0003 Indera 08: In which I hang my head in shame....

Dear Kanukistan:

Please accept my humblest apologies for destroying your culture. In the spirit of internationalism, I promise not to get offended if you choose to ignore Double-Meat Day.


The Lapinian Consul-General.

So, I did it.

After thinking much of the day about very little at all—an unfortunate side effect of having had no available fires to fight at work that wouldn't have set even more alight—I decided that, gosh darnit, I really didn't have a good reason not to violate more human rights. So, on the way home, I stopped at the store, acquired the necessary torture devices, and came home and made Abominable Poutine.

This turned out to be surprisingly easy to do. Geneva should be notified.

I brought water to a boil, then put four red potatoes—about two pounds—into the water and cooked them for four minutes. Then they came out and went into a cold-water bath. After fully cool, I sliced them with an apple corer to produce more-or-less even wedges, which I left on paper towels to drain. This would form the base layer of the unholy disaster.

For gravy, I took approximately one tablespoon of bacon-turkey grease off of the top of the SOLO cup in the fridge and put it into another pan on the stove, melted it on medium heat, and added flour to form a roux, which I cooked until golden. Scraping off the remainder of the grease in the cup into a second container revealed a wealth of rich brown congealed turkey-bacon consommé, which plooped with a ploop into the pan with the roux and then melted into a very runny sauce. I added flour to thicken, whisking constantly, then added pepper and oregano to taste, then water to thin it back out when Jessie complained that I had made kitchen-paste.

Eight ounces of Swiss cheese got chopped up in place of curds, because QFC, while fancy, is not Whole Paycheck, and I didn't feel like going to Bellevue for an abomination. It felt a little too much like a violation of the Mann Act.

Frying potatoes turned out to be surprisingly complicated. First, I didn't dry out the water from the pan completely after rinsing it, so when the oil got hot, it immediately started to spatter, and of course I had no luck finding the spatterguard, so I just had to turn the heat down and wait, then wipe up most of the mess. Then I had the heat down too low for fear of scorching, which meant the potatoes didn't really fry so much as sog. When I did turn the heat up to medium-high, though, they almost instantly crisped up for their own good and turned the golden-brown I usually only see in 1970s-era cookbooks as a favored carpet shade. I spatulated them onto paper towels to dry.

The final combination was really just pouring all of the ingredients into a bowl in layers, plus some crumbled bacon from a bag from Costco, and a can of peas that I added specifically so that I could say I had consumed some kind of vegetable matter with dinner. The result... looked about as appealing as only a bowl of pepper gravy with Swiss cheese lumps and forlorn peas sticking out of it could. I didn't take a picture; I thought I would spare you all the pain.

The taste, though....

Jessie insists that the Swiss cheese is the wrong flavor—excuse me, flavour—and that I should've headed down to Bellevue to get cheddar curds. I, however, think that it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish. That's French for "what the fuck." Whatever it is, it's gravy and potatoes and bacon and cheese and okay yeah there's a pea here and there but it's gravy and potatoes and bacon and cheese and what more you ask for?

Of course, having intentionally made poutine south of the Kanukistan border, I'm probably on the hook for some kind of violation of a treaty somewhere. I can only hope my above apology and the threat of an orbital lightning cannon are enough to restore international relations.

I'm sorry. So very, very sorry.


0003 Indera 07: Son of Abomination

As I hope I've said before, I like snow. I do, really. I enjoy the appearance. I like walking in a light snowfall. I even enjoy tossing snowballs, and I get a mild thrill out of driving around and looking at snow-covered landscapes. Growing up in Texas, I never really had anything that people would consider "winter." The best we could manage was a heavy autumn every so often, with maybe black ice for entertainment, but real snow was a rarity.

Then I moved to Pennsylvania, and suddenly I understood what actual snow looked like. More to the point, I understood why people hated it. Six inches of accumulation on city streets will make them impassable to anything smaller than a duelie or a monster truck with chains, and I've had the good sense not to try to buy and then drive either of those. I did approximately USD1500 of damage to a Chevy Blazer getting blown sideways on a snowy road into a metal divider. Upon leaving the area, I was heartened to learn that, while "up the mountains" would get a lot of weather, Bothell rarely saw anything like that.

Of course, the year we arrived, we got precisely that kind of snowfall. I don't recall the exact details, but I remember clearly that one night my wife and my roommate set out for a quick trip for a computer component and ended up getting stuck for eight hours on the road, and that at some point during the winter we had to pack up some belongings and relocate to a hotel for three days, because the power in the apartment complex had died. Surely, though, such an event was a freakish occurance, not likely to happen again any time soon.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice....

As I type this, I'm looking at getting a good night's sleep, so that I can be in the office again for the first time in eight days. That's how much snow we've had this year. Three separate storms have hit us, or maybe one storm in three movements; it's hard to say. Either way, we've had between six and ten inches of accumulation since last week, and the weather reports I'm seeing say that we're supposed to get "a few flurries" next week. This after they told us that we'd see "an inch or two" last week. I am not hopeful. 

In fact, the weather was so bad that of the time I've been out, the office actually closed day. Two I spent sick because the weather had necessitated us turning on the heater, which in turn dried out my throat and nose so badly that I practically crusted over internally. One was some holiday that everybody around here seems to take really seriously. The rest I remained indoors, working from home, because our apartment complex is situated on the side of a steep hill down which I couldn't have safely driven the car even if my life had required it.

Not to say I couldn't get down the hill in an emergency. I could, surely. I would just likely end up on 405 South without having taken an on-ramp, if you get my meaning.

So, what does one do when facing the prospect of being snowed in? Commit nutritional atrocities, apparently. I think this is becoming one of those morally hazardous Lapinian traditions, like hot pepper consumption for Indians or Jerry Lewis films are for the French.

Some of you may remember the abomination that I created for Bandaza this year. In the end, while the flavor was great, not all of the chicken breasts came out done, the meat near the bones was undercooked, and most of the bacon fell off of the turkey during the cooking, which ended up making a mess in the bottom of the oven, as the grease-trap trick of folded foil underneath the baking plate did astonishingly little to stop the flood of meat juices. It was an experiment, well worth undertaking, but obviously "beta code."

I believe I've perfected "version 1.0" of the bacon-infused turkey. Call it "Son of Abomination."

On one of the few trips out of the apartment to secure supplies between snowfalls, Tanya and I decided that a smaller turkey, twelve pounds or so, would make for a good meal for a few days. We got an "artisan" turkey, which is to say we got a heritage turkey that's not a Large White. I'm not sure what breed it was, exactly; I believe it was a White Holland, but I wouldn't swear to it. I do intend to check, though, and whatever I determine it was, I'd definitely buy it again. At any rate, it was a little over twelve pounds and still slightly frozen when I went to bake it.

So, I got the turkey into the pan, and I thought about what I was going to do to stuff it, because I still had some stuffing from making a batch earlier since this has apparently become favored nibl around the Embassy for the vegetable-eaters. Then I found a package of bacon in the bottom of the fridge, and I knew what I had to do.

Recalling the Bandaza experiment, I realized that the reason the bacon hadn't stayed in place was, obviously enough, nothing had been holding it where it needed to be. I still had no pins or other obvious tools, but I did have an embarrassment of creativity, and I devised a fix: I wove a bacon "blanket" for the turkey, ensuring that the side-to-side strips were always weighed down by at least two lengthwise ones. The strips covering the legs I "tied" in place, wrapping a second strip around the leg at the thickest part and looping it over to help hold the longer strip in place. The ones over the wings, sadly, I could only drape in place.

The whole assembly I then put into a proper roasting pan, which then went into the oven set to 350F, for two hours. I then dropped the temperature to 300F for another three-and-a-half, at which point I pulled it out and declared it done.

This time, almost none of the bacon fell off the turkey. I think a total of two strips fell into the bottom of the pan, to become part of the drippings, which I meticulously saved. This roast, unlike its predecessor, was cooked completely, succulent from skin to bone, and infused with sweet and meaty joy. The turkey legs pulled off of the main bird without a fuss, and the wings did as well.

Now I just have to decide what to do with a SOLO cup full of turkey-and-bacon drippings, besides make the awesomest gravy ever.

