#603 – Hello 2018! and Taking a Stand Against Racism


So it took me half the month to get here, but let me catch you up on things.

The trip to Florida went well. I got to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time, we had some time in the hotel room on our own so we didn’t have to be “on” all the time (the reason sucked – there was apparently a bout of food poisoning that went through the family and we were asked to stay away for a day), and on the last full day we were there we went to LEGOLAND Florida.

We started out the day going through the park with my brother- and sister-in-law and their two kids. I wanted to be there for that, because I wanted to get photos of my nephew and niece enjoying the day. We also kept an eye on the kids while the adults went on adult rides. My nephew had a complete meltdown every time Mom walked away, but it was worth it to see how ecstatic he was when she came back around.

We split off to spend most of our time at Miniland USA, where they had tons of cityscapes from around Florida and the United States, as well as a section devoted to the Star Wars saga. Altogether, I took almost four gigabytes’ worth of photos and videos and probably spent close to two hours just taking in the builds.

We headed back to the hotel and met up with a friend of ours that we hadn’t seen in a couple years and her wife, who we hadn’t yet met. We had a wonderful dinner together before heading back to the hotel for the night to pack.

I cannot overstate how big this is for me. A year ago, it was all I could do to leave the house for doctors’ appointments, and now I’m happily going through a major theme park with no anxiety, no stress (except for the nephew, but even that was tolerable) and no incidents.

We came back home and started prepping for school and the move at the end of the month. All my books and supplies are bought, and everything’s done for the move with the exception of actually, you know … packing. That’s taking a while and we keep putting it off, and we’re running out of time, so things are getting a little tense around the house right now.

And that’ brings us, more or less, to today.

A little bit of background for the highlight of the day. I’m on a few Discord servers (Discord is a text and voice client geared for gamers. Our radio station was my introduction to Discord.) and one of them has had issues with a member not playing well with others. Constant one-upmanship, lie after lie (he couldn’t keep them straight and he would often contradict himself), subtle trolling, moving the goalposts in arguments – he was the personification of everything you don’t want to deal with in a social situation. The thing is, he would always stop just short of being a disciplinary issue. Many people complained about him, but there was nothing they could really do, despite wanting to.

Until tonight.

Earlier today, the guy posted a link to a game called Comedy Night. It’s a game where the player performs comedy over voice, and a live audience reacts to the routine. It’s a great concept in theory, but in practice it is apparently a haven for racial insults and hardcore trolling. That’s not my thing, so I mentioned that it would be interesting if not for the racial problems. And the guy tried to defend people’s right to be racist.

Now, understand that I abhor conflict. Nothing gives me impostor syndrome faster than getting into an argument. I always think that the other person can run rings around my argument and punch holes all through it.

But I just could not let this guy say the things he was saying. So I put my foot down. And things escalated.

Eventually the guy all but openly defended racism, and that’s when the moderators got involved.

After reviewing our conversation, they banned the guy. Every trace of his presence disappeared from the server.

There’s more! The guy immediately created a new account and was immediately banned for trying to circumvent the ban. And he did it again. And again. And again.

The best part is the names he was coming up with. His original handle was The Phenomenal One. He first came back as Simply Glorious. The next name was Chosen One. The guy was rather full of himself.

If he comes back, they’ll know. He’s got a definite pattern to his naming and his conversation, and he was prolific, talking mostly at people rather than to them.

The most important thing is that I stood up for what was right and prevailed. And it feels amazing. To be fair, I still get the willies thinking about the conflict. But it was worth it.

I fortunately haven’t had much occasion to speak up against racism – the circle of people I associate are very inclusive and it’s just not something that ever comes up. But it’s nice to know that I’m capable of being a more active and effective ally when the need presents itself.


The Last Three Days


First off, I’m sorry I haven’t written anything of substance for the last couple of days. Things have been really busy on this vacation and I’ve gotten in with just enough energy in the tank to say “I’ll get you tomorrow” twice and then go immediately to bed.So today’s blog post is going to cover the last three days – Saturday, Sunday, and today.

