Rounds for 5/24/2007 – Pre-Balticon edition

I’m leaving for Balticon today, with a plethora of gameage and libations in tow. Laura will be joining me this evening, upon return from her Colorado trip, and some degree of gibbering madness will ensue.

If you’re not going, be sure to peruse the website to check out some of what’s going on. Things I’m looking forward to? The biggest, for me at any rate, is going to be hanging out with people both podcastery and authory. Michael and Evo are special guests this year, and there’s a whole podcasting track lined up. Notable things include on-site recordings of Wingin’ It and Geek Fu Action Grip, among many others. I have the pleasure of contributing an “evil” voice to the Mr. Adventure episode being recorded there, as well!

Other notables include author guests of honor Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, as well as events surrounding our favorite sculpturist Lisa Snellings-Clark, and her PoppetPlanet project. The science track is pretty stacked as well, which is great to see.

It will also be great to see Ronnie and his wife Lora again, as they are coming out for the convention as part of a vacation trip. Hopefully we’ll get some of his local gaming friends to make the trip up as well. Not that there will be any massive time for gaming available, but one can always hope… I think we’ll try to get a group together to see the glorious mess that will be Pirates 3 on Monday evening, as well.

If you can make it out, do so! If not, we’ll be in touch on the other side…

RavenCon post-mortem

Before going to Balticon, I’ll recap a bit of RavenCon for you.

RavenCon was this past April 20-22 in Richmond, VA. It is a convention focusing on “genre” fiction – sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and mystery – in literature, as well as other media. This year was only its second year, but it has already been highly praised for the quality of its content and it’s organization. Guests of honor have included Terry Brooks (New York Times bestselling author, most noted for his Shannara series) in it’s inaugural year, and Robert J. Sawyer (Hugo and Nebula award winner for Best Novel) this past year.

Laura and I have had the pleasure of doing science panels during the last two conventions. Unsurprisingly, Laura’s focused her talks on NASA and space science, while I’ve been doing medicine and infectious diseases. These seem to have gone very well, and been excellently attended. I have been asked why a “science fiction” convention would have panels dealing with science; if you really need me to tell you that one needs to have a good understanding of objective scientific fact in order to write great fiction, then you’ve got a bit of life-pondering to do.

Here are some of the things I found great about RavenCon, in no particular order:

  • Although I was unable to participate, the high school outreach, organized each year by Tee Morris, is brilliant on so many levels. A group of convention guests goes to Monacan High School near the convention to visit with the students. Laura had the opportunity to talk NASA with an astronomy class, which was very cool. She documents her experience here.
  • Laura did two space-related talks, and I did a pandemic influenza panel entitled “The Once and Flu-ture Plague.” We also did a kaffe-klatch together, which was interesting and different and good. Everything was well attended, and everyone came with plenty of questions, which is the whole point, of course.
  • Meeting Robert J. Sawyer was excellent. His latest novel, Rollback, sounds fascinating, and it’s going to get prioritized near the top of my “to read” list, I think. If you want to hear an great interview he gave Tee at the convention, check out the Special Edition #010 episode of the Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy here.
  • Getting a chance to hang out with many of our favorite podcasters and authors is always a treat. I finally got the chance to meet the Geeklabel guys, and catch up with Tee Morris, Tony Ruggiero, “podcasting’s own” Rich Sigfrit, Paul Fischer and Martha Halloway, Rich White, and Stuart Jaffe, among many others.
  • Laura has Flickr photos from Ravencon here.

Overall, an excellent and successful experience! Laura and I both look forward to participating again next year, and hopefully work with the convention organizers to expand the science track a bit more.

But now, Balticon looms…

Rounds for 5/23/2007

Busy week, as always.

I’ve finished a draft of an avian influenza textbook chapter I’ve been working on, and submitted it to my mentor for review. It’s been my primary focus over the last week, with me finally getting it out late last Friday evening. I found it to be a surprisingly difficult experience, and I really should have been able to complete far more swiftly than I did. I mean, avian influenza is easy for me to blather on about. The more challenging thing, I think, is that it is for a public health textbook that has a somewhat bizarre chapter formatting guidelines, and that the focus isn’t really on the science behind avian influenza, but more on potential public health consequences, the outlined criteria for which are somewhat vague. The irony, of course, is that I’ve not had formalized public health training beyond medical school, such as an MPH (which, all things being equal, I’d love to obtain), and I’ve been tasked to write this chapter focused on a potential public health topic for people unergoing such training, with little actual guidance as to what “public health-specific” content needs to be included.
Such is the way of things, I suppose.

So, ’tis done and submitted, and we’ll see what my mentor and the editor have to say about what I chose to include and how I included it.