I think this should be proof unto the gods that there is, in fact, a thing as too much snow. Though, considering that whole poutine thing up in Kanukistan, I'm not so sure.

Hang on. Fries... with bacon... and Swiss cheese... and turkey-and-bacon gravy....

I know what I must do.

Always one more try.... I'm not afraid to die.


0003 Ertera 15: General Trivia

So, as always, it's later than I expect updating this thing. I always start off with the best of intentions, saying "I'm going to update regularly from now on! Every Kimya after work! Every Pozya morning! Something, just... say something!" Of course, me being me, I get distracted, and then I get sullen and silent over the fact that I haven't updated, and that leads me to... delay updating.

Vicious Cycle: see Cycle, Vicious.

So, first, the all-important post-Bandaza update. The turkey turned out wonderful; The bacon stayed in place for the first hour or so, and then crisped up and fell off, destroying my careful entombment of the bird, but having imparted a good amount of grease and pepper to the turkey itself, which kept the bird moist during the rest of the cook cycle. Much of the chicken inside came out tender as well, though the middle of the bird and the innermost breast failed to cook to my satisfaction and went instantly into the trash. I don't know how many arteries clogged as a result of my dish, but I'm sure I've just added to the overall cost of American health care.

Of course, during clean-up I did manage to dump the turkey carcass, including the serving platter and all of the drippings, onto the carpet. Some quick work from a number of friends managed to prevent any unlivable damage, but there's a weird dry-and-flaky spot on the carpet that will need power-vacuuming at some point, or perhaps a good carpet cleaning. Most like, it means the end of my security deposit, but I never expect to get that back anyway.

All in all, ten people came for the get-together, not a record but a fair showing. When I told my parents about it later, they were shocked to discover that I could actually prepare a meal for ten people. I told them I'd served for fifteen once, and they were duly impressed. Maybe they were horrified. Either way, I got impassioned responses from them on the subject of my holiday meals. No real conversation occurred on exactly what I celebrate, but that's a minor detail.

Much of the intervening time has been, sadly, a case of "Work Eat Me!" To give you the best description yet that I've found to tell people what working at Big Pink is like, imagine that you're a firefighter working for an insurance company doing damage control, and you get a call from a customer who says, "my car is on fire but I'm late for my child's wedding or maybe it's my wife's first delivery; I forget. Either way, I need you to come drive alongside me and put out the flames so I can get to where I'm going without dying in a fireball or stopping. Remember, if I burn up, it's your fault!" Now imagine that every call you ever get is like this. Eventually, you know the drill by heart, and you get really good at fighting mobile fires, but you know that for every fire you successfully smother, two or three cars have exploded and one driver has simply stopped calling, and so you know it's all very urgent every time, but it's really hard to care about any individual case too much.

Jessie's been out of town over the last week, which happened to coincide with my on-call rotation, which has meant that my sleep levels have been absurdly low. I don't sleep well when she's not around, so I end up delaying trying to sleep until I'm too tired to do anything beyond crawl into bed and collapse, but three times last week I would lie down and then get a work call ten minutes later, meaning several days at work with virtually no sleep. This has made for some interesting conversations with my manager, to be sure.

Further Confusion 2009 approaches swiftly; I'm going to need to arrange the days off of work. Plane tickets are apparently absurdly cheap at the moment, so rather than drive twelve hours each way, we may fly it. I'll discuss the options with Jessie, but I'll confess that I'm having second thoughts. It's not that I won't have a good time. It's not even that I'm afraid I won't have a good time. It's that every time I turn around, it seems like there's some large expense that "we can afford just this once" that keeps me from getting ahead on my goals. Ghost Patrol was absolutely awesome despite my feet giving out and my general exhaustion, but the final bill came out to more than I expected. Jessie's enjoying her trip to her parents', but it was an emergency expense not in the budget that I could only just barely afford. Now FC's approaching, and while I don't expect it to be a bank-breaker, it's yet another bill that I'm somewhat loath to incur, even knowing I'll enjoy the experience.

Of course, I make this complaint knowing that there are people I count among my friends who can't afford to put two beans on the table in the same night. I don't know how to feel about that. I'm reasonably secure in my job, I have a good home, I have roommates with whom to share good times and living expenses, and I'm bitching that I'm not paying off my car enough ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, people I care about are literally starving. Part of me feels really shit-tacular when I think of it that way, but on the other hand, it's not like I haven't been generous. I just wonder if I'm being generous enough. Call it Schindler's Syndrome.

In more cheerful news, I'm slowly adding the back entries from my old website to the Ranch. I did a large lump and then stalled for a while, but I haven't forgotten. Nor, for that matter, have I forgotten the Nail, but it too has languished. Most of Fathera and the end of Ertera goes into preparation for the holidays, and frankly while Jessie's out of town my energy levels are usually pretty low anyway. Plus, work's been a beast through various on-call shifts and teammate vacations, so most nights I've come home, fought crime for a few hours, and then called it a day, when I could sleep at all. Bombarding hordes from towers has sucked up large chunks of my time as well. Plus, starting in the near future, I'm going to be helping to organize a puzzling event to be held in the spring, and somehow on top of all of this I have to help prep for All Fur Fun at the same time.

What I really need is a twenty-eight hour day and a nine-day week.

Is it any wonder I'm not crazy? Is it any wonder I'm sane at all?


0003 Ertera 03: Bandaza Madness!

It's Bandaza time again here at the Lapinian Embassy; most folks would call it Thanksgiving, but we know it as the Days of Plenty, a three-day celebration of charity.

The holiday actually started in its current form over a dozen years or so ago, now, actually. It wasn't uncommon among my friends in Texas to be from some form of broken home: divorced parents, estrangement, a lack of speaking terms, or just plain too far away to drive and too broke to fly. One of my friends, herself from Circumstances, decided at one point that, for all of her friends who had no place to go for a "traditional family dinner," they now could come over to her place. Now, at the time, I actually had a pretty good home life, but I ended up with a standing invitation, and I enjoyed cooking enough that it was always worth it to me to make a point of going over at some point to add to the potluck.

When I moved out onto my own, I took with me the idea of opening up my home during Thanksgiving for people who needed or wanted some place to be, and subsequently it evolved into a standing part of Lapinian tradition. In its time, it's hosted a half-dozen up to fifteen people, nowhere near the thirty that I would see in Texas but still more than I would normally host at once. It's been successful enough as a plan that I hear there's now a version of it starting up in Portland, and the Boston crowd has hosted one of its own for a while now.

In deference to some of the people who'll be attending who're vegetarian, I've decided to for the first time try my hand at poaching a goodly portion of rock cod in an orange spice tea, which I've been told should work rather well. I've got my directions, and I'm fairly sure I won't screw it up too badly. There will also be a small mound of succotash, a perennial favorite of mine that I'll even prepare when it's not the holiday season. My mother's cornbread stuffing will be in evidence, in two varieties: one with sautéed vegetables and one made with bacon grease in the cornbread. Finally, there will be mashed potatoes.

I'm sure those of you keeping tally will have noticed one of the traditional mainstays of the American Thanksgiving tableau that is missing. That would be correct. I'm not providing a turkey this year; I'm making an Abomination.

At least, this is what Jessie called it.

In years past, the turkey has always been the one part of the meal over which I've had the least success. Either I've overcooked it and it's come out dry, or I've undercooked it and it's been inedible. Last year, I tried brining the turkey, which worked out okay, but this year, thanks to something Zander showed me, I'm going with something... new.

A bacon-wrapped-chicken-stuffed-bacon-wrapped turkey. That is, a turkey which has been stuffed with bacon-wrapped chicken, which is then wrapped in bacon.

Photo evidence has been collected. The following pictures may disturb you.
  1. The criminal and her implements
  2. The victim, exposed
  3. Behold the first indignity
  4. The victim, engorged
  5. The encasement begins
  6. The criminal and her victim, mummified
  7. The victim, wrapped for preservation

Tomorrow, we'll decant this mythic beast and bake it. Tonight, though, I rest well knowing that I'll have something truly horrifying with which to confront my guests this year. Hopefully everyone who isn't a vegetarian will at least consider the option after this. The rest, may Dobbs have mercy on their digestive tracts.


