Source Material

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IMG_1611Want to flatter a writer.  Send them a selfie reading their book.  Works for me.  This man has nerd written all over him.  My target audience.  My tribe.

Cyber War I is as much a primer on computer security as it is fiction.  And as far as fiction goes, I didn’t make much up.  DDoS attacks.  Ransomware.  I took everything from the headlines.  I figured there might be a market for cybercrime fiction because I couldn’t find any.  Some stories play it up by saying a massive DDoS attack leads to some sort of dystopia, but that’s about as much tech detail they provide.

I read a number of nonfiction books for source material.  I will say, they were very good reads.  Such good stories that they read like fiction.  Fatal system Error by Joseph Menn and Kingpin: How One Hacker Took over the Billion Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen.  Reminds me of the the first cybercrime book I ever read, a solid twenty years ago, The Cuckoo’s Egg by Clifford Stoll.

I’m still outlining and researching more than actual writing, for my next novel.  I would tell you that my new job has slowed down my progress, but that’s not to say it’s because I’m too busy with work that I haven’t the time to write.  It’s that all the discovery involved in a new job occupies my free thoughts.  I wrote my last novel during my ten and fifteen mile runs.  Nowadays, my free thoughts center around all my work projects.  It’s so hard to discipline random thoughts.

I’ve discovered a new trick though.  My buddy Dave has prompted me to listen to podcasts again.  Dan Carlin and Sam Harris.  Something I used to do more regularly ten years ago.  I downloaded four cyber security podcasts and began listening to them on my ten mile run today.  Excellent method to obtain source material for my next book.  Absolutely brilliant use of my time.

 

Is/Is Not

I can count on one hand the number of posts I’ve reblogged from others. George is a hiking buddy from Austin who will make you want to get lost in the mountains.

My Name is SCHOOLS

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It’s a simple sign, and all I had to do on my last hike in Colorado.  “Go right!”

It’s hard to mess up something so simple.  It’s not like there are twenty different trails up there, just the CDT and the CT.   My friend Rob shuttled me to the Cunningham Gulch trailhead after leaving my car at my Little Molas Lake endpoint, then hiked with me as far as the section of the Colorado Trail that follows the Continental Divide Trail.  I’d planned on three days out, he thought it could be done it two, and all I had to do was hike to this sign and turn right.  I didn’t even take a map because . . . well, there aren’t twenty trails up there.  Turn right, hike down the Elk Creek drainage, up over 10,899 ft Molas Pass, and find your car.

Isaiah 41:10
“Do not fear…

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Game Ender

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IMG_1604I find myself this morning faced with an epic moral dilemma.  I don’t play facebook games.  Those analog chain letters with specious purpose.  At their worse, they propagate stealthy adware.  At best, they strive to trend a positive mood for the world.

I was nominated to post photos of nature for seven consecutive days to flood facebook with color, life and hope.  The catch is I have to nominate a friend each day to do the same.  And if everyone were to play, there would indeed be an electronic flood, the likes of which could theoretically crash facebook’s servers.  Not surprisingly, facebook doesn’t condone such games.

Don’t think I couldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t have to drive far for a trail run that would provide glorious fall photos.  But in my present mood, I instead walked out into the middle of my front street and snapped this shot of the tree canopy, where branches vie to reach one another across the chasm as they succumb to the seasonal pause in growth.  For me, this captures how I intend to play this game.  I won’t be nominating anyone else to continue this folly.

Not because I don’t have friends capable.  I have four friends currently on a bike tour through Vermont.  They would no doubt excel at this game.  Maybe they even started it.  I could easily nominate seven friends.

Maybe my reason is simply spite.  I was nominated by two friends at once this morning.  Without being deeply engaged with the rules of this game, I suspect that’s a foul play.  I’m of a mind to nominate them right back.  Without granular guidelines defined, think of the circular consequences of such an action.  It could break the Internet.

I will not allow myself to be put into that position.  The possible electronic destruction is too dire.  Instead, I am taking the bold action to end this game.  Let it die in digital dust.  Still, I’m posting this one photo.  Isn’t it sort of pretty?

