Saturday, October 19, 2013

On the road again: CONtraflow, New Orleans, day 2

Saturday is meant for sleeping, but today it was all about the con.

My first activity, which started at the almost sane hour of 11:00 a.m., found me moderating a panel on law-enforcement and SF/F. My fellow panelists--Diana Rowland, Alistair Kimble, and Griffin Barber--all have extensive law-enforcement experience, more than 30 years of it among them. After I'd plugged the panel the night before, I'd asked different interested audience members what they'd most like to hear from such a panel. The overwhelming consensus was that they'd like to learn how aspects of law enforcement really work, not how most books or movies or TV shows portray them. So, we focused on the real-world stuff and saved the SF/F angles for another day. The small room filled and then kept overfilling, and we ran past the fifty-minute stopping point all the way to the full hour we had the room. I asked questions but otherwise stayed out of it and let the experts talk. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and we all learned at least a little.

From there I headed down the hall one room to catch Publisher Toni's always interesting Baen Traveling Roadshow.  I saw a lot of good art, talked a bit about my books, and enjoyed the show.

I had only an hour available for lunch, so the hotel restaurant seemed like the best option. Unfortunately, the folks at the register there said it was closed and redirected us to the bar. By the time my food came, I had just enough time to eat three bites, pay the bill, and head to the charity auction. Given my weight, this wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but it also wasn't what I wanted at the time.

The auction was a benefit for the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library. Over the next ninety minutes, I auctioned off all forty-four lots, some for as little as a couple of bucks and others for nearly a hundred, and we raised money for a worthy cause.

I chatted with a few friends and then worked for a while in my room.

Next up was the costume contest, at which I was the MC. With twelve entries, two young-fan and ten adult, we had a nice selection of costumes. The packed house gave plenty of applause to the deserving contestants, the judges picked winners, we awarded prizes, and everyone had a good time.

After a short break, a group of folks related to Baen headed to a dinner to which Publisher Toni treated us. We spent several fun hours at Restaurant Cypress, which Zagat's had rated highly, enjoying a tasty meal and a lot of laughter.

More work followed for me, of course.

A very full day.

Friday, October 18, 2013

On the road again: CONtraflow, New Orleans, day 1

Most of the daylight hours today went to work, with a stop for a convention panel and then, as the light was waning, the Meet the Guests event, at which I performed my first Toastmaster duties.  I introduced the guests of honor, had the other guests present introduce themselves, and talked a bit to the attendees.

I grabbed lunch at a Sonic that's just a couple of blocks down the street.  Heading up to it, I saw this sign, whose message stunned me.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

I'm sorry, but when the best thing you can think to advertise about your bar is that it offers a "loser friendly atmosphere", it's time to consider another line of work.

Dinner tonight was at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Sunrise. The usual online sources gave it pretty good reviews, so even though it sits in a strip mall, I wanted to give it a try. 

I'm glad I did. 

The pho was delicious--and incredibly filling.  I'd definitely eat there again.

I spent some of the rest of the evening working and the rest at the con's cocktail party in the con suite, where I talked to various folks and hung out with a few friends.

Tomorrow morning, a panel!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

On the road again: Austin, day 5
CONtraflow, New Orleans, day 0

I'm tired of waking up in the sixes, but that's just what I had to do again today.  After a quick shower and email check, I headed for the airport. 

Travel to New Orleans from Austin via DFW went about as smoothly as it could given that I didn't get any upgrades and ended up missing Red Mango in Dallas.  I stayed fairly current on work, the flights ran more or less on time, and I had an exit row seat each leg; hard to complain.

New Orleans and the surrounding area have a culture all their own.  Part of that culture is partying.  From drive-through daiquiri stores to odd grocery-store offerings such as this

Click on an image to see a larger version. 

the evidence was everywhere.  You have to like the value this gadget delivers:  It'll check your alcohol level and also help you search for the keys you dropped as you fumbled to start the car.

Dinner tonight was a low-key gathering at a small local place for the convention committee (concom), other volunteers, and guests.

Yes, Come Back Inn really is the name of the restaurant.  I shared a sausage po boy and a muffuletta, and both sandwiches were great. Check out the half a muffuletta that remained after two of us ate a quarter muff each. 

That was a tasty, tasty sandwich.

The sign out front might cause you to wonder about this place, but I'd eat there again anytime. 

At dinner I had the opportunity to chat with many folks, all of whom were interesting and fun. I had the pleasure of meeting Deb, who comments here frequently, and her husband, Jude, and I chatted for a while with them both.  It's always nice to meet folks who've been commenting on the blog. 

