Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Sunday, September 25, 2016
Sleepless in Georgia

As one gets older, sleeping problems can result, and James has had this lately in spades. Sometimes he is up an hour or two every night reading. Especially on work nights, this is not conducive to being alert. We have tried all sorts of over-the-counter tricks, including valerian tablets, Sleepytime tea (which has chamomile and valerian in it), and some non-habit-forming drugs from the doctor. Finally in the hospital they prescribed Ambien.

Now, Ambien has a so-so reputation. Some people who take it sleepwalk or do strange things in their sleep. (Heck, I used to sleepwalk as a kid without taking drugs.) It didn't seem to cause James any problems, at least at first. He was finally able to sleep in the hospital (the first week he barely slept at all; at one desperate point I pulled the FAR up on my phone and started reading it to him), but it's been more hit-or-miss at home. Some nights he just gets up once to use the bathroom, a few odd nights he's slept straight through, but most of the time, after Sleepytime Vanilla tea, shutting off his computer an hour before bed, and one Ambien, he's still sleeping a few hours and then waking up.

Or is he? I'm under the impression sometimes he's dreaming that he's awake.

Anyway, I had a screaming sinus headache all last night and was looking forward to some sleep relief at bedtime. No luck..."the ghost" was walking just before three o'clock. He'd gone in the kitchen to make more Sleepytime tea, and then the Ambien kicked back in and he could barely make it to bed and he practically had to take his C-PAP mask harness apart to get it on and kept falling asleep during the steps. Then I couldn't sleep for the next hour, and ended up sleeping until eleven, which put the kosh on going to Kroger early.

Because...sigh...we still have to go to Kroger. The milk is cheaper there and I like Kroger's buns better for my work lunches than Publix's and the least expensive ham at Kroger has the least amount of sodium. We got the milk home, grabbed the CVS coupon we'd forgotten, and were off again. James needed Breathe Rights, so I ran in and got him a box, plus some sugarless hard candy, and got 30 percent off it all.

There was no need to go to Barnes & Noble again, but we didn't want to sit around all afternoon, so we went to Akers Mill for about an hour. I bought the rest of the 50th anniversary Star Trek novel trilogy about Number One, and lucked out at the clearance tables: they had a bunch of cute toys half off, and of course there was still the additional 20 percent off. I got four nice toys to donate to Toys for Tots in December at a reasonable price and found a nice gift for Emma and one for Alice at the same time.

Finally home and could take a nap after watching a lovely special about Jim Henson, who would have been 80 this weekend. We both needed tissues at the end. At some point I took my temperature and appear to be running a low-grade fever. Well, that would explain how rotten I've felt today, too.

We had some of the harvest sauce tonight with chicken tortelloni; yum! Plus we each got a lunch out of it, and there were six tortelloni left over for a quick snack. We had some apple pie for dessert. For some reason, America's Funniest Home Videos wasn't on, so we watched two episodes of the animated Star Trek and then the Trek story "Assignment: Earth," one of my favorites, a back door pilot in which several elements were reused for The Questor Tapes. I would have liked to have seen adventures of Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln.

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» Saturday, September 24, 2016
Food and Friends Once More

We were both up early this morning. James' boss had told him that if he wanted to make up some of the time he lost this week for doctors' appointments, he could work four hours some time today. Unfortunately he hasn't teleworked in four months and had forgotten the VPN password. He did do his time card. So as we were up so early, we did some cleaning out: we packed up three grocery bags of items James can't eat anymore to give to Alice tonight for her church's food pantry. We had built up a bunch of snacks on one corner of the dining room table that we never ate at DragonCon, so I put some up, put a couple of things in Alice's bags, and packed up the Jif-to-Go containers in one of the two shoeboxes that held James' packets of no-salt seasoning. I took the others and, arranging them in rows, fit them into one box, with room to spare. Yesterday, I had bought BOGO the little Weight Watchers cakes for desserts, but we had no room to store the boxes, so I lined them up neatly in one corner of the table. I also threw out some empty boxes downstairs.

Eventually we went to Trader Joe's. For once we were not going there for chicken apple sausage. Instead, knowing all the "pumpkin everything" would be out by now, we were hunting the harvest sauce which they had last year only in the fall up to Thanksgiving. This is a tomato sauce that also has carrots and butternut squash in it. We bought only one bottle last year, to try it, and by the time we got back there, it was Christmas stuff and it was all gone. Today I bought six and I will go back for more next month so we will have some for all year.

Trader Joe's was truly as "pumpkin everything" as last year, and more. Pumpkin candies, pumpkin chips, pumpkin drinks, pumpkin crackers...ravioli, soups, coffees, teas, cookies, you name it. We also picked up some nuts, juices, and even two Kind bars for a snack, as we were headed for Michael's to spend the special half-off coupon for today. James got metallic colored pencils and I got more charcoal pencils, these with sepia and red ochre. This is the Michael's that took over the old East Cobb Borders Books. Still miss Borders...

After that we headed home. It was blazingly hot and is to continue hot at least through tomorrow. James hoped it wouldn't be so bad so he could go to the Fly-In at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport this weekend, but there was no way either of us could function in that sun and heat. Instead we came home to chill out (literally). I found the Canadian Swiss Family Robinson series online and lost such track of time that it was 4:30 before I knew it. I had to rush to buy and print out an Amazon certificate for Aubrey Spivey, who turns 23 today. I had her gift ready (a pendant), but this was an extra gift "from Tucker and Snowy" for helping out when James was in the hospital. She stopped by almost every day to take Tucker for a quick walk and say hello to Snowy.

Aubrey's birthday dinner was at Keegan's Irish Pub. We took over a back room and had a great time. Juanita and David are all excited about their upcoming trip to New England, which will include a balloon ride over Maine! Aubrey likes to bake, and got some nifty baking gifts—the pendant we got her was a little cupcake with colored stones in the "frosting."

On the way home we stopped at the Publix across from Sprouts and did find the low-carb low-sodium wraps. And I got those damn bananas and we picked up a couple of clearance items.

Came home late enough only to watch As Time Goes By and Are You Being Served? and didn't go to bed very late. Expected a good night's sleep, but...sigh...

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» Friday, September 23, 2016
Buy Two

I didn't quite make sleeping eight hours this morning, and then I had further delays, which don't bear discussing (besides the fact that I nearly screwed up Eudora trying to get rid of the excessive headers). Tucker had his walk, and Snowy was fed and offered television. Once everyone else was cared for, I set out for Buckhead to see if the fall "This England" had hit Barnes & Noble. No other B&N I know carries it.

Traffic wasn't bad until I got near the Atlanta History Center; they were having a flea market at the 1920s-era Swan House. Still, there was a lot of parking at B&N still.

I did find "This England," but B&N's classification system sometimes baffles me. I found "This England" with the art magazines. Not to mention I found "Lonely Planet" in with the crocheting magazines! Sadly, I did not find an issue of the current "Taproot," which I wanted to check out. I checked out the new books, but all I bought was the "This England" and a mindfulness magazine called "Breathe."

Home via the West Paces Ferry neighborhood, with only faint evidence of fall coming. Traffic was pretty good until I reached Cumberland Mall, then I had to wait in a long, long line at Costco, which had the cheapest gas. Finally I had some soup at Panera (again, just entering at "rush minute"; by the time I finished my soup, everyone was gone).

Then, heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it was off to Publix I go for twofers, which I took advantage of, but I couldn't get a baguette and I forgot to get James' low-carb, low-sodium wraps.

By this time it was so hot, my sinus headache was so bad, and I was so short on sleep that I put everything up and crawled into the futon for the rest of the afternoon, rousing only when the garage door went up.

