Archive for March, 2011


My Stupid Human Trick

My dad used to (and still does) amaze young and old with a trick whereby he would flip a coin on his wrist. I, too, was confounded by his prestidigitation and for many years could not perform the feat myself. Finally he showed me how it worked. But knowing how it worked and actually being able to do it are two very different things. It involves causing one tendon in your wrist to slide under another, then making it suddenly (and with sufficient force) pop out, causing the coin to flip. It took weeks of practice to finally get it to work. And when I did get it to work, my wrist was so sore I could barely get it to move.

I can do it with a quarter, Dad can do it with a silver dollar. The video below is using a token for a laundromat in Mons, Belgium (yes, I washed my skivvies in Belgium once upon a time). I get one of two reactions: “Ooh, how did you do that?” or “Eww, that’s gross”.

Now, I submit to you, The Wrist Coin Flip:

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Emerald City Comicon 2011

This past weekend, Jan and I attended the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. I went last year by myself, as Jan was out of town visiting a friend. It was my first comicon, and I had a blast. I thought it may have been a bit too nerdy for Jan’s tastes, and certainly more people than she likes to endure. But after seeing the pictures I took and hearing about the experience, her interest was piqued. I had driven to Seattle just for the day, so it made for a very long day. When we found out that William Shatner was to be one of the media guests, it was decided that we would both attend, come hell or high water. Jan is a huge Shatner fan, and meeting him in person was something she had always wanted to do.

So, we made plans to attend. Logistically, a trip to Seattle is not a huge deal, but there are considerations. First and foremost are the dogs. Somebody has to be available to take care of them. Luckily, Jan’s cousin Mike has a teenage daughter that is available for dog/cat/house-sitting duties. We arranged for Stephanie to come to the house Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday afternoon. She is low maintenance and trustworthy, so she is an ideal solution. Next, I booked the hotel. The Paramount was nearby, had decent rates, and was available. Tickets for the Con itself were easily purchased on-line.

The only remaining issue was the timing of the Con. The first weekend of a month is not usually a good time for someone in the accounting biz, as Jan is. Luckily, her current situation is pretty flexible in that regard, so that obstacle was easily averted.

Our plan was to try and be on the road by 5:00 PM on Friday, but due to some delays it was about 5:20 before we were on our way. As such, the trek from Beaverton through Portland was fraught with traffic. By the time we hit the Washington state line it was 6:25 and getting pretty dark. Not only dark, but very rainy. I’m not a huge fan of driving in the rain, especially when it’s dark, so the combination of traffic and weather led to a stressful drive. After passing through Vancouver, the traffic lightened up, but the rain continued until Kelso. Once the rain subsided, I was able to relax a bit, and the rest of the drive to Seattle was fairly smooth.

It was after 9:00 when we finally rolled into Seattle, and of course I made a couple of wrong turns when getting off the freeway, which resulted in a bit of looping around to get to the Paramount hotel. We left the Caddy with the valet, checked in without incident, and flopped onto the bed in our room. Our rest was short-lived, though, as we were both pretty hungry. We decided to try out the Happy Hour at the hotel restaurant, the Dragonfish Asian Cafe. There was a fairly short wait to get a table, and you could tell the nerdy crowd there was in town for the Con. We settled on some sushi, chicken potstickers and the Dragonfish lager. With Happy Hour prices, the tab came to about 20 bucks. Not too bad!

Back to the room to decompress after the long drive, and catch a little TV. But, we were both pretty tired so it was lights out fairly soon. The show didn’t open until 10:00, so we didn’t have to get up too early. I’ve got to say, the beds at the Paramount are very comfortable, so I slept very well.

The next morning, we were up and moving by 7:30, so coffee was consumed, followed by a nice shower (the water pressure at the hotel was very good). Low water pressure at hotels is a pet peeve of mine, but the Paramount delivered very nicely. We went down to the Dragonfish for a quick breakfast (ham and eggs for me), then took the short walk to the convention center.

