2013 Convention Schedule

First off, if you see this twice in your feeds, I’m sorry. Because it’s relevant in several places, I’m cross posting it to both my author blog and my personal one, but a day apart.

That said, to no one’s surprise, I’m raising a group of geek kids. My wife is the token non-geek, she thinks, but has either developed geeky attributes as she’s adapted to the rest of us, or she’s just letting her inner geek out to play a little more. Either way, we’re a geek family.

And we like cons. Each of us for different reasons, probably, but a lot of those cross over. Cons are fun.

I’ll be attending four conventions this year, with the possibility of yet to be scheduled day trips to a couple more depending on days off and budget at the time. This is on par with last year for me, but with some differences as one of those was World Fantasy which I went to on my own and two were day trips.

But for 2013, we’re looking at this as a minimum:

We (myself and my oldest daughter) will be at Ad Astra April 5-7. This is mostly a lit con with some other stuff thrown in. I’m looking forward to renewing a few real world friendships, conducting some interviews, going to some cool panels, and having a great time with my daughter. Tickets purchased months ago, hotel booked.

On May 24, by request as a birthday present, I’ll be taking the same daughter to Anime North. She’s in love with anime and cosplay and it seems like a natural fit. Again just the two of us. Further, I have agreed to cosplay for the event. We will both be attending as characters from Soul Eater. In her case, the heroine Maka, and in my case Professor Stein. Tickets purchased.

August 22-25, the annual family pilgrimage to the geek mecca known as FanExpo (also, I believe the third biggest con in the world after San Diego and New York comic cons). Four days of everything geek, and I do mean everything. Whatever it is, you can probably find it at FanExpo. Tickets not on sale yet, but vacation time booked.

Finally, there’s a small con starting just down the road from us, Quinte Mini Con in Belleville on November 9 & 10. Shortest drive to a con ever for us. Both daughters are in, son debating, wonderful wife to attend if she’s not working. Tickets not on sale yet, but they’re supposed to be, so probably any second, we hope.

It’s always the Year of the Geek, but it almost seems like 2013 is also the Year of the Con.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Be well, everyone.


The Annual Family Portrait

Sometime before we had children, although after we started thinking about it, I conceived of the idea of the annual family portrait. Not an original idea, but something that hadn’t been part of my childhood or my wife’s. Probably part of the reason I thought it would be neat.

I pictured a book somewhere with each unfolded page dedicated to the portrait of that year and flipping through that book in my old age to watch the growth of my family. The first came in 1999, a few weeks before my son’s first birthday.

And we kept the tradition going. When my oldest daughter arrived, she was automatically scheduled for the next picture.

Our youngest had to wait a little longer, though, being born early in the year.

When the kids were all smaller, it was sometimes a stressful afternoon. Try getting three little kids to sit still for the same few seconds is not exactly the easiest thing to do, and I remember one or two of the sessions taking forty minutes and a couple of dozen poses to get one good one. The year my youngest was almost four, we got a pretty good pose on the first try and took it just to avoid any of the sitting still issues we knew were coming. They’re a lot better the last couple of years, and it shows in the lack of stress and exhaustion around my wife’s eyes.

From 1999-2011 is thirteen annual portraits, but that book doesn’t exist yet. However, there are five framed photos on the outside wall of the stairs that lead from the first floor to the second and they contain the most recent five pictures, newest at the bottom. I used to joke that you could watch the growth of the kids and the recession of my hairline as you walked down the stairs. That’s still half true. We’re more than five years past the point I started pulling out the clippers every 2-3 weeks. And, since it’s going to be up year round somewhere, we’ve long since gotten over the Christmas background.

But it’s a great tradition, and we’re getting this year’s done today. I expect it to be quick, easy, and stress free. I also expect it to be even better than last year’s photo, and that it will make me sad as it once again rubs my nose in just how big my children are getting.

I’m also trying to convince my parents and sister to do a big one this year. The jury’s still out, but I’m hopeful.

