Jeff Mach’s event is huge. The largest of the steampunk conventions I’ve gone to with 4,000 attendees last year. In the lead up to this year they filled up the two main hotels quickly. Filled up an overflow hotel and then another overflow hotel.
The halls were going to be packed.Friday
And, when we got there, a big chunk of parking lot was closed. And I am not just referring to the spaces that were closed off for the Midway tents and performance stage, this was a bunch of space in front of the Embassy Suites that was blocked off. What’s with that? Didn’t they know we were coming? Heck, even Wikipedia knows the con attendance numbers.
My first of four presentations was my most practiced Mystery Airships. The con’s projector worked without issue though the alignment wasn’t the best for the space. The room wasn’t packed but it was pretty full and afterwards I received a lot of compliments in addition to a few questions. A couple, Lee and Diane, were very complimentary. They are involved in the Philly Science Fiction Society
and will often bring speakers to their meetings though my being from Pittsburgh might make that a little prohibitive. They are also involved with programming at Philcon
and I explained that I hadn’t been going to Philcon recently, being busy with steampunk focused cons rather than the more general science fiction cons, but if I were to be comped a membership I would certainly consider coming out to be on programming and panels.
I took my presentation stuff back to the room and came down with my copy of Morlock Night
because at 10pm there was to be a “Hangout with K. W. Jeter
" event in the bar. I didn’t know what Jeter looked like but when I saw Lee and Diane sitting with a few people at a table I thought I was on the right track. And, since I had already met them, it wouldn’t seem to strange for me to introduce myself and ask to join them.
So, for the next few hours I hung out with K. W. Jeter, his wife Geri, Paul DiFillipo
, and (as I later looked up on the web) Lee Weinstein, assistant editor for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
in the late 70s and early 80s, and Diane Weinstein, who had been editor of Weird Tales
magazine through the 90s.
With such an august assemblage I probably should have made more of an effort to talk about writing and presentations and otherwise network myself. Instead, it was mostly about the Jeter’s adventures of living in Ecuador.Saturday
Recognizing that partying goes on, there was no programming until 11am and most things didn’t get going until noon. That allowed me to sleep as much as I could. That was still no later than about 9am.
My Victorian Spacecraft program was at 1:15. I neglected to research a few things that I had learned at the Steampunk Symposium that I might have wanted to add but their omission did not detract. This is my second-most practiced program and it went smoothly and on time.
Last year, Louise Krasniewicz did a presentation on the Worlds Fairs and introduced the story of Emma Allison, the woman who ran the steam engine that powers the Womens’ Pavillion at the 1976 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Based on that introduction, I added Emma Allison to the Civil War narrative “A World Unmade” that I was writing for TeslaCon.
This year, the presentation was specifically on Emma Allison
and we learned more. For example, we learned that she was not from Iowa, as had been reported in the previous presentation, but was from Ontario. This means that I will need to make a few minor adjustments to “A World Unmade.” A few words in a single paragraph will cover it but I will still need to get a hold of Lord Bobbins to make sure the change is in there.
Frank Todaro, host of The Invisible World
radio program, did a presentation on the Victorian Paranormal, specifically focusing on spirit photography. He started off with a few “ghost” photographs including the Amityville Ghost Boy photo and the Wem Town Hall fire
. He presented the Wem Town Hall picture as fact or “a mystery” when I know that it was debunked as a hoax with the girl spliced in from a postcard.
He then proceeded to cover 19th century “spirit” photography which, time and time again was shown to be simple (and sometimes hilariously inept) double exposures. Even so, with fake after fake after fake presented, at the end he told a few spooky, unsubstantiated stories and insisted that just because all these things are obvious or proven fakes doesn’t mean that there aren’t real ones out there and that there aren’t really ghosts.
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
Sorry, but that’s not true. Oh, in a certain gnostic sense we cannot know with absolute certainty that in a massive universe such a thing isn’t possible, but possibility is not probability and we don’t operate in that fringe world.
If I loose my keys and search my house; looking in my pockets, on top of the dresser, in the drawers, under the furniture, in the refrigerator and so on, if I don’t find the keys then eventually I must come to the conclusion that since it is not anywhere I have looked in the house and I have looked in a large majority of places in the house to be looked in, the probability is that the keys are not in the house. Each place looked in without success changes the probability that they will be found in the house and ultimately that probability becomes so small as to become virtually non-existant. The keys could still be in the house, in some bizarre place requiring a strange set of unusual circumstances wherein a squirrel broke into my house, grabbed my keys and stashed them behind the rafters in the attic, but, at some point, I should accept that the odds are against it and I should give up and search somewhere else.
This is the intuitive version of Bayes Theorem
that we use every day. So, in the aforementioned case, when we compare the number of spirit photographs (a very large number) with the number of spirit photographs that were shown to be actual spirits (zero or, to be exceedingly generous, a very small number), no mater how much you want to believe, the odds are that spirit photography is untrue.
And, once that conclusion is accepted, the burden of proof falls on the claimant to overturn the overwhelming lack of evidence with some extraordinary evidence to support their claim. Just saying, “it’s possible” and “you’re just being closed minded” isn’t enough, they have to actually find the squirrel that took the keys.
This is why one of presentations I want to develop will be on 19th century pseudo-science, hoaxes and charlatans. Spirit photography was debunked in the 19th Century. William Mumler, the man credited with beginning the spirit photography industry was convicted of fraud within a decade of going into business. Homeopathy was considered humbug from the outset but was conclusively falsified by Avagadro’s theories, also within a decade or so. Phrenology, introduced in 1809 was completely discredited by the 1840s. All of these things were known to be false shortly after they were introduced because the people proposing them failed to present any evidence to support their claims. Lacking that, the scientific community had no choice but to conclude that there was no there there and moved on. That the proponents of these discredited and unsupported pseudosciences continued to promote their ideas is a testament, not to that triumph of the underdog fighting against the establishment but speaks to the gullibility of people who want to believe.
My Century of the Beard presentation is still too long, leading me to rush through the end. I will need to cut even more photographs. The advantage is that the next time I present at Up In The Aether
, they have me at the end of the block so I could, theoretically, go on as long as people were willing to sit. I’ll trim and then go with what I have at an appropriate pace. Without rushing, I’ll be able to get a better sense of just how far I’ve gone over time so that I know precisely how many pictures I would need to cut.
I realigned the projector with the screen on the other side of the front of the room to maximize the image.
I went to the Steam Powered Giraffe concert. They were entertaining but not enough for me to become a fanboy. I saw plenty of people in makeup and costume so I know that there are a lot of people who are enamored of their act but I’m simply not one of them.
After that we went back to the room which, at the Raddison, was overlooking the parking lot where the performance stage was set up. That meant that Voltaire’s performance was clearly audible from the room so there wasn’t going to be any sleeping until that was over.
Even so, I probably got to sleep earlier on Saturday night than I had on Friday night.Sunday
The beard contest was “first thing” on Sunday morning. A number of fine beards and mustaches. I did not win or place.
I have been looking for gear buttons to spruce up my tailcoat. I had seen some online but hadn’t ordered them because I wanted to be sure of the size. Threads of Time
had them for more than I would pay online but with shipping and the knowledge of exactly what I was getting they purchased at the merely inflated “con pricing.” I also bought some lacing from Tandy Leather for the rifle/shotgun scabbards I plan on building.
Last year I had intended to purchase a reprint of “Varney the Vampire
” but the dealer had sold out. He brought extras so that he was not sold out before the last hours of the con.
My fourth program for the weekend was my Airship Technology and History presentation. After previous performances I had completely retooled it, focusing on the technology of how airships work rather than going through a chronological history of airships. Though there are still things I would like to cover, this presentation went much better overall.
I would have liked to have stayed for the Airships in Literature presentation but adelheid_p
looked like she wanted to get going and, in all honesty, I was burning out as well. We both had to go to work the next day and getting going earlier rather than later was probably a good thing.
As I was leaving, I received several compliments for my airship presentation, which I humbly received. I was also given a box of squid bits. No, really. I was given a container of cephalopod tentacles.
Over dinner in Carslile, adelheid_p
and I talked a little about being comped. Even though I have been involved with cons for a long time, even with running them, she knows more about the inside and said that if someone does three panels or more, they will typically be comped. That is the policy at Confluence. I’ve done four at SPWF and at TeslaCon and paid my full rate at the gate.
Should I start limiting myself or holding out for a presented badge? I’ve talked to Brian Thomas (Major Girth of the IAAC
) and he seemed to indicate that he won’t go unless he is comped, citing that he is an author and is working. He’s not there to have fun. I’m not an author yet, so I don’t have that sort of “leverage”, I’m working on that a bit with TeslaCon but that hasn’t panned out yet.
