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Random thought

A quick post while I’m on break at work…

Good things come to those who wait those who work hard and go after them.

is the essence of a motivational message I saw posted to Facebook this morning, and it’s something that’s been on my mind for some time now. Consider three of the creative geniuses (genii?) that I admire: Marian Call, Jonathan Coulton, and John Scalzi. All three of them have had considerable success in their fields: Marian Call and Jonathan Coulton are both Internet-famous musicians who are solely dependent on their music for their income, and John Scalzi is a bestselling science fiction writer.

It would be easy to sit back and feel envious of their success; I admit that I am, a little. But, then, it’s easy to overlook the amount of work they each put in: Marian Call is not only a talented songwriter and performer, but she’s also touring almost constantly and doing everything she can to promote herself and her music. Jonathan Coulton is the same way; the fact that his music appeals to Internet geeks is certainly important to his success, but so is his hard work and dedication to his music. And John Scalzi, of course, sweats bullets over his writing, putting in far more than forty hours per week on his craft.

It’s that sort of dedication which I sometimes feel I lack in my life when it comes to any particular endeavor, both in my health and in my writing (two areas where I’m struggling right now). So I’m considering a resolution for the new fiscal year, which starts on July 1 (which just happens to be a Sunday): to simply dedicate more time and effort to these areas. Which isn’t to say that I won’t continue putting effort into other important areas of my life (my relationship with my wife, my job, and so on); just to put more effort into reaching my goals in these two areas.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Check back later when I’ll post a blog entry about something that happened nearly six months ago.

Seattletastic

This past weekend we flew up to Washington to visit Jennifer’s sister and her husband and daughter. It was an enjoyable time; I like my sister-in-law and her family, and my niece F (not her real name) is a blast to hang out with.

A few highlights:

  • During the flight up, one of the passengers in first class proposed to a flight attendant over the in-flight loudspeaker. To make it sound less weird, the attendant was off-duty and flying up to Seattle on her own business in economy, and not one of the attendants who was working the flight. I also got the impression that the passenger and the flight attendant had actually been dating for awhile, so this wasn’t a random proposal.
  • Saturday was a relatively laid back day. After watching F in her diving class (she’s quite skilled for her age), we had lunch at Claim Jumper, then went to Borders to pick over the remains of their stock. I picked up How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont, and Peter & Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham (the creator of the Fables graphic novel series, and an all around nice guy).
  • Sunday we went to the Pacific Science Museum to see their special exhibit on fear. It was there that I learned about the Amygdala and its role in the fear response to danger. I decided then and there that the amygdala is my favorite brain structure. For most of my life, it was Broca’s area, but this exhibit changed my mind.
  • There was nothing exciting about the flight back, except that I started reading How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and Jennifer read the entirety of The Hunger Games on my Kindle. The whole thing. Yes, she reads that fast.

And that’s about it, really. That’s two weekends in a row that we went out of town for some fun. At this point, we don’t have any trips planned until February, so our weekends promise to be dull until then.

(On another note: This weekend is Dragon*Con. Those of you who are attending, please have a wretched, awful time. This will make me less jealous of you.)

Renovation: WorldCon 2011

So, that was my first WorldCon. And now I’m back.

All in all, I had a blast. It was different than what I’m used to, con-wise: the last con I was at was Dragon*Con 2006. And before that, Dragon*Con 2005. And before that, Dragon*Con 2001. Dragon*Con is a very different beast than WorldCon is. Since Dragon*Con focuses on a wider range of media, such as movies and television, than WorldCon does, there are panels on just about every corner of fandom. And there are costumes. Everywhere, costumes. Superhero costumes, Star Wars costumes, Star Trek costumes, and so on. Day and night, all over the con, you’ll see people in costumes of all sorts. Honestly, that’s one of the things I really enjoy about Dragon*Con.

WorldCon, by contrast, is a more “literary” con, focusing on the written word to the near exclusion of other forms of media. While there were panels about television shows such as Doctor WhoStargate: Universe, and The Big Bang Theory, most panels are about books and topics in written science fiction and fantasy. The guests for WorldCon are generally authors, editors, and artists, while Dragon*Con has guests from television and movies as well. For example, you might find Leonard Nimoy or Nathan Fillion at Dragon*Con, but not at WorldCon. At WorldCon, you’re more likely to run into Tim Powers, David Brin, Connie Willis, and so on.