After taking seemingly endless escalators we made it to the level of the Con. We were prepaid, so we just had to just exchange our tickets for badges. The line for badge pickup was fairly short. We picked up and affixed them and headed to the show. The show was due to open at 10:00 AM, and we arrived at about 9:45, but people were being let in already. I thought it prudent to get our tickets for the celebrity photo ops as our first order of business, so we headed downstairs to take care of that. The main reason Jan wanted to come this year was to meet and get a picture taken with William Shatner, so I wanted to make sure that happened.

We decided for a picture with Shatner, Jonathan Frakes/Brent Spiner, and John Noble/Jasika Nicole. My presumption is that if you’re reading this blog, you probably know who those people are. That set us back a cool 200 bucks, but we felt it was worth it. At that time, the line was longish, but probably only took 20-30 minutes. Having secured our tickets for the photo ops, we set out to explore the show floor.

Jan was particularly interested in seeing some of the artists at work, as was I. The ability of these men and women to express on paper what they see in their mind’s eye is truly amazing to me. I wish I had even a thimbleful of that kind of creative talent. We wandered through the “Artist Alley” area for a while, pausing to chat with some of the very friendly folks there, and buying some comics and other media.

Our first photo op was with William Shatner at noon, so we headed back downstairs at 11:30 to get in line. There were quite a few people there already, but they started with the pictures early, around 11:45. The line moved fairly quickly, as there were no “Hi, glad to meet you” moments. You got up to the area, stood by Mr. Shatner, got the picture, and were hustled away. He did say hello, at least, and seemed friendly enough. I must say the organizers at the con did a much better job of line management this year, especially for the photo ops. Last year was really something of a kluge in that regard.

William Shatner

After the photo op, we went back upstairs to check out some of the other exhibitors. Somewhere along the way, we found ourselves at the Jason Palmer Studios booth. They were selling a very cool ECCC poster with all the media guests depicted. It had the ECCC logo, as well as the Seattle skyline in the background. Jan and I agreed it would be a nice memento of our experience, so we decided to buy one. The only problem is that they had sold out. But, they were expecting another shipment at 1:00. So – we prepaid for the poster (as well as a protective cover). They took my cell number and promised to text me when it was available for pickup.

This is the poster (image "borrowed" from JasonPalmer.net)

 

By this time, it was getting close to the time for the next photo op with Frakes and Spiner, so we went back downstairs. The line had started forming outside the room for the photo op, as Shatner’s photo op was still in progress. As we waited, another celebrity got in line behind us:

It's Futurama star Zapp Brannigan!

Shortly before 1:00, they let us into the photo op room for the next picture. The line wasn’t quite as long this time, but the did bring the folks forward that were getting pictures with just Frakes or Spiner. The line moved fairly quickly again, and when our turn came, we received a very warm welcome from the two gentlemen. They pulled us in close (Frakes put his arm around Jan), and the deal was done. They were both very cordial and engaging. A very pleasant experience.

Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner

When we finished the Frakes/Spiner photo op, we checked out what needed to happen to get Shatner’s autograph. He was the only media guest that you had to pre-purchase an autograph ticket for. The line to buy the ticket was pretty short so we took care of that. The next signing was to be at 2:00, so we headed back upstairs to see if the poster was ready for pick up. As we were going up the stairs, I got the text that the poster was in fact ready. When we got to the booth they had it all ready to pick up. We decided we would have as many of the celebrities sign the poster as possible.

We knew that Shatner’s line for autographs would be pretty long, so we went downstairs yet again to get in line. The was already pretty long, so we settled in for the wait. We started chatting with a guy in front of us. It turns out his step-father was a big Shatner fan, and had a lot of  Star Trek memorabilia in his collection. He sneaked out a porcelain plate from the collection without his step-father’s knowledge, and brought it to the con to get signed. I thought that was a pretty cool gift. After half an hour or so of standing in line, we finally made it to the front. I had the poster out of its protective sleeve and ready to sign, and Mr. Shatner gladly did his part. We expressed our delight in meeting him and told what big fans we were. He thanked us for that, and we went on our way.

