Mensa gathering: some weird pix (#SFWApro)

I enjoy taking photographs of infrastructure. So while staying at the Diplomat for the Mensa national gathering, I took a few. For starters, the girders supporting the glass roof of the hotel atrium:

Then there’s the work they were doing on the roof

And here’s a look at some piping in the stairwell.

And the drawbridge that delayed the taxi taking me to the hotel.

And for laughs, here’s some breakfast signage. Not written by Mensans.

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Mensa, the gathering (#SFWApro)

The gathering was, as usual, awesome. But man, someone obviously hated that wall of the hotel. Look at what they stabbed it with!

The high point of any gathering for me is seeing all the friends I don’t otherwise run into. From my old Mensa group. From other groups. From other AGs. I’d sit in the hospitality suite, grab some snacks, someone would sit down, we’d talk, someone else would show up …

Hospitality meals came with plenty of vegetarian alternatives except one where the option was tossed salad (or spaghetti without any sauce). Food quality was not great (cardboard pizza, a very bland veggie lasagna) but it was plentiful and some dishes were exceptions: the tomato bisque was very tasty.

Tea was a frustration. I brought my own, correctly suspecting the hotel would have Lipton’s (bleah!) but by the end of the week they weren’t even heating the tea urns hot enough — lukewarm as best. That guarantees shit tea.

I went to more presentations than I usually do. One of the best featured Ben Ferencz (above), the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor. It was awesome. There was a good one on tarot reading; a presentation on alternate history by SF author Ian Randal Strock; one on the changes in Miami’s Cuban population over the years; and a couple that I walked out of fast because the speakers seemed rambling or unsatisfactory. One by a participant in the Bay of Pigs, for instance, was more a detached history than the eyewitness account I’d anticipated.

Hanging out was the biggest and funnest thing. Though I got a little overstimulated at times and had to take a break in my room. But not too often. After all, the AG only comes around once a year. And yes, that is a trace of glitter in my hair — some friends used me as a guinea pig.

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Mensa annual gathering 2017: maybe not hotter than hell but certainly more humid (#SFWApro)

As soon as I stepped out of the Ft. Lauderdale airport on July 2, I remembered what Florida humidity was like. What Durham thinks is humidity ain’t even close. The moistness of the air, coupled with the heat, is not pleasant, though it’s certainly familiar.

This year’s Mensa national gathering was in Hollywood, on the Atlantic coast. Due to TYG having a work conflict, she had to drop out so I went alone. Which was sub-optimal, but I was very glad to get a break from June’s 24/7 dog parenting.

Surprisingly it was only a two-hour, no-stop flight. I haven’t had a flight without a stop in years. The hotel (atrium above) was the Diplomat. Pretty to look at, and with a beach right behind it.

I couldn’t take prolonged time in the heat, but I made frequent stops outside the first couple of days. After the AG started — we’d booked for a couple of days early so we’d have time to goof off by ourselves — I wound up going out to the beach and digging my toes in the sand for a half-hour before breakfast, staring out at the waves.

On the downside, this hotel offered the priciest food I’ve seen in a while. Breakfast buffet was $30 a person, and a cheese sandwich and banana for lunch cost me $10 (and it wasn’t a memorable cheese sandwich). I was happy when the Mensa hospitality room opened so I could eat free. However after the AG started we did get 20 percent off hotel meals, plus I got a $5 voucher a day for not having housecleaning do my room.

I did take a walk down to Panera Bread Tuesday and Wednesday (crossing over the bridge you see here) to get a good (and affordable) breakfast. Regrettably it was too hot to do that during the day — though of course I could have used Lyft. A couple of friends were there Monday and we used Uber to get to a very nice little pizza place.

I found this on the beach. My writers friend Samantha Collins says it’s a drift seed (one carried by the current across the oceans) so it could be just about any plant from anywhere.

I had a neat view of the skyline from my room, both by day (above), and by night (below)

I had a great time but my midweek I was missing TYG something fierce. I was very happy to come home and see her Sunday.

More on my trip tomorrow.

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So I was in Florida last week (#SFWApro)

For the annual Mensa national gathering. And I got back yesterday. So here’s all you get for a Monday post

Hollywood Florida: the water

And the water at night

More on my trip later this week.