James had been at the doctor all afternoon. They say he is still anemic, so he has to have infusions of iron for three Fridays in a row and today was the first one. Traffic was so bad he got there late, so started late, and then had to go to Kaiser to pick up a prescription. His knee was giving him fits again, so we swapped cars. We ate at Hibachi Grill, where we could pick out lower salt choices (and more veggies for James), spent about an hour at Barnes & Noble on Dallas Highway, and then stopped briefly at Publix to pick up the wraps.

Except they didn't have any of that kind, just spinach and tomato and full carb. Rats. We'll have to hit another Publix tomorrow. I hate multiple supermarket trips.

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» Monday, September 19, 2016
Technology Week(end) or "Computer Blue(s)"
You will be relieved that I'm not going to chronicle in excruciating detail this whole tiring affair. You'd be bored, and I don't want to go through it again.

It is a fact universally acknowledged by Microsoft users that Tuesday night is reserved for Windows upgrades. Last week was no exception.

Wednesday when I came home from work, I turned on the computer, saw the PowerSpec logo, then the Windows image that indicated the updates were being loaded to the computer. I went to change, and with one thing or the other, didn't notice until a half hour later that the screen was black, with a white blinking cursor. We rebooted, tried to reboot in safe mode, unplugged...anyway, nothing worked. I teleworked next day on James' computer, and during lunch, called Microslop. The tech walked me through all the stuff we did last night, and finally said that the update must have affected the system. He directed me to download a free copy of Windows 10, and I would have to do a clean install. It was about then I thanked God I made the New Year's resolution to back up every month. I had backed up on the first and had not transferred my DragonCon pictures from the camera yet. So I downloaded the Windows program on both a USB drive and burned it to a DVD disk, and then tried to get it to boot from my computer. It didn't work at first, and then I realized I had to change the boot order so it would boot from the USB or the DVD first. Trouble is, it didn't. That night James tried all sorts of tricks, but it simply would not boot.

So Friday at lunch I did some surfing and found a likely-looking desktop at MicroCenter and after supper we went to shop. As always, the salesman offered me a better plum—my dad liked to say that if you let me loose in an electronics store I would unerringly find the most expensive item there. No, I didn't buy a gaming computer; those prices are ridiculous. But I got a computer with an SSD drive (which I'd been wanting anyway) to use for Windows and programs, and then also bought a 1TB hard drive for files. (Windows now calls them "apps" instead of "programs"; bull—this is a real computer, one you can work on, not a measly tablet.) We brought it home, and, before plugging it in, started to install the hard drive. Which didn't come with a SATA cable. We couldn't cannibalize the SATA cable from the old computer, because the end which plugged into the computer wasn't the same as the slot on the new computer. Oh, well, we closed it up, turned it on, and logged on. It came up immediately. However, I didn't load anything, because I wanted to upgrade to Win10 before starting to do so. However, we followed the directions very carefully, and the computer wouldn't do what we wanted: ask us if we wanted to boot from the DVD-ROM drive. Finally James went into the BIOS of the new computer and discovered it boots to the main drive first. It must boot from the DVD to get this correct prompt, so James changed the order. But by this time it was midnight. We went to bed and left it for Saturday.

But not right away on Saturday—at first we had some fun at Hair Day. We hadn't gone since June and James was starting to get that hippie look, especially with the beard. We told Sheri we were going for the Captain Gregg look with the beard (but we had to show her a photo of Edward Mulhare ☺ ). We had sandwiches and fixings for lunch, and as always spent at least four hours gabbing. James now looks "shipshape and Bristol fashion, but I still never spied the Butlers' new cat, Sylvester; James did see him disappearing around a corner.

From Powder Springs we made our way back to MicroCenter and picked up two SATA cords with the correct clip-ends (SATA3 rather than SATA-whatever). We opened up the computer again and James supervised while I inserted the hard drive and also my card reader from the old computer (it was tight in there and my hands fit better). We had to open and close the enclosure a couple of times, but we finally got it up and going—so why weren't we seeing the hard drive in Windows file manager? I bounced around in setup for a while, including in Device Manager, and then James dredged a memory from his A+ training and went into a disk management area, and there was our hard drive. It needed to be initialized and formatted to show up. Alas, I connected the card reader to the only 9-pin connector I found on the motherboard, and it doesn't work, although it's got power.

Finally, we could load Win10—but it was still booting from the hard drive. Ah, same verse, same as the first; after we changed the boot order, the disk worked as promised and before we went off to Taste of Smyrna, we had Win10 installed and on the internet.

We always go to Taste of Smyrna about six o'clock, and that worked out really well this year; there were still plenty of parking spaces. A couple of the vendors had run out of food, but we still had time for our favorites: the drunken pork and creamy grits from Atkins Park (I loathe grits, but I love these) and the Pad Thai from a place whose I never remember. James had a chicken satai skewer with his Pad Thai, and he also had some Jamaican pork from Rodney's (they won this year's Taste of Smyrna award) while I had baked ziti from Maggiano's. We both had fresh lemonade to drink, and I brought a French silk pie tart home which we split. We left a little over an hour later, happily full, to go back to the computer grind.

Once I loaded CITGO I could coast. I spent the evening downloading a decent browser (Firefox) and then updating the bookmarks and passwords. This took a while. James went to bed early and I was still logging into websites. I got to bed around midnight.

I tried to sleep, but apparently I had microchips on the brain and only about six hours sleep. So I got up and walked Tucker, and then started loading software once more. After James had breakfast, it was still only ten o'clock, so we went to Sam's Club for mushrooms and Skinny Pop. Now, we had a petroleum pipeline break in Alabama, and gas for the Atlanta Metro Area has been getting scarce. We passed four or five gas stations completely out of gas, so instead of waiting to get gas at Sam's Club, James filled up at the next station with gas, and a good thing, too, because Sam's was completely out. There were no electric carts out front and one of the Sam's employees had to scrounge one up for James, and, like last time, the charge died halfway through the store. I had to grab a shopping cart and offload. But, excelsior, the Christmas stuff is finally out, so we were able to get slippers for James. (You never see slippers in Sam's or Costco except before Christmas.) His current ones are out on the sides from being worn so much; he's hard on slippers because he has to wear something on his feet at all times. We bought two pair.

Spent the rest of the afternoon...yes, loading software. I accidentally turned up my missing copy of WinZip, so that solves one mystery, and contacted Corel for the password to PDF Fusion, which I bought last year (afterwards I found out I had the password written down elsewhere). I got Eudora working and loaded all the personalities to go with the mailboxes.

For dinner we went to Longhorn to help celebrate David Gibson's birthday. We had a long, long table at the back of the restaurant, and had a great time. During dinner my supervisor called. There was a water main break at my building and the air conditioning died, and so everyone has been asked to telework tomorrow! Yay!

Yes, I finished the night loading more software! But then it was done.

Today was very slow. I have one order left and I basically supervised the questions going back and forth between the end user and a potential vendor, answered some invoice questions, and cleaned out my mailboxes. During lunch I transferred and backed up the DragonCon photos and the ones on my phone, then copied all of them to the backup disk. I also reloaded my organizer software. I had not put my saved calendar in a place where it would be automatically backed up, and you were not allowed to change the destination of the files in the program itself. So I un-installed and re-installed it, but did not have my old calendar file backed up, a bad oversight.

On the bottom of the printer shelves was a hard drive enclosure with my old hard drive in it (from the computer that died in 2010). I checked it out to see if there were any old files that I had missed copying over, and then took it out of the drive enclosure and replaced it with the hard drive from the recently-expired machine. The disk worked fine, so it must have been something wrong with the motherboard or the RAM of the old unit. I was able to extract my old calendar file from that drive and overwrite it into the organizer software. Now I don't have to put all those birthdays and anniversaries back in manually. Sadly, I could not recover my Inbox and Outbox from Eudora. It got creamed after Microsoft Security Essentials found a virus in one of my attachments and was never the same again.

