DonAithnen (donaithnen) wrote,


Avalyn and i went up to San Francisco (well, technically Burlingame) for ConVolution last weekend and had a great time. And for once i got the recap post done in a reasonable amount of time!

Day 1:

We got to SFO around noon. It took a little while for the shuttle to show up for the Bay Landing hotel where we were staying, but we eventually got there and checked in. After dropping our bags off we head down the street to the con.

The Hyatt Regency is a big boxy structure with a giant atrium in the center. It's roofed over so it's not actually exposed to the elements, but it's not exactly heated very well and i think all the warm air rises to the top, so it can actually get fairly chilly in there. When we arrived it took us a little bit to figure out where we were supposed to go because the first large open area was taken up by some kind of conference for purveyors of equipment for diabetics, or something like that. Eventually however we found our way to registration.

The actual registration was pretty quick, although the fact that the only payment options were cash, check, or paypal was a little annoying. However after completing the registration we got to go wait for our badges to get printed out, and there seemed to be some problems. At first it seemed like they were having issues with the printer, but the lion's share of the delay seemed to be taken up with figuring out the software. Registration had opened at 12:30, and we got there just over an hour after that, so clearly they hadn't gotten everything figured it out yet. It took about 25 minutes before our badges were printed out successfully.

Once that was done we went through the dealers' room, which was right next to registration. A lot of the dealers were still in the process of setting up their tables however, so after doing a fairly quick once-around we decided we'd check back later. We went and checked out the game room, which had a decent supply of games, including Cards Against Humanity (in fact they had a new version i hadn't seen before, the "Bigger Black Box" or some such) but not a lot of people playing anything yet.

At that point it was close to 3 and we decided we were starting to get fairly hungry, given that neither of us had had any breakfast. So we decided to walk back to the El Torito right across from our hotel. We had some food and some margaritas and then decided to go back to the hotel room and rest for a bit.

We got up and got ready and were heading back to the con for the parties and other evening stuff around 7.

We got over there and wandered through the "Meet the Guests" party, except most of the guests had already left by that point, so after a bit we wandered up to the party floor. We stopped by the Hospitality suite first, then went down the hallway checking out all the other parties that were open. We stopped by the LonCon party and chatter with the organizers about plane flights and stuff. And finally we ended up at the coolest party at the "end" of the hall, the Klingon group's "Black Hole" party. I guess i'm kind of used to it by this point, but Avalyn was blown away by how much effort they'd put into the decorations. The party organizers are all dressed up as Klingons, the room has been darkened and is lit by fake torches, there's a giant Klingon bust perched atop a stack of Romulan Ale boxes. There's other bits of Klingon oriented-art hanging on the walls, and Klingon music playing on the TV. And they have an actual bar set up in the room where they served about 8-12 different drinks. 6-8 regular drinks, including "Warp Core Coolant", "Honorable Death", "Revenge", and the "Fizzbin", and i believe three different shots, including "Romulan Ale". And every time anyone orders a Revenge, the bartender shouts out "Revenge is a drink", and everyone in the room joins in with "best served cold!"

We got a Warp Core Coolant and a Fizzbin. The Warp Core Coolant is very good, though also very sweet. The Fizzbin is... very strong. I believe the menu pegged it at 25% alcohol. I had to drink it very slowly.

After hanging out in the Black Hole for a bit we wandered by the other really cool party, the one put on by Sir Lance. He doesn't put as much effort into the decorations as Black Hole and only has one kind of drink, but he has one of those "laser light show in a box" things and dance music. So Black Hole is where you go to drink and chat, and Sir Lance's party is where you go to dance :)

At some point we wandered back to the Hospitality Suite for the Unwoman performance. Unwoman is a cellist who's contributed her celloing to a lot of different cool bands, Abney Park, Rasputina, and Voltaire among others. She did a 30 minute set which was very cool, but this was the point where the first of the big problems with the con became apparent. (Well, unless you want to count the registration snafu as the first problem, but i'm not sure that really qualifies.) Having concerts is awesome. Having "concerts" in the hospitality suite is problematic however. There's just not enough room for everyone who wants to attend.