Should I say, “sure, I’ll do presentations but if you have me doing more than three I’d like to be comped in some way.” Am I still not enough of a somebody to pull that off? SPWF is huge and has a big chunk of revenue going on. Do I hold out for compensation from them but lighten it for smaller, less financially secure cons?
The Up In The Aether convention is this upcoming weekend and I’m doing all four of my presentations there.
Last Thursday, the Sandcastle section of the Steel Valley Trail was finally completed. This morning was the first time I had to ride it and it will now be my standard commute, doubling the amount that I ride each day.
It was a good ride in but this afternoon was spectacular. The new section near Keystone Metals is right across from Hay's Woods and the place where a pair of bald eagles have chosen to build a nest and raise a family.
I have ridden plenty of trails over the years and have from time to time spotted these magnificent raptors flying in the distance but to see them here after an absence of two centuries is nearly indescribable. I could feel it in my chest. My eyes welled up, making it difficult to see the bird roosting across Carson Street and the railroad tracks. My eyes are tearing up as I write this recollection now.
Welcome to Pittsburgh. Welcome home.
I had to work last Saturday because of some silly scheduling rotation but that gave me Thursday off. Having a day off, I was able to schedule for a technician from the Wilkinsburg Penn Joint water Authority to come on site and replace the meter reading transmitter as was deemed necessary by a note left on the door a few weeks previous. In scheduling, I was told the tech would be on site some time between 8am and 4pm.
I slept in till about 8:30, got up, had breakfast, took out some garbage and then sat down in the library in front of my laptop to check email, browse feeds, rant on Facebook and work on some steampunk presentation projects.
Around 10am I noticed a white service van drive up the street and then drive away. I didn’t get a good enough look to see if it was the water company van but it seemed likely that the tech had gone to the wrong house.
Around 12:30 I grew suspicious enough to call the water company. The attendee there indicated that the technician had been on site at 10am, found no one home, left a note and left. I explained that I was watching the street the entire time, that a van had driven past and driven away but it had not stopped in front of my house, no one got out, the doorbell wasn’t rung, the door wasn’t knocked upon (I think I even had the front door open at the time), and there was no note left on the door. I even walked up and down the street and could not find a note left on any of my neighbor’s doors.
Two hours later, the tech came back. Drove past the house, turned around then stopped in front of the house. He took about 10 minutes to do his work and, when he was done, I asked him about his previous visit. Had he gone to the wrong house? Was the wrong address listed on the work order?
He told me the same story that he had relayed through the office attendant earlier; that he had stopped, rung the doorbell, knocked on the door, read the meter and left a note.
He lied to my face.
So, while he was out in his van writing his work up, I called the water company again. He had said he had done a meter reading so I asked if their system showed a time stamp that would confirm that he had been there at the time he claimed. The attendant told me that their system doesn’t have such a thing. She asked about why I was asking and I explained in detail what had happened and that I believed that the tech had lied to my face and that I was displeased about it.
Now, if he had told that he had simply gone to the wrong house then that would at least have been a believable lie. The US postal service, FedEx, UPS, Google Maps, the electric company, the gas company, the phone company, the garbage company, the county assessor’s office, and, up until today, the water company have all been able to find my house. I mean, it’s not like my house number isn’t in six inch high characters on my garage door.
But instead he had lied to his employers and then was forced to reiterate the lie that he had stopped in front of my house, knocked on the door, rang the bell and left a note.
The attendant on the phone said that a supervisor would be looking into it.
I am not expecting results.
Advice to users #1
When your machine is giving you blue screens of death, referenced memory errors, config.sys file missing or corrupt, hard drive failures and so on, there is NOTHING I can do over the phone to fix your machine.
Advice to users #2
If you are going to call me "Absolutely useless" after the call is ended, at least wait until the call has actually ended.
If it was just myself, I would get up at 5am, like I normally do for work, and get going by 6. adelheid_p
, on the other hand, is always much more leisurely and is satisfied with arriving just when the convention programming is getting under way mid afternoon so she would have preferred to leave at 10. I thought 8am was a reasonable compromise.
We got going at around 9.
Four and a half hours from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati.
The League of Cincinnati Steampunks
had a working Edison Wax Dictaphone at the front desk playing 100 year old music cylinders. Very cool.
When I was stopped by security who wanted to check my Softair Peacemaker, several small pieces fell to the floor as I was pulling it from its holster. I picked up the pieces that fell there but one piece, the cylinder pin lock nut, was not to be found. To explain; there is a large pin that holds the revolver cylinder to the frame. There is a small spring loaded locking pin that holds the cylinder pin in place. In my case, the locking nut that holds the spring and the screw together is gone. Probably lost long before the gun was pulled from the holster.
The bad thing about it is that the softair gun is from Japan and a discontinued model so the likelihood of finding a replacement part from the manufacturer is low and the shipping costs would be high. On the other hand, the replica is licensed by Colt and is a fairly accurate replica so I should be able to find a replacement part suitable for an actual firearm that will fit the replica. Cylinder pin lock nuts are to be found online for under $6. I’ll go by a gun shop this week and see if they have one and if it fits the threads on the lock screw. If not, I may need to spend another $6 for that part.
Last year, after Pandoracon
, I went out to the Old West Festival
. This next year I would do something similar except that they have moved Pandoracon to the second weekend of October so that the two events don’t overlap. This was done intentionally because there are people who work Old West Fest who also want to participate in Pandoracon. Old West Fest has a steampunk theme weekend three weeks earlier so, given I can’t combine them, I’ll probably be making a special trip.
Old west Fest had a table set up promoting their event and I talked to some of the people there saying that I was interested in participating a bit were it not for my living hundreds of miles away.
“You could be part of the traveling staff but you would need to be a SASS member”
“I already am.”
Email addresses were exchanged so I may be “working” that weekend. Based on my previous conversations with staff, the festival hasn’t turned a profit yet so at best I might be comped the price of admission but that was never the important part for me. I’ll be able to walk around, showing off and maybe getting involved in gunfights.
I’ll need to get in touch with some other people in the area to see if someone can put me up for the night or if other steampunks are traveling to the theme weekend to coordinate a hotel with them, either sharing a room or at least being in the same hotel to hang out.
Our room was on the ground floor so it was nice not having to take the elevators anywhere but it was also the “party hall” which meant that it was crowded and noisy up until 2 or 3 in the morning. They were also carding once the real parties got underway but I had returned to the room before that. It would have been a pain to prove my age to return to my own room. Especially since I don’t drink.
It was not a good night’s sleep.
I was lying in bed thinking when I suddenly had a stark realization. I got up and checked the closet and realized that I had forgotten my dress pants. I remembered seeing them in the cabinet but not pulling them out because I thought they were a different pair of pants and that the ones I wanted were already in the garment back.
And in packing the car I didn’t double check my list.
This meant that I wasn’t going to be able to wear half of the things I intended to wear. Vest and frock coat. Tailcoat.
The first program I attended was “The mustache makes the man,” a primer on mustache care and grooming. I typically use a hair spray to groom my mustache and beard but have been looking to experiment and practice to get just the right look. I have toyed with wax but haven’t been pleased. I may have to spend several days working out whether that is due to inexperience or not. A hair product called Göt 2b Glued was recommended as it is the stuff often used by those with epic mohawks. Again, I may need to pick some up and spend a few days testing it.
I think I may end up relying on the hair spray because the other products tend to lean towards the “thin pointy mustache” style and I want mine to have a little more body.
I was unable to participate in the mustache competition immediately following the mustache care presentation because my Century of the Beard presentation was scheduled at the same time. I also think that had an effect on attendance as the room started out fairly empty but filled up later on.
The presentation, even though I trimmed it down (no, I didn’t intend that pun), was still rushed at the end as I ran out of time. I will need to chop out another 30 pictures or so. Only the very best beards will be included. I think I’m on the schedule next month at the Steampunk World's Fair
and then the Up In The Aether
convention. For those I’ll need to work on my Airships technology presentation as well.Steampunk Santa
insisted that I sign up at the National Beard Registry
The Airship Archon put out an online call for panelists to sit on their Steampunk 101 panel and I volunteered. I would like more of an opportunity to sit on traditional panels and expand beyond the lecturer role I have been filling.
“I am an endless barrel of exposition!”
I think it could have gone better, especially for such an introductory panel. Are we there to talk about steampunk amongst ourselves or to teach newbies about steampunk? One or the other calls for a different thread of questions.Sarah Hans
was acting as the moderator but she seemed to take that role because no one else stepped forward. Having been dealing with cons for a quarter century I think that the moderator should be chosen before con by the concom so that they can prepare the thread and questions they want to cover. Otherwise, the panel can have a tendency to wander, one or another panelist might dominate the panel and, in the end, the panel may not deliver on the topic
I think that the next time I am able to get on a panel that I will prepare as if I were going to be the moderator. That way I can step forward if no one else does. This would not be staged as some sort of coup but I think a moderator should moderate and if no one else is prepared to take the panel in a given direction then I will.
