Monthly Archives: December 2012

Uncommon Common Sense or: Rarely Known Commonly Known Facts

Uncommon Common Sense


Rarely Known Commonly Known Facts

                I was shocked recently while having a conversation with a friend to find out that they did not know that you should never drink or cook with hot water out of the tap.  So I have become inspired to write this little article made up of random bits of information that you may or may not know.

                While there are certain obvious facts such as corn, macaroni and cheese, bell peppers and potatoes are not vegetables, did you know that a serving of cantaloupe can be used as a replacement for a yellow vegetable?

Fruits are technically separate categories from melons and berries.  By the way, a banana, which has about the same amount of calories as an apple, but is about as nutritional as a glass of milk or a serving of broccoli, is a berry and they don’t grow on trees.  Technically, they grow on a gigantic leaf stalk.

It is basic information that anyone can learn from taking a chemistry class that cut onions release sulfur dioxide, a chemical which can also be produced by burning pieces of sulfur, which combines with water to make sulfuric acid, which is why the common cook’s trick of turning on the water when you’re cutting up onions is so effective in decreasing the burning in your eyes.  Basically think of it this way: it’s better to have a little sulfuric acid go down the drain than have the fluid lubricating your eyes turn into sulfuric acid.

Now, I will admit that a lot of important information over the years has been passed specifically through the male line or the female line, and as gender roles have begun to break down, and everyone is having to work more, instead of passing the information down through both lines, much of it isn’t being passed down to anyone.

For instance, you should never overload your washing machine.  It should be lightly loaded till two thirds full.  If you overload the washing machine, your clothes will not get clean and you risk breaking the machine, specifically the barrel coupler, which used to always be made out of stainless steel, but are frequently made out of plastic these days.  Note that if you do have this problem, it is your fault, not the machine’s and, while the repair will cost you somewhere between $60 and $120, it is still cheaper than buying a new machine.

While we’re on the subject of washing clothes, all soaps and detergents are made out of oil.  All of them, whether it is a biodegradable castile soap, or a non-biodegradable detergent.  However, not all are created equally.  There are two types of surfactants—long chain and short chain surfactants.  Surfactant is a fancy name for soap, and to get your clothes clean you need both kinds.  Long chain surfactants bind oil to water, and short chain surfactants bind dirt to water and foam more.

Tide is a short chain surfactant, so it will get basic dirt out of clothes, but it will not get oil out of clothes.  It is also the detergent most likely to cause allergic reactions.  Dawn, on the other hand, which is biodegradable, is a long chain surfactant and will even get crude oil out of your way.  That is why it is used by wildlife conservationists when cleaning up oil spills, to save wildlife.  If you put more than about a drop of Dawn in your washing machine, however, you will get a fountain of foam pouring out and across the floor.

If your battery terminals on your car become corroded, it can damage your electrical connection and make it impossible to crank your car, but you can dissolve the corrosion with a little baking soda in water.  People used to put a penny between the terminals on the battery to prevent corrosion, but with many modern batteries that is no longer possible.

The most common repair for VCRs was the removal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  They actually used to sell a device to prevent this.  For some reason, putting your sandwich in the VCR made sense to or was very funny to small children and toddlers.

Computers do not have, and have never had, a drink holder, but one of the most common tech support calls used to be, and still is occasionally, “My drink holder broke off,” always, of course, referring to the CD-ROM tray.  This, of course, goes along with those special cases, like when the tech was making a house call for a person who had repeatedly and continually had a problem with their computer.  He asked for the boot disk, and the person picked it up with a magnet and handed it to him; or the other case where they had all their floppies stuck to the refrigerator with magnets.  On one occasion, I heard of a person who had a computer that would not work at home but always worked when brought in, so when the tech went to their home to see what was different, he found that they had the tower complete covered in magnets and, for some reason, their electronic device would not work.  To understand why this was a bad idea, take either a basic electronics or physics class.

Magnets on the screen of a tube television.  The screen of a tube television is very similar to a fluorescent light bulb.  The back of a tube television contains an electron gun surrounded by weak electromagnets.  It will make pretty colors with a magnet on the screen while the television is turned on.  It will also mess up the calibration of your electron gun.  The television I watch now was once owned by a man who let his toddler play with magnets on the screen and, despite having had the electron gun degaussed, there is still a purple blotch about the size of a grapefruit that floats around on my screen.  Sometimes it’s green.

Despite common belief, the majority of Americans do not own computers to this day.  It has recently reached about 50%, and of those 50% at least one third are functionally computer-illiterate.

