kproche found us a fare sale on American that got us first class from SJC to ORD, and business class from ORD to GLA. None of this flying in to Heathrow and then taking the train (or god help us, the Megabus) up to Scotland. It did mean that we left at 9:00am on Monday and arrived at 9:00am on Tuesday, but that was a pretty good schedule. Alas, it wasn't perfect, but nothing is. Food on AA's international business class is excellent and most civilized, but by the time all 5 courses had been delivered, it was after 4:00 am GMT. Not really enough time to get a good night's sleep before arriving, but then again, the seats (while much better than cattle-car... er... coach) weren't great to sleep in, at least for me.
Still, the upgraded tickets were well worth it, because it was much better than coach.
Cab fare to the Hilton Glasgow wasn't too bad, and the hotel was very nice. Our room was already available when we walked in around 10:00 am, and very large for a British hotel room. We dropped the luggage (you remember the luggage) in the room and on the advice of the head bellman walked over to Glasgow Central Station to look into rail passes.
Glasgow Central wasn't the most easily navigated or interpreted train station, so we just hit an ATM and then started walking back towards the hotel and Anderston station (right next to the Marriott). There we picked up tickets to the Exhibition Center stop and learned about the most valuable "7-day" rail tickets. Much like the London TravelCard, it's just a term ticket that covers a specific range of stations (in this case, Glasgow Central to Exhibition Center for £4 90p) for a specific number of days, unlike the "ZoneCards" that were Saturday-Saturday, and would have been a bad choice for us. We did have to get photos for photocards (term-tickets are no good without a photocard ID), but with the small printer and digital camera that was easy.
Exhibition Center was only one stop west of our nearest station, but there was a not inconsequential walk across a covered bridge between the Exhibition Center station and the SECC, and on a sunny august afternoon it was a bit toasty.
Upon arrival at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center (commonly referred to by locals as the "SEC" since "conference" was only recently added) we caught up with Robbie and John in operations for a bit. Robbie had good advice for us on phone service, and sent us to Carphone Warehouse to get a new SIM card for K's phone.
We didn't run off to Carphone Warehouse right away. There were enough other people to talk with there, and we had an hour or so before registration opened. Elaine Brennan was running the MIMO (as in "Move In, Move Out") desk with several other Boston fans, so we got Move In badges to make life easier as Events Division got started. We also got our convention badges (which, BTW, were nice and eminently readable, though fitted with a compression clip instead of a spring clip; something of a surprise). A photographer from the Herald snagged me and a pair of other fen to shoot pictures for their lead-in article on the convention, and we spent a bit of time in the wind outside the Clyde Auditorium posing, but the pictures weren't used.
Reg didn't have all the convention materials (no big surprise) but all that was missing was the expanded CD program book. The printed program book was a bit odd; quite a few judgment calls were made regarding what was included and what wasn't, and some of them were a bit strange. The Convention Guide (nobody could mistake it for a "Pocket Program" but it wasn't of unreasonable size) was pretty good. It included programme (note Brit spelling) listings, party listings and a restaurant guide. The scheme for finding restaurants on the map worked fine when you wanted to locate a restaurant you found in the list; it was a real mess trying to find a restaurant on the list based on the map number.
Badges achieved and check-in with a few important people taken care of, we headed back eastward and found the Carphone Warehouse store on Argyll Street. We were going to get the t-Mobile pay-as-you-go plan, but they had their own plan with reasonable rates withing the UK and 5p/minute to the US which made more sense for us. As we had quite a bit more time to kill, we walked up Buchanan Street (major shopping district) to the Buchanan Galleries and checked out the Whisky Shop. They had some interesting product, and the shopkeeper referred us to the Pot Still on Hope Street, a well-known whisky bar that stocks over 400 malts.
Crashtime approached, so we walked back to Hope Street, past the Pot Still and over to the hotel. We did successfully stay up until 6:00 pm, but crashed pretty hard.
