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Just a quick note...

WorldCon trip report *will* be finished. Been a little busy around here. But also? Avoidance is kicking in. Why? Well, it's time to report on Saturday--Hugos day. Yeah. I'll get there, I promise.

WorldCon Part 3: A Friday filled with smoke

Friday at WorldCon started with a delicious, if belated, breakfast at a place called Sante just a couple of blocks from the convention center. A group of us (davidlevine, suricattus, her twinling and the twinling's daughter) walked over as early as we reasonably could. The air smelled of woodsmoke and the sky seemed overcast. It was a harbinger of things to come. The place was lovely, really, with a kind of country French feel to the decor--spare but elegant. I had a delicious meal--pancakes with fluffy raspberry foule (sp?). The conversation was fun. suricattus asked for discussion ideas for her upcoming panel; I asked for ideas for mine. Twinling's daughter showed off some of her artwork. davidlevine showed off the cover art for his upcoming novel from Tor. We talked about the return of the autograph book. Apparently, with the advent of ebooks, people have started keeping autograph books again. I signed one myself at my first panel, as had others at the table. Interesting phenomenon.

Somehow, though the food and company were both quite fine, I never managed to find particularly good humor. The server took a very long time coming to take our order; I was sugar crashing pretty hard; the air was taking its toll; and I very much wanted to get to a 10 AM beading workshop. With the meal coming so late, I wasn't able to leave until 10:10ish, and by the time I got to the convention center, though I hoofed it as hard as I could, the workshop was full and the door was shut.

Disappointed and frustrated, I looked at the pocket program to see what else I might drop in on. There was a panel on aging that interested me, so I sat in there and listened to three authors and neuroscientist discuss the science of aging, the research on same, and our preferences with regard to what kind of heroes we like to read about. Interesting discussion.

After it was over, I wandered around the convention center for a while when a friend stopped me and asked me if I was OK, saying that I didn't look well. At that point, I realized that I felt like a zombie. I stopped by program ops, told them I wouldn't make my 1 PM panel, went back to the room and slept until nearly 2 PM.

One of the high points of the day was my late lunch engagement. I met the delightful desperance, the always entertaining markjferrari, and the ever pleasant calendula_witch at Spencer's, the hotel's steak house. I believe we talked about Mark's latest escapades in the world of publishing. Chaz wrangled an invitation to my home (he had to twist my arm; really, there was violence). It was all very silly and exactly perfect. I believe that I owe Mark at least a meal, or possibly a bottle of good wine. I think we probably went until 3 or 3:30ish. My meal compatriots had to be off.

I don't actually remember what I did after lunch. Strolled the con a bit more? Attended more programming? No freaking' idea. What I do remember is that eventually it was time to go to bedii's memorial, to be held outside by a large Japanese sculpture at one end of the convention center. The air had gotten nearly toxic outside. All the smoke from the Okanogan and Upper Skagit Complex fires was taking its toll. The sky was yellow/brown, the sun a peachy-red ball, the air full of grit and mustiness. The convention (or the convention center, I'm not sure which) had put up warning signs about the air hazard. I was surprised, actually, that we were still going to do this out of doors, but the choice wasn't mine to make and so I went with it.

Apocalyptic Spokane: so smoky that the sky was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. Click to embiggen.
Smoky Spokane: a view from behind the convention center out over the park

We all met by the sculpture, a group of maybe 12 of us, and told stories about bedii, just remembering. It was a good thing and I'm glad I was there. At the same time, I couldn't stay there too long; the air began to really take a toll, and we headed inside after about 30-45 minutes. At that point, we all went our separate ways.

davidlevine and I headed over to the Book View Cafe party. David does key work with BVC and awesome people are involved with said effort, so being there was important. Awesome people included madrobins, suricattus and a bunch of names already mentioned above, plus a whole other crowd of lovely people. Mad made a three-tiered cake in honor of Vonda McIntyre featuring a sweet mermaid made of fondant. The cake was a delicious thing.

Our second stop was the Fairwood Press party with many more wonderful people in attendance. bjcooper was celebrating the release of her new collection of short stories, among others. Patrick Swenson always throws a good bash. I met a couple of people whose names I've known but never met in person. A good time.

In all the years I've known bjcooper, we've never taken a picture together. Voila! Problem solved.
Brenda and Janna

As happens at these things, you don't realize that you're hitting the wall until you hit the wall. We met some friends and headed out, getting a lift back to the hotel at exactly the right moment. I didn't realize it until later, but my pink denim jacket came away smelling like smoke.
We arrived in Spokane on Thursday afternoon. I dropped BM off at her hotel and headed to mine. Time was of the essence. I had to check in. I wanted to take a little decompression time in the wake of all the driving. I had to find dinner of some kind and get ready for one of the two panels on which I was to appear. I actually did pretty well, with enough time to get registered, get my guest packet, do a turn through half of the dealer's room, and buy myself a beautiful new ring with three semi-precious stones in it. I had an . . . adequate sandwich at the convention center snack bar before my first panel.

