Closing Out The Year

At the beginning of 2008, I posted that I expected it to be an interesting year, and it was. 2009, in contrast, was much more sedate; my engagement had ended so I was back to living alone, my traineeship placement ended in July so I had no more work as a therapist, and I graduated in October so I had no more school. Most of 2009 was spent in my apartment by myself, job-hunting, watching my finances dwindle with a nervous eye, and doing a great deal of thinking.

Now I'm preparing for this time in my life to end, and a new one to begin. In a little more than a week I'll be headed back to Illinois to visit my friends and family there for the holidays. It'll be a good, long trip, and I'm greatly looking forward to it. And as soon as I get back (literally, the day after I come home) I'll be starting a new job. I've been offered a position as a residential counselor in San Francisco--a position I have basically no training for, something completely different from anything I've done yet. It's also a full-time position that pays more than enough money for me to live on, as well as providing medical benefits and a plethora of internship hours that I can put towards earning my MFT license.

Needless to say, I'm both excited and frightened by this opportunity. The possibility exists that I will prove myself totally unable to keep up with the demands of the position, either because of lack of talent or lack of training or simply because I fold under the pressure when things get difficult. On the other hand, the possibility also exists that I become stronger under this pressure, that I learn and grow and expand my boundaries as they are tested, and that this experience becomes part of my development as a clinician. I'm confident in my skills as a theoretician; I may not have studied the written record of psychology as much as some, but I feel certain that I have the capacity to grasp and utilize any conceptual model of the human psyche that could be developed, and that my own theories about the function of the mind hold true under testing. On the other hand, all the theoretical expertise in the world won't help me when it comes to dealing with actual humans and their actual problems. The residential work I'll be doing in San Francisco will put me in contact with individuals who have experiences very different from mine, people who have experienced crushing poverty, all kinds of discrimination (often at the hands of people who look, sound and act just like me), relentless trauma, and imprisoning substance abuse. I can't imagine they'll care much about my elegant theories of psychic development; they'll want to know what I can do to solve their problems right now, in the moment, and no conceptual model can offer that solution.

So if I am to survive and succeed in this field I will have to become something I am not. I mentioned before that this past year has afforded me plenty of time to think long and hard about myself, and I don't feel like that time has been wasted. I'm now able to confront some aspects of myself and my history that I had previous tried to avoid: the truth is, I've always retreated to the realm of the intellect and the dispassionate whenever I feel threatened by difficult emotions, and I don't allow myself to expose my emotional vulnerability whenever potential conflict is in the air. It's a survival technique developed, like any other, by my early experiences, but while I have been content to largely ignore the problems with this strategy (or blame them on other things) up until now, I can't afford to turn a blind eye any longer. To do this work I will have to engage, emotionally, authentically, and have the confidence that I can survive conflict even if it strikes me where I am most vulnerable. I cannot shield myself and still expect to connect with my clients in the way that they need me to. I cannot be passive and wait for others to make decisions so that I can't be blamed if things go wrong. I have to take the initiative, and trust myself. I have to be willing to take actions even if I have no assurance that the consequences will be what I want. I have to stop being afraid.

If I had dealt with these fears earlier in my life, I'm certain things would have gone differently. My leaving Illinois. My engagement. My work as a trainee. But I can't go back and change anything now. There is an opportunity in front of me right now, a chance to change myself for the better, and no matter how frightening or how painful it seems I can't back away from it. 2010 begins a new decade, the 2000-teens rather than the 2000-aughts, and it will be a year of transition, a year of new things. It will be the first year of my new self.

I have a long way to go, I know. A year spent gazing into my own navel and doing little else is not nearly enough to answer all of my questions or solve all of my problems. In all likelihood, even if I live to be one hundred, I will never have enough time to answer every question. But I've come a long way from this time a year ago, and in another year I will look back on this time and be amazed at what I thought I knew and how much I had to learn. I look forward to it, I suppose, though getting there will no doubt be a trial. I look forward to seeing who I will become.

I still have a little time before the changing begins in earnest. This holiday trip comes at the perfect time, in a way, giving me one last chance to relax in familiar surroundings before I embark onto a new way of life. I'm eternally grateful to all of my old friends and loved ones back home, as well as my new friends and loved ones out in California, for the limitless support and affection they have given me during this past year. Though I have often felt lonely during my life, I know that I have never been alone, and that knowledge gives me great hope and optimism for this coming year. Thanks to everyone who has been there for me. My gratitude knows no bounds, and I hope I will be able to repay all of your support in some way.

