Friday, November 21, 2014

Nix Tempestas Erat Calidus!

So two weeks ago I went to Blizzcon 2014. I've been to a few comic conventions, both as a guest and as a visitor, and so while there are obvious differences between comic books and video games I thought I knew what to expect. I didn't.
First things first: Blizzcon 2014 was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed myself. I didn't play a single video game there, but it was still pretty cool. They announced a new video game at the show: Overwatch, Blizzard's first new IP (intellectual property) in 16 years.
They also had a pretty neat panel for the upcoming Warcraft movie, directed by Duncan Jones, announced the next expansion for Starcraft II (Legacy of the Void), talked what's to come for Diablo 3 and Hearthstone, gave us more info on Heroes of the Storm, and also had a ton of stuff featuring the new World of Warcraft expansion: Warlords of Draenor, which was released the following week.

That's all pretty fun stuff if you're a gamer or a Blizzard Entertainment fan, which I am. But even without all that, I and the guys I was with couldn't help comparing Blizzcon 2014 to other comic conventions we'd been to. Astonishingly enough, there are a number of things that I think comic conventions could learn from Blizzcon.

1. At Blizzcon everyone was so damn nice! 
OK, this isn't meaning to imply that there aren't nice people at comic conventions. Far from it. But think about this for a second: at Blizzcon the ratio of men to women was fairly balanced and ethnically-speaking very diverse. This makes a bit of sense, in 2009 a Nielson Report found that in America women 25 and older made up the largest block of "gamers". During that same time frame the ratio of American men to American women playing World of Warcraft was fairly balanced as well. And despite the whole Gamergate nonsense going on, I didn't see or hear about a single one of those idiots at the convention.
It hit us in that moment that the gamer community is a whole lot different than the comics community, even though so many of those people lie in both camps. One reason, I believe, is that while the video games are the main feature of Blizzcon, the gamers are the stars while at a comic convention the stars are the property creators. There are a ton of gamers who could regularly beat the creators of those games at their own creation, so when they go to a show they can feel like a badass. And then, at the show, they are celebrated for being a part of the community. I've seen too many tables at a comic convention where the creator looked like he was doing fans a favor by being there.
There should be a greater celebration of the fans that drive the market at comic conventions.

2. The Blizzcon Convention floor was well designed.
First off, at Blizzcon they had the A/C humming! With the hundreds of computers they had running, the temperature had to stay constant so they didn't overheat. A pleasant side-effect was that guests stayed fairly cool as well. Sometimes when I leave a comic convention I feel like a sweaty ball of Stank and can't do anything until I've showered off the ConCrud.
Second, the lighting and decor was top-notch. They wanted the games to be the focus, and so the walkway lighting...didn't exist. There were times that I was standing in the dark with a bunch of other people, waiting in line to buy a beer (Oh yeah. They sold beer on the convention floor. Awesome.) The darkness didn't cause as many problems as you might think. There was still the occasional moment when you'd bump into someone, but you just gave a polite "Excuse me" and moved on. No big deal.
Now, I recognize that it's a little different for comic conventions. For one thing, the artists in Artist Alley need to be able to see, and there's a lot more face to face interaction than at a gaming convention. But there's some value to be had in trying to figure out a way to control the lighting at a comic convention to be something other than those bright, harsh halogen gym lights.
When I walked into Blizzcon, it was a little like walking into another world. They had a stage set up for Hearthstone that looked like the tavern of an inn from World of Warcraft. They had huge, life-like statues of characters that had made them famous. They controlled what you were able to look at, and they controlled what you saw when you looked. There's some value in that mindset to be had when determining the layout and look of a comic convention floor, I think.

3. The Cosplay supported the product. 
I've definitely seen more cosplay at other conventions, but the quality of cosplay at Blizzcon was, in general, far superior to any other convention I'd been to. But one thing that Blizzard did, which I thought was genius, is hire cosplayers to dress up as Overwatch characters to support the announcement of the new game.
I've seen a lot of Comics vs Cosplay discussions when it comes to comic conventions. I don't see why they can't help each other. Cosplay, whether you like it or not, has become a profession for some people. They have booths at shows to sell prints, and they walk the floor to get pictures. What would be awesome to see is a professionally-hired Spiderman at the Marvel booth, or a professionally-hired Deadpool as the line organizer for the Rob Leifeld signing.
Even better, what I'd love to see is smaller creators working out deals with cosplayers who would be at the show to come up with cosplay for their books, and then they cross-promote the hell out of each other.
First, it would put an end to the various discussions about whether cosplay is killing comic conventions. Second, it would validate the fans who come to conventions dressed up as their favorite character. I've definitely seen and heard comments about fans who dress up but look vaguely like the amorphous-blob version of the character. God, can you imagine how much courage that takes!?
Rather than being made fun of, they should feel encouraged to show up dressed as their favorite character. I think that hiring cosplayers to help promote the product is a step in the right direction. It implies an acceptance of anyone wearing a costume.

