Daily Chance to do Good: HUGHCON!!!


If you’ve attended a science fiction convention in the past 20+ years on the east coast, your path is very likely to have crossed with this man’s..


…Yes, he travels with that chair.

…….Ok, not really.  But he totally could, and no one would  question it.

Why, you ask?

Because this gentleman  is Hugh Casey, one of the finest people you’ll ever find in (or out of) the world of science fiction fandom.  As his bio states, Hugh is…

A long-time con-goer, he’s been a member of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society (PSFS) since the early-’90’s, where he served, at various times, as President, Vice-President, and on the Board of Directors. He’s also served as Chairman and Vice-Chair for PHILCON, Philly’s regional SF con, as well as it’s head of programming for several years …. He is a filmmaker with his own production company, Parents Basement Productions, and his short films “Teddy’s Big Escape” and “Young Geeks In Love” can be found on YouTube. He is also a writer, director, actor, blogger, photographer, event manager and promoter, and more. He tries to live by Clarke’s Law, “Specialization is for insects”.

(His bio neglects to mention, of course, that Hugh was a Guest of Awesome at Pi-Con in 2010.  Perhaps no one has earned that title more than Hugh!)

Now, east coast fandom hasn’t seen as much of Hugh in the past few years because of his fight with, and now recovery from, cancer.  To help out with his financial needs, a bunch of his friends have organized…HUGHCON!!


“What izzit what izzit WHAT IZZIT???” you ask?

HUghCon is a fundraiser where all proceeds will go to Hugh!  Throughout the day/evening, attendees will be treated to the music of Philadelphia’s own Star Trek tribute band, The Roddenberries, as well as the musical tapestry that is This Way to the Egress!  (If you’re not familiar with them, there are some music links at the bottom of this post.)

Attendees will also have the opportunity to bid on some fantastic silent auction items such as a copy of the book Who Killed Amanda Palmer (signed by photographer Kyle Cassidy, writer Neil Gaiman, and musician Amanda Palmer!), a first edition of the board game Conquest of the Empire (unopened, circa 1984), a geektastic gift basket of goodies from the Pennsylvania Browncoats, and much more!  Book, jewelry, and garb vendors will be on hand for your gift buying needs, with a portion of those proceeds going to Hugh as well.


Admission for the event is $15 pre-sale ($16.20 with tax), $20 at the door. The best part of this event?  You can buy a ticket even if you can’t go to the event, and that money goes directly to Hugh!!  So even though I can’t go because of prior obligations and, ya know, Philly being 12 hours away, I’m delighted I could still purchase a ticket and help support this love-filled event for this fantastic man.

You should, too!  It’ll make you feel good!  🙂  Go HERE! http://hughcon.brownpapertickets.com/

For the most up-to-date information on HughCon, check out their Facebook event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/911674232296899/.

Thanks for reading.  Please share if you’re so inclined!  And, really, go take a peek at the FB page..there’s so much awesome being planned to support Hugh, one of the best people and brightest stars in fandom.  ❤

The Roddenberries music: https://soundcloud.com/the-roddenberries

This Way to the Egress music: http://thiswaytotheegress.com


daily chance to do good: help out one of the kindest people i know



I am working in the Live Animal Unit, having recently become a weekend manager.  Behind me, I hear the sounds of someone walking into the room, talking as he enters.

I turn to see who he’s talking to, and am surprised to find that he’s more or less talking to me.

I stop working and watch him move around the room, talking the whole time as he checks in on certain animals, fiddles with other stuff, grabs some things he needs, and leaves via the back entrance to the room.

I blink. I’m not sure who he is, if he was allowed to be in here, or what exactly just happened.

This is my first introduction to Anthony Paino.



It’s Memorial Day weekend, and one of our skunks in the Crazy Critters exhibit is having a grand mal seizure.

I seriously have no damned clue what to do.  I’ve crawled into the exhibit space and am cradling the unresponsive skunk.  His name is Classic, I’ve helped raise him from a baby, and he’s in shock.

I might be, too.

Ant runs up.  “I’ll go get a carrier.” He runs off do that.

Visitors are commenting on how nice it is that I’m keeping the skunk company.

I try to smile.

I’m so glad Ant is here to help me.



