EGC Clambake for November 30, 2006

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for November 30, 2006.

This is the first of the Orycon episodes. I tell a little about my background with the convention; I play some Xmas Solstice music from the HP Lovecraft Historical Society; I play interviews with James Fiscus about the Endeavour Award, Vincent Vaughn about the Greater Portland Costuming Society and Conrad Larsen about bookselling; I play a song from the Xenozoic Tales CD and then it’s off to the dead dog party.

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To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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Can We All Relax Now?

So a guy [Dave Gray] sent Apple money to license the term “podcast” and they said they had no interest in pursing the matter. So, can all the nonsense please stop? The worst offender lately has been Leo Laporte with his “netcast” silliness, which besides being a worse term has the ultimate sin in such a thing – it’s already been used for various unrelated things for a decade. Even Leo can’t stick to it consistently, where he makes a big deal at the beginning of shows and by the middle has forgotten all about it and reverted back to “podcast.” As far as I’m concerned, the terminology stuff is put to bed once and for all.

Web 2.0 Meets My Local Library

They just opened a new public library branch in a nice new building a few blocks from my house. On the county library website they have a link to photos of the grand opening. If you check it out, it is actually a Flickr photoset. Nice to see my very most local library getting in to the swing of things. Moreover, there is YouTube video of Liz Gilland’s speech at the festivities. She’s both the chair of the County Council as well as one of our neighbors. Seeing her on YouTube gives me some of that 21st Century cognitive dissonance, but in the good way.

Local Harvest

I heard about Local Harvest on the radio while we were doing our holiday driving. I’ve been very interested in doing more of our eating and cooking from locally grown produce. Considering that driving from here to my father-in-laws house requires driving by at least a dozen roadside stands selling fresh produce grown out back, I have no excuse for doing otherwise. I paid $6 for a paper grocery bag full to brimming over with sweet potatoes, and we are still eating them a month later. We’ve got about 10 person-meals out of that bag, and we still have some left over. Not a bad ROI on my sweet potato dollar.

Oddly enough, even though there are produce stands all over around here, there is nothing listed on that website for our area. I suspect this is a digital divide issue. We don’t lack for local farmers, just local farmers who are also wired up enough to list themselves on the site. I was interested in seeing if they had any of those subscription coop deals listed, but the closest one is 60 miles away. Maybe it will catch on around here and we can do it in a year or two.

Update: Forgot to include this link to a Wired story on “locavores”. That term sounds like something from a Jaime Hernandez comic, but is actually the same thing as above.

Dixie Chicks and PBS

Last night An Evening with the Dixie Chicks was on PBS. I recorded it with the DVR and am watching it today. Bless you, little DVR. Pledge drive programming on PBS is watchable again! Bob help you if you don’t have one and have to sit through the mind-numbing faux populism of the on-air pledge shills. Considering that every public broadcasting organization I know of has the goal of becoming an ever bigger machine, the whole “You are one of us” schtick falls pretty flat to my cynical ears. Now that Georgia Public Broadcasting is trying to bully WREK off the air during the day, trading the latter’s unique programming for the former’s commodity widely-available-elsewhere NPR slate, I’m embarrassed that I ever gave money to GPB. I wish I could take it back.

And as far as the Dixie Chicks go, I wasn’t a big fan until Home which I bought on a whim one day and really enjoyed. When the whole political thing started, I should have bought one more album every time I heard of some anti-Chick rally. It’s nice to see that it doesn’t take much to bring the barely buried prejudices and misogyny of the country scene to the surface. Even if I didn’t like their music, if Toby Keith hates you then you must be doing something right.

Holiday Fatigue

We actually sat out the big meal on Thursday, choosing to have a smaller version of it with stuffing and cranberry sauce and rolls with ham in them. It was kind of refreshing not having the big deal. Friday we went to Augusta to see family and had a good time with my brother’s family. On Saturday we went over to my mom’s for close to the traditional meal with turkey and potatoes and the whole deal. More playing with my niece and nephew. When Jonathan was cranky and needed a nap, I decided I needed one too so we had an uncle/nephew boy nap. I got a little drool on me, but that’s a small price to pay. Later in the evening we drove home.

Today I’ve had the hardest time getting things done. I did yard work, baked some bread and did a load of clothes so I’m making headway around the house. I sat down to do some electronic work but nothing much happened. I still really need to do another episode of the podcast but just didn’t feel it today. I have so much Orycon material that will really rock when I put it together. No real sense in forcing it though, even though I’d like to have knocked more stuff out. It is a holiday weekend, after all, and rechargeing the batteries should be sufficient.