As a side note, maybe someday I’ll get better with a scanner.

Dad Not Required

I have mixed feelings about Halloween this year. No, that’s a lie. The feelings aren’t mixed. They’re definitely wistful and melancholy.

My oldest daughter wanted to go trick or treating with her friends this year. No dad required. <sigh>

My youngest daughter went with friends of ours who were taking their one year-old out for his first. Then we ran into Big Sister with a couple of her friends and they invited Little Sister to come along. No dad required.

My son is in high school now and didn’t feel like trick or treating. He and most of his friends had decided it wasn’t worth the effort. More time effective to buy discounted candy tomorrow. While I can see the logic, it makes me a little sad that he’s outgrown the holiday, or thinks he has. No dad required.

And here I thought I had one year left to trick or treat. One year after this year. But I didn’t even have this year.

My offspring are growing up and becoming self sufficient. While I know that’s part of the point, at least of growing up, I miss the small years and wish I’d had a real idea of what I might have missed at the time.

But every age has been my favourite, or so I like to say. There are trade offs, but I’ve gained the ability to trade sarcasm, geekier conversations, and similar tastes in movies, tv, and comedy. I have different and similar areas of overlap with each of them and lots of time yet to enjoy their company, as long as I don’t waste any of it.

But Halloween will need to be rethought next year.

The ones on each side are mine.

Grade 8 Graduation

Grade 8 graduation is an odd time. We watch our 13 and 14 year-old kids dress up as formal adults. Yes, some more formal than others, but there are suits and dresses you might expect to wear to a high school graduation or wedding. Some of those kids try to be on their best behaviour, or what they think is best behaviour for adults (set a good example, folks). Some play to the crowd, or think they are, and some or so shy and nervous it’s almost painful to watch. Most are nervous but can’t admit it.

They walk into the gym to the music, have a seat, sit through various teacher and principle speeches, a dozen or so award presentations, and then accept their diplomas, all while a horde of parents and relatives look on and take more photos and videos than they have in the past six months.

Then it’s over and we shake hands and accept hugs, have a small glass of punch and maybe a slice of cake then watch as they all file into the gym/hall/get on the bus for the traditional graduation dance/party/gathering. We go home and come back at 11 or 12 or whenever it’s supposed to be over and in between try to keep our younger children in their normal routine and get things ready for work the next day, all the while with a wistful mood.

And why am I thinking about this on the 5th of September when the graduation ceremony I’m remembering was on the 25th of June? My desktop background is set on a slide show and it’s just shown me a picture of my son in his graduation suit, posing in front of the stage. For my son, my first born who graduated from Grade 8 on the 25th of June, today was the second day of high school and the first day he was expected to do any real work.

He didn’t enjoy the last several years of public school for a variety of excellent reasons, but high school is fresh and new and more suited academically to the way his brain works. He’s in a good mood so far. Which helps me be in a good mood.

I look at him and throw my mind back to 1984, thinking about Grade 8 graduation and my own first few days of high school and just how damned long ago it was. Just at the moment, that’s making me understand very intensely my forty-one and two-thirds years of age. I feel old.

Yes, the pride is there too. I have three fantastic kids, all very different and who will all grow up to become fantastic adults. My son is just the first one to get to high school. With luck, I can gently steer them past some of the stupid things I did during my high school years. Not sure how well that worked for my parents, but I certainly have hope.

But I started high school twenty-eight years ago, so yes, today I feel old, but I also feel pretty good.


Getting Ready for FanExpo

So while the kids get to be lazy slugs and lie around the house all day after our overnight trip to Ottawa and the Calypso Water Park, I have a lot to do to get ready for the pilgrimage to Geektopia that is FanExpo.

I’m not going to bother with tips for convention etiquette (like being polite and regular bathing) or good practices for going to a con (like comfortable shoes and sports bottles of water). Those are all covered very well elsewhere. A lot of elsewheres, really.

