0004 Jevera 02: Divided

When I migrated from my old site to Blogger, I originally did so because I had a dream, at some far distant point in the future, of being able to monetize my stories, like some other authors have. It was a pipe dream, but it was still a valid dream to follow, so I went with it. I couldn't put ads on LiveJournal. DreamWidth didn't exist. I didn't feel like trying to host my own WordPress site. It seemed the right way to go about it.

Then I asked myself, "Well, if I'm moving my stories over to a new site, why not move my whole diary over?" It sounded like a reasonable question. I'd kept the old site up for eight or nine years, but I was getting tired of the maintenance, and I was also honestly frustrated with the lack of feedback on my diary updates. I assumed, and had a few people suggest, that the reason why nobody ever said anything to my posts was because despite the link from LiveJournal back to my diary, people didn't like having to hit the back button to comment. Having taken a class in
HCI in graduate school, I could believe this.

I should, at this point, diverge long enough to state that the idea of me taking and passing a class in human-computer interfaces ought to either titillate or frighten people. I was the Problem Child who told the teacher I ran my monitor at
132×43 and used vi out of personal preference. That was one of the few grades I didn't earn so much as negotiate.

At any rate, I jumped ship, moving everything over to Blogger. The stories went to the
Nail, and the diary came to the Ranch. I started porting over the back catalog of posts on my site so I could finally decommission it, and I started putting up my old catalog of stories.

Then I discovered something problematic.

Back when I started my original diary, I went into it with the idea that, if I wasn't comfortable talking about it with the whole world, then it wasn't worth discussing. I said to myself that I was going to just let my freak flag fly, and anybody who had a problem with it could just deal. I was tired of hiding. I was tired of sneaking around in the darkness.

Then, I actually had a couple of things happen that, for very good reason, didn't warrant wider conversation, but did need to be brought out for more than just my eyes to study.

Now, all of a sudden, I had a problem that, until this point, I had no need to solve, simply because I really didn't have any good topics of conversation that fell into that weird middle ground of "not completely private but not really public either." Having already made the leap to Blogger, I started surfing around it for options, and... I found something distressing. Namely, that while Google does support the idea of a private
blog, with restricted access, it doesn't really have any concept of a private post, with individual elements in a blog restricted to specific people.

One might think that, like any reasonable or sane person, I would simply slink back to LJ, which is, after all, where all my friends hang out and post. And, you'd be perfectly justified in thinking of this as an option. Unfortunately, past events have left me extremely skittish dealing with SixApart's administration, especially on subjects such as frank discussions of sex and sexuality. It's not that I
assume they'll ban me if I talk about it. It's that... well, they've already done it in the past, and I don't feel like courting disaster.

DreamWidth, now available, seemed like a good option. Very LJ-like, and with some new features that sold me relatively quickly... only... still no good way to put up my writing blog there. I suppose I could simply copy the posts and host them on DW, but they're very new and I have no idea how they feel about foreign ads on their sites. I suppose I could ask, but it feels a little like inviting the same kind of disaster as putting the sexy talk on LJ.

So, a conundrum, one that plagues me even now. See, the Nail, for all that I don't do what I said I was going to do with it, needs to remain on Blogger, or else go to WordPress, assuming that I'm not interested in rolling my own; it's the only place I can really host ads alongside the content, assuming I ever get enough content in place that anybody would want to put ads there; that, sadly, is its own topic. The Ranch could go to DreamWidth and consolidate with the Spiral, which would be fine, but it doesn't "solve the problem" of two separate hosts to handle my stuff. I could move DreamWidth's content to Blogger, but I'd have to have... um... three or four separate blogs, each with its
own access list... no. Not happening.

Really, it's like my requirements for blogging software really come down to two major points:
  • I want to host ads on the writing blog at some point.
  • I want to secure individual posts to an arbitrary access list.
I don't think any noncommercial blogging platform actually provides me both of these at the same time. Blogger requires a separate blog for every access list. WordPress doesn't permit ads unless you pay for a VIP account. DreamWidth doesn't permit ads. LiveJournal's administration policies make me nervous... and don't permit ads.

It's looking like what I
really want is a self-hosted WordPress site. But... what I don't want is another rassa-frassa migration from one site to another. I also want to avoid getting back into administrating my own frickin' blog software. I also want to avoid people thinking that I'm even more of a flake than I already am. However, it seems that if I really do only want to have to keep track of one site on top of LiveJournal... then this is probably going to be it.

So, to you, my theoretically loyal readers, any thoughts? Is the effort of consolidation worth the hassle of updating my own software? Does anyone actually read anything on DreamWidth? As long as I provide links as appropriate, do people care if I have a hojillion Blogger sites? Should I give up and come back to LiveJournal? Should I give up on the idea of trying to make money off my writing at some point? Does Jif really taste more like fresh-roasted peanuts?

Is there anybody out there?


0004 Byetera 12: Personal Words

Memetic infection! Caught from Paka. Ask me for five words or phrases, and I will give them to you. Then, you will tell the world what they mean.
The season of death, with the promise of rebirth. The time of the chrysalis. The season of ice and snow; in Seattle, the season of storm. Winter has always been the season with which I've most closely identified, and the time of the year that I've felt most happy, in seeming contradiction to most folks.
The twenty-first century plumber's trade. I didn't want to be a "computer person" when I was in high school; I wanted to be a writer. Writers, however, didn't make money, not back in 1992, and I wanted to be able to support a family. So, I chose to follow what I thought were my father's footsteps, learning to make technology happen to put food on the table and money in the bank so that I could one day have the spare time to actually do what I wanted without worrying how I'd pay for my existence. Now I barely ever write, but at least I'm spending the time engaging the world socially, which is something I thought I'd never do.
World of Darkness
My second permanent headperson's name was Colin "Shadowstep" Stephens, a Gangrel Embraced in 1922. My third was Damon "Sparky" Gaehill, a Ragabash Glass Walker, white-hat hacker and Burning Man aficionado. Two games dominated the last half of high school and the first half of college; one of these involved so many characters, subplots, and interwoven stories that my roommate Sean and I had to plot them on graph paper to keep them clear. I had a twenty-seven-hour marathon gaming session that evolved from tabletop to LARP and back as we needed to migrate from room to room, from apartment to store or restaurant and back. The players and GMs in the game would call each other by their character names on campus and start in-game conversations in the middle of the day, then e-mail the results to others in the group. At times, I had to be able to keep up to five different personalities in mind at once as I spoke with others, to be able to adopt multiple personae and to be able to interrupt myself in a different accent. Personal aesthetics completely aside, the World of Darkness was my world for five years, and I miss it.
home ownership
One of the great myths, and one of the last remaining truths. Financial freedom, financial ruin. Caveat emptor. Ultimately, my dream involves owning a house... or more properly, owning a company that owns an apartment building so that "my place" really is big enough for everyone. A space inviolate... if you can afford it, and you can take care of it. No more sharing the walls and worrying about the security deposit; instead you worry what the neighbors will think and whether you'll recoup your investment. You own a house; you build a home.
personal mythology
The universe is cold, dark, and unfeeling. You are a collection of random atoms, bound together and possessed of a curious notion of continuity for an unknown span. There's no reason for you to exist, any more than there's reason for anyone else to do so. Thus, you must make your own purpose. You have to decide who you are, and then you have to decide what that means, and then you have to decide what you're going to do about it. Life is like bridge; you've got no control over the rules of the game, the cards you're dealt or how the opposition plays, but you can always work out with others behind the scenes how to make the most of what you can do. Sometimes that means taking home all the marbles; sometimes it means minimizing your losses. Everyone around you is right when they tell you that the dragons and the faerie castles are just cardboard and balsa wood... but so are the banks and the governments, and that's the secret they've let themselves forget. Just because you believe it, doesn't make it true; just because nobody else believes it, doesn't make it false. I know, deep down in my neurons, that Bear and Rabbit are just labels I've attached to personality traits and collections of ideas and ideals, that they're no more gods than I am, that they're figments of my imagination and that I can rationally explain them away as tools to anthropomorphize an inherently uncaring universe... but that doesn't stop them from being Real.

