Reel Awesome!

New or old, I'll let you know if it's worth watching.

I can read!

Real books to ebook to fan fiction, if it's worth reading I'll let you know.

What's worth watching?

Whether it's on your tv or streaming online, I'll share my top picks with you.

That's my jam!

The music that moves me and is worth a listen.

General Geekery

Comic books, action figures, conventions and other geeky fun.

Technical Flails!

Apps, hardware and gadgets galore.

I've Got a Something to Say!

I'm a wordy nerd with a lot to say.

Get the Goods!

I'll give you all the details on various services and various products.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Tips & Tricks Part 3: Schedules & Stuff

What the Hell Should I do? 

The Panel Schedules: 

The countdown has begun, and the official San Diego Comic-Con programming schedule will be online soon. It usually goes up about two weeks before SDCC. They are posted one day at a time (Wednesday and Thursday panels are announced two Thursdays prior to the start of Comic Con, Friday is announced two Fridays prior, etc.).

You’ll find the official program on the San Diego Comic-Con site. [link] There’s an app you can use to plan out your schedule on their website. You can even upload it to your smartphone and Google calendar. 

There is a preliminary list of panels on the Unofficial San Diego Comic Con Blog. [link

The schedule is big. I mean HUGE. There are too many panels for one person to see them all. The options are limitless and daunting. Which can make trying to figure out your own personal schedule a little intimidating. It’s important to have a plan of attack or you’re going to get so overwhelmed you’ll never leave your hotel room.

I use a three level system to prioritize my schedule. Top level is my must see (I’m willing to camp out or sit in line for hours for this panel). Mid-level is a panel I’d like to see. Min-level is a panel I’d enjoy seeing, but I’m not going to cry if I miss it. Using this system I construct three panel schedules for each day. I make them in a document that I keep on my smart phone (thanks to Google docs). This allows me the flexibility to know my options while on the move in and around the convention center.

Other Stuff

To this daily list I add offsite events, signings and other interesting things I can see or do beside panels. Not to mention any items I’d like to check out or buy from the Exhibit hall booths. Comic Con is far more than the panels going inside the convention center. Downtown San Diego goes geeky for the whole weekend and there are many FREE events and activities to be enjoyed. 

The Exhibit Hall
You can find a map of the Exhibit Hall map and list of all the exhibitors on the main SDCC site. [link

It’s huge and equally daunting as the panel schedule. I don’t recommend trying to tackle it all in one day. In fact, it’s better if you walk the floor a few times in small bursts to get a feel for things you want to see or buy and then come back later.

Tip: Check out the Exhibit hall when popular panels are going on. Everyone will be in line or in Hall H/Ballroom 20, leaving the floor a little less crowded.

SDCC Exclusives

These are special collectables/arts/items being offered exclusively at comic con either for sale or for free. No matter what you like there is likely to be at least one or more items you might want. The Unofficial SDCC blog tracks all the SDCC exclusives. [link]

While the temptation to BUY ALL THE THINGS is ever present I caution you to do your research and look carefully at the fine print. A lot of these “exclusives” will be available online or in stores later in the year. So unless you have a lot of money and are a “have to have it now” kind of collector, most of these items can wait. Though it doesn’t hurt to spoil yourself a little. I always buy myself one collectable item I just have to have. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, just special for you. 

There is also lots of free swag to be had at many of the booths. Again you can find info on them at the Unofficial SDCC blog and the official SDCC site, but also keep your eyes and ears open when you’re on the floor. If there’s a line join it and ask the people in it what it is for. A lot of the time it’s for something free. 

Important note: Only big name booths have free stuff. Many of the other smaller vendors are there to sell stuff. So don’t ask every booth what’s for free. Go to the big names you know (Marvel, Random House, HBO, Lionsgate, etc) and grab all the free swag. Don’t forget to browse the smaller vendors booths and spend your money there too.

Swag Etiquette
Remember Wheaton’s Law “Don’t Be A Dick!” Be polite. Remember the people at the booths are human beings too. They’re working a job with long hours and very few breaks. Say Thank You no matter what free stuff you get. Don’t demand more or throw a fit if they run out. It’s not their fault. Most booths have a set schedule and rules around how and when they hand out swag. They could get in trouble for not following those rules. So don’t ask them to do it.

Special Note: There are often models in costume at big name booths. Many people call them “booth babes.” I hate that name, I prefer to call them models or just ask their name. They are their to draw people to the booth and will happily pose for pictures when asked. Remember many of them are fans themselves, so don’t try to check their geek credentials. Most are not in charge of the booth or involved in giveaways. So don’t harass them for free stuff. 

Book Signings and Autographs

There are books signings and celebrities autograph signing scheduled through out the convention. For details you can check the SDCC site. [link] They will post a schedule close the start of the con. The Unofficial SDCC blogs has a handy guide too. [link

Book Signings & ARCs
For book signings go to the publishers booths and ask about their schedule. Most will either have a paper copy to hand you or will share it with you happily. Some even have it posted on their websites. The publisher booths always have free stuff: bookmarks, pins/badges, temporary tattoos and of course free books. 

Book Booth Etiquette 
Many of the booths have books on display, but DO NOT just grab them. Always ask about what ARCs or free books are available. Be nice and thank them for whatever you get. Remember the people minding the booth are not only in the business, but they love books too. I like to talk with them and ask for recommendations. I get the BEST book recs from people working the publishers booths.

There are celebrity signings going on all weekend too. Some are at booths and some are in special areas. They all have specifically scheduled time and rules. 

Please note: Some of the autograph signings cost money. The price is usually posted and is not negotiable.

Autograph Etiquette
If you’re involved in one be prepared to wait awhile for a few minutes or seconds with the celebrity. There are a lot of people who want that same “moment” you’re hoping for, and they’ve all been standing in line for hours too. When you get your chance with the celebrity keep your words brief, take your picture quickly and move on.

Tip: While you wait in line coordinate with your friends to make a game plan. Decide on who will hold phones/cameras for the pictures and who will hold your stuff while you pose. If you’re by yourself make friends with other people in line and help each other out. Also use the time to think of what you’ll say to keep it brief and impactful. Also don’t forget to breath.

If you’re not involved in the signing don’t loiter around. At big signings big crowds can become a problem, they slow down foot traffic and it’s a considered a fire hazard. Security will usually let you know to move on, but don’t be that person who has to get yelled at. If it’s a big name celebrity at a big name booth (Tom Hiddleston at the Marvel booth) snap a quick picture and move on. 
However, if it’s a lesser known celebrity at a small vendor’s booth signing autographs for money DO NOT take pictures. Most often someone will tell you about this, but sometimes they’re busy running the booth. Part of the draw of paying for a celebrity’s autograph is to also get your picture with them. Taking their picture “for free” is considered rude and taking away from money they could be making.

You’ll find the official program on the San Diego Comic-Con site. [link] There’s an app you can use to plan out your schedule on their website. You can even upload it to your smartphone and Google calendar. 

There is a preliminary list of panels on the Unofficial San Diego Comic Con Blog. [link

The schedule is big. I mean HUGE. There are too many panels for one person to see them all. The options are limitless and daunting. Which can make trying to figure out your own personal schedule a little intimidating. It’s important to have a plan of attack or you’re going to get so overwhelmed you’ll never leave your hotel room.

I use a three level system to prioritize my schedule. Top level is my must see (I’m willing to camp out or sit in line for hours for this panel). Mid-level is a panel I’d like to see. Min-level is a panel I’d enjoy seeing, but I’m not going to cry if I miss it. Using this system I construct three panel schedules for each day. I make them in a document that I keep on my smart phone (thanks to Google docs). This allows me the flexibility to know my options while on the move in and around the convention center.

Offsite Events

There are a ton of offsite events going on all weekend long. There are even events that happen before Comic Con officially starts. So even if you don’t want to wait in lines all day, and all night, for the big must-see panel, you can still find stuff to do. 

James H. Hay hosts a Facebook page for SDCC Offsite facebook events. There are posts for everything from offsite book signings to night clubs events where Elijah Wood is DJing. That’s right, Frodo Freakin’ Baggins is spinning records at Comic Con

The Unofficial SDCC Blog also has a very useful Offsite Calendar. [link]

NerdHQ is one of the biggest offsite events. Nerd HQ is set up in Petco Park and has video games, food and alcoholic beverages (you have to pay for), but they also host special panels with tons of celebrities. These panels are announce on the day they happen, usually via the NerdHQ site and Twitter account. You buy tickets on the site and they go fast, so watch them like a hawk.

The easiest way to find offsite events is to just walk around. There is always something going on. This year there’s a Godzilla statue setup outside the convention center (behind Hall H) available for fans to get their picture with the classic monster. On Thursday night MTV is hosting a huge, FREE, party in Petco Park featuring live music, food and celebrity appearances. In fact, there is always cool stuff happening in the Petco Park parking lot. Take a break from the crowds at the convention center, get some fresh air and sunshine, and see what free swag and fun activities you can find in downtown San Diego, most don’t even require you to have a Comic Con badge. 

Don’t Forget to Take a Break 

Get out of the convention center from time to time. Check out the restaurants in Gaslamp district. Remember you’re here to have fun. 

Sit down and have a margarita. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Tips & Tricks Part 2: The Con Bag

Don't leave the hotel without it!

The Con Bag

Once you leave your hotel room your Con Bag is your lifeline while in the convention center or walking around downtown. Nothing sucks worse then getting in line for the panel you're dying to see only to discover your hungry, thirsty, or getting sunburnt. 

As for the bag itself, do not skimp. Get a sturdy bag that will hold up under the weight you'll put in it and being lugged around for 4 days. Shoulder/Messenger bags look cool, but they can strain your shoulders and hit your legs or hips when you walk. So I recommend a quality backpack with lots of room and compartments for all of your stuff. They also often have specific pockets for water bottles and cellphones. Plus it’s fun to decorate it with all the free pins/buttons/badges that get handed out on the floor of the Exhibit Hall.

The convention gives you a cool collector bag for free when you pick up your badge, but I don't suggest using it. Those bags are huge, unwieldy and often more valuable intact as a collectors item. So just fold it up and store it in your actual Con Bag. 

Essentials Supplies

Now there are obvious things you're going to bring like your cellphone and wallet, but I'm going to suggest other items to keep in your Con Bag to help you through the day. It looks like a lot of stuff, but you'll need it and you can always get things in travel size to cut down on weight. 

Refillable Water Bottle. Staying hydrated is a priority. You can fill it in your hotel room before you leave, and there are lots of drinking fountains around the convention center for refilling. This bottle allows you to take a drink no matter where you are. 

Sunglasses. If this isn't an option because you wear glasses bring a hat.  It’s summer in California. Save your eyes.

Sun screen. Put a coat of sunscreen on before you leave your hotel room, but keep a small bottle with you to reapply it at least every two hours if not more frequently (per Again, it is summer time. You’re going to be outside a lot. Even if it’s overcast you will get sun burnt if you don’t protect your skin. Nothing ruins comic con like being laid up in your room with a horrific sun burn. Special note: If you have tattoos it is especially important to be diligent with applying sunscreen regularly as sun exposure can fade your ink.

Camera. This is optional if you have a smartphone with a built in camera. I prefer to take quick pictures with my phone, because it's easy to pull out or I already have it out. But if you want to take high quality pictures a camera might be the better way to go. If you're going to use it regularly keep it close at hand or on a strap around your neck. 

Phone Charger. Do NOT let your phone die. It is your lifeline to stay in touch with friends and keep up-to-date on what's happening at the con. Keep it charged. 

Portable Charger. Even with your charger cord outlets at the con can be hard to find and people are often already using them. That's why portable chargers are a great back up plan. You charge them up overnight in your hotel room and then use them to recharge your phone, camera, ipod, etc. You can find them online or at your local electronics store. They usually cost between $20-$30. I have a a portable charger that doubles as a case for my iPhone and I also carry a another portable charger with me.  

Batteries. Don't for get to pack these for any electronics that take old fashioned batteries. 

Reading material. There’s a lot of waiting at Comic Con, in line, waiting for panels to start, etc. So bring something to read. You can read the guide book the con gives you, but that may get boring after awhile. So why not catch up on your summer reading list while you wait.  I suggest a small book or an ereader. You don’t want to run down the battery life of your phone reading on it.

Extra bag. Between all the free stuff or things you buy you bag can get heavy. There are a lot of SDCC exclusive that are just plain huge. Bringing an extra bag gives your the ability to move all the stuff you don't need right away into out of your Con bag. Then you can leave this extra stuff Bag check costs between $2-3 dollars, there are few locations in the convention center (bag check can fill up by the afternoon so try to plan your purchases accordingly). 

Con food is overpriced and not that good. Starbucks is decent, but the lines are hellaciously long. So it’s best to bring snacks with you. Pack stuff that travels well and won’t get squished in your bag. Be sure to switch up your snacks each day so you don’t get burnt out on eating the same thing.
  • Trail mix/Snack mix
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars/Power bars
  • Crackers
  • Jerky

Geek Supplies

Ziplock bags. I usually have one of each size (sandwich, quart and gallon). I use them to collect all the free swag of various sizes (fliers, pins, patches, postcards, etc) and keep them organized in my bag. I also pack a few extra gallon size bags for garbage in case I’m in line far away from a garbage can. Littering isn’t cool. 

Plastic pouch/Poly Envelope. These are great for small prints, comic books or autograph pictures. It keeps them dry and unbent. If you want to reenforce them you can cut out the side of a cereal box and slip it inside to make it nice and stiff. 

Poster tube. They give away free posters all over the Exhibit Hall as well as on the streets of downtown san diego. A poster tube allows you to store them safety for later. I slip mine into my backpack. It sticks out the top, but usually doesn’t get in my way. The Fox booth gives away free poster tubes ever year, they come with shoulder straps. I usually bring last years tube with me and grab a new one while I’m there. They make great gifts. If you're with a group only one person needs to bring a tube and the whole group can use it. Then you sort through the booty later on at the hotel room.

Markers (sharpies of various colors). These are great for autographs and they work on all kinds of material (t-shirts, posters, books, etc), but be sure to have metallics for items that are dark colors. Also keep an eye out some vendors give these away for free. I got two that came on lanyards last year from the Showtime booth.

Pen. Also good for autographs, and you never know when you’re going to need to write something down. 

Small note pad. You never know when you need paper to write on. 

Sketch Book. A lot of artist prefer to do sketches in them, and it works for autographs too. Plus you can decorate the cover with all the free stickers you get from the Exhibit Hall.

First Aid

You can get a small travel kit for basics, but I would add some more items to it. Here’s the list of basic things I keep in my first aid/survival kit.
  • Bandaids
  • Painkillers (Advil, Tylenol, etc). 
  • Allergy meds (if you need it)
  • Antacids
  • Cough drops. You don’t want to get a coughing fit during a panel. 
  • Safety pins.
  • Moleskin. This is fantastic for preventing blisters. You can put it on your feet in rubbing spots (back of your heel, top of your toes) before you head out for the day, but also keep some with you in case you get one while your out walking around.

General Supplies

Tissues. Boogers happen. It's best to be prepared for them. Tissues are good for all kinds of things. 

Wet Wipes (baby wipes). You can clean stains off your clothes. Clean your face and body. They're just generally awesome things to have. 

Hand Sanitizer. Cons are germ heavens. Stay healthy and use it generously. 

Lotion. You’d be surprised by how dry your hands and face can get from all the recalculated air in the convention center. 

Chapstick. Chapped lips suck. 

Breath mints/gum. Hours of eating, drinking and sitting around your breath gets rank. Do everyone a favor and use them. And maybe politely offer them to others. 

Deodorant. Sweating happens and body oder is a result. Be considerate and freshen up regularly. You could also bring a small bottle of Baby powder to freshen up. 

Change of clothes. Remember when I said to bring extra socks and underwear? Yeah, this is where they come in handy. Changing into a fresh pair of underwear and socks (maybe even a t-shirt too), along with a coat of deodorant, can change your whole outlook like life. You can use one of those spare ziplock bags for your soiled/stinky clothes. 

Contact solution. Contact case and Glasses. If you wear contacts they can become dry or irritated after a fun day of wearing them. Sometimes they just need some rewetting drops, but give yourself the option to just take them out.

Hair clips/hair ties. If you have enough hair that it can get in your face or make you sweat, consider bringing something to put it up.

Comb/Hairbrush. You can get small travel size versions of these. It helps with putting your hair up or just help you fix a bad hair day. 

These are just some of the basics things I like to pack. You can always add more, or leave off stuff I take. Feel free to comment with your recommendations too. I'd love to know what essential items other people pack in their Con bags. 

In the next post I'll talk about the panel schedule, offsite events and deciding what you want to do. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Tips & Tricks Part 1: What I Should Pack?

So you think you're ready for Comic Con? 

Or are you new to SDCC, or conventions in general, and have no clue where to start? No worries. Even the most seasoned fan was once a shell-shocked newcomer. I have only been attending for a handful of years, and I am always learning new things. It is my hope that I will save other fans heartache and headaches by sharing some of these tips and tricks. 


Part 1: What the Hell Should I Pack? 

Aside from the obvious necessities like clothes and toiletries there are other things you should consider throwing in your suitcase. 

Dress for the weather. On average the temperature in San Diego can be between 60-80 degrees (fahrenheit). So keep this in mind when packing. Shorts, short sleeve t-shirts, tank tops and dresses are ideal. Light breathable material is best. Though I'd recommend wearing poly/cotton blends, rather than 100% cotton t-shirts to avoid them sticking to you like a second skin when you sweat. 

Extra Clothes. I always pack one outfit per day, and then throw in extra shirts and one addition pair of pants/shorts to give myself the option to change mid day. You never know when you're going to be standing in line in the hot sun for hours, and end up soaked in sweat. Or you might accidentally spill food or a drink all over yourself. It's nice to have a back up outfit and not have to wash your clothes in the hotel sink. Also pack extra socks and underwear. Trust me, it’s better that you pack them and end up not needing them than the other way around.

Pajamas. Sounds like a given, but some people don’t think about it. You’re not going to want to sleep in the clothes you sweat in all day, and you might not feel comfortable sleeping nude in a strange hotel room bed, especially if you're sharing a room for 20 other people you met on the internet.

Bring a Jacket. While the day time weather is hot, once the sun goes down it gets very cold. Especially right next to the water, where most people camp out in line for the really popular panels. So bring a jacket. 

Comfortable shoes are your best friend. Good walking shoes are worth their weight in gold. I even buy special inserts for my shoes to ensure to maximum support and breathability. Even if you plan to cosplay always leave yourself the option to change into comfortable shoes if your feet start to hurt.

Special Note: If you plan to camp out bring a sleeping bag or blankets, and warm clothes. It will be worth the extra baggage fees if you’re flying. Though many sleeping bags are designed to be small and you could carry them on with you. 

Power strip. This is especially helpful if you have a bunch of people, with a various electronics, all trying to charge their stuff at the same time. If you don't want to bring one of your monster power strips from home there are small, travel sized ones you can buy online or at your local electronics store. 

Plastic cups. Whether it’s for water or alcohol, or using them as makeshift bowls these are invaluable. You can buy a big pack of the classic red, "keg" cups from your local grocery store or Target for super cheat. When you pack stuff some rolled up socks inside them so they keep their shape.

Cooler/insulated bag. You can fill these with ice from the ice machine in your hotel and use them to keep all kinds of food and beverages cold. I recommend keeping the bag in the bathtub to avoid getting water on the floor. Refill it with ice before you leave the room and as soon as you get back to ensure everything stays cold. 

This works best for beverages (beer, soda, bottles of water), but it can keep fruit and containers of perishable foods cool too. Just make sure the containers at water tight and remember this can create condensation inside the food container. So put food in there that will be ruined by getting wet. I would steer clear of foods that could get you sick if the ice melts and they get warm, like lunch meat, yogurt, milk, etc. But it works great for hummus, bags of baby carrots, grapes, and celery. You can also get cooler bags in various sizes, even huge ones the size a beach/tote bag.

Bag/Hamper. This is just something to put your dirty clothes in through out the weekend. You can even use one of the free bags you get at the Con or bring a plastic grocery bag with you. It's just nice to have a place to put your dirty clothes that isn't the floor, especially if you're sharing your room with a lot of people, who probably don't want your stinky socks in their face while they sleep. 

Airborne or EmergenC. This is a great hangover remedy, but also a great way to keep your immune system boosted while rubbing elbows with the unwashed masses of humanity both in and outside the convention center. I take one in the morning and one before bed. 

Painkillers (Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, etc). These are a must have. You never know what kind of ouchies you're going to have. Headaches, hangovers, sore back and shoulders. It's best to be prepared for everything. 

Antacid. With all the various things you eat and the general stress of the Con it’s inevitable that you or someone you know is going to need them. 

Bottled of water. You never know if you can trust the hotel water and with standing in line and walking in the sun dehydration is a BIG issue. There are near by grocery stores where you can buy some if you're flying in. If you're driving or have a friend who is, ask them to bring some with them. 

Fruit. Bananas, apples, pears, and even grapes make a great breakfast or snack (though I'd caution against keeping them in your bag all day when it's hot). They keep your energy up and they're good for you. 

Nail clippers. Broken nails happen. It’s best to have the right tool to deal with them before they split or snag. Plus these can make great make-shift scissors. 

Baby/Talcum powder. It helps to prevent and elevate chaffing. I put it on my thighs (especially if I’m wearing shorts all day) and inside my bra. Any where you sweat and skin rubs against skin, baby powder it. 

Ear Plugs. Bring them, whether you think you'll need them or not. When it’s 3 in the morning and people are drunkenly howling at the moon outside your hotel room, you’ll thank me. You can buy these online or at most pharmacies/chemists. 

Flushable Wipes. I'm not going to explain why you need these, just bring them. 

That's a good start to packing all the things you'll need to have a comfortable and fun time at Comic Con, but that's not all of it. 

In the next post I'll talk about your Con Bag, and all the things you'll need to carry with you while you walk the Con, wait in line and roam around downtown San Diego.