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Grumpy old man Jan. 16th, 2018 @ 02:28 pm
So I was trying to come up with a title for this post, and as I was typing out different thoughts, I couldn't help but think I sounded like some grumpy old man.

Anyhow, the source of today's grumpy-ism is new rules releases for games, specifically miniatures games, but games as a whole. It started this morning, as I was browsing the web while I was waking up. I popped over to the Flames of War website, and saw they were releasing a new campaign book — Italy in Mid-War Africa. Seeing as I have a fair amount of Italians, I thought — "great! a book tailored to my army!" Except that was quickly dashed by a "except that this is for the latest rules version, which I'm not familiar with". And it actually tied back in to a conversation I had with Blindfury last night — about how I hate the version changes with games, and that I'm more likely to play an old version of a game than the most current set.

In all honesty, this is nothing new. For me it mostly dates back to my 40K games - starting with Rogue Trader, and moving on through the various iterations of Warhammer 40K. The transition from Rogue Trader to 2nd Edition was actually a good one - they simplified a lot of the game, and introduced a lot of army organization that made the game easier to get into and play. The original Rogue Trader was a very generic set - there was a lot of flexibility but very little structure. There wasn't much predefined - no army org charts, or anything like that, and the vehicle rules were extremely cumbersome. So when Games Workshop trimmed and revised into 2nd and 3rd edition, they were mostly welcome changes. But as the 40K rules progressed, they started to do things that I felt were "too far". They'd make changes that had drastic effects on existing armies, completely nullifying certain tactics or army builds, and sometimes even making certain miniatures not usable. The rule changes moved from welcome changes to a frustrating destruction of prior practice. I got out of 40K when I first started college, and when I got back into it - 40K was no longer a game I recognized. So I pushed it aside.

Years later, Blindfury and I got into Flames of War. At the time it was a good fit - a nice World War 2 setting, but a light and fluffy enough game to be playable. It was often referred to as a "historical 40K", because the game play was similarly simple. But that comparison to 40K ended up going further, in that it shifted into rules versioning hell. When we first started it was the tail end of version 2, and moved over to version 3. But now they are pushing into version 4, and we find ourselves asking the question - for as rarely as we play, is it worth relearning the new ruleset? Or do we cut and run, and let Flames of War fall into the list of "games we used to play"?

I hate to do that, as I love the minis, and we have the time and money invested in armies and terrain. I already have boxes of 40K miniatures that will likely never see the light of day, and I'm not inclined to do the same with my Flames of War stuff. But lately we've been into Frostgrave, and potentially Company of Iron, so I don't know that I see much room for it either. Frostgrave has been our go to as the rules are quick and the scope of armies is small, tow things that Flames of War just doesn't have. Part of me thinks that maybe we need to refocus our idea of Flames of War - smaller armies, and maybe some extra legwork into quick access reference sheets that could streamline the game into something we play more often, but then I wonder if I'm putting effort into a lost cause.

I dunno. I love the army building, and I love the company level management - there's something about having infantry and vehicles and artillery that you just can't recreate in a skirmish level game with 10 guys. But with that comes a certain level of complexity that makes it hard to have a quick and flowing game, and more complex rules are just going to have more grey areas. In all honesty, I really just wish we played more often. I think that alone would make a huge difference - when you are playing a game once every couple months, you tend to go with what works and what's quick, as you don't want to spend time on a game experience that isn't satisfying. You also don't get the speed of game that comes with familiarity with the rules - I think if we were playing Flames every other week, we'd have the rules down well enough to make the games faster.

But as I said - I dunno. I think at this point I'm going to try and refocus my hobby efforts - try and get stuff painted and assembled and organized - and just try and keep my options open.

Pidge and race Jan. 12th, 2018 @ 08:51 am
So obviously this is something that's been a long time coming. There was absolutely no way we were going to get away from race, and the fact that Pidge is black and Ceri and I are white. But even with that, and knowing it was coming, it's hit me in ways that I'm just not ready for.

Once Pidge hit school age, we knew that race was going to start to become something he'd notice. Once outside of the very small circle of contact that was family and day care, things were going to come up. He'd occasionally make comments, and we'd be very open and honest with him, and for the most part his kid brain just accepted things. We were different colors and that was no big deal. But this year, now that he's in first grade, he's much smarter and more savvy, and his brain is reaching deeper. He's noticing things, and asking more pointed questions. And moreso, he's hearing things from kids at school, and bringing them home as questions to us. For the most part it's been stuff that has been easy to handle - questioning things like Santa and God - but last night he brought up Martin Luther King.