Our animal center’s coyote, Chinook, has gone to live in Maine, away from cities and concrete enclosures.  Ant has put together a trip to visit Chinook in his new home.  It is a frenetic adventure and of the four of us, only one will ever make this trip again.  More than once.  And that person is Ant, because he loves Chinook enough to drive into the wilds of Maine over and over again to check up on his friend.



Ant and I are walking to Starbuck’s to get a mocha before the museum opens for the day.  He is not someone that one would say needs coffee; he’s always animated, always seems to be moving.  But he’s introduced me to the joy that is Starbuck’s, and this quick walk down the street to get an overpriced mocha is maybe one of the best parts of my day, because he’s kind and friendly and makes me feel included in a way I generally don’t feel.


This is the Ant that lives in my head, in a snapshot of a world that no longer exists.  If you’ve ever visited the Academy of Natural Sciences up to about 2011 or so, you’ve probably encountered Ant in Dinosaur Hall, doing a natural history demonstration, working with the Women in Natural Sciences program, or handling one of the myriad small jobs a museum manager encounters every day on the job.

A few weeks ago, I learned that he’s been struggling a lot.  The doctors don’t know what’s wrong with him, but they suspect it’s a rare condition called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) – his immune system is attacking his nerves, leaving him so weak he is struggling to do things as simple as eat, or stand up if he falls down.  You probably haven’t heard of this condition before, but it looks a little like MS..or stress.  Which is why his doctors are having a hard time actually diagnosing him.  His health has deteriorated over the past few years and he needs help.  A lot of help.

This is where you come in.  🙂

There’s a fundraiser for him here:  https://www.youcaring.com/anthony-paino-your-favorite-former-non-profit-naturalist-458373 You’ll see that the request is for money, and for other things as well.

Tis the season, of course, where we are inundated with pleas for help. And honestly, too many of us are a paycheck or two, or just one health crisis away, from needing help ourselves.  I’m boosting the signal for this request because Ant is truly one of the best, kindest, most dedicated people I’ve ever known.  I have zero doubt that he would do anything in his power to help his friends.  So we, his friends, are doing everything in our power to help him.

Because of Ant’s health, he’s been unemployed for too long.  We all know how terrifying hospital costs are even if you *do* have a job.

So.  This your daily chance to do good, y’all.  Even donating the cost of a Starbuck’s mocha would help.

If you can’t help?  Please consider boosting the signal.

Thank you.  With all of my heart, thank you.  ❤


the complications of friendship


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. 🙂

a different sort of angel… Dave Mattis: March 24, 1973 – January 2014


At my first haunt, Grisly Gothic Gables, sometimes we needed to have wall panels attached to the floor with concrete screws.  One of our crew members, “Donk,” usually did this for us, so we called it ‘donking the wall.’

This past year – and many years since Grisly – while building the Chamber of Horrors, I found myself checking walls and telling Bones, “No no, we have to Donk this panel, too.”


“Well, let me tell you about someone…”

donk 3

Donk is the fellow sorta in the middle of the photo, lounging in front of the fireplace.  This is a crew shot from Grisly, and in many ways I think it describes Donk.  He’s in the middle, but on the edge. He’s almost easy to miss….but only because you’re not there in person.

Donk was a member of our core group, our “Skeleton Crew.”  He was incredibly reliable – I can’t think offhand of him ever missing a performance – and while he refused to take on any sort of management title, he wore a radio for me because he was unofficial security. I knew that if he was in the haunt, my nearby female cast members were safe from any possible mischief or accidents.

When I think of Donk, I always think of his laughter first, his quiet determination to keep people safe second, and his mugging for the camera third.  Although he was generally camera shy in his day to day life, he had so much love for his characters and his special effect contacts that I honestly never realized he was known for avoiding photographs.

donk 4

And – as is so common – I didn’t know much about Donk outside the haunt.  I knew he was Wiccan – we discussed it on Facebook a few times – and I knew bits and pieces of his life, but I’m realizing now how little that actually was.  For example:  he wasn’t Dave to me, he was Donk.  He was gloriously DONK.  He loved to bellow “DAH-OOOOOONK!” – I can still hear the sound echoing down Philadelphia streets – and then laugh.  But it was only recently that I met the person that gifted him with that nickname.  It’s a quiet little reminder that, so often, we can love someone and consider them family, and never know every story that makes up that person’s life.

