Saturday, November 24, 2007

No Country for Old Men

is easily one of the best movies of the year, provided your criteria for judging films do not include making you happy or upbeat, because it's also perhaps the bleakest Hollywood film of 2007. If you know the book, you won't find that fact surprising, but if you haven't read it, don't blame me if you see the movie and come away disturbed or depressed. The violence is graphic, the language is realistic--and thus sometimes crude, and the ending is downbeat. I wouldn't want a steady diet of this sort of thing, but everything else about this movie is so well done that I have to recommend it.

In unrelated news, I set a new world record for dessert eating by a man whose stomach has yet to explode.

If there's a blog entry tomorrow, you'll know I can change "yet to explode" to "did not explode."

Right now, that's still anyone's call.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone reading this had a good day. I slept late, then drove, as we do each Thanksgiving, to the Drake's. Our extended family and friends shared a wonderful meal--no thanks to me; I did nothing other than eat--and each other's company. I ate more than was reasonable, took a break to socialize and work on Slanted Jack, and then ate a large plate of dessert.

I don't take much for granted. I'm thankful each and every time someone prepares a meal for me. I'm thankful for small and large kindnesses. I'm thankful to have loved ones who can overlook all that's wrong with me and actually care about me. I'm thankful that enough people have been willing to buy my book that my publisher is willing to pay me to write more of them. I'm thankful that my company's clients keep doing business with us. I'm thankful that my kids are smart and healthy and generally the best kids in the world. I'm thankful that I have the privilege to work and associate with smart and decent people.

If it sounds like I'm thankful a lot, that's because I am. I've seen people who've lost everything, and I'm acutely aware that could happen to me or to any of us.

I'm a very lucky man.

An important difference between this war and the war in Viet Nam

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, while at Philcon I moderated a panel on military science fiction. One of the panelists made the usual analogies between the war in Iraq and the war in Viet Nam, and I generally agreed with his points. A small part of one comment, however, really upset me, because it basically implied a difference of intent on the part of the soldiers in each war.

When it was my turn to talk, I illustrated my point by asking the audience members to raise their hands if they felt the soldiers in Iraq were evil.

As you would expect, no hands went into the air.

I then said that if I had taken this same survey about the soldiers in Viet Nam in a typical conference room in 1970, at least half the hands would have shot up.

No one disagreed with that assessment.

That attitude difference--on the part of civilians about the soldiers, not on the part of the soldiers--is, I submit, huge.

I continued by saying that I was not a veteran, but of course I do know some. (The only thing for which I'm likely to thank that dead crook Nixon is canceling the draft a few weeks before I was due to report after high school.) All the vets I know, including my friend, David Drake, went to Viet Nam because they thought it was their duty, not because they believed that particular war was a great idea. (I'm sure some vets did; I just don't happen to know any who held that opinion.)

When these poor souls came home, however, they faced outrage and anger against them, as if they, not the politicians, had chosen the war.

To put it mildly, I'm not a fan of this administration or its PR machine, but I will say that as part of selling the war they've done at least one good thing: the men and women coming home from Iraq don't face what Dave and other vets encountered when they hit the World again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The great assistant hunt continues

As I've noted before, we're trying to hire an assistant who will help me with my PT job, with work, and with personal stuff, such as organizing my writing office. We posted the job on craigslist, and we're going to be interviewing at least a few promising applicants.

The question that plagues me is one I've mentioned before: how do you interview for the most important traits, such as intelligence, drive, loyalty, trustworthiness (especially with very confidential material), willingness to do whatever it takes, and so on? I don't know the answer, so I'll end up stumbling around and hoping for the best.

I suppose one test might be to see which of the candidates Googled me, found my site, read my blog, and now know of my dilemma. The Web makes for interesting situations....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The airport gauntlet

I'm home safely. The plane flight was uneventful and only ten minutes late. Lunch at the airport was from Au Bon Pain, which is real food (as opposed to much of what you buy to eat at airports).

What made today's travel special was getting to the other side of airport security.

The fun started at the hotel. We waited for the slightly late hotel shuttle. When it arrived, three fans lumbered out behind us. They were wheeling a hotel cart jammed to overflowing with luggage, and two of them were a great deal wider than I am. The shuttle had three seats open--as long as you were willing to cram three people into a space only two were occupying in any other row. The driver was willing to try to squeeze all five of us into the van. The thought of half an hour with someone else's fat warming me was more than I could take.

