The New Year’s Resolution Game

2 01 2010

The time has come to take a hard look at where one has been, and where one is hoping to go. These rituals are nice to do because they provide you a measured interval at which to gauge your progress. The actions I aspire to take, as well as my perspectives on the current state of things, evolve each year and every day just as I do.

Of course, you can start a new initiative any day, but the first day of the year is a good day to reinforce this behavior. I’m not going to get into any arguments about whether this is the beginning of a new decade (I don’t think it is), but do believe that adding a new “10” digit to the year is a big milestone.

Here are my public goals, along with the overall objectives they are designed to achieve (I’m a big-picture girl):

1. Laugh and smile more — You can never do this too much. If there’s one thing I’d say about myself this past year, it’s that I needed to stop and smell, er, water, er, nurture the flowers more often at times (and at others, I’ve needed to get back to work!). And that’s just what I’ll do. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Improve social relationships

2. Domesticate, just a little — Martha Stewart, I have no desire to be, but it wouldn’t hurt for me to keep my place a little neater and learn to cook a few things. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

3. Use more fossil fuels — Other people want to cut back on their environmental footprint. But I need to make mine a little bigger in order to foster my own independence. I hate driving, but I love the open road. If I can get over that synaptic hump, I’ll be able to take more trips and have a more fulfilling life. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

4. Spend less on the “bear necessities” — Currently, my rent and bills consume a lot of my wages, leaving little for me to use for other things. My food expenses are also fairly extreme. All the traveling I’ve done this year has really tested my fiscal security. I should try to cook for myself when possible and use other tricks to cut my food costs (probably easiest for me to control), followed by my other living costs. My lease is up in the fall, so I’ve got about eight or nine months to hunt for a new place to live if I decide to move. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

5. Get over my fear of mornings — Probably Issue #1, 2 or 3 for me right now at work is my ability to get to work on time. I’m doing better, and coming in a full 2 hours earlier than I used to, but I still need to push that back a little and become more consistent in my a.m. appearances. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become a better employee

6. Learn about popular culture — I avoid TV and music news and gossip and all that, but that’s what people talk about! From a fun standpoint, I’m missing out on opportunities for enjoyment and enrichment. From an intellectual standpoint, I need to keep my consumption updated so that my mental connections are optimized. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, I won’t have much to add to conversations if I don’t do my research. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Intellectual enrichment

7. Find my niche at work — Not much has really changed at work, but I do have some stories and projects under my belt. With the economy throwing my field out of whack, I have a unique opportunity to focus my ambitions toward carving out a niche and looking at the Big Picture. What this means in concrete terms is I need to do some abstract thinking and translate my actions into a uniform plan. I know what that means, even if everybody else doesn’t. 🙂 OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become a better employee

8. Be funny — My sense of humor needs attention. I’ve got to feed it, because it is awesome when it is on top of its game. Thus, I shall make more jokes. Good jokes. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Improve social relationships

9. Try some cultural and social media experiments — One of the first projects I want to try is photographing myself wearing a different hat every day for the entirety of 2010. That starts today. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Intellectual enrichment

10. It’s cliche: Eat better, exercise more — My experiment in getting more exercise and working on losing weight was actually somewhat successful. I hit a few roadblocks, but managed to lose about 8 pounds. I may have gained that back, or maybe not. Being sick for over a month did not help and I may have overextended myself at times. So in 2010, I will revive that effort and make sure to get my daily exercise (walking, basic weightlifting, gentle sports and other activities) in a safe way. OBJECTIVE: Maintain and improve health

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Wow, that sucked: A look back at the “naughty oughties”

31 12 2009


Unopened bag of 2004

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

This is a year-by-year look at the decade that saw me becoming a journalist and solidifying my identity, as well as blossoming from an awkward teenager into an semi-awkward adult-ish being.

There is a lot to go into here, but I will start out just going year by year. And, a look at my love of beer. It changed, you’ll see here.

I hope you enjoy this look at history through the lens of me. I mean think about all the politics, the economy, it’s all interrelated. I mean we started out with the attack, then the war, then the cycles of optimism and fear. Interesting decade.

