Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nerd Cave: Under Renovation

The Nerd Cave has been undergoing some changes.

No, not this blog.  The actual, physical Nerd Cave in my house.

The Boyfriend has decided to move his gaming computer to the basement, which means I get to take over the Nerd Cave and make it my own.


When we moved into the house four years ago, we were in a bit of a rush.  Our closing date kept getting pushed back, until we finally gained possession of the house two days before we had to be out of the apartment.  It was just the two of us and a Uhaul, and I was taking the biggest exam of my life in three weeks, so unpacking and getting everything set up was the least of our priorities.  It was all about getting everything out of the apartment by 11:59pm July 31st, while keeping track of my books and notes so I could continue studying.  It sucked and took us forever to get settled.  There are still boxes in the basement that are unopened from the move.  On top of all that, his parents were moving themselves and were crashing with us while they waited for their new house to be built - so we were getting settled in our first house together, while having house guests and dealing with our crap moving situation and my qualifying exam!  Woof.  It was awful.

Because the Boyfriend worked from home then, he took the third bedroom as his office.  It's a tiny room, not suited for much more than a twin bed and maybe a desk and/or dresser.  After we were in the house for about a year, we built new gaming computers and got a desk for me to use, and the office became our Nerd Cave.  Office by day, gaming room by night, both of us sitting at our desks, headphones on, smashing keys.

But now he no longer works from home.  And he has started streaming on Twitch, so he wanted a new space where he could spread out a bit and have a better camera set up, without my Sailor Moon dolls and trash covered desk behind him.

When he mentioned taking over the basement, I told him to go right ahead!  He was surprised.  Originally, my office was supposed to be in the basement, but it was a mess down there from us moving in a hurry, it was damp and I was worried about my books, and I hated working down there.  Both of us thought the other would be opposed to switching offices - otherwise we would have done this years ago!  I did my PhD qualifying exam prep and take-home essay from the Nerd Cave, since it was the most private area of the house with desk space, and I like working in there!  I would have stayed in there and never left if I thought I could!

The last couple of days have been focused on him organizing the basement (ha!) and moving all of his stuff out of the Nerd Cave.  Now, all of my books are in boxes in the dining room as I organize the Nerd Cave into my own private office!  My gaming computer is still in there, because it has the GIS software I use for my dissertation on it, and I have added my old desk and recliner to the room, along with my bookcases.  I now have everything I need to write my dissertation all in one accessible and private space.  I can close the door, turn on music or a movie, and work without interruption.  This is something I've lacked since we moved in here, since even when I worked in the basement he would pop in to interrupt me, and this is something I have sorely needed.

I am a private person.  I like being alone.  I can go days without talking to anyone human (I talk to my dog, though), and feel better for the break.  I hate working around other people, and I hate their interruptions even more.  We've been living together for 5 years and I still miss having my own place.  I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to working in my own space again!  I mean, I passed my PhD qualifying exam after working in that room, so I know I can study in there and see progress.

We are sad that we won't be gaming in the same room anymore - it was fun to play on our computers together, even if we were playing different games, and it was great when we were playing together because we could communicate easily without relying on tells or Vent, like we did when we lived in separate cities.  But all my old systems are hooked up to the TV down there - my Sega, N64, and PS2 - so I can play my old consoles while he plays on his PC, or we can rock some Sonic 2 or Mario Kart together!

This has all happened just in time for the end of the month too.  I have a deadline I'm working to meet, and I was starting to feel like I wouldn't make it unless I found a quiet and private space to work without interruption.  And now I have one!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Depression and Disney

This is not a post about Robin Williams and Aladdin, though the events of last week might have contributed to why I'm writing this post.  He was a wonderful man and many of us grew up watching him, from Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji and Hook as children, to his HBO comedy specials as young adults.  He will be missed.

I just lost it while watching Mulan.

The part after she is revealed as a woman and left in the mountains, when she says, "Maybe what I really wanted was to prove that I could do things right. So that when I looked in the mirror I'd see someone worthwhile. But I was wrong. I see nothing," was too much for me.

Cue the ugly crying and hyperventilating.  Hearing Mulan say that was really just too much for me to deal with at that moment.  I felt vulnerable, I felt relieved, I felt like I was recognizing myself in her character.

I love Mulan.  It came out when I was 13 and in the midst of Spice Girl fueled Grrl Power!  I've seen the movie and listened to the soundtrack so many times that I can sing and speak along with the movie without paying attention.  I even quote it to my dog (You missed?! How could you miss, that treat was three feet in front of you!!!)  But I've never really paid attention to those lines before and what they could mean.  It was sudden, and hit me so hard, probably because I love this movie so much.  To think that this strong female character, who I grew up with from a shy and awkward teen to an even more socially awkward adult, could be struggling with self esteem and depression too?  Wow.  I wasn't expecting that.  Or how emotional it would make me.

I have depression.  I also suffer from a related problem called impostor syndrome, which came out in full force when I started my PhD.  They both fill my head with thoughts of being worthless, that no one cares about me, that nothing I will ever do will be good enough.  That if I left this party early no one would even notice, so why do I ever leave the house?  Why do I even try?

Right now I'm good.  I am able to recognize when it's getting bad, and I can remind myself that depression is an evil fucker and it LIES.  Then I can try to work through it.  It's not really as simple as all that, but that's basically how I've been operating the past year and I don't have the words to describe it better.  I never intended to use this blog to talk about my depression.  And I don't like dwelling on where I was last year because it makes me feel vulnerable, though some part of me is always aware of it.

Last summer was the worst it has ever been.  I spent the entire summer on my couch, getting no work done, not taking care of myself in any way.  My boyfriend was traveling a lot for work and gone almost every week, only coming home on the weekends, so I was alone for most of the summer, alone with my thoughts.  I wouldn't even buy groceries because it meant I'd have to leave the house, so some days I just wouldn't eat.  It took everything I had to wake up in the morning and take care of my dog, because through it all I knew that I needed to at least make sure he was taken care of.  I'm amazed that I was able to do that at all.  I thought about what a waste of space I was, trying to make myself as small and inconspicuous as possible when I did leave the house, feeling like I had to apologize to the cashier or the person sitting next to me at the movies for simply existing.  Wishing I could just disappear, fade into nothingness.

When I heard Mulan say those lines, the same belittling words I've been telling myself since I was a little kid... it was too much.  To think about where I was this time last year, where I am now, and how easy it would be to go back, slipping into that fog of feeling worthless.

