LibertyCon 32 AAR

Going up a little bit late today.  I bumped one of my pre-scheduled posts to do this one.

I don’t recall how long I’ve been going to LibertyCon regularly.  I think it was LibertyCon 23.  We just had Libertycon 32 so that makes ten years.

Unfortunately, this was…the roughest one for me yet.  Understand none of that is the fault of LibertyCon and the people who run it.  It’s just that I was dealing with some personal issues and they kind of interfered with my getting full enjoyment out of the con.

LibertyCon runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.  This year it was Jun 28-30.  I usually schedule so as to arrive there Thursday evening because there’s generally a big range trip Friday morning and I don’t normally want to miss it.

This year they had to change the date at the last minute because the original hotel they contracted with had basically pulled the rug out from under them.  That was a benefit to me since the original schedule conflicted with Finals Week at my daughter’s high school.  If the con dates hadn’t changed the trip would have had to be very brief indeed.  So, the change in schedule worked out.  However, I was being hit hard by personal issues during the time of its new schedule so maybe if it had been a week later maybe… And maybe if I’d had to wait the extra week the personal issues would have been worse.  No way to tell.  And none of that is Brandi’s (the con chair) responsibility.

This was a sad LibertyCon in another way.  Not long ago, May 12 to be exact, Tim Bolgeo “Uncle Timmy”, one of the founders of LibertyCon and one of the nicest guys I have ever met, passed away.  He is and will be sorely missed.

So, that said, onto what happened at this year’s LibertyCon.

The drive down to LibertyCon is moderately long, about 8 hours with stops (gas, bathroom, food).  About six hours into it the engine on my car (2005 Ford Explorer) starts running rough (rougher–I’d been having a minor issue) and losing power on acceleration.  Then the “service engine soon” light comes on.  I look at where we are, how far it is to get back and press on.  I think I have a pretty good idea what the problem is (more on that later) and if I’m wrong, well, a repair bill is a repair bill whether here or at home.  I, nevertheless, continue the drive with fingers crossed.

We arrive at LibertyCon about 5:00 on Thursday evening.  My daughter and I head over from where we’re staying to the Mariott and Convention center at which the con is being held.  I meet Sarah Hoyt (Author Guest of Honor at LibertyCon 32) and a couple of other people at the hotel.  Friends from around the country that I don’t get to see often (like…ever).

Early registration for the con is open so Athena and I pick up our badges and I get my programming schedule.

The next morning, we get up and out for the range trip.  I offer a ride to one gentleman.  We get together and head out, timing things so that we’ll be at the range pretty much as soon as it opens.  Well, actually, we’re a little early.

Unfortunately, my daughter reports that she’s not feeling well.  It’s bad enough that we have to bail but first things first, we ensure that the guy we’d brought had a ride back.  It’s good so we go.

First thing my daughter and I had to do, before the con started, was get her set up in the Art Show.  As I’ve pointed out before on this blog, my daughter is an incredible artist.  She had several pieces in the show, hoping to sell them.  So, we had to set them up for display.

My first programming event is “Ask a Scientist – Kid’s Edition”.  As it turned out, we only had one kid in the audience but, well, the rest were young at heart, right?  Discussed a number of things that people brought up.

After Ask a Scientist we had the official Opening Ceremonies.  At core, this is a chance to introduce the various guests.  This one also included a musical tribute to Uncle Timmy.  And after the Opening Ceremonies I had an hour in “Author’s Alley” where I had a table I could sit at and attempt to sell some of my books. (Hey!  Want to buy a book?  Look over there to the sidebar.  I have book for sale.)

Let me interject something here.  Normally at a con I’ll look through the program, find panels I’d like to attend–either because of the subject matter or because a person I’d like to hear is on the panel–and try to work out when I need to be where.  I didn’t do anything like that this time.  I had my own schedule printed on the back of my badge (and again on the name tag they provide to set up when you’re on panels so people know who you are). And this time (personal issue again) when I didn’t have actual programming I needed to be at I basically retreated to my room.  I didn’t attend other panels.  I didn’t do any parties.  I’m already a pretty strong introvert and even when it’s basically a big extended family like LibertyCon, where I was emotionally I just wasn’t up to dealing except in modest doses.

Saturday, my first item was Author’s Alley again, followed immediately by an Autograph Session (which, at my stage of the game, is just another opportunity to try to sell books).

In the evening I had 500 Vampires, No Waiting, a discussion of the use and misuse of vampire in fiction.  I think we all agreed that nobody liked that sparkly sonofabitch.