Anyone else go to Blizzcon and noticed something the wished comic conventions would do (like serve beer on the convention floor)? Or did you wish Blizzcon did something more like comic conventions? Drop a line in the comments and share.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cara Diarium

I've been doing a little fall cleaning on my computer, and found this little piece I wrote a little over twelve years ago. Thought I'd share.

Dear Diary,

I am drowning in a sea of happiness. Oh, I know what that usually means. Everything is perfect, life couldn’t be more wonderful, all that shit. But drowning in anything is hardly a pleasant situation, and the environment you are suffocating in is usually one you would rather remove yourself from.
I am drowning in a sea of happiness. Slightly more depressing this time, isn’t it?
I am drowning in a sea of smiling faces, each obscure and out of focus, like a cheap movie. I can’t tell one person from another, one face from someone else’s. Except his.
His face is crystal clear. I look up from this sea of happiness I am drowning in, and do not see a savior, reaching out a hand to help me breath. I see a man, leering, reaching out a hand to hold me under until I stop breathing.


Sorry, dear diary. I’m so sorry. I’m trying to tell you my secret of the day, and I am shaking so bad I can barely get it out. Am I angry? Yes. Furious. So enraged that I can barely see sometimes. But I’m mostly scared.
They say the worst part about drowning is that you die alone. I feel so alone.
I am drowning in a sea of happiness. A sea of smiling faces surround me, and I want so badly to breath them in. But I’m too scared to open my mouth. I’m so scared, and sometimes I feel like I’d rather drown then open my mouth and let them in.

I don’t know who I’m supposed to trust.

I feel so alone. I want to talk to someone, need to talk, but every time I’m greeted by a friend

Oh God.

Every time I’m greeted by a friend, I open my mouth, to cry, to cry for help, to ask forgiveness, to scream in rage, but my shame makes everything stick to the back of my throat. And everybody tells me they love what I did with my hair. It looks so good cut so short, and blond makes my eyes sparkle.

I want to scream at them that my eyes are sparkling because they are merely the lids to my tear ducts, and the reservoir is so full it’s been overflowing lately. I want to shout at the top of my lungs. I want to tell them that if I thought it would do any good I would have shaved my head completely. But that would only make me feel more naked. And more ashamed.

I lost count of how many showers I took. How many times I sank to the floor of the bathtub and let my tears mingle with water that was supposed to make me feel clean. But every time I got beneath the spray of water, it splashed hard against my body, like a fist it pummeled me. And no matter how long I stayed under those fists of liquid, I never felt cleaner. Purer. I felt dirtier. Soiled and used.
So I would turn the water back on again.
So many times I wanted to plug the drain and let the water fill the tub. Then I could sink beneath the water and be justified that what I was feeling and what was actually happening were one and the same.

I’m such a stubborn bitch. If I give up, he wins. If I stay silent, he wins. But if I bare my shame to the world, I lose. I lose my pride, my self-respect, my determination.

My desire to live now rests completely on the desire to never see this happen again.

So you watch out asshole. I may be alone, and scared, and merely a woman, that you took advantage of and tossed away like an empty liquor bottle. But you didn’t realize that the bottle wasn’t empty. I was a bottle full of possibilities. You should never throw away a full bottle. You should put in on a shelf and keep it. But you poured me out and threw me away, and I am nothing now but a puddle of fear and self loathing.
But I am also angry. And my wrath will be your scourge. And the scourge of your friends. And the scourge of my friends. I know who you are now. I may feel cheap, but this will pass, because I did not make myself feel this way. You will always be a bastard. Apologize a thousand times, because you were wrong. Apologize a thousand more, and maybe I will forgive you. But this is something we both will live with for the rest of our lives, and I will never let you forget it.
This misery I have should have belonged to you. This fear I have should have paralyzed you. You should have been the one to feel alone. Wipe that goddamn smirk off your face and stop telling everyone how much fun your party was. You may not feel these things now, and maybe you never will. But I swear no one else will either.

Oh dear diary, thank you. Thank you for listening, though you have no ears. Thank you for comforting me, though you cannot hug, though I cannot hide in your embrace. You are my life preserver in a sea of faces. Though no one knows what I know. I have at least found the strength to tell you. Maybe I will be able to tell someone else.

Someday. But not today. Today I shall stop crying tears of shame, and cry the cleansing tears of resolve. And you will cry them with me.