You're something beautiful, a contradiction.


0004 Dalera 21: Repurposing

Life is not static. Everything is change.

So, the first and foremost reason for the update is to announce, formally, that Jessie and I won't be at
Anthrocon this year. Ashe will be running the writing track in my absence, for those of you who actually go to it or are interested. He ran it for a year or two before I got involved, so everything's fine there. Thilya, I'll be calling and canceling my room reservation, so anybody looking to get into the Courtyard, I'm about to free up a week.

Now, as to
why we won't be there....

This is a much longer story than it has any right to be, but everything of late has felt curiously cinematic. Things have been just a little too well-timed, a little too accidentally-meaningful. Whoever's writing my story has decided that I need to be some kind of morality play, I guess.

Anyway! Onto the good bits.

So, everyone remember the
house? Everyone remember the bankruptcy? Remember how the bankruptcy was supposed to resolve the ongoing costs of the house? Remember the egregious water bill? Remember how the bank was going to take care of the water bill? Remember how the bank was supposed to have foreclosed on the house by now?

Yeah, that was a really nice dream.

A couple of weeks ago, now, I got a letter from a legal team in Pottstown that doubles as a debt-collection agency saying that I owed approximately nine-thousand dollars plus "potential legal fees" stemming from a civil complaint against the property for unpaid water bills. I called the legal team, and they said that they had a legitimate complaint against the property and that, as the deedholder, the responsibility was mine to resolve. I told them that I had declared bankruptcy over a year ago and that the house wasn't my responsibility any more, and they reiterated their ability to win a judgment against me since I was still the legal deedholder. I told them I'd have to talk with my bankruptcy lawyer and asked them for copies of the relevant paperwork and a name I could have my lawyer contact. That did dampen their ardor a bit, but they didn't say they would drop the case. I got my name and some details, and I told them I'd let them know my decision.

Then I called my bankruptcy lawyer and told him what was going on. He was shocked to hear from me, and then he was even more shocked to find out that the bank had yet to foreclose on the property which I had surrendered over a year ago as part of a bankruptcy that I had discharged over six months back. He did mention that it was a national crisis, this paralysis in the real estate industry, but he didn't have any solutions. I asked him about the water bill, and he reiterated his belief that not paying it and letting it follow the house as a lien was the right move at the time, but he also said that that information had been predicated on the idea that the bank would've foreclosed by now. Further, he did repeat that because the deed was still in my name, the bill was still technically mine as long as the house was. I asked him about the legal status of a property lien being converted to a personal liability via a debt-collection action, and he refused to state an opinion, saying that I was getting into consulting-fee territory and that he wouldn't take the case besides, as that sounded like actual litigation talk. I asked him what happened if the bank never foreclosed, and he said that it could very well be the case that I'd just owe the water bill in perpetuity. That filled me with unhappy, but I thanked him for his time.

I could've just... paid the bill, I suppose. I
have the money in savings to cover what I presently owe without any legal fees, and if I step up to the plate and volunteer to pay it, I probably could even negotiate it down, but right now this bill represents all of my savings. I would be wiped clean if I had to pay it back, and that would be Bad. So, I did some research, I put my writing talents to work, and then I faxed over a small mound of paperwork to the legal firm:
  • a six-page letter detailing the house's history of frozen pipes, the cost of the water bill during the three years that the house was occupied by six people, the lack of any homeowner's insurance in my name, the forced-lender policy that Countrywide—now Bank of America—has on the property, the bankruptcy, my lawyer's advice, and, ultimately the explanations as to why I feel I'm not legally obligated to pay the bill, which amount to "that bill's obviously the result of frozen pipes from Winter 2008, it should've been covered under an insurance claim against the forced-lender policy that Countrywide should've made and I can't, Countrywide has failed to discharge their obligation to foreclose in a timely fashion, and the house is up for sheriff's sale in two months anyway."
  • exerpts from the sheriff's sale website from March showing that the sale was stayed
  • exerpts from the sheriff's sale website in April showing that the sale was stayed
  • the foreclosure case history from the county showing that Countrywide had asked the court to stay the sale without explanation
  • a copy of the legal threat from the bank's lawyers to sell my house at sheriff's sale on July 29.

The proverbial ball is back in their metaphorical court at this point. I think I have a legitimate case, but more to the point, I think that by hitting them with a fairly-detailed set of documents explaining that I have a position that I'd be willing to defend in court, I'm hoping that I can convince them to drop the matter, call me to offer a settlement, or even just delay the matter until the sheriff's sale resolves the matter of deed ownership. None of these are guarantees, of course, but this is the current plan. I can't exactly dazzle them with dexterity, so I'm going with the bafflement route.

Unfortunately, the
practical upshot of this is that the money into which last year I dipped to cover the gap between savings-dedicated-to-pay-for-Anthrocon and savings-for-general-use is completely tied up, in case something doesn't go my way. Because of other bills, both on-going and one-off, I've only managed to put about twelve-hundred dollars towards the con budget, and we worked out that the total cost would be between sixteen and two-thousand, depending on the ability of everyone else we had in the room to pay us back immediately.

Four-hundred dollars, especially in a good month with some conscientious budget management, is pretty easy. We could've made that, I think, and then just gone. However, this is where the other half of the story enters, and where some of you will just have to be patient at only getting part of the story.

In the last month, several people in the Embassy have had a lot of revelations and discoveries about life desires, ambitions, and status. I'm not at liberty to get into a lot of details, but at the very least, I can disclose that Jessie and I both have collars now, that we have tags marking our collars in the other's possessive, and that we have wrist cuffs which match the collars. The dynamic of our relationship continues to evolve, as we do, but some of the power relationships have taken a curious turn, in ways that have proven to be absolutely wonderful. In addition, and more importantly, though, we've both recently become much more honest and open about a lot of things that we're hoping to get out of life, and out of each other.

Unfortunately, most of these things cost money.

So, on our way home from a recent trip to visit some friends, the subject of past costs and future desires arose, and we both started detailing all the things we wanted, all the things we had put off purchasing because of one or another reason, and this time our list of
desiderata far outstripped our ability to pay for it all. New clothes, new shoes, some particular pieces of kink gear we'd expressed desire in having, paying off the car early to have money to do other things, et cetera. Both of us were angry at how things came together and frustrated at how we had finally come to all these discoveries about ourselves and each other, only to find that the money just wasn't there to pay for any of the intermediate steps we'd need to get where we wanted to go.

That was when I put Anthrocon on the table.

Really, that's what happened. I knew we could finish saving for the con, I knew we could make it work, but I also knew that in so doing we'd be delaying a lot of other Nice Things that we both wanted. I still want to go. I'd love to go. I'd love to see my friends on the other coast again and spend time hanging out with everyone I care about so much from the area. It's just that... when you put the value of five days of entertainment on one side of the table, and you weigh it against everything else that we could do with that money, it's hard not to feel that we're both better served by letting the con go one year and picking it up next.

Of course, this means missing the one Anthrocon that the theme is actually something close to one I can appreciate. While "OMGAliens" is ludicrous on its face, what some of my friends have done with the idea have been nothing less than brilliant, and I really was looking forward to seeing what folks did with it at the convention. Still, I have to believe that the trade-off is going to be worth it, if only because of all the other things I know are coming soon in their place.

