Saturday, May 28, 2011

On the road again: Balticon, day 3

I managed a decent night's sleep after a very late bedtime, so I awoke feeling less exhausted than usual.

First up for me today was the Baen News panel, in which we showed slides of upcoming and recent Baen books, often with the original painting first and then the final cover, and generally discussed things Baen-ish. I answered a lot of questions and the almost 90-minute panel seemed to go over well.

With less than thirty minutes before I had to set up for the next panel, lunch was necessarily rushed. We all opted for health food: tube steaks from the hotel concession downstairs. Fortunately for me, I love the noble tube steak in many varieties, so these were completely adequate.

I then moderated the Liars' Panel, where my fellow panelists, Jennie and Kyle, and I answered provocative questions and then gave the audience a chance to call us liars--for a buck apiece. If they caught one of us in a lie, he or she had to cough up ten bucks. If we were telling the truth, each challenger had to give over a buck. We raised well over two hundred bucks for Balticon's reading charity, which is a good thing to do, and we also kept the entire audience laughing for the full hour, another good thing.

After a bit of time wandering the dealer's room and the art show, I retreated to my room to fine-tune tomorrow's comedy show and do some work.

At 7:00, I gave a reading at which, to my surprise, almost ten people I didn't know showed up. I read part of "The Long Dark Night of Diego Chan," and it seemed to go over well.

We spent the evening at Kyle's place eating delicious Indian take-out, watching the UFC PPV fights, and finishing with yummy ice cream.

Back at the hotel, I worked some more on the show, and I will now do that again.

A full day, but not as full as tomorrow, in which I have my standup comedy show, a panel immediately after it, and then a one hour break before an hour of improv. I expect to be exhausted when it's over.

Friday, May 27, 2011

On the road again: Balticon, day 2

The degree to which this hotel's bandwidth sucks is hard to overstate. I ran a quick test and was not able to sustain a whole 5KBps--about a fifth of last night's horrible performance. I suspect the deluge of e-dependent fans has pushed the place's Internet connection to the brink, over the edge, and down to the ground in a fiery mass.

I actually managed to get six hours of sleep last night, which left me feeling rather refreshed for most of the day. I hope to get even more tonight.

On the drive downtown for lunch, we noticed some firefighters on an overpass and then an empty stretch of interstate--something you never see in Baltimore. A bit further along, we saw a long stretch of police cars by the side of the road, each pointed out, a policeperson in front of it. They were all there, it turns out, for the funeral of a fellow officer who was killed in the line of duty. I found it a sobering and moving sight.

My friend, Griffin, is a cop in San Francisco. He and all his fellow officers in cities and towns around America do a job that is rough, that few want to do, and that is sure to scar them. That job also kills some of them, as this funeral reminded me. We don't appreciate them enough.

Lunch was at Cafe Hon, a local institution with standard, tasty diner fare. After enjoying an egg salad sandwich there, I strolled down to one of my favorite quirky bookshops, Atomic Books. Its slogan, "Literary Finds for Mutated Minds," sums it up nicely. I didn't intend to buy anything, but I found one book I had to have, and from there it was all downhill. Suffice to say the car will be riding lower on the drive home.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a local ice cream shop, Uncle Wiggly's (love the name), for some locally made Taharka Brothers ice cream. It was excellent, definitely some of the better flavors I've sampled anywhere. Who knew Baltimore had national-caliber ice cream?

After several hours dedicated to registering, roaming the con a bit, working, and running into and talking with some friends, we headed to dinner at Pazo, one of Chef Cindy Wolf's restaurants. The food, mostly Spanish, mostly small plates, was delicious and flavorful--as always.

We've now put up posters all over the hotel for the two charity events I'm doing (the Liars Panel and the Mr. Poor Choices comedy show), and I'm headed back to work. A full day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On the road again: Balticon, day 1

After three not very restful hours of sleep, I got out of bed with every intention of showering, packing, and being on the road in 45 minutes. I then checked work email.

Two hours later, we left.

This delay caused us to hit heavy rush-hour traffic on both the D.C. and Baltimore beltways. Wow, was that traffic intense. I have trouble picturing the inducement it would take to make me commute in that rough snarl every day.

Ultimately, though, we made it to the con hotel. My room is nice, easily the best I've had here, but the bandwidth sucks. We are talking peak rates around 24KBps--and all the fans haven't hit yet. I may need to take up residence at a local Panera just to be able to work.

Kyle met us at the hotel a bit later, and we headed off to dinner at Dogwood, a place in Hampden that none of us had visited before. Dogwood emphasizes local sourcing and training people from the community. It's a very socially conscious place that also serves good food. I love its motto:

Eat well. Do good.
All the dishes we tried were quite tasty.

If you live around here and haven't eaten at Dogwood, give it a try. I'd definitely go back.

After hanging out for a while, I turned to work, to which I shall return now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Come see me at Balticon this weekend!