Tomorrow, the convention begins in earnest, and I do my best to earn my keep as Toastmaster!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On the road again: Austin, day 4
Plus, a kickstarter tip

All of today's meals were meetings, and all were with good clients and friends and colleagues--but all must remain private.  We mostly stayed informal, which was nice and which led to great ice cream at Amy's after a fun dinner of extremely tasty wings at a local Pluckers.  I rarely go out for wings, but these were the best I've ever had. 

Because I can say so little about my experiences today, I'm going to devote this space to a plug for a new Kickstarter campaign.  My pal, John Picacio, is doing another calendar.  (I plugged the Kickstarter campaign for his gorgeous 2013 calendar last year.) His 2014 calendar will feature artwork from the Loteria deck he is creating.  (I can't wait for the deck.)  I strongly encourage you to check out his Kickstarter site and, if you find the art at all appealing, support this project. 

I haven't done so yet, but only because I'm trying to figure out how extravagant I can afford to be.  You can count on me going in for at least one of his very tempting packages. 

I'm heading to New Orleans tomorrow for CONtraflow, where John is the Artist Guest of Honor and I'm the Toastmaster.  If you're in that area, come by, check it out, and chat with us.  If you spend any time talking with John, you'll want to support his new project for another reason:  You'll see for yourself that he's an artist who truly cares about doing great work. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On the road again: Austin, day 3

I wish I could discuss more than meals on these business trips, because the meetings are more often than not extremely interesting, but I can't; client confidentiality is paramount in our business.

Lunch today was a lovely spicy pork bento box at Beluga, a local Japanese restaurant.  I don't know why I like bento boxes so much, but I do.  Charming and gleaming and full of tasty treats, they're a great way to order a (frequently rather large) lunch.

Dinner took us to Olive & June, an Italian restaurant, for a meal that was full of unintentional comedy. First, the servers brought the appetizers for three people on one plate, placed the plate in front of one person, and said the food was his. By the time we all figured out what they'd done, the person had, quite reasonably, eaten all the food.  The servers apologized and brought the appetizers of the others.

Next, the server failed to mention that a gnocchi dish that the menu described with no mention of meat in fact contained meat.  The omission would not have been a problem had the vegetarian in our group not ordered the dish and eaten a bit of meat, which looked just like the large mushrooms mixed with the pasta.  The staff and the manager apologized profusely, brought a new dish, comped that person's food, comped all our desserts, and gave the person a gift card, so they certainly did all they could to atone for the error.  Despite these mistakes, we all had a generally good time, with lively conversation and otherwise tasty food.  I'm not sure I would seek out the restaurant again, because the food wasn't good enough to make me want to return, but I must give all credit to the staff for handling the issues as best they could.

Tomorrow, more work, more business meals, more meetings!

Monday, October 14, 2013

On the road again: Austin, day 2

Today's work meetings were interesting and often fun, but I can't talk about them, for all the usual client-confidentiality reasons.  With the exception of dinner, I was working the entire rest of the day, so dinner it is.

Hudson's on the Bend has been an Austin favorite of mine since I first ate there, so tonight we drove over there for a tasty meal. I made my dinner from a few appetizers, and all were delicious. My favorite was the wild mushroom and Parmesan cheese risotto with duck confit and asparagus tips.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

On a damp, slightly chilly night, it was a perfect comfort food. 

If you like strong flavors, I definitely recommend this place.

Tomorrow, drum roll, more meetings and more work!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On the road again: Austin, day 1

I hate getting up early most days, but I really hate doing it on Saturdays and Sundays. Nonetheless, work travel demanded that I do so today, so after five and a half very restless hours of sleep I left the comfort of the bed to shower and head to Austin.

The travel itself went as well as I could reasonably hope:  upgrades on both legs, the first flight on time, and the second only half an hour late.  The trainee trying to provide my rental car was on his fourth day and painfully aware of his slowness and his error rate, but he was trying, and he was polite, so I cut him a lot of slack. 

The middle of the evening went to my usual first-night-in-Austin ritual: barbecue dinner at The County Line by the Lake, and dessert at the Arboretum location of Amy's Ice Creams.  The parking lot at the County Line was far more full than usual on a Sunday night, but a sign explained the reason:  It was Susan and Zack's wedding reception. (No, I don't know Susan and Zack, but I like that they were willing to hold their reception at a barbecue joint.)  Even the main sign welcomed them.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

I don't know how the food was for the newlyweds, but my brisket, beef rib, and sausage--none of which I finished--tasted great. 

From there we headed over to Amy's and sampled a flavor I've never seen before: cocoa puddin'. When I asked for information on the concoction, the guy behind the counter said, "It's basically the most chocolate we can put into it and still make it ice cream." I'm here to testify that he was right and, wow, was it good. 

Tomorrow morning entirely too early, the work meetings begin. 


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