When work was over, I connected my offsite backup drive to the computer and copied off all those files again. They will go to work and remain there as a safety net. So after four long days, the project is finished! Maybe I can go back to doing fun things like reading now. ☺

Of course now I'd love to do a clean install on James' computer...

I haven't mentioned that the new case has blue LED lights in it. After rejecting "Goulet" as a name, I instead, in a fit of whimsy when Windows asked if I wanted to rename the computer, called it "Converse."

Major bonus points to those who get the joke. ☺

In the meantime we enjoyed the season premiere of Big Bang Theory tonight. I spotted the fall preview TV Guide at Kroger Friday night (we were getting veggies for sandwiches and finishing up the shopping) and did buy it. But it's no fun anymore. I remember walking a mile to Food Town and later the mile and a half to Thall's to get the fall preview TV Guide every year. Just ain't the same 

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» Sunday, September 11, 2016
Daisies and Maple Leaves

I've always called the beginning of autumn the start of our "social season." There's Dragoncon, and then today's event, the Yellow Daisy Festival, then Taste of Smyrna; following in October is the Apple Festival and the Friends of the Library book sale; and then on into Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Twelfth Night party, Anachrocon, and Atomicon. After that it gets hot and the only things worth looking forward to are 221B Con and WHOlanta (formerly Timegate). So it was because of the Yellow Daisy Festival that we were up at seven fifteen to have a quick breakfast and drive out to Stone Mountain.

I had found out a strange thing on the website: they weren't opening until 10 a.m. today. I thought it was a typo. We have been going to Yellow Daisy for at least 20 years and they've always officially opened at nine and if you got there early they let you in. This year they left us cooling our heels at the gate until ten. I hear the vendors were a bit pissed off about this, as they did business during those earlier hours. Anyway, starting an hour later was a drag, too, because we usually finish up about one before the heat gets terrible and we ended up leaving closer to two because of the delay.

Not that it was a bad day, despite the heat. We got all the way 'round and bought mostly food: some more One Screw Loose jellies, some low sugar/salt finishing sauces where the proceeds go to veterans, some crock pot mixes that contained no salt or sugar and were delicious, and the first installment of our twice yearly fudge from Ginny's. Plus two Christmas gifts, and I also bought another shadowbox setup from Country Pickin's. I have wanted a Thanksgiving one for years, but she never makes Thanksgiving, only fall and Hallowe'en. So I bought some fall things, and a few Hallowe'en things, and one or two other items, and a shelf that has pumpkins on it, and I will repaint the Hallowe'en and other things so they have a Thanksgiving theme (the hard one will be turning the rooster into a turkey; it will be a very small one).

Otherwise we sampled honeys and dips and soups, sniffed homemade soaps, admired the jewelry and the crafts, had some fresh lemonade, perspired and stopped for breaks, and, very last of all, had our usual ear of corn from the roasted corn booth. That was the sourest note of the day: the corn was terrible, tough and no longer sweet, and on my ear the kernels were half dead. Ugh. No more of that. We could have had lunch for what they cost us, too.

On the way home we stopped at Ken's for a late lunch (a burger for him and a grilled cheese sandwich for me), mailed my birth certificate request, and picked up a newspaper at Publix.

Saw something cute on the way home from Publix. It's still been in the 80s and 90s here, and not much fall is taking place yet. The tulip trees, which always have yellow leaves scattered among the green from summer on, have more yellow leaves than previous months, and the dogwood leaves are just starting to get that rusty look. But one little maple tree stood defiantly on Benson Poole Road, red blended to orange to yellow on one side, green on the other, as if it were saying, "I'm turning! It's fall, dammit!"

The rest was a long lovely end of afternoon in air conditioning, reading the paper, blogging, walking the dog. We had turkey salad for supper and watched 9/11: From the Heartland, Churchill's Secret with Michael Gambon and Romola Garai, and the news.

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» Saturday, September 10, 2016
Typewriters Don't Do This...

Yay, another day with eight hours sleep. Okay, seven and fifty-seven minutes. Don't quibble. James was already awake, having taken the dog out for an airing and eaten breakfast. Snowy was cheerfully burbling from his corner. We weren't in any particular hurry, because James was waiting to leave for his club meeting and I didn't have any particular plans. I savored my breakfast and took my vitamins.

He left about ten thirty, and I spent the rest of the day doing chores (loading and unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, making the bed, and fun stuff like that), finishing all the reviews of the Dragoncon panels, and trying to catch up on my blogging. I finished the Saturday of Dragoncon entry, and spent the last two hours of the afternoon listening to Christmas music while working on the Sunday entry. James came in the door just as I had saved everything and was preparing to do one more thing: add a few pictures of the guests. I had just pasted Naoko Mori's photo in and was clicking the adjustment button to make the image smaller. However, nothing was happening. Exasperated, I closed the post without saving it, then pulled it back up. For a minute I thought Blogger had lost half my post, then I realized the stupid thing had just taken the paragraph I had attached the photo to and moved it to the top of the post. Unsure what to do about this, I closed the post again (not saved, closed).

For about a  year, Blogger has been doing this weird thing after I save or publish: instead of going back to the "posts" screen, it suddenly just creates another blank post with the same name as the one you created, essentially a new, blank post. If you go to the list of posts you will see a duplicate post with that title as a draft. I'm used to this and just closed (again, not saved, just closed) this duplicate post.

Except it wasn't a duplicate post. Blogger had just substituted a new blank post for the post I worked two hours on. That smell you might have noticed about 4:30 was me emitting steam from both ears.

Went off to dinner in a minor huff, had turkey and dressing at West Cobb Diner (James avoided the salt and had meatloaf instead), and then went to Kroger for the milk, the bread, the yogurt and Those Damn Bananas. So the shopping is finished, leaving us to enjoy the Yellow Daisy Festival tomorrow in peace, and watched "Journey to Babel" on BBC America's Star Trek weekend, and I re-wrote the entire Sunday of Dragoncon post. And got the pictures in.

And now I'm going to bed.

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» Friday, September 09, 2016
Protecting Myself

What's my favorite thing to do on my compressed day off? Yes, sleep, and I did, over nine hours. That felt good especially after the average 5 1/2 hours I get when I drive into work. I hadn't been in the office since July 8, and all the horrible things came flooding back on Wednesday. No, not work. Actual work is fine. But those damn fluorescent lights started my headache off from the moment I sat down, one of the printers had quit working (and our printers aren't the most sterling things anyway), I spent all day making up file folders for the work I did at home and it kept fouling up so it took me two and three tries sometime to print stuff—I spent all day printing, no close-outs, and only minimal work on the two orders I had left, and people are still standing fifteen feet outside my cubicle talking at the top of their lungs when I am trying to concentrate on my work. This is incredibly frustrating, but I am too professional to jump up on my desk and scream at them to sod off and go away. And that horrible chair doesn't help. It's supposedly a $1,600 ergonomic chair and when I get out of it at the end of the day my back hurts like the dickens. Also, I've been working with a mouse pad with a wrist rest every day for the past month. One without is very painful. The best part of the day was my nap in the car and going home, although that took me 70 minutes to get 21 miles.

