Convention tips and tricks for Star Trek Las Vegas

vegas_logo_2013The Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas is coming up fast! Trek fans: Do you remember your first Star Trek Convention? If you were like me (a convention newbie in 2011), for your first convention you wanted just three things: to see everything, do everything and know everything. In an attempt to be the most prepared as possible for my first convention, I searched the Internet for any advice or tips I could find for Trek convention-goers. Some of you may remember asking the same questions: Do I need to wear a Starfleet uniform? Do I need to dress up as a Klingon? Do I need to learn the Klingon language? Do I need to eat gagh, drink blood wine and participate in mating rituals? (Okay, maybe not the last one.)

Well, this blog post is NOT an attempt to answer those questions, but I can offer a few tips to those who are new to the convention. These tips may also be useful to those of you who are ‘con veterans’ but are new to the next week’s event, which runs August 8-11.

At the Rio Las Vegas Resort & Casino:

Sign up for a Total Rewards card. Even if you don’t plan to gamble, it’s worth the five minutes it takes to apply online. Have your card number handy when you check in to your Rio suite and you can start earning reward points immediately. Show your card everywhere. Not only can you continue to earn points for comps and deals for future visits to any Caesar’s Entertainment resort, but you’ll immediately reap benefits with shopping and dining discounts while at the Rio. Look for the reduced Total Rewards prices on Rio restaurant menus. Read the FAQs and fine print and shop through Total Rewards retail partners throughout the year — inactivity will cause your points to expire in six months.

rio1

Make advance dinner reservations. Why wait in long restaurant lines with a bunch of overpowering Jem’Hadar? Advance dinner booking may work best if you’re confident you’ll be dining on a particular day and time. For example, if you’re already planning a meetup with your fellow Ferengi for a 7 p.m. Friday night dinner at the All-American Bar & Grille, know you can make that reservation online and not wait for a table. (Not available at all Rio eateries.)

Enjoy the resort and the city. Gamble, shop, eat, drink, go to shows — do all that Vegas-type stuff. Get to know what’s playing and who’s performing, whether it’s part of the convention or not. Relax at the pool. Check out the VooDoo Lounge. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment. Explore one of the new casinos. Smart con-goers pad their stay with a day or two before or after the convention for this purpose. (Also see “10 reasons to stay at the Rio.”)

Ask for a map. Especially if you’re new to the Rio, a small map or smartphone image helps immensely. There’s nothing more humbling (or embarrassing if you’re not alone) than walking for half an hour down the wrong hallway… of the wrong floor… of the Ipanema Tower. Only you suddenly realize your room is in the Masquerade Tower! You could ask for one at check-in or find some handy maps and property info on Caesars’ properties website.

At the Convention:

Pack some snacks. Speaking of long walks, it’s a fair jaunt out from the room towers to the convention wing. Now I (almost) understand why so many ‘non-disabled’ people use those mobility scooters!  At my first two conventions, I found it helpful to pack some granola or protein bars to nibble on between panel sessions. Hopefully, again this year a deli-type food concession will be set up adjacent to the registration rotunda for light breakfast and lunch. You may want to bring along a plastic water bottle to fill up at one of the many water stations.

On a related note: Wear comfortable shoes. Standing, walking, waiting: you’ll need them. Even if you need special footwear to complete a costume or to comply with strict Starfleet (or Guinness World Record) uniform regulations, you’ll eventually want to slip into a pair of flip-flops or sneakers.

Don’t forget batteries and chargers — for the laptops, tablets, cameras, phones, phasers, tricorders or portable transporter devices. I like my Mophie Juice Pack for iPhone – it gives me almost an extra day of usage, while on my cell service network. The alternative is paying $13.95 per day wireless internet access in the room or $22.95 per day for access throughout the resort. Of course for some, like those who require WiFi, those extra fees may not seem like a such a bad deal.

