Monthly Archives: February 2006

Cat Weekends Are Good For Dogs

Yesterday was pretty tough. Work was OK, but I tuned in to watch takaza‘s cousin’s funeral (for those who missed it, Jared was a police officer in Colorado Springs who was killed in the line of duty). Dan went home early to watch it, which is a good thing because it was an extremely emotional and draining service. We spent a good part of the afternoon when I got home watching the funeral procession wind through Colorado Springs (thanks to a webcast by KKTV). I skipped going to the gym because, well, it was better I stay there with Dan. Afterwards, Dan cooked a nice dinner and we watched the final episodes of Monster House.

The weekend was much better. March looks like it’s going to be a busy month, so we decided to make last weekend a “cat weekend” – the kind of days where you say to yourself, “Hey, it’s five o’clock. I should really take a shower.” On Sunday we ventured far enough outside to walk around the neighborhood a little. We checked out the Middle Eastern butcher shop near us (good prices, though I need to find a recipe that uses baby lamb shanks, because they looked delicious!). We also stopped by the coffee shop down by the (former) Kedzie El stop. Man, they weren’t kidding around about station renovation; it only took a week for them to completely level the station. There’s nothing there right now except a bunch of construction equipment between the tracks.

As for the coming week, we have the premiere of the new season of The Amazing Race tonight. Yay! (I love their ads: “It’s a new season! It won’t suck as bad as last season! We promise!”) unclevlad, renniefrog, datahawk, and posicat will be joining us, with dinner provided by the taquiera around the corner from our place. Then tomorrow night right after Dan gets home from work we’ll be going to the Gay Games Chicago volunteer orientation meeting. Yes, we looked at the lineup of events and decided that this would be something that would be a lot of fun to be involved in. And hey, with Anthrocon moved back to June for a year, that opens up a nice hole in our schedule for mid July, so this works quite nicely! I’m excited to see what might be in store, but I’m also realistic. Sure, we have experience running Midwest FurFest, but that’s small potatoes to this (they’ve got 8,000 athletes registered already, with a goal of 12,000 by July). You always need people to take tickets and fill water coolers, and if that’s what they need us to do, it’s all good. I’m looking forward to just being a part of the event.

Not a lot planned for this weekend, but I hope to remedy that. We still need to see Eight Below (and Brokeback Mountain!), and it would be fun to hang out with friends some. But for now, it’s back to work!

And since I’m posting this everyplace else tonight…

Midwest FurFest announces Guests of Honor, theme for 2006

Midwest FurFest
Hyatt Regency Woodfield
Schaumburg, Illinois
November 17 – 19, 2006

Midwest FurFest is happy to announce that the theme for MFF 2006 will be: Midwest FurFest County Fair!

We are also proud to announce our Guests of Honor for 2006:

We are pleased to welcome the talented artist Heather “Kyoht” Luterman. Kyoht’s work has been featured by Australia’s National Dinosaur Museum, and Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and media. You can see more of Kyoht’s work at her website, http://www.kyoht.com

We also welcome Whitefox (aka Whitey Fawks), noted costumer and co-owner of Arend Studios (http://www.arendstudios.com). You can find examples of Whitefox’s work at any furry convention, and he has created numerous retail, nonprofit, and sports mascots.

Finally, we are happy to be joined by Jen Seng (aka Spunky). Jen is a talented artist and cartoonist whose work has been featured by Sofa Wolf Press, among others. Her work can be found at http://www.toonapalooza.net
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Midwest FurFest is a production of Midwest Furry Fandom, Inc.
For more information go to http://www.furfest.org

Just ’cause

Here, have a rambling entry, just because. I’m feeling better today, even though I forgot to take the heavy-hitting cough syrup (mmm, codeine-licious!) this morning. I’ll stick with the OTC stuff to carry me through the day, I guess.

I’m vastly amused that an innovation from our old stomping grounds in North Carolina has been picked up on a lot of the tech blogs: Taco Bell/KFC Tries Out Touchscreens For Orders. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was one of Takaza‘s occasional lunch stops.

I’m still having fun at WikiFur. If you haven’t created an entry for yourself, well, why not? I’ll be happy to help with the editing and wikification, if needed.

We still need to try out some of the excellent restaurants in our area. Last weekend’s trip to Tre Kronor was a good start, but there’s so much more to try. Hey hartree – you need to come up and help us figure out the Korean BBQ place around the corner from us. It’s gotten rave reviews, but the prospect of navigating all the dishes and condiments is…daunting. I think I need to make a list to work from.

Speaking of restaurants, we’re looking at the possibility of hitting my favorite French restaurant in Highwood this weekend. Anyone care to join us? Plans aren’t set in stone, but if there’s enough interest, we’ll see what we can do. Fair warning: while it’s an excellent value for what you get, it is certainly not cheap! The Gourmet Menu ($32) and Chef’s Creation of the Day ($36) are a steal for a prix fixe meal.

Microsoft Word is the bane of my existence. I’ve successfully managed to crash it eight times in the last two days – either our templates are retarded (quite possibly) or my MS Office installation is borked (also quite possible). I’ll muddle through somehow, though.