So dinner was a Thing. See, when you hang around conventions and fandom long enough, you get to know the names of the BNFs (big name fans) and you begin to recognize people who surely won't recognize you. I was sitting at a table where two older women were seated, mainly because all the other tables were full. They were chatting in clearly New York accents about filk and about people they knew. And one oft them, for some reason, seemed familiar. There was something about her that I seemed to know though I couldn't place her. I looked at her name badge, and she turned out to be Roberta Rogow, a well-known fan writer and filker whose work I'd known back when I was active in New York and media fandom. That was a kind of nice surprise. We chatted a little bit. She talked about her self-published book. And then we went our separate ways.

I was off to my first panel, on using role-playing games as a writer's tool. It was not a satisfying experience. I understand why I was put on the panel, but I had my doubts about it from the start. Mostly two particular people talked a lot; getting a word in was challenging. And while I've edited game-related works, my experience as an RPG player is limited. Most of what I had to say was more about writing than gaming, and another editor on the panel pretty much took care of that material. By the end of the panel I felt a little frustrated and, I admit, a little irritated and outgunned. I got out of the room as soon as I could.

The rest of the evening proved much more satisfying. Earlier in the day, I was invited to a private party and spent the better part of the evening there, catching up with friends and basking in the sort of convention energy I just love. What became clear, though, by about 10 PM was that after a six-hour drive and a lot of excitement, I was wiped and it was time to retire.

This is a terrible picture of me, but it's a great picture with friends at the party.

Me, Daniel Keyes Moran, David Gerrold, and Amy Stout

The road to Sasquan (WorldCon Part 1)

It was an interesting experience, WorldCon, this year. In hindsight, it feel like I was there and I wasn't, all at once. For me, it started off with a date SNAFU. The plan was that my friend BM was going to fly in from New York and we were going to drive across the state together. I thought she was arriving Tuesday night for a Wednesday morning departure. It turned out that she was arriving Wednesday night for a Thursday morning departure. That right there threw me. Now, here's the thing: I don't remember a conversation we clearly had about this timing, because when I double-checked, my hotel room reservation started on Thursday, not Wednesday. But I'd envisioned the convention start to finish, and I'd made plans as if I were arriving on Wednesday. All of this meant that I made plans that I had to cancel, which was disheartening. But I couldn't leave her stranded with no way to get across the state. So, from my perspective, the trip started late and weirdly.

We road-trip well together, BM and I, and it was a good traverse. There are those who say that Washington state, east of the mountains, is a whole lotta nuthin', but it's a constantly changing landscape with its own sere beauty and I enjoy the journey. I always enjoy stopping to see "Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies," also called Wild Horse Monument. The view at the link is different than the view that most folks (including me) generally get--from below and away, where you look up and see the ponies high on a bluff against the sky. It's beautiful regardless of your perspective and a lovely stop for viewing and a stretch of the legs. You also get a beautiful view of the Columbia River from above, and the striated rock walls on the other side of the water.

Click the pics to embiggen.
Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies

Columbia River from above

We also stopped in George, Washington (yes, really) for lunch. We ate at a food truck where the Mexican food was plentiful and delicious. We met a couple who have spent the last two years living out of a blue-and-white Shasta trailer, a tiny thing that they've used to travel the country. They were headed in the opposite direction, off to Seattle. I gave them advice on a couple of things to see in town (they wanted to see Pike Place Market and the Space Needle; I told them about the Ballard Locks and the food trucks in Westlake Center).

Betsy and Janet by the Shasta trailer

After lunch, it was on to Spokane. See the next rock for details (to be posted later today sometime).
Somehow, things have gotten screwed up. I was planning to leave for WorldCon on Wednesday. But it turns out that the friend with whom I'm driving is arriving Wednesday night and we're going on Thursday morning. I don't know how this happened. I thought she was arriving Tuesday and that we were leaving on Wednesday. I'm angry. I'm frustrated. I'm mournful. I'm irritated. I want to leave Wednesday morning. If I don't take her, she has no way to get there, but she's traveling across the country to go. I can't leave her stranded.

I want to leave for WorldCon on Wednesday morning. I can't. This changes my ability to attend panels I wanted to see, to have meals with friends that I planned, to have some breathing room before the con starts. It makes the trip more cramped and I miss, basically, a full day of events.