I can't pinpoint when it got better.  It just... did.  Slowly.  I'm sure it would have been easier if I had gone to see a therapist, but I couldn't afford it and the services offered at my university were even a stretch on my wallet - and not all that helpful, since the sessions were with students doing their clinic rotations and they couldn't offer any real professional services. They could refer you to someone if they thought you needed it, but that was it.  I found those sessions really unhelpful - the girl assigned to me refused to let me talk about what I felt I needed to that day, instead redirecting me to topics I did not want to discuss or weren't immediately relevant to what was going on that week.  And I regret that I let that make me feel like I needed her permission to talk about the topics I needed to get out.  (One thing I remember about these sessions, is I would tell a story and finish with, "And it just makes me feel so powerless and frustrated," or something similar, to which she would reply, "And how does <whatever I was just talking about> make you feel?"  It was like, were you listening at all?)  On top of that, her rotation ended at the end of the semester, so if I wanted to continue I had to start over with someone new.  I stopped going.  I needed more than what they could offer.

Other grad students I know have found the counseling offered by the uni very helpful... I did not.  And that's okay.  But what is NOT okay is that I suffered for a whole summer, feeling like I couldn't get the help I needed because I could not afford to see a real professional.  How we handle mental illness in this country is disgusting, since the stigma and our crap insurance practices make it difficult for people to get the help we need.  The ACA isn't much help either (how was my well woman yearly check up MORE expensive than before the ACA? I thought pelvic exams were free!)  Now I know there are hotlines where you can just talk to someone when you need it.  I wish I had known about these last summer, because talking helps me.

If you or someone you know needs help, someone to talk to, or is thinking about self-harm, please remember you're not alone and there are people who can help.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline  - 
(in addition to the hotline, you can chat with someone via the website linked above. They also offer crisis services through the same hotline,

Samaritans Confidential Crisis Hotline  -
(available to talk if you are depressed, overwhelmed, thinking about self-harm, or just need to talk)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

30th Entry!

Wow!  I'm 30 entries deep on this blog already!  (Okay, maybe it's only 29, but I wrote an entry for December already that is scheduled to post at the holidays, so let's count that)

Most of my posts were about Comic Con, and now that SDCC is over until next year, I might not be around as much this month.  But this is less to do with Comic Con being over and more to do with the fact that I need to focus on my dissertation over the next month.  It was a lot of fun detailing how I was preparing for Comic Con here, though, and unlike every blog I've started since... well, in the last ten years, I do intend to keep up with this one.  This blog is fun, and not just some place where I come to vent anonymously when something pisses me off.

If anyone stops by, I hope you have a lovely end-of-summer and that you'll come by again in a few weeks to see what's new.  Between my necessary dissertation progress and the fact that my bagpipes finally arrived, I should have some fun things to write about by the end of August.

I am a female comic book reader.

Earlier today I saw this tweet and starting thinking about how I started reading comics.

There was no comic book store in my town.  The local drug store (think early-mid century soda fountain style drug store) sold some comics next to the magazines.  The local independent toy store might have had a comic rack, but I don't remember.  So I did not grow up with the experience of riding my bike to the local comic book store, meeting my friends there, and talking about our fan theories.  On top of that, gender stereotypes were pretty solid in my upper-middle-class suburban town.  I remember how weird some of my girlfriends thought it was when I stayed after school to play Magic cards with a few of my band friends (including the man I am now in a relationship with).  And the reception a few of my friends got when they started the high school anime club.  You could be into these things, but you didn't advertise it, especially if you were female.

Despite this, my mom was always very supportive of my hobbies.  Even when she didn't understand them - like my addiction to fantasy, such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, while she preferred realistic stories that didn't have made up words littering the pages.  If it wasn't for her, I can't say I would have started reading comics, at least not before I became an adult and moved out.

When I was seven years old, in second grade, a DC published the Death of Superman.  I don't know if he requested it or if she learned about its publication and thought it would be a nice thing to give him, but my mom went to the store and bought my cousin a copy of Superman vol. 2 #75, where Doomsday kills Superman.  I still remember that cover, and how protective he was of the book, believing that if he took good care of it, it would some day be worth a lot of money.

While my mom was at the store she also picked up a Barbie comic book for me.  I definitely had my girly moments as a child, and I loved my Barbie dolls, who were usually horse trainers/stunt riders with the circus and spent a lot of time at the beach getting discovered by movie studios.  The Barbie comics told short stories, usually of Barbie saving an animal or trying something new with her friends, and had fan letters in the back written by little girls.  I loved it and re-read it until the cover fell off.

Eventually my cousin forgot his precious comic on the floor of his bedroom, stepped on it, and tore the cover.  Only then did he let me read it.  He never asked for additional issues to finish the story or explore new characters.  But I asked for more Barbie comics.  I think I eventually had a collection of five books, all well-read with loose covers.

I spent the rest of my childhood reading a variety of books, magazines, and comics.  I would read the funny pages every Sunday and most weekdays.  I devoured my sister's copies of Nintendo Power and Disney Adventures, which contained comics.  And I would re-read my mom's Calvin & Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book regularly.

We never had cable while I was growing up, so it wasn't until I was 13 or 14 that I really learned about Sailor Moon.  I had a vague notion of who she was, her friends' names, and that she was a super hero, but I didn't know the specifics of the show.  My best friend had taped every episode of the first two seasons, in order, off the USA network and brought them out at one of our slumber parties.  I was hooked, and she happily lent me the rest of her videos to take home.  On subsequent visits to her house, she showed me her collections of stickers, magazine art, and comics her father had brought back from a business trip to France (which she couldn't read, but loved the artwork).

That was how I learned that the TV show was based on a manga series and I needed to know where I could find those books.  My mom suggested a comic book store a few towns over, and offered to take me.  Like I said, if it wasn't for her, I'm not sure how I would have developed as a comic reader.

She took my sister and me to the store that summer.  As we stood there, overwhelmed by all the colorful comic covers and action figures decorating the shelves, the man behind the counter asked us if we were looking for anything in particular.  I replied, "Sailor Moon?" and he pointed us towards to shelf of new releases.  The manga were at the beginning of a reprint, unknown to me, and the shelf had the first four issues available.  I remembered my Barbie comics, which didn't have long story arcs spread over multiple issues (at least, I don't remember stories across issues), and assumed most comics followed a similar format (oh, how wrong I was), so we each selected an issue based on how much we liked the artwork.

After I learned the Sailor Moon manga was a long story that continued across issues, I was concerned about catching up on the issues I had missed.  The store didn't have many back issues, and we only made sporadic trips every couple of months.  The men who worked at the store were always very friendly, but I was too shy to ask many questions, believing that I should already know what I was looking for (this belief still affects me today, and has made being a grad student, where I'm supposed to ask questions and not already know everything, really hard).  But somehow the owner knew what I needed, and suggested I look at the shelves where they stored the manga graphic novels.  There I found the volumes of Sailor Moon published by Mixx Manga/Tokyo Pop.

Other than a few borrowed copies of my friends' manga, like Slayers and Cardcaptor Sakura, I didn't really branch out until I got to grad school and became a big fan of zombies.

I learned about the Walking Dead Compendium about a year after its release, shortly before the TV show started, and received it for Christmas shortly after.  My mom went to the comic book store where she had taken me as a teenager, and asked them to special order it when she found it wasn't in stock.