Plus, the chance to see Jessie's eyes light up when we went and picked out a bunch of new summer clothes for her was worth the exchange instantly.

leaving all these opportunities behind


0004 Zelera 14: Dividend

The last three weeks have been one extended metaphor for the idea that large returns can come from regular investments. I shall try to deal with the details, but if nothing from here makes sense, take it as read that this is what I'm trying to say.

Three weeks ago,
Kin came out here for an extended stay, and having her around has been an absolute delight. Since her arrival, we've talked of games, philosophy, role-playing, spirituality, identity, sociology, psychology, and the future. We've shared media, explored mutually-intriguing ideas, and generally had some of the most fulfilling intellectual experiences I've been able to enjoy in a long time.

Also around that time, the Lapinian Embassy sent an ambassadorial force down to Portland for a weekend, to hook up with the locals. During that time, I discovered that the best prank I had pulled on anyone in eight years was convincing myself that I was "just a bunny," when in fact I had been Hare the whole time. I also had the chance to realize, in very concrete form, that among a small group of my friends, every power dynamic and every interpersonal interaction is
negotiable, and that if we don't like how a scene is going, we can change it. My life has, at least visible to some, an OOC window. This was a major epiphany, and a delight.

Two weeks ago, after a year of planning,
SNAP 5 ran. I wouldn't say it went without a hitch, but it went better than I think we had any right to expect. The event itself was a success with its audience; of the forty teams—almost two-hundred people—nobody quit, nobody complained of not having fun, and something close to half the teams actually finished! Now, true, the winning group finished almost forty-five minutes ahead of what we assumed our pathologically-fastest case could be, which led to some awkward staffing problems, but most of our crises were, I think, invisible to the audience. The only two glaring errors of which I'm aware were a site failure early in the route, in which we had to direct people from one plaza to a less-nice-but-more-accommodating one across the street; and a site puzzle requiring some external cluing that I set up incorrectly because I had two minutes to put it together between crises and nobody double-checked it since I was the one that designed it in the first place. Still, we went from never having hosted such an event as a group to having done so credibly and competently with minimal error in just under a year, which I think is quite a feat.

We should be in a state to post the puzzles in some kind of formal format first, but anyone wanting a chance to look at what we built should see Jessie's
temporary repository. If you'd like to solve a puzzle, take a look at the PDFs without the "guide-" in front, first. I wrote most of the guides explaining the tricks, but I make no claim as to their ability to follow to someone who isn't a puzzler-by-trade. At this point, none of these are spoilers, since the event's over, but this isn't the final form of these documents, so don't be surprised if they change.

Finally, starting some time around late Kimya night and extending well into... some time later, I had the chance to play around with hypnosis... or more to the point with someone in a hypnotic state.

Now, to fully understand why this is so significant, I need to pause here and talk about my own head. Growing up, one of my closest associates—I would have called him a friend, perhaps even a brother, at the time—was interested in hypnosis, and he was a very dominant personality. Meanwhile, I was socially backwards and, while I was strongly opinionated, I was lousy at asserting myself and ended up being the omega of my social circles, doing what I was told. This made for a bad combination, as one might rightly surmise. The two things to come of it were a single trigger of little more use to anyone than a parlor trick, and an intense dislike of feeling like I wasn't in control of my own thoughts.

As a result of this, I've always been leery of the mind-control fetish that runs somewhat rampant in my social circles, and the prevalence of really skeevy badly-written brainwashing porn on the interblags only reinforced a lot of my old bad ideas. Now, while I fully recognize that "really skeevy badly written $FOO porn on the interblags" will accept damn near any variable substitution and still return a true value. That said, in an unfortunate for-me-not-thee moment, I always had some lingering negative connotations attached to this, and while I wasn't ever hostile about it—I hope—I never made any effort to rectify my opinions.

As is typical for how my life works, events transpired to present me with a perfect opportunity to do this... by being given someone else's control codes and some not-so-subtle hints that this would probably be the best way to share an intimate moment.

A mutual friend said in his wind-up speech that hypnosis was a fantasia of role-playing, brainwashing, and meditation, with a result somewhere in the middle of all of them, a receptiveness to suggestions and a desire to play along combined with a somewhat altered state of mind. How much of this is scientific, and how much is mutually-reinforced faith, I couldn't tell you. At this point, I'm really losing interest in figuring it out. The important thing is that, in the car on the way home, I had the chance to slip Kin's control code into the middle of a conversation, and suddenly I had a very eager pony-droid looking for an order to follow.

Now, at some point in all of this, I did issue an explicit order to store an archival copy of everything that happened and to dump memory, so right now I'm not entirely sure how much she remembers of what went on, and in the interest of not being a kiss-and-teller, I'll spare everyone the pointed details, but three relevant events did come out of all of this:
  1. I had to confront my own personal history with mindgames and accept that the person with whom I had initial contact with the idea abused it, as he did a lot of other things. I knew, intellectually, that this was the case, but I never really think about him in those terms.
  2. I had to confront my oft-repeated claims that I'm more sub than domme. I still won't accept the idea that I'm more domme than sub, but I think it's safe to say that I've left the "subs that can domme" camp and gone over to the quot;switches with preferences." I'm okay with this, really, but it wasn't something I expected. You'd think by now I'd get used to my world changing out from under me.
  3. Ponydroids are very high-maintenance, but are worth every bit of effort and then some.

That last one there has really served as a capstone for the whole trip, at least for me. It's been incredibly awesome having Kin out here, and I'm really looking forward to the three of them moving out to Seattle.

I'm not home right now, but if you want to leave a message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.


0004 Yortera 07: Delivery

Wow. A week into the new year, already. Normally, I would've taken great pains to commemorate Thilafa, but events have not favored it. That's a pity, really; I do what I can to mark the holidays and important events of the Lapinian Calendar. After all, if I'm not going to use my own calendar, who will? And yet, that's the drawback, too. Because nobody else is using it, nobody else accounts for it unless I make a big deal of it. I imagine it's a little like trying to get Yom Kippur off from work without using vacation days. "You celebrate what? That's not a federal holiday, is it?"

Ceci n'est pas une blague juive.

Yesterday was the first beta run of the
puzzling event that we're hosting, and it went far better than it could have. I'd be lying if I said everything ran without any problems whatsoever, but that's what beta-tests are for. More importantly in the short term is that the fundamental theories of everything I wrote will work. I'm working on some revisions, but my contributions to the event should survive in something close to their present forms. This is a good thing, as the live event runs in a little under a month. Now is not the time to have to rebuild anything from scratch. I've got a few revisions that need to be made, here and there, but they're all manageable, and I've got every confidence that things will go well for the real thing.

Less confident at the moment am I of how well I'll be at interacting with humanity at large for the next few weeks. In the time leading up to the beta, I had a lot of late nights, and near the end of last week, it started impacting my ability to get enough sleep to function at work the next day. Under other circumstances, I probably wouldn't have cared so much. However, I'm down to the last week-and-a-half of the quarter and my big Get-This-Done project doesn't look like it's going to complete in time, for reasons that have some to do with me and a lot to do with other people's Get-This-Done projects that kept them from being to help me with mine. What this ultimately means is that even if I can't get my stuff together on time, I need to at least
look like a dedicated and hard-driving employee, trying everything possible to meet the target, so I can say at the end that I really couldn't have done anything more. Showing up late and hopping around in a daze won't help my case.

