Tag Archive for track

For Squirrels – Example

My music collection exceeds 15,000 songs. Nearly all of these are from CDs that I bought and ripped myself, though there is a chunk of stuff I ripped from other people’s CDs. *shrug* The music industry hates it, but sometimes it happens, and I don’t really care since it doesn’t much hurt the band, their cut being so small in most cases. Anyway, I’ve started taking advantage of Google Music, which allows you to put 20,000 songs “in the cloud” to stream to any computer or mobile device you want. For years I avoided buying MP3 players like the iPod (although I do own a 30GB Zune, but I didn’t buy it – I won it) because I didn’t like having to pre-select my music before going somewhere. I actually like selecting the entire collection (well, almost, I have to remove those radio shows) and hitting random play on the whole thing.

That’s what I was doing when a song off the album Example by For Squirrels started playing. Oddly enough it was the first track of the album, “8:02 PM”. I quickly stopped the player, found the album and played it. Never heard of For Squirrels? I’m not surprised. If you weren’t listening to Alternative radio at the tail end of 1995, like Atlanta’s 99X, you probably didn’t have a chance to hear them. The album, their only major label album, was released on October 3rd 1995, but by then the band was all but finished. On September 8th, a little less than a month earlier, the band was involved in a terrible car accident in their van, taking the lives of two of the band’s four members, and their tour manager. Vocalist Jack Vigliatura and bassist Bill White died, while guitarist Travis Tooke and drummer Jack Griego were both injured but survived. The two remaining members of the band would try to reform with new members, later changing the name of the band and releasing one album before disbanding for good in 2001.

For Squirrels - ExampleExample is, for me, a very interesting album. I’d call it good, but it isn’t remarkable or full of hit songs. The only single it produced was “Mighty K.C.” which was an elegy for Kurt Cobain. However, none of the songs are awful, and in fact show a promise never realized. Had the accident not happened, a second album could have seen the band grow into something more. Instead, we just have this. A song that went to #15 on the Modern Rock chart, and an album that just barely made the Billboard 200.

In 1996, I should have been graduating college, but a misstep or two and a decision to move out on my own, the combination of which resulted in me having to pay for school on my own (which further resulted in full time work and part time school), I missed being able to get out in four years. It was in these early months of 96 that I purchased Example. I’d heard their single a number of times, and I knew the story behind the band. And as I lay on the bed in my room contemplating my next move in life, the music washed over me.

In the past 15 years, I’ve returned to this album a number of times. Every time I hear one song from it, I have to hear the entire thing, from start to finish, every track. I know in part that is because of when the disc entered my life, that it is a permanent part of the soundtrack of my life, but I hope it’s also because there is something more to these songs that the emotion I’ve attached to them, that a song like the penultimate track “Disenchanted” speaks some universal truth that other people recognize too.

I’d recommend Example by For Squirrels to anyone, to listen through at least once, just to give a chance. It is an album of its time, a mid-90s Alternative Rock band. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if that winds up being your complaint.

Dragon*Con 2011 … is done.

If you were eagerly awaiting my day by day posts for Dragon*Con that I’ve done for the last few years, I’m sorry.  I decided this year not to do them.  I probably could have, but instead chose to focus on actually being at the con.  To find out what I was doing there, head to the MMORPG Track website and find the 7 posts I did about our programming.

Personally, I had a blast.  Our Saturday WoW Meet & Greet (the Darkmoon Faire) and the MMO Gathering of Heroes party were insane.  Lots of happy people and I was very proud to have helped make that happen.

Hotel reservation already made for next year (yes, the Sheraton and Hilton are taking reservations already) and I look forward to a year worth of planning to make 2012’s con even better.

Dragon*Con 2010: Lessons Learned

Each year at Dragon*Con, I like to think I notice things that can make the next year better.  So, here is what I got from this year.

