2016: Year in Review

Here’s my year in review.  There are a bunch of pictures after the cut, cos sometimes you gotta have proof something happened… and you want to remember the good times.

First we start off with January.  As I will be doing again this year, the first major event was flying to the Seattle area to hang out with my one and only sister while she brilliantly ran the inclusive analog gaming con known as OrcaCon.  As you can see, she’s the cool one.  During this trip, I began the first of the series of BlizzCon badges I wound up working on intermittently from January to Halloween, as detailed in this blog entitled ‘Badges? We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges!‘.  Warning: even more pix there than here.

A couple of weeks later, I went to PAX South once more as press for MMO Central.  Sadly, PAX South isn’t really a good place for a lot of MMO activity yet, so we can’t justify going in 2017.  However, I did get to meet these two hooligans when I was there, Geo and Pantera from the Landmark community.  Geo is well known for keeping the faith in the community, while Pantera is… well, known for running around with only his shorts on in game.  It was hilarious finding out that Pantera and I work for the same company doing the same job (for now) but in different divisions.

In March, I got to fulfill a dream that had been pending since the late 80s, although there was a near-miss in 2007.  I got to see David Gilmour in concert.  Gilmour is my favorite guitarist, bar none.  There may be others more technically competent, faster on the frets, different sounds, but his thoughtful methodology and musical choices means I don’t foresee any other musician toppling him from my list of favorites.  The trip to see him perform at the Hollywood Bowl was not without its adventures, since I wound up getting stuck overnight in Denver airport due to a blizzard and missed a press interview I was going to conduct at Daybreak Games at their swanky new office.

I saw him twice that weekend.  Once in the regular seats, once in the fourth row.  I have to say that the Hollywood Bowl is a clusterfuck of a traffic engineer’s nightmare, but I’ve wanted to catch a concert there since I was a kid and saw Bugs Bunny masquerading as Leopold Stokowski.  Worth it, including the $450 price tag for the fourth row tickets.  Gilmour put on one hell of a show, and it was clear he was having fun.  The special lighting and pyro for the Bowl concert was far better than in the United Center arena in Chicago when I saw him a few weeks later, but dude, Bowl.  Tho, to be fair, the lightshow and pyro was better appreciated from further away from the stage than the fourth row, but I didn’t care that time.  I still occasionally watch the video I shot those nights (it was permitted for personal use, not uploading to YouTube) cos the shows were just that good.

I also got to spend time with a crapton of friends that weekend, both at the concert and later on.  You see, ever since 2007, I’ve been occasionally hanging out online with a group of Gilmour fans affectionately called The Irregulars.  This group was the majority of our gang who were there at the Hollywood Bowl shows, and it was a delight to see a few of them I hadn’t seen since we gathered in lovely Methow Valley in Washington state in August 2007 and meet some I’ve talked to off and on for the past decade.  This group gathered from several corners of the US and even a couple from overseas, banded together by our common love of Gilmour and his music.  Even though I don’t get to talk to them anywhere near as often as I’d like, and there has been some past drama, I was very touched by the fact that they still welcome me into the group as one of their own.  I also got to hang out with some other friends who are current and former Blizzard employees, my favorite book nerd who’s married to a Blizzard employee, and my friend Emily who works at Daybreak.

I also got to take a random cool picture of a family flying a kite on the beach at Laguna Beach.

Shortly afterward in April, I got to deal with the fact that my next door neighbor’s weeping willow finally gave up the ghost and attacked my yard.  Its branches nearly took the gutter off my back porch, but thankfully little damage.  My neighbor is a pretty decent guy, and he was good enough to have his tree guy clean up the mess and he also reattached the gutter properly.  Later in the year when he had the fence redone, he also simply had his landscape guy repair my side of the fence after a number of people kept walking through my yard and broke the crossbar by hopping the fence over the past couple of years.

It was time for another PAX, this time East in Boston.  Did a lot of stuff for MMO Central, but also got to spend time with game dev friends, including meeting the lovely lady behind +Arbor at Turbine.  I also got to meet some of my favorite video game composers, including Blizzard’s Jason Hayes.  Jason’s responsible for some of the first music in World of Warcraft that I really liked, the Draenei starting zone themes.


