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Hugo Awards Norwescon Representation

This year’s slate of nominees for the Hugo Award were announced yesterday, and there are a lot of past and present connections to Norwescon!

This year’s NWC Writer Guest of Honor, Mary Robinette Kowal, is nominated for Best Novel for The Calculating Stars.

This year’s Honored Professional, Neil Clarke, is nominated for Best Professional Editor, Short Form.

This year’s Spotlight Publisher, Subterranean Press, has published two of this year’s nominations: Aliette de Bodard for Best Novella for The Tea Master and the Detective, and Aliette de Bodard for Best Series for The Universe of Xuya.

NWC31 Special Guest of Honor Naomi Novik is nominated for Best Novel for Spinning Silver.

NWC37 Special Guest of Honor Seanan McGuire is nominated for Best Novella for Beneath the Sugar Sky, and for Best Series for the October Daye series.

NWC35 Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio is nominated for Best Related Work for The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76, and for Best Professional Artist.

NWC36 Special Guest of Honor Gardner Dozois is nominated for Best Professional Editor, Short Form.

NWC29, 35, and 39 Spotlight Publisher DAW Books Representative Shiela Gilbert is nominated for Best Professional Editor, Long Form.

NWC24 and 38 Spotlight Publisher Representative (for Bantam Dell and Random House, respectively) Anne Lesley Groell is nominated for Best Professional Editor, Long Form.

NWC41 Artist Guest of Honor Galen Dara is nominated for Best Professional Artist.

NWC38 Artist Guest of Honor Julie Dillon is nominated for Best Art Book for Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon.

NWC20 Guest of Honor A.E. van Vogt is nominated for 1944 Retro Hugo Best Novel for The Weapon Makers.

Some of our past pros and panelists are nominated as well:

Tina Connolly for Best Novelette for The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry for Best Semiprozine — twice! — for Fireside Magazine and Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, and for Best Fan Writer.

Tanya DePass for Best Semiprozine for Fireside Magazine.

And longtime dealer Spring Schoenhuth is nominated for Best Fan Artist.

I think that covers everyone NWC-related, but if I missed anyone, let me know! Congratulations to all the nominees, and good luck!

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2018 PK Dick Reviews

Once again, I’ve read through all of the nominated works for this year’s Philip K. Dick Awards. Made it with two weeks to spare this time.

Here are my thoughts on each of the nominated books, in order from my least favorite to my personal favorite and pick for the award (if I got a vote, which I don’t, and I’ve yet to pick a winner, so perhaps it’s best not to put too much stock in my opinion…). A strong slate this year, there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t enjoy at least a little bit.

The Book of Etta, by Meg Elison: Much as with the first book in this series, it’s well written and realized, but simply isn’t my thing. Post-apocalyptic fiction tends towards the dark, dismal, and dreary, and these are no exception. I can recognize that they’re well written, and can see why they resonate for many people…just not for me. Because of that, I can’t really give a more thorough review.

Revenger, by Alastair Reynolds: Space pirates, hidden treasure, scheming and swashbuckling — and while I didn’t dislike reading it, it never entirely grabbed me, either. I think for me, it’s just that while I recognize the conceit of “adventure on the high seas IN SPACE” as an attractive one for many, it’s simply never particularly caught my interest. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m not much into “adventure on the high seas IN WATER” tales and the switch to “…IN SPACE” isn’t enough to make it work for me, or if I just find the conceit itself a little…well, silly. Not that solar sails and the like aren’t scientifically sound, but the overly-literal application of the idea always feels a bit far-fetched. Anyway — the book isn’t bad, it just isn’t for me.

The Wrong Stars, by Tim Pratt: Enjoyable space adventure, with lots of amusingly clever writing and fun ideas for alien cultures, particularly the primary alien life and how they interface with humanity. Liked reading it, and appreciated the diversity of characters both human and alien. Doesn’t nudge its way to the top of this year’s PKD nominee stack, but that’s not at all a knock against this book, this is just proving to be a strong selection this year.

