Wednesday, January 30, 2008


It was at Keycon that I first encountered Filking. They had done some at the costume contest as a way to pass the time while the judges voted. The songs were similar in tune to regular songs but had different lyrics – usually with a sci-fi, fantasy, or gaming theme. The most common of this would be Wierd Al’s version of ‘Yoda’ based on the Kink’s tune ‘Lola’.

I met him in a swamp down in Dagobah
where it bubbles at the time
like a giant carbonated soda.
S – O – D – A, soda.
Saw the little runt sitting there on a log
I asked him his name
and in a raspy voice he said Yoda.
Y – O – D – A, Yoda, Yo – Yo – Yo – Yo – Yoda

Two of the songs sung were ‘Banned from Argo’ and ‘I want a beer.’ The Argo song is pretty easy to find but I can’t find the other on the web. I do recall part of the chorus though.

I want a beer.
It’s a mundane drink but give it here.
No, I don’t want a pan-galactic gargle blaster,
I want a beer.

After the interlude, they mentioned that people could join them afterwards in the Filking room. They were pretty open to people of different vocal abilities, as long as the enthusiasm was high. There were a few people playing guitars and a bunch of people singing the songs. You could join in on the chorus if you could pick it up. I found out later that in the states, they usually have song sheets while up here we didn’t.

The Filking room was usually set up after hours, often starting after 10pm and running through until early morning. When I was younger, the lack of sleep didn’t affect me as much and I used to stay up all night in the filk room. Between that, running Circus Imperium, and living on a steady diet of caffeine, I often found myself losing most of my voice by the Sunday.

For a lot of songs, including a few I recall, see:

Monday, January 28, 2008

ConAdian memories - scavenger hunt

With all the surpluses we all had, after a few days we were making some odd trades. “Okay, we will take a box of oranges, but then you have to take two cases of pop.” We ended up finding out what everyone had as surpluses, and put together a scavenger hunt list that included many of those items. We also included a lot of the guests – we figured that if we weren’t able to see them at the con, maybe someone would bring them by to see us. When we went to get copies of the list printed off, we ran into grief from the publications department – who were being all proprietary about the photocopiers. This is how we met Shannon and Kim who were with the publications department.

Eventually we were able to sort out our differences and had a small stack printed up. It went pretty well, and led to us running scavenger hunts at the next few Keycons – again, mostly for our amusement. Kim helped out by being a co-judge for the Keycon hunts. We always had bribes for the judges built in for bonus points and usually included the guests as well.

Since he was being overly precious, we also had Carey on the list as ‘Victor’s evil son’ and later gave bonus point for having him gagged. He really enjoyed the notoriety and even headed up a team at one of the last ones we ran. Eventually, we had kids and stopped going to Keycon nearly as much.

Friday, January 25, 2008

ConAdian memories - part 4

For ConAdian, there were lots of meetings. There were mini meetings with our department and then the big meeting with everyone. I have fond memories of one big meeting near the end, close to the convention itself. Paul and I had decided to show up in trench coats and fedoras. We listened as the other groups droned on about the minutia of their departments. A few of the groups made an impression on us - the publications department, the tech ops, etc. Publications went on at length in great detail about all aspects of their daily newsletter.

The people who were in charge of the Hugo award droned on about how the spaceship was going to be made from metal that had been shot into near space from the rocket range in Churchill and how it would be mounted on a laser-cut base that had been cut by a laser into the shape of a maple leaf – with a laser. The edges of the base would be black because of having been cut by the laser. He kept going on and on about the laser-cut base. It’s more common now, but in the early 90s it was still on the cutting edge. This phrase has long since entered my vocabulary as something that is overly keen to the person describing it – “y’know, it was laser-cut - by a laser”.

When it came to our turn, Paul and I basically stood up, said that we were going to have themes and badges for each day as well as actually food for the gophers instead of just chips and pop. Then we sat down. Short and quick was our presentation. Then they started to ask all kinds of questions about the details. We had all the information – we just didn’t want to be another group going on and on about it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

ConAdian memories - part 3

We had come up with a name for the volunteer hospitality suite. We decided to call it the Gopher Hole. I believe the ConAdian mascot was a either a beaver or a maple leaf. Ours was a gopher.
We came up with a theme for each day and made badges for each of them. I drew them and Paul scanned them into the computer to clean them up and add text.
I remember we had a gopher in an old sci-fi bubble suit for the classic sci-fi day and a gopher in a hockey mask and machete for the horror day. I also remember a picture of a gopher with shades floating in an inner tube.

I have them all packed away and will dig them out someday to post.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ConAdian memories - part 2

Originally, we had been thinking of carbohydrates and caffeine (chips and pop) for munchies but we were told that our budget was a bit more involved. We ended up with coffee service, cold cuts and bread for sandwiches, fruit, as well as some pop.

