Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Doctor Who: "Deep Breath" - The first new Peter Capaldi Doctor Who episode starts with a bang as a dinosaur is wandering the Thames in London. It slows down a bit in the middle, but there are nice little callbacks to previous events in the history of Doctor Who which the audience may have gotten well before it became obvious what was going on. Clara had her moments in this one, including a massively strong scene in which she stands up to the villain of the piece. There was also a great deal of humor with enough quotable quotes in the first half alone to keep Doctor Who fans quipping at one another for months. Overall, I enjoyed it. There were some flaws, but there always will be. Even at its worse, Doctor Who is generally better than most TV, and this was far from the worst we've seen from Doctor Who.



DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jul 16th
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #33 - I almost see a potential point to this story. But it's so stretched out that even if it were a good tale, it has taken long enough to tell that it's just become boring.
  • Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con Intl San Diego #1 - Wow. Just... wow. This is meta is so many ways. And you really have to go over each panel to see all the in-jokes. Wow. Impressive. And terrifying. Wow.
  • Infinite Crisis: Fight for the Multiverse #1 - I've read all this before. I hope it gets original mighty fast.
  • Scribblenauts Unmasked #7 - Maybe it was just because I was recently at the Wizard of Oz convention, but the various Wizard of Oz references in this one totally jumped out at me. Aquaman is so cute in Scribblenaut form!
  • Capt Action Cat #3 - The magic is confused... really? No kidding? This is getting more fun and cute... and confusing... by the minute. I really like this sort of nonsense comic. It's got just enough plot to carry the hilarity.
  • Fables #142 - Yeah, Bigby appears to be in a really bad way. And there's a lot more going on in his family than I realized. Scary stuff, kiddies.
  • Jul 23rd
  • Aquaman #33 - This is all about a growing threat... and one that doesn't generally hold back. I'm glad Salty survived his run-in, but wow, lots of dead in the wake of this new bad guy. And more Vulko, which is both sad and good. Looking forward to the next issue.
  • Secret Origins #4 - Harley Quinn, slightly different than what I've seen before, but close enough. Green Arrow, grim and gritty as always. And Robin, with art that felt so opposite the story I just cringed while reading the whole thing.
  • Trinity of Sin: Pandora #13 - Ah, there's more to Marcus than meets the eye. Well, that's not really a surprise, I guess.
  • Batman '66 #13 - A Batman TV show becoming popular and spawning fads? So implausible! This was a really fun episode issue from start to finish.
  • Batman Beyond Universe #12 - And the two storylines mix it up and finish off in an ending that ties up most of the various little plots. It could have been better, but hey, Aquagirl. Doubled.
  • Doctor Who 10th #1 - Nice set up for a story - Day of the Dead, Doctor wandering around with a non-buzzing device that isn't working quite right, and a girl whose trying to get away from a boring family situation. Good stuff.
  • Doctor Who 11th #1 - And this one was a full story, complete with a fun alien or two, a blubbering prime minister and two really amusing shorts at the end of the book. I'm a bigger fan of the 10th Doctor, but this book was better.
  • Groo vs Conan #1 - I am mostly unfamiliar with Groo, but I'm a bit of a fan of Conan (not a fanatic, I just am amused by the stories). This is a really funny start, mixed in with the "real life" bits and the characters noticing the differences in styles. This is just going to be a lot of fun, I can tell.
  • Steed and Mrs. Peel: Needed #1 - Ah, this is much more like the Avengers I remember. That last series went off the rails more than a bit. This one seems to be following the formula while taking it to new heights. Good show so far.
  • Peanuts V2 #20 - The usual fun. I tend to be able to tell the originals Schulz tales from the newer stuff, but they are all pretty good.
  • Star Trek: Harlan Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever #2 - Curiouser and curiouser. This really is a journey into what could have been, what might have been, what ought to have been. There are some really good bits in here that were so far gone from what aired that it's depressing.
  • Twilight Zone #7 - I'm getting more and more curious to see how this story ends up. She's already made a difference in some ways, what else is going to happen now that she's so involved? And the callback to the previous story was also good. It puts this one into a certain timeframe.



My mystery book this week was The Alpine Yeoman by Mary Daheim. A body found in Alpine isn't a local and doesn't arouse much interest, except why is a deputy gone missing and what are these crazy rumors about the high school? Everything sort of crashes together at the end of this one. I was expecting about half of it. Some of the other revelations and events were somewhat surprising. More fun for me was the tie-ins to my region of the state, including prominent mentions of Wapato and Yakima, and Emma getting in touch with old friends who worked in the newspaper business in this region. Heh. Fun. I like the continual complaints about how the newspaper industry is dying from the oldtimers, even as Emma points out that she's still running a paper. A good one, and I'm finally caught up with the series. If you want to start the Alpine series, I strongly recommend starting at the first book, The Alpine Advocate.



A Day in the Life...

Normally, my days are pretty boring. I get up, get to work, write up the police logs, write up any evening events I attended from the night before, then start working on the stories for the next day. A reporter's life is usually scheduled out enough that I often have a good idea where I'll be and what I'll be doing at any given point.

Wednesday was strange.

I had been unable to contact a couple of people I needed to talk to for stories, so I was expecting some tough and probably ineffective phone calls. Added in, I'd heard that a story I was working on might blow up in a big way, although I thought the odds were fairly low of that happening. But because of the potential of being scooped, I had to tell the editor what I heard, and I suspected I was going to have a tough story to write in the morning.

Sure enough, after a quick consult with the editor, the tough story became my priority, followed by the meeting I'd attended Tuesday night, then another story that I was having a little trouble reaching the main person to interview. I was absolutely certain I would not get everything done by the 10:30 a.m. deadline.

But everything fell into place. The extensive research I had done on the difficult story helped me keep the facts straight, and the key interview (that I'd been told likely wouldn't call me back) called just as I finished writing the first draft. I rejigged the story to fit his quote in and handed it to the editor. The second story was practically a puff piece, since the meeting had been entirely about a new piece of municipal code. Not a lot of meat there. My main person from the third story called me back before deadline, and I had my last story corrected and in the system at 10:25 a.m. Whew!

I wasn't entirely happy with the difficult story, and I wish I'd had enough time to do another draft or two. But overall, it was a stressful but productive morning. I stuck around until all the stories were laid out on the draft table to recheck, then headed to lunch at home with Eric and Inkwell.

After his terrifying experience, Inkwell got what seemed to be a head cold. Now, upper respiratory problems in cats are a concern, so I've been keeping a close eye on him. He was eating and drinking, but clearly unhappy and not getting better. So I called the vet and set up an appointment for Thursday. I also took off his collar to give him a chest rub, which he appreciated. In the end, his illness turned out to be a flare-up of his existing herpes infection. He was prescribed rest and normal routine, along with his usual L-lysine treats, and seems to be getting better now.

After lunch I got bombarded with a few more stories by the editor, including the school district budget (AAAAAHHHH!!!!). I have a lot of problems understanding budgets, so I got a quick lesson in budget-reading from him. Then I had a couple more stories to write for Thursday, which I somehow struggled through. Then I went home to wait for my sister and niece.

While waiting, I got online and checked my work e-mail. There were two responses from the difficult story. One was from one of the people I interviewed for the piece, complimenting me. The other was from a local... personality... who blasted me for being a moron and told me I should be ashamed of myself. I was delighted, as it's always good to get a response from readers. It means they are paying attention. I alerted my editor to the e-mails and sent him copies for his own reading enjoyment.

Sister-Lisa and Niece-George came visiting from the Seattle area. They planned to crash at our place for the night, but before that, they wanted to head out to the observatory in Goldendale. It's about an hour or so drive away from here, not particularly close, but not as far as from Seattle. With some trepidation, I asked to go along, since I've never been to the observatory and have always wanted to go.

After a meal with family (ah, Pizza Hut) we headed out. I took my work camera, figuring I might be able to get a good set of photos for a photo page. We chatted on the way, Lisa enjoying the geological formations and George enjoying the horses in the Horse Heaven Hills. The observatory was easy to find, lots of signs pointing the way. It was just getting dark when we got there, so we settled down and listened to Sarah, the interpreter for the park, explain the history of the place and the telescopes.