This past weekend, scant hours after chapter submission, Laura and I trekked up to Ashtabula, OH, to visit her mother and stepfather. We had a vastly relaxing time just hanging out with them, and doing some things I’m not normally accustomed to – walking the beach along Lake Erie while trolling for interesting debris and photographic opportunities, and doing a whirlwind tour of yard sales and flea markets. We also visited the Animal Protective League no-kill shelter there, which is where Laura rescued our youngest cat Oberon from two years ago. The latter was an enjoyable, if heartrending, experience. I’m just happy that we somehow managed to leave without any new animals. Finally, we did catch Shrek the Third as well, in which I was disappointed, but more on that in a bit.

And so, what’s up for this week? Funny you should ask… A little thing called Balticon. More on that, and other sundries, a little later today.

Rounds for 5/13/2007, Mother’s Day Edition

For those whom it is appropriate, I hope your Mother’s Day has been excellent!

It seems that Laura and I were remiss as to blogging about what was going on over the past couple of days before they actually occurred, but such is the way of things. Today marks the end of Public Service Recognition Week, a component of which included exhibits on the national mall in downtown Washington, DC. NASA had a big presence there, and a big part of that involved the James Webb Space Telescope that Laura‘s been working on lo’ these many years. Northrop Grumman brought out the full-scale model on Friday and Saturday, and Laura was one of the volunteers to enhance the model with her radiant beauty, as well as answer questions and educate an eager public about the project. In a brilliantly cool outreach idea, there were also Lego models of the JWST that people could come by and assemble with volunteers, which Laura had the pleasure of working with as well. I feel like they missed an opportunity by not having said Lego sets available for purchase on-site, although they did have flyers available with information on how to obtain them online. Many thanks to everyone who came out and stopped by, including Thomas of the Command Line Podcast, as well as author Rich White.

There were also numerous other NASA related exhibits, as well as those from other areas of public service. The various military branches had a large area of tents, vehicles and equipment on display. Aside from basking in the glorious exhibits of armored death-dealing machines, including the M1A2 Abrams tank and M109A6 Paladin mobile Howitzer, I also had the pleasure of talking with a representative of the Marine Corps Systems Command about current research into new components of front line first aid kits, specifically anticoagulant dressings for major traumatic wounds. Excellent stuff!
Smaller and lesser known public service agencies were represented as well. I was particularly enamored of the Mine Safety and Health Administration booth, which included an informational booklet on mine disasters of the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as several disturbingly illustrated flyers warning children not to explore abandoned mines, ride ATV’s into sand and gravel pits, or go swimming in abandoned quarries. Venomous snakes, steep drops, and submerged razor wire and circular saw blades abound!

Expect plenty of images related to the above to crop up on Laura’s and my Flickr accounts within the next few days.

Last night we spent some time at game night at the Family Game Store at Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland. We were introduced to two games we had not previously played, namely Citadels and Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, which we both enjoyed and look forward to playing again… in part, because Laura trounced me at both. Well, at least at Carcassonne… I also spent some time with at the nearby Ram’s Head Tavern, with some good company in the form of several former coworkers from Sinai, and some good drink in the form of Fordham’s Oyster Stout.

Finally, we saw Spiderman 3 today… I’m going to do a combo post with it and 300, but for now I’ll say that it was good, and a worthy successor to the previous two films.

Now, to sleep, and the FFF of another week!

Breaking on through…

[whew] And so I’ve entered May, and in better shape than I’d anticipated. May and June are the final two months of my fellowship, and research months at that, meaning that I get to do clinic hours thrice a week, conferences once a week (with the occasional extras), and devote the remainder of the time to four or five projects that I really should complete prior to my moving on to the actual workforce.  And, there’s the really important stuff, like Balticon. 🙂 As with most things I obliquely mention, more on that soon. Speaking of which, the previously promised commentaries will be forthcoming in the next few days.

Laura’s been visiting the real Mr. Burns this weekend, and is driving back from Kentucky as I type this. I’ve been doing lots of (attempted) catching up on work, life, and house things after the Bational Minstitutes of Nealth spat me out, used and icky, on Tuesday. Unfortunately, getting anything accomplished makes me aware of 10 other things screaming for my attention… yes, a year off would probably about do it in terms of getting “caught up.” Wishful thinking, most likely.

So I actually lept on the bandwagon, and I now have a LiveJournal site (with a vastly witty title – thanks for the props Mur!), a Facebook account, and a Twitter account. Shiny, the both of them, although I must admit that figuring out what I’m specifically going to use my four+ websites/blogs for, as well as this Twitter thing many seem so a-twitter about, is a bit confounding. I am open to suggestions

Soon Laura is home, and soon after to sleep, and soon after to waking, and soon after back to all the screaming stuff…