Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

How The Fuck Are We Supposed To Live in Space When You Lot Won't Even Fly to Finland?

01 September 2013

Okay, I’m being obnoxious with the post title. Granted. And I will concede that there are many good reasons to vote for a particular site over another, one of which is that you think that a given committee will deliver a better convention.
I’m not talking about those reasons.
I know I’m an experienced traveler (and known for same), so I tended to hear people’s travel-related objections to the various proposed Worldcon sites more than other people did.
Here are some of the actual objections I heard about the Finland 2015 Worldcon bid:

I don’t like the TSA

Well, then you should actually only vote for Worldcons outside the US because when you travel there, you’ll only have to deal with the TSA half as much, assuming that your last flight is an international flight. (Example: Helsinki-Frankfurt-San Francisco rather than Helsinki-NYC-San Francisco)
If you don’t have to connect to a domestic flight in the US, then you only have to deal with the TSA on your outbound flight.
Or you could move to San Francisco; we don’t have the TSA there (we have CAS).

I hate the hassles of airport security

So apply for TSA Pre-√. (This assumes Southwest is not your carrier of choice.) For US Citizens and permanent residents, I recommend applying through Global Entry, which also gets you quick immigration. Other programs like NEXUS (Canada) and SENTRI (Mexico) can participate.
And, bonus, Global Entry also means you get the fast immigration line into New Zealand, so you’ll be all set for 2020.
What does Pre-√ get you? The front of the line, even at airports with no Pre-√. The short line (I’ve never seen it more than 4 people long) at airports that do. No taking shoes off. No porno scanner. No unpacking into six bins (I seriously am not exaggerating here, I’ve actually needed six bins more than once). Most people will not need to unpack anything.
On the way back, you can skip the long immigration and customs lines. Stand at the kiosk, answer the questions, look at camera, fingerprint scan, take the receipt, you’re done. It has saved me over 20 minutes at times, though the minimum it’s saved is about a minute and a half.
Recent report from a travel friend, arriving back in the US from Rio:

At IAH (Houston). Sprinted to USCIS (US Customs and Immigration Service) because I’m a noncitizen and I had to beat the São Paulo flight that arrived at the same time as us. Managed to be first in line at immigration, and jetsetr still beat me through using Global Entry after sauntering down from the aircraft.

English isn’t Finland’s first language

English isn’t the first language of aliens, either, but we supposedly love them and crave first contact.
There have been four Worldcons in countries/regions where English was not the first language: Heidelberg (1970), The Hague (1990), Yokohama (2007), and Montreal (2009).
I’d argue that average Finnish command of English easily exceeds that of the average in Montreal. Like the Netherlands, English is very commonly spoken. In fact, I’d argue that the average Finn speaks English at least as well as the average American.

But transit … in a foreign country

Look. I’ve been to a lot of airports in a lot of countries. I think I can safely say that if I can find my way around airports in countries where the non-Roman alphabet makes no sense to me, so can you.
Much as English is the international language of aircraft controllers, almost every sign in almost every airport in the world is in whatever the country’s native language is — and also in English.
Every flight readerboard I’ve ever seen is also in English. Every ATM I’ve seen has English as an option, even in countries that don’t get a lot of American tourists (e.g., Myanmar).

But I’d rather drive/train/bicycle

Fuck Isaac Asimov.
You can have your NASFiC wherever. Let the Worldcon location be freer.
Even Asimov knew how to take a ship. (Hint: Cunard still offers the same transatlantic service it did in Asimov’s days, just less frequent. If you want to go to Europe and don’t want to fly from North America, that (or another line) should be part of your plans.
(For those who don’t know, Asimov never drove or flew. Ever.)

But I need a CPAP on my flight

Get a travel battery. Call the airline, tell them your CPAP’s model number. They will have their medical department clear you. Call to re-confirm 72 hours prior to flight.
It’s not rocket science.
I will admit to having screwed this up once. I’d had a ticket glitch on a United award ticket (during the merger last year) and my clearance got disconnected from the reservation when my ticket blipped out of existence. I’d called to reconfirm one ticket but forgot to check the second. The Swiss airline captain had to call to ground to get clearance. Fortunately, there was documentation on my other non-glitchy reservation. It is possible to get it cleared in flight like that, but I wouldn’t recommend it — it’s awfully embarrassing.
From a perspective of someone who flies a lot — a 10-11 hour flight, like one to Europe, really is the best length. Shorter flights break up sleep habits too much.

