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2013

Well it's been awhile since I've posted about anything here, but this year was more relevant than most. So:

2013 review


I finally, finally, moved out from Columbia to Baltimore. I was paying almost $1500 a month for a 1-bedroom and driving 45+ minutes each way to work in traffic. It was beyond ridiculous and was a big negative factor in my life. My friend Loki had moved out from his apartment and spent a month living in my living room, and while I missed my privacy I enjoyed the company. We decided to get a 2-bedroom in Pigtown, which is a sketchy neighborhood but it's a 15 minute walk to U Maryland everyday, which is good exercise and it means I only use my car on the weekends. I save about 90-120 minutes of driving everyday, and all the gas and wear on my car, along with my sanity. It's such a throwback having a roommate (I haven't had one since I lived in Northgates of LSU in like.. 1999) but I pay less than half the rent and now just half the utilities, so I'm really saving something in the neighborhood of $1000 a month, which I'm trying to use to pay down bills/debts. And it's forcing me to have a slightly more engaging social life. It's one of the smartest things I've done in years.

Right as I was transitioning to the new apartment I had a job thing happen, which I can't discuss in detail and have been very reluctant to mention to anyone at all, but was a big deal. There is an ongoing investigation of our lab stemming from anonymous allegations, without us being told exactly what they re looking for. Much of our data is seized and unavailable to us, which greatly impacted my work this year. Technically the investigation is still going on without any resolution, 6 months in, and my colleague and I (the two senior people in the lab) are still worried about job security, since we've been there for more than 6 years. I'm up for a promotion next year (possibly, at least) but we're still considering moving on in case something bad happens for the lab. Really I should've moved on years ago to a better-paying job but the recession and frankly laziness has kept me too complacent. I'm making it a priority next year to find a better situation if possible. Much of the negativity in my life right now comes from my job, which is ridiculous considering my training, but until I either leave for a better job or get promoted to a less time- and money-restrictive deal. Hah.

I lost some weight. Not that much, about 25-30 pounds; but it dropped me down sizes on clothes, so I spent several hundreds of dollars replacing my clothes. But that bother is kinda mollified since I was already needing (quite a lot) to upgrade my wardrobe a bit anyway. I was still stuck in dorkmode, old fashion, chub fashion, lazy planning. Too postdoc, not enough junior faculty. I'm a work in progress but I do look better in newer, more stylish, and trimmer clothes (who doesn't?)

I quit smoking in March. Again; I've done it half a dozen times since I started smoking in middle school, but I'd been off the wagon for a couple years or more when I quit this last time. I was only smoking a couple cigarettes a day when I stopped, but it was a crutch and therefore needed to go. My sinuses are less congested but I don't have any more endurance than I used to. I feel certain now that I have at least moderate emphysema from all those marlboros and that can never go away. If I live past 60 I'll be on oxygen and there's nothing that I can do about it; but that doesn't mean I don't feel better about myself for quitting again.

Both the weight loss and quitting stemmed from a bad (really bad) depression I was under in the early part of this year. I was down in it for months, withdrawn and shut down, but unlike most of my previous bouts of it, this time I used the feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness, self-pity, shame, and guilt to push me to deny (punish) myself the things I really relied on most. Really, self-improvement is as much about denying yourself the bad things you *do* enjoy as it is forcing yourself to do better things that you *should* enjoy.

I had managed to force myself to go back to the gym during that time, but a few months into doing that habitually, I wrecked my knees up a bit and had to wear braces for awhile, which made the whole thing too difficult to continue. I'm back to snuff but I haven't gotten back into that habit yet. I guess that's for next year. I did start wearing a FitBit, which is a digital pedometer that calculates calories burned, and used with apps that track calories eaten, and used that to keep a deficit. Intricately tracking calories in led me to eat better to game the system and wearing the pedometer led me to find ways to increase my step count. I was one of the ways I kept my mind occupied during my depression and I know from experience that then is when I need distraction most.

