Saturday, September 3, 2011

On the road again: Dragon*Con, Atlanta, day 3

Yesterday, I thought this con was huge. Today, all the people who couldn't get off work on Friday joined the crowds, and suddenly Dragon*Con went from huge to ginormous. Walking anywhere is, consequently, rather difficult, but the compensation is that the people watching is absolutely amazing.

Quick notes from the day:

Woke up to the sound of the parade beginning. I'd heard of the Dragon*Con parade before but never really considered it, preferring instead to dismiss it as some small fan thing. Mistake. It is huge, impressive, full of joy, and a ton of fun to watch--which I did, from my hotel room balcony. Using only my iPhone's camera, here's a shot of the crowds lining the part of the route that I could see.

That's only a tiny section of the total distance the parade covered.

The event lasted about 45 minutes and contained hundreds of people in all sorts of costumes. Some entrants were even complex floats, such as this smoke-breathing rock monster.

I quite enjoyed it but ending up running a few minutes late to my reading because of it. To my pleasant surprise, four people showed up--and I didn't know two of them. Both of those folks had read every book of mine, seemed to enjoy the Diego Chan section I read, and asked intelligent questions.

After the reading, I rushed over to Glennis' booth for The Missing Volume to be available to sign books. A half hour to make it from one event to another would be more than generous at most cons, but here it was tight.

From there I headed back to the Hyatt for the Baen Traveling Slideshow, where I spoke about the covers of a few books of mine. The crowd was loud and enthusiastic and very supportive.

I caught a scheduling break next, because the panel I was to be on moved from another venue to the same location as the Baen presentation. I actually had time to breathe, then took the stage with Christopher Robin (a con staffer), John Ringo, and Mike Williamson for an hour-long session on libertarians in space. The room was packed and the discussion far-ranging, but everyone seemed to have a good time.

After a break to grab some food and do work came the banquet. The food was pretty darn bad, the chicken about as rubbery as it could get, so we were glad to have already eaten. The banquet provided two treats, however, that made it worth attending.

First was a short performance by James Darren, who is still quite the entertainer.

The other was the pleasure of watching William Shatner receive both an award from the con and a proclamation from the City of Atlanta. He is a fun speaker and definitely livened up the event.

Evening brought more work and a couple of hours of wandering and people watching, which as I noted earlier is quite a treat here.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be a charity auctioneer for an hour!

Friday, September 2, 2011

On the road again: Dragon*Con, Atlanta, day 2

Though I had hoped to be offline today, I ended up having to devote most of the daylight hours to working in my room.

When I finally was able to get to the con, first stop was a hotel food cart for a nutritious lunch of hot dogs and Diet Coke--classic con food.

Then, the dealers' rooms.

Like the rest of the con, they were large, but no larger than a WorldCon dealers' room. The variety was interesting, as was the small presence of books: only two actual SF book dealers.

We roamed around quite a bit, talked to some folks, and ended up catching one of the odder events to be at any SF con I've attended: wrestling. I had to share with you a picture of this extreme match, which featured a trash can, a cookie tray, and a broom.

The art show mixed traditional art-show panels with booths in which the artists were personally selling their creations. The variety was good, as was the overall quality. As I'd expected, most of the art was, I believe, over-priced, so very little of it had bids, but I still enjoyed seeing it.

Dinner was at a restaurant in the hotel. The food was all at least tasty and sometimes quite good, so the meal was a better than I expected experience.

The people watching here remains stupendous. So many folks in so many different costumes are wandering the halls and cramming the lobbies that you can have a great time just looking around.

My favorite odd moment of late last night occurred deep in the night as I was heading back from the ice machine. Another guy was walking toward it. He was wearing only very short shorts and a diver's mask. The mask was loose around his neck, as if he'd just pulled it down.

I didn't ask. Sometimes, mystery is better than any answer.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

On the road again: Dragon*Con, Atlanta, day 1

Wow, is this con big. It isn't in full swing, there's been almost no programming, all I've done is register and wander a bit, and yet I am already amazed at its size. A big WorldCon these days draws about four thousand attendees; Dragon*Con will have ten to eleven times as many folks here. That's big.

