Samson R21

Posted: 15th January 2018 by Cheap in Filmmaking, Technology
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I have a gig to record sound for a short film.  This one is unusual in that all of the actors will be speaking into visible microphones (a PA system in an auditorium).  I’ve been asked to supply microphones that will be used simultaneously as props and to record the dialog.  I had a few handheld dynamic vocal mics, but none that match.  In an effort to avoid a mishmash of microphones, I figured I would buy a second and perhaps a third Shure SM58.  However, I stumbled across the Samson R21.  After reading and listening to some reviews, I decided to buy some and give them a try.  I will admit, this decision was motivated by cost.

Samson R21, Shure SM58

Samson R21, Shure SM58

When they arrived, I made some recordings for a side-by-side comparison.  I was surprised how similar they sounded.  I’ve compared other handheld dynamic vocal mics, and they have all had very distinguishable personalities.  Even the SM57 sounds different from the SM58, even though internally they are basically the same microphone.  However, the R21 sounds almost identical to the SM58.  Clearly, Samson made an effort to duplicate the sound, and they have succeeded quite brilliantly.  In a side-by-side comparison, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one is which — with one exception: plosives.

Both microphones have a built-in windscreen / pop filter.  The one on the SM58 works reasonably well.  The one on the R21 does not.  The R21 picks up an enormous amount of plosive, and it rumbles quite a bit just from breathing.  And this was an in-studio speaking test; imagine a heavy-breathing performer on stage.  I assume the difference is mainly caused by the distance from the inside of the windscreen to the front of the microphone element.  The R21’s element is right up inside the windscreen, while the SM58’s is set low, in basically the middle of the cage.  I was able to record with the microphone offset to the side, out of line with my plosives, and produced much better results.  However, I can’t rely on this technique for my application.  For me, this one difference is a deal-breaker.

It seems that most people don’t realize that the Samson R21S is a different model of the same microphone, but with an On/Off switch.  A switch may sound like a good idea, but in practice it only creates trouble.  Users are always switching it off, which then confounds the next person to pick up the microphone.  In such situations, the audio engineer is helpless to assist, except to gesticulate in an attention-grabbing but somehow non-insulting manner that communicates the necessity of having the mic switched on.  The only handheld microphone I own with a switch is the Sennheiser MD 431 II, which can be mechanically disabled.

Aside from all that, the existing reviews seem to be fairly complete.  The R21 weighs much less than an SM58.  You shouldn’t expect the R21 to survive being used as a hammer or dropped for effect.

Dead Electronics

Posted: 14th January 2018 by Cheap in Camping, Fiction, Filmmaking, Hiking, Technology
  • I have driven the highway through Great Smoky Mountains National Park again.  This last time, the trees on the mountains were frosted white, and there was a smoky cloud hanging over the mountains.  This has reaffirmed my goal of backpacking this park, which I plan to do during the summer of 2019.  That means this year I need to get some solid backpacking experience during weekends in Missouri, and I need to be maintaining and improving my physical fitness for basically the next eighteen months.
  • I managed to finish Oathbringer on the last day of the year.  It was really very good, but of course long.
  • Now that my workload has lightened up, I’m finding opportunities to get back into filmmaking.  I’ve agreed to two nights of recording sound for a film next weekend.  I’m skeptical of the production for a variety of reasons, but even a bad gig will be good for me, if for no other reason than that I have equipment I haven’t used on a film yet.  I’m also in talks with another producer who is aiming for late February.  That one is unusual because all of the dialogue will be spoken into visible prop mics, and he wants to take all of the audio directly from them.  I also have half an idea for a short film script, and I’m rolling it around in my head trying to make something of it.
  • Ugh.  The curse of bad fiction.  I tried, briefly, to read The Aeronaut’s Windless, by Jim Butcher.  It’s like he’s writing for tweens.  His characters are cliché and one-dimensional, and his dialogue is stunningly obvious.  And I assume he ripped off all the airship and steampunk business.  I tried to keep going, but I just can’t do it.  His work is popular, but interesting concepts are evidently just not enough for me.
  • To take a break from that, I started reading Night Watch, by Sergei Lukyanekno.  It is the first in a series of urban fantasy novels set in Moscow from twenty years ago.  I’m not ready to call this bad fiction, but the author’s style is unsettling.  It is all action and no repose.  There is no internal reflection and little of the protagonist’s thoughts.  The character launches into explanation and action with no hesitation or deliberation.  Maybe Russians are like that, but I think not.  I guess we’ll see how long I can take that.
  • I have fairly well decided where I’m going for my next two vacations.  A beach vacation on the Padre Island National Seashore this spring, and summer camping roadtrip east to West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.  I’m planning the specifics, but neither one of them should be too challenging.
  • My computer was dead this morning (which turned out to be a failed motherboard), and in the process of troubleshooting I discovered that my digital multimeter was also dead.  It’s time to finally get myself a good one.  The one that just died was a fairly basic Radio Shack model that I bought about 23 years ago to replace the one before it that got crushed by a terminal server that fell off a rack (after bouncing off my head).  I have worked with several electronics people who all swore by their Fluke meters, and I have considered upgrading, and now I have a good excuse.  I’ve been researching them online, and I’m glad I did, because I’m fairly certain I have chosen just the right one (the Fluke 177).  This process has made me realize that I have been working in the dark with the electronics gadgets with which I’ve been experimenting because of the limitations of my meter.

