Sunday, August 31, 2008

PAX08, Day 3

I'm a little bummed that I missed Felicia Day at Friday's concert, but at least I got to chat with her this morning. I'm not sure why she signed "LB" on my DVD of The Guild, but maybe it'll make sense after I've seen all of Season 1. (And yes, I know what it means in WoW.)

D and I got to the convention center just after 10:00 AM and went straight to the exhibit hall, so we could walk around before the crowds got too thick. She headed for a zombie board game demo while I stood in line for Felicia. After my squee moment, I translated the remainder of the anticlimactic runic riddles from banners hung around the convention center.

I spent the rest of the day in the main theatre, where I saw Family Feud, Gabe and Tycho's Q&A #2 (which had the best ending EVAR, thanks to the Bad Horse Chorus), the Dragon Age demo, and the Spore demo. We didn't feel like waiting another hour and a half in line to see the final round of the Omegathon, so we walked over to Lola and had a very nice early dinner.

During last night's drive back to our hotel, D and I briefly discussed how future PAXis* might handle the overcrowding issue. We didn't come up with any genius solutions, but we did note that waiting in line isn't as annoying when you're already toting a DS and prepared to spend hours lounging around with it anyway.

I think I want to stay at one of the nearby hotels for a future PAX--it's nice to bunk with K+B and their cats, as we have in the past, but I'd like to cut out the 20-minute commute and spend more time running around and playing games. Video games!


* As established at Friday's Penny Arcade Q&A #1, the proper collective term for all Penny Arcade Expo events is "PAXis of Evil."


PAX08 Is Over

CKL and I just got back from PAX. Like last year, I've come away with an overwhelming desire to play lots and Lots and LOTS of games.

Also like last year, PAX was too short. Over the course of three days, I played a board game* demo, watched two PC game demos, stopped at three booths** in the vast and very crowded exhibit hall, saw four panels***, and stood in countless lines****.

I didn't actually plan to see either of the PC game demos, but CKL and K+B wanted to see the Spore demo. After our experience with the countless lines, however, we decided that prudence dictated that we get in line for Spore immediately after the previous panel began. So we were in line ten minutes after the scheduled start time for the Dragon Age: Origins demo.

The previously scheduled Penny Arcade Q&A second session ran long. Lucky us. We got to see the Dragon Age demo as well as the Spore demo.

Let me just tell you this: you can show me videos of puppet people fighting until the sun goes out and I still won't be interested. I'm even less excited to see how I can create my own scenarios for puppet people to fight in. When the game is eventually released.

So I feel asleep. What can I say? I'm a bad person. Besides, the room was very dark and I was well-fed, warm and happy.

But I was wide awake for the Spore demo. That's really too bad, because now I desperately want to play Spore. Unfortunately, the vintage 2004 laptop I bought for Sims2***** doesn't come anywhere close to meeting the system requirements for Spore.

Ah, well. I have a week before the game comes out to think about whether I really want to take CKL's computer****** away from him.

* Yes, I know. Most people come to PAX for electronic gaming. But then I'm not exactly the target demographic: fighting games bore me, and I'm old enough to have given birth to most of the attendees. That said, Last Night on Earth rocks. I'm very excited about playing the zombies. I'll be sure to have them all report back to their colleagues who have been chewing on the doors.

** Animal Crossing is coming to the Wii. Karin was very excited. The PAX booth was very crowded. CKL was not excited. And did I mention that Last Night on Earth rocks? I'm very excited.

*** Keynote (Ken Levine has found his tribe), Penny Arcade Q&A Panel #1 (It's good to give exotic Canadian chocolate to Gabe, Tycho, the wives and pregnant women), Penny Arcade "Make a Strip" (The exotic Canadian chocolate was poisoned?!? Oh Noes! But Gabe says, "I didn't eat any. F*ck him!"... and presumably the wives and pregnant women) , and Female Gamer Communities (Unsurprisingly, women don't always feel safe.)

**** Lines for panels, demos, bathrooms and food were to be expected. But lines for the escalator, exit doors, and access to the line-up room? This was perhaps a bit excessive.

**** Yes, I bought the computer specifically to play Sims2. Aside from a few weekend play marathons, however, I have rarely used it to play games. Shortly after procuring said computer, I learned from painful experience that if I spent a few hours with a game, I'd spend a corresponding number of weeks suffering agonizing withdrawal pains. I also learned that if I'd just play long enough to overdose, I'd be so sick of my computer that I could go days without wanting to check email, weeks without reading a blog, and months before I was compelled to play a game.

