This Friday, I’m flying to Denver for the American Mensa Committee meeting (that’s American Mensa’s board of directors). The meeting means I’m completely book for Saturday, and probably Friday evening pre-meeting conversations, too. But I may have a few free hours Sunday morning before flying back home, if any Denver people are around and interested in getting together.
Yep, this weekend I’m back on the road for another science fiction convention. This time, it’s Capclave, in Rockville, Maryland. If you’re looking for me at the convention (as usual), look for me in the dealers’ room at the Fantastic Books table. The dealers’ room is scheduled to be open from 3 to 6pm on Friday, 10am to 6pm on Saturday, and 10am to 2pm on Sunday.
I’ll also be on programming. Check out:
“Grammar Wars and Pedantry” on Saturday at 1pm in Washington Theater. With K. Ceres Wright, Mary G. Thompson, Morgan Hazelwood, and Sarah Avery. If arguments over the serial comma, split infinitives, or the evolving definition of “literally” gets you riled up, then this is a conversation for you. Panelists discuss their favorite pedantic hills to die on and whether language is evolving too quickly or too slowly for their liking.
“In Defense of the Standalone Novel” on Saturday at 2:30pm in Washington Theater. With A.C. Wise, Craig Laurance Gidney, Irene Gallo, Natalie Luhrs, and Ursula Vernon. In a sea of book series, the standalone novel can be a breath of fresh air. What are the virtues of the standalone novel and what makes for a good one? Might there be a resurgence of the standalone novel in the near future?
As much as I love going to sf conventions, that seems almost a distraction to me at the moment. That’s because there’s a much bigger trip coming very soon.
A few days ago, the Chairman of American Mensa resigned. I’ve been serving the organization as Secretary since last summer, and continue in that position. But I’ve also been an alternate for our national representatives. With the resignation, I move up from alternate to one of the national representatives. And in a bit of calendrical synchrony, the next annual international board of directors meeting (which I’ll be attending in my new role) is October 6–9 in Budva, Montenegro. So I’ve spent this week in a frantic planning for my first international trip this millennium, and my first ever trip out of North America.
I’m pretty much booked from departure here to the end of the meeting and my departure from Montenegro. But on my way home, I’ve got a lay-over in Vienna, Austria. I’m scheduled to land there on Monday, October 10, at 4:20pm. My flight home from Vienna is scheduled to depart on Tuesday, October 11, at 4:30pm. So (other than extra hours in the airport coming and going), I’m going to have most of a day in Vienna (well, other than probably sleeping a few hours at night). Do I know anyone there, or anyone who has been there, who has wonderful suggestions for what to do in those few hours so I can really get a feel for having been there?
In Montenegro, the host group has planned a tour or two, so I’ll get at least a little flavor of the country outside the meeting hotel, but in Vienna, I’m on my own. I’m very excited, and a little trepidatious. Looking for suggestions.
Yet another convention-I-didn’t-mention-I’m-going-to weekend. But I’m going simply as an attendee: no dealer table, no programming appearances, no plans to do any real business (though I’m sure some business conversations will arise: that’s how it goes). I’ll be in Reston, Virginia, for Metropolitan Washington Mensa’s Regional Gathering. And then I’ll be spending Sunday and Monday night’s in DC to do some actual tourist-y things (haven’t done that in a long time). So I hope to see all you Mensans there!
I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I have another convention coming up, a very long weekend. On Tuesday, I’m flying to Reno, Nevada, for the American Mensa Annual Gathering in Sparks, Nevada. Assuming my flights are on time, I’m leaving JFK at 7:40pm and landing at 10:53pm (flying JetBlue, if anyone else is getting in about the same time and wants to share a car). I’m scheduled to fly back to New York Monday, July 11th, leaving Reno at 11:45pm (again, on JetBlue), but since the AG ends Sunday, I’ll be on my own Sunday night and Monday, if anyone has any interesting suggestions.
If you’re at the AG, and looking to connect with me, here’s a hint of where I’ll be (unlike a science fiction convention, I won’t be in the dealers’ room, since there isn’t one). Since I’m attending as a member of the AMC, a lot of my time will be taken up with meetings and business, but here are some of the public times/places you’ll be able to meet me:
American Mensa Committee Meeting, Thursday, starting at 9am, running until we’re done (scheduled to end at 5pm, but who knows?), in Cascade 3. No time to chat during the meeting, but you can see the AMC transacting the business that keeps Mensa operating.
Annual Business Meeting, Friday, starting at 9am, in Sierra 5. Again, not a social event, but the time when the members hear from and can give commentary to the leaders of Mensa.
Region 1 Meet-and-Greet, Friday at 4:30pm, in Redwood 6. For everyone who lives in Region 1 (that is, all of New England, most of New York, and the northern part of New Jersey).
Gala Dinner, Friday at 7pm, in Nugget 2. (Gotta get a separate ticket for this one.)
