Wednesday, September 7, 2011

DragonCon 2011: A Review and Observations

The ultimate "come get your geek on" weekend has passed. DragonCon 2011 is over. Bags are being unpacked, Laundry is being done, and some are finally sobering up to wonder what exactly they did for 4 days. Pictures and Videos have begun to flood every known social media and photo sharing site and fans from all genres and walks of life begin to plan next years costumes and parties.

On to the review:

I was expecting this year's DragonCon to be much "bigger" than it was. Being the 25th year, you would think that more of an effort to make it huge would be present but outside of a fancy new DragonCon Logo with the 25th year part added the Con was just your typical DragonCon. Don't get me wrong, it was still awesome but there wasn't anything to really set it apart from every other DragonCon to date. You would have thought that with the increased price of Badges they would have at least thrown in a 25th Anniversary Lanyard or something. Those cost less than a buck in bulk and would have been a really cool treat to separate this one from the others. No such luck though.

The Guest list was a bit light on the "big" names front but there were a good many A-list names present. Just not as many as I'd expect. There were many new names on the list this year too. Celebs that have never Con'd before and some full Cast showing up to promote new seasons. It was great meeting them. There was just far too many cancellations this year for various reasons.

The Comics and Pop Art Alley area was nowhere near as full as last year despite a few artist being told they were full and not taking any more applications for artist tables. I also heard rumor of the table cost skyrocketing but have no facts or first hand information to back that up. Some of the Artist that were present seemed to bring their "B" game setup instead of their "A" game backdrops and displays. I found this to be rather weird and it made the room look sparse instead of the towering displays of awesome in years past. Display size aside, there was plenty of incredible art to be had. I'm running out of wall space for all the cool stuff I've acquired.

Security at this years Con was interesting to say the least . APD was all over the place due to a rumored threat that was posted on some message boards a few weeks prior to the Con. Extra security and more APD were in place in the Walk of Fame at the request of Eliza Dushku because it was her first DragonCon and she didn't know what to expect. Plus, she brought Rick Fox with her so they felt like they needed more Security. (WHY bring a sports star to a scifi/fantasy convention is beyond me though. The few times I went through the Walk of Fame he was lineless and just playing on his smartphone or talking to his handler)
The flip side to legitimate security concerns was the new policy of checking for badges and/or room keys to enter the Host Hotels at night. This makes perfect sense if it was just implemented properly. Sadly it was implemented poorly and turned into a royal clusterfuck of epic proportions. The reason for the new policy stems from events of DragonCon 2010 when a bunch of ignorant, drunk frat boy football fans decided that a skimpy costume gave them full license to harass, grope, lick, and corner Con attendees against their will. There were many instances of sexual harassment as well as borderline assault all centering around the drunk idiot football fans as the instigators.
I agree with the new policy but their implementation of it makes ZERO sense. Con "Security" personell were stationed at the Sky bridges between the 3 main Host Hotels and were checking for badges or room cards. This is all well and good but when you're NOT checking the Host Hotel perimeters it's pretty fucking pointless and does nothing but create unnecessary bottlenecks in areas that are already overburdened with crowds. To put "security" on the sky bridges and not at the doors of the Host Hotels is beyond stupid. It's not security at that point, its just the DragonCon staff being assholes because they can. If they had just secured the hotel perimeters then skybridge checks wouldn't be necessary.

All in all it was a great Con with just a few points of abject stupidity and planning but that is to be expected with any major convention. No event run by a power tripping committee can ever be fully successful and painless to the attendees.

Does any of this mean I won't go back? Oh Hell No! The ego, arrogance, and superiority complex of the DragonCon planners is well documented and known. Next year I'll just be a Con attendee instead of helping with an exhibit and I'll have more time to get my geek on. I might even be bringing Logan for his first DragonCon next year. We'll see.

357 days and counting.....

UPDATE: I almost forgot one of the most annoying and stupid examples of DragonCon Staff doing shit just because they could.

