Posted tagged ‘geeking out’

Treasured Memories from the Calgary Expo

May 1, 2012

It was touch and go there for awhile. Will I go? Will I not go? Calgary is quite far and with the tension sky high at work, I didn’t dare ask to adjust the schedule. But I did have Sunday and Monday off. Turned out the boy had those days off too. I asked him if he wanted to come to the Expo with me. He said sure. And thus we found ourselves arriving in Calgary early Sunday morning, tired from the long drive but excited to get our geek on. (It’s times like that I wish I lived within reasonable distance of an airport. My life would be 100% more time efficient if I could just fly places.)

Calgary Expo-what?

What a time was had! The guest lineup was intense. The entire main cast of Star Trek TNG reunited. Stan Lee. Billy West. Adam West. James Marsters. Dave Prowse (also known as Darth Vader). Adam Baldwin. Commander Sheppard Mark Meer. And those were just some of the super famous people present. Yet, for some reason, convention organizers were surprised when more than 50 000 fans from all over the world showed up.

On Saturday, convention goers discovered why most other major conventions have limited tickets. The inside of the convention centre was packed like a Tokyo subway car at rush hour (considering that a lot of geeks get nervous in crowds, I can only imagine how much panicking must have occurred that day) and the outside grounds, crawling with those who’d been locked out, were overrun. Going on Sunday ended up being the best idea ever.

We got there early in the morning and I had pre-bought and printed tickets for the two of us, like the wise convention goer that I am. We had a last minute addition to our party who didn’t have a ticket but, fortunately for her, I was at a pub crawl in Winnipeg about this time last year.

That’s right. While getting drunk in Winnipeg last year I befriended a fellow backpacker. A backpacker from Calgary. Who happened to text me on the way to the Expo, asking if I needed an extra ticket. After I pulled some sophisticated lineup strategy maneuvers, my Calgarian friend found us just as we were reaching the front of the line. We yanked him in, I paid for the ticket and, yep, all 4 of us got our passes. The moral of this story? Never turn down a pub crawl.

The WoW Crowd

The WoW community meetups are often the best part of these big conventions. Vidyala and Vosskah hosted a potluck on Friday night (I couldn’t go, unfortunately, since, well, I was at work 7 hours away) which I heard great things about. I did, however, make it to the supper on Sunday. The early planning went kind of like this:

Vid: Oh you’re coming! We should go for supper!
Me: We should! Can I invite people?
Vid: Um, ok.

A few days later, Vid, Voss, Darthregis, Chawajen, Kalesti, Rades, the Fannon family and the Bossy Pally party found ourselves seated at the downtown Milestones sharing Expo stories, WoW stories and housecleaning stories. Also drowned a donkey and a mermaid in Peach Bellinis. The night was too short, too short, too short. I could spend an entire week with these guys and still want to be around them.

I say I start planning my own conventions, just to draw out awesome WoW friends.


Unlike the rest of my party, I planned ahead. I printed out the panel schedule, studied it, rated the panels based on my interest in them and came up with a plan. One panel title was “How to just barely survive as a Hollywood writer“. It caught my eye. I’ve no ambitions to become any sort of pro writer (if I got offered a paid writing position, I’d turn it down). But while my personal goals aren’t in the field, I love reading or hearing about writers. Oddly, I kind of relate to writers.

So I read the description. Andy Rheingold, Josh A Cagan and Pete Williams. Pete Williams sounded vaguely familiar…

I got to the next line: Undergrads.

OMG Undergrads!!

How many hours did my friend Val and I spend in high school expressing our appreciation for Gimpy? How many times did my brothers and I make each other laugh with Cal imitations? How many family nights did I spend with my siblings, watching Undergrads reruns on Teletoon? How many friends did I force to watch introduce to the show? How many flashbacks have I gotten of Rocko reading Cosmo and saying “I think we’re all feeling a bit… *flips pages* premenstrual“?

I sat up-straight throughout the whole panel, drinking in every word. I squealed when Pete Williams did a Cal line (he sounded way better than my brothers and I ever did due to, you know, being Cal’s actual voice actor). I really, really, really wanted to run up to them after the panel and give them a hug.

Undergrads was one of the rare shows that played a huge part in my young adult life and I never in a millions years expected to meet the writers. Especially not in Calgary, 10 years after the show was cancelled (after 13 episodes). And if the experience was surreal to me, it seemed to be surreal to them too. They made my day when they said (I think it was Josh who said it, but I’m not sure) “It’s like we’re in Sliders, in a parallel universe where people have actually heard of our show.

