Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Week in Review

Saturday disappointment

I got a slow start on Saturday, but I really shouldn't have worried about it. My first assignment was between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. at the local VFW hall, where they hold an annual cribbage tournament. I was to get a photo of a player with a close-up of a hand of cribbage.

When I arrived at about 9:30 a.m. the hall was bustling with people and I talked to the organizer for a moment to figure out who to target. He sent me to a local woman who was fine with the photo, and I stood behind her opponent for a minute or so, trying to get the perfect shot. And that was that. Literally five minutes of work, not counting the "commute" to the hall. Usually my weekend assignments take much longer.

My second assignment was to go to a farmers market at a local country store. The event was supposed to start at 10, which meant I was way early. Well, that's fine. I found a spot in the parking lot that was slightly shaded and pulled out my book. I got through a large chunk of "Go Set a Watchman" before I looked up and realized that if there was a farmers market, it was either late or hidden.

I went into the store and asked, and was given a coupon by a very apologetic clerk who said the vendors had all canceled at the last minute, leaving them with no market. Yikes.

I took the opportunity to example their pet supplies, and found something I thought Inkwell would appreciate, a pad for his carrier that is thicker and softer than the one my mom made for him. I considered it, but then just went home. But once home, I told Eric about it and he suggested we use the coupon (10% off anything) and get it for him while we were out shopping. He didn't have to work to convince me.

Our shopping trip consisted of getting the pad and some "cat springs" for Inky at the country store, then heading to Bi-Mart for cookies and wasp spray, then the grocery store for weekly supplies, including a whole bunch of Fierce Melon Gatorade, the only flavor I actually like. I think we got enough Gatorade to last me the rest of the summer, all on serious sale.

Once home, we settled in for a quiet remainder of the weekend, although Inkwell spent some time suspiciously sniffing his new pad, even after I put it in his carrier. The fact that the carrier was out in the living room and open made Inky somewhat skittish.

What I should have done over the weekend was calculate what I would need for the trip and start packing. What I did do was play on my computer, read and watch TV. I got almost nothing done at all. Sunday was a total bust, just complete relaxation. The closest we came to accomplishing anything was when Eric decided to use Bar Keeper's Friend on the shower door (it did a pretty good job washing away the worst of the hard water/soap scum build up).

Monday Council

Monday... it was hard to get up because I'd been so lazy the day before. But I got to work on time and got through deadline with only a little apprehension (the police logs were a little late because they came in late, a common problem now). I was originally scheduled to go to the Rotary club at noon, but the editor reassigned that to a co-worker. Instead, I only had the council meeting that night. After making sure I had everything I could possibly do done, I headed out for an interview then home to wait for the council meeting.

The interview went well, better than I'd hoped, and I went home to rest and start packing. I got through a chunk of packing and reading before heading out to the council meeting at 6:30.

Ah, city council. The agenda was short-ish, so I expected a moderately short meeting. It wasn't. Short, that is. It was longer than I expected and there was enough material there for a couple of stories. Four citizens got up to talk, and one of the comments was something brought up later that needed to be mentioned in my briefs on the meeting. There was also the first serious disagreement I'd seen among the councilors in some time... not nasty, but genuine honestly-held difference of opinion that was well-argued on all sides and eventually settled by vote.

The meeting ran about 2 1/2 hours or so, and by the time it was done I just wanted to get home and collapse. Eric and Inkwell greeted me at the door, so nice of them, and then I was in slumberland soon after. Unfortunately, I woke up a couple of times in the night with anxiety attacks about the flight.

Flight Anxiety

I used to be fearless. And I mean there was a point in my life when literally nothing scared me. I could be startled or shocked, but for a few months, I went through a time in which I did not fear. I am over that now. I'm scared of heights and I'm particular nervous about flying.

And the fear is not just about the heights, although that's pretty bad. No, I'm also scared of the security theater before the flight. I'm literally irrationally frightened of the TSA. Or maybe it's not irrational. They can take away a person's ability to travel easily, on a whim. They can accuse people of horrible crimes and have the ability to manufacture evidence. They can steal without being punished. They can sexually assault people and get away with it. And while the vast majority of them don't, I'm still absolutely freakin' terrified that they have that power over me. I'm also scared of the known discomfort of flying. The tiny seats, being crammed in next to strangers. The fear of having to check my bag and possibly losing it in the process.

