Saturday, July 14, 2012

OK Road Trip: Day 3-Home - Crickets, wine and cooking

 So! When last we left'd lost our damn AC. Again. We dropped it off at the Firestone in Lawton, OK and piled into Michelle's parents' pickup truck to go home (tight fit, but her mom let me drive because she's an angel).

Firestone got working on it the next day (it would later turn out that the first fix involved a faulty part, and the compressor exploded again. The mechanic was very excited, he said they'd never seen anything like it before. Yaaaay. At least it was under warranty so it didn't cost me more). Meantime, we did Oklahoma things.

We saw The Amazing Spider-Man, which I really enjoyed. But no pictures of that. We went back to the house in Temple, OK (which is small and empty and OH GOD GET ME OUT), which was being swarmed by crickets. Like, really, you'd go outside and there was a blanket of them. Frogs loved it, though.

Next day (which I guess would have I'm totally lost) I mentioned I wanted to cook. We were going to go to Michelle's brother's house so the kiddos could swim, but they also have this awesome kitchen that they seldom use. Michelle's mom was kind of flabberghasted that I a) could cook b) wanted to cook and c) would cook in someone else's house, but see, I center myself by cooking, and I was pretty off-center.

So we went by Wal-Mart (ugh, if I never set foot in another Wal-Mart it'll be too soon, but there apparently aren't grocery stores in Oklahoma) and got stuff to make chicken Parmesan, which is simple and easy to make, but also not strange (Oklahoma is the land of starch and red meat and that's it) for the diners. So the kids jumped in the pool:

Will and Al, pooling.

Will and his superhero cousin, Libby.

...I made dinner. It was well-received, and April (who's...geez, my sister-in-law, I guess. Wow, I just realized that! Neat!) asked for the recipe. So that was gratifying. :)

Home, sleep, uneventful day, crickets, and then next day, voop! Off we go! We got the CR-V first, of course, and then headed to Oklahoma City and Half-Price Books, where we sold off enough books and records and whatnot from Michelle's parents' house to finance most of our trip home (so that was nice).

We drove to Springfield, MO, stopped for barbecue for dinner, and then I realized there was no way I was driving another 180 miles to Fenton (which is where our hotel was) without coffee. So we drove down "C-Street" in Springfield, which was a cool little area, and found some photo-worthy stuff:

A rose in the street.

A creature made of metal.
We also found a coffee shop called Big Momma's, which is exactly my kind of place:
They really like hedgehogs.

I totally agree.

We got coffee and dessert, and then back on the road! We found some radio broadcasts of The Shadow to listen to, and that got us to Fenton.

Next day (Thursday), we set off toward home. We had breakfast at this awesome little restaurant called Maggie's Lunch Box (if you're in Fenton, I highly recommend it - I had a beef and ale sandwich that was amazing). Behold!

Soooo maannnnyyy....

And then we found ourselves in Illinois, and near Greenup. We'd been here before, at a winery that we really enjoyed, so we stopped by again (amidst whiny protests from Will) to buy more wine. We also found a cool covered bridge nearby:

Ooh, covered bridges.


And from there, the long slog home. Stopped by Indianapolis and had dinner at an awesome little Chinese place with John Kennedy. And then home!

And here we are. Our next trip, I think, is GenCon.

Monday, July 9, 2012

OK Trip: Days 2-5.

Woof. Eventful trip. Finally started to get good for a while there, and then the second car-splosion. Let me back up.

 So, when we last left our protagonists (that'd be Michelle and me), we were in Davenport, IA, getting my car fixed. That took all day, but it did get done ("Air compressor exploded. Needs new coolant fan. Dinglehoppers need re-bloofered."). Fortunately there was a mall nearby, where Michelle and I spent much of Friday.

That's a tattoo parlor on the left and a Build-a-Bear on the right. Odd mall.

But eventually we got the car done, and drove to Des Moines. Now, the whole point of taking this route to Oklahoma (going through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa rather than down through Missouri) was going to Zombie Burger.

Zombie Burger is, as you may have guessed, a zombie-themed burger joint. Their food is really awesome, and all their burgers are named after various zombie things (the one I ordered was called "They're Coming to Get You Barbara", and the bun was two grilled-cheese sandwiches because FUCK MY ARTERIES ANYWAY). Some pictures from the place:
Shamble to the restroom.

Wait times for tables can be murder.

Yes, you can order a Bloody Brain.

Michelle, about to be eaten by a wall.

