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April 14th, 2014

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35 Pictures That Prove The World Isn’t Such A Bad Place


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Weekly Puzzle

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Dr. Greg House

April 12th, 2014

Jigsaw Puzzle

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House Cast (TV Guide outtake)
Qiao and I started playing the game (together as a 2-person team to begin with), when Qiao's sister gifted him with an iPad while he was recuperating from his accident. Several of his sisters and in-laws play the game, so at any time, we have several games going with them. Later, Qiao installed the app on his cell-phone, so he and I play against each other too. He's quite good at it too.

Over the last year and a half, I've come up the following strategies for getting the most points in the game.

- On the first word of the game, if you can't take advantage of a DW (double word) tile, then play a word using only your low-value letters, even if it is only 2 or 3 letters long. Save your high-value letters for later in the game, so that you can get more points for them.

- In later turns, it is sometimes also better to save your high-value letters rather than playing them right away, even if that means getting a few less points on your current turn. An exception is near the end of the game, where you want to use up your high-value letters to keep them from being counted against you when the game goes out.

- When considering words to play, always try to position your high-value letters on DL/TL tiles, and/or include them in DW/TW words, to get the most points. I especially always try to take advantage of those special tiles when placing a 'Q' or 'Z'.

- Placing a word alongside another word also gives you extra points. Example: if you play the word "FOB" above the word "AYE", then you get points for all these words: "FOB", "FA", "OY", and "BE". So effectively, you get twice the points for your original word plus all the points of the other word, not even taking into consideration any DL/TL/DW/TW tiles.

- If you don't have any high-value letters yourself, try to take advantage of high-value letters that were already played by adding on to them.

- Try to avoid opening up (making accessible) any TW tiles for the other player when you place your word.

- If a TW tile is accessible but you can't make a word with it, consider playing a word that will at least make it harder for the other person to take advantage of the TW tile.

- Don't always play the first good word you come up with. Keep looking to see if you can find an even better word.

And lastly, my most important advice: Sometimes, you'll come up with such a fabulous word, that you simply MUST play it, even if it goes against ALL the above rules.


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Glitter Tree

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I suppose it is time to put my glitter tree (aka "xmas tree") back in storage until next winter. Before packing it away, I want to enjoy the pretty lights and glitter one last time... aah.

One nice thing about having a glitter tree up this time of the year, is that with the windows open, and a gentle warm breeze coming in, the hanging tinsel and other shiny stuff moves and turns slightly(*), extra sparkly and more alive.

(* - what is a good word for that? I can't think of one. flutters? flitters? vibrates?)

Ah, maybe I should keep it out after all, even though it feels partially anachronistic.


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April 11th, 2014

Over the past few months, I've been thinking more about presenting as genderfuck in my non-work time; namely, I've been thinking about packing.

For anyone who doesn't know me, let me make this clear. I am terrible at true genderfuck. Nobody is going to mistake me for a 14 year old boy or an androgyne. I am, shall we say, rather well-endowed and I do not bind.

I'd been thinking for a while about what would happen if I got a patdown while packing, and whether or not it would flag me as a security risk or cause me to miss my flight. I don't currently own a packer, so I've been packing with a wool sock which makes me feel rather … like I'm overcompensating, although my close friends swear it's more subtle than I think.

As my combination Passover and Spring Break trip to visit my folks neared, I considered the possibility that I might want to pack on my travel day because darnit, it's my right to present as whatever gender I want. However, as a person who always chooses to opt-out for patdown, I knew this could cause problems.

So I checked the TSA website. The transgender section only addresses binary identified people, and, of course, folks have had mixed results with their experiences traveling while trans*.

I used their feedback form and asked a number of specific questions about what would happen if a nonbinary identified person traveled presenting as their preferred gender. I got an autoresponse immediately, ["thank you for your submission"] and a "real" reply within 24 hours. I am sad to report that the "real" reply might as well have been generated by a robot. It was literally a copypaste of the TSA's Transgender Travelers page. It wasn't even signed.

My next stop was to call the TSA Cares hotline. I remembered immediately why people HATE calling this number. The first thing they do is ask for your full name. Now, granted, I'm hardly a threat to anything other than gender hegemony, and it gave me pause to give my name so forthrightly, because I suspect somewhere there's a file on me under my legal name and a record of all the weirdass questions I've asked the TSA.

The woman who handled my call was very polite and friendly, but she had NO IDEA how to answer my question. She told me she'd worked this phone line for two years and had never been asked this question before. She asked her manager. Her manager didn't know. However, this wonderful woman, instead of giving up, offered me a helpful alternative. She asked me which airports I was planning to fly out of and got me the contact information for the TSA head honchos at each airport.

I believe it was a Tuesday when I started the journey of reaching out to the Bradley Airport TSA guy, who is super nice and friendly and helpful. We played phone tag a bit due to his schedule, my schedule, and the crappy reception I have in the town where I serve.

