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4th-Jan-2013 09:19 pm - 2012 Fiction Post
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Seeing as I have two (count ‘em, two!) bits of fiction that came out in 2012, both written with my friend Tobias S. Buckell, I thought I’d mention them here, on the off chance that anyone who reads me here missed it or thought them good enough for award nomination:

“Jungle Walkers” w/ Tobias S. Buckell – Science fiction novelette (8300ish words)

  • Armored, March 2012, Baen Books, edited by John Joseph Adams [ B&N|Amazon ]
  • io9.com, March 2012, Armored promotion [ link ]

“The Found Girl” w/ Tobias S. Buckell – Science fiction short story (6500ish words)

  • Clarkesworld Magazine #72, September 2012, [ link ] [ Chapbook: Amazon ]

Links are there for free reading, and to the online bookstores in case you want to buy them in some form or another. Obviously I liked both of them quite a bit, and I thought for our first collaboration, “Jungle Walkers” was especially strong.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

21st-Dec-2012 03:24 pm - Apocalypse And You!
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As humans, we have a fascination with significant numbers and cycles. Sometimes, the fascination borders on the morbid. And sometimes it careens right through the borders and goes bombing around in the wasteland beyond, risking catastrophe with every little gully and hill it encounters. In fact, that level of fascination almost tempts catastrophe, exactly like an off-roader taking the questionable paths, driving through the loose footing, seeing how close the tires can get to the edge of the cliff. And then there’s a mingling of thrill and disappointment when the catastrophe fails to materialize.

And this somewhat tortured analogy is one of the reasons I think we’re so focused on the ill-named Mayan Apocalypse. We’ve gone through thirteen years now of different significant dates, rollovers, and resets, and the made-for-Hollywood world-changing apocalypse has failed to come about time and again. A year and a half after the biggest, most obvious one, Americans witnessed live on TV what looked to be the start of a world-changing conflagration, kicked off on our own soil, in our biggest city.

And I think the American psyche, at least, collectively said, “Well, it’s late, but it’s here. This shit is on.” I remember expecting that every last Reservist would be in uniform by that following weekend, that we’d immediately go to a war footing, and so on. But as intense as it has been, it has not been nearly as intense as it could have been, as many expected it to be.

While it has obviously caused changes, and been rather apocalyptic in relatively small chunks, there’s a sort of pent-up… frustration, almost, that we’ve been denied the catastrophic upheaval that we were promised. No Y2K, no WWIII, no nuclear events, no zombie outbreak, no starbeast devouring worlds, or anything. I think you can feel both the anticipation and disappointment, bundled together in one.

The result, I think, is what you have today: public fascination and a sort of undercurrent of expectation that a long-defunct civilization knew something about the end of the world that we don’t, people only half-jokingly breathing a sigh of relief that we’re still here, and gun sales on the rise, in part, because of a fear of some kind of doomsday. For some reason this fascination with numbers and cyclical turnover supersedes common sense, and in fact becomes a sort of “common sense” of its own. People will “joke” about their Zombie Apocalypse Plan, but then defend it as a sensible approach to disaster planning, and while some elements of their plan might work that way, mostly it’s there to calm the nagging “what if,” that it all might come to pass the way it happens in movies and shows.

That’s my impression of it, anyway.

My hope is that the more of these events that we mostly sail on through, the less appealing this sort of strain of thinking will be. The more, maybe, that people will trust the scientists who are trying to warn us off the silly stuff like this, and focus on the important stuff. Because there are disaster threats, though not as photogenic necessarily as the ones Hollywood puts out there, and there are things we can do to avert them, and better weather them. Without losing our heads, without turning every home into a fortified armory, without making semi-random dates on the calendar the subject of news stories and TV specials and long-winded blog posts.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

18th-Dec-2012 03:21 pm - Adderall & Me, 3 Weeks Later
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Three weeks ago I started on a prescription for Adderall, in the hopes of getting a grip on my ADD.