It was very interesting, and very cold. Next time I go, I'm bringing a coat, even if it's summer. We had to wait for it to get dark, as we arrived at sunset, and Sarah had an alert for when the ISS went overhead. Before full dark it made an overhead pass and we got to watch it sail across a perfectly clear sky. It was oddly impressive, even if it was just a dot reflecting the sunlight.

I also took enough pictures for a photo page, which will appear in the paper in a week or so.

As full dark came on, Sarah aimed a small portable outdoor telescope at the horizon and found Saturn. The folks there stepped up and took a look while Sarah aimed the larger indoor telescope. I got a look, it was tiny but I could see the rings and Titan as a dot just a little bit away. It's oddly thrilling to look at a planet... even though it was not a high-definition photo like we often see. We've been spoiled by modern technology. Looking at the planet with mirrors and a tube was pretty cool.

The view of Saturn wasn't much better in the big telescope, which had to be adjusted carefully. People had to climb a ladder to reach the eyepieces, which were at an odd angle. It was a strange experience to watch a ton of people climbing the mobile staircase and looking out.

While people looked, Sarah gave little speeches outside on other things folks could see in the sky. As the night darkened, the Milky Way became brilliantly visible. My sister wandered off to find a quiet spot and see if she could get her camera on its tripod to record stars. I stayed inside most of the time. Although the dome isn't heated, it is sheltered from the wind. Again, next time I need to bring a coat.

We stayed long enough to see a couple of other sights, including a double binary star and the Ring Nebula. Only a few minutes before the park closing time of 10:30, George came and got me and the three of us headed back to the car to go back to Sunnyside. I was thinking about how tough Thursday's schedule was going to be. I really had no idea.

As we left Goldendale on 97 with Lisa driving, I thought I spotted something on the side of the road. Lisa, however, spotted it more clearly and slammed on the brakes while flipping on her brights. I wish, oh I wish, I had been able to get my camera out quickly enough. In the middle of our lane was a majestic deer with heavy-duty antlers. He knew we were there, but didn't move for a moment, then he sniffed something on the road, and slowly ambled off across the other lane into the brush. All three of us were suddenly wide awake.

The remainder of the ride back was made with brights on whenever possible. We were all wide awake and talking about the deer and other things. As we approached Toppenish, we saw flashes of lightning across an absolutely cloudless sky. It was strangely beautiful and terrifying.

Once home we all fell asleep immediately... of course, I'd have to get up early the next morning to get to work, but I was hoping it wouldn't be a tough day. Except for an evening meeting that lasted three hours and was described by one participant as "a bit brutal", it wasn't that tough a day. It just wasn't an easy day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Sunday Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jul 2nd
  • Aquaman and the Others #4 - Well, that was a slightly different series of events than I expected. How did Aaron get his shirt back? Nice to meet another one of Prisoner's fellow soldiers.
  • Green Lantern #33 - More battles. And then, just when it seems like it's finally over... *sigh*
  • Earth 2 #25 - I like Val a lot, but I also like Marella. Lois had some good moments in there as well.
  • Justice League 3000 #8 - The cover kind of gives part of the story away, although not all of it. I honestly don't know whether I like this book or not.
  • Batman '66 meets Green Hornet #2 - Nope. I guess they don't know each other, based on those events. They will by the end of this story, I'm thinking. The whole "stamp" thing was a little too clever by half... I like it.
  • Scooby-Doo Team-Up #5 - Men can't set foot on the island, but Scooby can? Ha! Lots of little in-jokes (Wonder Woman refers to Etta) and a goofy ending. Definitely a fun issue.
  • Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse #2 - Not enough Aqualad, but pretty funny anyway.
  • Twilight Zone #6 - So, she knows a lot now. What's she going to do about it? I like the legend of the coin. That was a fun bit that kind of made the whole tale work even better.
  • Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz: Age of Darkness #1 - I don't know what I just read, nor do I know why I read it.
  • Jul 9th
  • Justice League United #3 - This is a really confusing storyline. I am still pretty confused about all the heroes involved and what they are up to. Could be better.
  • World's Finest #25 - The gals wrap up their lives on Earth One as they prepare to go home, and perhaps die. I kind of wonder why Helena is going, since it's clear that she truly believes she can settle on Earth One. As for the bad guy, ug... just send him back to Darkseid already.
  • Green Lantern Corps #33 - And... nope. It's not over yet. More to go. I'm so ready to have no more of this storyline. I think Green Lantern just isn't for me.
  • Smallville Lantern #4 - I can't even remember what was happening in this book. I like the reference to the formidable Ma Hunkle, though. Eh, it's ok.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #1 - This is really freaking confusing for a first issue. Yeah, there's some context and the bits to get readers up-to-date aren't bad, but it's still confusing. I was very much looking forward to this book, but I'm hoping it will improve from this issue.
  • Usagi Yojimbo Color Special - This is a collection of stories from Dark Horse Presents, and I'm glad to see them. I was sure they would get collected and printed separately. I can't really afford DHP for one feature I want to read, so I haven't been getting them.
  • Peanuts V2 #19 - Some really good bits in this one that made me very nostalgic. One story turned out to be a preview of a longer book, which wasn't nice, but at least it mostly held together as its own tale. Not my favorite issue, but decent.
  • Spongebob Comics #34 - Much of the usual nonsense, with the continuing awesome tale of Mermaid Man with Jerry Ordway artwork. Although this issue's story, featuring SpongeBob's take on the tale, was ... um ... disturbing. Still, very fun!



An extra this week is Ozopolis #4 - Eric picked this up at the San Diego Winkie Con, and of course I read it. I enjoyed the previous three issues, but the problem has been a scattered release schedule that means I hardly remember what came before. Still, there was plenty of hints and an overview that summarized much of the previous events, so overall it worked. I like the new villain, but the ending is far too abrupt. I hope we'll see more of this book in the future.



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Inkwell is Home


What are you doing with that light switch, Mom?

Inkwell is home and can see. He's still a bit woozy from the medication and his reaction to the dewormer, but he seems to be adjusting now. He's settled into one of his usual resting spots where he can watch me from across the room, and he's stopped obsessively grooming himself. He's got shaved patches on his forelegs where he got an IV tube in and blood drawn. For a little while he was determined to get those spots super clean.

I can't tell if his eyesight is normal, but he can certainly follow my hands when they move around, and that's nice to see. He also attacked me with one of his "let's play" attacks, so that was good to see (if not so good to feel, ouch, kitty! bites hurt!). All-in-all, he seems to be back to almost normal.

As for me, I've got a cold in my head and will enjoy the rest I will hopefully get this weekend. Now that Inky is home, maybe I'll be able to relax a little.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sick Kitty


Inkwell is not happy about spending the night at the vet.

In Sickness...

Monday afternoon, after we were safe at my folks' house, I knew I was coming down with something. My mom gave me some extra C vitamins, and we crossed our fingers.

Wednesday night as I prepped for work the next day, I started to have vertigo. At first I thought it was just some temporary light-headedness, and joked a little about it. By the time I retired to bed, it was pretty nasty.

Also on Wednesday, I called the vet and scheduled Inkwell's annual wellness visit. He was due for his annual rabies vaccine and sometimes they give other needed medications, like deworming and such. Because I would be at work, we decided that Eric would take Inky in.

When I woke up on Thursday, I had serious vertigo. I had forgotten to set my alarm, so Eric came up and woke me about 6 a.m. and as soon as I sat up the entire room slanted to the right. Terrifyingly. After several tries, I managed to get to the bathroom and deal with morning stuff. I thought maybe a shower will help and took my shower. By the end of it I was so nauseated I couldn't stand. I fell back into bed. Once the room stopped moving, I called my boss to tell him the bad news. I hoped it would go away quickly, but it didn't.

When Eric took Inkwell off to the vet, I struggled downstairs, nearly falling in the process which would've made me feel really stupid for waiting until Eric was gone. I needed to have something for breakfast, so I scooped up a bowl of yogurt and sat in my chair. It took a good ten minutes before I could eat the yogurt, and then I didn't want anything else.

Inkwell and Eric came back, Inkwell looking distressed. Eric said the check-up had gone fine, so we let the cat wander the house as usual. A little while later I noticed Inkwell was drooling heavily. I stumbled over to him and wiped the drool away and checked him, he didn't seem too upset. After the third time I wiped drool off his chin, I called the vet. They said the topical dewormer that they gave him tastes very bitter, but is harmless, and drooling would be an expected response. If I was worried, I could bring him in so they could monitor him. I knew he would be more comfortable at home, so I watched him carefully while I was awake.

