Duncan da Husky
27 September 2012 @ 06:11 am
This is your annual reminder that the pre-registration rate for Midwest FurFest memberships will be going up after September 30! Pre-Registration is currently at our special early-bird $30 rate; starting October 1 and at the convention, registration will be $40. Sponsorships and shiny sponsorships rates will not change.

If you miss out and have to register after October 1, why should you even bother? Well, there's two reasons: First, every pre-registration gives us a better idea of how many people we need to plan for, how many con books to print, how many sponsorship gifts to purchase. Second, and more important, we have completely re-engineered our Registration system this year. Pre-Registered badges will be pre-printed and distributed at a separate location from those registering at the door. We want to make your registration process simple and speedy, and get you on your way to enjoy the convention!

You can pre-register at https://www.furfest.org/page/registration

Go! Do it now!
Duncan da Husky
28 June 2012 @ 07:23 am

Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. You can comment here or there.

Last night we put the call out to the interwebs: “We’ll be at Walt Disney World Dec. 1-4. For you Disney fans: If there’s one thing you think we must do/see while we’re there, what is it?” We got a lot of fantastic suggestions, including (links added for future reference):

That seems like a good list to start with, but if anyone else has further suggestions, we’d welcome them! Additionally, our travel agent, TC, suggested a great book Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World 2012. Dan picked this up on iBooks last night and it looks like it has a ton of useful info.

(Side note to anyone who has ever accused me of overplanning our vacations: After looking at some of the Disney websites, reviews, and guides, I have to say that these people make me look positively relaxed and easygoing! :-)

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Duncan da Husky
18 June 2012 @ 11:40 am

Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. You can comment here or there.

This morning I had a followup appointment with my eye doctor. He had noticed some minor stria (stretching) in the flap in my right cornea in my exam last week and wanted to see how that was healing.

So the good news is that my vision in both eyes right now is 20/30. The bad news is that it should be better than that. My left (dominant) eye is healing perfectly and objectively everything looks great. The doctor is somewhat mystified why my vision is not better in that eye, but we agreed to let it continue to heal and see if it improves over time.

My right eye is definitely weaker than my left, and the doctor is further concerned that the stria could be affecting my vision there. I left with instructions to up the antibiotic eyedrops I’ve been using from twice a day to four times a day. On Wednesday I will go back to his office and he will lift and reset the flap in my right cornea, a quick office procedure, I’m told.

I’m not really happy about these issues, but I want to stress that my vision is still pretty good and I’m not having any second thoughts about the surgery. The human body is a fantastically complex system, and the process of “damaging” that system and allowing it to recover (heal) is not a sure process. Both my doctor and I believe that my vision will continue to improve; in fact, he mentioned that he feels that the aforementioned presbyopia we thought was imminent may have been pushed back by several years due to the surgery.

Fun times, but that’s the way it goes. More updates as warranted…

Duncan da Husky
14 June 2012 @ 11:14 am

Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. You can comment here or there.

Seven days ago I underwent LASIK surgery. Here is an update on how things have gone since. (A report of my initial experiences can be found here.)

I wisely chose to spend most of last weekend indoors. Although I’m not having a lot of light sensitivity, I decided to err on the side of caution. I picked up a pair of cheap wraparound sunglasses from Amazon and those served me reasonably well when I ventured out to walk Buddy. For the most part, though, I stayed inside and took it easy.

On Monday I returned to the doctor’s office for a checkup again, as my distance vision had been good, but not quite where it should be on the Friday before. This was much better. Interestingly, although things were a trifle blurry when I covered one eye and tried to read the smaller print on the eye chart, when a diffraction grid (piece of plastic was many small pinholes) was placed over my eye, everything snapped into focus nicely. This is how the doctor differentiates between problems due to an inaccurate prescription cu into the corneal flap and deficiencies due to the eye needing to heal more. In this case, my prescription is perfect, my eye just needs more healing time.

At work, things have been pretty good. I haven’t had to expand fonts or zoom in on documents. I have a 22″ monitor that I have about 18″ away from my face right now (I’ll be moving that back as things progress). My 14″ laptop screen is about 30″ away from my face and I need to lean in to read that still. My friend Jet had an excellent suggestion, though – once an hour (or so) I try to turn my attention away from the computer and let my eyes relax some – walk to the bathroom, get a drink of water, or just close my eyes for a few minutes.

The other thing that I’ve noticed is that I am definitely having “good eye days” and “bad eye days,” as demonstrated by my consumption of eye drops. My doctor has been kind enough to supply me with 30 boxes of Refresh Optive eye drops (each box contains 5 plastic vials, and each vial is good for about 3 uses). On a “bad day” I’ve found that I may go through 10 vials, applying drops every 15-20 minutes. On a “good day” I’ll use half of that. Because the free samples will only last so long, I have ordered a couple of bottles of Systane Ultra eye drops from Amazon. The price is a little less than the Refresh Optive, but from my research it appears that Systane is slightly better at relieving dry eyes. I expect to continue to have good and bad days for the next 4-6 weeks, but it’s a minor annoyance compared to the overall improvement of vision I have after the surgery.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the eye guard that I’ve had to wear each night while I sleep. Imagine something like goggles, held on by an elastic strap that goes over your head. For the last week I’ve slept rather poorly because this guard tends move around on my face and requires re-seating every so often. It’s been a minor annoyance, but nothing debilitating. The good news is that I only have to use that for a week, so tonight will be the last night with it, and then I’ll be done.

The purpose of the eye guard, of course, is to prevent you from rubbing your eyes while you sleep. I had a heart stopping moment a few days ago when I woke up, removed the eye guard, and rubbed my eyes. Waaaaugh! Fortunately, there was no harm done, but man that is an unpleasant way to wake up! It just goes to show that you have to think about what you’re doing whenever your hands go near your eyes, even if you’re only half-awake!

I have another follow-up appointment with the eye doctor on Monday, and I’m expecting to see even more improvements then. I’ll be sure to post more updates as time goes on!

Duncan da Husky
10 June 2012 @ 10:21 am

Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. You can comment here or there.

Or, “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Laser”

About 65 hours ago from when I started writing this post, my vision changed rather radically. Some backstory first:

I started wearing glasses when I was three years old. For the last 41 years I’ve always worn glasses of one kind or another, save for a stint of about a week in my mid-20′s when I attempted to wear contacts…and failed. I never mastered that whole “putting your finger in your eye” thing, unfortunately. I wouldn’t say I’m phobic about things touching my eyes, but I am certainly extremely uncomfortable about it. I don’t know what my vision was without my glasses specifically, but I was very nearsighted – anything more than 18″ away was a blur, and after six feet it was just hazy, indistinct shapes.

About five years ago, Dan and I started talking about LASIK for me, first as a 40th birthday thing, then as an ongoing possibility as we got our finances in order. This year we finally decided to pull the trigger.

Read the rest of this entry »

Duncan da Husky
05 February 2012 @ 09:36 pm

Once upon a time, we announced that we would be taking a cruise in December, 2012. Well, following some changes in plans and some freeing up of vacation days available, the trip has morphed into a NINE-DAY VACATIONPALOOZA!

OK, maybe that’s a little overstated. However, what we have now is a four-and-a-half-day extended weekend in Orlando, Florida, followed by a four-and-a-half-day Bahamas cruise/weekend in Miami. We would like to invite folks to join us for one or the other or both!