Other observations from this very tiring day:

Work demands made my departure only 2.5 hours later than I planned. I should start thinking of that as the new norm.

Seven hours in a car is a long drive, but I didn't do most of the driving and so was able to keep up with most email via 3G.

A Shoney's in South Carolina made a so-so milkshake, but the walls of stuff for sale were amazing. I should have taken pictures. The sign reading "Shalom" right next to the stuffed bear and the pictures of the local police force were particularly charming.

The Metro Cafe serves completely serviceable food.

The energy here is amazing, the way SF fandom used to be twenty or more years ago--but on a bigger scale than SF fandom ever managed. Or maybe this is just the evolution of SF fandom; I like to think so but then wish books were more important.

A good 20% of the attendees appear as old as the fans at most SF cons, but the rest do appear younger.

Costumes are everywhere and, yes, the stories are true: lots of very attractive women in sexy costumes are roaming the halls.

Every single staffer I've encountered has been amazingly nice and helpful.

John Ringo is currently alone tomorrow on a panel called "Liberals in Space." Wow.

I'm so tired I'm almost punch-drunk, so I'm signing off.

Tomorrow, I hope to sleep late and see a lot of the con (and magically keep up on work).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An alternate perspective:
Tigger answers the Dr. Efficient questions, #2

Warning: The following is an adult entry. If you are underage or simply do not want to read about sex-related topics, stop now.

Tigger is working hard to catch up to Dr. Efficient and, even though a hurricane may soon hit her, has already supplied me with these answers.


All opinions are those of Tigger.

How does one entice a partner who has apparently given up sex into wanting to fuck again?

Does anyone really have this problem?

Kneel between his legs and blow him. Possibly consider stripping naked and/or playing porn in the background when you do this.

If this somehow fails, probably he needs to change any medications he is taking and/or his choices re: recreational drug use.
Why is love so important to a woman and not so much for a man? And, no, saying "I love you" just to have sex doesn't count.
Love is important to everyone. Differences in expression and the way we understand "love" are mostly a result of cultural conditioning.

Mark's home page includes a sentence that starts out, "stories help us understand the universe and our place in it." I totally believe this. I also think it is largely why women get caught in fantasies about romance and men want to run out and fight things, in both cases as expressions of love.

It's possible this works in reverse, that stories are modeled on reality rather than reality being modeled on stories. I think the "emo" kids disprove this, though. That population seems to demonstrate that given the right sort of cultural influences, boys and girls may model themselves in such a way as to be almost completely indistinguishable from each other.
What is it about big breasts that makes men go catatonic?
It's the possibilities inherent in cleavage and the idea of something else they could slide their cock between.


Alternatively, it might be the same reason that men are so impressed by trucks with really, really BIG tires. Whatever that reason might be.

If I recall correctly, according to some of those evolutionary psychology types that Dr. Efficient is so enamoured of, liking big boobs has something to do with how much easier it is to accurately guess age and, therefore, likelihood of fertility. Because unsupported big boobs typically go all obviously floppy as you age, whereas it's harder to tell with tiny boobs. I'm surprised he didn't mention this, actually.

I'd still bet on the cleavage thing, though.

As long as you keep sending in questions, Tigger and Dr. Efficient will return soon! Email your queries to me or send them via the Contact page on my site.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So hard

Yesterday, Sarah flew to Rome en route to starting a semester studying abroad. Watching her go so far away was incredibly hard, because this will mark the longest we've ever been apart from her. I know the semester will be fantastic, and in many ways I'm envious, but I also know that being alone for the first time in a foreign country can be scary at times.

You can follow some of Sarah's adventures in her blog.

I know that dealing with all sorts of new things is just part of growing up, but every time Sarah or Scott suffers at all, my heart aches, and I wish I could make it all better.

When they were toddlers and something bad happened, I could pick them up, hold them, murmur reassurances, and in short order the tears would stop, and all would be right with the world. I can't do that any longer, particularly when they are away, and I hate it. Yes, I know it's natural, that they're grown people, that they can take care of themselves--all the rational statements, I know them, but I still hate it.

I wish I could hug Sarah now until all was right with her world. Not being able to do so, no matter how proper or natural, is so hard, so very hard, one of the hardest things in the world.

