Ted Talks: “Squidman LIVES!”

It’s a banner week here in the home offices of the Manifesto because it marks the second full week without Rutherford (Mr. gasbag will return next week) and the second written contribution by one of our valued constant readers.  This time it’s friend of the blog and master of the speeder-bike Ted Andes, who will be sharing his recent experiences at the biggest convention in the United States.  The series is titled “Ted Talks” but that’s a little optimistic on my part, Ted has not committed to anything more than this one-shot essay, but after reading these anecdotes I hope he considers it.  You may remember Ted from  his many popular models such as “Intrepid”Trail Blazer and my personal favorite, “Hammerhead”.  Without any further ado, take it away Ted!

“Over the hills, and far away…”

I’m guessing most of you at this stage have read an article or two about attending a LEGO Con, or perhaps you have been to one yourself.  I just got back from BrickWorld Chicago 2017, and I thought I’d share some interesting anecdotes of my own… from the perspective of a middle-aged AFOL.

35395528156_fef777d77c_o.jpg(“World of Lights” Photo courtesy of Patty )

“You’ll always remember your first time.”

BrickWorld 2016 was the first LEGO Con I ever attended.  I always thought that BrickCon would be my first someday, but once my eyes became locked into BrickWorld’s “come hither” gaze, it was destiny.  She was only a short-ish 5-hour’s drive away, and holding out for a cross-country romance with BrickCon was just living in a dream world…  sorry to leave you “Sleepless in Seattle”, BC.

I didn’t think I’d actually ever attend a LEGO Con in reality.  As a married dude, I always try to sync my vacation days with my wife’s so we can take those fun trips together to faraway lands (I hear Matango Island is beautiful in the spring…).  She’s not into the hobby, so dragging her with me to a LEGO Con would always be an impossible sell.

When she took a new job last year, all of a sudden I had a ton of extra vacation days piled up compared to her (I had been saving some in case we needed to relocate).  I had days to burn.  The one week that she said would be best for me to take a solo vacation coincided with BrickWorld 2016.  Wait, what!? Once I made that realization, just 6-weeks before BW and on the last day you could request a display table, it was crunch time.  After some prodding from Simon Liu, I pulled together an impromptu speederbike collab for BrickWorld. Christopher Hoffmann and others joined the cause, and fun was had by all…

“She let you come back!?”

When you finally do get to the Con, and meet so many people that you had only known through the various on-line LEGO social networks, it is just like seeing some old friends again.  You cast aside your better judgement and stay up until at least 3am each “night”, chatting, drinking (if you’re of drinking age), and eventually partaking in general mischief.  I won’t divulge all of the BrickWorld shenanigans that go on, because there are just some things you “dear readers” are not allowed to live vicariously through (get your butt to a Con!)…

…and also, because I’d like to be allowed to go back again.  At BW16, I accidentally “butt-dialed” my wife at 4am after one of “those nights”.  I was trying to set my phone alarm so I wouldn’t sleep through hotel check out (which I did anyway).  Through some 1-in-a-million chance, I hit the option to dial back the most recent number.  Ugh.  I really am surprised she let me come back again this year.  Lessons definitely learned, and I was a saint at BW17… honest. I even joined the Pub Scouts…

“Psst… Is he your son?”

BW17 was my second Con in a row where someone had innocently inquired “Is he your son?” about an AFOL builder standing next to me.  As a married dude with no kids, it’s a harsh reality check (dude, you’re soooo old now!).  Christopher was my “son #1” at BW16, and then Rocco Buttliere became “son #2” this year… At least when I hang out with Tyler Halliwell at BrickWorld, our height difference doesn’t beg that question…

Workshops and Presentations

I didn’t get around to attending many workshops or presentations this year, but I did make it a point to “Paint with Mel” Finelli.  Why?  Well, why not?  … P.S.  SQUIDMAN LIVES!!!

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 “FEED THAT MONSTER!”

Awards… oh my.  First off – go back and read the “Fire for Effect” article “Give me the prize!” “Give me the Prize”.  Here’s what I said in the comments: “Guess what? I am also for the poorly defined, WTF-judged competitions too, as long as you know that it’s WTF up-front…”  Well, BW17 awards nominations delivered in the “WTF?” category once again.