I know a big part of it was naivety on my side. I'm not fool enough to think that the election of a black president was "the end of racism", or that there aren't any scars that remain of our racist past. But most of that has been national, or higher level news stuff that was beyond Pidge's awareness, so they were questions he didn't ask. But since schools are closed for MLK day, and school is very much in Pidge's level of thought, it was only natural that he would ask us who MLK was, and why he got the day off of school. And there's obviously no way to discuss MLK without discussing America's problem with racism.

It's actually been a weird thought point for us. Ceri and I are very aware of the fact that the history of black America isn't specifically Pidge's history - while he is black, his history is in Ethiopia. But to the person that sees him from the outside, he is a black American, and so that history is his. He's going to be perceived and judged as a young black American, with all of the extras that are associated with that. And frankly, it's a part of American history - a nasty part - but a part nonetheless, and we'd be doing him a disservice by pretending otherwise. Fortunately Ceri was on top of this - she's had an eye out for kid level stories about prominent black Americans since before Pidge came home - so when he asked about MLK, we had a book on the shelf ready to read. So we read it last night, and listening to Ceri read the book to Pidge, and all of his questions - it's really hard. Part of it is just hard to believe that it was ever acceptable to enslave people, or segregate and discriminate based on color. There just isn't a good answer when he looks at you and says "why?" And it's made even harder by knowing that these people still exist, and not in the "old dinosaur" type of people. Racism isn't just an old Archie Bunker episode, or some angry old white man - it's their kids, and their kids' kids, and it's going to be their kids' kids' kids.

I've also started reading "We Were Eight Years In Power" by Ta-nehisi Coates, which is a reflection on the Obama presidency, as told by a black American. I'm not going to try and pretend to be some sort of enlightened person on the issue of race, but reading his perspective on things - all of this is coming together in a way that has my head reeling. I find myself becoming more aware of the white washing of so much that I grew up with, and then I look and see how many people *aren't* aware of it - people that just aren't aware of the bigotry that lies at the heart of so much of what they know. I think the perfect example is the retelling of the Civil War - a war that was literally fought over slavery (the Articles of Secession some of the states wrote explicitly say as much), but that fact is literally not taught to large parts of the country - they are taught that the war was fought over state rights, and an overreaching federal government - and the whole issue of slavery is glossed over, not a big deal, not pertinent to the story. Some politicians have even gone on to say that the whole war could have been avoided if "the North knew how to compromise". And then I think about so many of the racist and bigoted things I hear people say (because as a white guy people assume I agree with them or something), and the things they spew as 'facts' that mean they aren't actually racist, again completely ignoring the systemic racism that set up black America to fail. Because they were never taught about that. They were never taught about redlining, or the policies that pushed black Americans into the slums of the city, and the policies that crippled their access to jobs and education and health. And I know they were never taught this, because I was never taught this. Growing up, I was never taught that racism was a thing. Slavery and segregation and Jim Crowe - those were just blips of bad decisions in an otherwise Great American History. We were certainly never taught that they still existed.

So I don't know. As someone that grew up in white bread Kentucky and Connecticut, I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed. I'm realizing that there is a large part of our history that I need to make sure Eli knows, but that before I can help him understand it, I need to understand it first.

Holidays are done - back to normal Jan. 9th, 2018 @ 02:13 pm
Now that we're into January, I've been meaning to get back to the ol' LJ and put some thoughts down.

PhoenixCollapse )

So I feel like there's a bunch of other stuff I should go on about, but I'm kinda brain dead too. Ceri is in Saudi for her final trip over there, so as single Dad for a week I'm a little drained. I can't even blame it on being single Dad - Pidge is fairly good to take care of, even if he gets a bit intense with his jibber jabber - but I also do dumb stuff like staying up until 2 playing video games with my brother. I justify it in my brain by doing a bunch of around the house stuff - cleaning and laundry and such - but all it means is that I get stuff done and stay up too late, so I'm accomplished and tired. Then again, a little accomplishment is needed sometimes. The house was still a bit overrun with holidays - lots of boxes for recycling, laundry that piles up because no one wants to do it on vacation, that kind of stuff - so clearing some of that away helps. I find that I start to get into a funk when I feel like the house is too cluttered, so clearing that out lifts me up a bit, and tends to put me in a better mood.