We spent most of the time after that dancing at Sir Lance's party, with a couple trips over to Black Hole or other parties. Then at some point the con staff started coming around telling people they needed to stop gathering in the hallways because they were making too much noise. Then they started going around telling all the parties that they needed to shut their doors to try and keep the noise down. Needless to say, Sir Lance's party was a particular focus of attention. We were in there for the first warning, and Sir Lance turned down the music a bit and shut the door. However he complained about the fact that they were doing this at 10ish when normally the parties don't have to start quieting down until midnight, and they said they understood and weren't happy with it themselves, but the hotel had been getting noise complaints. It was brought up both during his discussion with the staff and our discussion amongst ourselves after the staff had left, how stupid it was that there was anyone staying on the party floor who wasn't already aware that it was going to be a party floor and hadn't been warned of that fact by the hotel.

A while later the con staff back and said he needed to turn the music off. Sir Lance turned it down a little and said that was as far as he was willing to go. Three things ensued from the following conversation. First, the noise complaints were actually mostly or perhaps entirely coming from a single individual who had been staying at the hotel for two weeks. The speculation was that it was some kind of airline employee. I couldn't quite hear if this person had been offered another room prior to the start of the convention and hadn't been willing to move, or if the hotel only considered moving them after they started complaining but at that point there were no empty rooms available. But in any case, now that we were stuck with this person, the con staff was concerned that if there was another noise complaint that the hotel would shut down the party floor completely, so they wanted the music turned off. Sir Lance told them that they should just tell the hotel that it was his party that was responsible, not the whole floor. At that point the con staff said that the hotel might kick him out of his room if he didn't turn the music off. Sir Lance said that was fine, if they kicked him out that night then he wouldn't have to pay for the suite, and tomorrow he would be calling the hotel's corporate office as a platinum member to file a complaint. On the one hand, pulling the whole "i'm special" thing always bothers me a bit, but to be fair Sir Lance does throw a lot of parties at a lot of cons, which involves spending a lot of money on hotel suites, and i guess it's fair that comes with some perks. And at that point i was certainly annoyed with the person making the noise complaints (at least assuming the hotel had put some effort into resolving the issue before the start of the con) and the hotel itself (i'm pretty sure they'd been informed as to the nature of the party floor, and anyways this was the second year so they should have known from experience what to prepare for.)

But in any event, after going back and forth on that point multiple times the con staff left and the party continued on at a slightly lower volume. As far as i'm aware Sir Lance didn't have to deal with any more complaints, or at least he was still there and still (relatively quietly) going at 1am when we left.

At some point during the evening, after the whole noise complaint fiasco started, we decided to go down and check out how the game room was doing, and in particular see if there was a game of Cards Against Humanity going that we could jump into. What we found when we got down there was that the karaoke had started. Yes, that would be big problem number two, they put the karaoke in the game room. One had some people at it with a bunch of RPG books out, though i couldn't tell from a brief glance if they were ignornig the books and listening to the karaoke, doing character creation or some other kind of research, or actually trying to play a session despite the karaoke.

But in any case there certainly weren't any games of Cards Against Humanity going over that noise, so we went back up to the party floor. We did some more dancing at Sir Lance's party, stopped by a couple other parties, swung by Black Hole one more time (I believe we got a second set of drinks, but i don't remember what they were) and were warned when we left that they weren't letting in any more people after that, which we were fine with. And it was about this point (shortly after 1 i think?) we decided it was time to head back to our hotel and crash.

Day 2:

We were a little slow getting going in the morning. We got up around 10ish and went down to the continental breakfast. I don't stay at hotels that often, and when i do it's usually at larger hotels that don't offer any kind of continental breakfast. And the few times i have had continental breakfast at a hotel before it's been pretty limited. So i was a bit surprised at the spread they had when i got down there, as was Avalyn i think. They had all the usual fruit, watermelon and cantaloupe and honeydew and grapes. Oh, and cottage cheese and... peaches i think it was. They also had chilled sausage and bacon and hashbrowns and omelets and possibly something else i'm forgetting, and toasters and a microwave you could use to reheat them. And bagels and pre-made french toast. And containers of yogurt and rice pudding and chocolate pudding and tapioca. And orange juice and apple juice and... papaya-guava juice i think, and something else i'm forgetting. And coffee of course. And most impressive of all, a set of waffle machines. We were quite happy with the selection and spent awhile gathering food and eating it before heading back up to our room to get ready.

