July 5th, 2005


Westercon, Part 1, Eh?

After a compressed work week with overtime out the wazoo and not enough sleep, I left home about 5:20am to catch my 7am flight to Seattle, where I'd transfer to Calgary. The most eventful part of the flight was when we were served heated plates with a strawberry, and orange wedge, a pineapple wedge (which I didn't eat), and a breakfast pastry. The one on the first leg was jam-filled and made me sleepy in Seattle (yeah, I had to say that); the one on the 2nd leg was a maple scone which went down much better.

At SeaTac I opted for a breakfast burrito where they kept wanting to give me the "Murrican" fillings like chicken and gravy (eeeuw) instead of "spicy sausage" (their euphemism for chorizo) and the hottest salsa they had (which was only medium hot). I'd already had three cups of coffee on the plane, so I didn't have any there.

My flight was delayed; this was when I learned people with frequent flyer First Class seats can't use the Alaska Airlines Board Room, but people who pay for First Class can. (Btw, it's a $50 upgrade to fly First Class for some trips; it might be worth it.) At the airport I ran into Dave Gallaher, who was on my flight. He and I compared notes and had the same general impression of the con we were flying to: Not exciting, but hey, it's in Calgary, and we've never been there.

The hardest part of getting through Customs in Canada was the long walk from the plane to the person who checks you through. "Why are you coming to Canada?" I was asked.

"I'm attending the West Coast Science Fiction Convention."

"Ah yes. Another one. Have a good time!" I was waved on.

It took seemingly forever for my luggage to get off the carousel. As I exited the luggage area there were greeters in vests and cowboy hats saying "Welcome to Calgary!" instead of "Welcome to Walmart!" There were a lot of folks in cowboy hats, most of whom looked like they'd never seen a horse anywhere but on TV. The guy driving the shuttle bus at least didn't have a cowboy hat on.

I got to the hotel too early for check-in, but found a Loonie at the front desk (talk about a sign of good luck!), so I opted to register for the con and do some logistics-checking. I found I did have a sound system for the filk concerts, which were to start immediately after a panel. I had purposely scheduled myself first to work out the kinks.

I checked in at 3pm, then rested and prepared for my 5pm "Filk 101" panel. Somewhere in there I hit the con suite and discovered cream soda in Alberta is pink. Hot pink. I had several cans of the stuff, finishing the con suite's last one in the panel.

One of the folks there had never heard of filk. The others had varying levels of knowledge. One or two were trying to figure out whether the music they made constituted "filk" (it did). About ten minutes into the panel, Rick Weiss walked in and a wave of relief came over me. Rick wound up doing about half the talking, much to my relief.

After the panel he, his wife Tess Calhoun, and someone else whose name I'm forgetting went to dinner, eventually winding up at the Old Spaghetti Factory behind the hotel (it was quick, cheap, and I needed to get out in time to prepare for my 8pm concert). Rick asked if he could go in on my birthday party to celebrate 25 years of fandom (on his part); I of course said "Yes!"

My concert was well-received despite my voice being weaked by my prior infected throat. Suffice it to say I avoided doing most of the songs in my repertoire that challenged my voice (the one exception being "Someone to Pick Up After Me," which had the audience in stitches and the male/female couples giving each other funny looks). The guy after me, Ed Willett, is an amateur opera singer from Calgary who did a song cycle written by Swann to poems by Tolkien. He was great. That was followed by "Once More With Hobbits," a musical set to the musical edition of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" about "Lord of the Rings." It was funny and lots of fun. I got the director's e-mail address; he and the rest of them didn't know there was a filk community outside of Alberta or that we'd be interested in them and what they do. When they packed up they inadvertently packed my power strip (I needed it for my party Sunday night).

I then briefly hit the parties, which all shut down at midnight. It was tricky getting off the floor because the hotel had disabled access to the second floor, where all the parties were going on.

Somewhere in the midst of all this my roommate for the weekend opted to get bumped in return for $700 credit on United plus a food credit. Delays associated with this caused him to not arrive till 2am, and because he didn't want to pay for a shuttle bus, he waited till public transit started up at 7am, arriving at 8am...but that's for tomorrow's journal. This day's ended with me getting to bed and getting a good night's sleep, happily hogging the whole bed.
  • Current Mood
    happy happy

Westercon, Part 2, Eh?

