Archive by Author

Ancestry.com and the Coroner’s Office

15 Mar

We’ve all seen the ads for Ancestry.com.  Check it out!  Find out that your great aunt Gertrude was awesome!  Only ~$300 if you don’t cancel before the 14-day free trial runs out!  (Yes, I’m serious, damn ancestry.com.  You be straight trippin’.)  Today little Wes was asleep on my lap, the laptop was within reach and I sure as hell wasn’t risking moving a sleeping babby.  So I figured why not?  A few hours’ dicking around later, I’d fleshed out up to my great-great grandparents on at least one branch.

My great-grandfather's name was Haggard, how metal is that?

As I was looking over my assembled tabs and trees and leafy icons, one in particular caught my attention.  I kind of stared at it for a bit, eyes narrowed and mind-cogs turning.

I wonder what ever happened to my dad?

Rewind to 198X.  Or thereabouts.  I was little, I don’t remember much.  What I do remember was finding my mom in her room, curled up into a ball and crying.  This was a period of time after she’d put my little brother and I into the car and driven us from Illinois to Texas, leaving Dad in our wake.  I was little…less than six?  According to the Social Security Death Index it was 1986 when Dad died, so I was less than six when we left.

Supposedly at some point after Mom took us to Texas, I was sent back up to Illinois to see him.  I have no recollection of this trip whatsoever.  I had to have been around five.  What a cheat, not to be able to remember the last time I saw my dad.  My last memory of him is him throttling the chair where Mom sat at dinner while she was packing us into the car.  How fucked up is that?

I remember that Mom’s room was completely dark when she called us in to tell us.  She pulled my little brother and I up onto the bed with her and explained that Daddy had been on a fishing trip and his heart had stopped, and we didn’t have a daddy anymore.  I don’t think I cried for a few hours, just from trying to process that all.  My brother got it right away.  He didn’t speak for a month.

It’s not a really unique story, honestly.  Divorced parents, young kids, one passes away.  Time passes.

Life goes on.

Fast forward to 199X.  I’m guessing 1996, since I was working on getting my license so that I could more effectively skip the more boring classes in high school.  A teenaged Jenibucket was attempting to organize some of my paperwork and found a little box in my things.  Weird, because I wasn’t aware that I’d packed my — I want to say that it was a sign-in book for my mom’s second marriage?  The book wasn’t really important, besides being a keepsake and somehow being in my possession.  It held a few odds and ends, mementos like receipts and pictures of my brother and I when we were little.

The significant thing was a news clipping.  I remember it falling into my lap like a piece of newspaper confetti, yellowed and just curled enough to spiral a bit in the air.  It was short, no more than a few paragraphs, describing a body that’d been found decomposing in the woods across the street from the victim’s home.  “Badly decomposed due to exposure to the elements,” I remember reading specifically.  I had no clue why the clipping had been saved at all until my dad’s name at the very end of it.  When I confronted my mom about it she admitted to lying about how he’d died.  She said he’d been killed, it had to do with drugs, and begged me not to tell my brother.

That was the last we spoke of it.  The clipping has since disappeared.  The memento book, the pictures inside, the receipts and the clipping.  Not a clue where they went.

Fifteen years later, and Ancestry.com has me boggled all over again.  I never found out anything specific about what happened.  And I’m a big growed-up capable adult now, with Dad’s sleeping grandbaby on my lap and a phone within reach.  Why not, really?

So I started calling people.

Well, more accurately, I started researching more.  I was pretty surprised; my Google-fu failed me completely.  The only relevant things I was able to turn up was my grandma’s obituary that listed his name.  For all intents and purposes, Google doesn’t realize my dad existed.  That’s mildly disconcerting.  If a man is killed in the woods and Google doesn’t know it, did it make a sound?

Ancestry.com did give me some key facts that I didn’t know, though.  Dad’s SOB, SSN, date of death.  (Thanks Google, you wouldn’t have pointed me there if I hadn’t known about it!  Aren’t you supposed to be omniscient?)  With that, I started making calls.

First, I called the city police.  They redirected me to the deectives’ bureau, who transferred me to the county sherriff’s office, who ended up referring me to the coroner.  The conversation opened very much the same with all of them –  by the time I got to the coroner’s office, I felt somewhat like a professional.  I had that shit polished.

“Hi, I know this is probably something that you don’t get very often, but my dad was killed in Redacted back in the eighties.  I was a little girl, and I’m just now trying to find out what happened.  Do you think you could help me?”
“Yes, Redacted.  October 1986.  This is his name.  This is his birthdate.”
“No, I don’t know the address it occurred at.  No, I don’t know if county or city police are the ones to take care of it.”
“Yes, he was shot.”
“No, I don’t know that — I’m so sorry.  I’m working off of information that I lost a long time ago.”

Only one of the questions caught me by surprise.  “Yes, I guess it could have been suicide.”