I realized during Dragoncon that I had to get back to work on a very important project which I began last year and did not finish. I have to renew my Georgia driver's licenses this year, and to do so you have to have your birth certificate and your social security card. I used to carry both of these in my wallet, back in the days when I carried a big wallet with my checkbook. Then the reports on identity theft started proliferating in the news, especially about the SS card. I promptly removed my SS card from my wallet and put it somewhere safe. Then we moved. Nothing was left behind at the old house. Once we got here the reports continued, so I took the little wallet-sized birth certificate I had and also put it somewhere safe. Well, they are both really safe, all right, because I can't find them. I thought they were in my bureau with my clothes. Nope. At this point they could be anywhere: in two different containers in my craft room, or in the closet, or in one of the boxes in the closets. But I can't find them.

I had started the process to get a new BC from the Rhode Island Vital Stats department last year. You had to fill out a form, include a check for $20, and insert a copy of a government issued ID. I had all that done and there was something else I'd planned to do. It never got sent. I even found it a couple of months ago, thinking I would update the letter I enclosed with it and the check, and send it off. I couldn't find that, either. So this morning I started all over again. I have the letter, the form, the check...but the copy of the license stymied me. Last year I'd printed out the copy on James' printer and it came out great. This year James' printer will not work, even though he has looked up new drivers and reinstalled it. Windows 10 will not see it. When I print it on my printer the lettering comes fine, but my photo is a large blob. I tried correcting it in Paint Shop Pro, and it looks like I fixed it, specifically it looks like I pasted my picture on someone else's license! Great, last thing I want is for them to think I doctored my license. I could take it to a copy shop, but there's that identity theft thing again. All modern copiers keep digital copies of the copies you make. What's to keep an unscrupulous person at a copy shop from benefiting from this? (My apologies to the 99.9 percent of copy shop employees who are honest. Bad apples and all that.)

So I went off to spend the rest of my day, having not eaten breakfast in anticipation of a caloric lunch. I stopped at Barnes & Noble to see if there were any new books out to take note of and see if any further fall magazines were out. Nothing yet, but I happened to pick up the annotated Treasure Island off the bargain table.

Treasure Island and I go back to Hugh B. Bain Junior High seventh grade. I hated it. I have no idea why people like pirates: they are dirty thieves. Even the Mafia is cleaner. There is nothing romantic about them. But I'm a sucker for annotated books, and I thought if I knew the historic events around the book I might enjoy it more. (I finished it later on and I have to admit I still don't love it, but I don't hate it anymore. Squire Trelawney still annoys the hell out of me. He is so stupid at the beginning of the book, and saves himself later on by being a good fighter when the chips are down. And I have to admit all these characters are timeless; I still remember them all after four and a half decades of ignoring the book. Plus I know who Admiral Benbow is now. :-) )

So there I was, at Tin Drum eating teriyaki goodness and reading Treasure Island, and then I went on to my bank. It's my bank, I trust them. Maybe they could make a copy of my driver's license for me. But there were two people in the bank—where is everyone?—and a line to talk to someone for help. I walked out after five minutes and went to Kaiser to get a prescription filled and ask a question about a bill we received from the sleep clinic. Well, I trust Kaiser, too, don't I? Yes, I do, and the guy in the Admin office was happy to make the copy for me.

And then I bit the bullet and went to the Social Security office. The most difficult part of this was getting through the intersection of Windy Hill Road and Cobb Parkway, which is a huge mother-you-know-what of an intersection, with the traffic lights out. (I went home by another route, like the Wise Men.) This took me about a half hour at most: I got a number, filled out a form, and waited until I was called; the young woman took my form back, and came back with a letter saying I should get a new SS card in two weeks. This time I know exactly where I'm going to keep it.

Filled up at Costco, came home, walked the dog, and cooled my heels till James got home. We had supper at Uncle Maddio's, where I continued to enjoy the perfect pizza, stopped at Sprouts next door for a few things, and then did BOGO shopping at Publix. All we need now is milk, bread for my sandwiches next week, and Those Damn Bananas.

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» Monday, September 05, 2016
Dragoncon and the Final Hours of Magic
Well, that was annoying. Knowing we needed to be early to our ten o'clock panel this morning, I set the alarm a little earlier, and we headed out the door before eight o'clock, so that we would have plenty of time for breakfast. Thank you so much [sarcasm alert!] to the city of Smyrna for letting us know there was going to be some sort of road race/walk down Atlanta Road right in the middle of our route. Had we known, we would have gone down Windy Hill Road. So we lost our fifteen minute advantage, but luckily did not have to bolt our breakfast too much. But soon we had to zip through the Marriott to get to the Hyatt Centennial ballroom, and navigate one stupid elevator (which turned out to be fine).

We just made it; there were only two handicapped spaces left. The room was packed with chattering people waiting to see...

William Shatner. James shrugged at first when I said I wanted to go to this panel. We actually went to the Dragoncon panel several years ago where William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy appeared together (with Shatner apparently saying whatever came into his head and Nimoy blinking like a sage and adding comments when necessary) (we never made it into the panel room, in fact; we were in the ballroom where they were broadcasting a feed, and that was packed full as well). As I pointed out to him, Leonard is gone, and Bill is eighty-five. Who knew when we'd get to see him again?

And so there we were, with several hundred of our "closest friends," and finally he sauntered out on stage looking so familiarly casual—he had a pair of jeans and a T-shirt on that looked close to an outfit James has, and a brown leather jacket over it all, and he just took the microphone and spoke for a while—you haven't heard anything until you've heard William Shatner geeking about meeting Stephen Hawking! He interviewed Hawking for a special called To the Stars (or something like that), and of course Hawking has to spell out his messages letter by letter, so the questions were sent to him in advance, so that he could respond when Shatner read the questions. After the Q&A, Hawking said he wanted to ask Shatner a question, and the latter sat rapt waiting as Hawking laboriously spelled out word after word: "What's your favorite episode?" :-) He also talked briefly about how stressful all the costume changes were on Barbary Coast and that he was glad it was canceled, and about taking the part of Denny Crane on Boston Legal, and of course he chatted about the new series, Better Late Than Never where he tours Asia with George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw, Henry Winkler, and a guy named Jeff Nye (we're watching this; it's a riot). He mentioned something that made me feel kinship at once: he talked about here he is, at eighty-five, approaching the age where life is winding down, and he is still crazy to learn things. He doesn't know why, but it's what makes him happy, and I thought that is what I want, to still be learning things until the day I die.

I was heading for another panel in the America Mart, "Trek: New vs. Old," and James said that he would go with me. So we walked down John Portman together, went up one level in one elevator, and then had to complete the trip on the other elevator because the first did not go higher than the second floor. (Why? Who knows? When we left the America Mart we went down the second set of elevators and then couldn't find the first, and James had to take the chair lift down, a little claustrophobic box of a machine.) I went up to the front and sat with Alice while James took photos of the Enterprise model in the back and then settled back there to listen to the panel. I guess this was fun, but the guy on the panel who didn't like the Star Trek reboots sure got under Alice's collar! He refused to listen to anyone else's opinion and basically called everyone else stupid.

I met James back outside and we both decided to go to the Dealer's Room, but he was heading down to 2, and we separated because first I wanted to go to 3 to see the full-size Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. He was right in the back, and really beautiful, complete with a saddle and the repaired tail. You can take a picture with him or ride him, and the proceeds go to Make-a-Wish. And here is James one floor down!

I turned around and providentially there was Roger Nichols, who'd I'd bumped into in the Sheraton back on Friday. I donated $5 and he took my picture with Toothless. Thanks, Roger!

I trotted downstairs and caught up with James, and we kind of popped in and out of aisles. It was still very crowded, and the noise made me crazy. In the end I bought only a little resin figure of a snowy owl sitting on books.