0003 Fathera 27: Under Construction!

So, the time has finally come for me to put the breaks on the old diary and move into the twentieth century. I hear the kids today have automated linotypes, even. What will our calculation engineers think of next?

The real joy of the operation, as it were, is migrating the whole mess of old posts to the new site. I suppose in strictest sense that wouldn't be necessary, but the fact is that I'd like to have all of the history in the same place. This way, at least, people can search through the archives if they're so inclined. I'm even doing my best to tag past entries, though for the most part so far that's really been trivial; most of the old posts are about my transition, and so far the few which aren't have been about people who were highly important to me in the days when I was still figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I suppose that's only fitting, really. The whole purpose of The Bridge was to serve as an interim home for my thoughts while I underwent a massive realignment. It wasn't
supposed to be permanent, other than as a record of how I had changed over time. My plan had always been, at least in theory, that one day I'd figure out who I wanted to be and "cross the bridge." By the time the site needed a stylistic update, I'd have finished with all of the existential questions and then could get on with the Serious Business of living my new life.

Of course, as it always seems to go, asking the existential questions seems to have become my life, or at least a large part of it.

I take comfort in the thought that I'm not alone in this. The Founding Fathers, for instance, expected that the Constitution would be a document that got rewritten every so often, and they provided the amendment process as a tool for fixing bugs until the next major release. Almost as soon as it was released, of course, it became the new standard and since then we've been slapping patch after patch on a document badly past its day. I don't mean for this to turn into a political diatribe; I'll have plenty of time for those later. I'm just commenting on the fact that I'm not the only one to fall victim to this particular process.

I believe the relevant quotation from the
fortune file is "once is a bug, twice is a feature, three times is a design philosophy."

So, is the Ranch on Mars the "new identity?" No more so than the Bridge was the "old identity." If anything, the Ranch is an admission that I'm getting old. Another "big idea" that I had during the creation of my previous website was that I would write all these nifty gadgets and gewgaws to do things like accept comments and provide forum-like options to people. That led to design ideas involving logins and building a database to handle it, and coding up a front-end that would let people log into my site and do all kinds of cool stuff. By the end, it looked like the internet equivalent of a six-year-old's Awesomest Tree Fortress Evar, complete with ice-cream ski slope and sister-launching catapult.

About the time I started figuring out cookies and all that fancy dribble,
LiveJournal started making the rounds. I could've bought in then, I suppose, but I was still riding high on my brain-juice telling me that I was better than all those faddish types. I didn't buy a cell phone, either. And I still wrote everything in C. Everything.

Eventually, I do learn. It just takes me a while.

So, here I am, putting up the finishing touches on the new home. Now I don't have to do any of the messy backend management, and I can hook up all the gewgaws and gadgets to the site itself that I don't have to try to integrate myself onto every single page to get visibility. It just
works, which is more than I can say of what I had for nine years. Sure, it served its primary purpose, but in the same way that a cardboard box keeps the rain off your head in a storm. Yes, you're dry, but it'd be a lot nicer to have working plumbing and lights at the same time.


0003 Pyevera 05: Lapinian

First off, a Roast Beef-esque comment: "I'm the one who sucks." More accurately, "I'm the one who, in trying to figure out why she couldn't get her phone to connect to her home wireless network when she should've been sleeping, successfully screwed up her wireless internet settings to the point that the only fix was a reset to factory defaults, which she did again when she should've been sleeping, and in such a fit of frustrated pique that she didn't back up her contacts database first."

Short form of the above, if you gave me your contact information any time in the last year, I don't have it now. If you'd like me to have it, please send it to me. Next time, I promise I'll think really hard about waiting until morning before losing my cool at a piece of unfeeling technology next time. =x.x=

Now what am I gonna do about my problems?

With that lovely preliminary out of the way, two recent conversations have been weighing on me of late. These thoughts have been swirling around now for some time, and I've made some effort into encapsulating them and making them meaningful, but I'm not really sure that I've done a good job of it up until now. I'm not even really sure that I'm going to do any better this time, but I think I've dwelt on these concepts long enough internally, and so it's time to push them out of the nest to see if they fly.

The human brain relies on labels. We name and categorize, because verbal learning is something that we're good at doing, and because it's convenient for the transmission of ideas. Semiotically, we depend on signifiers to convey intent and meaning about the signified. I recognize that some branches of Eastern philosophy directly oppose this idea, but ironically I have nothing to say about any belief system that holds that to name something is to destroy it.

Unfortunately, as I'm sure everyone has experienced at some point, the map between signifier and signified is an intensely personal one. I'm convinced that everyone has, at some point or another, attempted to talk to someone else and, despite every attempt to come to common ground, failed to make sense of what the other has said. In this, I see communication as an existential crisis. In order for me to say something to you, whoever you are, I must first encode my thoughts, my signified, into a signifier, which you must then decode. Worse, in order to explain my encoding algorithm, I must use it. I can't share with you how I translate signified into signifier without... translating signifieds into signifiers and then trusting you to translate them back in the same way. No two people can communicate with each other beyond the extent to which their encoding and decoding routines overlap, and the degree of that overlap is the degree to which people can actually share ideas with each other.

This isn't to say that we can't learn to communicate with each other, but the process by which we learn to communicate is an essentially non-verbal method. We come to understand, through exposure and effort, the signifieds to which others refer when they use their signifiers, and we learn how to adjust our own signifiers to refer to the same signifieds when trying to communicate with those people. So, not only is the map personal, but it's intersubjective as well. When I say something to one person, I may mean something different from when I say the same thing to another person, simply because I'm trying to adjust for the maps that those people use to decode signifier back to signifed.

If all of this seems complex and convoluted, keep in mind that most of this happens at the sub- or semi-conscious level. We don't, for the most part, think about our language in this way. We simply pick up on these things over time, growing our maps as we interact with people. We identify those people with whom we don't share enough of a communication grid to try to make headway and we remove them from our social circles. We learn the trigger words and phrases that cause others to go into frothy rants and then talk around them. Very rarely is this a deliberate, conscious effort.

I should note that we do this with non-verbal communication, as well. Arms crossed, leaning forward versus back, hands in the pockets, the slouch, the scissorclip walk. We learn to communicate through our body language, our imagery, our clothing and hair. We project information through a broad set of signifiers, all aiming to convey a certain set of signifieds that we hope others can decode.

I'll also note that the map between signifier and signified is a many-to-many relationship. I can have multiple ways of saying the same thing, such as a smile, a hug, a handshake, and the word, "hello" said with joy in my voice. I can bundle a great many signifieds into a single signifier, such as when I attempt to convey both the sense of warmth and the fear of being hurt in the statement, "religion is like fire."

Now, in the past, this would be the point at which I jump in and say that my map is disjoint. However, it would be a very pretty lie. My map's weird, but it's got a pretty broad overlap with other folks. When I speak, I like to think that most people get a pretty good idea of what I'm saying. I couldn't make it as a writer if I couldn't communicate through my words, and I like to think that I manage fairly decently. So, it's not really a communication gap.

I think what I'm finding, instead, is that there's a couple of large but specific discontinuities between my communication map and others', and I think that these gaps are what's causing some of the stranger emotional disconnects that I've had with people. Before I get too deeply into these, though, I want to temporarily branch off of this topic and launch into more pop-cybernetics and show off my Throbbing Verbal Cortex for a bit.

I think that, when a person identifies with a label, there's a desire for that association to be an emotionally positive one. I won't try to claim that this is any sort of universal truth, because I've definitely met people who hold onto self-harmful identities. However, I think that those are offset by other identities that are worth the pain that those negative associations inflict. In this, a label or a signifier is really no different from any other association. We want to enjoy the things we have. We want to like ourselves. We want to respect ourselves. We want our identities to be things that we're proud to be, and we find ways to make those associations positive.

Identification with a label doesn't have to be direct, but it does have to be impactful. If I think of X as a negative assocation, and I like person Y, finding out that Y identifies with X is likely to change my opinions about one or the other, depending on which is more important to me. It's this kind of psychological impact that leads people to encourage the genderqueer and the abnormal to come out to their conservative relatives. As long as a given
label belongs only to Others, people and things outside our personal contexts, there's no impact to hold a negative view of all people who claim that particular label. "Lolfurries."

