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The latest FCC spectrum auction recently ended. This one involved getting TV stations to give up their channels in the 600 MHz band to free them for mobile providers. T-Mobile, Dish Network, and Comcast were the big bidders in the spectrum auction; who is getting the spectrum in the Boston area has not yet been released by the FCC. T-Mobile will use the spectrum to improve LTE data coverage, though owners of existing phones will not benefit as their phones do not cover the new band. Comcast is planning to launch a mobile phone service which will initially be based on the Verizon network. Dish Network's plans for the spectrum are unknown.

Eight stations in greater Boston are giving up their channels. One of them, WGBH, is moving to the low VHF band (channels 2-6), likely to their historical channel 2. That means that if you receive WGBH over the air you may need a new antenna; if you have a recent HDTV antenna it's likely UHF-only.

The programming of The CW on WLVI (channel 56) programming will relocate to WHDH (channel 7) which is owned by the same company. At present they plan to continue operating both virtual channels on the WHDH frequency. That would mean a reduction in the quality of their broadcasts (they would have to reduce their current bit rate of about 15Mbps to 8 or 9Mbps) and probable cancelling of the current subchannels of both stations: This TV (classic TV reruns) on WHDH, Buzzr (game show reruns) on WLVI.

The other six stations will leave the air. They include WBIN-TV (channel 35, virtual channel 50, Derry NH: independent programming, Antenna TV, Grit), WDPX (channel 40, virtual channel 58, Vineyard Haven: ION, qubo, IONlife, Shop, QVC, HSN), WFXZ-CD (channel 24, Boston: Azteca America, infomercials), WMFP (channel 18, virtual channel 62, Lawrence/Needham: Sonlife, Charge!, Comet TV, simulcast of NBC Boston), WYCN-CD (channel 36, virtual channel 13, Nashua NH: Heroes and Icons), and WYDN (channel 47, virtual channel 48, Worcester/Needham: Daystar).

WDPX is a satellite simulcast of WBPX in Boston (and also WPXG in Concord NH). Their programming will continue to be available in Boston, but some areas south of Boston will lose over-the-air reception of it.
The programming of the other five stations will probably become unavailable over-the-air in greater Boston; as a result the programming is also likely to become unavailable on the basic cable tier. Azteca America is a Spanish-language network that gets programming from Mexican parent TV Azteca. Comet TV and Charge! are Sinclair-owned digital channels that broadcast movies from the MGM library. Antenna TV and Heroes and Icons show classic TV reruns. Grit shows action/adventure and Western reruns. Sunlife and Daystar are religious channels.
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I am now another LiveJournal refugee. My posts have found their way here; comments are still in the queue. One post (a response to one of LJ's questions of the day) didn't import in any sensible way so I deleted it. (You're not missing much.)

The last few days were full of fun stuff. Thursday night the Lipstick Criminals (née Babes in Boinkland) did a show, TOAST, at Club Oberon. It was a greatest hits retrospective of their eleven year history, and featured a lot of special guests; past Babes and performers from other Boston-area burlesque troupes. Their show was unusual in that around half the routines didn't feature any stripping; they were dance numbers featuring people who were already in bras and panties. They do a lot of group routines, and their focus is on dance as much as it is on stripping. (Many of their core members are also involved with The Slutcracker.)

They also did an associated day of burlesque classes on Saturday, the WERKshop, at the Dance Complex. So I decided to take those as well. I didn't let the fact that I already had a ticket for Rogue Burlesque's show that evening, All Butts Are Off, stop me, so it was a burlesque-filled day. The last class was the only one that was actually about removing clothing and included how to take off your bra on stage, which was my first time ever doing that in front of other people. In case you're wondering how that's handled in a class setting, we each brought a SECOND bra that we put on over the first one so we'd have something to remove. I chose a sports bra for the base, as did most of us, so there wouldn't be two sets of hooks to make things confusing. It's only in the past year that I've been comfortable with being seen in public in a sports bra; they don't have any padding, but I now have enough bust development to not look completely flat without it. They're just little B cups, but they're mine, all mine, and I like them.

Yesterday Abigail had a party. Not a huge one; I think ten people were there in total and not all at the same time. I make brownies and sadly discovered that she couldn't eat them; eggs had found their way onto her food sensitivity list since the last time I got one from her. But other people enjoyed them, and my housemates ate the rest last night. It was a fun day. I also loved her floral dress; Abigail has a romantic fashion sense that I admire.
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New Year at The Buttery

We have two big parties here every year. One of them is New Year's Eve
and New Year's Day.

The doors open around sunset on New Year's Eve, though mostly people
start arriving around 7pm or so. (People arriving before sunset will
be put to work getting the party set up.) The party runs until late
evening of New Year's Day unless we run out of food and drink. (Hint:
bring food and drink.)

Because the roads are very dangerous on New Year's night (too many
drunk drivers out there, and often slick roads due to winter weather),
we encourage people to stay overnight at our house. Bed space is
limited and mostly reserved for out-of-town visitors, but we do have
plenty of floor space available; bring sleeping bags and pillows. If
you do need bed space contact us in advance and we'll do what we can.
There are a number of houses of our friends within walking distance;
if we don't have space here we might be able to set you up in one of
the other houses. The MBTA runs later than usual on New Year's night
(they have not yet posted schedule details for New Year's Eve/Morning
but it's likely to be similar to the Friday and Saturday late night
schedule; check mbta.com for info), and no Red Line construction is
scheduled.

