Rest In Peace Justin “JewWario” Carmical

One of the online personalities I have watched for a couple years has sadly killed himself.  I’m not going to write a article summing up what happened.  A dozen other websites have done a much better job at that than I ever could.  In short I feel utterly destroyed.

Out of everything I have ever seen Justin in I think this video is what I will always remember.

Goodbye Justin, it was far too soon.

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No Red Kettles

For some unknown reason I am finding it hard to actually write stuff here especially when I am actually accomplishing something pretty awesome.  I will try to keep this blog more up to date but I’m not the most organized person and I have to balance blogging with work, sleep, and having a bit of a personal life.

Anyways moving on, on December 6th Zinnia Jones and I launched a website called No Red Kettles in which we sought to make people aware of the bigoted past of the Salvation Army to coincide with the Salvation Armies bellringing season.  We published a few pretty great articles and got some media attention from the Huffington Post, CNN, Advocate, and others.

Most of the response we got as part of this effort was positive and I feel we did respond rather well to the few bits of negative response we did receive.  One lgbt news site “LezGetReal” wrote two articles about us without contacting us for comment, both of which I think are poor examples of journalism as I will cover in a later blog entry.

As of today we were able to attract 9,782 views in the month of December which is pretty nice for a new group.  Add to that all those who were exposed to our message through the various media outlets that covered our efforts and I think we did make a difference.  Obviously there is much more we could of done and are planning to do next year during the bellringing season including starting earlier and attracting more media attention.

This really is my first experience doing something as an activist that was successful and I am starting to come to understand a method to campaigns like this.  Starting one of these campaigns generally only costs the $10 it costs to register the domain name.  All I have to do then is put the website up on my Linode VPS, write a few articles and contact some media outlets.  All in all its a good investment on the small amount of effort and money that is required.

I am considering creating some sort of group that would be responsible for brainstorming these campaigns, as well as running them.  This group is starting to evolve naturally just from the people I work with but it may be worth creating an actual “legitimate activism organization.”

So what’s next?  Well the cable channel A&E has reversed its decision to suspend Phil Robertson from the show Duck Dynasty following his racist and homophobic comments in a CQ magazine interview.  It appears that A&E has done this out of fear of controversy.   I think its about time we inform A&E that promoting a racist and a homophobe isn’t the safe bet.   ZJ and I are currently working on a new site DuckOff.tv wherein we will put pressure on A&E as well as those companies that advertise during Duck Dynasty.

Book Update #1

So I have been working on my book project for about a month now and it has been quite a bit of work but I also feel I am starting to get used to this whole “research, read, and take notes” process.  So far I’ve read about six out of my now thirty plus list of books that I have chosen to read.

Right now I do most of my reading during downtime at work and I keep a notebook on hand to take notes on things I feel I would like to mention or research further for my book.  I fear being too derivative but on the other hand I really do want to contribute something to the conversation so this means there is a lot of information and concepts that I feel I need to understand fully before I write anything.

One of the problems I am facing is every time I read a book I end up finding six other books that I need to read.  In the end if I don’t ever write a book I will be a rather well versed in theology.

I also have been taking some breaks from this project to read other books specifically Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK by Gerald Posner which at five hundred plus pages did take a bit of time to read through but I thoroughly enjoyed.

Writing a Book

I am currently working on writing a book on Atheism and Skepticism.  I have never been been very confident with my writing so this is quite the task for me but I thought it would be worth a shot.

Fortunately there are quite a few books on this subject.  I really don’t feel that I want to write a book without reading these books because I would like to actually contribute something to the conversation instead of just stating something that has been better stated elsewhere so I am compiling a reading list that at this point is about thirty books long which I expect to get much longer.  I am taking notes while reading but I am also concerned with my book being “too directive.”

I do most of my reading at work due to having a lot of downtime there and while I read I take notes in a notebook on various points and topics that I would like to research further or expand upon in my book.  I am then organizing these notes and my further research in a private wiki I have set up.

I will be posting occasional updates from time to time about this project but don’t expect this to be done in a few months.  This is my first large writing project and I am doing it part-time and working on it between my time at work as well as conventions, tabletop rpgs, and whatnot.  In short this may take a year or two.

Waiting to Transition

I haven’t written anything about being trans in quite some time so I guess I should give an update on how things have been going on with that.  In short no progress has been made.

Almost two years ago I got the letter recommending hormone therapy from the psychiatrist I was seeing at that time.  I also found out during this time that there are no doctors in Eau Claire who I can go to prescribe hormone therapy for me.  I have asked around and asked every doctor I have seen and it appears that my only option is to go to the Twin Cities for treatment.

