Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Penguicon leftovers: Reheated and still tasty!

Some of the stuff we brought home from Penguicon 7.0:

Two pieces of nondescript board which arrived at the convention as one piece of nondescript board. I figure I’m now appoximately one-fortieth of a level above No Belt, but still, it was pretty neat learning to put my fist through this.

“The Book of Biff Vol. 3: Fresh Toast,” and the postcard print that sold me on the cartoon from the start. It reads, “Biff realizes that it’s tricky to eat giant-squid noodles.” This also reminds me: Saturday morning (I think), Kelsey is chilling and reading the Biff collection. She turns on the TV to check the Penguicon channel, but lands first on a Care Bears cartoon. After about thirty seconds, she observes, without even cracking a smile, “You know, the Care Bears aren’t very good at problem solving.” We proceed to mock the Care Bears and this episode’s bad guy, who is either wearing giant mechanical battle armor or the new Master Chief Bear.

My registration badge. No, there aren’t any of those informative/funny/bizarre ribbons on it (check out this photo of Beaker to see what I’m talking about), but then, we were first-timers at Penguicon, and not volunteers or guests or room partiers, and we must have just happened to not attend any classes or panels where they were being given out. No big deal – though I do admit that we both loved the “Captain Hammer Threw A Car At My Head” ribbons, so bonus points to whoever distributed those.

Penguicon Program Book: Regularly folded up, rolled up, marked up and consulted.

Tobias Buckell‘s “Crystal  Rain.” – I read this last year, and met him at a book signing in Columbus where I didn’t actually have a book for him to sign, so I’ve owed him one. And it’s a great read. (It’s also a signed copy, which I didn’t realize until after I bought it.) John Scalzi’s “The Ghost Brigades” is here for the same reason – I brought it with me to have signed, since it’s my favorite chapter in his Old Man’s War universe.

Daniel Pinkwater’s “The Neddiad.” – This author has been on my radar for awhile, but I haven’t gotten around to reading him yet. This paperback was in one of the boxes of free books in the lobby. (Speaking of free stuff, I can’t find the sheet of Ubuntu stickers I picked up. And I’ve only gotten to cover one tiny Windows symbol so far!)

A bookmark promoting Jim C. Hines‘ “The Stepsister Scheme,” which he signed in lieu of the book which I failed to pick up prior to the signing and which I still need to go buy because he was such a friendly and hilarious guy.

Munchkin Bites and two Munchkin bookmarks – We’ve played twice since returning home (I’m now batting .333 vs. Kelsey, having finally won a game), and while I’ve been thinking we need to pick up some big 10-sided dice for level counters instead of the poker chips we’ve been using, I just found these and will be doing some downloading later.

We didn’t take a ton of pictures, but here are a few. I’m pretty sure I like this one the best:

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May 6, 2009 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, linux, Science, science fiction, Travel, Web/Tech | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Epic Peng-win.

The fact is, I’m now indebted to Wil Wheaton.

His appearances east of the Rockies seem few and far between, so when he was announced as Guest of Honor at Penguicon 7.0, I jumped in and registered for my first overnight convention stay in four years.

Honestly, if he hadn’t been scheduled, I probably wouldn’t have gone. I’ve never been a hardcore gamer, and I’m barely a dabbler in the open source side of computing, and I’ve only relatively recently begun rediscovering science fiction writing.

And yet, had I not gone, I would have totally missed out on the past three abso-frigging-lutelydamntastic days and never even known it. Yes, Penguicon rocked so hard that even though Mr. Wheaton was unable to make it, the weekend was a massively Epic Win for me and my daughter. We’ll be going back.

So, if you don’t like gushing, stand the heck back, because I LOVED Penguicon. So much that a couple times, I wanted to cry with joy, I was having so freaking good a time. So much that if you worked or volunteered or organized or handed out food or took out garbage or had even the tiniest role in making this convention happen, you are hereby A Fantastic Person and I Heart You. Seriously, Penguicon People – bookmark this page, and if you find a blog or a forum post complaining about Not Enough This or Too Much That or This Sucked or That Blew, I want you to come back here and remember that you made at least one 38-year-old Dad and one 12-year-old Daughter Awfully Freaking Happy with your efforts this year. This was our first Penguicon, and not one person met us with rudeness or sneered at our N00bism – we were made to feel welcome from our first panel Friday afternoon – a meet-up with fellow Harry Potter fans – to our last trip through the lobby Sunday after lunch and a gaming session. (More on that later.)

