Balticon 47

I’ve been mulling over how to approach this for a couple of days now. I’m not sure I’ve figured it out, but waiting longer makes the post less relevant and harder to recall for me.

Balticon is my favorite convention. My first one was number 27, but this year was my first time attending as an invited guest – one of the folks on the panelist side of the table, not the audience.

It probably sounds a bit silly to some folks, but this is actually a milestone. Being invited achieves one of the goals on my author’s goals list. Yes – I made a list. No – I’m not sharing how many steps are on there before WORLD DOMINATION.

Anyway I was super excited about the weekend and I wasn’t let down. For anyone that spoke to me you’ve heard this before: I threw myself on programming’s mercy – and programming had no mercy. In the end, after eliminating double bookings, I was on 10 panels (I think – the details are a bit fuzzy). That actually brings me to a fork in the road for this review. One path is all about how I wasn’t feeling at the top of my game before the weekend started (ill and under doctor’s care) and one is about crazed rantings that probably shouldn’t be public…

So, it’s true. I have been a little ill off and on for a while now. Just before the convention my doc decided that a 30 day run of antibiotics twice a day was the next step. Pure joy. What that meant was leading up to and for most of the con I didn’t really feel all that great. I was usually totally wiped out by about 10 p.m. (and on Sunday that meant one panel still to go). I would like to think what happened for me over the weekend was similar to the sports phenomenon where an athlete has some kind of illness and then has a career game. I feel really good about the panels I was on. I was in over my head more than once and all my fellow panelists were nothing but super (even when they clearly didn’t need to be). I even believe the panel “Pictionary for SFF Fans” that didn’t have any paper and a missing panelist turned out to be a lot of fun.

Yeah – pictionary panel without paper. There were issues with how the programs were set up and how people were (or were not) advised about where they should be. I got a list of a dozen panels I was supposed to be on via e-mail, but only showed up 4 times in the program listing. I’m hoping that it’s a small glitch and next year will be stronger (I’m also hoping to be invited back again).

The art show was not nearly what it has been in the past. I was very disappointed. The thought crossed my mind to attempt to put something together for next year and display something, but I was running about so much I never got the chance to talk to the person in charge of the art show. We’ll have to see how things go between now and next year.

I hope this year’s Liar’s Panel was recorded someplace. It was the funniest one I’ve ever heard. Ever. You should have been there. You should be there next year (and bring your dollar bills to challenge folks so nobody slips one past us again)!

All in all I had a really good time, got to see a lot of great folks (not nearly long enough in most cases) and did some really neat stuff. I hope the folks that attended my panels thought things went as well as I thought they did.

OH – that reminds me. I also had an author reading at the Mega Book Launch. Best Laid Plans was on display and I was reading from that – to all 3 of the folks that showed up. My wife, her girlfriend and the editor of the book. Since you missed that (and if you’re not one of those 3 folks, you did) you should go and buy the book!

SPAM is tasty

SPAM is a tasty product. I like it enough to eat it straight up out of the can (and often do). Maybe I should have been Hawaiian? I’m not sure how such an excellent thing as SPAM got associated with all the crap that bombards a web site on a regular basis. I think it’s an entirely unwarranted connection. We need a new word for that nasty stuff from people trying to bomb your e-mail or your web site. OK, we need new words that we can use in polite company and in front of children. I’ve found many creative sets of alternative words to describe this stuff, just none that were all that appropriate for public consumption. I’ve gotten easily 5x the number of spams to number of actual comments in the moderation bin. I suspect that ratio won’t change.

Clearly I need more time to focus on my writing and art – and my web site. I would love to find the best way for me to stop all the stupid crap that ends up in my mailbox because “tshirtlove69ru” has decided that I *need* to post his/her advertisement for some product (undoubtedly along with some virus or trojan or something). The development speed here is dismal (and I think that’s being kind to myself) but I really want this to be me, and my learning process. I hope to squeeze in some more work on this and  update material here (like my convention schedule for Balticon!) before I’m away for a few days.


I just need a few more hours in the day.

Purchase Vs. Knowledge

I’m late on commenting about this, but that actually ties in with this topic neatly.

Relatively recently there was an article about the most well-read places. I saw it here:

The thing about that article – it’s all about purchases. If you own something, does it mean you know it? If I pick up a copy of The Hobbit and put it on my shelf, does that make me a Tolkien Scholar? Can you even prove I’ve read the book? I wish I could find the story I once heard about a publishing company that tested this little article’s assumptions. It was in the days before e-books, so tracking was different. The book was a large, dense coffee table kind of book (kids, ask your parents). People loved to have this book and put it out where folks could see it. Made them feel… clever I guess. The important part of this was the coupon the publishing company placed deep inside the book. This coupon allowed the purchaser of the book to mail in for a return of a significant portion of the books purchase price. I don’t remember the exact statistic – but it was somewhere below 5% of the coupons actually got mailed back. Nobody read that far. They didn’t even flip past that page and have it drop out. They just wanted to look smart.

So, I said that being late in commenting tied into this. Many years ago I fell into this trap. At that time I was the proud owner of every album ever put out by Led Zepplin. A guy I knew was talking to some girls about the music of Zepplin. I jumped in, without listening to what they were talking about or any consideration at all really, and explained that I owned all the albums they had put out to date. The guy (a musician) then proceeded to point by point embarrass me as completely as he could by asking me specifics about the drum solos from Physical Graffiti and the production value of one album vs. the other and any other point he could dig up. I had no answers for any of it. I am not a musician. I have zero talent or knowledge in that area – none – BUT I did own all the albums.

My point is this, I take the time before commenting on this sort of thing (or any sort of thing) to be sure what the topic is and that I’ve got a clue about the conversation and its content. The “best read” cities list should more accurately be called “the places where we registered the most sales” list. Has nothing to do with what was actually read. It shows nothing of the retention of that knowledge or application of the ideas from those books.

Hopefully this surge in “reading” will lead to better ideas and thoughtful dialog… What do you think?

The Mundane and the Middle Eastern

Haven’t been terribly productive lately – or posted a lot. Stress at work – but most of that went away when I passed the biggest certification test I needed on Friday. One more certification test to go, but I’m much more confident about the next one.

In the good timing department Shiny (my lovely daughter) was scheduled to be off camping last night. The wife and I got some celebration time after we dropped the kiddo off, but not much – we were pretty wiped out from the week.

Today was an excellent day. The wife and I spent the entire day together. It was like an extended date. Most of what we did was totally mundane (like visiting relatives, shopping, watching a show), but we did it together and that made all the difference.

The non-mundane stuff: we went and had Lebanese food for dinner at Cedars in Camp Hill. The food was delicious. We may just venture that way again.

Capstone: went to Cupboard Maker Books (personal favorite) to help the owner celebrate being named 2013’s Bookseller of the Year! It’s a great shop – you should drop by if you’re in the area and pick up something to read.

I’ve got a handful of posts lined up and waiting – just have to crank them out. More soon.

My first Con as a guest

Balticon 47 (this year) is the first time that I’ve been invited as a guest to a convention. There’s a ton of work going on behind the scenes to get the convention ready for everyone including setting up all the tracks and included panels. I can only imagine that getting all the guests lined up and in order is like herding cats. I’m doing my part – signing up for stuff I want to participate in.

And it’s away… I’ve sent in the list of panels I’m requesting to be on.

Very Excited!


Yes, I’ve seen it already. It was good. Others that were with me thought it was great. I’m going to put a bunch of stuff here in no particular order – all first impressions stuff. I’ll try to stay away from spoilery stuff, but you’ll probably be able to figure stuff out and then not be “surprised” by where things go if you read this. Not my fault if you go on from here.



This movie hit all the notes it was supposed to from a story point of view. The first one was excellent, the second one had issues and then there was the Avengers part. This felt like a good cap point when it was done. Yes, they left themselves a way back… it’s based on a comic book, duh. There’s always a way to come back.

Speaking of that – I spoke to somebody that read the comics as a kid. Yeah, you may or may not be disappointed in the way a couple of story lines got blended together. It’s not the comic (just as the Hobbit movie isn’t the book). I only really know the films, and from that point of view – it worked for me. There were a couple of fairly predictable parts from my point of view, but that’s part of “hitting the right notes”.

Notes – the music was not at all what I thought it would be. Funny that I’d notice that, but I did. The cynical part of me thinks they just couldn’t afford the royalties to the rock music anymore.

The kid in the movie was well done. Good acting on his part. The smaller parts really were good in this. The lady in the bar, the sheriff that meets a bad end, the guy in the TV truck – all totally believable (if not a little scary – guy in the truck I’m looking at you). Stan had his cameo – and it was amusing.

The ending – you know, the bit after all the credits roll? Yeah, really nice cameo. I like that particular actor quite a bit. Stay for it.

That about sums it up I think… OH, yeah, the 3D bit. It wasn’t distracting, so I’ll say good. Needed? I’m not so certain of that, but at least it didn’t take away from the film. I’ll also say this is worthy of a trip to the big screen even though it wasn’t the over the top special effects bonanza I was afraid it was going to be. Well done and likely to be added to the home collection to round out the set (at least until the next one comes out;)