Debrief: Dragon Con 2021

Debrief: Dragon Con 2021
Atlanta, GA – September 2 through September 6, 2021

Just like that, Dragon Con 2021 is in the books! And, wow, it was a weird year.

Attendance was reported at 42,000 and you could definitely feel it. Thanks to the pandemic precautions – proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test along with a 100 percent masking requirement – and attendance caps (including limits on daily sales), the crowds were significantly thinner. Let me tell you, though, I could get used to an attendance cap at Dragon Con. Maybe 65,000 to 70,000 in normal times?

Despite the smaller crowds, we did a lot of good work this year for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, raising $120,000 for that charity. That’s $10,000 more than we pulled together in 2019 with just over double the weekend crowd.

It was also a getaway that I really needed. With everything that’s been going on recently, I needed to see the geek family and get my mind orbiting around a lot of fun and creative things. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve missed these people.

It’s important to note that the Marriott and Hyatt were flooded with partiers at night who weren’t wearing face masks. It seemed that, once the sun went down, enforcement went out the window. Since I’m seeing several reports of attendees popping positive for COVID-19, panelists who refused to wear masks on panels, and vendors who went unmasked at their booths, I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone get tested for COVID-19 (both rapid and PCR if you can) and limit the spread as much as possible in the meantime.

There were a lot of naked respiratory orifices at Dragon Con 2021. Far. Too. Many.

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Culture on My Mind – Dragon Con Shenanigans 2021

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Dragon Con Shenanigans 2021
September 2, 2021

The Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track recently spent some time telling the good tales about Dragon Con and teasing a bit of what’s to come this year.

I joined Sue Kisenwether, ToniAnn Marini, Denise Lhamon, Jeff Burns, Sherman Burris, Darin Bush, Chris Cummins, Kevin Eldridge, and John Hudgens to… well… geek out. 

 


If you want to keep up with the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track in the off-season, the best ways to do that are on the YouTube channel and the Facebook group. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch. (Be sure to authorize StreamYard to work with Facebook if you play that way.)

If you want to join us for real life panels, we’ll be at Dragon Con 2021 over Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Donald Blane Cox – October 12, 1956 – August 22, 2021

Donald Blane Cox
October 12, 1956 – August 22, 2021

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[Reprinted from the public obituary, courtesy of the Cook Family Funeral Home]

Donald Blane Cox, 64, of Silverdale, Washington, peacefully passed away on Sunday, August 22nd after a life well lived, if all too short. Born in Willet, California to Donald Duane Cox and Edna Hatch, Blane primarily grew up in Utah where he married his high school sweetheart, Tish.

Blane was talented in anything that he pursued in life. He had a passion for many things including woodwork and architecture, and he was always seeking perfection. He designed and built a home while simultaneously helping out with several projects initiated by family and friends. He loved to laugh with people and would often respond to the question “Do you mind?” with “Seldom, if ever.” With a quick mind, he would readily poke fun at a situation or even himself. Blane was an avid outdoorsman and loved to be among nature’s beauty while hiking, fishing, camping, or simply seeing the sights.

In his career, he did many things to support his family. He built boats at Starfire and then HydroSwift, performed aircraft maintenance at Hill Air Force Base and worked for the United States Navy in supply before transferring to sub maintenance. It was there that he worked up to supervisor over four maintenance shops.

Blane is survived by his wife, his sister, five sons, three daughters, five grandchildren, and a large extended family, including his dear friends. He will be sorely missed.


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Rabbit Rabbit – September 2021

Rabbit Rabbit
September 2021

Rabbit, rabbit!

Since at least 1909, a superstition has lived in North American and the United Kingdom that if a person says or repeats the word “rabbit” upon waking up on the first day of the month, good luck will follow for the remainder of that month.

Elements of the tradition exist in the United Kingdom, New England, and even in various First Nation cultures.

While I’m not necessarily endorsing the superstition, it provides a way to look in depth at each month of the year, from history and observances to miscellaneous trivia. The topic this month is September.

History

September, deriving from the Latin for “seven”, was originally the seventh month in the original ten-month Roman calendar. When the calendar was reformed to add January and February, September became the ninth month.

