Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I’ve just set up small recurring monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU. Have you added donations to your routine? If so, who are you donating to?

I’ve just set up small recurring monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU. It’s not much — just $5/month to each of them, so $15/month total right now — but it’s a start, and it leaves me some room to either increase these donations or add other recipients when I’m sure I can afford it. There are probably any number of other charities and organizations that could use support, and I’m open to suggestions of others that might be worth adding to my personal list (as long as I can afford to do so, of course). These are just the three that came to my mind most immediately, through exposure or personal interests.

Have you added donations to your routine? If so, who are you donating to?

A Resurrection

It won’t always be easy, and it may take some time for me to really get into the routine again. But to me, this is important. I will not be silent.

I used to write here regularly. All through the late ’90s and through much of the 2000s, I posted somewhere between a few times a week to a few times a day. But then a series of life changes, including going back to school for my Associate, Bachelor, and Masters degrees, getting married and spending more time with my partner and less in front of my computer, and the rise of social media with the ease of tossing off a few sentences and hitting the “share” button, took their toll.

But I think it’s time to come back here. There are a host of factors contributing to this, including wanting to do more to ensure that content I create is under my own control rather than locked behind Facebook’s walls and subject to their whims. But also in there is the recent election, which has results that I have many, many problems with. And finally, this essay from Sarah Kendzior: We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump.

My fellow Americans, I have a favor to ask you.

Today is November 18, 2016. I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.

Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.

Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.

Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.

Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.

I need to follow her advice. For myself, for my family and friends, for those I care about, and for all those who I don’t know, but who I believe in and who I will stand up for.

It won’t always be easy, and it may take some time for me to really get into the routine again. But to me, this is important.

I will not be silent.

This Year’s Health Efforts

After letting my exercise regimen fall apart in November, it’s time to get going again. For my own accountability, this is some rambling about my current status and what goals I have moving into the new year.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve started trying to pay more attention to my general health. Part of that process last year was starting to track my exercise and eating habits–and in the case of exercise, forming some habits to be tracked. Historically, I tended to think of myself as someone who didn’t really exercise much, but when I think back on how I used to spend my time–clubbing around three nights a week (which, for me, involves much more actual dancing than sitting/standing around and drinking), walking a lot (I didn’t have a car while living in Seattle, and walked up and down hill between downtown and Capitol Hill daily), and working for print shops (which, while not strictly “physical labor” jobs, did involve a lot of moving cases of paper around and being on my feet most of my time)–it’s pretty obvious that I was getting a fair amount of regular exercise just through my normal routine. Certainly much more than I tend to now, when my daily routine involves driving back and forth to work and spending my day sitting at a desk.

While tracking my eating habits didn’t carry on terribly long, I was better about keeping up a semi-regular mild exercise routine for most of the year. Unfortunately, that ended up falling apart mid-November, right about midway through my first quarter pulling double duty as a full-time employee and full-time master’s student.

Last January, I weighed a little above 170 lbs., and set an arbitrary goal of just dropping down to 165. This was more to just have something to put into the app I was using than an actual goal, as I didn’t really feel I needed to lose weight, I just wanted to start paying more attention to actively exercising and taking care of myself (and hey, if I ended up toning up a bit in the process, so much the better). Over the course of the year, I actually ended up dropping down to 158 before starting to come back up again (which I believe is a combination of putting on some muscle mass and having to switch to a new scale which seems to read a bit higher than the last one did…too bad the last one broke when I got on it one morning).

Right now, I’m right about back where I was at the beginning of last year, sitting at 172.2. So as I get the process going again, I’m keeping that “goal” of 165, but once again, that’s more just to have a value in that field in the app. My only real plan is to get back into the habit of exercising regularly.

To that end, I’m using three apps to help track my stats (and as is pretty normal in these days of social everything, two of them allow me to connect with friends, so I suppose, if I know you and you want to be a long-distance, social-media pseudo-exercise buddy, feel free to add me as a friend). I’m set up with LoseIt! to track food and weight, RunKeeper to track my exercise (walking, riding, elliptical, etc.–in the words of Chris Knight, I only run when chased), and I’m using the Gorilla Workout app as a simple home-based exercise regimen. I actually started the Gorilla workouts in October, but didn’t quite make it through all of Level 1 before my mid-November slump hit, so I’ve just started that over from the beginning again.

So, that’s it for now. Just tossing this out there to give myself a little more accountability as I get going on this project again. As I’m about to start another quarter of school, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get through to spring break without letting the exercise fall by the wayside again.

Death of a Furby

I’ve always felt a weird sort of guilty glee at my role in the (temporary) psychological torture and murder of a poor, innocent Furby.