Peace Ties

White or Clear zip ties around the handles of plastic guns. Plastic, non-functioning guns. You had to go to "Security" to get your guns "peace tied" for entry into certain areas. When I questioned them about this policy they said it was because APD wanted the guns "peace tied". I stopped and asked 3 separate APD Officers and they all said the same thing. It wasnt their policy. Georgia Law for realistic looking weapons is that the front 1/4" of the barrel must be bright orange. They said they have no policy or requirement for "peace ties" at DragonCon. They all said it was just DragonCon staff blaming them for a policy that they (DragonCon Staff) were choosing to implement.

So you had to have your plastic, non-functioning replica guns "peace tied" but the guy behind you in line with the 8' REAL barb tipped spear could walk around without question (no shit, true story). Also unquestioned was my REAL M9 Bayonet on my belt, yet my plastic non-functioning P90 replica, that IF working could at most give you a really bad bruise, had to be "peace tied".

The kicker though, "peace tying" a weapon does not mean "rendering inoperable". All the dumb shits did was wrap a white zip tie around the handle so what exactly is the fucking point of it?

Just another example of egomaniacal DragonCon staff pushing stupid useless rules onto others simply because they could.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

DragonCon: A Beginners Guide and Checklist

Below is advice I've collected from many friends, blogs, and my experience at last year's Dragon*Con. Feel free to let me know if I missed something.

Things to bring:

  1. A Lanyard or some type of rope/necklace to hang your badge from. The badges only come with a clamp clip by default and those are easy to get knocked off. You lose your badge and you're toast and out another $100 for a new one.
  2. Backpack or Messenger Bag - You WILL find something you want to purchase
  3. Camera - Trust me, you'll need one
  4. Extra Camera batteries and memory cards - See #2
  5. Money - Walk of Fame Celeb autographs go from $20-$35 which includes the Glossy 8x10 photo you pick for them to sign
  6. Manila or Plastic Folders - to store autographed photos in while inside your Backpack
  7. 8x10 photos of any celebs you REALLY want to meet in case you bump into them walking around - Most will sign something for free in that situation but be brief, quick, and try not to cause a scene. The last thing they want is a huge crowd pouncing on them when they were just taking a break from a panel or something. NOTE: It is not necessary to have these for people on the Walk of Fame, they'll have many to choose from and its included in the signing fee.
  8. Cellphone/iPhone/Laptop/Camera charger plugs - when you take a break to sit and People Watch you will want to use the time wisely and feed your devices. The last thing you want is to meet your favorite celeb for an impromptu photo op and have your device die on you.
  9. Costume - if you feel like it
  10. Bottled Water - The Con has water stations all around but plastic cups are sometimes AWOL (Thanks Stephen)

Things to do:

  1. Art of Akira - One of the major displays this year is the Art of Akira exhibit redubbed the Golden Age of Anime - Come check out the largest collection of Akira animation cells in the world. The collector and leading expert on Akira, Joe Peacock, will be on various panels as well as presenting his exhibit to the masses. If you are a fan of Anime or just a fan of excruciatingly detailed animation, we're talking stuff hand painted with a single bristle brush, then you owe it to yourself to check out this exhibit.
  2. Panels Panels Panels - Once the schedule is posted (probably in a few days) you can check it for a Panel of your favorite show, celebrity, writer, or group.
  3. Gaming - There are groups that meet to play various different games from D&D to CCG to whatever strikes their fancy
  4. Book Signings - many authors will be present to sign their books for you. Some have copies for sale but you'd be better off planning ahead and taking a copy with you just to be sure.
  5. Meetups and Tweetups - If you're not on Twitter you're missing out on a valuable tool for knowing about gatherings and events that celebs decide to do at the last minute. Many of the Dragon*Con attendees or their followers are on Twitter and may post up something like "I'm hanging out at the Hilton Bar for the next 30minutes if anyone wants to come hang" Some Meetups are planned in advance and may require a fan club ticket or something so check the schedule and get on Twitter and get it on your phone so you can stay up to date.
  6. Parties - Some groups host parties for their user base. Some are private Invitation Only events and others are just open to whoever hears about them. There is always a party going on somewhere at Dragon*Con. and are having a Party at 1p Saturday the 4th in the main lobby of the Hilton to the left of the Concierge Desk. Marian Call will be playing a set for us so definitely get this one on your TO DO list.
  7. Shop - The Dealer Room is FULL of both easy and hard to find props, shirts, comic books, art, clothing, and anything else you can imagine. If you are a collector this is your Graceland. If you are looking for a little something to put on your desk then you can find it here too. Some Dealers put their stuff on sale Monday so they have less to carry/ship home. Don't count on it but sometimes it happens.
  8. People Watch - you will do TONS of this whether you want to or not. You won't be able to help yourself. When you're taking a break just find a good seat and enjoy the show.

