Posts Tagged me

Dragon*Con, baby!

A year ago, a man embarked on a quest of self-discovery. Introverted, anxiety-ridden me decided to confront his demons and went to Dragon*Con by himself, one of the largest sci-fi/fantasy/pop-culture cons in the country. There, he braved the scourge of social anxiety and successfully defeated it. If by defeat one counts cowering in a corner of a hallway between tracks and silently tweeting about people instead of actually speaking to them. Still, it gave him a sense of what could be and encouraged him to become what he had feared most: a social creature.

Fast-forward to today. Throw in some anti-anxiety meds and a good deal more self-confidence and a very different CyberLizard is heading to Dragon*Con. I have been introduced to the joys (and pains) of Joss Whedon’s creations; I can sing along with Dr. Horrible. I am a Level 13 Jive Pillager. I have slain an archdemon. I converse casually (electronically) with astrophysicists, authors, adult performers and sex workers, computer geeks, gaming geeks, musician geeks. I have debated, mocked and ridiculed purveyors of woo and confronted theistards who strive to deprive people of their rights.

I have lost some friends due to their lack of support and understanding of some life choices I have made and my beliefs (or lack thereof). I have made a great many more new friends. The love in my life has increased exponentially in the past year. I feel fantastic.

So on that note, I’m going back to Dragon*Con this year. Wifey is coming too, as is my Day-glo Pterodactyl. Unfortunately, my Canuckistanian sweetie and my PGFB will not be there, but they can live the event vicariously, digitally, through me. As can you, right here and on Twitter (<subliminal>follow @CyberLizard</subliminal>).

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What should I write about?

Seriously, I have no idea and I’m completely unfocused. There are tons of things I want to pontificate on, but I can’t seem to break through the thought patterns that tell me that it’s all been said, much better than I can, by other people. So if there are still subscribers to this lonely feed that have even a smidgeon of interest in my peculiar (and perverted) point of view, give me a shout in the comments. Tell me what you want to hear about: Atheism? Sex? LEGO? Politics? LEGO minifig politicians having sex with atheists? Or maybe I should turn this into an advice blog: Ask the CyberLizard…  Heehee! That would be fun! I could really screw with peoples’ heads that way! Mwahahahahaha!

Ahem. Anyway.

Let me know. Even if what you want to hear is silence. Because then I’ll know I’m really ticking people off by blogging!

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Follow me at your own peril

A friend of mine (@Joreth) posted the following as a series of tweets. It really resonated with me and is going to serve as a model for my standard disclaimer.

if my opinions here insult or offend you, you’re better off not following me. I will not say anything here I wouldn’t say to your face…

but I probably won’t say it unless you ask because we have to work together & it does no good for me to create a hostile work environment

However, if I compliment you or say something nice, it will always be sincere & I am not being two-faced.

I can like & even admire someone while thinking certain beliefs are silly

If you’re content to agree to disagree at work, then so am I. I won’t get in your face unless you insult me at work first 🙂

Feel free to make fun of me in your own online spaces, just be civil at work & don’t sabotage anyone’s career just for personality conflicts

I would extend this beyond the workplace. Actually, I’ve never had any conflicts at work as a result of things that I’ve posted or positions I’ve taken online. No, I think this applies more to some of my IRL friends and family.

It seems perfectly logical to take this position. There are a large number of people in the world with whom I will never share certain values and/or beliefs. That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. It doesn’t even mean we can’t be good friends. It just means that there are certain venues where I express myself in ways that you probably won’t like. I don’t go visiting your church, trolling for things you say there that I disagree with. My twitter stream and my blog are spaces where I express myself, good and bad, happy and angry. They are not places where I spout socially accepted aphorisms and conform to the “appropriate” mode of behaviour.

That said, I’m not apologising at all for my values, nor am I going to sit down and shut up about them. There are things that I care passionately about and I’m going to talk about them, possibly in a number of venues. If you are uncomfortable with that or with the things that I say, I would suggest that those might be subjects where you’d want to think past your knee-jerk reaction and see what’s really causing your reaction. It may very well be that we just fundamentally disagree on things. OTOH, you might just find that my hyperbole and vicious language may expose an underlying bias or insecurity in your own thinking that could use some pondering. At the very least, you will have thought about it rather than just reacting. And that’s a Good Thing ™, right?