We'll have the usual collection of unusual people. Things that usually
happen include games, music, and general merriment. We provide some
food, soft drinks, and beer, but we encourage guests to bring more of
all of the above. Don't bring hard liquor unless you plan to take any
remains home with you; our collection is already large enough. (Unless
you bring single malt :) And don't bring Budweiser or similar American
beer (or, heaven forbid, light beer) unless you plan to drink it all
yourself; our guests will mostly ignore it and it's not even good for
making Fernando Stew.

If you're not sure what to bring, give us a call or email for hints.
Main dishes tend to be in short supply and we usually have an excess
of desserts; if your circumstances permit bringing a non-sweet main
course or side dish, we will love you for it.

Bring yourselves, your friends, games, musical instruments, food and
drink, and anything else that will help make you and our other guests
happy and not make anyone unhappy. If your main interest is gaming,
the prime gaming times are before 10pm and after 1am New Year's Eve,
and between noon and 6pm on New Year's Day. Opportunities for gaming
are limited between 10pm and 1am because it's usually too crowded to
set up gaming tables.

The Buttery is a non-smoking house, including the porch, so the
nicotine-addicted among you will have to wander out to the sidewalk or
yard. (And it's likely to be cold!) We have no pets, and request that
you leave yours at home. Seeing-eye and other service animals are
always welcome, and Muriel's dog has special dispensation to visit at
any time.


For more information email me: shirleymarquez@gmail.com
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(I also posted this on Facebook, so those of you who follow me in both places may have already seen it.)

This year's primary election cycle has made a lot of election-related problems visible - some of which are widespread and some of which are unique to primaries. I'm going to focus mostly on the Democratic Party process here because it's the one I know most about, but most of the same things probably also apply to the Republicans. Some of the problems favored Clinton; some favored Sanders; still others are hard to calculate the effect of.

Here is my list of changes that need to happen. We need to do this to restore confidence in the fairness of the election process.

1. Caucuses must go. They are inherently undemocratic.

2. Onerous voter ID laws must go. They discriminate against the poor, against non-white populations, against the young and the elderly, and against people who do not drive cars. (Any process where one population must do something extra to get the necessary ID while others already have it because of other life circumstances or choices discriminates against the group that has to take the extra action. That's why I oppose automatic voter registration linked to driver's licenses.)

3. Adequate numbers of adequately staffed polling places need to be provided. Most especially, distribution of voting locations and staffing that discriminate (or even appear to discriminate) against disadvantaged populations must stop. The goal should be that nobody ever has to wait more than 15 minutes to vote; if an election falls short of that goal it means that the staffing level of polling places is inadequate.

4. The hours of voting must be long enough to allow everybody to get to the polls regardless of work or school schedule. For the final presidential election I support a 24 hour voting period that would be the SAME 24 hours - real time, not clock time - in all 50 states; thus the polls would close at exactly the same time everywhere, so nobody would be voting after results from other states have already been released.

5. The window of registration should at the very least be open until one month before election day. Some states allow day-of registration; we should investigate whether that is feasible to do everywhere.

6. Removal of people from the voter rolls should be done at least six months before the relevant election, so that the voters have ample time to respond and correct any errors that were made. Ample notification must be provided to anyone who is removed.

7. We should come to an agreement about who is allowed to vote in a primary and who is not. I favor, at the very least, allowing anybody who is not enrolled in any political party to choose to vote in any party's primary, and it should be possible to make that choice at the polls.

8. All voting methods must provide a full paper trail and allow a manual recount. Randomly selected polling places in every election should be recounted so we can detect if there are patterns of machine results that do not match the manual recount of the paper trail.

9. Rules that obfuscate the process of registering for an election or the process of becoming eligible for a specific primary must be eliminated. The process should be as simple and as well published as possible.

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I wrote this longish post as an introduction on a transgender group on Facebook. But I thought some of the rest of you might like to read it, so here goes...

So... who am I anyway?

As a child I was a misfit, but I didn't see the lack of fit as a gender issue because I didn't even imagine that was an option. When I was born, the word transgender was still over 20 years in the future. I liked some of the boy things; I'm a geek, so the building toys and electrical stuff was just fine, and I enjoyed games with running. But I was very uncomfortable with others. I hated dressing up and just thought it was about the discomfort and impracticality of the clothing, rather than wanting to wear something else. And I never stopped liking the company of girls as was expected of me in that time and place.

When I was 12 I moved away from the small Pennsylvania town and spent my high school years on Long Island. Things got a bit better, in part because by then it was 1969 and I was now living in a liberal area so the roles were looser. In a few years I went away to college and discovered the SCA, where everybody gets to do a lot of things that mainstream society considers inappropriate for their gender if they wish. (There is no stigma for men showing interest in cooking or sewing, or women who want to do armored combat, and everybody gets to wear pretty clothes.) I met the woman who would become the great love of my life. And for a long time, getting to be reasonably authentic in my primary hobby and my relationship was enough.

I first started considering the possibility that I was transgender in the 90s, once people started talking about it more. I experimented with a female persona on an early chat site. The name Shirley comes from that experience; I was known as Shirley You Jest, inspired by the joke in the movie Airplane (which doesn't use those exact words but does touch on the theme.) I discovered Kate Bornstein's books and read them avidly. Meanwhile, I finally married the woman I had first gotten involved with 20 years earlier and we had some discussion of the issue; transition would have been a deal breaker but she was willing to let me experiment more with my gender expression.

In 2005 I found Second Life, the online virtual world. There was no question in my mind that I was going to be a woman in that space. I acquired the name Marquez then; at the time you chose your last name from a list of available names, and I picked Marquez because I was studying Spanish at the time and was fascinated with Latin American culture. (As it happens, it also contains an echo of my past life first name but I wasn't thinking of that at the time.) I later also created a male avatar to see how the experience differed but spent at least 90% of my in-world time as Shirley.

