Monday, October 12, 2015

On the road again: Portland, day 1

I'm never going to love a morning that starts with me getting out of bed in the fives, as today did.  I'm going to dislike that morning even more when it dawns after a night of no sleep, my brain unwilling and unable to shut down for the four hours I was in the bed.

So, today did not begin ideally.

The flights proved to be the sort of experiences I'm encountering more and more frequently:  exit-row seats, thanks to my status on American, but no upgrades, just hours and hours of leaning into the aisle and feeling like a sardine in a slowly shrinking can.  The only fun break in the travel portion of the day was a fruit and frozen yogurt parfait at the ever-reliable Red Mango.

Portland's afternoon weather was lovely, so after settling into the hotel I went for a short walk and grabbed a snack from a food truck specializing in Asian noodle dishes of various sorts.

Work consumed the afternoon and early evening.  Dinner was a tasty meal at Bamboo Sushi, with dessert courtesy of the Salt & Straw establishment right next door.

A decent business travel day, as these days go.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The hardest part of traveling a great deal,

at least for me, is not the travel itself, nor the wear and tear on my body, nor even (though this is a big one) the calories that are hard to avoid at business meals.  No, the hardest part is dealing with all the household stuff that piles up while I'm gone.  The simple things that I address daily when I'm home--handling the physical mail, paying the bills, and dealing with other financial matters--pile up when I'm away.  They're not what I want to do first when I get home, so they continue to grow, until I find I'm desperately behind on them and must devote hours to them.

That was my situation today, because I'm flying out very early tomorrow morning, so that's where a great deal of my day went.

Tomorrow, Portland.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bouchercon, day 3

I'm accustomed to using the weekend to catch up on sleep, so getting up in the single digits again today left me rather tired.  Still, I had decided the trip downtown to the con was worth the sleep cost, because I very much wanted to see the 10:00 a.m. panel that included Lawrence Block.

Titled "Human Nature:  Our fascination with law breakers & law enforcers in fiction," it proved to be an interesting and entertaining discussion that focused primarily on the motivations of the "bad guys" in fiction.  Once again, the moderator spoke entirely too much and did not give enough time to the panelists, but when they spoke, they were intelligent and thoughtful and frequently funny.  Block was in fine form, speaking his mind eloquently and with considerable humor.

A group of us then wandered up the street to Lucette Grace for lunch.  My sandwich, a very Parisian ham and cheese with butter on baguette, was the closest I've had outside France to the treat I've eaten many, many times in Paris.  It made me want to hop the next plane to Paris.

Among us, we sampled many of the pastries, and each and every one was absolutely delicious.  None was a one-note, all-sweet wonder.  Each featured many nuanced and subtle flavors.  I hope this place survives a long time.

I then drove home for a nap.  I won't be going back to the con this weekend, alas, because I fly out Monday morning and simply have too much to do between now and then to be able to afford more con time.  I will, though, certainly attend future Bouchercons, and I recommend them to anyone who's a fan of mystery, thriller, or crime fiction.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Bouchercon, day 2

Bouchercon, the big annual mystery, crime, and thriller convention, is in downtown Raleigh this year, so I opted to attend without getting a hotel room.  I'm still not sure if that was the right choice, because having to drive in the morning means getting up extra early, but it's the choice I made, and then the rooms sold out, so I have to live with it.

I attended yesterday, but not for long.  I registered, checked out the dealers' room, and listened to the interview with the American guests of honor, Kathy Reichs and Tom Franklin.  Their conversation and comments were interesting, and though I've not previously read either writer, I now probably will.

Bouchercons love morning panels, which is why I found myself awake in the sixes and arriving early today for an 8:30 a.m. panel on "Lone Wolves and Loose Cannons."  This event featured a friend of mine, who is an FBI agent and who writes as Alistair Kimble, as well as two other writers whose work I've read, Andrew Grant and Mick Herron.  I generally enjoyed the discussion, though I wish the moderator had let the panelists speak more.

Next up for me was the 10:00 session, "Real Police," in which writer and cop (of various types), James O. Born, did an interesting presentation on guns, knives, batons, and issues around an officer engaging with someone.  Born is a smart and funny guy, and I quite liked his talk.

One thing I appreciate about these cons is that they always allow a decent lunch break.  Our little group chose the nearby Twisted Mango restaurant.  The Caribbean food we tasted was good but not exceptional.

I was quite excited about the next panel, a cadaver dog demo, because I'd enjoyed a similar session at a Chicago Bouchercon some years ago.  This one was pleasant enough but nowhere near as informative or as interesting as the earlier version.

John Gilstrap, author and safety and explosives expert, then took us through an interesting presentation on explosives and guns.  I would have preferred a far higher data rate, but I enjoyed what he shared.

My final session was "Beyond The Wire, Bosch & True Detective," a discussion of mystery and crime material on TV.  I went to hear Christa Faust and Megan Abbott, two writers whose work I enjoy, speak on their experiences and interests in this area.  What they had to say did interest me, but the moderator, who admittedly was the only one on the panel who worked regularly in Hollywood, dominated the discussion so much that I often wished he'd let the others talk more.

All in all, I had an enjoyable and interesting day at a convention I definitely recommend.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The best UFC promo video ever

is this piece for the upcoming Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm fight.  Check it out.  You'll be glad you did.

I'm quite looking forward to this match.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Martian

I unreservedly loved this movie, so much so that I was buzzing with emotion about it for a couple of hours after I left the theater.  It was a joy to watch.

I grew up dreaming of space.  I was 14 when men first walked on the moon.  I was 21 when I applied for (and was turned down for) the Mission Specialist program.  I have always wanted us to continue exploring space.  (Yes, I also very much want us to spend money fixing our problems here on Earth, but I do not see the two as mutually exclusive; I would cut spending elsewhere to fund NASA.)  I also love stories of people overcoming adversity through intelligence and hard work.  So, I am an ideal target for this movie.

I do understand the movie has flaws, including some science errors (though far fewer than most films), but none of them pulled me out of the story enough to matter.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you already know the film's setup, and you almost certainly have guesses as to how it ends.  Forget all of that; it won't matter.

Go see The Martian.  At worst, you'll have a good time.  At best, you'll come away as excited and inspired as I did.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Onward, Drake! is now available!

If you've preordered your copy, you are now the proud owner of a bright, shiny, new book full of excellent stories.

Click the image to see a larger version.

If you haven't yet picked up a copy, isn't it about time?  Many stories and afterwords await you.

I hope you enjoy it!


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