Tag Archive | CONvergence

Friend a Day – Brian Keene

Photo by Debbie Kuhn

Photo by Debbie Kuhn

CONvergence week continues!

I don’t know what it is about Brian but he and I hit it off right away.  We aren’t all that similar but there’s something about him that made him instantly likable.

A few years back, we had a competition to see who could stay up later at the dead dog party.  We were both sitting at dinner and were exhausted and I was thinking it would be an early night for me.  Then Brian bet me that he could stay up later than me.

Later, he offered me a drink and I told him I didn’t drink.  “Why didn’t you tell me that before we made that bet,” he asked.

“Because you didn’t ask,” I said.

I stayed up far later than I wanted to but the important thing is I won the bet.  It was for $1.

Brian is a writer the way some people are truck drivers.  He is always writing.  He is always looking for that next job that will keep him employed at what he does best.

And he’s always fighting to make things better for himself and his fellow writers.  When he perceives something unfair in his industry, he will bang the gong to make it right.  He’s a prizefighter in an industry that needs more people like him.

He’s very open about who he is to the world.  His life, like the lives of so many writers, is not the perfect world we might expect.  He is honest about those challenges that he faces and it makes him relatable to the people who read his work.

I think that the thing I like about Brian the most is his quick wit and willingness to play.  If you throw him on any kind of panel or show, he’ll look natural and at ease.  He knows how to relax and enjoy the ride.

I only get to see him when he’s at the convention and he hasn’t been in a few years.  I think I need to make it my personal mission to figure out how we can get him back next year for sure.  The convention just isn’t as much fun without him.

To learn more about Brian, go to his website and read his blog.  I know I do!

Friend a Day – Bridget Landry

Photo by Peter Verrant

Photo by Peter Verrant

CONvergence week continues!

Today’s friend a day was a Guest of Honor at CONvergence almost by accident.  We went looking for a scientist from the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab and received a few suggestions.  Knowing nothing about any of the people suggested, we decided to invite Bridget.

Boy was that a good decision.

Bridget is an honest to goodness rocket scientist who loves sharing her work with others.  Her presentations on the latest Cassini data are always extremely popular.  When they don’t make it on the official schedule, she does a guerrilla panel that often has more people than some official panels.

What makes her presentations work is her effusive personality.  She thinks this stuff is wicked cool and that helps teach other people that it is, in fact, wicked cool.

Her enthusiam makes science accessible to laypeople, which is something I think is extremely important.  When she does her Cassini presentation or her and Dr. Jim Kakalios rip apart the science in Mission to Mars, she is making science interesting and fun.

What makes her the perfect fit for CONvergence is the fact she truly is one of us.  In addition to having one of the coolest jobs ever, she is an amazing costumer who shows up at every con with at least a half dozen costumes.  I’m not sure I’ve actually seen her in regular street clothing.

She gets into the spirit of the convention in a way that makes her a delight to have around.

There have been a couple of years where Bridget came to the convention even though she was not an official guest of honor and even in those years, she was remarkably generous with her time.  She has a mission, I think, to share her work with anyone who will listen and the good news is there area  lot of people who will listen.

She’s not at the convention this week, which is a shame.  She’ll be missed.  I look forward to her next visit.

Friend a Day – Rob Callahan

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CONvergence week continues!

Rob and I run in many of the same circles and yet it seems that we typically only connect at CONvergence.  Consequences of busy lives.

Rob is one of those people who is always relaxed and comfortable.  At least he looks that way.  Striking up a conversation with him is easy because he’ll happily talk about almost anything. He is open and honest and if you want his opinion, you will always get it.

As a storyteller, he has the same relaxed personality.  There is a lived in quality to the way he presents himself.  He looks comfortable and confident with the material but never cocky.  He doesn’t oversell his work but instead he inhabits it.

His blogging is very socially conscious but I don’t feel he comes across as preachy.  It feels kind of like a dinner conversation where he is laying out his thoughts and you are nodding because you can’t think of anything to say that runs counter to his point of view.

His wit is dry, clever, and delightfully sarcastic.  His jokes don’t feel forced.  They feel natural.

In a lot of his writing, he has been a strong advocate for the geek community.  A lot of articles in the press will tend to focus on the “look at the freaks” nature of science fiction conventions.

Rob works to counter that with writing that says “look at these people with different hobbies and interests, wouldn’t you like to grab a coffee with one of them?”

He is a geek himself, sure.  But he recognizes that every community has their quirks and he’d rather celebrate and elevate the quirks of his community.

The convention is nearly upon us and, once again, I will likely find no more than fifteen minutes to chat with Rob.

That’s a shame.  If it is only fifteen minutes, though, I’m still looking forward to them.

I almost forgot!  You should read his blog!

Friend a Day – Stephanie Zvan

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CONvergence week continues here at Friend a day headquarters!

I met Stephanie when we were in the same play in college.  I was nearly killed by a piece of scenery on opening night.  That’s a different story.

After that show, I hardly saw her for years.  It was only through the Skepchick/FreethoughtBlog events at CONvergence that we re-connected.

Stephanie is devoted to supporting social justice issues through her Almost Diamonds blog.  She has become a target for a lot of internet hatred because she’s not willing to back away from an important fight.  She’s openly critical of well known members of the atheist community like Richard Dawkins.

I can’t imagine how exhausting the abuse can become and yet Stephanie faces it with a sense of humor and, I think, the conviction that she is right.