We paid the ten buck premium for a taxi.

On the way out of security on Thursday, we'd noticed a block-long line to get past the checkpoint. So, we'd planned appropriately and arrived early. We'd also learned that an outage at DFW was affecting airports all over the country, and that PHL was foggy, but that was okay; we were way, way early.

The line, of course, was two blocks long. No problem. We had a bottle of water, we knew what was coming, and so we stood patiently. We stood some more. Eventually, we made it inside the security maze, around several turns, and to the last cattle chute before the actual check-in machines. Success was in sight.

The power went out. Not the whole airport's power, mind you; that would have been too general. No, just the power for the security machines. This torture was ours.

So, TSA routed us back out of the maze, down a hall, down some stairs, outside in the rain for a block, up an escalator, and into another security area...which already had a block-long line before we and our fellow passengers descended on it.

So, we waited another long stretch, made it to the maze, entered the maze, caught a break and got routed to a short line, actually put our stuff in bins...and were cut off by a series of angry senior citizens frustrated with the process.

After enough of them had passed through the machines, our turns came, and from there on it was smooth sailing.

I heart airports.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Philcon, day 3

I got nowhere near as much sleep as I wanted last night, but I did at least catch up on PT work and start pass five of Slanted Jack.

Brunch today was at La Croix, and though expensive it was worth doing. The portions were all appropriately small, the selection was huge, and the quality ranged from good to excellent. I recommend it, provided you're willing to pay a lot for a fancy brunch.

After talking with friends at the con and a final run around the dealers' room, I resumed work.

In the late afternoon, I met with Eric Flint for a general chat, then with Baen editor Jim Minz for a longer conversation. Both talks were enjoyable; I like and get along with both men.

After some more work, we headed to dinner at Morimoto, where we ate the Iron Chef's omakase, or tasting menu. The best meal of the trip, it was inventive, superbly crafted, delicious, and generally a great dinner. The menu featured truffles in every course; the premium they commanded was more than worthwhile. The restaurant itself is also impressive, like Morimoto himself an unusual blend of traditional Japanese design elements with bits of big-city night clubs.

And thence to more work on Slanted Jack. It's going slower than I would like, but it's going, and sooner or later I'll finish it. And turn to the next book.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Philcon, day 2

I slept late, which was glorious. (I realize it may seem sad to some folks that I find sleep so exciting, but I don't get a lot of it, so I enjoy it when I can.)

My first con activity of the day was to listen to a panel on electronic publishing. The panelists--Eric Flint, Gordon Van Gelder, Jim Kelly, and Eva Chalker-Whitley--presented mostly intelligent commentary, and though it was old and familiar ground to me, I wanted to be there to support Eric.

I stayed in that room to be on the next panel, whose topic was SF and myth. I didn't know any of my fellow panelists, though the moderator, John Henry (who writes as Jack Campbell), had been on a Balticon panel with me. He did a good job, and I enjoyed my discussions with him as well as some parts of the panel. Overall, I'm not sure the audience got much from us, but almost all of the twenty or so folks stayed to the end, which is something.

By this time we needed to eat, but pickings were slim, so I settled for two hot dogs from a small hotel snack table in the lobby. The dogs were soaking in slightly discolored water, but I've eaten worse, so I wolfed them down. After a walk through the largely uninspiring though well-intentioned art show and another pass through the dealer's room, I went upstairs to work--and to give myself some quiet time while the hot dogs waged war against my stomach. My digestive system carried the day, but it was rough going for a while.

I attended Eric's guest of honor speech at 4:00, which though enjoyable--he's a fun enough speaker--did cover much of the same ground as the earlier panel.

Dinner tonight was at Le Bec-Fin. The meal was expensive and extremely good, but having eaten at what are arguably the two best French restaurants in the country, Robuchon at the Mansion and Guy Savoy, both in Las Vegas, I was expecting better than I got. Still, the comparison is probably unfair to Le Bec Fin, and we certainly enjoyed our ten-course tasting menu.

And now I'm working, which is, I suppose, what I can say about this hour of most nights.


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