****** It may actually be bad to throw another addiction on the fire. Especially when I've been itching to find the time to actually play the Sims2 expansion packs I bought last summer. Or to play a little Civ4. Each time we visit a monument, I whine because I want to build my own version of that monument. And it takes me an entire weekend (no sleep, just game) before I overdose. There just aren't that many entirely free weekends in a year.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

PAX08, Day 2

Made it to three panels* today: Penny Arcade "Make A Strip" (in which Mike and Jerry created Monday's comic), Bethesda's Fallout 3 demo, and "Is Casual Killing Core Games?" (featuring Wil Wheaton, who says "No," and also, "Go kill pedestrians").

In between Fallout and Casual, D and I walked with Karin and Bryan to Serious Pie. We shared three excellent pizzas, and my IPA was pretty good, too.

We ended the evening in the tabletop gaming area, where we played Citadels and TransAmerica and ran into fellow Gamer Jessen. See, all the cool kids show up at PAX sooner or later.


* Note that I stood in line for about 2 hours to get 3.5 hours of actual content. That's not a very good ratio, but the Enforcers continued to impress by being on the ball with crowd control. I don't know how they're going to handle next year if the number of attendees doubles again.

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PAX08, Day 1

Friday was fun, but really crowded. I mean like ZOMFG crowded. And tomorrow is sure to be even worse. I'm bracing myself for a lot of waiting in line.

We met Karin and Bryan at their house around noon, then had sandwiches at Panera and got to the convention center just before 2:00 PM, when the doors opened. Crowded. We learned our lesson from last year and didn't bother waiting in line--the only reason we did before was to get concert wristbands, and we opted to skip that, since we'd just seen Coulton in Vegas two weeks ago.

A quick stroll around the exhibit hall, and then we got in line for the keynote. (Did I mention there's a whole room devoted to waiting in line for the main theatre? Really. It's labeled "Line Up Room" on the map.) My former coworker David joined us in line. We chatted, then sat together to watch Ken Levine's keynote and the Penny Arcade Q&A. I love these guys.

David and his friend went off to get in line for the Friday concert, and the rest of us went in search of a quick dinner. We ended up at Cyber Dogs, which had good food but a tiny space. We got our food to go, found an empty table downstairs in the convention center, and ate there.

Then, disappointment! The Raven Theatre had completely filled up for the Telltale Games panel (make a scene with Strong Bad), and the PAX Enforcers weren't letting anyone else in. We wandered over to the PC freeplay area, where I poked at World in Conflict for a while (not bad, call it Starcraft meets Red Dawn).

Went back to the Raven to see if we could squeeze into the screening of The Guild and Q&A with Felicia Day, but the line for that stretched all the way across the convention center, and we were pretty sure the room wasn't that big.

Wandered down to the console freeplay area, got a number, watched some people play Rock Band while waiting. Bryan checked out Guitar Hero III and two guitars, and he, Karin, and I strummed away while D watched with amusement.

And that was Friday. Tomorrow we're driving in separately, since the first panel D and I want to see is at 1:00 PM, and we'll meet up later for food and such.

I'm hoping the place won't be a complete madhouse, but I'm prepared for disappointment. I just hope everyone remembers Wil Wheaton's sage advice:


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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seattle Bound

Today, we continue north:

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The main attractions there are PAX and our friends Karin and Bryan, but I've also been wanting to see Gas Works Park ever since I first read about it in 2006. There's the Science Fiction Museum, of course, and our Bank of America credit card will get us into a few other museums for free the first weekend in September.

This will be the final leg of our road trip, so I feel like we should make the most of it by also visiting some of the local NPS sites, but laziness will probably prevail and wind us down. That's okay--I'm going to need to catch up on my sleep before heading off to Viable Paradise in three weeks.


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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Being nocturnal is not a lifestyle choice.

The humans have developed a terrible habit lately. They don't refill our food bowls before they go to sleep at night. By dawn, Jasper and I are hungry and pleading for sustenance. In this new mini-house, they've compounded the problem by only putting out the yummy soft food and tuna during the day.

Let's think about this a little bit. Cats are nocturnal. Nocturnal means that Jasper and I are hardwired to sleep during the day and be active at night. If I'm active at night, it might also stand to reason that I eat at night, too. Often, the humans go to bed before the night gets properly started. They just don't see me eat that often.

Trust me; by nighttime, the yummy soft food is far from yummy. It's pretty bad if we don't get to it within the first hour or so. In effect, we're living on half-rations, which means that the bowl of dry food is empty before the night is half over, while the bowl of spoiled wet food goes untouched.

The conclusion seems pretty obvious to me: put more food in the dry bowl, or feed us the wet food after dark.

The humans, however, seem to believe that I'm not eating. She's put me on the scales twice in the last three days. That always means she's not happy with my weight, but what did she expect to happen? It's a pretty clear-cut case of cause and effect: if the available food is nasty, I don't eat as much; if I don't eat as much, I lose weight.

