WonderCon 2009

Carrie Fisher AutographMy friend told me that the line for WonderCon 2009 at Moscone Center was similar to standing in line for a keynote address by Steve Jobs. Since the comic book convention split one hall between the registration area and the exhibit floor, the support beams for the convention center in the registration area reminded me of the ship support areas on the “Battlestar Galactica” TV show. I was more focused on attending the panels rather than looking at the exhibit floor. One day isn’t enough time for a convention like this.

The “Pandorum” panel was interesting. After seeing a trailer for a new sci-fi horror movie from the creators of “Resident Evil” movies, with strong hints of “Alien” and “Event Horizon” in the storytelling, three unknown cast members who had no clue what to talk about except make lame jokes about a sex tape on the future DVD release.

The “Star Trek” panel showed a new trailer that actually made me believe that this will be a successful re-launching of the franchise. My favorite part was Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) pointing out that the Enterprise doesn’t have a captain or a second-in-command, and Kirk (Chris Pine) saying, “Actually, you do,” before taking the captain chair himself. The panel had a wide-ranging discussion about being faithful to the original series while breaking new ground. A second movie may happen if a good enough script comes along.

Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher from “Star Wars” were signing autographs. I got an autographed picture of Princess Leia in the slave girl costume. Surprisingly, I saw only one woman wearing the slave girl costume. I was quite speechless in Carrie’s presence. “What’s your name? Is that C-H-R-I-S? Here you go.” I didn’t have the courage to admit that I totally missed her cameo in “Fanboys” because I didn’t recognize her as being a doctor.

While walking around the exhibit floor, we saw a bunch of guys dressed up as Dr. Manhattan from the forthcoming “Watchmen” movie in blue body paint, wearing Speedos and sandals while walking around the exhibit floor. One guy was a spitting image of the character. The others should have gone to jail for indecent exposure. I suggested since we’re in San Francisco, we could get some blue body paint, walk around naked, and no one would notice. (For normal naked people wandering around the streets, go to Berkeley across the bay.) Unfortunately, we didn’t have the tall, thin and muscular physique that the Dr. Manhattan character requires. We would more than likely be mistaken for a pair of naked “Smurfs” and be beaten to death by the “Star Wars” stormtroopers running around the place.

Bruce Springsteen Concert @ HP Pavilion (San Jose)

My friend and I went this past Saturday to the Bruce Springsteen concert at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. This was my first “full on” rock concert. I went to a Michael McDonald and Steely Dan concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View in 2006, but sitting on the back lawn isn’t the same thing as being down in the mosh pit 20 feet from the stage. This was also my first broad exposure to Bruce Springsteen since the only song I’m familiar with was “Born In The USA” in 1984 when I was a teenage Reagan Democrat.

We got there three hours before the show started to get the pink wrist band for the mosh pit. The number on my wristband was 666—an interesting number. What made it more interesting after we got our green wrist bands and lined up to enter the building was two men standing on the sidewalk out in front, one wearing a sandwich board that proclaims “JESUS SAVES YOU FROM HELL” and another with a bullhorn reassuring us that we were all going to hell (but not because we were attending a rock concert). They managed to annoy everyone in hearing range and prompted some people put in their earplugs sooner. After haranguing the front of the line for 20 minutes, they moved 30 feet down the sidewalk to annoy the people in the middle of the line. I seriously doubt that security would nab these two if they stepped off of the sidewalk (protected speech) on to city property (trespassing). The traffic officers on duty were more interested in the taxi drivers who stopped wherever they please.

Once the doors opened, it was an orderly mad rush into the mosh pit.

My first impression of the HP Pavilion (previously known as the San Jose Arena) was that the interior layout doesn’t seem to match the exterior layout, looking smaller inside than outside. I expected the interior to look as impressive as the exterior for the $100 million USD that the city spent for the arena. This was the same city council that dropped $500,000 USD on an Aztec snake god statue that looks like a giant pile of dog poop.

