Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time to speak up

I am by nature a peace maker and dislike confrontations. Time after time, I have run into people who felt compelled to proselytize and try to convert me to their way of thinking... and I've held my tongue and not argued back because I didn't want to offend them. A while back I decided that if they had no problem offending me, I should just speak my mind.

I still tend to not jump into political and religious debates because they tend to degrade into mindless vitriol and don't end up changing anyone's ideas. But the time to remain quiet has come to an end.

You would have to be living under a rock lately to not be aware of the controversy regarding the so-called 'Ground Zero mosque'. Before I begin, Keith Olbermann, someone I have never watched before, had some excellent comments on the issue which pretty much put the argument in perspective. Please take the time to click through and watch.

I am very disappointed in the number of people who object to putting a community center, which happens to have a hall for worship, in a neighborhood, at a location which was vacant, just because it is near 'Ground Zero' and is for Muslims. No, disappointed doesn't cover it. I am sickened.

First off, '2 blocks away' is misleading. It is not within sight of the 'hallowed ground' and is further from it than several other religious houses. It is actually about 4 blocks of walking away.

Second, along with all the American Christians killed when the World Trade Center was destroyed were many people from many other countries and many other faiths, including Muslims (both American and foreign). If this is sacred, hallowed ground for those killed, then all the religions represented should be able to have a faith center nearby.

To blame all of any one religion for the actions of a few is a terrible, bigoted reaction. Just as some Muslims are terrorists, so are some Christians. Need I point out that the KKK has Christian roots. Many people convicted of acts of terror claim to be following God's will in what they do, regardless of their religious preference. Christians have done a lot of bad things in the name of God.

One of the principles this nation was founded on is freedom of religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is not negotiable. And before anyone starts shouting about this being a Christian nation, please remember that the founding documents were written in such a way as to not favor one religion over another. Our Founding Fathers did that on purpose. They were really smart. Many were also not Christian as the Religious Right would have you believe. Some interesting reading is available on the topic (yes, from both perspectives). A lot of evidence exists that many were more in the line of Deists than subscribed to any particular religion.

I have a question for anyone who thinks 2 blocks is too close. What perimeter is acceptable? 5 blocks? Outside the city of New York? The borders of the US? Really, think about that question. If you really believe the borders of the US, please go find a Christian nation to live in and leave this one to those of us willing to tolerate others and truly exist within a democracy. By the way, part of the principle of democracy is for the government to protect the rights of minorities from the oppression of the majority.

I was raised in the Catholic church but I have increasingly run further and further away from any church because of the hypocrisy and bigotry often on display. In my observation, those who proclaim themselves 'good' at whatever religion they practice are often the worst. If you are truly a 'good Christian', please act as one. Turn the other cheek. Learn tolerance. Offer kindness to a stranger, even if they are of a different faith than you. Really read the words of Jesus. He was a pretty neat guy with a lot of good things to say. 

And while we are on the topic of religion, if the Jews should have the Holy Land and Israel back, then we should all be packing our bags and giving the entire western hemisphere back to the native peoples who lived here before Europeans 'discovered' it. I am not siding against Israel. I am just not choosing to blindly support her. If all lands that had ever been conquered were given back to the people who were there first, we'd have some big political problems on our hands. So that's not a good argument. That's the conundrum of that particular problem: both sides (Israel and Palestine) have some in both the good and bad columns.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Our luck with cats

Our luck with cats is mixed. We have always been lucky in finding very friendly cats. But health has been another issue.

I had had Omra for most of my life when we got married. I got her when I was about 10 or so. She had been abused before entering my life and was very particular. She didn't like most people but she picked Chris. Talk about fate. She had been on thyroid medication for a number of years, but shortly after we got married she went blind. Her eyes had big blood spots in them due to high blood pressure. Turns out she was in kidney failure. That fall, at the age of 18, we let her go.

Our second cat is Siofra. We got her as a kitten the fall before we got married. A co-worked brought her in to the office as part of a litter of kittens they were looking to find homes for. All the other kittens found homes, but no one wanted the black one. Siofra is the sweetest cat and is healthy.