September is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is also the start of the academic year in many countries of the northern hemisphere, marking the season when children return to school after the summer break.

Roman observances for September include the religious festival Ludi Romani, originally celebrated from September 12th to September 14th, but later extended to the window of September 5th to September 19th. In the 1st century BC, an extra day to the month in honor of the deified Julius Caesar on September 4th.

Additionally, Epulum Jovis was held on September 13th, Ludi Triumphales was held from September 18th to 22th, and the Septimontium was celebrated in September (and on December 11th on later calendars). None of the Roman dates correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.

September was called “harvest month” in Charlemagne’s calendar, and corresponds in part to the Fructidor and the Vendémiaire of the French Republican Calendar. It is called Herbstmonat (harvest month) in Switzerland and Gerstmonath (barley month) among the Anglo-Saxons.

On Usenet, it is said that September 1993 (the Eternal September) never ended. It’s the same month that America Online began offering Usenet access to its many users, a move that overwhelmed the existing culture for online forums. Before then, Usenet was largely restricted to colleges, universities, and other research institutions.

The British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. In the British Empire that year, September 2nd was immediately followed by September 14th.

Observances

The September equinox takes place in this month with its associated observances. It is the Autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. On the astrological calendar, September is mostly in the sixth month and the first part of the seventh. That calendar begins at the end of March/Mars/Aries.

September’s observances include Amerindian Heritage Month (in Guyana), Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (in the United Kingdom), Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, and National Suicide Prevention Month.

The United States adds Turkish Heritage Month, Better Breakfast Month, Food Safety Education Month, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Hydrocephalus Awareness Month, Pain Awareness Month, National Preparedness Month, National Prostate Health Month, National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and National Yoga Month. The country also adds a ton of food-based tributes, including National Bourbon Heritage Month, California Wine Month, National Chicken Month, National Honey Month, National Mushroom Month, National Italian Cheese Month, National Papaya Month, National Potato Month, National Rice Month, National Whole Grains Month, and National Wild Rice Month.

Trivia

  • September’s birthstone is the sapphire, which is believed to bring gifts of fulfillment, joy, prosperity, inner peace, and beauty
  • The western zodiac signs of September are Virgo (until September 22) and Libra (September 23 onwards).
  • The month’s birth flowers are the forget-me-not, morning glory and aster.

Rabbit Rabbit is a project designed to look at each month of the year with respect to history, observances, and more.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Dragon Con 2021

Dragon Con 2021
Atlanta, GA – September 2 through September 6, 2021

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Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me. It’s also a family reunion of sorts as I catch up with dear friends from around the world. This year will be my twelfth time attending (counting last year’s virtual events) and my sixth year as an attending professional.

If you plan to be there, you can find me at various over Labor Day weekend according to the schedule below. This year is a bit lighter than normal due to the continued pandemic – the COVID-19 coronavirus is neither joke nor hoax, and I fully support masking and vaccination until it is eliminated – but I’ll still be around having fun. I won’t be attending any parties or large gatherings, and I will be adhering to Dragon Con policies to combat the pandemic.

The convention app is available now – look for Dragon Con by Core-apps in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store – and will have the schedule of events soon. The list of confirmed guests, performers, artists, and attending professionals is available on the official Dragon Con site.

Dragon Con itself takes place in downtown Atlanta spanning five hotels (Sheraton Atlanta, Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and Westin Peachtree Plaza) and the AmericasMart Atlanta exhibition center. The convention draws approximately 70,000 to 80,000 attendees annually and showcases one of the city’s most popular parades on Saturday morning at 10am. This year, the attendance numbers will be lower due to COVID-19 and the parade is supposed to be closed to the public. It’s gonna be an interesting con in that regard.

Dragon Con prides itself on contributions to charity and the community. You can find more information about those efforts on their webpage. Each year, the convention partners with a local charity organization and this year’s partner is the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta.

If you’re new to the convention, consider stopping by the Dragon Con Newbies group on Facebook. It is run by Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony, and me, and is an in-depth community resource for information about this massive (and sometimes overwhelming) event. Memberships (tickets) for this year’s convention are available, however, due to the pandemic, memberships are limited.