Salvador Dali never even heard of Photoshop.  He died before it was even thought of.  In fact, he died before the idea of using graphics on a computer was even conceived.  Yet, when I and my friends went to the Dali exhibit at the museum, one of our party over heard someone else saying, “Man this guy really liked Photoshop.”  Let me assure you that, if anything, Photoshop liked Dali.

Years ago, I had friends who insisted that you could live just fine eating nothing but meat, that one did not need vegetables.  Besides, they ate bread, cheese and potatoes as well.  They were all younger than I.  They are all dead.

While it is a known fact that vegetarians, historically, live an average life-span of eleven years longer than meat-eaters, except in America, this requires them to eat a balanced diet.  The chief example of this is Hindus, and you will note that they are not vegans.  Hindus consume milk, cheese, vast amounts of yogurt, eggs, rice and lentils, and some occasionally eat chicken.  This diet is fine so long as you do not have any kind of systemic health problems, especially thyroid problems which may require one to avoid soy, eat meat, and consume only cooked vegetables.  Man is, by nature, an omnivore and does best when consuming a primarily vegetable diet with approximately a quarter pound of red meat per week.  Red meat, despite popular myth, is not high in protein, but it is high in vitamin B12 and fat.

Asparagus is a green vegetable which has a tendency to aggravate arthritis.  I know because I had rheumatoid arthritis when I was younger.

Companies get away with mislabeling and down-right lying about products regularly by utilizing a loophole in the law called The Industry Standard, which says that anything may be defined by the industry standard.  So, with one quick and simple violation of the anti-trust laws, we have gotten such beautiful modifications of definitions as: redefining electrum as white gold, despite the fact that white gold is platinum and gold alloyed, and electrum is silver and gold alloyed.  This same principal has been used on your food, clothing, cars, etc.

Here we come into the dead hand effect.  Everyone used to be told that it was bad for your eyesight to sit too close to the television, but the real reason that you were not supposed to sit too close to a television is that when televisions were entirely tubes, there was one particular tube that produced a large number of X-rays.  This problem went away with the advent of solid state televisions in the late 1970s, which preceded the modern integrated circuit.  However, it is still bad for your eyesight to watch television in the dark.

Feeding children formula instead of breast feeding them leads to food allergies and other health problems.  Rice formula, of course, has very little protein, and soy formula not only causes a host of health problems and neurological impairment, but also happens to be a form of protein that cannot be digested by babies.  In fact, it is one of the last types of proteins that a person develops the ability to digest.

A .22 Magnum Teflon coated long round will go through bullet-proof glass, as will a .357 Magnum, but none of the calibers in between will.  Note, this is not necessarily the case on some of the newer, thicker bullet-proof glasses, some of which will stop even those, and some of which will fail to stop damned near anything.

I could continue almost indefinitely with random facts, like despite the fact that for many years they told people not to eat hard cheeses if they were at risk of colon cancer, and not to eat cheeses if you had sinus problems, scientific studies have shown quite some time ago that neither of these medical suggestions is valid and, in fact, Vitamin K2 found in aged hard cheeses decreases your chance of dying of cancer, while eating lots of green leafy vegetables and yellow vegetables greatly decreases your chance of ever getting cancer.

Finally, as to why you don’t drink the water out of the hot tap: Originally the reason was that people used lead pipes and the lead would leach into the hot water to a much greater extent than into cold water.  Even copper pipes had lead solder, which meant that you were getting copper (which in large doses is toxic) as well as lead.  The modern PVC pipes which are now being used outgas into the water.

PS: Diamond is no longer the hardest substance known.  There are several man-made substances which are actually harder.

Copyright © 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III


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Con Survival Guide, Post #10 – Dating How To or I Am An Alien; Would You Like to See My Spaceship?

Con Survival Guide, Post #10 –

Dating How To

or I Am An Alien; Would You Like to See My Spaceship?

            This is going to be a guide for the entirely clueless and those who are new to fandom. So if you haven’t gone to conventions before or have never tried to meet a member of your preferred gender at a convention, then this was written for you.

            Okay, I’m either the best person to write this article or the worst.  You’ll have to decide for yourself.  I have not tended to hook up with people at conventions because usually I was either there with a current girlfriend or wife or had a girlfriend back home.  Even when I was in an open relationship I rarely got together with other people at conventions.  Partially this was due to the fact that I’m just not that kind of guy, but mostly it relates to me being supremely naïve.  An awful lot of my conversations over the years have been followed with: “Hey dude, you know she liked you right?”… “What? Why didn’t you let me know before she left?”… “Dude, she was pretty obvious. What do you need, for her to say ‘Hey, want to go to my room and…?,’”… “Well yeah, that’s how I usually hook up.”

