why the kerfluffle about dashcon matters (or, if a con asks you for $17K? say no)


Portrait: Ha! 󾍇

7.15.14 6:27PM: Updates added at bottom of post.

(Note:  There are a LOT of links below. This is because there’s so much stuff that went wrong with this con, and that con staff and attendees are denying happened, that I feel it’s important to properly illustrate why these things were bad.)

Several months ago, I saw that a podcast I follow, The Baker Street Babes, was going to be making an appearance at a fairly local (and brand spanking new) convention, Dashcon.  Bones and I talked about attending after looking at the site and seeing that the very fun Whovian band, Time Crash, were having a concert, and that the pretty dang awesome podcast Welcome to Night Vale was doing a live podcast. When the schedule for the weekend was posted, we also saw that there were two Hetalia panels listed, which would have been of interest to Bones’ kid.

When you visit those links, please note that these are all independent artists doing neat stuff without tons of money.  (This data point matters.)

We ended up not going to the con largely because the website said the WTNV event and the Time Crash concert was sold out.  (This data point also matters.)

I was still a little disappointed about us not going to Dashcon up until the first twitters about the con needing $17K RIGHT NOW started appearing on my twitter feed.  (One of the more succinct breakdowns of what happened at Dashcon may be found here: http://www.blastr.com/2014-7-14/17000-ball-pit-how-dashcon-went-tumblr-con-conning-tumblr#page-1  Another good one is here: http://www.dailydot.com/geek/dash-con-controversy-tumblr/ – this includes screenshots of things Dashcon has since deleted from its Tumblr, and screenshots of what the screwed-over guests had to say on Twitter as things progressed into badness.)

If you’ve ever attended a convention, you’re probably saying, ‘Wait, WHAT?’

Con staff claims that the hotel – a five star hotel, I should add, which is a surprising choice for a first year con – was demanding full payment of their contracted $20K due from Dashcon, in full, Friday night or the con was off.  Con staff gathered all of its attendees into one room and told them they had to raise $17K by 10PM.  The cry went out across Twitter and Tumblr.  Cash was reportedly being flung at hotel staff.  Money was donated to Dashcon’s PayPal account, the total was raised, and the con was allowed to continue.

(Dashcon staff claims this was a demand that came from upper management; that there was pressure from the two weddings also sharing the hotel; and that the hotel didn’t like the con attendees.  The hotel staff has said, “Wait, what?”  My inner skeptic wonders if con staff heard about this story from Chi Fi earlier this year…)

You may be wondering why a hotel would accept a payment from PayPal.  Con staff explained later, at the ‘dead dog’ panel on Sunday – so yes, that’s a video of con staff talking – that a PayPal debit card was used, and once the balance was shown, the hotel was willing to accept payments of $3K at a time until the balance was paid off.  Simple math shows that this would have meant the con would still be making payments as of today.  However, there were several reports of cash being shoved into bags and, again, thrown at hotel staff, and there’s no accounting for that money.

At the time, the con staff announced they would refund the $17K.  (Here’s that promise in print.  That promise was also made at the con, and there are reports of names being recorded – more than once – for these reimbursements.) If you watch that video link above, that promise was retracted on Sunday.

If you’ve never heard of a con extorting $17K from its attendees?  THAT’S BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Ever.  EVER.


Hotel issues happen.  Absolutely.  Heck, sometimes your hotel closes 4 days before your event.  But you do NOT round up your attendees and demand money.  EVER.

One might wonder if the con did any fundraising beforehand.  Yes, they did.  For one thing, they organized an Indiegogo fundraiser that raised over $4K. (Perks for that fundraiser were not sent out..proof of that is coming up.)  They also asked that committees do fundraising for the kinds of panels/guests they’d like to see at Dashcon.  One example is here. (This is another thing I’ve never heard of a con doing before.)

One might wonder where that money all went.

One wouldn’t be alone.

