I raise my right hand...

I, TNS, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Maryland against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of Maryland and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.

I, TNS, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Time Wasting, Shop Therapy/Dragon*Con Edition

Well, I have the day off (I report in at the Guard Base tomorrow to start my in-processing from my latest jaunt) so I am trying to get a handle on the stuff I brought home and get the house back in inspection order for potential buyers.  However, in order to delay this as much as possible I am also going through some of the purchases I made while i was gone and had sent CONUS, as opposed to the things I needed overseas.  I need to make a quick list of things to do with this stuff before it's "con ready."

Fifth Doctor outfit

- Find new hatband, something red.  (not going to spend more on an accurate hatband than on the hat itself)
- Hem trousers.  Steampunk Emporium has a great set of striped trousers in colors that are "in the ballpark," if not screen accurate, but these trousers come in the default inseam of 36."
- (mid July) pester shirt guy about shirt.  Ordered an accurate shirt (that and the jumper I bought into a year ago is why I'm doing the outfit, but I'm not willing to blow the cost for the screen accurate stuff anymore.
- Get red socks (I believe, find reference)

Jedi outfit

- Punch more holes in belt, as they expected someone more prosperous than me to wear it.
- Find my knee boots to see if they'll work.  More accurate Jedi boots are definitely on the "nice to have" (as opposed to the "need to have" for certain values of need) list for now.
- Short out problem with shoulder pieces of tabard.  The shoulder pieces are separate from the obi and lined with slippery lining material, which means that they will shift and slide off the shoulders without so much as a "by your leave."
- Ponder getting current show light saber modded up to fighting status as I expect to cross blades in at least a stage combat way at D*C.

Steampunk/Dr Who Brigadier
- Find right polish to get new Sam Browne belt to correct shade (aim to match swagger stick)
- Defray cost for new Sam Browne by finding buyer for old Sam Browne.

- Ponder overdying spare safari jacket to bring color to outfit (steampunk can be more than 50 shades of brown, says Amber).  Dark blue (preferred) or dark green would work, I think.
- Find knockabout khakis to add stripe to match safari jacket.

Col Tigh
- I lost one of the two undershirts.  Figure out which one (black muscle or grey sleeveless) and replace.

OK, the lack of dryer noise means it's time to get back to work.  Fewer than 60 days to D*C...

Snow Falling on Ceders, only without the ceders and not quite snow

Tonight we had a bit of a duststorm.

In a lot of ways it feels like a snowstorm.  Not in a tactile way - it's more gritty and you're still sweating even at night.  I guess it's a matter of the slow, more deliberate movements and the reduction of the world to a much smaller circle.  You are also bundled up.  I has the elastic face wrap, goggles and hat pulled down while I went from housing to the USO and then to the Internet Bunker.  I'm actually typing in the shed next to my usual haunt, which has less dust and more heat but it can't be helped.

Today was a long day.  We got a early morning wake-up courtesy of the rocket attack siren and then I had to go in early for the unit picture in front of the aircraft.  Then I went home for a nap before more ceremony and my actual work shift.

I woke up, went to work and got into a disagreement with a large black civilian over something.

Then I woke up again.

I hate days like that.

That is why this night is going to come to an early end.  I think some sleep will make up for a bunch of things, though not everything.

We're in the unfortunate situation that work is winding down but we can't leave right yet, so there will be a few days of hanging out - where you can't really go out in the daylight and there's only so many times I want to go shopping - though there are a few more things to get before I get home.

Request for idea assistance to the Peanut Gallery

I have a friend (Ryan) who passed on last year. He was very popular among the 501st and Dr Who fandoms, especially at Dragon*Con (D*C, as opposed to DC).
We have been pondering a suitable Ryan memorial for some time. I want to throw out some thoughts to the crowd and see if anyone has suggestions on what we could do and how can we do it.
Considering Ryan's main interests (Star Wars and Dr. Who) I think the most appropriate thing to do would be a bonfire, since Jedi and Timelords seem to have a tradition of burning the body of the departed.
As you might guess, this is difficult, if not impossible, in the general D*C area (downtown Atlanta). That being said, I've pondered a few options:
- Find a site in the ATL area (preferably mass transit accessible) to have a bonfire. Unfortunately, I don't have have enough "Area Knowledge: Atlanta" to even begin to research this and my sole ATL type moved to Boston. However, this list should be full of people who might have the ability to find such a place. While travelling out of the D*C area on a Sun night (currently the best time of the con to do this) is a hassle, I feel it would be the best way to honor Ryan and the preferred solution.
- A mock bonfire in the D*C area. This list is full of SFX knowledge, and if we have to choose a site within the con confines, we should be able to do this as right as possible. How could we do it in a way that provides the appropriate honors to Ryan?
- Some other idea. Maybe I'm off-base with this idea. If so, then what? We much ensure that whatever we do, it isn't lame. Ryan was a dynamic person and however he honor him should be as well.
Whatever road we take, I need to get a move on. We've only have a couple more months until the con and I'd like to avoid the last minute.
Thanks for the help!

