Monday, June 25, 2012

4th Street Fantastic

I just spent three fascinating days at 4th Street Fantasy, a small convention held in the Twin Cities. It was my first time, it was real, and it was spectacular. Mostly writers, mostly of the delightfully quirky/nerdy/exceedingly smart variety, and all very friendly in that endearingly socially awkward way that SFF folk have raised to an art form. (It seems appropriate to overuse adjectives and adverbs in this connection.) The programming was single track and writing oriented. There were no capes, no vendors, and no overt self-promotion by the authors.

It was great. The organizers—Elizabeth Bear, Steven Brust, Janet Grouchy, Brad Roberts, and Tom Whitmore—did a fabulous job of creating a friendly, accessible, and above all informative con. But mostly it was the collective mass of attendees that made 4th Street rock. Hats off to all. Except for Brust—he gets to leave his hat on.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Our early and very wet spring is producing some unseasonal fungus growth this year. "Stinkhorns" usually show up in mid- to late summer, but this year they're early. I always get calls from friends who think they've discovered a morel. Stinkhorns are not morels! But they do resemble them...slightly. But one sniff is enough to put off anyone from trying to eat one. Stinkhorns reek. Flies are attracted to them because they smell like something a fly might want to lay an egg on. When a fly visits a stinkhorn (the part you see is the "fruiting body," or reproductive structure, of the underground fungus), it carries away some stinkhorn spores, which are found on the slimy, business end of the fungus.

The photo was taken in my backyard this morning.

More fun fungus facts:

The latin name of this fungus is Phallus impudicus. #iamnotkidding

The fruiting body forms underground in a gelatinous orb about the size of a golfball. These "eggs" are edible. Some people pickle them. Haven't tried it myself. Probably won't.