July 28th, 2008

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Denver NPL convention - Thursday, 7/10

elainetyger finished her con write-up, so I'd better get cracking.

I was (and still am) on a weird schedule of staying up all night and sleeping during the day. My flight Thursday was at 10:29 a.m. and I ended up just staying up from Wednesday. I can't usually sleep on planes but figured I'd nap once I got to Denver, and wore glasses instead of contacts. I wanted to take the M60 bus to LaGuardia and decided my laptop was just too heavy to shlep. Even traveling light, the walk to the bus stop wasn't comfortable, and I started panicking that I hadn't left enough time and should hop a cab. But I took the bus and got out to the airport and checked my bag (solely to avoid hassles with 4 oz. lens fluid) with time to spare.

ennirol was on my flight and we met in the concourse. We kept our existing separate seats since I figured I'd be drowsy. It turned out someone in my row moved up to a premium seat, but I was too groggy to think to ask her to come take it. We spent at least an hour on the runway before taking off. A 20ish guy next to me had been traveling for 13 hours from Tanzania (where his mother installs solar panels) to Dubai, and eventually would go to Sacramento. When I took out the airline magazine puzzle, he suggested an answer. Um...DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I couldn't resist saying I was a national crossword champion. Not a lot of conversation after that. I had my iPod and found disco ("Livin' It Up Friday Night") comforting during turbulence.

We got to Denver late, got our shuttle tickets and bags, and were told because the NPL got such a cheap rate, it wasn't worth the gas to take just us and they wanted to wait for more passengers. Humph, if they offer a rate, they should honor it. Lorinne had coffee, we people-watched a bit (the people in airports always strike me as so non-New Yorky - non-Jewish, and I bet they drive cars, too!), and went back out to the van area where a different driver said he'd take us. We had some girl talk (hope the driver wasn't listening!), and finally arrived at the Inverness. I was getting desperate for a nap.

I immediately ran into ericberlin who collected the money for qaqaq's spa gift we'd planned by e-mail. A group was playing some game or other in the lobby. I didn't really talk to anyone, and felt like a mess in my unattractive distance glasses - as opposed to my unattractive reading glasses. I could get nicer frames, but my eyes are my best feature and they look better with contacts.

I went up to unpack. Besides being tired, I was hungry, so called the operator to see where the hospitality room was. They seemed clueless but eventually gave me an answer. I didn't trust this, so went back to the lobby where the game-players directed me to the same room I was previously told. I collected handouts (but no program), and sleepily greeted a few people. There was not much En food (just fruit) and I knew I couldn't make dinner out of this. It was getting late in the afternoon and I needed as much sleep as possible. So back in the room, I set the alarm for just before the games and hoped I could eat at some point. I hadn't made dinner plans anyway, and didn't know if I'd find people if I showed up downstairs at dinnertime.

I started feeling these shy, out-of-it feelings which aren't rational, considering I know everyone and everyone knows me. But sometimes when I see a large group sitting in a circle playing a game, I somehow feel like I'm not welcome. Usually, you can break in (assuming it's not Jeopardy! or a game that could be spoiled if you hear the content), but it just feels clique-ier than it is. These kinds of thoughts were making me wonder why I was even there (and if I feel this way, what must it be like for an actual newcomer?). Like I said, I was very very tired. I managed to drift off and get about 3 1/2 hours sleep.

Waking up, I washed up a bit, put on my contacts, and felt human again. But wait, the soap had scents and oils and I'm often allergic to that sort of thing. A red blotch formed on my arm. Uh-oh. I really need to bring my own soap. I went down and asked the desk if they had any other soap, but they didn't and suggested I go to the mall the next day. They also said that people sometimes react initially to the altitude, and indeed I'd had a funny feeling in the back of my nose since the airport. So it could have been anything. I had brought 24-hour antihistamines, so took one and hoped for the best.

People were coming in from the ill-fated mountain trip, and newly-nommed Eddy (who shares a similar Montreal-Jewish upbringing with my cousins) hadn't had dinner so I joined him and the Blossoms at the downstairs bar. We were disappointed they didn't have the shepherd's pie mentioned in the room service book, but we all found something to order. Any food would have worked for me at that point. A few others were eating, but we knew it was getting late.

Finally entering the ballroom, we found we'd missed the introductions. So I still don't quite know who was there, or who some people were. I realized today that Salex is the friend of Wrybosh I met at their company's "Wordplay" movie night last fall; he was also at Pleasantville, and every time I saw him over the weekend, I'd think, "That guy looks familiar, but who is he?" The mixer game's mechanics of aabc or whatever didn't interest me, so I used that time to just say hello to people. I was feeling better and better seeing people I really did want to see.

Back to the table for thedan's Hog the Glory. I was very happy with the con program's trivia emphasis, possibly the best program ever. I teamed with Willz and Eddy and we did pretty well, though it's easy to blank out when you're on the line (and, conversely, know everyone else's answers). I loved the theme aspect, which often helped pull an answer out from context. Good game!

Then we took the test for qaqaq's World Series of Wordplay. The questions were hard. Maybe I could have done better with more time (and more sleep), but I'm not sure. I think I got around 13/25, which Qaq later said might have been second-highest woman. saxikath, represent! jangler_npl got an astonishing 24. Has anyone tested him for bionic parts?

Paired cryptics were handed out. I sometimes do them, sometimes not. One year I even arranged all 3 in advance. After finding frequent collaborator Witz already booked, I abandoned looking for partners and went to the hospitality room to get a program. Coming back, I saw G Natural and Xemu in matching T-shirts, asked if they had a game, and they did, starting right away. I had missed Texas Jeopardy in Austin and hadn't watched it since it was unclear if they'd do another session where I could play. So I didn't want to miss this game.

In the group was qaqaq. I knew Noam wrote a special birthday Tripardy for him (but couldn't play since I'd heard a few questions), and it would be around then, but hoped Trip would play this and then they'd do the other game. But soon Brian came for Trip and said he wouldn't be returning (a Denver Jeop replacement player was immediately found). I stayed put, though in hindsight I should have been at the other celebration. I could always have sat in on a later Denver game. Sorry! :(

Meanwhile, Denver Jeopardy was great. Funny costumes, hilarious riffs on Daily Doubles, especially the lunchboy/Holy Tango-esque song parodies. They sang "Roofless Yule" all the way through, but no one could come up with Eminen's "Lose Yourself" (which I must have heard at the Oscars). The game was so much fun we all stayed and watched the next group play.

I think that was it for the night. No plans for Friday, so I could luxuriate in not setting the alarm.
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Denver NPL convention - Friday, 7/11

(I'm not going to link LJ names if they've been linked before. Also, I may have some of the chronology wrong.)

If Thursday was a long day, Friday was even longer.

I got up noonish, and showered using the possibly allergy-inducing soap. I had heard of someone getting the hotel van to the mall and having the van wait while they ran in and got take-out food, so was hoping I could do this to get lunch and soap. I didn't want to walk in the heat, and have to cross a busy highway. Unfortunately, I was told there would be at least a 20-minute wait for the van, then another wait before they could pick me back up (and there was some question of how they would know to come, since I don't have a cell phone), and this would take longer than the time available before the trivia panel. So I was stuck eating fruit from the hospitality room and sticking with the existing soap. This was the biggest lapse I encountered in hotel service. Darn car-oriented America! This is one reason I need to live in New York.

Wandering around after my snack, I was able to get into Noam's Jeopardy game in the break-out room. He and Famulus were both on the trivia panel, so we all had the same time constraints. The game was good, except for people's jumping around the board. I prefer to go in order.

Then the panel. I had been asked to be on it, but declined, partly due to the confidentiality agreements signed when working on game shows, but more because I don't like public speaking. G Natural did the game show portion, and did a wonderful job. The rest of the panelists were interesting, too. I made a few comments from the audience.

Friday dinner was in a nice terrace area. The buffet was fantastic - salads, spinach ravioli (yum!!), chicken, salmon, and beef. Also potatoes and vegetables (?). No fresh fruit desserts, but I was full, and there was fruit in the hospitality room if I really wanted it. So A+ for that meal. I was sitting with G Natural and his sister, and Southwest who turned out to be fast NYT applet solver smwcross (and some other people - sorry, it's all a blur). We still wonder who is zachugly. I was surprised to see Murdoch (a.k.a. Kid Beyond), since Maizie's Facebook status said he performed in Ottawa Thursday. Well, he did, and flew to Denver from there.

After dinner, I joined a game of Ember's not-really-sports trivia in the break-out room. We didn't finish and moved en masse to a table in the ballroom where we hoped to resume later, but never did.

Time for part 2 of the World Series of Wordplay. As mentioned, Sax was the only woman in a formidable line-up. Many of the questions were hard. Even I couldn't get all the really really picky "Wordplay" questions (though I did know a few), and found out later that multiple-viewers Willz and Ucaoimhu were similarly stumped. Qaqaq had great answers to the typical spelling bee questions, which I don't quite remember and thought someone blogged about, but can't find (feel free to quote these in the comments). (Edited to add: Oh right, there's video of this. Thanks, guys.)

In between, we made diorama flats. My partner Jangler was preoccupied with the upcoming final Wordplay round (though no one doubted he'd do well), and I'm not creative so we did a quick and dirty letter bank of piles/ellipses and stacked 3 piles of ellipsis shapes. Indeed, Jangler dazzled in the final round, pulling oscillates/Cass Elliot out of that computer chip stored in his brain.

The after-hours slate was full. First, a Puzzlemaster presents onstage (there was another one earlier, where Gotcha did a pitch-perfect Liane Hansen). Then sproutcm's pub quiz, where I have no memory of who my team was. Then ZD did music ID's and I found I'm definitely a child of the 60s and 70s and know almost nothing after that. I had tentative reservations for tablesaw's 1 a.m. Remote Control, but wasn't sure I really knew that era and he found other people. So I stayed with a few people for Music Man playing live music IDs on a keyboard, and was transported back to Laconic where every song in a similar game sounded like a carnival boop-boop organ grinder.

Then it was time for my 2:30 a.m. slot in tmcay's game, Touch and Go. T always comes up with innovative games, and this was no exception. We had to touch objects blindfolded and then answer questions that involved them in some way. Part of this was preserved on video (thanks to Sax). In this round, we were asked which of the objects, after anagramming the letters, were associated with the:

feet: TROLLS (stroll)
ears: TINSEL (listen)
mouth: RING (grin)
fingers: PANS (snap)
eyes: LEGO (ogle)

I didn't realize that no one else was throwing their hands all the way up (pic by tinhorn2).

Like I said, long day.