Blog 

Paris day 3

Fri 7/25 – Paris

Step count: 8,022

Awake 8:00, found that Kate had already gone out for pastries. Croissant, pain au chocolat, half a kouign amann, and yogurt for breakfast… delicious, but half my calorie budget for the day and I didn’t even touch the “incredible thing with the figs.” We will walk off some of those calories but we aren’t walking THAT much.

Walked to Notre Dame with a stop for cappuccino. Took a while to buy our museum passes at the nearby kiosk because of incredibly chatty Spanish tourists ahead of us, oblivious to the growing line behind them. Our first museum, “Crypt Archaeologique du Parvis du Notre Dame,” was built around the Roman (etc.) ruins under the plaza in front of the church, and gave us a lot of info about the history of Paris including several interactive 3-D computer graphics. Fun & informative. Went to nearby Le Navigator for lunch at Janna’s recommendation (after a stop for orangina at a nearby cafe to kill 10 minutes until it opened for lunch). My grilled duck breast came with fabulous morels (morilles) rather than the noodles (nouilles) I’d expected. This was the fault of the menu, written in cursive on the chalkboard, in a handwriting in which M and N were absolutely identical. Dessert menu included “abnicors au naison” (abricots au maison). My €29 menu also included kir royal, an appetizer of ham & melon, half a jug of wine (I got water) and a simple dessert of raspberries with whipped cream, yum.

After lunch, headed toward the Maritime Museum but got distracted on the way by a BD (comic books etc.) shop called Album, where we spent a happy half-hour before continuing to the bus stop. The Maritime Museum was right by the Eiffel Tower, so we spent some time admiring the landmark and the crowds of happy tourists. Museum itself very impressive. Tons of sailing ship models (some of them huge, like five meters long huge, with completely functional sheets and sails). Many paintings of ships, battles, and suchlike. Fine collection of figureheads (some of them amazingly huge!) and stern pieces. All these ships are run by string, there’s string everywhere, the trick is knowing which string to pull to make the ship go the way you want it to. There was also a considerable section of 20th century ships, including submarines, and a little bit of marine aviation, plus some early ironclads.

Back to the apartment by Metro, with a surprise stop at the steampunk Arts & Metiers station. Brief trip to Franprix for yogurt, milk, and a few other necessities plus a bag of frozen peas for Kate’s knee. Sadly the freezer in our little fridge is too small for the bag of peas, but I happened to see a tip online about freezing a saturated sponge in a plastic bag as an ice bag so we’ll give that a try. Sat around the apartment until after 8. Not very hungry, and according to my calorie-tracking app I’m already way over for the day even with the walking we’ve done, so might just skip dinner (sacrilege, I know).

IMG 4058
A stretch of street in our neighborhood has tall skinny sculptures, such as this cat, instead of the usual please-don’t-park-on-the-sidewalk bollards

IMG 0082
Au Seine

IMG 0084
Not sure whether this was left over from the Occupation, the Revolution, or some other conflict. Lots of history here

IMG 0121
Easy to get around with the simple, well-thought-out public transit system

IMG 4068
Gotta have a selfie with the Eiffel Tower

IMG 4071
They thought so too

IMG 0143
Just one of the many fabulous ship models on display at the Maritime Museum. I took TONS of research photos

IMG 0175
Model showing how the obelisk of Luxor was put on the ship for transport to Paris in 1831

IMG 0237
This isn’t from a video game, this is an actual prototype diving suit (though probably never used) from 1882!

IMG 3777
At the steampunk Arts & Metiers metro station

IMG 0263
Another view

Paris days 1-2

We are in Paris! We’ll be in Europe for a month all told, a week each in Paris, Normandy, Belgium, and London, returning home after the Worldcon.

