Okay, Ad-Astra is done, I'm home and getting unpacked and settled back in. So, time for a review! As it's a three-day con, I'll put it down day by day.
The con experience was definitely a bit different this time with me no longer living in Toronto; we don't have our own car just yet (thankfully that won't be for much longer, the inheritance from my Dad will allow us to get a used car and cover the costs of having it on the road for the first year or two. Unfortunately, bureaucracy takes ages to send things out >
) so we had to deal with travelling to Richmond Hill from Guelph by various public transit. Friday
We got up fairly early for once, as we had a long trip ahead of us for getting there. The convention itself had to start a bit later in the day than usual due to an event conflict with the hotel, but I'm a bit glad for that, considering the travelling required. We packed up my enormous convention suitcase, a large load of food, and had to bundle up with umbrellas due to the weather going on most of the weekend. Soon after we headed out in the late morning to head to the GO stop, it started raining. And it didn't stop until Sunday morning- much of Toronto proper was under flood advisory, and heck, most of Southern Ontario and Quebec in general as most of the week before was also rainy. Fortunately Richmond Hill is considerably higher up than the Lakeshore, so the worst we had was huge puddles and a few leaking roof spots in the hotel.
Anyway, it was a pretty long trip. Direct GO bus to York Mills station, the subway to Don Mills station, then the York transit bus up to the con. Thankfully it was straightforward.... this time. Sunday, well, that's coming.
We checked in at just shy of 3 pm with no trouble at the Best Western, and as vendors couldn't begin loading in until 6, had some time to kill. We unpacked, ate our lunch, attempted to get the room warmer but the thermostat wasn't working so I had to basically just get in bed under the duvet for a while to warm up, Furilas had a shower and I got into my Dark Brotherhood robes for my Friday and Saturday cosplay. Glad I picked them; it wasn't a warm weekend, and those robes are mighty cozy.
At 5:30, we couldn't kill any more time and made our way across the walkway between the BW and the Sheraton that the con is actually held in, dragging the giant suitcase along with us. Although we still had to mill around waiting in the hallway outside the vendors room for a while, check-in went quite smoothly, and I made some new con friends! The Royal Manticorian Navy fan table and ourselves hit it off over Swedish fish, costumes and me stitching a patch back onto a hat for them while waiting in line. They also bought some items off me over the weekend, so thanks guys! We repaid them with some of our homemade cookies.
We finally got to our table at 6, and I definitely loved our position this year; against a wall and RIGHT beside one of the doors, so we were at the top for eye-catching spots. We got set up by 6:45, and as it was still an hour before the vendors room opened, we got some Chinese takeout from the little food court/mall attached to the hotel for our dinner and ate it back at our table (kung pao chicken with chow mein and an eggroll! Om NOM). Then finally, at 8, we were open! It was pretty weird being open from 8 to 11, but it wasn't a very dull night. Friday is usually a slow one for sales, but I sold numerous small items through the night. Oddly enough, like at Genrecon, this year a lot of my "haven't sold these in ages, time to try and get rid of it soon" items were eagerly snatched up. Well, solves that problem!
As for things going on that night, with the AA running so late and the weather having cancelled parking lot astronomy, I didn't get up to anything beyond the table. So it was overall pretty uneventful. Finally at 11 we packed it in for the night, headed back to our room, did a little winding down and got to bed at midnight. Saturday
And the big one! We got ourselves up at 8, had an in-room breakfast of hot cereal, fruit loaf and tea/cocoa (so, I love Best Western's setup with kitchenettes. No worries whatsoever when bringing food along! That's one of the reason that we always stay there during Ad-Astra), made our lunches, I put on the Dark Brotherhood robes, and we were off to open up the table at 10. Today had plenty more to do; after an hour at the table, I headed off to the British Food Panel at 11. Delicious samples and a fairly hilarious panel was had; the origin of various famous dishes and tea customs, one panelist made the infamous spotted dick to bring along (and bang around on the table XD), and tasting a numerous amount of sweets. In my personal opinion: jaffa cakes are okay, jelly babies are unpleasant though not gross (just one addendum; blackcurrant is SO much better than black licorice. Now I know not to automatically give away any black-coloured jelly candies if they're from the UK), few things can trump homemade Scottish shortbread and Twinnings tea, Irn Bru is like a very bad cream soda, and I still don't quite understand the difference between high and afternoon tea, though the smizmar and I religiously have teatime instead of lunchtime most days of the week (entire drawer devoted solely to tea and a constant supply of biscuits? That's us!). And someday I need to have a cream tea. Unfortunately clotted cream is REALLY hard to get in Canada. Well, more reason to stat squirreling away for an enormous UK trip (I'm gonna need at least a month there to do everything on my list... several other con-goers said the same thing happened to them!).
