Saturday, September 26, 2015

Another Bear Lake Adventure

You may or may not remember that we have some good friends who owned a house at Bear Lake.  You also may or may not remember how sad we were when they sold it.  Well, I have some good news.  We have a different friend that has a house at Bear Lake, so our Bear Lake adventures can continue.

This past weekend, we were invited up for a weekend of adventuring.  The old house was in Laketown, Utah on the south side of the lake.  This house is in rural Idaho on the north side of the lake.  We drove up after work on Friday, and by the time we got there it was very dark.  We were not expecting it to be quite as rural as it was.  On the way, we saw deer, rabbits, skunks and many a cow.  When we pulled up to the house, there were no street lights so it was very, very dark.  We arrived before the others, so we had to wait for them in the car.  Waiting in the car in the dark reminded me somewhat of the beginning of a horror movie.  When I told Robyn that, she was very unhappy with me.  It turns out that if I mention anything like that, she thinks she's going to be murdered, and then she's cranky at me for frightening her.

This is the cranky face she made.

Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for the others to arrive.  Once we all went inside, it was like a sleepover when we were kids.  We were all hanging out and chatting.  The only difference is that when I was a little kid I stayed up all night at sleepovers.  At this one, Robyn informed me that we needed sleep around 11 PM and we promptly went to bed.

I was super excited about our stay in this new area that I had never explored.  As I always do, I took my Saturday morning walk around the area to see what I could see.  Here are a few of the things from my exploration.
The horses thought I was a pretty big deal.  I pulled grass out of the ground and they thought it was amazing.

They were all begging to take a picture with me.

I found the last merry-go-round on Earth.  I even played on it for a minute.

I even met an Ent.

This emu also thought I was a pretty big deal.  He kept following me as I walked by his fence.
I didn't get to explore too far because breakfast time was quickly approaching.  But that was okay, because I knew that after breakfast it would be time to go to the lake and have more fun there!

Once we got to the lake, it was time for all sorts of festivities to begin.



Dancing (I think she was actually demonstrating how she paddled on the kayak)

Paddle boarding (P.S. doesn't it look like she's in the Caribbean?)
Yoga  (Because why would you do yoga on land when you could do it in the middle of a lake?)

Whatever this is.

I think one of the activities I enjoyed most was the conversation.  I sometimes forget what a well read group these particular friends are.  We discussed literature, politics, philosophy and all sorts of other things.  I've taken the liberty of making a professional quality artist's rendition of the conversation.

All in all, it was a great weekend.  When are we going to do it again?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Numbers Are Not Metaphors

Am I the only one who can't handle when people don't understand that a number represents an exact quantity?  It's not a metaphor.  It's not simile.  We have plenty of words to convey symbolic meaning.  Numbers aren't designed for that purpose.

I have encountered many instances of this, but my recent visit to the dentist was one of the most egregious.

I had to have a root canal.  Having a root canal is basically the worst thing ever.  It puts one in a position to have very little tolerance for word crimes.

The root canal was on one of my back teeth, so I had to have my mouth open wide enough that the dentist could put his entire fist in my mouth as well as his entire tool box.  Even though my tooth was completely numb, the drilling they were doing was hitting the nerves in my palate so all of my other teeth were feeling like they had been drilled as well.  (I know this paragraph contains no reference to word crimes.  It's just setting the stage for the low level of joy I was feeling when the word crime was committed.)

When the root canal was finally complete, the dentist had to give me a little confession.  He said that the drill bit broke off inside my tooth while he was rooting my canal.  (I know "rooting my canal" is not a thing.  I just wasn't sure what verb would apply to a dentist performing a root canal.)  He said that there is no way to dig out the drill bit without destroying the tooth.  But he said the bit was silver, and silver has been used by many dentists to fill teeth, so there's no reason to believe it should ever cause a problem.  But he wanted to let me know in the interest of full disclosure.

He said he didn't say any reason to worry about it, but he did say that if there's ever a problem with it, since it can't be removed, the solution to the problem would have to be to remove the tooth.

While the dentist was a little blunt about the possibility of losing my tooth, he had me feeling pretty good about it not ever being a problem.  As dentists do, he got up to go work with another patient and I was left alone with the hygienist.  The hygienist apparently wanted to comfort me, so she brought up the issue of complications caused by a drill bit hidden inside a tooth.

Here were her words of comfort:
As far as complications are concerned, it's kind of 50/50.