We ended up heading over to the con just before noon, and decided to check out the goblin castle siege. We'd missed the 10:00-12:00 construction of the castle, but we'd seen the game room staff constructing a whole bunch of cardboard bricks the previous day and were kinda curious. Conveniently as we approached the hotel we saw the castle set up right in the front lawn and wandered over just as they were getting started.

The castle consisted of two towers with a curtain wall between them. Perched along (and in a couple of cases, in) the top of the castle were a number of plush toys. A small wooden catapult, constructed of 2x4s and a bungee cord, was set up with a bucket of tennis balls. The rules were each person got three shots. If you knocked a toy off the castle you got it. There were a couple goblins, a cthulhu, a tentacle, one or two other things, and a fairy princess. (I believe we eventually decided the fairy princess was the leader of the goblins, rather than a prisoner. Because if not we were doing the worst rescue operation ever.)

I kind of thought that just knocking the castle down was its own reward, but i figured if i was going to win something i'd rather get the tentacle than the cthulhu, since i already have a plush cthulhu. We let a couple other people go first and i observed that you really needed to pull the catapult down all the way if you wanted to get enough range and power to do any damage, and that it had a strong tendency to veer to the left.

The tentacle was actually poking through the left end of the curtain wall, and there was some other toy right next to it, so i aimed for the spot between the two of them, which of course actually meant aiming for slightly to the right of that spot. Even knowing about the curve to the left i still underestimated it and i think missed the castle completely. I corrected some for my second shot and hit the castle, but didn't do much damage. I corrected some more and then rather surprised myself by nailing the wall right next to the tentacle and knocking it out.

Avalyn was rather excited by this and thought i could use the tentacle as a costume accessory, but couldn't figure out exactly which part of my clothing i ought to be attaching it to. So what she actually said was "You got a tentacle! You can stick it in your..." and then just trailed off.

On her turn she knocked off one of the goblins. And after admiring it briefly she then decided her goblin ought to ride my tentacle, and stuck the tentacle between the goblins legs. The goblin actually held on a lot more firmly than i was expecting and we carried them around like that for awhile.

There was a little girl who was there with her mom and who really wanted to win the cthulhu (clearly she's being brought up right =) She was competing with someone else for it, but she did have the advantage of her mom getting a turn as well. It went through several rounds and the cthulhu and/or the bricks it was sitting on were grazed more than once by both her and the other person. But eventually she managed to get the catapult dialed in to the cthulhu's location, and then her mom took her turn immediately after and managed to nail it. So the little girl got her cthulhu and was quite happy.

So once all the prizes were claimed most of the people wandered off, but Avalyn and i stuck around and helped rebuild the castle and then knocked it down all over again now that we didn't have to worry about that silly "three shots" limitation, and then built it up again and watched some newcomers spend some time knocking it down again before we wandered off.

We decided to head up to the Hospitality Suite early for Alexander Adams' music set, on the theory that it would probably be croweded. It was a good theory, because there was someone outside the door preventing any new people from going in until other people had left, and three or four other people waiting in line. (Well, more of in a mob really.) Luckily we didn't have to wait too long for enough people to cycle out for us to get in again.

So a big part of the reason why it was so crowded was that Tricky Pixie was just wrapping up their set. And this is the part where i feel dumb. The last i'd updated myself on what Alexander Adams was doing he was part of Uffington Horse. I hadn't realized that he's now a part of Tricky Pixie. I actually looked at some Tricky Pixie CDs at BayCon but didn't study the names on the back so i didn't pick it up, and obviously i'd just missed a chance to see them perform. Blah =P

But on the plus side we were at least there early for Alexander Adams' set. The couches and chairs were all full, but we managed to grab a spot by the table so we could lean against it. More people kept showing up as the crowd cycled through (i guess there were some people there for the Tricky Pixie set who were fans of SJ Tucker or Betsy Tinney but not particularly of Alaxander Adams) and pretty soon the only free floor space was the narrow twisty path running from the front of the room to the back between all the people sitting on the floor, which was about the point they stopped letting more people in. If a fire had actually broken out we may or may not have all died in it.

The set itself was great of course. And partway through the other members of Tricky Pixie got up and joined him, so it was really half of an Alexander Adams set and half of a Tricky Pixie set, but that was fine with me.

