Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Month: June 2010


(As is my custom, I’m collecting Conterpoint con reports. Please alert me to any I’ve missed!)

Some while ago, I noticed that the floating East Coast filkcon fell on my birthday this year. And Conterpoint is one of the iterations of that entity I’d not yet attended, so what better time than to check it off my list? (It sure didn’t hurt that folkmew and edstauff were GOHs and Char McKay was Interfilk Guest.) After some discussion back and forth, kitanzi decided she would stay home for this one, and so I prepared to go it alone into the wilds of Maryland.

Friday morning, I got up at the crack of stupid and Kitanzi drove me down to the North Springs station so I could catch the train to the airport. I got checked in, through security, and down to the gate in plenty of time, so I set up my laptop and bought a cup of wi-fi to tide me over until it was time to board.

On the plane, I was seated next to a very nice lady returning home from a work conference. She apparently works for one of the pipeline companies (not owned by BP, she stressed), and we chatted a bit about the Gulf situation, and then the conversation turned towards books. Having asked her if she liked urban fantasy, I recommended seanan_mcguire‘s Toby Daye books to her, and then said, offhand, “She also has a science-fiction/horror/political thriller about zombies and blogging.’ ‘Wow, that sounds really interesting!’ my seatmate replied. So when the seat belt signs were off, I fetched my copy of Feed from my laptop bag and gave it to her. “You can keep that,’ I said. ‘I’ll grab another copy when I pass a bookstore.’ She put the book she had been reading away and spent the rest of the flight reading it instead, and declared herself well and truly hooked by the story when we landed. I gave her my email address and told her to write me and tell me how she liked it when she finished it.

Of course, having given my book away, I decided to occupy myself by trying out the in-flight wi-fi. The actual connection was amazing, but now I really seriously am jonesing for an iPad. The problem is that I’m very tall, and there’s just no place to put a laptop where I can simultaneously see the screen well and type on it. My co-worker eloren brought hers into work today and let me play with it. Want. Wantwantwant. But, I digress…

Got my luggage and went to wait for the bus to the rental car station. and waited. and waited. Then a bus came by, full of people and didn’t stop. And waited. And waited. And then another full bus came by without stopping. And waited. Finally, an empty bus arrived. Honestly, I was getting tired and cranky by this point. The line at the Hertz counter was awful, and then when I finally got to the front, they didn’t have the car I’d actually asked for, gave me a reasonable alternative, and then told me to hike 4 miles to where it was parked to drive off. (Ok, it was likely more like 400 yards. But it felt like 4 miles. At this point, I’m *not* impressed with BWI’s rental car facilities.)

Having acquired car with GPS, I punched in the destination and set out. The drive down to Rockville was pleasant and uneventful, and I imm3ediately ran into gorgeousgary and MEW at the registration desk. I got checked in and went to take a shower, since I had not gotten one in the morning, and it was hot as a sauna outside.

Suitably refreshed I met up with museinred and we went out for a late lunch/early dinner, ending up at a Burmese place nearby, where I had a delightful Orange Beef and an intriguing Ginger Salad that I wished I could have brought home to Kitanzi, because I know how much she loves ginger. We returned to the hotel and chatted a bit, and then I let France take a nap while I vegged and read email, before meeting up with MEW and Ed and Steven Joel for chat. I poked my head briefly into the filkroom afterwards, and then headed for bed.


I went down for breakfast, since the buffet was included. There wasn’t much of it, but it was reasonably filling, and I got sit and talk with kyttn and a couple of other folks, which was lovely. Collected hugs from some people, then went to enjoy the pool.

Which was closed. At nearly 10am. Pout.

