Belated Happy New Year!

2015!

Feels a bit strange. 2014 kind of went by really fast, and yet a LOT of things happened.

A lot of them were bad, too – and I don’t mean the things that directly happened to me, personally. There were just a lot of bad events this year, generally.

Here’s hoping for a better year! Below, some rambling about what I want to do in the near future… Continue reading

An update on something pretty important

It’s been a while since I posted anything. The main reason for that, aside from being busy, was simply that I knew what I wanted to post about, but had trouble collecting my thoughts as more aspects of this whole collected topic came to light. I am talking about the ongoing situation with the protests and other fallout from what happened in Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland, and many (far too many) other places.

I also went back and forth for some time on just what I wanted to say. Certainly, much (much) has already been said on these issues, and it’s not as if I actually have the power to effect change on any kind of significant scale. What good will adding my voice to the pile really do?

The answer may be, “none at all.” So, while originally I thought about trying to write something really eloquent and long and nuanced, I don’t think that’s going to happen. So instead I’ll just point to a couple of things that have happened recently, that I think are important and actually show some semblance of progress, and give me a bit of hope.

On the heels of this (which was incredible – look at all those people!), I stumbled on a couple of other developments that seem to indicate we might have actually learned something from all of this. That progress is actually being made.

First off, there’s this, which came as quite a surprise. Not only because it’s indicative of real progress, but also because… congress actually did something? Aside from bicker and talk about nonsense and waste time? That’s nothing short of shocking.

It’s only a step, of course, and the federal government stepping in and saying “change needs to happen and here is some change” won’t simply solve the problems of systemic, institutionalized racism, or the issues of police brutality and grossly inappropriate use of force. At every turn, police have escalated tension and violence – the exact opposite of what they are supposed to do – in response to protests which were sparked by their unjust actions in the first place. That’s not all going to simply go away overnight because of the government telling them change is needed. Nor does this address the issues of the grand jury proceedings that have taken place – certainly, the one in Ferguson was a joke, and prosecutor Robert McCulloch clearly did not want Wilson indicted, and even then, the problem still goes beyond that. Expecting prosecutors who regularly work closely with police officers to make cases to turn around and truly, zealously pursue indictments (let alone convictions) against those same officers is ludicrous.

But this is still significant. It’s still progress. And it really is one of those things that, when you stop and think about it, you realize it’s kind of weird that this wasn’t ALREADY the case. ALWAYS the case. Law enforcement agencies don’t have to compile and report statistics on those they kill – justified or not – to anyone? Why the hell not? Hopefully this new legislation is carried forward by the momentum from all the recent attention on this issue, and doesn’t fizzle out after several years as previous, similar legislation from 2000 did, according to the linked article. It’s interesting, too, that this really did happen “while no one was looking”, as the title purports – I have seen very little on this development from most mainstream media sources.

So it’s at least a good sign, as is this. The article refers to the restraining order itself as “temporary”, but again, it is a step in the right direction, as it acknowledges the fact that the police were in the wrong (on a number of levels) throughout the situation in Ferguson.

Hopefully this is all indicative of some kind of positive change coming out of these tragedies. Nothing can change what happened, but at least these are steps toward trying to change what happens going forward.

-Saito S

 

Loss

Recently, my dad passed away. This was the endpoint of a series of events dating back to 2012, when the menengioma (essentially, cancer-less tumors) in his brain were first discovered, and – at the time – treated via surgery. We knew then that that wasn’t the end of it, as there was a strong possibility they could still return. They did in early 2014, and ultimately passed the point where surgery, radiation therapy, or any other medical treatment could do anything about them. He passed peacefully, in his sleep, with friends and family nearby, on July 20, 2014.

I’ll miss him, and the weeks leading up to his death were difficult on a number of levels. But for myself, I have made my peace with it; the best thing for me has been to get back to doing what I normally do, to living my life, to doing what makes me happy. I also feel this is what HE would want; he wouldn’t want people to make a big fuss over him and wouldn’t want to feel like he was disrupting others’ lives. And he was interested in some of what I had going on; he really liked all the Valocea stuff and associated general transit geekery, was always eager to listen to me talk about some idea for a story, and he read many of the posts on this blog (though the pony stuff was generally lost on him!). If I have one major personal regret about the timing of this, it’s that I wasn’t able to finish and publish anything substantial, creatively, before he died. I feel like he would want me to continue with these endeavors. So, aside from taking time to attend to tasks that need to be done in the wake of these events, that’s what I’ve done.

Not long after that, my cat Isaac, who’s been with me for about 12 years, also passed away (he was a little over a year old when I got him from the Feral Cat Foundation). I’ll miss him too, though similarly, his passing (which was also peaceful; he was put to sleep with me next to him at a really nice, caring cat clinic) was expected. He’d been getting progressively more frail over the course of several weeks, and near the end, stopped eating. And while I will miss having him around in some ways, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from over a decade of owning a cat, it’s this: I don’t want to own a cat. Or any other pet, really. It’s just not for me. When I got him, I had two other people very much in my life who were “cat people”. And on top of that, I’d usually had cats in the house when growing up. In the years since I got Isaac, things have changed; neither of those people are in my life to anywhere near the degree they once were. Once it was basically “just me and the cat” (and roommates I’ve had since who liked him well enough, but are definitely not “cat people”), I slowly realized that taking care of a cat is really not something I’m that keen on. I’m happy that I’ll never have to scoop a box again, that’s for sure, and this place will be easier to keep clean. But! I already had him and wasn’t going to not take good care of him because of this. Even after I realized this, he remained my responsibility, and I had resolved to give him the best, healthiest and happiest life I could, and I think I did a pretty good job.

I contemplated for some time on just what to do with this blog in relation to these events. Not a lot of people read this, but still, I wasn’t sure how to present it. Do I just not say anything about them at all, and simply get back to the usual stuff now that I actually have a bit of time again? Do I say something and then get back to the usual stuff? The latter is ultimately what I am basically doing, even though for a time I worried it would seem weird to talk about a family member and a pet passing away and then immediately go back to writing posts about Valocea or Friendship is Magic or video game music. But it’s been a few weeks now since these things happened, so I’ve had some distance, and on top of that, as I mentioned, getting back to my “normal” life has been nothing but helpful for me, so I’m going to apply that here as well.

I have good memories to hang onto of those who are no longer here, so having said farewell, I move on.

-Saito S

Recent relative quiet

Other than the huge Valocea transit history post (split into two blog posts), I haven’t done much here (and even that post was worked on for nearly a month). And I am really far behind on the pony ep reviews (though now that the season finale has aired, all I have to do to “catch up” is finish reviewing the remaining eps of season 4 before season 5 begins, which won’t exactly be overly difficult). The reason for this is simply that there has been WAY too much going on, from serious family issues to an office move at my work. So I plan to put up more whenever I can, it’s just that with everything going on, I don’t have as much time or energy as normal, so sometimes a lot of time goes by without me working on blog posts (or stories, which I’m trying to find more time for as well) very much.

But I’m not giving up on any of it!

-Saito S

One day of BABSCon = crazy fun

BABSCon!

I’d never been to a fan con on this scale – I’ve been to conventions, but for things like computer tech, not entertainment fandom, and I’ve been to fandom gatherings, but with like… 30 people. Not hundreds or however many people were there.

We had to go with the Saturday-only pass, rather than going for the full 3-day pass, to save money (not only in terms of the cost of registration itself, but also to avoid being around the temptation of all the cool stuff that would be available to buy at the con for too long!). So, we got up early and made sure we were at SFO before 10AM. The Hyatt Regency runs a shuttle that goes between the airport and the hotel. So, here it is 9:45 or so and we’re on the shuttle. There’s a writer’s panel at 10. So, we may not catch the beginning of it, but if we get there soon, we can see most of it, right?

Con lesson #1: waiting in line to get your badge and get in will take forever, even if you per-registered. It was nearly 11 by the time we were through that line. Oh well.

So we started looking around. You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing someone in costume, or at least wearing a pony shirt (which we both were, so hey). Saw a pretty sweet VinylTastic guy early on.

We spent some time in the vendor room, looking at all the stuff we might buy, and of course, the $400-$800 plushies that we could in no way hope to buy. Sigh.

Not that they are overpriced. High-quality fan-made plushies are worth the amount of money being asked for them (I mean seriously, look at this), but that doesn’t change that fact that it’s way more than I can afford, at least at this point in my life. Still, we talked with a few of the vendors that were there about fandom and plushies and other stuff, and just had a good time.

Before long, we dashed (ha ha ha) off to get in line for the VA panel. This was the thing we wanted to make sure we got to attend, more than anything else. The line was quite long, but fortunately, we didn’t have to wait a huge amount of time before they opened up the gigantic room they were using for the panel (which, as I understand it, had been four rooms for most of the day, was converted via movable wall pieces to one big room for the panel, then changed back again) and in we went. And it was a blast! Before they brought in the guests of honor, the awesome video linked at the top of this post was played on the screens that had been set up at the front of the room. It was both weird and awesome to see these people whose voices we’ve heard, on this show that we love, in person. Even from far away, it was still pretty cool. The VAs were relaxed and easygoing, and there was an especially great moment when the announcer dared anyone “to call her sunbutt” when Nicole Oliver was making her entrance, and naturally, some guy yelled out “SUNBUTT!” as she sat down, to which Nicole replied, in a voice that wasn’t quite her Celestia voice but sort of close, “I see you, and we will talk later.” Right after someone else in the audience shouted “To the moon!” The whole sequence brought the house down.

Also, this was the first time that ALL of the mane 6 VAs, not to mention other notables such as Celestia, Spike, Babs, various stallions (over 9000 of them, to be precise), and of course Big Mac (oh excuse me, I mean PRINCESS Big Mac), were all together on one panel. Tabitha St. Germain couldn’t be there in person and had to “attend” via Skype, which was unfortunate because I think sometimes she couldn’t hear what question-askers or other panelists were saying very well (and she couldn’t see anyone, either). Still, a milestone and a really fun panel!

And then the questions line was crashed by a certain rookie FIM writer. The whole thing was great all around.

After the panel, we went right over to the line for VA autographs. And that… didn’t go so well.

Con lesson #2: the line for autographs will be just as long or longer than the one for the more popular panels. If the signings start at 1:45, and you get in line at 1:30… not gonna work so well.

Despite going right from the panel to the autograph line, we were way out near the BACK of this gigantic line that wound down hallways and around corners and then finally outside, and barely managed to move thirty feet in about an hour. Once that hour was up, we threw in the towel and resolved to learn the lesson about planning and picking what you want to do for future cons. To be fair to us, from what I heard from both staff and friends who have attended cons in the past, this was sort of a snafu. The staff seemed to know that it could have been handled a bit better. I also learned that not only was it the first pony con in the Bay Area, it was also the first major con for a sizable number of the staff, and that the attendance was higher than expected. Given those factors, the con overall was actually pretty solid. The oddity with the autographs did seem to be a result of poor planning (which can in turn be attributed to the lack of experience at running these kinds of things), and they seemed to realize that, so hopefully they can iron out those issues going forward.

Later on, we were sort of vindicated too – as I was walking back toward the vendor room at one point (a little before 4PM), I saw that the line (while it had moved significantly and was now entirely indoors) still had a lot of people in it. Right as I walked by, the staff were telling them that the signing event was over because the VAs simply couldn’t stay any longer. Given where our place in the line had been, we certainly would have been one of those who didn’t make it in, so we were glad we’d bailed rather than stand in line all the way till 4 and then get nothing out of it anyway. Felt bad for the people who did just that! But I guess that kind of thing happens at cons sometimes…

After giving up on the signings, we stopped in the (rather awesome looking) atrium seating area of the hotel to eat lunch. And then, with some time to kill before the other panel we really wanted to see (the director panel), we headed back to both the vendor room and “Artist’s Alley.” And then the buying began.

Con lesson #3: you will spend more than you planned. Period. No exceptions, no compromises, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 (just the opposite, in fact).

I brought $100 in cash with me, thinking that I would limit myself to just spending that much while at the actual con. Ha. Ha! As it turned out, many of the artisans displaying their work took plastic, after all. Which was great for me, but bad for my wallet. In the end, I spent just over $200 total. We went back and forth between the two rooms – we must have passed through each like eight times, and kept going “man we really shouldn’t spend any more… oh look at this!” *buys*

Still, I can’t say I really regret having spent the money – it’s a lot but not a back-breaking amount, and all this stuff is just so freakin cool! The bulk of what I got consisted of several really gorgeous art prints. I also picked up a couple beadwork pieces, as well as the book and map for this “Ponyfinder/Everglow” campaign setting for the Pathfinder RPG. I don’t even really play tabletop RPGs anymore, but this “it’s not actually Equestria (to avoid the wrath of Hasbro), but then, it kind of is” setting was just a really fun idea. Plus I’m a map geek and this one is gorgeous! Finally, there was this con-exclusive plush of the absolutely adorable BABSCon mascot, Golden Gates.

As we left the vendor room at one point, we found that a bunch of people were gathered in the hallway, singing (and dancing to in some cases) Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows. This was easily the most hilarious “fandom” moment I’ve ever personally witnessed or been a part of, not just for ponies but any fandom.

The director’s panel was a lot of fun. Jayson Thiessen and “Big” Jim Miller had a lot to say about the creative process and how ideas get bounced around and refined. Along with some hilarious stories revolving around “Pinkie Pride” and what it was like to meet and work with Weird Al, whom Jayson has always been a big fan of, as it turned out. A lot of joking around during this panel, it was really relaxed and fun, and of course informative! I’m sure that videos of this and the VA panel (and most of the other big events) will be uploaded to Youtube before too long, if they haven’t been already, so anyone who wasn’t there will have a chance to see what went on.

So yus! We had a lot of fun, and learned a lot about “how to con”, for lack of a better phrase. No doubt we’d be better able to parse our time and be realistic about what we can and can’t make when we attend one of these again. As for that, I don’t know if I’ll ever make it out to any of the cons that are in other areas of the country (which would depend on being able to afford the hotel and travel expenses on top of the con and merch), but by most accounts, this first BABSCon has been a success, and when they do this again next year (it’s already been announced!), I’m there!

-Saito S

BABSCon ahoy!

So, tomorrow, my roommate and I will be attending this, and it will be pretty much my first fan con ever. I never did make it to any Trek conventions, despite my longtime fandom of that franchise. Thought about asking for Friday off work and springing for a 3-day pass, but we really just can’t afford to do that (not to mention that there will surely be some stuff there we’ll want to buy, and by limiting ourselves to only one day, we’ll limit our exposure to said stuff!).

I’m anticipating a fun kind of chaos, hopefully an entertaining VA panel, maybe some autographs, lots of cosplay, and general pony insanity. I’ll try to get some pictures. Should be an exciting day!

-Saito S

Tonight, WE MOON

For anyone who is still up and lives in the appropriate area: go see the crazy cool eclipse! Unfortunately, I’m prevented from getting a decent look at the moon itself by cloud cover at the moment, but there is still a bit of time before the eclipse is due to end, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to see it at some point!

So come on clouds, move over! Best Princess is displeased!

 

(title shamelessly stolen from Equestria Daily)

-Saito S

New stuff will be posted!

Seriously! Things have been kind of crazy lately, both with work and also other things I’ve had to deal with, and of course I had already fallen behind on the pony reviews, which I still hope to rectify, possibly by this coming week. On top of that, any time I spent trying to work on projects only led to frustration as I found I’d run up against a bad case of writer’s block – or, in this case, more like “creative block”, since doing anything creative at all, including writing blog posts or even working in CC3, felt like a struggle. Usually, I try to just roll through such incidents, but in this case (probably because I was already feeling kind of frazzled anyway), it really bothered me. So that didn’t help.

In addition to all of that, some of the blame must be laid at the feet of my recent West Wing binge. I’ve been hearing for years from multiple people that it’s an amazing show, but had never seen any of it myself. Well, it’s all up on Netflix, so I gave it a shot on a whim, and haven’t been able to put it down, so to speak. I’ve been watching steadily for the last few weeks and am now a little bit into season 5. The sharp, fast-paced writing on this show is really exceptional. I can’t think of many other shows that can be this funny, this intense, and this touching, not only in the same show, but often in the same episode, and even on occasion in the same scene! It also can be quite good at keeping you on the edge of your seat, as well – that end of season 4 storyline was insane!

Anyway, I’m going to continue watching it, but at a slightly less manic pace from here on, so I’ll have a bit more time to work on other things. Part of the reason I was watching it like crazy, I think, was because I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by some of what was happening for a while, and it provided a nice escape. Things are closer to normal now, though, so I’m hoping to devote a bit more time to this blog, as well as hopefully pushing past the creative block and getting some work done on Valocea and my writing projects, which have been sorely neglected!

Also, the blog’s theme has changed again. The one I was using (Sunspot) has a lot of neat features but also some annoyances, so I thought I’d give this “Superhero” theme a try. Gonna customize it more soon. It does have the scrolling header (it follows you as you scroll down the page), which I’m not a big fan of, but it’s super slick other than that, and I can get rid of said scrolling header if I get the custom design upgrade… we’ll see.

-Saito S

Laptop Quest: Load save?

It continues after all, as it turns out. My Acer Aspire S7-392-9890 arrived six days ago, on Monday afternoon. And while there are some things about it I really like, there’s also a laundry list of issues I’ve compiled. Together, they are unfortunately a deal breaker, especially at this price point.

The good things about this machine are: Continue reading