Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Safe Space

This is the story of John.

When John goes out, he gets spat upon. Not every day, and not by every person, but in many of the stores he enters, someone will spit on him. Sometimes it’s only 10% of the customers. Sometimes it’s more. None of the other customers say anything. They may not spit, but they aren’t willing to say something to the ones who do.

For years he puts up with it because he doesn’t think he has a choice. That’s the way it’s always been; he just has to accept it. But then he starts to realize that the spitters themselves never get spat upon. Why does it have to happen to him?

So he starts speaking up about it. Sometimes he tells the customer he doesn’t appreciate being spat upon. Sometimes he tells the managers. It’s exhausting spending all his time confronting people, but sometimes they stop, and sometimes the manager kicks the spitter out. But more often than not, instead of getting people to stop, he hears the same things over and over:

“That’s the way it’s always been.”

“What’s the big deal? It’s just spit. It’s not like anyone’s hurting you.”

“I have a friend who doesn’t mind being spat upon, so it’s not really a problem.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t see any spitters.”

It’s disheartening, and he becomes nervous and uncomfortable any time he has to go out.

But then something happens. He started to find places that don’t allow spitters. Oh sure, the occasional spitter will walk in the door, but the manager is quick to show them the exit. The store makes it very clear they don’t tolerate spitters, and they have to go some place else. John starts spending more time at those stores, but the other stores have things he likes, so he keeps hoping they, too, will take an anti-spitter stance.

When it becomes clear the other stores will not, he knows it’s no longer worth going to them for the few things he likes. Sure, he can confront the spitters again and again and report them to the managers, but sometimes he just wants to go shopping without fear of being spat upon. After yet another person spits on him, he tells the manager of his favorite store why he will no longer return. The manager’s responds, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve kicked the spitter out.”

The manager doesn’t get it. It isn’t that the one spitter chased him off; it’s that the manager doesn’t deem it worthy to discourage spitters to begin with. Why should John have to be responsible for keeping the store spit-free?

Saddened, John leaves, never to return. Sure, he’ll still fight the spitting when it happens, but he’s no longer willing to patron those places that don’t discourage spitters, and he now knows he has places he can go where he can feel safe.

——

[Update: I wanted to direct you to a post my friend, Mikey, made on the subject. Go read it; it’s powerful stuff.]

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Nothing to say and saying it anyway

I still haven’t gone through my Disney photos. I’m going to forget I even went there before I ever get around to looking at them. “Why the hell is there a giant mouse in my photos? What madness has become of this world?!”

I’m nearing the end of my latest book, which probably means I should think about titling it at some point. This has been a very hard-won project. It’s been around in some form or fashion for at least three years. At this point, I think the only thing that survived is the name of the heroine’s twin brother. They started out as thieves, then became assassins, and now they’re doppelganger assassins. That’s not the career trajectory of the protagonist in the novel. That’s the revision process of the book. The hardest part was nailing down the actual plot. The multiple twists and turns were hard to keep straight, and it took more than a few revisions before I finally got it down. It’s probably the hardest book (for me) I’ve written to date.

Oh, yeah, I was going to do a write-up of the Guild Wars 2 Halloween event. Completely forgot about it and since then they’ve had the Lost Shores event where they opened up a new level 80 area and they’re starting their Wintersday event next week. Lost Shores was neat, but it had quite a few problems on a technical level. The Halloween event was one of, if not the, best holiday-themed events I’ve seen in an MMO. Lots of stuff to do. Lots of atmosphere. New objectives every few days. Good rewards. They’re really trying hard on this game.

Guess that’s it for now.


Quick update and some brief movie reviews

We spent eight days in Orlando visiting Walt Disney World and Universal Studios last month. When I get a chance to go through the pictures, I’ll make a blog post or two about the trip.

I also want to post about the recently completed Guild Wars 2 Halloween events. Consensus: awesome.

We saw three excellent movies while we were on vacation: Looper, ARGO, and Seven Psychopaths. All different, but all excellent in their own way. I could easily rewatch all three of them again. Rather than describe the movies, I’ll just link to their IMDB page and explain why I liked them. Be sure to check out their respective trailers.

