I don’t want to be Elfstar anymore!

Oh my FSM – the Hubby and I just finished Dark Dungeons and I think I tore some nasal tissue from all of that snorting. I wish I would have had a chance to contribute to the Kickstarter for this film. By playing it straight, the director and cast highlight the delightful, hilarious absurdity of the claims intimated by the original Chick tract. They even managed to get a book burning in. Good on ’em!

Front of a DVD case showing the Dark Dungeons artwork - a shrouded figure holds a dagger and one hand held up to the view, moving through a cloud of smoke.

Like Debbie and Marcie, I didn’t have any experience with RPGs until college. And the RPGers were definitely thought of as the most popular kids at school (hahahaha!). And like Debbie I did unwittingly chant spells from the Necronomicon…oh no, wait. That didn’t happen. What happened is I spent way too much of my meager college money on source books and costume pieces (LARP is so waaaaay cooler than pencil and paper nerdery), devoted untold hours to studying fictional lore, and spent six hours every Saturday night running around Winona State’s empty English hall brandishing index cards filled out with handwritten weapon names and stats and throwing rock paper scissors. And then going out to Perkins at midnight to devour french fries and bottomless carafes of coffee.

It was awesome. No calling Cthulhu from the depths as far as I recall. Although I did have this one Gangrel character that was decent at Animalism until…goddamned Setites.

Jenny Bandage and the Unpronounceable A.K.R.O.N.Y.M

On Saturday night I attended a showing of a new play presented by Twin Cities-based Fearless Comedy Productions called Jenny Bandage and the Unpronounceable A.K.R.O.N.Y.M. It was very silly. There were NERF guns, over-the-top loud mad scientist laughs and groan-inducing jokes.

Tim Wick, local writer and entertainer, has created a show that calls out bad science and bemoans the harsh realities of doing “good” science: mingling with donors, writing grants and flying coach. The show is a send up of traditional spy movies such as James Bond – but think more along the lines of Spy Hard. There is one part where a waiter asks Scientist Spy Jenny Bandage if she’d like her margarita “shaken or stirred,” to which she scoffs and replies, “Why would I care?”

[Read more…]

Last Minute Costuming for ChiFi

Always with the last minute hiccups and fixes. Thanks to a delivery that didn’t arrive on time, this is my night:

Me sitting my bathroom in a bra and jeans, concentrating on cutting a piece of shiny black material.

But it’s okay because the costume is going to be awesome.

The Hubby and I are getting on a train at 8:03am tomorrow morning and heading to Chicago for the science fiction/fantasy convention, ChiFi. I’m excited to be taking part in the “Chicago SkepchickCon” organized by the incredibly awesome Jamie Bernstein. And I’m excited to be taking a train. After a bunch of airline travel last year, Amtrak is going to be like riding first class!

I’m a panelist on Ask A Scientist and I’m moderating a handful of others. It should be a fun time – check back for photos and stories.

…and to see what that costume I’m working on turns out to be!

Die Laughing – An Interview with Tim Wick

This weekend a very special, very weird event will take place at the DoubleTree in Bloomington, Minnesota: Die Laughing 2: Laugh Harder, a 50 hour comedy marathon fundraiser for Fearless Comedy Productions.

The Hubby and I attended last year’s Die Laughing fundraiser and had a pretty darn good time. The highlight was getting a noseharp from MST3K’s Kevin Murphy, and hearing him play noseharp, play ukelele and sing a lyrical version of the Game of Thrones intro song. But then there were all of the local comedians, the improv, the sweet silent auctions, the sleep deprivation. It was a heck of a weekend.

And this weekend they’re coming coming back for more. This Friday at 7pm the intrepid members of Fearless Comedy and their guests will kick off the 3000-minute event. This year I’m volunteering at the box office; I’m excited to support a group that has provided me with many laughs and entertainment over the past year.  [Read more…]

Cons and Cons and Cons, Oh My!

Whew – It has been a month for conventions!

First and most exciting: The Secular Women Work Kickstarter was fully funded on the 19th. Congratulations and thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this A Thing That Is Going To Happen! I am ready to work and be inspired. And I guess this means that I get to add one more thing to my 2014 con schedule. Yipee!

