the not-a-friend friend

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Two things have floated past my Facebook feed today that have inspired enough thoughts to justify a blog post.  The first reminded me of a friendship I took a long time ending but, in the end, his confession many years ago that he did not in fact defend me in my absence was the beginning of the end.

10600616_729315847173351_5772921761439119439_n(Because yes, I think this stuff matters.  A lot.  Speak your truth,  man. And in this case, don’t tell me someone slandered me and then tell me, “But I didn’t correct them.”  No excuse.)

And then there was this post shared by my friend Luna, in which the author talks about the benefits of having a friend that’s not really your friend and about what you can learn from that relationship.  In particular, this quote stood out:

Between putting me down, questioning everything I did, and spreading lies about me behind my back, I realized that you weren’t actually my friend. You were just another person who was stuck in their insecurities, who needed to put others down to keep yourself up. You were more focused on yourself and your own problems than on our friendship. That’s not the kind of friend I want in my life. While I was blinded to this side of you because you were a new shiny friend for a couple months, I finally realized we had no friendship. Initially, this realization saddened me, but, in the end, I’m better off without you.

There are friendships, relationships, that never really leave you.  For better, and for worse, that connection is so entangled in your brain that even when the person is gone, their ghost never leaves you.  I’ve known people that get mentally and emotionally stuck in that ghost-relationship, rehashing the grievances, the hurt, the memorized path of how things went wrong, that they can recite the history at a moment’s notice and never move past the pain.

These are among my least favourite ‘discussions’ to have, because it’s not a discussion, there’s no resolution or healing, there’s just mental gear grinding.

The quote above reminds me of one of those people.  She’s someone I wish I could send that quote to, because that’s exactly why our friendship ended 10+ years ago and I didn’t have the words then to express the why to her then.

We were friends from 4th grade until well into our adulthood – or so I thought.  Unlike the first friendship I mention in this blog, it didn’t take me years to figure out I was better off not knowing this person.  No, sadly, our relationship started to end when I learned that she was describing me to others as ‘a waste of human flesh,’ and, when called on it, replied, “I’m sorry you head that.”  This discovery led to others, other negative descriptors that was in direct contrast to what she said to my face.

I’ve been sad about the way things went for a long time.  In part, I’m sad because I know she still hurts from the ending of our ‘friendship’ and because I know we have mutual friends wishing we could make amends.

But ya know?  I read that quote, and I thought, ‘Yes.  This.’

The people in my life today are people I trust, completely and utterly.

…I find myself wanting to say more about that, but I don’t think I need to.

People like C and L have taught me what I expect, what I need, out of a friendship.  What I want to give to a friendship.  And today, I may have just finally hit a point where I can be thankful for that lesson instead of sorry for the loss.

 

 

on the issue of selfies, snapchat, and consent

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Over the next stretch of weeks, I’ll be writing about my recent trip to work a haunted attraction in Australia – yes, really! Australia! – and it’s a mixed bag of experiences, to be sure…but one of the biggest things sticking in my memory is not exactly related to haunting.

Selfies.

What I found, while being in costume at the haunt, was that everyone wants a photo of characters.  That’s not unusual, but it was…extreme in Sydney.  One of our team members literally couldn’t take a step at times without being asked to pose for a photograph. (I videotaped this because it was truly amazing how many requests he would get.)

Perhaps not unexpectedly, the daytime crowds were nicer about this than the people that showed up as the sun went down.  We moved from having family groups with babies to teenagers and early 20-something year olds that were more aggressive about their requests.  I realized, as the requests came in, that they weren’t requests.

They were demands.

As a woman, this was far from a comfortable situation.  It didn’t matter if I was working, if I was obviously busy, even if I was talking to someone else.  The only answer to, “Can I take a selfie with you?” is, “Yes.”

If you say no, you find a celphone-holding hand being slipped around you and a photo being snapped.  In my case, I was taking tickets in a line queue, so there was no way I could avoid having people surround me, and honestly after 12 hours of work, I didn’t have the patience I had earlier in the day to just grin and bear it.

Also?  That’s a disturbing thought right there. I can’t say no. I can’t stop this from happening. My best bet is to smile and pretend it’s ok.