Which wasn't much of the afternoon. Once I figured out the vertigo wasn't going away, I took myself to bed (with difficulty: the stairs kept moving when I tried to climb them). I ended up sleeping for several hours, but when I woke up the vertigo was much less intense. I decided that if I still had any vertigo in the morning, I'd go to the doctor. If not, I'd go to work. I could feel some pressure in my right ear, so I figured it was a minor sinus or inner ear infection. I've had both before, and what usually happens is either: wait and see, you'll heal yourself or here's some antibiotics, make sure to use them all. I'm not keen on using antibiotics unless they are strictly necessary, so I hoped it would be wait and see.

Inkwell seemed a bit better last night. He was clearly disturbed by the drool, but he ate his dinner and seemed mostly ok. In retrospect, he was showing definite signs of anxiety. I was just too preoccupied with my own problems to notice.

This morning I got up and felt... well, not fine. I had a terrible stomach-ache and that head pressure was still there, but otherwise I was ok to go. So I got ready for work. I noticed Inkwell looking confused. He seemed to have vertigo himself. I tried to comfort him as much as possible. He wasn't drooling, so I just assumed it would pass off.

I spent about two and a half hours at work before my stomach said no, no more! and I headed home for what I thought would be a long lunch. But when I got home, Inkwell was crying. No, he was sobbing. He was giving that deep, throaty cry that he only gives when he's truly upset. And it sounded desperate. He was upstairs, wandering in the Doctor Who room, and seemed surprised when I came and picked him up. I told Eric that I was taking him to the vet RIGHT NOW because he was drooling again and shaking. I got him into his carrier, and he was shaking so hard I couldn't carry it by the handle.

Eric called the vet to let them know I was coming and I zipped over there as fast as I could safely drive. Once inside, the doctor examined him, noting his panicked breathing, shaking and drool. She also did an eye test and told me that Inkwell has gone blind.

I was thunderstruck. I felt like a horrible cat mom. I should have taken him to the vet yesterday when they said. I should have taken him in this morning when he looked like he had vertigo. I should have worried more. The poor cat.

She said they would put Inkwell on IVs for fluids and run some tests. The doctor also wanted to check with the maker of the topical dewormer and see if there were any known side effects that could cause this. I was superfluous in the relatively tiny vets office... besides, I was feeling like I was going to throw up from my own illness... so I reluctantly left him there and went home. Then I felt absolutely miserable for quite some time while waiting for an update call.

Eventually the vet called to let us know that they had Inkwell on IVs and medication, and the x-rays were normal except for a lot of air in his stomach from his panicked panting. The bloodwork was normal, too. The maker of the dewormer said that when cats were tested with full tubes of the stuff given orally, they sometimes reacted with drooling and tremors, which were never fatal and usually passed within 24 hours. Blindness was not a side-effect.

The vet said she was going to put Inkwell on a blood pressure monitoring system as soon as another cat, which was under anesthesia, was done using it. She suspected hypertension, possibly set off by the reaction to the dewormer, was causing the blindness. She didn't tell me whether or not it would be temporary.

So after, I started feeling really awful again. My stomach and my head are screaming in pain. I called in sick for the rest of the day. Fortunately, there wasn't much to do. Unfortunately, there was one assignment that sounded kind of fun. If only it were next week.

Now I'm waiting for the vet to call again. From what she said, Inkwell may be spending more time at the vet's office than here. I don't know if he'll be home this weekend. She also said not to worry about the financial side, that she's sure the makers of the dewormer will compensate the vet for Inkwell's stay. I suppose that's great, but I really just want my cat back, happy and goofy.

I'll update this post when I hear more.


Inkwell last Wednesday as we prepared to go on vacation.

Update, 3:25 p.m.: Inkwell is responding well to muscle relaxant and IV fluids. He seems to be getting some of his sight back, as he's growled a little at other cats in the room. I'm allowed to visit him before 5:30 p.m., but he's probably going to have to stay overnight to keep up the fluids and medication and let the bad stuff he reacted to get out of his system.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

IndieGoGo Update... WOW!

Here's the final tally for my goofy IndieGoGo Campaign. We not only hit our initial goal of $280 so we could buy mini-comics, we also got the secondary goal of $500 so we can add candy to the packets!

Now, you may think that $250 worth of candy is a lot... but 1,000 children are a lot as well. Still, the first 1,000 children to visit our house on Halloween will receive a comic book and a piece of candy. That's pretty freaking awesome.

  • Total raised: $550
    • IndieGoGo Fees: $49.50 (9%) - refund of $27.50 (5%) = $22
    • Other payment Fees: $10.50 (3%)
    • Paypal Fees: $8.22 (2.9% + 30 cents for each payment)
  • Total for Halloween (minus fees): $509.28 (204% of $250 goal)
  • Total Spent: $256.45
  • Running Total: $253.35
The next steps are simple... I've e-mailed everyone who contributed to get more information. Soon I will post the name checks and links. Once we get the comics and candy purchased, we'll do a video of us preparing the packets (which will consist of comics and candy in a small bag) to post as an update. I expected the campaign to result in a lot of tiny contributions that would lead up to enough to get the mini-comics and not much else. I'm really pleased at the sheer generosity of people. I hope we can get enough videos to make everyone who helped happy to see what they've done. Thanks to everyone who contributed. This would not be possible without you. The status of the campaign is: Mini-Comics and candy for all!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Winkie Convention... Photos...


While I'm not a fan of flying, the view can be pretty good.


This little guy was extremely happy, but also knew how to get complete attention of adults around him.
All he had to do was scream. Piercingly.


Con Chair David Maxine (right) gets up close-and-personal with the Wicked Witch of the West as played by Kurt Raymond.
Note the Morris dancers in the background. They were cool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Winkie Convention Report... Coming Home...

Sunday morning had the audacity to come far too early. It always does when you are attending a convention. After an extremely disappointing overpriced breakfast ($4 for instant oatmeal? Are you kidding me?!? And he didn't even give me the flavor I asked for! Bah!) we headed back to the room and packed up. Eric took charge of checking us out while I took charge of finding a place to stow my luggage. I put my bag in registration while finalizing the day's newsletter, then left the bag there until the programming got down to a single track at 1:30 p.m. in the main ballroom. Eric took his bag to the lobby to stow.

I started my day in my jail, but with the swap shop gone, Eric let me wander the dealers room while he kept an eye on the art show for a bit. I talked with most of the dealers and asked how their show had gone. Pretty much all of them were enthusiastic, saying they'd sold a lot and done well. Artist William Stout said he'd sold more at Winkie Con than he did at San Diego Comicon. He also said that was, in part, due to the way SDCC sells its tickets now. Comic book fans aren't getting the opportunities to even buy tickets, so they aren't coming to the show.

Anyway, I got to talk a bit with my friend Anna who runs Illusive Comics and Games in Santa Clara. She also had a good convention, selling a lot of Oz Tarot decks. I also talked with the fan tables set up for other conventions, and started getting a lot of advice on what to do when Eric chairs the convention in 2016.

I returned to the prison to let Eric out and stayed there until artists came and got their works. We were able to leave before noon, closing up the almost empty room behind us, and Eric and I got lunch (expensive hotel sandwiches) and ate in the hospitality suite.

I finished out the convention in the main ballroom, talking notes on some sheets of paper I got from our room and, eventually, jumping in to say something. I'm afraid I volunteered myself for another mailing list task, but it shouldn't be too hard to pull off (famous last words). I took a lot of e-mails to add to the newsletter list, writing them down and hoping I could read my own handwriting when it came time to enter them online.

The final panel was an "onions and roses" type thing, where people were asked for feedback. The biggest complaint from fans who spent 30 years at Asilomar was the food situation.

Ok, I'm going to back up a bit. The Winkie Convention was originally held at people's houses. It then got big enough that it moved to the Cambria Pines Lodge for four years in the early 1970s. It outgrew that venue and moved to the Hotel Wawona, in Yosemite, California for nine years. The first Asilomar Winkie Convention was held in 1984, and every one after that until this year was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. The only year missed was 2000 because there was no Winkie Convention held that year. In 2000, all the Oz conventions combined into a general convention held at the Indiana Memorial Union and known as "The Centennial Convention" by Oz fans.