Looper

I adore Joseph Gordon-Levitt in everything he’s in (and considering he’s in a lot of stuff lately, I’m not the only one). The dystopian setting for this one could have been fleshed out a little bit more, but overall it presented a world in which violence was common, normal people struggled just to survive, and you could easily see how a looper could end up taking the job. There were some odd stylistic choices, like the Old West-style guns people were using in a society that had anti-grav motorcycles, and the use of silver bars for currency. But overall, a good movie I’d easily watch again.

ARGO

This is another one that’s getting good press for good reason. It’s an amazing, nail-biting thriller based on a real event. I know that being a movie, it was more dramatic than real life usually is, but the actors turned in excellent performances, and Ben Affleck is showing himself to be a very talented director. This show was tense like you wouldn’t believe. You can’t help but fear for their lives. Since I didn’t know anything about the real event, I had no idea who, if any, would survive the escape.

Be sure to stay to through the credits to see how closely the actors looked to the real people. In a couple of photos, I had trouble telling the actor from the real person.

Seven Pyschopaths

I didn’t actually know anything about this one until I was looking for a movie to watch. It’s an odd dark comedy, similar to the director’s other movie, In Bruges, which I didn’t care for. It also reminds me of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which I absolutely love. It’s a movie with a lot of meta jokes, very quotable, with an ending that manages to surprise you. I laughed a lot through this one. The performances of the entire cast were stellar, but Woody Harrelson absolutely stole every scene he was in. Really. Watch the trailer.


“Weekly” blogging update

I have a reminder each week to blog on Fridays. Once a month is the definition of weekly, right?

I’m still playing Guild Wars 2, though my time is split with Minecraft and Borderlands 2. It’s just as fun as ever. It’s a really strong game. All the hype you heard about it? It’s really justified.

We spun up a 1.2.5 Minecraft world, and once again the Minecraft addiction took hold. We’re running mostly the same mods as before: Redpower 2 (of course; can’t go without this one), Railcraft, Slopes, etc. This time we’re also running Mo’Creatures, but when we update to 1.3.2 we’ll have to ditch it. Unfortunate, but it appears to be a dead mod.

Photobucket

Borderlands 2 is just as fun and crazy as its predecessor. If you liked the first one, you’ll find its sequel to be just as, if not moreso, excellent.

We’ve been remodeling our master bedroom. We have to buy new carpet tomorrow and have it installed sometime next week. We also ordered a nice bamboo bedroom suite. We’ll finally have a decent dresser for the first time in years.

And finally, we’ll be vacationing in Orlando this fall! So excited. We’re going to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Fortunately, remodeling and games have kept me busy, so I haven’t had much time to dwell on it.


Random things

I’ve been mostly playing WURM Online, so I don’t have anything new to talk about gaming-wise. Today begins the next Guild Wars 2 beta weekend, and yay, my husband will be joining me.That’s where I’ll be spending most of my weekend.

We started rollerblading again, finally. It’s looking to be a hot summer already. It’s gonna be a while before we can do our entire 12+ mile route again. I wish the city would be more mindful of those of us who aren’t on bikes or walking. They put speed bumps on the sidewalks near the park at the beginning of the trail. They’re bike speed bumps, so we can still skate over them, but bumps and cracks are harder for us to navigate through than they are for cyclists. And for the record, I’ve had far more problems with oblivious pedestrians than I have with cyclists. I swear, some of those people want us to run over their kids. And they still haven’t fixed all the cracks in the sidewalks. They did, however, re-gravel the adjacent bike path, which means gravel flowed onto the concrete path, presenting even more hazards to our skating.

Joe on skates

We started watching Supernatural season one, after a friend highly recommended the show. She did point out that the first couple of seasons are very uneven, which is a good description for it. There’s some truly lazy writing at times (they should’ve just removed the “Bugs” episode from the DVD collection), and whenever I see what appears to be a plot hole, I have no real trust that they’ll close it, but the actors have good chemistry, and I like the setting.


Belize: Days 7 & 8

The final days of our trip.

Day 7

Day 7 saw us up early again for the trip to the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, also known as the ATM cave. I should have suspected something was going to be off for the day when our guide wasn’t satisfied with simply saying, “Anyone forget anything?” Instead he went through a checklist. “Did you get your sunscreen? Your bug spray? Your water bottles? Your socks?” “Yes.” “Did you get any medicine you might need?” No response, because no one had any medicine. “Any medicine? Any medicine?” Finally I told him yes to shut him up.

