Tag Archive | conventions

Experiences, not things

The ads usually pop up as Christmas time approaches: give people the gift of experiences, not things. They suggest paid excursions, theatre tickets, sports event tickets, and so on, with an appeal against consuming natural resources. As a person with a house continually crammed full of stuff that I love but don’t really have room for, I understand the sentiment.

But I’m not terribly good at following it.

While I was browsing the dealer’s den at RustyCon (a small local sci fi convention), one of the booths was filled with zillions “Rare! Hard to Find!” soundtrack albums on CD and movies on DVD. I have a weakness for soundtrack albums and started flipping through the tightly packed rows of discs. Within the first half dozen I looked at, all labeled with a price of $44.95, were two which I had happened to buy in the last year at the iTunes store. One for 9.99 and the other for 7.99.

I have no doubt that many (if not most) of the discs he had there are not available for download from iTunes or Amazon or any of the other digital music sources. And I’m sure that many of them were difficult for him to obtain. Certainly storing and transporting those enormous piles of discs isn’t cheap. So I’m not in any way disparaging the vendor.

It’s just that seeing those two albums (one originally released in 2002, the other originally released in 1975) which I had by chance purchased digitally recently made me stop to think about the situation. The reason I like owning music is to listen to it from time to time. I have a rather daunting amount of music in my digital collection, and how often any individual track is listened to is rather less often than might justify even the typical digital price of 99₵ per song. So does it really make sense to spend 45 bucks on a disc with 12 – 16 tracks on it?

I had just this last week commiserated with two friends about our shelves and shelves full of music and movies, which even though many had been digitized, we were still reluctant to get rid of because the discs now constituted the backup. But we also were all a bit frustrated at how much space they took up.

Not too many years ago I still owned a couple boxes of music albums on vinyl. I hadn’t owned a machine that could play them in a few years, so I finally admitted it was time, and got rid of them. I should mention that among those boxes was the 1975 soundtrack I mentioned above which I recently purchased digitally.

I’m afraid all this thinking about how much stuff is cluttering up the house made me steer clear of the booksellers. If I stopped acquiring new audio books and ebooks, and just focused all my reading time on the piles (multiple) of “new books to read” beside my bed, it would likely take me a few years to get through them.

I have been enjoying myself at the con. I’ve had several good conversations, attended interesting panels, and yes, I bought some things. As a person who frequently has a table with things for sale at conventions, I don’t want people to stop buying things at cons, don’t get me wrong.

I just think that I, personally, need to focus more of my enjoyment on the experience, and less on carrying home a pile of toys and such afterward.

Amazingly amazing!

I had a great time at RainFurrest this past weekend, despite several things that did not go according to plan.

Because of a mix up at Michael’s work, he didn’t get Thursday off. So I had to finish packing the car after he left for work. One of the events I was supposed to assist with involved a script that I didn’t receive until Thursday morning… and which needed some editing so I could read it. Which contributed to my being late. But wasn’t the only culprit. So while I had hoped to arrive in time to have a couple of hours to set up our table in the Dealers’ Den and get checked into the room, I arrived less than a half hour before the den opened.

Which meant I was still unpacking and setting up inventory when the first customers walked up. Both were people with lists of which things they wanted to pick up, and they wanted to get purchased early, before they’d spent all their money on other things. That was nice.

Chuck was sharing the project table again, and he made more sales in the first day that he had the entire convention last year. He was happy enough with how sales went that he’s talking about getting his own table next year.

Michael took the bus and light rail down after work, arriving at the restaurant as we were thinking of ordering dessert. It was nice to have my hubby, at last!

Friday was a good, bustling day. I had only one panel that day, but it was a fun one, and my co-panelists were cool. I believe Friday night was when a bunch of us gathered in our room to give Gloom a try. I definitely want to play it again, now that a few more of us have an idea how the game is supposed to work.

Saturday was my insane day. I had three panels in a row, one break, another panel, a break, and then I had to be at the Coyotl Award/Ursa Major Award reception at 9. It just made for a very busy day.

Sunday was slow in the dealers’ den. As it almost always is.

