10 minutes of your life


“Do you like spirits, mommy?  Even fuzzy ones?”

Many years ago, I was at a party thrown by, and attended by, varied people from a Philadelphia BBS. (This would be internet-before-the-world-wide-web, when we connected via modems and messaging systems,   when 2400 baud was still pretty common and 9600 was incredibly fast and why are you laughing?? Get off my lawn!)


So.  There was this party where people were bringing in videos of things most of us had never seen.  It’s where I first saw “Bambi VS Godzilla” and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” as well as several of the Warner Bros. cartoons that are too politically incorrect to be shown anymore (although you can find them easily enough on YouTube).

And then someone walked in with an animated film – Japanimation, to give you an idea of how far back this story goes –  that needed a bit of explanation.  “This isn’t in English,” he said. “I have no idea what it’s really about.  But it’s awesome and you have to watch it.”

The title of this movie?  “My Neighbor Totoro.”

It was in Japanese with no subtitles, and it was…bewildering.  And amazing.

A few years later, I saw this movie for rent and told my mom we had to get it.

“What’s it about?”

“I have NO IDEA.  But you’ll love it.”

And she did, of course.  Because it’s amazing.  Really, it’s the perfect bit of anime for me, with its soot sprites and bizarre cats and nature spirits.

Based on all of this, you’d think that I’d love anime.

I don’t.

I seriously have zero interest in the genre, outside of the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

But that’s not to say I won’t give it a chance.  I think it’s one of the personality traits I find most frustrating in other people, the inability to give something new a chance, to give it 10 minutes of your life and see if it’s worth 10 minutes more.  (This is a concept my friend Gwendolyne introduced to me, and it’s brilliant.)  I’m not always good about this practice, myself; but I know that when I am, those are 10 minutes of understanding/experience/compassion that enrich my life, and so really, I can’t recommend the idea highly enough.

…And part of me still kinda wants to snuggle a totoro.


but what’s my motivation?


Last year during our haunt build, our electrical wizard pinged Bones and asked if he could help with a video project.  This resulted in a pause in building while Bones went through our makeup supplies, transformed himself into a disagreeable older gentleman, and Became! A! Star!


dustin old

Dane and his team – Team Ventura, so you know it’s awesome – participate in Public Media Network‘s contest, Cinema 2880 Film Festival, in which participants have 48 hours to create a short film that must contain certain elements or words.  Team Ventura does a great job, and I’m always wicked impressed by what they can get done in such a short amount of time.  (Last  year’s video is here.  It took first place in Facebook Viewers Choice.)

This year, they needed a grim reaper, and they were planning to film that scene in the same location where we were having our haunted event, so..meant to be!

My desire to take photos was discouraged by the crew.


Bones…er, Death… was, as always, a professional.

Shooting happened pretty fast (48 hours includes all the editing/production time, and the team had varied filming locations).  The final result may be found here…this year, Team Venture took First Place in Facebook Viewers Choice again – yay! – and third place at the festival.  🙂

if you enjoyed AHS’s Freak Show, go watch this stuff


(This is an unusual blog post for me, but I’m wicked geeked out about the topic right now, so humour me. 🙂  )

Like a lot of people, I don’t get caught upon TV series until they hit Netflix.  American Horror Story is one of those shows, and considering the wild popularity of that show, I thought I’d share my wanderings through Netflix’s collection of things that don’t always pop up easily on people’s feeds.

Last year – and honestly, unrelated at all to AHS – I discovered a reality TV show on Netflix called “Freakshow.” You may not be into reality shows, but Todd’s desire to replicate freak show history today in Venice Beach is pretty interesting/educational…and with only 2 seasons?  Not a huge commitment.

When I finally got around to watching American Horror Story’s fourth season,  I found myself really glad I’d watched the aforementioned show because I felt like I understood the season better.  But goodness, was I missing stuff.  I knew (mostly) who had inspired varied stories; I just didn’t realize how many of the actors on the show were real-world ‘freaks.’  Indeed, even the opening credits reference real people.

Curious about Dot and Bette?  You’ll find “Bound by Flesh,” a documentary about conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, to be well worth your time.

I don’t know of a film about the “Lobster Boy” character Jimmy Darling’s real-world counterpart,  Grady Stiles Jr, but his son (who shares the family’s ectrodactyly condition, is a part of the Venice Beach freakshow and discusses his father on one episode.

Not related to AHS but definitely related to freaks, I highly recommend the following two documentaries as well.  First is “The Real Beauty and Beast,” which primarily tells the story of Petrus Gonsalvus, a man in the 1500s who was afflicted with hypertrichosis, causing long dark hair to cover most of his body.  He and his wife are believed to have helped inspire the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.”  (The trailer below doesn’t really capture much of what the documentary is about, although you’ll see the Venice Beach freakshow making yet another appearance.)

And then there’s this documentary about the Ovitz family – a family of Romanian dwarves that survived Auschwitz.  (Why don’t we all know about their story?)  This one doesn’t have much of a connection to anything else I’ve mentioned other than the obvious tie little people have to the world of the side show/carnival, but oh, I so encourage you to watch this one.  This family’s history is an incredible story.

I would not be surprised at *all* to learn that I’ve missed a thing or two from Netflix’s collection.  But since we know that things offered up for our viewing pleasure there does change over time…if the history of carnivals/freak shows interests you at all?  I encourage you go to take a look at this stuff.

one dead, five injured by a gunman at zombicon


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.

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


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)

‘DashCon Rebrands as EmotiCon, Hopes You Won’t Notice’




* Dashcon.org is gone.  The tumblr account still exists.

* All those people promised to be paid back?  Shouldn’t be holding their breath.  In their own words, quoted here because of the repeated pattern of their deleting their statements:

When the dust settled after DashCon, we were left with thousands of dollars worth of debt. Because this, among many others reasons, DashCon LLP is being dissolved and assets being liquidated. Once the assets are liquidated, each debt will be paid pro rata, meaning that there’s a possibility the debts won’t be paid in full, but each will be paid the same percentage of what’s owed. We don’t know how long this process is going to take, but it’s fair to say it could be up to 90 days. Apologies for the further delays. This has all become a bit of a legal ordeal.

 There has been a lot of speculation that DashCon LLP has changed its name to Emoti-Con or So Attacked Entertainment LLC. That, however, is inaccurate. Two of the three owners of DashCon, Cain and Megg, are now functioning as So Attacked Entertainment LLC, which will be hosting an event called Emoti-Con. Despite Cain and Megg’s involvement, neither So Attacked Entertainment LLC nor Emoti-Con is in any way affiliated with DashCon. 
Thank you for your patience while we try to resolve these final matters. Apologies that we are unable to give a more definite timeline on payment. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
* Making a joke out of the refrain from both attendees and con owners, “I’m feeling so attacked right now,” by calling the new company So Attacked LLC, is…quite something.  Claiming Emoti-Con has no connection to Dashcon is an outright lie, and is further proof IMNSHO that Cain and Megg still don’t get how to handle themselves in a professional manner.   (And really, if this whole thing becoming ‘a bit of a legal ordeal’ was any sort of surprise?  These two have a lot of growing up to do.)
Personally, it would impress me a helluva lot more if they were taking the money for next year’s con and fixing their screw-ups from this year.  I get it.  Legally there’s no connection between the two…although I’m curious if the money raised for Dashcon II was shuffled over to EmotiCon’s account, or if it’s being used to pay this year’s debt.  Which would be the right thing to do.  Which is why I suspect it’s not happening.
* The con owners protest too much.  Currently, the Indianapolis convention center is still listing the defunct dashcon.org website as the website for Emoti-Con.  (Way to be organized, guys.)  And hey, if this is NOT, in fact, Dashcon II, what happens to the people that bought passes for Dashcon II?  Do they get their money back? Or do they get a pass to, um, this completely-not-connected-to-Dashcon convention?
I really truly hope all of the following happens:
1.  People actually get their money back.
2. Cain and Megg take the time to figure out how to run a good, professional convention.
3. All the people that have been supporting the fiasco that is Dashcon figure out what a good, professional convention looks like…and either demand Cain and Megg step up, or they stop throwing their love and money at a bad project.
4. No guests get screwed over by Cain and Megg ever again.


a dashcon story that also very much needs to be heard


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.)


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


* 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.

so what makes a convention great?


Conventions have been one of my primary ways of socializing for a long time.  I started attending them in…I believe it was this convention in 1985, as I remember making a birthday card for Peter Davison and getting the chance (thanks to a fan club membership) to meet him at some point during the weekend.

(He’s very tall.)

When I moved to the Philly area, I started helping with very small conventions, and over the past *mumble* years I’ve been a volunteer on varied levels, including con guest liason and con planning committee.

Conventions work because we who attend and love them do so with the unspoken agreement to accept everyone.  My description of that is:  Every fan has a box of shiny that s/he carries around covered up and – by and large – unshared in the mundane world.  So when s/he gets to a convention, WOOHOO!  It’s a chance to open up that box!

The problem with that is you then have a hotel filled with people all excited about their boxes of shiny and often unable to appreciate each other’s shinies.

The first time I ran into this, it hurt my feelings. I was thinking, “Yay! We get to share our interests!” and then I realized that couldn’t happen because the other person was very very focused on the joy of being able to really celebrate her shiny.

Within the world of fandom?  That’s ok.  It’s ok outside fandom, of course…my meaning here is that within fandom, within that atmosphere of accepting everyone, quirks and unconventional behaviors and all, it’s more ok.  And, given a chance to get the OMG out of her/his system?  True sharing will happen.  🙂

I get that the environment of conventions is changing, and that harassment is a huge issue.  Because I love conventions, I want to say, “No no, it can’t be that big a problem!”..but yes, I’ve been harassed at cons (NOT because of my costuming, ironically) and it’s caused me to not want to attend certain events anymore.  I think harassment policies are long overdue; I also think – as the above link illustrates – that you can’t just have a policy. You also have to have a staff that knows how to effectively deal with harassment issues.  And that’s a piece of the puzzle that’s being overlooked too often.

So when I say that we as fandom are accepting of everyone, I’m doing so while wearing a hefty pair of harassment-blinders.  That said, I still believe it’s a safe place where you can celebrate your geekery, dress up as you wish, and find like-minded people.

In some of the aftermath of Dashcon, I’ve seen people saying, “This was  great for cosplayers because they weren’t harassed!”  “This was awesome because I met other fans!”  Those *are* good things.  BUT.  You don’t have to pay a high-priced ticket or donate $17K to a con to have that experience.

This is a great, great list of 24 conventions..some pro-run, some fan-run…that is FAR from complete but is a great place to start looking for conventions that are relevant to your interests.

I’m gonna add a few more:

* Balticon – Located in Hunt Valley, MD, it’s one of my most favourite events.  Great costuming!  Great panels!  Wanna make a costume element and you’re not sure how to get started?  The costumers at Balticon put on some fantastic talks.  There’s a science track that’s well, well worthwhile.  There’s dancing, and gaming, and a video room, and a great art show…AND an auction that raises  money for the BSFS Books for Kids…**AND** there’s a writing contest for young authors!  I unabashedly love this convention.

* Interventioncon – Also located in Hunt Valley, there is something NOTHING out there like Interventioncon.  Quoth one of the co-chairs, Oni:

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.

 You KNOW you want in on this.  Go read more about it here, and for the love of God, find a way to get to this convention!

* Pi-Con – So you want to attend a con that isn’t all about guests, but rather is a celebration of geekery?  Get ye to Pi-Con!  I love this event.  It’s a modestly sized convention that each year features a “Guest of Awesome”…namely, someone from fandom that is surprised with a, “Hey! Wanna be our Guest of Awesome?”  (See?  Completely charming!)

There are way, way too many great conventions out there for me to even THINK about listing them all.  (Fortunately, I don’t have to…Nathan Lilly’s done that with his Convention Finder.)  The take-away here, the point I’m hoping to get across, is that fandom is AWESOME.  Conventions are AWESOME.  There are SO SO SO many GREAT events out there that show, in SO MANY WAYS, the things that happened earlier this month at Dashcon are *not* the norm and should *NOT* be what one expects – or forgives – from a convention.

That said, whichever convention you decide to attend should – hopefully – give you a taste of this:

(And with that, I return you to your regularly scheduled haunted house geekery…VERY VERY SOON!)

dashcon releases their statement…


..in which they:

*do NOT say the issue was unsold rooms/room blocks

* do NOT discuss the topic of people being locked out of their rooms (which seems to give more credit to the idea that this wasn’t actually happening..at least, no more than it does for any other hotel guest with a faulty key card)

*DO say the hotel did not treat the con or the attendees badly and were not to blame for how things transpired

*Welcome to Night Vale was NOT in the wrong, and provide lots of proof showing, among other things, that no, WTNV did NOT show up on Saturday randomly demanding money

* refunds for the WTNV event will NOT be made available

* most of the money paid to the hotel over the weekend was from cash donations (which contradicts reports that most of the money was tied up in PayPal..and dear LORD does that means the attendees shelled out over $11K to fix the convention’s woes?!?! holy crap, people!! and holy crap, Dashcon staff!!)


“If you donated cash and would like it returned, please also let us know by 11:59pm EST on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Please send an email to dashcondonations@gmail.com with “Cash Donation Refund” in the subject line. Within the body of the email, please include your full name, phone number, Invoice ID from your badge purchase [to verify your ability to have been in attendance], and the amount you donated. Upon advice of our legal counsel, we have been instructed to sort through claims, try and determine legitimacy [based on total amount claimed versus total amount received], and make an informed decision about potential refunds in coordination with both legal and accounting at that time.”

Personally, I think that giving y’all a TWO DAY DEADLINE is bad form. And if you did donate, Dashcon staff will decide how legitimate your request is…?  Considering the average cash donation, at this rate, would be around $1K a person, how do you then decide what’s a legitimate claim?  I think attendees should accept that their admission to the con was a whole lot more than $40-$65, because they’re not gonna get reimbursed.  But hey, big surprise, I have an opinion.  How novel.

* NO the hotel did NOT insult or denigrate the con and its attendees

They do say there were staff members to blame, and those people have been removed from the company.  They also claim incidentals such as electrical costs weren’t quoted ahead of time, which…I’ve personally not seen happen before, but I also can’t find a reference online to indicate how those types of costs generally run.

Between Dashcon’s tendency to delete information (indeed, in today’s explanations, there’s a state intent to continue to delete content) and how hard is to find statements on their website/Tumblr after some time has gone by, I am linking to both what is on the website at this time and the linkback post on their Tumblr.  Hopefully at least one will be a permalink.  Questions raised after the explanation post was made available, and the answers, appear here.   Those topics include questions about the Indiegogo (“I will attempt to reach out to DashCon’s former associates who were in charge at the time to try and get this question answered,” Megg replied – because, um, no one discussed the raising of $4K, although the perk gifts are still in the possession of Dashcon staff?  I call shenanigans.), questions about the connection with the charity Random Acts (no, money was not collected, and ” I’ve made an attempt to remove all Random Acts references from our blog. If you could point out what I missed, I’d like to remove that as well.” I get what she’s going for there; however, she’s apparently not realized that something posted on the internet never really goes away.  Better to edit that post and say, ‘No, this didn’t happen,” IMNSHO.), questions about panel descriptions (someone else wrote them, they weren’t proofed, that won’t happen again).

So.  I’m impressed con staff took a lot of responsibility.  I don’t think it answers enough questions, but it sure answers more than I thought it would.

I sincerely hope they – and other start-up con staff – are not taking this whole ‘if we’re short on money, we’ll just ask our attendees to raise it for us’ idea and making it standard policy.

I also VERY MUCH HOPE that convention attendees do not walk away thinking that this hat-in-hand sort of thing is how conventions are supposed to run.  Because it’s not.  Really.  I promise.


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.