After the Flare, by Deji Bryce Olukotun: The first book, Nigerians in Space, was interesting, but was almost more of a spy thriller, barely touching on SF. This is not only more of an SF story, but is also a stronger book. A few of the characters carry over from the first book, but the plots aren’t directly connected, and reading the first isn’t at all necessary to enjoy this one. With both books, I greatly enjoyed the African setting and the blending of SF tropes with African history and culture. A strong start to my PK Dick Award reading this year.

Bannerless, by Carrie Vaughn: I’ve mentioned in past years that I’m not a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories; as such, they generally don’t rate very high for me, even when I know that they’re good, well-written stories. This is a rare exception – apparently, the trick is to place the time period a good few decades after civilization falls over, so that the story isn’t overshadowed by the depressing turbulence and chaos of most post-apocalyptic tales. Here, there are distant remnants of the world as it was, but the world has survived, society has rebuilt (to a point, at least), and our characters can have their adventures and solve their mysteries in the world they know. The look at the society that emerges, and how it builds on what fell in the past, attempting to use the lessons of the collapse of the past to keep a stable present, worked very well for me.

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells: A quick and very enjoyable read about a cranky, antisocial security android who just wants to watch their shows, but has all these annoying humans to take care of. Quick moving and darkly humorous, it felt like a SFictional take on the autism spectrum (said as a neurotypical who is entirely guessing, and could be far off base with that).

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty: Something of an SF take on a locked room mystery – the cloned crew of a generation ship wakes up to find the corpses of their previous bodies – with fascinating questions of the ethics of workable cloning and the concepts of selfhood and the soul in such a world. Very much enjoyed this one.

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Linkdump for April 19th through April 26th

Sometime between April 19th and April 26th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • I had a dream about a Star Trek series with a ferengi captain…: …and he was super endearing but it was like…the worst ship in the fleet and it was full of the misfits of starfleet But I loved this captain I loved him who is he // It’s Nog.
  • What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech: 'Free speech' as the ability to say anything you want vs. 'free speech' as the ability for all to participate equally in public discourse. (Summary via @leftoblique on Twitter)
  • NorWesCon: Norwescon's page on Fancyclopedia 3. We are the third entry (without camel case).
  • Fancyclopedia 3: Fancyclopedia 3 is a collective enterprise of all of fandom. Based on the previous works by Jack Speer (Fancyclopedia 1), Dick Eney (Fancyclopedia 2), and Rich Brown, it is written by fans who want to contribute.
  • 5 Things That Don’t Seem Like Mansplaining But Are, Because Playing Devil’s Advocate Doesn’t Enlighten Anyone: By now, you may have heard the term mansplaining — explaining things as a man to a woman with the incorrect assumption that she doesn't understand — and heard of it in its most common forms. But some things that don't seem like mansplaining, but are, may have escaped your attention. Mansplaining, after all, is part of a set of cultural assumptions that place men's opinions above women's, and these assumptions are everywhere.
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Linkdump for April 16th through April 19th

Sometime between April 16th and April 19th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black: Dolezal is simply a white woman who cannot help but center herself in all that she does—including her fight for racial justice. And if racial justice doesn't center her, she will redefine race itself in order to make that happen.
  • Volunteers, Professionals, and Who Gets to Have Fun at Cons: If your fun is dependent using your status as a volunteer as an excuse to not act responsibly, if it requires victims to stay quiet about mistreatment: then it’s not really a fun time for “everyone” is it? It’s not the expectation of professionalism that’s killing the fun at cons, it’s the lack of it.
  • Time to Fix the Missing Stair: It’s time to stop pretending the missing stair doesn’t need to be fixed. Relying on word-of-mouth means that the people who are new, who are just entering, are the ones most at risk of trying to step on it.
  • seriously, the guy has a point: A global investment firm has used a global advertising firm to create a faux work of guerrilla art to subvert and change the meaning of his actual work of guerrilla art. That would piss off any artist.
  • Westboro Wannabes Picket Norwescon: Thank you for proving, by your actions, the value that Norwescon (and all such fan-run conventions) have in this world. Thank you for proving that we can’t be bullied. You gave us all a teachable moment, and we learned something about ourselves.
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Norwescon 40 Wrap-Up