“Punctilious Punctuation: Telling Tales With (and of) Those Jots and Tittles, Including Why They’re Called Jots and Tittles, and the Horrifying Story of Why the Period Goes Inside the Quotation Marks” by Ian Randal Strock (hey, that’s me! Come hear me talk!), Saturday at 9am in Sierra 2.
Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, Saturday starting at 9pm in Nugget 2. (Come dance with me!)
Drag Brunch, Sunday at 10am in Nugget 2. (This one, too, is separately ticketed.)
* * *
Other sessions that look interesting, if I’m not otherwise occupied with meetings or business:
“Hidden Gems of the United States Constitution” by Joseph Zodl, Wednesday at 3pm in Sierra 1.
“Two Degrees from Kevin Bacon: A Life Spent With Celebrities in NYC” by Matt Grob, Wednesday at 4:30pm in Sierra 3.
“Firehouse SIG Meet-and-Greet,” Thursday at 4:30pm in Redwood 6.
“Doctor Grammar Guy” by Richard Lederer, Friday at 1:30pm in Nugget 2.
“Mind Your Manners” by Thomas Willeford, Friday at 4:30pm in Sierra 5.
“Illuminating Mensa’s Past” by Simone van Egeren, Saturday at 1:30pm in Redwood 3.
“Real Steampunk” by Thomas Willeford, Saturday at 3pm in Sierra 5.
“The Future of Mensa” by Billie Lee and Rachel Kibler, Saturday at 3pm in Redwood 3.
“Life Members SIG Meet-and-Greet,” Saturday at 6pm in Redwood 6.
And of course, otherwise unscheduled meals will be in Hospitality.
Hope to see all you Mensans there!
Oh, and then there’s a quick three-day turn-around, before I leave for Shore Leave in Maryland.
Sometimes, technology really is remarkable. Right now, I’m sitting on the porch in South Carolina, with my computer open, and I got a text message from a friend in New Jersey, with a question about Mensa admissions testing. I thought I knew the answer, but opened another window to text the Mensa Testing Officer, who I know is on a train between New York City and Maine. She responded almost instantly, and I replied with the information (my assumption had been correct). It’s cool when all the pieces work as they ought.
I just finished giving my talk on Isaac Asimov for Eastern Oklahoma Mensa. Had a great time! I think nearly ten percent of the group’s membership was there (they said it was the best turn-out they’ve had in a long time). And they were a responsive crowd, despite the limitations of Zoom (I really, really miss doing my talks in person, where I can properly interact with people).
And they made this awesome ad for their Facebook group! Isn’t it neat?
Every time I do one of these talks, I get pumped up. The adrenaline rush comes after I’m done, but that was the joy with being in-person: after a talk, I could hang out with people, keep the evening going. Talking via Zoom, once it ends, the Zoom window shuts down, and I go right back to sitting in the house by myself <pout>. So now I’m amped up, and nothing to do with it. Oh well, I’ll try to save it up for when the world re-opens.
It was a weekend of people and art: kind of exciting, kind of tiring. And now I’m getting ready for a long science fiction convention selling books.
Friday was Greater New York Mensa’s holiday party. Kind of a small turn-out, but a nice time. Well, except for the fact that Pamela felt the need to enhance my eyebrows with some of the cotton otherwise decorating the intensely decorated Papillon Bistro and Bar on 54th Street. Eh, it wasn’t that bad.
After the party, I walked to the subway with a new friend, past the Alliance-Bernstein Building, which has this cool globe in front. And here’s a close-up of it.
Got home late, and then got up early to ride the subway back into Manhattan. Got off at Canal Street and walked through the Lower East Side, seeing things I rarely see, such as this view of the Woolworth Building, and the Jewish Daily Forward Building (of which I didn’t take any pictures, but see this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forward#Jewish_Daily_Forward_Building
or this one: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=jewish+forward+building&t=h_&iax=images&ia=images
I was walking through the LES to meet up with Michele, Mary, and Erin for the Interactive Van Gogh exhibit on Pier 36. (Talking about it yesterday, I learned that there’s another, competing immersive Van Gogh exhibit in New York City; I didn’t see that one.) I walked around the building, took some pictures of the river and the bridges, and got to the entrance right on time. The exhibit was very impressive, though not exactly what I was expecting (obviously, I hadn’t read enough of it before we went). It was less like an art gallery, more like an all-around-you movie with a (slightly too loud) soundtrack. The exhibit takes Van Gogh’s paintings, projects them on the walls (and floors), animates pieces of them, duplicates and overlaps them, and sets it all to music. But it has a definite start and end point, as we discovered when the display ended with a credit scroll after half an hour… and then restarted. Two of the rooms are smaller, very dark, with interesting mirrored sculptures. The third, large room is much brighter (and in this room, the displays are also projected on the floor, making us part of it all. Michele commented on seeing the brush strokes, and as the images enlarged on the wall, it was very easy to see the individual strokes. I sat there a bit, trying to decide if we’d chosen the proper spot, or if, like the cosmological principle, every spot was the center point, the focal point of the show. Whichever it was, I got a good dose of art. I noticed a lot of people taking a lot of photos and videos while in the exhibit, but I decided to just absorb it, rather than try to record it, so if you want to see what it looks like, check out the link.
