Saturday, 28 April 2012

BotCon 2012 part 3

Day 3 - Thursday 26th April.

After the last entry was posted up at about 2.30am here, I tried to get to sleep, but couldn't, so started transforming all my boxset toys before falling asleep at 5am. (You'd think that my strange sleeping hours I have back home, it wouldn't be so difficult to sleep here at "normal" hours. Or at least, the concept of jetlag wouldn't be a factor for me)

I had the alarm set for 6am, so that I could get ready for the tour (in case I had to go, or felt like going).  There is just nothing in the tour that I was too interested in, and it was just chosen to gain early bird access to the Registration and Club Store. The $80 is a waste, but negligible compared to the total cost of this week.  They can think of it as a donation. It is better wasting that, than being too exhausted or even injure myself, and waste the $600+ of the actual convention.

So I got up, got ready, and headed down to the meet-up point. I told the volunteer in charge of the tour that I wouldn't be able to go.  There were several others that didn't show up, and I was told that that they do get a few people each year just buying the Tour ticket to be an Early Bird, with no intention of going on the Tour itself.

I went back to the room, and since I wasn't able to get back to sleep, I worked on photos I had taken.
Since the previous day had the Toyhunting, and I was still tired from that (and lack of sleep), the only thing I thought about doing today was get lunch/dinner from the Italian place I saw on my first day.

Just before I headed off, I heard a strange bumping noise outside the room... and no, not the side which has my door.
I went over to the window and found a couple guys cleaning the windows, working their way down rather quickly.

At about midday, I headed out (making sure not to breath through my nose, to minimise the allergies), and grabbed a couple things from the 7-11, and a "small" selection of pizza items.

Heading back to the Hotel, I took another photo of the JFK memorial, from an angle that shows how it is a hollow 2-piece structure.

And the description of why it was done that way:

And some of the wildlife nearby...

Back to the room, I realised that I had to get some sleep, or else I may not get a decent chance once the convention effectively started tonight.
I ate some of the pizza, but since I bought some milk from 7-11, I had to use that up first with the Cereal I bought the day before.  The pizza could be eaten later... if I felt like it.
I managed to fall asleep at 3pm, but had to wake up at 4.30 for the Club Store opening at 5pm.

Heading down there, there weren't too many people, as this early start was just for Golden Ticket holders.

FunPub were having issues with their Credit Card machines not getting a signal on the lower level, so those of us wanting to use them, had to go upstairs to their Registration room, and then back down if we wanted any non-convention items.

I grabbed my 3-of-each limit, totaling over $900.
Plus a couple items for others downstairs, and a Stunticon t-shirt for myself.

The toys out of packaging:

And Soundwave's headband...

I was back at my room at around 6.30pm, and since the internet wasn't working for me, I didn't do much other than taking a few photos and falling asleep at about 9am... with the alarm set for 7.30am.

The show was about to begin...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

BotCon 2012 - part 2

Just gotta finish off Day 1 first.

So after I unloaded and changed in my room, I headed straight back down to the concierge desk for some info on how to get across to the CBD (which was blocked by train tracks and roads), plus to see for sure that there weren't any grocery stores or fast food franchises close by (nothing showed up on internet searches).  I was told about the tunnel entrance/exit to the hotel that goes under the train lines (see the hotel map in the previous post - it's on the bottom floor), which was really helpful. But I was also told that the closest thing to a grocery store was a 7-ll about 6 blocks away (and that the only fast food outlet was a Subway).  I was given a couple maps of local restaurants and touristy things to do, and left the hotel (via the tunnel - which I noticed was also for accessing the trainstation).

I walked down towards the Book Depository (now a Museum), because it was still early, and I could eliminate that off my list early, freeing up tomorrow completely.
On the way, I passed by this building, which looked out of place in "the old west" of Texas (for its age). It almost seemed European medieval...
And from the other side (later in the day when I was on the other side).

 As I approached the Book Depository (the second floor from the top, the window closest to the street side of the building, is the infamous sniper spot).

 The museum closes at 6pm, so I had enough time. I went in and paid $11.50 (had a $2 discount voucher from the hotel concierge), and was handed a set of headphones and playback device and directed to the elevator, to go to the sixth floor.
When it got to the sixth floor, I didn't realise that the elevator had two sets of doors, so I was wondering why the doors hadn't opened after a while. I pressed the "door open" button and heard doors opening... I looked around, and sure enough, I was already on the right floor (lucky no one was around to see me).
The tour took about an hour, just walking around the entire 6th floor, which was full of displays, info and relics of the fateful day in 1963.
It was fascinating to be standing near the spot, and looking out onto the street below, seeing a pivotal part of American history before me.

When I got out of there, I took a photo of the road way, where the assassination took place. (between the overhanging signs and where the road bends around to the right, under the bridge). I never realised how close it was to the actual building. It almost seems redundant having a scope on the rifle.

The next stop I had planned (from before I left Brisbane) was to the Sonny Bryans Smokehouse. It was just 2 blocks away, and was featured on Man Vs Food... so I expected great things.

 The TV show had reviewed their sandwiches, but I wanted to sample all their different meats (they had about 10 listed, with various flavours and seasonings to some of them.
I was actually surprised that they didn't do steak at all. It was just marinated, smoked meats, often served in slices or chunks.
I asked for the dish that had all the meats (the Pitmaster Platter) which comes with two sides and 3 bread rolls.  The meats Pulled Pork, Pulled Chicken, Turkey, Ham, Sausage, Jalepeno Sausage, Chopped Beef, Sliced Beef & Pork Ribs.
I also wanted Onion Rings, so asked for a large portion of those as well.
To drink, I didn't want anything alcoholic or too sugary (enough calories in the food), so the person serving me suggested an "Arnold Palmer"... a half lemonagde, half Iced Tea drink, named after the golfer.
It wasn't half bad actually.  And I'm someone who hates the taste of Ice Tea.

Within 3 minutes, the Onion Rings were on the table.

10 huge rings of onion, in a thin crunchy batter... not the regular type of batter I was hoping for.
Before I could finish them off, the main course arrived. All for $20... compared to the Onion Rings being about $7.

The two sides I chose was Mac & Cheese, and green beans casserole. Most of the sides were bean related, and I didn't want to have too much gas in my system to cause any pain from the bloating.
I asked beforehand if they pack up left-overs, just to be sure I could take most of it home when I got full. I wasn't aiming to eat it all at once, as I figured it could cover me for the next day as well  if the serving was big enough.
As such, about 20 minutes later, before I was too full to get back comfortably, I had it packed up to go.

Ever heard of a Cobbler?
I heard of it from American TV shows, so was curious when offered it as a desert. I told them I was too full, but wanted to know what it was. They described a fruit crumble styled desert with no pastry base, and gave me a sample. It was nice, but I told them that I would have to come back another day for it.
I left with my doggy bag, and headed off to look for the 7-11.
I eventually found it, and grabbed a couple bottles of diet cola, to help wash down all that meat. Plus 3 uniquely American/Mexican Doritos flavours - all very hot, and very full of artificial colourings & flavourings....
Plus a couple candy items as well.

I headed back for the Hotel, which lead me past the JFK memorial. I saw a picture of it at the museum, but didn't know if it was anywhere nearby.

It is a huge cube, in two halves (had another gap on the other side). The only thing inside was a solid square black block on the ground with his name on it. Not sure what it is supposed to symbolise.

I also found an Italian outlet on the way back to the hotel, so I know where one meal will be before I head back home. :p

I was back at the hotel around 7.30 and decided to see if I could get onto the net.
It was about $9-10 a day, for up to 5 days at a time.. which will cover me to Sunday night. I think I'll be too tired on that last night to be able to do any report writing anyway.

The computer was still taking time to set up, and kept uploading updates...

Here's a couple photos of the view from my room at night.
The chuppa chup tower lit up at night.
And a building a few blocks away, which has a constantly changing pattern & colour of lights.

This hotel has about 40 different channels... and rarely anything on that's worth watching. It actually took 4 hours until an episode of Law & Order appeared, and I haven't seen too many episodes playing (in previous years, it was on like every hour on several channels... to the point of being a running gag between Ian and I.  It's weird not having that to rely on when nothing else is on to watch - as I like those shows).
There's a TV channel (hotel channel I guess) that is just a 5-10 minute loop of various secluded beaches... like tranquil ocean sounds for people who want some noise in the room, but don't want the distraction of TV programs.
And there's like 15 different sports channels... WTH?  It's no wonder Americans are so fat - they don't even need to go out to watch their favourite sports anymore, as every sport in the whole world is covered on one of those many channels.

About 4 hours later, I was hungry again and ate the rest of the dinner.
I started on the photos and report for the first day (the first posting), and as already mentioned, at about 8am (here) I had to log off due to having difficulty keeping my eyes open.
But when I did try to go to sleep, I started thinking about what to do on Day 2, which had me too excited to go to sleep.
 I figured that I should at least try to get to one retail store this year, and looked up the location of the only nearby department store (Walmart) on google maps, to see where the trainline was (thanks to the train map from the concierge the day before).

It was within walking distance of the trainstation, but since I've found that Americans seem to prioritise cars over pedestrians, I had to try to work out if I could actually get to the Walmart on foot, as there were two major roads in the way.
Google maps was really helpful in determining that there were pedestrian crossings, and in the process, I found that there was a Target store between the station and the Walmart. (never trust a store search via google maps - always go through the store's own store locator)
Now I was really keen to go.
I cleaned myself up, and headed out (it was about 10.20am by this stage).

I went down through the tunnel to the train station, knowing to catch the red or blue line trains, to the City Place station. (when said fast, by the train operator, it sounds like City Playstation...)

After double-checking with the station attendant, I bought a $4 all-day ticket (which was just double the price of a one-way ticket), and the train was there within 5 minutes.
Within 10minutes I was at the destination stop (5 stops from where I started) and the Target store was right at the exit to the station.

This was one HUGE escalator... the biggest I'd ever seen before.

I walked as fast as I (painfully) could, half expecting other BotCon attendees to be there, or had been there already... and sure enough, the shelves were noticeably picked clean.  Most of the toy section was healthily stocked, but there were a lot of empty pegs in the Transformeers section. A few Movie toys were still there, along with some first wave TFPrime Deluxes, Legends and 2 Voyager Megatrons.
Plus, the two masks and the Electronic Optimus mask (which I grabbed).
With the Electronic Mask, I also bought the single Dark Sentinel Prime (Cmdr Class figure) that I needed - this was quite exciting as it was the LAST Dotm non-gimick general release toy that I was missing.
I also bought the lone DotM Legends Soundave toy sitting there, because it wasn't released in Australia, so figured I could make someone else happy back home who was wanting that toy (but wouldn't import one, due to what it would end up costing in the end).

I also had to buy some allergy medicine, because like yesterday, within 15-20 minutes out in the open, I was sniveling and with itchy eyes... I couldn't believe how quickly and how severely it was hitting me.  The chemist at the store said it was worse than usual this year... so tomorrow, the pre-con tour should be interesting.

Leaving Target, I walked over to the Walmart, to find that it was just a small grocery version. It still had a small toy section, but only had 3 Movie Deluxes (discounted to $8, but all early wave figures).
I decided to grab a few food items - not too much, so that it didn't cause a strain on my injuries.
That lasted about two aisles, as I kept finding things for me to sample, ending up with an armload of food items, filling 4 shopping bags.

Back to the Train (walking slowly), I went straight back to the hotel. I was back in my room at about 1pm.
I ducked back down to the lobby and ground floor while it was quiet, to take a few photos and look around, plus got a few things printed out that I need (my BotCon shopping list, including what others are wanting).

Another sign up for the two tours.
The upper level, where the panel room will be located.
The lower leverl, where the Dealer room will be located.
The main interior of the hotel, looking down from the 10th floor.
And looking up from the main floor.

Back at the room about an hour later, I was on the computer quickly, before getting to sleep at about 3pm. (for 5 hours)
When I woke up (to my alarm - to get ready for the pre-reg package pickup), I found that the cleaner had slid a piece of paper under the door to say that they weren't able to clean the room (I had the door locked while I was asleep)... Now, apparently they clean rooms until 4pm (must be short staffed), and I had waited until 3pm, thinking that maybe they missed the room completely.