Here are the specifics:

On November 30, 2012, we will fly into Orlando right after work. We will be staying there through Wednesday, December 5. Our accommodations will depend on how many people will be joining us. If just a few (or none) we will probably get a hotel room, but if we can get at least a few more folks we can look into a vacation rental house/townhouse. This will drop the cost per night way, way down, plus we can cook a couple of meals ourselves and save some money on food. We will also definitely be renting a car while we’re there.

What will we be doing in Orlando? Well, I hope that we will be able to look up some of our friends down there and at least say hi! We’ll be visiting one or more Disney parks, and for Disney geeks the coolest thing is that as a Siemens employee Dan can get a limited number of tickets into Base21, the Siemens-owned meeting area/lounge located in Spaceship Earth. In addition to Disney, we will also want to go to Universal Studios, as well as other nifty things to see in the area. Note that December 1 is Dan’s 36th birthday, so we’ll be sure to do something special that day!

On Wednesday morning we’ll pack up and head out early for the Port of Miami. There we will board the Celebrity Reflection for a three-night cruise to the Bahamas (ship info: http://goo.gl/Vl2hC and cruise info: http://goo.gl/MF7HI). This cruise will be the inaugural Caribbean cruise of the Celebrity Reflection, which launches in October, 2012. Not only will it be a spiffy new ship, it will be the biggest and most modern ship in Celebrity’s fleet. The ship will visit Coco Cay, Bahamas and Nassau, Bahamas, and then will return to Miami at 8 AM on Saturday, December 8.

So, what will the cruise cost? Well, that all depends on your accommodations. An interior cabin is cheaper than a balcony room which is cheaper than a suite, naturally. We’ve worked up a spreadsheet to help you estimate the expenses and see how it fits with your budget. You can find it at: http://goo.gl/3r74q

Once the cruise is over, well, plans are a little up in the air. Depending on airfares it may be cheaper to go back to Orlando and fly home from there, but if possible we’d like to explore Miami a bit and fly home from there. We’ll see how plans work out once we know who’s with us and what they might be interested in.

So we have two awesome vacations (or one big vacation), and we would love to share the fun times with friends. Who wants to join us?

Current Mood: happyhappy
Duncan da Husky
23 November 2011 @ 02:44 pm
Oh my goodness, what a convention. It scares me to think that Midwest FurFest 2011 was my 12th MFF - twelve years of doing this. Yikes.

This was also my second year working as Hotel Liaison with the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. In one sense it was easier but in another it was a little more difficult - I knew the lay of the land and what my proper role should be, however a few months before the convention we were surprised by the sudden resignation of our hotel contact (to go to the Hyatt Regency Woodfield, ironically). Our new contact, Matt, was promoted from Meeting Concierge (who work with meeting organizers the day of the meetings to make sure they have what they need) to Convention Services Manager (who work with meeting organizers before and during the convention to nail down all of the little details).

I won't lie - I made Matt earn his keep, but he did very well. I filled his inbox with emails and lists (and lists, and lists of lists). He put up with me and my special OCD tendencies, and I think that between us we totally rocked the convention preparations. There's still plenty of room for improvement, mainly in convention preparations and scheduling stuff that the average attendee never sees, but I'm sure that we'll do even better next year.

I know better than to try to list things day by day, because honestly by now it's all a blur. What did my days consist of? Up at 7 AM, shower, check emails and monitor Twitter/Facebook. 8 AM, check with Security and other departments to make sure no one burned down the hotel overnight. Check in with Gir or Cheetah to make sure they were good for their shift. 9 AM - 10 AM, morning meeting over breakfast with chairman and staff leads to discuss any convention-wide issues or problem children. Check social media again, respond to any queries/issues there. Hit the floor and start the rounds of the hotel, checking in various parts of the con and making sure everyone was happy. Put in a shift or two as Hotel staff on call. Check social media. Get lunch around 3 PM, typically a quick bite from the staff lounge. Roam some more, check social media, then a real dinner. Go off duty around 7 or 8 PM (unless I was on call for the night). That about sums it up.

I had two fine folks helping me out in this craziness: Gir and Cheetah. This was Cheetah's first year on Hotel staff and Gir's second, and both of them did utterly fantastic jobs. It is awesome to know that I have people whose judgment I trust and I can utterly rely on to just make it all work. And it doesn't hurt that they're both awesome friends!

Somewhere in the middle of all of this (Friday night, to be specific), Dan and I celebrated the ten-year anniversary of our commitment ceremony with a Renewal of Vows and Civil Union ceremony (now that CU's are legal in the state of Illinois). It was an amazing event, with scores of our friends joining us. We had a beautiful cake for the occasion, and Matt from the Hyatt surprised us with a huge tub filled with ice and bottles of champagne. I know that several folks took video of the ceremony, and we have a ton of pictures to post as well. And after the whole event, we had one hell of a party! It was a great night for us both, and I was so glad to spend it with so many friends.

The rest of the convention went extremely well, and as always we succeeded in making our charity cry. The convention attendees raised around $6,000 for them, and the convention was able to add a check for $12,500 on top of that. I have to admit that I always love that part of Closing Ceremonies! Once the convention was all taken down and stowed for the night, we retired to our room for a final shindig where we welcomed a small number of friends to join us. Nothing too crazy, but a really nice way to wind things down.

So now we take a break, rest and recuperate. The ideas are already flowing for next year, and it's safe to say that I don't see us as a convention resting on our laurels any time soon.
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Duncan da Husky
29 June 2011 @ 09:03 pm
Oh yes, there was one more very important thing that happened on the cruise. I am a terrible husband for not mentioning this sooner, and for that I deeply apologize to takaza.

The first night of the cruise, we gathered with some of our friends in our room after dinner. It had been a long day, I was tired (and a bit sweaty and a mess). All of which explains why I look so horrible in these pictures:
The Proposal 1The Proposal 2
Many thanks to rustitobuck for these pictures!

Dan and I have been together since 1998, and we celebrated our commitment ceremony on November 18, 2001. This cruise was, in part, to commemorate our tenth anniversary. That first night of the cruise, Dan knelt on one knee and popped open a ring box to reveal a lovely simple white gold band. He asked me if I would renew our vows on the tenth anniversary of our first commitment ceremony. And so it will be that on Friday, November 18, 2011 at Midwest FurFest we will have a small ceremony to renew our vows and officially join in a civil union in the state of Illinois. Expect one hell of a party to follow in our room that night :-)
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: lovedloved
Duncan da Husky
29 June 2011 @ 12:40 pm
The final travel announcement we have this week is a two-fer. As you know we recently completed an Alaskan cruise. The downside of this is that...we’ve been bitten by the cruising bug. We had so much fun that we want to do it again. To that end, we have not one but two cruises planned. Don’t worry, we’re making these announcements way early so you have time to start planning and saving if you’re interested. Here’s what we have in mind:

First up: A 3-night cruise to the Bahamas - December 5, 2012 through December 8, 2012!

This cruise will be the inaugural Caribbean cruise of the Celebrity Reflection, which launches in October, 2012. Not only it be a spiffy new ship, it will be the biggest and most modern ship in Celebrity’s fleet. We’re proposing that folks fly to either Fort Lauderdale or Miami on the evening of Tuesday, December 4, and spend the night in the area. On Wednesday we’ll make our way to the Port of Miami and board the ship sometime after 10 AM. The ship will visit Cococay, Bahamas and Nassau, Bahamas, and then will return to Miami at 8 AM on Saturday, December 8. We’ll spend the night in the area then fly home on the next day.

