Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Trip 2015-12 Review: SMOFcon 33

Trip 2015-12 Review: SMOFcon 33

My wife and I drove to Fort Worth, TX, to attend SMOFcon 33 there. SMOFcon is the conrunners convention held annually somewhere in the world, usually on the first weekend in December. We left home (Phoenix, AZ) on Wednesday December 2 and stayed overnight in El Paso, TX, about 400 miles southeast. We then left on Thu Dec 3 for Ft Worth, arriving at the con hotel, Sheraton Ft Worth Hotel & Spa, downtown. Ft Worth and Dallas are relatively close together, but distinct cities. We parked, checked in, and unloaded our luggage from our van into our room. After settling my wife in the room I wandered around to see if anyone else had arrived. I spoke with a few fans, returning to the room to get online and crash.

Fri Dec 4 we rose, cleaned up and headed out for lunch. We found an acceptable restaurant, did some shopping for the room and returned. I got our memberships and searched for the Hospitality Suite. Apparently, it was late opening up so I stood around with several other fans to chat and wait. When it did open we consumed what was put out before I left for the room to fill in Jean on the weekend's schedule. After some computer work I found some friends to go out to dinner with, planning to bring back something for Jean instead of her having to go back out, and we walked to a nearby restaurant. It was busy, so we had to find a different restaurant, but it worked out well and we had a good time. We returned in time for the Opening Ceremonies (after delivering the to-go order to my wife) with plenty of opportunity to mull, linger, and chat. We visited the Hosp Ste again, which was stocked better than before, and I had several great conversations before returning to my room.

Sat Dec 5 was when the real program schedule began. There were the usual program items on conrunning and some unusual ones. I nabbed lunch with a friend nearby and we returned for more programming. Once dinner rolled around I went out with another group and we sat outside on a very busy patio to enjoy their fare. I got more to-go as well. After returning we held the infamous Fannish Inquisition. I was part of the New Orleans In 2018 Worldcon Bid, so got to participate when it was our turn to present. We made a few mistakes and learned from them for later presentations. We also voted on the site for SMOFcon 34 (2016); it went to Chicago unopposed. I then met a friend in the restaurant for a small meal and con talk. Later, I hit the Hosp Ste again before calling it a night.

Sun Dec 6 I attended more programming, did lunch with friends, attended the remaining programming before Closing Ceremonies, then chatted with friends in the lobby. A large group set out for a final dinner together at an offsite barbecue restaurant, so I joined in. After returning I hung out as the convention broke down and packed out. I ended the evening in the room with my wife giving her an update and getting online. Mon Dec 7 we left Ft Worth to return to El Paso. We stayed there overnight again. We left for home Tue Dec 8 and had an uneventful trip back, listening to audiobooks like we do.

All in all the convention went well. The Ft Worth fans did a good job and their bid for 2021 Worldcon was well represented. We enjoyed Ft Worth more than we expected, especially the restaurants downtown. And for those who watched the movie, Logan's Run, the fountain scene near the end of the movie was shot not far from the hotel we stayed in. Kinda cool!
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Finishing All 50 States & World Fantasy Convention 2015

Finishing All 50 States & World Fantasy Convention 2015

Late 2015 my wife and I managed to pick up the last three US states we were missing having not visited yet. I needed three (Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island) while my wife also needed three (New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island). Thanks to World Fantasy Convention being in Saratoga Springs, NY, we got our wish to visit them on the way.

In mid-October we departed Phoenix for Virginia. We booked all Marriott Hotels along the route to WFC, then did Hilton there before doing Marriott back home. I wanted to reach Gold with them to see if there were any real benefits to doing so. Unfortunately, despite having guaranteed room reservations at all but one with accessible (ADA) with roll-in shower for my wife, only about half actually gave us that. One didn't even have us in their reservation system and had to put us up in another Marriott across the parking lot. Also, because I wasn't allowed to book all this online (accessible required speaking to a customer service rep at the time), each way of our trip took about an hour to do by phone (one hour for eastbound, one hour for westbound). Their competitor, Hilton, allows booking online for accessible rooms. Although Hilton isn't perfect, their rate of success is much higher for us than Marriott.