The elephant in the room is that I had TWO MOC nominations in the “Best Land Vehicle” category; One for “Mr. Mechtorian’s Mobile Menagerie” which was voted as the eventual winner, and the other for “The Aerie” Mobile Launch Tower.  The first nomination was the one I had hoped to get.  The 2nd build I was certainly proud of (the thing is oozing SNOT), but lord knows which category it really belonged in, if any. I just mounted the tower onto tank treads because I thought it looked cool, and prepared for another “N-4-N” year (Nominated 4 Nuthin’).

Usually at BW, it is one nomination per category, per person.  So why did this “space oddity” of two nominations happen?  From what I hear, the nomination process for BrickWorld is as unnecessarily complex as one of Rube Goldberg’s machines , so who can say?  I chalk it up to it being the first-time BW used electronic balloting. The voting pages for most categories only showed MOC pictures at the top, then the MOC names with voting buttons at the bottom; No builder’s names. Perhaps if they included them, they would have caught the double-dip and things wouldn’t have gone down that way.

Gil Chagas  and Caleb Wagoner’s vehicles were both certainly worthy of nomination…Gil’s MOC was old-ish but it was still new to BW.

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Caleb’s Honda Civic (I mean Subaru WRX) has yet to be uploaded to his photo-stream, but here is a shot courtesy of Nick Brick.

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There were also some other mysterious nominations in the both the replica and group display categories as well… but I wasn’t involved, and who cares at this stage, right?… well….

“Ride the Tiger”

Some BW parents would tell you (repeatedly) that all of their kid’s creations were worthy of nomination.  I had to listen to so many stories about last year’s injustices, then the primping and preening of their kids for when the judges came by to pick the nominations this year, then the pimping of their kids for face time with the various YouTube podcasters (you’re a saint for putting up with that, Mr. Hanlon)…  Newsflash! The parents are hella serious about their kid’s builds, and the nominations!  Otherwise, their special snowflakes might melt!

I took my chances this year, and let random fate determine my display table locations… and I was surrounded by some great examples of this Little-League, helicopter-parent dynamic.   Just wish they would have had the courtesy to bring some orange slices…

“The kids are alright…”

“Tiger Moms” aside, the great thing about this hobby is that as builders, we are all peers regardless of our ages.  There are some really great, unsung teen builders out there (and with great parents).  I ended up chatting with a lot with them, and chatting with their parents too… most of which were my age anyway.  Damn, I really AM old!  Shout outs to #1 Nomad  Kingdomviewbricks and  John Imp , and their cool parents that offered me some pizza slices and spicy beef sticks.  Who needs orange slices?…  Respect.

Also, a shout out to Digger, my #1 BrickWorld fan. I met him last year, as he really loved the speeder-bike rally. I took the time to hang out, and show him how I put together some of the different models.  When I ran into him again this year, he had a big smile on his face. “Mr. Andes! I hoped you’d be back again this year. Can I show you the speeder-bikes I built?”…  Heck yeah!… but please. Call me Ted.

“I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone….”

“There was no train station. There was no downtown… My city had been pulled down, reduced to parking spaces”.  So my primary co-collaborator on the Great Steambug Migration had to leave early Sunday morning, and to my surprise took their town backdrop with them. I’ll just say that I didn’t need any caffeine to wake up.  That woke me up just fine.

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It was their 1st con, and they weren’t aware of the rule that you can’t take down displays before the end of public hours.  For my collabs, I always come prepared just in case something happens or someone backs out last-minute, so “no-harm, no foul”. I bring this story up not to vilify, as I have much love for my co-collaborator, but just to say “stuff happens” at a con… and that “stuff” provides the perfect fertilizer in which things can grow….

“We can rebuild! We have the technology.”

