The Blog of Kiran Lightpaw

On Trolling, Nazis and the Furry Fandom

Tags: furry, trolls

Happy Easter everyone.

So this started out as a tweetstorm, but I thought it might be better as a blog post, so here goes.

So we seem to be having a bit of an issue right now with neo-Nazis in the furry fandom. Now, whether these people are actual neo-Nazis or just middle class punk kids looking to get a rise out of people is another question, but for the time being, I am going to take these people at their word and assume they actually believe in the tenets of National Socialism. After all, when you retweet posts celebrating Hitler’s birthday, you just might be a neo-Nazi.

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Let's Talk About Furry Cons

Tags: furry, conventions, fwa

We need to talk about cons.

This post began as a series of tweets, in reaction to Furry Weekend Atlanta’s announcement that they were going to try something different to replace the fursuit parade. This is, of course, a divisive issue. Some people have called parades “death marches” (which I think is a bit of an exaggeration) while others are apoplectic with rage that their favorite event of the con is changing.

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Kiran's Mac Essentials

Tags: computers, mac, apple

Putting this here for a friend, but if others want to check it out, you’re welcome to. I’ve been a Mac user for the last ~10 years, and here are a series of my favorite Mac programs and some tips for new Mac users.

What I Use

  • Address Book: The built-in Contacts app (Contacts.app).
  • Archives: The Unarchiver. Opens just about any kind of archive.
  • Bittorrent: Transmission. Not as full featured as others, but works well enough.
  • Browser: Firefox, with a whole lot of plugins.
  • Calendar: Built in Calendar tool (Calendar.app).
  • Chat: Adium. Simply the BEST IM client out there. Although it has largely been supplanted by Slack at my workplace, it’s still an essential part of my workflow.
  • Editor: Sublime Text 3.
  • Email: Built in Mail tool (Mail.app).
  • FTP: Cyberduck. FTP, SFTP, etc.
  • Launcher: Alfred. Alfred is a launcher, but it’s also so much more. So you can Control+Space and type what you want to open, including files and programs all across your Mac. The real power is in the programmable workflows though.
  • Media Player: VLC. Can play pretty much any piece of sound or video. Also, iTunes for Music. But it’s iTunes.
  • Office: The iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) is good enough for general use, but I also have Microsoft Office for Mac.
  • Password Management: 1Password. Stores passwords, credit cards and other stuff. Makes surfing super easy.
  • RSS: ReadKit. I use a Feedly account for syncing.
  • Sync: Bittorrent Sync. Use this to keep several directories in Sync betwen my various computers.
  • Terminal: iTerm 2. The best terminal client for Mac. Terminal.app is included with the OS, but this is better.
  • To-Do List: Things.
  • Twitter: TweetBot. Syncs with other Tweetbot versions for iOS.

Homebrew

Install Homebrew. This adds Linux-style package management to OS X. Also install Homebrew Cask and you can install lots of the above from the command line. The Mac comes with a lot of things (php, ruby, python, git, svn, etc.), but I recommend installing versions from Homebrew so you have a single update path. The homebrew versions are usually more up-to-date.

A couple packages I recommend installing from homebrew:

  • The coreutils package will give you the GNU tools (ls, etc.). You can alias them in your .profile.
  • git, subversion, etc. The built-in versions are usually out of date.

Other Stuff

  • Caffeine. Easily turn sleep/screensaver on and off. Sits in the menu bar.
  • ControlPlane. Lets you script actions in response to changes in your computer. So for instance if you arrive at work, you can have it launch programs for you.
  • Dash. API documentation that is super easy to reference.
  • f.lux. Adjusts your screen colors to be less hard on the eyes.
  • Growl. Growl is a messaging system for Mac OS X. Most major apps support it. Not as essential as it once was since the OS now has this built in, but many older programs still retain Grow support.
  • Handbrake. By far the easiest way to rip DVDs.
  • iDentify. Identify fills in metadata (Ratings, Titles, etc) on ripped DVDs.
  • OnyX. Mac system maintenance tool.
  • Paprika. I like to cook. This is what I use to manage my growing recipe collection.
  • Paw. A great tool for interacting with APIs. Useful for work.
  • RadarScope. What I use to watch the weather. :)
  • Scrivener. Maybe one day I’ll finish that novel…
  • Viscosity. I run an OpenVPN server on my router at home. This is what I use to connect home.

