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Mike Willmoth
Trip 2015-08 Worldcon Review

Worldcon 2015, aka Sasquan (www.sasquan.org), was held in Spokane, WA, Wednesday August 19 through Sunday August 23. Although the bid for Pacific Northwest 2015 started out with Seattle, it became quickly obvious that the city couldn't accommodate our needs. We started looking at Belleview next, but their primary hotel didn't like our two-year-out voting system. Next, we looked at Tacoma, Spokane and Vancouver, BC. The latter was too expensive for sf/f fans, so it really came down to either Tacoma or Spokane. One Con Chair visited the former and one the latter. After their visits they compared notes and settled on the latter! We then negotiated the convention center contract and the various hotel contracts (Davenport Historic, DoubleTree, Red Lion At The Park & Red Lion River Inn) over about half a year. By the time the voting occurred at Worldcon 2013, aka LoneStarCon 3, held in San Antonio, TX, we were all set. And, after three rounds of ballot counting (using preferential system) Spokane won the bid!

Jean and I planned to head out early to visit with friends in Portland, then arrive in Spokane early and depart late to be there for Move-In / Move-Out (MIMO). We left home and drove up to Portland, arriving Friday August 14. Saturday, we did lunch at a Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives location (a Thai restaurant), then shopped at Powell's Bookstore downtown before meeting a local friend for dinner at a barbecue restaurant. We left town Sunday and drove northeast through rural Washington and encountered some forest fire smoke before arriving at the Davenport Grand Hotel. The DGH was added to our list of hotels in December 2014; others, like the Ruby or the Best Western, were added in 2015. After parking in the hotel's garage we checked in, then moved our luggage from the van into our room upstairs. Being a brand new hotel it was very modern, very high tech, and we moved everything out of the van's trunk & back seats into our room. One side effect of this was the television remote control got buried and we could not operate the TV without it. I had a brief chat with engineering about that and they assured me there was no way to turn it on, off, change channels, etc. without the remote. I thanked them, then pulled the power cord out of the wall; problem solved! I learned that the Chair, other Vice Chairs, and some Division Heads were having dinner at a restaurant about a mile away, so I met them with plans to order something to bring back for Jean while she rested. It was a nice meal and we got some business done, then I returned to the hotel to get online and handle last minute convention emails.

Mon Aug 17 we took our time before lunch, then we ate nearby before I headed over to the Spokane Convention Center (SCC, across the street) to observe MIMO crew and check on those areas under my control that were moving in, such as Office (under Services Division). I also checked on Consuite and Staff Den at the DoubleTree Hotel which were also under me via Hospitality Division. I met with my Facilities Division team who were onsite, too. For dinner Jean & I ate at another nearby restaurant, then I met with folks to discuss any additional problems or developments. Returning to the hotel room I caught up on con email before crashing.

Tue Aug 18 I wandered over to the SCC again to monitor the rest of move-in. We had a group meeting after lunch, then I monitored the rest of move-in for my areas. Things went pretty well overall. I did try to take the van out for some shopping, but it wouldn't start! Must have been a dead battery, so I had it jumped and we went out to buy distilled water for the Accessibility Desk and Office for use with CPAP machines that folks brought. I left the van running while we shopped with Jean guarding the van, then parked it again at the hotel for the rest of the weekend. I did dinner with friends at the hotel, checked on things at the various hotels, then called it an evening.

Wed Aug 19 we started with our daily Division Head breakfast meeting; I voted for a lunch meeting, but I was in the minority. From there I checked on my divisions, making sure that Consuite, Staff Den and Childcare (all at the DoubleTree) were going smoothly. Childcare was under Services and the Area Head who handled the negotiations with Kiddie Corps couldn't attend the convention. So we had lined up someone else to be the onsite contact, but they couldn't make it. Instead, we enlisted the help of another fan who had worked with KC before. That seemed to go well. Several of us did lunch after a pre-con meeting with one of the hotels, then we had to be at Opening Ceremonies after the other pre-con hotel meeting. It was odd being up on stage, but it went well and we were part of the post ceremony procession out into the park for First Night. There was still some smoke in the air, but otherwise it was a successful offsite (or near-site) event. Events DH / First Night Area Head arranged with the city to have food trucks, music, decorations, etc. We did dinner with other friends, then I wandered around the Davenport Historic Hotel to check on the various parties. We were never able to rent out the Presidential Suite except for Saturday (Baen Books), so the Facilities Division used it as a hangout at night. Party Maven was based on the second floor of that hotel and made sure folks had trash cans, corkscrews, etc. that were needed to have a successful party. The four Worldcon bids for 2017 (DC, Helsinki, Japan and Montreal) were all cranking. We had some trouble with turning off the keycard requirement to access those floors and the hotel erroneously put some non-con folks near those parties. My hotel team got that all fixed. The shuttle system from the SCC to the Davenport worked pretty well and came in handy because of the forest fire smoke that got progressively worse throughout the weekend. After checking on the parties I returned to my room, brought Jean up to date, and did email.

Thu Aug 20 I started with the daily DH meeting again, then headed to our first Business Meeting, then to lunch, then to our first Feedback Session. There were only a few persons who showed up to complain about this or that. Most things we couldn't change; we did for those we could. I checked on my areas again, got reports of glitches, put out a few small fires, then wandered around the SCC. Info Desk and Accessibility Desk were going well. Got to visit the Art Show and Dealers Room. Checked out Guinan's Place in Hall C. Everything was going relatively smoothly. We did dinner with more friends, then I checked on the stuff at the SCC before taking a shuttle to the DHB for more parties. Other than a few more glitches I found things going well. I finally headed back to my hotel.

Fri Aug 21 was another DH meeting, another BM, another lunch, another FS, more wandering with checking, fixing, resolving, etc. After dinner was the Masquerade, but we didn't go. Instead I spent more time at the Davenport parties. I heard it went well despite the challenge of using a ticket system that didn't work very well. Voting closed after we voted and I later heard that Helsinki won the 2017 bid in the first round, overwhelmingly. I was surprised it didn't go to at least a second round.

Sat Aug 22 was DH/BM/lunch, no FS for some reason, then more wandering. Dinner was with more friends, then we had the pre-Hugo Reception to attend. It was interesting and I got my photo taken with our Chair and other Vice Chairs. From there we headed across the breezeway to the Hugo Awards Ceremony itself. Despite one person booing at one point, which was quelled by one of our Toastmasters, it went well. Considering how controversial it was between the various political slates that were promoted online, it was smooth. Jean and I took a handicap shuttle to the Davenport so she could do parties, but she didn't last long with her powerchair. I stayed and hung out with folks, commiserating with those who lost the bid for 2017 and congratulating the bid who won. Montreal was selling off smoked meat, so I bought a large one to take home and much on along the way. It's just another form of barbecue, but excellent.

Sun Aug 23 was our final DH meeting, final BM, lunch, and final FS. I checked on my areas, chatted with fans, visited the AS and DR again before they closed, and helped with those areas shutting down under my control. Many of them planned to pull out Monday. Move-out started Sunday evening and finished up Monday. There was the Old Pharts' Party Sunday at the Davenport Historic (for past Chairs and friends) as well as one or two smaller parties. I was pooped when I got back to our room.

