Pardon the silence

I did not expect that brick wall to pop out of nowhere.

Long story short, personal issues are causing me a lot of grief at the moment, but to quote Nanny Ogg, I aren’t dead. I don’t know when I will be back, though. Eventually, I’ll finish Part 5…

Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

The pun wars raged behind me. The war was horrific; the puns stank to high heaven. That’s what happens when one of the Guests of Honor at your convention is Spider Robinson and as part of the tribute, Worldcon had set up a working Callahan’s Bar, including hosting some of the events in the books. That’s why there was a pun war. Why did I care? Because the Fanzine Lounge was technically located at the back of Callahan’s Bar.

To be honest, most of the puns were difficult to hear because the sound was rather muddy and muted in our corner, but that was okay. I saw Murray Moore, and there was a moment where we had to remind each other what cons we’d seen each other at before — the San Jose Corflu and the Reno Worldcon to be specific. Murray’s a great guy — he’s always so calm and thoughtful. I always like seeing him.

Shortly thereafter, it also gave me a chance to catch up with John Coxon, who I hadn’t seen since he was the TAFF delegate running around the Worldcon in Reno. We talked about the fact that he’d spent some time in Berkeley and now understood what the script Cal on my ball cap stood for and a bit about the fact that he was going to be in the masquerade that evening. Then there was some laughing remembrance of the day Chris Garcia, James Bacon, and John Coxon dropped by Sacramento on their way to Reno. I left work to meet them for lunch and we all went to an all-you-can-eat pizza place tucked into an obscure corner of Old Sacramento. It’s fun to talk about good memories. A friend of John’s asked him if the pizza was any good, and John basically said, “How should I know? I was hanging out with friends! And it was all-you-can-eat pizza!”

Ah, but the hour approached, and if I was going to catch Kirsten the way I caught Doug, I needed to hoof my way over to panel-land and wait. While I was waiting, I noticed the folks handing out copies of Amazing!, and I noticed that one of them was Steve Davidson. I’ve only known Steve online, but when I was a little more active with my fan writing, he has been supportive of my efforts. It was good to finally meet him in person.

Then I took up my position in front of the door, waiting for the panel to let out, and trying not to lose my place as the hallway became alive with particles bouncing in all sorts of random directions. Most of them stayed in general paths down the center of the room, but it seemed as if many of these particles were getting trapped in accumulations around doors, almost as if the doors themselves were clogged drains. Then, suddenly, there was a burst, and the drain unclogged, and two different flows tried to push against each other! Then, there was me, a still particle in a wild chaos of motion, a spot of calm in the dance…and then my quarry appeared.

After that, I joined the flow as well, with another friend who was happy to see me. Kirsten and I spent some time catching up, and then she said, “I could use a donut.” I paused, and then I said, “That sounds like an excellent plan.”

Folks, these were not ordinary donuts. There’s a few places around the country that make, for lack of a better term, gourmet donuts. The most famous of these places is probably Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR, but San Jose has Psycho Donuts, and they had set up a table at Worldcon. I never passed by this table without seeing at least a bit of a line. The line was oh so worth it, though, as suddenly, you were confronted by all these amazing donuts — donuts with cereal as a topping, donuts of banana and caramel, donuts with actual strawberries as a topping — all sorts of amazing things.

After a quick perusal, I picked one with a spaceship on the top and a fruit filling for the science fiction part of Worldcon (a Nebula something, I don’t remember), and an amazingly crazy blue frosted donut covered with sparkles and stars and sprinkles and balls of sugar, and another crazy squirt of bright blue line frosting. This wonderful creation was called “Unicorn Farts”, and it stood up to its name in every fashion.

Kirsten has to head off to a convention office — this is the trouble with catching up with Bay Area friends at a Bay Area Worldcon, a lot of them are on staff — so I wandered back to the fanzine lounge to see who I could find there. There’s always somebody interesting there, and if there isn’t, there’s always somebody shortly. I pulled out my donuts to enjoy them and to watch the convention pass by. I’m fond of people-watching and eventually, people will gravitate towards a table where somebody is sitting. That’s sometimes how I’ve gotten into my best conversations at conventions.