I had brought enough spare brick to build an impromptu backdrop.  No reason to get distraught.  I got started “building that wall”, and then Gil comes over to say good-morning.  He sees the situation, and offers to help out… then comes Tyler H. … and then Michael (aka Kingdomviewbricks).  Soon we had four people doing a speed-build backdrop of a ruined ant-farm wall.  Crisis averted, and friendships built ever stronger…

In fact, if you aren’t helping someone else rebuild/improve their MOC’s at a LEGO Con, then you are really missing the point. I helped at least 5 people myself this year, at least that I can recall.  Sometimes it’s providing those few extra technic pins to snap together display sections (which also repairs your personal relations with a LUG).  Sometimes it’s helping a person rebuild a MOC that was completely obliterated on the trip there (yes, I’m talking about you, Sci-fi Dude).  Sometimes it is helping the displayer you are sharing ½ a table with, who is jamming plates onto his MOC so hard that it topples over your own builds time and again.  Turns out that the guy only had the use of one of his arms due to an accident, so rather than get mad I lent him the two of mine…  If building is fun for you, then there should be no hesitation in helping the people around you build anyway (and no hesitation to accept that help when offered to you).  Dig in!

“Duplo green” is people!

As much as a LEGO Con may seem like it’s about the brick connections, it’s really about the personal connections we make.  That is what you will remember most in the aftermath.  Our ubiquitous friend Simon Liu gets that.  He lives that.  That’s why he is involved in seemingly every sci-fi collab project at BrickWorld, and countless more at other Cons and on Flickr.  That’s also why the green DUPLO of ToroLUG always has such a hive of activity buzzing around it… and like most people there, they will always make room to add one more connection (i.e. you) to the pile…Leg Godt!

(…and shout-outs to all of those people I didn’t call out by name – a person should only do so much name dropping in one article…)

22 thoughts on “Ted Talks: “Squidman LIVES!”

  1. I would have loved to revisit Brickworld this year, but unfortunately there was too much going on at work. I will be in Seattle later this year, though (hint, hint).

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    1. It’s always on my calendar, but right now I have a travel conflict… would be a last-minute trip if I could pull it off. Unlikely at this stage…

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      1. I’m torn on whether I want to witness the carnage or just avoid it entirely. My wife tells me that our budgets may leave me no choice in the matter, but we’ll see…

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  2. Well, unfortunately, a new job that will be milked for the years to come and a wifey that up and left after ten years at that same job (I wasn’t the cause) prevented me from going this year. I have, however, committed to BW18 come hell or high water!

    Seeing what I missed Lego build wise made me drool to get out there, seeing how much my heart and mind missed the interaction with my friends put me in a funk. Not the good Bootsy, Bernie, George, P-funk funk, but the “what the fuck did I miss out on and why did I let my life get in the way” funk. Trolling the floor with you and Tyler was a pure joy and revelation. I knew Tyler and I had a similar mind set regarding critique and objective criticism, but having you join in and offer brilliant points just proved me right about having as many eyes on any form of expression will ALWAYS help. We couldn’t have met at a better time for such a rich impromptu go through, perhaps it was that espresso vodka, but seeing other builders like yourself quickly engage and understand raises my hopes that this hobby is more than the sum of its parts. And that personal, up close, within striking distance interaction is vital to this expansion of the art form. The interwebs is one thing, the cons are what it’s all about! We are a community, as such we need to commune. A device screen don’t hack it, cons with shit-tons of alcohol are the only way. All the veils drop, all the icon buddies disappear, all the handles get reduced into a brick badge. An actual human stands in front of you, and they are offering a blessing, a build for you to enjoy (or, in certain cases make fun of. 😀 Or point out that the collab looks like an untended grave with a bumpy, white headstone. Hmm, maybe it was a good thing that I wasn’t there this year. 😉 )

    I loved your point about the ALWAYS NECESSARY improvisation within every collab. I think the smoothest I ever saw a collab go together was our 80 Days, and that required a ton of reworking with the mosaics and several sections. I found that part to actually be the most fun; the on-the-fly, balls-to-the-wall, go-for-it attitude is genuinely exhilarating. And deliciously addictive. Watching people drop their pretenses about the final vision isn’t compromise, it’s full on cooperation. Everyone opens up to EVERY idea and considers it fully regardless of who actually suggests it. It happens every time, and it is a wonderful thing to not only witness but also be a part of. Rules be damned, fun be had! Listen to OUR music.

    Great article, Ted. I hope there are more to come!

