Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tahoe Skydrop Signing Schedule

Hi Everybody! My schedule for my new book release is now (mostly) set.

I've organized my appearances by area. So you can scan down to your area and see when and where I'll be waiting for you!

South Lake Tahoe, CA

August 3, 2018, 4:30 - 7 p.m. Signing for TAHOE SKYDROP, Artifacts 4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd (in the Raleys Village Center just southwest of Heavenly Village) (530) 543-0728
August 12, 2018, 8:30 a.m. I'll be signing my new book TAHOE SKYDROP at The Red Hut Cafe @ Ski Run Blvd and Lake Tahoe Blvd in South Lake Tahoe.
August 15, 2018, 6:30 p.m. I'll be signing my new book TAHOE SKYDROP and giving a talk at the South Lake Tahoe Library

Reno, NV

August 4, 2018, 11 a.m., My first Talk and Signing for TAHOE SKYDROP at Sundance Bookstore at 121 California Avenue, Reno, NV (775) 786-1188

Tahoe City, CA

August 4, 2018 3 p.m. Signing TAHOE SKYDROP at Geared for Games, Boatworks Mall, Tahoe City, CA

Truckee, CA

August 9, 2018 5 - 7 p.m. Signing TAHOE SKYDROP at Truckee Thursday street fair, at the Word After Word tent in Truckee, CA

Carson City, Minden, and Genoa, NV

August 10, 2018, 6:00 p.m. I'll be signing my new book TAHOESKYDROP and giving a talk at Shelby's Bookshoppe, 1663 Lucerne St. in Minden Village, Minden, NV 775-782-5484.
August 11, 2018, 8:30 a.m. I'll be signing my new book TAHOE SKYDROP at The Red Hut Cafe 4385 S. Carson, Carson City, NV
September 29, 30, 2018 I'm exhibiting books at the Candy Dance Festival in Genoa, NV.
October 2, 2018, 4 - 6 p.m. I'm signing my new book (and the others) at the Minden Library's Author Day, Minden, NV
October 3, 2018, 11:30 a.m. I'm giving a talk at Nevada Talking Books, Carson City, NV
October 22, 2018, 5:30 p.m. talk and signing at Browser's Books, 711 E Washington St, Carson City, NV (Across from the Carson City Library)

Sacramento, CA

October 26, 27, 28, 2018 Exhibit and sign books at the Sacramento Fine Arts Show,  Sacramento Convention Center, Sacramento, CA
November 16, 17, 18, 2018 Exhibit and sign books at the Sacramento Harvest Festival at Cal Expo Fairgrounds

The Bay Area, CA

September 8, 9, 2018, I'm exhibiting and signing  books at the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival, Mountain View, CA
November 9, 10, 11, 2018 Exhibit and sign books at the San Mateo Harvest Festival at the San Mateo Event Center.
November 23, 24, 25, 2018 Exhibit and sign books at the San Jose Harvest Festival, at the San Jose Convention Center.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Astonishing Animal Intelligence

A new study by some scientists at the universities of Cambridge and Auckland shows that crows can figure out problems better than nearly any other animals.

The scientists created a type of food vending machine that dispensed treats when a paper token was inserted. Then they gave crows torn pieces of paper in a range of sizes. Only pieces of a certain size would make the machine work.

The crows experimented with the different pieces of paper until they figured out which sizes produced the treat. They quickly got good at picking up the correct-size pieces to use to get food from the machine.

Then the researchers removed all the pieces of torn paper.

After a period of time, the scientists gave the crows some large sheets of paper.

Working only from memory, the crows used their beaks and feet to tear the paper into smaller pieces. If their torn paper pieces were too small or too large, the vending machine wouldn't work.

The result? Crows remembered the task and the required size of the "food token" necessary, and they got treats from the vending machine.

This ability is something almost no animals can do.

So the next time you gaze up at a crow, it's fun to remember their amazing smarts.

P.S. The article is as "dry" as you might expect in a scientific journal, but here it is for the curious:
Nature Scientific Reports

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Bomb-Sniffing Dog At Work

We humans have a small-but-regular assorment of bad individuals among us. We've developed a lot of techniques to identify the bad eggs. Our techniques are useful in varying degrees. But one of the best ways to save us from ourselves is to bring in a dog.

Despite amazing machines we've developed that can sniff the air for any indications of chemicals that are associated with bad intentions, none is yet as good as a dog's nose.

A few days ago, we were coming back from Italy and caught the new JetBlue non-stop from JFK to Reno. The airport was a mob scene, with thousands of summer travelers lining up to go through airport security. The TSA was doing their best to cope. (I wouldn't have that job for anything.)