This time was no exception. Ranger Craig got some time to sit down and enjoy the fanzine lounge and tell us some great tales. I won’t repeat them here, because they’re his stories to tell, but he’s a great storyteller. I spoke with James Bacon for a moment as he came to drop off a book for the fan fund auction, and I wished him well for his convention next year but told him it’s doubtful I’ll make it. I’ve been inactive in fandom and I don’t feel like I’m in a stable enough place in my life to mount a TAFF bid for next year. That’s about the only way I’m going to make it, bar winning the lottery.

Shortly, Schirm brought something interesting to the table — a portable crank phonograph from the 1920s. Along with it, he had several records, one dating to the time where, in order to record, the singers had to sing into a horn as there were no microphones. He also had several early jazz records, and some other novelty records. It was amazing that this machine, nearly a hundred years old, produced such amazing quality sound with no speaker, no batteries, and no power cord. It had just a crank, a needle, and a case that provided the resonance for us to hear it.

Things like Schirm’s wonderful phonograph are things one wouldn’t necessarily think of as belonging to science fiction and fantasy fandom, but in many ways it is. Not only is it a device that was futuristic for its time, it was retro-futuristic for the fans sitting around that table. Besides that, sometimes fandom is simply fans sharing their passions with one another — just like fanzines could talk about jazz and sports cars and still be fannish.

A friend of mine that I know through local writing circles, Richard Crawford, came up to the table while Schirm was playing the records. It was nice to say hi to him at Worldcon, and I’m glad he was able to enjoy his beer with some music. We didn’t get to talk much, but that was okay. Richard’s a local friend and we’ll get together at some point.

Halfway through the music, I realized that I had one other errand that I needed to run. Another local friend of mine, Michael Gallowglas — who writes under the name M. Todd, and you should buy all his books — just became a wizard, err, a master of fine arts in the field of creative writing, and this was my first chance to congratulate him instead of waiting until November. (I know a lot of my local friends because of NaNoWriMo…) I wandered back over to the dealer’s room to Michael’s table and gave him the congratulations he so heartily deserved. I would have stayed there and talked to him a bit longer, but he was doing paying work, so I just told him I’d see him in November.

I have so many amazing and wonderful friends. Sometimes it takes a convention to see all of them and remind myself of that fact.

Not done yet! I think I can finish it up in a fifth part. See you there!

Series:
Worldcon (Part the First)
Worldcon (Part the Second)
Worldcon (Part the Third)
Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

Worldcon (Part the Third)

Worldcon is a big place.

Okay, so it’s not as big as a Dragoncon or a Comicon, but there’s still several thousand people rattling around a convention center. Sometimes they hole themselves up in rooms to listen to people talk about nearly everything under the sun, some things that orbit it, and yet even more exotic and cosmic ideas. Worldcon is amazing for the diversity of its programming. But when you get there, you’re handed a paperback-sized volume with all the programming for the convention. So how the heck are you supposed to find somebody in that warren of panels?

Well…they could post their location on Facebook.

This is how I caught up with my friend Doug Berry, a guy I’ve known since my alt.callahans/#callahans days. He posted a picture about how he was sharing a room with Joe Haldeman. I consulted my handy paperback program guide, found the room number for the panel in question. I headed for the land of panel space, being held in a different area than I had spent most of my time that day. Since I had not been to this part of the convention before, I wandered in confusion until I could orient myself to the programming space layout and then parked myself in front of the door of the room the panel was being held in.

Sure enough, Doug came out shortly after, and it was good to see him. We talked a little about his new job — captain of the crosswalk, helping students cross safely — before we worked our way out of the crush and Doug had to go cover the protest as a roving reporter for the con newsletter. Before he left, though, he gave me the room number to the panel his wife, Kirsten, was hiding in for the next hour.

Ah, the protest. I didn’t spend any time watching it because, to be honest, I thought it was a bit dumb. Most of it was instigated by a guy trying to make a name for himself in certain political circles, using his ban from Worldcon as a way to howl about how he was being oppressed by the system. Of course, the common smear when you can’t find anything else to use is to call your opponents pedophiles. I suppose that’s because it’s one of the last few groups in society that most people agree is bad — so using it is a way of calling your opponent pure evil. From there, it’s not hard to move to some very dark places for humanity.