Of course, they were bombarded with questions about the eventuality of a season 2. It sounded like they were absolutely ready for season 2 but the usual red tape (show rights and financing) was holding them back. But the attachment they showed toward their show, even 10 years after being forced to move on, made me very happy. It was wonderful to be sitting in that room with about 30-40 other fans (another upside to Sunday! Saturday’s panel apparently packed 250 people in the room and turned 100 away. Much less intimate.) and the 3 main writers, sharing our love of Undergrads.

If only I hadn’t been too shy to go to their booth afterward and talk to them…

Video Game Voice Acting with Mark Meer and Quinton Flynn

Do you know who else is awesome, besides writers? Voice actors. They’re the stars you never get to see, who you don’t often think of. In fact, if the better job they do, the less you recognize them. They don’t get the screaming fans and the big bucks. But when you do meet them in person, you’re quickly smitten, so much their passion and talent is captivating.

Mark Meer, I was familiar with. I’m playing a lot of Mass Effect these days. I didn’t, however, realize he lives and works really close to me and that I could go see him act all the time. Which I totally plan to. He’s hilarious. You know else who is awesome, besides writers and voice actors? Improv actors.

I didn’t know the name of Quinton Flynn, but the second he started talking and doing impersonations…oh yeah! As my friend Skip puts it, Flynn is “one of those 12 voice actors who are in everything“. It was just incredible to listen to him. From his normal speaking voice, you wouldn’t guess that he was a voice actor, but the second he slips into a character…wow! Suddenly you’re sitting in front of Timon (I totally watched Timon & Pumbaa as a kid!) or Raiden or Axel or Johnny Quest.

In was interesting having them give the panel side by side since they both have very different careers. Meer does a lot of impov and theatre acting, as well as consultation work on designing voices, while Flynn has been voice acting for cartoons and video games since I was a kid, and has a lifetime of experience. They had different elements to bring to the table and it made for a very enriching panel. But like all panels, it was way too short.

And again, I wish I had had the guts to go up to their booths after and ask for an autograph and a hug.

Moments of Awesome

Vid called me while I was hanging out by some booths. “Can you pick up Volumes 1&2 of Questionable Content for me? I didn’t think to get extras for my brother.

“Sure!” I said.

I was familiar with the name. But not being a fan of webcomics, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. A few moments later, I’m standing in front of Jeph Jacques (I totally interrupted his lunch too), knowing that I’m in the presence of someone amazing, but not knowing exactly the extent. He was super nice to me, autographed the books while I felt like a total poser.

I flipped through the books a bit before I turned them over to Vid. Definitely looked like something I’d enjoy. I was half tempted to keep them…

I’m now hooked. Questionable Content has a new fan. And that’s what conventions are all about.

Asked Vid and Rades if From Draenor with Love was going to have a booth next year. Conventions are about that too.

As the day was drawing to a close, a girl, maybe a few years younger than me, walked by, excitedly yelling on her cell phone: “I got hugged by the voice of Axel! You know! The voice of Axel! He gave me a hug!

Conventions are definitely all about that.

Not necessarily about getting hugs (since I was too shy to ask for any), but about getting excited with other people, notably strangers and celebrities, about things you’re not usually allowed to be excited about in public. I can’t wait until next time!

Remember that one time I BUILT A COMPUTER? – Part 1

January 20, 2012

This is part 1. Part 2 (with bonus hair pulling drama) will follow when I feel like it.

As I’ve been going on and on and on and on about on Twitter, I built a computer. All by myself!

My overall observation: “The statement ‘building a computer, OMG aren’t I awesome’ is somewhat misleading. The building part is by far the easiest and fastest step of the process. Building is a joke compared to the challenges represented by getting the parts from the shop to your small, isolated town and installing Windows.

I went through life, living each day, never considering building my own computer. My dad used to like to put computer parts together. A lot of my guy friends (many of them actually having JOBS that had to do with computers) used to build their computers. And their machines USUALLY turned out to be poorly functioning, virus-loaded bundles of junk. If these people who read computer magazines and who know what the letters CPU stand for aren’t very good at it, what the heck would I do with two boxes of computer parts?

Well. I made a discovery. I discovered that you can totally build a computer if you don’t know anything about computers. In fact, I highly recommend that you build your own computer BECAUSE you don’t know anything about computers.