Panel Rundown: Computing Science Fiction

Place: Orycon 2006
Friday, 3 PM
Panelists: L. Pierce Ludke, Frank Hayes, David W. Goldman (Michael Ehart scheduled, couldn’t make it)
Moderator: Me

[Enough time has elapsed that my memory is starting to get shaky. Correct me if you catch a technical inaccuracy. I might correct some if this from listening to the recording of it later. ]

This was my first panel of the convention, and this one caused a slight panic attack. When I checked in and got my guest packet a little after noon, I found out to my surprise that I was moderating this particular panel in 3 hours. I had received an email with all my programming and the moderators were supposed to be in bold but that formatting was lost in the copy I got. As I got acclimated to the con, I was thinking on this topic and about an hour before the panel I made some serious notes about issues, topics and writers we could bring up. I approach these very similar to the way I approach my interviews, which in both cases are being steward of a conversation. In the interview its me and another person or two, in the panel it is me, all the other panelists and all the people in the room.

We had opening statements and then discussed the history of computer in science fiction, from the days before its invention through the era up to the mini-computer. I asked at one point how intimately intertwined the visions of the malevolent computer taking control of us all (“Etaoin Shrdlu”, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”) were with the anxieties of the cold war and the fear that we were losing control of our specifically human aspects. Frank brought up “A Logic Named Joe” which coincidentally is a piece I’ve been wanting to talk about in my podcast since I heard it on Spaceship Radio a few months back. Pierce brought up “Nine Billion Names of God”, David brought up Asimovian AI, and as we also got a mix of communications mixed in, I brought up my favorite story on the topic, Damon Knight’s “I See You.”

As the panel went on, we brought things forward in the literature up to the cyberpunks and talked about their particular relationship to technology. Neal Stephenson and William Gibson and Bruce Sterling were of course mentioned. I asked about who in the room used Second Life and floated the idea (that I don’t necessarily agree with) that it is a proto-manifestation of Stephenson’s Metaverse. I mentioned my relationship with cheap technology (Uplifting although I never used that term) and how I find the most important idea in the whole cyberpunk canon Gibson’s “The street finds its own uses for things.” As an example, I shot the panel and audience with my CVS camcorder.

As we closed out, I posited Charles Stross as the natural heir to this kind of situation, and floated some of his ideas from Accellerando as evidence.

Bottom Line: Fun panel, fun topic. I worried that Pierce didn’t speak enough and tried to explicitly bring her in a little more often. It was stressful because I wasn’t prepared to moderate until 5 minutes before, but it all went well. I liked this mix of people. Frank’s heavily sardonic and sarcastic manner provided the bass notes in this band. Turned out way better than I was expecting.

On The Road

A little family travel this weekend. We spent a chunk of the evening playing Hide and Seek, Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. That’s quite an evening for us.

Win a Daisy Open Source MP3 Player Kit

I was just looking at these players the other day, they seem like the perfect gift for the Uplifters/Makers in your life. Now PT at Make has announced a contest to win one, with the original announcement here. The thing to do is to write up a definition of the we-make-money-not-art blog. Hell, I’ll take a crack at it. I’d love to have one of those kits. I had just emailed the guy who does it and he told me that the SD/MMC has a 4G limit, and the filesystem is FAT32 only. Just so you know.

The only thing wrong with the whole contest is that they don’t state the deadline. I have to know these things, so I understand where it can sit on my GTD “things I can procrastinate on” list. Folks at WMMNA, when is the cutoff?

Update: They amended with the deadline, next Thursday Nov 30th. Don’t wait to late, Tate!

Happy. Thanksgiving.

There was a definite mushiness component to my trip last week, seeing both my SF fan friends at Orycon as well as a lot of my friends from outside the tribe. Life is short, and I am trying to make a better effort to keep up with people. As Mary Schmich says (usually misattributed to Vonnegut):

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Here then are my thanks:

I’m thankful for all of you who read this and who comment, and listen and contribute or don’t. I’m thankful for everyone who has ever been kind to me or allowed me to be kind to them, whether I knew who they were or not. I’m thankful for all my friends and family and everyone that does me the great favor of loving me and caring about me. I’m thankful that I get to live my life towards the top of the hierarchy of need. If I have one big failing it is that I’m not pulling enough people up there to live with me. So let’s add to the thanks a hope that we all have more chances, and that we can create in and around ourselves the kind of world we all want to live in.

Thank you, all. You are what matters.