I have another medical condition that makes travel difficult

You know what? It happens. Maybe this particular Worldcon isn’t meant to be for you. None of us know for sure we’ll be able to do anything two years hence, so why hold up other people’s fun? Vote “No Preference.”
I know of people who’ve been to Worldcon under some pretty gruesome medical situations — mid-radiation, mid-chemo, and, in the case of a friend, post-terminal diagnosis.
Some conditions are showstoppers for travel, some aren’t. You’d be surprised at what people can travel with, though. I’ve heard stories about extreme medical tourism to Thailand in particular (and if you’ve been to Suvarnabhumi airport and seen the ads, you’ll understand).

Finland’s too expensive

I once heard the Hugos disparagingly described as an award ceremony held by “people who can afford a thousand dollar weekend.” He wasn’t wrong.
San Francisco to Spokane is $546 for next summer. San Francisco to Helsinki’s $1079. Spokane’s room night rate was $139. Helsinki was $80.
For one person, a flight and five nights would therefore wind up being $1251 for Spokane and $1479 for Helsinki. True, Helsinki’s higher, but it’s not as much higher as you might think.
Yeah, but I’m not traveling alone, you say. Fine, for two people sharing a room, Spokane would be $1787 ($894 pp) and Helsinki $2558 ($1279 pp), or $385 more per person.
Or, put another way, from San Francisco, one person going alone to Spokane is pretty much a wash, cost-per-person-wise, with shared accommodation in Helsinki.
Now, I’m not saying the costs aren’t real, or that they’re insignificant. I’m just saying that people were probably not looking at the whole picture or considering that they have two years between now and then.
I’m also going to say: consider the inverse case. Consider how many foreigners would come if it weren’t for the TSA, if costs weren’t so daunting, and if there weren’t language barriers.
I, for one, would like to hear more from the rest of the world, and that means holding Worldcons there.

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How You Know You're a Natural Novelist

29 August 2013

You and your spouse have been discussing going to Worldcon and Eurocon next year (London and Dublin), possibly with side trips to Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man.
In the simple form:
And then you talk about a place you two would like to go, and you think, well, it reopens right during Worldcon, so that would be convenient (as if anything like this ever would be) and so we could go on the way home.
Like so.
And that’s kind of what it’s like being a novelist: never seeing the simple arc when there’s a more interesting and involved complicated route to find.

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Using Your Powers for Good

07 August 2013

Look, I’m an imperfect person. I also am not a huge complainer, even when there are plenty of things to complain about.

It took a lot of anger and disappointment to write this complaint about my stay in Puerto Rico and send it off to the CEO.

What did I hear?


So I called a few weeks later and was offered a “Be My Guest” coupon for a one night stay. Fair enough.

However, what actually finally made me really happy?

This notice from Hilton that the Conrad Condado Plaza was being rebranded as a Hilton. Sure, they didn’t announce it as a demotion. My letter may have had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome.

However, it seems that Hilton does, in essence, agree with me: a Conrad it wasn’t.

Kendra, I hope you’re doing well and they realize how awesome you are.

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Review: 20 Feet From Stardom

04 August 2013

20 Feet From Stardom is an awesome documentary about backup singers and their trials and tribulations.
It has some awesome interviews, awesome footage, and, well, if you needed to think Phil Spector was any more of a bastard than you already thought, this film will provide you with a different kind of rage.
There are amazing performances. While it’s not exclusively about backup singers who are either women or people of color, the film focuses on the careers of six women of color. The youngest of the six is Judith Hill.
It’s this kind of movie that makes me really sad that I never really figured out what I wanted out of a musical career back when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. I never had a clearly-enough defined goal that I had something to aim for. Plus, I loved rock music and played (mostly) alto sax, but wanted to sing, and it just seemed all too confusing — like I had the wrong skill set.
In high school, I was in band (alto sax), marching band (alto sax and piccolo), orchestra (viola and oboe), dance band (baritone sax), and choir (first soprano) at the same time. I studied sound recording (audio and film) in college.
Despite a phone call with the man, one of my greatest life regrets (of which I have a handful) is not taking up Malcolm McLaren’s offer of an audition when he was trying to put a band together. I don’t think I would have gotten the gig, but I’ve always regretting not having the nerve to fly to London and have a go at it.
A couple of years later, I was offered a gig as a motion picture sound intern on a friend’s project, and I turned down a gig (a sure thing) to go to France to work on the film.
Those of you who know me will say, “Wait, Deirdre, that doesn’t sound like you at all.” Yes. That’s true. Regret changes you.
Each of the amazing women in this film have had victories and setbacks, and they’re interesting to hear about. Highly recommended.

