Friday, August 17, 2007

Seven Letters to Go...

I have not worked on this much in the last four days. I did a bit of the T on the flight from Maui to the mainland, but mostly watched the movie (The Hoax with Richard Gere, quite good) and read. I did the R and S today. I will probably work on a couple of more letters tonight as tomorrow we will be out shopping and going out to dinner at Bouchon for our Anniversary. I'd like to get this done before we leave for Japan, but there is still so much else to do before we leave that I don't know if I will have the time.

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P is for Programming

Programming has been a part of my life for a long time. I learned a dozen or more software languages in college (FORTRAN, SNOBOL, LISP, etc.) and the language that the rest of the world used (COBOL) during my first job. Although I moved on to higher level software programs (like database interfaces and markup languages), the knowledge of basic programming has helped me to understand why computers do what they do. Even though I don't program per se, I do use programs like Apple Script and FileMaker that use programming like concepts (If...then...else).

However there is another meaning of this word that now dominates my life -- programming convention schedules. Programming is seen as an arcane skill by many people who go to conventions, but if you have a good database and a good memory, it is actually a lot of fun. First you get to invite a bunch of really cool people to attend your convention. If you are lucky, a third of them will come. (Cool people are often busy.) Then you start thinking about panel topics that are topical, useful, fun, or serious issues. As people start accepting your invitations, some topics will become obvious. If Larry Niven is a guest, I will probably have a panel on extended lives or creating aliens. If Esther Friesner is a guest, there has to be a panel on Chicks in Chainmail or humorous science fiction or Tikis. Bob Eggleston as a guest calls for a Godzilla panel. Beginning writing panels are always well attended, as are panels on the latest astronomical findings or Mars. My favorite panel at the last convention was a panel on Girl Geeks. We all brought our favorite geek toys. If you run out of ideas for panels, you can always look at other convention program books for their ideas. Once you have a list of panels and a group of panelists for each panel, all you have to do is schedule each panel in a room at a certain time (given the constraints that guests arrive at the convention at different times and have other commitments besides programming). That is like a creating a four dimensional crossword puzzle. But luckily we have sophisticated databases that can tell us when we have put two panels in the same room at the same time or have scheduled the same person at the same time on two different panels. It all takes just a little bit longer than you think it will. Then you let all the guests know their schedules, publish a version of it on your website and in the program book and sit back and enjoy your convention. (Did I leave out all the difficult bits where a PITA guest shows up and wants to be put on a panel you deliberately left them off of? Maybe saying No to them can also be enjoyable.) Once you learn these skills, you get to do it all over again for the next convention. But where else can you create a panel with four bestselling writers (Williams, Card, Foster, and Brooks) talking about their work habits that both the panelists and the audience really loves? Believe me, it is fun.

5 comments:

Sherry said...

This piece is really coming along! I can't wait to see the finished picture!

Anna van Schurman said...

Mmmm Bouchon! I can recommend the mussels.

Anna van Schurman said...

I meant to end that comment "Happy Anniversary!"

Jennifer said...

You're flying through this one, it seems! Happy Anniversary. :)

stitcherw said...

Your letters are looking so pretty, the varigation is really falling nicely on this. I've never seen the Hoax, but love watching Richard Gere, I'll have to check it out.
Sue