Archive for September, 2008

Virtual Convention

As some of you know, I attended my first really big science fiction convention this summer, the 2008 Worldcon, as part of a get-together with friends. It was a great deal of fun, but admission and travel can be expensive.

For Worldcons, it’s possible to purchase a supporting membership for half the full membership price; this doesn’t include attendance, only Hugo voting rights and a packet of information at the end of it all. Cheryl Morgan’s excellent after-analysis got me thinking – what if there were more?

On the other side of the world, Conflux Australia again held a virtual SF mini-con in parallel with the real life convention last month. The virtual mini-con is essentially a fully Internet-based online convention, a gathering of friends and fans that follow a program to chat with a special guests or panels. Conflux’s virtual con was bulletin-board-based.

With all the powers of interactive media available today, what if organizers pulled many multimedia channels together to host a virtual con? For example:

  • I host project meetings using webcast, web chat and audio conference to keep participants engaged. For large groups, we have lecture or Q&A modes to keep the audio channel usable.

  • I just participated in Linux Journal’s inaugural live event – a combination of streaming video and web chat.
  • I have participated in distance learning events, a combination of streamed video/audio presentations, chat room real-time discussion, stored sessions for playback and follow-up forum-based follow-up discussion. This format, in particular, might lend itself well to virtual convention attendance.

If convention organizers would consider investing in setting up this type of technology, webcasting a key set of sessions and providing moderated chat and discussion forums, they could extend the privilege of attending and truly participating to a much broader audience. By carefully calculating the price point and successfully marketing this membership category, the virtual convention could pay for the required technology set-up.

I believe this approach would help grow the Worldcon’s media coverage and attendance base. Plus, I believe the interactive technology aspects would appeal to a younger fan base – it’d be awesome.

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: communication, technology | 2 Comments »

Celebrate your Freedom to Read

Noted philosopher Albert Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”

That perspective is important to remember this week, Banned Books Week. I fully support this event, and I read banned books!

Rather than stumble through my thoughts on free access to books and other materials, let me point you to a thoughtful letter from a librarian, via Janiece, who explains it more eloquently than I ever could.

Of the top 100 books on the list of most frequently challenged books, below, I’ve read only 27, noted in bold – not a particularly noteworthy percentage.

1 Harry Potter J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War Robert Cormier
4 Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
5 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou
6 Scary Stories Alvin Schwartz
7 Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers
8 It’s Perfectly Normal Robie Harris
9 And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
10 Captain Underpants Dav Pilkey
11 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
12 The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison
13 Forever Judy Blume
14 The Color Purple Alice Walker
15 The Perks of Being A Wallflower Stephen Chbosky
16 Killing Mr. Griffin Lois Duncan
17 Go Ask Alice Anonymous
18 King and King Linda de Haan
19 Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
20 Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson
21 The Giver Lois Lowry
22 We All Fall Down Robert Cormier
23 To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
24 Beloved Toni Morrison
25 The Face on the Milk Carton Caroline Cooney
26 Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson
27 My Brother Sam Is Dead James Lincoln Collier
28 In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak
29 His Dark Materials series Philip Pullman
30 Gossip Girl series Cecily von Ziegesar
31 What My Mother Doesn’t Know Sonya Sones
32 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging Louise Rennison
33 It’s So Amazing Robie Harris
34 Arming America Michael Bellasiles
35 Kaffir Boy Mark Mathabane
36 Blubber Judy Blume
37 Brave New World Aldous Huxley
38 Athletic Shorts Chris Crutcher
39 Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo Anaya
40 Life is Funny E.R. Frank
41 Daughters of Eve Lois Duncan
42 Crazy Lady Jane Leslie Conly
43 The Great Gilly Hopkins Katherine Paterson
44 You Hear Me Betsy Franco
45 Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut
46 Whale Talk Chris Crutcher
47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby Dav Pilkey
48 The Facts Speak for Themselves Brock Cole
49 The Terrorist Caroline Cooney
50 Mick Harte Was Here Barbara Park
51 Summer of My German Soldier Bette Green
52 The Upstairs Room Johanna Reiss
53 When Dad Killed Mom Julius Lester
54 Blood and Chocolate Annette Curtis Klause
55 The Fighting Ground Avi
56 The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien
57 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Mildred Taylor
58 Fat Kid Rules the World K.L. Going
59 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things Carolyn Mackler
60 A Time To Kill John Grisham
61 Rainbow Boys Alex Sanchez
62 Olive’s Ocean Kevin Henkes
63 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey
64 A Day No Pigs Would Die Robert Newton Peck
65 Speak Laurie Halse Anderson
66 Always Running Luis Rodriguez
67 Black Boy Richard Wright
68 Julie of the Wolves Jean Craighead George
69 Deal With It! Esther Drill
70 Detour for Emmy Marilyn Reynolds
71 Draw Me A Star Eric Carle
72 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
73 Harris and Me Gary Paulsen
74 Junie B. Jones series Barbara Park
75 So Far From the Bamboo Grove Yoko Watkins
76 Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
77 Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes Chris Crutcher
78 What’s Happening to My Body Book Lynda Madaras
79 The Boy Who Lost His Face Louis Sachar
80 The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold
81 Anastasia Again! Lois Lowry
82 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret Judy Blume
83 Bumps In the Night Harry Allard
84 Goosebumps series R.L. Stine
85 Shade’s Children Garth Nix
86 Cut Patricia McCormick
87 Grendel John Gardner
88 The House of Spirits Isabel Allende
89 I Saw Esau Iona Opte
90 Ironman Chris Crutcher
91 The Stupids series Harry Allard
92 Taming the Star Runner S.E. Hinton
93 Then Again, Maybe I Won’t Judy Blume
94 Tiger Eyes Judy Blume
95 Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel
96 Nathan’s Run John Gilstrap
97 Pinkerton, Behave! Steven Kellog
98 Freaky Friday Mary Rodgers
99 Halloween ABC Eve Merriam
100 Heather Has Two Mommies Leslea Newman

