duncandahusky: (Brain Damaged)
Oh my goodness, what a convention. It scares me to think that Midwest FurFest 2011 was my 12th MFF - twelve years of doing this. Yikes.

This was also my second year working as Hotel Liaison with the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. In one sense it was easier but in another it was a little more difficult - I knew the lay of the land and what my proper role should be, however a few months before the convention we were surprised by the sudden resignation of our hotel contact (to go to the Hyatt Regency Woodfield, ironically). Our new contact, Matt, was promoted from Meeting Concierge (who work with meeting organizers the day of the meetings to make sure they have what they need) to Convention Services Manager (who work with meeting organizers before and during the convention to nail down all of the little details).

I won't lie - I made Matt earn his keep, but he did very well. I filled his inbox with emails and lists (and lists, and lists of lists). He put up with me and my special OCD tendencies, and I think that between us we totally rocked the convention preparations. There's still plenty of room for improvement, mainly in convention preparations and scheduling stuff that the average attendee never sees, but I'm sure that we'll do even better next year.

I know better than to try to list things day by day, because honestly by now it's all a blur. What did my days consist of? Up at 7 AM, shower, check emails and monitor Twitter/Facebook. 8 AM, check with Security and other departments to make sure no one burned down the hotel overnight. Check in with Gir or Cheetah to make sure they were good for their shift. 9 AM - 10 AM, morning meeting over breakfast with chairman and staff leads to discuss any convention-wide issues or problem children. Check social media again, respond to any queries/issues there. Hit the floor and start the rounds of the hotel, checking in various parts of the con and making sure everyone was happy. Put in a shift or two as Hotel staff on call. Check social media. Get lunch around 3 PM, typically a quick bite from the staff lounge. Roam some more, check social media, then a real dinner. Go off duty around 7 or 8 PM (unless I was on call for the night). That about sums it up.

I had two fine folks helping me out in this craziness: Gir and Cheetah. This was Cheetah's first year on Hotel staff and Gir's second, and both of them did utterly fantastic jobs. It is awesome to know that I have people whose judgment I trust and I can utterly rely on to just make it all work. And it doesn't hurt that they're both awesome friends!

Somewhere in the middle of all of this (Friday night, to be specific), Dan and I celebrated the ten-year anniversary of our commitment ceremony with a Renewal of Vows and Civil Union ceremony (now that CU's are legal in the state of Illinois). It was an amazing event, with scores of our friends joining us. We had a beautiful cake for the occasion, and Matt from the Hyatt surprised us with a huge tub filled with ice and bottles of champagne. I know that several folks took video of the ceremony, and we have a ton of pictures to post as well. And after the whole event, we had one hell of a party! It was a great night for us both, and I was so glad to spend it with so many friends.

The rest of the convention went extremely well, and as always we succeeded in making our charity cry. The convention attendees raised around $6,000 for them, and the convention was able to add a check for $12,500 on top of that. I have to admit that I always love that part of Closing Ceremonies! Once the convention was all taken down and stowed for the night, we retired to our room for a final shindig where we welcomed a small number of friends to join us. Nothing too crazy, but a really nice way to wind things down.

So now we take a break, rest and recuperate. The ideas are already flowing for next year, and it's safe to say that I don't see us as a convention resting on our laurels any time soon.
duncandahusky: (Brain Damaged)
Yep, we're down to the pre-convention head-in-a-fog period where I post even less than I usually do. We're trying to keep things moderately low-key as we lead up to Anthrocon, which is just seven days away (for us, anyway). That doesn't mean we're sitting in darkened rooms all by ourselves, though...

On Friday after work [livejournal.com profile] takaza and I had a bit of shopping to do in McHenry, then wandered around a bit through Bull Valley (my gosh, that's a beautiful area!) before winding up in Woodstock. We had dinner at La Petite Creperie. We eschewed crepes for their more formal dinner menu which was...something of a mixed bag. I felt strongly enough that I wrote up a review on Yelp, giving them 2 out of 5 stars. We'd go back, but only for the crepes.