I have been on the lookout for a vest that best matched my Fez-O-Rama Clockwork Fez
. I found a cream/brown double breasted vest online that was on par with the brown corduroy vest I had previously. Then I found a single breasted paisley vest that wasn’t bad but still didn’t quite match. Time Traveller Outfitters
had a soft brown double breasted vest
that matched the colors of the clockwork embroidery and tassel better than any of them so, for $95, I have yet another vest.
Even though it is made from a more casual soft brown material (which matches the casualness of wearing a fez), it has a low V-cut (before the mid 1880s when the U-cut became more popular) more suitable for high formal evening wear. It shows much more of the shirt than any of my other vests and seems to call out for a tuxedo shirt and perhaps a bow tie.
I’ve just done an inventory in my head and have nine
Thinking about clothes, fashion, wondering just how bad my real fashion sense actually is and my experience at a fine suit retailer and the clerk no knowing anything about garment brushes, I visited the Black Tie Guide
website to get the authoritative word on the subject.
My fashion isn’t completely awful. While I have a black coat, vest and pants, which I am told not to wear all together because all black it makes the skin look pasty, I typically wear a colored vest. I also don’t wear tails before the evening band the vest I typically wear with it is just a fraction too long. Although wearing a fez with tails would probably send the website author into apoplectic fits, I don’t care. “Fezzes are cool.”
I should probably get something other than the frock coat. A nice cut-away coat, I think. And I should probably get another pair of dress pants. Something other than black. I recall that I had intended to do that at one point when Gentleman’s Emporium had them on sale but they had sold out of my size.
Actually, I should probably buy a contemporary suit and some modern dress shirts since I don’t have anything suitable for going to a job interview in this century.
I admit that I am over thinking all of this.
Went to dinner with local friends at the Japanese restaurant up the street. The service was slow and mediocre but much of that may have been attributed to the arrival of the entire contingent of the Airship Archon about an hour earlier. The staff was not prepared for the rush.
won a metric buttload of awards from the Steampunk Chronicle’s Reader’s Choice Awards
, Lord Bobbins hosted a tea in his executive suite. There I got a chance to follow up with him concerning the Civil War narrative I had written.
I had been worried that it wasn’t proceeding from the text that I had written through the next stages where he wound be adding photomanipulated images and finally to actual book form. He is, in fact, proceeding with that. He gave the text to one person for editing and she responded that she couldn’t tell the difference between the history and the fiction. That really boosted my ego because that was much of my intention. On the other hand, the person is not from the US and so is not as familiar with Civil War history as a local might be. Another editor responded from the opposite end of the spectrum, commenting that many of the things were not historically accurate and had to be reminded that this is SCIENCE FICTION and that’s the whole point. Edit for grammar, punctuation and internal consistency because this is only pretending
to be actual history.
Lord Bobbins wants this to be a coffee table book with sizable illustrations. Personally, I will be supremely pleased if it has an ISBN number because then I could say that I am a published author.Sunday
I learned good things about the Antique Emporium in Beaver Falls. I will need to make a trip up there soon.
The hotel had some issues. The tub drain was clogged. When the neighbor took a shower it backed up into our tub (and perhaps vice versa). The hot water disappeared very quickly in the morning. None of the key cards worked when we checked in so they needed to be reprogrammed. Service in the restaurant was slow. We heard one attendee complain that it took an hour and a half to get a salad. The breakfast buffet was eggs, sausage, bacon, fruits, dry cereal and breads. No pancakes. No waffles. No French toast. No omelets. Pretty sparse for $10. On Sunday we drove one exit away to a nice place and got much better service and massive selection for pretty much the same price.
The symposium won't be there next year. They will be returning to The Atrium which, while it had its own issues last year, has new management and a remodel so hopefully it will work out better.
I need to have a garment brush
. Wearing dry-clean only jackets, vests, pants and frock coats to steampunk and Cowboy Action events, I should really brush them down more often. I also have several hats that could use a good brushing. So, on the way home yesterday I stopped by Heinz Healey’s on 5th Avenue.
“Heinz Healy's has everything any gentlemen needs for any occasion.”
Yea. Not so much. When I walked in and asked if they had any garment brushes, the clerk had a somewhat dumbfounded look on his face. When I clarified by explaining what a garment or clothes brush was he responded that he didn’t even know where one would begin to look for such a thing.
Really? I see them online from $5 “As Seen on TV” brand plastic pieces of junk to $150 natural bristle brushes sold by London gentleman shops that have been open for 150 years to $400 antique sterling silver brushes. You’re selling me suits for hundreds of dollars and you not only don’t have but don’t even know where I would get a brush?
I went to Burlington on Smithfield Street and the people there didn't have them either, suggesting I buy a hair brush.
The English accented clerk at Brook's Brothers offered to look online because they didn't have anything.
That’s about as far from “everything any gentleman needs” as you can get.
From where I sit in the Help Desk Hinterlands, I don't hear anything of what's going on. The other day when I blogged
that 4 people had left recently, I didn't know that, in fact, the number was upwards of 14 people having left in the past several months. The only reason why we are not being pounded in the call queues is because at the same time they offshored the printer calls so that several hundred calls a day are going straight to the vendors instead of coming through the help desk. At least, that's what I haven't noticed. Other, those who work evenings, overnight and weekends, they are feeling the pain.
And no hint of anyone new being hired to replace the losses. Of course, way over here in the hinterlands I won't have any clue that anyone is being hired until young new faces in ill-fitting suits start showing up for interviews.
I wonder if anyone will ask about the 50 page training manual I wrote. Will they use that? Will they think about me as Education Coordinator again?
Probably not. They will go back to the old way of doing things IF they even try hiring new people. And only then when things start really going to shit.
"Is there any way for me to get that escalated? It's not like I'm a retail employee who gets paid for doing nothing."
One of the people I trained a year and a half ago is leaving today for a much better job. In fact, three others that I had trained during my brief stint as trainer last year have also left in recent months.
It was as I expected.
There has, of course, been zero effort to keep us informed of this and I have only rumor to go on that one person will be hired to replace the missing.
This is also expected and part of a pattern of hiring people when there is a pressing need and then, as attrition begins to affect things, holding back as much as possible until we are chronically understaffed before someone finally spends some money to hire someone new.
And, of course, I won't be involved in this training cycle. As part of the collapse of the last time I was asked what sort of timetable I would need to be brought up to the position of Education Coordinator and I responded that the next hire was going to be that deadline. I would do no training before the position and pay issue was worked out. If things continue to go as expected, no one will talk to me because there has been zero effort to actually create that position. Additionally, I don't even expect them to talk to me to obtain the 50-plus pages of documentation I created. They will fall back to the completely inadequate whatever-it-was that they used to do before.
I'd like to be surprised, to have my expectations exceeded but I have been right too often to hold much hope of that.
Now that I have purchased three more guns
, I have all the equipment I need to participate in Cowboy Action Shooting. This weekend was the first match of the season at Logan’s Ferry and the theme was the old TV series F-Troop.
No, I’m not quite old enough to remember F-Troop during its initial run but I remember the reruns.
When all the shooting was over and all the scoring was done, I didn’t completely suck. There were 30 shooters and I came in fifth from the bottom, which was an improvement over the last time where I would have been dead last were it not for someone else’s safety penalty.
I talked to some more people about steampunk, explaining why I was wearing a Japanese katana with Union Cavalry uniform and why I had pair of FAL magazine pouches on my boot. I hate mentioning contemporary and Victorian era authors, getting blank stares, and then having to resort to “Wild Wild West” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” movies to get a glimmer of understanding.
Please, Hollywood, give me better steampunk examples.
I tried a few experiments with a small action cam on my hat for that "first person shooter" effect. It was OK for pistol but the way I hold my head when shooting a rifle or shotgun means the camera is pointing in the wrong direction.
When I made a mistake, I tended to get a little flustered and did not recover well. In one match I missed a target and, since my rifle was empty at that point, my brain switched back to a previous match where you reloaded your rifle. I reached into my pocket and grabbed an extra round before realizing that in this match that was not how it worked. Lost time.
There is a target called a Texas Star. It has small steel plates on a wheel that when you knock off one of the plates, the weight of the other plates changes the balance of the wheel and it spins. The smaller plates were harder to hit and I did not keep a good sight picture and missed a lot. I need to remember to take my time and get a good site picture and hit the target even if it takes a few more seconds.
Remember, a miss is a 5 second penalty. If you take 4 seconds to aim you are still ahead of the game. Four seconds is a very long time.
