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Hijinks Ensue

Concussion report 5 - Sunday

Today has been a pretty eventful day.

It's taken me so long to write this up that first the battery on my laptop ran out, then the two hours' Internet Access I bought ran out and I had to buy another half an hour to upload it and check my email.

I was woken at 6AM again by the sun streaming through the gap where the curtains fail to meet in the middle, with another bad neck due to the too-soft bed, and almost no voice due to the cold I've had since Monday.

Today was probably the most hectic day in the robotics workshop. I don't think we got any new chaos entries today, but several of the existing ones had to be finished off in a hurry. I had to make a new hull for the quad fan boat I started yesterday afternoon and replace the battery because the first one wasn't taking a charge, then I got the old model boat I brought along with me working again. They actually both worked very well in testing, but the fan boat had a slight technical fault in the event itself that prevented the rear fan from turning, which greatly reduced its forward speed. I was hoping somebody would come into the workshop at the last minute in search of a boat and I'd be able to hand those two over to them to decorate, but nobody did so they went into the contest totally 'naked' as it were, and James had to press-gang a couple of volunteers from the crowd to control them.

At 11:00 I had to leave the workshop for an hour to go to the bid session. There was only one bid for 2007 (Convoy) and one for 2008 (Orbital - which I am involved with as an assistant to the committee). Both bids were overwhelmingly successful with only a handful of votes for "no Eastercon." I get the impression that quite a few people aren't totally happy about a return to the Adelphi, but for the most part they'd rather go there than have a year without any Eastercon at all (of course if they dislike the Adelphi that much they could simply not attend...). The Orbital presentation went down well, as did our guests of honour. Apparently the labyrinthine layout of the Radisson is a slight concern.

There was some confusion over the timing of the Beyond Cyberdrome main event. I think it got rescheduled from 2PM to 3PM and then rerescheduled back to 2PM. It turned out to be the right time for it though, because it only started to rain just as the event was ending. Before the event we'd carefully collected entry forms with the details of all the entrants on them, but the folder with them in it (along with our expenses receipts) vanished about half an hour before the event was due to start. After frantically searching for it, we gave up and SMS made it up as he went along, which unfortunately led to our carefully laid plans for dividing everyone into two teams with their own flags and totting up scores etc. falling apart. My robot, Rampaging Roger, won the best engineering prize despite breaking down after a few minutes (I know why - the motors are too powerful for the speed controllers and they keep burning out the drive MOSFET). The prize was two chocolate coins which crumbled in my pocket and got mixed up with my real coins, somebody threatened to chuck me in the pool after I sprayed the crowd with the water cannon, and the newsletter report on the event called me "Alex 'lash-up' Hamilton". The folder did later turn up on the wrong side of the room underneath somebody's costume.

I spent from the end of the event until nearly 6PM packing the workshop up, then I went down to a previously arranged meeting with nearly everyone who's involved with Orbital (not-a-bid-any-more). We sat around in the bar for a bit, then headed out to the City Inn restaurant, which turned us away for some reason. Everyone else then went on to a Chinese restaurant, but I have incredibly boring taste in food, so I set off on my own on a quest to locate something edible outside the hotel. I walked for two or three miles before finding a Burger King and a Harry Ramsden's on the other side of the river (they're actually nearer to the hotel than that but I took a longer route because I didn't know where I was going). I chose the Burger King (Bacon Double Cheeseburgers are a guilty pleasure of mine). When the assistant heard my accent he asked me where I was from, and it turned out he was born and bred about ten miles from me. By the time I found the Burger King it was about 7:30PM, and the Masquerade was at 8PM, so I rushed the meal and then set off back at a quick march by a shorter route. I arrived at about 8:02 only to find that the opening had been postponed.