Other (confusing) reports state that staff/volunteers selling con badges at admissions were still selling passes to the WTNV live podcast and the Time Crash concert…or perhaps the Steam Powered Giraffe concert, which had initially been the big event Saturday night but had been replaced months ago by Time Crash.  Again, the website showed these events were sold out, but the upcharge was, I believe $10 for each event.  (I’ve personally not seen another con do this.)  So there’s money flow happening at the con.

But hey.  Panels happened on Friday.  Reports coming out, from guests and attendees, were pretty good.  So let’s move forward to Saturday.

Saturday, the WTNV podcast was delayed for an hour.  Here’s a video of what that experience was like.  Note that there’s another request for money in this video, in the form of ‘we’re going to order pizza for all y’all – give us $5 each.’)  The upshot is this:  The guys behind Welcome to Night Vale were invited guests.  Invited guests generally have their transportation and hotel costs covered by the con, and there may be a per diem or an appearance fee.  In this case, WTNV paid for their own transport and hotel, expecting to be reimbursed, as this Twitter shows.  Dashcon staff claims that they had the performance fee money – or most of it – and that WTNV was in the wrong for not wanting to wait for someone to run to a bank and get the remainder of the fee. They also claim the bank was malfunctioning..? Frankly, nothing I’ve heard makes it sound like they were planning to cover the transportation and room costs, and the treatment of other guests only serves to convince me further that this was the case.

So, the WTNV cast left the con, but not the hotel, as they then offered another guest, Noelle Stevenson, crash space after she discovered her room was also not being covered by the con.

As a personal side note, I’m rather angry on the behalf of WTNV that Dashcon has tried to make them look bad.  Take responsibility, kids.  You handled this *very* badly.  Want further proof of that?  The response to a canceled special event that had a separate fee should be, “We will reimburse you.”  Hell, it’s not like the money was being used to take care of invited con guests.  Instead?  Dashcon staff offered people that had paid for the WTNV live podcast…..an extra hour in their ball pit (which was an inflatable kiddie pool filled with plastic balls).

Totally not kidding.  http://dashcon.tumblr.com/post/91582246126/clarifications-and-back-up-plans  In addition to more time in the ball pit, attendees were offered the chance to be entered into a raffle for items such as a framed Stan Lee autograph, a framed Richard Armitage autograph, a framed Walking Dead photo with autographs, etc.  Where did all that cool stuff come from?  The Indiegogo fundraiser.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, come on.  This con was being run by kids.”

Not so much.  Meet the Dashcon admins.  One co-owner is 32 years old; the other is 20, and her bio says, “ [I] attend Kent State University for Hospitality Management. I actually attend school to plan events like conventions, weddings, concerts, etc.”

Additionally, the con owners thought ahead enough to create a LLC for this event. That means the owners have limited legal protection, so if Dashcon gets sued – which seems very likely at this point – the con owners should be ok.   Just in case you were worrying about Meg Eli or Roxanne Schwieterman.  (I mention their names because you might want to reconsider getting involved in any of their future projects.)

So, moving forward.  Time Crash reported having a great time.  There were no other negative stories spreading…until Sunday, when the Baker Street Babes went to check out and discovered that their hotel room had been taken off the con credit card and they were being expected to pay for their room.  (That link also includes an update saying the issue has yet to be resolved.)  The BSB attempted to contact con staff for a few hours.  No response.  When they went back online and started threatening legal action?  THAT was something the con staff responded to..although, apparently, Dashcon staff was lying when they said they had fixed it. As of this date, the BSB are still being charged for their room.

Very much worth nothing:  The BSB does have a written record of the con agreeing to cover those costs.

The Dashcon staff held a Q&A on Sunday (this is usually referred to as a ‘dead dog’), and I’ve not seen a lot of video from it, outside of what I posted above.  In the aftermath, there’s a lot of attendees saying this was a great con and we’re all just being mean and talking about things we know nothing about because we weren’t there.

This worries me.  Because that means there’s a bunch of teens and 20-something year olds that think what happened at Dashcon was ok.

It’s not.

You do not break agreements with your invited guests.

You do not take their hotel rooms off your accounts, ESPECIALLY without talking to them.

You do not place blame on the hotel or your guests when things start to go wrong.  You take responsibility and you conduct yourselves in a professional way.  (Posting video of con staff crying?  This is not professional.)  Conduct yourselves, at all times, in a way that makes other people take you seriously and want to work with you in the future.

You do not offer play time in lieu of  money reimbursements.

Most importantly?

You do not – EVER EVER EVER – round up your con attendees and tell them to raise money for your event.

And if you as an event attendee ever find yourself in this sort of position?  DO NOT GIVE MONEY TO PEOPLE LIKE THIS.

I’ve been attending, and working for, conventions for the better part of 20 years.  Crap happens.  This kind of crap?  DOES NOT HAPPEN.

It is not the norm, it is not what you – as either an attendee or a volunteer -should expect, and y’all deserved a whole lot better.

Many attendees are saying it was a great weekend. I have no doubt that the actual con was, indeed, fun.  Fen are fun!  Gatherings in fandom are, generally speaking, a grand good time.  Bad things happen at cons and, in general, the attendees don’t see it.  That doesn’t make it a good convention – that means someone did a good job in buffering the attendees from the bad.  But kids?  I promise you, there are better events to attend, and there are better, more worthy things for you to give your money and your passion to.

Dashcon – and all the badness that happened – is the exception rather than the rule in conventions and fandom.  Don’t let it define your expectations of either.


One guest’s story: http://lyndsayfaye.tumblr.com/post/91654434754/dashcon-where-i-draw-the-line  (and I agree…this is one of the biggest reasons Dashcon staff should be smacked on the nose with a newspaper)

One attendee’s story: http://pooped.tumblr.com/post/91707384424/my-dashcon-experience-facts-and-proof-links-for-other

One vendor’s story: http://chiiathingy.tumblr.com/post/91519402264/dashcon-play-by-play-of-the-almost-cancel

Another summary (good money breakdown): http://robkneppers.tumblr.com/post/91625226542/wait-so-dashcon-crowdfunded-over-4-000-in

Updated to add:

*  The Baker Street Babes reported at 3:31 on 7.15.14 that Dashcon has now paid for their hotel rooms.  No update on whether or not all of Noelle Stevenson’s or Welcome to Night Vale’s costs have been covered.

* Dashcon is reportedly preparing a press release that will be available in a few days…at which point it will be old news.

* A person that was at the hotel has told me yes, she was locked out of her room Friday night and believes it was because the hotel was demanding money from the con.  Additionally, she says she heard one of people from one of the two weddings at the hotel raising a fuss about the con and that a hotel staff person said they would ‘take care of it.’  This contradicts all reports, including from Dashcon staff, that the issues came from upper management and was an issue between the hotel and the convention…which, in turn, is contradicted by statements from the hotel.  So if you’re not sure what to think?  You’re not alone.  (As an aside?  Gentle Readers, I’ve been at more than a few cons where we shared the less-than-five-star-hotel with weddings, or with religious conventions.  I’ve seen people in werewolf costumes – NO JOKE – chase down wedding guests.  I’ve NEVER seen a con successfully shut down while in session because of a complaint from another event.)

* There are reports that Welcome to Night Vale was not at the con until Saturday afternoon.  This is not true.  They had a panel/meet and greet on Friday night.

and then there’s Lyme (worse than measles/no vaccine)


A friend posted a link to this article about the CDC’s top 5 health threats for 2014.  The bit that stood out to me appeared early in the article:

1. The emergence and spread of new microbes

While it’s rare, CDC scientists do come across new diseases each year. In 2013, the new Heartland virus carried by ticks was confirmed in northwest Missouri. Federal health investigators collected samples in the state after two farmers from St. Joseph were sickened by the virus that carried a novel genetic profile.

Huh, I thought.  That sounds like Lyme.

Lyme disease is something I find personally frustrating..not in a ‘wow I’ve had it and it friggin’ sucks’ way – though it does friggin’ suck.  I find it frustrating because it’s relatively easy to treat..if you get it diagnosed quickly enough and if your doctor believes you might have it.  That point sounds odd, until you start to do some research and you realize that the symptoms of the disease are so much like so many other things that it can be wicked hard to identify the culprit of your sickness as being Lyme.  I’ve personally heard stories of doctors refusing to test for Lyme because there are no reported cases in that area.

The problems with that include a) it’s not taking vacation travel into account, and b) it’s assuming the CDC information is correct, when that info is a little misleading.   The CDC reports Lyme is not found nationwide. Well, if you count Hawaii’s zero count as being cause to say it’s “not found nationwide,” I guess that’s correct.  But I think it’s a little (?) misleading.  Recent news stories state that the number of Lyme cases is around 300,000.

“Usually, only 20,000 to 30,000 illnesses are reported each year, making it the most commonly-reported tick-borne illness in the country. For many years, CDC officials have known that many doctors don’t report every case and that the true count was probably much higher.” (taken from the link above)

So we have a disease that could be treated with antibiotics if caught early, but it’s often misdiagnosed and it’s very under-reported. If it’s left untreated – or mistreated – this curable condition becomes a crippling one.

To give some perspective, we have people up in arms about measles in the US.  We had 222 cases in 2011.


We have roughly 300,000 cases of Lyme per year.

So there must be a vaccine, right?

Well…there was.  “It was discontinued by the manufacturer in 2002, citing low demand.”  Not ‘it wasn’t safe’..not ‘we didn’t have enough cases being reported’…just low demand.

Even at 20,000-30,000 reported cases a year…low demand?

Well, maybe it didn’t work.

No, it did.  And folks used it.  “Between the time of its licensure in 1998 and July 31, 2000, about 1.5 million doses of the vaccine were distributed.”  Yes, there were reports of adverse reactions.. “After examining the reports, researchers “did not detect unexpected or unusual patterns of reported adverse events.”  This report says that lawsuits are the reason the vaccine was taken off the market – that,  and, bad press.  Also, it wasn’t on the recommended vaccination schedule, so it wasn’t protected against lawsuits the way things like the measles vaccines are.

This all makes for a complicated situation.  Without legal protection against lawsuits, this vaccine went away.  But you don’t know that without doing some digging, because the CDC just says, “Oh, no one wanted it.”

Is the answer to just try to force everyone to get this vaccine, should the newest version be released later this year as predicted?   Does that mean we add one more vaccine to the 40 or so kids are already getting?  Can it be an optional one?  What about the concern of mercury being used in vaccines?  (Mercury is wicked bad in general, but REALLY wicked bad if you have Lyme.)  Ideally, of course, someone getting the vaccine is healthy…but I find myself raising an eyebrow here.

And to bring it back around..Lyme is a Big Bad.  It’s not fatal.  It can be life-crippling…I’d go so far as to say devastating, which is why I would personally like to see a vaccine created for this disease.  Yes, it can be treated with antibiotics, and the better answer, perhaps, is to create better tests and have a medical community better educated about the disease and more willing to test for Lyme.  My personal opinion – I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV – is that there’s a bunch of other autoimmune stuff being wrongly diagnosed as everything but Lyme, and people are suffering wrongly because of their misdiagnosis.

But the CDC is apparently worried about a disease that has had two cases reported thus far.  That made it into the #1 concern for 2014…not the rising number of Lyme cases.  Maybe there’s not enough money to be made, if you look at the CDC site.  If you look elsewhere..wow, is this an expensive disease to treat.  What looks to be the most effective drug costs around $2k and is often not covered by insurance.  If I’m reading this right, the vaccine only ran about $100.

…I don’t like where that thought takes me.

a question of vaccines


I do not describe myself as someone who’s anti-vaccine.

Honestly? I’m not sure what I think about them.  I keep up on my tetanus shots because, between critters and Halloween, I run enough of a risk of injury that I’ve never questioned whether or not I should have the shot.  (Ironically, it’s a shot I’ve asked my doctors for and have never had one suggest that I get a booster.)