Tomorrow is for hope. Tomorrow is for fighting. Tomorrow is for never drinking again. Tomorrow is for foregiveness.

But it’s still today. And today, I still can’t trust anyone, yet.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pignus Fidelitatis

I pledge allegiance to the brag of
the United States of America
and to the oligarchy for which it stands.
One nation, under fraud,
divisible by race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation
With liberty and justice for those who can afford it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Quae Putidiusculum

Meanwhile, 5 months later...

A lot's been happening, and I haven't been able to adjust my habits to include blogging very much. Apologies.

But the good news is I've still been writing! "in Sanity, AZ" has been on shelves for a little over half a year and the response so far has been very positive. Thanks to everyone who's picked that up, I'm really proud of it. (And if you haven't picked up a copy yet, what are you waiting for?)

The guys I wrote "in Sanity, AZ" with and I started a new project, a prose book, and it's coming along very nicely. I promise to share more when I have more to share.

Finally, I'm working on a children's book with an old friend of mine Bryan McIntyre called "Rotten Little Things". It's a fun little tale about cute, cuddly, candy-crazed kids who turn into cute, cuddly, candy-starved zombies! One of my favorite things about this book is that all the art will be hand-made. Not hand-drawn, hand-made.

Check out the official press release below:

Local artist seeks to revive dying art form with innovative approach to storytelling   
PORTLAND – Local sculpture artist Bryan McIntyre is trying to revive a dying art form with his newest creation, Rotten Little Things. It’s a book with a story that focuses on a small town and what happens when a creepy old codger moves in and turns the town’s pint-sized citizens into adorable, candy-starved zombies – all told in narrative sonnet form, written by co-author of the diabolically delicious graphic novel "in Sanity, AZ', Michael Drace Fountain.

McIntyre’s original story will forgo any CGI or digital manipulation. He will be creating all of the art work with sculptures, miniature models, and sets; all created by hand.
“I think there’s more of a tangible connection with this type of art,” McIntyre said. “It’s not computer generated, it’s not two dimensional and drawn on a piece of paper. When our eyes see something real, our mind instinctively knows it.”

McIntyre is a former Laika employee. He left the company in 2013 after completing his work for their upcoming feature file, The Boxtrolls. While looking for work, he decided to re-examine a project he had put aside for a few years. When it came time to decide on his next career path, he jumped at the chance to focus on Rotten Little Things full time.

To generate funding, McIntyre is taking his old-school art form into the digital age: He’s going the crowd-funding route. His Kickstarter campaign went live on May 14, and generated 10 percent of his $65,000 goal in only four days.

“Once the campaign hit Facebook, it nearly went viral,” he said. “Good friends of mine in the band Rival Sons posted a link, and it hit nearly 90,000 people overnight.”

The funding McIntyre generates will go to supplies, his nearly 60-hour work week, and living expenses. He said he anticipates the project taking a year to complete, and that all reward levels will receive the book, as well as other perks based on the supporters’ chosen pledge level.

His Web page, is regularly updated with a blog on his progress on the project. To contact McIntyre, please email

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mutare Tu Mente II: Units of Heat

Greetings! I hope everyone has been having a lovely start to the year.

In my previous blog, I talked a little bit about a little bit about those common New Year's resolutions to "lose weight" and "get in shape" - two rather vague terms that don't (in my mind) properly define the goals you may be trying to accomplish.
For instance, "losing" generally has a negative connotation. You lost the game. You lost your phone. Psychologically, people prefer the opposite of losing - either gaining or winning. But it seems like they try to create a psychologic disconnect with the term when they talk about how much they weigh. Maybe this is one of the reasons why "losing weight" can be so difficult. In most cases we associated losing with a failure of some kind, but in the case of our weight we want to succeed in losing.
So in my last blog I talked about the term "reconstitution". In a workout, generally you are doing a combination of burning fat and building muscle, and a proper combination of the two can result in positive changes on the scale and how you look.

Today I want to take a look at calories. Oh, the dreaded calorie! Calorie counting has become part of everyday life. Menus (at least in California) are required to list their calorie counts for every food item. People obsess over them.
The commonly held data is that one pound of fat holds about 3500 calories. OK, so you go to the gym and jump on the treadclimber and after a solid 30-minute workout the machine says you've burned around 600 calories. Cool, that means you only need to use the treadclimber for about 3 hours to burn one pound. Oh, but you also ate food that day (in order to survive) in excess of 1200 calories, so you better tack on another hour of stair-climbing to offset your meals.

Can you see how ridiculous (and dangerously unhealthy) this mindset is? Calories are just a basic unit of heat that comes from burning energy stores. You aren't burning calories, you are burning fats and sugars. If you think of it like a car, gasoline is the energy store and the exhaust coming out of your tailpipe are the calories (This is not scientifically accurate, I know. I'm speaking metaphorically here).
Knowing you are "burning" calories is useful only in that you know that you are also accessing the energy stored in your body's fats and sugars. It's data, and it's as useful  as the data you get when you step on a scale. It's a number you can use to track your progress.

But there is better data you can use.
The basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body uses when it is at rest. To pump the heart, inflate the lungs, operate the nervous system, and basically keep the body alive your body needs energy. Yep, you burn calories just by sleeping.
Without taking in more detailed data, like lean body mass and things like that, my BMR is around 2000 calories. What that means is that, without doing any activity at all, in order to keep my weight where it is right now, I would need to consume 2000 calories per day.

So without doing any activity at all, I could drop my weight by eating fewer than 2000 calories every day. At least until my BMR dropped to the caloric amount I was eating.

But let's be clear, when most people talk about dropping weight, they would like to be healthy once they reach their goal weight.
Let's go back to the treadclimber example. After a solid 30 minute workout, the machine says you burned around 600 calories. But your heart is also beating faster, your lungs are pumping more oxygen, your blood is moving quicker, and you are sweating, which is your body's way of trying to cool you down because you are running hotter than normal. A calorie is a unit of heat, right? Once you step of the treadclimber, you don't just go back to your regular everyday caloric burn, you're still giving off a lot more heat than normal. In a workout, it's not just about the calories you burn during the workout. What I think is more important are the calories you are burning when you are done.
You burned some calories in the workout, which is good. But you also put an energy spike into your BMR, which is way better. The body recognizes that you are in a heightened state of movement and starts burning energy stores to keep you going, but it doesn't stop burning energy stores just because you stopped working out. For a little while, it continues to burn energy in case you want to keep going.

There is a lot more scientific detail you can delve into if you want, and the main point I can't stress enough is to make healthy choices, but there are ways you can inject small energy spikes throughout your day to play tricks on your BMR.

Try this one every day for a week and see what happens:
Do everything exactly the same as you would normally. Eat the way you've been eating, work out the way you have (or haven't) been working out. But before eating lunch and/or dinner do twenty air squats and twenty wall presses. These are easy, low-impact moves designed to increase overall tone and balance. What's great is that by doing these, in less than five minutes you've tricked your body into thinking that you're going to need more energy than you actually do. You've placed an energy spike into your basic daily routine.
I promise that it will help.

For those that are interested in a quick BMR calculator, try this one.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mutare Tu Mente I: Reconstitute!

Anyone who's known me for a significant length of time knows that I don't do New Year's resolutions. Instead I go on either a 2-week or 1-month detox from all the lovely vices that for the most part aren't too terrible as long as they are not abused: No alcohol, no caffeine, no smoking (though that last one gets easier and easier to stop for far longer). Woof.

This new year though, a couple people I know are going to be doing some major body reconstitution and I'm on board to help. I figure, since I'm helping I might as well jump on the band wagon. Body reconstitution is a pretty popular New Year's Resolution (most people call it weight loss), so I thought I'd blog about some of the things I'll be doing in case it'll help anyone else out on the internets with their own resolution.

The first thing I'm working on is a mindset issue. Most people who go to the gym have a certain goal weight in mind, like, "I weigh 215, but I want to weigh 185 like when I was in high school." For someone like me, that was 17 years ago. As an issue purely of time, I gained (with minor fluctuations either way) 30 pounds over a span of almost 20 years. That's a long period of time that includes hundreds of small lifestyle changes. For instance, I'm stronger in the arms and chest than I was in high school, but weaker in the legs (I'm actually much more balanced now). If I start talking about  getting back to a weight I was in high school, I don't want to lose the muscle mass I've gained in my arms and chest, so really in order to reach my "goal weight" I need to be considerably more healthy than I was in high school.
So while a "goal weight" is not a bad route to go, it may not be the best route. When a person goes to the gym, they are not only burning fat, they are gaining muscle. And if they aren't making correct diet choices and using the equipment properly, the fat they burn and the muscle they gain come in extremely inefficient amounts. This causes most people who make a New Year's Resolution to give up after a month, because they aren't losing in a matter of weeks what they've built up over decades of time.

This is why I focus on the term "body reconstitution". For practically everyone, 20 pounds of body reconstitution is an immediately noticeable "holy shit, what have you been doing with/to yourself" reaction from others. But that 20 pounds doesn't necessarily reflect the changes happening when you step on a scale.

