rax: (Benten guitar case)
I need to write this down before I forget any more of it, so congratulations, you get a belated con report.

PEOPLE: Until Diane arrived on Friday night, I was essentially there alone. Last year, when I knew ~no one except for Cassandra, this would basically have been a disaster; I don't particularly hang out with furries on the Internet who I don't already know from somewhere else, so I wouldn't have been able to get in touch with that social group since it didn't exist. [0] Although I did get to see Ian-Keith, a partner in roguelike crime from way back. ;) This year I already knew a bunch of people from last year --- not well, mind you, but well enough to sit down and strike up a conversation for a few minutes and feel like there was a reason for me to be there. Those people also helped me meet new people to the point where after another year or two I can imagine just showing up and being "Oh, it's the social group I know from Anthrocon!," especially in the gaming room. Unfortunately people aren't very good about giving out contact information --- and I'm not as good as I should be at asking for it.

I've tried to mitigate this problem by having cards I hand out with my name, telephone number, email address, website, and basic information about myself on them, and they work both as harder to discard than a scrap of paper (they're on pink cardstock, of course, because I am me) and a conversation starter. There's something on the card that will make pretty much everyone go either "oooh!" or "what on earth is that?" But since I'm the one handing out the contact information, I pretty much have to rely on the people making first contact with me, which has a pretty low percentage rate. There were a few people in particular this year who I was really glad to meet though, and who I expect I'll stay at least in casual contact with during the year.

FOOD: Mostly I brought a ton of trail mix, a giant bag of dried pineapple, and these weird raw crackers, and lived off of those the whole time. I did have three meals out: one at Sree's, an almost-entirely vegan Indian place (they have tandoori chicken over in an awkward little corner), one at a Thai place that was OK but not worth blogging about, and one at Quiet Storm, a vegetarian/vegan cafe that's like five miles from the convention center but a cheap cab ride and trivially accessible by bus. Cabs were so backed up that we had to take the bus on our way back and it turned out to be painless and cheaper and an opportunity to see more of Pittsburgh. Oh and the food was so amazing and so inexpensive that I am totally going back next year and dragging other people: "Get on a bus, it won't kill you. Come on." The people were kinda like "The furries come this far out? Whoah," but it was totally cool. Also seriously it was good enough that I begged them for a cookbook but they didn't have one.

Eating mostly trail mix isn't nearly as boring as I thought (and for aforementioned nightshade reasons was actually rather nice), but it was nice to get out a bit and have something very different on the last night. (Barbecue seitan sandwich... mmmmmh. Amazing black beans, too.)

EVENTS: Aside from basic stuff like "Watch the fursuit parade!" I really only went to two events that weren't gaming-related this year: The Women in Fandom meet and greet and an IndyFurCon meetup. The Women in Fandom event was amazing, I met a bunch of fun people and talked about organization and social groups and anthropology and trying to bring gender studies into science curricula. Eventually three of us ended up in a corner talking about our PhD programs and seriously geeking out, it rocked. <3 (One of those people is among the "must keep in touch with...") It was really cool to hear people talk about how in the 90s there were like four women at cons, and now it's not 50% but there are a whole lot of us --- I had been on the Internet doing furry things then, but went to my first con last year, and so I was just like "Oh wow this isn't nearly as bad as I thought!" :)

The IndyFurCon meetup I hoped to use as a chance to meet people from Indiana despite the fact that I can't go this year. (I have a wedding I'm already going to.) I only met one person who was actually from Indiana there, which was sort of odd, although chatting with him for a bit was nice, and I'll probably see him at the furry barbecue I think we're going to today? Then there was this young woman from Canada who I'm not entirely sure what happened but pretty soon we were arm in arm skipping around the Westin and then there were some stairs and then I was in a room party being served good beer? The point of this party seemed to be to recruit people for another con, Condition in London, Ontario, which apparently has a plot that will be enacted year to year, so it's sort of a dinner murder mystery con? Con with LARP elements? I dunno. The people were really cool, I chatted with one of their guests of honor for a while about fursuits as part of a cluster of people, I would definitely consider going if it weren't for its conflicting with the other wedding I'm going to this summer. But I'll leave it on the possibilities for next year if the reports go well. I would very much like to see an event where the theme is more than just pasted on work. "berrrrrrrrrr" is Oolong's contribution to the discourse in this regard apparently. [1]

