Category Archives: travel

Scenes from Christmas Eve

http://wolfhusky.net/duncan/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/img_0957.mov

On a happier note, here are some pics I took this evening. That’s Basilique Norte Dame de Montréal, and a Christmas-themed bar that was cute but ridiculously overpriced. For the rest, Vieux Montréal is a bit of a tourist trap, but they sure can create an amazing atmosphere. My favorite part of the night: the skating rink at the Old Port in Montréal. The music was just perfect, too.

Christmas in Montréal

I was navigating the slushy sidewalks of Vieux Montréal and saw a couple walk past holding hands. I thought of how doing that with Dan would have been lovely, how we would have supported each other as we slipped and slid through the snow.

And then I was sobbing.

I don’t regret coming here. My goal was to get away for a few days to a neutral location: one without the baggage of Christmas with family or someplace that Dan and I had traveled where I wouldn’t be re-living the time that we spent there. For the most part it has worked. I’ve kept myself distracted and generally had an OK time. Tonight, though, I was reminded that you can only distract yourself for so long. The memories and the grief will catch up with you. I’ll survive, but it really took the wind out of my sails for the night.

I like the idea of traveling somewhere new at Christmas each year. Perhaps next time it will be someplace warmer, or where I have friends, or where the whole freakin’ city doesn’t shut down starting on Christmas Eve.

Great Western Road Trip, Day 0

(Hereafter Great Western Road Trip is abbreviated GWRT)

Today’s Song: Ready To Go, by Republica

Current Location: Volo, Illinois

Everything is packed up, the dogs are with Grandma, the rental car has been procured, and now the reality is setting in: This is really going to happen. I mean, I planned for it but I always suspected some circumstance would force me to put things off.

I have a long trip ahead of me: approximately 8,000 miles in 24 days. My route will take me from Chicago in the upper Midwest to the Canadian Prairie Provinces, over the Rocky Mountains, down the Pacific coast, and then back to Chicago. Along the way I’ll be seeing dozens of friends Dan and I have made through the years, and hopefully making new friends as well.

Why am I doing this? Dan and I had planned to take a two-week Caribbean cruise in April 2017. When he passed away suddenly all of that got cancelled. Now that I had the vacation time and the funds we’d set aside for that available, I kicked around the question of what to do with those for a few weeks. I have always loved road trips, but in the last decade or so they have simply not been possible due to some of Dan’s health issues. So first off this was a way to cross a long road trip like this off my bucket list.

Although we had a wonderful and well-attended memorial for Dan a few weeks ago, many of our dearest friends were unable to join us. I hope to bring the memory of Dan to them, to celebrate his life and to share a toast to an extraordinary man.

What am I hoping to get out of this trip? I know that hopes and what actually happens are two different things but I hope that this trip serves as a reset button, a demarcation point of My Life Before and My Life After. It’s hard to admit it, but it may also mark where “Tom and Dan” ended and where “Just Tom” started (again). In the 100+ hours of driving planned, there’s going to be a lot of time to think and to work things out in my head. Whether this produces anything constructive is anyone’s guess, though.

Throughout the trip I will be posting my experiences to Twitter. I also hope to post a summary of each day here as well, perhaps providing more context for the tweets and additional photos and memories. Way back in the dawn of time (2002, to be exact), I started blogging on LiveJournal. All of those entries are archived here on this site fortunately, since LiveJournal is now a terrible place. I found that I enjoy going back over old posts that talk about what I did where and with whom. This will be a place to keep the memories of this trip in one place. I also hope to have a theme song for each day, as posted above. This will reflect my mood for the day, my location, or a general feeling I get as I drive across the countryside.

Just to recap, here is my full planned itinerary. Things can always change at a moment’s notice though!

Date

Location

6/30/2017 St. Paul, MN
7/1/2017 Winnipeg, MB
7/2/2017 Winnipeg, MB
7/3/2017 Regina, SK
7/4/2017 Regina, SK
7/5/2017 Calgary, AB
7/6/2017 Calgary, AB
7/7/2017 Calgary, AB
7/8/2017 Kalispell, MT
7/9/2017 Richland, WA
7/10/2017 Vancouver, WA
7/11/2017 Vancouver, WA
7/12/2017 Crescent City, CA
7/13/2017 Sunnyvale, CA
7/14/2017 Sunnyvale, CA
7/15/2017 Sunnyvale, CA
7/16/2017 Manteca, CA
7/17/2017 Reno, NV
7/18/2017 Salt Lake City, UT
7/19/2017 Denver, CO
7/20/2017 Denver, CO
7/21/2017 Lenexa, KS
7/22/2017 Florissant, MO
7/23/2017 Volo, IL

See you all tomorrow, when I hit the road for St. Paul, Minnesota!

Where to Go At Walt Disney World

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! 🙂

Group Trip 2012!

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!

Falling Behind

Ever reach the point where you have to capture previous adventures before starting in on new adventures? Yeah, that’s kind of what it’s like here.

On the Friday before Labor Day, we packed up my car with our stuff, Buddy’s bed, and Buddy, and off we went. It was the Friday afternoon of a summer holiday weekend in Chicago, how bad could traffic be? It turns out that traffic was appalling. Horrible. Wretched. It took us three hours just to reach Indiana, and even that was only because of a detour through the middle of nowhere Illinois/Indiana and down through Lowell, IN to avoid the craziness of I-80/94.

Once we were past the worst of the traffic it was pretty much smooth sailing, except for the fact that for all that Buddy enjoys short rides in the car, long rides are an adventure in anxiety. We finally wound up dosing him with ace-pro, but that didn’t really make him sleep. He instead just lay between the front seats, head drooping, trembling slightly less than usual. Poor guy. Anyway, we got to Fordshepherd and Baja_Hyena‘s place in Columbus a little before 1 AM and crashed not long after. We arrived at the same time as Linnaeus, and r_bear had flown in earlier in the day.

Saturday morning came way too early. We chatted the morning away (accompanied by very tasty lattes from Baja) and then it was time for the big Labor Day bash. And a party it was, with lots of great folks, great food, and a whole lot of drink. The highlight was Kwik‘s monster slushie machine, which was loaded up with tasty strawberry daiquiris and a homemade frozen bloody Mary that really snuck up on you. A great party all in all, and we had a blast.

Sunday was a little more laid back. We made our annual trip to North Market where I picked up a few items for dinner, had lunch (mmm, banh mi), and then headed north on High St. up to Denise’s Ice Cream, which proved to be quite excellent. For dinner, Ford and I collaborated. He made roasted pork and creamed spinach, and I made potatoes roasted with duck fat. A great meal, and excellent company.

We went out for a tasty brunch on Monday, then it was time to hit the road. The drive back was uneventful, and we determined that while the ace-pro still didn’t knock Buddy out, he’s much happier when we’re moving and not stuck in stop-and-go traffic. We got home at around 7 PM and had time to relax before crashing for the night.

Not too much of note has happened since then. We enjoyed a lovely meal with Roho and Genet last Friday, helped Dan’s mom move on Saturday, and had a very productive Midwest FurFest staff meeting on Sunday. This week has been dragging by as we get ready to leave on Thursday afternoon for our big annual group trip: Montreal, Quebec!

We’re flying out from Milwaukee to Burlington, Vermont. We’re staying at a rental house that is part of the Fiddler Lake Resort property, which is far enough out of Montreal to be rural, but close enough for day-trips. We’ll have twelve people in total, which has introduced some interesting logistics, though nothing that we haven’t been able to handle. I’ve put together some fun itineraries, but I hope to take a laid-back approach . we have twelve people and four cars, so if someone wants to stay behind or strike off on their own, mazel tov! (as long as we’re not left with more people than will fit in cars) I’m hoping for a fun, relaxing trip. We’re flying home on Tuesday. It’s all too short a trip, but it’s what we had time and money for this year.

So much to do before leaving tomorrow afternoon! Yikes!

Quick Trip to Michigan!

Busy times, my friends!

On Friday we sped out from work, threw everything we’d packed into the car, and high-tailed it to Milwaukee to catch the Lake Express Ferry. We stopped for a quick bite at Subway and got to the dock right at 6 PM, just in time to be one of the last cars there for the 7 PM sailing. The ferry was just coming in through the breakwater, and takaza was able to get some nice photos of it approaching the dock.

Dan walked on with the other passengers while I drove the car onto the ferry (one person per vehicle), then I met up with him in the main passenger cabin. Think a whole bunch of airline-style seats (though not nearly as uncomfortable) with narrow tables between them and that’s what the main cabin is like. There was a “Premiere Class” cabin available as well, but at $15 per person for a 2.5 hour trip, it just didn’t seem worth it, and in hindsight that was a good choice. They showed a movie during the crossing (some horrible Miley Cyrus flick) that we ignored. Premiere class would have gotten us “Iron Man 2”, but we were OK without a movie.

