Wednesday, December 29, 2010

That Was 2010 That Was

I very sensibly made no resolutions for this year other than to keep trying. Well, I mostly kept trying, or at least I like to think I did. Eventually. After a few slumps. I suppose, all things considered, that's all I can ask of myself.

So what happened this year? I actually passed my viva and graduated - I'm a doctor now. That never quite stops amazing me. I've failed to find any work though, or get any closer to deciding what sort of work I'd like to do if I had the choice. My SO changed her name legally and cleared some of the hurdles the NHS chooses to put in place of anyone wishing to transition. I started blogging about the games I run and play in, which meant I was posting (and writing) something at least semi-regularly. We lost Nana's dog Charley and gained an adorable ball of fluff, Benjy:

There were probably other important things I've forgotten, I'm pretty bad at this sort of thing, but that pretty much sums it up. I have plans for next year, some of which are Plans, but I need to think about them more and will post when I'm next at home. We're off to visit my parents and meet friends up in Durham for a few days before heading south in the new year to visit other family we haven't seen since, well, about a year ago. So I'll be offline for a week or so and will have plenty of time to think, read, and scribble notes the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. When I'm back, I'll have a better idea of what my Plans actually are and how much I want to share with you. Until then, I hope you have had and continue to have a good half-way-out-of-darkness celebration.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bitesize Reviews

Been meaning to write a whole host of reviews of things I've seen or read and not got very far at all. So I'll try a shorter approach. Mostly spoiler-free thoughts on The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson, Locke & Key, Despicable Me, The Event, The 4400 and Misfits follow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Dec 15th

The party continued exploring the Small Dungeon of Koptilla and found one more chamber. Past an ugly statue of some rock-like monster, there was a large column of crackling blue energy flanked by two Blaspheme Imperfects. A small secondary chamber could just be seen at the back, with some sort of glowing symbol on the wall.

The party decided to mostly stay outside. Chuck tried to keep the blaspheme away from them and Mouse and the Drow started damaging them heftily. A large undead ogre emerged from the secondary chamber and teleported the Warlord towards him. After destroying one of the blasphemes, only to have it reappear from the energy column, the party realised they needed to shut that down. Chuck ascertained it was pure necrotic energy, and the Warlord made his way to the back to investigate the thing on the wall. It was a tile, the symbol of Ogremoch glowing with necrotic energy on it. The Warlord wrenched it from the wall before he was drawn back into the fight. The fight was turning into a long one, as the blaspheme regenerated (but rarely got to do any damage) while the ogre swept everyone to the floor with his flail (including himself on one memorable occasion, thanks to the Drow's Chaos Link spell). Eventually, Chuck got to examine the tile and concluded it was the key that was generating the column of necrotic power and, hoping that it wouldn't just explode, flung it into the swirling mass of energy.

It imploded, drawing sparks of blue energy from the ogre and the remaining blaspheme. The two undead then continued to "leak" energy and could only move very slowly, ensuring the party were able to finish them off. A careful search of the chamber turned up a magical silver headband that could attack opponents with merely a thought. Exhausted and depleted of resources, the party decided to rest there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

That Was The Weekend That Was VII

So it's that time of year again, you know, where people start complaining about how they hate this time of year, or start their festive traditions and I get overly stressed about everything that needs doing. But maybe I'll blog about that tomorrow.

So the weekend just gone then. Watched another 40K game on Friday evening - my SO trying out another variation of Dark Eldar against a friend's Tyranids. The DE got eaten of course, but didn't fare as badly as feared. Another friend was also watching (he's just getting into it and started collecting Imperial Guard) and afterwards the four of us drank wine and played Dominion.

Saturday we went up to Durham to stay with my parents so they could babysit the Terror while we went to a friend's party. Actually remembered to take Christmas cards up, and friend's present, although hopefully we'll be up again at some point to exchange gifts with family. The Terror didn't want to go and then didn't want us to go out without him, but once there he was happy enough to see his beloved granddad and (my cousin) M again. We had tea with family, and then got ready. The party was vaguely fancy dress - I went as the 11th Doctor having found a tweed jacket in a charity shop for not-very-much and the free bow tie from latest SFX Collection. No, there are no pics. Although the jacket was too big, the shirt I stole from the barely-touched side of the wardrobe actually quite suited me and I think I might wear it again. Probably not with a bow tie though. Party was ok - music was good if a touch too loud, SO drove so wasn't drinking much and therefore probably found the conversation a little more dull, and it is always great to see my oldest (in terms of years known) friend, especially as she's now a bit more settled and seems to be coping with all life throws at her. (Note to self: probate's a bitch. Update will just in case....)

