Thursday, April 29, 2010

My 99th Post

My 99th post will, as usual, not fit into any of the categories I've previously used on this blog. I have written almost a hundred posts and I still have no idea what I want this blog to be about. But, unlike me-at-this-blog's-genesis, I am okay with that. It turns out that I pull myself in so many different directions. This blog goes a million ways because I go a million ways. It's like I have ultra-high-functioning ADD. See Figure 1 for a true picture of what this is like.

Figure 1.
Actual photo of me
(with straight hair!) being
distracted by someone else's cake
I like to cook and eat. I like to drink cocktails, beer, wine, tea, and water. I like to play music.  I like to write, and I like to learn new things.^1 I like gaming and doodling. I like gadgets and thinking about tech policy. The list goes on and on. I am jealous of people who can sum themselves up in pithy observations like, "I like making complex desserts" or "I'm really into crocheting naughty things."

What the heck, Blogger? No footnote functionality?^2

Okay! Anyway. I really wanted this post to mostly be about books that my friends either have published or will be publishing soon. No lie. I know a lot of smart, funny, fabulous people who have written books. This morning, I finished reading my friend Adam's book, "Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School" (linked at right on my Goodreads widget).

Adam is one of the funniest people in the world. He's also got a Ph.D. in molecular biology. He works on malaria research. And when he's not in the lab, he's out on the road, doing standup. Really funny standup. So he took the two things he knows best (graduate school and funny) and combined them into a book, which you should immediately acquire and read.

I'm cheating a bit on this next book, because it won't be released until early August. However, I was able to put it in my Goodreads widget's "The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time" by my friend Jeff and his friend Ben. Jeff and Ben run a fabulous band of renegade copyeditors known as TEAL (the Typo Eradication Advancement League). This acronym conveniently allowed them to choose a pleasant color scheme for their blog. I will be purchasing this book as soon as it comes out. Anyone who laughed at Allie Brosh's alot will surely appreciate it. (Also, you should apologize! It has feelings, and I care about this alot!)

And that about wraps it up for books. In case you haven't noticed from my multiple tweets about it, my band The NRIs is having an EP release show in May at the Black Cat. On the mainstage. The show is going to be huge, and if you're in the DC-metro area, I hope you come. Info is here.
These CDs look like candy! -M on Twitpic
Photo actually taken as soon
as I had the CDs in my hands

I'm going to have to think a lot about what I want my 100th post to be like. It will have to be some kind of reinvention of this blog, because that's what my posts always are. Or maybe I'll go back through the archives and find one of my cool short-shorts, and write something like it. Or continue it. Or maybe I'll have a contest. Or I'll do a collaborative story or something. Well, in any case, I won't take too long deciding, because I am trying to keep this blogging thing up. Life always tries to intervene, but I hope to be able to fend it off more successfully in the future.


1. The Internets cleared up the Colbert portion of the bear question for me (thanks, Margaret!), but as far as I'm concerned, the rest of it is still open for interpretation.
2. It took me 99 posts to figure out that there's no built-in footnote functionality for Blogger. I suddenly understand why "traditional journalists" are all "up in arms" about "the blogosphere."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Must be something in the air...

...I'm looking for agents again!

I don't think I'm ready to send anything out right now, as I have been thinking about more revisions. I also recently sent a copy of my novel to my friend in Uganda. If she sends any comments back to me, they will improve everything so dramatically that it's not worth querying again at the moment. I've also been toying with the idea of putting this novel (or parts of it) up on this blog. So, I'm going to put a few pages after the jump. Let me know what you think.

In other news, my band Machines on Vacation had a successful show last week. My friend Reed Sandridge, of the awesome personal philanthropy project Year of Giving, attended the show and took some excellent videos of our set. Thanks, Reed! One of the videos is also after the jump, because it doesn't appear to want to work on the main page.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All right, Internet. I have a question.

This is probably going to make me hideously unpopular with the Internet, but I have to know. WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH BEARS? And while I'm at it, I might as well ask what the deal is with SHARKS and DOLPHINS, too.

As you can see from my Goodreads widget at right, I read eeeee eee eeee! by Tao Lin. I haven't read too many other books this year, mostly because I'm afraid they'll ALSO be about bears, dolphins, and sharks. As you can guess from my intermittent posting, I am the sort of person who is only vaguely aware of things that happen on late-night television. If something particularly awesome is on late-night, I try to find it on the intertubes the next day. Although I know that Stephen Colbert has it out for bears, I can't for the life of me figure out why. And don't say that it's because they're vicious mauling machines/culturally relevant/begging for it. That's just ridiculous.

Who started all this hubbub about bears, and WHY?

