Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

ArmdilloCon Report

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Monday, August 7, 2023

I spent the weekend in Austin at ArmadilloCon. It was an up-and-down experience. Most of the negatives were due to the weather/air quality. 

I was not on programming this convention. It's one of those cons where I'm not a good fit. Goodness knows I've asked, but as a conrunner, I totally understand. They can't have everyone on programming. I was invited to participate in the Art Show, and so I went for that and a bit of networking. Okay, and to look at a different set of walls. One of the downsides of working from home is not getting out of the house enough.

Let's talk about the good first! I did better than last year at the Art Show. The thing with art shows is that I seem to do better when I'm on programming. And I'm not a good fit for programming here! The solution for this, I think, is to get better at figuring out what will sell down there. 

I sat in on some good panels. There was one I really, really wanted to see. However, that means getting into the down bits.

ArmadilloCon only seems to have sound support in one programming room. This is tough for people with hearing impairments, and even worse (sometimes) for people with hearing aids. There was one room where the sounds from the hall were overpowering the people on the panel (I was too late to get there to deploy my table mic as the previous panel had let out late), and the "cocktail party effect" took over, and fast. I got a splitting headache. I ended up going to my room, taking my hearing aids out, and just reading for a while. I spent a lot of time adjusting my hearing aids with my phone app, but obviously I wasn't able to make it work for everywhere. The conrunner in me knows that the gear for sound support gets expensive, but when you have a room that seats 100 (or more), it's necessary. And you need more than one speaker. And yes, it gets expensive, especially if you rent from the hotel. (Some contracts require this.) So yeah, I get it. If there's one thing I would tell any small (>1000 people) con to spend their budget, it would probably be on sound support. Maybe you can scrounge from some people on your committee? Hey, a Frankenstein sound system is better than nothing in most cases. And even one speaker is better than none, if that's all you can get. 

The other down bit was the traffic coming down from Dallas. Holy carp! We got stuck between a lot of diesel-belching trucks, which just did my allergies and asthma in. Once I got settled in the room for the night, I thought I smelled cigarette smoke. Really? Some people will break the rules. They think vaping is okay. It ain't. However, I discovered my clothing was pretty much infused with smoke from the road. That was an easy fix, fortunately. The air in hotel rooms isn't always the best, and I should have brought more meds for dealing with that. Zyertec wasn't enough. None of that is the fault of the con.

The drive home was great. We didn't even stop. Our hybrid is able to get us to Austin and back. I think I have 70 or so miles left on the tank. The car starts to complain when I hit the 50 mile mark, so I ought to fill up in the next day or two. We did hit a couple of slowdowns, but Google gave us a heads up every time and we got an estimate of the length of the delay, which was nice. The current car has Android Auto, which means I can plug my phone in and get a decent navigation experience.

That's about it, other than I'm dead tired. I plan to take a few days to chill.

Filed under: Conventions            


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