When I was growing up, our family had a few pets over the years. A bird when I was young (named Vogel, which is German for “bird”, in a rare moment of literalness in my family), then a cat, Filia (my mom’s), then another cat, George (my brother’s). Eventually, though, George left to live out the rest of his days in Fairbanks with my brother, and Filia died.

When Filia died, my mom decided that she didn’t want another flesh-and-blood pet, but still wanted something — so, mom and dad got a Furby. I’ve never been too sure just why or how this ended up being the choice, but so it was, and so they did. I’m sure I didn’t tease them at all about this. Not at all.

One summer, my parents took a trip down to Florida to visit my mom’s parents. Since their “pet” was more easily transported than earlier pets were, they decided to bring the Furby with them to show it to my grandparents. Unfortunately, in the midst of packing, the Furby was forgotten, and was left sitting on the dining room table. Once they got to Florida, unpacked, and realized their mistake, mom gave me a call to ask if I could send the Furby down to them.

“Really? You want me to mail the Furby?”

Yup. She did.

Being a dutiful and obedient son (as always, as I’m sure they’ll be happy to verify), I drove across town to their house, and found the Furby sitting patiently on the table.

Now, I’d never had a Furby. I knew a little bit about them, mostly through cultural osmosis, but this was my first time actually encountering one of these mysterious mogwai-like contraptions. I did know that they were motion-, sound-, and light-activated, though, so I tried to take precautions as I prepared the Furby for its journey.

I gently picked it up, and, moving as cautiously as possible, examined it to see if I could find an “off” switch. I assume that it must have had one somewhere, but if it did, I couldn’t find it. So I carefully wrapped a couple sheets of bubble wrap around the Furby, picked it up, slid it into a padded shipping envelope, sealed it up, and put it back down on the table.

And a high, muffled voice came from the envelope: “No light!”

Oh, dear. It’s awake.

“No light! Furby scared!”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

As I drove to the post office, the package on the seat next to me would chatter for a bit, fall silent, then wake up again as I hit a bump in the road or as the package slid slightly across the seat as I went around a turn.

Standing in line at the post office, I cradled the package gently in my arms. The Furby had been quiet for a while, and I was determined not to disturb its slumber. I reached the desk, gently put the envelope on the counter, and slid it across to the post office worker. “This needs to go to Florida.”

“No problem,” the attendent said, as she picked up the package and dropped it onto the scale.

“Furby scared! No light!” And the package wiggled a little bit as the Furby (assumedly) opened its eyes and frantically looked around its prison, wiggling its ears in panic.

The attendent raised her eyebrows and looked at me. “Um…it’s a Furby. It’s kind of my mom’s pet, and she wants to show it to her parents….” I trailed off, feeling foolish, as the muffled nonsense language of the Furby continued to come from the package.

I don’t remember anymore if she rolled her eyes or smirked — or both — but she did carefully attach a “FRAGILE” sticker to the outside of the envelope, along with however many stamps it took to ship a pound-and-a-half bundle of babbling furry automaton from Alaska to Florida. “Thanks,” I said, as she gently tossed the envelope into the outgoing bin, to the accompaniment of muffled “Wheeeeeee!” from the Furby. “No problem,” she said. “NEXT!”

As I left the post office and drove home, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself, over and over, as I pictured the poor, traumatized, blind Furby traveling across the country. Falling asleep in bins at one or another stop on the way, only to wake up as soon as it moved, crying out for light, for company, for comfort. At the poor post office workers and delivery people picking up an apparently innocent package, only to suddenly have it wiggle in their hands as a small voice cried out at them — “No light! Furby scared!”

The Furby did make it to Florida — however, mom confirmed that by the time it got there, its batteries were well and truly dead. Which, horrible as it seems, couldn’t help but launch me into another fit of guilty hilarity at the thought of the poor confused Furby, cocooned in bubble wrap, slowly expiring, expending its last, desperate reserves of energy on ever-quieter pleas for light and comfort.

I’m sure a new set of batteries worked their magic and revived the Furby to its usual happy chatterbox state. But I’ve always felt a weird sort of guilty glee at my role in the (temporary) psychological torture and murder of a poor, innocent Furby.

Personal Privileges

A list that rumbled its way through my head today at lunch: I am a 40 year old middle-class employed cisgendered straight white male married homeowner in good physical and mental health. That’s a whole lot of privilege all piled up. And I’m sure that doesn’t cover all of it.

A list that rumbled its way through my head today at lunch: I am a…

  • 40 year old (neither particularly old nor young)
  • middle-class (not rich, but by no means poor)
  • employed
  • cisgendered
  • straight
  • white
  • male
  • married
  • homeowner
  • in good physical and mental health.

That’s a whole lot of privilege all piled up. And I’m sure that doesn’t cover all of it.