Day 1 was to Albuquerque, NM. Day 2 was to Oklahoma City, OK. Day 3 was to Memphis, TN. Day 4 was to Roanoke, VA. Day 5 was to Arlington, VA. We visited with friends there, then drove through Delaware, New Jersey, NYC, Connecticut and finally Rhode Island. Day 6 we drove back into CT since my wife didn't get to see anything at night on the first pass, then we returned to RI to visit the Newport area and looked at the expensive homes. Dinner was with an artist friend and his wife for seafood (which I love, but my wife not as much) near Providence. Day 7 we departed for Saratoga and drove through rural parts of RI, CT and NY. We arrived in the afternoon and discovered that our ADA/Roll-In was not available. In fact we weren't down for ADA at all. Thankfully, the manager got us into an ADA/Tub which wasn't great for my wife, but it was better than a standard room. After loading in via Bell Service, which was great, I wandered the hotel to see about getting our badges and book bags, souvenir books, pocket programs, etc. We opted to dine in the hotel restaurant and wasn't impressed at all. We got online before crashing for the evening.

Day 8 we tried breakfast in the restaurant, but it was restricted on what we could get as Hilton Diamond Level. I hadn't been given any breakfast coupons upon check-in the day before, so had to visit the front desk and ask. Turns out it was for the continental offerings only; it was extra for the real breakfast. So we didn't bother the rest of the trip and waited for lunch instead so we could go offsite to nearby restaurants. Since my wife was fighting bronchitis, I mostly brought back take-out orders. So I wandered around to socialize, converse with fellow board members, visit the Art Show and Dealers Room, Hospitality and Programming. After fetching dinner nearby we dined in the room before I hit the Hospitality Suite for nightlife.

Day 9 we had our first board meeting, then friends from Montreal drove down to meet us for lunch. Since my wife was under the weather it was just them and me. We found something nearby and got caught up, then went downtown for shopping before dining at a fairly high end restaurant. I brought food back for my wife and our friends returned north. I then hit the few parties being hosted, chatted with folks, then called it a night.

Day 10 was more convention, eating out, socializing, etc. Day 11 we had our final board meeting, then instead of fetching lunch I was invited to attend the banquet and World Fantasy Awards Ceremony. I stayed for the banquet, but left to check on my wife as the awards started. Since she had leftovers I didn't need to fetch her anything. I hung out in the Art Show while they tore it down and packed up the remaining artwork. Had a great chat with Stephen Hickman and another fan about art, the industry, and conventions. He said it was the most rewarding conversation he'd had all weekend; I was surprised to hear him say that. I did dinner with friends nearby, brought food back for my wife, hung out with fans in the lobby and got online.

Day 11 we left NY for Winchester, VA; got to drive through WV on the way there, my wife's home state. Day 12 we stayed in Kodak, TN. Day 13 was Memphis again. Day 14 was Moore, OK. Day 15 was Albuquerque again. Day 16 we returned home.

All in all we enjoyed the trip. The hotel reservation fiascos were really annoying. The various restaurants along the way for mostly great. Hanging out with friends in VA, RI and NY was very rewarding. We now keep a DO NOT STAY HERE list for hotels nowadays.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Trip 2015-09 to 2015-10 Contraflow 5 / DeepSouthCon 53

Trip 2015-09 to 2015-10 Review

Once Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) was over I was asked to attend Contraflow 5 / DeepSouthCon 53 in New Orleans, LA. I had been helping the New Orleans In 2018 Worldcon Bid with their hotel contract negotiations and when they asked me to come out I asked them if this meant I'd be considered for Facilities Division Head should they win. They said yes, so I planned our driving trip from Phoenix to NoLa. We took 3 days to drive out, departing on Tue Sep 29 and arriving on Thu Oct 1, 2015. Our intermediate stops were in El Paso, TX (about 400 miles east of Phoenix) and San Antonio, TX (about 540 miles east of El Paso); New Orleans is about the same distance east of San Antonio as SA is from EP. We arrived late at night, got checked in, unloaded the van and crashed. The con hotel was the Hilton Airport New Orleans.

