2013

2013 was more or less a continuation of 2012. A few small trips instead of a big one, and after going to the 2012 DragonCon we followed through with two more SF/Fantasy conferences in 2013.

First up was the ICFA conference in Orlando, followed by the WorldCon in San Antonio. At DragonCon last year, we wondered why there were so few writers attending the conference. We found out that it was because it’s the same weekend as WorldCon, where they give out the Hugo awards every year. DragonCon is in Atlanta every year, but WorldCon moves to a different location each year, as voted on by the members. This year’s WorldCon was in San Antonio which had the benefit of being relatively close as well as being a place I always wanted to see, so we made that trip over the Labor Day weekend.

If the 2012 DragonCon had very few writers, we more than made up for it this year. Between ICFA and WorldCon we got to meet dozens of writers, including Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, John Scalzi, Joe Haldeman, Kij Johnson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and many others. San Antonio was fun, and I think we managed our time there well. We had just enough time to see everything we wanted to without being rushed. I’m all conventioned out now.

Other highlights of the year include seeing Sue win a couple of awards, seeing my friend Jenn graduate from college, and seeing Sue’s Brother graduate as well. I also managed to get 4 pictures published in an insert for the Tampa Bay Times. Between Sue winning awards and the conferences, I’ve lost track of all of the awards banquets I’ve been to this year.

Two small stories from the year, both from the ICFA conference in Orlando:

I met a guy from Sweden. The conference was his first trip to the USA. He said: “All that I know of America comes from TV and movies. I’ve always wanted to come to America, to see what it’s really like. Now that I’m here it all just seems so, well, fake.”
Someone answered: “You’re in Orlando.”

On Maybe the 2nd day of the conference, Sue and I are getting ready to meet Neil Gaiman, who is a massively popular writer in geek circles. He is surrounded with people everywhere he goes at the conference. Sue walks up to Neil Gaiman, he looks at her, and his eyes light up. He smiles and says “Oh, it’s you! I love your hair.” How frickin’ cool is that?

Here’s to a great 2014!

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Keep Going

This is a Document

I went through three divorces by the time I had turned 15. I watched my Mom go through a lot of hell with some crappy guys. I watched my Dad become a very bitter person.

In what I suppose is cliché in the stories of fathers and sons, I did not want to be like my father. If there was one thing in the world I really wanted to be, it was a good husband, something that he never was. Ten years ago today I received this piece of paper telling me that I wasn’t. I have to live with that.

I thought I had done a good job of it. I certainly wanted to. Funny thing about this piece of paper though; everything you thought, felt, believed, or wanted regarding your relationship becomes irrelevant.

When my Dad heard I was married (him and I had not spoken for years when I married) he said “you’ll be sorry.” The first time I saw him after my divorce he poured out two glasses of whiskey, and after we drank them in silence he simply said “I told you so.” Like I said, bitter, but I had no response. The “fuck you” I wanted to give him seemed really empty under those circumstances.

The divorce was not my choice. All I could do was try not to become the bitter old man that my father did. Ten years later, I still have my optimism. I’m not sorry at all that I did it. I took a chance on something I really wanted. I sit here today, and although I remember the tough times, I am not thinking about what might have been. I am instead thinking about all of the possibilities for the next ten years. I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet right now.

Like the saying goes: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Things do get better.

Thank you, to all of my friends that stuck with me through those times.

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Ancestors

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Growing up as I did, I never got to know much about my family history. An uncle once told me that there wasn’t anything to know and that I came from a long line of murderers and horse thieves. He had an odd concept of “nothing to know.” Maybe that was just the romantic in him that was talking.

This has been a year of reflection in some ways. Along those lines, since both of my parents are gone I’ve done some thinking about them and the fact that I will be the end of that line. I’ve always said that I’m a walking contradiction and I think the reasons for that become clear when I contrast my parents. A few times this year I’ve tried to write something about that but I haven’t found a way to do it that doesn’t come off as cliché and melodramatic. Suffice to say I was lucky enough to have two parents who loved me even if I was never very close to either of them since the age of 13.

I think the strangest thing about them being gone is that I no longer have the thought that someone might be proud of me. I lived my own life, but as distant as we were at times, I still wanted them to be proud of the person that I was.

Like the quote above, I see both of my parents reflected in myself. There’s both good and bad in that. Strained relationships aside, I would not be here without my Mom or Dad. To them I owe everything. It’s up to me to separate the good from the bad and move on.

Back to the quote. In it I see a lesson about loss, and missing those that are gone. It is a lesson that I can relate to. I miss my Dad, but then I suppose I’ve missed him most of my life. No big change there other than the loss of any possibility of things getting better. I wish that my Mom hadn’t died when I was at a low point which seemed to break her heart as much as it did mine. I was able to see better days. She wasn’t. I’ve wondered about missing her though. I’ve wished over the years that I could introduce a few people to my Mom. I still do, but when I think about missing her, all I can think of is this:

I don’t have to miss her. She is a part of me.

