Convention,  Photography

Penguicon 2014

Warning – LOTS of pictures, please give the page time to load. Since this is primarily an adult convention with some 18+ panels, the writeup does contain some adult themes. On with the show!

You guys can keep a secret right? Just between us… Penguicon is my favorite convention. Don’t get me wrong! I enjoy all the conventions I attend (else I wouldn’t go – if I’m not having fun how can I convince other people they will?), but Penguicon is, as they say, “my people”.

This year my convention started with a little lunch outing of gun powder. Geeks With Guns is currently organized annually by John Bell and is just a great way to get some adrenaline going before the convention starts.

The location typically changes each year (he tries to find a good sized range within a short distance of the convention hotel), and this time we went to Action Impact Firearms and Training Center. They were very accommodating of our large group, and had no issue with me taking photos in the shop and on the range.

After filling out the appropriate paperwork, getting our safety briefing, and handling rentals for those who didn’t bring their own firearms, we all headed in to decimate some sheets of paper.

All geared up!

This backer looks like an extra from MythBusters

I let my husband go first. Partially because I can’t photograph and shoot at the same time, and partially because I’m a delicate flower and can’t load ammo into the magazine…. ;)

I’m going to apologize in advance as I won’t have names for every picture. Even if I talked to you repeatedly over the weekend, names take a long time to stick with me but I will remember faces pretty quickly. Kind of the opposite of prosopagnosia.

This is Stu – and he was awesome – very helpful when our rentals kept jamming (grr) and helped me with my grip. I’m left handed, and left eye dominant, but mostly right hand functional. Basically my brain is confused. He offered to let me shoot his weapons, and I should have as I was extremely frustrated by the awfulness of the rental, but I was too chicken. Perhaps next year I’ll have my own.

The delicate flower herself, putting some not so delicate holes in a target

After blowing through a few boxes of bullets, we headed to the hotel to get checked in.

We were at the Westin, Southfield – which is a very nice hotel.

Westin Southfield

Badge pickup!

The greeter desk was awesome – it was practically impossible to miss and almost always staffed. Here I’m highlighting Scott’s dedication to his craft burrito. :D

Seeing Scott reminded me it was lunchtime – so we checked in…

ordered a burger to room service…

and tried to get a list of “must see” for Friday’s schedule.

First up, I popped into the “So This is Your First Penguicon?” panel to hand out ribbons to all the newbs. It was a great panel and anyone deciding to come out next year should seek it out if it’s available.

Next I stopped to see Alex hosting Armour Academy: Scale Armour! Sadly I didn’t get to participate as they were FULL, and it wasn’t a small room, either.

This 3D layout of the hotel was awesome. It didn’t last the whole weekend (the upper level collapsed by Saturday) but I did use it a few times to get my bearings until I had memorized the rooms.

Most of the Artists were downstairs, but we had a few vendors on the second floor.

Systems in Motion was there with freebies and talking about positions they had open.

I don’t always go to Penguicon, but when I do, I get free beer

LIFT was there from Royal Oak with all their awesome collectibles. I ended up buying quite a few things here.


Mono Earl and Hula Bunny


The cutest little fuzzy Totoro


An interesting brewed Root Beer and my favorite Chocolove :drool:

3D Printing and the Tabletop Game Industry with Jason Rutherford. He has created his own tabletop game, Kaladasia, and spoke from his unique perspsective as someone who has a vested interest in the public accessibility of 3D printing. It was a good discussion on copyright, creative commons, and the future of tabletop miniatures.

I saw the DeLorean outside and had to grab some shots – since I wasn’t sure how long it would be parked out front.

He even has Doc Brown’s remote controller AND Ray’s goggles!

From there I hit my first late night panel – Kinky Pervertibles. It was a discussion and showing of some everyday items that can be used in non-conventional ways. A bamboo backscratcher becomes an excellent cane for example.

These finger claws were awesome. The loop/base is a standard banjo pick and he made his own copper “nails” to glue on to them.

I popped into the con suite for some snacks.

Fresh veggies!

While technically accurate – this made me think soylent green or adult film…

Time for some Open Soda – the Maple Bacon was as described. Carbonated liquid maple bacon. I don’t have much else to say about that. The Penguitron, while I give props for the blue LED when you hit the dispenser, tasted like mouthwash. Putting carbonation in mouthwash does not make it tastier. :shrug: Just sayin’. ;)

Nooo! Why must the butterbeer be diet??

Finally I headed over to get some Woodchuck. I don’t care for it in bottles – not sure the difference between a bottle and a keg on the end product of hard cider, but I definitely prefer it from a keg. I made the Beer Titan happy by snapping a pic and giving him some ribbons.

