December 3rd, 2005

Conrunner Kevin

How Did That Happen?

The SMOFCon Mixer -- a game called "You Lost Your Hotel; what new site do you pick from six non-optimal sites (all you have available); and how do you present it to the members" -- went quite well, didn't drag along, ended on time, and I think succeeded in getting people talking with each other. I and many others were particularly taken with the faux hotel information flyers for the thinly-disguised hotels, like the Insmouth Hotel and Saturn's Rings.

After the Mixer, we took one of the round tables on one corner of the room and set up for Dealers Choice poker. I was the "bank" so I had to be careful with the chip count. At the end of the night, everyone was satisfied with the amount of cash they got out, and as far as I could figure, I'd put in $15 and taken out about $3-$4. Imagine my surprise when I rebalanced my Quicken cash account and found that I was about $18 under -- that is, I had $18 more in my pocket than my accounts said I should have. I have no idea how that happened, because I was not playing particularly good poker tonight, nor was the luck of the cards with me.

The Hold-Em Tournament is Saturday night. Fifteen people have signed up so far, and I promised no more than 20 seats, so I'm happy. We had one person drop out when he realized he'd have to put in $5 real money buy-in -- he thought it would just be play money, but playing poker for non-real stakes seems a waste of my time -- but we filled his slot right away.

The hotel room here, while cold, has some nice things, such as having a refrigerator. Unfortunately, on this trip we didn't buy any groceries like breakfast stuff, so we'll have to go out for breakfast. I need to get some sleep, as the convention keynote speaker, Tyra Hillard, will be talking at 11 AM Saturday. Unfortunately, one of the program items I wanted to attend and participate in, the 3 PM panel on "Events Management for the Non-Techie Manager," is at the same time as the small-group discussion I'm supposed to give about "Bylaws and how they can help prevent problems in your group." *shrug*

Fortunately, I am (finally) starting to wind down. It's so much more fun to attend SMOFCon when I'm not working on any conventions.

Update, December 4, 10:50 PM: The mystery has been resolved: see here for details of what I'd forgotten to count.
Conrunner Kevin

SMOFCon: Keynote Speaker

The wireless connection here in the function room was not giving me an outside connection for a long time now, but it's up again. I'm sitting here in the Keynote Panel with Tyra Hilliard (scroll down on the linked page for the info about her). She's been giving an interesting presentation about meetings and contract law, in particular going through some real proposed contracts and the many "gotchas" in them. The room is once again packed out, with a substantial majority of the attendees present.

One complaint I've heard about SMOFcon is that it is too Worldcon-centric and there is insufficient value for local and regional conrunners. I'd say this talk is equally useful for all of these people. I think most of the people here are getting something out of this talk, even Ms. Hilliard, who seems impressed at how well we know ourselves and the number of interesting "gotchas" we spotted that weren't necessarily in her examples.
Conrunner Kevin

More About Poker

In an attempt to reduce arguments during games, I drew up a set of "house rules" for SMOFCon Dealers Choice based on an adaptation from Dealer's Choice: The Complete Handbook of Saturday Night Poker. As apparently befits a fannish gathering, we threatened to spend more time arguing the rules than actually playing the game. There were only a couple of contentious clauses:

Table Stakes: Except for certain pot-doubling games (where IMO you shouldn't play if you can't potentially afford it), I don't think you should be forced to "go light" (potentially having to put in more money than you already bought in chips), and therefore can only bet what you already have on the table.

Minimum/maximum bets: I like having the minimum raise be the previous raise amount, with a three raise maximum (except when heads up), mainly because I don't like to see a betting round be "killed" by two minimum-bet raises. It was Kent Bloom who proposed raising the min/max up 10 cents/1 dollar just because the nickle-ante bets are the same stakes he's been playing for twenty years. I see his point.

Fortunately, we didn't get too deep in the argument and agreed over a few changes to the house rules. Of course, a dealer is usually free to call any exception to the rules on any game. But nobody has to play a game if they don't like the rules.

We now have eighteen people signed up for the twenty-person Hold-Em tournament. I'm thinking of asking if there is objection (should there be demand) in increasing the field to 24 (8*3 starting field instead of 10*2). I tend to think "the more the merrier -- and more money for the winner," but I can see how some people might think "I don't want to play all night" and "If you put more people in, the odds of me being one of the last three go down."