DRIVING THERE: This sort of deserves its own section. Flying looked ridiculously expensive, and it's only a seven or eight hour drive to Pittsburgh, and I thought "Hey, maybe I can carpool with some people, since I have a van, and save money on gas!" After a truly ridiculous amount of catherding --- we had three people supposed to be in the car who punted at various times, and one person flew from San Diego in order to ride there and back with someone from Champaign who we had to pick up at a rest stop outside Indy, and... there were three furries I didn't know before the trip riding with me to and from Pittsburgh. We had a blast. (One of them didn't pay me and hasn't responded to my messages about this, but whatever. Two out of three ain't bad.) One of them, Flare Starfire, [2] is an impressive improvisational pianist who really doesn't sound like he has no background in music theory --- he's got that savant thing going. You can hear a few tracks for free on his website, I'm pretty sure; when he played some for me in the car, I was all "Is this Beethoven? No this chord progression is too modern. Um. Wait, is this Phillip Glass? No, he wouldn't have gone there... What is this? Wait this is you?" If you sit down with your Serious Music Brain you'll find things to criticize but it's really enjoyable and impressive music and at Anthrocon I confirmed that he's fun to watch play, too. If "modern classical improvisational piano (in a fursuit)" sounds interesting to you, check it out!

NEXT YEAR?: Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm going. I really want to run a vegan (or maybe, to get the numbers up, vegetarian and vegan) meetup thing at some point, and maybe get help from Pittsburgh locals to put together a good list combined with directions and bus instructions and schedules for those specific places. (There's a Pittsburgh veg society website or something, but it mostly assumes you are from Pittsburgh, and there's an Anthrocon dining guide, but it mostly assumes you have no interest in walking more than a thousand feet.) I'm psyched that I didn't eat out that much this year (last year it was every meal, breakfast lunch and dinner, ulgh), but it is a good social opportunity, and when you're at a con and you probably should have eaten two hours ago and you're overheating because half your body is covered in fake fur, having a little booklet that says "Stand at X intersection for five minutes and get on a bus until it hits Y, get out, get a vegan smoothie" would be awesome. Anyone know anything about organizing that kind of event? 

Diane and I had also talked about running some sort of surreal side-quest puzzle hunt, and if we're still interested, we might do it... this would probably take the form of randomly handing puzzle packets to people and periodically answering questions and maybe giving out small prizes to people who solve the puzzles correctly. We'll see if we get to it. :)

[0] A lot of furries spend a lot of time on Internet social groups and use conventions as a way to get together and spend time in person. I don't do this so much (though not none); for me it's more "this kind of event gets together friends who are geographically disparate" because people in my social groups tend to do things like move for grad school or flee screaming to California.

[1] If you weren't aware, Oolong is one of my cats.

[2] Boston people can catch him playing at FurFright --- apparently he's a guest of honor? Whoah.

rax: (Benten guitar case)
One of the big reasons I go to Anthrocon, though certainly not the only one, is to play games. I played fewer new games this year, but got in a lot of time with old favorites and with both old and new friends, so I'll still call it a win. Plus, not playing new games means I'm not tempted to buy new games. ;) I've tried to keep this entry to game-related content so that if you don't care you can wait for the next post.

I played a lot of Race for the Galaxy (you know, like you do!), including a few games with Diane that included the third expansion. The third expansion is confusing --- I think it will take me another ten plays or so just to get the mechanics right. While I feel morally obligated to put that amount of work in, and learn the mechanics and get good at it (and even if I don't have a moral obligation, I have a friendly obligation to be able to play with the Posts!), I tend to prefer just the first expansion for random pickup games --- it just doesn't take as long, it's easier to explain, and anyone who's been around for the game once or twice will know how to play it without having to ask "How do takeovers work?" or "What on earth is prestige?" That said, we'll see what I think after another ten or twenty games --- maybe I'll really like the new mechanics. Certainly anytime other people have complained that RftG was broken, my response was "Play another fifty games or so." At this point it's a question of whether I really want to put in the time if no one else around me is going to.