Late in April, I did something immensely crazy and flew to Ireland to attend the iDIG Music Festival.  Irish conductor and composer Eímear Noone and her husband Craig Garfinkle are responsible for the event, and Eímear kept begging me to go.  She’s most famous for being one of the primary conductors for Tommy Tallarico’s Video Games Live, the traveling event where professional orchestras play video game music for the delight of fans worldwide.  Because of Eímear and Craig’s work with Blizzard, iDIG 2016 also featured appearances by my friends Neal Acree, Terran Gregory, and Russell Brower.  That was the first time I’d met Neal, and he’s a super awesome dude.  You can watch all three of them on stage from the event as well as an interview with Russell on my Youtube channel.

This is pretty much when I added Neal and Eímear to my list of BlizzCon badges, but my crafting didn’t stop there.  The WoW fan community had gone bananas with the discovery of a fat orange bird named Pepe in level 3 garrisons in the previous Warlords of Draenor expansion.  A new version of Pepe wearing goggles and a satchel was datamined from the beta of the current expansion, Legion, and he was called Traveler Pepe.  If you find him in new Dalaran in the Broken Shores, you get an achievement called Tangerine Traveler.  A number of fan crafters started making goggles and satchel sets for the stuffed Pepe plush that Blizzard sells on their gear store and so I made a few myself.  I made two sets of the blue starry ones using a basic cotton fabric, a more traditional brown set out of microsuede, a set out of rich red Torino leather I had leftover from an airship pirate coat I made once, and a set made out of some red suede and gold brocade leftover from other projects as well.  One of the starry sets and the brown one went to Terran and Deva Gregory as housewarming gifts, while the red leather one with black stitching went to another Blizzard friend, and I kept the other blue and the red/gold set for myself.  I made up little stories as to how my Pepe had acquired these sets, such as the red/gold set being a gift from the blood elves in Silvermoon City.

In June, things got weird in Cincinnati as Weird Al came to town again.  I splurged on the VIP pass with the front-row ticket and wasn’t disappointed in the show.  Got a bunch of good photos, one of which later got RT’d a lot of times when it was announced that he’d be the music act closing out BlizzCon 2016 in November.  More on that later.  However, here’s a couple of my favorite photos for that night.  The only thing I don’t like about the second one is the fact that the lighting was just so terrible.  I prefer when decent photographers take these pictures for the fans.  They didn’t even do multiples in case the first one was bad.  Just boom, done, get out.  Ah well.

Later in June, I did something stupid.  I was raiding with some friends in WoW, and was also cooking some bacon in the oven. During a break in the action, I hurriedly went to rescue the bacon and wound up spilling some of the grease on my hand.  After putting the hand under cold water and doing my best to treat it on-site, I rushed back to finish the raid (it was Molten Core).  The pain was indescribable and I did indeed spend the rest of the raid with a bag of frozen peas on my hand.  I should have bailed, but considering who I was raiding with, and the fact they were already being gracious about letting me tag along to begin with, I didn’t want them to be upset with me by bailing.  Thankfully, the injury healed, but it hurt like a motherfucker for like a week and I still have a couple of small scars on that hand leftover from the incident.

In August, I went to GenCon again to see some friends such as Mikey Mason perform for nerds, and to try not to buy stuff I’m not going to use on the show floor.  Wellllllll, my plan got sidetracked as I walked past the fez booth.  I literally spun on my heel and turned back, pointed at that fez, and said, ‘I want one of those.’  They found one in my size, got me a matching tassel, and off I went.  I also wound up buying the elf ears and a writing quill, but that was a lot less damage than GenCon 2015, so I’ll take it.

August was also the run-up to the launch of WoW: Legion, so I was spending a LOT of my time power leveling alts during their three-week Legion Invasion event.  At the tail end of August was FuMPFest, a comedy music convention run by these two hooligans, Tom ‘Devo Spice’ Rockwell and his dad Bill ‘Old Spice’ Rockwell.  I was the volunteer wrangler and ran the merch table, mostly supervising my excellent team of minions in their quest to sell all the merch for all the musicians.  It was a pretty good con for all, other than one half of our musical guest of honor duo Paul and Storm.  Poor Storm fell down the hotel stairs and banged himself up pretty good, but he saved the guitar!  Thankfully Bill Rockwell is a doctor, so Storm got good treatment from the start, and Storm was enough of a trooper to perform during their guest of honor concert.