Okay. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I wanted to tell you that my band Machines on Vacation is playing a show tonight at the Velvet Lounge in DC. As always, we're DC's premier string quartet rock band. Give us a listen, then come out to the show! We have some new music since the last time you saw us. Here's the poster I made for our show:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dispatch from #PAX -- part 3 (fit the final)

Part of the reason I was able to justify going to PAX is that I have a bunch of friends in Boston whom I would not normally see (except at Reunions and the occasional wedding). So I made plans to have brunch with a group of them on Newbury St. that Saturday morning. I had a little time to kill before brunch, so I planned an excursion to the consignment shops in the area. Since becoming interested in fashion (yes, this is a comparatively recent development for me), I've felt more able to identify things in consignment shops that are a good value and that will fit with my personal style, so I was super excited to exercise that new skill. I found a bright orange lightweight cashmere sweater and a nice printed shift dress that may be silk (but if it isn't, that's fine--I didn't pay a ton for it).

Then, I met everyone for brunch. Ben (the guy I'd been hanging out with at PAX) came out for the brunch as well. While he was there, he told me that his friend had come into an extra weekend pass "because Bob's kids didn't want to go." Dan asked, "Who's Bob?" but somehow I knew that it was folly to ask such a question. After all, strange people were offering me another chance to experience PAX (partially at Bob's expense) for the low, low price of $20. You don't start asking questions in the face of that kind of opportunity, rather, you start digging in your purse for Mr. Jackson and you make it happen.

To satisfy your curiosity, however, I will tell you that Bob was a person from the internet whose "damn kids" didn't want to go to PAX after he'd bought passes for them. Ben's friends Pat and Lindsay sold me their extra Bob pass. The very best part about this, however, was actually getting to meet (and game with) Lindsay and Pat. We played Pandemic (hint: it doesn't work with 5 people unless you have an expansion for it) and later we found some people who went to college with my brother (because Pat was there pretty much when my brother was!) and played Bang! I was really excited to get to know this game because it's so bizarre: it's like Mafia with cards, but the cards and all the instructions are written in a combination of Italian, English, and pictograms, and the whole thing has a Wild West theme. It's a "spaghetti western," if you will (har har). Ridiculous. Great fun. And if you're playing with opera singers, as I was, they can actually read the cards for you in flawless Italian (or realistic Italian accents) which improves the hilarity of gameplay by at least 35 percent.

Sometime between these games, I played Fluxx with Ben, Kratville, and a couple other people. I kind of think that Ben wasn't a fan of the lack of strategy involved, but we still had fun. Then this other guy had Zombie Fluxx. I'm impressed by the Fluxx variants! I will have to think about this the next time there is money in the budget for gaming!

I also watched some of the Perfect Dark tournament in the classic console room, where Ben and Kratville were competing. Ben had a good shot at the medal, but then they switched from N64 to xbox for the final round and he got pwned.

After that, I sort of crashed my friend's girlfriend's birthday dinner, which was funny because it was Ethiopian food. Why would I ever go to Boston for Ethiopian? If you've had it in DC, maybe you know what I mean. It was good, though, and I'm glad someone else had left a vacancy in the reservation so I could go and not be too bothersome! It was great to see a mini-preview of how awesome Reunions are going to be this year.

And that was that. No Wil Wheaton sightings/signings/recurrence, but no regrets either. I did end up getting this for myself, though. :) I had such a great time. I met people. I did the Iron Guard. I admired Wil Wheaton from afar (but definitely not as far as usual). Will I go to PAX East next year? Probably. I'll even get a full weekend pass, and maybe even get one for my husband! Conclusion: PAX East is made of win.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dispatch from #PAX -- part 2

I didn't know then that the guy in the blue sweater was going to be so important to how the rest of my day played out, when he finally let me onto the escalator. I didn't want to be a dick, so I didn't run up the moving stairs, but I did walk briskly and with purpose. The Hynes Center is a bit of a contemporary labyrinth, with angles and arcs all over the place. While we waited at the doors of the main theater, someone another floor up was visible to a bunch of people right behind me. He did something which got people excited--then he did something that made them sad. I had never seen quite so many people get so excited at the same time, and then all say, "aww!" in unison. "Yay! Awww. Yay!! Awww. YAY!!!!!! Awwww." It reminded me of being in Band again.

That's really when I realized: all these people are here to have fun. They do not care about looking stupid. They do not care about what other people may think of them (and that goes double for the few cosplayers I saw).  They do not care about anything but having a fantastic time and learning new things and meeting new people and not getting conSARS. THESE PEOPLE ACTUALLY DID THIS. And you know what? So did I. But I digress.

