MileHiCon and Other Madness

Well, it happened again. Rustlers have stolen a whole flock of days right out of my Time Barn! Where are the strong, silent masked strangers when you need them?

We shall persevere regardless. I want to start out by thanking Fred, Sandy and Manda, who are smart enough to know what 'fortnights' are, and kind enough to write and tell me. It's seems this term is Brit for fourteen nights. Easy when you know, isn't it?

FYI: I have added some new photos to the Gallery. Drop by and check them out if you feel like it!

With the finest of intentions, I wrote notes for this while driving home from MileHiCon, the science fiction convention I mentioned in my last NNNN. (OK, technically Caro was driving and I was riding....) But by the time we got home, tiredness had eclipsed virtue, and I cravenly went to bed. I guess my sense of passing time just stayed there till now!

If you're not involved in a hobby that features regional or national get-togethers for its followers (or even if you are), you may picture a science fiction convention as a bunch of nuts in goofy costumes sharing ludicrous ideas with each other. And you wouldn't be completely wrong--but there's a lot more to it than that.

Once you've been in 'fandom' awhile, a con has the better elements of a high school reunion. I've been going to this particular one for over 20 years. So one of the best things I did this weekend was play "Do You Remember When..." with a lot of old friends.

I remembered various goofy costumes I wore during my years as Masquerade Chair. The pink mutant Dalmatian one sticks strongly in people's memories, possibly because I had a properly canine array of mammary glands (made of nerf balls sliced in half) lined up inside my swimsuit. For many years it was a tradition for me to come up with a costume involving changing my skin color to green, purple, blue, gold, or even something unusual. I gave it up quite a while back, but people still wistfully ask me whether I am going to be painting myself this year. Yes, I'm in memory yet green....

At another MileHiCon, I was a spider. The artist guest of honor that year was Gahan Wilson, the famous horror cartoonist. When he signed a book of his work, he embellished it with a little cartoon sketch of me in my eight armed glory! (Yes, I still have it, and no, I'm not planning to sell it on eBay any time soon.)

I remembered being at MileHiCon two years ago when we were all trapped in by the Blizzard of '97. Attendees and hotel employees alike were stuck there at the Sheraton. Luckily there were enough rooms, and the staff proved to be very adaptable--busboys helping to cook for the buffets that fed us all, and that sort of thing. There have been years when MileHiCon was held at hotels so cheap and hideous I am quite sure the staff would have survived by eating the guests!

I remembered our big kids attending when they weren't as big. Kenny, who joined our family at age 12, took to cons like a stray cat to tuna. He reveled in staying awake the entire weekend in the role-playing game suite (it made him very easy to find when we needed him.) Sterling did the same, but mostly stayed up watching the 24 hour movie programming. Damaris was not as interested in the sf/fantasy aspects, but she instinctively recognized a prime social butterfly venue, and fluttered happily through the cons, making new best friends every year.

Michael has been to a few MileHiCons, briefly, as a baby. I expect he'll be coming along like his siblings did when he gets a little older.

This year Kenny made an appearance, at our special request, to attend a small party celebrating his engagement to Melissa, a very sweet, charming and intelligent girl who has our full approval. Caro's Aunt Marcia, a part-time caterer, made us some truly exquisite cakes for the occasion. Beth and Sterling and my youngest granddaughter Lexie were there too. She probably won't remember that at dinner at her first convention she sat across the table from Lois McMaster Bujold, the multiple award winning writer who was MileHiCon's guest of honor. But we can remind her she's got those braggin' rights when she's older.

If you were subscribed to the NNNN in September, Ms. Bujold's name ought to ring a bell with you, as I rhapsodized about her latest book in Mailing #4, "Capers". This was my first chance to meet her in person, and I was pleased to discover she is just as interesting and entertaining to spend time with as any of her books!

Of course I have many con memories of friends as well. The year Bill told Kenny how to make a death ray out of things commonly found around the home (ok, it was only a sort of low-grade laser, but still!) The year Bonnie, Bill's wife, missed most of the con because she had to pop off to the hospital to have Morgan (who had her Sweet Sixteen party this year!). I have learned much about physics in everyday life from Courtney Willis's fun and wacky science presentations, but what I really remember are his great costume presentations where he imitated Carl Sagan. We shall not see their like again.