I hope they don't overreact like last time and start squirting the meat-pudding into my mouth. I hate that stuff.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

No Country for Sales Tax

That would be the great state of Oregon, thank you very much:

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We stopped here mainly to see some plays at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. Yesterday we saw Othello and Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. Tomorrow night we're seeing The Clay Cart, which should be somewhat less depressing. (You say tragic, we say tomato.)

The stages were dark today, so we drove up and down I-5 shopping for cheese, chocolate, and wine. We also picked up a huge pot of cat grass for $1.98 at Harry & David. Who knew?


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The humans abandoned us on our first day in this new place to go see some "plays." I've never been to a play, but I think it's when a bunch of humans get together to watch other humans put on a TV show in person. Not my thing! TV is boring. It can't be any more interesting to watch live.

I think the humans were bored, too. She said, "'Loved not wisely, but too well.' Hah! If that's love, save us all from being loved too well."

I agree! It's awful to be loved too much. I like cuddles as much as the next cat--maybe even more!--but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Especially when the humans are sleeping, and I just want them to wake up and feed me. They always have to drag me into an unwanted hug. They always fall asleep again without letting go! It takes forever to wiggle free.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's Caturday.

Here are your goddamn cat pictures.

Making LOLcats is left as an exercise for the reader.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday Shindig Photos

Richter Scales + Rock Band = crazy delicious!


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Humans can be so dopey! You would think with those huge heads of theirs they'd have more smarts, but it just isn't so. Half the time I'm telling them we need food, they try to play with me; and then, when I'm telling them I need playtime, they give us food!

It's possible they just get confused about which is which. The stretchy red string is for playing. The big bag with food in it is for eating. One does not equal the other!

Training humans can be really tough sometimes.

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I can smell home.

We're staying in another mini-house, but I know we are close to home. The humans went to the book-place and came back with a bunch of books. They smell just like the books that came from the book-place close to home.

Every night this week, when the humans came home, they've smelled like the people that used to come over to our real house. Different people every day, but they all smell familiar. A lot of them helped empty out our real house before we started going from mini-house to mini-house.

At first, I wondered why the humans didn't just take us home. Then I remembered how empty and dusty our real house was when we left. I wouldn't want to come home to that.

I hope the humans are setting up our real house so that we can go back to it soon. Variety may be the spice of life, but I'm ready for some comfort food. If you know what I mean.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Old Home Week

It's almost over, and it's been great. Here's what we've been up to:
  • Sunday: breakfast at Hobee's with IdaRose and Neil; produce shopping at the Farmer's Market (where we ran into Dale and Linnsey); book shopping at the library (fantasy for D, comics for me); picnic in the park with Loren, Suzie, baby Luna, Sean, and Crissy (also bumped into Crystal and Peter); a crash course in hooping from Crissy; heirloom tomatoes for dinner.
  • Monday: dropped off Prius for 60,000 mile service; breakfast at Hobee's; picked up Prius; drove up to SF to meet Jeff and Marina in Union Square; lunch at Pasta Bene; shoe shopping for Marina's family; browsing and coffee at Borders (where The Richter Scales once performed); dinner with Raj and Aparna (delivery from Brandy Ho's).
  • Tuesday: lunch at Cascal with Kathy and Brian; cake, coffee, and reading at The Prolific Oven; dinner at Zibibbo with Chris.
  • Wednesday: D went to lunch and visited with former Abbott coworkers while CKL lazed about with cats; both visited Annie and baby Julia; big dinner at Buca di Beppo with Ken, Jerry, Carol, Corby, Elena, Acorn, Sean, Crissy, IdaRose, and Neil.
  • Thursday: tooth cleaning at the dentist; lunch at Google's new BigTable cafe with Larry, Rich, Chris, and Jim; dessert and reading at Marie Callender's; recording the new "Beautiful High" bass line at Jason's apartment, then partying ibidem with Richter Scales (Jason, Mark, Tom, Nils, Loren) et alii (Adam, Lisa, Amanda, Carrie)--much Rock Band was played and enjoyed.
And we've still got one whole day left! Tomorrow we meet Pauline for lunch at Jing Jing, get our mail from Karl, and have dinner with Carol at Thai Garden. At some point we'll need to do laundry and return our library books. Maybe have another breakfast at Hobee's before we leave on Saturday.



Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I got grass again! It's been weeks! This time, the grass came in a pot. It stands up on its own, and I can take bites whenever I want them. Even when the humans are gone for a long time! Like yesterday.

I've eaten about half the grass already. It's really satisfying, just like the stuff that we used to get when we lived in our real house.