Those of you who support ALA’s Banned Books Week — please join me in finding a few new books on this list that interest you, check them out from your public library, read them and talk about the ideas contained within.

Celebrate your freedom to read!

Posted on Sunday, September 28th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: books, inspiration, reading | 2 Comments »

After Apple Picking

We drove over to the east side of the mountains today to see the fall color in the pass and get some fresh-picked apples and pears straight from the orchard. We were a little early – color hadn’t really turned yet and the pears weren’t entirely ready – but it was still a beautiful drive.

Maggie and the Fall Leaves
Maggie takes a break among the fall leaves.

the orchards
Dropping down into orchard country.

Apples on the Tree
Apples still on the tree – these are huge Sekai-Ichi variety, excellent eating but not ready yet.

Our favorite fruit stand, Prey’s, a few miles east of Leavenworth on Highway 2.

Endless Apples
Endless apples! They have dozens of kinds of apples, and the late varieties aren’t yet picked and available. We picked up 10 lbs each of Tsuguro, Granny Smith and Macintosh, plus some early Red Bartlett pears.

The squash displays were beautiful – plus, winter squash is yummy even if it is a lot of work.

I’m not sure if the bunches of dried peppers were decorative or for cooking/eating.

These sunflowers were really beautiful against the deep blue sky.

This picture has nothing to do with apple orchards – but the stark hillside and feathery clouds in the evening light were a really striking combination.

The lens flare is horrible on this shot, but I still like it. It was taken from the moving car, top down, as we drove into the mountains, directly toward the evening sun.

Note: After Apple Picking is a poem, by Robert Frost.

Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: MINI, photography, Puget Sound | 6 Comments »

Goodbye, Butch

Paul Newman died Friday of cancer at age 83. More than just one of my favorite actors, he was a person I admired greatly for his charity work and his attitude on celebrity.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of my favorite movies, one of those I’ll stop to watch if I’m flipping channels and happen to come across it. I never get tired of it, and of course Newman’s performance is a big reason why. His stream of consciousness chatter – played off of Robert Redford’s Sundance’s squinty-eyed frustration (mostly at the messes the characters got into due to Newman’s Butch’s hyperactive scheming) – is classic stuff. I’d also point to The Verdict and The Color of Money as favorites of mine from Newman’s career.

The amazing success of the “Newman’s Own” products and the charities they supported were an even better reason to admire the man. I never saw Newman tooting his own horn over the success of that work of service to his fellow man. It was always handled as matter of fact and coolly as the man seemed to be himself.

Newman was a well known hater of celebrity and the hoopla of Hollywood. In spite of that, I can’t think of a greater giant of a movie star than Newman. Anything he did as an actor felt special. Ten Academy Award nominations, with a win and two honorary Oscars give testament to the respect of industry. The legacy of his charity work should draw the admiration of all.

Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 2008 by Bryan
Under: entertainment, inspiration, movies | 2 Comments »

Fear and Loathing at the Fed

I am increasingly anxious about the state of the US economy.

In February, I wrote about it, certain that we were dipping our toes into the waters of recession.

Our economic free fall has been so swift and sure since spring that it’s defied all attempts to reverse the decline. Now, with:

All this brings to mind another question. I wonder what defines an economic depression? Per

A depression is a severe economic downturn that lasts several years. The Great Depression of 1929 lasted ten years. The GDP growth rates were of a magnitude not seen since:

  • 1930 -8.6%
  • 1931 -6.4%
  • 1932 -13%
  • 1933 -1.3%.

During the Depression, unemployment was 25% and wages (for those who still had jobs) fell 42%. Total U.S. economic output fell from $103 to $55 billion and world trade plummeted 65% as measured in dollars.

Well, we’re not at that point yet, thank goodness.

An aptly titled book I read long ago, The Coming Economic Earthquake, seems to be pointing to where we are right now. The author, Larry Burkett, talks about the risk of demand-centered economic policies, growing federal deficits and debt, increasing use of debt by business and households, and government regulation gone wrong. He predicts severe consequences. He also has suggestions for minimizing personal catastrophe, like eliminating indebtedness, maintaining local, liquid funds, holding non-cash assets and more.

I hope we’re not anywhere near there, and that I’m just being paranoid. Still, I’ll keep my credit card balances at zero.

Please tell me why I’m wrong.

Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: money | 9 Comments »