Saturday, August 31, 2013

On the road again: WorldCon, San Antonio, day 3

My day began, as usual, with a bit of work, after which I rushed over to the convention center to do my 11:00 a.m. reading.  I expected no one to show, so I was pleasantly surprised to have an audience of ten or eleven folks whom I did not already know.  In gratitude for them getting up so early on a Saturday, I gave them several options for what I might read.  They chose the Heinlein afterword.

This time, I read it all the way through without tearing up, which I considered a definite improvement.

For most of the rest of the afternoon, I did normal con stuff:  got lunch, caught a few panels of friends, wandered the dealers' room and the art show, talked to a few friends.  I crammed in a bit of work as well.

I needed some time away from crowds, so I spent a few hours watching the UFC 164 prelims before I headed off to the Baen party.  I consider myself pretty bad at mingling at parties, so I found a tolerable spot on the large and lovely balcony and spent most of the evening talking to various folks, mostly existing friends but also a few people I met there.  For me, that's about as active a socializing plan as I can handle. 

I'm always struck by how bad I am at parties, while so many other folks seem completely at ease and in their element.  I don't expect to ever become good at these affairs, but I suppose I'm a tad less awkward than I once was.  That's progress of a sort.

Friday, August 30, 2013

On the road again: WorldCon, San Antonio, day 2

Today looked to be the quietest day of the con for me, so I slept more than normal, got up, worked, dozed a bit, and crammed in some more work.  After a quick lunch, I headed to the convention center to help with and catch the Baen Traveling Road Show, an always entertaining look at upcoming books and their cover art.

I roamed the art show a bit, but work beckoned, so I returned to it.  I look forward to the weekend days not being so full of work.

Dinner was a long, pleasant affair with Baen Publisher Toni Weisskopf and a host of Baen authors and friends.  We all walked to Bohanan's, a local steak house, and enjoyed traditional but very high quality steakhouse fare.  My Caesar salad was right on the mark, and my steak was delicious; I'd definitely go back there for the same sort of meal. 

After dinner, a group of us that included Lois McMaster Bujold sat and listened to law-enforcement stories from friends (and active workers in law enforcement) Griffin and Gerry. 

A low-key but pleasant day. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On the road again: WorldCon, San Antonio, day 1

My day began and ended with work, and it also featured a healthy dose of work in the middle.  Even so, I managed to fit in some time at the con.

My first non-work activity was a barely passable lunch at the nearby food court.  Better food is readily available near the hotel, but I worked too late to be able to walk to any of it and still make my panel on time.  Tomorrow should be better on this front.

I was the moderator on my first panel, The Impact of Aaron Swartz.  My fellow panelists included two attorneys, a professor, and a reporter, all of whom had strong feelings about the topic and about the related broader issues of technology and civil liberties, so I focused on keeping the conversation going smoothly and making sure all the panelists had a chance to speak on all the topics.  We ran only a couple of minutes late, the discussion moved along briskly, and all in attendance seemed to enjoy the panel.  Good enough for me.

After a work conference call, I spent a bit of time checking out the art show and the dealers' room before returning to work.  I enjoyed the exhibits of several artists, though my favorite pieces were, rather predictably, from my friend and Hugo-nominated artist, John Picacio

Dinner was decent sushi at a nearby place, followed by Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

I party-crawled a bit, but my heart wasn't in it--I'm rarely comfortable in the big convention parties--and I was tired, so I called it an early (for me) night.

Tomorrow, I hope to get to see a bit more of the con, maybe catch a few panels.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On the road again: WorldCon, San Antonio, day 0

After three interrupted hours of truly terrible sleep, I woke up, showered, threw my Dopp kit into my suitcase, and headed for the airport.  Everything on the first leg went as well as it could:  pleasant work time in the Admirals' Club, an upgrade and a breakfast and a bit of dozing and a bit of work on the plane, and an early arrival.

As I was waiting to board the second plane, Griffin waved hello, and we hung out a bit.  It's always good to catch up with him, as I expect I'll be doing on and off throughout the con.

The second leg was short, and I was in an exit-row seat, so I dove again into work and had a pleasant enough flight.

Work ate most of the rest of the day, though I managed to register for the con and to buy some Coke Zero--essential work fuel--for the room.

It's my first night in Texas, so dinner was barbecue at a local branch of the County Line, and dessert was ice cream--not Amy's, but pleasant.

More work, some UFC fights on TV, more work--did I mention work?  Busy day.