After the show, of course, there’s the gift shop and the pose-in-it frame (with poor lighting), so I did.
Then Chris joined us for a nice brunch, and then Erin left us, and the new quartet went up to 14th Street for the Banksy: Genius or Vandal? exhibit. He’s a very talented artist, and some of his pieces really grabbed me, but overall, I was less pleased with this one. It might have been the repeated theory that Banksy is opposed to capitalism, consumerism, etc., yet he sells limited edition prints of many of his works, and the exhibit charged a fairly hefty entry fee, and of course there’s the obligatory gift shop at the end… Well, it’s not really my taste. But for those who are fans, this is a good display of a lot of his work (in a much more traditional gallery format). And as with Van Gogh, I didn’t bother taking pictures in the exhibit.
And after that exhibit, we walked up town to Penn Station to get Michele to the train. Then we walked around Macys to see the windows, as the mist turned into a light rain, and Chris peeled off to catch his train. Then Mary and I walked up town, through the winter village in Bryant Park, through the mobs in Times Square, and out past the tree in Rockefeller Center, and to Saks, where we caught the lights-and-music show. Then we turned around, made better time walking south on Fifth Avenue (past the Library, with Patience and Fortitude wreathed for the season), and got Mary back to Penn Station minutes before her train left.
Then I walked back to Herald Square, caught my subway home, and got into the house five minutes before the light rain turned into a torrential downpour. A very nice two days with good friends (and one of these days, I’ll learn to take pictures of the people with me).
I’ve just learned of the death of Jessica Young, on November 23. I knew it was coming for a long time, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Last February, she emailed to tell me she had inoperable pancreatic cancer (the same thing that killed my grandmother two decades ago), and that she’d just been through a year of chemotherapy and high intensity radiation treatment. So I spent the last year sending her chatty emails every month or so, just to let her know I was thinking of her, and because I really was thinking of her.
I first met her at the Mensa Annual Gathering in St. Louis in 1995, where she took me to the Gateway Arch. We ran into each other again a few years later, at the AG in Philadelphia in 2000, which cemented our friendship. After that, we saw each other intermittently, at Annual Gatherings. With the coming of smart phones, we communicated more often, sharing fireworks photos when we weren’t at Independence Day celebrations together. We saw each other only rarely, but every time, it was just picking up where we’d left off the last time, one long friendship.
Only once did we see each other outside of Mensa: In February 2016, her chorus sang at Carnegie Hall, and she was in New York for nearly a week. I got to see her most of the days she was in town, showing her around my home town, enjoying her concert, seeing a Broadway show, just hanging out, as good friends do.
She hadn’t responded to my most recent emails, and I knew the end was near. But a few days ago—at my sister’s house for Thanksgiving—I wondered that I hadn’t heard anything from her. After getting home tonight, I did a web search for “Jessica Young obituary,” and found it: she really is gone. https://www.kutisfuneralhomes.com/young-jessica-c/
Jessica Cerridwyn Young was a member of St. Louis Area Mensa. She is survived many family members and friends, all of whom, I’m sure, saw her far more often than I, and were far closer to her than I, and thus will miss her even more. But she was a very dear Mensa friend to me, and the excitement of next year’s AG will be tempered with the melancholy of knowing she won’t be there.
It’s starting to feel like the before-times again. I just got back from a weekend on the road (I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, for Charlotte Blue Ridge Mensa‘s Regional Gathering, which hosted the AMC meeting), and now I’m getting ready to leave Friday for Philcon, my second science fiction convention of the new world.
As a typical science fiction convention, I’ll be spending most of my time in the dealers’ room at the Fantastic Books table. We’ll have many copies of Allen Steele’s brand new novel Sanctuary, and of the non-fiction book On Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren (I’m hoping to have Delany himself at the table for some of the time, to sign copies). But I’m also on programming. If you’re looking to catch me there, my scheduled items include:
Friday at 6:00 PM in Plaza 2: “Perils and Pitfalls of Near-Future Scenarios” with Jennifer Povey, Margaret Riley, Michael A. Ventrella, and Joan Wendland
Saturday at 1:00 PM in Plaza 4: “Writing and Publishing in the Digital Age” with Neil Clarke, Gordon Linzner, Margaret Riley, and Ann Stolinsky.
Saturday at 5:00 PM in Plaza 3: “The Future You Imagine is the Future You Get” with Mitchell Gordon, Mark Roth-Whitworth, and Jeff Warner.
Saturday at 7:00 PM in Plaza 3: “Alternate Histories” with Scheherazade Jackson, Roberta Rogow, Mark Roth-Whitworth, and Chuck Rothman.
Sunday at 11:00 AM in Plaza 5: “A New Dune” with Randee Dawn, Barna William Donovan, Robert Hranek, and Lawrence Kramer.
I hope to see a lot of you there!