Also in February I attended SuperCon and Con of the North. I played a lot of board games at those two. I taught some, and learned some, and a few were added to my ever-growing need-to-own list, including Templar, Downfall of Pompeii and Machi Koro. [Read more…]

Godless Gamers Game Night

Tonight I left work and headed over to the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville for Godless Gamers Game Night,  a recurring Meetup hosted by Minnesota Atheists. A fair number of people showed up – maybe 15-20. We took up four or five tables and played for about three hours. I ran two board games, Tokaido and Lords of Waterdeep. There were a few deck builders at another table, and a series of Avalon that lasted for ages.


Lords of Waterdeep in progress.

Two good friends stopped by, which made my night even better, plus we decided that we have to have another game date on Sunday to play the new Doctor Who game that they picked up this evening.

The FFG Game Center is just gorgeous. They have a kitchen, a beer and wine license, plenty of parking, and a very well-stocked games library that anyone can use. The space has high ceilings,  is well-lit and has huge SF/F-themed murals and artwork throught. Cthulhu in the ladies bathroom y’all.

If you’re local or get a chance to visit, I’d recommend a stop. Or join Minnesota Atheists for our next Godless Gamers FFGC night!

Cosplay: We Made A Thing Today!

One of my favorite things about CONvergence -and of which there are many – is all of the cosplay. The Hubby and I love to people-watch, and we like to dress up when it’s creative and convenient. This year we decided that we had the time and energy to put together a few costumes. We spent yesterday planning specifics and shopping, and we made some amazing finds. I’m not going to put up photos of the complete costumes until CONvergence weekend, but here are the descriptions:

The Belcher FamilyTina and Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers – Aaron is repurposing a wig from a previous V for Vendetta costume for Tina, and he has a pair black thick-framed glasses that will serve.  We found a simple blue skirt, blue t-shirt, and yellow barrette for the him at Target. Black high-top Converses came from Famous Footwear. The retro tube socks will be picked up from Sox Appeal tomorrow. We had a bit more of a challenge finding a green dress for my Louise. There was nothing at Target, Savers or TJ Maxx, but then we lucked out at the Dress Barn: Kelly green with sleeves on the clearance rack, only one left AND in my size, 35% off. SCORE! Pink bunny ears hat ordered from Etsy. Black flats with strap from Famous Footwear. [Read more…]

CONvergence Programming Is Announced!

I’m very excited for CONvergence this year. Not only is it my first year as an Invited Participant, but I made it onto FIVE panels, including an author reading which I’m organizing (more on that below). Our fearless SkepchickCon organizer and CONvergence volunteer, Melanie Mallon, has been busting her butt for the past several months to help ensure that we are going to have awesome programming, including some killer science, skepticism and social media panels.

Here are mine:

Food Allergies At Con: How to Cope – You have a food allergy, yet are trying to survive from the limited opportunities at CONvergence: how do you cope? What can you safely bring, keep, and prepare in a hotel room? Panelists: Brianne Bilyeu, Richard Wielgosz, Karl Tingelstad, Marie Porter, Renee Petersen

Real Monsters – Reality is stranger than fiction. The deep seas and uncharted lands hold unimaginably bizarre creatures. This panel explores some of the strangest, ugliest, and most unlikely creatures known to live. Panelists: Brianne Bilyeu, Ryan Consell, Matt Kuchta, Siouxsie Wiles, PZ Myers

It’s (Not) Written In The Stars – We’ll explore the myths and beliefs of astrology and why some people still find it convincing in the modern age of science. Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Brianne Bilyeu, Dan Berliner, Matt Lowry, Nicole Gugliucci

Kids Ask a Scientist – Our panel of scientists will answer questions, with the answers geared for the 12-and-under set. Panelists: Brianne Bilyeu, Camille McAloney, Nicole Gugliucci, Siouxsie Wiles, Lori Fischer

Skepchick and Freethought Bloggers Author Reading – Join the bloggers of Skepchick and Freethought Blogs as they share their favorite original writings. Topics may include science, social justice, atheism, skepticism, art, online community, blogging and random geekery. Panelists: Brianne Bilyeu (mod)

I’m geeking out over Real Monsters because Holy Shit Weird Awesome Nature!!! I’m already getting annoyed (in the good way) about the anti-astrology panel, and Food Allergies will be interesting (plus I’m excited about getting to share a panel with the Evil Cake Overlord). I’m probably most intimidated by Kids Ask A Scientist because kids ask weird shit and you can’t just throw out “Rayleigh Scattering” and leave it at that when they want to know why the damn sky is blue. The author reading is my baby.I’m emceeing 10-15 bloggers (including me) who will each read one of their favorite original writings, and they only get 3-5 minutes each. It’s going to be a fast-paced bonanza of Skepchick and FtB readings.

