Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Two Girls Who Didn't Die

With so much bad news about unlucky girls, I thought I'd share two stories about lucky girls.

The first one is 7-year-old Erica Pratt. You've probably heard of her. She was the little girl snatched late Monday night in Philadelphia. She was tied up and thrown in a basement. The kidnappers chose to wrap her in duct tape, which the girl was able to chew through. She escaped by breaking a window and calling for help.

The second one is 18-year-old Megan Stone. You probably haven't heard of her. A star high school athlete, she developed a virus a few weeks ago that attacked her heart. After a couple of days, she was on the list for a possible heart transplant, it looked like her heart would be so badly damanged.

But almost as rapidly as she got the virus, she got over it and walked out of the hospital with her original heart.

I haven't met Erica (though I'd love to give her a high-five for a job well done), but I do have a tenuous connection to Megan - her father was a good friend of Jim's while they were growing up. Jim plans to drop Blaine a note.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

A Letter to the Editor on the Philadelphia Convention Center

The Post-Gazette published a lengthy letter I wrote
in response to an article on the Philadelphia Convention
Center. Here's the letter:

As a volunteer planner of science fiction conventions, I was not at all surprised to read "Bookings Fall at Philadelphia Convention Center" (July 7). I worked on a conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia late last summer, and while our conference did get off in a timely manner, it cost thousands of extra dollars in labor fees.

We were required to rent equipment at high prices that we could have brought to the convention for free or rented more cheaply elsewhere. Dealing with that convention center involved more aggravation than I have seen in 25 years of working on conferences across the country.

The article makes one erroneous point: "The center runs the risk of attracting only military, educational, religious and social organizations."

The Philadelphia center may not even attract many of these types of organizations in the future. I worked on a conference for a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, and, as far as I can tell, we were charged as much as any corporation would have been.

On paper, the Philadelphia center is a convention-ideal site. When prospective convention planners visit the site, it looks perfect from the street. The convention center has great facilities, is adjacent to Reading Terminal Market and Chinatown and has many hotels within three blocks. But I know many of us who have dealt with the center would rather not do so in the future, no matter how great the site looks.

The Pittsburgh convention center can learn some valuable lessons from the problems in Philadelphia. Although the Pittsburgh center has a lot of potential, it has an additional problem: the location of the convention center. The city needs to understand that the area around the convention center must be redeveloped to help attract more convention business.

While our new convention center will look terrific from the river, visitors look for street appeal. They look for nearby restaurants and hotels.

With the exception of the Westin Convention Center hotel (which is a wonderful hotel with one of the best restaurants in town), there isn't another hotel for at least three blocks.

People doing planning for Downtown Pittsburgh should quit ignoring the area around the convention center and start thinking about how to attract conventions to the city.

Unfortunately, the city of Pittsburgh has done little to make potential convention attendees want to stay in the convention center area.

Mt. Lebanon

Here's the link:

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Fact Checking (This Time - NPR and Scott Simon's Weekend Edition)

I am a big believer in fact-checking, particularly in public forums, like Web sites, radio shows, TV shows, newspapers...Heck, even in blogs.

This morning I heard bits and pieces of NPR's Weekend Edition while I was running errands, and heard a surprising number of errors. So here's the letter I've written to Scott Simon to complain:

Dear Scott,

I'm a big fan of your show, but I was dismayed by the number of errors you made in passing on this morning's show (7/13/02).

First John F. Kennedy was born in May of 1917, meaning he was 43 when he was nominated for president in July of 1960. Second, he had one child when he was nominated, though Jacqueline Kennedy was pregnant at the time of his nomination and
gave birth to their second child, John Jr., after his election in November 1960. An
almanac or encyclopedia would have helped you out here, or a Web site such as
Encyclopedia Americana:

There were similar types of errors during your lead-in to the talk on summer blockbusters. From 1965 to 1975, I'm pretty sure the top moneymaker was The Sound of Music, not Gone with the Wind. (However, I don't have an almanac from the early '70s so I can't confirm this.)

However, where absolutely missed the mark was both you and your guest calling Close Encounters of the Third Kind a summer blockbuster. It was released in November 1977
and was not a summer blockbuster at all (though it mailed a pile of money. Check the Internet Movie Database at

You and your guest also missed the opportunity to discuss how movie promotion changed in the mid-'70s. There were an enormous number of television commercials for Jaws before Jaws came out - it was the first time I remember ad saturation in advance of a movie. Same thing for both Star Wars and Close Encounters.

I enjoy you and your show, but fact-checking is being increasingly ignored in the media. If you can't get simple facts right, how can we rely on you for getting the facts right about more complicated stories?


Laurie D. T. Mann

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Staggering Back to Blogdom

Gee, has it been six weeks already? Time sure flies... ;->

Anyway, between having a rough time with sinuses, moving to a mostly
full-time job, and working on conventions and Web sites, I haven't had
much time for blogging. I'm still reading other people's and enjoying,
but I haven't had the time to be motivated about my own.

I am excited to be working on Noreascon 4 as
the Exhibits/Fixed Functions Division Director. I'll probably post some of my ideas here as things progress. If you have exhibit ideas for the 2004 Worldcon, feel free to send me E-mail, or talk to me in person at Con Jose.