Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

PAX East lookback, part 1.

PAX East relics

“Well,” as a certain hobbit once said, “I’m back.”

Total trip time, from leaving the bank on Thursday morning to pulling into our driveway last night: 84.5 hours, with more than a quarter of that time – 22 hours between Canton, Ohio and Pawtucket, R.I., and another 4.5 spent going to and from Boston on Friday and Saturday – spent sitting behind the steering wheel. Total mileage: 1,490.

And completely worth every highway minute and every white-lined mile.

After a late Thursday night hanging out with my friends and gracious hosts Aaron and Jessica, I headed into Boston late Friday morning and – after a maybe 45-minute extended detour due to my missing a massive sign reading, in effect, “BOSTON – THIS WAY” – I got to the Hynes Convention Center just after 1 p.m. and found a hugehugeHUGE entrance queue. (You will undoubtedly read elsewhere about the crowds and lines at the center – honestly, I come to expect them at things like this, so I adjust my expectations accordingly. Also, I know that a lot of people work extremely hard to organize these conventions, and they’re supposed to be fun after all.) Doors were set to open at 2 p.m.

I honestly didn’t expect that by the time I made my way up to the doors of the Main Hall that Wil Wheaton’s keynote speech venue would already be at capacity.  I mean, I knew that people would go straight there even though it wasn’t scheduled to start until 3 p.m., but I also figured maybe at some point, since they had divided the queue into “Expo Hall” and “Main Hall” lines, that someone would have established a cut-off point.

So, yeah, I was pretty disappointed, but I didn’t want to let it ruin my weekend, and besides, that’s when I ran into fellow GeekDad writer and panelist Dave Banks. While we were chatting and working our way over to the main expo hall, we caught up with two other contributors, Matt Blum and Doug Cornelius, who had also missed the keynote cut. Just after three o’clock, though, doing a little more wandering, we were passing the Main Hall doors and saw they were letting people in again, so we hopped in line. (Sadly, only Dave and I made it in,  since they cut things off again right behind us.)

See that blurry Wil Wheaton? That's the BIG screen. Actual Size Wil is the fuzzy dot BELOW that. Even from the wayback, though, he still kicked ass.

Wil was only about five minutes into his speech, so we got to take in most of it from our spots standing against the back wall, and while parts of it drew from stories he has told elsewhere, the keynote was by turns hilarious and nostalgic and heartfelt and inspiring.

A note on the convention offerings: Not being there for the video game industry displays and pre-release teasing and craziness, I was much more interested in the panels and kind off lower-key attractions like the old-school console gaming room – a working, playable Vectrex? are you KIDDING ME?!? and I wonder if anyone who sat down at the Atari 2600 actually put that E.T. cartridge in – and the American Classic Arcade Museum‘s free-play collection of games.

After the keynote, I met with my Ohio friends Paul and Wendy, and then it was time to go to dinner and establish what we believe to be the largest real-world gathering of GeekDad writers to date: With Michael Harrison and Natania Barron joining Matt and Dave and Doug and me, the bar is now set at a nice even half-dozen. I mentioned in an email to everyone this morning that it felt very much like we all had met before, even though most of us have only interacted through emails and podcasts.

We talked about a general framework for our 7 p.m. panel and wondered if anyone would show up other than to simply get off their feet for an hour. (A couple of us had peeked into the panel room earlier, and honestly, it looked awful big and seemed to have a great potential to be scarily empty.)

The six of us arrived back at that room at about 6:40 p.m., and figured the crowd in the hallway outside was lined up for something else. Ten minutes later, that line was gone, and we were looking at a fully-packed room of around 250-plus . Truthfully, this was nothing short of stunning, and I’m sure that words will utterly fail in describing how encouraging and wonderful it was, and though I know the odds are against it, if anyone who was in that audience stumbles across this blog: THANK YOU SO FREAKING MUCH!!!! Seriously – we each did a little introduction and talked about our kids and our geeklikes, and then as we started just generally talking about parenting and video games and movies and books and everything, people started raising their hands and asking questions and contributing their own experiences, and it was just a ton of fun. (Matt did a write-up at GeekDad, and Doug wrote a post for his blog, too, and both of them took photos so we know it was real.

Even with 70 minutes to fill – we had started early, since everyone was in the room anyway – the time just flew by, and there were still several hands up when we had to call it quits. Outside the room, a couple people came up to me to talk some more, and I saw other GeekDad writers having similar conversations. It’s almost three full days later and remembering it still makes me a little giddy.

Paul & Wendy had managed to get in, and they joined all of us for a post-panel trek for drinks, as did Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks author Ethan Gilsdorf, who, if I recall correctly, is a friend of Michael & Natania. His book has been on my to-read list for awhile, and even though it’s coming out in paperback this fall, after talking to him for awhile about writing, I couldn’t wait that long, so I ordered a copy this morning. He also bought a copy of Collect All 21!, which was an awfully nice thing to do.

We all went our separate ways once back at the convention center, since it was getting late, and while I was on my way out, I ran into Penny Arcade co-creator and PAX co-founder Mike Krahulik, capping a pretty damn fine day.

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March 29, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Games, geek, science fiction, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

PAX East 2010: GeekDad Road Trip!