I went to one convention this year, MFF. I had a really good time, better than I was expecting to have. I've been trying to save money but I let myself enjoy one vacation and I don't regret it. Met a number of people and had a nice time fursuiting. I should really try to get away more often, and not only for conventions. I can almost remember when I had a bunch of hobbies besides the fandom and did things and events around them, many times on my own. I haven't been diving in years, skiing in years, skydiving or hunting in decades.. I've barely taken a *photograph* this year. I'm resourceful enough to do these things; I need to pretend that I'm still independent enough to do them.

My sister is pregnant, and should be due around next May. I'm glad she's going to have a kid, since it'll let my family have another child to discuss and fawn over, and I'm sure not going to be having any. I hope that everything works out with that, and I'm sure it'll be a big topic when I fly home for Xmas next week. In fact I had a 2 friends have a baby this year, and 2 other friends separately announce their pregnancies as well. All my friends are having kids now, which is always strange for people my age ostensibly but in actuality I don't feel that weird about. They're all straight and it's sometimes I forget that this is what's expected (or at least, not unexpected) for them to do at this point in their lives, if not sooner. We're in our mid-thirties now and that's later than most of our parents were when we were born. It's a further distance put between me and them, but to be fair I hardly see them anymore so it's just academic.

Anyway: good year, better than most recently; hopefully it's a foundation for a better baseline.

Updates

So, I bought a new car about 2 months ago - a 2012 Mazda 3. I had to get rid of the old truck, it was on its last leg and the about to become illegal to drive anyway. My buddy Loki drove with me and helped out. I'm really happy with the new car so far. It's nice to have a new vehicle again, especially one that just works, no worrying if the cops are going to pull you over for something falling off. Also it's nice to have more than twice the mileage, and not to have anyone ask you to haul something for them :) Also, black leather seats :D~~


I'm still working for U Maryland, 5 years officially in about one month. I am so ready to GTFO of this job, making no money. I'm waiting on my third publication to get accepted and then I'll start looking for realsies. I guess I'll look primarily in the Balto/DC area, but I've been here five years. I don't want to go back to Louisiana (ever), and although I do miss Texas, I don't know anyone there anymore and the culture is less than stellar in many respects. Maybe I should move to Chicago or New York or the West coast. I'd just like to find a good job, wherever. I'm still single, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon, so it's not like I have anyone else holding me here. I would miss the friends I made here if I moved, but I dunno if that is a sufficient reason to stay.


I attended FWA this year for the first time, and really had a good time. I'm skipping Anthrocon (say what?) to save money and because it kind of sucks now. I plan on hitting MFF this year and maybe FF too. We'll see, I'll play it by ear. I just got back from PDF a couple weeks ago, and that was fun. Running around naked in the sun always is. This weekend is the DC gay pride rally, which I may or may not be fursuiting at with some friends. It's not really my kind of thing but it is an excuse to go suiting, which I rarely turn down. In fact I got a new bodysuit made recently for my skunk, which fits me quite nicely. I'm also getting a new bodysuit made for another of my suits. I can't wait to break that one in too :)
My truck of 11+ years is starting to show its age, sadly.. Not too too long ago I started having weird vibrations coming through the steering wheel as I drove, which scared the bejeesus out of me that my wheels were going to fall off every time I got on I-95. I took it to the shop and they told me that my rear brakes had locked up and were just riding the discs constantly. They wanted a thousand to replace them and to replace my oxygen sensors, which apparently have gone tits-up as well. I told them that the truck wasn't worth that much as it sat, so it wasn't worth it. I was going to just clamp off the brake lines and remove the brakes entirely, but I guess I just wore through the calipers or something, b/c the vibrations have stopped :) Although there's no way in hell I'll pass another VEIP emissions test in this thing, and my registration got revoked b/c the police never registered my completed repair order. So.... I'm going to buy a new car this year.

