30 May 2010

No More Oil Spills

This hurts me, as a human being and as an outdoorsman.  I can't believe that this...CRAP...is floating in the Gulf.  It's killing the ocean wildlife, and it's already beached and started to kill life in the wetlands as well.

Amber and I have started thinking about ways we can help out with this crisis.  Going down there to help would be kind of ironic, due to all the gas it would use.  However, there are ways we can help without even leaving Mt Pleasant.

1. Cutting back on our use of oil
We use oil for everything, especially in a rural area like this.  It powers our cars and provides electricity, which then heats our water.  Our idea is to use less oil where possible.

First, we have bikes and healthy bodies.  We can ride our bikes and only drive the car when absolutely necessary (avoiding filling up at any BP stations, of course).

We can also cut back on our use of electricity by switching to CFL bulbs. Our apartment is older, and so it has incandescents in all the sockets.  We also try to keep all the lights off until we need them, and not to leave lights on in rooms we're not in.

Another option is to shop locally.  We like to shop at a local grocery co-op, GreenTree, and a lot of their stock is locally made/grown/produced.  This uses less fuel in transportation, and therefore uses less oil.

2. Invest in Clean Energy
The Deepwater Horizon spill is a disaster in every sense of the word, and it should make people take a second look at oil and our dependence on it.  It's a highly toxic chemical that has the potential to cause immense grief and harm, and should be treated as such.  If a wind turbine were to collapse in the water, would it be nearly as big a disaster as this? I think not.  We're obligated, as humans, to take care of the planet we live on.  Energy that doesn't damage it is the way to go.  We're considering finding a way to make a donation to clean energy companies or foundations in order to further the cause of clean, renewable, NON TOXIC energy.

3. Invest in the Environment
I don't just mean a membership to the Sierra Club, although that is a good idea.  A donation to the National Wildlife Federation means the wildlife in the Gulf might have more of a chance to survive, because they can fund volunteer efforts for cleanups.  Donate your time and energy as well, in your area.  We want to see if we can volunteer to clean up the parks along the Chippewa River here in Mt Pleasant.  Above all, invest in the environment by taking the time to go outside and enjoy it.

But please, do SOMETHING.  This is something that can't be ignored.

29 April 2010

What to do?

This has really been bothering me lately.  I feel like I'm at a standstill in regards to my transition.  I've transitioned fully socially, but there's only so much that can be done in that aspect.  Everyone uses the right name, right pronouns.  I haven't been read in quite a while.  People will look right at my driver's license and call me "Sir".  I'm just sick of waiting.  I have to wait 'til August to change my name.  I have to wait until I know if my insurance covers therapy.  I have to wait until I have the therapy to start hormones. And I have to wait until I have money to even get the T.

I'm a patient person, but this is getting ridiculous.  I don't know what to do.  There's not much for transsexuals in Michigan.  U of M has a good program, but Ann Arbor is 3 hours away.  I've not heard of a doctor in Mt Pleasant who will prescribe hormones.  It's just frustrating, not being able to do anything.

On the other hand, I am happy with what Amber and I have accomplished at CMU this past semester.  It's great to sit on panels and educate people about the struggles trans people have, and how we can be more accepting.  TransTalks went great, and I hope it goes just as well in the fall.  We're hoping to make TransCMU into an RSO, so that there's a visible community on campus.

Now if only I could get my personal life in gear...

30 March 2010


I read an interesting piece today by Dale McGowan (The Meming of Life). For those unfamiliar with Mr. McGowan, he is a secular humanist and free thinker who has authored two books on secular parenting (Raising Freethinkers is an excellent book).

He wrote about his privilege growing up in a household where he was not forced into religion, and was allowed to be creative and curious.  He allows the same for his children, and he says that he feels his worldview is much more open and encompasses more than his religious friends.

That got me thinking about my privileges. I am white, and middle class, and educated, so those are pluses.  Those are groups that are dominant in our culture.  However, I am also not religious, and I am part of the GLBT community. Those are big negatives in our culture.  Where most men are secure in their male privilege, I am constantly aware of the attention of the people around me.  I worry about what I look like, if I pass to them, if I am sufficiently male.  I have been discriminated against in job searching. Many transpeople feel the same way, that the rest of the groups they are part of are overshadowed by their being trans.