Your TNS Update, 20120601 Edition

Well, life continues over here.  The pattern is pretty well set: I work and spend time staying in touch through, FB, lj and chat every day.  I hit the gym (pretty hard, but so far besides being tired I haven't suffered injury) every other day and read "The Hobbit" into a mini-DVD for the girls on the other days.

It has been a miserable 2 weeks for packages - I got a card a few days ago but otherwise zip.  Mail call is getting less like Christmas and more like Powerball.  I expect I'll end up with a dozen parcels all at once, probably just before I go home.

I have been productive.  I've knocked out some postings that have been languishing in the drafts folder.  I've done a few book reviews for lj and have put up a bunch more on Goodreads (most of them are simple "# of stars" reviews, but I may bolster more of them with text later).  Other stuff have been administrative bookkeeping, such as computer files.

Nowadays there's only so far away you can get from home.  The usual charities and political groups have been pestering me for funds.  This also seems to be the Kickstarter season - I'm getting a lot of offers to become the patron of one artist or another.  It does have the feel of a pyramid scheme where the goal is to get funded before the culture rebels from so much begging.

House still for sale - no luck yet.

History Writ Large

Being a review of the following:

A Voyage Long and Strange, by Tony Horwitz 
Founding Brothers, by Joseph J. Ellis
The Lincoln/Douglas Debates, Unabridged, by BBC Audiobooks America
(all audio-books)
The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant
(paper edition)
(Note: this "meta-review" has been languishing in my drafts folder for a few years - some settling of facts and opinions might have occured during storage)
Serendipity led to this combination of titles - which have become part of one long intertwined narrative.  I hadn't expected to embark on a history of slavery in America, but in truth you can't really avoid it if you're going to read any books of general American history from 1492 to 1960, and beyond, for that matter.  
Most of these were audiobooks I found on the shelves the library by chance while I was looking for things to while away the hours on the trip to Dragon*Con 2009.  I borrowed Horowitz because I loved his previous work Confederates in the Attic, Founding Brothers because of my interest in 1776 and all that, and the Lincoln/Douglas Debates because you always hear about them but I never had the chance to actually find out what they really said.
I listened to A Voyage Long and Strange first.  Like his previous work, it was a combination history and personal travelogue.  His goal was to explore the expeditions that took place from Columbus to the Pilgrims landfall.  His personal journey was to explore not just the history, but also the myths that had arisen from these explorations.  The time between Columbus and Plymouth covers a lot of the fits and starts of the exploration and colonization movement.  It also covers the slow decent of race relations in America and the intersection of myth, race and history.  The echoes from these events persist to the present day as people struggle with who is what and how does your race impact you and the world.
The example I remember most clearly was the "Pocahontas Exemption."  In Virginia you were considered an Indian if you had one drop of Indian blood in you.  The exception was if your Indian blood came from Pocahontas: not only were you still considered white, it was a distinction worth remembering by joining Pocahontas groups.  On the other hand, there would be struggles among Indian tribes to protect their rights by discriminating against blacks.  It seems once ethnic purity has real world benefits, it's hard to stop.
The book was good for shining a light on the areas of American history that gets short shift, such as the Spanish.  With the exception of the major Conquisidors and stories of the Fountain of Youth, the Spaniards travels across this country are mostly forgotten, though perhaps not as much as the French.
After that I moved along the timeline to Founding Brothers.  This book mostly concentrates on the rifts that will become the initial political parties of the early Republic.  While a lot of it turns on matters of finance and the dissolution of the "Pax Wasingtonius," slavery was never far from the narrative.  I believe most of the founders had at least a little misgiving about the intersection of freedom of slavery, but many of them were able to studiusly ignore it, especially when personal profit and regional power was concerned.  However, slavery had become the fault in the foundation of the U.S. and it was going to come back to haunt them.
This brought me to the Lincoln/Douglas Debates.  Good Lord, they were long!  They were interesting on many levels:  besides the famous debate over slavery, there was also the running converstions that carried from one debate to the next.  Due to the nature of the debates and the transcripts that appeared in the paper afterwards, a lot of time was spent spinning what had gone on before.  While it was refreshing to listen to candidates that didn't have to speak in soundbites, it didn't mean the level of the meeting was that much higher than nowadays.  Several time there were exchanges like, "Mr Lincoln likes negros so much he wants to marry one!"  "Do not!" "Do too!" (a paraphrase, but not much of one).  Also, Abe wasn't the full throated defender of liberty we'd expect in much of the debate.  Illinois was a Northern state that dipped its toe in the border, so southern areas of the state didn't share the same views of Chicago.  Still, by the end Lincoln came out pretty strongly on the matter of slavery and why it was wrong.
I think you could probably listen to the last one and do pretty well for it.  Considering each debate was 3 hours long, it might be for the best.
Finally, I read The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant while I was deployed in CA in 2010.  Like most deployments, I had time on my hands (the mismatch between my work schedule and the rest of the world precluded much of a social life), so I tried to fill some holes in my reading and I figured my Civil War repertoire could use some first hand accounts.  Grant was a good writing, especially considering he was facing the end of his life and trying to get this out as a financial legacy to his family is pretty amazing.  Admittedly, it doesn't stray much from Grant as a general, but he tells the story as best he can, without a lot of gilding the lily.  Definitely worth a read.
I'll close with a quote of Grant's.  He lived long enough for the "Lost Cause" mythology to take root, watching as Lee and the South became storied - a story still deeply rooted in the subconscious of America.  It enshrined a group that attempted to hold a people in chains by the mass slaughter of their own countrymen.  He wrote:
"I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and who had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse." 

