Friday, July 22, 2011

LeakyCon Take Two -- Reflections

Ever have that feeling that you know you're exactly where you belong?

I had that feeling this past week, bonded together with 3400 others through the love for a boy wizard -- Harry Potter.

At LeakyCon 2011, it was not out of place to proudly display your House colors, spontaneously duel another wizard while waving your wands and shouting spells, or break out into wizard wrock songs. To see Dumbledore wandering the halls, or be greeted with a "Constant vigilance" by Mad-eye Moody, was also common.

But that's not all. Here, among all these other witches and wizards, it didn't matter who you were, where you were from, what you looked like, or any of those other things upon which "society" seems to impress importance. Here, you could be yourself and be proud of it.

I read the Harry Potter series for the first time in 2006, so I started fairly late in comparison to other Potter fans. This due to the fact that my parents were the worst sort of Muggle. Their view of Harry Potter rivaled that of the Dursleys' view of magic. I kept my books hidden very well and could only read them after everyone had gone to bed and even then only by the light of my laptop, with my bedroom door tightly shut, my ears pricked to any movement, as I posted on the Leaky Lounge. I literally felt like Harry Potter in that regards.

When LeakyCon 2009 was announced, I knew I was going to go no matter what. That conference showed me that there was a whole community based on love and Harry Potter and I felt at home. After that trip, I moved and was out from under my parents and able to be free to read Harry Potter whenever and wherever.

Then LeakyCon 2011 was announced...

I immediately made plans to go to Orlando and participate, both as an attendee and staff and presenter with the Leaky Lounge reading groups. I needed to go home to Hogwarts.

To say this experience last week was life changing would be an understatement. The new friends I made and the old friends I was able to see again will always be with me. Being there gave me a sense of purpose, a sense that "I'm not alone". To be surrounded by amazing people I could connect with easily was the best part of LeakyCon, and the Harry Potter fandom as a whole. I could be me.

To everyone out there who may feel like they don't belong, that no one understands them, that life just seems too difficult, remember this: Hogwarts is always here to welcome you home.

The weapon we have is love!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

LeakyCon 2011 -- "This will never end"

One in 3,400...

...yet bonded together by love and the love for a boy named Harry Potter.

Approximately 3400 Harry Potter fans descended on Orlando Florida for LeakyCon 2011 to participate in the culmination of the Harry Potter saga with the release of the final movie, Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Where do I even start? To be able to hang out with other passionate Harry Potter fans was just such an amazing experience that I can barely find words to do it justice. To be able to instantly bond with complete strangers was a feeling that surpassed even the best Cheering Charm. These past few days have been epic and thoroughly cemented in my mind that, even though there may be no more books or movies, the Harry Potter fandom will never end.

Tuesday night and Wednesday greeted the staff with the registration, as we tried to cope with the influx of 3400 people. I personally sat behind my computer for about 9-10 hours Wednesday printing off badges that did not get printed initially and solving other problems or answering questions. To say it was stressful would be an understatement, but all that was on my mind was to be positive, keep smiling, and make sure whoever it was standing in front of me received my full attention and the best possible help I could give.

Wednesday was also Lit Day, a first for the LeakyCon programming. As I was behind a table the entire day, I was unable to attend any of the programming or keynotes, but from reading other posts and blogs, the event was a success! In my mind, it was the perfect compliment to a convention about Harry Potter and hope it is included in any future LeakyCons.

Wednesday night also featured the Open at the Close event held at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal closed the park for regular ticket holders at approximately 10 pm and gave the park full reign to those LeakyCon attendees lucky enough to snag a ticket to this event. I was able to go and experience Hogsmeade and Hogwarts for the first time in my life! To say it was amazing would be the understatement of the year! It was extremely epic to share such an adventure with other passionate Harry Potter fans. Having the park to ourselves was definitely the best way to experience WWoHP for the first time. Enthusiasm was high, the butterbeer flowed, and every witch and wizard enjoyed themselves immensely.

Thursday brought more amazing programming and discussion panels including the Leaky Lounge Reading Groups, of which I was head of this year. Being able to sit around a table and discuss various topics regarding the Harry Potter series was a delight! Thursday also brought the release of the final movie, Deathly Hallows, Part 2. LeakyCon registrants who were able to grab tickets were given a special treat and special screening of the movie 6 hours before it was released! As a Leaky staff member, I was able to watch the movie in IMAX 3D along with other staff members, Harry Potter actors, wizard wrockers, and other special guests. The movie was amazing and seeing it with all those awesome people made the experience even more epic! After the movie was over, I was delighted to ride down the escalator with Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley)! We had a nice chat about the movie and I found out this had been the very first time he'd seen it. I definitely was surprised at that!

