Travel Feed

Driving around Vermont, Thinking


photo by Tony Hisgett

Friday and Saturday, I spent a lot of time driving around Vermont. I also spent a lot of time thinking while driving. I was thinking about whether to expand on my most recent blog post and what it is safe to say. These were the most beautiful drives I have ever taken in Vermont.

The leaves were at peak and the air was still, so there were many reflections. (Unfortunatly, I didn't stop to take pictures.)

Continue reading "Driving around Vermont, Thinking" »

An unexpected day in Boston

The trip to California was exciting and its hard to know where to start. We launched Hieroglyph on September 10th in Silicon Valley to a very enthusiastic reception. We did authors@google at lunchtime and then had a sold out panel discussion at Kepler's in Menlo Park. Our event in LA was also sold out.

Here I am in the cab on the way to LAX early yesterday morning. (Though not early enough!)


I had an unexpected overnight in Boston because I missed my connecting flight. So I did the obvious thing: I went to bookstores.

At the Brookline Booksmith, not only did they have Hieroglyph on the regular shelves in the SF section, the also had a pile of them towards the front with some very interesting books.


Then we went to the Harvard Bookstore where they were displayed by the cash register. I signed a pile of them. I also stopped in at the Harvard Coop, where they had some.


(You can tell this was fun!) Special thanks to mystery writer Sarah Smith for putting me up last night, and to Mark Berstein, Eastgate Systems Chief Scientist, for driving me around to book stores and feeding me brunch, and then delivering me to the airport, and also to Ted Cornell for getting my kids off to school this morning and picking me up at the Plattsburgh Airport.

There are many more people I need to thank. That list will be long.

HIEROGLYPH Tour Schedule

ImageThe Hieroglyph tour may be coming to your town. Here are the tour dates so far. Watch this space. I will post more dates.

  • September 10: Menlo Park, CA, Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real, 7:30 PM. Order tickets online. Techno-optimism: Neal Stephenson and friends. Panelists include Neal Stephenson, Annalee Newitz, Rudy Rucker, Keith Hjelmstad, Charlie Jane Anders and editors Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer.
  • September 15: Los Angeles, Zocalo Public Square at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 S. Grand Ave., 7:30 PM. Can Science Fiction Revolutionize Science? Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson and Arizona State University physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, both of whom contributed to the new anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, visit Zócalo to discuss whether science fiction can truly change contemporary science, and what the alternative futures we imagine mean for present-day innovation. Make a reservation.
  • September 30, New York City: Project Hieroglyph: Book Launch and Celebration sponsored by Tumblr and ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, featuring Madeline Ashby & Elizabeth Bear, Tuesday, September 30, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The event is free, but preregistration on Eventbrite is required.
  • October 2, Washinton, DCCan We Imagine Our Way to a Better Future? It’s 2014 and we have no flying cars, no Mars colonies, no needleless injections, and yet plenty of smartphone dating apps. Is our science fiction to blame if we find today’s science and technology less than dazzling? Inspired by Neal Stephenson’s 2011 article, “Innovation Starvation,” in which he argues that science fiction is failing to supply our scientists and engineers with inspiration, and the new anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, this event will explore a more ambitious narrative about what’s coming. From the tales we tell about robots and drones, to the narratives on the cutting edge of neuroscience, to society’s view of its most intractable problems, we need to begin telling a new set of stories about ourselves and the future. URL TBA.
  • October 3-5, Ottawa: Can-Con - Kathryn Cramer & Madeline Ashby.
  • October 22, Phoenix, Arizona: Changing Hands Bookstore, 7PM at the Cresent Ballroom. Tickets, which require a book purchase, required for admission. Visit the Changing Hands website for more information and to purchase tickets. Project Hieroglyph science fiction authors, scientists, engineers, and other experts share their ambitious, optimistic visions of the near future. Presenters will include science fiction author and essayist Madeline Ashby (Machine Dynasty series), Aurora Award winner Karl Schroeder (Lockstep), Clarke Award finalist Kathleen Ann Goonan (Queen City Jazz), Zygote Games founder James L. Cambias (A Darkling Sea), acclaimed cosmologist and astrobiologist Paul Davies (The Eerie Silence), science fiction and fantasy anthologist Kathryn Cramer (Year’s Best SF), ASU Center for Science and the Imagination director Ed Finn, and legendary Locus, Nebula, and Hugo award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson (2312 and Red Mars). 
  • October 26, SeattleNeal Stephenson and Cory Doctorow: Reigniting Society’s Ambition with Science Fiction. Tickets available here.

