Gardening through Time and Space

Cmdr Z recently passed along a link to a UK web site where participants can send in photos of their garden sheds. The site’s readers can then vote for the prestigious “Shed of the Year” award. A number of the sheds bear a striking resemblance to Doctor Who’s TARDIS.

This should come as no surprise to those of us who have gardens. Whether it’s a huge vegetable garden, or the tiniest postage stamp of a flowerbed, it’s a very familiar problem.

The sheer multitude of tools, stakes, fertilizer, pots, and so on needed to maintain even the smallest garden is so overwhelming that using a spare TARDIS is the only way to avoid having the shed occupy more square footage than the actual garden.

A Browncoat is Born

Back in August I gave my brother a copy of the Firefly box set. He’d heard of the show, but having no great interest in it, promptly put the discs to one side with plans to watch them “someday.”

“Someday” arrived last weekend.

During a phone conversation on Saturday, Dave told me he and his wife had watched the first several episodes. After some thought he agreed that it made sense for a frontier planet to have horses instead of cars (after all building new horses doesn’t require as much manufacturing infrastructure) but overall he was skeptical of the whole “spaghetti western” motif.

By Wednesday they had watched the first three discs and found themselves in agreement with those who feel that the Fox network executives who cancelled the show deserve to be consigned to “the special hell.” (The one normally reserved for child molesters and people who talk in theater.)

I got another email from him this evening. His daughters aren’t old enough to watch the show, but he’s taught them to sing “The Hero of Canton.”

The World’s First War Zone Game Convention

A group of gamers who’ve been deployed to Iraq have decided to organize their own in-country gaming convention. Ziggurat Con is being organized by GIs at Camp Adder, Tallil Airbase in Iraq. The Ziggurat of Ur – which gives the Con its name — is within the base perimeter.

“There is a deeper sense of camaraderie in a war zone than you see back home,” said SPC David Amberson, the con’s organizer who is also a supply soldier with Alpha Company, 86th Signal Battalion. “You eat with these people, work with them on a daily basis, and can even share a tent with the same people. When work is over for the day, we can sit back, relax, drink our favorite sodas, eat our favorite snacks, and play a bit of D&D. This helps us relax in a very stressful environment. We found a place where we can go somewhere far away from the IED’s, mortar attacks, and gunfire, without ever leaving the safety of our camp. The next step was only logical.”

With no local gaming stores or publishers however, the convention is in need of support in the form of donations of gaming products. Many game publishers have agreed to supply game products to help the Con along, including aethereal FORGE, Sovereign Press, Final Redoubt Press, Goodman Games, Paizo Publishing and Steve Jackson Games, but more is needed.

According to SPC Amberson, “This convention is currently in drastic need of prizes and giveaways for the troops”. “Everything donated will go directly to the troops, or to MWR to use as loaner books for the soldiers.”

For more information, including how to send donations, visit the Ziggurat Con web site.

Toronto Trek Reaches for the Stars, Changes Name to Polaris

Now in its 21st year, the organizers of the convention formerly known as Toronto Trek have rebranded the event as Polaris. The organizers assure their attendees

Just because “Trek” isn’t in our name, it doesn’t mean that it’s no longer in our hearts!

Our commitment to “Star Trek” programming will remain so long as you tell us that this is what you want to see. The name change is to help make it clear that we welcome ALL fans of science fiction, no matter which show or movie they enjoy the most.

Polaris takes place on July 6 – 8 in Toronto, Canada. Announced guests include Torri Higginson, Erick Avari, Katee Sackhoff, Marina Sirtis, Teryl Rothery, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Tanya Huff, Derwin Mak, Kenneth Tam, Terri Osborne, Julie E. Czerneda and Douglas Smith.

More information on the name change is available on the Polaris web site.

Looking for Assistance

Hello there! If you’re reading this, then I’d like to request your assistance with an upcoming project of mine.

If you think that means I’m about to ask for money, well… Yes, you’re right. The good news is that I’m not asking for myself, nor am I asking on behalf of any overseas princes, oil executives, or shady bank officials. (The bad news is that I’m also not offering you fabulous wealth in return for your assistance with sneaking money out of a foreign country.)

On June 2-3 of this year I’ll be participating in Relay for Life and I’d like to ask for your support.

As you may be aware, Relay for Life is a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society. It isn’t literally a race, but rather a metaphor. It’s a 24-hour event where the participants take turns walking (or running, I’ve seen a few people spend most of the day running) around a track at a local High School or college athletic field. This relay race is a metaphor for the search for a cure – the “race” isn’t over until there’s a cure for cancer.

That’s where you come in. I’d like to ask you to consider sponsoring me in the event. Sponsorship donations are for a flat amount and you can make it any amount you like. My goal is to raise $1,000, but any amount at all is helpful.