Now the year is coming to a close, and when I am done looking backwards I will look forwards towards whatever comes next. I'm frightened, as perhaps I will always be frightened by new things, but I won't let my fear be all of who I am. Behind the fear I am also a human being capable of adapting to new circumstances, just like any of our kind. What I hope to learn will more than make up for the fear I feel now. I promise I'll share that knowledge, whatever it is, dear readers. I hope it will help you as I expect it to help me.

I hope 2009 has served you all well. I hope 2010 serves us all well. Let's find out.

Ode to Joy

I just got the news, and I wanted to write something somewhere. Putting it on my Facebook status seemed too tacky, and social phobia inhibits me from contacting one of my classmates. But the fact is, Karla Lemon deserves to be remembered.

Karla is a classmate of mine at the Wright Institute. She's probably in her mid-forties, maybe early fifties. Karla is a musician, plays many instruments but particularly loves the upright bass. She is a conductor, and she introduced herself to our class by saying that she is taking up therapy to "support my conducting habit". She knows all kinds of things about music.

Karla is a darling woman. She is anxious and self-conscious, constantly doubting her own abilities, but forever offering support and encouragement to others. She is emotional, easily moved to tears or frustration.

She was so sweet to me. When she saw me at each class she would hug me and call me "baby". She called me handsome. She congratulated me when I got engaged and consoled me when the engagement ended. Everything about her was motherly and dear.

I just found out that Karla went in for heart surgery the other day and suffered a massive stroke while under anesthesia. She went into a coma and is not expected to recover. Her partner--a woman who, barring the idiocies of our administrative systems, is for all intents and purposes her wife--has decided to take her home, removing her from life support. Karla will likely not live another 48 hours, and she will probably never wake up.

I did not know her nearly as well as I wanted to. I know she had gone through terrible challenges during her life, and that she had emerged from them to a place where she wanted to be of service to others. For all her doubts about herself, she would have been fantastic at this work.

It is in no way fair that Karla has been denied the chance to put her skills and gifts to work for the benefit of the world. What she had to offer, we cannot do without. As such, I feel it is the responsibility of her classmates and those who would have shared her work to embody all the traits that Karla would have brought to this field, given the chance. Her compassion, her empathy, her hopefulness, her love of beauty, her desire to always learn and improve herself, her bravery; these are things that make excellent therapists and great human beings, and though I did not know her as I should have, I believe that she would have wanted these things passed on.

I welcome this responsibility. I will mourn for Karla, and miss her terribly, and do honor to her memory by sharing the kindness she showed to me with those who need it. In this way I and whomever shares this responsibility with me will help to keep her alive, and continue bringing love and joy into the world in the same way she did.

Goodbye, Karla. I love you.

Moving On Up, Reprise

Well, it's been a couple weeks full of changes for Your Man Out West, dear readers; I've finished my traineeship at the Pacific Center, and said my (deeply painful) goodbyes to that excellent institution; I've started preparing for the comprehensive exam at the Wright Institute, which will take place in September and will be the final step to complete before I earn my Master's Degree in October; I moved out of the apartment that Katrabbit and I shared, as it was really meant to house (and be paid for be) two people, and into a smaller (less expensive) one not far away; and to mark my transitions, I took a brief excursion up to Yosemite State Park with some friends from Pacific Center, and spent a couple of days up in the mountains in a cabin which belongs to a friend of theirs.

It was a lovely weekend, full of long hikes and gorgeous views. Contrary to my usual habit, I actually remembered to bring a camera, and took several pictures which I am happy to share with you here. Most were taken from Glacier Point, a lookout in the park which allows for a view of the entire Yosemite Valley, as well as Half Dome, a distinctive-looking peak in the Yosemite range.

As we were driving up to Glacier Point, we stopped briefly, and as soon as the car came to a complete stop this thrush immediately flew down onto the hood and began eating bugs out from the windshield wipers. It was kind of amazing; I suppose after living in that area long enough, it had adapted to take advantage of that particular food source.

The trip was not without its costs; I manage to injure my knee somehow during the hikes and had some trouble going up and down the slopes, and as I was returning after the trip was over I noticed that one of the warning lights on my dashboard had come on. That made me nervous, but the car made it back to my apartment without trouble. The next weekend, though, I was driving to a movie and it died en route, and had to be towed (I've since had it repaired, and it was apparently a problem with the alternator). I'm extremely grateful that this didn't happen while I was up in the mountains at night, with the wolves and bears and cougars.