Friday morning I went downstairs to purchase our memberships at Registration, wandered around the first floor reviewing the function space and looking for our bid fan table. They had multiple Event Rooms, multiple Panel Rooms, a Dealers Room, Art Show, Gaming Room, Hospitality Room, Video Room and Operations Room. One of the event rooms was down a long hallway from the hotel front desk, so it was pretty isolated. The rest of them were down several corridors that only interconnected in one place. That's where they installed a three-grid kiosk for signage like Free Parking and If You Need To Contact Security. The fan tables were in the southeast corridor near Hospitality. Gaming and Dealers were near Fan Tables with Art Show in the south middle of the hotel. The rest were in the western half of the space and a few other tables were along the two corridors near these rooms. I contacted one of the Bid Co-Chairs about our plan and she hadn't conversed with the other BCC to come up with one, so we winged it. I spent some of my time in the afternoon at the table telling folks about the bid. San Juan in 2017 NASFiC Bid was next to us as was our competitor, San Jose in 2018 Worldcon Bid. Being DeepSouthCon we had many Worldcon fans attending and some helping these bids. However, in between getting our memberships and doing table time I transferred downtown to the Hyatt Regency Hotel to meet with our Hotel Sales Rep there as well as the CVB Sales Rep. Our BCC from Albany was there and we toured the entire hotel, had lunch offsite, and I began the slow process of describing Worldcon to them with its needs and intricacies. Once done it was clear that the hotel would support a Worldcon and with the attached overflow hotel next door (an office building being remodeled into a hotel) we'd have enough sleeping rooms to handle most of the peak nights. So fan table duty came upon my return and after dinner I hit the few parties that were going on. I got in a bit of online time and crashed for the evening.

Saturday I put in some table time, did lunch offsite, and set up a tour of the Hyatt for the Worldcon fans expressing interest. I finally reached our HSR and she told me when she could be there. I notified the group and off we went when it was time to go. HSR gave us a similar tour to what I had seen on Friday, they asked questions, and some stayed behind to do the French Quarter while others came back to the airport hotel. After dinner with local friends offsite I helped run the NOin18 bid party. Greeted folks, told them about our facility, our team, and our plans to bring Worldcon back to New Orleans after almost 30 years! I left the party around midnight and went horizontal.

Sunday was more table time, lunch, final table time, dinner offsite again, then back to mull-linger-chat with remaining fans. I discussed the bid with locals and some bid team members before getting online and shutting down for the evening.

Monday we packed up the van, checked out of the hotel, took some bid supplies with us to help promote things in Los Angeles at LosCon in November, grabbed lunch and hit the road. We discovered an excellent steakhouse in Houston near the freeway, so did dinner there. Stayed overnight again in San Antonio, then Tuesday headed to El Paso again. Stayed there overnight once more, finally returning home on Wednesday. I put the bid stuff in a storage building for easy future access, unpacked the van, and got back to normal life in Arizona.

Some fans were surprised to learn that I was involved with the New Orleans bid considering that San Jose is closer. As I told those who asked why, New Orleans in 2018 Worldcon Bid needed help and they asked me first. Besides, our first Worldcon was in New Orleans in 1988 (NoLaCon II). So I also saw it as full circle. Additionally, on a personal level, NO hadn't had one in almost 30 years while SJ had last had one in 2002. I was on staff for them as Science Program Liaison and enjoyed the experience, so I had nothing against them. But SJ's team was fairly experienced with Worldcon and NO's team wasn't. At the time I had no idea how involved I would be in the NOin18 Bid though.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Trip 2015-08 Worldcon (Sasquan) Spokane WA

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 :-)
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Trip 2015-06 to -07 LibertyCon / Westercon / Comic Con

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...
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Trip 2015-05 Spokane WA Review

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.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Trip 2015-04 London UK Eastercon

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.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Spokane WA Trip February 2015

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.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Houston 2015 January Division Head Meeting for Sasquan

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!
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

LosCon 41 / SMOFcon 32 2014 Review

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!