  • 2000: Wrote for the school paper. Was the assistant fine arts editor, and then became entertainment editor. Was known as “Slim Saidi.” Dreamed about graduating from high school and hitting the big time, going all over the place, rocking the world. But first, settled on ASU.
  • 2001: Went to Office Max for Senior Ditch Day, a momentous milestone in my life (and the day I purchased Incubus’ Make Yourself at a Sam Goody-type establishment). Actually graduated from high school. Went to ASU, majored in computer science. 9/11 happened. I found out about it by overhearing conversations in the dorm restroom — about cars on fire, the world burning up, explosions everywhere, they said, and it was simply terrifying. It took a while for classes to be canceled, and I remember everything was so quiet.
  • 2002: My kitty-corner downstairs neighbor in the dorm died and it took three days to find him there — it was really sad. He had the room to himself. There was a burglary and ID theft at the family house while I was away at school, but reality didn’t hit until I was home for the summer. Had major ID theft problems for the rest of the year. Got my first real-ish job, by becoming a road service phone schlock at U-Haul HQ. Lasted a whole two months, but learned a lot and met some cool people. This experience convinced me that I was capable of holding down a job at a national company.
  • 2003: Snuck in through the back door of The State Press over winter break (figuratively speaking) and became the associate Web Devil editor. Decided I no longer wanted to be a computer scientist, and instead wanted to be a journalist, a humanities major, a geographer, a cartographer, a computer geek, maybe an engineer or scientist, really I couldn’t decide. Identity crisis a-go-go. Interned for the media office at the Desert Botanical Garden. Had my first beer this year, thankfully not around any cacti. Somehow I’d avoided it that long.
  • 2004: Became one of two “campus and administration” reporters for The State Press, and discovered I was obsessed with reporting. Worked at the City of Chandler a couple days a week, which created an insane schedule for me given everything I was doing. Turned 21 just before summer and right in the nick of time: Over the summer, traveled to Washington, D.C., and interned for Common Cause’s press office. Learned a lot, had a great time, decided that Budweiser was my Beer. (Not Bud Light) The third presidential debate was held at ASU in October of this year and I got to report on it, and even interview Triumph the Insult Comic Dog for the Web Devil.
  • 2005: The economy was still booming and ASU had ideas and new buildings practically coming out of its orifices. Got a reporting internship at the not-quite-defunct East Valley Tribune and then became Web Devil editor. Couldn’t find ONE job, so I got TWO jobs instead: Media specialist at Pan-American Initiatives at ASU, and also as a writing intern for Choice Hotels International. Drank.
  • 2006: Continued with my jobs but then at some point decided that the current situation was OK, but it was time to move forward. I somehow stumbled on CNN.com, applied on a whim, was accepted, freaked out, grabbed my father and four suitcases, flew out to Atlanta, found a lot of bad apartments, found a good apartment, said goodbye to my Dad, cried a lot, grew up and became a multimedia journalist in Atlanta! Drank a little, here and there.
  • 2007: Moved to a new user participation group that did mysterious things with “iReports” and “Exchange.” Got hired on full-time, and then became the first associate producer (full-time) for the budding User Participation group. Got my first taste of gourmet beer, in the form of a Blue Moon served at a going-away party for a colleague. A coworker explained to me that it was a “Belgian White” and I nodded and said mmm-hmmm-wow-awesome and then went home and did some research. Tried the Sweetwater Georgia Brown as well as the Hummer, and I was well on my way to beer snobbery.
  • 2008: The economy had been teetering a bit, but this is the year it really started going into the pooper. On the plus side, iReport started coming into its own, and I became a Senior Associate Producer. Moved out of my apartment in Dunwoody to a convenient place in midtown. Dealt with serious cockroach problems, moved to a less-convenient and more-expensive place and then went to Los Angeles to chill with the Murray scholars. While there, I met Kato Kaelin. He was pretty chill. Right after that, President Barack Obama was elected on a historic election night. Meanwhile, my taste in beer became increasingly snobby. Phoenix light rail launched December 27.
  • 2009: President Obama was inaugurated and the whole event was a big global Thingy that seemed unprecedented. The economy was much further into the pooper and we called it a recession. I didn’t seem to notice, as I single-handedly held up the country’s gross domestic product by traveling a ton and visiting San Francisco, Paris and London for the first time. Saw Cousin Julie get married in Wisconsin and was reunited with the family, most of whom I see maybe once every five years. Saw the World’s Largest Six-Pack in La Crosse. (Well I mean, just look at the Year in Review. You’ll see what I did in 2009.) My circle of friends practically doubled. Beer snobbery got even worse and maybe a tad pretentious, and the beers got darker and darker. Light rail celebrated its second birthday.
  • 2010: Let’s see what happens!