Bruce was had a great time singing, playing his guitars or harmonica, and taking requests from the audience. The most memorable moment was when he pulled up a guy from the front row who had the song title, “Glory Days,” written on his bald forehead with a permanent marker, and playing that song nearly blew the roof off the place. Another moment was when Bruce showed a sign that said, “Bruce, You’re my real Dad!”, admitting that he was here in these parts back in 1969.

Come to think of it, I was born in 1969. Hmm… I could never grow a soul patch like his.

The Harry Potter Line

ch24_hp7My friend and I stood in line for the “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows” by J.K Rowlings. Well, not quite. We went over to Borders at Santana Row three hours before release of the newest and final Harry Potter novel. No lines other than a short line to confirm the reservation for the book and get a wristband for the midnight madness. Masking tape on the floor outlined the line to cash register, starting at the romance paperbacks, running through the aisles of horror, science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, and the last mile loaded with Harry Potter merchandise.

The upstairs seem normal enough as we made our counter-clockwise prowl of the floor. The children department had way too many young schoolgirls for a Friday night. When we got into the nook and crannies of the computer department, where young couples try to make out, we find witches, wizards and more schoolgirls. The line outside has grown longer when we left. I’m glad no one mistaken me for Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogswarts gamekeeper, because of my long beard. The last thing I needed was a bunch of schoolgirls chasing me down the street.

We drove briefly by the Barnes & Noble store on Steven Creek Boulevard to check out the Harry Potter line over there. We found a Harry Potter party for the kids inside the children department. The last time we drove by was when Bill Clinton was signing his memoirs in June 2004. Traffic was a mess with the Secret Service vehicles and the Clinton limo trying to get out of the parking lot that night. Bill and Hillary stepped out to wave to everyone for five minutes before the traffic jam cleared up and the motorcade departed. We were three cars away from the former first couple. The closest I ever came to a president was a quarter-mile from George H.W. Bush in San Francisco when my father and I drove home from our construction jobs just hours before the Loma Prieta earthquake.

I never got caught up in the Harry Potter craze enough to read the books. I saw the movies that I thought they were all entertaining even if I didn’t understand some of the details. I been reading too many other books series in recent years, including Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” (seven books), Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” (eight books), Kim Harrison’s “Hollows” (four books), E.E. Knight’s “Vampire Earth” (four books), Karen Traviss’s “Wess’har Wars” (five books), and various re-readings of fantasy classics from David Eddings (16 books) and Terry Brooks (six books). Now that the last Harry Potter book is out, I’ll wait until the paperbacks for all seven books come out for Christmas (hint, hint) before I start reading that series.

MacWorld Expo 2007

My New Year didn’t begin until I went on my second pilgrimage to the MacWorld Expo 2007 in San Francisco. One of the few places I don’t feel weird for having a chest-length beard without the mustache. I’m often told that I look Amish—or an Islamic terrorist. (When people ask if I’m planning to blow something up, I always say no but they would be the first to find out and sometimes they run away screaming.) I’ve never been mistaken for a graybeard geek. Not yet, anyway.

With the keynote in Moscone West Hall, the expo got spread out over the North and South Halls. While there was more stuff to look at, the expo was smaller in comparison to last year. This was noticeable at the book tables of O’ReillyPeachpit Press, and Wiley, where the selection was very limited. The gaming area barely existed with three vendors, including EA showing off some iPod games. Perhaps I lost some of that wide-eyed excitement from last year before I got a Mac mini and a MacBook. There wasn’t anything exciting to look forward to.

The highlights for the day was seeing the new iPhone with the killer user interface f0r a smart phone, my friend getting books signed by Andy Hertzfield (Mac designer) and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead guitarist), and the Berkelee College of Music demonstrating how to assemble a Journey soundtrack on the Mac. I picked up a MacAlley Bluetooth wireless mouse with a recharging dock for my MacBook. It’s weird having a tailless mouse, but it’s a very sweet tailless mouse.