Sunday I got to sleep in, and appreciated how much warmer my parents' house is than ours as I was able to sit around in pajamas quite comfortably. We went out for a short walk, just the two of us again, mostly avoiding the ice and only getting rained on a bit. Went home and had tea and then headed out to Nana's to meet her new puppy.

Due to my slump and lack of posting, I didn't mention here that Nana's dog Charley had died. She was fifteen and her kidneys went and everyone was understandably upset, but she'd had a good life. We knew Nana couldn't go on for very long without a dog, so it's hardly a surprise she got one but oh my! He is the cutest thing ever. Six weeks old, called Benjy, about the size of a guinea pig, white and yellow and creamy coloured fur and with more energy than your average toddler it seems. He investigated us straight away (he seems to like nibbling on feet) and ran around lots before the Terror and my SO tried to teach him to play tug-of-war and then he found the small duck toy and spent quite a while killing that. He also tried attacking the bigger one but couldn't get hold properly and mostly tried clambering on top. Those little legs don't quite work right either, but he can sure move at a heck of a pace. He then crashed out and slept on the Terror's lap for a bit. Taking photos was difficult due to him not staying still long enough, but some were managed and I'll have to see if I can get copies. Then I will subject you to the cuteness too.

Oh, and then last night I watched more stuff on 4oD. Maybe at some point I'll blog about those, and other stuff I've been watching, reading, etc. No promises though.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Dec 8th

The party journeyed south to the Catacombs of Koptila - all that remains of an ogre culture that is alleged to have journeyed through time to escape attacks from aberrant creatures, and destroyed the town that had built up in their absence on their return.

In the first chamber, they are confronted by three well armed ogres and their pet Scythclaw Drakes. Acting quickly, Chuck teleported two of the ogres and one drake into a corner of the room and trapped them with a wall of fire. This allowed them to concentrate their attacks on the remaining ogre before the others could charge through the fire to attack. Although the ogres hit the Warlord a couple of times, and the drakes knocked several of the party to the floor, the monsters proved little trouble as they were repeated pushed back into the fire until they perished. While resting afterwards, they inspected the bodies and found each ogre wore a silver bracelet engraved with markings associated with the Earth Primordial Ogremoch.

Moving through the iron doors they followed a short corridor to another open room with a short staircase at the far side. Inside was another ogre, covered in markings implying he was a thrall for an Ogremoch cult, and two hill giants. Although Chuck tried to keep the giants away from the party, they could still do some hefty damage by rolling boulders with large amounts of side or back spin at them. Eventually the three large humanoids were trapped on the stairs, hemmed in by each other and a flaming sphere and taking damage from Mouse's arrows, the Warlord's charges and the Drow's spells. Although the Warlord had to pause to heal himself part way through, the battle was as one-sided as ever. Again on examining the bodies, they discovered the ogre was wearing a silver bracelet. A passageway at the top of the stairs led further in to the apparently badly named "Catacombs"....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Trans Talk

This is a transcript of the talk I gave, today, at the YUSU LGBT "What Is Trans?" event, with partner's name redacted. The first time in years I've spoken in public without panicking or bursting into tears.

I'd known my partner J about five years before she first told me she thought there was a part of her that was female. That's probably not quite how she phrased it at the time as she really struggled to put into words the thoughts and feelings she had but that was the overall impression I was left with. She was relieved I didn't think she was crazy and wasn't going to leave her and I was confused why it should be an issue. I couldn't see how it would affect our lives at all and anyway it kind of made sense. We'd always joked about how she was more girly than me, and that we got the gender roles the wrong way round. And at first nothing did change - she tried on some of my clothes occasionally and we kept it between ourselves. Our son thought it was silly that daddy should wear a skirt sometimes, but after a while just accepted it. But the pressures of life and having to maintain a male front for family and the public meant that after a time it became less frequent and almost forgotten, at least by me. About a year later, she decided to try it again and this time told some close friends. By then she'd read more and found other people online who had similarly fluctuating feelings of gender - sometimes male, sometimes female - and settled on the description of "bi-gender": that is, both male and female. So she asked to be called by a girl's name and referred to by female pronouns, at least in private, and took to wearing skirts and girly tops around the house more. Eventually she decided she needed to choose a new name, one that was gender neutral, rather than splitting herself between two personas, and settled on J. That caused some problems, as trying to explain to people why she wanted to change her name without outing her led largely to handwaving and muttering about "likes the name better". And I suppose that was the start of her public transition, as not long after that she came out to people at university and was overwhelmed by how accepting everyone was.