Mon Aug 24 was to sleep in, tour the MIMO sections, coordinate between areas (Services vs Operations) for who stores what, took some stuff to my room for post-con processing, and generally made sure that we got out of the SCC and hotels on time. Hotels team met with the hotels and took them gifts as a thank-you for all their help with our event. We made our room night minimums, so there we only had to pay the smallest amounts for what we used. Jean and I got another jump to shop for a replacement van battery, only to find the nearest auto parts store didn't carry our required model. We had to drive about 20 miles east to Interstate Battery; they kindly installed the new one for free as part of their sale. We returned, did dinner with friends, then got online to wrap things up.

Tue Aug 25 we tooked off for Glacier National Park in Montana. We drove through and it was clear that the glaciers were receding. But it was a great drive with gorgeous views. We stayed overnight in the state capital of Helena, then headed southwest to Yellowstone National Park. We stayed north of the park, then drove south through the park on Wed Aug 26, taking a route not taken in previous trips through. We entered the north gate, then headed south to take the middle of the figure 8 east, then out the southeast entrance. We made it to Cody, WY for overnight. Thu Aug 27 we left for Denver overnight, then Fri Aug 28 for Albuquerque, then home Sat Aug 29.

Our Worldcon trip was fun, stressful for a bit, then very scenic home. The worst part of the convention was the smoke from the forest fires nearby. I only know of three fans who had to be hospitalized; hopefully, that was all. After putting in 5 years of effort to make Sasquan run well it was a welcome relief for it to be over. And the end of 300+ emails per day. Hopefully, the majority of the fans who attended appreciated all the hard work our spectacular team put it to make it happen. We also had a great vacation as part of it. I'm not working Worldcon 2016, at least not on staff :-)
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trip 2015-06/07 Review

Normally, LepreCon has been held over Mothers Day Weekend (weekend with the second Sunday in May) except for a few local exceptions, like Lep38 being over Easter due to a hotel conflict. However, Lep41 was moved to the end of June 2015 which conflicted with LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN. Liberty used to be in mid-July, but after selecting the Choo Choo Hotel they could only get the last weekend in June so went with that. This year Lep and Lib conflict, but we had already committed to Lib before Lep got their new hotel contract (actually for Lep41 and 42, same weekend). So for the first time since entering Phoenix fandom I missed a Lep.

Jean and I headed out for Chattanooga on Mon Jun 22. We stayed overnight in Albuquerque, then Tue Jun 23 we drove to Oklahoma City, stopping in Amarillo at the Big Texan for steak lunch/dinner. Wed Jun 24 we moved on to Memphis and Thu Jun 25 we headed to Chattanooga. We checked into the con hotel and checked to see if Consuite was open yet. They were still setting up, so we let our friend who started the con know we made it in safely and did computer work until it was time to crash.

Fri Jun 26 we got our badges from Registration and wandered around to see what was open. We did lunch across the street from the hotel, then came back to the con. Things were mostly open at this point and I sat at a fan table to promote Sasquan (Worldcon 2015 in Spokane, WA) and chat with folks. Dinner time arrived and we went offsite to shop and eat, then returned to hang out with friends in Consuite, hit parties, etc.

Sat Jun 27 we had an early lunch, attended some programming, hit the art show and dealers room, hung out at the fan table again and chatted with friends. We joined some folks for dinner nearby, then returned for more convention before running out of steam. Interestingly, ChattaCon (the other annual event in Chattanooga) was barbecuing a pig in the parking lot and I had several helpings. That night they were serving what was left in their party!

Sun Jun 28 we grazed in Consuite, did more programming, chatted with dealers packing up and put in time at the fan table one last time. We hoped to do dinner with other friends, but that fell through so we went across the street again. Returning we hung out in Consuite, chatted with friends one last time, and crashed.

Mon Jun 29 we packed up the van, said goodbye to our local friends and headed off for San Diego and Westercon 68. Because W68 started on Thu we had only three days to get there. So we stayed overnight in Van Buren, AR. Tue Jun 30 we made it to Albuquerque and Wed Jul 01 we rolled into the Town & Country Resort in San Diego. Thu Jul 02 the convention started so we got our badges, helped a little with the bid for W70 in Tempe, AZ, went offsite for lunch and shopping, then returned for Opening Ceremonies. Dinner was with Sasquan staff at the nearby mall, then we hit the parties. The T&C is a nice resort with lots of landscaping reminiscent of Hawaii. We always enjoy our stays there.

Fri Jul 03 we did lunch offsite again, then returned for more convention. Programming, Art Show (such that it was), Dealers Room, and Fan Tables. Friends joined us for dinner onsite, then more parties. Voting closed for W70 and Tempe, AZ, sponsored by Leprecon Inc, won without competition.

Sat Jul 04 we did lunch nearby, then the con. W70 was selling memberships and upgrading pre-supports. I gave them advice, tweaked and tuned their presentation, etc. Dinner was a buffet set up by the hotel and a number of us from Sasquan ate together. We got to see some fireworks later after it got dark from the hotel tower. And we did more parties.

Sun Jul 05 the convention ended. I put in more help at the W70 table and Sasquan table, then said goodbye to those leaving right after the con ended. We did dinner with more friends, then returned to hang out in Consuite.

Mon Jul 06 we stayed at the con hotel since Comic Con was the following weekend. We couldn't transfer to the staff hotel near the convention center until Tue, so we tried to get together with other local friends, but it didn't work out well. So we had a nice quiet day.

Tue Jul 07 we left the T&C, transferred to the Manchester Grand Hyatt down by Seaport Village, and settled in until our roommates arrived. We did dinner at the village with them and caught up on conversation.

Wed Jul 08 we did lunch nearby, picked up our badges at the CC and went to work. Jean worked in Artists Alley Registration and I worked in Programming doing tech checks. We met up at the hotel and did dinner with friends nearby before returning to crash.

Thu Jul 09 we both went to work for SDCC. I ran Room 6A again this year and got to meet my new crew. The crowds returned as usual and we were kept busy. I did lunch offsite at Ralph's Market downtown, then returned to finish my shift. I met up with Jean at the hotel and we met friends for dinner offsite as usual. We came back to chat with our roommates and get caught up for the day before crashing.

Fri Jul 10 was more of the same. Sat Jul 11 was similar and Sun Jul 12 we got finished earlier. This year we couldn't get the group together to go to the Butcher Shop for our wrap-up dinner, so Jean and I ate elsewhere on our own. Mon Jul 13 we checked out of the hotel, did lunch with friends on the way home and welcomed our pets upon returning safely.

Overall, it was a busy vacation. We had a lot of fun at the various conventions and San Diego was a welcome cool option to home. But we were happy to get home and rest for a bit...
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We scheduled an All Hands Staff Meeting in Spokane, WA, for Sasquan (Worldcon 2015 Spokane). After soliciting availability from staff we settled on the last weekend in May. I coordinated the itinerary with the Spokane CVB, Visit Spokane, and the Sasquan team.

Jean and I drove up from Phoenix, AZ, and stayed at the DoubleTree Hotel attached to the Spokane Convention Center. We arrived Thursday night, joined some of the executive team for dinner, then Friday met with the CVB along with the Chair and another Vice Chair. After lunch with them we were dropped off at the Spokane Liquor Board for a meeting to discuss what we plan to do with our Worldcon parties. We explained what we usually do regarding parties and the rep there was very comfortable with what we were doing, noting that we explained we were self-policing. Apparently, they've never heard that from any other group. Add in the fact that we were using the Davenport Historic Hotel and we got a green light to hold our normal room parties with no bureaucracy required. The CVB picked us up and delivered us to the Davenport Grand Hotel for a during-construction tour. We then broke off for dinner with other staff members. After dinner we met with the team to discuss final plans for Worldcon.

