Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

How Much Did it Cost to Go Around the World?

12 July 2012

A lot of people who write about aspirational travel talk about getting big sign-up bonuses for credit cards — okay if you’re that kind of person, but I have a mix of cards I like. I also don’t necessarily like to be beholden to any given chain. In the last year, I made two changes: I changed my Hilton American Express card to the Surpass version, which has an annual fee and offers me Gold status for one year. Additionally, I upgraded my American Express Green card to a Gold Rewards card before going to Bermuda. Those were the only two rewards cards I used on this trip.

Thus, I felt I had the flexibility to stay where I wanted to: Conrad Hong Kong for the best Hilton value, then I booked the Park Hyatt Dubai through American Express, giving me double Membership Rewards points, and I’d booked the Eden Au Lac in Zurich directly as American Express didn’t have availability for my dates.


San Francisco to Hong Kong Cathay Pacific: 35,000 British Airways Avios + $150.40 in taxes and fees. Coach. Approximate cash cost of this ticket: $772
Hong Kong to Dubai Cathay Pacific: 40,000 British Airways Avios + $142.17. Business class. Typical flight cost: $3388.
Dubai to Zurich Swiss: 27,500 United miles + $21.80. Business class. Typical flight cost: $3340.
Zurich to Luxembourg (and back) Swiss: 32,500 United miles + $47.95. Business class one way (all I could get), economy the other. Typical flight cost: $888.
Zurich to San Francisco via New York Swiss and United: 50,000 United Miles plus $65.10. Business class on Swiss, First on United. Typical flight costs: $5863 for the Swiss flight, $1722 for the United flight.

All told, $15,973 of flights for $427.42 + 185,000 frequent flyer miles. Good deal. Because I used two programs, I booked them segment-by-segment due to stopover rules.

I left San Francisco on June 10, my first day of travel.

Hong Kong (June 11- very early on the 14)

  1. Cash taken with and converted: $100, which was partly used for airport express train, taxis, and one lunch at the Macau ferry terminal
  2. Conrad Hong Kong (3 nights at Points + cash rate of $85 a night + 25,000 points, plus one dinner): $347.32
  3. Spaghetti 360: lunch on Victoria Peak: $17.92
  4. Macau ferry: $37.51 round trip

Since there’s only one Hilton property in Hong Kong and I had lots of Hilton points, the choice of place to stay was super-easy. Due to my Hilton status, I was upgraded to an Executive Peak View room, which was amazing. Also, the exec room offered free breakfast and light snacks later in the day, so this helped save on my budget.

Dubai (June 14-18)

  1. Cash withdrawn from ATM: $136.13 (500 dirham)
  2. Brunch: $72.74 Park Hyatt Dubai: $816.88 (three nights, one half night for coming in very early, breakfast daily and one dinner) — this was booked as a regular summer special; the base hotel rate was ~170/night.
  3. Ski Dubai: $59.90 At the Top (Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building): 28.73

Initially, I’d booked at the Hilton Dubai Creek, but most everyone was staying at the Park Hyatt, so I went with the flow even though the room was more expensive. In the long run, not having to take my own taxis saved some money.

Zurich and Luxembourg (June 18-20)

Note: I changed my remaining currency from Hong Kong and Dubai into Euros

  1. Hotel Eden au Lac: 863.48 (two nights, two breakfasts, one dinner, base hotel rate ~355/night)
  2. Zurich Transit and museum pass: $41.94
  3. Luxembourg airport lunch: $18.03
  4. Hot chocolate at Sprungli: $8.44
  5. Gogo wifi for flight home on United p.s.: $12.70

Zurich hotels, especially in summer, are extremely expensive, and I picked a boutique hotel that I knew was good with a great location. It was less than all the major chains, but not incredibly outrageous. The view was phenomenal, though the view from my room was what we’d call “adjacent office building view.”

Total for everything — 11 (well, really, 11-1/2) days of travel — $2989.14.

I had a working budget of $2300 during my trip; I had prepaid several items (including flights), so I actually came out almost $200 under budget. All told, my expenses ran $271.74 a day — not bad for business class (save for one leg in economy and one in first) and staying at some of the nicest places in the world for a week and a half. Part of this is the long flights, though: I traveled for 11-1/2 days, but paid for 8-1/2 days of hotels.