A couple years ago, I weighed about 225, the heaviest I've ever been. It was not healthy weight, either. I decided that my goal weight should be under 200 pounds, based on height and age and profession. I worked really hard and got down to about 210 pounds, and frustrated as hell that I was plateauing there. But everyone who saw me was saying how much more healthy I looked. For a birthday, everyone bought me food or restaurant gift cards because they thought I wasn't eating enough (though I was).
What had actually happened was that I reconstituted about 25 pounds.
I lost 20 pounds of soft, blubbery fat. But I also had gained 5 pounds of leaner, harder muscle. The scale was telling me I'd only lost 15 pounds, but visually I had changed by 25 pounds, a huge difference! At the time, I figured there was either something I was doing wrong or I'd never get below 200 ever again. But really, I was doing something right, and my weight-plateauing was from some other lifestyle issues.

What I think a focus for most people (including my friends making their resolution) should be is to reconstitute 20 pounds: Burn away 15 pounds of fat and gain 5 pounds of muscle, a change on the scale of 10 pounds.
I've heard plenty of people complain that they've gone to the gym regularly for 2-3 weeks, and gave up when they saw their weight wasn't going anywhere when they stepped on a scale, and they weren't seeing any visual differences.
5 pounds of body reconstitution is not going to make a big visual splash at all, but I'm nearly positive that most of those people who were giving up had lost some amount of fat and also gained some amount of muscle. It's entirely possible to burn 2 pounds of fat in 2 weeks, which is an amazing, healthy stride! It's also entirely possible to pack on 1-2 pounds of muscle in 2 weeks, also an incredibly healthy stride. But there isn't a huge visual change and the scale says there hasn't been any change. So people get frustrated and give up.

So all you internet folk out there, consider this your step one for "weight loss". Don't think about it in terms of pure pound reduction. Think about it more about how you want to reconstitute the weight you have.

Over the next couple weeks, I want to post some of the other mindset issues that people have about health and fitness, and where I think they could be doing things better. Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cor Tuum Enim Bono

*credit for the following bean recipe goes to The Pioneer Woman.

About a week ago, I looked in my freezer and saw a large pork tenderloin that desperately needed to be cooked. So the other day I thawed it out and thought, What the hell, and decided to brine the pork.

Brining is a cooking technique similar to marinating, where you soak your meat (or vegetables) for a long period of time in a salt solution. The solution seeps into the meat, locking in fluids, which makes the meat extra tender when eating. A good brine can make a pork chop fall right off the bone.

Brining also flavors the meat. For my brine, I mixed 1-ish cup each of salt and brown sugar in 2 cups of boiling water. After the granules are dissolved into the water, I removed the brine from the heat and mixed in about 1/3 cup of peppercorns and 1/3 cup of an Italian seasoning blend. I didn't have any bay leaves or else I would've tossed a few in as well.
Then I stirred in 4-ish more cups of cold water. You want the brine to cool off so when you soak the meat the liquid doesn't start cooking it.  Find a large, preferably air-tight container (or freezer bag) and soak the meat in the liquid for a long time. I soaked the tenderloin for around 12 hours. (*note to self, try brining a turkey with this mixture for Thanksgiving)

Then I made a dry-rub of brown sugar, paprika, and pepper to put on the meat when it was done. I woulda added mustard (the spice, not the condiment) but I didn't have any on hand.

Anyway, as it got closer towards removing the pork from the brine, I decided the best side dish to go with pork would be beans. Duh. But I didn't want to buy cans of baked beans from the store, since all manner of weird ingredients (mostly corn derivations) are contained therein. So I did a little research and made baked beans from scratch.

Take a pack of thick-cut bacon and cook it in a large skillet (or pot) just long enough to start rendering the fat. Don't overcook the bacon. Pull it from the skillet after the fat starts liquifying.
Why the bacon is cooking dice some onion (amount will vary depending on how much you want to make, I diced half an onion for two cans of beans) and a bell pepper (I used half of that as well).

Once the bacon has been pulled from the skillet (let them drain on some paper towels), throw in the diced onion and bell pepper and let it cook in all that bacon grease. Your kitchen is going to smell amazing right about now. Now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

After the onion starts to soften and clarify, thrown in your beans. I used a can of organic black beans and a can of pinto beans. Then add brown sugar (1/3 cup), barbecue sauce (I found a nonfat organic sauce at Trader Joes that is delicious, use about 1/2 cup for two cans), Dijon mustard (A heaping tablespoon), and a bit of apple-cider vinegar (around 2 teaspoons).