Saturday we did breakfast before touring the SCC, DoubleTree and Davenport Historic. Lunch was in there somewhere. Dinner was after the touring, then we met at the Red Lion at the Park for our Division Head Budget meeting. It was pointed out that many of our budget items still had Reno's (Worldcon 2011) budget amounts and this should not be. So, within 2 weeks we had all fixed that. We hung out at the Hospitality Suite in the Red Lion's Presidential Suite before calling it a night.

Sunday we did breakfast, then met at the SCC for our final Division Head meeting. We broke for lunch, then continued until late into the afternoon. Overall, we got lots done which was the intent of the weekend. Some of us did dinner, then I got online.

Monday Jean and I departed for Yellowstone National Park. Last year we had tried to visit there, but timed it poorly because of the sequester of the federal government. We could not enter and had to drive around the park. This time we entered from the west gate on Tuesday, visited Old Faithful, then around through the park and exited via the south gate. Wednesday we continued our drive south and Thursday we arrived back home.

Overall it was a great trip. We resolved the alcohol policy for the convention despite all of the warnings from western Washington about the draconian liquor control board there. We answered a lot of questions about at-con stuff and we met many of the staff members whom we had not met yet. Additionally, most of the team's staff got to see the facilities in person. This led to a very successful event in August. More on that in a later post.
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As part of being a Vice Chair for Sasquan (Worldcon Spokane 2015, www.sasquan.org) I decided to attend Eastercon in London, UK, to help our European agent run a fan table there and get the word out about the convention later in the year. I coordinated with friends from Virginia who expressed a desire to attend and tour London post-con, so we made our plans. We'd fly in the day before the con started (Good Friday, so we arrived Thursday), stay at the con hotel (Park Inn by Radisson Heathrow), then transfer to a less expensive hotel a bit farther from downtown London (Holiday Inn East Croydon) so we could tour the city like real tourists.

We departed Phoenix Wednesday pre-Easter, arrived Thursday pre-Easter and transferred to our hotel via the airport shuttle. It turned out to be a nice hotel with an excellent breakfast included in the price. As breakfasts go it was the best we've had in Europe anywhere! Our friends from VA arrived shortly after and we ate dinner at the pub across the way. We wandered around to orient ourselves with the hotel, then got online and crashed.

Friday we got our memberships after breakfast, then checked out all of the function space. Some of it was close to the lobby and some wasn't. Additionally, the dealers room didn't exist. Instead they had small function rooms along the cooridor between the two function areas with one, two or three dealers in each. Some were open most of the time while others were open part of the time. The convention had clearly marked signs listing their Code of Conduct Policy and I noticed another sign about "pegs" to delineate mood. I didn't find out what they were until the end of the con, but they used little tiny clothespins of different color to let folks advertise whether they wanted to be approached for a conversation, don't approach or something else. They were meant to be pinned onto the badge lanyard, but were so small I never saw any until Monday evening. Interesting idea though. Many US cons use ribbons, but this system allows you to change moods. I checked in with Sasquan's European Agent at the Sasquan Fan Table, set up a rough schedule and wandered around to check out programming. Overseas cons don't offer Consuites, but instead do discounted food & beverages in some sort of space. Dysprosium (2015 Eastercon) had such a space near the alternate function rooms on the far side of the hotel. Beer, wine and cider along with some food options like sandwiches or hot items. I found their soft drinks a bit high, so I thought I'd check out the bar in the lounge off of the lobby. It was worse! Strangely enough, the soft drinks sold in the gift shop were the least expensive so that's where I'd go mostly. We dined at the hotel that night, then I wandered a bit to see if there were any night life. Overseas doesn't do parties, either, unless they are in function space. So I chatted with a few fen and called it a night.

Saturday was much the same, except I had to set up a meeting with the 2017 Worldcon bidders so we could roll a die to determine who would get which floor. It turns out that the party hotel in Spokane had the requested three-room configurations available, but only one such on each floor. To be fair we settled on a die roll at Eastercon with a rep from each bid present for transparency. We ended up doing this on Monday as the Art Show was closing down, but it went well and everyone was satisfied with how it was handled. Paul and I took turns at the Fan Table throughout the day with us visiting programming here and there. Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files, was there with his wife so my wife, Jean, attended all that he had for programming. I managed to catch one such event. I checked out the Art Show which was at the end of the hall from the fan tables. Breakfast was again at the hotel and dinner was again at the pub across the street. There wasn't much else around. I did do a late lunch with Bay Area fans, but the food was ok but no big deal in the lounge. The big event of the evening was the Hugo Nominees Announcement that was live streamed online with reps at Norwescon, Eastercon, and another convention I forget. As many now know, the slates promoted by two groups, affectionately known as the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, got most of their recommendations on the ballot. This started a controversy that rambles on to this day. Being at one of the epicenters was, um, entertaining. Since I was part of the administering Worldcon I didn't say much of anything and one fan congratulated me on that stance. Because of the controversy Sasquan ended up with more Supporting Memberships (can vote for Hugos and Site Selection) than Attending Memberships, a first. We also set a record number of total memberships, over 11000! But I get ahead of myself. I got online after and conferred with the other Vice Chairs for Worldcon and we came up with a preliminary plan on how to respond.

Sunday was breakfast, fan table, programming, and lots & lots of Hugo discussions. Dinner was again at the hotel, then online.

Monday was the final day of Eastercon. We wrapped up the fan table, did the die roll mentioned above, said goodbye to new friends and old, and I had that peg conversation with a Norwegian fan who explained how the peg system worked & why he used it. Dinner was at the pub one last time. I got online before bed.

Tuesday we packed up, checked out, and transferred by van taxi to East Croydon. The driver had a tough time finding up, but finally did. Turns out it was almost up an alleyway off of a side street. Not your typical HIEx location. We checked in, got help from the staff with our luggage, and settled in for the stay. We walked around the town looking for dinner and discovered that West Croydon was to be avoided. We found a pub/restaurant on the way back and returned to the hotel for online duties.

Wednesday we did their breakfast, which was fairly lame compared to the Park Inn. Then we called for a taxi to go to the car rental place nearby. I rented a car so we could drive up to Warner Brothers' Harry Potter Adventure in north London. I returned to retrieve Jean and friends, then put in the address. Lo and behold it took us straight through downtown London! And we survived! I had booked tickets online and we got there plenty early. We waited until our time group was up and got in line, then walked through the exhibits. They were amazing. Room after room of clothing, props, stories of people and about the movies, etc. Hogwarts Express was in one part and it was clearly meant for children as the aisles they walked down was extremely narrow. I tried some butterbeer and it was butterscotch flavored. When we were done some hours later we found a place to eat dinner (Mexican food) and returned to the hotel. Turns out they had no parking available, so we had to drop the women off and park some blocks away. I got online and crashed.

Thursday I returned the rental car and took a taxi back to the hotel. We then caught a taxi together to the tour office downtown London for the Doubledecker bus tours. We had booked online and had to retrieve them there. Once we did we caught one and started seeing the sights. We stopped at a nearby restaurant upon returning to the office for dinner, then caught another taxi back to East Croydon. Meals in the UK cost about the same numbers, but in pounds rather than in dollars. So a typical meal will cost 1.5 times as much as at home eating out due to the exchange rate. This didn't seem to matter whether we were in a pub or restaurant.

Friday was more of the same. Breakfast, taxi, bus tours, dinner somewhere. This time I talked our friends into eating at a Japanese restaurant near the hotel. Much to their surprise they enjoyed it, so we went back once more a couple of days later. Since the bus tours were color coded we exhausted all of the sights on one line before visiting another. We also did the London Eye (giant ferris wheel), Churchill's war time rooms nearby, and toured the Thames River up and down.