Where to hang out:

  1. The Sheraton host many panels and events and is the main location for badge purchase and pick up so not a lot of hanging out goes on there.
  2. The Marriott Marquis is the main central point of Dragon*Con. On Friday and Saturday nights this is the place you want to be. It will get CRAZY crowded as the night wears on so if you plan on hanging out for a long time and you find a seat NEVER leave it unless someone holds it for you. Seats near a plug are GOLD and you should acquire them and guard them as best you can.
  3. The Hilton is where the Walk of Fame is. This is your autograph for a fee location. Lines are plainly marked on the floor with tape so stick to the line you are in so you don't get some fan boy frothing mad at you for cutting. The longer the line, the bigger the star. I found last year that at the beginning of his allotted time, Joe Flanigan's (Stargate Atlantis) Line was long, like out the door long so I skipped it. After making a few rounds and getting other autographs the line was down to 8-10 people and I got right in. Patience and Timing are key.
  4. The Hyatt is where you find the Artist Alley and Art sections. This is where your favorite webcomic artist, comic book artist, or artist in general will be set up. In the area outside the Artist Alley you will find many good photo ops of costumes and groups setup that do some serious cosplay.
  • NOTE: The Hyatt pulls out some draconian "fire hazard" rules and has goons walking around to get in the way and stop you from taking pictures in their Main Lobby in the evenings. If you happen to be going through their Main Lobby and see a good photo op, be incredibly fast or they goon squad will show up and pull their power trip on you.
  • NOTE: Panels and Events take place in all of the 4 major Host Hotels, the above list is just for general info of what else you'll find at each

What to Expect:

  1. A visual treat you won't ever forget.
  2. Crowds - LOTS of crowds
  3. Good ol Georgia Heat and Humidity if you venture outside
  4. Costumes of all shapes, sizes, and topics. Some people get VERY creative with skills that rival Hollywood as well as people that spawn thoughts of OMGWTFBBQ MY EYES!!!!
  5. Lines - the more famous or currently "hot or in trend" the celeb, the longer their line will be. Count on getting in line an hour (or hours) before a particular even if you want to be sure to get in. EX: if you want to hear an Adam Savage talk you better be in line 2-3 hours ahead of time. I went an hour ahead last year and the line was already wrapped around a full city block. Only 1/3 of those in line would actually fit in the auditorium so I had to skip it.
  6. Meeting new and interesting people
  7. If you are in costume people will want to take a picture of you. If you have a "squire" to take the picture for them so they can be in the photo it makes people happy. Squires also come in handy for holding said necessary gear. (Thanks Stephen)

Cell/iPhone Battery Saving Tips:

  1. Turn off WiFi - odds are you won't be in range anyway and if you are so are 20,000 other people
  2. Turn off Bluetooth - unless you're using it it's just a battery sucker
  3. Turn off 3G and use Edge - face it, the cell network is going to be HAMMERED during the con. 50,000 people in such a small area always saturates the cell network. You're not going to get 3G speeds anyway.
  4. Stick to text messages to stay in touch - repeatedly trying to make a call that doesn't connect just pushes your battery closer and closer to death with each attempt. Text messages are short burst and will often get through just fine even when the network is clogged or sluggish. They just queue up and send when they can.
Avoiding ConCrud:

