Gen Con Wrap Up

I wasn’t as ambitious this year as I was last year and didn’t do a daily post for Gen Con. A lot of that was because things were a bit different for Jon and I this year. Not bad, but different, and we wanted to try to minimize things, which meant not taking a computer with us.

Other differences: minimal bag carrying, working part time for AEG, no digi-cam or cosplay photos, different hotel room and travel routes, and no food truck experiments. While generally these could be seen as minor differences, they did give us a slightly different Gen Con experience than in the past.

I’ve decided to break this post down into our Gen Con highlights and lowlights, complete with a few random pictures I was able to take with my phone.

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Highlights:

1. Working for AEG – Fellow gamers might be familiar with AEG or Alderac Entertainment Group. They have a bunch of fun games, including Legend of the Five Rings, Trains, and Doomtown: Reloaded. This year, we had the opportunity to work part time for them. They are a great bunch of people, and it’s hard to go wrong when “work” means “teaching people to play new games.”

2. Playtesting – We made it a point to get in three playtests in the First Exposure Playtest Hall, one of our annual favorites. Basically, you pick a game that’s not yet out on the market, play it, and give the creators feedback. We did a board game, an RPG, and a miniatures game and had a blast trying out all of them. Jon and I could probably take one full day to do nothing more than playtest. Seriously.

Dream Heist was a blast...hope to buy this one when it comes on the market!

Dream Heist was a blast…hope to buy this one when it comes on the market!

3. Swag – Volunteering has its perks, and we ended up bringing home a ton of games. On our last day there, we splurged a bit and bought a few things as well. It’s safe to say we have enough games to last us the rest of the year and beyond, including a new horror RPG for me to scare people with. Mwahahaha.

Game on!

Game on!

4. Culinary finds – For various reasons, we didn’t end up trying any food trucks this year. After our initial annual splurge at The Ram, it was mostly Steak ‘N’ Shake for us, with two tasty exceptions. For breakfast one morning, we discovered a great restaurant called First Watch that served amazing food. We also found the part of the mall that houses Haagen-Dazs. So that was a thing that happened one evening.

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5. Walking – We walked everywhere! We even took walks when we didn’t need to, and breaks were minimal. Instead of making Jon go back to the car if we needed something, I went with him. I’ve come a long way in five conventions, and considering how much better it makes the whole experience, it’s a good reminder to keep up the “training.”

Lowlights:

1. Hotel – Our regular hotel doubled their prices last year, so we booked another one that was more within what we were used to paying. Normally we get lucky with the cheap hotels, but the one we got this year was awful. It smelled funny, had a sad breakfast,  no soundproofing, and even though the staff was friendly, they weren’t super efficient or knowledgeable.

2. Traffic – Gen Con wasn’t the only thing going on last week and weekend. The Indiana State Fair was happening and Saturday brought a Colts pre-season game. Even though we got to the ICC early on Thursday, we stayed gridlocked for about a half hour and then had trouble finding parking, something we’ve never had an issue with before. Leaving the convention center on Saturday brought more gridlocked traffic among the sea of gamers and Colts fans.

3. Con crud – For the first time ever, I got sick after Gen Con. I started feeling it on the drive home on Sunday, and on Monday it was full blown grossness. It’s about four days later and I’m still feeling the effects of it, but I’m recuperating. Washing your hands religiously is a good thing, but sometimes the crud will find a way.

4. The drive – I normally love road trips and I love to drive, but this year the drive felt super long and uncomfortable. Our trip started with a few annoyances, like the gas station not being opened early enough for us to get a drink and Dunkin’ Donuts not having the mix needed for the drink I wanted. Later it got worse with stalled vehicles on the highway and rush hour traffic. I realize none of these are huge and most of them are to be expected, but they seemed more dramatic this year than they should have been.

However, we did stop and see the world’s largest wind chime again, and that was pretty awesome!IMG_20140812_132326[1]

All in all, our fifth year at Gen Con was a success and we’re already looking forward to 2015.

A.