We got some snacks from the snack bar (overpriced and meh, as expected, but not egregiously so) and passed the time taking pictures of the receding Wisconsin coastline, hanging out on the very windy deck (we were traveling at 40+ mph, so that generates quite a wind), and generally goofing around on our iPod (me)/iPad (Dan). (Full album of photos here)

We left Milwaukee just ahead of a line of nasty storms, and they never really impacted us on the trip. I’d guess the seas were never over about 1-2 feet – enough rocking that you want to keep a grip on a railing as you walk around the deck. As the sun set, we passed within maybe a half-mile of a huge ship that was carrying perhaps coal or iron ore to Indiana. I thought it odd that in the vast expanse of Lake Michigan we would come that close to another ship – just an accident of navigation, I suppose. When we arrived at Muskegon, Michigan, we first passed through a narrow passage into Lake Muskegon. It was a warm and humid night, but the wind made being on deck comfortable, and watching the various small boats approach the ferry with cries of “hello!” and escorting us into Muskegon was charming and a perfect cap to an enjoyable trip.

Was the ferry trip worth the nearly-$300 for a one-way crossing with two people and one car? I would have to say yes. I’d say it’s worth $100 alone to avoid the hassle of late-summer Friday afternoon Chicago/Northern Indiana traffic. Throw in another $100 apiece for a novel and fun experience, and it all works out. I’m not sure we’d do it again (the sailing schedule is somewhat difficult, and Muskegon is inconventient to anywhere we want to go in Michigan), but I’m glad to took the trip.

Once back on shore, we drove about 50 minutes to Grand Rapids and spent the night at a Springhill Suites. The next morning, we continued on down to Ypsilanti, where we met up with Nik, Gir, and Dusk (the latter visiting from Virginia). A tasty lunch followed, then an FCN staff meeting. They’ve got an awesome convention planned for this year, and I think everyone is going to like their theme and awesome guests of honor. After the meeting, we ordered pizza and Chinese, and hung out and chatted with the excellent Michigan folks. It was a real pleasure to talk with Keet and Raeth some more, and it’s always good to chat with Eddi, Cadyr, Ed Hyena, and the rest of the FCN staff.

We crashed for the night at a Courtyard in Ann Arbor (10 minutes away) and then had a lovely brunch on Sunday with Gir and Dusk at Zingerman’s Roadhouse (mmm, eggs Benedict). Then it was a six+ hour drive home, where we picked up Buddy from Dan’s mom’s, stopped by the grocery store, and collapsed back at home. So, not a lot of time in Michigan, but we had fun. I think next time we may try Amtrak, which would also be a fun trip (and much more affordable!).

What Have I Been Up To?

So, what have I been up to these last few weeks (besides, you know, answering questions)?

Well, back on January 17th we had the first staff meeting of the year for Midwest FurFest. Time to start it all over again! It was a good meeting, recapping some of last year’s activities, and including a walk-through of the new hotel space. We’ve got a lot of big plans, but it’s going to take some time to bring everything to fruition. I’ve got some items for the website that I need to take care of, and I need to get some information posted. That’ll come this week, I hope.

On January 23rd we braved some freakishly dense fog to visit aureth and jenwolf‘s lovely place in Hebron. Excellent company, some very tasty beer, and entertaining games followed. The next day I finished up my taxes and arrived at some very happy numbers (yay for first-time homebuyer’s tax credit, boo for not being able to e-file if you claim that credit!).

That week kicked off what may be my most stressful week at work since I started with $employer, and it’s been pretty crazy ever since. This has really put a damper on my time that I would be able to post to this journal, or even to think about posting anything since when I get home from work I just want to de-stress. Unfortunately, this trend will continue at least until the end of February, though I’m hoping that things will ease off a bit after that. It’s all but certain that I’ll be working Saturdays for the rest of the month, though.

At the end of January I squeaked out of work on Friday the 29th and takaza gave me a ride down to O’Hare Airport, where I caught a flight to Columbus to spend the weekend hanging out with fordshepherd. The ostensible purpose of the trip was to give him a weekend to relax and not stress, but we all know the futility of this – it would be like someone wanting to do the same for me 🙂 Anyway, it was a delightful weekend, with dinners with roby_panther and kai_darkwolf, cooking up a storm (and a lot of smoke) with crappy recipes from Jamie Oliver, and generally just hanging out and chatting. I had an excellent time!

This brings me up to this past weekend. On Saturday, Dan’s mom and sister joined us, along with roho and genet for a joint early-birthday celebration for me and Dan’s sister. We had a delicious turkey dinner, and I made a butternut squash risotto that turned out really well. Afterward we watched “Julie & Julie”, which is a really fun movie. Last night we took all those leftovers (along with a freshly-made bread pudding) to Genet and Roho’s place where they hosted a Super Bowl party. We were joined by linnaeus, Aureth, and Jenne. We had a whole lot of fun and I really enjoyed the game. The couple of beers I had didn’t sit well with me, though, and as expected I had reflux issues all night long. I’m dragging a bit right now with the combined lack of sleep and lack of caffeine, since I can’t face the acid of coffee right now. Maybe a soda before I head off to work…

Speaking of which, time to shower. Hope everyone has a great day!

Leavin’ On A Jet Plane

So work has been eating my brain lately, but the good news is that one way or another it all wraps up by 2:30 this afternoon, which is when I have to go.

We’re flying out of Milwaukee this evening at a little after 5 PM – hopefully just before the worst of the snow and ugliness that’s coming. We’re flying down to Atlanta, spending the night,t hen tomorrow driving up to spend Christmas with my family in exciting Anderson, SC. We’ll be there until Sunday, and will be flying home Sunday night.

And next week? More work, then it’ll be time for last-minute Wuffmeet preparations! But that’s next week. Now, I just need to concentrate on surviving the next six hours…

Pacific Northwest Trip: Part 4

And now, the final installment!

We started the day with Takaza making some extremely tasty breakfast burritos. Since we weren’t on any schedule, we didn’t actually get everyone motivated until around noon. Linnaeus, Aeto, Mirko, and Roho elected to rent sea kayaks for the afternoon and cruise around Bellingham Bay. Takaza and Genet elected to stay at the house and relax for a bit.

Frysco and I decided to tour some of Bellingham. We walked around the Fairhaven neighborhood for a while and got a quick snack.

We walked down to the Alaska Ferry Terminal, where the ferries leave weekly for Ketchikan, Juneau, and points north, as well as to the Orcas Islands and Victoria. It was amusing to see the Homeland Security guys hanging around the sleepy little terminal – yes, they get international traffic, but only occasionally.

Eventually, everyone in the group met up at a local Fred Meyer where we did a little grocery shopping. While everyone else went off to Boundary Bay Brewery to sample their wares, Takaza and I headed back to the cabin to relax a bit and get a start on dinner. Dinner was grilled burgers and hot dogs with potatoes grilled in foil with garlic and rosemary. Afterwards we played a fun game of Say Anything, then wound down the evening chatting and reading.

After a delicious breakfast of French toast casserole made by Genet, we piled everyone into two cars and it was off we went up the Mount Baker Highway. The town of Glacier, where we were staying, is the last civilization on the Mount Baker Highway before you enter Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. From there, it’s approximately a 20-mile drive to the end of the highway, up in the mountains. We headed east but before we got into the mountainous heights, we stopped at Nooksack Falls.

These beautiful 88-foot falls made a nice backdrop for exploration of the area and some fun pictures. Takaza played with time lapse photography a bit and took some nice shots of the river, including two of Linnaeus and me over 10 seconds where the rushing river behind us looks like smoke.


After the falls it was time to continue east into some of most enjoyable mountain driving I’ve done since I was in Europe. We drove up to Artist Point, the very end of Mount Baker Highway. At 5,100 feet above sea level, we were treated to beautiful views in all directions, and a nice break from the heat of the valley.

We goofed around on the snow a bit (the road had been plowed to make Artist Point accessible only three weeks prior) and admired the view for a bit, then it was back down the mountain we went. I was driving pretty conservatively, but once I realized that the weird smell I was smelling was our car’s brakes, I decided to take things a bit faster (sorry to my passengers!). I had fun, though.

After a brief stop at the cabin where we made a fine lunch of the previous evening’s leftovers, it was back into the cars for a trip back to Bellingham. We walked around Fairhaven a bit more, bought some fun tschochkes, and then had one final dinner together before Aeto and Frysco drove back to Seattle and Vancouver, respectively. The rest of us drove back to the cabin one last time and spent the evening packing, then chatting and relaxing before heading off to bed.

On our final day we loaded up everyone into the cars, cleaned the cabin as required by the (many) signs posted there, and locked up the place. After dropping off the keys, it was back to Vancouver International Airport via the Peace Arch crossing in Blaine. It was uneventful, and we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. After clearing customs, we had time to grab a quick bite to eat before it was onto the plane for the flight home. Our flight caught some good tailwinds, and although we left on time we got to O’Hare about an hour early. After bidding farewell to Linnaeus and Mirko, Takaza and I caught a ride home with Roho and Genet, where we promptly collapsed.