And WorldCon is much smaller than Dragon*Con. The last time I was at Dragon*Con, there were over 40,000 people attending. At this past WorldCon, there were something like 4,000. It’s a more intimate con — though other people, such as Tim Pratt, who prefer even smaller cons, might disagree — and you’re more likely to run into the guests in the hallways. I bumped into John Scalzi just outside of his panel on his trip to the Creation Museum and shook his hand; I also talked briefly to Paul Cornell, one of the writers for Doctor Who. Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

Some highlights:

  • The panel with Brother Guy Consulmagno, a Jesuit brother who works at the Vatican Observatory, was absolutely brilliant, and was probably my favorite panel of the entire con. I enjoyed hearing about his views on religion, science, and the intersection of the two, and how history and politics have shaped that relationship. Consulmagno is a funny, engaging speaker, and utterly brilliant as well. The fact that Paul Cornell, a writer for Doctor Who (which is a fantastic show, in case you aren’t watching it), was the interviewer made the panel even more brilliant.
  • At the same panel, I found myself sitting next to and chatting with Bill Willingham, possibly my favorite comic book writer (after Neil Gaiman); you owe it to yourself to check out Fables, his wonderful graphic novel series. He’s a neat guy, and I definitely enjoyed his company. I desperately wanted to ask him if he would join me for a beer or coffee or something, but I’m afraid I couldn’t work up the nerve. He would probably have said no, but I still should have asked.
  • The very first panel that Jennifer and I attended was John Scalzi‘s presentation on his trip to the Creation Museum. Scalzi, too, is an engaging and funny speaker, and his descriptions of the so-called “science” behind the Creation Museum were hilarious. I admit that toward the end I was beginning to wonder whether the Creation Museum is honestly meant to be taken seriously or whether it’s meant to parody Creationists in general, but I’m assured that they’re sincere. Which is depressing, to say the least.
  • I met up with two on-line friends, Erin Hartshorn and Margaret Fisk, neither of whom I’ve never met in person before, which was fun, even if I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to them.
  • Running into old friends. Running into new friends. That’s always a blast.
  • The writers’ workshop was very useful (of course you know I had to sign up for that). The two moderators — Dani Kollin and Richard Chwedyk compared my writing style (in my story, “Teh K1ng in Y3110w”) to that of Terry Pratchett, the sort of compliment that can make me glow for days. On the other hand, they pointed out some flaws that I had with craft, and they delivered these criticisms in a way that made me eager to get back to my keyboard to fix the flaws and get that story sent out the door again.

So… All in all, I really enjoyed WorldCon. I probably won’t go again any time soon (WorldCon is a traveling con, and next year it will be in Chicago), but there are definitely other cons that will be nearby that I’ll be attending. I’m so glad I went… and so annoyed that I had to come back home, to reality, and to work.

Pale Blue Dot Animated

In case you haven’t seen it, here is artist Adam Winnik’s lovely animation of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. The voice, of course, is Sagan himself reading from his book. Watch the video, be impressed both by the animation and by the concepts.

The takeaway message from this video is obvious: Everything that has ever happened in human history, from the Peloponnesian War to the first time you fell in love, has all happened on this tiny little speck of dust called Earth.

Perspective, eh? Sagan was a master of it. He blew my mind when I was watching Cosmos in high school, and he continues to blow my mind, nearly fifteen years after his death.

Holiday Letter 2010

Dear friends and family,

Well, here we are at the end of yet another year. 2010 was a good year for us, and we hope it was good for you as well. We both continue to be in good health, aside from the occasional cold or the painful slip on the tile in the downstairs bathroom (replacing the slippery tile is on the very long To Do list for this house, obviously).

No changes of employment to report this year, thankfully. Jennifer’s company was recently acquired by a much larger firm, while Richard’s job as a web programmer with UC Davis Extension’s Online Education Group is nice and stable. Last year at this time we were both on reduced hours with reduced salaries. This year, our full hours and salaries have been restored. We both enjoy our jobs, and have no plans to change at all.