After the movie, everyone gathered in the main ballroom area for a wonderful night of wizard wrock, highlighted by The Remus Lupins last live show. Personally, I don't think they could've asked for a better venue for their last show. The music was amazing and all the bands did such a great job! I was able to see Ministry of Magic live, which is one of my favorite wrock bands, so that was definitely awesome!

Friday brought more amazing programming and a real treat to Harry Potter fans -- an overview of the new Pottermore site complete with new information from J.K. Rowling (which caused the audience to "shhhh" the speaker, James Deeley). Friday night also featured more amazing wizard wrock, of which I only saw a bit of because I ended going out to Universal City Walk with a new friend, Bryanna, and having a wonderful time. (Did I mention how easy it is to make amazing friends at LeakyCon??)

Saturday was an early morning for staff and attendees alike -- one was setting up and discussing the best way to tackle the Starkid and Luna, Percy, and the kids events; the other was lining up early to get good seats for Starkid.

After the madness of getting everyone settled, the main events opened with the Warlock's Hairy Heart, a new musical by Lena Gabrielle. It was amazing! Following that, Starkid performed several of their musical numbers from AVPM and AVPS. The genius of the songs really showed both how creative the Harry Potterverse is and how fun it can be! The Starkid event was followed by a hilarious and entertaining panel discussion with the Harry Potter actors Evanna Lynch, Chris Rankin, Scarlett Byrne, Ellie Darcey-Alden, Will Dunn, Rohan Gotobed, Ryan Turner, Arthur Bowen, Helena Barlow, and Benedict Clarke, moderated by Leaky's own Melissa Anelli. All the actors were very nice and I had the pleasure of meeting Evanna and Scarlett.

Saturday night brought the Esther Earl Rockin' Charity Ball in memory of one of Harry Potter's strongest and most courageous fans and avid supporter of the Harry Potter Alliance. The night was full of great music and dancing with some of the most amazing people I've ever met. It was an honor to be on the stage at the end, looking out over the crowd. It will be a feeling I will never forget!

Sunday morning brought the Closing Feast and the amazing announcement by Melissa Anelli that the convention had raised over $120,ooo for charity! The outpouring by the Harry Potter fandom always makes my heart glow with pride. After of which followed the inevitable "good-byes" and hugs and yearbook autographs. And yet, it never truly is good-bye.

To all my amazing friends I connected with again or met for the first time... "This will never end"

"Amor Est Nostrvm Telvm"

Friday, March 26, 2010

Office technology...or lack of it

How many of you have dreaded going to the office not because it was Monday or because you knew that you might have to work late, but because you didn't want to fight with the outdated technology there?

*Raises hand* I'll admit it.

Yes, I understand that technology costs money, but in today's world, technology isn't that expensive. It amazes me to learn that people are using outdated software, hardare, and networks.

Case in point: When I first started working at my new job, I didn't even have my own computer to start with. I shared with a guy from Sales who was mainly in the field. That was actually a fairly up-to-date computer. But when I was finally given my computer, I had to work with Office 2000, Outlook 2000, and just outdated tech. It was annoying especially since my laptop and internet at home is tons better.

It's almost as if company's are afraid to upgrade because either too much might change or things might get confusing, or a myriad of other reasons/excuses.

In my mind, it is more efficient for a company to be running on good technology. Now, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't expect every company to be running the top-of-the-line equipment for their network. But, it is in their best interest to be current.

Another issue with technology at work is the network. How many of you get annoyed when you try to download something you need, or maybe a different web browser and you get blocked by a pop-up that says something about needing Admin privileges?

I get annoyed.

I understand the concept behind requiring Admin approval for downloads, but it's not that practical. Most people today understand about malicious software and are for the most part careful when downloading.

It just makes it more appealing to work when you know you can "customize" your work environment without destroying your outdated computer/software or repeatedly calling IT for help.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Wonderful World of....Warcraft?

About two months ago, I started playing World of Warcraft.

(Cue the eye-rolling and the thoughts of "another one bites the dust")

Thankfully for you, I'm not here to insist that everyone play this game or drone on like a geek. No, I'm here to talk about a different facet of World of Warcraft, or WoW, that seems to slip under the mountain of quest seekers, dungeon masters, gear professionals, PvP artists, and, well, you get the point. This aspect is the social side of the game.

You may think, 'With millions of people playing that game, isn't the social side of the game really the goal? Bringing people together to enjoy a game?' Yes, it is, but my point drives deeper than that. I'm talking the social interaction between players, the friend-making, the good times.