Tue-Wed 7/22-23. PDX-SEA-FRA-CDG-Paris

Step count: 12,002

Our trip began with a cab to the airport, rather than the train as planned, because raining. Despite some question as to whether Kate’s rollie bag would qualify under United’s new rules, it fit in the sizer so we carried it aboard — mine too — though we had to a-la-carte them on the puddle-jumper to SEA. Both of us got TSA Pre-Check; it was like going back in time 20 years to the days when all you had to do was run your baggage through the X-ray and yourself through the metal detector. At SEA we spent our brief wait in the International Lounge, shared between Lufthansa, ANA, and a few other airlines’ business classes. (We flew business class, using United miles saved over years of domestic travel, because it’s ever so much nicer on a long trip like this.)

Our Lufthansa jumbo jet had surprisingly little room for carryon bags, even in business class. We had to put our rollie bags into the overhead bins sideways for them to fit, and the foot space for the seat had to be completely empty for it to fully extend, meaning I had to give my backpack to Kate in order to lie down. Even with that the seat didn’t lie completely flat; the seat and its remote control were kind of strange. Still much better than economy class, of course — I’m not complaining. The food was the real highlight; I had a beef and quinoa salad appetizer and Wagyu beef brisket main course that would not have been disappointing in a fine restaurant. Also the flight attendants kept the fizzy water, hot bread, and other amenities coming. Breakfast omelet was not quite so good but still more than acceptable. Got about 2 hours of sleep, spent most of the rest of the time revising a short story that’s due at the end of this month. Did most of the major and minor edits but didn’t get to the emotional stuff and I’m not 100% certain the ending works. Also read Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale on my iPad. I was kind of put off by the florid Literary language at first but pretty soon I started getting into it. It is remarkably funny. Might not finish it before it has to go back to the library though. Also noted: the United in-flight magazine had “3 days in Portland,” International Wall Street Journal had a long article on the Portland Zoobombers, and L’Express had one on George R.R. Martin.

Arrived Frankfurt and found almost no signage, no maps, no people to help. Walked for miles in vain search of “terminal 1, gate A” for our Paris flight. There were at least two things labeled “A” on the signs and I’m not really sure what either of them was. Fortunately we had 3 hours to find our plane. How can such a popular connecting terminal have such miserable signage? After passing through passport control twice (almost three times) and security once we finally were directed to the Lufthansa business class lounge, where I had a second breakfast of yogurt, banana, and cappuccino from the machine and dealt with email before our short flight to Paris. Even on a 45-minute flight, Lufthansa gave us a very nice warm meal: cajun poulard (chicken breast, I think) with citrus fruit and a mango pico de gallo.

At CDG we traveled through the cover of the Alan Parsons Project’s album I, Robot before managing to locate a bathroom and the train to Paris. No passport control here, just a large green gateway saying “nothing to declare” (no staff visible). At the airport, got a text from “Miss Keys,” the freelance concierge employed by our VRBO apartment to deal with their guests, saying there was a “Big Problem” with the apartment we’d booked and that they were giving us another. Well all right then.

Arrived at Chatelet des Halles and, after wending our way to the surface (the train arrives on level -4 of this enormous underground shopping mall) walked to the new apartment, supposedly 12 minutes walk vs. 5 for the original one. The long slog over cobbles with rolling luggage nearly did us in, but we made it about 20 minutes before our scheduled rendezvous. Miss Keys let us in, showed us around, explained about the cute little mini-washer/dryer, combination dishwasher/oven/gas-electric stovetop, wifi, etc. This was tout en francais, avec pas de problemes; the 20 days of study I did with the Duolingo app on my phone before he trip were a HUGE help in spinning back up on French. The Big Problem with the other apartment was a sudden infestation of “insects” (bedbugs, I think) brought by the previous guest, only discovered this morning and requiring 3 weeks to fumigate. The apartment we got instead is adequate, pretty small and a 3rd floor walk-up, but character-filled and still in a great neighborhood. After a brief nap, walked around the neighborhood and beyond. Bakery, Pompidou Centre, the Seine, Notre Dame, etc. — we’re here!!!

Right around Notre Dame I realized I was all out of cope. Still perfectly happy, but I recognized that I was no longer competent. We decided crepes were just about our speed and headed for what sounded like a good one between there and our apartment. On the way we passed a hopping corner cafe called Les Philosophes. “Are we being stupid to not just go in there and eat?” (long pause) “I don’t think so. But that could be Dunning-Kruger Effect talking.” After passing a place whose crepes were highly recommended but lacked seating, we wound up at Creperie Suzette, with delicious crepes; a huge, simple and very fresh salad; and a bottle of delicious apple cider. Went home, unpacked, did wash, wrote up these notes. To bed 9:30 local time.