One of the scenarios had the backstory where the Captain has been kidnapped by Indians and you have to dress up as an Indian squaw and entice them before the shooting begins. “Yoo-hooo! Loco Brothers!” needed to be done in a falsetto. The silly wig I could handle. I’ve worn wigs before. The falsetto, however, that wasn’t happening. I tried and I simply could not get my voice to go high. I ended up hissing with no sound coming out. And when I did get a sound it was, as best, a cracking tenor.
It was good enough.
And now to the ugly part that makes me wonder if I have made a terrible mistake.
“Can you believe that someone has actually come up with a rain tax? They want to charge a tax to buildings and malls with large parking lots because of rain run off.”
I could not help but step into this conversation, saying, “You are obviously not from Etna or Pitcarin where development upstream destroyed the mechanisms of natural runoff and their towns have been flooded multiple times. It seems reasonable for me to have the people who cause the problem pay to fix it.”
Others seemed to disagree and quickly went to the libertarian end of how onerous it is for the government to require people to pay taxes, they don’t have the right to do that and the constitution isn’t in effect anymore anyway.
I walked away.
Other conversation that I walked away from included the words bitch, cunt, chink and fag.
And while I grew up just this side of the same boonies that these troglodytes come from, I have stepped into a much larger world. It may seem strange to say that the friends that I associate with; the Klingons, the science fiction people, the steampunks, they are all living in the 21st century and have outgrown the idea that the 1950s were some sort of “Golden Age” where women stayed at home to cook and clean, homosexuals were deep in the closet, the black people were in their place running elevators and picking crops and the white guys who ran things didn’t have to apologize for being white guys running things.
I may shoot with these guys but they will never, ever be my friends.
I wonder how pervasive these attitudes are. Perhaps I happened to run into the handful of tea bagger, misogynist, racist homophobe exceptions and the rest of the people are modern humans. I am not encouraged in looking through three issues of the newspaper of the Single Action Shooting Society and not seeing a single person of color.
How long before I can no longer keep my moth shut for the sake of civilized gunplay against steel targets and open my liberal mouth to tell people how repulsive I find their antiquated behavior?
Near Vicksburg in 1864, Union soldiers shot down a large flying creature and were subsequently photographed posing with their trophy.
This photograph has made the rounds on the Internet and while I like a “Lost World” mashup as much as the next guy, it really took no time at all to recognize all the things in this photograph that point to it being not what it purports to be.
And it’s not the things that so many other people seem to talk about. For example, one of the more prominent sources for “living dinosaur” stories is a guy known as PowerPointParadise
. On his website he offers a detailed critique of the photograph, not on the photograph itself, but by comparing it to another photograph.
PowerPointParadise (PPP) explains that this second photograph is an obvious and admitted hoax, a promotional tool of Orlando, Florida’s Haxan Production (producers of the movie The Blair Witch Project), to develop interest in their 2000 sci-fi television program, “Freaky Links.” And, because this second photograph is a hoax, it “proves the authenticity of the original photo.”“They were wickedly smart and very cunning! . . . Their real objective was to instill skepticism and raise doubts about the original photo!”
Let’s be honest here, it’s a fricking photograph of a dinosaur, I don’t need a second photograph to instill skepticism and raise doubts. Now, PPP doesn’t turn much of a critical eye towards the first photograph itself (for reasons I will go into later) but I will give it a cursory glance.
The first thing that raises my suspicions (beside it being a pteradon) is the condition of the photograph. Most of the photographs from the Civil war were tintypes or glass plates. This is obviously a paper print. Not so unusual in and of itself, but the damage, with holes and tears, seems incongruous with the good condition of the rest of the photograph. Sure there’s a fold and maybe some fading but there are no other scratches on the rest of the image.
Next, the sharp edges between the soldiers and the pteradon as compared to the background. The dark of the soldiers uniforms should not be darker than the dark shadows back in the weeds of the background. They look pasted onto the background or, at the very least, the contrasts have been manipulated to highlight the foreground.
There is also the sharp edges between the soldiers and the pteradon itself, especially the soldier in the front with his foot up on the creature’s nose. The amount of blur on the pant leg does not match the sharp edge at the edge of the pant leg.
The photomanipulation does not look like that of the 50s or 60s where things would be literally cut-and-pasted and airbrushed. It looks like a much more modern photoshopping.
And, I can’t place a finger on it, but the soldiers don’t look right. PPP makes a big deal about the uniforms in the second picture not being authentic while the uniforms in the first photograph are right but I don’t buy that. During the Civil War, unless you were marching in a parade, uniforms were anything but uniform. Go to a recreationist encampment or watch “Gettysburg” and you will see that every soldier is dressed differently and each one is obsessively authentic. No, there is something else about the soldiers that isn’t right.
I can’t find the website now but I remember a challenge that had a number of authentic Civil War photographs and compared them to modern photographs using period equipment, period techniques of people in period costume. I was able to tell the difference between all the period and the modern recreations. Again, it was something about them that I couldn’t quite place my finger on.
And it’s the same with these pteradon photos. To me they don’t look like period soldiers, they look like people pretending to be period soldiers. Not a convincing argument but something that a pro would be able to figure out.
Another red flag that sets off my suspicions is the complete lack of a source. PPP says it was from a 60’s “believe it or not” type of book. Another website says it was from 1955. No source identifies the original book or magazine that it originally appeared in. The complete lack of any sort of authentication trail is usually a pretty good sign of a hoax. The one website where the author says that he thinks he remembers seeing the picture in the book when he was a kid does not stand as an authoritative eyewitness account.
PPP seems to turn the same critical eye that I do on the second photograph; pointing out signs of manipulation, talking about uniforms and sources, but, when he looks at the first photograph he only seems to talk about the things that support its authenticity; the physiological accuracy of the pteradon, for example. Why would he do that? Why would his critical thinking skills only apply to one photograph and not the other?
PPP is a Liar for Jesus. The entire point of his “dinosaurs are real” thread is to push young Earth creationism. That there is a vast conspiracy of NWO, globalist, evolutionary “thought police” scientists bent on concealing the fact that dinosaurs are real, evolution is a myth, therefore God. It literally makes my head hurt to read some of the claptrap he is pushing on his website. 9/11 truthism. Antivaccination. Crop circles. Climate change denialism. Orbs. Aliens. GMOs. Zionists. Weather weapons. Chem trails. Forbidden archeology. End times. And, yes, fluoridation and the perversion of our bodily fluids.
So, anyway, there are plenty of other “period pteradon” pictures. I suspect they are all feeding off of the idea that the native American thunderbird legends were pteradactyls instead of just myths about birds that were bigger than actual birds. If I had a decent replica of a pterodactyl, I’d do the same thing.
It’s 1881 and a man wakes up in the desert. He has lost his memory and is being chased by alien monsters bent on world conquest. He stumbles into Tombstone, Arizona and becomes involved in the events leading up to the famous gunfight behind the O.K. Corral.
If you think this sounds a bit like “Cowboys and. Aliens
” you would not be alone. But I think the 2011 movie and the 2006 graphic novel it was based on is not pulling anything from this 1999 novel, merely playing on common tropes. And I would expect a book proposal by Bruce Boxleitner
to play on common tropes. You see, even though this novel has Boxleitner’s name on the front and his smiling face dominating the back cover, this book was ghost written by William H. Keith
At least, that’s what it says on Bill Keith’s website and what he told me when I spoke with him at a convention a number of years back. He was cagey about just how much Boxleitner had to do the writing but, by comparison, he was very open about how much Peter Jurasik
had worked with him on the novel “Diplomatic Act
” (1998) for which Jurasik and Keith shared authorship on the cover.
You can draw your own conclusions but I’m going to go on with the assumption that Boxleitner pitched the “Predators at the O.K. Corral” story and Keith took it from there.
And I clearly see Keith’s hand in the details of the alien aliens. They are not portrayed as merely humans in alien literary costumes. He goes to great lengths to detail how the Kra’agh think differently, although I think he falls into the now overused process of creating alien names and languages with a lot of apostrophes. Minor nit picked.
The Cowboys are presented as villainous and the Earps and Doc Holiday only slightly less villainous, as is historically accurate. This moral ambiguity serves to contrast the main story of the protagonists which is more clearly good and bad, with the hunter aliens bent on world conquest and the protagonists opposing them.
“The Buntline Special
” by Mike Resnick
takes the O.K. Corral story and twists it with vampires and the undead. Definitely steampunk. Mark Hodder
’s “Spring Heeled Jack
” ads a time traveling twist to the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton. Very much alternative history. I would be hesitant to call “Frontier Earth” steampunk or even alternative history. The same people die, the same people live. The events leading up to the gun battle and the shootout itself are described in excruciating detail and, ultimately, add absolutely nothing to the story. The protagonists flit in and out of the events and the feud serves only as a backdrop, told in such detail that you keep watching to the moment when everything changes. When history turns over and we step fully into a fantasy world where this interstellar cat and mouse game changes the course of history as we know it.
