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Monday, May 4th, 2020

3:49 am - Virtual Conventions
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a number of furry conventions to cancel this year due to state and local emergency regulations and also out of concern that large gatherings will spread the virus like crazy. The latest cancellation was Anthrocon and that was supposed to be my big con trip for the year. So what's the alternative? Virtual conventions, online gatherings using live video and chat. Over the May 1st thru 3rd weekend, I "attended" 3 of them.

Down Home Furry Con had live video streams and chat on Twitch and Picarto, with Discord for general chat. Couch Con and Mini Con 2020 were run on Discord with panel rooms within Discord. (Note that there is apparently a different Couch Con happening in June that comes up in web searches. I don't have a website link for the Couch Con that was this weekend.) I should note here that I didn't spend the whole weekend online watching these cons so I probably missed a lot. I simply checked in on them to see what was going on whenever I had time.

Of the three, Down Home Furry Con was the most professionally run. They had a full schedule of panels. Although there were some delays and some panels ran over time a bit, every panel I checked actually did happen and was well-attended. Couch Con and Mini Con, on the other hand, more hit or miss. They had some great panels but they also had no-shows. I noticed that a few panelists gave up and left because there was no one in the panel voice chat at the start of the time slot. I do sympathize because it is tough to talk about or demonstrate something to no one but in the future, I hope they at least start doing something and see if an audience trickles in.

The most fun panels, to me at least, were the games with audience participation. While I could stand to watch a game demo or an art stream for a while, it isn't as interesting to me if I'm just watching and not doing something. I noticed a problem with a few of those panels too. Some artists have a tendency to stop talking when they start working on something, which doesn't come across so well if it is a tutorial. I think it would be good if they explained what they were doing while they were doing it because it is not always obvious what's happening in the screencast. Other good things to mention include why one technique is better than another technique and what to do if you make a mistake. Generally, try to anticipate questions that the audience may have but may not have thought about asking yet.

Another problem I noticed was in the game voice chats, some people were casually tossing around racial and homophobic slurs. That only happened early in the weekend and after that things toned down a bit, so my guess is the problem had been dealt with behind the scenes.

My take on virtual cons is those don't compare in any way to actually traveling to a con, seeing your friends, and experiencing con events in person. However, I still had an interesting time with them this weekend and I'm glad that the virtual con organizers took the time and effort to make those happen.

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Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

12:46 pm - FA United 2019
Last weekend was FA United 2019 in Northern Virginia. That was my fourth and last furry convention for the year. It'll be hard to cut one convention next year to make room for a new one because each convention had a strength or niche of its own. In the case of FAU, it was games and gastronomical adventures.

The most interesting panel to me was the virtual reality panel. After a demo by the panelists, the audience got to take turns trying a Vive VR headset. The game I played was Richie's Plank Experience. From what I heard, this is a game often used to show newcomers the possibilities of VR. In this game, you take an elevator 80 floors up. When the elevator door opens, all you see is a wooden plank, sticking straight out into the air, with a cake at the end. Then you have to walk out on the plank, get the cake, and return to the elevator. It's scary if you're afraid of heights. Interestingly, I didn't experience any dizziness or vertigo playing this game. Despite what I saw, my mind and body could tell it wasn't real. So I went to the end of the plank, got the cake, and took the elevator back to street level and that was the full plank experience.

I also played on the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator. In the panel room, we had six laptops networked together. Each laptop showed a screen of controls for a particular role on the spaceship bridge, e.g. the science officer had a screen for checking and scanning various objects on the map. I was the engineer, so I had controls for directing power to various systems (weapons, shields, engine, etc) on the ship. There was also one screen on the projector for the ship captain. The game was a lot like Star Trek. There were space anomalies that we had to check and battles with enemies. We did an easy mission first and then a harder one. In the harder mission, the spaceship nearly got eaten by a space dragon, which was hilarious.

The Board Game Tournament was a lot of fun too. We had a bunch of games (tiddlywinks, Liar's Dice, Sorry, Scattergories, and LCR) in the room. We had five minutes to play each game before moving on to the next game. Scoring was based on progress in the game, regardless of whether we finished. Because of the variety of games, we needed luck, skill, and a combination of both. When we were done, I found that I was actually only one point short of 3rd place, which was a lot better than I thought I would do.

Food adventures, maybe not for the squeamishCollapse )

So I had a great time at FAU. It's not the biggest convention, nor does it have the most panels and events, but it definitely offers some unique experiences.