As the line grew, they suddenly interrupted the routine and stopped all the inspections. The crowds piled up. We couldn't tell why they would suspend the searches. The Airtrain and cabs and shuttles and Uber drivers kept dropping off travelers, and they flowed into the JetBlue terminal with no place to go except to get in the line, which went back and forth through the maze they'd set up to organize a huge crowd.

After 30 minutes of no activity, we finally got a hint of why they'd stopped the inspections. A Department of Homeland Security officer appeared with a German Shorthair Pointer, one of the preferred breeds (along with Belgian Malinois and Labs) that they train to sniff out explosives.

The dog had a DHS vest on. The handler took her around the edges of the maze that contained the crowd, letting the dog get familiar with the ambient scents of the airport. Then the handler brought the dog to a place adjacent to where the people in line would pass through once they started moving.

Other officers shouted out instructions to the crowd.

"Do not pet the dog. Do not reach out to the dog. Walk through the line. Keep moving."

They opened the end gate of the maze and let the people start to pass.

The dog stood, head down as if sniffing near the floor. The crowds moved past. The dog never looked up. Her job was just to sniff the air. If she smelled any of the scents she was trained to notice, she'd sit down next to her handler.

The huge crowd all walked past the dog, single file. The dog stared at the floor, her nostrils flexing. Her focus was intense. She radiated intelligence.

It was an impressive scene. Hundreds of travelers and an entire airport terminal were shut down. Whether or not the system would restart was dependent on the response of a single dog.

We eventually got past the dog's inspection. The flights eventually continued.

The travelers were of course worried. Having a DHS dog brought in to assess a crowd suggested that the TSA/DHS had acquired some disturbing information. On the other hand, when the DHS dog didn't "alert," it made us all feel much safer.

We can know that there are armed Federal Air Marshals incognito on the planes. But that does us no good if there is something really bad on the plane. So, in the end, the giant operation that is an airport comes down to a single dog, focused, well-trained. An animal with the concentration, and smarts, and a nose so powerful that it can detect the equavalent of a half teaspoon of sugar (or whatever else) in an Olympic swimming pool of water.

Let's all give thanks to dogs.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tahoe Wildlife - We Have A Very Prickly Neighbor

We've seen porcupines in Tahoe, but those sightings are rare. Yet on a recent hike, we encountered the biggest porcupine we've ever seen.

photo from
When that tough guy sensed our presence, he (she?) turned away from us and fluffed up its quills until it was a ball of spikes.  Yikes.

All we could think of was what it must be like for a coyote or bobcat or dog to come upon this creature and swat at it with a paw or start sniffing too close.

There is a rude joke that skunks and porcupines only have one natural predator - the automobile. Sad, but probably true.

So we waited, and our prickly neighbor eventually wandered into the brush, safer from any and all threats than rattlesnakes. Not even those master predators from the sky - the raptors - have much chance at taking a porcupine. Porcupines are a marvelous example of how evolution can conjure up impenetrable defenses.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tahoe Wildlife - Coyote!

Last summer, my wife and I saw a coyote pup wandering past our house, below our deck. It was small enough that we worried it didn't have a parent teaching it to hunt. Yet over the course of the summer months, it would reappear in the evening, on the prowl, while we were barbecuing dinner.

photo from

Gradually, it grew. It seemed robust and radiated health.

Then came winter and we didn't see it anymore. Or, more accurately, we didn't see any single coyotes on the prowl through our yard. Occasionally, as we always do, there would come groups of coyotes through the forest, carrying on their social-hunting routine. And we would awaken in the night to their loud, yipping, almost-screaming conversations.

photo from

This spring, our single coyote reappeared in our yard. We think it's the same coyote. Mostly full grown, quite large now and beautiful. Very robust. One can't help but admire the coyote, so smart, so adaptable, so able to do well even in areas where people have taken over.

They also keep down the populations of many creatures that would take over our yards and invade our houses.

Yes, they sometimes eat our pets. And that is a very sad day for everyone involved. But the coyotes were here first. So it's incumbent on us to keep our pets close so we can admire these amazing carnivores that thrive with no help from us and in spite of efforts from many people to exterminate them.

We feel lucky to see coyotes in Tahoe on a weekly - and sometimes daily - basis.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tahoe Wildlife - Bobcat!

Last winter, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a really large cat walking through the snow. After a moment, I thought it was too large to be a house cat.

After it wandered away, I got out my "animal tracks" book, went outside and looked at its prints.


After the snow melted, my wife and I were hiking in the woods near our house when we saw the movement of a good-sized animal as it ducked under a fallen tree. We stopped and waited. The animal turned around and came out. A gorgeous bobcat. It sat down and faced us from 40 feet away, curious, watching, wondering what the humans were doing.

