Monthly Archives: October 2007

Riding Shotgun Down the Avalanche

Another year, another frantic scramble to get everything required for Registration set up. It stuns me to realize that this is the seventh year I’ve been doing this, but I’m also realizing that it’s really a good thing that I’ll be handing off the reins for this next year. A certain sense of “just do it the same way we did last year” sets in, and that’s not good when we’re pushing for innovation and excitement about the convention. I’m sure neowolf2 will bring some great new perspective to the position and go great places with it.

So, what has consumed all my time over the last few weeks? Well, let me tell you…


So apparently Websense, the filtering service that $employer uses, has determined that any and all URL’s that begin with are sex-related and must be blocked.


Hopefully that will be fixed quickly.

Two Items of Note

I almost forgot! I wanted to mention two things.

First off, Halloween is upon us. takaza went all out, ordering some nifty stuff from Oriental Trading Company to give to the trick-or-treaters. Then I checked the Village of Hainesville website: “The official trick-or-treat time is Sunday, October 28, from 1 PM to 4 PM.” Wow. Trick or treating in the daytime? Could they do anything more to sap the fun out of it? Maybe require everyone to give out coupons for healthy carrot and apple snacks instead of candy? Gah. I could rant about this so much but I just won’t. Anyway, we got all of five trick or treaters. Five. Two of those didn’t even have costumes, just stood at the door with an outthrust grocery bag, and one of those only said “Trick or Treat” when Dan asked, “Can I help you?”

I sure hope we get more kids by on Wednesday night, ’cause we sure do have a lot of candy left.

On a brighter note, I finally got around to trying the Aeropress coffee maker I picked up the other day. Oh. My. God. So good. This was really amazing coffee. It’s not really espresso as much as coffee concentrate. You brew it at 165-175 degrees F (much lower than usual) and there’s only about ten seconds of contact between the coffee grounds and the water, then you press. I used as much coffee grounds as I usually do for three mugs of coffee (my standard morning dose) and got about 2/3 of a mug. Then I got stupid and made another round. Um, yeah – the caffeine is totally still in there. I think I was vibrating slightly for a good half-hour. Anyway, the coffee is every bit as smooth and rich as they say it is. I highly recommend it!

A Semi-Lazy Weekend

Well, as lazy as weekends can be, given the proximity to Midwest FurFest.

On Friday, takaza and I had talked about possibly going out for a quick and simple dinner. Dan lay down to relax a bit at 7 PM, and long about 9 PM I went up and tucked him in for the night ’cause we weren’t going anywhere. Eh, I’d had a big lunch, so I had a little cheese and crackers and called it dinner. At least I got caught up on South Park and Drawn Together.

Saturday, I helped Dan with the MFF pocket program and con book, then ran out to do a little shopping. Dinner was tasty homemade buttermilk fried chicken with mashed potatoes. Dan worked hard on the con book into the evening until I suggested he take a break; we relaxed a bit in front of the Tivo then went to bed.

It was more of the same on Sunday, except that while Dan put the finishing touches on the con book and the room setups (since he’s Hotel Liaison, too), I worked on dinner. perro and wolphy came over and Perro and Dan hammered out the last of the Programming details while I was all domestic in the kitchen and Wolphy noodled on his laptop. For dinner we had baked polenta (imagine lasagna made with strips of polenta instead of noodles, layered with a Bolognese meat sauce and béchamel sauce, with a sprinkle of freshly-grated Parmesan. For dessert, we had hot fudge pudding cake with vanilla ice cream. Yum! Once the programming shop talk was done, there was a lot of good conversation about MFF ’08, and general chatting. It was a lot of fun, and it was a real pleasure to hang out with those two!

Then came this morning. I slept poorly, and Dan had to wake me up when the alarm went off at 5:30 AM (he usually sleeps until 6 AM). In spite of dragging a bit this morning I’m doing a lot better now. After work I’ll be heading down to our usual staff badge engraver (the shop right around the corner from our house quoted me a price twice what we usually pay, so back to the old reliable). We should be getting a ton of packages this week, from sponsor goodies to A/V equipment to credit card terminals. Somehow our house became Midwest FurFest Package Central! We’re going to need to figure out where to stick everything around the house for a few weeks, but we’ll make it work.

OK, back to work with me!

