Saturday, September 21, 2013

On the road again: Bouchercon, Albany, day 3

If my experience today is any guide, most of downtown Albany shuts down on Saturday.  Consequently, I wasn't very hopeful about my lunch prospects.  Fortunately, a food truck, Capital Smokehouse, pulled up alongside The Egg and came to the rescue of a whole lot of Bouchercon attendees, including me.

Click on any image to see a larger version.

The menu featured all the sorts of dishes such a food truck should, so I was hopeful.

I particularly appreciated the spelling, "sammiches."

I wanted a brisket sandwich, but they had already sold out of those by the time I reached the head of the line.  I instead opted for the beef and burnt ends sammich, which was yummy indeed.

I've run many Liars' Panels at conventions, so I was quite curious to see how this Bouchercon would do its version.  I'm sorry to report that though the panelists were all quite funny, and the hour passed in pleasant humor, the format really did them no favors.  Instead of raising money for charity and getting the audience involved, in this panel the moderator asked questions and then sometimes asked who believed the answerer.  I had fun, but this panel could have done so much more.

After a bout of work in my room, I headed back to The Egg to watch part of the interview with Sue Grafton and then the Anthony Awards. 

Grafton was gracious and funny as she answered all the questions that fans asked.  I've never tried her work, but after listening to her comments, I'm now quite tempted to read a novel or two of hers.

The Anthony Awards ceremony was low-key but pleasant, just the Toastmaster announcing the nominees and another writer naming the winners.  Presenting all five awards took well under an hour.

I expected to spend some time working and then watch a for-pay movie in my room, but this hotel doesn't offer in-room movies.  In my experience of con hotels, that's rather odd indeed.  Fortunately, I am never without a good book and a work backlog, so I passed the late hours of the day pleasantly.

Friday, September 20, 2013

On the road again: Bouchercon, Albany, day 2

In between work sessions, I managed to get out today for a lunch, two con events, and a dinner.

Lunch was at a little pizza joint, Pizzeria Sapienza.  I ordered two slices and a bottle of water, but the slices proved to be so big that I didn't finish the second.  The grease required four napkins worth of sopping, but after that, the pizza was tasty and the crust excellent.

The first bit of the con I caught was a panel on maintaining suspense in a novel.  I didn't learn anything I didn't already know, which was a shame, because I'm positive I have a great deal still to learn.  It was nonetheless interesting to see how different authors grapple with the challenge of making their books into page-turners.

Dinner was at dp, an American Brasserie, the sister restaurant to Yono's, the source of Wednesday night's good Indonesian tasting menu.  dp sits in front of Yono's and is the bar/dining room that you pass through to get to Yono's.  The food was nearly as expensive as Yono's but not anywhere near as tasty, a relatively basic meal that was good but no more.

Back at Bouchercon, I enjoyed watching the live auction, an event I strive to attend every year.  Crime fiction fans are willing to spend way more money than their SF counterparts at these charity auctions.  In tonight's affair, two authors, Chris Grabenstein and Donna Andrews, did a fine job of auctioning 18 items:  16 chances at having a character in an upcoming book named after you, and two novel critiques (from bestsellers Sue Grafton and Charlaine Harris, no less).  Each item opened with a minimum bid of $200, and almost all sold for twice that or more.  They raised a great deal of money for local libraries, which is a very good cause indeed.  I once again wished that SF fans were as generous.

Afterward, heading up to my room to work, I had to walk by the bar, where writers and fans were gathered.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

You can always find the most writers at any crime fiction con at the bar--and that is true of many SF cons as well.

Tomorrow, I hope to spend more of the daytime at the con than at my hotel room desk working.  We shall see how it goes.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On the road again: Bouchercon, Albany, day 1

Being a foodie doesn't mean you enjoy only fancy meals.  It means you have a strong interest in food.  In my case, it also means a fascination with the noble tube steak.

That interest led me to today's lunch destination, Dallas Hot Wieners, a business that has served downtown Albany diners for decades.

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

The food here is anything but fancy, but it sure is tasty.  I, of course, opted for the two signature hot dogs, the one with sauce and the one with cheese.

Yeah, my arteries were hardening even as I ate.

In for a penny, in for a pound in this place, so we shared an order of cheese and sauce fries.

The sauce really is a slightly spicy sauce, not a chili.  The cheese really is, well, you know: the stuff you pump from a can in great yellow spurts.

Over at the convention center, the dealers' room occupied a nifty, tiered space.

The opening ceremonies took place in the lovely theater in The Egg.

Man, would I love to do a stand-up show there to a packed house.  (Hey, I can dream.)

Dinner was an adequate but no better meal at Taste Restaurant. Had the food lived up to the dining room, it would have been excellent, but, alas, the interior design of the place was its best feature. Its worst feature was the dessert I chose: the chef's special cherry cheesecake. I was hoping for a lovely creation of cheesecake-y goodness infused with fresh cherries. What arrived instead was a hockey puck of sadness, a little disc of cheesecake that looked as if it had died of sadness and that tasted, to steal from Better Off Ted, like despair. I won't be going back to Taste this trip.

At the end of the main street that runs to the capitol stands this imposing part of SUNY Albany. 

Should the zombies attack this campus, the students should mount their defense from that tower.

On the walk back to the hotel, I spotted and could not resist this plaque.

How can you not love the name "Bogardus"?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the road again: Bouchercon, Albany, day 0

As bad as many of my flights are, most of them are on American Airlines, where as a lifetime platinum member of their frequent-flier club I have some privileges.  Today, I flew to Albany on United Airlines, on which I have no privileges.  Worse, both flights involved commuter jets.  So, I was expecting a rough trip.