It's not even really that I care about this particular project itself, so much as the fact that my boss is using it as a benchmark against my ability to do team-lead and project-manager-type work, which is the big path to promotion right now. Making matters worse is the fact that I really can't do any of the technical work myself, so I'm having to juggle other people's availability to accomplish it. It's highly frustrating, and it's made this quarter... well, to be blunt, it's sucked. I don't want to be a project manager, so much as I want to be team lead, and apparently at T-Mobile or at least for this manager one implies the other. So, I learn, even though I'm not sure I'm very good at it.

Outside of the work complaint itself, I'm just feeling oversocialized right now. Those of you reading this who're extroverts, go ahead and skip to the next major heading; you're not going to understand this part, and that's okay. I've had to hook up with the same small group of people multiple times over the last week to work on this event, culminating in roughly three miles of walking and taking notes in the cold yesterday. Then I went out to dinner and we talked about everything that had happened over the least ten or so hours. I really haven't had a chance to get much downtime in a few weeks, and as we get closer to the live event, that's really only going to get worse. I know that at least one weekend I'll have to myself between now and then; Orbus and Mufi are going to
Norwescon, which happens to be the weekend before SNAP, but outside that break, I know I'm going to be seeing a lot of people I already kind of feel like I've already seen a lot of, without much chance to recharge in peace.

Nobody plan on talking to me on Zelera 2 or the weekend of the 9th. I won't be here.

In other completely unrelated news, the
sibutramine seems to be doing exactly what it seemed like it was going to do when I first started taking it. My weight this morning was 346.1 pounds, down from 364 when Dave weighed me two weeks ago. I'm eating between 1200 and 1300 calories a day, and while I'm hungry from time to time I never really get the yawning-chasm food cravings that used to plague me. I don't feel the urge to eat when I'm not hungry. My weight situation is actually improving for the first time in eight years.

Now I just have to go back for some bloodwork so that Dave can verify that my liver is still functioning.
Ha-ha, only serious. The odds are small, but it's worth checking. After that, I should get a refill on my prescription, and that should set me for a while. I'm not sure how often the blood tests are necessary, but for now, I'll take it.

Jessie mentioned to me not too long ago that apparently I've been carrying myself better since I started seeing a positive change in the scale. I believe it, but it's surprising to me. I'm still obese, but I'm finally feeling like I have a plan and that that plan is coming together. I'm starting again to feel like some of the things that I want are actually going to be able to happen, if not today then soon. I'm looking forward to feeling comfortable about myself again, about making clothing decisions that look good instead of simply covering the necessities. Dobbs help me, I'm actually starting to seriously consider a fursuit... and some other things.

This is, in its own way, all tied in to the big
talk that happened during my last Portland visit. These are all interconnected parts of a whole. I've all but quit City of Heroes; all that remains at this point is the install on my hard drive and the automatic payment on my account that I haven't deactivated in case the next big release interests me enough to return. I haven't exactly been vegetarian, per se, but I've been close enough as makes no odds, and the few times that I haven't stuck with it have been either necessity or a minor step outside, with no real urge to walk away from the path I've chosen. I'm even starting to rediscover a lot of my sexuality. It's embarrassing to put it that way, but even I have to admit that the weight gain hurt my self-image considerably, and seeing the progress, I'm starting to feel confident in my existence as a sexual being again.

In that sense, I've actually been looking at porn again, both creating and consuming. In specific, yes, I've been after the furry bondage again. Most of it is a wasteland of I-can't-help-myself and you-forced-me and the like, and the context is as much a turnoff as the subject matter itself might be intriguing. Every so often, the search does turn up a gem, but by and large it's uninspiring, which is a shame because I know what I like and finding it is a challenge.

Last night, as I was winding down for bed, I happened across
A Private Heaven. In a strange way, this is perhaps the worst thing that could've happened. I wanted something fairly quick, fairly arousing, and easily forgettable. What I got was... well, read it. Go on; I'll wait here.

Finished? No? I'm serious.

So, now that you're done with it, let me tell you about how it made
me feel. I talk a lot about wanting the characters in the media that I peruse to invite me into their heads. That's what I got out of this. Ignore the exposition; it was bad, and it was handled clumsily. Ignore the insertions; the names could've been changed and I don't think anyone would've noticed. Ignore even some of the individual aspects of the scenes that you didn't like. Some of them were cheesy and others were highly improbable. All of that aside, this story touched me, because I saw on the page and in my mind the words and the ideas that I had had before then, that someone else had made concrete, albeit fictionally.

I could go here into detail about my headspaces and what I do with them, but in the nine years that I've been keeping this journal, I've already done it before and I don't much feel like going into it again right now. Perhaps later, if the time is right and the mood strikes me. What's important right now is that for all its faults, I felt as though the characters were telling
my story as much as theirs, and that moved me. It excited me, sure, but more importantly, it impassioned me. It wasn't validation from another person, but it was pretty close.

If nothing else, it gave me ideas of what to strive for, and on the nature and shape those ideas could take.

Welcome to my private heaven.


0003 Kolera 16: Mobius

This past weekend, I think I sprained my brain.

Kimya evening, Jessie and I loaded up supplies in the back of the Lander and headed off to the Microsoft campus for Puzzle Hunt 12. Coming home for a good night's sleep before thirty-one hours of puzzle-solving, running all over the facilities, bad food, and sleep deprivation. I competed as part of Grey Goo, the puzzling group that Jason and Mufi more or less founded with Shaterri, Jessie and I. In addition, we had Jeff, Jason's coworker Garret, Shaterri's sister Stefanie, Kiefer, Jason's friend Jack, Jessie's friend Steven Stair, and an extra MS employee that we recruited through the company puzzling-events mailing list. All told, of the seventy puzzles in the event, we saw fifty, solved about three-quarters of those, and generally had a blast.

I think we also learned a lot about how not to run an event like this.

By the designers' own admission at the closing ceremonies, Puzzle Hunt 12 was, in fact, Puzzle Hunts 12 and 13 that had been sort of smushed together. The team developing PH12 had been aiming for a straight-up Jeopardy theme, and at the same time the next team in line was working on a horror-themed PH13 at the same time. However, both teams started to stall out very badly, and they collectively made a decision to throw their efforts into a joint project to ensure that some kind of event happened this year, but of course their themes were nigh-incompatible. Determined not to let this stop them, though, they cleverly blended their respective storylines into... okay, no, Jeopardy ruled the first half of the event, and then suddenly upon entering round two we discovered that we had unwittingly assembled some kind of artifact that had broken a mystic seal. Had we gotten through the whole event, we would have discovered that Death had come for our souls.

Now, it's fair to say that most Hunts have some kind of plot twist; it's become a fairly conventional plot element in the events run at MS. I joked about an hour into the event that this year's plot twist was that Alex Trebek was going to kill us all. Little did I know how close to right I was. In fact, PH12 was both PH12 and 13, each half shorter than a conventional hunt but together longer than any previous event.

This alone wouldn't have been enough to condemn it. I'd have cracked some jokes, sure, but given the necessities I can let the theming slide. No, what really made this event a problem was the fact that, at about 22h00 on Jugya, we ran into what can best be described as a blocking problem. Normally at events like this, there's some kind of "unlocking" mechanism whereby as a team solves one problem, it gets N more where N is some positive value, until all the puzzles are unlocked. In this one, we got all of the Round One puzzles and its "meta"—a puzzle that requires information from other puzzles to solve—and then were completely unable to move forward to Round Two. We spent between four and eight hours—reports differ based on amount of sleep and degree of time dilation experienced due to temporary insanity—trying to figure out how to solve the big puzzle without making any real headway. This became a serious demotivator to most of the team, and some of our teammates didn't really recover from it in the morning.