It’s That Time of Year

Crunch time is upon us for Midwest FurFest. This past weekend was spent preparing several different orders for sponsor and Registration items, gathering information, etc. I won’t bore you with the details, but that pretty much ate up most of my Sunday. Saturday was a lot more fun, though! While takaza slaved away on the Con Book and hotel issues, I made a savory sweet potato casserole which was simply divine. I figure anything that’s made with half a pound of bacon and three-quarters of a pound of cheddar cheese can’t be bad! I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but this was just delicious! I was fascinated by the way the sweet potatoes added a complex, almost curry-like flavor to the dish. The dish was my contribution to unclevlad‘s birthday party; once it was done I packed it into a cooler with layers of towels to keep it warm and drove on down. The casserole was a hit (yay!) and the party was a blast. I was able to chat with perro, darkwolph, and linnaeus about con stuff (sorry if the smoffage put everyone else off!) and had a great time chatting with all of the other folks there.

On top of all of this we have the preparations for Midwest FurFest 2008. I was vastly relieved to get confirmation of our second (of three) guests of honor yesterday. The third slot will probably remain open until early next year. A theme has also been chosen, so we can go ahead and add those to the promotional materials for next year. (What’s the theme and who are the Guests of Honor? Come to Closing Ceremonies and find out!) This is a nice weight off my mind, though.

Unfortunately, Dan’s health issues continue, with good days and bad days. I worry about him a lot, and it’s frustrating that there’s really not a lot I can do to help. We’ll muddle through this somehow, but I do hope it passes sooner than later.

In happier news, a couple of nice things from yesterday: 1. My Aeropress came in the mail. I may make my first cup of coffee with it tonight (early in the evening, though!). 2. With CBS canceling the apparently-execrable “Viva Laughlin”, the gap in the schedule opens the door for the premiere of the new season of The Amazing Race on Sunday, November 4 at 7 PM CT. Yaaaaay! Anyone interested in making a social event of the premiere?

Then Again, Maybe Not

Well, due to some last-minute illness and takaza‘s continuing health issues, we are going to postpone this weekend’s River Trip. I won’t say I’m not disappointed, but I’ll survive. We’ll probably try again come late April/early May of next year, and who knows? Maybe we can add to our caravan. As the time comes closer, we’ll spread the word around. It’s probably just as well, since Dan and I both have a lot of work to get done for Midwest FurFest, including almost 300 postcards to label, stamp, and mail out.

Meanwhile, I came across some interesting and fun links this morning. Mark over at BoingBoing TV (who has excellent taste in coffee beans) demonstrates a coffee gadget so nifty I bought one this morning (See the exhaustive discussion here as well). Also, Adam at The Amateur Gourmet gives us a nifty video tour of a cheese shop and discusses some cheese basics with the cheesemonger there. Finally, happy 40th birthday to LOGO, the first programming language I ever learned. And I’ll note that I’m a lousy programmer. Correlation? Who knows?

Cheeseland, Indian Food, and Lots of Driving

Goodness, I guess I’ve been a bit quiet of late. We’re dealing with some health issues reasonably well, which makes me feel a lot better. So. The weekend…

Saturday morning I woke up on the early side and was feeling…spontaneous. Yeah, this is surprisingly rare for me, sadly enough. Anyway, I decided to make a quick run up to Milwaukee to check out the Milwaukee Public Market, since I’ve heard good things about it. Plus, Milwaukee is all of an hour from our house yet we never go up there.

Well, I discovered one good reason not to go up there: I-94 is under some serious construction by the IL/WI state line, then again in downtown Milwaukee. I navigated around that, though, and found my way down to the market. Wow, that place is pretty darned nifty! I picked up a number of interesting cheeses (including litteria, a Romano-like cheese native to Wisconsin, as well as Juusto, which I’ve been curious about. I also got some fabulous homemade pasta, a tasty loaf of asiago-garlic bread, and a couple of other goodies. When I finished at the market, I ventured further north into downtown to The Spice House, where I picked up some spice blends we had run out of (apparently my timing was off; if I’d been around earlier I might have run into the Furconsin crew!). I finished off the visit with a trip by the lakefront location of my drug dealer coffee purveyor, Alterra Coffee. I found that 1.) their parking lot is wholly inadequate, 2.) the only thing worse then stupid people is stupid people in groups, and 3.) I want to have Alterra’s triple latte’s babies. I had fun getting lost as I left town (I’m sure I went right by rolliebear‘s place, though!) and avoided the worst of the construction on the way home with some judiciously-timed detours. Dinner for takaza and I was an alfredo-esque sauce made with the litteria cheese over fresh pappardelle. Delicious!