I like grass even better than bugs! Well... maybe not. It doesn't run away. But it's still grass!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Food & Cooking: Denver

I was too tired by the time we got settled into the room in Denver to even think about cooking anything. So I made CKL take me out for an indifferent dinner at a local Perkins. This was sad many times over:
  • It took us well over an hour to find the names of nearby restaurants, pick one, drive to it, get seated, order, and get served our dinner
  • The food wasn't very good
  • I had two (probably more) ready-to-go meals in the pantry
  • We paid at least five times as much for our dinner as we would have paid for either of the pantry meals.
The point of this story? Write down your quick pantry meals. This way, when you're tired and brain-dead like I was, you can just look at the list and be done with dinner.

On the plus side, we had one of the meals (Tomato-Tortellini Soup with Mushrooms) for lunch the next day. I saved the other one for our first night in Las Vegas*.

While we were in Denver for more than a week, most of our time was dedicated to WorldCon. There wasn't really much time for dinner in the room. So we only have three recipes.

Tomato-Tortellini Soup with Mushrooms: This one is a variation on the last Tomato-Tortellini soup we had in Madison. After all, there was half a bag of leftover tortellini that needed using up after the previous soup. This was more basic and even easier:
  • 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 broth packets (or 2c broth)
  • 3c water (or 1c water, if using broth)
  • 1c dried tortellini (if using fresh, use 1c less water)
  • 1 package pasta sauce with mushrooms
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.

Simmer about 9-11 minutes, or until the tortellini are done. Taste. Add salt & pepper, if needed, then serve.

Thai-Style Peanut Noodles with Fish: I love peanutty noodles with fish. I don't usually make fish in peanut sauce because I really don't care for big hunks of flesh. They're just not that interesting.

Cover that hunk of flesh with peanut sauce, however, and it's not boring at all. Besides, I was going through peanut sauce withdrawal.

The plan: buy rice noodles, red bell pepper, carrots, green onions, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili paste, ginger, garlic, sesame oil...

Oy. We'd use up the noodles and vegetables, but there'd be leftovers for everything else. My tiny little pantry can't hold all those leftover staples.

Time for Plan B: pre-packaged rice noodle and peanut sauce kits instead of all the sauce ingredients, then add some extra ginger root and garlic**. The finished dish was a bit sticky (in other words, it wasn't oily enough), but I can live with that. It tasted great.
  • 2 packets Thai Noodles & Sauce (we bought Simply Asia, because that's what they had at Safeway in Denver)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil (or any vegetable cooking oil, really)
  • 4 pinches red pepper flake (I used four, of course)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2" ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 1c carrots, chopped (or shredded)
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped (or sliced, if using shredded carrots)
  • 8oz Tilapia filets (or whatever white-fleshed fin fish you like. Tilapia was cheap.)
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
Prepare the noodles in accordance with the package directions, then set aside. (If lazy like me, "prepare" means: put noodles in bowl; cover with boiling water; set time for five minutes; drain when timer goes off; rinse and put in and out of the way spot.)

Add oil, garlic, ginger, carrots, and red pepper to pan and cooked until fragrant and hot but not at all cooked. (About 2-3 minutes over high heat using an electric burner.)

Add the sauce packets and 1/2c water to the pan (or however much water the sauce instructions say to add). Bring to a boil.

Put fish on top of vegetables and sauce in pan. Cover pan and cook for a few minutes. (I did 3 minutes again. It was plenty for thin little filets).

Check to see if the fish flakes apart when you wiggle a fork around in the thickest bit. If no, cover and cook for another minute and repeat the test until it does flake.

If yes, remove the fish from the pan and put it on a plate. (I know; this step makes for an extra dirty dish and just complicates the recipe, but this is really the only way to keep the fish in one piece. A big piece of fish is much more satisfying than a bunch of fish fragments.)

Add the noodles and green onions (save a few onions to decorate the top, if you want) to the sauce. Stir thoroughly to mix the sauce, vegetables, and noodles.

Serve the noodles in a bowl with a piece of fish on top. Sprinkle with green onions(if you saved some.)

Fish Chowder: I had originally planned to make a rice-and-vegetable medley and serve it with fish, but it was raining in Denver that day. I got soaked going from the car to the door of the hotel. With an umbrella. Soup just seems like a better meal plan when you're wet. So I ditched the rice and turned the remaining ingredients into a chowder.