I was in the closet in Second Life for my first three and a half years; only a couple of people knew of my real life gender. When I came out I sent a note to all my friends about living a Second Lie... but that wasn't quite right either though I didn't realize that for another year or so.

Then in 2010 my wife died. And everything changed.

The catalyst for thinking about real world transition was the announcement that the 2010 Second Life Community Convention (a real life gathering of people interested in the virtual world which sadly is no longer held) would be in Boston, where I live. My first thought was "I have to go". That was very quickly followed by "I have to go AS HER". I then went all-in; I not only signed up to go but also became one of the convention organizers, and committed to spending the entire three days living as Shirley.

That went well, so I continued with some additional experiments over the rest of the year: attending some conferences as well as taking some evenings out. In January 2011 I spent each of the four days of the Arisia science fiction convention in a different identity and wardrobe: my past life male identity, my SCA persona, Shirley, and a mashup of all three on the final day.

Later that month I decided to try going full time for a week, doing all my normal activities, not just special nights out: riding the T, shopping for groceries, going to the dentist, practicing with my morris dance team, and so forth. It was an enlightening experience that took a bit of time to process.

In March 2011 I decided to try another week. After seven happy days, I woke up on day eight and decided it didn't want it to end. I thought about it for a while and could find no reason why it should end. So the first thing I did after that was talk with my then girlfriend (who had been with me through the process and is still a good friend, but sadly is no longer my girlfriend and has moved to the other coast) about my decision. The second thing I did was log into Facebook and change my name, which is the modern equivalent of proclaiming it in the town square. Auspiciously that day was March 20, the first day of spring, an excellent day for a new beginning; that is the day that I count as my transition day because it's when I made the commitment to make it permanent.

Since then life has not been perfect, but it has been better than it was. I am happier being my true self and friends agree. I'm still part of the social circles and activities that I was in the past, in addition to finding new ones, and nearly all of my existing friends have accepted and welcomed the change. My birth family is another story and a source of some unhappiness; they still want me in the family but mostly don't acknowledge my proper gender. My sister is a happy exception; she has been supportive.

I refer to my "past life name" rather than my "dead name"; there are lots of people who knew my previous identity who are still in my life so I can't simply walk away from it. (If you're curious you're welcome to look at my profile; you will find my old name there as well as some pre-transition pictures.) Disowning that identity would also mean disowning the happy years with my late wife, which I will not do.

These days I'm a happy woman but not traditionally girly in every way. I'm a geek, after all. I still love board gaming and I will still fix your computer, I'll just look more fabulous while I do it.

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The house has been invaded by bedbugs. I could not schedule extermination in time,and cannot in good conscience invite people to a big party. Things will be better in 2017...
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Today there was a post on Slashdot about a new image format: FLIF (Free Lossless Image Format). It's an attempt at producing an image format that has better compression for lossless images than existing formats that have not been optimized for that particular task. The project itself is a good idea, and having the format be unencumbered by royalties and patents is also good. But that's not what I'm mostly here to talk about.

In the discussion there have been a lot of comments about the merits and demerits of the GPL (GNU Public License) and GPLv3 (the newest version of the GPL) in particular. People have argued about whether it protects or limits freedoms. It really comes down the question of WHOSE freedoms are being protected, and the same question is also key to many other public debates such as the question of gay wedding cake bakers.

Conservatives, and libertarians in particular, are mostly concerned with freedoms of the SELLER. That is, the people who make goods and services should be free to sell or not sell them to whoever they wish. Liberals are mostly concerned with freedoms of the BUYER; that is, people who want to buy goods and services should be free to buy what they want.

Libertarians claim that they are interested in the freedoms of both sides; that no commercial transaction should take place unless both sides consent. This argument is mostly disingenuous because the situation is not symmetrical; people being compelled to buy a product is rare. (The Affordable Care Act is a notable exception, and to be fair to libertarians they oppose it on those grounds.) In most cases the relatively small number of sellers have more power individually than the large number of buyers do, and it is easier for them to act collectively. I don't think any rational person could argue that black people in the days before civil rights legislation were not harmed by the fact that many white people chose not to sell goods and services to them.

These two freedoms are inherently in conflict. It is impossible to fully satisfy both sides. Society needs to balance the conflicting positions and choose a stand that minimizes the social damage of the conflict.

To my mind it comes down to the question of whether a good or service is offered to the public or is a one-to-one transaction. I believe that if you offer a good or service publicly, the seller, by the action of offering the good publicly, waives the right to be selective about who can buy it. The wedding cake maker must make the cake for all customers, because although the cakes are made to order they are a standardized good; bakers generally offer a few basic designs with minor options for customization. Furthermore, the baker is not an active participant; there is no need for the baker to be present at the ceremony. But I would allow a minister or a photographer to choose not to offer services to a gay wedding because that is a one-to-one transaction where the seller is an active participant in the wedding. (The photographer's role typically goes beyond just lurking and taking pictures; he or she also organizes the standard photo shoots, and sometimes other events such as the cake slicing.)

Going back to the software question: how does this framework apply? The GPL protects the freedom of software users (buyers isn't usually an accurate term because most GPL software is offered free of charge) to use the software in whatever way they wish, including modifying it and offering the modifications to others. But the GPL denies some rights to software authors, notably the ability to keep the software secret. If you use GPL software in your project you are also compelled to release your work under the same terms, and that limits your ability to make money from your work. But the GPL also gives software authors an important right. the right to build on the work of others: you are denied that when people keep their work secret.
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We haven't done any board gaming here for a while. Anybody up for some short-notice gaming tomorrow (Sunday, November 10)?
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I haven't posted anything here in ages. One reason is because Facebook no longer limits the size of entries, or at least has a much larger limit than it once did (enough so that I haven't hit it yet), so I tend to say stuff there instead. Life goes on, no momentous changes, and I try to keep busy doing fun things.
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Mitt Romney can't fix the US economy. Neither can Barack Obama. The basic problem is that the world has gotten too good at making stuff (robotics, computers, etc.) and distributing it (globalization) and so we have a worldwide glut of labor. We can make all the stuff the world can afford to consume without needing all the available people to do it. The glut has the expected effect: wages decline.

The world will eventually reach a new equilibrium, but the period of getting there won't be pleasant. Americans are probably going to be poorer than we were during the 20th century.

What the government can do is adopt social policies that ease the pain of this readjustment. The Democrats will (on the whole) do that. Mitt Romney and the Republicans will make the situation worse by adopting policies that let the rich get richer.

Worse yet, they're trying to wire the dominance of the rich into the political system so that the rich will rule forever. Romney probably considers that to be a good thing. Ryan, an avid follower of Ayn Rand, certainly does.

The choice we face this November is an important one. This is why.
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NEFFA finished earlier today; mostly it was a good festival for me. The Black Jokers did their last NEFFA performance and it was the best one in years; the team energy was high and nobody made any serious mistakes. Red Herring's performance was less perfect but still OK. I had fun at the contra medleys, and doing hexagons (thank you for making that happen, Kat!) in the Singing Squares session. I got some nice clothes from Nancy Dresses and Eagle Ray. Lots of friends were there.

And yet something isn't right. I hesitate to gripe because mostly my experiences living as a woman have been so good, but I think there are gender-related problems going on with my recent experiences in the dance community. It's not that anybody is making me feel actively unwelcome; it's just that they don't want to be my dance partner. Except for fellow genderqueer people hardly anybody asks me to dance, if they do it's at the very end of the partner search as if I'm a consolation prize, and the ones that do are mostly women who expect and/or want me to lead. I'm a reasonably experienced dancer at contra and English, so it's not as if I should be in that situation. (Not everybody there knows me, but after seeing me on the floor for a dance or two it should be apparent that I possess some amount of clue.) And if I'm there in a really nice twirly dress as I was on Saturday, it should be obvious that I'm planning to use it to full advantage, which means following rather than leading.

Oddly enough, I think the fact that a number of men choose to dress unconventionally at NEFFA works against me. In normal settings, people see dress, boobs (even if they're fake), and dangly jewelry, and they figure “woman”. But at NEFFA they read “man in a dress” and behave according to those gender expectations. Short of adopting a hyper-gendered presentation (hard to maintain over a day of festival dancing, as it would involve heavy makeup and foundation garments) I can't figure out what I could possibly do to counter that misreading. I suppose I could try F-cup breastforms but I'd have to buy a bunch of new clothes (most of my wardrobe would be too tight on top) and it's not who I want to be anyway.

There are other possible explanations. I might be too old, or insufficiently pretty, or not sufficiently well known in the dance community. Maybe I'm reading too much into nothing. But it will take some time and some more positive experiences to fully convince me.
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A couple of days ago we had water dripping from the parlor ceiling. It happened during a storm so I thought it was a roof leak, but it turned out to be a problem with a radiator. It's been fixed now, but some ceiling and walls will need repainting (there is a bit of peeling and some rust staining); that will happen next week after they've had time to dry thoroughly. And I'll check to make sure the ceiling is still sound.

All in all, a pain but it could have been a LOT worse.
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This is an online deal for $30 worth of fabric for $15. I know some of you sew...

https://www.livingsocial.com/deals/208034?ref=conf-jp&rpi=44139242
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The party's over... well, the dead dog party is probably still going but I'm not there.

I had a good Arisia this year. I earned my 2013 membership by Thursday evening (truck unload and con suite setup), attended an unusually high number of panels for me (including two interesting ones on gender, a cosplay panel, a costuming panel on dressing for one's body type (got some useful advice there), a burlesque panel, and one on cohousing), spent a bit of time at the Transcending Boundaries table, gave blood on Saturday, danced at the contra dance, the techno contra (!) dance, the Girl Genius dance, and the all-night Saturday club dance, heard the Sassafras and Stranger Ways concert, ordered a corset from Pendragon (and now that I know what their clasps look like I suddenly noticed a LOT of their corsets being worn!), and bought a pretty red skirt from Cloak and Dagger. And lots of good conversations with friends old and new, and hugs and more hugs.

The party scene seemed low-energy and poorly attended this year; I did get info about the Spokane in 2015 Worldcon bid which sounded promising. (The competing 2015 bid is Orlando; unlike the last Orlando Worldcon, this one is evidently on Disney property. I'm still skeptical about going to Florida in August. So far as I can tell, London is the only serious bid for 2014.) I didn't go to the Rocky Horror, Buffy, or Dr Horrible live shows this year; I had a quick peek in at the Repo (A Genetic Opera) live show and decided it wasn't for me. (Horror mostly isn't my genre.) As usual, I skipped the Masquerade; it's too long sitting in one place for my taste. And I somehow never got around to visiting the art show, which I regret. (I doubt I would have been buying anything but it's always fun to look.)

What didn't happen: anything bad. A few people wanted to talk about my transition, and their questions were intelligent and respectful. A lot more just accepted my new self, complimented me on my outfits and jewelry, or said it's good to see me so happy. I think I'm now officially a recovered (rather than recovering) shy person; transitioning seems to have taken care of the remaining remnants of it. My virtual self was always very outgoing because she was confident that OF COURSE everybody would want to talk to a charming and beautiful woman like her, and bringing that confidence out into the real world seems to be working well. (I'm certainly not as beautiful as my avatar but I do my best at being charming and gracious.)