For background, I was diagnosed with it as a child, and did a couple of years of treatment with an occupational therapist in lieu of attempting treatment with Ritalin. At the time, this worked out pretty well for me. I learned to cope with what was going on in my head, at least well enough to take me through elementary school, and I started building some cognitive responses to the stuff I had a hard time dealing with instinctively. It’s the stuff that, in retrospect, makes me wonder about the genetic component to my own son’s challenges with ADHD, anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. But, anyway, as time went on, I figured out how to cope, mostly, and did well enough with school and such that it never seemed like I needed more help.

Since leaving home, however, I’ve noticed a complexly progressive decline in my ability to cope. University was… more of a struggle than I thought it would be, and I thought it was just the increased difficulty level. But since then I’ve started to wonder if it wasn’t just me hitting the end of my ability to cope, unaided. My current workplace situation brought that home to me in a pretty big way the last couple of years. For the first time in quite a while, I’m being expected to juggle multiple priorities in an environment where I can’t expect to be left alone to work on stuff for as long as I need to. It’s a mix of immediate, short, and long term stuff, with a dash of perpetual maintenance cycles.

So yeah (as I come back from dealing with some interruptions), eventually it got to be too much and I decided to try a medical solution. Just willing my way out of it wasn’t quite doing the trick, and that was a little tough to swallow. I’ve always taken some pride in having been able to get by without medication, but it also occurred to me that the pride was also getting in my way, not letting me see what I really needed to do.

Thus far it has worked out really well. My doctor warned me that it would wear off or drop out toward the end of the workday, but so far I haven’t noticed that effect at all. The other side effects typical of stimulants–racing heart, shortness of breath, etc.–haven’t been an issue. I think I have more of an issue getting anxious about the side effects, and thus simulating some of them, than the actual symptoms themselves. But I was also thinking this morning that it might be a good idea to cut back or knock out the caffeine, so I’m only dealing with one stimulant at a time. We’ll see how well that actually works.

I go back to my doctor in January to talk about it, but so far, so good.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

14th-Dec-2012 05:19 pm - Hybrid Model: Redbox
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Back when Netflix split their services (stupidly but, perhaps, necessarily), my wife and I decided we would stick with just streaming. The kids could be…mercurial in their entertainment desires and Netflix streaming offered quite a lot of acceptable kids programming that would be instantly available. Since then, however, our own movie-watching has fallen off dramatically, in no small part because, well, the less said about Netflix streaming’s offering of new titles the better. We get why it is, but still… disappointing is a gentle description.

And then we discovered Redbox. Okay, so, it had been around for a while, but it seemed like a hassle and when we could get movies sent to us by Netflix, it seemed a bit redundant and inconvenient. Until we stopped getting movies in the mail.

About six months ago we reinstated “date night” at home, and once we were caught up on all of our TV shows, we started to rent movies from Redbox. Why? It’s so freaking convenient! And hassle-free! The only thing that would be more convenient would be getting everything streaming in our home for a nice flat monthly fee, but eh, this is the world we live in. I could try to rent pay-per-view on demand from Amazon or Apple or Charter or something, but they’re not as cheap as Redbox, and I’d rather not risk service interruptions or hiccups for something a) I’ve set time aside for specially and b) I may need to rent again if I want to finish it because my internet died or something.

So we use Redbox. There’s one on my way home from work, and there’s one inside our grocery store. In theory, it’s as easy reserving the movie online, stopping to pick it up on the way home, and dropping it off when I go grocery shopping Saturday. Sometimes we forget and hang onto a movie much longer than we need to, but in terms of dollars spent versus entertainment received, it’s no worse than getting something from Netflix and letting it sit on the coffee table for two months unwatched before sending it back. And we’re actually watching movies again, which has been kind of nice.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

13th-Dec-2012 10:54 pm - The Next Big Thing
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My friend Kelly Smith, writer and quilter, tagged me in this “Next Big Thing” interview meme thing, so here are my answers. I don’t usually talk about my current WIPs, unless it’s face to face with someone I trust, but hey, just this once, I suppose it’s all good. And apologies for the non-commital tone. Even now it seems like I’m not all that interested in talking about what I’m writing.