In case you haven’t noticed (either by social media proxy, or by actually being there to watch me run around the con in person), I’ve been a bit busy over the past few days with Norwescon. For me, at least, this was a really good year; certainly better than last year (not that the con was bad last year, just that this year I didn’t overexhaust myself and make myself sick). I got to see (if not always as much as I might have liked) many friends, run around being silly in an inflatable T-Rex costume (and I wasn’t the only one this year), take a few thousand pictures, fanboy and chat with Pillow (renowned both as a burlesque performer and as an Alaskan), and generally thoroughly enjoy my annual geek vacation.

I experimented a bit this year with taking some photos and video clips on my phone each day, and then using Apple’s new Clips app to create short (less than a minute) “today at Norwescon 40” videos that went out on our social media channels (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). It was a fun little project, and I think it went okay; people seem to be enjoying them, at least. Definitely on my “to do next year” list.

I was also gratified to see the “happy 20th anniversary Sakura-Con” post get as many “likes” as it did (27 on the official Norwescon Facebook page’s post, and 89 on the post in the Norwescon Facebook group). Though I got approval for that beforehand, I’ll admit to a little trepidation, as both cons being scheduled over the same weekend gives some the perception that there’s more rivalry between the cons than there is. But since we gave them some assistance in starting out, as there is a decent amount of cross-pollination between the cons, and as we were both celebrating major milestone years (our 40th, their 20th), I wanted to be sure we recognized that. I’m quite glad to see so many people appreciated that recognition.

So, that’s a brief overview of my weekend. To all of you I got to see, I’m glad we crossed paths, however briefly, and I hope we get to do so again before too long (but if not, then at least next year at Norwescon 41). To those of you I didn’t manage to see, well, we’ll just have to try again later (it’s amazing how some people at Norwescon you see every time you turn around, while others can be in the same hotel as you for four days and virtually never interact (unless I’m just not noticing when I’m being stalked and when I’m being avoided…)).

Now rest up, and brace yourselves for the return to the mundane world. Less than a year to wait for our next gathering! You can make it!

(This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on Facebook.)

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2017 PK Dick Nominees

The nominees for this year’s Philip K. Dick awards have been announced! I look forward to this list every year, as the award ceremony is held at Norwescon each year. For the past few years I’ve been making it a point to read all of the nominees before the ceremony, so that I can have my own opinion as to which work I think should win (and so far, I haven’t picked correctly once), and because it’s a lot of fun to be in the room with the authors or their representatives when the award is given out.

This year’s lineup looks like an interesting one. Of the six books, only one looks to be in the post-apocalyptic vein, which I count as a good thing, as that was a definite theme for a few years that I got a little burnt out on. Of the other five, one book is a YA novel, one’s from a Cuban author and has been translated to English, one looks to be more straightforward SF adventure, one looks enjoyably weird, and one looks particularly interesting to me.

I’ve ordered my copies from Amazon, they should be here early next week, and I’m looking forward to diving into them.

2015 P.K. Dick Award Nominee Rankings

My ranking of this year’s Philip K. Dick Award nominated books, from least favorite to my top pick for the award (which, historically, has yet to match the actual award winner, so don’t put too much stock in my ranking):

  1. After the Saucers Landed, by Douglas Lain. Odd in ways that don’t resonate with me, and I found it rather boring.

  2. (R)evoution, by P.J. Manney. Some interesting ideas on transhumanism and nanotechnology, but too many of the characterizations really bothered me. Actually ended up disliking this one. Only takes fifth rather than sixth because at least I wasn’t bored.

  3. Archangel, by Marguerite Reed. Not a bad book, but for some reason, failed to engage me.

  4. Windswept, by Adam Rakunas. An entertaining adventure that made business-vs-union conflict more interesting than I would have guessed. Fun, but didn’t grab me the way I’d want a winner to do.