I have friends and acquaintances (and there are millions of others just here in the United States whom I’ve never met) who don’t fit into one, a few, or all of those categories. They have every right to live their lives just as comfortably and without fear of repression, censure, or attack as I do. But for far too many of them, that’s just not possible.

And that’s why, more and more, I’ve been finding it incredibly important to pay attention to issues like equality, sexism, racism, ageism, and whatever other -isms we all come across, directly or indirectly, in our day-to-day lives.

My issue with “Straight but Not Narrow”

If you truly support a community, why express that support through a phrase that begins by separating yourself from that very community?

While I don’t think I’ve come across it terribly often lately, one of the phrases that used to be common among LGBTQ allies was “Straight but Not Narrow.” I’ve used it in the past, as have other friends, and I have a CWU Pride shirt from a few years back that uses that phrase.

However, as I’ve thought more about it over the past year or so, I’ve become more and more aware that something about that phrase really bothered me. I’d started putting it into words a little while ago, and had talked it over with Prairie, but something I came across today brought it back to mind.

In this Reddit post (which is actually about problems with the HRC organization — problems I was not aware of before, and will want to consider in the future), a couple lines stood out to me as tying directly in to my discomfort with “straight but not narrow.”

[The “equal sign” logo is] the easy way to display your political stances without having anyone question your gender identity or orientation. It’s the physical embodiment of “I’m not gay but,” much like the rebranding of feminism to “egalitarianism.”

…it’s also extremely offensive, I think, to attempt to distance yourself from the movement with qualifications like “I don’t hate men, but” or “I’m not a feminist, I’m an egalitarian,” and “I’m not gay, but.”

While I know that the “straight but not narrow” phrase is well-intentioned as a way to express support for LGBTQ issues (“I’m an ally!”), the very fact that it starts with the “straight but” disclaimer lessens the impact of that support. If you truly support a community, why express that support through a phrase that begins by separating yourself from that very community? It feels like a socially-accepable way of saying “Well, you know I’m good with the gays and all, but I’m not gay. Uh-uh, man. Not me. No homo, y’know?”

I certainly don’t regret using the phrase in the past, nor having bought the shirt (I’m quite happy to support the campus LGBTQ organizations). Also, please note that I don’t want to sound like I’m censuring anyone who does use that phrase, or doesn’t have problems with it. As I said, it’s well-intentioned, and for many people, that will be fine. This is just a personal thing for me, and I don’t think I’ll be using that phrase or wearing that particular shirt again.

Married!

I think that most people who follow me already know this,
but one week ago, on June 19th, eleven years after our first date,
Prairie and I got married in a small civil ceremony at the Kittitas
County Courthouse here in Ellensburg.

I think that most people who follow me will already know this from Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, but just in case there’s someone out there still paying attention to this site but not any
of my social media outlets…

…just over one week ago, on June 19th, eleven years after our first date, Prairie and I got married
in a small civil ceremony at the Kittitas County Courthouse here in Ellensburg.

We’d started talking about this a few months ago, when we started talking about what to do for my 40th birthday. “We could get married…?” And we were off.

We very intentionally kept it quiet. We didn’t want a big to-do made of the event for a few reasons, chief among those being that we’d already been dating for eleven years, living together for eight, and even bought a house together two years ago. Our relationship isn’t new, and this seemed
to us to be a combination of something very trivial (a few words from a judge, a few signatures on a piece of paper, and we’re done) and something weirdly big (c’mon…it’s getting married!). Most
importantly, we wanted to do this for us and how we were most comfortable, and part of that meant keeping it as low-key and low-stress as possible. We each told our immediate family the month before so that they wouldn’t be caught completely off guard when the news eventually came out, and other than the friends we asked to be our legal witnesses, that was it.

We’d actually originally considered not making any announcement at all, but we eventually
decided to have a little fun with it. So, once the ceremony was done and we’d had a short “thank you” gathering at our house with our witnesses, we made the “announcement” by switching our Facebook statuses from “in a relationship” to “married” and waited to see what would happen next.

Of course, what happened was a lot of surprised and happy well-wishes, and we had a lot of fun watching the “likes” and comments come in over the course of the evening.

Thanks to all of you who know already for your kind comments, to our families for understanding (or at least accepting) how we decided to do this, to Cody (and Jackee) and Courtney (and Andy)
for being our witnesses, and to Judge Fran Chmelewski for making it official.

Thanks also to Jackee for taking photos, since I couldn’t very well do both at the same time. Here they are:

And that’s it!