After winning a bunch of games of Race (I didn't lose while I was there at all, actually, which is sort of terrifying) I decided I wanted to play something where I would get crushed, so I jumped into a Magic draft. The way this works (and someday I will make someone sit down and try a Race for the Galaxy draft with me) is that eight people sit down at a table, open up a Magic booster pack, take a card, pass the stack to their left, and repeat three times such that everyone has 45 cards (actually more like 42 because of lands, which get pulled, but whatever). Then you make a deck out of some of those cards, and play a best out of 3 ladder bracket tournament, and winning games causes you to get more cards. I didn't win any games but I actually had a blast being confronted entirely with cards I'd never seen before and trying to make a coherent deck --- aside from one game last Anthrocon where I was heavily shouldersurfed by someone, I haven't played since Ice Age. Other than undervaluing one mechanic (leveling, if you care), I think I did a decent job --- and someone else gave me all their cards from the draft, so I actually ended up with more cards than I would have had if I'd won. Not that I have anything to do with them really. :P The real win here was social, but I'll cover that in more detail in another Anthrocon post.

I also jumped into a tournament-style poker game, which I haven't done most of before. My introduction to the table went like this:

RACHEL: "Oh, huh, this is neat. I haven't played that much with chips before?"
RACHEL: "Oh, money." *teehee!*

OK, maybe I hammed it up a little bit. ;) I feel I represented Danger Haus well --- came in second, only made one really dumb mistake (though it cost me being chip leader), played an entire hand blind and forced everyone else to fold with lots of money in the pot --- only to discover I'd been sitting on the nuts (straight to the ace!) the entire time. So I guess that was a good fold on their part after all? Thanks for the karma, Silvio. :) [0] This was hopefully a social win, although we'll see if I end up spending time with those people next year, but at least Ian was in the game and we got to talk a bunch, so it would have been worth it just for that.

Diane had a great tool for meeting people and sparking conversations: her Pokewalker. It's basically a little pedometer that you can put pokemon inside and get credit for walking around with them --- but it has the extra benefit that two people can trade at least items and maybe also pokemon through them. Of course, tons of furries are into Pokemon, and so there were hundreds of people walking around with these little pedometers on purse straps or badge lanyards or what have you, and it was an entry point for conversation with hundreds of people. Through a complicated series of events --- well, not that complicated, the random roommate we picked up on the anthrocon.org forums was running out of money and offered to pay for the room in part with his DS, since he didn't really use it and I had been waffling about picking one up --- I have Pokemon now. Unfortunately this happened at the very end of the con, but next time I go to a furry con, and it may be sooner than Anthrocon 2011, I'll be able to trade Pokemon with people. Yay! Expect me to blog more about Pokemon. ^^;;

I ran into and gave rides to a bunch of people playing that Furoticon game I wrote about last year. It's, uh, even more what it is than it was before, now that they've added another expansion. Opinions are mixed on whether it's balanced or not; I was on the borderline of trying it out again but ended up doing other things during the time they had their events, and am fine with that. I do not need a CCG in my life. Please, everyone, remind me of this. I wish this game were awesome, and hope it is becoming or becomes awesome, because there's totally room in the universe I want to live in for an excellent game that is also furry porn.

More stuff later --- maybe today, as I'm taking it easy after a really stressful weekend. But right now, I need to go make myself a pizza. =^.^=

[0] Danger Haus is where I used to play poker back in Boston --- no limit hold'em, 25/50cent blinds, slightly odd house rules: you can't buy in again once you've gone all in, but you can play with money in your wallet, and the last person to bet leads the next round of bidding. (Apparently this is because eight years ago or whenever their poker night started, they didn't understand the rules, and they just insisted everyone follow their rules, and it worked. I love Danger Haus.) Silvio is a regular player who is known for playing blind or doing ridiculous things like playing a card face up. He's not a very good poker player, but he gets his hands by convincing you he's much worse than he actually is. :)

rax: (pink!!!!)
As I recently mentioned, I'm going to be at Anthrocon this week. One of the things that people do at Anthrocon is commission badges of their fursonas --- it's a big enough social thing that the Anthrocon website has a primer on doing it, and most people you see wandering around are wearing badges that mostly cover their official badge, depicting their fursona [0] in some manner of splendor or adorability. It's a really cool tradition, and a great way for artists to pay their way to the convention, and an opportunity for people to support their favorite artists, whether they be old favorites ("Oh my god I recognize that style from printing out pictures on yerf in high school to piss off the computer lab supervisor") or new. There's only one problem: I don't actually have a fursona.

