Huari Beer

Huari is a Bolivian beer. One of my favorite things to do is to sample the local wines and beers.
Huari is a Bolivian beer. One of my favorite things to do is to sample the local wines and beers.

Monday was one of the big days. We held seminars all day, from about 0900 to 1500 hours. Breakfast was fairly early and just before the chef began cooking omelettes. I was disappointed, a bit, but the various breads were quite good.

I might remark that the coffee here is just OK. It is brewed in a way that is unfamiliar to me. I expect that if I lived here I’d have to find a good source of beans, learn to roast my own, and then grind and brew my own coffee.

Along that line of thought, coca mate is legal here in Bolivia. Coca Mate is made from the raw leaves of the Coca plant, meaning that it contains a small amount of coca alkaloids. While we were working on our presentations Sunday afternoon, I brewed some coca mate using the hot water and tea bags provided by the hotel and added just a bit of sucralose. It is a very good tea and I enjoyed it a great deal.

Unfortunately, I cannot bring the tea home with me. It’s illegal in the United States. Also, I’ll now test positive for cocaine, although I have had none of the refined drug. I don’t actually care because the experience of tasting this wonderful tea is worth the risk of not passing a drug test.

Back to my story — we had two translators provided by the US Embassy. They are sufficiently skilled to do simultaneous translation while we are speaking. Those speaking in Spanish are translated into English and vice versa. It works amazing well… if the speaker remembers to pace him/herself such that the translators can keep up.

The morning sessions went well. One of our speakers was the head of a local resource agency, SEARPI. He is an experienced, animated speaker who has good command of his material. Even without being able to understand Spanish, his delivery of his material was highly entertaining and I enjoyed his talk. The translation was good enough that I was able to follow along.

After his talk, he invited those of us from the States to his home for dinner. That will have to be another story, I think.

Lunch was also fun. He sat down with us and one of our hosts (from Tarija) is fluent in both languages. So we were able to have a lively discussion over sandwiches.

My talk came right after lunch. I learned that I can still put them to sleep with the help of a food-induced coma. The room was warm and I was working to pace my talk to keep from getting ahead of the translators. I listened to the translation in my right ear with the volume down so I could track the translator. That worked well, although my pace was a bit slower than I usually use. It worked, nonetheless (unless you count putting them to sleep not working).

After the talks, it was time to mingle. One of the professors from Catolica Universidad Santa Cruz greeted me and we chatted a bit (small bit) in his broken English and my broken Spanish. I have his card and if I get back down here will attempt to spend some time with him discussing his work and students. A number of others asked for a photograph and then we did a group photograph under the university emblem.

Ing. Aquilera volunteered to drive us back to the hotel and we graciously accepted. That meant we had time between the seminar and supper to rest a bit. I did and it was good.

Today I’ll meet with a group of students (with my colleagues), spend some time with the dean of engineering here in Santa Cruz, and fly to Tarija this evening for more meetings tomorrow. I will have to write up my supper story in a second entry. I also need to retrieve photographs from my camera and choose some of the best.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

On final approach into Santa Cruz from La Paz, Bolivia.
On final approach into Santa Cruz from La Paz, Bolivia.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity already. I left Denver at about 1300 hours, after arriving at the Denver airport, checking my bag, and working through security. My flight was delayed for two hours, first because of a maintenance problem, then because of weather in the Miami area.

Still, I arrived before the rest of the team and met them at their exit gate. We then wandered through the Miami airport until we found our connection, then got a bite to eat.

The flight to La Paz and then to Santa Cruz was a challenge. It’s about six hours from Miami to La Paz, which isn’t all that bad except the flight left Miami at 2300 hours. That meant sleeping on the aircraft, which isn’t that bad for a nap but is difficult for any decent sleep. Still, I cat-napped on and off all night.

We were handed immigration and customs forms, which I worked though. We left the aircraft at about the appointed time and worked through the system. I am now officially a world traveller, having left my country of birth and spent time in another country.

The weekend was a bit of a blur, trying to recover from the travel. But I had a great deal of fun with my friends and our handler, Ramiro. He knows his way around Santa Cruz and showed us some interesting things. The plaza was more interesting than the mall (ha!). The mall is the same as hundreds of them I’ve seen in the States. There was nothing there that interesting, yet the walk was still good.