In about twelve hours, I moderate a panel, so I'm going to crash now.  Tomorrow, the WorldCon starts for real.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beware the North Raleigh Hibernian Pub

A fixture of the restaurant scene in downtown Raleigh for some time, the Hibernian Pub served reasonably tasty pseudo-pub fare at reasonable prices. I've eaten there several times over the years, and my meals have always been at least decent.  A fire closed the original location, which remains closed while the owners renovate it.  A North Raleigh location is even closer to me, and at least one friend had eaten a couple of good meals there, so it was a natural place to head for dinner before seeing The World's End, a movie that involves quite a few pubs. 

Big mistake.  My dinner was easily the worst, nastiest meal I've eaten--at a restaurant or in a home--in a very long time. 

I almost never write entirely negative reviews, mostly because I'd rather spread good news than bad.  I can't recall the last time I put out a completely negative restaurant commentary.  I even debated for quite some time whether to write this one.  I finally decided to go ahead with it because the food was just that bad

I had consumed only about 200 calories prior to the early dinner, so I was hungry.  I didn't know this location, so I went for what I thought would be the simplest dish to prepare:  breakfast for dinner. 

The sheer number of ways the kitchen managed to ruin this meal is amazing.  The whites of the eggs over easy were not cooked all the way through.  The beans (this was supposed to be a sort of mash-up of an English and an Irish breakfast) were cold, straight from the can.  The black and white pudding pieces were chunks of carbon, literally cooked to blackness all the way through.  The sausages were overcooked to the point of crunchiness.  The two chunks of bacon were oddly pink lumps of what I assume had been meat folded onto themselves and then transformed into masses with the consistency of heavy cardboard that was soaked and then dried hard.  And so on.

I had also ordered a side Caesar salad.  What arrived was a large plate with three pieces of lettuce on it, each one covered with half a dozen croutons you could have used in any stone-throwing contest.  Someone had painted on both sides of each lettuce strip a thick yellow dressing.  (I ignored the crouton rocks, scraped off the dressing, and ate the then merely nasty lettuce.) 

I'm serious:  the worst meal I can recall.

I certainly won't return to this Hibernian location until multiple people I know have taken that brave step and returned with good news.  If you decide to be one of those intrepid individuals, good luck.  I fear you'll need it. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The World's End

I'm a stone Simon Pegg fan.  I consider Shaun of the Dead to be the funniest zombie movie yet made, and I've seen more than any sane man's share of zombie comedies.  So, as I often do, I entered the theater predisposed to absolutely love this movie. 

I quite enjoyed it.  I laughed a lot.  I found the touching moments at least somewhat touching.  If you're in the mood to laugh--and who isn't, really?--I recommend you catch it in the theater. 

I just could not quite love it. 

After discussing the movie with Kyle, who saw it separately, I've come to believe that the central problem is that the filmmakers could not quite commit to a single identity for the movie.  They weren't willing to make it a full-on gonzo comedy, nor were they willing to produce a comedic growing-up story.  The result of this lack of commitment was that the funny parts weren't quite as funny as they should have been, and the touching parts weren't quite as touching as one would hope.

A different take on the same basic evidence is that they tried to make a full-on gonzo comedy that was also a touching film about friends growing up, and they didn't quite succeed. 

I'll resist spoilers because the movie is good enough that I don't want to ruin any of it for you, but I will say that the last third is where the film's mixed ambitions are, predictably, most evident.

Check it out, because we should all want Pegg and writer/director Edgar Wright and the always amusing Nick Frost to make more movies, and because you will definitely laugh.  You may even love it.  I wish I had. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

About my afterword to The Man Who Sold the Moon/Orphans of the Sky

I mentioned in my blog yesterday that my author copies of this book had arrived and that seeing them made me happy.  (The book goes on sale generally on Sept. 3.)

Click on the image to see a larger version.

What I didn't say in that earlier entry is that I found the book waiting for me on Friday night, which was a nice after-work treat.  Upon seeing it, I offered to read the afterword to the small group of folks who were at my house then.  They accepted, so some time later, after dinner and a movie, I grabbed a copy of the book and read aloud the afterword.

That proved to be an extremely difficult task.

Much of the essay is a straightforward discussion of various aspects of the Heinlein stories that compose the two books this volume includes.  The very beginning, though, and the last several pages are extremely personal. 

I had a great deal of trouble finishing the reading.  I had to pause several times, choked up by what I had written.  By the time I ended, my face was wet, and I am not a man who cries.  (In my defense, I did not so much cry as leak.)  So, when Dave, in his comment on yesterday's post, says that it is a strong bit of work, I cannot argue with him, at least when it comes to how it hits me. 

I confess to being rather embarrassed at how uncomfortable the reading must have made the others present, so to them I must offer my apology.

I'm not sure if this entry will motivate people to seek out or to avoid the afterword, but if you want to read a piece of my writing that chokes me up, this is a fine place to start.


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