This is the reason I love playing WoW so much. Many players get so caught up in the game itself, trying to gain the next achievement, find the rarest drops, pick up the epic loot, etc., that they sometimes lose the social nature of the game. Yes, maybe they group up for a quest or dungeon, or belong to a guild, but it's just a means to an end.

*Note: I'm not saying this applies to all WoW players.

And this brings up another point: World of Warcraft is just a game. (I can hear the hardcore games gasping and protesting now.) Yes, believe it or not, it is just a game. A fun game, a very enjoyable game, a well-done game, but in the end, just a game.

*Note: Yes, I know that this game requires a monetary subscription, thus prompting more of a focus on the game itself, but that is the choice of those who play.

In the end, maybe you missed that one achieve, or didn't win the Need roll for an item you've been killing yourself to obtain, but you had fun doing it and enjoyed the people you were with and maybe made a couple new friends.

That's always a win in my book.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How Decisions Affect Our Future

Have you ever sat down and thought about a decision you made in the past and followed it's 'consequence' to the present day? If you have done that, have you also wondered how different your life would be if you had made the decision differently?

Obviously, we are unable to go back in time and change the past. But the fascination is how the past affects the future in ways we could never imagine--for better or worse.

Case in point, today I was thinking about my really good friend back in Montana and was reminiscing about how we had met. Then I made a crazy discovery. Are you ready for a story?

*settles down in his comfy armchair*

Some of you have heard part of this story before, but for those who have not, here we go. It was April of 2008 and I was all set to graduate from college in a couple weeks. Several friends and I had just gone to the spring play the college had put on and we wanted to head out to a restaurant to eat. Only four of us ended up going, and we headed off to Chili's. My three friends got something to eat, but I really didn't have enough money for a full meal, so I just got water. But then, as I was flipping randomly through the drinks menu because I was rather bored, a drink caught my eye, so I ordered it (and yes, I was 21). Now, understand, I went to a Christian college and all alcoholic drinking was prohibited as long as you were enrolled at the college (that meant, no matter if you were on campus or off campus, you would still get in trouble). My friends were a little uncomfortable, but I knew they wouldn't say anything. However, I did not factor in that sitting a couple booths behind us was another group from my school. One of the kids saw what I had ordered and called up the deans. To cut down the story, I ended up getting kicked out.

(Now, before you get all riled up about this, please understand that age didn't matter over the rules of the college. All that is in the past and I graduated the following year with honors, so no hard feelings. The story is told for background purposes.)

Anyway, after I got kicked out, I of course had to head back home. After a few days at home, my parents suggested I get a couple jobs so I could raise the money I needed to pay for my final semester. So I went back to KFC (I had worked there during highschool, and during college Christmas breaks) and then got a night job working as a delivery driver at Pizza Hut. While working at Pizza Hut, I met this girl that was just simply amazing and we ended up becoming very good friends both at work and outside of work and have stayed close to this day.

Now you're probably thinking, 'Ok, get to the point already.'

My point: If I had not made that ridiculous decision to buy that alcoholic drink at Chili's back in college, resulting in my expulsion, I would have most likely never worked at Pizza Hut and would have most likely never met this girl who became a very close friend and a light in my life. It is truly amazing how something that started out as a terrible decision ended with a friendship to last a lifetime. (Yay for alcohol? =P)

So, although we can not predict the future, we can control our present choices. And the cool part is, we have no idea where those choices will lead us.

Life is crazy, huh?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

State v. National

I would like to first preface this blog post by saying I do not support a lot of President Obama's policies. However, I still think he is a good person trying to make some important changes. Also, it is not my intent to offend anyone with this post.

And that leads me to today's blog of annoyance:

Tuesday's gubernatorial races, the media craze surrounding them, and the references made to President Obama.

For those of you who have no connection to the outside world, or don't know what "gubernatorial" means (heh, heh, it sure is fun to say/type though!), there were two governor races voted on this past Tuesday -- one in New Jersey and one in Virginia. The main talking points were the tight race in NJ, which has had a Democratic governor for a long time, and the huge lead the Republican candidate in Virginia had -- a state that had gone to Obama in the 2008 election.

Now, President Obama did some campaigning for both the Democratic incumbents -- and rightly so, being a Democrat. Obviously you want as many of your party in influential positions throughout the nation as you can get. But even with his strong backing, both states went to the Republicans (an almost unheard of event in NJ!).

Now, much of the media, especially FoxNews (and now a collective cringe), jumped on this outcome as possibly a hit against the president's policies and questioning if this was a hint of the 2010 Senate/House races.