Since I always feel like a chowder needs some sort of potato, I added dried mashed potato flake. I highly recommend that you use actual potatoes, but this didn't taste bad at all. As I've mentioned before, I frequently cheat with the easiest thing I can find.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil (or thereabouts; I just wanted enough to add a little flavor when cooking the onions)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 broth packets (or 2c broth; I used chicken)
  • 3 c water (omit 2c water, if using broth)
  • 16-oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables (you know what you like in chowder better than I do; I used corn, carrots and asparagus)
  • 8oz white fish, cut into ~2" chunks (I used Tilapia left over from our Thai-style noodles)
  • 1c mashed potato flakes
  • Mashed potato seasoning packet (if it came with the potato flakes you bought. If not, no worries; use seasoned salt--start with half a teaspoon, and add more until it tastes right. If you don't have seasoned salt, use regular salt.)
  • Black pepper (or white pepper, if you want to stick with a mostly-white theme for your soup.)
Add oil and onion to a soup pan. Cook over medium heat until the onions start to get a little translucent.

Add garlic. Cook until it smells good.

Add broth, water, vegetables, and fish. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

Cook until the vegetables are done to your liking***. For me, this took about five minutes after the boil.

Stir in the potato flake and seasonings. Wait a minute or two for the chowder to thicken somewhat.

Taste. If it's good, it's done. If not, add more salt and pepper until it does taste good. Serve.

* Of course, by the time we finally got to Las Vegas, we were too tired to eat. We went to bed right after unpacking the car and settling in the cats. The verdict on a 12-hour drive: entirely too long.

** The total cost for the garlic and ginger? A whopping 27 cents. Some kind soul had already broken apart a bulb of garlic and a ginger root for me. All I had to do was select the small pieces I wanted.

*** The little fish chunks will be more than done, and will probably crumble up a lot, depending on how much you stir. This is a good thing; chowder is one case when a bunch of fish fragments are better than a big hunk.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Coverville 500 Loot

Clockwise from left:Not pictured: the Coverville 500 T-shirt which I also won in the drawing. Maybe I should have done some gambling after all...*

Brian Ibbott and company put on a great show Friday night, and I'm glad we were able to enjoy it with our friends Chris and Cherie (who got to dance with Richard Cheese and be a lesbian, respectively).

We also witnessed Jonathan Coulton being attacked by zombies. To be fair, he was kinda asking for it.

We're back in the bay area now, and Old Home Week starts tomorrow. Lots of friends to meet and catch up with before the final leg of our road trip!


* D and I had fully intended to gamble away the $4.58 of nickels, dimes, and pennies that we've been collecting all summer, but we couldn't find any casino slot machines that actually took coins. They've all been upgraded to only accept bills, casino club cards, or the machines' own bar code tickets (used for cashing out). Vegas just doesn't sound right without all that jangling and clinking metal--it was one of the few satisfying and unique things about playing the one-armed bandits. Now everything's electronic, and you know, if I want to play a damn video game, I have more interesting and less expensive options.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is, the humans are still stepping on me when I hide under the edge of the bed. It's really egregious. Look. Either I leave my tail hanging out for them to see, or I make a completely obvious lump in the bed skirt.

I mean, come on. Not even humans can be that stupid.

The good news is, they've been feeding us a lot more of the tuna soup we love so much. Sure, they still give us that dry stuff, and Jasper still eats it, but they're being much more generous with the wet fishy goodness. I approve.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I love chasing bugs and spiders. They're more fun than even my best toys. They run and move and hide and sometimes even fly! Catching and eating them is so much fun that I even let them go sometimes, just to make the fun last as long as I can.

Sometimes I let it go on too long. The humans always take away my bugs if they see them!

Bugs and spiders have been very scarce in the mini-houses. But not at this one! There are beetles that come in from outside. So far, two or three of them every day.

As usual, the humans took away the first two beetles I found. Even though I tried to be quiet about it, they caught me with the third one. I had to eat it really fast!

After that, I guess they got tired of taking beetles outside. They don't even try to take them away anymore. I get to play with my beetles as long as I want. I love this mini-house!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Altitude Redux

Back in April, I had some less-than-fun times with altitude sickness at the Grand Canyon. I got the whole drill: headache, nausea, inability to sleep, shortness of breath, extreme exhaustion. Basically, I experienced all the non-dangerous systems.

Good thing; if I'm going to get sick, I'd much prefer that it not be dangerous.

Denver was not a problem. We spent all our time a meager mile or so above sea level. The drive over the Rockies was a different matter. It never even occurred to me to worry about a few hour's drive.

I had problems just before we hit the Eisenhower Tunnel. At 10,158 feet, it was just too high. I had an instant headache, nausea and even some difficulty catching my breath. I was so exhausted that I had to stop driving and let CKL take over.

Turns out, my bout of altitude sickness made me the lucky one. As the passenger, I got to spend all my time marveling at the beauty of the Rockies. CKL had to watch the road.

Sorry, dude.

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Yes, we are shedding.

It's summertime. We're cats. Deal with it.

Also, I win.