That’s exactly what I found myself thinking, and in light of the growing awareness of rape culture, that’s friggin’ disturbing.

There’s no WAY this is ok. 

“But it’s just a photograph, right?  Why is that a bad thing?”

Because ANY time your right to say no to something that involves your body, your personal space, is taken away?  There’s no damn WAY that’s anything BUT a bad thing.

I’m in no way familiar with the world of selfies and Snapchat, so maybe the aggressive taking of these pics is only news to me.  But seriously?  I ever catch someone I know treating anyone the way I was treated in Australia, I will make sure that behavior stops ASAP.

And if you’re one of those people thinking you have a right to take a photo of someone just because you want to do it even though you’ve been told no?

You’re wrong.

You’re being abusive.

You need to check your privilege and re-educate yourself about what ‘no’ means.

 

banishing the bad

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t explain that correctly.”

Although the comment isn’t directed at me, I can’t help but hear the comment, note how instead of blaming the person doing the task incorrectly, our person in charge is taking responsibility as she corrects the problem.

I continue to paint the wall in front of me, but my thoughts are of another work site, where I was in the process of repainting a skull and replacing it on a facade.

“Wow.  That’s horrible,” my  boss says from below my ladder.

It wasn’t what I was used to.  At all.  If it had been said to someone else, I might have protested his words.  But it was said to me, and I wanted to do a good job, so I tried to laugh it off and figure out what about the task was wrong.

This was one of my first days working for him.  It set the tone for the next seven years – criticism, sometimes couched in ‘oh you know I’m kidding’, and praise/compliments mostly offered when there was no other audience but me.

I love having the opportunity to help create scenes, environments.  Usually that’s within the walls of a haunted house.  I’d fallen in love with this haunt and I was eager for the opportunity to work here as often as possible.  Indeed, it was this haunt that had set me on the path to becoming “Halloween Girl” more so than any other haunt project or commitment I’d taken on up to that point in my life.

Part of the appeal was that I was working for a friend.

I didn’t know at the time that I was actually working for a narcissist.

What that means, for me, is that I spent those years on a roller coaster of praise and abuse.  I could do anything; I was mostly useless. I was one of his best friends; the more I hurt, the more he wanted to hurt me.  The people that worked this haunt were a family; I wasn’t supposed to talk to them about much of anything. The stories and the rules changed depending on the audience, and while hindsight makes it all very clear, the day to day process of living with it is bewildering.

Here’s the really hard thing:  This all happened me to before the average person knew the definition of  ‘narcissistic personality disorder.’ On one hand, when I walked away from that job, I knew I would be cyberstalked, so it changed many of the ways I handle myself online (including why I am being admittedly vague, and even still I’m having a hard time hitting ‘publish’), and I grew to learn that people that were paying attention weren’t believing the smear campaign that still goes on to this day.  Which is typical for a narcissist.

More deeply rooted, and the bigger surprise, was the unexpected PTSD.  I found that had lost a lot of my confidence, my ability to trust my coworkers.  When Bones and I started our haunt and were building the show, I struggled a lot with an unexpected need for reassurance.  And when I started working at the theatre, I discovered that I was shocked to hear people treating each other with respect.  That it was ok to take a break.  That the way I used to treat my fellow crew members was actually the *norm* rather than something to be mocked.  That mistakes weren’t met with, “Wow, that’s horrible,” or other demeaning critical comments, or compliments at the moment followed by negativity muttered to other ears.

I am lucky in that I’ve worked with people that understand why I have PTSD.  They’ve known the players in my story. They’ve been able to  tell by the look on my face when I’ve stopped hearing them and started hearing the past.  Sometimes I feel like every job offers one more bit of healing. And sometimes it’s really hard to not just walk around hugging people that are being genuinely kind to each other on a work site.

 

 

one dead, five injured by a gunman at zombicon

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Last year, chlorine gas was released at a con, causing 19 attendees at the Illinois event to be sent to the hospital.

This year, the violence moved to Florida.

You’d probably have to be hiding under a rock to not have heard about the popular zombie walks that have been happening across the country for the past several years.  The biggest and arguably the best one, Pittsburgh Zombie Fest, asks attendees to bring a can of food as an admission price, and that gets donated to a local food bank.  Running these events with a charity in mind is fairly common, and it shows heart behind the horror.

