Saturday, January 15, 2011

On the road again: Boston, day 4;
Arisia, day 2

My con activities today included two panels. The first, for which I was the moderator, was about truth being stranger than fiction. The audience, which grew to over three dozen folks, was into the topic, my fellow panelists were entertaining, and all involved seemed to have a good time.

The second panel focused on the uneven distribution of technologies, now and in the future, with a particular emphasis on the digital divide. The rather small room filled to SRO levels and beyond (some people were sitting on the floors at either end of the panelist table), everyone seemed very engaged in the topic, and I know quite a bit about the topic. Despite all the that, the panel very much did not work for me. I ended up shutting down and saying almost nothing, partly from frustration and partly because I was afraid of what I might say about some of the proceedings had I opened my mouth. I'm never sure whether it's better in such circumstances to go deadly quiet, which people do notice, or to turn into a complete asshole, but I almost inevitably choose as I did today and simply shut up.

Because I wanted to catch at least part of the con's masquerade, we headed to a rather late dinner at Hungry Mother in Cambridge. HM specializes in upscale, mostly locally sourced southern food, which is an odd combination to find around here. We sampled only smaller dishes, but all were at least good, and a few, notably the grits (from North Carolina's own Anson's Mill) with cheese and a bit of bacon were a perfect comfort food for a cold night.

I'm still puzzled about my reaction to that panel, and I probably will be for some time. I hope I do better on tomorrow's group discussion.

Friday, January 14, 2011

On the road again: Boston, day 3;
Arisia, day 1

The Arisia convention began during the afternoon, but my daylight hours belonged to work. The work was interesting and important, but as usual, I can't discuss it. Some other time, I'll write an entry explaining why--but not now.

The late afternoon/early evening brought my autograph session, which officially started just as the dealers' room space, where I was to sign, opened for business. I don't expect many people to ask me to autograph books in the best of circumstances, and these were about as bad a set of arrangements as a con could have assigned me. I thus was not at all surprised to sign only one book; in fact, I was happy for that chance.

From there, we scooted to dinner at Menton, a fine new restaurant from the folks behind the wonderful No. 9 Park. I'd read good things about Menton and hoped it would live up to its hype.

It did. The service was very good, the dining room lovely and elegant, and, most importantly, every single dish was extremely tasty. A pleasant surprise was the bread, all three types of which were excellent.

Menton is now on my must-eat list for Boston.

After dinner, I worked, wandered the con a bit, and then took part in an eleven o'clock panel on balancing writing with your day job. We were opposite a huge panel on BDSM, so our audience was rather small. Still, its members outnumbered the panelists, so we pressed on. By the end, the audience seemed happy, we panelists had enjoyed ourselves, and all was well.

To end and for no particular reason, here are Shibori and Holden pining for the fjords some days ago.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On the road again: Boston, day 2

Yesterday, I mentioned the trees covered on one side with snow. Here's a shot of them; as always, click on any image to enlarge it. I took this with my phone and from across the street, but with luck it'll at least serve to give you the idea.

Even the signs hanging from the buildings ended up with snow on one side.

Today was mostly a work-in-the-hotel day, thanks to the snow's effect on some proposed meetings.

The last time I'd eaten at L'Espalier, the meal had been so weak--at times, so outright bad--that I'd written that it would take a lot to get me to go there again. Almost all the online reviews I've seen recently have praised the place, however, so I took them as a good omen and gave it another shot tonight.

I'm very glad I did. The meal was topnotch from start to finish. We had the chef's tasting menu, so we never knew what was coming next, which is one of my favorite ways to dine at a good restaurant. Though the chefs kept the shape of the meal largely within classic French boundaries, their creations displayed enough inventiveness that I never found it too predictable. I must now recant my previous post and once again recommend L'Espalier to anyone in this area. (If you go for the chef's tasting menu, though, bring plenty of money; it is not cheap.)

I have more work to do and then must crash so I can get up early for meetings, but for no good reason, I thought you might enjoy a photo of our cat, Lyra, attempting to help with laptop work (fortunately, not mine).

She did manage to trigger the spelling checker; perhaps the sheer numerical orientation of the Excel spreadsheet offended her.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On the road again: Boston, day 1

The weather news was filled with stories of the blizzard hitting Boston, so I wasn't sure I was going to make it here today. JetBlue canceled my first flight, but after a long time on hold yesterday I was able to move to a 5:35 flight this afternoon. It left about 20 minutes late, but it left, and it landed almost on the initial schedule. We hit a little rough air coming down and had a more exciting time braking on the Logan runway than I would have preferred, but I've had far worse landings and so cannot complain at all.