One of the things that I noticed this year is that babies and little kids were everywhere! Back when we first started attending with Damaris and Sterling, kids were looked at askance, as though they were rare and possibly dangerous creatures. Now there are lots of them in attendance, many much better behaved than my little darlings sometimes weren't. A big highlight for me this year was getting to at last meet Maya, the daughter Rich and Carol fetched home from China. She is a stunning cutie pie, and will no doubt continue to lead them on a merry chase for quite some time to come!

But what do people do at these cons?, you might still be wondering. The short answer is, we attend discussion panels and readings of works in progress. We look at the wonders in the art show and the dealers room. We play games and watch movies and go out to eat. But the main thing we do is talk and enjoy the companionship of like-minded friends we don't see nearly enough of. There's just no better way to spend a weekend! Even when it isn't blowing up a blizzard outside.

One last highlight. My friend Rose pointed out to me that one can pronounce NNNN like the old playground taunt, "Nan-nan-nan-nah!" Left me speechless....

Quote of the Week:

You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes. -- Winnie the Pooh (A. A. Milne)

Need an attribution, a nifty opening line, or just a quote fix? There are some great links to quote sources on the NNNN web page!

Here is your 'Pic(k) of the Week' URL:

This is me being a showoff. Combining two of my hobbies, I resculpted and repainted a Breyer model horse to look like an equine supporting character well known to readers of Lois McMaster Bujold's books, Fat Ninny. It was my first time painting with an airbrush!

Kid Stuff

Did you ever stop to think how odd it is that the phrase 'kid stuff' is supposed to mean something ridiculously easy? Simple? Not any kind of a challenge? I'm here to tell ya, it's Not True. We've had quite a lot of 'kid stuff' going on around here lately, so I would know. So would just about any parent....

Tops on the list, our whole extended family has been passing around the various Germs of the Month...for about three months, come to think of it. We all took turns having the Wheezing Coughing Crud and the Unfortunate Digestive Malfunctions Crud--but then the grandkids capped everyone by sprouting Chicken Pox. (And my daughter-in-law Beth, being a kid at heart as well as immune system, spotted up as well, which was very not fun for her.) Happily, the Extreme Crankiness Red Alert has been ended--and all the kids' sunny dispositions are back too.

Someone asked me recently whether I felt I was fitting into the role of being a grandma. As happens all too often, I didn't really figure out my answer until several days later. I do think I feel like a grandma (for example, I make all the right funny noises when I get up out of my chair after a few hours in front of the computer), but since I have a 7 year old child, I'm still pretty deep in the mom role, so they sort of mix.

It's weird, when your child's teacher at school is the same age as your big kids, as happened in Mike's kindergarten year. (They expect to be giving you child-training tips, not listening to your sage advice!) And Family Night, when all the other parents around you look like a high school field trip that got mis-routed? Yow!

This year, being a first grader, Michael has signed up for Tiger Cub Scouts, and happily the leaders are closer to my age than his. In Tiger Cubs, each boy has an adult partner who comes to the meetings and activities, which of course in Michael's case is me. I am hoping we won't be doing a lot of hiking, as I can get winded walking out to get the newspaper at the end of the drive.

They let you choose a lot of your own projects, and I'm glad, because I am uncertain about some of the suggested ones in the book. 'Play a game with your family.' Does our prelude to doing laundry, Hide the Favorite Outgrown Pants and Seek Socks, count? Making up new silly words to old songs? How about that bedtime classic, The Adventures of Tickle Snake? (Tickle Snake is like a sock puppet without the sock--but he's a very funny guy despite not being a snazzy dresser.) See, we play games all the time. Just not many of the kind with boards and a bazillion pieces that go missing as soon as the shrink wrap is off.

Also, I cannot find a mention anywhere in the book for the activity, 'Put together a family home page'. Maybe it will be in the next revised edition. The reason I went looking for it is because I decided to make Mike his own page for the pictures he has been taking with his new camera, some of which are quite interesting and artistic. (No, of course I am not prejudiced--you know that!) I'll let you know when I get it put up.

The biggie for recent Kid Stuff, though, was Halloween. Michael had been looking forward eagerly to that since...probably about November 1, 1998. He had about a dozen costume ideas which he would rotate every couple of days--some easy (ghost), but ranging on up to darn near impossible, like the peacock or the train. (At least he didn't think of a peacock train! Or a peacock ghost train!) Happily, when we actually went looking around the stores for ideas, we found a play firefighter outfit, a plastic vest with a badge and a hatchet as accessories. It was easy to pick up a few more things to fill out the look, and he already had the hat! So Halloween was a rip-roaring good time.

Right up until he threw up in the car, on the way home from trick or treating.