The Star Trek Mirror Universe Trope

Posted: 9th January 2018 by Cheap in Fiction, Television

[Warning: Contains Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery]

It is an old philosophical concept, and later a theory in quantum mechanics, that every choice creates another universe in which the alternative possibility is true.  Not a very practical idea, but it does tend to let the imagination loose.  This was relatively new science in 1967 when TOS episode Mirror, Mirror aired.  In it, Kirk and others find themselves trapped in an alternate reality, where the Federation is replaced by a totalitarian regime known as the Terran Empire driven by individuals with murderous ambition.

Evil Spock in the Mirror Universe

Evil Spock in the Mirror Universe

Read the rest of this entry »

November-December

Posted: 20th December 2017 by Cheap in Camping, Fiction, Hunting, Technology
  • My hunting trip was successful.  On my fifth day out there, I found a spot that was so ideal for attracting deer, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.  I took a doe, shot through the heart, leaving a Quintin Tarantino blood trail.  Next year, if I hunt that spot, I think I will wait for a buck.  I dropped off my deer at the processor on a Monday morning, and they called me the following afternoon to tell me it was ready.  It’s in my freezer, and I haven’t tried any yet.  Oh, and I was finally able to take some game with my custom .358 WSSM.
  • I definitely like my new Eureka K-2 XT tent.  As intended, there was plenty of room for me and all my gear.  There was some strange weather resulting in some strong, gusty winds, and the tent just laughed at it.  Some light rain, which was not a problem.  Who knows if I will ever get to experience snow on the thing.  Ventilation was good so condensation was easy to control.  I’m very happy with it, and it was well worth the money I spent.  The ground cover I made worked great, too.
  • This Thanksgiving was the first with just my brother and me.  When it had occurred to me months ago, I had planned to set some new traditions, but really the dinner wasn’t far from what we have traditionally done.  I smoked a bone-in turkey breast on the grill.  I tried a stuffing recipe, and it wasn’t great, but I know how to make it better next time.  The pie was pretty good.  I’ll get the timing of the whole preparation down better next year.
  • The sixth and final season of Longmire came out, and I blitzed through it on three different evenings.  It was worth the wait, and the tying up of loose ends was satisfying.
  • Thinking more about robotics and unmanned underwater vehicles, I went out and bought a Raspberry Pi and a book.  I actually bought two: a Pi 3 Model B in a starter kit, and a Pi Zero W.  I can’t believe how easy it is.  It’s a fully contained computer, and the Raspbian operating system is well-integrated and apparently quite solid.  This will take all the difficulty out of building a computing platform for robotics projects.  I need to learn about the GPIO and get a development platform set up.  I think I’ll probably use Java, mostly because it will be good for me.
  • My big, big project at work, shutting down a data center, has finally reached the point of completion.  There are still plenty of loose ends to deal with, but the urgency and the risk are over.  I’ve been trying to take it easy, and trying to use up my vacation.  I haven’t really adjusted to a new pattern of work.  I’m going to have to work on organizing myself, because now I will be responsible for myriad details without the aid of five project managers.  My A.D.D. tendencies will be a problem if I don’t make an effort to counter them.
  • I binge-watched all the way through Stranger Things.
  • I’ve been reading Oathbringer for more than a month.  It came out on the day I left for deer camp, so I was reading it in my tent, I was reading it on the plane and in my hotel room during my subsequent business trip, and I’ve been reading it when I can since then.  It’s a big book, and I’ve been busy.  I will probably still be reading it before the year is up.
  • I read The Paladin, by C. J. Cherryh.  I generally liked it, but it certainly wasn’t her best work.  It was published in 1988, and it is 2017 now, so her idea of a love interest just came off as harassment to me.  Maybe I’m not like other guys, but when a girl repeatedly says no to me, I stop asking, and I certainly don’t try to logic her into it.  On the other hand, this novel was interesting from the beginning, which is not always the case with C. J. Cherryh novels.  I found the cover art to be a little humorous.  The story is evidently supposed to be set in China or perhaps Japan, and Taizu is supposed to be a peasant, but the girl on the cover is clearly an auburn haired caucasian with kohl black eye makeup.  The other covers that have been used for this book in the past have been awful.