Read More

"She Opted Out of This Section of the Universe"

11 July 2012

That’s what a Church of Scientology official said when explaining why the President of the Church of Scientology’s ex-wife Karen (de la Carriere) would not be permitted to attend her 27-year-old son’s memorial.
Story here.
I’m glad that Heber (said president) will be permitted out of The Hole for the memorial, though. It shows a very small amount of humanity.
Karen will be holding her own memorial for her son in a few days.

Read More

My Westercon Schedule

04 July 2012

This weekend, I’ll be speaking at Westercon 65 at the Doubletree Seatac in Seattle.
Here’s my schedule:
Thu Jul 5 3:00:pm – 4:00:pm Humor in Speculative Fiction
Cascade 2 Blowing up a spaceship is easy; making it funny is hard. Writers talk about hilarity for fun and profit.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Frances Pauli Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff Ted Butler
Fri Jul 6 9:00:am – 10:00:am Research for Fantasy Writers
Cascade 13 Readers don’t want to run into glaring inaccuracies in a story. How does a fantasy writer avoid this? Where can a writer find good research sources easily? What has to be “real” in a fantasy world, and what can the writer get away with?
Anna Sheehan Deirdre Saoirse Moen Michael Ehart Renee Stern Robin Hobb
Fri Jul 6 1:00:pm – 2:00:pm Lessons From The Slush Pile
Cascade 7-8 Slush piles can be terrifying. They can also be an author’s best friend. Why you should volunteer your time as a slush pile reader.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Janna Silverstein Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff Patrick Swenson
Sat Jul 7 4:00:pm – 5:00:pm My Town
Cascade 2 Westercon is a regional convention. Part of the beauty is getting to see how it’s done in your town. What towns would you like to see host Westercon?
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Gibbitt Rhys-Jones Suzanne Tompkins
Sun Jul 8 11:00:am – 12:00:pm Ebook Conversion 101
Cascade 3-4 Want to take your manuscript and convert it to an ebook so you can post it on Amazon and make more money than the Queen? Great! Where do you begin? What tools do you need? How do you get from A to B to C and the rest of the alphabet before you’re ready to upload it? Let’s discuss.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen G.Robin Gibbitt Rhys-Jones M Todd Gallowglas Tod McCoy

Read More

One Freakin' SNP: Today's Change

28 June 2012

I have a bad SNP. It’s not my fault. Genetic analysis has determined that I got this wayward gene from my father.
However, knowing that celiac disease could be very bad, and having only a big major medical coverage at the time (in 1996, with a $5,000 deductible), I didn’t want to be “officially” diagnosed as celiac. So my doctor and I did the blood test and I changed my diet to gluten-free. Until I had more stable coverage, this was all I could afford to do.
This meant that I was “off the books” as a presumed celiac, and that meant there was no paper trail to deny me insurance based on a pre-existing condition. And there ain’t much more pre-existing than a bum gene, right?
However, this worked against me in the long run. If I were to stay in a hospital, I had nothing to back up a gluten-free meal request — or, worse, gluten-free pill requests. I’ve been told explicitly I wasn’t celiac because I didn’t have high enough levels of anti-gliadin antibodies (never mind the fact that not every celiac does) even though I’d been on a gluten-free diet for years. In fact, I still haven’t gotten the celiac label to stick at my HMO because it is so difficult to diagnose someone who’s been on a gluten-free diet as long as I have, and typically the methods involve making someone very ill. Charming.
In short, I’ve been trying for years to get accurately labeled, and it’s cost time, expense, and quite literal pain and suffering — all because of my fear of being labeled when I had inadequate insurance and could be denied for pre-existing conditions.
In fact, my mother had emigrated to Canada in the 80s, had breast cancer while there, and was afraid to return to the US for fear of not being able to find any coverage at any price. At the time she left, few small US employers offered health care plans, and pre-existing condition exemptions were huge. Over time, that changed, so she returned to the US as a dual citizen in the dot bomb era, now able to find good coverage (partly because the cancer had been long enough ago that pre-existing clauses didn’t clawback that far).
Also, as my friend Kate phrased it, “I’m unbelievably happy, not having to plan major life decisions around benefits packages could change my entire career path.”
Amen, sister.