Thursday was another example of something I already knew: I'm transitioning to being a woman, but I am very much NOT transitioning to being a helpless twit. Helpless twits don't unload trucks or move around heavy cases of soda. I have had many excellent role models for being a woman who is not helpless, most notably Marian.
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The SCA is about to make another financially-driven change; moving away from print newsletters. On the whole I think it's a good one; I'm still waiting for some details to come out. Will they eliminate the categories of Sustaining and International memberships (as the only meaningful difference between those and Associate is receiving a kingdom newsletter) or will they charge extra just to get access to the electronic publications? (We know that they plan to offer print subscriptions to the newsletters; their current estimate is that they will cost around $30/year.)

Whenever the SCA cries poor, though, I can't help wondering where all the money goes. The organization isn't quite as bad about keeping financial secrets as back in the days when some people sued them for information (and to the best of my knowledge, the organization never really delivered the data that the settlement required) but it isn't exactly forthcoming about expenditures.

My personal bit of paranoia is that non-disclosed legal settlements have been a drain on our finances. That one bothers me because I oppose such settlements on principle, and in the case of the SCA I believe they would negate our fundamental values. If I were running the SCA I would have a statement like this in our corporate charter:

"The SCA, Inc. will not make any non-disclosed legal or financial settlements under any circumstances. To make such an agreement would negate our ideals of chivalry and courtesy to our members. It would end our dream just as surely as shutting down the lists would.

If you are our legal counsel, do not suggest that we offer such a settlement; we will not. If you are opposing legal counsel, do not offer us such a settlement; we will not accept it. All settlements made by the SCA, Inc. will be fully disclosed to our members and the public. There are no exceptions."

Yes, I really mean NO exceptions. I would rather see the organization shut down than make such a deal with the devil.

Note to the lawyers out there: although I am currently an officer of an SCA group (secretary of the Barony of Carolingia, East Kingdom), I am not speaking in any official capacity. The opinion offered above is my own. YIS, Shirley Márquez Dúlcey / Mark J Dulcey / Lord Pryder mab Aurddolen.

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It was a good conference. This year wasn't quite the insanely great experience that last year was, but it's not TBC's fault in any way; it's that last year was the first time (and only my second major event as a woman; SLCC was the first) and first times are always special.

I got to a lot of talks and they were all good. Highlights: hearing Kate Bornstein (no surprise there, I've been a fan of her work for years), Lorelei's Gender Improv workshops, and the Friday night comedy thing with Lorelei and Widow Centauri. I met lots of fabulous people; both famous and less so.

People loved my outfits, especially the purple Ed Hardy boots. Those were an amazing find at Second Time Around; I didn't think that punking out was a look I'd be embracing but I couldn't resist them. And of course I've had to wear short skirts to show them off properly, another bit of fun.

In Second Life, I've always been in a space of just knowing that people would like me and want to spend time with me - after all, I'm charming, sexy, intelligent, and drop-dead gorgeous. That kind of feeling could drift into arrogance all too easily (feeling like people are privileged to be able to spend time with me) but I think I've managed to stay on the right side of the line between confident and arrogant. In non-virtual space I'm not there yet; I have too many years of recovering from being that odd nerdy misfit. But I'm getting closer; the confidence that I learned in Second Life is starting to transfer.
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I returned from Star Island yesterday and jumped right into city life. After a measly couple of hours of relaxing at home I headed out to catch Shava at the Ethos Roundtable, then a bit of dinner at the 501 Tech Club gathering and after that morris practice. Today I spent a quieter day at home doing laundry.

The final week hasn't changed my basic impressions of the Star Island experience, though the final week of work was rather tedious. One of our responsibilities in Conference Services was cleaning up the two children's barns, and part of what that means is cleaning every toy and book. The barns have a LOT of toys and it took days to completely clean those spaces. Cleaning the rest of our spaces was a small job by comparison.

Sometimes I felt like there was a secret society of Pelicans on the island who were doing all the cool stuff, and I was on the outside looking in. A big part of that was being new, and being older than the majority of the Pelicans added to it. I was accepted more quickly by the older Pelicans and volunteers; I had some very pleasant meals with the bookstore and gift shop ladies, and with an old couple (they were both around 80) who had come out to volunteer. I went to one party that had been openly announced, and a majority of the conversation was about what people had done and who they had met and how things were different last year and three years ago and so forth; I didn't have anything to add to that.

Being away from the usual cares of the city was relaxing. Commuting was never an issue; it was just a matter of going down a few flights of stairs. Figuring out what and where and when to eat wasn't something to worry about. I didn't think about the house and bills and life schedule; I pretty much deferred all those concerns until my return to Boston. And there is something naturally relaxing about being in a space where you can look out the window and see the ocean and waves, hear the surf and the gulls and the clanging buoy and the foghorn.

It was refreshing to spend three weeks in a space where being transgender was almost never an issue. I was surrounded by people who were meeting Shirley for the first time, not people for whom I am "Shirley who used to be somebody else". Housing me in Gosport Heights may have been in part an accommodation of my transgender status because it's the only housing area with a single occupant shower, but aside from that I didn't get any special treatment. I was out to the island administration and signed all the legal documents with my male name because it's still on all my government ID, but everyone else just saw who they saw and drew their own conclusions, whatever they might have been.