Saturday I got the idea of walking to the East Croydon train station while we took a day off. I used it to go into Victoria Station in downtown London, have lunch, then walk back to the hotel. One way was about 1km, too far for Jean but not for our friends. However, Sunday we took a taxi to the train station then rode it into downtown. Unfortunately, to pick up our bus tickets we had to take another taxi to the downtown office again. Very annoying. Monday we visited the British Museum and Tuesday the Victoria & Albert Museum. Wednesday we flew home, arriving Wednesday due to the time differential and our trip was over.

We had fun at the convention and the Park Inn is a recommended place to stay, just for the breakfast alone save for the proximity to Heathrow Airport and downtown. Harry Potter's attraction is also a definite item to visit. Many people take the train there; they apparently have a shuttle between the studios and the station. Since we didn't want to risk missing it we rented a car which wasn't cheap, but exciting to drive downtown. Using the buses to tour London is a great way to get around and see stuff. Visiting museums is a must and spend at least one day at each one you visit. Don't try to cram in more than one. Being at the beginning of the Hugo controversy was interesting and getting Sasquan business, and having a high profile presence there, was worthwile. We had a fun trip.
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February 2015 Trip to Spokane, WA

As part of my duties being Vice Chair for Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) in Spokane, WA, I got to attend the Convention Center Division Staff Meeting there. The CC Div was later combined into the new Facilities Division, but in Feb 2015 it was still separate. Since our Layouts Area Head / Decorator Liaison (same person) had not toured the Spokane Convention Center (SCC), the Division Head (DH) scheduled a tour of the facilities (SCC). Additionally, some other staff persons had requested to attend since many had not toured the SCC either. This turned out to be primarily from our Events Division, but also from our Tech Division.

Because of the time of year we could not risk driving from Phoenix to Spokane without dealing with snow. So I opted to fly non-stop. I ended up staying at the DoubleTree Hotel next to the SCC (actually, attached). I flew in the day before the site visit and met up with some staff members for dinner. We found a nearby restaurant and caught up on pleasantries before returning to our respective hotels for the evening. On the tour day we met for breakfast at the Hilton, then walked next door to the SCC to meet with our contact there. He introduced us to the catering reps with whom we'd be ordering food & beverages during the convention. The DL then went off to meet with the proposed decorators after we toured the exhibit halls where our DL would be designing our CAD (Computer Aided Design) layouts to submit to the city's fire marshall. Many of the staff spent time in the INB Theater (site of the Masquerade and Hugo Awards Ceremony) while the CCD DH and I met with the caterer reps for additional details. After all the meetings he and I wandered over to the high end restaurant, Clinkerdagger's, for dinner. Unfortunately, they had a two hour wait so we wandered around the area and talked about the con. That's where I proposed a possible solution to the Facilities Division issue.

My suggestion was to combine CCD and FD into a new FD with two sub-divisions: Convention Center and Hotels. As it turned out within one month I had another resignation which forced me to enact this proposal. Thankfully, the CCD DH was receptive and he became the new FD. We finally made it into the restaurant, had somewhat of a delay in receiving our meal thanks to an error in the kitchen, whereupon the manager apologized and gave us gift cards for our next visit. We used them this visit and saved a lot of money on our total bill! We then parted ways and I got online before shutting down for the night. The following day I packed up and headed back to the airport to fly home.

Although this trip was short, about 48 hours, we got lots done for Sasquan. We also got to meet some other staff persons whom we'd not met yet. We had good food and I set up a solution to a major problem which ended up working out well. I'd say it was a win overall.
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Sasquan Division Head Meeting
January 2015
Houston, Texas

Worldcon 2015 (Sasquan) Chair, Sally Woehrle, requested that I find a hotel in the south central part of the country for our next DH meeting. Having been to the DoubleTree Hotel at Houston's International Airport in 2013 for ApolloCon, I was familiar with their function space and their Presidential Suite (which was used by Consuite). So I contacted their Sales Team and started negotiations for our meeting. After reaching consensus on the hotel contract the Executive Committee (Sally and the Vice Chairs) agreed to go with it and we signed it. We announced it to our team and prepared for the trip.

Jean and I drove as usual. We stayed overnight in El Paso, then San Antonio, and finally arrived in Houston. So it took us about 2.5 days to drive. We arrived on Thursday and settled into our room which was located on the same floor as Consuite. Sally arrived and we did Chinese food nearby for dinner; Jean opted to stay in the room, so I got a to-go meal for her. Many of the rest of the team arrived throughout Friday and our Hospitality DH, Marah, shopped for supplies for our Hospitality Suite. Those of us already in did lunch together, then dinner was at the Holiday Inn restaurant not far from the hotel; it was a nice pub/restaurant. We hung out in Hospitality until late.

Saturday we started the meeting. One of our DHs brought a video projector and I brought a screen, so we had a/v available. We started out with a summary from the top, then covered each of the 12 Divisions quickly. We moved onto the important questions and strove for answers. We broke into small groups for lunch around the area and dinner was at Texas Roadhouse. One car went to the wrong one and the other group waited for them to arrive. By the time the two groups met up our large table was ready and we had a nice meal. We met again that evening in Hospitality and called it a night.

Sunday we checked out of our suite and used the tiered function room downstairs. Folks drifted out as they needed to depart for the airport and we finally packed up everything to return the room to the hotel. Some of us did dinner nearby at a small restaurant, then hung out in the lobby for awhile before packing for Monday's departure. Monday Jean and I finished packing, loaded up the van and we left for another overnight in San Antonio, followed by another in El Paso and arrived home the following day in Phoenix.

We got lots done during the meeting, strengthened our connections and had some great meals. It was a win!
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LosCon 41 / SMOFcon 32 (2014) Review

LosCon was held once again at the LAX Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles, CA, over American Thanksgiving Weekend (late November). Coincidentally, SMOFcon was held the following weekend (early December) at the Marriott Hotel Manhattan Beach (CA) just a few miles south of the LAX Marriott. LosCon is the annual science fiction convention sponsored by LASFS and SMOFcon is the annual convention runners convention for SMOFs, the Secret Masters Of Fandom, a term coined in jest by fan and sf author Jack Chalker many years ago. Although SMOFcon covers topics pertinent to Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention), most also apply to regionals and/or locals (such as LosCon).

As is traditional for us we planned to drive over to LA on Thanksgiving Day itself. Sometimes we arrange to do dinner with friends and sometimes we do dinner alone, either in Phoenix before we leave or at the convention hotel. We ended up driving to San Diego to dine with friends, only that fell through and we ended up at Golden Corral east of LA instead. Talk about packed! We waited 90 minutes to be seated, but their buffet was quite good. We drove to the hotel near the airport, checked in, and unloaded the van for the weekend stay. We settled in, then I wandered around to see who else had come in early, got online and crashed for the night.

The next day we had breakfast with friends from VA, then grabbed the van and headed to the closest Costco Warehouse. They offer a cookbook only on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when all of the traditional Christmas sales start. It was a zoo, as usual, but we got a few things and left to return to the hotel. I was supposed to help with the Sasquan (Worldcon 2015 in Spokane, WA) fan table, but otherwise I was not busy. I got to attend some programming, visit the dealers room, see the art show, and chat with friends all weekend! We did schedule a meet-up for other Sasquan staff who were in attendance and gave them a quick update on how things were going. Since our Chair and two Vice Chairs (including me) were there, we wanted to make sure folks were informed. That went well. We also did meals with friends throughout the weekend, both onsite (one restaurant and one bar/lounge) and offsite. I went to some science programming; Jean went to some art programming. We had the usual good time. Sunday evening we did dinner with some locals, as is tradition, then because of SMOFcon nearby the following weekend we had arranged to use the apartment of friends for three nights before moving to the SMOFcon hotel.