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Mistakes Were Made: Losing an iPhone

30 July 2013

How My iPhone Was Stolen: A Risk Analysis

The afternoon I left Cape Town, South Africa, my iPhone was stolen by my cab driver. I made a bunch of mistakes that put me at risk. This is an analysis of the ones that have occurred to me.

  1. If you have a personal relationship, cultivate it. I do have a friend in Cape Town. It’s possible I could have asked her for a referral. I did not, so the days that I was in town and she wasn’t able to see me, I went with whatever cab driver I could find. I could also have asked for a referral from a friend of a friend.
  2. If you create a personal relationship, stick with it unless you have a compelling reason not to. A bad feeling is a compelling reason. My cab driver on Saturday was Sharon, who was kind of one of those bossy mom-like cab drivers. I really liked her, but when it came to exchanging phone numbers, I chickened out. I’m sorry, Sharon. It’s not that I didn’t trust you, it’s that I just get weirdly shy sometimes, and that was one of those times.
  3. When you have an item you carry with you at all times, guard against overstuffing it. My purse had too much paper in it. Therefore, it was too full. Therefore, when I needed to stuff my phone somewhere at a moment’s notice, there wasn’t room for it. Therefore, I covered it with my palm and put it in a thin nylon bag that the taxi driver stuck in the trunk. See where this opened me to risk? He may not have even seen my gesture, but the fact that it was there, out of my direct control, made it risky.
  4. When you have an appointment (e.g., for a taxi pick-up), be ready far in advance. My taxi driver arrived 12 minutes early. My bar tab wasn’t paid. I had to dig through the overstuffed purse for my neck wallet with my remaining South African currency. This created unnecessary stress and distraction.
  5. When your possessions are in the hands of other people, always watch the full transaction end-to-end. Now, as a matter of habit, I do watch taxi drivers load and unload my stuff, but I never really thought about why I did it. And so, my purse being overstuffed, I was stressed about something falling out into the taxi and my losing control of it, and that included things far more important than a phone (like my passport). So I paused by the rear door of the cab to finish stuffing the paperwork inside and zipping it closed. It took me no more than a few seconds, but I was fully engaged in what I was doing, you know?
  6. Weirdly, I didn’t trust the taxi driver, but I didn’t double-check the contents of that carryon, either. I did have an instinct that I should have. I don’t know that that would have actually accomplished anything, though. What would have happened if I’d discovered it then? Would the police have sided with me? Or would it simply have gotten worse? I don’t know.

So, an iPhone 4S with scratches all over its face from sliding across the floor of the Conrad Puerto Rico, a constant memory of my ill-fated stay there, was stolen by someone who was far happier to have it than I was to be reminded of it every time I looked at my phone.

Street value used for it was $50, so I’m more annoyed than hurt.

One other tip I’ll impart: if you are in a situation where you’re traveling remotely like that, make sure that your international data is enabled when you have the phone out of your possession. That way, you have a chance to remote wipe it when you deem it a total loss (assuming they don’t just power the device off immediately). Instead, I spent a lot of happy fun time changing my email passwords (first, because that’s what you get password resets sent to, right?), bank site passwords, my DropBox password, my iCloud passwords, and, most importantly, my 1Password passphrase and PIN. I have since changed all my other passwords — they were overdue — but that was a lot of tedium I shouldn’t have had to bother with.

Apart from that, the most practical immediate loss (since I had a cellular iPad with me as well as a wifi iPad Mini) was that all my tunes were on my phone. I have my devices somewhat segregated, and my iPads are more for video where my iPhone was used for music. So that part sucked, especially since I didn’t have time to download very much to listen to before my 11 hour flight to London.

Still, that’s a pretty small complaint, all things considered.