If you’d like to make a donation by credit card, you can do that via my personalized Relay for Life web site which you can find at: http://www.acsevents.org/SoMoCo/ThatBlairGuy

That page will redirect to one on kintera.org with a much longer address. (The one on acsevents.org is much easier to work with). And of course, Terry and Wylie will appreciate any feedback about how cute they are in those photos. (Who says fundraising letters have to be dull?!?!)

If you’d prefer to make a donation by sending a check or money order (made payable to “American Cancer Society”), that works too. Please contact me privately for my postal address.

At this time I don’t have the ability to receive donations via PayPal.

And of course, if money’s tight and you really can’t afford it this year, that’s OK. I’ve been there too. There’s always next year.

Thanks in advance.

Updated April 8, 2007

This past Thursday my close friend AJ was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Because of ongoing cancer research, it’s treatable and we all expect her to make a full recovery.

But this has become a whole lot more personal.

Cult TV Weekender Moves to New Venue

The Cult TV Weekender event originally slated for Warwickshire, England has undergone a change of venue due to construction problems at the previous site.  The new hotel is the Heythrop Park Hotel in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.  As a result of the venue change, a reduced single-occupancy room rate is now in effect.   Visit the Cult TV Weekender web site for full details.

Cult TV Weekender takes place October 19 to 22 in Oxfordshire England.  Announced celebrity guests include Antonio Fargas, Ike Eisenmann, Stephanie Waring, and Ben Miller.

TANSTAAFL

On one of the email lists I’m subscribed to, people were recently chatting about an upcoming science fiction convention. A couple people started wondering aloud whether they needed to buy convention memberships since after all, they were only planning to attend a club meeting and maybe one or two other things that weren’t in the main ballroom. In short, did they need to pay even if they weren’t planning to see the guests?

That’s a tough one to answer.

On the one hand, convention memberships are what pay for everything. Not just the celebrity guests, but also the bills for the convention space. Generally speaking, the space rental for the weekend is one of a convention’s two largest expenses, and that’s all the space, not just the ballroom. (The convention has to pay for that “free” meeting space.) And obviously, if too many people routinely take advantage of the convention’s “free” resources without paying for memberships, eventually you won’t have a convention.

On the other hand, any convention that checks badges for every panel and every club meeting is likely to wind up hearing a lot of unpleasant feedback involving comparisons to the Third Reich, Soviet Russia and the like. And the sheer amount of manpower required to do all that checking is a bit overwhelming too.

Sure a convention membership is going to cost you some money, but you get a lot in return. You don’t only get to attend whatever club meeting, you also get admission to “all-you-can-eat” of that days’ programming with panels, Q&A sessions, and frequently a costume show and Saturday evening dance. Plus you get the warm-fuzzies and/or good karma that come with the knowledge that you’re supporting local fandom.

Starship Farragut Launches

Starship Farragut premiered their first-ever episode this past Friday as part of the Farpoint convention in Hunt Valley Maryland.

The first episode, titled “The Captaincy,” is set in the same time frame as the original Star Trek series and introduces the new crew of the Constitution Class starship, USS Farragut. In this first episode, the Farragut is dispatched to investigate the loss of a survey vessel and its crew and a possible Klingon incursion into Federation territory. At the same time, a new captain and crew must learn to work together.

Despite a few rough edges, it’s still a wonderful first story and doesn’t drag at all. The 48-minute runtime feels like barely half that. It’s that engaging. The only large complaint I had was a one-sided battle where it seemed like the one side never realized their opponents weren’t defending themselves. On the other hand, it was interesting to note that this episode made very little use of indoor sets, spending most of its time outdoors. (Either that, or else the film crew went to a great deal of trouble to create a quite realistic indoor forest.)

Likewise, the CGI effects are fantastic. Clearly the Starship Farragut crew has learned from those who have gone before them. The attention to detail paid off with the result that starships looked real without any obvious “computer edges” and weapons fire that seems quite believable.

A bonus item to watch for is a cameo appearance by the cast of another fan film series. Perhaps we’ll see other crossovers in times to come.

The episode is scheduled for web-release on February 23. Starship Farragut reportedly plans to release additional episodes at a rate of two per year. The series stars John Broughton as Captain “Jack” Carter; Mike Bednar as Executive Officer, Commander “RT” Tacket; Holly Bednar as Chief Engineer Lieutenant Commander “Mike” Smithfield; Paul Sieber as Security Chief Henry Prescott; and Tonya Bacon as Communications Officer Lieutenant Alissa Moretti. The recurring villain in the series, Klingon Commander Kruge is played by Mark Hildebrand.

It’s a terrific first outing for Starship Farragut. We can only hope for more of the same.