Oh, and hi nymphara! Your comments about “the little Nazi” cracked me up, I must say 🙂 I hardly know the guy but my impressions of him have been, um, less than favorable.

OK, I’m off to immerse myself in my iPod and beat on Word some more.

Good Weekend, And Coughing The Night Away

Well, I’m starting to feel a bit better now, so I guess it’s time to update.

The weekend was quite pleasant. After going to the gym on Saturday morning, I bummed around the house on Saturday while takaza was at work. He got home just in time to pick up Linnaeus and I and give us a lift over to The Hopleaf to meet up with mirkowuff and siriuswolfstar. We had a couple rounds of the fabulous Belgian beers The Hopleaf is well-known for, as well as a couple of orders of frites with aioli (mmm, yummy!). We decided to break for dinner at around 6 PM; the first place we tried, L. Woods, told us it was a 60-70 minute wait for a table. Eh, Chicago is a big city, there’s plenty of other options. We instead went to Tre Kronor, a quiet little Swedish place right around the corner from where we live. The menu wasn’t extensive, but it was quite good (and inexpensive!). I had a beef stew with garlic mashed potatoes, and Dan had a sautéed chicken breast with Jarlsberg and ham. We finished off the meal with a yummy creme brulee as well as a very light chocolate mousse and some good, strong coffee. Excellent. We went back to the apartment and watched a couple of episodes of Dirty Jobs (Mike Rowe is such a cutie!) then Dan and I headed off to bed.

On Sunday, we had a nice lazy morning of laptop geeking, coffee, and Ann Sather cinnamon rolls (thanks Paul!). Then it was over to the Hyatt Regency Woodfield for the first in-person Midwest FurFest staff meeting of the year. It was a very useful meeting, and we hammered out a lot of details, though there’s still a good way to go. Afterwards, there was the usual after-meeting socialization in which we firmed up our Anthrocon rooming plans (still need to work on our travel plans, though). Dan was feeling under the weather so he headed home while about a dozen of us drove over to Fuddruckers for an early dinner. Fud gud.

I went to bed with a slight tickle in my throat on Sunday night and woke up Monday with a nasty, hacking cough. Oddly, no sinus problems or the like, just a sore throat and coughing. I felt poorly all day and wound up leaving work a little early to go home and nap. Once Dan got home he took good care of me, cooking up dinner and taking care of laundry. I’m a very lucky guy to have him.

Today I’m feeling better, though the cough and sore throat are still around. Fortunately, we have some excellent cough syrup that really takes care of things for me. No gym for me yesterday or today, though – that would be a bad idea all around, since it’s hard to exercise while you’re hacking up a lung. I’ll have to come in early for a couple days later this week to make up the time lost yesterday, but that’s not too big of a deal. I’m also happy to report that I have a lot more on my plate at work (compared to what was far too little), so I’m feeling a lot more positive about my job today.

Hopefully we should have some major announcements about MFF coming in the next few days – watch here or for those!

WWDTM, or “I blame those damn greedy Alaskans!”

Holy cow, that was fun! Last night, takaza and I made use of our respective Valentine’s Day gifts: Dan got home at 5:50 PM, and we raced out the door shortly thereafter to head downtown for a taping of Wait Wait Don’t Yiff Tell Me, “the NPR news quiz”. Getting there was easy, a short walk to the Brown Line, transfer to the Red Line at Belmont, and then a short walk to the Chase Building at Madison and Dearborn. We made a hurried stop at a nearby Wendy’s for dinner, then got to the auditorium at about 7:15 PM; the doors were only opened at 7 PM and the auditorium was already about 75% full! It wasn’t that big of a space, though – it only seats 400 (here’s a crappy phonecam picture of the stage).

It was a very, very funny show, I have to say (the show we saw should air starting tomorrow, February 18, I believe). If you listen to the show on NPR and enjoy it, you’re hearing maybe half of what is actually committed to tape – some of it is too off-topic, too blue, or just plain too silly to squeeze into the allotted fifty-some minutes. Taping started a little late, at 7:40 or so, and the gang was all there: Peter Sagal, Roy Blount, Jr., Amy Dickinson, Charlie Pierce, and Karl Cassell was even back, fresh from vacation. Peter is crisp, professional, and very smooth and very funny, and Karl was amusing, though mostly business. As for the panelists, Roy came off like your curmudgeonly grandfather, though he still snuck in some wisecracks; Amy had a couple of funny comments, but she really needs to be a bit more forthcoming. The real surprise was Charlie Pierce, who had a wisecrack for every topic and at one point got off on a truly hilarious rant about money-grubbing Alaskans that became a great running gag through the rest of the show. The “Not My Job” guest was the great Chicago harmonica player Corky Siegal, a true character in his own right. He favored us with a couple of impressive “blues harp” performances, at least one of which should make the show.