So, what will all this cost? Well, that all depends on your accommodations. An interior cabin is cheaper than a balcony room which is cheaper than a suite, naturally. We’ve worked up a spreadsheet to help you estimate the expenses and see how it fits with your budget. You can find it at: http://goo.gl/3r74q

Interested? Leave a comment here or contact us by other means and we’ll add you to the list of interested folks.

The second cruise is even further out, but we wanted to make mention of it now to get it onto people’s radars. We loved Alaska so much, we are going to going back there in July of 2013. We don’t know what ship just yet (though there’s a good chance it will be the Celebrity Millennium) or what the itinerary will be, but as that comes available we’ll be sure to spread the word.
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: excitedexcited
Duncan da Husky
28 June 2011 @ 12:31 pm
It’s that time again! No, it’s not time to butter the cats, it’s time to talk about travel. In past years we’ve made some amazing trips: Napa Valley, Pacific Northwest, Montreal, and Alaska. For 2012, we’re planning an awesome extended weekend and we would like to invite our friends to join us. We’re going to NEW ORLEANS!

Plans are still being worked out, but the idea right now is that the trip would be from March 1, 2012 through March 6, 2012. We would fly into New Orleans on the evening of Thursday, March 1, and fly out the afternoon/evening of Tuesday, March 6. We will be staying in a hotel in downtown New Orleans. We’re going to try to incorporate some of the things that everyone loved about cruising into this trip. This means that while we’re all staying in the same place, meals and activities will be on an a la carte basis - if you want to join the group, great! If you want to go off an do your own thing, that’s great too.

Plans for the trip are still rather vague right now, but will be nailed down as time goes on. You can be certain that we’re going to be eating a lot of really good food and enjoying some tasty booze. We will probably have a couple of native guides (including Genet’s brother, an officer with New Orleans Police Department), and will have the opportunity to see parts of the city and its surroundings that your average tourist doesn’t get to see.

The nice thing about the a la carte approach is that you can RSVP as long as airfare and hotel rooms are available - we’re keeping things flexible! We will need to know who's going with us, though, so we can possibly negotiate for group discounts and such.

So now it’s your turn: Are you interested in joining us? Leave a comment here or contact us by other means and we’ll add you to the list of interested folks!
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: excitedexcited
Duncan da Husky
27 June 2011 @ 12:24 pm
And after all that I neglected to post a link to our photos. Here they all are, conveniently sorted into day-by-day sets. You can also see the pool of pictures that everyone in our group took.
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: forgetful
Duncan da Husky
26 June 2011 @ 09:18 pm
So instead of giving a blow-by-blow description of everything that would take me possibly another 3-4 weeks to write, I'm going to cheat and use the review that I wrote up for cruisecritic.com (an invaluable resource for cruise-related information, no matter what cruise line you're using). Here we go...

Our accommodations...Collapse )
Dining Options...Collapse )
Activities, Service, and Entertainment...Collapse )
Port and Shore Excursions and DisembarkationCollapse )

This was an amazing trip, and in response to the question of whether we enjoyed ourselves or felt it was worth it, I will say that we put down a deposit on a cruise to Alaska in 2013 on the last day of cruising. We're looking forward to cruising with Celebrity again!
Duncan da Husky
26 June 2011 @ 09:03 pm
(Picking up our story where we left off, on Thursday afternoon)

After a couple of beers, we walked back to B&B and relaxed a bit, joined not long after by Dan and company. Soon, it was time for dinner, so we walked back downtown to Glacier Brewhouse. This is a noted restaurant in Anchorage, a huge and busy place. We managed to secure private dining room which worked very well for us. Our group was joined by plonq, atara, and rustitobuck. We enjoyed a great meal and great beer, and then we closed out the night with a walk back to B&B.

Friday, May 27
Everyone was up bright and early. At 9:30 AM, the B&B was kind enough to haul us and our luggage in their van to the Anchorage Marriott, which was only 6 blocks away. Check-in for the cruise was easy, only taking 15 minutes. We left Dan and Atara at hotel and the rest of us walked over to Snow City Cafe, where we were joined by foxfeather and mbala to bring our full group to 18 strong. Breakfast was quick and quite delicious! We finished up just in time to head back to hotel. Our group was split between two buses. The buses took us to the airport, where we caught the Celebrity Cruises train to Seward, our eventual embarkation location. Seward is approximately a 3-hour's drive or a 4.5-hour train trip from Anchorage.

The tour guide/waitress in our car was extremely friendly and gregarious, and was always full of useful information. Unfortunately, Roho, Genet, Rhene, Rasslor, Brophey, and Karwood were not so lucky. They were two cars back, and their guide/waiter was less chatty, and their rail car was quite raucous and loud.

We took a lot of great pictures on the trip, but I have to say that after about three hours I was ready for the trip to end. If it were my choice in the future, I'd prefer to drive to Seward, or at the very least take the bus.

We arrived in Seward at 5:30 PM. Embarkation was painless. We had accelerated boarding since we were in a suite, although those in Concierge Class had it easy as well. Surprisingly, to board the ship we had to go through a screening similar to airport, though with less the irradiation and/or groping. We had no problem going straight to our room once we were on the ship, since we arrived relatively late.

We dropped our carry-on bags in our room and went off to tour the ship. We started off at the top of the ship and worked our way downward. Two decks in, we found the Riviera Bar by the pool and started out with the first drink of the cruise, a Long Island Iced Tea.

This is a good time to talk about one of the really nifty parts of the cruise: the Premium Beverage Package. What a great deal! It costs about $50 per day, but keep in mind that only (weak) coffee, water, and juice (mornings only) are free on the ship - everything else costs. Espresso drinks, sodas, and of course alcoholic drinks typically cost between $5 and $10 each. You can see how it quickly adds up! Additionally, there's the question of convenience - how much is it worth to you not to have to worry about expense every time you order something? Sure, it's part of the marketing, but it's very true.

All that walking was thirsty work, so I picked up another drink along the way and then it was down to the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 4 to secure seats for the muster (formerly lifeboat drill). This is much more streamlined than in the past. There were no life jackets, just a presentation by the crew along with shipwide announcements by the Cruise Director. The whole thing was over in 15 minutes, and then it was back to the room to unpack. We met up with the rest of our group for dinner at 8:30 PM in the Metropolitan Restaurant, the main dining room of the ship. Although you can choose "Select Dining", where you show up whenever you want and they seat you at the first available table, we opted for "Traditional Dining" for our group. This meant that we had dinner every night at 8:30 PM, but had the benefit of having the same tables and the same waiters every night. This was a very nice arrangement for us and I'd be all for it the next time we cruise.

Next up: The Fast Wrap-Up of the Cruise!
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: busybusy
Duncan da Husky
22 June 2011 @ 09:21 pm
So, a long time ago (back in April, 2010) we started to plan a cruise to Alaska. Last month, it was time to make it happen!

We left on Wednesday, May 25. takaza and I worked a half-day, and then his mom was kind enough to drive us to Milwaukee Airport (and keep an eye on Buddy while we were gone). We had a 2:10 PM flight on Frontier Airlines, our first time flying with the carrier. We upgraded our seats to "Classic Plus" on all legs; it was probably too expensive, but it was worth the perks, especially guaranteed seating in the "Stretch" section of the plane. Four inches doesn't sound like a lot, but it can make all the difference in the world when you're flying 8 hours! Among other benefits, we were able to use the "Best Care Club" at Milwaukee Airport while waiting for our flight, and we had priority boarding, which was utterly awesome since it meant we were usually the first passengers to set foot on the plane (yay for always having overhead bin space!).