So there you have it! The Great Pacific Northwest Trip of 2009. It was a fantastic trip, and I really had a great time. You know you’re doing something right when you’re on vacation and you can’t quite remember what day it is, and you don’t really care, either 🙂 We’re already making plans for next year, when we invade Canada once again to explore Montreal!

Pacific Northwest Trip: Part 3

Right, so we’re picking up the story on Saturday, August 1. genet started us off with some excellent made-to-order breakfast sandwiches which were quite tasty. Once we got everyone fed, showered, and ready to go, we piled into two cars and drove…all of five minutes away. The good news is that it was to Wild and Scenic River Tours!

Genet has posted the pictures from this trip, and has done a great job captioning them. I’ll be linking to various pictures as we go, but here’s the whole gallery.

After some in depth research (read: intensive googling), we found that some of the best whitewater rafting to be found in the area was right around the corner from the cabin we were renting, on the Nooksack River. That section includes Class II and Class III rapids, so that seemed to be about the right speed for our group. We were booked for a 4-hour trip, with a nice lunch provided right on the river bank. Alas, kodi_pup was supposed to join us but had to bow out at the last minute due to work obligations. We missed him!

When we showed up we were introduced to Tyler, who owns Wild and Scenic. He struck me as a capable, laid back guy who loved what he was doing (and was a sharp businessman, too). They got us outfitted with wetsuits (necessary, since the water was mostly runoff from glaciers, and averaged about 45 degrees F), which fit with varying degrees of comfort, and helmets. We lined up for a group picture, then piled into the bus, which was, um, yeah. It got us there, anyway 🙂

When we reached the put-in we stood around for about 20-30 minutes as Tyler explained the equipment and basic safety procedures, including the Three Important Rules:
1. Stay in the boat.
2. Stay in the boat.
3. Don’t get out of the boat.
Of course he also reviewed what to do should you accidentally forget these three rules, too. For all that there was a lot of joking around, I really got the feeling these folks knew what we were doing and we were in good hands.

After all the explanations it was down to the boats. Takaza, Mirko, and I were in one boat with three other folks we didn’t know; Linnaeus, Roho, Genet, Aeto, and Frysco were in the other boat. They had one of their crew in an inflatable kayak running ahead of us as we went downstream; his job was to take pictures and video of our trip. Once we pushed off, we were in the thick of the rapids almost immediately. We bumped hard into a rock that sent me pitching across the raft into Takaza’s lap and almost shoving him out of the boat, but we recovered.

The rafting experience was amazing. There was more paddling than I expected, but it was usually in quick bursts. The guide in our boat would read the currents and direct us to row forward, back, right, or left so that we would be in the proper position to navigate through the rapids and avoid the worst of the obstacles – boulder, trees, sand bars, etc. Once we got the hang of paddling and anticipating the bumps and dips, it was quite an exhilarating ride.

We took a break by putting into an area out of the current and several of the Wild and Scenic crew jumped off a huge boulder into the frigid water. Linnaeus, Aeto, and Roho were nuts and took the plunge as well. Takaza and I opted not to 🙂

Then it was back to the rapids, and these were a bit more intense. Unfortunately, Genet became preoccupied and forgot the Three Important Rules and got bounced out of the raft. That set up a minor rescue operation where she unfortunately got dragged across the rocks a bit and got rather bruised and numb from the cold water. Fortunately, they get her back in the boat and we continued down the river.

We pulled up on a sand bar not long after and the third boat (with the Wild and Scenic staff in it) broke out the supplies they had brought: drinks, salmon and cream cheese, and deli sandwiches. We relaxed a bit and the warm sun took some of the chill off. The group got to see some fossils that had been found along the river, as well. After a bit, it was back onto the rafts, but this portion of the trip was much more sedate – mainly just a brisk trip down the river with minimal rapids but some really impressive scenery along the way. The trip was over too soon.

One of the more amusing things about the whole excursion was the staff. The fellow in the kayak was pretty funny and enjoyed showing off (the comment was made that he worked maybe 10% of the trip and got to screw around the other 90%); one of the more memorable fellows was a heavily-tattooed guy who was quite friendly and funny to talk to. Whenever we were along the road (mainly when putting in and taking the boats out), he would shout at passing cars, “RAFTING! RAFTING! RAFTING! WHY AREN’T YOU RAFTING?” As we rode back to our cars, we asked him if that form of advertising ever brought in anyone. His response was something like, “Well, not that I know of. But if someone did come in based on that, we know we’d get along with them!”

After the rafting trip we relaxed a bit back at the cabin and tried out the hot tub, which was judged to be quite acceptable. Then Aeto, Frysco, Linnaeus, Mirko, Roho, and I drove down the road a bit to Deming to find one of the important local venues I’d read about: The North Fork Brewery, Pizzeria, Beer Shrine and Wedding Chapel. There we sampled some of their beers (verdict: not bad, but they’re no Sailor Hagar’s), got some munchies, and chatted a bit. It was a nice way to relax after a strenuous afternoon.

Once we got back to the cabin, it was my turn for dinner: grilled Asian-marinated pork tenderloin, grilled asparagus with rosemary, lemon, and goat cheese, and grilled corn on the cob. It was quite tasty, and really capped an excellent day.

Still to come: Kayaking, Mountains, and the Wrap-Up

Meanwhile…

So as I mentioned, we got our new sofa last weekend. We had to give it a good workout, so we invited folks over to hang out both Saturday and Sunday, being graced by the presence of roho, genet, linnaeus, and steviemaxwell. We watched some TiVo, took part in the Midwest FurFest online staff meeting, and ordered pizza. It was a good, low-stress weekend.

It looks like we’re going to do a little shopping at Ikea tonight (yes, girtygrin, I agree with pretty much everything you said 🙂 We need to pick up an overhead light for the living room and also see if we can find a narrow-ish (12″ wide) end table, or something that can serve as such. genet will be joining us for dinner tomorrow, and Thursday night we’ll be doing laundry and packing because on Friday evening after work we fly out to Pittsburgh. We’re going to help a little at the Anthrocon storage locker, meet with the DLCC about plans for the coming year, and generally make sure everything is shaping up well as we plan for the coming Anthrocon. We’re flying back Sunday evening.

Not too much else to talk about today, though I did want to mention that I came across a great webcomic called Paradigm Shift, a Chicago-based police/paranormal comic. I’m extremely impressed with the artwork; the artist plainly is local and works from either photographs or by standing right at the locations. I especially enjoy stuff like the last panel on this page – I know that Citgo! It’s at the corner of Addison and Halsted, and I’ve watched the Chicago Pride parade while standing on that corner. And it’s fun to know that the first panel on this page is the view from the Chinatown El station. Now, if only I could figure out where that Ravenswood location is…

There and Back Again

And we’re back! Takaza and I spent the last few days down in St. Louis visiting with my parents and my sister’s family. We had a very enjoyable time, and Christmas was lovely. We visited Soulard Market (though many vendors were closed for the holidays) and got lost (willingly) in downtown St. Louis. Mostly, though, it was just fun to spend time with the family.

The trip down was a bit unpleasant, as we were leaving Chicago in the throes of a snowstorm. Things were much better after we got south of Joliet, but the 40 mph crosswinds between Bloomington and St. Louis made driving difficult. The drive back was a lot more pleasant, though. We detoured into Alton, Illinois on a quest to find Pietown Stompin’ Grounds (visited by Alton Brown in Feasting on Asphalt 2: The River Run) only to find that it was completely closed and out of business – but the website is still up? Bah. We instead stopped for breakfast at Forgettable Family Restaurant #2,341 and then hit the road north. We detoured onto I-39 from Bloomington and came across the nifty wind farm near Mendota, Illinois. Dan took a bunch of pictures – for some reason, I found the sight fascinating.

And here we are in a new, but short, week. Dan has gone off to work; he works today and tomorrow, while I don’t have to go back until next Monday. Hooray! I shan’t be idle today, though. We have a ton of preparations for our New Year’s festivities, starting with a huge shopping trip this morning. I’m making four pans of lasagna, and Dan will be cooking up about twenty pounds of chicken tonight. We’ve got a bunch of other cooking to do, so we’ll be busy today and tomorrow. After that, it’s off to party!

Columbus, Part II

When last I wrote, we were looking forward to seeing what Sunday would bring during takaza‘s and my visit to Columbus, Ohio as we visited fordshepherd and kai_darkwolf. After a whirlwind day on Saturday, Sunday was a bit less busy, something for which I was quite grateful!