I had been thinking of going to one last science-fiction literature panel, but it was up against the Brittrack feedback panel, and I've always gone to that because it's always fun. It sort of felt disloyal not to go, too, and it's a last chance to see everyone. James came with me, and before we went upstairs to the panel room we stopped at registration and bought memberships for next year.

The Brittrack feedback panel (a.k.a. "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish") is part feedback, part complaint, and part madness; everyone is tired and suffering a surfeit of fun and a lack of sleep. Food and drink left over from the dance is distributed, and everyone talks and says thank you and crunches and sips, and a pleasant hour goes by. This year Rob Bowen bought T-shirts for the staff with the Caro "tired" picture on it (it's a running gag).

We had to leave before the panel was over, and passed our final panel as we passed our first, in the Sci-Fi Literature room for their own feedback panel: What Worked and What Did Not. Unfortunately, several people showed up thinking it was a total Dragoncon feedback panel. Sue and Cyd dutifully took down everyone's complaints—which, naturally, were about the crowds and especially about the elevators and about them not announcing major panel changes except for one about (of all things) NSync—to pass on to the Dragoncon hierarchy and it just basically turned into a nice discussion.

But finally it was time for that last long walk down the hill and back to the truck. There were no lines outside the hotels, only a few people left in costume wandering about, no trundling of carts or suitcases, just bleak deserted sidewalks. Everything already looks lonesome. Tumbleweeds might as well be rolling down the streets.

We had our usual end-of-Dragoncon supper at Longhorn, and then came home to the welcome "arms" of Tucker and Snowy. But no rest for the weary, as we had to get ready for work tomorrow.

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» Sunday, September 04, 2016
Dragoncon and the Smile Seen Round My World
Well, not a much better sleep than the night before, but certainly a better night before to have experienced. We had to step a bit this morning, and me to rush through my breakfast, because this morning I did have a 10 a.m. panel. James had a rather more relaxed schedule, but upon searching, we found him "Literary Comfort Food" and "Novelizing the Media," both at the Hyatt.

At 9:45 I was on a mad dash to the Sheraton through the shortcut I'd forgotten yesterday, out the side door at Peachtree Center and straight down John Portman Boulevard to the hotel for the "Sherlock: Classic vs. Modern" panel, which was one of the panels I was looking forward to. This could have easily been a two-hour panel there's so much to talk about: from the original stories to the newer pastiches, and of course the media from William Gillette to Benedict Cumberbatch. Several people talked about having gotten into Sherlock Holmes from the 1950s Ronald Howard series, others from The Great Mouse Detective and its novel antecedent Basil of Baker Street (these are being re-released, BTW). Of course there is always talk of favorite Watsons (Jude Law comes out well), Jeremy Brett always takes a bow, there are the usual Elementary scoffing (look, it works for me and other fans; let's agree to disagree), and even the fringe stuff gets mentioned, like Asylum's Sherlock Holmes (and dinosaurs) and the animated Sherlock Holmes in the 25th Century (when I mentioned Jason Gray Stanford was the voice of Holmes, someone in the audience yelped, "Oh, my God, I didn't know that!"). I even put in a word for the BBC's terrific Clive Merrison/Michael Williams radio versions.

It was an elevator ride up to the Sheraton Grand Ballroom and the Q&A with the Torchwood guests. Unfortunately Burn Gorman and Eve Myles had to back out for other commitments, but Naoko Mori, James Marsters, and Gareth David Lloyd certainly made up for them. Alan Siler was moderating and was having a great time at it, too. The main focus of the panel seemed to be making Naoko blush, and they certainly managed it well. One of the first questions was for them to tell stories on Eve and Burn. Naoko revealed that Eve once got them thrown out of a kareoke bar (she wouldn't put her shoes back on) and they said to watch out for her when she started singing Welsh hymns. Gareth said Burn tried to make off with an antique tub while they were filming "Countrycide." Many of their stories, of course, were about John Barrowman and how "touchy-feely" (with your permission, of course) and "up" he is. This was apparently a big help when the cast had to be up at four in the morning for filming. James said that one morning he was so tired he asked the makeup artist if he could just paint eyes on his eyelids, until John Barrowman came barrelling in shouting "Hey, b*tches, what's up?"

I had a free hour after this great panel, and made my way back to the art show. I still wished to find out if the painting of Harry Dresden was available as a print, but I didn't see one in the print shop. I was going to approach the artist, but he had an autograph session and a long line. So I wandered around a bit looking at the other paintings I had liked, then went back to the print shop and bought two little prints, one of an owl hiding under a mushroom from the rain, and another of one owl preening another. I thought about buying a print of the Native American centaurs, but I still wanted to find out about the Dresden print. (It turned out he only had them in a pricy option. I at least have the online copy.) I finally left after I realized what was there was too expensive and sat outside to eat my lunch, and then was able to leisurely take the bridge over to the Marriott and join the queue for what was labeled the "Pond Family Reunion."

Karen Gillan had had to bow out, but Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston made certain to fill in any gaps that the audience might have expected. Arthur is rather quiet and almost appears shy, but Alex is all charm and ebullience. They were asked the usual questions including favorite episodes (she is partial to the Vincent Van Gogh story), but some surprising facts did emerge: for instance, she knew who River Song was long before Arthur and Karen did, and when she was finally allowed to "tell," she broke the news to him with a saucy "Hello, Daddy." (Otherwise, she said she felt like "Mom" around Karen, Arthur, and Matt Smith, which she characterized as "a sackful of puppies." :-) ) They also had great memories of filming in New York City, and said that fans even found them when they filmed in Monument Valley! And of course in conclusion, someone asked Alex to say "Spoilers!" which she did with relish.

The Marriott Atrium Ballroom was chock full, so it took me a while to funnel out with the crowd and then get down the escalators, so I had to head over to the Sheraton at a good clip. However, I did make the next panel, " vs. the Whoniverse," in time. is a media review and commentary site, and one of the panelists is Brittrack regular Rob Levy; the panel was devoted to all aspects of Who, classic and new, Hartnell to Capaldi, although a lot of season 10 questions were bandied. (They also talked about the rumor that a lost episode of Doctor Who may be presented in an animated version.) [Later: The BBC announced this a few days later.] The next panel took care of the season ten problem.

This was the "Doctor Who series 10 and Class" discussion. This was a difficult panel because, although the Who spinoff series is supposed to premiere in October, we still haven't heard much about it. We know it's set at an old Doctor Who stomping ground, Coal Hill School, now Coal Hill Academy, there's an LGBT cast member, and the plot is basically Torchwood meets Scooby-Doo. Alan Siler figured, however, that Peter Capaldi is probably going to make at least one appearance on the series to set it as definitely in the Whoniverse. [Later: We found out via the BBC a few days later that Alan guessed this one correctly.] There is also little known about the next season of Who, besides that Pearl Mackie will play the new companion, Bill, a modern-day young woman, and she will not be in the Christmas episode. The new season doesn't air until April because Peter Capaldi said the production crew was overworked and needed a rest.

My panels were over for the day, so I made my way back to the Hyatt to find James. He was in International North waiting for "The Best of Military Science Fiction" to begin: this was a collection of some of James' favorite science fiction writers on one panel, including S.M. Sterling and John Ringo. I have to admit, besides talking to James, I didn't pay much attention to the panel because I don't read those books. I remember them talking about certain characters and plots, and thought that John Ringo needed to shut up and let everyone else talk, but I don't recall much else about the panel. I laughed several times, though, so I guess what I did hear I enjoyed. :-)

Some days are made up of both good and bad, and today had been colored by two dispiriting events. One was a conversation thread in the Dragoncon Facebook group that was being commented on in the Dragoncon With Disabilities group. A man claimed that a woman in a scooter deliberately ran him down. Now, inconsiderate people exist in every national, racial, ethnic, and gender group. It's always possible to find an inconsiderate disabled person. But the comments that followed this claim were quite vicious, with some people stating that all people in scooters/power chairs/wheelchairs should be banned from the convention. What? So those who require them can be the way "crippled" people were 100 years ago, confined to a room in a house like a pariah? Because only abled people should be expected to have a good time? Is this 2016 or 1916?