After five minutes of all parties remaining motionless, it turned and disappeared among the manzanita bushes.

It was a beautiful animal.

photo from

For those who are curious, the telltale characteristics are a cat that is roughly twice the size of a house cat or a little less, black tufts at the tip of its ears, and a short "bobbed" tail.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

New Trail Up Angora Ridge

I've written before about Angora Ridge Road here. It leads up to the old Angora Fire Lookout and some of the world's best views looking down at Fallen Leaf Lake and across at the peaks of the Crystal Range.
The hike gives you views of Mt. Tallac, all the way up.
The hike always used to be along the Forest Service Road that climbs up to Angora Lakes Resort. It's a wonderful hike and great for chatting with your companions. However, when the Forest Service opens the gate in the summer, there can be many cars crawling up the incline.

However, now there is an alternative, a single track hike that leads to the same lookout but does it along the west edge of the ridge. This means that instead of being in the small valley that shelters much of the road, you are on a ridge with views all the way up. The improvement in view goes from spectacular to REALLY spectacular.

The water in the foreground is Fallen Leaf Lake.
The distant water is the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.
To get to the hike, follow the directions in my earlier post (link in the first line above). When you are standing at the entrance to Angora Ridge Road and facing the gate, don't walk toward the gate. Instead, walk the main road (Tahoe Mountain Road) downhill 20 yards to your right (toward the west). Then look to your left. You will find a trail head (unmarked as of this writing). The trail immediately goes up in gentle switchbacks. Almost immediately you start to get great views, which grow in grandeur and stay with you all the way up.

You will be looking across Fallen Leaf Lake toward Mt. Tallac and north up the West Shore of Tahoe in the distance. Bring your "Wow" meter, because views don't get better than this.

This was our view from our lunch spot up next to the fire lookout building.
Looking down at Fallen Leaf Lake is like looking down at a Norwegian Fjord. Gorgeous.

The trail eventually puts you back on the road. Be sure to continue up to the old fire lookout buildings and walk up to them so you can look out across at the Crystal Range, the highest West Shore mountains in Tahoe. In the distance above you, you'll see an almost year-round snowfield, where lies Lake Aloha. For those of you who drive Highway 50 home, you can't miss Horseshoe Falls as you come around the big curves from below Echo Summit toward Twin Bridges. That spectacular falls is the water that flows out of Lake Aloha.


P.S. I learned about this new trail last fall on our daily Tahoe news source:

Check it out. Even locals like me continually learn new stuff about Tahoe!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sailing Under Snowy Mountains

As the snows retreat up the mountain, the sailboats come out.

There aren't many places in the world where you can sail a big body of water and have a snow-covered mountain backdrop. Gorgeous.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Paper Version Of Tahoe Skydrop Now Available For Preorder

Wow, I've told almost no one about my new book, Tahoe Skydrop, but it is getting attention, thanks to all of you blog readers. Thanks so much!

Last week, the Kindle version of my new book became available for preorder.
This week, the paper version is available as well. Here is the link: Tahoe Skydrop


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Tahoe Skydrop Is Available For Pre-Order On Kindle

I always try to do something different in each book. Usually, that means tackling a new, intriguing subject. I'm excited about Tahoe Skydrop for that reason. I'm also excited because this book has some interesting character interaction and action sequences unlike anything I've ever written. If you've enjoyed the previous novels, I'm quite sure you will like this one. And if you've never read any of my books, this is a good one to start with!

The book comes out in August. If you read on a Kindle, you can preorder it by clicking here.

Thanks for your interest and support!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sweet Spring Water

Spring in Tahoe means water flowing everywhere.

Apologies to those of you who live on the flatlands. But this little water fall - just a short walk from our front door -  would be given State Park status in many states. But in Tahoe? Well, it's just another bit of paradise.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Maltese Falcon

We were recently in The City (San Francisco), walking along Post Street just west of Union Square. At the corner of Post and Hyde is an unassuming apartment building that no one would ever think was significant. Yet the corner apartment on the top floor is where Dashiell Hammett lived in 1929. While there, he wrote The Maltese Falcon.

The upper corner apartment was Dashiell Hammett's during the late 1920s.
There is a plaque on the building commemorating his time living there.
Does a person's home matter in the creation of a classic novel? Certainly the location must have been useful to Hammett in writing a story set in San Francisco. But were there other aspects of the apartment that helped? I'm guessing it's likely that the look and smell and feel of the apartment all informed aspects of the novel.

Either way, it's fun to look up at the apartment and visualize Hammett inside, typing away, pacing, thinking, smoking and drinking (he did lots of the latter two).