            I realize that that makes me sound like I’m either bragging or totally clueless.  I prefer to think of myself as having other important interests.  I am a bit of a nerd, and as an intellectual I can become so obsessed with ideas and intelligent conversation that I will fail to notice race, sex, and possibly species.  I can guarantee, however, that if a girl rips off her clothes in front of me while making suggestive remarks I will notice.  I’m not dead yet!  Ooh, have you seen this latest post by NASA?

            One of the great advantages of dating at conventions or meeting people through fandom related activities is that you can almost guarantee a higher IQ and a larger vocabulary.  If, on the other hand, you are attracted to the sound of whistling between the ears, may I recommend that you purchase a sheep.

            Many of the same rules apply inside a convention as would apply outside.  However, since many fans don’t know what any of those rules are I will start with even some of the most basic.

            As I mentioned in my previous blog General Hygiene:  or Why Does The Convention Give Out Soap With Dice In It?, use of Axe body spray, perfume, cologne, or rubbing dead skunks all of yourself is not going to make you popular at a convention.  A large percentage of the people at conventions have allergies and they are going to want to kill you if you stink to high heaven of synthetic chemicals.  Almost as bad is having a soured dirty body odor.  You might get away with the dead skunk, actually, at least before the other two options.

            Guys, wash your hair and comb it at least once.  The first day of the convention would be okay but Saturday would be better. Girls, we don’t care what your hair looks like.  Okay, the writhing snake thing and turning people to stone is a slight turn off; still, you should find plenty of guys willing to take the risk.

            Take a bath, and use deodorant, it’s not expensive… For convenience, I would tend to recommend Lavilin because with regular use you only have to apply it every week or two and it is an all-natural herbal deodorant that kills germs.

            While pickup lines are stupid and ineffective and therefore a bad idea, this is the one place where the opening line of, “So, what do you think of posi-muons?” would work.  However, a really horrible line like, “Haven’t I seen you in a dream?” will get the response it deserves up to and including having yourself thrown in the pool in the middle of winter.

            Intelligent conversation or really silly conversation is your best bet.  You can discuss science or your favorite book or show.  A combination of these is always good.  For example: “The real problem with a steampunk rocket ship is building up sufficient pressure without having your tanks rupture…”

            You are absolutely going to want to know about Firefly
, Star Trek, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

            Hanging out with your friends who already go to conventions is a good way to get introduced to people.  Wearing costumes for your favorite show is also a great icebreaker.  Interestingly enough, I’ve never seen anyone in a costume dress up as someone from Ice Pirates.

            Acting like a drunk redneck is always a popular turn off whether you are a lesbian, a straight guy, or a drunk woman. So is going up to people you know or worse yet complete strangers and groping them whether they are male or female, wearing a kilt or pants or anything else even if you are at FroliCon.

            Grabbing people’s clothing and exposing them to the crowd is also highly unacceptable.  Another thing that should be obvious but apparently is not is the ever popular “can’t get a hint.” For some people, a subtle hint can be as obvious as, “Get the fuck away from me, weirdo,” and they still don’t get it.  If they say no and move away from you four times in a row, you are past the point where you should have stopped.

            I have, in fact, had to stop people from throwing someone who acted this way off of balconies above the 10th floor on several occasions.  I have not, on other hand, stopped people from breaking someone’s arm.

            If the suggestions so far seem very obvious, then you’re way ahead of probably up to 10% of the people who go to conventions.

            Don’t be a hypocrite!  So now I’m going to digress into telling one of my stories.  People who know me realize that I am overly prone to tell stories about things that I’ve seen happen or I’ve done.  So a few decades ago I was walking through a convention when I saw three guys that I knew lying down on chaise lounges next to the pool.  Their hair was messy and greasy and they had all put on a few too many pounds.  They were sitting there critiquing girls that walked by on the other side of the pool.  They were also expressing the opinion that they were interested in only the prettiest, most well groomed girls who, in their opinion, should be throwing themselves at them because they were smart.  Now, I have to admit these guys were smart, but they weren’t smart enough to be wearing clean clothes that were not wrinkled all the hell or to get up and go talk to some girls.  If they weren’t interested in whether or not the girls were smart, I don’t really see why they would think that the girls would care whether or not they were smart.  They certainly were not muscular or fit and if the girls were using the same criteria as they were then they were working on becoming evolutionary dead ends.

            While these guys were later able to get girlfriends, it was not until after they had changed their behavior and grooming habits at least a little bit.

            If your tastes are, shall we say, a bit on the unusual side, involving say for instance the whole chicken, you might want to hang out with other people of the same persuasion.  Like so many things, this would not be difficult to find at a convention.

