Aphelion Issue 237, Volume 23
March 2019
 
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Hello and welcome to the March 2019 issue of Aphelion!

Two weeks ago, Lindsey and I were at AnachroCon in Atlanta. It was our first time ever being there as part of the convention staff rather than as just attendees. Lyn was helping out in the Tea Room and Green Room, and I was the Literary Track Director. We’ve been asked to do it again next year, too! We turned out to be pretty good at those jobs, so we’ve been asked back to do it again, LOL! We heard nothing but praise for everything we did, so I’m counting that as a win. Lyn wants to try helping out in the Con Suite next year, and all the writers I’d dealt with agreed to try and come back next year if the con scheduling works out for them. I fond that running the Lit Track was kind of like being Aphelion’s Publisher, but in a different direction, so to speak. Having been an attending pro at LibertyCon for the past dozen years helped me out a lot with putting the Lit Track together, since I’ve been on discussion panels and I knew how they worked—albeit only from the writer’s point of view. I’d also talked a lot with Tish and watched what Rich did to lay out the LC Lit Track, too. Of course, I didn’t know I was doing research at the time. I thought I was just spending time with friends and having interesting conversations, LOL!

For those who may not already know, LibertyCon is a small, intimate, 750-person Summertime convention in Chattanooga, TN. This year marks 32 years since it began. Some of the biggest, middle-est, and with me the smallest names in SF&F show up year after year because LC is like a family reunion for them. It’s a literary con, but artists and crafters and cosplayers show up too. “After one LibertyCon, you become part of the family. After two, you can’t imagine how you lived without it. From then on, you plan your life around the next time you are able to go back…” AnachroCon is becoming somewhat the same thing for Februarys in Atlanta. This year was the tenth anniversary. It started off as a pure steampunk convention, and has now evolved into a more general Alternate History con so as to embrace more of fandom than it had before. It has had some bumps and glitches along the way, but it is now better than ever, and a whole lot of fun. If you get the chance, give both of them a try and see how you like them. Neither will ever become Dragon*Con, by any stretch of the imagination. And that is part of their charm, to my way of thinking, at least.

So, great convention, great friends, good time was had by all—The 2019 AnachroCon was a resounding success! We’re looking forward to next year and I’m working on making the panel scheduling for all the different tracks a tad easier from now on. My skills with spreadsheets will come in handy there.

And speaking of spreadsheets—here’s an interesting tidbit…

I wound up using algebra again Friday at work. My boss needed me to pick samples for one test that had to be as close to the official specifications for a product as we could get. This variety of fiberglass insulation has a paper backing on it as a vapor barrier, stuck to the glass fibers with a thin layer of asphalt—but what I needed to know, and as quickly as possible, was what the weight in grams per square foot of *just* the glass itself happened to be for 13 pieces of insulation in each of 4 bags of product. So, it was either slowly and carefully strip the paper and asphalt off of 52 individual pieces of insulation that were each two feet wide and not quite eight feet long so I could weigh the bare glass, or use algebra to simulate having ripped the paper off. I still had to weigh all 52 pieces, but using algebra is faster than doing it the hard way.

I know how many grams per square foot the paper is *supposed* to weigh. And the grams per square foot of asphalt on the paper had already been measured (three different times by three different people!) the day the insulation was made so I had that number, too. So I made the computer add the gram weight of both per sqft using an average sqft of the glass, then subtract that from the weight of the pieces of insulation as I weighed them with the paper on. That gave me a fairly accurate gram weight of just the glass, itself. I managed to turn five minutes of ripping the paper off and weighing into five seconds, each. Now repeat that math for the other 51 pieces! That part of the job went from four hours and twelve minutes to just forty-three minutes.

Now, as to personal stuff: I was recently able to recover a scan of a photo of my original Map of Bethdish--the big, poster-sized thing that I spent months hand drawing and hand-coloring as I wrote my earliest Mare Inebrium and History Of Bethdish stories back in the early 1990s--before the Internet was a thing. I'm involved in computer-coloring the faded out photo of my map--that was destroyed in a house fire back in 2007--so that I have a reproducable copy of my old artwork. The same artwork that was essentually a mnemonic device to help me remember all the details from my planned stories from back in the day. The map is like a huge notebook of planned stories, history to make said stories work within the framework of my created universe, and between the map and my Timeline file, it's how I want stuff to go when I make it go. And things are still going, all the time!

This is an accurate measure of how lazy I am. I’d rather waste ten minutes making a spreadsheet do the math for me so that I reduce the time a job takes to 10% of the time doing it the hard way would take. And I’m dyslexic, so I have to be really careful with making sure I don’t typo any numbers. Spread sheets can work like those function box thingies we were taught in fourth grade. One box has the function, the algebra bit, the formula—think of that as if it were music. Other boxes hold the data, the measurements that can be variables—those are the dancers. The formula tells the variables how to dance. Still more boxes show the results of the variables dancing to the music of the formula. That’s how I do algebra. It’s the magic of the music that shows you how the dance goes. It’s the formula that tells the data the dance steps and the results are the patterns of the square dance they perform...
Wow! THAT was philosophical, LOL!

All right, it's about time I shut up and let y'all get to reading the new issue of Aphelion! Enjoy!

Dan


ON THE COVER

Title: Protostar HH-34 in Orion

Photo Credit: ESO