Reading that book made me feel like I finally had the credentials to explore other comics.  The concept of the "fake geek girl" can be a real mindfuck when you already experience social anxiety and feel like you don't deserve the space you occupy.  I have never been called out by anyone in a comic book store to defend my interests or justify my presence there, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened to other female comic book fans.

With this newfound confidence, I started reading more Marvel and independent comic books.  I bought Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel, copies of Journey into Mystery Featuring Sif, and a bunch of Thor TPBs.  I started reading the Brian Wood X-Men run featuring the all-female team, and I picked up the new Ms. Marvel on the day it was released.  When I was visiting my parents, I went into the old comic book store and bought the Rat Queens TPB.  I ended up having a great conversation with one of the men who was working, and he suggested I try out Saga and Coffin Hill.  I have a sporadic Marvel Unlimited subscription, and a digital copy of Lumberjanes #1.  And I have new TPBs of Wonder Woman and Batgirl, and my eye on Red Sonja (yay Gail Simone!)  And there is a new Princess Leia comic being released.

I've noticed a trend in the comics I choose - while I love Thor and Iron Man and Cap and Deadpool, the vast majority of the comics I read feature female leads.

And I am lucky... lucky that I am reading comics at a time when there are female-centric comics to choose from, and lucky that every experience I've had with comics has been a positive one.  I have never been mistreated inside a comic book store.  Or at my recent trip to Comic Con.  I have a very limited experience with comic book stores, having only visited three or four in my life, but of the three that I have made repeat trips to, two of which are in the city where I now live, all have been female friendly.  I have observed the staff interacting with other female customers, and no one seems uncomfortable or unwelcome, and the interactions can usually be described as downright enthusiastic as those involved get to share and learn about the comics they love.  I have never been chastised or belittled for asking questions, and am always greeted warmly when I enter the store.

I am lucky.  I wish everyone's experience with comics could be like mine.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Chik Solo's San Diego Comic Con Adventure, part 5

Okay you guys, this is it... the last day of the Con!

Sunday was pretty much unscheduled for us.  We planned to wander the exhibit hall floor, do some shopping, visit the gaming rooms at the Marriott to play some Dungeons and Dragons, and check out the off-site things we had missed.

Game of Thrones was hosting an experience called, "Survive the Realm!" at the Omni hotel across from the Convention Center.  They were supposed to open at 11:00, so we slept in and took the shuttle in around 9:30.  But by that point the line for it was so long that it wrapped around the block... and we couldn't even tell the end from the beginning.  It was just a loop of people surrounding a block of buildings.  I know this because we literally walked around the block just looking for an obvious break in the people!  When we found none, we said screw it and thought we'd check back later if we had time.  I just wanted a photo of myself on the Iron Throne (and maybe a tattoo!) so I don't think we missed too much.

After we decided to skip the Survive the Realm experience, we headed to the exhibit hall.  We stopped for coffee on the way and decided instead to go straight to the Marriott to play D&D during the 11:00 - 1:00 gaming slot.  Inside the Marriott next to the Convention Center was a series of rooms where various table top games were being demonstrated and taught to new players.  There were board games, Pathfinder demos, and various levels of D&D.  I think there was a Magic tournament too, but I forget...

I had never played D&D before.  None of my friends in high school or college played (that I knew of) and we were under the impression that girls weren't supposed to like those things so we hid our interest in them.  Example?  I owned SO many Pokemon cards and had exactly ONE friend who knew about them.  Shit, I even had a holographic Charizard that I got from a booster pack!  Boom!

Back on topic: so I never played D&D before, even though that gaming style really suited me.  Half the games my sister and I played as kids involved us running around the yard describing the adventures we were having.  Sit us down at a table, grab some paper and dice, and it's basically the same thing.  :-P

When I saw there were Learn to Play D&D sessions at Comic Con, I got really excited.  Finally, my chance to learn to play!  I could be a n00b without feeling the need to apologize for it!  My fear of failure and anxiety have kept me from going to join any gaming nights at my local comic book store, because the idea of being mistreated for not only being a n00b, but being a female n00b is too much for me.  But this, this I was going to do!

My boyfriend agreed to accompany me - even though he grew up playing his brothers' original D&D game, he had only played the 4th edition once and hadn't heard of the changes made to the 5th edition, so this would be kind of new to him too.

We arrived at the Marriott and went to the table in the back to sign up.  After a short wait we were placed at a table with five other adventurers and our Dungeon Master, George.  After a brief explanation of stats and classes, we selected from the pre-made characters.  I became Rohwena Bottlebrush, the halfling rogue out for revenge on the person who placed a hit on her.

Our adventure had us delivering a supply wagon to the city where the hit was placed on me.  But two days out, we came upon two dead horses in the road - the horses belonged to the person who hired us to deliver the supplies!  After noticing the arrows that peppered the horses, we were attacked by a group of goblins who just happened to use the same kind of arrows.  Guess that mystery was solved! But what happened to the riders?

This is right before my halfling rogue completely MURDERATED a goblin!

We spent the next 30-45 minutes fighting the goblins.  It was fun to learn how attacks happened for each character, who used different dice, and what abilities were available to each class.  My halfling took a major hit, and my boyfriend's dwarf was able to heal her up.  She then stabbed the crap out of a goblin and killed him!  Success!  We eventually took down all the goblins, except the one we kept alive for questioning.  During the battle we learned about healing, what happens if someone goes down too many hit points, and about special attacks that trigger extra damage when allies are nearby or a natural 20 is rolled.

After a short rest, during which some people healed, we questioned our captive.  George played this goblin so well, making him a difficult and reluctant prisoner who kept pretending to be asleep.  The goblin was played as being stupid, but was actually very clever in how he refused to give information; his simple answers, which some might think of as being a classic dumb monster, kept us talking in circles, trying to figure out what we could ask to get a more specific response.  Eventually we got enough information out of him that we could walk in the right direction to find our employer.  Following the tracks we found, we finally reached a cave...

And that's where the adventure ended!  To be continued in the next installment, which was another round of D&D starting at 2:00.  We didn't want to stick around because we wanted to do other things that afternoon, but if we had chosen to keep playing at 2:00 we would have kept our characters and received information about gold and points to take with us into the next game.

George was a great Dungeon Master - he explained things clearly, interjected about our gameplay to help us understand mechanics and strategy better without being bossy about it, and sometimes changed our rolls on the fly to offer us a more well rounded gameplay experience and see how things worked that might not have happened naturally in our gameplay this time - such as, "oh you rolled a 17?  Well, let's pretend that's a 20 so we can see how this situation would happen."  Or, "Okay, let's pretend that that hit was for all 9 of your hit points.  Here's how you would play your follow turn."  Thanks for a great time, George!

We finished playing at 12:30 and went to the exhibit hall.  Blizzard's #LootCrazy was starting at 3:00, so we tweeted to be prepared for that.  The exhibit hall was going to close at 5:00 and the shuttles would stop running at 7:00, so we had plenty of time to shop.

We started by just wandering around.  I wanted to buy an Amy Farrah Fowler Big Bang Theory Funko POP! Vinyl figure, but the only booth I found one at was selling it for $12.00 - the other booths were selling for $10.00, and I can buy that exact one for $8.00 on Amazon, so I passed.  But I did find a Princess Leia bobble head POP! figure for $10, so I bought her.

We also noticed that the Blizzard booth had almost no line.  Curious to see what exclusives were left, we stopped by even though we'd be coming back later for #LootCrazy.  The only exclusives left were the Whimsyshire Treasure Goblins and the Cute But Deadly Cloaking Zeratul.  While I had started the Con indifferent to the Whimsyshire Goblins, seeing them every day had made me come to love them.  They're just SO CUTE!  So I got one!  I still haven't named him yet.  But I love Whimsyshire (it's the only reason I log into Diablo III... to MURDERATE ALL THE UNICORNS!!!  Love and sparkles and pink and death!) and at the Blizz panel they said there is a chance the Whimsyshire Goblin might be put into the game!  Since I always chase down the Treasure Goblins for all the treasure, regardless of what baddies are around and will start attacking me, this is just my cup of tea.

So CUTE!!!

At some point we wound up in the middle where there were a few rows of artists, near the smaller comics sellers.  I wanted to buy something for my sister, since she is a Batman fan and this was Batman's 75th anniversary, so I picked up a little something for her upcoming birthday.  But there's a chance she might read this blog, so I can't talk about it here!

We visited the Bandai booth at the end of the day.  The Sailor Moon display was great - I'm not 100% sure everything on display was also on sale, but I think they were because the display was missing a few items that had been there earlier in the Con.  I really liked the Sailor Mars keychain on the display.  At that booth we bought a Gundam model figure for my boyfriend.  He already has two, so this one will join them once it's built.

When it was time for Blizzard's #LootCrazy giveaway we returned to the Blizzard booth and got our prizes.  My boyfriend got a Diablo figure to match his earlier Tyrael, and I got a pin.  I don't remember who the character was because I traded it for a Sylvanas pin at the official booth pin trading board.

Once we were done in the exhibit hall we left the Convention Center for the last time and went into the Gaslamp for a late lunch/early dinner.  To advertise the new show Ascension on Syfy, the Ascension cafe had been opened up in the Hard Rock Hotel across from the Convention Center.  Decorated in 1950-1960s style decor, this cafe really sparked my interest in the show with their front displays explaining the show's premise - that a spaceship is launched in the 1960s to save the human species, and the show is about that population dealing with the real purpose of their voyage.  The food was really good too - we had burgers and lemonade.

After eating, we had one last wander through the Gaslamp and then headed to the interactive zone across from Petco Park.  We hadn't visited this area yet, and were curious about what we had missed and if anything was still running.  A few things looked like they were still open - the Sleepy Hollow virtual reality experience still had a line, though I couldn't tell if they were letting anyone else into it - but overall we decided that we hadn't really missed anything there and ended up just getting in line for the shuttle, which was right next to the interactive zone (yay Red Line!)

We arrived back at our hotel around 5:30 pm and just had a relaxing evening.  We played with our new Magic cards a bit, looked over the rest of our swag, and packed for our flights back home.  Monday was again spent traveling all day, and we arrived back home around 2:00 am Eastern Time.

My boyfriend and I were talking about going back and we think we would need a minimum of two days in a combination of either Thursday, Friday, or Saturday badges to make the trip worth it.  Our favorite panels were the ones we attended on Friday and Saturday (though Thursday's Star Wars Rebels panel was excellent), and we could spend a third day doing the offsite things, like NerdHQ, Geek & Sundry, and this year's Vikings Experience.

Attending Comic Con was a great experience, and I would definitely go again.  Already we have friends back here impressed that we were able to go, and I am definitely experiencing Con withdrawal - I don't want to go back to reality, I want to stay where the geeks are, where I can wear a costume and get uncontrollably excited about things without being made to feel silly about it!

Thanks for reading about my Comic Con experience!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Chik Solo's SDCC Survival Bag

I planned on posting this before Comic Con, but things got rushed that last week and I couldn't be bothered to take photos (ha!) so I saved the idea for after.  Here's what worked and what didn't in my Comic Con backpack.

Before attending Comic Con, I read that the days there start early, end late, and have been compared to a marathon.  Now that I've attended I can say that yes, this can be very true depending on your schedule.  Especially if you're panel camping and can't leave the room easily for any great length of time.

Several blogs I referred to as I prepared myself for my first SDCC emphasized the survival bag or daily backpack.  When I've been to conventions/conferences in the past it has been sufficient to just bring a small tote or shoulder bag with my wallet, some snacks, my camera, and a notebook.  But those were smaller events, or I was staying in the hotel/resort where the conference was being hosted.  For SDCC we stayed in Mission Valley (no super-quick jaunts back to the hotel to drop things off or take a break for thirty minutes between panel lines) and there was loads more to do every day than at any event I've ever attended before.

Enter the survival bag.  I used a backpack I bought back in high school for band camp but never really used, and decorated it with badges and pins celebrating my favorite fandoms.

Using the guides I've found at Nerdy GirlieSDCC BlogCrazy4ComicCon, and this video by The Con-Fluence, I created a list of the items I planned to pack each day in my backpack.  I also drew some snack inspiration from this post by Chixelate.

This is what I planned to pack each day:
  1. Backpack
  2. Extra foldable backpack*, for any extra purchases we might make. It uses a drawstring to bundle up into a small baseball sized wad when it's not in use.
  3. 25" Poster tube for larger paper items and free posters
  4. Folder(s) with plastic sleeves for autographs, comics, and small paper items
  5. Notebook for autographs or sketches
  6. Headache meds, pain-relievers, and Tums
  7. Band-aids
  8. Hand sanitizer - trying to avoid the con funk!
  9. Sunglasses
  10. Sunscreen
  11. Extra insoles for my shoes
  12. Light hoodie for chilly evenings and blasting AC
  13. Altoids
  14. Lip balm
  15. Water (I originally planned to bring an aluminum water bottle, but we just reused a couple of Dasani bottles.  They were lightweight and we could ditch them if we needed to and just buy new later, and it wouldn't matter if we lost them)
  16. Snacks - apples, snack bars, nuts
  17. Sharpies in black and silver, for autographs
  18. Camera
  19. Batteries
  20. Various charging cables
  21. Anker brand portable charger
    (I gave it a try before the Con - it charged completely from my computer within a few hours, and charged my iPhone 3GS to 100% from 10% within 2 hours while the phone was on and receiving push notifications from Twitter. 15 hours later the phone was only at 79% battery.  I used it a few times throughout the Con and never had any trouble with it.)
  22. Phone
  23. iPad
  24. My travel notebook - filled with panel, autograph, and exclusives info, booth numbers, our panel schedule, restaurant ideas.  I also use it as a travel diary, writing down restaurant and museum names, what I ate or saw, beers I liked, and other notes about my day.
  25. Program/convention map (this came from the official guidebook distributed with the WB Swag Bags and badges)

My boyfriend was going to have his own pack, with his own snacks, water, folder, Sharpies, hoodie, sun hat to protect his head, and his iPhone.

