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13th January 2015

8:03pm: Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant
The Speculative Literature Foundation is pleased to announce the application period for our first annual Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant is now open.

The application period for the Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant opened December 1, 2014, and will close February 20, 2015. The winner for the grant is expected to be announced by April 15, 2015.

The SLF Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant is awarded to assist working class, blue-collar, poor, and homeless writers who have been historically underrepresented in speculative fiction, due to financial barriers that have made it much harder for them to have access to the writing world.

Currently, we are offering one $750 working class grant annually.

The Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant will be awarded by a committee of SLF jurors on the basis of interest and merit. Factors the jurors will consider when judging the grant include:

· A short, personal statement (up to 750 words) that addresses the applicant's relevant financial background, why the applicant qualifies for the grant, and the applicant's future writing goals.

· And a writing sample—published or unpublished—up to 10 pages of poetry, 10 pages of drama, or 10,000 words of fiction or creative nonfiction.

More detailed information about the Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant and its guidelines can be found here:

The Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant, as with all of our Speculative Literature Foundation grants, is intended to help writers working with speculative literature. The Speculative Literature Foundation defines speculative literature as a catch-all term meant to inclusively span the breadth of fantastic literature, encompassing literature ranging from hard and soft science fiction to epic fantasy to ghost stories to folk and fairy tales to slipstream to magical realism to modern mythmaking -- any literature containing a fabulist or speculative element.

If you have questions about the Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant, please contact Malon Edwards at:
Current Mood: hopeful

11th December 2014

11:00pm: My seester
It was 19~~~. Daddy was editor of the Daily Corinthian, so we were living in Corinth, MS. Mom, we were informed, had had to go to the hospital, which conveniently enough was right across the street. We all went over there: me (5); Patrick (3.5); and Suzy (1.5). We were taken to a room where, behind this big glass window, were rows of cribs. From one of them, a nurse extracted this... thing. It was pink mostly, with bluish bits, and my memory insists it was slimy; but we were assured that with a bit of time it would grow into a sister, like Suzy, but smaller. We were a bit dubious, but eventually it came into our house and grew up, into what is now known as Dr. Mary Lowrey Hamrick, sports psychologist. Nothing like a big brother for embarrassing memories, right, Mary?
Current Mood: fond

23rd November 2014

2:36pm: Juror!
I'm a juror, for The Speculative Literature Foundation's 2015 Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant! The SLF Working-Class / Impoverished Writers' $750 Grant
Current Mood: elated

14th November 2014

6:44pm: I blame james_nicoll
Since I couldn't sup with parkingprincess(who is off doing fiber-agitprop with Char in Iowa), I betook my lonely self to a place where I devoured my first dish of poutine. It was, as they say, yum.
Current Mood: satisfied

11th September 2014

8:50pm: Minimum wage: my take
An excellent science fiction writer asked me offline, "...what's the counter-argument for the conservative/libertarian position of 'Look, if you raise the minimum wage, the employer will raise their prices to compensate, this will ripple down the chain of goods and services, and pretty soon Mr. Minimum Wage is right back where he started.' I reply:

For most businesses, especially the giant ones, the portion of costs which go to wages is quite small. When you add that to the less-obvious point that a large portion of the social services budget in the U.S. goes to pay for programs like the one I work for every day, which pays people's childcare costs out of general public revenues, so that they can "afford" to work at minimum-wage jobs... well, it's to me a no-brainer.

I'm not kidding: my program pays for childcare for people who make low enough wages to qualify. That means if you make a half-ass decent wage (say, $30K a year) you don't qualify. But if you are trying to support your family by driving school buses part-time at $9/hour for a contractor, and working as a Wal-Mart greeter part-time, and maybe flipping burgers at Mickey D's on weekends, we pay for enough daycare that you can leave your kids with strangers in order to further enrich your bosses. (And at these wages, paying for daycare comes ahead of everything including clothing and dental care.) Similar strictures apply to WIC, and food stamps, and what little is left of the old AFDC/welfare programs.

And not least of all: the working class notoriously spends its income, often with small businesses. The increased money being paid to the folks at the airport bookstore where my wife and I work part-time to supplement our state clerical wages, will mostly go back into the domestic economy, in the form of purchases of books and clothing and books and wool and books and donations to my Friends meetinghouse fund and books and trips to SF cons in the States and books bought at those cons and knitting needles and long-put-off medical exams and books and an occasional night out and books and better food for the aging cat and books and shareware fees and books... you get the picture. Notice that most of the above is sales-taxed in most states; and higher wages mean higher income taxes and Social Security payments, even down at this end, in every state.