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A vigilante, a thief and a man of steel: graphic novels (#SFWApro)

KILL OR BE KILLED by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (cover by Phillips, all rights remain with current holder) is an interesting variation on vigilante characters: after attempting suicide by jumping off a building, Dylan impossibly survives. A demon figure (real? Imaginary?) tells him that to keep his miraculous life the man needs to offer up one life a month. So off he goes to hunt down bad people, people vile enough to deserve execution. It’s to the creators’ credit that it held my interest despite some flaws (would anyone Dylan’s age actually remember the 1970s film Death Wish?).

RASL: The Drift by Jeff Smith was a more promising series start. The eponymous protagonist is an art thief who uses a dimension-jumping device to get away after his heists. Unfortunately this time he lands in an alt.Earth and doesn’t know how to get back, not to mention that a reptilian hit man is tracking him across parallel worlds. A strong beginning.

SECRET IDENTITY by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen starts out with a Midwestern kid growing up burdened with the name of Clark Kent — which becomes less of a burden when it turns out he does, in fact, have powers just like the guy in the comics. But how can he use them effectively? What do the sinister government agents want from him? Can he balance his secret identity with his love for an Indian-American woman named Lois? This reflects Busiek’s view that comics and superpowers can make an effective metaphor for life (growing old, having kids, falling in love, etc.) and it works reasonably well, though it didn’t blow me away.

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Spider Woman vs the Founding Fathers: movies watched (#SFWApro)

One of Universal’s most successful Sherlock Holmes films was Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman (1943) with Gale Sondegaard driving men to suicide with poisonous spiders. THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK (1946) attempted to cash in by casting Sondegaard in what sounds like a sequel but isn’t. The film has Brenda Joyce arriving in a small farm community to car for sweet, blind Sondegaard (spoiler: not blind and not sweet!). Sondegaard and henchman Rondo Hatton (an acromegalic cast as a brute man in multiple films) then drain Joyce’s blood to feed Sondegaard’s poisonous carnivorous plants, which she’s using to kill off the local cattle herds, then buy back the land (which her family once owned) for a song! It’s a plot that could work for anyone from Doc Savage to Scooby Doo, but it doesn’t work here, and wraps up very clumsily. The title is rationalized by Sondegaard feeding her plants spiders as well. All rights to poster image remain with current holder “It won’t be really dying—because you’ll live on in this beautiful plant.”

1776 (1972) adapts the stage musical wherein “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams (William Daniels), Ben Franklin (Howard DaSilva) and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) struggle to tug the Continental Congress toward independence despite doubt about whether it’s possible or advisable, not to mention the nagging slavery question (Northern Exposure‘s John Cullum plays South Carolina’s Rutledge, one of the main adversaries here). Will Congress wake up to Adams’ vision of the future? Will New York’s delegation ever stop abstaining? Can Jefferson pen the Declaration of Independence when he’s so frustrated thinking about his wife (Blythe Danner)? A lot of fun and while obviously not accurate (“The history books will cover it all up.”), it does convey the sense that the Founders were embarking on something astonishing.  “This is a revolution, dammit — we’re going to have to offend someone!”

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Goals for June (#SFWApro)

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been on vacation, so there won’t be a “week in review” post this afternoon (can you soldier on?). Details of my week’s fun will come some time next week.

I came out with 48 percent of my goals accomplished, which I’m reasonably happy with. A lot of the stuff that didn’t get done was due to being full-time doggy daddy five days a week with no break (due, as I’ve mentioned before, to an outbreak of canine flu in the area). That affected lots of little things — the extra bicycling I normally do on daycare days, juggling practice (I’m a lousy juggler but I do enjoy practice. Only not when the balls can land on the dogs), cleaning time (dogs + cleaning chemicals is a suboptimal mix). Plus our surprisingly busy weekends kept me from some of the little activities I might have done during the same period. That suits my fine — social events are way preferable to ticking off stuff on my lists.

I finished a draft of Southern Discomfort, which is a big check mark for me. I did not, however, make it to the after-writer’s group bar to hang with everyone. Next month, for sure! I accomplished several other writing goals though with the Leaf project I worked on, didn’t get much in the short story vein done (but paying gigs are paying gigs). I caught up with a friend of mine whose health I was concerned about and kept up a reasonable exercise schedule. Though it’s possible the health benefits were neutralized by all my anniversary chocolate.

With things back to normal this month, I’m hoping to do better. And I’ve had a week of vacation to contemplate what I want to do and how to organize my time. We’ll see if that helps.

For illustration, here’s a Madonna by Titian, from the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Venice exhibit. Photo by me.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing