Category: Conjunction Junction

or, Learning Why Your Hearing Doesn’t Matter When Nobuo Uematsu is Rocking Out Ten Feet From Your Face.

So, Lady Sephi messaged me out of the blue one day and asked if I was going to MAGFest in January. I had no idea what this MAGFest thing was, so I went and looked, and noticed two things of note:

  1. MAGFest is a four-day convention that features 24-hour board- and video-gaming rooms.
  2. Nobuo Uematsu was slated to be the guest of honor, along with his new band, the Earthbound Papas.

I was sold in a heartbeat; I called the hotel up a week later to make my reservation.

I’ll be honest; I’d never even heard of this convention, so I was completely floored when I first got there. First, because I’d never been to the Gaylord National Convention Center before, and second, because MAGFest is just that awesome.

Thursday, we booked it for MAGFest in the afternoon, and were a little late getting there, so Sephi ended up missing one of the panels she wanted to be at ( :( sorry, Sephi! ). We checked into the hotel, and then checked into the con, and went exploring a bit, being in a new hotel and all, with many things to see.

Of first, and most important, note: MAGFest features a 24-hour arcade. 100+ arcade machines of all different types, all set for free play. I felt like a little kid in a candy story.

Of second, and only slightly less important, note: MAGFest features music pretty much all day, every day, lasting well into the night. In the mornings, the space was basically open jamspace; in the evenings, it was scheduled concerts which completely rocked. It was awesome.

Thursday, I didn’t do much of anything, really; I hung out in the arcade and explored the convention’s offerings. I attended the panel on today’s video games sucking, which was pretty awesome, but then it was back to the arcade.

Friday, I hit the 1130 panel for OCRemix, a site I’m very fond of, and had a ball there. The OCRemix guys are all pretty awesome dudes, and it was a hugely informative panel. Following that, I hit the Orchestral Game Music & Society panel, where I was introduced to the Gamer Symphony Orchestra from the University of Maryland, and they were all pretty awesome, too. I promptly downloaded all of their music from their website (for, free, y’all!), because they are just that awesome. The recordings aren’t spectacular; there’s a bit of sonic bending in the environment that they perform in, but they sound pretty awesome in person. I was, unfortunately, disappointed with the Too Ugly For YouTube: Video Game Radio panel; it was basically an ego-stroking session for two online radio stations, and wasn’t very informative or interesting. Ah, well. Worse things could happen.

Friday night featured a trip back to OCRemix land; they basically had a party starting at midnight, and it was an absolute blast! There was a huge discussion about video game music, remixing, pushing the new albums, and generally having a great time. Prizes happened to the crowd, the panelists cracked us all up, and I really, really want to see them again next year. I had an absolute ball; thank you, everyone from OCRemix, for hanging out with us and letting us all have such a great time with you.

Saturday morning, I actually deigned to be awake for an 0930 panel. For the first time, I was exposed to Loading Ready Run–in person, no less!–as I got the live commentary from selected episodes of LRR. Totally worth being up at that ungodly hour of the morning, and besides, I made a new friend who had come all the way from Nova Scotia just to be at MAGFest. Later that day, I hit up the panel from the Smithsonian Museum, of all places, and learned about The Art of Video Games, an exhibit that opens on the 16th of March at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. The curator for the exhibit is, besides being pretty cute, also a huge video games fan, so when her director asked her to do something with video games, she jumped on it. The end result of her working with Chris Melissinos is looking to be a fantastic event, and I’ll be there on opening day, particularly for the keynote speech that night from Nolan Bushnell.

Saturday night, Sephi and I piled into the main ballroom at 1900 just to get good seats for the whole reason we were there in the first place: the Earthbound Papas were on at 1030! We survived the mess through Bit Brigade, who basically played a live backing track to a complete run through of MegaMan, The OneUps, back for their tenth-year anniversary mellow funk-out (since their first live show was at MAGFest I) to showcase a cover of Dancing Mad that they’d prepared before they even learned that Uematsu would be at the con, and Year 200X, a thrash-metal band who actually did a pretty decent cover of Battery. Then…the Earthbound Papas went on stage. Let me explain…no, there is too much. Let me sum up: AWESOME. Their music is fantastic. They’re all enormously talented musicians, and in some ways I’m really happy they’re not working with SquareEnix anymore, because now they’re not restricted in what they can play. We got their Introduction, which is a fabulous piece, and then a bunch of music from Uematsu’s (and his compatriots’) years of developing music for Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Bahamut’s Lagoon, and more. It was so fantastic, I didn’t care that I couldn’t hear much of anything for the rest of the weekend. If you have the time and money, take a moment and invest in a copy of Octave Theory (their first album); it’s worth every penny.

Sunday was pretty quiet; we hit the LRR Q&A panel and got to have some more laughs with Graham and Paul, and then we headed out ’cause we were just too exhausted to carry on. Sephi headed back home shortly after we returned to Herndon, and I promptly collapsed in bed. It was an exhausting weekend, and I’d had so much fun I just didn’t have the energy to keep awake much longer.

I am definitely going back next January.

or, I Worked at an Anime Convention and Didn’t Lose My Mind to Nyan-cat.

I did something very, very silly. I admit this. Unfortunately, it’s something I’m prone to doing: I volunteered to help out at a convention.

While I was at TCEP 18, I ended up talking to Imp and HotMamaB and YarnMouse, among other people, and eventually the topic of staffing conventions came up. (This topic always comes up at TCEP, being a relaxicon run for people who staff other conventions to have fun and relax at for a change.) Imp asked me if I wanted to help staff Guest Relations at Katsucon in February. I very quickly said no, because I’m foolish, but not that foolish. Unfortunately, then HotMamaB turned and fluttered her baby blues at me, and asked if wanted to be Medical’s gofer. I said no, but then Buls-i pointed out that the World Cosplay Summit’s US preliminary round would be hosted at Katsucon, so I promptly folded and offered up my soul services to Medical and signed on as their gofer. Somewhere along the way, I also found myself volunteering for AnimeUSA, since I figured, in for a penny, in for a pound. Why not go for the whole damned collection, if I was already volunteering for the biggest anime con in the area?

Either way, I ended up arriving at the hotel on Friday a bit after noon; the stupid real-life job thing interfered in my schedule, so I was late arriving on site. I was quickly run through staff reg and issued my badge and radio, then I hopped down to Medical and started my first shift.

Unlike Security, with their fixed, mostly-immutable shifts, Medical operates in a weird way, when it comes to schedules, but it generally works out: if you’re awake, and have your radio on, you’re on duty. If you’re not near your radio (or it’s turned off), your cell phone is a point of contact if they need backup. If you’re asleep, they likely won’t bother you unless it’s super-critical, but by then the hotel’s probably just exploded, anyway. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured I’d be at the Medical desk the whole time I was awake; I was mostly correct in my assumption, but I did end up violating the ‘6’ part of the 6/2/1 rule pretty badly.

Friday was pretty mild, with one exception: we ended up responding on a code yellow at 0330, so I was up for a while. Other than that, the only thing of note was that I was introduced to all the Medical personnel, most of whom I actually didn’t know (what a change from previous convention staffing experience!). I hit the sack at around 0500, then turned around and was back on duty (after getting out of bed, eating, and showering) at 1100.

Saturday was much the same until evening came, and then the line-up for Matenrou Opera started. Medical got drafted to do line-wrangling and water bearing; the crowd was fairly big, and they were sweating in the lobby of the ballroom. The concert itself, though, went off without a hitch; we were very glad for this. Some time during the rave following the concert, though, there was a bit of miscommunication: someone called over the radio: “There’s a wedding going on in the rave!” This was interpreted as “Code Red in the rave!”, which Security responded to…and then a call came out sounding like “Code Blue in the rave!”, at which point Medical fluttered like an angry hornet’s nest and promptly crashed the party. Apparently, it went over like clockwork; I was at the desk, ready with the pen to keep the records. Medical cleared the mistaken call from the rave very quickly, and everything went back to normal. Later that night, though, we had another Code Yellow in the hotel area at 0500 (right as we were all getting ready to head for bed) that kept us up until 0700. I hit the sack a few minutes shy of 0730 on Sunday (sadly, the sun had started coming up, so it really did count as Sunday, too), and then was back on duty again by 1130.

Sunday was pretty quiet; everything ended up going very smoothly. I checked out of the hotel room and packed everything out to the truck before I turned my radio on. Angel got her stuff together and hopped off to browse through a few more things before her mother came to get her for dinner. All in all, things went by without any trouble, and then we broke the con and headed out for dinner. Medical had ourselves a fabulous post-con celebration at the Chipotle up the street, and then I piled Frank into the truck and hauled him up to Union Station so he could catch his train home.