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The “Real” Creation Story

One memory from childhood stands out as a pivotal moment in the formation of my beliefs. When I was in the fifth grade (I would have been 9) there was one of those Science Bowl competition thingies. The topic for my grade level was “Endangered Species”. Being the bright kid that I was, my science teacher had selected me to be a member on the team. Not that any of this is important, except to serve as a backdrop for this story.

The real Tree of Knowledge?

The real Tree of Knowledge?

Being part of the team meant that I got to hang out after school in the science classroom, reviewing the material in preparation for our competition. After one of these review sessions we were all standing around talking, waiting for our parents to pick us up. It was your typical classroom with cinder block walls painted a horrid institutional green. I was standing next to the bulletin board, idly examining the way that the wooden frame had been painted over multiple times, since the chips of paint revealed the layers. I don’t remember how the conversation drifted in the direction it took, but the teacher made an interesting observation. She remarked that some people thought it was possible that humans were really aliens who had crashed on Earth. The whole business about the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was really a story about the crashed ship’s computer that had gotten garbled over the years.

I still have the pillowcase

I still have the pillowcase

Already at that age I was into the science fiction and had a huge Star Wars action figure collection. And Star Wars sheets, pillowcase and blanket. When my friends and I played Star Wars, I got to be Luke because I had blonde hair. So this idea of a space faring people colonizing the Earth was absolutely fascinating to me. It seemed way more plausible than the version that they taught in church. From that point on, any time I heard or thought about Genesis, I couldn’t help but imagine this alternate version of events and what fantasize about what really had happened.

Now, I didn’t actually believe in the literal truth of this alien story any more than I bought into the idea of an omnipotent being creating a golem out of clay. But it definitely introduced me to alternate ways of thinking about religious texts instead of just accepting the “official” position. This memory (and Star Trek) opened my mind to the possibility that the universe was much more fantastic and amazing than boring old god.

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This is not me

I bear absolutely delno/del complete resemblance to this cartoon!

I bear absolutely NO complete resemblance to this cartoon!

I was absolutely NOT thinking that when signing the mortgage docs on my first house. I don’t make LEGO buildings.

I make LEGO spaceships. And I was thinking about Star Trek, not Batman.  Sheesh!

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What kind of idiot walks into an open manhole while texting?

I asked myself that question when I first heard about this. Geez, talk about stupid.

Fast forward to today. I’m on a family trip to Disney. Walking through the park the idea strikes me that it would be fun to tweet what’s happening. No need to stop, I can tweet on the go. I was going at a pretty good clip, too, when an evil pole jumped in my path. Running into a waist-high pole at approximately 3mph is not a pleasant experience. My first thought was, “oh shit, didn’t Houdini die from an unexpected blow to the gut?”

The internal bleeding has probably slowed to a trickle by now. I’ll save the pics until the bruise really starts to ripen and look impressive.

So I found out what kind of idiot walks into open manholes (or silver poles) while texting. Me.

UPDATE: Pics!

Now that's impressive!

Now that's impressive!

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Death, depression and delight

I’ve been fairly silent lately on the intertubes. For once it’s not my own laziness that’s caused my brief absence. On Friday May 8th my wife’s 29 year old cousin died unexpectedly. My wife comes from a big close-knit Greek family; this was a huge tragedy for the whole family. We immediately left for Atlanta to help out where we could and just to be there for the family. He was survived by both his parents and his 5 siblings. No parent should have to go through the death of a child. Parents are supposed to die first, that’s just the way it is, the way we expect the natural order of life to progress. Unfortunately, life and death don’t always comply with our wishes.

It was amazing and shocking to experience the emotional shock this event produced within myself. I have a not-so-secret secret to tell: death scares the living crap out of me. The daily anxiety that I deal with is nothing compared to the existential dread that washes over me like an ice cold waterfall when I try to contemplate my own demise.

I really didn’t intend to make this about myself. At times like these we try to be there to support loved ones.  But I think it’s also quite natural during these circumstances to imagine what would happen if you were put in the same situation. When a death occurs, people think about death and about life and what it all means. And since I can’t peer into others’ brains and know how their thinking about it, all I have to go on is how it affects me.