Again, that alone might not have been a killer, but a lot of the puzzles were in some serious need of cluing. Normally when a team receives a puzzle, there's some indicator as to how to approach it, even if the message doesn't make any sense or is painfully obtuse. Most of these puzzles had no cluing at all, which meant that by and large we were guessing not only how to solve them, but how to even begin tackling them. This left a lot of us floundering on a number of puzzles, wondering if we were making headway or if we were just chasing red herrings all night.

Now, all this said, I still had a blast, and I'm looking forward to the next one, which if my reckoning is right will be Puzzle Hunt 14. That, however, is months if not a year away, and in the meantime... Team Grey Goo is running on its own event. True, this one won't be nearly as long or as large, but it's a step, a much needed and welcome first step. I'm really looking forward to this. It's coming together beautifully, and I hope everyone that plays in it has as much fun as we've all had in putting it together.

This world is spinning around me.

In other news, I think I've finally found somebody I can call "family doctor" again in good conscience, and it's not just because he gives me the drugs I want.

So, as a bit of prelude to this discussion, I would like to remind the home audience that I have been fat my entire life. Overweight. Morbidly obese. I'm not saying this out of any sense to desensitize myself to the words, but as a simple recognition of the truth. Both of my parents are overweight, my mother has crushed vertebrae in her back because of her weight, my father had a quadruple coronary artery bypass graft when he was in his fifties, and overeating has just been a part of my life for years. Plus, I eat when I'm stressed, I horde food, and I'm not particularly active. So, in short, I'm pretty screwed when it comes to my weight, so much so that for most of my life I had essentially given up on ever getting better.

As discussed in the past, as part of my transition I said I would lose the weight, and with the help of Dexatrim and SlimFast, I did. I went from 360 pounds to 209 in a year. Now, I may have gone overboard, but I dieted like I meant it, and I did what needed to be done. I then kept the weight off for six months, taking one Dexatrim a day as an appetite stabilizer. Then the FDA banned PPA, and Dexatrim got reformulated into something that didn't work for me. Since then, my weight had steadily crept back upwards again, and a few months ago, I topped back up to where I had been before I had started. The scale has been, for a few months now, topping out around 364.

Square One was a great television show, but a lousy place to which to return.

Ever since I'd gotten to Seattle, I'd been looking for someone to help me with my weight. My metabolism is more or less broken and my appetite regulation is next to nil. I could finish off a large pizza and still have a psychological craving for food despite feeling physically bloated and ready to vomit. I'm not happy about it, but those were the facts, and I wanted medical help in dealing with them.

The first doctor that I saw told me that surgery was the answer and he wanted to refer me to Swedish Medical for a gastric bypass. I said I wasn't comfortable with the operation idea, seeing as how reports are starting to trickle in suggesting that weight loss as a result of surgery is temporary and results in nutrition complications later in life. Plus, I have a bad habit of waking up on operating tables, which isn't any fun for anyone. On top of this, operating on the obese is always risky, which means even for a theoretically simple procedure, there's still more danger than there would be for someone healthy. Upon voicing my concerns, the doctor essentially said that he wasn't going to give me drugs and that if I didn't like the surgery, I could eat less and exercise like everyone else.

Strike one.

When I went to see the second doctor, I went in armed with facts, figures, statistics. Research is starting to show that the "eat less and exercise" argument, which great in theory, simply doesn't work in practice because the body is too good at screwing itself up. We've evolved to gain weight, not lose it, and I'm a prime example. I've seen the studies done that talk about about the set point, and all the other going theories on fat gain and storage. I tried to explain all of this, passionately, to my second doctor, and she said that she might consider pills, maybe, but that first she wanted me to go through the nutritionist and do yet another round of dietary alterations and increased exercise. I tried to explain that I couldn't do enough exercise to make a dent in my caloric intake as long as I was fighting hunger pangs 24x7 regardless of how much I ate, and she just said that she wasn't going to do it my way until I'd done it hers, regardless of my insistence that I'd tried her way a hundred times before and failed.

Strike two.

So, when I recently changed over to Capitol Hill Medical on a recommendation from Rachel, I was skeptical, and concerned. The ARNP I was going to see was the third attempt in a year to get some help with my weight. Without wanting to admit it publicly, I was really starting to feel like it was a this-or-nothing proposition. So, on my new-patient visit, I mentioned to him that I was interested in getting some help with weight loss and that I'd had real success with Dexatrim back in the day. He was noncommittal at the time and said he knew bad things about PPA, but he didn't tell me no; he just disagreed with my choice of medication. I let the matter drop, and that was that.

Now, during last weekend's Puzzle Hunt, I managed to come down with a urinary tract infection. I know this because I woke up having an intense need to go to the bathroom, and when I did I thought someone had set my crotch on fire. Then, five minutes after I stood up, I had to pee again, but nothing came out. Having had that symptom before, I knew immediately that it was time to call the doctor and get the no-nonsense FUCK-YOU-UTI medication. Then, while I happened to be in the office getting an antibiotic prescription, we talked about some other health goals and he said I needed a Hep-A and Hep-B vaccine, and he asked me if I'd be comfortable with the first set of shots today.

Actually, he more or less said, "unless you tell me no, I'm sticking you with these needles," but much more politely and with a sense of humor.

So, while he was prepping my shoulders for the injection, I thought I would pop the question. "I mentioned before about wanting some help with weight loss; are you willing to help me?"

He looked up, stuck me with a needle, and asked me if I'd ever tried xenical. Now, xenical—sold over the counter as Alli—blocks the body's ability to absorb fat, which means not only does it guarantee loose stool for the duration of the prescription, but it also hampers the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. I don't need any more help with malnutrition, and I said as much, so Dave asked me if I had any other suggestions.

I asked, "what about sibutramine?"

He whipped out his iPhone, hit some kind of pocket drug reference, and proceeded to read off the list of suggested side effects. At the end of it, he shrugged and said, "that's everything that's ever been found on anything anywhere. You want a prescription?"

I blinked. A medical professional, listening to his patient and giving her what she asked for? Sacrilege! We haggled a bit on dosage and such, which is to say he told me he'd start me on the lowest dose and if I needed it we could increase the strength later, and then he made me pinkie-swear that I'd be back in four weeks for my Hep-A booster and a liver-function test. Then he handed me my new drug prescriptions and sent me on my merry way.

I took my first pill last night. This morning, I woke up around 08h00 and figured, "I should have a bagel." I wasn't particularly hungry, but I figured it was breakfast time and I should have something to eat. So, I had a jalapeño-cheddar bagel, and I went to work. Around 12h00, I realized that it was lunch time. That was it. No pangs. No hunger. No clawing inside my gut. Just... "hey, it's normally time when folks eat." But I wasn't hungry. I did start getting pretty peckish around 15h00, but two cans of V8 and a can of grapefruit juice were enough to calm my needs until I got home and had a black-bean-and-egg-with-cheese sandwich with Jessie. Then we noshed on Sun Chips, but I got bored of them after a bit while she kept going.

It's now 23h30, and the worst that I'm feeling is... vaguely peckish. That's all. It's like I have a normally-functioning body that knows it got fed and is happy with what it got. I've got dry mouth from hell, and my tongue tasted like the floor of a taxi cab this morning when I got up, but those are some pretty small prices to pay for what may be the first steps towards actually going back to what a normal person of my height should weigh.

Maybe this, too, can be another square one.

I was told there's a miracle for each day that I try.


0003 Lakera 24: Neologism

Normally, we speak of coming out to someone, as in, "I came out as adopted to my friends" or "I came out as xenophilic to the pretty green kitty with the antennae and compound eyes." Used in this fashion, it means revealing a part of oneself that was previously unknown, and usually it implies that said fact would be considered socially problematic, if not legally questionable.