When that was done we went to a panel on Magic Systems, which was interesting but not quite what i expected. We left a little early from that so we could go get in line for the Labyrinth showing with the Q&A with Wendy Froud, Brian Froud, and Toby Froud beforehand.

For those not up on their Labyrinth trivia, Wendy Froud was the puppeteer who worked on Labyrinth, and also Dark Crystal and Empire Strikes back, presumably among other things, and Brian Froud is an artist and costume designer who worked on Labyrinth, and also Dark Crystal, presumably among other things. After a couple years of pre-production, when they were ready to start filimg they of course needed someone for the part of the baby, and Wendy and Brian just happened to have a one year old son at the time...

The two interesting bits of trivia that i remembered: The first time David Bowie picked up Toby Froud, he got peed on. Which is an interesting claim to fame (aside from the whole starring in a movie as a baby bit of course.) And when Jim Henson originally proposed the movie to the Frouds, he was imagining something based off of Indian mythology with bright colored gods glying all over the place. So in other words he was kind of imagining a Bollywood film. Except the Frouds pretty much said "we don't know anything about Indian mythology. We know goblins. How about goblins?" And Jim Henson went with it.

So we watched the movie, and when that was done we decided to grab some dinner there rather than heading back towards El Torito or the Elephant Bar. The two options we knew of were the "Knuckles" sports bar or the "Sidewinder" cafe. (Except it wasn't actually called the Sidewinder, but something else with an S and a W.) We decided to go with the cafe, because it seemed a bit more open and around people then we imagined the sports bar would be. And there were people having dinner there, but there was no one at the front desk seating people, so eventually we worked up the courage to go poke at one of the two waiters running around and they said we should just grab a table, so we did. It turns out the menu for the Sidewinder cafe is a bit more limited than the one for the sports bar, or at least it was missing a couple of the items we'd read on the other menu the day before while trying to decide what to do for dinner, but at least the stuff we did order was good. And being right out in the middle of the atrium it was rather chilly. Avalyn was definitely feeling cold, and even i admited that it felt a lot chillier than i expected for indoors.

When we were done eating we went to a panel on "Spintronics", which is electronics that work based on the spin state of the electrons. Several parts of the lecture were definitely over my head, but i did find it interesting, especially because i just recently finished rereading Michael Flynn's Firestar series, in which spin transistors played a relatively prominent role, making it yet another way in which the 12-17 years old books still seem like they're set in the immediate future.

After that we headed back to the hotel and changed for the Goblin ball.

By the time we got back it was 15-30 minutes after the ball had started. Almost immediately upon getting inside i noticed a person in a really awesome Jack Skellington costume in the corner. After pointing them out to Avalyn we went over to the bar to get drinks. Well, she got a drink. I tried to get a Rockstar, but they were out. I think it was about the point that we got our drinks that Unwoman got up on stage to do a performance, so we stood back against the wall and watched.

At some point, though i don't remember if it was during that performance or before or after, we noticed a little kid on the side of the dance floor (i'm not good at judging ages, but was entirely mobile, but didn't demonstrate any kind of verbalization that we saw.) There was a little girl (his sister? a friend?) with him who was holding his hand and trying to hold him back from running onto the dance floor while he was bawling his eyes out. After a couple seconds of that the girl finally gave up and let him drag her onto the dance floor, and as soon as they were on the floor he went from a crying fit to beaming and running around and bouncing. Which needless to say presented a bit of an obstacle for the people who were trying to actually dance on the dance floor.

Shortly after that we saw the Jack Skellington standing next to the dance floor, when suddenly the kid comes bouncing off the dance floor and flings himself around the leg of Jack and hugged it excitedly before running off onto the dance floor again. It seemed likely to us that the Jack Skellington was rather surprised by the whole encounter and we thought it was pretty amusing. I guess we weren't looking that way at the right time, but apparently the same maneuver happened a couple more times.

Then after a bit the Jack Skellington wandered over to us and said hi, and it took me a couple seconds of being rather confused before i realized it was madmanatw under the mask :) It was getting a little uncomfortable under there, not to mention being a tad bit difficult to talk through, so he pushed the mask back on his head while he chatted with us for a bit about how the con was going and such.

