August 18th, 2011


Real Day One at the Con

Even though I registered, got my artist ribbon, & set up my photo exhibit yesterday, the real first day of the con was today. I thought there was a panel at 10 I wanted to go to, so around 9 I was outside looking around the back lot of the Atlantis for a breakfast place. Nothing. What few places there were did not open till 11. Back to the hotel, an entrance I had not tried before, an d there was the 24 hour cafe, the Purple parrot. Excellent pancake sandwich for <$10. Good service. But next time I'll insist on a table because the booth tables are too close to the benches to accommodate my tummy.

Re-read the program guide, and the first thing on the list was at noon, "Welcome to Reno". I kept falling asleep. Note to panelists: turning the mikes on and then pushing them as far away from you as they will go is not recommended procedure. I left to take a pit stop, even though the next event was in the same room. Plenty of rest rooms, plenty of water fountains in the CC.

John Scalzi's travelogue of his tour of the Creation Museum My first panel, and the first example of a room way too small for the obvious draw of the event. Scalzi delivered a fast-paced, hysterical description to go with his slides, all 100 or so of them, in 50 minutes. Basically her went so we don't have to.

Deigning Believable Physics was next, the draw for me was Gregory Benford, but instead of it being about designing believable physics into Sci-fi stories, it devolved into fairly technical discussion about how quantum mechanics touches everything in physics and nature. Ho Hum.

Then to the opening ceremony, which, although held in the largest hall, was too small a venue. The MC/con chair did an excellent job, but the stage set was embarrassingly last-minute and amateur, the AV folk utterly failed to use the big screen. The screen was only used twice, to show two clips recorded by the deceased GoH before he passed away. We only got a partial showing of the first clip, and after each clip they killed the feed when it (correctly) switched to show the MC. Dr. Demento was relegated to a spot behind a faux radio console which looked like it was drawn in magic marker by a 3rd grader, and he is a foot shorter than he needed to be to be seen. He also showed he has radio timing - he was halfway through each intro before the applause had died down. Tricky Pixy ended the session with their alligator song. AJA phoned it in - playing wood blocks.

I was going to hear Alex Boyd's concert, but got turned around and ended up touring the dealer's room and art show instead. While most of the art in the art show is world class, the setup is not. Panels are way too cramped for the ginormous space, Hugo nomine maurinestarkey's work was shoehorned into a single panel when there were at least eight panels a couple of feet away which are blank and unassigned.

Dealers' space is huge too, probably also under-utilized. I cut my tour short because my back was starting to hurt - the con had not sprung for carpeting, which the space shows signs of having had recently. Most convention centers rent it out in rectangles to fit the boot areas.

One good thing about the area is it has a concession stand - and there are several throughout the convention center.

Back to the events - "Ask Dr. Genius". The panelists had no idea what they were supposed to be doing, but the moderator made some good guesses, and there were two or three laughs.

It was now 6, I figured on catching the bus downtown, getting a weekly pass at the transit center, having dinner downtown and a banana split at the El Dorado which I enjoyed so much my last visit. But it took 45 minutes to drop my camera in the room and grab a hat,  find the bus stop,  find the bus stop for the right direction, and looking at the schedule I would just have time to get there, buy a pass, and come back if I was to make it to Mary Crowell's concert at 9. So I crossed the street and tried the Irish pub, but it was packed and noisy, so out the back door and through the lot to Outback, which seated me immediately. Service was fast, the food was great, price reasonable, they earned their 20% tip.

It was breezy and 75-ish, so I walked through the vast RSCC parking lot to the convention center instead of going through the hotel. Got to Mary's concert as they were doing their sound check. Excellent concert as usual, looking around the room it was like a who's who of filk. Very surprised to see hsifyppah standing after the concert. lemmozine was there for a birthday treat.

I peeked in at the filk jam after, but decided I was too tired and went back to the hotel, checked out the con suite (no real food but lots of chips and soft drinks) and the two party floors. Parties were way too small a space for the crowds, except for Texas, which booked a double suite and had what looked like a BBQ buffet in one quarter of the room.

Nothing planned for tomorrow before 11. Maybe I'll take the bus to town in the morning, get the bus pass & handle the Amtrak ticket.

Got my work start confirmation for the 22nd. Canceled my flight to Reno for Friday but need to go to Amtrak and turn in my ticket for the return trip Monday since I'll fly back Sunday.

Have almost finished a bag of longans which I'd brought on the train. The room has a fridge.

Too tired to proofread. nighty nite

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Another fun-packed day in Reno

Up early, did some online housekeeping. Took the bus downtown, bought a 7-day pass for $21, which will pay for itself in one more trip. Walked over to Amtrak, waited for 20 minutes for an attendant to appear, changed my ticket from Monday to Sunday after seeing the sign on the window that due to washed out tracks somewhere east, the return trip was running 4-8 hours late till further notice. Today's train was due to leave at 3 pm, for a 10 pm arrival at Emeryville. This means I don't have to rush to leave the con, and will have time to collect my photos and pack Sunday.

