Archive for the 'Life n'at' Category

06
Jul
13

Furries!

Anthrocon 2013. Every year I like to pay a visit to the returning Furries, and again, I wasn’t disappointed.

I don’t claim I understand what the whole thing is about … but the costumes are great, the furries are friendly, and as 2 new friends I made at this year’s anthrocon said, “We’re firefighters … we see death all the time. So, you know, do what makes you happy.”

The visiting furries make me happy. I hope they keep coming back to Pittsburgh…

Here’s a small sample of pics I took with my phone …

   

   

   

  

   

   

But … yeah … you get the idea. Hope these guys come back to Pittsburgh for 2014! So much fun!

 

 

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13
Jan
13

Tourist

Every now and then, it’s fun to be a tourist in your own city.

On Friday, a friend and I went on a little tour of downtown, Station Square and Mt. Washington. It was really neat watching the sun set over the city in an area of the city where you’ve never really seen. (Well, seen when I’ve been sober.)

All of these pics are from my phone — an Incredible 4G.

  

  

  

  

Playing with filters…

  

24
Sep
12

And suddenly, he was gone

It was during a fall rush event that I met him. Initially, there was nothing that stood out about him … he was just another awkward freshman in a sea of awkward freshman, visiting fraternity houses, looking to find a house that was right for him. But he had come around a couple of times — and I had talked to him a lot. His name was Sam Gresock. He was from Punxatawny, land of the groundhogs. He was obscenely quiet, but when he spoke, he spoke quickly and with an obvious intelligence. I didn’t have to explain the banter or the more obscure jokes that I threw out — he got it right away. And in an era where I didn’t really like a lot of people, there was something I just liked about the guy.

The Classic Sam pose.

He showed up to every single rush event. When I talked to the other brothers about the possibility of him getting a bid, most of them were uncertain. It turned out that many of the guys had never really met him. So the next day at an event, he took up his usual wallflower post in the basement and lit up a cigarette. He had a certain Sam pose … usually a drink in his left hand, right hand hooked into his jeans pocket, usually with a cigarette, head slightly cocked to one side. He always looked like he was just a good ole country boy waiting for stuff to happen so he could amble on over and join in.

So, the rush chairman (Brian Coyne, damn glad to meet you) and I pulled him aside. We told him he needed to get out there and talk to people. He needed to open up a little bit more. He can’t be so quiet. The guys who he had met and chatted with liked him, but he needed to talk to more of the brothers — as we were sure once he did, the others would vote to let him into our house. He listened to us intently, eyes wide open, and simply nodded his head and said, “I can see that. OK.”  We joked and laughed a little to make sure he knew this wasn’t life or death, but this really was something he needed to do.

After that, he left his wallflower post and never looked back.

Sam went on to be one of the great brothers of the fraternity. He became one of the great mixed-tape makers for the party music (which, in those days, was a true artform). When he heard the phrase “… if it was up your ass, you’d know,” he used it so often that when ANYONE said it, the proper comeback became “OK Sam.” As we all got to know him better, you realized how funny he was, and how creative he was. He and others would write spoof lyrics to songs, and they were great. He had the unfortunate habit of having all of his worst, stupid drinking nights become hilarious stories — none of which I will put in here — but whenever the brothers got together, they would be told and we would laugh so hard that we would be on the verge of crying.

Those were some great days, and let’s face it, we were all pretty stupid.

Like pretty much everyone in my life, I lost touch with Sam when I moved to Florida in 1993. But before I left, Sam pulled me aside at a party and thanked me. He said without me, he didn’t think his life would be the same as it had become. I wasn’t exactly sure how I had impacted his life in such a way. I mean, I was just one of the guys who held the door open for him — and I wasn’t exactly role model material. Clearly, he took it upon himself to become the man he was. But instead of telling him that, I simply told him the best way to thank me was to remember it and return that same favor to someone else. We toasted with our cans of beer, laughed and rejoined the fun.

When I would return to Pittsburgh for vacation, he was always among the guys who would come out to see me. He had become a journalist. In time, he got married to a woman named Billie, who I never had the opportunity to meet (honestly, I was too poor to fly up for the wedding). And by the time I had moved back to Pennsylvania, life had taken them to South Carolina where he continued his career in journalism. But with the advent of social media, I was able to reconnect and chat with Sam almost daily. We rolled laughing like the old days in the fraternity basement, so much so that other folks who I know friended and chatted with him, too. Honestly, despite it being years of being apart, conversations flowed as they always had. Our lives may have taken us in different directions, but nothing had changed. He was still the same great guy I had known from college.

In fact, just on Saturday, I was having beers with friends, and a few of them and I were chatting about Sam. They told me how hysterical they found him to be. I told them some of the old stories, he tweeted us back, and it felt like Sam was there, laughing and drinking with us. We told him that the next time he was in Pittsburgh, we were going to get together, to which he whole-heartedly agreed. Later, I told them about what a great guy Sam is, and how out of the many friends who have come and gone over the years, Sam was one of the guys I wish lived closer to us. He was one of the few really good friends from the old days that I never got to physically hang out with in the past 15 years or so.