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Today's High, 107

Yeah man, but it's a dry heat:

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Since we've already tortured ourselves with a 12-hour drive to get here, we're going to continue the masochism by getting up at oh-dark-thirty, twice, to visit Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam before the daytime heat becomes too oppressive. And yes, we do plan to spend one entire day at Star Trek: The Experience.


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Friday, August 8, 2008

Denvention 3, Day Three

Another pretty long day. Started at 10am with a screening of--actually, let's back up.

We've been here almost a week, so the hotel charged our credit card for those nights (they don't like you to run up too high a tab). But they charged us a higher room rate than we were quoted, so we wanted to print the original confirmation and find out what was going on.

Unfortunately, the computer downstairs had blue-screened with what appeared to be a bad boot volume, so we couldn't print at breakfast. I went down afterward with my laptop, and it took forever to download the right printer drivers, but I was finally able to print and get our hotel charges fixed.

Meanwhile, CNN reported that Russia had invaded Georgia. An exciting morning all around.

We left the hotel later than we had planned, but still made it to the 10am screening of the Star Trek New Voyages episode "World Enough and Time," which is nominated for a Hugo Award this year. It didn't suck--some parts were actually quite good--but overall it just felt like your basic fanfic. (I expect the Steven Moffat Dr. Who episode to win the Hugo.)

The "To Be Announced" panel was lively and very entertaining, thanks to its participants: Chris Garcia, Jay Lake, Greg Bear, and Connie Willis. Speaking of Connie, it's official: She is one of my favorite people in the world. She has been the highlight of every panel on which we've seen her. (We also fed her chocolate this afternoon, but that's neither here nor there.)

Other stuff we saw: Lois McMaster Bujold's GOH speech, movie trailers and other previews (including one which sold D on Leverage), Nancy Kress reading, quick dinner at Arby's. The Masquerade was entertaining, though our patience ran out after 45 minutes of waiting for the judges to return, and then went over to the Sheraton for "Match Game SF," which was highly entertaining and the perfect ending to the day for us non-party people.

We were able to get back into the parking garage by ourselves tonight, though it took us a while to find the right glass elevator--the convention center is huge. (It's no surprise that it was one of the matched answers to "They're remaking The Prisoner and setting it in a place almost as weird as Portmeirion: _____.")

I hear the Olympics started tonight, but find it difficult to care. I did, however, wear my Google shirt featuring a 2004 Summer Games Doodle.




Okay, now it's starting to get a little creepy.




Thursday, August 7, 2008

Inexplicable Flower

When we returned to our hotel room tonight, this ceramic tchotchke and handwritten note were in a plastic bag hanging from our door handle:


It's very odd, because we checked in last Saturday--almost a week ago. Why are they welcoming us now? And what the hell is this thing?


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Denvention 3, Day Two

Long day today. Arrived after 9am, and the kaffeeklatsch signups were already full for our preferred authors. (We ended up going to dinner during that time slot anyway.) Panels were hit-and-miss, as usual, but the Connie Willis reading was great fun. As were the touch-screen displays outside the meeting rooms in the Hyatt Regency.

We ate lunch while watching the unaired pilot for Heroes (actually a recut of the first three episodes with some additional footage). I'm wondering why they made the changes they did, because the original Matt Parkman storyline was much more closely connected with the other characters' threads, and it would have been interesting to see that develop.

After dinner, went to the gaming area and played Colossal Arena (we were invited to play the Serenity RPG, but didn't have that much time to kill), then stopped by the Viable Paradise party and met lots of folks from last year's workshop. Everyone says I'll love it, and also probably have some kind of emotional breakdown at some point. Um... yay? Thanks to Julia for organizing the shindig and providing the mead!

Finally, we got back to the Convention Center after 11pm, and couldn't find the 24-hour access door. Helpful employee Troy walked us in through the security office and gave us a mini-tour, complete with historical trivia, while leading the way back to the parking garage.

Tomorrow: More of the same (minus the parking garage issues), plus the Masquerade and the Making Light party.



Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Denvention 3, Day One

Photos from today at the Colorado Convention Center and yesterday's walk around downtown Denver:

We pretty much stuck to the schedule today, except for skipping out on the Wizards of the Coast presentation (which turned out to be about their novels, not their games) to go wander the exhibit hall and dealer's room. My favorite panels were "Survival Tips for Beginning Writers" and "Schmoozing 101" (a.k.a. The John and Mary Show).

Tomorrow, we get up at an unghodly early hour to sign up for a kaffeeklatsch with Connie Willis, Harry Turtledove, Henry Spencer, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and or GoH Lois McMaster Bujold. Wish us luck.


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Food & Cooking: Rapid City

Turns out that finding a hotel room that takes pets in the Black Hills of South Dakota the week before the Sturgis Rally can be both a difficult and an expensive proposition. We were lucky to find a decent room at the Holiday Inn Express. We were luckier still that it had a microwave and refrigerator, even if it didn't have a separate kitchenette.

