Category Archives: Conferences

Your Friendly PAX Survival Guide, Part II

Now that you know the basics for PAX, you need to know where to eat. The con proper is low on interesting foodstuffs, which include such highlights as a Taco Del Mar, Subway, Tully’s Coffee, and a pizza place. (The crepe stand outside the convention hall isn’t bad, so of course the lines will be killer.) On the plus side, Seattle has a pretty awesome happy hour scene, and there are lots of good eats in walking distance or a bus away on the tunnel.

Here are some of my favorites. Everything but Sub-Sand and the trucks are about a ten minute walk away from the convention, and get you out of the crowds. (Sub-Sand is a direct bus from the convention center, so make the trek.)

Where to eat during PAX

  • Serious Pie, Downtown. Check out their happy hour, which runs Monday-Friday from 3-5 pm for $6 mini versions of their pies. It’s a great sampler option, and they have awesome alcoholic and non-alcoholic options for all.

  • Homegrown, Capitol Hill and Downtown. A bit pricey, with $7 half sandwiches, but they’re delicious, filling, made locally, and actually fairly healthy. Bonus: it’s by one of the stops for My Sweet Lil Cakes, and the place it’s in, Melrose Market, not only has Rainshadow Meats, but is near a ton of other neat places to grab a quick snack.

  • Food trucks, various locations. Our food trucks keep odd hours, from the ridiculously delicious Off The Rez and their 10 pm showing on Capitol Hill, to the 11am – 2pm midweek 2nd and Pike Pod, to Box Nature Sushi, for some of the cheapest – and seriously tasty – rolls in town. There’s an informal pod in South Lake Union as well, and there are many things involving bacon. Visit and get searching.

Where to eat during PAX

  • Chan, Pike Place Market. The Market proper is TOURIST CENTRAL. I say that in caps because you need the warning. I personally dislike going into the main market area after 11 am, but the shops in Post Alley and the surrounding buildings aren’t nearly as claustrophobic. And Chan’s happy hour, with nothing over $6, is cheap, spicy, and full of kimchi, hold the Satan.

  • Piroshky Piroshky, Pike Place Market. See the same warning as Chan’s, but Piroshky Piroshky is where locals go to grab a quick snack. The lines tend to be huge, but fast, and the beef and cheese piroshky is ridiculously filling at under $6.

  • Sub-Sand, International District. Like I said before, their $3 eggettes are awesome on a platter, but their bahn mi are nothing to sneeze at. Catch any bus in the tunnel going south to get some deliciousness.

Your Friendly PAX Survival Guide, Part I

The Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX Prime, is next week, so I thought I’d take some time now to talk about one of my favorite cons. (Though if you have no clue what it is, tickets sold out ages ago.)

Before I get started, though, I’d like to comment on PAX in relation to the Scalzi con harassment policy, which I co-signed because it is awesome. PAX has a visible policy – “Don’t harass anyone” is the extent of it – but also one where the con’s large volunteer staff, the Enforcers, are an ever-present force to assist.


The Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) Area. Photo by Gamerscore Blog, Creative Commons License.

Beyond that, PAX is one of the best chances to see the gaming sphere in action, from Bungie to Valve, and the con itself is a dizzying experience. So have some tips on surviving Seattle – and PAX – for both first timers and veterans. I’d love to hear what you have to add; there’s always something new to learn about PAX.

  • Bring water. A water bottle is probably the most important part of your gear. You’re going to get dehydrated if you’re there all day, as it’s loud and fairly dry. Drink often, and lots – the bathroom lines aren’t generally too bad.

  • Also earplugs. I can’t handle loud noise, so I usually wear earplugs the entire conference, but they’re handy even when you don’t normally need them. I probably would have benefitted from them in 2011 when I ‘won’ the scream booth challenge at Asura’s Wrath, effectively knocking my voice out for an afternoon.

  • Do everything in your power to stay healthy. PAX Flu is a serious problem. Most years at least one booth has antibacterial stuff available, but don’t rely on it if you’re nervous. Assume every controller you touch has been touched by everyone and plan accordingly.

  • Dress appropriately. I’m not saying don’t cosplay, though it’s a rather cramped space and I prefer to keep a low profile while I’m running around. Dress comfortably, but also know that, even in summer, Seattle can get this thing called ‘rain.’ I usually wear a shirt or tank top, long pants, and comfy sneakers, then tuck a jacket into my backpack.


Portal 2 at PAX Prime 2010. Photo by Michael Myers, Creative Commons License.

