Category Archives: Whimsical

Arisia 2015 Faux Newsletter

It turns out that the Arisia staff didn’t manage to put together a faux newsletter during con this year.  That’s a shame, and too large a crime to let stand.  So, tipsily, we must address this omission!  Let’s hope this works:

Ether Egg Arisia 2015


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eBooks for Helsinki in 2017! Spread the Word!

Have you heard of Storybundle, and the Weird Fiction ebooks that are a fundraiser for Helsinki in 2017?  Between now and December 24th, you can get amazing indie fiction at a name-your-price rate, and the proceeds help support the bid!  Jeff VanderMeer is also a crazy-awesome person, and will WRITE A SECRET LIFE for three lucky people who purchase the ebooks at the bonus level!  This is a great fundraiser for international fiction, a great opportunity to get awesome indie fiction for a price you can afford, and all-around awesome opportunity to LEARN ABOUT THE LIFE JEFF VANDERMEER PRESUMES TO GIVE YOU!!!

Helsinki in 2017 logo

Who can say no to such a cute polar bear?

Why is this important?

Over at Helsinki bid headquarters, we’re trying to make sure as many Finns as possible can get to conventions around the world over the next nine months.  In particular, as you might imagine, getting lots of Finns to Sasquan is important.  It’s also expensive; the plane tickets are around $1300 according to today’s sale flight sites.  Spokane is not a cheap airport to fly to, apparently!  Your average Finnish fan is an academic writing papers about science fiction; that plane ticket is kinda prohibitively expensive for many, if not most.  (I can sympathize; my round-trip tickets to Helsinki have only cost $750-$850, and that’s not nothing.)

This fundraiser helps us get Finns where we need them.  Where they can convince people that voting is important, that this vote will put more WORLD in WORLDcon, and that we will have a truly AMAZING Worldcon if Helsinki in 2017 wins.  You can help us.  Please do.

And read some awesome fiction while doing it.

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Filed under Books, Helsinki, Whimsical, Worldcon

Finnish Cussing

I’ve been picking up a bit of Finnish, here and there.  Working on Helsinki in 2017 doesn’t require learning Finnish (and nor would attending the con, should we win).  It’s just really amusing.  Particularly when taught by Eemeli & Saija’s small children, Lumi and Papu.

How to Swear in Finnish (As Taught By Small Children):


Previous videos of Finnish phrases useful for fans can be found at:


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Readercon 25, Meet the Pros(e)

It’s not the most essential thing I’ve been writing a post about, but I wanted to follow up on a request from this year’s Readercon.

Every year for the past several, at least, Readercon has had an event called “Meet the Pros(e)” on Saturday night of the convention. The program participants are given stickers with quotes from their work (which they’ve previously selected for this purpose) and encouraged to pass them out to fans and pros alike at a meet-and-greet type of setting.  I’ve collected my stickers for the past couple of years, but this year, I was asked if I could post them online somewhere with the attributions.  Sometimes, uh, many of us don’t remember whose words are which after the convention is over.  😉

So here are my pics from my notebook, presented for your perusal.  Enjoy!

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Filed under Readercon, Whimsical

Frozen Confession

The post I wrote on how Worldcon voting works was long overdue, but what really made me get off my butt and finish it was when I realized I was trying to filk an explanation to “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from Frozen. Srsly.

Do you want to vote on Worldcon?
Site selection is your goal?
We are here to help you cast your vote!
And we don’t mean to gloat,
But now we’re on a roll!

We encourage all of fandom
To help decide
Where our con will be!
Do you want to vote on Worldcon?
(Oh, don’t you want to vote on Worldcon?)

So now you can be earwormed, too! 😉

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“Would you eat a kitten for this job?”

For my job at Luminoso Technologies, I was on a panel the other day at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, and I think it deserves a post.  The panel topic was interviewing and hiring perspectives.  Comedy gold occurred, as well as serious work on an important topic.  😉

The purpose of the panel was two-fold, from my perspective.  We wanted to help educate and prepare the students for interviewing with potential employers.  These students spent last week interviewing for six-month internships, in fact. They ran through 30-minute segments of rapid-fire questions and tried to show themselves in their best possible light while still accurately representing who they are with honesty and humility (one hopes).  Goal number one was to prepare the students for that experience.

The second goal of the panel, for me, was to differentiate Luminoso as an employer from the other companies represented on the panel.  On the one hand, that wasn’t hard.  Compare Luminoso, a startup, with established companies such as Lindt Chocolate, State Street, Raytheon, and Harvard Pilgrim Health?  We were different, all right!

I didn’t want the differentiator to be my youth or Luminoso’s, though.  I wanted the differentiation to be about Luminoso as a fun place to work, where people can expect to be on their toes and enjoy the challenge.

How does one encapsulate the essential culture of a startup?  All startups have some characteristics in common.  Running things close to the wire, sometimes by the seat of your pants, is common.  Having a flexible work schedule and a collaborative-but-fast-paced environment are also frequently the case in startup companies.