My roommate for the con, justeps, arrived at 8am. He started talking. Non-stop. I don't think he realized what he was doing. I had a sleep deprivation headache that was aggravated by this. Eventually he went to the con business meeting. I went to the lobby, hung out with folks at the fan tables, then hung out a bit in the dealer's room. Eventually I met up with Rick and Tess; we went to breakfast at the Buffalo Cafe, running into galtine both coming and going. We stopped at a mall on the way back to see if they had bins of isolated M&Ms so we could buy only red and white ones. No luck.

Rick, Tess, and I didn't see anything at the con that looked interesting, so we voted for the next Westercon (San Jose vs. nobody else, as in "I Want My Cheap Membership!"), and then headed out to Banff. Yes, that's about two hours west of the con. It was a lovely drive out. We passed the Olympic Village, where we saw what ski lifts look like in the summer when the hills are bright green. We saw mountainside-long waterfalls with spring runoff. We had to pay to get into Banff, then headed for the town, hoping to find good chocolate and good food.

There was lots of chocolate in Banff; unfortunately, none of it was sugar-free, which screwed over all three of us. Rick watches his sugar, Tess is a brittle type 2 diabetic, and I'm hypoglycemic (and fairly brittle), so we had similar dietary needs. As it turned out, Tess and I also have similar tastes in food. I've known Tess for years, but this is the first time I'd really had time to spend around her. She and Rick are a lot of fun and really cool people.

We ate buffalo burgers at a place called the Grizzly Cafe. The menu had lots of cool graffiti; Rick and Tess wound up buying t-shirts and laminated menus. Next we walked up and down the streets of Banff, watching lots of tourists part with their money. I wanted to buy some ammonite jewelry, but given my ultra-tight budget, this was not a viable option. Tess bought some fossilized horse teeth. I picked up a shot glass for a co-worker. We picked up cheap party supplies at a dollar store, where I also picked up some cheap but cool barettes.

Next we went to a Safeway on the way back. They had Allegra on sale but were out of stock. I picked up a few boxes of cyclamates, foil, foil containers, strawberries, and white chocolate for the party. On the way home we saw a spectacular double rainbow where we could see the end in a field:

The End Of The Rainbow

We got back to Calgary around 9:55pm and it was still light outside. Dinner was at an Indian/East African restaurant (although I couldn't tell what was "east African" on their menu). Yummy food. I now know I like cassava root.

We got back to the hotel at midnight. Open filking had never materialized, and I felt a little guilty. We hit the parties, one of which was shutting down, another of which was still going. San Jose had won the bid by a landslide (no surprise), which means I'll be able to commute Westercon two years from now. I tried each of the alcoholic beverages on tap in the suite, knowing I wasn't going to want to drink during my party the next day. I bedded down around 2am, this time being able to take the elevator, which was surprisingly functional on the 2nd floor. Apparently the hotel had to get it going for enough handicapped people that it had learned its lesson.
  • Current Mood
    happy happy

Westercon, Part 3, Eh?

Much to my surprise, I awoke Sunday around 10am, having gotten something resembling eight hours of sleep. I had problems with the hotel's high-speed network as I tried to get directions to Costco and such. We figured we'd hit a Walmart IFF it was en route.

Rick, justeps, and I had dim sum for lunch. Unlike what we're used to, they had a steam tray from which you collected bamboo steamers filled with the goodies of your choice. The variety was small, so we wound up having lots of har gow. Later the carts came around with more variety -- after we'd filled up. It was good, though. After that justeps went off to work on the masquerade and Rick and I fetched his car and went shopping.

First we hit Safeway and ordered the cake. I'd hoped for a red cake (or at least red-iced cake) with white decoration, but we had to opt for the opposite. Still, it worked. Next it was a trip to Costco, where en route we saw a few signs that cracked us both up:

The Brick - Mattresses For Less

We couldn't find a convenient Walmart, so I was stuck buying my meds at a mall we found next to Costco in a store called Zeller's that reminded us of Target. We also picked up some white chocolate mints, striped mints, and strawberry licorice vines.

En route we saw a store called Co-op. It looked like a place that would have bargains. There we bought meatballs (on sale), Classico tomato basil pasta sauce (good stuff, and it was on sale!), and I forget what else. Next we went to Safeway for the cake, ranch dip for the miniature tomatoes, more cyclamates, the Reactine (aka Zyrtec -- on sale), and anything else we needed for the party. Then it was back to the hotel.

Rick parked and went to dinner with Tess while I washed the strawberries, then dipped as many as I could in the white chocolate in a double-boiler I'd fashioned in my hotel room from an electric frying pan and a metal bowl.