Saturday was the day that my wife’s best friend held a party in her her honor. We went over to their place early so we could help get things ready. My wife and her best friend mostly cleaned (I helped some) and I mostly did homework and played Secret World Legends in an attempt to occupy my wife’s best friend’s three year old. (Trying to play a game in a zombie-infested town in rural Maine with a toddler watching is very interesting, and pretty amusing. About every fifteen to twenty seconds I was asked what I was doing, and then that was followed by a litany of “why?” until the next time to ask what I was doing came around. This was occasionally interrupted when it was pointed out that I was running down the middle of the street – a perfectly safe thing to do, since all vehicles were either abandoned or being used as a barricade – because you shouldn’t walk in the street. So I had to use the sidewalk for the better part of my gaming session. Oh, and I couldn’t jump over fences either. It was cute.) The party that evening was not a big one, there were sixteen people there total, but there were only six of those people that I knew before the party, and three of the attendees were children, so this was a big test of my anxiety. I had to be social for hours with strangers, and all while the kids were playing fairly to really loudly indoors. I did really well, however. I talked with everyone at least a little bit, had a few protracted conversations with people I’d just met, and only went outside twice to get a little peace from the noise of several conversations mingling with kids at play. We were among the last to leave, and I genuinely had a good time.

Sunday was the day that we went to do the one touristy thing that I asked to do during this trip, that being to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We got into San Francisco and traffic started getting worse the closer we were to the city, and then we hit the area around Golden Gate Park and traffic came to a complete standstill. It took us well over 30 minutes to travel a mile through the worse gridlock I’ve ever seen in person. We were on our way to a particular spot to see the bridge, and on the way we missed our turns twice, complicating the trip even further. With the second miss, we had committed to actually crossing the bridge, which we did just long enough to turn around and come back, and finally traveling this way the way to my pre-ordained spot was clear. There was traffic, however, and no place to park, so there were some hurried photos taken before we had to drive on. One of those photos is above, and the significance of the place is that it is marked on Google Maps as the future home of Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy. For those that have seen the movies, the background of this photo might look a little familiar. Once we finished there, we started searching around for a place to refill our loaner car, and once we’d done that, we headed off to meet a fellow DJ from the radio station. We had a great visit with him, probably a couple hours at least, and then we dropped him off at the BART station to head back home, and we then drove to my wife’s best friend’s house for dinner and conversation for a few more hours before heading back to where we are staying for the night.

This morning we went around to some of the communities around the San Jose area just seeing what the towns looked like. I saw some places that were notable from my wife’s childhood, as well as a few tourist locations, including Winchester Mystery House and the new Apple Park complex. We also took a considerable amount of time to find a particular business that was very near and dear to our hearts, and after looking in three places using two mapping applications, we finally arrived at the corporate office for the Society for Creative Anachronism, the historical re-creation organization that my wife and I have been part of for around 20 years and that we met through. Having reached our fill of driving around, we went back to where we’re staying and took a nap.

Tonight will be a big dinner at our hosts’ house, with the two of them, their younger son – my wife’s best friend – and his family, and the two of us. It’ll be a last chance to visit with all of them before we start packing things up in preparation to fly home early tomorrow morning.

This has been an incredible trip. I’ve gotten to see a lot of the Bay Area and know now why the cost of living here is so expensive – the place is utterly gorgeous. More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to see places and meet people that are important to my wife. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It has been twenty years since my wife was last here in California, and these last few days have been some of the best she’s had since we got together over seventeen years ago. I have made promises to several people that it will not be another twenty years before we come back to visit. There’s still so much that I haven’t seen, and I want her friends and me to have the opportunity to get to know one another better.

Tomorrow’s going to be a hectic day. Besides the flight, I have a lot of studying to do in preparation for a biology quiz on Wednesday and an algebra test on Thursday. I genuinely hope I do well – I would prefer not to have more grades that are on the low side, especially on that test. While the low quiz score will be dropped, that won’t be the case with the test, and I’ve been doing a lot of my work up to this point open-book, something that the testing center won’t allow. If I can get through this week, I think school will be easier to handle for a while.

This Place is Beautiful


Today my wife and I did some more sightseeing in the south Bay Area in California. We started off with a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway and a stop off at one of the scenic vistas that overlook Monterey Bay. The view was spectacular – see for yourself above. After leaving the vista, we continued south down the PCH to Monterey where we drove around for a little bit before heading back north to Santa Cruz.

At one point during the trip my wife pointed out a particularly tall tree. After being told that Sequoia National Park was hours away, I had given up hope that I would be seeing redwoods, but here it was, towering over the highway.

The drive to Santa Cruz down California Route 17 was breathtaking. Route 17 is a winding road through the mountains that reminded me strongly of the mountains in North Carolina where I grew up. There were tall trees on both sides of the road – not as tall as the redwoods, but still easily a hundred feet high – and I craned my neck to be able to see them. Eventually we made it to Santa Cruz, got a bite to eat at Togo’s, a place my wife has been raving about for years, and headed for the boardwalk and the beach.