All that year in review stuff

31 12 2009

Wow, wasn’t 2009 awesome? Crickets.

OK — So I’m busy getting ready for a road trip tomorrow, so I don’t have as much time as I thought I would to crank out this Year in Review thingy. Nonetheless, here’s the basics, month-by-month, followed by a roundup of the factoids and numbers that you can’t get enough of.

Month-by-month, blow-by-blow:

  • January: Inauguration madness defined the month.
  • February: I can’t remember much from this month, but I remember I went to Phoenix and we took Grams to the Desert Botanical Garden.
  • March: God only knows what I did. The economy was going down the pooper, I know that for sure.
  • April: Uh… I turned 26, on my birthday.
  • May: The weather was getting warmer…
  • June: Wisconsin to see my cousin get married. And just to dink around in Wisconsin.
  • July: San Diego Comic-Con! And my first-ever trip to San Francisco.
  • August: No clue what I did. For all I know, I might have done nothing. Well I know my parents visited and we went to Chattanooga and looked at fish and met a gnome and bought a tiny SEE ROCK CITY birdhouse for my soul.
  • September: Went to Paris and London.
  • Some time in the fall: Road tripping, river rafting, corn mazing, etc.
  • October: Wild Halloween partying!
  • November: You know that band Soul Coughing? Well yeah, that’s my band for November. For you see, Coughing was a major pastime after catching some sort of flu-like-symptom-causing illness. And then, Thanksgiving at work.
  • December: Two-week treep to Phoenix! Lots of stories written.

Yeah, so anyway, seeing as that was oh-so-insightful, here are the vitals:

  • Total flight itineraries flown: 12 (not including 2010 return flight)
  • Major car trips: 5 — Rafting, corn maze/hike, Chattanooga, Helen GA, upcoming New Year trip (excludes drive from Minneapolis to La Crosse)
  • States/countries visited: 8 — Tennessee, North Carolina, Arizona (3+jump-off to WI), California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, France, England.
  • Aquariums visited: 4 — Tennessee Aquarium, aquarium under the Mall of America, carpy aquarium at Wisconsin Dells, Georgia Aquarium (parents mostly).
  • Major offbeat tourist attractions seen: Approximately 8 — Babyland Cabbage Patch Hospital, Upside-down White House, World’s Largest Six-Pack, World’s Largest High-Wheel Bicycle, Ruby Falls, Rock City gardens, San Francisco sea lions, Coit Tower.
  • Major must-see landmarks/attractions: About 6 — Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, London Bridge, Big Ben, Golden Gate Bridge, Mall of America
  • New cities discovered: 5 — Paris FR, London EN, San Francisco CA, Chattanooga TN, Helen GA
  • Sci-fi/fantasy conventions: 3 — San Diego Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, that new ‘con that is being held at the Renaissance Hotel in midtown.
  • Electronic devices purchased: 2 — Apple iPhone, Nikon point and shoot.
  • Social/media networks joined: 7 — Foursquare, Tumblr, Plurk, 12 Seconds, last.fm, Pandora, blip.fm
  • Phrases coined: “Rubber babushka”
  • Major music performances attended: 7 — Bob Dylan, U2/Muse, Yo La Tengo, Death Cab for Cutie, NIN/Jane’s Addiction, Guster, and yes, Captured! by Robots.
  • Music download volume: Approximately 20 GB (all-time high)
  • Job positions held: 1 (first-time result)
  • On-camera appearances: About 10
  • Hair growth: Approximately 6 inches
  • Major hats accumulated: 10 — Green Knit Hat, Bison Horns, Bunny Ears, Blue San Francisco Hat, Moose Antlers, Christmas Tree, Pink Cap, Purple Cap, Varsity Hat, Atlanta Braves Hat.
  • Photos uploaded to Flickr: Approximately 3,000 (not all public)
  • Tweets on Twitter: 1174, as of 12 a.m. December 31 (not the tweets after this post) — via TweetStats
  • Total tweets: 1,976
  • Average tweets per day (all-time): 2.6
  • Former desk number: 26
  • Age: 26
  • (Withheld): 26
  • Lucky number: 26