Along with the attendance caps, all attendees are required to wear masks that adhere to CDC guidelines. The other preventative measures taken by the con this year can be found on their website.

If you want a printable copy of my schedule, I have a convenient PDF.

Note: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.

Revision History:

    • Rev 0 – 20 Aug 2021: Initial post.

The Schedule

I will be around starting Thursday to check in to the hotel, pick up my badge and Hard Rock Dragon Con gear, and get the ball rolling.

12:00p-4:00p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours (4 hours)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to get a ‘lay of the land’ and find your way around the hotels? Did you know there’s a food court? Meet others new to Dragon Con and get a tour with some veteran con-goers. Last tours will leave approximately 3:30pm.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

5:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Q&A (1 hour)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share tips and tricks.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

10:00a: Dragon Con Newbies 101 (1 hour)
Main Programming
Hyatt, Regency V
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share their tip and tricks for making your experience an awesome one.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

1:00p: Getting Started with Digital Media: The Ups & Downs (1 hour)
Digital Media
Hilton, Galleria 7
Have you always wanted to podcast? A group of experienced podcasters will help with ideas on how to get started & making it past the dreaded pod-burnout. Topics include picking a subject for your show, equipment to record with, how to get an audience, & more. For beginners & vets alike.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Tyra A. Burton, Matthew Charles Malis

2:30p: Disney Afternoon: Rescue Rangers & More Goofiness! (1 hour)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
A tribute to chipmunks dressed like Magnum PI & Indiana Jones, & other Disney excellence.
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Bethany Kesler 

4:00p: Disney Afternoon: All-Duck Edition (1 hour)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We celebrate the afternoon cartoons that solved mysteries & rewrote history.
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Bethany Kesler

10:00p: Classic Sci-Fi Charity Lock-In: Howard the Duck (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We lock you in with a crowd of semi-willing participants to celebrate Marvel’s infamous – and very first – theatrical movie. The only way to escape: donate to the Dragon Con charity!
Panelists include: No one else? Don’t make me do this alone!

[It’s worth noting here that there won’t be a parade flood this year. Saturday one-day passes are not being sold and the parade is for badged attendees only.]

11:30a: ESW Presents Doctor Who: The Movie 25th Anniversary!
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
In 1996, Doctor Who returned to our televisions in the classic TV Movie. The Earth Station Who team will delve deep into this unique production & the uphill battle bringing it to life.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Sue Kisenwether

1:00p: Classic Series Doctor Who (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
With the release of the entire classic series on Britbox, there has never been better access to the bulk of Doctor Who history. We will discuss this, the release of The Faceless Ones animation, & the expanding worlds of Classic Who on audio.
Panelists include: Davey Beauchamp, Dr. Scott Viguié, R Alan Siler

5:30p: …And You Will Obey Me: Doctor Who‘s the Master at 50 (Pre-Recorded Virtual Panel)
BritTrack
BritTrack YouTube Channel
Yes, the Doctor’s best enemy, the Master, is turning 50 this year, & we have some big discussions ahead of us. Except, of course, until the Master uses his Tissue Compression Eliminator on them. Say something nice!
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Dr. Scott Viguié, Rob Levy

7:00p: Classic Sci-Fi Charity Lockdown: Mac & Me and More (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Will we watch Mac & Me, the movie that plunged off the cliff & into our hearts forever? The only way to escape is by donating to the Dragon Con charity.
Panelists include: JC De La Torre, Rita De La Torre

1:00p: Rising from the Shark: Re-invent the Team! (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301
It happens for any number of reasons, ratings, licensing, actors, but teams change up. We’ve seen it in on the big screen & small with Arrow, Legends, Flash, The Boys, & many others. We’ll look back at when it works or doesn’t. The lost & found members that we miss, or are thrilled to see.
Panelists include: M. Haynes

2:30p: Collectors Panel: Toys & Merchandising in MSFM (1 hour)
Military Sci-Fi Media
Chastain DE – Westin
MSFM is more than just the moving pictures on your screen. From action figures & collectibles to board games to comics to apparel, come discuss & take a look at all the ways you can bring your fandom directly into your home!
Panelists include: Van Allen Plexico, John Hudgens

