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The softer side of Dragoncon.

2013 badgeI’ve been to a number of conventions, anime conventions, small SciFi cons, a gaming con or two and last year I went to Montreal Comicon. This was my first Dragon*Con and it really was unlike any other I’ve ever been to. It had its similarities, as all fan conventions do, but it was also quite different. Everyone knows it’s huge, filling five downtown Atlanta hotels to the brim, pretty much every other hotel in walking range and there are attendees scattered all over the city, from those who live in the area or stay with friends, to those who choose to stay in hotels farther away but accessible via the MARTA system. In 2012 52k people came to the con and this year, I was told by a staffer that they expected 60-65k. It sure felt like they hit that number on Saturday.

In terms of sheer size, it’s one of the biggest fan conventions in the world. I won’t lie, I’m not fond of large crowds. I don’t like going to concerts unless they are classical in nature, I don’t go to crowded bars, I avoid large parties, hate sporting events and try to stay home on Black Friday. And yet I went to Dragon*Con and loved it. I’m hoping to go back again next year, and someday want to be there as an author on a panel. (squee!) So how can someone so against crowds love this event? Well, I avoid the big stuff for the most part, and stick to the smaller panels. Not because I’m trying to avoid crowds, but because this con is so big that it has a ton of panels and many of them are pretty specific and niche. I spent most of my time in these smaller panels because these were the things that interested me the most, and it was like being at a small convention until you went outside to swim upstream like a spawning salmon to your next panel. We went to a few big ones, cast panels for the Walking Dead and BSG, which were in big ballrooms and had hour long lines. And there are plenty of those to be had. What you hear about Dragon*Con is how big it is, how crazy the costumes are, that there’s a big parade and huge parties every night. This is all true, but there’s a softer, quieter side to the con that few talk about. Not because it’s bad, but because it IS quiet and no one thinks that’s exciting. Unless, like a lot of us geeky people, you’re an introvert. You could easily spend the con going from one giant crowd of fans to another, hit the big dances and parties and have a blast if that’s your thing.

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If it’s not, you can have just as much fun on the softer side and never run out of things to do. This is the first convention I’ve been to that had me booked almost all day in one panel after another. We would get up at 7:30, get breakfast at the food court and be in the first set of panels for the day at 10am and not stop until the last panel at 10pm. I went to panels like ‘Magic and Mayhem: Witches in Urban Fantasy’, ‘Space Opera Then, Military SciFi Now’, ‘Down and Dirty Marketing for Authors’ and ‘Dragon Sex!’. Yes, Dragon Sex!. Let me explain that or this is going to turn into a very different blog. Dragon Sex! is a panel about the dragons of Pern from Anne McCaffrey’s best selling series. Apparently this panel started many years ago to answer questions for authors of fan fiction who submitted their work to fanzines. Yeah, remember those? While fanzines didn’t last, this panel did. You can ask anything you want about dragons mating and how their riders are affected and I mean anything. There was a discussion on green riders and who they had sex with, if you know what I mean. It’s held on Saturday night at 10pm and was the single funniest and most entertaining panel we saw.

And that’s one of the things that makes Dragon*Con so different from the other cons I’ve been to. It’s run by fans and doesn’t have corporate sponsors, unlike all the other big ones. Nothing against the sponsored cons, those are great too, but that does change the atmosphere a bit. The fans who run this shindig get to pick what panels to present, who’s on them and what to talk about. There are no outside sponsors to think about, no need to get approval or worry about offending the sponsors, or the sponsors customers. And Dragon*Con doesn’t court guests, guests court Dragon*Con. If you are famous in the genre as an author, actor, artist etc, you apply to be a guest. Dragon*Con wants guests who want to be there, not people who have to be there. (Apparently, George R.R. Martin will never attend because he hates it.) And the guests who come are also fans. I’ve never seen so many ‘guests’ at a con in all my life, from those who are known by a few fans to the very recognizable, they are all there. Again, without corporate sponsorship, Dragon*Con can have everyone and anyone who wants to be there, and a lot of people want to be there.

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If you have ever thought of going, but are put off by the con’s size, give it another look. Yes, Saturday is a crush, but only in the halls, and 90% of the people there are awesome. My husband and I sat next to a random con goer for lunch in the food court, ended up chatting with him the whole meal, as with any other con you’ve ever been to. It’s a giant club and everyone there is into what you are on some level. But be warned, getting a hotel can be hard..

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Raw Milk > Vitamin C

I started drinking raw milk late last year, some time between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It took a tiny bit of getting used to, it costs more and I can’t get it at my regular grocery store.