Walking into the main theater, I was able to take a seat very close to the aisle in the stage right section, very close to the front. I was going to see Wil Wheaton's keynote, by god, and I wasn't going to have to use the jumbotron to do it. That's what I came here for, after be near one of my greatest writing idols while he exuded amazingness. Of course he's not just a writing idol for me--I was obviously the biggest tween ST:TNG fan back in the day, and I was just getting to the point in my life when Wesley was starting to look pretty fiiine (wink-wink, nudge-nudge, know what I mean?) to my little nerd-teen-in-the-making. This won't be any huge admission to the people who actually might read this blog on a regular basis, but I have kind of a crush on Wil Wheaton. But who doesn't? Amirite??

Didn't I say at the beginning of this post that the guy in the blue sweater was going to be important to the story? Well, at about 2:30--half an hour before showtime--I decided that it was necessary for me to go to the bathroom so I wouldn't be all uncomfortable and whatnot throughout the show. After all, I had been waiting in line, and if you'll recall, sitting on concrete for the past 3.5 hours. I had to go. So I put my coat on my chair to save my seat and I ducked out.

When I returned to the door of the main theater, the guy in the blue sweater was very loudly announcing that the doors were closed and that nobody else was going to be allowed into the theater, per the fire marshal's orders. He calmly told someone who protested that he had no qualms about calling the police if things were to get unruly. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. I had come all this way to see Wil Wheaton's keynote, and that was it? My lovely winter coat was going to get to see him from my plum seat and I was going to have to watch on YouTube?? I felt my mouth fall open, and my eyes go wide. This was not how I had wanted this to go, at all. But I didn't want to be a dick, so I tried to take a few deep breaths while considering my plan of action. 

With only a little hint of panic in my voice, I said to the guy in the blue sweater, "My coat is inside, on my seat. Can someone get it for me or something?" He looked at me and probably saw the broken dreams all over my face. Then the heavens opened and a ray of unearthly light illuminated him as he said, sotto voce, "Stand to my left. Wait until the crowd is gone." I swear I heard a choir of angels. 

Thanks to the man in the blue sweater, those of us with problem bladders were eventually able to retake our seats in the main theater, just in time for the speech. Thank you, blue sweater guy. I owe you like eleventy Guinnesses.  

This photo, which I took with my phone, doesn't even accurately convey how close my seat was to the dais. I could see the design on Wil Wheaton's ThinkGeek t-shirt and I could see the different looks in his eyes, a mistiness when he choked back tears or the mischievous gleam he'd get right when he was about to be cheeky (that's my favorite, fyi).

I was close enough to wonder what it would have been like if someone had introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons when I was twelve. As it was, I spent most of that time writing stories about bard guilds and knights and boarding school (somewhat unrelated, but true) anyway. Having a reason to do it and people to do it with probably would have made it all the more enjoyable. The more Wil spoke about how gaming taught him to use his imagination, the more I realized that I was lucky enough to have gone about it exactly backward: I used my imagination for fun when I was a kid, and, much later in my life, it brought me to gaming. 

As it stands, I still haven't technically been introduced to serious roleplaying games. It may happen. It may not. But the most important takeaway from Wil's keynote was that even though I technically was there alone, I was not alone. Wil talked about hot lava in the grocery store and finding adventures around every corner. I saw the people nodding around me, and felt myself nodding along. I hadn't played RPGs, but I read so many fantasy books that I had always just naturally made my life into one big RPG. Even though I didn't have a character to call my own, I had characters in my head--hundreds--living and breathing and some even dying like Aeofel...all the time. It was an entire convention center full of people who thought about things the way I did. I was, as he said in the speech, home.

I very quickly met up with my friend Ben and did the Iron Guard with his friend Dave. Then I wandered around for a little bit after the keynote, wondering where I'd have to go to get Wil to sign the books I'd brought. There was a panel I wanted to see on Interactive Fiction, so I went to that with Ben and Dave. I'll probably discuss that a bit more in the next installment. Then I pretty much had to go back to my hotel room, even though I had a wristband for priority seating for the Metroid Metal show. We'd gotten up fairly ridiculously early that morning to drive up to Boston, so I was pretty much ready to have a bath and pass the heck out. I did those things consecutively.

And as I had a Friday pass for PAX, I suspected that I'd just missed my opportunity to meet Wil Wheaton. Oddly, I was okay with that. I'd gone to PAX a Wil Wheaton fangirl and came out of it with a fresh, delicious pile of self-awareness.

I will let you know, however, that there will be another installment of this dispatch from PAX. What happened? How did I get in? Find out next time...