 

Zion: Day Two

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Keith

The 12 mile Gooseberry Loop at Zion presents trail runners with a tad bit of exposure.  Keith took this photo during his run today.  The rest of his crew took the day off, to rest for tomorrow’s 19 mile epic run through the Grand Canyon.

But Keith is a bad-ass.  He finished yesterday’s half marathon at Bryce Canyon 44th overall out of 650 runners.  He took a spill today at one point, fortunately not at this point.  His QOTD: “The more I run to ward off death, the more I seem to be running right into her arms.”  I’ve never personified death as a woman myself, but why not?  I’m anxiously waiting on tomorrow’s results.

Bryce Canyon: Day One

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gang of four

I couldn’t attend the 3-day Grand Circle Trailfest, but my running buddies kept me connected to their group chat, sharing photos with me of this awesome spectacle.  David, Rychie, Jen and Bob huddle together here in the sub-freezing shade before the start of the half marathon for day one in Bryce Canyon.

cold start

The smarter runners of our team pose in the warm sun with towering hoodoos as a backdrop.  Joey, as an 8th grader, would go on to win his age division.  Keith and Steve, forty years wiser, no doubt paced themselves, knowing they have another thirty or so miles to run over the next couple of days.

jen n bob

I was surprised to learn Jen and Bob completed today’s run without injury.  The thousand foot climb between miles 5 and 8 perhaps tempered their speed.  That’s a run-able slope for this crew, but I imagine it was a brutal climb at altitude.

steve

Steve looks to be running up to an aid station here.  The course would warm up by 40° before everyone finished, but it must be early still if he’s wearing full gear.

jen

Jen’s smile is enough to warm up these sandstone hoodoos.  I suspect she’s still smiling as her son Joey is a champion.  I can’t imagine racing victoriously on such a dream trail while so young.  It was Joey’s day for sure.

A Slow Burnt Orange

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bridgeHeil Valley Ranch presents a runner with pine trees.  Not aspen.  Fall still shows herself though in the slow, burnt-orange grasses.  Trail runners feel entitled to watch the change of seasons, to heighten their discernment of the dimming light.  Upside down from spring growth, life is pausing toward winter death.  Trail runners know the color of this pending cessation.  They’re not satisfied until they smell the air, and feel it on their skin.  My running has kept pace with the fall cycle, winding down until my legs are in preservation mode.  Immersion in the season with a mountainside view makes everything okay.

I’ve determined if I’m to be running less for the next year or so, I’m going to take more advantage of the trails, to add quality to my runs.  So I drove out to Heil Valley Ranch, the trailhead off Greer Canyon.  There’s actually another, newer trailhead, just past the turn off Left Hand Canyon.  I didn’t run this new trail but it looks to catch up to the original trailhead.

I always start on the Lichen Loop.  It might add a few meters but mostly it adds a nice warm up hill.  And it’s prettier than the gravel road start.  This joins Wapiti for a 2.5 mile climb.  I saw mule dear half way up.  My legs loosened up at the top where I ran the 2.6 mile Ponderosa Loop.  Got in about 8 miles in all, my longest run in quite some time.

I knew switching jobs would impact my running, so while I’m not happy about it, I expected it.  Today it became obvious that if I’m to run less, I need to make the most of Boulder County’s trails.  Quality runs only.

I’ve could have titled this blog post, Two Weddings and a Deferral.  I’ve been to weddings on the previous two weekends in a row.  And then I had to make the painful decision to cancel a trail race I had planned for next weekend.  Problem was, driving to Utah for the three-day race meant taking off Wednesday through Friday.  Work is like college finals right now and I can’t afford to miss a single day.  The only good news is that I was able to defer my registration to next year.  So I’m running that Grand Circle Trailfest event eventually.  Maybe a year when my personal running is in a growing season.

Dmitri and the Wallet

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DmitriHow big is your wallet?  Look at the objects on this tabletop.  I bet your wallet is not as big as Dmitri’s is.  I don’t really know his name.  Like any other guy, I was minding my own business in the hotel lobby when I was engulfed by a gaggle of techies attending some international conference for the betterment of humanity.  This guy sits in front of me, blocking my view of equally attractive people, and proceeds to pull out his wallet. Seemingly to make room for, not just one, but two smart phones.