It never does, and it becomes more of a distraction than anything else.
I think that if Keith didn’t have to spend so much time on the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and all its accompanying backstory that he could have made a much better narrative. The sequel, “Searcher
” seems to dispense with that baggage and may be a better read. As for “Frontier Earth”, it is an OK story but nothing that really grabs my attention.
If I wanted a history lesson, I’d pick up “The Last Gunfight
” by Jeff Guinn. If I want it mixed up in my science fiction, I want more fiction.
When The Bank bought The Other Bank, we were left to support two different remote access/VPN applications. After a number of years they finally came up with a single application that would work on both environments (the merging of environments to take even longer). In January of 2012 an email went out to all remote users informing them that they were all supposed to be using the new application. In December of last year another email went out informing people that the old applications were eventually going to be disabled. In January an email went out saying that the old applications were going to be disabled at the end of March. Last week an email went out informing people that the old applications were going to be disabled at 7pm on April the 2nd.
On April the 3rd the calls started coming in from users who were somehow surprised that their old remote access application wasn't working any more. In all, those calls accounted for a 15% increase in call volume for the rest of the week.
Did they, as they claimed, never receive any of the emails or are they just stupid?
You already know my conclusion.
I heard about the proposal for a steampunk convention in Gettysburg
last year and pretty much immediately committed to going. Gettysburg is only a 4 hour drive and it would be nice to go to a comparatively “local” con. (Up in the Aether in Detroit is also a 4 hour drive but the World’s Fair
are 5 hour drives and TeslaCon
jumps to 10 hours on the road.) Additionally, Gettysburg has plenty of history to offer to the steampunk mileau.
One of the major tracks was going to be movies and since I run the video program for the science fiction convention in Pittsburgh I offered to help. A bit. Being in Pittsburgh, I wasn’t going to be able to be a major part of the planning at a distance and I wasn’t going to be prepared to haul my sound equipment and 8 foot screen across the state but I did offer up my somewhat extensive video collection.
Not much came from it.
Later, I sent some emails offering up my series of lectures. They were welcomed and I was offered “pick of the litter”, essentially allowed to do whatever programs I wanted whenever I wanted to do them. Well, I’m not used to that open a schedule so I deferred to the programming staff.
But as the con approached and the schedule started to fill out, I noticed that I wasn’t on the program. Another email and, in short order, I was on the program.Friday
Pack. Drive. Check in. You know the drill.
When I was checking in at Registration, I saw that the day’s schedule was hand written on a presentation tablet. My Mystery Airship program wasn’t listed. Nor was it on the program handouts. It would seem that the updates on the website came about after the program handouts had been printed. I was penciled back in.
In the dealer’s room, I found one dealer with Dr. Grordbort’s Saboteur 66 Ultra Wave Equaliser Gun
, which has been on my wish list. However, I knew I could find it for $30 less online (and that is even accounting for shipping). It was good that I got the chance to hold it. I like the size and, unlike the Righteous Bison Indivisible Particle Smasher
I already have, it is of a size that I could make a holster for. A shoulder rig like the M-7 that I already have would work.
I also talked to Brett of T Star Leather
. He had some very nice leatherwork and also had a Doc Holiday crossdraw holster. Because of the way it holds the gun, the design would not be acceptable for Cowboy Action Shooting but I saw how it was done and, not so different from the M-7, I could do the same thing the would hold the gun more vertically. I also talked to him about making the rifle case I want to do.
Brett is experienced in the Cowboy Festival circuit and can do gun spinning well beyond what I can do. Forward. Back. Hand to hand. Over the shoulder. The whole drill.
I’ll never be that good.
I went to Mark Donnelly’s
introductory bartitsu demonstration. Again. I’ve been to several but this one was slightly different. In this he focused on lines of strength and how one of foundations of bartitsu, coming from ju-jitsu, is acting perpendicular to that line of strength along a line of weakness.
During a demonstration or two, I stood opposite Mark while he presented techniques and he complimented me on my standing still. I didn’t move to block him (because he told me not to) and I didn’t flinch when he swung a stick at my head (because I know he has excellent control and wouldn’t hit me). It also helped that I had my goggles on and thus had no peripheral vision.
My Mystery Airships presentation was late. 9pm. Better than 9 in the morning, I suppose. Attendance wasn’t too bad.
Afterwards, Mr. Steampun K. Macintyre mentioned to me the comet theory of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871
. He said that a comet broke up and formed a perfect line of fires across the American Midwest. This struck me as pseudoscientific, conspiracy theory crap because I knew that meteors will burn up high in the atmosphere, decelerating from something like 25,000 miles per hour to something like a couple of hundred miles an hour. Then, as they fall through 50 miles of cold airs, they cool off. They don’t reach the ground with any heat capable of starting a fire.
“But it was a comet made of ice and methane.”
Sorry, but that just tells me that it is even LESS likely to reach the ground with any sort of heat. The ice would melt. The methane would evaporate. And, if it was big enough to explode with enough power to affect the ground, say the Tunguska Event
, then it would have been visible for hundreds of miles and would have devastated Chicago instead of just starting a fire the likes of which could be mistaken for a lamp being kicked over by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.
Later, I looked it up
. His story was based on what was called the Great Preshtigo Fire
which occurred at the same time as the Chicago fire and 200 miles away. The speculation was that both were caused by a meteor. In that speculation there was not a perfect line of fires but just the two. Whet the story didn’t cover was that the region had been extremely dry that season and there had been plenty of brush and forest fires, of which the Preshtigo Fire was the worst. And, of course, meteors (and comets) don’t cause fires like that.
Sorry, Mr. Macintire, you’re theory is unsupported.Saturday
I got up early on Saturday morning because I thought the guys from the IAAC
were doing a program and I had offered my projector. Turned out that they didn’t but while I was down at the front desk and registration was opening I noticed that my Saturday programs was not on the schedule. The copies of the schedule that had my programming hand written in had run out leaving the older copies that had me left out. Had to have that fixed again.
I also learned of a theft overnight. Now, the previous day I had noticed a lot of dealers set up in the hallways and no sign of con security. There were apparently some instances of non-convention hotel guests browsing the dealers in the con area and, subsequently, a sign was put up saying that the hallway and points beyond were for con attendees. There was some people standing there as security for a while after that but they seemed to disappear later. I wondered how all those tables full of stuff were going to be protected overnight.
The answer was apparently not so much. Overnight, a Blu-ray player was stolen. There were reports that the associated flatscreen TV was also stolen but that turned out not to be the case. I don’t know if anything else happened to go missing from dealer tables but I didn’t hear any hue and cry beyond the Blue-ray so perhaps it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Coming back after running to Sheetz to get some breakfast (a quart of chocolate milk and a bananna) I ran into Mark Donnelly outside and spoke with him for a while. He said that he keeps intending to come to one of my presentations one of these days because we are doing must the same thing; historical education. He does more practical, hands-on presentations with bartitsu but he is always doing the same introductory course and would like to do more educational stuff. He apparently has four book deals pending so I don’t see him wanting for material to present.
We talked a little about my Mystery Airships presentation. He had been looking into that to perhaps build a presentation but other things came to the front and I beat him to it. Part of me thinks I should try to write a book about it but there are already half a dozen books out there. Granted, most of them are from the 70’s and 80’s and only one has been more recent (and it is a short book with almost zero research backing it up) but I still think that, with those books already out there, the likelihood of my book being picked up is slim. I would have nothing new or original to add to the topic.
Mark’s large repertoire of presentations does prompt me to expand my horizons as well. I have four presentations available now. Five if I want to rework my H.G.Wells/War of the Worlds presentation and reoffer it. I want to add a presentation on the luminiferous aether and another on Victorian pseudoscience. If I can get Lord Bobbins to publish the TeslaCon Civil war narrative I wrote for him I can leverage that into a presentation on writing alternative history fiction, much like the IAAC guys have stemming from their collection of stories “Steam Powered Tales of Awesomeness
A presentation that I saw at the Steampunk World’s Fair and that they had again at Gettysburg. During their presentation they talked about how the early introduction os a technology like airships would change the course of history. They said that they weren’t going to go into the technology because they didn’t really care about the “magic” that made it go but I had an opportunity at that point to invite people to my presentation later in the day where I WOULD go into the “how it works” part.
My History and Technology of Airships presentation really needs reworked.
When I premiered it at TeslaCon, I recognized that it went over time and spent too much time on the history and not enough on the technology. I vowed to edit it but spent too much time finalizing the TeslaCon Civil War narrative to really put good work into the fix so, ultimately, it came out much like it did before.