Like Dale, I was raised in a house where I was encouraged to be curious, to be myself.  My parents were not religious, but they made an effort to educate my brother and I about all sorts of different faiths.  One my favorite ways to spend time with my mom was to watch the History or Discovery Channel and talk about the programs.  My parents also did not try to force me into a gender binary.  I was allowed to get dirty, to work on cars and machinery with my dad, to cut my hair short and wear the clothing I preferred.

My question is: Can being part of an out-group be a privilege? Can it confer certain advantages, just like being white, or male, or heterosexual, or attractive?

Many would say no.  Our American culture is largely resistant to too much change.  Inevitable though it may be, a lot of people would rather drag their feet and kick and scream rather than change one iota.

However, I think that being trans has given me (and others) a unique and expansive take on culture and the way we relate to each other.  I am more aware of the existence of a spectrum regarding gender than one of my cisgendered peers.  I have a unique perspective on men and women, and how they are not that much different from one another.  While there might not be much social advantage to it, there is something.  Similarly, people with disabilities are more aware of interaction with people who do not have disabilities.  Minorities are aware of the rights they do and do not have under the law, where white people are largely ignorant of them.

My "disadvantage" is actually an advantage.  Although I had some privileges that others have not, I can say that everyone travels their own road, and I know transmen who've had a much rougher time than I come to the same conclusion.

Everyone has some kind of privilege.  It's how you use that advantage (or "disadvantage") that matters.

28 March 2010

Should we ditch religion?

I read an article today from philosopher and scientist Sam Harris, in which he stated that we should stop looking to religion to guide our moral compasses.  Religion, he says, is what keeps us from making rational decisions and makes us more concerned with "God" than with real life.  He makes a pretty compelling argument, I'd have to say.  More after the jump...

21 February 2010

Oceans and Flutes

Hey all, I've got a couple of cool things for you to check out today. I've recently been very into electronic music, specifically trance and ambient electronica.  Because of that, I have some great new music for everyone!

 First up is a trance group called OceanLab. They hail from London and are made up of the three members of trance outfit Above and Beyond and vocalist Justine Suissa.  They've had a couple hits and their songs have been remixed by artists like Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren and Kyau & Albert, and their sound is really smooth.  Suissa's voice is ethereal, with an Enya-like quality.   I listen to OceanLab for just about everything from working out to chilling out.  They have a strong quarter kick in most of their songs, but the breakdowns are free form and the vocals are great.

Also, I am currently working on a research project for a group here at CMU, called The Collective for Music Research and Cultural Study (aka the CMRCS).  I decided to delve into the history of the Native American flute.  They come in all shapes, sizes and pitches, but they all share a common construction, that of a two-chambered fipple flute.  I actually own two, made by Odell Borg of High Spirits Flutes.  I also find the music of the flutes to be absolutely captivating.  I'll be posting snatches of my research on the blog from time to time, and I'll be giving a small presentation sometime in April I believe.

That's all for today! Keep an eye out for research posts, and a new Oblivion adventure this week!

14 February 2010

Into the Hills

28th of Last Seed, 3E433
I stopped for a small lunch about midday.  From my map, I figured that I had made it about a third of the way to Cheydinhal.  Instead of leaving from the city bridge, I had followed a road around to the other side of the island and forded a narrow point of Lake Rumare, which had cut about a half day's travel off my time.  Sitting on a rock and munching on some bread and cheese, I studied the hills around me.  It had been so long, and I was still pretty overwhelmed by the intense events of the last few days.  I popped the last bit of cheese in my mouth and stretched, feeling the strain the long trip was putting on my wasted body.  Two years in a tiny cell had reduced me to a thin skeleton.  The good food I'd eaten yesterday though...that definitely helped.  Smiling, I hopped down off the warm rock I'd been sitting on and put the half loaf of bread back in my pack.  As I pulled it onto my back, I heard a rustling in the brush behind me.  I grabbed my bow slowly and nocked an arrow, turning almost imperceptibly, hoping that it was just a rabbit in the bushes.  A low growl confirmed my fears and I whirled, loosing my arrow and leaping to the side.  A wolf flew through the air where I'd been standing and landed in a heap on the ground.  My chest was heaving and I felt like I couldn't catch my breath, but I pulled myself up and stumbled over to the wolf's body.  I had hit it square between the eyes with my arrow, but the force of cracking its skull had shattered the shaft of the arrow.  I fished the arrowhead out and put it in my pouch.  The smith could probably use it, or I could, to make a new arrow.  Looking at the wolf, I saw that it's fur was very thick and soft, even though the wolf looked small and rather hungry.  Most likely it would fetch a little gold in Cheydinhal.  Knife in hand, I set to skinning it.
An hour or so later, I rolled the skin up and stuffed it in my bag, and cleaned my knife off.  The afternoon sun was pretty hot, so I took a swig of water and dumped a little on my head.  Making sure my bag was secure, I set off once again.  The road to Cheydinhal is mostly open, with fields and hills on either side.  As you get closer to the foothills of the Valus Mountains, the trees start to thicken, and the hills get a bit steeper.  Cheydinhal is nestled right between the foothills and the mountains, and it's a beautiful town.  The sky was starting to turn a goldish-blue, signalling late afternoon.  I whistled as I walked, enjoying the day and the clean air of the hills. The mountains glowed white and gold in front of me, and I was...excited to return home.
The sky gradually turned from blue to purple, and as night fell I sighted the towers of Cheydinhal.  The spire of the chapel was visible over the walls, and the soft glow of lanterns lit the night.  I quickened my pace, hoping to make it inside before full nightfall.  As I neared the gate, I could see the guards become alert, and I hailed them.  At the sound of my voice, one of them started and removed his helmet.  "Haien! Haien, is that you?"  I recognized the voice of my good friend Jahn, and smiled.  "Yes, I'm back!" I said, shaking his hand as we met a few yards from the gates.  "I can't believe it! I thought you were done for when I saw the Legion haul you away."  I shook my head.  "No, I was wrongfully imprisoned.  The Emperor himself ordered me released, may Akatosh preserve him."  So maybe that wasn't quite what happened, but it was close enough.  Jahn shook his head.  "We were all so surprised to hear of his death.  But I am glad you've made it home safely.  What are your plans?"  I adjusted my pack and shrugged. "I'm not so sure yet.  I was thinking of joining the Mages Guild."  Jahn nodded and we walked toward the gates.  "I don't know much about them," he said in a low voice, "but watch out for Falcar.  He's in a nasty temper most of the time."  I nodded.  He resumed his post, and I continued into the city.

23 January 2010

Onward, to Cheydinhal!

27th of Last Seed, 3E433
Today is my first day of freedom in two years.  I hardly know what to do with myself.  After making it out of the sewers, I headed up to the city to outfit myself and to sell the loot I'd nabbed from the goblins in the catacombs. The sunlight stung my eyes at first, and I had to shade them with my hand so that I could see the path in front of me.  I was giddy with joy and my newfound freedom, and so I whistled as I strolled by the guards into the city.  The sights and sounds assaulted me as soon as I entered.  The Market District was bustling, people moving to and fro, hawking goods and directing people to stores.  The Legion stood watch over it all, keeping a careful eye out for thieves and pickpockets.  It was overwhelming, really.  I'd only ever been to the Imperial City once before my imprisonment, and it had been on an errand for the Mages Guild in Cheydinhal.  Someone was waving fresh bread in my face, and another was shouting something about books.  A woman with a shrill voice was yelling about Jensine's something-or-other, and I found that I could barely think! I ducked into the closest shop, and breathed a sigh of relief when the only sounds were the rhythmic clang of a hammer and breath of a bellows.  I walked towards the back of the shop, where the smith was beating red-hot metal that vaguely resembled an axe.  She looked up and smiled, and asked if she could help me.  I set my heavy ruck down on the floor and nodded an affirmative.  She raised her eyebrows at the clank it made as it hit the floor, and I smiled a bit. "Goblins..."  I removed an old war axe, a couple rusty daggers, a beat up iron cuirass, and some assorted gems and silver items.  The smith's eyes widened, and she raised an eyebrow quizzically.  "You go into a goblin den or something?"  I nodded.  "Yeah, just about."
After completing the sale, I left with an empty ruck and a full coinpurse.  I headed to the armorer, and got a good pair of gauntlets and boots, along with a nice set of fur greaves.  The armorer even fixed up my leather cuirass!  I sauntered out of the store feeling ten feet tall, and looking much better than when I had walked in.  A loud growl brought my attention to the thing I had so far neglected: my stomach.  I stopped a woman and asked her where the nearest tavern was.  "The Merchant's Inn, just over there." she said, pointing behind me. I thanked her and headed for the inn, thoughts of food dancing across my mind.
The inn was nice, good atmosphere.  The innkeep was a good guy as well, very observant of the level of ale in your tankard.  I drank and ate my fill (venison and ham and potatoes and bread and cheese...), and retired to a rather nice room upstairs to sleep off my full stomach. (Ok, perhaps I was a bit drunk as well...)
28th of Last Seed, 3E433
The morning brought bright sunshine, and I woke to an intense sunbeam creeping across my bed.  I threw back the blanket and yawned, then got up and did my morning stretches.  I was sore from my ordeal in the sewers, and I found a couple of scratches on my arms and hands.  They didn't look too bad though, nothing some quick wortcraft wouldn't fix.  I packed up my things and bought a little bit of food, and with my bow on my back and magic tingling at my fingertips, I set out for Cheydinhal.