I headed down to get my boxset and other items at 8.30 (they started at 8.20, so maybe a good sign after last year was late for almost everything). It was fairly quiet now that the small "early bird" pickup session was now being divided into two smaller segments, due to the Golden Ticket concept.
That was good for me, as it meant getting out of there a little earlier.
And I ran into Colin (a part time Australian fan, who has been to a couple BotCons before) on my way back to my room.
He said I look terrible.. which I was.. :p

The full package that I received.
The paperwork.
The six toys as vehicles.
And in robot mode.
The bio cards.
A collage of the artwork...

Straxus (the attendee figure)

Tomorrow has the early start of 6.30am, and it is now just past 2am...
Damn... time just gets away from you when you get caught up in all these things.

I guess I could skip the tour if I wanted... I have the registration stuff now (the condition for early bird access is to register for the tours or custom classes), and the only thing that actually interested me in the tour was the Mint... which we have in Australia anyway, which I could go see if I really really wanted to. The other stop is a ranch, which I lived and worked on when I was younger, so no big excitement there either. And since I can't ride the mechanical bull because of my surgery (one thing on the tour that I wanted to do), I'm left with a rather boring day.

Hmm... if I feel too tired when I get up at 6.30, I might go down and say that I can't make it, and head back to my room for the day, to get some more sleep, and prepare things for the reporting of the convention.
The Tour is $80, but probably better losing that money, than missing out on the more expensive convention itself, by ending up in hospital.
It probably explains why some years it seems like there are more people in the early bird lines than in the tours and classes... people probably just sign up for tours they don't go to (or miss because of how early it is) just to get early access to the registration package and Club Store on Thursday.

I'll get ready and go if I have to, but with the surgery and these severe allergies (that the hayfever medication isn't completely helping suppress) that 9 1/2 hours tomorrow could be better spent resting and preparing things for the actual convention.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

My BotCon 2012 adventure - it has begun

For those following my last two posts about this year's trip to BotCon... well... I made it.

I survived the 2 flights to Dallas, without any significant discomfort from my surgery.
Since my rambling can get a bit lengthy, I'll keep all the non-TFs journal of events on this blog, and just have the actual Transformers stuff on the Ozformers TRANSFORMERS forum.

And yes, with an anticipated food theme this year... here's a "small" sample (my first meal in Dallas)...

But that's later.

First, a quick recap.
Tuesday 6th December - Booked hotel room for 7 nights, not expecting to do much outside of the convention in Dallas.
Monday 2nd January - Rebooked hotel at cheaper convention rate (due to cut-off for charging deposits prompting cancellations, freeing up the cheaper rooms)
Saturday 7th January - Registered for the full (Golden Ticket) package.
Thursday 16th February -Booked flights & Insurance. Shortened trip to 6 nights, so adjusted hotel reservation to match.

Tuesday 17th April - Admitted to Hospital with appendicitis. (less than one week until departure)
Wednesday 18th April - Appendix removed.
Thursday 19th April - No complications, so was released from Hospital, to recover at home (not well enough to go out and do last-minute errands for the trip, or even sure if I would be right to go).
Friday 20th April - Phone up travel agent to see if Insurance will cover any problems while on the trip, or if the airline will allow me to fly (or if I have to declare it). Paid extra to allow Insurance to cover it, and the Airline cut-off for Appendectomy is 4 days (my flight would be 5 1/2 days since the surgery).

Monday 23th April - Had to decide today if I felt well enough to go Tuesday morning, plus, had to do about a dozen things before the flight, that I would have done during the previous week if the Appendix hadn't been a factor. Things like banks, chemist, Post Office, new Camera (to go with the new computer bought in March for the Toy Fair), license renewal, pay a couple bills, go to JayJays (for competition items), washing of clothes, downloading the second season episodes of TFPrime (to watch during the flight, in case they showed us a new episode at BotCon, and I would be caught up to make sense of it), and sorting out Vodafone again for messing up my billings.
Due to having so much to cram into this last day and a half, the planned 6 hours sleep that night ended up being no sleep at all.
It didn't help that it was taking longer than expected to set up my new computer (I never got around to it since I bought it), or that a friend I hadn't spoken to for a long time (Jimmy) decided to call up that night... which ended up lasting 3 hours (mostly business related).

