May 5th, 2014


Penguicon 12.0

And as promised... some pictures.

So, Saturday I drove across the width of Michigan to get to Penguicon 12 for a day. Just over three hours there and just under three hours back -- I gassed in the morning at "the usual" gas station, BP in Portland at Exit 77 on I-96. For some reason, i.e. I don't know Detroit as well as I'd like, I keep thinking Southfield should be on the south side, by Dearborn or Detroit Metro Airport. Instead, it's an easy drive, I-96 to I-696 to M-10 to 10 Mile Road. The last time I was on the M-10, it was all bombed out. Now it's beautiful, new concrete. Smooth and 70 mph. That's a relief since they're usuing M-10 as a detour around a major section of I-96 they're ripping apart and rebuilding this summer.

Off the highway, cross over, make a funky pair of RIGHT turns around a triangular intersection to make a LEFT turn, and we're there.

The Westin Southfield was the con hotel. I could see it nestled between some tall buildings. The handicapped spots directly by the main entrance were full, but from the Google satellite view, I knew there were more a little further on. No problem -- except there wasn't a great ramp to get the walker up the curb.

How did I know I was at the right hotel? Easy, there's a familiar stainless steel silhouette parked out front...

Ernie Cline's Ghostbusters Back to the Future Delorean. I think there's some Buckaroo Bonzai thrown in there, too. Ernie is the author of Ready Player One. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

I eventually sent Mrs. Dr. Phil an email, as I sat down to lunch. So I decided to include a picture. It's easy to snap yourself with the Kindle Fire HD and upload to Gmail. Just as I was about to snap the picture, there was a flash of light purple behind me. The restaurant's hostess had fuzzy antennae -- I called her back and she happily joined my picture.

I am always amused that the screen can flash bright white for a flash in dim lighting. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

And the lighting WAS dim. The Westin Southfield was the darkest, most unevenly lit con hotel I've ever been in. I normally shoot the Nikon D1H with the 24-120mm f3.5-5.6G VR AF-NIKKOR at ISO 1600 in B&W mode at cons. The results are grainy, but in a way that looks like the old 35mm 1600 ASA Kodak 2475 High Speed Recording Film. But that wasn't enough. I had to boost two more stops to the HI-2 custom setting -- reminds me of the UO Unsafe Optimization setting on the FTN FORTRAN compiler for the CDC-6600 back at Northwestern -- which makes horrible color photos. Thankfully, I'm shooting black & white, and so ISO 6400 can be made to work.

Cory Doctorow waiting for his computer to boot before his noon reading. Shot wide open at 120mm f5.6 (180mm FX equivalent) and STILL I could only get 1/25th of a second shutter speed. Thankfully the D1H is stable and heavy, and the Nikon VR Vibration Reduction is pretty amazing. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

And then it was time to go home.

Backed down to ISO 200. Cline drives his Delorean all over -- note the Texas plates. I asked him if it was an original or one of the "new" ones built from leftover parts. It's an original. How does it drive? Surprisingly well. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

On the way in, the rains were pretty much gone -- 2 or 3 times I had to put the delay wipers on the lowest setting, and I had to use the washer a couple of times since the rain wasn't heavy enough to wash off the dust from newly plowed fields.

Westbound it was windy and in the 50s, but the big puffy clouds blocked the bright sun most of the time. Clear roads, little traffic.

This is about twenty minutes into the drive, so it's probably I-96 not I-696. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

I had no troubles driving and it felt good. Heck, I didn't even put on the radio all day. I am so glad I made it to Penguicon this year, even if it wasn't even for a whole day.

More anon...

Dr. Phil

Penguicon 12.1 -- Morning

One complaint I would have with Penguicon, was that there were differences between the online spreadsheet schedule and the printed schedule. And the session descriptions weren't keyed to the schedule. In other words, the Linux open source and SF con didn't update their server.

But... my prelabs from home had enough in common to get me started. Having pulled in at 9:19am, got out the walker, the shorter four-point cane with the hooked handle that stays put on the roll bar better, grabbed camera bag, day bag, keys, etc. Once inside, the registration line was short and I was on my way.