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Conference Wrap-Up

Sue and I had the opportunity last week to attend the conference for the “International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts.” It is a small academic conference for students of the arts related to SF/Fantasy and other speculative fiction. This isn’t a convention geared towards fans. There are no costumes or bands. The conference mostly consists of academic papers presented by the attendees as well as readings by some of the authors in attendance.

One of the draws for us was the conference itself, as it attracts a lot of SF/Fantasy writers. The other was the fact that Neil Gaiman was one of the Guests of Honor this year. He is definitely one of my all-time favorite writers.

We had a fantastic time. Neil Gaiman was probably run ragged with his duties as a popular Guest of Honor, but he was very gracious throughout the week and any room he entered became more funny and interesting by his presence. We heard him give a few speeches, watched him act in a short play, and watched him read the first few chapters from his upcoming book “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” We managed to get him to sign copies of Coraline for us, and discovered that he not only signs his name in his books, but he also draws a small illustration for you related to the story.

Aside from the probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Neil Gaiman, the rest of the conference was very enjoyable. Sue and I quickly discovered that we generally preferred author readings to most of the academic works. There were many published authors that we were able to hear. The real treat was the ability to hear readings from a few authors we had not yet heard of.

That brings me to the true reason for this post. If you like Sf/Fantasy writing at all then you owe it to yourself to check out some of these writers. I’m late to the party on some of them, and others are just getting started. Based on the readings that we heard, you may want to look into the works of these authors:
Lara Donnelly
Andy Duncan
Theodora Goss
Kij Johnson
Keffy R. M. Kehrli
Robert J. Sawyer
E. Lily Yu

Much of what they have is short fiction that may be difficult to find. Most of what we heard has not even been published yet, but I will be keeping my eye on these names.

Now if I could just find the time to read them all!

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2012

Apparently even quarterly updates are too much for me to keep up with on this site. Hopefully that is a passing phase as my workload drops back to sane levels.

It’s been a year of change in many ways. I lost one of my oldest and closest friends this year, I lost my uncle, and I lost my Father. I am now essentially the family elder on my Dad’s side. That’s an odd concept I am still trying to wrap my head around. Rough spots aside, as the year draws to a close I feel very grateful for all of the people that are close to me, and especially for the one who has stood with me through all of it.

2012 held the hope of a great deal of travel. None of that happened as planned, but we did manage some small trips throughout the year.

Sue and I spent almost a week in Sandestin FL before spending a weekend in Charleston SC with Chad and Leigh Ann eating great food (bacon butter on fried chicken skins!) and seeing a part of the city where the houses from the 1830’s were the “new” houses on the block. Wall of Texture

I drove to Atlanta on two consecutive weekends. Once for Chad’s Birthday to go whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee:
Ocoee River

The next weekend was to attend the DragonCon in Atlanta, and spend some time hanging with Chad and Leigh Ann again. They are not in this picture:
DragonCon 2012

Finally we spent Thanksgiving weekend camping out on Cayo Costa, which is an island off the west coast of Florida. 3 days of no electricity, cool temperatures, and camping with the sound of the waves.
Black Friday 2012

Finite Infinity

Giving Thanks for Quiet

As for events, we got to see the US Mens Soccer team beat Scotland 5-1 in Jacksonville, followed by a 3-1 win over Antigua/Barbuda in Tampa. We also got to see the Tampa Bay Rowdies win their league championship in one of the best sporting events I have ever attended.

Musically we had a few great shows, including Snow Patrol, VNV Nation, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Johnathan Coulton, and the best Ani Difranco show I have ever seen.

Other highlights include getting some of my pictures published in the Tampa Bay Times, and getting drafted into a dragonboat team at the last minute. I’m still mad that we lost our last race by 2 tenths of a second 🙂

Now that 2012 comes to an end, I look forward to 2013. There are few solid plans yet, but Sue and I have a talent for keeping our schedules filled with interesting things. Looking forward, I will try to keep this thought in mind for 2013:

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
– Lao Tzu

With that, here are a few songs that I got to see live this year (not necessarily from these recorded shows):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiCh0LeZ3Fc

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Computer Ads

Computer advertisements are running hot & heavy through the holiday season. I’ve noticed a theme, and the more I think about it seems like it’s been the same theme running through every computer ad ever made:

“Buying our computer will unleash a flood of creativity that you just KNOW you have inside you somewhere. Forget that our computer is just a slightly newer version of the one you already have, your current computer is keeping you down. If you buy ours you will suddenly know how to do all of the things you wish you had the talent for, or don’t have time to learn since you are too busy watching cat videos on YouTube.”

p.s. – I find that 1984 video amusing since Apple has become the totalitarian regime that it made IBM out to be in that ad.