Damned little of that new income will go into collateralized mortgage obligations tranches (and yes, I DO understand what those are) or vacations in Gstaad (I have no idea whether I spelled that right) or options on the VIX (yes, I do know what that is; did I mention that I used to be one of BARRON'S most faithful socialist readers, until I had to drop that little luxury?). Money paid to the janitor in the stockbroker's buildings and the senior citizen who sells him his takeout cheeseburger and the maid who cleans his hotel room and the security guard who watches the storage facility where he leaves his hobby plane, is money that comes back into the economy with amazing rapidity. Less-crappy jobs like that are also going to look more attractive than marginal criminality, to a valuable fraction of the kids trying to make those life-changing choices.

Are there a few small businesses that genuinely can't afford a higher wage? A few. But if you actually can't make your business model work without paying your employees a decent minimum, is your business model one that you can honestly not be ashamed of?

Would the effect be marginally inflationary? Yes. Would it be worth it in terms of increased prosperity? Hell, yes. Even that bastardly reactionary antisemite Henry Ford was too smart to ignore the facts: you can't make any money selling stuff, if your own workers can't afford to buy stuff.
Current Mood: firm

10th September 2014

7:39pm: Oh, Canada... I'm so disappointed
I got a call today from the bank that issued one of my credit cards. It turns out that last Wednesday, I am reported to have bought C$210 or so worth of stuff at a Target Canada store in Brampton, Ontario.

Brampton? Seriously: Brampton?

I can assure you, not only was I not in Brampton then, I've never been any closer to Brampton than Toronto.

And they couldn't even be bothered to shop Canadian! Nothing from Hudson's Bay or Holt Renfrew or Canadian Tire? Target Canada; not even a lousy snackbox of Timbits... pfaughh. Personally, I blame the ReformaTories. The scamsters probably have a little shrine to Stockwell Day in their back bedroom and a "Stop Elections Canada" poster in their window. Maybe they're clueless landed immigrants from the States fleeing the horror of Obamacare.

The card's been cancelled, and I've been disappointed. Sigh....
Current Mood: bemused

8th August 2014

6:25pm: We got one of the bastards, anyway... kinda
Forty years ago today, that embarrassment to all Quakers and Irishmen alike, Richard Milhous "Actually, I AM A Crook, But You Can't Prove It! Nyahh!" Nixon, resigned as President.

His hand-picked successor, Warren Commission veteran Gerald Ford, immediately pardoned him. We'll never know what all he did.
Tricky Dicky
Current Mood: exultant

7th August 2014

3:59pm: Re: reality-challenged management and their cat herding concepts
A quote from my memo to a fellow office worker and union steward (who is in a different office than my own), about a particularly silly management idea:

"this sounds like a delusional attempt at herding cats by creating a spreadsheet and Powerpoint of where the cats are supposed to be for the next ten years."
Current Mood: restless

18th July 2014

9:56am: AFSCME and the UNCF
I've spent the past week as a delegate (unreimbursed) from my local to the 41st International Convention of AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), of whose Local 91 I am president, and to which parkingprincess also belongs. (The only reason I've been able to afford to be here was that trinker has been letting me crash on her couch here in the Chicago area.)

One of the saddest things we have had to do at International this year was to pass a resolution withdrawing all support from the United Negro College Fund, and urging all affiliates and allies to do the same. Tragically, the UNCF has in the past year sold itself out to the Koch Brothers, agreeing to push their lying agenda in return for a grant said to exceed 30 pieces of silver ($25 million). Their president even spoke at a Koch-funded "summit" where that scumbag Charles Murray of BELL CURVE notoriety was being honored.
Current Mood: melancholy

25th May 2014

12:57am: No LiveJournal party at WisCon this year
I believe this is the first WisCon in well over a decade where there has not been a LiveJournal party.
Current Mood: sad

17th February 2014

1:09pm: So sue me, you sexist creep!
delkytlar seems to have trouble with uppity women he can't control. He has now threatened to sue The Daily Dot for paraphrasing his hateful rantings in a way he doesn't care for, and to sue anybody who links to the article which has put his knickers in a twist. He never seems to have heard of the Streisand effect.

