From New Castle, Delaware
Memorial Day Morning: Only Apparently Real?

At Balticon

It's Sunday morning at Balticon. The Wydam, where the convention is being held, has high-speed Internet service in the rooms. We didn't turn it on for the first 24 hours because we were busy, but now here I am.

Michael Swanwick was here Friday evening. He hadn't planned to come, but his son Sean is on the gaming program and prevailed upon dad for a ride from Philadelphia to the con. We hosted the Tor party in a two-storey suite provided by the convention, so Michael stayed around for the evening. Also seen at Balticon: Tobias Buckell, Jim Kling, Hal Clement, and Greg Cox. Paul Levinson, whom we expected to see, apparently has car trouble and is stuck in Boston.

We had dinner with John Wright and Jagi Lamplighter last night. Although we had much pleasant adult conversation, the most intense conversation at the table seemed to be between infants (Jus, 4 month, and Elizabeth, 7 months) conducted in the secret language of babies.

The two best things I've seen on the program so far were on children's programming: Carpathian's Tales of the Macabre (storytelling), and a science demonstration with "Mr. Polymer." I only saw parts of each, since Lorna Logan-Edwards was keeping track of Peter for me for part of the afternoon. But Carpathian told a nice version of The King of the Cats and Mr. Polymer showed Peter how to do what he's been trying to accomplish by mixing shampoo and hand lotion in our bathroom at home. Although we only saw part of the chemistry demonstration, I think Peter really got it.

I took the kids to the Baltimore aquarium Friday. We were there for four hours. It lives up to it reputation as an excellent aquarium. However it was designed by someone with a strong notion that an aquarium should be like a film, and should therefor have a strong sequential flow. This flow is enforced by a series of one-way escalators. Peter is somewhat afraid of escalators, so this aspect was a bit of a challenge. (Perhaps the designer imprinted on Heinlein's "The Roads Must Roll" as a child.) We subverted the sequential flow by starting over at the beginning and by using the well-concealed elevators.

We have an arrangement to go to the aquarium again this morning with Lorna and Hannah Logan-Edwards. I'm hoping we're not thwarted by Memorial Day crowds.

Before we got the high-speed Internet connection working, I tried watching TV news in our hotel room. I didn't get very far. I kept thinking how can they say this stuff with a straight face?

A couple of noteworthy items I've encountered this morning:

BBC: Afghans' uranium levels spark alert

A small sample of Afghan civilians have shown "astonishing" levels of uranium in their urine, an independent scientist says.

The general speculation in the article is that some kind of uranium weapon was used in the war in Afghanistan. I have a different thought: we might have bombed caches of uranium, thus aerating the stuff.

And, from the great thinkers who expected Iraqi's to strew the path of the US military with flowers, a new plan for a "popular" uprising, this time in Iran. Regardless of what one might think should or should not be done about Iran, you've got to wince a bit at this one. The Bush people just do not have their finger on the pulse of popular opinion in places like that. Don't these guys ever learn?

BUSH'S EURPOPE: The words of Condoleezza Rice: Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia. I think I'll go buy something French.

And now, off to the aquarium . . . .

MEANWHILE: Patrick O'Leary directs our attention to Charley Reese on Bush in the Matrix world.