Stir everything together until it starts simmering. Remove from heat and pour into a baking dish (greased, if you like). Take the strips of bacon and place them on top of the beans.
Cook in the oven uncovered for around 2 hours. The sauce will thicken and the beans will soften and the bacon will blacken.

The timing is tricky, because you want your pork to be about 145 degrees in the center, if you want to try to time when to start baking the meat. Or you can pull the beans and cover them (a casserole dish works perfectly for this) and cook the meat at 350 degrees for about a half hour.

Once the pork is done, serve and enjoy the hell out of it. I know I did.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Amoris Medicum: Bibunt Biberunt Bibebant

Oh dear... is an online news source that generally puts out really good, interesting articles. But today on their splash page was a link to this article with the tagline: "Being Drunk Puts Women At Higher Risk of Rape. Why Will No One Tell Them To Stop Getting Wasted?"
The article, by Emily Yoffe, seems at first glance to offer good counsel.
We are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them...when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart.
I'm a big fan of personal responsibility. I try to live my life by making good choices and encouraging others to make good choices. The difficulty in trying to teach people to make better choices, is that in the case of this article, it's difficult to avoid victim-blaming when talking about bad choices. And unfortunately, this article fails to avoid victim-blaming, essentially saying that drunk women who are sexually assaulted are at fault, because they were drunk. There are a few moments in the article where the author or people she quotes, write a version of "I'm not literally saying women are to blame, but I'm certainly implying it."
That "but" always takes your first defensive statement and negates it. "I'm not a racist, but...I'm about to say something racist."

And you know what's (figuratively) funny? I wouldn't have as many problems with the article at all if the point was to teach people, specifically in this case women, to be more careful about drinking alcohol. But the point of the article was rape. And there's a big difference (albeit on a fine line) between teaching people the dangers of making poor choices and implying it's your own fault if it happens to you.

Women don't rape themselves. Period.
Could some women have made better choices, or placed themselves in positions where their chances of being raped were lower? Perhaps. But articles like this one imply that rape prevention begins by telling women not to wear big signs around their neck that say "rape me", even though that isn't what is really happening at all.
Women don't think, "I'm gonna wear skimpy clothes, go to a party of strangers, and then drink myself into oblivion. I sure hope somebody rapes me." They don't even think "I sure hope nobody rapes me."

What made the article even more disappointing was there was no mention of the email sent out to members of Georgia Tech's Phi Kappa Tau fraternity titled "Luring Your Rapebait", which included helpful suggestions like "If anything ever fails, go get more alcohol."

But don't worry, frat boys, if you succeed, it's the woman's fault.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Nullam Infernus

Oh my goodness, have there been things to rant about! The government shutdown is the big one, obviously. I try to follow the developments (such as they are) as best I can, and nearly every day I think, Oh, I should blog about that.  I've been feeling guilty about not updating as much as I should, and I got stuff I'd like to write about. Part of the blame can be laid on my schedule. I've stuck a lot of pots on the fire, and while it means I got some good stuff cooking (to be announced soon!) it also means my attention is going elsewhere.
But also, my frustration with the system has risen to the level where I've been asking myself "What's the point?"
We could talk about who's to blame, or what the Affordable Care Act (which people mistakenly call Obamacare, since it was thought up by conservative group The Heritage Foundation in the late 80s and enacted by Massachusetts Republican governor Mitt Romney in 2006) really does and what the pros (and there are some) and cons (way more than there are pros) are. We could talk about the effect of the shutdown on America, or what will happen if America defaults (hint: it would be globally catastrophic).

That's all important discussion, but I think it's not nearly as important as discussing the system that made all this possible in the first place.
The dictionary gives it a fancy name like gerrymandering, but what all of our Representatives have done is consolidate their power. They restructure the borders of the district they represent so they will have the most supporters. Sound strange? It is a little. It's also horribly disingenuous.

Let's say you are a House Representative of the Democratic Party for California. The state of California has 53 members of the House, each Representative covering a district of the state. So let's say that while you garnered enough votes in your district to be elected, there was a sizeable section of your district that didn't vote for you and typically never votes Democrat. What gerrymandering does is redraw the lines of your district so that the section that never votes for you is cut out of your district and now included in the neighboring district, one that mostly votes Republican. With the majority of voters who don't or won't vote Democrat moved out of your district, you've made your seat in the House election-proof. You don't have to fear your constituency becoming so dissatisfied that they'll replace you.