But it is worth it! Since I’ve been drinking it, I feel so much better. I drink more milk, get hungry less often and I haven’t had a full cold or flu all winter. It’s better at cold prevention than vitamin C. Normally I get sick at least twice for a good week because of my husbands job. He spends his days in an office which is bad enough, but he also teaches other engineers how to use engineering software a week or two most months. Those other engineers come in sick all the time, being very generous with their wonderful diseases. So he brings it home, and we get to content with the little viruses for a few days. We can feel it coming on a day or two after exposure, a vague feeling of unwellness, fatigue, a slight fever. We have this for a day or three and then we’re good. No runny nose, coughing, sneezing, aching, stuffy headed misery for a week. Now, I’ve had to have days like that four or five times this year, but it beats the hell out of being sick for four or five weeks this year.

I’ve always been pretty healthy, but there was a notable change in our health this year when every year before that I would get sick at least once, but usually twice. And the Hubby usually gets sick far worse, loosing days of work to this nonsense. Part of it is recognizing it early and taking precautions, such as taking a day off to sit at home eating, sleeping and watching movies, so our bodies can fight it off. That helps a lot. better one or two days down, than a week or more of misery. We also let the low fevers rage without medicating. The body is trying to kill the virus and they do that by cooking them out, let the fever go!

But even with all that, this year has been clearly far more disease free. How does raw milk help you ask? Part of it is that raw milk has live bacteria and enzyme that take up residence in the digestive track and help out there, making you far more resistant to other nasties. Those new tenants also break down the milk far more efficiently so your body can actually use whats in the milk. The other part is that raw milk is very high in Vitamin D, which we are low on in the winter months. Pasteurized milk kills the good microbes and homogenization changes the molecular structure of the milk, making it far harder for the body to absorb the good stuff in it.

And the benefits of milk fat are enormous. It helps cut down on the amount of fat you store in your belly, mine is noticeably flatter now, it’s a good fat that the body can use for energy, skin and hair moisture and it has a lot of the vitamin D the body needs and calcium.

Pasteurizing made sense when we didn’t have refrigeration and bad stuff got in the milk, but it’s become the way to go, even though it isn’t really necessary anymore. If anything, it allows the dairies to be less clean because they are just going to cook the milk anyway. The farm my milk comes from is clean, has only grass fed cows that are the older genetic lines, and their milk is amazing. Pasteurized milk just tastes gross to me now.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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When authors cross the line

I’m a big fan of Nora Roberts’ In Death series. I’m not huge on her romances, but that’s a tough genre for me and my standards are a bit on the niche side. Still, her writing strength is her snappy dialogue. She writes some of the best in the business in my opinion. It’s like the witty repartee in a good movie only it last through the whole book. And she has a really good sense of humor as well. The relationships Eve develops through the series are really the center of the story, and flow through and weave together the various murders that we see her life through.

I’ve read them all, including short stories, except the latest one. Waiting for the audio book version from my library, and I have to say that the narrator for the series, Susan Erickson, is amazing. She sounds just like I would expect Eve to sound. Sorry, couldn’t help the plug. I’ve been re-reading them over the last few months and I’m noticing a trend, one I’m not really on board with. It seems that in the later books, Eve is starting to get, dare I say it, almost worshiped in each book by the other characters.

The character of Eve has a lot of issues. Fine and dandy, I’m all for that and she spends the series working through those issues, also good. But at some point the other characters in the book are giving her too much praise for things. It seems that in every book at least two people go into a long monologue about how great Eve is and how something she did was just so deeply touching to them. Not just her husband, which is fine, or her best friend, but most of the supporting cast has had this kind of conversation with Eve at least once. This I have to call BS on. People just don’t have those kinds of conversations with each other on a regular basis. These are the kinds of conversations you would have maybe twice in your life. They are deeply revealing conversations that leave you open emotionally to the person you are talking to. Eve isn’t the kind of person you would bear your soul to, because you’d expect her to make a very cutting remark in response. To her credit, she doesn’t, but still, not everyone she knows would take the risk.

If someone saves your life, you’d thank them, sure. Probably profusely the first time. After that, it would be a more simple expression of thanks, not several long, heart felt and gut spilling conversations. Conversations that go only one way in most cases. Eve just acts flustered and embarrassed by the compliments and rarely responds in a positive way. Which makes perfect sense for her. It’s the other characters I wouldn’t expect this from.

It just seems like overkill in a couple spots, like the author is really feeling an emotional bond with her main character, seeing some of herself in the character, or who she wants to be in her character. Nothing wrong with that, all authors pour some of themselves, and some of the selves they want to be into their main characters. It’s the heaping of praise upon this MC in a way that strikes me as heaping such praise upon the self you wish you could be that seems off. Unrealistic and heavy handed. It’s not narcissistic, it’s just uncomfortable for me to read at times. It feels like I’ve just walked in on a couple making love. Too intimate and it takes me out of the fantasy and to far into the author herself.

