ChiCon 8 Day 5

With all of the masking we’ve been doing for the last three years I’ve begun to notice that there is something private and sensual about seeing other people’s lips. Or is it just me?

First panel of the day was What Does Justice Look Like? (Christine Amsden, Jean Bürlesk, Matt Mitrovich, Su J Sokol) The panelists all appeared to agree that criminal justice should look like restorative justice and not incarceration or revenge. I really can’t argue with that belief because it seems to be backed up by facts and experience.

Economic and social justice could best be achieved by simply establishing universal basic income (UBI). Once again, experience and evidence seems to suggest that it is the best way to address so many ills of the world and would go a long way towards saving society money since eliminating poverty with UBI would end most crime and address housing, food and healthcare problems. How do we fund it? Imagine that every moment in any life has an attached value that can be monetized and the individual paid some significant portion of that value. This is simply redefining what basic economic value is. An accounting trick that benefits us all. That’s my interpretation of the problem, anyway. Most people including the panelists seem to be caught up in the delusion of money.

How do we achieve this new justice? Talk. Consensus. Action.


My second panel of the day was Viewing the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse (David Stokes, Jack Glassman, Randall Roman, Vanessa MacLaren-Wray) I’ve had the date noted as a scheduled post on the blog for a few years now. I need ideas and text to populate that blog entry, ergo my interest in this panel. Eclipses happen because of Syzygy: the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (such as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system. This happens approximately twice a month. We don’t get eclipses twice monthly because the Earth, Moon, Sun system don’t quite line up, which leads to a lot of missed eclipses.

High ultraviolet and infrared light during low visible light portions of a partial eclipse is why you shouldn’t look directly at the sun without protection; at least until totality is achieved. Then you can look directly at it. Your pain sensors in your eyes protect you from overexposing and destroying your retinas during normal sunlight, however you can blind yourself by looking at a partial eclipse without ever feeling any pain.

So wear those protective lenses. There is a list of approved vendors on the American Astronomical Society website. One of the panelists had a handful of Rainbow Symphony give away glasses to pass out, the same kind of glasses that he hands out at eclipse events while performing his duties as a professor. He teased us with an image of the Coronado personal solar telescope. I’d still rather have a regular telescope and I’ll use the sun filters that come with one of those to look at the sun. A twofer.

There will be an annular eclipse in mid-October 2023, a preview of the total eclipse that will happen 177 days later in April of 2024. If you go to Albuquerque to see it you can ride in a balloon at the balloon festival and witness it, if that is your kind of thing.


The Wife and I broke down her art show display and packed it up for transport back to Austin. Very little art going back with us, which is the kind of thing you want to happen when you bring art to sell at a convention. We aren’t going to break even on this trip but we did sell enough to cover part of the costs at least.

After I finished lugging all the art back up to the room, I popped in to catch the last half of What Is Our Climate Future? (Angeli Primlani, Eli K.P. William, Mike Fortner, Vincent Docherty) I don’t know what was talked about before I got there but they seemed to be hung up on why mass transit sucks so bad in the US when it clearly works pretty much everywhere else in the world. I can answer that question. Social norms dictate structural development. Japan has better mass transit because social norms value the collective in ways that do not occur in the West and certainly don’t occur in the US, not even in the largest cities. If we want to limit climate change by getting away from individual car travel we are going to have to change social norms in the US. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that subject. Better to hope that auto-drive becomes a thing and that we can convince everyone to value shared resources like public vehicle transport. It’s a dream I have.

I discussed one of the subjects near and dear to my heart with one of the panelists as we walked down the hall. I may have to embroider the catalyst that I had in mind for one of the stories that I’m eternally working on.


Then it was closing ceremony time. The guest of honor for ChiCon 8 was originally going to be Erle Korshak. He died a year ago in August. None of us would be attending WorldCons today if it hadn’t been for the contributions of Erle Korshak. The convention became the open annual event that it is because he and the other early founders of speculative fiction fandom rebounded from the first convention in New York city and set about creating a repeating event that has continued until this day. Thank you Erle. We are all in your debt.

Steven Barnes and his wife Tananarive Due were tapped as Guests of Honor after Erle passed. I have read quite a few books of his that he co-authored with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Their podcast is at lifewritingpodcast.com. The Glasgow gimlet won best drink. Royal Manticorian Navy won best party. That’s it. The show’s over. Hope to see everyone in Glasgow in two years.