As such, when I had just about everything done and got myself cleaned up (and packed) and ready to go to the airport, I was running out of time.
The flight was 10.30am (Tuesday 24th April), so to cover 60-90 minutes check-in (I wanted to get there early to reserve an aisle seat, to make it easier to keep mobile to avoid clots - the one risk the doctors told me about when flying so close to surgery), plus the 30-50 minutes of travel time (and traffic at that time of morning on a weekday), it was 8.30am before I was ready to call for a taxi.
I dialed, and was on hold for about 5 minutes... I figured that if it was going to take this long just to call for a taxi, I was likely to be waiting a while for the next available one to arrive. I was already out of time... I had to leave within 10 minutes or risk missing my flight. (I had a timetable to work to in order to get to the airport in time, so despite the 3 hours of unplanned phonecall, I had made up 2 hours, but now the hour buffer I gave myself, was now gone)

Fortunately for me, Jimmy had offered several times the night before, to drive me to the airport (and luckily was only staying about 2-3 Ks away).  I had knocked him back because it was a pretty big round trip just for me.  But since he was partly to blame for my lateness with the 3-hour call (I knnow, I could have hung up, but most of it was too important to wait until I got back from America)... I rang his number and hoped that he answered.
It rang for a while, so I was worried that I would have to retry the taxi number again and just have to wait for a cab... but then he answered, half asleep.
I was too stressed out to feel bad about waking him up, and besides, no matter how short his sleep was, mine was shorter.
I asked him, 'you know how you were begging to take me to the airport... well, um, how soon can you get over here?"
He said about 5-10 minutes, and after explaining to him that I was kinda screwed, and close to missing my flight, he was on his way over.

That was the longest 14 minutes, waiting outside my place for him... and then, as per most BotCons it seems, I was rushing to the airport, with so much adrenaline in my system, it felt like I had consumed 6 cups of strong coffee.
I was so worried about missing the flight, I didn't even think about what sort of stress I had put on my (internal) surgical wounds, by not having any rest for such a long period of hours, as well as the "strain" all that stress must have been.

Going via the recently finished toll road, Jimmy was able too get me to the airport in 25 minutes (without speeding either). It meant that by the time I got to through the queue and checked in about 10 minutes later, it was 9.20am - which was only 15 minutes before cut-off.

Then the drowsiness started kicking in, now that the Adrenaline levels were coming back down (now that I was safe). 
I bought a couple items from Red Rooster for Breakfast (I only had time to grab 3 donuts on Monday while out, so this was the first "real" food for about 36 hours. Between the lack of food and lack of sleep, plus the stress, I was now even more worried that I would start getting worse during the 18 hours of traveling.
Fortunately that didn't happen.

I got to the gate and ate my breakfast. I pulled out my new camera, and decided to test it out while waiting for the boarding to start.
For one of those compact, pocket cameras, it has an amazing level of zoom and resolution to it - 20x zoom, and 12 Mpixels... 
Here's one photo I took.

This new camera allowed me to be able to zoom in on the tiniest details like a magnifying glass, and the images were super clear.... enough to read the name of this plane as being "City of Perth" (QANTAS 747's are named after Australian Cities), a city I lived in for several years when I was a kid. It's where I was living when I first got into Transformers, way back in the 80s.

We left on time, and since the plane was about a 1/4 empty, I not only had an aisle seat, but had a spare seat next to me as well, to really stretch out with.

As per usual, the "dinner" is served within the first 3 hours, and breakfast is served in the last 2 hours.

This was one of the dinner choices... I shoulda gone with the chicken.

It is supposed to be a 3-cheese ravioli with mushroom sauce.

And that wasn't the only disappointing thing with this flight.
Another thing was that the personal entertainment systems were on the older "loop" format (several channels play at the same time and just repeat themselves throughout the flight - compared to the newer format of selecting the movies and TV shows you want, and you have them sent to your unit to watch at your leisure). This was corrected about 4 hours into the flight, so for half the flight I was able to watch some programs that I wanted)
A third disappointing thin was finding out that QANTAS had discontinued the snack-bag since the last time I flew with them to America (last year I think). This was one thing that remained the deciding factor between QANTAS and V-Australia, because after the first meal service, they would hand out to everyone a bag of snacks... to munch on in your own time over the next 9 hours.
Between that lost frill, and the meals looking cheaper than usual (and less filling than ever), international flights now will just be with whichever one is cheaper.