The next morning we hit the breakfast buffet. They had a nice selection, though the eggs were prepared funny, everything else I had was decent.

Because it was hard to photo the whole thing and not be in someone’s way – this was a yogurt bar. They had a large container of plain yogurt and then you could add your own variety of mix-ins.

My selection. Pro tip: if a buffet has french toast, it is invariably limp from being piled up and put under a lid. Grab a few slices and drop them in the toaster (as long as they aren’t pre-syruped of course) to freshen them up.

First panel of the day – Filmmaker’s Forum. It’s a shame this was so early as it was a good panel and more should have attended. I was definitely inspired to get out and film.

Time for CHEESE! Magical Mozzarella with Amy Castner. While she didn’t have the time / ability to make it in front of us, Amy did a great job demonstrating the steps and answering questions. Even better, she brought samples.

The cheese on viewer’s left (in the gloved hand) was made with powdered milk. I was not brave enough to try it – but those that did said “yep, it tastes like it was made with powdered milk…”. When Amy cut it up too, it didn’t give the same as the normal mozzarella. It looked very much like the natural rubber erasers I used in drafting class…. o.o

With Italian herbs mixed in. This tasted perfect for some pizza or cheese bread.

Plain – made with vegan rennet. It was also very tasty.

A Special Reading By Cory Doctorow was great. I have to admit, I hadn’t read any of the books by the author GoH here this year. I haven’t read much of anything in quite some time (and I love to read). I did read “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” which was very creepy for me as I’m a huge WDW fan. (I didn’t even realize until after that his reading was related to the one title I’d read.) However, I immediately hit up Amazon and ordered a box of books so I will be properly ready for next year. ;)

How awesome is his t-shirt?

I had to stop this gal and get a shot of her amazing skirt. Of course I added to it as well.

Webseries & Fan Films: Future of Filmmaking? Seeing a trend with me? Another good discussion on the presenter’s personal foray into film and some helpful suggestions and opinions on creating films or being involved with filmmaking.

How To Hold Your Breath Until People Give You What You Want

No joke. It was a panel on how to hold your breath. It was also awesome. Marie is a free diver and Underwater Hockey player.

She taught us a really simple and yet kind of difficult trick for holding your breath for long stretches of time. Coming in I knew I could hold my breath for 42 seconds or so. (What, I’m a coder, we get bored…) After the first attempt in the panel I got to 1 min 15 seconds. The second time I managed the full 2 minutes.

The trick? Your brain thinks you need to breathe more often than you do. I’m serious! The rest of the technique you’ll have to find a free diver to teach you.

After that I stopped by the Shasta Cafe for a drink. I also had plenty more ribbons to hand out and asked the staffer if he minded me taking a photo. He asked if he should stand a certain way, or just look awkward. I think we nailed awkward… :rotfl:

Yay free pop and water!

A quick stop by ConSuite to see what ice cream was going – Soy Lemon with Gingersnap cookies. It was a very mellow flavor, kind of reminded me of ice milk, but worked well with the cookies.

These interactive sheets cracked me up all weekend. Someone grammatically corrected the Star Wars intro line.

We walked to lunch – heading to the strip mall on the road behind the hotel – and of course it started to rain. :angry:

Uncle Joe’s Chicken Fingers looked interesting – so we went in and proceeded to explain what was going on at the hotel (I imagine the area doesn’t get much foot traffic usually) and they said some of the employees might head over to check it out.

Happily, the food was very tasty. The chicken pieces were actual tenders (not breast meat cut down or shudder chopped up and stuck together meat) and very juicy. They didn’t have that “brined in salt for a week to make them moist and tender” however. The special sauce that comes with was intriguing as well. It had a peppery bite, and a bit of honey and mustard/vinegar undertone.

They had a selection of little cakes as well. It’s cake, topped with a mousse, and draped in chocolate. It was very good for a quick food type place.

We did make it for Armour Academy: Chainmail! Again taught by Alex. It was fun, but he wasn’t permitted to sell kits and we couldn’t keep what was assembled because he would have gone broke. I hope Penguicon revisits that policy based on how packed both his panels were. I was impressed with how patient he was showing the steps over and over. He makes it looks so fluid and easy!

Line? What Line? Taboos and Speculative Fiction This was an interesting discussion – and it was nice to see a range of opinions across the authors involved. There was a lot of commentary on how audiences both drive and hold where your line sits. That balance of giving them something unexpected and beyond social norms but not so far into the badlands that no one wants to read it.

I wandered for some more random photos…


The staff set up an awesome bar in the lobby again – with reasonably priced food and drinks.