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29 July 2013

[![Photo by Howard Tayler](/images/2013/07/BQOuDdxCUAEjcV6.jpg)](/images/2013/07/BQOuDdxCUAEjcV6.jpg)Photo by Howard Tayler

Rick’s on the right in the loud Hawaiian shirt and Panama hat. I’m on Rick’s left, but not really visible in the pic.
For those of you who don’t know what JayWake is about, Jay Lake got his terminal cancer diagnosis recently and decided to hold a wake while he was still able to attend. Here’s his blog post about the event.
I’m not big on writing con reports generally, but I’ve certainly attended smaller conventions than JayWake turned out to be (attendance was around 200 people).
Before the formal event started, Jay said he’d planned to donate his body to medical school and had considered getting a tattoo that said, “Hello, I’ll be your cadaver this semester.”
As one might expect, Jay entered the event in a coffin, then popped out.
Kelly Buehler and Daniel Spector prepared a video from New Zealand, and the ending was a rickroll. I said to Rick, “You know, that’s actually the first time I’ve been rickrolled in a non-professional context.” Job hazard.
The rest of the quotes are mostly hilariously out of context:
“Would all the women who haven’t slept with Jay please raise your hands?” (surveys raised hands) “Well, Jay, you can’t die yet.”
About Jay’s polyamory: “Jay’s seen more holes than two families of gophers.”
About cancer — and Joan of Arc (!) — “They’re all dead, but they had hope.”
When asked the true story of how he knew Jay, one response included the following: “Now, ordinarily you wouldn’t read a book in a brothel….”
There was actually a funnier line that followed this, but my limited prose buffer only kept: “The morning after his surgery, he tried to break out of the hospital like a ninja. As you do.”
“He’s kinda like a corpulent, emo, Jiminy Cricket.”
“He’s famous for being a tumor-ridden love machine.”
About Jay’s “ass cancer” winding up in the wrong places in his body: “How about for your next fundraiser, we get your cancer a fucking GPS?”
In his wrapup, Jay said: “I have become medically interesting in two different ways, which is not really something you should aspire to.”
This could have become a maudlin hand-wringing event. This is the kind of event that relies — a ton — on not only the honored guest, but also his or her friends. Everyone kept it interesting and different. And it was interesting and different, even the parts that were painful.
Anyhow, it turned out to be a lot of fun, though emotionally exhausting. I spent most of Sunday sleeping it off, but that’s probably also partly residual jet lag.

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SFO's Adventures Saturday and Travel Tips

06 July 2013

I don’t have anything to add to the Asiana flight 214 crash, but I’m incredibly thankful that there was so little loss of life, especially given that it was at my home airport.
My friend Rob said the following:

I cannot quote this enough. Shoes on until the double chimes, and shoes back on after the double chimes. Not something you want to be fumbling around with if you need to exit in a hurry.

With that in mind, may I make a suggestion: have everything absolutely essential with you on your person before the last few minutes of the flight: passport, credit cards, currency, driver’s license, list of prescriptions, a day’s worth of pills if you have meds you need, and your cell phone.
If you ever need to exit a plane quickly, make sure you have what’s most essential, because you won’t have the time in the chaos to get anything else.
I use a neck wallet from Eagle Creek. I prefer the silk ones because they breathe better. Some people prefer belt wallets; some prefer travel vests. Whatever works for you.
You are almost certain to never need your items in such a circumstance, but if you do, it’s nice to have good habits in place.

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Clarion Write-a-Thon, Week 1

30 June 2013

It’s been one week, and I’ve been working on an existing short. It’s been kinda sloggy writing-wise because I’m super-busy at work this time of year, and I have the death of a thousand paper cuts with errands and details before the trip begins.
Also, it’s been incredibly hot this weekend. Yesterday, it was 102 and today it was 96 — and we don’t have air conditioning. Right now, it’s 88 degrees inside and it’s 8 pm. Sigh.
But I have written, every day.
You can sponsor me here.

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Kickstarter: Erasure Is Not Enough

21 June 2013

Vasa Museum

You know what I respect most about Sweden? They had a great engineering disaster. One of the best of all time, frankly.

Did they try to erase it?

No, they built a fucking monument where you can see the order of magnitude of the folly of a bad decision they made in the 17th century. And how people died.

It’s called the Vasa museum.

So, About Kickstarter.

They blinked. Or did they?

My opinion: no. They tried to erase what they did and write a small check, and that will be enough for some people.

I woke up this morning. As I often do first thing, I scrolled through my Twitter client.