My nightmares ranged from being pulled aside at the security line for reasons I couldn't comprehend all the way to falling into the sky because the plane suddenly vanished from around me. I don't really want to dwell on those nightmares, but they woke me a few times over the nights leading up to the trip.

Keeping Occupied

Tuesday morning when I got to work I thankfully had a pile of stories about city council to write to keep my mind occupied. I worked almost until deadline on stories and briefs and police logs, and nothing was in my head except what I was writing about. It was nice. I needed the break from my contemplation.

After deadline I started work on the special section story, and started to pull it together. But it was clear I wasn't going to get it written right away. I need a little more time for it to simmer to figure out what angle I'm going to attack it from. I put all my notes into Evernote so I could write it when it comes to me, even if I'm on vacation. I'd love to turn it in the day I get back.

I didn't have a lot to do after lunch, just a couple of last minute pieces. The editor needed me to get a photo Tuesday night at a concert, and that was my last assignment before vacation. I was to come to the office and turn in the photos Tuesday night. Co-worker Julia would write the captions up for me. After writing up my last minute pieces, things kept coming up for me to do, including correcting someone else's story, checking for a report from the sheriff's office and just a handful of other last-minute tasks. Then I headed home for a rest before the concert.

The concert... ah, it was a nice break. The trio of ladies sang some religious songs and some old traditionals that made me laugh. When they announced "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" I cheered aloud, much to the amusement of the deputy mayor who I was walking past when I cheered. Of course I sang along.

I went back to the office where I'd parked my car, wrote up my notes and left the information on the desk of the photo gal. Then I was off, free for more than a week!

Making Inkwell Nervous

Of course, it's never that easy. Once home I started to pack some more, making sure to follow my packing list I put into Evernote, since I seem to have no brains left if I don't write it down. I have Evernote on my iPad and computer (and my phone, although I don't update it much) and so I can keep track of stuff. So I made a list of things I would need at the convention, put it into Evernote and marked them off as I got them packed. It seemed to work. I didn't have nearly the problems Eric had remembering stuff to bring.

Inkwell was extremely restless Tuesday night. He knew something was going to happen soon, so he was grumpy and skittish. I was just exhausted from lack of sleep. I eventually faded out, but I had nightmares involving Inkwell being taken away by the TSA for "disposal" (even though my inner brain was yelling Inkwell isn't traveling on the plane with us!) and a zombie Inkwell that I could heal if I could just catch him to take him to the special vet who would help him. But I couldn't catch him no matter how hard I tried.

I woke up unhappy on Wednesday and struggled my way through the morning. Eric and I got packed and got everything in the car, then it was time for the last item to go in before we take off. Inkwell was, however, having none of it. He started out hiding behind the couch, then when I peeked over and said "hello?" to him, he raced over behind some chairs. I went to check that everything was ready in the car for the carrier, then came back and he was nowhere downstairs. I went upstairs and he was standing at the top, looking very anxious. I talked nice to him and managed to snag him before he got under a bed, barely.

He wiggled and fought all the way down the stairs and wasn't resigned to his fate until I closed the lid on the cat carrier. And even then, he was still determined to let Eric and I know that we were being unjust and unkind, locking him in the evil box. He meowled out to the car and made quieter unhappy noises while we got belted up and ready to go.

We weren't quite out of town when Eric said he'd forgotten something. Considering all the things he forgot, I've already forgotten what the first item was (He thinks it was the phone charger). I almost wish we'd turned around to get it, seeing how he might have remembered other items then. He remembered he'd forgotten his overnight bag with his shaver, toothbrush, comb and all those personal items while we were actually going over the pass. He also forgot to bring any trousers, only shorts.

Darth Vader Attacks

I drove the first stretch, from our hometown to Indian John Hill rest stop on I-90. Eric took over the driving from there, and I managed to sleep a little until Eric hit the brakes and said something nasty under his breath. I opened my eyes and saw Darth Vader threatening us from a truck. I blinked. It was still there. I blinked again and it started to resolve into some kind of triangular form on the back of a truck, not Darth Vader (what the heck was a dreaming about?!??). The reason it seemed to be threatening us is because Eric was attempting to pass it and it was going slower than most of the traffic and moving slightly erratically. Ug. We finally got around it and I faded out again, bemused by what I'd been convinced I saw.

