Monthly Archives: July 2007

Great Grilling, and “Oh Yeah, That’s Why I Don’t Go There…”

So besides the weekend’s technological trials and tribulations, what else happened?

On Saturday we decided that since roho, genet, and colliedoc were coming over, a tasty grilled dinner would be in order. We laid out where we needed to go, but the circle slowly got wider. See, we needed some really good corn on the cob, and while Garden Fresh Market’s isn’t bad, I think the best corn around is from Stade’s Farm Market, so a detour to McHenry was added. And heck, as long as we were going that way, if we want really good steaks, we were going to need to go to our favorite butcher at Antioch Packing House. The farm stand was delightful, as expected, and we picked up some fresh peppers, beefsteak tomatoes, and some delicious apple-cinnamon bread along with the corn. And Antioch Packing House always has good ground beef and bacon, so we had to get some of those while we got the 1.5″ thick New York strip steaks. Stopping by Garden Fresh, I got some asparagus and some other goodies. Once the Tivo was up and running, I fired up the grill and I grilled the asparagus with a garlic-rosemary-lemon vinaigrette that was divine. The steaks cooked up perfectly, and the rest of the meal (as well as the company) was excellent!

On Sunday we unfortunately had to bow out from magicpaw‘s birthday shindig (we’ll make it up to you, we promise!). While we were out picking up the networking gadgets we needed, I wanted a quick and cheap lunch. Hey, there’s a White Castle! I haven’t been to one of those in over a decade. And after having eaten there, I can safely say it’ll be at least another decade, because that was just plain nasty. Once we got everything up and running, the rest of the afternoon was spent lazing around relaxing, and scheduling our Tivo to fill up with weird, random programming.

And now it’s Monday. It should be a quiet week, though it looks like Dan will be working late on Thursday and Friday. Hmm, maybe I’ll actually get around to start that Harry Potter book this week (sorry Roho! 🙂

TGIF? Yeah, Close Enough

Man, am I tired. That has something to do with last night’s late bedtime, but it was worth it!

Last night was takaza monthly Game Night. We were joined by Dan’s mom, todd_riverden, serinthia, rustitobuck, steviemaxwell, roho, linnaeus, and genet. Pizza was ordered, and we got in not only several entertaining rounds of Wits and Wagers, but also a couple of rounds of Lupus in Tabula, which is always entertaining (and also, apparently, our sofa breeds werewolves. Who knew?). Wits and Wagers is a fun game, though I think once we involve more people, to the point where we have teams, it will be much more fun – a bit more chaotic, too, which makes it all the more entertaining. Keep an eye on Dan’s LJ for the announcement for next month’s Game Night!

In other news, we got the audiobook for Harry Potter and the Giant Wads of Cash (that Amazon had originally promised to deliver on Saturday, then said, “Oops, did we say Saturday? We meant Wednesday”). Even better, Genet was kind enough to lend me her copy of the hardcover last night (even before giving it to her husband! What a great friend 🙂 so my work for the next few days is cut out for me.

A bit of bad news: last night after everyone left we noticed a high-pitched humming sound, like a computer working in overdrive. We traced it down to our TiVo, and after a bit of checking found out that it was in an endless rebooting loop. Well, hell. That’s no good at all, particularly since we have 16 episodes of Doctor Who on there waiting to be watched. Reading through the online communities, it appears there’s typically three possible culprits: bad guide data (though that typically only causes a single reboot, or occasional reboot), bad hard drive, or bad power supply. Dan and Roho are going to try swapping out the hard drive (and while they’re at it, up the drive capacity to 500 Gb or so), but I’m not sure what the timeline is on that – hopefully by the end of the weekend, though. If we lose data, I refuse to get upset. It’s only TV, and if I really want something, there are ways to get it 🙂 Besides, I seem to have a book to keep me occupied while we’re offline…

As for the coming weekend, we have nothing planned for Saturday, and I hope that we keep it that way. We’re overdue for a “cat weekend” after Anthrocon, and the idea of sleeping in (as much as I can, anyway) and lounging around at home sounds deliciously decadent. As for Sunday we hope to make it to a birthday gathering, though a lot depends on how early we can get out of bed and get moving. We’ll be in touch about that when we can.