I got the most writing done on Friday. I managed to compose a song and write a couple thousand words of an accompanying story. I need to make sure I do a lot more ukulele practicing between now and the Christmas party, or this is going to be a disaster. Saturday was just a bit too crazy for getting any writing done. Then on Sunday, I realized that the story I was working on was just far, far too grim to be a Christmas Ghost story… and I came up with a different plot and got about a thousand words or so of that, instead. I also did a little work on some other tales in progress.

Several of our usual gang all had to be elsewhere very shortly after the den closed, so it was a smaller group than I would have liked (myself, Mark, Chuck, and Michael) who went out for dinner one last time. On the other hand, C.D., who had not been able to attend to con, joined us for dinner. So that was good.

This was the first year in a while that my actual birthday didn’t land during this convention. But it was close enough that it still counted, in my head, as an extended birthday party. And I had a great time.

I also learned that the other Gene’s birthday is the day after mine. That’s just… weird. But he agrees with me that September babies are superior.

Our sales were good, not great. But definitely good. I have some better ideas for next year’s table display. And yes, I’m making plans for next year, already.

It was a great con!

That’s MISTER mad scientist to you

This ought to be my fourth day at the con report. Except we were barely at the convention at all today. We slept in a bit. We packed out the room. We met some friends for breakfast. We walked around the dealers’ room one more time (and picked up one thing). And then we headed home.

This was my 25th NorWesCon—in a row. Obviously I enjoy going to this convention, and I enjoyed myself this year. This was one of the years where I attended almost no actual convention activities, so all of my enjoyment was due to time spent with friends also attending the convention and all the writing I got done at the con. Read More…

I need the cat murder app

The third day of NorWesCon I was out and about a bit more.

I slept in, but this time nowhere near as late as Michael. I did some more writing in the room (intrigue! deception! plotting!), until the fourth or fifth time a friend texted to find out if we had done breakfast yet, which is when I decided to hop in the shower and go get lunch/breakfast. The upshot, I ate my first meal of the day at about 1pm.

Julie had planned to host a nail painting party in her room Saturday afternoon, while Auntie was doing her annual “Seattle Opera Trunk Show” later in the day. Sky and I had lunch and hung out at the restaurant talking to whoever randomly walked by for a bit. Then we walked up to Julie & Mike’s room, where Julie and a cool artist named Kat were painting their nails. Kat painted one Tardis on one nail over each of her hands. Julie did an homage to van Gogh’s Starry Night on one thumb nail.

It was awesome to watch them work, and I took way too many pictures.

Then Sky, Julie, and I headed over to the panel room where Auntie was doing her big panel. For those of you who don’t know all the background: I am a godparent, and my co-godparent is a fabulously talented artist and costume person who works for the Seattle Opera in the costume department. She does a number of costuming panels at NorWesCon every year, and one of those panels every year she brings some samples of costume pieces from the opera’s stock, along with pictures and background information on how the costumes were made, how they are used, et cetera. It’s always a very well-attended panel and a lot of fun. For me, much of the fun is seeing this person I hang out with doing other activities with getting to show off for a crowd.


I got there well before the panel stared, but still wound up in a seat off to the side. Her theme this year was wings. She brought a wide variety of costume wings, including some adorable angel wings meant for a small child. And a small child in the audience ran up and volunteered to model shortly after Auntie pointed out that none of the people helping her were small enough to fit in the harness.

Auntie preparing to show the magic


Afterward I chatted with a few people at a couple of the fan tables, did another run through the dealer’s room, and then headed back to the room do to more writing.

I kept getting caught in traffic jams in the hallways, or stuck behind people who would just stop right in the frikking middle of a hallway for either no reason, or to start a conversation with someone, completely oblivious to the fact that they were blocking sometimes HUNDREDS of other people from moving at all. Good thing pocket disintegration rays don’t exist, or a lot of people would have vanished today.

Anyway, once I got to the room I put my headphones on and first listened to some very unchallenging music while I tried to get my brain back into a writing space. Then I listened to silly dance music while I wrote some good scenes. Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 have made a lot of progress today.

By this time people were pinging us about dinner, so we gathered things up and headed down. We had a table over in the side restaurant this time, rather than the middle of the super noisy bar. And our waitress seemed much more able to deal with more than one person. I had a rather larger number of cocktails and buffalo wings.