It’s no easy thing, sometimes, for a dad and an almost-teenage daughter to find much common ground, but these were 48 hours of pure excellence in that department, sometimes in surprising moments. Here are a few:

When we went to the Consuite (Honestly: a con with a constant supply of free food & beverage? Who does that? Penguicon.) to see and taste our first batch of Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream – Yay for con volunteers Molly and Trevor and Phil! – another guy watching the process struck up a conversation, and that’s how we found ourselves chatting with FreeDOS creator Jim Hall, a superbly nice guy. (We met up with him again Saturday when they whipped up a batch of chocolate-chocolate-chocolate-chocolate-chocolate LN2 ice cream for his birthday. I think my eyeballs might still be vibrating from the sugar.)

Thanks to the patient and encouraging people at Aegis Consulting, I can say that I’ve seen my daughter hurl throwing knives and punch through a board with her bare hands. And it was her idea. Sure, she got a little nervous before each session, but she went through with it both times. This was even cooler than throwing knives and breaking stuff myself. (Which I did, of course.)

Friday night we had the first of a few encounters with the polite and gracious John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal when their “Schmoozing 101” panel was moved to 10 p.m. in place of a scheduled Wheaton reading. Probably because of the schedule change, there were only about a half-dozen people there, I think – some of whom came in late – and the result was a really fun and entertaining hour on how not to be all “OhMyGawdYou’reINSERTNEATOFAMOUSPERSONHERE,” and how not to come off like a stalkery stalker stalking. (Information which I hope I put to good use over the next two days, since we crossed paths several times with many of the Penguicon guests.) Mr. Scalzi was good enough to chat for a few minutes afterward, and I introduced him to Kelsey, who had brought Zoe’s Tale to finish reading over the weekend. He was very courteous, and when Kelsey and I headed back to our room, she turned to me with this amazing smile and said, “That. Was. SO. COOL.”

In fact, that was one of the neatest things about the weekend: Being a midsize con – I think I’ve seen past attendance put at 800-1000 guests – and having everything there at the hotel where everyone was staying, the odds of bumping into well-known and extremely neat people were way better than average. The scope of the convention also made for a very comfortable feel and pace. Yes, the sheer immensity of something like a Star Wars Celebration is fun, but it’s also exhausting and demanding. Even though that can be fantastic in its own way, this time around, with my daughter along, I absolutely didn’t miss those wall-to-wall crowds and frantic pace. We never wanted for things to do and see, but we also had free time to swim, to sit around and chill, to play with/debug the Chaos Machine and to wander past panel rooms just to see who was in there and what was going on.

Saturday was full of more panels, and I was happy to see Kelsey interested in them. After those first couple on Friday, she realized there was a good shot of being entertained by the guests, even if she really wasn’t into the topic itself, and she was having a ball. (We also hit another of her “must see” events: the “Trust Me, It’s Just Chemistry” demonstration by Professor X. We snagged the last few feet of floor space for the rapid-fire show of “mix-these-and-watch-this” experiments, and there was much foaming and gelling and melting and fake snot making.)

We got some free Ubuntu stickers, which she stuck at the corners of her eyes. My kid rocks.

Saturday night’s live performance of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” was incredibly fun, and frankly, as I told the guy who played the title role afterward, may have “ruined” the real video for my daughter, who had never seen it. She absolutely loved it, and I’m not sure seeing it on the TV screen (masterful as the film is), will ever be as funny to her as it was seeing it for the first time in the hands of passionate fans.

So Sunday morning, we started off by popping in to the book signing session, and here’s where another “wow-I-love-this-con” rush kicks in: I realize I’ve become a potential fan of several of these writers based on just hearing them speak or talking with them briefly, so I picked up Brian Briggs’ “The Bbook of Geek” and Daniel J. Hogan‘s Lulu-published “The Magic of Eyri.” I’d also planned to buy a copy of Jim C. Hines‘ “The Stepsister Scheme” – he had Kelsey in stitches during a panel on humor in science fiction, incidentally, and later we talked about the book for a few minutes in the lobby – but there was a quirk in scheduling, and I didn’t get to the dealer room in time, and he didn’t have any copies on hand, so it’s on my “to get” list. My daughter and I both also fell hard for Chris Hallbeck’s “Biff” cartoons, so I bought Vol. 3, “Fresh Toast” from the author’s table.