So, what I need to do is scrap it and start from scratch. Instead of going through the history chronologically starting with the Montgolfier Brothers and progressing up to the Hindenburg, noting technological advances along the way, what I need to do is start with a design element and then talk about the history that leads up to that.
For example: the first thing to talk about with airships is buoyancy. How does it float? Talk about the Montgolfier Brothers hot air balloon and that they thought is was the smoke that was lifting it rather than the hot air, the principal of which was know to Archimedes two millennia earlier. Then talk about how buoyancy works (the difference in densities between what you are trying to float and what you are trying to float it in) and the different gases you can use.
There. Done. Next principal. Perhaps about how to build the airship. Non-rigid, semi-rigid. Rigid. How they couldn’t get large than about 150 feet long because they lacked a material that was stong and light enough until the Hall-Héroult electrolytic process brought down the cost of aluminum to the point where Zeppelin could afford to build his dirigible.
Done. Next. And on from there. With that format I can give people the information necessary to build believable airships in their stories. Or, if they are going to build fantastical airships, at least they have a foundation of how it works so they can make it internally consistent. In many ways it parallels the IAAC’s presentation in giving people the tools and calling on them to “do their homework” and “leave a trail of breadcrumbs.”
For years now, I have been commissioning Leanne Peacey of Chi Studios
to do artwork for me. She lives nearby to Gettysburg in York and she set up shop. I don’t know what sort of business she was able to pull in but we talked and she really likes the steampunk community. Her experience had been with the anime cons and she was growing too old to deal with the screaming young fangirls and boys. Steampunk is more mature. Even when the people behave in a childlike fashion, they are not being childish. Plus, from a con dealer point of view, steampunks tend to be older, better employed, homeowning and with more disposable income.
In her last piece of artwork, I had her do an illustration of Vitruvius Pike and Aimi Somerton. As she did the draft copies, I noticed that she had added glasses, apparently based on the model images I had given her. I hadn't originally thought that Aimi would wear glasses (since Pike wears goggles) but, on reflection, I thought it would be perfect. Aimi represents the foundation of a number of subsequent Japanese anime/manga trends; Victorian maids. Androids. Maid androids. Adding glasses would throw in the meganekko
fetish as well. But something got lost in the communication and she neglected to have the glasses in the final version. It was easy enough to bring the art along and have her add them back.
Leanne asked me about my favorite cons. I, of course, talked up TeslaCon but then described some of the others. Jeff Mach just happened to be stopped near the booth talking to someone and I mentioned the Steampunk worlds Fair and grabbed him to introduce him to Leanne. I had other places to go and so left them to talk business.
I considered it my good deed for the day, introducing an artist/dealer to a con chair.
I got changed into my Union Aeroship Cavalry bathing suit and went out to the car to pick up my rocket powered Hale Sky Board in preparation for the bathing suit contest. In the parking lot I encountered General Robert E. Lee and his wife.
The Lee reenactor had the general down almost perfectly. The uniform. The hair. The beard. He even affected Martin Sheen’s Virginian accent from the movie “Gettysburg” when I asked if I could take his photograph.
“Of course,” he said. “But you’re wearing the wrong color hat.”
“You, sir, have come too far north, then.”
As he went into the hotel and I wished him a good day, he replied, “I’m sure you’ll have a better time than I did the last time I was here.”
Back to the bathing suit contest.
I had built a rocket surf board and had made for me a Union Army style bathing suit over a year ago but this was the first time I had actually been able to get it into a contest as previous occasions had fizzled out or I had missed them due to other commitments. The board had been built without plans, had inherent weaknesses and had not survived well as one of the tail fins was completely broken and the other was just barely hanging on. Even so, I was able to eek it out to take second place.
Afterwards, I looked in on Mark Donnelly doing bayonet and saber drills. Three years in a national championship high school marching band 30 years ago and I can say with absolute authority that those guys couldn’t hold a line for shit. I wanted to jump the railing and teach them how to march. It’s not that hard. Even easier because they aren’t required to stare straight ahead as one would in a competition marching band. Just look to the right and stay next to that guy. The guy on the far right is the anchor and, so long as he walks at a steady, even pace and everyone else is lining up off of the person to the right then the line should keep straight enough.
I don’t usually go to the evening dancing/entertainment/party things but I sat in on the Eli August concert. The sound guy wasn’t doing a very good job of managing the sound system. I’m no audiophile but even I recognize that the sound boards shouldn’t be right next to the stage.
Later in the evening I sat down and had an opportunity to talk with Major Girth of the IAAC about writing. During the course I mentioned that I was reading “Frontier Earth” by Bruce Boxlightner. Actually, it wasn’t written by Boxlightner but was ghostwritten by a friend of mine William H. Keith
. Major Girth recognized the name from “Battletech” and I was able to lead that into Keith being Guest of Honor at Confluence
in Pittsburgh. This had Major Girth being interested in expanding the IAAC footprint westward. He apparently has family in the area, which would make attendance an easier thing.
Unfortunately, he has a business model that, as an author now (or rather, in a few weeks when “Steam Powered Tales of Awesomeness” comes out) he’s not going to go to cons without being comped (compensated). And I know the people doing programming for Confluence and don’t expect the IAAC style of programming to be to their liking (in spite of how much anyone else might think we need to broaden our base).
That’s really too bad. I’m growing tired of Pittsburgh being on the hinterlands of fandom. Here we are, smack dab in between Chicago and New York, and we are this sort of “black hole” because of the conservatism of the people running our con. Tekkoshocon
in Pittsburgh has grown tremendously with the anime community, drawing close to 4,000. Anthrocon
in Pittsburgh is the largest furry cons in the world, drawing over 5,000. Why, after a quearter century, should Confluence stagnate at 300 attendees?
I also herd A Count Names Slick-Brass
talking a bit about the con and he was very pleased. Pre-registration was about 90 and he didn’t know the full attendance but I would guess at a few hundred. Not bad for a first convention. Better manage scheduling, work out better security and I see no reason for next year to be better.Sunday
The IAAC had an Edison vs. Tesla presentation on Sunday. They presented a very balanced approach designed to avoid the typical steampunk vilification of Edison and deification of Tesla. I will admit that I was tendent to do a little of that myself, (“Edison’s a hack!”) but a few weeks back I watched “The Men Who Built America
” on The History Channel (yes, they do occasionally show history documentaries between the aliens and swamp people), and when you look at J.P.Morgan and the pressure he brought to bear, Edison doesn’t look quite so bad.
They were both jerks in an age when most men were jerks.
There was a traveling photographer doing tintypes. I seem to recall him being at TeslaCon as well. I decided to sit for a photograph and it came out very well.
I was yelling in the hallway trying to get people to attend my Century of the Beard presentation. I had one person come in and sit down. I waited and finally Thee Bluebeard
came in so, with two people, I thought I could start. After a while, more people wandered in, another half dozen in all. I think some other programming may have been running behind
Bluebeard, a typically flamboyant character, seemed uncharacteristically humbled by what he didn’t know about beards.
After TeslaCon, I tightened up my program, deleting a number of less impressive beards from the photo list. I still think I need to tighten things up a bit but my going over time during this presentation was mostly due to starting late.
There was a panel on con horror stories that I wanted to see but I was distracted by having to pack up the projector and screen, collect up my finished tintype and my artwork from Chi Studios and start heading home and so completely forgot
I had Leanne make a new chibi for me. I didn’t like this one as much as all the rest. Not because of the artist in any way but because what I was wearing just didn’t translate well. Not enough contrast between the pants and the vest, I think.
Next time, Gadget. Next time.
Yesterday we received an email telling us that, starting today, the Help Desk was no longer going to be taking printer calls. The phone menu was going to be connecting users directly to The Vendor and, if any calls did come to us, were were to immediately transfer them to The Vendor without any troubleshooting. However, if the user's already had a ticket open and they were calling back to find out why their issue hadn't been taken care of, we were to open another ticket which would then be directed to The Vendor.
Well, when the Help Desk takes a call, The Bank pays The Corporation. And then, when that issue gets sent to The Vendor for service, The Bank pays the vendor as well. To save that money, The Bank has decided to cut out the middle man.
But, I know that when we report how many tickets haven't been resolved within the contractual SLA, The Vendor compiles those numbers into another report and, suddenly, that number has been reduced by half. The Vendor is tweaking the number and now that we at the Help Desk will have no documentation of how many calls there are, they will likely be free to tweak the numbers even further.
And let us not forget that I am pretty sure that The Vendor does not have the staffing for the additional calls they are going to be getting. Customers aren't going to have us at the Help Desk solving their issues right away meaning that they are going to be waiting longer for service, whether it's over the phone or on site.
