Sunday, August 28, 2016

On The Road: Summer Conventions 2016

Since we moved overseas, we've had fewer opportunities to hit the convention circuit. Both of our summers since we arrived in Saigon, we've headed back to the US for a frantically-paced rush of visiting friends and family. During that time, I've managed to get in two conventions each summer.

In 2015, it was MASSive Comic Con in Worcester MA in June, and Connecticon in Hartford in July.

This past summer, I headed back to MASSive, and then attended Readercon, which takes place the same weekend as Connecticon. Readercon has relocated to Quincy MA (from Burlington MA) as of 2016. I also got to the Magic: The Gathering Eldritch Moon prerelease tournament, and also took in a convention here in Ho Chi Minh City after we got back from the US.

MASSive Comic Con

I'd describe MASSive as a medium-sized traditional comic/media con. I attended on Sunday morning of the event, along with my friend Judy Y., and the Kiddo. I took him to MASSive for a day in '15, and he had a great time. This year, he was a lot more familiar with the Marvel and Star Wars character, and was a lot less shy about asking for pictures with cosplayers, so a lot of our time was (well) spent on the Kiddo's interactions with the various cosplayers in attendance.

One of my favorite moments was when Captain America had the Kiddo hold his shield for him so he could help Black Widow out with an adjustment to her glove.

Speaking of attendance, MASSive Comic Con was somewhat sparsely attended on Sunday morning. This was nice for us as there was no line to register on-site, but I hope that the vendors did better on Saturday.

I picked up some comics in artists alley, and the Kiddo got a die-cast TIE fighter. We met lots of cosplayers, and got a bunch of freebies from the Ghostbusters group, who were very friendly and welcoming. We had other events that day, so we didn't attend any panels or events, but we all had a good time. In a crowded market of New England conventions, MASSive has been a positive experience for us twice in a row, and we hope to be there again next year.

My full set of MASSive Comic Con photos on Flickr can be found here.


Readercon is something of an odd beast among conventions. No gaming, no media, no cosplay. What it does have is one of the best slates of author guests that you'll find outside of a Worldcon, an all-books dealers room, and a great vibe with people brought together by their love of SF/fantasy in print.

As mentioned, Readercon takes place the same weekend as the much larger Connecticon, which is primarily an anime and video game convention, with strong media, cosplay, and tabletop gaming components. Basically everything you won't find at Readercon. I love them both, and right now, I am comfortable with the pattern of attending the on alternating years.

One thing that I was doing during my visit home this past summer was accumulating a selection of books to take back to Vietnam to read over the course of the school year. To that end, I had solicited a huge list of recommendations from Facebook friends, most of whose tastes run toward SF and fantasy. Readercon was a nice opportunity to pick up a bunch of books on that wishlist. I also attended readings by several authors that I was familiar with (and a couple who were new to me), and went to a "main event" panel where Catherynne M. Valente was interviewed by John Clute.

Some of the highlights of the convention for me were readings by Greer Gilman, Delia Sherman, and CSE Cooney, all of whom I ended up coming home with books from.

My full set of Readercon photos on Flickr can be found here

Magic: The Gathering: Eldritch Moon Prerelease, Battleground Games

The last two summers have been interesting in terms of my Magic playing. I have some opportunities to play in Saigon, but those don't happen all that often, so I am effectively stepping back into the Magic scene blindly on my summer visits home.

Fortunately, my visit did happen to coincide with a prerelease tourney, so I was able to play in one event. I've always played at a lot of different venues around New England, but Battleground Games in Abington is a favorite of mine, so it was nice to get there to do the midnight prerelease. Yes, midnight. As in, starts at midnight. I think I was done around 4 AM or so.

The tourney itself went pretty well for me. I managed to pull of a monored deck, which is difficult to do in sealed, and went 3-1, which got me some prize packs. Not bad for out-of-practice for a year.

That was my last geeky event of the summer visit home, but, as it turned out, not my last geeky event of the summer.

Manga Festival

The Manga Festival was my second convention in Vietnam. Like the Ho Chi Minh City Comic Con that I attended in 2014, this was a mostly open-air event a sports venue that was open, but with a roof overhead. It had something of a street festival vibe to it, with what seemed like almost half of the dealers being food vendors. I brought the Kiddo, and we didn't stay very long (the price of admission was only around $5 US, so I still felt like we got our money's worth).

There were a lot of trinket vendors. We got some anime art bookmarks. There were also several vendors selling Vietnamese-language manga, as well as some Chinese-language manga (from Hong Kong, it appeared). I didn't see anything for sale in English or Japanese, but I might have just missed it.

They had some a main stage with some cosplay dance performances, and we watched a few of those, but there didn't seem to be a schedule that we could see, and the performances had somewhat sporadic timing. The venue was packed, and the crowd was very enthusiastic. Only a few cosplayers, but those were quite popular and were constantly being stopped and asked for photos.

My full set of Manga Festival photos on Flickr are here.

Coming Up

Quick getaway to Vung Tau, Vietnam next weekend. Then the following weekend, it's another convention: in this case, the International Travel Expo here in Ho Chi Minh City. We went to this two years ago, and it was a great source of ideas for destinations in Southeast Asia.

Then in October, we're heading to Singapore. Very excited to add a new country to our (not yet all that impressive, but growing) list!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review Recap For August 21-27. 2016

Three comics reviewed this week. I haven't been doing that much of my own prose reading, but I did finish reading one book with the Kiddo.

On Comic A Day

Bathtub Baby: A true-to-life minicomic about pregnancy by MinDo.

Palookaville #1 (10th Aniversary Re-Issue): A story of life in 1980s Toronto by Seth.

Am I Immortal: To Wake... : A vampire minicomic preview by Shawnti Therrien.

On Goodreads (Crossposted to Amazon)

Junie B. Jones Is (Almost) A Flower Girl by Barbara Park:Read to the Kiddo. This was my favorite of this series so far.

Also This Week

I made travel and hotel arrangements for October's trip to Singapore. Very excited about that!

Also this week, I'm supporting Livvy Blomdahl and her family on Cape Cod as they deal with financial difficulties.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review Recap for August 14-21, 2016

This was my first week with students (after the school's opening got delayed a couple of days due to ongoing construction). Work went well enough that I didn't find myself bring piles of it home, but it was still an exhausting week. In the midst of all of the day-job stuff, I did manage to finish reading a book I'd been working on all summer, and I also got a couple of items in the unread comics stack read and reviewed.

On Goodreads (crossposted to

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin. This is the third volume in A Game of Thrones. I started reading this on the flight back to the USA in June and have been reading it on and off all summer. I actually lost my paperback copy, bought a replacement, and discovered that the replacement copy was one of the split TV tie-in editions that only contains half the book. So I ended up buying another copy to finish it. Glad I ended up liking it!

 On Comic A Day

Maintenance FCBD 2008: A Free Comic Book Day edition from Oni Press in 2008, telling the story of a couple of regular maintenance workers at a very mad-science lab.

Drafted: Free Comic Book Day Edition: Another 2008 FCBD book! I own a LOT of these! I must have been pretty busy that day in '08. This was from Devil's Due Publishing (DDP), and presented an interesting first-contact story as Earth is drawn into an interstellar war.

Also This Week

I wrote up a blog entry on my use of Twitter in my social media series. I also made time to do a little photo safari today, and came back with a few good shots that are posted in this album on Flickr.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How I Use Social Media #2: Twitter

This is the second entry in a series of blog posts about my social media use.

Platform: Twitter (@dandelionstudio)
Followers: 1504

I've been on Twitter for a while, but it took me a long time from first learning about it to actually trying it out. Twitter has something of a learning curve to it. The idea is simple: Post entries limited to 140 characters in length. The flow of using Twitter can be tricky to figure out.

Twitter depends heavily on hashtags to attract common interest (although they are sometimes more used for humorous or other effect), and it depends on the retweeting of others' tweets in order to reach larger audiences. The noise-to-signal ratio on Twitter is enormous, so it is impossible to keep up with everything, or ever to keep up with everything posted by those you follow, once you're following a sizeable number of accounts.

I seldom read my Twitter feed. I'll occasionally glance at it to see if anything catches my interest, but mostly, I'm using Twitter as a way to boost the signal of my other endeavors: My writing, my blogging (this entry will get tweeted), my photos on Flickr and Instagram, and the occasional update on what I'm doing or where I'm going.

I allow myself to get a bit more political on Twitter than I do on other social media, but this usually takes the form of me retweeting the tweets of others, rather than getting directly involved in political discourse.

I follow about 1800 Twitter accounts and am followed by around 1500. I make an active effort to manage and organically grow my followers by adding new accounts and unfollowing accounts that don't follow me back. This is not exactly a recipe for fast growth, but it has allowed me to expand my reach steadily. I have no interest in buying followers, in spite of the promises of the many spam accounts that add me. I'm looking for people with common interests: Writers, readers, comic fans, convention people, travel bloggers and expats, general geeks and nerds.

I've made use of some specialized hashtags. I use the #ff hashtag, which stands for "Follow Friday", a Twitter tradition where users tweet out lists of suggested accounts to follow on Friday.

I also made up a #seenfromsaigonbustoday hashtag for a series of phone photos taken while riding the public busses in Ho Chi Minh City. When I was taking the public bus to work during my first year in Vietnam, I was posting to this hashtag almost daily. I still use it occasionally when I take the bus around town, and I've got a minicomic about the hashtag in the works.

I've also found hashtags to be great for events, as you can easily find other accounts tweeting from the same venue.

While I don't get as much interaction on Twitter as I do on Facebook, I find it a very useful site for expanding my brand, introducing my work to others, and spreading work of my postings on other social media sites.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Review Recap For August 7-13, 2016

This was prep week at the day job, and school starts on Monday, so it was a pretty slow week for me review-wise.

One thing that I did not mention previously is that I also try to crosspost my book reviews on Goodreads over to Amazon. This week's one review appears in all three places.

On Goodreads (Crossposted to Comic A Day and Amazon)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney: The latest chapter book I read with the Kiddo. He liked this one better than I did. This review appears on Goodreads, Amazon, and Comic A Day, since I consider it to be in the vague category of graphic novel.

Also This Week

I'm back to doing the occasional #tbt photo set. I've got a bunch of sets of photos from conventions and other geeky events over the years that I have been gradually posting on Flickr. I stopped last year when I got as far as 2008 in order to give it a break so I don't got through them too fast. With the start of the new school year, I've decided to resume posting throwback sets about once a month, starting with the remaining 2008 sets.

This past Thursday, I posted a set from Bethlehem PA's Musikfest in August 2008,

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Reading Habits of an Expat

When we made the decision to move overseas, one very obvious thing that happened was that, at least for the duration of our travels, my massive library was going into storage.

I bought Gynn a Kindle for her birthday that Spring. This is the logical reading solution for someone living a traveling lifestyle: One small device, and access to books whenever you want one. She likes it, and gets some use out of it, probably about at the level of use she was getting taking books out of the public library back in the US.

I always had the collector's bug when it came to books. My library was like a trophy case to me, so I didn't borrow tend to books, and I was a bit reluctant to taking the plunge into digital reading. I did find that Goodreads made for a reasonably satisfactory alternative to the "trophy case" vibe, but I still had reservations about the Kindle. For one thing, I spend a lot of time staring at screens of various devices, and my reading time is a break from that. And there is a lot I do truly love about printed books.

So when we packed for Vietnam in the summer of 2014, I loaded up my suitcase with reading material. And soon discovered the joys of airline baggage weight limits. Fortunately I hadn't completely overdone it, and all that was required was some shifting and redistributing of books between suitcases.

Upon arrival, I soon discovered the local book shop, which had a decent-sized English-language section that at least covered classics and most current bestsellers. I also found a decent used book dealer in the backpacker district, and I discovered that there was a pretty decent selection available in my school's library.

With two summer trips back to the States under our belts, and starting on our third year in Vietnam, I feel like I have it down to something of a system. I buy books in the US, trying to stick mostly with things not available here, pack them evenly distributed through our bags, and haul them here. When I am done reading them, unless it's a book I'm keeping for specific sentimental reasons, I give it away, either directly to friends, or add it to the "leave/take" book shelf in my school's faculty room.

I buy books here on occasion, especially local interest stuff, and use the school library. I use my Kindle app on my iPad for the occasional ebook. I also bring a stack of comics from the US, and return those to storage each summer.

It's a reasonable compromise between my old-school collector mentality, and the digital-nomad approach that many of my fellow expats take. I've learned to let go quite a bit, but there's still the occasional thrill of finding something like my absolutely gorgeous Grosset & Dunlap Junior Illustrated Library edition of Jane Eyre that I found this summer on the West Roxbury MA public library's book sale shelf for a buck. That's sitting on my bookshelf here in Saigon, and it's coming home with me next June to go into storage for someday when we're done wandering the planet and I get my library set up again.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Review Recap for July 31-August 6 2016

This was back-to-day-job week, with actual classes starting next Wednesday, so things have been busy.

All of my reviews this week come from Comic A Day, my comic book review blog, and Goodreads (in this case, a graphic novel, so it's crossposted on both sites; in such cases I give a direct link to the Goodreads review).

On Comic A Day

All Star Superman #1 (Free Comic Book Day Edition), a promotional comic from DC Comics.

Cars: The Rookie #1 (Free Comic Book Day Edition), another FCBD promo, this time from Boom Studios, in conjunction with Disney/Pixar.

On Goodreads

Star Wars: Jedi Council: Acts of War: A trade-paperback edition collecting a four-issue series from Dark Horse Comics set before the events of The Phantom Menace, and focusing on Yoda and Mace Windu.