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Sunday, September 15th, 2019

1:02 am - Metro Gathering 2019
The last few years, Metro Gathering was in October and had a Halloween theme. This year though, the geocaching mega event is in September and has a pirate theme. I guess it needed a bit of a change. I think October is preferable for this kind of event because the weather would be cooler and better for hiking. However, the weather in Northern New Jersey this weekend turned out to be pretty cool, in the mid 60s. So it worked well.

As usual, there was a Friday evening event, the Pre~Pirates of Port Royale Meet and Greet Event. It was a pot-luck dinner at the Mt. Allamuchy Scout Reservation. I talked to some geocaching friends and had food but didn't stay to the end.

Saturday was the big day. I went to Waterloo Village in the morning for 2019 Metro Gathering ~ Pirates of Port Royale and spent nearly 6 hours walking around finding geocaches and talking to people I knew from way back when. As the organizers seem to do every year, they archived the previous year's geocaches and published them again in the same hiding spots. I remembered most of the hiding spots so it was really easy for me. The twist this year is most of the geocaches had code words in them that you can log in the Adventure Lab app for an additional lab cache find. There were also a number of standalone lab caches around the village and along the hiking trail. Lab caches were also available at the mega event in previous years but you had to log them by entering the code words on the web when you got home after the event or in a web browser on your smartphone as you find them. I think the phone app is a bit more convenient for this activity.

After leaving Metro Gathering, I headed over to Riverside Park in Stanhope for the NJ - Small Town Stanhope 3 Munzee event. This is a smaller event for Munzee players who happened to be in the area for Metro Gathering, as well as a few others who came just for the Munzee event. There was Munzee-related chat and also some special munzees for the event. After the hiking workout at Metro Gathering, this smaller event was a good way to cool down and relax a bit before heading back to the hotel.

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Saturday, September 14th, 2019

11:20 pm - FursonaCon 2019
Last weekend, I headed off to Virginia Beach for FursonaCon. I keep coming back to this furry con because among the cons I attend, they have the most fun, easy-going vibe and they like to try different things instead of borrowing ideas from other furry cons. This is the kind of con where, alongside the more usual panels and workshops, there is a panel where someone tried to do a Bob Ross painting in MS Paint. (It was probably the most hilarious panel in the con.)

There were no fursuit games this time, although that's par for the course as this kind of event has been on its way out for a while. There was a short and sweet fursuit parade, which went from the main events ballroom through the dealers room and finally to the hotel lobby for the photo shoot. With 155 fursuiters in the parade, we really filled up the hotel lobby! After the fursuit parade, I participated in a music video shoot, choreographed by achookitty, to the tune of Honey, I'm Good. It was fun to do. We had a two-hour block in the schedule to rehearse and video record the dance but it was simple enough that we finished early.

And finally, because I like to bring something back from each con that I made myself, I went to the sewing panel and made a furball keychain. There was a problem with the projector so we did not have the instructional video during the panel but it still wasn't too difficult.

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Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

1:08 pm - Anthrocon 2019
From July 3rd to July 8th, I was once again in Pittsburgh for Anthrocon. I shared a room at the Westin with Marauder and Joey Gatorman.

The biggest improvement I noticed this year was the change in the fursuit parade route. The parade now skips the dealers' den; it goes down to street level and ends in Hall D, conveniently next to the public meet-and-greet. Short and sweet. Only issue is they didn't have volunteers or staff to prefill cups with water at the destination hall, so lines of fursuiters had to wait at the water dispensers after finishing the parade. So there's a bit of room for improvement next year.

As usual, the Anthrocon schedule was full to the brim with all kinds of events and there wasn't a dull moment the whole weekend. I went to whatever interested me, which ended up being a mix of talks, shows, meet-ups, and how-to panels. At the sewing panel, I made a puppy squeaker keychain. Also played Jackbox, Are You A Werewolf, and Rabbit Island. The panel that I found the most interesting though was "The Blind Side", in which 3 blind furries shared stories and answered questions about how they found the fandom and how they live in a sighted world. Of course, there were the usual questions about whether a blind person sees anything in a dream and how a sighted person should and shouldn't interact with a blind person, but there were also things I hadn't thought of, such as leaving at least one light in the house on at night, even if they really don't need any lights, so the neighbors don't think that the house is unoccupied.

Overall, I thought this Anthrocon went very smoothly. The only issue that irked me happened on Sunday night at the Dead Dog Party. At the stroke of midnight, someone from the Westin came and ordered us to vacate the hotel conference levels. I thought that was rather abrupt and rude. At the time, I was resting in the fursuit lounge on the 3rd floor and had only been there a few minutes, so it was a bother to have to quickly suit up again and head to the elevators. In previous years, the dance would shut down promptly at midnight but we could still hang out in the area for a while after that. I'm not sure what the issue was this time, unless the hotel really needed the area early Monday morning.

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Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

3:08 pm - FurtheMore 2019
How exactly does one write the name of this furry con? Their website has "FurtheMore", "Fur the More", and "Fur The More". Their social media adds "Fur the 'More", with the apostrophe, which I think was the original way to spell it. Anyway, that's where I was for this past weekend, from March 14 to 18.

No trip to DC would be complete without a little side trip to a place of interest. Since I was getting some Flagstack dice flags (actually a lot of them!) in Fort Hunt, I went a bit farther down the road to take a look at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. My overall impression is it's a nicely preserved piece of history but the mall-style food court in front of the property looked really out of place.

Like last year's FurtheMore, I didn't fursuit much this year. I participated in the fursuit parade and the fursuit games, and wandered around in fursuit a bit on Saturday but that was about it. There weren't too many other fursuit-oriented activities if you aren't into dance competitions. The fursuit games this year were set up as a set of carnival games that you can play in any order you want. (Last year's FA United had a similar setup but with an olympics theme instead.) I thought some of those games were difficult to play in fursuit but still, with some luck and a whole lot of flailing, I got four prizes out of the five games.

I seem to be getting more and more into gaming activities nowadays. On Friday, I joined an escape room session. This is where my team had to figure out codes to unlock boxes and a safe. We got stuck on some puzzles and needed a couple of hints but with a two-minute extension, we completed the mission. Then in the evening, I played some Jackbox games in the video gaming room. These were all party games where you watch the monitor and answer questions on your smartphone. Somehow I did the best at the Patently Stupid game. This is a mock startup / venture capital game in which each player is given a problem and has to draw an invention to solve the problem. Then everyone decides which inventions to fund. On Saturday, I went to the loot brawl, a gift swap game. Then later, I went to the tabletop gaming room to play Telestrations. This game is a combination of Telephone and Pictionary, in which we take turns drawing something and guessing what was drawn, with hilarious results. On Sunday, I visited the tabletop gaming room again to play Spyfall 2. This game is similar to Werewolf, except we have to figure out which one person is the spy by asking questions about a meetup location while the spy has to figure out which location is the meetup location. All in all, there was a good variety of games at the con and I enjoyed those a lot.

Next year, FurtheMore will move from the Sheraton Tysons to the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, near the Reagan Washington National Airport and closer to downtown Washington DC. I thought it would be an interesting change until I found out that hotel parking is valet-only and costs $40/day! I heard FurtheMore will try to negotiate a parking discount, so I'll have to see what the parking rate they settle on. At the same time, this may be a nudge to try a different local con next year.

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Thursday, November 1st, 2018

11:52 am - Metro Gathering 2018
I was in Northern New Jersey October 18 thru 22 for Metro Gathering, the only geocaching mega event I've been attending annually. I went to fewer events this year than last year. Those were:
There was also a smaller geocaching event on Monday morning but I decided not to go to that one because I would've been busy packing up and getting ready to leave. The weekend was a good time as usual. There were the usual two sets of 10 lab caches that got everyone walking around Waterloo Village. Each lab cache location had a spooky item or setup from which one had to get a code word to enter into the mobile website to register a find. Some of the regular geocaches in the area had also been archived and relisted. Since I was there early, I found and logged those the day before the main event so I could focus on activities in the village during the main event.

After leaving the mega event, I went to the "NJ - Small Town Stanhope" Munzee event just down the road. Same as last year, the reason we had a separate Munzee event at a separate location is Space Coast Geo Store was forbidden from vending Munzee-related goods at the mega event. It was a short event because by the time we got there, we only had an hour or so before dusk. Still, we packed a lot in. In addition to capturing the event munzees around the little park, we also had cake and celebrated a fellow Munzer's birthday.

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Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

1:15 pm - FursonaCon 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.

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Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

3:54 pm - FA United 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.

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Saturday, July 14th, 2018

1:56 am - Anthrocon 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.

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Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

3:38 pm - Rear-end collision
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.

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Thursday, April 26th, 2018

1:18 am - Fur The More 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.

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Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

1:52 am - Patuxent Ponds
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.

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Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

10:06 pm - Delaware Furbowl 62 (Nov 25, 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.

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Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

1:45 am - Metro Gathering 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 )

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