Additionally, those issues that used to cost The Bank $7 because we were able to troubleshoot them and resolve them (such as printer settings issues) will now go to the vendor. It will be in the vendor's interest to send a technician on site and charge $300 instead of only $75 for the call.
This is saving them money?
I give it two months.
was a prolific fantasy author at the turning of the 20th century. “A Honeymoon in Space
” was serialized in Pearson’s Magazine
in 1900, about midpoint in his writing career, though this is the first by Griffith that I have read.
Lord Redgrave, the builder and pilot of the antigravity spacecraft Astronef
, begins with the kidnapping the lovely young American girl Zaide Rennick from off the deck of a trans-Atlantic cruise ship.
The nearest approach to it would have been the old-fashioned Tartar custom which made it lawful for a man to steal his best girl, if he could get her first, fling her across his horse's crupper and ride away with her to his tent.
Perfect gentleman, that Lord Redgrave. The point is made multiple times that hagh above the clouds, the laws of man cannot reach. But it’s OK because we learn that she is the daughter of the Professor Rennick who developed the R. Force antigravity technology and was financed by Lord Redgrave. It’s not really a kidnapping if she consents to his advances for having fallen in love with him previously, is it?
The other thing we get introduced to right off is the racism. I know this was written in 1900 and we have to recognize it for the time that it was, but it’s still racism, no matter how they affirmatively spin it. Here, Lord Redgraves’s the first encounter with Zaide Rennick:
Then he caught sight of a well and fondly remembered face which he had not seen for over two years. It was a face which possessed at once the fair Anglo-Saxon skin, the firm and yet delicate Anglo-Saxon features, and the wavy wealth of the old Saxon gold-brown hair; but a pair of big, soft, pansy eyes, fringed with long, curling, black lashes, looked out from under dark and perhaps just a trifle heavy eyebrows. Moreover, there was that indescribable expression in the curve of her lips and the pose of her head; to say nothing of a lissome, vivacious grace in her whole carriage which proclaimed her a daughter of the younger branch of the Race that Rules.
Race that Rules. He capitalizes that as that is its proper name.
The ship next proceeds on a whirlwind tour of the United States, using the marvel of the flying ship to influence the re-election of the pro-business and gold-standard president. (Somewhat surprising for Griffith being a socialist.) They are also, by their mere presence and the threat of a hundred such ships, able to avert a brewing war between the British-German alliance and the villain French and Russians who had undercut the Empire by coming to an agreement with the Chinese that threw the “Race that Rules” out of the Far East.
Finally, they are on their way to space.
They travel first to the moon where the skeletons of its former inhabitants are found. Then on to Mars where another dying world has giant men of pure, emotionless intellect. Venus is peopled by childlike winged literal angels in a garden utopia. Jupiter is a molten world with giant, jellyfish-like monsters floating in the clouds while the moon Ganymede has another giant race of people, facing the cooling death of their civilization and world with calm dignity. Saturn presents the history of everything with the equatorial zone populated with primordial monsters, the more temperate zones with higher life forms and the men climbing towards the summit of civilization nearer the poles.
And that’s pretty much it for plot. There is no development of characters or story. No theme or overarching message. Just a bunch of vignettes, each with only a mild or vague point. At best.
One such point seems to be that bad people are ugly and good people are beautiful. The Martians, who begin by attacking the Astronef
as soon as it arrives in their skies, are revealed to be unattractive, thuggish beings as they have (as we are repeatedly told) evolved beyond emotion. The crew has no hesitation or remorse in gunning them down with revolvers and Maxim machine guns when they are covetous of Zaidie’s beauty.
Also, the Martians speak English. Of course, they don’t know it as English, but being purely evolved intellectuals they had, of course, developed the most pure and efficient language and it just so happens to be identical to English.
Fancy that. More proof of the perfection that is the “Race that Rules.”
After the overly-intellectual brutes that were the Martians, the angelic beings of Venus are all that is beautiful and good. Just as Zaidie is beautiful and good. Beautiful, therefore good. When the pair decides to leave Venus it is the only moment of humility in the entire narrative as they conclude that, as beautiful as the world is, they must leave because, no matter how good and beautiful they were in the Anglo-Saxon heritage, Original Sin made them “a couple of plague-spots in a sinless world.”
Something else I noticed was carefully not said.
"Well, have you said goodbye to your native world? It is a bit solemn, isn't it, saying goodbye to a world that you have been born on; which contains everything that has made up your life, everything that is dear to you?"
"Not quite everything," she said, looking up at him—"at least I don't think so."
He lost no time in making the only reply which was appropriate under the circumstances; and then he said, drawing her close to him:
"Nor I, as you know, darling. This is our world, a world travelling among worlds, and since I have been able to bring the most delightful of the daughters of Terra with me, I, at any rate, am perfectly happy. Now, I think it's getting on to supper time, so if your Ladyship will go to your household duties, I'll have a look at my engines and make everything snug for the voyage."
“The only reply which was appropriate” was apparently a kiss. Or so it would seem given the dialogue. Was he so prudish that he could say he kissed his wife? In a later scene he does kiss her, so it doesn't seem that the language is hiding something as innocuous as a kiss. Later still when they are visiting the Jovian moon Callisto:
Redgrave, as usual, went into the air-chamber and tried the atmosphere. A second's experience of it was enough for him. It was unbreathably thin and unbearably cold, although, when mixed with the air of the Astronef, it distinctly freshened it up. This proved that its composition was, or had been, fit for human respiration.
"There's only one fault about it," he said, when he rejoined Zaidie in the sitting-room. "You know what the schoolboy said when he started kissing his first sweetheart, 'It takes too long to get enough of it.'"
"You seem to be very fond of referring to that particular subject, Lenox."
"Well, yes; to tell you the truth I am," and then he referred to it again in another form.
After this they went and put on their breathing-dresses and went for a welcome stroll along the arid shores of the frozen sea after their lengthy confinement to the decks of the Astronef.
OK, now I’m pretty sure that “other form” was not just a kiss. I immediately read the next scene as like Kirk pulling on his boots or Bond buttoning his shirt. Something you can’t show but it’s pretty obvious.
They are married, after all.
There are some clever parts like that but, for the most part, it’s not very interesting. “A Honeymoon in Space” is a fantasy travelogue with little plot, no drama, and zero character development.
A quote that I will keep for future reference:
"A beautiful woman always looks most beautiful when she is just a little angry."
Last June I purchased a Model 1873 Single Action Army revolver. It was completely on a whim because I saw it at a gun show and simply wanted to have a Peacemaker. If I had known at the time that I was going to become interested in Cowboy Action Shooting and that it requires two revolvers, I would have held off and purchased a matched pair. Once I did get involved, in addition to having to purchase a rifle
and a shotgun
, I needed to not only shop for another revolver but find one that matched the discontinued model I already had.
I found one online at a shop in Ohio but held off because I didn't want to make a special trip, didn't want to pay extra to have it shipped and also thought the price was abit high. It was probably a new gun so maybe it wasn't that high but I didn't follow up. I figured that I would be out that way in April for the Steampunk Symposium
so I could make arrangements to stop by the gun shop on my way there.
When I got my coach gun from Barlycorn Outfitters
, I told him what I was looking for and he started putting of feelers. He found something that was the same artillery model with the 5.5 inch barrel but it had the steel blue finish rather than the matte finish of the gun I already had. I decided against it because I wanted the guns to be the same. I had a few months before the shooting season started and, if nothing turned up in the meantime, I figured it would be easier for me to buy a matched pair outright and then sell off the "extra" gun. It wasn't my first choice, of course, but it was a reasonable fallback.
John Barlycorn found me a used pistol from Enck's Gun Barn
near Lancaster. I called them to confirm that it had the matte finish and the brass backstrap and trigger guard that matched the gun I had and had it shipped to Barlycorn. $280 plus tax and shipping.
It is definately a used gun, showing more wear and tear than my gun which had only one box of ammo shot through it before I got it. There is a touch of rust along the ejector tube. It also has the same sharp edge on the trigger that I will need to have filed off.
However, the bad thing is that the previous owner scratched his initials on the side of the frame. Not with an engraving tool but with a simple pointy piece of metal. The scratches aren't deep but they look horribly amateur. More like graffiti than an identifying mark. I will take it to my gunsmith to see if it will buff out.
Haven't had it out shooting yet.
On a related note, now that I am fully armored up and have a bag
for my revolvers and assorted gear, I need a way to carry my long guns. I was inspired by Lee Van Cleef from "For a Few Dollars More" and drew up plans for a canvas and leather carryall.
