Con Day 3

Phillip and I went to a burlesque show last night. Because we’re friends with the producers, we received front row, reserved seats – that’s very important, because it was a huge, well attended event.

It was a great show. I enjoyed it a lot.

After the burlesque show, we went back to our hotel room briefly, before seeking out a party to attend. It was in the hotel room that Phillip discovered that he’d lost the majority of his badge ribbons. (Ribbons do fall off sometimes.) Before the show, his ribbons hung down to his knees, and included a much sought-after complete collection of all six Skittles ribbons. Maybe five or six ribbons remained. Every one of his Skittles ribbons was gone. It was, Phillip had said earlier in the day, possibly the most ribbons he’d ever collected.

We retraced our steps back to the venue. A couple of people remembered seeing some ribbons on the chair where Phillip had been sitting. The ribbons were no longer there. We looked around, talked to staff members, texted friends, but we eventually had to give up.

Phillip told me that he wasn’t going to let some ribbons ruin his evening. It did effect our moods, however.

We went to a couple of parties last night. The first was non-alcoholic – a nice buffet and some punch. The next one had the only license to serve alcohol in the entire convention. Surprisingly, the room was not too crowded.

We showed our ID at the door, and got a wrist band. Once inside, we bought tickets which could be used to buy drinks. Signs posted around the room said that marijuana, in any form, was forbidden.

I bought three tickets, stopped after two drinks (they were strong), and considered the third ticket a contribution to the hosts.

This morning, Phillip left for his convention duties. A little later, I set out for the convention.

I caught the last half of a reading by Carrie Vaughn. Immediately afterwards, I attended a reading by Meg Elison.

Before she began, Meg Elison explained to us that she was going to be splitting her time with Mur Lafferty, who had been unable to get a space on the schedule. So, we got treated to two fifteen-minute readings.

Immediately after the Meg Elison/Mur Lafferty reading, I attended a reading by Curtis C. Chen, who had helped Tina Connolly with her reading yesterday.

I then went to the Dealers Room and bought The Girl and the Clockwork Crossfire (the third book in the “Clockwork Enterprises” trilogy) at Nikki McComack’s booth. I told her that I’d enjoyed the first two books, and had given them positive reviews on my blog – which, of course, she was pleased to hear. You can find my reviews here and here.

Also in the Dealers Room, I found the Elliott Bay Book Company table where I bought Waypoint Kangaroo, by Curtis C. Chen (whose reading I’d just attended). The sequel, Kangaroo Two, was also there. I was tempted, but, mainly because it was a hardcover, I decided to wait on it.

An interesting thing about Curtis C. Chen’s reading is that he told us that his books are available at the Seattle Public Library. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an author say that at a reading before.

I dropped my new books off at our hotel room. Then I went to find some lunch. I ran into Phillip along the way. He was heading to the hotel room, so I followed him back. Along the way, we spotted all six Skittles in the hallway, preparing for a photo shoot. We decided to hang out a bit, and maybe get replacements for Phillip’s lost Skittles ribbons. It became obvious that the photo shoot was going to be a lengthy one, so we returned to the hotel room without replacement ribbons.

We chilled out a while, then I went to get some lunch, and Phillip returned to his duties.

After lunch, I attended a panel discussion named “Star Wars’ Ever-Expanding Universe” and a panel discussion named “Created Languages”.

Last year, I was feeling burned out on NorWesCon. I felt like I was spending too much of the convention in a quiet corner of the hotel, reading a book. I decided to go for just one day. (I ended up skipping that one day, because of a Black Lives Matter rally.)

This year, I feel that skipping last year was the break I needed, that I was feeling burned out, and that it was a sign to step back. This year, I’m feeling a lot better. I feel happy to be here at the convention. I’ve decided that there’s nothing wrong with taking breaks from the convention, finding those quiet places, and reading a book for a while.

 

 

Con Day 2

Phillip and I went to a private party last night. Before the convention started, we had to RSVP with our full, legal names. Then, at the door last night, we had to present photo ID, which was checked against the guest list. This was a new thing, compared with convention parties of previous years, when just a photo ID was enough.

I’m reporting this as someone with a little more knowledge than an outsider, but less than an insider. Phillip tells me that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is reducing the number of parties allowed at NorWesCon, and placing further restrictions (like the guest list last night) on the parties it does allow.

I don’t know, yet, what this means for the open parties.

Anyway, it was a terrific party last night.