There's also some real practical reason behind wanting to do some major cleaning around the house - and that is that the Man Shed is on it's last legs. The exterior sheathing is starting to rot on one side, and it's become clear that I'm going to need to do something about it within a year or so. Ceri and I started talking about it, and the conclusion we came to is that it's probably best to just tear it down, and put up something smaller. When we bought the house I had this idea of using that as my man cave - it's where stuff like my tools and model railroad could go - but after 10 years in the house that never really materialized. And with getting the addition a few years ago, it's meant that we don't need to use the basement as living space - so it's possible that some of what was meant for the shed can happen inside. Some stuff still won't work - I'm not going to run major power tools (or clean up after them) in the house, but frankly that's the sort of thing that I can store the tools indoors, and just temporarily set them up outside to use them. If I'm honest about it I rarely use them anyway, so I don't exactly need a giant shed for them. So while repair is still an option, the truth is that the shed is too big for the yard, and never filled it's promise as a place for my stuff, and honestly never will. Even though I started fixing it up inside, it doesn't have A/C or real heat, so it's never going to be a permanent home for anything. It may have made great gaming space in the fall, but I'm not going to want to leave anything out there all year if I'm only willing to go out for a couple months during the year.

So I've been thinking of brining my railroad in first - Pidge has wanted to play with it anyway, and I've been kinda hankering to see it moving myself. If I clean all the clutter off the gaming table I can bring it in and set it up there, which will give me a place to clean it up and get it running again. That will mean that I'll need to find a home for my railroad to actually game on the table, but the layout is still just a 3'x4'and relatively portable. I'm also a little excited to get back to it, because I think there are things that were holding me up that I can now fix with the printer. I'll be able to print background buildings, and stuff like retaining walls and bridges. The resolution isn't quite there for a up-front n scale building, but it'll let me fill out my rail yard with odds and ends. I'll also be able to print out a control console, so I'll be able to create a nice panel with all my switches and controls in one place, and I'll be able to do it far more precisely than I would have been able to if I was trying to use wood. Even just writing about it is getting me psyched. My one big concern though, is the electronics. Everything has been sitting idle for 10 years, so there's no telling what shape it'll be in. The switch motors may not work, my wiring may need to be repaired, my locomotives may not run - and that'd be a huge amount of work and disappointment. And unfortunately, I won't know the answer to that until I actually bring it in and power everything up. But then again - bringing everything in and trying means that I may actually do something with it, rather than leaving it to eventually rot in the shed.

So, as seems to always be the case though - so much to do and not enough time to do it. I guess life carries on as usual.

Getting to the range Dec. 18th, 2017 @ 08:40 am
So Blindfury and I managed to get to the range as planned — the first time in just over a year for me.  I made a point of pulling out my 1911 and putting a little grease on the rails — it has been sitting for way too long — and packed everything up ready to go.  My Christmas work party was that morning/afternoon, so we didn't end up getting to the range until around 4:00.  I brought my 1911, and Blindfury brought his Ruger Blackhawk and his 10/22 takedown.

The 10/22Collapse )

The big stuffCollapse )

All said and done, we were there for about two hours. The range wasn't that crowded, which meant we could relax and take our time, and shoot the way we game - no particular hurry, and a fair amount of chatting and discussion related to what we're doing. All said and done we went through 50 rounds of .22 and 200 rounds of .45 - so a fair amount of shooting. But considering how rarely we've been able to make it out, I think it's worth making the trip worthwhile.

It's been a bit Dec. 13th, 2017 @ 10:05 am
So, it's been a little while since I posted — I feel like a lot has happened, but it's all in little bits and pieces.  So here's a general "how's life".

Phoenix stuffCollapse )

Something not Phoenix!Collapse )

3D printer stuffCollapse )

So a bit if a "everything but the kitchen sink" post, but I've been slacking. :-)
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Other entries
» Phoenix moving forward

I swear, there's more to my life than Phoenix.

Actually, maybe not.  It's something that's been on my mind a lot, as I continue therapy and work towards figuring me out.  I find that it is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life, and frankly, that both excites and scares me as it pushes me into things I never thought possible and towards things I never expected.

Last week, my therpaist had a conflict, so we ended up moving my appointment to Wednesday, and at a time that butted right against lunch.  I'd been thinking about going as Phoenix, and the timing change convinced me that I'd be able to slyly get mostly dressed, and then do stuff like makeup and finishing touches once I got there.  So I opted for my grey LLR dress, with black boots, silver earrings and necklace and minimal makeup (I didn't want to have to worry about trying to wash off eyeliner before I went back to work).  I was extremely nervous, but had committed to doing it, so I went and had my appointment as usual.

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» Step Up: I hate portion control, but it's effective
Just wanted to swing by with an update. Step Up had basically reached maintenance mode, and I've been generally happy with that as other things in life took priority. But a couple weeks ago I decided I needed to renew my efforts, to try and make that 175 goal.

And as of this morning, I'd hit another milestone - I made it below 190. I had to put another notch in my belt, I've felt my pants getting loose again, even my new 36s, and I'm reaching a point where some of my "comfy size" clothes are just too big.

And as the title hints at, this is almost all through portion control. I still walk at lunch when possible, but this latest drop in weight has been nothing but eating habits. Part of me really hates it - there's something satisfying about eating stupid amounts of food - but damned if it doesn't work.