I'm in town for some client visits and Arisia, the Boston-area convention I try to attend each year. You can see my activities on my Appearances page; if you're at the con, come by any of them and chat.

Dinner was at Oishii, which was, much to my delight, still open despite the snow. The food was excellent, as always; perhaps I'll post a few pictures tomorrow.

Also coming tomorrow, if I'm not bogged down in work and don't forget, will be a picture or two of the trees that are, rather beautifully, coated with snow on one side and clear on the other, all thanks to the sideways-blowing snow.

For now, more work, then a big, crashing sound as I fall into bed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Are you a good brain or a bad brain?

Yesterday, while at work, my left tricep began to itch. I was wearing a thick shirt, so scratching my arm through the shirt wasn't doing the trick. So, I did the only obvious thing: I reached up my sleeve and scratched the itch. In the process, I tore the cuff of the knit shirt at the seam. The tear ran the full length of the cuff, a few inches.

I tried to ignore the loose fabric, but it kept bugging me as I worked at the keyboard. Those who know me are aware that I cannot abide jewelry on my hands; it's too distracting. When I used to wear a watch, I took it off at every opportunity. The flapping cuff of my shirt was making me crazy.

I know less than nothing about clothing repair. The last time I tried to sew a button onto a shirt, I ended up with a fabric ball anchored to a button by so much thread that the button was barely visible; my thinking was that I never wanted the button to come loose again. I threw out the shirt.

I consequently asked Gina what to do. She said a safety pin was the answer. I, of course, do not carry safety pins. She thought she had one but couldn't find it. I was working at high speed and could not afford to give more time to this issue.

I finally persuaded her to solve the problem my way: with great protest, she stapled the cuff shut for me.

I've since heard this was not the appropriate solution, but it worked just fine until the wee morning of the hours, when the staple fell out. I was ready for bed by then anyway, so I consider the solution to have been perfect.

Good brain or bad brain? You decide.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The sky is falling, the sky is falling

That's pretty much the attitude around here when it snows.

Or when it might snow.

Or even when snow is remotely conceivable.

To be fair, the warnings for today had been universally dire: we're going to get lots of snow, you should expect problems, etc. It even is snowing in some parts of the area--but not in most. We don't need actual snow to panic, however; we just need the rumor of it.

The reason is that the moment someone discusses snow, we all have to face two realities:

1) No local government is really set up to handle it. They're much better at it than they were when I moved here, but snow really does constitute an exceptional experience for my part of North Carolina.

2) No one here knows how to drive on snow. Well, you do, of course, and maybe your friends, but not the rest of the people.

The combination of these factors means that you do not want to be stuck away from home should a real snowstorm hit, because you probably won't make it safely back there.

So, when the snow rumors start, our population follows a predictable pattern:

* We close the schools.

* Everyone who can work from home does.

* We swarm the grocery stores and buy all the milk, eggs, and bread that we can.

I've always found this last bit mystifying. Dennis Rogers, once a local newspaper columnist, hazarded a guess that we were all planning to make French toast should the white stuff fall. Perhaps it's toad-in-the-hole. I'm not sure.

Regardless, I'll be heading home from the office soon. Maybe we'll have breakfast for dinner.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Black Swan

After a lovely and entirely too calorie-heavy dinner at the wonderful [ONE] restaurant, a group of us headed to the theater to check out Black Swan. The buzz surrounding this one is amazing, so we wanted to see if it deserved all that praise.

It does--but don't go without understanding what you're getting into. Sarah summarized the experience as like being punched in the face for two hours, and that's a fair assessment. The intensity never lifts, and the descent into madness is terrifying and believable.

Natalie Portman is simply brilliant. If she doesn't win the Best Actress Oscar going away, there is no justice. I haven't seen another performance in a 2010 film that even came close to hers.

Everything about the movie works. All the performances, the direction, the script--you name it, and it was strong, very strong.

Just understand that you'll be signing up to watch the disintegration of a person, and that is very hard to do.

I don't regret going, and if you're up for the film's subject matter, I can't recommend it highly enough, but I doubt I'll buy the DVD or watch it again. I just don't know that I want to take that pain again.


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