I inquired to the front desk, who informed me that by county ordinance, the pool could not be open without a paid lifeguard, who would be on duty at 11am. I made noises as to my feelings about this, but being unable to charm the desk clerk into illegally opening the pool early, I went and changed back into normal clothes and then met up with France to shop for provisions and doughnuts. It appears that Rockville is home to one of the two remaining Krispy Kreme franchises in all of Maryland, and we got us some. I bought a bunch of fruit, some yoghurt, and a couple of two litres of Pepsi One from Safeway, and stashed them away in the full sized fridge my room was equipped with. I have to say, while there were issues with the hotel here and there, it’s a very plush way to spend a weekend, with a full kitchen, including provided pots and pans and silverware.

Well stocked, I finally got down to the pool for a while, and enjoyed soaking in the whirlpool. I had woken up with a terrible pain in my neck and shoulders, which I can’t quite figure out, but by the time I went from the whirlpool to the pool and back a couple of times, I felt well relaxed. I changed back into dry clothes and wandered to the con suite, where I sat and chatted for a while about the sorts of things one chats about in con suites. (I also got to buff my Boy Scout credentials, when the consuitista bemoaned the lack of salt and pepper for the veggies she was roasting. “I have a container of kosher salt in my room. Would you like some?’ It’s good to be prepared.)

Music was being piped up from the main room during this, so I was able to hear some of the 2x10s as I chatted. (As an aside, of all the things I invented for Gafilk programming over the years, the one I’ve been most pleased to see stolen by other cons is the 2x10s. It really warms my heart.)

I got rumour of a dinner run to a nearby sandwich place that was famous for its incredible variety. Turns out there were a couple of parties heading over there for the dinner break, because we all met up with each other in the parking lot. The restaurant certainly lived up to its billing…hundreds of sandwiches, all with colourful, punny menus. I had something with hot pastrami and cole slaw and Russian dressing which was delicious, and I had a great time chatting with Char and Randy and Stephen Joel and France, all of whom I knew of old, and with Marty Gear, who I think ‘d met in passing but had never spent any time with, and who is a delightful storyteller. The only thing better than dinner with old friends is dinner with old friends and new friends. My only regret from dinner is forgetting to purchase a souvenir menu to bring home to Kitanzi, who would have found the whole thing delightful.

We returned to the hotel and encamped to the main room to hear Interfilk guest Char McKay’s concert. Char had been nervous about her set, but she killed from start to finish. I”m still giggling over the Twinkie song, which I had not heard before. Char was followed by GOHs Ed and Mew, who were as superb as always. I still have “The Return” bouncing around in my head days later, because yo that song is made of awesome. And perhaps this concert set will be best known for the Lizardhawk incident, but that’s a story for another day.

I decided to skip the Interfilk auction for reasons of economy and returned to my room to tune my guitar and gather my materials. For a variety of reasons, some good and some bad, I’ve largely not been making it to open filk in recent years, spending my time either socializing or (as often as not) hermitting and re-energizing after a long social day. I was determined that this con would be different, so I set out for the Jefferson Room, which was designated as the alternate room and already contained people I wanted to be in a room with (notably Ed & MEW and Paul Estin). Over the course of the evening, i still did more listening and singing along than playing, but I did perform three songs: “Arrowhead” (by Richard Shindell), “Ozymandias” by filkerdave (who was in Texas at Apollocon and thus needed proxy representation), and “Long Distance Love” (a poem by Seanan McGuire that I set to music). I flubbed up a couple of places on Ozymandias, but I blame the excellent scotch that osewalrus was sharing. My story and I’m sticking to it.


Around 3am, the circle started to thin out and I fell into bed for a short slumber.


Got up reasonably early given the time I’d gone to bed and headed down for breakfast with Stephen Joel, France, Char, Randy, and Marty. Afterwards I hung out and chatted a bit with the other early birds, and at some point went to the room to check in with Kitanzi, who had told me she wasn’t feeling well. Apparently, my body decided this was a good time to whack me on the back of the head and suggest that I needed more sleep. France came by sometime later to see if she could catch a couple of hours napping on my couch again, since they’d already checked out of their hotel room. Eventually slightly refreshed, we went and collected her son Alex and went looking for food. I have to tell you that at 9pm on a Sunday night, Rockville doesn’t offer a robust night-life. We eventually found a reasonably serviceable pizza joint located in a hole in the wall in the back of a shopping centre, got something warm and filling to bring back to the hotel, which we ate while listening to the beginnings of the dead dog. At some point, Alex was offered the chance to earn a bit of spare pocket looking after MEW and Ed’s kids, allowing them to come down to the Dead Dog and stay as long as they wanted. I spent the evening in listener mode, mostly because I was just too wiped out to actually go fetch my guitar, but there was a lot of great music to sing along to. Eventually, we all went to bed, and that was the end of Conterpoint.