I believe it's time to coin a new idiom in the Lapinian Argot: coming out at. To come out at someone is specifically to use the revelation of this status as a conversational weapon. Consider the following cases:

    • A: Hey, B, I'm throwing a party, and I'm invting my coworkers as well as some friends. Want to come?
    • B (male, A's coworker): Oh, hey, that sounds great, A.
    • A: Awesome. Listen, there's this girl I know, C? I've been telling her about you, and she thinks you sound really cute. She's going to be there; want me to hook you up?
    • B: I really appreciate the offer, A, but I'm really not interested in girls.
    • S: I hate it when folks think they're better than others. That kind of arrogance really chaps my hide.
    • T (a Christian): I know what you mean. Humility is a virtue and all that.
    • S: Yeah. Like, all those religious types really bug me. Who gives those holier-than-thou types the right to dictate morality
    • T: As one of those holier-than-thou types, I think I can safely say you've just justified their opinion.

In the former case, the person doing the revelation appears to be making an effort not to be confrontational while still delivering the necessary information. In other words, A has come out to B as gay. In the latter, though, T uses the revelation of a strong personal faith in part to shut down S's commentary. In Lapinian Argot, we may say that T came out at S as religious.

The reason I draw this distinction is because I came out at one of my coworkers on Setya.

Now, normally I don't approve of conversational weaponry, and I try my best to be on my guard against deliberately locking people out of a debate, but every once in a while, it's good to know how to be able to use such techniques to one's advantage. Also, considering that the real meat of the discussion started when one co-worker tried to open a conversation about the stimulus package and the coworker I had to lockdown responded by chiding, "you mean the spending bill," I feel pretty good about having done what I did.

Anyone wanting the full story, feel free to ask, and I may post it in the comments, but the important part of the exchange is that we were having a political conversation outside of an office setting, and that at one point in the discussion, the subject of the HMO business model arose and I asserted that universal health insurance would be a step towards ensuring that profit margins didn't stop people from getting the care that their doctors prescribed for them. To this, my coworker retorted that he didn't have any problem getting his wife's medical costs covered by his insurance, and he insisted that people could always appeal any decision an HMO made to refuse payment for a prescribed treatment.

Now, I could've said a lot of things at this point. I could've gone into a discussion of pre-existing medical conditions and how hard it is for someone with a history of cancer, diabetes, or HIV to get medical insurance without a job. I could've talked about the forty-seven million Americans without health insurance. I could've talked about the plight of people who couldn't get work because of their medical problems and couldn't afford treatment because of their joblessness. I had a plethora of options open to me at this point in the discussion. One might even say I had a myriad, or perhaps even an embarrassment of rejoinders.

What I said was, "No insurance policy I've ever had as part of any job I've ever held would pay for my sex change, and a sane universal health insurance policy from the federal government would have to cover it as a legitimate condition with an ICD-9 or ICD-10 diagnosis and treatment process."

Then, having fired that volley, I proceeded to talk about the money spent out-of-pocket for therapy, the fights I had over getting my hormones covered despite my insurance company's insistence that they would pay for any drug my doctor prescribed. Finally, I argued that I had spent close to twenty-five thousand dollars on medical bills that any sane medical insurance policy would have covered, but that I had to spend myself because every insurance company encourages its customers to categorically exempt sex-change procedures in order to save a little money.

My coworker's response to this was, "I think we're going to have to agree to disagree at this point."

To the best of my ability to tell, there's no residual tension on my coworker's side of things. The other team members who were in the car who heard my statement have not followed up with any commentary. The whole matter seems to have come and gone, and I suspect at least in part it's a done deal now because pursuit of the topic would require him to revisit a political debate at work, something upon which most tolerance-and-diversity policies frown intensely.

I still had a minor freak-out last night about the possible fallout.

Now, however, that the immediacy of the incident is over, and I've had a good night's sleep, I think that despite the aggressiveness of how I said what I did, and despite "using my past as a weapon," I think I did the right thing. I engaged in a political and economic debate with somebody squarely in the conservative camp, I held my ground, I didn't lose my temper, I forced my opponent to resort to a conversational nuke to save face, and I was able to tell my coworkers about a part of my life of which I'm embarrassingly proud but about which I'm usually mpowered to say very little. Despite all of the possible future repercussions about not being a team player or about having committed a social gaffe... I feel good about the conversation.

Olly olly oxen free....