Now, after 30 years in the same place, you might guess that people were used to the venue. People loved Asilomar. Heck, I loved Asilomar and dearly miss it. But Asilomar, which is a state park in a cash-strapped state, had to keep raising its prices. And some fans were simply getting priced out of the convention. Attendance was down, and the convention risked fading away, like the other regional conventions already had.

This year's chair, David Maxine, didn't want to see that happen. Way back in 2009 he started to work on saving Winkie Con. One thing he did was get me to volunteer to edit the Winkie Newsletter and to write convention reports at the con that go out during the convention itself. He also started to use social media to push the convention, creating Facebook pages for the con. And this year he moved the venue to the Town and Country Resort in San Diego because the cost of Asilomar is just way too high.

One reason for the high cost is the food. When the con was held at Asilomar, every meal is included in the price. This made the base price for the convention for a single person more than $350 for the entire con... and that's without paying any of the convention's costs.

The hard choice was made by David, and agreed to by many fans, to not provide meals during the convention. At the final panel, at least one fan had a very strong negative opinion about that, saying that the convention just isn't the same without that time to sit and chat with people you don't know while at meals.

And he's right. But so was David. It's a no-win situation. If you want people to attend, you can't have the whole thing be more than $400 a ticket. But Winkie Con was unique among conventions I attend because of that bonding time with people at meals.

So I boldly got on stage at the final panel and said I would create a discussion list so we can work out ways to solve the problem. There will actually be two discussion lists, I think. The main one for venting and general discussion and a smaller, possibly moderated, one for people who will actually do things at the convention: a con-com type list. We'll see how it works out in the end.

As the convention drew to a close, I was delighted to be told by several people, including Bjo Trimble, that they would be sure to contribute to the newsletter. Then Eric and I had to carry a box of about a dozen copies of his book along with all my luggage to the lobby, which was about a mile away across the distance of the resort. We stopped a golf-cart jitney within sight of the lobby and the nice bellhop drove us the rest of the way. Then we had to repack our luggage to fit those dozen books in. Then another nice bellhop took us to a bridge that led to the green line platform.

From there on out we had to walk while carrying heavy bags, which was only really nasty because the blisters on my hands and the tops of my feet were still hurting. Eric found the elevator up to the platform and as we waited for the next train, a woman ran across from the opposite platform and asked if it was too late to join the newsletter. I took her email address and she ran back just in time for her train.

This time the green line was not crowded. We found seats and didn't have to give them up. We got to the Santa Fe station and got off then walked to a bus stop. It had a sign to text a number to find out when the next bus was coming, so I did. It said the stop was not in use. We hauled our luggage the other direction to another stop. This time when I texted it said the bus was coming in 10 minutes.

An older gentleman in a wheelchair, holding a guitar and talking to himself, was also at the stop. He got on the bus, which took some effort from the driver. As the bus left the stop, the man asked where the bus was headed. When he heard "airport" he said he needed to get off. So at the next regular stop he did. The driver did not roll his eyes or anything, just patiently did his job. I have to salute him for it.

Once at the airport we stopped at the commuter terminal and picked up a bunch of guys with lots of luggage. One of them paid the fare for himself and another guy entirely in small change, one piece at a time. By the time he finished, I was starting to get anxious about actually getting to our terminal in time. Fortunately, I didn't have enough time on the trip back to start having any anxiety attacks. We were rushing enough that moments of panic just couldn't get through.

Ours was actually the next stop, and we got off the bus gratefully, but then had to haul the heavy bags quite a ways down the outside of the building to get in, then over to a place we could print our boarding passes, then back to security. The San Diego security line was slower, but the directions were much more useful. This time I didn't get stopped, although Eric didn't pass the naked scanner and had to get a patdown on one leg that showed something, even though he had emptied his pockets.

Once in the terminal we were lucky enough to find seats, then it was the waiting game again. A youth group was being entirely too cheerful. The only restaurant was full and too expensive. The snack bars were way too expensive. I found a couple of power bars my mom had given me in Seattle before we left, and that helped to tide us over until we got on the plane THANKS MOM!!!. I also called my mom to let her know we wouldn't be getting dinner on the way, and maybe she could have something for us? She said she'd make French Toast. It seemed like a strange choice while sitting in the terminal in San Diego, but I said, "great".

While we waited, a toddler in a stroller arrived at the terminal. He was cute as a button and as loud as a battleship on red alert. His adults, three of them, did their level best to keep him from screaming, but he screamed anyway. I hoped he would be better behaved on the plane itself. Ha.

We finally got to board. Eric and I were a bit late in the process, and we ended up in the very last row. Right behind the cute toddler and his three adults. The toddler was not screaming in pain or fright, he was screaming to get attention and it worked. Unfortunately, he had plenty of screams for the entire flight. Every ten minutes or so he'd have a breakdown and start to scream. It was difficult, because I was trying to sleep. That didn't work real well.

Flying at night is different than flying during the day. Out my window there was a huge moon looming. I was able to see a city below and use the in-flight Southwest website to figure out it was Reno. There was some turbulance, that made me visualize the wing snapping off... I had to stop looking out the window at how the wing bounced in the air. Landing wasn't too bad, and then we were home.

Well, in Seattle at least.

We were the last passengers off the plane and we hauled our increasingly heavy carryons (funny how gravity pulls them harder the longer you carry them) to the departure gate, going to the last area, before I called my mom. Then we watched as people were picked up and dropped off. There was a large SUV that dropped off what seemed to be an entire household-worth of stuff, including a lot that looked like it ought to have been shipped. There was a woman who was extremely irate with her husband for driving past her. He said, "You know the rules, if there's nowhere to pick you up, I drive until I find a place and you have to walk!" She didn't seem very happy, but at least she had rolling luggage. There was a taxi driver who sat there waiting despite the frequent reminders that you can be fined for waiting in a loading and unloading zone. He was there the entire time we were waiting.

Finally mom got to us, we loaded up, and off to my folks place we went. Mom was good on her promise and we had French Toast for dinner with a lot of orange juice before we headed upstairs to bed. Inkwell the cat tried to figure out who we were, then why we were back. He clung to my ankle for awhile, refusing to let me out of his sight, even when I went into the bathroom. Clearly he missed me a bit.

I was able to get some computing done at my folks house, including my final con report, which I sent out Monday as we were resting from the trip. Annoyingly, Seattle was about 20 degrees Farenheit hotter than San Diego, and my folks don't have air conditioning (few people in Seattle do) so it was a sweaty sort of rest. We stayed that night for my father's birthday party and to see my sister's return from her two-month trip to New Zealand.

This morning we were planning to go to UW with my sister, but she was too exhausted to make the trip so instead we took off for home before lunchtime. Inkwell was extremely displeased to be placed in his carrier again. I think he believed he was going to stay at my folks' place from now on, so having to travel again was a shock for him. We stopped in Cle Elum for lunch, although the useful exit was closed so we had to backtrack. We had cheap burgers and shakes at Dairy Queen before hitting the road again.

I slept on the second leg of the journey while Eric drove. Inkwell started to sing me to sleep... well, meow endlessly to let us know he was unhappy. I slept through some of it. Then we were home to air conditioning and a soft bed. Now to rest, and hope I'm ready for what's already shaping up to be an extremely tough day of work on Thursday.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Winkie Convention Report... The Con Itself...

Once hubby-Eric and I had washed off the saltwater and sand and gotten dressed again, we went to find the convention registration. The Town and Country Resort in San Diego is big, but the area for the convention was limited to a fairly small chunk of it. We were able to find registration without too much difficulty and signed in.

Before we had a chance to breathe, Eric was told he was needed for this and for that and he ended up setting up for the first hour or so. At some point we got lunch, overpriced sandwiches at the deli, and then I spent pretty much the rest of the day at the Swap Shop, which was also the research table (writing and art show).

I have to say that it was a really disappointing way to start the convention. I don't much like sitting in a room with no one else for several hours. Although people visited with some regularity to check out the swap and the art show, I felt trapped and lonely. Worse, I ended up with the same job the next day. It was unpleasant. I missed just about every panel for the entire convention.

Now, I'm not a huge Oz fan, but I did want to see a couple of things. In particular, there was a panel in which Kurt Raymond turned himself into the Wicked Witch, and I wanted to see it. But I was a room guard the entire time. This will have to change for next year. Fortunately, there is no swap table run by my husband next year, nor will he be involved in the research table, so hopefully those duties won't fall to me.