The initial plan was to go to Kansas City and crash with Michelle's aunt, but it was late before we got to Des Moines so we just got a hotel. Next morning, then, we got up and started heading to Kansas City so we could at least have lunch with her.

En route, we stopped at another winery. This one (Two Saints) had a number of really lovely wines. And was very pretty. Check it.


A moment later, the plant ate her.
 So we tasted some wines, and bought a bunch, and then back on the road! We made to Kansas City, and had a lovely lunch with Michelle's aunt Ann, and then got back on the road. Ann mentioned that there was a winery nearby that had, at one point, been a sanitarium or something like that. Odd Fellows? Hell yeah, gotta see that.

We bought some more wine, and on we went! We drove through Kansas, and OMG, Kansas is like Iowa except somehow more boring. We did find this kind of cool fence thing, though:

Not pictured: Michelle.

So we finally made it to Oklahoma City, got the boys (after some fuckery from United Airlines), checked into the hotel, and went the hell to bed.

Next day (Sunday) we all got up and had breakfast in the hotel, then had lunch at Dave & Buster's (the food was surprisingly good), and then went to the Oklahoma Science Museum. Oh, yeah, we got pictures.


The skeletal dinosaur surveying his domain.


Yoshimi, they don't believe me.

Michelle and also boxes.

A little miniature village.

CSI Pompeii?

"Snakes for hair, you say?"

I have no idea why she took the picture while I was yawning.

Al is really tall.

Will is training to be a mall cop.

The boys as astronauts. We're not sure why the robot needs a helmet.

And then off to Ted's Escondido Cafe for dinner, then back to Temple in a complete uneventful evening...OH SHIT CARSPLOSION.

Yeah, the A/C is out. AGAIN. The good news is that we left it at Firestone (because they "fixed" it the first time, it's under warranty) and went back to Temple (aka, "nowhere") for the night.

Further adventures today.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Oklahoma Trip, Day 1 (and part of 2)

So, it was a sound enough plan. We (Michelle and I) leave on Thursday, hit Davenport, IA the first night, drive to Des Moines Friday (today), get lunch at Zombie Burger, head to Kansas City, crash with her aunt, drive to Oklahoma City on Friday, get her kiddos at the airport, stay with her folks a couple of days in Middle-of-Fucking-Nowhere, OK, drive to St. Louis, stay in a hotel, drive home. Whole thing takes a week. Lots of driving, but no real killer days of driving, and plenty of time for wineries and strange and beautiful things.

And then fuckery happened.

Let me back up. (Only a few photos this time, sorry.)

We left yesterday, stopping first at Heather's house to visit my kiddos (they just got back from their own trip):

Cale using a freeze ray on me.

Teagan being adorable.

 We drove forever, and we found a winery in Indiana that, apart from having two godawful red wines (smelled like tomato sauce, tasted like soy sauce) also had a Traminette and a blueberry wine that were just lovely. Other low point of the detour - the signs are for shit. We wound overshooting it, heading too far north, and we wound up in...Michigan?

Nice bench, innit?

So we bought some wine, and kept heading west. We initially thought about stopping through Chicago and hitting the Shedd Aquarium, but it's only open until 6 and we didn't figure we'd have time. Above all, we joked, we want avoid Gary. There are vampires there.

But somewhere in Indiana, our A/C quit. Now, you gotta know, it's a billion fucking degrees out. Staying in the car is fatal. We kept going, got as far as Gary (fuck) and stopped at a Jiffy Lube to get the A/C recharged. Hell, my car has a quarter-million miles on it. That'll need to happen, right?

Well, Jiffy Lube said, "nope, totally not a recharge issue. A leak in the line." OK, then. We drove down the road to a repair place, and the dude said, "Yep, can totally do that. Tomorrow."

Michelle and I talked it over, and figured fuck it, we'll get to Davenport tonight (we weren't too far away) and get the car repaired in the morning. We arrived in Davenport smelling like GenCon, but this morning I got up at crack o'clock and took the car to Firestone. And the very nice, tall man at Firestone said... compressor exploded (note to those who, like, don't speak car - the word "exploded" shares a prefix with "expensive," and that's not a coincidence, baby). Yes, they can fix it. No, it's not cheap, but I sure as balls don't want to drive to Oklahoma and back to Cleveland with no A/C. There's not enough deodorant in the world.

So I am now at the Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble in the mall in Davenport in the log in the hole at the bottom of the sea, waiting on the car to be fixed.

My car, in surgery.

The rest of the plan continues as scripted. I am getting a Zombie Burger today.