I could diverge here and launch into an analysis of why people who want to identify with a label will devote such time and energy to destroying others who openly hold it, the politics of shame, and the power of guilt. However, that would be a digression from my point, which is to say lead back to the communications gap I mentioned before. I don't have any personal association to a lot of the labels which are common to modern society. I was born in the United States, but I don't consider myself "American," and looking back at my history, I never have. I was baptized and spent time as an altar boy, but I don't consider myself "Christian," and again I don't think I ever did. I rejected the idea of nation-as-identity from a very young age, and church-as-identity even earlier. I spent twelve years identifying as an "Objectivist," though, and even now I try to rehabilitate the label despite my objections to the term. The collection of labels that I've self-applied doesn't match the set that most people I know had, and as a result I have very different emotional responses to these signifiers, so much so that it's caused communication breakdowns with some of my closest friends.

Breaking out my metaphysical soldering iron, here's where I try to draw together these two concepts and create something new out of them. I've heard a lot of talk of late about reclaiming language, of taking terms away from the mainstream and owning them. I'm no stranger to this idea, and in many ways I'm in support of it. The list of terms that I want to reclaim, however, seems to not line up with the ones that others want to salvage. I have no interest in making "American" mean something positive to me. I've got no reason to want "Christian" to be anything but a stone around someone else's neck. I can agree that "religious" needs to be taken away from the fundamentalists and the orthodox, but I'd rather not see it be used in any sort of unmistakably positive context.

Jessie said to me last night that, for the longest time, I defined myself by what I wasn't. She's right; I did. I was an activist from an early age, setting myself against the Other and defining myself as a constrast against them. I'm starting, however, to understand that I can't exist forever as a shadow. I don't want to be a contrast against someone else's vision. I'm tired of living in opposition to the mainstream, and yet as long as I try to absorb and adopt the labels of the mainstream to mean what I wish, I'll forever be someone else's degenerate interpretation.

The Lapinian Embassy started out as humor, an extension of the joke of international, interplanetary, interstellar, interdimensional diplomatic relations with others who Weren't From Around Here. What it's become, however, is something far more. It's become a label that, at least in my own map, I can own. It's the identity for which I and those I choose to involve can set the standard. It has as its forebears a myriad of others' fringe interpretations, but I'm okay with that. Martin Luther was still Catholic when he nailed his thoughts on indulgences to the door of the church in Wittenberg.

Jessie once said that everyone becomes a liberal at the point at which zie realizes that zie's different from others. It's in the nature of liberalism to divide, to separate, to evolve and grow and change over time. In this, I embrace these divisions, these separations, in order to evolve, not as a reflection of someone else's world, but as an embodiment of my own. I step out of the shadow of others, and into my own light.

I am Lapinian... whatever that means. =n.n=

All Clenches must schism.


0003 Radera 01

So, another month, another lack of update.

Really, it's not that I don't care about this thing any more. It's more the case that I get caught up in doing things and I don't really think about telling folks about it. I just don't "blog" the way most people do. Rather than talk about what's going on right now with my life, I tend to save up and dump it all out into large blocks, and then I forget stuff between when I start saving and when I figure it's time to post. So, chalk it up to use differences, more than interest fatigue.

So, this serves as a prelude to answering the question, "what has th' buni been doing for the last six weeks?"

Despite the removal of one user from my IRC server and the subsequent disappearance of a few others, the universe has not imploded, nor did I really expect anything like that to happen. I did expect a much larger hew and cry about the whole affair, but on the whole people seem to be pleased with the outcome. The community doesn't appear to have splintered, and in fact seems cohesive enough to assemble an anthology of short stories posted to the Shifti, though I'm not involved in the project directly. Still, things seem to be on an even keel there, so I'm not inclined to do too much rocking.

Anthrocon came and went during the downtime. I'm usually uncomfortably enthusiastic for AC, but this year was a little weird. Everything felt very last-minute, very rushed. Part of this was my own inertia; I didn't get the hotel situation resolved until the last minute, and we ended up having to change rooms twice during our stay in Pittsburgh. Part of it was a general lack of planning on my part, and I confess part of it was the ever-present sensation that I've failed in my own goal to have something for the dealers' room. However, as always, I went and had a blast and look forward to going again next year.

Of course, one thing that I've lamented for years is my lack of anything worth selling in the dealers' room. So, my plan is for AC next year, if not for some con prior, to have Beautiful World ready for publication by then. I'm actually further along on this project than it seems. I've broken the halfway mark for a science fiction novel—forty-thousand words—and I'm not yet halfway through the development. I've charted it out, and as long as I'm finishing a chapter every three weeks, I'll have enough time left to get the novel into publishable shape in time to get some advance copies for Anthrocon next year.

Unfortunately, this isn't coming without a price. I'm sure somebody has noticed by now that links to three of the chapters I'd posted previously have gone missing from my website. This isn't an act of censorship so much as it's an attempt to preserve the "publishability"—if that's a word—of the rest of the book. I'm not sure if this is an actual concern, but I'm in better-safe-than-sorry mode. This also means that I won't be posting any more parts of the book to my website, and when FA comes back up, I'll be removing some of the previous sections. I'm not entirely happy with it, but it seems like the best of a set of questionable alternatives.

Now, what this also means is that I'm looking for a shortlist of folks who'd be interested in serving as alpha-readers of the new parts of the story as they become available. One of the things I'll confess quickly and eagerly is that feedback is a large part of what helps drive the creative beast, and I'm making strides with generating that internally, but I'm also aware that other people reading my stuff helps me feel like making more. I don't think I want the universe involved in this process, but I'd love to have a pawful of folks interested in helping me make the book better. I'm not sure what I can offer right now for services rendered other than, like, autographed copies, but I'm sure I can come up with something.

In other news, I've successfully paid off the bankruptcy, which means that the thousand-per-month drain on my budget is now gone, to soon be replaced by a seven-hundred-per-month car payment, if my estimations are right, as well as gas and car insurance which should round me out to the money I'm presently "saving". So, no real movement ahead, but I'll have my own transport again, which will go a long way towards restoring my confidence in my ability to get ahead. Right now, the most likely vehicle on my list is a hybrid Ford Escape, not because I want an SUV but because nobody makes a hybrid station wagon that I wouldn't have to import and I can't afford to hold out until next year for some of the theoretical sixty-miles-to-the-gallon BMW or similiar. Plus, I can fit inside the Escape, or at least I'm led to believe that I can.

Speaking of fitting, the Weight Chart is back online. I found a scale with a 400-pound capacity, and I'm rather embarrassed to admit that at the beginning of the measurements, I needed it. The current trend shocks me, but today's lunch will likely change the direction of the red line for a day or two, mostly because I was in a hurry and ate faster than I could register it. That and portion control seem to be my biggest bugbears, but even there I'm getting better, little by little.

I actually weight to a doctor about my weight, and I learned a few interesting things I'd rather not have known. Rather, I'm glad i know them, but I'm not happy about them being facts, or even historical trends. Basically, whatever my weight was when I was eighteen, give or take two years, is my body's "set point", and most of the natural tendencies will be to maintain that number. Since I weighed 350 pounds at eighteen, I'm likely going to be fighting uphill forever. I've looked into bariatric surgery, but what I'm seeing in the latest reports is that it's a six-year "fix" that ends up not actually solving anything and compounds outstanding problems with new dietary fuckery. Most of the drugs combatting weight loss lead to side effects worse than the weight itself causes. So, apparently the sane goal for someone of my size and history is 315, which is ten percent of base body mass. I'm headed in the right direction, but it's likely going to be a long, painful road.

I'm not saying I'm giving up on the goal. I'm merely setting the expectations for myself and everyone else. Failure is likely, for reasons that have nothing to do with how hard I try or how much I want it.

That one thing aside, though... things seem to be shockingly good. There've been a few dips and wobbles here and there, but they're all things that can be resolved through talking and effort. I'm still not exactly the most social person alive, but I'm feeling better about casual interaction than I have in a while. I still have a pretty big back log of rants on various subjects, but the urge to drop trou and shit into a text file has gone down significantly in the last few months, even if the subject matter is itself fascinating. I really don't have any reason to bitch.