That turned out to be the start of the most awful guide experience of the whole trip. After a long bumpy ride to the parking area, he then told us shortly before our 1 1/2 mile hike to the cave, “We want to get in before the other groups arrive, so we’re not going to stop to look at anything.”

At this point Joe and I started making sarcastic remarks to each other. “No time to enjoy the sights, folks! What do you think this is, a vacation?” The guide started hauling ass until he realized about half of us weren’t keeping up. Not because we couldn’t; it was a nice, level path. Mostly because he wasn’t going to make us to race through our trip. So he was forced to slow down.

ATM cave entrance

The start of  our caving adventure required a short swim through a pool of water. You can see it in the picture above. In fact, the majority of your time in the cave is spent in water. Most of it wading, but that wasn’t the last swim. I wasn’t able to get many pictures during this time because we were moving in a single file line, and I didn’t want to block the people behind me.

I’ve been in only a handful of caves in my life, but this was the toughest of them all. It was also the most fun (guide excepted). There was bouldering, swimming, maneuvering between narrow crevices, climbing up and down, and almost all of it done in water.

Our guide started getting very irritated and bossy around this point. I mentioned earlier a family of four that was on the same tour of us and how they had a couple of boys, ages 10 and 13. Well, boys that age can be curious and at times a little out of control. They were good boys, and they didn’t do anything wrong, but they were kids. And our guide was a complete control freak. His instructions started to get more demanding. When people didn’t do exactly what he said, and I mean exactly, as in, “Put your foot here. No, I said here,” he got angrier and angrier. Somehow it never dawned on him that we were able to get ourselves into another country without completing flubbing it. Heck, two of our group even managed to produce children and keep them alive! The way he acted, you’d think we were lucky to be able to tie our shoes without impaling ourselves on our shoe strings. I don’t like bullies, and I don’t like people who treat me like an idiot. He was both of those.

Anyway, at the end of the trail, you climb a boulder to another level, where we removed our shoes (socks only; very important) and were taken through the archaeology portion of the trip. This is where the Mayans held their ceremonies and ritual sacrifices. It’s a live archaeology site, so watching your footing was very important.

It’s hard to see from this angle, but the forehead is flat. The Maya tied a board to their infants’ foreheads to flatten the forehead. It was a sign of beauty.

This was the least interesting part of the caving tour for me, simply because it was more “looking at things.” Except for one ladder climb (modern aluminum, not ancient Mayan), the path was nice and level and safe. If Joe and I ever did it again (hopefully with a different guide, because I’m pretty sure I would snap if I had to deal with him again), and we were alone, we would tell the guide we just wanted to turn around at the boulder. Once you’ve seen a few skeletons and broken pottery, you’ve seen them all.

A pile of skeletons

The tour ends (at least for tourists) before a virtually intact skeleton called the Crystal Maiden. That link also tells about some of the other skeletons found in the cave, including those of several infants and children. The picture below makes it look as if we’re right next to the skeleton, but there’s actually a wire fence blocking access.

The Crystal Maiden.

All together, we spent about four hours in the cave. It’s a testament to how awesome the cave actually is that despite mentally directing every expletive in both English and Spanish I know toward our guide, it was second only to the Black Hole Drop in my enjoyment. (If you’re wondering, when I filled out the survey from the travel agency, I specifically mentioned this guide. They called to follow up and said they’d look into it to see if he was just having a bad day or if that was an ongoing problem).

Day 8

It’s time to go home! Our vacation was fantastic, but I missed home. Since our flight wasn’t until the afternoon, our final trip was to the Belize Zoo. Unlike a lot of zoos, the Belize zoo focuses only on animals native to Belize. Sorry, I didn’t take pictures. It was very hot that day, and I was tired. A lot of the animals were hidden beneath their foliage because of the heat, so it was hard to even see them.

There’s really not much to say about this trip. It was a zoo. Our guide was nice and friendly and a little shy. He took us to a wonderful local restaurant, where I had some fantastic BBQ chicken, and then he hauled us to the airport. The airport experience was, well, an airport. Wait on planes. Go through security. Go through customs. Etc. Nothing fun.

And that was it! Eight fantastic days of fun and sun and action. This was my favorite vacation. The country is beautiful. The people were on the whole nice and friendly. It’s a very safe, very clean, but very poor country.  I’d love to go back someday, once the pain of dealing with airports and customs has faded from memory a bit. If you’re looking for an exciting vacation, consider doing the Belize Adventure from Adventure Life.