So without further ado:

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing

1. What is the working title of your book?

Cry Havoc, which I think alludes nicely to some of the action and themes of the book. I probably won’t get a lot more specific than that.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

Cop out #2 here. It came from a lot of different sources. One was my friend Matt Wright’s idea about a terrorism campaign in the US. Another was a desire to update a particular terrorism narrative from the 80s beyond the narrative that we’re caught up in now, especially in modern spy/technothriller fiction, which I read too much of in prep for this.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

See above. Espionage/technothriller thing.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m really terrible at this sort of thing, unfortunately. For a couple of projects, I’ve actually done the “pick an actor and base physical descriptions off them” exercise, but I haven’t with this one for whatever reason. Just for the sake of reference, let’s say Thandie Newton would do fine as my main character, Karyn. Gerard Butler could be her ex-husband Tommy, probably. Beyond that, I’ve tuckerized my friends Matt Wright and Michael Mundy into cameos, and they could play their eponymous characters. Though they would both need to put another ten, fifteen years on.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

I hate giving away too much on this project, so let’s say it’s an examination of terrorism in a post-post-9/11 America. And some shit blows up.

Woops, that was two sentences.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

If it isn’t represented by an agency, it probably won’t get published. Self-publishing is cool and all, but it involves a lot more work than I’m keen to put into it. I write for the love, and if I can follow the traditional path to money, that’s an excellent goal. I’ll happily go there.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Ask me in six months? I’m still at around 30% on that first draft, sadly. Going to plow forward a bit more tonight, though.

8. What other books would you compare to this story within your genre?

Really hard to say since I’m not very well-read in this genre, but in terms of feel I’m shooting for an old-school Tom Clancy vibe. Trying for some very grounded sort of stuff, not the Ludlum-esque mega-conspiracy thing. That obviously has done well, but not really my thing.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Mostly just observations on terrorism and political change, especially stemming from my “vacation” in Iraq in 2004. Again, hard to say, because elements of the book have been percolating in the back of my head for, well, yeah, 8 years at least now. Why now? I’d really like to see this thing on shelves (if at all possible) in 2014-2015. I think it could be pretty topical then.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Other than a minority female heroine in a genre that is seemingly dominated by the white-male-former-Navy-SEAL archetype? Yeah, I dunno. I blow some stuff up, but good, in it. That should be pretty cool.

Instructions

1. Use this format for your post.
2. Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress).
3. Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
4. Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Tag! You’re it!

I hate tagging people for stuff like this, but if you see this post and you’re inspired to do it–hey, tag! Ah ha! Link back to me and I’ll add a link to you down here and it’ll be super swell.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

2nd-Nov-2012 01:04 am - Hybrid Models: Free-to-Play
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This is inspired by the music I’m listening to right now, which is the Chance Thomas-composed score to The Lord of the Rings Online‘s latest expansion, The Riders of Rohan. The score is, frankly, gorgeous. I don’t think I really have an ear for the actual quality of music, in terms of whether the orchestra was well-conducted or the score well-arranged or whatever, but…

An MMO expansion has a score. Recorded by a real orchestra. They had enough faith in it as music for its own sake that they released it as an album on iTunes. Now, yeah, it’s really unlikely that you, the non-LOTRO player, are going to rush out and snap it up just because I say it’s really awesome, but it’s one of those things that deserves to be recognized. An MMO, that isn’t WoW, is doing well enough that they can give an expansion the movie treatment with their music. And how are they doing so well?

By giving the game away. For free. No box to buy: download all hundred and eleventy gigs of the game for free. No monthly fee (if you don’t want one): no credit card, no nothing, just login and go.

They didn’t start that way, of course. Back six years ago, WoW had set in stone (it seemed) (and no, not created) the model for massively multiplayer online gaming: buy the game, then pay a monthly fee to play it on their servers. Everyone else was doing it the same way, LOTRO included. But then a couple years ago things started to sour in the MMO market, no one seemed to be able to build a sustainable subscriber base. (And they still can’t, I think.) Even WoW’s peak numbers started to dwindle.