So, my next step is to find myself a real job, which is proving to be more difficult than I had imagined. But as long as my money holds out, I can remain in the Bay Area and keep searching, so I'm hoping something comes along before I'm entirely tapped out. We shall see...

Given the atmosphere out here, the summer season is just beginning now, as it's ending elsewhere, so I'm looking forward to enjoying the beaches here (for the first time, despite living here for more than two years now) and the nice weather. Plus, just for the heck of it, I decided to shave off my beard, leaving my face hairless for the first time in several years. So maybe I'll be able to pick up a nice, unhealthy tan. Maybe it'll help me get a job! ...Maybe not.

In any case, enjoy your season, dear readers, whatever it may be. I'll be going to some interesting places soon (I expect to attend a performance by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and travel to L.A. to visit a friend at the end of the month), so I'll be sure to update, especially if I manage to find gainful employment. Be well, all, and may your mountains always be majestic.

Out And About

I've been meaning to make this post for some time, but a combination of laziness and multiple activities have conspired to prevent me. Regardless, I've been doing a bit of traveling and sightseeing over the past month, and I'd love to share the details of my sights with my darling readers.

June 27-28 was Pride in San Francisco, and though this is my second year in the area, this is the first year in which I was actually able to take place in the Pride celebration. It was an exciting time, given the recent activities around Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, and I think it was a good year to have as my first; the energy was high and attendance was even greater than last year's, which was estimated at over 1.2 million (see the chart at the bottom of the page).

On Saturday, I attended the Dyke March in San Francisco's Dolores Park. It was quite a party, and I got to picnic with friends from the Pacific Center while the crowd danced and listened to speakers. I refrained from marching, out of deference to the request that only women take part in the march (I did notice a number of men among the marchers, but I still preferred to sit this one out as an observer). I followed the marchers towards the Castro to see if I could get into Pink Saturday, but when I got to the area it was cordoned off to collect donations and check for booze being smuggled in, and I was still carrying all my gear from the picnic, so I didn't want to go through the hassle of having my belongings searched. Still, I watched from beyond the cordon for a while, admiring the giant disco ball hanging over the streets. Eventually I hauled my gear back to the BART and went home.

The next day I got up and joined the crowd headed into the city for the Pride March proper. It was a gigantic parade, lasting more than two and a half hours, on a gorgeous day with full sunshine (an unusual feature for generally-foggy San Francisco). I stood on the sidelines and cheered the marchers, including semi-celebrities like Dan Choi and Cloris Leachman. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom was walking next to the crowd rather than in the middle of the street like the rest of the marchers, and he passed about two feet in front of me; if I'd been one person farther in to the street, I could've shaken his hand.

Once the parade ended, I headed up towards City Hall to check out the festivities. The crowd was intense, elbow to elbow for blocks and blocks. I stopped by a deli to grab a sandwich, then hit the streets to see what was happening. Honestly, it was hard to see much of anything, with so many people, but there were several areas sectioned off for dancing, and a huge main stage with live performers. I was a bit lost as to what to do with myself, but eventually I found an area with dance music being blasted from gigantic speakers, so I jumped into the crowd and started dancing. I only intended to dance for an hour, but I ended up going until the music stopped, at about 7 PM. By that point I was utterly exhausted and totally dehydrated, and though I knew the festivities would be going on late into the night, I dragged myself home and sat in the shower for a while, just trying to ease some of the tension out of my spent muscles.

All in all, I only sampled a tiny fraction of what the Pride events had to offer, but I feel like I had a good, immersive experience, especially dancing in the crowd. It was wonderful to feel so free and uninhibited in a group of strangers like that, simply dancing and letting go without worrying about what anyone thought. I'd need to be in better shape before I made something like that a regular event, though.

Shortly after that, I got onto a plane and flew back to southern Illinois, to visit my friends and family. I hadn't been back to my home state since last Christmas, so it was an exciting homecoming, and I enjoyed every minute of it. While I (typically) forgot to bring my camera along to Pride, I managed to remember it on the Illinois trip, and even remembered to actually use it. A full album of photos can be found on my Facebook site, here, but I'll post a few here just to show off some highlights.

One of the most exciting things about this visit was getting to meet the cast members of the play Ismene, being produced by the Three Graces company. Not only is this the first play ever enacted by this company, but I'm proud to say I wrote the play. As such, it was incredible to meet the people who will be playing these roles, and to listen to them reading through the script with genuine feeling and intensity. Makes me feel like a real writer. Hopefully there will be videos to post once the play is actually performed, and I'll be happy to share them here.