  • Costumes do, in fact, make things more fun.
    I’ve been going to Dragon*Con, off and on, for … a lot of years.  I know the first year I went was after high school (graduated in 1992) but before leaving college (graduated 1998).  I’ve been about a dozen times and before this year the closest I’ve come to wearing a costume is to wear a t-shirt relating to something in fandom.  This year, however, I put on a tattoo shirt, one of those mesh things that makes it look like you have a full chest, back and sleeves of tattoos.  So simple, and yet it was the start of about a dozen dozen conversations.  That shirt will be making an appearance next year, and I’ve resolved that I will have a costume for every day next year.  I’ve said that before, but this time I mean it.
  • Food in the room doesn’t have to be crap.
    In previous years, the wife and I have brought down snacks and sandwich stuff (peanut butter & jelly, cold cuts and condiments), but this year we had a George Foreman Grill and hotdogs.  Next year we’ll probably expand that to burgers, both beef and veggie, and maybe more.  The biggest revelation, however, was that we didn’t have to actually bring down food.  There are two Publix stores within easy reach of the hotels that we could just hit up for supplies after getting downtown.  Next year, when we get down there on Thursday, we’ll just make a store run rather than haul all that stuff with us.
  • Bitter people are going to be bitter.
    Some folks apparently like to be angry. They’ve decided they hate something (even if it is entirely hypocritical) and not a thing you can say will change their mind. Once you have identified a bitter person who is entrenched in their bitterness, just walk away.  And if you can’t walk away, try to steer the conversation toward something that will make them walk away or at least to something they aren’t bitter about.
  • Working staff can be fun.
    I imagine that working registration and dealing with people who hate you because they blame you for the long line has got to suck.  But working a track can be an absolute blast if a) the rest of the staff is cool, b) the track is something you are interested in, and c) you don’t mind missing large chunks of the con.  Now, this may be my opinion and entirely biased, but the MMORPG Track staff is definitely cool.  And I love MMORPGs.  And I’ve been coming to con enough that I’m not really “missing” those chunks as much as I’ve seen them before.  Besides, the con is practically 24/7, so there is always time to see the sights.  Anyway, I had an absolute blast and look forward to working staff again next year.
  • Internet access is highway robbery unless you do something about it.
    Every year at con, I always want to be able to check email or browse the net, or even post my blog entries.  The host hotels typically charge around $12 to $15 per day for access.  This year, I was pointed toward Boingo.  If you happened to be staying in or spending lots of time in the Marriott Marquis, then signing up for Boingo’s $9.95 a month plan right before con and then cancelling it after is far far cheaper than paying the Marriott prices.  I don’t know if there are equivalents for the other hotels, but I tend to always stay in the Marriott.  I usually end up spending $60 on Internet access during con, so spending $10 instead was a nice savings.

And that appears to be all that I learned at this year’s con.

Dragon*Con 2010: The Aftermath

Day Four is done, and the con has drawn to a close.  The MMORPG Track’s final panels ran smooth, and it was great to have about forty people come by to tell us what we did right and wrong and looking forward toward next year at the Post MMOrtem.

Today, the day after, is about sleep and unpacking and staying off my feet as much as possible.

This year was my first on staff with Dragon*Con and the MMORPG Track, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it.  Not only are the track staff a great bunch of folks, and it helps that I really enjoy the subject matter, but just being a part of the staff just feels great.  I lost count of the number of times people asked me for help on where to find things or what was going on and I was able to help them out.  (It is also a testament to my many years of attendance and that I’m a giant schedule/map memorizing nerd that I knew what to answer most of the time.)  Plus, there are bonuses.  Like, you know when you are walking through the tunnel and you see some people stopping to take photos even though there are signs that say not to and you can’t do much but maybe yell at them?  Well, when I saw that, I just walked up, put my hand on their shoulder and said, “Hey, great costume, and you guys deserve to get photos, but you can’t do it in the tunnel. Please take it to one of the hotels on either end where there is more room.”  And the best part?  They listened and moved.  Not once did anyone ever give me a tough time, they just said sorry, smiled and moved.  Sure, a bonus like that doesn’t get you to skip lines, but it does earn you the gratitude of the dozens and dozens of people who were stuck in a slow tunnel thanks to the photo takers.  It feels good to help make the con a good experience for the people who attend.  I’m really looking forward to being a part of it again next year.

Well, maybe… on the last day, the wife and I got some Chinese food and I got quite possibly the best fortune ever.

Best Fortune Ever

click for full size version

Yep, that says I will be the President of a small country.  So, I might be busy.

Dragon*Con 2010: Day Three

Day One, 8am post… Day Two, 8am post… Day Three? Not 8am.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

Today I’ll be work the Guild Q & A with Vork and Zaboo and then I’m done.  The track has a few nifty things for the MMO-inclined like a Global Agenda panel, EVE Online, City of Heroes, a session about guild management and more.  Then of course, we have the Kingdom of Loathing party tonight, which was great last year so I’d expect it to be great again.