The 2.5 hour flight to Denver was uneventful. I liked the DirecTV at each seat; it distracted me enough through our flights that I didn't use the iPad that rustitobuck had so kindly let me borrow for the trip. Once we got to Denver, things looked bad - first our flight to Anchorage was delayed a little, then a lot, then back to on time. It turns out that our plane (which was coming from Chicago, irony of ironies) had a mechanical problem, so they provided us with a new plane.

The five-and-a-half hour flight to Anchorage was fine, but a little long. The Anchorage Airport was OK as well, though it seemed a bit of a maze to the unfamiliar traveler. We took a cab to our accommodations: Earth Bed and Breakfast. On the way, we passed a crowded park filled with people walking around and enjoying the lovely weather...except it was 10 PM and as bright as if it were 3 PM.

So, how was our stay at the B&B? I'm going to cheat and copy the review that I posted to TripAdvisor, since that covers everything.
How can I give a high rating and yet not everyone in our group enjoyed our stay? It's very simple - our expectations and reality were different. I have encountered two types of B&Bs: the first is similar to a small luxury inn, the second is more like staying with relatives. Earth B&B is definitely the latter, but our group was hoping for the former. This is not Lori and Ronda's fault at all! They were impeccable hosts - friendly and accommodating (heck, Lori mentioned she could have driven us to Seward, which probably would have been a much more interesting trip than the train ride we took there!).

The rooms were spotless and the beds were comfortable. The living room was comfortable and a pleasant place to chat with friends. The breakfasts had a nice variety of cold foods and a home-baked bread each morning. If pressed for something negative to say, it was mentioned by some of our group that better room-darkening curtains/shades would have been appreciated as they acclimated from Eastern Time to Alaska Time. This is relatively minor, though.

Part of the problem was that we had two groups of three and my partner and I, plus another couple we didn't know, all sharing two bathrooms. This can get a little cozy, and when you're trying to get everyone rolling in the morning can introduce significant delays. As long as you understand that there is one bathroom to share between two rooms downstairs and another bathroom to share between two rooms upstairs (the third upstairs room has its own bathroom) and are comfortable with that, you'll do just fine.

In summary: Earth B&B offers incredibly good room rates, great rooms and comfortable beds in a welcoming environment. As long as you are OK sharing a bathroom (or can get the Mt. St. Elias room, which has a private bathroom), I would recommend them highly!

roho, enveri, Rhene, karwood, brophey, and rasslor stayed at the B&B with us (those six people, in two rooms - you can see why it was a bit cramped!). The change in time zones hit several of us hard, particularly Roho and Genet (and Rhene, who was from Denmark - I don't even know how he managed to stay awake!). Once everyone was awake and rolling, though, we walked the 8 blocks or so downtown. We passed a huge number of tourist joints selling many and varied Alaska-themed tchochkes, all made in China.

Our first target was the Official Iditarod Store. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to find it in a dying mall. It was pretty sad, too. There was a limited amount of unique race-related stuff - mostly just generic crap that they had printed "Iditarod" onto. Dan picked up a few trinkets and we moved on.

We were joined for lunch by Roman and Austin at Sack's Cafe', the first of a series of excellent restaurants that Yelp helped guide us to. After lunch we walked around a bit more, but my foot was starting to bother me so we split up and I went to Humpy's with Roman and Austin, where we chatted and enjoyed inspecting their beer list. We were later joined by Karwood, Brophey, and Rasslor.

That's all for now. Part 2, coming up soon!
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Duncan da Husky
05 June 2011 @ 09:25 pm
We went to Alaska. We just got back.

It was an awesome trip. We're utterly exhausted. More in a day or two. Expect many tons of pictures.
Current Mood: exanimateexanimate
Duncan da Husky
15 May 2011 @ 03:49 pm
Bless me LiveJournal, for I have sinned. It's been three months since my last entry, so I suppose I should talk about what's been going on, even though there's been nothing really that notable. I should say that I do keep daily tabs on what's going on on both Twitter and Facebook, so my life isn't completely lost to the ether, but I do like to occasionally document important stuff here.

So, the highlights from February: Had my annual review at work and everything is copacetic. fordshepherd and baja_hyena came into town for a late Valentine's Day weekend and we enjoyed a tasty dinner at Heaven on Seven. Dan closed out the month by jumping into an ice-filled lake, after raising over $1,200 for Special Olympics. Right after that it was down to the United Center to see the Blackhawks play.

March brought an acceleration of planning for our upcoming Alaskan cruise. We put together a couple of great web chats to help coordinate the 16 (!) other people going on the cruise with us. I ventured into Chicago with some of the rowdy Chicago furry crew for a pre-St. Patrick's Day bar crawl which was entertaining and a sad reminder of why I never did bar crawls in college. I played with my Sous Vide Supreme some more and made carnitas: pork shoulder cooked in lard for 50 hours at 143 degrees F, then shredded and fried in lard. So good, but so bad for you!

In April, it was off to Michigan for Furry Connection North! We had a great time, hosted several parties, organized a group dinner for 40 at Zingerman's Roadhouse, and generally enjoyed the convention. As always, the staff does a great job, and we're already looking forward to next year. We had some fun making three different flavored popcorns: duck fat, bacon, and white chocolate with cinnamon. All three were a big hit and we'll be experimenting more with that! Toward the end of the month, we had to take Buddy to the vet to have some lumps removed (it happens with old dogs, unfortunately). This turned into a bit of comedy of errors as stitches got torn open, and the poor guy was stuck with the Cone of Shame around his neck for three weeks, though eventually he got used to it.

May started off with the Furry Convention Leadership Roundtable (FCLR), which went really well this year. It looks like we're picking up speed with it and next year we hope to have representation from even more conventions. I found that I sprained my right ankle and have plantar fasciitis in my left foot, so I'll be starting physical therapy tomorrow. So that brings you up to speed with what's going on.

Looking ahead, we leave for Anchorage in a week and a half to finally kick off our Alaskan cruise! We're very excited about this trip. Yesterday was spent doing some much-needed clothes shopping, both for the cruise and for clothes afterward as well. Today has been pretty quiet - my goal is not to leave the house at all today! This week and next will be pretty crazy at work, too. I'm trying to wrap up some projects and have some things tended to while I'm gone, so that's going to take some good advance planning. Unfortunately, part of that includes me having to go into work briefly tonight at 11 PM to make sure some instructions are followed by the third shift staff. Ah well - sacrifices must be made sometimes. And now off to take care of some laundry!
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: Carbon Leaf - American Tale
Duncan da Husky
11 February 2011 @ 08:24 am
Right, I have a journal here. I should actually use it :-)

Just to update a few things before they totally slip into the past: Following the craziness that was Wuffmeet, takaza and I slipped into a comfortable winter rhythm. Our cooking has improved, or at least gotten more interesting, with the addition of a Sous Vide Supreme to our kitchen. We are still experimenting and testing recipes, but we've been really impressed with how it cooks steaks and other meats. The fish it makes is to die for, and butter-poached chicken is simply divine. The biggest trick is that seasonings behave differently with low-temperature cooking, so we are still learning what works, what doesn't, and what we still need to try. I'm having a ball with is, and I'm hoping to bring it to Furry Connection North to provide some interesting snacks for our parties!