Since this was my first SDCC, I wasn't sure if anything would end up being unnecessary, or if there was something else I was forgetting.  

After we got to our hotel and were packing for our first day at the Con, we decided to keep all the snacks and water in my boyfriend's pack since it was smaller, and we would use my backpack for our shopping and free goodies.  This arrangement worked well for us because we never split up during this Con - we considered it at one point when there were different panels we wanted to attend, but we ended up skipping those entirely.  It was useful having my larger backpack available for giveaways and shopping, and it was full every day I brought it (on Saturday I carried the small green collapsible pack I mentioned above because I needed something smaller and it matched my cosplay).

Other than the day I used it for my cosplay, we never used the collapsible tote, though we came close one day.  I also never used my lightweight hoodie - and it was an especially lightweight one.  But we also never line camped overnight, and the days were hotter than expected, so I'm not surprised.  I also overheat really easily and never felt chilly in the Convention Center, so I just stopped packing it.  We also used the Purell less frequently than I expected, and didn't need to reapply sunscreen as often because we stayed inside so much, but those I would continue to carry just in case we needed them.

Despite meeting Zachary Levi and Felicia Day at their offsite events, we never needed our autograph materials - the sharpies and the notebook.  And thanks to the Comic Con app, I rarely pulled out the physical map.  As for the insoles, I never swapped them during the day but I did change them in my shoes at the beginning of each day so there was a fresh pair.  So I wouldn't carry those with me again, but I would definitely bring them in my luggage again.

The poster tube was of varying usefulness.  The first day I got a free poster and rolled up the art I bought to protect it.  The second day we made a conscious choice not to bring it, seeing as how the only items that we used it for we had deliberately sought out or purchased, but of course that day we received a single free poster that ended up getting creased.  And the same on Saturday - we forgot to bring it, despite our experience with the free poster the previous day, and wound up with several free posters including the ones printed for us at the Vikings Experience.  But we were able to roll those up and place them in an outside pocket of my boyfriend's backpack, and they were safe all day.  Sunday we brought the tube again, knowing we would be on the exhibit hall floor again, and received a bunch of free posters. 

Overall, most of the things we carried were very useful.  We over-packed on snacks - we had rations of everything for all four days and ate maybe half of it.  Actually, a little less than half.  But other than that, everything we didn't use could have been useful if we had changed our schedule a little, or pursued an autograph session, or found more free goodies.  We never felt weighted down by it all - my boyfriend carried the poster tube and found it a little awkward, which is why we left it behind on Friday, and I was a little burdened by all the scavenger hunt prizes in my pack on Friday when my shoulder started hurting at the end of the day, but I was mostly fine and hey, free stuff is great!  We could have shifted one of the games to the other pack if I had needed it.

Thinking over this list, I would carry the same pack again.  And I can't think of anything we didn't have that we needed (except the poster tube on the days we didn't bring it!)  Based on my experience, I would recommend the resources I used and my list to any new con-goers as a great starting point in building their survival pack.

My sister (the Batman fan) gave me this small backpack as part of a zombie bug-out bag themed Christmas present.  How cool is that?  It held doggy biscuits (for my dog), a bottle of vodka (for me), a small first-aid kit, fishing line and hooks, and zombie targets (mine were cooler looking than those).  There might have been flares or a fire starter too... the vodka and dog biscuits are gone, but I should probably check the expiration dates on those other things...

Chik Solo's San Diego Comic Con Adventure, part 4

On Saturday we had an easy morning.  I woke up early to get ready for my cosplay, braiding my hair and making sure I had every part of my costume.  My boyfriend put on his Chewbacca shirt and we were ready to go.

We arrived at the Convention Center around 10:00 and checked out the line for room 5AB, where the Sailor Moon panel was scheduled for 12:30.  There was no line, and people could just walk into the room for the first panel, which was something about Snoopy and Peanuts.  While I like Snoopy, the experience of sitting through panels I wasn't interested in on Thursday made me hesitant to go in so early.  After the Snoopy panel was a panel for the Monsters High dolls, neither of which we wanted to sit through, so we decided to see what else we could do and risk not getting into the Sailor Moon panel.

As we were walking around, I ran into another woman dressed as Endor Assault Leia!  I asked her for a photo, which she happily said yes to.  Her baby was dressed as an ewok, but was asleep in the stroller and not included in our photo.

The Marvel Animation panel was starting in 6BCF, so we headed over there and walked right in.  They premiered the first episode of the newest season of Spiderman.  We were sitting there, watching a cartoon on Saturday morning, eating cereal bars.  It was kind of perfect.

In addition to the Ultimate Spiderman: Web Warriors episode, we were shown clips of the newest seasons of Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of SMASH.  All of these shows are going to air on Disney XD, which was great to learn because we usually watch them on Netflix after they have aired.  At the end of the panel they showed an exclusive clip of a new Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon, which looks kind of awesome.

As soon as the Marvel Animation panel ended, we headed for the 5AB line.  The line was so long it was looped around the hallway, but we got in it anyway with the decision to leave if it became obvious we wouldn't get in.  The line kept filling in behind us, with many girls in Sailor Moon cosplays.  When the Monster High panel started seating, we moved around the loop and up the hallway, close enough to see the doors to the room.  I wasn't sure how many this room seated, or how many were in front of us, but I began to think we might make it in.

We ended up making it into the room for Sailor Moon, but just barely.  Maybe a dozen people after us were able to get seats?  I felt bad, so many cosplayers dressed as Sailor Scouts were left in the hall.  It was always a bummer to see obvious fans not make it into the panels they were waiting for.  We were seated in the back, but could see the screen just fine.  At the panel, the voices of Viz's Sailor Moon 90s anime redub were presented - we got to hear Sailors Mercury and Mars and Queen Beryl!  We also got to see clips of Tuxedo Mask and Luna from the redub.  

The original dub, by DiC, is what I am most familiar with.  My family didn't have internet until I was a senior in high school, so I would not have even known where to look to buy tapes of the Japanese version let alone been able to, but my friend had taped every episode, in order, off of USA and always let me borrow those.  So hearing this new dub was strange for me.  The voices are great, and have similar qualities to the original voice actors that a casual listener might not pick up the differences right away.  But they are just different enough - especially Luna, who sounds young like in the Japanese version and not like an old British lady, like in the original dub - that it feels like a dub instead of the characters' voices.  Does that make sense?

The panel was a lot of fun - the Viz representatives running the show clearly love their jobs and Sailor Moon, and the room was very enthusiastic.  I think the video clips are available online now, if anyone wants to watch.