What’s the essential culture of Luminoso?  We’re a wacky bunch.  We have fun.  We like solving puzzles.  We face unexpected questions all the time, and want our employees to be ready for the unexpected.  Also, we want our employees to be fun and pleasant to work with.   We’ve got a team of 20 people as of this week.  We’re a 3-year-old company with a 100% retention rate.  We do this by hiring people who are clever, competent, and kind.  We hire people we think we’d collaborate well with, who’ll be nice colleagues even if things get hectic and stressed.

So on this panel about interviewing and hiring, I had a great opportunity to highlight Luminoso in a way that would be a big differentiation.  It was a bit of a risk, but I decided it was worth it.  The panelists were asked what their favorite interview question is, and after answering that question, I also told the kitten story.

What’s my favorite interview question?  My favorite interview question is to ask someone what your superpower is.  Not what superpower you’d choose if you could fly or be invisible or run at lightning speed.  What superpower do you already have?  What makes you a great and awesome and unique person?  This isn’t in the usual arsenal of interview questions (or at least, not phrased this way), and it often surprises people (particularly if they don’t follow me on social media).  So it’s also my tendency to offer to tell people what my superpower is, to give them time to think.

My favorite story about an interview question, though, requires more explanation.  Thanks to the indulgence of my co-panelists and the moderator, I told the following story, as well as answering the initial question:

Earlier on in Luminoso’s history, we were interviewing a candidate who had very close personal friendships with some of the cofounders.  She was a very good potential fit for the job, but due to these personal ties, I wanted to be really sure that we made the right choice in whether or not we hired her.  If we chose to bring her on board but personal relationships meant that communications went awry, that would be really detrimental for the company.  If we chose not to bring her on board after an extensive interview process, that could have at least short-term impact on some very established friendships, which would be challenging for the cofounders in question, and possibly cause resentment about the choice made.  So it was a little tricky.

In order to balance out the risks, I decided to have the candidate meet with every single member of the company at the time, and give everyone the opportunity to talk extensively.  It’s possible I went overboard, in my caution.  In addition, we hadn’t yet done sufficient interviewing to have the established patterns we have now.  People were less certain of what questions they wanted to ask applicants in order to know if candidates would be a good fit, here.

So there came a point in the conversation between this candidate and some of the developers where they ran out of steam and weren’t sure what to say next.  Let it never be said that Luminoso employees won’t make something interesting happen when given an opportunity!

One of the developers leaned in, and with a very serious expression, asked the most curveball question I think has ever been uttered during an interview.

“To get this job, would you eat a kitten?”

This is, far as I can tell, a ceramic ketchup bottle with a ceramic kitten head peeking out.

This is the result of a very quick Google image search on “kitten ketchup.” I’m both bemused and horrified.

At the Northeastern panel, the audience erupted in both laughter and awkward looks.  It’s a pretty offputting thought once you think about it, right?  Obviously, there’s a right answer (not to eat the kitten, lest you be uncertain).  And yet, there’s something funny about the fact that it’s been asked, and everyone seems to have a slightly different answers when we tell this story.  Some have asked if kittens are kosher.  Some have stated an allergy.  Some have asked if it’s a question of survival.  Some have simply stated, “no.”  (One answered, “yes,” but the longer explanation was that there are survival situations in which they can imagine needing to eat a kitten, therefore they can’t answer definitively in the negative.)

I was trying to differentiate Luminoso as being a company where the unexpected question is the one we’re often asked, and I explicitly said as much on the panel.  At the time, I could only hope that the right kind of applicants would be attracted by our fun-loving nature.  We were definitely different!  The question was, were we different in a way that drew more people to us?

Long story short, I got home that evening to another 15 applicants for our internship, in addition to the 15 we’d previously had.  The kitten story was the talk of Northeastern’s MBA school for at least a week, or so I’m told.  Several students who weren’t actually interested in a marketing internship still reached out to connect on LinkedIn and other media.  The kitten story was a small risk, but one that paid off for us, at least so far as I can discern.

And now you know the kitten story, too!

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February 13, 2014 · 9:40 pm

Helsinki’s Secret Green Rulers

As an American, I have to confess that I do my share crossing the street when the “don’t walk” sign clearly indicates I shouldn’t.

Finns don’t do that, it turns out.  When walking around with someone Finnish, I can now testify that it’s nearly impossible to get them to cross the street unless the green person in the traffic light says you can.


Finns are honestly obsessively obedient to traffic signs and walk signs.

During my last visit, though, I also noticed that signs of green men also indicate exits from buildings and tunnels.  There is clearly a larger mechanism at work, here!ImageThe truth must out!  Little green people must rule Helsinki.  They’re everywhere, telling you when you can go someplace.

I gotta say, there are many compelling reasons to vote for Helsinki in 2017 for Worldcon, but this adds to the list!

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Filed under Helsinki, Whimsical