Travelling home. I got out of the hotel and on the road in my rented Chevy Impala by 8am, and was back at BWI by 9am, which was right on target. I had a minor mishap returning the car; I was apparently tired enough that I got all the way to the shuttle bus that would take me to the terminal before realizing I was missing one of my bags. I realized it when I tried to put it into the luggage rack and I didn’t have it, requiring me to pull both of my other bags out and trudge all the way back to where I’d parked the car at the return queue. The bag was sitting patiently next to it, right where I’d set it down after removing the trunk. Even with this detour, I made it to my gate in plenty of time, grabbed some breakfast, a pair of cheap earbuds for my iPod, and a copy of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time for plane reading. (I have no idea what they mean by “500 Greatest Songs”, plus I doubt it, but it made for an entertaining diversion during the flight.)

Down and safe in Atlanta, I collected my luggage and headed for the MARTA station, where we waited for a train. And waited. And waited. After what must have been 20 minutes, the Doraville train arrived, so I got on it, no wanting to trust how long the North Springs one might be. Changed trains at Lindburgh, got to North Springs, where I was picked up by my darling Kitanzi who took me home and poured me into bed, where I slept until 10pm. Got up just long enough to eat something and then went back to sleep and slept until morning.

All in all, an absolutely fabulous way to spend a birthday. Great friends, great food, great music, and great conversation. If I had a time-turner, I’d be awfully tempted to go back and have that weekend again.

  1. I played ‘Ozymandias’ in part because someone did a song which they admitted afterwards they’d sort of lost the tune on, and that it didn’t go quite how she sang it. We all pointed out that since we didn’t know the song she was singing, it sounded perfectly fine to us, and then I told the story about how I turned Dave’s Shelly-inspired folk ballad into a rock song, which in turn prompted ladymondegreen to remind me of how we first met: I was playing that song in an open circle at GaFilk, and she heard it from the hallway, ran in to stand behind me and started singing harmonies. Startled the heck out of me, since no one else in the south knew the song but me at the time. *grin* 

Fun on IRC

Random conversation from an IRC channel I frequent:

El: I want…
El: GTea.
El: Err, no g.
El: Just tea.
autographedcat: G’Tea was a great Narn. He was the one who came up with the idea of infusing dried leaves in hot water, and hence the beverage is named for him.
El: Hahaha.
El: But it was the great, powerful Centauri, Oolonghi, who truly made G’tea’s drink special. Before that? Mud water!

I love my friends.

Retail therepy on a grand scale

When stars_and_magic and I split up in 2001, I found myself suddenly without a car and a credit rating that could be charitably classed as “dismal”. This being a state I could not long survive in Atlanta, I went shopping for transportation. I walked into Carmax with four thousand dollars, said “I need a car, and I want to finance it.”, looked at exactly one car, acquired a loan with a horrible interest rate but an affordable monthly payment, and drove it home.

That car was a 1998 Ford Taurus SE with 27k miles on it. It was a reasonably good size for me, drove comfortably, and gave me everything I needed at the time in a car.

Nine years and ninety thousand miles later, it was starting to show some wear. There was at least $1300 worth of suspension repair that needed to be done, the gas mileage (which was never all that impressive to begin with) was slipping, and there was an expensive feeling shimmy in the front brakes that I wasn’t looking forward to addressing. It also had an odd electrical problem that was never properly diagnosed and I’d just been living with for a long time.