Stuff People Seem To Like #5: H1N1/Swine flu

14 11 2009

Don’t get me wrong. People don’t really “like” swine flu, H1N1, but they sure are obsessed with it. I think I darn well might have it right now. Every respectable health source I’ve looked at seems to be indicating that the standard flu isn’t here yet and most cases of the flu that are surfacing right now are in fact H1N1. (Don’t quote me on that, however.)

I suppose I should go to the doctor, but what’s the point? The most I could hope for is a dose of Tamiflu and at this point, I’m not sure if it would really help. I’m just going to ride out this awful, awful storm. Now, you may be wondering what this flu experience is like. Here’s my personal experience with this mystery respiratory ailment:

On Monday night of this week, I started feeling chilly at the office. My coworkers reassured me that it was cold inside, I wasn’t getting sick, etc. But I felt like something was not quite right. I made it to work on Tuesday and  continued to worsen, but still wasn’t all that bad. It was raining pretty hard that night and I returned to my apartment soaking wet. After drying myself off, I collapsed into bed. By the next morning, Wednesday, I could hardly get out of bed. I was so sore, my chest was heaving and wheezing, and I was having trouble breathing. My tonsils were swollen and were collecting tonsil stones, which added to my sore throat. I hadn’t had this tonsil problem in probably a year. In short, I could barely make it the few feet across my quasi-loft apartment to contact my colleagues, much less go to work.

I’ve read unsubstantiated rumors that H1N1 attacks the lungs first, versus the upper respiratory tract as in most ailments. That seems to jive with my experience, as I’ve never heard my lungs wheeze like that before. It also theoretically  would make it pretty dangerous for people with athsma. The CDC advises people with lung problems to be cautious and seek help immediately if they come down with flu-like symptoms.

Anyway, I rode out Wednesday night and felt hungry, so I went out for a quick dinner and drinks (one alcoholic, two cranberry virgin). I felt fine, and thought the worst was over, but felt like collapsing as I walked across the street to my complex. That night was the worst of the worst, as I shivered nonstop for about eight hours. Thursday settled down a bit but I had no food or good drinks in my fridge, so I summoned the energy to go shopping that night. I made it back without too much trouble, but was pretty much a rock. On Friday, I decided that I would just take the day off and then ride out the weekend.

Unfortunately, my coworkers alerted me to the fact that Friday was also the deadline for health benefits election. This time, it was mandatory, no skirting, no exceptions. So I summoned my last reserve of energy and slowly trudged to work to do my benefits election. It became clear that I was not capable of making it through a full day of work. I had a terrible coughing fit and almost thought I might have a fit of vomiting. I calmed my queasy stomach and downed as much water as I could, and blew my nose and coughed until things settled down. Then I finished the deed on my computer, e-mailed myself some crucial notes and got the Dickens out of there. I thought it ironic that I had to put my health and others’ health at risk in order to get health benefits. Life is funny that way.

I’ve retraced my steps for the past week, trying to ascertain when I was exposed. I was around a lot of crowds the past weekend and could have theoretically picked something up at that time, but none of my compadres who I hung out with last weekend are feeling the way that I do. Thank God for that. So how did I get so sick? Hard to say, but I’ll be happy to have some semblance of immunity if I make it through this unscathed.

My consolation is that symptoms should be improving starting on days 4 and 5, namely this weekend. I doubt that I’ll be able to join friends and colleagues in partying it up, but hopefully things will be a bit more comfortable. Which is good, because I miss drinking beer and not having such a remarkably short fuse.