Michael McDonald & Steely Dan Concert

concert7I went to my first concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View to hear Michael McDonald and Steely Dan, with a surprise guest appearance by Bonnie Raitt for one song. McDonald open the concert with the comment that he prefers Northern California since it’s “a little bit grayer” as the band has been playing for the last 35 years. I’m surprised by how much of the music I recognized. I grew up in the 1970’s listening to the two radio stations allowed in my father’s truck—country and talk—and my brother moved out while I was still young to influence me with rock and roll music.

Titanic – The Exhibition

Titanic - The Exhibition PicturesI saw “Titanic — The Exhibition” at the Metreon in San Francisco. A detailed model of the Titanic sat outside the exhibit area. Another model inside showed the Titanic as a rusted hulk buried on the ocean floor. Three-hundred items were on display that captured life as it was in 1912. Also reproduced were the passenger quarters, a hallway, a cafe and the grand staircase. You can touch the simulated frozen iceberg to feel how cold the real iceberg was when it hit the Titanic. The “Big Piece” near the end of the exhibit was a huge 15-ton section of the hull that came from the 11-story-tall ship.

I learned of several trivia facts that I didn’t know about this disaster.

  • The Titanic had three million rivets whereas the Golden Gate Bridge has 1.2 million rivets.
  • The captain ordered the band to keep on playing to keep people calm as they evacuated the ship. None of the band members survived. Musicians from San Francisco took up a large collection for the families of the band.
  • The sinking of the Titanic was the first event covered by the international media as reports got sent out over telegraph and wireless (early radio).

For all the fascination with an event that happened almost a century ago, you still can’t escape the fact that 1,500 people died, the stories of people sacrificing themselves to save others, or the captain’s haunting last words: “Every man for himself.”

BayCon 2006

C.D. Reimer (Slashdot Shirt) @ Baycon 2006

My friend and I spent the Memorial Day afternoon at the San Jose Doubletree Hotel for the BayCon 2006 comic book/science fiction convention.

The panel on video games was interesting considering that only one panelist showed up and someone from the audience jumped in to keep things going. I’m surprised that Nintendo a lot of positive comments after being at the bottom of the console heap for years. Of course, Microsoft and Sony are not helping themselves by pricing their new consoles at the high-end of the price range. There’s a big difference between dropping $200 USD and $600+ USD for a console.

The panel on the intent of the founding founders with author Jerry Pournelle got intense at times. The main argument was that the federal government shouldn’t regulate encryption technology since the founding fathers used ciphers to their encode messages to each other and wrote nothing about regulating ciphers. The government, of course, does want to regulate encryption to prevent being locked out of communication technology that private citizens may use to challenge its authority. The founding of the United States Constitution was my favorite part of history that I haven’t thought about in years.

After the closing ceremonies, my friend got his books signed by author Larry Niven and we went to the anime room to find our other friend. For the first time in several years, I was with my two lovely assistant lead testers who worked on my Nintendo titles at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis).

MacWorld Expo 2006

MacWorld Expo 2006

My friend and I took Caltrain up to San Francisco to see the exhibit floor for the Macworld Expo at the Moscone Center. This was my first visit to the convention center. When I worked in construction with my father in the late 1980’s, we marveled at the huge hole in the ground that would later become Moscone North underground and the Yerba Buena Gardens on top that opened in 1993. With the expo spread out between the north and south halls, my friend and I did a lot of walking to see everything in eight hours.

Here are my impressions from the expo.

  • I loved Apple’s new banner slogan: “What’s an Intel chip doing in a Mac? A whole lot more than it’s ever done in a PC.”
  • I’m disappointed that Apple didn’t announce a Mac Mini with the new Intel dual-core CPU and/or a Mac laptop with an Intel CPU.
  • Would have loved to see a booth for the professional certifications to get more information and talk to some people.
  • Unreal Tournament 2004, a game that my friend and I both tested on the PC when we worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis), looked better on a Mac than a PC.
  • I was very intrigued by Project X project management software that I might want to get later.
  • Picked up a copy of Disk Warrior even though I don’t have a Mac yet.
  • Picked up a signed copy of “Mac OS X Tiger Edition: The Missing Manual” by David Pogue.

We collapsed exhausted on the train back to San Jose, loaded down with two plastic bags of magazines and freebies.