To his credit, he used both mobiles at the same time.  Possibly dueling the same issue that was so important to him that he worked it while his comrades drank voraciously nearby.  Sounded more to me though that he was working some tech issue with skilled subject matter experts on the one phone, to the point he could set it down occasionally, while he yelled at the Help Desk on the other.  The wallet, despite serving as a focal point to at least me, was lost in all this performance art.

If you think it’s bad how I’m making fun of this guy, you should consider how much worse it is for me to take a photo of a complete, non-celebrity stranger, and post it online.  I don’t care.  This guy has earned a role as a European hacker in my pending novel.

Day 3

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Wrapped up my final sessions today for this weekend’s writers workshop.  I swear, the alliteration in that previous sentence was unintentional.  Or maybe the result of so much learning.  I didn’t focus this year on a single area.  Last year I did focus on sessions related to character development and story arc.  I mixed it up this year.

I took one marketing type of course that gave hints on how to write good cover copy.  That’s the advert an Author writes on their back cover for paperbacks, or inside jacket on hardcovers.  A publisher would typically write this if an author has one, but indy writers have to do most things like this themselves.  There is a convention to writing cover copy that I didn’t know about, although I actually followed the rules fairly well on my initial novel.  I write my share of product announcements at work.

I took a course on writing subtext, which is another thing I believe I did well at just naturally, but then subtext does tend to write itself.  The other classes were about character development and story structure.  My most unique class, taught by Diana Gabaldon, was on white space, which is the absence of words.  What to leave out.  And also a bit on the aesthetic quality of positioning words and paragraphs on the page.

Overall, the conference was both interesting and fun.  It’s cool to be with so many others doing the same thing as me.  I’m struck by the large number of writers in their 70s and 80s.  Writing is their hobby.  This interests me, and I take the opportunity to talk with them, because writing is my retirement plan.  It’s a really good hobby because books can require extensive research, which is good for an aging brain.

Another objective of this workshop was to motivate myself to get back into a regular writing routine.  Time will tell but I’m optimistic.  Diana Gabaldon told the story of how she makes time.  Her three kids are grown now but she started writing when they were all under six years of age.  She would wake up at midnight and write until 4am.  She continues this practice today.  I’m simply going to target the evenings between dinner and bedtime.

Day 2

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8am

RMFW’s independent writer of the year for her young adult fantasy, The Rampart Guards,  Wendy Terrien poses with me at 8am for a photo.  “Much too early for a photo,” Wendy said.

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Because writers tend to read, I consigned some paperbacks to the conference bookstore.  Haven’t noticed any sale yet, but I’ve also been aggressively handing out my writer business cards.  Karen and I came back from dinner tonight on the hotel shuttle with a number of attendees of another conference just starting to arrive – the International Open Source Software Foundation.  We joined the crowd in the bar for a nightcap.  One one side, my writers’ tribe, on the other, my tech boys.  I’ve never felt so included.

Day 1

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Diana

I got here in time for dinner.  I could stop there.  Dinner is always good.  I wanted to get here by noon but that didn’t happen.  Turns out, dinner here was awesome.  Diana Gabaldon is a hoot.  I even learned how to pronounce her last name.

Diana gave a motivational speech.  Or it was standup comedy.  It was one of those two things.  She said, “…ballerinas aren’t born on their toes.”  And later on, “…because a man in a kilt, you can be up against the wall with him in a minute.”  I think she was drinking Diet Coke.

I’m also watching the news this weekend, tracking the storm.  Am I the only one to notice how these storms come in across the Atlantic?  They slam into Cuba, then flip off that island like a pin ball up into Florida.  Do you think that’s why Florida doesn’t like Cuba?

I can see how Floridians would get tired of that.  Still, the channels I watch don’t give any details on the fate of the Cuban people after flipping that storm across the Florida Straits.  Anyone know?

 

A Runner’s Weekend

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Gunbarrel Trailhead

I ran six on the East Boulder Trail this morning.  This is a 2015 photo from my media library.  The sky today had nowhere near that visibility.  Good thing the hills are always epic on that run, because there was no view.  I read later that the smoke is pouring into Boulder County from Montana and elsewhere in the Northwest, and some is from a 600 acre fire near Steamboat Springs in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area.  Right where I went hiking a few weeks ago.