            You can also throw a themed room party anywhere except perhaps at an Anime convention.

            Many people wear buttons which indicate their interests and that they’re looking for a relationship or a hug or… I would assume that these probably work most of the time but they tend to embarrass me and I go away.  I am overly shy.  However, the convention could probably have a panel for overly shy people and fill the room without even telling them what it was supposed to be about.

            Playing Cards Against Humanity is probably not the best way to meet people unless you really are kinkier than a broken slinky, but it is hilariously funny and oh so very, very wrong.  Other types of games such as role-playing games and board games, while of limited social value, can still be a good way to meet people.

            If it is your interest, a LARP (live action role-playing game) such as Nero, SOLAR, the SCA, or Dark Passages is a fun hobby that can help you make social connections, but if you stand around talking with people about the game in front of other people who aren’t involved it’s very similar to when programmers talk in front of people who are end-users.  If you are a LARPer and a programmer, this problem may be compounded.

            Occasionally, someone, usually a guy, will take it upon themselves to grab a whole bunch of random people and play matchmaker as part of a game-like setting.  Don’t count on this unless of course you’re the person who’s going to be playing matchmaker.

            Just hanging out and talking is the best way to meet people most of the time.  It does not matter whether you’re working the convention, a guest at the convention, a dealer, or just an attendee; the best way for you to make connections is to talk to people and treat them like they are other human beings worthy of respect until proven otherwise.

            A little self-confidence also goes a long way.  Learning to speak well, and by this I mean proper enunciation, pronunciation, and syntax, will help you with relationships and getting better jobs.

            Pretending to be drunk or actually getting drunk is a much less effective way to hook up at a convention than anywhere else.  On the other hand, discussing the socioeconomic forces which led to civil war in the United States and how this problem was avoided in the Soviet Union may well get you laid at a convention.

            If you are a little bit clueless, get a point man or woman to let you know if you have attracted a group of men or women, depending, who are interested in you so that you don’t just fail to notice.  Also, do not hang out with a member of the opposite sex when you are trying to get hooked up with somebody you don’t know.  My best friend is a woman and we have a tendency to hang out together, which tends to decrease the probability that I will make a connection with someone new with an asymptote that approaches zero.

            Another tends to be a shortage of women at conventions, so if you are female and available that gives you a great advantage.  While women care about whether a man is married, in a relationship, or even just dating another girl, men are rarely as picky.  If you don’t believe me just ask my ex-wife.  I have seen a woman walk through a con and point at guys and say, “You’ll do; follow me,” or “You’re a maybe, come on,” and end up with a group of guys dutifully following them around and following their every instruction.  Women who are looking to get married generally tend to be quickly successful at conventions.  I am available to perform the ceremony if necessary.

            You don’t have to pre-screen for stupidity; stupidity and shallowness is less of a problem.  Ladies, be more blatant.  All the things you take for granted as flirting will go over the heads of most nerd guys.  They may also require more training than other guys but are more willing to make the necessary changes.  Nerd guys are also more likely to be willing to make a commitment to your relationship than mundanes.

            Guys, there is a time investment necessary in a relationship with women.They are not like a videogame where every time you stop there is a save point and you can come back whenever and be exactly when and where you stopped.  If you neglect the woman, you will lose her.

            Pretty much the same rules apply to relationships if you are gay or lesbian as apply to straight relationships.  People need to be upfront about whether they are looking for a hook-up, a committed relationship, casual dating, or a perversion of the laws of nature that would make Cthulhu blush.

            For everyone, you have to give your significant other enough space and time to themselves without neglecting them and you have to pay enough attention to them without smothering them.  This is rather tricky because to a certain extent this is something that varies on a case-by-case basis.

            I had a relationship a number of years ago where I was ready for commitment but I was dating a woman who was more afraid of commitment than your average redneck guy.  While this caused a lot of problems, what did in our relationship was false assumptions we each made about the other.

            You have to communicate with people and let them know what you really want.

            So in conclusion, there are many advantages to dating people who have the same interests as you, although it works best if not all of your interests are absolutely identical.  To sum up, what I’m really saying here is, “Eugenics is really just being picky who you sleep with,” but if you’re not picky you’re definitely not going to have any problem getting dates, especially if you’re female.