Though I made a brief note when this was initially approved and there has been some related Twitter chatter, I wanted to hold off on mentioning anything more about it until there was an official public announcement. So, check out this morning’s post over at WiredPlease Join GeekDad at PAX East 2010!

Boston. March 26-28. Be there, because This. Is Going. To. ROCK. \m/

Even with the 11- to 12-hour drive involved, I jumped at this as soon as GeekDad Assistant Editor and Frakking Genius Matt Blum put forth the proposal. And I can make it a totally budget-friendly trip since I’ve got a place to crash nearby, essentially making my costs for the weekend gas and food – and I’ve got no problem whatsoever packing myself a cooler loaded with bread and PB&J.

I absolutely cannot wait to meet and hang out with my fellow panelists and GeekDad writers, in whose mighty company I hope I shall not feel ashamed: Dave Banks, Natania Barron, Matt Blum, Doug Cornelius, Michael Harrison and Corrina Lawson. Sitting down and talking geek stuff and parenting with this crew is just so incredibly loaded with Potential Awesome.

(Penny Arcade? Of course the strip has addressed some of the issues of being a geek parent –just last month, in fact!)

And despite not considering myself a hardcore gamer, I have long been envious of those attending past Penny Arcade Expos out west, because it has always sounded like just a crazy fun nerdfest.  While the official Pax East site doesn’t have a schedule up yet, I did find a few unofficial compilations of just some of the stuff that should be going on, like this one, which mentions among others Bill Amend of Foxtrot(!!!) and writer Lev Grossman.

It also looks like this thing is going to be freaking HUGE: Joystiq is predicting 60,000 attendees, and the Penny Arcade founders said in mid-January that it’s going to be a sellout.

I’ve already got my T-shirt packed.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Science, science fiction, Travel, video games, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 10 Things I Had The Most Fun Writing For GeekDad In 2009

Not long after my change in employment earlier this year, I got in touch with GeekDad editor Ken Denmead, who generously ran a couple guest posts I wrote in April and later included me on a very cool invite list, bringing me on board as a full-fledged contributor to the site. I’m incredibly thankful, because a) It’s GeekDad, and How Freaking Awesome; b) I’ve gotten to write pieces I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to, which inspired some writing I’m proud of.

It has been tremendously neat playing a small role in the site and watching it grow, and one of my resolutions for 2010 is to write more for GeekDad than I did in 2009.

That said, I had a TON of fun with this year’s entries, and while I truly enjoyed many of my shorter blog entries, there are exactly 10 longer GeekDad pieces about which I was most excited and got the most enjoyment out of writing, so Yay for a Ready-Made End-of-Year List! (Cop out: I’m presenting them in chronological order because it’s easiest.)

1) May 6Hands-on and Close-up Fun: Penguicon 7.0 . That weekend in May was absolutely one of the highlights of the year, and even the decade, for me. (I did a longer, more personal and detailed post here.)

2) May 21 Girls Against Girls – Figuring It Out With Bonnie Burton – It’s incredibly difficult to accurately describe how enjoyable this interview was, and the book’s lessons have come in handy more than once in my daughter’s middle school years.

3) June 11 Nine Video Games Ripe for Rebirth – Not only was this a great trip down video-game memory lane, but ohmyGod ARCHON IS BACK!!!!

4) June 18 Review: Swim Ways’ R/C Cyber Ray – Well, we got to play with a nifty toy that was only fun for a little while, but I like the way the review turned out, and who knows, maybe Swim Ways has ironed out the wrinkles by now.

5) June 27Nature at Its Closest – With several inches of snow outside needing shoveled, summer seems a long way off. But remembering the clutches of baby robins we got to watch hatch and grow on our front porch does warm the heart. (awwww!)

6) July 910 Things Parents Should Know About Warehouse 13 – It was a good excuse to stay in and watch some SyFy channel with Kelsey, but the truth is, though we though the premiere was OK, we never watched another episode.

7) July 26Bubbles, Zubbles, Toys and Troubles – Although at its heart this is another toy review, I had a blast talking to inventor Tim Kehoe about his 15-year journey from the idea for colored bubbles to the final production this summer.

8) Aug. 13 Activision’s Science Papa Will Remind You Of Mama’s Cooking – Reviewing video games means PLAYING video games, so it’s not like I was going out of my way or anything. Plus I got to write this: “To draw a 1980s toy parallel, it’s Mighty Men & Monster Maker vs. Fashion Plates all over again.”

9) Sept. 2110 Things Parents Should Know About Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – Kelsey and I had gone to see this just for fun, and I was so surprised that I liked it so much that I jumped at the chance to do the GeekDad write-up.

10) October 6Princesses and Mermaids: Who Needs Rescuing Again? – We were introduced to Jim C. Hines and his books at Penguicon, marking yet another reason the trip to Romulus was so memorable.

To circle back to the end of the first paragraph: c) It’s GeekDad, and How Freaking Awesome. Gobs and piles of thanks to Ken, Matt Blum and my fellow contributors and the Wired editors and everyone else I don’t know who makes GeekDad work.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, Games, geek, Ohio, photos, science fiction, Television, video games, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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