Random (but not really)

Friday, July 31, 2015

WV State Parks: Fairfax Stone State Park

No hiking here. But we DID visit.

Here is, pretty much, the entire state park.


Here you go! The headwaters of the Potomac!




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Categories: Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hiking WV: Dolly Sods Wilderness

We took advantage of our location and took a short hike at Dolly Sods Wilderness. It was the opposite side of the area than we’d hiked last time, and it was much much busier than our last visit (as in, last time we saw one person, and he was on the road, not the trail).

One reason there were so many people is because there were fields and fields and fields of ripe wild blueberries. Amazing amounts of wild blueberries.

An added bonus to a beautiful hike.

Location: Dolly Sods Wilderness
Trails: Rocky Ridge, Blackbird Knob, Breathed Mountain Trails
Distance: 3.4 miles
Elevation: 3908 – 4175 feet





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Categories: Hiking,National Park/Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hiking WV: Canaan Wildlife Refuge

While waiting for people to show up for our hike at Canaan Valley State Park, we decided to check out the Canaan Wildlife Refuge.

I immediately decided that we had to take the small people on a hike there. The trail was flat, relatively straight, relatively even, went through woods and fields and several different kinds of plant life, and there was a huge field full of wild blueberries.

It. Was. Awesome.

Location: Canaan Wildlife Refuge
Trail: Beall Loop (partial)
Distance: 1.1 mile
Elevation: 3217-3307 feet





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Categories: Hiking,National Park/Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hiking WV: Canaan Valley State Park

We took a gorgeous hike at Canaan Valley State Park (checked that one off the list!) and although it was muddy in spots (it has rained for seemingly two months straight) it wasn’t difficult to get around the mud (ie, no impassable rhododendron).

Location: Canaan Valley State Park
Trail: Middle Ridge State Park
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation: 3210-3501 feet

20150724_Canaan_Valley_State Park_018



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Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hiking WV: Allegheny / Blackwater Canyon Trails

We spent Thursday through Saturday in the Blackwater Falls / Canaan area, and it was beautiful. Our hikes were shorter than normal, mostly because many of them had people not used to hiking. (Hikers ages ranged from 4 to 90, so, not so much with the long hikes.)

Along the Blackwater Canyon trail were old coke ovens, from Thomas’ industrial days, and then Douglas Falls, which were gorgeous, and well worth the scramble down to the water.

Location: Thomas, WV
Trails: Allegheny & Blackwater Canyon Trails
Distance: 3.8 miles
Elevation: 2743-2946 feet







Bonus: Wild black raspberries.


They were very delicious.

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Categories: Hiking,Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Flower: Blackwater Falls & Canaan Edition










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Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

(De)Construction: Week Two, Day Four

Here’s how things looked today!








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Categories: Morgantown,Photos  

Monday, July 13, 2015

(De)Construction: University Avenue: Week 2

Here’s how things looked today!

These are taken coming down University (heading south).




These are taking walking south on Beverly.





Michael: I bet the rent is dirt cheap.

As I was taking pictures with my phone, I was unsurprised that this picture didn’t turn out as I wanted.

When I looked in the hole, I could see water rushing by.


This is taken at the Y, standing on University and looking down onto Beverly.


And there are today’s updates.

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Categories: Morgantown,Photos  

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

FINALLY we could get back out to Coopers Rock without having to hike in rain and storms.

The streams were running high, which meant I had to be careful traipsing through the water.

I was, and it was gorgeous.

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Rhododendron, Mont Chateau trails (plus splashing through a very cold stream)
Distance: 4.4 miles
Elevation: 874 feet

I believe that’s the most water I’ve seen coming through this stream.






And now a brief rant/whine.

I don’t dislike bicycles. In fact I have one and enjoy riding it.


Some of my favorite trails at Coopers Rock are a muddy mess because of mountain bikers.


It’s been raining, so of course the trails are going to be wet in areas–especially where the trail is also part of a watershed run-off. I expect that.

The problem is that when people bike through these areas when it’s this wet, the entire trail becomes a churned up mess that is messy and ugly and not very fun to hike. There are sections of trail where the churned up mud is twice as wide as the trail, because of mountain bikers.

I don’t mind getting my feet wet (obviously), and I expect the trails to be muddy when it’s been raining as frequently as it has been. But I think it’s ridiculous that whole sections of trail are almost impassible unless you want to slog through a couple inches of mud.

As hikers, we have the ability to go off the trail, to try and avoid the nasty mess, but that’s not in the best interest of the forest.