I'm thinking to myself, "The dentist just said there was no reason for concern.  Now  you're telling me that I flip a coin and if it comes up heads I lose my tooth?"  Of course, I said nothing out loud.  She continued with her comforting disdain for numbers and their meaning.

But I've seen this happen lots of times, and 9 times out of ten there are no problems at all.
Okay, in about 2 seconds I went from a 50% chance of losing my tooth to a 10% chance.  The odds are vastly improved, but it's still not as comforting as the doctor saying, "There's no reason to believe there should be a problem."

I was already in an unstable state after experiencing the root canal.  Her words of comfort had really frightened me.  But then I looked in her eyes and realized she was genuinely trying to comfort me.  She didn't actually realize that the words she was saying had meaning.  I had to translate the numbers she was saying into the symbolic meaning she was trying to portray.

This is how I translated it:
While it is possible for it to go either way, in nearly all cases there are no problems at all.
You should all be proud of me.  I totally just translated it in my head and I didn't even rebuke her for her word crime.  Don't you feel like I'm so grown up?

I may be grown up, but that doesn't mean the rest of you should continue doing this.  Let's all try to remember that words have meaning.  And numbers are words that have very specific meaning.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Hugo Awards

I got to attend the Hugo Awards.

Before I had ever heard of the Oscars, or the Pulitzer Award, I was happily hunting down winners of the Hugo Award.  It has always meant the most excellent science fiction that was written in a given year.  My entire purpose in attending World Con was so that I could sit in that room and celebrate the best science fiction of the year.

I wish I could say it was everything I dreamed it would be.

It was a great experience, don't get me wrong.  I was excited just to be in the same room with a few of my heroes.

This is me happily sitting in my seat a good 45 minutes before it actually started.  I was excited.
I loved the pure love of the genre that was shown on stage.  I felt like David Gerrold did a great job as the MC.  He made totally nerdy jokes that made me laugh out loud.  He had enjoyable banter with various individuals on stage.  He even had a dalek come on stage to help present an award. (And the funniest part of the night was when the dalek left the stage saying, "I have to urinate!")  (It's funny because it sounds like exterminate.  I'm not sure if that's as clear in writing as it was in hearing it.)  (I know, when you have to explain the joke it ruins it.  Bear with me.)

Unfortunately, there was some sadness that went along with my experience.

You see, this year the Hugo Awards got way too political.  There was a conservative group of authors that had made a list of works that they felt were worthy of the award.  Enough people agreed with them that their list dominated the list of nominees this year.

Since I'm a big fan of science fiction, I had seen the list on their blogs and I had read many of the works.  Some of them I thought were great and I had nominated them myself.  Others I didn't like, so I hadn't nominated them.

There were those within the science fiction community who felt that putting works on a list was a mean, bad thing to do and so there was a big movement among them to not read any of the works and instead vote for "No Award", which basically means that you feel none of the works are worthy and you would prefer that no award be given in that category.

With that background, I can now explain the part of the Hugo Awards that made me a sad, sad boy.  I knew that there was a possibility that several categories would have no award given.  I really hoped that wouldn't be the case, but I knew it was possible.

Things were going along well.  I was enjoying the awards, the acceptance speeches, the nerdy banter, it was all great.  But then the first no award was given.  If I remember correctly, it was for best editor.  The crowd erupted in a cheer.  A guy sitting near me sounded like he would explode when he yelled, "YEEEAAAAH!!" at the top of his lungs.  That's when I knew that politics had become more important than literary merit.

You see, there's a reason that "No Award" is an option.  If there really are terrible nominees that aren't worthy of the award, there's nothing wrong with voting that way.  But if that's how I felt about the nominees in a particular category, I would vote that way and then feel sad that there hadn't been better options to vote for.  I would not be shouting for joy at the glee I felt because I had taken the award away from someone.  These people were happy that they had beaten back the big mean conservatives who had the nerve to say they liked certain works.  To make matters worse, they were punishing the nominees themselves just because of who happened to like their work.  Does that even make sense to anyone?

As the night went on, no award kept coming back.  It wasn't in every category, but it was in too many.  My mom kept looking at me to make sure I wouldn't cry or anything.  She knew how excited I was to be there and how sad I would be to attend an award ceremony with no awards.

Mom pointed out that when an award was given, someone would come from back stage to hold the trophy before the envelope was opened.

When the time came for the novel to be awarded, the individual emerged from back stage holding the little rocket trophy.  I was so relieved.  The novel category is the one I care most about.  I think I really would have cried if there had been no award.