Less important, but no less compelling (at least, if you’re me, which most days I am), the Taurus was missing a lot of amenities. Let’s face it, I’m a geek, and I love my gadgets. I was tired of the clunky cassette player interface for my iPod (and besides, the cassette player had just stopped working), and I wanted built in satnav and a CD player. I wouldn’t mind a hybrid, but I wasn’t sure I could afford one.

I decided this time to actually try and buy a car the way you’re “supposed to”. I called my finance company to have them run paperwork, fended off a rather persistent salesman from Ford who kept calling to ask when I might come in but wouldn’t actually tell me the thing I’d asked for, which is “How much does that Ford Fusion Hybrid cost?” (I eventually got the answer: too much. But it has a lot of cool features.)

The pre-approval came back on the loan, but irritatingly, they couldn’t give me figures on payments and APRs until I gave them a specific car’s VIN number. Honestly, the whole process was perplexing as hell, but at least now I had a round figure as to how much I could afford to finance.

Having had such a great experience with them last time, I went back to Carmax’s website to poke around. I love Carmax. The prices are right there, and they don’t dicker and haggle. You can see exactly what they have, and search nationwide by model, by feature-set, by price range…all without ever leaving your chair or having to talk to a salesman. Among the various cars I found was a low-mileage Honda Civic EX in Stockbridge, GA. that had all the features I wanted. The only concern I had was the size. I’m not a small person, and while the Civic isn’t as small as it once was, it’s still a relatively small vehicle. But I inquired about it, got a call back from a salesman, and set up an appointment to drive down Saturday and take a look at it.

we actually got there about an hour early, but the guy was available and we started the appraisal process on the Taurus and then went to take a look at the Civic and give it a test drive. Sadly, the fears were realized. Sitting in the front seat, the top of my head was just touching the ceiling, which is a fairly uncomfortable feeling, and made me feel pretty cramped. It drove fairly well for a little car, but I had reservations with how long I’d be happy with it. (It might have made a perfect car for Larissa, but that’s not who we were shopping for today.)

Rob's New Car!“No problem,” our fearless sales guy said. “Let me see what else we have here. Oh, hey, let me go check that out.” “That” turned out to be a 2007 Toyota Prius hatchback that had only just been moved up to the sales lot and wasn’t even on the website yet. (In fact, SalesGuy said it wasn’t there the night before when he came out to check over the Civic.) It had a few more miles on it than the slightly newer Honda, but it had every other feature I wanted, plus it was a Hybrid, plus it was slightly higher off the ground (which is a plus for me, as I don’t like climbing down into a hole when I get in my car…another annoyance with the Ford I’d grown a bit weary of).

We took it for a spin around the test drive route, and with every passing mile I was more and more committed. This was exactly what I was looking for.

So….I bought it.

Carmax had run financing numbers for me, and I had a great deal with a good APR and a reasonable monthly payment. On Monday, I’ll call the nice girl at Wells Fargo I’d been dealing with, tell her what I got from them, and let them fight for it if they want. If not, well, I’m happy with the numbers I got on it. And I got about what I expected from selling the Ford, and more than I’d feared given the laundry list of things that were wrong with it.

After doing a mountain of paperwork, we drove off with it, stopped at a nearby steakhouse for lunch, and then drove it home. I keep looking at it and thinking “Wow, that’s mine.” It’s an indescribably cool feeling.

The three best words I heard today…

As we were out driving on an errand this morning, we got a call from our vet, and he said three words that none of us (him included) expected to hear him say:

It’s not cancer.

Whatever was bothering Jenna appears to been some sort of inflammatory disease or condition, but the biopsy came back clean. And since the biopsy was taken during the surgery, he feels completely confident that the sample he took was from the most abnormal looking section of the bowel.

We’re continuing to treat her for the inflammation and the thyroid, and she needs to put some weight back on, but whatever else she has, it’s not the lymphoma Dr. Ray was nearly certain she had.

(There’s other big news from today, but that’s another post…)

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