When I got my letter I was rather poor and soon afterwards I was out of a job.  Two years later I am making a comfortable living due to the combination of my part-time job and my social security disability benefits.  I also know have my own car so there is more hope for me to get hormones and I do have an appointment in December with a OB/GYN who specializes in hormone therapy for transfolk that another transgirl friend of mine recommended to get hormone therapy.  Due to my autism I do now have Medicare as well health insurance but I am unsure if I will be able to use either of those for this appointment.

Another thing I am considering perusing is getting an orchiectomy which put simply is the removal of the testicals.  It would mean I could stop having to deal with testosterone so that’s one less pill to take with my hormone therapy and of course that would mean that I would have a lot less body hair issues.  It would also make tucking easier and less painful.  Also it would serve as a rather effective contraception.

Due to some weight over the last couple years.  I am not chubby by any means but none of the few girl clothes I did have no longer fit me.  I have some makeup but I really don’t know how to apply it so I don’t tend to wear it due to not wanting to look weird.  I have been trying to shave religiously sometimes having three hour shaving sessions in the shower but often my depression gets in the way.  I have an epilator but it takes a long time to use and hurts quite a bit.   I guess I need to go shopping for clothing and makeup with another girl as well as possibly get an appointment with a electrologist for a more permanent hair removal option.

My hair has gotten quite a bit longer and I am happy about that but it also looks more “headbanger” instead of being all that feminine.  I am currently looking for a hair stylist that can give my hair a more feminine cut.  Every time I tell a hair stylist that I want a more feminine cut it just ends up looking super boyish.  I sort of feel that I have to find a hair stylist that I can sit down and just give them the “trans speech” so I don’t have wild hair but I also don’t end up with a boyish haircut.

My friends know to call me Sarah but to the rest of the world I present entirely as male 100% of the time and that makes me rather depressed but whatever I do to present as a girl I don’t feel confident that I’ll “pass” so I just don’t do it.  So yeah I am progressing very very slowly and that’s sad.

Convention Psychics

In the last year or so I have started to see psychics setting up booths at the various anime/geek convention that I attend in both artist alleys and the vendor rooms. At first I really didn’t think much of this practice except for some small private ridicule but now that I take some time to think about it I don’t actually think this is as harmless as it appears. At best a psychic is a scam artist  in the guise of a entertainer and at worse they are a dangerous scam artist helping legitimize a particle that leaves many people penniless or worse off.

I understand that conventions do not always have the option to be selective about their vendors or artists but in the same way that a convention shouldn’t allow vendors to sell counterfeit merchandise they shouldn’t allow cold readers to practice their “craft” because they call it entertainment.

In a way this is similar to the issue I have with “Hentai Rooms” or “Hentai Events” which I do plan to write a blog entry on later.  In short the issue I have with such rooms and events is that quite a lot of the hentai featured in such rooms tends to be scenes of rape or sex with minors and this contributes to a larger overall societal issue.  If there weren’t people being scammed by Psychics and everyone who paid for the service understood that it was bullshit I would be less against it.

I’m Excited for Shadowrun 5

I have been a fan of Shadowrun for quite some time and Shadowrun 4th edition was one of my favorite tabletop games of all time and I have been wanting to get back into it for a long time.  For those who don’t know Shadowrun is a very unique game set in a cyberpunk type world with magic mixed in creating for a pretty rich game environment for adventures.

Well Shadowrun is coming out with a 5th edition and from first looks it is very nice.  I especially like how they revamped character creation.  While I have always loved Shadowrun character creation has always been a bit of a pain. Obviously if character creation is difficult it can create a large barrier of entry for new players especially players who are not only new to Shadowrun but also new to tabletop RPG’s in general.

I am happy to see that that they have greatly expanded the core rulebook almost 500 pages.  Yes this makes the core rulebook more pricey then now you don’t have to track down the sometimes hard to find books like the”Street Samurai Catalog” and it gives players and GM’s a lot more to work with.  I currently have a pdf of the game and am awaiting getting a physical copy of the book when it arrives at Fountain of Youth here in Eau Claire.  Generally what I like to do is use the pdf on my laptop when playing so I can pass the physical copy of the book around the table.

Hopefully I will be able to find a group of players interested in trying out the new Shadowrun.  It has been a while since I played Shadowrun so I may need some time to refresh myself and I have already been having issues finding players for a Pathfinder campaign so I’m not sure but I know I will try.

