Friday, March 6, 2015

Bytemonkey's Pensacon 2015 Recap

It's been five days since the end of Pensacon 2015 and I'm just now finally finding the time to write about it.

If I had to sum up Pensacon in one word. The word would have to be "awesome."  The people who organized the convention and all the volunteers did a great job.  Overall, the vendors and celebrity/artist guests mostly had positive things to say about their experiences at Pensacon this year.

The only hiccup was on Day 2 when the Pensacola Bay Center couldn't handle the number of people attending that day and some 2,000 people were turned-away at the door. Hopefully, the City of Pensacola will take that as a cue  to consider building a proper convention center in area. (I'm sure some economic guru in town has figured out how much economic benefit the town lost from not having a large enough venue for this event. If I find that info, I'll update this post).

For me, there were several events that I enjoyed at Pensacon.  First, it was great to see the vendor area in the Pensacola Bay Center filled with so many geeky things. Overflowing with toys, displays, comic books, pop art, anime, games, crafts, and more, the Bay Center was as wonderful oasis of nerdy geekery inhabited by all sorts of costumed heroes, villains, and fans.

A photo posted by ByteMonkey (@bytemonkey) on

Secondly, the guest panels that attended were informative and hilariously entertaining. This year, I attended the Adult Swim and Start Trek panels held at the Saenger Theater.  In the Adult Swim panel,  Tara Ochs (Too Many Cooks, Selma) and Dana Snyder (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies, The Venture Brothers, etc.) made us laugh while sharing their experiences in the voice acting industry. (It was surreal hearing the voice of Master Shake in person).

A photo posted by ByteMonkey (@bytemonkey) on

In the Star Trek panel, Garret Wang (Ensign Harry Kim of Star Trek Voyager) and Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troid from Star Trek: The Next Generation) were the guests speakers. Garret and Marina split the presentation into two parts with Garret speaking first and Marina finishing up. Both gave a fantastic performance in sharing some of the funny moments of their career. Wang did impressions of George Takei and Marina shared how her she's very unlike her character on TV.  The whole panel was awesome and as a fan, it was amazing.

A photo posted by ByteMonkey (@bytemonkey) on

A photo posted by ByteMonkey (@bytemonkey) on

Thirdly, I attended the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers panel.  The event brought together most of the original cast with the panel consisting of Karan Ashley, David Fielding, Barbara Goodson, Walter Jones, Kerrigan Mahan, Austin St. John, and David Yost.  Having Barbara Goodson (the voice of Rita Repulsa) scream, "Make my monsters grow!"  was a big highlight of the event.

A photo posted by ByteMonkey (@bytemonkey) on

Fourthly, I attended an "Art of Comic Books" panel which showcased several comic book artists. The panel consisted of Derec Donovan, Larry Hama Roland Paris, Steve Scott.  All gave tips to aspiring artists about how to  break into the comic book industry and shared their favorite tools of the trade.  It was great hearing about the challenges and changes that they have experienced in the comic book industry.

A photo posted by ByteMonkey (@bytemonkey) on

Aside from the vendors and attending panels, I managed to meet some celebrities up close. I got to meet the amazing Katrina Law who plays Nyssa al Ghul in the show Arrow which is based on DC Comics' Green Arrow. From Katrina, I managed to get an autographed photo from her. Unfortunately, I was geeking out too much that I completely forgot to take a photo with her.

Speaking of autographs, I got to meet the very talented comic book artist Jenevieve Broomal. I got a couple of art pieces and comic books personally  signed by her.   

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. It was a lot of fun. I don't really remember the last time I had that much fun in my life. At this point, I'm very much looking forward to Pensacon 2016. Maybe next year, I'll wear a costume!  Ha!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Customer Service via Social Media: Who's Doing It Right

Social media has become an acceptable way of communicating with companies. Most major companies have some kind of social media presence, usually on Facebook or Twitter, that allow their customers to reach out to them with their questions or concerns. Consequently, the responses that customers usually receive vary in quality and timeliness. Based on my recent personal experience, AT&T has demonstrated that they are quite capable in providing great customer service using social media.

Quite recently, I had to reach out to AT&T's Customer Care team on Twitter to report that the land line at my elderly parent's home was not working right. It seemed that they had DSL internet service but there was no dial-tone coming through their telephone. This is not a good scenario for elderly people who have a greater need to call out for medical or emergency services such as 911.