Yesterday, about the time I was thinking about lunch, I realized that I hadn’t seen anything in the Guidebook about Hospitality’s free meals. Out of curiosity, I went looking for the Hospitality dining room, but couldn’t find it. Phillip tells me that the hotel will no longer allow it, as it competes with the hotel’s restaurants and cafes. That’s a shame, but I certainly can’t argue with the logic.

After 41 years in operation, I’m sure NorWesCon has gone through many, many changes.

Last night, before we went to bed, I set an alarm for 8:00 on my phone, so Phillip could get to his convention duties on time.

The alarm went off, I got up, but Phillip wanted to sleep in a little longer. I played around a bit on the laptop, but kept all of the lights off in our hotel room. After a while, Phillip’s voice asked me what time it was. I look at the laptop’s taskbar. It said it was 6:23. Our laptop is dying a slow death, so it didn’t surprise me that the time was off. I looked at the clock provided by the hotel. It, too, said 6:23.

I then realized that today is a weekday, and all the weekday alarms on my phone – the ones to get us out the door and off to work – were still active. I turned off all of the alarms except the one for 8:00, and went back to bed.

This morning, I went to a book reading by Tina Connolly. She was reading with guest author Curtis C. Chen. They read from her book-in-progress that had started out as a play, then was turned into a novel, then turned back into a play. It was a lot of fun.

After the reading, I wandered around the convention, got some lunch, and ran into Phillip in the art show.

I returned to our hotel room to relax a bit, and start on this blog post. Phillip came in as I was writing. Then the Guidebook app notified me that an event I was interested in was coming up.

I went to a panel discussion on Distopian Biology. It was interesting.

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Right after the panel discussion, I started walking to a book reading by Kat Richardson. Before I got there, however, some little kid stopped me to ask if I wanted to earn one of the ribbons he had in his hand. (I’m guessing he saw the ten ribbons I’d already collected on my con badge.) OK, I said, what do I have to do for it? He led me into a room full of computers and large-screen monitors.

I found myself being talked into playing a spaceship bridge simulator called Artemis. I took a seat at the Weapons station. On my right was Science, and to Science’s right was communications. To my left was Helm. I wasn’t sure who was on Helm’s left. We each had computers with task-specific displays. In front of us was a display screen showing various types of information, along with status bars and lights on the wall.

In the back of the room was another ship’s crew.

I eventually figured out that we were basically doing computerized role-play.

I had no idea what I was doing, at first, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. I made plenty of mistakes, but the Captain was very forgiving.

We were fighting a fleet of bad guys who were attacking our space stations. At one point, the other ship docked at a space station and the crew went on an away mission – they walked out of the room and went to another part of the hotel.

It was all very well done, and a whole lot of fun. We won the simulation, and our space stations survived. It lasted an hour.

After flying with the crew of the Artemis, I went to a book reading by Brenda Cooper, which became a political discussion. (Granted, it was a politically-charged book.)

I’d posted a photo of my badge ribbons on social media, and a friend compared them to Mardi Gras beads. I think that’s a very good comparison.

Con Day 1

Phillip and I drove down to NorWesCon this morning. Registration opened early and the line to get our badges was short. Phillip had expected, based on past experiences, that we’d have to wait until mid-afternoon for our hotel room to become available. Our room was available right away.

Really, that was the reason I didn’t want to do the whole four days last year – all that waiting around for things to get going on the first day. Being able to get badged up, checked in, and settled down right away lightened my mood quite a bit. I’m looking forward to the next three days.

Phillip went off to do the work he’d volunteered for, so, as usual, I was mostly on my own for the day. I’d downloaded the Guidebook app, so I had all the convention information in my back pocket, with automatic reminders of when events I was interested in were coming up. (Yea, smartphones!)

I spent most of the day at the film festival, watching fan-made films of varying quality. I took a break from the festival, walked around the convention a while, got some lunch, and returned for more films. I found Elizabeth Guizzetti’s table and told her that I wish she’d post more book reviews to her YouTube channel. (She was shocked that anyone actually watched her videos.)

It’s late afternoon, and there are parties tonight.

Coincidence Pizza

Last night, Phillip and I decided to order a pizza delivery. I looked through our collection of restaurant mailers and picked a House Special from Padrino’s. That sounded good to Phillip, too.

Phillip called the restaurant. The phone rang twice, then disconnected. So he called back, and someone answered. He ordered a large House Special, with extra black olives, and told them we had a coupon for $3 off.

Sooner than we expected, our phone rang. I answered it. “Pizza delivery,” the guy said.