I’m going in search of caffeine now…

Conventions, Hobbies, and Saying “No”

First off, since I have been somewhat remiss, I want to thank everyone for their congratulations and well-wishes from Sunday’s journal entry. Make no mistake, I am honored and gratified to have been chosen for the 2008 chairman position. If there’s any tremor in my voice, it’s due to the realization of how big the scope of the position is and of the challenges that lie before me in the coming year and a half (or so).

There is one thing that I wanted to touch on, though. Many of you have heard me say this before over the last fifteen (!) years, but it certainly bears repeating.

Furry conventions, and indeed any fannish-run convention (or SCA event, or what have you), are part of our hobbies. To my mind, a hobby is something that you do for fun, to take you away from the humdrum of the everyday world. To that end I think that it is extremely important that while we are engaged in hobbies, we are enjoying ourselves and having a good time. Because in the end, if a hobby isn’t fun, why are you doing it? And to be honest, if you’re not having fun, it shows. It drags down those around you. And it puts you on the fast track to burnout, where anything associated with your hobby fails to bring you happiness. That, to me, is the worst of all possible outcomes.

I never want someone to work with me at a convention because they feel guilty, or because they have a feeling of obligation. That isn’t what conventions are about. Sure, the immediate task may not be that exciting, but overall the opportunity to give something back to the community, to meet new people, to work side by side with your friends, to enjoy the challenge of bringing order out of chaos – that is what I would hope people get out of the experience.

The corollary to this applies to those who aren’t working the convention. I would never think less of someone who isn’t interested in volunteering or who says, “I need a break.” If it’s not fun, if it’s not enjoyable, then don’t do it. Don’t let working take the fun out of your hobby.

Now, I hope I’m not cutting my own throat here, but what I want to say is that if someone feels that they are not enjoying working for a convention, I would hope that they would be willing to say so. I would consider them no less a friend for their decision, because hey – I want to see my friends enjoy themselves too! And for those who work the conventions and find joy in the work they do, you should know that your efforts are deeply appreciated, not only by the other staff of the convention but by all of the attendees as well.

Something to consider for those who have not worked at conventions: there are always opportunities to help others, and to see the convention (or event) from a different angle. As people take a break from helping out, new blood is needed to keep the convention going. And hey, you can usually get a nifty T-shirt or membership out of the deal, too! 🙂

A Full Weekend

Right, so how did we spend the weekend?

On Friday, we went to bed early. Wasn’t that exciting?

On Saturday, we bummed around the house in the morning, then headed down to Schaumburg to stay at the Amerisuites Schaumburg. You see, back at Midwest FurFest 2006, r_bear won a certificate good for one night at the Amerisuites at the charity auction, which he then presented to takaza. We were finally able to take advantage of his wonderful gesture this weekend, and had a nice, relaxing time there. We met up with linnaeus, datahawk, aureth, and mirkowuff at Big Bowl for dinner. The food was just delicious, and the two pitchers of sangria were pretty darned good too! It was a very enjoyable meal and I’m glad we could all get together. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and took advantage of the lovely swimming pool and hot tub before stumbling up to bed.

We took advantage of the tasty free breakfast at the Amerisuites before checking out on Sunday, heading right across the parking lot to the Hyatt for the Midwest FurFest board and staff meetings. Everyone has already seen the results of the board meeting. The staff meeting passed uneventfully, and there was some good discussion afterwards as well. The group got a late lunch/early dinner at Potbelly before heading out separate ways. Dan and I were exhausted and pretty limp Sunday evening, and we wound up heading off to bed a little before 9. This lingering cough is kicking my butt, and the cough syrup, while extremely effective, makes me quite fuzzy in the head, so early bedtimes are good to prevent any lingering morning fuzziness.

And here we are with a new week! We have a game night coming up later in the week, and on Wednesday I have an appointment with my doctor to discuss the results of my latest blood test (standard stuff), and what to do about the fact that I probably have enough cholesterol in my blood stream to make some butter. Not too much planned for this coming weekend (for all that I tried to talk Dan into driving to Pittsburgh on a whim), though I believe there is also a birthday get-together or two in the works. Big fun!

Well. Now What?

In a wholly-not-unexpected turn of events, it appears that the chairman for Midwest FurFest 2008 will be…um, me.

I feel excited about the prospect, yet vaguely queasy. If the pattern of growth continues as it has, 2008 will be the year that Midwest FurFest crosses the 2,000-attendee milestone.

Oh boy.

But What Happened After That?

So I suppose the last substantive post I made kind of left things off around the middle of last week. The rest of the week was pretty quiet; honestly, I was so darned tired all week long that actually doing anything would have been difficult. Also, it didn’t help that the cough that lingered through Anthrocon continued to haunt me, waking me up a couple of times each night and making catching up on sleep difficult.

Saturday we finally got around to being social again, catching Harry Potter and the Moneymaking Juggernaut on Saturday afternoon with roho and genet. Order of the Phoenix was my least favorite book, between Harry’s pubescent whining and interminable scenes at the Order headquarters filled with talking, talking, talking. The movie cured a lot of that by cutting out great chunks of the story (which was needed, I think, if only to make the run time manageable). For that alone I would have liked the movie, but the casting was fabulous as well. I always adore Emma Thompson, and her depiction of Professor Trelawney is always great. Evanna Lynch wasn’t quite the way I was picturing Luna Lovegood but I thought she was a good choice. And Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge was just delicious – how she gives you the willies with a girlish giggle. All in all, a good movie, and one I enjoyed a lot.

After the movie, we retired back to our place where we were joined by colliedoc, who was crashing with us between weekend shifts at Bristol Renaissance Faire. Fajitas were consumed, as well as yummy artichoke dip and a caramel apple pie that was just divine. We watched some Flip This House and World Series of Pop Culture, and everyone had a great time.

Both takaza and I woke up before 8 AM on Sunday (!), so we saw Straif off for the day. After relaxing a bit and catching up on some Tivo, we headed out to meet up with justincheetah for a Top Secret Project. Not much I can say except that it was a pleasure to Mike (Calla), Cheetah’s boyfriend. Afterwards we headed home and had a quiet evening in.

On Monday, I finally got tired of the wretched cough and went to see the doctor. I explained that I had tried taking Tussin AC (guaifenesin + codeine, left over from a prescription from last year) but it didn’t really seem to help. She prescribed another cough syrup and told me to call if that didn’t help. I left a bit disgusted, hoping to have a bit more help than that, but oh well. I got out of the doctor’s in time to catch Dan on the way home on the train, so I picked him up at the Mundelein station (yay for Google Maps on my Motorola Q!) and we went shopping for the week’s groceries at Target using the $100 in gift cards we had gotten as thanks for helping out at Dan’s company picnic. While we were there, I had the cough syrup prescription filled, to the tune of $0.69. The groceries were a lot more, though we went a little nuts and bought some stuff we probably wouldn’t have otherwise, just to try out new brands and such.

That night, I took the cough syrup before going to bed and…I take back everything I said before. The doctor had prescribed Hydromet, which I thought was more of the same but is actually hydrocodone and homatropine. I knew hydrocodone affects me a lot more than codeine (following some fun in college with an abscessed tooth and Lorcet Plus; “Whoa, I think I’ll sit down now.”), but the homatropine is some serious stuff as well. Since I took that first dose I haven’t coughed. At all. Holy cats. And this after I was wracked a couple of times each day and night with a nasty, rasping cough. I took it again last night (earlier than I had Monday night, which was good since I didn’t feel quite as dopey this morning), but I’m thinking that should be all that’s necessary.

