Monday, June 18, 2018

Visiting the Pound, or why I hate humanity.

So, we’re on a quest for a new Service dog.  Becca needs something bigger than a Jasper for mobility work so we’ve been looking.  She’s been thinking Mastiff, I’ve been hoping for something smaller, and admittedly fluffier, like a Mastidoodle.  Either way, it would be a tight fit in the Hermitage.

Of course we’ve kept our options open.  I’ve read The Dresden Files, I know how this ends with a Mastiff.  “Thomas?  Why did you buy Large Breed puppy food?”  To that end we’ve been checking the animal shelters in Franklin, Licking, Delaware, and Fairfield Counties looking for suitable dogs.  Becca thinks she found one so back to the Franklin County Animal Shelter, where almost four years ago, we brought Jasper into our lives.

I felt the anxiety hit me as soon as we stepped into the shelter.  And the sadness.  All these dogs.  While we were there, we saw at least two surrenders.  One may have a happy ending.  Man had to return a dog because he didn’t get along with his girlfriend’s dog.  Fate had it that a couple of guys were there who were interested.  So hopefully Scooby will have a new home.  It’s still got to be traumatic for the poor dog.

And so many dogs who have the odds stacked against them.  We found a couple that looked to meet the size/weight minimums, but they were too old (too long to train vs use) or too hostile (couldn’t be around kids or pets) or in one case, one guy who was happy and cute, but had a broken leg before, meaning we’d have to worry about weight bearing.  We may have found a suitable dog.  He’s not Mastiff sized, but strong and smart.  The question is, is he Jasper compatible.  Watch this space.

What overwhelmed me was the cruelty.  Not in the shelter, the cages were clean, the staff nice and polite, and you can see they care.  They know what it is like for these poor dogs, and their possible fates.  It is the cruelty of people who would abandon their dogs to be locked up in the shelter.  Talking with the staff, I found most of the chipped dogs they find, aren’t picked up.  Literally, people abandoning these beings that rely on them, that their world revolves around.  I could no more abandon Jasper than I could cut off my arm.  Losing Rocky was just as painful as losing his mom.  If I could I’d save them all.  But what can I do now?  We can’t release all the dogs to roam the streets, we can’t take them all in.  And their previous owners don’t want or don’t deserve them for the hell they’ve been placed in.  How can these dogs not be traumatized to see people every day, and not go home with them?  We’ve spent maybe thirty six thousand years breeding socializing and training them to function alongside us.  And then we turn our backs on them?

What kind of monster drags their pets off to be incarcerated, lost in the system, or destroyed, with some lucky few like Jasper who find the homes they need?  I’m reminded again of a quote from an old TV show, War of the Worlds.  It has stayed with me for years, and as a card carrying mutant I think of it often.

“I have nothing really against humans. Some of my best friends are humans. But as a group, they stink, and you know it. I say, kill them all.”

Prove me wrong, donate to an animal shelter, or a service dog support group.  Or go for yourself and see them and take them into your home, even only one.  Don’t expect the county to do it. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Origins and Endings.

Well Origins 2018 is over, now begins the ritual detox from soda (had to tap the Mt. Dew) and regaining of sleep.  To quote Murtaugh “I’m too old for this shit.”  This also looks to be the last Origins for me, unless there are changes.
First and foremost, let me start with the good. 

  • ·         The Columbus Convention Center continues to be a great venue.  Spacious, clean and welcoming. I lost my phone (bad) Hyatt security found it (good) and held it for me.  Of course this blew my sleep schedule to hell, and I quickly became one of the walking dead (see above quote)
  • ·         Paizo and our local Pathfinder/Starfinder Society continue to do a bang up job of support.  Of course we have several out of state GMs, Venture Officers and others to help run things, but a lot of the set up falls on our local core of people, as well as the breakdown.  Of course without the player base, we’d all have nothing to do.  Also kudos to Crystal Frazier
  • ·         The dealer room.  While full of dealers, stores, publishers and other vendors, I didn’t feel crowded or overwhelmed on Friday (Wasn’t there to report on Saturday)  Of course I visited Iron Wind Metals and Catalyst Games.  Very enjoyable meeting, we talked minis at Iron Wind, and economics of scale, which Becca would have enjoyed.  I also cursed Harmony Gold, and wished they die in a dumpster fire.
  • ·         Becca and Beth.  For hauling my fat aft back and forth to Origins and the like.