One thing of major note: congratulations to Kit and Em! It’s a fabulous thing that’s happening for a pair of fabulous people; I wish you both all the best going forward.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Anime USA; we’re in a new hotel in 2012 (the same hotel ShmooCon is at!), so it’ll be all-new fun adventures in figuring out how to get from the desk to the medics when they call for the O2 bag. See y’all there!

or, Feeling Your Headache Melting Away is the Best Feeling in the World.

Went to TCEP 18 this year. Had a blast. I’ll be honest; the whole convention was something of a blur for me, especially now, two weeks after the fact. There were a few things that stood out, though, and some of them were freaking hilarious, so I’ll share.

Friday was Hell On Earth for me. At least, it was, until about 11:00, at which point I handed off the documents I needed to turn in, and left the office. I didn’t know for sure if I was going to be well enough to attend the convention, but when I got home, I realized that the relaxing sensation I was feeling on my commute was my stress headache dissipating. I packed my bags, and off I went to the con.

I left right at the beginning of rush hour; this was a mistake. Fortunately, I made it through rush hour to Laurel with a minimum of fuss. The trip took about 70 minutes longer than it should have, but I arrived in one piece (as did the Little Red Truck), and promptly set about unloading the con suite, which showed up about five minutes behind me. After that was done, I set out to eat dinner with the other carnivores; normally, I head out on the bait run, but I really needed mass quantities of red meat. I ordered a ribeye, bloody rare. What I got was a piece of shoe leather, introduced to fire, so I sent it back. The second plate came out with a perfect steak, and I promptly set about enjoying it. After that, I recall some games happening, but I can’t for the life of me remember which ones…

Saturday came, and with it came more gaming and socializing. Not that I remember much of what, at this point, other than “fun”.

Sunday was somewhat more memorable. There was a LARP scheduled: Miskatonic Class Reunion. A good time was had by all. Byron, who was in charge of the game, had previously asked me if I wanted to play or run, and I asked him to put me where I was most needed. I got handed a shill. My entire purpose in the game was to stand up in front of everyone, tell them how awesome the punch was, and they really ought to try it, start to make a speech… and then keel over dead. I felt my death scene was particularly well done. Poor HotMamaB, though, later cussed me out for it. Apparently, her train of thought at the start of the game was similar to this:

“What the heck!? Since when does Tony wear a suit? Great! I actually get to play in a game with Tony! Wait, he’s dead. Dammit!”

…or something like that, anyway. What I particularly remember was the cross look on her face when she realized that, no, I was Really Most Sincerely Dead.

While everyone else was playing, I ended up running out for lunch with Joan, and we found this really neat little pan-Asian joint about five miles down the road, and it was fabulous. As in, I really enjoyed what I ate, and the prices weren’t even wince-worthy. After I got back, I promptly got dragged in as a GMs handyman, to handle props and stuff that Byron didn’t have enough hands to deal with. It was fun, running around and sticking little red stars on people who had no clue why they were getting them…

More gaming happened after that, and HotMamaB’s Sprog #2 pulled out a really classy move in Apples to Apples. When the adjective was “comedic”, Sprog  #2–who is seven–pulled out “my first time”. Byron promptly fell out of his chair, and came to report this move to HotMamaB, who started imitating a tomato. I have the coolest friends, with the coolest sprogs, and they provide endless entertainment. I also ended up failing to reign in my helium hand; more on that will probably come in a later post.

Monday morning was kind of a drag; I got to hang out with everyone, but I kept getting the usual end-of-con feeling of not wanting it to end. We gamed, we laughed, we partied, we had an excellent time. Hopefully, I’ll see everyone again next year, and perhaps even some new faces.

or, How to Lower Your Blood Pressure in the Presence of 400 of Your Closest Friends.

This past weekend, we hit up the Darkover Grand Council Meeting in Timonium, MD. The convention lasts three days, and we had an absolute blast this year (distinctly unlike the last time we were there). We saw a bunch of people, and did a bunch of things, and generally had a good time.

I caught up with a few people who I only ever see at Darkover, though I missed a few people who I normally see at Darkover and didn’t, I met a few new people who I look forward to seeing again next year, and I had a grand time having fun with people I see pretty regularly, too.

We rolled in kind of late Friday evening, around 20:00 hours, and ran through registration and hotel check in. Afterward, I was looking around for Boots to say “hi” (hi, Boots!), but didn’t actually run across him. We ended up going to the Nautilus Diner around the corner from the con so Angel could get some sustenance (and thus would stop gnawing on my arm like it was a rare roast) around 20:30, and thus didn’t get back to the hotel until shortly after 21:00.