Following a nice, lazy morning we were joined by rayneepanda and the five of us ventured forth to North Market, a kind of farmer’s market/foodie paradise. With the exception of a parking lot that made me rather homicidal, I adored this place. I picked up a tasty Vietnamese sub (banh mi thit) for lunch from the Vietnamese counter, and then for dessert we had some of the amazing ice creams from Jeni’s Ice Cream. As tasty as the cherry lambic was, I opted for a trio of goat cheese with cherry compote, cucumber Piersporter, and wild berry lavender. Oh my gosh, it was so good!

Following a bit of uncertainty about what to do next, we opted to skip the crowds and traffic craziness at Easton Town Center and instead crashed back at Ford and Jack’s place and watched Little Miss Sunshine, a wonderfully twisted movie I had not seen yet. I really enjoyed it. Julie headed home shortly after the movie.

We wrapped things up with a delicious meal featuring garlic-rosemary-and-pepper-rubbed steaks, rosemary-infused mashed potatoes, and for dessert, a wonderful combination of creme fraiche with basil served over macerated fresh strawberries, as well as a molasses-banana pie. Ford claims he doesn’t know how to cook; I think he’s full of it 🙂 After dinner we relaxed for a few hours playing some Wii and winding down.

On Monday it was time to hit the road. We opted for a more scenic route home, through Van Wert, OH and Fort Wayne, IN. Shockingly, we ran into no traffic as we passed through downtown Chicago on our way home. We pulled in a few minutes before 6 PM, which left us some time to relax and start some laundry. Dinner was ordered from Olando’s, with a small pizza for Dan and a half-rack of barbecued ribs for me.

Thanks again to Jack and Ford for their hospitality! We had such a great time. Your dogs are awesome (I want to steal Pete!) and your house is fabulous – I’m afraid I now have bungalow envy 🙂 I hope that we have the opportunity to get back to Columbus again sometime soon!

Packed and Ready To Go! And Some Links

Last night we got takaza‘s car packed (stuffed to the gills, actually – we had to remove the back seats of his Element. Three cash registers take up a lot of space!) and it’s parked in the garage. I dropped him off at the train station this morning, so all I need to do when I leave here at 2 PM is go home and toss a few final things into his car (like my laptop). I pick him up from work at 3 PM and then we’re off! We’re driving as far as Independence, OH tonight, then we’ll be arriving in Pittsburgh at around noon tomorrow.

All that’s left now if for me to try to be productive until 2 PM. Yeah, wish me luck on that.

To distract and amuse myself, I give you…links!
All You Can Eat Bacon? It’s a heart attack waiting to happen and yet heavenly at the same time! Sounds like a fun place to visit in Chicago, though.

You know what the world needs? It needs a bacon cheeseburger sausage!

Keeping with the theme, there’s something to be said for “bacon textiles” – it’s delicious!

OK, enough with the bacon. Let’s talk about Monopoly + nukes.

Finally, because Anthrocon is so much on my mind, I’ll point out the handy Official Anthrocon Map to those who will be attending. I just added a couple of interesting nearby restaurants yesterday (as recommended by roadfood.com!). linnaeus, if you get some time, you might want to check out Robert Wholey & Co., located only a few blocks from the hotel towards the Strip District – it looks like an interesting food market with great seafood dishes. Heck, if I’m free I want to go with you! If I get a chance, I also wouldn’t mind going to DeLuca’s (“best breakfast in Pittsburgh”).

Four hours to go! Time to look busy…

Bouncing Across the Country

Well, that was fun. I wrapped up my trip to Atlanta yesterday. After grabbing a quick breakfast at a ubiquitous Starbucks, my cow-orker and I met with the vendor and worked through the software we were reviewing one more time. It was very productive and I was glad that I made the trip. After we wrapped up, a rep from another part of the vendor’s company took us to lunch at a fantastic Japanese restaurant.

After lunch we were in a bit of a time crunch to get back to the airport. Fortunately, we had a Mustang and were driving on I-85 through downtown Atlanta – 85 mph the whole way? Sure, why not! I was glad my cow-orker had the car on his credit card when we dropped it off, though – the $156 bill for two days will be fun for him to explain ($63 of that courtesy of Avis’ “Fuel Service Option” was the culprit, as they charged him for a full tank of gas). The flight back was uneventful, though I will never again take a window seat on a CRJ if I can avoid it – I spent the whole flight bent slightly to the left, and had no room to do much more than listen to my iPod and read a magazine.

takaza was of course wonderful and had a tasty dinner of mashed potatoes and pork tenderloin on the stove when I got home. Unfortunately, due to some Anthrocon-related screwups I fell into a truly vile mood, but Dan was sweet and put up with me. Dinner was quite tasty and afterwards we played some Boom Blox, which Dan had picked up the day before.

And here was are on Thursday. Things have been a bit slow as I try to ramp back up from being away. I just found out that the project I was working on that HAD TO HAPPEN by the end of the month, then got delayed due to paperwork, will now be delayed even more since the process engineer in charge of it put in his two-weeks’ notice. Ah, life in the corporation. I’m just glad tomorrow is Friday.

…and back down South again

Well, briefly, anyway.

This morning I left at my usual time, but instead of going to work I headed north once again to Milwaukee International Airport. I caught a 9:55 AM flight out on Delta. Man, I got spoiled on Midwest. This was a CRJ-700, and I was crammed into an aisle seat with a big guy in the window seat. Not fun. But the flight was uneventful and I met up with my cow-orker at the Avis counter at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.

The clerk there assigned us our car; I heard her say the space but missed what kind of car it was. We got to the lot and there it was…a cherry-red 2007 Ford Mustang. Oh my. And my cow-orker wanted me to drive since I know the area. Oh darn! It’s a fun car. The suspension is kind of rough, but the acceleration is smooth and it wants to go fast. I wasn’t paying attention as we drove up the Downtown Connector and I looked down and oh look, I was doing 85, pushing 90. Whoopsie!

We stumbled around a bit looking for a place for lunch before settling on a Korean BBQ place. Neither of us knew anything about Korean BBQ, but what the hell. It was quite excellent – we split a dish of beef and mushrooms in a slightly sweet broth, served with rice and about a dozen different side dishes. The kim chee was quite tasty, and nowhere near as pungent as some versions I’d had elsewhere. the only moment of unintentional hilarity was when I misheard the waitress’ broken English and thought that she had given me a bowl of soup. No, it was sauce, though my cow-orker said my eyes bugging out when I took a sip of it was quite entertaining.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with the vendor, and I am pleased to say that my presence on this trip was warranted. I had some good input on the project we’re working on and we’ve established a good rapport with the guys there. For dinner tonight, they took us out to a fantastic Argentinian steakhouse. Capirihas and steak? I was in heaven! After we got back to the hotel, my cow-orker was ready to go out and drink some beers and shoot some pool. I tossed him the keys to the Mustang and told him to have fun – I was going to bed.

Tomorrow should be good. We’re going to hammer out the last bits of the project and make some lists of what still needs to be done. I expect we’ll have a tasty lunch somewhere, then it’s back to the airport. I hope to be back in takaza‘s arms by 7 PM. Yay! But now it’s off to sleep…

Crazy times ahead

It’s been a while since my last substantial update. Obviously, I made it home from South Carolina OK. My flights were on Midwest Airlines from Milwaukee to Atlanta. Now, Midwest’s prices are usually more expensive than most, but in this case it was only an extra $10 or so. For that I got nice wide leather seats (the equivalent of business class on United or American) on a comfy Boeing 717, free sodas (two rounds), and of course the vaunted chocolate chip cookies (which weren’t all that great, but they were free!). I’m sad to hear that they’re rolling out “Saver” service, which will convert the majority of the 717 cabins from 2 x 2 seating to 2 x 3 seating, which will make them a lot less attractive to me. One thing I did learn in all this, though: Milwaukee Airport is a hell of a lot easier to fly in and out of than O’Hare! Given that MKE is just another 10 miles’ drive for us vs. ORD, MKE is now my airport of choice when fares allow.

So anyway, I got back very late on Monday night. Tuesday I was dragging at work, but got a lot of stuff done. When I started the week, things were looking hectic: two projects that MUST be done by June 30, and we were going to be scrambling especially since I’ll be gone to Anthrocon from June 24-30. As the week went on, though, things started to fall apart. The one project that could have had me working weekends until Anthrocon ran into regulatory delays and is now pushed back to mid-July at the earliest, more likely August. As for the other project, a new packaging line, the equipment won’t be delivered until June 27th at the earliest. Given that I’m not comfortable writing a protocol without the equipment in front of me, and that the following week is Summer Shutdown (meaning that while I have to be there, most of the people who need to sign off on the protocol won’t be there), I don’t expect that we’ll be able to start the validation until July 7th at the earliest. So, now it looks like July is going to be busy, but at least my June has opened up a whole lot!