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    1. Thanks man. One thing you just reminded me of is that for the most part, these cons aren’t static year after year. Sure, the Brickworld Mainstays like spaceSHIP Sparticus, area 51, and Castle Goldschlagger are bound return, but don’t take for granted that who/what you saw last year will return the next. I remember seeing pics of the BW displays that the dynamic duo of NannanZ and Legohaulic would conjure, and you just assumed you could always catch their next show next year… nope. Many times it’s just like building sand castle by the sea. Here today, gone tomorrow… And for next year, maybe they decide go to the mountains instead.

      And Dale’s Goldcrest actually had a disaster of it’s own. I guess he was having work done to his truck, and the mechanic decided to test the brakes… And the castle layout was in the attached trailer. Crash, boom, bang. He was in good spirits about it, the perfect opportunity to change up the display a bit.

      Despite missing a few folks like you, Christopher, and DeathDog Dennis, who couldn’t make the return trip, I did get to meet a bunch of new folks I didn’t expect to see there; Gil, Maddison, ROOK, Legohaulic, Mr. Mayo, eldeeem, Iain wearing a yellow body suit….

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      1. Ted, that was an excellent article!

        I like the way you move from topic to topic quickly and clearly. You kept it very succinct, but still provided a lot of detail. It’s a hard balance, but I think you nailed it.

        It would be epic if we could get two AFOLs write pieces about the same fest. If they had radically different experiences, that would only make it mo-bettah, especially for the discussion phase of the article. I mean… it has to be possible right? Some people go to a fest and love it, and others go and have a miserable time. I guess the hard part would be in getting the two people to actually write down and present there thoughts. Getting anybody to speak frankly about unpleasant experiences is always hard… plus, MOST people enjoy MOST of any fest they go to. Maybe getting input from an older AFOL and a TFOL, about the same fest. A chance to compare perspectives would make for good reading.

        That bit about tiger moms is pure gold man. God save us from the “my little genius” crowd. Kids are smart, and often amongst the best builders, make no mistake about that… but the pageant parents… I had a mom tell me that she felt it was unfair to expect her child to compete against all these grown men.

        You framed the reality quite well. They way you put it, once we are on the ground, at the fest, with MOCs on tables… then we are all peers. All fellow builders. That’s an excellent mindset. Like gladiators in the arena. Nobody cares as much about the road that brought you there. For this brief fest moment, language, age, race, gender… all those factors can recede for a moment (if we let them).

        Great stuff man.
        Attack!

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      2. Thanks. The endorsement is much appreciated…

        I think the only people who might not have had a great time are those people/parents hung up on the awards nominations. The kid of the one parent that complained about them not getting a nom last year actually got one this year… And then they were bitter about him not winning…. I kept trying to channel Jack Black in “School of Rock” in these conversations; it’s not about winning the “battle-of-the-bands”, it’s about putting on a great show – “One great rock show can change the word!”. Connect with the people that really dig it (like I did with Digger). Sometimes a calm would come over them and they’d get it, and when it didn’t it would provide a great closing statement to extract myself from the conversation…

        Shout out to Markus “Rolli” as well. Was great to finally meet him, and man, can that guy build!

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  3. Thanks again Ted for coming through with this article, it’s just the kind of convention coverage I find so sadly lacking on other blogs. Back in the day it was very common to see builders (especially on MOCpages) post after-action-reviews, highlighting their experiences both good and bad, but that seems to have gone the way of constructive criticism. In my brief year blogging at TBB I can acutely remember being told by the editor that “The numbers and the comments show that nobody likes convention articles, people feel jealous that they weren’t there and only really care about the big models that were debuted”. That attitude was so diametrically opposed to my way of thinking that it still baffles me to this day. I think your article is EXACTLY the kind of coverage that should be encouraged and I think there is no better advertisement and encouragement to readers out there who are considering going to a con, but are hesitant for whatever reason. Even though I was not in attendance, you made me feel like I was….some convention boilerplate is timeless, so kudos for a job well done.