Now, let’s talk about Day Two… We had almost 600 people show up to see us show off Cataclysm.  Then nearly 200 to hear Sandeep Parikh talk about The Legend of Neil.  180 came to hear about the best WoW Addons.  At 5:30, we did the WoW Meet & Greet with fun and prizes, which I don’t have numbers for because I worked the camera instead of the door.  This was such a blast, especially the dance content due to the insane guy who actually did the WoW Troll dance.  Then we had over a hundred people for a second night of machinima.  And then… At 10pm we opened the doors on our MMO Gathering of Heroes.  I don’t have any final numbers, but I hear over 1,000 people dropped by throughout the evening.  We danced.  We drank.  We danced some more.  I stumbled back to the room around 3am.  It was a great day.

Dragon*Con 2009: The Aftermath

I don’t remember which year was the first time I went to Dragon*Con.  I’m not sure if it was before or after I got out of college.  I think before, so it was probably 1996 or 1997.  The first couple of times I went down it was for concerts and people watching and the dealers hall.  At some point, probably 5 years ago or so, I started actually going to panels.  Not just one or two, but spending pretty much all my time in them.  From year to year I would go to new tracks and see more stuff…

Before I go further, I want to say that everyone should take some time and see the panels.  They cover great topics and the people are very passionate.  Just think about the things you are interested in and track down a panel or two and go.

… that said, after five years, many of the panels are content stagnant.  Hey, if you’ve never been to the Star Trek author’s panel, go, but if you’ve been before, unless there has been some big shakeup in the publishing or some game changing new book released, they are more likely to just discuss the same things they discussed the last time.  Much like I wrote about in this year’s daily posts concerning the Art Show, Exhibitors and Dealers halls, once you’ve gone through a track’s panels in full once or twice, you can skim them in later years and just pick up the new stuff.  After five years, you are pretty much skimming all the tracks, and some tracks, while being full of awesome people and awesome content and perfect for people new to the track, there is so much less “must see” items on their schedule.

When you get to this point, you will find out which items you are really interested in by which tracks you continue to visit.  This year, I spent most of my time in the MMO Track, with a few trips off to the Writer’s Track and Apocalypse Rising, and those side trips were only to see those “skimmed” panels of content either new or deeply interesting to me.

So what do you do when attending the panels is winding down?  For me, it means I’m thinking about getting involved.  Why just go to Dragon*Con when you can help bring it to be?

Beyond that revelation, I also discovered that being in better shape physically makes for a better weekend all around.  Four nights in a row of getting 3 to 5 hours of sleep at best and I wasn’t exhausted.  Even now, in the aftermath, I’m more mentally tired than physically so (though I did get about 9 hours of sleep last night).  Getting healthier is having all sorts of cool benefits.  I even managed to go through the whole weekend without gaining weight.

All in all, Dragon*Con was as good as ever, and I’m really looking forward to next year.

Dragon*Con 2009: Day Four

Perhaps next year we’ll stay until Tuesday, but when you are leaving on Monday, day four of Dragon*Con always begins with packing.  After leaving our luggage with the bellman, the wife and I headed out to see some last few things.  For me, it was a short day of two events.  First, a Q&A with Felicia Day.  We watched episode one of season three of The Guild, and then she talked and people asked questions.  Fun and funny, even with the lady who wanted her Penny/Bad Horse fan fiction signed.  Yes, slash fiction.  Yes, he is a horse.  Felicia signed it, but I think everyone was more than a tad creeped out.  Afterward I went to the MMO track post mortem.  The guys of the MMO track are a great bunch, they run a fantastic track, and I look forward to the future of it.

Normally I end day four with a trip through the exhibiters and dealers halls, and maybe the art show, but given my previous posts describing my changing feelings toward them, I didn’t go.  So instead we picked up the luggage, got the car from the valet, and made the trek back home… about an hour away.  Man do I love living in Atlanta when it comes to Dragon*Con.

Unpacked, ate a real meal, and now the tired is settling in.  Dragon*Con, I’ll see you next year.

Gone to Con…

It is that time of year again, when despite living “in Atlanta” I drive downtown and stay in a hotel for four days.  Dragon*Con.

As I have the last couple of years, I’ll be posting my rundown on what I see and do each day, as if anyone cares.  Mostly I do it so that I can remember what it is I do myself.

Anyway… if you happen to be going, I’ll probably be spending a bunch of my time around the MMO track or the Apocalypse Rising track or the Writer’s track.  The only place I know I will be for sure is Sunday at 1pm I plan to attend the screening of 20 Years After.  I would say, “I’ll be the guy with the shaved head and the goatee” but there will be approximately 2,851 people who match that description as it is, as my friends call it, “the Dragon*Con uniform”.  Instead, look for my hat… I’ll probably be wearing or carrying a tan baseball hat that says “Founded 1733 Savannah, GA” on it.  If you approach me, be sure to speak the passphrase, “The Cheese Stands Alone”, so I’ll know who you are.