18 January 2010

Oblivion Blog!

So, since I've had a dearth of creative fiction writing lately, I'm going to chronicle the adventures of my latest Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion character.  It'll be done in a journal style, written from his point of view.  A little background...
Name: Haien Moreneau
Age: 22
Race: Breton
Height: 6'
Hair color: Goldish Blonde
Body Type:  Athletic
Class: Witchhunter
Haien is a cheerful guy, always willing to help people out.  He's a woodsman and enjoys being outdoors and traveling.  He hails from the town of Cheydinhal, in the foothills of the Valus Mountains.  

Let the story begin!

26th of Last Seed, 3E433 (Year 433 of the Third Era)
My name is Haien Moreneau, and I have accomplished something no one else in my lifetime has:  I have escaped the Imperial Prison.  I'm sure it seems unlikely, but let me tell you the story.
Only yesterday, I was sitting in a dank cell, listening to the Dunmer in the cell across from me prattle about how I was going to die today.  I had long since stopped listening to him, since he said the same thing day after day.  My thoughts were turned inward, trying to figure out why exactly I was here in the first place.  About two years prior, Imperial Legion soldiers had come to my house in Cheydinhal and placed me under arrest.  That was a miserable journey, handcuffed and forced to walk behind a horse all the way to the Imperial City. They immediately took me to the prison and threw me in a cell.  No explaination, no chance for me to clear my name.  The guards who brought me food daily ignored my pleas to write to my family in Daggerfall.  I was completely at a loss, and was slowly resigning myself to rot in the Imperial Prison.  I prayed to the Nine for some kind of explaination, a reprieve, something.
Then today, I received that sign.  I was sitting at my small table, idly scratching a design in the wood, when I heard unfamiliar voices coming down the stairs.  I heard an elderly man saying something about his sons. The Dunmer was cackling my demise, and as I looked up to tell him off, three people in unfamiliar armor shadowed my cell door.  One of them, a woman, was visibly angry.  "Why is there a prisoner in this cell?!" she snapped at the two men behind her.  They shrugged sheepishly, and she sighed.  As she unlocked the door, she ordered me against the back wall.  As I stood there, hands visible, they entered my cell, followed by none other than the Emperor! Uriel Septim himself was standing in my dingy cell!  The woman pulled on one of the chains that hung in the corner, and a large doorway slid open, as did my mouth.  All along, there was an escape route...
As I stood there staring, the Emperor stopped and looked at me strangely.  "You...you are the one from my dreams."  He moved closer and I stammered something to the effect of "What's going on?"  He replied, telling me that his sons had been assassinated, and that they were after him.  The guards still eyed me warily, but the Emperor encouraged me to find my own path, and no one stopped me as I followed the guards down the stairs.  When we reached the bottom, all hell broke loose, and two men in red robes and freakish armor appeared and attacked the soldiers.  One of them, the woman, shrieked and fell as the red robes clubbed her in the head.  The two men quickly finished them off, but I was still shaking and frozen.  The Emperor beckoned silently, and I somehow regained my composure and followed.  We wound our way through numerous rooms and halls, little known passages underneath the city.  The red robed people continued to attack us, but the soldiers ( I now recognized them as the Blades) dispatched them easily.  Finally we came to a locked door, and the soldiers ordered me to stay put.  I was rather angry at being left defenseless, but I understood that they needed to get the Emperor to safety.  As I watched the door shut, I heard a low rumble, and a crack in the wall opposite me collapsed into a gaping hole, from which two huge sewer rats leapt.  I had grabbed the female Blade's (Captain Renault, I think they called her? A fellow Breton, no doubt) swords as we passed her body, but in my panic I couldn't unsheathe either. I put my hand out in desperation, and shot a fireball straight into the maw of the rat, lighting them both on fire.  