Yes, tomorrow morning all too early for my taste, we head to Balticon. The early departure is necessary to try to avoid the rush-hour traffic around D.C. and then the second round of heavy traffic around Baltimore. I rarely make it out the door as early as I'd like, because it always seems that on the evening before I am doing what I'm doing now: working insanely late. Ah, well.

I'll be rather busy at this con, so if you'd like to catch up, come by one of these events and say hi. Here's what the con folks have me doing:

Saturday, noon: Baen traveling slide show

Free books! A slide show of current and upcoming books, usually with both the original art and the final cover--a rare chance to see how book covers evolve. Free marketing swag! The occasional announcement of a new book. Free books!

Did I mention we'll be giving away a lot of free goodies?

Saturday, 2:00 p.m.: Liar's Panel

This one is for Balticon's reading charity. My fellow panelists and I will answer some prepared outrageous questions. We have to tell the truth--except a few times, when we get to lie. None of us will know when the other is lying. After each question, anyone can challenge an answer--by holding a buck in the air. When all the challengers have their hands up, the panelist must reveal whether the answer was true or a lie. If it was true, the charity gets all those dollar bills from the challengers. If it was false, the panelist has to kick ten bucks to the charity.

In past years, we've heard some amazing tales and laughed so hard we hurt. Come join us again for more fun this year.

Saturday, 7:00 p.m.: Reading

No, I won't tell you what I'll read, but I will say this: it's likely to be something I have never read aloud at a con. Show up to find out just what I'm considering.

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.: Mister Poor Choices comedy show

Usually, you have to buy a ticket to a comedy club to see a stand-up show, but at Balticon you get one for free. Of course, we'll try to convince you to buy a tour shirt on the way out the door--because I'm donating all the profits from my sales of the shirts to Balticon's reading charity.

You'll laugh, you'll learn many choices not to make, and you'll shake your head in stunned wonder at some of the ones I have made. Don't miss it.

Sunday, 2:00 p.m.: Good and Evil in Genre Literature

We'll get down with our moral selves and explore just how our fiction deals with some of the great complexities we humans face.

Or maybe we'll just blow it off and tell fart jokes.

You'll have to show up to find out which way we go.

Sunday, 4:00 p.m.: Improv Comedy Jam

Just what the title says: You pitch ideas, and we turn them into comedy--or look stupid trying. Expect to laugh and probably to groan a bit, too.

Monday, 11:00 a.m.: The Use and Misuse of Violence in SF & Fantasy

I've spoken on this topic before, and the panels always ended up being interesting and thought-provoking discussions. I'm sure this one will follow a similar course. Check it out.

I hope to see many of you at the con!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another of my favorite TED 2011 talks

The man who gave this talk, Thomas Heatherwick, is not a great speaker. He frequently appears awkward and uncertain. At the beginning of the presentation, I thought I might be bored.

Until he began to show some of his studio's projects. I was then captivated. It reminded me again that a better design can transform almost any object into a more beautiful and more useful version of itself.

If I had seen this presentation when I was a kid, I might well have headed straight for architecture and design and never turned back.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Announcing a new blog feature:
a relationship advice column

It took a lot of work. I had to compete with the three major networks, HBO, Showtime, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Playboy, and Guns & Ammo. In the end, though, I won. Starting sometime in the next month (more on that below), I will debut on this very blog a new column:

Ask Dr. Efficient, The Love Guru

Dr. Efficient is, of course, the nom de therapy of our very own Kyle, a man renowned worldwide for his extensive knowledge of and deep insights into the intricacies of human relationships.

Here's how it will work. To avoid deluging Kyle, email me your questions. If you know my email address, feel free to use it; otherwise, go via the form on my Contact page. Mark it clearly as being for Dr. Efficient. I will pass a small group of them, no fewer than two and no more than four at a time, to Kyle; more would be risking bringing too much wisdom into the world at once. Kyle will, as his schedule permits, email me the answers to the questions. I will then post the questions and the answers. If you want me to keep your name secret, say so, and I will note only your gender and country; that much is necessary to make the origins of the question clear.

Ask Dr. Efficient will be an adult column; Kyle is free to use all the words.

So, if you're lost in the maze of life's relationships, email your questions for Dr. Efficient. He'll find you a path--an efficient path--through your troubles.

Despite the humor above, this is not a joke: we're really doing this, so send in those questions now!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

DubaiEye 103.8

If you're interested in hearing me on talk radio in Dubai, head over to the DubaiEye 103.8 site and have a listen. As best I understand it, you should be able to find a podcast of the show sometime soon on this page for the Nightline show. (It's not up there now, but it will be sometime over the next few days.)

I met Dr. James Piecowye, the host of the show, on the first night of TEDActive. We were standing in line at one of the food trucks that the TED organizers had arranged to serve us all dinner. Our conversation ranged over a variety of topics and ultimately led to James inviting me to be on his show.

We spent an hour discussing all sorts of topics related to writing. I enjoyed it, and I thank James for having me. I hope you enjoy it, too.


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