Went to Harrah's Hash House A-go-go for breakfast. Got the truck driver special which I was going to order a second pancake for, but the waiter said the pancake is 12" across. And it was. And 1/4" thick or more. I managed half of it. It came with two eggs and two strips of bacon, which was some kind of glazed bacon, too chewy for my taste but I survived.

Bus back to the convention center, already late for the 11 o'clock panel on the problem of Fermi's Paradox. The paradox being that with predictions of billions of worlds in the galaxy with possible life forms, why have we not seen any space aliens? The panel called on several audience members who were better known than the panelists for work in this field. The gist of it was that the galaxy is so old, and we are on such a far outskirt, that any life elsewhere already came and went, probably before the earth cooled.

From there to Beginning Makeup Effects, aimed at masquerade participants, taught by someone who tests and sells the stuff for a living. For the most part excellent, though there were a couple of nits I would have picked. Good sized room, needed twice as many chairs.

Ducked out of that early to get a front-row seat at the George R.R. Martin reading. Mr. Martin is a delightful person, his intro was humorous and light and he gave the audience a choice between two chapters in a book in progress, since there was not time for both. It was almost unanimous. I may be the only one in the crowd who had not read any of his books. He read well, but it's a genre I am not at all interested in. I don't think I'd call it fantasy, it is more along the lines of straight fiction set in a world similar to medieval Europe. I did not hear any magic or such in the passage he read, though perhaps there is some in the rest of the book. He took questions from the audience, but they were all about characters I know nothing of. The place was packed, and it was one of the largest halls.

A panel on Science Fiction and Gender was in the 2 pm slot, and while all the panelists were articulate, only one was really invested in the subject. The moderator kind of was, but she didn't say much. I would have liked to see more gay authors on the panel.

Next up was Mary Robinette Kowal's reading, which I have been looking forward to a lot since meeting her at BASFA and reading her Hugo-nominated short story. She started with a shadowbox puppet show. Her day job is as a puppeteer. Excellent stuff. Then she gave us a choice between a piece from a published work or from one in progress. We took the in progress one, and it was fascinating. What if a black actress uses magic powder to appear to be pale white? And the powder only lasts a couple of hours? And can be defeated by splashing water on it? Neat stuff, superbly written and entertainingly read. Too bad it was only a half-hour slot.

4PM was Trailer Park time. The host was a reviewer, instead of the usual studio PR person. AV crew made a total hash of their job, we started 15 minutes late despite them having half an hour prior to set up. Come on people, it isn't rocket science to play an MP4 file full screen to a projector from a standard personal computer. With audio. Without French subtitles. None of the trailers really grabbed me, but I know I won't be seeing Apollo 18, The Thing, Conan re-make, or any of the horror films.

Decided to bail for dinner. Went to the Purple Parrot cafe, since breakfast the other day had been so good. The service was fast, but unthinking. I needed to answer email from Moto on my phone, and my salad sat untouched for about 5 minutes. Waitress brought the pot roast while I was still typing. She did not offer to keep it warm till I finished my salad. By the time I got to it it was a bit dried out, and got more so as I ate. The rice was sucky dirty brown short grain crap, and the cooked veggies were almost the complete list of the ones I can't stand. Brussels sprouts would have completed the set. When I ordered I told her I'd definitely be having dessert, but she never came back to take my order. So no tip this time.

It did not help my mood that when I took my Kindle out to finish reading Troika, the screen was munged. Looks like it got bent. Didn't crack, but only the bottom line of text displays. It's under warranty, but that won't help me this week. I'll go to Best Buy and get a replacement tomorrow, and sell it on eBay when the warranty replacement arrives.

Back to the con, half an hour to spare before Meet The Artists. I hung around the Fanzine Lounge, which is in a singularly crappy location in no man's land between the huge hall entry and the dealer's room/art show. Horrible horrible use of space, that room.

At about 7:30 lemmozine showed up, I showed him my photo display and gave some info, and did the same for a couple of other people who came to look, including didjiman, who has some outstanding B&W prints for sale on the other side of the show. A little after 8 I drifted over to the filk jam, which looked like a knitting circle with only one active filker. So Plan B, the Liar's Panel. Way too small a space for this event. SRO. This con is cursed with fans on edge. Most people take the aisle seats first, effectively blocking access to the center seats. Even after they are asked to move toward center to let latecomers sit. There were about 10 seats I simply could not get to, which I could see from my spot leaning against the wall. Hillarious panel, but it was more a Smartass Panel than Liars.

That did it for me for now. I'm back in the room, tested the plumbing, went online to see where Best Buy is (it's on the same street as the hotel, easy access by bus), and confirm my Kindle is under warranty. I went back to the Motorola new hire sign-in site with all new Norton security settings (removed a pile of them) and discovered that there were a dozen more forms to read and digitally sign, and then accept the offer online, and submit the whole thing. It still would not let me enter work history on the basic info page, but they have that in their files already. It was way too much BS, and I'm done.

So there you have it. I will probably hit the party floors soon, and maybe I'll try a banana split at the cafe as well. This has not been a good con for free food.