Did I mention the mood swings? I have felt horrible both physically and mentally. I am the kind of person that likes to live life to the fullest (yes) and to be in this kind of shape is torturous and causes my thoughts to drift in unhappy directions. I’m trying to think about joyous things, like looking over my vacation photos and planning future trips abroad. Anything to get my head in the clouds and out of the dumps. I’m certain that by the time I am better, I will be a new woman and I will be prepared to take the world by storm. Until then, I wait.

And there you have it. I have once again bared my soul, and perhaps shared too much about my innermost feelings, and I will probably apologize for something I wrote here. But hey, at least it’s cathartic. See you on the other side of the dark side of the moon, world.





Now you go chase that dream

14 11 2009

I have had a case of the flu for the past few days and it’s gotten me down a bit, but it’s also given me a chance to think about things that are awesome. In particular, I was feeling Star Trekky the other morning (jotting down Captain’s Logs and calculating the actual stardate) when I saw the story of how infamous “last lecture” professor Randy Pausch loved the Trek universe. He got a cameo in the latest movie, even, as well as a small clip of his voice in the film.

Pausch got a signed photo and momentous quote from William Shatner, the prototypical edition of the elder James Tiberius Kirk:

Over the years, some of my sophisticated academic colleagues have turned up their noses at my Star Trek infatuation. But from the start, it has never failed to stand me in good stead.

After Shatner learned of my diagnosis, he sent me a photo of himself as Kirk. On it he wrote: “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.”

I got to thinking about this guy who dealt with a terminal illness with so much courage and how I was sitting here miserable, thinking that this flu (probably H1N1, let’s not beat around the bush) may never go away. Paush did push-ups and all sorts of demonstrations of his strength during his 2007 speech. He was dead just a few months later. But he took that time in stride, carefully analyzing all the things he’d dreamed about doing as a child. He succeeded at a lot of things and would never get a chance to do others.

So, at the risk of sounding a bit dreary and morbid, I’d say let’s use every minute that we have healthy and alive. If I do sound a bit melancholy, blame this mysterious flu.





Dragon*Con redux: Part Deux: The Recap

9 09 2009
 


Thriller creep

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

So just a few days ago, I made my third expedition into Dragon*Con. As usual I was overwhelmed by the schedule, the possibilities and my own physical limitations. It is difficult to stand up for hours and wander around. Heaven forbid that you are wearing a sweaty Klingon outfit and carrying a bunch of memorabilia around. I’d hope these folks have a hotel room that they can retire to.

The impression that I get is the 2009 event was the largest ever. It was super-crowded. We got to do a few things and it was fun, but we had to fight a little and be smart about it. No doubt, the fact that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were making appearances must have drawn in the crowds by the thousands. It was, by all accounts, a magical exchange. I was at work, but I was there in spirit. Now, if only I cared about all these newfangled shows the kids are watching. Im an old-school Trek and TNG fangirl. Buffy, Babylon and Battlestar don’t really do it for me. And the new Star Trek movie? I have to admit, it was a bit of an affront.

I managed to get myself up for the parade (my second year doing this) and enjoyed it, although it was much harder to see than last year. After that, we objectified ourselves by looking at wings, masks, corsets, bellydancing suits and other geeky and nerdy thingamajigs. It was good because one of our non-Con-membership-$$$ friends was able to sneak in with us and buy some things, thus helping the tourist E-Con-omy — someone who otherwise wouldn’t go. That’s how we justified it; I think it’s just like how BART overcharges for travel to SFO airport — because tourist dollars are sought after more than resident dollars. When the Patrick Stewart line had gone through (our mouths were agape at the fact that it stretched through the Marriott and into Peachtree Center mall), I asked the ushers if I could get inside and we lucked out. Captain Picard was on fire, exchanging hot remarks with the Trek Trak show hosts with the sharp, barbed wit of a bald, Shakespearean science fiction actor. We sought coffee and were immediately besieged by geeks with cameras and horrible pickup lines. 

