Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cosplay Results, Nerd Convention

Two weekends ago was Wellington's Armageddon conference, otherwise known as The Nerd Convention. I was thoroughly in my element, but Dave seemed unnerved by the strangely-costumed girls and smelly fanboys. Since not many of you are nerds, I'll give a brief overview of fun events that transpired...

We saw Doug Jones -- better known as The Faun from "Pan's Labyrinth", Abe Sapien from Hellboy, The Silver Surfer from the new Fantastic 4 movie -- discuss what it's like to act under all those prosthetics, makeup and animatronic parts. Dave and I saw "Pan's Labyrinth" the next week, and it was cool to realize that we'd already seen the human underneath... his complete unrecognizeability is a high compliment to the costumers for that movie.

The AMV (anime music video) contest was a lot of fun, the winner being a cartoon redubbed to have the main characters bickering over being gay. Given the reputation that japanese animation has for having girly, girly men as main characters, this video was dang funny.

Next was a Fear Factor-esque contest, renamed to be "Wuss Factor", in which nerds competed in eating disgusting innards for a Nintendo Wii. I decided that in this case, shelling out the dough for the system would be a better option. :-P

The day's finale was the cosplay contest. Here, nerds (usually she-nerds) dress up as their favourite animation or video game characters, and spend months in advance putting together the perfect costume.

My own costume turned out quite well, but I missed the contest registration (and pre-judging rounds), so did not compete in the contest. No worries, though -- I used the extra time to sightsee and get autographs. ;-) Here are the final results, courtesy of a camera lent to us by Dave's lovely co-worker Yen Ping.

...(Also, to make the comparison fair between myself and a fictional character, I took the liberty of "realistically-proportionalizing" Shion to the tune of 15%...) ;-) Still, not bad, eh?

I got to meet two prominent voice actors: Susan Eigenberg and Crispin Freeman. Susan is best known as the voice of Wonder Woman from the Justice League of America cartoons, whereas Crispin's work varies across a decades' worth of animation and video games.

Unfortunately, I was already at my geeking-out threshold, and was completely thrown over the edge of weirdo fandom by Karla's brain-kryptonite... Crispin Freeman turned out to be a smiling, blue-eyed Jude Law lookalike. (Since when are voice actors cute?! I always thought they were behind the camera for a reason...)

My usual schmooze-skills utterly abandoned me as my tongue-tied, fourteen-year-old self returned, stammering, "Err... uh, could you... sign this?"

"Sure, what's your name?"

"Uhh... I don't... know...?"

So much for suave. But then again, if I was all that concerned with suave, would I have ever been at a nerd convention in the first place? ;-)

Dave and I missed the window for meeting the Bro'Town guys, but we saw them wandering around the convention, which was good enough for us. Also, for those of you wanting to check out NZ's answer to Family Guy / The Simpsons, check out Bro'Town on APTN, Saturdays at 11PM ET.

Lastly, and best of all, I met the one and only Brian K Vaughn, author of Y: The Last Man and Pride of Baghdad. We chatted awhile, and I got my Kimono Dragons book signed. He seemed like a really neat guy, and he got a good laugh out of the fact that I was introduced to his Y series by my mom. He said that he'd never heard of that happening before, and that she sounds like a cool lady. Which she is, of course.

Thus we ended our adventure in the wacky Land of Nerd. I miss it already...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Abel Tasman Park

Here we are back again, and I am officially two holidays behind. So, I now commence the telling of the Abel Tasman adventure such that I am no longer in blog-debt.

If you'll remember, we were on our way up the island from Franz Josef Glacier to spent the night in Motueke, a small town near where we were set to head off on a one-day kayaking/hiking adventure in Abel Tasman park. On the way we stopped at the Pancake rocks, a geological marvel of ancient limestone that has been carved by seawater into the most amazing shapes. You can walk around the rocks and observe a few "blowholes" where the seawater traps enough air to cause mini-explosions of moisture up through tunnels in the rock. We went for a quick walk around on our way up to Abel Tasman.

The carpark there also offered an interesting diversion insofar as I managed to leave the car's lights on. After enlisting the help of a generous kiwi family, and through Karla's quick thinking in borrowing a set of jumper cables from the local cafe, we managed to get things going again. The best part was Karla's little chat with the girl at the cafe:

Karla: Hi--do you have some jumper cables? My boyfriend managed to leave our lights on and now we're stuck.

Cafe Girl: Sure thing. That's five dollars, and you'll have to leave something here in the meantime, like some ID or a bank card. You know, something you'll want to get back afterwards... so, definitely not your boyfriend!

Haha! Grrr.

Now, a couple of fun facts about the park:
  • It is located at the top of the South Island.
  • At 22,530 hectares it is NZ's smallest
  • Its main natural features are its incredible golden beaches and turqoise blue water
  • It is one of NZ's newer parks, having been established in 1942
Our plan was to spend the morning kayaking and the afternoon hiking to where we would be picked up and brought back to town. Unfortunately our plan (at first) went radically awry--we got lost on the way there.