On a side note - Ceri and I have started a few of those meal prep services - where the ingredients get shipped to your door. We both poo poo'd the idea before, but we found that what stopped us from cooking at home was that we were bad about regularly hitting the grocery store. We'd generally have the basics around, but we wouldn't have much in terms of fresh ingredients. So we'd end up ordering in or eating out all the time. Now we're cooking home more often, and the food is good and generally healthier. Sure, it's more expensive than going to the grocery store, but it's definitely cheaper (and better) than eating out all the time. I also like that the recipes are straight forward enough that I feel like I can do more of the cooking. It takes the responsibility off of Ceri, and also means that if she has to work late, the default isn't eating out.

But all in all, in extremely satisfied with my ability to lose and keep off the weight. It's basically been a year since I started this, and I'm down a solid 40 pounds, and I think I've made the habit changes necessary to keep it that way.
» More Phoenix
So aside from the last post, with getting the new therapist, I feel like there's been some major movement on the Phoenix front. It's all kind of a swirl in my head though, so I wanted to try and get it down while it was swirling.

HalloweenCollapse )

A regular dayCollapse )

Another therapy appointmentCollapse )

So yeah, A lot going on in my brain about Phoenix. I don't quite know where this is leading, if it is actually leading anywhere, but I can't help but think of all of the "I'd love to be able to do" things that I've now done. And with that, all of the things that I never though were possible seem to be within reach.
» Frostgrave Battle Report
Preface: So for some reason it’s basically taken me two weeks to write this. I know blindfury has already covered this, but I still wanted to get my two cents in.

So Blindfury and I managed to put some time aside for a good game of Frostgrave. This represents round three of my Chronomancer vs his Sigilist. We continue to tweak the table – adding more terrain, and this time reducing to a 3’x3’ play area – which continues to improve the overall experience. I’ve read a lot that talks about how a small, crowded table makes for the best game, and I’m inclined to believe it.

We randomly rolled another scenario – slowly working through the 10 scenarios that came in the base book. Blindfury rolled and called up the one scenario he had been fearing – The Haunted Houses. This scenario places the treasure in small huts that have a chance of spawning a wraith when you enter – and wraiths are nasty in that they can only be affected by magic attacks. But that’s what fate gave us, so we set up the table.

The first couple games we’ve played, we used the full size of my 4’x4’ table. The book for Frostgrave specifically says that you should go with a 3’x3’ table for a two player game, so this time we unrolled Blindfury’s 3’x3’ winter themed game mat, and used that as a play area.

The difference was immediately noticeable. A 3’x3’ table is only 9 square feet, compared to the 16 square feet of a 4’x4’ table, and the impact of compressing a table’s worth of scenery into half the space was immediately apparent. Our first games looked like they were taking place in a small town, with wide roads, and a relatively open space. In 3’x3’, it felt like we were in a jammed tight city – the wide roads replaced with narrow and winding alleys. It had a huge impact on line of sight and setup, and for the better.

Setup of the scenery was driven by the scenario – initially place six small roofless huts, and then fill out the table. I had recently printed six 4”x4” huts specifically for this scenario, so Blindfury and I took turns placing them. They ended up fairly evenly spaced, and we then filled in with all of my other buildings. The table ended up jammed with low ruined buildings, creating tons of alleys. There were a couple towers that created variations – one at my left edge, one at my center, one at Blindfury’s right, a short tower at his left, and a short tower at his center. We placed treasure per the scenario – one and each hut, and we both succeeded our “Reveal Secret” rolls – and let the match begin

I set up my wizard and his crew on my left and my apprentice and his crew on my right, and Blindfury mirrored my setup – placing his wizard and crew on his right and apprentice and crew on his left. Since we both passed our Reveal Secrets rolls, we each had an immediate treasure, and with the way the buildings spaced themselves, we each had a couple obvious wraith houses to plunder, with a couple in the middle up for grabs. The real question would be those wraiths – they could turn an easy grab and go into a dead henchman.

My warband is built for speed, so I tried to leverage that into as quick a push as possible, using Crumble to make for some easier access into the wraith houses, or jumping walls to try and get in and get out. Blindfury took a more elegant approach, setting up at a range and using his Marksmen to provide field denial, with his Wizard and apprentice using Telekinesis to pull treasures out and avoid the risk of wraiths.

I was able to secure two treasures quickly – I grabbed a Reveal Secret treasure, and my wizard’s Thief looted a wraith house, but Blindfury outpaced me and was able to get a quick three between Reveal Secret and Telekinesis. My Apprentice’s squad had the misfortune of finding a wraith in their first house, which meant that an easy loot for me was suddenly up for grabs, as I struggled to deal with the wraith.