Perhaps that more than anything is driving the silence. I'm just... happy with my life, for the most part, and the elements with which I'm dissatisfied are all things on which I'm actively working. Happy people don't make waves. I'd love to be up for challenging the system and burning the world, but really, I've got it good right now, and I don't want to blow it.

Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?


0003 Byetera 01: Removal

Tonight, I removed WolvenOne, formerly known as Wolf-0013, from the TFnet IRC server. In a previous post, I spoke of a user causing problems, and a collection of users by extension that I considered to be memetically dangerous to the type of community I want to create. As a result of the previous altercation, Jessie asked him directly what sort of punishment he would impose if he were in our shoes. He suggested a moratorium on the subject matter from the user in question and that he would ban on the next offense. We agreed that that would be fair.

Tonight, he jumped with all four feet into a political discussion, and Jessie caught him doing it.

I didn't do this lightly. I didn't do this joyfully. I'm sorry that the situation has come to this, but I'm not sorry I did it. For many years, I have been a poor example of a community-minder. I don't own the dialogue, nor do I own the concepts or the people. I do, however, own the space on which the dialogue has occurred, and as such I have a responsiblity to ensure that my users have a positive experience. WolvenOne, in my opinion, was a net negative on the vast majority of people present, and removing him from the conversation is a step I took to preserve the health of the community as a whole.

No doubt some of you who read this and who use the service will disagree. This is your right, and I will not tell you that you're wrong.

In addition, Rabbit—Phil Geusz—has announced that he will not be returning. When the situation arose, he said that his honor was at stake if he didn't take a principled stand against our actions. We in turn said that our authority as administrators were at stake if we issued warnings and then did not act on them when our users made deals with us and then broke them. He said that he understood, and we accepted his reasons for departing.

To be utterly sure, I am not naming names in this post to call anyone out. I am not here to insult, deride, or harangue. I am not here to put anyone On Notice, and I am not here to incite riot. I am providing as close to a neutral accounting of the events in question as possible to eliminate the chance of rumor and hearsay. For all that we disagree on politics, I still consider Phil a friend, and I wish him nothing but the best. I will hate to see him go, and I hope that one day he has a change of heart and returns.

No doubt others of you will wish to do the same. You will also be missed.

Welcome to Rumour Control. These are the facts.


0003 Dalera 22: Censor

As some of you may know, I run an IRC server dedicated—in theory—to writers and readers of "transformation fiction," a fancy way of dressing up various ideas such as age-regression, furry and animal transformation, sex and gender alteration, and the like all under a common banner. The history of how I ended up the administrator of this service is long and varied, and by and large it's unimportant. What matters at this point is that the service sits on my server.

I bring this up not because I want to talk about the details of the service. I'm not interested—right now—in talking about the people who inhabit the place. I'm not bringing this up to talk up the quality of the writers and other artists who visit. I'm not even interested in tooting my own horn as an administrator, because Connie knows what a shitty job I've done of that. No, I mention the IRC server because I have a question to my friends regarding political philosophy.

This may not seem like an obvious connection, so let me try to draw in some of the missing lines. I like to think of myself as a pretty leftist sort. If you click on over to Political Compass, I'm somewhere around a (-7,-7) based on their quick test, and I've got no real reason to think this is that far off from true. This puts me somewhere to the "left" of Dennis Kucinich, who is routinely disregarded as a laughable nutjob for his "dangerously liberal" political views. In fact, it puts me around Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, quite far away from the political center and nigh-uncrossable oceans removed from what is considered "the center" in American politics.

What this means, as related to the above, is that I regard the IRC server that I run as a service. I don't expect recompense for my work. I do it because I believe that it needs to be done. I'm not now asking to be showered with praise, nor am I asking for money. I'm pointing out that I've kept this thing running for five years over three moves and multiple hardware upgrades. I kept the service going even in the depths of The Bad when I really couldn't afford to pay for internet connectivity, because I felt it was important to maintain the server for the folks who used it. This is my fandom, too, and this is how I support it.

Now, all this might by itself be happy backpatting, if not for the real meat of this post. I have a number of users who are, for lack of a better descriptor, bootstrap-libertarians. They, like everyone, connect to the server because they are members of the transformation fandom. They enjoy a good story as much as the next person, and they all do their parts to support the "scene," as it were. However, they—like any other normal human being—have interests that extend beyond the one single topic that unites us, and this means that on a fairly regular basis, I have a small but devoted crowd of people spouting ideology that is utter anathema to my own.

Now, I want to reiterate here, just in case it's been missed. I don't hate these people. I don't reject the basic humanity of these people. I don't think these people are bad people. I think they're dangerously misguided. I think that their ideas are broken because they're based on logical fallacies and untrue assumptions about the basic human condition. However, I've attempted more than once to "agree to disagree" and yet the topics seem to come back time and again, and I'm frankly getting sick of having to deal with the subject matter.

To make matters more... challenging... I find myself thinking of them all, collectively, as hypocrites. The users who understand the idea of a service willingly provided because of the betterment of the commons as a result, I accept and gladly. I wouldn't expect money from them, because they all know why I do what I do, and they in turn don't get on my case for not being the best admin money can buy, because I'm not doing this for profit. The BSLs, on the other hand, all spout at length about the elimination of government handouts, the evils of taxation, and the general stupidity of "liberals," and yet not one of these people has ever once offered to pay for zir bandwidth, nor has a one of them recognized that they're receiving a "handout" and left in protest, or set up a competing paid service.

Is it really so difficult to understand, that if I agreed with their ideals I would have shut down the server long ago as unprofitable?

One of the cornerstones of my philosophy, and one I don't think I've ever really gotten to state here, is that of the "transitivity of tolerance." That is, I am tolerant of any philosophy which is itself tolerant of other philosophies. I am likewise intolerant and rejecting of any philosophy which claims to be the One True Way. It is in this fashion that I lay claim to the mantle of open-mindedness while actively telling those who insist that they have a monopoly on truth that they're unreservedly wrong.

So, now we come full circle, and I get to the question I originally wanted to ask. Would I be out of line in telling the libertarians who inhabit my server that they're welcome to take their business elsewhere? Am I committing some error of judgment or knowledge towards that political system that would bring it back into the realm of "welcoming of other views?"

On the one hand, I see this both as memetic health and cultural health. I believe in a healthy state of political debate, but there has to be some agreement on basics before that debate can happen, and with these people I feel that there's no way to have that. Just as I couldn't have a discussion on the minutae of biology with a creationist, I simply have no means to have a policy debate on the extent of government assistance with someone who says that the government has no business offering it.

On the other, this is censorship, after a fashion. It may be healthy censorship, as any successful forum moderator has had to apply at some point but I don't want to paint a pretty face on it and pretend it's something that it's not. This is the elimination of a certain set of ideas from the public discourse. I'm not stopping them from forming their own forum. I'm not telling them they have no right to be heard. I am, however, saying that they no longer have a right to use my server to further their ideals. As much as I can tell myself over and over again that this is utterly consistent not only with my ideals but my rivals' as well, I feel like I need a second pair of eyes on this before I pull the trigger.


0003 Dalera 09: Patience

Today started with a dream:

It's late, and Jessie and I and two other people are driving in the darkness. We're lost, and we're tired, and we need to find a place to stop for the night. We come across a manorhouse, and the servant that answers the door looks at us suspiciously and tells us that, "the families are under oath not to turn away the needy, but tonight was a bad night for us to arrive." He assigns us each a room by giving us each a card and telling us to sleep in our specified quarters, nowhere else, and then in the morning we should be gone with first light if we can.

The two people with us that I didn't recognize received the same room, a "master bedroom for guests" with a king-sized bed meant for two people. In one corner of the room is a rope, and the servant says that it holds the chandelier in another room above someone's bed. They crawl into bed and are unconscious almost instantly, tossing and turning. He mentions off-handedly what a tragedy it would be if one of the guests pulled the rope loose in their sleep. As we're leaving, we hear a crash, and then a few drops of blood spatter the sheet covering our "associates."