Due at the kayaking tour company at 8:30am, we missed a turn and had to make a panicked phone call to let them know we were going to be late. Luckily, the easy-going staff weren't phased at all. They just got an ETA from us (we were half an hour late), told us to be there as soon as we could and all would be put on hold to wait for us. This was super nice of them. And breathlessly, we arrived.

Immediately we launched into our training, complete with gear. Karla took advantage of the thermal underwear on offer ("I can do cold, I can do wet, but I CANNOT do cold and wet"). While functional, she more or less looked like a Dr. Suess character, candy striped legs and all. Obviously she carried these off with her usual grace and style, making things look good as always.

We paddled our way along some magnificent coastline complete with swirling eddies, active wildlife, cliffs and caves. It took a while to get totally comfortable, but eventually we started working better as a team and made a really enjoyable time of it. It turns out that the world looks really good from a kayak.

Two hours later we built up a head of steam and hit the beach. There we had a great cooked lunch, and started off on our hike. It was magic.

Wandering up through rainforest to the top of a hill, we could see down onto three or four bays and inlets. There were birds galore, and Karla was happily making friends with many of the plants along the footpath.

When we got to the beach where we were to meet the shuttle we still had a bit of time. So I took off on a short walk to another point, while Karla found a comfortable spot on soft golden sand. I had a great quick hike, made really good time, and got to take in some nice views looking back on the bay. I even made it back in time to go for a (cold) swim! It felt great.

Later on, the water taxi came to get us and take us back into town. Tired and happy, we slept really well that night. Next morning we were off again and back to Wellington (barely). We almost missed the ferry, dropping our rental car and getting on board just as the final calls were being made. But we did, and the whole trip was tons of fun.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I "bleg" forgiveness

Okay--so I'm wayyyy behind telling you about our further adventures kayaking in the Abel Tasman. This is compounded especially because Karla and I are off again to visit Dunedin in the deep South Island. So there'll be even more to tell you about when we get back.

The thing is, I've been completely bombed at work. I actually should be working now, but thought I'd take a quick break to explain myself to you all. Anyway, hopefully by the end of this week, we should be all cleared up.

A couple cool things I thought I'd mention though.

  1. Graham Fox, a friend and former colleague from my KTA-Crossing Boundaries days, has just won the Ontario Progressive Conservative nomination for Ottawa-Orleans. He'll be battling it out for a seat in Ontario's legislature, Queen's Park, this October. I'm not usually a supporter of Conservative candidates, but this time will be a definite exception. Graham is a hugely talented guy and has a lot of great ideas. So I'm excited to help him out once we get back.
  2. Don Lenihan, my old boss from KTA-Crossing Boundaries is arriving in Wellington next week to give a workshop and some speeches here in NZ. It'll be great to see him. Don is a very fun , very smart guy. He even has a new book out. It's been a while, so it will be great to catch up on all the Ottawa gossip, talk some shop, and maybe press for some job leads in O-town! Yay jobs!

That's all for now...will get on that post ASAP, I promise!

UPDATE: Tomas tells me the link to Don's book was broken. All is fixed now! You can also head to and find it there as well.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Jacket's Arrived!

This weekend is the Nerd Convention, and I am getting excited. Partly because of the event itself, and partly because I will, in fact, be attending in costume. Hooray!

Long story short, I had not brought ANY of my usual costumes to New Zealand. At the time, I thought they would be impractical, and take up space and weight that I would need for stuff I would actually use.

So instead, I packed multiple tank tops. Surely, in the tropical, South Pacific of New Zealand, they would be needed... right?

Wrong. Non-NZ trips aside, the most use I've gotten from the tank tops have been wearing them as an extra warmth layer. Sad, but true. Plus, given Wellingtonian's penchants for dressing in costume at any opportunity, I now know I would have gotten good use of those costumes.

Meanwhile, part of Karla's plan in coming to New Zealand was to live in a self-imposed video game exile. Meaning, despite all the pretty, shiny, wonderful new games coming out on the market, I am forcing myself to sit down and play all the ones I've already bought, yet not gotten around to playing. So far, it's worked well, and there has been little to no bitterness about the games I cannot yet play... save one.

Xenosaga is the best video game series ever. Its final instalment, Also Sprach Zarathustra, was released in October... and it's been a long, long six months in which I have not bought it.

Anyhow, the main character in Xenosaga is female, which already makes the game unusual. More so because she wears real clothes -- Lord knows that if I ever was unveiling a conspiracy spanning the universe as we know it, I'd be wearing capri pants and flat shoes too!

The coolest part of all, though, is that Shion Uzuki is not a rich, semi-idle heiress like Lara Croft, nor is she a felon, a stripper, or a porn star like the girls of Grand Theft Auto... she's a scientist. More specifically, she is the lead scientist for the most important project in the universes' most prominent R&D organization. Needless to say, she is very smart... but in the true vein of science-types, she is also clumsy, spacey, and at times charmingly socially inept.

A capable, intelligent, self-sufficient and sensibly-dressed woman who's not in any need of a man's rescue? What a novel idea! It's appalling how infrequently characters like this happen in video games.