Panel Rundown: Computer Viruses Then and Now

Place: Orycon 2006
Saturday, 5 PM
Panelists: Ben Yalow, Frank Hayes, Michael Ehart, Me
Moderator: Michael Pearce

So I’ll be honest about this panel. There was nothing wrong with it, it was a fine panel but it was a subject that I just ain’t that worked up about. I ended up hanging out with Michael the moderator at other points in the con, and I really like him. He’s a crazy cat, but that’s a selling point. We exchanged lists of our favorite webcomics over a table in the hospitality suite later in the con.

There was a guy in the audience who worked for Microsoft that was de facto sixth panelist. I’m pretty sure he talked a lot more than I did, but then he had more to say than I did. My contributions boiled down to a couple of overall points. Don’t plug your computer straight into a broadband device, pay the $20 for a SoHo router and then disable Universal Plug and Play. I don’t think that the proliferation of viruses on Windows vs other platforms is solely the result of installed base percentages but mainly to do with the separation of privilege. Any OS that you must run as Administrator to make it work is guaranteed to have more problems.

We discussed some problems of all major desktop OS types, and as I was the youngest participant you can imagine we went back into the history of some older viruses and worms. It was touched upon that there is no OS without problems, so the thing to do is mitigate damage and reduce risk. Backup, backup, backup! Organize your disk partitions so that all the data that matters to you (photos, documents, quicken files, etc) are in a common root folder and can be easily scooped up. Ben rightly pointed out that some app vendors (Quicken in particular) defy this by putting their data files all the hell over the place. Override defaults and put them to your own data directory if possible.

In retrospect, the thing that happened about 40 minutes in where we discussed practical advice, that should have happened much earlier. Even though I have worked quite hard to de-Microsoft my life, there was a little much anti-Microsoft stuff in here for my taste. It seemed like the needs of the audience were getting met, and there was much room for their input so in the end everyone got what they needed. I was sitting next to Ben Yalow and his fabulous sweater. I don’t know if he remembers me from time to time, but Ben is one of those guys I meet somewhere about every five years. I remember him, but then he’s more memorable than I.

Bottom Line: I think the panel was OK and did what it was supposed to, I tried to participate and help but I didn’t have that much input to put in. Would love to hear from people in the seats what they got out of it.

Cited in the UK

Hey, this is quite cool. Last weekend at PodcastCon UK I was cited by name during this panel. If I’m not misremembering completely, that was the guy I talked to right before his BBC program was going online with their own podcast. It’s cool that he has remembered that statement all this time about the power relationships of podcasters and broadcasters with their audience. Perhaps I was not talking nonsense all that time, or at the very least if I was I sold it well.

If I’m also not misfiring the neurons the guy who wrote that writeup for Corrante — Kevin Anderson — booked me on that show. He did it the first time I was on BBC Radio for sure, and I think he was involved the second time as well. That was at the height of the media frenzy when I was talking to lots of reporters so it does blend together.

I did see a note of Ewan Spence instigating some of the conversation. It sounds a lot like issues I’ve spoken with him about — using new media as a vector for ideas of global sustainability. Nice to see him serving as agent provocateur. How could you throw a UK podcast event without him and his kilt, for goodness sake? Ewan is one of those guys who I just enjoy being around. He just makes the good times happen in a way that I aspire to. Shortly after Podcast Expo, Ewan pointed me to an episode of his Edinburgh Fringe Festival series and I quite liked it.

What’s in Your Duffel Bag?

Since Dom asked, I’ll pull a Thomas Pynchon and write out some big honking lists of stuff to serve as characterization.

I had two bags at Orycon that were almost always with me. This might seem like a ridiculous amount of stuff for a weekend trip (and this doesn’t include the suitcase with clothes) but I was trying to be ready to be simultaneously well-prepared program participant and panelist; freelance interviewer/audio guy podcaster; and SF fan having a good time amongst his peeps. I might amend this list a little if I find new stuff unpacking.

First, the backpack:

14″ iBook (my main laptop for the last 2.5 years)
OEM charger for same
Cheap multi-card reader (essential for managing the CF cards I use in the Marantz)
Multi-USB cable, the kind with swappable plugs
iBook to VGA adapter
mobiBLU cube
USB cable for mobiBLU
spare in ear headphones
several SD cards
Kodak EZ Share digital camera
CVS Camcorder
Books (the Andelman biography of Will Eisner and a recent Bruce Sterling)
New issue of MAKE Magazine
Altoids (essential for interviewing people all day without grossing them out)
Seemingly non-working Lexar MP3 player
Miscellaneous bric-a-brac that has accreted in the bottom of the pack, paper clips and bits of crap

