Monthly Archives: December 2005

Hockey and Music Criticism: Two Great Tastes Together!

Well, that was different. Last night, takaza and I availed ourselves of the fine Chicago public transportation system and rode down to the United Center for a hockey game, the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the St. Louis Blues. Now, mind you, I don’t care one whit about NHL or hockey in general, but these tickets were provided by his employer. We entered through a special, uncrowded entrance and quickly found our way to one of the lovely suites. A full dinner layout was provided, as well as an open bar. The game was pretty dull, with the ‘Hawks playing being downright mediocre, but the food was surprisingly good. One of the highlights was when the Blackhawks mascot, Tommy Hawk, came into the suite and acted like he recognized Dan – which, it turns out, is actually a possibility.

Because we wanted to get home at a decent time, we left the game after the second period with the Blues leading 2-0 (they eventually won, 2-1). We waited a good twenty minutes at the corner of Madison and Damen for a bus, and just when I was thinking about grabbing a taxi the Damen bus showed up. We got home gratifyingly quickly, but didn’t get to bed until 11 PM. That has made today long and very sleepy (it’s hell when you gotta get up at 5 AM).

Not much else to talk about, except for the absoutely horrid cover song I heard this morning. Apparently a few weeks back Bono and Alicia Keys released a cover of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up” to iTunes. Now, first granting that it’s a benefit for charity, I will say that everything about this version is wrong. The original was a masterful example of low-key arrangements and subtle interplay between the singers. In this version, Bono destroys Gabriel’s phrasing, transforming it into some kind of bizarre scat singing or something, and Keys injects strange R&B-inflected vocals into the song which are completely out of place. Just horrible.

Sorry, I needed to get that off my chest 🙂

Radio, radio…

So, when you drive 24+ hours over a few days, you get a chance to listen to the radio a lot. Thank heavens we got Sirius installed in my car again, because that was a real life-saver. Sirius recently quietly added a couple of channels that we really enjoyed: Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s CBC1 and CBC3 (alt-rock), as well as Iceberg Radio (all-Canadian alt-pop) and a couple of francophone channels. For listening to music we kept it mostly on Iceberg, which had a good mix in spite of their predilection for old Rush songs. CBC1 had some great programming, too, including The Current (“The Voice” can read the phone book to me any day!) and National Playlist, hosted by former Moxy Fruvian Jian Ghomeshi).

We came across the show Ideas (which I later found is rebroadcast on PRI) and caught a truly amazing two-part documentary on Christmas Mummers. If all you know of mummers is the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade, you’re in for a surprise when you find out the roots of the tradition. Both parts of the documentary are downloadable from the Battery Radio website (alas, only with Realplayer, though). It’s a wonderful example of folk traditions traveling across the ocean and changing with the times.

Of particular furry interest was the segment at the beginning of the second hour where they talk about the hobby horse, which in this context is far different from the tame toy we know – it’s a menacing, mad creature. They interview one of the hobbyhorsers and he says (paraphrasing) that when he plays the hobby horse, he’s a different person – he does what the horse wants, not the other way around. This made me smile a bit, thinking of fursuiters we all know. If you have a chance, I urge you to click and listen to the show, though – it’s a great documentary, and a little-known topic.

On the Road to Anderson (without Hope and Crosby)

And so, five days and approximately 1,800 miles later, we’re home again. A quick recap:

On Thursday, we left for my parents’ place in Anderson, South Carolina. We only drove about two-thirds of the way there, stopping for the night in Knoxville, Tennessee (sorry we didn’t call, partran, but we got in pretty late). We got up early the next morning and drove the last five hours down to my parents’. We tried to stop in Canton, North Carolina, to return the NC license plates for the Alero and Dan’s old plates for his Element, but first we found that the DMV office had moved, and then that it was closed for the day. We shrugged and continued on, getting in at around 12:30 PM. My sister, her husband, and my two nephews were already there, having driven in from St. Louis the day before.

It was a great weekend, and it was really good to spend time with my family. takaza seemed to have a good time as well, and got along well with Chris (age 10) and Tim (age 8). Ruth and I did most of the cooking during the weekend, which I’m sure was a welcome break for my mom, and Dan and Marvin (my brother-in-law) did yeoman work with cleanup detail. Dad was looking fantastic for someone who had had back surgery just a few weeks prior. I was glad to see him up and standing for hours at a time, when before the surgery he was able to remain upright for less than a minute.

We did the traditional gift-giving on Christmas morning. Chris and Tim, of course, got a pile of loot; they seemed to enjoy the Legos and video games they received, and judging from the background noise from last night’s phone call, Dan’s choice for Apples to Apples Junior for the family was a huge hit. Ruth and Marvin will get a lot of use out of the accessories we got for their new digital camera, and Mom and Dad seemed to like our gift to them: a Tivo. I think they’re still figuring out how to work it and why it’s such a wonderful thing, but I suspect they’ll come around with time. We had some fun trying to set it up since they had no telephone jack in the room we put it and even if they did, all they have is Vonage, which does not play well with Tivo. We wound up having to take the Tivo back to our hotel room for it to dial in and get all of the program updates. Fortunately, we had prepared for the possibility and we had picked up a wireless router and adapter for the Tivo; once we had all the program updates it was a breeze to get it hooked into the network. They should be good to go!

For Dan, I got a gift that I know he will enjoy: A night out on the town, with gift certificates for dinner at Heaven on Seven and two tickets for Blue Man Group (I’ll point out those are to be used for him and anyone of his choosing – it’s tacky to buy someone gifts that you’ll use yourself 🙂 I won’t list all the gifts I received except to say that they were all wonderful, and all very much appreciated. (OK, I will mention that I’m going to really enjoy the Thermapen that Dan got me, though!)

Christmas was over all too soon and yesterday we hit the road at 5:45 AM Central Time. We made great time; the only bad weather we ran into was some light rain/snow flurries and high winds through the NC mountains. Surprisingly, the traffic into Chicago wasn’t horrible and we pulled into the garage right around 6:00 PM – darned good time!

Today, Dan is off from work, but I’m here like a good worker drone. Naturally, about half of the office is out until next week, but that makes things a bit more bearable. Linnaeus, who is already babysitting a surprisingly well-behaved large, white bird (I thought it was a cockatiel, but looking at pictures of them now I’m not so sure), surprised me this morning with another friend that he’s keeping an eye on: Nita (she’s in the center of that pic). She’s a real cutie, but alas, only visiting for one day. But hey, any dog time is always good.

I slept poorly, so I suspect today is going to drag. Nevertheless, it should be pretty mellow – I’ve got some projects I’m working on, and it’s nice to have some peace and quiet in which to do it. Looking ahead, Dan and I are going to see the Blackhawks tomorrow night, and then there’s the LAFF New Year’s Party this weekend. I’ll be in touch with those of you who have volunteered to help out at the door – with luck, we can keep it down to 30 minutes apiece, leaving folks time to go and have fun with other stuff. But now, back to work!

Your Daily Linkage

I’ve come across some useful links that I wanted to share:

Joss Whedon gives up on Firefly: “‘In the end, it was what it was: a tough sell,’ says Whedon, adding that it appears the Firefly saga has reached its conclusion.”
(See comments for why this is incorrect. Thanks cyohtee!)

– Speaking of franchises being reborn due to popularity on DVD, Matt Groening thinks the prospects for more Futurama are good.

– And while we’re on the topic of animation, Venture Brothers co-creator Jason Publick has a LiveJournal with notes and stills from the upcoming season (no word on the exact date for the premiere, just “Spring, 2006”).

– I’m not a fan of Saturday Night Live and haven’t been since the early 80’s or so. Nevertheless, the “Lazy Sunday” segment from last weekend’s show (aka “The Chronicles of Narnia Rap”) is drop-dead hilarious. You can watch it here and read the lyrics here.

– Please excuse me if I occasionally mutter the phrase “breathtaking inanity” and giggle to myself all day today.

“What do you mean, MLK, Jr. isn’t saintly?”

Been sort of quiet here for the last few days, hasn’t it? Let’s see, what’s been going on?

On Friday we belatedly celebrated datahawk‘s birthday by going with a whole crowd of folks down to tour Macy’s Marshall Field’s Christmas displays. The general consensus was that they intentionally made the displays suck so that people won’t miss them when they don’t do them next year. We spent a very entertaining time critiquing the other displays while the cancer-addicts of the group got their smoke fix, then we adjourned up to Heaven on Seven. Although they have other locations, this location, on Wabash on the seventh floor of an old office building, is the original. They’re only open for dinner one night out of the month, and we were lucky enough it was the night we planned on going downtown. The meal was absolutely amazing! They are a New Orleans-style restaurant, and I (a former Tulane student) and genet (a Louisiana native) gave it an emphatic thumbs up! The hurricanes were fabulous. My shrimp po’ boy was quite tasty, and roho‘s shrimp and cheddar grits were yummy as well. takaza‘s country-fried steak and mashed potatoes were by far the best, though. We ate ourselves silly, then came the tasty chocolate-caramel cake that siriuswolfstar had picked up at Bittersweet. It was the perfect end to a wonderful evening.