So LOTRO went free. Normally this was a death-knell for MMOs. But something funny had happened. The year before Turbine, LOTRO’s studio, had made one of their other games, Dungeons & Dragons Online, free-to-play and introduced a cash store. They drew a line at being able to completely outfit your character from the store, you still had to play the game to get the good gear and such, but they started selling a lot of convenience and nice-to-have items and perks for cash. And despite giving the game away, no longer requiring subscription, their revenues went UP. And by all accounts, when they did the same with LOTRO, their revenues skyrocketed. A game that had looked like it was wobbling a bit, suddenly took on new life.

And now, two years later, they’ve released two major expansions and thrown money at a Hollywood-esque score for the most recent one. Holy crap.

I’m excited, of course, because I like the game. For all its other faults, it’s “my” game, and I really want to see it continue and grown and whatnot. But it’s also exciting to see economic models for creative products grow and change and find non-traditional ways of doing things. Gives one hope that there’s a multitude of ways to make a living from creative pursuits.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

29th-Oct-2012 04:46 pm - What I’ve Been Up To
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Other than the occasional post here and there, I haven’t been too talkative on the internets at all, so I figured I would bring anyone who cares up to speed. So here’s the highlights:

- Back last year I was named the Head of Programming for ConFusion 2013: Immortal ConFusion, and that has been ramping up steadily all year. We changed hotels to something a little closer to the airport, which we hope goes over well, and so far we’ve got something like 40 confirmed author guests. Very exciting. In related news, back in March I was elected to the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association board, and last month I was named the Deputy ConChair for ConFusion’s 2014 installment. Lawrence Schoen recently said to me, “You can be a SMOF [Secret Master of Fandom] or a pro, but not both.” And I say, “Eh, fuck it, let’s try.”

- In “pro” news, “A Militant Peace” by Tobias Buckell and me was nominated for the WSFA Small Press Award, which was awarded at CapClave this month. We lost out to “The Patrician” by Tansy Rayner Roberts. I decided to attend CapClave because, well, why the heck not? And got to see me lose in person. Got my picture taken with the certificate which, I suppose, is floating around the interwebs somewhere, but I’ve yet to find it. Of course, I haven’t looked very hard, either.

- I’m off to Germany and the UK next month for the dayjob. Very excited about the possibility of meeting my UK-based friends Katie & Gordon and Tanya in person for the first time.

- On the gaming front, I’ve helped take the reins on a Play-by-E-Mail role playing game I’ve been involved in the last several years, to take up for the founders of the game who have been inundated by their own lives. Not that mine seems all that less hectic, but it feels like a fun and interesting challenge that I can sink my teeth into. Don’t worry, it won’t cut into writing time on my own stuff. Probably.

- Still working on two different novels. There’s about 100k in words between them, but the overall target is something like 230-250k, so… yeah. Behind the game a bit. Someday maybe I’ll start posting the little progress bar thingies. That would be cool.

And that’s it for now. It’s been a tumultuous year on a personal level, but I’ve already got high hopes for 2013 to be much more awesome.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

24th-Oct-2012 08:37 pm - Writing Career And You!
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Today, Ferrett Steinmetz posted on the concept of the writing career, and why he’s giving his up. A good, provocative title, especially to those just starting out in the writing biz, thinking that you don’t give up, especially as relatively young as Ferrett is, until you’ve hit many more brick walls. But, of course, that’s not quite his point, his point is that he’s giving up the career track as he envisioned it coming out of Clarion.

As I pointed out in the comments, I personally think this idea of a career track in writing is completely bogus anyway. People have achieved careers of note in many myriad ways, coming from all over the map in terms of preparation and lead-up. And, let’s be honest, some people put, frankly, decades of work into it and never really manage to break through and achieve “career.” While there’s others who somehow manage to add a writing career to their already enviable lives of actor and globetrotter and whatever else. Not to mention the celebrities who manage to scribble something legible and a publisher pays them a kajillion dollars because he can put a picture of them on the front of the book, instead of hidden in the back, and it will sell more copies that way. And I’d say, “But let’s not talk about jealousy…” except that jealousy, as Ferrett points out, is precisely part of the problem with the idea of the career track.

