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Saturday, September 5, 2015

DragonCon

DragonCon

DragonCon is a yearly event on labour-day weekend in Atlanta Georgia. In 2015, seventy thousand people attended this multi-media and pop-culture convention, which covers sci-fi, fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, film, and most notably cosplay.

Demand is high, so if you want to attend, you should book your ticket (membership) a full year in advance. If booked before Sep 21 of the preceding year, the 4-day pass is $80.

We went because Shannon was competing in the Friday Night Costume Contest. Everyone at DragonCon was very friendly, so you could go alone, but I definitely appreciated having friends to hang out with and a veteran to show us the way.

We booked our flights and hotel in January, but in retrospect, we should have done that in September along with the tickets. Amanda and I stayed at Urban Oasis B&B with hosts Judi and Dwain. They're awesome, and the B&B is great. It's a $5 Uber from the convention, and a great relaxed place to take a break from all those people. The Urban Oasis is in a trendy little neighborhood, next to a walking/biking path, and would be a great spot for a non-DragonCon trip to Atlanta too.

It would have been neat to stay in the Marriott Marquis or Hyatt Regency though. Both have amazing internal courtyards, and are constantly swarming with costumed convention-goers. However, these rooms are in high demand. You'd have to book the room exactly a year in advance. At checkin, convention-goers are offered to re-book for the following year, so the rooms are almost always booked.

Thursday

We dropped Pilot off at the kennel the night before, and were all packed in two carry-on bags before heading to work Thursday morning. I told Dave I had a cardboard gun in my carry-on, and he got all serious and pointed out that you can't bring fake guns onto planes (TSA, child's toy). After some deliberation with Amanda, we decided to re-pack the two carry-ons into on checked bag.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time and clear skys, but Toronto had thunder storms earlier in the day that pushed back all the schedules. Because we had a checked bag, we couldn't get on an earlier (Air Canada) flight. It looked like we would still make it, but no, we had to wait on the YYZ tarmac until after our connection left. We then spent hours in line and on the phone getting a (free) hotel for the night and re-booked (on a Delta flight) for the next morning. Originally they wanted to put us on the next Air Canada flight which would have us arriving 24 hours late, after the Friday Night Costume Contest.

By the time that was sorted out, the special connections-to-USA baggage place was closed, so we couldn't get our checked bag. At the hotel, we weren't able to online-checkin to the next (Delta) flight. We phoned back and forth between AC and Delta six times, but each insisted that the problem was with the other. After midnight we gave up and went to sleep.

Friday

We got up at 4:30am went first to the Terminal 3 for Delta checkin. The lady at the counter insisted that we had no ticket. We pointed out the ticket numbers from AC, and when she entered them manually she was able to print out tickets. Then we took the sky-train to Terminal 1 to see about our bag. After a long time, they asserted they had no idea where our bag was. We raced back to Terminal 3 and got through security and immigration just in time. We got some sleep on the flight to Atlanta.

The LRT (Marta) in Atlanta is great. We each bought a breeze card with four trips worth of cash pre-loaded. Note however that if you pay with Visa, the kiosk will ask for a ZIP code. If your postal code is A1A 1A1, you enter 11100.

We went straight to DragonCon and got registered. We went to the photographer and the vintage vogue fashion show, but didn't find Shannon. Feeling tired and smelly, we took the Marta to the stop near our B&B and walked to a Target and bought supplies, before getting a cab to our B&B and checking in. We had a break then Ubered back in to DragonCon in plenty of time for the FNCC, and had second row seats. There was some panic where Amanda lost her badge (buy a lanyard), but she got back in before the main event. Shannon won best Journeyman and best in show!

Saturday

After an early breakfast we Ubered into town, and met Shannon at the Lion statue for the Parade, which was awesome, but long. Shannon and Amanda went to "Meet the Winners" while I waited for the parade to end. Then we had packed lunches and went to the vendor's hall. We had dinner at an Irish Pub, and Amanda went home while Shannon and I went to the Symphony, which was awesome, and had the Opera singer from Fifth Element.

Sunday

After an early breakfast, we Ubered into town and went to the ThermaPlex and Indie Games panels. Afterwards we met Shannon for photos and went the artist's hall. We had a long wait for the Star Wars costume show, and played a card game while sitting in line. After the show we had Sushi for dinner and called it an early night. Before bed, I checked on the luggage, and discovered they planned to deliver it tomorrow. We called and they decided to deliver it tonight which meant waiting up until near midnight for luggage we couldn't use. Ugh.

