I was also working again this year - as Press Liaison. That had its own problems about which I need to write a post-mortem for Arisia, but the major effect on my con was that I missed part of one panel I wanted to see and most of the IgNobels.
I was on four panels this year, moderating three of them.
1. The GamerGate panel. This was... ouchy. Brianna Wu was able to attend and was on this panel but unfortunately she and the moderator more or less dominated the entire time. Two other panelists were almost entirely silenced, which left myself and the other male on the panel. This poor guy happened to freelance for one of the sites that has hosted some GG-friendly content and Wu just lit into him. It was like watching a public flaying and I felt somewhat sorry for him. He thought he was being a good do-bee by volunteering and trying to appear as an ally and I don't think he was prepared to deal with statements like 'the people who sign your paycheck are promoting the work of someone who threatened to rape me.' (That's not a precise quote, but it conveys the gist and harshness.)
I did my best to ... redirect I guess I'd say. I think I was able to disagree without being antagonistic or denying the reality of what these people (almost all women) have faced. Wu was willing to follow me on Twitter afterward so I guess I did OK there. I'm not sure that we made any useful contribution to the discussion, though. I think the audience was fairly knowledgeable coming in.
2. Poly 301. This was the panel intended to deal with the hard stuff, things that don't get talked about in other poly discussions. It was surprisingly well-attended due in part (I think) to the fact that Poly 201 didn't run this year. I think I did a reasonably good job policing the boundaries and keeping conversation focused on the more advanced things without ticking off too many people. That said, this is a huge field of discussion and the resulting panel was somewhat helter-skelter. I might propose that next year we split it into two discussions, based on my on-the-fly taxonomy of "endings" versus "rebalancings."
The audience here clearly had widely varying levels of experience and expectation so I imagine some people left disappointed.
3. Games as Literature. I moderated this one again this year but with an entirely new set of panelists. Last year we talked mostly about digital/online games and this year I wanted to do more with in-person (tabletop, LARP, RPG) and story-telling games. All four panelists were excellent and knew more about the topic than I did, so I spent most of my time framing questions for them to discuss.
One of the panelists on this had also been on the GG panel where she was pretty completely shut out by the goings-on. She was clearly a more shy/introverted and reticent speaker so I tried hard to make space and opportunity for her to contribute. I think she did well. If I may pat myself on the back for a moment: she was wearing a custom lapel button with a drawing of a fierce dragon that said "NO HUGS". After the panel I mentioned that I had noticed her button and offered a handshake. She hugged me! So I must've done something right.
4. Poly Parenting. Again moderating, again the panel was at a terrible time (Monday 10A). At least this year it wasn't during a time when Turtle Track was closed. I'm starting to think that I've said all I have to say on this topic so part of me wants to skip it next year. But I seem to be the only one on the panel willing to talk about some of the parenting challenges - everyone else seems to have near-perfect life & family set-ups. Also, I feel it's important to represent the idea that not all children are Platonic ideals. Our boys both are non-neurotypical and that introduces an additional level of challenge. I really liked that Arisia offered attendees the opportunity to wear "invisible disability" ribbons.
Moderating this was a little harder - partly I felt like I needed to corral and redirect at least one of the panelists and partly I didn't succeed very well with my attempt to pose provocative discussion questions. Not that I feel panels need conflict to be interesting, but if I'm trying to generate discussion on a topic and the panelist's response is "Yeah, not much" that doesn't leave a lot to follow up with.
I didn't make it to any off-site parties, a situation that is making me increasingly sad. The kids are getting older and they mostly coped in excellent fashion... right up to the point where they didn't. We certainly can't leave them on their own and I'm not sure anyone but us should have to deal with them when they Fail To Cope.
The at-con dances were less interesting to me than last year. Friday things started later than late and I was just too tired to cope by the time the DJ started spinning. Saturday's dance was better and I found some time and space to dance until I more or less fell over around 1:30A, but then there was nothing on Sunday.
Room parties were generally good. We went to one invite-only event that was enjoyable, visited two of the three nights of the Lefton-Silber kids' parties, and spent a surprising amount of time in the Helsinki bid party. Every time we thought we were going to head out, more interesting people showed up so we spent time with them.
Friday night we went to the Art Show reception and got to hear a good deal of the Artist GoH's stories about the extensive show that was hung. And we bid on (and won) a very nice but expensive piece that will be up in our bedroom soon. The large piece we also wanted was even more expensive and luckily for my checkbook there was just no way we could hang it anywhere in our house.
Saturday after Poly 301 a group of us hung out in the hotel bar area and had cocktails. This let us have front-row seats to the little mini-dramas in the lobby. Next year there will be more hanging out and drinking with friends, oh yes, but hopefully with less drama.
Overall this Arisia was about a 6 to 7 for me. If I had not been hampered by physical issues and dealing with family things it probably would've been a solid 7. I was sad that my panels Saturday meant I didn't get to see and photograph the belly dance show, usually one of my yearly shooting highlights. I also missed out on snuggle time with loved ones - between scheduling and working and body issues it was a lot harder to get to places and do what I wanted to do.