I forced my brother to perform for my amusement, and captured his antics digitally, so that you might enjoy them; above we see him walking a slack line, riding a six-foot-tall unicycle, and juggling flaming torches. Next time I visit I'm going to make him stick his head in a lion's mouth. That's entertainment!

My brother not only does the organ-grinder-monkey thing, dancing about in a ridiculous outfit to stave off the brutal punishments I might arbitrarily hand out, he also keeps me entertained by crafting a wide array of beautiful objects. Perhaps I should unchain him from that workbench for a few hours. Anyway, a couple examples of his handiwork are shown above; his final project from his Blacksmithing class, a jagged monument of hammered steel that epitomizes the potential inherent in thousand-degree heat and the power of my brother's arms; and several experiments in glassblowing and goblet-shaping, a delicate art which also involves searing heat but applied with more gentleness and dexterity. In all seriousness, the dude displays a rare talent which bodes a bright future for him. Can't wait to see what he does next.

My father's birthday wasn't until after I left, but we agreed to celebrate a bit early so I could join in. We bought him a metal firepit to use in the backyard, something he'd been craving for some time, and he seemed pleased by it. My littlest sister also baked him a giant birthday chocolate chip cookie, which was several degrees of magnitude more delicious than any cake could ever have been, so we ate with gusto and had no (well, few) regrets afterwards. Above we see my family gathered around the new gift, caught in the midst of our merriment.

I did plenty of other stuff while I was in Illinois, connecting with old friends and enjoying the familiar sights of home (and the incredible humidity, a feature I had actually forgotten in my seven months on the coast), and I was sad to leave at the end of the week. But sad as I was, I'm excited to get back to my life and see what happens next. I'm getting ready to graduate in October, I'm about to end my time at the Pacific Center (which has been a wonderful place to get started as a therapist, and I'll miss it terribly), I'm moving into a new apartment, I'm looking for a job in the mental health industry, and I've never tried to make a new, real life so far away from everything I know. It's a crazy time, but I'm proud to say I'm doing all right on my own, and I know things are only going to get weirder from here.

Can't wait.

Take care, gentle readers, and enjoy this summer. Who knows when we will meet again? Drink, and be merry.

December in May

Spring approaches, bringing with it the breath of new life and a world ripe with budding possibilities. Your Man Out West finds himself poised on the brink of yet another major change in life circumstances, as I begin my search for a job to earn my keep once I have finished my work at the Pacific Center and earned my degree. While I have plenty of experience searching for jobs of one kind or another, this is a very different experience, in that I am not just looking for a way to earn money while I move to the next step of my life (though that is, at least in part, what I'm actually doing), but am actually seeking to build myself a career.

I'll be turning 30 in about a year and a half, and I'm beginning to think about what the rest of my life should look like. I love my work as a therapist, and though I don't have much experience yet, what I've had has been so rewarding that I can barely conceive of doing any other kind of work. However, I've got a long way to go before I can prove myself as a clinician and earn the right to practice independently, and until I can get my license and put that ",MFT" after my name, I'll have to look for whatever niche I can fill. It will have to be a very specific niche, in that it must be fillable by someone with no post-graduate experience, and almost no experience working with children, groups, couples, or families, who has never worked in an in-patient setting or with the severely disabled, and who can't even apply for an intern number until October. And even putting all that aside, in this job market, the fact that I'll soon have a Master's Degree doesn't mean what it once did. I'm almost done with school, but even with that behind me, I'm really just getting started.

So that's one aspect of novelty that this spring has brought. Another was the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands, The Decemberists, at the Fox Theater here in Oakland. It was an amazing show, replete with acoustic complexity and dazzling light effects. The first half of the show was an hour-long set of songs from the new Decemberists album The Hazards of Love, played straight through without pause or addressing the audience. The experience was amazing; one song after the next, each one new to me, each using a different arrangement of instruments including organ, harpsichord, glockenspiel, accordion, and zither, not to mention guitars both acoustic and electric, base both hand-held and upright, and a wicked amplified mandolin. For one song, five of the seven band members took up drum sets, creating a pounding percussive frenzy that filled the hall.