They also clearly had a great time participating!

I don’t know…

Another friend from last year! Hi Joe!

I don’t remember her name – but she cracked me up last year too. I asked to take a picture and got a mini Vogue session.

Hey – shove your ass my way, I’ll take a photo of it!

Isn’t this the cutest TARDIS ever?

These necklaces were amazing!! If you’re not a big computer nerd then let me point out that those rainbowy bits are silicon wafers used for making computer chips and processors. You bet I bought one on the spot!

Inside Game Face Labs was a great talk by Ed Mason (CEO) on VR and where it might be headed as it pertained to their company and a bit of information on how the development timeline went for them. He had their 2.5k resolution headset for demo. It was very cool to try out, especially since I have a first run Oculus Rift dev kit, and comparing them in person was nice. The GameFace is much clearer in image (no screen door effect) and the wireless self packaged setup really takes it to that next level needed for VR to take off.

Live Podcast: Getting Drunk with Shannon & Maggie Now we come to one of my favorite bits of the weekend – hanging out with my con besties Shannon and Maggie!

As I walked into the room there was only one person sitting and I could hear them saying as much for the podcast. So I decided that just wouldn’t make for a good show and someone needed to GET THIS PARTY GOING! I walked in yelling “WOOOOO!” :wahoo: and made sure everyone knew where the place to be was!

Both of them started giggling and recognized me from last year. In fact – they had JUST been talking about me on their show because they were trying to find my writeup to share/look at again. D’awww. :blush: The photos below only tell some of the story – to hear what went on (and my fangirl shrieky entrance) take a listen:

I know – Maggie is blinking her face but it’s commented on in the podcast (you are listening right?) so in it goes!

See? See the fun you missed by not coming by??

Sign your name with your ass and be the hottest bitch on the dance floor

Smexy shoes

Custom drink recipes provided by S&M

Maggie’s drunk spooge

Wandering around. . .

Geek Prom

I love that the pause is in there

Hey! I didn’t personally make sure the elevator was too full for you to get on!

The Dude abides, man. (Also, I am such a sucker for long hair…)

Then it was time to check out the infamous Barfleet party. On the way I had to get a shot of this excellent aluminum foil Enterprise.

I’m anything but a girly girl – but this poofy light up skirt made me jealous.

Nuri was kind enough to let me share some non incriminating photos of him spinning. (He’s a kick-ass DJ by the way…)

After having some delicious Raspberry drink and shaking my booty for a while, it was time for dinner and we tromped downstairs to the restaurant. Sadly I really only took one photo and it was of something I sent back. I was very bummed by the food (and if that wasn’t your experience, great, but mine was pretty poor). These pot stickers were lukewarm (how? they’re fried!) and just plain gritty tasting. Like thawing frozen food and eating it at room temp. My fried rice dish was equally bad – with what tasted like rancid sesame oil. :/

It was a bummer because I liked the hotel overall, but I definitely will be finding outside food next year.

Sunday rolled around and I decided to ramp up the ribbon distribution by announcing on Facebook to come find me. This gal did.

The Penguicon timeline. Con-goers were encouraged to put a sticker for when they first attended – and there were trivia bits and a few past program books to flip through.

The always mesmerizing Chaos Machine was in full swing by now.

Chaos machine from Melanie Castle on Vimeo.

The Future of Virtual Reality with Ed Mason, John Scalzi and Ernie Cline. Of course just about any topic would be great with these guys in the room, but it was an excellent talk for these Sci-Fi authors to banter about. At one point Scalzi was commenting on the dangers of blindly following technology – the proverbial driver following their GPS into a lake and Cline piped up with “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” :haha:

Cline and Mason were definitely starry eyed and “all things are possible” about the topic, while Scalzi tempered that with a bit more of a realistic outlook. He commented that (and I’m paraphrasing) “I have a daughter who is 15, and she is living in the future. She has a device that will let her video chat with anyone she wants but she doesn’t use it. She texts. Until typing is no longer the easier method of communication, VR will never be a widespread replacement for what we’re doing today.”

I’m convinced Ernie was a muppet in a past life. And I mean that in the best way.

Next up was Erika Carlson with How to Use your Passions to Make Money. This was easily in my top 5 panels for the weekend. I cried (yeah yeah, I’m a sap) because her talk resonated so much with me. While I didn’t turn down the job offer when it was given for my current job, I did spend the first few months going home in tears certain, CERTAIN, that I was a failure, a hack, and that someone was going to “call me into their office” any second.

I absolutely love that Girl Develop It exists, and even though I never went to a meetup, knowing that there were other women out there doing computer and programming training on their own made me have confidence that my skills were worthwhile.