Moments later for me, miles later for Eric, I was jolted awake again by more nasty traffic. This time it was traffic on the pass, having trouble due to the construction on the pass. There were people changing lanes almost randomly and some of them seemed inclined to stop at a moment's notice, regardless of how fast the people behind them were going. There were too many blind curves with stopped traffic just around them and people racing right up to the stopped traffic before slowing. I was surprised there wasn't an accident.

Of course, with the braking and slowing, Inkwell started to complain about being jolted around. Then Eric remembered he'd forgotten something else. Then I had an anxiety attack. I've gone over the pass many times, but never with nearly as much stress as that trip. I watched for mileposts and counted down to the Issaquah exit. The attack started to fade before we got to my folks' house, but it was a harrowing trip for me.

Once at my folks' place, I rested while Eric ran some errands, including getting me a Taco Time lunch (real Taco Time, like you can only get in Seattle, with the sweet potato tater tots and a veggie soft taco). Inkwell, to my surprise, decided fairly quickly to accept my mother as his provider and rubbed up against her in the kitchen when she went to answer the phone. He also seemed remarkably happy to be at my parents' home, running around and checking out all the places he knows fairly well from his various visits. He curled up under the futon in the room I was using and fell asleep. He was happy.

After Eric returned, I went on a very special trip with Eric to Nordstrom. Eric didn't go in with me, but because of this article, I decided to try to get my first ever bra fitting. I'm not going to go into detail, just that I ended up purchasing some bras and I hope I will be far more comfortable now than I've been in the past. As I've been wearing cheap sports bras with no support for years, just about anything is an improvement.

After getting back to my folks' house, I rested and we had dinner (pizza). Then I headed to bed a little early, still feeling stressed about the flight.

Travel Day

Inkwell didn't really care that I was leaving in the morning. He looked out at me from under the futon and didn't even squeak at me. Mom and Lisa drove us to the airport and let us off early because the traffic was already pretty nasty. We walked until we found Delta's area, then went through security. My nightmares were on the edge of my mind and I felt terrified and panicky. I apparently didn't show it much, and I got through the line in relatively good time. I only wanted to bolt in the other direction twenty or thirty times in the 20 minutes we were there. Once through, we had to make our way to one of the satellite terminals, which meant a subway ride. That was fine, then up the escalators to the terminal, trying not to think of that poor woman in China who was killed by one. Yes, my anxiety was even bringing that up to panic about.

We found our gate easily and settled in to wait for the plane. I tried to read, since that would hopefully take my mind off things, but words didn't make much sense. It was frustrating. Finally, we started boarding, and I pretty much leaped in to get on early so my luggage would have a space. While we were waiting for the person who had the window seat, I spotted a couple of friends from Oz-fandom who were clearly headed our way. We greeted them and it was nice. Then the guy who had the window seat in our row arrived.

In retrospect, I really should have let Eric take the middle seat. But I wanted to be nice, so I took it. I regretted it the entire flight. The guy next to me took up a lot of space he didn't need to take up, spreading his legs and pushing against me. I was extremely uncomfortable the entire two hours. At least the person in front of me didn't recline her seat. I would have been very upset at her if she had... and I would have politely seethed in anguish, cursing her for forty generations, without making a sound. I wish they made half the airplane seats on short hops unreclinable and let people choose to not have somebody recline into the tiny personal space allowed on a plane. I would always sit in the non-reclinable seats on shorts flights. Always. While Eric was reading on his Kindle, the jerk in front of him reclined right into the Kindle, almost knocking it out of his hand.

I was airsick most of the flight, wanting to die. Several times I leaned over to try to make the blood flow differently so I wouldn't get sick. I didn't throw up, but I felt like I was going to fall or get crushed or something horrible was going to happen... pretty much the entire flight. We got pop and snacks halfway through the flight... I took peanuts and ginger ale, and got it down. When we landed, I almost cried. We had actually made pretty good time, and we were ahead of schedule and had to wait on the tarmac until they cleared a gate. That was in Los Angeles. We had a layover before a quick flight to San Diego. Our friends went and got lunch. Eric and I ate protein bars and attempted to rest at the gate.