I know a lot of champions of free-market capitalism who moan that without stiff job competition in the marketplace there's no impetus to excel in the marketplace. While I don't 100% agree with that statement I will admit that the House of Representatives provides a perfect example of that idea in action.
In our current situation, a bunch of hard-line ideologues, who are so confident their way is the right way they refuse to compromise right past the point of disaster, made extortionist demands of the government, and when the government refused to capitulate to their demands they followed through on their threats. I could only wish I was talking about al Qaeda here. For once, the Obama administration and Senate Democrats showed they actually had a spine and told these House terrorists to go to hell --unlike when they caved to extend the Bush-era tax cuts through to 2012, caved to offer spending cuts and a "super committee" and a sequester to lift the debt ceiling in 2011, caved to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 to avoid the fiscal cliff, and then caved to offer "chained CPI" and Medicare cuts in 2013 (credit to Robert Reich for the list).
Any candidate running against these moronic assholes is doomed to fail in the election because of the gerrymandered districts, so they have little need to change their tune.

The only way out of this mess (because it goes both ways) is for the voters to change. We need to raise the common denominator to expect and demand more of our elected leaders. The only way to do that is by learning. Yes, the l-word. We need to stop relying on the media to tell us how to vote. We need to research our candidates, stop voting down the party line if the candidate at the bottom is broken, learn about the bills and laws that affect our districts, learn how an economy works, how the banking system (the real enemy) works, how taxes work. And then we need to come together as a community and tell these bastards that even if we disagree on the liberal or conservative details, we won't let our elected representatives sell off our personal, social, financial, and political security to the highest bidder.

As Dr. Timothy Leary said: "Think for yourself. Question authority."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Memorias II

The Time I Had Appendicitis
Every now and again, if I've been doing lots of walking or lifting, of if the weather is just right, I'll get an awful pain in my left hip. It's usually bad enough during those times that I'll walk with a pronounced limp.
"Why are you limping?" someone may ask.
"I tore my hip flexor back in high school, and it acts up sometimes," I'll say.
They wince. "Ouch. How'd you do that?"
Depending on how much I'd like to feel embarrassed that day, I'll say either, "Long story," or "I fell down a mountain and got appendicitis."
I realize that maybe saying "I fell down a mountain and got appendicitis" sounds a bit too incredible to be true, but I'm only slightly exaggerating.

It'd be more true to say that I fell down part of an incline on a mountain and only had appendicitis while I was in the emergency room of the mountain hospital, but even that does not fully clarify what probably is on my list of Top Five Worst Days Ever.

So the summer after my Freshman year, I go up to Running Springs, CA for my church's summer camp for a week of prayer and worship and hiking and swimming. One of the activities we'd have is Quiet Time: an opportunity for you to spend time alone with God. You could go on a nature walk, find a corner in the sanctuary, wherever. As long as it was just you and Jesus. I always chose to take a walk, and listen to the way a Creator could speak to us through the rustle of leaves in a breeze, or in the babble of a stream, or in the calls of birds and beasts. And yeah, I'd do my share of praying. It was a different life back then.
A fairly accurate representation of what happens.

It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in my own skin. And especially in high school, I was not the most coordinated of individuals.
So I'm taking a hike one morning, and just outside of the main part of camp is a 45-degree-ish (totally guessing) incline down into more untamed forest (as opposed to the landscaped forest of the camp). It was off the more well-traveled paths, so I knew I wouldn't run into anybody, which was my goal in going that way.
Unfortunately, not running into anybody can be a problem when there's an accident.
I wasn't walking straight down the incline, but cutting across it at an angle to control my descent, when my right foot - the foot lower on the incline - hit a loose patch of dirt and started to slide downward. My left foot, rather than pulling inward to lower my center of gravity and control my slide, got caught on a rock. My right foot continued to slide until I ended up in the splits, at which point my left foot came free of the rock and I slid 20-30 yards down the incline in an incredibly uncomfortable position. That was the first and only time I've ever done the splits and needless to say, my hip flexor was FUBAR'd.

So I just messed up my hip and slid my crotch down thirty yards of mountain, and I need help. Naturally I had chosen to hike in a direction away from the well-travelled paths. What a fantastic moment to be alone with God! I'm able to painfully pull myself to my feet, but when I tried to climb back up towards the camp the pain was excruciating. There was no way I could get back up there by walking. So I crawled. Using both hands and one leg, I pulled myself back up to camp.
Once I made it back up to the flatter terrain of the camp grounds, I got my feet under me and limped to the nurse's station by the pool. Of course it's by the pool. By the time I get there, Quiet Time is over and Play Time has begun. I limp past the pretty and popular kids, who use the pool to flash a little Christian skin and flirt with Christian smiles, and tell the nurse what happened.
She fills a huge bag with ice and tells me to apply it to where it hurts. Of course, the bag covers significantly more than just where it hurts and I spend the next half hour applying ice to my balls in the pool area with my cheeks burning in embarrassment.
The pool area