I think, to make up for no snack pack, they came around the plane several times with different food items, some of which I missed because I was asleep (but was woken up while they were further down the aisle... I wasn't too fussed, so didn't bother chasing up the tiny snacks.
I watched  a move (the latest Mission Impossible movie) and some TV shows (Curb Your Enthusiasm, a Great (comedy) Debate, and Megafactories (it was about Lego, which was really interesting and was only produced last year).

After 3 bottles of water and a fair bit of walking around on the flight, breakfast was served as we hit dawn (we were flying against the rotation of the Earth, so day and night are only about 7 hours each).
I selected the hot breakfast, and doesn't it just look yummy, all dried out and shriveled...

We landed at LA at about 6.45am (their time - which was quarter to midnight back in Brisbane, just 15 minutes before Anzac day began in those eastern states.

I do want to mention, well, praise the pilot, for the amazingly smooth landing.  Normally those 747s thump or bounce on the tarmac when their rear wheels first make contact, but this one didn't even make a wobble... he glided it in and soon as we were on the ground, the only force felt was from the reverse thrust of the engines. I was really impressed.

Once off the plane, I lined up at Customs, waiting to be processed... and you know what I now remembered?
(of all the many months, weeks, or even days beforehand, this one thing had totally slipped my mind as if my brain had purposefully blocked it out)
The online Visa-waiver registration.
My mind was completely blank.
Did I ever end up checking it, and was it still valid?
I remembered that last year I didn't have to renew it, because it had enough time left on it to cover BotCon 2011... but surely I would have checked it's expiry date sometime in the last 5 months that the date of this BotCon was known.
I just couldn't remember if I ever did.

This was suddenly looking like it was going to be my shortest BotCon trip, ever.
If I had indeed never checked it in the last five months to know that it was okay, or if it needed renewing, chances are that they would send me back home on the next plane. (or at the very least, have me go off somewhere to be processed, and then miss my LA-Dallas flight, which was now less than 2 hours from departing).

It didn't help that the queue I was in, was moving the slowest of all the queues.
When I got to the counter, and was asked all the usual questions, plus all the usual scanning, he stamped my passport and waved me through. So either it wasn't checked, or it was still valid. (it wasn't until later that day at the hotel, did I find out that it was still valid until June).

I grabbed my bag from the carousel and proceeded to wait in yet another long, slow moving queue.
(all three years that I didn't have connecting flights, and didn't need to be anywhere in a hurry, I was processed and out of the airport without any delays)

It was now 7.20am, and I wasn't even sure what the cut-off for check-in (or bag-drop) was for American Airlines... with their more intense security screening, they might have more than the 30 minutes that Australian airlines have.

But before I could go over to Terminal 4, I wanted to go upstairs to the Departure level of the International Terminal, to check out the toystore that yielded Transformers surprises last year (a couple that I wanted, that weren't released in Australia). When I got there, it was still being opened up, so I popped next door to the newsagent to grab a couple snacks (to sample some unique foods, and to have something to eat on the next flight if I ran out of time to get Burger King (called Hungry Jacks in Australia) - yes, as disturbing as it may sound, I already knew from previous years that Terminal 4 (that houses American Airlines) has a BK outlet.
So the snack items I bought from the newsagent were, Pretzel M&Ms (one of my favourite varietys),Pizza stuffed Cracker tubes (very delicious - I had a different flavour last year from here, but this one was heaps nicer), and cheese bugles (cone shaped corn snacks - Woolies recently introduced them in their "Select" generic packaging last year, and is very "American" - look for them in the chips aisle next time you're at Woolies).

So I went back to the toystore now that it was open, and rushed straight down to the back to see what TFs they had this time.  Unfortunately it was just the first 3 waves of DotM Commander class (I need Dark Sentinel from Wave 4, so just missed out), and they had a couple of the Speed Stars Steath Force gimmick toys.
Damn... nothing this year.