Then most of us retired back to our room, where we talked about things we’ve done, TV shows, and a lot of other weirdness. Probably more weirdness than I remember.

I did not manage to get a photo of Julie’s Mike’s creature created by hyridizing several plushies. I will try to remedy that. I also failed to get a picture of Mark’s painted fingernail. Or the cool jewelry.

On the other hand, we seem to have managed to cajole Mark into getting a twitter account. He followed several of us right away this afternoon, and his second tweet was, “I have 0 followers. I will give candy to the first of my friends who notices my account.” Julie noticed first. I was second.

I should try to finish that next scene before I go to bed.

Writing and drawing

I spent most of my second day at NorWesCon in my hotel room, writing. Sky was also here doing some drawing, and even did a livestream of some vectoring of one of his sketches.

How I wound up spending the day in the room instead out out in the con begins with parts of the first evening I didn’t cover.

I bought a few things in the dealer’s den. Then several of us snagged a booth in the bar. Sky had just texted that he was leaving Bellingham and would not be stopping for dinner, so I only ordered an appetizer and beer while we sat, chatted, and waited for Sky. After he arrived we had dinner, and then retired to the room where we played at least four games of Give Me the Brain. One went exceptionally long. Juli won twice, Mark and I each won once, and Keith never one. Juli only did the “I win! I win!” dance after her second win, however.

Every body headed back to their own rooms. Sky, Michael, and I chatted for a while. Then they both crashed. I did not feel the least bit sleepy. I had composed yesterday’s blog post, then I tried to write. I couldn’t compose a decent sentence in any of the stories I tried. I would write a sentence, hate it, delete it. Or I would write a few words into a sentence, and already see that it would just end in tears, so I deleted what I had and started over. I tried reading for a bit since, as mentioned already, I was not in the slightest bit sleepy. But I couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything for more than a few paragraphs.

Finally, at 3:30, I shut down the computer, put the remaining light out, and crawled into bed. I lay there, in the dark, still not sleepy. After an eternity, I rolled over to check to clock. 3:32. I grumbled silently to myself, and rolled back over, trying some meditating. After another very long time, I checked the clock again. 3:35.

The last time I remember checking the clock was at 4:31, so I think I finally drifted off to sleep then. I woke up briefly sometime later to see Sky quietly getting dressed. I think I talked to him. But it is possible I just dreamed it. A bit after that I woke up again and went to the bathroom, then collapsed back into bed.

At about a quarter after nine, Julie called to see if we were up and interested in breakfast. Michael and Sky were both up doing things on their computers. I thought it might be a good idea to get moving. I think I even got up and talked about it with Sky and Michael. The phone rang again, at nearly 10 (oops), and it was Keith and Juli (not Julie, but Juli, they are different people), who were thinking about breakfast.

Eventually we got out of the room and headed down to the little breakfast restaurant. Everyone else we knew was not there, so we got a table. We hadn’t yet ordered when Darrell showed up and asked to join us. Had a nice breakfast. Then, since Michael hadn’t been in the dealer’s room, we went with him and wandered around there. While Michael checked out the art show, Sky and I chatted with Jeri Lynn and Jeff. Soon we were joined by Keith and Juli and Mark and Darrell. We had a large crowd there for a bit. Julie joined us briefly, then some people went to get food, others to panels, and we retired to the room.

The novel that I have finished, but is now in revision, had a plot problem. There are these two supporting character, both monks, who die during the course of the story. One originally died in a scene that I had removed after the first draft (because the scene was redundant both in terms of the action, and what happened with the emotional arcs of the characters involved). But because I had removed the scene, that meant that one monk had simply vanished from the story sometime between chapter 5 and 8 without any explanation. The other problem was that somehow the monk who had been elderly and thoughtful changed into the middle-aged bombastic one.

So I went through finding all references to all of the characters until I found the scene in chapter five where I seemed to have switched their names. I went through all the subsequent scenes fixing the names until I reached chapter eight. I rewrote the ambush in that chapter so that both monks appear and both die in that scene. So that’s one problem fixed. I also fixed a couple other bits so there is a better foundation laid for some things that happen later.