Thus, it amused me when I heard later that the protest was basically a dud, with few people protesting or counter-protesting, and the cops standing around being bored as hell in the meantime. It seemed fitting — Worldcon protests ought to be about the lack of flying cars or a colony on Mars or something science fictional, not this mundane stuff. Thus, I’m glad I didn’t give it much of my time.

Instead, I got a turkey sandwich and headed back to the fanzine lounge to have lunch. It was also a way to kill a bit of time before Kirsten’s panel finished. Besides, food is important when you’re attending conventions — keeling over for lack of blood sugar doesn’t do much good for anybody. The turkey sandwich was okay — it was a little dry but acceptable for convention center food.

I’m glad I went to the fanzine lounge to eat lunch, though, because in the middle of my sandwich, I looked up and saw John Hertz. I love John, and he’s been sending me his fanzine in the mail lately. So I told him that I’d been getting his fanzines in the mail, and that, yes, I’d submitted a fanzine to the WOOF distribution this year. Then we had a talk about fanzine fandom, some of the issues I’d had with it, and then he told me that he admired my writing and would like to see more. More than anything, this meant a lot to me.

I haven’t written much lately. Some of it is simply that I haven’t had the mental space with everything going on in my life. Some of it is my own head playing with me — sometimes it’s hard to write when my depression is telling me that nobody cares and my anxiety is telling me that if it isn’t perfect, it’s crap. And some of it is my own lack of attention, both deliberate and non-deliberate.

I’ve done a lot of work in the last year to combat the depression and the anxiety. I still have both, and I probably will always have both. But I can work with them to lessen the effect they have on my life. Sometimes, despite all the techniques I’ve learned, it’s hard to believe that I’m actually good at things. Thus, it helps to hear from others outside of me, people I admire, to tell me that I’m not that bad at the things I do.

One of John’s quirks is that he’s not overly fond of this Internet thing. So he’s probably not going to see this until I convert it to fanzine form and get Rhyme & Paradox #2 out into the world. That said, John, your words meant a whole damn lot to me and were part of the reason this Worldcon was so damn special for me.

Geez, this was just one day! But it was a very eventful day, as you can probably tell. We’ll just have to save the unicorn farts for another post.

Series:
Worldcon (Part the First)
Worldcon (Part the Second)
Worldcon (Part the Third)
Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

Worldcon (Part the Second)

So there I was, in the fanzine lounge.

As I said before, I’ve made my home in fanzine fandom, although I’ll admit, I’ve had some differences with it over the last few years. That’s a long story that’s not worth hashing out here, but it does mean that’s where I tend to gravitate when I go to cons. I wanted to make sure that my WOOF zine made it into the contribution piles. I can’t recall if I did this before or after I went off to the business meeting. I think I did it before, which means I’m slightly out of order. Memory is a weird thing.

This year, a good friend of mine from past Bay Area conventions — Craig Glassner, aka Ranger Craig — was running the joint. He had a couple moments before he had to run off somewhere, which gave me a chance to say hello and let him know I hadn’t forgotten about an obligation I owed him. His response to me was enough to take another weight I’ve been carrying for years off my shoulders. I’m still not going to forget, but just those words were enough to give me one less thing to chew on during these hard times. (He also let me know that my WOOF contribution had been stashed with the others, so it was safe.)

Now a convention is not a convention without a turn around the dealer’s room. (I’d have also made a turn around the art show, but there’s only so much you can do when you’ve got a day and lots of people you’d like to see. Besides, I’d have been tempted to buy art, which I wouldn’t be on site to pick up.)

The dealer’s room at any convention is a treat. The dealer’s room at Worldcon is even more so. There’s the booksellers because Worldcon is, second to being a fan convention, a literary convention. There’s the costumers, because costuming is also a big part of Worldcon. There are the artists and the writers working their way up, taking a risk by self-promoting their own stuff. There’s fannish organizations selling books and magazines. Lastly, there’s the other random stuff that might just appeal to science fiction fans. It’s a rather impressive place — and one I’d normally make several turns through before deciding to buy anything. Today, I had only a bit of money left over from the gas/food/parking budget, so it was mostly just looking at what was out there.

At the two prior full Worldcons I’ve attended, I’ve drug double-digit numbers of books with me to be signed, and braved the autograph lines. I flew to the 2008 Denver Worldcon, packing a second duffle bag full of books with me — I’d just barely made the cut-off of being able to take two pieces of luggage with me for free. On the trip back home, the bag weighed 38 pounds, a distinct relief as I’d feared that I’d be trying to move items between bags in the airport to make weight limits. I drove in 2011, which meant there was no such worries about weight limits. This time, between only having one day at Worldcon and so much to do, I did not bring a load of books.

However, I had noticed in my Twitter feed that Borderlands Books would be hosting a signing by Ann Leckie at noon. I had two of the three books in the Ancillary series, so I figured I could pick up the third — it’s always nice to buy a book from a bookseller when you’re crashing their autograph session — and have Leckie sign my copies. As I was checking out, I noticed the paperback copy of Provenance was out as well, so I picked that up as well. Ann Leckie is a wonderfully nice person — I wished her luck in the Hugos, but we both agreed that N. K. Jemisen was probably going to pick up the three-peat, and that was going to be special.

Another thing I found in the dealer’s room was dice. When it comes to dice, I happen to be a bit like a dragon accumulating shiny treasure. I am proud that I managed to keep myself from buying only one set of dice, as the temptation was there, because there were so many that I wanted! But I managed to narrow my choices to two: psychedelic dice and muted psychedelic dice. After a quick debate with myself, I picked the latter. Now I just need to find a role playing game to use them.

Those were the only things I bought from the dealer’s room, and it was actually much less than the money I had spare after paying for the things that I needed. I also picked up a copy of Amazing — I’d been a small supporter of their Kickstarter earlier this year, and it was great to see them passing out copies of their magazines after a successful funding.

After that, it was due to the convenience of modern technology that I was able to find another friend I was looking for. But we’ve gone long again, and that’ll have to be saved for the next post.

Series:
Worldcon (Part the First)
Worldcon (Part the Second)
Worldcon (Part the Third)
Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

Worldcon (Part the First)

There is such a thing as tears of joy.

I don’t even know where to start about yesterday except that it was the first time that I have felt truly happy in a long time. It’s been a couple years of exceptionally hard times for my family and I, a condition that has practically stolen my words from me except for passing thoughts on Facebook. I’m still not sure I want to talk about everything that’s been going on in a public forum, but it’s still rather rough.

As of Monday of last week, I wasn’t going to Worldcon. This had led me into a bad funk because I had been battling all the above bad times and the last few sparks of possibility that I might be able to go had been extinguished. I was even more frustrated because this year’s Worldcon was being held in San Jose. When you live in the Sacramento area, that’s just about in your backyard by Worldcon standards. A lot of my friends in both Bay Area and fanzine fandom would be there. Not being able to go was one of those things that stung deeply — yet another reminder of just how hard the times had gotten.

Then, Monday night, I was chatting with a friend who mentioned that another friend was going to Worldcon. That’s when I told her that I wasn’t able to go. She asked me why I wasn’t, and I said that it was money — that even going for a day would involve paying for gas, food, and parking. That was basically money I didn’t have.

That’s when she asked me if I would accept the money to pay for those things and allow me to go for a day. And I said yes. Lira, I cannot thank you enough for this gift, this joy, that has me sitting her at my keyboard crying so hard with joy and happiness. I didn’t realize just how much I needed this.

Saturday, the eighteenth of August, dawned early. The alarm went off at four-thirty in the morning. I was basically dressed and ready by five, but I wanted to write a short fanzine for the WOOF distribution at Worldcon. I don’t recall what the acronym stands for, but it’s a one-off collection of fanzines put out at Worldcon. My specific contribution will probably go on efanzines later, to join my contribution to the Reno Worldcon WOOF, but I want to let the distribution be out for a little bit before then. That was done by six, and I put my laptop in my backpack, put my bags in the car, and began the trip to San Jose.