Once the easy treasure was gone, Blindfury gained the initiative and made a strong push towards the other treasures. My Wizard’s Treasure Hunter was moving up to grab one treasure, only to have it Telekinesised away, and Blindfury’s Apprentice was able to use a Telekinesis and grab the treasure that I couldn’t due to the wraith. Blindfury had a Treasure Hunter move after the last treasure, only to be stopped by a wraith. Some bad luck brought another wraith into the mix, which had Blindfury making the decision to draw back and be happy with the treasure he already had. Fortunately for me, once he decided to abandon that treasure the wraiths did too, allowing my Wizard to run over and make off with an unexpected bonus.

So all said and done this was a fairly harsh match – we both lost a few soldiers, and my Apprentice went down to a wraith. Blindfury managed 5 of the 8 treasures, leaving me with the other 3 – a small consolation prize for what was a generally bad match for me.

This game has several takeaways:

The first is that Blindfury and I are often left commenting on how solid the rules are. We are both so used to wargaming with grey areas, that it’s refreshing to find a game that seems to have really covered everything. The example from this game came to the wraiths – the game scenario specifically says “as soon as a member of a warband enters the hut”, so it’s very clear as to what triggers the roll for a wraith. So telekinesing a treasure out clearly does not trigger a roll, because a warband member never enters. The other rule was about melee combat – where the rules specifically say that if the winner pushes back their opponent, they are no longer in combat. This was a very crucial detail, especially when dealing with the wraiths – as it meant that even though the wraiths were hard to kill, it was still possible to win combat and disengage, allowing you to move out of combat without risk.

Despite having an absolutely terrible game, all is not lost. I’m too used to league games like Blood Bowl, where a bad game or two can mean that you are out of contention. But this game, my wizard was a higher level, but that didn’t mean I outpowered. Dice luck being what it is, the game just didn’t go well for me. But with that being said, once the match was done and loot was resolved, I’m still in a position to be competitive next match. I still gained a couple levels, and got enough in equipment and money to grow my warband.

And I can’t say enough how much better the game was on a 3’x3’ table. Having a small area chock full of terrain really changes the pace and the feel of the game. The first game in particular – our warbands didn’t intermingle much. Treasure was close enough to our respective deployment zones so that we could each safely secure the majority of it, and the fighting that happened was really on the fringes. But by shrinking the board, a lot more was at stake, and you needed to consider your opponent from the very beginning. I liked the game before, but after this last match I really have a hard time justifying playing something different.
» Another step?
So, in the ongoing growth of Phoenix, I took another step - something that I think may turn into a big step - starting tomorrow. I finally decided to look into and see a therapist that specializes in gender identity issues.

Ceri and I have been going through a lot of the changes that Phoenix brings on our own, and I certainly can't complain about the level of support I've received from her. But as I become more comfortable as Phoenix, and want to spend more time as Phoenix, it's clear that there are issues that we are going to run in to that really need an outside perspective. I feel like we've done a good job of feeling our way through things, but I feel like I've reached a certain "now what?"

So I did some quick research online into gender therapists, and found one nearby. I figured this would be a long process - having seen what Ceri went through to find a therapist she liked - but this was remarkably fast. I emailed an appointment request, and it was only a few hours later that I had a phone call, and an appointment for less than a week away. I honestly didn't expect it to happen that quickly, although in a way I'm glad - the suspense would have been a lot to bear.

Granted, I know this first appointment is more of a "get to know you" type of thing - we'll probably discuss Phoenix's history, and talk up to where things are at now. We certainly won't be having any groundbreaking moments, but just taking that first step seems very big. It also helps that Ceri is extremely supportive of it, even though I think she's scared as to what it may eventually mean. I'm going into this looking for some help with figuring out where I want to go with Phoenix vs WMTG, and there's a part of me that's ware that this may turn into a major life change. And I'm sure Ceri is jsut as aware of that, and she's probably scared shitless of what that could mean.

But I'm looking forward to having a third party to talk to. I feel like I've reached a point where Phoenix isn't as big a part of my life as I'd like her to be. Exactly how big is really the question - and one that brings a lot of baggage. Transitioning would mean a major change to my family - Ceri and Pidge would lose a husband and a father, but gain a wife and a mother. It'd also mean a major change to my career - a large of part of what I do is tied into my name - my education and my licensing are what got me to where I am. I'm also fully aware that I could lose my job if I transition, and that would open up a whole other can of worms - as I was looking for a job, all of my work experience and career movement would be attached to my old name, so any job application would have that "trans" label attached, which in the conservative world of engineering isn't exactly a plus.

So I don't know, is it possible to half transition? Quarter transition? Could I start hormones enough to grow breasts and gain a slightly more feminine shape, but keep the transition subtle enough that I can still play as WMTG? Is that even feasible?