Go ahead, Sean Fodera, sue me: make my rep!
Current Mood: gleeful

16th November 2013

5:50pm: Trope: small-time guy from the sticks makes good, becomes great leader
This came to me while attending a panel here at ICON with Glen Cook:

Small-town kid from repressed respectable but impoverished background in the sticks has a cold and controlling father, leaves home to serve his nation, fights bravely but suffers in The War against The Enemy, goes to the Big City, becomes a charismatic leader and unites his People in a new empire with himself as beloved, charismatic leader against the secret evil cabal which seeks to destroy his Nation.

Fantasy novel, or life of Adolph Hitler?
Current Mood: cynical

23rd October 2013

8:55pm: Paid my dues, done my part
I've just been re-elected without opposition to another two-year term as President of Local 91, Wis. State Employees Union, AFSCME.
Current Mood: determined

7th September 2013

5:50pm: Did I mention I've caused an obscure blogger to tweet that he is declaring war on Wikipedia?
Some guy named Brian Penny decided that he needed to have an article about himself in Wikipedia, so he attempted to pump himself up, then create and pad an article about himself. It's been deleted so often that we have "salted" his very name to make such puffery harder to repeat.

He wrote an article that's been reposted elsewhere titled, "Why Wikipedia Should Be Your New LinkedIn" (a title so repugnant to Wikipedia's ethos that it makes my skin crawl). When we refused to restore his self-advertisement, he sneered at the Wiki-nerds and violated Godwin's Law. When I blocked him from damaging the project further, he tweeted a declaration of war: I tell ya, I'm just trembling in my boots.
Current Mood: amused

30th August 2013

2:49pm: Seamus Heaney is dead
William Dunbar. 1465–1520?

Lament for the Makers

I THAT in heill was and gladnèss
Am trublit now with great sickness
And feblit with infirmitie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Our plesance here is all vain glory,
This fals world is but transitory,
The flesh is bruckle, the Feynd is slee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The state of man does change and vary,
Now sound, now sick, now blyth, now sary,
Now dansand mirry, now like to die:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

No state in Erd here standis sicker;
As with the wynd wavis the wicker
So wannis this world's vanitie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Unto the Death gois all Estatis,
Princis, Prelatis, and Potestatis,
Baith rich and poor of all degree:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takis the knichtis in to the field
Enarmit under helm and scheild;
Victor he is at all mellie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

That strong unmerciful tyrand
Takis, on the motheris breast sowkand,
The babe full of benignitie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takis the campion in the stour,
The captain closit in the tour,
The lady in bour full of bewtie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He spairis no lord for his piscence,
Na clerk for his intelligence;
His awful straik may no man flee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Art-magicianis and astrologgis,
Rethoris, logicianis, and theologgis,
Them helpis no conclusionis slee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

In medecine the most practicianis,
Leechis, surrigianis, and physicianis,
Themself from Death may not supplee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

I see that makaris amang the lave
Playis here their padyanis, syne gois to grave;
Sparit is nocht their facultie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has done petuously devour
The noble Chaucer, of makaris flour,
The Monk of Bury, and Gower, all three:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The good Sir Hew of Eglintoun,
Ettrick, Heriot, and Wintoun,
He has tane out of this cuntrie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

That scorpion fell has done infeck
Maister John Clerk, and James Afflek,
Fra ballat-making and tragedie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Holland and Barbour he has berevit;
Alas! that he not with us levit
Sir Mungo Lockart of the Lee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Clerk of Tranent eke he has tane,
That made the anteris of Gawaine;
Sir Gilbert Hay endit has he:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has Blind Harry and Sandy Traill
Slain with his schour of mortal hail,
Quhilk Patrick Johnstoun might nought flee:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has reft Merseir his endite,
That did in luve so lively write,
So short, so quick, of sentence hie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has tane Rowll of Aberdene,
And gentill Rowll of Corstorphine;
Two better fallowis did no man see:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

In Dunfermline he has tane Broun
With Maister Robert Henrysoun;
Sir John the Ross enbrast has he:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

And he has now tane, last of a,
Good gentil Stobo and Quintin Shaw,
Of quhom all wichtis hes pitie:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Good Maister Walter Kennedy
In point of Death lies verily;
Great ruth it were that so suld be:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Sen he has all my brether tane,
He will naught let me live alane;
Of force I man his next prey be:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Since for the Death remeid is none,
Best is that we for Death dispone,
After our death that live may we:—
Timor Mortis conturbat me.
Current Mood: melancholy

26th August 2013

7:01pm: Why SF is despised so disproportionately in the mundane culture
Science fiction is unique in that it is a literary genre almost invariably judged by ignorant people (including critics) unaware of the contents of the actual genre, but instead vaguely and a-historically confusing it with a hodgepodge of hazy memories of comic strips, cartoons, films and TV shows (many of them defunct and disdained within the field) which use SF tropes but are not informed with a science-fictional consciousness, not even of 1939 John W. Campbell vintage.