The overwhelming reaction from the men on my Twitter feed was that Kickstarter had done enough.

The overwhelming reaction from the women on my Twitter feed was that they had not done enough.

They did not do enough.

So here’s my guess: while we’d like for them to have paused or canceled the campaign while it was still running, they lacked the infrastructure for that to happen.

However, it doesn’t say why they didn’t, say, edit a database table that would change when the Kickstarter campaign ended (effectively giving more time to raise money), add a warning they were investigating and that’s why they’d changed the end time, and given themselves more time to deal with the problem while the campaign was still running.

Brilliant, right? I know. I’m a fucking genius. But I’ve been a DBA in a crisis, and that’s what my first thought would have been, and it was totally within their ability to do. Maybe not within their policy, but within their technological capability.

The big thing there, and it would have been misinterpreted, was that it would have prevented the Kickstarter from being funded while they decided what to do.

Now, on to what they did do.

One of the motes in American character, especially American business character, is to try to erase what one did that was wrong. You’ve already admitted you were wrong, why not own up to all of it? Have the stones to go there.

Instead, they e-mailed the bad decision sub rosa to several blogs saying that the campaign was not a violation of Kickstarter policy, and now they do a big official oops on their page, hoping you will forget that they in fact said the project was okay. Because, of course, they didn’t say it was okay on their official company page.

That’s the typical American chickenshit way of “fixing” a problem. It lacks moral character.

So let’s not forget this part, okay?

Update, 6:51 p.m. EST: Kickstarter emailed a statement to The Raw Story regarding both the project and the public response:

Kickstarter reviews projects based on our guidelines and the information creators share on their project pages. It’s a process we’ve refined over four years and continue to refine daily. We strive for fair and thoughtful policies that maintain the health of the Kickstarter ecosystem.

This morning, material that a project creator posted on Reddit earlier this year was brought to our and the public’s attention just hours before the project’s deadline. Some of this material is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as people and as an organization. Based on our current guidelines, however, the material on Reddit did not warrant the irreversible action of canceling the project.

As stewards of Kickstarter we sometimes have to make difficult decisions. We followed the discussion around the web today very closely. It led to a lot of internal discussion and will lead to a further review of our policies.

With that in mind….

I’m a rape survivor, so I get to say what would be enough reparations from Kickstarter for me. So, without further ado, here’s the list:

  1. $25k of reparations is not enough. How much is enough? I like $163,690 as a number. That’s ten times the amount raised in the Kickstarter campaign. It’s also obviously symbolic. It also hurts more than $25,000. Hell, you probably pay some of the people involved in these decisions that much per year, right? Maybe the person who made the bad call?

  2. 732 hours of off-site sexual assault recognition and crisis training and/or volunteering, paid for by the company. One hour for each person who contributed to the campaign. Given that Kickstarter has 61 employees, that’s 1.5 business days per person. Exactly, weirdly enough. When I say everyone, I mean including the CEO. Write a blog post when this is done. It’s important to do it off-site so you all are taken out of the context of the office for the experience.

  3. Un-erase the Kickstarter campaign’s page. Instead, put a warning on it. Make sure it’s a monument to Kickstarter’s folly.

  4. Edit the blog post and acknowledge that Kickstarter made an earlier bad decision saying that the campaign was not in violation of Kickstarter’s guidelines. Do not erase the mistake.

  5. Admit that you were deleting facebook wall posts like crazy. Look, I get it. Honestly, I don’t care about this one, but other people do. At least admit that you did it.

  6. Publicly commit, with a deadline, to building a “Pause this Campaign” infrastructure that has, as a minimum, the following:

    • Permits linking to a blog post explaining why a Kickstarter is paused.
    • Has great big old “Paused” wording, preventing any additional monies being contributed to the campaign, but allowing any existing contributor to back out.
    • Until that is implemented, commit to extending the deadline (for above-stated reasons) on any controversial campaign.

Let’s not forget the important part: some asshole has the lion’s share of sixteen grand to write a book that includes sexual predator tips, and 732 people funded it and want that book.

All because Kickstarter failed to show moral character in a crisis.

And Kickstarter would love the concerns of those of us sexual assault survivors to be erased just like the campaign page.


Twenty-five grand and an oops (especially reversing a prior decision they won’t publicly acknowledge) is not enough.

Erasure? Just pisses me off more.

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