I’m hoping for a big weekend of running.  Can’t recall the last time I strung together more than two runs in a row.  The three day weekend gives me a chance.  Keith talked Thursday night about running sixteen on Magnolia Sunday.  More than double today’s distance and three thousand feet higher in elevation.  That will make today a warmup.

Tomorrow will be hot.  The smoke is expected to linger through the weekend too.  Not ideal running conditions, but I feel like I need a good start on training to run Trailfest in October.  I won’t be racing, I plan to mostly shuffle along, but I need to be fit enough to do that three days in a row for a total of nearly forty miles.  I can tell just from running the hills of East Boulder Trail without walking that I’m in decent shape still.  I’ll be ready.

Royalty Check

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I really feel like retirement is just around the corner.  I can taste it, it’s so close.  Just ten thousand or so more royalty checks per year at this scale and I’ll be living on an island somewhere off passive income.  I’m being cheeky of course.  I should appreciate any sales and I do.  As inconsequential as this check is to my overall financial well-being, it felt good to receive this in the mail.  Fortunately, my electronic fund transfers from Amazon are slightly larger and more frequent.

I’m told 90% of all books never return more than $1000 in their printed lifetime.  My expectations are low.  But I am serious when I tell people that this is a ten year plan.  That I truly hope to be earning a low five figure income once I’m retired.  The trick will be to establish a catalog of a half dozen or so books by then.  Becoming a better writer will help too, and I expect repetition to provide those skills.

Toward that end, I’ll be attending my second writers’ workshop next weekend – the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference.  It’s unfortunate timing as my undergrad alma mater Texas State will be in town to play my grad school CU.  I hate to miss that game but this will be worth it.  I learned tons last year.  And that experience was perfect timing as I’d finished my first draft and the lessons learned aided me tremendously with my second draft.

I’m hoping for this year’s conference to kick-start me on my current draft.  I started writing my sequel to Cyber War I in January but stalled out in May when I changed jobs.  I think I can begin to make time for writing again if I just get motivated and focus.  I need to stop drinking in the evenings like Hemingway and start writing like him.  Looking forward to this workshop.

Trigger

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triggrb

My cousin Dick and his wife Cheryl headed off to Ennis, Montana this morning after spending the weekend visiting us from Ventura, California.  Each year they drive cross country for a couple of months in their 5th wheel RV named Trigger.  The name comes from a beer-drinking encounter Dick had in his youth with Roy Rogers.  Roy kept walking into the kitchen to refresh Dick’s beer because he was wearing his Marine uniform.

Dick joined the Marines, the Reserves at least, at the tender age of 15.  He wound up driving a tank at the end of the Korean War, something he wishes he could still do.  The RV is a modern substitute.  He’s retired after a career leading America’s clean air regulatory agency, although one never really retires after a career like that.  He’s now working with a consortium of concerned scientists as part of the Trump Resistance.  I helped him with his latest PowerPoint.  Cheryl is a reservist with FEMA.  There’s a good chance she will be called up to respond to Hurricane Harvey in Houston, cutting their road trip short.

dick n cheryl

Trigger is now headed north, likely camping somewhere south of Yellowstone.  Trigger’s ultimate Montana destination is Teddy Roosevelt National Park.  Trigger will then wind its way down to visit three of my sisters in the Quad Cities before trekking back home through Missouri to research a graveyard in Dowling.  And who knows, I might catch Trigger again on the trail back homeward to Ventura.

LoBo Trail Closed at Neva Road

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neva road

I was set to run ten this morning but hit this closure at Neva Road on the LoBo Trail.  Sure, I could have continued along the detour, instead I took it as a sign to turn around early under a cloudless sun.  I just haven’t been running much lately, other than for the weekends.  I can feel my conditioning beginning to trend slovenly.  I settled for eight today.  Maybe strategic, knowing I have to run Magnolia at altitude with Team Prospect tomorrow.

I blame work for not letting me run more.  Work is eating into my blogging and second novel too.  I don’t know what writer’s block even is but writing does take time, and I don’t have much of that lately.  Still, the new job is awesome so I don’t mind.