2007: Aftermath

As with every year, I really enjoyed Dragon*Con. I actually says a lot about the con when my biggest complaint is that I can’t see everything I want to see because there is so much I want to see.

The new Apocalypse Rising track was very interesting, although, at times I did feel a number of their panels were repetative, but that is the nature of the beast when talking about a topic that is very focused but encompasses so much. However, it was the first time around in the new format, so I’ll cut them some slack and see how they grow for next year.

The Game Programming (with a heavy MMO bent) spinoff of the EFF track was another favorite. The only downside there is that people seemed to want to talk about WoW too much, even when the moderators and panelists tried to veer off to another subject the attendees would drag it back to WoW. I guess that is proof that WoW really is the 800 lbs. gorilla in the market. I think this track can only get better.

In both cases, I’ve finally found tracks that have inspired me to get involved. I’ll be keeping an eye on both and seeing where I can lend a hand.

Other than a few panels here and there, or a couple trips to the short films room, the bulk of my time was spent in the above two panels. I never made it down to the Writer’s Track, which is where I normally spend most of my con time.

With panels and programming out of the way, let’s talk hotels… The Marriott is still under construction, however from seeing the parts that have been completed I have high hopes for the future of the space for Dragon*Con. Seriously folks, you really need to stop defaulting to the Hyatt bar and lobby. I know it has traditionally been the place to be, but even before the renovation the three levels of the lobby area of the Marriott were better. Lots of space for costumers to show their stuff, and even places where distance watchers can view the chaos without getting involved. The only drawback to the Marriott previously was the cruddy location of their only bar, but this year with the opening of Pulse on the atrium level, the Marriott is turning into the new place to be. Next year when they have the other 70,000 square feet of ballrooms and whatnot open, there should simply be no reason to remain in the cramped Hyatt lobby except to get a quiet drink at the little out of the way bar.

The Hilton also blossomed well this year. The halls of rooms for panels (used for gaming last year, which this year moved to the new business center of the Marriott) were fantastic, even if a little small for some of the panels they put in them (*cough*Zombie Squad*cough*). The exhibitor halls were nice, but I do have a small complaint about the dealers’ room… entering into the center of the hall and having to make several circular trips through to see everything was just odd and annoying. Some of this may end up back in the Marriott next year, but the Hilton Halls shouldn’t be left unused…

One thing I’ve always hated about Dragon*Con and still hate is the use of the itty bitty teeny tiny Learning Center in the Hyatt for the Film track. Every single set of short films ends up with a line and they have to turn people away, every one. They need a bigger room, perhaps the Marriott will have something they can use, or maybe if one of those Hilton Ballrooms winds up empty they can utilize one of them. The Learning Center is nice though, for smaller screenings, perhaps for invite only or contest won passes to exclusive screenings of new movies. That would be sweet. Or hey… you know about that Writer’s Workshop they do every year? Maybe they might consider a Film Maker’s Workshop…

The only other real complaint I can come up with about Dragon*Con in general is the lack of signs. Because of the construction in the Marriott, the traditional method of going out the back was blocked off. Thankfully, rather than forcing people to walk around the outside of the building, they opened up four staircases for use. The intent was obviously that two would be for going up and two for going down. They did place a Marriott employee there most of the day telling people how to use the stairs to get to the Hilton, but, across the street inside the Hilton is a Kinko’s, and for probably $20 or less (definitely less than the cost of manning the post all day) they could have printed up 8 very nice signs (4 staircases, 2 ends of each staircase) indicating the direction of travel, UP or DOWN. 90% of the traffic issues would have been solved right there. Other signs around would have been nice, maybe even ones indicating where photos should be taken instead of just a few signs stating when and where they could NOT be taken. They did have some signs around for things, but most of those signs where floor level signs… meaning that you can’t really read them until you are practically on top of them. Head height should be a minimum for signs, six feet, seven would be better.

So, with that I bid adieu to another year at Dragon*Con. 359 days until the next one…

2007: Day 4

Nothing much ever happens on day 4 of Dragon*Con. Everything is shutting down, people are checking out, it is both hectic and lazy at the same time. I had planned to go to a few of the programming track round ups because I’d like to give my opinion on what they did right and what they did wrong, but of course they pretty much all do those at the same time, so I picked the Apocalypse Rising track to visit… and then never made it there.

I did make another pass through the exhibitor’s hall to view the stuff and make sure I didn’t miss anything I wanted to see. I didn’t really.

Tomorrow, when I’m feeling more energetic, I’ll write an Aftermath post about the con and some views on a few things I intentionally skipped or glossed over.