Catalyst Games have released both a Quick Start Guide and a Preview go check them out now!

Beer Muscles

So last night Turnip and I went to the House of Rock for a metal concert and had a pretty good time.  Drank a lot of whiskey and listened to some good music.  Afterwards I ask Turnip what his plans were and he said “Taco Johns.”  At this point I am hungry and a bit tipsy so tacos sound like a great plan to me.

So make our way to Taco Johns and this is the part in the story that I must make you aware that if you don’t live in Eau Claire that The House of Rock and Taco Johns is on Water Street which is the area near the UWEC campus that has all of the college bars and therefor all the college douchebags often because of a really skeevy bar known as “The Pickle.”  One popular joke in Eau Claire is that “I walked past The Pickle the other day and now I have herpes” and I have no evidence that the person in this story came from that bar but I’m going to make a educated guess that he did because it makes the story better (I don’t know how well that works if I disclose it.)

So after getting my #1 meal in the now crowded restaurant Turnip and I took a small table and talked about things that I don’t quite remember.  So after a few minutes due to the combination of my small bladder and way too many 7’s & 7’s (Seagrams 7 and 7-up) I realized that I needed to pee.

So I get in line to the Men’s room (I’m not wearing girl clothes and too drunk to try to upset social conventions) and there is a guy in front of me in line.  I polity take a spot behind him for my turn to relieve myself in the single stall bathroom.  After about twenty seconds or so a very wasted male in his twenties came behind me and said “I’m going next.”  Now I don’t ascribe to the “bro code” but I do believe that in a civilized society the least that we can do even if we have all been drinking is wait in line to use the bathroom so my response is “no you’re not.”  He then intelligently responds with “I’ve got crazy motherfucker friends” to which I respond “oh you do?”

At this point in our drunken conversation the person who was in front of me had already gone into the bathroom, did his business, and promptly left so I make my way into the bathroom and quickly realize i’m being followed.  I turn around to see the drunk douchebag that I had been previously conversing holding the door open to which he responds with “I’m next.”  I of course say “no you’re not” and I force the door closed so I may pee in private without being accosted.

I sit down on the toilet to do what I had gone there to do and hear who I’m going to start calling Mr. Douchebag pounding on the door.  Normally I am not a fan of using my phone on the toilet because I am afraid I will drop it in the bowl (something that once happened because I had put my phone in my back pocket in some girl jeans) but I did decide at this moment to break that rule and text Turnip “I may need backup with drunk douchebag outside bathroom.”  After I had gone about my business and taken my time to clean my hands I exited the bathroom and Mr. Bag went in after me.

I took my seat back across from Turnip at the small table and explained to Turnip who did not hear his phone go off or see what happened what had just transpired.  Soon after I did this Mr. Bag came up to me accompanied by one of the previously mentioned “Crazy Motherfucker friends” to attempt to restore his dignity by trying to pick a fight or at least try to look tough.

Mr. Bag then attempts to explain to me and Turnip that I had shoved him.  Let me take this moment to point out that this asshole was so drunk that if I had shoved him he would of surely fallen to the floor so I responded to this accusation with “no, I didn’t.”  While he is attempting to start this fight his “crazy motherfucker friend” who is twice the size of Mr. Bag keeps trying to lead his friend away saying “hey man we should just go” so I pointed out to Mr. Bag that “he should listen to his friend because he seems like a pretty smart guy.”

After about a minute of Mr. Bag trying to look tough and me knowing he would be stupid to start a fight in the packed Taco Johns with twenty something police on Water Street at the time I just decided I would slowly drink my soda so I had an excuse not to talk to this asshole.  Mr. Bag then turns to Turnip and starts telling Turnip about how I’m a dick and I shoved him (which I didn’t) and that I shouldn’t do things like that and then starts telling me that Turnip is “a pretty nice guy” which I then agree with him upon.

Eventually Mr. Bag and his “Crazy Motherfucker Friend” left the restaurant after failing to start a fight and failing to win back Mr. Bag’s dignity.

The lesson dear children is this;  If you are out drinking and you need to pee wait your fucking turn in  line.

Geek.Kon 2013 Retrospective

If I am going to be doing convention retrospectives I really need to get them out the week of the convention but whatever.  So Geek.Kon has become my “home” convention. By that I mean that it is the convention that I am staff for as opposed to the conventions I end up “technically” being staffed for at the cons themselves like NoBrandCon, KitsuneKon, etc. This year for Geek.Kon I was the co-equipment head, had my own panel for the first time, as well as running the mixer and the Child’s Play Charity event (my own creation.)  So yeah I was on my feet a lot and got pretty worn out.