That was the same night that Sam passed away from a heart attack.

I got word around 9pm Sunday from my friend Corey, in the middle of my shift at work. I sat stunned, thinking this had to be a cruel hoax. I listened to the message 3 times before it actually sank in. But as the word of his death spread and I got an email from his wife,  I knew it wasn’t. Suddenly, in all of our lives, Sam was just gone.

But as the Sam tributes and stories started popping up among the folks who knew him, I realized something about Sam: He hadn’t forgotten that lesson that I had somehow imparted to him along the way. He had indeed passed it on to others — and not just one or two — but to a great many people.

Sam was a rare individual, an outstanding brother and a great friend. I will miss his banter, his laugh and his chats — as will a great many people.

Rest in peace, my friend.

19
Jul
11

Things I thought I’d never have to say, Vol. 1

They came, and they went. (Pun intended.)

“No mom, I’m not in a kinky sex cult.”

And yet, here I was saying it to my mom, whose friends had told her horror stories about the Furries, and she was … well, concerned.

The Furries say "Hello."

Let’s back this up a bit. As every Pittsburgher knows, the Furries hold their annual gathering here. Seeing people walking around with anything from a tail to tail and ears to full-blown get-ups that include heads with blinking eyes and animatronic mouths that open and close and noses that wrinkle is fairly common. So, Furry Watching has become a new event for a lot of us. Go Downtown, take pictures of them or with them, and generally watch them do their thing and be amused.

This year was my first year going down, and I was with my buddy Chris, who is a veteran Furry watcher. And honestly, we had a great time. The Furries folks are generally very friendly, always willing to pose for a camera shot and, in general, seem to be having a great time. Chris and I managed to sneak in to watch the Furries parade, and also walked around to see the convention center — it was a blast. It was kind of eye-opening, too. I mean, there were like 1,000 Furries with full-bore costumes going on, and over 30,000 there in attendance. Never could believe that there would be so many people there, and that I would be down watching them. I guess they were the second largest convention this year, only trailing the NRA. (And truth be told, I’d rather have the Furries back than those NRA assholes who kept gridlocking traffic downtown.)

Flash forward a few weeks later, and it’s my nephew’s birthday party. I’m talking to my brother-in-law about the whole thing. We laugh as we always do. I think nothing of it.

About a week later is when I got the call. Mom explains that she overheard me saying that I went to see The Furries. I say yes. She then says, “I have a question to ask you,” and then goes on with the usual claptrap that surrounds the group. “My friend says that they’re nothing but a kinky sex cult, and there’s Furries porn, and that some defecate into litter boxes and have the hotel staff empty them” …. That’s when I started laughing. I explained to her that there is a sex side to it, but for the most part, it’s just people who like dressing up as animals. It goes a bit deeper for some, but just like any group, you have your casual folks and your hardcore obsessives. I also told her that while there is, indeed, Furries porn, there is also porn for just about everything else, including the Smurfs, Cinderella, and just about anything else one can imagine. She seemed satisfied and to understand what I was saying.

“But I still have to ask you something ….”

“No mom, I’m not in a kinky sex cult. I mean, if I were, I think I would be a little more discreet than to talk about it at my nephew’s birthday party.”

She laughed, and that was that.

I still have no idea of what kind of man my mom thinks she raised.

23
Mar
11

Unplugging

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what exactly I want to do with my house, design wise.

Now, a lot of things have changed in recent months, and so have a lot of my priorities.

Where nerd-filled magic was made....complete with Slanket.

Long-time readers will recall my thrill when I put my geekroom in my second big bedroom. “BEST MOVE EVER!” I think that’s what I cried from the rooftops when it was complete.

But now as I work with technology for 40 hours a week, I find that I don’t want to work on it when I get home. There have been days where I wanted to watch Netflix, my PS3 needed to be updated and wouldn’t update properly, and I about flipped because, for Pete’s sakes, I JUST WANT TO WATCH NETFLIX, NOT FUCK AROUND WITH TECHNOLOGY.

So, here’s what I have in mind: I’m moving the geekatorium to my small bedroom. Basically, it will be my computer and my workbench, and that’s it.

The former geekroom would then be transformed into my “40s room.” No technology outside of stuff you would find in the 1940s (within reason). Bed, chest, nightstand, drawing table … those kinds of things. I don’t even want it to have a digital clock.

The 40s room is going to be my haven from technology. My place to go, breathe and not think about it. To not HAVE to deal with it.

This should give my friend Amy, who is going to be helping me plan my renovations, an interesting challenge. I’m sure she’ll have some great ideas for it.

The rest of the house will have wiring projects galore. Plans to run speaker wire and possibly patch cabling under my floorboards have been formulated. A dedicated media server is being built. Yeah, if Ghosthunters ever came through my house, I’m sure I’d be spiking the EMF detectors.

But a nice, comfortable, tech-free mancave … a return to simplicity … I think I’m going to need that in the very near future.

20
Mar
11

Retirement

With an ever-growing waistline and me getting more disgusted with myself, I decided that I had to get back to mountain biking. Had to. My normal “fat weight” (what I call my “winter weight”) is around 208 … and honestly, I don’t think I’ve dropped down to that in almost 3 years. So, with all the other changes that have gone on in my life, the return to the trails seemed to be a logical move.

One of the reasons I didn’t ride much anymore was because of the pain. I was getting crazy pressure on my hands and feet from not being positioned properly, and it took what can already be tough activity and made it more painful. So, I bought new shoes and positioned the clips differently. I made a few more adjustments to my seat. And on test rides on my trainer, things felt a lot better.

Thanks for the fun!

But the true test came on Friday, March 18. That’s when I officially took to the trails carrying a good 20 extra pounds and while being completely out of cardio shape. As you could imagine, good times.

Actually, it WAS a good time. Despite the mud, the slogging, the spinning back tire and getting winded every 20 feet, I could feel the instincts coming back. PTAG had cleared some of the trees that fell over the trail, so the trails were pretty fast, despite the soaked ground. My instincts were still good — but my skills were rusty. My quads weren’t screaming, but I knew that if I did my normal circuit, I would conk out in the middle and would have to push my way out, 3 miles from where I parked. That wouldn’t be fun.

But despite all that going on in, there was one thing that became crystal clear: my trusty helmet was ready for retirement. Half the pads were shot — oh, who am I kidding — ALL the pads in it were shot. The straps holding it in were done. It had ginormous cracks on the shell. It was sliding around on my head, and, at times, it slid forward and limited my field of vision. If I did have a bad crash, it was going to protect my noggin in much the way my Thundercats tassel cap would have … meaning it wouldn’t.

So, I finally broke down and bought a new helmet later that day. It’s a new, specifically designed for mountain bikers kind of helmet. The venting on it was excellent. It fit correctly, and was super easy to adjust. The downside? It looks like I’m riding around with a mushroom cap on my head.

But I’m still kinda sad to retire that helmet. It (obviously) took quite a number of shots over the years, and protected my noggin well. When I was looking at it, I started wondering how many miles it had been with me. How many crashes it survived without failing. I know it’s just a piece of equipment, but you know, somehow it feels like something more — especially since it probably prevented some nasty head shots on more than one occasion.

Now I’m thinking about hanging it up on my wall near my fireplace … a reminder to get out and ride when I can. That more adventures await. And to always wear a helmet when I get a chance to go out and ride.

15
Jan
11

Among the Normies

So, as I mentioned in my last blog entry weeks ago, life has changed. When I switched jobs, not only did my career change, but my hours have changed as well.

And this change hasn’t been easy for me, which is why I haven’t been blogging recently.

See, for the vast majority of my career, I’ve worked nights. We’re talking nights for the 6.5 years in South Florida, and nights for the 11 years that I’ve been at for my current company. But now I’m in training at my new job … training that can only be done during the day. So for the first time since college, I’m working 9-to-5, with weekends off.

Now, most people don’t get working at night, but I love it. Working at night, I pretty much wake up when I want, take care of whatever business is on my agenda, work my 8 hours (not fighting rush hour traffic) and usually fall asleep about an hour after I get home. Simple. Never have to take a day off to go to the dentist or get car work done … that’s just your afternoon, you know?

But this “normal” schedule … I don’t get it. It just seems so … I dunno … “crowded.” Morning traffic is aggravating as the drivers all seem to be impossibly bad. Evening traffic is worse because those same bad drivers are now in a hurry to get home. And once I get home, eat, and sit down for a second … I’m out cold by 7pm.

Now, normie friends tell me that this is all quite normal, which is completely baffling to me — baffling in the sense of “Why in God’s name would you want this schedule?”

See, when I’m working nights, I feel like I have time for myself — which usually comes at the expense of night-time TV. You remember that whole “Friends” craze of the ’90s? Think I’ve seen 3 episodes of it, and I have no clue as to how it captivated audiences. “Seinfeld”? Same thing. Couldn’t stand it. “LOST”? Enjoyable to watch with my friends, but not something I would watch on my own. Monday night football? Only care if the Steelers are playing. Hockey games? Only care when it’s the playoffs.

But with Hulu and all kinds of other media sites, even this trade-off isn’t a big deal anymore.

What I get in return? My afternoons. You know those days when you’re stuck behind a desk in a cubicle and you step outside for a break and it’s JUST PERFECT outside and you don’t want to go back in? Yeah, I’m out enjoying that. I go mountain biking. Or I go hiking. Or I’m doing work outside the house, which is still much better than doing work in an office.

I can go shopping and not have to fight mobs of people who are in a rush to get home to watch “Seinfeld.” (Or whatever it is you normies are watching nowadays.)

Normie friends assure me that this all gets better in spring and summer when there’s more light out, but in truth, I’ll never know.

I’ll be back on nights in March, and I’ll be happy in my less-crowded world once again.




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