I’m self taught and the majority of my portfolio are personal projects. Impostor Syndrome was strong with me, and sometimes the best thing a human being can hear is “me too!”.

There was a young lady in the audience who was fretting over splitting her time in her educated profession and her love of art. Both were an equal passion for her and she didn’t want to have to choose. We all gave her positive feedback that this wasn’t a weird thing and to absolutely pursue it. A suggestion of doing consultancy work as a way of naturally setting part time hours came up, which she hadn’t considered an option.

Later on I ran into her – and went up and said “Now – you’re going to be back next year and tell us how you’re consulting right?” She was confused for a second, realized the comment from the panel – and threw a bear hug at me. :D I really hope that bit of random support sticks with her and she goes through with it!!

Modding Nerf for Cosplay More of a “what are they up to” than a learning experience for me, as I’ve modded quite a few Nerf guns previously, but a very good panel. I liked that he actually took apart and modified one during the panel to give a hands-on view of the process. I did get some good ideas on using hardware to swap out some parts for a sleeker look.

More wandering. . .

An artist had a Printrbot running

Confession: I took a photo of Wolf just for an excuse to hand him a ribbon

Someone #VandalEyes ‘d Tux

More vandaleyes

I love this book! I was happy I found it and able to contribute.

Ok. We now come to hands down – no contest – the #1 best part of the convention. The adorable imp in the photo below was wandering around the consuite and popped in to the room with the soda and ice cream to get some water. (She politely informed me that the soda tap was empty, so I’d have to get water if I was thirsty). :D

Wolf was sitting next to the water dispenser and, upon seeing her, said “Hey hobbit”. Without missing a BEAT she says “I’m not a hobbit! I’m wearing shoes.” in the most matter of fact “duh” voice that little kids have. We all blinked for a second, as it was the most accurate and perfect retort and it knocked us over. Wolf and I both had to leave the room, find her mother, and bestow upon her the “Geek Parent of the Year” award because clearly, this child was being raised right.

Telescope Observing: The Sun There are no words for how very cool this was. Seeing the orange red disc of the sun and making out the sun spots and solar proms was fantastic.

Finally the saddest hour had arrived – Closing Ceremonies. All the staff spoke of the great feedback and smooth performance of the convention this year. It was interrupted by Orvan Ox with a delivery from ACME for Nuri.

It appears to be a scarf… Nuri’s scarf.

I don’t know the details, but having staffed other conventions – I can only imagine where this scarf has travelled lately.

They then asked the audience for a few personal awesome stories from the weekend.

This gal got so excited about meeting Dr. Frank-N-Furter that she spilled her drink, apologized for spilling it on him, only to have it pointed out she’d only spilled it on herself. “Getting all wet for Dr. Frank-N-Furter??” he cooed. :blush:

I couldn’t get a shot from my seat – but someone who had also overheard the “hobbit” remark above shared it with the group.

Then this woman shared something about adult toys and being able to train newbies. . . o.o

Finally – we all professed our love for Nuri and his incredible first year as Con Chair. He teared up as the entire room stood to applaud him.

With that – and a few other commentaries such as our attendance totals of 1377!! – it was done.

We shuffled off to the parking garage of doom (seriously – did anyone else find that place insane to navigate?) and to dinner. We hit John D. Bistro, and split some pork poutine and a steak, both of which were quite tasty.

And that, dear readers, was Penguicon 2014. I’m as excited as ever for 2015 (this was my first year staying at the hotel instead of driving, and the ability to see panels late into the night and early in the morning was worth every cent).

For those wondering – I immediately ordered: Snow Crash, Redshirts, Neuromancer and Ready Player One. One of them I had finished by the end of the day (my husband swears he’s going to check for optics upgrades on me the next time I’m asleep). ;)

Reminder: Images are clickable to purchase. Pricing is at cost through a very good printer so I know you’re getting a print that looks great. If you click the image, then click back on the shopping cart screen, you can get a share link to share the image on Facebook or the like instead. Contact me if you have any trouble or have other questions for me!


  • Kell

    Hi! Nice synopsis of the con. This is that young woman who’s still freaked out about the idea of trying to do both science and art. Just thought I’d say hi. :) My website is, if you’re curious.

    Glad I’m not the only one who was moved to tears by Erika’s panel. And I’m with you on Imposter Syndrome. It’s really strong sometimes. *hug*


  • Nikki

    These Pictures were AMAZING! Glad to know that I was the prettiest Tardis! Thank you for sharing the memories that I will never forget. This was my very first con but I see plenty more in my future.

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