16th June 2013

1:03pm: Father's Day
Remembering Jim Dandy Lowrey, 1922-1963. Younger son who picked cotton in the summer and dropped out of high school, left home after an inconvenient accident, banged around the country and ended up out West, did a stint in the C.C.C., joined the Army and then went A.W.O.L., ended up working in a defense plant (under the name of "Lucky Brocius").

He turned himself in after Pearl Harbor, fought in the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese imperialism (Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, injuries that decades later left him 100% disabled) and acquired a new respect for people of color as he fought alongside them. He married Sybil Blondell "Butch" Scarbrough while still in the hospital in Athens, GA recovering. They were the original bikers: post-war kids (the guys mostly vets) on Harleys, roaming around the country with their friends. Dad floundered around a bit, eventually became a newspaperman (reporter, photographer, outdoors writer) on a string of Southern dailies (he was editor for a while of the DAILY CORINTHIAN in Corinth, MS.).

They raised four of us kids, but his heart was weakened (not that the cigarettes and whiskey helped). His first or second heart attack got him fired (so they wouldn't have to pay health insurance); his third or fourth killed him. He was realistic enough to have prepared all of us for the event, but you never think it's gonna happen.

He was a flawed man (ain't we all?) and a harsh disciplinarian; but I never doubted and don't doubt his love for us all. Love you, Daddy! I only wish you could have met Kelly and the rest of your grandkids.
Current Mood: wistful

13th June 2013

1:25pm: Privilege
Any system that claims that no protection is the same as equal protection is really a system for protecting the privileged. - Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
Current Mood: contemplative

26th May 2013

2:52pm: I love WisCon, but....
Well-meaning, smugly self-congratulatory college-educated upper-middle-class intellectuals at a WisCon? Gee, that NEVER happens....

24th April 2013

3:16pm: I've just gotten word that an interview with parkingprincessmy beloved and I</a> was broadcast on the BBC World Service programme Outlook last night. Due to the State's filter, I can't listen to it (streaming media blocked); but here's the URL
Current Mood: chipper

27th January 2013

7:58pm: Chattacon XXXVIII - day two report
I wake up late and bleary a little before 10:00 a.m. local time (9:00 a.m. my body's time); but discover there's no programming until 11:00; and nothing I want to attend until 1:00 p.m. I type and post the first installment of this series, and head for the con suite. The Krispy Kreme donuts are all gone, but I grab some cereal and milk, and a few Little Debbie snack cakes, to go with my Dr. Pepper. I wander around aimlessly, greeting acquaintances and smiling at children. As has been happening all con, I get folks shaking my hands and saying things like, "I know it's Chattacon now: the orange guy is here!" I do take advantage of the free massage offer from the local chiropractor trying to drum up business; it aches afterwards, but in a good sort of way.

I drift over to the programming building (the Centennial Center) and wander the hucksters' room, which is more populated now (although a couple of tables will go unclaimed throughout the con). The Larry Smith operation has oodles of new books; there is one person selling "vintage" (i.e., used) books for excessive prices, and a few smaller publishers and self-publishers pushing their own wares, plus artist GoH William Stout selling a tempting array of collections of his own work over the years. Otherwise: dealers in clothing, glassware, jewelry, weapons, steampunk props, and t-shirts, plus one guy (apparently Japanese himself) selling an extensive array of anime- and manga-related stuff. I politely ignore the Dragon*Con booth.

Outsided the dealers room are tables for local cons, the local SCA barony, the AAA(!), and an anthropology undergrad doing a survey about "geek fandom". She explains that her professor said that fandom was about more than science fiction nowadays, so she shouldn't call it "science fiction fandom"; I lecture her about respecting the customs and self-definitions of the culture in which you are doing fieldwork, and tell her the old reservation joke about the basic Native American family unit.