Take your time in the dealers room. You may want to plan your tour around the dealers room. For example, you might compare the dealers room to the galaxy: Divide it into quadrants and get ready to explore… or assimilate. Back in 2011, I had the temptation to run around and see every vendor and celebrity in the first hour of the first day. Now I take my time: talking to the vendors, enjoying the parade of fans, chatting with the celebrities, shopping for souvenirs and collectibles — posters, shirts, jewelry, accessories and props.

az4

Take advantage of phone apps, websites and social media. Regularly check Twitter using the hashtag #STLV. This is a great way to stay in the loop with all the impromptu meetups, breaking convention announcements or last-minute schedule changes. Keep track your convention activities with Bloodhound, a smartphone app developed for business conferences. With Bloodhound, you can customize your own schedule of events, view maps, connect with other attendees, and link to Twitter and Facebook.

az5

Help set a new Guinness World Record for most Star Trek costumes in location. After my blog post on Trekmovie.com about the record attempt, I found a webpage outlining the costume regulations. It’s from a Texas Lottery promotion’s attempt from earlier this year. Please set your alerts and alarms to be there. Hopefully the powers that schedule events this year won’t put competing sessions during the half hour or so it takes to complete the World Record attempt.

Finally, and probably the most unnecessary tip: Have fun! I say “unnecessary” because at my first two conventions, I was so amazed and impressed! There’s no dispute — Star Trek fans are the best! They’re the most friendly, patient, courteous, helpful, fun-loving, tolerant convention attendees! Where else can you find several thousand people with different backgrounds, ages, nationalities (or from different planets?) with one common bond? If the Star Trek community is like a big family, the convention is a big family… on vacation!

Please add to this list: What convention tips can you suggest?

az3

Note: Please check out Trekmovie.com for “all things Star Trek,” including news, information and opinions about Star Trek TV shows, movies, events, science & technology, and celebrities. This article is cross-posted there.

Prescott Valley pioneer statue dedication

Not So Gentle Tamer in front of Prescott Valley Civic Center (photo courtesy Town of Prescott Valley)

Not So Gentle Tamer in front of Prescott Valley Civic Center (photo courtesy Town of Prescott Valley)

While strolling around the Phippen Museum Western Art Show in Prescott last May, a 10-foot tall woman stopped me in my tracks. And I was not the only bystander to stop and take notice of this tall figure. A small crowd had gathered around her and as I quickly learned, she’s a bit of a local celebrity. She’s the “Not-So-Gentle Tamer” —  not just a bronze statue, but the epitome of a western pioneer woman. Looking into her eyes, I could see her strength, courage and determination.

With a rattlesnake in one hand and a hoe in the other, she was attracting a growing crowd at the Prescott Courthouse square. But her new official home is in front of the Town of Prescott Valley Civic Center, 7501 E. Civic Circle. The unveiling and dedication ceremony is at 10 a.m., Saturday, July 27.

At the Memorial Day weekend art show in downtown Prescott, another local celebrity was also drawing some attention. Bob Boze Bell, popular Arizona artist, cartoonist, columnist, writer, radio personality, True West Magazine owner and authority-on-all-things “old west,” stood behind a table signing prints of the colorful painting of the same towering bronze statue. My curiosity peaked. Bell is known for his drawings and paintings of “Old West” characters, scenes and themes, so at first I thought he might be dabbling in a new medium.

He must have seen my puzzled look as I glanced back and forth from the stack of colorful prints of the “Not-So-Gentle Tamer” to the 10-foot bronze statue with the same name, so he proceeded to offer up the short version how his commissioned painting for the centennial evolved into a statue bronze.

The story is a fascinating one. After Bell was asked to create a painting for the centennial, he captured memories of both his grandmothers’ personalities and lifestyles into one pioneer woman character — that of a sweet, but strong-willed rancher’s-farmer’s wife. Bell remembered his maternal grandmother, the wife of an Arizona rancher, would show both a soft side and firm hand. He recalled she could “calmly dispatch rattlesnakes with her trusty hoe.”

Bell’s original painting was so well-received; Prescott Valley Vice Mayor Lora Lee Nye had the idea to transform the work to bronze. Fast forward a few frames: Vice Mayor Nye contacted Ed Reilly, an owner of Bronzesmith, a Prescott Valley foundry, who then contacted local sculptor Deb Gessner, who would agree to create the 10-foot clay-to-bronze representation of Bell’s painting.

Vice Mayor Nye aptly tells about the Arizona pioneer woman characterization of American West in an online video: “The men won the West, but they did not tame it — the women tamed it.”

And many pioneer women, like one Arizona rancher’s wife, were “not so gentle.”

 

Thanks to the Town of Prescott Valley for permission to use these photos.

Cool off with culture in downtown Chandler

IMG_1807Arizonans don’t have to travel far to take advantage of cool, cultural offerings. Five air-conditioned locations in downtown Chandler offer respite from the heat and provide satisfaction for summertime cultural cravings — music, theater, art, film and literature.

At Chandler Center for the Arts, free summer concert performances start Friday Aug. 2 with the Bad Cactus Brass Band at 7 p.m. Other performances are jazz musician Dmitri Matheny on Aug. 16, a blend of flamenco and mariachi — “FlaMEXico!” on Aug. 23, and a music variety show for youth, “Plugged In” on Aug. 24. Tip: Since these shows are free and seating is first-come, first-served, you may want to get there when the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Allow extra time to check out the center’s gallery.

IMG_1810

Xico Arte y Cultura Galeria is an art gallery, shop and studio dedicated to traditional arts and crafts by Native American and Latino cultures. Find jewelry, paintings, multimedia art, folk arts and crafts at the shop, located on the west side of A.J. Chandler Park. Many of the items carry colorful Dia de los Muertos themes. Tip: Check this non-profit organization’s Facebook page for upcoming special exhibits and artist demonstrations. Open Wednesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

IMG_1797

IMG_2366

Stop by the versatile Vision Gallery and view special exhibits: “Decision Portraits by Susan Lenz” until July 26 or “Fine Art Photography by David Miller” beginning Aug. 2. About 300 regional artists’ works are on a rotating display. Don’t miss the popular “Art-O-Mat” — itself a mini art gallery, a showcase of mini art. It’s really a converted cigarette machine. Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tip: Sign up for the gallery newsletter and you’ll get first news about special exhibitions and artists’ opening night receptions.

Cool off with a “hot” read from Chandler Public Library’s Friends of the Library summer book sale. Buy Library discard books at 4 for $1 through the month of July! And if you stop by on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. through Aug. 6, you can watch a showing of one of the flicks in the Get Reel Documentary Film Series hosted by the Library in partnership with Public Television’s Point of View series. Tip: Don’t forget your library card to check out a Cultural Pass for free local museum visits.

IMG_1793

Gangplank, downtown Chandler’s collaborative workspace, comes alive with arts, crafts and music as the indoor location of the Downtown Chandler Art Walk on third Fridays during the summer months. Desks and computers make way for displays of sculpture, photography, painting, ceramics and jewelry from 6 to 10 p.m. So if you don’t have plans yet for this Friday, July 19: Come and enjoy music by Chris Buzan and a glass of wine while you stroll through the exhibits at Gangplank, located at 260 S. Arizona Ave. Learn more about Gangplank and its Wednesday brownbag series talks, health initiatives, community classes, business workshops by visiting the website or signing up for the weekly newsletter. Tip: Park in the city parking garage directly across the street, on the east side of Arizona Avenue. (Entrance to the garage is on its east side — off of Washington Street. It’s No. 10 on this handy downtown Chandler parking map.)

Combine any of these “artsy” venue visits with dinner at one of downtown Chandler’s cool restaurants, and you have the makings of a masterpiece — a memorable night out on the town.

Find AzGetawayTravel on Facebook and Twitter.

What kind of travel-size product consumer are you?

photo 1

Travel sizes, trial sizes, samples, small regular sizes — so many sizes! What size do you pack for your trip? Do you simply toss into your suitcase your regular-sized, daily use products at the last minute? Do you make special shopping trips to the Target travel size aisle and stock up your supply for your vacation? Do you save up complimentary hotel products for future trips? Do you wait until you reach your destination and hope for the best? It seems there’s a different travel-size behavior for every traveler.

First of all, let’s talk about trial sizes and samples. The only time I pack trial sizes would be for a one or two-night road trip, because trial sizes and samples probably won’t provide enough for any longer stays. However, sample colognes, hair treatments and lotions may be a really nice way to pamper yourself while on vacation or at the end of a long day after that out-of-town business seminar.

Some travelers just have to use their own personal products. Of course, if you need specialized hair and skin products because of dermatologist’s recommendation, then you either pack your regular size products or buy refillable plastic travel size bottles to accommodate your specialized shampoos, lotions or soaps. I love my Cerave skin cream, but I’m not tempted to bring a five-gallon tub of it when I travel. My skin will survive a few days with a travel size Eucerin or Lubriderm or even a hotel product.

Some folks are like free spirits when it come to travel sizes. They pack their toothbrush and comb and then depend on the hotel or resort for shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion… and they’re good to go… and stay. If they’re staying at a fairly decent hotel or resort, there’s no problem. Nicer hotels often will provide better lotions and mouthwash. Some may even make available an entire dental kit, with brush, paste, floss, mouthwash and denta-picks. Some luxury resorts may also provide more kits: shoe shine kit, sewing kit, shaving kit, nail care kit and eyeglass kit. There may even be a kit for kaboodles.

Travelers may find some nice locally-made products such as lotions and candles in the hotel gift shop. These make wonderful mementos. Also, there’s a lot to be said for discovering great new lotions and potions when traveling. It’s part of that “ooh-ahh” resort-spa travel experience. At the Wild Horse Pass Resort’s Aji Spa shop, I discovered an excellent, aromatic exfoliating foot soak. I couldn’t leave without buying some “to-go.”

photo 4 (1)

Some travelers like the luxury experience when they choose travel sizes. They will pack their expensive mini bottles of shampoos, conditioners, masks, rinses, mists and lotions in carefully packaged bottles from home. Some will shop onsite for the top local products. They may go to extra lengths to pack them — taping the bottles shut, wrapping in plastic wrap, putting them in waterproof bags then packing them in upscale, luggage-coordinated hanging toiletry bags and shaving kits.

Other travelers are more practical. These folks like to plan their travel size packing, comparing products’ weight, mass, volume, “leak-ability” and make purchases according to trip length. That’s the category I’m putting myself. (Okay, I may be a bit OCD when it comes to travel sizes.) Occasionally, I’m really happy with a certain shampoo I’m currently using, so I’ll buy a refillable container for that, and maybe one for a conditioner. Soaps and shower gels: I’m not so picky. I usually just use whatever the hotel housekeeping staff sets out on the bathroom counter.

For deodorants and anti-perspirants, it’s another scenario. I used to buy a “travel size” but then I realized: the regular size of my favorite deodorant is usually not much larger than the travel size. It doesn’t make much sense to buy a special travel size when the regular size is sold for much less per ounce. And the regular size weighs only two ounces more than the travel size. Next time I see my brand at CVS on sale two-for-one, I’ll grab one for my bathroom cabinet and the other for my travel bag. The same point can be made for hand sanitizer. The small, regular hand sanitizer isn’t much larger than the itsy-bitsy travel size hand sanitizer. Why would you need this miniscule orb rolling around in your luggage or carry-on? Items that small go into some sort of trans-dimensional portal in my bag and are never seen again.

With toothpaste, it’s a toss up. If you’re bringing only a carry-on, you’re required to carry the one-ounce toothpaste, rather than the small regular six ounce size tube. But if you’re checking your bags, a few extra ounces of paste may not make a difference. I could go either way. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I can make a travel size tube of paste last a long, long time.

Now you can’t say the same for mouthwash. It’s a no brainer. Few travelers I know will carry a big jug of mouthwash with them in any kind of luggage. You almost have to get the travel size of Scope, Listerine or other brand. Refillable bottles don’t work well for mouthwash. You may need two or three of these travel size mouthwash bottles — since an ounce and a half of Scope mouthwash is probably only enough for a two mornings. Listerine has a 3.2 ounce size but, if you have a carry-on, what do you do with the 0.2 ounce? Gulp it while waiting in the security line just so your breath is minty fresh for the TSA agent?

photo 5 (1)

Common sense will dictate your travel size product usage. Just ask yourself: Do I need to take my specialized products? How long is my trip? Can I buy items upon arrival? Can I use hotel products? Do I need to be concerned about additional weight and mass in my luggage?