After an hour of non-stop music (through which, we later learned, frontman Colin Meloy had apparently been bleeding on himself) the band broke for about twenty minutes, then came back and engaged with the audience in a slightly less intense manner. Meloy joked and praised the new Fox Theater, introduced the band and talked about the songs they were about to play. They moved into a series of songs from previous albums, most of which I knew, and Meloy encouraged the audience to sing along. At one point, he taught the audience the chorus, and silenced the band to let the audience provide the vocals. The band eventually left the stage, but returned for an encore, and during the final song, several of the band members came out into the audience to perform a dramatic reenactment of the Tragedy of the Donner Party.

Those of my readers interested in recreating the aural experience of the concert for themselves can check out the downloadable bootlegs, and I highly recommend that you do. Nothing can capture the actual feeling of standing in the crowd while the Decemberists filled the space with sounds, but at least you can catch some of Meloy's banter and hear their rendering of the songs from Hazards of Love.

I left the concert hall thoroughly satisfied, and then two days later found myself on a bus bound for L.A., to visit a friend of mine who is currently making his home there. I took the bus with the intention of using public transportation to get around the city, and save the trouble and expense of bringing a car, but L.A. is not kind to those who wish to go from one place to another. Despite the continual inconvenience heaped on us by a bus system that continually ran behind schedule, stopped running early, or didn't go where we needed it to go, we managed to sample a good deal of Los Angeles's offerings, from the historic movie palaces downtown to the glitz of Hollywood Boulevard, ate at several impressive restaurants, and saw a couple of movies. I hope to return to the city again before too long, hopefully with better transportation this time, and see a little bit more of the area.

So, now I'm back and rested from the weekend, returning to the job search and preparing to finish up with my time at the Pacific Center. The next step is still unclear at this point, but no matter where I go next, I'm glad I've had the chance to enjoy the unique pleasures of the West Coast. I may return to the Midwest eventually (likely to be killed by a surprise inland hurricane, as they've been fond of having lately) but I fear I'll be spoiled forever by the ready availability of concerts and landmarks that the San Francisco/Los Angeles area boasts.

"I am a leaf on the wind"

Those of you unfamiliar with webcomics (so, y'know, everyone except me, right?) will likely not be aware of a man by the name of D.J. Coffman, who is, among other things, the creator of webcomic Yirmumah. I admit, as webcomics go, I've never been much of a fan of this one, but Mr. Coffman decided some time ago to implement an interesting experiment in interactive webcomic design: send him two dollars, and he'll draw anything you want.

Well, I couldn't just let an offer like that go. I could have requested all sorts of interesting things, most of them probably involving superheroes (or myself in a superhero costume), but I decided to go a different direction with it; I thought I would request a drawing that I would give as a gift, to someone I knew would greatly appreciate the image.

I made the request sometime last fall, submitted my $2 via Paypal, and waited. I continued to wait, and eventually forgot all about it, assuming that my $2 had gone the way of all flesh. I would have been more upset, but I can spare $2 without serious injury, and eventually the opportunity to give the gift came and went. That, I supposed, was that.

But the other day I got an e-mail from one D.J. Coffman (by this time, I had totally forgotten about the request, and couldn't remember where I knew the name D.J. Coffman from) containing my requested drawing and a heartfelt apology for the delay. I was touched; he could have easily kept my $2 and saved the ink, but he is clearly a man dedicated to his (rather unusual) craft.

So, since it no longer makes sense as a gift, I present to the world at large, my very own $2 commission:

Not a bad picture, for $2, I'd say. If I could draw that well I'd probably charge more for my pictures.

For those interested, here is a link to the picture online. I'm absurdly pleased by the fact that someone in the comments praises my choice of request. The gift may never reach its intended recipient, but at least it's made someone happy.


Night Of The Living-It-Up Dead

It's been an interesting past week here in Out West land, so I thought I'd share a few tidbits of activity with my dearest readers.