At 1:00 o'clock a guy named Saylor whose first name I never caught gives a slideshow/lecture on the history of SF from Verne to Star Wars. He's earnest, touches a lot of the requisite bases, tries to put developments in cultural context, and is apparently a friend of Bob Madle's, but on the whole I'm definitely not impressed: sorry, friend Saylor. I catch one of the frequent shuttles (a vital necessity at the Choo Choo, which sprawls across a space bigger than some college campuses I've seen) back to the con suite, snack a bit more, and sit to read for a bit. A few folks say howdy, and one of the veteran bartender-DJs comes to my table to ask me if there's anything I want. He knows the answer before I speak; soon the dulcet strains of Frank Zappa and the Mothers fill the hall (they know me here).

At 3 there's the annual Baen Books traveling slide show (speaking of traveling, they're publishing the first novel by Frank Chadwick, the guy who designed the SF roleplaying game Traveler). I leave the room with more books than I came in with; this is a good thing for a book reviewer. There was some discussion, occasionally grumpy, about the whole Jim Hines vs. the Contortionist Art Directors issue of improbably postured people on SF book covers. Afterwards, I go to my room to lighten my load of books, drop off my jacket (which I no longer need since the temperature has soared above 34 F.) and check my e-mail; there might have been a quick nap in there.

Another drift through the dealer's room, where I am mildly tempted by an orange cowboy hat as worn by Portagas D. Ace from One Piece, a show I've never seen. Later, I will post this on Facebook, where my daughter will proclaim "*giggles* (oh dear gods, if you get it you have to wear the rest of the outfit as some point.)" I shall decline the hat and the offer, even though I look so much like this guy. Instead, I go back once more to the consuite.

There is no masquerade this year, but this doesn't stop folks from wearing a variety of colorful garb, from the WW2 re-enactor to a variety of the "two heaps of jelly squeezed onto a shelf" school of bosom enhancement and display. One woman wears a skin-tight pseudo-vintage-WAC outfit that (except for the pink streaks in her blonde hair) could be described as "Sluttina, the Andrews Sister nobody talked about". The "white kids from the Atlanta suburbs wearing the latex and leather fetish gear they bought with the 'rents credit cards" element seems to have passed on from Chattacon to some other venue Mommy and Daddy don't know about; not that such garb did not make an appearance, but there was a lot more of steampunk, pirates, SCA and pseudo-medieval, comic books and media costuming, from the Star Trek: Next Gen bridge crew (including a stunning Counselor Troi) to Jasmine to Drs. Who to Muppets. The fez was a common fashion accessory; I don't know whether Andy Hooper should be jealous or proud. (Ye gods! A Google Image search reminds me that there are fannish whippersnappers who've never seen Hooper in his once-canonical Major Hoople fez!)

There are very few parties: one by a local "party crew" (a fad I deplore; just not my style, and in my opinion not something to be encouraged in fandom), another a book release celebration by a new writer I haven't read yet (I took her card), and the third held by JordanCon 2013, which is hosting the 2013 DeepSouthCon in Roswell, Georgia, outside Atlanta. I will confess I have not gotten around to reading the last few doorstops in the Wheel of Time series; but I remember Jordan when he was just another local minor pro who came to Chattacons, like Karl Edward Wagner or Robert Adams (all now deceased). On the way from one party to another, a younger guy I vaguely recognize stops me to ask a question about the first Chattacon, which I answer to the best of my knowledge; he says that somebody told him I would know the answer if anybody did. He's been coming to Chatta for years, but knew not the name Irv Koch. Somebody else in his posse suggests that Chattacon should add a history section to their website where such tales could be told.

It's getting later, and I shuttle back to the consuite, where I people-watch (some folks have already changed hall costumes) and snack and read, again interrupted by very welcome conversations on everything from the SCA to what I (and they) are reading. (Have you ever tried to explain the Liaden Universe in half-a-dozen sentences, even to an SF fan?) After a while I return to the room, check e-mail and websurf a smidgen (I've been lent Cicatrice's battered old iBook G4, since she's now got a Macbook Air; free Wi-Fi in the room). I think about doing this report, and decide I'm too groggy and achy (I seem to have forgotten to pack my Indomethacin, and my joint pain is not forgiving me for this sin of omission) to do it now.
Current Mood: exhausted

26th January 2013

10:29am: Chattacon XXXVIII - day one report
(For those of you who don't know the story: I was membership #3 at the first Chattacon, which was attended by less than 100 people; so when I moved from Nashville to Milwaukee, I vowed not to break my streak. For probably a decade now, I'm the only person left who has attended every single one. parkingprincess (Cicatrice) understands, and has occasionally come with me, with or without Kelly, when finances permitted. This, alas, was not one of those years.)