Left of Bang

Since roadside bombs and other IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) have become our opponent's weapon of choice for the Global War on Terrorism, a lot of time, effort and money has been spent to fix the problem.  One of the more well known solutions is the MRAP, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.  These are big, expensive vehicles that wandered the roads of Iraq and Afghanistan able to withstand the IEDs used by the bad guys.  Problem was, the bad guys found ways around the protection: bigger bombs, armor piercing bombs and the like.  This meant that a lot of time and money had been invested in a solution that might not stand up to the opponent's countermoves.
When the military started to look at the big picture of IEDs, they began to describe the IED chain as a timeline (I know, I know, wibbly-wobbly, just go with this, OK?) which traced the IED from designer, to builder, to emplacer, to detonation, to aftermath.  Most of our prior defensive activity was slanted to the right of the timeline - defeating the emplaced IED and coping with the results of the detonation.  They decided to start working on defeating the IED long before it was in the ground ready to explode.  The farther up the timeline they could stop the process, the better.  This is called "moving left of boom."
Now, a similar argument can be made as far as abortions, at least those involving accidental pregnancies.  The best unwanted pregnancy is one that never happens.  This is why most people would prefer that actions would be moved farther up the timeline, "left of bang," as it were.  When it comes to cost, difficulty and life disruption, moving leftward (emergency contraception, regular contraception, family planning), all undergirt with an effective foundation of sex education, would make things easier on everyone and reduce the abortion numbers.  A win for everyone, right?
Well, no.
The Religious Right doesn't believe that this is a good idea at all.  They believe, in theory, that any solution that is not "abstinence until marriage, faithfulness after marriage" is just as bad as abortion.  Anything - education, family planning, birth control - that might encourage sex outside marriage is wrong.  They not only want to stop abortions, but anything else that would encourage sex.  If a woman has sex, she should be forced to bear it to term, regardless of the consequences.
You may have noticed a shift there.  While sex that produces babies requires one of each gender, the attention mostly seems to center on women and their baby making parts.  Often the primary weapon of these groups is "slut shaming" holding up the woman as not only the visible evidence of the sin, but also the major sinner.  That is why I inserted the "in theory" in the paragraph above.  

There are two possible major reasons for this.  One is the simple fact that we can tell the mother of an unborn baby while its much more difficult to figure out the father.  But I think the fact that most of the organizations involved in slut shaming are either male run or exclusively male organizations cannot be ignored.  Often times these are organizations that hold that the male is the authority in a relationship.  That shifts the definition of slut to "woman who has sex outside of submitting to their husband in marriage."  As an American, Unitarian and father of daughters, I find this unsatisfactory.
I find this "unsat" because this is less a question of morality than a question of control.  A belief that not only can they enforce this among their worshipers, but thet they can make it the law of the land - their morality/worldview is a rule for all.  There are other groups like this around the world.  The one that comes to mind first is the Taliban, though there are Slafist echoes of them around the Muslim world.  I have a disturbing feeling that, in a "blind taste test" with the Islam removed, many of these American groups would find themselves in fellowship with the Taliban.

Another problem is the "scorched earth" tactics - getting rid of Planned Parenthood and all the good it does in order to save us from the evil abortion/birth control, and the fighting against HPV vaccine because somehow protecting people from dying will just encourage them to have sex.  We'd rather have the risk of death to deter them from sex, even though history and prehistory shows us that you might as well try to command the tide as stop people from having sex.

I also find it disturbing because it is a constant reach backward - an effort to return us to a time where we were all less equal.  The past may have its moments, but I'm sure I never want to live there.  Also, I guess it's a personal thing, but I don't want to be an adult standing in charge of another adult, not all the time, anyway.  I'm glad that I had the honor of parenting children, but I have no plans to do that with a life partner.

The Dream Police

"The dream police, they live inside of my head The dream police, they come to me in my bed The dream police, they're coming to arrest me, oh no..."
When we were getting ready to come over here a couple of months ago, we had to process through medical.  One of the things we picked up was doxycycline - which is the only doxy I've picked up this trip, truth to tell (archaic slang humor - your mark of quality blogging).  Besides ending up with a ziplock bag of pills, I had to read and sign a notice telling me that doxy didn't cause dreams or other odd things.
Of course, for reasons either medical or psychological (saying "this won't cause odd dreams" may be self defeating) I've had some pretty vivid dreams here.
One that I think was a side effect of reading "Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium" and "Ciaphas Cain: Defender of the Imperium" back to back (Note: there are two more books - find them when I return).  My dream was of a ship docking with a space station that I was on and having the sure and certain knowledge that something bad was on there and we were going to be dealing with it real soon now.  I remember going on board with an "all ashore that's going ashore" message, but I was mainly there to gather any of the useful weird talents wandering about the ship, and had really little care for the "sheeple" that would soon be monster chow - a fairly Ciaphas opinion of the situation.
I had a few others, though much more prosaic - one of those revenge theft movies where you never know who's playing whom - most notable for my making out with a redhead I feel I should have known while thinking about another woman I also feel I should have known.  Others, while pretty vibrant, didn't leave as many details or they've faded since then.  I should probably make some notes upon awaking, but I don't think I've had one of those dreams in a while.  I think the wear of the "Groundhog Day" existance might be damping down the dreams.

Tombstone, or How the West was "Meh"

