Saturday, May 24, 2014

On the road again: Balticon, day 2

With con activities, work, and preparation for the new comedy show making me insanely busy, I'm going to keep these con posts short. 

I worked in the morning to prepare for the Baen Traveling Show, then led that discussion and slide show.  Fans packed the large room, we gave out tons of swag, other attending Baen authors--Chuck Gannon, Steve White, and Iver Cooper--spoke, cover designer Jennie Faries shared her perspective with the crowd, and everyone had a good time. 

I spent the next few hours grabbing lunch at a local pizza joint, checking out the dealers' room and the art show, and working on tomorrow's comedy show. 

Next up was a panel, "Titles Without Stories," in which three other writers and I made up plots to go with titles that audience members tossed at us.  The room was small, hot, and crowded, and though I didn't do as well as I would have liked, I think everyone present enjoyed themselves. 

After that, I worked more, with a lot of my energy going to the show tomorrow.  I'm still trying to decide just what mix of new and old material to feature, because I definitely have too much in my draft set list.  I'll probably decide at the very last minute. 

I spent the evening at Kyle's eating tasty Indian food, watching a ridiculous movie (I, Frankenstein), and enjoying what proved to be a very good card of UFC fights.  The final fight, a bantamweight championship bout between champ Renan Barao and challenger T.J. Dillashaw, was amazing.  Dillashaw entered the octagon a 6:1 underdog, but he dominated and ultimately finished Barao in a finish that no fight analyst predicted. 

More work on the comedy show followed.

Here's hoping I don't bomb on stage tomorrow!

Friday, May 23, 2014

On the road again: Balticon, day 1

The con began in earnest today, and with it, my responsibilities here.  I spent most of the normal business day working, though part of the time went to finalizing the agenda for the con's Opening Ceremonies, at which I was the MC.

It's always difficult to judge one's own performance, but as best I can tell, the OC went well, the audience had a good time, we hit all our goals, and we ended on time. 

One of my jobs as MC is to introduce all the guests, including the previous year's Compton Crook Award winner--in this case, Myke Cole.  That person then introduces this year's winner of the award (Chuck Gannon).  I particularly enjoyed doing that tonight, because I remember with fondness winning that award at the 2008 Balticon. 

Dinner was a delicious meal at a local restaurant I quite enjoy, Woodberry Kitchen

Tomorrow, my panels begin. 

The day after tomorrow, I have to premiere my new comedy show, and I'm still not ready for it.  Yikes!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On the road again: Balticon, day 0
And, what I'm doing at Balticon this weekend

The drive to the con hotel started this morning at 9:00 a.m. sharp.  The longest it typically takes is 6.5 hours.

Today, it lasted over 9.5 hours.  I've made this trip many times, and this is by far the longest drive it's ever been. 

The vast majority of the additional time went to sitting and crawling in horrible D.C.-area traffic.  It was intense and unpleasant, a constant battle to avoid other vehicles as accidents and road construction kept stealing our lanes.

I'm very glad to be here safely.

The con starts tomorrow.  I'm going to be a busy guy this weekend.  If you're coming to the con, you can catch me at any or all of the following events.

Friday, May 23:

8:00 p.m. - Master of Ceremonies for the Opening Ceremonies, Valley Ballroom

For the third time in a row, I'll be running the con's Opening Ceremonies.  It's always an honor to do this gig, and it's also a lot of fun, because I get to meet all the guests, talk to a crowd of folks eager to get their con on, and even sometimes tell some of the worst jokes in the world.

Saturday, May 24:

12:00 p.m. - Baen Traveling Show, moderator, Garden Room

Baen Publisher Toni Weisskopf won't be at this con, so I'm filling in for her in one of the events I always enjoy:  a presentation of Baen's upcoming titles and the art for their covers.  Toni lets me show both the covers of those books and the original art for those covers, so at this panel you can see things few publishers typically review. 

4:00 p.m. - Titles Looking for Stories, panelist, Salon B

The audience will toss out titles.  The panelists will make up stories to go with the titles.  The audience will vote on the winner.  Come vote for me!  Expect to laugh.

Sunday, May 25:

10:00 a.m. - A Cheat of Crooks, panelist, Parlor 1041

Balticon is gathering on this panel all the attending writers who have won the Compton Crook Award for best first SF or fantasy novel.  I was fortunate enough to win the award some years ago, so I get to join the group.  I don't know the con's plans, but I wouldn't be surprised if jello was involved. 

Or not.  You never know.  The Balticon folks are sneaky when it comes to jello.

Noon – Liars’ Panel, moderator, Garden Room

Come listen to answers to outrageous questions.  Four writers--Charles E. Gannon, Gail Z. Martin, Jo Walton, and I--will do our best to entertain you.  Most of our answers will be true, but some will be lies.  Each member of the audience who wants to say an answer is a lie must hold up a dollar.  If they are right, the panelist must put ten dollars in a bucket.  If they are wrong and the answer is true, each audience member who challenged the answer must put a dollar in the bucket.  All the proceeds go to Balticon's charity to buy books for kids.  This panel has traditionally been fun and a big hit, and I expect no less from this year's version.