I caught up with Nina and Dimir, who I very, very rarely see since they moved to points west of the Mississippi, in the atrium after we got back. Naturally, I had just missed Boots, and spent an hour or so chatting with Nina, Dimir and Pedro while my phone was happily glowing and telling me that I had a new message which I had missed (technology for the win!). I passed on the knowledge that my firm is beginning some pretty heavy inroads into Social Network Analysis to Dimir, who apparently is looking to get into that field, and promised to pass along my business card, too, so he could forward me his resume (after he chops it down from the bajillion-page academic CV).

After Pedro started nodding off in his chair, we determined that it was time to go to bed, so I did. I crawled into bed relatively early that night, which turned out to be a Good Thing (TM), as I would need the rest the next day.

Saturday, I levered myself out of bed in time to sneak into the 10:00 Newbies to Steampunk roundtable, 15 minutes late. I had a ball in that session, met a few people, noted down a few links, and learned a few tips about dressing the part – these will come in handy when I host my reveal party for the finished Steampunk Desktop project. After this brilliant session, I found myself without a plan for the day, so I wandered around and chatted with people for a bit, then settled in to play games.

I ended up teaching Thunderstone to a couple of people, but the mix of card in that game was pretty bad, and ended up causing the game to drag on nigh-interminably. Fortunately, Ben was kind enough to put up with it until the end… and then had the gall to beat me by two points. We also played a round of Dixit with the Penguin before we headed off for dinner with Blaise and Nostas’ia.

Dinner on Saturday was the traditional run to the Happy Good Indian Place nearby, where they have good food at reasonable prices, even if their service can be a bit slow. We took home leftovers from that, though we never did get the mini fridge we asked for from the hotel…

After dinner, I was hanging out in the room while Angel was hanging out outside the Clams concert. we caught up some more with the Penguin, and played a round of Corsairs before the Hallelujah Chorus which is traditionally sung in the atrium (actually, traditionally around the now-no-longer-extent indoor pool) at midnight. After the Hallelujah Chorus, we got involved in the Midnight Werewolf games in the game room, and stayed up Way Too Late playing Werewolf (the fun game, not the boring World of Darkness game). It was awesome – three hours of Werewolf later, I was punchy as hell, ready to fall over, but totally psyched up.

Sunday morning, I was planning on attending Pedro and Devora’s panels on astronomy and women in the Victorian period, but I slept through Pedro’s, and most of Devora’s, so I gave it up as a lost cause and went to play games instead. That was fun – Black Paladin was behaving himself for a change (probably because J was there), so I actually had a chance to enjoy the game of Ascension I got roped into with BP, Blaise and Steve B. I’m not sure yet if I want to buy the game, but it was fun. After the panel Angel was attending finished, she stopped in and we all got caught up in a game of Are you the Traitor? with a bunch of the Werewolf people, which was fun, but we had to clear out of the game room before we could finish it.

I finally caught up with Boots (and his wife, S.) after we left the game room for the day, and ended up going to lunch with Boots, S., and Ellen, who I’d spotted moving around the convention a number of times but had yet to catch up with and say hi. We had a fine time in the hotel restaurant, and Boots picked up the tab before I could even think about asking about my portion of the check, so I gave him a hairy eyeball and thanked him. We chatted for quite a while in the restaurant before we left, and then skipped back out to the atrium.

I caught up with Dimir long enough to hand off my business card to him before he disappeared for the next long while, and then got caught up in chatting with Blaise and Nostas’ia and Lee about harsh environments and the stupid shit people do in them, like flying planes without filing flight plans, and then crashing in Denali National Park. We packed Pedro and Devora and Lee out of their hotel room, and then toddled off to dinner – we hit up the nearby Applebee’s, which was decent enough for post-con dinner, and then we broke for home.

As usually happens, neither of us managed to get in all the gaming we wanted, but nevertheless, we pulled off a pretty impressive amount, especially considering we were both knee-deep in LARP Sunday afternoon (wherein I channeled an evil clown/alien, and discovered I have a talent for breaking the GM — Tony, on the other hand, GM’ed this mess).  Check it out!

Friday, 3 September

Thunderstone — Matt (17), Tony (16), Angel (13), Nakazan (10), and Wildfire (7)

Definitely one of the hot-ticket games this year, owing much of its popularity to the fact that its mechanic is similar to Dominion.  Luckily, Tony had bought his own copy, so we didn’t have to sit around and wait for an available board.  I hadn’t played before, and I haven’t had a chance to play a lot of Dominion, so I’m not entirely sure how I managed to pull off 13 points. amidst my confusion…but I’m not complaining!