And no more pickup truck for me. I'm not too keen on schlepping my friend's stuff around for them at 15mpg (at best). I will sort of miss not worrying about how closely I part to the assholes who park next to the parking-space lines, or how quickly I back into brick walls, though.. Oh well. I need a car that doesn't scream 'hillbilly' and assault my wallet every week when I get gas :(

I'm thinking either I'll get a tiny car like the new Scion iQ or perhaps a small hatchback (in the 14-17k range). Something with 30+MPG would be beautiful for my poor wages. I still have BB and plan to start riding her in a month or so, but at some point I'll get the state after me for the truck so I wanna just trade it in for the $500 they'll give me or donate it.



In old news, I hit up the replacement-con for New Year's Furry Ball over new years w/ my friend, and boy oh boy did that suck. 3 days we stayed in that hotel... and we spent all of about 20 minutes in the actual con-space. Hopefully next year the NYFB will be back. I'm leaving tomorrow for Furry Weekend Atlant to stay with some friends and help throw a party. I've never been to FWA but I hear good things about it. I'm planning to skip Anthrocon this year (omg rly?), which will break my 11-year streak for that con. But frankly AC just isn't that fun anymore, at least for me, to justify the cost and lying to my boss about skipping 2 days of work. Instead I'll be at FWA.... and Midwest FurFest this November! That is, if I can still afford it by then.


PS I really don't post here very often anymore, but I do post quite a lot on Twitter - find me there or on FurAffinity if you like :)

General updates

I may be moving in the next few months to a different domicile in the same Greater Balto area. I was worried about being evicted recently due to landlords changing their breed restrictions list, but they grandfathered me in apparently. But I may still move since I'm a bit tired paying this much rent for a 1-bedroom apt and driving a full hour each way to work. If I move, I may be looking for a room-mate to split rent with.. I haven't really decided yet since it'd almost definitely involve lease-breaking fees and moving fees as well, which would pay off if I were splitting rent but not so much if I weren't. I've about had my fill of Columbia, though, after 4+ years here.

I was called in for a very unexpected job interview the other day, and I may or may not be getting a new job very soon. I don't know if it's still on the table or not, and I don't know what kind of jeopardy it would put the publications I'm trying to push out the door either.. but it'd be an increase in pay and probably other nice things as well. Also it'd be in a completely different area of research than I've been doing so far, so I dunno. I still have to wait and see it it falls through or comes together before I worry too much about it.

I'm still planning to go to FurFright in a few weeks, and Playa Del Fuego the week before that..which means less than two weeks from now.. I'm filling in as the camp chef, so I need to buy some food to bring up there and come up with the costs for it all (and if I'm lucky, get donations from campers).

Last weekend was a charity fursuiting event for the MS society, which was rather fun (although very small in population). I don't get to fursuit enough! Although I will be suiting at PDF and FF.

Looks like I won't be going home for Thanksgiving this year either, especially if I end up moving. I'm broke as a joke right now and can't afford the time or the tickets. I'll be back down there for Xmas anyway, a month later.



I post mostly on Twatter nowadays instead of LJ, but I'll still keep posting here from time to time, since I wasted money on a permanent account here :)

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Updates

So the other day I turned 32. I don't celebrate my birthday anymore, not since I turned 25 and got a little car insurance rate decrease (what else is there to celebrate after 21, birthday-wise, until I get to around 50?). I just feel it's a bit narcissistic and self-congratulatory, especially since I didn't do anything particular to deserve a celebration except cheat death. And usually I manage to scrape through the day without more than a cursory call and card from my mother/sister/grandmother and perhaps one or two old friends sending a Facebook wall post...which I do appreciate, of course, but I thank them and try to forget about it quickly, since birthdays are for kids (in my humble opinion). But this year my friends up here in Murrland surprised me at my apartment for my birthday with a cake and ice cream and a gift-card to Victoria's Secret. Because I totes shop there so much :P Oryx, Ferian, m4, Kinshasa, Fawks Beaumont, and Kellogg all colluded (probably under Oryx's direction) to catch me off guard after I got home from work. The one time I didn't answer my front door with a pistol in my hand, too, luckily! I really didn't suspect it, which isn't a likely scenario; I was too concerned with picking up a delivery and such to think about it. But we hung out and ate Vietnamese and it was a nice break, even though I was a bit uncomfortable with all my friends seeing my messy messy apartment. I do feel really lucky to have nice friends; It's pretty much the only reason I'm continuing to live up here in the cold, wet Balto/DC area.