I’m also not going to go into all the things I’m packing to take the offspring to the con. For my own wardrobe, I’ll tweet a picture of which geeky t-shirt I’m wearing early in the morning to help people who want to find me on that particular day and I know at least a handful of other people are planning to do the same.

No, just for fun, I’m going to run through what I hope to manage at FanExpo this year. There were some tough choices due to scheduling and I have to take into account things the kids want to do with or without me, but it’s going to be a pretty packed weekend any way you look at it. I’m not listing specific booths I want to visit or artists I want to see or autographs I’m looking for this trip. Those are all on a checklist. There may be better times during the con to see some people, but I’ll have to manage the best I can.

So, subject to change, here we go.


3 out of 3 offspring agree that we need to hit the Halo 4 Multiplayer tryout early in our visit. And not just early in our visit, but every day any of them plans to attend the con. Multiple times. So be it. I’m a Halo fan, so why should I go against the majority on this one?

Having purchased the full Expo pass tickets, we theoretically get entrance into the con 2 hours early, depending on how many other people have bought the same tickets, we’ll have the opportunity to do a lingering first tour around the floor to check out all of the neat stuff and maybe do a little shopping and geek wardrobe improvement, plus check out some of the exciting booths and displays.

Current plans are for a very late lunch or very early dinner as David Prowse, who, among many other accomplishments, is Darth Vader, will be doing a Q&A session on Thursday at 7 and we’ll need to line up for that, I think, as it’s not in the giant room That’s where Stan Lee is going to be if anyone’s going—a tough decision, but the Dark Lord of the Sith has more of a universal appeal to the family.

After that, though, I’ll be abandoning the rest of the family to the convention floor as I run a few doors down to the Indie Genre Fiction panel, which promises an eclectic group of authors from different genres. I still hope to record this one for posterity, depending, but only have my iPhone to work with at this point having failed to get a portable digital recorder in time for the con. The iPhone does okay, if I can get a seat near the front and do a little work on the audio after the fact to make it listenable. We’ll see how it goes.


Friday has some tough choices and may involve a lot of standing in line. We’ll have a leisurely start to the day, though, as the first item on our must see agenda isn’t until 1, the live action anime film and demo. Looks absolutely hilarious.

After that, it’s a fairly relaxed afternoon until it’s time to line up to see Levar Burton in Hall G at 4. From everything I’ve seen in the past, he’s an entertaining speaker so this should be a good hour.

I thought I’d go to the Crowd Funding panel, which looks really interesting, at 5 to join my wife in line for John Rhys Davies, who’s speaking at 5:30. From there, it’s joining my son in line for the advanced screening of the pilot of the new JJ Abrams TV series Revolution. The concept looks really interesting and Gamer Boy is definitely an Abrams fan, so it should be good for both of us.


Saturday, the lady folk are talking off, and it’s a fairly relaxed day for specific events, which means it’s a day for seeing what there is to find and maybe a little time standing in line for autographs, depending.

In the morning, Gamer Boy and I are starting with a panel: So You’re a Gamer and No One Understands You. Sounds entertaining and I’m very curious what tack it’s going to take. From there, we probably move on to the Kate Mulgrew Q&A. The question there is will I be able to get anyone to come with me?


Sunday starts just as early but will be packed with stuff. I’m going to be run off my feet on Sunday, with different family members after different things.

First, at 11, a panel on The History of Video Games. Should be an interesting retrospective for me, and Gamer Boy might get something out of it, too. He’s actually the one who suggested we go, having long since fallen into the school of thought that game play is far more important than pretty sounds and graphics (although he admits those are nice, too).

My girls want a photo with and/or an autograph from Rose McGowan. Ms. McGowan has done a lot of work over the past couple of decades, but my girls know her for five seasons of Charmed and they spent half the summer watching the series from beginning to end. Photo Op is very likely and she’s also doing a Q&A today that will talk about a lot more than just Charmed, I think, and probably won’t thrill my daughters all that much.