ChiCon 8 Day 4

Wind and light rain all day today in the Windy City, so Sunday morning was spent shopping in the dealer’s room. What I have learned over the many cons that I have attended is that parties and the dealer’s room are beasts of the same color. The less time spent near them the better off you will be. I’ve also discovered that if I don’t buy gifts for the women in my life while near a dealer’s room then I will regret ever being born until the next time I’m near one. So I decided to hazard a few minutes and a few dollars in exchange for future familial harmony.

While there I ran across Stonekettle again. As we sat briefly talking over the finer points of Presidential theft of classified documents, a handful of my fellow minions wandered up alongside me to bask in his presence. One of them just happened to be Brenda Cooper (Yes, that Brenda Cooper) I recognized the name from Building Harlequin’s Moon. I don’t think there is a Larry Niven book out there that I haven’t read. On my way to my first panel of the day I just happened to share an escalator with David Gerrold (yes, that David Gerrold) a truly weird random circumstance since I had just been listening to how Bob of B Cubed Press (the table where I found Stonekettle) was working with David on writing a novel in which Stonekettle was a character. Just another day at a WorldCon.

The panel I eventually ended up at was The Art of Eric Wilkerson. He played this Alan Watts speech as his advice for artists and creatives who think they can’t pursue whatever it is that they have a passion for:

Alan Watts – What do you desire?

I like this quote too:

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.

Alan Watts

Although that one could easily be seen as being in contention with the message in what do you desire?

Then we rolled into the Remembering Nichelle Nichols (C. Taylor-Butler, David Gerrold, Tananarive Due) panel. Rather than write more about that subject here I will simply link to my previous article:

The panelists referred back to the documentary that I reviewed in that piece many times. This was another airmeet.com event which means that if you paid to attend the convention you should have access to the video stream for the month of September.

As day four came to a close I realized that I’m not a spring chicken anymore. Even at the slow pace that I’ve set for myself at this event, I am completely zapped and it’s not even 8 pm as I type this. Off to bed soon unless the Wife drags me out to the parties again tonight.

ChiCon 8 Day 3

Decaf today. It’s a good thing I’m planning on walking around outside this morning, I need to decompress. Unfortunately the architectural walking tour was a bust, poor communication between the convention planners and the museum that schedules the tours. We made up our own walking tour. We walked down the river to the lake front and then along the lake to Randolph and back uptown to the Cloud Gate. Then home to the hotel. It was a fun adventure in spite of the planning failure.

Today was mostly a rest day con-wise. I sat in on Using SFF for Science Communication (Annalee Newitz, Gretchen McCulloch, Jack Glassman, Leadie Jo Flowers) reference was made to Devs by the creator of Ex Machina. I’ll have to check it out along with the book Timescape. New concept learned today: repressive desublimation. Try to work that into a 15 second reference clip that can be summoned like a meme of Vogon poetry. Not doing that today. New podcast to check out: Lingthusiasm. Then the Wife and I went to see the entrants for the masquerade before turning in early. We had plans to go see John Scalzi DJ but just couldn’t find the energy to party. Early morning again tomorrow.

ChiCon 8 Day 2

Coffee for the second morning in a row. I think I may be pushing my caffeine limit. First panel was Technological Solutions to Environmental Problems (Claire McCague, Jill Engel-Cox, Karl Schroeder, Leadie Jo Flowers, Leon Perniciaro) I think the thing to avoid is screwing up the world worse than it is now by trying to fix it, al la The Colony or Snow Piercer (what does it say about us that we worry more about freezing to death than we do about frying? See Ministry for the Future for that scenario. My earliest memory of climate catastrophe scenarios was Silent Running. Not quite the same thing) A sun shade at Lagrange 1? In the scheme of things, that’s not as far fetched an idea as you might think. At the very least we’re going to need taller sea walls. Nine feet of ocean rise is already in the cards. We’re just waiting for the warming to catch up to the CO2 levels now.

BBC EarthThe Future Of The Oceans | Blue Planet II – Dec 10, 2017 (a suggestion from a fellow attendee)

The real thinker on the panel was Leadie Jo Flowers, in my opinion. Her idea is to get the next generation thinking in terms of doable scenarios, not overwhelming them with the hopelessness of an unavoidable dystopian future. Her education coordination website isn’t online yet, but it would be a worthy effort that I would devote some of my time to if it ever comes to fruition. (I think she said it would be called what if) Recommended reading from the panel:

A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet by Sarah Jaquette Ray

Waiting for collective efforts to manifest is probably a fruitless endeavor. It will take individual effort combined with government subsidy when they finally come online to get the majority of people to move in the right direction. In the end, the electric car will sell itself because it’s just a better car. I’ve owned one for nearly ten years already and I want a second one.

