lemur, Sanford

Portland man spends day surrounded by Portland

So I had nothing much to do this Friday and, in retrospect, spent it in the most stereotypically Portland manner I could without a visit to Voodoo Doughnuts. Around noon I listened to Science Friday on NPR. (There are radio stations other than NPR or KBOO, right?) Then, after one of my housemates ranted about environmental issues, I escaped the house and went to the Bagdad Theater to catch the latest X-Men movie in matinee. Afterward I grabbed a snack at the aggressively decorative and alternative Roxy downtown, to tide me over through a presentation at Powell's about queer and counterculture themes in superhero comics - this being Portland, the room was full of nerds who actually wanted to chat about that for two hours.

My whole day has been a sequence of landmarks and Portlandia skits.
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GearCon, Sunday

One of the nice things about Sunday is free street parking. Side note: when orgainizing a convention, find out what the venue charges for parking; attendees will ask about this.

The dealers room sold me a Sam Browne belt for what I admit is a reasonable price for handmade leather gear designed to last many years. Since I've felt the lack of a baldric or similar item for years I couldn't really resist when I had both opportunity and money; this also lets me dress up in a more appropriate style - the local aesthetic is suited to a poofy hemp shirt and gratuitous leather strap.

Incidentally, being hit on by a seventy year old woman in a corset and bustle is...unexpected? Flattering, certainly. Yet I feel awkward.

Having well grounded panelists is a fine thing. Generally. When doing a tesla coil demonstration...better safe than sorry.

Costuming continues to be awesome. I did a double take when I saw Storm, Ororo Munroe, in the hotel bar.

The Westercon panel was a thing I'd been waiting for and it went very nicely with good turnout. (The room had been used for combat demos so the table was across a large open space from the audience. We rearranged before starting.) Ruth Sachter and Patty Wells were our visiting experts on Westercon, and Ruth had more old Westercon swag where it could be found than I did. People liked the idea that Gearcon 2016 would still have an art show, a dealers room, and the usual things they're used to. The person asking about role playing games had no idea what GameStorm brings to a convention and is in for a wonderful surprise.

Afterward the combat demo fellows lingered and talked; we may get some really cool physical activities at Westercon 69.

A final protip for convention runners: Onions & Orchids, or whatever you call your event's feedback event, should actually occur when and where it's listed in the program. Overachievers might create that program more than three days before the convention.

Quotes without context:
"Furries against fur?"
"I'll just awkward away now."
"Steampunks are very serious." "Really?"
"Steampunk does not have to be brown."
"We just make it up." "You can do that?"
"One of the kittens from the box!"
"All hail our overlord square."
"Who are you?" "We don't need to get into that."
"Teeth are unnecessary. I have a Leatherman."
"Someone should carry something in their pouches." "Yeah, we're not Rob Liefeld here."
"Hello. I'll be right back." [From the con chair!]
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GearCon, Saturday

I arrived at the hotel just barely in time for the early panel I wanted to attend but was disappointed in its presentation and after a while pretended to get a text and ducked out early. Only hours later did I realize that the reason the presenter seemed to be dithering around and not getting to the point wasn't just that she was badly focused but because I had gone to the wrong room and wasn't at the right panel at all.

Naturally I made up for this by missing the next panel altogether.

On the subject of panels, it seemed wise to show up for a friend's presentation even if the topic was questionable, as she'd lost the other panelist at the last minute and was suddenly flying solo; also, at starting time I was half the audience. It got better later.

The pre-Enigma encryption panel was a lot of fun, and I say this as a guy nerdy enough to find manual encryption techiques interesting.

Outside panels the people are friendly and the dealers room still interesting. I'm likely to spend too much money at a certain one...eventually. I eventually discovered the art show. (Note for smofs: you should mention to others that there is an art show.) Not all of the art is of higher quality than can be found on hall costumes, just larger and harder to carry around all day.

Once again I spent valuable convention time in the swimming pool.

Dressing afterward I discovered that pulling everything plausibly steampunk-genre-looking out of my closet and wearing it at one go leaves me looking surprisingly respectable. I'd blend in with the businessmen downtown if I weren't in a kilt. More costume pieces seem in order.