  • Prepare for swag. I’m never going to beat the year I got 20+ shirts, but getting a few shirts, some posters, and other stuff is standard. Not having a bag will really, really suck later. Besides, if you have a DS or ereader, you’ll want it only for gaming/reading in line.

  • Also prepare for lines. Lots of lines. The popular stuff can have 2-3 hour waits. Going with a friend can help, but you’re still stationary for long periods of time. The Enforcers will try to make it fun, and bringing distractions is great.

  • Cell phone reception? What reception? If you want to ever see your friends at PAX, coordinate via email or in person before you enter the Main Hall. Not during, before. There’s pretty much no reception in the Exhibition Halls. Also agree on where exactly to meet – and make sure they know where it is. It is not the time to hunt for people. I’ve tried.

Fundraising for Camp Mighty

So I’m going to Camp Mighty this year.

I admit I was a bit skeptical after signing up because, for lack of a better description, a lot of it right now feels like advertising for Go Mighty, their new life list format. Which is a pretty cool thing and all, but after the 5th or 6th email on contests/reasons to post, it started feeling forced. (We’re already being encouraged to post our life lists there instead of doing things privately, and there are so. many. hashtags.)

But then I got my team email, and now I’m super excited.

I mean, there’s Dana of the Broke-Ass Bride, whose blogging kept me, along with the work of Ariel Meadow Stallings of Offbeat Bride, from pulling out my hair while we planned our wedding. Or Laura, who does awesome watercolors and other things I’m bad at but wish I had some skills in. And really, all the ladies involved just seem crazy awesome and I hope my level of glee won’t freak them out.

Then again, if they’re fans of The Bloggess, it should all be okay. We can make bad taxidermy jokes together. Knowing me, they’ll be bad in both pun and in taxidermy.


Though I think the trolls in this photo scare me more than the smiling mustelid.

In the interim, I need to raise $200 for my team’s part of Camp Mighty’s annual fundraiser, and I’m trying to decide on a plan of action. That’s not a lot to raise, but I was always the kid in school who avoided fundraisers at all costs because I thought I was being annoying and only got the fuzzy balls with googly eyes and paper feet.

(I kind of feel behind already, since Laura’s link above goes to her etsy page; she’s already donating half her sales to the cause, and I’m barely thinking this stuff out now. Whoa.)

And really, it’s for a great cause: Charity: Water, a non-profit working on increasing clean water access for people who need it. If that wasn’t a good enough reason, the whole point of going is to get out of my shell and try new things. Yay!

So, some options:

Option 1: Photography print love. I have 1100+ images of puppies, church spires, plants, food, food, and more food – just from my trip to Scandinavia. I have 20,000+ images in my Lightroom database, and I’d love to see them out and about.

I’m also thinking of making a series of prints just for the fundraiser, and they will be ridiculous, and probably related to both gaming and food, because I can. It wouldn’t be a rehash of Play With Your Food, but they would be weird in their own unique way.

Option 2: Letterpress. I’m not the greatest at it, but I was thinking of taking a second class anyway and can make pretty fun cards, maybe plates of chemical reactions and stuff. Or cupcakes. Cupcakes are good.

I already have a letterpress series on cupcakes referencing Portal, after all.


I’d also be totally up for taking requests. Want to see a creeper blowing up a cupcake in letterpressed glory? I can try.

Thing is, would you like one for yourself?

Weekend Adventures: Wedding Shows for the Silly and Adventurous

Something I’ve learned to love since getting married is attending wedding shows.

No, really.


I once sent Chris to scout one with a friend, back when I entered wedding contests regularly and won two tickets to one in NYC. I couldn’t attend it as I was in Seattle, but he returned with tales of horror and cake. I was more than fearful, and avoided them for the rest of our wedding planning.

After we married and I settled into grad school and being a food writer, I started sending myself to wedding shows. Voluntarily. Often I was the only writer available, and so I took it with a grain of salt, but then I started enjoying them.

WOTW (15)

Here’s what I learned: If you’re engaged or with a bridal party, the staff know you’re on a massive deadline and they’re focused on selling that dream, and fast. But if you’re not in a wedding crunch, it’s a completely different experience.

The first one I attended, Weddings on the Waterfront, was a blast, and I’m pretty certain I had the most fun out of any of the people who weren’t vendors.


I hung out with Maureen of Posh Flowers, who gave me one of her bouquets at the show’s end. (I later brought it to my massage therapist, who actually cared for it so I got to see the flowers live much longer.) I photographed and ate cake. Seattle Sweets Co. was there, so I left with a bag of gorgeous vegan caramel which was coveted by the caramel addicts in my house. Walking around with my camera bag and goody bag slung on one side, the pale pink bouquet cascading down the other, I was practically beaming.

