Saturday, 18 August 2018

Out of the Ashes Reunion: April 2018

LTJG Holly Bowler

The idea for a reunion of First Contact Day folk sprung at the FCD 2.0 after-party in 2017 when it finally hit us that there was not going to be an FCD around the normal April 2018 date, and we wondered how on Earth could we let that pass without a gathering! We needed momentum to help keep the FCD vibe alive, we wanted to keep the sci-fi family together as well as honour what FCD stands for and the people who made it what it has become. And from that moment the spark of the OOTA Reunion was lit.
From May 2017 onwards the telephone and Facebook conversations started, the number of organisers grew and the event began to take shape. A team was formed and there were responsibilities! Mine varied from sending out invites, keeping track of invitees and payments, planning decorations and so on. I made a 35m long Star Trek bunting like, you know, any crazy person might do! We had meetings online and in person deciding on venue, music, and activities … this event planning malarkey is hard work! As the big day approached we were so excited and also anxious as there were so many things to remember, but we had faith in each other and our talents and abilities and that could only bring success.
Friday morning arrived and several of the team met to roam around Telford Town Shopping Centre looking for party items—squeaky noisy toys were high on the agenda. It was so good to be together again. The donuts were calling so we ended up at Krispy Kreme for coffee and some of the sweet stuff and ran into some of the early attendees, our friends. Then we were back to the hotel for greeting other newcomers. As evening approached more arrived and quite a large group was congregating in the hotel lounge. There were loads of hugs and excitement was in the air. Centaur members there included Colin, Mandy, Aaron, Tony, Emily, Erika and Matt. Led by our grumbling bellies, just under thirty of us made a mass migration to a local all-you-can-eat buffet establishment which was enjoyable (until later). My tummy was not happy, and back at the hotel lounge Erika topped me off with her homemade stollen until I felt I would burst. Mad crafting took place on the floor while we tried to get decorations put together for easy set-up the next day. People were everywhere, stuff was everywhere, it was manic and hot and I felt yucky but was so happy at the same time. Here we were, working hard, all together, making this happen. I’m so proud of my team. After much hugging I headed home to get some sleep.
Saturday arrived like Christmas morning and I couldn’t wait to get back to my FCD family. The team met early so we could start to get set up. Hightower, Centaur’s Head of Engineering, joined us having arrived on the shuttle that morning and would be staying Saturday night at mine. So much set-up to do but we managed it in record time, and the place looked great. I was ready set up to greet, check people in and hand out the lanyards. Doors opened at 11:30 and here they came in bunches all bright and shiny. Some were in Discovery uniforms, some in other Star Trek cosplay. There was a Centauri from Babylon 5, a pair of hooligans from Firefly … many just wore their favourite t-shirts, one even riding a dinosaur!
I loved seeing everyone come in. People started playing board games and chatting. Familiar soundtracks were playing in the background and the vibe was joyful. The USS Iceni was there running a raffle for the Crohn’s & Colitis Charity. The Tribblemakers competing with Team DISCO. There was singing theme tunes, charades, sci-fi quizzes, image guessing games, super-fast sculpting of a model of Odo and all sorts until it was whittled down to just two contestants on a head-to-head of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire–Geek Edition. Our engineer, Matt Holt, did a great job as a stand in for one of the contestants who couldn’t make it. Well done, Matt! The game was regularly interrupted every time another order of chips arrived in the room to which where everybody present was yelling, "Chips!" when the server came in with a bowl in tow.
There was also an honesty table where people could swap items, a badge-making corner and other stalls set up. At 2.00pm the geeky game show started which was run by the amazing John Hancock and Neil Green and it was an absolutely delight. It began as a team against team event with
As the competition came to a close and the raffle began I needed to duck out and get ready for the evening’s masquerade ball. Thankfully one of the organisers, Mike, let me use his room to get ready because I was going full-on Andorian and I had little time to do it. I was also going to surprise the audience by dancing a bellydance-hip hop fusion choreography I’d written to the Beastie Boys’ song ‘Intergalactic’. Josh showed up to give me a hand and then Mike and his son returned to the room. When I saw Mike, he was wearing an original Narn mask from Babylon 5 and a masquerade mask over it, which looked so freaky! We then headed over to get the tables set up for the evening buffet and party. I talked to the DJ to make sure he had my music and some of the workers at the hotel’s mouths dropped when they saw me looking blue with my antennae. Their reactions were comical.
People started arriving looking smashingly gorgeous. Many were in ball gowns, some in tuxes, others in full cosplay and yet others just wearing what was most comfortable, but most people had a mask. The buffet was served and the room was filled with laughter, warmth and good humour. Then it was time … Erika announced me and I was up! I was on the dance floor, the music started and it was all go! The surprised yet happy looks on people’s faces while I was dancing was awesome and I enjoyed every second of it, finishing with a little kiss for Wil and David before they took the stage to talk about FCD, the upcoming Cal Mah Unofficial Stargate Convention and to thank the team. A video of my dance has been recorded for posterity and can be viewed here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tCP0mfWnQM The organisers were all brought up to centre stage and given gifts of flowers, chocolates and mementos. Then the party kicked into the full swing and the disco began. It was a really fun time. I had changed into my light-up birthday tutu to add to the shininess of the place. There were grins everywhere, excited chatting, non-stop hugs, drinks aplenty and loads of selfies as well as hoedowns, step dancing and much bouncing about. Eventually I was beat and going home was very difficult as it was saying goodbye again for a while, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before we were all together again.
We did it!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Stranger Things