So now it’s late morning, and we hit the home stretch, and we’ve got one more box to check off Kelsey’s list: Open Soda – a crash course in making our own pop (because that’s what we call it here). She’s been looking forward to this one a LOT. About 15 minutes before I’m supposed to meet her for the presentation – she’d gone back to the room for something – I’m in the Consuite, and I see Andrew Hackard, Wil Wheaton’s editor, who’s been on a couple panels we’ve attended. I go over to say hi, and we talk for a few minutes about editing books with friends, and he becomes the 765th person to whom I say something along the lines of, “This is our first time here and we are totally blown away and loving it!” and then my phone buzzes, and I have to excuse myself because, I explain, it’s my daughter calling about Open Soda, and I need to head over. “That’s where I’m headed,” he responds, “Let’s go!”

Over the next hour, as we learn the details and process of making a fine fizzy peppermint beverage, I mention that the one thing Kelsey and I didn’t get to do was learn to play Munchkin, since we’d missed the only Beginners course of the weekend.

Then, since, you know, he’s the Munchkin Czar, Mr. Hackard says if we have time, he’ll teach us.

And that’s how we spent our last hours at Penguicon 7.0: Learning and then playing a full game of Munchkin with this incredibly generous person we’ve just met, and I’m watching him give Kelsey advice and I’m reveling in the smile on her face as she’s learning the twists and turns and sneaky fun moves – and, it should be noted, she’s totally kicking our butts under Mr. Hackard’s tutelage. “We have to get this game,” she tells me, lowering her head and looking over the top of her glasses.” In fact, not long after a particularly venomous and level-boosting turn – at which point our gaming host says with a smile, “That’s it. You get no more help from me!” – Kelsey wins. It is gorgeous and she is thrilled and I am bowled over once again at just how amazing a weekend we have had thanks to so many people who were unknown strangers just 48 hours before.

At about 2:15 p.m. Sunday, as we pulled back onto I-275, headed south, I turned to my daughter. “I just realized,” I said, “what we forgot to do.”

“What?”

“What was the last thing you ate?”

Realization crosses her face. Another smile. “Breakfast.”

“It’s not a con,” I say, holding up a palm, “until you forget to eat.”

High five.

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, Film, Games, geek, linux, Science, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Penguicon, GeekDad, and some neat news!

So this is my last pre-Penguicon post, and it comes with some Super Fun Bonus News!

I’ve got a pre-trip psyche-up post on Wired‘s GeekDad blog (Click! Digg! Share!) which, the sharp-eyed reader will notice, includes a tag at the bottom slightly different from my previous two guest posts: [This post was written by new GeekDad contributor John Booth]

I guess it’s OK to share that bit of news, then! Being invited on board as one of the new contributors is quite the sugar rush, and I’m really looking forward to diving in and working with the other writers and editors who launched and built the blog into such an incredibly cool site.

Now: Penguicon Ho!

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, Film, Games, geek, linux, Science, science fiction, Web/Tech, Weblogs | , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars Celebration Revisited: The Last Day

Ten years on, Jim reminisces about the first Star Wars Celebration. Day Three includeds a surprise guest appearance by Mr. Sun!

May 1, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, Weblogs | , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars Celebration Revisited: Day 2.

Jim’s got more in his look back at the first Star Wars Celebration: Here’s Day Two.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars Celebration: A Decade Later

Over at his shiny new blog, Jim is revisiting his 1999 trip to Star Wars Celebration: Here’s the intro; he follows it up with a harrowing tale of travel, and then moves on to Day One, nicely capturing the energy of fandom and the atmosphere and the rain and the mud and One. Bad. Burrito.

(On a totally unrelated note, Jim’s photoblog update today is this nice shot of Elvis Costello.)