Ultimately, I explained to him my situation: I am legally female, as masculine as I can dress, nobody would mistake me for anything other than a butch chick, but I prefer to pack as a way of expressing my gender. I chose to use the word "androgynous" rather than "genderfuck", because I feel like "genderfuck" is an excessively provocative word to use with uninitiated cisgender folks who might be your allies. I let him know that I would, as I always have, prefer to opt-out and get a patdown and I realized that getting a patdown while packing might cause undue alarm and I wanted to know how best this could be handled so that nobody freaked out and I didn't miss my flight.

He told me nobody had ever asked him about this situation before, and he provided a few options, including: having a female do the patdown, having a male do the patdown, or having my patdown split between a female officer and a male officer.  I said I was used to having a female do the patdown and was fine with that, but it was exciting to have options offered to me!

I was surprised to find out that even though my flight was on Friday, not even a whole week away, he had plenty of lead time to arrange things for me.  I was assigned a TSA Passenger Support Specialist and we set an appointment for a time for me to meet her at the security checkpoint. He also gave me the work cell number of the Transportation Security Manager for Bradley in case I showed up extra early or ran late. This was super helpful as I discovered this morning that I'd misplanned my schedule and needed to move everything up an hour. Then, of course, it rained the whole way down and I was somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes late.

After I checked in with my airline and dropped my bag off at X-Ray, I was met by my TSA Passenger Support Specialist, who took me right through to the head of the Pre✔︎ line. I joked that I should have gender issues more often. :)

The head of the Bradley TSA had warned me that since people perceived as women don't generally have bulges in their pants, I would need to disclose my "anomaly" and it might warrant further screening. Because I was identifying as nonbinary, the transgender policy doesn't currently cover me.

Before commencing the patdown, I had literally announced "There is an anomaly in my pants".  I found out that technically my sock does count as a prosthetic, but since I'm not identifying as a transman, again, they have to check my "anomaly".

It was suggested that since I'd have to remove "the anomaly" to scan it for residue, I should have a private patdown. Basically, you're not allowed to reach into your pants and pull stuff out in a public place because children are going through security, too.

So I went to get a private patdown with my TSA Passenger Support Specialist and another female TSA agent.  The procedure is the same as a regular opt-out patdown, but because there was an anomaly in my pants, I had to have a second patdown, known as a resolution patdown. They swabbed my TSA Passenger Support Specialist's gloves for residue, and they had to x-ray my sock. Then the other officer did the resolution patdown where they patted vertically and horizontally over the front of my groin to ensure I wasn't hiding anything else in there. They were totally respectful and non-creepy about the whole thing. I felt pretty fucking empowered.

After I was done, the Transportation Security Manager gave me an official TSA comment/complaint card as well as his business card. He reminded me that if I preferred, I could always check my packer and put it in after I pass through the security checkpoint. I agreed and pointed out that for some people, the wait in the security checkpoint line without packing would be extremely emotionally uncomfortable for them, and so I figured it was worth trying it out to see what it was like for all the people who might want to do this but are afraid to ask.

The man in charge of Bradley's TSA department has put me in touch with the man who is in charge of the TSA's diversity department so that we can talk about what kind of policy changes might benefit nonbinary travelers. I don't know how much weight my words will have, but if anyone has suggestions/requests, I will forward those along.

One thing I am suggesting to him is a clearer combined policy on prosthetics. Officially, there are THREE pages that address prosthetics. One handles "prosthetics" -- things like arms and legs. One handles "breast cancer survivors", and one handles "transgender travelers". If you read the prosthetics page, it says that your prosthetic may be handled and removed and checked by the TSA folks. If you read the breast cancer survivor page, it says if you're wearing a prosthetic, they can't ask to look at it or for you to remove it, but if it's packed in your carryon, they might need to look at it, but it's excluded from the 3-1-1 rule. If you read the transgender traveler page, it reads very much like the breast cancer survivor page. I think it makes a lot more sense to have all three pages refer to ONE page that clearly addresses different kinds of prosthetics so that it doesn't look like there's conflicting information about what you may or may not be wearing.

April 7th, 2014

hemp tofu

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I bought a package of hemp tofu. After reading the review on that page as well as the one here, I decided to cut it into cubes and pan-fry it.

Raw, it tasted bitter and unpleasant. Sort of like soy tofu that's too old and gone rancid. But the date on my package said Apr 21, so it should have still been good.

Frying it, it didn't crumble much or fall apart as the other reviews had mentioned. It held its shape fairly well. But it didn't brown much nor get crispy. The bitterness remained. I wonder if that bitterness is inherent to the hemp (and maybe is one of those bitter flavors that only some people are bothered by), or if it really just wasn't fresh enough. The other reviews don't mention bitterness.

In fact, several people mentioned it tasting similar or even better than tempeh. I completely disagree. Fried tempeh tastes much better to me.

I may even throw the rest of this out; it's that bad.


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April 4th, 2014

Weekly Puzzle

hughville posting in house_md
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House Cast

April 3rd, 2014

I'm watching Sirens, a new TV show in the US about paramedics. It's a comedy. In the 4 episodes I have seen so far, it has been irreverent about life, death, relationships, pornography, family, pretty much everything.

Pretty much a whole plot thread under hereCollapse )
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