Many of these events are organized like a block party, with live music, face painting, and vendors.  Others are pub crawls, like my personal favourite, the Philly Zombie Crawl. In Minneapolis, their zombie pub crawl is huge, pricey, polarizing..and here to stay.   If you’d rather participate in something that resembles a zombie parade, check out Zombiewalk Columbus, which raises money for Ronald McDonald House, or Denver’s zombie crawl, which has also been around for a decade.

So you get the idea.  There are lots of people that want to dress up like zombies in outside venues for a little walking dead fun.

Until this year’s ZombiCon.

ZombiCon in Fort Myers, Florida has been going strong for 9 years now, and its organizing group Pushing Daizies, Inc is very focused on its charities.  They take food donations for a food bank; their attendees are given the opportunity to donate blood, and their $5 admission fee supports children’s art programs and scholarships.  Over 20,000 people were estimated to show up this year – numbers the average convention would envy.

Just before midnight on Saturday, October 17th, someone started shooting at random attendees.  One person was killed.  Five were wounded.  The FBI is now involved in trying to find the man responsible.

This time, no one’s amused by the violence.  Thank heavens.

There’s a lot of buzz about What Happens Next, of course.  Do the organizers raise the price and take the event indoors?  This was tried a few years ago, according to a response on Facebook, and it reportedly didn’t work very well.  (I personally can’t imagine anything than a stadium working for this kind of crowd.)  Do the organizers bump up security?  They do hire security and have police on site every year.  Was the shooter just someone looking for a real-world zombie paintball experience?  That’s something that occurs to me, and I really really really hope it’s not the case.  Does the reality of this story blur over into other street parties and conventions?

Consider that in 10 years of zombie crawls and such, it looks like this is the first time violence has erupted.  It’s having an effect on events in Chicago and West Palm Beach, so it’s not hard to imagine the ripple effect going further.  Personally, I hope not.  Zombies aren’t my bag, baby, but I love the passion of the people that organize and participate in these events, and – like any fan-driven thing, really – I want to see the geeks win.  I mean, really…look at how amazing the ZombiCon attendees were!  That’s a level of creativity and fun that has to win out over an ass with a gun.

the complications of friendship

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A friend moved away recently.  I wasn’t able to go say goodbye in person, and so I decided to make a gift to send as a ‘welcome to your new home’ kind of thing.  It was a cross stitch I designed, stitched, fussed over…procrastinated over…finally framed it and set it aside to be mailed.

The whole process took several months.  And at the end of it, I realized a few unexpected facts about the friendship.  The biggest one?  We weren’t on the level of friendship I thought we were.

That’s weird, right?  How did I not realize that?

Fact is, she had already walked away from the friendship during the time I was stitching away.  So I clearly had a lot more invested in that connection than she did.  How does that happen?

But it does.

I think it’s a bit like the kerfluffle we’ve seen on varied social media networks where we connect to people as “friends.”  They’re not.  It takes more than the click of a button to become friends with another person.  And I’ve been on the other end of this thread more than once, where I’ve had someone insist on a strong friendship connection and the reality is we only ever saw each other at conventions, or at social events maybe once a year.

That’s an acquaintance.  And that’s important in its own way.  Years ago, a convention friend looked at me and said, “We’ve traveled around the country together with this convention.”  That statement made me stop for a moment and really think about these threads of connection we have as a result of the events we attend.  People become such a huge element of the event, it gives us a sense of home in a lot of ways.  If I go to, say, Arisia, I will feel at home because there are people there that I only see there and if they weren’t there, I would not feel as comfortable or connected.  The community is part of what makes the convention appealing for me.

Is that a friend?  It’s a degree of friend, sure.  But, at least for me, that title has to be about more than 30 minutes or so during a weekend once a year.  Even if those 30 minutes or so time happen once a year for a decade…there’s more to the job description of ‘friend’ than that.  In a lot of ways, you’re seeing someone at their social best, so just like any other relationship, you can’t get to know them unless you’re actively involved in each other’s lives.

