Last week I had the opportunity to go to Dragon*Con, where I slept too little and ran real hard. It was good, but I have to admit it is all a blur of images and emotions. When I try to think of those 4 days in Atlanta, my brain responds with flickering fragments of moments.
I’ve posted many of my pictures on flickr. Others are doing the same. I’m sure the story is documented (perhaps too well), and if you have images, can you please share links through the comments?
- A Full Moon for Cancer: On the Thursday night prior to D*C, Phil Plait and I took part in a charity star party to raise money for the American Cancer Society. This event was in memory of Jeff Medkeff, the Blue Collar Scientist. Jeff was a blogger and amateur astronomer I had only known through the internet, but whom I respected at a distance for his work. He died last August of cancer, leaving behind a legacy of asteroid discoveries and of amateur astronomers trained to be better at their craft thanks to his efforts. Over the past year I’ve gotten to know one of Jeff’s friends, Mark, fairly well, and I was honored to get to read Mark’s words to the gathered crowd. What Mark wrote was honest, and from the heart, and they were beautiful.
- Costume Search: Thinking I was being smart, I bought a costume at CONvergence from a dealer who was at D*C. This way I would only need to carry it home from D*C. There was only one flaw in my logic: I never asked her what booth she would be selling in at D*C! One hour of searching and 4 vender rooms later I found her tucked in a corner with her beautiful handmade puppets, my costume hidden behind curtains. The costume fit perfectly, but has a mysterious french bustle I still haven’t figured out.
- A moment of Hair: I have never been one to confine hair dye to a “found in nature” palette of colors. I like reds and oranges and have pushed into maroon and purple on forays of hair exploration. Dragon*Con is one of the few places hair color is consistently not mocked. Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to dye my hair prior to departure (nor was I sure I wanted to have weird hair for a charity). Luckily, Carrie Iwan came to my hair’s rescue. In an evening of conversation and coloring, a group of us talked, laughed and dyed (for me it was red and black highlights). While the hair dye was fabulous, what makes it memorable was the sitting around with friends (new and old) and being intelligent, feeling individuals. Late night talks are good, and this trip was filled with them.
- The Parsecs: Saturday night was insane. I was booked to run madly from a talk on the Big Bang (which was to a packed room!), to a panel I was MC’ing that contained friends Phil Plait and Seth Shostak, to the Parsecs where I was giving out two awards and a couple of Galileoscopes as door prizes. It was Run, Run, Run. Literally. To get from the panel with Phil and Seth to the Parsecs I had to scramble from the basement of the Hilton to its second floor, across the sky bridge, across the Marriott, up two escalators, across another bridge, thru the food court, across the Hyatt lobby, and into the basement. (Somehow I went up 4 flights to go down only 1, to both end and begin in basements). I arrived at the Parsecs the moment the categories I was to announce were called, and as I dashed onto the stage, I was told by John Cmar, “BTW – you one a Parsec earlier!”. Ummmmm – WOW. The thing is, it wasn’t really me who won it, but rather it was a collaboration of literally 100s. This Parsec, in the category of “Best Infotainment” went out to the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast, a community project born out of the International Year of Astronomy. I was blown away, but managed to give away the Galileoscopes and announce the winners in two fiction podcast categories without hyperventilating on stage. It was a fabulous night that ended in celebratory drinking (and eventually midnight diner food) with friends.
- May I have your autograph please?: If you know me, you know I have no qualms making a fool of myself in the name of promoting IYA and astronomy. For me, I will stare shyly from a distance at the actors of my favorite shows. For IYA, I’ll march right up and ask if I can have their photo with a Galileoscope. Thanks to an intro from Phil Plait, I actually got to walk up to New Media master and actress Felicia Day (of The Guild, Dr Horrible, and now Dollhouse) to get a Galileoscope celebrity pict. She did me one better than a photo though – she signed the box for charity. This gave Phil and me an idea. Our friend Kevin Grazier is science advisor for Battlestar Galactica (and other shows). We asked him if he could help get BSG actors to sign our box. Thanks to Kevin I got to talk astronomy with these actors and get their signatures on a Galileoscope box. The best part was, Michael Hogan (the XO on the newest BSG version) had heard of the Galileoscope! The box (containing a telescope!) will be auctioned for charity as soon as I get an eBay page set up. Stay Tuned!
- Of Singing Tesla Coils and Friends: The last full day of the Con played host to the Mad Scientist Ball. This was my third time trying to attend and the first time I succeeded in making it in before the fire marshalls blocked the entrance. The high light of the night is the Singing Tesla Coils. I won’t try and explain. Just watch the video below and imagine a 1-hour set. Afterward, I spent the evening with the podcasting and science crew, better getting to know Mur Lafferty (whose button for “I should be writing” from two years ago is a constant reminder on my board), Laura from JWST, who is maturing from a shy speaker into a skilled science communicator one Con at a time, and Laura’s husband and Parsec MC John Cmar. Between us we ranged topics and we talked late into the night.
- The day of lost things: Faced with too little sleep, Monday hit me like a wall. Having a bad email day didn’t help. I got up for a 10am recording of Brazilianisms, raced back to my room to pack only to get a text that I was supposed to be on a panel on being a women in science (YIKES – they left it off my official schedule), to race back to actually finish packing, to trying to pack up the IYA booth (and realizing I can’t carry box + sign + hat, and resorting to only carrying box), to trying to FedEx a box, to failing to FedEx due to Labor Day, to giving a talk, to racing off to be interviewed, to racing to plane, to realizing my hat and sign were still at the booth in Atlanta, to sleeping. UGH it was a long ugly, racing day. I don’t think I said good bye to anyone as I dashed to Marta with my box and my bags and a heavy inbox.
But now I’m on the road again, 3000 miles away in San Francisco. It is another day, and yet another city. Strangely, my hotel room – another Starwood hotel – looks absolutely identical.
Dragon*Con was fabulous. But it is over. And some of my dearest Con friends I didn’t get to spend time with at all. To fast it flew. But next year, I will say yes less and breath more as I speed walk instead of spring from Friday to Monday. Dragon*Con 2010, I will be with you.
And I’d like to leave you with one final video from D*C 2007 that just makes me laugh.