Around 8:00 we both woke up for a bit, just in time to get a call from John Maizels, a Sydney fan and video production wizard who was working with K on the masquerade half-time show. That was the end of sleeping in for the rest of the weekend. K went to all of John's morning tech and production meetings, and I went along for the ride. We did get back to sleep and made it through until 8:00am and the business of the convention really started.
Unfortunately, much of the weekend's schedule meant we were eating either at the hotel or at the exhibition center. We had to choose between inexpensive and quick; we chose quick most of the time. We had a beautiful (but far too expensive) breakfast at the Hilton (£38 for the two of us). At least once the conference started on Thursday the price went down by half for convention members.
It only took a few minutes to take care of our photos and get our 7-day tickets, and we were on our way to the SECC. Tech meeting was very productive; John got his crew up to speed, and K and I went over with him to the Clyde to scope out the facility and plan the blocking for "Ready, Steady, Sew!" Yep, the half-time show was a hybrid of Iron Chef and BBC's Ready, Steady, Cook! where teams would have to build costumes using a "secret ingredient" in 45 minutes.
The Clyde Auditorium has got to be the best facility to support a WorldCon Masquerade (and, well, Hugo Awards Ceremony) that I've ever dealt with. The lack of a large space for Green Room was a bit inconvenient, but the stage, the hall and the tech support were incredible. The union house crew was amazingly helpful, working with us to plan the tech requirements well in advance so they weren't scrambling at the last minute.
Of course, this was when it was made clear that John was feeling ambitious. He really did want to fake edited reality television live on stage, and had the equipment that made the attempt possible.
That all sorted out, we were able to catch Giulia di Cesare, this year's Masquerade director, and Kevin Sandlee, the Events division manager to move things along a bit further, and, since things were quiet, steal a little internet time in the operations office. No LJ, just checking email. We also helped assemble mannequins for the costume exhibit, and had a quick lunch sometime at the pub at the Moat House.
Mind you, the convention hadn't even started at this point.
Enough time taken, galtine1, jbriggs, dinogrl, Dave and Andrew suggested dinner. We took the train into Glasgow Central and walked over to Modern India, a rather nice (if very slow) Indian place (yeah, you would never guess, would you?) about 4 blocks north of the station. Food was excellent and varied, but it took us forever to get out. We then walked over to the aforementioned Pot Still for a bit 'o whisky.
K was wearing his caramel Utilikilt, and as it turned out one of the barmen was wearing the same model, so the regulars got a laugh out of it. We had quite a bit of whisky, but I'll do my best to remember what they were. K started with an Aberfoyle, and Sandra and I both had a glass of Lagavulin "Double-Matured." These were followed by a Bunnhabbhain, a Caol Isla cask-strength and something else I've forgotten. Well whiskyed up, we headed back to our respective hotels to prepare for yet another early morning.
We wore the "Livejournal Commando" uniforms. Hilton breakfast again. Production Meeting 2. Much planning, storyboarding. I spent most of my time hanging out at the events/masquerade desk. Lunch at the exhibition center sandwich counter. Opening ceremonies.
Opening ceremonies were great.
Yeah, you don't usually hear me saying that. Usually it's a few good moments wrapped in interminable boredom.
The conceit this year, though, was the opening of Spaceport Glasgow, Earth's busiest spaceport, and the maiden launch of the White Star Federated Spacelines "Armadillo" (note "White Star Federated Spacelines" and "World Science Fiction Society" have the same initials, and that the Clyde Auditorium was nicknamed "The Armadillo" because of its shape). As Glasgow was a major center of shipbuilding and incredibly busy port in its day, it only mad sense. Events throughout the weekend were tailored to look and sound like flight briefings. Opening Ceremonies attendees were handed Ion Trails, the in-flight magazine of White Star Federated Spacelines. Kevin Standlee walked around the entire weekend dressed as a ship's captain (as in cruise ship, not starship). It actually worked really well.
The Lord Provost was unable to attend, but opening ceremonies included a presentation by a Glasgow council member (who is a fan and was attending the whole weekend) of a copy of Glasgow's own promotional poster for the convention (it was really cool). The opening ceremonies were followed by a reception sponsored by the City of Glasgow featuring a theremin recital.
Somewhere in the middle, I was interviewed by a reporter from the Scotsman. I didn't get quoted, but Frank Wu and Cindy Somebody Cabral did.
Teddy, Thomas, Andrew, Maggie, Mike and the kids talked us into walking up to Ashoka on Ederslie for dinner, so it was Indian again. This was a bit cheaper, but a bit quicker and still very good. Oh, and it included a cute Indian restaurant manager in a kilt. We still spent quite a while, but had a very nice time.
Thursday was the first night of parties at the Hilton. I'm kind of spacy on the Thursday parties; we were still a bit jetlagged.
Friday morning? See Thursday morning. More production meetings, more time spent hanging out at Events & Masquerade desks. We did get into the Dealers' room, and found the selection to be excellent (even if we didn't buy anything).
Friday afternoon? Dave, a pair from Fantastic Queensland (not what you think, but instead the Clarion Writers Workshop South) and I went to Costco and Tesco for party shopping. Costco is perhaps even more incoherently laid out in Scotland than it is in in the states. We got wildly flavored crisps (roast chicken, slow-roast lamb, curry pappadums and sweet thai chili were only the start; we pulled the labels and said they were "Bertie Botts Every Flavour Crisps; he's branching out into savoury snacks"), sherbet flying saucers (in Britain and Australia, "sherbet" is something like pixie-stix filling), assorted strange gummis (gummi fried eggs and gila-monsters; too bad caprine wasn't there) and other things I forget.
When I got back, K, firestrike and Cindy were working to decorate the room, and were nearly finished. The party decor was greatly reduced (what with the trip across the pond) but the room looked fabulous.
We got a bit of dinner at the hotel, took a short nap, and then went down to open the party.
It was a party.
We opened at 9:00. We ran out of food at midnight. We ran out of soda at around 1:00. We closed a bit after 2:00 and had the room clean before 2:30. Mark and TR were great to work with; they got us all the help we needed.
I can't say too much about the other parties; I didn't see much of them.
How we got up Saturday morning for more preproduction and my 11:00am panel I'll never know. "Rainbow over the Future: Gay Neighbors, Queer Families" wasn't that bad, and completely packed. I was joined by figmo, Ellen Klages, Brick Barrett and Geoff Ryman. I've never walked into a 11:00 panel on a Saturday that was that full before it even started.
The rest of the day was dedicated to finishing up "Ready, Steady, Sew!" Our rehearsal was slid several times, and never actually ended up happening, so the level of improv required for the show went up, including amongst the tech crew. At least Larry Schroeder (our stage manager) and his stage crew was able to practice setting and breaking the stage several times. Tom Veal, our house manager, was excellent; he was able to arrange our reserved seating at the last minute. John and his video folks, they did amazingly well dealing with the lack of rehearsal, and barely 2 hours before show they helped K get the opening credits completed.
We cabbed back to the hotel, showered, changed, and looped around to the Clyde again for the Masquerade.
In spite of the sliding rehearsals, and the fact that the green room was spread over many dressing rooms, the masquerade started on time and ran without a hitch. There was only one technical glitch, and it was due to a dropped entry. No foul. And then it was over.
While the young fan awards were being given, the whole "Ready, Steady, Sew" crew made their way into the wings for our entrance.
The credits rolled.
From there we had them.
K walked out and started the show, and brought on the North American and European teams. Their "Secret Ingredient" turned out to be Sue Mason and Teddy, the Masquerade MC's, whom they didn't realize they were going to have to be garbing. Myself, Frank Wu and Anders Holmstrum were the judges, and Carole Parker was the floor reporter.
Even without considering the tech crew was purely and simply winging it, it looked great on stage and on the big screens. In the end, Team Europe won by turning Sue into something not entirely unlike Marilyn Monroe. Team America's "FemmePope" (or as I referred to it, neo-eastern-orthodox transvestite) was intriguing, but didn't show the build quality that the Marilyn did.
Saturday parties were fun. The Australia 2010 party (for which Dave had been shopping) was great, as was the Swedish Fandom party (which Anders had to help set up before doing his shift at the fan room before coming over to judge RSS).