So I walked (hobbled) as fast as I could over to Terminal 4 (which is luckily next to the International Terminal), and found that I only had to get my bag tagged, as the ticket QANTAS issued me back in Brisbane, is now accepted by their scanners (in the past, they would need to print up their own ticket).
That was good and quick, allowing me to go straight up to the Security screening point.
(last year, this was the terminal for Brisbane QANTAS flights, but since then, they had converted their check-in desks into self-serve & bag-drop stations - similar to what QANTAS have done now in most Australian Airports (if not, all by now. Instead of a staff of 6-8 to do everything, they only have 2-3 supervising and assisting now)

Getting through security took a while (as expected), and after reading about how the body scanners can't pick up solid (metal) objects that are on the side of a body, I was now rather disturbed to see them putting some people through the metal detector and some through the body scanner, but not both.
I was put through the body scanner, and asked to have my hands above my head (which was difficult to do at the moment).  I asked the person giving me directions, if the body scanner is also a metal detector, and he seemed rather unsure at first, but then said that it wasn't, but that it would see the metal on the scan... I didn't want to risk being detained with such little time left before my flight left, so didn't probe it further (I wanted to ask if it was true that it can't pick up dark (metal) objects that are on the sides of a body - where it also dark). If they have the same thing at the Dallas airport on the way home, I'll ask there, as I should have about 6 hours to fill... to stir up all sorts of trouble. :p

I rushed over to the departure gate to see that boarding had already started. Since it was 8.05am, and the flight was still 30 minutes from departure, I figured that I still had about 10-15 minutes left before they might start giving away seats to those on Standby (people who show up on the day to get on the next available flight - as all flights may have been booked out, but you can still end up having people not showing up, which are seats that the airline would still want to fill).
So I walked down to the Burger King, to be confronted with a queue of about 30 people.  It was moving, but not fast enough to place an order (for several burgers), and wait to have it prepared, within the 10 minutes I had left.
I headed back to the Departure Gate, and went up to the service desk to see what group I was in (they were boarding by groups, which are the segments of the plane, to make it quicker to board). As I was waiting behind a guy that appeared to be served by the lady behind the counter, a girl in here early 20s walks straight past me and the lady starts serving her instead.
I was like... what, am I suddenly invisible again... because this seems to happen an awful lot for someone of my huge size.
The girl was served and the lady went over to the gate doorway for half a minute.  When she came back she started attending to the guy that was already there before asking me what I wanted.
Gee... how rude.

Now that I think of it, that was the same departure gate I had to use last year, to board the QANTAS flight back to Brisbane, only this time I was using it for a domestic flight in the other direction.

There were a few delays in taking, making it even more uncomfortable for me, who was squished between two big guys in a row of three seats.
Every extra second was like torture.

I watched a couple episodes of TFprime on my computer to fill in some of the time, and somehow managed to get about an hour of sleep as well (musta been really tired, considering the awkward posture I was in),

Arriving at Dallas 3 hours later, it was 1.45pm in Texas - which is minus 15 hours from Brisbane tim (or add 9 hours, but be aware of the date being behind us if you are adding numbers).

I wandered around the airport a bit first to see if there was anything interesting to eat, but didn't find anything quick and convenient except McDonalds, which I don't eat.

I went and grabbed my bag, checked out an ATM to withdraw some spending money (I will only end up having about $1200 to spend this year, so have to be careful with how easily I use it before the convention.
By the time I got outside and found where the Shuttle Busses stop, it was already about 2.30pm... and suddenly I was overcome with hayfever.
This was really weird, because it was happening so fast. After another 10 minutes waiting out the front of the airport, my eyes were all irritated and I was sneezing.
Without medication (antihistamine) the only thing I could do was to not breath through the nose, to stop more of the dust or pollen affecting em,
The next shuttle bus finally showed up (I didn't pre-book a seat because I didn't think about when I was booking my flights, and didn't remember it in the last week before I left).
It didn't matter though, as it was just a couple dollars more, which was still half as much as the Taxi Fare was estimate to be.