0003 Lakera 12: Twenty-five

So, there's this "say twenty-five things about yourself meme" going around, and all the cool kids are doing it. Since the best way to be a non-conformist around here is to see what all the other non-conformists are doing these days, here's some thoughts on what goes on inside my head:
  1. My first real written fiction, Chuckles in the Wind, was a sixty-page horror novella that could be summed up in the following sentence: "when a young man discovers that his real mother is a witch bent on revenge from beyond the grave against her murderous husband and the rest of his line, he must learn magic to survive."
  2. I wrote Chuckles in the Wind when I was eight.
  3. I wore contact lenses before I had glasses; I got my first pair when I was nine, because my father feared that I'd be called "four-eyes." My opthamologist switched me to glasses when I was twenty, saying that my corneas looked "rumpled" and that he feared that I'd be blind in five years from the abuse through which I had put my eyes.
  4. In what should've been a warning sign for the future, my first two spoken words were "no" and "up", in that order.
  5. When I was three years old, before I knew the names of things, I invented a pair of words, "bushwog" and "dipschwong," which I used consistently to identify... something. By the time I my vocabulary was sufficient to explain to my mother what I meant when I used them, I had learned the standard names for whatever they were, and had forgotten the neologisms. To this day, the words remain a mystery.
  6. I've had so many cases of swimmer's ear, with the accompanying waxy build-up, that I have a doctor's permission to stick Q-Tips in my ears as temporary relief for excess wax. This also means that sometimes, loud noises literally turn into static in my right ear, because of the blockage.
  7. I used to love going to waterparks as a kid. I was never much of a swimmer-for-swimming's-sake, but I loved diving and waterslides.
  8. I have a head for languages, but not a muzzle. I almost minored in French in college, but then was forced to withdraw from Conversational French I when the professor quietly told me that despite my amazing grasp of vocabulary, grammar, and idiom, my accent meant that he could at best give me a D and that I might want to rethink my plans.
  9. In addition to five years of high school French, I dabbled in Welsh and Japanese before jumping to Esperanto and then branching into conlangs. In addition to Khonnen Simplex, I have an additional three "project" languages in various states of completion.
  10. Despite not having a job involving wearing a velvet cape and weeping in a Paris sewer tunnel or busking with dancing skeletons, I'm an oldschool fan of gothic music, style, and imagery. Related to this, it frustrates me to no end that the two typical approaches to the classic World of Darkness RPG setting in general and "Vampire: the Masquerade" in specific are "I outgrew that in high school" and "I drink blood martinis and sleep in the coffin that will one day serve as my eternal resting place."
  11. I'm emotionally and morally conflicted about the impact of postmodernist philosophy on art and artistry. When meaning is in the eye of the audience as much as in the eye of the artist and any interpretation that makes sense is a "right answer," what's the point of trying to deliberately encode ethical ideas into one's creations?
  12. For all that I excel at technology skills, I hate being a professional technologist. I went into computer science and software design in college not out of any love of the profession but because I knew that being a writer wouldn't put food on the table and wouldn't support a family.
  13. That said, I have a great love of gadgetry and miniaturization. I love the fact that my current phone has more memory than my first four computers combined.
  14. I believe that Sunday School and other efforts to teach the specifics of any given religion to children are tantamount to child abuse. Comparative religion and theology as introductions to metaphysics are fine, but specific instruction in the "right way" to "worship" "God" before they can hear the quotation marks should be treated as cruelty.
  15. I believe that the idea of "nation" is obsolete and should be scrapped as quickly as is feasible. "Nation" is a blunt instrument, a crude tool for mapping the unrelated concepts of "culture" and "geography." I'm convinced that the best way forward involves the establishment of a secular global caretaker government and the elimination of national boundaries, and I have hopes that the European Union will continue to evolve into such a structure. I hope that, as national boundaries collapse, factional identities with their own internal legal systems will rise to replace them.
  16. I believe that humanity has already passed the Malthusian crisis point, and that we've been delaying the inevitable by learning how to eat things that aren't food.
  17. I have two very bad habits that are going to get me in trouble one day: my own internal editorial commentary becomes part of any conversation whether I actually say it out loud or not, and I tend to exaggerate for emphasis. Given these working in conjunction with each other, it's a wonder I haven't claimed that the Pope is trying to get God to throw the moon at the Earth yet. I don't mean to cause drama when I do this, but often it's only upon additional reflection that I ever catch that I've done it, by which point it's often harder to fix than to simply let drop.
  18. In the same vein, I'm very bad about speaking as distinct from writing. I'm not an orator. I tend to say exactly what's going on in my head, even if it's unprocessed and unfit for public consumption. When I'm emotionally stressed, this tendency becomes even worse. Often, half an hour can make the difference between using the right word and using all the wrong ones, but I'm not always afforded those thirty minutes to sort out what's going on between my ears. I've deeply offended more than one person by answering a question while under pressure to provide an instant answer and while emotionally agitated.
  19. As a creator of narrative, both in my own life and in my characters' lives, I tend to judge others' creations by the near-impossible standard of "would I have done this the same way, and does that make me a better or worse storyteller than the person in question?" This makes watching most movies nigh-impossible, aside from the ones that absolutely blow me away. I don't mean to imply that anyone's enjoyment of any given media is wrong or misguided, but I have a difficult time enjoying stories when I find myself constantly saying things like, "it doesn't make sense for her to have done things like that" or "how could he have been so stupid?"
  20. I read and write everything for the characters. The larger plot is, by and large, just window-dressing to motivate characters to explore their thoughts and emotions, and perhaps even those of others. If the characters are obnoxious or difficult to appreciate, I'm probably not going to enjoy it, even if the rest of the film is right up my alley. I didn't enjoy Dr. Strangelove, for instance, and I came away from it with the same feeling that I had when I watched Being John Malkovich. Meanwhile, I fall all over Big Trouble in Little China, despite its goofy nature, because the characters are real people to me.
  21. In case it weren't glaringly obvious at this point, I'm highly sensitive to language in media, especially to what I consider unnecessary neologisms and what I can only describe as "silly-sounding" words. One might think, and quite rightfully so, that Harry Potter would be directly up my alley, but every time Rowling introduces a new word I want to climb up onto the back of my chair and scream. Now, I won't say I'm not hypocritical on this point, especially in light of my childhood bushwogs and dipschwongs, but in my defense I was three and for the most part I grew out of it.
  22. I have, or at least had, internalized the label of Objectivist so deeply that at one point during Greenspan's testimony before Congress on his shock at realizing that people hadn't acted in rational self-interest, that I actually thought, "Greenspan must not understand Objectivism." Then I remembered that he was one of Rand's direct disciples and probably one of her ex-lovers. This let me, for one shining second, to actually hold the thought that Ayn Rand didn't understand Objectivism before I suffered a massive synaptic misfire.
  23. After years of frustration and introspection, I've finally come to accept that I owe a larger spiritual debt to Malcolm X than I do to Martin Luther King Junior. I'm not interested in reconciliation with the mainstream, and I'm not interested in integration and understanding. Somebody else will need to be our community's voice to the outside world. Meanwhile, I'll be back here, speaking to my own and doing what I can to inspire them to build their own crazy worlds away from external criticism.
  24. I recognize that ghettoization is perhaps the worst and most dangerous thing that any majority can do to any minority population, but I also think that voluntary isolation and autonomy can do more to bolster a sense of worth and community than almost anything else. I'm not going to claim that reservations and internment camps are a good thing, but I will gladly point to the endless isolated monestaries, cloisters, convents, temples, and hermitages, as well as events like end of the U.S.S.R. and the creation of East Timor, as examples of my views.
  25. I harbor a secret fear that I'm more like Mason Lang than Queen Mab.
To those who understand, I extend my hand. To the doubtful, I demand, "take me as I am."


0003 Lakera 08: Medicinal

What started out last Kimya looking like a disaster of a weekend rapidly turned into something much more worthwhile.

About two weeks ago, I managed to fold, spindle, and/or mutilate my left shoulder in the process of stretching with Jessie during a bout of Wii Fit, and ever since I've had off-and-on cramps in that joint. Sometimes, it's just a low-grade ache; others, it's a raging fire like a sword wound gouging out chunks of buni-flesh. Tt's not constant, or consistent, so I don't think anything's seriously damaged to the point of needing medical intervention, but it's just painful enough at points to make me reach for the menthol cream and marinate myself.

Kimya morning, I was rudely awoken at about 06h00 by one of those bone-twisting pains, one of the worst I'd had in a while. I blearily snapped my head upwards, jerked to my right to feebly grab for the tube of ointment and... nothing. I had, in a fit of intelligence, apparently put it away. Half-awake and in a great deal of pain, I thrashed my way out of bed, staggered to the bathroom, fumbled around on the counter, grabbed the first tube, opened it, squeezed a length of goop onto my fingers... and proceeded to rub Listerine toothpaste on my shoulder for a few seconds before realizing it didn't stink in the right way.

After finding the right tube of stink and greasing up my aching joint, I returned to bed, only to wake up around 09h20. This is, at least for me, very late for work; apparently I had turned off the alarm when the pain dragged me out of sleep the first time. I also had a stinging pain in my right eye, accompanied by a peculiar numbness around the socket. It took me about a minute to realize that the source of the new disturbance to my corpus was, in fact, from my right paw, which I had, in my sleep-muddled mind, neglected to wash after annointing my shoulder earlier. As an encore to the toothpaste incident of earlier, I had mentholated my eye in my sleep.

I wasn't even really "up" yet, and my day already sucked.

Work was thankfully short, populated with a going-away luncheon for a coworker returning to India and several other meetings before coming home at 15h00 to pack, pick up Jessie and Winthrop, and then head down to Portland to hook up with Rowan and Cobaltie for the weekend. Aside from the absolutely atrocious traffic getting out of Seattle proper, the drive, while longish at just over three hours, wasn't bad at all and something I could easily see myself doing on a semi-regular basis. It's almost all highway, and well-marked at that, so the trip itself was less a hassle and more an empty space between places, a three-hour loading screen with some good music and conversation.

We arrived at Rowan's and Blue's house at just after 21h00, which given the late departure and the traffic still wasn't bad, and the weekend began to rapidly turn around. Jessie and I got to meet their friend Mitesh, who seems like someone I'd like to get to know better, and Elka was also present, which is good because I rarely get to see him. We chatted for a few minutes, caught up on current events, and then got down to the proverbial brass tacks.

As a warm-up for the evening, we watched Baraka, which lasts approximately three eternities when you dedicate all your attention to the events unfolding on the screen. I'm not sure that I could, in the space provided, adequately detail either the contents of the "film" or my emotional reactions to watching it. Suffice to say that it was the first time I'd ever seen it, and it blew me away. I suspect I still have memetic shrapnel from the experience that I'll be picking out for months, but that was, I think, the point of the exercise. In this case, it served as an excellent groundbreaker for the remainder of the evening.