I saw Paul and Storm again the following weekend at DragonCon, where I wound up slinging merch for them and Jonathan Coulton during their big concert there.  I also got to hang out with my friend Dino Andrade, a voice actor most famous for being Gelbin Mekkatorque and Professor Putricide in World of Warcraft.  He’s such a goober. 🙂  If you have a chance to see him perform or do a panel at a con, do it.

DragonCon also saw the end of an era with the final con performance of Emerald Rose.  Arthur, Larry, Logan, and Clyde have been long-time DragonCon friends, and I captured their farewell concert on video.  The video is up on my Youtube channel.

Most of the rest of the year was spent in some form of crafting.  The BlizzCon badge project had grown to a total of 5 badges.  I’d originally planned to make one for myself but then got floored with a request to make one for Samwise Didier, so I set mine aside until 2017 and made one for him instead.  I also began working on chainmaille lanyards as mentioned in the long blog about the badges, so that was a fun little diversion for awhile.

In November came BlizzCon.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to it for several reasons.  Only two of them didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, but I was happy to meet some folks I’d known from Twitter, including Pepe creator Jordan Powers.  I got to spend time with several friends, including being most humbled to be dragged along in the wake of the Reinhardt voice actor Darin De Paul, who kept introducing me as his friend.  The four badges I managed to give to their recipients went over well, and I was most gratified to see that the new owners seemed to like them.  I didn’t get to play many of the games because I can’t stand in line for hours and hours, but I managed to squeeze a game of Hearthstone in, with Jordan watching us for a little bit.  Pepe and I got demolished, but it was a fun game.

The end of con music act was Weird Al, as I mentioned earlier.  For me, I had many many feels.  I’ve been a fan of Al since the mid 80s.  Also, the whole parody music scene is part of who I am.  To have him close out BlizzCon mattered to me more than many others who were there, because it was the need to do research to write a properly authentic parody song about WoW is why I first bought the box in 2006 (that’s late vanilla, kids).  To be fair, I stayed after my research was done because they announced Burning Crusade during that month and I kinda like me some blue space goats and elves whose symbol is pretty much my phoenix.  I remember some people on social media freaking out (both in good and bad ways) when the announcement went up.  However, for all the people who loudly yelled they hated the choice and were gonna be in the Hilton bar instead… Hall D was packed.  I didn’t feel the need to be up front like I was for the Cincinnati concert (and to be fair, I didn’t know in June that I’d be seeing him again in November), so I enjoyed the show from the back.  I was also thoroughly amused and happy to see a number of doubters (folks who tweeted they weren’t sure about this choice but didn’t hate it outright) become instant fans.

The rest of November was work and work and Thanksgiving and work.  However, December brought new crafting ideas, when here I thought I was done after the badge project was completed.  I chose to make Christmas cards for a small number of people, each with their own unique design, even if some elements were re-used on other cards.  I felt bad that I didn’t have a chance to make more, but I hadn’t planned it out right, and honestly, I was starting to get stumped for ideas. These are the Horde and Alliance designs I used as a base for custom designs for WoW-related friends. 


After that came the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One.  A lot of my friends either cosplayed, trooped (as members of the 501st and Rebel Legions), or wore a special outfit.  I chose to wear a special jacket that I was sure no one else locally would have.  My friend Terran gave me an exceptional gift of a Skywalker Ranch jacket he’d got at their shop one time he’d been there for work, and I’d never worn it aside from the day I got it because it was an XL, and I’m bigger than that.  However, I discovered to my delight that the jacket actually was stretchable enough to easily be worn, so I’ve actually been wearing it to work of late too.

Sadly, the world has not been a very nice place this year despite all the good we’ve had.  Many of our favorite celebrities have passed, including the recent unfortunate passing of Carrie Fisher.  Everyone chose their own ways to honor her memory, but I did two.  Firstly, I wrote a quote I made up myself and taped it to the main monitor at my work desk.  It’s next to another post-it that says ‘Do better tomorrow.  You’d do it for Randolph Scott.’  (gasp! Randolph Scott!)

Finally, I’d like to share the artistic homage I made to show my feelings for what Carrie Fisher’s life both on and off the screen meant to me.  Of course, I wrote more about this image in its own separate blog, but I’ll leave you with this.