Monday we checked out as usual, then drove to the apartment. It was an early 20th century one upstairs in a small complex. Although we had driven by earlier that weekend we hadn't visited it so we had trouble locating the specific location of our unit. Neighbors helped us and we started the slow process of moving our stuff upstairs. It took about an hour, then we rested. Parking was on the street only and I found a spot nearby. When we went out for dinner that night we discovered the parking had disappeared, so I dropped off my wife and drove around to find a spot. Ultimately, there was one about 3/4 miles away. Busy neighborhood! Tuesday I had a meeting with the Sasquan Chair, who stayed at a small hotel near the airport, and we had lunch at Denny's to discuss the convention. After that I took her shopping, then dropped her off to pick up an early dinner and to get a spot to park. That worked much better. We spent lots of time online while staying there. Wednesday was similar except no meeting. Thursday we packed up the van again and checked into the SMOFcon hotel in MB, south of LAX. A number of other sf fans were already on site. We did dinner at a nearby burger place, then socialized with friends as they arrived. I had agreed to fetch some folks from the airport, so I made several runs to and fro up until about midnight.

Friday was the start of SMOFcon. There were a couple of workshops, but I didn't sign up for any this year. I helped out where I could at-con; I handled their Twitter account pre-con. That night was the official mixer with Lego building (my team won a prize), then folks hung out in Hospitality Suite and the hotel's lounge. Saturday offered the main programming. We held another Sasquan meeting so those available could get their update on the con from the top. I attended a presentation on getting volunteers to be energized. I participated in the Fannish Inquisition on Sasquan's behalf with the Chair and other Vice Chair. I took some friends out for Persian food near the airport. I hung out in the lounge and hosp ste. Sunday the con wound down, they voted on 2015's location (Ft Worth, TX, defeated Colorado Springs, CO). I took some folks back to the airport. I also drove us with two friends to a barbecue place we knew about in Van Nuys. I hung out in the lounge for awhile before crashing. Monday we packed up, checked out and drove home, fetching the dog from boarding and petting the cats after they forgave us for leaving.

We had a good time on this trip despite the glitch for Thanksgiving dinner. We enjoyed the stay in our friends' apartment and got to know a different area of the LA suburbs where we'd never been. We got to see lots of friends and try new restaurants. It was definitely a winning two weekends!
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World Fantasy Con 2014 Trip

WFC2014 was held in Washington, DC, area at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, VA, November 6-9. Our initial intent was to stay at the con hotel, but in researching it I learned that it was valet parking only, so we opted to stay with friends nearby instead. As usual we drove out from Phoenix, AZ, staying along the way in Albuquerque, NM as well as Oklahoma City, OK, followed by Memphis, TN, then a smaller town near Roanoke, VA, before arriving at our friends' apartment complex. They were in the process of remodeling, so had rented a second unit to stay in which we got to use for our stay. After moving in our stuff we did dinner together before crashing for the night (Wed).

Thursday was the start of the convention, so we did lunch in the area, then were shown how to take the bus that stops out front to another bus which then stops at the subway. We only had to take that one stop before exiting. The hotel had a regular shuttle from that subway stop, so we got that for free and arrived at the hotel. After getting our registration material we oriented ourselves with the hotel and where the convention function rooms were located, then returned to the lobby lounge for drinks. We saw lots of friends there and chatted with a few until dinner time. We asked the hotel for suggestions, then headed out to find something. It was almost too far for Jean, but she survived it and we got back in time to see a few things at the con before reversing our path via the hotel subway shuttle, then subway, then bus number 1 and finally bus number 2. We retired to our apartment unit to relax and get online.

Friday we took a cab directly to the hotel so I could get there for the 10am board meeting. I was presenting a bid for Tempe for WFC2016/7/8. Unfortunately, there were many concerns about the Autograph Reception location; last time we did it in the courtyard of the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel and this time the board wanted a larger indoor venue. They voted to reject the site and asked me to find a larger one with more sleeping rooms. We returned to the lounge for drinks to discuss the decision, then headed to the Art Show and Dealers Room. We chatted with more friends until dinner which was in the lounge itself and rather good. We wandered around the Autograph Reception that evening until we took a cab back to the apartment complex for the night.

Saturday was more of the same. We spent a fair amount of time hanging out with a local friend who was an artist and attended the Artists Reception with him. We hadn't seen him since his move from the West Coast to the East Coast, but he seemed to be doing well. Sunday I had to be back for another 10am board meeting and we got a summary of how DC did for attendance, room nights, etc. We didn't attend the banquet, instead opting to return to the apartment complex early so we could drive to a dining location offsite. We chatted with our friends until late, then crashed. Monday we packed up and headed home. We stayed in essentially the same cities, although the hotels varied a bit, and we made it home safely. Our dog that we board for such trips was happy to come home. Our cats that we use a petsitter for were equally happy to have us back. We were happy to be back in our bed and begin the process of catching up on regular chores and re-establish our routines.

Overall, we had a good time with our friends, both offsite and onsite. It was disappointing to lose the bid for WFC2016/7/8, but as a fellow board member I understood their concerns. The deadline of the end of the year produced no suitable candidates for replacement (400+ room hotels in the beginning of tourist season didn't fall within the board's room rate interval) so I had to drop the bid altogether. Thankfully, Columbus, OH, stepped up and successfully ran for 2016 and won. WFC2015 will be in Saratoga Springs, NY; they ran a good one in 2007 there, too. Columbus ran a good one in 2010, so they were a known quantity although the Chair arrangement will be different in 2016. And there are bids for 2017 and 2018. We shall see who wins the bid(s) this year in New York!
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Once again my wife and I made plans to attend Worldcon, Loncon 3. In 2014 it was in London, UK, at the ExCel convention center in the Docklands area of the city down-river from the downtown areas best known. This year was more complex because Eurocon, Shamrokon, was in Dublin, Ireland, the following weekend. To further complicate our plans, my wife's 50th high school reunion in West Virginia was the weekend after that. So after much study we opted to drive to the east coast, stay with friends one night and leave our van at their place, fly out of Dulles airport for London by way of Dublin (which was cheaper than going through London first), renting a car, and touring the southern half of England prior to Worldcon. We then attended Loncon 3, played tourist for a day in the city, transferred to an airport hotel and flew back to Dublin to attend Shamrokon, toured Northern Ireland, UK, which we had never seen, then flew back to the east coast. We stayed with friends one more night, then drove to WV for her event, then home. Whew!

We left Phoenix in mid-August and took four days to get to Virginia. We hung out with our friends, whom would later join us in London and then Dublin, then flew United to Dublin. A fan in Pennsylvania had suggested to us to check out options going through Dublin first. I looked into Dulles-London (Heathrow), then London-Dublin, then either forward to Dulles or back to London first. Lo and behold, going through Dublin first and last was indeed cheaper! Since we were departing and returning to Dulles, and not Phoenix, it made sense to do that. The portion between Dublin and London was on Aer Lingus, but affiliated with United. The first leg was good enough, but we had issues with service coming back. Our friends, in the meantime, opted to fly over to London City Airport (very close to Loncon 3) and so had to go through a European airport first to get there. We looked at that option, but I really wanted a two-leg flight for Jean's benefit and the LCA option required at least three legs.