Achievement unlocked: William Shatner's autograph

After the “Shatner Experience®” we went to see if our Shatner photo was ready for pick up. We found our picture in the stack fairly quickly, then moved back upstairs for more wandering. By this time, were getting pretty hungry, so we hit the concession stand for a couple of pricey hot dogs and sodas. It was fun to just sit and people watch for a few minutes while we ate. The 2 guys in full Klingon makeup that stood in line behind me for last year’s Leonard Nimoy photo op were getting food at the same time. Seemed surreal to to have these guys in such authentic makeup and costume to be doing something so “normal”.  We finished our hot dogs and commenced to wandering again, this time in the artists area at the back of the hall. We stopped and chatted with a couple guys at BrainMachine Comix. They were very friendly, and gave us some very good insight to the comics world. I bought their “The Unforgivable” graphic novel which they signed for us. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it looks awesome.

We also chatted briefly with guy at the “Bob the Angry Flower” booth. Two regrets there: I didn’t get the gentleman’s name, and I didn’t buy any of his stuff. He was very friendly in an “angry flower” kind of way. He was a hoot to talk to.

We had a little time to kill before our last photo op of the day, with John Noble and Jasika Nicole from “Fringe”. It turned out they were currently signing autographs, and the line wasn’t too long. This is one of our favorite shows, and we’re big fans of both of them. It’s a crime John hasn’t won an Emmy for his portrayal of Walter. He is really that good. On the way, we stopped to pick up the Frakes/Spiner picture. We got in line and waited our turn. Frakes and Spiner were in the booths to the left, and Bruce Boxleitner was to the right. As we moved up the line, Frakes was constantly getting out of his chair and harassing Spiner, then Boxleitner, while doing the same for Noble/Nicole. He was having a lot of fun. It was nice to see he wasn’t just there as a “job”. When our turn came up John was very friendly and shook both our hands and chatted with us a bit. While we were standing in line, we decided we wanted to ask him if there was really a planned “food element” to Walter’s character, because it seemed to us there was. When we asked him, he chuckled and said “not really”. He apparently gets that question a lot. He says it is kind of a “go-to” device for him when they need a little something extra for a scene. It seemed a little strange to hear him speak in his native Aussie accent. We were very pleased with our encounter with Mr. Noble.

Jasika Nicole was in the chair next to him, and she was an absolute delight. She was very sweet and friendly and wrote a nice personalized note on our poster. It was fun to see her as we waited in line; a young man had just gotten her to sign something for him, and he turned and left. Jasika realized he had left something behind, and she called him by name to come back and retrieve it. You could see how pleased he was that she said his name out loud. When we left, we told them they would see us again soon, as we had the photo op coming.

 

Noble and Nicole

It was getting fairly close to the time for the Noble/Nicole photo op, so we headed that way to get in line. There was already a line forming for he following photo op, so we had to sort of insert ourselves into the proper point of the line. As we waited, we had a celebrity “close encounter”. Our place in line happened to be near the entrance to the men’s room. None other than Wil Wheaton stepped through line to use the facility. I am a big fan of Wil’s. He’s a very smart guy, and seems like a cool guy to hang out and have a beer with. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to to get a photo or signing with Wil this year, so this awkward encounter near the men’s room will have to suffice. I got a photo op with Wil last year, but the prints were not available to be signed before I had to leave. I was able to track him down at W00tstock on Portland later that year, and he was gracious enough to sign it then. It appeared that Wil had to excuse himself in the middle of his photo op to take a bathroom break.

Soon enough, Wil’s photo op was completed, and we were shuffled in for our next picture. As in the previous session, they took care of the individual photos first. When our turn came, Jasika exclaimed “You again!”. That was very gratifying for her to recognize us again. It can be said I have a bit of a crush for Jasika, even though she “plays for the other team”. John put his arm around Jan, and I got to give Jasika a little hug as we got the photo.