At 5 p.m. I was freed from the room to go to the opening reception. There was food and people chatting with one another and generally a good time. There were also Morris dancers, which was strange but fun. The Doctor Who fans among the crowd (there are a lot, many fans love both Oz and Who) were joking about being reminded of "The Daemons" and a particularly memorable scene with sinister Morris dancers. I, personally, think that any style of dancing that involves hitting with sticks is pretty neat.

One of our friends, Eduard, didn't have a ticket for the meal. I hunted down the chair and asked if that had supposed to happen. David (the chair) immediately came over and gave him a ticket. Eduard was playing The Shaggy Man in the play on Saturday night, and certainly was enough of a member of the convention to be fed in the opening reception!

I was able to sit in the back of the evening program with my computer and write up the entire con report for the day. I also started to put together the paper version that would be published and distributed around the convention Saturday morning. The job was not tough: I generally write a LOT more in a day than I did at the convention. But I was distracted by the program itself, which I was enjoying (particularly Kurt Raymond's Q&A session as the Wicked Witch).

I had limited internet connectivity in the ballroom and was able to post the blog about the travel day from the room. But mostly I didn't have a connection, which was annoying. WiFi is almost as important in a hotel now as water service, and more appreciated by many.

Eric and I didn't even try to stick around for the afterparty. I was still in pain from the kayak trip and needed to send out the first con report to newsletter subscribers. We headed up to the room where I finalized the con report and sent it out. Then to bed, and the first day of the convention was over.

Saturday for us started with a run to get breakfast then back to the room to get dressed for the costume contest. I had forgotten I was dressing up. I became the Rose Princess Ozga in a very simple costume, basically a hat and a long dress. I did some posing and sweated heavily in the bright San Diego morning. A reporter asked me some questions which I answered almost too frankly (I was quoted, correctly, in the ensuing article, second page). After the show itself, I couldn't wait to get out of the dress because it was so hot. I had a pink shirt and knit pants on underneath, and so I told anyone who asked that I was Ozga in casual clothes.

I met a very nice couple dressed as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and chatted with them a bit. They were fun and interesting and had lots to say. I later learned that they were Bjo and John Trimble, of Star Trek fandom fame. I got to talk with Bjo a couple of other times during the con. She's one sharp lady.

After the costume contest I was cruelly locked up in the Swap Shop room again for many hours. Any time anyone walked in I asked them about the panels they'd been to and what they thought of the con so far. I had to do something to be able to write the con report.

Eric brought me lunch, and gave me a chance to go down to the dealers room, but overall I was stuck in that room for entirely too long. I wanted to go swimming in one of the resorts three pools. I wanted to attend some panels. I wanted to see the Judy Garland costumes. Instead I sat in a room doing my best to get rid of everything left on the swap table. By the end of the day it was all pretty much gone.

The room again closed at 5 p.m. and I again shot out of there like an animal freed from a cage. The evening banquet was pleasant, with about 140 people eating. Eric and I got seats at a table that had some sunlight from the only outside doors in the room shining on it. A couple of folks across the table from us were getting sunlight in their eyes, so I quietly asked one of the servers if anything could be done to help them. A short while later one of the staff brought out a tablecloth and put it over the door that was letting the light in, sparing our friends' eyes from more sunlight and allowing them to see everyone else around the table. We applauded.

The winners of the various contests were announced at the banquet, and I wrote them down like a good reporter for the newsletter. I confess that I didn't do as thorough a job as I would have for my newspaper. If I was writing professionally, I would have taken notes on the entire ceremony. As it was, I still managed to catch quite a bit.

After the dinner it was time for the play. I got down there and asked if I could again set up my computer and hide in a corner. The director and Eric Shanower allowed it. I had far from the best seat in the house, but frankly I enjoyed my spot a lot. During the slow portions of the play, which there were a couple, I wrote up the day's report. However, I was totally into the play, so I didn't get nearly as much writing done as I had hoped.

Let me take a moment to tell you about The Tik-Tok Man of Oz. The 100-year-old play was funed by a Kickstarter campaign and only staged once, at Winkie Con this year. It was, how shall we say it, a very limited one-off event. It was also incredibly good. While the plot was pathetic, the music, which is what the whole thing was really about preserving and presenting, was fantastic. There were 25 musical numbers interspersed with some talking. The puns were lovely. The performances were glowing. In short, it was excellent. I'm glad I saw it.

Again, we were too tired after the show to go to the party, so we headed back to the room where I blogged about the kayak trip, sent out the newsletter, then went to bed.

...to be concluded...

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Winkie Convention Report... Kayaking...

Hubby-Eric and I got up Friday morning about our usual time then wandered down to get breakfast at one of the restaurants. The very helpful server managed to get us a decent deal that satisfied us both. Yay!

At 7:30 a.m. we were at the pool waiting for other folks to go to La Jolla beach for a kayak tour. Eventually we got all sorted out and found the vehicle we were going in, then got to our destination in time to be outfitted with lifejackets and helmets. We were forbidden to bring our own non-waterproof cameras, which turned out to be a good thing. We could have rented a waterproof camera, but that wasn't an option for us due to a funding shortage.

The tour guides also recommended getting a lanyard to secure glasses to your face. Another Oz fan kindly bought me one. Thank goodness.

I was wearing a swimsuit with a t-shirt over it and sweats. We walked to the beach, about four blocks total. I was wearing birkenstocks. I really wish I had good beach/pool shoes for it, but we were able to leave our birks on the beach. I eventually also took off the sweats because I knew they would get wet no matter how good I was in the kayak once I saw how deep people had to wade to push off across the incoming tide.

Eric and I decided to share a kayak with Eric in the back and me in the front. Once into the surf, the tide was difficult but not horrid. The water temperature was bearable, not really cold though not warm. Eric got in and I tried to get in, but *splash* into the surf I went. I had to reset my glasses on my face. Thank you, Gina, for the lanyard! We tried again and stalled on the beach. Our third try again resulted in me taking a dive into the water.

By this time most of the others were launched, so the guides decided to help us. We got out a bit deeper this time before turning too far into the waves and becoming swamped. So, the guide tried again and, again, we got fairly far out before getting a solid dunking. Four freakin' times. Twice I went entirely under water. I am a decent swimmer and unafraid of getting wet, but at the start of a tour that seems a bit excessive.

The guide recognized that something wasn't working between Eric and I on the kayak, which he had earlier jokingly called a divorce boat. So he put us each in our own kayaks. This time the launch(es) went perfectly. Clearly, hubby-Eric and I are not kayak-compatible.

Sadly, once in a single kayak, I had to paddle with some energy to keep up with the main group. Sadly, this was not easy. I am far more out-of-shape than I realized. In addition, my wet hands did not handle the paddle as well as possible, leading in short order to painful blisters.

Eric and I got to the main group where it clustered outside the surf line. Then the entire group headed toward the caves that had inspired L. Frank Baum in some of his Oz and non-Oz writings. We clustered again nearer the caves while another group entered, listening to the guides tell bad jokes and sometimes interesting factoids.

Eventually we entered the caves, two kayaks at a time. Two of the three guides entered the water to swim and lead the boats into the cave. They couldn't lead us through the cave entirely due to the pounding surf on the other side. It was already dangerous enough in the cave, although magical in many ways. Eric and I entered the cave together, each on our own kayak. There were baby sea lions playing within arm's reach, and when the tide swelled the kayaks rose and nearly hit the roof of the cave.

It was dim in the cave, and there were still drops of water on my glasses obscuring some of my sight, but overall it was a neat experience, though it lasted such a short time.

Next came more paddling. Lots more paddling. A couple more clusters and we headed back to shore. They sent us in one at a time. I was not the first in, but instead watched a couple boats go in before me. The trick with an open ocean kayak is that you basically surf it back into the beach. Yeah, you are sitting, but it's very much a ride once the waves catch you.

Well, in front of me I watched as a couple of kayaks skewed as they got into the waves and swamped. I'm not sure what order we went in, but there were maybe four or five before me. As I came in I was utterly unafraid. In fact, the only thing I wanted was to get off that kayak as my rear was in pain and I was exhausted from the paddling. I figured another dunk would be an improvement on my situation.