Having gotten all that sorted, I got back to work on the novel currently in progress. I have been stuck trying to get Chapter 8 going for a while, now. Today I finally got a scene written, and have a much better idea of the the shape of this chapter and the next. It is quite a bit clearer what needs to happen next and how all the arcs are moving toward the narrative climax. So that’s good.

Michael had gone out wandering for a bit, then decided to lay down for a nap. That sounded really good, so I did, too. Sky apparently couldn’t resist the idea, because just after I dozed off when my phone started chiming as people texted me, me was out cold in his bed, too.

Folks were trying to coordinate dinner. I didn’t feel up to playing relay, so I shared a bunch of contacts with Julie and went back to sleep until Keith called to see if we wanted to join them for dinner at a big table they had snagged.

We wound up with 12 people at a long table. Things got a bit chaotic. Some food for another table was delivered to ours, the upshot of which was that a couple people in our group wound up with two dinners. And my order was messed up, so I didn’t get my dinner until after everyone else had eaten. Kehf and Auntie joined us as some of us were having dessert (most people don’t think buffalo wings are dessert, but it’s one of my convention traditions).

Some of us retreated back to our room, theoretically to play some games, but some people had sewing, other people had other projects, and we just wound up doing a lot of chatting. Oh, and a few pony episodes were played for those what were interested.

This is not the first convention I’ve gone to where I spent much of it in my room instead of going to events. Some years all I want to do is see as much as I can. Other times I prefer to dip my toes in the convention only a little bit here and there, while doing other things. It’s one reason staffing a club table ofter works for me, since I can do all the people watching and have random conversations during much of the day, while either writing in-between that, or scanning the schedule to find interesting panels and events to go to.

I’m happy with the writing progress I made today. While it might be argued that I could have just stayed home to do this, there is something about getting out into busy places with odd juxtapositions of genres and themes and notions and people that can clear logjams in the mind.

And I think I know what happens next, so I should go write it.

A slurry of crazy before vacation

I am now officially on vacation for a few days. Michael and I are going to NorWesCon where we will get to goof off, browse the dealer’s den, hang out with some of our friends, and geek out. This is my 25th year in a row to attend this convention. I almost always have a great time. Though I find I spend less of the con actually going to convention events lately. So we have been discussing the possibility of giving it a pass one year. But not this year.

Because of the change in my work schedule while my boss has been on maternity leave, my last day of work before vacation was also a work-from-home day. Which is nice if for no other reason than not having to spend part of the evening getting home from work. On the other hand, it was a little frustrating because I kept seeing things that I should be packing or cleaning or otherwise dealing with, because we’re leaving tomorrow, but I couldn’t really take the time to do. Michael had taken the day off work, ostensibly to spend some of the day getting ready, but mostly so he could sleep in and get some more mental space away from work before the busy-ness of the convention got in the way.

Problem was, we both woke up feeling very run down. It is a rather high pollen count day, so most of mine could be hay fever, but it’s hard to say. I was feeling so out of it at the beginning of the day, that I thought it would be the least productive day of the year.

But several unexpected things came up, including some good news about some of the problems I’ve been wrestling with on the new content management system. It was a little weird. A bunch of things we had been waiting on (some for a long time), suddenly came in today. Often with things like, “can we meet tomorrow to discuss this?” Except that no, I can’t, because I’m going to be on vacation. I guess it’s an instance of Finagle’s Law. But they were all good developments. And after a few hours of work, some conversation with people, and a few big mugs of coffee, I was feeling much better than I had when I’d started the day.

The weather was awesome, and I had worked a bit over the last couple of days, so I was quite amenable to a longer-than-usual lunch. Michael needed to shower and get the rest of the way awake, first, but then we walked up to a local diner. This particular place we almost never get to because they are only open until 2:30 in the afternoon. They just do breakfast and lunch. Until sometime very recently, they also only took cash—no credit or debit cards. Michael wound up having a big breakfast, while I had a salmon burger and salad. It was nice to walk around out in the sun.

Michael napped the rest of the afternoon, while I finished things up on my work day.

Now I need to pack and otherwise get ready for the con. I’m going to attempt not to stay up all night long getting ready for it. I say that every year. Will it finally happen?

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