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Hijinks Ensue

Contemplation Report 3 - Sunday

The rip-off Swisscom Eurospot WiFi was broken throughout the hotel on Monday, so I didn't get a full 24 hours out of the "1 in 24" I bought on Sunday, and I wasn't able to post this until I got home on Tuesday afternoon. Monday's report has yet to be written but I think it'll be a short one because I didn't do a whole lot on the last day.

Got up at 7:30 again, had breakfast (there was bacon!), finished and posted Saturday's report, and talked to a fireworks enthusiast about how recent legislation means that members of the public can legally buy and use fireworks that they're no longer allowed to use in professional displays. I did a session as relief on the Redemption and Orbital con desks, talked to the ConFounding Tales! chairman about costumes and programming, showed SMS some more robot-related music I'd dug up for the Pickup Robot round in the Intermission Games, then we went to ops so that SMS could start working on asphodeline's script using the_magician's world's-slowest-laptop.
Next I had to scour the hotel for a suitable place to hold the Orbital committee meeting. I remembered having seen a brief mention in one of the newsletters of a family room up on the third floor, but when I found it there were no families using it, possibly because it was locked and you needed a luxury room key to get in. Luckily I ran into quasi_hayley just after LX had won the 2009 bid, and she managed to grab one of the hotel staff and ask her to go up and unlock it for us. The committee meeting was a very productive one - it lasted about two and a half hours with eleven of us in attendance, and it could easily have gone on longer if people hadn't had to leave to do other things. We've decided to book the County Suite, which greatly increases the amount of function space we'll have available. Just to show how committed we are (or should that be how much we deserve to be committed?), here's watervole signing a rather large cheque for the hotel deposit while johnrw leafs through the latest contract:
Judith signing the hotel deposit cheque
BTW, have I mentioned before that Orbital will have free WiFi! Yay. Join early and often.
After such a long meeting I needed to get out and stretch my legs, so I wandered off into Chester and had a cheeseburger from McDonalds (nicer than the hotel ones) and a 99 from an ice cream van outside the town hall. I strolled about a bit admiring the two level shopping streets, then went back to the hotel for the "Military - reality vs fiction" panel. It had some interesting stuff in it, particularly major_clanger's tales from his recent tour in Iraq, but I think perhaps it went on a bit too long at 90 minutes, particularly with the Middle-Eastern temperature levels in the room caused by the broken air conditioning.
I spent the next hour and a half creating the sound files for the Pickup Robot round in the Intermission games. Basically the idea is to play enough of a song for people to recognise what they're listening to and pick up on the pacing but not so long they get bored, fade it out for a bit (I did 20 seconds on them all except for the audience's round which was about 12), fade it back up, and continue for just long enough to tell if the player has managed to sing along at the right pace during the silent portion. This proved much more difficult to get right than I'd expected. I was aiming for the total length of music played from each song to be just over a minute, which I thought was pretty short when I was creating them, but when we did it for real it turned out that more than about 25 seconds listening to the lead-in is long enough for the audience to get bored and for the contestant to ask, "when is it going to cut out?" It also didn't help that SMS got confused in his round and tried to sing along to it a second time after his song had ended, and Ken had been given a very incomplete lyric sheet which ended before his fade-out. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
After I finished preparing the sound clips, I rushed down to David Wake's "Serious SF Play" which, contrary to my expectations, really was a serious SF play and didn't feature a cameo from Captain Tartan.
The following hour is a bit of a blur, as I staggered around trying to locate the contestants and not totally freak out about the Intermission Games. We didn't get into the room until just after 11PM, and it took about another ten minutes of setting things up before we started, still without the_magician or Futura, and still trying to get the projection of the map and the lyrics working (the_magician's laptop seemed to be having trouble producing a suitable video output for the projector and we couldn't use my iBook because I'd forgotten to bring the video cable).
the_magician arrived at just the right moment as a stand-in was about to do his song in Pickup Robot, and the tech eventually worked about as well as could be expected considering we'd not been able to set it up and rehearse in advance (our fault for adding extra rounds with more complicated tech requirements after the con had already started). There were parts that seemed hilarious to me (my favourite was Ken miming Dave Bowman's role while Ian sung HAL 9000's rendition of Daisy Daisy), but it was a bit difficult to tell how well it went down with the audience because of my perspective sat at the front of the room operating various bits of tech. asphodeline did a brilliant job of keeping the games to schedule and not overrunning (with a little help from the_magician who caught her hints and ended the Magnotron Crescent round while SMS and Ian were still in full flow). The relevance of Roboticist's Question Time was lost somewhat because the contestants forgot that their answers were supposed to involve robots, but the audience got into the swing of it and asked some funny questions anyway. My favourite round was Just a Robot, which went very well indeed (BTW Ian's answers probably make more sense if you've seen the film AI and know that Ian was involved in writing the script). In hindsight, it was totally appropriate that the audience never got to see Futura, given that she was our equivalent of the never-seen-or-heard Samantha on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.
I managed to video record the whole event on my digicam (thanks to dougs for the use of his tripod), so the whole thing will be coming soon to a web browser near you. I'll put up a digital copy of the Magnotron Crescent map too because a few people said they would like to see it (the projector had too low of a resolution for the audience to read the station names from it).
After the games were over I was still buzzing too much to leave, so I stuck around for the next item, the Adult Paper Doll Masquerade. I remembered that battythebat and johnrw had drawn adult-themed FEEBLE MEATBAGS posters (the doll on those was a copy of the paper doll from the PR), so I went off to find them so they could enter them into the judging. John had a lucky reprieve because his poster had been moved and I didn't find it until afterwards, but asphodeline won a Dr Who speaking Dalek easter egg for battythebat's poster. I think I stayed up till about 2AM talking about how the games had gone.

Comments

I was pissed off about the Wi-fi too. I deliberately timed the start of my second 24 hours so I would be able to check my emails on Monday morning.
After the games were over I was still buzzing too much to leave

Me too, that's why I wanted to stay for the doll thing. My body gets very tired but my brain rarely shuts down.

The audience seemed to be enjoying the game and a lot of people said afterwards how good it had been. I am curious to see how it all worked out although I may need to watch with my eyes shut!!
I've put the video together and it's compressing right now. Hopefully I'll be able to upload it tonight.
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!
Thank you for a great game Alex, I really enjoyed being part of it.

The biggest problem with the tube map was that it had so many stations and so many interesting names that the panellists sat there reading it rather than being funny :-)
(oh, and I bet the professional Mornington Crescent players would say that using a map is cheating anyway :-)

The Gardener's Question time round was an inspired addition, well done!