Read More

Two Conversations

04 June 2012

From Fairly Legal, Season 1, episode “Coming Home”, a key conversation between Justin and Kate. From this, it’s fairly obvious that Justin filed for divorce and that Kate didn’t want to split up.
K: (Knocks on Justin’s door) Hey, I tried calling you, you didn’t answer your phone.
J: That’s because I didn’t want to talk to anybody.
K: I’m really sorry I betrayed your confidence.
J: So you just apologize and everything’s all right?
K: Justin, it’s me we’re talking about.
J: You’re unbelievable, you know that?
K: Aww, Justin. I’m sorry. But don’t hold this over my head just to get even.
J: This isn’t about getting even. This isn’t about Paul Hainsley and you know it.
K: All right, fine. I admit it. I’ve been avoiding signing the divorce papers. It’s…. I really like things the way they are.
J: What we have is not a marriage, Kate.
K: I know, and isn’t that great?
J: How is that great?
K: Well, when we were married married, we never had any time for each other, right? And that created pressure.
J: Which I was willing to work through; you weren’t.
K: It’s everything I loved about the relationship without actually having to be in the relationship.
J: So it’s all the fun without the work, right?
K: Yeah, so what’s wrong with that?
J: Where do I start?
(they kiss)
J: Stop.
K: What’s wrong?
J: This is what we always do.
K: Yeah, there’s good reasons why we should.
J: No, and then it just goes back to the way it was before and nothing changes, and I don’t want to do this any more, Kate. I can’t.
K: Sure you can.
J: No. I can’t. What if you were mediating this relationship? What would you say? Ignore the problem. Let’s go to bed. Nah. You’d say fix it, right?
K: Maybe.
J: Yeah. I love you, Kate. But what we have is broken. We can’t keep pretending that it’s not.
K: Justin.
J: (backs away) I’m sorry.
And the opening scene from season 2’s first episode, Satisfaction, where Kate and Ben meet. It essentially is a plot map for much of season 2.
K: (plays with rim of glass)
B: Plymouth and tonic.
K; Check, please.
B: Do you always come in the door leaving?
K: Umm, it is Not My Scene.
B: But, here you are, so you were either born on that bar stool or you came in here disguised as a woman who wants attention.
K: And you’re wearing a $3000 suit with a pocket square.
B: I believe my motives are clear.
K: Sorry. It has been a while since anyone’s offered to buy me a drink.
B: Really? Did the world go blind?
K: (Laughs) I’m married. Was married. Now I’m not. Anyway, the ex is on his way to sign the (waves hand) whatever, but it looks like he has blown me off.
B: Well, it’s just as well, or he would have changed his mind.
K: (Laughs) Nice try. Maybe it’ll feel normal some day.
B: Do you believe in fate?
K: Wow, was that a line?
B: It’s a question. Takes the edge off picking up strangers in bars.
K: I’m 29. I’m, uh, nearly divorced, recently orphaned, more recently out of a job. My life is kind of at this unexpected turning point, so yeah. I do believe in fate. And I believe she is a fickle, fickle bitch. [nice recap for people who didn’t watch Season 1]
B: You seem broken.
K: (laughs)
B: I like that.
K: And you’re a fixer.
B: No.
K: Yeah.
B: No, I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.
K: Well, at least you’re decent enough to be honest about it, you don’t see that much.
B: Oh, you must be a lawyer.
K: (lying) Schoolteacher.
B: Right. You’re a schoolteacher and I’m a decent guy, so (raises glass) cheers to honesty.
K: Hey, cheers. Yeah. (laughs) And good night. (gets up, starts leaving)
B: Is truth the way to your heart?
K: (turns)
B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart.
K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me.
B: (stares)
K: (whispers) Too late.
B: (stares after her as she leaves)

Read More

Mediating Cats and Dogs

31 May 2012

Love this opening dream sequence from the upcoming Fairly Legal episode “Borderline”:

“They’re smart enough not to chase cars.”

Read More

To Answer a Question

26 May 2012

Several people have asked why I’m not at Wiscon. Short answer: I have better things to do with my vacation time.
With a thriving local con, I’d rather go there. Also: this year, my travel costs to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and El Salvador cost less in aggregate than Wiscon would, and I think it’s a better use of travel budget than a non-local con.
Also, I simply cannot see giving Wisconsin any of my tourism dollars while that state continues to have people like Scott Walker in power. Sure, I’ve spent tourism dollars foreign countries that were more oppressive, but not ones contributing to the problems here at home. Part of the reason I do that is to understand the problems women face worldwide, and I think I understand the domestic problem set fairly well.
Frankly, I’d rather do direct feminism rather than going to a con to talk about feminism.
The moment I’ve had held in my mind half this political season also came from Taroudant: when I saw a line of mostly women in front of a storefront, then saw the sign that said “Écrivain Publique.” They were waiting for a scribe. (While I took a lot of photos in Morocco, I didn’t take this one because it felt disrespectful to do so.) When I hear about proposed education cuts, or hear about how people think education’s not important, that’s the image I have in my mind, and if I’d gone to Wiscon last year instead of Morocco, I wouldn’t have that moment.
For a photo Rick took: goats love argan, and love to climb the trees. Who knew?