It would be a pretty simple affair. A square piece of canvas with two leather straps to hold the guns in place. It would fold up a bit like a letter in an envelope with two hardwood dowels as handles. I once had a surplus shooting mat that was fairly similar. I looked online to see if I could find something similar that I could just buy instead of make. Something that looked more period. I found this:
It's not what I was looking for and it's not something I could just buy but it looks great. I think I could build something like that but it would be more of a challenge, given my current leatherworking experience, and would be more expensive. Then, I found this:
It's two leather scabbards strapped together and looks fantastic. Just the sort of thing I picture myself carrying when I exit a train to clean up some western town of supernatural horrors. I could make that but it would be yet another step up in price.
on The Traveller’s Steampunk Blog
announced the release of “Vintage Tomorrows”
by James H. Carrott and Brian David Johnson from MAKE and O’Reilly Media and included an email address to request a review copy.
I’m a steampunk, I have made things and I can read so I could totally write a review, the typical price that needs to be paid to obtain a free review copy, so I sent my email and received my book.
I have, of course, read plenty of steampunk stories and novels beginning with “The Difference Engine”
in 1991 when the paperback came out and, while I have some steampunk non-fiction on my shelf (I have far too many books in the “still to be read” category), this was surprisingly the first book that I had actually read about steampunk itself.
I think it was a good first choice.
It starts off with an interview with Timothy Leary
. No, really. And it makes perfect sense. If you are going to investigate culture, subculture, counterculture and where steampunk fits into that spectrum, why not start with the most dangerous man in America? And, once you do start looking at how culture changed with the beatnicks of the 50s and the the hippies of the 60s, you begin to look at steampunk from a fresh perspective outside the gearbox. You separate yourself from why you got involved and start thinking about why we, as a collective, are involved.
The book actually focuses on two “whys;” Why steampunk and why now? And to do it, there are a lot of interviews. They start with Timothy Leary who has nothing to do with steampunk, he merely sets the stage, but they move on to Cory Doctorow
, Cherie Priest
(“Boneshaker”), Davin Maliki! (“Wondermark”
), Mike Perschon (The Steampunk Scholar
), Scott Westerfeld
(“Leviathan”), China Miévill
e (“Perdido Street Station”), Jaymee Goh (Silver Goggles
), Dexter Palmer
(“The Dream of Perpetual Motion”), Mark Thompson
(“Henry Hoke’s Guide to the Misguided”), Jake von Slatt (The Steampunk Workshop
), William Gibson
and an assotrment of others that I apologize for not mentioning. Additionally, there was a spectacular dinner conversation with Marshall Hunter, Claire Hummel, Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan (“Boilerplate”
), Jordan Bodewell (SepiaChord
), Thom Becker (Lastwear
), Kevin Steil (The Airship Ambassador
), Phil and Kaja Foglio (“Girl Genius”
), Diana Vick and Martin Armstrong (Steamcon
I am pleased to say that I know nearly all of those names, am familiar with works by most of them, have met few and have actually had some conversations with a couple.
If I can offer up one criticism about the interview “narrative” and a drawback of having so many people interviewed it is that midway through the book, the thesis was pretty much supported and the why questions had been answered. Towards the end the chapters and the interviews got shorter and tended towards the “Yes, you are absolutely right” answer. I think this weakened the conclusion chapters.
Not too long before reading “Vintage Tomorrows”, I had read “Masculinity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature”
by Emelyne Godfrey. At $80 list price for only 200 pages, it was clearly an academic book with a pricing range that reminded me of buying college textbooks. It had a similarly weak ending in that I turned the page thinking I was going to get a concluding chapter and found myself in the appendices. This wasn’t quite as bad as that but I think the ending could have been tightened up a bit.
But that is about my only criticism. The interviews and the people interviewed make the rest a joy to read. Most especially the dinner conversation. It really spelled out the whys.
So, what are those whys. Why steampunk and why now? Now is the point where I will spell out the authors’ thesis. Well, in short form. You’will want to read the book for the full details.
Steampunk was born as a science fiction sub-genre in the 1980s but it wasn’t until around 2005 that anyone outside of the SF world paid any attention. Even with “Wild Wild West” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” it didn’t click until mid decade. Why?
OK, not really smartphones, but the advent of that technology seemed to be something of a tipping point when we all finally realized that were were merely consumers of technology and information, got fed up with it, and looked back to a time when we actually understood what was going on inside of our machines.
And, yet. It’s not really that, either. As with any change in culture, or sub-culture, there are millions of things that feed into the change. Steampunk is merely the latest wave in a cycle of society trying to come to terms with the changes it’s undergoing. And this change is driven by technology. We want our devices to be more human so we cover the impersonal plastic with hand carved wood. We want to understand what’s going on inside so we slap some gears on it to at least give the illusion of parts we can understand. We want our devices to have a history and, not liking the Silicon Valley history they actually come with, we make up our own.
I could go on and on but to get it all correct in this review I’d probably have to read the book again. I will probably do just that but I have some people who want to borrow it in the meantime. Open “Vintage Tomorrows” to a random page and you’re likely to read some completely different element of steampunk that you hadn’t thought of before. It’s all steampunk. It’s all culture. And we are in the wonderful, chaotic center of it.
And while I said this was the first book I had read about steampunk and that it was a good first choice, this book is not an introduction. If you are somewhat new to steampunk and have questions about it, you should probably start with something like “The Steampunk Bible”
or “The Steampunk Gazette”
. “Vintage Tomorrows” is for those who are already engaged and want to look a bit beyond the waistcoats and corsetry and understand what it is that brings us all together. The psychology that drives culture.
That having been said, I realized that I was never actually in the wonderful, chaotic center of it. “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” was one of the first novels I ever read and, when the science fiction genre known as steampunk came along, I saw it only as a continuation of stuff I had been reading all along. When the smartphones came along, I stuck it out with a simple flip phone because I worked with enough tech during the day that I didn’t get overwhelmed with just a smaller version of what I already had. And, in the meantime, I had always appreciated the older things, the older architecture, the older technology.
As to the costuming and conventions and all the things we think of as the “scene”, I had been going to conventions for decades, had been costuming for nearly as long, when I got involved in a “Deadlands” RPG in 2007, it seemed only natural to costume and go to a con. I was the only steampunk there and I didn’t even realize that outside of the hinterlands that is Pittsburgh there was already a full blown cultural movement underway. I was just doing what I had already been doing, merely with a Victorian theme. I was steampunk before I realized steampunk was a “next big thing.”
“Vintage Tomorrows” has given me an appreciation for this movement that sprung up around me, seemingly out of nowhere. It helped me to understand why it was that so many different kinds of people, all on different vectors, came to this same place.
Where is steampunk going? What is the future of this movement? Well, if history tells us anything, it tells us that we are doomed. Just as the beatnicks and hippies rebelled against the established culture and then ultimately became part of the mainstream for the next cultural movement to rebel against, so too will steampunk become a relic of the previous generation. If we are lucky, steampunk will have become in the meantime an actual counter-culture that transforms the world, changing how humans relate to technology, society and even change itself. If we are very lucky, that change will be for the better.
And then our grandkids will call us sellouts and create something we never saw coming.
After the nonsense of last week
where we had to confirm every system access on a monthly basis and send an email to our Team Lead confirming this, we received an email this week with the following:
For those of you who never sent me a confirmation email verifying access to all systems, I’m assuming all is well.
Aaaaaaand, you have failed.
Sending out warnings and threats to confirm things, requiring that we literally signoff three times on something and then “assuming” all is well tells me that management has already admitted that they have failed. How many people didn’t respond as “required?” And then to have management not take any action against those that didn’t do as was required is, in all honesty, an admission that the requirements and threats didn’t actually work.
Moving forward if you lose access to any of the system, you will be issued a verbal, written, and then suspended.
Too late. You threatened and cajoled and now, after the first round of deadlines when you basically let everyone off with your assumption that all is well, no one will take you seriously.
Let me tell you what will happen; analysts will create a stationary in their email system and every month when that calendar alarm goes off they will click twice and send the email that they are required to send without even bothering to check to make sure they have access. Then, when something does go wrong and they loose access, instead of sending out a blanket message to the Help Desk asking for someone to change a password for them, they will send that message to a single analyst or a small group of analysts asking for that assistance so that management is not alerted.
I have already done this myself, and I actually have all my accesses and merely needed my own password reset for something. Your threats have only caused me to obfuscate my actions.
How much time and energy have they wasted on this when there are so many other more important issues of job performance that could be addressed? How much have they wasted with this shotgun approach instead of taking aside those handful of people for who this is an issue and actually managing them? How long before the next threatening email over this non-issue?
I predict two weeks.
People in their cars, safely isolated from the outside world by steel and glass, think themselves invisible. We can see your inattention, though. Example: you sitting at the light picking your nose and eating the bookers. And not just that one piece of solidified mucus but really digging in there for a full three minutes. Wiping your nose with the back of your hand and cleaning that with your tongue.
We see you. We wish we couldn't, but we see you.