So I went in as straight as I could manage, but like the others my boat started to skew as I got closer to shore and the waves started to break over it. Now, let me flash back a bit to when I was younger and healthier. One summer at camp we set out into an artificial lake that was less than three feet deep in two-person canoes. The goal of the game we played was to ram, bump or whatever in order to flip your opponent's canoe without your own boat flipping. I spent a lot of time in the water that summer, but I also learned ways to stop a boat from going over. Enough dunkings and you start to get the hang of balancing a boat, which I think was the point of the games (along with teaching us to not fear going under).

Anyway, back to Friday morning... I am surfing into the beach and my boat is starting to skew, which I've witnessed several other boats ahead do just before they dumped their passengers into the water. I can feel the movement and I just... adjusted... I leaned back and to the side, popped the oar to the correct side purely by instinct and slid smoothly and upright onto the sand. Then I jumped out of the kayak with the paddle in my hand and pumped it into the air repeatedly from the sheer joy. Apparently, based on this experience, I might actually enjoy surfing to some degree.

As other boats were coming in, I pulled my kayak up a bit and then trudged up to return my paddle. After the burst of joy from the lovely landing, I again felt my exhaustion, the blisters on my hands and the pain in my rear padding from sitting on the hard boat. I did not watch the other kayaks come in, though in retrospect I probably would have enjoyed the sight of others getting dumped. One who did not have as pleasant a return to the beach as me was, in fact, Eric.

Anyway, after the group was all on the beach again, we retrieved our shoes and tromped to the public showers to wash off our feet. Then the walk back to the shop. I had enough sand and wet enough feet that I developed blisters in two spots on my feet and spent the rest of the day limping around the con, not my favorite problem. Fortunately, most of the hurt healed overnight. Sadly, not all. As I write this, my right foot continues to throb a bit thanks to a blister on top.

We somehow managed to get back to the hotel. The walk back to the room was too long... such walks always are if you have blisters on your feet. We got back to our room and showered the salt and sand off before starting the very busy first day of the convention.

...to be continued...

Friday, August 08, 2014

Winkie Convention Report... Travel Day...

Yesterday morning hubby-Eric and I got up nicely early and packed the car. The cat was the last item to be packed, and he protested mightily when I packed him into his travel carrier. We had a fairly calm drive over the mountains, getting to my folks' place by about 10 a.m. The scariest part of the trip was seeing the smoke near Ellensburg from one of the wildfires nearby. My mother was kind enough to take us out for an early lunch once Inkwell had vanished into his weekend home.

After lunch, we took care of a couple of last-minute things, then my Mom drove us down to the airport. It was a tad hair-raising traffic-wise, but we jumped out of her van into the departure zone with a quick "goodbye!"

Next it was security. It has been more than 14 years since I last flew, and I was terrified of dealing with all the new security crap. I've read a couple too many horror stories about it. So I was having tiny anxiety attacks, even though I knew there was nothing to be afraid of. The line was long and annoying, but moved fairly quickly. That was kind of difficult, as our bags were heavy and we couldn't set them down for long at a time.

Once to the front of the line, people put shoes in bins along with every other item they had on them. I took off my shoes and dumped them into the bin and, at the advice of another traveler, pulled my laptop computer from my carry on and put it in the bin with my shoes and purse. I went through the screening and heard someone say, "Whose computer is this?" I tried very hard not to panic, but sure enough, it was my computer. Apparently computers must be put into a bin separately from everything else. Ug.

Anyway, no nightmare ensued. They explained the rules to me and gave me my stuff back, and Eric and I got out of the line and found a place to sit and get shoes back on. It was... not as bad as I had feared. It wasn't a pleasant experience, but it wasn't the terror I had braced myself for.

Once inside, we wandered up to the gate and sat. They weren't even boarding the flight before ours yet, so we sat. And sat. And sat a bit longer. And watched the boarding process with interest. Then sat. And sat. And eventually we were able to board the plane. We were in the "third" boarding group, toward the end of our group. Sort of halfway through the entire process.

Eric had me pick the seat, and I located a spot about 14 rows back, into a row where a woman had an aisle seat. As it turned out, she and her husband, who was sitting in front of her, were traveling together with three children. The three young 'uns were very calm during the flight, unlike myself. Now, I wasn't exactly screaming... on the outside. In fact, I daresay that only poor Eric, who felt my iron grip on his knee when I got nervous, likely had a good idea of how... nervous... I was.

As usual, once in the air I was able to mostly forget about my panic and just enjoy the ride. I looked out the windows and spotted some of the wildfires burning in Washington and Oregon, but overall it was mostly pretty boring. I dared to pull out my phone and read a book on the Kindle app, risking severe air-sickness. Surprisingly, I felt ok and it passed the time nicely.

The descent into San Diego was earlier than I expected, we had made good time. I started to get... nervous... as the plane dropped. One of the young boys in the seats in front of us (three boys in two seats) started yelling happily, "We're landing! We're landing!" I started mumbling to myself and trying very hard not to panic.

Once the landing gear touched down I started to relax, even as the brakes were applied and the pressure pushed us forward. Apparently it's the drop from a height I'm afraid of, not crashing into something on the ground. I was oddly jubilant to be on the ground and practically squeaked at Eric. We got out of the plane in good order and stumbled through the airport.

Eric said we needed to catch a bus, and I found an information booth where we asked which one to take and Eric was reminded. Then we went out to catch a bus and, me being an idiot, I suggested we go over to where the courtesy shuttles were. Oops. No, that wasn't the place the city buses stopped. They stopped where we'd been before. We realized this when the bus pulled up. We hightailed it back over the skybridge and, amazingly, managed to catch the bus.

We got off at the Santa Fe station stop and hunted for the green line. HA! Plenty of trolleys, none of them green. Eventually I went into a coffee shop and asked, and sure enough we found the thing. It was PACKED. Jam-packed. At capacity. If I had known how packed it would be, I would have waited for the next train. There were tons of Chargers fans headed to the first pre-season game. Tons of them. Packing the train. It was horrible. I don't like crowds and I don't like flying and I had to deal with both in one day.

I kept my cool, such as I could, despite it being somewhere between 90 and 900 degrees on the train with all the bodies packed close. We got to our stop and stumbled off and I managed to sit down for a minute. All the nausea that hadn't happened on the plane suddenly rose and tackled me. I thought I was going to pass out. Eventually Eric figured out where the hotel was in relation to the trolley station, and we headed down off the platform and trudged to the hotel.

Which is the size of a small city. In fact, I firmly believe the footprint of the "hotel" is bigger than downtown Sunnyside. It was big enough that Eric left me sitting in a cool hallway and hunted for the lobby himself. It took him a long time. While he hunted, I rested to the point where I could see straight again. When he finally found me again we limped over to the building that we are staying in for the weekend.

Our original plan called for wandering off on the trolley lines and finding a San Diego restaurant to enjoy a quiet dinner. That was out the door with our/my exhaustion. Instead we studied the choices on-site and managed to find a hotel place that was tolerable, if expensive. I got a bacon cheeseburger, and a couple of Oz friends from previous conventions showed up and ate with us.

Back in the room, I fell asleep fairly quickly. Morning came way too soon. With it, the much anticipated kayaking trip!

...to be continued...

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Linkdump of vacation-ness

That's right, my vacation starts today. And I need it, too. Here's some links to peruse...

The real Johnny Appleseed.

A possible pattern to big earthquakes? A decent hypothesis, but it needs more study.

Star Wars invades Kinkade.

Pizza for passengers grounded on the tarmac. Yum. Pizza.

Each US state represented as a scene in LEGO bricks. I like New Mexico. I can't say Washington is accurate around here, but in the Seattle area, sure...


Gee, I wonder what state this represents?

Google Tips.

How about some neat pictures of soldiers' kits from various wars?

Top paid CEOs perform the worst. This pretty much demolishes the excuse that you have to pay CEOs more to get the best.

A well-balanced article on "The Hum".

A good breakdown of the faults in the Supreme Court's "We Hate Women" Hobby Lobby case.

This guy gets it.
Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.

Monday, August 04, 2014

IndieGoGo Update... 3 days left

Here's the latest on my goofy IndieGoGo Campaign. Sorry I didn't update last week, it's been crazy at work.