Thu 7/24 – Paris

Step count: 8,951

Awake 5:30. Bleared around the apartment until 8; much frustration trying to create an account on thefork.com, French equivalent of OpenTable, which refused to accept a US postal code. Couldn’t get shower door to close all the way and soaked the bath mat. Hung it out to dry on the clothesline outside the window, using a binder clip (glad I brought some) as a clothespin. Ate a spiral chocolate thing we’d bought yesterday, then walked out to nearby mini-grocery Franprix for the makings of breakfast — but found it closed until 9. Adequate coffee and croissant at Le Pick-Clops, got transit pass from machine at Hotel de Ville station, then back to Franprix for yogurt etc. Surprising lack of Greek yogurt. Dropped off groceries at home then went to Carnavalet Museum.

The Carnavelet is the museum of the city of Paris, and not quite what we expected. There was one hall of signs from businesses over the centuries, and quite a few artifacts, but most of the collection was paintings of historical Paris, painted at the time they depicted and arranged chronologically. Many really fine paintings, and an interesting way of viewing the history of the city as the people of each time understood it. Lots of weird history here, the Directorate and the Commune and the Restoration and all the Napoleons. Huge painting of a balloon launch during the Siege of Paris, 1870, and a smaller painting of a room of secretaries examining a projection of a microfilm sent by carrier pigeon during the same conflict. Also on display was a feather from one of those pigeons. Another notable display was several cabinets of delightful caricature sculptures of famous Parisians of the 1830s by Jean-Pierre Dantan.

Had a delightful lunch of steack frites at restaurant Camille, which turned out to be right next door to Creperie Suzette from yesterday’s dinner, then back to the museum for the special exhibition of photos from the 1944 Occupation. It turned out to be the 70th anniversary of not just the Liberation but of the exhibit of photos of the Liberation which was displayed in this very museum before the war was even over. The new exhibit talked a lot about the differences between how history was perceived then, right after it happened, and now — e.g. erasure of women Resistance fighters and black American GIs from the coverage. By 3:00 we were just about ready to fall over and went back to the room for a nap.

Slept until 4:30 or so, too late to hit the Marie Curie museum as we’d planned. Tried to set the PIN on my Barclay credit card so as to use it in machines, which took wads of time trying to authenticate to the Barclay website and finally wound up at the apparent conclusion that I should expect to be asked for a signature in any circumstance where it is possible, using a PIN only on an unattended machine (which I had been avoiding). Will try that next time and see if it works. Then out into the neighborhood for bread, cheese, dessert, and, as it turned out, sandwiches, which we dragged back to the apartment and ate for dinner, still being full from lunch and lacking in energy to seek out anything more ambitious. After dinner, we had intended vaguely to visit the Eiffel Tower by night but found ourselves both too tired to do any such thing. Stayed home and read instead. Tomorrow is another day.

IMG 4035
Greetings from the cover of The Alan Parsons Project’s I Robot (Charles DeGaulle Airport)

IMG 4050
Living room ceiling of our apartment, which dates from the 1800s

IMG 4046
Notre Dame! We are here!!

IMG 0054
This tasteful little cradle was a birthday gift to the newborn son of one of the Napoleons

IMG 0059
Plume du pigeon voyageur

IMG 0062
Now that’s what I call a minister with portfolio

IMG 0072
One of dozens of delightful little caricature sculptures

Quantum questions

This article provides an explanation I haven’t seen before for the difficult-to-wrap-one’s-head-around concept that in quantum mechanics it’s “observation” that causes the quantum wave form to collapse.