  • It seems like I’ve just begun watching Star Trek: Discovery, and they’re already talking about a “midseason finale” and taking a break until January.  What’s that about?  On the other hand, I guess it means I won’t miss an episode while I’m on my hunting trip.
  • I’ve been preparing meals for my hunting/camping trip, and I’m actually feeling good about what I’m preparing.  The experience I gained this summer, last fall, and last summer have taught me a few things about what works and what doesn’t.  One unique factor is that I am cooking for one.  The kinds of prepared meals I would buy to cook while camping don’t work very well because I’d end up throwing away much of the food.  Left-overs don’t work well in a camp situation.  So, I am dividing them and repackaging them into smaller units.
  • I bought a bigger tent for cold weather camping, the Eureka K-2 XT.  It is much roomier than the tent I used last November, which felt a little claustrophobic with my mattress and my sleeping bag and everything in it.  This one will let me have quite a bit of gear in the tent, move around, and just generally be more spread out.  It also has a vestibule large enough to be worthy of the name.  This tent is heavier, but I won’t take it backpacking.
  • I have a bit of a flashlight fetish.  I don’t really think of Bushnell as a flashlight company, but nevertheless they have been making some interesting lights, of high quality and innovative design.  They look great, and the build quality is excellent.  I just bought TRKR T150L on impulse, a little 150 lumen light that runs on a single AA battery.  In addition to the 150 lumen white light and the 13 lumen red light, it has a blood tracking mode.  The blood tracking mode uses red + blue LED lights that give the impression of a sort of violet-white light, but which makes red (and blue) objects stand out very brightly.  This is different from the other blood tracking light I own, which has red and green lights that shine in different spots and requires you to pass the light back and forth, making red objects alternate between bright and dark.  If I have a chance, I will try to compare the effectiveness of both these lights when I go hunting this month.
  • After I bought that, I did a little more research on the visibility of red versus green lights by deer.  I read this article.  I had previously believed that deer could see red and green light about equally well, but the conjecture was that green light is perhaps less alarming to deer.  I had been using a green light.  However, this has caused me to flip my position and decide that red lights are better.  So I went back to the store and bought the Bushnell H75L hat light, which has a 75 lumen white light and a 1 lumen red light and runs on a single AAA battery.  I don’t expect to use the white light often, especially since it can only run for 45 minutes (as opposed to the red light which runs for four hours), but it might come in handy.
  • On the subject of lights and deer, I used to have a light for hanging inside my deer blind.  It could shine red or green.  However, it died last year.  That one is no longer made.  Downward-facing blind lights are rather few and far between.  Ameristep makes one, but it’s clunky and uses green light.  Bushnell makes something that would work, but it has a rechargeable internal battery.  Rechargeable lights are a lot of hassle unless you use the light all the time, and when the battery ages to a point where it can’t take a charge, the light becomes useless.  In this case, it also makes the light very expensive.  I’ll keep looking around.
  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson is to be released on November 14.  I have pre-ordered it for my Kindle, which will make it just in time to take on my hunting trip so I’ll have something to read in my tent at night.  The first two books in this series, beginning with The Way of Kings, was weird, but excellent.  And in typical Brandon Sanderson fashion, the thing is more than 1100 pages, so I’m sure it will last the whole trip.

Book Trailers

Posted: 31st October 2017 by Cheap in Fiction, Filmmaking

Book trailers are short videos intended to market a novel in much the same way that movie trailers market a film. They seem to have been a short-lived fad, but the idea still intrigues me.

I find myself wondering what makes a good book trailer.  I’ve watched several, and they vary widely.  (One of my favorite was simply a reader with a great voice reading some of the choice bits of prose, with the visual being nothing more than a tastefully flashy motion graphic of the words being read.)  I feel like writing book trailer scripts.  Should it be a reenactment of the best parts of the novel?  What are the best parts?  How are the “best” parts selected for a movie trailer?