Yes, the forest is open the everyone–that’s one of the many joys and benefits of living in WV. But I don’t see why bikers can’t use a little common courtesy and not tear up the trails when they are wet and muddy.

They’re ruining it for those of us who want to take our time and enjoy the scenery as we go past.

OK, done ranting.

Here’s some more gorgeous stream to close on.


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Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Flower Pr0n: State Forests Edition

Well, state parks and state forests, but since the state park was technically in a forest, we’ll just let it go.

Pictures are from Stonewall Resort and Coopers Rock.

The rhododendron are in bloom!




Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)

Are you a mushroom? No! I’m a fun-gi!



And here’s Stonewall Resort State Park


Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)


Wild Bergamot / Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)


Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)

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Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Hiking WV: Stonewall Jackson State Park

Stonewall Resort State Park is probably the best maintained park we’ve visited.

Of course, after a month of rain, there’s not much they can do about all the high water and mud, though they did try.

Location: Stonewall Jackson Resort State Park
Trails: Hevener’s Orchard, Cairns, Lakeside Trails (this map is NOT up to date, last check)
Distance: 3.9 miles
Elevation: 719 feet


(SUPER fancy blazes!)

Stonewall Jackson Lake




We dubbed this trail, the Canada trail.






I can see why you might make that mistake, but still: wrong.


Points to anyone who knows WHAT is wrong, and why Michael and I giggled this entire section of trail.

Written by Michelle at 10:21 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

(De)Construction: University Avenue: Day 4

It’s still raining, which is why I didn’t wander down to see the destruction yesterday. But there was a break in the weather this evening, so I got to see what’s happened.

They’re moving quickly.

University Avenue Road Construction

University Avenue Road Construction

University Avenue Road Construction

University Avenue Road Construction

University Avenue Road Construction

University Avenue Road Construction

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Categories: Morgantown,Photos  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

(De)Construction: University Avenue

So University Avenue is going to be closed for a couple months (so they say) so they can drop the road 5 feet for a flat intersection with 3rd street.

The construction started yesterday, so today I walked down to see what has happened so far.

The placement of this sign is apparently to ensure the maximum number of cars ignoring it.

University Avenue Road Construction

And having to turn around here.

University Avenue Road Construction

You didn’t think I was going to obey that sign, did you?

University Avenue Road Construction

This is, I am guessing, the section of road that will be dropped 5 feet.Yes, it is already relatively steep. No, I don’t know what they were thinking.

University Avenue Road Construction

I am not at ALL sad to see this building go.

University Avenue Road Construction

Current state of the intersection. I presume nothing is going to happen until that house is down.

University Avenue Road Construction

3rd Street

University Avenue Road Construction

Beverley. Weirdly, there is a hole in the ground here, behind that pile of gravel.

University Avenue Road Construction

That’s just me being easily amused.

University Avenue Road Construction

My supposition is that this is where the re-grading will start.

University Avenue Road Construction

There you go! The current state of the University Avenue construction project!

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Categories: Morgantown,Photos  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Books of June

I read more than expected this June, mostly because it wouldn’t stop raining, so very little hiking.

Bah humbug.

I seem to have read a lot of meh books this month, and finished off some anthologies I’d been reading (some for years).

The best book of the month was Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older, which is a collection of short stories, set in the same world, and slowly intertwined.

This was a very nice book, and I purchased his Resurrection Blues based upon it. You should really check it out.

Supernatural Fantasy

  Salsa Nocturna (2012) Daniel José Older (8.5/10)
  Pocket Apocalypse (2015) Seanan McGuire (7/10)
  Werewolf Smackdown (2010) Mario Acevedo (4/10)


  Magic Lost, Trouble Found (2007) Lisa Shearin (7/10)

Historical Mystery

  The Mayfair Affair (2015) Tracy Grant (8/10)

Historical Romance

  Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career (2012) Carla Kelly (8.5/10)
  The Soldier’s Dark Secret (2015) Marguerite Kaye (7.5/10)
  Widow’s Gambit (1998) Tracy Grant (7/10)
  Lucien’s Fall (2011) Barbara Samuel (6/10)


  Fiction River: Hex in the City (2013) edited by Kerrie L. Hughes (9/10)
  Vampires: The Recent Undead (2011) edited by Paula Guran (7/10)

So here’s how the stats came out for the month.

I read 11 books, all of which were eBooks.

Genre-wise, mostly split between fantasy and historical romance.

Fantasy: 6
Romance: 5
Anthology: 3
Mystery: 2

Gender-wise, women continued to lead the pack, and the year, with 57% of this year’s books written by women.

