Saturday, October 4, 2014

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

My official con duties began before noon, but fortunately not much before noon:  At 11:00 a.m., I moderated a panel on "Reconciling Faith and Science."  My fellow panelists were an Episcopal priest and two SF writers, one of whom, Les Johnson, is both a NASA scientist and a Christian.  The hour passed quickly, with everyone being considerate and thoughtful in their answers, no one pointing fingers at anyone else, and a great deal of very interesting discussion.  It was easily the best panel on this or any similar topic I've attended at any SF con. 

After a quick lunch at a local Salvadoran restaurant, I was back on the main stage for the charity auction.  The cause was one I quite support:  the New Orleans Public Library.  We had a good audience and over 60 different items, so the auction ran for quite a while, but everyone seemed to have a good time.  Most importantly, we raised a decent amount for the library. 

A little work, and I was back in the main room for a run-through of the masquerade.  A little later, I was the host of the masquerade itself.  The show was solid, with one group, one young fan, and 13 individual costumes.  The contestants put a lot of effort into their costumes, and the audience seemed to appreciate all the work.

For dinner, on the advice of a friend I headed into town to try the fare at Boucherie.  My brisket main course was quite good, but my dessert--the Krispy Kreme bread pudding with housemade vanilla ice cream--was insane, easily the best bread pudding I've ever tasted.  If you're a fan of bread pudding and ever in this area, definitely check it out.

Now, to work, and then to crash. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

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

The con didn't officially start until the afternoon, so I devoted the morning to work, as usual.  From then on, though, the day became more about the con and the city, and less about work (though I managed to keep current on work).

I first registered for the con.  To my pleasant surprise, they had waiting for me a bag full of considerate gifts

Click an image to see a larger version.

and one gift too big to fit in the bag

Why, you might reasonably ask, would a convention committee present me with a collapsible bowl?

The answer awaited me on the other side of the package.

My very own ice bucket!  Clearly, these folks had kept up enough with my blog to have read about my frustrations about getting ice in hotels (here and also here), and they had also read my entries on the Cone Man (and even had the picture of me wearing the cone).

I laughed a lot, but I was also genuinely touched.  The fine folks of CONtraflow have always been exceptionally nice to me, but this was a step above and beyond.  Thank you, all who made this happen.

While driving around a bit last night, I had spotted one of the several locations of a small local chain, Dot's Diner

With that name and this menu, I had to try it, so I headed there for lunch.  After sampling a hot (as in spicy) sausage po boy and a side salad, I'm happy to report that the food was quite tasty, and the place was very much a diner in the old tradition.  I would definitely eat there again.

On the way back, I stopped at a local shop, a Buttermilk Drop Bakery, and picked up two dozen donuts for the fine folks working the con.  I figured that with all they had done for me, it was the least I could do for them.

My first official con activity of the day was one I greatly enjoyed:  I moderated a Q&A session with (and provided the initial questions for) a local FBI Special Agent.  She answered all queries with grace and intelligence, and I learned from listening to her.

After the panel, I had a half an hour to prepare for the Opening Ceremonies, which I moderated.  I enjoyed introducing the main guests, including Guest of Honor Gregory Benford, talking with the crowd, and kicking off the con.

With a few free hours before the next event, I headed into the city for what proved to be a delicious meal at a place built around a concept I've never seen before, Noodle & Pie. The notion of pairing ramen with pie may sound weird, but it really works.  I definitely recommend this restaurant.

After finishing dinner and catching up again on work, I spent a few hours at the con's cocktail party talking to various folks.

I had a very good first day at a fun con. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

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

Technically, the CONtraflow hotel is in Kenner and right near the New Orleans airport, but I think of this as a New Orleans con, and I'm planning to visit the city, so for the purposes of this blog, I'm in New Orleans. 

The day started rough, because I was in bed only 80 minutes.  I've spent most of today trying to convince myself that I was not short on sleep, because I didn't really go to bed yesterday.  Instead, I took a nice, long nap--because after all, an 80-minute nap is a pretty good, long one.   

I spent almost all of today traveling and working.  The exception was the dinner for staff and guests of the con.  We all gathered again at the Come Back Inn, where we had enjoyed a similar meal at last year's con.  Though this restaurant is exactly the sort of hole-in-the-wall, strip-mall joint it sounds like, its food is quite good.  I got to sample some muffaletta and some red beans and rice, and both were delicious.  

I travel a lot, and I pay a lot of attention to people, so I suppose it's inevitable that I encounter a great deal of weird behavior.  Sometimes, though, I start to feel like a weirdness magnet. 

For example, when I went to use the bathroom at the New Orleans airport, I found a young man stripped to the waist and giving himself a sink bath with paper towels.  He also cleaned his shirt and backpack with them. 

Odder still was my experience in the bathroom at one of the Admirals Clubs at DFW--odd enough that I expect some of you will think I'm making it up, though I am not.  As I walked into the bathroom, the sound of a phone ringing came from one of the stalls. 

A man answered the phone.  He sounded short of breath.  "I'm in the Admirals Club at DFW jacking off.  Let me call you back in two minutes."

Who says that to a caller? 

No matter.  I was out of there in under two minutes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

If you're at all interested in gadgets

or more generally want a sneak preview of the coming Internet of Things, you need to be reading Tech Everywhere, a blog by Bill Catchings on the PT site. I look forward to and read every installment. 

Before I explain why I recommend Tech Everywhere so strongly, let me get the disclaimers out of the way. Bill is my friend and business partner. PT is the company we own and work at.

I'm not, though, urging you to read this blog for any of those reasons.  I'm pushing it because Bill does something there that very few reviewers offer: he lives with the gadgets before he reports on them. When he writes about a smart watch, he's lived with it for days, often weeks.  If he tells you about the security weaknesses of some Wi-Fi-enabled light bulbs (a great entry), he's talking from experience.

As much as I love gadgets, I now won't buy one if I know that Bill is getting it and will be living with it for a while and writing about it.  It's great to have him as the canary in the gadget mine. 

Check out Tech Everywhere, and follow it regularly.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Liam's coming back

and boy is he pissed this time.

I can't wait to see it!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Where's the next Jon & Lobo book?

I get this question a lot, so I thought I'd answer it and a few related questions here, though I'm not bothering to list the questions; I figure you can easily infer them from the answers.

I'm working on it.

I'm really, really late with it.

I'm really, really sorry about that.  I truly am.

I don't know when I'll finish. 

I thus don't know when it will appear.

Yes, I will finish it (and more books).

Because the book is tricky for me and my day job leaves me the bare minimum writing time.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Zevon knew

Sometimes, you just need to tilt back your head and howl.

His hair was perfect.

Damn, I still miss Warren Zevon.


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