I should be honest here and admit that I didn't accept all this as calmly and rationally as I may be making out. I did have worries, and fears, especially early on when J was still struggling to figure out who or what she was. I felt a kind of loss for the man I had fallen in love with, and was afraid of what our future might be like if she was transsexual. How would the family react? How would we be treated by others? What impact would it have on our son, our plans for future children, our sex life? I mourned for a while for the loss of a "normal" family life that we would likely never have. But even at the time I recognised how irrational those thoughts were - we were never a normal family. She was fundamentally the same person I'd known and loved for years, just expressing a facet of her personality that had been repressed for too long. And not once did I think of leaving her, or that transitioning would be the wrong thing to do if it made her happier and more comfortable with herself. So by the time it came to tell family and the wider world, I was completely supportive of J and so unconditionally accepting of her gender that I forgot that this was all news to them and I found myself trying to explain something I couldn't really explain. Gender is not something I really understand and it just seems so obvious to me that a person is the gender they say they are and no-one else has the right to question that. After all, each of us is the only person that really knows what it feels like to be ourselves. But others have their own view of people and it can, admittedly, be difficult to shift that initial label of "male" or "female", especially when someone is filling a gender-specific role such as "daddy". So I suspect a lot of people subconsciously pigeonholed J as "a man who crossdresses" and largely carried on referring to her as "he". And while at first J was largely happy to use either set of gender-specific pronouns, over time it became obvious she mostly preferred female ones.

Indeed, as time went on, and she became bolder at dressing more effeminately more of the time, she found she was only reverting to what we came to refer to as "boy mode" when she felt she needed to to avoid attention in public or to present as more male for the family. And I became more used to thinking of her as a woman, and she felt more like a woman who is a bit boyish rather than a man who is a bit girly. So when it came to legally changing her name, she went for an overtly feminine one, although she still mostly goes by J. And despite this my family continue to refer to her as "he" and our son still calls her "daddy" and "he" and sometimes it's hard not to fall into the habit of copying them. I certainly don't feel able to correct them, although maybe with time they'll come round.

I haven't mentioned doctors at all yet, and that's because most of this happened without any input from them. Referrals from the GP got lost twice and a psychologist dragged out their consultations and insulted her before grudgingly allowing her to see a psychiatrist who could declare her mentally competent enough to be put on the waiting list for Leeds Gender Identity Clinic. It's easy to see why so many people end up seeking treatment privately or through less orthodox channels. But we haven't given up on the NHS yet, and despite my growing skepticism we will just have to wait and see what they can do. And no doubt there will be many more obstacles in the future. University is possibly an unusually safe and accepting environment, but she's nearly finished her degree and may well have to seek work in the wider world. I'd like to think that she can avoid discrimination and that potential employers will just accept her as she is, without any fuss, but I know it is far from a given. Every time we are out together and she grips my hand a little tighter in response to stares, I am reminded that I can't protect her from unthinking strangers who don't know how to deal with someone who defies their expectations. All I can do is stand by her, support her, and let her know she doesn't have to go through this alone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Dec 1st

After dealing with the vampires, the party returned to the inn to demand free food, booze and praise for liberating the townspeople. That night, most of the party wake up the sound of someone exclaiming "Yes!" quietly and then teleporting away, while the Warlord, whose grip Dungeon Master had just snatched his staff back from, slept on soundly.

In the morning, with no idea where to start hunting down the fugitive DM, the party examined their map again and decided to head out to Mad Maldek's Tomb and from there to the Catacombs of Koptila, and circle round back to the coast, visiting the points of interest on the way and hopefully collecting a lot of Treasure/Undead Tax.

They arrive at the tomb and head down some stairs to the small entranceway whereupon they discover a couple of large stitched together corpses guarding the doorway. They attack and manage to pin in the cadaver golems and destroy them without taking too much damage. Heading through the doors, they come to a large space set out as a very messy laboratory of some sort. Along with another golem, there are four putrescent zombies, a skeleton wielding what appears to be a spine, and a floating jar containing a brain preserved in some sort of liquid. As the fight starts, the skeleton turns out to be quite deadly with its spine-flail, and most of the party concentrate on that while Chuck deals with the zombies easily. The floating brain-in-a-jar sends a sparkling ray of psychic energy towards Mouse and causes her to turn her bow and arrow on the Drow causing him quite a lot of damage before she is finally able to shake the effect off. The Warlord charges the brain and hits, only to find himself teleported back across the room. But despite these set-backs, the heroes prevail as always, and find a pair of magic boots and a large sapphire to take as loot. Chuck also investigates the scattered notes and concludes that while the now definitely dead Maldek was indeed quite mad, he had made progress on the creation of golems from cadavers as well as preserving his brain after his body had begun to fail. The appropriate papers are taken, in case they are of further use.