Our first summer we adopted both Roarke and Ciaran. Roarke was the kitten of a stray cat that had her litter in one of Chris's co-worker's garage. Once again, the other cats found homes, but no one wanted the black one. Roarke is a prickly cat, but he loves to cuddle (on his own terms). And he's healthy, although fat.

Ciaran was a stray, about 4 months old, who had taken up residence under another of Chris's co-workers porch. She couldn't keep him so we adopted him. Ciaran is so friendly. He just wants to be loved. He knows he has a good thing and let's us know that often. He is also healthy.

A few years later, we adopted Pepper. We found her at PetSmart; she had come from the Martinsville shelter. She was a spunky cat, living up to her name. Roarke liked her; she challenged him. A short 3 years later, we found out she had feline leukemia. She had originally tested negative, but it was a false positive. She was only visibly sick for a few days before we got her to the vet... and she didn't come home.

Last fall, we adopted 2 adorable kittens. We found them at Petco, from the Brown County shelter. We named them Cole and Dinah. Cole is extremely friendly, sometimes aggressively so. He also seems to be very healthy at this point.

Dinah is another story. She is a very sweet but shy cat. And tiny, smaller even than Pepper, our 6 pound wonder. And the last week or so we had noticed she seemed a little bony. And yesterday she peed in the kitchen - it was clear something was wrong. So we took her to the vet today. The prognosis right now, which is probably correct but they are doing some tests to confirm for sure, is not good. She apparently has feline infectious peritonitis. There is no treatment; it is fatal. She will likely not be with us much longer.

We have had 7 cats. Three have come from shelters. Of those 3, 2 have had fatal illnesses. Given the prognosis and other factors, we won't be getting any new cats for a very long time. When we eventually do, I don't know if we will get a shelter cat. We really want to help and give a shelter cat a home, but our luck there has just not been good.

And to answer the inevitable questions:
Yes, all of our cats are and have been black.
No, they are not related (although it is possible Cole and Dinah are).
Omra came with her name.
Siofra is Gaelic meaning 'little elf'.
Ciaran is Gaelic meaning 'black'.
Roarke is named for one of the main characters in J.D. Robb's 'In Death' series, a tall, mysterious Irishman.
Pepper came with her name.
Cole is a play on words as he is coal black.
Dinah is named for Alice's cat in 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The other side of family

I heard yesterday that one of my uncles died. My dad called yesterday to tell me he had heard his brother died from someone who saw the obituary in the Chicago Tribune and recognized the name. We found out in a similar fashion last year that his father died. It's odd. I haven't seen or spoken to my dad's side of the family in 16 years for reasons I won't get into here. So when I hear news of one of them, it feels a little... peculiar.

Growing up, I never felt particularly close to my dad's parents. I think when we were younger, they were a little more involved. But seeing them 3 times a year seemed a 'command performance' where we were to be on our best behavior. And once the first (and only) grandson was born, I just felt more and more that we were after-thoughts. Always feeling second-best, never good enough, is demoralizing. 

I can't say I've thought too much about the fact that there are other people out there with whom I share DNA. I even forget sometimes. We have so little in common - at least that I remember. Maybe things are different now, but they have never tried to reconnect with me. And for those reasons I won't get into, I prefer not to initiate. 

Last night's bedtime musing was spurred by all this. Chris and I are both much closer to our mothers' sides of the family. But we are close to both sets of our parents. I don't see any sort of break happening so the boys will always grow up with four loving grandparents. It makes me happy that we get along with each other's parents and our parents get along so well with each other. It may be weird, but they do stuff together sometimes - without us. 

And that's a really nice way to blend our families. I think it's much healthier than the oft-heard tales of woe between one spouse and the other's parents or between the two sets of parents. I like that we often spend holidays with everyone together, even when we aren't hosting. Yes, it makes it easier not to have to figure out how to divide holidays, but it also makes for a really happy, joyful time for us and the boys.

Monday, August 9, 2010

GenCon 2010

Chris and I went to our first GenCon this past weekend. I don't know why we haven't gone before, but every year we say we need to and it just doesn't work out. Needless to say, we're already planning for next year!


The day started early with a drive to Urbana to leave the boys with Grandma and Grandpa for the weekend. From there, we headed to Indy and a great weekend!