At noon, there’s a Q&A and demonstration by an actual swordsmith built around Fantasy Armour and Weapons and that runs right up against the Steam Punk Author Panel (or the Brental Floss spotlight for Gamer Boy). This, in turn, runs right up against the Christopher Lloyd Q&A which we’ve all decided needs attending.

Which puts me in a tough spot to make the Billy West Q&A at 4. He’s signing autographs at some point every day during the con, for free, no less, so I’m going to get to see him for a few seconds at some point, but how can I pass up the opportunity to hear the man who voices Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan?

Which will make the convention over except for the long walk back to the street. Dinner, a couple of energy drinks, and the drive home. I work a night shift on Monday.

Now that’s going to be tough.

Audio Blog: Testing IPhone Audio at the Beach

This audio blog takes a couple of test clips from sitting on the beach at Presqu’ile Provincial Park in Brighton, Ontario, stitching them together with a couple of bits recorded in the dining room a few minutes ago also using the I-Phone’s built in microphone. The background noise of the wind and waves is heavier than I’d like, but I’m surprisingly audible if not as clear as recording in my office with the Snowball. Recording was done around noon on August 13th. It’s rough and raw and unedited (read: the audio quality is not great and you may want to think twice about listening). It also ends suddenly. You’ve been warned.

003 2012-08-14 From the Beach

Things I mentioned during the recording:

  • My Daughters
  • My I-Phone
  • Tascam PCM Recorder
  • My I-Phone
  • Tascam IM2
  • Presqu’ile Provincial Park
  • Canada Geese

Be well, everyone.

Chocolate Milk and Growth Hormones

My son and I went to see the Avengers last night (fun movie, not relevant to the subject at hand, but two armoured thumbs up) and he was feeling generous enough on the way home to carry on a conversation with me through various topics.

At one point, talk turned to how I had to take him suit shopping shortly.  Grade 8 graduation happens in June and he can’t wear one of my suits.  Sure, he’s very nearly as tall, but I’m thicker around the middle and broader across the chest, so nothing I have will come near fitting properly.  If we choose wisely, we’ll have something he can probably wear for a couple of years to weddings and other important events even if there needs to be a bit of tailoring.  I threw out the off-hand comment that he’d fill out over the next couple of years and be bigger than I am soon enough.

He said that a couple of his friends were growing past him again (Really? My kid is 5’10” and not even 13 ½ years old. What kind of giants are we breeding?) so he probably should start hitting the chocolate milk harder again to get more growth hormones.


“Yeah, I don’t want to fall behind.”

“You’ll grow when you grow.  Relax.”

Fall behind.  Like it’s an arms race.  We have to get taller before the Russians do.

In fairness, we used to joke that all the chocolate milk he was drinking made him grow faster.  Hormones supposedly pumped into dairy cattle to increase milk production were obviously to blame, right?  How else could he have gotten so big?  Newsflash: my son has always been big for his age and for a time when he was eight or nine actually introduced himself as Monster Boy.  He’s recently been accused of being seventeen.

On the subject of milk, he’s been drinking a lot less of it for the last few months and has for some reason connected that with growing slower than a couple of his friends.  Growth hormones again, right?  Except we live in Canada and it’s only legal to use growth hormones for beef cattle here, not for dairy cattle.  There aren’t any extra hormones in the milk he guzzles.

“I know, but the milk helps.  I can taste the growth hormone.”

Really, I didn’t say, the ones that aren’t actually there.  Instead, I steered the conversation back to high school because they had an orientation day this week.

Now some of you might be thinking that I missed a prime educational opportunity here to discuss the use of hormones and antibiotics in food production and how he has a slightly skewed view of the world when it comes to them.  You’re absolutely right, but I had two reasons for not having that talk:

  1. Not every conversation has to be educational, especially not on the heels of a superhero movie.
  2. I want the kid to keep drinking milk.  It’s good for him and if he’ll do it on his own it’s one more eating/drinking habit I won’t have to worry about.

To paraphrase Sun Tzu: he will triumph who knows when to parent and when not to parent.

Be well.