Today I did my first presentation. I took my time so the translators could handle the flow. I think my pace was about right, although I put my audience to sleep. I’m not all that surprised, given it was a warm room and right after lunch. Yes, I can still put them to sleep.

I had a couple of good questions and enjoyed the interaction. I’m looking forward to more. We’ll spend time with the students tomorrow, then I’ll fly to Tarija while they go to Cochabamba for their next set of meetings. I’ll be able to spend some time with old and new friends in Tarija and will enjoy the higher altitude (and cooler air).

I’ll have more story and pictures, I’m sure.

Hiking the Ridge

While hiking Friday about noon, the Girl and I hit the summit of the mountains east from Reno near Hidden Valley Regional Park. While walking the ridgeline, we came across this beat up old tree that asked me to take his picture. So, I did.
While hiking Friday about noon, the Girl and I hit the summit of the mountains east from Reno near Hidden Valley Regional Park. While walking the ridgeline, we came across this beat up old tree that asked me to take his picture. So, I did.

Yesterday morning, right after my Bolivia Skype session, the Girl and I headed out. I needed food; she needed out. So, after doing her morning toilet, we loaded up in the rig and drove over to Black Bear Diner on South Virginia Street. I’ve eaten there a couple of times and the food is plentiful and decent. A small omelette and a huge biscuit later, I was more than full and more than ready to be outside.

Outside time is critically important to my mental health. I get too much computer time and not enough outside time. The weather is stunningly beautiful — cool, sunny, not a lot of wind. My favorite place here in Reno is Hidden Valley Regional Park. The doggie play area is just OK. We did that a couple of times and then realized that hiking was much better, even if the Girl can get some focused play in the fenced area.

So, we parked the rig at our usual staging area. I got my walking stick out, stowed my sidearm, and thought about taking the X-T1. I decided I didn’t want to carry it. (Pity, though…) I started my tracking app and off we went.

I’d tracked up the north path along the nose toward the first summit of the mountains before, but gave up before I got to the top. Yesterday, I decided to pace myself a little more, pause to let my heart rate slow, and see if I could make the top.

Snort! It wasn’t that difficult. Yeah, it’s plenty steep and there are lots of rollies… But with a pause now and again to let my CV system recover a bit, I made it to the top without a big struggle.

I found Max’s Lookout near the top and was so pleased. Another hiker told me about it a few days ago. I am honored to have visited the place where Max and his handler found a place they loved. There is a grave and marker at the site, as well as a bench for visitors to take a break. The Girl and I spent a few minutes there and I could feel the combined sense of loss, love, and honor the two of them felt for each other. I loved that about the place.

Renewed, we started off again and humped it up to the top. The first summit is not the highest. I paused a few minutes to make a couple of captures with my iPhone and decided to hike on. I felt good and it was so good to be outside.

We walked the saddles and ridges for the next hour or so, working our way south. We came on an improvised campground and gave the makeshift tent a wide berth. I didn’t expect any trouble and didn’t want any. After crossing the saddle, we hiked up another 50 feet or so, then began the long descent down.

There were places it was easier for me to jog than walk, so I did. The Girl trotted ahead or fell back, but never got too far away. I think she was tiring already. There were some pretty steep descents that made me wonder if I’d slide out and bust my ass. But, some side-hilling and some hill-bombing made the descent work and worked these old legs well.

Wife would have pooped herself if she saw where I was and what I was doing! “David!” would have been the remonstration. I laughed as I thought about her giving me a hard time about the hike. There were certainly spots where a fall would not have been good… as in “Oh God, Oh God, we’re all gonna die!” [Hat tip to Wash in Firefly.]

It was not much longer before we were back on the flats again. I noticed a few walkers and smiled to myself smugly, thinking “I’ve been to better places than you!” We walked out the rest of the way back to the rig, then between the two of us killed a liter of water. (Man that was good!)

I made maybe 40 captures on the trip. I need to get them sorted and share a few more. The views were spectacular and I’m so glad I made the effort to get to the ridge. It was fun, the Girl is broken (a tired dog is a happy dog), and I’m pleased.

Bolivia Calls

Bolivia, map courtesy Ian Macky, Portable Atlas.
Bolivia, map courtesy Ian Macky, Portable Atlas.