I guess I should start with my “most important” job of being co-head of the equipment committee.  While I was co-head at the convention itself I was in charge of the whole committee.  Having a co-head was something we came up with this year to help with the fact that I live in Eau Claire and Geek.Kon is in Madison.  I think next year I am going to just be the only Equipment head and find a way to add Skype option to all Geek.Kon meetings so that I can attend all meetings to avoid confusion about there being two heads.

Including myself there were eight people on the Equipment team this year and sometimes I still felt understaffed.  Creating AV Klub about a year ago has proven to be a pretty great idea because it has introduced a level or organization that was missing previously.  I am also very happy that over the last couple years we have gone from Paul doing everything to Paul, Scotty. and me doing everything to having an actual full team that can have multiple people handling multiple jobs at the same time.  The plan was two have two people doing rounds at all times and then having staff where we need them for certain events.

I also was able to connect my 27″ TV to my laptop so that we could have a monitor with the equipment schedule up in the main programming booth at all time.  I may expand upon this at future conventions using a desktop computer and dual screens showing both the equipment schedule and other information from the convention.  I am currently calling this “Equipment Control” or “Equipment Scheduling” because it sounds better then “small desk with Sarah’s computer on it.”

Traveling to and from the convention I used my Baofeng UV-5R and Baofeng BF-666s for us to communicate between my van with equipment staff and monitors in it and the U-Haul truck with Paul and Sarge in it.  The radios worked very well and had a very clear signal over a good distance.  There was a funny moment coming back from the convention when Paul and Sarge in the Uhaul couldn’t see us in the van so I said “look for the flashing light” and set the flashlight on my UV-5R to strobe and held it out my window after which allowed the Uhaul to quickly locate us.

The Child’s Play Charity event was my own creation that I ran for the first time this Geek.Kon Friday night.  The idea was simple; a group of players would play Super Mario Brothers 2: Lost Levels (the super hard version of Super Mario Brothers that was “too hard” to release to the states until it was bundled in Super Mario All-Stars) with a projector and a single controller.  The players would then pass the controller any time they died or passed a level.  Outside sponsors would specify an amount they would donate per world passed by the players as well as an optional bonus for if the group of players beat the game.  There would also be a box at the event where viewers could donate funds directly.  This would be coupled with color commentary from the host.

I was very afraid when setting up this event that I would have no players so I reached out ot my friend Sean Corse from Famicon Dojo to make sure I had at least one player.  Turns out this was not a something to be concerned about.  Except at the very beginning of the event when we started out with a few players there wasn’t a time in which we had less then five players.  During both failures or successes the players and viewers emotions ran high which I helped feed into with color commentary.  When the game was beaten after only 3 1/2 hours (which is quite a feat) the elation was amazing.  With the donations from viewers and the sponsors we raised $700 for Child’s Play Charity, next year my goal is $1,400.

The next event I ran was my panel titled “Introduction to Scientific Skepticism.”  Unfortunately I had put off finishing my panel until literately the night before the panel.  I will defiantly not be making that mistake again.  I had to go “off script” quite a bit because I just didn’t have enough in the slides for the hour.  I also sadly forgot my homeopathic sleeping pills in the equipment hotel room and somehow lost my copy of my citation list.  So not only was I unable to overdose on non-medicine and did not have my citation list for when I was asked for it.

Even with these setbacks my panel went very very well.  It was well attended for a 11:00 AM panel on a Saturday and out of about 10 attendees I only made one angry who was upset that I attacked homeopathy and kept confusing homeopathy and naturopathy and then finally attempted to use the fact that homopathy may have a Placebo effect as a reason to use it as medicine.

The last event I was in charge of was the Mixer (dance, rave, whatever.)  This was my first year running the Mixer and it went pretty well.  We had three DJ’s; Liquid86, Kade, and Fermi and video provided by Alhon.  Once again I find that I should of started organizing earlier but besides that things went rather well.  Next year if I run the event (I want to, I just need to check with whoever becomes Events Head) I will start planning the event as early as possible.  This years mixer was much better then the failure that was the one before and I hope was the best one yet but I already can think of a few ways i would like to improve it including more lights.