Me at Norwescon 36

In just a few weeks, I will once again be indulging in four days of glorious geekery at Norwescon 36. I’m wearing more hats than ever before this year, so here’s a rough rundown of what I’ll be doing and where you’ll be able to find me…

In just a few weeks, I will once again be indulging in four days of glorious geekery at Norwescon 36. I’m wearing more hats than ever before this year, so here’s a rough rundown of what I’ll be doing and where you’ll be able to find me…

DJ

I continue to coax my onetime alter-ego DJ Wüdi out of retirement, and as such, will be DJing the opening night dance on Thursday night! Here’s the program blurb:

Thor’s Day Night Dance!

We call it Thursday night, but we used to know it as Thor’s Day…and you can kick off your weekend of saving the world with a celebration worthy of Asgard itself! Join DJ Wüdi for an evening of tunes new and old for gods and mortals alike. Come dressed as your godlike representation or as your mortal alter-ego. Requests are not just welcome, but encouraged!

If you’re going to be at the con and already know that there are certain songs you really want to hear, good news! You can already turn in your song requests for me or any of Norwescon’s other DJs at the Norwescon website!

Lead Photographer

This will be my fourth consecutive year as lead photographer for Norwescon. Look for me running all over the convention space, taking shots of anything and everything that’s going on!

(Sadly, this will also be my last year as lead photographer, as I’ve found that living in Ellensburg makes it somewhat difficult to coordinate photography for a con in the Seattle area. I do hope to remain on the photography team in future years, however, so neither I nor my camera will be disappearing from Norwescon anytime soon!)

Panelist

I’m participating in one panel this year, as I am part of Norwescon’s new SAFE committee, tasked with investigating a possible official written harassment policy for convention membership. We’re hosting a panel on Saturday to address any concerns that the membership at large might have as we work on this. Here’s the program blurb for this panel:

Panel Name: Should Norwescon Adopt a Harassment Policy?
Time: Sat 1200
Room: Salon
Panelists: Kevin Black (M), Pat Booze, Alan Bond, Sika Holman, Michael Hanscom, Kate Mulligan Wolfe
Description: Some conventions are adopting policies against harassment, something Norwescon has not had in its 36 years of existence. Do we need this in our community? Please come give input to members of the committee charged with making recommendations to the executive team by the end of 2013.

Social Media Coordinator

For most of the year, anytime you see something pop up on Norwescon’s Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ pages, chances are extremely good that I was the brain behind the keyboard. While chances are looking quite good that I’ll have some assistance during the con itself this year, I’m the person overseeing all that, so if there’s something that our social media accounts aren’t doing to your satisfaction (or, of course, if we’re doing particularly well), feel free to let me know!

Webmaster

I’m also the person in charge of the official Norwescon website. There’s still a lot of information yet to go up over the next few weeks as we get closer to the con, and then by the end of April, I’ll be rolling us over to a new, fresh design for Norwescon 37! Just as with the Social Media side of things, if there’s anything that the website isn’t doing that it could do better (or if there are things going particularly well), I’d love to hear about it!

This Far, No Further

I don’t mind disagreeing with people, I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, and in the right circumstances, calm, rational discussions of disagreements can be quite good. However, the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I’ve now found two places where I’m quite comfortable drawing that line.

I do my best to be open-minded about just about everything, and accepting of outlooks and beliefs other than mine. I may not understand why someone might believe the things they do (republicans, for instance)…but if that’s what they believe, that’s what they believe.

A few months ago, I hit the first time when I decided to “un-friend” a Facebook contact (the ultimate arbiter of relationships in today’s world) because of their beliefs. I could deal with this person being a gun nut, I could deal with them being an uncomfortably far-right Republican. What I couldn’t deal with was when they outed themselves as a Birther. At that point, it was obvious to me that there was simply no way I was ever going to connect to this person on any rational level. If someone’s at a point where they can take that level of over-the-top racism-poorly-disguised-as-conspiracy-theories seriously, then they’re not at a point where I can even pretend to be able to relate to them. So, off the friend list they went.

Just this week, I found a second, similar line, when I discovered that another contact was a vaccine denier. This I find even more offensive than the Birther nonsense. Birthers are crazy and probably racist, but at least their paranoid fantasies aren’t likely to hurt anyone. Anti-vaccine people, though…that can be harmful, and not just to the person, but to others, as they could potentially end up helping to spread an otherwise preventable disease. The “research” that the anti-vaccine crowd relies on has been debunked so thoroughly that it’s mind-boggling to me that anyone can continue to try to believe it, and when you factor in the very real chance that by not vaccinating themselves or their children, they could spread diseases that we at one point came very close to having essentially eradicated…. Enough is enough, and off they went.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen terribly often. I don’t mind disagreeing with people, I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, and in the right circumstances, calm, rational discussions of disagreements can be quite good. However, the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I’ve now found two places where I’m quite comfortable drawing that line.