Scalzi on Tour

My friend A. had mentioned a while ago going to see John Scalzi this week as part of his book tour. Scalzi is a well-known (maybe the well-known) blogger and science fiction author, and is supporting his latest book, The Last Colony.

With my Mom having departed yesterday, and since it looks like I won’t be going to WisCon this year to have him sign his latest books, I asked Andrew if I could tag along (read: sponge a ride off of him), and said yes (or words to that effect). So around 5:40 we piled into his car and drove over to Half Moon Bay to the Bay Book Company.

One meal at Round Table Pizza later (mm-mmm!) we arrived at the store. It’s been a while since I’d been there, and I’d forgotten that they’re a quite charming, cozy little book store off Highway 1. Usually I only stop in downtown when I’m in Half Moon Bay. All the posters on top of the bookcases announced that they get quite a few authors in for signings, so they must work hard to get on the list for authors like Scalzi; no doubt it’s a big boost to their business.

I bought a copy of Colony when we arrived, and then John emerged. He surveyed the crowd of 25 or so people, saw me, pointed and said “Michael!”

Okay, that was unexpected, but yes, I’ve met John before, before his first SF novel was picked up for publication, even, as well as twice at WisCon. I’m always flattered that he recognizes me, but really, he’s no dummy and he’s clearly got a good memory, so should I expect any less? (Actually, I have an idea of why I find it flattering, but try as I might I can’t put it into words. It has nothing to do with his being a published author, and more to do with his intelligence, wit and self-confidence. I’ve felt similarly about a few other people, notably my friend Bruce, who I think shares many of his best qualities with John.)

Lest I go on too long about that, my read on John is that he’s amazingly excited to be going on this book tour, but also a little apprehensive about seeing so many people whom he doesn’t know, even if they are fans of his. I guess seeing them at a convention is one thing, but “out in the wild” is something else. But that’s just my read; John’s able to manage and entertain an audience pretty handily (better than I could, that’s for sure), so I’m sure he’s got nothing to worry about.

He entertained us with tales of getting his books published (he was quite fortunate to have his first published novel noticed and bought by an editor due to publishing it on his Web site), getting covers chosen for his books (like cover blurbs, the covers themselves are mostly a marketing concern), and some of the work he has in the pipeline. Not to mention running for president of SFWA.

And then he signed books. A. said to me that he’s never been big on signed books. I’m not into them per se, but I enjoy getting things signed as a keepsake of the experience of meeting the author. It helps fix the memories in my mind, and sometimes I come away with some fun stories.

In this case, it was just fun seeing Scalzi again. I hope he has a great time on his tour. If you get a chance, go see him; it’s worth the trip.

(P.S.: I may end up in a photo in his blog, as he posted one from last night’s Seattle gathering. I’ll let you know if I get [further] immortalized in bits.)

Breaking Even

While writing my larger vacation entry, here’s a short recap of my poker session at Lucky Chances yesterday:

First of all, the more I play there the more I really like LC as a casino. The people (meaning mainly the players) seem friendlier and the decor is more interesting than at the other casinos I’ve visited in the area. It might be because I’m only ever there during the daytime, since it’s far enough away that I only visit on my days off, but I’ve had fun every time I’ve gone there, even when I haven’t won.

I’ve become a fairly decent low-limit Hold ‘Em player, I think. Although I must not be too good, since I’m still not winning a lot. I broke exactly even at this session, and was down for much of it before coming back at the end. A few notable hands:

  • I played K-6s in my small blind, and bet on a flop of K-x-x. Several players called. The turn was a blank, so I bet again and everyone folded. One person said, “Pair of Kings good.” My guess is several people had Aces they were hoping to pair on the turn, and when they didn’t, I made it too expensive for them to continue.
  • I picked up Q-Q in my small blind, and after several callers the player on the button raised. “Uh oh”, I thought, and just called. The flop was J-x-x. I bet, and the button raised. “Uh-oh”, I thought, figuring I was up against Kings or Aces. I check-called him down to the showdown, and he showed J-J for a flopped set. Gah. I thought there was a decent chance that he had A-K or A-J or even T-T, so it seemed worthwhile to show down, but I could see questioning my decision here, given what my gut was telling me.
  • The most painful hand of the day: I checked K-4 in my big blind, and the flop was K-8-4 rainbow. I bet the whole way and drove out everyone but two others. At the showdown I showed my two pair – and got beaten by a guy with K-8. It’s hands like these that keep you humble. This was a huge pot, too.
  • Later I picked up Q-Q – spades and clubs – and raised in late position, getting several callers. The flop was K-x-x of clubs, and I bet, and the fellow on my left called, as did a couple others. The turn was a blank, and I bet and only the guy on my left called. The river was a club, so I had the second-highest flush. The guy on my left said, “I won’t bet if you won’t,” and I said, “Sorry, I have to bet this hand.” He called, and showed the Jack of clubs, so I took the pot. Yay!

When I say I think I’m becoming a decent player, I mean that I rarely play a hand where I regret how I played it. But objectively, there’s clearly room for improvement, since I’m not winning. The mistakes I’m making are probably ones of omission (not betting enough, not playing a few hands I should play), which means they’re harder to spot.

I’m not playing as much poker as I did last year, you may have noticed. The novelty is gone. But I still enjoy the occasional game. And I’m looking forward to playing more no-limit with my friends who also play.