Kansas City and Tori Amos

This weekend, my friend Janet and I went to Kansas City, MO to see Tori Amos in concert on her Unrepentant Geraldines tour. This was my fifth Tori concert and Janet’s second. We kicked our adventure off Saturday morning around noon with the drive to KC and a quick stop for lunch at the travel plaza where we saw fellow MHKers who were going to to an event in Lawrence.

The drive was quick and easy, and after touring the one way streets in KC’s Power and Light District to find the theater, we pulled up to our hotel to check in. The Aladdin is an old but updated boutique hotel with valet parking and a spa in the basement. Janet’s husband hooked us up with points for the room, free breakfast, and free valet parking. We didn’t know about the free breakfast or parking, so that was a nice surprise, as was the complimentary glasses of champagne they gave us at check-in.

Kicking off the fun with some bubbly.

Kicking off the fun with some bubbly.

The room was kind of cool and funky. We got a king sized bed because that was all that was available. The woman who checked us in seemed a little confused at first, but we assured her we were just kicking it high school style.

How does one get one of these chairs? Because I loved it.

How does one get one of these chairs? Because I loved it.

In lieu of exploring the area in the heat, we chilled in the hotel room with some drinks and “Mean Girls” on cable. After showers, we decided to walk around the corner to have dinner at the Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. It was a little bit of a splurge, but not horrible, and hibachi makes for a fun dinner experience.

From there, we went ahead and lined up outside the theater. We were there early enough to get close to the doors, and we got the chance to visit with other Tori fans during the wait. That’s one of my favorite parts of the concerts…fellow fans are super friendly.

Once the doors opened, we went to the merch station where I bought a tote bag and met Tori’s daughter, Tash. She was genuinely sweet and gave us hugs and chatted with us for awhile.

The theater was comfortable and kind of cozy. Since we were there early, we waited about an hour for the opening act, then another half hour for Tori to start. I had heard that The Midland didn’t have bad seats, and while technically that was true, that doesn’t take into account what happens when a bunch of tall people sit in front of a short person. Because the seating is not tiered, there were some challenges seeing through the tall gentlemen in front of me, the woman who kept dipping her head right into my line of sight in front of them, and the guy in the hat in front of her.

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Luckily, being in the back row meant we could stand without blocking anyone, so I stood part of the time and sat at just the right angle the rest of the time, a feat made easier when the woman with the dippy head left early.

The show was just as good as we’d hoped. Tori looked and sounded amazing. Hearing some of her songs done live triggers all the feels. I teared up at some of the songs that I don’t usually cry to. For Lizard Lounge, she covered “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Over the Rainbow” (relevant to Kansas, even though the concert was in Missouri). I was especially stoked to hear “Take to the Sky” in the encore, as that song hits me on a personal level.

While Tori was great, I did take issue with some of my fellow concert goers. While I’m all for showing your enthusiasm and love, doing it every thirty seconds, including when she’s trying to talk to the audience, is just obnoxious. Also, if you’re going to spend money on the concert, think about the fact that other people have done the same thing and don’t make the concert your social hour. We had people behind us who rudely carried on a conversation the whole time. Not cool, and I think some of the people down from us were ready to start a fight afterwards over it.

We walked back to the hotel room and debriefed over Doritos and Chex Mix, then crashed out. This morning was breakfast and the drive home, with a stop for some Baskin Robbins on the way. Because sometimes ice cream just sounds better than an actual lunch.

For a weekend away, it was actually very relaxed, but I’m still taking today just to reset, clean, and get ready for the work week. Now the planning begins for the next tour and another girls’ weekend. It’s likely two years away, and I’m already excited for it.

A.

 

Mobile Tech Separation Anxiety

I know we talk about how dependent we’ve become on modern technology, especially our cell phones. While some people would say it’s bad, I don’t usually have an issue with it. I like being connected and knowing that if something were to happen I have a connection to the world at my fingertips. I suppose the unhealthy part is the anxiety one gets when they decide to leave their phone at home.

A couple Thursdays ago, Jon and I took a walk downtown. The original plan was to make a big loop, so I figured I wouldn’t need my phone. It was just a walk and any calls or texts I might get could wait. What I didn’t count on was that I’d be able to talk him in to stopping at the Discovery Center for the Go See It lecture (which I highly recommend if you’re in the MHK area…free, every third Thursday of the month).