Also, a funny thing about my trip down South: originally, I was supposed to visit a vendor in Atlanta who is supplying software for the packaging line on Tuesday and Wednesday. I changed my ticket accordingly, and life was good. Except they weren’t ready, and needed to reschedule. So I changed my ticket back. Net result: my employer paid $250 for me not to visit the vendor 🙂 Such is the way of business travel. However, they rescheduled the vendor visit to this Tuesday and Wednesday. So guess who’s flying BACK to Atlanta? The engineer I’m flying with booked a United flight out of O’Hare, but I was able to get a cheaper flight at the same times from Milwaukee (alas, on Delta not Midwest – Midwest’s fare was $600 vs. Delta’s $300). Granted, although we’re supposed to take off and land at roughly the same times, any guesses who I expect will be first to arrive in each case? Hint: O’Hare on a summer weekday afternoon is approximately the fourth circle of Hell.

So work his kept me quite busy this week, as you can see. In my spare (!) time I’ve been working on Artists Alley stuff for Anthrocon, programming the cash registers and working on documentation. rooth, I’ll be e-mailing you this weekend about spreadsheet applications. I found out last week that instead of the 100 seats we were going to have in the Alley this year (compared to last year’s 80), the number looks closer to 120. This explains my panicked post seeking more staff. I’m pleased to say that delphi_of_clf and tecknow have signed on, along with the rest of the Artists Alley/Con Store staff: frostyw98, woodychitwn, ramalion, shy_matsi, chanur2000, rooth, space-dingo, and of course Grandma and Grandpa Kage. As soon as the programming schedule is released (something I’ve heard will be happening Very Soon Now) I’ll be contacting folks to see when they will be available, then build a staff schedule around that. Gosh, the things we do for fun!

So, what’s going on this weekend for takaza and I? Nothing. Absolutely, gloriously nothing. No plans. It’s quite lovely, really 🙂 I expect we’ll venture out and do something, perhaps, but we’ll see what the days bring.

Birthday Surprise 2008: Success!

Greetings from South Carolina!

I had posted about this under friends-only posts before because I was planning a surprise…and it worked! On Friday I left work at 11:30 AM and drove north to Milwaukee. As I was driving I called my mom and wished her a happy birthday, and apologized for not being there to help celebrate it. I told her I was driving to lunch as we chatted, and then that I had to go because I was “approaching the restaurant”. Actually, I was approaching the airport.

I caught a flight on Midwest Airlines from Milwaukee to Atlanta (on a 717, nice comfy wide leather seats, decent food provided – note to linnaeus, their food is designed by the executive chef at Mader’s!). Once I got to Atlanta I picked up my rental car, the most stripped-down Chevy Cobalt you have ever seen. No power windows, locks, or anything, and no cruise control. Ugh. Anyway, I drove out through crowded but not crazy traffic and arrived in Anderson, SC, in almost exactly two hours. I pulled up and surprised the heck out of my mom when I got out of the car!

This has been a lovely and relaxing weekend so far. My sister and her two sons are here as well, and we’ve been having fun swimming, playing video games, and such. For dinner we went to Liberty Hall Inn and Cafe. Their website didn’t offer a lot of information, but my sister recommended them. It was a great choice – the dinner was excellent, and our server, Ashlyn, was a real hoot! For dessert we went out to the deck and had a good enough time that one of the other diners came out to see what all the laughing was about, because “y’all are having a lot more fun than my group.” After dinner we came home and swam some in the pool and relaxed. It was a very enjoyable evening.

This morning we had kicked around ideas of driving around a bit and maybe even venturing into the North Carolina mountains. Unfortunately the weather is pretty lousy, so we’re going to stay near the house instead. After I shower, Mom and I are going to go pick up some breakfast from Panera, and this afternoon I’ll probably play my nephews in a few rounds of Boom Blox.

I’ll be here until tomorrow; my flight from Atlanta leaves at 7:55 PM. I’ll probably head out early in the afternoon and kill some time around Atlanta before going to the airport. Maybe drop off the car and jump downtown on MARTA? We’ll see. For now, I’m off to shower, and then breakfast!

Furry Connection North: One Down, Many More to Go (Hopefully!)

Furry Connection North. It was a weekend so big it’s going to need two posts to cover it!

First off, let’s talk about the convention. From everything that I saw, girtygrin and his staff did an outstanding job. All of the staff was extremely cordial and friendly. Things ran on time (if not early!). The sponsor lounge was very good, and the complimentary beer (Bell’s Amber Ale and Oberon) was excellent. All in all, they can give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done. Speaking personally, I really appreciate that Gir went out of his way to make our experience a pleasant one.

So that meant that I had a great time at the convention, right? Well…not so much. I can’t stress this enough, though: this is absolutely no fault of FCN or anyone associated with it. As I have suspected all along, if I go to a convention and I’m not volunteering in some fashion, I’m bored. It’s how I’m wired, I guess, but there it is. I think I needed to recalibrate my approach to conventions a bit, and by the end of the weekend I was doing a lot better. I was a lot more outgoing and social, and I met a lot of new people and got to spend time with folks who I don’t often see. It was a real pleasure to spend more time with tervicz and to make the acquaintance of jet_der_hund. I also had a blast hanging out with huskydoggeh, kodi_pup, dexcat, Dexgirl, and of course all the usual gang of miscreants from Chicago and Chambana.

The hotel…yeah, the hotel. We had been to the Best Western Executive Plaza for Dorsai Thing last year, so we knew what to expect. Then, and this weekend, we stayed in the “tower”, which was the newer side of the hotel; our suite had a bit of an odd odor to it and the furnishings were somewhere well past “worn out”. I hadn’t realized though that the other parts of the hotel were quite so…grim. The lack of air conditioning would have killed me, and there was unfortunately a litany of other complaints as well. The reviews on TripAdvisor pretty much sum things up. Also, mirkowuff hit it on the head: “This was probably a fantastic hotel – in 1984.” Granted, the costs were reasonable and it enabled a first-year convention to get its feet under it, so it definitely served its purpose.

So, what did I do to fill the time this weekend? Well, that’ll have to wait for the next post.

Snowstorms and Birthdays

And here we are, Friday at last!

I thought the week might take forever (subjectively) as it always does right before a vacation, but this turned out not to be the case. Having piles of projects at work helps!

So the big snow came and went on Wednesday; in the end we got a hair over 12 inches. The roads were a wreck yesterday morning, so much so that when I went to drop takaza off at the train station what is normally a less-than-five-minute drive took 15 minutes and we missed his train. Since the schedule on the North Central line sucks, his next shot at a train in was two hours later. I went in to work, then left at 8:45 AM to take him to the 9:18 train. Yeah, not even close. What is normally an eight-minute drive took close to twenty, and when I picked him up and saw the line of cars on Hainesville Road, I knew there was no way we’d make his train. Rather than wait two hours until the next train, I dropped him off at the Grayslake station and he caught the Fox Lake train in, again having to take a taxi from Glenview (that cost even more than last time!).
Unfortunately, as a consequence of not getting in until just before noon, he didn’t make it home last night until around 9 PM.

And so we have this weekend. As I mentioned before, Dan is dragging me off on a four-day trip to celebrate my 40th birthday. I still have no idea where we’re going, though I have some suspicions. I’m sure it will be fun and memorable. They say that over the years a couple tends to get more like each other, and watching Dan fret about planning and worrying about the trip, I have to laugh. Normally he’s unflappable and easygoing; being so nervous about things, he reminds me of…me. But that’s exactly why I’m not worried, because I know I’m in good hands 🙂 That doesn’t mean the excitment isn’t getting to me, though – I woke up this morning at 3:45 AM with a touch of reflux and after a half-hour couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up. I hope we’re not going to be out super-late tonight! Anyway, I intend to bring the camera along and be Mr. Annoying Shutterbug (if I can remember!) so hopefully I’ll have lots of pictures to show off when we get back.

Now if only 2 PM would get here so I can get out of here!

Hittin’ the Road

And here we are at launch day, so to speak. In a few hours, takaza and I will be getting into his car and heading southwards. Our tentative itinerary will take us through Chambana and Effingham, then down to Nashville, TN for the night. Then tomorrow morning, we’ll continue through Chattanooga, Atlanta, then up to Anderson, South Carolina. (Apparently many Chicago furries migrate to South Carolina at Christmastime. Who knew?) I do hope that we’ll be able to hit some back roads along the way, and I grabbed a subscription to Roadfood in hopes of discovering some nifty little out-of-the-way restaurants along the way.