We arrived at Heathrow airport, rented our car and headed to Guildford, southwest of London, where Jean has a long distance cousin. We had arranged to get together after our arrival, but due to traffic and GPS issues we got to the Holiday Inn Hotel there later than planned. Her cousin had left a message at the front desk and when we called to coordinate our schedules they had already gotten back home. So, we ate at the hotel instead for dinner. We had a couple of issues with not getting what we ordered and the hotel apologized, giving us a discount when we checked out the next day which was nice. After checkout we left and headed north towards Preston. The reason for Preston is that it was about a day's drive in the general direction of the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT), a panopticon (sculpture artwork) in north central England, that Jean wanted to visit. I researched where it was and decided since it was in the middle of the island we should stay west the first night. We had a challenging time filling the car as the gas cap wouldn't open and there was no release button. I enlisted the help of the staff inside the fueling station and one ended up looking up the make and model's manual online. Turns out I had to lock the car with the key fob, then unlock it, then push on the door to the filling cap. I am not kidding! So Holiday Inn Express here we came. I had an interesting experience running out for Chinese Take-Away (To-Go), but I managed to find the restaurant and the food was great. The hotel had a comped breakfast in the morning, then we packed up and headed east towards Burnaby a bit closer to the SRT.

The first part of the journey to find the SRT was to take the freeway east, reach the town of Burnaby, then head south towards where Google Maps showed the SRT to be located. Strangely, there were no directions online on how to reach the SRT. All articles said it was south of the town, but there were no highway or road directions. I did print the page with its GPS coordinates which helped tremendously, but we saw lots of countryside back and forth, around and around, until we found the correct road. It didn't help that it had been raining all day either. So by the time we reached the (dirt/mud) parking lot it was mucky. We could see the tree off in the distance, about half a mile away, but there was no way Jean was going to make that journey on foot in that weather. So, we took some photos and left for our next stop in Hull along the eastern side of England. Once again we chose a Holiday Inn Express downtown, but this one was attached to a shopping mall. Parking was in the mall itself and the lobby connected on the second level. After checking in I hit the mall for dinner and discovered the American Burger Company, or some such. Had to try that. While waiting for our burgers and fries I chatted with the workers and learned a bit about the area. Except for having to pay for parking (one of the parameters I tried to use for filtering hotel options was free parking, fail here) it was a good stay. They also had the comp breakfast and we got the get-out-of-parking-at-a-discount ticket from the hotel lobby before leaving. We drove along the eastern coast, which we have never seen previously, until we got to East Rudham in Norwich. Here was another site, a Dragon Hedge, carved by a farmer just outside of town. I had to stop at a pub for directions, but we found it after that and took some pictures. It was a working farm and I took some photos of that, too. Then we left to stay in Norwich itself at yet another Holiday Inn Express. This one was next to a facility that was very busy and just downhill from ASDA, the British Walmart affiliate. We did go out for dinner somewhere nearby that was relatively unremarkable, then returned for the night.

After breakfast we hit the ASDA to stock up on water and munchies, then headed along the southeast coast until we got to Dover. We had visited Dover in 2010, so this would complete our southeast loop. We had a big problem using the GPS to get where we wanted to go as it kept trying to route us into London. Turns out we told the GPS to avoid toll roads and there was one bridge, a toll bridge, that would take us across the waterway to where we did want to go, but to avoid a toll we had to go to London instead. I finally gave up looping around (and avoiding the toll portion of London, think anti-smog fee for the inner ring roads) and paid the darn toll. We reached Dover from the north, then shot up to Ashford just southeast of London's ring freeway. Here we had a Holiday Inn, but again a fail in that they only had us on the second floor (in Europe the first upstairs floor is the first floor, so it was really their first floor) with no elevator. Drat! Jean managed to slowly negotiate the stairs after checking in, then we came downstairs to eat at the hotel restaurant. A server told us to come back in 30 minutes as they were too busy. Since they had empty tables, I asked to speak to the restaurant manager. Turns out he was cooking! So I planted Jean in a chair and went to the front desk. "May I speak to your Manager on Duty?" "Probably not as he's cooking." You see the problem. I had just purchased dinner coupons at the front desk, so I asked for a refund. I escorted Jean back upstairs and I then went out for take away instead. It was not remarkable, but at least Jean could rest in comfort of our room instead of an uncomfortable chair near a restaurant that didn't want our business. So far the Holiday Inns, not the Expresses, had both been challenges on our trip. We did eat breakfast at the hotel restaurant in the morning, then filed a complaint when we checked out. This time we got no compensation for our inconvenience. It seems most of the staff, including the manager and cook, were relatively new.

We headed out for the ExCel area of London next. I got the car as close to the Novotel Hotel as I could, got someone to come downstairs with a luggage cart to help us unload our rental car, then Jean went with the cart and I went to London City Airport to return the car. I lambasted the returns desk for not supplying a manual so I could have figured out the gas cap unlock system and they just stared at me. I accidentally left our handicap hanger in the car, so we had to order a new one when we returned home, but we got everything else out thankfully. I caught a cab back to the hotel and we checked in and settled in. Our VA friends had already arrived, so we did dinner in the hotel restaurant where I had some wonderful lamb dish. We caught up on our trip experiences and we crashed. The next day I walked over to the ExCel to check in for both of us and to retrieve Jean's mobile scooter I had reserved. Thankfully, I got to Registration on the far eastern portion of the convention center (about one kilometer away from our hotel) before the hordes arrived. I checked in and then went to the Accessibility Desk for the scooter. The fellow was just delivering them and was surprised because he had no reservation for us. What? Turns out he had an extra, which I took, but I could not pay the convention; instead I had to pay him and he could only take cash. So, I had to find an ATM and withdraw enough cash to rent it for the con. I insisted on a receipt and he agreed, then I drove it back to the hotel for Jean's use. Thankfully, the con had gotten us into a room with walk-in shower and it was large enough for us to park the scooter next to the bed and still maneuver on foot. The con was still setting things up, so when I went back I wandered around to orient myself. It was on several levels on the east end with the long march through the center itself with lots of restaurants and shops. Many were closed, since Loncon 3 wasn't that large by their standards and it wasn't fully open yet, but they had plenty of food options from American chains to ethnic choices. The Dealers Room / Art Show was on the western side of the con's space along with Exhibits. The eastern side down one level was Reg, Flyer Racks, and the Fan Village. The latter was where the beer, ale and cider was sold along with Convention Operations, fan tables under portable 10'x10' tents here and there, and Gaming. That's also where the parties were to be at night thanks to their food handling laws. Upstairs above the FV was Programming rooms. These were on the north side of the concourse; they used some rooms on the south side, but you had to walk through an empty exhibit hall to the far south wall, then take an elevator (or stairs) up to another level. That part was really isolated from the rest of the convention. On the way back to the hotel Jean and I opted for Indian, but instead of a choice of sit-down vs buffet we discovered it was buffet only. It was ok, but not great. After dinner we met up with our friends to analyze the convention layout and discuss food options.