Sunday found me driving allover Schaumburg and Rolling Meadows finishing off gathering data for the Midwest FurFest Restaurant Guide. We dropped about 10-15 places (closed, have closer locations to the hotel, etc.), but we picked up a couple too, including Pierogi Place, my new favorite place for a quick bite anywhere near Schaumburg. When I was done, I met up with steviemaxwell and midwestcougar for a truly delicious lunch buffet at Gaylord India Restaurant. I’m pleased to say that the restaurant is everything that the effusive Restaurant Guide review that I inherited promised that it is. The northern Indian cuisine was a wonderful contrast to the southern Indian of Bombay City in Gurnee both were good in their own way, but very different flavors. I’d love to go back and order off the menu!

And here we are well into the week already. The great news is that it looks like the River Trip coming up this weekend is still on, and the weather is going to be fabulous. takaza and I will be joined by linnaeus and daveqat. Our itinerary is (loosely) going to include spending Friday night in Moline, IL, then Saturday night in Decorah, IA. Sunday, we’ll probably skim southeastern Minnesota (sorry, foxfeather! We just won’t have time to visit this time around) and either head up to La Crosse, WI and then down on I-94 (boring!) or head due east from Prairie du Chien, WI (and with a name like that, how could I not go there?). The latter route would take us through little towns like New Glarus, WI. Now whatever could we find there, I wonder?

And now, back to watching Heroes!

Get ‘Em While They’re Hot!

As of this morning, you can reserve at the Westin Pittsburgh Convention Center for Anthrocon 2008 (Omni William Penn reservations to come).

Read the instructions carefully! Note that a non-refundable deposit for your first room night will be charged to your credit card approximately 62 days before the convention (typically around April 25).

If you want to know why these measures were necessary, read the background here.

Edit to Add: It has been noted that the Anthrocon pages are experiencing high traffic (funny thing, that) and therefore might be running a bit slow. Also, I found that the Westin’s reservation page barfed when I tried to reserve with FireFox, but it worked OK with IE.

Why Do I Smell Like Garlic?

Well, something about being wrist-deep in garlic will do that to you, I suppose. Last night’s kitchen adventures included preparing the Asian peanut dressing for the grilled zucchini (easy enough – dump a bunch of stuff into the food processor and puree). I also made the rosemary-garlic oil for the potatoes grilled in foil, which consisted of 50 garlic cloves and 30 sprigs of fresh rosemary pureed with three cups of olive oil. Let me tell you, it’s a pain in the ass to peel 50 cloves of garlic. Still, I’m happy with the results.

Then came the main event: dinner rolls. Very exciting, no? Well, baking 96 yeast dinner rolls is a bit of a challenge. takaza was kind enough to borrow a number of muffin pans from his cow-orkers (some of which were best described as “vintage”). I made the rolls in two batches of 48 (actually 45 in the first batch and 40 in the second due to vagaries of portioning). Blessings upon Dan for reminding me that our square Cambro containers are awesome for holding rising dough and perfect for determining when the dough volume has doubled. I’ll post the recipes after this weekend, but everything came out reasonably well with only a couple of rolls getting a bit overdone and having to be eaten/discarded (most of them from one of the “vintage” pans). They’re all nicely bagged up in one-gallon Ziplock bags and ready to go; the plan is to put them into foil and briefly throw them on the grill (maybe with a quick spray of water to moisten them) so they can be served hot.

Tonight’s entertainment? A run to the butcher immediately after work to pick up 20+ pounds of New York strip steaks, then an evening spent making apple slab pies (mmm, 20 pounds of apples to be peeled and cored. What fun!).

Incidentally, if anyone is going to be at the game on Saturday, isn’t going to be playing, and would like to lend a hand, we will probably be able to put a few folks to work as we prepare dinner. Dan and I will probably be on site and setting up between noon and 1 PM. Also, note that if I understand things correctly (and I hope steviemaxwell corrects me if I am wrong), although we will still be in Madison Meadow Park in Lombard, we won’t be at the usual field (the ones at Madison and Ahrens) but at the ones near Harding and Fairfield. Here’s a map to make things a bit clearer.

70 Pounds of Produce Later…

Well, that was fun! Yesterday after work (which was, by the way, interrupted by a 4-hour power outage. For those of you familiar with such things imagine the fun of extended power outage + cGMP-compliant contained environments. Fun!) I headed over to the final Grayslake Farmers Market of the season in hopes of buying the majority of the produce I needed for the Picnic (or Steakball, as I’ve taken to calling it) this weekend.