2:00 p.m. - Mr. Poor Choices II:  I Don’t Understand, stand-up comedy show, Valley Ballroom

Feel like laughing?  This will be the place to be.  Heck, you can laugh at the Liars' Panel and then come laugh some more at this show.  With some old material and some new, I should be able to entertain everyone.

Or I can stand alone on a stage in front of a huge empty room, tears slowly crawling down my cheeks. 

It's up to you.

3:00 p.m. - Reading (with Hildy Silverman and Jeffrey Lyman), Pimlico

I have no idea what I'll read, but I'm pretty sure you won't have ever read it before.  Drop by and check it out.

Finally, I'll be around the con, going to events, checking out the Dealers' Room and the Art Show, and so on.  If you see me, come up and say hi. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My recipe for making your hotel room into a chilly swamp

I suppose I should first address the question many of you will have:  Why would one want one's hotel room to be a chilly swamp?

Chilly is desirable because it's best for sleeping.  When it comes to sleeping, very little beats snuggling under covers in a chilly room.

The swamp is important for the humidity.  I live in North Carolina, so humidity is a regular companion.  My sinuses are accustomed to humid weather.  A dry hotel room annoys them; a moist one soothes them.

I highly recommend the chilly swamp sleeping method.

Fortunately, the recipe is simple:

  1. When you hit the hotel room, set up your portable humidifier.  (What?  You don't have one.  Get one.  They're cheap.  I like this one, but any will do.) 
  2. Run it all day.
  3. While you're out and about, chill your room to 60 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course).
  4. When you return, turn off the AC.
  5. Keep the portable humidifier going.
  6. Right before bed, set the thermostat to 68 and turn on the AC.
  7. Keep the portable humidifier running.

You will then experience the joys of sleeping in the chilly swamp.

You can thank me later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How silly a numbers geek am I?

Silly enough that when I saw my Tesla was about to hit this mileage count, I arranged to pull over for a photo.

Click the image to see a larger version.  

Of course, who wouldn't do the same for 6,565 miles?  I'm only sad that I failed to notice the moment when it turned 5,555 (and all the earlier similar numbers).

"Panic Station," by the way, was not playing.  The Internet radio had just come to it, but I had paused the music, as you can see, so I could focus on taking the photo.  Safety overrules number fun.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Web site spam needs to up its game

I've written before about the spam that comes to me via the form on my site's Contact page.  For the last little while, my Web hosting service's spam filters managed to keep the spam away, but now it's back with a vengeance.  From its many drug offers, I've learned that the spam gods worry that I am suffering from a wide range of maladies and so want to offer me an equally wide range of cure opportunities.

In just one week, my spam very considerately offered me the chance to buy drugs to fix all of the following ailments:

  • obesity
  • anorexia
  • impotency
  • vaginal itch
  • chronic itching (but not specifically in my vagina)
  • baldness
  • psoriasis and other skin problems
  • attention-deficit disorder
  • fatigue
  • manic attacks
  • fits of depression
I'm quite impressed with the miracles the spam gods can now create with drugs--though not impressed enough, of course, to actually click on any link in any of these messages.

On an only slightly more serious note, I'm actually a bit disappointed in the quality of my spam.  Surely the spam mailers can scan my photos and note I'm neither balding nor likely to possess a vagina, to name but the two most obvious examples.  If they're going to keep bothering me, the least they could do is to try to customize their offerings to my interests.  Why, for example, aren't they attempting to lure me with a link to a $400, never-opened copy of the recent deluxe edition of the Codex Seraphinianus?  At least that sort of link would tempt me.

Until they do, other than occasionally checking to see if anything feels itchy, I'm going to have to continue to ignore my Web-site spam.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Prior to seeing Godzilla Saturday night, I'd heard only negative things from people about the movie.  This feedback surprised me, because the RottenTomatoes reviews--both critics and audience--were in the seventies, more than respectable scores.  As a lifelong Godzilla fan, though, I was determined to go no matter what. 

I'm glad I did.  I quite enjoyed this latest version. 

Sure, as some people noted, it could have used a lot more of the monsters and less of the people, but that's okay; Godzilla and Muto got a decent amount of screen time. 

Yes, many of the actors were indeed weak.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who was so good in Kick-Ass, was a charisma-free vacuum here, his every moment on screen a testimony to just how dull an actor can be.  Elizabeth Olsen, playing his wife, turned in one of the more generic performances I've seen recently.  Only Ken Watanabe truly shined, though the script gave him basically two emotions:  tortured, and more tortured.

When the monsters took the stage, however, the film shined.  The climax of the final battle, which I want to describe but won't in case you haven't seen the movie, is wonderful and made me happy. 

If you've at all enjoyed Godzilla movies over the years, check out this new entry.  You'll be glad you did.


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