As for the rest of the week, there’s not too much going on. I have the Midwest FurFest registration database up to date now, and while we’re ahead of last year’s registrations I’m not seeing any insane explosions of growth. The fact that we’re selling out the Hyatt in July (as opposed to in October last year) is more a reflection of the fact that it costs nothing to reserve a hotel room, but actually costs money to register 🙂 Anyway, now that everything is caught up, I have about 70 or so confirmation postcards to send out, which I hope to do tonight. I don’t think we’re doing anything Friday night, but Saturday night we’re going to stay at the Amerisuites Schaumburg (thanks again, r_bear!), then on Sunday is the Midwest FurFest board meeting at 1 PM then the staff meeting at 2 PM. Lots to do before those meetings, so off I go!

A Public Service Announcement

If you have not reserved your room for Midwest FurFest at the Hyatt, you will want to do that TODAY. Like, RIGHT NOW. Seriously.

EDIT @ 14:51 CDT: Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Unless takaza can shake any rooms loose, it’s looking like the Hyatt is sold out for the night of Saturday, November 17. Watch for his posts on on when the room block at our overflow hotel, the Amerisuites Schaumburg, will be opening up.

Anthrocon Report, Part 6: Final Thoughts

So, how to summarize Anthrocon 2007?

It was a big year for me. We put a lot of plans into place and I think they came off rather well, a few technical glitches notwithstanding. I didn’t have enough time to socialize, which isn’t too surprising given how I was tethered to the Alley, but I don’t really regret that too much. Standing in the empty Artists Alley at 4:45 PM on Sunday, after everyone had been paid and left, I was left with a feeling of accomplishment.

One thing that I think is worth mentioning, and something that very few people know, unless they were involved with staff in Hall C. I wouldn’t be able to do my job if it weren’t for the efforts of my husband, takaza. Yes, I know – he’s my husband and it’s expected that I would give him credit. But were it not for him and his staff (daveqat, jimcyl, and wild_rhythm) we wouldn’t have had the cash for our cash registers or to pay the artists at the end of the day, and Anthrocon’s finances would be a mess. Dan put in a lot of time preparing for the con, and during the con put in even longer hours than I did. Unfortunately, the nature of his job keeps him out of the public eye, and it’s often rather thankless. So I want to publicly thank him for all of his hard work, and remind him that I love him very much!

Looking ahead to 2008, I see a lot of challenges ahead of us. If we expand the Alley by 50%, our registers and our payout system are going to be stretched to the breaking point. We need to investigate how to improve the artist tracking system (possibly with a Point-of-Sale system, and making the Con Store register able to take Artists Alley purchases during busy periods) and how to speed up payout. I need at least two or three more staff members, as well. We’ve got some other innovative ideas that we need to pitch to the Anthrocon board that could help dealers as well. In short, we have some exciting opportunities ahead of us, and amazingly enough I’m looking forward to next year already.

Among other things for next year, I hope to finally set foot in the Steel City Diner. I hope to host another Fine Potables Tasting (and actually get invitations to everyone I want to invite!). I hope to make it back to the Dorsai debriefing on Sunday night. And finally, I hope that, when Anthrocon 2008 is over, I’m looking forward to 2009 with the excitement I feel now for 2008.

Anthrocon Report, Part 1: Tuesday and Wednesday

I’ll start out by saying that this is going to be a long, multi-part report. The main reason I write these (and so many of my other “went-here, did-this” entries) is because I find that it’s nice to be able to come back months or years later and revisit these entries and be reminded of what went wrong, what went right, who I spent time with, and what exactly happened. I invite everyone to come along for the ride, but if it’s not your thing, I understand completely.

That having been said, let’s start at the beginning, on Tuesday, shall we?

For obvious reasons I’m afraid I didn’t get much accomplished on Tuesday at work, since my mind was very much on the coming trip. I was able to get away from work at 2 PM. This gave me time to stop at Subway and grab some lunch, then go home and eat before piling part of our luggage into the car and heading to the train station for the 3:13 PM Metra train. Takaza had the rest of the luggage and was going to meet me at O’Hare, having gotten a ride from a co-worker. The train ride was uneventful, and the transfer from the train to the bus to the O’Hare ATS was very simple. I met Dan at the United E-Ticketing baggage check-in in Terminal 1 and we cruised through the security checkpoint.