The other issue is how to set the initial chip stacks and the blind progression so that we don't have either trivially-low bets or foolishly-small initial chip stacks. For instance, $5 buying 1000 chips can be initially set up thus, if you plan for the intial blinds to be 10/20 with 20-minute progression (probably pretty steep progression, too):

White = 10 * 10 = 100
Red = 50 * 8 = 400
Blue = 100 * 5 = 500
Green = 500 * 0 = 0
Black = 1000 * 0 = 0

The green and black chips aren't in your initial chip stack and will only be used when you "chip up" later in the game and the lower-denomination chips go out of play when the blinds go up beyond 100.

The idea is to balance the need for the tournament to end in less than three hours (we don't expect to start until after 10 PM, and we can't be here all night) and the desire to give people a reasonable amount of play time before people start dropping out (aside from first-hand crash-and-burns such as I've seen).
Conrunner Kevin

Talking About Bylaws

Unfortunately, two of the panels here at SMOFCon I wanted to attend happened simultaneously, and I was running one of them. The one I ran was "Bylaws and What Trouble They Can Mitigate," a small-group (seven people plus me) discussion. The other was "Events Management for Non-Techies," which apparently had only a few more people than the Bylaws discussion. I do not fault SMOFCon programming head Patty Wells for this. I should have noticed the potential conflict and asked for a swap when the draft schedule came out.

I was slightly surprised that anyone at all turned up to talk about Bylaws, but I could talk about them for several hours, not just one. In the first half of the hour, I went over the basic structure of bylaws, using the SFSFC Bylaws as a guide. The SFSFC Bylaws are possibly more detailed than every organization will need, but they're pretty good if I do say so myself (I wrote most of them). During the second half of the hour we talked about what you can do when people aren't following them, or why you should have bylaws, or other implementation details. I did say that much of this is group culture. It's a voluntary group; you have to commit yourself to following your rules. It's difficult to make people follow their own rules in a voluntary organization. And as a practical matter, if you can't muster at least a small number of people (say, one or two) sufficiently with it to follow a relatively easy set of minimal requirements, then you do not deserve to call yourself an organization, because clearly you are not organized. In other words, flakiness is its own reward.
Conrunner Kevin

Primed for Poker

We actually have twenty names (in the form of 18 primary and 2 "optional/waitlist" signed up for the tournament tonight. I sort of hope we get four more latecomers so we can start 8*3 tables. This afternoon, I set up twenty sets of 1000 chips (10 * 10, 8 * 5, 5 * 100) so we can get started quickly. I've been informed that the hotel would really like us to vacate the room by 12:30 AM, so we will have to progress the blinds accordingly.
Conrunner Kevin

Nobody Expects...

I'm sitting here in the main function room waiting for the Fannish Inquistion to start. This SMOFCon tradition has bids for conventions (including Westercons when the SMOFCon is in the Westercon area) and seated cons submitting themselves to grilling by the SMOFS. Tonight, the plan is to do Westercon bids/cons first, then at 8:45 move on to SMOFCon bids (and I guess the formal selection of next year's SMOFCon), followed by Worldcons.

While this is an important function and something of a rite of passage for bids and con committees, there have been times when the event has gone on unmercifully long. I hope that tonight's event will be an exception, and we might be able to get done by 10 PM or so, after which we can start playing poker.
Conrunner Kevin

Seated Westercons

Report from ConZilla, the 2006 Westercon in San Diego, with Sandra Childress doing the talking for Jim Briggs, who is here but not feeling that well. Next planned big committee meeting is in January unless the San Diego Chargers are in the playoffs and are the home team. Mostly recapping the standard material from the web site. Reminded people that July 1-4, 2006 is Saturday-Tuesday. No audience questions.

Report from Gnomeward Bound, the 2007 Westercon in San Jose, with Michael Siladi in a gnome hat, along with Kathryn Daugherty. (Crowd: "Kathryn, we want the hat!" Kathryn: "No.") Simliar recap of guests, noting that the guests are from all around the Westercon region. July 6-9 (Friday-Monday). Hotel rates $99 single-to-quad (audience made happy sounds).

Tom Whitmore asked, "Will you be Triple-Double-CrossCon?" Michael: "No, We're Gnomeward Bound."

Kathryn relented and put on the purple gnome hat, briefly, but Craige Howlett says he got the picture.

Meeting descended into "gnome" puns, followed by other jokes that I decline to report in deference to the makers.
Conrunner Kevin

Westercon Bids

2008 Westercon bids:

Las Vegas, James Daugherty leading: He asked the committee present (a distinguished group of conrunners) to stand, and said, "Can you ever expect these people to agree on anything?" But they agree on Las Vegas in 2008.

"Can you get there from here?" Sure, there are lots of roads and plenty of flights there.

"Is there anything to do other than the convention?" Much laughter, followed by a call of, "Crime Scene Investigation!" James read off the vast number of non-obvious things, such as, for instance, the Nevada Test Site Museum, or the Liberace Museum.

"Is there any reason to ever have to go outside?" James said, "Las Vegans understand air conditioning. It is possible to go from the airport to the hotel without ever having to leave air conditioned comfort."

"Which hotel are you using?" James replied, "There are at least 14 different properties in Las Vegas that could host a Westercon." They haven't picked a site yet; they're still evaluating which is best for the bid overall. (See the hotel-picking exercise last night.)

"Are there fireworks diplays?" James says, "Las Vegas goes crazy for fireworks on New Year's Eve and Fourth of July."

Ben Yalow started, "Minor technical question..." James interrupted, "Gosh, look at the time!" But seriously, if any bids from the North or Centeral Westercon rotation zones files by the end of December, they block off the South Zone for 2008, in which case LV would move their bid to 2009. There are no contemplated 2008 bids from the North or Central zones. (This year is part of a transition between the old and new rotations.)

James declined to discuss hotel room prices at this time due to ongoing negotiation.

Phoenix, Mike Wilmoth reporting, but I missed the first part of his report due to my answering side questions about Westercon rotation and the poker tournament.

Mike gave a fairly detailed report about the hotel -- Tempe Mission Palms -- including how the rate includes free hotel shuttle, how the space is laid out; there is plenty of space, and (unlike the Wigwam Resort, host of the last Phoenix-area Westercon), lots of restaurants nearby.

The temperatures will be the same indoors and outdoors as Las Vegas.

There were a lot of questions I was unable to catch because I'm working on tournament setup.
Conrunner Kevin

SMOFCon Bids

Scott Dennis presided over the discussion of future SMOFCon bids. A silly mob scene occurred when Scott asked "any future SMOFcon bid" to come up front and about fifteen people trooped up. Even after Scott tried to settle things a bit, there still seem to be at least six or seven bids up there.

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Following the basic "we're bidding" presentations, the SMOFcon bids were asked to give "dog & pony" shows, but I'm now sufficiently informed about what I need to know about the bids for this subject that I'm going to close this entry without reporting on them unless something really significant happens. Cute presentation by Boston, however, where, after talking about their bids, they handed out a "dog and pony quiz" showing a picture of a dog, a pony, and of a large shaggy thing with a choice of "Dog, Pony, Alien, Dust Mop."

Unfortunately, it's now half past nine and we haven't gotten to the seated Worldcons, let alone the bids yet. Grumble.
Conrunner Kevin

Time Management

I tend to give SMOFCons a lot of slack on many things, but why is it that year after year that we do the Fannish Inquisition without starting on a list of how many groups are expected to present divided by the amount of time available and applying the time limits according, and having a moderator who can enforce them and make people move along when their time is up.

I understand the Ig Noble Prizes have an eight-year-old girl who, after an acceptor's speech exceeds one minute, comes on stage and loudly announces, "I'm bored!" We need that sort of person here.
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Conrunner Kevin


Finally, at nearly 10 PM, Vince Docherty has come forward to host the discussion of Worldcons, seated and future. He suggested a maximum of ten minutes for each of the seated Worldcons and confirmed that there were three 2008 bidders, two 2009, and one 2010 group.

2006 (L.A.con IV), led by Christian McGuire and surrounded by a gang of supporters holding large color signs that are still too small to read from the back of the room, presented the usual information. Christian reported that they're tracking memberships a little low based on comparison with historical data. He's really looking forward to the synergies in the convention's "Space Cadets" theme. He discussed generally some of the ideas floated at the "Hypotheticon" workshop held yesterday; however, I don't think it would be appropriate to commit those comments to writing here because it's all hypothetical at this time. Room reservations open January 1, 2006.

2007 (Nippon 2007), led by Hiroke Inoue, spoke about the convention (through translation by the Japanese member of their committee whose name I keep forgetting), but gave the usual presentation with the expected convention. Note that pre-supporter conversion credits expire at the end of 2005, so if you have not upgraded by then, you need to do so now. Hotel rates will be announced at L.A.con IV. Current package rates (per person, double occupancy, including airfare and hotel for five nights) are around USD1300, if I heard properly. We were reassured that language barriers are highly overstated.
Conrunner Kevin

Worldcon Bids 2008

The 2008 bids took the head table. Representative of all known bids were there, including the rather (of late) quiet Columbus bid.