Our social life has gotten a bit quieter with the departure of close friends roho and enveri to the wilds of the east coast as they move to the heart of Boston. While we were very sad to see them go, I'm really glad to see Roho get his life back from his (former) evil employer. We provided some small help in moving some of their furniture out of their house (I still feel bad about what we did to the wall in their basement stairwell, but I'm told it was a relatively easy fix). Once the movers came and loaded up their stuff, Genet crashed at our place for a few days with Briana, their pretty-but-airheaded Samoyed. She and Buddy got along great (as always), and it was nice to have the extra company. Once all of the contractors were done making their place super-pretty so it could go on the market, she packed up the dog and their two cats and made the long drive to Boston. Here's hoping they can clear all the boxes out of their new place before summer! ;-)

We have been having a lot of fun planning our upcoming cruise to Alaska, coming up around Memorial Day. Somehow our group has reached 18 people from all over - even someone from Sweden! We purchased a good bit of the various parts of the trip over the last month, including flights (Frontier Airlines, MKE-DEN-ANC/SEA-MKE), reservations at a fabulous little lesbian-owned B&B in Anchorage, trains from Anchorage to Seward (where our ship departs) and Vancouver to Seattle, and various shore excursions. Dan is thinking about putting together a group chat on Saturday, March 5, for everyone in our group so we can talk about coordinating schedules and answer any questions that folks might have. We'll be sending around emails for that. This is going to be the longest vacation we've had, and I'm really looking forward to it! We're already brainstorming ideas for group trips for next year as well, including an extended weekend in New Orleans, and a ski weekend at Sugarloaf in Maine. More on that after the cruise!

I should mention that on Groundhog Day we got buried with a blizzard. Twenty inches of snow fell in a very short time, and then the 40-50 mph winds kicked in. We did the smart thing and made sure we had everything we needed and when it started coming down we sat tight at the house. Work for both of us was closed (the first time in a long time!) and we spent the snow day relaxing and Genet made cookies! Our HOA dues have never been more appreciated as we watched the snow removal company try to cope with the huge drifts, though we did get into the act a little bit by excavating Genet's car from the snow.

Somewhere in there was our first Midwest FurFest staff meeting of the year. It's always rough to get started again after the last convention, but there's contracts to sign and plans to get into place. The good news is that Hyatt Regency O'Hare was extremely happy with the convention last year, and now that we all know each other, the coming year will be much easier to plan. We have changed up our meeting schedule a bit, with more online meetings early in the year; this makes sense since most of the staff doesn't really need to spring into action until the summer.

Oh, for those wondering: our conventions schedule this year is to attend Furry Connection North and Midwest FurFest and...that's it. Since the cruise is so long and I only have ten days of vacation, Anthrocon just isn't in the cards for us this year. I wish everyone involved with AC well, though, especially rooth and chanur2000, who will be taking over my and Dan's staff positions there, respectively. Good luck, guys!

Finally, Dan and I will be hopping on board the Amtrak Wolverine this evening and taking the train over to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to hang out with the fine folks there for the weekend, and to help determine the beers that will be served at FCN's sponsor lounge. It should be tough, thirsty work! Dan has planned a fun dinner for Saturday night as well. The fun doesn't end there, as it appears that we will be visited by fordshepherd and next weekend, when we will...well, those plans are a secret!

Off to work now - I hope everyone has a great weekend!
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Duncan da Husky
09 January 2011 @ 04:34 pm
You've been following along with all of the puzzles this week, now it's time to find out how everyone did. Click to see who won, who placed, and who just had a bunch of funCollapse )

I hope that everyone who participated enjoyed themselves. Takaza and I had a blast putting together and running the puzzle hunt. Will there be one next year? Perhaps :-) Then again, you may see a puzzle hunt at an event near you, sooner than you expected!
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: happyhappy
Duncan da Husky
07 January 2011 @ 03:35 pm
And now, the last checkpoints in the New Year's Puzzle Hunt!

The title of this puzzle is "Rockin' Around The Clock". The following text was printed below:

Donnie was a player, all right. But he got played. He was supposed to pick up his girlfriend, Veronica, for the darts at her place at 12:33 PM. Little did he know that she had just had a cozy little lunch with his best friend, Leon, that finished at 12:21 PM. She rushed home and got there at 12:30 PM, just before Donnie did. She checked her text messages and saw that Leon wanted to meet again at 12:45 PM, so she told Donnie that she wasn.t feeling well, and left poor Donnie standing at her front door at 12:33 PM, right when he was supposed to be there.

Go to where you commonly lose these, and text or call us and tell us: How much does it cost to get these wet?
Click for solutionsCollapse )
The title of this puzzle is "Double Feature". The following text was printed below:
The last few months have produced some great movies! If you like train flicks, there was Unstoppable. Disney gave us some cute animation with Tangled. Prefer westerns? There.s Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, too. All the reviews say Natalie Portman is great in Black Swan. Unfortunately, there are some bad ones out there, though, like Yogi Bear. And the plot in Tron: Legacy got somewhat muddled. As long as you didn.t want something deep or profound, though, it was a fun movie to see.

There are some very interesting movies coming up, also. The French film La Chance de Ma Vie asks, .What if Eve had not eaten the apple in Eden?. In Season of the Witch, Nicolas Cage plays a Crusader battling to save a woman everyone thinks is a witch. Ong Bak 3 moves the martial arts action to Hawaii. And I hope that they will not screw up the story with The Green Hornet. More than likely the producers are going to mess that up, though.
So.now that you know what to look for, find them and text or call us with the sum of all of them.
Click for solutionsCollapse )
The title of this puzzle is "Mastering Administration". The following text was printed below:
Find this picture:

When you find it, text or call us and tell us: What is the number on the phone?
Click for solutionsCollapse )
The title of this puzzle is "Well, That.s Just Dandy". The following text was printed below:
You see, this is the fifth year of Wuffmeet. That.s a lot of parties. When we started these things, we had
an idea that they might be fun, but never expected how well they would take off. From the La Quinta to
new digs at the Hampton Inn, we.ve been through four hotels and have provided twenty or thirty or so
kinds of meals and entertaining things for folks to do. At first it was just a nice get-together, a muddled
event where we got some friends together for Memorial Day. Then came the first FRAC, a fun race where all .
even those who didn.t finish . had a fun time. After that, we decided to schedule Wuffmeet on New Years. Eve.

Growing each year, we continued to get more and more ambitious. The second FRAC had the participants going
outside The Loop, into River North and battling crowds in Wrigleyville, and Lincoln Square. Then, the runners bid adieu
in grand style to the city, solving a difficult puzzle on the way back to the finish line. We were afraid the race might flop .
never were we so glad to be wrong! Will we do it again? You bet! Puzzle hunts are too fun to stop so soon, period.

So, here.s a question: Where can we find uncle? Text or call us when you know.
Click for solutionsCollapse )
The last three envelopes in the teams' packets were fakes :-) This was a way for us to make sure that no one was just opening envelopes indiscriminately. The clues in each of these read "Text or call us with the word .Derp. and we.ll tell you your next clue."

Oh, and the room key that was in each packet? That was another red herring - it was blank.

So, how did the teams do? Tune in this weekend for the full results!
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: busybusy
Duncan da Husky
06 January 2011 @ 10:41 am
The Puzzle Hunt continues! Yesterday we had the first three checkpoints, now here's the next three:

The title of this puzzle is "Just Like The Dorsai". The following text was printed below:

hampton wildfire factory company
inn potbelly kona cosi
milwaukee redrobin grill
bigbowl cheesecake noodles

When you solve the puzzle and find the item, text or call and tell us:
What is the sum of these ladies?