Dan and I did our gift-giving last night. As I had mentioned before, since we bought ourselves a freezer we were just going to get each other small gifts for Christmas. Anyway, I did succeed in getting two of Dan’s presents to him: a book on digital photography, and the collected Firefly miniseries “Serenity: Those Left Behind”. Dan surprised me with something that has been in the back of my head but I had been holding off on: a whole new set of brewing equipment! This was an awesome surprise and I’m looking forward to getting back into brewing after the holidays. Unfortunately, one of Dan’s packages is still en route, and at this point it appears that it’s going to be delivered after we leave. Awesome! As I was writing this the package was delivered. He has to wait until I get home to open it, though 🙂

Looking ahead, it sounds like this is going to be a busy holiday for us. Dan, my sister, and I will be in charge of cooking while we’re in South Carolina, and coming up with a selection of foods that pleases everyone. Tuesday night will of course be the traditional Christmas Turkey (a la Alton Brown, natch). Then Wednesday the 26th we’ll be driving all the way back to Chicago in one shot – won’t that be fun? Dan has to work the 27th and 28th, but I have those days off for a change. I suspect I’ll be quite busy those days, cooking and shopping for the weekend. We’ll deal with that later, though.

Blogs, Plans and More Plans

I’ve picked up a couple of new blogs to follow that I thought I’d mention here. I started with The Stew, which picks up has commentary that doesn’t appear in the Chicago Tribune as well as advance articles. That had a pointer to a post in Michael Ruhlman’s blog by Anthony Bourdain (who I adore!) – I liked the blog so much I added it to my daily reading. Then recently, Ruhlman was a stop on the “virtual book tour” by Adam Roberts, The Amateur Gourmet. His amusing, occasionally profane food blog went onto my list. Then Roberts linked to fantastic and funny video about making lobster rolls over at Serious Eats which sent me investigating that blog more, and I became a fan there as well (particularly since they just added Mario Batali to their list of contributors!).

As an aside, you may wonder how I keep up with all these blogs? I use Firefox and every morning click a single button that loads ’em all in tabs, using the Morning Coffee extension. This works well with blogs that are updated daily; blogs that update less frequently I add to my Google Reader page. The latter is the case for Cheese Underground, which focuses solely on Wisconsin cheese, and Megnut, another interesting foodie blog, both of which only update a couple of times a month. Oh! And I should also mention another recent addition to my Reader, Winnipeg Eats. Sure, I don’t live in Winnipeg, but it’s written by a good friend and I like her writing 🙂

Our calendar for the next few weekends is slowly filling up, as it is wont to do. It’s looking like we may make a return visit to Brightonwood Orchard this weekend (mmm, heirloom apples!), and while we’re there we’ll see what’s new at the adjoining winery. I expect a rigorous sampling of the winery’s wares and other spirits may ensue afterwards!

I’ve been reading up on various farmers markets in the area, as well as other local foods (since it is, after all, Eat Local Month) and while the Grayslake Farmers Market is fun, it’s a bit small. And yes, there’s some interesting places in Chicago, but I was looking around and I found many references for the Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, Wisconsin. This dovetails neatly with my interest in finding out more about Wisconsin artisan cheeses (I even ordered a cool Wisconsin Cheese/Wine/Beer tour map!). Since I’ve been wanting to explore Madison a bit anyway, it sounds like a perfect excuse to get up that way. Some Saturday (not the coming one, but maybe the 22nd or the 29th), we’re going to hit the road early and spend the day checking the place out. Should be fun!

And then we have the big trip coming up. As some of you may have seen takaza mention, we’re going to hit the road for a weekend in late October (yeah, he couldn’t keep it a secret 🙂 Patterned after Alton Brown’s recently-completed Feasting on Asphalt 2: The River Run, we’re going to tour Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin along the Mississippi River, shunning interstates and aiming for small towns to find stuff that’s interesting, tasty, and different. We may fail miserably, and eat some of the worst food ever, but we may also find the most amazing and delightful places, too. We’ll be renting a minivan that will hold everyone and drive out to Moline, Illinois on Friday night. Starting Saturday, we’ll strike out north along the river and see what there is to see. While I have a couple of places I do want to see along the way (including Kalmes Restaurant, which AB visited – “A little bit of Luxembourg in Iowa”) mostly we’ll be relying on serendipity to help us find something interesting. We’ll spend Saturday night somewhere along the way (Maybe, Dubuque? Maybe La Crosse, if we can actually find a hotel that isn’t booked), then meander home through Wisconsin. I’m really looking forward to this trip!

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.

Back from Anthrocon

We’re home safe. Apparently we just dodged the thunderstorms that delayed flights into O’Hare for up to three hours, and caught the northbound Metra train with seconds to spare. I’m almost done catching up on 300+ LJ posts. takaza went to bed at about 6:30, and I don’t see myself staying up too late tonight, either

In summary: It was completely exhausting. It was fun. We’ll be back.

P.S. – I’d like copies of any pictures taken at the Fine Potables party, please 🙂

It’s Been a Quiet Week In, um, Hainesville…

I know I’ve been quiet here this week, but I have excuses! You see, much of our week has been consumed with preparations for Anthrocon; even when we weren’t actively working on convention planning, we were thinking about it and that kind of wears on you. Add to that the fact that I’m fighting off a mild summer cold. Yuck.

In general update terms, though, things have been going well. If I didn’t mention it earlier, I haven’t been hired on full-time at my employer yet since they were still working out which positions were open and which they were going to fill with whom. I have been assured, multiple times, that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” I get hired, though. My contract was extended to the end of July, and that’s OK by me. While that means my three days off for Anthrocon will be unpaid, the good news is that I still come out ahead in net salary. I had a good talk with my boss this week and he is satisfied with my performance and seems willing to put a bit more on my plate, which makes me happy.

Work for takaza continues to be stressful; I worry about him and I know that all of this stress takes its toll on his health. Things got a little more difficult this week (I won’t go into it here, but my heart does go out to those involved), but he’s been assured that it won’t affect his vacation time. He is justifiably skeptical and unfortunately probably will have to log in from Pittsburgh to do some work for some part of the time that we’re there.

We did find time to relax a bit last night. We had a pleasant dinner with roho and genet at a frozen custard place in Antioch (good sandwiches, not so good frozen custard), then we caught the late showing of Ratatouille at the Antioch Theater. GO SEE THIS MOVIE! It was so much fun! Great character design, a nifty score, and a really great expression of the love of food and cooking. I adored it, and wouldn’t mind seeing it again. As an aside, I also love the Antioch Theater – $4 admission, popcorn for a couple of bucks (and free refills on popcorn and sodas, provided by roving ushers), a trivia quiz by a real live employee before the show. When we went to see Waitress a few weeks ago we went to the Regal theater in Round Lake; tickets, plus popcorn and soda came to over $30 (and that’s at matinee prices!). That’s just plain offensive.

Ahem. Movie theater ranting aside, it looks like the next few days are going to be pretty nuts for us. I can’t even guarantee that I’ll be posting between now and Anthrocon, so here’s a quick rundown:

Today, once datahawk gets up here, we’ll all head down to Arlington Heights to meet justincheetah at the MFF storage locker to get a power distribution panel for him (I hope it’s not buried too far under everything!). Then it’s over to linnaeus‘s place in the city to drop off some stuff that he is kindly carrying to Anthrocon for us. After that, it’s down to Merrillville, Indiana where we have tickets to see “Weird Al” Yankovic in concert!

Tomorrow will be con packing and (more) planning, and staging everything as best we can. Oh, and relaxing somewhat, since that’ll be our last chance before the con. Monday will be work as usual.

Tuesday, we fly out from O’Hare at 7:05 PM, arriving in Pittsburgh at 9:32 PM (supposedly). Give that it’s an evening flight in the summer out of O’Hare, I figure if we get to PIT before 11:30 PM we’ll be doing good. We’ll spend the night at the La Quinta Pittsburgh Airport, then on Wednesday morning catch the 28X bus downtown to the Westin Pittsburgh Convention Center. We hope to be at the Westin by 11 AM or 12 noon.

And after that? Madness and chaos. With any luck I’ll be able to document some of that…at some point.

Go Go Gadget Airfares!

Woo! We just bought plane tickets to Anthrocon! Depart from O’Hare on Tuesday night at 7:05 PM, return from Pittsburgh at 2:35 PM on Monday afternoon. The total cost? $93 each, including taxes and fees. Sweet! We need to figure out the logistics of getting to and from the airport, but for that price it was worth it to lock in the tickets now.

Other than that, it’s a last-minute push to finish off the cleaning today, then there’s the party tomorrow. Happy fun time!

Midweek Already? I’m Not Ready!