This was compounded by a depressing Facebook report from a friend who lives in Florida. Like James, she can walk only short distances and depends on a power chair to get around. This morning she was telling with some sorrow that she had gone shopping, and, in order to put the items she had bought in the carrier on the back of her chair, she had gotten up from the chair to do so. She was immediately buttonholed by some obnoxious woman who shoved her face up to hers and told her that by getting up from her chair she had demonstrated that she was faking a disability, and she should be ashamed of herself! Apparently this woman had appointed herself God! Isn't it bad enough to have a mobility problem or any other type of restriction on your health, only to have some cretin accusing you of "faking it"? Ironically I found a post on Facebook by a woman who is seriously ill, and apparently every time she takes a break to have a good time, like go to a theme park or do something fun, paying for it with pain afterwards, she gets criticized for "not really being sick." One person even reported her to her mother!

But something nice was lurking as well. James had a couple of free hours today and I got intermittent reports from him that he was in the Dealer's Room, he had seen the full-size Toothless, and he'd been Christmas shopping for me (I was not allowed to look in his carry bag!). He'd also bought himself a "skean dhu," a traditional knife that is included when you wear a kilt in full regalia. It's beautiful, too, with an antler handle and a Damascus-finished blade.

But my favorite text was the casual one sent from the Hyatt, where he told me he was trying to get memberships for next year. (Turned out it was a line for next year's hotel rooms.) But it didn't matter. The tide had turned and he had chosen..."in all things it is better to hope than to despair."

And on his birthday, too.

Damn right I cried.

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» Saturday, September 03, 2016
Dragoncon and a New Day With No Mistakes in It

The edge of the clouds from Hurricane Hermine touched us yesterday; no rain, but clouds and humidity. But as always after a storm, the humidity whisked away in the wind, the skies cleared and came back blue as a jay's wing.

I guess that's what happened during the night. When we woke up the air was cool and clear and it seemed as if it had wiped away all the bad feelings from yesterday. While we weren't cockeyed optimistic—James pretty much decided he would stay in the Hyatt today—the remainder of the weekend suddenly felt do-able. Traffic was light and, like yesterday, we had no trouble using our Parking Panda QR code. (We had no trouble with parking all weekend. I'm really happy with Parking Panda.)

Neither of us had a ten o'clock panel today, either, so we were able to take our time over breakfast, and then I could walk James over to the Hyatt via the Marriott for his first panel. I would be leaving him alone all day, but he seemed serene about it today and ready to take on his schedule. It definitely made me feel better when I finally left to cut back through Peachtree Center for my first panel at the Sheraton.

It seems awkward to say you enjoyed a memorial panel, but it was nice sharing movie memories about Alan Rickman. Sounds like there are some Rickman movies I need to check out (but, sorry, I still am not going to watch Die Hard). I wish they'd discussed Galaxy Quest more. I've seen Love, Actually and enjoyed it, but still don't get what the fuss is about. Was I the only one who sat watching what Alan Rickman was going to do and kept warning him not to? :-{

It was only a short block's walk to my next panel, about Sherlock, in the Hilton Crystal Ballroom, interrupted by that usual line in the ladies' room. Sad to say, this is where my lack of sleep, probably caused by last night's emotional crisis, took its toll. It was a great chat about the Christmas episode—when did folks realize this was not reality, what about the portrayal of women in it, the appearance of Mycroft in his classic form—and the minimal hints we have been given about the fourth set of three episodes, with the usual three clue words (this year Thatcher, Smith, and Sherrinford). Those familiar with canon know that Sherlock was almost called "Sherrinford Holmes," and there has always been a rumor of a third Holmes brother with that name. A character named "Culverton Smith" also appears in canon, and apparently Thatcher refers to something on the "blog" kept by Watson in the new series (I confess I have not kept up with John's blog). But during the panel I did close my eyes and listen, and of course caught myself falling asleep right in front of the panel. Not your fault, guys!

Next I had to make a big decision, but it turned out to be not so big after all. Before the Sherlock panel I chatted with James via text. He seemed very chilled out and said he was just going to stay in the Hyatt chatting with people and having his lunch. So I hopped from the Hilton to the garage elevator, cut through the crazy lunch crowd at Peachtree Center, and tramped the rest of the way down the street (only a block) to the Westin to see Jim Butcher's panel. Jim always does great panels, and this one was no exception. He talked about possibly doing a young adult about Maggie Dresden going to a school for children of wizards/archangels/etc, not because they have special powers but because they live in households that are "different" and they would be able to talk freely to classmates. He also said he thought about doing a short story about Harry written from Mouse's [his dog] point of view, which would be cool because Mouse is a temple dog and has his own kind of magic. Of course the next Harry Dresden book came up: where is it? Apparently the Butchers are having a house built, and by Jim's account, they need Mike Holmes to come in and mediate because the builders are so bad. He said he and his wife were going to do "good cop, bad cop" on them and it ended up being "bad cop, angry cop." Anyway, he is having trouble writing until he has his own "nest."

They always empty out the panel rooms, and I had to use the bathroom anyway, so I did my thing and went back to the same room for the Sleepy Hollow panel (I really regret neither of them showing up yesterday because I am now missing the Call the Midwife/period dramas panel; there have even been some people here dressed as the midwives). I ended up sitting next to a nice couple who were horrified along with me when I reached into my backpack and couldn't find my camera. To cut to the chase, I went crazy for about five minutes and probably had the two room people thinking I was nuts looking for my camera when all I had done was put it into the wrong pocket of my backpack—there are three delegated for specific use and I had put the camera into the food pocket rather than into the camera pocket in front. So all was well and the nice couple even held my seat for me.

So, Tom Mison and Janina Gavankar—like everyone else, I was aghast when SH killed off Abbie Mills. The entire series for three years has been the bond between Abbie and her time-traveling-via-spell partner Ichabod Crane. I was never an Ichabbie (someone who wanted them to be romantically involved), but the entire story revolved around them and now she's gone, with a lot of controversy online about an actress of color being booted off a major series. According to the stories, Nicole Beharie was just tired of the night shoots and the long shooting schedule, and Tom Mison admitted at this panel that it was very hard, which is why they expanded the cast in third season, to give both of the leads a rest. Now all the old cast members seem to be gone; wish Jenny and Sophie weren't gone, but Betsy Ross is a welcome boot—she was a really stupid character. Anyway, Janina is very funny and outspoken, and I do like her. I just don't like the idea of the series being sent in Washington, DC (like we need another series set in DC) and that there is an evil billionaire character (like we need another one of these).

Most of the fun talk was more about the filming than the series: they used to film in North Carolina and now they film in Conyers, GA, and they got into a big discussion about discovering the different types of barbecue sauces. When there were series stories, humor usually got the first dibs; for instance, they were asked if there were a mythical creature the series has not done that they would like to see and Tom Mison said "centaurs." Janina commented that centaurs would have two ribcages, and the next thing you know, someone asked, "What would you do with all those ribs?" and an audience member shouted "Barbecue!" Tom also told a story about the trained crow that was supposed to drop a message in his hand. Tom would have a piece of food in his hand, and the trainer would send the crow to Tom, and it would drop the message to get the food. Except the bird kept dropping the message, gulping the food, and then picking the message up again! Finally he quit dropping the message at all and the trainer bellowed, "Dammit, quit messing up!"