Click for solutionsCollapse )
The title of this puzzle is "Touch And Go". The following text was printed below:

Text or call and tell us: Who is the leader of this group?
Click for solutionsCollapse )

The title of this puzzle is "Upstairs, Downstairs". The following text was printed below:

So.who is it? Text or call us when you know.
Click for solutionsCollapse )

Tune in tomorrow for more checkpoints...
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: busybusy
Duncan da Husky
05 January 2011 @ 03:08 pm
So, how did you do on the Trivia Quiz? If you found it tough, don't feel too bad - it was supposed to be! The average score on the quiz was 46%, with a low score of 30% and a high score of 72%. At 6 seconds per correct answer, that means that everyone got at least a little bonus out of it, from as little as two minutes to as much as three minutes and 36 seconds. (Side note: Thanks to Genet and Street for grading the trivia quizzes!) Also: Want to see the trivia quiz answers? Highlight the black boxes in the first post and you'll be able to see them!

At this point we handed out packets to each team. On the front of each packet was written the team name, a phone number, and the name of the first checkpoint for the team. Inside were thirteen envelopes, a bag of jelly beans, and a Hampton Inn room key. The envelopes were labeled Skwentna , Rohn, Nikolai , McGrath , Takotna , Ophir, Shageluk, Anvik, Grayling, Kaltag, Unalakeet, Shaktoolik, and Koyuk. As I'm sure you know (really?), these are all stops on the Iditarod Trail. The names don't really have any significance beyond providing a name for each checkpoint that was non-sequential.

The phone number on the packets was intended for the teams to text requests for hints and guesses at answers to. The phone numbers were actually Takaza and my Google Voice numbers, and we had half of the teams reporting to him, and half reporting to me. After about 20 minutes, though, Dan and I got utterly swamped with the incoming text messages. Instead, we switched to having the teams report to the common room for hints and to submit their answers, one team allowed in the room at a time. This turned out a lot better, since it allowed more interaction and allowed us to better gauge how things were going.

Let's start in with the checkpoints!
The general format for each checkpoint was that the teams first had to solve a puzzle, then use the information derived from the puzzle to answer the question posed in the clue.

The title of this puzzle is "Surely You Can't Be Serious". The following text was printed below:

jyi acfbvagi cz wvpcgq ycqy moif eagyajjag. cj cz rviafvp a ocgjaqi emniv, agn gmj hdcvj firigjvp. zm jivv dz: xyaj piaf xaz jyi bcrjdfi jalig?

Click for the solutionsCollapse )

The title of this puzzle is "X Marks The Spot". The following text was printed below:

Look under the X for your next question.
Click for the solutionsCollapse )

The title of this puzzle was "As Easy As A Clapton Riff" and the following text was printed below:
A Green Apple
B Cream Soda
C Strawberry Cheesecake
D Crushed Pineapple
E Buttered Popcorn
F Sizzling Cinnamon
G Sour Peach
H Red Apple
I Strawberry Jam
J Skunk Spray
K Lemon Lime
L Island Punch
M Juicy Pear
N Caramel Corn
O Dr. Pepper
P Chili Mango
Q Chocolate Pudding
R Mango
S Strawberry Daiquiri
T Kiwi
U Baby Wipes
V Centipede
W Lemon Drop
X Top Banana
Y Raspberry
Z Very Cherry

Use the Jelly Beans.

Find number 66. Text or call us with the ID number.

Click for the solutionsCollapse )
So that's the first three checkpoints. More to come tomorrow!
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: amusedamused
Duncan da Husky
04 January 2011 @ 03:17 pm
This year at Wuffmeet we held the initial New Year's Puzzle Hunt. Teams spent an afternoon racing around the Hampton Inn Lincolnshire trying to work through the clues and get the answers to the questions we posed to them in the fastest time with the least number of hints. The rules were simple:
1. No asking for help from anyone else or using the Internet.
2. If you leave the hotel You're Doing It Wrong.

After a bit of sorting out, we got everyone together into eleven teams of two. They were:
Coondog DataHawk & Linnaeus
Die Piggies! Rama & RB
Easy As Jam Aureth & Jenne
Ginger Squee Initially Basil & Jen, then Quasi & Jen
Isentropic/Failing Illini Hartree & Roho
Minot Artemis & Dbruin
Team Awesome Woody & AidenDingo
Team Burnout Stevie & Zexyz
Team Hot Tub Spork & Madius
Team Rawr Rusty & Kellic
Team Slobber Tolemur & Vish

We started out with a 50-question trivia quiz. There was no penalty for incorrect answers, but each correct answer was worth a 6-second reduction in the final time. We gave everyone exactly ten minutes to complete the quiz. The quiz is shown below (highlight the black box to get the answer).
The Trivia Quiz...Collapse )

Once the ten minutes were up, we sent all of the teams out at once. We had a total of ten checkpoints for each team to complete. The order in which each team visited the checkpoints was randomized for each team. What were the checkpoints? You'll have to tune in here tomorrow to find out! :-)
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Duncan da Husky
03 January 2011 @ 06:40 pm
Wuffmeet 2010 is over! And damn, was it good.

For those wondering, Wuffmeet is a gathering of our (Takaza and my) friends that we hold every year at a hotel around the Chicago area. The number of people in attendance varies, but this year was one of our bigger ones, with around 70 in attendance. This year we moved from a Courtyard to a Hampton Inn, and I think it was a move for the better. Certainly the function space was an upgrade: we went from two rooms and a room on the side for booze to a single large room where everyone could eat, chat, and drink. The hotel rooms were better, and the suites were actual suites. We were in a great suite right next to the function space, where we had the luxury of a full-sized refrigerator and a kitchenette.

We started things off with a fantastic dinner that RB put together. Fourteen of us ventured down to Otom Restaurant in Chicago for an excellent meal (and some really tasty drinks - who knew butternut squash juice could be so good in a cocktail?). This made for an excellent start to the weekend.

Friday we started things off with getting the common room organized, then a nice day of hanging out, chatting, and welcoming friends as they arrived. The annual Wuffmeet Poker Tournament was that afternoon, and it was won by Gir, with Rama in second place. Then it was time to set up for dinner, which was an excellent meal catered by one of our favorite Chicago BBQ places: Smoque BBQ. I was happy to see that we ordered almost the exactly correct amount, just a little too much. Can't ask for more for a buffet! We had ice cream for dessert, and got to the serious business of partying in the new year. We served champagne (and sparkling cider) for the toast at midnight, and the other New Year's revelers in the hotel were vastly amused by the appearance of fursuiters in the lobby.

Saturday started as slowly as you might expect. Once folks started making appearances in the common room, I put some hot dogs on to heat up. Those seemed to go over well. Lunch was followed immediately by something new: The New Year's Puzzle Hunt. This was an awesome new event that Dan and I had a blast putting together. Look for a series of posts to follow detailing all of the quizzes, puzzles, and solutions! For dinner this night, we had served tacos - beef, chicken, cheese, onions, lettuce, cilantro, sour cream, avocados, and the choice of corn or flour tortillas. For dessert we had a variety of cakes and pastries. In the evening, there was more socializing, somewhat less boozing (what a surprise, given the previous night), and we capped things off a session of "Horrors from the Web" (though really, it was more relegated to "Horrors from e621" :-)

We had originally announced that we would wrap up the party on Sunday, but when Dan and I realized we had Monday off, we decided to push on through one more day. Unfortunately, many did not have the luxury of a holiday on Monday, so over half of the group left over the course of the day. For me personally this was the best day of Wuffmeet, and a reminder why I enjoy the party so damn much. It was a very low-key day, with some socializing, some chilling and browsing the net, and finally some swimming (my first chance to do so all weekend). For dinner we ordered pizza from Lou Malnati's, and it was very good.