4:00p: Black Widow: Shadow of the Red Room (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
Long overdue from COVID & gender politics, Nat Romanoff finally gets to share her story. A spy thriller with considerations of family & identity. There are new heroes & villains, & all the usual MCU Easter eggs. Aren’t pockets great?
Panelists include: None specified at this time

8:30p: When Was Star Trek Ever Subtle? (1 hour)
Trek Track
Hilton Galleria 2-3
Star Trek has always been ripe with political & social commentary, but was it really more subtle during the TOS era? This panel will take a look back at several examples throughout the franchise and then ask: What’s changed, Star Trek or what we expect of it?
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether

Nothing scheduled at this time.

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Culture on My Mind – The Secret of the Ooze and Alan Rickman

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Secret of the Ooze and Alan Rickman
August 13, 2021

The Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track recently talked about some heroes on the half shell and a legendary actor.

On August 5th, I grabbed a slice of pizza with Madison “Metricula” Roberts, Darin Bush, and Keith R. A. DeCandido to remember that time in 1991 when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles learned the secret of their origin and faced off against the Foot, mutants, and Vanilla Ice! 

On August 12th, it was time to honor a true legend. In his first film role, Alan Rickman stole the show as Hans Gruber. From there, he continued to be a standout performer as a sheriff, a potions master, an Australian rancher, and by Grabthar’s Hammer, a very put upon classically trained actor. Join Lacee Aderhold, Deanna Toxopeus, and Sarah Daisy Splitt as they talk about this master taken well before his time.


Once again, we’re all caught up. Fun times lay ahead, and if you want to play along at home, get thee hence to the YouTube channel and the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

The month of August will hold a couple of panels before the series takes a hiatus for real life panels at Dragon Con 2021. Join us on the journey and, if you’re so inclined, come see all of us in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp – A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Smarter Every Day Dives Deep into Nuclear Submarines

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Smarter Every Day Dives Deep into Nuclear Submarines
August 6, 2021

This week, the educational side of YouTube is on my mind. Specifically, I’m looking at Smarter Every Day.

The channel is run by Destin Sandlin, a mechanical and aerospace engineer from Alabama. His channel focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics, and each video provides him and his audience a chance to learn something new about the world around them. Smarter Every Day is a must-watch subscription on my YouTube feed.

Destin started a series of videos in June of last year focused on nuclear submarines. He was invited to participate in ICEX 2020, a biennial Navy exercise that explores operational readiness in the Arctic. The video series was particularly intriguing since I was a nuclear submarine officer, and I was very excited to see how the engineering and lifestyle complexities would be seen and interpreted by civilian eyes.

I wasn’t disappointed.

This series of videos was quite well done and offers an easy to digest perspective on the submarine force. My wife watched the series with me and finally understood some what my former job entailed. I want to thank Destin for that and for taking the time to teach the world about the basics of the Silent Service.

There are nine episodes in the series, filmed during a brief underway on the USS Toledo and released over a year. If you enjoy them as much as I did, consider chipping in to continue his mission through Audible, KiwiCo, or any of Destin’s other sponsors.

The first episode was published in June of 2020 and focused on ICEX. Specifically, Destin covered the science of arctic ice and how that data feeds into the Navy’s mission. After that, he boarded the Toledo and submerged beneath the ice cap.

The second episode debuted in July of 2020 and continued the story with a basic overview of his adventure and submarines overall.

The third episode took us into a torpedo tube and explored how a submarine’s teeth work. One trivia item that my wife found interesting as we discussed the video was how visitors are able to autograph the tube with grease pencil. My signature was one of the tube doors of the USS Greeneville, though I’m absolutely sure it has since been washed away by pressurized seawater over the ensuing two decades. 

The fourth episode premiered in October and focused on two of the most dangerous casualties that a submarine can face: Fire and flooding. Since Destin is an engineer, he was also able to explore the principles behind how the sailors fight these casualties.