Picking up several other people from other terminals, I was into the hotel by 4pm (it was still Tuesday here), checked in and went up to my room (on the 5th floor - I was asked if I preferred a high or low floor. As much as a good view would have been nice, being closer to the ground floor makes it quicker to go to and from the convention in a hurry.

This is what the Hyatt Regency looks like on the outside. (click on it to see it full-size)
The map of the lower levels, which will be used for the BotCon convention (the big hall on the lowest level for the Dealer Room, the Reunion hall on the Lobby level for the Panels/Presentations/Hall-of-Fame, and the third floor for the Custom Class).

This was a sign already up in the lobby, that attracted my attention when walking through the entrance.
The 5th floor, with my room as the green dot - which was difficult to find, because that last wing that curves around from room 581, feels like a late addition to the hotel, because it is separated from all of the rest of that map by two fire doors and emergency stairway between them.
If you go up the wrong elevator (which I did), there is no signage to say where the rooms from 81 upwards are located. I had to ask someone, and was then led through the entire maze to where my room was.

The other bit of mis-information I got from the front desk was when I asked where the "convention center" is.  I was told that it was four blocks away... which it is, BUT, as you can see in the map above (which I didn't work out until later), the meeting rooms and halls in the hotel itself IS the "convention center" - it's just that the staff there don't refer to it as one.
So if people coming for a convention, ask for a convention center (that is usually attached to the BotCon hotel), you could end up getting directions to the Dallas Convention Centre 4 blocks away.

Inside my room, with my traveling companion (Dispensor) already escaping from my luggage.
View from my room of the train station and the outskirts of the CBD (which is over to the left).
And to the right, looking at the front of the hotel, with the "Reunion Tower" chuppa chup, towering over it.
I filled in the rest of my first day with a trip to the Book Depository Museum, Dinner at a BBQ Pit (where that first photo comes from), and the JFK memorial... but those pics and details will have to wait until I get at least 4 hours sleep.
It's already taken me 5 hours processing all the photos I took so far, and writing up this during bouts of nodding off... and then retyping the jumbled mix of letters.
I got so caught up in writing this up, it's already dawn here now (it just passed 8am).
After I get some sleep, today doesn't have much planned, as I rechecked where the closest Department/toy stores are to this hotel, and there's only one within 10 Kms... it's just a Walmart, so if there isn't a bus or train near it (from here), I might get a taxi if I feel desperate enough. But now that it is Wednesday, chances are, it has already been cleaned out of anything interesting already (by those who arrived Monday and Tuesday for Today's events).
Back soon...

Monday, 23 April 2012

April items - second batch

Friday saw the delivery by UPS of my Hasbro Store Order (had to go via a shipping forwarder, because Hasbro US store won't ship outside of Nth America).
I ordered items for others, but the following were for me.

At the bottom are the new series of Bot Shots... a gimmick based line of spring-loaded Transformers toys, utilising the "rock-paper-scissors" game.  Each person would select a power on the chest, then drive them at their opponent. Each would automatically convert to robot mode, and the one with the better chest-power, wins.
I ordered the first wave of single packs, which has regular Bumblebee, Barricade, Starscream and (faded) Optimus, plus the chase figure - translucent Sentinel Prime.
I also ordered the first wave of launchers - Optimus (darker than the single pack figure) and Megatron. Each can attach to a trailer, which can fold open and has a spring-loaded launcher.

At the top is the "Trilogy" Deluxe Optimus w/ Trailer.  The trailer opens up from one side, so is pretty lame, but is just for storage... it doesn't have any other real purpose than to make Optimus look good in truck mode. The presentation in that packaging is spectacular though.
In the photo below, I have this Trilogy Optimus in the middle of the first Walmart exclusive Optimus (on the right) and the second Walmart Exclusive (gold) Lunarfire Optimus (left)... to show the differences in their colours, and to show the trailer half open above them.

That should be the last Transformers toys before BotCon, if I end up going.
I had an order placed with BBTS last week as well, but it was delayed in it being sent, so won't get to me before Tuesday.
Nothing too fancy in that order though, as it was just 10 more Bot Shots (which are sooo tiny, I really don't want to pay AUS retail pricing) and a couple JP United figures (Axalon & Gen2 Megatron).