I had a temporary roommate for a couple of weeks leading up to my birthday. Kellogg Collie needed a place to crash until he left for Oklahoma after his lease expired, and was having trouble getting anyone to let him stay over, so I let him crash on the couch. I haven't had a roommate since like 1999 or something, but it was only for a short time and I'm hardly in my apartment lately anyway. There was a total of 8 fursuits in that apartment with him there, although we only got them out once to take some pictures with them. I would've liked to shoot more, but I'm always so busy or tired in the evenings I have trouble getting my druthers to put on a suit and operate my studio. He can always come back over another time. Overall it was minimal damage and hassle having him over; I thought it would be more of a burden on me, but I couldn't just let him sleep in his car for 2 weeks. Although I've abolished any doubts about whether I would want to move in with a permanent roommate anytime soon... It puts a bit of a damper on me being able to walk around my apartment naked :(

I've been devoting a lot of time and money (many dozens of hours and many hundreds of dollars) lately to the upcoming Playa del Fuego coming up at the end of this month. This time is 10 times as planned-out as it was last time, and costs are running almost as high as tempers. There are only a small core group of people involved in the planning and it's hard not to have people stepping on each other' toes. After this PDF I would really like to have a final budget breakdown, along with at least a vague list of money/items/time that was donated by certain people published just to show the wild disparity. Our theme camp is planning to have multiple events to the public - Espresso bar (with 2 baristas, several fursuiting waiters, several specialty drinks, etc); a 'trattoria' (with more fursuiting waiters, unique hors d'oevres, etc), and a club (with custom-built liquor bar, unique mixed drinks, shots, and yes, fursuiting bartenders). I hope to get at least some great photos of all of it. No project burn this time, but at least we have theme camp space.

I got my amateur radio license (ham radio license) recently, ostensibly for the purpose of keeping in communications at PDF when I'm on my volunteer shifts. I already drilled a hole in my truck roof and installed an antenna mount... it's an old truck and I've damaged it worse without even trying, so it was a flippant decision. One more expensive electronics-based jag. It kind of makes me want to find all my old CB stuff back home and bring it up here as well.

Also coming up is FurAffinity: United (this weekend!), the Chesapeake Challenge, where our Critters group is going to be running the lunch rest stop, and then Anthrocon in June/July.

No (more) love lost

I bought a new laptop this weekend - a new, from-the-store 11" MacBook Air, with 128GB solid-state drive, 2GB RAM (which much to my dismay is NOT upgradable -- I wish the "salesman" (who don't seem to know much of anything about their products like they used to, or for that matter be motivated in the least to actually, y'know, *sell* something) would have told me that first), no optical drive, very light, very thin, very sexy. I bought it because, as I don't know if I've even mentioned here, I lost my iPad shortly after the new year. Gone, poof, disappeared. Almost definitely picked up by a thief within minutes of me setting it down somewhere and turning my back, but because I'm so scatterbrained I didn't notice for almost a week. I contacted AT&T (who I have the iPad's 3G contract with), and they confirmed it was still receiving data. That last part scared me because I'd hoped it'd had time to auto-lock before someone got their thief-hands on it.. 10 wrong guesses and all data would've wiped. If I'd installed the little fancy app on it, I could've tracked the damn thing myself..but I didn't. So I had ATT suspend (but not cancel) my 3G service so I could still be grandfathered into the $30 unlimited data plan that they don't offer anymore.

But there was sensitive data on the iPad.."adult" pictures, unpublished scientific data, saved passwords, bank statements, high-res images of porn I'd commissioned (which only I have the right to own, unlike the low-res versions posted on FA and such), emails to my mom, etc. etc., which I really really hope the thief wasn't able to get into. But that's the thing..I don't know. I'll know if I ever see that unposted porn actually posted, and if my identity gets stolen, and soforth. Not a pleasant thought. Although neither is the thought of me getting two beautiful iPad cases less than a week before I lost the damn pad..