There were a couple stops along the way — washing my car before I got on the freeway, Vacaville (yes, Cowtown, it amuses me every time) for gas and snacks, Concord to copy my zine — but I was in San Jose by nine-thirty, which, considering that I was taking my time and enjoying the trip. There was an unusual moment where a truck had managed to take out a stretch of guardrail, but other than that, it was smooth sailing.

Of course, I’ve never actually been in downtown San Jose. I should have just asked Google to give me directions from my parking spot to the convention center, but I didn’t, and confidently began walking in the wrong direction. All was not lost, though. I discovered a new feature on Google — if you ask it “Where am I?”, it’ll pop up a map with your location. With that, I was able to reorient myself and walk back to the convention center. A fellow fan gave me directions to registration and I was off.

After a couple false starts — I was waiting patiently in line for a registration clerk to finish with somebody and a couple people walked in front of me and went to an open slot before I could — I was able to get my badge and all was official. I was here, and unlike 2008, I had not hit anybody with my backpack, especially not John Scalzi. (Yes, that really happened.)

Once I set up my badge and bought my t-shirt, as I’ve done every Worldcon, I wandered off to the business meeting. I mainly went because I know that if there’s anywhere at the convention I’m going to find Kevin Standlee, it’s at the business meeting. I was about an hour late, so most of the business of the day had been completed. It’s not always my type of fandom, but everybody’s welcome to their particular fun. That’s part of the awesomeness of fan culture. You like business meeting fandom, I like fanzine fandom, he likes costuming fandom, she wants to be a science fiction writer, they are a gamer, zie likes science fiction movies. But at heart, we’re all fans, all geeking out together.

It was good to catch up with both Kevin and Lisa (Kevin’s wife), but also Rick Moen. I’ve known Rick since I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, when he would show up to some of the gatherings of the UC Berkeley Linux Users Group (LUG). It’s always fun when people you meet in one world end up crossing into another world, and finding Rick in fandom at what was technically my first Baycon was a treat.

After the business meeting, it was off to the fanzine lounge, where I ran into the one, the only, the larger than life, the amazing Christopher J. Garcia. Chris is the reason that I’m in fanzine fandom in the first place. While my first Baycon was technically 2003 or 2004, when I came for a night, the one I count as my first Baycon was 2007. I spent a lot of time wandering the halls seeing everything there was to see, and I repeatedly passed by a room labeled ‘Fanzine Lounge’. I didn’t go in. But I did google ‘fanzine’ and discovered efanzines.com. There I discovered a fandom that I felt was right up my alley.

Chris was running around like a madman — well, more than usual — because he was going to be hosting the masquerade that night. He would, of course, do an excellent job, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. That said, he was able to take a few moments to say hi. And just like everybody else, he was so happy to see me. This was something that would continue throughout the day, which just added to my happiness.

Wow — this has already gotten long, and I’ve still got more to say. Time for another post.

Series:
Worldcon (Part the First)
Worldcon (Part the Second)
Worldcon (Part the Third)
Worldcon (Part the Fourth)

A well-placed word can change the world

“And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.”
–Terry Pratchett

If I learned absolutely nothing else in high school English (disclaimer: I learned a lot in high school English), I DID learn that words have meaning and thus the potential to shape the world. I haven’t always applied this knowledge for good, but it’s always been in the back of my head.

Thus I have to look askance at President Trump’s tweet of June 19th, quoted below:

There is a lot of interesting rhetoric going on in this tweet, but the specific bit I would like to call your attention to is in the second sentence, where he writes the phrase “pour into and infest our Country”. The verb “infest” is commonly used to describe vermin, such as insects and rats. However, Trump is not using it to talk about vermin, he is using it to talk about people. To employ such a verb against people is language that is used to dehumanize people and see them as subhuman. As time goes on, if a certain segment of humanity is seen as subhuman (or not human at all), one may find oneself willing to let them die — or worse, killing them outright.

In short, it is the beginning of a call to genocide. Nazis reduced Jews to vermin, as well, and Hutus reduced Tutsis to ‘trees’ and ‘cockroaches’ in the Rwandan genocide. Both language choices made it easier for the former party to not see the latter party as human when it came time to kill them.