Monday, August 29, 2011

An illuminating correspondence about Dr. Efficient's posts

David Drake (Dave) and Dr. Efficient (Kyle) recently exchanged a set of email messages on the topic of the Dr. E columns. They CC'd me, in part because I'm involved and in part because the original goal was to have this happen through the Comments section of the blog. I found the correspondence interesting, so I asked their permission to reprint it here. They agreed.


I am intellectually and emotionally in tune with sociobiology, and there's lots of empirical support for it. That said, I have a feeling in reading your answers that we're missing something. I think we're Newtonians in an Einsteinian universe. Everything we can see reacts in the fashion we think it should, but there's more out there.

Obviously if I could see what I was missing, I wouldn't be missing it. Intuitively, though, I believe we may be understating--ignoring--the role of our higher processing faculties in viewing our behavior as only that of beasts. I think that throws enough of a variable into your (our; let me emphasize, I'm very much in your camp) calculations to seriously bias the result in a direction we have difficulty in seeing, let alone accepting.
Humans are somewhere between apes and angels. Anybody who's seen a dog playing with a toddler realizes that other animals are straightforward predictable creatures and that humans, even little ones, aren't. If I spend a lot more time focused on our apish than angelic natures, there are three reasons for that:

1. Most people seem to think that we are angels--that is, that we're creatures of godlike intellect and airy emotion who act out of love or reason rather than animal need. If that's what humans were, our species would have gone extinct a long time ago. Maybe that's what we'll become after the Singularity. In the meantime, I emphasize our apish past as a counterpoint to the conventional wisdom.

2. Most of the things people care about most deeply are rooted in our evolutionary past. Love, war, fidelity, family, mortality... I can't think of any of Shakespeare's plays that wouldn't have made as much sense to a paleolithic hunter-gatherer as they do to us.

3. As you say, we're Newtonians in an Einsteinian universe. Or maybe Einsteinians in a Heisenbergian universe, since Einstein at least thought that truth was knowable. Every year at the beach there comes some point when I wander upstairs to find the women deep in conversation with each other about families I didn't know they had or concerns that I didn't know existed, and I'm reminded that I'm surrounded by this web of human connections that I simply lack the sense organs to perceive. It's like being blind, but feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, and knowing that there does exist such a thing as light even though you'll never be able to see it.

Tigger's now answering the same questions that I answered. I don't disagree with her answers, and I don't think that she'd disagree with mine. They just come from different places. My answers come from painstaking research.

Her answers come from blowing lots of dudes. I mean, life experience.
Apes/Angels implies a good/bad dichotomy, where I really think it's just different--or rather, much more complex.

Yes, the blind man in the sun is a very good analogy. I wish I understood better, since apparently about half my species does understand better; but hell, that's life.
I don't intend for apes/angels to imply a good/bad dichotomy. Because we are apes. Genetically we have more in common with chimps and bonobos than gorillas and orangutans do. Certainly, I wouldn't be too surprised if I ran into this fellow at WalMart one day.

As for angels, I've never assumed that they have our best interests at heart. Lucifer was, of course, an angel. The rest of them didn't seem like a particularly trustworthy lot, either. I'm not trying to connote goodness, merely transcendence.

Whatever else you may think about the Dr. Efficient columns, I encourage you to consider also this: though entertaining and frequently outrageous by design, they also represent more serious consideration and examination than may be initially apparent. As I hope this dialog makes clear.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

UFC 134: How we fared

Kyle and I differed on only two picks, so the possibilities for victory were small. We agreed that the card was good, and it was, indeed, as the Brazilian fighters earned a great many victories in their home country.

Let's start, as always, with the prelims.

Yves Jabouin vs. Ian Loveland

Wow, did we call this wrong. We both thought the weight cut would hurt Jabouin more and leave Loveland with the victory, but Jabouin was the fresher fighter at the end and never looked in danger of gassing. Loveland could not impose his will wrestling, and the fight went back and forth through all three rounds. In the end, Jabouin pulled off the split-decision victory and gave us a 0-1 start.

Yuri Alcantara vs. Felipe Arantes

We both chose Alcantara, and we were right. He dominated the fight, winning in all areas and earning the unanimous-decision victory. Now 1-1.

