The Black Hole

Yesterday, took a trip up to The Black Hole of Los Alamos.

I first heard about it over a year ago from my co-worker, a native of Los Alamos. It all had to do with her new car getting scraped while parked out on the road and involved a neighbor having stolen some sort of shell casing from The Black Hole, which he accidentally smashed into her car. Mentions of it popped up again and again and then, a couple weeks back, we heard stories from Jamie and Betsy about heading up there. Decided to check it out for ourselves.

It's kind of on the other side of Los Alamos in a space formerly occupied by a supermarket. Now, it's just taken over — inside and out — by salvage, mostly from the Lab.

You can get an idea of the scope from this satellite image from Google Maps.

Part of what got Jamie up there was this piece, which was under consideration for inclusion in Flower Power. Unfortunately, it wasn't feasible to transport the piece.

We were greeting by the guy minding the store and headed in.

And it really is just packed with stuff. Lab equipment. Office supplies. Old VCRs. Helmets. Keyboards. Cables. Fans. Film. 8mm cameras. Scientific…things. It was a lot of fun prowling around and just checking things out. Though cold. No heat in the building and though it was sunny, probably at least 10° colder inside. (Click for larger).


We kicked around outside for a bit (and warmed up), then headed on our way.

Though it was a recent find for us, we didn't uncover some real unknown. There's been plenty written and filmed about The Black Hole (including this account from a former summer employee) and its founder Ed Grothus and his activism. Following the links in this post and Googling some will give you a more comprehensive overview; Ed was there, but is not well, so he wasn't able to give us the multi-hour talk and tour that most first-timers get.

We didn't leave empty handed. Monica and I had split up to wander inside. Turns out that, independently, we had zeroed in on the same thing: a beautiful, well-constructed and maintained crash numbering stamp. Crash numbering is numbering printed material in sequence; the stamp has settings for consecutive, duplicate, and triplicate and advances the numbers after 1, 2, or 3 impressions. It's a solid, smooth little piece of machinery.

Also picked up another stamp, presumably for photos produced at LASL (the old name for the labs).


It's True

Pete sent along this video from Phoenix, noting "Bram's got skills!"

I do.


Happy Valunumtimes!

I've posted some new stuff over at chamisa, including this one:

(Mom and Oma sent me the same Valentine's Day card!)

Because Valunumtimes is serious times.


The CCC in New Mexico

Over lunch today, headed next door (me) and down from Museum Hill (Monica) to the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library for their "Brainpower & Brownbags" series. David, Monica's creative director and a historian, gave a talk on "The New Deal Legacy: The Civilian Conservation Corps in New Mexico."

It was a short presentation, so he could only give a brief overview of the CCC, but he showed some of the projects they undertook in New Mexico, including Bandelier and Hyde Park. He also showed some of what camp life was like and how the CCC was run, including some of its principles and the controversies surrounding it. The presentation concluded with a combination/condensation of a couple recruiting-type movies.

Pretty amazing to consider what was accomplished in those years, how the construction continues to have such an impact on our access to and enjoyment of the outdoors. On a long weekend in Shenandoah National Park a few years back, we got a great introduction to the CCC and how they shaped the land there and the affect they hand on the community.

And because we were out in the audience, David also made reference to the CCC camp that was located in what became Casa Solana — the one that was converted to a Japanese internment camp.

The building used to house the main library, and it's a small, but nice and open, space. Still got a card catalog — and a great tile display behind the counter, as well as the librarian's Homies collection (click for larger).



Skiing the Caldera

After our trip last fall to the Valles Caldera, when we learned more about their cross-country skiing opportunities, been waiting for an opportunity to go skiing with Jorge again and check it out in the snow.

I think the snow that we received around Christmas has been lingering up there, but a snowstorm at the beginning of the week dropped a couple more inches around Los Alamos. So we figured this would be a weekend to go. Monica planned to come along, along our coworker (and part owner of the comic shop) Kevin, and his girlfriend Katie. That's them, left to right, with Jorge at the far right.

I'm still using the skis I got in high school, featuring the highest tech of 1985. They're really designed for skiing in tracks, long and thin. Monica, Kevin, and Katie all had to rent skis, so I found a few places in town that rented and passed along the info. Monica went to pick hers up after work on Friday, I thought I'd have to meet her there with the hatchback — the skis being as tall as you standing with your arm upraised.

She called to let me know that I wouldn't have to meet her. When I got home and looked at the skis, I did a double-take. They looked like downhill. They're wide, they have an edge, they're shaped. They were only about as tall as she is. She assured me that they were cross-country and had some hiking-style boots that clipped in to prove it. That still gave me worries in the middle of the night, that they guy at the shop didn't know what he was doing with cross-country skis and that the going would be even tougher.

But when everyone gathered at our place (at 7:30 on Saturday), Kevin and Katie's skis were similar. And it turns out, talking to other skiers later, that's where the technology has gone. Jorge and I were out on our 20+-year-old skis and everyone else was on the new, shorter, wider, fancier ones.

But that was all to come later.

We made it to the gate of the road that leads the 2 miles into the Caldera just before 9:00, when it was due to open. A pickup truck sat on the other side, among the giant piles of snow. Even heading up out of Los Alamos, the snow looked pretty sparse, but it soon became clear that wouldn't be a problem in the Caldera. In fact the, problem was that they just started clearing all the snow, the road down was only plowed one lane wide. The guy in the truck looked at the Golf and declared that wasn't going down the road. We had Jorge's 4WD pickup, but there was still all kinds of doubt — that the road would be opened to anyone, that the parking lot would be cleared, that the trails would be groomed. It all looked … well, confusing, but then the supervisor returned up the road to get his "blade" and announced that we could get in if we wanted. We think. As I said, it was all kind of confusing.