The next panel in the room I was already in at that time was for:

Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller by Alec Nevala-Lee 

Cult leader, conman, self promoter. He even designed a car, the Dymaxion. When it crashed and killed someone, he invented a story for why that happened that didn’t include the top-heavy design of the vehicle itself. He is the influence behind innumerable tech personalities whether they know this fact about themselves or not. Norman Foster was the architect who worked with Fuller, who had no formal education or licensure in architecture. Fullerene, the carbon Bucky ball, is probably one of the main reasons that people still encounter the name Buckminster Fuller.

I had an idea for standing seam triangular dome panels to prefabricate the geodesic domes with while I was listening to this talk. Not sure if that would help with the drainage problems, though. You still have corners all over the place that will trap and probably wick water into the structure. I’ve always been fascinated with Buckminster Fuller, like most people who stumble across the man’s legacy. It’s hard not to be, and that was by his design.

Then it was off to Yoga and Juicing Isn’t Fixing This (A. L. Kaplan, Amy Henrie Gillett, D. H. Timpko) a panel about coping with chronic illness. I write about the subject so often here that I felt I ought to at least pop my head in the room and see what was happening. People writing about their disabilities on their own websites is apparently a rare thing. Not a single person in the disability panel did what I do with this blog. I always knew I was weird. Giving yourself room to be sick in, while also striving to at least get out of bed and do something each day. Lessons I had already learned in the years I’ve been fighting chronic illness. The fact that I’m here at all is a testament to that.

I shook Stonekettle’s hand in the dealer’s room today. That would be my trip to Worldcon completed now. There were more panels to attend anyway after I had ravaged a few more portals in Ingress Prime. The Resistance rules the Worldcon portals. I missed the meetup for Ingress players today, but I did complete the mission for the convention on Tuesday, two days before the convention started. Yay me.

I had heard part of the discussion held for Science in Science Fiction Shows: The Good, The Bad, and the Amusing (Catherine Asaro) and the moderator didn’t venture into Discovery’s magic mushroom land so I had very little to say on the subject. I did manage not to get drunk at the bid parties tonight. That would be a first for me at a Worldcon. Goodnight all.

ChiCon 8 Day 1

We got here Tuesday afternoon and promptly crashed almost as soon as we got in the hotel room. TSA protocols about volumes of liquid kept us from traveling with the distilled water our CPAP machines required, so we hazarded our lungs with the remains of our bottled drinking water before passing out.

Wednesday was spent setting up the Wife’s art table display and the wall hanging display for her and the Daughter. There were frequent bouts of crowd anxiety battled by retreating to the hotel room to read the souvenir program (which doesn’t contain the actual program for the event. That’s online) and mapping out the events we plan attend once the starting bell is rung at 10 am. Today.

With my loosely planned agenda as a map, I head out onto the convention floor. Wish me luck.

10:24 am. Bumped into the con tour in progress (Dave Howell) outside the art show that I spent all day yesterday setting up. I can tell you all about one artist, at least. If I had been on time for the tour I would have known where to go for the table talk that I wanted to go to later.

The Wife and I bailed out of the first meeting we had on our schedule, a panel discussion of how to create things on the cheap. It was a useful discussion for people who hadn’t done 14 films on the cheap already. As I told her when I suggested going to the event “you should probably be on this panel.” The things you learn when you need a dozen millions to do effects and the producers barely have a few thousand in the bank.

My next event was a table talk with Jill A. Engel-Cox on the subject of renewable energy. She mentioned subjects that I had heard on a recent episode of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, the possibility of being able to generate geothermal power pretty much wherever we want to by simply drilling down deep enough to be able to harness the energy gradient between the surface and the deep mantle of the earth. Fascinating subject. It reminded me of the subsurface air conditioning systems that I had encountered in some high-end houses I had worked on back in the day, but with the opposite purpose. It’s always 68 degrees Fahrenheit just under the ground. Very effective cooling if you have the funds to do the drilling it requires.

We also talked about books and movies that involved environmental disasters, a subject that she will be discussing on a panel later this week. Of the many titles mentioned, Station Eleven was the only one that I hadn’t heard of before. I’ll have to check that one out soon.