We had one of those large coffee urns and found out that we could basically use regular coffee and add a small amount of premium coffee and let it brew. We would start it in the morning and were always getting comments on how good it was. It seemed the longer it brewed, the better the comments about it’s quality.

For food, we had worked out a certain amount of food each hour and had bought ham, salami, roast beef, and chicken in presliced packages. We had fridges rented to store all the food before using. What we hadn’t counted on was that if people didn’t show up, we didn’t have to take out the food for that hour. We had budgeted food replacement for each hour and didn’t need to replace nearly as much – we were on the second floor and the Concom hospitality suite was on the main floor. A lot of the volunteers didn’t make it upstairs.
We ended up putting out a few puzzles and had a few people working away at them over the week.

The original idea was to allow in volunteers for a snack after a certain amount of hours worked. After a day or two we were a lot less picky about volunteers having fulfilled their requirements and were looking to keep them fed and happy. The times that we were out of the room, we were always trying to send volunteers back to make sure they had food and drinks as needed.

Monday, January 21, 2008

ConAdian memories - part 1

It was the early 90s. Christine was in charge of the Services division (and deputy Chair) for ConAdian – which was the ‘94 WorldCon held up here in the geographic center of North America. She went to the people she knew for help on her committee. Being in that group, I ended up being in charge of the Volunteer hospitality suite for ConAdian. It involved a certain amount of pre-con prep work and (hopefully) a lesser amount of at-con time.

I got my fencing buddy Paul Obirek (future PM of Canada) to help as my co-conspirator. We were responsible for the care and feeding of the volunteers. Space was booked for us in the hotel across from the convention centre and we had to make sure there were people in charge of the room, and that there was food, refreshments, and a quiet place for volunteers to unwind after they had put in some actual volunteer time.

We ended up being at the suite more than we had hoped. We were able to get away for a panel or two and were able to find some great volunteers to leave in charge here and there but we didn’t get to see much of the convention at all.

Friday, January 18, 2008

GEnie network memories

GEnie network - Mosaic
Back in the early 90s, I was on the Worldcon committee when it was up here and one of the things we had to do was be able to access the message board online. This was back in the day when you would log into specific bulletin boards instead of the world wide web as it is now. DOS was still being used for IBM PCs and I was connecting online with my Apple IIc with its monochrome green 9” monitor. It did have a dip switch so I could type in Dvorak while Crystal (who was sharing my connection) could touch type in Qwerty.

We were connecting into the GE network – GEnie. After peak hours, the connection was free so a lot of science fiction groups had boards on it. After a while, it proved too busy for them and they started billing for all connections. Eventually the web overtook them, Windows overpowered DOS, Mosaic came out and was subverted by Microsoft into Internet Explorer which eventually wore down the Netscape Navigator connection to which we had upgraded. ( )

One of the sysops I recall the most from back then was YogSysop. He stood out because of the name (a play on Yog-Sothoth – from the Cthulhu mythos) and because he always had a wry sense of humor. Thanks to google, it seems he is James Macdonald, a writer. and
He has some good advice for writers – mostly how to watch out for unscrupulous publishers. Good reading.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

experienced archangel

Thanks to ebay, I finally got the experienced Archangel I needed to complete my Critical Mass set. I still need CM222 the chrome Silver Surfer from the convention, but it’s not on my main list. It has proven surprising hard to get this figure. Besides not getting it originally, or being able to trade for it prior, it was actually a figure that was part of a trade I made at Maxx when I turned in a bunch of doubles early last year. When I got home, it wasn’t in the one I had traded for – truly though, there was a bit of a mix up in clearing up the figures at the end. When I finally got back to Maxx, they didn’t have one anymore.

When Critical Mass came out, I was still a Judge and got a Warren Worthington LE as a Judge prize. When I finally opened the box, there was the figure, but no base for it.

Pre-Universe, I only need 10 figures to complete four more of the first eight sets and not all of them are what you would think of as hard figures to get. From Infinity Challenge, I still need an E – Prof Xavier, a V – Dr Strange, and a R – Magneto. From Clobberin’ Time, I still need the U - Nick Fury. From the Indy set, I need the U – Hellboy, the U – Angelus, and the REV – Judge Fire. Finally, from Unleashed, I still need the U – Magog. This one has also proven to be quite elusively and consistently out of my price range.

Friday, January 11, 2008

frozen pants

When we lived in Gimli, three and a half decades ago, we used to dry at least some laundry on the line. I have memories of the pants being frozen stiff when brought in. We used to stand them up in the corner and they would fall over when they thawed.

We have a small clothes rack in the basement that I still like to hang my shirts and pants on to drip dry. Since I wear a lot of cottons, this also helps them from shrinking as much as they do in the dryer. I also like the way they feel having drip dried compared to having tumble dried.
It's not much, but it's my little bit for the environment. That and reusing bounce sheets.