Of course there’s also the bad.
  • ·         Paizo.  Seriously guys, what the hell?  We get apparently record breaking tables and you don’t have a booth?  “Oh, you enjoyed the game and want to buy our stuff?  Ummm, I’m sure someone down there will have it, good luck!”
  • ·         Timing.  Having Origins on Pride weekend just makes traffic a mess.  Factoring in VP Pence’s visit on top of it… Glad I wasn’t there Saturday (aside, guys he wasn’t there to rain on your rainbow party.  You want to keep calling the first president who was for Gay marriage before he became president, the man who nominated Richard Grenell ambasador to Germany, the man who said he “will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology” (and looks like he means it with Iran) anti-gay.  Go ahead.  I’ll keep laughing at you.)
  • ·         Lack of sleep.  Yeah I could have used more.

And then there’s the ugly.  The reason I won’t be going back to Origins, and that Becca didn’t go.
For those of you who understand conventions, there are guests of honor.  This year, Origins invited Larry Correia, a successful writer, gamer, and gun nut who has his own game coming out soon (we couldn’t afford to join the kickstarter.  When the social justice whiners started badmouthing him, John Ward disinvited him.  Note, he didn’t call up the man he invited, nor did he even do his research himself, he just caved. 
Hell, my knee put up more of a fight when it went out from under me and the tendon was shredded.  This isn’t the first time the cowards have shouted down people they don’t like.  ConCarolinas and John Ringo came to an agreement that he wouldn’t come.  Because the people who said that he made them uncomfortable were threatening violence.  Of course at the end of the Con the staff apologized to John Ringo. The same cowards who threatened to disrupt the Con put up a petition to have the management removed, it got as of this writing a measly 107 signatures.  David Weber’s petition for free speech and assembly?  Looks to be closed, but already had 3704 signers, including me, in a week.  That’s 3704 people who put their names where there mouth is.  When David Weber and Eric Flint (and Jim Butcher and Sarah Hoyt and Salena Zito and David Gerrold ….) say you fucked up?  You done fucked up.
I was looking forward to meeting Larry.  So was Becca.  I even have a copy of book one of the Grimnoir here, that I was hoping he’d sign.  Instead, Origins pulled a bait and switch, giving in to cowards.
Another thing to think of.  Those numbers.  107 anonymous signatures, vs 3704 public.  That’s the kind of fuck up they caused.  Not only that the people supporting them outnumber those who don’t 30+ to 1, but those 3704 aren’t afraid to hide.  Aside, I wish I’d seen those numbers before tonight, as I’d have raised them to Tonya Woldridge, when I told her why this was likely my last game.
The reason is all of the above.  Origins dis-invited without warning an award winning author and gamer.  When called out, they double down and said there were threats of behavior as protest.  Larry himself breaks it down here.  It’s all nice and vague “some fans” “disruptive” nothing solid.  And I was there, nothing of the sort happened.  But John Ward basically called me (a fan of Larry, and his work) unwelcome.  Well fine, I’m unwelcome.  I went this year because I’d promised to GM, and, unlike Origins apparently, I honour my commitments.  I did protest.  I proudly wore my Monster Hunter’s International hat and had my Professional Monster Hunters sticker on my laptop.  I didn’t make a scene, I didn’t yell.  Indeed, I met other fans of MHI who recognized my hat and we talked about the books.  I explained calmly that it was my ‘protest hat’ and what I was protesting and why.  My goal of catching a picture of me and John Ward together with my hat on was a goal unfulfilled, but I at least educated some people.  Whether they take action or not I can’t control, but at least they’re aware.
Finally, today, I told Tonya that I enjoyed it as always, but this was my last Origins.  I explained I loved GMing at conventions, stress and all, but I won’t be back.  When she asked why, I tapped my hat, then explained.  I told her what I said above on why I still came at all, but can’t do it again.  I think she was surprised, likely thought I was insane but we left on good terms as far as I can tell.

So that’s it.  I’ll continue to play, I’ll continue to support Paizo, even though they’re way to the left of me as a whole, because I can talk to them.  But Origins?  If they don’t want Larry, if they’re happy that David Weber won’t be accepting any guests of honor positions?  Yeah I look around and I’m in good company.

