duncandahusky: (huskyface)

Why do I keep working for Midwest FurFest, even after 16 years? Last night’s Closing Ceremonies reminded me why.

MFF’s charity this year was Save-A-Vet (http://ift.tt/XW2mgm), a group that helps rescue military and law enforcement working dogs when their service to country and community is done, and provides housing and relief for disabled veterans who help take care of the dogs. It’s a wonderful cause, and the people running it are incredibly nice.

Fund raising went on all throughout the convention. At Closing Ceremonies, the readout of the money raised rolled in. $800 from one event, $500 from another. $400 just from passing the hat at a comedy improv event. The Charity Auction, highlighted by a hockey stick signed by the 2015 Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks which went for $5,500, brought in a total of $8,600. Add to that several thousand dollars in donations from the jar on their table (including a check for $1,000!), and the total came to $19,400. The charity thought that was wonderful - their annual operating budget is $21,000.

Then came the famous “One More Thing”…a giant corgi brought out a large novelty check from the convention for $40,000. The Save-A-Vet guys were overwhelmed, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Once everything settled down, it was announced that the final take was just shy of $60,000.

And here’s the part that reminds me why I love this community.

A voice from the back of the audience (of 1,000+) called out “How shy are you?” And it was noted that they were at $59,400. And that’s when someone came up from the audience and tossed a twenty dollar bill on the stage. Then someone else came up. And another until soon there was a steady stream of people walking up, dropping off cash, and returning to their seats. This went on for a couple of minutes as the charity and even the convention leadership looked on in astonishment. And in the end, that little extra help turned out to be an additional $2,600. And again, there were tears of gratitude all around.

Furry fandom is a composed of people from all walks of life who like to get together at conventions, hang out with friends, wear funny fake animal suits, and make art of animal people. Yeah, they’re weird.

But you know what? I’m proud to call myself part of that bunch of weirdos!

originally posted 08 December 2015
duncandahusky: (Default)

Originally published at Tom Brady's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

Once upon a time there was (and still is) a science fiction convention in the Chicago suburbs called Duckon. At that convention, starting in the early 1990’s, a series of panels and events centered around the furry fandom was established; it became known as the Furry Track, one of several programming tracks at Duckon. Over the years, the Furry Track grew and grew, through the efforts of Robert King and many others, until those attending just for the Furry Track represented a good-sized chunk of the convention, several hundred people.

I moved to the Chicago area in 1998, and attended Duckon. I made a lot of great friends there, and got active in the local furry group, Lake Area Furry Friends (LAFF). After attending the convention, I piped up on the LAFF mailing list that with the success of the furry track, we had the momentum to start our own convention! I outlined a few different approaches we could take, and what might be necessary to start the organization. I was quickly told to shut the hell up, but only because there was a group of folks that was already well underway in planning just such a thing. (My now-husband Dan was part of this group; he remembers that email and wondering, “Who the hell is this guy? We’re already working on this!”)

That was in 1999. The rest is history. Midwest FurFest made its debut in 2000. In the years since, I’ve been Registration Director, Convention Chairman, and, since 2010, Hotel Liaison. I have been a member of the Board of Directors from the beginning, and besides Robert, I am the only other founding Board Member still serving. I have made many, many new friends, and unfortunately damaged and lost a few friendships along the way. I was fortunate enough to meet and fall in love with my dear husband. We celebrated our Commitment Ceremony on Sunday night of Midwest FurFest 2001, and our Renewal of Vows/Civil Union in 2011. Midwest FurFest has been the home of some of the happiest moments of my life, and I am incredibly proud of what we have created. An ever-growing attendance of 4,000+ is an endorsement of that creation.

Over the years, though, the time commitment has risen. What started as “Oh, it’s Labor Day – I suppose we should start planning the con” has become a 14+ month cycle of organizing an incredibly complicated organization that takes 200+ volunteer staffers and another 50-60 on-site volunteers. The last few years have had me working more on convention-related work than the work I’m paid to do in the last month before the convention. I’m spread thinly – not only am I the Hotel Liaison, but I am also the Social Media Manager, Webmaster, Department Lead with several departments reporting through me, and general guy-who-does-stuff-that-needs-doing. I’m not complaining, mind you – I undertook all of this willingly, and for the most part I enjoy what I do. I am proud that the convention Twitter account has a personality, and has a reputation for its sense of humor and responsiveness. I have an incredibly talented and dedicated Hotel Liaison staff who are all a genuine pleasure to work with.

After fifteen years, though, the time has come to say, “Enough.” The convention work is taking too much time out of my life, the worries and stresses from January to December are making me cranky and unpleasant to be around, and I feel like I’m not bringing much in the way of new ideas to the party. I need a break.

After this year’s Midwest FurFest, I’m stepping back. I’m resigning from the Board of Directors and I will not have a management position. I will not be a part of pre-convention planning. Am I going away? Absolutely not! The drive to create and to help is still there, but it needs to be redirected. Tentatively, I will be helping Dan as Assistant Guest of Honor Liaison next year. I hope to also act as a consultant where I can, providing some institutional knowledge when questions come up. And in the future…who knows? I may get more involved in Midwest FurFest, or another convention, or…the possibilities are endless. But it is time for a change now.

I hope to see many of our friends at this year’s convention, which for me starts in just a few hours, when I show up at the hotel. This is going to be an amazing year – the date change, though difficult, means that we have much more time to set up, and will result in a happier and more effective staff, which I believe will make for a better convention overall. Wish us luck!

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: (Default)
Right, I have a journal here. I should actually use it :-)

Just to update a few things before they totally slip into the past: Following the craziness that was Wuffmeet, [livejournal.com profile] takaza and I slipped into a comfortable winter rhythm. Our cooking has improved, or at least gotten more interesting, with the addition of a Sous Vide Supreme to our kitchen. We are still experimenting and testing recipes, but we've been really impressed with how it cooks steaks and other meats. The fish it makes is to die for, and butter-poached chicken is simply divine. The biggest trick is that seasonings behave differently with low-temperature cooking, so we are still learning what works, what doesn't, and what we still need to try. I'm having a ball with is, and I'm hoping to bring it to Furry Connection North to provide some interesting snacks for our parties!

Our social life has gotten a bit quieter with the departure of close friends [livejournal.com profile] roho and [livejournal.com profile] genet to the wilds of the east coast as they move to the heart of Boston. While we were very sad to see them go, I'm really glad to see Roho get his life back from his (former) evil employer. We provided some small help in moving some of their furniture out of their house (I still feel bad about what we did to the wall in their basement stairwell, but I'm told it was a relatively easy fix). Once the movers came and loaded up their stuff, Genet crashed at our place for a few days with Briana, their pretty-but-airheaded Samoyed. She and Buddy got along great (as always), and it was nice to have the extra company. Once all of the contractors were done making their place super-pretty so it could go on the market, she packed up the dog and their two cats and made the long drive to Boston. Here's hoping they can clear all the boxes out of their new place before summer! ;-)

We have been having a lot of fun planning our upcoming cruise to Alaska, coming up around Memorial Day. Somehow our group has reached 18 people from all over - even someone from Sweden! We purchased a good bit of the various parts of the trip over the last month, including flights (Frontier Airlines, MKE-DEN-ANC/SEA-MKE), reservations at a fabulous little lesbian-owned B&B in Anchorage, trains from Anchorage to Seward (where our ship departs) and Vancouver to Seattle, and various shore excursions. Dan is thinking about putting together a group chat on Saturday, March 5, for everyone in our group so we can talk about coordinating schedules and answer any questions that folks might have. We'll be sending around emails for that. This is going to be the longest vacation we've had, and I'm really looking forward to it! We're already brainstorming ideas for group trips for next year as well, including an extended weekend in New Orleans, and a ski weekend at Sugarloaf in Maine. More on that after the cruise!

I should mention that on Groundhog Day we got buried with a blizzard. Twenty inches of snow fell in a very short time, and then the 40-50 mph winds kicked in. We did the smart thing and made sure we had everything we needed and when it started coming down we sat tight at the house. Work for both of us was closed (the first time in a long time!) and we spent the snow day relaxing and Genet made cookies! Our HOA dues have never been more appreciated as we watched the snow removal company try to cope with the huge drifts, though we did get into the act a little bit by excavating Genet's car from the snow.

Somewhere in there was our first Midwest FurFest staff meeting of the year. It's always rough to get started again after the last convention, but there's contracts to sign and plans to get into place. The good news is that Hyatt Regency O'Hare was extremely happy with the convention last year, and now that we all know each other, the coming year will be much easier to plan. We have changed up our meeting schedule a bit, with more online meetings early in the year; this makes sense since most of the staff doesn't really need to spring into action until the summer.

Oh, for those wondering: our conventions schedule this year is to attend Furry Connection North and Midwest FurFest and...that's it. Since the cruise is so long and I only have ten days of vacation, Anthrocon just isn't in the cards for us this year. I wish everyone involved with AC well, though, especially [livejournal.com profile] rooth and [livejournal.com profile] chanur2000, who will be taking over my and Dan's staff positions there, respectively. Good luck, guys!

Finally, Dan and I will be hopping on board the Amtrak Wolverine this evening and taking the train over to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to hang out with the fine folks there for the weekend, and to help determine the beers that will be served at FCN's sponsor lounge. It should be tough, thirsty work! Dan has planned a fun dinner for Saturday night as well. The fun doesn't end there, as it appears that we will be visited by [livejournal.com profile] fordshepherd and [livejournal.com profile] bajahyena next weekend, when we will...well, those plans are a secret!

Off to work now - I hope everyone has a great weekend!
duncandahusky: (Inquisitive)
I wanted to post this so I didn't forget it, and because it amuses the hell out of me. As we were wrapping up on the Monday after Midwest FurFest, we ran into [livejournal.com profile] wingywoof and [livejournal.com profile] seritaph. Seritaph had a great commentary on tipping of hotel staff among fans (I'm paraphrasing somewhat here):

"They love us! Apparently the worst tippers are accountants and actuaries. They know the value of goods and services and won't tip worth a damn. But fans? Fans just duck their heads and say, 'I'm sorry we're weird. Here's twenty dollars.'"

And that's OK, in my opinion. The more we tip, the more they look forward to us, and the better deals we get (and deals aren't just limited to what's in contracts and such. I couldn't begin to list all the little bonuses and freebies we got as a convention because the Hyatt staff was willing to work with us!).
duncandahusky: (Me- Jacket)
My, it's been quiet here lately, hasn't it?

Most of you probably know why. For the last eleven (!) years I have been a staff member for Midwest FurFest. After serving as chairman for the last two years, this year I moved into the position of Hotel Liaison while my husband [livejournal.com profile] takaza took over as chairman. Now, being Hotel Liaison is no picnic anyway, but this was our first year at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare and that introduced all kinds of new complexities - learning how to use the function space, establishing lines of communication, negotiating contracts and expenses, and a slew of other duties. Hotel Liaison is one of the few 12-months-a-year jobs with the convention (most department heads' duties kick in maybe 4-6 months before the con) and in the final month before the convention I was easily spending 20-30 hours per week on convention-related tasks. Thus the lack of updating.

So. The convention happened. How did it go?

It. Was. Amazing. All of that planning and hard work was worth it. Everything came together extremely well, and when unforeseen hotel issues came up we were able to recover seamlessly and gracefully with no disruption visible to the convention attendees. As for the convention itself, it was a spectacular success. We set an attendance record for us (2,285) and all of the feedback I've seen has been almost uniformly positive. Our last year at the Westin was not a good one, and I think that adversely affected our attendance. This year really turned that around. In my experience, conventions can advertise all over, hand out flyers, sit at tables and promote the con, but what will really make you or break you is word of mouth. The word of mouth for MFF after this year is so strongly positive, I think we're going to see a very strong year next year.

There is absolutely no way I can write a con report - it all went by too fast and there's just too much. I do want to thank a few folks, though:

  • Mirko and Gir, my Hotel Liaison staff. You guys made the con enjoyable for me, and I hope you found the experience as rewarding as I did. I know you had little direction or idea of what you were getting into before the con started, but to be fair I had no clue either :-) Special thanks for Gir for stepping in on relatively short notice to help out!

  • Although I don't know if she'll ever read this, Jen Calderon, our Convention Services Manager at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare did an absolutely sterling job keeping the myriad details in order. She put up with my frequent emails, responded quickly and effectively to inquiries before the con and especially at the con, and showed truly remarkable patience and attention to detail. Every convention should be fortunate to have someone as talented as Jen to work with!

  • Perro, RB, and CharlesBear, who provided invaluable support, advice, and communication before and during the convention.

  • The many, many MFF staffers who were great to work with, and who made my job easier in the planning stages of the convention.

  • And especially Dan, my dear husband. He was Hotel Liaison before me, and was an invaluable source of information. We spent a lot of time figuring the fine line between providing advice and micromanagement, but once I put my ego away and listened to his very sound suggestions, we were both better off for it. I will continue to be grateful for his support, his knowledge, and his love.

(If I forgot to mention you specifically, I assure you that it isn't because I hate you, it's more that my brains are still a little scrambled :-)

So that's it. I wish I could say that I've got a bunch of downtime ahead. I have today off, at least, but after this I go back to work for a day, then we're hosting Thanksgiving for friends at our place. We are providing coordination assistance for Misti and Joe's wedding on Friday, but then I'll have the weekend to collapse. Oh, and Dan's birthday is December 1st - locals, keep an eye out for an announcement of a fun outing for that coming up! And now that the con is over, we can start making plans for Christmas, and Wuffmeet is right after that! Oh my, I need a nap...

Anyway, I do hope to return to update this journal a bit more often now that I have a little more available time. We'll see how that goes!
duncandahusky: (Inquisitive)
In case anyone is wondering, I am still around and still reading LiveJournal. Unfortunately, preparations for Midwest FurFest are eating all my creative energy and time, so I don't foresee any substantial post (or maybe any posts at all) until after the con, which is in two weeks (ACK!). I still have a write-up of September's trip to Montreal to post, and reminders of upcoming gatherings as well. Keep an eye out!
duncandahusky: (Inquisitive)
Whoa, am I falling behind!

The most notable event recently was the second annual Midwest FurFest Summer Picnic, which took place on the weekend before last. We welcomed Gir, Nik, Cadyr, and Eddi over at our place that Friday night and did some prep work for the picnic (including Genet making five gallons of simple syrup for the sno-kones!). We packed it in on the early side, then it was up relatively early on Saturday. Picnic prep went quickly, though we were late leaving the house.

The picnic was amazing. We had over 150 RSVP's, though the actual turnout was probably more like 135 or so. It was a beastly hot day, in the 90's and humid. We set up two grills, one for Midwest FurFest and one for Furry Connection North. In the time leading up to dinner I was in charge of making appetizers, which I did with copious help from Linnaeus, Aureth, Genet, Roho, and Cadyr. Appetizers included grilled pineapple with cumin, quesadillas, grilled plums, grilled baby bok choy in a light peanut sauce, and grilled jalapeno peppers, stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. This was supplemented by an inspired addition on Dan's part: he rented a sno-kone machine, which was perfect for the day. We went through about 80 pounds of ice, providing sno-kones for everyone (even bacon and peanut butter flavors!).

The main event came down to Furry Connection North's Guacamole Bacon Bomb Burgers (secret ingredient: chopped bacon and scallions mixed into the burger!) versus Midwest FurFest's Killer Bacon Cheeseburger (secret ingredient: 7-year-old aged cheddar cheese!). They were part of a delicious dinner buffet that included green salad, steakhouse potato salad, baked beans, and several trays of tasty dessert pastries. We had more than enough food (as always), but everyone seemed very happy with dinner and no one walked away hungry. I'm pleased and proud to say that Dan's bacon cheeseburgers won the day, though Gir's burgers were mighty tasty. Perhaps a rematch is in order?

The only downside is that the heat of the day and the hot grills took their toll - Gir, Dan, and Genet all had to take breaks because of the heat, and honestly early on I felt a little dizzy myself. Fortunately with lots of water and some time in an air-conditioned car, everyone bounced back and was able to return to the fray. Overall it was an excellent event, and I think that we succeeded in our goal to maintain awareness of Midwest FurFest during the summer months, recruit new volunteers, and increase community goodwill toward the convention. Certainly a worthwhile event!

Speaking for me personally, I'm wondering if the picnic isn't getting a bit too big for us to be doing all the cooking (or any of the cooking, really). I've got some ideas for next year, but if we're back to grilling for crowds again, I wouldn't be too upset about that.

More about recent events in another post...
duncandahusky: (Wacky Alton)
So, life has been interesting at work, though it's not much I can comment on in a public journal entry. The good news is, I have a job, it's not in danger of going away any time soon (as far as I know), and I'm keeping busy. Let's leave it at that.

So last week [livejournal.com profile] takaza and I spent a little more time doing some housecleaning and dealing with some of the spring cleaning we had so artfully avoided the weekend before. This was because we were welcoming company. [livejournal.com profile] plonq and [livejournal.com profile] atara rolled in mid-afternoon on Saturday as part of their epic drive from Winnipeg to Ohio. We put together a nice dinner for them, inviting [livejournal.com profile] roho, [livejournal.com profile] genet, [livejournal.com profile] aureth, and [livejournal.com profile] jenwolf (alas, [livejournal.com profile] linnaeus's car blew up and he had to spend the day dealing with that and couldn't make it). Genet made a tasty Asian slaw and banana pudding, and Aureth made a delicious (if sloppy) cherry pie. Dan made some killer macaroni and cheese with bacon.

For my part, I smoked a bunch of chickens in the smoker. Two of them I soaked overnight in a bourbon/honey brine, and two of them in a soy/ginger brine. Once I got the smoker up to a proper temperature, they smoked beautifully with some apple wood I had leftover from last year. Just perfect! The bourbon/honey brine was definitely the lesser of the two - some definite sweetness, but no real bourbon flavor. Everyone agreed that the soy/ginger was the real winner. We whiled away the night chatting and drinking some of Aureth's excellent homebrew, but unfortunately I conked out earlier than I would have liked.

On Sunday, Atara and Plonq spent the day with Atara's sister in Chicago, so Dan and I just hung around the house and relaxed most of the day. Roho and Genet came over in the evening and we watched the season finale to The Amazing Race (still not happy with how it ended, but it could have been much worse). We reheated the leftovers from the previous night, and I whipped up a simple Alabama white BBQ sauce that was absolutely divine with the smoked chicken. Atara and Plonq got home part way through the show and we spent the balance of the evening chatting and poking at our laptops - companionable geekery :-)

On Monday morning we bid farewell to our Canadian guests as they continued their trip eastward. Looking ahead to the coming weekend, we have more company coming, as well as the Midwest FurFest staff meeting. This should be a fun one - it's an in-person meeting at the Hyatt O'Hare in the middle of Anime Central, a 12,000-person anime convention. If anyone is at ACen and wants to stop by to say hi, we'll be in the Hartsfield Room at the Hyatt from 2 PM until around 4 PM!
duncandahusky: (Amused)
I just came across this profile of The Neo-Futurists in Gozamos ("A Spotlight on Chicago Community and Culture"). As you may or may not remember, The Neo-Futurists produce the long-running play "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind", which appeared at Midwest FurFest last year. There's a great quote from Kurt Chiang, who was part of the ensemble for that performance:
What has been your favorite Neo-Futurist moment? I really enjoyed performing TML at the 10th annual Midwestern Furfest last summer. Those people were so kind and welcoming to us in their very specialized culture/geekdom (and I use "geek" in the a complimentary sense). They also dug the choatic dynamic of the show right away, which is rare for people who see the show for the first time.

(Summer, winter...whichever. At least they had a good time!)
duncandahusky: (Crochet)
Well, that was a fun-but-busy weekend!

On Friday [livejournal.com profile] takaza and I finished up the last bit of housecleaning from the week in preparation for guests. I went ahead and bought a gas grill and propane tank, too. We're not getting rid of the charcoal grill, I assure you! I love that smoker too much. No, this is for weeknight cooking, when we don't want to fool with getting a proper charcoal fire going but would like something grilled and quick. I still believe that the flavor and cooking qualities of charcoal are superior, but when we had a gas grill in North Carolina we used it at least 3 nights per week. Now...I just need to put the fool thing together :-)

[livejournal.com profile] fordshepherd and [livejournal.com profile] baja_hyena drove in on Friday night (arriving late enough that I had already gone to bed!), and [livejournal.com profile] r_bear flew in on Saturday. We decided on a late lunch at one of my favorite places that we hadn't been to in ages, The Firkin. Their beer selection has always been top-notch, but we had found their food so-so. The beer was still excellent, but the big surprise was that the food was fantastic as well! We had a really enjoyable meal. We finished off the rest of the evening hanging out at our place and chatting (and, um, imbibing just a bit).

Sunday brought the Midwest FurFest staff meeting. It was quick and relatively painless, and after the meeting I was able to give some tours to folks who needed to see what was where. We had an early dinner at Red Bar in the Hyatt, and while the food wasn't bad the prices were, um, hotel-like. In spite of that, I suspect I'll be eating more than one meal there during the convention. Ford and Baja hit the road after the meeting, but RB and [livejournal.com profile] graywolf769 came back to our place and we hung out and chatted for a while. After Gray left for the ride back to Indiana, we watched a bit of TV and went to bed.

Dog-wise, we hit a great milestone this weekend. We tried giving Buddy the run of the house when we went to lunch on Saturday and again when we were at the staff meeting on Sunday. In both cases he behaved himself perfectly! As far as I'm concerned the crate is a thing of the past for him (thanks for the loan, [livejournal.com profile] roho and [livejournal.com profile] genet!). He seemed so much happier when I went home to walk him at lunch today, so I think we're making the right decision. Health-wise, his digestive system seems to be working much better and he's slowly gaining weight back into a more healthy range. We're going to need to buy him a new harness because the medium-sized one is quickly becoming too tight! He was also a perfect gentleman all weekend with our guests, snuggling right up to them :-)

So, now the new work week has started. There's nothing crazy going on at work, thank heavens. I've got an appointment with my optician this afternoon, then I'll probably go to work putting Boxee on an old server we have (not sure if I'll put Windows or Ubuntu on there for the OS - we'll see what happens). The new gas grill needs to be put together too - Dan may do that today or I'll do it tomorrow. Generally speaking, though, it should be a pretty low-stress week.

(Oh, and if you're waiting to reserve a suite for Midwest FurFest, watch this space! And [livejournal.com profile] midwest_furfest, and Twitter, and our website, and our forums...)
duncandahusky: (Thoughtful)
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 [livejournal.com profile] aureth and [livejournal.com profile] 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 [livejournal.com profile] takaza gave me a ride down to O'Hare Airport, where I caught a flight to Columbus to spend the weekend hanging out with [livejournal.com profile] 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 [livejournal.com profile] roby_panther and [livejournal.com profile] 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 [livejournal.com profile] roho and [livejournal.com profile] 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 [livejournal.com profile] 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!
duncandahusky: (Ky00t Duncan)
Wow. This may be the longest I've gone without a substantive public post to LiveJournal since I started this journal. What has happened since I last updated? Here's the short version:
  • Midwest FurFest happened. It was a great convention, though it was the usual blur for me. It was my second and final year as convention chairman (MFF has a tradition of two-year terms for its chairmen). I didn't accomplish everything I would have liked, but I feel that I was able to keep the convention on its upward trend and overall people seem to be very happy. How do I know? Well, we've got this nifty survey up, and if you take it you can win a free room night at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare! My biggest personal regret from the convention is that it sounds like there was one hell of a party in our suite on Sunday night but I was just so exhausted and done with socializing that I wound up taking a nice relaxing bath and going to bed early. Oh, and rest assured that I will not be disappearing from Midwest Furfest staff! I will be taking over the position of Hotel Liaison for MFF 2010, just as we're going into a new hotel. Whee!

  • Thanksgiving happened. We were pleased to welcome Roho, Genet, Bander, Shawn, Shadowstalker, and Tarin over for Thanksgiving dinner, with a delicious turkey made by [livejournal.com profile] takaza's mom. The food was delicious, and the company was fantastic! Incidentally, if you were at Midwest FurFest, you might have met Dan's mom - she was Staff Liaison, and her job was to go around the convention and make sure that folks who were stuck in one location got an occasional snack and drink and had everything they needed. She was a tremendous help during the convention and I'm so glad she was able to make it!

  • Dan's birthday happened. We rounded up a bunch of folks and went out for dinner at Wildfire Restaurant, which was really excellent. Dan ordered the martini flight (!) and even drank a few of them. Great steaks, and really tasty desserts.

  • A doctor's visit happened. I found out that what I thought was carpal tunnel is in fact tendonitis. This led to a nice cortisone shot (ow) and orders to wear an arm brace for two weeks. I'll be living on Advil for a while, I think.

  • And finally, a brief visit down to Urbana happened. [livejournal.com profile] mirkowuff's neighborhood revived the "Candlestick Lane" tradition on short notice, so he threw a small short-notice party to celebrate. We had a lovely time and got to see some great old friends and meet some new folks as well. It was a very pleasant weekend.

So now we're pretty much caught up. What's coming up? Well, we're going to dog-sit this weekend, and hopefully visit either Evanston or Milwaukee to go to The Spice House and do some restocking. We're flying down to South Carolina for Christmas. And of course there's Wuffmeet coming up, for which we really need to start making specific plans for food. December is a trainwreck, as always, and it doesn't look like January will be much better! But we're having fun and all is right with the world, regardless.

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: (happygolucky)
The anticipation is over! The Midwest FurFest 2009 Programming Schedule and Panel Descriptions are now available from our website! Read! Enjoy! Make your plans now!
duncandahusky: (Default)
(Copied from [livejournal.com profile] midwest_furfest)

It's now less than a month til Midwest FurFest! Time to start packing and planning! Of course, as you pack, you'll want to leave some extra space for all the loot you'll pick up at the Den, the Alley, and the Art Show. Rather than leaving that corner of your suitcase empty, why not turn it to a good cause - like cute fuzzy animals in need of rescue?

This year, Midwest Furfest's Charity Auction goes to benefit Kane Area Rehabilitation and Education for Wildlife (KARE for Wildlife). KARE has been helping Illinois wildlife since 1995. Every day, they work to rescue injured and orphaned members of Illinois's native species, such as foxes, coyotes and raccoons, as well as raptors. In addition, they are involved in local education and outreach, along with some of their non-releasable charges.

So how can your extra luggage space help KARE and the animals? Auction donations! That signed original fox piece that your boyfriend won't let you hang on the wall? The gorgeous handmade blanket that you never use since moving to Arizona? The skunk tail you don't feel right wearing since discovering your tiger side? All of these would find a great new home at Saturday's charity auction!

Don't have anything to donate? Come to the auction itself, and see if you can find something to pick up instead! Every year, the auction brings in unexpected, creative, incredible donations for our talented auctioneers to send home to new owners. Not sure if you'll be interested? Come for the show anyways - the banter is half the fun, and KARE will be there with some of their critters to cheer folks on. And don't forget to drop by the charity's table to meet Vicki, her volunteers, and the animals.

For details including donation instructions, rules, and more info on KARE, check the latest on the website Charity Page

See you all in November!

duncandahusky: (Wagging Husky)
And we didn't really even do that much!

Last weekend, [livejournal.com profile] fordshepherd came up to visit. We were, of course, mostly selfish and kept the sheppie hidden away, enjoying a quiet weekend at home. We're mean that way :-)

Ford didn't get in until late Friday night, which is how we found ourselves sitting down to dinner at Tramonto's Steak and Seafood with [livejournal.com profile] linnaeus at 10:30 PM. They were quite gracious, though, and the meal was delicious. We left there around midnight, and spent the next few hours chatting and unwinding.

Saturday started predictably late. We shared an excellent lunch with [livejournal.com profile] roho, [livejournal.com profile] genet, and Roho's mom, who I really enjoyed seeing again. Afterward, plans for a semi-fancy dinner sort of fell apart in a fit of laziness and contentment as we relaxed at home, watched some stuff off the Tivo, and enjoyed Ford's company. Pizza was ordered, some truly amazing white port was enjoyed (thanks again, [livejournal.com profile] baja_hyena!), and we closed out the evening with a viewing of The Lion in Winter. Wonderful!

Sunday came all too soon. I enjoyed an excellent lunch at Cooper's Hawk Restaurant and Winery with [livejournal.com profile] woodychitwn, [livejournal.com profile] ramalion, Ford, and Linnaeus (the peach bellini was yummy, the raspberry sangria not so much). The Midwest FurFest Board meeting followed shortly thereafter. The one item of note is that Midwest FurFest has a chairman for next year and that would be...[livejournal.com profile] takaza! Yep, it all comes 'round again :-) The staff meeting was mercifully short, and then we took our leave of the merry crowd, dispatching Ford back Columbus-ward with his crew in tow. We spent the evening unwinding and making plans for our trip next week.

After such an excellent weekend, it's tough to get back into the grind. Things were OK at work today, though, and the balance of the week should be busy, but no late nights will be needed.

Oh, and we're working on the real estate front, but nothing new to report there just yet. Sorry, Mom ;-)
duncandahusky: (Cooking - Kitchen Aid)
Stop the train I wanna get off!

Yeah, we're down to that crazy time of year, and last week I had a convergence of planning for the MFF Summer Picnic and Anthrocon as well as a high-pressure project at work. I was not a happy camper at all. Thankfully, [livejournal.com profile] takaza put up with my antics and I somehow muddled through two out of three problems (Anthrocon is still to come).

I wrapped up all but the last few details of the project I was working on Friday afternoon. That left me feeling pretty good as Dan and I went out to do some last-minute grocery shopping and get everything prepped for the picnic.

Here's how it all went down... )
The goal of the picnic was threefold: to increase goodwill for Midwest FurFest, to continue to generate interest in the convention five months out, and to get people interested in volunteering for the convention. I think we accomplished the first two goals; as for the third, we'll have to wait and see. I really had a good time, and even though it took a lot out of me I'd definitely like to do it again next year. We'll see how that goes, though.

Oh, and on Sunday? We didn't do jack. And it was good :-)

Back to work!
duncandahusky: (Default)
(Crossposted from [livejournal.com profile] midwest_furfest)

The First Annual Midwest FurFest Summer Picnic was a resounding success! We cooked up 120 New York strip steaks, 8 chicken breasts, all sorts of fun appetizers, and everyone enjoyed lots of potato salad, green salad, banana pudding, and cookies. It was a hot day, too - we went through about 25 gallons of Gatorade and 15 gallons of water.

I hope that everyone had as good a time enjoying all the food as we did putting the event together. Congratulations to [livejournal.com profile] skuffcoyote who won the Fan's Choice award for the softball games, and with that a $50 gift certificate to Tramonto's Steak and Seafood. Also, after everyone had eaten, we selected three names at random for prizes. Congratulations to [livejournal.com profile] tybis and [livejournal.com profile] calapurr, who each picked up a free weekend night's stay at the Westin Chicago North Shore and to Cale, who received a $50 gift certificate to Tramonto's Steak and Seafood! (And I apologize for mispronouncing your name, Cale - twice! :-)

This picnic was of course a volunteer effort. As such, a few thank-yous are in order. Thanks go out to:

[livejournal.com profile] dexcat has posted his pictures of the day. [livejournal.com profile] jimcyl has posted his pictures as well. Do you have pictures from softball and the picnic? Tell us about it in the comments!

Thanks again to everyone, and we look forward to seeing you in November!

P.S. - For those who asked about volunteering at Midwest FurFest, you can find more information right here!

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