Next, the duffel bag:

Marantz PMD670 and shoulder strap
Charger for Marantz
Marantz AA battery adapter (8 required) for emergencies
3 Audio-Technica ATS35s lavalier microphones
2 1/4″ stereo to XLR adapters (required for the lavs)
2 12′ XLR mic cables
1 Radio Shack snowcone mic (same model I use in the regular podcast)
1 homemade mic cube
1 set of big over the ear headphones that are almost too broken to fit on the human head anymore
Assorted business card, pens and office supplies

I had considered and then abandoned a plan where I’d do the interviews with the snowcone mic for the interviewees and wear a lavalier mic for myself. I decided against that because then we might get weird sound differences between the two. Besides, by using the one mic and moving it back and forth, I could use DLR mono on my Marantz where it records two tracks, one regular and one attenuated by 20 dB. This way, if the regular channel gets overloaded and clips, you can use the other channel for that portion. Fiendish!

Overall it all worked and wasn’t that bulky to carry around. Switching from mic situation, which was lav for sit down interviews, snowcone for walking around, and internal condensor mic for panels, was the biggest drag. That, and continuously untangling cables despite having velcro cable wraps that should have kept it all together.

Creative Commons Filk

Lazy web request from an exhausted and overwhelmed man. I hope to put together my first Orycon episode of the podcast in the next few days and I’d like to get some good filk and/or fannish music to go along with it. I would appreciate it if someone could please point me to a resource with such music that is offerered under a Creative Commons or other reuse friendly license. I know I could look this up myself but I’m up to the keister in crocodiles. Thanks in advance, friends and fen.

Back to Normal Life

I’ve been back home for almost 48 hours and I’m still a little tired and my voice still sounds like Tom Waits. Three days of solid talking, much of it in loud rooms, will do that to a person. I’m delighted I went to Orycon. I hadn’t really been planning on it until they invited me, so thanks to Bobbie Dufault for making the effort to reach out to me. With the holiday weekend, I want to do my writeup of all the panels I was on as well as do my first podcast episode with interviews from the con. The work never stops, it just moves from coast to coast.

Conway Votes

I’m proud of my little town. Yesterday was election day for the mayoral runoff. I came very near missing voting because I’ve been out of town and forgot about it. Luckily, it was before 7 PM when that realization hit. But, for a runoff election with only one contest, held two days before Thanksgiving, the turnout was 60% of the general election ballots. That seems really good to me. I’ve seen runoffs at similar sized towns where the victor has a 100 to 80 vote margin, or something pathetic like that. Add in that it was cold and storming like mad all day, and you’ve got you a burst of civic participation. Way to go, Conway SC.

Google Reader Problem

So I’m not sure what to do about problems I find in Google Reader. I looked for a bug report mechanism but didn’t find it yet. During the trip I found myself with very discreet snatches of time where I could read, and I started at the top. As a result, I built up these discontinuous pockets of stuff I had read.

Today, it tells me I have over 100+ items in the queue, it shows the feeds and articles in the left side panel, but when it runs out of the new things it tells me there is nothing new in the main panel. If I read the individual feeds, I get all of the right articles and can read them, but it’s a drag and a slow process. The newest article in all of these says it is 4 days old. I suspect there is a bug in handling when you have a point where one article and the next oldest are very far apart in time (in RSS reader terms.) New things are still coming in and going to the top, but anything older than that breaking point is going to take manual handling. Kind of a drag.

So now this is out there. Since the zeists gave me so much static for never reporting the Revver issue, maybe I should work harder to find out what to do with this knowledge. On the other hand, if a data-mining company like Google can’t find out this information about itself it doesn’t really deserve to know, right?

Panel Rundown: The Great Writers Blog

Place: Orycon 2006
Sunday, 12 PM
Panelists: Cory Doctorow, Jay Lake, Mary Robinette Kowal
Moderator: Me

Jay and Mary were both people that I met as we sat down at the table and people that I liked quite a bit. I had a chance to talk to both in hallways later on and carry on the conversation a little further. At the absolute last minutes, as I was leaving the con Mary and I chatted about her growing up in North Carolina. I suggested she try to make Converge South next year, but she lives in Iceland so that’s a big issue for her. She’s got the same difficulties as I do in going to lots of cross-country cons, except hers is far longer international flights.

To be perfectly honest, this is the panel I feared the most as a moderator. That Cory is a blogger of repute and reach that swamps out the other three of us I thought might be an issue. To his enormous credit, he did not pull rank or in any way condescend to the other panelists or anyone in the room. I found that highly classy and egalitarian, treating us all as equal peers and partners in the blogosphere and the present conversation.