Last month, a stranger responded to a photo I’d posted and tagged Donk in, saying he had passed away.  A large part of me still can’t believe it.  I’ve been wanting to write a memorial since, but it’s an impossible thing to really believe the news.  I’ve found myself reading through old emails…like you do…and found this, which had been a response to my talking to him about my struggle with depression:

“…been there ,but i realized ,that’s when you need to embrace your friends (real friends ) not to shy away cause that’s when the loneliness causes you to do things ..out of character . besides your too sweet and hot to get depressed…”

I remember laughing and feeling wrapped in his affection and understanding.  I read that now and wish I’d had the chance to return that love.

donk 2


I don’t generally believe in angels.  I make an exception in Dave’s case.  Most of us never know how much we affect other people’s lives and stories.  Donk’s influence went so much further than he ever knew, and he’s one of those people that just brought joy to others’ lives.  I hope he knew, on some level, how much of a positive he was to the world around him, and I find myself believing wholeheartedly that not only does his joy continue, but that he’s protecting and loving us from wherever he is now.


social media and familiarity…it’s a tricksy thing


I’ve been online since the very late part of 1986. I assure you, Gentle Readers, sometimes that seems rather more impossible to me than it does to the kids that tell me, “But there was no internet then!” But I’ve loved it, for the ability it’s given my introverted self to meet friends after my many location changes, and I’ve loved it just as equally for the usefulness it’s offered to help me stay connected to my varied groups of friends.

A therapist asked me this past year, “Why do you blog?” I stared at him, wondering how anyone could ask that question. I blog because it seemed the natural progression from BBS message boards. Because it helps me keep track of my life. Because it allowed me more contact with my loved ones. Because it fed my eternal hope that family might use my online presence to find me someday.

The advent of social media – and yes, I differentiate between that and blogging because, by its very nature, blogging is a different beast – was interesting in an ‘oh look online chatting is all grown up!’ sort of way. Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, etc etc etc…I’ve poked my cybertoe into pretty much all of them, and I find FB still works best for me..and it’s allowed me to find people I’ve been looking for online for a very long time.

But it’s a mixed bag, because it also allows people you’ve friended to sorta kinda know about your life. Which can be awesome, and I think it’s exactly what social media is meant to do…but it can also be kinda awkward, if a friendship has started to fall away and the habit of calling or texting drifts into, ‘Well, I can peek in on Facebook and see what’s new in her/his life,’ without personal interaction.

And sometimes that’s not such a good thing.

I think sometimes – a lot of the time – it offers a false sense of closeness. I realize that’s not a new thought, but I think we think of it more in the sense of fans thinking they have an intimate connection with celebrities rather than people thinking they have a strong friendship with someone when that’s stopped being the case, for whatever reason.

I have a dear, dear friend that, until recently, has been pretty horrid about communicating with me. I used to send him form letters to fill out and send back. He thought they were funny, and he didn’t return them, and for years we were friends because that’s how our hearts defined each other rather than what our lives mirrored. I think, had we had Facebook 20 years ago, I would have defriended him out of frustration. It wouldn’t have stopped us from being friends – no click of an electronic button should be able to do that – but rather, it would have been another version of my no longer sending him form letters in hopes of finding out what was going on in his life.

(That said, yes, I’ve had..let me think. I’ve had exactly one friendship end because I clicked the button many years ago. She still has me blocked on Facebook, although that’s not where the disconnect happened. I’m still bemused by her anger. My life improved when she wasn’t a presence in it any longer. I hope that part, at least, was mutual.)

So. It’s weird. I blog, I have an internet presence, because I value connections. It comes with a price, because there are people watching my virtual self that – well, let’s say Facebook’s “block” feature is something I wish we could extend throughout the internet. 🙂 Still, I’m mostly public, because it’s what I want for my virtual self, and I treasure the connections I’ve maintained over the years because I exist in pixelated form. But I suppose the inner conflict for me comes into play when someone I’m close to uses that online presence to check in without the extra step of a personal connection – a phone call, an email. It simply doesn’t work in my case, because most of what I post on social media isn’t the pertinent personal stuff. For me, it’s the difference between glancing at the headlines and actually reading the magazine.

If you don’t take the time to look inside, how can you really know the story?

If you don’t want the whole story, why are you looking in the first place?