[![](/images/2012/05/P1090983.jpg "Goats in Argan Tree")]( in Argan Tree

Read More

Fairly Legal, Season 2 (thus far)

23 May 2012

Fairly Legal, Season 2 (thus far)
After season 1, USA axed the show creator and brought on a different show creator, then brought in Ben as a love triangle character. Season 1 was about the rather broken relationship that Kate had with her soon-to-be-ex husband Justin, which was summed up in season 1’s episode “Coming Home”:

J: What we have is not a marriage, Kate. K: I know, and isn’t that great? J: How is that great? K: Well, when we were married married, we never had any time for each other, right? And that created pressure. J: Which I was willing to work through; you weren’t. K: It’s everything I loved about the relationship without actually having to be in the relationship. J: So it’s all the fun without the work, right? K: Yeah, so what’s wrong with that? J: Where do I start? The scene ends with Justin pulling back more than once. In Season 2, Kate finally does sign the divorce papers she’s been putting off, and Justin ineptly tells her she can start dating again. This leads to an awkward situation where she’s out having a drink with Ben (as a colleague) and Justin shows up with a new date, something Kate’s completely unprepared for. But let’s back up for a minute. The opening scene of Season 2 is when Kate’s sitting at a bar waiting for Justin so they can sign the divorce papers, but he doesn’t show (not his fault, as is shown later in the episode). Ben, a rather cocky attorney, comes by to hit on her. He throws one line after another out, hoping for something to stick, and as she’s starting to leave, he finally hits home. B: Is truth the way to your heart? K: (turns) B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart. K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me. B: (stares) K: (whispers) Too late. B: (stares after her as she leaves) As it turns out, he actually does really listen to what she says here, though he doesn’t really get the groove right away. The next day, he’s representing one party in her mediation, and by the end of the episode, he’s bought his way into the firm. Now, strictly as a writer thing, it’s the way to get him into situations up close and personal with the main characters — there was no other way to have him continually interact wth her. For Ben, though, he’s the 23rd-highest-grossing attorney in the city, he has no associates, is generally a lone wolf (and competent at it), so why would he buy his way into a law firm that was going under — if it weren’t for his initial fascination with Kate? The day after he buys into the firm: B: You look familiar. K: Oh dear God, it’s true. You actually do work here. B: Didn’t you hit on me in some bar recently? K: You know how some women don’t remember the pain of child labor? I don’t remember the bar. B: And yet here I am, rosy cheeked, 153 pounds, 7 ounces, right in the office next to yours. We’re going to have so much fun together, Katie. Pillow fights. Movie nights. Up gossiping till dawn. K: (punches elevator button repeatedly) Things progress until episode 6, “What they Seem,” which is when Justin fumbles telling Kate she can date. There’s an earlier bit cut out of the actual episode that’s in the [season 2 promo]( that’s necessary for context. J: The only reason he brought you into this mess is because he thinks you’re can throw me off my game. K: Oh, you think? J: Oh, so you know he’s using you. K: Yeah. Sometimes a girl doesn’t mind being used, especially if he’s cute and has a lot of money. (blows Ben a kiss.) (To Justin) How’s your game now? Later in the same episode after the case’s resolution, J: (About a case they just worked on) I guess I’m not usually blinded by my emotions. K: (Sarcastically) I have no idea what that’s like. You said I was the one being used. J: Just for the record, if you wanted to be used, or — not used, but — look, what I’m saying is– K: (turns to look in the direction Justin’s looking and sees Ben) Ben Grogan? J: No. No? (impliedly asking if she were interested in Ben) K: No. J: No, no, no, I’m talking about the concept in general of dating. (devolves into stammerfest) K: You’re so cute to see you fumbling for your words. J: Oh my God, forget I said anything. K: Good, I hope so, ’cause that was weird. Somewhat earlier, Kate is convinced that inattentional blindness is at the heart of her current mediation, and Ben doesn’t believe in it, so Kate leads him into the office by his tie and tries (successfully) to distract him. Her demo buys her most of a day to try to uncover what really happened. In the bar later, Ben notices Kate isn’t her usual self: B: To partners. K: Whatever. B: Look at you, agreeing to have a drink with me. K: Oh, slow down there, cowboy. I just needed a bar and somebody with a car to