That night I was awoken by a sharp, agonizing pain, not in my groin but in my abdomen. It would hit, then abate slightly, and then hit again, like I was being stabbed in the gut repeatedly. Each spasm of pain pulled a whimper from me, and soon the rest of my cabin was gathered around my bunk, wondering what to do.
"Get. Help." I gasped.
So one of them ran to get the nurse, and then together they all got me into her car, and we raced off to the Mountains Community Hospital in Lake Arrowhead, about thirty agonizing minutes away. We check in to the emergency center, and the night doctor says, "I'm pretty sure it's kidney stones."
He orders a bunch of tests and says a nurse will be in to hook me up to an I.V. filled with a soup of pain killers and muscle relaxers. I get an x-ray done, and then an older gentleman, that in my memory looks like Christopher Walken from The Prophecy movies, administers a rectal exam.
Now I was old enough to have a vague understanding of what a rectal exam was, but young enough to not understand what was actually required. He had me lay on my side and lower my pajama bottoms down past my ass. And then he jammed a vaguely lubed cold metal rod approximately the size of the Washington Monument into my rectum (damn near killed 'em!), with nothing in the way of warning. Not that a warning could have prepared for the steel tidal wave up my ass.
Anyone else notice how the two paths look like a scrotum?
Afterwards, I lay, still on my side, my knees pulled up towards my chest. I was pretty damn miserable at this point. I was looking forward to the I.V. full of drugs that was to come.
A kind-looking old lady opens my door and shuffles in. "I'm here to hook you up to your medication."
I roll onto my back, and she sets up shop next to my bed. She ties off some rubber tubing around my lower bicep, and pulls out the needle. She hovers over my arm, waiting for the vein to present itself. She presses on the vein in the crook of my elbow, on the vein in my wrist, and on the top of my hand.
"Hmmmm," she says.
My eyebrows start to go up. This was taking a while.
Finally, she settles on my wrist. She pushes the needle in.
"Whoops," she says.
She missed the vein! So she starts digging around with the needle while the damn thing was still in my wrist. At one point, I see my skin raise like a small creature was trying to push its way out of my arm. At this point, I'm more in shock than pain, but when she pulls out the needle and releases the tubing around my arm it sets in pretty good as the blood flow comes back into my arm.
She grabs a new needle, and then ties off the tubing onto my other arm. She finds the vein in my hand pretty quick, but when she pushes the needle in, she pushes it in straight down. The needle goes right through the vein and hits a bone.
With a yelp, I jerk my hand away. The poor old nurse, horribly flustered at this point, apologizes and shuffles out of the room. A new, younger nurse comes in and efficiently and more or less painlessly gets the I.V. hooked up to the vein in my wrist.

The doctor comes in with my test results, rubbing his chin. "Well," he says, "I don't see any kidney stones show up on your x-ray, but I'm sure that's what it is. I want to wait for the morning doctor to come in for a second opinion however, so make yourself comfortable."
An hour later, the morning doctor comes in, looking over my test results, rubbing his chin. "Well," he says. "It's not kidney stones."
Ok, that's good news, right?
He says, "It's appendicitis."

Unfortunately, the medication was making it difficult for him to perform any abdominal tests for confirmation. So they pulled me off I.V. and were going to wait for it to wear off to confirm, with the caveat that if the pain returns they would need to operate immediately in order to prevent the appendix from rupturing. A little while later, my mom showed up, having been contacted that there was an emergency. She looks at the doctors, and the facility, and says, "Come on, we're going to our doctor."
So they release me, and we drive down the mountain back to Orange County. I was leaving camp four days early.

We go to our hospital, and the doctors there perform all the same tests, though they were much more gentle and efficient, and after another hour of waiting, the doctor comes in to the room with a small smile on his face. "Well," he says. "It's not appendicitis."
Great, now what?
His smile gets a little wider. "It's not kidney stones either." He says, "you have a condition that we call F.O.S." he says, chuckling.
I blink, not getting it.
"Full Of Stool," he says, clarifying.
It still wasn't sinking in. I look at my mom. She says, "You're constipated, Mike."


I was only slightly mollified to learn that you can actually die from constipation, so I felt a little better that the stabbing pain in my guts was not merely me overreacting. Still, I was mortified. It felt like I was dying, and all I needed to do was poop!
The doctor prescribed magnesium sulfate, which is like Drano for humans, and by that afternoon I was no longer Full Of Anything.

Eventually, after a very long time, the story stopped being embarrassing and I started to find the humor in it the way everyone did right off the bat.
On the other hand, I do wish, every time my hip starts acting up, that the pain didn't remind me of one my Worst Days Ever.