mortonfox: (selfie gif)
Or more like a Munzee trip with a side of furry con. I'd actually planned to use this trip to get the emerald garden in Anacostia Park in southeast DC, since I'd never captured a virtual emerald garden before, and then get the vast collection of virtuals in and around the National Mall. That's what I did Thursday afternoon. Instead of I-95, I took the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Anacostia Park. After getting the emerald garden, I took a little walk on the bike path by the Anacostia River for a bunch more munzees. My original plan was to park at Anacostia Metro and take the Metrorail in to the National Mall, but after seeing the somewhat sketchy area, I decided it would be better to park at the hotel and take the Metrorail from there. So that's what I did. It was my first time using the Metrorail and I thought it was fairly modern and impressive. The silver line follows Rt 267 and I-66, and it's a lot faster than traffic on those highways in the late afternoon. Since I wasn't driving, I was able to capture all the virtual munzees along those highways too, at least on the stretch before the train goes underground. I got out at the Smithsonian Metro Station and started walking towards the US Capitol, capturing munzees and even finding a few geocaches along the way. I hit a new one-day record fairly easily with over 6,000 captures and 111K points. Then I took a Lyft to the South Capitol Hill area to find my friend's puzzle geocache, "Roll Call". Had dinner there too because it was a restaurant row area, before returning to the hotel, also via Metrorail.

I did the same thing Friday afternoon, except this time, I walked towards the Washington Monument. Not as many munzees this time - 3,300 captures and 90K points, but I only wanted to get 2nd place on the leaderboard to get the 2nd place badge. (Thursday's munzee run got me the 1st place badge, so I didn't need to do that any more. Yes, it's a weird badge optimization. :) )

Okay, enough about munzee. What about the con? It's my 5th year attending FtM. This time I brought the raccoon and coyote fursuits. I intended to alternate between the two but I wore the raccoon more than the coyote because the latter needed some repair work. There were fewer events/activities of interest this year because they canceled the fursuit parade (replaced by fursuit menagerie + photoshoot) and fursuit games (probably had to make way for floor wars). On the plus side though, the 18+ (i.e. mature/adult) panels on Saturday night were pretty good this year. The lighter schedule allowed more time to hang out, socialize, and get anything I needed done. Just like last year, the convention hotel was the Sheraton in Tysons Corner, within walking distance of a number of restaurants, a Walmart, and the Spring Hill Metro Station, so I was able to leave the car in the hotel garage the whole weekend.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (chestnut husky)
FA United was in Herndon, Virginia, this year. It was at the Hyatt Regency, just across the highway from the Dulles International Airport. I have to admit I had mixed feelings about the con moving to Virginia. For one thing, this would be my third trip to Virginia this year, after Fursonacon and Fur The More. Is it an overload of Virginia-ness? Also, I figured the con would have fewer attendees this year because I heard many folks from New Jersey who were regulars at FAU weren't planning to make the trip south. Still though, some of my friends were at this year's FAU and I recognized some folks from Fursonacon as well.

The new location is both good and bad. I thought the hotel was terrific! Every room in the hotel is a suite and somehow, FAU negotiated a group rate that is lower than what I paid at most other cons. So it's a win-win. Plenty of space to lay out my gear. This is the first hotel I've stayed at that uses RFID keycards. Instead of slipping the card into a slot, you hold it against the card reader on the door. Possibly for security reasons, the keycard is also needed to activate the guest floor buttons in the elevator. On the last day of the con, I realized that I could simply keep the RFID keycard in my handpaw when fursuiting. It was kinda neat and cute when I activated the elevator reader by pressing my paw against it. Two downsides to this hotel though. First was parking was inadequate. On Friday night, the parking lot was nearly full by the time I got back from dinner. Because of that, I didn't even drive out for dinner Saturday night. Instead, I got takeout earlier in the afternoon and kept it in my room for later. The other problem, of course, was the hotel wasn't within walking distance of any stores or restaurants. It was about a mile to the nearest strip mall and the oppressively hot summer weather wasn't conducive to walking that distance.

FAU didn't have a whole lot of scheduled programming that was of interest to me. I was in the fursuit parade (which thankfully did not go outside in the 100°F weather!) and the fursuit games. I also attended Majik's sewing panels, where I made a red star squeaky toy and an ice cream cone. I also went to the Majik Mystery Loot Brawl, where my prize was a corgi ear and tail set. This game is similar to white elephant gift exchanges at some holiday geocaching events. At each turn, the player can either pick and unwrap a gift or steal someone else's already-unwrapped gift. I didn't get my first choice of gift but this was good enough.

So those events were basically it for me. The upside though was I had plenty of time between events to get meals and find geocaches and Munzees. I went for the "Virginia Trains and Roads" multicache early in the morning (before it got hot) to qualify for the weekend's Mission GC souvenir. Geocaching was actually only so-so in that area. Munzee, on the other hand, was amazing! There is a very active Munzee community there and the Munzees are well-maintained. Out of the hundreds of Munzees I went for, I think only three were missing or worn out. That is excellent because I've been to areas where the failure rate was up to 50%. I also used these games to decide where to eat. Every time I went out for a meal, I took a look at what special Munzees or geocaches were out there. I went and got that, and then took a look to see what restaurants were nearby. That led me to some interesting local favorites and ethnic restaurants. (That's another nice thing about the area. The DC Metro area has a lot of good Middle-Eastern and Indian restaurants, and most of those places are good for tasty but moderately-priced takeout food.)

