August 18th, 2014

NASA_bighead

Saturday catchup

The weather was good enough to do some touristing. Took the underground to London Bridge station, which meant a 1-stop ride on the DLR (Docklands) line, and then a change of floors and transfer to the Jubilee line. HUGE difference. DLR is new, clean wide cars, very much a tourist lone. Jubilee is crowded, narrow, dirty and working class.

Blame the nursery rhyme, I thought London Bridge was that fancy schmancy bridge which looked like it belonged in front of a castle. But no, London Bridge, which is not falling down because it is practically new, is just a boring concrete structure with all the architectural attraction of a cinder block.

But there are some neat buildings around it, especially on the Jubilee station side. #1 London Bridge Rd. is a new, ultra-modern glass behemoth. #2 across the street is a late 1800s warehouse/customs house.

I crossed the bridge, and saw the one I was looking for was back the way the underground had come by a mile or three. I could also see the castle which is the Tower of London, and put 2 and 2 together and realized it is the Tower Bridge, and I could have taken DLR all the way to Tower Gateway station.

I walked back across London Bridge, then followed streets and then the river walkway all the way to Tower Bridge. It took a while. Lots of photos taken before I noticed that somehow the camera had switched from Fine to Normal resolution. Fixed that.

Took lots more pictures, looked at the huge crowd queued in front of the Tower and decided I would just walk back across the bridge.

Got turned around, and ended up walking all the way back, on mostly different streets, to London Bridge station. Took the underground back, went straight to the convention because there were places to grab a bite and be early for the Astronomer Royal's talk. But first I had to suffer through an amateur production of a world premiere adaptation of Anubis Gate, a work I knew nothing about, and the script did little to help. The main actor shouted most of his lines. It's by  by Tim Powers. The play was not.

Lord Rees' talk started late because Anubis started late and ended later. I bailed on the latter to get a soda. Still was at the head of the line for the lecture. It was further delayed by incompetent tech who coujldn't figure out how to attach a standard Apple laptop to the projector. Lord Rees could not see the screens the audience was viewing, so he didn't know the images were all purple. Major Tech FAIL because that a sign the cable has a bent pin, or is not screwed in all the way. Tech should not have let that continue.

But his mike worked, and he is a brilliant speaker, and quite the sci-fi fan. He quoted HG Wells early and often, and he also threw in some fannish humor.

The blue earth, as seen by the audience. :-(

Time enough after that for a mushy footlong hot dog and an orange soda in the fan area. Then the Masquerade. I found a seat in a row which has the aisle seats marked for "access", which I took to mean there would  be a wheel chair or scooter in the aisle and the person's aide in that seat. The seat nazi thought it meant the whole row was reserved for disabled people, which was ridiculous beause it was the second row in the set, and there is no way a disabled person would be able to navigate into the row past one or two seats. There was a lot of that kind of stupidity at the con.

Masq was late starting, which is fine, but there was no one out on stage at start time to say hi, and give us an ETA. Usually there is someone or some two who will banter until the show is ready to start.

I didn't take any pictures, the way the stage was set up and lit, it was impossible. The after-show photo session required a previously purchased "press pass" and ended up being a mob scene.

As for the Masq itself, it went well. All the entries except one were actual costumes showing a lot of work. I would not have wanted to judge the novice division, there were at least 4 blue ribbon entries. Even the children's group was excellent - the judges gave one costume three awards, it was that good. There were  only three master class entries, all excellent, but the last one was eight costumes representing the different  
characters of Aratarindale. Each costume was a full coat, with a neck to floor cape appliquéd with a design unique to the character. Most had a headdress. Just that was getting a standing ovation, and then the lights were turned down revealing that all the costumes were electrically lighted in patterns matching the character. One looked like a waterfall, another like shooting stars. And so on. We are probably talking more than a year of work. They won all the awards.

After Masq I took a short turn around the fan area, where several bid tents were having parties. Not much partying can be done in a 10x5 tent. Another major FAIL of this con is there are no hotel party rooms.

Back to the hotel, way too late and too sore from all that walking, to write anything.

 
NASA_bighead

Rainy Sunday

Skipped breakfast because at shower time my Hgl was 64 (that's what a lot of exercise will do) so i self-medicated with chocolate bars & drinks and cookies. I mean biscuits.

Got to the Art Show a bit after 10 and picked up the matching earrings and pendant I'd bought.

It was blustery and cloudy, but the clouds were high nd cumulus and not looking like immediate rain, so I went back to the hotel area and crossed the street to the Emerites Air Line gondolas. Skipped the long line for tickets because they accepted the Oyster card. Took a lot of pictures, but the part of the Thames it crosses is not particularly photogenic.

Back to the con, as it was starting to rain, and waited at one of the author readings rooms for Ben Bova's session. Stayed for the next 2, the first being a Young Adult novel called The Pirate's Secret Baby by Darlene Marshall and then Charlie Stross (nominated for 2 Hugos) reading from a not yet finished book. Bova read an old story he had written for another author, where he took the story of Scheherezade and gave it a twist where she gets her stories from the city' storytellers, whose names are the Arabic version of famous sci-fi authours. Hari ibn Hari is Harry Harrison, and so on.

Marshall started out being a very businesslike entrepreneurial writer, but once she got into the reading she was quite good. Not a book I would buy, but not bad for a YA girl's library.