At the time of this writing there are FORTY-SIX panels tagged as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). 46, y’all. That gives me such a happy…I can’t even describe it.

You can see the full schedule here. It’s on Sched, which means you can create a profile, create a customized schedule of the panels you want to see, and take a peek at what your friends are signing up for.

Click here to register for CONvergence. Or click on the giant banner below. Either way, really.


OmegaCon Spring 2014

I’m sitting in a large hotel room in Siren, Wisconsin eating a luxoriously hoity-toighty picnic of rice-stuffed grape leaves, Molinari Finocchiona salame, and a variety of fancy cheeses – Gorgonzola, Huntsman, St. Angel and Brugge Rodenbach. This is all courtesy of the local wine and cheese shop that we stopped at on the way out of Minneapolis on Friday evening. The Hubby and I are sharing the hotel room with two friends – another couple who has made the two hour journey northeast to this teensy little town in the middle of not-much-of-anywhere. It’s the site of the biannual relax-a-con, OmegaCon.

A relax-a-con is a convention that doesn’t have much going on in the way of programming. It’s a gathering of friends who have come together to enjoy each other’s company, play board games, eat food and drink, sit around a bonfire, share a game at the minigolf course next door or do some arts and crafts.

So relaxing we are. Well – now that the packing is done:

Eight bags of luggage are stacked high in a hallway.

Bags for two people for a “relax”-a-con – food, boardgames, robe, slippers, swimsuits, spare clothes, laptops, books and magazines. I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Last night we arrived, registered and started right in. At OmegaCon you color your own con badge. There’s a huge table covered in all the marker colors.

A hand-colored badge. Text says "OmegaCon Spring 2014 #220 Brianne" A stylized Grumpy Cat outline has been colored in to have green eyes, gray-tipped tail and ears, and bloody claws.

We said some hellos and made our way to the ConSuite, where I availed myself of a unnecessarily strong glass of whiskey and coke. To conclude the drinking portion of the evening I was a guest on the podcast Xtreme Tasting League: ScotchI had won the guest spot at a silent auction, and even though I have not one scotch-knowledge credential, I decided to give it a go. Because scotch is yummy. Ever the considerate guest, I brought a bottle of scotch along as a gift to my hosts. They decided to use it as one of the tastings on the podcast, and to my chagrin it sucked beyond any other bottle of single malt scotch that I’ve ever had. Ever the considerate guest, I reminded my hosts that I had brought the bottle to them as a gift, and so I couldn’t possible dream of taking the rest of it home with me.

After that I was pretty much done with alcohol, and I headed downstairs to play a few board games: A round of 7 Wonders, and a hour-long card game called Zar that had me and four others shouting, laughing and eventually shutting down the game room. We all stumbled off to bed at about 4am.

This morning started with a reluctant, slightly hungover jog around the local neighborhoods. It was too beautiful and sunny to pass up the run. And I found out why the hotel is called the Lodge at Crooked Lake:

2014-04-26 10.27.121

I wasn’t the only one running this morning; three other badasses went out and ran 10 miles. They’re all prepping for a half-marathon. Geeky athletes FTW!

After that some breakfast, a little time in the hot tub and pool, and then back into the game room. Today I’ve played a party game called Anomia, Legendary – a deck builder set in the Marvel universe, a bidding game called For Sale, and King of Tokyo. My giant robot cyber bunny totally rocked it and beat out the other three monsters.

Game pieces for Kind of Tokyo are laid out - decks of cards, stand-up cardboard monsters, dice and small green cubes.

After gaming there was lunching, then napping, then more gaming. I’m set to do another round of Xtreme Tasting League: Scotch this evening around 10pm, and this time I’m planning on being 100% *glances at the glass of gin and tonic on the bedstand* 90% sober for the recording. I think I’ll actually try to taste the scotches that we’re tasting this time.

And then, if past OmegaCon experiences repeat, we’ll be up until the sun comes up playing more board games. Oh…and they keep the hot tub open 24 hours for us. So that’s going to happen.

It’s a good weekend.