Will I be back next year for FAU 2017? Probably. Can't say for sure because a lot can change in a year, but I did enjoy the hotel and the area, and a smaller convention with less programming is a nice change of pace after Anthrocon.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (selfie gif)
So that was it! My 20th Anthrocon! It's quite a significant milestone since there aren't too many things that I've been doing every year for 20 years. Geocaching and Where's George both started after the first Anthrocon. Of course, over two decades a lot has changed. The con has grown up significantly and in a sense, so have I. The con moved to another city (twice) and so did I. Can we look forward to another 20 years? I don't know. Let's take it one year at a time.

Once again, I shared a hotel room in the Westin with Marauder and Gatorman. (Well, Gatorman skipped last year but this arrangement was the same for the previous couple of years before that.) We arrived on Wednesday but this time, we stayed until Tuesday so we could spend July 4th in Pittsburgh. I didn't do too much at Anthrocon this time around. I was at the Recess fursuit games, the dances, the fursuit parade, and a couple of panels. I missed a lot of con events because the scheduling didn't mesh well with my plans or I had to go out for meals. Most of it is not the fault of con programming. However, when I answered the con survey, I pointed out that signup for the Team Fursuit Games was too early in the morning. 8:30am on Sunday morning was tough to make, especially after going to room party and a dance on Saturday night, and so I had to skip that event. That aside, the con is still very well-run. Panelists and guests were interesting and good speakers in their fields of expertise. Aside from the usual elevator line and fursuit badge line, I didn't notice any problems at all.

Sorry to say but conditions in Pittsburgh have deteriorated. This started on the day of my arrival when I saw that someone had a violent confrontation with an aggressive panhandler right outside the Grant Street bus terminal. It was an incident that required paramedic and police response. Walking around the city myself, I noticed that there were far more panhandlers than in previous years and some were more pushy than others. I heard from a friend too of an incident where he was accosted by a group of homophobes. It's scary if you're walking on your own in the city, especially at night. In addition, there was a shooting on the night of July 4th near 7th and Liberty, which is just a few blocks away from the Westin and DLCC. Luckily, I opted to watch the fireworks from the DLCC waterfront instead of going to Point State Park. However, my roomies were much closer to where the shooting happened at that time. And finally, I saw that someone had scratched my car on purpose with a coin or a key. However, I didn't notice that until the day after, when it was pointed out to me. So without further proof, I can't say whether it happened in Pittsburgh or anywhere I stopped along the way home. (Monroeville, Breezewood) My car has plenty of scratches already, so I didn't mind too much but again, it's another sign of the way things are going down the drain in that area.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (selfie gif)
This weekend, I was at the Sheraton in Tysons Corner, VA, for Fur The 'More. This time, I shared a room with Laser Wolf from the DC area. He's a good roommate and great for conversation throughout the weekend. Also, I do prefer splitting a room 50/50, rather than three or four ways, because then we have more space and one bed per person. The running gag this weekend is I would stumble into the room in fursuit at 2 o'clock, and Laser would be in bed. This happened not just at 2am but also 2pm! :) This year, our room was on the first level, which due to the layout of the hotel, is actually half a level below the lobby level. That was quite convenient for fursuiting though because I didn't need to take the elevator to get to either the lobby or the panel rooms from my room. Just a short walk and a couple of steps up/down, and I was there!

Even in its fourth year, I find Fur The 'More to be overall an enjoyable con. I like that they try new things every year to keep it interesting. The program schedule wasn't overly packed, which is nice because I like to take breaks from attending panels and events for general fursuiting mayhem and shenanigans. However, of the scheduled programming, I did enjoy the screening of Office Space, the fursuit parade, the fursuit games (Furlympics), the fandom rant panel, the assertiveness/self-confidence panel, and the charity (Frisky's Wildlife Sanctuary) presentation. I also played about a half-dozen rounds of One-Night Ultimate Werewolf in the gaming room because it was that good! Also, handing out woven silk ties to fursuiters as fursuit tags was a wonderful idea and fit perfectly with this year's Cubicle Jungle / Office Space theme. Of course, then we found out that most folks hadn't tied a tie in years but I helped a few fellow fursuiters with their ties once I remembered how I used to tie a tie.

The only issue with the hotel was inadequate parking. Both the hotel perimeter and garage filled up on Friday and Saturday, and some people had to park along the street and side lane. Fortunately, I didn't need to drive out the whole weekend. The nice thing about the location is there are a couple of restaurants and a Walmart next door to the hotel. That's great for when you can't spend too much time on lunch or dinner because you have to get back to a con event. However, I did walk farther out (about 1/4 mile) on Sunday to try some new restaurants about two blocks down Leesburg Pike. Gotta write more Yelp reviews, you know! :)

The caches... )
mortonfox: (rakket)
This past weekend was my annual trip to the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, CT, for Furpocalypse. I've had mixed feelings about this con, and FurFright before that, for a number of years, but still kept attending, probably out of force of habit. Furpocalypse seems to be having a tough time setting itself apart from the legacy of Furfright but I see they have made numerous small changes: making the registration line go the other way, new security, more pizza, fursuiter tags, new hosts for the quiz hour, and probably lots of other little things I didn't notice. I thought the con itself was just fine this time around and if I didn't do as much there as I'd intended, it was my problem for not pushing myself hard enough to do those things.