Further details and photos as we go on.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Exploding Internets and "Censorship"

Man, it's been a month of weird, huh?

So, in case you don't know, there was this Kickstarter, in which Anita Sarkeesian was raising money to do a series of videos examining how women are portrayed in video games. This came on the heels of trailers for a new Hitman game and a new Lara Croft game, both of which are, let's say, problematic, misogynist, and violently sexualized (or sexually violent, take your pick).

Anita wound up getting rape threats, and a concerted effort from...well, assholes to get her project cancelled. It would up make her just shy of $160K, so the asshole brigade probably succeeded in doing nothing but getting her more money, but that's not the point.

Meanwhile, there's this guy name James Desborough. James writes, occasionally, for Mongoose and has written for Steve Jackson, and he does his own stuff through Post Mortem studios. I've never been a fan; PM does a lot of parodies of White Wolf properties, some of which are too British for me to get the joke and so which just aren't my taste. But he's also written for gems like the Slayers Guide to Female Gamers, which is meant as a joke, though I think the joke is, at best, tired and should be taken out and mercifully shot.

But then he published a blog post called "In Defence of Rape."

Now, what he was talking about in the post (spurred, partially, by the aforementioned Lara Croft trailer) is the use of sexual assault as a plot device. The point he thinks he's making is that sexual assault and rape, in and of themselves, shouldn't be off limits to writers. I agree with that, I suppose.

But the point is lost. It's lost amidst how fucking gleeful he is not just about using rape as a plot device, but over defending it. And that's what makes the whole thing creepy, not the larger point he's trying to make. The other thing is, he included the phrase "rape is fucking awesome as a plot device," though I swear the first time I look at the post the words "as a plot device" didn't appear in that sentence (I could be wrong about that).

So he posted linkbait. And then the shit started. A woman started a petition to ask Mongoose to refrain from hiring him again. The Internet exploded. The woman in question (who is a rape survivor herself) was getting rape threats faster than she could clear them from her inbox. Desborough said on Twitter that this was no big deal because those threats weren't "genuine." Then he and his wife started getting them.

Mongoose has apparently stated that they aren't going to hire him anymore, and weren't planning on it anyway (they didn't handle all of this well initially, but I don't have any real use for Mongoose anyway so I didn't pay much attention to that part).

Desborough posted on G+ complaining that all of this was triggering for his depression. I'm sure it is. I'm sure it sucks to get threats against you and yours. And I empathize. I wouldn't wish that one anyone. I do wish, though, that he would take the lesson - what you say matters. When you say hurtful things, that matters. You're not just taking the piss or whatever when you contribute to the overall level of misogyny in this industry. And it's not the same thing when it's directed at men, because as a man, all else equal, I do not have to fear sexual attention. At no point is a woman following me down a hallway or, indeed, sending me nasty email, going to truly make me feel threatened, and if a man was doing it, it wouldn't be the threat of rape rather than just straight-up violence that I would worry about.

(That's privilege, by the way. It's a real thing. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it isn't.)

The whole thing makes me sad. But then the folks who do this shit make it easier on me, because they misuse the word "censorship" and that just pisses me off, and then I don't have to feel sad anymore.

Look, if the government comes down and says, "No, you can't publish this book or say this thing on your blog, it's illegal," that's censorship. And sometimes that's even justified, I think, but that's a separate issue. If the greater masses of the Internet say, "Hey, you can say these things, but doing so makes you an asshole and we don't want to buy your shit anymore," that isn't censorship. That's physics. That's cause and effect. And mind you, a lot of people got on board with Desborough. They were fine with everything he wrote and wanted to buy his shit on the strength of his writing. That's cause and effect, too.

I think it's generational, in a way. Younger folks, maybe those who have grown up with the Internet, might think that what you say online doesn't count because it's not said directly to a person. To that I say: Pretend it is. Pretend that who you want to talk to or who you imagine you're talking to is sitting there, in front of you, listening to you say what you're typing. And imagine your mom's there, too, why not.

You own what you say. What you say, online, can have consequences. Saying nasty or hurtful things online, as in "real life" (as though online isn't real life), doesn't make you cool or edgy or more honest or genuine. It means that you are impaired in communication, specifically pragmatic language, because you haven't figured out how to talk with people and really communicate.

And yes, if you come across as a complete asshole, people might feel compelled not only to avoid spending their money on what you did, but to ask other people to do likewise. That's how this works.

Not censorship. Just physics.

More on related matters here.