And then, my favorite novel actually won!  The Three Body Problem was the winner of the 2015 Hugo for best novel.  I think I was as excited about that as the other dude was about the no award earlier in the evening.

This was the first book to win that wasn't originally published in English.  It had been originally published in Chinese.  The author (Liu Cixin) wasn't able to attend, because he was home in China.  But the translator (Ken Liu) spoke and it was super cool.  My favorite part was when he read some words that the author had written which praised him as a translator.  He had to stop and tell us that he felt awkward about reading the praise for himself.  His awkward humility just made me happy.

In the end, I was able to go home happy.  I was sad that there had been too much politics, but I could at least feel happy in knowing that my favorite book won in the most important category.

I don't know when I'll go again, but I'd really like to.  Next time, can we all agree to just read the works and vote on our favorites regardless of whether or not we like someone else that said it was a good work?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Spokane Tourism

Did I mention I went to World Con?

It was a super fun adventure, and it was way cool to meet some authors whose work I've been reading since I was a teenager.  But every time I go anywhere new, it's important to discover some of the things that are available to see locally.  So here are a few of the things I had a chance to enjoy while I was in Spokane.

Coeur d'Alene
When my plane first landed I had a few hours before the convention started.  I had heard that Coeur d'Alene, Idaho was very pretty, and since it was only 45 minutes away, I decided to go see what I could see.

There's a big hill that juts out into Lake Coeur d'Alene.  It's called Tubbs Hill and it has a trail that wraps all the way around.  I decided that should be my exercise for the day.  It has some super pretty views of the lake, and it is a heavily wooded area with plenty of wilderness feel.
Looking out at the lake

Walking through the woods
The trail wraps around the hill, but there are lots of side trails that climb the hill.  Clearly, I wasn't satisfied just walking around it and I had to climb to the top.  I was really glad I did because there was a little fawn just a few feet off the trail.  I stopped and watched him for a few minutes.  He just looked at me and I looked back at him.  I like to think we shared a moment.

I'm pretty sure he wrote on his blog about how close he stood to a Jeff.  After I took his picture, he took a picture of me for his instagram account.

After seeing the deer, I saw some more wildlife.  I saw a flyboarder in his natural habitat.
I didn't get too close, because you know how dangerous this species can be.
After exploring nature, I made sure to head over to Hudson's to get a burger.  I'm offended at myself that I didn't get a picture, but I have to admit that it was one of the better burgers I've had in my life.  Here's the crazy thing.  Hudson's is known for not putting lots of stuff on the burger.  They just put ketchup, pickles and mustard.  But somehow, even without all the fixins, it was an amazing burger.


One of the evenings, I wanted to go visit the campus of Gonzaga University.  I always enjoy seeing different campuses, and Gonzaga was no exception.

St. Ignatius in front of College Hall.

A shot of college hall, standing right behind the statue.  (and made fancy with the help of Google.)

The campus sits right on the river and has lots of pretty green space.
One thing i thought was super cool was they had this area called the Gonzaga Grotto, which was an area where students could go and worship or sit quietly and reflect.  There was this statue of Mary surrounded by candles that had places where you could kneel.  I really wanted to get a picture of it, but there was a guy there praying and I didn't want to disrespect him.  I walked behind this tree so that I could put him behind the tree and still get a picture.

Of course, I couldn't go to Gonzaga without getting a picture of a bulldog.

River Walk
My hotel was across the river from the convention center.  It was about a ten minute walk to get there, but the walk was along walking paths that followed the river.  I had a car, but the river walk was so enjoyable and so easy that I preferred to walk rather than drive.

A picture I took from one of the bridges on the river.
A little bit past the convention center was Spokane Falls.  I made Mom walk there with me.  She was a little trooper, especially during the parts where we went up hill.
Mom standing on the bridge overlooking the falls

Mom diving into the falls

Selfies are important
Mom wanted to climb onto that rock.

The smoke was so thick from the nearby fires that you could stare directly at the sun.  (Though you still shouldn't.)  Naturally, I took a picture of the red sun.
I had to get a picture of me at the base of the clock tower.   Because every time I looked at it I kept yelling, "Save the clock tower!"  If you don't know why I was yelling that you clearly have no soul.  Your soul can be repaired by watching Back to the Future. (To see the top of the clock tower, refer to the black and white picture featured as the first picture of the river walk.)