One serious drawback of book trailers is production quality.  In a movie trailer, one of the things being shown is the production quality of the film.  In a book trailer, this does not apply.  However, if the production value of the book trailer is low (and by “low”, I mean lower than Hollywood standards), then the trailer will actually detract from the book.

Another problem facing book trailers is costume and set design.  Most of my favorite novels are set in the future or in the past.  In either case, wardrobe and sets will not be easy to come by.  The effort and expense of creating costumes and sets is worthwhile when making a film, but if it’s only for a short trailer, then it’s certainly an uphill battle.

I guess if I want to be serious about this, then I need to understand more about the art behind making film trailers, and then I need to be able to reach a level of production quality that can more or less match Hollywood.

My October

Posted: 27th October 2017 by Cheap in Fiction, Firearms, Hunting
  • While casting about for other television series to watch, I’ve been reminded that I own both seasons of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but I have only watched the first.  It has been a while, so I should probably re-watch the last couple of episodes of the first season before starting the second season.  Also, this is possibly Lena Headey’s sexiest role, and looking at her in a tank top will be good for me.  Not to mention Summer Glau.
  • I have finished The Stone Sky, by N. K. Jemisin, which was of course quite good, with a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.  This is just in time to start Provenance, by Ann Leckie, a new novel set in the same universe as her Imperial Radch trilogy.  It won’t be long before Oathbringer is released, and then early next year Emergence will be released.  That’s a bunch of new releases among my favorite authors.
  • I’ve planted a tree, theoretically to replace the Bradford Pear that fell last year.  It is a Ginko biloba, and it is quite small.  Unfortunately, it is a slow-growing tree, and I won’t enjoy any shade benefits from this tree unless I end up living here for a decade or two.  Nevertheless, it will be nice to have a tree in the yard instead of a barren field.  I’ve been watering and caring for it properly, and so far it doesn’t seem dead.  It will lose its leaves soon, and I will just have to hope through the winter.
  • I’ve managed to get some grass growing in some places where it is needed.  In the inside corner of the house where it is shaded by the Japanese Maple, and in the northern corner of the property where it is shaded by everything.  In both cases, I’ve used my favorite shade grass, creeping red fescue.  If I can keep it watered, maybe it won’t die next year.
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells was pretty good, though disappointingly short.  This is the first in a series, and I expect that I will continue to the next one.
  • I also read Provenance by Ann Leckie as soon as it came out.  It was good, and it takes place in her Imperial Radch universe, however it was not quite as amazing as her Ancillary Justice series.
  • A Little Yellow Dog by Walter Mosley was also good, though maybe not as gripping on matters of race as the other novels in this series.
  • I am finally building out my Encore pistol.  I’ve had the custom .405 Winchester barrel for two and a half years, but I only just now bought the frame.  Both are in stainless steel.  I have a Leupold FX-II 4x28mm handgun scope on order.  I plan to order a custom grip and forend from Tony Gettel.  After that will be load development and practice.  I haven’t fired it yet, and I’m a little concerned about the recoil.  It also remains to be seen what kind of accuracy I can achieve from a pistol, which will ultimately determine the range at which I can hunt with it.
  • I may not get to go deer hunting in Missouri this year, due to conflicts with poorly planned activities at work.  I’m not happy about it, but I am resigned to it.  A cut-over has been rescheduled to occur on opening weekend.  I wasn’t planning to go hunting opening weekend, because I hunt on public land, but I don’t feel good about being unavailable Monday morning.  I can probably shift my hunting plan by a couple of days, but if something else happens (the probability of which seems high), they will probably want to take the other weekend as well, in which case I probably just won’t go at all.