Matthew C. Morris.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lent sacrifice, a heretic's POV

I've heard that a lot from people of late, because I've chosen to give up television (and Hulu/Netflix/Amazon Prime) for Lent.  With one morale related lapse (my house was down, so I ordered a Guardians of the Galaxy Night) and assuming my willpower won’t erode in the next 6 days, I’ll have done it.

But why? While most Lutherans (and I do still consider myself a Lutheran, albeit a heretic, and not ELCA) do observe Lent, I do not remember ever giving up anything for Lent.  Nor do I remember non-Catholic friends giving up anything, but Catholic friends, yes.  I remember a friend who gave up pizza for lent in High School, but then we were on a fieldt rip on a paddle wheeler, and all we had was pizza…

So why this year?  Well, part of it is a matter of Will.  I am a heretic, if a well read one.  I’m looking at old practices and rituals, to bring me closer to G_d.  I wanted to see if I could make a commitment to Him and myself, and give up something that is common and everyday.  It has been enlightening on many levels.

First few days were, of course, the hardest.  To (maybe incorrectly) use the term from Judaism, my yetzer ra, was trying loopholes. “You could watch Prime on the computer, that’s not breaking it…  Catholics eat meat on Fridays…” and I was tempted.  As I’m fond of saying, I’m a Hermit, not a Saint.  Then, it got easier.  I listened to audiobooks and the radio.  I've been listening to the Bible as well, I read more.  The temptation was still there, but I resisted.

The more I did, the more I realized what the purpose of the sacrifice was to me.  It started as proving I could do it, but it evolved into something more.  A realization that I didn't *need* what I gave up.  A separation from the distraction and the ensnarements of the mortal world.  Does that sound vaguely Gnostic?  Maybe, but I don’t know that I’m in a hurry to catch up on The Flash, Agents of Shield, or any of the other shows I enjoy.

I joked years ago, I gave up organized religion for Lent.  It’s not far from the truth, I left the ELCA years ago, in part because of their stance on Israel, and in part because they seemed to be embodying the worst aspects of a hierarchy.  Checking over the ELCA webpage, the repeating of the lies of Ferguson, their condemnation of Israel’s right to build in their own lands, and other official documents do not make me regret this choice. 

So this past Lenten season has gone from a challenge to a revelation, and has strengthened myself in a dark time.  He has again shown me the Way, and maybe a new view in the complexities of how His will, self-determination, and the promise of His Son all interact into one greater whole.  So while it is a time of great grief, amplified for me with the upcoming anniversary of losing Donna, it’s been a quite time of revelation as well.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Long strange trip to Florida.

Well, that was a jaunt. We left at 8:45 Sunday morning, stopping just for gas and leg stretching. Rocky got bored after a bit and tried to crawl into my lap. The phrase, “Are we there yet?” was clear in his eyes.

If G_d was my copilot, and Rocky was sidekick, then Bear McCreary was on morale duty. Except for the We are the Fallen CD in the first queue, it was all Battlestar. If not for traffic, I'd have made it to Macon just on BSG. Thanks to traffic I came into the hotel parking lot to the sweet sounds of Caprica.

Slept well once the room got to “Ohio Habittable” conditions (meaning turning the AC up to full blast). We launched about 9:00 Monday morning, and got gas at a Kroger's. Felt nostalgic. Krogers, Supercuts, GNC store all in one strip mall. Could have been Ohio. :-)

Then things went to hell. More construction as we left G_d forsaken Georgia (No, really. We should burn Atlanta every 10 years or so.) First, more construction. Then the rain. Gods above the rain! In addition to my MPG going to hell, I got all the cloud cover of Ohio, with all the heat and humidity of Florida. Rocky isn't happy with all the thunder.

Fortunately the rain seems to have broken. I have to run tomorrow morning to get Beggin Strips and maybe some benedryl for Rocky. At least now that I have the correct GPS in the phone I can find my way back.

I needed a couple of pairs of shorts, so we hunted down the local Big or Tall shop.  Sheryl picked up a couple of shirts for dad and paid for mine.  So of course when I ran to get dinner I paid for it.  Yes they'll be mad.  They'll live.

Even though I left the big camera at home, I hope to get some photos. If not here, then on the trip to the Space Coast and on the way home.

Enough for now, more tomorrow.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Trust? I'd rather verify, thanks.

By now, most of my friends have (hopefully) read the articles about the Stasi-like levels of survelance on American citizens, by their own Government.  The official reply of the President of the United States is “Trust us, it’s for your own good.”
I wonder if they tested saying it is the “Shield and Sword of the Party.”
Obama said “nobody is listening to your phone calls.” Not surprisingly… this too is a lie.  And a strawman, of course.  No one was accusing the NSA of listening to everyone’s phone calls, but now we know they do ‘accidentally’ listen to our phone calls.
The big concern is “Metadata”.  This isn’t listening to your calls, it’s collecting data on who you call.  The New Yorker ran an excellent article on this.  To sum up, patterns can be drawn from who you call and where your cell phone is.  One example given is, your phone shows you at the oncologist.  It then displays calls of 15+ minutes length to your sister, parents, and your PCP.  What can be inferred from that data, gathered over the course of a couple hours?
Now apply this to other aspects of your life.  Are you a TEA party member?  Well they can tell who you call and how long you talk (assuming they don’t ‘accidentally’ listen in).  Then they can tell who the people you talk to talked to, etc. etc.
But “Trust us” is the answer to critics.
This is only half the story.  The other half is PRISM and its undisclosed relations. Unlike the suspiciously specific denials of the NSA on the not ‘intentionally’ listening in, PRISM *does* collect and gather information. As detailed here, among other sources, our e-mails are being read, skyping being monitored, etc.
What does this mean for the average innocent American?  Plenty.  Ever accidentally mistyped a URL and gone to a porn site?  Ever intentionally gone to a porn site? Ever sent your SO risqué pictures while he’s on a long distance trip? Ever ridden the bus? That data could very well be sitting in some server in Utah.
Perhaps most importantly, does this make us safer?  It doesn’t appear so, despite claims to the contrary.  The data on the Boston Bombers was there, and not acted on.  The data on the Ft. Hood terrorist attack was there, and not acted on.  But don’t worry, the government will be right on top of that, right after they get done persecuting Americans for their beliefs, leaking information on farmers to environmental groups, and leaking tax returns to political oppponents.

“You can trust us,” Says Obama.  I prefer to follow Reagan’s mantra.  “Trust, but verify.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Technological aside

Amazon's free app of the day today was the SAS Survival Guide.  I grabbed it and was amused.  "Gee," I thought, "this would help in the zombie apocalypse, clear up until the battery in my kindle died."

Then I thought.  "No way..."


This just amuses me.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wonder Woman pt V - And Steve Trevor…

Alas, poor Steve.  Writers never seem to know what to do with him.  If a cast without any men is called a ‘sausage fest’ what is a cast with no men?  A Lesbian Spank Inferno?
So Steve provides the primary male component to a mostly female cast.  Yay diversity!  But who is Steve Trevor?  He is in some ways, the hardest character to get a handle on in an ensemble, harder than Diana even.  You don’t want him to be just comic relief, or (ironically) reduced to a Damsel in Distress for Diana to rescue ever week.  Likewise, the show’s based around Wonder Woman, and not called “Steve Trevor and his breastacular friends,” So he can’t save the day every time. Balancing his role and gender in this is a tricky act, and one many writers have failed on.
My Steve Trevor is in his 40’s, a career officer.  While he can, and will, be overwhelmed by the things he encounters weekly, he will be almost unflappable in a British way.  Think of Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, played by the amazing, and sorely missed, Nicholas Courtney
Clearly this is going to cause tension between him and the rest of the cast.  And clearly he’ll change his viewpoints over time.  He may be able to protect Etta and Donna, but Diana?  Seriously?
Aside, stealing from James Robinson’s wonderful Earth-2 work, the word ‘Superhero’ doesn't exist on my show.  Instead any sort of costumed being is called a ‘Wonder’ as Wonder Woman is the first more than human character seen.
So who plays Steve Trevor?  He’s going to be the eldest of the cast, a man in his 40’s.  In my dream world, it’s Chris O’Donnell.  He’s matured a lot as an actor, and he works good in an Ensemble, like NCIS.

Up next?  The big girl herself, and the one person I think can play her.