ConDroyd, my new ALA 2011 schedule app for Android

01 03 2011

ConDroyd is a FREE Anime Los Angeles (ALA) 2011 schedule app for Android phones & tablets that I wrote. It includes the latest published schedule and all the cosplay gatherings posted on cosplay.com. It lets you star your must-attend events, and then you can filter to display just those events. You can also enable reminders for your starred events so you don’t miss them.

For more info, please go to http://www.condroyd.com/

If you’re coming to ALA and have an Android, please download my app, give it a try, and let me know what you think.



DragonCon 2010

09 14 2010

DragonCon was extremely fun as always this year, despite a number of annoying glitches. It’s definitely well worth the (relatively high) cost of attending, and we have already purchased our badges for next year.

High points

  • Denise Crosby storming off the Star Trek: TNG panel after being repeatedly teased by Jonathan Frakes and the other cast members on the panel. From the sound of things, she does not appear to get along with the other cast members. Brent Spiner was hilarious as always, and all the actors (except Denise) were enjoyable to listen to.
  • Despite having to watch Mai half the time, I made it to a number of panels in person, and was able to watch others on DCTV. Among my favorites:
    • The aforementioned TNG panel.
    • The Eureka panels were a blast. The actors love working together and it showed.
    • The “I Dream of Jeannie” reunion panel was interesting. The actors are old! (Not surprising for a show that aired about 40 years ago.) Barbara Eden still sounds exactly like she did on the show.
    • “Tips on Running an Anime Convention” was great as always. That panel had an amazing amount of experience  from conventions around the country.
    • Voice Actor panels are always fun to watch, but after a while they get a bit repetitive because (for the most part) the same set of voice actors come to the California conventions. The panel at DragonCon was interesting to me because it had mainly Atlanta-based voice actors who don’t come out to California for conventions very often, so I got to hear new stories and new voices.
  • The many excellent costumes. No convention I’ve ever attended has come close to DragonCon for sheer variety, and many costumes were very clever (like Elfvish, the Elf Elvis). Although it seemed there were fewer people in costume this year, there were still a lot of great costumes to see and photograph.
  • DragonCon Security and crowd control. They kept traffic moving without being too heavy-handed.
    • There were fewer photography restrictions than in previous years, and the ones that existed were very reasonable.
    • There were various restrictions issued (like shutting down the Hyatt/Marriott tunnel Sunday night), but they were understandable given the crowds. When you have 60,000 people in attendance, it is inevitable that there will be some idiots and jerks, but security appears to have done a good job at keeping a lid on things almost all of the time.
  • The Georgia Aquarium private event itself was great. Mai loved looking at all the sea animals, and I got some good photos. Their cafeteria food was also very yummy, if a bit expensive.
  • I don’t normally schedule shoots at DragonCon, but this year I had shoots with two different people, one of which I shot in three different outfits. They were great to shoot with, and we were even able to find some spots to shoot despite the crowds. I’ll be posting those photos soon.

Low points

  • DragonCon always has crowds, and in the evenings, a lot of drunk people. This year, it seemed like the evening crowds were more drunk, and were carrying around more open cups of beer, than in previous years. Crowds and open containers of alcohol always make me nervous when I’m carrying my camera.
  • The lack of Con security on the walkways. The Marriott/Hyatt walkway, especially, is long, and could have used a few security people to prevent traffic blockages, enforce the photo restrictions, and generally keep an eye out for people trying to start trouble.
  • The convention was very spread out this year. Events were held in five hotels. The Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton are within a block of each other, and are connected via tunnels, but the Westin and Sheraton were harder to reach. Given the sheer volume of events and attendees, I suppose this was inevitable, but I still miss the days when you could walk past every track room during the 30 minute between-panel break to see if anything looked interesting. The long distances also made me more reluctant to gamble on a panel if it was in a far-away hotel; if the panel turned out to be boring, I would have walked that far for nothing.
  • Three years ago, the Marriot was under construction during Con; this year it was the Hyatt. With half the lobby gone or taken up by the relocated registration desk, moving around the lobby was a challenge. Fortunately, the core late-night photography / socialization area has shifted to the Marriott over the past two years, so it was less of an issue than it could have been. Still, the location of the entrance of the walkway to the Marriott relative to the escalators and bar made the Hyatt lobby very challenging to navigate.
  • Some years, the DragonCon masquerade is the highlight of the convention; this was not one of those years. We watched it from our room on DCTV as we usually do to avoid the crowds, and were very glad we did. Among the issues:
    • The MCs were awful, especially Peter David. They made fun of the costumes, the contestants, and generally acted like jerks. Peter even let his daughter (who was on stage with him and looking very bored) take some swings at one of the contestants with a prop sword. We ended up muting the TV whenever the MCs were speaking. Next year, please bring back Anthony Daniels!
    • There were a few excellent costumes and two or three great skits, but on average the costumes and skits were nothing to write home about.
    • Many of the judges were apparently picked because they were famous, not because they were qualified to judge. This led to a second issue, where a previous winner entered a slightly modified version of a winning costume. The judges, being new, didn’t know that, and awarded a top prize to this repeat costume.
    • The stage lighting was a bit off, so a lot of contestants ended up with only their lower bodies illuminated during their skit. On top of that, DCTV’s camera was apparently set to auto-expose, causing most of the masquerade to appear very dark. (Hint: unless your backdrop is 18% gray, your camera or video camera will not correctly auto-expose things on a stage.

    DragonCon has been doing masquerades for a very long time; you’d think by now they’d know enough to avoid these amateur mistakes.

  • Registration was a disaster again this year. In previous years, pre-reg badge pickup opened around 4pm on Day 0. This year, in an attempt to improve the wait, badge pickup opened around noon. This did help somewhat — when Caroline went to pick up our badges at 1pm, it only took her 3 hours to get her badge, and an additional hour to get mine. We heard that the wait got much worse later in the day. The good news is that DragonCon has announced they are moving to a bar code system for next year, which should help a lot. Simply eliminating the last-name-letter lines will make things go smoother. Still, this is only moving them from a mid-80s registration system to a late 90s registration system, though I suppose expecting them to move to a modern system similar to what’s used by other large conventions was too much to ask for.
  • While the Georgia Aquarium event itself was a lot of fun, the logistics around it were not. The pickup location for the shuttle bus was confusing, causing people to line up in the wrong spot. There was only one shuttle bus in operation; coupled with the long and confusing lines, it was faster to walk the four blocks than to wait for a bus. The event also ended half an hour early, for no apparent reason. Mai was getting really tired at that point anyway, but other people might have wanted to stay for the full time listed on the ticket.
  • AirTran was the worst airline Caroline and I have flown in a long time. Some of the many issues we had with them are:
    • At SFO, they had the wrong departure gate posted on the monitors the entire time, including while we were boarding.
    • At ATL, they had the wrong luggage carousel posted the entire time, even as the luggage arrived elsewhere.
    • The flight attendants would skip you during beverage service if you weren’t paying attention (e.g. talking to your neighbor), and would look annoyed when you asked for your drink.
    • The ATL check-in agents gave contradictory instructions, measured the luggage with a tape measure, and weighed it twice.

Overall, we had an excellent time, though, and are looking forward to next year, especially since Mai should be old enough for DragonCon Daycare.

I’m posting my videos from DragonCon to Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/ocwajbaum. Given the size of 1080p video files (and therefore the time it takes to upload them), it will likely be another week or two before they are all up.

I’m a bit behind on photo processing, so I probably won’t have many hallway photos posted from DragonCon for a few weeks.