Further AI enthusiasm follows...
Originally the plan was to get a suite at the Hotel Fort Des Moines and have a room party, but we waited too long to get the suite and wound up not even getting a room. The crash space we did get was in the Motel 6 out by the airport, about ten minutes' drive away. There was some hope that we could get a suite through the AI party room liaison, but this didn't work out and in the end we wound up having the party in stuckintraffik & Lauren's room, God bless them. tokenfanboy and I packed up the snackage and pop at my place, headed over to the storage area to get the pillows and the cases of Coke, and when all was said and done we got down to Des Moines around 4 PM. There had been a last-ditch effort to find us some space on the party room floor, but the one room left was even smaller than the room we had. Ukyo and his kunoichi offered to share their expansive suite with us, but we demurred. Why should they have to inconvenience themselves because we didn't plan far enough ahead and execute properly? No, Room 815 was the place, and in the end it worked out all right. The party was packed on both nights despite the ancient elevators, and we handed out two of the remaining cases of soda along with half a case of pocky and miscellaneous jelly & pudding candies, to say nothing of the registration flyers. Kale had also loaded some new AMVs onto the Room Party Kit's hard drive, including the one that provides the music for this post, Indifferent Productions' screamingly funny "Stop The Rock/Can't Stop The Rock" based on Apollo 440's tune and featuring a lot of anime dance clips. Sweet!
The hotel itself...it was a historic landmark originally built in 1918, and at times it showed. There were only three elevators, and on Saturday the hotel took one of them out of action by restricting it to the hotel staff. They also blocked off three of the five staircases, which made getting between floors a real exercise in patience or a serious strain on the knees. On the other hand, there was oodles of function space split between the second and third floors, the hallways were adequately wide, and the staff was friendly and helpful. The A/C was overloaded, but let's face it: you put 1500+ people in a hotel, it's going to get hot and sweaty. The only question is how much.
AI itself kicked butt this year. Six video rooms on two floors run from a central control station, an excellent cosplay (so I heard; I never go to the damn things) lots of quality programming including workshops on making cat ears and Shrinky Dinks, a registration process that incorporated the recommendations I made last year and as a result flowed very smoothly indeed despite having over 500 walkups. Yes, that means they had 1000 pre-registrations. I can't take all the credit, obviously; AI Reg Guy Jon Maakestad is very competent and had things well in hand. Too bad he's not going to do it again next year, but I can understand all too well the burnout he's experiencing. The AI consuite was much more roomy this year and had a much wider variety of munchies & fluids than last year, so it was a 300% improvement over the 2003 edition.
Same goes for the Recharge Room, f/k/a the Volunteer Consuite. Bigger, better equipped, and with two sleeping rooms on either end of the big-ass parlor with oodles of comfy furniture, this was the platinum standard for volunteer care. There were two sandwich grills, two waffle irons, one humungous soup warmer (one of the grills and one of the waffle irons was in a Hello Kitty pattern) plus lots and lots of vegetables & fruits both dried and fresh. Lots of Gatorade, lots of milk, lots of meat and cheese and other sandwich fixings. All totally fabulous, and I haven't even started on the massage gear...whoa. Just whoa. You talk about taking care of the troops...damn.
Christina Ferris did her usual awesome job running AI's volunteers, only better. Volunteer management was computerized with a board indicating who was needed where and when, Q-cards a la CONvergence, great new AI Volunteer Squad T-shirts, and an absolutely huge selection of prizes one could buy with one's hard-earned ConBucks. Yeah.
Me? I had a good time. Even though I "wasted" my Saturday by spending most of it at the registration desk, and spent a lot of Friday and Saturday nights in the room party, I had a very good time. I saw lots of friends from previous conventions, made some new ones, enjoyed all the eye candy going by (found my camera on the way back to Minnesota, too) and didn't buy too much aside from Khaiya, a copy of Read Or Die, an AI T-shirt from 2001, and a pre-reg for AI 2005. It would have been nice if phoenixalpha could have made it down, but when you're sick you're sick.
All in all, it was a great weekend.
Some parts crossposted to animedetour