Dave McCarty of Chicago's bid started. It's the same site as past Chicago bids (Hyatt Regency), which has added additional function space since last time, and they may not need to use function space in other hotels; other hotels may be needed for overflow sleeping space. Bid theme is "To Serve Man" and many hot dogs have been served already. People piled on to the bid about errors made for Chicon 2000, which Dave freely admitted and said they would learn from them and improve. Unfortunately, this descended into minutae of conrunning, and I got tired of trying to record it all. (The bid is for Labor Day weekend.)

The Columbus bid was represented by Joni Dashoff, who expressed the regrets from the Columbus bid for not having hosted a party at the Worldcon this year and gave reasons for this. (I should note that I am a pre-supporter of all bids, and have no particular axe to grind in this bid; I regret that some people reading this are likely to assume that I have personal reasons for giving a negative review here.) The Columbus Convention Center and surrounding hotels would be the venue. Note that there is a 24-hour food court (that would probably be popular). Joni attempted to put a good face on the (IMO) generally lackluster public face of the bid, which has been nearly invisible of late in the SMOFfish arena, but she had to admit that the local fan base, while experienced with large conventions like Origins, does not travel a lot and is perhaps not plugged into the usual Worldcon conrunning circuits. (The bid dates are Labor Day weekend.)

Denver in 2008 is led by Kent Bloom, who calmly followed the rather defensive Columbus and Chicago bids with a pitch for downtown Denver, with a bid for a Wednesday-Sunday, August 6-10. (Why? Because that's when the convention center was available for 2008.) Their bid committee is large and geographic diverse, and the theme is "competence and outward focus." He said, "We're looking to take the best of the Worldcons we've attended and to possibly improve upon them and bring more social space and interaction between the members of the Worldcon." (I probably dropped some words there.) The core hotel is the Adam's Mark, which has lots of rooms. In response to a question from Tom Whitmore, Kent said that four bidcom members live in metro Denver, with an additional six in the Colorado Springs area, with the rest scattered around.

All bids have expressed a williness to participate in Pass Along Funds.

Gary Blog tossed a fairly harsly worded question at Columbus saying, "Why bother? You weren't at Glasgow or at Seattle." Joni reiterated the extenuating circumstances of the bid leadership -- death of parents is a pretty significant issue. When asked, "Why aren't more of the Columbus committee here?" Joni had no answer.

The Adams Mark is 5 blocks (at 12-14 blocks/mile) from the Convention Center.

All bids were asked about the weather, heat, humidity, allergies, and similar, but I didn't try to record the answers.

Note that you can vote on 2008 site selection if you are a member of either L.A.con IV or Interaction.
Conrunner Kevin

Worldcon Bids 2009

After more than two hours of this, my ability to keep focused starts to wane, so expect the report to get more sketchy.

Kansas City, presented their details. They are bidding the Overland Park site, with a convention center and hotels across the street one way or another. In response to a question, Margene Baum addressed the Overland Park-versus-Downtown-KC argument, and said that she thinks the Overland Park is the better sized site for a Worldcon. There were -- IMO very unfortunate and unnecessary -- questions about the con that hauled up memories of MidAmeriCon. Planned dates are Labor Day.

Montreal's Rene Walling faced the assembled punchy SMOFS. He explained about how they'd been "Bouchered" at Noreascon Four. When they got home, they reviewed the site and said, "Let's go for it." He said, "Most people in Montreal speak English, although a few selected French phrases wouldn't hurt." The date is the first weekend of August because Labor Day is all booked up with festivals; however, he thinks this is a plus, and will make it easier for academics and students (and anyone who is tied to the academic calendar) to participate. Convention Center is "a few blocks away, at most" from Old Town Montreal. Glenn Glazer asked about the border-crossing issue. Rene says that the exhibit hall can be set up to be a "port of entry." I've heard this claim before; whether it can be translated into reality represents an interesting challenge for this bid. Alex von Thorn asked if the cancellation of the local con (ConCept) is negatively affecting the locals. Rene wasn't really sure; he said it would be nice to have it.

General questions: Will you need to budget extra for transport from airports? KC says they'll need to contract for a shuttle service. Montreal says there are various commercial shuttle service. Taxi ride is about CAD25; it's a regulated flat fee.

Montreal was asked why they weren't at Boskone last year. Rene says they were at Arisia, but the person planning to go to Boskone got sick; they plan to be there this year.

Both bids support Pass Along Funds.

Election will be at Nippon 2007. You need to be a member of N2007 to vote on the 2009 site.