So after that panel, I had a while at the table again, lunch at the table, and at 4, went to Ageing and Weathering 101. There were a lot of unconventional techniques discussed on ways to age and weather costume pieces, and quite a bit of funny anecdotes involving ways to try and destroy and stain things (no, don't use a blowtorch in your hotel room, but yes, do let your parents drive over your cape for a few days....). After that, Furilas went to Citizen Science, which I would have also liked to see but alas, one of us has to stay during table hours. At 6:30 the vendors room closed for the night, and while my sales were decent, it was almost all small items during the day. But I wasn't feeling deterred, as by now I noticed that the big purchases at Ad-Astra tend to be made on Sundays. We went back to our room for some dinner; to save money this time as both the hotel room prices went up and Go travel added a substantial amount to our overhead, we brought along a nice dinner of rotini bolognese and chowed down with some netflix. We had to make it quick, though; at 7, we had the panel of "Neighbourhood News- What's Up In Our Solar System", sharing and discussing interesting astronomy news. We did, unfortunately, miss half of it. And it was standing room only when we arrived! After that, we made our way to the ballroom to watch the masquerade. I opted out of trying it this year for both wanting to do things during what would be greenroom hours, not having anything competition-worthy that hadn't won yet, and no time to come up with a routine. Next year though? Possibly. I definitely want to wear some historical garb to Ad-Astra next year, so it might be eligible for a trot around the stage. Now, that said, this year the masquerade was very lackluster. It was small, only about a dozen entries and roughly half of them Young Fan, and the MC was clearly not experienced with doing this. The entries were out of running order and he rushed through them like they were an hour behind. If he'd slowed down and done a better MCing job, maybe the masquerade could have taken 30 instead of 20 minutes.
So with that done, we had the substitute for parking lot astronomy at 9; an indoor panel involving watching a livestream of telescopes watching our intended targets (Jupiter and its moons), showing some free astronomy software programs, passing out some nice planespheres and showing some footage taken with a special camera/program attached to amateur telescopes that makes for some seriously impressive images. The only downside is that this was conducted in a darkened room, so hoo BOY was it uncomfortable to go out of the room afterward.
After that, that was the end of panels we were interested in for the day/night; we briefly checked out the consuite for some junk food (I was having a sugar craving, but I left disappointed. It was 99% salty snacks), and while Mac stayed to have a fancy fruit ale, I headed back to our room for a shower and to pack up what we could for checkout tomorrow. We got to bed roughly on time, but probably lost an hour of sleep to some nice brain-bonking. Sunday
And the last day. We got ourselves out of bed at 8 again, had the same breakfast as yesterday and packed our lunches up, and for today as we had checkout and going home I just dressed in the jeans I wore en route and my N7 hoodie. We were in a but of a rush to finish packing so we could check out before the table opened up, but phew, we managed. Furilas got the table open while I stood in line to check out, and I joined him a few minutes later. Now, for sales; as I've come to notice at Ad Astra, many of the big items go on Sunday, not Saturday, and it was definitely the case today! While my sales on Friday and Saturday had been all of small items, plenty of my pricey things were eagerly bought over the day. However, as the convention was more expensive this time with the extra cost of travel and an increase in hotel costs and paying for everything (well, I pay for almost everything already, but normally I get a bit of hotel fare from Furilas), I fell a fair bit short of breaking even. But as I very much enjoy Ad-Astra and a con with a hotel sure is better when it costs me $100 versus $400, I'll be back next year!
So, things done during the day. I didn't get much done due to both a schedule conflict and forgetting one entirely that I hadn't marked in the program book, but at noon I went to the standing-room panel on "What Are Old Heroes Supposed to do, Die?" about, basically, ageism and the portrayal of characters as they grow older in media. It was an interesting discussion, but as I'd had no chance to get a seat and was being constantly bothered by being by the door and with people STILL trying to get in to a completely full panel even a half hour into it, I left early. The next activity outside of manning the table was the delicious tea tasting/Japanese snacks event in the con suite, which both of us had the chance to go to for tasty things as it runs several hours. There was tasty treats, an interesting tea that reminded me of watermelon, and talking about cats, the weird weekend weather and political satire with the other attendees (Oh, Chretien. I wish you were still PM.)
I finally headed back at 3 so I could be there for the last hour at my table, bought a convention t-shirt, finally got to do a walkaround of the other vendors, and then when closing time at 4 rolled around, we packed it up and got ready to head home.
....now, this is where the weekend just plain sucked. One- our phones ran out of data due to the craptastic or nonexistent internet we had to deal with all weekend. Two- Either the entire subway system was down on Sunday or google maps had a huge bug, because it refused to show up when we were checking routes home (and we're not the only ones who reported it).
So that set us up for one horrible trip home. First we missed the scheduled bus because the stops at Highway 7 are horribly marked and confusing as hell, which involved crossing the road five or six times with our over 50 pounds of luggage. Then with the "no subway service whatsoever showing up" and no idea if we could get to Union station on time to catch our bus, we ran for a Viva bus to take us Westward to another main GO station that would take us to Guelph. Well, that worked, except; we hadn't had any dinner yet and had planned on using the time at Union before our bus home to get some. This new route had us bypassing Union Station for the huge Square One in Mississauga, and arriving RIGHT at closing time for literally every fast food restaurant there was, no time for takeout or a sit-down dinner, and not getting home until easily 10 pm and needing to get a cab as buses stop running in Guelph by then on Sundays. Finding that out when we went in search of dinner was not pretty; I wound up sobbing for a good ten minutes because ALL I wanted was to eat and get the hell home, stop having to lug around a person's weight in luggage and be out of the nasty cold weather. Unfortunately there was nothing to do but get the bus home with hunger pangs and frozen fingers. Thankfully by the time we pulled into the downtown GO stop in Guelph, we had only a very short wait for a taxi and a short drive home. Followed by having to quickly cook something of what little dinner fare remained in the cupboards before crashing into bed. So, lesson learned, I am NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER transiting it to Ad-Astra again. We're driving. Considering how much money and time I had to spend across three transit systems to get there just on MYSELF, the cost of a tank of gas and hotel parking is the exact same for not even half the time.
And that was the con! Next up is Anime North in a few weeks. Then, lazy summer except for one or two events (I'll update those in my June journal).