I ran downstairs with cash and the coupon. The delivery guy was holding a pizza box from Amante. I was confused. I asked if it was for Phillip. It was, said the delivery guy, and quoted the price, which was exactly the same as what Phillip had been given over the phone. I gave him the money and the coupon, and he gave me the pizza. I wished him a good night, and he left.

Everything added up – mostly – but I still had the feeling that I’d bought someone else’s pizza. We’d ordered from Padrino’s and an Amante pizza arrived, sooner than expected. I examined the receipt. It had Phillip’s name, and our address. It listed a large House Special, and the request for extra black olives.

I walked into the apartment, and asked Phillip how we ended up with an Amante pizza. He was as shocked as I was. It was a mystery for about five minutes.

Then Phillip figured it out. Or, at least, he came up with a believable theory. When he was disconnected from Padrino’s, he dialed back the number from memory. Only, he was remembering Amante’s number. We’ve ordered from Amante several times in the past, and Phillip has a talent for remembering phone numbers.

Of course, every pizza restaurant has a House Special, so the person who took our order wouldn’t have noticed anything odd. I’m sure that, eventually, someone noticed that we’d given them a $3 off coupon from Padrino’s. They probably didn’t mind.

Amante – the one we’ve typically ordered from – used to be a few blocks away from us, at the corner of Olive and Denny. That one closed very recently, with the building scheduled to become a marijuana shop. There are other Amante restaurants around town.

As I started to write this post, I couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant we thought we were ordering from. I always think of it as “the one with the ugly logo”. (Sorry, Padrino’s!) So, I did an internet search for pizza deliveries on Capitol Hill. I found the name, and also where they’re located – which I’d never known before, since we’d only ever ordered delivery.

Padrino’s Pizza & Pasta is located on 10th Avenue East, at the very northern end of Capitol Hill – in the same building as an Amante Pizza & Pasta.

Coffee Before Work

During this past weekend, Kelly informed me that she’d be taking a two-day, work-related class in Downtown Seattle, very near my office.

My directions to her class did not get her lost, and we met up yesterday at the Starbucks in the 40th floor of the Columbia Tower for coffee before my work and her class.

We wanted to do the same this morning, but I had a dental cleaning scheduled. Still, we managed to meet up for a smoke break (her smoking and me shivering because I forgot to bring a jacket) in the middle of the afternoon.

My appointment went well this morning. I fell asleep at least once during the cleaning. It was quite nice to have a dental hygienist stick around long enough that I could remember her name. I miss being able to have a 7:00 appointment, but I like my hygienist, and an 8:00 appointment will do.

A Relaxed Weekend Up North

Phillip and I drove to Everett Saturday morning, and spent the weekend with Kelly.

The three of us went to a potluck put on by Brian and Kathi. It was a fun, mellow event with a large portion of that circle of friends.

Aside from the potluck, and a shopping trip to Costco, Phillip and Kelly and I did nothing this weekend. We just talked, relaxed, watched a movie and a half, and thought up weird things for Kelly’s Alexa to say or do. (“Alexa, play the Hamster Dance.” “Alexa, where is the bathroom?” and so on.)

Phillip and I said goodbye to Kelly this afternoon, and I drove us home, via a short shopping trip in northern Everett and a stop a Lola’s pop-up shop in Lake City.

It’s been a great weekend.

A Book With Characters Who Are Twins

One, by Sarah Crossan, was published in 2015.

The first sentence is: “Here we are.

One

Tippi and Grace are sisters, both sixteen years old. They’ve been homeschooled their entire lives.

The story is narrated by Grace.

As the story opens, their parents are no longer able to afford homeschooling, and Tippi and Grace will enter a private high school, as juniors, in the fall.

(Yes, Tippi and Grace’s parents are big fans of Alfred Hitchcock.)

Tippi and Grace are worried about this change. They are conjoined twins. That’s why their parents have homeschooled them. They’ve already been called some rude names, stared at, and photographed without permission, and they’ve heard some terrible stories about what high school is like.

Their younger sister, whom they call “Dragon”, reminds them that not everyone is an “asshole”.

Grace explains to the reader that the details of their body are private, but they will sometimes answer people’s questions, just to shut them up. They are a variety of conjoined twins classified as Ischiopagus Tripus. Everything above the intestines is separate: two heads, two hearts, four arms, two sets of kidneys and lungs. Their intestines begin separately, then merge. “And below that we are one.

It isn’t really so bad, Grace explains. They have it better than some others.