There’s a very good chance that you’ve seen the Santa Cruz Boardwalk – it featured prominently in the movie The Lost Boys. It’s exactly what you’d expect a boardwalk to be – arcades, attractions, rides, the whole nine yards. But it was really the beach that we came to see.

We took off our shoes, and I my socks, and we rolled up our jeans before heading for the water. The sand was wonderfully warm compared to the relatively chilly air, and I noted at one point when I walked that I didn’t remember sinking into the sand as deeply the last time I was on the beach. Then I remembered that I was still a teenager the last time I went for a stroll across the sand, and that was decades and many, many pounds ago.

It took us a while to work up to getting our feet wet, knowing the water would be cold, and it was surprisingly so – but it didn’t take long to get used to it, and we stood there for several minutes as the waves crashed across our feet and up our legs, soaking our rolled-up jeans. Finally we decided it was probably time to head back to where we were staying, but once we got to the sidewalk we paused to sit and listen to the ocean and to give our legs and feet a chance to dry so we could brush off the sand before getting back in the car. On the way, we stopped again to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds.

My wife spent six years living in Los Gatos, a town about 20 miles away from Santa Cruz, and she would often cut class and make her way from Gatos to this strip of beach. She could be found many weekends at the numerous beach volleyball courts there, and these were some of the best times of her life. The nostalgia was palpable. I could tell she didn’t want to leave, and I was content to let her have as much time as she wanted. We finally walked back the car and drove back to Los Gatos.

There were other events today, some good, some not so much so, but this will be the memory I keep with me of today – of seeing some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen, and of reliving my wife’s childhood with her.

Fourth Stage Complete


(My blog posts for the next couple weeks are going to revolve around two things: my trip to the Bay Area, and my attempts to work my already hectic school schedule around the vacation.)

We woke up this morning at 3:30 in order to catch our Lyft ride to the airport at 4:15, to make it through security in time for a 7:00 flight. We got there in plenty of time, which was good since I got patted down and my CPAP machine got the once-over before we were finally allowed to head to the gate.

The flight itself was smooth, albeit a little long. Both my wife and I slept for part of the flight and I spent a large portion of the rest of the time reading ahead in my biology textbook.

We were picked up my my wife’s best friend in high school, and went for breakfast before dropping him off at the train station. We drove to his parents’ home, where we’re staying for the trip, and checked in there.

After a lengthy catching-up session, we went to go see the town where my wife graduated from high school. The campus is lovely and we got there to see the grounds covered in students – we got there during lunch. We went to check in with the office and were asked to return after school was dismissed to tour the grounds, so we headed back out to the car and drove downtown to see the sights.

Los Gatos, California is a lovely town, very picture postcard, with a beautiful downtown. We strolled through the downtown region for some time before heading back to where we were staying to rest and to let our phones recharge.

We went over to her friend’s house for dinner, and finally met his three-year-old son, who’s adorable and precocious. The late hour got to me, however, and soon we were heading back to our base of operations for the night.

Tomorrow we’ll be going to Santa Cruz and seeing the Pacific Coast Highway. I’m looking forward to that trip.

First Stage Complete


(My blog posts for the next couple weeks are going to revolve around two things: my trip to the Bay Area, and my attempts to work my already hectic school schedule around the vacation.)

Today was a fairly standard day as far as classes are concerned, with some exceptions. I got to algebra about a half hour early and discovered a locked door with a single student on the other side of it. She came and let me in, and together we poked and prodded at the door handle to attempt to get it to unlock. It just was not cooperating at all, so I told her that since I sit closest to the door I’d just let folks in when they arrived. We struck up a conversation about the take-home quiz that was due this morning, and that turned into learning that my classmate tends to translate her notes in class into her native Arabic. She’s originally from Jordan. I asked her how long she’d been in the States, and she said about a year and a half, and I expressed surprise at that since she has absolutely no accent whatsoever. That conversation turned into Duolingo and its limitations in teaching English speakers any language not using the Roman alphabet (Arabic, Russian, Japanese, etc.). Finally I asked if she would be willing to take notes for me on the day I’d be out of class on my vacation, and she said she would be happy to, so we exchanged numbers and emails and settled into our seats as other students began to trickle in. True to my word, I had to let everyone in the door, including the instructor. After class, I stayed behind to tell my instructor that I’d be out next Monday, and as a result I’d be turning in my current take-home quiz on Wednesday. He told me that would be fine and even offered me the handout that he was planning to give on Monday to help us review for our first test. I’m glad I spoke up.