I may have mentioned this before, but I have chronic clinical depression.  I take meds everyday to bring my mood up to an approximation of what a “normal” person must feel like. I envision it like a line graph charting the mood of an individual. You can kind of  find a baseline “happiness” level after normalizing the variable highs and lows. My own baseline is significantly below the standard. My peaks don’t go as high as others’ and my lows are much lower. The meds are supposed to bring my baseline up closer to where the standard is. But it seems like sometimes depression can overwhelm the meds and plummet me back down to those depths. I was shocked at how quickly the death of a close family member dropped me down there. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I suppose. After all, we’re talking about the ending of a life of someone in my family. It’s supposed to be depressing. I guess I just didn’t realize how it would trip me over the edge of what I consider emotional depression into clinical depression. That’s how I think of it, anyway. I’m no neurologist.

At any rate, the most surprising thing was probably the anxiety. I’ve been lucky enough to get to deal with anxiety on a daily basis, so I thought I had a pretty good handle on it; what it felt like, how to deal with it, what kind of effects it would produce, etc. But this storm took me by surprise. By that Sunday I was on my way to a full-blown panic attack. And the sucky thing about it is that one little intellectual part of my brain kept functioning, analyzing my reactions, trying to understand and deal with it but unable to take control over the rest of my brain, which was running around screaming inside my skull. I had never before experienced that kind of deep pain and panic, not even in the past when I would have panic attacks almost regularly. They didn’t have the same almost stabbing sensation of exquisite fear crystallized in the center of my brain.

The human spirit has an amazing capability for recovery. We posses all sorts of mechanisms for getting through traumatic events. My own crisis didn’t last for more than a couple of days. Not to say that his death doesn’t affect me still. I only mean that the irrational fear subsided after a couple of days and I was able to process things more like a real person. The existential dread has gone and now what remains is the sadness of knowing that I will never see him again and the empathy for his family who now have to put the pieces back together and maintain that sense of family with such a large part of it taken away. Even after all this introspection I’m no closer to understanding how I would manage to get through something like this happening to one of my children.

And so, delight. My wife’s aunt, the mother of the deceased, raises dogs. She had a litter of 14 week old puppies just waiting for new homes. Seeing the delight of children in the presence of a puppy has to help to start healing the pain, in some small way. So we came home with a new family member, a four-legged fluffy cotton-ball called Happy. And her presence does help pierce the veil of depression and bring back some of the joy in life that seemingly gets ripped out when a family member dies. And every day a new sun rises, new experiences come our way and it would be a shame to miss them, even the painful ones. They are what remind us that we are alive.

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A year of CyberLizardy goodness

I can’t believe I missed this. Actually, I can believe it, this is me we’re talking about. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah, my blogiversary! My foray into blogging began on 15 November 2007. I’ve maintained a site since 1999, mostly to host various programming projects I was working on and to put up pictures and stuff. But I made a decision to start blogging last year, got myself a Blogger account, and went at it. And now, here we are.

There is a year-in-review kind of meme in teh blogosphere. The only rule is to “post the link and first sentence from the first blog entry for each month of the past year.” Mine will actually go all the way back to last November in order to get 12 entries because I didn’t post anything during a couple of the months last year (don’t worry, it won’t happen again).

So enjoy this recap of the mad mad mad mad world of the CyberLizard.

  • November 2007

    I suppose that it’s about time I actually started dumping this crap out of my head and out onto the net.

  • December

    The final battle of Beowulf.

  • January 2008

    While staring at bag after bag of crumpled wrapping paper that inevitably follows the xmas blitz, I began to wonder about the possibilities of recycling.

  • March

    Not only have I actually put together a LEGO MOC, photographed it, and published it, but I submitted it for a contest.

  • May

    So chalk this one up to the same strange impulse that causes humans to crane their necks to view an accident scene or watch auto racing with the secret hope that someone will crash.

  • June

    It’s a sad day.

  • July

    You can have my garden when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers

  • August

    Once again, one of my pictures has been selected to appear on Insect Picture of the Day.

  • September

    This is starting to get scary.

  • October

    Congrats to the Rev. for his winning the August Molly award over on Pharyngula!

  • November

    Oh, boy, here we go.

  • December

    Wow, that’s the longest I’ve gone without blogging anything for a while now.

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The nerve of some people!

Just look at what some person is writing about me. Make sure you read the whole thing AND click on the link at the bottom.

I love it! This is a magnificent creation. If you want to complain about someone yourself, go to here and rant away.

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