Our facilities in Rapid City were even sparser than the ones in Cedar Point; we didn't even try to use any cookware. It was tough enough to wash our hands in the tiny bathroom sink. We weren't even going to try to wash dishes in there.

Aside from the actual food ingredients, the only tools used to prepare food were paper plates, paper bowls, plasticware, our hotpot, and the microwave in the room. Even so, we were able to make healthier, tastier, and less expensive* food than we could buy at the local fast food joint. In addition, nothing took longer than 15 minutes to prepare.

I want to emphasize this because it's probably the biggest thing I've learned on this trip. If we buy easy-to-make food and put it in the pantry, we can eat better food, and be eating it before we can get fast food**.

Here's an example: we got back to the room late one night. I was tired and hungry. It seemed like too much work to cook something, so I thought I would just order a pizza. Then it occurred to me that if I made one of our nuke-quick recipes, I could be sitting down to eat in less time than it would take me to go online, find a pizza place, download their menu, and order the pizza. Never mind the almost an hour it would take them to actually deliver the food.

Then I thought maybe we should just go down the street to Burger King. But even then it would at least 10-15 minutes to put on my shoes and walk or drive over there... and I still wouldn't be eating until after I'd stood in line, ordered my food, and waited for someone to put it in a bag and give it to me.

Assuming you don't like to cook your vegetables until they lose all structural integrity, you can make any of the dishes in this recipe list and be eating in 15 minutes. I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again and again: these instructions don't deserve to be called recipes. We're just picking a few items, cooking them according to package ingredients, and combining them. It's a food assembly line!

Corn Salad on Wilted Spinach: What can I say? I really like the combination of corn, peppers and onions. When I have time to mix it up fresh and tasty with a little green onion, lime juice, cayenne, and cilantro, I do that. The rest of the time, I just buy a pre-mixed bag out of the freezer section. Most of the steamer bags are even already seasoned with garlic, cayenne, paprika and black pepper. Convenient.
  • 16-oz steamer bag Southwestern Corn mix (I've steamed vegetables in a Ziploc before, but all other things being equal, I'd rather just steam them in the bag they came in)
  • 5-oz bag baby spinach (or part of a bigger bag)
  • 1.5 oz sharp cheddar cheese (or chipotle cheddar, or jack, or pepper jack, etc.)
  • Salt & pepper
Steam the veggies according to the package directions.

While the vegetables are cooking, pile spinach onto two plates. If the cheese is not already shredded, crumble it into chunks.

When the veggies are done, shake the bag to combine the seasonings. Pour half of the veggies over the spinach on each plate.

Use a plastic fork or spoon to evenly distribute the hot veggies over the spinach. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

Wait a few minutes for the spinach to wilt from the heat of the vegetables. Serve.
Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole with Vegetables: There's nothing gourmet about this dish. It reminded me of nothing so much as the casseroles my mom used to bake when I was a kid. I guess that makes it comfort food.

If you're inclined, wash a few dishes, dump each ingredient into a bowl when it's ready, then mix it all up with a big spoon. Otherwise, do what I did; make your casserole in the bowls you intend to serve it in. Of course, the directions assume that you do what I did.
  • 10-oz steamer bag of prepared brown rice (or 2c leftover rice, if you already have some)
  • 16-oz steamer bag of mixed vegetables in cheese sauce (we picked broccoli, cauliflower & carrots)
  • 5-oz can chicken breast meat
Heat the rice per the package directions (or just nuke the leftover rice for about three minutes). Set aside.

Steam the veggies according to the package directions.

Open and drain the can of chicken. Put half the chicken and half the rice in each of two bowls. (Use the bigger, pasta-sized paper bowls. Or, heck, go wild. Use real pasta bowls. )

When the veggies are done, cut off the top of the bag. Stir well to distribute the cheese sauce.

Pour half of the veggies over the rice and chicken in each bowl. Stir to combine all ingredients. it'll probably be plenty salty, so just serve as is. People can add salt & pepper at the table.
Couscous Topped with Potatoes & Vegetables: This is the dish I used the hotpot for. I was afraid my paper bowl would disintegrate if I tried to boil water in it to make the couscous in the microwave. The bowl did just fine when I poured boiling water into it and left it to sit for a few minutes***.
  • Steamer bag of potatoes & vegetables (there are several kinds in the store. This time, I got the potatoes & green beans in rosemary sauce, but I've also used the mix with potatoes, red peppers & sugar snap peas. Both work just fine.)
  • 1c Couscous (approximately; I used a disposable coffee cup from the room)
  • Broth packet (I used chicken; you can use veggie, or just skip the broth and add a tsp of olive oil & some salt instead)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper
Steam the veggies according to the package directions.