I learned a lot from my experience. Words that made no sense to me (I knew a “motherboard” was something you had to get changed after smoke comes out of your laptop, but otherwise I didn’t have a clue) suddenly became part of my vocabulary. I even had a REAL conversation with a guildy the other day about graphic cards and their power supply requirements. Where I ACTIVELY PARTICIPATED! Hey, if I can talk about the Geforce GTX 500s series and voltages, so can you.

Oh, and by the way, I’m very annoyed by the fact that most of the savy and helpful people had to say things like “Ah yes, I built a computer for my girlfriend/wive/sister/female cat”. No one, not one person, said anything along the lines of “I built a computer for my boyfriend/husband/brother/male cat” Technology is power, fellow ladies. Take power into your own hands and stop letting penises control the technology in your household. I did it and you can too.

The Workbench

This is where we drool over the goodies I got to work with.

Here’s what we’ve got:

Intel Core™ i5-2500K Processor, 3.30GHz w/ 6MB Cache (Processor, 230$)
Zalman Z9 Plus Case w/ Fan Controller (Case, 60$)
Gigabyte GA-Z68A-D3H-B3 w/ DDR3 2133, 7.1 Audio, Gigabit Lan, CrossFireX / SLI (Motherboard, 135$)
Corsair Vengeance LP 16GB DDR3 1600MHz CL9 Quad Channel Kit (4 x 4GB), Cerulean Blue (RAM, 90$)
Seagate 1TB Barracuda SATA III w/ 64MB Cache (Hard drive, 160$)
LG Super-Multi 22x DVD Writer, SATA, OEM, Black (CD/DVD drive, 22$)
Cooler Master Silent Pro M 850W Modular Power Supply (Power supply, 150$)
eVGA GeForce GTX 580 1536MB GDDR5 PCI-E w/ Dual DVI, HDMI (Graphics card, 510$)
Asus VW224T 23inch (Monitor, 212$)
Windows 7 (Operating system, 220$)
Basic Microsoft Keyboard and Mouse kit (Keyboard – I couldn’t find one without a mouse – 30$)

Typically you’re supposed to go with a budget, but I tend to be more of the “best I can get with less” type. And I had no idea what computers cost. In the end, I spent a little under 2000$, including a monitor, Windows 7 and keyboard. I looked at premade gaming computers with similar parts, and they seemed to be within the 3000-5000$ bracket. So not only did I learn a lot from my adventure, I got more out of my money too.

How I learned to never order stuff online before Christmas

Picking out parts was pretty straightforward. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who knows what all those gibberish numbers and letters mean (GA-Z68A-D3H-B3 w/ DDR3 2133, really?) so for about 10 hours (in 3 sessions) we scrolled through my options together, part by part, talking about each piece.

If you can, I highly suggest getting one of those smarts friends, especially one who knows when to explain and when to wait for questions. And who ultimately leaves the final choice up to you. (I know, I know, those friends are a hard to find. That’s why I hang onto mine fiercely!)

On December 15th, I submitted my order. Memory Express, a relatively local computer store that came highly recommended by local friends, delivers for free, so I went with them. There was also the option of picking up the parts at the store, but I live 3 hours away from the city and figured delivery would be faster.

10 days before Christmas… Yes, sometimes I am really that stupid. (Which bring me back to this post’s theme: if a person stupid enough to order online 10 days before Christmas can build a computer, you can build a computer too.)

– On December 17, UPS had my package.
– On December 19, UPS took my package from Calgary (starting point) to Edmonton (the city nearest me).
– Delivery scheduled on December 22. Yay!

– On December 22, there was a message saying UPS was looking for my address. I double checked the address I gave Memory Express. It’s my address. No phone number for UPS, so I let them sort it out.
– December 26, still no change. I call Memory Express. UPS is closed for the holiday, but they promise to look into it.
– By December 27 the websales customer service staff at Memory Express recognizes my voice.
– On December 30th, I’m finally in touch with UPS. The address thing should be sorted out, but they won’t deliver until the New Year. I have some time off so I ask if I can pick it up in Edmonton. They say sure and point me to Purolator who will be handling the final delivery.
– December 30th in the evening, I get to Edmonton. Purolator gives me one box, my computer case. Tell me they’ve lost the other box.

That’s right, they lost a 1400$ box of computer parts that I drove a total of 6 hours to pick up.

– During the first two weeks of January, UPS calls me 3 times. Each time they ask for my address.
– On January 12, I receive my box of computer parts.

And that’s why I’m only level 16 in SWTOR.

If you’d like to hear more of this absolutely riveting tale, hang tight and part 2 will be delivered you to in 3-7 business day (read: in a month).