Worldcon 2009

A pictorial essay!

Montreal is full of many wonderful things. (Although I didn't eat the good poutine this time. Only the vat-grown food-court poutine. But that has its own charm, as fast food always does for the first twenty minutes.) I also finally got enough of the spruce soda, which the Montrealers introduced me to in 2005.

But I don't have photos of the food. I do have photos of the city.

(I apologize in advance for the fact that these were all taken with a crappy iPhone camera. It's better than the crappy digital camera I used to use.)

National Film Board of Canada

The National Film Board of Canada! It's a real place! (You can watch bunches of their films online, by the way.)

Thrastles under the streets

Montreal has a terrible problem with thrastles in the sewers. At night they stampede back and forth through the Underground, their breath steaming up through the streets.

A metal chair

Also in the Underground: a steel chair. Or maybe it's aluminum -- I didn't try to pick it up. Yes, the whole thing is metal, including the "cushion".

Idea of the week: the current financial crisis as a failure of antiquated copyright models. The financial ratings agencies used to make money by selling books of ratings, but that stopped working... Noted by Paul Krugman in the Paul Krugman / Charlie Stross fireside chat.

The convention took place (mostly) at the Palais des congrès de Montréal (French, "the function rooms are on the fifth floor, the food is on the first floor, nobody is on the third floor").

Colored sunlight

Quite the psychedelic arena.

Three worlds

Portrayed by Escher, after Three Worlds.

Palais Zamboni

At night, the Zambonis come out.

(Note that the Zamboni is on the floor but, for some reason, the ice-skating arena is on the ceiling.)

Another idea of the week: Venus isn't a hellhole with a dense, hot atmosphere. It's a pleasant place -- Earth's twin, in the old phrase -- Earthlike temperature, atmospheric pressure, gravity. Always sunny; chemically useful CO2/N2 atmosphere. Only problem is, the crust is 65 km below that "sea level" environment. Stay above the clouds, though, and you're fine. (From Geoff Landis's presentation on colonizing Venus.)
I also wandered around the city a little bit. I got a couple of art museums (wacky chairs!), and also the Jardin botanique de Montréal, at which I could have stayed all day but for thunderstorms, my failing feets, and an imminent airplane departure.

Container of vanilla pods

Better photographers than I have done the gardens, but I had to post this picture. It's a display case full of vanilla beans, in the tropical greenhouse. Why is that cool? Look close (click for a larger version of the photo). You can barely see them, due to the crappiness of the iPhone camera, but the inner surface of the case is frosted with tiny, needle-like crystals.

I'm pretty sure those are crystals of pure vanillin, baked out of the beans.

Quotes of the week:

"Rolling a great big woo-katamari up the hill." (Margaret Ronald.) I won't spoil it by explaining.

"SF teaches us that you can be a hero or a villain -- and both career paths are available." (Didn't write down who that was; possibly James Morrow.) (Update: it was Richard Crownover; thanks Kate Nepveu.)

But that crappy iPhone camera offers a few opportunities for wackiness. I took this picture out the window of the turboprop plane I flew up in:

Turboprop 1

Yes, that's what the camera sees. It's because the optical sensor is read off in rows, from right to left, not all at once.

Turboprop 2

Another image, after takeoff. If you want to replicate this trick, you'll have to do it in daytime. When the light levels are low, the exposure time is longer and you just get a blur.

Turboprop 3

Same as the previous image, but I rotated the camera, so it's reading from bottom to top now.

(I could have come up with a lovely tiddle-bong-bong explanation involving warp contours passing through the Alcubierre manifold, but aren't these good enough on their own?)

Random video resource of the week: This is streaming video of demos, which are a genre of programmatic video art. It's slightly contrarian to view these as streamed video, because the point of the medium is real-time generated imagery. But if you don't have a Windows machine with a bonzo graphics card, this is how you have to view them. Still pretty.

My con concluded with Jordin Kare reading Greg Beatty's poem Aliens Enter the Conversation:

...Aliens enter the body through the vagina, where they are at home. Aliens enter the body through the bend in the elbow, which you shouldn't have let her bite. Aliens enter the body through the weakness in the shoulder and the ache in the back. Please god, let it be aliens and not age. Aliens enter the body through the nape of the neck. Oh wait. That's sin, or vampires, I forget which. Aliens enter the body through the thighs, where they deposit cellulite, and the scalp, where they harvest hair. Aliens enter the body through the hokey pokey, and they shake it all about....

-- August 13, 2009.

Thoughts of Days ( <-- Previous and Next --> Thought)

Zarfhome (map)