Saturday we worked around the house a bit, then drove up to Antioch to visit with [livejournal.com profile] roho and [livejournal.com profile] genet and [livejournal.com profile] linnaeus. It was a pleasant evening, nice and laid back (though clearly we hadn't had enough mind-altering substances to fully appreciate "Sita Sings the Blues" :-) On Sunday was spent working on Anthrocon stuff and generally just puttering around the house. Not a bad thing at all!

This brings me to the specter hanging over our heads right now - Anthrocon. It was with a bit of astonishment that I realized last week that I've been working in the Artists Alley at Anthrocon for the last nine years, and been in charge of it for the last seven years. Dan started in the Alley with me, then graduated to write the at-convention newsletter, then to create and run the Finance Office. Nine years is a long time, and we have both reached the point where we are burned out and it just isn't fun anymore. It's an insane amount of work to run these departments, and I know that at least for me serving as chairman of Midwest FurFest was easy compared to the time spent preparing for and running Artists Alley.

Don't get me wrong - I've enjoyed my time managing Artists Alley. I have gotten to work with some really wonderful people, and as I wrap up my final year on Anthrocon staff I leave knowing that the Alley is in excellent hands. [livejournal.com profile] rooth, my second-in-command is taking over the position from me, and I have every confidence he will do an excellent job. We haven't always agreed on philosophical matters, but that's a good thing - it's good to challenge and understand why we do what we do. He's got a great head for logistics, and between us I think that we've created a pretty awesome purchasing system in the Alley. And I know he has a ton of new ideas that will be implemented over the next few years that will make the Alley even better.

As for us? We'll be giving Anthrocon a miss next year, I'm afraid. We're planning on a cruise to Alaska to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our commitment ceremony; I only have two weeks of vacation, and the cruise is going to consume a large chunk of that. We'll still be active with Furry Connection North and Midwest FurFest, though, and the many and various smaller events throughout the year!
duncandahusky: (Chewy!)
Oh man, am I exhausted. It was an extremely full weekend. [livejournal.com profile] takaza was hosting the Furry Convention Leadership Roundtable, and I was helping. We had folks come in from all over the country, representing Anthrocon, Furry Connection North, Rainfurrest, IndyFurCon, the Dorsai Irregulars, and of course Midwest FurFest. We spent a solid 11 hours on Saturday talking over a host of different topics, talking about what worked, what didn't, and how things can be improved. We finished off the day with a rousing discussion of Convention Horror Stories, which was a real hoot. (Note: If you weren't invited, don't be upset. To prevent the discussion from being too biased toward any one organization, there was a limit of three representatives, plus S.O.'s, per convention.)

The event was held at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Lincolnshire, IL, and it turned out to be the perfect hotel. Nice, big rooms, affordable rates, and just the right amount of function space. Next time I hope we'll actually be able to check out the hot tub and pool. Since it's in the middle of a ton of dining options, that makes it even more attractive. Finally, the staff was extremely accommodating and helpful.

After we had unpacked the car and picked up Buddy from Dan's mom's place, Dan pretty much went right to bed at about 6 PM. I stayed up until 10, but clearly I should have gone to bed earlier. I'll be dragging for the rest of the day, and I may need to take a nap when I get home from work. Ugh.
duncandahusky: (It's BACON!)
Oh my, was Furry Connection North a blast!

All the details lie below the cut )
So that was the con. We had an amazing time, and I'm really looking forward to going back next year. FCN is a great convention because of its staff, and they are an amazing group of smart, conscientious people. Gir and Nik are the most visible, and they knock themselves out to make sure everyone has a good time. Also, fine folks like Eddikat, Ed Hyena, Deyna Otter, Basil, Savant, Takaza, Giza, the Dorsai Irregulars, and so many others who I simply didn't get a chance to see (or am stupidly forgetting) help to make FCN the excellent convention that it is. If you haven't gone, you really should - it's a great convention, a great party, and a whole lot of fun.

We Did It.

Nov. 23rd, 2009 05:02 pm
duncandahusky: (huskypuppy)
I am tired.
I am hoarse - I have almost no voice left.
Did I mention I was tired?

But with 14+ months of preparation and untold hours of hard work by over 130 staff members, Midwest FurFest 2009 is done and was a huge success.

And now, I'm going to relax on the sofa, enjoy my mint tea, and not. Do. Anything.

And I'm going to feel damn good about it.
duncandahusky: (Thoughtful)
Twelve+ months of preparation (because planning for this started well before the last Midwest FurFest) and untold hours of work later, here we are at Midwest FurFest 2009, celebrating our tenth anniversary. This will be my final year as convention chairman, so it's bittersweet in that respect. I wasn't able to accomplish everything I wanted to do, but I made a good dent in it, so I'm not too unhappy.

Being chairman versus running Registration was a huge difference for me. It's a lot less hands-on, and more management. In that respect it offered a welcome break from seven years of doing the same thing, but it introduced a whole host of new and interesting issues to be dealt with. All in all it's been a worthwhile, if at times frustrating, experience. It's been worth it, though.

As far as what this has meant to me as a person, it has been a tremendous experience in relinquishing control and letting other people do their jobs. Delegation, delegation, delegation. I know when I came into this position many staff members expected me to be a micromanager because I am such a control freak; I hope that I proved them wrong, or at least was helpful and constructive in what management I offered. I certainly appreciate the patience and cooperation that has been shown to me in return.

I guess I should say that I'm not going anywhere next year - I'll be taking over the Hotel Liaison position, something that is sure to offer new and interesting challenges. But first I need to make it through this year's convention. It's going to be stressful, I can already see that. But we will work it through, and have a good time doing it.

I will receive a lot of thank-yous at this convention, and I can't begin to say how much each and every one will be appreciated. But I would ask that you also take the time to stop a staffer or volunteer at the convention and thank them as well. I'm just the manager - they are the tireless folks who are doing the actual work. You would be amazed how much just a simple "Thank you" can turn around a crappy day and erase a bad experience someone has had. We are all volunteering our time to make this convention happen - nobody gets paid. Do your part and help people feel that it's time well-spent.

And with that...I'm out of here! My email and web access will be spotty for the next five days, so if you need to reach me, my cell phone is your best bet. See you all on the other side!
duncandahusky: (huskyface)
I've mentioned this before, but some folks have asked why I write up such long and detailed convention reports. The biggest reason is so that I have something to look back on in future years to remind me of what went wrong, what went right, and how to make each year better than the last. Granted, as some might have gathered this year's Anthrocon wasn't as great for me as past years have been. I'll come to that in a bit, but let's start with:

Monday )
Tuesday )
Wednesday )
Thursday )
Still to come: The convention starts! Sushi, fireworks, and exhaustion.
duncandahusky: (Inquisitive)
It's Wednesday already? I suppose I should write up our fantastic weekend before it completely goes out of my head. Furry Connection North was a great convention - we had a wonderful time!

Thursday: Evening entertainment, then we hit the road )
Friday: Tasty lunch, then FCN! )
Saturday: A challenge! Awesome dinner, and a great party )
Sunday: Up waaaay too early, time to hit the road )
All in all, it was a really enjoyable weekend, and a great convention. We had fun hanging out with the Dorsai Irregulars and helping out with security. I want to give a huge shoutout to Gir and his staff: Eddie, Ed, Nik, Kit, Deyna, Jazzy, Omni, Oddy, Stevie, Basil, and many others who I didn't have the good fortunate to meet. I know you were a little shorthanded this year, but if I hadn't known that ahead of time I never would have guessed. You should all rest up and relax - you did a fantastic job, and really have created a convention to be proud of!
duncandahusky: (Default)
It's been a completely insane week at work and I've been so exhausted when I got home I haven't been up to writing anything. Thank heavens for LoudTwitter, eh?

Anyway, I did want to mention one very important thing: Online registration for Furry Connection North ends at midnight tonight! If you haven't already, you should really go and register now. It'll give Gir and Nik and all of those fine folks warm fuzzies :-) FCN is a great convention! We'll be there, and you should be too. Hope to see you there!

(Oh yeah, and did I mention something about a party at FCN? One of those might just be happening...)
duncandahusky: (pukey-cute)
Unfortunately, time and expense will keep us away yet again this year, but if you can you should go to Mephit Furmeet! And while you're there, you should lend [livejournal.com profile] ramalion a hand at Registration. Why? 'Cause he's a cool guy, and I owe him my soul for all the times he's helped out at Midwest FurFest's Registration and Anthrocon's Artists Alley :-) Interested? Here's how you can help.
duncandahusky: (Bruno)
Alas, all good things must come to an end.
Sunday: Last day of the con )
Monday: Meetings and the drive home )
The Wrapup: Final thoughts )
So this wraps up Anthrocon stuff for me. Now it's time to start thinking about plans for Midwest FurFest...
duncandahusky: (Inquisitive)
So, it's been one day since the convention "officially" started. Picking up on Saturday morning...
Saturday: Alley and Party! )
duncandahusky: (WTF?)
Friday: It's Showtime! )
duncandahusky: (Inquisitive)
So let's pick up with the Anthrocon report where we left off, on Thursday morning.
Thursday - Set-Up Day! )
duncandahusky: (License)
Yes, it's time for another one of Duncan's exhaustive, verbose Anthrocon reports! This is the personal report; I have the "official" department report outlined. I'll get that written up and posted by the end of the week.

I'll preface this by saying that my Anthrocon reports (both personal and departmental) are long and detailed. This is mainly for my own benefit, as it's very handy to look back just before the convention at past reports for reminders of what we did in prior years, what worked, what didn't, and handy things like which pizza joints were good and which were not. Feel free to read along, though!
Preparations and Tuesday - The Drive Out )
Wednesday - Candy! And Arriving in Pittsburgh )
Next...Thursday - Convention set-up and a tasty dinner!
duncandahusky: (Amused)
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, [livejournal.com profile] 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 [livejournal.com profile] tervicz and to make the acquaintance of [livejournal.com profile] jet_der_hund. I also had a blast hanging out with [livejournal.com profile] huskydoggeh, [livejournal.com profile] kodi_pup, [livejournal.com profile] 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, [livejournal.com profile] 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.
duncandahusky: (Inquisitive)
It's Friday and I'm feeling random.

So it appears that we'll be going to Furry Connection North (April 11-13, Ann Arbor, MI). It will be the first convention I've been to in a long LONG time where I haven't been on staff, so it should be an interesting experience. Once we get our rooming situation sorted out I'll go ahead and buy sponsorships for [livejournal.com profile] takaza and me. If things work out, it appears that there may even be a Fine Potables Party there!

We need to make a couple of side dishes for a birthday party this weekend. Because I've never really cooked with Jerusalem artichokes (and because everything is better with bacon) I'm going to try making Warm Salad with Jerusalem Artichokes, Bacon, and Radicchio, a recipe from Jamie Oliver's newest cookbook. I don't have a lot of use for Oliver, but hey, the recipe sounds tasty. I just hope it scales reasonably.

Speaking of food-blog related stuff, I'm sad that I didn't win anything in the Menu for Hope 4 raffle results that were announced today, but they did raise over $91,000 for the United Nations World Food Programme. That's just amazing. I look forward to participating in Menu for Hope next year! (and I'll probably mention it more next year because not only is it a great cause, the prizes they were raffling off were extremely nifty)

Finally, yesterday I introduced a cow-orker to the amusement that is Jonathan Coulton. That reminded me to go back and listen to some of his songs I haven't heard. My new favorite of his is Skullcrusher Mountain, a tender tale of an evil overlord attempting to impress his less-than-willing female captive:

I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don't like it
What's with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don't like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?
duncandahusky: (Inquisitive)
There's not going to be a lot of order to this, but hey, bear with me.

  • I said it before but I want to say it again: I had the support of the most amazing group of people at Registration this year. They worked hard, and every single one of them deserves high praise: [livejournal.com profile] neowolf2, [livejournal.com profile] rustitobuck, [livejournal.com profile] rolliebear, [livejournal.com profile] cobaltfox, [livejournal.com profile] little_wolf, [livejournal.com profile] daveqat, [livejournal.com profile] ramalion, [livejournal.com profile] chsck83, [livejournal.com profile] shy_matsi, [livejournal.com profile] mutantur, [livejournal.com profile] moiracoon, [livejournal.com profile] woodychitwn, [livejournal.com profile] bullethc, [livejournal.com profile] chanur2000, [livejournal.com profile] drew2u, [livejournal.com profile] fordshepherd, [livejournal.com profile] kellicjtiger, [livejournal.com profile] street22, and [livejournal.com profile] tozier_wah. Great job, folks!

  • I will freely admit I had some concerns about [livejournal.com profile] sabotlours and [livejournal.com profile] carol_kitty running Con Suite, mainly due to the complexities of running something as logistically complicated as Con Suite from Albuquerque. I am delighted to say that not only were my concerns completely unjustified, but also that they totally rocked the place, bringing foods heretofore unseen in MFF's Con Suite (sushi! stir fry!). And I am very, very glad that they are returning to staff next year in the same role.

  • It is with mixed emotions that I leave Registration behind and move into the Chairman role. I've been running Registration for seven years (the first MFF, [livejournal.com profile] damnbear did a great job at it) and it's time for a change. I'm a logistics guy, not a programmer, and it always bothered me that the Registration system was pretty much a black box to me (of necessity - I wasn't expecting anyone to teach me to program, after all!). I'm glad that Neowolf will be taking it over; he will hopefully bring new life and new ideas to the department. As for being chairman: Wow. Daunting doesn't begin to cover it. I have some ideas for the coming year, and I still need to talk to many of the convention staff to see what their plans are for 2008. We've got a terrific group of people on staff and my job will be to stay out of their way and let them do what they do best.

  • I get to sleep in next year! Well, at least until 8 AM. Sometimes it sucks to be a morning person.

  • Speaking of waking up early, props to [livejournal.com profile] crim_ferret and the other Security folks for having fresh coffee each morning. Thanks!

  • There will be another Fine Potables Party at Anthrocon, and at Midwest FurFest 2008 ("Chairman's Reception"? :-) Those are far too entertaining to let fall by the wayside.

  • So we had three elevators in a four-story hotel and we managed to kill one of them. The Westin has four elevators for 16 floors. Well - this will be fun to manage.

The Midwest FurFest Website has been updated, and has not only the video that we showed at Closing Ceremonies to introduce the Westin but also links to reserve your hotel room and register for MFF 2008! Yay!

So, now there's nothing to worry about until next year. Oh, except for Wuffmeet. And Anthrocon (and creating an entirely new point of sale system for that). Yeah, no worries whatsoever...
duncandahusky: (Me- Jacket)
Well, it's been almost a week since Midwest FurFest, and I'm finally able to sum it all up: DAMN. And I mean that in a good way :-)

Let's see if I can condense this down to something readable. I do want to preface this by saying that if I don't mention your name it's because it was all a blur - please don't think any slight is intended.

Wednesday )
Thursday )
Friday )
Saturday )
Sunday )
Monday )
I'll have some personal observations about the con in my next post.

Home. Ow.

Nov. 19th, 2007 04:25 pm
duncandahusky: (Thoughtful)
Takaza and I are home.

My cell phone is out of commission; it crashed and had to be mailed to Sprint for service. If I'm lucky I'll have it back my Wednesday; if not, I assume it'll be sometime next July or something.

I slipped off the truck as we were loading it and not only seriously whacked my knee but twisted my back and my ankle. Consequently I haven't been much use in moving the massive amounts of stuff that require both Dan and my cars to get home. Oh, and Dan's sciatica flared up again last night.

Whining aside, the con went well. No major problems, and a lot of very pleasant surprises. I'll have a Registration Report sometime in the next few weeks and perhaps a personal report when I can. Now, I'm going to go collapse.

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