Today, the last stragglers gathered for brunch at the nearby Walker Bros. Pancake House - a hearty group of nine folks. Great company, and good food - an enjoyable way to finish off the weekend. Thanks so much to Jet, Hunter, Rusty, and Josh for their assistance in getting everything packed up into our cars. We got home at around 2:30 PM, and had unloaded and picked up Buddy from Dan's mom by 3:30 PM.

So yeah. Wuffmeet really rocked, I think. A few things in summary, from my personal perspective:
What worked
* The new hotel was a great fit for the party, and the beds were much more comfortable
* A single room make things feel more cohesive, and having the (epic) bar close at hand was quite nice as well
* The Puzzle Hunt was a blast!
* I loved the Thursday night dinner - a very nice way to start the party off
* The food from Smoque is always delicious!
* The media PC was a good addition. Having the low-level background music was nice. Many thanks to Gir for bringing the projector!

What didn't work
* The taco bar, while tasty, was a crazy amount of work. I spent 8 hours cooking the beef and chicken on Thursday (with the generous assistance of Roho and Genet!), and that was very stressful for me
* The way events were scheduled, and the proximity of the puzzle hunt to the taco bar ramped up the stress for both Dan and me
* No more garlic for Dan!
* An event like this is getting too big for two people to do everything - we need to start delegating some of the work around to others, or we won't get any of the relaxation time that makes Wuffmeet so great. (OK, this has been the case for the last few years, we just need to actually do it!)
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Miles Davis - Flamenco Sketches
Duncan da Husky
08 December 2010 @ 03:43 pm
I wanted to post this so I didn't forget it, and because it amuses the hell out of me. As we were wrapping up on the Monday after Midwest FurFest, we ran into wingywoof and seritaph. Seritaph had a great commentary on tipping of hotel staff among fans (I'm paraphrasing somewhat here):

"They love us! Apparently the worst tippers are accountants and actuaries. They know the value of goods and services and won't tip worth a damn. But fans? Fans just duck their heads and say, 'I'm sorry we're weird. Here's twenty dollars.'"

And that's OK, in my opinion. The more we tip, the more they look forward to us, and the better deals we get (and deals aren't just limited to what's in contracts and such. I couldn't begin to list all the little bonuses and freebies we got as a convention because the Hyatt staff was willing to work with us!).
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: workingworking
Current Music: Conjure One - Center of the Sun
Duncan da Husky
04 December 2010 @ 08:42 am

Yeah, I'm staying inside today.
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: cozy
Current Music: Cantate Domino - Stille Nacht
Duncan da Husky
02 December 2010 @ 11:15 am
I'm dragging a bit today, but it is very much for a good reason. Yesterday was takaza's birthday and I wanted to make sure that we celebrated properly. I got him a nice gift (along with the software to run on his iPad) so now anywhere he can get wifi access for his iPad he has access to our U-Verse DVR at home. We've had a Slingbox for years, but it's fallen into disuse since it required laptop access. Dan uses his iPad about 70% of the time and his laptop 30% of the time, so this seemed like an appropriate gift.

To celebrate Dan's birthday, I invited some of our friends to join us for an evening of dinner and bocce at Pinstripes in Northbrook. We had a blast - the food was excellent, and the company was better. The appetizers alone were fun - we ordered a bunch of them and shared them around the table (makes me want to investigate a tapas place more!), and the entrees were quite tasty. My beef tenderloin was perfectly-cooked and had a great sauce.

After dinner we adjourned to one of their indoor bocce courts and enjoyed a civilized hour of alternating between playing bocce and enjoying some excellent desserts. (Also, a note to players: that little ball is called a pallino, a boccino, or jack. It is not, however, ever called a snitch :-) In hindsight, I realize that I inadvertently left a few folks off the invite list - I apologize! No slight was intended, it was merely my own absent-mindedness.

We didn't get home until 11 PM, and didn't get to bed until 11:30. Still, it was worth it and we had a great time. Now that the Big Event Crush (MFF, Thanksgiving, wedding, Dan's birthday) is over, I can breathe a little bit before starting to stress over Christmas and Wuffmeet!
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Duncan da Husky
01 December 2010 @ 02:18 pm
34 years old and after almost twelve years together, you're still the light and love on my life. Happy birthday, takaza!
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: happyhappy
Duncan da Husky
01 December 2010 @ 01:57 pm
So the Illinois House and Senate have passed a bill approving civil unions, and Governor Pat Quinn has said he would sign it into law. It's still sitting in the back of the bus, but I suppose we should be thankful they're even letting us on the bus. This is a step in the right direction.

My favorite commentary on the Senate debate came from one of the commentors at capitolfax.com, who summarized the statements in favor of civil unions by Sen. Ricky Hendon (D-Looneyville):
Talked about his favorite uncle, who was straight, but didn't want to marry for a 3rd or 4th time (can't remember). Then went on to say he hates politics, and hates seeing people who are adulterers, on the down-low, etc., speak against civil unions. He supports the bill not because other politicians called him to ask for his support, but because it's the right thing to do. He said it won't wreck the state, like it hasn't wrecked other states who have civil unions or more. And he said voting for it won't send him to hell, and it won't send anyone to hell.

Now take that summary and make it sound crazy. That's about the gist of it.

One way or another, though, this is something to celebrate. It will be interesting to see the full list of rights and benefits assigned to those in civil unions, and when it will be implemented. We will definitely sign up, but only with the knowledge that this is a stopgap en route to full and equal marriage.
Current Location: My Desk
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
Duncan da Husky
28 November 2010 @ 11:51 am
I've got a little story to tell. See, there was this wedding...

A few months before Midwest FurFest, moryssa asked if takaza and I would provide assistance at her and wolfbrotherjoe's wedding...which was five days after the convention. If it were anyone else, we problem would have politely declined, but Misti is a dear friend and we were flattered and pleased to provide any help we could. Plans were made, and we had a nice dinner with the bride and groom to discuss the details. Because the rehearsal dinner was unfortunately the day before the wedding (which is to say, Thanksgiving), we had to miss out on that. Neither Dan nor I felt 100% secure in our knowledge of how things were supposed to go, but we figured it would be pretty easy - get a quick briefing on who needed to be where and when, then make sure that happened.

The venue was outside of Madison, Wisconsin, in a lovely barn that had been refurbished for these types of events. The dinner was to be served in the nicely-decorated shop which adjoined the building. It was a great set-up, and perfect for the intimate (100-person) wedding they had in mind. The rough plan (as I recall) was that the "First Look" would be at 4 PM, followed by pictures, then the wedding would take place at 5 PM. This would be followed by a cocktail hour, then dinner, then dancing for the rest of the evening.

Dan and I drove up to Madison (with a side-trip by Prime Outlets Kenosha to pick up some last-minute accessories from Casual Male - yeah, an outlet mall on Black Friday. Oy!). We arrived at our hotel at around 1 PM, got dressed, and headed over to the barn at 2 PM. We were the first ones there, which gave us a chance to inspect the facilities and admire the setup and decorating that the wedding party had done the night before. The wedding party arrived bit by bit over the next hour and a half, and Dan mostly made sure everyone was happy and moving along while I chatted with friends.