  • Total raised: $325
    • IndieGoGo Fees: $29.25 (9%)
    • Other payment Fees: $4.05 (3%)
    • Paypal Fees: $7.63 (2.9% + 30 cents for each payment)
  • Total for Halloween (minus fees): $284.07 (114% of $250 goal)
  • Total Spent: $256.45
  • Running Total: $27.62
It looks like we'll have about $28 for candy, which means we won't be able to afford enough for everyone to have some. Still, a few kids will get something. And everyone will get a mini-comic, so that's also something.

As usual, feel free to spread the news of the campaign yourself... or not as the case may be. Quick link is http://igg.me/at/tegan/x/3601409.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. Your contributions made the mini-comics possible!

The status of the campaign is: Mini-Comics! and some candy...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Sunday Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jun 25th
  • Aquaman #32 - Mera and Tula make a good team. I'm not sure about the new Chimera, but we'll see how it goes. Aquaman has had issues with controlling sea life in the past, but I'm not sure which of those are still in continuity.
  • Justice League #31 - Jessica Cruz has some interesting issues, but that Power Ring has even more. Not enough Aquaman.
  • Sinestro #3 - I still like Soranik way more than just about any character in all the Lantern books, and that's the saving grace of this issue. Enough of her to make it just worth reading.
  • Secret Origins #3 - Green Lantern, Batwoman and Red Robin. None of them really interested me, but none of the stories are horrible. Just not what I would usually read.
  • Batman Beyond Universe #11 - Wow. An awful lot happened in this issue, including an unexpected death. It certainly feels like this storyline is beginning to wrap up.
  • Batman '66 #12 - A couple of villains I'd never heard of but some clever twists (like the older uniforms) that worked out to be pretty awesome in the end. Good stuff.
  • Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6 - Was that a happy ending? It sure didn't feel much like a happy ending to me. Yikes.



My comic book related book this week is 47 Ronin by Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai. I've been looking forward to this book for some time. I didn't buy the individual issues because I wanted to wait for a nice hardcover collected edition, and that is exactly what I got. The story is a classic, but I think I've only read incredibly overblown versions of the story. This one is not only down-to-earth, it's actually plausible. I already love Sakai's artwork, so reading this tale with that comforting art was just great. There is maybe one or two spots in the story where it wasn't a smooth read, but overall it's a solid tale that works on every level. The rough spots, it seemed to me, might have been due to the serial nature of the original publication. I enjoyed this book for its history and artwork. Definitely a piece that graces any library it's in.



My mystery book this week was The Alpine Xanadu by Mary Daheim. A mental health center is opening in Alpine, but some of the staff are a little hostile. This one almost brings out too many coincidences to work. The real appeal is the relationship between Milo and Emma and how it's continuing to develop. Not my favorite, but still a good one. If you want to start the Alpine series, I strongly recommend starting at the first book, The Alpine Advocate.



Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Sunday Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jun 18th
  • Trinity of Sin: Pandora #12 - Ug. Just ug. Double-ug. A whole lot of fighting and not a lot of anything else. Ug.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #32 - Interesting mysterious set-up, but the blue guys really are getting on my nerves by the time the issue is half over. And I honestly can't remember a thing about the previous issue, so I'm not sure what's up with Kyle at all.
  • Scribblenauts Unmasked #6 - I'm amused at what started the fight between the Bat-family and the Super-family. I'm also delighted to see Aqualad (Jackson) in the big splash page. I think that's Mera next to Red Tornado, as well. Overall, not bad. I'm enjoying the nonsense of this series.
  • Teen Titans Go #4 - While I don't mind this book, it really feels like a dumbed down version of the original cartoon. And the original cartoon wasn't all that sophisticated in the first place. I wish they wouldn't aim so low.
  • Fables #141 - So, is Bigby actually back? Maybe? And lots of Ozma in this one.
  • Spongebob Comics Annual #2 - You know, I like that back page, especially when in context with the rest of the issue. This was a fun one for me, with tons of Mermaid Man, mostly classic. Great stuff.
  • Star Trek: Harlan Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever #1 - I knew the final version that was on the screen was different, but never realized just how different. Now I'm reading a treatment of the original, it's quite something.



No God But God by Reza Aslan. After reading his book about Jesus, I decided this might work as a good starting primer on Islam. I was not disappointed. The first half of the book is a simple retelling of the beginnings of Islam, focusing on the context of the times so the reader gets a better understanding of the nuances of what was happening and why it was significant. The second half expounds on where Islam went from there and why, making it clear that many of the problems with the religion were caused, as is often the case, by disciples with their own interpretation of the prophet's ideas. In addition, Aslan explains how translations can be difficult due to words that mean many different things depending on context, allowing some translations to be brutally misogynistic while others reveal extremely enlightened beliefs. While it is clear that Aslan prefers the enlightened translations, he also acknowledges that those are not always what is believed. For a first stop to looking at Islam, this is a good read. It clearly cannot encompass the entirety of the religion and the people, but it's an excellent overview and one that, perhaps, most Americans should take the time to read and understand.



My mystery book this week was The Alpine Winter by Mary Daheim. After the staggering events in the last book, Emma and Milo start to come to terms with their relationship even as bodies turn up and prisoners escape. This is the final book in what seemed to be a trilogy of stories, all set in the same year. This book actually has a forward that says it takes place in December 2004. It doesn't quite require reading the previous couple of books to understand, but I'm certain readers would get lost quickly without them. In short, start with the first one and work your way through to fully enjoy each book. Anyway, this one again uses the town to its fullest and reminds readers that this series is set in a small town with small town values. I wasn't expecting the villain of the piece, though I should have guessed. Overall, a good read. If you want to start the Alpine series, I strongly recommend starting at the first book, The Alpine Advocate.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

IndieGoGo Update... 15 days left

Here's the latest on my goofy IndieGoGo Campaign.

  • Total raised: $245
    • IndieGoGo Fees: $22.05
    • Other payment Fees: $1.80
    • Paypal Fees: $7.18
  • Total for Halloween (minus fees): $213.97 (86% of $250 goal)
  • Total Spent: $256.45
    • Angry Birds mini bundle (20 ct), 7 @ $4.99 = $34.93
    • Archie, Betty & Veronica mini bundle (20 ct), 7 @ $4.99 = $34.93
    • Little Battlers Experience mini bundle (20 ct), 7 @ $4.99 = $34.93
    • Plants vs Zombies Timepocalypse mini bundle (20 ct), 7 @ $4.99 = $34.93
    • Vamplets Undead: Pet Society mini bundle (20 ct), 7 @ $4.99 = $34.93
    • Mermin mini bundle (20 ct), 7 @ $4.99 = $34.93
    • Boom Halloween Spoooktacular mini bundle (20 ct), 8 @ $4.99 = $39.92
    • Shipping: $6.95
  • Running Total: -$42.48
Despite not quite reaching our goal yet, hubby-Eric and I decided to go ahead and order the mini comics today. The reason for this is because today is the last day for ordering at our usual online shop (DCBS) and if we waited any longer it would get an order of magnitude more difficult to get the mini-comics. At 86 percent of our goal, we figured we can risk not getting any more, although it will be mildly painful if we don't get more help (I believe I heard the credit card scream when we made the order... appropriate for Halloween treats, I suppose).

Again, if we go over, we will start adding fun-size candy to what we are handing out. This will allow us to not only rot the minds of the children in this area, but their teeth as well! If we reach $500, a bunch of the fees will be refunded, too. If that happens, we will be delighted. As usual, feel free to spread the news of the campaign yourself... or not as the case may be. Quick link is http://igg.me/at/tegan/x/3601409.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. Your contributions made the mini-comics possible!

 The status of the campaign is: Mini-Comics! (but we're more than $40 in the hole)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Finally!

2048 Victory

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Sunday Review

This week's movie was The LEGO Movie (2014). I fully expected to hate this movie. Yeah, I heard good reviews, but I have seen enough other LEGO creative endeavors that I was not really expecting much at all. In fact, I was pretty sure I would be disappointed. Not only was I not disappointed, I want to see it again to catch some more of the in-jokes that were spread around. It actually had a plot! I wasn't expecting that. And the characters were, if a little stereotyped, still "fleshed" out enough to work. The jokes were sometimes edgily hilarious and other time flat-out stupid funny. Emmett was a good protagonist and I loved seeing Green Lantern as an annoying prat bothering Superman. Pity there was no Aquaman, but maybe that was for the best.

As for the main plotline: (SPOILER ALERT!)(END SPOILER) Overall, a lot of fun.