After the show was over (it took about and hour and forty minutes to tape), they recorded a couple of short segments for what will be the pledge week versions of the show. Because the material had to be “evergreen” (i.e. not topical, since it could be run any time), those segments were mostly pre-written and unfortunately a little more stilted and less funny, but still fun to watch. That was followed with about ten minutes of re-takes, where the various cast members re-did lines and comments that got flubbed or stepped on or were a little inappropriate for airing (Caller: I’ve never heard of The Thistle and Shamrock. Peter: Man, Fiona Ritchie is going to come kick your ass! Director: You can’t say that!). I thought it was pretty cool that Peter and the panelists went out to the lobby to meet and greet after the show, but unfortunately we had to head out due to the lateness of the hour.

Naturally, this was the time that the El had to have problems with signals at Belmont, and we wound up sitting on a Red Line train just south of Fullerton for the better part of a half-hour. At least the Brown Line train went express from Southport to Western to make up some time. We didn’t get home until 11:15 PM or so, and didn’t get to sleep until almost midnight. Five hours is not enough sleep for me. Ugh. I’m dragging today, for obvious reasons, and I may pass on hitting the gym tonight, electing instead to go tomorrow morning.

As for tomorrow? Well, the gym in the morning, of course. mirkowuff is due to join us in the afternoon and we’ll probably hang out with siriuswolfstar as well. And of course there’s the Midwest FurFest staff meeting on Sunday, which will be the big kickoff meeting for 2006. Yay!

Finally, we had so much fun , we’re thinking about going to another taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Tickets are $20, and it’s general admission. It’s on a Thursday night, starting at 7:30 (we’ll be there by 7 PM, though), and typically runs until 9:30 PM. If we go on March 16th, Rasslor can join in the fun (assuming he’s interested, of course). Panelists that night are Adam Felber and Paula Poundstone, plus a Panelist To be Named Later. So, who’s interested?

Wait for my iPod?

As you may have heard, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Seeing that on a typical workday morning, I see takaza for all of five minutes before I head off to work (I go in to get dressed at 6 AM, when he wakes up), and given that there are a number of wonderful descriptions for Dan but none of them include the phrase “morning person”, we elected to exchange V-Day gifts when he got home in the evening. That evening, we both had tooth-rottingly cute cards for each other, and there was a folded-up piece of paper in mine. I opened it up and it was a list of upcoming showings for Wait Wait – Don’t Tell Me, a fabulously funny NPR program recorded right here in Chicago, for me to choose from. Dan then opened up the envelope I gave him with his card to find…tickets to this week’s taping of Wait Wait – Don’t Tell Me. We both burst out laughing. Evidently, we know each other well enough and share the same tastes enough that we got each other the same gift. It works out since Dan hadn’t actually bought the tickets yet, and he made my birthday so lovely that it all evens out. He then cooked up some tasty macaroni and cheese (with lots of thick-sliced bacon! arr num num num) and we had a nice relaxing evening.

Well, sort of relaxing. My iPod has become the bane of my existence. Well, not really; more accurately our MP3 collection has become the bane of my existence. We have about 35 Gb of MP3’s (about 8,300 tracks) that we have accumulated over the last six or seven years. Because they’re from a wide variety of sources the ID3 tags (information in each file that contains artist, album, and song title, plus other info) are of varying quality, from quite thorough to completely blank. With my last MP3 player, this wasn’t an issue because it relied more on the file name so I could usually figure out what I was listening to. The iPod, though, ignores file names and relies completely on ID3 tag information. If I want to, say, play all tracks in a given genre, or by a given artist, I’m out of luck if that information isn’t on a track.

I found an excellent program to fill in the ID3 information on a semi-automated basis. In my first pass I fed it all 8,300 tracks and wound up with about6,100 tracks identified and tagged and 2,200 tracks that had to be identified manually. Well, that wasn’t going to work, plus if I want podcasts and room for new music I was going to have to leave room on my iPod for those, and it only holds 30 Gb. So I sorted through the files and split them into those that I wanted to carry around, and those I could comfortably leave behind, with about 20 Gb of tracks going onto the iPod. I fed those files into MusicBrainz and this was better – after some whittling down, I’m down to about 630 tracks still to be identified manually. I think i can pare that down further, but I expect that in the end I’ll still have to sort through 400 files or so. I’m actually glad of it, though – I’m finding that we have a lot more electronica than I thought we did, and that’s my music of choice when working out at the gym.

Once I get all the files straightened out and uploaded to the iPod, I’ve found a nifty utility that will add album art to the files, which will show up on the iPod display when the track is playing. Then I need to start picking up podcasts; I’ve already got Wait Wait.. and NPR’s Story of the Day subscriptions set up, and I need to go hunting around to see what else tickles my fancy. altivo, I’ll admit I’m a slacker and I still haven’t checked out your podcasts, and woodychitwn had a good recommendation a while ago, though I’m not sure how I’d feel about listening to that while working out 🙂 I’ll have to see what I can find. Oh, and on top of all of this, I just found Azureus, and I’m having a lot of fun playing with it. I’ve found that when you have a flaky wireless connection, though, Bittorrent doesn’t work very well. I need to work on that.