“…if you take a picture of an electron, its probability cloud evaporates and leaves it at one exact place. The light that bounced off the electron to hit your camera forced the electron to appear! The resolution to this troubling idea is that if you leave the light off, no photons hit the electron. The watching camera sees nothing, the electron remains ethereal. The electron will still be forced to resolve in a lit place while watched by a camera with its lens cap on.” (emphasis added)

Or, to put it another way, it’s not “observation” but “interaction” that collapses the wave form. If a particle isn’t interacting with any other particle, it might be anywhere. Only when two particles bounce off each other (or otherwise interact) do their positions and states become clear.

I find this explanation compelling. It makes the whole concept much more comprehensible to me. But it also implies that the whole concept of quantum uncertainty is an entirely theoretical mathematical abstraction, because in reality every particle is interacting with other particles nearly constantly. Even a single hydrogen atom floating in the near-vacuum of interplanetary space is struck by photons from the sun and interacts gravitationally with the planets.

If my understanding is correct, quantum uncertainty never really happens in real life — all particles are in a constant state of waveform collapse. This makes quantum uncertainty as relevant to the real world as those massless, frictionless ropes we use in physics problems. (By which I mean that it is a useful theory with great predictive power, but doesn’t actually describe anything that exists in the real world.)

If you are familiar with quantum theory, does this explanation and its implications match your understanding? If not, can you help me to understand where it differs?

Also, if you are familiar with the history of quantum theory, do you know why the term “observation” was used rather than “interaction”? Because if my understanding of this explanation is correct, the term “interaction” would be a much clearer way of explaining what’s happening (and would have avoided a lot of the meaningless woo-woo that’s attached itself to the term “quantum physics”).

I’m the Westercon Fan Guest of Honor in 2016!

IMG 3972I’m very pleased to announce that I will be the Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 69, to be held in Portland, Oregon on the Fourth of July weekend in 2016. The other GoHs are John Scalzi and Charlie Stross. (The committee assures me that there will be at least one additional GoH who is not a balding white male.)

I’m totally thrilled about this. I’ve never been a GoH before!

In other news, I recently received my 20-year medallion for attending 20 annual gay square dance conventions. (See photo.)

Also, as long as I’m blogging, I urge you to check out the Cosmic Sci-Fi Bundle over at storybundle.com. Pay what you will for a big bundle of science fiction ebooks, and benefit the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund, Jay Lake’s chosen charity. But hurry! This offer ends at midnight EST tonight!

Announcing the release of “Insights from David D. Levine” at lynda.com

When I visited video training company lynda.com in April to record AWK Essential Training, I finished up my work early. As it happens, Lynda has a series of brief “Insights” courses in which professionals in various fields talk about their careers and offer, well, insights, and they asked me to record one of those in the remaining time. That course just launched today, and is now available to all lynda.com members: Insights from David D. Levine, Writer, Designer, and Engineer. If you aren’t a member, you can watch three of the videos in the course for free at http://www.lynda.com/Developer-Documentaries-tutorials/Insights-from-David-D-Levine-Writer-Designer-Engineer/169618-2.html.

InsightsHere’s Lynda’s description of the course: “David D. Levine has worn many hats in his long career: technical writer, interaction designer, software engineer, and award-winning science fiction author. His career path, with its ups, downs, and redirections, mirrors the one many job seekers find themselves on today. Find out how he turned a BA in architecture into a technical writing career, and, a decade later, transformed himself into an interaction designer and, finally, a software engineer. And see how, even after his retirement, he found ways to use his technical background to write science fiction stories. This course breaks down the different stages in David’s career into sections where he answers questions and offers hard-won advice to job hunters. Dive in and get insights from an expert—in more than one industry!”

Topics covered in the course include:

  • How do you think science fiction relates to today’s technology?
  • Has writing science fiction shaped your technical career?
  • Has your technical career shaped your science fiction?
  • What advice can you offer aspiring writers?
  • What are the three top rules for successful user interaction design?
  • If someone wanted to be an interaction designer, what should they do to prepare?
  • What was the upside of being a user interaction designer?
  • What advice can you offer an aspiring interaction designer?
  • What lessons did you learn from being a user interaction designer?
  • Do you have any insights on disruptive technology?
  • Working on supercomputers at Intel, did you give any thought to Moore’s law?
  • What skills or experience were most helpful to you when you started at Intel?
  • What lessons did you learn from being a software engineer?
  • How is technical writing different than writing science fiction?
  • What skills are most valuable to being a technical writer?
  • What lessons did you learn from being a technical writer?