More events TBA.

a few nice words about Tokyo Asian Cuisine of West Springfield, MA

One thing I learned this weekend is that it is rather difficult to find a good restaurant when crossing Massachusetts on the Mass Pike in the area between the western border of Massachusetts and where the Mass Pike meets Interstate 84. (The kids and I drove round trip from Westport, NY to Dennis, MA for a memorial service for a relative of my husband's.)

After some driving around at other exists trying to find someplace that wasn't a McDonalds, going both directions, we ended up at Tokyo Asian Cuisine at 1152 Riverdale Street, West Springfield, MA. The food was great and the staff was really nice. It made our trip much better going both directions. It's near exit 4 off the Mass Pike. Their phone number is 413-788-7788.

Not only do they have pretty good sushi and other Japanese food, but some of the menu items are particularly creatively prepared. (I ordered one of  their specialty rolls, and it was great!)

Anticipation/Worldcon travel advice: Exit 31 on the Northway, the Elizabethtown/Westport exit

For those driving to the Montreal WorldCon up 87 (aka the Northway), I suggest you make time for a stop over at exit 31, the Westport-Elizabethtown exit. Both Westport and Elizabethtown are 4 miles off the Northway. Also, if you are taking Amtrak to the WorldCon, Westport has an Amtrack station. An over-night stop-over should not be hard to arrange. (The Westport Hotel is next door to the train station.)

Westport map

David Hartwell and I are in process of opening a bookstore at 10 Champlain Avenue in Westport, which will be open by chance and appointment. To make arrangements to view our stock, call me at on my cell phone at 914-837-7623; the house number is 518-962-2346, but we lack an answering machine on that line. (Admit it: you have been harboring the secret desire to shop David Hartwell's book collection, right?) Come see our futuristic new location!

antique vehicles outside 10 Champlain

yes, let's found a bookstore in the middle of an economic downturn!

Caption: "yes, let's found a bookstore in the middle of an economic downturn!"

getting organized at 10 Champlain Avenue

I have prepared an elaborate travel information site about Westport with complete lodging and dining information in the sidebars. Westport is a great place. I can't say enough good about it.

The Inn on the Library Lawn has a book store, and even has rooms named for some of your favorite authors. Stay in the Peter Beagle room:


. . . or the J.R.R. Tolkien Room


. . . or if you dare, in the Edgar Allen Poe room!

There are many other fine places to stay in Westport, listed on my other site

I also highly recommend the B&B Stoneleigh in Elizabethtown, a great old stone mansion converted to a B&B. Serious bibliophiles might want to make an adavnce arrangement to visit L. W. Currey's which is walking distance from Stoneleigh. (Currey's is not an open shop, but he has a truly amazing stock of science fiction & fantasy, so call first to make an appointment. David Hartwell's high-end books are offered for sale via L.W. Currey.)

Do stop at exit 31 if you have the time.

Peter on the Shore

PS: If you're heading for the WorldCon by boat, we also have a very nice marina here in Westport!

A response to Christopher Elliott's "Should kids be banned from first class?"

Angel As the opening to an article entitled, "Should kids be banned from first class?" Christopher Elliott (writing for Tribune Media Services) begins by explaining that drugging his toddler worked out badly the time he and his wife got a first class upgrade.

I think I'll begin by saying that I don't think I've ever actually ridden first class on a plane, though I was once given a business class upgrade on a flight to Japan. The larger seat was uncomfortable as it seemed to be constructed for a large man, rather than someone of my proportions.

Elliott's article contains such amazing passages as:

One of the most persuasive arguments for limiting first class to adults is that the premium cabin is essentially an adult product. Which is to say, it's difficult for a youngster to appreciate a wine list or a gourmet meal. It's just no place for kids. Plus, it's pricey -- even if you're using miles to upgrade.

Flying these days is such an ordeal that I avoid it whenever possible. On a recent trip to California, it couldn't be avoided since we were traveling coast to coast. My first question when my husband booked the tickets was "They're going to feed us, right?" He replied that the tickets seemed to suggest they were giving us dinner. After many delays, the plane finally left the gate and the kids and I instantly fell asleep and missed the food service. Afterwards, my husband told me that we were lucky; that the food had been some awful plastic cheese enchilada thing that he regretted having eaten. 