I came home and spent the rest of the time before I needed to go pick my wife up from work either studying for my biology quiz tonight or doing housework, with the majority of my time spent on the latter. I just didn’t study well for this quiz, and by the time I’d gone to pick up my wife I knew that I wasn’t going to be prepared. I drove to pick her up and came home to study a little bit more before going to class, and once I’d figured I’d done as well as I could do, I packed everything up and headed off to class.

Once there, while other students were frantically cramming until the last possible moment, I sat quietly with my desk clear and ready for the quiz, for better or worse. I figured that if I didn’t know it by that point I wasn’t going to learn it.

The quiz came and I was the first one done. After the instructor took up the quizzes he asked if we wanted the answers, and there was a chorus of “yes” responses, so he gave them to us.

I might have missed the bonus question. Technically, my answer was correct, but not the one he was looking for, so we’ll see how that plays out once the grades come in. The actual ten questions on the quiz were all correct.

I aced it.

The lecture went well, and on my way out of class I ran into another student and asked her how she did on the quiz. We exchanged results, and I brought up the vacation. She told me to have fun, and as we exited the building together she asked me if I was a Student Accessibility Services client. I told her I was, and we talked about that as we walked. She’s also working through SAS and so we vaguely traded our stories. I asked if she would be willing to exchange information so I could get notes from next Monday’s lecture, and she said that she’d be glad to. Then she asked if I ever found anyone that would supply note taking services, one of the accommodations that SAS has made for me. I told her I hadn’t, and she said that she would love to do that for me. I finished walking her to her car and we chatted about life in general as we exchanged contact information and I gave her the letter that SAS provided to me to give to my note taker to bring to their office to receive compensation at the end of the semester. We said our farewells as we drove to our respective destinations.

So that was today. I managed to perform well on the quiz, I got study materials for my algebra test, and I secured notes for the day I’ll be out of class. I’d say it was a good day.

Tomorrow is going to be spent largely on classwork, as I have another algebra quiz and biology homework due on Wednesday, plus I’m falling behind on my first homework assignment in algebra (due on the 5th). I anticipate tomorrow is going to be a long day.

Ramping Up the Difficulty


Here at the end of the day, I find myself questioning what I did all day. I’ve gotten most things on my checklist done, and I’ve finished a take-home quiz that’s due tomorrow morning, but that’s about all that I remember. I dislike days where things are a blur like this. It makes me feel like I’ve wasted the whole day doing nothing important.

This is going to be a hectic couple of weeks. Tomorrow I have to turn in that algebra quiz in the morning, then come home and study for a biology quiz tomorrow night. I’m spending Tuesday completing the next take-home algebra quiz and my next biology homework assignment to turn in on Wednesday during class. After class on Wednesday I come home and start packing for a 7:00 am flight to San Jose (for my first honest-to-God vacation as an adult!), and then spend the rest of the trip splitting my time between socializing with friends, doing the tourist thing, and keeping up with my schoolwork. We fly in the following Tuesday afternoon, then I’m back in class on Wednesday and then back to campus on Thursday for my first algebra test. And during all that time, I need to try and keep up with my checklists as best as I can – and remember to have fun while in California.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

Back to Business As Usual


My wife went back to work today. This is the first day in a week that I haven’t spent at least a good portion of the day with her, half the day on Thursday because of the strep diagnosis, and Friday through Tuesday because of already planned vacation time.

I have to admit that I’d grown accustomed to her being here, and having the place to myself for hours at a time was a bit of a challenge today. It’s always just a little bit harder on Mondays because of the weekend, but six days in a row of having her at home was a bit of a luxury that I’d gotten used to.

I didn’t do much of anything today. I spent the morning going through stuff on the computer, the afternoon watching a movie, and the evening watching another movie (actually, the same one twice in a row). I cooked dinner tonight instead of cleaning up afterwards. I largely goofed off to while the day away.

This is starting to concern me. For the last several days, I’ve been essentially phoning in my blog posts, because there really hasn’t been that much to report on. I’m currently giving The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook a once-through reading before coming back through it to really start in on the exercises, so there’s not that much to report on that front. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything exciting. I’ve been putting off my daily blog post until the end of the day just to see if there will be anything worthwhile to write about, and most of the time there’s not really anything noteworthy about my days. Hopefully that pattern will lift soon. In the meantime, I’m keeping up with full marks on my daily checklist.