  5. Apex, by Ramez Naam. The conclusion to a trilogy, with lots of near-future extrapolation of mind/computer interfaces and enhancement and transhumanism. The end notes discussing today’s technology and how close we may actually be to some of what’s described in the books were particularly fascinating. Almost took the top spot, but in what is a personal and somewhat silly consideration, I tend to favor “standalone” books that handle all their worldbuilding over books that are later entries in a series, which benefit from all the plot and worldbuilding already established in the prior books.

  6. Edge of Dark, by Brenda Cooper. More transhumanism, only this time from a far-future perspective, when once human entities banished from human space due to fears of what they were becoming return to human space. Well-realized and interesting characters, really neat possibilities for future technologically-enhanced evolution, and very believable conflict. Definitely my top pick.

I was quite happy to see that the theme of “depressing trudging through postapocalyptic wastelands” trend of the past few years wasn’t represented at all in this year’s pick, with transhumanism being the theme of half of this year’s picks — much more along my particular interests.

Now, just over one week to wait until we learn who the winner is at this year’s award ceremony!

2012 Philip K. Dick Award Thoughts

One of the highlights of Norwescon is the award dinner for the annual Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. For the second year running, I’ve purchased and read each of the nominated books. What follows are the brief reviews I posted to Goodreads as I finished each book.

  • Helix WarsHelix Wars by Eric Brown
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    First off, to borrow an old cliché, don’t judge this book by its cover. The cover, of a suited warrior firing a laser rifle against a backdrop of explosions, gives the impression that this is a military sci-fi novel (a genre which I’m not terribly interested in). Instead, this book, the second in a series, has much more in common with Larry Niven’s Ringworld, as it deals with the interplay between races on a giant helical constructed world, wrapped around a star like a slinky, with thousands of cylindrical worlds strung along like beads on a necklace.

    However much the construct may invite comparisons to Niven’s Ringworld, though, Brown’s worldbuilding isn’t quite so engrossing. The structure of the Helix allows for lots of variety in environments and races, but leaves a lot of the technical underpinnings (for instance, how do the individual worlds have gravity?) to be either entirely unexplained or brushed off as “technology so advanced we can’t understand it”. The concept sounds very hard-SF, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

    That said, the book isn’t at all bad, though it’s not likely to end up as my pick for this year’s P.K. Dick award (for which it is one of seven nominees). I just hoped for a little more Niven-like exploration of the hard-SF concept that instead acts as little more than an interesting background for the story itself.

  • Fountain of Age: StoriesFountain of Age: Stories by Nancy Kress
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Impressive selection of stories; unlike many anthologies (both single- and multi-author), not a single story I’d consider a dud. Many deal with the not-too-far-future complications of genetic modification, and the whole book has a somewhat melancholy, moody feel to it that I liked a lot.

  • Lost EverythingLost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I almost gave this one two stars, but that wouldn’t have been fair to the book. It’s good, well written, and the style is…well, I want to say pretty, but “evocative” is probably a better word. The book was just too sad, too much of a hard slog through a broken country with broken people. Though described as post-apocalyptic, that’s not quite right, as the apocalypse is still in progress during the events of the book. There are moments of hope, but they’re always overwhelmed by despair. I know it’s good…I just didn’t enjoy reading it.

  • The Not YetThe Not Yet by Moira Crone
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I had trouble getting into this one — it was interesting, and has some interesting ideas on mortality and the effects of enhanced longevity, but for some reason, it didn’t really pull me in until the last chapter when everything wraps up.

  • HarmonyHarmony by Keith Brooke
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Three and a half stars would be more accurate. There’s a lot of fascinating worldbuilding here, presented very much in the “sink or swim” style where you’re simply dropped into the world and must figure it out as you go. Neat stuff, but the pacing felt a little off…there’s a lot of time spent setting the board, only to have the endgame sprung upon you faster than you expect. I’m not sure if I’d have preferred less setup (at the possible expense of less comprehension of the world) or more climax/denouement (which might remove some of the power of the “aha!” moment at the end), but it felt somewhat off-balance.

