In short, this will be an adventure! And one I'm definitely looking forward to.
The observant will, of course, have noted that despite the message bankruptcy I am indeed still using AIM and logging onto MUCKs. I’m trying to do less of each, though, particularly when trying to do something else simultaneously: office work, writing, what have you. Is this “working,” whatever that may mean? Yes, even if I have some distance to go. The next step is getting more serious about workspace organization (i.e., my room) and time management. The latter’s always been a killer for me, but I think if I can take the approach of today I would like to get X done for small but concrete values of X I’ll manage. To pick a real-life example, “write something I can show for Claw & Quill” is so large it’s paralysis-inducing, but “Get something started for Claw & Quill” isn’t concrete enough to attack.
What I have accomplished is writing a short horror story, with the intent of sending it off for submission to the Eurofurence program book. (EF’s theme this year is horror.) I’m going to get a bit of feedback from the writing group before shoving it out the door, and, oh yes, come up with a title for the damn thing. I’m fairly happy with it in its current state, though. It may eventually show up elsewhere, but—assuming it makes it into the program book—you’ll just have to go to the con to read it.
As for why I am sending that off to EF, my answer for now is: because they’re just swell people. (Which is, from what I’ve seen, absolutely true.) Any other answers are waiting on other people to say something. (“You go first.” “No, after you.”)
To reiterate past mentions, I do still use Twitter, as chipotlecoyote, and update it both more frequently and more inanely than I do this journal. If you’re desperate to get in touch but e-mail is too slow and old fashioned for you, a Twitter reply or direct message will reach me faster. Theoretically.
At this point all one can reasonably expect at the party is: rum. There is a high probability of other mixers, a moderate possibility of snack food, and a fairly good chance that I'll be able to provide something other than directions to the nearest soda machine for those who don't want alcohol. I am hoping to at least be able to make mai tais and possibly pina coladas, traditional daiquiris, and of course your basic rum and cola (and the "dark and stormy," dark rum and ginger ale).
Anyone who wishes to help provide snacks and possibly alcohol should get in touch with me. I expect I'll be tracking down the party stuff in a state of mild panic on Saturday afternoon, because you know, that's just traditional.
As usual, it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Perhaps I’m simply getting out of the habit of journaling? I hope not, since I don’t have anything else on the horizon to replace it, use of Twitter notwithstanding. Of course, between that and Coyote Tracks (my “tumblelog”), it’s possible my need to parade myself before the internet at large is satisfied.
As I mentioned in passing, Anthrocon was a lot of fun. I don’t have a lot more to say about it, in retrospect: all of you I met, I enjoyed meeting, and as usual, there’s a few I wish I’d spent more time with. The panels I was on were generally fun, the Iron Author stories were appropriately awful, and I got to see a little more of Pittsburgh than I did last year, from the pleasantly upscale Shadyside to the “Strip district,” said to be the up-and-coming hip neighborhood. It reminds me a lot of the areas in Oakland around Jack London Square: a warehouse district that’s had some businesses for decades, is starting to get clubs moving in for that grungy bohemian vibe, but is still very much a working warehouse district. As mentioned on Twitter, I did make it to Primanti Brothers for lunch, which seems to be something of a Pittsburgh tradition (and it is pretty good).
Yesterday was my first experience with jury duty. I’d originally been given a summons for the week of the convention but deferred it until this week. In Santa Clara County you’re on “standby,” checking in twice daily until they tell you to report to a courthouse the next day; I checked in Monday, and got told to report to the Hall of Justice yesterday to
meet the Superfriends be assigned a “panel” (a group of potential jurors) and wait to see if I actually got called. Many people don’t; my panel did get sent to a courtroom for a specific criminal case, and I watched the whole process of selecting a jury, but I wasn’t actually called to serve. The Hall is just far enough away from the downtown center to make walking somewhere interesting for lunch problematic. I ended up at “House of Bento,” a Japanese fast food place that’s taken over the location of the Juicy Burger that used to be on First Street. (I think there was another very short-lived occupant between those two.)