The first sign things were a bit askew was when the bride asked where the DJ was. Theoretically, he should have arrived in Madison at 11 AM and been at the barn shortly after. There was no sign of him. At 3:50 PM, Dan pulled me aside and we agreed that I would make the 30 minute round trip back to our hotel to pick up my laptop (and our complete 40 GB MP3 library) just in case. I got back at 4:30 and there was still no DJ. It looked like it was going to be me. I got a very quick briefing from Misti: she handed me a flash drive with the music for the ceremony, what cues there would be, and off I went. I worked with Dave, one of the barn owners, to get my laptop hooked into the barn sound system, and we were off and running. Dan did a great job making sure the wedding party entered at the right times, and I hit most of the cues properly (side note: it's really hard to even be a pretend DJ when the only music players on your laptop are iTunes and VLC). The important thing is that the music was right for the bride and groom, and the ceremony went off without a hitch.

Once the ceremony was over, I was helping to put away the folding chairs to clear the floor for dancing when I got the next bit of exciting news, which had come in right before the ceremony started: The caterers thought the wedding was on Saturday, not Friday.

Holy crap.

Here's where I give huge props to Joe's mother. She made the call that we would be serving pizzas, and that the caterer would pay for it. So be it! Fortunately, they had vegetable trays and various chips and dips available, so those went out. While everyone nibbled on those and chatted in the shop, we piped a slideshow of childhood pictures of Misti and Joe through my laptop a few times, then commenced to work with Dave to make his sound system do things it was never designed for. He produced a 16-channel mixer he hadn't used much and Dan plugged my laptop and his iPad into it and got everything ready for the dance (through a bit of trial and error), then Dave went off to pick up 30 pizzas.

Dan and I went over to the shop and as soon as the pizzas arrived it was a mad rush to clear the appetizers off and get the pizzas out. Dan and I worked to get people up to serve themselves pizza in an orderly fashion, sending folks table by table (wedding party first, of course). When the first batch of 14 pizzas ran out, we cleared the table, asked everyone's patience, and when Dave showed up with the other 16 pizzas we got those out as well. Dave's wife Betsy was invaluable during all this, providing plates and helping move empty boxes and such.

Once it looked like everyone had had their fill of pizza, it was back to the barn and Dan started the dance music. He hit the requested songs (First Dance, Father/Daughter, Mother/Son) and the usual Bouquet Toss and Garter Toss, then he started creating playlists on the fly. I provided some suggestions on tempos and songs, trying to keep the flow going. I think we did a passable job, though if we had time to prepare it would have been a lot better :-) The laptop/iPad combination worked well, and he did a decent job of keeping people on the dance floor, which I'll count as a win. We wrapped up at about 10:15 PM, helped with a bit of the cleanup, and headed back to the hotel.

In the end, I think we had a blast. It wasn't what we had signed up for, but by the end of the evening, there was an infectious kind of "let's put on a show!" feel that made things feel less uptight and everyone a lot more willing to enjoy themselves. I do worry a bit about the DJ, since no one was able to reach him and he is a mutual friend; if anyone has heard from him, please let me know. But at the end of the day, Joe was happy, Misti was happy, and the bride and groom's families seemed happy. I think that counts as a win! As for Dan and me, anyone who knows us knows that this is the kind of insanity we thrive on, and I'm so glad that we were able to help out and make Misti and Joe's special day not only memorable but enjoyable as well. Congratulations to you both! I'll throw in an endorsement for Badger Farms as well - Dave and Betsy are incredibly nice folks. They were great to work with, and when things started to go pear-shaped, they jumped in and were a phenomenal help.

We slept in on Saturday morning, then took our time driving home. We picked up Buddy from Dan's mom's place and crashed once we got home. Our plans for today? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! And it's glorious :-)
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
Current Music: Trouvere - Lauda Novela
Duncan da Husky
23 November 2010 @ 01:38 pm
My, it's been quiet here lately, hasn't it?

Most of you probably know why. For the last eleven (!) years I have been a staff member for Midwest FurFest. After serving as chairman for the last two years, this year I moved into the position of Hotel Liaison while my husband takaza took over as chairman. Now, being Hotel Liaison is no picnic anyway, but this was our first year at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare and that introduced all kinds of new complexities - learning how to use the function space, establishing lines of communication, negotiating contracts and expenses, and a slew of other duties. Hotel Liaison is one of the few 12-months-a-year jobs with the convention (most department heads' duties kick in maybe 4-6 months before the con) and in the final month before the convention I was easily spending 20-30 hours per week on convention-related tasks. Thus the lack of updating.

So. The convention happened. How did it go?

It. Was. Amazing. All of that planning and hard work was worth it. Everything came together extremely well, and when unforeseen hotel issues came up we were able to recover seamlessly and gracefully with no disruption visible to the convention attendees. As for the convention itself, it was a spectacular success. We set an attendance record for us (2,285) and all of the feedback I've seen has been almost uniformly positive. Our last year at the Westin was not a good one, and I think that adversely affected our attendance. This year really turned that around. In my experience, conventions can advertise all over, hand out flyers, sit at tables and promote the con, but what will really make you or break you is word of mouth. The word of mouth for MFF after this year is so strongly positive, I think we're going to see a very strong year next year.

There is absolutely no way I can write a con report - it all went by too fast and there's just too much. I do want to thank a few folks, though:

  • Mirko and Gir, my Hotel Liaison staff. You guys made the con enjoyable for me, and I hope you found the experience as rewarding as I did. I know you had little direction or idea of what you were getting into before the con started, but to be fair I had no clue either :-) Special thanks for Gir for stepping in on relatively short notice to help out!

  • Although I don't know if she'll ever read this, Jen Calderon, our Convention Services Manager at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare did an absolutely sterling job keeping the myriad details in order. She put up with my frequent emails, responded quickly and effectively to inquiries before the con and especially at the con, and showed truly remarkable patience and attention to detail. Every convention should be fortunate to have someone as talented as Jen to work with!

  • Perro, RB, and CharlesBear, who provided invaluable support, advice, and communication before and during the convention.

  • The many, many MFF staffers who were great to work with, and who made my job easier in the planning stages of the convention.

  • And especially Dan, my dear husband. He was Hotel Liaison before me, and was an invaluable source of information. We spent a lot of time figuring the fine line between providing advice and micromanagement, but once I put my ego away and listened to his very sound suggestions, we were both better off for it. I will continue to be grateful for his support, his knowledge, and his love.

(If I forgot to mention you specifically, I assure you that it isn't because I hate you, it's more that my brains are still a little scrambled :-)

So that's it. I wish I could say that I've got a bunch of downtime ahead. I have today off, at least, but after this I go back to work for a day, then we're hosting Thanksgiving for friends at our place. We are providing coordination assistance for Misti and Joe's wedding on Friday, but then I'll have the weekend to collapse. Oh, and Dan's birthday is December 1st - locals, keep an eye out for an announcement of a fun outing for that coming up! And now that the con is over, we can start making plans for Christmas, and Wuffmeet is right after that! Oh my, I need a nap...

Anyway, I do hope to return to update this journal a bit more often now that I have a little more available time. We'll see how that goes!
Current Location: Volo, IL
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished