Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
Only two weeks after FA United, I went on a trip again, this time to Virginia Beach for FursonaCon. With only 424 attendees, this is the smallest con I attended this year. However, they have friendly and enthusiastic vibes all around. In addition, there were a number of panels and workshops with audience participation, so you're not just listening to someone talk. I quite enjoyed those.
The fursuit games (called Gladiator Games to fit this year's Ancient Rome theme) at this convention are unique in that they are spread out over three days with each game being its own event. The downside was each game was an elimination round so once you're out, you can't play the remaining games. I would prefer if everyone got to play every game, the way it was done the previous year. I played the scavenger hunt round but was eliminated in the trivia-bowling round, more because of bad bowling than the trivia. However, the prize from the first round was what I picked up in the scavenger hunt, which was a poster from FursonaCon 2017. Pretty nifty piece of history, and it's nice that the con found a way to reuse those.
The Hatoful panel was a lot of fun. It was Thursday evening, so I went to that right after arriving at the hotel, checking in, and picking up my badge. Hatoful Boyfriend is an interactive visual novel with some choices along the way that affect the direction of the story. There were lots of characters in the dialog. The panelists took the main characters but everyone in the audience could jump in and voice the secondary characters. I did three voices, two of them snooty characters but I really got into it. Even after the panel, I caught myself casually doing one of those voices when I went out shopping later that night.
The STEM Furs Meet and Greet had some really good discussion too. I've worked in software development for a long time so I had plenty to share and everyone else had a lot of special expertise too, so the hour really flew by. Another fun event was "If I fits, I sits", where fursuiters could play around with large boxes and squeakers, like a bunch of cats. The Jackbox Party Night was hilarious too. Imagine a room full of people joking around and tapping choices on their smartphones. We played Murder Trivia and Quiplash. Then there was the Nerd Congress panel, where we debated and voted on a number of make-believe laws for the fandom. And last but not least, I also went to the drawing workshop that was run by one of the guests of honor. I haven't done any art in years but it's good to know I still have some base level of skill.
To summarize, FursonaCon was a small con but with more interesting things going on than one would expect for this size of con. There were a lot of energy and a good vibe going the whole weekend. I would definitely return the next year.
Wednesday, August 29th, 2018
The bad news is FA United has not recovered from its move to Virginia. Attendance in the last two years and this year were 539, 515, and 528, when prior to the move, it was 658. On the other hand, it should not matter. There is some upside to a small con. No wait and no lines for anything and the panel rooms are not overfilled. As in the previous two years, FAU was held at the Hyatt Regency Dulles, a pretty nice hotel in which every room is a suite.
As usual for this con, programming was a bit on the light side, especially on Sunday. However, there were actually more panels of interest to me this year. I noticed there were more games this time, probably because of new gaming staff. There were Bingo and escape rooms. The latter was done as a hand-made RPG-style board game with props. The Jungle John reptile and dinosaur shows were surprisingly entertaining. I had no idea this fellow was based here in Delaware. In between major events, I attended various panels on fursuiting, self-improvement, and other activities, and those actually filled up most of Friday and Saturday.
Furry Olympics, the fursuit games, was refreshingly different this year. They set up gaming stations in each of the four corners of the room to run simultaneously. So after leaving musical chairs, you can do the other four games in any order, bringing your scorecard to each gaming station and then to the final station for tabulation. I placed 4th in musical chairs, won twister, and did so-so in hula hoop, javelin throw, and fuzzball. (simplified variation of bocce) There were some minor problems but I have to say running the games in parallel saves a lot of time, even if it looks chaotic.
Overall impression: FAU is still a small con but I didn't feel like there was too little to see or do. I am pleased that they are continuing to make improvements and introduce new games, shows, and ideas.
Saturday, July 14th, 2018
Last weekend, I was once again in Pittsburgh for Anthrocon, continuing my streak of attending every single Anthrocon so far. As usual, I got there a day early, on Wednesday, and stayed to Monday morning with roomies Marauder and Joey Gatorman.
Let's start with the improvements. I'm sure there were many more but of the two I noticed the most, the first was in scheduling. I'm glad they moved the fursuit games to Friday afternoon. I couldn't participate the last two years because it was in an early Sunday morning slot. The second improvement I noticed was they had pretty much eliminated the line for the fursuiter tag pickup. In previous years, they needed to do some recordkeeping to avoid giving out multiple tags to the same person. There were so many fursuiters picking up tags after the opening ceremony on Friday that even a slight delay resulted in a long line. This year, they simply punched a hole in the con badge and that was the indicator that the fursuiter had gotten a tag. Simple and clever. Of course, I've already heard people complaining that con badges are collectibles and should not have holes punched in them but I don't mind.
As usual, Anthrocon was an overwhelming mass of activities from morning to late night for three days (this year, actually three and a half days) in a row and that's the way I like it. I picked and chose panels, events, games, and meetups. I fursuited a lot more at this Anthrocon than the previous year's, probably to make up for the last few cons where I was a bit meh on that. And somehow, in the midst of all the activities, I found time to meet up with and chat with long-time friends. And in some cases, they found me.
Also as in past years, I took some side trips on the way to and on the way back from Pittsburgh. On the way to Pittsburgh, I stopped in Johnstown to capture some Munzees and in Greensburg for Munzees and lunch. (Had to use the special in the Primanti Bros app, of course!) On the way back from Pittsburgh, I had an overnight stay in Gettysburg. The battlefield park has many plaques, statues, and cannons, which reminded me of my visit to Valley Forge. I also visited the covered bridge on the edge of town, two of the observation towers, and some geological features. (Devil's Den, Little Round Top, and a stone bridge with dinosaur toe tracks) I didn't have a proper sightseeing plan for my visit so it's good that there were geocaches, munzees, and some Flagstack flags at all the key locations so I knew where to go.
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018
I guess I can write about this now that I'm essentially done with the claims process and the repair.
May 7, evening: I was returning home from work, a bit later than usual. I was approaching the intersection of the main road and my street, about a quarter mile from home. Two cars ahead. Driver in front braked and made a sudden turn into the corner gas station. Driver ahead of me had to stop quickly too. Then I had to hit the brakes too. A second later, I felt something hit the back of my car hard. The driver behind and I both pulled over and parked at the gas station. Called the police to make a police report and exchanged insurance information. The other party was a lady with a toddler. No one was hurt. My car had some rear-end damage: bumper scratched and a bit dislodged, exhaust pushed in. The entire front of her car was crumpled.
May 8: Called State Farm, which was the other party's insurance, to make a claim. I usually file a claim against the other party's insurance first, although I'm not sure that's the best strategy. Probably not in this case.
June 3: Received a letter of denial from State Farm. In the weeks before getting the letter, I talked to the State Farm representative a few times and it appears the other party's insurance was not valid at the time of the collision. It took them most of the month to investigate because they needed to be sure before denying the claim.
June 6: Went to Price Collision to get a repair estimate. Submitted it to my own insurance. Because I have a letter of denial, I can file the claim under my uninsured motorist coverage with a lower deductible. They told me they'll go after the other party to recoup the loss and refund this deductible, but I don't have much hope for that.
June 19: Car in for repairs at Price Collision. Got a rental from Enterprise down the road. This time, the rental is a Toyota 4Runner, a huge land barge. Land barge has a lot of newfangled features and is interesting to drive, but acceleration is not as good and it is harder to park and maneuver.
June 27: Repairs completed. Got my car back. New bumper, new exhaust, just as good as it was prior to the collision.
The annoying thing is it took nearly two months to get back to normal. It may have been better to file the claim with my own insurance next time and let them negotiate with the other party's insurance, even if I have to pay a higher deductible up front. In my defense though, up until this incident, the other party's insurance was valid every time so there was no delay.
Thursday, April 26th, 2018
So this past weekend, I was back at the Sheraton in Tysons Corner for Fur The More 2018. One thing I like about this con is they try new things. This time, it was a passport stamp sheet that you can get stamped at various locations and events. Fill in enough of the squares on the page and you get a prize. I got the first reward, which was a pin, but not the second. I think it's a good idea since it gets everyone to explore more of the con, even check out some events that one may not have thought of checking out. What I didn't like as much were some passport items that required spending money because it smells like pay-to-play, but there are enough free items to get the first reward at least. Also, they should've made the passport page non-glossy so the stamp ink won't smudge. Maybe next time.