When we finally made it to our hotel at 3AM (6AM NY time), my 6 year-old daughter said "But we haven't had dinner yet." I said, "Go to sleep. It's almost breakfast time."

It seems to me that the issue is not whether children who fly are worthy of "a gourmet meal," but rather that they are entitled (like to rest of us) to eat and to be provided with edible food. Also, all passengers behave better when fed adequately on a regular schedule.

Airlines may market first class tickets as a luxury product, but 21st century flying on commerical flights is not luxurious. Eliot partakes of this marketing kool aid:

Like a five-star restaurant or a luxury resort, the first-class cabin is not particularly welcoming to young fliers. Or, for that matter, their parents.

Elliot, you're being had! First of all, the rich have children, too, and five-star restaurants and luxury resorts can be quite welcoming indeed to families with children. But more importantly, the privilege you are being sold when you buy into a first class ticket is a ride that only slightly less resembles a ride in a greyhound bus -- PLUS it comes with a really hefty sense of entitlement, something which costs the airline nothing.

Flying these days is a pretty degrading experience no matter how much you paid for your ticket. Some people pay for an upgraded ticket in order to be less degraded. Scapegoating children and their parents for the need for this extra expense seems to me foolish.

(Image swiped from the Retired Greyhound Trust.)

Northway Border Patrol Check

This weekend there was a Border Patrol checkpoint set up on southbound I-87 near North Hudson. While we did stop at the stop-sign, a Border Patrol officer waved us through over his shoulder, since they officers were busy searching the van of people more swarthy than ourselves. We've driven through there a couple of times in the past year when the checkpoint was in operation. At least once, I think I'd mistaken them for cops checking inspection stickers. According to the New York Times, this checkpoint is a post 9/11 innovation.

Being up in the Adirondacks is mostly a relief from the current Paranoia Economy in which being hassled on a daily basis is a bizarre amenity that we are all expected to pay extra and be grateful for. This kind Border Patrol of activity is one of the few signs of it up there.

After going through the check point, David and I had a long discussion of whether the Border Patrol check point was a good thing. He said it was good that they were watching for smugglers. I said border guards belong at borders, not 74 miles south. Last time I checked (and it was a couple of decades ago), border guards have additional powers that regular cops don't.

In the early 1980s, I took a Washington State Ferry to the San Juan Islands with my then-husband, a German citizen. We took a ferry back from Orcas Island that had a previous stop in Canada. When we disembarked at Anacortes, we had to go through customs even though we'd never left the US, which I found disconcerting, especially since the only ID I had on me was a Seattle Public Library card. I don't remember whether my husband had his passport on him, or just his driver's license.

My husband was a heavy smoker and so we had a very full ashtray. I remember looking on with some alarm as the Border Patrol officer leaned into our car and poked her gloved finger through the ashtray; lucky for us, there was nothing there but tobacco ashes and cigarette butts. I remember the cigarette butts recoiling like little springs and she pushed her finger though them; I'd never seen anyone stick their finger into a bunch of cigarette butts before. I also remember my horrified realization that if she weren't a customs officer, she would have needed a warrant for that. It would have been an illegal search except for those extra powers that the INS has.

So I wasn't giving David any ground: Customs should do its work at the border unless carrying out a specific inspection. If there is criminal activity on the Interstate Highways to be dealt with, regular highway patrol cops should be sufficient. You have fewer civil rights when dealing with the border patrol; and of course the Border Patrol have real cops on hand in case they happen across anything outside their jurisdiction.

So this morning, I Googled I-87 and Border Patrol, and I discovered a whole different reason to object to that check point: sometimes people get killed there. Apparently, there were a couple of really bad accidents there in 2004 because the lines got long and big semis weren't getting enough advance notice of the checkpoint, so great big trucks were occasionally rear-ending the line.

Four years ago, Senator Schumer's officer sent out a press release about fatalities at the check-point: SCHUMER: SECOND MAJOR ACCIDENT THIS YEAR WARRANTS FEDERAL INVESTIGATION OF I-87 CHECKPOINT:

US Senator Charles E. Schumer today said that Sunday night's fatal auto accident at the I-87 North Hudson Border Patrol checkpoint, the second major one at the checkpoint in seven months, should warrant a federal investigation to determine whether the checkpoint is safe as currently constituted. With some drivers saying that the checkpoint appears abruptly with too little warning, Schumer urged the federal Bureau of Border and Transportation Security to come to New York and examine the checkpoint.