All the photos in this blog series, plus additional pictures, are available on in my Photobucket album.


Belize: Days 5 & 6

The Guild Wars 2 open beta weekend starts tomorrow, so I figured I’d better get this done today. Expect a blog post in a few days talking about my experiences in the game.

Day 5

Day 5 in Belize marks our first full day in the jungle. We wake up early and meet our guide, Francisco, for ziplining and cave tubing. Both were located at the same place, a rather tourist-y park with plenty of ways to try to part you from your money.

The zipline didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. There are seven lines of varying lengths and heights. I thought for sure I would be terrified, considering my fear of heights. I was at first. The very first line, just after he snapped me onto the cable, it dawned on me that I was about to trust my life to a carabiner and two cables tied to trees. And then I was gone … and I had a blast!

It’s almost impossible to get a perspective on how high Joe is in that shot, but needless to say, it’s high. After running through the ziplines, Francisco took us on a short walk to the river put-in, where we would be cave tubing through a series of long, low caves. After the sweaty walk, the cool water felt great, but overall, I’d have to give cave tubing a “meh.” The water doesn’t move fast enough to make it exciting, and other than a tiny colony of bats and a bunch of minnows that kept nibbling at our feet, there isn’t really much to see or do.

After the tubing and lunch, it was back to the resort.

Day 6

Ah, this is it. The one event that makes people either say, “Are you crazy?” or “Wow, that sounds so cool.” We’re rappelling the 300′ deep Black Hole Drop. We wake up, pile into the van, and take the short drive to the lodge where we’ll meet our guides and pick up a few other tourists. After signing a liability waiver with bolded words like DEATH and GROSS NEGLIGENCE and NOT RESPONSIBLE, we piled into another bus that took us to the base of the sinkhole. The hike to the top of the sinkhole is an intense jungle trek almost straight up. I was very, very grateful for all the time I spent on the Stairmaster. If you want to know what the hike is like, spend 90 minutes on a Stairmaster in a steam room and make sure you skip every other step about half the time. All that conditioning really paid off, though, because we were able to keep up with the guides without any problems.

Besides us, there was the family of four that had been with us since we left Dangriga. They had two boys, 10 and 13. There was a man and his teenage son (he was 16 or 17), and another family of four with a boy and girl of around 7 and 9. Our turn came about in the middle, just before the family with the younger kids. It was interesting to watch everyone else go over. The older teenage boy was probably the most visibly terrified. The guides had the hardest time convincing him he had to lean back.

Then it was our turn. Now, I’d been rappelling once before, so I at least understood that you had to trust the equipment and you had to lean back. That much I got. I had trouble figuring out where to put my hands on the rope, though, so I struggled at first, since the rope is also kind of heavy. Once I had that squared away, I was over the edge.

See all those ropes and knots and stuff? It’s all very safe. We were probably safer leaning over the edge of that cliff than we were on the drive over. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous, because I was, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I still had a death grip on the rope, though. That’s why I was glad to hand my camera over to the guide. No way was I going to be able to take even one hand off the rope long enough to take a picture.

The way this system worked, guides on the top and bottom held onto the safety rope. If anything happened, like you started to descend too quickly (hard with the number of brakes we had) they could stop you instantly. They also said you could call up to them, and they could stop if you wanted to look around. Joe did so. Which, admittedly, did make me nervous hanging in the air like that. When we can figure out where the SD card is with the pictures on it, I’ll upload it to my Photobucket account.

At the bottom we had lunch, the guides told us a little about the Maya who used the caves at the bottom of the sinkhole for their ceremonies, and then it was time to return. Returning meant climbing a 30′ aluminum house ladder. It was anchored to the wall, though, and they hook your harness up to a safety rope, so it’s not particularly dangerous. What was actually the most dangerous part of the whole thing was that final bit of climb to the resting spot, because it had started to rain, and the rain had made the rocks and roots slippery. I was almost done when it started to get slippery, so I only had a taste, but Joe, who was several minutes behind, said it was probably the scariest part of the whole trip.

And then it was hiking down. The rain made the trek slow going to keep from falling.

Thus ended day 6.

Next week: the ATM cave, the Belize zoo, and finally, home.

Additional pictures here.