Female: 7
Male: 2
Anthology: 2

And that’s the month of June in books.

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Categories: Books & Reading  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Flower Pr0n: Day Lilies!

I love day lilies. Over the years I have picked up several different cultivars, so when they bloom, the front of my house is gorgeous. (The nicest thing about day lilies is that unlike regular lilies, they don’t have a scent. (I cannot stand the scent of regular lilies.))





Bonus: Balloon flower


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Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Another Data Point on Female Authors

Because I never met a list I didn’t want to put into Excel…

From the last post, on must buy authors, I counted the male vs female authors that I auto buy.

Male authors: 7
Female authors: 19
Joint: 1

70% of my auto buy authors are female.

So there is some more anecdotal data for you.

Written by Michelle at 8:26 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Must-Buy Books

On SF Signal, they asked “What Authors Are on Your Must-Buy List?”.

This actually made me stop and think, because there are some authors who were auto-buys for years and years, and then they kinda dropped off. And there are other authors whose books I’d buy in an instant–if they were still writing.

So who is on my must-buy list?

First, off the top of my head:

Charles de Lint – I love his Newford stories so very very much

C.S. Harris – Both Grandmom and I adore the Sebastian St Cyr series. I love the time in which he lives, and I love Sebastian

Guy Gavriel Kay – He doesn’t just build worlds, he weaves these miraculous places that I fall into and don’t want to leave; and each book is so very different from those that came before

Ellen KushnerSwordspoint is my go-to comfort read, and I read it again and again

Ben Aaronovitch – Do I even need to tell you how much I love this series? And how much I ADORE Kobna Holdbrook Smith?

Faith Hunter‘s Jane Yellowrock series – She also is very good at writing short stories, which is something I appreciate, but I really love Jane

Andrea Camilleri – The more recent books in the Inspector Montalbano series have been weaker, but I don’t care

Ilona Andrews Oh Kate, why haven’t I read your most recent book? Probably because I don’t want to be left hanging

Mary Roach – Have you read Mary Roach? You’ve probably heard an interview with her. She’s marvelous and loves delving into strange and marvelous topics (like what happens to our bodies after we die or what goes on in our alimentary canal)

Nina Kiriki Hoffman – I love her short stories and regularly re-read “Fistful of Sky” and keep hoping the next book she writes will recapture what I loved there.

Carrie Vaughn (especially any short story collection) despite the fact I didn’t love the last two novels, I still want things to work well for Kitty.

Donna Leon – Venice is as much a main character as Commisario Brunetti and his family and co-workers

Patricia Briggs (especially the Mercy Thompson series) – I love Mercy and how in a genre full of super-dooper kick-butt heroines, Mercy is both tough and fragile


Now, peeking at my book lists…

Rob Thurman – oh yes, very much Rob Thurman; I adore Cal and Niko so very much, and it almost hurts how much those two brothers love each other

Tracy Grant – Her historical mysteries/romances are complex works full of the past

Liz Williams – but she hasn’t put of a Detective Inspector Chen story since the whole debacle with her publisher

Sergei Lukyanenko – this is problematic, because I love the Night Watch series, but haven’t read the last book, mostly because I don’t want it to break the spell the earlier books have on me, if it isn’t as good

Jeaniene Frost – I also have the final book in the Kat & Bones series sitting unread, waiting for me; Why is there no publication date for the next Vlad book? Why?

John Burdett – oh, hey, look, there’s a new Sonchai book coming out!

Lisa Shearin – her SPI files series is so fun

Maggie Stiefvater – Oh how I am waiting the next Raven Boys book; Waiting, waiting, and yet afraid

C.C. Hunter – I find myself fascinated by this world

Seanan McGurie‘s Toby Day series

M.L. Brennan‘s Generation V series


Authors I deeply wish were still around:

Kate Ross
Agatha Christie (her Miss Marple series and any short stories)
Terry Pratchett


And finally, authors whose series I have fallen behind on or stopped reading entirely:

Steven Brust – it’s not that I gave up on this series, I just got really tired of Vlad not being able to solve the predicament he got himself into, but I AM going to get back into the series, any day now

Nicole Peeler – I read all the Jane True stories as soon as they came out, but her latest book I’ve read a couple chapters of, but can’t get into it; I haven’t given up, but I miss Jane True

Simon R. Green – yet another authors whose closing book to a series I have not yet read. It’s as if I refuse to acknowledge these series are over by refusing to read the final books. Weirdly, I only loved the Nightside series. None of the rest held my interest.