This year we traveled little, though in April we did visit Disneyland and California Adventure with Jennifer’s sisters and their children. An exciting time was had by all. We had gotten free tickets through Disney’s “Give a Day, Get a Day” program where you could receive free admission for a day in exchange for charity work of some sort. Jennifer has done a bit of additional travel – a trip to Monterey with Heather and Amy for the annual Sisters Only weekend, and a few short jaunts here and there for work.

Our creative endeavors are moving along well. Jennifer had a pattern for a baby blanket published by KnitPicks, an online yarn distributor in January, thus taking care of her ‘one-published-pattern-a-year’ goal early. Richard’s short story, “Night of the Frozen Elf”, was reprinted in a zombie-themed Christmas anthology called The Undead that Saved Christmas, while his short story “A Most Heinous Man” was reprinted in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine‘s “Best of Horror Volume 2” anthology. We both participated in National Novel-Writing Month this year once again, with Richard acting as co-Municipal Liaison for the Sacramento region for the fourth year in a row. Richard’s novel, Brought To Life, concerned the tribulations of an artificial man, a modern Frankenstein’s monster, trying to forge an identity for himself in the world. Jennifer has yet to reveal what her novel is about (and probably never will). We had fun raising money for the Office of Letters and Light’s Young Writers program, and this year both met our 50,000 word goal at the Night of Writing Dangerously, an annual festive gathering of several hundred aspiring Nanowrimo writers in San Francisco.

We continued expanding our garden this year, and even hired a professional to lay out drip hoses and beds for us. As always, we grew massive amounts of tomatoes (not as many as we grew in years past), as well as vast quantities of kale, bell peppers, and some of the sweetest cantaloupe we’ve ever tasted. Despite the fact that we both should know better, we made the mistake of putting in three squash plants this summer (zucchini, yellow crookneck, and zephyr). Luckily Jennifer’s knitting buddies have been happy to take as much squash off our hands as we were willing to part with (hint – we were willing to part with a lot), and Jennifer turned the rest into all manner of delicious creations (although perhaps the mock apple pie made from zucchini was taking things a bit too far).

This summer Jennifer spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen putting up vast quantities of tomato sauce, pickles, and jams and jellies with fresh produce either picked straight out of the garden, or acquired at the local farmers market.  We also laid our hands on over 100 pomegranates, and have made plenty of pomegranate jelly and syrup and even some grenadine. The blackberry bushes are starting to take over the back fence and the strawberries are staking a serious claim in one of the raised beds, so we are hopeful there might be some berry jams or pies in the future (if Richard doesn’t eat them all). This year we also put in a tiny little red grape plant, so are looking forward to being able to harvest our own grapes a few years down the road.

The cats continue to be healthy and active, although Checkers, our younger tortoiseshell cat, currently has an eye infection that we are treating with antibiotic drops. Ingrid and Rupert are a year older, but are still energetic and enthusiastic members of our household.  Ingrid (pictured above) has perfected her pathetic whine and enjoys flopping on her back to show off her fluffy tummy. Rupert is perhaps the most…er….’exuberant’ cat we have ever known (we joke that Rupert’s middle name is “NO!”) and has made it his life’s work to get into anything and everything. Rosemary continues to rearrange her collection of stuffed critters around the house, when she isn’t dashing around with the younger cats. Azzie still is not the biggest fan of the new additions but even he has been caught in the occasional romp.And Zucchini, well…we see him every once in a while, and a trip to the vet this summer for a regular check-up indicates he’s still in good health, so we expect he’ll be lurking in corners just out of sight for a few years to come.

So all in all, 2010 was a good year for the Crawfords. Here’s hoping that 2011 will be prosperous and joyful for all of you.

Love,

Richard and Jennifer

Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy

Watch this video:

I won’t belabor Louis CK’s point here. He’s right, after all. I have a cell phone more powerful than any other electronic gadget I’ve ever owned, but I get impatient with it when it takes more than a second to render an image on the screen. Seriously, we need to keep these things in perspective.

Friday Night Gaming

My old friend Andrea is coming into town this Friday, March 19, and in honor of her visit I’m planning on running a Dungeons and Dragons game that night. (Actually I’ll be using Pathfinder, which is essentially D&D version 3.5). Anyone interested in playing? I pledge to make it a one-shot, and I’ve got a plot that should be pretty cool.

Let me know.