The plane taking us to San Diego was late. Really late. We ended up taking off later than we would have landed in SD if the flight had been on time. The flight attendants for our flight were seated next to Eric and I, and the pilots came up and chatted with them a bit. I didn't feel any more or less confident from listening to them. Once our plan arrived, the crew cleared it and eventually they let us board. Again, I made sure we got on early so our luggage would have a spot. This time I had a window seat. Our friends were two rows behind us across the aisle, just as they had been on the first flight. We watched other people board, including two people that both thought they were in the same seat across the aisle in our row. Eventually that got sorted out and we rolled out onto the tarmac.

Where we waited. For quite awhile. Apparently being late meant that we didn't fit into the queue of planes headed out, so they had to work a bit to get us into the line to fly. The little boy in the seat behind me kicked every once in awhile, asked when we were going to fly, and murdered his action figures with horrible noises right behind me loudly enough to freak me out even more. Finally we got back into the line and headed for the runway. The little boy made "whee!" sounds, which surprisingly helped me relax a little. Then we were in the air. I was looking right out at the wing, and I started to imagine it shattering. I closed the window for a bit until the terror passed.

The flight was short. We'd barely hit cruising altitude before we were headed back down. I couldn't see much of the ground thanks to the wing, but I saw enough of the horizon to steady my stomach. Stumbling off the plane after we landed, I wanted nothing more than to collapse. Our friends, headed to the same place as us, walked with us to the shuttle and we all took the same shuttle to the Town and Country.

I thought the plane rides were bad.

The shuttle driver apparently had never ridden in one of his shuttles, and had no sense of how his driving was throwing the people in the back of his vehicle around. When I saw the sign for the hotel I wanted to shout for joy, but I no longer had the strength. Then we were stopped and I was on a bench in the San Diego humidity, Eric checked us in, then got me a ride to the other side of the hotel complex to our room. The jitney ride wasn't nearly as bad as the shuttle, but I was glad when it was over and I was able to go up to our room.

Which was on the fourth floor. Up the elevator. You probably weren't keeping track, but I was. I started the day in a van, then I experienced an escalator before getting on a 737 and a smaller jet. Later, I was on a shuttle, then a jitney and finally an elevator. Lots of modes of transportation in this modern world.

Damp Room

On the fourth floor of the hotel block we are in, there's a floor-to-ceiling window on the corridor that gives me entirely too good a view of the ground from four floors up. I go to the other side of the corridor to walk past it.

Our room is small and was really humid inside. I mean, really humid. It felt like a sauna. I passed it off as likely being my exhaustion kicking in. We dropped off our bags and headed right up to the ninth floor for the dinner.

The International Wizard of Oz Club was holding an executive meeting, and Eric was invited. To encourage his attendance, they agreed to feed both of us at the meeting. We came in just in time for the dinner break. I was still feeling horrible, but I managed to settle and eat. The salad was good, the main course was... well, it wasn't fantastic, but I mainly enjoyed it. The dessert was tiramisu, which I wouldn't eat if I felt good. I asked a server if there was another option, and he said he'd find something. Some time after everyone else was finished, but while they were still talking over their coffees, my new dessert arrived. It was an almond cake with blueberries. It was actually pretty good. I finished about the time everyone headed back to the conference room, and I got on the elevator with two other "spouses of Oz fans" who were headed elsewhere from the dinner.

Once back at the room I realized that it really was hot and humid, even compared to the hall outside. I found the AC controls on the wall, only accessible by climbing across one of the beds. The AC was off. I turned it on, cranked the temperature down to the high 60s, and kicked off my shoes. As I walked to the bathroom a few minutes later, I realized my feet were getting wet. It took me a few moments to figure out that there is a puddle in the carpet near the door. It had a defined shape, possibly caused by someone dropping swimming suits/towels there. I don't know for sure. All I know is that it was wet.

I was stressed and upset and tired and still airsick. I considered going up to tell Eric. I considered calling room service. I considered collapsing on the bed and not allowing myself to think at all any more. The last option won. I was fast asleep when Eric got back. He discovered the puddle for himself after he took his shoes off.