Jim Butcher – I loved the Dresden files until I suddenly and violently didn’t; I liked Harry when he was a working stiff; not so much when he suddenly became a Hero

Alan Bradley – the last book really bothered me, and I feel unsure as to whether I’ll like the direction the series is going

Diana Gabaldon – I really really love Lord John, but have zero interest in reading her Outlander series; I have no idea what this says about me

Written by Michelle at 9:07 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Birthday West Virginia!












Route 50



20140522_Seneca Rocks_018






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Categories: West Virginia  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Where Have All the Female Authors Gone (Answer: Nowhere)

I read Fantasy, Female Writers & The Politics of Influence by Tansy Rayner Roberts and found myself repeatedly thinking, “Yes!” while reading her piece.

I have always read female authors. For a long time it was in some ways an unconscious choice. I wasn’t seeking out books because they were written by women; I picked out stories that looked interesting, and I’m interested in stories about women, and stories about women are written predominantly by women.

So I have been somewhat confused by complaints about the lack of female authors. After all, I’ve been reading and recommending books by women for years!

The first mystery author I fell in love with was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I still have those books, well-worn and beloved, and on the first pages you can find the words “Happy Birthday, Love Mom & Dad.” The second mystery author I fell in love with was Agatha Christie, and I found her all on my own and devoured every single Miss Marple story I could get my hands on (The Poirot mysteries? Not so much. He never really appealed to me.)

The first fantasy book I read was JRR Tolkein‘s The Hobbit, and I literally read the book to pieces.

The Hobbit

This book was also a gift from my parents. (My father also tried to get me to read SF, which he loves, but I could never get into it. (In my life I’ve probably read a double handful of SF books I liked, and more than half of those are by an author I can no longer read, because I can’t tolerate his hateful politics.1))

Although I loved The Hobbit, I didn’t really read fantasy again until I was in college when I received used copies of Davis Eddings2 Belgariad in a Christmas gift exchange. I devoured it, and then a friend recommend Guy Gabriel Kay‘s Fionovar Tapestry. After that I started searching out fantasy books.

What I found first was Mercedes Lackey‘s By the Sword and MZB’s Sword & Sorceress (Volume who knows at this point). From there I found The Mists of Avalon3 and anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and Thieves World. When I’d read an anthology, I’d find new authors to seek out: Mickey Zucker Reichert, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Tanith Lee, Diana Paxson, Jennifer Roberson. And I’d browse the shelves of my favorite used bookstore for more books: Holly Lisle, Robin Hobb, JV Jones, Jane Lindskold, Katherine Kerr, Jane Yolen, Sara Douglass, Morgan Llewelyn.

As I said, I wasn’t seeking out female authors specifically. And I read plenty of books by male authors, some of whom became favorites: Charles de Lint, Steven Brust, Terry Pratchett, Dennis McKiernan.

But there’s a funny thing about those men–they all write female characters with agency. Women who don’t need to be saved.

Because that’s what I was truly looking for in my stories. People who saved the world. People who saved their country or their family. I didn’t want books about people who needed saved, I wanted books about people who saved themselves.

And that’s what I found in those authors.

As is obvious to anyone who has known me for more than about 15 minutes, I’m a tremendous geek, so I have a book blog for keeping track of what I read, and that has allowed me to go back and compare the number of male vs female authors I’ve read.

Also because I’m a tremendous geek, I just went and looked at the authors who appear in my review site. (I just pulled the author lists from the menus and counted the number of men and women, discarding joint efforts.)

To be honest, even knowing my reading preferences, I was surprised at the numbers.


  Male Female
Fantasy Authors 110 188
Mystery Authors 47 55
Non-Fiction Authors 39 29

(I chose Fantasy and mystery because those are my favorite genres, and then checked non-fiction because it should theoretically be relatively gender neutral. 4)

Then I looked back at what I’ve read over the past several years, which includes books outside of these three genres. However, let me clarify something about this table first. When I started tracking author gender, I was curious as to the number of women who were writing under male pseudonyms or initials, and how many women were writing under female names, (I don’t have a breakdown of this by genre, but I generally only see it in fantasy and mysteries) which is why I have two different totals for female authors.


























Female with Female Name













Female Total 5













NOTE: These totals are not going to equal 100%, because I have removed data for anthologies and jointly written books 6 to reduce the number overload looking at the table.

So why all the complaints about the dearth of female authors, when there are lots of female authors out there?