**Ok, I want to interject here that I watch FoxNews alongside CNN and I also read the NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal. Just want to make clear there is no bias or anything here. Pure opinion.**

Now, here is where I get annoyed. The media keeps trying to tie in the outcome of these gubernatorial races with President Obama's policies. They keep asking the question, "Is this an indication of the voters turning back from supporting Obama as a result of some of the policies he is suggesting?" (More or less the standard question). Well, first off, these are STATE races based on STATE issues. It is my firm belief that Obama's policies had little to do with the way the voting went in NJ and Virginia, especially NJ.

In NJ, it was more or less a choice between the lesser of two evils. And after the whole corruption scandal recently, the voters decided on a change, even though the margin of victory wasn't huge.

In Virginia, a long-standing "purple" state, voters decided to go with a Republican governor again after not being satisfied with the job done by the Democratic incumbent. No real surprise here, in my opinion.

The crux of this annoyance is how the media kept harping on how the outcomes of the state elections reflected a snub on President Obama. In my opinion, voters were more concerned about the issues in their respective states at this point in time -- jobs, taxes, etc. Yes, Obama has been working on national issues concerning this, but at this point in time, the voters were focused on state issues -- what was going on right at home.

So, it is just annoying to me to read and listen to the news constantly questioning the president on issues on the state level!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Hey! This TV show is doing well! Let's make a spinoff!"

First off, I apologize for not updating my blog regularly. I shall rectify this starting...sometime in the future. =D Just kidding...

Anyway, I know what you are thinking. 'What kind of title is THAT?' Well, it's a title that I tried to make witty and humerous without taking up the maximum title space. But I'm not here to write about the title. I'm writing about what the title means. So, let's begin...

This blog could be used against several TV shows, but I'm focusing on one in particular, mainly because I'm a fan of the parent show. I'm sure many of you have either seen or at least heard of this show:

I absolutely love this show. It is witty, humerous, and light at the same time it is dark, contentious, frustrating, etc. The characters are all their own person, meaning not one of them is the same in characteristics, thought processes, reactions, and the list goes on. Their interactions throughout the various episodes are intense, humerous, emotional, touching, frightening, etc.

So, with the obvious success of the above-mentioned show, CBS decided to air a brand new TV show alongside the new season of NCIS:

Whoa! What is this? NCIS goes to Los Angeles? Is that comparable to CSI going to Miami? I digress...

Anyway, after falling in love with the regular NCIS, I figured this new show would be pretty engaging, exciting, humerous, and everything you would expect from the parent show. Um...not so much. Sad to say, after two episodes, NCIS:LA as failed to really catch my attention. The premiere was lackluster at best, and the ensuing episode was just as bland.

Reason 1: Everyone is exactly the same, and what I mean by that is, there may be diversity in roles of the actors, but their characters', well, characteristics, are almost identical. There is not much interaction between the characters. They just seem to know everything about everyone and just take down bad guys. In contrast to the original NCIS, there is no "computer nerd", no "male chauvinist", no "can't-stop-thinking-of-girls guy", and no "goth forensic scientist", to name a few. NCIS:LA's characters just lack diversity in this way which causes a lack of true interaction between them. For those of you who have seen this show, maybe you differ in opinion, but this is what I think.

Reason 2: Did I miss something? Are these people undercover? They must be because none of them own a badge. Oh, and they have the worst crime scene investigation techniques ever. As of yet, I haven't seen the use of rubber gloves in a crime scene area or when combing through a suspect's house. Where is the professionality?! They just tell people they're NCIS and everyone just believes them! Hello!

Reason 3: If you ever thought NCIS was predictable (which I personally don't), then you'll be able to figure out the ending (whodunit) of NCIS:LA in the first two minutes. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but still, the show is pretty straightforward in its approach. Unfortunately, there are not many twists and turns yet. Granted only two episodes have concluded, but still, usually the premiere is meant to lure the viewer into watching more of the series. NCIS:LA did not really accomplish that goal, at least in my eyes.

Just because the original show was amazing does not mean the spinoff of it will be just as amazing. (There can be a lot of relation to this on the movie side of things). I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, but when you're pitting the spinoff against its parent show, please make sure it's at least as good if not better. (Especially if they air back-to-back on the same network on the same night!)

Now, I understand this show is just starting out, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it will get better and better as the show continues -- one can only hope. And for those of you out there who have seen it and liked it, that is completely fine. I'm more or less just pointing out several issues I've had with the show so far.

So, here's to hoping that this TV show spinoff turns things around and really becomes the blockbuster show people think it will be.

(Please comment below! Thanks)