The Stross reading was mobbed. People kept coming in well after all available space was taken. This despite signs posted in front of all the rooms that when all the chairs are full, no one is to enter. But there were no traffic enforcers in the area, and people kept trying to squeeze in. It was as annoying to the author as it was to me. Again, not a genre I would buy, pull-the-magic-out-of-your-ass fantasy, but an enjoyable reading. He writes for his own amusement, but he has a faithful fandom who are invested in his characters.

I'd had enough of listening to readings in a room way too small for them, so I took the train back to the hotel. Did some stuff on the laptop online, then went downstairs hoping to have dinner in the hotel dining room, but they weren't serving except in the bar. So I walked most of the way back to the con to the Chinese place and had a nice lobster dinner.

Service was slow, by the time I got my check it was time to go to the Hugo ceremony. On my way, I saw quadrivium and hsifyppah walking the other way, waved but I don't think they saw me. Well, Brooke may have, she made a sound much like a gargling crow as we passed. 

Like the Masq, the Hugos not only started late, there was no one on stage at official start time to greet the crowd. There was a Beefeater standing guard in front of some kind of gate-like object stage left. Eventually he was joined by a second one, and they flanked it.

When the MCs finally arrived, the gates were opened revealing a several-tiered stand full of rockets. With a little more lighting it could have looked very impressive.

The MCs did okay, and there were presenters for most of the categories and they all did okay. Tech, however, was terrible.  They kept getting the IDs wrong, once in a while the entry slides were out of order, the presenter mikes were not powered up all the time they were needed. Tech tried to blame it on the talent touching the mikes, but they lied.

Most of the winners were not my first choice, I especially disagreed with Fan Artist, Fanzine, Campbell Award and Best Dramatic short form. Looking at the list, the only winners I had voted for were Gravity,for Best Dramatic long form, and The Lady Astronaut From Mars, by Mary Robinette Kowal for Best Novelette. The latter was so touching and well crafted it left the others in the dirt. The audience reaction seemed to agree. I had not read any of the novels, but was very happy that the winner was science fiction and not fantasy.

Back to the hotel by way of Tesco Express. Their self check-out machines are absurd, and the boy who tried to show me why it wouldn't let me scan more than one item did not speak english well enough, and his gestures were nonsense. The secret turned out to be they have the bags on a rack which blocks the bagging area, and the machine wants the items placed in a bag on the bagging area after each scan. And then it wouldn't read my card. The woman behind the counter figured that out. There is a different scanner for cards with and without chips. Both require the card to be inserted into a slot, which makes no sense for the chipped one.

Hotel, drank some chocolate milk, updated FB and LJ and here I am.

Plans for tomorrow:
I have a ticket for The Eye, if it isn't raining I'll use it. Need to be back at the con by 4:30 for the filk musical. After the total FAIL of the opening ceremonies, 'll give closing rites a pass.
Pack.
NASA_bighead

Bummer.

The only reason I extended my London time until the 19th is because after the official close of the con there was going to be a filk musical with a bunch of people I know or would like to know. The plan was to use my ticket to the London Eye and return to the con by 4 to get in line for the musical. There was a little bend in the plan when BASFA announced a meeting at 4.

The Eye was worth doing once. The setup there is insane. Take the voucher to an ancient building and line up in a very narrow space to have it exchanged for a ticket. Go back outside and stand in the weather for 45 minutes in a line which moves at an decent pace, but is messily divided into two double lines at the end, because for a few bob more, people have bought a fast pass, which get them to into a much shorter queue which merges (WTF?) with the peons.

The Eye itself is a very roomy, solid enclosed room which is lifted into the air ferris wheel style. It rotates fairly slowly, for acrophobic me there was no vertigo at all, the engineering is solid. I think there were 10 per module.

The long line had one up side: lots of people watching and listening. So many languages I did not recognize. In my car there was only one English speaking family. We had Russians, Italians, two flavors of Arabic, and two languages I didn't recognize. And the eye candy! By the dozens.

Because of the cloudy day and the thickness of the window material it wasn't the best photo op, but you get a really good feel for the size of London and the lack of zoning regulations. Okay, one could also call it the charm of ancient buildings being converted to MacDonaldses and pizzerias, with ultra-modern glass structures next door.

Back to the hotel to change, then to the con. Spent 10 minutes at the BASFA meeting and went pstairs to stand in line. The traffic volunteer counted bodies, I was 116, she said I'd get in because there were 130 seats. Then they delayed the show 15  minutes to set up a feed to an overflow room. When I got into the room, half an hour later, the guy ahead of me got the last seat. Traffic lady forgot that the tech took up a row and supidly allowed some camera tripods to set up on chairs. I wasn't interested in seeing s feed, you miss too much and Loncon tech has failed to impress me.

So that part of the day was a total fail.

Got onto a train and went to the Westfield mall which has an impressive two-floor food court, and had dinner at the ribs place. Also shopped some more for a windbreaker, but the XXL sizes run small, and nobody stocks 3X. Also annoying was that each place I went, a gaggle of women were shopping for men's jackets for themselves. I guess there are no plus sized women's outlets here.

Back to the hotel, rounded up what stuff I could, and am all packed except for the insulin bits and the laptop I'm on, and USB stuff. That all goes in the dinopack. Some bathroom stuff goes in the carry-on though. I can expand it, since I'm taking the train, first class.

Time for bed. Looks like I need to check out of here around 8 am to get to the station the 45 minutes early they want.

Plans for tomorrow:
Shower
Take drugs
Last minute packing
Train to St. Pancras International
Eurostar through the Chunnel to Brussels