Who knows... maybe I'll be an inspiration to one of the children who was on the island during my stay. I like to imagine that someday one of them will think "She was transgender, and she was a Pelican. She didn't make a fuss about who she was but she didn't hide it. Maybe I can do that too, and be a part of the world and not hide who I am." I have no idea whether I was the first transgender Pelican; I know I'm not the first one to lie somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. There were a couple of guys who triggered my gaydar this year; I didn't see any obvious lesbians but they're usually not as easy to spot.

When you leave Star Island people chant at you "You will come back! You will come back! You will come back!" I have no idea whether the stars will align again to let me to a similar working stay in the future; I might have work obligations that would make it impossible. But I know that I want to go back someday in some way. I can't really imagine working there for an entire season - I'd miss my house and my friends and all the things that happen here in Boston too much - but I can totally imagine doing it again for a few weeks if I can.
pryder: (Default)
I've been out here for most of two weeks now, and for me it's been a good experience. I'm seeing my time here as a kind of working retreat: I do some work (sometimes hard, sometimes not), keep to a more normal schedule than usual, get to spend time in this beautiful place, and as a bonus even get paid for it!

The first few days I was a "rounder", which means an all-around person who can get assigned to do whatever needs doing. That made packing difficult because I had to be prepared to do every job on the island, though some of it turned out to be unnecessary for my actual assignments. (I was never assigned to waitrae or kitchen crew.) My very first assignment was typing in data from conference evaluations; I also spent time cleaning the candle lanterns that are used for the evening walks to chapel, pulling weeds and clearing out hedges on the grounds crew, and spending a day bringing food to and cleaning the staff dining hall.

After that I was assigned to conference services. That means keeping the conference areas (the places where people have meetings) supplied with snacks and beverages, setting up furniture, and keeping them clean. In theory it could also involve A/V setup; so far the more senior people have done all of that but I have experience with that stuff so I can handle it if needed. (That might have been a deciding factor in being assigned to that job.)

There is usually plenty of food, though really popular items sometimes run out. (For example, yesterday at lunch we got a vaguely fajita-like dish with steak, a meat that us downstairs people rarely see, but it ran out halfway through lunch and the kitchen did not have any more because it had been made with leftover steak from the previous night's dinner for the conferees.) The cooking has gotten more erratic in recent days, probably because the kitchen and bakery have lost some experienced people. (Lots of staff people have been leaving because they are students and school is starting.) There have also been a couple of odd dishes that appear to be inspired by the kitchen's desire to use up food before season end.

I got a single room in the relatively quiet space in Gosport Heights. I'm told that they put most of the older Pelicans (ie, seasonal help) there, rather than in the noisier and more crowded space in Oceanic. The room has oddly slanted floors (the entire Gosport building is like that) but is otherwise pleasant.

Mostly people just accept me as Shirley. A couple have been curious and asked a few questions, but that isn't the norm. Life is good.

Susan came up this weekend to visit. She likes the island but finds the vagaries of the food and service harder to deal with than I do. I thought about that a bit... I find dysfunctional computer software utterly infuriating but I don't get mad at the vagaries of people nearly as quickly.
pryder: (Default)
I promised my faithful readers (or is that faithful reader singular?) another post about the trip. The first one told all the places I went and stuff I did but it was just a travelogue.

Overall, I was happy. Aside from getting to do a bunch of fun stuff and see pretty sights, I was pleased with the acceptance that I experienced as a woman. There weren't a lot of awkward moments along the way, though there was the occasional confused server who wasn't sure how to address me. The short answer: address me as a woman because that's how I'm presenting. The long answer: if we're actually talking, rather than you just being my server or something, ask if you're not sure.

SLCC being cool was no surprise as I had been to it last year. Oakland wasn't much of a surprise; it's not San Fransicso proper but it's still part of the Bay Area, and LGBT people and issues are part of the atmosphere. I was less confident about how things would go in Tahoe and Reno (I wasn't worried about the science fiction fans in Reno, just the city around them) but it was all good.

I did worry about the bathroom issue in the airports, but I was able to find single-occupant facilities (usually meant for handicapped people or family groups) and avoid that confrontation. Airports are a particular concern because the people there come from all over. Even if I'm in a location where I can expect acceptance, some of the other airport patrons might not come from such a place. I'm legally protected in California and Colorado and in the city of Boston, but probably not at DFW airport which is not within the city limits of Dallas TX. But the law isn't always the only thing that matters; not ruining the experience of my fellow travelers is important also.

My new Aravon shoes that I bought just a couple of days before the trip worked out really well. They're comfortable; I did a lot of walking in them, and even managed to climb the rocks at Eagle Falls though my sneakers would have been a better choice for that day if I had known how much climbing was ahead. They have just the right amount of heel (about 1.5 inches) for everyday wear: high enough to remind me not to walk like a man, low enough to be wearable for an entire day. And they're cute but not fancy, and a neutral black, so I can wear them with nearly anything.

The really pleasant surprise was Susan's reunion. Going into a social situation like that (where everybody knows most of the other people, and you don't know anybody other than the one who brought you) can be awkward, but I was able to charm people right away and get involved in conversations. Sometimes I was a bit lost in the conversations, as people talked about people and places I didn't know, but I expected that going in. When Susan got too hot and heavy doing the "where are they now" thing with someone, I would wander off and find other people to talk to; one guy even came up and introduced himself to me. I didn't meet any future best friends forever there but I suspect there are people who would recognize and welcome me if I ever show up again.