Copyright © 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Convention Survival Guide, Post # 9 – Politics, Cliques, and Other Childish Games or Three People Can Destroy the Fun for Everyone

Convention Survival Guide, Post #9 –

Politics, Cliques, and Other Childish Games

or Three People Can Destroy the Fun for Everyone

             Most congoers are nerds, geeks, intellectuals, or any one of a half-dozen fringe outcast groups. In fact, at least half of them are more than one of these particular overlapping side groups. A common problem with most of these groups is that their members were excluded from normal cliques in high school. In fact this tends to be a problem with any intelligent person because frankly there tend to be a lack of peers for intelligent people at any given high school. The small number of people who fit into that category may band together but it does not really take the form of a clique. Also, usually they are so busy being intellectually ahead of the game that most of them are somewhat socially behind. This frequently leads to cliques developing at conventions but this separatism is harmful in the long run to conventions themselves.

I have a friend who goes to conventions.  He says that nothing pisses him off more than geeks dissing on geeks. Certainly he has a very valid point. In the Lord of the Rings, you don’t see the elves fighting each other. That is the behavior of orcs.  In Julius Caesar’s war campaigns in Gaul you see the Romans providing a unified front while playing one Gallic tribe against another. To this day you see Neopagan groups fighting with each other and doing the job of their enemies.

From at least the 1970s through the early 1990s, southeastern fandom was a united community. No, not everyone got along with everyone else but we all pulled together. Different conventions were in different cities and headed by different people, but the staff for most conventions were usually the same. If a fan had car trouble, we took up a collection to pay for their repairs. If someone started to cause trouble at the convention the fans took care of it before security ever had to.

In the late 1980s, people started coming in to conventions and forming cliques and they didn’t grow out of it. They continue to act like high school students. At the same time, some of the people running conventions started playing political games. In the early 1990s conventions started competing against each other with the result that almost all of the conventions in the Southeast went away.

While there had always been enough room for all the conventions and average attendance was always between 1000 and 2000 at every convention every month, with the exception of the larger conventions like DragonCon and WorldCon, which had larger draws, membership dwindled to 500 or less for the average con. At the same time, thousands of people left fandom, never to return. That’s right: all the BS drove thousands of people away from going to conventions ever again. Their money, their support and their friendship was lost.

In martial arts we endeavor not to criticize other styles. I must admit that I tend to be a bit critical of martial arts as sport,  Despite having started out with an attitude that martial sports were more justified in the modern world, I have become very traditional. Martial sports get people unnecessarily injured and are of little use if you actually need them for self-defense. Yes, I think of the martial arts styles I practice as the best. However, I can see particular aspects of other arts which are superior. I can also recognize that what works for me may not be the best thing for someone with a different build and temperament. Both my build and temperament have changed over the years and so have my preferred martial arts styles. This could easily be the beginning of another blog and you may be wondering what that has to do with fandom.

Ignoring the fact that one of the special interest groups that overlaps with fandom is martial artists and that there are in fact a very high percentage of congoers who are also martial artists, we get into the real heart of the matter. If we endeavor not to criticize other conventions and genres, we can see what is good and useful in each of these and incorporate them into our own conventions, writing, or what have you.

Promoting your own brand of fandom or even your own particular favorite book, movie or convention does not require criticizing or sabotaging others. Mutual support leads to success for everyone but stabbing others in the back, while it may lead to short-term success, means that you have to watch every other direction for the rest of your life.

It’s all well and good to promote yourself, your products, your convention, your friends and the things you like so long as you’re not actively sabotaging others. If you had, for instance, a list of conventions on your convention website and you went and removed every convention that was not run by your personal friends, then only those conventions will promote yours. If, on the other hand, you promote a variety of conventions in a mutually supportive network, all benefit. A larger convention will not percentagewise benefit as much by providing a connection to smaller conventions as the smaller conventions will from that same connection, but they all add up.

I have seen conventions where the panels were filled with people’s personal friends while cutting out more qualified individuals. By not associating their friends with the more qualified individuals, it failed to promote their friends while making for a duller convention and eventually, when done to the extreme, this has resulted in the death of more than one convention.

Half the fun of going to conventions is making lots of interesting friends, many of whom don’t have the same interests as you. If you isolate yourself in a clique, while you can stroke your ego, the truth of the matter is that a clique is all about ego and does not actually involve making friends that last most of the time. Now having a group of people you hang out with is an entirely different thing. If you’re supporting each other in your endeavors you will all be more successful.

Of course we all know about that group of guys at Princeton who were busily engaged in tearing each other down and became so successful, but have you heard of that small group of guys at Cambridge who were cooperating with each other on a project they called Monty Python’s flying Circus? Oh wait, yeah, it’s the other way around. It’s the guys who mutually support and help each other. They become rich and famous.