I was really impressed and grateful; after an initial skeptical moment of audible “wtf?” everyone I spoke to was incredibly eager to help.  My guess would be that helping someone find out what happened to her daddy is a bit more exciting than everyday paperwork.  It’s very crime-drama.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t find out old address, but the coroner is going to go through their old archives and give me a call back.  Once I know which police department responded, I can find the case number and use the Freedom of Information Act to get the information released.

I might get to find out what happened to my dad then.  I’m hoping it’ll put more worries to rest than it brings to light.  Either way, at least I’ll know and can stop staring at that Ancestry.com tab.

Trope Time: A Wizard Did It

6 Feb

I was gonna initially call these TRIP Reports — Tropes In RP — thinking myself terribly clever.  Then I came to write my post and realized that that is not how we spell “trip,” Jeni.  Derp.  Also, protip: writing a post that references TVTropes.com is a surefire way to lose several hours. That said, let’s talk arepeas!

Fuckin' wizards, how do they work?

For the uninitiated, TVTropes.org is the best time waster ever.  They take tropes, being “devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations,” and apply them to popular media.  Well.  Popular, unpopular, obscure, bad.  I can lose a whole day like this, mostly coming across tropes that I recognize from RP.  If I don’t recognize them, more often than not something will strike me as something I can use later on.

This is one of the most useful and most trite devices I’ve come across: when faced with a difficult situation, simply use the easiest way out of it possible.  A Wizard Did It.

  • Plot hole?  Mysterious wizard motivations explain all!
  • Continuity issues?  Wizards can time travel, bitches!
  • Characters becoming pests?  Wizard-induced amnesia!

My personal pet peeve example of this trope comes to us from Lost.  Lost, with its insane number of “Hey, this would be cool, let’s have mysterious crazy shit happen and uh…yeah well later, explanations will come later” issues.  When you don’t understand what’s happening, just tell yourself: “the island did it”.

I see this happening a lot in RP.  There’s the good, the bad, and the drastic.

The bad is clear enough.  You’ve all met the RPer with the absurdist backstory that’ justified as the Bronze Flight did it. Or those with the most insane plots imaginable, described away in a single sentence.

 

A witch doctor did it! ...why, WHY though.

This can be abused terribly. When you have a license to pretty much write anything, shit can get real absurd real quick.  It’s dangerous.

There’s the flip side, too.  On the good front, the exact same trope can be used to actually help things along:

The developers for World of Warcraft have stated multiple times that they are more interested in making game play fun than specifically following established mythology. As a result, much of the story established in the RTS Warcraft games has been retconned in World of Warcraft to better fit certain gameplay mechanics. The popular explanation on message boards from both players and moderators is, of course, “a wizard did it”.

This usage of it is more a suspension of disbelief than the forceful breaking thereof.  RP is, ultimately, just another game.  I’m about as hardxcore RP as you’re gonna find, and I say that actually having fun comes far, far before character integrity and plotline continuity.  If it’s not fun, and you can’t think of a way to fix it?  Why, my friend, allow me to introduce you to some wizards.  I hear they will be happy to help!

The drastic, though, is ugly.  It’s a hack-job fix to a much broader, overreaching problem.  Maybe friendships deteriorate OOCly.  Maybe someone suddenly has to leave.  When circumstances outside of your control leave you in a situation where you’re staring down decisions that your character would never, ever make?

Yeah.  A wizard can do that, too.  And better yet?  Your character doesn’t need an elaborate explanation.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  Seven little words can absolve you from having to deal with it forever: “I don’t want to talk about it.”  Or that, in whatever apostrophe-laden accent you insist on foisting upon your hapless guild members.  A wizard did it, it’s in the past, and now you’re completely free to get back to the business of actually having fun.

It’s a brute force fix, but it might just be able to salvage your character, your storyline, or your sanity.

Embrace Your Inner Geek

22 Jan

You’ll have to forgive me for being a bit out of blog-touch as of late.  Life has undergone the very strangest transformation into diapers, boobs and gaming.  Little man doesn’t want to move while nursing so we pull up the laptop, turn on Mythbusters, and have some quality cuddle time.

In essence, everything has boiled down to experiences that I find fascinating but the world at large likely doesn’t want to hear about (e.g. the phenomenon of chain soiling himself).  Leaving me feeling very

Thankfully, my doula gave me fodder!  Thank you, doula.  I love you.  Submitted for the approval of the midnight society: my birth story.

With that in mind, let’s talk about geekery.

If you’re reading this, you probably identify yourself as some flavor of geek.  Gamers and technophiles are two groups deeply associated with the traditional idea of “geek,” and WoW players make up a pretty substantial subset of the group.  Yes, I’m a WoW geek, and the husband plays too.  Our doula clearly was made aware of that fact, and WoW’d our birth story appropriately.  Or “appropriate.”