The girl's day with Amelia was another highlight of the trip. First, she's totally awesome and really easy to talk to. Second, San Francisco is a beautiful city. And we were in tune about how to spend the day, including the rest after the day of walking followed by a simple home dinner.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm finding it easier to be out in the world as a woman than I did as a man. I don't scare people so much; I can introduce myself and engage in small talk effectively. I'm not at all sure why I ever DID scare people as a man; maybe I was tarred with the brush of the entire gender, maybe the fact that I wasn't sufficiently in alignment with the expectations for my gender bothered people on some level. I think I was usually a nice person, maybe sometimes too nice for my own good, but people didn't always get past the surface to even find that out.
pryder: (Default)
No, I didn't get any kicks, or even Kix, on Route 66. Not that you really can anymore, the old Route 66 was decommissioned years ago though some pieces of it have been revived as Historic Route 66. Other parts, especially through mountain passes, are permanently gone because interstate highways were built on the right of way. I didn't go to southern California anyway; that will have to await some future trip. I DO want to visit LA someday, but it didn't happen this time.

So what DID I do? I'll start at the beginning, go on until I reach the end, and then stop.

Wednesday two weeks ago (August 10) I headed to Logan three hours before my flight time. (Why so early? The American Airlines web site had refused to give me a boarding pass for my first flight leg to Dallas-Fort Worth and so I was concerned that there would be a shortage of seats. When I got there the agent told me that their web site refuses to give out some of the seats (including most of the middle ones) forcing you to talk to an agent -- stupid on their part. (Even if they're reserving those for the last minute, they could have allowed me to select one on the day of the flight; I tried just before leaving home, and from the airport on my phone just before getting in line to talk to a human.) Even after wasting half an hour to talk to somebody and some more time clearing security I had a lot of time left, so I consoled myself with a hefeweisen from the Cisco Bay brewpub in Terminal B. I had a two hour layover in DFW so I had time for a Tex-Mex dinner at Pappasito's (not at all bad for a restaurant in an airport), then on to San Jose arriving late in the evening. Susan retrieved me; we spent the night at a motel in Hayward, where we had a nice snuggle.

After a day running around doing various things, including a visit to the Botanic Garden at Tilden Park, she delivered me to SLCC on Thursday, just in time for me to catch the dinner for the board and staff. We went to Pacific Coast Brewing and discussed the upcoming convention over dinner and beer; I had a nice stout and some slightly overdone fish and chips there. At least they had malt vinegar.

Friday morning I had some time off; I had promised to spend some time working at registration but not until afternoon. First I wanted a bit of breakfast and some cash; Chinatown was nearby and had a bank with a SUM ATM (one that I could get money from without paying fees) so I went over there and got some amazingly cheap things from a take-out bakery and dim sum place. I had a new-to-me leather jacket with me that I found a couple of days earlier at Boomerang's, but it had a broken zipper (but it wouldn't have been such a bargain otherwise), so I found a place in Oakland that could repair it. The repair place was a couple of miles from the convention but I had plenty of time, so I put on my walking shoes and hiked over to the Lakeshore area. I got to look around some of the stores while I waited for the repair, had a cup of tea at Peet's courtesy of Avacon (they gave us staff people gift cards as a thank you), and walked back in time to take my shift at the desk. It turned out to be a good thing I had that jacket along; there was quite a bit of cool weather during my stay (the high temperatures in Oakland during the convention were only in the low 60s) and the air conditioning in the hotel was overly aggressive. In the evening I went to Sitearm's dinner for presenters and track leaders.

Saturday was the first full day of the convention. It started at 8am with Rik's keynote speech; fortunately my body was still accustomed to east coast time at that point so it felt like 11am and it wasn't difficult to be up in time! After that I spent most of the day in my track's room, making sure my presenters were happy and that they had at least one enthusiastic audience member. I missed the presentations on mesh, though I did take a peek at the one on photographic lighting in SL. The lunch break featured Rob Humble's (CEO of Linden Lab) keynote speech, which was a bit of a mixed bag; Rod hit the important points and seemed to understand what is special about SL (unlike Mark Kingdon, who never did) but he was not a very charismatic speaker.

I had scheduled a social event for the dinner break to discuss virtual gender and real gender. The gathering time was 5:30, but by 5:45 only two people had shown up and they weren't really that interested in the topic (they had just come to have someone to be social with) so I let them go off by themselves and checked out the roller derby instead. (Besides SLCC, there was a roller derby tournament in the hotel that weekend. The Bay Area Derby Girls (B.A.D. Girls for short) were hosting three other teams: Windy CIty (from Chicago), Motor City (from Detroit) and the Texanators.) The first bout was from 6-8 (the dinner break time) between Windy City and Motor City; the girls from Chicago dominated it. After that was over I went back to the hotel to change into my gown and high-heel pumps for the Avatar Ball and hung out there for a while, but things were really slow so I went over to catch a bit of the second bout (between the B.A.D. Girls and the Texanators - the locals won big) while dressed totally inappropriately for the derby. After that I put on my OTHER outfit for Saturday night (black crinoline and red lace miniskirt and purple PVC crop top!) and returned to the ball for a while, but it never really got social critical mass so I also ended up hanging out at the Artathon for a while. (This year that was the main social space of SLCC; the lounge next door didn't see much use except late at night when the Artathon was closed.) Late at night some of us went up to the Woodbury party (supposedly a bunch of griefers who come to SLCC every year to wreak havoc, but this year they seemed to be on their best behavior aside from partying too late into the night and too loudly); I gave up at 2:30 but I gather it didn't shut down until 5:30.