    The section that resonated with me the most was the ““We can rebuild! We have the technology.”…not just because I’m a Lee Majors apologist and Oscar Goldman was the only cool pop culture Goldman in existence. Some of my fondest convention memories are very similar to the ones you describe in that paragraph: helping other people fix their models, lending a hand and engaging with people you never knew before attending the show. I can picture your wall-building session perfectly, because I’ve been through similar situations myself. When Mike and I brought HUB-14 to Seattle it looked to be a disaster early on because Rutherford’s contribution was reduced to rubble in shipment and my own section had just as much trouble with me relying on nothing but my faulty memory to get things reconstructed from box after box of “modules”. Luckily everyone pitched in and the resulting bond from somehow making it work was a huge part of the fellowship that surrounded that collaboration. So let me echo what you said in the article, when in doubt…lend a hand to your fellow builder, you never know what good things will come from the interaction.

    In general I dig kids, they are great and I certainly endorse both of mine, but at Lego conventions I tend to hate them. They can be sugared up little “geniuses” who have clearly never been told “no” in their lives.

    Lastly, I was lucky enough to go to BrickWorld in 2010 and it was a really good time, I’d love to get back there because I can’t quite imagine going to a convention with 1000 registered attendees. That number boggles my mind! By contrast, the first con I attended in 2003 had about 40 registered builders. On the one hand you can meet everyone, but you can also see every model in like 20 minutes. I hope to get out there next year and hang with you and the other usual suspects.

    Great article Ted, it was in turns, funny, informative and always entertaining. I hope it’s not the last!

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    1. “1000 registered attendees. That number boggles my mind!”

      I second that emotion. I have gotta see this! Swim in the big pond! 1000! What the hell man!

      Also, again, this article IS ABSOLUTE DOPE! Totally interesting comments from a source who is not “Wedded” to the success of the event. It’s not a commercial, or a tract… it’s just an assessment of the event, provided in excellent detail.

      Rock on!

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  4. Forgot to mention…as far as awards go, BrickWorld was the convention that kind of killed my interest in them, or at least cemented my firm belief that the process is more often than not, screwed up. In 2010 I brought the Vic Viper memorial fly-in to memorialize the passing of Nnenn (Nate Nielson) and I was treated with what can most charitably be described as indifference from Brian Bonahoom and others. When it came time to announce the best collaborative display nominees the fly-in was not even listed as an option. I thought it was kind of heartless for a convention that’s supposed to be all about the community to completely overlook the memorial both on the ballot and in the closing ceremony remarks. I couldn’t even get any traction from Chairman Zhang, the Sci-Fi coordinator, who was too busy selling his own model to actually care about what was going on around him. I actually had to fight (rhetorically) other builders for my allotted table space. I still managed to have a good time at the convention but as for awards….not so much.

    You’ve got to take the good with the bad, but that one was hard to swallow and turned me off Brickworld for years.

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    1. Most of the grief you highlight is resultant of the culture of “anti-formality” which characterizes most AFOL endeavors.

      Alot of the crap I rail on about in FFE is meant to mitigate experiences like what we saw in Chi-town in 2010. But it’s a lot of concepts that most AFOLs dismiss as so much micro-managy fascist “Roberts Rules of Order” type bull shit. Its the kind of stuff that makes peoples eyes role back in their heads… but which really does impact the AFOLs experience of a fest. (Oddly, the same could be said for HVAC at any given fest venue… totally uninteresting… but necessary for everybody’s comfort).

      1. Fest organizers competing with other attendees for awards (conflict of interest).
      2. Confusing honorific titles with actual jobs. (i.e. assigning highly visible administrative jobs to somebody on the basis of popularity without also assigning another guy to really DO the work).
      3. Ambiguous, opaque, or non-existent awards categories, selection criteria, or philosophy.

      And on and on…

      That said, I will also observe that the web page for Chi-Town this year was THE BEST web page I have seen for ANY fest to date! The organization of the information was excellent. And the depth of information was without president. I mean, I was thinking of questions while I looked at the page… and literally finding the answers in a few minutes. They actually took the time to lay out all those nagging questions about registering a MOC by itself… or if it’s part of a collab… or if it’s part of a combined effort… and and and…

      I give them their props for the info page. It was really good!

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      1. Oh awards. The narcissistic ambrosia of builders everywhere.