Last night, right before I went to bed--just a couple of days before I'm to leave--my cat sitter emails me to say that she's raising her prices by another $10 per visit. She did say that if this was an issue, we should discuss it--but what options do I have? Pay her or try to find someone else I'd trust my house keys and my cats with in, basically, two days? Not likely. And we're not talking about a woman who's rolling in dough, believe me. I suppose that, needing to cancel a night at the hotel means funds will free up for the cat sitter payment, but I'm pretty angry about this, too. I feel cornered and a little bait-and-switched, even though I know that's not how she meant for it to feel or to happen.

I was so excited about this trip, and already it feels like a disappointment.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, these are first world problems. I have friends who can't go to the con because of serious illness. I have other friends dealing with similar issues. Part of me feels like a spoiled child: "Wah! My trip will be shorter!" But part of me feels like this trip has been the One Good Thing I've been looking forward to for weeks, and events are conspiring to sour it. I need to find a way to bring the magic back. I just don't know how.
It's Superman! by Tom De Haven: A licensed Superman novel published, like, 20ish years ago that takes a very realistic, pretty literary and at the same time almost pulpy approach to Superman's original story, starting at when he's done with high school and as he heads off into the real world. De Haven's voice cracks both wise and perceptive, and is rich and fully flavored with period jargon and slang, trivia and detail. I enjoyed it hugely. I studied with De Haven in college and thought he was a terrific teacher. Reading this one of his several novels makes me feel like I didn't understand how lucky I was to study with him. Wish I could have studied with him more. I've found his website and really need to drop him a note.

The Just City by Jo Walton (our own papersky): The first of a new cycle that explores the ramifications of Athena and Apollo deciding to try to build a society based on Plato's Republic. It is probably the most cerebral of Walton's books to date, even given some of the very dramatic and, on occasion, traumatic things that happen to the characters. It's a fascinating exercise that ends a little too abruptly, from my perspective--but the next book has already been published and I'll probably pick it up at WorldCon. My challenge with The Just City is that it feels a little like an exercise to me, a thought experiment made manifest. And while there's good story here, I didn't find myself as attached to the characters as I was with other of Walton's works. I felt a little emotionally distanced from them, which is always a deficit in a work for me. I did like the working through of the many ramifications of Plato's rules, though, and the negotiation of the tougher ones to follow. The Republic is itself a thought experiment, and once you throw humans into the mix, well, things are bound to go pear-shaped. It's an interesting read, not my favorite of Jo's works, but a challenging one in many ways.

Worldcon is coming, but there are so many challenges going on right now for me and friends around me, it's hard for me to anticipate the trip with pleasure. It's one more thing I need to do, at the moment, in a world where friends and relations are dealing with cancer, where another is getting ready to move out of state and is feeling just abandoned by a lot of local folks, where work is busy and pressure is being brought to bear in ways that piss me the hell off. I don't want attending WorldCon to feel like a chore, but as the days dwindle toward departure, it's feeling like another thing I have to do rather than a thing I'm looking forward to.

I've been pushing back lately in ways I don't typically push back. I'm always inclined to say yes, to help friends, to do things even when I don't want to just because I've been asked. Lately, I've been saying no more. It's hard. But it's necessary. It's necessary mainly because I've been feeling really tired, really wrung out, like I don't have the time or resources to take care of myself and my own life. I need to say no more. It's hard for me, but I really need to. The fact that I spent the better part of this weekend sleeping demonstrates that I'm running out of spoons faster than I can wash them and put them away. I need to stop that.

I had the worst blood panel of my life a couple of weeks back. It was the annual blood draw, and suddenly, my cholesterol is up, I'm anemic again, and my doctor Isn't Happy. I'm trying to resolve this issue with vitamins, food changes and exercise, but in the midst of feeling like there's no room in my life for taking care of me, it's an enormous challenge.

And now, off to work.

Tuesday night burn report

Tonight's burned arm report: Shoulder and upper arm feel like they've received a substantial sunburn. Forearm burn looks like the beans have branded themselves into my skin in a deep, eggplant purple, and the area is still tender. The marks are all raised and the group of them, from a certain angle, seem to create an "S" shape; no sign of blistering but for one tiny spot. The one-bean burn near my elbow looks like a giant, raised, purple freckle. Owie.

Sunday night, the ER doc gave me a powerful pain killer that made me crazy-dizzy once it kicked in about an hour after I took it. Last night, I split one of the pills and that kept the dizziness away, but I'm not sure it was as effective as the night before. I certainly slept better last night than I did Sunday night. Unsure what I'm going to do tonight, but if I position myself wrong in bed the discomfort will be real. I'll figure it out. I'm sleepy enough at this writing (at only 8:57 PM) that I'm sure I'll fall asleep. For how long is anyone's guess.

And again I say, "Owie."