When there is an issue that has me upset, I find that Stephanie frequently is commenting on exactly the thing that has me frustrated.  Her thoughts are well researched and detailed.  Certainly you can disagree with her but you can’t disagree with the effort she put into presenting a cogent argument.

She was a guest on Geeks Without God our first weekend and was one of the people who helped set the tone.  We’ve had her back since to play the horrible Left Behind Board game.  You have to have a little extra helping of respect for anyone who endured that game.

I remember working with Stephanie on that show all those years ago and even back then she had a ton of confidence you knew would get her through a lot.  It is that strong sense of self that helps her keep saying things that make her a target for a lot of petty stupidity.

And that is something I don’t think the petty, stupid people have figured out.  Being an asshole on the internet is easy.  Fighting against the assholes is a lot harder.

I’m really proud to know someone who is fighting the assholes.

 

Friend a Day – Harry Knowles

Photo by Brett A. Hart

Photo by Brett A. Hart

It’s CONvergence week and that means all my Friend a Day posts will probably have something to do with the convention.

Harry was a Guest of Honor at our first convention back in 1999.  He’s returned a couple of times since then and I’ve been fortunate enough to go down to Austin almost every year since then for Butt-Numb-a-Thon.

Through that, I’ve gotten to know Harry as well as anyone who only sees him once a year can really know anyone.  I love going down for the movie festival but I’m even happier to spend time with people I hardly ever see.  Like Harry.

The thing about Harry is he is living the dream all of us geeks had when we were young.  I’m not resentful of that fact because he is completely aware of how fortunate he is to live that dream and he is always doing his best to share it with others.

Sitting with Harry talking to him about movies is sort of like film school every time.  He knows so much about the film industry and film history it kind of blows my mind.  And he is so fucking smart, he can take all of that information, process it, and draw intelligent conclusions.

When he introduces you to someone, he will then probably spend at least twenty minutes telling you everything about that person.  He doesn’t talk about that person’s faults.  He tells you why he likes them so much.  I think he just has the ability to see the best in everyone.

His sense of humor is mildly sadistic.  If he pokes fun at you, it is because he likes you.  He also expects the same in return.  He is completely capable of taking as much as he’s been given.

I’m glad that we asked Harry to come to the convention all those years.  If we hadn’t, I wouldn’t have ended up seeing him once a year.  Once a year isn’t enough, but it’s better than nothing.

 

 

Friend a Day – Alicia LaMunion

Photo by Mike Lee

Photo by Mike Lee

I’ve known Alicia since she moved to Minnesota several years ago.  She became a large part of the local geek community as soon as she moved to town.

She has always been someone who has seemed very open and honest about everything.  I’m not sure if I know anyone less deceptive than Alicia.  I think she wouldn’t know how to be any other way.

When it comes to gardening, she is very talented and active.  She has helped us a little bit with the plants around our house and without her help, we’d have nothing but weeds.  I’m always impressed with people like Alicia who seem to have a natural knack with plants because I sure don’t have that knack.

Her interest in outdoor activities like fishing and boating is something she’s offered to pass on to our kids and I really appreciate that offer.  I don’t fish but if the boys want to learn, it is great to know that we have a friend who not only can teach them but actively wants to teach them.

Alicia has a very pleasant demeanor that makes me look forward to seeing her.  The pleasantry of asking you how you are doing never feels like just a pleasantry when it comes from her.  She seems genuinely interested in the answer.

We have a tendency to run in to Alicia and her husband Mike at a lot of local events like movie openings, presentations by Neil Degrasse Tyson, conventions, and it always seems strange that I wasn’t expecting to see them there.  They really embrace their interests and it is a big part of their identity.

I regret that some choices I’ve made lately have left less time for friends like Alicia.  I’m trying to make a few adjustments to fix that because it is important to make time for friends like her.

 

Friend a Day – Christopher Robert Cargill

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Photo by Eugene Hsu

I’ve known Cargill since I met him in a kitchen in Austin, Texas.  We were both trying to stuff 200+ bags full of SWAG for Butt-Numb-a-Thon.  Actually, I think I was mostly in the attic rolling posters.

I’m fairly certain I thought he was loud and obnoxious.  I was an idiot.

He is loud.  But he’s not obnoxious.

Fortunately, it only took me about 24 hours to figure that out.

Cargill is better informed about almost any topic than anyone I know.  I may not always agree with his opinion (though I usually do) but I can’t argue with his facts.

I’ve gone to him for advice on several occasions as there are very few people whose opinion I value more than his.  He has a way of cutting through all the bullshit and getting right to the central issue that has to be addressed.

He’s also one of the most gracious hosts I know.  When Butt-Numb-a-Thon rolls around, he and Jess open up their home to a parade of out-of-town guests.  I’ve never felt unwelcome in their home.  They make you feel like you are one of the most important people in the world for the time you spend there.

In the years of doing panels with him at CONvergence, he has shown he is up for just about anything.  If we are doing a comedy panel, he is funny.  If we are doing a panel about movies, he knows a lot about movies.  As a writer, he knows a lot about writing.

He doesn’t use a panel to sell his work.  I assume that he expects being an intelligence and informed speaker can do more to sell his work than trying to talk about his work every second.

Cargill is going to be a Guest of Honor at the convention this year and that has been a long time coming.  His resume certainly means he is worthy of the title.  It is his personality, however, that makes him perfect.

He is loud, yes.  He is also generous, intelligent, funny, and creative.  I can’t wait for CONvergence attendees to get to know him better this weekend.