Tippi and Grace have been seeing psychologists their whole life, with an interesting method of assuring each girl privacy during the sessions. They receive frequent physical checkups because it is rare for conjoined twins to reach adulthood. Grace and Tippi have cost their parents a lot of money.

On their first day of school, Grace and Tippi make friends with two social misfits: Yasmeen and Jon. Yasmeen becomes their bodyguard. Dragon had been right.

Grace develops a crush on Jon, beginning with their first meeting. The feeling appears to be mutual. Tippi warns Grace that neither one of them can ever fall in love. Grace feels that that warning is too late.

Grace and Tippi have always avoided publicity. Their parents have always shielded them. But when the family hits a financial crisis, Grace sees no other option but to be the subject of a documentary, to have cameras follow them for months. Tippi is against the idea at first, but is eventually persuaded to go along with it.

Everything comes to a halt when Grace is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Tippi’s heart is the only thing keeping Grace alive, and the strain is killing Tippi. Grace will need a heart transplant, but the doctors can’t perform the surgery on conjoined twins. The only chance for survival – for both of them – is to separate them.

The separation surgery will be extremely risky. The chance that even one twin will survive is low. Grace and Tippi are scared, but just as scared that the surgery will be successful. They’ve spent their lives insisting that they are different people, but the truth is that they’ve never been her and me – they’ve only ever been us.

I flew through One. I read its 444 ePages in just four days.

One textThe number of ePages is slightly misleading, perhaps. This novel is formatted as if it was poetry. Words flow down the page in artistic patterns, free from the constraints of paragraphs. Text sometimes takes up as little as a quarter of a page. A chapter sometimes consists of a single page. It worked well for the story.

No matter how many actual ePages One contains, the fact is that I couldn’t put it down. The book was an amazing, emotional experience.

I knew almost nothing about conjoined twins when I started this book. It felt so believable, though, with so many personal details that I was surprised to learn, from the author’s notes at the end, that it was based purely on research. Grace loves reading because it’s the only time she can feel alone. Grace and Tippi see two different psychologists, with one twin listening to loud music on headphones so the other can speak freely. Dragon frequently feels left out because, although her sisters are often seen as freaks or monsters, at least that’s something – she’s nothing but the sister of conjoined twins. The doctors’ explanation of how the separation surgery will work shows that a lot of research went into this book.

I loved the idea that, although Yasmeen and Jon are a whole lot more accepting than the rest of the school, they are shown to have their prejudices – they just handle them better than most.

I did wonder how the parents were able to afford all the medical bills, including two psychologists, for sixteen years. (The surgery team did perform the separation for free, by the way.) I thought, at first, that Grace and Tippi’s family live in a country with nationalized health care. No, they live in the USA, in New Jersey.

I loved One. I’ll even say that it’s the best book I’ve read so far this year. It’s a wonderful novel. It’s the type of book that left me feeling a separation after it was ovee.

Why I chose this book:

I did an internet search, and stopped when I found One, because I’d never read a book whose protagonists are conjoined twins. It was as simple as that.

A Couple Of Things To Catch Up On

Earlier this week, I received a lengthy reply from Metro Transit, about my latest complaint.

Once again, it said that the 47 didn’t show up because they didn’t have a driver for it.

The email also addressed, for the first time, my complaint about never receiving text alerts about service disruption on the 47. It said that Metro is hesitant to send out a notice that a trip has been cancelled, in case they find a driver at the last minute.

I appreciate that someone at Metro took the time to respond with such a lengthy email. (It was three paragraphs long!) I’m not buying it, though, and the next time this happens, I will complain again. The scenario of “not having a driver” tells me our bus is coming from the base – which should give enough time (however long it takes for a bus to drive from SoDo to Capitol Hill) to figure out a bus is not going to be sent out in time (or at all) and let the waiting passengers know.

Besides, if a text alert isn’t going to be used to let us know the bus isn’t going to show up, what’s the point of a text alert?

Ugh. Enough negativity.

Comics Grinder did not steer me wrong about Eternity Girl. I loved it!

The story is basically this: Caroline is seeing a psychiatrist. Caroline’s superhero identity is Chrysalis. She has the ability to shape shift. She was hired by a group known as Alpha 13 to stop a villain named Madam Atom, who has a machine capable of destroying time and space.

Caroline began having trouble controlling her power. Her inability to confine her matter-reconfiguring to just herself caused an incident at Alpha 13. She’s been placed on administrative leave until a therapist certifies her to go back to work.