James had been messaging me all afternoon, so upbeat that I did do what I wanted initially and made the long trek down to the America Mart where the dealers are, as three of the tracks were on the fourth floor this year: Trek Track, Alternate History, and Military SF Media. I crossed from the Westin through the bridge to the Mart, had to thread through noisy gamers in Building 1, and cross several habitrails to Building 2.

Having a few minutes, I stopped on the third floor where they have "Artist's Alley" this year, instead of next to the art show, and said hi to Andy Runton, who does the Owly books. No new book yet... Supposedly there is a full-size Toothless the Dragon from How to Train Your Dragon here, but I didn't have time to find it.

My first thought when I got to the fourth floor was "Who did Trek Track piss off to get stuck in here?" It was a nice big room, though, with a large model of the Enterprise set up in the rear, and nice and cool! Alice Spivey was here, too, huddled up in a sweater; to me it was "Baby Bear"—juuuuuust right. The panel was about the animated series, which usually gets short shrift. Sure the animation was terrible—it was Filmation after all—but the scripts were intelligent and at times very adult, about things like loneliness, the practicality of time travel, alienation (pun not intended, but thinking of "Yesteryear," about young Spock, one of the best stories). The animated series also contributed several firsts: Uhura in command ("Lorelei Signal"), Kirk's middle name revealed as "Tiberius," the first captain of the Enterprise, Robert April, being portrayed, first crossover with a literary universe ("The Slaver Weapon" featuring Larry Niven's Kzin), first alien crewmembers, M'Ress and Arex, and others. Great discussion!

I was done for the day, but James wanted to go to one more panel, the Ace/ROC book preview (he had attended his favorite, the Baen Book two-hour "roadshow," earlier; this is always his favorite panel because Baen publishes his favorite SF books and authors), so I met him at the Hyatt. He told me he had tried to play "SF Jeopardy" at 5:30 but got defeated after they asked three Barsoom questions in a row. The presentation was okay, and reminded me that I needed to get a copy of Jim Butcher's The Aeronaut's Windlass now that it was in paperback. Still a lot of dystopian stuff coming out, but it was interesting checking out the new releases.

This time we had no elevator troubles, and James was relaxed on the way home and told me he was feeling much better. We had a little no-salt chicken broth with alphabet noodles when we got home and it chased off the rest of the lingering madness from yesterday. I think we were so afraid of what might happen at Dragoncon after the heart attack that yesterday we went there scared to death expecting something bad would happen and we just couldn't relax and at night it just exploded.

WUPA-TV, channel 69, broadcast the Dragoncon Parade, and we watched the DVR of it while we ate. Most of it was given over to stupid Six Flags commercials for their Netherworld thing they do at Hallowe'en, and then Moe's the restaurant had a "taco cam" half the time with a stupid stuffed burrito in the way. They showed more of the parade than we'd ever seen, but it was sure suck-ass coverage. Someone on WSB-TV posted what looks like almost all the parade (except the Netherworld junk), so we'll watch that.

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» Friday, September 02, 2016
Dragoncon and the Crisis of Faith

On July 10, Dragoncon was almost two months away and a flutter in the back of our minds, especially about the abysmal elevator service for those with motion disabilities like James.

July 11 changed everything.

For a while Dragoncon was forgotten in the struggle to regain health. If it was remembered we merely thought with a pang of the $100+ registration fee that might go to waste. As the hospital stay lingered it seemed forgone that we could not go. Dragoncon, unless you are 20-30 and in good health, is still pretty strenuous. As James felt better, we started thinking...well, maybe we won't waste all the money. Maybe we'll go on the slower days, Sunday and Monday. The ridiculous parking fees at the garages around town also gave us pause. Until we found the open lot behind the Courtland Street Garage we had paid $40/day last year. (It was $30 behind the garage.) Along the line reading Facebook, we found out Kelley Ceccato's newest radio play would be on Friday, and I always like Kelley's stuff.

After a three-week hospital stay and an emotional convalescence for James, it was very tempting just to stay home and "veg." But we kept fighting with ourselves. I finally admitted to James that I didn't want to give up going to Dragoncon, that it would be an admission that I was too old to manage it. I don't usually get hung up on this "getting old and grey and wrinkly" thing. But once I get to Dragoncon, I have a lot of fun. I either go to panels that I find intellectually stimulating (not much of that going on at work) or that I find entertaining. It's a four-day vacation that just happens to involve a lot of urban hiking. Doing nothing felt like giving in to the creeping depression that had dogged us all this year.

In Italo-American culture, there's a stereotype that everyone in Calabria is hard-headed. Lou Monte, the comic Italo-American singer, always used to joke about being "Calabrese." It meant a special kind of stubborn. Mom used to say if the Calabrese were the most stubborn, then the place where my dad came from must be the second most stubborn. When they had disagreements, and he dug his heels in, she'd grimly point a finger at him and snap "Guarcinese!" Eventually she started doing it to me, too.

So it got to be that going to Dragoncon brought out the Guarcinese in me.

But James' stubborn streak isn't any less than mine. He didn't want to give it up, either. Okay, we would go. If any health problem arose, the rest of the weekend was called off. But we'd go down swinging.

The first hurdle was food. We usually take our own sandwiches as we want to get in as many panels as we can and most of the food at Peachtree Center is pre-prepared heavily salted, and there is the expense. We could still fit in Cafe Momo for breakfast if judicious about the choices. Usually we buy roast beef and other processed meats, which are also heavily salted, for the sandwiches and by Monday I don't ever want to eat roast beef again. Last year we had Boar's Head, and it tasted terrible. Then I had a brainstorm: chicken! James cooked up two batches of boneless skinless chicken thighs, one plain, one as cacciatore, with no salt. We made sandwiches with that. (Next year, though, better buns. Hamburger buns get too gloppy.) We bypassed the crackers we had left over from Timegate and Anachrocon and bought Kind products instead (extremely low salt, low sugar, with grains and nuts) and stocked up on fruit cups and our usual fruit juice boxes.

The parking nightmare was taken care of one day while James was scouting around online. I think he got a Groupon message or something like that. He asked me had I ever heard of "Parking Panda." I believe Leo Laporte mentioned it on "The Tech Guy," but otherwise, no. A day or so later, two different friends of mine on Facebook mentioned they had used/were using Parking Panda. So I checked it out. $26/day? Pre-reserved? No money to change hands, just scan a printout or via a phone app? (I could have gotten $25/day, but it was on Andrew Young Boulevard, which is a steep slope. Steep slopes and a pickup truck with a chair lift on the back do not mix.) Okay, sign me up.

We'd already decided against ever going downtown Thursday night to register again after last year's traffic debacle, so on Friday we were up at 6:15 a.m. to head downtown. Per Parking Panda, we could not enter the garage—our usual, the Courtland Street Garage with the skywalk (the "Luke Skywalk," as we call it) to Peachtree Center—until after eight a.m.; we got there at 8:05. From there it was a block to the Sheraton and registration, which we do through disability services. James got his wheelchair seating sticker and I have an "end of row; seated in line" so I won't have to go outside in the sun. I had also printed up James a QR code to tape to the back of his badge which mentioned he had a heart attack, that he had stents, and to consult the emergency list on his cell phone for medications and other warnings. (He also has an engraved bracelet.)