So let it be noted that I’m not anti-vaccine, especially for things like polio, smallpox, and tetanus. In fact, I used to not think much about them at all.  At some point, I remember posting a link to the Penn and Teller video about vaccines.

I still think there’s some good food for thought there. But I also think there’s more stuff to consider.  And the more I think about it, the more I think we should all be asking more questions.

When I was a kid, we were only given about 7 or 8 vaccinesAn example of the immunization schedule for 1974 is here, and it looks pretty minimal. I don’t have kids of my own, and – just as I had NO idea how much school security has changed since my childhood (I graduated from high school in 1987) – I had absolutely no idea how many vaccines are on a kid’s schedule today.

That’s…a LOT of vaccines.  For really young kids.  And..hepatitis is on the schedule?  The flu shot?  Chickenpox?

The CDC reports that of course vaccines are safe.   The website says, “Immunizations, like any medication, can cause adverse events. However, a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk. It is a decision to put the child and others who come into contact with him or her at risk of contracting a disease that could be dangerous or deadly. Consider measles. One out of 30 children with measles develops pneumonia. For every 1,000 children who get the disease, one or two will die from it. Thanks to vaccines, we have few cases of measles in the U.S. today. However the disease is extremely contagious, and each year dozens of cases are imported from abroad into the U.S., threatening the health of people who have not been vaccinated and those from whom the vaccine was not effective.”

So there’s pressure there to get the vaccine, although it might not work and although measles isn’t common.

What happens if you don’t get all those vaccines?  What if you think that your baby doesn’t need to be vaccinated against hepatitis?  Blogger Matt Walsh found himself under attack because he decided against getting his baby this vaccine.  (Please do read the blog. It’s fascinating.)

As it turns out, Matt had some damn good reasons to not want this vaccine for his child.  Babies have died from itThe vaccine can cause liver damage.   The common response to these points is, “Parents are told of the possible risks of vaccinations.”  That’s not true.  Ian’s story is just one example.

Let’s say you opt out of the chickenpox vaccine.  Well, now you’re putting your child at risk of being affected by flesh-eating bacteria. Which is true.  Ya know what also does that?  Insect stings.  Rashes.  Surgeries.  An open cut coming into contact with salt water.  And the CDC does point out that even with this vaccine, you may still get the chickenpox. This vaccine inspired parents to willingly expose their children to the virus rather than have their children immunized.

The Gardasil vaccine has been pretty popular for the past few years.  HPV is one of those diseases that’s pretty common and in most cases will clear up by itself..and, oh, it’s sexually transmitted, so, ya know, not SO easy to contract for a kid (which I say with the knowledge that kids are not always making smart choices, but..dude, if your kid’s having unprotected sex at age 11, you have more to worry about than HPV)…but it might also cause cervical cancer. So a vaccine is Of The Good, yes?  Maybe not. A lot of people think not.  Additionally, please note that although all of the immunization schedules say to wait until a kid is 11 or 12, Merck says 9 year olds can receive this medication. And yeah, that vaccine isn’t going to save your kid from all strands of HPV…which you probably know.

No wonder there’s confusion out there about what is and isn’t safe.

The vaccine I’m most familiar with is the flu shot.  We’re all told to get it.  Does it work?  Well…maaaaybe, according to the CDC.  Here’s the problem that *I* certainly didn’t know until I looked into the subject.  The flu shot is a guess.  The producers guess which flu strains might be the most common, and they include 3 different varieties into the shot.  If you get the shot and you don’t come in contact with that shot, you’re still going to get sick.  You might get sick just after getting the shot, for varied reasons.

My personal opinion about vaccines is that I don’t see a reason to get a vaccine for something like chickenpox or the flu because I don’t personally see them as being anywhere as serious as, say, polio.  I’ve yet to see a good enough argument to change my mind.

What I *have* run into is the argument that by not getting all of the vaccines and boosters the CDC recommends, I am putting other people’s health at risk.  And here’s my opinion about that:

I don’t buy it.