So, partially to visibly support the creation of such a character, and partially to cope with my pain at not playing the last game, I've been obsessing about dressing up as Shion. I already own most of the pieces of her costume in my regular wardrobe... but I needed the jacket, and without a sewing machine, making it was not an option. Luckily, Ebay came to the rescue, and now I am delightedly putting together the finishing details. I can hardly wait to wear the ensemble to the convention... hooray for cosplay!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Star Wars Personality Test

In a mutual moment of boredom, David and I decided to do an online personality test... Star Wars style. Yes, we are nerds. Anyhoo, the results gave us a laugh, and perhaps they will for you, too.

Karlas' Star Wars Personality
Open-mindedness of Yoda, Moff Tarkin's conscientiousness, Lando's outgoingness, R2D2's neuroticism, and... err... I'm as agreeable as Emperor Palpatine. (Dave really found that one funny.)

Davids' Star Wars Personality
Dave got the same for open-mindedness and outgoingness, but with Han Solo's level of organization, Princess Leia's level of unruffledness, and the agreeability of Obi Wan. Hey, how did he get all the main characters?!

Better yet, you can take the test and comment with how YOUR results turned out! ;-)

Wedding Update

Quick wedding-related update... we've found accommodation for our out-of-town guests! It's The Landis, situated in downtown Vancouver. Further booking details and whatnot found on our "wedsite", under the Travel tab.

I hope to update more of the site later this week... I will keep you posted! ^_^

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Sad Goodbye to Bindy

Love her or hate her, it's sad to see her go. It takes a certain kind of bravery for a woman to elbow her way into the cockfighting world of Canadian politics. Let alone one whose potential merit would be so often dismissed due to her youth and beauty.

I may not have always agreed with her decisions, her conduct, her ideas, etc., but she has my respect and admiration for rolling up her sleeves and getting into the fight. More women need to, else Canadian politics will remain the chauvinistic mire it is today.

We lost a key player. It is a sad day, today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Trip Part 1: Glacier Goodness

This past weekend was a long weekend with Easter and all, so Karla and I got out of Wellington for some fun outdoorsy activity down on the South Island. Namely, we were headed for the Franz Josef Glacier, and Abel Tasman Park.

We knew were in for a great trip when the ferry Captain announced we were being escorted by a pod of dolphins on the way to Picton. They looked great, and there were so many of them - even baby dolphins sticking close to their moms. I also had a chat with an older gentlemen who was sitting near Karla and I. He was an 86 year old WWII vet, who had been a motorcycle messenger during his army days in Italy. He liked the fact that I was Canadian. He had been 'bosom mates' with a Canadian fella in Rome. The mate's name (as I remember it) was Blondie Desmond. Why don't we have such good nicknames now?

After landing, the first stop was Nelson, where we overnighted in a nice little hostel with incredibly comfortable beds. It's not right to sleep so well away from home, and it sparked a bit of a debate about our current arrangements. What could be the secret? New pillows? A new mattress? New pillows! A new mattress! Further testing is necessary.

We were up again early and off for a long drive to Franz Josef glacier, with a quick stop in Hokitika to see a jade gallery Karla's Mom and Dad had told us about. They did not over-exagerate its excellence. The carver there, whose business card reads "philosopher, poet and carver" (gotta get me one of those) makes really unique pieces, and even lights a few in a darkened room near the back of the store. The effect of the light on the jade or pounamou is amazing. And I was fortunate enough to be given one of his nicer pieces of jewlery by the fabulous Karla. I am a lucky man.

The next morning we were set to hit the glacier. Franz Josef is one of the world's most unique glaciers. It sits only 200 metres above sea level, and descends to meet the rainforest that runs through most of the valleys it has carved out over the centures. Unlike the many shrinking glaciers pictured in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, these days Franz Josef is advancing. It moves about 15 cm a day as the massive amounts of precipitation the area gets (up to 5m a year--sometimes they get in one day what London, UK get annualy) turns to ice in the peaks and pushes its way down and into the valley.

Our climb up the glacier was tough, but fun. Karla the prairie girl did great on all the ups and downs involved in climbing the walls of ice that formed the crevasses and precipices we encountered. She even had the support of an encouraging Kea when things got really hard. The bird spirits were looking out for their girl!

The ice itself was gorgeous--in its deep parts it was an amazing opaline blue. We found ourselves wiggling through ice caves and tight passages where the ice walls shot up twenty or thirty feet on either side in beautifully surprising forms. Imagine a constantly changing garden of ice sculptures--it was quite a spectacle.

The way down was harder than the way up, but we made it back to town and to fresh accomodations--the amazing Rainforest resort. Before leaving Canada, our great friends Mike Kim and Analise Saely had gifted us a night there, and we settled into our king size beds and took advantage of the private spa pool blessing both their names. Plus we ate huge burgers. Lemme tell ya, there wasn't a lot of talking over dinner. But after a long day of exercise (8 hours on the ice people!), the food tasted great.

Next day we were on the road again, pointed back up north to Motueka, a small town that is noted for its ready access to Abel Tasman Park, one of NZ's most prized nature reserves. The next morning we were booked for a day-long kayaking and hiking trip. But that'll have to wait for part 2....