If you look into the histories of Apple and Microsoft, you find the same thing: a group of people working together to accomplish a common goal. Even George Lucas’s success could not have been achieved without the advice of his next-door neighbor, Joseph Campbell, and his best friend who rewrote his early scripts, Brian Daily.

There were even people who provided services for the convention and worked who were harassed until they quit coming to conventions by people who just did it because they could.

The possibility of tearing conventions down in this way was made possible by an epidemic among fandom of lack of self-esteem, lack of spine, and a lack of loyalty. While people who had never done anything for fandom tore it apart by attacking one hard-working fan at a time or sabotaging individual conventions, the majority stood by and watched it happen. People were afraid or thought it wasn’t any of their business but it was their business and when you don’t stand up to bullies sooner or later they get to you.

When someone starts a group, “for the group,” and someone else who has done none of the work tries to take credit and make the group for them either the group has to stand up and say bullshit or the group will go away. The person who made the group has to set things up so that political games won’t undermine it. Of course they can always start another one.

Boy, girl games or boy boy, girl girl games for that matter are a bit more complex. The only advice I can give with regards to that is don’t get involved with people who are playing games and trying to manipulate you. If you get into that sort of thing just don’t let it spill over into conventions, work, or other areas that will affect innocent people’s lives.

Of course, generally there tends to be the problem that the bad guys organize beforehand and catch the good guys flat-footed. This is certainly borne up by history. Another problem in this case is that getting fans to work together resembles trying to herd cats.

I once saw an Australian Shepherd trying to herd about 30 feral cats. As they spread in every possible direction, the poor dog was following his instinct and got this look on his face that I can’t even describe. It did, however, remind me of so many staff meetings that I have seen. The better staff meetings I have seen consisted of people who knew their job and did it. Some of the worst staff meetings I’ve seen reminded me of acting auditions where people lie about their qualifications to get the job that they’re not qualified for and make everyone look bad instead of taking the job they’re qualified for and ending up looking better.

Political competition over control of a group or running a convention that does not get resolved quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction with the people who are actually doing the work being in charge consistently results in the dissolution of the group if it persists over any length of time.

Now if the convention is being run by someone who doesn’t do that great a job, the convention will slowly get smaller and smaller but that can be remedied by a change in who is in charge. That happened recently with ChattaCon, which is now being run better and once again improving. Honestly, one of the biggest blows to fandom was when Uncle Timmy decided to retire from ChattaCon. When he stepped back up and started LibertyCon, we got another shining example of what a con should be.

Soaring conclusion: I have to say that people need to grow the fuck up. A little maturity and self-discipline without a stick up your ass can result in having a lot more fun and everyone else having a good time as well. Until next time, “have fun!”

Copyright © 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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December 22, 2012 · 7:37 PM

Convention Survival Guide, Post #8 – General Hygiene or Why Does the Convention Give Out Soap With Dice In It?

Convention Survival Guide, Post #8 –

General Hygiene

or Why Does the Convention Give Out Soap With Dice In It?

             There are variety of strategies one can utilize to make sure that you are at least minimally hygienic and socially acceptable for a convention.  While con goers are extremely forgiving and accepting of others, there are limits. The picture I’m about to paint is not a pretty one and hopefully it does not apply to you.

A few years ago at one of the larger Anime cons in America, Anime Central in Rosemont near Chicago, there were a number of fans without rooms who became so pungent that a group of fans got together, rounded them up, and took them to one of their rooms and told them they could come back out once they showered.

Only one of the people rounded up complained.  All the others were extremely appreciative. This started the mystic “got soap” campaign. The convention came on board the next year and it has been a subtheme of that particular convention ever since. They started giving out convention soap. Soap with dice in it has since spread to quite a number of other conventions. Speaking properly, there is only one die in each bar of soap and they’ll usually only give you one per year.

Okay, so if you’ve read my previous blogs such as, “Where to Stay at the Con or Don’t Mind Me, I’ll Sleep in the TARDIS,” then you’ve got some idea of how to plan for a convention. Still, you may be planning to sleep under a table or behind some chairs in the lobby or you might have plans for rooming with other people who back out at the last minute, leaving you without reservations or enough money to get a room. In either case, this can leave you without access to a shower.

If you have friends who have a room, you may be able to get them to let you use the shower, or a lot of hotels have showers in the dressing rooms for the swimming pool. In the winter this is only really useful if the hotel has an indoor pool.

If you have a room, you automatically have a shower.  You just have to make time to use it.

Admittedly, this problem is more prevalent among young males than any other group. Now personally, I tend to shower and use deodorant before I leave for conventions or immediately after checking into the room, and I tend to use Lavilin, which means that generally speaking I need to use deodorant about once every week or two.