Up at 4 a.m., with the temperature approximately 4 degrees (F) outside. Cicatrice bids me a farewell that does NOT embrace getting out of a warm bed in this kind of cold, and I drive to the airport. (She'll pick the car up later.) I get on my redeye flight and sleep through most of it, as well as the connecting flight out of Detroit (I was up late the night before, proofing her MilwApa zine and doing preparatory stuff for my trip).

In Chattanooga's tiny airport, I encounter a local fan who is on his way OUT of town, since he's got a paid gig; he expresses his regret at missing Chatta this year (it doesn't help that he no longer lives in East Tennessee). The shuttle driver and I discuss the hardships of civil service (he used to drive tanker trucks for the city's vehicle fleet, which can be a really fun gig during a major snowfall event). I learn that everybody locally is dreading an announced "freezing rain" storm, which can leave quarter-inch thick coats of frozen ice on every road, wall, pine needle, twig and power line in the region, and mere fear of which has already caused cancellation of schools, etc. [Anti-climax warning: it didn't happen, and I expect the usual clueless mockery by people who think weather is not a chaotic a system as it is. The hysteria, however, may cut into walk-in memberships for the con.]

I'm amazingly early, but also amazingly tired; I check in and grab a brief nap, rather than explore the town in my usual token way. When I get up, registration has opened, but the line for pre-registered is non-existent, so I grab my badge and wander over to the meeting rooms after cruising the registration line for old familiar faces (the faces are fannish, but no especially familiar ones swim into view). In the meeting hall, I run into a couple of folks I recall from prior Chattacons: we discuss SF and tastes; I recommend a title for his wife, who likes books about the Fae (after she reads Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies, she'll never look at them the same way again). Based on the glowing accounts his friend and I give of Discworld in general, I suspect he's going to be buying some Pratchett for himself as well.

The dealer's room is open, and (as expected) light on books, heavy on garments and tchotkes. I have a limited budget, and buy nothing as yet. I haven't eaten all day, so I go for the hotel restaurant's buffet: it's their usual mediocre offering, with nothing bad enough to whine about (except the pecan pies were made with crusts that had been sitting in a freezer long enough to acquire that odd stale flavor) or good enough to recommend it, and nothing to indicate that you're eating in the South, a region where good cooking is prized. I overeat, trying too hard to get my money's worth, and come away a bit bloated.

Opening ceremony is nice enough: Wendy Webb is toastmistress, and has done the "google for your guests' names and see what has been done by people with the same name" bit. William Stout and Tim Powers speak briefly but amusingly. Cherie Priest does as well, but ribs the con committee for not realizing that this "Seattle writer" they've invited as a guest is a former Chattanooga resident and Chattacon attendee who is in the process of moving back to Chattanooga! She says she wants to get away from the cold wet weather; it's 33 degrees and raining as she speaks. As it is breaking up, I walk over to a tiny girl who's there with family: the mom tells me, "You played with her at WorldCon! She looked over and said, 'I remember him!'" I don't remember this specific small person (under 5) from Chicon last, but I am a total sucker for children, and at cons I always go out of my way to acknowledge them as people who are welcome to the con and whom I hope to see again.

At the meet-the-guests party afterwards, I speak briefly with Priest, and more at length with Stout. I'm an old fart, and remember him from the glory days of underground comix with titles like Bicentennial Grossouts (he tells me he's seen that one in a Bicentennial Museum collection) and the immortal Slow Death; we don't talk about Bizarre Sex. We talk about the people who are fans of his era from one era or another, and don't connect the dots to other stages of his career. (That's one of the things I love about doing a good Wikipedia article: connecting the Montana pioneer to the Wisconsin Greenback legislator; or the labor leader to the old-time YPSL activist; or the fanzine fan to the noted poet.) I see and greet old acquaintances, and run down Chattacon's official historian, to whom I give a printout of the article from Die Welt written about Chattacon. I am still overfull, and unable to give the marvelous hors d'oeuvres at the party the attention they so emphatically deserve. (Local fannish foodies make them in quantity, and they are inevitably a gustatory highlight of the weekend.) I get into my second conversation of the weekend about the 1632 series with somebody who's spotted the book I'm carrying, and I suspect I've made another convert.