I even got a ride home from a lip reader, who was a blast to talk to. I still owe a few vendors a drunken crafting night.

This year, I went to the Seattle Wedding Show. It was more crowded and thus harder to talk to people, but I still ate cake and hung out with this really awesome guy who gave me a couple pounds of ridiculously aromatic garlic. It was fun.


I’m not saying this is for everyone – and it’s not always a great deal if you’re just out to try cake. (Weddings on the Waterfront was $30 per person.) Here’s how I look at it: hunting down new places to try cake and food from is a lot of work, and wedding events and similar shows do a lot of the legwork for you. Yes, they’re for weddings, but barbecue can apply to a birthday just as well as it can to a wedding. Just expect weird looks when you say you’re not the bride or groom.

I’d actually love to see more of these events for general amusement – I mean, could we have a birthday show with cards and cake and pie? What about barbecue party festivals?


If you have to go to one because you’re engaged or with the bridal party, or even if you’re curious, just try to remember that it’s not a competition. (Unless you make it one – cake bingo, maybe?) The vendors are there to help you, there’s cake, and you don’t have to agree to anything. Even if I was engaged, a lot of these are two day events, and I’d spend a day just wandering, exploring, and thinking, then spend the next coordinating.

Still, it’s so the last kind of place I expected to be excited to go to. Maybe I’ll see you there when the next wedding event hits my docket.

Everyday Adventures: Attending a nutria conference

Since I generally talk about everything except my thesis (see that lovely tagline), today I’m covering an adventure from last week related to my research: a nutria workshop conference I attended in Vancouver, Washington.

So, here’s how a conference day goes:

5:10 am: Wake up, determine I’m slightly out of my grad student mind to be up that early. Hit snooze button.

5:18 am: Spouse walks in, asks if I feel like waking up. Too tired to flip him off. Snooze again.

5:30 am: Finally get out of bed, grateful that I remembered to prep clothing and gear the night before. Get clean, dressed, and cut up a few kiwi as a snack.

Inventory: Waterproof sack of a backpack, Chromebook, notepad, pen, folder with copy of PhD candidate’s notes on nutria behavior dynamics. Also, some reading material for next week’s classes, if there’s any time.

Always wear hiking boots, just in case, but with a nice shirt to show today is official.

6:10 am: Find out my awesome, awesome ride is stuck in traffic. Try to go back inside and sleep, fail miserably.

6:20 am: On the road, and off to Olympia!

8:10 am: Arrive in Olympia while attempting to keep at least one eye open, remembering that the rest of the ride is with guys who have never met me before. And by ‘guys’ I mean senior biologists. Eep. Silently mutter how glad I am that the blue hair dyeing appointment needed to be rescheduled.

Spend trip down comparing war stories, particularly ones about people being incredibly foolish in the field.

10:00 am: Arrive in style at the conference after hours of being cramped into a tiny truck seat. By now I’m insanely jealous of the spacious seating – and comparatively comfy chairs – from field work cars. Get in a few seconds of stretching before going straight to the event.

The workshop was swanky by ecology research standards, with snacks, coffee, and lunch included, all for free. And we had a pretty epic room at a conference center with a view of the water. Talks ranged from trap types to disease spread to behavior, with way too many photos of people handling nutria. Those adorable little disease vectors!

Lesson of the day: nutria are considered a predatory mammal in certain circumstances under Oregon law. That term needs to get used for herbivores more often.

We’re all begged to refer to nutria as “swamp rats.”

12:00 pm: Someone tagged a lunch bin with “rural raised nutria.” Biologist humor rocks. (Really, don’t eat nutria – it’s not the healthiest meat out there. Though apparently the dog treats are pretty popular.)


1:00 pm: Group discussion. Some homeowner’s association reps had questions about in-progress work, and the scientists wanted more information on water quality. I gave a short snippet of current thesis plans and some ideas for social media. Group leader recommended people to contact, and people seemed generally impressed. Score!

3:30 pm: On the road again, this time talking about the conference. It was meant for a ranged audience, and the consensus was that more science needed to happen. We talked wolves, and more field stories gone wrong.

7:00 pm: Arrive back in Seattle, feeling like a sack of potatoes and distracted by a rather nasty headache.

8:00 pm: Crash from exhaustion, knowing there will still be nutria work to do for my thesis in the morning.