The above is an example of Nazi propaganda. This one is rendered in Polish and aimed at Polish Christians. It reads, very simply: “Jews are lice; they cause typhus.” This is another point to the word ‘infest’. We exterminate vermin because they are a health hazard to human beings. Also, the other verb in that phrase, ‘pour into’ has connotations of things that just keep coming, almost like ants. Hmm.

What the Nazis did, what the Hutus did, and what Trump is doing here is called eliminationist language, and it’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable to turn a human being into a lesser creature or an object, ever. Once you start thinking this way, once you accept this worldview, it’s not hard to leap from one set of humans to another, forgetting their humanity and eventually your own.

I don’t care if you think Donald Trump is the best thing since Sputnik, this sort of language is attempting to create a worldview. We’ve seen what lies at the other end of that worldview — suffering, violence, death, and cold, callous indifference. Don’t ever go there.

[This essay was adapted and expanded from a Facebook post I made earlier this week. Also, if you liked this post — or even if you didn’t — you might like my post “On Patriotism“.]

Image header: CC-BY-20 Steve Johnson; Poster image courtesy United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Black & White 7: Merry Grinchmas!

Since we started the week with my cat, let’s end the week with a couple of his cat toys. My sister is a giant Dr. Seuss fan, and she got these for our last cat. (There’s also Horton and the Cat in the Hat running around this house.) Our last cat passed on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend of complications from congestive heart failure, he had been with us since we moved to this house with the https://onthegomoving.com/moving-services-bellevue-wa/ company.

At the beginning of July, we were given an eight-week-old kitten that weighed just south of two pounds. We have declared (since we don’t know exactly when) that his birthday is Cinco de Mayo, and he’s been a fixture at this house since. Therefore, these toys were passed down to him.

At six months, the monster had grown into what appeared to be a full-grown cat. He was ten pounds at a six-month vet visit. We suspect he’s probably gained a couple of pounds since then. Oh, well, we knew what we were getting into when we adopted a boy and a Maine Coon mix.

And all the toys are his now.

Merry Grinchmas!

(LJ/Dreamwidth readers: The crossposter I use for both these services does not attach the featured image, so you will have to click through the link at the bottom of the post to see the image.)

Prior Entries:
Black & White 1: My Buddy
Black & White 2: It’s What’s for Dinner
Black & White 3: The Platform
Black & White 4: Chairs
Black & White 5: Staving Away the Darkness
Black & White 6: Library

Black & White 6: Library

One of the things I absolutely love about Sacramento is its library system. There’s 28 branches and two million volumes contained within the system. The library was, as was much of the city, funded by the leading citizens of Sacramento in 1857. The leading figures included Stanford, Crocker, and Huntington — three of the four robber barons of the Central Pacific, who built the west half of the Transcontinental Railroad.

But today, it’s become my haven. I’ve visited all 28 branches in the system just to say I did, but part of that was also because I like exploring new places. The best trip was when we went into the long arm of Sacramento County to visit the libraries in the Delta (Courtland, Walnut Grove, and Isleton). Weaving along the levee next to the Sacramento on Highway 160 is a beautiful trip and worth the drive.

Anyway, finding a way to photograph the library without any people in it led me to this picture, which is about half of the science fiction and fantasy shelves at my local library. Since this is my favorite section, I figured it would be appropriate. Look at all the books! Check the best and some popular print types from our company.

The online sodapdf now has a new features, you can convert your files anywhere. Check full details on their website.

I ♥ books and libraries.
Read marketing automation definition and get a useful knowledge about business marketing.

(LJ/Dreamwidth readers: The crossposter I use for both these services does not attach the featured image, so you will have to click through the link at the bottom of the post to see the image.)

Prior Entries:
Black & White 1: My Buddy
Black & White 2: It’s What’s for Dinner
Black & White 3: The Platform
Black & White 4: Chairs
Black & White 5: Staving Away the Darkness

Black & White 5: Staving Away the Darkness

The thing I most like about Christmas is the lights. I like the symbolism. This is the time of year when the darkness presses most closely against us, swallowing up ever larger parts of the day and replacing it with chill night. The lights seem, to me, of being a way of shouting our defiance against the darkness. They say that even at the worst, we know the light will come again, that death will give way to life once again.

One of the things I’d like to do someday is to sit a solstice watch, starting from sundown and waiting all night, the longest night of the year, for the sun to return. It’s never worked out for me, but it’s something I’d like to do.

These particular lights have meaning for me. We’ve had the snowman for a very long time — I remember that he used to sit on the roof above the garage. He’s colorful, which is something that is missing from black and white. Then there’s Santa’s sleigh and the reindeer. And last, curled in front of the oak tree is the little Christmas trees.

I love coming home at night when the lights are all on. It feels like a beacon, calling me home.

et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt
And the light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:5)

(LJ/Dreamwidth readers: The crossposter I use for both these services does not attach the featured image, so you will have to click through the link at the bottom of the post to see the image.)

Prior Entries:
Black & White 1: My Buddy
Black & White 2: It’s What’s for Dinner
Black & White 3: The Platform
Black & White 4: Chairs

Black & White 4: Chairs

I spend way too much time in this room, mostly in the chair at the far end of the room facing the camera. It’s long and narrow, and when it’s a day when the room is full, it can get a bit claustrophobic. The weirdness of the room is because it used to be the waiting room and reception area of a doctor’s office.

But in black and white, it looks artsy.

(LJ/Dreamwidth readers: The crossposter I use for both these services does not attach the featured image, so you will have to click through the link at the bottom of the post to see the image.)

Black & White 3: The Platform

This is Skimbleshanks. I name all my laptops after cats in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and the prior ones have been Macavity and Mistoffelees. This is part of my larger computer naming scheme, the poems of T.S. Eliot, of which I’ve had desktops bearing the names of wasteland, prufrock, and hollowman. You can also read dad jokes right here for entertainment.

I bought Skimbleshanks in 2013, and even though I bought a top of the line gaming computer at the time, it’s starting to show its age. The nice graphic card burned out because the laptop had a heat problem. The ports on the right side of the computer don’t work because, in trying to release a busted DVD drive from the slot, I accidentally dropped it, forcing the little USB receiver that goes with my mouse which I had left in a USB port to shove the motherboard to the left. Most recently, I managed to spill water over the computer. Thankfully, it only killed the keyboard letters z, x, c, v, m, period, comma, right shift, and enter. That’s why there’s a second keyboard in front of the laptop.

Alas, money to replace anything doesn’t exist, so I’ll just have to deal with Skimbleshanks’ quirks and hope it doesn’t get worse. I hate not having a job.

(LJ/Dreamwidth readers: The crossposter I use for both these services does not attach the featured image, so you will have to click through the link at the bottom of the post to see the image.)

Prior entries in this series:

On Patriotism

I don’t like to talk much about politics in public places, and none is more public than my blog. Even though I have a disclaimer, I’m searching for a job and there’s some worries that if I disclose my political beliefs, it might cost me a job. But I can’t write about this subject without saying it. I’m left of center and a Democrat. There are reasons for these stances, but I don’t want to get too deep in those weeds right now.

Anyway. I want to say that I’m tired of the insinuation that because I’m on the left side of the political system, I cannot be a patriot. Even more offensive are the ones that say that I’m not a “real American”, when I can trace my roots to the Mayflower or, in another direction, the Bering Land Bridge. I’ve had ancestors on this soil long before this country existed. Telling me I’m not a “real American” because of my political stance simply ticks me off.

I am a patriot. I love this country. I’m proud to be an American, just as I’m proud to be a Californian. I still attempt to hit the high notes in the Star Spangled Banner. I’ll admit I loved poking through the airplanes the Air Force and the Navy would bring to the airshow, and cheer as the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds went through their paces.

From the beginning, we were a beacon of new ideas. The French Revolution — the call of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité — has its roots in the American revolution. A fledgling nation, trying an entirely new way of governing, became an inspiration for people around the world.