With a slightly retro feel to it, Stranger Things takes you on a hunt through a continually expanding landscape looking for your lost buddies. With quests along the way (to find things to add to your collection or return to their owner for a suitable reward), baddies to bash and even a few boss levels thrown in for good measures, it’s compellingly addictive and fun. It also has two levels of play which makes it fun for the littler ones, too.

Download for free from the App Store and give it a bash! (‘Scuse the pun!)

Saturday, 4 August 2018

A Gamer's 'Fix'

Once upon a time, many years ago, I used to game. I loved it. I was one of those geeks who could easily game on right through the night and into the next day. I even had a job that involved gaming. I was a very happy little bean in my pixelated world of adventure and treasure hunts. I proudly bore the calluses on my thumbs, and the insomnia worked in my favour, giving me those extra hours to dedicate to the cause (aka quest). And then disaster struck.
Repetitive Strain Injury comes in many forms. Mine strikes in the upper arms and wrists causing muscle spasms and chronic pain—but I’m not here to talk about such things. Instead, I want to introduce you to the world of gaming apps. Well, come on! An addict’s got to get her fix somewhere! And the nice thing about apps is that they require no setting up and can be played in small doses. No, the dedicated XBox/Playstation/Nintendo/Sega may not find the play satisfying enough, but us invalided players have to get our jollies where we can. Don’t be mistaken either, because some of those games can be very addictive as well as, get this, FREE! A price I very much like.
So what do I look for in a game?
I’m easily bored by a game, so forget your Candy Crushes and hidden object games. You can only match four lemons or find ten teapots so many times before the entertainment wears off (about 10 minutes if I’m generous). Then there are those games that are free for a teeny-weeny sample and then they want you to pay. Sadly, the authors don’t seem to realise that the free bit needs to be incredibly good if it is to win you over enough to make you stick your hands in your pockets, or a good bit longer to get you properly hooked. I can understand that they want to make money, but with so many free offerings about to try, the competition is stiff.
Not that I am averse to paying for a game. Indeed, there have been a number of games that I have paid for to remove the advertising. The game has been that good that I’ve wanted the uninterrupted play, so have dug my grubby little mits into my pocket for the pleasure of.
Enough banter, though. Next week, I’ll begin with my current favourite, Stranger Things.