As they smoldered, I decided that I would try to find a way out through the tunnel.  I managed to make my way through rat infested catacombs, finding a shoddy leather cuirass and a bow along the way.  As I dispatched the rats and occasional goblin, I found that my marksmanship was coming back to me, after so long in the dungeon.  I came across a cave of goblins guarding some treasure, and relieved them of that as well.  At long last, I came to a door.  I opened it and heard the voices of the guards pleading with the Emperor, and smiled.  Apparently my tracking skills had returned as well.
I jumped down from the wall where the door was hidden, and the Blades immediately tried to kill me.  Thankfully, the Emperor intervened and spoke with me again.  For some reason he asked me about my birthsign (I was born under the Mage), and if I followed the Nine.  We then continued through the tunnels, and I could tell by the guards nervousness that we were near the sewer entrance.  I was feeling pretty jaunty after my trek, and I was unperturbed when the Blades shoved the Emperor and I into a small room with no exits.  He turned to me and, in a panicked voice, told me of his death, and handed me a large amulet with a red diamond in it.  I was to take it to some place called Weynon Priory, and give it to a man named Jauffre.  As he handed it to me, the stone wall behind him opened, and another red robe jumped out and stuffed a dagger between Uriel Septim's shoulders, ending his life.  I roared with anger and fire jumped from my palm, burning the man and sending his charred remains flying.  Baurus (the Blade who was courteous to me) came back just in time to see the robed man fall.  He looked distraught, and kept saying that he'd failed. He handed me a key and bade me leave through the sewers.  I took the key and made my way out, finally coming out into the first sunlight I'd felt in two years.  I took a deep breath and smiled.  I was a free man, and I was going to make the most of it.

More to come!

17 January 2010

Haiti and the International Reaction

I'm sure most of you have heard about the massive earthquake that occurred in Haiti on Tuesday.  The quake, which measured as a 7.0 on the Richter scale, demolished most of the capital, Port-au-Prince and left thousands of people dead and homeless.  Many of these people have no access to clean water or food, and have been spending nights outside with serious injuries.  Others are still trapped under the rubble of their homes or businesses.  The Parliament building and the Presidential Palace both collapsed, and many of the hospitals in and around the city are structurally unsound and without running water and power.

Thankfully, the international community has reacted quickly and generously, sending millions in aid and thousands of rescue workers to find people and distribute food and water.  This presents a logistics nightmare, however.  Port-au-Prince's harbor and docks are badly damaged, and ships are unable to unload their cargoes.  The USS Carl Vinson is serving as an airborne dock, using helicopters to ferry in supplies.  The airport is a mess as well, with over 50 planes vying for space on the runways.  The US military has taken over operations from the overwhelmed Haitian aircrews.

Although it seems bleak, everyone can contribute.  The UN has made an appeal for $562 million dollars in donations, in order to take care of the nearly 3 million people of Por-au-Prince that are homeless and in need of basic necessities.  The World Food Programme has only been able to feed 13,000 of those 3 million in need.  The US has donated $500 million +, and private donations are still coming in.   Google is running a multi-organization donation page, with links to charities like Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti.  They are also offering free calls to Haiti through Google Voice, as well as links to their Google News service.  http://www.google.com/relief/haitiearthquake/

Please, I urge everyone to make some kind of contribution.  10 cents, a dollar, $5, anything you can spare.  I know many people right here in the US are struggling, but it's the least we can do to help our fellow humans in their time of need.