(If you've known me since, oh, say, 2000, and you're saying "Wait, what?" bear with me here for a while.)

For the non-furries in the room, a fursona is something between an aspect of self and a mask you wear while in furry spaces (cons, MUCKs, conversations, parties at my house, whatever). For some people it's "this is my identity! I am a sparkly blue cat with the following facial pattern! I have the following backstory and magical powers and I always wear a bowler hat!" while for others it's "this is my character, who I pretend to be in alternate spaces and have fun with." Some people have one, some people have more than one, and some people... like me, these days... really don't have any.

Oh, I used to have more than one! In high school [1] when I had this general sense of "this identity is clearly not right, but I don't know what is" this fascinating furry thing gave me an opportunity to try on different identities for size. I tried a bunch of things, a couple in person (inasmuch as you can pretend to be a fox in person, which is a surprising amount if the people around you are inclined to be nice about it), a few more online, a couple only in my head. (For a while in high school I imagined an aspect of myself as a six-inch blue catgirl named Random. That's your Useless Rax Fact for the day.) These were all useful for me in the process of becoming the person I wanted to be --- they let me try out different ways of acting, of perceiving, of thinking, of being perceived. And eventually I ended up ... just me.

I like to put on cat ears or wear a fox tail, sometimes, and enjoy the differences in all of those things I wrote about up there, but I don't think of myself as a different person, or even a different aspect of person. I'm just Rachel wearing cat ears, like I could be Rachel wearing a power suit or Rachel wearing jewelry. When I went to Anthrocon last year, I had a blast and a half, but one of the things that was uncomfortable was people asking me my name and "what I was." I would respond "Rachel!" and they would say, almost universally, "But what's your furry name?" [2] "Still Rachel." "OK, what do you look like?" I want to respond I look like this dammit, do you know how much work it took me to look like this. But they have no idea, so I usually just kind of shrug my shoulders. This makes commissioning badges difficult. :)

I've actually considered developing a fursona or two just so I can get in on this awesome art scene. Having the username "raxvulpine" a bunch of places makes furries (reasonably!) assume fox, which (unreasonably!) makes some of them assume that I will be willing to sleep with them. (The furry conception of foxes is frustratingly all yiff and no Reynard. [3]) I'm sort of tempted to pick some animal with aggressively non-sexual stereotypes, build a character around it, and work from there, except I have tons of fox and cat costume pieces already and I don't really want to put a lot of effort into being that woodchuck chick. ...Probably.

Someone I was hanging out with last year suggested I should just commission badges of random things, and it was more fun that way. I discovered myself to be too shy to actually do this, last year. I should do it anyway this year. Suggestions for random things I should ask for are greatly appreciated!

(Random aside: As I was writing this Cassandra handed me a piece of paper from a pile of stuff she was sorting where I had scrawled "Furries don't want to pass, but they can't help it" along with a bunch of Race for the Galaxy scores. Make of this what you will, I'm out of analysis for the evening.)

[0] Sometimes, plural. Fursonas? Fursonae? Just fursona again? I DON'T KNOW.

[1] When I wasn't taking advantage of there being time for Klax.

[2] I suppose I could say "Rax," but apparently there's another furry Rax, and after the first couple of times I was introduced as "Not that one!" I sorta backed off introducing myself that way. :)

[3] And no abnegation, and no Aesop, and no Stephen Dedalus, and... Seriously, where does this all foxes are in it only for the sex thing come from, and can I stop it? There are so many better bad assumptions to make about foxes!

rax: (Benten guitar case)
This is mostly for the like three other people on my friendslist/readinglist/whatever who are going to Anthrocon, random furries webstalking me, and anyone else who is morbidly curious and reads all the content I put out even if it's irrelevant to them. If I have time before work I'll write something more general.

Blah blah, blah blah-blah. AC about-me meme! )

October 2016

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