After that, we marched around some of the show areas where art is on display and went to see a concert by Abney Park that was right in the middle of the Hyatt ballrooms. The fire marshall was literally pacing back and forth like Darth Vader, and his D*C minions were adamant that people were to “keep moving” and not linger in the area around the concert. Clearly the demand exceeded supply. I don’t know why the fire marshall didn’t don a villainous constume, because it would have befitted his cretinous ways. I was tired at that point and could hardly see what was going on because the crowd of ewoks and other ridiculousness had gotten thick. I heard some clapping and cheering going on. Turns out, there was a marriage proposal during the concert. Too bad I couldn’t hear. But, congratulations to the lucky couple. We had run into a coworker who was working on a video piece about love and romance at Dragon*Con (not as much of an oxymoron as it seems) and we let him know about this as well.

The rest of the time around then is a little fuzzy. At a later point we were wandering around the art show. And at still another point, we attended a panel discussion by some people who worked at Battlestar Galactica (but were not key players like writers or actors). In the words of a friend, they “towed the company line” in regards to fans’ questions and disappointment about the series ending. I didn’t know what they were all talking about, but I enjoyed getting this sense of the kinds of reactions fans get to work that people put out, as well as a way NOT to act when receiving criticism and affection from devoted followers. It was enlightening nonetheless. I also remember we tried to sneak into the Leonard Nimoy panel just as we did with Patrick Stewart only to find that it was canceled. Oh well, at least we didn’t have to wait in line to find out.

And then, sometime later in the evening, we went to go get some food and had some geeky conversations, and then we attended a panel on skepticism (a bit baffling to me coming from a crowd of folks dressed in Spandex alien suits), followed up by a “filk” concert by Tom Smith. I always forget what filk is, but it’s basically a geeky version of folk music. The music guests that I saw were a lot better last year. Voltaire and folk duo Paul and Storm were there. I know the latter joined the likes of Jonathan Coulton and Wil Wheaton at Penny Arcade Expo this year. Hey, I can’t blame them for wanting to go to Seattle. In fact, I’m thinking if I do a Con again, I might seek out a change of pace by heading out West instead of looking outside my back door.

After that, or maybe before that, my memory fails me, we had some time to kill and went in search of amusement. We found it in a tiny, dark room showing bizarre films. We watched the last act of “Black Sheep,” an apparently foreign film (Australian? I’m going to get myself in trouble here…) about evil mutant sheep that attack humans and try to turn them into additional members of their kind. Yes, I said evil mutant sheep. The film is a hoot. After that, we saw the beginning of a horrible movie about lesbian vampires. Meh. It was kind of entertaining, though.

We closed out the night with a rousing concert by Cruxshadows, a funhouse-mirror reflection of Depeche Mode; I would describe it as the band’s brooding, younger, goth-ier brother — the one who cuts himself for attention. No, but Cruxshadows rocked the carpeted ballroom floors in stylish fashion. The band isn’t all that well-known, so they were hungry to bond with fans. That made this a great show. The lead singer dude came into the audience right in front of us on a couple of occasions, standing on a chair in one instance and doing some sort of a dance in another. And then at the end, everyone jumped up on stage and the singer picked up a young child that had been sitting on someone’s shoulders (!) much to the crowd’s excitement. Everyone was singing along and it was awesome.

That was the conclusion of day one. Day 2 found me sleeping in, going to a brunch at Straits in midtown, venturing out to the Decatur Book Festival, and then heading back intown just in time to join the world’s largest thriller dance. It was chaos when I got there and I almost didn’t get to dance. They were only going to let the first 1,000 go in, and they weren’t giving out any more ribbons. I was lucky that someone in the gift shop heard my pleas for a ribbon and mentioned that her pelvis hurt too much (or something along that line) and soon I found myself with three ribbons in the 400 group. And thus I had admission for my friends as well. It was a good time. The way I see it, the count is MORE accurate this way, even if it’s not the same person.

The dancers included a giant Michael Jackson single shiny glove, Cookie Monster in an orange jacket, storm troopers, zombie Elvis and some other colorful folks. It was a good time. The dance was more involved than I thought. I tried to recreate it for my coworkers the next day when we went wading in a fountain near the office, but was not very successful. That MJ. So talented was he. And such a great zombie.