I didn't fursuit as much at this con. I was in the fursuit parade and the fursuit games, and I did a bit more fursuiting on Saturday evening but that was about it. There wasn't much else to do in fursuit at the con. Instead, I found a lot more panels and events of interest. I watched the Japanese tea ceremony. I learnt how to keep a bullet journal, how to make an interactive story with Ren'Py, and how to play Sushi Go. I colored a premade badge. I went to the astronomy party. It was cloudy that night but we used the big telescopes to see the moon and 3 stars. I also went to both loot brawls, panels on contracts and LLCs (presented by lawyers in the fandom), and the furry cringe stories panel. So there was a lot to watch and learn anyway.
Of course no trip this close to Washington DC is complete without a trip into DC. I went twice, on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, I stopped at several stations along the Silver and Red Metro rail lines to capture munzees, ending at the Eastern Market for dinner and two geocaches. Friday's foray was more touristy. I took the Metro to McPherson Square and walked to Lafayette Square and the White House, or as close as they'd let me get.
Tuesday, January 30th, 2018
16 years ago, I lived in Northern New Jersey and I used to travel very far from home because at the time, geocaches were few and far between. One of those overnight trips brought me to Odenton, south of Baltimore, and to Patuxent Ponds Park. This park has two ponds. From the parking area, it was a short walk on the trail to the larger of the two ponds in the back section of the park. The geocache was tethered to a shrub on a small island in that larger pond. There was a fallen tree branch across the short stretch of water and I figured I could walk (well, half walk and half crawl) across that tree branch to the island. I made it out to the island and back, although it was a bit hazardous because the tree branch was unsteady and a bit slippery. However, it was an exciting way to finish off the day before getting crabcakes for dinner in Odenton.
I'm not as far from Odenton now but for some reason, I never went back to that area in 16 years. This past Sunday, I took a trip to Laurel for Flagstack since that town has become quite a hub of emerging smartphone-GPS gameplay. Then I switched over to Munzee and noticed some goodies in the Odenton area. Very little about that area was familiar to me until I got close to Patuxent Ponds, where I was stopping to capture a pegasus munzee. When I took a walk back to the larger pond, suddenly it all came back to me. The layout of the pond and trail was familiar. The island was still there, although it's now a bit farther from the bank than I remember so there could have been some erosion or change in water level.
Anyway, that was a great revisit and it's neat how I remember the area just because of a thrilling experience. Maybe I'll be back again in another 16 years, if not sooner, for a different game.
Tuesday, November 28th, 2017
DE Furbowl had been postponed since October 2015 while they searched for another suitable bowling alley. In truth though, I wouldn't have been able to make it to many of those. Schedules have gotten pretty full and I had other things to do most of the time. So even though DE Furbowl started again in June, this was the first month I was free enough to consider attending. (Actually there was also a Flagstack event the same weekend, but luckily it was on Sunday so there was no schedule conflict.)
The big surprise: the new location is the New Castle Bowlerama, only about a quarter of a mile from home! How convenient. This bowling alley is bigger than the previous one. The parking area, especially, was ample and there were no parking issues, unlike at the AMF Prices Corner. The inside of this bowling alley seemed more spacious too. There was room to walk around without constantly bumping into other people. However, we didn't have a big party room reserved this time so the fursuit lounge area got rather congested at times. On the plus side, there were comfy chairs and sofas in the fursuit lounge. That's a very nice touch, like a celebrity green room.
Aside from that, it's pretty much the same Furbowl I knew. I met up with some friends, fursuited around the bowling alley a bit, and got into the group photo. That was about it. I'll try to attend another one during the winter months before things get busy again.
Wednesday, November 1st, 2017
What a weekend! I went to Central and Northern New Jersey and attended four events. Those were "This little cacher wants a burger" at The Burger Shop in Matawan on Thursday, the "Pre-Metro Gathering Mega Meet and Greet" at the Mt. Allamuchy Scout Reservation on Friday, "2017 Metro Gathering ~ The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" on Saturday, and Small Town Stanhope, NJ later that Saturday. All those were geocaching events, except for the last one, which was a Munzee event.
In years past, there have been Thursday evening events in Central Jersey before the mega event. I just haven't been going out of my way for those. This year though, I decided to go a bit east to Matawan to meet up with those folks, even though that meant I'd be late getting to the hotel. The Bacon Royal Burger at The Burger Shop wasn't really that spectacular, but the chance to meet up with a few Central Jersey geocachers, who I hadn't seen in years since I stopped going to the Central Jersey events regularly, was priceless.