A few months ago, an old friend and colleague called me and a couple of others for a meeting. He retired from Texas Department of Transportation a few years ago and returned to his home in Bolivia. Now he’s the equivalent of a dean at the Catholic University in Tarija.

His interest was in having one or more of us come to Bolivia to talk about our research work in Texas. We chatted over appetizers at one of the restaurants in Lubbock and then went our separate ways.

As time passed, the workshop began to develop. Now all three of us are traveling to Bolivia for a set of workshops. The U.S. Embassy in Bolivia got wind of the project and decided to participate. I’ll be doing talks in Santa Cruz and Tarija. The others will have talks at those locations plus Cochabamba.

Now this is a Big Deal. The Bolivian government is interested in our seminars. Many professionals and policy makers are interested in our talks. The press is showing interest.

I should be trepidated by all the attention that will be directed at me. I am not. I find this very exciting and am so looking forward to the trip, to meeting people interested in the work, to seeing a place very different from my home, and in finding out what they need. It’s possible they might need what I do.

When I returned to Reno from Mount Vernon, I immediately retrieved the necessary papers from my lockbox and applied for my passport. It was returned in a couple of weeks, so I turned right around and applied for a Bolivian visa. That was returned to me on Tuesday. I have the paperwork in order. The flights are booked and reservations are made. I’m beginning to assemble things I need. My talks are nearly done.

I depart in a week. Older Son and DiL will keep the Girl for me while I travel. I will miss her terribly. But it’s only a couple of weeks and this is important.

I’m ready. Let’s go…

Lonely Pine

There are a few trees on the western slope of the mountains near Hidden Valley Regional Park.
There are a few trees on the western slope of the mountains near Hidden Valley Regional Park.

On Walkies yesterday, the Girl and I reached a bit higher than we have the last few outings. I wanted some elevation; she just wants to hike and hunt. With the time change, we’re out earlier (sidereal time) and the light is better. I like this. I think my morning routine needs some change with less indoor time early and more outdoor time early. The improving weather is a boost as well.

We had a string of wet, gray, windy, cold days. Those conditions make hiking more difficult. It’s not impossible, just more difficult. The light was not as pretty and the views not as nice, so the photographer wasn’t as motivated to get out.

Yesterday was cold, but not really cold. The sun makes so much difference. The Girl, who is nearly naked (a friend once said “Girl, you should know better than to go out in a sheer neglige!”), has to keep moving to generate the heat to keep warm. She does, never complains (well, rarely), and is the consummate lizard-hunter. Alas, we’re a little early in the season for her favorite prey to be active. (But she finds one once in awhile.)

The air felt good, with little wind and plentiful sun. The trails out at the Hidden Valley Regional Park are good, mostly. Some are quite challenging and I have yet to get to the top of the range. But with the higher path, we got farther back into the mountains than we have before.

While on the trail, we crossed a ridgeline and I saw this little pine, struggling against rock, wind, and lack of water. With the Eastern Sierra in the background, the scene was appealing. So, I made a few captures while the Girl searched for critters.

Unfortunately, I had a conference call to make, so I cut my hike short and headed back down the hill. I really wanted to keep going. Hiking out like that does something good for me and the mountains bring a peace that I love.

One the way down, I called Older Son to chat. I looked over my shoulder to check on the Girl and saw her “bounce” on a bit of brush. She was in full hunting mode, having jumped something she could chase. I laughed at her and called her to go. She’s such a hoot to watch.

Neither of us is perfect. I have my moments. She has hers. Most of the time they are at different points in time and they add out. Sometimes there is a nexus of conflicting desires and emotions and we squabble. I suppose that is the nature of relationships.

But we make up, apologize for our wrongs, and move on. The relationship grows.

Legally, dogs are considered property. “How long have you had your dog?” is a question I sometimes get. “She’s lived with me for five years,” is often the reply (if I give one). She is not property; she is friend, companion, helper.

We returned from our hike, tired, sweaty, and ready to get on with the day. I stripped off my wet base layer, cleaned up a bit, and prepared myself for my conference call. Then my day got started for real.

