Saturday, September 8, 2012

Catching up with me over the next eight days

Starting tomorrow morning, I hit the road again.  If you'd like to catch up with me while I'm out and about, here's where I'll be.

From Monday through Friday (with Friday an all-day-on-planes travel day), I'll be in San Francisco for IDF, the Intel Developer Forum.  I'll be attending this tech conference during the day, so if you're not doing the same, it might be hard for us to meet then.  I'm thinking, though, about calling an open dinner of some type on one of the nights, so if you're interested in that, please email me. 

Next weekend, I'm one of a small number of writer guests at a new local conference, the Escapist Expo.  This gaming-oriented affair is a bit of a departure for me, but when they asked, I figured I might as well give it a try.  I'll be on three panels with three other fiction writers (and friends):  Richard Dansky, David Drake, and Mur Lafferty.  Drop by, and you can catch us talking about

Adaptations and the IP (Saturday, 10:30 a.m.)

Publishing science fiction and the Internet (Saturday, noon)

Dystopian futures (Sunday, 10:30 a.m.)
If you're at any of these events, feel free to come by and chat--though not while a panel is going on.  That would be rude, of course--though more common than you might imagine.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Back to school

After an unsatisfying two and a half hours of sleep, I got up, worked a bit, showered, and headed off to a local high school.

Yup.  A high school.

I had to arrive early to make sure I could get a parking place and a visitor's badge.  I haven't been back to a high school since my kids left theirs, so this was an odd trip.

I was there as a guest speaker at two consecutive ninth-grade Business and Finance classes.  When I'd agreed to speak, I'd failed to ask the hours, so of course I landed the very first classes of the day.

It was an interesting experience.  I was supposed to tell a short version of my life story, with a strong focus on what made me the person I am today--a topic I definitely had to clean up--and my background in business.  I tried to be completely honest with the kids, the way I would have wanted a guest speaker to be when I was their age.  I answered all their questions honestly, and though I (mostly) kept my language clean and (mostly) my focus off the abuse I suffered, I tried not to talk around any subject of interest to them.

A lot of folks gripe at me for never posting pictures of these things, so here, courtesy of Gina, is the photo of me talking in which I look least like Jabba the Hutt. (Click on it to see a larger image.)

Frightening, isn't it, that this is the best photo of me talking to the students?

The kids all stayed awake and seemed interested, were more polite than I would have been, and asked the occasional odd question, which I appreciate.

One question I was supposed to answer in the course of my initial remarks but which I forgot both times to address was, "What do you consider the biggest motivators of your success?" The students didn't forget, though, and when the first class raised it, I answered honestly and without thought or hesitation,
My mother, and my anger.  
Not money, or recognition, or success, or my team, or any of the many other factors that absolutely do motivate me.  No, what came to mind was Mom and rage.  

I explained a little about my answer, but not much.  What I found interesting was that I'd never really considered that question, and my answer felt true.

So, I went to school to talk, and along the way I of course learned a little something. 

I hope the students did, too.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Where's the threat?

I've heard and read a lot of people saying that non-heterosexual marriages are a threat to the institution of marriage.  Some go so far as to say that homosexual relationships are a threat--though, again, exactly how and to what is never clear.

What complete utter horseshit.

When we're little kids, we know better.  We know that if another kid is nice, that kid is nice, and if he or she is not, he or she is not.  We don't worry about that other kid's sexuality, or the sexuality of the kid's parents.  It just doesn't occur to us.

Monday, walking back from the Art Institute of Chicago, we passed by Millennium Park and stopped for a bit to admire the lovely Crown Fountain.  The fountain is actually a pair of glass brick towers (I show one of them here) with a changing face on it.  In this photo, the face is smiling, and in the granite reflecting pool, children and grown-ups are playing. 

Here the face is blowing water at the crowd.

Standing there, watching and listening to the people playing, I saw happy kids running to their parents now and again, sometimes to splash the grown-ups, sometimes for reassurance, sometimes to take a sip of a drink.  Over the course of less than five minutes, most of the kids returned to heterosexual parents.  One little girl, though, dragged a friend to meet her dads.  The friend waved, smiled, and then introduced the two men to her parents, a man and a woman.  The kids returned to play.  Not twenty feet away and only a couple minutes later, another little girl told an even smaller boy that she had to check with her moms, ran to two women, whispered for a moment, in a louder voice promised to be careful, and ran back to play.

There was no threat.  There were only children and people who loved them. 

There is no threat, not here. 

Fear and stigmatize the parents who abuse their kids, but not those who, like the rest of us, love their children, do their best by their children, and try to live their lives as best they can. 

No matter what the sexuality or number of those parents. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

You know you want one

So there I was, minding my own business, coming back from a food-truck lunch while in Portland, taking a short detour through a craft shop, when I saw it.  Immediately I knew my friend Jain had to have it. 

(As always click on an image to see a larger version.)

Yes, it's a large and wondrous chicken.  A chicken wearing small Converse All-Stars that match its plumage.  

A chicken with a fine profile.

A chicken with a whacked-out facial expression.

Best of all, it's not just any large wondrous chicken wearing Converse All-Stars that match its plumage and that has a fine profile and a whacked-out facial expression.  Oh, no:  it's a memo chicken.  The artist who created it painted it with blackboard paint, so you can write on it with chalk--chalk of many colors!--and then wipe off the writing with a soft damp cloth.  Note the chalk in the first photo.

