Goodbye, Phantom

2018-04-03 13.29.20Phantom had not been eating at all yesterday and would not even drink water today. We had to call a veterinarian to euthanize him at home. He passed away peacefully at 2:30pm today.

We first heard of him four years ago when fellow cat-lover Brian Vo reposted a Facebook entry from Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue about him: he was considered unadoptable because he was an older black cat (reported as 15 years old by the people who surrendered him, although vets later said he was more likely between 8 and 12), with a blemish, a mast cell tumour over the right eye. It was a Saturday in July and the rescue volunteer who worked at the San Francisco animal shelter thought he would not make it to Monday if no one claimed him, so we decided to take him in.  Continue reading “Goodbye, Phantom”

More love for friends near and far

The cats disapprove.

This is another personal update post. I have not had much of a chance to keep up with social media and blogging, except in the most superficial way. Messages of support from caring friends have languished unanswered, to my shame.

We’ve been packing boxes, moving furniture, etc. Both Edmund and I are feeling our age, sigh. The cats are nervous, they hate change… I also work on keeping up with my game writing and publishing assignments since they’re my sole source of income. This Sunday, however, I gave myself permission to spend my writing time catching up with non-urgent matters.

Many kind friends have given us their precious free time to help with these chores. Some have provided their financial knowledge to help us straighten up our situation. Sean Nittner also set up a GoFundMe page—and people were wildly, extravagantly generous. So many people donated! I had no idea that so many people cared. This has been a life-saver.

Last weekend was a very busy one; we rented a truck and friends came over to help us move about 90% of the items going to storage, particularly the furniture: antiques from Edmund’s grandmother. What remains to move are boxes, which we take a few at a time.

The truck rental was a story in itself. I had reserved a truck from Budget Truck Rental in South San Francisco, the smallest they had that would have a ramp or lift; this turned out to be a 16-ft (4.9m) truck with a ramp. Instead of charging me, as advertised on their website, $29.99 a day plus $0.99 per mile, they charged me about two-thirds more: $49.99 a day plus $1.49 per mile, and gave me as a reason that this way, I was guaranteed a truck rather than taking a chance that it would not be available. Whatever that means.

I showed up right on time on Saturday morning—and sure enough, my truck was not there. Whoever had rented it before me had not returned it. There was another truck, a 26-ft (7.9m)  with a lift gate but they wanted to charge me more money for it. I was very displeased but I remained polite, if a bit brisk. I got on the phone and called competitor Penske Truck Rentals, a couple of blocks away, where the helpful personnel immediately found me a 16-ft truck with a lift gate AND quoted me a price that was lower than Budget’s, AND then gave me another 10% discount because the cabin had not been cleaned yet and was a little grungy.

As an epilogue, Budget had the gall to run a $50 cancellation charge on my card so I had to spen half an hour on the phone later in the week to get that reversed. It’s what we’d call, back home, “Sévices à la clientèle.” So F U, Budget, I’m never darkening your door again.

Double-decker hatred.

We’re not finished moving into the small apartment, formerly known as the gaming lair, because there’s a sequence that goes: clear space downstairs – take items removed to storage/sale/donation – move object from upstairs into new space downstairs – clean upstairs. Right now we need to clear more space in the apartment and the garage so we can finish setting up our living quarters.

We also still have a bed and dresser to bring downstairs once space is available, and a replacement fridge to move from the garage into the apartment. Good times.

This week the priorities are: schedule visits from a plumber and from a debris removal service; take boxes to storage; buy more boxes and fill them with the remaining items going to storage.

Inclusiveness in games (Part 1)

GemmaAll right, today is a long snark-free post (really!) about the efforts made towards inclusiveness in the role-playing game subculture and by extension, in related geek subcultures. Some people may recognize their point of view and even their own words in the examples I will use. If this is you, please understand that I am not mocking you or criticizing you. I am spotlighting attitudes and underlying assumptions in our geeky hobby that too often remain unexamined.

I want to address people who are not already entrenched in an opinion but do feel jostled by new language and new attitudes promoting inclusiveness. I’ll providing some background in this first part, then in the subsequent ones I will discuss some recent examples and use them to illustrate solutions, i.e., how I suggest we, as individual gamers, approach those moments when we feel jostled.

In a society where women get paid three-quarters of what a man makes and where people of colour are at risk of being jailed or even shot just for existing, some game publishers are now releasing books showing not only women and non-white persons in a variety of roles but also characters who are explicitly gay, trans, non-binary, disabled, aged, fat, or from other previously ignored groups. They may use weird pronouns like the singular “they”, “s/he”, “xe”, or “zhe” for certain characters.  In real-space, game event organizers are posting codes of conduct, declaring bathrooms to be non-gendered, adding braille signs, and similar actions intended to signal inclusiveness.

A lot of of this can be shocking if you face it for the first time in your life. As such gestures become more frequent, game books, stores or conventions can look very different from what they were decades ago. The question can be raised: how far should we go toward inclusiveness and representation of groups that appear to be tiny minorities in an already small subculture?

Continue reading “Inclusiveness in games (Part 1)”

Next contestant, please

I think I’m going to participate in the Tell a story in 30 slides contest on SlideShare.

“Tell a story with words and pictures and in 30 slides”, it says. The entry window runs from May 26 to June 15, 2009, meaning you can’t use an old presentation that was already sitting in SlideShare before May 26 (I suppose it could have been sitting on your computer, though) and the contest closes at midnight PST on Monday.

The point is not the contest — I’m not going for the hip or corporate style — but to pick a medium (slide presentation) and do something artsy with it. I have my topic too, and it has to do with Humboldt, but I’ll wait until next week to show you the result.

No reason

No good reason, anyway. I’m just blue tonight. I’m reading a sad book; I’m disappointed in a personal project that had me all excited; and money flows out too fast.

So here’s a recent image I was happy with, to leave something with nicer at the end of the day.

Lovely weekend

On Friday night my husband and I went to to take a walk and do a little bird watching and photographing at the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Table Bluff. Even in overcast weather, it’s lovely to walk along Hookton Slough between the large heron and crane rookery at the foot of the bluff (great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, great egrets, white egrets, cattle egrets) and the cormorant colony nesting on Teal Island and beyond.

On Saturday, we went to the farmers market in Arcata, got lovely produce and meat (those strawberries from Fortuna were divine!), had lunch at Humboldt Brews. I’ve loved farmers markets since I was three; they feel so vivid and exciting.

Yesterday we went to see the new Pixar animation movie, Up! and were pleasantly surprised.  I really liked it, and yes, we both shed tears.  The movie is full of good quotable bits, clever observations, and little send-offs.

And under the full moon, we went to the Samoa Cookhouse to do a little night photography and light painting.  I hope a few shots will come out — but I won’t know until the film is developed.

Getting old is like being an immigrant in time

I speak good English even though I have an accent, and I spell better than most anglophones. I’ve watched the same Saturday morning cartoons and listened to the same bands as my American colleagues and friends, and sometimes it’s like I share the same culture (even though I also know American history better than a majority of Americans.)

But I don’t. I also share large segments of culture with francophone Europe — France, parts of Belgium and Switzerland, etc. I read the same books, sang the same songs, watched the same movies as my French friends and sometimes it may seem as if we share one culture. But we don’t.

There’s a larger context, a larger culture I can only share with other Québécois. Americans can’t get it, French people can’t get it, even Ontarians probably can’t get it. There’s an entire context that I just can’t explain, you had to be there.

I had a birthday last Friday and I’m not too hung up about aging, because age has brought many good things. But I find that being middle-aged is like being an immigrant in time: I share many things with folks of the generations before and after mine, but we’re not really from the same culture.

I probably share more with the decade and a half or two coming right after me than with people older than me, but eventually we hit the edge of that difference.

Maybe I notice it most when I think of pop music. You can tell I’m old because I still love guitar heroes (the musicians, not the game — another gap). I love to hear that Fender Stratocaster wail. I hate, hate, hate most of what I hear on the Top 40 — though to be fair, I hated a good chunk of the Top 40 in my youth too.

In fact, let’s test this: let’s go check the Top 40 for the first week in June 1984 (25 years ago, my youth). Ew, looks like I hated about two-thirds of it. OK, so maybe I’ve always been cranky…

Feeling virtuous

I caught a rapid bug that flared up on Friday, going from “sore tonsils” in the morning to “I can’t breathe” that night. I spent most of Friday evening and Saturday in bed, and the rest reading comic books. But yesterday (Sunday), I got up at six and studied all day, doing problems for the hated seismic design exam. It would have been better if I’d studied both days, but I ways really out of it on Saturday — for that matter, I still feel like chopped tofu (i.e., even less appealing than chopped liver.) But I also feel reasonably virtuous.

(Is virtuous more or less appealing than chopped tofu?)

I’m not all there

I apologize to all the people who I’ve been ignoring in the last few weeks and particularly this past week, since the syndrome is getting worse. And those I’m going to ignore this week…

Not only has work been very busy, but as some may recall, I’m also studying for a couple of exams I have to take on Saturday a week from today. To top it off, I’ve just been hit by the fastest-acting cold I can remember in recent years. I went from sore tonsils in the morning to choked up sinuses, strep-style raw throat, can’t breath, knocked on my ass by midnight.

I have a feeling that I’ve missed some important stuff in the last month, but I can’t catch up until at least another week. This is a lame apology, but just so people know that I’m not ignoring their health news, baby pictures, job search help requests, and neat articles because I’m mad or indifferent.

I spell it “hAT&Tred”

Dear AT&T/Yahoo Mail interface,

You’re a miserable failure. You’re so crappy, ugly, and inefficient, how can you even think that I’ll stay long enough on your site to click through your stupid, interfering ads? Do you actually think it’s good business? If you ran a store, would you jump from behind the counter screaming at the top of your lungs, run at every potential customer walking in, and slap their face with a promotional item? When they tried to browse your wares, would you let a bunch of other “yahoos” circle around them, get between the customers and the merchandise, scream, and push people around? And would decorate your store with the contents of the neighbourhood’s trash bins?

You’re an annoying, hateful maggot and I hate visiting your site. You also give pathetic service on your DSL accounts, which are only high-speed for the 20 minutes a day when they’re actually working — despite my paying extra for the highest level of service you supposedly offer. So as soon as I’m done dealing with other pressing issues this month, I’m firing your ass.