Many people are interested in learning about Westercon, which is great. Pretty much every dealer seems to want assurance that Westercon will accomodate GearCon dealers; I'm confident that will happen but a little embarrased that we don't yet actually have a dealers liason on the committee. I've gotten to explain several times that we will almost certainly have them out in the exibit hall across the driveway, as Orycon does, with much more space than GearCon provides. Folks seem reassured when I anticipate "as much GearCon as we have this year plus maybe a thousand science fiction fans." Let's hope I'm right.

As a side note, there are an awful lot of dogs in the hotel. Aside from the one in a really cool steampunk costume, their humans don't seem to be here for GearCon. Is there a canine event nearby?

I'd heard earlier, from someone, that we were holding a Westercon room party; after as many conventions I've attended in this hotel I have no excuse for not realizing beforehand that the room number given does not not actually exist. *facepalm*

I have seen a girl in a pink wig who I remember from previous GearCons. She was around a lot the last time I helped out in the con suite; it was like sharing a hotel with Fluttershy, except this girl isn't as loud or assertive...

Guy Letourneu showed videos late in the evening, as is his habit, and I was pleased to see that GearCon attendees were interested in seeing a 1950s era film about the telegraph system. It was impressive technology in its day and is no less cool just because the state of the art has moved on.

Quotations out of context:
"You can't push me when I'm not wearing my goggles!"
"We have a velociraptor." "...We DO have a velociraptor."
"It's hard to crack butt -- um..."
"I like knees."
"You just spotted me by my plaid!"
"How much of him is pretzels?"
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GearCon, Friday

Arrived at the hotel to find that plenty of people were there ahead of me. Indeed i didnt even get inside before spotting the first gear - encumbered top hat.

The line at registration was pretty long but I discovered when the call went out for anyone with cash that I, at the far end of the line, was the only one who actually shown up with folding money . .. So I got a quick promotion to the Get Helped Right Now person who got me my membership very quickly. (She also had the most fascinating bolt and cotter pin tattoos on her shoulders; she said they made her very popular at hardware stores and I believed her. No surprise , here, that she knew about Benjamin Franklin fireplace - but I was not expecting the suggestion that I cosplay him! I'll have to think about that one.) The badges are straightforward and seem to be involved with some ARG that I'm not yet informed about. The program is lovely but too large to go into a pocket without folding.

Penguin arrived ahead of me and set up shop in the con suite. I've also seem both Letourneaus. I expect to see more soon.

Most of the dealer's room is irrelevant to me but I've spotted a few tempting items which I should resist. The pool is also very tempting in this weather and I have no intention of resisting all weekend.

A discussion of post-apocalyptic steampunk technology didn't turn nearly as nerdy as it could have.

It did lead me to think of a technology I hadn't seen at any dealer's table so when it was done I went off to investigate. A survey of the options revealed that nobody carried even a single sliderule! Frankly this mystifies me; there's a wide selection of nonfunctional props and random things with pointless gears glued to them. People seeking functional merchandise can find pouches, lenses, compasses, knives, holsters, belts, more pouches... (There are people here wearing enough pouches to satisfy Rob Leifeld.) Yet fans playing engineers or mad scientists cannot find one of the most common tools of actual engineers and scientists of the period. It seems odd - and it can't reasonably be chalked up to unavailability, a quick check of ebay shows plenty available at reasonable prices. Many even come with nifty belt sheaths. The best guess we've come up with so far is that steampunk artists don't draw sliderules, leading to a lack of interest. It's also speculated that younger fans don't know what they are; I think that may be pessemistic given the retro-tech focus found here but so far I haven't asked enough people young enough to never know sliderules as contemporary objects.

The hotel pool is a novelty to those of us used to this hotel for Orycon in November, but it's open in the summer and I took the opportunity to use it. Had i planned ahead a bit better my clothes bag (up in hospitality) would have been left in the main room rather than in a side room that got closed off when someone decided to take a shower.

The Westercon table turns out to be a counter right next to registration. It is conveniently located, is excellently easy to see in a high traffic area, and gives two people places to sit. It's also about four feet high, meaning that anyone who sits down is essentially invisible to the outer world. We'll see how this works out over the weekend...

Friday night seems to be fairly quiet after 9pm or so outside the central event all. We'll see if Saturday brings more small late events.

PS: Some parts of this were written on a tablet with rampaging autocorrect; please forgive any typos.

Quotations out of context:
"Eat five meatballs."
"Are you a shark?"
"I'm pronouncing my verbs."
"Remember, remember...something in November..."
"I think I have too much shoulder for this."
"It's a doorknob!"
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GearCon (almost)

Thursday, 2 July 2015
My GearCon tale begins the day before...and involves very little GearCon.