Quote of the Week:

We must stop equating sanity with conformity, eccentricity with craziness, and normalcy with numbers. We must get in touch with our own liberating ludicrousness and practice being harmlessly deviant. -- Sarah J. McCarthy

Need an attribution, a nifty opening line, or just a quote fix? There are some great links to quote sources on the NNNN web page!

Here is your 'Pic(k) of the Week' URL:

And here he is, the one and only Fireman Mike, complete with sooty face! (Note the neon graveled driveway described in NNNN #7)

Or perhaps you'd like to see Tiger Cub Mike?


A Nice Normal Thanksgiving

I must come before you this week and admit failure.

Thanksgiving being the family holiday that it is, I thought I was going to get to write a tears-in-the-eyes, snorting, pound-on-your-chest-because-you're-laughing-too-hard-to-breathe column like so many other writers have before me. The kind where the participants indulge in a family fight that would make professional wrestlers wince, while everything all around goes horribly wrong until at the end, the turkey explodes as it is being placed on the table. But I'm afraid I didn't get that kind of support from my family....

(ObNonUS--American Thanksgiving is a sort of harvest festival holiday, and there is so much I could say about it that I'm not going to even try. Extended families get together and eat huge meals, generally with a turkey as the main meat course; that's the part you need to know for the purposes of this mailing.)

Maybe some of the failure is my fault. I was a Thanksgiving Slacker this year. True, I put in many years of work to make the day raising Damaris, who volunteered to cook the whole meal and have everyone over to their house for the big day. In time-honored fashion, Damaris has rebelled against her upbringing. The girl whose bedroom carpet was a comfy six inches of doffed clothing is now an organized woman who keeps a super-neat house. I think maybe her father cheated on me with Martha Stewart.

Wednesday night, when other moms all over the US were in the midst of the final preparations for the cooking orgy to come, I went to the movies. (Saw Bone Collector, which was pretty good--but I'd have to rate it EMT for the quasi-medical and other gore.) I did make one traditional family recipe to bring the next day, which we call Clown In A Blender. You know, that salad with shredded coconut, sour cream, pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges and a whole lot of colored miniature marshmallows....

Thursday morning I was sitting at my computer, trying to answer a little of my eBay-related email, when I got Pagooed. (In case you don't know, Pagoo is a cool program that will take voice messages from phone callers when you are connected to the internet, and bounce them up on your screen for you to listen to--way cheaper than a second phone line!) It was my mom, saying, "Susan, we're in Wiley." (That's the town about 12 miles from Lamar where Damaris and her family live.) "I don't have Damaris's address or phone number. So call me back on (my nephew) Justin's cell phone...789...789...Justin, what's your number?...What do you mean, you don't know it?....okay, it's...555...789...95--*sprick-sprack-crackle*...." Dead air.

The holiday was off to a great start, I thought, rubbing my hands with glee. But then I ruined this promising beginning by knowing there was only one place in Wiley they could have stopped to phone from, the brand-new gas station just built on the highway. So I called to Damaris's house, and sent my son-in-law Nigel up to find the Denver delegates and point them in the right direction.

Despite that promising beginning, things insisted on going depressingly right. We all showed up to find a lovely selection of attractive appetizers waiting for us. The guys went outside to throw a football around for a while, then found a football game on TV instead. The Broncos weren't on, but they were all rooting for the same side anyway, so no fights there.

I had picked up a faster modem for Damaris and Nigel's computer, and I went to install that while the turkey cooked. It went in with little trouble and worked fine right away. Nothing funny about that. The oddball version of Internet Explorer that came with their pre-owned machine still wasn't working right, and I was having a little trouble finding the Netscape site I wanted, but Sterling had arrived by then, and he got it going. Because of the slow holiday connections, it took about 5 hours to get the whole thing. So I missed the big ER episode where Carol Hathaway had her twins, but Damaris taped it, so I will get to see it later. They probably had a hundred times more angst and drama in that one episode than we had the whole day in real life!

Now my report really gets boring. The food was very good, we ate it, and had a nice visit. Nothing exploded. The closest we came was when the pop-up timer in the turkey popped up.

Talk about a walk on the wild side.

Quote of the Week:

She plunged into a sea of platitudes, and with the powerful breast stroke of a channel swimmer made her confident way towards the white cliffs of the obvious. -- W. Somerset Maugham

Need an attribution, a nifty opening line, or just a quote fix? There are some great links to quote sources on the NNNN web page!

Here is your 'Pic(k) of the Week' URL:

A Faithful Reader sent this in to me -- very funny parody of!