You know what I'm talking about. You're in closed spaces with 50,000 other people, many with questionable personal hygiene habits or a complete lack there of. You're GOING to be exposed to someone else's germs that should have stayed home but Noooo, they toughed it out to avoid missing the Con and showed up with a raging fever and illness. A few days after the Con you start to feel the scratchy throat, followed by a headache or runny nose and then BOOM! ConCrud sets up residence in your body for a few days making you wish you could find the specific person that triggered it and flail them to death with their own severed limbs. If you could just get out of bed that is.
  1. Hand Sanitizer - Face it, you'll be touching all sorts of handrails, doors, and elevator buttons that you have no clue what might be on from a previous touch. Use it regularly.
  2. Multivitamins/Vitamin C/Zinc - whatever your preference, dose up on your preventative medication of choice starting a week before the Con so you have a good base built up and maintain that regimen throughout the Con.
  3. HYDRATE!!!! - As mentioned many times above. STAY HYDRATED! It helps your body flush out all that unwashed geek germy crud thats floating around.
  4. Take regular showers - wash off all the germs as often as you can. If you're heading back to the room to drop off some Art or a purchase or just changing costumes, take a quick shower and rinse off the funk. (I know, this isn't an alien concept to most people but after going to a few Cons you too will realize its never advice that is followed by all)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Inspiration never comes when you're ready

I think I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating. Things to write about never seem to come to me when I have the actual opportunity to jot them down. I'm always in the car driving, out on a run, hiking, or just sitting somewhere with nothing to write with. I absolutely loathe hand writing stuff. My thoughts go faster than my hand can write and it just pisses me off which then sparks another train of thought and derails the first. Now take that and amplify it by 1000 because typing on an iPhone is worse when you're trying to get a lot of info out at once. I guess I need to power through those moments and get better at jotting stuff down or at least making notes to follow up on later.

A friend of mine keeps saying the best way to get started at something is to just start it. I need to start listening to him more. Despite some of his self observations to the contrary, he's actually pretty wise at times. I should listen to him more often.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

218 and still more to go...

The first quarter of 2011 is already behind us and I'm rather proud of what I've accomplished so far on my personal quest to get fit and hopefully stick around on this planet as long as possible. On Jan 1, 2011 I weighed in at 252. Before that I think my highest was 258 sometime in early 2010 (before the Half Marathon training began). On April 1st,2 2011 I weighed in at 218.2. I personal best (so far) and a weight I've not seen in 15 years or more. A few people have asked me what I'm doing for my weight loss. My answer? Nothing special really. Just five things:

  1. I'm using the Livestrong App on my iPhone and iPad to keep a daily record of what I shove into my mouth. You'd be surprised how fast stuff adds up when you document it. It really makes you stop and think.
  2. Realizing that food package size does not equal serving size. This is where I believe America's problem lies. We are constantly presented with "snacks" that are packaged in what is assumed to be a "serving" never thinking that it could be more than one. In truth all food labels show the nutritional information for just one serving which misleads people into thinking the "snack" they are consuming is not as bad as it really is. I believe that all snack type items should be made to be in single serving packaging but in today's age that'll never happen. People want bang for their buck and a tiny package of 15-18 chips doesn't look anywhere near as good as the typical "snack" bag we are sold today. Usually containing 2 or 3 servings per bag.
  3. For items not packaged for individual "snack"size consumption I've taken the same approach. I pour myself a cup of milk instead of a glass of milk. A cup of cereal instead of a bowl of cereal. I was surprised at how much a true serving of cereal was. For years I've been presented with full heaping bowls of cereal in TV commercials and on the front of the cereal boxes. All of those images are bullshit. They are showing you 2-3 servings minimum either deliberately or through manipulated perception by using smaller bowls/cups/utensils. Cutting back to actual servings works wonders.
  4. Getting off my ass. Sounds simple enough right. That's because it IS. Some people, myself included, need a motivator to get off their ass. I use money. I have been keeping my schedule full of races that require non-refundable fees and getting them registered and paid for so I have money to lose if I don't get off my ass and train to make those events. Money is a great motivator in this respect. Try it, it works. For training, find a local run group, hashing group, bike group, etc... When you have a group event to routinely do every week it helps get you going because you have people you want to see and that are looking forward to seeing you.
  5. Drinking more water, less sodas and sugary stuff. Yup, here's another simple one. It's as simple as it sounds. I'm not a soda guy. Never have been really. I'm a sweet tea guy. So instead of sweet tea, I now order unsweet. If no unsweet is available I order water.
This is about all I've done to alter my habits in the past 3 months and so far its working. I've still got many miles (and pounds) to go and I'm not giving up.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