Next it was off to breakfast. James was careful to get plain eggs, grits, chicken or turkey sausage, and lots of fruit. I had my usual: oatmeal, two slices of French toast, three slices of bacon, a small serving of their oven baked potatoes, and kiwi, oranges, and strawberries (and a bagel for later). And milk. Of course. ☺

Oddly for a Friday, neither of us had a 10 a.m. panel, so for something to do we went trudging over to the Hyatt via the Marriott, because the Hyatt has still not made their hotel accessible from Peachtree Center for wheelchairs. You have to walk through the "habitrails," as congoers call the skybridges, and through the big cavernous Marriott Center, cross through the Marriott Hotel, and then another bridge to the Hyatt. We ended up down in the Sci-Fi Literature track room, which is run by Sue Phillips, because she always has good programming. The 10 a.m. panel there was a welcome panel, and the welcome was very short, so we spent time talking with Sue and Phyllis Boros and other various denizens up at that hour, checking out the "free library" (take a book, leave a book), and watched them work on getting the track banner to stay in place.

I left James at eleven to head upstairs to the first Sleepy Hollow panel of the weekend. Janina Gavankar, the new female lead, was supposed to appear on the panel with Tom Mison. I had other panels I wanted to see up against all the SH panels, and the next panel was the one I picked to be the sacrificial lamb. Unfortunately it turned out both Gavankar and Mison were filming today (they are filming Sleepy Hollow in Conyers, just east of Atlanta), so there was no panel, and I could go back and enjoy "Young Adult, Old Adult," which was being moderated by our favorite pet sitter, Aubrey Spivey. This was a panel about why so many adults are enjoying young adult fiction. (Less complicated themes with universal emotions and more inventive seemed to be the consensus.) Aubrey does a super job of moderating panels and we had a lively discussion.

We subscribe to several of the Dragoncon tracks (there are about forty now) on Facebook and knew there was going to be a 25th anniversary tribute to one of our favorite movies, The Rocketeer, coming up. It was next, in the new American Sci-Fi Classics room in the Marriott. We had no trouble with the elevators in the Hyatt, but went a bit mad in the Marriott because, instead of numbering their levels like normal people would, the levels have names, and you have to figure which is which. We had to get to Marriot Marquis level from Marriott Atrium level and eventually ended up going up to get down, but the people on the elevator with us were incredibly helpful.

The panel was great. We spent time talking about our favorite scenes and lines and actors, and about the differences from the comic strip, and the great 1930s look. There was a gentleman in the room dressed as the Rocketeer complete with jet pack.

We stayed in the room for the "1970s Sci-Fi TV: From the Disco to the Future" panel. It was all here, from Space: 1999 to Logan's Run to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, our favorite cheese to our favorite things that made us think (some movies crept in, so Silent Running anyone?). There were two women in Space: 1999 Year 1 uniforms that we all loved. My first three conventions were Star Trek conventions, but my fourth was the second Space: 1999 convention in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh keeps coming up in my life) and I met a bunch of the people that are my close friends now at that convention. (I was less enamoured of Year 2, but you can't have everything.)

At this point, we headed back to the Hyatt, as James had a panel there at 5:30 and he wanted to be there on time. The elevators were getting crowded, a lot more crowded than I would have expected for Friday, but most of the crowd was cooperative. We decided to peruse the art show until I had to run for the Sheraton. This was a great idea because at this point it wasn't crowded, and there was some tremendously wonderful art this year. (We had pretty much given up on the art show for several years because it was all "intestinal art," as we called it, with unpleasant figures with long claws tearing apart bodies—with lots of intestines showing.) My favorite was a beautiful Dan Dos Santos painting of Harry Dresden defeating a demon. Another was what looked like a knight/soldier kneeling with his sword in front of him and ominous black structures behind him. The whole painting was dark except for a beam of light illuminating the knight and his sword. Another that caught my eye was a fantasy painting of Native American centaurs charging toward the viewer, and there was a very intriguing Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde painting, with an image of Jeckyl inside of Hyde. There were many more good pieces like this, from anime figures to fantasy items. Not a lot of space art anymore, but there was one artist that did have space- and futuristic city-scapes that were breathtaking. other pieces caught our eyes. One was a picture of a wood with what looked like smoke in a central clearing, rising to form an owl's head, with a crescent moon as the owl's left eye. We later came back and purchased it. The other stopped us immediately: it was of a little fox with wide eyes with lacy wings and antenna, a fairy fox. The expression on its face was the same as Tucker's when we catch him shredding paper towels he's snitched from the wastebasket, and we both said "It's Tucker!" almost in unison. Yeah, we bought that one, too.

James got to his room for his panel, and I hiked over to the Sheraton via the skywalk and the elevator in the garage. This was "Doctor Who Classics" and again a very nice discussion back-and-forth about favorite episodes, significant episodes, fan favorites, favorite companions, and, of course the subject of what you would use to introduce a new Who fan to the classic series.

Still, I was becoming distinctly uneasy. I remembered two years ago when we could not get to the ARTC performance because it took us over an hour to get an elevator (and we had to go to the Hilton to get one). I zipped off the minute the panel was over, stalking my quickest to the elevator and back over the skywalk and through that long, long walk to the Hyatt. I was terribly worried about James getting an elevator up from the International Tower and then he had to go back down once in the lobby to the Centennial floor from the main lobby. It took us a while to get an elevator, but he got one and I took the escalator, and we made it just as David Benedict was making his opening remarks.

It was a fun performance. Another audio drama company performed the opening piece, a story called "The Metamorphs" in a continuing paranormal series called Harry Strange. The metamorphs in question take over other people's bodies; it was an interesting bit of comedy/drama/fantasy.

Following was Kelley's play, The Goblins and the Golden Rose. A still-grieving widow makes exquisite clockwork items, including her greatest creation, a golden rose that blossoms. She discovers that the "ugly man" she keeps from being run over by a steam conveyance is actually a goblin who carries in a magic bag with him another goblin, a young woman with a tale of love and loss. The widow discovers that the fae she has so admired over the years are beautiful but cold; it is only the "ugly" goblins who have feelings, and she is determined to help the young woman who has lost her only love. A lovely fantasy.

We also got to talk to Juanita Gibson and daughter Jessie, Alice and Aubrey Spivey, Lin Butler, Stuart, and some other friends we hadn't seen for a while. But finally it was time to mosey toward the elevators to get home. Maybe this is where the trouble started.

The elevators, predictably, were packed. When we rolled into the alcove with the five elevators (only four of which were working, as one goes only to Polaris, the restaurant at the top of the hotel) there were seven other people in wheelchairs/scooters/power chairs already waiting for the elevators. As we waited, what elevators did show up were chock full of people, only one or two occasionally coming off. One lady in a wheelchair did manage to get on. The rest of us cooled our heels for what seemed like quite a long time, and then Hyatt security showed up and herded the seven left (and their companions) to the service elevator. James backed off and let the folks who had been waiting longest go first, and finally we got back to the lobby level of the Hyatt. From there we just went outside and down John Portman Boulevard to the garage. Even though we had not waited as long as some of the others, we were rattled by the elevator incident, because the elevators are usually a mess on Saturday and it spooked us happening tonight. Plus we had to thread our way through people still in line for late-night events and this was challenging for James because the city of Atlanta saw fit to put planters every few feet along the street to beautify it. Yeah, it looks nice, but it doesn't help two-way traffic on the sidewalks any. By the time we got to the garage we were on edge, and as we were leaving James was saying he didn't think he could make it through the weekend, and this would be our last Dragoncon. He was even more upset than he had been in the hospital on the worst days, and I was upset because I'd been worried about him all day and really didn't enjoy the Who panel as much as I thought because I was worried about him negotiating the elevators. Sometimes I think we both have a kind of PTSD. I ended up crying all the way home and most of the rest of the evening because he was so miserable.

Aside from setting the alarm for the next morning, we never did resolve the problem before bed. It wasn't the best night. All that kept running through my head was the song "There'll Be Other Friday Nights."

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