So much fun that I went to Amazon and purchased the awful pop song almost as soon as we finished watching the movie. It's almost as good for exercising as Chicken Fat. LEGO jumping jacks!



DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jun 11th
  • Justice League United #2 - I'm really not sure I like this version of Rann. I mean, I've never been a big fan of Adam Strange, but this just seems like stomping all over the whole Rann legacy to me. I'm just not impressed.
  • Green Lantern Corps #32 - So the Durlans are still one step ahead? What a surprise. I'm really tired of this plot.
  • World's Finest #24 - This feels a bit like a final episode. Nice touch on how the employee pitches in to help. I do like the team-up of Power Girl and Huntress despite the recent annoying crossover that derailed the book almost entirely.
  • Smallville Lantern #3 - There's a whole lot going on in this book that makes very little sense unless you can remember what came before, and that's just not as clear as it could be. Though, hey, Ma Hunkle. That's something.
  • Astro City #13 - While it all pulled together in the end, the temporal jumps made this one a difficult read. I really want to rearrange it and read it in the actual hourly order, but I'm not tearing my book apart.
  • Tales of Honor #3 - This continues to be more of an illustrated novel than a proper comic book. Yes, the source material is dense with information, but a good adaptation would find the key bits and promote them. In this, an absolutely key moment, McKean's support of Harrington against Hauptman, is kind of underplayed. I'm moderately disappointed with the adaptation, though the artwork is quite fascinating.
  • Spongebob Comics #33 - Jerry Ordway art for the Mermaid Man story, and Ramona Fradon work on the back cover... I'm happy.
  • Grimm Fairy Tales: Warlord of Oz #2 - If those are "practical fighting togs" then I'm the queen of England. Ug. Story is vaugely interesting, character clothing and design is a little insulting.



The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir. Hubby-Eric checked this out from the library, so I went ahead and read it as well. This is a VERY good book for nerds like me. It's a survival story that just piece-by-piece takes the reader through all the things this poor guy has to do when he's left behind, presumed dead, on Mars. Mark Watney, the main character, is a very smart engineer (hey, he was picked for a journey to Mar, after all) and goes about dealing with his situation the way a good ol' engineer would. It's a book very much in the traditional of Robinson Crusoe, but it's so modern and nerdy that it's just fantastic. Crusoe never had a crew worried about him or a bunch of people at home able to see his camp, and it's the other side of the story that really makes this book a thrilling read. Any nerd who is even slightly interested in space flight, colonization of other planets or just plain science really ought to read this one.



My mystery book this week was The Alpine Vengeance by Mary Daheim. Milo starts getting disturbing letters that indicate a decade-old murder is still unsolved, prompting Emma to start looking into the past. Once again the town's people get a major role and, better, this book also goes back to a previous murder, apparently already solved, and reopens it. Do mystery writers generally go back and revisit a previous story? The events from earlier were covered in The Alpine Fury, and that story had multiple mysteries that had to be solved. Many of them are discussed in this story, but the key piece is one that Milo and Emma got wrong ten years ago. I enjoyed this one, not just for the references to the past (which were very easy to follow) but also the way it ties in with the city and the population. If you want to start the Alpine series, I strongly recommend starting at the first book, The Alpine Advocate.



Fortean Times #316
Fortean Times #316 (July 2014). Disturbing Voodoo cover. Not really my thing, and it goes back to the old format of having a face as the focal point, which isn't my favorite type of cover, either. The gentleman in question, Rollo Ahmed, seems to have gotten along by playing "the Other" in England, which is a depressing way to deal with racism... but apparently somewhat effective at the time. The article ends with a promise for more about Ahmed in next month's issue.

Another main article is about mass hysteria, covering why it happens and what the results can be. The whole article is in support of the release of a book on mass hysteria and examines a few cases while referring readers to the book to get more information. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of information in the article... enough in fact for the casual reader. But the book promises more and more detail if one so desires.

The third main article is about the Human Fly, a real-life "superhero" of the late 1970s who did lots of stunts, including standing on a DC-8 airplane as it took off and jumping school buses at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. I vaguely remember the guy, but I was a little too young to remember much. Still, fun to read about.

Strangedays starts with Slender Man, the freaky and yet totally fictitious internet meme that apparently has taken on a life of its own thanks to idiots who are unable to distinguish reality from fiction. The whole Slenderman phenomenon is something I mean to write more about some time, but I'm still thinking through the implications of people who seriously believe in it. There's something profound about human nature in that story.

Ahem. Moving on, Strangedays also has objects that stopped bullets, a narcoleptic epidemic, attack of the tumbleweeds, scary emus and moronic criminals. Science covers the history of Lichtenberg patterns and how they were perceived by people throughout the ages along with bits on the Turin Shroud. Archaeology finds evidence of vampire burials in Poland and meteorite shrines in Arizona. Classical Corner is a tough read but appears to be about pre-Roman Britian and how those people reacted to Romans.

Ghostwatch is about ghost photographs and what photography and technology has done for ghost hunting. Alien Zoo finds a new jellyfish, the return of a sasquatch mask sort of stolen by a teacher in 1939 to the First Nations it belongs to and the existence of a possible feather of a thunderbird. Fairies, Folklore and Forteana is about One-Eyed Joan, who identified a witch in 1555 by, as she told an ecclesiastical court, talking to fairies. The UFO Files looks at abductee support groups, the Hessdalen sightings and the problems with alien communication. UFO Casebook takes a closer look at crop circles.

Random Dictionary dares to take on alien abductions, and starts with the earliest reports, then moves on to the general timeline of an abduction. I, personally, think there is a completely different explanation for abductions. I'm sure I'd feel differently if I were a victim, but unless such a thing happens to me, I tend to think these are something the mind manufactures rather than actual physical experiences. Perhaps we'll someday know the truth... if it's actually out there.

The Forum starts with a piece about objects that fall from the sky, and how some of them come from nearby activities on the ground. One example used is the head of a sledgehammer that was tossed through a roof by a wood chipper. The second Forum article is sort of an attack on cryptozoology and the assumptions often made by people in the field, but also a promo for a book, Cryptozoologicon, about it. Some good, some bad... if the book is written like the article I'm not interested.

The final Forum article tackles the disturbing legend of foundation sacrifices, particularly for bridges. The article actually quotes Terry Pratchett and mentions Discworld and "speculative folklorists". Fun stuff about a gruesome topic.

Reviews are great, starting with a lovely takedown of a Rendlesham book and continuing to a review of Paul Cornell's latest. Letters are good, with some interesting additions to previous articles. One letter notes that if an airliner can simply vanish, how likely is it that we would know if there are UFOs watching us? Interesting thought.

It Happened To Me has a long excerpt about an Alaskan earthquake that was fascinating. Fortean Traveller visits Norway to seek out the Northern Lights (and finds them). Phenomenomix is... amusing. Another good issue.

In a rare feat of something, I'm completely caught up with this magazine at the moment. It'll actually be almost a full month before I get my next issue. And this is apparently the issue currently on the stands in the UK (I tend to get my issue nearly a month after the UK). So this is a rare moment. Enjoy.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

IndieGoGo Update... 22 days left

Here's the latest on my goofy IndieGoGo Campaign.

  • Total raised: $190
  • IndieGoGo Fees: $17.10
  • Other payment Fees*: $1.50
  • Paypal Fees: $5.27
  • Total for Halloween: $166.13 (66% of $250 goal)
Wow! Huge jump today as two people decided to chip in, one for a crappy postcard and the other for a $100 video thank you to be recorded on Halloween night. That puts us much closer to the goal, with only $90 left before we can buy the mini-comics. I will order the comics the moment the total goes above $280.

As usual, feel free to spread the news of the campaign yourself... or not as the case may be. Quick link is http://igg.me/at/tegan/x/3601409

The status of the campaign is: Fun-Size Candy (but only $90 from Mini-Comics!)

* This fee just showed up, and I think it's supposed to be the estimated fee the payment processor will charge to transfer money at the end of the campaign. There is also a line for bank fees from my bank, but nothing on it. I may get another unexpected fee before this is over. One thing I learned quickly about IndieGoGo (and I presume the same is true of Kickstarter), it will nickel and dime you to death if you let it. Technically, I think we need about $285-290 to make sure we can afford the comics, but we'll chip in the extra if we hit $280.