First up: apples! For the Apple Slab Pies (I decided to make three of them), I needed 10.5 lbs each of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples. I checked with the apple seller with the widest variety and he cut me a deal on Golden Delicious and Cortlands (which I prefer to Granny Smith anyway), $1.42/pound. If I’d haggled I could have gotten it cheaper, but OK. Alas, they were out of the monstrous zucchinis that would have made life so much easier. On my way out, I passed a vendor who had a nice variety of potatoes. A little discussion and some digging in his truck netted me 30 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes for $0.50/pound. Score! Yukon Golds hold their shape much better than Russet potatoes, and have a nice intrinsically buttery taste. Usually they’re a lot more expensive, too, so I was happy with this find.

Then it was off to Garden Fresh for the rest of the supplies, including 22 pounds of zucchini and 8 heads of garlic. I wrapped up in time to pick up takaza from the train station, and even to surprise him with a small root beer shake (his favorite). After a short break at home, I left him to work on con book stuff and struck off to Sam’s Club, where I picked up the last few things we needed (like powdered drinks and foil pans). The real find was a large pack of ready-to-roll crusts, just what we need for the apple pies, at half the price it would cost to buy them at Jewel. Woo!

So now we’re stocked and ready to roll. Tonight I’ll be making the Asian peanut dressing for the zucchini, the garlic-rosemary oil, and nearly 100 yeast dinner rolls. Tomorrow will be the really busy night, with 21 pounds of apples to be cored and peeled (fortunately, I picked up a little help for that) then making three 13″ x 18″ apple pies. Dan will be a big help with those!

It’s funny – this seems a lot of hassle, and I sometimes wonder why I put myself through this kind of stuff. Last night, though, while relaxing with the knowledge that everyhting was falling into place and things are shaping up to be as good as I hope they will be, I realized that’s the key – that sense of accomplishment. It takes a lot of effort to get there, but it’s a really good feeling.

So Tired…

As I have noted in the past, insomnia sucks, and insomnia on a Sunday night when you’re trying to readjust to a work-week schedule and went to bed late…Ugh. Needless to say, I’m dragging a good bit this morning. I have a whole lot to write about the weekend, though!

On Saturday I met neowolf2 and linnaeus at the Midwest FurFest storage locker to pick up a few things and get a feel for the state of the locker. It could use some organization, but it’s not an utter disaster. I wonder if it would be worth it to steal an idea from Ohana House and assign each department a color (Registration=red, Operations=green, etc.), with every item that department puts into the storage locker labeled with a piece of tape of that color. I’m not sure how helpful that would be, but I imagine it would make sorting what goes where when we bring stuff to the hotel a lot easier. Just thinking out loud here…

After Neowolf got the Registration server from the storage locker, the three of us had lunch at Chowpatti, a vegetarian restaurant in Arlington Heights, not too far away from the storage locker (or the MFF hotel!). The menu – all 26 pages of it – is quite overwhelming; it’s sort of a vegetarian Cheesecake Factory. I opted for the Pav Bhaji Uttapam (an thick pancake made using a batter of rice and lentil topped with seasoned potatoes, green peas, cauliflower, tomatoes, garlic, onions and cilantro, covered with cheese). It came out looking quite like a pizza 🙂 It tasted excellent, though, and the fact that it was vegetarian was completely obscured by the riot of flavors and textures. Delicious! My only complaint was that the service was a bit slow, but I would be very happy to go there again.

Afterwards, I started my reconnaissance for this year’s Restaurant Guide. I had forgotten how slow the process can be; in an hour I had only covered Algonquin Road from Arlington Heights Road to the Alumni Club, just past the Motorola campus, as well as McConnor Parkway and a small part of Meacham Road. In that stretch there’s been a couple of closings (Sal e Carvao, notably) and several new additions (including a Jewish deli, a Malaysian restaurant, and a fast-food pierogi place). I’m hoping that this weekend takaza and I can do a bit more information gather either before or after the MFF staff meeting on Sunday. After an hour of driving, the food coma from lunch was catching up to me and I just wanted to relax a bit, so I headed home. Dan and I did a bit of grocery shopping, and he grilled up some tasty steaks later in the evening.

On Sunday, perro came up to hammer out MFF programming room assignments with Dan, then steviemaxwell and magicpaw joined us not long after. A delicious meal ensued which I will detail in a later post, because it was all about testing out recipes and preparation techniques for this coming weekend’s LAFF Softball Steak Dinner. The recipes were a success, and we wound up chatting until late about con related stuff. It was an extremely productive evening, and I went to bed with my brain buzzing about plans (which probably explains the insomnia).

More anon…