Finally, some hotels have discontinued various complimentary bath and shower products over the years. Some of these I really miss. Holiday Inn used to provide a light but long-lasting hand and body lotion in some of its properties that smelled like a Creamsicle. Los Abrigados Resort’s Sedona Spa line of products at one time included a wonderful coconut-scented shampoo — and it was so rich and creamy. Fortunately most big name resorts often offer their products in online shops. That way, you can purchase that “ooh-ahh” spa experience for your own home.

Find AzGetawayTravel on Facebook and Twitter.

Travel and tourism give rise to quest for knowledge, adventure

photo 4

Although I was already in my 20’s when PBS television show Reading Rainbow originally aired, I enjoyed how LeVar Burton seemed to instill a desire for learning. Following the young book reviewers’ descriptions, Burton invited his viewers to “check it out” or “find more about it.” The end of the show would list related books or activities as a means to follow-up. Such experiences undoubtedly would spark exploration and discovery.

The same can be said of travel. We read about a fascinating destination or exotic location and we want to go there. And sometimes the converse true. As travelers, when we visit a new location, we naturally want to know more about it. Many of us delve into a kind of in-depth research  — finding out all we can about our destination. That’s why travel websites and guidebooks also are — in a sense — concise geographical and historical encyclopedias.

When I visited the Scott Polar Museum in Cambridge, UK, I realized I was merely scratching the surface of information about North and South Pole exploration. I wanted to know more about these expeditions — these men — these “heroes” who put themselves in such extreme and dangerous conditions to reach the ends of the earth – literally. The museum, which houses collections of the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, is continually expanding and developing its displays devoted to expeditions of both Arctic and Antarctic regions. Physical sciences meet social sciences with historical evidence through letters, journals, and photographs — all convening under plate glass displays. Museum visitors learn the gripping tales of polar conquest, perseverance, human survival and sometimes, tragedy. Here, visitors can learn about a bit of everything that represents polar exploration — about regional native cultures and indigenous plant and animal species including polar bears, penguins or tiny marine micro-organisms.

photo 5Exhibits at the Scott Polar Museum tell a story of various expeditions, especially the British led parties. The museum itself is named for Robert Falcon Scott, British leader of the Discovery and Terra Nova Expeditions. The latter team found its way to the South Pole 33 days after a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen, who is credited with the discovery. After a series of setbacks such as foul weather, poor health and unsuccessful rescue attempts, Scott and his Terra Nova team would not survive the return trip. Journals, letters, personal effects, tools, photos were recovered when the bodies were found months later. Some of these can be viewed at the museum. Other museum exhibits describe similar expeditions. One heroic tale involves The Endurance, the ship of Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916. Although the ship became trapped in the ice and the entire crew was forced off the sinking ship, a small contingent of men including Shackleton and Captain Frank Worsley miraculously reached a whaling station and returned to rescue the rest of the crew. There are some amazing videos of The Endurance and the rescue story on YouTube and it has been the subject of many books and films.

So when I asked my son, Andrew Britton — a University College London and Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration graduate, Cambridge resident (and my personal Scott Polar Museum guide) — if he could recommend a book that might describe both geography and history of Antarctica. His answer: “The Roof at the Bottom of the World: Discovering the Transantarctic Mountains” by ASU geologist/SESE professor Ed Stump. I can’t wait to start reading.

photo (1)

Souvenir coasters replicate the domed ceilings in the museum. Each pole is represented, with explorers’ names, expedition ships and geographic features

After my Scott Polar Museum visit, my interest in these expeditions peaked, I now find myself searching for old movies and documentaries about polar exploration on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. I am flipping through out-of-print books, journals and Wikipedia references.

See what travel and tourism do to an otherwise normal person? When I’m not exploring physically, I’m exploring intellectually. A little taste of exploration and discovery — even the satisfaction of reaching that destination — and it only makes you want more. Travel — like reading — ignites the imagination. Remember that famous LeVar Burton-Reading Rainbow phrase? “But you don’t have to take my word for it…”

 photo