Boil about a cup of water.

Put the couscous into a bowl. Add the broth packet (or other seasoning) and the pepper.

When the water boils, stir one cup of it into the couscous. Cover the bowl with a plate and let the couscous sit.

When the veggies are done, shake the bag to combine the seasonings, then set aside while you prepare the couscous for serving.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, and put half into another bowl. Pour half the vegetables into each bowl. Serve.

* CKL and I have never spent less than $8 for a fast food meal for the both of us, and we very rarely buy drinks, since we just take the food home. Each of the meals that CKL and I ate were around $5, and included vegetables. If we actually prepared the sauces or cooked the rice ourselves, the meals would have been even less expensive. Here's a breakdown:
  • Corn Salad on Wilted Spinach= 1.72(corn) + 1.99(spinach) + .40(cheese) + .60(rolls) = $4.71
  • Cheesy Chicken & Rice= 1.72(veggies) + 1.72(rice) + .95(chicken) + .70(cookies)= $5.09
  • Couscous with Vegetables= .50(couscous) + .20(broth) + 1.72(veggies) + 2.11(fudge)= $4.53
** If you cook the food way that I did, you'll have just about the same amount of garbage to throw away as you would if you bought fast food too. To spin it in a more positive manner: no dishes to wash!

*** If you're willing to dirty a bowl, preparation can be even easier. Here's what to do:
  • Combine the couscous, broth, pepper and water to a bowl.
  • Microwave for 3-5 minutes. Set aside, preferably covered.
  • Steam the veggies according to package directions.
  • Fluff couscous in bowl. Pour vegetables over top.
  • Serve.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008


This new mini-house is very tall! I can see the roof below me when I look out the window. And I can also see all the way to the mountains far off in the distance. Up high like this, I usually get to see lots of interesting animals go by! But not this time. :(

The only moving things I see are cars, cars, cars, cars, cars, cars, cars, the occasional human, cars, cars, cars, and more cars. It's very boring. No birds or animals at all. Not even dogs. There was smoke in the mountains for a while, but it's gone now.

I spent my whole day yesterday looking for toys when I wasn't sleeping, or trying to get the humans or Bayla to play. Finally I found a piece of broken rubber band. That was fun for a while! Until the humans took it away.

But they gave me a bouncy twist-tie ring instead! I love those. I chased it all night! It's not so much fun anymore. This morning, we played volleyball with a paper ball. And I got to chase a string. And my fur-mouse is out! And catnip! Lots of toys! I love toys!

I just wish there were some animals outside the window.

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Worldcon Plans

Curious about what we'll be doing for the next five days? D and I have drawn up our Denvention Schedule (subject to change without notice) on a shared Google Spreadsheet.

Click over to the "Panel Selection" tab to see our work--we started by making a grid of everything either of us had any interest in, then went through and rated our interest level for each thing. Finally, we averaged those scores and revisited any time slots where we had ties. Red text on the final schedule indicates a potential conflict.

I know, it's all very exciting.

We're going to bring lots of snacks, but we'll also have to find time to squeeze in a few actual meals at some point. 'cause we're sure not getting our energy back from resting. (With apologies to Larry Niven: Food * Sleep = Constant.)


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Monday, August 4, 2008

Go Irish

D thinks it's silly for me to blog about this, so I'll keep it short.

For those of you (including my parents) who may have been concerned about our troubles getting health insurance through COBRA, I bring you actual good news: we now have short-term health insurance through the end of the year from Celtic Insurance Company.* So our asses are covered in case of catastrophe. We'll look for long-term coverage after we move, since health insurance shenanigans vary from state to state.


* Based on my friend Raj's recommendation, we did look at GradMed, but they denied our application because we answered "yes" to the question:
In the past 15 days, have you or any person to be insured: taken prescription medication for any medical condition, been seen by a member of the medical profession for a medical condition, or been hospital confined? This question should not be answered yes if the only medication taken is birth control medication for the prevention of pregnancy?
Celtic didn't ask that question; they just say they won't cover any pre-existing conditions. It's not the best coverage in the world--D pointed out at least three potential "weasel clauses" in their contract--but it'll do for now. And it's a hell of a lot cheaper than COBRA would have been.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Mile High Club

We've just arrived in Westminster, Colorado--altitude 5,300 feet--where it's been in the high 90s with a chance of thunderstorm all week. (We saw many clouds on our way in.) Our hotel is a few miles north of downtown Denver, where we'll be attending Worldcon starting on Wednesday:

View Larger Map

We're here primarily for the con, though we do have a couple of days to do some sightseeing. Figure that out tomorrow.


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