Within minutes of tweeting @ATTCares, I received instructions to follow them and to send a direct (private) message to them with some details about service issue. Having reached out to them several months before to resolve a DSL connection issue, AT&T already had most of the information they needed (contact info, account info, location verification, etc) to start the process of resolving our problem. Perhaps it was just luck or perfect timing, but literally within fifteen minutes, there was an AT&T technician at our knocking at doorstep and he was letting us know that they would be working on fixing our phone line.

To say the least, I was impressed by the quick response time. I was even more impressed when I realized it was Sunday, a day when most companies are closed. In the end, the phone line was fixed and I have two happy elderly parents who had been freaking out at the loss of their phone service. (I'm still working on getting them to start using a cellphone but that is turning out to be an impossible task).

 All in all, I'm happy that AT&T was able to resolve our problem rather quickly. As it turned out, the telecom line that we were on was damaged. Granted, this kind of response time  is definitely not the norm, but I'm happy with how they handled this particular issue. Making your elderly parent happy and safe (now that they can dial 911 if there was a problem) is also a plus.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Amazon.com Hates Collectors

For years, I have been an avid customer with Amazon.com but the results of my recent purchases has given me pause and much to consider. With various new collectible items that I have ordered from them, the online retailer has repeatedly sent me items that are damaged or are in a used condition.

Most recently, I made an order from Amazon that consisted of several new graphic novels and trade paperbacks. The items I received had cracked spines, dented covers, and folded pages. It was obvious just by looking at them that they were not new items. Subsequently, I contacted Amazon to let them know about the situation and I was then asked to return the item for a refund. Without hesitation, I returned them, but like a fool, I made a new order of the same items hoping that the good folks at Amazon.com had learned from their mistake and that they would send me items in the condition they were advertised in. Sadly but not surprising, the items they sent me for my second order were also at an unsatisfactory condition.  Eventually, I ordered from Books-A-Million and received pristine new copies of the publications which made me very happy.

In another incident from a couple of months earlier, I ordered a pair of new action figures from Amazon.com and was shocked to discover that they did not care about the condition of the items that they were shipping to me. In this instance, whoever was packing my order decided to fold back the cardboard packaging to make it fit into a small box. By doing son, the folding of the cardboard packaging essentially eliminated the item's collectibility. Without hesitation, I returned the items and demanded a refund which, to Amazon's credit, was a painless process.

In general, the non-collectible items that I buy from Amazon do come in a condition that is acceptable and as described. It is only when I order collectibles that they fail miserably.

Amazon.com needs to educate and train the people that work in their warehouses to be able to identify and item that is considered a collectible and to handle those items wither better care. As it stands, Amazon just hides behind their returns process which unfortunately takes up my time and resources as well as theirs.

So what did I learn? Amazon is not a good place to buy collectible items. The people that work there do not care about condition of the items that you buy from them. They'd rather just have you send their items back and give you a refund than actually be competent in their item handling.  As a serious collector, I have have come to the conclusion that buying from a proper collectible stores, be it online or brick-and-mortar, is probably the best way to get what you are pay for. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Digital vs Printed Comic Books

When I started reading and collecting comic books in the 90's, all comic books were printed. Today, comic books also come in digital format and I'm not sure how I feel about them.

I can see the advantage of collecting digital comic books over printed ones since they virtually take up no space at all. Plus, you're able to carry your whole comic book library with you on your smartphone or tablet. It's basically the same argument made in support of buying music in digital format versus buying them from a music store (Do they still have music stores???).

As for me, I prefer reading and collecting the print version of a comic book. To me, reading a comic book isn't just simply reading a comic book. It's a whole physical experience that involves your eyes, your hands, your nose, and your mind. I pretty much enjoy the feeling of comic books in my hand and the smell of the ink on the pages. As the story entertains me, I observe the visual art of the artists. Their choice of drawing style, colors, and layout all converging to relay a scene. Skilled comic book artist are able to evoke movement, sound, temperature, and emotion in to their art. One needs to truly appreciate these things if one is to truly appreciate comic books.

Digital comics to me seem to lack soul. It's like looking a postcard of Pensacola Beach versus actually sinking your toes in the beach's white sand. It doesn't have the same full effect. It lacks a certain dimension of touch and smell that is unique to printed comic books. Sure, the art is visually there, but it's not quite the same.