At Anime Central, they regularly have a yearly “Got Soap” slogan contest. If you haven’t checked out Anime Central’s website, I would recommend it. It’s also very good convention except that they don’t have a Con Suite. : (

You will actually hear me say some more about hygiene in general on the blog about dating, tentatively called, “Dating – How To or Hi, I’m an Alien; Would You Like to See My Spaceship?” which will be posted soon.

Okay, at least starting the convention with clean clothes, having had a bath, with deodorant, and with your hair combed should be both obvious and easy to accomplish. Okay, yeah, there are some people who hitchhike from one convention to another with just enough money to buy a badge or a plan on how to panhandle for enough. But let’s be honest, there aren’t that many people in this category.

If you’re dirty and you smell bad it is going to adversely affect your social life and most gamers lack the social skills to be subtle in their suggestions that you jump off a cliff into a lake that has a green Dragon sleeping on the bottom. Green Dragons have a chlorine breath weapon.

Hint, if you can smell yourself it’s way too late. If you have a tendency to get into gaming or some other activity and fail to sleep all weekend because you lose track of the time, it might be a good idea to set an alarm to remind you to go back to the room and bathe once in a while.  You might also want to take a nap in between games. If you have a good friend who also has the same problem, you might want to keep an eye out for each other.

Another hint: if you’re wondering why that girl doesn’t want to talk to you, it might be the same reason that that plastic plant next to you just wilted.

Some people at conventions try covering this problem by pouring a bottle of aftershave, perfume, or cologne on themselves, but as some girls have mentioned in front of me, “that shit smells so bad it just compounds the problem.”  Honestly, as a disproportionately high number of con goers have allergies, this approach just adds injury to insult. Furthermore, even though I am one of those people with severe allergies who can smell very little, even I have noticed that half the time you can smell the person over the aftershave, cologne or whatever.

If one of your friends is hopelessly unaware of having this kind of circumstance going on, you might want to hit him over the head with a bar of soap.

Fascinatingly enough, it is never the people dressed like zombies who smell like something dead and rotting. Okay let’s be honest, you have to be clean to put on all that makeup and if you’re oily the adhesive will not stick.

At the very least, you should be able to wash off a little bit in the sink of the restrooms and dry yourself with paper towels or the air blower.

In conclusion, if the other people at the con grab you and throw you in the outdoor pool with a bar of soap in the middle of the winter, you may need to consider bathing. If they throw you in without a bar of soap, you may just be an asshole.

Copyright © 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Martial Manners Or Why Proper Silverware Placement Can Save Your Life

Martial Manners


Why Proper Silverware Placement Can Save Your Life


                Many martial arts students have difficulty understanding what things like manners, what you eat and how you eat, and drinking have to do with martial arts.  As you go deeper into traditional martial arts, you find that diet is mentioned in everything from the Hogukare to Tai Chi manuals, as is etiquette.  So in this case, I will be discussing the importance of manners.


                Although the etiquette varies from school to school, or more appropriately, country to country, martial arts schools always have a particular etiquette of their own, and while this facilitates a smooth relationship between the students and instructor, and each other, and thus aids with the learning process, this is honestly the least important martial aspect of manners.  Warrior castes around the world have traditionally placed an emphasis on proper manners, and occasionally on how to have poor manners for the purpose of insulting your enemies.  Proper courtesy can prevent conflict and a warrior realizes that any combat whatsoever, even with an untrained person, has the potential for bringing about death, in themselves or others.


                One of my students, who is a PhD in psychology, has spent a lot of time doing sessions for trouble youth violent offenders, and one of the things he’s learned is that most of the time this behavior can be entirely solved and cured by simply teaching these kids manners, that oftentimes they will default to violence in any social situation where they don’t know how to respond, even when being complimented and told they have done a good job with something.


                When using chopsticks, there are proper ways to hold them which facilitate both being able to effectively eat with them, and being able to use them as a weapon, or for defense.  One should never point the chopsticks at the back of the throat.  In fact, generally speaking, anything that can lead to accidentally choking yourself can be turned into an attack by your opponent.  Likewise, holding a fork properly rather than the way a toddler holds one allows you to deflect or trap a knife, stab or slash an opponent, or just eat without looking like you’re shoveling your food, thus preventing embarrassing your host, or getting the crap beaten out of you by your parents.  One might also note that correct silverware placement for formal dining not only makes it very easy to determine which piece of silverware to use with which course, but it also makes it very easy to grab an appropriate implement to defend yourself with in case of attack. 