Dropped the Golf at a pulloff further back, and piled into the back of Jorge's truck for the trip down, following the "blade" and the septic tank guys.

So we were the first skiers to get there, followed quickly by a few others. Took us a little while to get our gear on, decide what layers to wear, and get going. By then, the snowmobile had made it out on to the Cerro La Jara trail, which loops around a hill by the visitors center. The start was a bit slow, everyone getting the feel (again), the constant stopping to readjust layers (it was sunny and probably hit 40°), and brief blister crisis.

Jorge, out front, as he usually was.

The trail was packed down and, even on the skinny skis, pretty good going. We would all kind of go at our own paces, then pause and meet up and socialize, then go on our way again. The 2-or-so-mile loop took us about an hour-and-a-half with all that. Gave some pretty tremendous views, and really felt like it put you in the middle of the snowy expanse.

(Click for larger


We wrapped that up, had some snacks, and headed off again.

Started by just going into the fields (which was permitted, but ungroomed). We circled around gradually and picked up a groomed trail for what we figure was about a four-mile trip. Took us out more into the open center of the caldera.

Wait. Voice mail … and, there's plumbing problems at the comic shop, but the landlady's on it. OK, back to the skiing.


The second part had some good stretches, more flat or slightly inclined and straight that made it possible to get a good rhythm going, to just be able to glide along well and really move.

The snow was, probably, around 3 feet deep on average. But the wind made for dramatic variation; we heard from another skier who went off the trail that there was grass poking through the snow. At one point, we looped around by a snowdrift about 5 feet above us, formed only by the whirling wind.

And that wind was picking up on the last way back, making for some slow going as we were getting tired out. Wrapped up 1:30-ish and piled back into the truck for the ride back up the road (still being cleared) and to the waiting Golf.


Still Here

So, then, we returned from the Phoenix Cactus Comicon on Sunday night to two answering machine messages. Dori was concerned that we were OK, since there hadn't been any posts recently. And M+D were looking to catch up, but figured that we were out doing something to blog about (aren't you keeping an eye on the Raised By Squirrels blog, too?).

We're still here. We're doing fine. January was just . . . well, just kind of was. It was dark. It was cold, though there was no more snow (but we still have better-than-expected snowpack). There was cleaning, there was just spending time inside. Not much to blog about.

The biggest news was the arrival of our comfy chairs for the fireplace room.

It may not be that exciting, but it's meant that we've been able to spend a couple evenings parked in front of the fire, with a stack of reading. In fact, that's where this blog entry is coming from now.

Last Friday morning, we headed to Albuquerque to catch the flight to Phoenix. With KSFR's stronger signal, we were able to catch the Santa Fe Radio Café on the trip, where we were alerted to Karl Moffat's blog and his stories about traveling around our state.

Like last year, we went to the con with Pete and Paul.


Originally, we had booked flights later in the day, in time to make it for setup and preview night at the show, but then decided, "let's take the whole day." That got us into Phoenix before noon. With time to make it to Ikea. Paul and his wife Beth had actually gone a road trip a few weeks back to Phoenix and to Ikea for the first time. But that just left him wanting more.

We did lunch there, and then kicked around the store for a bit, picking up a few things and scoping out some more. We would up in a cool little alternative kind of shopping plaza to visit a comic shop (whose name I'm not going to mention now, 'cause they took our books with the promise of seeing us at the show and we haven't heard back yet). Stopped by the terrific, brand-new Cartel Coffee Lab and a record (!) store. Then, an ill-fated trip to try and get more copies of Pete and Paul's comic printed. We checked in the hotel and made it just in time to set up the 7000 BC table.

Past Phoenix shows have been moderately successful, but a fun time. There's a good vibe at the show and the crowd, although not necessarily into indie comics, is positive. Pete and Paul are great to travel with and we always enjoy ourselves and welcome the break.

We headed off to Kinkos to get more copies of their book on Saturday morning, and still made it to the show just before it opened. As these things are, it was a blur. Engaging people walking by, talking to fellow creators, taking breaks and hitting the floor ourselves. Jamie arrived in the afternoon, on the way back from a trip to San Francisco. It passed in a fun whirlwind, though we were feeling the long day by the end. Dinner out, and then back for a self-publishing panel that didn't pass on a lot that was new, but got us all jazzed up and talking about better ways to sell.

Sunday is, traditionally, a dramatically slower day. At a con, the second day always is. But often, it seems necessary to do a two-day show to get people to take the one day more seriously. We walked in that morning, ready to go and determined to make more sales. We annexed a table that a neighbor one down had abdicated, and set the guys up doing sketches. It was raining and, though we've heard that rain drives Arizonans inside, I think that we got a fair number because of the weather. In any event, we ended Saturday an appreciable amount ahead of previous cons, but by the time we had to head out to catch our flight before the end of the show, we'd doubled our sales from last year.

We've returned to some mild weather, but a morning or two of painfully cold temperatures. Last night, we went to the opening of an exhibit Monica worked on and then, with a few co-workers, down the street to Manitou Galleires (notable for being the location where military personnel for the Manhattan Project checked in) for their opening, featuring a chocolate and wine pairing by Chocolatesmith. Then on to pizza.

Phoenix photos, except for the one of Pete, by Pete.