The fifth entry was about how submariners eat. Since submarines are designed to make their own water, air, and electricity, food is truly the limiting factor for how long a boat can stay on station. The methods and creativity involved in feeding over a hundred sailors are unique in the submarine force.

The sixth episode came at the end of 2020 and explored how submarines listen underwater. It was quite fun to see just how far the discussion could go before hitting classified information. This video will give you the basics of the sonar science and how one can see underwater without light and windows.

In February, Destin discussed how submarines make and maintain breathable environments while underway. The counterintuitive science of lighting a fire to produce oxygen was a fun topic to watch him explore.

In May, sanitation was the topic du jour. Toilets and showers seem simple enough, but they’re a bit different on the boat. Water conservation is vitally important and one wrong move could mean getting a face full of feces. Not the most dangerous thing you might do on a submarine, but…

The series came to a close on July 30th with the complex evolution of surfacing the ship under the polar ice cap. Surfacing a submarine is already a complex and dangerous evolution, but the added wrinkle of precision piloting is a whole new level. It’s not something that I ever did, but I still studied the basic principles at one point.

 


Once again, if you’re interested in STEM topics, Smarter Every Day is a great place to land for quality education and production values. Thanks to Destin for sharing his perspectives and experiences with the world.

You can find Smarter Every Day on YouTube.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Rabbit Rabbit – August 2021

Rabbit Rabbit
August 2021

Rabbit, rabbit!

Since at least 1909, a superstition has lived in North American and the United Kingdom that if a person says or repeats the word “rabbit” upon waking up on the first day of the month, good luck will follow for the remainder of that month.

Elements of the tradition exist in the United Kingdom, New England, and even in various First Nation cultures.

While I’m not necessarily endorsing the superstition, it provides a way to look in depth at each month of the year, from history and observances to miscellaneous trivia. The topic this month is August.

History

August was originally named Sextilis, derived from Latin because it was the sixth month in the original ten-month Roman calendar under Romulus (with March being the first month of the year). Somewhere around 700 BC, it became the eighth month when January and February were added to the year by King Numa Pompilius. Pompulius also gave the month 29 days, but Julius Caesar added two days when he created the Julian calendar in 46 BC.

In 8 BC, it was renamed in honor of Emperor Augustus, who apparently chose the month because it was the time of several of his great triumphs, including the conquest of Egypt.

Among the aborigines of the Canary Islands, especially among the Guanches of Tenerife, the month was called Beñesmer (or Beñesmen), which was also the harvest festival held in the same month.

Observances

August has a significant number of meteor showers. The Kappa Cygnids vary each year around August. The Alpha Capricornids meteor shower takes place as early as July 10th and ends a month later. The Southern Delta Aquariids take place from mid-July to mid-August, with the peak usually around July 28th or 29th. The Perseids, a major meteor shower, typically takes place between July 17th and August 24th. Finally, the star cluster of Messier 30 is best observed this month.

Internationally, observances include American Adventures Month (which celebrates vacationing in the Americas), Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, Digestive Tract Paralysis (DTP) Month, Get Ready for Kindergarten Month, Happiness Happens Month, Month of Philippine Languages (or Buwan ng Wika), Neurosurgery Outreach Month, Psoriasis Awareness Month, Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month, and What Will Be Your Legacy Month.

In the United States, August is National Black Business Month, National Children’s Vision and Learning Month, National Immunization Awareness Month, National Princess Peach Month, National Water Quality Month, and National Win with Civility Month. The United States also adds food related observances with National Catfish Month, National Dippin’ Dots Month, Family Meals Month, National Goat Cheese Month, National Panini Month, Peach Month, and Sandwich Month.

Trivia

  • August’s birthstones are the peridot (classically believed to drive away fear and open the mind), sardonyx (a red version of the onyx believed to bestow courage), and spinel (which is believed to drive passion).
  • The western zodiac signs of August are Leo (until August 22) and Virgo (August 23 onwards).
  • The month’s birth flowers are the gladiolus and the poppy, symbolizing beauty, strength of character, love, marriage, and family.

Rabbit Rabbit is a project designed to look at each month of the year with respect to history, observances, and more.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.