Later in the evening the panel was “Nuclear Weapons 101.” Discussion involved real world and fiction.

At the Nuclear Weapons 101 panel I noted something.  At any panel, by any quantifiable criterion you cared you name, there will be one person least qualified to talk about the subject of the panel.  I observed that LibertyCon seemed to have chosen me for that roll in all panels.  Every panel, I was that least qualified person.  Yes, my degree is in physics, but it’s a “BS” not a “PhD” (let alone the multiple PhDs of some of my co-panelists and I’m pretty far away in specialization from anything nuclear related.  Sure, the word “Atomic” appears in my job description but “Atomic Force Microscopy” has nothing whatever to do with nuclear weapons.  OTOH, as a writer, I’ve pored over open-source materials in the interest of “getting it right” when I used them in fiction (notably Big Blue), and the lack of access to classified material meant that I was freer in what I could say than were my colleagues.

Finally, late that night we had the “Mad Scientist Roundtable.” This basically started from an informal discussion one of our regularly attending scientists (Les Johnson NASA physicist and author) had out by the pool in an earlier venue.  It drew a crowd and the con chair (Uncle Timmy back then) asked him to “do it again” for the next one.  Basically, what it is is a large room where a bunch of us get together and discuss some of the important developments in science and technology over the past year.  There are a couple of topics that are “off limits” because they tend to lead to arguments which produce more heat than light.  And since we have several truly world-class scientists in a variety of fields (not me.  I’m the little guy way over here) we can have some truly amazing discussions.

BTW, while I was at the Mad Science Roundtable, I was handed an “Honorable mention” award for “hall costume.” The person going around giving those awards liked the outfit I was wearing, basically, a Victorian ruffled shirt, dress pants, dress shoes, with a walking stick with a large “glass” knob on the end.  I never thought of it as a “costume”, just dressing up a bit, but it was nice to be recognized.

Sunday, things are usually winding down.  It starts with the Kaffeeklatsch, basically a meet and greet with coffee served. (Can’t stand coffee.)  I had a reading right after, I had a reading right after, a chance to read from one of my books (I chose The Unmasking) to maybe generate interest that could lead to people buying books. (See?  Over there on the right, at least if you’re reading this on a laptop or desktop?  I have books for sale.)

My last scheduled event for the day was another stint in Author’s Alley.  Only I’d made a mistake.  Somehow I got it in my head that it was 2:00 and I went down to set up.  There was an empty table, so I grabbed it.  Set up and did my hour.  Only one problem.  It was 1:00 when I got there and I was an hour early.  I suppose I could have stayed there for the second hour but 1) I’d paid for a total of three hours and I’d just finished the third hour and 2) my daughter wanted to eat and we just had time to head over to City Cafe before closing ceremonies.

We went, we ate, we came and then I remembered she had to get checked out of the art show.  So we went to do that, collect up her pieces (none sold, dammit), and sign the paperwork confirming that, yes, we got back everything we put in.  Unfortunately, this took longer than anticipated (I’m still unfamiliar with procedures–need to plan more time in the future) and we were about 15 minutes late for the beginning of closing ceremonies.

Mostly, Closing ceremonies is a time for Brandy and the con chair to answer questions and field suggestions from folk at the con, things to try to make LibertyCon better next time around.  The most common single “suggestion” people make is “increase the membership limit next time” (LibertyCon has been selling out of its ceiling of 750 attendees–which includes Staff and Guests). Unfortunately, on the one hand their charter doesn’t allow it.  On the other, while it is perhaps theoretically possible to amend the charter (I have no idea about that) there’s a real reluctance to let it get bigger for fear of it losing some of it’s “family” flavor.  I can certainly see their point.

After the con was over, we drove back.  Yes, the Explorer held out.

Once I got home I did take some time to dig into the Explorer.  A while back I’d replaced the spark plugs (realized it hadn’t been done since I bought it back in 2006 and so it was probably running on the original plugs).  They were severely worn.  I had originally intended to replace the wires at the same time but that looked to be a much more challenging task due to the wire routing.  You had to actually remove the alternator to get at the passenger side wires.  So that had been sitting undone.  Well my problem, thanks to a code reader, was “misfire on cylinder 3”.  So I bite the bullet, dig into it and replace the wires.  Result being that the care runs like a champ now, plenty of power on acceleration and the gas mileage has improved.

And that is the saga of this year’s LibertyCon.

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