The rest of the problem is that the writing thing is so incomprehensibly volatile and weird. Some people make it look relatively easy. John Scalzi, for all his protestations, looks like a guy who one day just decided to write and publish science fiction and, bang zoom, away he went. Nevermind that it wasn’t nearly so easy for him (especially when you consider the non-trivial and focused career as a writer of Other Things before he picked up on science fiction), his good fortune early on with getting Old Man’s War picked up off his blog makes it look so very easy. Other people have a harder time at it, some have a much harder time, and plenty don’t make it at all, for whatever value of “make it” you care to name. And underscoring all that is that there’s no one way to go about it, no magical formula that, if you work hard enough at it, you’re guaranteed the career path.

Which is why, as I said in the comment on Ferrett’s blog, I’ve tried to adopt a more zen-like approach to the whole thing. Now, again as I’ve said, this might cost me something in terms of drive, since I no longer feel like I’m trying to follow a prescribed path, and thus feeling it necessary to hit certain checkpoints in a certain amount of time. But at the same time, I’m sort of enjoying the freedom to explore, to figure out what it is, exactly, that I want to do, and make sure that the things I generally want out of life aren’t purely dependent on this mercurial sort of existence as a professional writer. Working through that mentally now, I figure, is bound to help me when things get tricky if I ever start publishing novels like I want to.

In the meantime, I’m just having fun writing, for its own sake.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

face, home improvement

“Yes, Holmes,” Watson was saying, “but what of Lord Carbuncle’s Missing Whatsit?”

“Immaterial now, Doctor,” the Great Detective replied, “for we have a new client on the stair. Mid-thirties, former military, stressed but not exactly unhappy. He has a problem, and it vexes him.”

“My God man, how could you tell all that?” Watson exclaimed, half-rising from his comfy chair.

“Well, for starters, he’s the one writing this,” Holmes said, the hint of a smile quirking his lips.

“Ah, ah yes,” Watson said. “Quite right.”

“So what is the problem, my good man?” Holmes asked. I stood in the doorway, taking in the scene, feeling distinctly out of place in jeans and a t-shirt, standing on the edge of the Victorian sitting room, with its gas lamps and ancient writing desk and such.

“Ah, well, here’s the thing. I’m an extrovert.”

“A what now?” Watson asked, furrowing his brow as though I’d outed myself as a pervert.

“One who draws energy from being among and with other people,” Holmes said, waving to his lifelong friend. “Please pardon the Doctor’s diminished vocabulary. He’s just here to help me explain things in a humorous or revelatory way.”

“Right, yeah,” I said, stepping into the room and taking a seat opposite Holmes. “So, I like hanging out, talking, just seeing other people. It’s good for me.”

“That’s hardly a problem. Just join a social club!” Watson cried, oddly the one irritable at the new case, while Holmes sat serene, sensing there was more to it than just that.

“Well, they’re not exactly as prevalent where I live–21st century Michigan–as they are here. The internet kind of took their place, which is fine for the introverts who need to be able to turn off the company of people with the literal flip of a switch. Not so good for us on the other end of the spectrum.”

“I’m beginning to see the shape of the problem,” Holmes said, puffing on his pipe and leaning back. “Now, what of your workplace?”

“Well, I don’t know about 19th century London, but these days work is just as enervating as it is energizing in that respect. It comes out as a wash, and before you suggest something else, the vast majority of people at work are not the sort I’d really want to hang out with outside of work. Especially given my skills–the computer guy–it all goes back to computers one way or another.”

“Now you also fancy yourself a writer, do you not?” Holmes asked.

“How’d you know?” I said, forgetting myself.

“You’re writing this,” he said, simply.

“Ah, right. So yeah, that’s a problem, too. If I were a soccer player or rock climber or something, I’d have other opportunities, but my chosen hobby and second career is writing, and a social club for writers is very nearly an oxymoron. Not to mention our uneven distribution, geographically.”