So how did I miss that we weren’t matching those criteria?

I’m not sure.

As a very wise friend pointed out to me, it’s instinctive to put energy into a relationship you can see needs some help, and that only works well when you’re both defining things the same way.  Which is why it feels like a smack on the nose with a newspaper when you realize that the energy you’ve been putting into a connection isn’t reciprocated.  And that’s something I hadn’t considered when I’ve been on the other side of this ‘wait you thought this was a friendship?’ fence.

Does it change anything in my day to day life to not have this person I defined as a friend say, in effect, “sorry, that’s all you”?

No.  No, not really.

But I think it’s important that we really see ourselves.  In this case, I was doing something that I haven’t understood when other people did it to me.  Kinda funny.  Kinda frustrating.  Definitely an ‘opportunity for growth,’ as they say.

I’ll probably get it wrong again.  So I’m putting it in writing to let PresentMe tell FutureMe, “HEY!  You knew better!”

…Here’s hoping that works. 🙂

19 convention attendees were sent to the hospital – news media thinks it’s funny

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Over the weekend, friends of mine in east coast fandom started sharing news links about attendees of Fur Fest being evacuated from their convention hotel because of a deliberate release of chlorine gas into the hotel space. Fandom was pissed, and for good reason.

Details of the criminal act:

The Hyatt-Regency in Rosemont was completely evacuated at roughly 1AM. (For those of us that have attended TransWorld?  Yes, it’s that Rosemont.)  Guests sought shelter in nearby hotels and in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.  19 attendees ended up going to the hospital. Powdered chlorine was found in a stairwell on the 9th floor of the hotel.  Firefighters on the scene reported that there was a reading “as high as 20.6 on the chlorine meter” and also stated that “whatever the substance is, it is overloading our chlorine meter.”

To give you an idea of how bad a rating of 20.6ppm is?  Let’s go back to Wikipedia, because this article references a bunch of stuff I was already going to include….  “Chlorine is a toxic gas that irritates the respiratory system. Because it is heavier than air, it tends to accumulate at the bottom of poorly ventilated spaces. Chlorine gas is a strong oxidizer, which may react with flammable materials.[67] Chlorine is detectable with measuring devices in concentrations of as low as 0.2 parts per million (ppm), and by smell at 3 ppm. Coughing and vomiting may occur at 30 ppm and lung damage at 60 ppm. About 1000 ppm can be fatal after a few deep breaths of the gas.[24] Breathing lower concentrations can aggravate the respiratory system, and exposure to the gas can irritate the eyes.[68] The toxicity of chlorine comes from its oxidizing power. When chlorine is inhaled at concentrations above 30 ppm, it begins to react with water and cells, which change it into hydrochloric acid (HCl) and hypochlorous acid (HClO).” And the CDC cautions, “Hazardous concentrations may develop quickly in enclosed, poorly-ventilated, or low-lying areas. Keep out of these areas.”

If you’re wondering what it was like to be there, here’s one attendee’s story of what it was like to try to get off the 9th floor via the stairwell.

So having this crap in a stairwell that people were forced to use during the hotel evacuation?  Really bad news. 

Ok.  So someone exposed a bunch of convention attendees to a hazardous gas.  Good reason for fandom to be pissed off.

So why the hell was my Facebook news feed flooded on Tuesday with stories about reporters laughing about this story?

Because Fur Fest is a fandom convention for “people who are interested in the concept of fictional non-human characters with human characteristics.

These folk are more commonly known as “furries”..some of the most maligned people in fandom.

If you’ve ever been in downtown Pittsburgh in June or July, you may well have seen this charming sector of fandom running around the city in mascot-esque costumes during the weekend run of Anthrocon.  It’s rather adorable, actually…the variety of detail and creativity in the costuming is lovely to see.  One collection of photos can be found here. And if you have either never heard of a furry or you think it’s some deviant sex group, I strongly encourage you to go take a look through that album, or any of the others on Anthrocon’s site.

Fur Fest is one of the largest conventions of its kind, warmly received by the Hyatt-Regency, whose Twitter feed shows some great love and support for Fur Fest. (Really, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a convention hotel be so sweet to a con. I mean, really..themed meal options?  A free room contest?  This hotel is pretty awesome!)