I head over to the Con Suite, which is actually in another building, a former ice skating rink. Unfortunately, the heating is on the fritz, although the temps are not down to ice-forming levels. I eat the token Little Debbie Swiss Roll (it is Chattacon), and a few slices of tangerine. I run into younger fans who remember me from prior Chattacons where we've talked fannish history, and a local reporter whom I helped with a Chattacon story a while back (he says his boss prefers "sci fi" in a headline, although he understands my attitude on the term), and the reporter introduces me to his wife, who's there for the first time. I sit and read for a while (1635: Papal Stakes, then head over to the section of the hotel where the few parties are. Neither has started yet, so I sit in the lobby and read the local paper (not a long process) before returning to find the LibertyCon party now under way. I have heard good things about LibertyCon, but can only afford one long trip to a regional con per year; I keep hoping that some year they will invite me as a fan G o H ("Chattanooga's most familiar face you only see once a year, here in June for a change!"). After a while, I move on to the other party, a steampunk event billed as a stag party for one of their own whom I don't know. It's crowded and I don't stay long.

I return to my room, map out this report in my head, and collapse with it unwritten.
Current Mood: relaxed

1st January 2013

11:53am: Donated blood yesterday, side-by-side with Kelly
parkingprincess sat patiently and waited for us to finish being tapped. The stick was pretty easy for me (given the needle phobia thing); they had to tourniquet Kelly's arm with the blood pressure cuff in order to get it full enough with blood to do a good draining.
Current Mood: satisfied

30th December 2012

5:45pm: A tale of Christmas week
Last Thursday, right after Christmas, we had a mother come into our office to get her authorization for subsidized childcare renewed. She’d recently started working again, and we’d given her a provisional authorization until the checks started coming and we could set her up permanently. This was vital: the daycare provider, to whom she already owed $Xk, was going to refuse to take the child the next day if the mom didn’t get reauthorized.

Normally, this would be easy-peasy; but the complication arose: she didn’t know the FEIN for her employer, so that we could verify employment on the online databases. “Oh, I work for Alpha Corp.” but no “Alpha Corp.” or “AlphaCorp” had an FEIN, at that address or any other. The mom called her colleague at work (she’d had to take off work to come do this), and the colleague didn’t know from FEINs. “We have a ‘tax number’ of xxxxxxxx”; but that was useless (hint: if you want to hinder a bureaucrat AND make it difficult for them to help you, refer to any and all of seventeen different identifying numbers from FEIN to Sales Tax Exemption Number generically as your “tax number”). “Aren’t we part of Beta Holdings or something?” (no “Beta Holdings” or “Beta Corp.” with an FEIN, at that address or any other). The colleague suggested that the mom call “payroll” at different location.

When the mom reached “payroll”, she was stopped cold: “We don’t divulge that number! What do you want it for? I know you need childcare, but we don’t do that!” (this, about a number which will be right there on the mom’s W-2 within the next four weeks). The mom was getting panicky now, but “payroll” was deaf to her pleas. When she hung up, she started to cry, since if she couldn’t take her child to daycare, she couldn’t go to work, and she’d lose the new job she is so desperate to keep. From the little tables by the window, a small voice piped up, “Mommy, are you okay?” The mom visibly pulled herself together and said mendaciously, “It’s okay, honey; mommy’s all right.” (None of us behind the counter believed it for a minute; but we all sympathized with the desire to make sure the child wasn’t scared.)

Now I work for Provider Services, not Authorization; but all this was going on to my immediate right at the window in the glass booth. I was like my colleague in wishing to figure out a way that this working mom could take care of her little one. I interjected, “What name is on your paycheck?” The mom didn’t know (didn’t care as long as the check cleared) – “But you guys have my check stubs…” (scanned into the system to verify income). “Eureka!” – my colleague in Authorizations accessed those files, and saw that the mom’s paycheck was issued by – Gamma Partners LLC! And we did have an FEIN for Gamma at the very address where the mom works. Authorization issued, mom enormously relieved, tearful thanks all around, and a couple of bureaucrats delighted to have been of help in a situation that could have come straight from Schmaltz Central.
Current Mood: satisfied
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