We arrived at the convention at around 3:30, picked up our badges, and did a quick survey of the Exhibitor Hall before heading to our first seminar called "Independent Geek Film Industry." It was an informative hour and solidified that what we are doing with Starrynight Productions is on the right track.

After the seminar it was dinner time. We had a nice meal at Champp's in Circle Center Mall with the Cooks and one of their friends. Then we walked around a bit checking out the games going on all around the convention center. But it was 9 and we had an hour drive home, so we called it a night. We drove back and forth each day to save money on hotels and be able to feed the cats.


Friday morning was an early morning. We got up at 6:30 (we were too excited to sleep) and got up to Indy around 10 after a brief stop at Chris's work to pick up a package.... which we couldn't because the office which was supposed to be open at 8 wasn't at 8:15.

We headed straight to the Westin Hotel where Wil Wheaton was speaking at 11. Good thing we got there so early. We were in the 7th row to one side when they finally seated us. The talk, "I'm Wil Wheaton, and I'm a Gamer," was everything we could have hoped. I am so glad we were able to be there.

Next we headed straight to the Exhibitor Hall and waited in line 2 hours to meet Wil Wheaton and get autographs. And yes, we each gave him a die for his collection. I picked a D6. Chris gave him the D12 from his original set. He was really nice and signed a dvd for a very pregnant friend who couldn't stand in line that long. And he really got into the 3D picture Chris took.

Then it was off to the Westin for a seminar called "Independent Filmmaking: Preproduction" which also reinforced that Starrynight is doing a lot of things right.

And back to the Exhibitor Hall to spend another 2 hours in line waiting for autographs from several cast members from "The Guild" - Felicia Day, Sandeep Parikh, Jeff Lewis and Robin Thorsen. Once again, they were all very nice and were really excited about the 3D pictures.

Shortly after the Exhibitor Hall closed at 6, we headed home. We were very tired and wanted to save our energy for Saturday.


Saturday we didn't have anything scheduled until 2, so we took it easy and arrived later. We slept in a bit, met Chris's dad for lunch, then headed to the convention center.

Our 2 o'clock event was a game of Red Dragon Inn with one of the creators. It was an 11 person game!!! We play tested with some of the new characters that will be released some time this fall when RDI 3 comes out. If you have never played RDI, I highly recommend you do. It is a lot of fun.

We were able to watch much of the costume parade at 3 since it went right past the table we were playing at. There were a lot of really great costumes. While we didn't dress up this year, we are already thinking about costumes for next year!

We were scheduled to watch "All's Weird That Ends Weird" at 5 but decided our time could be better spent on the Exhibitor Hall floor since we hadn't really had a chance to explore much. Most of our time there had been spent in autograph lines. We met up with Amanda and walked together a bit. We picked up a few things - a set of dice for me (Chris is so proud I now have my first set of dice and don't have to use one of his spare bags), Cthulu Dice game, 2 t-shirts (a cylon toaster and Sheldon's friendship algorithm from Big Bang Theory - I didn't see rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock or I would have gotten that), our official GenCon dice set, and the first pieces of our costumes for next year. We're planning to go steampunk.

I am really drawn to steampunk. There is a lot of appeal in the mix of Victorian sensibility and steam-powered technology. Really, the steampunk laptop says it all.

But to get back on track, when the Exhibitor Hall closed at 6, we got a quick bite to eat in the convention center then headed to the Westin to wait in line for the "Adventures of 'The Guild'" panel. It was around 6:30 when we got in line for the 8 o'clock panel, but the line was already snaking around the 2nd floor. Luckily, they started seating early and we were in the 5th row! The session was mostly questions from the audience. It was really fun to hear the answers and find out how they started, how they cast the show, the shoestring budget the first year, etc.

By 9 when the panel was done, so were we. While gaming went on all night and there was more Sunday, that was the end of our GenCon experience. We slept in a bit Sunday morning then drove to Rockville to pick up the boys from my parents.

If you have red-cyan 3D glasses, click through some of the links to the pictures Chris took. They are in his Facebook album. He hasn't made 2D copies yet, but maybe....

Already looking forward to next year, August 4-7.