The problem this time was I wasn't too fond of the hotel. The Crowne Plaza has lots of problems, The first night, when I tried to check-in, the front desk staff, who seemed to be a bit lacking in training, took a long time trying to look for my reservation on the computer and had to call someone else to help. Then JBadger and I noticed that the room keys demagnetized rather rapidly by themselves. The keys didn't last two days before failing to open the door, so it was annoying having to go to the front desk multiple times during our stay to have them redo the keys. And finally, the layout of the hotel is downright confusing, although by the end of the con, I started to remember some useful shortcuts to get down to the lobby from the room. The other problem is I'm again noticing some rudeness among con attendees. Aside from the loud expletives that I heard here and there in con space, which I try to tune out anyway, I saw people rushing into the elevator before anyone inside had a chance to exit. What's the deal with that? I saw that happen a number of times, although not as much towards the end of the con. On the plus side, getting drunk-groped and drunk-clinged while I was in fursuit only happened once this time.

But enough ranting. At this con, I attended the usual events: fursuit parade, fursuit games, Saturday Morning Cartoons panel. I watched a movie (Guardians of the Galaxy), which is a change from past years when I typically ignored the movie room. And I attended the "Being a Good Social Potato" panel, which I assumed from the panel description would be a workshop on socializing better, but somehow it turned into a rant-fest on certain types of annoying people in fandom. But it was a fun panel nevertheless. I was also in two fursuit music videos by chance because I was in fursuit in the main hallway when they were asking around for participants. Aside from con stuff, I also took a few trips with JBadger outside the hotel for meals, geocaches, and Munzees. So it was a pretty full weekend with a variety of activities. Only slight regret was I fell asleep early and missed the night dances, but I certainly can't do everything.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (selfie gif)
This past weekend was my trip to Pittsburgh for Anthrocon. As usual though, I went a day early and drove overnight Tuesday/Wednesday to do some geocaching along the way. However, other than a few around Breezewood, Bedford and Donegal, most of the caches I got were around Greensburg, where I saw giant flowers and Roadside Giants. The area is rather hilly, which makes for some nice views from even as mundane a location as a Walmart parking lot.

Finally got to Pittsburgh in the afternoon. The first change I noticed was Penn Avenue had become one-way to make room for bike lanes. That screwed me up a bit because I didn't know about that beforehand and had to take a detour around several blocks to get to the Grant Street Transportation Center red garage entrance, my usual parking location. The second change I saw was the new Westin lobby. It does look a lot more up-to-date, with modern fixtures, a green wall (with live plants) running way up, and a new lounge/office area. (They moved the Westin gift shop towards the back to make room for that.)

And finally, I saw the new smart elevators. These turn the notion of requesting a floor on its head. Instead of waiting until you get into the elevator before pushing a floor button, you have to tell it the floor you want and then it assigns you an elevator. There are no floor buttons inside the elevator. One obvious plus is this puts an end to that old prank of pushing every button in an elevator. The system can also optimize elevator assignments by putting people going to the same floor on the same elevator so it makes fewer stops. The downside is it isn't completely foolproof. People can make mistakes requesting the wrong floor or requesting the same floor multiple times because they forgot the elevator assignment or thought it wasn't coming. There is no way to undo a request, so that could end up calling more elevators unnecessarily. Also, the elevator assumes a certain number of people can fit, which could be way off if one or more have luggage carts. (A Westin bellhop told me about this problem.)

More... )

The caches... )
mortonfox: (selfie gif)
So this weekend, I attended Fur the 'More 2015. (I think I've had the apostrophe in the wrong place before but I checked the website this time!) It is strange that a convention whose name is a play on Baltimore was held in Tysons Corner, Virginia, this year, but I was assured that it was due to circumstances beyond their control and they're still looking to return to Baltimore eventually. However, I thought the new location was excellent! The Sheraton is right next to two building complexes with lots of restaurants and a Walmart. Because of the variety of food choices, both fast casual and sit-down, within walking distance, I didn't need to drive out anywhere the entire weekend. (although I heard that one group went out for tacos 20 miles away, which, for that much driving, had better be some pretty amazing tacos!) The hotel itself isn't so amazing though. Air conditioning was a tad weak for the lobby area, the layout was weird, and the elevator button panel on my floor was loose and ready to fall off if I looked at it wrong. This time, I shared a room with Panzer the cat and JBadger. (who joined us on Friday)

Wall of text! )

Overall, I thought Fur The 'More 2015 was an enjoyable convention and I plan to be there again next year. There were some issues here and there, but I don't expect perfection and I'm sure the con and the hotel will eventually fix those. What I like about this con is their willingness to add new ideas to the mix every year. This will ensure that it doesn't stagnate.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (selfie gif)
This weekend, I was in Connecticut for Furpocalypse. From all appearances though, it might as well have been FurFright Redux 2014. Same hotel, same events, same charity... heck, even some of the prizes and goodies from the games and contests still say "FurFright"! For their first year, it's fine to ride on FurFright's momentum but I hope they'll eventually try new things and remake the con in their own vision. For the most part, I had a good time, which is hard to explain since it's pretty much the same con as last year. It could be that a slight change in the mood made all the difference. Last year, I had the impression that folks were a tad cold and distant but there was none of that this year. The only real issue I encountered this year was one of the hotel guests (not a con attendee) was very rude but I never saw him again after Thursday, so good riddance.

- Friday evening, I got back from dinner in time to join the ice cream and trivia hour. I was surprised that my group won this time. One of the prizes was the quizmaster's fake hair, which I used later at the dance.
- I was at the Saturday Morning Cartoons panel when the fire alarm started, so everyone had to wait outside in the cold. I was wearing my fleece bat pajamas at the time, so it wasn't too bad. Also, at least the alarm wasn't at 4am like FurFright 2 years ago.
- Fursuit parade on Saturday was indoors with the final photoshoot in the ballroom instead of outside, because of the rain.
- Since I enjoyed the sewing panel at FAU, I attended one again at Furpocalypse. This time, I made a squeaky toy.
- Went to the Big Gulp Party on Saturday evening. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] dalesql for hosting.
- Fursuit games on Sunday: First game was a relay race where we went in pairs and one fursuiter would push the other around the course on a dolly. Second game was charades. And the last game was the figure-eight musical chairs. (a FurFright original) I was on the red team (Team Ebola) and we got second place.
- I skipped the closing ceremony in favor of a little geocaching spree around Newington followed by dinner. (Goldburger at Goldburgers) I returned in time for the dead dog party and a bit of pizza. Originally, there was a second fursuit parade scheduled for Sunday night but it had been canceled by the con. We got a bunch of fursuiters together and paraded anyway, which was hilarious since no one expected it.

Also, there was geocaching. Connecticut does not have as high a cache density as the Philly area but I still found quite a number. I focused on the Milford, West Haven and Prospect Beach areas (Date Night, WOOF Series) on the way to the con. During the con, I dashed out for mini caching sprees in Berlin and Newington. On the way home, since I had an errand to run in Middletown, I got a few there and a bunch more in Trumbull (America's Pastime series) on the way home. There was some good hiking, although I think fall colors were already past the peak by that time.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (selfie gif)
For the 4th of July weekend, I went to Anthrocon in Pittsburgh. Like previous years, I roomed with Marauder and Gatorman in the Westin. The fursuits I brought this time were Rakket Raccoon and Chestnut Husky. Rakket was not originally my character so I had no idea how to play him, so I went around pretend-bumping into people, did a lot of miming and mimicry, danced around, and engaged in other such tomfoolery. Some folks told me afterwards that I did pretty well but someone thought I was German?! Just like last year, there were two groups filming fursuit music videos at the convention center. I only found out at the last minute but I went to both and the choreography was interesting; the second one more so because there were multiple scenes to act out. I also went to both the "recess" and team fursuit games, and the 80s and main dances.

The food selection in Pittsburgh has gotten more interesting. As always, I had lots of Primanti Brothers, but I also tried Argentinian food, which is either new this year or something I only just noticed. In addition, Bombay Gyros / Deli across from the hotel had curry lunch boxes for takeout some days, which was rather convenient and not bad at all, even if it wasn't the spiciest. I just wish more restaurants were open on July 4th, but it's a Federal holiday so what can one do?

I didn't have very many geocaches on the way to Pittsburgh this time, at least until I got to Greensburg, which has a power trail along the bike path running between that town and Youngwood. I was finally able to visit "Names have been changed to protect the RichFather", a puzzle cache that I solved a bit too late for the Anthrocon 2013 trip. In Pittsburgh, I took Marauder and Gatorman on a walk around the downtown triangle for three geocaches after our Wednesday night dinner. When I went out on my own Thursday morning, I hit the caches along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, across the bridge from the hotel. "Allegheny Telecache" was the most difficult one but it was interesting. At the first stage, there's a horizontal pipe you look through to see where the final stage is, on the other side of the river. That's by no means accurate, so there was still some guesswork. The sign mentioned in the hint was no longer in the correct spot, so that added to the vagueness. And getting to the cache container was itself challenging because I had to climb down the river bank slope. But I'm happy to have finally completed this one after years of seeing it in the cache listings.

The only problem I heard this year was on Sunday afternoon, there was a crazy guy yelling at and chasing fursuiters near the Westin block. I didn't see this firsthand, only heard it from another fursuiter that night, so I cannot confirm the incident. However, we should remember that Pittsburgh is a city with the usual city problems, and observe the same precautions as we would walking around downtown in any other city. I did fursuit outside the hotel a bit too but not far from the hotel and only when lots of us were out there at the time, so there was some measure of safety.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (chestnut ramune)
This weekend, I went to FA United 6 at the Hanover Marriott in Whippany, NJ. From the outset, I didn't expect to do much at this con since the programming looked a bit skimpy but I went to the dances, the fursuit games, and the pool party, and I got to hang out with some friends from New Jersey and nearby. I think that was enough to make the trip worthwhile. There wasn't a con suite this year and I missed that, but on the plus side, I enjoyed the pool party on Saturday evening. I was told that Megaplex also has pool parties but I've never been to a con with a pool party, so this is novel to me.

The downside was some friction we had with the wedding party. I noticed that a few of them were harrassing con attendees. My handler and I (when I was in fursuit) too were on the receiving end of some impolite questions but we brushed those off. Then at around 3:45am on Saturday, there was a fire alarm. We found out later that there was a fight among the wedding party guests and someone pulled the fire alarm. Police had to intervene. I wasn't in the hotel lobby at the time, so that is what I heard from others. I hope FA United grows big enough to fill the hotel so we won't have to share with other groups who may be disruptive but that might take a while.

As usual, I went geocaching in that area both before and after the con. I also did a few during the con with my roommate [livejournal.com profile] jbadger. Northern NJ has some good geocaches at scenic locations like Boonton Falls. However, in making my rounds, I was reminded of a reason why I moved away from that area. On Thursday, I went for "Lemonade" in the Bridgewater area and saw that the cache container was trashed. If that wasn't bad enough, there was an unfriendly sign at the cache site telling us to go away. I'm sure that most people around there are nice but in my experience, a few mean ones can ruin things for everyone else and I seem to come across them far too often.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (chestnut husky)
Over the Independence Day holiday weekend, I made my annual trip to Pittsburgh for the furry mecca that is Anthrocon. It's hard to believe that this is my 17th Anthrocon, meaning I've been to every one so far. I didn't think it was as good as last year's though, but that's mostly because I got sick just hours before the overnight drive out to Pittsburgh. The amazing thing is I was operating at 80-90% the whole con, crashing hard only when it was over. I feared though that I could have been Patient Zero, so if there was an outbreak of con crud, I apologize.

What's new this year were two groups attempting to produce fursuit music videos. I found out about one before the con through social media, but only learnt of the other one at the con itself. The first one, choreographed by [livejournal.com profile] neopantyger, was based on the Pon Pon Wei j-pop song and that took place on the DLCC rooftop Friday afternoon. I knew nothing about the dance moves but that turned out to be no problem. The dance was broken up into small parts and the whole group of us did multiple takes of each part until we got it right. The second music video was arranged by Dancing Duke. There were two filming sessions, on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. I took part in the Saturday filming. This time, there was an instructional video for the dance moves. However, there were some details I couldn't get from the video so I joined the group shortly before filming to practice it. Both music videos were a lot of fun to work on, even if the dance repetitions out on the hot DLCC rooftop were exhausting. The end result should be well worth the effort.

This year's fursuit parade, on Saturday, was an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records. To keep count, they handed out numbered straps at the door to Hall A, where we assembled for the photo. Those straps, I guess, were supposed to be armbands but were instead just stuck to our badges. The parade itself didn't seem to take that long, despite there being 1300 fursuiters in it. Maybe it was simply more efficient this time. I also took part in the fursuit team games on Sunday. I was in the green team and we were tied for third place. (No prize though.) The games this time were Scrabble (get large foam letters to form a word), machine charades (whole team has to act out each word together), hoop (get the whole team through the hoop while holding hands), and the hockey relay. (use a hockey stick to guide a ball around cones and then hit it through the goal) There were fewer players this year because of conflicts with other events, which is a far cry from two years ago when I was turned away because the teams filled up an hour before the games started.

Side trips, geocaching, etc... )

The caches... )
mortonfox: (chestnut husky)
I was at Fur 'the More in Hunt Valley, MD, this weekend. It's a first-year con so I'll hold the criticism, unless they really want to hear it. I do enjoy a small (473 attendees) con and it should not be in a hurry to grow. There were no lines at any time and none of the con events were filled to capacity. It's nice to still be able to find a seat even if one is a few minutes late to a panel or show. The fursuit parade (with only 94 suiters) was short and sweet. Even the Furlympics (fursuit games) benefitted from not having too large a crowd. With only around 20 participants, musical chairs and the limbo contest were pretty quick, and we soon got to the fun balloon-popping part of the games. As for the dances, I liked the Sock Hop on Saturday. This has been done at other cons before but it was really neat to have it at Frankie & Vinnie's, a 50s-style diner in the lower level of the hotel.

The hotel is in a rather good location because it's across the road from Hunt Valley Towne Center, a big strip mall with a variety of stores and restaurants. I had quite a number of meals from the Wegmans food court over there, although my roommate, [livejournal.com profile] jbadger, and I did venture out once for crab cakes at a local fish fry store. Unfortunately, it may not be a safe area. There was an armed robbery at the Hunt Valley McDonald's during the con and a few con attendees witnessed that. Be careful!

I didn't do too many geocaches Thursday on the way there. My main goal that day was to do "Tiger Tracks", a webcam cache in the vicinity of the Towson University tiger sculpture. I enjoyed a walk on the North Central Rail trail afterwards. Monday, on the way out of Hunt Valley, I geocached in scenic Oregon Ridge Park and took another long hike by the Loch Raven Reservoir. I should've stopped there but I ventured too close to Baltimore afterwards and encountered much dog poop, junk on the streets, and dangerous open manholes. Good thing I didn't fall into one of those!

The caches... )
mortonfox: (chestnut halloween)
To be honest, after some not-so-good experiences at Furfright 2011, I considered skipping this year. However, I discussed my concerns with [livejournal.com profile] kgraleopard last year and seeing as how this is the tenth Furfright, I decided to give it another chance. I'm glad I did! I see a number of changes to the way the con was run that made all the difference. Just about the only problem I saw this time was the fire alarm at 4am on Sunday, which was the fault of a prankster, not the con. I thought the dances were good this year. I liked the retro sock hop, which I also enjoyed at FAU previously. Saturday night had some good music and a fun crowd too. I also enjoyed the Thriller Crash Course on Saturday morning, even though I wasn't very good at that. I was also at the Saturday Morning Cartoons party, both fursuit parades, and the fursuit games, and got to chat with many of my friends who I only get to see at this con.

As usual, I starting driving late Wednesday night so I could get to Connecticut by daybreak for geocaching. There weren't very many new geocaches since last year, so I decided to do something a bit more challenging. I went to Giuffrida Park in Meriden to hike up to Lamentation Mountain. I don't think it was a very high mountain but there were a few steep sections and it was a round trip of over 3 miles for 8 geocaches. There were good views of Crescent Lake (from the base of the mountain) and the valley. (from the peak)

Getting home on Monday was quite an adventure because of Hurricane Sandy. First, I had to leave Connecticut by 1pm because of a state-wide highway closure. I figured it was a better idea to cut across Westchester County and cross the Tappan Zee Bridge instead of going through New York City. That route also let me stop at Palisades Center Mall for lunch and to use the wi-fi internet. It's a familiar place because I used to live in the area. (And I'm glad the mall has not collapsed from ground subsidence issues.) After that, I saw that the NJ Turnpike was closed south of exit 9, so I detoured to US-1, used the bridge in Trenton to cross over to the Pennsylvania side, and returned home via I-95, which seemed fine aside from some speed restrictions. Later, I found out that the NJ Turnpike was closed only between exits 7 and 8A, so the electronic sign I saw was incorrect, but they were probably still sorting out their info at the time.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (chestnut husky)
I was at the Hanover Marriott in Northern New Jersey from Friday to Monday for FA United 5. Shared a hotel room with [livejournal.com profile] jbadger again, just like last year. Now because I've heard a few complaints about this con, I have to say that we ought to set our expectations a bit lower since it's a smaller con than Anthrocon and Furfright and it has less programming. Given that, I thought I had a pretty good time overall. Not every con needs to be a rush of activity and I liked having the time to do what I wanted to do, to talk to people, and to let spontaneous things happen. It was slow at times but never actually dull.

The new hotel had more than enough space for our group. The common areas never seemed packed or congested at any time during the con, so it could probably accommodate a con two or three times the size. The only space that seemed a bit small was the con suite (especially at dinner time, when the line spilled out into the hallway) but the room is the size it is, so I don't think we can do much about that. Housekeeping was probably a bit understaffed that weekend; I noticed they weren't done with the rooms until the evening on Saturday.

As I mentioned earlier, there wasn't a lot of programming but I enjoyed the events that I did attend. The Sock Hop (oldies music dance) on Friday evening was fun and actually quite danceable in fursuit. The Miracle Fruit Tasting Party was the most unusual panel I've ever been to. Miracle fruit is a berry containing a chemical that makes sour foods taste sweet. So in this panel, we ate miracle fruit in pill form and then tried various kinds of food and juices. That was certainly a different experience! On Saturday night, we made our own spontaneous event, tearing around the lobby doing various funny stuff in fursuit. (Hope we didn't annoy the hotel folks too much!)

The day after the con, I returned to Bridgewater for the Triple Tuesday Pints & Patties - 2012 geocaching event. This monthly Central Jersey geocaching event has been going on for quite a number of years. It's the third Tuesday of every month. It used to be in New Brunswick but switched around to a few other places and then moved to Fuddruckers in Bridgewater after the New Brunswick Fuddruckers went out of business. I can't attend as often as I used to because I'm now further away but I figured I might as well extend my vacation by one day and do it this month. It was a comparatively small gathering this time, but I got to meet up with some of the regulars plus a few folks I haven't seen before. I noticed that the next Third Tuesday falls on my birthday, which makes attending this event again a tempting proposition if I take that day off from work.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (chestnut ramune)
From the outset, I decided that I wasn't going to do as much this year at Anthrocon and that I was going to take it easy. Well, it never actually worked out that way. Although I wasn't in the Masquerade this time around, I was in the fursuit games, which I missed last year. And the rest of the time, I took part in the continuous string of events every day from morning to night. It was a load of fun.

Public Fursuiting: It seems lots of Pittsburgh locals know about Anthrocon now and there was a crowd of people on Friday and Saturday night hanging out in the Westin lobby, outside the Westin, and at the corner by Tonic, chatting with the furries and getting pictures with fursuiters. I thought that was amusing so instead of going to the dance, I fursuited out on the sidewalk in front of the Westin. It was a good, fun crowd. It reminded me of mascot gigs I've done, except this time, the adults rather than the kids were the excited ones.

There's one in every crowd: On Friday night, I was approached by a young lad who said he was not a furry but wanted to know about diaper fetish within the furry community. I wasn't even sure how to address that or if I should even say anything, so I told him that there may be some furries into that but I personally had nothing to tell him about it. Thankfully, that ended the conversation.

Tag Drama: For a number of years now, Anthrocon has issued special plastic tags to fursuiters. The design on the tag is different every year and it's a neat memento of the con. On Friday, I started hearing rumors that they weren't handing out tags to those wearing partial fursuits. One fursuiter actually started complaining to me about it, as if I had anything to do with that decision. Anyway, I took a look at who wasn't getting the tag and it was someone who wore street clothes and sneakers with just a fursuit head and gloves. Geez, if you're going to do that, at least try to have clothes that could be part of a costume instead of just the ordinary. However, I don't envy anyone who has to decide what is and isn't a fursuit. No matter where you draw the line, there'll always be borderline cases and judgment calls.

Slapband Story: We need to come up with better ways to secure con badges to our person. Three times this Anthrocon, I found a badge on the ground and returned it to its owner. On one of those occasions, the dorsai asked me to step aside. I was wondering what was up because he was writing down my badge number and name in his notebook. Then he put the band on my arm. (I was in fursuit at the time.) The "Dorsai Approved" slapband is apparently this year's version of the fursuiter ear tag. In previous years, the dorsai put ear tags on fursuiters, pretending to track them. (just like researchers tagging wild animals) Because there was only a limited run of tags, those became collectors' items. This year, the dorsai used numbered slap bracelets instead. From what I've heard, they didn't just give those out to any fursuiter. Some begged, some performed tricks, some were exceptionally cute, and one had to pee. (I'm not sure I even understood that story!) So the trick I performed, apparently, was to return a con badge. :)

Read more... )

The caches... )
mortonfox: (Morton small)
Yes, it's already the second week of the new year but I was busy the first week and 2011 was such a busy year that it was hard to distill the important things from the year. The biggest change is after 16 months being out of work, I returned to work for a small startup (literally a 6-person office when I joined) in Wilmington. My previous job wasn't at a big firm but this one is microscopic in comparison and it's a lot different. There is no bureaucracy, no office politics, no cubicles, and very little formality. I was given full access and was trusted to do the right thing from day one. I learnt a lot as I went along and within a week, I had started contributing important code to the system. Best of all, I was never left with the feeling that anything I did was futile or a waste. Any software I wrote was put to good use pretty much right away and I deployed it myself most of the time. So all in all, it's been a promising start. Then again, I thought the same thing back when my previous job began, so let's check back on this one in 14 years and see if it has withstood the test of time. :)

Of course, with the new job, I had less time for geocaching but I think I did as much of that as I wanted to on weekends and after work in the summer. I ended the year with more geocache finds than year 2009 but not 2010. The year was dominated by Lancaster with two big geocache series, the battleship caches and the rail trail caches, although Delaware was no slouch either with the DGT caches, the C&D power trail, and the First State Challenge. I tried to get out to more geocaching events as well, especially the ones in Bucks and Montgomery County that would've been a 2-hour drive from my old home in North Jersey. Now that these are only an hour from home, it hardly feels like an arduous journey getting there. I also started going to a few Where's George events locally and in Maryland. And of course, I went to local furmeets too whenever I could and attended 3 furry conventions, FA: United, Anthrocon and Furfright. The great thing about this area is there's an event or gathering going on pretty much every weekend. On the other hand, the downside is I haven't had as many mascot gigs now that I'm distant from Hi-4. I'm also losing touch with NYC-area folks but that is to be expected.

I kept up the pace on personal projects as usual. In its 4th year, TwitVim had another round of incremental improvements, although I thought the multiple login feature was big enough to bump the version number. My Foursquare webapp, 4sqNoGPS, became PlainSquare when I rewrote it for the Foursquare V2 API. I also changed the CSS so it looks more like a mobile app on small screens while keeping the desktop interface simple. I've found this setup to be good enough for most day-to-day use and really only hit the official app to upload photos and claim specials. Remember the beta Google Chromebook I received in December 2010? Well, I used it a lot more throughout 2011 and that led to my participation in the Cr-48 binaries project. I probably wouldn't use the Cr-48 for serious development work but now that we have a text editor, a few scripting languages, and some dev tools ported to it, light work is possible. And finally, I did get around to scrapping my old website and reworking it into a Drupal-based site. This doesn't mean that I'll update it any more frequently but when I do, it'll be less of a pain. :)
mortonfox: (chestnut ramune)
This weekend, I attended FurFright 2011 at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, CT. I left home late Wednesday night and returned Monday night. Shared a room with [livejournal.com profile] jbadger and Dronon, two great roommates. Overall, I had a good time.

The "How Not to Write Crap" panel was surprisingly good and entertaining. I stumbled upon it quite by accident because I was looking for something to kill time before the fursuit performance panels but I ended up staying until the end of the panel!

The "Saturday Morning Cartoon Party" was a nice trip through Saturday morning nostalgia with a representative selection of cartoons. Also, I didn't have to get dressed for it. (bat pajamas! :) )

Fursuit games were okay, although I think it would be a good idea to explain the rules of the various games and make sure all participants understand those before the games begin. There was only a brief explanation before each game started and it was hard to hear from the end of the team lineup. And yes, there was one thing I misunderstood that fortunately, did not affect the outcome of the game.

More notes. Also, a note about potential issues )

The caches... )

NJ FUR-B-Q

Sep. 5th, 2011 12:35 am
mortonfox: (chestnut ramune)
Sunny, 90°F. Originally, I hadn't planned on attending [livejournal.com profile] tonyringtail's Labor Day Weekend FUR-B-Q because something else usually comes up on fur-b-q days. So this was pretty much a last-minute decision. But I had time today and food (a case of cookies left over from geocaching events) to donate, so I went.

I arrived at the Twin W First Aid Squad building in West Windsor, where the BBQ was being held, at 1pm. The party hadn't really started at that time, so I went geocaching around Princeton. By the time I returned, the BBQ was in full swing. I had vegetable fried noodles, a burger, and funnel cake. Talked to some old friends and caught up with some things that happened in the NYC area since I left.

Then I figured I should head out again for a bit. So I went to Plainsboro and did a few geocaches. When I returned to the Twin W, the outdoor temperature had dropped to 84°F. That wasn't much cooler but it was good enough, so I changed into the husky fursuit and fursuited for a bit. Ended up doing that longer than I planned because it was fun and I had a lot of good company. What's nice about this event is the Twin W let us use the locker room in their air-conditioned building as our changing area / fursuit lounge. Anyway, I had a good time and I'm glad I went.

The caches... )
mortonfox: (coyote3)
Started Sunday with an omelet breakfast at Hanlon's. Then I returned to convention space in the Westin to do the geocaching panel with [livejournal.com profile] jbadger. It was a lightly-attended panel. We were hampered by the lack of a sound system but we used the projector in the room to play some geocaching videos with my netbook. Also talked about a few geocaching topics. My schedule was open after that, so I finally had a chance to browse the art show and the dealer's room.

Had a quick Santa Fe steak taco wrap lunch at Fernando's. Then I returned to the Westin and got into the husky fursuit. Headed down to the fursuit games. Even though I was early for the event, I found out that, alas, sign-up was an hour prior and they had run out of room. No matter. I took a walk around convention center space in fursuit. Then I used the sidewalk route to return to the hotel. I got stopped a dozen times for photos just going from the Convention Center to the Westin! I guess with recent press coverage, all the Pittsburgh locals know by now to hang out there to photograph fursuiters. :)

Back at the Westin, I attended what remained of Dr. Gerbasi's furry research panel. Got out of fursuit and then went to the closing ceremony. Later in the evening, I joined Mizuhiro Neko for dinner at Hanlon's. I had a pulled pork sandwich and a slice of apple pie. I didn't see anything going on at the hotel but I got into the coyote fursuit again later on and went down to roam around, and saw that there was a Dead Dog dance taking place. I did mention earlier that the coyote fursuit is not good for dancing but I figured I should start learning to cope. And that I did. I was there until the dance closed at 2am. And that finally marked the end of Anthrocon 2011 for me! Hope to be back next year.
mortonfox: (chestnut husky)
There wasn't much going on yet Thursday morning so after a breakfast at Hanlon's (the diner that took the place of Big Mama's, which took the place of Steel City Diner), I crossed the yellow bridge over to the north side to do two geocaches, Cache of the Month Challenge: April and Everybody Loves Blue 26. The former is a challenge cache requiring that I have already found caches on every day of April before I can log that cache. Not a problem since I already have all 366 days filled in my geocaching stats calendar. I was having trouble with the latter until I discovered that my phone GPS did a lot better in the city than the automotive GPS. It's usually worse. Go figure.

Registration opened up while I was out walking so I just headed to the convention center and picked up my badge. Got into the coyote fursuit again. I solved the air flow problem. It was a silly way to do it but it works. I have one of those squeaky dog toys from Big Lots that looks like a large candy. I put that in the mouth of the costume head and that props it open just enough to breathe. So now it's a coyote holding a pink thing in its mouth. However, I did remove it for some photoshoots. That evening, I went out for dinner with [livejournal.com profile] jbadger and friends to August Henry's. I had sweet potato chicken. Then the rest of the party returned to the hotel and the two of us took a walk in downtown Pittsburgh for some geocaches: Yes! We have no bananas and Market Square Nano. We also walked to two others that I'd already done.

Went to the dance that night. I was out in the coyote fursuit again for a bit but returned to my room to change to the husky fursuit because that one is better for dancing. All together, it was 3 hours at the dance and I was there until the end. It's funny because I didn't go to the main ballroom dance much last year but this year, I became some kind of dance fiend.

Friday and Saturday )

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