Once the Sailor Moon panel ended, we left the Convention Center and headed to the Vikings Experience.  There was a line, but it was mostly in the shade and not too long.  At this interactive zone, fans could register on an iPad for a Viking identity.  I became Freya the Shieldmaiden.  This account was linked to a QR code that was printed on a badge you carried around the exhibit.  Once registered, you could go to hair and make-up for some scars and fake blood or a Viking hair style.  That line was the longest one at the Vikings Experience, and since I was cosplaying and my boyfriend isn't too keen on having make-up on his face, we passed.  This ended up being a good decision, because when we finished the entire zone we could see the people who were in front of us at registration were still getting their fake blood applied!

At the Vikings Experience, you took your QR badge around to three stations where you would get your photo taken.  At each station was a rack of costumes - smocks to go over your street clothes and headbands or wigs - and a crate of fake weapons, such as axes, shields, and swords.  This first station we went to was the Village Raid, where we posed with a woman dressed like the Lagertha character in shieldmaiden armor.  The background was made to look like a Norse house, and at the signal of the photographer we were asked to growl and scream at the camera and make it look like we were raiding that village.  I was complimented on my Viking yells by the people behind us in line, and learned that one of them used to do Viking reenactment like me!  How cool!

The next station we went to was the boat scene.  Part of a dragon headed Viking ship had been built, with steps into the prow, and behind it was an ocean backdrop made to look like storm tossed waves.  We put on our new costumes, grabbed our weapons, and climbed the steps to the ship.  Again, at the prompt of the photographer, we yelled at the camera and made it look like we were wild Vikings riding a stormy sea on our way to pillage new lands.  This was my favorite photo from the Vikings Experience.

At the last station, which had been the busiest when we started because everyone was heading there first, the photo was taken before a green screen.  The photographer then printed out your photo onto a poster with the rest of the show's cast, making it look like you were a new character on the show.  I forgot to look at the screen and approve my picture, so my mouth is open in a growl and I looked ridiculous, but I had a great time so I don't mind!  My boyfriend looks just like Floki from the show in his poster.

After all three stations were visited, users were emailed a video of the Vikings season 3 trailer... with the photos added in!  This was one of my most favorite things from this weekend - it is hilarious to watch this video and see our photos, with us looking like tough Vikings.  Also, after visiting all three of the photo stations, users received plastic drinking horns emblazoned with the Vikings show logo, but they had run out by the time we got there.  Booooo!  But it was the last day this exhibit was going to be open, so I'm not surprised.  These are already selling for $30.00 - $40.00 on ebay!  Crazy.  

We spent the afternoon at NerdHQ once we were finished at the Vikings Experience.  We had tickets for the "Badass Women Mystery Guests!" panel at Nerd HQ that evening and didn't want to be late.  

Earlier that weekend, someone I follow on Twitter had tweeted to complain about NerdHQ not honoring the assigned seats printed on the tickets.  I was surprised at this, but it turns out that person had not arrived until right before the panel started and everyone was already being seated - having experienced the seating layout, which uses the bleachers at Petco Park with a stage built around them, I understand why the NerdHQ staff didn't let them climb over those already seated and placed latecomers in the back.  But we had front row seats, and I wanted to at least be near the front, so I made sure we were in NerdHQ long before seating started, and ready to get in line as soon as they opened that area up for ticket holders.

We ate lunch at NerdHQ, then wandered around looking at all the exhibits.  It was crowded, so we didn't actually get to play the games, like Sonic and Alien, but we did get our photo taken at the Intel green screen booth.  With my Leia poncho on, most of my body disappeared!  Props like masks and comic-style "Pow!" effects were available to hold in the photos, so we made it look like I was a masked superhero punching my boyfriend, who held a "Pow!" sign near my fist.  It ended up pretty cool, with me being a disembodied head and fist, and the face he made.

While I was there, I was asked for my first and only cosplay photo of the day - a NerdHQ volunteer thought my costume was cool and asked for my picture!  I was so flustered and flattered that I left my stupid SDCC badge in the way!  Speaking of my costume, I'm very pleased with it.  It was very comfortable to wear - even with the shirt, vest, and poncho I didn't get overheated walking around.  The belt buckle came undone a few times, but my boyfriend safety pinned the belt to my poncho so I wouldn't lose my pouches.  And my boots ended up being really uncomfortable - the heels are kind of busted, so they were rubbing weird.  I'm sad, because I might need to throw them away.  I ended up switching to my sneakers after the Sailor Moon panel so I wouldn't get blisters, and I'm glad I did.  Other than that, the costume fit well and looked good.  My cell phone fit inside my holster perfectly, too.  And as I was wandering around the Con, I ran into a few Stormtroopers - lucky me, cosplaying as Leia on the same day the 501st is hosting a panel and taking group photos!

This Stormtrooper was cracking jokes about me being a filthy Rebel and said, "Don't talk to me about Endor. It was a dark day for the Empire."  Loved this guy!

The Badass Women panel was my favorite of the Con.  The panel included Ming-Na Wen (Agent May on SHIELD and the voice of Mulan), Missy Peregrym (Reaper, Rookie Blue), Retta (Parks and Rec), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck, 24), Jennifer Morrison (Once Upon a Time, House), and Sophie Turner (Sansa on Game of Thrones).  Zachary Levi was seated at the side of the stage, bantering with the panelists and audience, and keeping things on track (or derailing it!)

The panel was conducted as a Q&A with the audience, and I was very impressed with the questions.  No one asked Zachary Levi to do the smolder.  The conversation stayed focused on the women, their experiences as females in Hollywood, as women of color in Hollywood, how they respond to a lack of roles and the tropes that govern them, and how do they try to subvert those tropes in their work.  Personal stories were shared, each panelist explained where she got her inspiration and who she thinks of as a strong woman (I think everyone mentioned there mom/sisters, Sophie said Lena Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister on GoT, and Ming-Na said "Princess Leia" which made me happy since I was dressed as Princess Leia and obviously love that character too!)

Everyone on the panel was wonderful and had insightful answers.  But Ming-Na and Retta were absolutely perfect.  The humor among the panelists made for a relaxed atmosphere even when the discussion became personal and emotional.  It was therapeutic to experience these women, and hear them talk about relatable experiences and how they overcame sexist situations or discovered that they could say no to roles they disagreed with, or go against expectations (like parental expectations) and still have the support of their loved ones.  That last bit, when they were talking about expectations and just doing something because someone else expects it - that really hit home for me.  For a long time I've wondered if I am really getting my PhD because I want it, or because my entire relationship with my family is based on their expectation that I finish it.

One thing that really stuck with me was something Ming-Na said.  She pointed out that so many of us were dressed up, cosplaying at some point this weekend as female characters that we admire, and she reminded us that when that costume comes off we don't have to lose that strength.  We don't have to pretend to be these characters - we are strong, and confident, and whatever attributes we like about these characters that we wish we had too.  This hit me because I was cosplaying that day as Princess Leia, a character that I love, who is integral to the Star Wars storyline, who solves problems and stands up to the men and gets shit done.  I could have started crying, and almost did - last year I went through a serious bout of depression, where I felt like I was a complete waste of a person with no qualities of any worth.  I am still working on my confidence and self-worth, and there are so many female characters that I admire and try to draw inspiration from, that to hear that and remember how low I was this time last year really affected me.