The week before last marked the arrival of the long-anticipated Watchmen movie, which I saw at a midnight showing with the husband of a co-worker. Though he had not read the comic, and I had (surprise surprise), we both agreed that the film fell far short of what it could have been. Director Zack Snyder is nowhere near experienced enough to effectively pull off a story with as much subtlety and complexity as the original Watchmen comic, and substituted graphic violence and a piercingly inappropriate soundtrack for what he couldn't manage. (My apologies to anyone whose aesthetic sensitivities are offended by the use of words like "subtlety" and "complexity" in this context.) Frustratingly, the film fails both to be the profound moral examination that Moore's original work is intended to be, and to be an enjoyable mindless funhouse ride the way some similar failures have managed to be; Watchmen is simply too grim and too gory to be fun, and too absurd to be taken seriously. The visuals attempt to be lush, but, in most instances, simply end up looking fake and stagey; the performances attempt to be charmingly pulpy, but the halfhearted delivery of the cast's B-list actors robs Moore's dialogue of its original understated charm. Overall, the biggest compliment I can pay the film is that, like the Dark Knight (and believe me, any comparison between this film and the Dark Knight is both a high compliment to Watchmen and verging on an insult to Dark Knight), it's the beginning of a new trend towards making superhero/comic book films that are intended for adults, and not children. Snyder's style is more suited to childishness, but there is reason to hope that better, more restrained directors will get a chance to make comic book movies worth seeing, in the near future.

The weekend after that, I got the chance to hang out with some friends of mine from oft-remembered Carbondale, who were in San Francisco to visit family. The weather, which had been abominably rainy and cold for the last few weeks, managed to clear up long enough for them to enjoy their visit, and I joined them and their little boy (my godson!) for a couple of jaunts around the area, including an afternoon in Golden Gate Park, and a visit to the Japanese Tea Garden therein. A few days later I introduced one of my friends to The Trappist, a fantastic specialty beer bar here in Oakland. We sampled a variety of excellent brews, and I got to expand my burgeoning beer education a good bit. Drinking good beer is an expensive venture, but a richly rewarding one when done correctly.

After my friends departed, I expected my social activity would dwindle back to its usual near-extinction, but I was wrong; I was invited to a karaoke gettogether at The Mint with several of my compatriots from the Pacific Center. We sang, drank and laughed for several hours, and I acquitted myself nicely with my performances on Subterranean Homesick Blues and Seven Nation Army, but I struggled with a duet on God Only Knows, and that signaled my steady descent into sucking as I was totally unable to find my key on My Old School or Stuck In The Middle With You. Next time I will have to be more careful about picking songs I'm actually prepared to sing, not just songs I know the words to.

The karaoke outing ended as our party dispersed to various locales for supper, but I was invited to join one of my coworkers and her girlfriend for a quick dinner before they attended a birthday party for their friend. I was informed that this party would be zombie-themed, and that the attendees would be dressed in "zombie drag". Now, my feelings on the zombie issue are a matter of public record; I've long been known for my firm anti-zombie stance. I make no apologies for this; I'm a tolerant man in most regards, ready to embrace and celebrate all manner of human diversity, but I simply draw the line when it comes to the carnivorous shambling dead. However, being as how it was quite generous of my hosts to invite me to this gathering, and quite generous of the birthday girl to accept my presence despite not previously being acquainted with me, I thought this would be a good opportunity to put aside my habitual hatreds and enter into a new relationship with the state of zombie-dom.

I did my best to make myself up in a fitting zombie style, as the following photographic evidence will prove:

Once I was properly decomposed, we set out for neighborhood nightlife spot The Zeitgeist, a rough-and-tumble pub with a sprawling beer garden that was packed to the gills with diverse recreationalists, including a fair number of zombies to round out our party. Despite the rapidly dropping temperature (I hadn't dressed in anticipation of being out that late), our undead congregation managed to enjoy ourselves thoroughly. We mumbled and groaned to the rough tune of Happy Birthday and ate brains (cleverly disguised as a tasty cake), and I spent most of the evening discussing science fiction movies with a couple of Russians. I also got a tipoff from a very nice evolutionary biologist about a regular Dungeons and Dragons game taking place in Berkeley, to which I might be invited. It would be a welcome fix to my RPG-deprived system, I must admit.

It was an exciting evening, and as I lurched home and curled up in a seat on the BART, it took me a minute to figure out why I was getting such strange looks. Fortunately, a nice hot shower restored my vitality and my usual healthy complexion, and the remainder of my weekend has been entirely uneventful. But I'll keep my singing voice in practice and my dice warmed up, in case more karaoke, D&D, or zombie raids should occur.

Hope all of my dear readers have been enjoying the good life, or at least a good undeath, and just so there isn't any confusion about my allegiances, I should clearly state that if any zombies among my audience wish to drop by my apartment for a few friendly drinks and some chuckles, I'll happily put a neat hole right in the base of their skulls and set them on fire.

I hate zombies.

Just In Case Anyone Was Wondering...

I Am A: Neutral Good Elf Bard (4th Level)

Ability Scores:







Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

(Actually, with those ability scores I'd be a pretty crappy bard.)