Now, it’s back to the office and back to attempting to set up a server for the demo of the web product I’ve been working on. It’ll be nice to have, after a decade, possibly worked on a web site that I can actually give someone a URL to—with very few exceptions, everything I’ve worked on has been for internal company use at various employers.
So, the first real day of Anthrocon has passed. It’s gone well—I shouldn’t say “surprisingly well,” since it’s not as if I was expecting it to go poorly. I’ve met most of the people I’d expected to, even if in some cases I’ve merely run into them a couple times, and in a couple cases not even had time to introduce myself. Even so, I’ve hung around with a few interesting people, met a couple of them in person for the first time, and even been given an advance copy of the new Dirtbombs CD by Internationally Famous Rock Star™ Mick Collins.
It’s amazing—and maybe even a little disturbing—how much the city’s rolled out the red carpet for us. The staff of the “Steel City Diner” near the con hotel is wearing Anthrocon T-shirts they had made for them. Fernando’s Deli is running a con special. I’ve heard, albeit apocryphally, that last year Pittsburgh computed the economic impact to the city of the con at $3M. If so, this year I’d bet it’s on track to be $4M—on Thursday, there were 2500 people registered for the con.
Me being me, of course, I’m also here for the food. I did some research on restaurants to try; I found a few well-regarded upscale restaurants nearby (including the “Sonoma Grille” in the very hotel I’m staying at, which I find perversely amusing). Tonight, everyone I might have gone to dinner with seemed to vanish off on their own, and nearly always to Steel City—so I decided to go off on my own. On a typical whim, I decided to go off to a restaurant which wasn’t on my list but which sounded more interesting to me: Six Penn Kitchen. It seems to have the California approach to cuisine, by which of course I mean sprouts on everything. No, no, I mean a focus on local ingredients and food styles, reinterpreting them creatively. And it was definitely creative: a chilled watermelon soup drizzled with blueberry puree and basil, and dinner of a roast pork shank, crispy on the outside yet falling apart on the bone, sauerkraut bacon mashed potatoes, and a serrano applesauce. Even the drink I had was pretty creative: a “spatini,” Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka, lemon sours, fresh cucumber (yes, really) and mint.
So what happens tomorrow (later today, but who’s counting)? Well, I have a badge I’ve commissioned from cooner, and I may try to get another sketch or two, depending. I have a collection I feel like I should buy from SofaWolf, even though I think I’ve read several of the stories already (they’re from the writing group).
On the off chance someone reading this is at Anthrocon and wants to get in touch with me, if you’re on my friends list you can SMS me through LiveJournal—and I’m wearing a moderately obvious name badge, too.
John Gruber recently wrote an article saucily titled “Let’s Have a Panel on What We Didn’t Like About SXSW 2007”; if you don’t know what SXSW is, it’s a festival in Austin, Texas, originally focused on music but now encompassing creative web media under the rubric of “SXSW Interactive.” But, really, SXSW itself isn’t what has me musing—it’s his observation that “at most conferences, the deal is that the content is great and the socializing is good. At SXSWi, the content is good, but the socializing is great.”
What this reminded me of is science fiction cons, except that instead of good I’d say variable for the content. And for furry cons, let’s face it, most of the time “variable” would be charitable.
Gruber goes on to write:
One problem, I think, is SXSWi’s emphasis on panels rather than lectures. Panels are good for an introduction, and they can be entertaining in the way that a talk show is. But there’s no sustained narrative, no way to build a case or leave the audience with a strong impression. I feel like I conveyed 50 times more information in my hour-long lecture at C4 in October than I did as one of three panelists in an hour-long session at SXSWi this year—and I thought our panel went well. Panels are dessert, lectures are meals.
Now, suggesting that having lectures rather than panels at cons—or even in addition to panels—is something I imagine would get one reflexively clubbed to death. “Lecture” is not a word that screams fun. It’s a word that, even in the best of circumstances, makes people think of—ick!—education.