And it kind of feels like seeing that girl who’s wearing the tee-shirt that proclaims that she’s ‘hawt’, or the mother who gets a license plate that says MILF on it. (Yeah, I’ve seen that plate. More than one I’m afraid.) There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but that takes it a step too far. You can not declare yourself to be hot. You can think you look hot, but you can’t go around telling everyone else that you are. It seems really pretentious and people feel a bit insulted by someone taking it up on themselves to tell you how you are to see them. Who can stand the guy who tells everyone he’s the best on the football team? Who likes the prom queen who makes sure to work that into every conversation? Let everyone else make up their own minds and we won’t be embarrassed for you. And no, I’m not jealous. I have days when I feel pretty hot and I tell my husband and he’s happy to tell me I’m right. And he’s supposed to, but I don’t go to the 19 year old guy at the mall and tell him I’m hot. He might not share that opinion.

I could be reading this wrong, that’s just how it’s striking me. It’s a line and I feel it’s starting to get crossed. Let me decide to love or hate Eve Dallas. Don’t tell me how to think of her, show me who she is, and I’ll decide for myself.

 

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I hate Arugula

I really do. The bitter taste makes my mouth form that universal expression of revulsion with every chew of the foul weed. Not only is it bitter, but it has this overwhelming muddy water flavor that sticks to my teeth. Reprehensible. And just my luck, it’s the new sea salt. Ah, the wonderfully wacky world of fad foods. It seems I’m having a harder and harder time finding a salad mix that doesn’t have arugula, or it’s equally hated, though not quite as foul cousin, radicchio mixed in for good measure.

Yes, I know. If I want bitter, muddy water free salads, I should buy the lettuce and make my own mix. Touche, but for only two people, it’s pretty wasteful. We’d have to eat salad with our breakfast cereal to use it all up. So I like the mixed bags and I like to go organic when possible. Thank you arugula, for making that impossible.

And on the topic of food fads, sea salt in my chocolates! Stop doing that, please. You have ruined caramels with your salt invasion. I can’t get a decent, salt free chocolate from the artisan chocolatiers anymore. They have all been body snatched by aliens with a need for constant salt intake. Why I ask you does the fad food take over the whole food line?

So I wait for the fads to blow over so I can have a fresh salad and superb caramel. May I not wait in vain.

 
 

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Why the meat hate?

I was looking through the flyer for my local health food store, from which I purchase my raw milk cheese, and I was struck by how much stuff in there was touted as meatless. Not a problem really, I have nothing against people who choose not to eat meat. Totally your choice. What I don’t understand is the idea that meat is somehow unhealthy. Where did this idea come from?

Are all meats good to eat constantly? Well no, like all things, food needs to be eaten with great variety. Plants are in the same boat, there are plenty that you don’t want to eat in great quantities. Strawberries come to mind as they can give a lot of people the serious runs.

What really bothers me about this whole Vegetarian movement is the militant faction, who are set on taking meat away from the rest of us. Why? I would understand the humanitarian angle if animals were more humane in their killing habits that we are. And I’m not talking about the huge farming system America has, which is obviously a problem, thanks to government corn subsidies. Corn has changed normal ranching and farming into a hideous monster of disease and mistreatment. I myself purchase beef from a local who raises them on grass and only a small amount of grain. I don’t buy big beef. Chicken is trickier to find, but I get what I can, and I buy wild caught fish.

Have you watched a nature show? Lions aren’t exactly humane when they take down a gazelle. They go for the neck most times, but they don’t always kill cleanly. I have seen more than one big cat snap the spine of an animal, then start chewing on the back half while the front half is trying desperately to crawl away. So why is it okay for them to eat other animals? Because it’s natural?

Okay, let’s look at that a moment. Big cats are carnivores. They need meat to live. You can’t raise a healthy cat on veggies. We aren’t carnivores. We aren’t herbivore either. We can’t spend the day making grass into steak. We aren’t bunnies or deer or cows. We’re omnivores. If you want to talk about evolution, then we are evolved to eat both meat and veggies. Our whole system is designed to run on both. A diet of all one or the other can cause health issues. You can’t be a body builder, or even grow a lot of muscle on veggies alone. And there are a whole host of issues associated with not eating enough plants.