Caroline is so distraught that she wants to kill herself. She’s immortal, however, and she can’t die. She doesn’t breathe, so hanging doesn’t work. She has no blood, so cutting herself has no effect. Jumps from high bridges won’t kill her.

Madam Atom offers to kill Caroline/Chrysalis.

I can’t wait until the second issue comes out!

 

A Book With Song Lyrics In The Title

Girlfriend in a Coma, by Douglas Coupland, was first published in 1998.

The first sentence is: “I’m Jared, a ghost.”

Girlfriend in a ComaOn October 14, 1978, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Jared blacks out during a football game with his high school team. He wakes up a few hours later in Lions Gate Hospital, with a diagnosis of leukemia. He dies on January 14, 1979. Jared is the narrator of Chapter 1.

Jared describes where he is as a sort of post-human world. Buildings are decaying. Cars sit on the road with skeletons inside. Packs of wild dogs roam the cities. A submarine lies on the bottom of an ocean. “Ten million pictures fall from ten million walls…

Jared then begins the story of his friends: Karen, Richard, Pam, Hamilton, Wendy, and Linus.

Chapter 2 is abruptly narrated by Richard. He tells us of a ski trip with Karen, on December 15, 1979. Karen tells Richard about a dream she had, in which she sees the future.

The friends go to a party. Karen is taking Valium, trying to get down to a size five before vacation. She drinks vodka. Karen (Richard’s girlfriend) falls into a coma.

Richard, Pam, Hamilton, Wendy, and Linus deal with the loss of two friends in the same year, each in their own way.

In February, 1980, doctors discover that Karen, still in a coma, is two months pregnant. Richard decides to name their daughter Megan Karen McNeil. The name “Megan” came to him in a vision, and later discovers that it has a family connection.

As the high school friends move into adulthood, they pursue careers matching their personalities. Pam becomes a professional model. Hamilton finds a job with a surveying crew in northern BC, specializing in dynamite blasting. Linus becomes an electrical engineer. Wendy becomes a medical student at UBC. Richard goes to work at the Vancouver Stock Exchange, and tries to be a father to Megan.

Most of the friends eventually become involved in the Vancouver film industry.

In the last chapter of Part 1, Richard has the most wonderful day he’s ever had, full of good luck and amazing coincidences. Then Karen wakes up after nearly eighteen years in a coma.

Part 2 is narrated by the author, I suppose. It’s told in the third-person, not focusing on any one character.

Karen wonders why she’s in a hospital, with Wendy as her doctor. Why do her friends just happen to be here, and why are they wearing Halloween costumes? And who is this teenage girl, the one who looks so much like Richard?

With help from her parents, her daughter, and her friends, Karen adjusts to life in 1997. Mentally, she is still a teenager who went skiing with her boyfriend only yesterday, yet here is her daughter, Megan, who is the same age she was on that skiing trip. (Should Karen continue dating Richard, who is now an adult?) Also, Karen is still seeing the future.

During an interview with an American television channel, Karen makes a dire prediction about the future of the world.

Meanwhile, Wendy is faced with two medical mysteries: Karen, who awoke so completely from a seventeen year coma, and the synchronized heroin withdrawals of Pam and Hamilton.

About half-way into the novel, Karen’s prediction begins to come true.

Jared returns to narrate Part 3, looping the story back to Chapter 1. He continues the story of his friends: Karen, Megan, Richard, Pam, Hamilton, Wendy, and Linus. It’s his friends’ time. They have all the time in the world. “Every day is like Sunday.

Girlfriend in a Coma, the novel, takes its title from a song by The Smiths. The novel also throws Smiths song titles and lyrics into the narrative at surprising yet appropriate places. “Bigmouth strikes again.” “That joke isn’t funny anymore.” “Half a person.” “Has the world changed or have I changed?” and so on. (Well, “The Queen is dead” did feel a little forced.)

I absolutely loved Girlfriend in a Coma. It was confusing and unexpected and thought-provoking. The story veered off into surprising directions. I did not see that ending coming. This book was not what I was expecting it to be. I thought back on the whole story, however, and realized that it all fit together. This novel is beautiful.

Why I chose this book:

An internet search for “book with song lyrics in the title” returned several books, including two by Douglas Coupland: Eleanor Rigby and Girlfriend in a Coma. I knew nothing about either novel. I like the song Eleanor Rigby better, so I put the book on my “For Later” shelf at the library. I was ready for a new book on my phone, and Eleanor Rigby was available for download. At the very last moment, I decided I was more of a Smiths fan than a Beatles fan, so I downloaded Girlfriend in a Coma instead.