 

John Noble and Jasika Nicole

Sometime during the day (I don’t recall where it fits in the timeline), I saw a celebrity “in the wild”. We were in the area downstairs where the autographs and photo ops were taken. Standing with a couple of young gentlemen was YouTube sensation Molly Lewis (who, by the way is no relation, despite sharing the same last name). I first saw her at W00tstock in Portland last year, and have been a fan of hers since. She was gracious enough to allow me to take a photo, and gave me one of her “Geek of the Week” cards.

 

Shazbot! It's Molly Lewis!

A credit to which I can only aspire some day.

We still had some autographs we wanted to get for our poster, so we went and got into Jonathan Frakes’ line. His line wasn’t too long, but his proclivity to get up and wander around slowed things down a bit. But he was very friendly when we got the poster signed. As a Leverage “cast member” (see my posts here and here), I asked him if he would be directing any episodes this upcoming season. He said he would be directing several. I told him I hoped to see him on set. Wil Wheaton and I are “connected” via Leverage as well.

 

This is my "Number One" autograph

Next was Brent Spiner’s line. He turned out to be a wanderer as well. We had been in line for ten minutes or so when we realized he wasn’t actually sitting up there. Suddenly, he re-appeared from behind the curtain. We’re guessing he had taken a bathroom break. The line started moving, and then stopped when he got up and left again, though just for a few minutes. When we got to the front of the line, Brent was friendly and chatted briefly, and signed a personal note to us.

 

I would expect an android to have better handwriting

After Frakes/Spiner, we checked on our Noble/Nicole picture. It wasn’t ready, but as we waited, we noticed Bruce Boxleitner’s autograph line had no one in it. We stood and chatted with him for a few minutes,  and got him to sign our poster.

 

He is much better looking in person

Disappointingly, the autograph lines for Felicia Day/Amy Okuda/Wil Wheaton had all closed by now, so we were unable to have them sign our poster. It was starting to get late, and we were just waiting for our last photo to be ready. There were just a handful of John Noble pictures out, and others were being brought out (seemingly randomly) 10-20 at a time. We waited patiently and checked each batch as they came out, but they seemed to not be forthcoming. Jan and I were both pretty tired, having been on our feet all day. I had Jan head back to the hotel while I waited, so she could get some rest. About 20 minutes after Jan left one of the “Minions” made an ominous announcement:

If you are not going to be here tomorrow to pick up your photo, come with me.

Well, that certainly didn’t sound too promising. A fairly large group of us were led away to the area near the photo op area. I was hoping that maybe we were just going to get the first look at pictures as they came off the printer, but they started handing out paper and pencils to record our contact information:

Please write down, your name, mailing address, e-mail address, who you had photos with and a description of what you were wearing.

So, they were planning to mail us our photos. That’s all well and good, but I had the same thing happen last year. And I never got my prints. After several e-mails last year, I was finally able to get some JPGs of my pictures, but never the prints that I paid for. I told one of the employees this and his response was “That’s not good”. Um. Yeah. Thanks. Just then another person came out with another stack of pictures. I cornered him and asked to look. Sure enough, mine was second from the bottom. I snagged mine and took off for my hotel. It’s too bad Froggy’s Photos has the monopoly on photo ops. Perhaps some healthy competition might drive better customer service.

Anyway, I made it back to the hotel to find Jan snoozing on the bed. I was very tired too, so I layed down for a rest. I was hungry, so I wanted to go out to eat, and I had some screening passes to see Super at the theater a block from the hotel at 11:00. But, the longer I layed there, the less inclined I was to leave the hotel. So, dinner that night was a bag of Doritos and a can of Sprite.

I will conclude this post with some photographic documentation of the event:

 

Dark Helmet from Spaceballs

Bruce Boxleitner hamming it up for the camera.

Cutie pie Jasika Nicole

John Noble signing our poster

Jasika signing our poster

Felicia Day (and Amy Okuda). Would have loved to have met them.

Jonathan Frakes signing our poster.

A crappy picture of Brent Spiner.

The Joker (and daughter?)

A nicely done Darth Maul.

Teen Titans!

Revoke my nerd card. I'm not sure who these guys are...

Halo. It's nice to meet you.

An authentic 60s Batman and Batgirl and a boobalicious Robin.