves observed a moose from the tram and elk from the car

Wed 7/27
Trip Log
* Hiked up Cascade Canyon
rode the Jenny Lake ferry coming and going saw pika squirrels chipmonks a mouse and a mule deer. Debra spotted a Marmot. Afterward we ate at Moose and then drove through the park. There was a forest fire in the northern part of the park. We saw an elk crossing the road, and then later, we saw a herd of elk, many with impressive antlers, in the late twilight off in a field beside the road.

Thu 7/28
Trip Log
* Took a float trip on the Snake River. Saw Merganzer ducks, ospreys bald eagles, bank swallows, white pelicans, Swansons hawk, Canadian geese, ravens, and after we came ashore a unita ground squirrel. After lunch, we took Debra to Colter Bay so she could play in the water while Mary Ann took a nap. I spent the time watching cowbirds scour the picnic area. We spent the rest of the day driving various park roads looking for animals. We saw many elk.

Fri 7/29
Trip Log
* Broke camp at the break of dawn and raced across Yellowstone, enduring heavy traffic and buffalo-jams to get to the Canyon Village camp site. Debra was anxious to see a geyser so we headed off to Old Faithful to see all the geysers. We saw eruptions of Old Faithful, Grand, Daisy, Riverside, Grotto, Castle and others. It took all day, and included a tour led by ranger Anne Deutch from New York, who was a mine of information about geysers and the 1988 forest fire.

Fri 7/29
Old Faithful 2:50
Castle 7:00
Grand 3:00
Daisy 2:30 5:50 4:10
Riverside 5:40
Great Fountain 10:00

Sat 7/30
Trip Log
* We ate breakfast in Hayden valley watching the buffalo all around us. At one point, we had to close everything up and get back in the car when one of the buffalo decided to come towards us. We then went back to Canyon village where we hit an ATM machine and bought a cane to help out with my sore ankle and ate lunch at their snack bar. For the afternoon we took a look at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and then headed up to Mt. Washburn. After that, we continued on towards the Northeast entrance of the park. At on place along the road, we could spot large elk herds across the valley. The drive up through Lewis valley gave us lots of fisherman sightings but little else in the way of animals with the exception of some antelope. We stopped at the old inactive Soda Bluff spring and then headed back with our eyes open for bear. We were rewarded just a couple of miles east of the Yellowstone river bridge. There was already the beginning of a traffic jam as everyone was trying to get pictures of a black bear. He was brown with a black muzzle and showed signs of a large scar on his left side just in front of his hind leg. When we returned to camp after a quick look at Tower Falls and some more elk beside the road, we attended a park ranger presentation on the geology of Yellowstone. It was almost rained out and we discovered some wet bedding in our tent when we settled down for the night.

Sun 7/31
Stage coach ride
original method of touring yellowstone park.
1883-1917 cars
coaches sold to farmers most burned and metal contributed to war effort. horses 3000 shipped across the atlantic to pull wagons for british army during ww1

Sun 7/31
Trip Log
* We hit the stores for groceries then headed north again, encountering a moose-jam on the road as everyone attempted to get pictures of a bull and a calf eating fireweed in one of the burned regions. After breakfast in a pull-out in a burn area we took the little stage-coach ride at Tower junction. We then toured the Mammoth Hot Springs area and then moved on towards Norris Geyser Basin and walked their trails. Returning back to camp, Mary Ann and Debra attended a ranger presentation on bison while I located a replacement fuse for the cigarette-lighter/horn/cruise-control which had popped when a penny had fallen into the lighter hole.

Mon 8/1
Trip Log
* After breakfast at Hayden Valley, we headed to West Yellowstone to view the new Imax movie about Yellowstone and stayed for lunch and a quick look at the Grizzley Discover Center. Returning towards Madison, we spotted and photographed Trumpeter Swans with young. Later we saw the Fountain Paint Pot features and were present for an eruption of the Great Fountain Geyser. We saw other thermals, ending back at Old Faithful. Debra collected her sack of trash for her Jr. Ranger project and then we headed back to camp, stopping at Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley for a late sunset view of nature.

Mon 8/1
Old Faithful
Start 7:46 22
End 7:50 45
Length 4 minutes 23 seconds

Tue 8/2
Trip Log
* Breakfast at Hayden valley and then a stop at fishing bridge to look at all the huge fish you can't fish for, then a stop at the visitor center so that Debra could get her Jr. Ranger patch. Next stop was West Thumb Geyser Basin, which had a moose jam outside its entrance both when we arrived and when we left. We then went back to Old Faithful so that we could see Grand erupt again. We also saw Castle, Daisy, Riverside and, of course, Old Faithful. Coming back through West Thumb, the moose jam was still slowing traffic. Up the Lewis valley to see the Lewis falls and then back through West Thumb Junction where the rain finally ran off either the moose or the tourists, and up towards Canyon. Although we were slowed by five different buffalo jams, we made it to the Canyon area horse stables in time for Mary Ann and Debra to take a horse ride into the forest. Supper was sandwiches at Mt. Washburn where we watched unsuccessfully for bears.

Tue 8/2
of 1221
ca 1230 50
gr 1330
da 1251 1431
rs 1300

Wed 8/3
Trip Log
* This morning we broke camp early and packed up our sleeping bags and tent. Breakfast was on the north side of Mt. Washburn where we had been informed that a Grizzly and her two cubs were frequently seen, but no luck this morning. We did see a pair of sandhill cranes in that valley however. On the road out we spotted a ruffed grouse, a mink or ferret, an american coot and a lesser scaup. One last trip to the gift shops of Mammoth Hot Springs and we exit the park. Next stop is the Little Big Horn battlefield where Mary Ann spends a lot of time and I take a nap. Animals: cliff swallows, coyote, antelope, nighthawk. Sleep in Glendive Montana.

Thu 8/4
Trip Log
* Morning was spent at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Animals: prarie dogs, wild horses, buffalo, antelope, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk. Saw Mt. Rushmore and spent the night in Keystone SD.

Fri 8/5
Trip Log
* Started from Keystone SD, went to Wall Drug; saw white-tailed deer; passed over 2000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles heading towards Rapid City as we headed away. Travelled about 800 miles through South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri. Spent the night in Emma Missouri.

Sat 8/6
Trip Log
* Crossing Missouri, we toured the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the Museum in the Jefferson Memorial. We spent the night somewhere between Springfield and Joplin.

Sun 8/7
Trip Log
* Drove home. Played tag with huge thunderstorm from mid Oklahoma down to Waco.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Quiet House

Mary Ann is off in San Antonio with some buddies for a few days, so the house is very quiet. The TV is churning away silently, transferring all the Tivo'ed TV shows and movies into my EyeTV box so that they can become portable -- but that's just something I have to check on once an hour or so. I did watch Ishtar based on Judy Crider's recommendation. That was an experience.

But for the most part,I'm organizing and filing. I have an IN BOX on my desk that I check on about once a year. Now is the time. I've entered all the receipts into Quickbooks and filed away all the medical forms. After I finish this blog, I'll file all the rejection letters I've received from editors and agents into the appropriate folders. Luckily, I can play a podcast or two while I work.

I'm at that place between stories. I've done about all I can on the last novel, and the next one is whirring away in my subconscious. I have a feeling it's going to be a time-travel something or other. I had the urge to pull out OmniOutliner and start work on the plot, but I successfully put it off for now. I'm hoping to catch up on chores until the noise in my head gets too loud to ignore and I have to put down more black marks on a white background.