  • Blueprints of the AfterlifeBlueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    At times both fascinating and frustrating. While there was a lot to like in this, taken as a whole, it just didn’t quite mesh. Neat and very believable ideas (like the Bionet) mixed with wild absurdism (the Malaspina glacier gone rogue) mixed with I’m not sure what (a Mario-Brothers-meets-zombies video game sequence that I’m still not sure how to interpret). Interesting and, on the while, enjoyable, but perhaps a bit too absurdist.

  • LoveStar: A NovelLoveStar: A Novel by Andri Snær Magnason
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This one, I really, really enjoyed. Frighteningly believable (if improbable) biotech-meets-marketing serves as a base for paired stories of lovers torn apart and a brilliant CEO on a reluctant quest for God. Frequently funny and sweet, this was easily my favorite of this year’s crop of Philip K. Dick Award nominees.

Me at Norwescon 36

In just a few weeks, I will once again be indulging in four days of glorious geekery at Norwescon 36. I’m wearing more hats than ever before this year, so here’s a rough rundown of what I’ll be doing and where you’ll be able to find me…

DJ

I continue to coax my onetime alter-ego DJ Wüdi out of retirement, and as such, will be DJing the opening night dance on Thursday night! Here’s the program blurb:

Thor’s Day Night Dance!

We call it Thursday night, but we used to know it as Thor’s Day…and you can kick off your weekend of saving the world with a celebration worthy of Asgard itself! Join DJ Wüdi for an evening of tunes new and old for gods and mortals alike. Come dressed as your godlike representation or as your mortal alter-ego. Requests are not just welcome, but encouraged!

If you’re going to be at the con and already know that there are certain songs you really want to hear, good news! You can already turn in your song requests for me or any of Norwescon’s other DJs at the Norwescon website!

Lead Photographer

This will be my fourth consecutive year as lead photographer for Norwescon. Look for me running all over the convention space, taking shots of anything and everything that’s going on!

(Sadly, this will also be my last year as lead photographer, as I’ve found that living in Ellensburg makes it somewhat difficult to coordinate photography for a con in the Seattle area. I do hope to remain on the photography team in future years, however, so neither I nor my camera will be disappearing from Norwescon anytime soon!)

Panelist

I’m participating in one panel this year, as I am part of Norwescon’s new SAFE committee, tasked with investigating a possible official written harassment policy for convention membership. We’re hosting a panel on Saturday to address any concerns that the membership at large might have as we work on this. Here’s the program blurb for this panel:

Panel Name: Should Norwescon Adopt a Harassment Policy?
Time: Sat 1200
Room: Salon
Panelists: Kevin Black (M), Pat Booze, Alan Bond, Sika Holman, Michael Hanscom, Kate Mulligan Wolfe
Description: Some conventions are adopting policies against harassment, something Norwescon has not had in its 36 years of existence. Do we need this in our community? Please come give input to members of the committee charged with making recommendations to the executive team by the end of 2013.

Social Media Coordinator

For most of the year, anytime you see something pop up on Norwescon’s Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ pages, chances are extremely good that I was the brain behind the keyboard. While chances are looking quite good that I’ll have some assistance during the con itself this year, I’m the person overseeing all that, so if there’s something that our social media accounts aren’t doing to your satisfaction (or, of course, if we’re doing particularly well), feel free to let me know!

Webmaster

I’m also the person in charge of the official Norwescon website. There’s still a lot of information yet to go up over the next few weeks as we get closer to the con, and then by the end of April, I’ll be rolling us over to a new, fresh design for Norwescon 37! Just as with the Social Media side of things, if there’s anything that the website isn’t doing that it could do better (or if there are things going particularly well), I’d love to hear about it!

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Almost Time for Norwescon!