I did some audience calibration to begin this panel. I asked for shows of hands for a number of questions: who wants to blog but doesn’t know how; who blogs; who writes or wants to write professionally; who writes and blogs; who uses their writing as a topic in or as snippets of their blog. There were only three people out of maybe 40 or 50 that were in the “need to learn” camp so I asked them to reraise their hands for someone knowledgeable near them to volunteer to buddy up with them and talk to them after the panel to help them out. Then we began.

Because I’m not a working writer I laid back for several swatches of time in the discussion, doing traffic control but not really adding much. The one thing I really wanted to throw out there was the story of my work blogging rules of the road and how I had the discussion up front before I blogged the first thing about my present company. Because people can and do get fired over this, I felt that dominating the conversation for a few minutes might be a necessary evil. I contended that getting fired over blogging is stupid, and your first responsibilities are to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Keeping you and your children fed is a higher priority than your post. As much as I love it and don’t want it removed from my life, I could live without blogging in a way that I couldn’t without food or shelter. Cory took exception to that and thinks I’m giving the act of self-expression short shrift but we have to agree to disagree on this. I think it’s the very definition of a higher level Maslowian act.

Mary had some fascinating stories about how she has used her blog for her artistic endeavors and also how she deals with the blog/work membrane. Cory talked about a common theme of the weekend – the collapse of multi-faceted identities to a single point and the problems that can cause when your home life is public and it make cause friction with your work life and how blogging can be the mechanism for that collapse. Jay and Cory both talked about using their blogs as repositories for their work in progress and the materials thereof. There was discussion of the “personal brand” and lots of talk about whether to have separate blogs for different topics, whether to be pseudonymous or use one’s real name. We talked about the blog as a tool for engagement with ones audience and the Neil Gaiman approach of chatty blogging vs the Neal Stephenson opproach of conspicuous absence from the web and blogosphere.

At the end, Cory tried to teach me something about moderation that I was just too slow on the uptake to do effectively this time but that I’ll be doing every panel I ever moderate from here on out. When we ran low on time, we got all the people with pending questions to just all ask them one at a time. Then we went down the row and each panelist answered one of the questions on the floor. It worked like gangbusters once I finally understood what we were trying to do. I thought that each question would get a volunteer to answer it, which was upside down from the real thing. At the panel he moderated he did this (much more smoothly) and it worked very very well.

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this panel a lot, learned a lot, was enlightened with a dose of reinvigoration for the value of what we do, and hope my moderation was as good as the topic, panel and audience deserved.

There and Back Again

So I did make it in (see other post for my minor blowup about it) and then made it in to work around the tail end of lunchtime. I was weary and I’ll admit I nodded off at least once, but in my delirium got something to work that I was wrestling with all the time last Wednesday and Thursday up until I left for the airport. It’s odd, the break and then being in a wiggy state let me see a problem that I couldn’t before.

All told, it’s probably not the worst deal in the world that the exhaustingness of last weekend is followed by a short workweek and then a long weekend. I loved pretty much every second of my trip from when I touched down until when I left, but man was it tiring. It wasn’t until I really started thinking about it that I realized it was four years since my last SF convention of any kind, and that was Orycon 2002. I didn’t go to the last few Dragon*Cons. Even though dear Lois Tilton begged me to come and I should have, I begged out of the one Chicago con they had (Windycon?) when I lived up there. I was just busy and tired that weekend and it was cold so I stayed home, but I regret that decision. As the Butthole Surfers said “It’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done.”

I hope it isn’t four years before the next one. This is who I am and I really like this. I also find I have a tolerance for all levels of fandom I used to not have. There were times I was sniffy about dorks in chain mail or dressed as Klingons. When I was a teenager attending the Atlanta Fantasy Fairs, I was snotty that I was a fan of Will Eisner and Scott McCloud and Howard Chaykin and Los Bros Hernandez and boy, wasn’t I more urbane than these Star Wars fans. I don’t feel that anymore. I enjoy all these people and it doesn’t matter what their fandom makeup is. If all they care about is SCA and LARP, two things that don’t matter to me, it’s no hair off my ass. You love your thing, I’ll love mine and the good thing is that we’re all happy together.

Thanks to everyone that helped pull this Orycon together. Even though I saw far fewer friends than any previous one I attended, it was probably my favorite so far. I made lots of new ones, and that’s also good. Let’s all fly our freak flags together, and if I’m reading the zeitgeist right it will probably have a Jolly Roger on it.