All of it made me think long about security, which I've become super-complacent about in the past few years. I carry a cellphone at all times (ALL times - think about that when I'm chatting with you on IM), and I had that iPad with me often as well, and now the MBA replacement will be, too. That's not to mention the MacBook Pro which I've had for almost 4 years sitting on my bed (where the cleaning ladies whose backgrounds I know nothing about come in my room twice a month), and the brand new gaming PC I built in my living room always on w/o any passwords on it, and the work computer which has an attached external hard drive containing almost everything I care about in the world, data-wise.

I don't protect my data well enough. I'm going to try to change that meaningfully in the future, so that when (not IF, but WHEN..it's only a matter of time before I lose another expensive toy) I have an "oh shit" moment, I don't have another "OH SHIT" moment. I can (barely) afford to lose a computer, but I cannot afford to deal with true theft of a lot of the things inside of it.

But, I've rather forgotten how to be more secure with my data. I started setting my new lappy with a swipe-to-turn on screensaver/password lock, and set my password to 17 characters instead of 6. I'm considering running the "FileVault" data encryption program for my SSDs too, although I dunno how that'd affect my ability to dual-boot it. I'm starting to make a point of locking my work PC when I get up, and turning it completely off when I go home. I need to find a good program to encrypt my external hard drive. Any suggestions? I'm going to wipe my old MBP lappy clean of all data and then reformat it, and probably resell it for a bit of cash (after I replace the keyboard on it). I've changed all of my online passwords to much larger (and all different) versions, and am looking through several articles for other tricks and tips to improve my poor security habits. It's an incredible hassle to do all of this, and honestly I'm just a nobody with nobody data, but I do like the idea of keeping my nobody data safe.

As is always the case I'd love to hear if anyone's got anything to suggest about this kinda thing.
Hey guys, I got a room reservation for Anthrocon again, and don't need it because I'll just be rooming with FJ Cougar in his room reservation (because he's actually smart enough to reserve early enough to get a 2 Queen bed reservation). I, of course, was too late for that and got a 1-King bed reservation. So, like last year, I'm trying to get rid of mine. The reservation is at the Coveted Westin, which despite being coveted charges an entire night's deposit immediately.

Anyway, it's a reservation from Thursday until Sunday, 1 King bed, Westin (main) hotel. They haven't done the "fursuiter floor" thing in years but if you arrive early, you'll probably get a low floor. If you're interested, please let me know, I'll put your name on the reservation and you'll be able to check in without me being there. I can't remember if they reverse the charge on my card when you check in or not, so if they don't, I'll need to be paid back for the first night. Otherwise, whatever whatever!

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I tend to be on and off with New Year's resolutions. I like to be specific, because specific things are falsifiable and you know where you stand. I have a few this coming year.


1) I'm going to return, recycle, or throw out most of my unnecessary books. I have hundreds of books that I pretend I'll read or finish reading, or reread -- but that won't happen and it's essentially hoarding useful information and wasting storage space.

2) I'm going to reduce my wardrobe. I have far too many clothes here, work shirts that don't flatter me, jeans that don't fit and are cut for youth which I don't possess, jackets I never wear and swordfighting gear I will not use presently. It all will be donated or returned to the house. I have never once been able to wash all my dirty clothes due to the sheer volume of them, and that is absurd.

3) I'm going to try to find the time to have some surgical procedures done that should've been done years ago. I have health insurance that I have never once used in 3 years, and my body cries out for repair. I only need to find the time off of work for recovery. This might have to wait until next year, although hopefully by then I'll have another job where time off is a possibility.....(pretty please with bacon on top)

4) I'm going to stop being the 'last guy to leave the party'. People are going to be seeing less of me, and so they'll appreciate the time they do spend with me a bit more. I enjoy the company of my friends, but I have essentially no free time, and I feel that I'm becoming too ubiquitous.