“So there are conventions, are there not?” he asked. “Did you not just come back from one?”

“Well yes,” I said, “but it seems like the energy I get from a convention is spent pretty quickly, especially with three little kids at home. And the conventions can be expensive. There’s one every weekend, somewhere, it seems, but traveling to all of them would bankrupt me pretty quickly.”

“What are you doing now, to be with other people?”

“Saying yes to everything, it seems. I work on one convention and am contemplating a second. I try to play games, though timing always seems to conflict. I play online games in the hopes of chatting with the other players, just to get that little rush and stimulate my mind.”

Watson cast a significant glance at the desk drawer where Holmes’ personal stash once lived. Holmes merely pursed his lips and shook his head.

“Yeah,” I said, “it is kind of like a drug that way, and withdrawal can be hell. But without it at all… I am like that revving engine that shakes itself to pieces. I make more and more bad choices, over-committing, over-extending myself. Most of what I do now in order to hang out with other people is effectively indistinguishable from work, including a ridiculous commute.”

“You don’t have any local friends?” Watson asked, looking incredulous. “People you can just sit with and discuss the affairs of the day?”

“In a word… no,” I said and shrugged. “I’ve drifted away from the people I was friends with locally, and attempts to reconnect always seem a little awkward. I want to move closer to the people I am friends with now, but that’s no guarantee that we won’t drift apart in the future. I’d like to build some strategies and connections that will help me out wherever I am.”

“Well, my good man, I’m afraid I cannot help you after all,” Holmes said, standing.

“What?!” I said, sitting bolt upright.

“Figment of your imagination, remember?” he said, tapping the stem of his pipe against my temple. “If you could have solved this yourself you would have, and not written this deranged self-insertion fanfic.”

“Ah-ha!” I said.

“That way lies only misery,” Holmes said, his face a mask beneath which lurked sadness as Watson looked on with disguised longing.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I said, slumping. “So what do I do?”

“Ask the people out there,” he said, waving his pipe at your computer screen. “What do the extroverts among them do it? How do they balance the isolation of writing with the need to be near and engaged with people? Do they prefer a few, close, everyday friendships, or do they make do with a lot of relatively shallow, occasional friends?”

“That’s just so lame, Holmes,” I said. “It just might work.”

Postscript: So yeah, after the inspiring example of a couple of creative-type friends, I’ve decided to own my personal struggles and challenges. I’m doing it in a rather silly way, but this is a real thing that really has a tendency to interfere with my life and general mental health. Examples of how you cope, as an extrovert are welcome, internet helpiness, especially from people who don’t face similar challenges, is not. If your comment could be boiled down to “Just do something different from what you are doing,” then please save it. I’d rather hear what you find helpful.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

28th-Aug-2012 10:49 pm - WorldCon Appearances
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What’s that? I have WorldCon appearances!?

You bet your sweet bippy I do. (What a bippy is, I have no idea. Probably makes it easy to bet one.) They were not, however, entirely anticipated.

First, the surprisingest, is that I’ve been added to the slate of participants for the Clarkesworld Reading [Facebook] on Saturday, September 1 at 3pm in Grand Suite 3. I’ll be reading “The Found Girl,” written by me and Tobias Buckell, which should be appearing that very day in Clarkesworld. I’ll be there with Kate Baker, who will be reading “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Good Byes” by Tom Crosshill (he who was my roommate at WFC in Columbus a couple years ago), and Sofia Samatar who will be reading “Honey Bear” from the current issue of Clarkesworld.

Second, and less surprising, is that I’ll be co-hosting the Immortal ConFusion room party Saturday night, in Room 2770 from 8pm until we get tired, in my capacity as the Head of Programming for the 2013 installment of ConFusion. So if all else fails, and you want to come hang out, you are absolutely certain to find me there.

Otherwise, I’ll be there, wandering all over, looking up friends and hopefully making new ones. Find me there, if I don’t find you first.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

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