On Friday, I puttered around the Budd Lake, Netcong, and Flanders area, getting some Munzees and geocaches. A big plus to only coming to this area once a year is I had a lot to choose from in the various GPS games. Well, except for Flagstack, which hardly anyone seems to play over there, but its time will come. In the evening, I headed over to the scout camp for the Pre-Metro Gathering event. It was a pot luck dinner in a rustic dining hall, featuring spooky food such as a meat corpse. Signal, the geocaching mascot, made an appearance.
Saturday was the big event: Metro Gathering in historic Waterloo Village, which had been decorated with all kinds of Halloween stuff, including a mock graveyard, the Headless Horseman, and a spider skeleton. The entrance to the village was like a fair with exhibitors and vendors, and even a pumpkin carving contest. Mostly though, I went for a hike with other geocachers through the village for the 20 special lab caches and the themed Wherigo cache, and spent a lot of time talking to the North Jersey and Long Island geocachers on various things that have happened in the area while I was away. There was a fair amount of gossip and griping, which I'm not going to detail here. Suffice to say there are two sides to every issue. (Unless you're in the Octagon Society. Then there are eight sides to every issue.)
After Metro Gathering, I went down the road to Riverside Park to meet up with a smaller group for the "Small Town Stanhope, NJ" Munzee event. We had some event munzees placed around the park and adjacent trail. Couldn't stay too long though because the event started pretty close to sundown. I found out the reason that there had to be a separate Munzee event was Space Coast Geo Store was forbidden from vending Munzee-related goods at Metro Gathering. It's a new rule imposed by Groundspeak, the company running the geocaching website. If they find any Munzee stuff at a mega event, they'll yank the "mega" status. I spoke to a number of people about this and everyone thought it was a stupid rule and would hurt geocaching in the long run. A lot of people play both Munzee and geocaching so this kind of separation makes no sense. Munzee and Flagstack, on the other hand, don't mind if we mix games and even encourage it by offering "co-exist" badges for multi-game events.
( The caches...Collapse )
Thursday, October 19th, 2017
So this past weekend was my last furry convention of the year: FursonaCon at Holiday Inn in the Norfolk / Virginia Beach area. It's also the smallest one of the year, with only 297 attendees. (79 fursuiters in the fursuit parade) Funny thing is I think I enjoyed it the most of the four cons I attended this year. There wasn't much programming so that left plenty of time to relax, chat, and fursuit. The local furries are very hospitable. They didn't know me or where I was from ("Remind me again where Delaware is?" said one of them, probably half-jokingly.) but I was just short of dragged to a room party the first night of the con. Of course, with only a few hundred attendees, we didn't have the whole hotel to ourselves but the people from the two wedding parties we shared the hotel with were also very nice and wanted photos with all the fursuiters.
The fursuit games were run differently from other cons. Instead of having all the games as one long event, they split it into multiple short events, one game per event. I thought that was much less tiring. Plus, that meant each game had prizes. I didn't do so well in fursuit dodgeball, but my team won trophies in fursuit hockey. Because there weren't many fursuiters, the parade was short and quick and we got fish tags (for the Atlantis theme) at the end of it. One other benefit to a small con: there was never a wait at the photo room and so I got these wonderful lightstick photos.
Biggest downside though was the hotel. While some parts of the hotel were new and fairly up-to-date, my room wasn't. The faucet was loose. The power socket was loose. Lamp fixtures were rusty. The air conditioner was weak. Housekeeping on my floor lacked attention to detail. They forgot various items and even forgot to service my room the first day. Also there was a musty odor in the hotel corridors and some of the meeting rooms. On the plus side, my room had a refrigerator and microwave oven, which helped a lot because that meant I could buy some groceries and not have to contend with that ridiculous 12.6% restaurant tax in the Norfolk / Virginia Beach area.