Once again, it’s about time for my annual mini-vacation at Norwescon. This is my second year as part of the ConCom (_Con_vention _Com_mittee — those of us who are crazy enough to volunteer to assist with planning and running the con), and I’ve really been enjoying it.

While for the first year, I had one official position as photographer and one unofficial position as “the guy who knows about Twitter,” this year I’ve had two official positions. I’m no longer simply “Photographer,” but “Lead Photographer,” complete with a staff of two minions assistant photographers (so I don’t have to make another attempt at shooting an entire four-day convention on my own); I’m also the “Information Network Manager”…which is kind of a fancy way of saying “the guy who knows about Twitter” again, but also encompasses handling Facebook updates and occasional website posts.

While the photographer position will be a lot of fun at the con, it’s so focused on the four days of the con itself that most of the lead-up time has been wearing my “Information Network Manager” hat. I’ve really been having fun being the primary Social Media guy for the convention for the past year, and I’m hoping that I get to keep this position for the next year (or two, or three, or…etc.).

(A quick note: While the next few paragraphs concentrate primarily on Twitter, the same basic ideology works for Facebook as well, and I have our Twitter and Facebook accounts connected so that posts to one appear on the other.)

I’ve found myself quite interested over the past couple years with the growing utilization of social media by companies and organizations as a way to create more personalized interactions with their customers and fans. I’ve had some good personal experiences with this kind of thing, when I’ve tossed out random comments on Twitter that have then been noticed and responded to by the companies in question, and I’ve really come to value the perceived personal touch that results. When companies take the time to actually interact with their followers, instead of seeing Twitter solely as another one-way broadcast medium, it makes a huge difference in how the company is perceived by the customer. It only takes a few moments, and suddenly the “little guy” doesn’t feel so little anymore — rather, there’s a real person somewhere behind the corporate logo that’s actually making a connection.

I’ve done my best over the past year or so to ensure that Norwescon’s social media presence is an interactive one. I watch Twitter and the web at large closely for any mention of Norwescon, using saved Twitter and Google keyword searches, and whenever appropriate, I try to answer any questions or concerns that I find. If I can’t provide an answer myself, I pass the question or comment on to the appropriate department. I’ll reply to people on Twitter, even if they’re just mentioning Norwescon in passing (as long as it’s appropriate to do so, of course) — not only does this let them know that they can contact the con directly, but it also helps to let more people know that Norwescon has a Twitter account. Over the past month, I’ve been watching for artists, authors, and pros announcing their schedules on Twitter and retweeting those announcements.

Basically, I’ve been running the Norwescon Twitter account like I prefer other official Twitter accounts to be run — and hopefully, I’ve been doing a decent job of it. Anecdotal evidence seems to say that I am, but it’s always hard to be sure when looking out from the inside.

I’ve also been enjoying prepping the photography side of things. Having a couple minions is going to be incredibly helpful this year (and thank you very much to Philip and Graves for volunteering to be part of the photography department!). Having three roving cameras will allow for better coverage of the convention while also allowing each of us to get some much-needed downtime and off-duty time where we can just do our own thing for a while. I think I’ve pretty much prepped most of what needs to be prepped, with only a few outlying pieces that need some last-minute followup before next weekend.

One personal triumph was creating public photography guidelines. This is one area that has often been a mild frustration for me, as an aspiring amateur photographer — when going to an event, what’s allowed? Are there any restrictions on my camera equipment, or various particular events? I didn’t want that to be an issue, and while perhaps I could have gotten this posted earlier, at least I got it up, and it will serve as a good template for years to come as well.

So that’s been a lot of my non-school-related work over the past few months. I’ve been enjoying it, so far the feedback I’ve been getting has been very complimentary, and I’m really looking forward to running around with my “nerd friends” (as Prairie likes to call them) next weekend. I should be arriving at the hotel by noon-ish on Thursday, am rooming with a couple friends again, and will be there until early afternoon on Sunday, when I’ll be leaving early enough to make sure I’m back home to Prairie in time for Easter dinner. Should be a good weekend, and hopefully I’ll see a few of you there!