Once we all regained control of both horizontal and vertical, I got the chance to do a bit of spiritwork. Before I get too deeply into that, though, I feel the need to take a moment and discuss what I mean when I say that. For anyone familiar with 12 Monkeys, consider the old man in the mental hospital that says, "just because it's a delusion doesn't mean it's not real," or words to that effect. I'm not saying here that I'm in contact with externalities who embody themselves to me via animal form. Really, when I talk of totems, I speak of those parts of my own head to which I have attached labels because of the symbol-sets that thirty-four years of being alive and experiencing the world through a particular set of filters has encoded in my subconscious. Why Bear? Why Rabbit? Why Coyote? Why not Wolf or Mouse or Raven? Why not Phoenix or Cat or Monkey? Why not even Magician or Fool or Tower? Because those weren't my symbols. The logos didn't take those shapes around me; it took the others. And so, when I tease loose a piece of my conscious mind, turn it inward, and stare at the rest of the mess that is my skull, these are the labels that I use to identify different parts of my own thought processes.

All that having been said, it's still damned freaky to realize that the closest thing you recognize to a goddess is taking the time to commune with you. It's not something that I can do at will, yet. It takes the right set and setting. It takes the right mood and drive. It's only happened three times in my life: when I first felt Bear's presence, when I felt Her leave, and when She brought Rabbit and Coyote to me in the depths of The Bad to keep me from taking The Easy Way Out. Always, under a time of great stress, and always at an emotional low point to help ricochet me back upwards.

Kimya evening, it happened again.

As with the first three, what happened wasn't an exchange of words; I don't even think my language centers were really engaged. If anything, spiritwork for me is about turning off the near-constant logorrhoea that runs through my head and occasionally externalizes as me talking to myself. It's about finding out what goes on when words cease being an option. I'm usually blind to anything beyond verbal communication, and so when I don't have that, everything else becomes larger-than-life.

The first time it happened, Bear's presence was more an announcement that She was there; there was no sense of information that needed to be imparted, merely a statement that I wasn't alone in my own head. The second time, it was... disappointment. Resignation. I had claimed to be something I wasn't for years, and the time for the charade was over. Rabbit found me later, but for a time I was without guidance, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my "adult" life. The third time, there was love, respect, and understanding. Rabbit reminded me that it was okay to be afraid. Coyote wanted to know if I'd gotten the joke.

Putting words to the gnosis this time, Bear reminded me, maternally and patiently, that I've taken real steps in the right direction, but that for a while now I've been confusing talking about progress and progressing. The mathematician cannot extinguish the fire by proving it can be done, and the plumber cannot repair the leaky faucet by showing off a certification. Understanding how to improve is important, but implementing that understanding is critical... and that's where I haven't been at my best.

So, what does this mean for the future? I don't want to go into great detail here, because I feel like saying too much before I've done anything will just perpetuate the talking-not-doing problem, but at the same time, I know the importance of feedbck in my own life, and I know the power of "say what you're going to do, do it, say what you did."

  • The ten-year-plan still marches apace. I remain vulnerable to losing my job, but I can take steps at work to minimize that risk. Pay off the car, pay off my father, get sixty-thousand dollars in savings so I have a year of liquid capital if I do lose my job, and then find land or a house sufficiently removed from Seattle that I can have space between me and my neighbors but not so removed that a day job's commute is unpleasant. Build a multi-family living space or renovate an existing one to LEED Platinum. Invite other like-minded individuals to join the commune and take up superintending.
  • I outright refuse to use the phrase, "I'm going vegetarian," because that's neither my plan nor my goal, but in the words of Michael Pollan, my intent is to "eat food, not too much, mostly plants." I don't care about the ethics of eating animals, and food with faces is still food, but my waistline and my planet will both benefit in the long run from dropping most of the meat from my diet. My budget will suffer, especially if I start shopping more often at Whole Paycheck.
  • In the vein of cutting back on the crap intake, my City of Heroes playtime is excessive and needs reduction. I've said it before in other places, but I think it's time I documented it for posterity. I want to be a writer, but getting feedback on my writing is nigh-impossible. I don't just mean "I like it; write more," or "you suck lol," but actual feedback about structure, style, narrative, characterization, et cetera. City of Heroes is an excellent multifaceted Skinner box, capable of providing immediate feedback on multiple channels, and logging in and roleplaying while I beat down bad guys generates instant feedback numerically and emotionally, just like hammering on that food-pellet bar. That's great, except the food pellets it provides taste like crap and can't be traded for better shinies outside the system. Meanwhile, writing gets me next to no response, but the rewards it produces when it does pay out are so much tastier and may ultimately yield positive results in other fields. I don't expect to quit the game, but it's got to go back to being a diversion, not a hobby.
  • I should start keeping an actual budget. Right now, I make sufficiently more than I need that I can afford to dump ten percent of my paycheck into savings as soon as it shows up, but I still have the occasional uncomfortable "hey, I'm going to have to put that on the credit card because the bank account is tapped until Kimya." Meanwhile, I've got a laundry list of things I'd like to be able to buy, as well as a small but growing list of medical purchases that would help with other goals, like the pedal exerciser and a fresh trip to the laser hair removal place for some touch-ups on my everywhere. Tracking what I spend as I spend it, rather than afterwards, should help with identifying places in which I could spend less.

Now, one would think that after a night loaded with such introspection and revelation, it would be hard to top it. Truth is, I don't think the rest of the Portland trip exceeded that point, but it definitely maintained the energy. Jugya morning, we finally got moving around 11h00 and headed out to a place called the Hotcake House, which served portions fit for any two ordinary people, but which was extremely tasty. We returned to the house for a few rounds of various games, while I nursed away a headache with some hot tea and ibuprofin. Then, that evening, we went to see Paul and Storm open for JoCo, which turned out to be approximately four hours of awesome. It was snowing when we left the concert, and we drove through big fluffy flakes to a parking lot, in which several food-stall trailers had been more-or-less permanently parked to form a little mini-food-court. There, we feasted upon poutine and crawfish etoufée and continued to talk about nothing in particular.

Pozya arrived slowly, but we watched Robert Newman's History of Oil on the XBox, which helped reinforce a lot of the ideas I'd had Kimya night. Then we headed collectively to downtown Portland and wandered around in the cold. We visited Everything Music, at which I replaced my missing Suzanne Vega 99.9F CD and discovered, quite by accident, that I very much enjoyed the musical stylings of a band by the name of Zombi; the shop was playing promo tracks from their as-yet-unreleased newest album when we arrived, and I liked the sound so much that I bought the one album of theirs in stock: Surface to Air. If you like orchestral electronic rock, you'll probably enjoy these guys. After this, we dropped around to Powell's, at which I didn't purchase anything but found a great many books that I could've gladly devoured. Then we visited Ground Kontrol, at which I fell in love with TRON all over again despite how bad I am at it, and I put the high score on the local Galaga88 machine. Finally, we ended up at Guardian Games, at which we all taught Jessie how to play Race for the Galaxy in such a way that she might even be interested in playing again some time, and then we all had fun re-enacting Reservoir Dogs. Finally, it was time to drop Rowan and Blue back at their place, and then we started home. The trip passed quickly, but we still didn't get back until close to 01h00 this morning.

I have the day off of work today, and I think my biggest priority right now after finishing this post is working out a menu with Jessie for the week, taking stock of the cans on the shelf, and then heading down to Whole Paycheck for fresh vegetables and other consumables. I think most of the cans are going to the local food bank, assuming we can find a place to drop them off that's not all the way downtown.

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