Then all of the sudden the little kid runs up again but stops stock still about six feet away when he sees "Jack" without Jack's face, and he gets this look of horror on his face and appears about to start bawling again. Madmanatw says something about "oh no, i feel bad now" and pulls the mask down again and starts posing like Jack and the kid almost instantly recovers and starts smiling again.

The kid then does the running away and coming back and hugging routine a couple times before his dad shows up and apologized and explained that Nightmare Before Christmas is his son's favorite movie and thanks madmanatw for putting up with it. And then the kid decides that Jack needs to see his fake cellphone and spends quite awhile showing it to him.

At some point we got distracted from the kid's antics by the performances. I forget what order everything else happened in, but there were some "fire" poi performers (since we were inside they were using glowstick things and scarves instead of actual fire) and someone doing the scarf/ribbon climbing/trapeze thing, and Tricksy Pixie put on a wonderful performance (among other things they did Heather Alexander's "Mushroom Song", which made me happy,) and a guy doing acrobatics in a giant ring and another ribbon trapeze performance. I think that was most of it?

Once the live performances were over we decided to see what else was going off, so we said bye to madmanatw and wandered off. We went by the game room and were happy to find that there was karaoke. We were not so happy to find that despite the fact that the karaoke had gone on until at least 1am, the game room was closing at midnight that night, ie in three minutes =P What kind of a con shuts down the game room at midnight?

So we went up to the party floor and glanced in a few doors on our way to the Black Hole, where we got some drinks and sat around for a bit. I decided to get an Honorable Death this time, after i noticed that it had Red Bull in it and i was feeling a little tired. Normally they ask you what you've done to deserve an Honorable Death when you order one, but they were distracted and forgot with me. They did remember when i decided to get a second one, and i responded "well i survived the first Honorable Death", which they decided was good enough.

A little after 1 am we decided to go back to the Goblin Ball and discovered that there had been a mass exodus. There were maybe a dozen people in the room by that point, and only about a half dozen on the dance floor. SO we actually took the opportunity to claim a corner of the dance floor for ourselves, and oddly more people arrived shortly after that and population went up a little. I guess we showed up right at the nadir of the evening.

After almost an hour of dancing the DJ announced that it was time to shut down. We tried to convince him that he should keep going since it was only 1am and the dance was supposed to go until 2, but he wasn't buying our DST shenanigans.

So we walked back to the hotel and crashed pretty shortly thereafter.

Day 3:

We got up at 8:30ish and went down to the continental breakfast, then turned around and went back to our room when we saw how crowded it was. We spent awhile getting ready and doing some preliminary packing before heading back down to breakfast around 10, at which point there were actually tables available. I decided to try the waffles this time, and made one each for Avalyn and i. After eating we went back upstairs, finished packing, checked out, left our bags with the receptionist, and walked to the con.

We got there just before 11 and decided to go to the "Saint Michaels Weapons lecture" or some such. We were actually the first people in the room and wondered if we were in the wrong place, but a few minutes later the panel moderators and a couple other attendees started showing up.

The lecture part was all about how exactly weapons injure or kill you, and the rare occasions when they can very surprisingly not kill you. The person doing the presentation, along with being a renaissance weapons expert, also happens to be a physician, so in addition to knowing exactly what she was talking about she also had some moderately gorey pictures show off.

When the panel was over the panel moderators moved out to the lawn to set up for the live weapons demonstration. However we decided that we wanted to go by the dealers' hall first, since we hadn't been in there since the start of the first day. However along the way we got distracted by the end of the Storytellers panel, the other panel we'd considered going to. It turns out that the panel included Wendy and Richard Pini, along with Alexander Adams and a couple other people. The weapons lecture was definitely interesting, but if the pocket program had actually mentioned who was in each panel i probably would have voted for the Storytellers panel instead. We got to hear the last bit of discussion, and then the Q&A session. Including the person who, after the general advisory that we should restrict ourselves to brief and specific questions, decided to ramble on with some story about her work at a local school where she reads stories to children and blah blah blah until the moderator cut her off.

So when that wrapped up we went to the dealers' hall, where we ran into madmanatw again and Avalyn bought a small souvenir for her sister before we headed out to see a little bit of the weapon demonstration before we had to head back to the hotel. We got to watch maybe 15-20 minutes of people whacking each other with swords before we had to run off to catch our shuttle to the airport.
Tags: cons, conventions, recaps

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