New Things

Posted: 25th September 2017 by Cheap in Fiction, Music, Sewing, Technology
  • Well, my earlier misgivings about Longmire have been surpassed by the unfolding story and its depth.  The build-up of season two was quite good in setting up several layers of suspense, and the finale was excellent.  Each season after that contained a wonderfully evolving story.  They’ve still made a gaping mistake here and there (don’t learn about the Castle Doctrine from this show), but the quality of the story makes it worth tolerating the screw-ups.  I have binge-watched through all five seasons now, and the finale has me salivating for more.
  • My desktop computer, on which I do all of my video and photo editing, was built in late 2010.  The motherboard has always been screwy, with symptoms that come and go.  I have been living with that and putting off an upgrade for years.  Well, today I have upgraded my computer with a new motherboard, CPU, and RAM.  I have also upgraded to Windows 10 (it was running Windows 7).  I wasn’t expecting a huge step forward in performance, but video renders are taking about a third of the time as before.  I’m eager to try some 3D ray tracing.
  • While I was spending money, I purchased and installed ESET NOD32 anti-virus software.  I have been running AVG for years, and I just got tired of it annoying me with things to buy.  I decided I was willing to pay for software that doesn’t harass me, and I wasn’t going to reward the makers of AVG for their bad behavior.  I had never heard of ESET before I started to research the question, but it reviews well in terms of effectiveness and performance, and it supposedly has a simple and well-mannered user-interface.  I guess we’ll see.
  • Another change I am considering is not installing iTunes.  It is such a bloated piece of software, and I’m sure it will screw up my collection if I try to reinstall.  I only use it for the store anymore, and I’m aggravated that the only format they offer is one that my car stereo doesn’t support.  I’m thinking about switching to Winamp and buying my music from Amazon.
  • It is surprising to see that a clearly more powerful computer draws less power at idle.  When I measured the power consumption of my last computer, it idled at 114 watts.  My new computer idles at 85 watts.  On the other hand, the old computer drew 193 watts under load (video rendering), while this one averages 240 watts doing the same task.
  • My brother and I have watched the two-part pilot episode of Star Trek: Discovery, and it was pretty good.  The visual style is very different from any Star Trek television series before it.  There are hints that it will be more character driven, and darker, but it is too early to know for sure.  I could have done without the re-imagined Klingons, who look more like the aliens in Prometheus than the usual (1979-2005) depiction of Klingons.
  • I am binge-watching season five of Elementary on Amazon so that I can begin watching season six episodes as they are released on CBS All Access.  I’m ticked off that I had to pay Amazon to watch season five because CBS All Access doesn’t have them.  Elementary is made by CBS, but all they had was “recap” paragraphs of each episode, and a few behind-the-scenes interviews.  CBS hasn’t really graduated to the streaming age.
  • It seems like I have been doing a lot of sewing, but somehow I can’t name off hordes of projects I have completed.  I’ve made five pairs of lounge pants.  Three sets of custom-fitted sheets for my hide-a-beds.  I made a storage bag in which to keep all the pillows.  I can’t think of much else, which defies logic, given how many times I’ve been in the fabric store recently.  I own a serger now.

Endings and Things Past

Posted: 7th September 2017 by Cheap in Fiction, Technology
  • I have watched the last episode of ST:TOS.  This means I have watched all of Star Trek.  I am fully prepared to begin watching ST:DIS when it begins.  Well, prepared except for access to it.  I have discontinued my cable television service.  I assume I pay to subscribe to CBS All Access, and I assume my Roku can do that natively.  I’ll have to check it out.
  • Speaking of discontinuing my cable television, the cable company has now targeted me for a telephone harassment campaign.  The same woman called three times this week, and each time I was in the middle of something.  This last time, it was driving.  I pulled off the road and parked so I could hear her out.  She didn’t listen at all.  I told her that I canceled my television and telephone services because I almost never used either.  She continued to offer deals and other things I won’t use.  I finally had to hang up on her.  I fully expect to get these kinds of calls incessantly.  I may have to block them.
  • Speaking of media company salespeople, AT&T sent a solicitor around yesterday.  He didn’t have a solicitor’s permit, and I called the police on him.  I plan to start doing this on a regular basis.  I really hate door-to-door salespeople.  Many years ago, I lived in an apartment complex that prohibited solicitors, and I learned to call the police on them.  I have lived here for more than three years, and I was delighted to discover that this city has an ordinance requiring a solicitor’s permit.  No one ever gets one.  If you demand to see a solicitor’s permit and they don’t have one with them, they are breaking the law, and the police are obligated to investigate.  If these companies are going to make the effort to bother me, then I’m going to make some effort to bother them in return.
  • I finally gave in and started to watch Longmire.  I had seen parts of a couple of episodes, but now I’m watching from the beginning.  Katee Sackhoff is all the justification I need.  However after watching a few episodes, I find much of their police procedural to be naively inaccurate, and Lou Diamond Phillips’ portrayal of a Native American to be more than a little stereotypical.  All I’m currently watching now are Longmire and the new Twin Peaks, and Twin Peaks has allegedly concluded.
  • Where do the miles go?  In 5½ months, I have driven 8,300 miles in my truck.  I work from home, so zero of those miles are related to my daily commute.  About 3500 of those miles came from my recent trip to Montana.  However, that’s still about 200 miles per week, which I find surprising, especially when I frequently don’t leave the house for days at a time, and many of my errands stay within the confines of my local town.
  • Perhaps I should start watching Back.  I’ve become a Louise Brealey fan since listening to her performance on the audiobook for The Girl on the Train.  Back is a new British comedy, and it looks like she has the lead role.  I’ll have to figure out how to access the show.
  • My Savage Model 16 Lightweight Hunter has arrived.  It really does seem light.  The optics should arrive on Monday.  I’m eager to get it ready for hunting, but it seems a little unlikely that I will manage it in time for this year.
  • I have decided that I need to work on my grammar in regard to the past tense of the verbs “boot” and “reboot”.  Somehow, decades ago, I picked up the idea that the past tense is “boot” and not “booted”.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I thought that.  So, I have decided that I need to make an effort to include the -ed suffix whenever I am using the word in the past tense.
  • Starting explanations with the word “So” is an even worse habit I have.  Long ago I noticed that pedantic speakers start explanations that way, and several years ago I dipped my toe in the water.  It sucked me in, and somehow it become an instant habit.  I’ve been trying for a while to avoid it, but the word usually escapes my mouth before I think about it, and then it’s too late.
  • It makes me irrationally sad to read about fires in Glacier National Park, just weeks after I was there.  I didn’t go to Sperry Chalet, though I had considered it, and now it’s gone.  I know that fires have passed through areas to which I have definitely been.  It’s irrational because I may never go back there again and see the damage.  I am lucky to have gone before the destruction, rather than after or during.  Still, I have fresh, fond memories of those places, and now I know that they are gone.