The flight out was unremarkable, save that on what appeared to be a very full flight, an unoccupied row was available so Dan grabbed the window seat and I grabbed the aisle, thus freeing us both of the packed three-person rows we were in before. We got to Pittsburgh International Airport at about 10:30 PM and after a bit of an extended wait for our luggage, went out to meet the shuttle that Dan had called while we waited. The shuttle (with the World’s Most Surly Driver, who didn’t even make a move to help load our bags into the van) took us over to the La Quinta Pittsburgh Airport. It was…adequate. Definitely a mid-to-lower range La Quinta, but it was only $15 with Dan’s LQ points. We watched a bit of TV then went to sleep at around midnight.

Wednesday

I woke up with a coughing fit (something that was to become standard for the week) at about 6 AM and after about a half-hour of trying to get back to sleep, I got up and showered, then went down to get some breakfast and read the paper. I thought something was a bit odd with the free newspaper the hotel supplied (the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), but it wasn’t until I read the uncritical quote from a Washington Times reporter and saw Mallard Fillmore on the editorial page that I decided I needed to get a real newspaper and walked next door to the Bob Evans and bought a copy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I knew I was going into a news black hole (I don’t have time to read a newspaper during a con!) so I figured I’d enjoy it while I could.

I returned to the room to find Dan already up and showered. We packed everything up and took it down to the lobby where Dan had some breakfast while we waited for the shuttle back to the airport at 9:30 AM. Once we got back to the airport (courtesy of our MUCH friendlier and helpful driver), we walked all of 100 feet down the curb to wait for the 28X bus to take us downtown. As we waited we were joined by Mach, which made the ride much more pleasant and a really nice start to our con experience. The bus let us off about three blocks from the Westin, and we had no problems finding it. We were able to check in immediately, which was a very nice surprise. We took our luggage up to the room and I got the clothes put away and shirts and pants hung up while we had the chance.

Once we were fully settled in, it was time to dive into the convention! We stopped by Operations, but except for various staff members filtering in, there wasn’t a lot going on, especially since they hadn’t dispatched the truck to the storage unit yet. We hung out there for a while, and then decided to get some lunch. Unfortunately, we found that downtown Pittsburgh on a holiday (July 4th, in this case) was a ghost town. Nothing was open, and we wound up walking about eight blocks down to Gateway Center before coming on a McDonalds that was open. Any port in a storm, I guess. We had a quick lunch, and then returned to the hotel to find that the troops had been marshaled and dispatched to the storage unit in our absence.

Dan, kellicjtigerKellic, and I worked to get the radios set up, identifying the faulty ones and verifying the programming on all of them. I think we wound up with a couple of duds (like last year) but overall everything seemed OK. I had an excellent discussion with Bigtig about the Anthrocon Registration system, and what he’s done to improve it over the years. I continue to be impressed with the work that he’s done, and I think he has every right to be very proud of the improvements he has made to the system. The proof is how smoothly things went this year as he and his staff registered 2,849 people. Well done!

We took a break from Ops and I went outside and hung out with Datahawk, Emrldgrrl, Artemisfur, Dancingninny, and the rest of the Dekalb crew. We had a lot of fun chatting, watching the crowds coming in, and making snarky comments. After a time, I went back into find that the hordes had come and gone and emptied the truck very quickly into the Operations office. I helped Dan get his office’s equipment sorted out, and then we started to talk about dinner.

We wound up taking orders from most of the Dorsai on site as well as a couple of others and ordering from Ephesus Pizza. Dan and I ordered a chicken alfredo pizza (with bacon!) that was delicious, if a bit salty for my taste. We hung out in Ops for a few hours, helping out here and there and sharing some of our pizza. The fireworks were quite pretty, what little we could see in the gap between the office buildings. Afterwards, we trundled up to bed and watched a bit of TV before sleep claimed us at around midnight.