I was okay at the beginning of the lecture, and then I started to realize that there were certain key things I couldn’t do, like check into Swarm (previously Foursquare), Tweet things, and add notes to Evernote. While the lecture was interesting, it felt weird not to have the ability to keep my hands busy or switch my attention periodically.

I didn’t go crazy from this. My brain didn’t explode, my phone wasn’t full of texts from people who needed me desperately in the short time I was off the grid, and my tech separation anxiety didn’t even compare to some of the social anxiety that still creeps up on me.

Still, I like having my phone with me. It’s like a security blanket. It makes me feel connected and it reminds me that I have a way to communicate if something should happen. I think back to the days when I’d make that drive from college to home with no cell phone. In hindsight, it seems scary…and I did run into a few instances when a cell phone would have been helpful. Luckily, people were nice enough to stop. Now I think people are too scared to stop and help strangers. And I might be too scared to take the help.

On the other side of the coin, as someone who tends to lose focus really easily, not having my phone forced me to pay attention to the lecture rather than letting my mind and attention wander to my phone. I’ve been on a mission to try to focus on one project at a time, because I find that I get more done than when I try to super-multitask. It also lowers my stress level and keeps me from getting overwhelmed.

No, I didn’t die from not having my phone this time, and even though it worked out in the end, I don’t think I’m one of those people who will make it a point of leaving my phone at home all the time. We’re just too attached.

Plus, you never know when you’re going to need to log a note or send an important text.

A.

Courtney Hamilton’s Worst Break-Up Ever Contest

Remember the Worst Date Contest I published before my blog hiatus (which is still kind of happening since I haven’t been able to sit down and do any actual blogging with the craziness of the past week)? The contest was a success, and to follow up, Courtney is doing another one…the Worst Break-Up Ever Contest. 

Courtney Hamilton’s “Worst Breakup Ever” Contest (International)

Courtney Hamilton is giving away a signed copy of her novel, Almost Royalty, to the top 2 winners! To enter, all you have to do is tell her:

What is your “Worst Breakup Ever” experience? Share your story in the comment section below.

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After the contest has ended, Courtney will personally read every participant’s entry and pick the top 2 worst breakup stories. The winners will be announced through Courtney’s Facebook page, Twitter, and blog. This contest will also be hosted on various blogs, social media sites, and forums found in the “Participating Websites” section of this post.

Only 99¢

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Enjoy the “Worst Break up Ever” contest and, for the first time, download your Kindle copy of Almost Royalty by Courtney Hamilton for only 99¢! 

Download the novel here: http://amzn.to/1klLFo1

Terms and Conditions for Entry Eligibility

No purchase necessary to enter. Sponsored by Forrest Thompson Publishers. Giveaway ends August 5, 2014 at 11:59 PM (PST). Open Internationally. 18+ years of age. Void where prohibited. Winners will be announced on Courtney Hamilton’s blog at www.Ecochainofdating.com/blog, Eco-chain of Dating Facebook Page, and @ecochaindating. Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or their winnings will be forfeited. By entering the giveaway, you give Courtney Hamilton and Forrest Thompson Publishers permission to repost your story or recite it in a video for media purposes. Forrest Thompson Publishers reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this contest at any time without prior notice.

Participating Websites: The full list of participants in Courtney’s “Worst Breakup Ever” Contest is available on her blog at: http://ecochainofdating.com/blog/?p=1579

Let the Worst Breakup Stories Ever begin!

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Much like the bad dating story, I’m limited in my bad break-up stories. I had one bad break-up, but to be honest, the actual relationship was worse than the break-up. I’m sure I didn’t think that at the time, but in hindsight, it was the best thing ever. 

However, I know some of my followers have some good stories, so let’s get them out there! And read Courtney’s book! 

A.

New Digs and New Routines

My blogging mojo flew the coop for awhile. In the days leading up to the move, I didn’t really have anything to write about. We were laying low and heading home after work. Even our weekends were fairly mellow. Plus, there was stress. Since I don’t like to use this space for venting, I didn’t want to come to the keyboard feeling out of sorts.