This convention had roughly 4,600 attendees from 15 different countries.

According to Furfest’s website, “Our charity, Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary, was able to raise $11,000 by charitable donations from our attendees and an additional $20,000 was donated from Midwest Furry Fandom, Inc., our parent 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. Part of our core mission is to raise money for animal focused charities in the Midwest.”  HOLY POOP THAT’S GREAT!!

But what do most people know about the event?

They know that reporters over on MSNBC responded to a story about 19 people being sent to the hospital as a result of a criminal act by laughing on the air and having one of their reporters run off camera because she couldn’t deal with the idea of people wearing fur suits.

How far is this, really, from the media making fun of fandom and costuming of any sort?

Why does it suddenly not matter that 19 people went to the hospital?

Oni Hartstein rather brilliantly summed up the story with the question, “It’s ok to commit terrorism toward children if you don’t like them?”  

Victoria McNally wrote a much more detailed description of the story than I have here in her blog post over on TheMarySue.com, entitled, “Let’s Stop Making Jokes About Furries While Discussing That Recent Terrorist Attack on Furries.”

You should read those posts.  These women make some fantastic points.

And then think, really think, about what this story, and the sadly common public reaction to this story, is saying.

Because, while this is a very dramatic story?  It’s not an isolated incident sort of story.  Fire alarms get pulled at conventions to force con attendees out of hotels and into the street..sometimes to try to ’embarrass’ the costumed attendees, sometimes to evict attendees that don’t have hotel rooms.  I’ve read a lot of stories today about what sometimes happens at conventions, and I’m appalled at what people are doing to my fellow geeks.

Most of my fellow con goers can tell me of at least one convention they’ve attended where there was another group of people in the same hotel that didn’t appreciate sharing hotel space with fandom or haunters.  We’ve seen the looks of disapproval and we’ve heard the grumblings.  It’s not hard at all to imagine a repeat of what happened at Fur Fest last weekend.

If you have something you love enough to attend a convention to celebrate?  Do not think for a second that your convention is immune from something like this.  The only way that works is if we stop trying to decide who ‘counts’ – which passion is ok to have and which one isn’t good enough.

Each of us, every single one of us, has an interest, a something we love that makes us a geek.

Stop saying that your love makes you better than anyone else.

Once we get to that point?  Crap like this stops happening.

(If you’re appalled at what happened on MSNBC, TELL THEM letters@msnbc.com)

America is Haunted scam update: Groupon’s caught on, Amazon Local has not

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Last week, Oni Hartstein posted a blog entry about the selling of tickets via Groupon to a chain of haunted attractions called America is Haunted. The poop has started to hit the fan…

http://www.cbs58.com/news/local-news/Buyer-Beware-Website-sells-fake-tickets-for-Haunted-House-in-Milwaukee-279866222.html

This link goes to a news story out of Milwaukee that shows Groupon is starting to take the some of these deals offline and is refunding people their money..so again, if you have purchased a Groupon for a set of tickets for a haunted house called America is Haunted, you should be able to receive a refund.  I understand there’s an investigation going on in Iowa, so hopefully other states affected by this scam are doing the same.

Apparently there have been offers also posted on Amazon Local, but I personally don’t see anything there in the few states I checked out. Still, if you have purchased tickets for America is Haunted from http://local.amazon.com, please get in touch with them about this scam.

As of today, the website http://www.americaishaunted.com has been taken down.

Fellow haunter Melinda Mitchell is the whistle-blower in this story and has done one helluva job in investigating the story.

a dashcon story that also very much needs to be heard

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Here’s the story of what happened to one person that was friends with Dashcon main staff and became the person in charge of the vendor room.  (Dashcon has stated, “Any “official” information found on any other blog should not be considered true or accurate without first checking with the actual DashCon staff.”  Based on this, you may, in all confidence, read the following story and know it’s true as well as accurate.)

http://mjhellscream.tumblr.com/post/93196609316/our-experience-at-dashcon-2014

I know, I know.  Who the hell cares about Dashcon at this point?  Read it anyway.