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Forever Starts Now

I used to think I was a decent guy. I didn’t know the truth of it until I found myself in a situation where I had every reason to be rotten to a person who mistreated me, I knew I wouldn’t get caught, and still chose to be a decent guy.

I used to believe that when I told someone I loved them, it was forever. Sure the relationship might not last, and we would suffer all of the heartache that goes with a breakup, but I’m still friends with practically every woman I’ve ever loved. Some of those friendships have been more solid than the relationships ever were. Still, I never really understood how deep that went until I found myself holding the hand of the first girl I ever kissed as she died.

Somewhere out there is a girl who just lost her mother, and a husband who just lost his wife. Think about that tonight. The day will come when you are separated from those that you love. Would you like to have one more day with them? Start now.

Don’t waste today.

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A Question of Security

By now we’re all familiar with the concept of the security question. It’s commonly used in conjunction with a username and password to verify that you are who you say you are. It is one of the most frequently used mechanisms for recovering a lost password.

I have a small issue with the security question. Most of them do not apply to my life. When I need to select a question to provide an answer for, I’m often stuck with a set of questions that I have no definitive answer for.

What is your maternal grandmother’s maiden name?
In what city does your nearest sibling live?

I didn’t have a close-knit family. What if I have no siblings and nobody in my family talked to my grandmother?

What was your high school mascot?

Which one? I moved around a bunch. There are 6 different high schools I could choose from here.

What is the name of the first school you attended?
What was the name of your elementary/primary school?

See the previous question. I haven’t even counted the number of elementary schools I went to. My first school must have been about 20 schools ago.

What was your childhood phone number including area code?
What is the street number of the house you grew up in?

Do people even get to have one address or phone number anymore?

What was the color of your first car?

The first one I bought, the first one I registered, or the first one that I was the primary driver of? 3 different cars here.

How many bones have you broken?

Too many to count.

What is the title and artist of your favorite song?
What is the title and author of your favorite book?
What is the name, breed, and color of your favorite pet?
What is your favorite animal?
What was the last name of your favorite teacher?

I don’t have a very binary outlook on life. Except for my girlfriend, my “favorite” anything is subject to change from day-to-day. It’s almost guaranteed that any answer to one of these questions will change between the time I enter it on a form and when I need to remember it.

Where did you vacation last year?

To answer this I’d need to remember what year I joined your website.

What is the first name of the boy or girl that you first kissed?

I don’t kiss and tell. Not to your website anyway.

What time of the day were you born?

I didn’t have my watch on.

I think I’m just going to start answering all security questions with “Fred.” Well, maybe not the one about the first kiss…

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2011 in the Rear View Mirror

Time flies. I was joking a few weeks ago how most of the news media takes off the week between Christmas and New Years. They publish endless “Top 10 x of year y” articles that were probably written months ago. My dirty little secret (ok, one of them) is that I keep reading these lists, no matter how predictable they are.

This is of course just a build up to my own list, right? Well, sort of. I didn’t take enough notes during the year and I’m too lazy to go back through my receipts and ticket stubs. Besides, a memory that has to be shaken loose by a ticket stub isn’t much of a memory is it?

So here it is. Not a top 10, and not in any particular order, but a few of my favorite memories of 2011:

Seeing my sister Peggy get married, and seeing the Muirhead family again.

Getting to see the St. Pete Grand Prix on a gorgeous day in March.
No Cutting The Corners

Going to an Iron Maiden in concert for the first time in (cough) years and seeing that they are still one of the best shows going.
Iron Maiden

Seeing two top-notch photographers do an all-day discussion, and getting to see my friends Chad and Leigh Ann in the process.
Joe McNally & Crew

Paying off my bills.

Going on a fantastic trip to Colorado with Sue, spending days hiking in the mountains, and seeing all sorts of wildlife including elk, moose, marmot, pika, coyotes, and a bear.
Elk Crossing

Watching Curiosity, the latest Mars lander, leave for the Red Planet.
Curiosity Lifts Off

Let’s see what 2012 has to bring us!

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Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s not focused on buying tons of useless crap like Christmas is, and there isn’t too much ritual drunkenness like other holidays have. Just a good meal with people you love, or are at least related to.

It’s kind of crazy to think that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’ve had Thanksgiving dinner in a Chinese restaurant. I’ve had a Thanksgiving dinner of White Castle hamburgers eaten in a hospital. Once I made a full turkey dinner just for myself and four cats.

Not all of them have been that crazy, but I really have grown to be thankful for the things that I do have. Yes, I have been able to get nice things and go to cool places, but the true thankfulness comes with the realization of just how quickly something can be lost.

Forget the things that aren’t going well at the moment, even if only for a day. What are you most thankful for?

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