Either way, my first appointment is tomorrow, so here goes nothing.
» Dumpster fire
So my plan was to come here, just to write something. Nothing in particular, but it’s been awhile since I’ve put virtual pen to paper and I had a couple things brewing in my brain.

But then I woke up to the news of yet another shooting, this time in Las Vegas. The details are still coming in, but this is what we have so far – a lone shooter, in an upper floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay, opened fire on a crowd at a local country music festival that was happening at a nearby venue. Current numbers are 50+ dead, and 400+ wounded, but those numbers are expected to climb. He apparently had several rifles, and based on the numbers he had plenty of ammunition. The sound of the reports in some of the videos is very quick – he either had an automatic weapon, or some sort of modified rifle. He apparently committed suicide when the police showed up – they knew where to go because his gun fire set off the smoke detector in the hotel room.

I don’t even fucking know anymore. I try to avoid getting all doom and gloom drama, but it really does seem like our country is in the express lane down the shitter. We have a schizophrenic government, and a citizenry that seems to be splitting. Even if it is just a case of the fringe groups getting more fringy, those groups are more eager to be seen and heard. People seem to be more willing to be more extreme.

And as much as a lot of people like to blame Trump for this, I think he is a symptom of the problem, and not the cause. I honestly think that 8 years of a non-white president was just too much for large portions of this country to bear, and that what we are seeing is a direct result of pent-up racism coming to the surface. I know a lot of people like to pretend that racism is something of our past, but I think the truth is that people as a whole were able to isolate themselves and pretend that it wasn’t happening. If you were living in your white bread neighborhood with your white bread neighbors, you never realized exactly how much racism there was around you. I know that I certainly didn’t – between growing up in Louisville and New Milford, I was generally unaware. But now that I’m older, and living in Baltimore, and have a son that is black, I can’t stop seeing it. I’m sure that in some instances I’m seeing something that isn’t there, but there’s also no denying that a lot of people say some seriously racist shit to me, thinking that since I’m “like them” it’s okay. Racism is fairly well documented in this country, and it isn’t something that went away.

The worst part is the number of people that have grown up so thick in it, that they can’t recognize it in themselves. I’ve had people tell me that “black kids are nothing but trouble”, yet they’re the same people that think they can’t be racist, because they have that black friend. They’re so stuck in this idea that being racist means you hate *all* black people and that you like burning crosses, that they never see their more ‘casual’ racism. And when you point it out, all of a sudden you are some sort of snowflake or communist or social justice warrior that just wants to destroy America.

It really makes me rethink a lot of what I’ve known. People that I’ve always “known to be good people” – I just can’t think of them in that light anymore. It’s hard to look at someone the same way when they say that they’d think negatively of your son just because of his skin. It’s hard to look at someone the same when they say that they moved out of an area because neighbors that look like your son moved in. And it’s just as hard to admit it in myself – that I could have been like that, I might have been one of those people, that at one time they would have said something like that and I would have blindly nodded in agreement.

So, I don’t even fucking know. I feel like my country is dying, and the people I have to save it from are people that I used to consider friends and family. And I have the realization that they feel the same – that they need to save their country from people like me. That blacks, queers, liberals – that we’ll be what destroys their country.

And I dunno, I guess maybe I do want to destroy their country. Because it feels like their country comes with a giant asterisk on the promises of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “freedom and justice for all”. Because if sure feels like there’s a giant “as long as you look and think like me” tacked on there.

I dunno. I just don’t. Fuck.

Edit: walking and thinking about it, I realized this post kind of jumped the rails - shooter, Trump, racism! But hear me out:

I think the root cause of a lot of what's going on here is the visible resurgence and acceptance of white nationalism. Growing up, the KKK and Nazis were the generally accepted bad guys. But as of late, there has been a certain amount of acceptance for them, a rebranding of their message into "we just want things to be the way they were". It seems innocent enough, and often strikes a chord with people that take it at face value. The problem is what's behind face value - the bigotry, racism and hatred that was "okay" 30 years ago.

And with the resurgent acceptance of white nationalism comes a bit of normalizing of violent white nationalism, which brings with it a violent response, which brings with it a violent counter response. And this seems to have the effect of pushing people further away. I'm afraid it's only a matter of time, assuming it hasn't happened already, that the social fabric of the United States reached a point of no return.
» Steampunk!
This past weekend was Steampunk Frederick – a local Steampunk themed arts festival, held in one of the community theaters in downtown Frederick. Ceri, Pidge and I have been fairly regular visitors to the nearby steampunk festivals, always enjoying the opportunity to put on a snazzy costume and get out. And with the unfortunate ending of Strasburg’s Steampunk Unlimited event, we weren’t sure if we’d get to go anywhere this year, until we stumbled upon Steampunk Frederick.