So why this slant toward no meat? Why is an all veggie diet considered the epitome of health? I have no problem with those who choose that lifestyle. I have a problem with the desire of some vegetarians to ban meat from all others. Those who are just plain obnoxious about people eating meat. The ones who have a fit if you eat meat around them, or constantly tell you how bad it is, and such. Why? I don’t demand you eat meat. I don’t spend a whole dinner extolling the vise of eating veggies. I don’t think you should be forced to eat meat by law. Can we just allow for some tolerance of other lifestyles? Be vegetarian if you like it, if it makes you feel good. Great! Everyone is different. Choice is the soul of freedom. Leave it at that.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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The end is Nigh, and it’s name is Watson

My husband came home last night, quite excited because there was a computer system competing on Jeopardy. Being the fellow geek that I am, I was soon drawn into the drama, the new breakthrough in programing that would allow a computer to parse the questions and come up with accurate answers. It’s a fascinating topic and one I’ve always loved, but I’m of the mind that a computer will never be as good at thinking as a human. No Data in our future, which in one sense is a pity. On the other hand, I’ve seen enough fiction about sentient computers that run amok to be a little edgy about the idea. Yes, I know it’s a little far fetched, but perhaps not. Most new inventions have good intentions that can be applied in devious or unintended and unimagined ways. I’m in favor of thinking more carefully over the potential uses of all new things, but alas, that rarely happens.

So we sat down and watched Jeopardy live for the first time in years uncounted. It was night one of a three night challenge. The computer was called Watson. At first, it said and did nothing, leaving the first few questions unanswered. And then it kicked in, and I must admit, a shiver ran down my spine. It sounded like Hal, and spoke in complete sentences. It cleaned off half the board in very short order and left the humans, who are Jeopardy champions I might add, in the dust. One resorted to buzzing in before he’s figured out the answer just to get a chance to answer it. My husband and I speculated on when exactly the computer was given the question and weather that was quite fair or not.

From there we discussed the possibility of a truly thinking machine. My husband saw the documentary footage of how Watson was created, tested and improved. He sees Watson as a learning machine. I still disagree, seeing Watson as a very complex search engine, programmed by humans every inch of the way. Watson takes up a whole room, reminiscent of the first computers back in the 50’s. Every bit of knowledge it has was given to it by humans. It has been programed not to think, but to find answers based on keywords. Heck the entire contents of Wikipedia has been downloaded into it’s hard drive. I don’t see machines ever having the ability to think like we do. Our brains are simply too complex for us to simulate with any accuracy and how could a machine ever have that extra spark that marks true inspiration and innovation? How does man do it for that matter? Our subconscious minds are the super computers in which such thoughts are born. Still, I believe humans have something else, that part of us that is “in the image of God”, that thing that we have but can not create on our own. My husband thinks we can and that it holds the potential for disaster. We at least agree on that score. Thankfully, headway in the thinking computer department is very slow.

We will be watching the final two episodes of this little contest, but despite our differing opinions on the possibility of thinking machine that might spell doom for humanity, we were both still uneasy but utterly fascinated.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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Everything you eat will kill you

Seems to be the trend of the hour. Everywhere I turn, there’s an article telling me something I eat is bad for me and that thus and such is this weeks miracle food. Which will be next weeks spotlighted killer. There is evidence that red meat is bad for you and evidence that it’s good for you. The same thing goes for milk and wheat and sugar and grains and nuts and fats and the list goes on. It’s so hard to figure out what is true, when fear and drama sells the news. Not that this is a diatribe about the news, it’s not. It’s about common sense, something we seem to be loosing a lot of lately.

Everyone is different. Dairy isn’t evil, it doesn’t cause all the worlds ills. It’s good for most people, especially raw milk, which is the best source of natural calcium. It has in it the enzymes your body needs to break itself down and the other agents that allow you body to not only absorb, but utilize the calcium. A lot of people who are mildly lactose intolerant can drink raw milk. But here’s the catch, if you hate milk, if it makes you feel bad, then don’t drink it! Simple. Similar things can be said for most of the new ‘bad’ foods out there.

What I find truly amazing is the lack of moderation. It’s something I’ve seen happen over and over, we humans run from one extreme to the other, with no slowing for thought or breath. Well, if high fructose corn syrup in large quantities is bad for you then logically all corn is bad for you! What? Than makes no sense! There is nothing wrong with eating corn, the Native Americans lived on the stuff! Yes, it was a different breed than we use now, but just eat it in moderation. We don’t need to have a diet where that is the main carbohydrate, like they did. Why is this so hard to figure out?

The same thing happened to wheat. Too much overly processed and nutrient stripped white flour is not the best for your body, but having a piece of cake once or twice a week isn’t the end of the world either. Just use some common sense, the closer a food is to it’s natural state, generally speaking of course, the better it is for you because your body was made to process it that way.

And as I said, everyone is different. People have different metabolic types and some people function better on certain foods. I am a protein type, I like lots of protein and good fats with some carbs. I feel better and everything runs better on this type of diet. There are carb types out there that run well on more carbs and less protein. What’s good for them is bad for me and what’s good for me is bad for them. Listen to your own body, use some common sense and do a little research.

We are all going to die. Life is terminal and too much of anything is bad. Moderation is key. So eat some whole grains, have some grass fed beef and a bloody cookie and you’ll be fine. And I think most people have figured this all out, but it doesn’t sell news. What a pity.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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