Monday

After an early breakfast, Judi drove us to the Marta and we got to the airport and checked in without incident. We watched Inside-Out on the plane, and when we finally got home, discovered that Ottawa was hotter than Atlanta. Overall, it was a great trip.

Thermoplastic

Thermoplastic is the hot new material in the costuming community, and is being supported by Tandy Leather. We attended a panel explaining its use, hosted by Tandy Leather, with panelists: Keith Zen (facebook), Abby Darkstar (facebook), Steven K Smith (deviantart, etsy, facebook), Ryan Wells (facebook)

They had really great advice, including the following:

  • Replica Prop Forum
  • Styrene is the old expensive way
  • Still use foam base, but use thermoplastic for detailed outer shell
  • You can buy terraflex from lowes, although it's not listed on their website
  • For tools, you'll need an exacto-knife, a dremel, a heat gun, a good pair of utility scissors, a rotary cutter, and heat gloves or a bowl of cold water.
  • You can also use pot of boiling water or your oven. You know it's ready when it has a fruit-rollup texture. He puts his oven at a steady 275.
  • Use silicon mats. It wont stick to them.
  • Use wooden sculpting tools or kids play-do tools for shapes. Tandy pro modeling tools traditionally used for leather work great on thermoplastic. Also cake tools.
  • You can cool it fast by holding a compressed air canister upside down and spraying it.
  • Finish with one coat of automobile etching primer, or filler primer, no sanding. You can wet sand for smoother finish.
  • After primer use Liquid tex heavy body. Alclad metallic paints are good for metal looks. Angelis for leather is ok for plastic.
  • Make sure that you seal the final product, because some paints will sweat off. You can get sealant at home depot, matte or gloss clear sealant. If the item is flexible use an acrylic base in the sealant. If it's for outdoor use, get a UV resistant sealant.
  • Don't use enamel with latex.
  • Volpin props Ebook shows how to paint rust, etc.
  • Line your weight points with foam. Cover foam with cloth because of sweat and rash, or use cheap spandex or costume leather.
  • Barge cement is a life saver but toxic and is being outlawed.
  • Use fosmies or papercura as base pattern. Storyboard and write down plan, biggest time is research. Lots of trial and error.
  • You can get a 20x30 inch sheet of terraflex for $30
  • TerraFlex
  • Eco-Flo Leather Weld Adhesive
  • Tanners Bond Contact Cement
  • Barge Cement
  • Craftool Pro Modeling Tools

Indie Games

We attended a panel on developing Indie Games. One of the panelists, Thomas Michael Gofton (facebook), was a Canadian who started out producing film. They had a really interesting discussion.

Favourite games included: Neuroshima Hex! and The Play’s The Thing by Magpie Games

Suggested resources included: rpg.net for freelancers for writing, Google+ for an open call for art and writing freelancers, and Artist Alley for art freelancers

Cost

dragoncon membership, x2                  $199.53
urban oasis b&b, amanda room, 4 nights    $914.61
air canada: ottawa-toronto-atlanta-return $543.78
air canada: ottawa-toronto-atlanta-return $543.78
checked bag                                $26.25
airport book                               $22.05
airport food                                $5.25
airport food                                $8.45
airport food                                $2.47
airport food                                $6.38
airport food                               $12.42
airport food                               $15.35
airport food                                $8.31
makeup due to lost bag                     $58.33
marta                                      $14.99
marta                                      $14.99
clothes and toiletreis due to lost bag    $233.64
conference food                            $19.08 
dinner at yalla                            $42.67
uber                                        $7.08
uber                                        $6.82
uber                                        $9.53
conference food                            $29.97
lanyards                                   $14.72
dinner at meehans                          $96.70
uber                                        $6.82
more books (krog st)                       $33.46
uber                                        $7.70
uber                                        $6.82
conference food                            $15.01
conference food                             $3.61
conference food                            $27.63
artist alley: three prints                 $74.42
artist alley: robot magnets               $131.20
dinner at pacific rim bistro              $151.62	
uber                                        $7.03
checked bag                                $27.22
airport food                                $7.80
airport food                               $16.13
airport food                               $15.43
airport parking                            $68.00

That's a total of $3,457.05, and considering the flight delays, fun didn't start until 10:15am on Friday, and stopped around 10:15pm Sunday night, since the next morning was really just all air travel. So that's just 60hrs of fun which gives a shocking $1380/fun-day, a new record for inefficiency, but I guess that's what happens when your flights get fouled.

total cost: $3,457.05

fun days: 60/24 = 2.5
total days: 4

$/fun-day: 3457.05 / 2.5 = $1382.82
day/fun-day: 4 / 2.5 = 1.6

It was totally cool. I'm so glad we did it.