It’s been a bit crazy this week as takaza and I make preparations for the weekend. Mainly just getting things cleaned up, etc. but also running errands. yesterday I stopped by our favorite local butcher to order some meat to smoke this weekend. We’re going to have rather a lot of meat, since I wound up ordering two pork butts (yes, that’s a pork shoulder, and no I don’t understand the vagaries of butcher-ese) plus a beef brisket. Each butt is going to be 7-9 pounds and the brisket will be 8-10 pounds (with fat attached; probably more like 6-8 pounds of meat once cooked). If we see the 50% yield on the pork that I did the first time I smoked (this will be better quality, so I expect more like 75% yield) we’re looking at putting between 13 to 17 pounds of cooked meat on the table. Hope everyone is hungry! 🙂

The other big news on my mind is Anthrocon. Besides some slight changes to my staff (and welcome to woodychitwn as my second-in-command in Artists Alley/Con Store), I was taking a hard look at our travel plans. We typically leave the Tuesday evening before the convention, spend the night somewhere in Ohio, the roll into the con at around noon on Wednesday. First off, leaving Tuesday night after work means trying to leave town on the evening of July 3. I expect it’ll take at least double the usual time if not more just to clear Chicago and surrounds. Which leaves us driving way too far too late at night, or having to drive further than we’d like on Wednesday morning. Plus, there’s the expense of the gas (assuming $4-ish per gallon), the hotel Tuesday night, the tolls, the food along the way, and the parking at the Westin.

Then, the thought occurred to me: just how much is airfare? If we fly out from O’Hare Tuesday night after work, we can stay at the La Quinta near Pittsburgh International very cheaply due to Dan’s points there, then catch the express bus downtown Wednesday morning. Monday morning, it’s as simple as catching the bus back to the airport. And after totaling all this up, it’s actually cheaper to fly than to drive. Couple that with the kind offer from linnaeus to carry a few other items in his car for us (i.e. booze) and flying suddenly becomes a very attractive possibility. Dan and I will talk this over tonight and probably have a decision in the next day or two.

So, to do tonight: install the new shower head (which, according to Amazon, is currently sitting on our front porch), clean both showers (we have a stall and a tub/shower in the master bath), then start in on dinner. Busy busy busy!

A Trip To The Mitten

Y’know, before this weekend, my sole experience of visiting Michigan was back around 2002 or so, going north about a mile on I-69 from the Indiana Toll Road, turning around, and continuing my trip on the Indiana Toll Road. Hey, at least I could say I’d been to Michigan, and therefore every state east of the Mississippi.

This weekend I got to see a bit more of Michigan than that. I left work at 11 AM on Friday and picked up takaza from his employer an hour after that. After carefully checking the traffic reports, we were able to slip through downtown Chicago and out the Chicago Skyway with minimal delays. The trip across Michigan on I-94 was uneventful; I wound up doing most of the driving, since Dan was sleepy. We arrived at the Best Western Executive Plaza in Ann Arbor at close to 6 PM EDT.

We were there for the Dorsai Thing, an annual private relaxacon that the Dorsai hold annually. It was a bit awkward, since we didn’t really know many people there, though giza and petercat from Anthrocon were in attendance, and indeed we spent a good bit of time hanging around and chatting with them. Although they had several tasty dishes available in the con suite, Dan and I opted to go out and grab dinner at Zingerman’s Deli, part of the Zingerman’s conglomerate in Ann Arbor. I had done a bit of googling before we left, and the deli was described as the one place in Ann Arbor (or “A2”, as the local hipsters refer to it) that should not be missed. I have to say, I was extremely impressed with the place. They are clearly set up that funnel massive amounts of people through their store quickly and efficiently, though fortunately there weren’t that many people there that night (I think it was Spring Break at the University of Michigan, so that helped). Dan had a turkey sandwich which he found close to transcendent, and my beef brisket sandwich was pretty darned tasty (great BBQ sauce, but it needed more smokiness in the meat). We drove around downtown Ann Arbor a bit and it struck me as a rather pleasant college town, albeit one that supports a freakin’ huge college. After dinner we went back to the hotel and I crashed early, while Dan stayed up too late making a video blog.

Saturday was pretty laid back. I stepped out from the hotel early to hunt down a tasty cappuccino and had a chance to read the local paper; this only reinforced my opinion that Ann Arbor is definitely a small town in big-city clothing. That has a certain quaintness to it, though. that afternoon there were a few pseudo-panels (more like discussions) on how to be a duty officer (i.e. how to head up and deploy the Dorsai contingent at a convention) and how to negotiate contracts with conventions. These were quite interesting from an outsider’s point of view, and it’s worthy of note that the Dorsai think that Anthrocon is a whole lot of fun, and have nothing but nice things to say about the convention. From the discussions, it sounds like they’ll be working at another furry convention this year, too (not MFF). Following the panels, there was The Spanish Inquisition. This was an entertaining contest where each team had to take ten minutes and do…something. The judge (Sergeant Steve, scs_11) would only tell them if they were doing something wrong, or not wrong. Oh, and the judge could lie at any time. Between your team’s activities and observations made of the other team’s activities, the goal was to deduce what the rules were. It was very silly, and people had a lot of fun with it. We worked with Giza and Peter and we were, of course, “Team Furry”. Of the four teams, we somehow won, for which we got a nifty action figure!

After that, we gave Peter and Giza a lift to the local Kroger where we purchased supplies for the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster contest. The goal was to create a drink that best embodied the description of a drink that was “like being hit over the head by a gold brick wrapped in a slice of lemon.” Peter and Dan’s entries were quite tasty, though Giza’s was…well, I’ll have to track down some pictures of the reception that Giza’s drink received. I think the best comment his drink received was, “A bit harsh for marinating pork or chicken, but maybe not bad with beef.” Dan won a nice set of martini glasses for his drink!

Sunday morning we stopped by the breakfast buffet briefly, but decided to go ahead and hit the road to beat the weekend traffic back through Chicago. Sorry to everyone we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to! The drive was uneventful, but difficult due to nasty crosswinds most of the trip. We arrived home and pretty much collapsed on the sofa, enjoying the two hours of The Amazing Race that aired last night. Then it was off to bed.

Many thanks to Steve and all of the other good Dorsai Irregulars we met this weekend! We had a lot of fun and I definitely look forward to seeing many familiar faces when Anthrocon rolls around.

Long Days, Video Games, and Peanuts on the Floor

It’s Thursday, and as this day begins…

Oh wait, it began a while ago, didn’t it? Anyway. It hasn’t been a very exciting week, but things are picking up. I’ve been coming in an hour early each day (7 AM – 4:30 PM) so that I can leave at 11 AM on Friday. Why? More on that below.

Earlier in the week I finally finished Okami. How sad is it that I fired it up again for a bit yesterday just to see what happens when you start it again (oooh, you have lots of cash and stuff, that’s what!). I don’t foresee playing the whole game through again, but it’s remarkable that the playability holds up even after finishing it. And even though it’s the most expensive game we’ve ever bought, at 40+ hours of gameplay, it was very much worth it!

Yesterday when takaza got home I started to make dinner – farfalle in a tomato-sausage sauce. Except when I unwrapped the Italian sausage from the fridge something wasn’t…quite…right. Rather than speculate on just how spoiled the sausage might be (hey everyone it’s food poisoning roulette!) we elected to seek dinner out. We wound up trying Pat’s Pizza on 83 in Grayslake. Wow, what a throwback that place is. Peanut shells on the floor, tables decorated with pages from the 1967 Grayslake High School yearbook…yeah. As much as I wanted to like the place, though, the pizza was unremarkable, as was the garlic bread. It might be a fun place to go with friends, though, just not on a weekend night – that place gets seriously crowded then!

After dinner we made a short drive up to Antioch to visit our favorite booze supplier, Antioch Liquors (nee Armanetti’s, and now apparently part of the Cardinal Liquors chain, though they haven’t changed their sign in over a year). We got a six pack of the Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale that I had at the bowling alley a few weeks ago; as I feared (and the stupidly low price was the tipoff) it’s an Anheuser-Busch product. The stuff from the tap was reasonably good, though, and at three bucks for the six pack, if it’s nasty at least I didn’t gamble much. We also got a bottle of Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka (giza is so doomed!) and a bottle of Aberlour a’bunadh (I’m so doomed!). I toyed with getting a bottle of the extremely tasty Stolichnya Elite, but we were already damaging our wallets enough, so we stopped there. From there it was back home for a boringly early bedtime.

Today has been somewhat busy but I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. After I leave work at 11, I’ll be picking up Dan at work then we’ll be hitting the road for Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Dorsai Thing, a nice little relaxacon. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m sure it’s going to be entertaining one way or another. I’m really looking forward to this because it’s been a while since we did any kind of a road trip (since last July, I think?) and I’ve been antsy to get out on the road again, even if it’s just a short jaunt over to Michigan. For those going to Congenial this weekend, I’m bummed that we won’t be able to make it and I hope that you all have a blast!

Now That Is How You Celebrate A Holiday!

Wow. It’s been a while since I updated here, hasn’t it?