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Film, Food and Drink, geek, science fiction, Travel, Weblogs | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Penguicon countdown.

How long until we hit the road for Penguicon? This long.

I’m deep in the important preparations: Laptop batteries & spares? Charged.  (Yes, Jenn has been warned we’re taking the laptop with us, so she can spend the next few days adjusting to avoid separation anxiety. My wife loves an Ubuntu-equipped laptop. How awesome.) New double-As for the Flip and our digital cameras? Check. (Note to self: Clear the memory cards so we’ve got plenty of room for pictures. And don’t forget the USB cables.) Route: Mapped. (Look – we’re on here! We’re the red marker – see? We’re waving right now!) Schedule? Highlighted.

Kelsey & Me? Gearing. To. GO.

I haven’t made a full-on con road trip since Celebration III in 2005.

I considered looking into a table at the Artists Alley, but decided that since this was my first Penguicon and my daughter’s first convention, I’d rather be immersed in it and not feel like I was chained to my own little stack of Collect All 21! copies while everybody else was eating Schadenfreude Pie. Still, being amidst a crowd of do-it-yourselfers, I figure I’ll equip myself for some casual self-promotion accordingly. (There are, after all, even a few panels about this very thing!) I’m getting some Collect All 21! postcards printed up, and I’ll have a good supply of the New and Improved Edition on hand.

One of the local 501st garrisons is supposed to be there for awhile on Saturday, so I’m hoping there might be a Star Wars fan or two in that bunch.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Books, Fiction, Film, geek, linux, Science, science fiction, Travel, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hey, I KNOW that guy!

Tim O’Shea at Comic Book Resources has posted an interview with Adam Besenyodi about “Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Fan.” You should go read it, then maybe order a book or five, and then make a road trip to Bills Books & More in Canton, Ohio this weekend to get it appropriately signed on Free Comic Book Day.

Just a thought.

April 27, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, geek, Ohio | , , , , | Leave a comment

News from the Field’s Edge

A couple years back, Jim Carchidi and I started Field’s Edge as a semi-bloggish online magazine where we could publish the features and essays and photos and projects that we were tackling just for fun outside of our full-time journalism jobs. And we had a blast. We ran interviews with Star Wars model maker Lorne Peterson, artist Tara McPherson, Milk and Cheese creator Evan Dorkin; Jim brought in a ton of amazing art on every thing from a music-legend-laden Monday Night Football intro filming shoot to B.B. King to Chinese New Year and MegaCon. (Jim, incidentally, is setting up a new site and already has some amazing pictures there.)

We did personal essays and reviews and pop culture things like my look at The Breakfast Club and thoughts on seeing The Police reunited, and Jim’s adventures in flying and IKEA. (And of course, two years ago, the essay series that eventually grew into Collect All 21! began here, too.)

My longtime friend Adam Besenyodi jumped in with contributions on Nine Inch Nails, children’s television, Chuck D, and Deus ex Comica, another essay series which grew into a book. (Adam also introduced us to Evad Sdrawkcab and “The Misadventures of a Comic Fan,” which we ran for awhile.)

It was always fun to have Field’s Edge around, even when it sat for awhile relatively unattended, because it gave us an outlet. And while I’ve archived most of the original pages and articles so the existing links floating around out there don’t go dead, with my recent launch into the world of full-time freelance writing, editing and consulting, I felt the site needed reworked, especially since I use the domain to send and receive work-related email.

So I’ve been learning the basic tweaks and tricks of WordPress, switched my hosting over to a much cheaper and easier-to-use Linux-based service, and seem to have ironed out the biggest wrinkles in setting up and customizing the new FieldsEdge.com.

This blog’s not going anywhere, of course. I’m thinking of FieldsEdge.com as kind of my online office, where you can get in touch with me for writing, editing and communications projects, and this blog as my outlet for everything else.

April 27, 2009 Posted by | geek, Music, Ohio, science fiction, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TwitterPanicked

Yes, I have more important things to blog about today. But until I get through the other chores on my list and get around to writing about those things, enjoy today’s laugh-because-it’s-funny-scream-in-bloody-throated-frustration-because-it’s-true xkcd:

(The hidden rollover text is also good. Visit the original at xkcd to read it.)

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

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