The original plan for Saturday was to stay at home and relax. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, Dan and I drove up to Antioch to have brunch with Roho, Genet, feren, and neowolf2 at the always-tasty Las Vegas. Afterwards, we walked over to the surprisingly-well-stocked game shop where Feren picked up a bunch of Christmas gifts, then stopped next door at the small shop that sold record players and old vinyl albums and Feren got a new turntable. Then it was back to Roho and Genet’s place where we filled the afternoon with chatting and then a bit of shopping at Wal Mart. We also used their nice, heated garage to park my car so we could finally install my Sirius radio in it, which had been sitting idle since I took it out of my Alero when I sold it back in August. Linnaeus joined us not long after and we ordered pizza and got down to a serious game of Drunken Apples to Apples. It was very, very funny, even if I didn’t do very well until right up at the end of the game. Somehow, Neowolf skunked us all. I also learned that Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka is very tasty, particularly when mixed with Cruzan Rum Cream. It’s also very potent (woo!).

We got a late start on Sunday – no surprise there. We spent the afternoon doing some Christmas shopping, and we finally picked up a replacement electric blanket, since the one we bought earlier this year was going haywire (the center third of the blanket was getting far too warm for comfort). The evening was spent catching up on TiVo and being all domestic and stuff.

This is a short week for me. I have one more day at work then on Thursday, right after rush hour, we hit the road for South Carolina. We’ll be making a stop somewhere along the way Thursday night, then getting in on Friday morning. After a far-too-brief stay, we’ll be driving home on Monday, making the entire 14-hour trip in one day. It sucks, but I have to be at work on Tuesday, so that’s the way it is. Hope everyone’s holiday preparations are going well!

Party…quietly?

Let’s hear it for Friday! {crickets} Oh, that would be because more than half of the office here has taken off for the afternoon. Must be nice to have vacation and stuff. To that end, I’ve been passing the last hour or so applying to positions in and around the Chicago area – we’ll see if anything comes of it.

So apparently folks down in South Carolina and Georgia had a bit of fun with ice storms yesterday. I called my parents and was surprised when my mom said they were holed up in the La Quinta Inn since they had lost power at the house at 3 AM. They should be home by now, since the temperatures were supposed to get back up to 52 degrees there today. And here in Chicago? Snow showers and 30 mph winds, yay! We’re supposed to go down and look at the store windows downtown tonight, which should be fun, if really freakin’ cold.

It’s shaping up to be a lazy weekend, which is good since after this weekend it’s going to be insane. About the only thing that MUST get done is we need to install my Sirius radio in my car. Since we’re driving down to South Carolina (14+ hours each way), Sirius is a sine qua non for the trip. Plus, it’s been a good long time since I’ve had my OutQ fix, and the Canadian channels they’ve added sound interesting too. Anyway, other than that, I look forward to spending the weekend sleeping in and lazing around the house while it snows and blows outside, interrupted only by a possible trip to the movies. Our list of movies to see is getting a bit long – Rent, Narnia, and now Brokeback Mountain. If anyone is interested in seeing one of these, maybe on Sunday afternoon, let me know.

Time to wrap up a few things, then head on home. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Ford Reverses Decision

Since I mentioned this before, it’s only fair that I follow up with this:

Ford to Advertise in Gay Press (Washington Post)

Ford Motor Co. yesterday said it will resume advertising Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles in gay-themed publications, following an outpouring of fury from gay groups that said Ford’s recent decision to pull the ads fed anti-gay sentiment and emboldened enemies of gay rights.

“I think we’re back in gear with Ford,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. “They responded to each of the concerns we raised in a positive way. It’s a great outcome.”

In a letter addressed to the groups, Ford said not only will it resume buying corporate ads featuring Land Rover and Jaguar, it will begin advertising Ford’s other brands in gay-themed publications as well. In the past, Ford had not purchased advertisements for the Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands in gay-oriented publications.