It was a challenge to drag myself out of bed the next morning in time for Aliza's keynote but I managed it somehow. I didn't really have the mental presence to follow morning talks after that though, so I just checked in on my track to make sure everything was well and mostly hung out with Winter and Filthy at the Artathon instead. Lunch and the final keynote (by a panel of Linden Lab developers) revived me a bit so I was actually able to pay attention to the afternoon sessions; I skipped out of my track to catch Zinnia Zauber's talk on Authentic Avatar Brand, which was my favorite of the SLCC talks I attended this year. Achilles and his college professor took me out to a light dinner (we weren't up for a heavy meal after all the stuff the convention had been feeding us all weekend!) and then caught the evening screening of My Avatar And Me. Susan collected me and took me off to her friend Steward's house, where we had another nice night.

After a somewhat late start, we headed up to Napa where we had a lunch and a wine tasting, made a brief stop at Davis to say hello to her son, and drove off to Tahoe where her family owns a condo. The high point, as it were, of the drive to Tahoe was Echo Summit - 7,382 feet, the highest point on land that I have ever visited. (Before that it had been changing planes at Denver many years ago, trailed slightly by the visit to the top of Mt Washington. The highest place I had actually spent any significant amount of time was Salt Lake City, a mere 4,226 feet.) Tuesday we headed off to Reno; she had made a reservation to attend the Klingon Language Institute and get a beginning lesson in the language, and I tagged along and crashed it. We had lunch at the Manhattan Deli inside the Atlantis (the hotel and casino next door to the convention center), which turned out to be surprisingly good; the rye bread was disappointing (not enough rye flavor and it fell apart) but the meat was tasty and plentiful (one sandwich was enough for the two of us) and the half-sour pickles were pretty good (not up to Rein's standards but so few are). At dinnertime we went along with a bunch of the Klingon fans to Toucan Charlie's, a buffet inside the Atlantis, which had an amazing variety of food (Chinese, Mongolian barbecue, Mexican, a deli section, a full salad bar, and a few other things -- and a huge selection of desserts to finish it off) - none of it was outstanding but the selection made it a good value.

We decided to stay in Reno for a night and catch the first actual day of Renovation (this year's World Science Fiction Convention). I saw what is perhaps the least faithful film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland ever made (a Hanna-Barbera TV special from 1966), checked out the dealer's room, and saw Dr Demento's presentation. We went out to Sushi Pier for a filling meal of all-you-can-eat sushi; the place was surprisingly generous, they didn't try to make the sushi with tiny pieces of fish and lots of rice, and even the fancy maki were included in the deal. After dinner we returned briefly to the convention to stop in at the parties (I was especially curious about the Boston in 2020 party, which appears not to be a serious Worldcon bid but rather an excuse to have fun Christmas-themed parties, and then back to Tahoe.

The next day neither of us was feeling very energetic after all those busy days, so we hung out in the condo most of the day. I did laundry and caught up with my online life. Late in the afternoon we went to Taylor Creek for a walk through the woods, and then up to the top of Eagle Falls. By the time we got there it was too late to do the walk to the bottom; by the time we got back up it would have been well past dark. Afterward we had dinner at the Lake Tahoe Pizza Company, dining on a somewhat untraditional but very tasty pie called Acapulco Gold which is made on a corn-wheat blend crust. Besides our own leftovers we had more courtesy of a nearby table of Germans (according to Susan they just don't do leftovers) so we had pizza for both breakfast and lunch the next day.

On Friday it was time to return west. We did the long drive back to Palo Alto with no notable stops along the way, went to an English country dance that evening with a short visit to the Palo Alto Creamery afterward, and stayed at her old house that night. Saturday we went to a reunion of people from her high school (an informal one at a burger joint, not the big formal every-five-years kind), which was surprisingly fun for me considering that I didn't know anybody other than Susan when I arrived.

Sunday morning, her friend Stan was having a brunch in San Francisco. The logistics of that day were complicated because she was picking up two people at SFO airport (Jean and Anita) and Anita's flight was delayed. We picked up Jean and went to Stan's brunch, then I volunteered to return to SFO to pick up Anita so Susan could have more time with her friends. The pickup got a bit complicated by the fact that Anita and I didn't know each other and the overly obsessive guards at SFO wouldn't let me stop long enough to call Anita on my cell phone, so I had to drive miles away from the terminals to the cell phone lot so we could figure out how to identify each other and then return, all of which delayed the pickup by at least twenty minutes. We returned to the brunch, Anita had a crepe, then Susan delivered me to Amelia's house and the other three continued up the coast to English dance camp. Amelia wasn't going to be home until late, so I spent the rest of the afternoon on my own checking out her neighborhood and catching a movie (One Day) at the Balboa (a neighborhood theater).

Monday, girl's day out! Amelia and I went shopping and people watching on Haight Street (I got a couple of nice dancing skirts), had lunch at Toast in the Noe Valley neighborhood (she wanted to take me to Lovejoy's teahouse but sadly it's closed on Mondays, so we had to find a plan B), then visited the Japanese Tea Garden and the Botanical Garden. After all that walking she was a bit tired so we headed back to her place for a nap, then made a simple dinner of Rice-A-Roni (the San Francisco treat!) and asparagus, with cardamom ice cream for dessert.. I'm such a good house guest, I took charge of cooking the rice while she did the asparagus. Along the way we got in lots of conversation and some good hugs.

All good things must come to an end, and that time was Tuesday. She drove me to SFO in the morning. I had two packed but uneventful flights on Southwest - SFO to Denver and DEN to Boston, this time with a two and a half hour layover - plenty of time for a late lunch/early dinner at Rock Bottom (a nice Kölsch and a merely OK Reuben - the Manhattan Deli in Reno had better sandwiches). The flight to Boston took off a bit late but they managed to make it up in the air, so we arrived right around 11:30 as scheduled. I had my checked bag and was on the Silver Line by midnight, and arrived at The Buttery around 12:30.

OK... that's the outline! I'll make another post about the emotional highs and lows later.
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