How we got up Sunday yada yada yada... We had the Masquerade post-mortem panel at noon, for which I took notes to hand to L.A.con IV. That was followed by the "Masquerade Show & Tell" which was changed to a partial viewing of the masquerade video. The change was popular with the audience, and gave masquerade entrants a chance to learn about how their lighting choices affect what the masquerade video looks like afterward.
We scheduled another nap on Saturday evening.
We got an invite to the Hugo Losers' Party... er... I mean the Hugo Nominees Reception, so we spent a good part of our party evening there. Finn fandom was throwing a great party too; they really liked us and kept feeding us vodka-lingonberry cocktails. We finished the night in the Texas/Russia party (confusing? yes. fun? yes).
Monday we were mostly free. K had his spintronics lecture at noon. We had a bit of lunch at the Moat House again, picked up masquerade photo collections for the ICG archive, but that was really it besides Closing Ceremonies.
Closing Ceremonies were great. We wore our "Space Cadets" sashes; it had been suggested that all "fellows of the academy" (that's what L.A.conIV is calling their "friends of the bid") do so, as the gavel was being turned over to the new chairman. Shortly before boarding of the Armadillo was to begin, alarms sounded, and it was reported that space pirates had stolen the WSFS Armadillo. We were left winging our way home by airplane, but the Space Cadets were being recalled to LA to fight the space pirates. It was very silly.
After closing ceremonies, we had dinner at Yen at the Rotunda with johno and chriso before running stuff back to the room and returning to the Moat House for the dead dog party.
The Moat House set up a "Real Ale Pub" in the conference lobby for the convention, and the goal at the dead dog was to drink it dry. There were a lot of people at the dead dog, so it wasn't a difficult battle. What we learned, though, was that we hadn't just drunk the hotel dry; the convention drank a 3-week supply of Kilburn Dark Moor ale and ran the brewery dry.
Tuesday we finally slept in.
In the afternoon we spent some time shopping back at Buchanan Street. We had lunch at Rogano, a grand old Glasgow restaurant decorated in deco orientalia to echo the style of the Queen Mary (built in Glasgow, and making regular calls to Glasgow while still in service). We stopped in at Forbidden Planet, an interesting little media stuff and comic store, but didn't pick anything up. Selection was good, and it was well lit, but it felt a bit cramped. A return was made to the Whisky Shop, and I bought a bottle each of the Caol Isla cask strength and the Lagavulin Double Matured. Finally, we walked over to Geoffrey (Tailor) Kiltmakers to look at the "21st Century Kilt" line. Didn't get measured or buy anything, but now that we know what their product is like we can look for them at a highland games or festival in the states.
After a quick stop to drop whisky off at the hotel we went to the Glasgow Science Center and the Glasgow Tower. Didn't have much time, so mostly just saw the tower. It's a very silly marvel of engineering. over 100m tall, it's the largest free-rotating building in the world. The tower rests on a 2" wide ball bearing and is spun by 4 small (7hp?) motors to align the tower based on information from a weather station at the top. Because of this, the tower doesn't sway in crosswinds; it's always pointing into the wind.
Finally we had dinner at the Buttery, another grand old restaurant. I can't begin to describe the food. We walked in and were seated at the lounge while we waited for our table to be readied. With our martinis we got a small selection of appetizers; fried wontons, carrot slaw and salmon salad. At our table we got a second appetizer of roast fennel soup and onion bread. For a starter course I had seared shellfish and K had confit of french hen over tagliatelle and haggis. Main course was lamb with vegetable crumble. Dessert was Calvados creme brulee and K had the cheese plate. Wine selections were excellent.
Finally we walked back to the hotel and packed.
So here I sit on a plane, back in international business class. Airport check-in wasn't bad, we got to wait in the KLM executive lounge (there isn't an Admirals Club in Glasgow), and boarding was quick and easy. The food was, again, good, and this time I was smart enough to accept the portable DVD player so I could scarf the noise-canceling headphones for use with my iPod.