        For what it’s worth I’ve seen a pretty wide spectrum of awards and award methodology. From pure ballot, to judge nominated and voted, to theme coordinators judging their theme to the epically disastrous coordinators picking their own friends, or anyone other than people they don’t like….

        Chicago in the past few years has done a pretty good job, though that job transitioned this year causing a few hilarious hiccups: double noms (not against rules, but rare especially when Gil and Caleb’s civic were so fucking awesome) or mom’s without a cards, and subsequently attributed to the wrong builder – despite the builders name literally built into side of the build….

        Oh the trolling we shall do next year.

        But I should also point out, and that people tend to forget that the people that run these cons aren’t necessarily indifferent to the online crowds and whims, it’s that they actually have no real clue what goes on there. they only kind of see the end result of some online activity when we physically bring it there. So the slights I feel are more Bryan had no fucking clue who and what you were doing and why it’s such a big deal and big slight to those in the online community ….

        I’m also officially proposing Bw2018: VV park and fly collab.

        Bring your VV.
        We’ll build the parking lot.

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  5. Teddy boy. What a great recap!
    Really nice way to round out another great con.

    I do find it interesting how you effectively forced yourself to meet new people by virtue of random tabling. It’s actually a good idea as its slightly less awkward than going up to people and be like: so.is this your build? It’s pretty cool”….

    And as always it is the people that make the difference. Though I think most people realize that now, so it’s good to see more people realize the magic of the onsite building.
    One of my fondest memories was first BW and building a shitty volcano at 2am in the morning and just random people dropping by and helping with rock work…..

    Yeah and Ted, you need to get over your draft anxieties and come to a SimonDraft!

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    1. QUOTE: “I do find it interesting how you effectively forced yourself to meet new people by virtue of random tabling. It’s actually a good idea as its slightly less awkward than going up to people and be like: so.is this your build? It’s pretty cool”….

      Along this table assignment theme, it could be cool to take a “Big Brothers / Big Sisters” approach, and have strong Orphan builders assigned to display table sections with interested up-in-coming youth… It feels like the dynamic I actually had going by default in good ol’ “section 91″…

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      1. Brilliant!
        The path to a strong community future is along the backs of TFOLs. Keeping them engaged and welcome is food for the community. It’s why I always make sure I / or someone run a good TFOL round table and make sure they get quality time and pepper nourishment..

        But The coordination of this would be difficult.

        But has merit.

        Hmmm. We would need an insider to fudge the table requests.

        Or we can try and identify up and Comers and simply invite them into the fold.

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      2. One option on ‘coordination’ could be for the Big Brother / Big Sister to request a table and have a “BB/BS” placed in the name. Then just ask them (the insider) to try to have only one BB/BS person per table section…

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      3. The BB/BS model a really interesting concept, as you mentioned though, I wonder how much of a headache it would be to organize. Maybe it would be an option you signed up for during registration? It would definitely take a forward-thinking convention organizer to take on the project and steer it through the initial rapids.

        Random tabling can lead to some epic encounters, even when you end up with somebody who isn’t exactly compatible or even friendly. Some of my most memorable convention memories involve local weirdos with limited social skills.

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  6. Hey Keith! Mike sent me to your blog, pretty interesting stuff! I’m reading through the whole thing, takes time… 😀 Ah conventions, sweet memories of crushed builds, talking with aspergers and buying overpriced figs…

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    1. Right on Tom, thanks for checking out the blog, I hope you stick around because we’re always up for new voices in the comments section and the articles. I think you summarized the average con with startling efficiency.

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  7. I love the focus on interactions over the builds in this feature; that’s what conventions are all about. I actually forgot that I was your “son” last year and got a chuckle out of reading that bit. I wish I was able to go this year, but my job just won’t allow it while school is still in full session here. I will be heading down to BFVA before visiting home for a bit though and I hope to see some of you there.* Simon has already voluntold me to write up something about that (if you’ll have me, Keith) since it’ll be my first time there. Could bring up some differences between American conventions and the one I recently attended here in Japan as well.

    *Incidentally, I’ve got a double room booked at the venue with no roommate yet, so if anyone still needs accommodation hit me up.

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