5) Yea yea I'm going to lose weight and get in shape. That's just bullshit and even I'm not so self-deluded to pretend that I'll actually do it. But I will be decreasing the amount of hair I carry around, on my head, on my body, and on my face. All I hear from people, both family and friends, is offhanded comments about how ugly people with a lot of hair are. I get it, I get it. Consider it gone (or mostly so, anyway). For a guy who loves to play with razors, I sure do find ways to keep hairy...but I'm going to scruff down this year, if only for an experiment.


I'm looking at a few choices also for buying things, hobby-wise:

For photography, which I've gotten back into this past year (to a degree anyway, mostly portrait and still-life things, instead of the action & wildlife genres I truly enjoy most), I received a new lens for Xmas, a Nikon 55-200 f4-5.6. Unfortunately I made a mistake in the note on my list and didn't put the "VR" in there, and I don't want a lens this slow and this long w/o VR on it. So I'm returning it, but for maybe 100 dollars more I could get the 55-300 lens. I haven't decided if I really need a 300 lens, and especially since for about the same amount I could get the 200 and a new SB-400 flash (my SB-24 is just not doing it for my D70, and I'd rather use it as a slave on my new lightstand anyway.

For Snowboarding, I sold the farm and bought all new gear, since all my old stuff was built for 12-20 year-old me, and in BR. But now that I'm going skiing around 1-3 times per week, I need to buy a board instead of renting one for about $50 per. I just haven't decided the camber and length yet. I'm just going to close my eyes and throw a dart if I can't rationally decide soon, though, at those rental prices.

Anyway, this draft's been sitting in my browser for a week now and I might as well post it. It's informative, if not technically...upbeat :)
It's Xmas time again, so if you know me you know that I will be unhappy roundabout now. I don't make a fuss about things but I get particularly depressed around this time of year and usually I like to just be alone so that I don't mess up anyone's Zen, especially if they're having a good time. I hate everything about Xmas except for the actual morning of it, when I can sit down in the living room of my mother's house with her and my sister and her husband and we just open a few gifts and are happy. And then we go visit the grandparents and eat a little and be happy. And then I go to the bar to see my friends and drink. I hate buying Xmas gifts, and have really started to hate receiving them lately too. I have pretty much weaned all my family off of giving me birthday presents, because I hate birthdays..but Xmas is Xmas and unlike my birthday, it's more than just me who gets a say in it. I waited too late to really get anything for anyone as well, so I suppose I'll be shopping like everyone else the next few days. I have to fly back to BTR on the 24th and back on the 28th. Anyway, Merry Xmas.

I bought a season pass to Liberty mountain snow-skiing resort this year and went snowboarding the other day. I haven't been on a snowboard since around 2001 so I was quite bad at it, as I expected. I damaged my ulnar nerve right at the medial epicondyle and I thought I may've broken my coccyx but as it turns out, I think I just ripped a section of sub-q fat away from my skin. It was painful and reminded me that I shouldn't be so proud of myself.

Winter is coming again up here, and it's always cold now. I hate the cold. I also don't like to bitch like an adolescent about things that don't change, so I won't post again until I have something upbeat to say. I hope everyone has a good rest of the year and feels happy. Maybe we'll get lucky and get another snowpocalypse so that the plowdrivers can make some money and I can play with my snow-shovel a little bit. That would really make me smile.

FurFright 2010 (late because I'm lazy)

I really enjoyed FurFright this year.

I spent a great deal of time on my costume this year - that is to say, the costume which was worn by my costume. You might know of my "Boss Otter" fursuit, which I love and everyone seems to dig, but I went a step in the "War Dogs" theme of the convention to make Boss into "General Otter S. Patton" for the con. I ordered some WWII military uniform pieces, and originally tried to make it super-authentic..until I found out how much that stuff costs and how hard it is to get. So..I improvised a bit (a lot). He still looks pretty good, even if I took some creative license with him. I even had some WWII dog-tags made that say "Patton, Otter S", and hung one over my Boss Otter conbadge. I think I got a million pictures of him during the parade. Here's a couple :

General Otter S. PattonCollapse )