The week before I found that my car battery was truly dead, rather than just "mostly dead," by hooking it up to a recharging unit and having no electrons actually deposited into the lead brick. Hm. So I removed the old one, acquired a new one, and discovered that it was trickier than I'd anticipated to have someone nearby to spot me in case I suddenly screamed, convulsed, or caught fire. Several days of trying to get someone else to help with a few minutes of standing ended Thursday morning, when I cornered Paul in between more interesting tasks; actually hooking up the battery took about 60 seconds and gave me no trouble.

Behold, the car started! (Memo: cars work better with electricity.)

Now that the vehicle was physically operational again I swung into a flurry of errands during the afternoon - I will keep a straight face while telling people this is entirely normal for me rather than a pleasing exception - and treated myself that evening by driving out for a burger.

At the hotel there were indeed GearCon people setting up, just not very many. Several dealers were already getting their tables ready. There didn't seem to be much else to prepare early Thursday evening.

I did find a responsible looking person to ask two questions; I learned that registration was scheduled to open at 1pm and that nobody there that evening was sure how much ordinary attendees would pay for parking. Okay.

Penguin is handling their con suite again this year but she was busy with other things and will be in Friday morning.

More when I actually have something to report.
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Hugo reading

I have now finished reading the non-Puppy finalists for Best Novel: Ancillary Sword, The Three Body Problem, and The Goblin Emperor (listed in the order I read them). I'm not going into detail of my reactions here and now but it struck me as interesting that two of the three make use of pronoun customs different from English.

Characters in the Ancillary novels use a language without gendered pronouns and the text uses "she" for everyone, to the discomfort of the Sad Puppies.

The language of The Goblin Emperor takes the other option and has more pronouns than English, and an emperial court takes much notice of formal speach. The author uses some interesting methods to present this reasonably unobtrusively.

Coincidence, I'm sure, but it amuses me to imagine this as a trend in science fiction (or a new thing for Puppies to be offended by). I'm not sure what I could make of an experimental pronoun fad but it's amusing to imagine.
lemur, Sanford

Conventional archaeology

When I showed up for the first day of GameStorm I discovered that the prereg desk didn't have a badge waiting for me. This wasn't what I was hoping or expecting to hear; granted it's been a year since the last one but I was still about 90% sure I'd invested in a membership on Sunday afternoon. I didn't have enough cash for an at-the-door membership in my wallet right that instant but it left me considering my options with my wallet in hand, which led to me picking through the scrap paper accumulated there, and my faint hope was realized. I still had my receipt! Not only had I gotten a membership last year but I still had the proof on me! (Along with several other small and worn receipts.) I called this to the attention of the registration staff and correcting the problem went amazingly quickly and smoothly after that.

The moral appears to be to not clean out your wallet...
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What If?

Recently I got into a discussion and it prompted this essay which I've copied over from Facebook. A hyperlink for the APF has been added and a name removed to obscure the identify of a Fox News watcher. I hope I've hit a correct combination of right-wing buzzwords and tropes.

[NAME REDACTED], the other discussion about minimum wage went strange but you got me thinking. Your criteria to make Americans wealthier but not increase wages limits the options, but theorists have tossed out a lot of wild ideas over the years and there are some that match what you asked for.

Proposals vary but here's how one might work: we give people money. It sounds stupidly simple but follow along. We already can get dividends by owning stock in companies, why not by being part of a country? A citizenship dividend would go out to every American citizen, period – you, me, Bill Gates, everyone. Collapse )
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I've changed my mind

Last week I got into a conversation about last year's minimum wage increase in Seatac Washington. As some of you may know, this has annoyed and even outraged some people who object to people who work for a living getting paid good money for their efforts.

I passed along this Addicting Info article that, in an admittedly snarky way, chronicles the total failure of Seatac to implode into a Mad Max style wasteland of poverty and exotic fetish gear. Naturally I got an excited response telling me that raising the minimum wage would put many companies out of business and that Seatac's economy really was failing quickly because of the extra expense. (This does not seem to be the case on my planet.) So far I haven't been convinced by any of the vigorous allegations that raising the minimum wage can't work, though I've been told that things that don't or can't work include raising the minimum wage, socialism, Keynesian economics, democracy[1], Marxism (okay, no argument there), and unions.

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