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But overall, it was a very fun trip. I’d like to make it out on Saturday next time – they had penny farthing races, and looking at the schedule of events there was a lot more going on. So I’m a little bummed that we seemed to hit the less crowded day, but it was still a lot of fun, especially as an excuse to get all dolled up for a day.
» 3d printing
Last Christmas, my big thing was a 3D printer. It’s one of those things that looked really cool and useful to me - there is a lot of hobby stuff that I could use it for - but it was something that could easily be a paper weight as far as Ceri was concerned. But I won out, and was the proud owner of a DaVinci Jr.

All and all, it isn’t a bad printer – it hit the right price point, and was an entry level plug and play type of thing – perfect for learning on. The only downside was that it used proprietary filament, but that wasn’t a deal breaker – the price wasn’t too outrageous on it, and I figured I wasn’t going to be printing enough for it to be an issue.

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So I’m kind of in a frustrated spot right now, but I have a mostly functioning printer and a plan of action. I think I’m going to go ahead and finish off all my old DaVinci filament before I worry about the Hatchbox, just so that I can keep the printing going. Then I’ll just focus on getting those settings right, doing a little online research and a little experimentation, and then trying to optimize it so that I have dialed in settings that give me quick and consistent prints. And then I’ll need to figure out what to do about my spool size issue – the Hatchbox spools are too big to fit on the old DaVinci holder - but that’s easily fixed.
» It's been awhile
So it's been awhile since I've last posted, time to fix that.

So let's see. I guess part of why it's been awhile is that there hasn't been much to post about. I feel like I need something momentous or it's not worth coming here and typing it down, especially since I don't have easy LJ access at work anymore. But just because it's not momentous doesn't mean nothing is happening.

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So I dunno, I 'm sure there is more I wanted to discuss in this brain dump of a post, but I can't quite remember it. So I'll end here, and come back later as my brain sees fit.
» Theodore da Thumper
So yesterday, our poor Theo passed away. Pidge and I got home from work as usual, and when he went to let the pups out, Theo wasn't moving. Pidge yelled to me, I ran over, and pulled him out of the kennel. He had obviously passed at this point - his tongue was blue and he was stiff.

Apparently what had happened was at some point, the breaker for the A/C condenser had tripped. So we were still getting air moving through the house it just wasn't cooling anymore. So by the time I got home it was 83 degrees in the house, and that was just too much for our poor little guy. He never did well in heat (and by that I mean anything over about 70 degrees), and due to a narrow breathing passage, he'd get overheated extremely easily. But that's never been a huge problem, he was primarily an indoor dog anyway.

Aside from the fact that the three of us are now dealing with losing Theo - this is the first real pet that Pidge has lost - Ceri and I both are wracked with guilt over all the ways we could have prevented it. The night before it was warm in the house, but we both assumed it was just that our A/C couldn't handle the high heat we were having. I thought about coming home at lunch, and didn't. Ceri thought about coming home early, but didn't. It feels like there are so many little "what ifs" that would have meant that Theo would still be with us. Made worse by the fact that he passed away at home, without us there. He was probably suffering miserably in the heat. And we just can't help but know that this could have been avoided.

So this morning sucks. You never realize exactly how big a hole a pet will leave in your heart until they're gone. And he was only 7, still young for a pug, so this was completely unexpected. All the little things that you loved about him become all the little reminders that he's gone.
» Step Up! - a Midsummer update
So here it is, going into July and Step Up is still going strong. 5 months down. I'm happy to say that things are still going well at this point. I haven't kept up with the exercise quite as I'd like, but despite that I've managed to keep the weight off, and even lose a little more.

So at this point, my morning exercise routine is shot. We started summer hours at work, which means that my work day starts an hour earlier in exchange for only working a half day on Friday. I love the half day on Friday, but getting up that hour earlier means that morning exercise is out. I still walk at lunch when possible, so I haven't completely abandoned exercise.

I have definitely kept my focus on food and portion size. I actually think I've stuck with this long enough that I can call this a win, a more permanent change in habit. Don't get me wrong, I still love me some junk food, but I've honestly found that I don't crave it like I used to. We went camping this past weekend - a traditional time of eating junk, and for the most part I just didn't do it. I didn't do all the snacking that I'd usually do, it just didn't have the same appeal that it otherwise would have. So in that regard I feel like I've really hit a success - I've made the habit change that I just never did before.

And even without the the exercise, I've not only managed to keep the weight off, I've managed to lose some more. I've lost about another 10 pounds since May. My pants are stupid baggy at the waist, and I've had to punch three extra holes in my belt. I've been trying to hold out on buying new pants, as I still have more weight I want to lose, but I think I'm reaching a point where I won't be able to hold out much longer. Not a bad problem to have, all things considered.