My Sasquan programming

Here are the two panels I've been scheduled for at Sasquan, this year's WorldCon in Spokane. I'm fairly sure how I ended up on one of these panels--I'm not so sure about how I ended up on the other. I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out which is which. Here's the scoop:

Role Playing Games as an Author's Tool
Thursday 19:00 - 19:45, 401C (CC)

The First Dragonlance novels were retellings of part of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance modules. The Wild Cards shared universe traces its origins to super-hero RPG campaigns involving George R.R. Martin and his friends.

Can playing and running Role Playing Games be a good place for an author to try out ideas? Should you write up your campaign for your next novel, or just borrow the characters? Or should authors avoid these games (or at least ignore them when writing)?

Panelists: Jennifer Brozek, Ken Burnside, Frog Jones, Janna Silverstein

Bad Science on TV
Friday 13:00 - 13:45, 300C (CC)

Science is a hot topic in TV entertainment: from CSI to Orphan Black to The Big Bang Theory to Person of Interest. Some of it is good, but much of it is bad. The panel will bash the bad science and clue you in to those shows that seem like the science is good, but not really.

Panelists: Deb Geisler (M), Julie McGalliard, Janna Silverstein, Cordelia Willis


As a gift to myself for my birthday, I ordered up a DNA ethnicity profile from Ancestry.com. While I was reasonably sure what the results would be, I thought it might be fun to see if anything unexpected popped up. The results are that I'm 94% Eastern European Jew (shock! SHOCK!), and then trace amounts of other ethnicities. The report says that my genetic profile shows a slightly lower-than-average amount of Jewish genetic heritage, but at 94%, no one's going to argue that I'm not an Ashkenazi Jew.

The detail that surprised me was 2% Scandanavian. Now, the website says the following about trace amounts of ethnicity (by which they seem to be referring to amounts that are 5% or less): "These are regions where you seem to have just a trace amount of genetic ethnicity — there is only a small amount of evidence supporting the regions as part of your genetic ethnicity. Because both the estimated amount and the range of the estimate are small, it is possible that these regions appear by chance and are not actually part of your genetic ethnicity." That's probably true, but I get a kick out of thinking that somewhere in my genetic heritage there's a Viking pining for the fjords. :-)

I found it mildly disappointing that the profile didn't show any Italian or Greek, given that I've been mistaken for both of those at one point or another. Another trace was 1% Caucasus, a whole percentage point less than the Scandanavian, but far less interesting to me, I admit.

Another interesting part of the report was a list of other Ancestry members who had done the test who were almost certainly second, third and fourth cousins, most of whom I've never heard of, and many of whom aren't or don't appear to be Jewish. I looked at some of their trees and found no surnames in common--although given how families fled Europe and names got changed, I suppose anything is possible. I need to investigate those lists a little more, and I need to find a way to continue building my tree. You know, in my copious spare time.

Anyway, fun.
Last night, I met JF for dinner at Agua Verde, a Mexican restaurant in the University District here in Seattle. It's a small place that abuts Lake Union and is attached to the paddle center. I suggested the place because JF is a sailor with his own beautiful sail boat, the place has a great view of the marina and the lake, and because the food there is generally very good indeed.

We each ordered our meals and the conversation was flowing. The food came, and the waitress noticed that JF received two bowls of rice instead of one bowl of rice and one of black beans. We continued chatting when suddenly I found my left arm and my blouse covered in extremely hot black beans. Extremelyhot. Burning hot. The waitress had tripped and spilled JF's beans on me, fresh from the stove. I howled . . . and howled and howled.

We got towels with which to wipe away the sauce, as well as an ice pack. JF asked me what I wanted to do--ER, urgent care--and I told him to make the decisions. I had no brains for that kind of thinking. And so we were off to an urgent care clinic--where they sprayed on some topical anaesthetic and sent me to the ER.

I was diagnosed with first--nearly second--degree burns on my arm, given powerful meds for pain and sent on my way. There's no blistering, thank goodness, but my skin was bright red and disturbingly blotchy.

This morning, the redness and swelling has gone down, though my arm is still tingling and very sore. I suspect I'm going to be left with some marks when this is all done--including a one-bean-sized burn mark mark by my elbow. It'd be funny if it didn't hurt quite as much as it does.

I'm otherwise OK this morning, still a little loopy from the medication. (Been loopy since I got up; I suspect I'll continue to be loopy for another couple of hours.) I'm going to be taking it easy the next day or so, working from home and trying to baby the arm.

I am hugely grateful to JF for taking such good care of me. He is the finest kind of friend and I'm very thankful indeed.

This was not, as you might imagine, the evening I'd been looking forward to. :: sigh ::



Good girls go to heaven.
Bad girls go everywhere.
--Mae West



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