Erick Silva vs. Luis Ramos

Silva was clearly going to dominate this contest, but few would have predicted that he do it by TKO in only 40 seconds. This short fight was a whirlwind of strikes, but Silva landed the one that counted. He was our pick, so we move to 2-1.

Raphael Assuncao vs. Johnny Eduardo

Assuncao did not submit Eduardo, as I had predicted. Instead, he dominated Eduardo in striking and everywhere else en route to a unanimous-decision victory that had him earning every round on every judge's card. We ride his victory to 3-1.

Paulo Thiago vs. David Mitchell

Thiago almost finished Mitchell in the final seconds after clearly beating him for all three rounds, but he couldn't quite manage it. Still, he dominated and was the second fighter in a row to win every round on every judge's card. Thiago wins, and we go to 4-1, not a bad start for the night as we cruise into the fights on Spike.

The two matches on Spike TV brought our first disagreement.

Rousimar Palhares vs. Dan Miller

Palhares beat up Miller for most of the first round, almost finished Miller, declared himself the victor, ran across the octagon, and jumped onto the railing in celebration.

The problem was, referee Herb Dean had not stopped the fight.

Dean restarted the two fighters, and Palhares beat on Miller some more.

In the second round, he beat the tar out of Miller, but Miller would not quit.

In the third, both fighters gassed, and Miller actually held his own.

It was too little, too late, though, for Palhares clearly won the unanimous decision, as we'd expected, and made us 5-1.

Thiago Tavares vs. Spencer Fisher

Ah, the first fight on which we disagreed. I figured Tavares to win in boring fashion, while Kyle chose Fisher by knockout. I called the winner and moved to 6-1, while Kyle dropped to 5-2. What I didn't expect was that this was an exciting fight in which Tavares constantly pressed the action and finished Fisher by TKO.

With the main card, we saw some excellent fights with at least one surprise.

Luis Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov

Cane is a bigger man and a more technical striker than Nedkov. Cane has been in the big show before. We both figured those factors would give him the victory.

They might have, too, except that Nedkov hits with a lot of power, and Cane turned sloppy and did not protect himself as well as he should have. The result was a first round TKO for NedKov. I dip to 6-2, and Kyle goes to 5-3.

Ross Pearson vs. Edson Barboza Jr.

We both chose Barboza, and indeed he earned a split-decision victory, but I have to say that you could make a good case for Pearson having won the fight. Pearson was the aggressor most of the time, and he did an excellent job of closing the distance and landing punches on the taller Barboza. The judges saw it differently, though, which was bad for Pearson but good for us.

Brendan Schaub vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

In our other disagreement, I figured Schaub would take out Big Nog, while Kyle went with Nogueira. Boy, was I wrong. Schaub had his moments, but I thought Nogueira looked better for most of the short fight. With only about three minutes gone, Nogueira landed a big right hand on Schaub, made the younger fighter reel backwards to the cage, and followed him down for the TKO victory.

We both move to 7-3 and are guaranteed a tie.

I don't mind losing this one, though, because even as I was watching the fight, I was cheering for Big Nog. It's great to see him back.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Forrest Griffin

Griffin looked sluggish and confused, a lot like he did against Anderson Silva. Rua looked sharp and in control. In short order, Shogun dropped Griffin, pounced on him, hit his head repeatedly with hammer fists, and the ref stopped the fight. We both picked the wrong man in this one. Griffin looked like a guy ready to fall out of the top ten light heavyweights, while Rua looked like a contender.

We're at 7-4 heading into the main event.

Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami

This one, we called correctly. Everyone did. Silva toyed with Okami for a round, then played with him a bit more before standing in front of the Japanese fighter and leaving his hands at his side. Okami tried to hit him, and Silva dropped Okami with a jab. Silva let him up, like a cat taking only one leg from a spider before temporarily releasing it. A little more play. Repeat. This time, Silva followed Okami down and beat him until the ref called the TKO.

Silva has to be the most amazing MMA fighter working today.

His entirely predictable victory leaves us at 8-4, which is not bad, though nowhere near as good as I expected us to be.

As always, don't use us for betting advice!


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