But with the success I have had, I've opted to tweak my goals. For the longest time I just wanted to get below 200. When that started to seem realistic, I figured 185. But now that I'm closing in on that, I want to get down to 175 - which would put my BMI down and out of the "overweight" range. If I can do that and maintain that, then I'll call "Step Up" an unmitigated sucess.
» A day as Phoenix
This past Sunday turned into a big day for Phoenix. I’ve spent small amounts of time as Phoenix – usually an evening after Pigeon has gone to sleep, with the occasional special night out. But Sunday morning I was definitely feeling it, Ceri picked up on it, and the plans for the day were amenable to it. So while eating breakfast, we talked a bit and decided to bring it up to Pigeon – how would he feel if I dressed like a girl all day? He was very chill about it, and didn’t see an issue with it. His response was actually fairly classic – if Daddy can dress up, can I wear a costume too? I want to be Captain America.

So I went ahead and got dressed – basic makeup, a black, blue and red floral dress, gold hoop earrings and necklace and blue sandals. Pigeon was amusingly shocked – you have boobies!?!? – but I’d do my best to truthfully explain what I was doing.

And once dressed, I spent the day as Phoenix. I went to pick up Blindfury and his lady for a day at our place, I had to run out and get ice, and after taking Blindfury and his honey home, I ran out to the grocery store to pick up a few things. And the day was as uneventful as you’d expect from a Sunday – Blindfury’s dice luck still sucked, Ceri’s dinner was still fantastic – it was a very good day. I know I had some voice consistency issues, and there were definitely some pronoun/name mistakes, but that’s all going to be expected – this is going to be a process that I’m going to need to be patient through.

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But all said and done, it was a very positive experience for me. I feel like I was able to stick with it through the entire day, and was 100% comfortable with being in front of Pigeon, and with going out. I know that Ceri still has her concerns – and I’d be a fool if I thought life as non-binary didn’t have it’s safety concerns. But I think that every day as Phoenix provides her with a bit more comfort, and as her comfort increases I can make more dramatic changes. Her comfort level has already increased notably, which gives me a lot of hope.

I also have a therapist appointment coming up, which should be interesting. The appointment is primarily to discuss the issues Ceri had had lately, but I also know that it’ll be important to bring up my life changes, especially since they are interrelated. I’ll be curious to hear what she has to say, to get an entirely independent view on what I am doing and what I should do. But that’s another two weeks, so we’ll see.
» D-Day, and World War Two Weekend
Today marks the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, and comes just a couple days after our trip to World War Two Weekend at the Reading Airfield. As seems to be the case lately, this got my mind wandering.

I’ve always loved World War Two history. In middle school and high school, it was a staple of my gaming and hobby interests – building model tanks and playing Axis and Allies, I was fascinated by the metal beasts of war. I still have that love, but now at 42, and with a son, it takes on a significantly different tone.

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I think that love of military history is just stuck in my blood, and I’m fortunate that this is something that Ceri and Pidge also enjoy. I very much look forward to going back to Reading next year.
» Memorial Day
So, I’ve been feeling a little reflective after this weekend.

For Memorial Day, we all went up to visit R – a long time friend of Ceri’s – up in PA. She lives in Beaver, a small town about 45 minutes past Pittsburgh, the sort of small town America that you find in a Norman Rockwell painting. R’s house is two blocks off of the main street, which has the usual assortment of little shops, churches, banks, and municipal buildings. We had an absolutely fantastic weekend – Pidge enjoyed playing with R’s children E and A, we spent a lot of time chatting with R, and caught the local Memorial Day parade. A lovely weekend in every aspect.

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So I dunno. I really did have a great weekend, and I don’t want my mini ramble to imply otherwise. But I can’t help but think that we’re increasingly becoming two countries, and we really need to remedy that.
» Phoenix photo shoot
As a Christmas present, Ceri had bought me a gift of a photo shoot with a friend of ours that is a photographer. The idea was to ditch the kids, Ceri would make dinner, and we'd have a fun evening of doing a photo shoot of Phoenix. I've been really excited about this - an evening to just be fun as Phoenix. It was actually a big drive to lose a lot of the weight - I didn't want a beer gut to get in the way. Even though I'd definitely be wearing shapers, the less work they have to do the better. :)

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I can't say enough how much fun I had. I always appreciate the chance to be Phoenix outside of the sanitized "night at home", and even though we never left the house, this was still a night with friends, being Phoenix. It gave me another good night of practicing my voice, and I don't know how it sounded to everyone else, but it felt very natural to me - I didn't feel like I had to put as much strain or focus in to it.
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