                Unfortunately, much of the humor, especially for kids, has traditionally revolved around people mistakenly doing things which are bad manners and thinking it’s good manners, but when people have not been taught proper manners, they end up not realizing that it’s a joke.   The most common example is when people stick out their pinky when drinking a champagne or tea or other drink.  This is never good manners, in any country, and is considered tacky, déclassé, and a sign of being ignorant and uncultured.  This has also contributed to the reputation for Americans abroad of being ignorant and uncultured, and should be avoided if you have any national pride whatsoever.  However, the martial implications are much more significant.  Certainly, if you were to drink tea this way around a medieval Japanese Zen master, it would have been viewed as appropriate to get your attention by cutting the finger off, but more realistically, the more frequent danger, even today, is that someone will grab your finger, pour your drink on you, and either put you in a joint lock or break the finger.  If you’re doing this in a public place like a restaurant, it could snag on the clothing of someone walking by, and you could find yourself on the floor covered in either your ice cold or boiling hot drink, with a broken finger while an unaware passerby walks away without even noticing.  So actually sticking your finger out like that is about as bright as sticking your arm out of the car to the side while riding a roller coaster.


                Always going to the right, with the exception of British cars, allows for free travel and keeps people from running into each other.  People who fight this create, essentially, foot traffic jams and are making things more difficult for themselves and others because they don’t know why they’re doing it.  Shaking hands is actually a way of demonstrating to the other person that you don’t have a weapon in that hand.  No, really, that is the origin.  A lot of people also use it to measure the confidence of a person.  There are also specific martial techniques to take advantage of a handshake, from Italian knife fighting to Judo, although a proper martial handshake of the type I teach my students will prevent most of those and allow you to match pressure with anyone you’re shaking hands with, without the danger of hurting them or being hurt yourself.  Some people go out of their way to just grab your fingers.  They’re just stupid pricks, and when that happens, I prepare myself to take them down in case they are trying to set up a joint lock.  Of course, real martial artists have a tendency to spend most of their time attempting to avoid conflict, which results in people who are minimally trained or untrained forgetting how dangerous they are, but it is that very ability to dispense death wholesale that leads to a more pacifistic attitude.


                The rules about wolfing down your food become very significant, or at least were very significant, if your food has gone bad or been poisoned.  If you eat slowly and chew thoroughly, one may detect by taste this type of hazard, or at least ingest such a small amount before you start to react that you realize and stop before it turns deadly.  It also increases your enjoyment of meals, enhances digestion and absorption of nutrients, and helps regulate the number of calories you ingest.  It is generally martially recommended that one eat until one is 2/3 full.  To be honest, when you’re really stuffed, it’s not just hard to defend yourself, it can be very hard to move at all.  I personally do not recommend getting into any situation where your most effective defense technique would be to throw up on your opponent.  When you are served an eight course meal, all the portions are very small, but they quickly add up.  It is especially important under these circumstances to eat slowly.  It is also especially difficult, especially if you are very hungry.  It is also especially difficult if you are a small child.  Nonetheless, wolfing your food under these circumstances leads to a number of undesirable side-effects, including getting smacked by your mother, the cute kid being laughed at by Happy Rockefeller, upsetting your stomach and not being able to eat later courses because you ate too fast, and getting a long lecture on the way home.  However, when you get older, no one thinks it’s funny or charming, and honestly the numerous adult jokes about how hungry the little kid is do get embarrassing. 



                There are of course many things related to manners which are location-specific and have no direct implication for martial arts, such as which direction you point your feet, whether or not you burp, or whether men or women stand on the inside when walking past buildings, and of course many manners are dependent on time-period and other factors, such as sanitation, transportation, etc.


                Knife safety procedures are just that.  The reasons for never pointing the point of a knife, or the blade of a knife, towards yourself, and always cutting away from you, and requiring people to say “thank you” before releasing a blade are all to prevent serious injury.  Frequently, untrained people will criticize this etiquette, but anyone who deals with blades on a regular basis knows that ignoring these rules eventually leads to injury, to themselves or others.  Real cooks, knife fighters, and Boy Scouts observe these rules for a reason.  Untrained people frequently think I should let go of the knife as soon as they grab it, without me having a way of knowing for sure whether they have it, but I would prefer them not to lose a finger, or have a knife sticking through their foot.  I have seen many injuries from knives, and while most were caused by people ignoring these rules, some injuries occurred in spite of these rules, so I continue to take them seriously.  While I am tempted to go into the strategy of where you want to cut an opponent and where you want to get cut, that is really another subject.


                In conclusion, while proper manners are essential for maintaining a happy social life and getting and keeping jobs, they are absolutely essential for maintaining martial safety. 


Copyright © 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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