Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Van Name ghost in the data machine

Many years ago, when Scott was but a wee lad, we stopped and ate at a Burger King. The chain was running a promotion that dangled the possibility of free stuff if you filled in a card with your contact information. Scott was just learning to write, and he was interested in the promotion, so he wrote his name, and I helped by filling in our last name and our address. Someone in the Burger King data factory couldn't read his printing, because not long thereafter we received a letter addressed to

Scooba Van Name

Thus was a new person set adrift in the nation's data stream.

Companies sell data, of course, so soon Scooba started receiving all sorts of mail. When companies exchange data, they tend to do so imperfectly, so Scooba was in some places male and in others female, in some Scott's age and in other's a few years older.

Scooba's sibling, Scobba, was also born.

Now, Scooba and Scobba (though mostly Scooba, he/she is the popular one) receive mail multiple times per week. Scooba's been asked to participate in both high school and middle school beauty pageants--in the same few months. Scooba's been recruited to multiple honors study programs, to the prestigious Mary Baldwin College when she/he was heading toward upper school, to multiple branches of the military, to international study opportunities, to state and national and international youth leadership conferences, and on and on. Today, Scooba received his first credit-card offer, courtesy of the fine folks at Discover.

I resist the urge to respond to any of these, though not because I'm a nice guy; I'm simply too busy. I do, though, track them with glee.

If you ever meet a real Scooba Van Name (or a Scobba, for that matter), please let me know. We've been throwing out his/her mail.

Meeting me at Worldcon

I've received a few questions about how to meet me at the Worldcon in Denver. First, I'm always surprised when anyone does want to meet me, so I take the questions as compliments of an odd sort. That said, I'm even more surprised that folks think they need to ask how to do it. Here's the algorithm:

1) Find out somewhere I'll be. You can look in the con pocket program, or you can check my Appearances page.

2) Come up to me either during a social event or after a panel. (During the panel, I'll be, well, doing the panelist thing.)

3) Say, "Hi," or something similar.

That'll do it. I'll stand and talk if space (in the area) and time (I have a fair number of schedule commitments) permit. I'll happily sign any books (and feel privileged to do so).

Simple, eh?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Home and all is well

Scott's sleeping now and not having a great day, but at least we're home and he has come through it with no apparent problems.

Enough blogging for today.

One of the worst feelings in the world

is watching one of your children suffer and being unable to do anything about it. Thanks to an unsecured network in a neighboring business, I'm writing this entry while sitting in the office of the oral surgeon who is working on Scott. They let me sit with Scott through the nitrous and IV insertion phases, but after that they showed me to the lobby. (That's actually fine with me; I want them to do their best work, and my presence wouldn't help that cause.) Standing there, watching my son have to deal with his second oral surgery, made my heart ache. I know that in the global scope of medical procedures this is not a big deal, and I know that he will be fine and home with us in a few hours, but it still scares and upsets me. That's my son they're operating on, damn it. I want him to be all better. I don't want him to have to do this.

I want to help, and I can't.

That very state, of course, is going to be more and more common in my life, as my children grow and ultimately go out on their own. I want to make their lives as easy and joy-filled and fun as possible, and I can't do most of that; heck, past a certain point in their lives I can control very little of it.

All over the world right now, parents are confronting similar troubles, often much worse ones. They have my sympathies. Each of their situations is unique, yet all of our situations are essentially the same. That knowledge doesn't really help, but I try to take from it what solace I can.

And I work to pass the time until my son appears and I know he is well.

Why aren't you at convention X?

I get this question sometimes, where X is, of course, the name of some SF con, typically one near the questioner. The answer is in two parts:

* Going would cost me money.

* Going would cost me time.

The first part is actually the easier one to handle, because if I really want to go to a con, I pay my way. (Having someone else pay when you're a GoH, though, is definitely cooler and cheaper, as I learned courtesy of the lovely folks at Balticon.)

The second is the real challenge. I have a demanding job, a family, an extended family, and, oh yeah, books to write. Keeping up with the job and the writing on the road is exhausting, and I can do only phone time with people.

So, if you want me at a con, please feel free to let me know, but also please recognize that I'll be balancing attending against those two concerns.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mamma Mia

Despite Kyle's admonition that seeing this movie could cause all the manhood in my body to vanish, the other night a few of us went to the theater to check it out. I'm not an Abba fan, and I'd read the largely mediocre reviews, but I do like musicals, and I was curious about one particular aspect of the film: Meryl Streep's performance.

I consider Streep to be one of the finest technical actresses of the last several decades. In The French Lieutenant's Woman, she nailed the look on the pier, an expression that Fowles described so beautifully I didn't think anyone could do it. In Sophie's Choice, her agony was palpable. And so on.

The problem is, I've never found her likable, appealing, sexy, or even warm. I can't explain it; I just never have.

Mamma Mia surprised me thrice:

* I actually enjoyed most of it, despite its many flaws.

* I learned that I, too, could star in a musical despite being utterly unable to sing, because Pierce Brosnan did--and, boy, is his singing voice weak.

* I found Meryl Streep likable, appealing, warm, and even sexy.

I do, though, now feel the desperate need to see Death Race. I can't wait for it to start.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Just who is this Kyle fellow anyway?

People ask. I'm a helper, so I help.

Kyle is a friend (which is the only reason I can do this to him; I'd never do this to an enemy). As I've noted before, you can read some of his technical pieces on videogame programming on his Web site. Those articles, though, do not tell the whole story. Kyle has many other sides.

For example, he is the best Quid-loser dancer anyone at the beach house has ever known. Here he is, pondering the cards that will soon lead to him dancing. As you can see, he has nerves of steel. Though a dancing fate awaits him, he shows no lack of confidence.

Kyle is also a charmer, as this Top 10 list from his office whiteboard, courtesy of a female colleague of his whom I shall not name for fear of lawsuit (okay, because I don't know her and thus naming her seems unfair), demonstrates to one and all.

Kyle is also the person who got me into MMA, for which I am quite grateful.

And, of course, Kyle is the kind of friend who will let you get away with crap like this.

As I said, he's my friend.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A sorry ending to a fun ride

We went yesterday to see the X-Files movie. Though I didn't watch the show for its first few seasons, I caught up later and became a fan (at least up to the point where Duchovny left the show). I was hopeful about this new film. The first movie was a muddle, but at least it tried to make sense of the back story, so I enjoyed it more than most.

This new installment, as its subtitle, I Want To Believe, implies, is all about faith. It blends the usual improbable X-Files pseudo-science with touches of the mystic and investigations into many different types of faith. If I read a precis of it, I suspect I would think it would make a movie I would like.

The problem is, it just doesn't work. The relationship between Mulder and Scully is unclear, Duchovny and Anderson have no chemistry on screen, and at almost every point at which we're supposed to feel great emotional portent, I instead felt, "I wish I cared about this."

It's a sad, sorry ending to a series that for several years was quite wonderful. I hope the money I spent for our party to attend it doesn't encourage Carter to make another one. Let it die.


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