My main memories of the Interaction Worldcon masquerade are Sue's cat stories, the Iron Costumer event, and far too much clapping. I'm not sure exactly why, but the Concussion Masquerade was far more fun for me. Part of it may be that a much higher percentage of the costumes were joke entries, and the jokes were very funny. As a non-costumer I find it much easier to appreciate a brief play based around a fannish in-joke utilising yards of hideous floral fabric and duct tape, than I can appreciate a serious technical entry with with perfect seams and half a million hand sewn sequins. Another part of it may be that I didn't know any of the costumers at Interaction, but thanks to Chaos Robotics and Chaos Costuming sharing a room, I got to know quite a few of the entrants and saw how much effort they put into their costumes. I think I also felt more involved because I had helped (albeit very slightly) with some of the chaos costumes. My favourite entry was the Flying Spaghetti Monster's Witnesses sketch; sadly they didn't win a prize though they certainly deserved it. A special mention goes to the loonies at Year Of The Teledu who disembowelled alexmc on stage and attempted to eat his brains. Apparently they're trying to organise a convention for skunk-fanciers. By the way, I don't think Sue mentioned it, but the bekilted, bagpipe-playing stormtrooper costume (The Instrument of War) was mostly made in Chaos Costume by one person. Very impressive.

The Chaos Robotics workshop just before I started packing things away:

Andrew Langhammer unsuccessfully trying to find his multimeter which went walkabout at some point on Friday or Saturday (I'm guessing somebody borrowed it from the workshop and forgot to bring it back - if anybody has it please let me know):

A very unusual boat made from cast expanding foam, duct tape, and a cardboard tube:

Next instalment...


The Orbital presentation went down well, as did our guests of honour. Apparently the labyrinthine layout of the Radisson is a slight concern.

There are concerns with the Radisson, dating from the last eastercon held there - Evolution, in 1996 (don't take glasses into the pool area!).

While its labyrinthine nature led to it being dubbed "the Radisson non-euclidean" the primary problem, IIRC, was the food: it was bad (including broken-glass-in-food incidents, plural) and expensive. This was exacerbated by the lack of any other food facilities nearby (the more discriminating not being happy with the McDonald's next door, which was about it for a radius of at least a couple of miles)

However, all that was over a decade ago, so I'm perfectly happy to give it another go...

Sorry I couldn't make BC itself - first one I've missed in donkey's years, but it went head-to-head with the Guest of Honour session I wasn't going to miss (Justina Robson)

Re: the Masquerade - Concussion was much closer to a typical eastercon masquerade than Interthingy's one. Rather short, but that's starting to become standard nowadays. Almost tempting me back into the fray... Almost.
I've just figured out that blufive==gav, as in the same guy who sent me the old website. I still have the old BC entry you handed me in the workshop. What does the circuit board in it do?

I presume the Radisson management will have changed so many times over the intervening years that they will have invented a completely different set of problems for us to deal with by 2008 ;)

I hope you'll be building a spy-bot for BC:2007.
I still have the old BC entry you handed me in the workshop. What does the circuit board in it do?
Hrrm. I didn't build it, so I'm not totally sure. My electronics knowledge goes about as far as which end of the soldering iron gets hot, so I was in charge of the chassis and decoration parts of the Fontosaurus II project (it looked like a white polystyrene armadillo - hey! that's it over on the right in the top piccy!)

IIRC, it should run both motors forwards until it hits something. That should trip the mercury switch (the mini-board off to the front) which would cause both motors to reverse direction for a short period. One motor will then switch to forwards significantly before the other, causing it to spin in place before setting off forwards again (hence the two-wheels-plus-an-omnidirectional-skid arrangement). One of the battery packs powers the motors, the other powers the control electronics.

That's the plan, anyhow. It worked fine in my hotel bathroom an hour before the event, but flibbled out completely in the arena. We never figured out why.

It was just cluttering the place up here, and I reckoned it could donate several potentially useful parts for future entries - a couple of decent motors, and I assume at least some of the electronics are salvagable as components.
Ah, clever. I thought it might be some kind of automatic turning system but couldn't see the usual microswitch on the bumper arrangement.
All credit for any electronic cleverness belongs to morningstar_lj - I was just in charge of white-polystyrene-armadillo-ness.