Where I depart from those who say that they are patriots is that I am capable of understanding that (gasp) America isn’t perfect. For all the good this country has brought into the world, there are ways in which we have completely failed. The stain of slavery is woven into our founding documents, and the resulting treatment of African-Americans to this day perpetuates that great sin. There’s the internment camps of World War II, taking American citizens and putting them behind barbed wire for no other reason than that they were ethnically Japanese, assuming that none of them were actually American. There is the way we’ve treated Native Americans, the ones that were here first. And last, don’t forget the numerous governments around the world that we’ve destabilized or outright overthrew. We have brought light to the world, but we have also brought hideous darkness.

No nation — no person — stands at the pinnacle of perfection. Even heroes have feet of clay. The United States is no exception in this matter. We’ve done amazing good across the world; we’ve perpetuated some dark deeds. How can I be a patriot and think this way? Very simple:

“My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

Senator Carl Schurz ended a speech on the Senate floor in response to Senator Matthew Carpenter’s use of the first half of the phrase. But the phrase has a kernel of truth that connects to something I was taught in therapy. I learned about the juxtaposition of two important thoughts: “I am good enough.” and “I can be better”. While those thoughts seem to be contradictory, there is truth. I am good enough, but I can always strive to be better.

I feel the same about my country. The United States is good enough, even great. But she can strive to be better — we can strive to be better, because the United States is the sum of all of us. Such is the nature of a republic.

I prefer to think of it as a thoughtful and nuanced patriotism, as opposed to simple “Love it or leave it!” rhetoric. But I am just as much a patriot as any right-winger, and I am not going to give ground simply because I happen to be on the lefty side of politics.

Black & White 2: It’s What’s for Dinner

I can cook a few things. One of the things I can cook is stew, and that’s what I made for dinner tonight. I promise it actually was more appetizing than it looks in a black and white picture. I experimented with potato sizing on this batch and ended up with a thick potato sludge, which means that I cut them too small. I’m still trying to hunt down a happy medium.

However, I hate stew in the very end stages, when it’s boiling through all that thickness. At that point, it turns into a mudpot of the sort they have in Yellowstone or Lassen. The nasty thing about it is that it spits boiling hot stew goop onto the unfortunate hand stirring the pot. I have to wear an oven mitt to stir. It’s crazy.

But it was good. We have leftovers!

Prior posts in this series:

(Note to LJ and Dreamwidth users: The crossposter I’m using does not allow featured images to come through. If you would like to see the post, you will need to click through to the blog post.)

Black & White 1: My buddy

There’s a challenge going around on Facebook to spend a week taking a black and white photo of your life. The catch (besides that it must be in black and white) is that it must have no people in it. I figured it gives me something to blog about.

The picture on this post is Winter, our grey and white kitten (he’s seven months old), who came into our life at the beginning of July and brought joy to a house that had none. He’s part, if not full, Maine Coon, and we know he’s going to be a big boy if he looks like a full-grown cat at seven months. (He looked full-grown at six months, but we know he’s got a bit more to go because his paws are still a little big for the rest of him.)

But he’s my buddy and my fuzzy boy. Okay, technically, he’s my sister’s cat, but I love him and call him mine.

Unravelled

No, that’s not a statement on my life at the moment, or a statement of my interest in the fabric arts.

It’s actually about a neat little game I’ve been playing called Unravel. It’s available for Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. This has been a game I’ve wanted to get since it first came out in 2015, but I caught it on sale for five dollars and pulled the trigger.

I’m glad I did. The premise of the game is about memories — in the opening cut scene, you’re introduced to a grandmother who is straightening pictures of her grandkids and sighing. It’s obvious they don’t come around much anymore. I’m not entirely sure why — if they’re grown up, or if it’s something sadder. But a red ball of yarn rolls out and from that we meet the character we play.

It’s amazing how simple the mechanic of a little yarn guy (called Yarnie) unravelling himself to get through the various worlds. He can use his yarn as a lasso, or as a way to climb back up into spots. He can tie knots to various posts, and can use them to make a bridge so he can jump higher or transport objects. To get more yarn, he crosses through spools, which serve as the checkpoints of the game.

But I think what amazes me most is simply the background and interactive graphics. Here, let me show you some of the screenshots I’ve collected. Read more… “Unravelled”