You don't sound like you're from here

I hear that phrase a lot. People I've known for years are shocked to find out I'm a native southerner and grew up in Athens. To that I say, Mission Accomplished. I don't have a "southern" accent and have made it a point not to. What I do have is a subconscious habit of adopting the accent/dialect of the person or people I'm talking to and dealing with at the time. It just happens and most of the time I don't even realize I'm doing it. It served me well when I was working in Golden Pantry (convenience store) since the spectrum of clientele was very diverse. How a customer responded to you is often kick started by how you sound to them when you greet them as they enter the store. It worked out pretty well.

This thought and post came to me as I was commenting on a friends Facebook photo of his girls and he on a lake in their canoe. I made a "quest for the White Whale" joke and then remembered a situation in High School where accent played a key role in a situation. I was on Academic Team (yup, was a geek then and still am except now it pays the bills) and competing in a meet one evening. The teacher reading the questions for our meet was a native southerner and I'd never noticed the accent before until she got to a question for me. The question was something along the lines of "What literary story revolves around a white well?". I had never heard of a story focused on a well much less a white one so I asked her to repeat the question. She read it again and put some emphasis on the word WELL. She probably shouldn't have but she did. She had a look on her face like I should know this and was shocked that I didn't. I asked for a repeat of the question again and once again she said the same thing. What literary story revolves around a white WELL? After my time expired and the question deemed unanswered, therefore wrong, I was told by others who had been twitching in their seats that the word was WHALE. She butchered the pronunciation of WHALE so bad that to me, and many others, it came out WELL and caused me to miss an easy question. During the repeatings I even repeated the question back to her as I heard it and she didn't catch that I wasn't interpreting her correctly.

That's just one of the reasons I don't have a southern accent. There are others but that is one of the biggest that still hangs about the ol noggin randomly popping up when I least expect it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I'm a Tough Mudder

This past weekend I participated in the Tough Mudder. A 14.1mi adventure race/obstacle course at Highland Park in Cedartown Ga. This was, quite possibly, the most difficult race/run I've ever done and the most difficult Tough Mudder they've ever held. Originally listed at 10mi, it changed to 11mi the week before the race. We arrived to discover that one of the 2 Mystery obstacles was an additional 3.1 miles and a second trip through the middle course track and obstacles. Yay! This made the Georgia Tough Mudder a Half Marathon plus 1mi. Ouch!


"Tough Mudder is not your average lame-ass mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race. It’s Ironman meets Burning Man, and it is coming to a location near you. Our 10-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. Forget finish times. Simply completing a Tough Mudder is a badge of honor. All Tough Mudder sponsorship proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.

WARNING: Tough Mudder is 3-4 times longer and MUCH TOUGHER than a typical mud run such as Warrior Dash. Only 78% of participants at Tri-State 2010 finished. Only those in strong physical condition should enter."

They are NOT kidding. This race made me push harder and farther than I ever though I'd ever go. I had a great team of friends with me, Team Twinkle Pony! Don't let the name fool you. We sign up for insane shit and finish it! Together we conquered every obstacle, climbed every hill, trudged or crawled through every mud bog and pit, scaled every wall and we all finished it.

One thingthat had that helped us more than anything was our support crew. Twinkle Ponies that, due to illness or guardian duties, could not compete. Joe, Jessica, and Merril were our saviors. They met us at key points in the race with Gatorade, Protein Bars, GU Gels, and words/cheers of encouragement. Without all of these we would never have made it. Despite carb-o-loading and fueling up before the race we were all empty and starving long before each time we met up with our support crew. They really made the difference in addition to photo-documenting our adventure.