Yet, if I look back over the most memorable programming I can think of from all my con-going time, the things that come to mind are essentially one-person shows: Pat Murphy’s writing workshop at Further Confusion, Orson Card’s “Secular Humanist Revival Meeting” (possibly at the Necronomicon he was a guest at in the late ’80s, but don’t quote me), a panel on linguistics at Anthrocon with a single panelist—a linguistics professor. Even a couple keynote speeches by guests, like Bob Shaw and Francis Ford Coppola at two WorldCons I went to.
And, really, don’t people who attend panel programming at cons actually want to be educated? They’re trying to learn something about how to tell stories or draw pictures or build costumes. And maybe it’s just me, but it seems that panels don’t do that unless at least one panelist treats the panel like something they need to prepare for. A little less like a coffeeklatsch and a little more like a presentation.
So. Where am I going with this, you may ask? Truthfully, I dunno. I suspect convention programming tracks would do better with panelists who are prepared, but in practice I’m not sure what that actually means. Simply telling panelists “think more about what you’re going to say” may be the gist of it, but I suspect it could go considerably beyond that—I’m just not sure in what direction. How can we make panel programming better at cons?
So I’ve been neglecting the journal again, I know. I’m considering beating myself into either writing something here every week, or (shorter things!) every day.
To catch up from where I last left off: I attended Further Confusion and had a fine enough time, mostly from meeting people I don’t see that often, which is the real reason I go to conventions in the first place. I didn’t buy anything much — if I’m remembering correctly, only an omnibus edition of Phil Foglio’s Girl Genius, something I’ve been meaning to read for a couple years.
The day before the convention, shaterri, Jeff, ladyperegrine and I went out to Kaygetsu, a fairly new and regionally-acclaimed Japanese restaurant. While it was suggested that I should do more “foodblogging,” I’d better remember to do such blogging quickly, since at this point I don’t remember much about the individual dishes we tried, other than the blanket observation that they were all good. My main entree was a marinated black cod, which went past good to pretty fantastic. (I think I’ve only had black cod before at a Seattle-area restaurant that shaterri’s taken me to twice.)
The razor handle that I’d bought at Target last year and written about has started to flake out, not holding its little Mach 3 blade cartridges securely anymore; the brush that came with the set fell apart quite quickly. (Fortunately I had a considerably better shaving brush I’d been given as a gift a couple years before.) So this last Saturday I decided to take the plunge I’d been considering and buy a “safety razor,” one of those old-fashioned razors that takes double-edged blades. (Nowadays that doesn’t sound very safe, but they replaced straight razors!) While I could have done this by mail order, I happened to know that the new Westfield San Francisco Centre shopping mall — which the Powell Street BART/MUNI station has a direct entrance to — has an Art of Shaving store in it, and that they sell safety razors there, at the “immediate gratification from a boutique store” markup. So, I made a trip up to the city and bought that razor, with its one sample blade and a couple free sample packs of Art of Shaving’s own shaving cream.
I’d like to say that after three shaves I’m getting the closest, most bestest shave that I ever have, but I can’t. On the flip side, I only got two nicks on the first shave and none on the other two, and I’ve been managing to get slightly closer shaves with each try; I’m hoping in a week or two I’ll be up to par. The one thing I have noticed is that the shave really does seem to be less irritating: the closer the shave gets the more it feels like I’m removing the top layer of skin, I’ll grant, but after even the gentlest cartridge blade shave, I could see the blotchy unhappiness of irritation. With the safety razor, that isn’t there.
The irritation that is there the last couple of days, though, is my fingers/wrist on my left hand, a somewhat hard-to-localize pain that increases with some movements and pressure. While it could well be the onset of the carpal tunnel syndrome some might think I’ve been courting the last thirty years, I’m not convinced I didn’t sprain it in some odd fashion this weekend. (I’m also not convinced I don’t have the onset of arthritis already in that hand, but that’s another story.) After a bit of deliberation I’ve bought one of those cheap wrist splints at the drug store; I’m going to see if keeping it mostly still a few days helps. It almost certainly can’t hurt.