So I took a break and let things simmer. I think I’m ready to get back in the routine, but bear with me. I need to find my blogging feet again.

The good news? We’re in our new apartment! We stretched the move itself over a full week. Because of the way things worked out, we got the keys to the new apartment on July 7 but didn’t have to give the keys to the old one back until July 12. Jon and I spent every evening after work unloading the car in Manhattan, unpacking boxes, then loading the car back up again in Wamego. It was an exhausting process.

On Friday, I took the day off to finish emptying and cleaning the old apartment. This meant a total of twelve trips up and down three flights of stairs. I was in pain the rest of the weekend, but honestly? It was worth it to be able to say that I could do it. Our last move was horrible for me, so I was happy that this time around I could actually be of use.

We had some helpers that evening, and even though we’d planned to continue the move on Saturday, we didn’t need to do much. All of our boxes and furniture were moved before 9pm Friday night, and the only thing we did on Saturday was send Jon and two of our helpers back to finish cleaning and to grab our last few storage items.

I tried resting up on Saturday since I was doing the Relay for Life that night, but those stair trips took their toll, and the pain was a little more than I was prepared for. I did make it to the event for a few hours though, but I ended up leaving early. Between the pain and the heat and the exhaustion, I wasn’t feeling well.

Sunday was dedicated to unpacking the rest of what we could and having our new neighbors (but old friends) down to visit for a little while. Since we’d done so much throughout the week, unpacking was pretty easy. Everything found a “home” except for some books and wall hangings, and that’s only because we need a bookshelf and some command strips, both of which are waiting until they fit into the budget.

So much cabinet space...and this is just one small corner of our kitchen.

So much cabinet space…and this is just one small corner of our kitchen.

I love our new place. When we saw it the first time, we took into account the fact that it was smaller than our old place, so we figured that once the furniture was in, things would be a little cramped. Not the case at all. In fact, we have way more room than we’d originally thought we had, as well as more storage space than we’d anticipated.

It’s comfortable and cozy. The shower water doesn’t run different temperatures, we have a ton of stuff within walking distance, and coming home for lunch is pretty great…other than the fact that I don’t necessarily want to leave once I’m here. For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to having people over, and I can’t wait to bake in our nice, big kitchen.

Now that the move is over, it’s time to try to get back into my routine and get going on projects that I’ve been procrastinating. I’m still settling in and work has been busy, so it’s been somewhat of a challenge, but I think in a few weeks things should feel more settled on the homefront. Which is really good, because the rest of the summer is going to be busy with travel and social times.

A.

 

Influenster Review: #GoProFoot Products

Between moving and binge reading, I’ve done a little procrastinating on the review and blogging front, but I finally got the chance to try out my ProFoot products, sent to me from Influenster…complimentary, of course…for testing purposes.

Let’s start with the ProFoot Orthotic Insole. I’ve had some rotten luck with insoles in the past, so I tend not to use them. I’m always up for trying something new, though, and I have to say…these are by far the best one’s I’ve ever tried. They were super comfortable and I found a distinct lack of knee and back pain after walking with them a couple times. My favorite aspect? The fact that they don’t stretch all the way to the toe, which meant I had plenty of wiggle room.

Shoes meet ProFoot!

Shoes meet ProFoot!

Because I’m not used to insoles, I did have a little bit of a fitting issue with them, but I have a weird size, and I think I could taylor them a little better in the future.

The second product was the ProFoot Pedi-Rock. First thing to note about this little guy…he’s squishy. I was expecting something a little firmer. However, he felt great on my feet when I gave myself my own personal foot massage.

A different kind of pumice stone.

A different kind of pumice stone.

The squishy part allows the rock to conform to the angles and curves of the foot. It made my feet super soft and just felt good on them. I highly recommend using this after a shower when you’re feet area already softened from the water, but you can use it on wet or dry skin.

These are good quality products and ones I plan on using and purchasing in the future. A huge thanks to ProFoot and Influenster for giving me the chance to try these out.

A.