Take-aways:

* Dashcon mgt paid $3K for this couple’s flight from Australia to the US.  At that point, these were just attendees, not con staff.  This money was paid in late 2013/2014…well after the Indiegogo campaign had ended and after payments were being made to the Dashcon hotel.  Looking at those numbers, it seems reasonable to assume Dashcon was not concerned about money..perhaps not until the weekend of the con.

* This woman was not aware she would be expected to be staff until July, days before the Dashcon event.  This is another example of the poor management of the staffing of Dashcon.

* Yes, Dashcon told the hotels to take hotel rooms off its bill and yes, that included staff as well as invited guests.  It’s still unclear as to whether or not volunteers and con attendees were also affected by this, or if keys just were being faulty.  What is clear is that there was zero communication with those affected by Dashcon mgt’s decision to do so.

* This woman considered one of the three main organizers of Dashcon to be “a close, personal friend.”  The following quote is from the above blog post:

“… a person who my wife considered a close, trustworthy, personal friend left her high and fucking dry when she was needed the most.”

So my previous repeated opinion that the attendees of Dashcon were mistreated by the event and that ANY event that turns to its attendees and demands a financial bailout at the event is NOT  an event one should support? I’m amending that to, “You do not treat your close, personal friends this way, either.”

* We already knew that Dashcon didn’t staff its event in a well-thought-out way.  But.  JESUS, people.  If you don’t have the common sense to NOT put children and inexperienced people in charge of shit – and no, you didn’t, because you DID – and if you don’t have the ability to keep track of what previous con management was doing- and NO YOU DIDN’T, as your own public apology stated – GET YOUR DAMN SELVES SOME EDUCATION.

Seriously. It’s out there.  You do NOT have to recreate the fucking wheel.

SMOFCON.   THIS DECEMBER.  “Smofcon is an annual conference for the planners of science fiction & fantasy (SF&F) and other genre conventions. Attendees discuss and share insights into many aspects of convention planning at the local, regional, national, and international levels.”

INTERVENTIONCON.  THIS AUGUST.  “Intervention is different from every other event you have ever been to. Our name is the combination of the words “Internet” and “Convention” but the significance is deeper than that. The entire idea of this event is to Intervene and Inspire everyone to live a more creative, geeky, and fun life within the welcoming scope of a traditional geek convention.”  These are the kinds of people you need to be talking to.  Go get inspired…and find out how to do a con the RIGHT way.

because i still have questions (big surprise)

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* http://thegeekiary.com/dashcon-follow-up-random-acts-partnership-didnt-exist-but-was-it-really-a-scam/14786

One of the data points that’s floated around a little about Dashcon was that the event had a partnership with charity group Random Acts.  The stated intent of Dashcon was to collect money to donate back to Random Acts.  It’s a cute idea, though I personally think it sounds a little confusing, but the fate of these donations is one of the things we’ve actually not heard about in the kerfluffle updates.  It does speak to the good intentions of Dashcon, and I hope the final news shows that some money did make it back to Random Acts.

* http://www.nerdandtie.com/2014/07/14/dashcon-a-perfect-storm-of-incompetence/

This article is by yet another person with a lot of convention experience and it breaks down the money numbers as well as ‘here’s how hotel contracts work.’  One quote I found very useful:

‘Now say only 500 people were there. That’s the low number I’ve seen tossed about for Friday, and someone correct me if I’m wrong. Well, $50 time 500 attendees is $25,000. If the higher figure of 1000 attendees were there, that’s $50,000. This does not include the higher rates paid by Vendors and Artists.

My point is, really, how were they not able to pay their bills? I’ve run conventions larger than that with a lot less money than $50,000.’

There’s no info there about the room block question I personally  have, however.  After some more thought, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that the reason invited con guests found themselves paying for their own rooms was that the con staff might have assumed those rooms were included in the debt owed for the room blocks – in short, they might have thought they’d already paid for those rooms when the hotel said, “You didn’t fulfill the terms of the contract – pay up.”  This seems the most likely reason, rather than my initial thought which was that the con staff panicked and pulled those rooms off their credit card so they could pay off the hotel.  This is of course assuming that they used the same PayPal card used to pay the hotel and that this card isn’t a debit card.