Badlands National Park

Posted: 25th August 2017 by Cheap in Camping, Travel

Perhaps two decades ago, when I was still married, I was a subscriber to National Geographic Magazine.  I occasionally succumbed to other purchases from the National Geographic Society, mostly maps, which were very good, but we once ordered a book of all the national parks in the US.  It was a coffee table book, with lots of great photos.  My wife, tending toward warm temperatures, was interested in all of the deserts, and I the opposite.  However, the one place on which we could agree was Badlands National Park.  In the photos, it was simultaneously beautiful and desolate, and being in South Dakota, I felt sure it wasn’t unbearably hot.  A decade later, I found myself in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, during which time we had occasion to drive past the badlands, and I was struck by the beauty of the savanna in October, with twisted and scraggy trees, seemingly dead and in such isolation.  For a very long time, I have wanted to visit this national park and explore the badlands.

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I left from home in Missouri early in the morning, having finished packing for my trip the day before.  The drive was accurately estimated at thirteen hours.  The route was west on I-70, north on I-29, and west on I-90.  I passed the monotony by listening to an audio book of A Gentleman in Moscow.  Because I enjoy the solitude of “dispersed” camping, I had planned to camp in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland outside of the park.  In fact, with the aid of a Forest Service map and Google Maps “satellite” view, I had picked out the exact location I wanted to camp, next to a little pond formed by Church Dam, far enough from the highway to be quiet, but close enough to the entrance of the park to be convenient.  It was about an hour before sunset when I arrived, and almost immediately my truck was swarmed by little mayflies.  There wasn’t a square inch of surface that didn’t have a mayfly or two attached to it.  I set up camp quickly to get away from them, but they died down (literally) by sunset.  It was a clear night, with plenty of stars, and a half moon came up after midnight.  I briefly heard some cows and some coyotes, but most of the night was very quiet.  In the morning, a thick fog rolled in, which stayed around until late in the morning.

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The main part of the park runs roughly east to west, with a road winding through it.  There is a series of eighteen overlooks along the road, which is about twenty-five miles long.  I stopped at most of them, and I took quite a few photos, but the views were largely variations on the same theme.  The badlands are evidently a plateau of hard clay, eroding rapidly where the grass gives way.  The clay was deposited in layers which vary in color, and these are exposed together by the erosion.  Before I explored, I assumed that visitors would be discouraged from walking and climbing on the formations, but it is quite the opposite.  A “trail” exists, winding right through it.  The terrain is so transitory that there is not a worn path; instead, there is a series of numbered sign posts to lead the way.  I guess the erosion is so rapid that it far outpaces any damage made by foot traffic.  Among the sights to be seen is the Roberts Prairie Dog Town, which is a big field filled with prairie dog holes.