This course is different from the AWK course, which is my voice over a movie of my computer screen; this one is just me, talking to the camera. So if you want to find out what I look and sound like, as well as some of the things I’ve learned in my patchwork career, this is your chance.

News update

Wow, so much good news to share!

  • After many months of searching, I have an agent! I am now represented by Paul Lucas of Janklow & Nesbit Associates.
  • Anthology HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects, including a story by me, is now on sale! Kindle only for now, but will be available from other ebook stores in October. See editor John Joseph Adams’s blog post for more info on the anthology, including some free samples!
  • Anthology Old Mars, including my story “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure,” has won the Locus Award for Best Anthology! “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure” itself came in 17th for Best Novelette, which isn’t too bad.
  • My story “Tk’Tk’Tk” was included in the curriculum of a class at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany that used SF podcasts to teach Business and Economics, along with stories by Michael Swanwick, Nancy Kress, and Cory Doctorow.
  • I just read the book S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst — or perhaps Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka — and have been burbling at everyone about it. It’s more than a book — it’s an immersive, multimedia meta-book that, to me, combines the best bits of The Crying of Lot 49 and National Lampoon’s 1964 High School Yearbook Parody in a glorious celebration of everything that’s cool about books and literature. You can read a delicious review at tor.com, but I recommend you avoid spoilers and just dive in.

More news to come later this week! But for now, I’m off to the annual gay square dance convention in Salt Lake City. Whee!

Wiscon

I’m at Wiscon, the world’s leading feminist SF convention, in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend. Here’s where you can find me:

  • Friday 4:00–5:15 pm, Michelangelos: A Reading Group is Like a Box of Chocolates with Greg Bechtel, David D. Levine, James P. Roberts, LaShawn M. Wanak. …because you never know what you’ll get. But we do promise interesting readings, and actual chocolate for those who show up.
  • Saturday 1:00–2:15 pm, Assembly: How To Apologize Like A Feminist with Debbie Notkin, Eileen Gunn, David D. Levine, Betsy Lundsten, JP Fairfield. This year a handful of scandals rocked the feminist world. Prominent self-identified feminists were implicated in reproducing the very language and behaviors they were expected to fight against. Many of them apologized, but not all those apologies were satisfying to their fans, colleagues, and offended parties. Meanwhile some not-at-all feminist people stumbled with their own appeasement of fans, losing many in the process. What makes a good apology? How can someone communicate empathy in a way that is both satisfying and redeeming? Is it appropriate to demand apologies for errors that only become clear years later? Should artists be held to the same standards public intellectuals, politicians, and activists are? And is a good apology ever enough?
  • Saturday 7:30–11:00 pm, Capitol/Wisconsin: Tiptree Auction. I will be one of several guest auctioneers attempting to fill the shoes of the great Ellen Klages, who cannot attend. Do feminists have a sense of humor? Come to the Tiptree Auction and find out! You might come away with a first edition signed by LeGuin, a glow-in-the-dark squid, a statue of Space Babe, or a book from Alice Sheldon’s library. You might see Ellen Klages in a chicken suit, selling the shirt off her back, or shaving her head on stage. It’s never the same show twice, and whatever happens, there are always lots of laughs, all for a good cause. Every bit of the money you spend is donated to the James Tiptree, Jr., Award.
  • Sunday 1:00–2:15 pm, Conference 4: SFWA: Is It Relevant? Is It Useful? with Ann Leckie, Wesley Chu, Gary Kloster, David D. Levine, Grá Linnaea. Many accomplished sf/f writers don’t qualify for full membership in SFWA. Other organizations, such as RWA do a lot more for writers at every level. With the latest election, the SFWA Bulletin problems, and the attack on one of our Guests of Honor by one member of SFWA and its results, do we as feminists and writers want to be part of that organization? Can working from within to change it have real results?
  • Sunday 4:00–5:15 pm, Conference 4: The Queer Alphabet with Tanya D., David Edison, David D. Levine, Mo Ranyart, Julia Schroeder. Gay, lesbian and gay, LGB, LGBT, LGBTQIA, QUILTBAG, GSM, GRSM, queer, trans*, etc. Sexual orientation, romantic orientation, sex, gender, gender expression, preferences, kinks, and relationship models. Who gets included or excluded in the various queer alphabet games? What are the most inclusive and comprehensive terms to use? Should every identity related to sexuality, gender, and relationships be lumped together? If not, why not? And who gets to decide?