drive me there. B: What is the matter? You’re the queen of win-win. This is win-win-win. K: Uh huh. B: You get the truth, O’Hara gets to keep his pension, and Andre Chernof is going to clean up. K: Mmhmm. Then Justin walks in with a date. Ben asks if she wants to leave. Initially she resists, but then grabs Ben’s coat and says, “Let’s get out of here.” Ben drives Kate home, and she invites him in. She then propositions him, but he turns her down. For a lot of fans, this was when they started liking Ben. Naturally, the two characters wind up in the elevator the next morning: B: Oh shazam, now I remember. You saw Justin on a date last night, drank too much, I drove you home, and you asked me in for meaningless revenge sex because you think I’m an empty person. Did we? No. Because I said no to you and went home. (There are a lot of great elevator scenes in this series) Two episodes later, after another case, Kate and Ben are leaving the building at the end of the day, and he pulls her into a kiss. While he starts it, she definitely contributes to it, then breaks it off. In the following episode, she describes it as “I kissed somebody” to two different people — as though she had initiated the action, but when she tells her assistant Leo, and he asks who, she lies and says he doesn’t know the guy. Leo figures it out later that day, though. Nevertheless, Kate stands up Ben the next episode, instead spending the night with Justin (who tells her “Don’t ever change” — a line that justifiably enraged a lot of fans). It’s not until the 10th episode, Shattered, when Kate finds out that Ben really cares, and leads to my favorite line of the entire series when Ben’s ex shows up as counsel for one of Kate’s cases: “Were you two Amish together?” Kate corners Leo after noticing that Leo and Ben are acting different around each other; Leo tells Kate (after Ben asked him not to — twice) that Ben had come around to his house looking for Kate when Kate stood Ben up. Despite this, Kate leaves hand-in-hand with Justin at the end of the episode, but she looks back twice to see the reaction on Ben’s face. [Next episode’s sneak peak suggests that Ben isn’t going to fight fair.]( I approve. I didn’t come around to Ben right away; he’s become increasingly sympathetic as the season goes on, but he’s just as flawed as Kate is. What I find interesting is that when you look at personal space, Kate is far more likely to invade the space of or touch Ben than she ever was with Justin. Kate’s a very touchy person, and is comfortable with that close boundary, but she tends to keep her distance with Justin unless she’s trying to manipulate him into sex. I really hope she stops doing that, but hell, I had one of those relationships with an ex for years, so I can also empathize. In Kate’s case, it really doesn’t seem like she’s dated anyone other than Justin, which makes it harder for her to break things off. In Ben’s case, we’ve already met two of his exes, so one wonders how many dozens (or hundreds) of others there are. Or, as I’ve said before: Kate’s a train wreck and Ben’s a perfectly good train. The main thing wrong with Justin is that he’s an unwreckable train. In order for a plot to work, the plot mechanisms need to be able to create change in the characters, and Justin’s like Argon: non-reactive. He’s too steadfast a personality to be interesting with Kate. Ben is mercurial and has that well-practiced exterior gloss over the wounded puppy inside.

Read More

BayCon 2012 Schedule

17 May 2012

1. How Has the SyFy Channel Failed Fandom? on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM in Alameda For those of us who thought “Wow! A complete cable channel for US!” and ended up sorry they ever tuned in. Or put another way, why these shouldn’t even be rated “B” movies or serials.
2. Themed Reading: Science Fiction on Saturday from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM in Central
Come listen to authors read from their science fiction works.
3. Hugo Nominees Discussed on Saturday from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM in San Tomas
WorldCon 2012 is fast approaching, and every year the highlight is the Hugo Awards. Our panel of past and present Hugo voters will discuss the nominees. Who do you think should win? Who do you think will win?
4. Travel is My Drug of Choice on Sunday from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM in Camino Real
Avid travelers travel for different reasons. Panelists discuss the motivations behind their enthusiasm.
5. Make a Website that Doesn’t Suck on Sunday from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM in Bayshore
What do to, what to avoid when putting together your own website, and how to do it.
6. A Shot Rang Out on Monday from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM in Bayshore

Read More