Libertycon has begun, with people streaming in from across the country (and a few from around the world) for the occasion. I didn't make it to the opening ceremony yesterday afternoon, because by the time I got there all the seats within sight had been taken. With my wonky back, and using a cane as I do, I wasn't about to stand through an hour-long opening, so I adjourned to a place with a seat and relaxed.
It's interesting to see the different responses of those who live in relatively sane "red" states, versus those who've escaped "blue" states to come here. Most of the former are relaxed, happy, greeting friends animatedly, celebrating being together for a favorite event after three years apart. However, some of the latter are almost gushing, frantic for human contact, even while looking around to see that nobody's frowning or yelling at them for not wearing a mask or observing social distancing. They appear almost guilty to be enjoying themselves so much. It's an odd contrast. (One of the favorite tabs being applied to Libertycon attendee's ID cards reads, "Shut up Karen!" I approve.)
Many people have experienced problems getting here. Airlines appear to be cancelling flights right and left: they schedule them, sell all the seats aboard them, then are unable to provide a pilot (or sometimes even an airplane) to fly the route. People are having to drive as far as Knoxville to pick up friends whose flights were cancelled, and who had to take alternative flights as close to Chattanooga as they could get. I blame the airlines, frankly. They've knowingly scheduled more flights than they can cope with, and are now trying to weasel out of the problem they created by blaming "the economy", or "the government", or COVID-19, or supply chain problems, or what have you. Color me unimpressed.
I've also been thinking about the perennial road traffic problem in getting to and from Chattanooga. It's existed for years, even decades. I-24 from Nashville, TN, I-59 from Birmingham, AL and I-75 from Atlanta, GA all converge on Chattanooga, which is on the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains. The heavy traffic makes for frequent jams, and an accident can back things up for miles, particularly if it happens in the area where the three Interstates come together in the last ten to twenty miles before reaching the city. We avoided a bad jam on Thursday by following our GPS guidance onto surface streets around it, but there aren't many of those, mountains being generally road-unfriendly places to build.
The existing highways are clearly far too narrow for the amount of traffic they carry. I reckon one could justify four-laning all of them, and six-laning them through the city, but there's simply no space to do it. One would have to carve out massive cuts in the mountainside to accommodate that. It'd take years, maybe decades - all the while reducing the existing two-lane roads to a single lane, with frequent stoppages for blasting, etc. I simply don't see how it could be done without effectively cutting off Chattanooga completely for a lot of the time. Perhaps a tunnel through the mountains would avoid the need for cuts, but it'd be fearfully expensive. Quite the dilemma.
I'm taking the opportunity of free time between seminars and panels to set up my new laptop. I had an older-model MacBook Air, which has served me well; but sadly, its chipset can't manage the upgrade to the latest version of MacOS. I need that for some of my critical software, which I use for publishing. The latest versions of the software require the latest version of the operating system to do their thing. I accordingly bought a new MacBook Air, with Apple's M1 chip, a SSD instead of a hard disk, and expanded memory. (Of course, within a few weeks of receiving it, Apple announced a later model with the even newer M2 chip, but I'm satisfied with what I've got.) I've got most of my software downloaded and installed, and my data copied across. It's very fast compared to my old system, and so far I'm pleased with the upgrade.
So far, so good. Miss D. and I have an autograph session tomorrow, and we're on a panel later in the afternoon discussing the state of self-publishing. No peace for the wicked!