Road trip: Joshua Tree, California

Mar 31 2018

I didn't really do anything for my birthday this year, in part because I just wanted some downtime (rather than go to Pantheacon I stayed in a hotel and caught up on my reading, and later on went on a coffee shop crawl) and in part because my birthday gift this was a a road trip to Joshua Tree, California for a long weekend in March.  It's been a long time since I was last in the high desert and, even though it didn't seem like it at the time I was looking forward to both the road trip as well as a couple of blessed days in the middle of nowhere in a rented AirBnB flat.  Even though we were in the middle of the desert, I was most certainly not off the grid.  I didn't expect to have strong cellular connectivity there, though DSL bandwidth was bobbins.

We didn't drive ten hours to the high desert to goof off online, though.

The first time I was in the high desert, I was there on assignment.  When driving to the flat we'd rented we drove past Edwards AFB, and it felt like I was coming home.  There are few places that I've ever really felt at home, and the high desert is one of them.  I felt welcome someplace for the first time in a long while, and took full advantage of it by spending a good four or five hours a day hiking and rock climbing in the desert of Joshua Tree, exploring the desert, following some trails, taking pictures, and discovering that I haven't been climbing in a long time indeed (causing my knees and lower back to complain mightily for a couple of days).  We made a couple of trips to Joshua Tree Outfitters to pick up a few things, and while I was there the owner was nice enough to repair one of the seams of the backpack I was using on this trip.  I didn't bring any of my radios with me (probably unwise) so I didn't spend any time working local repeaters.

I haven't seen that many stars in the sky since I used to go camping at Four Quarters Farm back east.  There was practically no light pollution that far out, and we could hear the wind almost the entire time.  I felt a little regret packing up at the end of the long weekend to go home, when fate threw a spanner into our plans.

After packing up the TARDIS and getting ourselves settled in, the first thing we did was turn on the air conditioning... and a curious thumping, fluttering sound filled the passenger cabin, swiftly followed by a strange, almost acrid scent.

"Oh, shit.  Did something climb into the engine compartment and get shredded when the engine turned over?"

The next couple of hours was spent searching for a garage in the vicinity that could work on a fairly recent hybrid, by way of a stop for breakfast to both get our blood sugar up and give whatever it was that might be inside the engine compartment a chance to either climb or fall out.  Ultimately, we were only partially correct, much to our relief.  The mechanic we saw informed us that, in the high desert it is not uncommon for local mammalian wildlife, including kangaroo rats to climb into the engine compartments of vehicles from below to stay warm overnight.  Of course, they also tend to bring food with them, and we found a couple of seedpods cached here and there inside the engine compartment.  We were also shown a nontrivial amount of leaf litter and assorted cruft that had accumulated atop the cabin air vents beneath the hood that probably wound up inside the ventilation ducts.  In short, no dead critters, just some amount of plant matter that was dislodged and fell inside the ductwork.  It's a fairly straightforward fix, but one that we can't do ourselves.

Since I last worked on this article a couple of days ago, the TARDIS was taken in for maintenance.  I'm sorry to say that the initial assessment was incorrect; there is, in fact, a dead desert rat trapped in the environment control system.  It sounds as if the air circulation fan didn't do in the critter because none of the usual adjectives were used to describe the situation (shredded, chipped, pureed, liquified, needs a squeegie).  It also didn't sound like it was a very large desert rat because, we were informed, if it was bigger it would smell a lot worse than it does now.  So, in addition to sundry repairs and tune-ups, the environment control system is being dismantled, cleaned out, and rebuilt, to the tune of $1200us.

Anyway, enough of my rambling.  Here are the pictures I took while I was out hiking and rock climbing.

The @DNAlounge is in trouble.

Dec 19 2016

20161228:  The DNA has started a Patreon account to accept donations!

20161222: It seems that the DNA Lounge is coming up with contingency plans, and they need our help!

Yesterday, JWZ, owner and operator of the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, CA made an upsetting and disturbing announcement.

The DNA Lounge is in danger, and may have to close down soon.