And then more dinner and talking and a little more gawking and soon I was back at home, celebrating and mourning the end of my Con experience at the same time. Maybe next year I’ll go to PAX in Seattle for a change of scenery. Maybe not. I’m certain that there’s something magical about Dragon*Con and I hope it stays that way.





Dragon*Con redux part I: My Con history

9 09 2009

Star Trek Experience
  

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

The wonderful magical microsociety of Dragon*Con, contained entirely within the mazelike confines of three connected hotels and one satellite a few blocks away, is something I think everyone should experience once. Do it, if only to get in touch with your inner geek and your secret furry. Everyone has one lurking inside, I like to think. There has to be a part of you that yearns to don a cape and prance around as if you were faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap freight trains in a single bound. If you don’t, you’re probably not much fun to be around anyway.

I remember being an outsider who had never been to a Con save for a couple Star Trek conventions when I was a preteen. It was all for research I was doing for a class, mind you. I remember stuffing myself into the circa-1970s orange bleachers inside the Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum so I could listen to Garrett Wang from Star Trek: Voyager, and John DeLancey, who played Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I found both actors’ schpiels to be engaging and expected such from all cons afterward.

I also had high expectations from having seen “Star Trek: The Experience” at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel, long before the forces of economy and practicality took away one of these old holdovers from Sin City’s drunken flirtations with family-friendliness, whimsy and imagination.

Having long ago left my preteen years in another galaxy, seeing these geeks (an affectionate term) standing on the train platform took me back to those geeky days of my youth when I used to thumb through an encyclopedia of information about “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” There was a time when I could describe the plot of every episode in great detail and tell you all about the various quirks and life stories of each character. I don’t know what happened to that part of me, but I don’t have it anymore and I kind of want it back. Looking at these current-day con lovers made me wish I was one of them. Not to mention that marveling at powerful superheroes’ ordinary means of transit made me laugh. Hard.

Another thing that’s important to consider is that Labor Day weekend is a busy one in Atlanta, and it’s a time when you might find yourself with a decked-out football fanatic on one side and a storm trooper on the other. One year I passed the time on my 45-minute trip intown by making interesting conversation with a chatty pirate’s wench. She had a lot to say about piracy and about life in general. I wished I’d had the gumption to capture that moment on film.

At some point, I’d seen enough of this fantastic tomfoolery and decided I had to be part of it. I decided to give it a shot. The journey began by standing in line for about an hour to buy tickets onsite. Lucky me, I could by a second year’s membership to Dragon*Con for just $10 more (or some ridiculous sum like that). So I did, and by that point, I was locked in for two years of this wonderful nonsense.

My first year at Dragon*Con, I approached the scene with a lot of trepidation. I went by myself into the wild and wooly crowd, armed with a camera and the excuse that I was just a journalist passing through. I told myself, “This year I’m just documenting a scene.” I opted to remain a detached observer of the absurdity around me.

My second year was the best. I had a plan. I even brought an iReport kit with me and interviewed people. With the help of coworkers and friends, I saw quite a bit of things and had lots of fun. Not to mention, I took way too many pictures. Afterward, I made my television debut talking about the event with a viking hat on.

My third year’s expedition to Dragon*Con was predated by an exhausting run through San Diego Comic-Con, which is a totally different animal and yet much the same. The focus is on comics primarily and it’s about twice as big, but not necessarily as cool or fun. I think at some point I just got a little tired. I realized that the Con experience has its limits. I look forward to it, and at the same time, I know that I will be fatigued and frustrated by it.

I’ll want to kick myself, but I’ll go to another con, and I’ll enjoy it. That’s the way it goes. After all the lines and crowds and odoriffic science fiction costumes around you, the memories are what remain.

It’s a unique thing, something you can’t really get anywhere else, and a surreal exploration of that part of us that still likes to dress up and pretend to be someone else. I hope that we can all dig deep and find it within ourselves, even if we wouldn’t be caught dead in Spandex.