So, thank you Zachary Levi, Ming-Na and the other panelists, and the staff at NerdHQ, for hosting this awesome panel.  And thank you to the audience members who asked such insightful questions.  This needs to be a panel every year.

After the Badass Women panel, we left NerdHQ and went into the Gaslamp for dinner.  We ate Indian food at Masala - Spices of India, which was delicious, then headed back to our hotel.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Chik Solo's San Diego Comic Con Adventure, part 3

Happy Guardians of the Galaxy Day!!!  Looking forward to this movie made the post-SDCC period much more tolerable.  It's nice to have something to look forward to.

Has anyone seen it yet?  We'll probably see it tonight or tomorrow night.  In years past we would have gone to the midnight release, but the last time we attempted a midnight showing we saw the first installment of the Hobbit movie and I don't know if it's because I'm older now or if it's because that movie was just so frakking long, but about halfway through I was just wishing for it to end so I could go to bed.

Now... on to part three of my Comic Con adventures!

Friday was another early start for us.  Instead of going into the Convention Center, we decided to start our day at Geek & Sundry.  On Thursday they had tweeted a photo of a line running down the block, so we made sure to arrive early.  After a quick Starbucks run, we got in the short line that had already formed outside Jolt'n Joe's.  Down the block, on the corner of 5th and J Street, bagpipes began to play and several cosplayers dressed in all sorts of costumes paraded by on their way to the Con.

When Geek & Sundry opened at 10:00 we went right in and up the stairs to the Lounge.  At the entrance was the swag table, with free posters, pins, and bookmarks.  The room to the left was filled with tables where people could play games, check out the new Microsoft Surface Pro 3, and learn more about Dragon Age: Inquisition.  To the left was a room with a bar and stage where Krosmaster: Arena, The Witcher 3, Espionage Cosmetics, and LootCrate all had booths displaying their products and offering information about the new games.  In the middle of this room were several bar tables with chairs where a variety of games were available for attendees to play, including Magic the Gathering cards, Pieces of Eight, and Smash Up.  There was also a merchandise table selling Geek & Sundry merchandise - we bought a Spellslingers t-shirt for my boyfriend - and a table where scavenger hunt prizes were being given out.  

Felicia Day came out on the stage to welcome everyone and talk about The Witcher 3, which had a demo starting.  I was nervous, but I asked her for a photo after she had finished on stage and was mingling with the guests.  She was so sweet and friendly!  I told her thank you for hosting such a great event and that we loved watching the Guild, especially the season where the Guild goes to the convention.  She said she really had fun writing and filming that season, and told us thank you for coming and to have fun.  

I spent my time at Geek & Sundry working on the scavenger hunt.  It was designed as a series of questions about the games and products being displayed at the booths, and to find the answers participants were supposed to speak with the booth representatives and Geek & Sundry volunteers about the products.  A few answers could be found on Google, but I found it easier just to chat with the booth workers.  They were all very nice and happy to help, and I made sure to actually ask questions about the product instead of just using them for answers.  As a result, I got to test run a nail decal from Espionage Cosmetics, I figured out the name of a game I wanted to buy back in December but couldn't remember (Smash Up!), and my boyfriend participated in a riddle game presented by Dragon Age: Inquisition.

I eventually finished the scavenger hunt and turned in my answers.  As a reward, I received a LootCrate, two copies of Pieces of Eight (each box contains pieces for one player), a basic deck of 2015 Magic the Gather cards, a copy of the Love Letters game, and a copy of a book titled Glass Houses from the Morganville Vampires series.  This was the most free stuff we got all weekend, and we are really itching to start up a LootCrate subscription now.

After a couple of hours at Geek & Sundry, we decided to head to the Convention Center to get in line for the Outlander panel.  When we got in line it was down the hall, outside under the tents, down the stairs, and around the side of the Convention Center.  I was worried we wouldn't make it into the panel, but the two preceding panels were for My Little Pony and Gravity Falls, and I hoped that the Bronies and little kids who were probably in the panels wouldn't stick around for a super sexy book/TV series like Outlander.  We figured out that as long as we were inside by the time the Gravity Falls panel started we would probably make it into the room - and I was right.  We were on the terrace under the tents by the time My Little Pony started, and the line continued to move as people realized they were missing their desired panel and decided to leave.  By the time Gravity Falls started, we were immediately outside the room, with only a few people in front of us.

We made friends with the girls in line ahead of us - I forget their names, except for Jess (?) who was dressed as a Cobra Commando and looked really frakking awesome.  It was so neat to listen to her talk about how she sourced the parts of her uniform.  It was fun to chat about Outlander with them, how far we had each got in the series (another girl was stuck in the middle of Fiery Cross like me!), and if we were going to the premiere of the TV show that night.

When the Gravity Falls panel ended, we went right in and sat down.  The excitement in the room was intense - you could tell a fair portion of the attendees were there specifically for Outlander.  However, the kids sitting behind me were not.  They talked through the entire panel about how hungry they were and what they wanted on their burgers.  I eventually had enough and asked them to keep it down, to which they responded with a loud and sarcastic, "No."  Assholes.  I don't care if you don't care about this panel, if you are in the room you need to respect the professionals on stage whose work is being presented and the fans in the audience who want to listen to the discussion.  I later learned those kids were waiting through the Outlander panel for the Bates' Motel panel that was on after.

The Outlander panel was fantastic.  I really enjoyed seeing clips from the show, and appreciated the way Diana Gabaldon answered the fans' questions about her feelings about the show and how her material might be altered.  Her reply was that TV is a different medium than a book, that things sometimes need to be changed from the original source material to fit that medium, and that no matter what this show does her original story in the books will still be there - if a scene is altered, cut, or added it's not going to change the books or bastardize the source material.  I think a lot of Game of Thrones/ ASOIAF fans could benefit from a similar message - even though I prefer the books, I sure don't get bent out of shape when the show is different.

Someone asked Ronald D. Moore about how faithful he will be to the source material, and criticized the end of Battlestar Galactica in the process, saying how Moore took it out into left field and how different it was from the original series.  Moore replied by saying that BSG was a reimagining, and that it was never going to be a copy of the original series and he stands by his work.  He then pointed out that while that was a reimagining, Outlander is a series that is going to be an adaptation - so while some things may be changed to fit TV better, it is going to follow the story set forth by the books.