The Evolution of Romance Novels

Warning: there are going to be some touchy subjects in this post. Trigger warnings: rape, kidnapping, abuse.

I love romance novels. They can be cheesy and overdone, and a lot of historical romances read like a soap opera. I’m still a sucker for them. Recently, I decided to go back and read all of the books written by one of my favorite authors in the order they were written/published.

I didn’t expect her earlier ones to be great. Most authors get better over time. As far as writing, characterization, and melodrama were concerned, the first two in her portfolio were as I expected. Not great, but still readable, with a few moments that I enjoyed.

What I had forgotten about (having read these books when I was much younger) was the use of kidnapping and rape as a route to romance. The first one was Stockholm Syndrome all the way. The heroine is kidnapped and forced to submit to her kidnapper because he wants her. But it’s okay, because even though she tells him ‘no,’ her body wants it (riiigghht). And after a hundred pages of shame and anger, suddenly, she’s in love with him. Because that’s how it works (heavy dose of snark there).

The second book is another Stockholm Syndrome love story, but the rape is more blatant in this one. In fact, it happens repeatedly. The word rape is used at least twenty times in the book. And then boom…the heroine is like “Whut? I ain’t mad.” At one point, she even says something along the lines of “Well, yeah, he raped me. But he didn’t kill anyone, so it’s okay.”

Yes, I’m taking the stories out of the context of the time they were written. Yes, I’m overlooking the fact that they fall into the category of “bodice ripper” romance, which apparently is all about the man taking control and using force to show the woman how desirable she is because he can’t help himself. Reading other reviews of these books, I found that many people were disgusted at the material. Others were very much of the mind that these were written in a different time and can still be enjoyed as a work of fiction.

Dude, you're in the middle of a field. But some pants on!

Dude, you’re in the middle of a field. Put some pants on!

These novels were also considered “historical romance.” So even if the time they were written wasn’t reflective of that time period, is this justified by the fact that during the time period it was set in, those things were common? These books weren’t without their “sweet” moments, but it wasn’t always easy to get over how someone could go from hate and anger to love and acceptance that quickly.

These books were published in the late 70s and very early 80s. I also read some novels from the mid-80s (different authors). There wasn’t any rape in these ones, but the chauvinistic male was prevalent.  In one novel, the man told the woman constantly that she was his…within the first day of meeting her. When she told him she wasn’t interested, he continued to seduce her. Which, okay, I suppose the whole “winning her over” thing was supposed to be romantic. But there was a distinct lack of respect for the woman’s boundaries.

In another one, the man verbally berates the woman to get a reaction out of her. He never apologizes. Once she agrees to date him, he refuses to allow her to do much of anything else. She can’t talk to her other male friends. She can’t go out without him. She pretty much as to let him know what she does and does not do. Yet in the end, she’s fallen in love with him, can’t live without him, blah blah blah. He never changed at all, but we’re supposed to believe that she’s going to be happy with him.

In some ways, those books were more offensive to me than the others.

There has definitely been an evolution in romance novels though. I’m not saying there aren’t still horrible ones out there that make the woman seem weak or stupid, but with regards to even the aforementioned author, her later books involve strong women who give as good as they get. They also feature women who aren’t “the most beautiful creature on earth,” but instead have something else that wins the hero: kindness, a sense of humor, etc. The heros are no longer “I take what I want” types, but gentlemen who might steal a kiss or two (which is still frowned upon…I know), but they keep it in their pants until things get consensual.

I’m not trying to make a statement about rape culture or feminism in this post. I just think it’s interesting the way literature reflects certain views of the time, possibly without meaning to. I read all kinds of things, so it’s hard to offend me, but I understand that many people wouldn’t be able to get past the scenes in these novels.

I’m reading the third book published by the author, and I’m fifty pages in with no rape of the heroine (though there has been rape of other characters…like in the opening scene). There has also been some dismemberment. The tone of this one is much darker…I’m not even sure how this is going to turn into a romance at this point.

If you’re interested in seeing the books I’m talking about, you can follow me on Goodreads. I’m also interested to hear what other people have to say on the subject.

Do you guys like bodice rippers or do you find them offensive?

A.