Frame in Frame

On Walkies the other morning, we came upon this wonderful frame of the mountains east from Hidden Valley Regional Park.
On Walkies the other morning, we came upon this wonderful frame of the mountains east from Hidden Valley Regional Park.

I am greatly enjoying our hikes at Hidden Valley Regional Park. When the weather is anywhere near OK, the Girl and I drive out there in the morning after breakfast and get as much hiking in as we can. The day is coming (soon) when we’ll have to leave here and move along. I will miss this park, as well as the many other areas we’ve been hiking here.

I love Nevada. The open space, the dry air, the mountains… these are some of my favorite things.

The Old Man and the Girl

My dear old friends JW and Dee did a photoshoot for me. This is one of my favorite images, ever.
My dear old friends JW and Dee did a photoshoot for me. This is one of my favorite images, ever.

The Girl and I approach our fifth anniversary. I remember driving over the hill to be introduced (it is an arranged relationship) and to determine our compatibility. Young Son went along with me, just in case she would accompany us home.

It was the beginning of the most difficult time of my life, but for other reasons. That is documented elsewhere. The important part of the story is that our relationship continues to develop as we know each other better.

It was great fun around the first of the year when old friends, JW and Dee (J.W. Margrave Photography), accepted my request for a photoshoot. I am always the one behind the camera, so it was great experience to be on the other side for a change. JW and Dee are great fun to work with. They are very professional and skilled at what they do. We had fun wandering around the Texas Tech campus on a very cold, gray day.

But it was certainly worth braving the cold. This is one of my favorite images, ever.

Dead Pine

On morning walkies a few days ago, the Girl and I came upon this broken down old pine tree. Instead of just walking past, she sniffed about while I chased her out of my frame for a capture.
On morning walkies a few days ago, the Girl and I came upon this broken down old pine tree. Instead of just walking past, she sniffed about while I chased her out of my frame for a capture.

I am enjoying my time outdoors here in Reno. We often drive over the to Hidden Valley Regional Park. At first we spent time in the fenced doggie area. But later we began walking the trails, of which there are many. This suits me much better as I don’t feel compelled to watch the other dogs for aggression and I’m not required to interact with other humans (dogs are always OK).

On this particular morning and this particular trail, we came across this fallen-over pine. The texture and colors caught my, so we paused. I had the chase the Girl out of my frame several times. I laugh at her all the time because no matter which direction I face, she will run ahead in that direction. Either she thinks she’s the dominant dog, or she is so driven to check out what I’m looking at that she can’t help but run ahead.

Sometimes when we’re walking, I’ll change direction abruptly to see what she will do. I can hear her running up from behind. She’ll blow past me, often peppering me with sand and gravel, then slow up to start sniffing about again, looking over her shoulder (ostensibly for permission). Furthermore, it never fails that wherever I point my camera there will be a dog butt in the frame.

This makes me laugh, then I’ll scold her “Get out of my frame!”

Resurfacing, with Winder$

While hiking out at Hidden Valley Regional Park, the Girl and I came across this old wheel. I wonder who cast it aside?
While hiking out at Hidden Valley Regional Park, the Girl and I came across this old wheel. I wonder who cast it aside?

I slipped into the rabbit hole the middle of last week. One of my goals for this trip is to get a working Winder$ install on my MacBook Pro to eliminate the need for a dedicated Winder$ box. I need access to Microsoft Windows because certain of my professional tools are only available under that platform.

Emulation doesn’t cut it for me. It would work fine for a couple of the simple tools, but for some of the heavier work it would be much too slow. (Think processing spatial datasets using a geographical information system.)

A few months ago I tracked down several websites that contained instructions for installing Winder$ on an external drive (with or without Apple Bootcamp). So, last week I bought an external drive enclosure, and nice SSD drive, and retrieved my Winder$ install disk from my gear.

And then I promptly fell into a rather large rabbit hole. Nothing I tried worked. I could get partway to the goal, only to be dead-ended by one problem or another.

Those who know me will say that I don’t give up easily. Whether it is a positive character attribute or just plain old stubbornness I can’t say… or I won’t say. But after investing a ton of time and energy into the project (and I really didn’t want to), I woke Thursday morning to a dead MacBook Pro. I had noticed earlier in the week that it had rebooted at least once during the night and was acting a little off. But Thursday morning, it was dead.