Jessie receives a room with a single day bed and we reluctantly part, knowing we'd be incapable of sharing that space to sleep. My room is upstairs somewhere. I'm told that it's in the Topiary, near the Cambrai Hall, or at least that's what I think I hear. I tell the servant I think I can find it, and he looks at me skeptically but leaves me to wander the halls of this ancient house, filled with living plants and shadows. Twice I go up a staircase and think I've come back to the same landing as before.

All of the rooms and halls are labelled in small brass plaques, but what I thought was archaic English may not be. The word I heard as "Cambrai" is spelled with something that's either an abnormally stylized "final i" or else it's some other letter entirely, a short vertical stroke with a long intro serif, more like a one or a stylized seven than a letter. Now I'm starting to doubt what I heard, and where I am. I still haven't slept; I can't find my room. I find the Topiary, but not the bedroom I've been told is within, and I'm loath to fall asleep anywhere else, now more than ever.

In time, sunlight starts to filter into the house, and I start to hear voices as people rise. Twice I see people in Edwardian garb talking in the halls, and only luck keeps me from being seen. I'm not supposed to be here. Someone spots me and approaches, an older woman with red hair. She smiles when she sees me and addresses me as quot;Adama," saying it's good to see me again after so long. I stammer my way through a conversation, apologizing for being distracted and claiming I haven't slept a wink. She says she understands, expressing excitement at a "full gathering" after so long. She says she'll see me at breakfast in the main hall.

I say, "Thanks, auntie," on a hunch, and she makes a face, obviously annoyed. She tells me that she's tired of that joke and reminds me that I'm her cousin, not her niece. I blush and apologize, saying it was meant in jest and that if it stung, I was sorry. She's mollified at this and leaves me to my search. I find the bedroom, but now I'm too curious to sleep, and didn't we have to be gone at first light? I hurry downstairs, looking for Jessie's room or the others, but the house has changed. Her room is gone, and in its place is a long, open space lined with statues.

I start to panic, but before I can do anything an older man grabs my shoulder, spins me around, and begins to regale me with how wonderful it is to see the family's "shining star." He goes on at length about how he knew from the first moment he saw me that I would go on to do great things, that he knew it from my sculpt. I blink, and he motions behind me to an empty space in the corridor where he is obviously seeing something I can't. He describes it in detail, and others present nod admiringly. He then tells me that outside, everyone is "muddy" and "cloudy", but that he can spot a member of the clan in an instant because they're "clear" with a "shining heart" inside. My panic is at odds with my confusion. If he can spot outsiders, why haven't I been sent away yet?

Everyone leaves, and I ask someone in parting if there's breakfast. He looks at me patronizingly and says it's in the Great Hall, but that I should watch myself, as Brogan—I think—has it in for me. I follow the crowd, and on the way I hear someone say, disparagingly, "once a Mercedes, always a Mercedes." No-one's looking at me as this is being said; I think it's in reference to Brogan. I still have no idea what's happening, but now I'm more hungry than tired.

Sunlight floods the Great Hall and six longtables are set with fine china and genuine silver. Servants bring in food and start serving, and we all take our seats. Someone pelts me with a roll, and I turn to see a man—a grown boy, really, not much older than I— with a sneering smirk and sideburns, in a white button-down shirt, brown suspenders that match his pants and shoes, and gold cufflinks. I heft the roll as if to throw it back, but before I can a crash fills the hallway. One of the servants, in adjusting a heavy mirror hanging on the wall, has brought it down on top of himself. Part of the glass has shattered and spilled on the ground, the rest crushing him under its weight.

In a flash, Brogan is rushing to the back of the hall, reciting lyric inspirational poetry, and suddenly I understand everything. The clan is filled with hereditary mages, and I am apparently one of my generation's most powerful; I'm expected to rise one day to lead. The Mercedes family has long been marginalized because their power is weak, but they're planning a coup because unlike most of the families, they actually train in their talents, learning to make the most of what they have. Brogan Mercedes is my rival for leadership of the clan, not very powerful, but very showy and very skilled at what he can do.

Brogan puts the audience in thrall as he infuses strength into the family servant, lifting one trembling fist in a gesture of triumph. The servant groans and strains, and then lifts the heavy glass and silver mirror off of himself, rising and single-handedly returning it to the wall. Brogan turns to me, smirks again, waves his hand at the shattered glass, and spits a final couplet that fuses the shards of shattered glass into a heart-shaped mirror. The Mercedes family erupts in applause for their golden child while the remainder of the gathered clap half-heartedly.

A few elders look to me, disapprovingly. An older woman—likely an aunt, perhaps the mother of the woman with red hair—clucks her tongue at me and chides me for letting Brogan show off and prove he's got the gift. If I'd just lifted the mirror, I could've gotten the applause and put Brogan in his place. I smile back and say that I've forced Brogan to give away his method, that in his haste to demonstrate what he could do, he's revealed his focus, and that now if I need to face him, I know how to put a stop to his powers. This earns me some raised eyebrows and some quiet chuckles as the clan's next leader proves her worth once more.

That's when my body said I'd had enough sleep, and I had work besides. I could try to analyze this one, and there are just enough hooks to point me in the right direction, but I'm loath to spoil what was in all other regards this really awesome hidden-reality vision of modern people in fin de siècle clothing and magic and internecine feuding.

In other news, Jessie and I have once again surfed the Luck Plane.

Those who've been following the continuing saga know that I filed bankruptcy, and that I surrendered the house. As part of my bankruptcy plan, I had to keep paying the utilities on the property until the bank got around to the
foreclosure. That, as it turned out, would be a long and arduous process. They told me that, because I was still in bankruptcy, they were legally obliged to leave me alone and not contact me or do anything with or to the house or mortgage. I didn't have to pay, of course, and they weren't going to ask me to do so, but they also had a backlog of cases to resolve and weren't in any hurry to deal with me because of the bankruptcy flag. Thus, I thought I'd be in a state of limbo for a while, paying for utilities on two places.

One of the bills on my list of obligations was, of course, the combined water/sewer/trash bill. The trash portion of the bill was a non-negotiable seventy-seven dollars and twenty-five cents, and I even called to try to get that relieved but met a brick wall. The water/sewer portion, however, was a negligible amount, perhaps fifty dollars each every three months to cover the water that evaporated out of the heating system or flowed through the pipes to keep them from freezing in winter. I wrote off the bill every quarter as an annoyance, but not really anything I could fix for several months at a minimum.

Last Saturday, I received a bill from the Borough of Pottstown for one month's water/sewer/trash, not three. The bill amount was USD5977.20. That's over an order of magnitude greater than the last bill, for one-third of the time. The bill also tells me how much water that is, and according to the meter, I used 968,660 gallons of water. In a month.

On Thilya, I called the utility department and asked them to check the meter. The clerk said that she'd be glad to help out, since this was "highly abnormal," and that they'd call be back in a few days to tell me what the real reading on the meter was.

Bralya morning, she woke me up with a call at 08h00, telling me that she was sorry to call so early, but that she had authorized the utility department to turn off the water at the street, because "the agent that went out to read the meter said he could hear water running inside the house, and the meter was even higher than before." I told her she did the right thing, and that I'd have to call my lawyer to find out next steps. She asked me when I'd be able to come out and have a plumber find out what was wrong, and I took the five minutes to explain the whole story to her. At the end, she replied with a quiet "oh" and then thanked me for letting her know before ending the call.

My lawyer didn't have great news for me at first; the bill was obviously mine to handle, because I was obligated to pay the utilities. However, when I told him of the "running water" bit, he said I needed to contact
Countrywide as soon as possible to let them know there might be damage to the property and that they might take care of things, but he didn't leave me with a lot of hope on the matter. I called Countrywide on Thursday afternoon, but I spent half an hour in IVR-hell and then gave up.

Kimya morning, I managed to get through to an operator and got the name of the specialist assigned to my case. I then proceeded to get him on the phone with me, live, and give him a fast synopsis of the problem, ending the explanation with "you need to do something because Countrywide's investment here is at potential risk of damages." His response was, essentially, to tell me that anything I had been told prior about his company not being able to do anything because of my bankruptcy was crap. He said that, as my surrender of the property was in an approved plan, that was as good as relief from stay in the eyes of the law and that he was going to file the paperwork to move me out of bankruptcy status. He told me to call back in a week, and that I should be able to get through to general customer service instead of the bankruptcy department. They would then be able to tell me where to send the bill and everything else.