Nothing better than being motivated at work.  I met my dev/ops team in Herndon this last week.  They remind me of my SecIntel team over ten years ago with IBM, before the ISS acquisition.  Both teams count their growth based on the number of PhDs they have on their data science teams.  That approach gives me confidence.  Still, I have a massive running event coming up in October, the Trailfest with 44 miles over three days through Bryce Canyon, Zion and the Grand Canyon.  I need to pick up the pace of my training.

Buffalo Pass

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buffalo pass THI continued my hiking with Rob on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) near Steamboat Springs this past weekend.  We’ve been hiking northbound generally but the most efficient car shuffle for this outing suggested a southbound route.  We hiked two sections southbound, first 15 miles from Buffalo Pass to Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday, then 24 miles from the Three Island Lake Trailhead to Buffalo Pass on Sunday.  For Rob, this leaves the section of trail between Grand Lake and Rabbit Ears, and the 50 miles of trail south of Wyoming, for him to complete all the CDT within Colorado.  He also he completed the northern half of New Mexico.

moose watch cafe

Saturday’s adventure began at the Moose Watch Cafe for a breakfast burrito and a few donuts.  I ate one of these maple bacon delights, along with something cream filled.

Wyoming Trail

It might be hard to read this sign but it says the Wyoming Trail.  Whenever we were in doubt, and the CDT is nothing if not poorly marked, we followed signs for the Wyoming Trail.  Apparently the section of CDT between Rabbit Ears Pass and Wyoming, is also known as the Wyoming Trail.

moose

Early in our hike, as we stopped to adjust our gear, this cow and her calf sprinted up behind us.  They stopped and acted a bit startled after spotting us, before continuing their trot deep into the woods.  Moose are really just super large deer.  They’re somewhat spectacular to see up close in the wild.

 

lakes

This section of trail consisted mostly of alpine meadows and lakes.  Everything, even the tundra above tree line on day two, was lush and green, like these high mountain daisies I’m standing in here.

parry primrose

I’m not totally certain what these flowers are.  My best guess is Parry Primrose.  Could be fireweed.

Rabbit Ears Pass

Saturday’s hike ended at Rabbit Ears Pass, just south of Steamboat Springs.  We saw a decent number of other hikers, and even more mountain bikers.  Even a few fishermen headed up to those alpine lakes.

butcherknife amputator IPA

To heal our sore muscles after the 15 mile trek, we dined in Steamboat and quaffed a few of the local Butcherknife Amputator IPAs.

camp fire

Despite the very wet ground, we got ourselves a camp fire for the night.

3 island lake TH

We started out the next day at the Three Island Lake Trailhead, 50 miles south of the Wyoming border.  Sunday’s hike was mostly above treeline, but the ground was still more soggy marsh.

first snow

The melt off these snow fields accounted for some of the sogginess, constant afternoon rains for the rest.

pano.jpg

The photo above captures what much of the top of the CDT looks like, fields of alpine flora with very little signs of an actual trail.  You just walk between the drop offs.

snow fields

Other times, you look for the next cairn to guide the path, when the trail is under near permanent slow fields, or like below when there’s not enough foot traffic to carve out a path through the fast-growing grass.

no path

This sign points to a spur trail, Grag’s Trail, that runs behind me.  You can’t make out a discernible trail in the grass, but you can spot the cairn over my shoulder pointing the way.  Our trail in this photo, is the Wyoming trail running horizontal, also without any visible path.

fly agaric top

There were so many photo perfect moments on the trail but for the most part, I simply experienced them without taking pictures.  Like when the team of elite mountain pixies came running past us.  Spaced over a 20 second spread, four unbelievably attractive runners ran by us at maybe a 7 minute pace.  Clearly under 8 minutes per mile.  At extreme altitude.  While they were wearing different racing outfits, you could see they were a team by how uniformly they maintained form, like a peloton in bike racing.

fly agaric profile

Either Rob and I really were passed by a quad of beautiful elite trail racers, or we took a bite out of this hallucinogenic Fly Agaric mushroom growing alongside the trail and imagined it.  After 8 hours, we completed Sunday’s 24 mile trek, this time entering Buffalo Pass from the north, satiated for that moment, hungry now for the next opportunity.