What would the weekend be without GPS games? I found 6 geocaches on the trip. They were mostly very easy, even though two of them were rated 5 stars and one 3.5 stars. Surprisingly, the cache that took the most time to find was rated only 1 star. One of the 5-star caches was a pretend 5-star but aside from that, I'm not sure how difficulty ratings work any more. The star of the weekend though was Munzee. That area is packed with pins! On the evening of my arrival, I was up to 3,624 captures when I decided I'd better get back to the hotel! I got 290 more on Sunday evening and over a thousand more on the way home, but even then, it looks like I've barely scratched the surface.
( The caches...Collapse )
Thursday, September 21st, 2017
This is an update to End of a Lifetime from five years ago.
When TextDrive ended, I took up Joyent's offer for five years of Joyent Cloud hosting, which came in the form of a credit balance roughly equal to five years of hosting on a 512MB Joyent SmartMachine. Well, that credit balance finally ran out this month. Joyent's $22/month fee is actually rather steep nowadays for VPS hosting. After investigating a number of VPS providers, I opened a Linode account and set up a lowest-tier node there. It's $5/month for a Linode 1024 and I got the first 4 months free as a signup bonus. Then I moved my websites and domains over. I haven't done that in years, so it took a bit of research to find out how to set everything up but with the wealth of how-to articles and example configurations out there, it's actually easier now than it was the last time. And finally, I shut down and deleted my Joyent Cloud instance so they'll stop billing.
So with Joyent's extension, the TextDrive "lifetime" offer lasted 12 years. Even though it wasn't the lifetime that they originally promised, 12 years of hosting is a decent length of time for the money. Going forward though, I won't consider any more such deals unless they break even within a fairly short time.
Friday, September 1st, 2017
This past weekend, I went to FA United 2017 at the Hyatt Regency in Herndon, VA. There was also a pair of Flagstack events on the other side of Washington, DC, so I left the con Sunday afternoon to attend those.
I arrived in the DC area Thursday afternoon, so there was time for a Munzee-capping spree in downtown Washington DC. I took the Metro from Reston Station. I hit the National Mall and saw some sculptures. The boulder with a face on the car makes me think it's time to start paying attention to those "falling rock" signs. I also went to Chinatown for dinner, which was something I didn't get to do on my previous DC trip in April.
As for FAU itself, I treated the con as a relaxacon, just like I did in previous years. It looked like the con had a bit more programming this year than last year but I didn't feel like I had to go to everything. I hit a couple of panels, went to both loot brawls, and walked in the fursuit parade. Also fursuited in short bursts a bunch of times, went to the dance but only on Friday, and played some tabletop games. Also had a lot of couch time. Hey, I had a hotel suite all to myself. Might as well enjoy it!
Then on Sunday, I went to the Flagstack events in Fort Hunt and Alexandria. They posted two events a few miles apart, because apparently, they could deploy more party flags this way. The eight of us met up at a picnic table in a park in Fort Hunt. Then we split up into three cars. From there on, it was a drive around town with everyone capturing as many flags as possible. We went around the Fort Hunt area first to capture the first batch of flags. Then we went to the second event site in Alexandria and then drove around that part of town to get the other bunch of flags. Then we returned to Fort Hunt via a different route to get more flags along the way. The only snag was we had some problems with cell phone reception in Fort Hunt and between Alexandria and Fort Hunt, which is surprising considering how close the area was to DC. Aside from that though, it was a lot of fun, almost like a video game in the real world. And we're already planning another Flagstack event in Laurel this October.
Tuesday, August 15th, 2017
One of the prizes you can get for attending a Munzee event is a virtual emerald munzee. Emerald munzees are assigned randomly to emerald gardens, which are groups of hundreds of emerald pins, usually arranged in the shape of a pin icon. Since there were a lot of events in July for Munzee's 6th birthday, new emerald gardens have been popping up all over the world. I noticed that one of those emerald gardens was in Atlantic City, so that's where I went on Saturday.
There it is. Splat, right on the beach! Hope Caesars doesn't mind. :) I also went to Brigantine to capture a nascent munzee garden. I think it's a boat but the shape is unclear now. Unfortunately, it was too rainy for a walk along the beach so I left the area after that.
A number of things happened on Sunday, but the most significant of those was I finally completed my 365-day Munzee capture and deploy streaks and got two more super streak badges! I would not say it's easy because doing anything every single day for a whole year takes some dedication, but it's more doable than a geocaching streak because of the sheer number of munzees out there and the different ways to play the game.