So, by Slacking off, I've been able to pass the buck on some kind of major plumbing disaster at my old property, sidestep a six-thousand-dollar bill, jump the queue on the foreclosure track, drop some karma on the mortgage company that would still be getting paid if only they'd negotiated a short sale in the first place, and leave a mess for somebody else to clean.

I feel like I ought to feel bad about my failure to be the responsible adult in this situation, but I'm too busy bathing in schadenfreude to care.

I'm into making lampshades out of the skin of "just his way"people.


0003 Yortera 04: Blur

First of all, happy belated Thilafa to everyone! Our cleaning came early, in the form of making Jessie's studio a habitable space for two people again, which is all kinds of awesome. Now I can sit next to her and yell at her instead of doing it from the living room! In all seriousness, though, this really has made a huge difference in both of our lives, being able to spend time together in the same room, even if we don't work on the same things together all the time.

The calendar isn't forgotten or abandoned, nor is anything else. Right now, the order of the day is... well, I'd have to call it "rebuilding," but that's not quite the right word. The truth is while everything is going absolutely swimmingly in terms of our immediate finances, we're still in a much more precarious position than I would like. We have no credit and no cushion on which to fall in case something bad happens, and I'm much too keenly aware of Coyote's eyes on the back of my head than to tempt fate and suggest that nothing will go wrong. I've done that before; I know better now. At the moment I'm socking away a good chunk of change every month, I'm paying off the bankruptcy, and we're doing what we can to watch spending without turning into hermit crabs. Negotiations are underway to greatly increase our quality of life, but little enough should be said on those until they actually come to pass.

Actually, the real reason I'm updating is because I happened to run across a piece of information that I think needs to be shared, not just with my immediate circle but out into the wider world: Labor of Love, a real-life story of a happily married transman who opted to stop taking his testosterone and become pregnant to carry the child that his wife could not.

It's unfortunately rare that something happens that causes people to reconsider how they view the world. Most people, confronted with new ideas, merely filter them through the lens of pre-existing decisions. Anything that causes cognitive dissonance simply gets rejected as "wrong" or "immoral." I'm under no delusions that this will do anything else, but I can hold out hope that maybe this will be the trigger that forces at least a few people to really
start thinking about the interplay of sex and gender, and how destructive these things can be for some people.

What is a male, really? We as a society, as a people, do very poorly when trying to explain this idea, this concept of "man" as distinct from "woman" or from "person." We hold up procreation, differences in thought and mind, historical and biological perspective, and all manner of religious pronouncement to divide one from the other, and yet in the end, we really have done little more but paint two rooms in different colors and called that a meaningful distinction. Is this really all there is to our view of male and female?

To be sure, there are underlying biological distinctions that can be drawn, and these should be important. Genuine issues of health and physical well-being arise when talking of how to treat one versus another, and these distinctions are non-trivial. However, they are also non-applicable outside of that realm, and yet we continue to try to propagate these biological notions of sex into some sort of meaningful social context, as though the presence or absense of any one of a number of physical or genetic markers is somehow indicative of a deeper pattern.

The problem, really, is not that we have ideas of "male" and "female". It's that we have so many different ideas of them and yet we have no way to reconcile them all. A person can be genetically male, hormonally female, physically male, and emotionally ambiguous, and yet this same person is expected to compress these near-orthogonal states of being into a single false dichotomy. Worse, many places consider this answer immutable, and almost all consider at most a single state change to be legitimate. Where is the place for those who simply can't answer the question "are you male XOR female" with anything other than "mu"?

Often, when these sorts of issues arise, I heard it asked if I think it's fair to expect people who have no experience with these issues and can be reasonably expected never to deal with them to have to change their worldview to accomodate the extreme minority that this sort of issue impacts. To these people, I can only ask whether they consider us worthy of equality of not. Do these people expect me to respect their decision to be treated as male or female, to not simply refer to them all as "sir" or "ma'am," whichever least matches their presentation that day? Or worse, to simply decide at a whim which to use, and change my mind and pronouns for them daily? Do they expect me to grant them their gender and respect their decision not to question their biology? Do they expect me to their their claims of being gendered seriously when they've never seriously considered the implications of their insistence?

When the assumptions of "what is normal" change, so too do the assumptions of what is polite.

And yet, even through all of this, I am left with the dilemma: how do we as a people overcome this normativity that permeates our culture? Do we even bother trying? Do we treat escape from labelling as a TAZ and revel in it when we can do it, with the expectation that we will all return to the Great Lie outside? Do we storm the barricades and refuse to let ourselves be defined in such simplistic falsehoods? Is there even a single right answer to this question, or, like gender itself, do we each have to make it up as we go?

I'd like to think that, collectively, we could make an impact on the larger society, and yet I have to honestly state that our chances of making any real positive impact are probably vanishingly small, while our chances of screwing things up for ourselves is quite comparatively large. Nevertheless, I'd like to think that, in small ways, we are making an impact. With every person refusing to conform to the expected norms, whether from a pregnant transman or a hijra demanding recognition of zir own sex, we're all pushing the boundaries of what is male, what is female, and what is normal.

I doubt I'll see the kinds of change I'd like within my lifetime, but I can dream.

If I could know for certain the real situation behind the curtain....


0002 Lakera 22: Court

Whenever anybody says "court," there is a certain set of images and expectations that evolve out of this. This is part and parcel of having a connotative language. Running strictly by the denotative sense, of course, "court" is really just a venue, a location where proceedings occur. However, far more than the strict physical locale comes to mind—at least to my mind; your results may vary—when someone suggests something is to happen in or at court.

So, that in mind, the experience of going to the "bankruptcy court" today was very little like what I expected it to be. This is not a complaint, really, so much as it's just something I consider noteworthy.

Now, it should be noted that over the weekend, I managed to throw off my sleep schedule somewhat. Again, no complaints in the slightest about it, so much as this is important to set the stage for things to come. I did my level best to reset things prior to Thilya morning, but it simply did not happen. At 02h00, I was still fairly wide-awake and tossing and turning in bed, unable to rest. I asked Jessie—herself suffering even worse than I for being circadian-deficient—to lie down with me for a bit, and I did eventually pass out, but when I woke up this morning at 06h00, I was quite literally unable to function. I managed to hit the snooze bar once, hoping the problem would resolve itself, and then to reset the alarm for an extra hour, but that too failed to solve the problem.

In fact, when I did finally haul my tail out of bed, it was solely because the clock said 07h25, and I knew that if I didn't start the process of getting ready, I would be late. My instructions all said to be at court promptly at 08h30, I knew I had to find parking, and I had to fight morning traffic, which all meant that I needed to be out the door at 07h30 at the absolute latest. Fortunately, I had laid out everything I needed to get myself together the night before. Unfortunately, I had left my laptop lid open from the night before and made the mistake of looking at something while I put on my socks and shoes.

I made it out the door at 07h45, scampering furiously up to Tanya's car to make a mad dash for downtown. Monday morning traffic was light, for a change, but still far thicker than I had hoped, and the whole way there I alternated between grumbling and grousing, still only a third awake and not feeling very comfortable in the only nice shirt I now own which doesn't quite fit because it—like most of my clothing—is too short. Still, I managed to get downtown in a reasonable time and I even found a parking garage across the street that promised not to cost a small fortune since I was there before 09h00 and could get in on their early-riser special.

The federal court building in downtown Seattle is quite nice, though it has the ubiquitous enless army of steps up from the street to impress upon all who go there that Serious Business occurs within, which always is a little off-putting to me. So, too, is the screening procedure through which one must go to get inside. I understand and respect the need for security, but here it was rather silly. You see, the inside of the court building is dominated by a large pond, presumably with fish in it; I didn't look that closely. Then, off to the right of this giant open space is a small walkway in which the police have set up their conveyor belt and their metal detector. Nothing actually prevents anyone from just jumping over the pond other than a desire not to get one's clothes or feet wet, and the likelihood that anyone caught trying to do that will be assumed guilty of something, even if that something is just a harmless prank.