Thick Chocolatey Goodness

Man, am I dragging this afternoon. I don’t think I slept too well last night; takaza woke me (for the second night in a row) pointing out I was showing signs of apnea. Oh, dandy. Hmm, my blood pressure is high, my knee is crappy, and now sleep apnea? Maybe I’m way off base here, but I think maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get rid of some of this weight I’m carrying around. A gym membership is going to have to wait until we work out the cash flow nightmare that is Christmas and New Year’s.

Meanwhile, last night was pleasant. siriuswolfstar came over and joined us in a gourmet meal (snrrk), but he was also kind enough to bring some tasty caramel syrup from Starbucks and, more importantly, Chantico mix. If you haven’t had this “drinking chocolate” from Starbucks, and you enjoy dark, rich chocolate, I do have to say that you’re missing out. Yeah, it’s $2.60 a pop, and yeah they only give you a 6 oz. serving, but you’ll have to trust me when I say that 6 oz. is all you want of this – it’s that rich. Dan mixed up a batch and it was indeed delicious. We chatted for a bit and watched some Tivo, then Sirius took his leave and we went off to bed.

Tonight datahawk and posicat are coming over to watch the season finale of The Amazing Race with us (C’mon, anyone but the Weavers!). I think we’ll be cooking up some cheeseburgers for dinner. And then there’s tomorrow. According to the National Weather Service, we’re supposed to get 3-5 inches of snow, with the highest probability of snow falling occurring between 6 AM and 5 PM. Given that if I take the train I’m looking at leaving at 6:15 AM and not getting home until around 6:30 PM, I think I’m going to take my chances with driving. If I leave the house at 5:30 AM I can leave work by 2:30 PM, and if nothing else that puts me on the road earlier than the worst of the stupidity. Even if it takes me three hours to get home I’m still doing pretty good. We’ll see how successful this plan is tomorrow, though.

Looking way, WAY ahead, Dan and I are starting to make plans for the next Wuffmeet/Furries Race Across Chicago. Watch this space and keep Memorial Day weekend free, ’cause that’s when it’s going to be!

No Really, Stop And Go Traffic Turns Me On!

So, on Friday it was a fellow contractor’s last day so we went out for lunch at the very tasty Opa! Estiatorio in Vernon Hills. I had the moussaka, and it was delicious. I had come into work a little early so I was able to leave at 2:30 PM. I swung over to the Lake Bluff train station and got there just as the Takaza‘s train pulled in. After a brief stop at the Lake Forest oasis for gas and munchies, we were on the road towards Champaign-Urbana! Of course, until we stopped, about five miles later, as traffic slowed to a crawl. It turns out that the Tri-State Tollway was pretty much backed up its entire length from Lake Cook Road south. We headed off-road and wound up taking Route 45 all the way down to I-80. Yeah, it took three hours (ugh), but at least we were moving most of the time! From there it was a short trip down to Chambana. We got in at around 7:30 or so and went out for dinner with mirkowuff to a small Italian restaurant. Afterwards we went back to his place and hung out for a bit, then went to bed.

On Saturday we were slow getting going, slow enough that even with a late start Linnaeus was able to join us for lunch when he arrived. I was reminded why I really should avoid the ButterBurger at Culver’s, but the rest of the meal was OK. From there we went in search of a Christmas tree for Mirko’s house, ending up at the local grocery store. That was fine, since we needed to pick up some groceries anyway. We went back to Mirko’s place and did some decorating while he made chili, then folks started showing up for his annual Candlestick Lane party. We house-lighting went well, and then everyone retired indoors, out of the cold and snow, and a night of tasty potables and lots and lots of food ensued. It was a lot of fun.

On Sunday, it was back to the House of Lard for the traditional brunch. Excellent company, and a very tasty meal made it a nice way to cap off the weekend. The trip back was surprisingly quick, taking just a hair more than two hours. If nothing else, this confirmed for me that working a half day before we leave for South Carolina for Christmas is a Very Bad Idea, since traffic gets pretty much retarded very early on. We spent the rest of the day doing laundry, putzing on laptops, watching the Survivor Finale (Boo! I was cheering for Rafe) and chatting with rustitobuck, who stopped by to make forty or fifty pounds of cookie dough.

Looking ahead to this week, we hope to be somewhat social during the week with a few friends, though I note that there is an impending snow storm on Wednesday/Thursday that could really complicate matters. And next weekend? No plans at all, gloriously! We’ll be relaxing before we drive down to SC the following weekend to spend Christmas with my family.