When attempting to start the machine, it entered an endless boot cycle. It would power up, self test, and begin to boot process. About halfway through the initializing sequence it would reboot. A hard powerdown was required to stop the cycle.

So I made an appointment with a Genius at the Reno Apple Store. Those technicians have access to diagnostic equipment and software that can get the process moving fairly rapidly. I have not had an issue with an Apple technician or a factory repair.

I was there a bit early for my appointment. Kevin connected my machine to the magic cables that emanate from behind the Genius Bar. Within a few minutes he confirmed that the internals appeared to be functioning correctly. I identified those components I had replaced as part of my last upgrade (battery, drive, swapped out optical drive for hard drive).

But, when he attempted to boot the machine, no joy. None of the disk images from the server would boot either. He made a lot of notes, put my machine into a protective sleeve, and told me they’d run some bench diagnostics and call me.

When I didn’t receive a call Friday morning I expected the worst. I must have a working notebook computer to run my businesses. I do everything with my MBP. To be without a machine, or worse to have a machine that is unreliable, is unacceptable. I had walked the Apple Store line and knew they had no high-end machines in stock. (My suspicion is that they do not sell a lot of their top-tier systems in the store. They special order and ship them.)

So, after leaving the Apple Store I drove to the local Best Buy to check their inventory. There I met Ryan, an Apple employee who has oversight over a district of Best Buy stores that includes the Reno store. We chatted for a few minutes about what was available. He told me that Best Buy was just taking shipment of the 2.9GHz i7-based MBPs with a 1TB SSD. The higher speed doesn’t interest me as much as the terabyte of storage. I have a lot of stuff on my drive and 512GB won’t work anymore.

He thought they had one in stock. But, no joy. So, he texted a couple of his reports in other stores and located one in Fresno. However, when the Best Buy inventory person checked with the Fresno store, he learned that they were under corporate orders to not transfer any of their inventory.

So, I went back to Ryan to visit a bit. Perplexed, he said “Let me see what I can do.” After about five minutes, he located a unit in Roseville and the Reno GM said they’d pay to ship it. However, Roseville is only about 100 miles from Reno. I said “I’ll just go get it.” I knew that I’d have my migration completed by the time they could ship the machine.

So, I met Younger Son to help with retrieve his vehicle and then headed over the hill to Roseville. There was a little rain on the way, but no snow. The machine was waiting for me. The Girl and I picked it up, mounted up, grabbed a bite, and headed home.

Then came the fun of migrating everything to the new computer. I had backups of everything (I got the Backup Religion several years ago). The configuration of the old computer caused a couple of hiccups, but nothing that wasn’t easily surmounted.

While on the way to celebrate Younger Son’s birthday, the Apple Genius called to tell me it appears that the logicboard has a bad drive connection. Somehow, it is still under warranty and so they ordered a replacement and will install it to check. I should know something in a few days. That means I could return the new machine, but I think I’m unlikely to do that now.

By the end of Saturday I had an operating system with most of my configurations set (or close enough) and I could work again.

Saturday night I started on the Winder$ problem again. After a number of false starts, I finally got the install to boot from a thumbdrive. With a bit of partition magic, I was able to get Winder$ to install on an external Thunderbolt drive. That process was completed Sunday. (Yes, it took much longer to do it than the previous few sentences might indicate. The cost was not only in hours, but in stress and energy.)

This morning I finished all the upgrades for Winder$ 8.1. My numerical models will be simple to install. I still need to install the GIS software, but think I’ll wait until I have a project where I need it.

I can run Winder$ natively from an external Thunderbolt drive. When I can get a Thunderbolt case, I can install an SSD in it and that will improve the reliability of the system and the speed. So now I no longer need a Winder$ desktop (or notebook). I can everything from my MacBook Pro. It is possible to have my cake and to eat it too.

Now, if I can work out how to run an emulator that boots from the native install on the external drive so I can run a quick HMS or RAS model without having to reboot to Winder$ I will feel like I have cheated the Devil himself.

I emerged from the rabbit hole this morning. It feels good to have this done. I’ll figure out what to do with the other MBP, if and when it is repaired.

Now I wonder if I can get an emulator running the Winder$ install on the external drive, too? Maybe, maybe…