Why would it matter if they used a debit card?
Because it’s standard policy for hotels to put a hold/deposit on such cards.  Here’s one article explaining whyHere’s another, that explains luxury hotels may put a charge on the debit card that is more than the room cost would be because they include incidentals as well as the room. And yet another article talks about the very real possibility of accidental overdrafts.  We already know from con staff that the hotel had agreed to let the staff use the PayPal card and take payments in $3K increments, because of the limit on the card…which, personally, makes me wonder:  If the hotel already knew it wasn’t going to get $17K Friday night, did all this chaos really have to happen in the first place?  Agreeing to wait shows they were willing to negotiate…and they’d have to wait anyway for funds to clear, which (as those of us that use PayPal know) needs a few days to happen.

Anyway.  It’s probably a moot point, because no charges appear to have been put on the con PayPal card, because the guests were being expected to pay.  Which leads me back to the hopeful thought that maybe the con assumed these debts had been included in the $17K/$20K/whatever they actually owed the hotel.

* http://lielabell.tumblr.com/post/91674359898/the-deal-with-dashcon

This is one con attendee’s review.  Unlike what Twitter reports, not all attendees were kids – “Lielabell” is in her 30s.  She also headed up one of the panels.  This is a pretty balanced bit of writing, IMO.  She also talks about people being locked out of their rooms, which is not new information.  Nor is it unique to Dashcon.  In general, I’m surprised when my key card works, no matter what hotel I’m in or for what reason.  Turns out there’s a few different reasons why that can happen, and some of them are news to me.

Mentalfloss.com reports:

Any arriving guest should receive what are referred to as initial keys, which are programmed to reset the door lock when they are first inserted, deactivating all previous keys. Not until the keys expire or a new initial key enters the lock will the keys fail to work. With a “key bomb,” I cut one single initial key and then start over and cut a second initial key. Either one of them will work when you get to the room, and as long as you keep using the very first key you slipped in, all will be well.

But chances are you’ll pop in the second key at some point, and then the first key you used will be considered invalid.

Tripadvisor.com says:

I found out on my cruise last year – because my card kept having to be reprogrammed – that the culprit is often a woman’s purse that has a magnetic clasp. You pull the card out, pass it over the magnetic clasp, and voile!, non-working key card.

The Toronto Sun suggests you take a look at the colour of your key card (?!?):

A key card with a brown stripe on the back — the kind used by most hotels — is the one most likely to give guests trouble, and prompt a return to the lobby to have it re-encoded, Portuguese says. These are the cheapest cards to make, and easily become de-activated if they’re placed too close to anything magnetic.

ask.metafilter.com goes into a fairly lengthy discussion about all the things that can turn off a hotel key card, including celphones, and talks about how common the issue is, but this quote is maybe the most telling:

I have worked in the hotel business and have made, at a guess, eleventeen million key cards for guests.

You must keep in mind that these cards are pretty flimsy pieces of plastic with a single, not-especially-robust magnetic strip, and they have been used by dozens or hundreds of guests before you. They do not hold a charge particularly well: imagine a video or audio cassette that has been taped over for the 245th time — how good is the signal? They cease working for any of a dozen reasons, simple wear and tear being the most common. From the point of view of the designers of the keycards and the hotels, this is a feature, not a bug….

in a perfect set-up, your card runs out at noon (or whatever the hotel sets it so) on your date of checkout, not every day. You check in Monday, you leave Thursday. If you come back Friday with the same card, it will be inert. There is no value for anyone in making your card stop working on Tuesday or Wednesday. (Note, of course, that the hotel can cancel a keycard at any time for emergencies — say you neglected to sign your credit card slip when you arrived or something — having to return to the front desk to get a new card means they can also get you to sign the slip).
In light of that and the money issues around Dashcon..is it possible the hotel turned off the key cards to staff rooms because they wanted to make sure the rooms were being paid for?  Yes, it’s possible. It’s not the most LIKELY reason, but it’s possible.  I had to really search for that quote above, leading me to believe key cards being turned off by the hotel over money issues is pretty uncommon. I think it far more likely that the lack of information and the issues around the con combined with faulty key cards to convince people the hotel was being shady, despite an overwhelming amount of stories circulating around the internet that hotel staff and security was both nice and bewildered by what was happening.