The first day of the con we met for breakfast, which was buffet and quite good at the hotel, then wandered over to check out the con. Boy were they slammed at Registration! Lines were reminiscent of San Diego Comic Con. Thankfully, we didn't need to visit Reg again. I found the Sasquan fan table (Spokane Worldcon 2015) to help out and when I had a moment I wandered the Fan Village to find out where other cons' fan tables were located. There was no symmetry on how the tents were arranged, so the tables just kind of meandered around. There was a seating area for folks with beers and such. Except for the pricing it worked pretty well. So I helped at the table while Jean and our friends saw the rest of the con. There were issues with scooters and the small elevators, so the con devised a scheme to use cargo elevators for those with accessibility issues. It took a day to get this right and Jean was not allowed to go upstairs one day, so she returned to the hotel instead. I did lunch with some American friends and we chatted about the con's configuration, then back to help at the Sasquan table again. By dinner time the con shut down except for the big events. I watched Opening Ceremonies on the south side with some tiered seating and it went pretty well. Other events would be in that exhibit hall during the weekend. We synced up with friends for dinner after nearby as there were many hotels on the west side of the center near us as well as restaurants, then compared notes for the day.

Con day 2 was more of the same. Fan table, business meeting, some programming, lunch with friends, more table, etc. The parties at night were in the FV and it was strangely working out ok. At an American Worldcon we would have had party suites, but Europe doesn't really do that. The FV was Loncon 3's solution. It was extremely expensive for groups as all food & beverages had to come through the center's caterer. As such there were fewer parties. Day 3 was when Sasquan was hosting its party in the same tent as Kansas City had their fan tables. Voting closed this day, so KC wasn't throwing a party as it was vote count night. They were unopposed, but they still don't do that. They kindly let us use their tent and tables, but Sasquan spent $3000 on f&b! It went well and was a lot of work. We got a number of memberships there, in addition to the fan table throughout the weekend. Day 4 was when KC was announced as the winner for Worldcon 2016, MidAmeriCon II; MAC I was in 1976. Besides the fan table we had to get ready to host the Hugo Losers Party. Some of our staff went out shopping for it and the rest of us helped run it that night. The Hugo Awards Ceremony was in that large southern exhibit hall. Prior was the Hugo Pre-Reception, sponsored by Loncon 3 and I got to attend it for the first time. I was well underdressed :-) Jean and I attended the Hugos, then she returned to the hotel while I followed the crowd around to the designated southern room on a higher floor where the Losers Party was held sponsored by Sasquan. I ended up entertaining the folks waiting down the long corridor to get in, then helped at the serving tables. Folks had tickets for drinks, but food was for all. It went well enough, but the long line was caused by the reg desk system we used and we took some hits over that snafu. But people had a good time and we survived it.

Day 5 was the last day of the con. I had to return Jean's scooter by a certain time and ours was the last one returned. We wrapped up the fan table, said goodbye to our annual friends, and met folks for dinner one last time. We had planned one day of touring London with our VA friends before shifting gears to Dublin, so the day after L3 we took a cab from the hotel to the Tower of London. We walked a lot getting there from our dropoff point and then we walked a lot while there, but it was fun. As we were leaving to snag another cab I saw across the street three businesses side by side: Subway, Starbucks and Baskin Robbins. I spread my arms out wide and yelled "We won!" The locals just looked at me and kept walking. We caught a cab for the National Archives because our friends had worked for them in the US in DC; one still did while the other was retired. Once there three of us hung out in the restaurant to their building while he went off to see what he could. We met an interesting Scottish college student there and chatted with her for awhile until our fourth returned. We then took a cab to the Thames to catch a water taxi back to the ExCel area. The taxi got us close, then we took the sky cars across the river to the ExCel side. Our one friend is afraid of heights, so she kept her eyes closed the entire time. As we walked back towards our hotel we ran into a Lebanese restaurant, so we ate dinner there and it was quite good. Next to us was Dr Gregory Benford of Los Angeles. We chatted with him on and off during dinner, then we returned to the hotel one last time. After checkout the next day our friends left for the city airport to catch a flight to Dublin while we transferred to a Holiday Inn near Heathrow. Heathrow is west of downtown London while city airport is southeast. We decompressed there rather than play tourist again, then flew to Dublin to following day. We synced up with our VA friends at the DoubleTree Hotel Burlington. Strangely, their restaurant was breakfast only. If you want lunch or dinner, you either eat in the lobby in the light or in the large bar/pub in the dark. For our first night we opted for neither. Jean went to the room and I went out walking, finding an interesting pizza place about a quarter mile around the corner. After dinner in our room I wandered around and found a few people I knew from L3, so chatted with them before crashing.

Breakfast was included and it was crowded. We met our VA friends, then got registered for Shamrokon. Sasquan had a fan table there, so I helped on and off with that. We opted to do no party as they had theirs in function space, too, but it wasn't nearly as large. Since Dublin was starting a bid for Worldcon 2019 the Bid Chair arranged for a tour of their new convention center. I went on that on day 2 and it was smaller than ours, but quite nice and modern. However, on day 1, we all took a cab to the Guiness Brewery for a tour. There was a lot of walking through the multiple floors of exhibits, but we survived to reach the top floor for the comp glass of beer. Our one friend got most of them as I don't really like that stuff, just on occasion. The view was quite nice though as it was essentially a 360 degree view of the city from a tall building. We left there to cab over to Trinity College to view the Book of Kells. We had more lines and more walking, but it was worth it and afterwards we entered the library and gift shop. Awesome library! We bought some books in the shop, then returned to the con hotel by cab. Dinner was three of us at a nearby Irish restaurant and I got takeaway for Jean at the hotel. I socialized with fans in the bar/pub after, then called it a night. Day 2 was more of the same, but with the center tour. It looks very doable. I again helped at the table, then did dinner with other friends at the same Irish restaurant as the night before, then experienced Dublin's version of the party plan. It was in a large meeting room and had organizational tables, book tables, food and drink available. I hung out with some fans near the back at a banquet table and had a good time. The final day of the con was shorter. We sold more Sasquan memberships, then helped them shut the con down. We ended up doing dinner with our friends in the hotel pub this time and other American fans joined us throughout the meal. We shut down early so we could pack for the next day.

We did one final breakfast with our VA friends who headed off to the airport to fly home. I took a cab to the airport to rent our car, returned to pick up Jean after checking out and we drove off to Belfast in Northern Ireland! We were surprised to find essentially no border issues when crossing over. There was a sign that said Welcome To Northern Ireland, you are now using miles. The drive was easy and we found our hotel outside of Belfast easily, Hilton Templepatrick. It was located in a suburb and had a huge golf course. We got checked in, then ate dinner in the hotel restaurant. Most hotel restaurants in Europe are only open a few hours; you have to rely on their pubs beyond those hours. We had a nice meal though, again it was lamb for me. The next day we planned to drive past Belfast for the eastern coast, then north along the coast, then west along that coast all the while hitting the National Trust Landmarks. The Irish Sea drive along the east was beautiful! Little towns, roadway right along the water, some of the houses practically at sea level. When we got to the northeast we hit Carrick-a-Reid Rope Bridge landmark. Paid the fee and I parked. Jean didn't want to walk all the way to see it, so I did and took pictures, paying to cross. It is basically a rope and wooden bridge from the main island to a much smaller one. I got talking on the way back with a British couple and we compared notes on our respective federal retirement systems. I reached the car, showed Jean all the photos I took, and we headed off west towards the next landmark, Giant's Causeway. This was a collection of polygon shaped columns of various heights along the coast that are geologically related to some in Iceland and all the way to Newfoundland in Canada. I could have taken a shuttle to some of the sights, but I walked instead. And took photos. I returned to show them to her and we continued our drive west until just outside of Londonderry (northwest Northern Ireland). Looking at the map I was surprised to see that northwest Ireland was just farther west from there, but we didn't have time. Instead we drove back towards our hotel. We decided to look for dinner and using our GPS we found a Chinese Restaurant nearby that was quite excellent. The server was from Romania so we had a great chat about the three countries (Romania, US, UK). We returned to our hotel to unwind.