"When you have not one but two major accidents at the same checkpoint in a span of seven months, it's a tragedy and a wakeup call," Schumer said. "The federal government needs to look at this checkpoint to make sure that it's as safe as it can be - and if there are changes that can be made to prevent future accidents from occurring, they need to be made without delay."

Four people were killed Sunday when a tractor-trailer truck slammed into vehicles waiting at the North Hudson checkpoint. A truck driver was approaching the checkpoint when he ran into a line of cars stopped on I-87 roughly a quarter mile before the stop. On impact, the first vehicle burst into flames and killed the three people inside. The truck then hit a pickup truck whose driver tried to maneuver out of the way and was released from the hospital with a ruptured eardrum. The truck also hit a pickup pulling a camper, which burst into flames and killed its driver.

The Border Patrol incidents make one blogger's list of 10 Deadliest Accidents in the Adirondack Mountain Region. Ouch. Never mind possible violations of our civil right, what I should have maybe been worrying about is that people get killed there. Better Living Through Paranoia. (Who knew that driving down I-87 past North Hudson was one of the most dangerous things one could do in the Adirondacks?)

After mostly not encountering the daily hassles of the Paranoia Economy this summer, going through the check point felt oddly like clearing customs back into my Westchester County life, in which paranoia is something I'm supposed to be thankful for.

Confluence Pix

I've created a Flickr photoset for our Confluence photos  and will add more later. Here is the scene so far:

Mike Walsh sells books

Mike Walsh sells books in the Dealer's Room. (Didin't I see him last weekend?)

panel: Is the Internet Essentially Fungal?

Panel: Is the Internet Essentially Fungal? with Kathryn Cramer, Geoff Landis, James Morrow, Mary Turzillo

JJ presides over the beer tasting

JJ presides over the Beer Tasting. (Yummy!)

Charlie Oberndorf & Jim Morrow

Charles Oberndorf & James Morrow at dinner on the terrace.

Readercon Pix & Others

so many books, so little time!

I have posted our photos from Readercon, which was last weekend, as well as our photos from the NYRSF 20th Anniversary Party the weekend before.

NYRSF party

(Is Donald gesturing, or is that air guitar?)

Now, I am off to Confluence in Pittsburgh, where I will be  P. Schuyler Miller Critic Guest of Honor. Wheee! (Be there or be sqaure!)


(After that, I'm going back to the Adirondacks to rise with the sun and plant pretty flowers in the mountains.)

Staying over with the woman who broke Isaac Asimov's heart.

Last night we stayed over in a B&B in a quaint old house in New Castle, Delaware. At breakfast, we noticed a copy of Isaac Asimov's memoirs in the dining room. David remarked upon this, and our hostess, a pleasant lady of advanced age, said she had known Isaac and that he was a major influence on her life, and that she was in the book. The chapter of Asimov's memoirs entitled "Heartbreak" is about her.

After breakfast, I took the kids out to the B&B's rather nice gardens, adjacent the waterfront park in New Castle, and David and our hostess exchanged Asimov stories. Apparently, Asimov spoke highly of her to Robert A. Heinlein, who subsequently recruited her into the Navy in Philadelphia.


Liz and Peter with a statue in the garden.

Car Fire on Rt. 3 Near Kingston, Massachusetts

We were up at the beach at Fieldston, in Marshfield, Massachusetts over the weekend staying in a beach motel. We drove home this afternoon, rather than braving the full-scale 4th of July Cape traffic later. We had a bad drive up to Massachusetts on Friday: it took 3 hours to drive across Danbury.

So today when we set out and almost immediately got into a traffic jam we were pretty worried. The cause of the congestion turned out to be a car fire, of which I got a pretty good picture:

Car Fire on Rt. 3 near Duxbury, MA

Luckily, we were only delayed about 15 minutes. The Kingston Fire Department was pretty efficient about putting out the fire.

Meanwhile, there was the usual problem of people with entitlement issues feeling that they have the right to access the shoulder of the road in the event of an emergency, even if it means that they block emergency vehicles. This guy was angling for a shortcut, but ended up blocking a cop car for a minute.


I leaned rather conspicuously out my car window and took a picture of his license plate.