One last thing I worked on was a project I have been working on for a while called “Project Hermes” which is to allow conventions to have high quality walkie talkies without having to pay to rent them.  I was able to talk to twenty or so random staff members about the idea and was able to collect a lot of useful information and input on the project.  I think I am finished designing the project and I will be submitting it to a few conventions in the coming weeks.

That is all I have for things I personally did myself but I do want to highlight a few things or events that happened at the convention that were quite memorable in no particular order.

Bridget Landry was one of our guests at Geek.Kon and I absolutely adored her two NASA panels.  Yes there was some issues connecting her macbook to our projectors during her first panel but a quick run to Best Buy solved that.  Both of her panels are quite probably my two favorite panels I have ever attended.

I brought my OUYA to Geek.Kon and apparently someone liked it enough that they wanted a second controller.  Sadly unlike my Xbox360 which I brought back with a bunch of new achievements (I forgot to lock out my profile) I have no real way of knowing how much it was used.

Thursday night after finishing setting up the convention we had the opportunity to pass around some mason jars of apple pie among old and new friends for a little bit of bonding and unwinding while the sleepier among us slept in the other room.  After everyone else had gone to bed Darr and I still unable to sleep wandered downstairs to the video game room to play a bit of Lost Levels in preparation for the next day for us to discover that we are quite terrible at the game and that apparently Darr can’t crouch slide (running then crouching to slide under a wall.)

During my previously mentioned time up late in the staff room  right after the Childs Play Charity event which I spent writing my Skepticism panel I was provided with great company of two of my favorite people in the world; Adam Pulver and his girlfriend Simone.   Adam was quite worn out at this time and eventually took a nap in the staff room leaving the running of the convention to Simone and I.  Simone then for some reason that escapes me decided to dramatically read out-loud the terrible fanfic of “My Immortal” which while being greatly disturbing and sometimes brain numbing did function to keep us awake.  This event eventually resulted in talk of running an actual 18+ event at the next Geek.Kon.  I do hope this happens and will attempt to have something to do with it.

By the time Sunday had come around Jeffro had lost his voice forcing him to communicate with pen & paper.  I am not entirely sure how he lost his voice but I would be willing to bet it has something to do with the game Ultimate Werewolf.  It was quite hard to resist making fun of him.

After the convention was all done and the Uhaul and Van were loaded the Equipment Team was able to join the rest of staff at TGI Fridays.  The after-convention restaurant meal has always been one of my favorite traditions since I have been staffing conventions.  Having the opportunity to wind down with the other folk that like you have just worked their butts off running a convention has always been a great experience.  I am always very pleased when staff members realize that we in Equipment do take a long time to arrive at the restaurant and I appreciate them waiting for us so we don’t have to eat alone.

All these things were great but by far the greatest thing that happened at Geek.Kon was that I was able to see my girlfriend Shannon and hold her in my arms for a hug.    The moment I held her in my arms I knew that no matter what hardships or struggles we face due to the distance between us that I don’t ever want to be without her in my life.  Love you sweetheart.

Rebranding

So yeah the website looks very different now and has been renamed and moved to a new domain name. When I originally had registered the domain name SlightlyUnstable.org it was in no way meant to be a blog. It was for a really crappy podcast I was producing at the time. It has been an interesting domain name to have and when I used to use it to host my email people would often remark on it but it is kind of cumbersome for a domain and it really doesn’t seem like a good domain name for a blog. Another issue is that since the time I registered the original domain name Social Networking has become a much larger thing and now any “serious” blog has to have some sort of connection to a social networking site be it Facebook, Twitter, etc. The name SlightlyUnstable is not only non-descriptive but also often too long for websites like Twitter. I have been debating for a while a “brand” that I can use everywhere and I have come up with one that I like a lot. This name of course being SkepticSarah as you can tell by the new name of the website. It’s descriptive, has my name in it, and is short enough for websites like Twitter and Facebook.

Moving forward my plans are to blog here much more often at least a couple times a week on various subjects including skepticism, Linux, geekiness, and the other subjects I have an interest in. I will also start using websites like Twitter and Facebook to promote this blog. This requires me to create a public facebook feed and public twitter feed and find a good way to filter what I would like to keep private and what I would like to keep public. What I will probably end up doing is posting everything I want public to my twitter which will then post to the public Facebook.

So yeah this blog isn’t dead and you can look forward to more content as time goes on. I think next blog entry is going to be a massive life update including how well things went at Geek.Kon and that I have a wonderful girlfriend (not sure if I want to tell everyone her name) but considering that I spend most of my time single it’s a big change in my life and I enjoy it.

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