I get the idea behind “herd immunity.”  I get the idea that, because I have (I believe) a healthy immune system and should be able to get a vaccine without having an adverse reaction, I have a responsibility to do so for the sake of those who cannot do so.  (And to the parents of kids that have compromised immune systems?  Wow do you have some hard decisions to make.  Not much is known about immunizations and how they affect kids like yours. If you don’t get your kids the shots, you’re a bad parent.  If you do,

That said:  I also believe we are each responsible for our health.  Where do your rights smack up against mine?

So why not get all of those vaccines?  One concern voiced has been that mercury has been used in vaccine production. To be fair, we are also exposed to mercury in our diet (via fish) and in our dental work (our fillings..hence the push to have those metal fillings removed).  The concern?  Mercury is toxic. To quote that document: “Mercury is considered by WHO as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.”  When it comes to vaccines, thiomersol, which contains ethyl mercury, has been used since the 1930s in vaccines. Is it dangerous?  WHO says no.  Why the concern?  Go back and look at what we know mercury can do to us.  Now consider vaccines being given to infants.  We know that the half life of mercury traces in infants is pretty shortThere are varied studies showing that no, there’s no danger. But there’s still a concerted effort to remove the chemical from vaccines because hey, mercury really isn’t that good for us.

Which makes the whole thing a little muddy.

Let’s move on to the hot topic of vaccines and autism.  Is there a connection?

In 1998, Dr Andrew Wakeland said yes, yes there is.  That conclusion has been dismissed, and people tend to assume that all protests to vaccinations stem from this one study.  Which isn’t true, but it sure does make for a great knee-jerk-reaction argument.  The concern about a possible connection goes back to at least 1985, and there’s been more than just one study done on the topic.  What it really all comes down to is this:  We see a disturbing rise in autism as we see a rise in immunizations for both pregnant women and infants.  There’s an overwhelming number of stories out there about parents saying multiple vaccines were given to their children at once – which isn’t recommended – and when their children had adverse reactions, their concerns were dismissed.

One thing I personally find disturbing is that, if you do have a complaint about a reaction you or your loved one has had to a vaccine, you have to take that to the “Vaccine Court.”  If you try to sue a drug company, you’re running into the very real possibility that your suit won’t go anywhere because vaccine companies are protected against such cases.  And if you want to think vaccines are safe?  The manufacturers make huge settlementsEven over autism.  Medicine is HUGE money.  If they can settle for those amounts, the mind boggles at how much they’re actually making.

My not at all humble opinion is that if you want to not believe there’s reason for concern, you’re going to dismiss any cautionary tales as being “anti-vax propaganda.”  And if you’re of that opinion, you haven’t read much of what I’ve linked to in this blog because you’ve already forgotten that I’ve said I’m not against vaccinations.  🙂  If you’re at all open minded, you’re going to look at the tons of information and think about what you’re putting into your body. Or your child’s body.

One of the more surprising stats I found while writing this blog was that more parents than you’d think are questioning vaccinations. NVIC is a great resource if you want to know more.  (And yes,they’re working with the CDC, so no, this isn’t a dismissable ‘anti-vax’ website.)  Among chiropractors, it’s commonly accepted that vaccines are maybe not the best idea, which means that are countless doctors saying no to vaccines.

To step away from vaccines…here’s some sobering info.

We are 49th in world health.  We’re also the country spending the most on health care. Says that article, “After citing statistical evidence showing that American patterns of obesity, smoking, traffic accidents and homicide are not the cause of lower life expectancy, they conclude that the problem is the health care system.”

Our children are not expected to outlive us.

We’re doing it wrong, folks.

40-ish vaccinations are not saving our kids.

It’s not just one thing. It’s not just obesity or genetically altered food or pollutants or bad medical practices.  It’s all of it.

And if you’re not looking around and asking why we’re doing the things we’re doing – eating crap, not getting outside, poisoning ourselves in a multitude of creative ways – I think you..and not the folks refusing to overvaccinate their kids..are the problem.