Friday we got up and the line for registration was open early, so we got in that and got our badges. This was around noon and the dealers room wasn't going to open until 2, and the opening ceremonies were at 5, so we went for some breakfast/lunch. We went to a Vietnamese Pho restraunt where I had Pho Ga (chicken Pho) which was good, and then we had some dessert. Mine was a key lime, but in both of ours it was clear that the desserts had been frozen, and when they were served to us they were still a bit frosted.
We got back to the con and hit the dealers room. I did pick up a couple DVDs and figurines for myself, but nothing caught my eye as far as getting something for Maggie or Liz. That was unfortunate, because I really wanted to get something for them. I thought that I would probably pass through the dealers room at least one more time before leaving the con, but between being tired from the thin air and my state on Sunday I never got back.
After that we hit the opening ceremonies. The MCs were a bit cheesy, but this seems to be a problem endemic to all the recent cons I've attended. They showed some clips from anime that hasn't been released yet (I guess in some cases even in Japan) and then after the ceremonies there was a concert by a woman named Lisa Fuwagawa. She claimed, "her father was Japanese and wanted to be a cowboy and her mother was a flaming red-headed Scot, so she was half-crazy and half-crazy." She apparently was fluent in both Japanese and English and spoke English without an accent (or with an American accent, if you're from across the pond). She played a piano (a Kawai electronic, not a full piano) and sang, playing a number of covers of anime theme songs as well as a few of her own original songs. Watching her filled me with inspiration and creative energy while she was playing.
That evening we hit a Mexican restraunt called the Hacienda Colorado. I had an appetizer and a dinner, but wasn't able to finish the meal. I also had a Hacienda Margerita which got me pretty buzzed, despite not being especially remarkable in size. I guess the thin air thins your blood or something, and makes it easier to get drunk. Foreshadowing.
Saturday there was a Guitar Hero tournament at 11am, with the game being available to play at 10am. I got up early enough to play a game before the tournament against someone that claimed to be one of the few people there who played Expert. I decided we'd "warm up" on Bark at the Moon. I absolutely wiped the floor with him, despite only hitting 85% of my notes. He had something like 67%. Eventually the tournament started, and it turned out that the first round of matchups (all matches were single elimination) would be played on Easy difficulty. The second round would be Medium, third Hard, fourth perhaps Expert (I'm not adding that perhaps there for effect, it was clearly a "maybe Expert if you want" meh). So here's the problem. Easy songs contain a meager amount of notes and the speed at which they come at you is slow. Therefore, someone who is still mastering Medium could theoretically be able to get a good percentage of notes on Easy. What this means is that dueling on Easy does not test the skill of either player. Instead, it tests the reliability of the hardware (the strummer added two strums on two different holds to me that I did not strum) and it tests the ability of players to use Star Power at the right time. This second item is an actual skill, but the problem is that since songs are chopped up in to very small parts for duels, it can be hard to know when to use Star Power. As an added difficulty, there are so many songs in the game that memorizing the optimal time to use Star Power on every song in every Duel Mode pattern at every difficulty level would take a hell of a lot of dedication. The sum of all this talking is that dueling on Easy Mode does not really test the duelists skills. And since I haven't talked about Medium, I suppose it may be clear that I never got past easy. The forementioned hardware errors and the fact that I played Farewell Myth against someone that *also* had a 100% notes hit rating (extra clicks on holds kill your combo but not your percentage) meant that I was eliminated by someone whose skill may or may not have actually been superior to mine. This was vaguely annoying, but when it comes down to it I lost in the format as it was defined, so I'm not going to beat myself or anyone else up for it. Neither am I going to try to practice Easy Duel Mode songs, because it'd be fucking absurd. Also Guitar Hero II is coming out soon which should have a more balanced Duel Mode, so hopefully further tournaments will be decided more on skill than on whose guitar is better tuned.
After I lost Mike and I went to get some breakfast/lunch. We went to a place called Champps which served rather thick burgers. Once again I was unable to finish my meal. We stopped at the mall and Mike looked in EB for a copy of Magic Online. I told him that it could just be downloaded from the web site, but he figured since we were there he'd look to see if there were any hard copies. There weren't, and as we wandered through the mall it became clear that there also weren't any stores there that sold CDs or DVDs in any large quantities. Mike hasn't seen The Big Lebowski, and I was going to buy him a copy, perhaps to watch on my laptop in the hotel room, but there were none available for sale, and I didn't really feel like looking in a local Wal-Mart to see if they had any copies. At this point I had something of a case of the runs, so I spent the next couple hours in the hotel room just resting and taking care of business.
Eventually we went to a show from a guy called "Piano Squall". He had an outfit that made him look something like Squall (a Final Fantasy character) and he played the piano.. I guess that should be fairly obvious from his name. He played a bunch of covers of game and anime themes, including Mario, Zelda, and Final Fantasy. His opening song was the theme from Chrono Cross, which I thought was an unfortunate choice, but perhaps Chrono Trigger's theme wouldn't have been that exciting to play. Dunno. After that was the costume/cosplay contest. There were a number of poor/decent/good outfits. The one that I thought was the best was Expert #1, which was a girl dressed up as Nausicaa who had a scale model of the wing she flies on. She had a belt between the handles, so she was able to lean forward and assume a position that made it look like she was flying. After the costumes were shown there was another concert from Lisa Fuwagawa. She played a completely different set of songs from the first time, including a version of Tori Amos's Winter that she had translated to Japanese. Then the contest awards were given out and we went back to the room.
We watched some anime on Cartoon Network and I drank either three or four Captain and Pepsi's in a short span of time. I was floating for the next couple of hours and the next day I was ill. I tried to throw up at one point, but there was nothing in my stomach to come out. Despite that, my stomach felt queasy the whole day Sunday and my head felt slightly odd. Eventually, around 1pm or so I ate an apple. The first few bites my stomach felt like it was going to enter a full scale revolt, but after that it calmed down fairly well. I dozed in a chair in the middle of an atrium/dining area for a couple hours. Eventually Mike declared that he was done with the con and he'd like to leave then and there because if he sped home he'd be able to see Zen for 15 minutes before Zen went to bed. While I can (and could at the time) sympathize with that sentiment, trying to get me moving was nevertheless rather like attempting to get Bill's van to drive 80mph and also not leak exhaust.. it just wasn't happening. Of course, there was a time constraint because of the potential lines to wait in at the airport - I'd have to get up to leave within another hour or so. Eventually I had Mike get me a ham sandwich and ate about half of it. There was a real piano in the atrium near where I was sitting and Lisa showed up to play some songs there. There was also a football game on a giant TV in the distance that I could somewhat watch. While I was sitting there I felt alright, although very tired, but when I got up I still felt a little queasy. Nevertheless, I made my flight, sat next to the polar opposite of my other flight companion (a husband and wife, the wife next to me). She offered me gum and chatted and even offered to let me use an iPod. The in-flight movie was Cars, which I watched, and which was pretty good. I got to Logan and Dad was there with his truck. I drove home and went pretty much straight to bed. Of course, it was interesting to note that when I got home, instead of clean sheets every day I had my old sheets. Instead of a soft bed, I had my somewhat warped bed. And instead of clean air, I was breathing the odor of rat piss.
But, it's home, and here I am now. I feel alright, although my brain is a little sore. Whether that's an aftereffect from the hangover or whether it's something to do with the dust and stuff in the air in my room, I'm not sure. Overall, I'd say the trip was fairly good.