One day I'll have to hang the kids pants to show them what it's like. Maybe this weekend.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

write on?

The writer’s strike has been going on for about 2 months now. As big media watchers, you would think we would be affected but we aren’t yet. We still have between 30 and 50 hours of TV on tape. We are working away at the backlog, but it will still take a few weeks. After that is caught up, we have a bunch of movies that we haven’t got a chance to watch yet, and then all the dvd sets that we’ve picked up – Roswell, Buffy, Wonder Woman. We could probably program our own TV viewing for an entire season without having reruns. I’m sure it will be rough for the dvd sets of this season, but I’m not sure the writers are really making us feel their pain.

I am wondering how this will affect the Oscars if it runs that long. Without writers, we’ll see more celebrities without the forced dialog. It may even speed up the show so that it ends on time.

Monday, January 7, 2008

FPS / twitch games

I don’t like them. I never have. Part of it has to be that I was around back in the day when the bad pseudo 3-D games first came out. I remember wandering around corridors in Ultima and Wizardry dungeons and later through the Bard’s Tales where their idea of a challenge was to include spinners and teleporters in the dungeons that you were mapping square by square. Castle Wolfenstein was originally a sideways shooter like Robotron before it went 3D for Beyond.
I was never into Mechwarrior, or any of the flight simulators (either aircraft or X-wings).
I did play a bit of Dark Forces, but that was mainly just to show my son the stormtroopers on the computer.

The real-time-strategy or RTS games don’t really have much appeal to me either. I didn’t play Dune, but did try Command and Conquer and Warcraft. I’m okay with the building and don’t mind the farming aspect (regardless of how silly they might seem to the game) but find the real-time part annoying. I prefer taking more time to think about my options – which is why I liked Heroes of Might and Magic – it gives you a bit more time to think about your turn.
That said, we did love Diablo and, to a lesser degree, Diablo 2. We’ll probably run through them again when we upgrade the PC with a newer, bigger, flatter screen.

The other part of it is that I don’t care to put in the time needed to dedicate myself to learning the maps and quirks (how to jump and sidestep, where the key supplies are hidden) just in order to be beaten by those of my friends who do excel at them. Die By The Sword was pretty cool though.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Heroclix update

My Heroclix list has updated greatly over the last year thanks to ebay and our dollar’s surge against the greenback. In April 2007, I needed 815 figures and as of today I only need 562 figures – and that includes three new sets coming out in that time for a total of 180 additional figures. So I have acquired well over 400 figures last year alone.
As the easy pieces become scarce and new sets come out, I hope to be below 300 figures for this time next year as well as have at least one large figure.

I have now completed Hypertime, Xplosion, Cosmic Justice, and Icons. I’m close on Infinity Challenge (3+0), Clobbering Time (0+1), Indy (0(3)+2), Critical Mass (1+0), and Unleashed (0+1). I’m finishing my Supernova (22+2), Armor Wars (33+6), Avengers (2/8), Justice League (7/8), and Mutations & Monsters (9/9) sets and filling in my Ultimates (47+10), Mutant Mayhem (41+11), Legacy (57+13), Fantastic Forces (60+8), Collateral Damage (63+6), Sinister (46+6), and Origin (68+9).

I still need the Galactus from 2004 and 2007, the Dark Phoenix and Jean Grey Phoenix, the Spectre from 2006, any of the Fin Fan Fooms from 2007 as well as the Starro. There is a 'convention figure' month coming up in February that I will see if can fill some gaps. I already have some more ebay joy enroute.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

x-files – technology

Last summer, we had watched seasons one and two of the x-files. In my case, most of these episodes were ones that I had never before seen. I had mainly started watching regularly with season three. Both of the episodes I had seen in season one had to do with Mulder chasing UFOs and even though I remember faithfully watching the Project UFO TV series about Project Blue Book I didn’t see the appeal of an updated version.

When Shan showed me some of the humor in other episodes, ‘Humbug’, and ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’, she was able to convince me that the series was worth another look. We had many years of enjoyment out of it before it started to spiral into a repetition of alien conspiracy stories without much of the humor that we had earlier enjoyed.
I found out much later that both of those episodes were written by Darin Morgan, who had played the Flukeman before being given a chance at writing episodes. Some of his other episodes were ‘War of the Coprophages’ and ‘Jose Chung’s From Outer Space’.

Rewatching the first two seasons in a block, you can really tell that the show came out just ahead of the technology that would have made it irrelevant. In the first season, they had to borrow flashlights, and those one were large models. Scully’s cell phone doesn’t show up until the end of the first season and Mulder doesn’t get his until deep into the second season. How much would have changed if Mulder could have just take a photo with his camera phone and sent it off to Scully when he found the warehouse of aliens in tanks?