After hitting that milestone, I spent the rest of Sunday in Mount Laurel, Mount Holly, Willingboro, Beverly, and Cinnaminson, the area with so many munzees that even local munzers haven't gotten everything. Since I passed through the downtown part of Mount Holly, I stopped to take a look at the Shinn Curtis Log House, a log cabin that is three centuries old. Funny thing is dinner that evening was also in a 300-year-old building, so South Jersey has a lot of those historic structures.
( The munzees...Collapse )
Sunday, August 6th, 2017
Saturday's trip was to Haddon Heights, Cherry Hill, Mount Laurel, and Willingboro in South Jersey. This area is pretty much inexhaustible for Munzee because the local Munzers keep deploying more of those. However, I wanted to capture some of the new air mysteries that they have deployed in Mount Laurel and Willingboro. These are fun. Capturing the virtual air mystery scatters some feather munzees in the vicinity. Capturing the feathers in turn scatters some golden feathers.
Sunday's trip was pretty simple. Went down I-95 from Newark to Baltimore, capturing Flagstack flags along the way. Found one geocache at the turnaround spot. Then from Baltimore back to Newark, I captured virtual munzees as well as some of the flags I missed on the way down. What's remarkable is the way Flagstack has grown recently. Just this quick there-and-back trip alone netted 258 flags! There are many more flags along the other roads around Baltimore but I decided to save those for another time. Finished up with a little walk on the James F Hall Trail in Newark for a few more munzees before an early dinner.
( The munzees...Collapse )
Tuesday, July 25th, 2017
Saturday's trip was to Laurel, Maryland, for the DMV Birthday Party Flagstack event. This event was in the late afternoon, so there was plenty of time to capture some Munzees and some flags, and even find 4 geocaches, before it was time to meet up. The only snag was a big rainstorm rolled through the area in the mid-afternoon. I was parked right in front of "Contee Cache" when the storm came in, so I had a good 15 minutes to think about this 4-star difficulty cache while waiting for the rain to slow to a drizzle. Great part is when I finally started looking, I had already read all the logs and narrowed the possibilities down quite a bit, so it took only 3 seconds to spot the cache!
The Flagstack event was really different from other events I'd attended so far. There were only 6 of us and we met in the parking lot of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. (which used to be, and still looks like, a school building) After some conversation, we got in to DudleyGrunt's car for a whirlwind tour of Flagstack flags around Laurel. In contrast to Munzee, nearly all Flagstack flags are virtual. So all the passengers can capture those on their smartphones while someone drives around. We got nearly all the party flags (which had been deployed for the event), green flags, adventure flags, white flags, oracle flags, a dice flag, and even a number of jumper flags as they popped up around town. There was also one treasure flag, which was the only physical flag of the day. DudleyGrunt parked the car on the side of the road and we all got out to scan the data matrix. Most of those flag types are ones that I typically don't see anywhere else, so I'm glad there's at least one area within daytrip range with enough active Flagstack players to have those.
Sunday's trip was to South Jersey again. This time, I started in Atco and Berlin. One of the Munzee areas was around an abandoned Kmart. Not much was going on in that shopping center but it's perfect for Munzee activity because there's hardly any traffic. After that, I hit the usual hotspots - Woodcrest, Mount Laurel, Westampton, and Willingboro - before getting some groceries at the Asian food market and saladification at Charlie Brown's in Woodbury. Although it's a chain restaurant, this particular location is rather unusual. It is housed in an old-fashioned 18th century inn with all kinds of crazy narrow passageways and split levels. The dining area probably used to be the reading room or some such and still has bookcases on the wall.
( The caches...Collapse )
( The munzees...Collapse )
Tuesday, July 18th, 2017
Two days in South Jersey because there were still loads and loads of them to capture! However, I did also get the Gotta Cache 'em All geocache in passing. It was a puzzle cache that I solved long ago but I just never went that way until Sunday.
Saturday: Audubon, Cherry Hill Mall, Moorestown Mall, the Giant Tooth, and then I finally finished the Springdale Road set.
Sunday: Blackwood, Marlton, Mt. Holly. Dinner was at Mulan Chinese Restaurant in Voorhees, which had Mulan wall art! It's a surprise because I never expect low-cost Chinese takeout places in South Jersey to have anything beyond the basics.
( The munzees...Collapse )