As I mentioned last week, we didn’t attend MFM, though from what I hear a good time was had by all. Instead, we had a nice, lazy weekend around the house. I found a new addiction (Jak 3) with which I wasted numerous hours, which was pleasant. On Saturday night we met up with lisagems for some tasty gelato (not as good as Silvia’s, though) and then walked down and hung out with siriuswolfstar for a while at his place of employment. Sunday morning we met up with Lisa, Sirius, and simbalion for a delicious brunch at Tre Kronor. When we got home we collapsed into a food coma, and enjoyed a lazy day around the house, watching TV and playing Jak 3. Monday was rainy and gray outside, so we made the most of it by taking care of some cleaning around the apartment. And that was about it – our Labor Day weekend! Not exciting or anything, but actually quite enjoyable.

Yesterday was an all-day job interview for the company I’m currently contracting with. I won’t say much about it except that I think it went well, but it will be a good month before I hear anything one way or the other. In the meantime, life goes on.

And here we are at today. I’m back at work, for now anyway. In a few hours I’ll be heading out for lunch with the rest of my department to mark a cow-orker’s 30th anniversary with the company, but it looks like I’ll be bowing out from the ensuing golf outing so I can head down and pick up takaza after work. Why pick him up, you ask? (Well, you didn’t really, but pretend you did.) The street where we live is currently under construction, and from what we’ve seen they tend to put up signs about how you must move your car or be towed about 24 hours in advance. I think it would be safer to leave his car at his employer’s while we’re in Maine.

Maine, did I say? Why, yes I did! Tomorrow morning, we wake up at 4:30 AM (ugh) and drive to O’Hare International Airport. Following our cavity search and removal of all relevant and irrelevant privacy rights, we will be boarding a United 737 for glorious Manchester, New Hampshire (along with feren and Lori, roho’s cousin). We’ll pick up a rental car there (AAA discounts are da bomb!) and drive two hours to Portland, Maine, where Roho’s parents live. We’ll be spending the next five days out there, attending (and helping with), Roho and genet’s wedding, plus seeing some of the sights and generally having a good time. We’ll be sharing a vacation cottage with linnaeus, chebuytkin, Feren, lady_curmudgeon, and datahawk. It’s gonna be a blast! According to the listing, the cottage has wifi and broadband Internet, so with luck I may even post the periodic update (probably at the wee hours of the day, when I’m awake and the rest of those slugabeds are still asleep! 🙂

So: some last-minute laundry tonight, then packing, and oh, we have an online MFF board meeting somewhere in there too. Ideally, an early bedtime, too, though I somehow doubt the likelihood of that.

For now, though, time to get some work done!

Now That Was A Weekend To Remember!

First off: Happy birthday, linnaeus!

So, when last we left our heroes, they were about to venture forth on a romantic weekend getaway. Takaza made all of the plans in secret, and I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. I picked him up from work at 4:00 PM on Friday and I was instructed to drive…north.

Where did we go? Click here to find out!

Feeling All Accomplished-Like

Reservations have been made and tickets have been purchased, yay!

takaza and I will be flying out to Maine for the wedding of roho and genet in September. We’re flying into Manchester, NH, at 10:44 AM on 9/7/06, and departing Manchester at 5:22 PM on 9/12/06 (yay for Kayak for finding the cheapest airfares!). Also, by renting a car through AAA‘s website (and of course by having a AAA membership), we’re getting a full-size car for less than the price of a compact, going through Hertz instead of somebody crappy like Thrifty. This is going to be a wonderful trip – I haven’t been back to Maine in close to 25 years, and I really love that part of the country. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to make a day-trip up to Acadia National Park, and it sounds like there’s some seagoing boating in the offing as well. Oh, and lobster. Lots of lobster. Mmmmm….

Oh yeah, if anyone missed it, we’re hosting a coffee get-together tonight in Chicago!
What: Coffee (And Ice Cream) Night!
When: 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM, Wednesday, July 26 (this coming Wednesday)
Where: Bobtail Soda Fountain, 3425 N. Southport, Chicago, IL
That’s a half-block north of the Brown Line Southport station, and the El is by far the easiest way to get there. Street parking is available, though you may have to hunt a bit. Bobtail has very tasty (Intelligentsia) coffee, and excellent ice cream as well. They don’t serve much in the way of non-dessert food, but there is a Potbelly Sandwich Works right across the street. takaza and I will probably hit Potbelly at around 7 PM for a quick dinner if anyone wants to join us there. If you’d like us to save you a seat, just let me know, here or by e-mail!

Finally, I’m looking forward to Friday. I’m pocking up Dan at work at 4 PM and we’re going…somewhere. I’m not sure where, and he’s not telling me, but I know that we’re going to be spending a lovely weekend away, just the two of us. The last time we did something like this it was wonderful, and I can’t wait to see what he’s come up with this time!

What We Did On Our Weekend Vacation

As promised, takaza and I retreated to the Hoffman Estates La Quinta on Friday after work for a weekend of relaxation and planning. Once we had a chance to decompress a bit we took to the car and went in search of dinner. Our wanderings took us to Woodfield Mall, and while we briefly considered trying out the new meat faucet there, we instead opted to cheap it out and resorted to the food court instead. After that it was back to the hotel to relax and sleep, eventually.

We were up relatively early on Saturday. The plan was to research the FRAC route, though we were racing the weather to do it since the forecast predicted incoming steady rain starting that afternoon. We had a couple of funny things happen that I can’t really talk about since people who will be participating in FRAC will be reading this 🙂 Maybe later. Anyway, the rain started to pick up at about 2 PM so we called off the scouting (we got about 75% of the work done, I’d say) and instead went in search of what is alleged to be the best hot chocolate in Chicago. We tried it, and we’d have to agree – extremely tasty!

Since the rest of the day was shot for FRAC research, we gave siriuswolfstar to see what he and simbalion were up to. It turns out they were just a few blocks north of us, so we met up at North Bridge Mall and amused ourselves with a bit of window shopping (and taking some amusing pictures in the process). We wound up grabbing a table and just chatting for a good hour or more, which was a nice break after all the walking we had done all day. After we parted ways, we headed back to the hotel. We weren’t feeling hungry until late, plus we were too lazy to actually drive anywhere, so we ordered pizza and pasta for a local joint. We have a winner for Wuffmeet, I think. The tortellini alfredo that I had was enough for three people, and I think it would nicely supplement any pizza we order.

On Sunday I snuck out early in the driving rain and spent some time at a nearby Panera having breakfast and reading the paper. Around 11:30 I went back to the hotel to find that Dan had just woken up. We got packed up and checked out and talked to the front desk folks to make sure that everything was in order for Wuffmeet. We then went made a Sam’s Club run to check prices for Wuffmeet budgeting, then a stop at American Science and Surplus to see if there were any useful knickknacks that might come in handy at our upcoming conventions. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at home and catching up on Tivo.

Not too exciting for a weekend away from home, but that’s just fine by me!

Stay Home? Not Gonna Happen

Gosh, this seemed like it was going to be a nice calm week when I made my last post. Yeah, right…

Takaza got the word on Tuesday that he was going to be going down to his employer’s St. Louis, Missouri, branch to help out with some training there. Once they got the scheduling worked out, I went to work to figure out how I could get down there economically and we could hang out for the weekend. Flights were out at this late date – the cheapest I could find was over $100. Amtrak, though…they even had a schedule that worked for me. A nice bonus was that I found a great website that posts discount codes for Amtrak (typically these are the ones that are mailed out to their Guest Rewards program); that netted me a quick 25% off.

So, for $60 I’ve got a business-class seat on the Route 305 – State House train from Chicago-Union Station to St. Louis, departing at 5:15 PM on Friday and getting in (theoretically) at 10:43 PM. I say theoretically because, looking at the last week, the train arrives somewhere between five and thirty minutes late. Eh, it’s worth it, I think. We’ll be down there through Sunday afternoon, and Dan will be at the regular Friday night Furry Coffee gathering. On Saturday we’ll be hanging out with ramalion and K and hopefully tygercowboy and company as well. Sunday we’ll do lunch with my sister’s family before driving back to Chicago.

Also, in a nice “Power of the Internet” moment, I just spent the last ten minutes or so using Google Maps to talk Dan through a detour off of I-270 around a nasty accidenton the Illinois side of the Mississippi River that had stopped traffic for miles. It was very odd to be talking to him and relating what he was seeing real-time to landmarks I saw in the satellite photos.

Going back a bit earlier in the week, I did have my physical health assessment at the gym on Monday, as I mentioned. The good news is that I’m not quite as bad off as I thought I was – I weigh a little less than I thought I did and my nutrition is “average” where I thought it would be “poor”. The bad news is that apparently, for a 37-year-old I have the body of a 50-year-old, according to their “Body Age” testing thingy. Yeah, that’s something to work on, I reckon. I’ve got another appointment on Monday evening to set up a program for cardio and strength training, and then I’ll be good to go. I’m such a creature of habit – once I can get a good regimen going, it’s pretty easy to stick with.

Oh, and finally, two cool items from today’s paper of interest to roho, genet, and feren: a comparison of stir-fry restaurants in the Chicago area, and a nice review of my favorite tea house, Infini-Tea.