I did think about asking the guards if anyone had ever tried it, but I was already down to five minutes and I still hadn't gotten beeped yet. Instead, I handed over my purse and my paperwork and my jacket and Tanya's keys, and then I went through the metal detector and promptly set it off because I had forgotten to remove Jessie's collar. Now, when I'm going to airports, I know I have to remove it, and I have standing permission to do so when I'm travelling, but honestly it's become such an integral part of me that I don't even really think about it. I don't take it off to sleep, or to bathe, or even apparently to get past a metal detector going into a courthouse.

Thankfully, the security guards were very understanding and let me get away with being wanded rather than having to remove the collar. They were less understanding of the can of soda I brought with me. They asked if I was waiting for a jury summons, but when I said no they told me that I couldn't keep my can and that I'd have to leave it there or throw it away. I'm not sure why a can of soda is a problem, but I'm guessing it's a bludgeoning risk or somesuch. At any rate, I couldn't keep it.

So, as usual, the bad kind of inspiration struck, and I asked if they had a trash can nearby. One of the officers said they had one behind the desk. I couldn't take the can, and I didn't want to leave it or throw it away while full, so I took the only other option: I chugged it. I will state here for the record that Black Cherry Fresca is very fizzy, as in burns-the-nose carbonated, but having already set myself up for a Bad Idea, I was going to follow through with it. The police started to applaud when I got onto the fourth and final tilt, draining the can dry in about ten seconds. One of them said with a smile, "you went to college, didn't you?" Another accepted the empty can from me and pointed me towards the bathrooms.

My lawyer called me as I was getting into the elevator to get up to the floor with the bankruptcy court. The clock said exactly 08h31.

Now, having gone through all of this to get to the courthouse on-time, I have to say that the process itself was... shockingly short. I was quite literally in and out in half an hour. The first fifteen minutes went to the attorney for the bankruptcy trustee talking about the proceedings, and then calling two names for people who weren't there. I was third on the list, and by 08h45 I was seated at a small table with my attorney, the trustee's attorney, and a clerk of the court taking notes. The trustee's attorney asked me a few quick questions about the accuracy and completeness of the paperwork, we made one quick amendment to the plan to remove a claim that Tanya's employer is paying but for which I had to co-sign, and then I was done.

I'd expected to be sitting in a courtroom pew all day waiting to get up and do the whole witness thing and see a judge and all that. The whole affair was rather... anticlimactic.

Still, I was glad for it, as it meant I could come home and curl up next to Jessie and get a nap. I'll still sleep well tonight, but I was a very tired buni still, and I was glad for the fact that I had taken the day off of work in anticipation of having to be sequestered for most of it. It gave me a chance to sequester myself when I got home, and I needed it.

Now all I have to do is... pay off the remaining debt. This is actually the easy part. At a thousand a month, I'll be free and clear in just over a year, and I can easily spare that much. I won't even really have to panic
too much over Anthrocon, though I'm going to have to engage in some fancy financing tricks to pay for the plane tickets while they cheap, since I don't have a credit card any more. That, however, is only a minor hiccough in the plans, and then we should be ready to go.

From the rooftops, shout it out.

Having been somewhat off-kilter for the last few days, Jessie and I had done more than our share of eating out over the weekend. So, we both agreed that tonight we wouldn't be going anywhere, or even ordering take-out, once we decided that it could be füd tiem nao plz. However, right after this proclamation, we noticed that, while we had many things that could be used to make food, we didn't really have anything that would qualify as food outright. We had a lot of ingredients, but no obvious combination of them that could be added up to a known meal.

Thus, it became time to prepare Emergency Food.

Emergency Food differs from Regular Food in that Regular Food starts with a known outcome, like "lasagna" or "chicken pot pie" or even "taco-don", then proceeds to the gathering or assembling of ingredients, and onto cooking and then presentation and consumption. The root of Regular Food is the meal, an end-goal around which ingredients are planned.

Emergency Food, in contrast, starts with a list of ingredients and then proceeds directly into cooking, with the hope the outcome will be some form of success. For those of you familiar with World Tree, Emergency Food is to sponting what Regular Food is to actual spells. You aren't working from a known recipe, so much as you're throwing together a bunch of stuff that you're pretty sure ought to go together in this fashion, but you've never really tried it before, or at least you've never written it down anywhere.

So, tonight's dinner ended up being Sponted Stew. Because it is sponted, you can't really have a recipe, but nevertheless I shall recreate the process by which this came about:

  1. Stare at your canned-goods shelf for a long time and hope that something eventually falls out that makes some semblance of sense. Select one can each of carrots, green beans, and peas. Consider the can of beets curiously, start to pick it up, and then put it down again.
  2. Ignore your mate's attempts at levity when she starts pulling ingredients at random off the shelves. Attempt to impart through the medium of a single wordless expression the idea that if she keeps you from cooking, she gets to eat cold cereal without any milk and maybe a can of refried beans with Triscuits for dinner.
  3. Remember that you have chicken in the freezer and cans of chicken broth on the shelf, as well as a blue cylinder of Wondra on the spice shelf and some butter in the fridge, which means you can make chicken with gravy and vegetables, which everyone in the apartment who is not a jackal with an anti-vegetable field should eat. The anti-veg jackal has already started a personal pizza in the oven and has removed herself from the Emergency Food process.
  4. Carry the cans to the counter and open them. Drain the liquid out of them and pour their contents into a glass bowl that you find under the counter.
  5. Ask your mate to come back out of her studio and get her to start making rice in the ricer. Grumble quietly when she suggest that the liquid from the canned vegetables could have been used to flavor the rice and retain some of the nutrients that got poured out. If you have Time 2 or Ruloc Tempador, send a message to yourself back on step four to save the liquid.
  6. Open the freezer to get out the frozen chicken and remember that chicken gravy really doesn't work so well; cream gravy works a lot better. Close the freezer and open the fridge to get out the milk that isn't there. If you have Correspondence 2 or Mutoc Locador, get the milk out of the dairy case at the store instead. If not, close the fridge and change your plan to the pound of beefs sitting in the door, since beef gravy works fine with beefs.
  7. Start the ground beef defrosting and get out some butter to brown it. Find a clean pot or wash one, put the butter in the pot, and then go and confirm that you actually have beef broth as well as chicken. If you have Time 4 or Ruloc Tempador, do this before starting the beefs to defrost.
  8. Once the beefs are defrosted, brown them in butter and then drain well, adding the beefs to the glass bowl and the fat to the can that you didn't throw away after pouring the vegetables out of it. If you had Forces 3 or a good amount of Creoc Pyrador, you can bypass the need for a stove here.
  9. Wash the now-empty pot in which you browned your beefs; for this, you may have to rearrange dirty dishes in the sink and wash your hands if you don't have Matter and Life each at 2, or else a good amount of Creoc Aquador or maybe some Destroc Corpador. Either way, combine butter and flour into a roux in the clean pot.
  10. Stir continuously with a utensil in one hand if you can't set up some Forces effects or else Ruloc Corprador to keep the stirring-thing moving in the pot to keep. Slowly add your beef broth to your roux and then stir some more. Did I mention to stir? Keep stirring it and add more broth, a little at a time. You may want to stir at this point. No really. If you don't keep stirring and add the liquid slowly, you will get lumps, and then you either have to go back with Time 4 or Mutoc Tempador and stir to keep them from forming or else you have to really Matter or Mutoc Corprador to get the lumps out after they've formed, and you don't want that, so keep stirring.
  11. Once your beef broth and your roux are combined into a gravy, decide that it's not thick enough and add more flour. You will need about three hands' worth of stirring at this point, and you only have two, so you're going to get lumps anyway. Deal with them as mentioned above. Add black pepper and oregano to the gravy to help convert the meal from "heavy" to "hearty."
  12. Pour your hopefully-not-too-lumpy gravy over the combined beefs and vegetables. Gently fold the ingredients together in the bowl, as you have just about filled it to capacity. Correspondence 1 or Creoc Locador can be helpful in expanding the volume of the bowl to make this step simpler.
  13. Discover that the rice is just about ready. If it's not, then you should have used Time 1 or Kennoc Tempador to figure out when you should have asked your mate to start the rice to make sure everything lines up right. Call everyone into dinner. Serves enough, with leftovers.

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