The last event that I made it to was one that I had missed the signup for, but was allowed to sit in on anyway. Michael Green Jr. talked about effective outlining strategies for stories and debuted his web app Lynit. As the hour progressed I had a flash of insight. It was while he was manipulating the character/plotline linkages on screen that I saw the correlation to design and planning of buildings. An outline is to a novel or short story as the construction documents are to the finished building. An almost exact correlation that I had never realized before. I also see some possibilities in the web app structure that could be applied to online home design software that would allow the people who want to take an active hand in their new home design to be able to show how they want to use spaces and the connections between those spaces.

Valuable insights that I hope to put to good use soon.

The final event of the day was the opening ceremonies (Annalee Newitz, Charlie Jane Anders) I was so tired that I feel asleep before they started. Luckily for me they were available online to watch later:

Chicon 8 Opening Ceremoniesairmeet.com

First day down! On to the next.

Vertigo Sailing. Vertigo Flying.

Since being diagnosed with Meniere’s twenty years ago I’ve been on a boat three times. Getting on or off a boat is always the scariest part for me, relative movement being nearly impossible to predict even for the ablest of abled people. Even when I was an abled person myself this was the task that could break legs or ankles or feet and so I took it quite seriously.

I used to own a sailboat. It was a dinky little thing, a fourteen foot sliver of fiberglass with a nineteen foot mast. We took it to Twin Buttes in San Angelo and to Lake Travis here in Austin and I’d have people hanging off the trapeze on the side of the boat while we tacked across the wind. The wind whipping your hair as the spray hit your face and you flew across the water like a bird. Those were some of the most invigorating moments, the kinds of moments that you know you are alive because your heart is pounding in your chest and the adrenaline is coursing through your veins and you know (know, because you’ve done it more than once) that one wrong move could capsize the boat and cause all manner of upset for your passengers.

I loved the water and was more at home in it and on it than I was on the land. I swam like a fish and did my best to sail like a veteran captain, but not anymore. The vertigo seems to be always on the verge of occurring the entire time I’ve been on the water or even in the water since I started having to constantly fight it. Just looking at a moving ship’s deck spikes the anxiety and makes me want to run the other direction. It takes an iron will to propel me onto the boat, and I don’t dare go below decks or fail to hang onto something that isn’t structural as I move around on deck, always keeping my eyes on the horizon so that I don’t tempt the nausea to rise.

I’m know I’m alive at these times too, but it’s not a good kind of alive feeling. I could kill the anxiety with Xanax, but then I’m not going to be at my best. I’ll just be enjoying the show and marveling at the pretty colors and people, never taking any of it seriously. So I don’t go on boats much anymore and I haven’t gone for a proper swim in almost a decade now.

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This is going to change. I’m taking a few weeks off. Maybe more than a few. I’m not sure why I need to tell anyone this, I post sporadically at the best of times. Still, it bears mentioning that I will be AWOL and probably not posting much during the first few weeks of September because I’m heading to Illinois to visit relatives and to attend Chicon 8.

This will be my first convention experience since being diagnosed in 2005, much less my first flight and convention since Coronapocalypse. I might even get on a boat and go out on Lake Michigan like I did the last time I was in Chicago. The last time I was on a boat.

Next year we are thinking of going cross-Atlantic on Cunard and catching the Northern Lights (fingers crossed there) cruise ships might be stable enough for me not to notice the movement. Seven days on the water will be long enough to kill any anxiety about triggering vertigo even if it does ultimately trigger vertigo. Who knows? I used to get car sick riding as a passenger in any vehicle but these days I can’t even tell if we are moving unless I look out the window or the Wife hits a bump (she drives, I don’t) I’m planning on taking a bottle of Xanax with me anyway just in case.

Take what you need to cope and get out of town if and when you can. That is my suggestion. Take the things you need to feel safe and/or confident in your ability to manage the planned excursion and get some form of document from your doctor explaining why you need it in case anyone asks. Then just be prepared to sleep on deck so you can see the horizon line when you open your eyes. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

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I’ll see ya’ll on the other side. Who knows, I might even post daily from the convention. A sailor’s wish is for fair winds and a following sea. When fighting ocean currents and weather can spell death even for the best of sailors, it’s a blessing worth having. The equivalent blessing for the modern technologist? Four full bars and direct access. Fingers crossed on there being wifi.

Postscript

Yep. I was on a boat.

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…and I didn’t need a Xanax while on the boat, either. I did need to cling to stabilizing surfaces though. My balance is very bad and there is no denying this fact.