Save the clock tower!
Giant Milk Jug
I totally ate inside a giant milk jug.  They had delicious milk shakes and delicious burgers.  Mom and I had to take turns running across the street to get pictures of each other.  That's how dedicated we are to making photographic records of our adventures.
Me and a milk jug

Mom and a milk jug
Spokane Temple
Whenever I go to a new city, if it has a temple, you know I'm going to visit it.  Mom and I really enjoyed doing a session in the Spokane Temple.
Moroni and freedom and stuff

I always get a picture in front of the sign
The madre and the temple

Flowers and the temple
All in all, it was super fun exploring.  I spent the majority of my time at the convention, but considering how little time I spent exploring, I think I got to see a lot of things.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

World Con

You guys.  I totally went to the World Science Fiction convention this year.  It's been on my bucket list since I was 15 years old.  It takes place in a different city every year.  (Last year was London, 2016 is Kansas City, Missouri and 2017 is Helsinki Finland.)  So, since it takes place all over the world, when I found out it was going to be in Spokane, Washington this year, I figured that was going to be one of the closer options for me.  It's a direct flight that takes less than 2 hours.  You can't beat that.

I had a great experience.  I won't write about everything that happened, but it's important to share the highlights.

Free Stuff
Wandering around the convention floor was a great way to get free stuff.  There were lots of authors who just wanted to get their name out who were giving away free books.  Many of them were even signed.  It was great!  There was also the free stuff from the convention itself, like my handy dandy World Con tote and super cool badge.  Here is a pic of my swag.
And look at this super cool badge I wore all week.
It's my first Worldcon, so they gave me a super cool ribbon so that I could be proud of being a newb.  There were lots of ribbons available for lots of reasons.  Some people had ribbons all the way to the ground.  I wasn't into the ribbon collecting.  I just had the one.

Not so free stuff
I'm not a big shopper.  There was lots of stuff available for purchase, but I didn't purchase very much.  However, there were a couple things I couldn't live without.
When I saw this, I couldn't pass it up.  I will have the warmest face of the elder gods.
This children's book about Kirk and Spock had to be purchased.
I bought the Star Trek book for Robyn.  I needed to get her a gift for letting me go on vacation without her.

Stuff they didn't let me take home
Sometimes there are things that are available for purchase, that you just need to try out, but you're not actually willing to pay for them.
I had to try on these claws, but clearly I wasn't going to buy them.
Meeting famous people
It was super fun to see people who have written books I've read.  I got pictures of several people that were famous in my mind.  They may not be famous to most people who read this blog, so I won't mention most of them.   However, the most famous person I met (I think he's even famous among normal people) was George R.R. Martin.  I was sitting there eating lunch when he happened to walk by.  Naturally, I took a creep stalker pic of him.

Later, I happened to run into him as he was just wandering around the convention.  I walked up to him and shook his hand and asked if I could take a picture with him.  His entourage swooped in to let me know that if one person takes a picture then the whole world wants one.  I told him  I understand and that I was a big fan.

I had a big plan that I was going to tell him that I have been a fan since I read Sandkings when I was 15, long before he wrote Game of Thrones.  But I was too starstruck, so I was unable to speak more than to say I was a fan.  Oh well, now he thinks that I was only a fan once it became trendy.  I like to think that I was a George R. R. Martin fan before it was cool to be his fan.

I was disappointed not to get a picture with him, but I did sit on the front row for a panel discussion between him and Robert Silverberg.  I was able to snag this pic of the three of us.

The Masquerade
Conventions are famous for having people in costume.  I think costumes can be super cool.  On Friday night, they did a masquerade show which was essentially a costume contest followed by a concert.  Here are a few of my favorite costumes.

I thought this little girl was super cute as Ms. Marvel

This snow monster was a good ten feet tall.

Groot was probably fifteen feet tall.

This family did a D&D reenactment, complete with one of their children as a 20 sided dice.  (not pictured)

The Art show
I really enjoyed the art show at the convention.  I took a bunch of pictures of the art (even though there were billions of signs saying not to.)  But I won't share any of those pictures, because I'm pretty sure sharing them online is what they are worried about more than me having memories.  However, I did a google search for one of my favorite pieces, and here is a picture of it from the guy's website with his watermark.
Don't you just want to see that movie?

All in all, it was a great experience.  I still need to share some of the things I did outside of the convention center.  And, of couse, I think the thing I enjoyed most was having the opportunity to be at the Hugo awards ceremony.  Both of those things need their own post so stay tuned.
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