And now we’re up to date! Back to work I go…

Morning Meanderings

Slow morning at the office, and no one really seems to want to get down to work. Fine by me! we’ve got the company “Holiday Dinner” today, which means a free roast beef meal for lunch (best advice from cow-orkers: “DON’T EAT THE SHRIMP SALAD!”). Incidentally, yesterday I applied for two positions here, one of which seems tailored to me: they’re looking for someone with a masters in chemical engineering who has experience with scale-up and a familiarity with a GMP environment. Hey, that’s me! Of course, there’s not a lot of chance that I’ll hear back from them, but hope springs eternal.

So, now we have snow in the forecast. Not a big deal, only 1-3 inches (though I note that while CBS 2 is saying 4-7 inches, the National Weather Service and Tom Skilling are sticking with 1-3). The big problem is that the heaviest snow is supposed to be late afternoon/early evening, which is to say, evening rush hour. Bring the pain! I’d leave early, or at least I’d have taken the train, except I have a doctor’s appointment at 4 PM in Lincolnshire. I figure if I get home by 7 PM, I’ll be doing good.

Hmm. Not much going on tonight – some leftovers for dinner, and the penultimate episode of Survivor for the season. I was revisiting some old episodes over at my favorite reality-show-snark website, Television Without Pity, and I came across this amusing comment in this week’s Amazing Race recaplet:
At any rate, a defensive posture for the finale — Anybody But The Weavers — is my personal plan. Because the season has already been boring and confusing, and if those people win a million dollars, it will become unspeakably evil.
Yeah, I think I can agree with that.

Your Daily Dose of Activism

Man, this is big and ugly. Basically: The Ford Motor Company caved in to a threatened boycott by the American Family Association and will now no longer create advertising targeting the LGBT market and will no longer sponsor GLBT events.

As reported at WardsAuto.com:
Ford Motor Co.’s decision to cease advertising in gay publications for its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands is part of a truce between the auto maker and the American Family Assn. (AFA) to avert a threatened boycott by the right-wing Christian conservative group, Ward’s learns….

As part of the latest agreement hammered out Nov. 29, sources confirm Volvo Cars will continue to advertise in the publications but will use generic ads not tailored to the gay community.

In addition, Ford has agreed not to sponsor any future gay and lesbian events but will continue to maintain its employee policies, such as same-sex partner benefits.

Well, at least that last paragraph is a small concession. Nevertheless, I somehow don’t feel particularly compelled to support Ford/Lincoln/Mercury/Volvo/Jaguar/Mazda/Land Rover/Aston Martin any time soon, particularly since they’ve attempted a full-scale cover-up of the matter.

2005 Midwest FurFest Registration Report

This is the Registration Report for Midwest FurFest 2005. This marked the sixth Midwest FurFest and my fifth year running registration. You’d think I’d have things down pat by now, but I am always working on improving and making things run smoother. This is the third year that I’ve tried to put together a comprehensive Registration report (see reports for 2003 and 2004), and while it helps me sum up the year and make notes for next year, I also welcome any questions or comments anyone reading this might have as well.
Click to read the report

Convention Musings

I’ve finished off all the data analysis for my annual Midwest FurFest Registration report and I have an outline for the report, but somehow the idea of actually starting to write the darn thing isn’t appealing right now. It’s notable that the report will be much shorter than last year’s, which was so big I had to split it into two reports. This year’s will be shorter because, well, so much went right, for a change. That made the whole experience much more pleasant, and I wasn’t nearly the basket case that I have been in the past.

I have gleaned some useful information from talking to folks during and after the convention: many people talk about how MFF has a different “feel” from other conventions. While this makes me glad (it’s always good to have something that sets your convention apart), at the same time it worries me, because if you can’t quantify something, you may accidentally screw it up and not find out until it’s too late. From my discussions, I find that a lot of things contribute to the atmosphere of MFF, from the hotel (the lobby, so well-suited for socializing), to the location (near so much shopping and restaurants), to the scheduling (an insane amount of programming through the weekend).

The biggest factor I found, though, was the staff. People found MFF’s staff pleasant and easy to work with, and that really enhanced their convention experience. So, to MFF staff and volunteers: every time you smiled and greeted someone, every time you went out of your way to be helpful, every time you worked hard behind the scenes for little or no recognition, you made Midwest FurFest the success that it is today.