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We’ve been at Eastercon over the weekend; drove down from there to parents’ in Nottingham today, and I’ll be here until Sunday 26 April (apart from a brief spell at the SUE-MoT Conference in Loughborough). Kate and Beth are off to Kent tomorrow for more family visits, while I spend a few days working.

Kate sums up the weekend well. The hotel was fine, bed was uncomfortable, didn’t get much sleep (not helped by noisy conversations in the hotel garden below our room), and the food was mediocre.

Meat eaters had daily specials, but otherwise it was the same menu for every lunch and dinner. And practically no vegetables. Ugh. Escaped to the local Toby Carvery (haven’t been in one of those for years!) on Sunday evening to get a pleasantly cheap plate of overcooked veg, and then I felt somewhat human again. Thanks to Fraser for inviting us out. Beth ate an astounding quantity of apple crumble and custard.

Continuing last year’s trend, I attended a single programme item. This year the National Festival Orchestra played the con, and it was a very entertaining couple of hours, marred only by the hall’s doors opening and closing repeatedly (particularly in the first half). If there is a next time (and please, let there be a next time!), don’t let people enter or exit while the orchestra is playing.

I’ve uploaded my con photos to Flickr

My new lens was a lot of fun to play with. I took a lot of photos with it wide open at f/1.4, so I was fighting with the small depth of field, and a lot of my photos were somewhat out of focus. I’ll get better with practice.

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In the feedback session at the end of the con Peter Wareham pointed out the vegetarian food issue and suggested that if even one day's specials had included a vegetarian option (as there were two specials each day) ... and I know one Christian who was at the con and had given up meat who had equal problems as though they were allowed seafood (not vegetarian, I know!) the seafood special was deep fried with stir fry veg and they felt it wasn't particularly healthy.

It would be very interesting to get some figures on how many convention members are vegetarian or at least redmeat-avoidant so we could go to the hotels and say "you have 400 people staying here, plus another 300 visitors, and 23% of those are vegetarian, can we have veggie sausages at breakfast and a decent veggie dinner special which has protein in it?"

During the orchestra bit I saw someone in ops hastily drawing up a sign saying "please wait here, you will be admitted when there is a suitable break in the programme" but obviously either too late or it wasn't adhered to. I've put a note to next year's ops team to have some sort of rubber padding/cushions/sponges to put on door frames to stop them slamming loudly. We already have the oil for squeaking hinges on the list (at LX they oiled the hinges but the door closing mechanisms are basically sealed and squeaky!)

The problem with the orchestra is that I don't think there would have been any change out of £5,000 (possibly more) as professional musicians are about £100-£150 a performance (there were 38 of them!), plus you have to pay to get the scores (38 copies of I think six different pieces) which includes the performance rights fees (I think, or that might be on top), then there's any extra costs for transport, for feeding/watering the performers, for the conductor (Vince and the conductor had long discussions about suitable pieces based on cost, availability and the makeup of the orchestra) and of course there may have been rehearsal costs too.

Not paying for the tech required for a masquerade helps, but not a lot ... so without a decent sized pass-along and cost cutting elsewhere, it requires either sponsorship, a grant or the willingness of a committee to throw that much money and resource at it ... and someone enthusiastic to organise it! It's most likely to return at a UK worldcon I'd guess ... so 2014? :-)

I didn't use my 30mm f1.4 (50mm equiv on APS-C) ... John Dallman was using a 55mm as he likes the extra reach when doing candid portrait.

I shifted between my 18-200 for general con stuff and my 10-20mm for capturing an entire room or landscapes. I had my 70-210mm f/4 but that didn't come out of the bag all weekend.

I noticed that the Odyssey hotel booking form has a section for special dietary requirements. I guess most vegetarians wouldn’t bother filling it out. Perhaps a future con could explicitly ask if attendees are vegetarians or vegans (or other common dietary requirements — I’ve noticed airline food using a list of common options which might be worth investigating).

At academic conferences I’ve estimated that vegetarians make up just under 10% of attendees. I’d take a guess that a con would probably have a higher percentage of people with particular diets.

I did notice that the breakfast-in-bed menu at the Cedar Court included Quorn sausages as an option, and when I asked for some at Monday morning breakfast they happily produced them (along with the comment from the serving chappie that he enjoyed eating them at home!).

The 50mm has been a good choice on a 1.6x body, as I tend to prefer natural light portrait photography. Working at f/1.4 was quite a revelation, as my previous lenses were both f/2.8.

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