Early in the morning I woke up. I didn't get up until a bit later, although the room was still too humid, now clammy thanks to the AC, for comfort. When I got up I got a shower, played on the internet for a bit, then wrote up a quick newsletter for the Oz folks. Eric and I wandered out to get breakfast at one of the local eateries. It was more expensive than I'd anticipated. We called room service about the puddle in our room, and also figured out where the package that was sent to Eric was waiting. Then we went down to get our "room" ready.

Oz Con 2016 and the Oogaboo Room

We were offered a room to set up for Oz Con International 2016, since Eric is the co-chair and Karyl, the other co-chair is also at the convention. This room (which we dubbed "the Oogaboo room") is just off the courtyard, pretty much in the middle of the action. It means I can sit in a room most of the weekend and still feel like I'm part of the con instead of feeling like I'm hidden away upstairs like last year. I set up my computer while Eric went to get the package. Then I talked to folks who were arriving and generally had a decent little time until people started to really gather in the courtyard for the meet and greet.

When Eric got back we opened the package, which had copies of the new Munchkin Oz game for us to have people play at Oz Con. Over the course of Friday we got a few people to promise they would come and play the game.

Karyl arrived and we set up the decorations for the room. I also got to go in and out more than I did last year thanks to having a few people around who popped in for a moment. Because the location is good, people are more willing to sit for a bit while I go to do other things. This is great, because it means I'm able to actually see some of the convention but still have a place to hide at when it gets to be too much. I would have liked to be in the dealers room, where there's more action, but it wouldn't have been as flexible a space if I had. In the end, this just works out.

I set out the games to encourage people to play, but we had no takers in the morning. People came in and looked at the games, and some people came in and rested at the tables, drinking water. It was a good place for folks to come in and relax. I met a few people who came in the room to rest, including the cairn terrier gal. I also managed to get some quality time in the dealers room to chat with folks, which didn't really happen last year.

The problem with the games being set out where people were drinking water became clear after the first person accidentally knocked over a flimsy plastic glass. Fortunately, it was no where near the games, but I decided to move them to a display table. Good thing I did, as soon after another of the flimsy plastic glasses got knocked over and would have destroyed the game that had been sitting there. On the downside, fewer people were looking at the games.

A nice gal (Yvette Lee) came into the Oogaboo room and did a quick overview of how to play Munchkin, which I tweeted so Steve Jackson Games knows they are getting their money's worth from us.

We all headed out to the "cookout" at 5 p.m. and enjoyed the food and company. And Morris Dancers. Any dance that involves hitting something with sticks gets approval from me. The night programming started at 8 p.m., which gave us a little time to relax. I wrote about the evening program in some detail in my con report for the newsletter subscribers, I'll probably post it all to this page later. I spent most of the evening program in a corner writing up my report for the day and making sure I had details correct for the next day.

After the evening program was done, Eric and I made an appearance at the after-party. There were Tim Tams. Real Tim Tams, brought from Australia. I tried a few. They were good.

Once done with that, we headed back to our room just before midnight and I finished up the newsletter for the day. After sending it out, I fell into a happy sleep in our now clammy room. Yeah, hot and humid with a large dose of AC turns into cool and clammy, not cool and dry. Ug.

This morning I woke up far later than I usually do, but I was fine with it. Breakfast was two incredibly overpriced yogurt parfaits and a croissant that had a dead bug on it. I did not eat the croissant, just the parfait, but I almost gagged when I realized what was on the croissant. The meal, which did not include drinks, was nearly $20. For the two of us. Barely anything. It was ridiculous. This place (Town and Country) has the worst food choices of any convention venue I've been at, which isn't really saying all that much, but still.


Anyway, after getting going, we headed to the Oogaboo room, which I now have a key for, and got set up before most of the morning crowds arrived. People started to show up in the courtyard before the "official" starting time of 9:30 a.m. and it became a nice morning. So far, as the day has progressed, we've got a lot of people showing up for one-day passes to enjoy the convention. It's actually getting kind of busy.

And I'm going to end this here, since I could go into excruciating detail about today, but who wants to read that? Heck, I doubt anyone has actually read this far.