JWZ bought the space that is now the DNA roughly 17 years ago and during that time it's become one of the premiere hotspots of SF nightlife.  Just about any kind of event you can imagine has been thrown here, from a local motorcycle club renting it out while their primary clubhouse was undergoing repairs to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's silver anniversary, and raves a-plenty over the years.  Many have come to see a burlesque show or two at the DNA, or catch an up-and-coming band in a new and strange genre of music, or even come for a slice of pizza and a glass of beer while hoping to be tapped for the stage show of Point Break Live once upon a time.  I don't think anybody can easily count the number of concerts the DNA's hosted over the years (though I've no doubt that JWZ would probably know off the top of his head).  Long time readers are probably aware that I usually haunt Death Guild, the country's longest running gothic/industrial club night as well as Turbo Drive, the only synthwave dance night I've found anywhere in the country.

In the last two years attendance has dropped off noticeably, and it's hurt the DNA Lounge in a real way.  JWZ says that he can't afford to subsidize it anymore, and it might have to go out of business for good.

All I can ask of any of you, gentlebeings, is this:

Please re-share this post far and wide, so that as many people can see it.  If you'll be in the Bay Area for any length of time, please visit the DNA Lounge.  Go on a night of the week and pay the club a visit, it's not expensive to get in and the people there are genuinely cool folks; treat them well and they'll treat you well.  Give the music on that night a fair listen that night.  You might like it, you might not, but either way you'll be exposed to something new.  If you can't make a concert or a club night (or the night's really not your thing), visit DNA Pizza next door and pick up breakfast, get lunch, or maybe have a slice or two and a cold one after work.  DNA Pizza's open 24x7 and they have some of the best pizza in SF.  Hell, if you're on the other side of the country and there's no way you'll make it to California in time, consider buying something from the online store?

The DNA Lounge is a fixture in the community of San Francisco.  You can see just about any kind of live act, hear styles of music you've never heard before, and dance until your legs are sore.  This club means a lot to many of us and we don't want to see one of the few places that we can be ourselves go away.  Please, if you can, help JWZ out and keep the DNA Lounge alive.

Blind Guardian - 5 October 2016

Nov 23 2016

Historically, it's rare that Blind Guardian goes on tour in the United States, so whenever they come to the States we scramble to get tickets because they put on a hell of a show. Around the house we jokingly call them elven thrash metal because their lyrics are steeped in the works of Moorcock and Tolkien, with influences from many different myth cycles, such as Arthurian legend. To be blunt, their show was face-meltingly good. They played some classic crowd singalongs like The Bard's Song and Valhalla during the show and brought the house down in so doing.

Unfortunately, when I was pulling these pictures off of my phone I accidentally deleted about half of them. I was able to recover all of the deleted files but now I need to sort through five or six gigabytes of recovered files... when I finally sit down and sort through them all I'll update this gallery. Sorry.

VNV Nation in concert, 25 October 2016.

Nov 23 2016

In October of this year VNV Nation visited California as part of their Compendium tour, in which they celebrated their twenty year anniversary by performing a five hour set without an opening band that covered their entire corpus of work, comprised of twelve albums (one of which is orchestral in nature, having been recorded with the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg). I didn't even try to keep track of their setlist because of how long the concert was. I do, however, recall that they played Perpetual, and there wasn't a dry eye in the place. I still get choked up thinking about it.

Here are the pictures I took, doing the best I could because red and electric blue stage lighting do not photograph well on either cellular phones or my full-sized camera (none of the latter came out, unfortunately).

Charles Stross book signing - 31 July 2016

Nov 23 2016

This summer Charles Stross went on a book signing tour for his latest novel, the latest book of the Laundry Files series called The Nightmare Stacks. In July his book tour brought him to the Bay Area of California, and a famous bookstore which I strongly suggest that every visitor to San Francisco spend some time at called Borderlands Books. Of course, being a fan of Stross in general and the Laundry Files in particular, I packed up a couple of books that I wanted to get autographed and headed for downtown.

Here are the pictures I took while Stross was reading from his next novel in the series, entitled The Delerium Brief. They turned out surprisingly good given that the entire audience (myself included) were laughing our guts out.

The Cure in concert - 28 June 2016

Nov 23 2016

I've finally gotten around to pulling another load of pictures off of my phone. This one is from The Cure concert in June of 2016 during their summer tour of the United States. It's not often that you get to see one of the foundational bands of goth live so when tickets went on sale we jumped at the chance. I'm sorry that the pictures didn't turn out very well, between our distance from the stage and the lighting it was a battle just to get everything in focus, and I've had to cull a couple of pictures that just didn't turn out.

Oh, and that whole "sitting on the lawn" thing? It's for the birds. Never again.

Anyway, here are the pictures.