Pictures of Team Twinkle Pony at the Tough Mudder can be found HERE

Next up for myself and some members of Team Twinkle Pony: Warrior Dash!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, February 7, 2011

What do you fuel up with?

In training for the various things I'm hoping to accomplish this year I've started using energy gels and gummies to give me the extra fuel I need for the workouts. A friend of mine is doing a giveaway on his blog 26.2 Quest for a sampler pack of GU Energy Gels. I've tried the GU as well as other energy gels and GU is so far the best of the bunch. They're like eating something that is the consistency of cake icing and depending on your taste buds they taste about the same as (whatever flavor you're eating) icing. They definitely help keep you moving and are small enough to keep an extra in your pocket or in your belt back for another dose on a long run. When we do a long run around Stone Mountain I share one with Logan when he starts to get cranky and it definitely helps quash his grumpy mood which is usually induced by a lack of energy and fuel. (He rides alongside of me on his scooter while I run.) If I didn't share a GU with him he'd finish the grumpy evolution into a full fledged melt down. Dead rising from the graves.....Dogs and Cats living together.....MASS HYSTERIA...... Ok, maybe not that bad but you get the picture. A grumpy 9 yr old is not something you want to let fester for long. One shot of GU and his inner energy reserves are replenished for the rest of the long run. Well, long run for me, long scooter ride for him :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Still alive...

We've been snowed in for the past week which has put a dent in my training but school starts back up tomorrow and the house will once again be mine for some personal time to train. I've kept up with my workouts as best I could and have been routinely hitting the treadmill even though I hate it. For running I need to be outside and actually covering ground to feel like I'm accomplishing anything. Plus, when I'm out running and getting further and further around the pond/path/mountain or whatever I MUST keep running in order to get back and get home. On a treadmill I don't have that additional drive and motivation to keep going since I can just stop and hop off. At this stage of my life and fitness I'm self aware enough to acknowledge that I require that motivation to help me force myself to keep going.

Diet is going well so far. The Livestrong App on the iPhone and iPad is really helping me keep track of what I shove down my gullet. I rarely go over my allowed calories and at last weigh in had lost over 5 pounds so something is working :) I want to lose another 20-30 pounds overall but I know that won't happen by the time the Princess gets here or Tough Mudder. We'll see though.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

And I thought the Fit Test was bad.....




Day 2 of Insanity! (Plyometric Cardio Circuit) completed and I'm wondering what the frak I was thinking. I did it, but man it hurt. I took a few small breather breaks here and there but kept up as best I could. I can already feel the burning muscles in places I've never felt before so it appears to be working.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Oh wait, yes I can.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I went a little bit Insane today.

Some friends and I have decided to run the Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. Both are muddy nasty trail runs with obstacles every so often. The Tough Mudder is 10mi and the Warrior Dash is 3.1mi. Naturally, with Murphy's Law being around, the shorter event is the 2nd one and not the first one that comes up. No matter which comes first I've got to get in shape. To work on that, today I started the Insanity! program. Insanity! is an intense cardio exercise program that is aptly named. The Fit Test consist of 8 base exercises that you do and count your reps. The Fit Test is repeated every 2 weeks to track your improvement. I'm a bit nervous about the rest of the program because the Fit Test kicked my ass.

Here are my counts for the exercises:
  • Switch Kicks : 43
  • Power Jacks : 26
  • Power Knee : 60
  • Power Jumps : 15
  • Globe Jumps : 3
  • Suicide Jumps : 6
  • Push-Up Jacks : 6
  • Low Plank Oblique : 30

Based on the people doing the exercises in the video I did so-so to incredibly shitty depending on the exercise. Granted, the people in the video are actually in shape and have been working on the Insanity! program longer than me so I have no delusions that I should be up to their level. Its going to be tough to make myself do this but I'm motivated and sticking to a good diet so I might not like it but I'm going to do it. :)

I guess we'll see what my numbers look like in 2 weeks.