Sure, you could leave a note on the kitchen counter or the refrigerator, but think how much cooler it would be to see a reminder on the chicken standing in your kitchen.  "Pick up some eggs" is instantly a far more interesting instruction when it's written on a chicken.

Jain now has one.  You know you want one. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On the road again: Chicon, day 8

I'm home.

Work and travel consumed most of today, but I managed to fit in a little time walking in Chicago and quite a delicious lunch at Marc Burger, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson's small burger joint in the food court in the enormous downtown Chicago Macy's.  Any day that includes Kobe sliders and garlic aioli frites just cannot be all bad. 

I am always a bit amazed, though rarely ever surprised, by how long it can take from when I leave a hotel room to when I'm sitting in the Admirals Club working again.  Though today's version of that process was far from quick, it did feature one new treat for me: pre-checked security check-in.  After I handed my driver's license and boarding pass to the TSA agent waiting outside the security line, she checked it, put the boarding pass on a scanner, and directed me to head into the pre-checked line.  I was the only one in it.  I had already put the contents of my pockets into my backpack, so I had only to put my backpack on the conveyor belt and walk through security.  They let me keep on my shoes and belt, and I was on the other side in under a minute.  I was security partying like it was 1999!

I don't know how this happens, but I hope it happens again soon and frequently.

My flight home was delayed quite a bit, partly by air traffic control and partly by the passenger who threw up over both seats in a two-wide row.  I don't know which poor maintenance folks had to come on board to completely clean (and possibly partly disassemble) that row, but they have my thanks.

Now, to unpacking, more work, and then, with any luck at all, a decent amount of sleep!

Monday, September 3, 2012

On the road again: Chicon, day 7

The con wound to a close today, and tomorrow I fly home. 

After a refreshing night's sleep, I worked some, poked around a little, and then a group of us met up with Baen Senior Editor Jim Minz for a tasty brunch at Orange.  I react badly to syrup and so don't eat it, which means that I almost never have pancakes or French toast.  The pancakes at Orange, though, are so juicy and delicious that they don't need syrup at all.  I thus enjoyed pancakes for the first time in quite a little while.  Yum.

After that, we said goodbye and cabbed over to the Art Institute of Chicago for several hours of contemplation of wonderful art.  As always, I particularly enjoyed the Impressionists.  Over the years, quite a few folks have accused me of being a cheap sentimentalist because of my love of much of the work of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, but once again today many of his paintings spoke to me.  I cannot help but find Madame Leon Clapisson lovely, Woman at the Piano so very lush and wonderful, and Lunch at the Restaurant Fornaise (The Rowers' Lunch) so endlessly watchable despite the softness of its depiction, to name but three.  If to love Renoir is indeed to be cheaply sentimental, then I must stand guilty as charged.

I also love most, though not all, of Van Gogh's work and, like so many others, I find him a fascinating character.  Today, I spent quite a few minutes studying one of my favorites, the second of the three simple studies he made of the room where he stayed while in the Yellow House in Arles, his wonderful painting, The Bedroom.  As I stared at it, as I looked carefully at the brush strokes and the colors, an insight came to me with the utter certainty of truth:  the only place he felt safe in that room, really safe, was when he was in the bed.  I cannot, of course, prove this insight to be accurate, but it is what the painting said to me today. 

After a delightful walk back to the hotel and some work, we ate a delicious Cuban dinner at Siboney, which was quite a cab ride away but well worth the trek. 

More work remains today, but after you've spent time staring at wonderful art, it is hard to complain about having to do some work to pay for the privilege. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

On the road again: Chicon, day 6

Last night, after visiting multiple parties and working, I slept for the better part of eight hours.  It was glorious.  I awoke feeling merely tired, as opposed to sick and exhausted, so I was pleased with my body's progress. 

After some work, late brunch was at a well-reviewed vegetarian place, Green Zebra.  The food was decent but no more, a far cry from what the reviews described.  Not a bad meal, but not really worth the cab ride to the restaurant.

More work, then time hanging with friends, checking out the dealers' room, and so on.  I didn't want to miss the Hugo Awards ceremony, so dinner ended up being a quick burger, chips, and soda at the once-famous (courtesy of Saturday Night Live back in the Ackroyd and Belushi period) Billy Goat Tavern

From there, we headed to the main ballroom for the awards ceremony, stood in long lines for a long time, and ultimately found seats two-thirds of the way back in the large room.

The two-and-a-half-hour ceremony went well, and Toastmaster/MC John Scalzi did his usual fine job of running the show and being entertaining.  I cheered for the winners and felt bad for the losers.  I'm particularly happy to be able to report that my pal and cover artist for No Going Back, John Picacio, finally won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist.  I say "finally" because this was his eighth nomination.  In an earlier post, I urged folks to vote for him, and though all the nominees were excellent artists worthy of the award, I'm glad John won.

Watching the Hugo Awards ceremony is always bittersweet for me--and, I suspect, for most writers and artists.  Realistically, I am likely never to be nominated, much less win, and that is a hard bit of realism to swallow.  Still, as I have to remind myself regularly, in the end there is only the work.  It is all I can control and all I can do, and when I hope for awards or bigger sales or greater recognition or whatever, that is my ego screaming, and I need to learn to ignore it.  That is a lesson I seem to be taking a very long time to learn. 


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