After breakfast and checkout we drove down the southeast coast and all its peninsulas until we ran out and headed back to Dublin. We planned to stay near the airport, this time in a Premier Inn (the same chain we used in 2010 when we toured the UK and got stuck there for 9 extra days). However, our GPS wouldn't bring it up. No problem, I printed out directions. Yeah right. After a frustrating hour of trying to find it I realized that I could just call for help. They never answered their phone; instead, it threw us into an infinite loop between one option and the operator. I finally realized that I had their GPS coordinates on my printout and I figured out how to get the GPS into coordinate mode. I then just drove until the numbers got closer and closer. Voila! There is was. Turns out they had changed affiliation recently, so the GPS didn't know they were now Premier Inn. I mentioned our problem with reaching them by phone. They apologized, and gave us free dinner discounts. We used those and despite the slow service had a nice meal. The next day after breakfast we returned our car and flew back to Dulles. The flight from London to Dublin hadn't gone well as Aer Lingus left my wife abandoned in a wheelchair and didn't give us time to board before the masses were allowed on. The flight to London wasn't much of a problem though. And we had no issue with United, either. When we landed at Dulles our friends had arranged for a town car to fetch us and we stayed with them one more night. We compared notes post-arrival, then crashed. The next day we packed up, said goodbye, grabbed lunch and hit the road. Getting out of the DC area was a royal pain! Since it was Labor Day Weekend everyone was trying to leave. We were in heavy traffic for many hours and many miles. We drove through Maryland to West Virginia, then stayed along the interstate instead of in town due to the price of hotels where my wife grew up. We had lots of trouble finding it too. Guess what? It had changed affiliation recently as well. Guess what? They put us on the second floor with no elevator. Two fails. The next day we went shopping for some new clothing, then had some trouble finding the site for the reunion. Google Maps showed it here, but it turns out that was the old location. We had no idea where to go from there, so we called the site's phone number. Closed for the weekend. However, their website had an emergency number which turned out to belong to the treasurer who was out of state, but walked us through the directions. We finally found it many miles south of town and pulled up. Then we walked up to the first floor only to find that was another group and the reunion was on the second floor. At last we made it. Jean introduced herself and we got our badges, found a place to sit, and chatted with various folks she went to school with or recognized. Many came up to me and said they didn't remember me; that's because I didn't graduate from your school, my wife did. Some remembered Jean; some did not. Some were rather cliquish and sat together instead of joining us where we sat; a few others did join us. Some that Jean knew never came by to say hi while others did. The food was buffet style after the group photo. Jean did get to reconnect with her cousin and they are now in touch again. Most of the rest of those she wanted to see didn't bother to go to the reunion. Turns out many of them had been snubbed at previous reunions so they blew it off. I had a good time. We returned to our hotel and the next day we left to drive back home. It took us five days to do so, but we made it safely and uneventfully.

Overall this was a great trip. It was complex to plan for, but the plan worked out pretty well. We saw old friends, made new ones, got to play tourist in London, Dublin and Northern Ireland (for the first time). Very memorable. Worldcon and Shamrokon were great events. Food was mostly good. Lots of fond memories :-)
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San Diego Comic Con 2014 Review

Having survived the memorable LibertyCon 27 / Westercon 67 (see previous post) trip we looked forward to a docile SDCC. Jean and I were, once again, working full time on staff; she worked Artists Alley Check-In and I worked Programming. Jean needed to be at work early Wednesday morning in mid-July, so we drove over Tuesday. Manchester Grand Hyatt was our hotel of choice for two reasons: they have self-parking (unlike lots of hotels in San Diego during Comic Con); they are on the same side of the trolley tracks as the Convention Center (thus preventing a frustrating experience waiting for the trolleys to pass in order to return to the hotel). We shared our room with a friend from northeastern Arizona (first trip to SDCC) and an artist friend from Chicago. 2014 was the last year we got free passes by being on staff. Apparently, the State of California decided to change the law (or interpret the law differently) so that the convention had to pay sales tax on the advertised value of the free passes (or so the story goes).

Jean had to go to work early, so she left before I got up. After cleaning up I did lunch at Seaport Village (outside the Hyatt) with AZ friend before we walked to the CC to get our badges. I was due to work doing tech check-in where program participants test their hardware / software using the con's equipment (actually, rented from the CC) in advance of their program items later in the weekend. I worked until late afternoon and returned to the hotel room to find Jean napping; she had gotten off work earlier, so was resting. Artist friend was setting up in Artists Alley and AZ friend had wandered around downtown San Diego to kill time. He and I did dinner nearby, then brought some back for Jean. I returned to the CC for the Program Team meeting Wed night. We got our orientation, updated on the latest and greatest policies, and returned to the hotel. Artist friend was back so we all talked until we ran out of steam and crashed.

Thursday meant starting work about 9am. I put on my SDCC grey shirt (Programming uses light grey polo shirts) and walked to the CC. Upstairs I grabbed a soda and visited the Program Office to check in. As usual I was in charge of Room 6A and learned who my team would be over the weekend. Say hello to the tech guys along the wall (one for audio, one for video), put up the name placards, make sure the water pitchers have fresh water, be sure the correct number of seat covers are out for the reserved (green), deaf (yellow) and handicap (red) seats. Ushers were in place and I remembered several from the previous year and met the new ones. Later in the day my AZ friend showed up all excited like a kid in a candy store. I found him a seat and he enjoyed the program in the room. We took off for lunch to Seaport Village, grabbed a sandwich and drink, and returned so I could go back to work. More programming until 5pm when I got off work and went back to the hotel. We did dinner offsite, then returned for more conversation before getting online. As usual I had to wash my polo shirt to reuse Saturday (they only let us have two polos per weekend).

Friday was more of the same. Programming, lunch, more programming, dinner out. We have our usual places to hit for food and hope to find new places as well. We met local friends tonight and caught up on stuff. Jean stayed in the hotel to rest, so AZ friend and I did food and I brought dinner back for Jean. We had a good time before bed. Washed shirt for reuse Sunday.

Saturday was similar except that AZ friend opted to stay in my room all morning. He arrived before we opened, so I picked the best seat in the room for him. Front row, middle section, just left of the head tables on risers and just right of the big screen for camera feeds and video. He said later during lunch that in between each event he had comic fans rush up to ask if he were moving. "No way dude!" Afternoon programming was good and I got off duty at 5pm again. We did dinner elsewhere with more friends while AZ friend checked out the Masquerade. Conversation later before sleeping. No washing polo shirt, yay!

Sunday was the last day of the con. More programming, lunch, more programming, then wrap-up Programming meeting. Met everyone at hotel, headed off for special dinner north of downtown, back to relax and reminisce the weekend. Oh, and I left the polo shirts at the meeting; had to bring my t-shirt to put on at the end of the day.

Monday brought packing up, checking out and heading home. We said goodbye to artist friend and brought AZ friend back to our place to retrieve his car. It was an uneventful drive back along I-8 to SR85 to I-10 to SR202. He was so jazzed that he asked to work in Programming for 2015. I told him I'd recommend him. That way he'd get a comped staff badge :-)

After 20+ years of working SDCC as staff it all blurs together. I got to meet Evangeline Lily, see a couple of premier television episodes, make some new friends and see some old ones one more time. And it's San Diego in July vs Phoenix in July. No brainer!
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