The husband and I read that together and laughed.  But when my inlaws came over and he mentioned reading it to them, I couldn’t give him the silent spousal What-Are-You-Thinking Look fast enough.  The prospect of sharing it with them was mildly horrifying.  It was just too geeky.  Wes’s godfather shared the sentiment, apparently:

It begs the question: how geeky is too geeky?

Of course the idea of a geek hierarchy is not new.  Personally, I’m a WoW RPer.

RPers are generally laughed at even by WoW geeks in general.  It’s the natural order of things.  Those in your little geek circle will almost always have someone that looks down on you (For me, these people are WoW non-RPers and up), and someone whom you look down upon (Goldshire RPers and down).  And God help me if any Goons got ahold of the birth story.  We’d be crucified as neckbearded basement-dwellers who had no place reproducing outside of perhaps multiboxing.

Which I also do. Mirror Image is a bitch.

I wonder though.  Is there any way to thwart this?  If I owned Blizzzard, would that somehow make the geekiness more acceptable?  What if I was just a Dev, or something lesser?  At what scale does this kind of thing become more sane and less “Holy shit, what creepy fans”?

My personal theory is that it’s all about balance.  If you don’t otherwise know that Husband and I are actually productive individuals with other hobbies and interests, the birth story makes it seem like we’re…well, the neckbeards others would assume we are.  But we’re not just WoW geeks; we’re overall gamers, I’m a font elitist and wanna be a falconer someday because that’d kick ass.  Hubby’s got his own bag.  Those who know us (and understand gaming in general) got a kick out of the birth story.  Those who don’t will probably be weirded right out.

What do you think?  Where does the line between acceptable geekery and “Wow, you should seek help” geekery lie?

BABYCLYSM

29 Dec

On December 6th, Andrew, Shelley and I went in for our So, You Want To Have A Baby And Were Supposed To Do So A Week Ago visit.  Everything checked out wonderfully, and we even got a sonogram taken.

meant to post this the day of, but I managed to come home, take a nap, and wake up in some crazy pain.  “Oh,” thought I, “I must be having cramps.  The doctor’s visit totally was supposed to make me crampy, so.”  And back to sleep I went, only to be woken up seven minutes later with the same pain.  The third time it dawned on me that oh, this debilitating regular pain might just be labor!

Oh yeah, it was totally labor.

Check that out. That is a BABY.

Westley Charles Balch was born December 7th, 2010, 3:34 pm after twenty-four hours of labor.  He weighed — well here, you can see from the whiteboard from the hospital room:

Our nurses and hospital were amazing.

His birth happened to fall on the day that our company released our big project, and so we have dubbed the seventh BABYCLYSM. I’ll write about labor later, because it definitely warrants its own post in which I can sufficiently expound on the concept that PAIN HURTS A LOT and then it stops and everything is awesome.

For now, life is completely changed around this tiny person’s existence, and it’s really not that bad in the least.  That is helped by the fact that family are all eager to tank him for us so we can sleep/get out of the house/retain sanity. Our doula also wrote up a birth story that’s about the geekiest thing ever, and I love it.  It, too, will be getting a post.

In the meantime merry Christmas, world.  Have a brand new human being.

My abdomen is kicking my laptop.

26 Nov

That’s a misnomer, really.  Chromie is now more of a thigh-top, as I have no lap left.

Hi there.  I’m a pregnant, pregnant gamer chick.  Due in five days.  Five. It’s falling to me to cover the wild and exciting world of the gamer parent.  Spoiler: right now, the wild and exciting world of the gamer parent consists of being about as mobile as a turtle.  This is up to and including being unable to roll over if I’m somehow stuck laying on my back.

Now, I’m not pro in the least.  Husband and I work in the industry, but for as much as I play (roughly “a whole hell of a lot”) I consider myself fairly casual.  But by God, I have a routine.  A routine involving mostly RPing in WoW and “No really, just one more turn and I can wipe that smug fucker Gandhi off the map” in Civ V.

And within fiveish days, that will be promptly change.  FOR-EV-ER.

And there’s more to it than just “oh noes, how will I keep up with the fishing dailies.”    When I first started playing WoW, we lived in a tiny little town of nothing.  Draw a circle around all the Boring in Texas, and we were the epicenter.  When I found WoW I hooked up with a network of friends that have become my primary social circle.  Trouble is, these guys can’t just pop over for a spot of tea whenever they feel like it.  They’re only around when a) they’re online and b) I’m online, and B is about to become a very scarce commodity.

It’ll be a very interesting transition, going from a gamer chick to a gamer mom.  And by ” interesting” I mean “I have no clue how this is going to work.”  (I tried finding a link of Wash’s definition, but YouTube apparently only has the Serenity opening in French audio.  This is perhaps its way of telling me that associating “Oh God o God we’re all going to die?” is probably not the best thing to associate with the imminent laboring.)

We’re at least having some fun with Cafe Press in the meantime.  No better way to pass the days than by making clothing for your little gamer-to-be.