Announcing the release of “AWK Essential Training” at lynda.com

Last year fellow Portland writer and Analog Mafia member Mark Niemann-Ross asked me to write and record a course for his employer, video training company lynda.com, on the AWK programming language. I recorded it in April, and the finished course, AWK Essential Training, is now available to all lynda.com members. If you aren’t a member, you can watch the first six videos in the course for free at http://www.lynda.com/Linux-tutorials/AWK-Essential-Training/162719-2.html.

Awk2Topics covered in the course include:

  • What is AWK?
  • Writing an AWK program
  • Working with records, fields, patterns, and actions
  • Specifying field and record separators with variables
  • Using built-in and user-defined variables
  • Building control structures
  • Formatting output
  • Manipulating string data with functions
  • Scripting with AWK

“So what is this AWK thing,” you might ask, “and why on Earth should I care about it?” AWK is a tool and programming language for manipulating text files. For example, if you have a file of names and addresses and want to find out how many of them are from each US state, you can do that with just a few lines of AWK code.

AWK is older and more limited than similar but more modern tools like PERL and PYTHON, but its simplicity makes it easier to learn. Also, AWK is preinstalled on most UNIX-based systems, including Linux and Mac OS X, so if you use any of these machines AWK is right there whenever you need it. It’s also available for Windows.

I actually love AWK and use it just about every day, so I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to help people learn about its capabilities. AWK Essential Training went live yesterday and has already been seen by 303 viewers in 47 countries.

My experience with lynda.com so far has been both fun and profitable, and I look forward to recording more courses for them in the future. If you are interested in doing something like this yourself, please contact Mark Niemann-Ross at mnr@lynda.com. He is especially interested in finding authors who are women or people of color. If you have expertise in any technical or business field, have good English writing and speaking skills, and enjoy helping people learn how to do things, I encourage you to give it a try.

“Brave New Sci-Fi” (4 short SF plays) TONIGHT (Thursday 4/24)

Tonight marks the WORLD PREMIERE of the theatrical adaptation of my Hugo-winning short story “Tk’Tk’Tk” and three other short SF plays!


Brave New Sci Fi

Thursday, April 24th, 7:30pm
JACK LONDON BAR

Basement of The Rialto Pool Room
529 SW 4th Ave.

$10.00 cash at the door
($7.00 for students and seniors)
Or just $5.00 when ordered online!
https://www.boxofficetickets.com/bot/wa/event?id=270485
Online orders end at 4:30 today!

Starring:

Allison Anderson
David Bellis-Squires
Racheal Joy Erickson
Kristen Fleming
Micheal Streeter

Featuring:

WHY I LEFT HARRY’S ALL NIGHT HAMBURGERS by Lawrence Watt-Evans*
“I told you I get some strange customers, boy.”

DEB & JOAN by Isaac Rathbone
“You sounded so… melancholy. That’s very advanced.”

MY HEART IS A QUADRATIC EQUATION by Shane Halbach*
“If you could do that with your tools, why couldn’t you just construct a boyfriend?”

TK’TK’TK by David D. Levine*
“I had spent almost five days on Bug Planet and all I had to show for it so far was one customer.”

* Adapted by Matt Haynes.

Brave New Sci Fi runs 2 hours, including intermission, and is for audiences 21 and over.

Hope to see you there!

3168286

You can hear an interview with director Matt Haynes, and excerpts from “Why I Left Harry’s All Night Hamburgers” and “Tk’Tk’Tk,” on the Geek in the City podcast, issue 254 beginning at 22:35.