Amazingly, everything went swimmingly.  The flights boarded and departed on time, I had time for lunch at Dulles, and I arrived in Albany in as good a shape as one can be after spending a few hours in tiny airplane seats.

After doing a phone meeting and checking into my hotel room, I headed off to register for the con.  Registration setup was in The Egg, a part of the Empire State Plaza.

On the way there, I walked up to and then by the rather imposing seat of New York State government.

On the way back from registration, I happened to pass by the state's fallen firefighters' memorial

and its Viet Nam veterans' memorial.

Both were lovely pieces, sad but useful reminders of some of those who have paid dearly in service to America.

Speaking of reminders, not far down the street from where the powerful gather to legislate on the citizens of this state, boarded-up storefronts and dead businesses shouted to anyone willing to hear that the economy is far from fully recovered.

On the other hand, this is still America, so if you want Lay's Chicken and Waffles potato chips

by God, you can have them--as long as you have $3.49 plus tax to pay for them. 

As it turns out, I had that much money with me, but I didn't want to risk having 1,600 calories of weirdly tempting yet likely nasty salty snacks in my room, so I gave them a pass.

Dinner was a good Indonesian tasting menu at Yono's, which a little research suggested would be one of the better restaurants in town.  The meal wasn't great, but it was good, and I'd definitely like to try more Indonesian food now. 

All the rest of the day and time into the late night went to work, as usual.

Tomorrow, the con begins in earnest.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Is it only my brain

that listens to these two songs and feels like they're spiritual and musical cousins, separated only by 25 years?

From 1988, the pop group Fine Young Cannibals.

From 2013, the pop group Fitz and the Tantrums.

Surely I can't be the only one to think that.

Yeah, I could be, but, still, I'm right.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thoughts after over three hours in the dentist's chair

I've always thought of myself as having very strong teeth.  Every dentist has told me that my teeth were unusually strong, "as hard as rocks" one said.  So, you can easily imagine my surprise on Friday the sixth when a piece of one of my upper rear teeth chipped off.  (For more, see this earlier blog entry.) 

I spent a good chunk of today and a rather large amount of money having the dentist repair the problem.  Now, I'm basically as good as new, though where the tooth was I now have about half a tooth and a crown.  In the course of those several hours with my dentist, I couldn't work anywhere near as much as I'd like, so quite a few thoughts crossed my mind. In no particular order...

As it turns out, one cusp of the tooth had broken off.  The second went flying away the moment the dentist began to grind the tooth smooth for the crown.  Apparently, this particular tooth had given up the ghost.  I find that annoying.  I wanted to tell my teeth to drop and give me twenty, then toughen the fuck up, but, of course, them dropping from my mouth would not be a good thing.

I really do have one of the world's worst gag reflexes.  I gagged at times they didn't think should bother me at all.  Still, I managed to make it through the entire process without throwing up on or biting anyone.  Go, me. 

Technology just keeps making dentistry better.  The dentist used an IR camera to take 3D photos of my tooth from many angles, fed those into a sort of dental CAD program, and created a model of the crown.  He then fed the model to a sort of 3D printer, which started with a block of some new, high-tech, tooth-like material and carved away all the parts it didn't want.  The result was a purplish crown that they fitted on my tooth, adjusted slightly, fitted again, and ultimately declared ready to go.  Off to an oven it went to bake.  About twenty minutes later, harder than a real tooth, it emerged.  The dentist fitted it, adjusted the bite, and so on, until he declared me ready to go.

The crown feels completely natural.  Even when I touch the tooth/crown combo, it feels like my tooth.  That's excellent. 

The amount of numbing agent it took to make sure I felt no pain at all--and I truly felt no pain--in that upper tooth was apparently enough that the whole left side of my face, from the outer edge of my eye to my lips, drooped a bit.  The injection even numbed my sinuses enough that I couldn't clear the left half of them.  I was really channeling my inner Stallone today. 

If the dentist had offered free Wi-Fi and let me bring my laptop, I could have stayed current on work, because at least a third of the time, and maybe a half, went to waiting.  Working on my phone, I just wasn't as productive.

The staff there found it odd that I worked on my phone at all breaks in the action and made several comments about it. I, predictably, thought it completely normal.

All in all, the experience was entirely better than I had feared, and the result is completely satisfactory.  If you live around here and are willing to pay a bit more than normal for dental care, I cannot help but recommend my dentist, Dr. Craig Williams

I'm still pissed at that tooth for giving up so easily.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On whining and writing and Deb's comment

A while ago, I wrote a post from the WorldCon in which I talked about never having even been nominated for a Hugo, much less winning one.  Deb, who comments from time to time but whom I do not know (I think; one never knows for sure with screen names) commented that at least I was published, that she was coming to fear she never would be.  Her comment was very supportive, but it's stuck with me because it made clear to me that I was whining.  As writers do, from time to time.  As I do here, from time to time.

I hate when I whine.  I don't like whining from others, but I despise it when I do it. 

Deb, thank you for making me think about this.  I do hope you get published one day.  My only advice that might help that happen is the only advice that I believe matters: 


Finish what you write. 

Send it out. 


For me, the same advice applies.  It's all any of us can do, really.  Yeah, we can promote our work and do social media and go to cons and on and on, but in the end, none of that matters at all compared to just producing our best work and seeing how readers respond. 

Whining is conduct unbecoming, and it's useless, so I shouldn't do it.  I'd love to say I'll never whine again about not winning awards, or not selling more copies of my novels, or not writing better, or whatever other things my writer brain wants to whine about, but I'd be lying.  I'm sure I'll whine again.  I will, however, do my best to minimize the whining, and I encourage you all to call me on it when I do. 


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