0900 Adventures in Metallurgy Algonquin D
Ron Demerino
--What does the CIA have in common with dinosaur extinction? They have a great metallurgical story behind them! Come hear some great stories from Professor Ron, followed by Q&A.
1000 Harrowing Tales in Metallurgy Algonquin D
--Christmas Interruptus? Narcs on a bus? (Nope! They are engineers) Professor Ron relates more great tales from his career, followed by Q&A.

Ron Demerino holding Metallurgy class - "If you were in my class you'd know..." (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

In both sessions, there were (a) a number of Michigan Tech grads, as was Ron, and (b) a bunch of his former students. Of course, I did grad school at Tech, but many of you don't know that when I started grad school there wasn't yet a PhD in Applied Physics, so I did take courses and flunked the PhD qual exam for the PhD in Metallurgy (Physics of Solids option).

2nd session had great stories. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

One of his stories involved the overtorquing of bolts. He explained why tire irons are so short and whether anyone ever used the right tool. I, of course, raised my hand. When I bought the Suburban in 1979, the manual said tire lug nuts needed to be torqued to 100 ft-lbs, so I bought a Sears Craftsman Digitorq socket wrench. Really impressed Ron. Even more so, I told the tale of the breaker bar that I saw a mechanic use on an oil filter wrench. Torque = Force × radius. Lesson taught, lesson learned.

Ah, these are my people... (grin)

1100 Virtual Reality: Fact vs Fiction Windover
Ernie Cline, Ed Mason
--With the Oculus Rift being bought by media giant Facebook, the cautionary tales of science fiction seem closer than ever to reality. Join authors Ernie Cline and John Scalzi, and Android VR creator Gameface Labs, as they talk about where our communal virtual fantasy is headed.

One of the first books I read in the hospital after I was ready to concentrate on books, was Ready Player One by Ernie Cline. I knew he was a GoH at Penguicon and this was his first talk.

Ed and Ernie squaring off. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Lest you think the computer end of VR was neglected, Ed Mason of Gameface held up his end with (1) a charming British accent and (2) hardware to show off.

There was a lot of discussion of the history of video games and how VR setups would change how we see movies. Not sure I care about those uses, but VR is coming and it's cool tech.

They passed around the Gameface set twice -- once with a CGI scene and another with a vista over a parking lot crowd at an event. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Move your head, side to side, up and down, and the view changes. This new VR helmet/goggles is wireless, which really makes the lightweight thing work pretty good.

One big obstacle is GLASSES. It's not enough to have a diopter adjustment -- my astigmatism means that circles aren't circular without correction and I HATE THAT in graphics. You can also see the awful lighting conditions I was shooting under. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Afterwards, Ed Mason was quite a hit -- he showed that the one thing on the front wasn't a button, but a peephole cover. Someone said there should be two -- Ed said coming. They are looking at a release in September 2014 at a $500 price point. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

1200 A Special Reading By Cory Doctorow Windover
--A sneak peek at an untitled, in-progress novel for adults, that is something of a prequel to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, in the vein of Makers. You’ll be the first people apart from Cory himself to come into contact with this material!

I have not read Down and Out, but the reading from the first chapter of a new novel, a century or so before, is delightful. Such words! Such images painted. It's called Utopia, and he's been writing a thousand words/day over the last month. Never been read aloud or even reread by Cory.

Penguicon runs a bit looser on time than other cons, so Cory wanted to wait a bit before reading, so did Q&A before and after. I got the first question -- a continuation of a question I asked Cory at a kaffeklatch at another con a few years ago. What's the status of Cory's xkcd balloon? Randall has never created any fantasy bigger than the thought of Cory blogging from a balloon. He's terrified of heights, pinned against the wall on the open air observation deck of the Empire State Building -- and a wicker basket under a balloon is nothing but the ledge over a great height. (double-jeopardy-grin)

Also here.

Q&A: Are you a plotter or a panster? I'm a heuristic writer. Need the rush. Once wrote 80,000 words into /bin/usr/god (the perfect titles for a Linux/SF con) and got stuck. Tried to write more scaffolding by outlining -- couldn't get back on to it. Only project never finished. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Once video cameras were used to shoot video. Now increasingly people are shooting video with DSLR and other digital still cameras. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

And then it was 1pm -- time to wander.

Dr. Phil