(Along this line:  Did you know the hotel had (a) listed Dashcon on its website under ‘Events’ months in advance – meaning that other events would in theory know there was a convention that weekend – and (b) there was a non-refundable one night room charge for all reservations?  Link here.)

So, as far as people saying that the hotel did those kids wrong?  I remain unconvinced.

* a statement from the owners of Dashcon is coming

If that statement does anything other than take responsibility for what happened….WITHOUT trying to blame the hotel, the guests, the bank, the deflating ball pit, whatever….and offer some sort of accounting for the money…….they shouldn’t bother.  Of course, in my far from humble opinion, this statement is already too late.

* random twitter stuff that has been bugging me for days

As the Dashcon kefluffle went down, I was watching Twitter.  There was some really stupid, nasty, unnecessary stuff flying around out there bashing the attendees – completely unnecessary – and poking fun at  all these ‘white kids’ being taken for $17K.  I still fail to understand why things got racial.  I’ve heard that the crowd was fairly mixed, which I would believe..just as it’s obvious the con was not just attended by teenagers.

A lot of crap was said, of course, like the claim that underage attendees were being let into 18-and-over panels.  (The very presence of such panels should negate the claims that it was just a kiddie con, but that may be too much logical thinking to expect from trolls.)  The bit I didn’t get at all was the repeated, “I am suffering second hand embarrassment from Dashcon.”  I gather that this is now a thing.  A ridiculous thing that makes me want to slap people.

Dashcon staff suggested, at their Sunday Q&A panel, that attendees not read any of these tweets and such.  Considering the troll activity going on?  I can understand that bit of advice.  I can certainly understand attendees being very emotional about their experience.  There was, and is, a lot to react to.  Frankly, seeing the tweets from the con from kids cheering themselves on for saving their convention…again/yet/still, something that should NEVER have happened.  But mocking attendees for loving an event?  Low blow, trolls.

It really does infuriate me that the attendees of this con – the attendees of ANY con – are mocked for being at an event celebrating something they love and meeting like-minded people.  I have zero ability to understand such mean-spiritedness.  What I’m seeing is that a lot of the attendees don’t seem to have the lifeskills to be able to handle dealing with that nastiness, and part of the reason I’m still writing about this trainwreck of a convention is that I worry about those younger members of fandom.

I keep saying this…no convention should ever ask its attendees to pay for the con’s financial woes.

Hand in hand with that?  Just because you had a great time at a convention doesn’t mean the convention treated you well.  A weekend-long chance to meet other fen is a good time.  No doubt.  It doesn’t mean that you give money to these con organizers again.  They haven’t proved worthy of your trust OR your money.

Don’t let the trolls get you down.

Do find an event that deserves your support.

national bullying awareness month: ‘don’t be a monster’ anti-bullying campaign

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I think it’s safe to say that we all pretty much get bullying = bad.

What we don’t get is what to do about it.

That’s a sobering graphic.  It shows, very matter-of-factly, that it’s not just the act of bullying that’s the problem…it’s how we react to the bully/the bullying that contributes to the situation.  In my experience as being both a child and – for the past 4 years – as an adult that’s been bullied, there are way too many people in categories B, C, D, E, and F.  The pain of being bullied often has more to do with those categories than the one bully ringleader.

So we’re told to ignore the bully and the situation will stop, and those of us that have tried that know it doesn’t work.  A good bully has all those other sycophants participating, consciously or not, in the hurt, and the more you hurt? The more they enjoy what they’re doing.

What does help?  Being willing to say, “That’s not ok,” and standing up to bad behavior.

And that’s a large part of what the Don’t be a Monster campaign is all about.

This campaign, using the slogan “monsters belong in haunted houses,” is working on bringing free 30-minute anti-bullying presentations to varied schools across the country.  Some of the haunters involved in this are people I’m proud to say I know and have worked with, and I’m wicked proud of them for this project.

You can find this campaign on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dont-Be-A-Monster, or online at http://www.dontbeamonster.org/.  Drop them a note if you want to help them succeed, or if you’d like more information.

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