Another question asked about how well the actors fit Diana Gabaldon's vision of her characters.  She replied that they weren't what she imagined, but that's not the point - actors are no the living embodiment of characters but are instead working to present an interpretation of them.  I thought that was brilliant - far too often we, as fans, expect an actor to be the character made flesh, so we complain if they look different than we imagined or play a scene different from how we envisioned the book.  Instead we need to remember that this is just one possible way to present the story.  Personally, my Jamie is like a red-headed version of the Disney Beast once he becomes the human Prince again, sort of Brendan Fraser-esque or maybe Chris Hemsworth.  I also occasionally picture everything in an anime style... But is Sam pretty damned perfect?  Yes.  Yes he is.  Gods, is he perfect.  I can't wait for next week... hngghhhhhh...

Post card sized print outs were distributed at the panel that informed attendees of that evening's TV premiere and included details about how to get tickets.  Some tickets were given away online through a contest (I didn't win), while other tickets were going to be distributed to the line at the theater.  I thought about going, but we wanted to see the Vikings panel more and having the print out wasn't a guaranteed ticket, though it may have said it was needed to receive one?

The Bates' Motel panel followed the Outlander panel.  I don't watch Bates' Motel, so I kind of zoned out.  It was funny to see Freddie Highmore there, since just ten years ago I was watching him in Finding Neverland and now he's all grown up.  The cast clearly enjoys their work, but the footage shown during the panel was more of an attempt at humor than a preview of the coming season (eg. a "new title sequence" made in the style of Arrested Development and a scripted short supposed to depict the actors' video auditions for their roles), and there was little deep discussion of the characters and events and how they have developed over the previous seasons.  The best question was from someone who was a fan of the Psycho movie that this series is adapted from, asking if Easter egg style references to the Hitchcock movie would be included throughout the series and how the show reconciles with fans who struggle to see how this series fits with the original movie.  Unfortunately, the answer was a dodge by the producer or whoever, basically explaining that this series was not meant to be faithful to the movie and that referencing the source material would be distracting to viewers.  I would have liked to see that question handled a bit more like Ronald D. Moore handled a similar question, which I describe above, rather than the dismissal the questioner received.  I think Bates' Motel is available on Netflix.  I might watch it if I get through some other series I want to see, but I wish the panel had been less ridiculous and jokey.

After Bates' Motel came the panel for the History Channel's Vikings.  The panel included the series creator, Michael Hirst, and the cast - Travis Fimmel (Ragnar), Clive Standen (Rollo), Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha), and Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn).  Lagertha is easily one of my favorite characters, not only on this show but ever, and I might have fangirled hard when Katheryn Winnick came on stage...

The panel was excellent.  A trailer for the third season was shown, the cast discussed filming in Ireland and the relationships between their characters, and there was lots of love for Katheryn and Lagertha in the Q&A portion of the panel, along with several questions about the battle scenes (as a former live-steel Dark Age reenactor, I loved hearing about the battle scenes).  During the panel tickets were distributed for a prize from the fulfillment room.  

Once the Vikings panel was over, we decided to go to the exhibit hall again to participate in Blizzard's #LootCrazy giveaway.  Con attendees could tweet a photo of something Blizzard had collaborated on with another company, such as the Blizzard statues at Sideshow Collectables or the Warcraft movie props at the Legendary booth, with the hashtag #LootCrazy, and would be given a random prize from the Diablo III Treasure Goblin's pack.

On Friday my boyfriend and I each received a little Tyrael figure from Diablo III.  I had originally got another character, but a little girl who was also there for #LootCrazy had received Tyrael and wanted to trade.  I don't even know which character I got to start - someone from Starcraft? - and since the girl had been hoping for a pin and I know and like Tyrael, I figured why not?  It was so funny, as soon as I had my prize she just held out her hand with her Tyrael in it.  I hesitated a moment, then laughed and said, "Sure."  She seemed surprised that I was going to actually trade with her!  I hope she's happy and that she found the pin she had been hoping to receive.

After #LootCrazy, we bought two light-up Hearthstone plushies at the Blizzard booth and then wandered the floor a bit.  We eventually wound up at the Outlander display, which was a giant booth made to look like Castle Leoch from the books.

Outside the castle was a picnic scene from the 1940s, and a missing poster nailed to a tree offering a reward for information about Claire Beauchamp Randall.  All around the booth were women dressed in 1940s garb and cute guys wearing Outlander shirts... and KILTS!!!  Awww, yeah!

After waiting in line, the booth workers scanned the bar code on everyone's SDCC badges and fans could pull a paper listing a random prize from a basket.  I pulled a cell phone sticker while my boyfriend pulled a bandanna - but I took both!  Bwa-hahaha!  But I'm the Outlander fan, anyway, and I don't even have a new iPhone that could use the sticker I pulled while he does... so I actually offered to trade him first!  I might put the sticker on my bagpipes case!  Inside the castle was done up to look like Claire's surgery at Castle Leoch, with jars and drying herbs everywhere.  Some booth workers were stationed inside, dressed in 1740s costumes, but they didn't engage us as we looked around so I'm not sure if there was more to it or if it was all just an elaborate giveaway.

Once we left the exhibit hall, we walked to the Hyatt to redeem our Vikings panel tickets.  On our way there we passed the Vikings Experience, an offsite interactive area where fans could dress up like Vikings and have their photo taken in various scenarios.  Unfortunately they had closed the line for the day, but they were going to be open Saturday so we decided to come back.  They were also giving away free Vikings comics, and we grabbed one.

Last year the Vikings fulfillment room prize had been a comic... so as we left the Vikings Experience and headed to the Hyatt, I wondered if we had just received a copy of this year's fulfillment room prize and was it worth it to go all the way to the Hyatt?  

Turns out, I was right.  When we got to the fulfillment room and approached the Vikings desk, we saw piles of the same comic sitting there!  I laughed, held up the comic, and told the girl working that they were giving these away at the off-site interactive zone!  She laughed, said, "Oh no!  Thank you for telling me!" and told me to take a few more copies anyway.  So I did - my sister's husband likes Vikings, and I'll give him one.

By that time we were hungry and exhausted, so we went to Jolt'n Joe's for dinner.  That night was the Geek & Sundry Magic the Gathering fan party, and as we ate we watched people line up for it down the block.  The line wasn't too long once we had finished, so we decided to try to get in with the plan to bail if we were in line for over 30 minutes without much movement.  But we got in within 10 minutes!

Inside Geek & Sundry was packed.  We finally made our way to the bar and ordered two of the Magic the Gathering mana themed cocktails - I had blue and my boyfriend had green.  His tasted like a melon ball, while mine was similar to a fish bowl, with blue curacao and coconut rum.  Once we got our drinks we headed to the patio to hang out.  We chatted to some cosplayers about their costumes, and I spanked a green inflatable monkey.

There were goody bags containing Magic cards and dice that we received.  Seriously, as far as the swag we got, Geek & Sundry was the absolute BEST.

We would have stayed longer and danced, but the floor was full of people and we still had our backpacks.  We had played with the idea of dumping them at our hotel, but worried about how long that would take.  After about an hour, we left and went back to the hotel for the night.

Up next: Cosplay day!  I debut my Endor Assault Leia costume at Comic Con and become a Viking!