Because, IMO, female authors are marginalized.

When you have male members of SFWA constantly belittling women and a campaign to make sure that award balloting goes to white males–who wants to be associated with that kind of nastiness? When you have female attendees of SFF cons suffering harassment and sometimes even abuse–why spend your money and attention with people who have made it clear they don’t want you?

And then there’s the question of why is it that female readers will read male authors, but the reverse quite frequently is not true?

Part of the problem, perhaps, goes back to something I noted earlier: I wanted to read books about people who saved themselves, not people who had to be saved by others. This is why for decades I avoided reading romance novels. I’d been loaned a couple in high school and (aside from all the boinking) I really wasn’t interested in women who needed to find a husband (which is the sub-genre of romance I was loaned). So I avoided romance, because that’s what I assumed it was full of. (Well, plus the boinking. “Can we skip the kissing parts?”)

I didn’t want to read about a happily ever after! I wanted sword fights! I wanted escapes on horseback! I wanted magic duels!

My discovery of the Harlequin Imprint Luna changed everything.

There you go, that’s the cover that Changed Everything for me. (That cover STILL makes me swoony, it’s so beautiful.) I HAD to read that story, and I desperately hoped that the woman in the story was exactly like the model on the cover. (She was!)

Romance novels COULD have heroines who rescued themselves!

Yes, some of the stories had boinking–but not all of them! And the boinking was (for the most part) quite secondary to the adventure. Plus, I realized that I could just skip over all the boinking! (And sometimes I didn’t even BOTHER to skip the boinking! Because sometimes there was interesting dialog and discovery there! Like in real life!) Here were all these stories I really had no clue existed! My wallet panicked! (With good reason.)

And thus we get back to the heart of the matter: why are some people so adamantly opposed to female and minority writers being classified as SFF authors? Why are so many women made to feel like they aren’t allowed to be a part of the SFF community?

Why the hell does the term “Fake Geek Girl” even EXIST?

It’s like SFF fandom is full of hipsters who refuse to like anything once it’s popular. Who refuse to believe that something can be both good and popular at the same time–that once “normal” people like something, it’s no longer awesome. That once girls and relationships are let into the clubhouse, everything is RUINED. (It’s not like there isn’t kissing in SFF, it just seems that only the captain Kirk love ’em and leave ‘en kind of kissing is tolerated.)

Why has the SFF community seemingly not progressed past “Far Beyond the Stars“?

Is there anything to be done? Many women are joining SFWA, despite being made to feel unwelcome by a minority of members, and doing their part to change things from the inside. Many men (Jim C. Hines and John Scalzi come immediately to mind) are standing up and trying to make SFF more inclusive, and pointing out when things are wrong and or ridiculous with the SFF ecosystem.

You can take the title of this post, “Where Have All the Female Authors Gone (Answer: Nowhere)” in two ways. Unfortunately, I think it probably should be taken both ways. Women are still writing, but they’re also still stymied on their way to success as SFF authors.


1 Yes, of course Orson Scott Card.
2 Interestingly, later books had both David & Leigh Eddings names on the cover, once David Eddings had enough pull to put on the cover what he said reflected the authorship all along.
3 Let’s not talk about how problematic I now find MZB. Let’s just accept that Mists was a hugely influential book for me, and move on.
4 Of course it’s not gender neutral. If it weren’t for the number of cookbooks I’ve read, the male:female ratio would be skewed even further in favor of men, because I love reading about science and religion and history, and despite my love of Karen Armstrong and Mary Roach, they are less common than male authors in those areas
5 Including pseudonyms and initials
6 Because only Davis Eddings’ name was on the cover, when I re-read The Belgariad and Mallorean it counts as 10 books in the male column instead of the Joint authorship column. I’m not sure this wasn’t an error on my part.

Written by Michelle at 5:51 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hiking WV: Chief Logan State Park

Due to the issues we had at Cabwaylingo, we didn’t have as much time as we’d wanted for Chief Logan State Park.

Location: Chief Logan State Park
Trails: Cliffside, Waterfall (partial) Trails
Distance: 2.5 miles (including roads between trails)
Elevation: 248 feet

The park has an interesting history, as it was built upon old mine sites, and like several other parks/forests in the state, the remains of mining operations can be seen.

There is also a WV history museum that is free to visit, and which includes items from mine history and a Conestoga wagon. (Also, it is air conditioned, which was a nice break between trails.)

No pictures, sorry!

Written by Michelle at 11:00 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,State Parks,West Virginia  
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