Disclaimer - I have paraphrased John Adams before when it comes to LARPs by saying "there's a quarter of players who are going to like the game regardless of its flaws and a quarter who will hate it regardless of its worth.  A game's measure of success lies in the undecided."  One's state of mind is a major influence on the game attitude and perception of success, and mine was no execption.  I will try to be as "reality based" as I can be talking about the game, but keep in mind I may have just been part of the "bottom 25%."
Application/Character Request -  By and large, I didn't have any big problems with the questionaire they used, except for the fact that John Cleese was my favorite character in Tombstone.  Not just for the "What's all this, then?" but for the fact I have a leaning for the characters that are trying to keep the peace the best they can, which summed up Sheriff Langston.  As a "personal note for future character requests," I need to remember to put in that I prefer to have a partner or team, and/or be the person people come to, rather than be the proactive person out making new friends.
Pre-game Issues - Hoever, I did have major problems with the other pre-game materials.  I am still pretty incensed with the Civil War part of their background story, which I felt bordered on "lost cause" idiology.  When I got my character, I felt that a lack of media hints was a real problem. While they had a list of movies my character appeared in or was drawn from, I could have used better hints on what movies were important.  I watched two of the movies (well, one and a quarter, anyway - one of the movies was so bad I wouldn't waste my time on it) and didn't see anything that applied to my character as written.  Likewise, I think a short list of movies to watch in order to get a feel for the game would have been really useful.
Game Issues, Personal - I found that a lot of my plotlines were of the unfortunate "keep things secret" variety.  While this might be a valid plot for a Western, esp. since there were so many secrets in the game, it is not an encouragement to interaction.  Talking to people meant that you could give away a pile of secrets over a poker game or bottle of whisky.  While secrets are the currency of the game, I was reluctant to put myself in a position to hand out other people's secrets that I was given in trust, as I didn't know how much that would screw with their game.  Some of my other plots were pretty much DOA to me, such as the poker game (I don't like card games and dropping all that money for little or no return just didn't make any sense).
For me, I ran into the problem that there wasn't much that made me the "go to" guy for other players, which can be a problem.  The exception to this was my sudden popularity on Saturday night due to my being one of the few known "Cowboy Gumshoes."  This had the advantage of keeping me occupied as I tried to puzzle out a few of the various crimes that took place.  Unfortunately, I ran into the "velvet flocked wall of silence" and was never able to bring and of the mysteries to a conclusion.  Perhaps a detective character might have been able to do it.  Oh, well - "Forget it pardner, it's Tombstone."
Game Issues, Meta - With a lot of time on my hands, I endevored to spend a little time doing some analysis of the game itself and especially the flow of activites.  Prehaps the biggest problems seemed to be a general lack of enemies.  Why this happened I'm not sure, but I suspect part of the problem was the lack of black hats to provide antagonists for the bulk of the game.  I think it would be difficult to have enough opponents for a game if they have to be "bad guys."  One thing I'm not sure about was how much "good vs good" fighting they expeced.  The West was full of events where groups that don't fit the black hat mold still come to blows - sheep vs. cattle, that sort of thing.  However, I think the mindset of gamers to avoid violence makes it very difficult for two sets of "good guys" to go to war with each other - as a chat with any "Torch of Freedom" GM would colaborate.
Likewise, it is very hard to simulate either the historical or classic films attitude towards race and gender.  Probably that's a good thing as a civilization, but it does make trying to have a game based either on the historical west or the movies difficult.
Another problem is the GM's planned "Scheme of Maneuver" for the weekend.  The arrows all seemed to point to a climactic confrontation on Sunday to wrap up the game.  Problem was, the Cowboys power was broken Sat night, but the "Date with Destiny" (DwD) superpower (which meant you couldn't die until you met your nemisis in a showdown at end of game) delayed the final resolution for certain characters until Sunday.  For those not so blessed, Sunday morning was about as exciting as you'd expect a Sunday morning to be.
This brings me to a personal hobbyhorse - the Set Pieces for DwD.  Each of the Hero/Villain pairs gamed out their encounters out of sight, then playacted them out for the game.  Now, scenes like this can be good theater or they can be bad pantomime, depending on the players involved, but can't be interactive.  It might just be my Obama-loving, socialist little heart showing here, but I can do without the "privilege" of watching other players having "exclusive fun."
Note: Here is where I end most of my game review and return to personal blogging
Having sat through the end game (with more then the usual amound of "I did cool tings" speeches, but without the "Shameless Plugs" that used to be a tradition in the old days, so I guess that's a wash) it was now time for socializing.  Problem was, having not had a boffo time at the game, I was unwilling to inflict the other players on me or vice versa ("I'm not getting you down at all, am I?").  Frankly, I was borderline fit company anyway.  Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have lunch with a small group who also didn't want to go to the main Dead Dog Party.  Being with a bunch of people I liked talking about things other than the game, mostly, was the first step along the road to my recovery.
For the rest of my recovery, I have the traffic on I-270 and Lawrence Schick to thank.  Since I saw the traffic back up almost from the exit from I-70 to 270, I bailed off to the shopping center right off the exit to ponder the map and my options.  Fortunately, there's a My Organic Market in that shopping center so I could stop for some munchies.  Then I decided I had no place to be anytime soon so I would get onto the back roads and see what Maryland between 270 and the Potomac looked like.
I also had a mixtape, courtesy, of M. Schick.  It was a compilation of several old country songs and various parts of western movie sountracks.  Strangely enough, the mucis went really well with rural Montgomery Co (there really is one!).  There is a lot of farmland, some with cattle, interspersed with small towns.  I suspect there are probably a few B&Bs out there that would be good places to gat away from the city with a less than a hour drive to get there.
So, what does it mean?  I guess I'm not totally turned off by gaming, though it no longer rates as high as it used to (ah, those heady days when you could LARP one a month or more).  I believe under the right circumstances I would go back to another game, though I would require a team or at least a part that would bring the game to me.  I also accept that if I don't game it won't kill me.  William Wildfarer once said you know you've been in the SCA too long when the only thing worse than going to an event is not going to an event.  I'm no longer there as far as LARPs are concerned, though I do have a twinge of regret at the thought.
 "...of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong." 

Dawn Breaks Over Marblehead...

Out here as part of the "Coalition of the Willing" (TM) is Denmark.  Every so often I'll walk by and see their flag flying with the odd off-center cross that the Scandinavians seem so fond of.

However, sometimes they fly the Splitflag, which is the Danish flag but with swallowtail ends.  The thing is, with the swallowtail the cross becomes much more balanced.  I wonder if the flag was designed with the swallowtail in mind and "filled in" later?  Wikipedia doesn't say, but a reading of the page doesn't rule it out, either.

I like the Splitflag over their camp - gives the place a medieval look.