I recognize that there are some who see comic books as just periodicals that are to be read and then disposed/recycled afterwards, but I am not one of those men. Comic books to me are pieces of contemporary art and I try to treat them with the respect it deserves. Personally, I want to get the whole experience with comic books.

Do you read or collect comic books? What do you prefer printed or digital versions? Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Developing the Write Habits

I have come to conclusion that I need to develop a writing habit. I need to try to compose something at least once a day (if not more). What I write doesn't need to be a grand opus. I just need to re-learn to be able to sit down and focus on writing.

For me, writing content requires more focus than building and designing websites. I've been making web sites for over 15 years and most of the skills involved in making them comes to me without any effort. As for writing, I've become quite rusty. I have gotten spoiled by having access to professional content writers for my web projects. Using Twitter has also ruined me with it's limited character count. Sure, Twitter has helped me learn to distill my ideas, and my thoughts into short, precise, and sometimes creative messages, but it didn't do much for my full-length writing skills.

Being able to write more than 140 characters is actually quite liberating. I feel like I can convey my message with a lot more clarity. Coincidentally, this blog may become the place where I can expand on topics that would be too limiting (or very annoying to keep posting) with Twitter. (Sorry, I'm still not going back to Facebook). 

On a side note, I noticed that I didn't post a thing in 2014. Not a single post. That's sad. I hope to rectify this in 2015.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

This Monkey is going to Pensacon!

Going to Pensacon

After looking into my finances, it looks like I'll be able to go to Pensacon.  I'm excited. It'll be interesting to see how Pensacola will put on a multi-genre (sci-fi, fantasy, cosplay, comic books, anime, pop-culture, etc.) convention. Supposedly, last year's event turned out to be very successful. Unfotunately, I didn't go last year because of my work schedule. I'm hoping that 2015's convention turns out to be more awesome.  

If you want to learn more about Pensacon, please visit their official website at http://www.pensacon.com

Are you going to Pensacon? Are you looking forward to seeing any of the guests? Will you cosplaying? For me, I'm looking forward to see the comic book artists and if they have any exclusive stuff.

Rediscovering Comic Books

Rediscovering Comic Books

Coinciding with attempts to rekindle my writing abilities, I have rediscovered my passion for comic books twenty odd years later. In my youth, comic books served me more than just entertainment. They were my inspiration and muse for some of my better writing assignments during my academic years.

I love comic books. There I said it. Comic books made my younger self want to read, draw, and write. That desire would eventually evolved into the skills that I use today in my professional career as a web developer and graphics designer.

So, please don't be surprised if you see me talk about comic books on this site amongst other geeky things. I'm even toying with the idea of developing a blog or site just dedicated to comic books. In that way, I can get my writing kick and talk about something i really like. (I should probably write this idea down on a post-it note and stick on the fridge so that I don't forget).

In the twenty odd years that I have been away from comic books, it would seems a lot has happened in the industry. I'm glad to see that most of the writers and artist that I remember are still are still around like Jim Lee, Todd McFarlance, and Jason Scott Campbell. I can see that there's a lot new people and I'm excited to discover their works.

Do you read comic books? Let me know what you're reading and if you have any recommendations for someone who's finding his way back to them.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Write Stuff

I'm trying to make good with one of my personal goals and sitting down to compose something to post on here. Suffice it to say, I am determined to find my lost focus and start writing (and blogging) more than I have done in recent times. 

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I was tortured with so much writing assignments during my academic years that I actually started to enjoy writing. Somewhere along the way, that focus on writing was derailed by a growing interest in we design and graphics design. I'm not saying that was a bad thing. The skills that I learned from doing web development is what keeps me currently employed so that I can pay my bills. At one point, blogging seemed like the perfect combination of my passions and it was for a time. Sadly, my work of building web sites took over my focus as I wanted to get ahead in my career. My desire to develop my writing skills slipped onto the back-burners as I spent my days building websites for people who I found to be far superior writers than I ever was. At that time, I was humbled and discouraged. I focused on what I was good at and I became really good at building websites and tinkering with gadgets and computers.

In what now looks like the beginning of a mid-life crisis, I have decided to start writing again and this blog is going to be a big part of it as I hope to hone my writing skills on this blog. So please bear with me, (or not, nobody's forcing you to read this) as you may start seeing some posts that do not have a tech/geek spin to them. You might even see a haiku or a poem or two from time-to-time.