After I finished dipping the strawberries and cleaning up my setup I started bringing things down to the function room the con had given me for the party. We had on loan from the San Diego Westercon a knife and some cool-looking white lights and some red streamer paper. The green tape (they were out of the blue stuff, which is just as well, as it'd have violated the party theme) didn't hold up the streamer tape well, but we managed to decorate the room anyway. I started up the meatballs, which were all gone before midnight. The berries, tomatoes (with ranch dip), and cheese were moderately popular; the white corn tortillas and red salsa were barely touched. We lit candles, blew them out together in one fell swoop (two former filk con chairs full of hot air :-) ), and cut the cake. There was a lot of cake left over.

Around 1am we decided to shut down and clean up, especially since I had to catch a 10am shuttle to the airport. I went back to my room, did most of my packing, then crashed.
  • Current Mood
    happy happy

Westercon, Part 4, Eh?

I awoke at 6am. Why, I don't know. I think my body thought I had to do a radio shift. I went onto the Internet, sent Warren e-mail, then got e-mail back from capplor telling me there was something wrong with my .aliases file because he (Fred) got a copy of my note to Warren (which was, luckily, innocuous).

I went back to sleep. My alarm went off at 8am. I showered, finished packing, consumed some low-cal Kool-Aid that had 100% of my daily requirement of Vitamin C for "breakfast," then got a bellhop to shlep my stuff downstairs. I said my goodbyes, paid for my room, picked up my suddenly-found power strip from conops, shoved it into one of my suitcases, then got onto the shuttle for the airport.

At the airport I picked up one more shotglass for my co-worker at the duty free shop (everything else there was horribly overpriced), then breezed through customs. I was amazed they didn't harass me over the weight of my suitcase (which was easily over 50lbs). The first leg of my flight was uneventful, but I was tired after, so I got a nonfat vente iced latte with a sugar-free vanilla shot at the Starbuck's at the airport. I wasn't hungry enough for lunch, and I wanted to save my appetite for my birthday dinner. Besides, I knew I'd get a snack on the airplane and would be cared for properly in First Class.

The last leg of my flight was an adventure in a good way. Seated next to me was a charming gentleman who looked very familiar. I noticed he was reading hardware diagrams and asked if he worked in hardware. "Actually, I'm a venture capitalist these days."

I realized who he was. "You look awfully familiar. Did you ever work at Stanford?"

He looked puzzled, "Yes, but that was a long time ago. I don't think I know you. My name's Bosack."

We then said together, "Len Bosack."

"My ex-husband used to work for you. I used to be married to Mark Crispin."

His eyebrows went up.

Mind you, when I knew Len I was merely an appendage who came along with my then-husband. If I dared to show any personality, my then-husband would beat the snot out of me. Fast-forwarding, Len and I caught up a bit on our lives, then proceeded to chat on a variety of subjects ranging from Eisenhower's speeches, California governors, music and recording software, filk, the mountains we passed (I took a few photos, but they came out kind of dull...sigh), to large corporations.

I'd heard Len was a "very bright guy" from a lot of folks, but this was the first time I'd had to experience this. Suffice it to say I felt severely outclassed. I was in "sleep deprivation mode" and barely able to keep up my end of the conversation. I also felt kind of like a lunkhead to begin with.

Since I'd sampled the airline's White Wine Of The Month on the first leg, I sampled the Red Wine Of The Month on the second leg. With it the airline served hot nuts in a glass. This cracked up both of us:

Hot Nuts in a Glass

At the end of the plane ride I turned on my cell phone to find four messages. Two were from Warren, one from my mother wishing me a Happy Birthday (yes, it was my birthday), and one from Dave from Metro with my hours for Tuesday. I called Warren to let him know I'd arrived, then called my mother while waiting for my luggage. I told her a little about my trip, but mostly she told me about how sick she was over the weekend (sigh). Warren arrived while we were talking and helped me load my luggage into the car.

Next, we dumped some "Return to Sender" mail at a post office, then went to Flames on Winchester for dinner, where I got a free slice of (huge) cake for dessert. They had new menus, and luckily I took one look and saw exactly what I wanted to eat (Scampi-Style Shrimp with Penne). Dessert was Niagara Falls Cake (chocolate cake with white buttercream and dark chocolate frosting); I took home half my meal and half my dessert.

Finally, we went home, where I unloaded, cuddled Lady, and crashed so hard even Lady slept through the fireworks.
  • Current Mood
    content content