Thunderstone (Take II) — Tony (37), Matt (21), Wildfire (20), Nakazan (18), and Angel (17)

We all did a lot better this time around, once Tony’d had a refresher-game, and the rest of us were now second-time players.  I still got pretty trounced, though, since Tony and Matt were very effective at picking at the smaller monsters, leaving the rest of us to fight the real menaces, like the “Archduke of Pain.  Fiends…

Saturday, 4 September

Race for the Galaxy — KMusser (67), Wildfire (47), Nakazan (39), Angel (35), and Matt (26)

KMusser stomped all over us with his massive prestige-garnering engine; meanwhile, there were more yellow-pumps going than I think I’ve seen in quite a while.  KMusser was not one of them, in case you’re wondering!

Keltis — Wildfire (44), KMusser (44), Radiant One (43), and Angel (38)

This one went straight on the wishlist.  It being my first go at this, I played a little too cautiously, trying to move my pieces evenly, and I really ought to have gone a little further out on a limb.  But I did pretty well, considering.

Ingenious — Nakazan (15), Angel (12), Wildfire (11)

I think of this as “dominoes with shapes on the diagonal.”  Nakazan had never played this, so he let me teach it to him…and then he had the nerve to win.  Hmph!

Innovation — Matt (4 achievements), KMusser (3 achievements), Angel (1 achievement), CT7 (1 achievement)

This was a really close victory on Matt’s part, though I had to tease him a little about how much of that victory he owed to the fact that most of his score-pile had been plundered from mine.  This was my second time playing this, so I was a little scattered in focus to really do well, but now that I have the hang of it, I’m really starting to enjoy it.

Innovation (Take II) — Nakazan (4 achievements), KMusser (3 achievements), Angel (1 achievement), and Wildfire (1 achievement)

Talk about squeaking a victory out by your teeth.  KMusser was denied a win only by the fact that I pulled a pretty evil move to ensure he couldn’t get a fourth achievement that round, immediately followed by a pretty evil move on Wildfire’s part to ensure Nakazan was stalled another two rounds.  KMusser retaliated on his next turn by denying me another achievement, which gave Nakazan the game.  …and then we all had to go lower our blood-pressure, because this really was a knock-down, drag-out game.

Ticket to Ride: Europe — Radiant One (132), Wildfire (117), Nostasi’a (114), KMusser (113), and Angel (88)

The phrase “pulled a KMusser” came from this game, because in order to aid Radiant One in securing Longest Track, KMusser very evilly and very unexpectedly derailed Wildfire.  It was a brilliant move!  But very dastardly.

Ultimate Zombies!!! — Eric (winner), Nakazan, Wildfire, Tony, and Cathy

Pandemic — Nakazan, Tony, Matt, and Angel; the game won.

Oh, did the game win.  An additional round would have saved us, but alas…

Pandemic — Nakazan, Tony, Matt, Rex, and Joan; the game won.  Again

Sunday, 5 September

Illuminati — Gorm (winner), Tony, Nakazan, Wildfire, Buls-i, Ironkite

Galaxy Trucker (teaching game; two rounds only) — HotMamaB (32), Tony (18), Cap’n Morgan (15), Nakazan (13), and Angel (4; dead)

I’m a little disgruntled by the fact that the game takes about a third of the time it takes to explain the rules.  But once I started getting the hang of what I’m supposed to do (which took quite a while to comprehend, due to the sheer amount of “Stuff You Need to Know”), it was a pretty quick process.  I was pleased…and then about twenty seconds later, I died.  C’est la vie.

Monday, 6 September

Ticket to Ride — Tony (126), Wildfire (100), Nakazan (98), and Angel (86)

I play TTR cautiously, which was a definite detractor.  I stuck to quick tickets — seeing as it was the America board, where so many routes run right next to each other, so that if you don’t Get There First, you’re pretty much toast — which meant I got a lot done, but for little return.

Creationary — Tony, HotMamaB, Cap’n Morgan, Daehith, Byron, and Prin.

Telestrations — Cap’n Morgan (16), Byron (14), Daehith (13), HotMamaB (13), Prin (12), Tony (11), Angel (7), and Wildfire (5)

Pictionary meets Telephone, which is a great recipe for chaos.  “Balloon head,” Tony, really?