Other Suggestions

You can dual-boot Windows or Linux using Bootcamp. You can also emulate a VM on top of OS X. I personally find Parallels to be the best, but VirtualBox is free and is usually good enough. Useful for the occasional piece of old software you can’t do without or when you need to test something in IE.

System Preference = Control Panel on Windows. Can always be reached from the Apple Menu in the upper left. Spend some time exploring in here. The default settings for most thigns are kind of obtuse.

Many things in the Mac can be customized using the defaults program from the command line. Many things are only reachable from here. Some are listed here. There used to be a program called Secrets, but I can’t find it now.

Adjust your mouse/trackpad sensitivity. I personally find the default sensitivity to be way too low.

Use Time Machine. It has saved my bacon so many times. A spare hard drive with the occasional backup will work.

The home and end keys, by default, suck ass and don’t work the way they do in any other OS. Instead of going to the beginning or end of the line, they go to the beginning or end of the document. This drives me crazy. You can fix it by following these directions.

Describes My Life

Tags: poetry, quotes

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tennyson, Ulysses

New Car!

Tags: cars

Since having our first child in 2012, we have really been struggling with one thing I hadn’t anticipated on struggling with - an inability to travel because both my wife and I had small cars. She drove a Mazda Protege, and I a Toyota Tacoma.

For some reason, babies need lots of things, and as my daughter grew beyond her infant carseat, we were now unable to go for longer than a single night simply because we couldn’t fit enough stuff in either of our vehicles.

Well, no more! Last night, we bought a Volkswagen Jetta Golf SportWagen!

Furry Weekend Atlanta 2014

Tags: furry, conventions, fwa

Well, another year has come and gone, and what a year it was!

I really felt like, after eleven years, I’d seen it all. But FWA 2014 blew me away. We overcame some enormous obstacles to pull out an amazing convention, and I’m so proud of how it turned out.

I’m so proud of my staff. You guys did an amazing job this year overcoming some enormous obstacles. Your energy and enthusiasm was amazing, and I’m proud to have worked with you.

Thanks to our performers and panelists who made some memorable moments and shared their experiences with others.

Thanks to our charity, Conservator’s Center, for being at FWA again. We love supporting you guys and we believe in your mission.

Thanks to the 7,000+ people (OMG!) who tuned in to watch the fursuit dance competition live stream - enough people to crash our website! You know what’s better than watching it on live stream? Seeing it in real life, because it’s so much better in person!

And finally, thank you, the attendees! You’re the reason we work year round to put together a convention, and when I walk the hallways seeing everyone having a good time, I know all our work is worth it. We love you guys, and we look forward to welcoming you back home next year for FWA 2015: Shangri-La - The Furgotten Orient.

2014 By The Numbers

  • Total Attendance: 2,488
  • Fursuit Parade Count: Approx. 415 (I don’t have an accurate count yet)
  • Total Raised for Charity: $20,000
  • Factoid: At peak, our registration staff were moving through one person every 4.3 seconds!

Furry Weekend Atlanta 2015

Frozen

Tags: movies, disney, music, lyrics

When you have a toddler, it’s hard to do things. Even simple things, like going to the movies. So with the grandparents watching her, we were finally able to get to go see Frozen - a full three months (nearly) after it opened.

Wow. Hands down the best Disney movie since The Lion King hit theaters 20 years ago. Probably the best movie I’ve seen since Avatar as well. The animation was gorgeous, the music was top-notch, and story was refreshingly different from typical Disney “princess” fare.

Moreover, it feels like Disney is Disney again. If The Lion King was the peak of Disney in the 1990s, we went down into a pretty deep funk there for a little while, bottoming out with Home on the Range. It finally started to turn around with Bolt and now it almost feels like we’re back where we left off.

A small part of me still bemoans the death of hand-drawn cell animation. There’s just something to be said for the rough, 2D look. But, I really think the success of those 2D films wasn’t due to the animation, but the quality story. If you start with a bad story, all the greatest animators in the world won’t be able to save you (see Home on the Range, Chicken Little).

Now, that said, the animation in Frozen, despite being computer generated, feels more honest than any previous computer animated film. You really feel like, finally, the method has grown up to the point where it’t not jarring and weird - or maybe enough time has passed that we’re used to it now. It takes a back-seat fo the storytelling. And, besides, when you step back and look at the end product, it’s just gorgeously done!

Also, it’s nice to see the comeback of the “big pop song” to go along with the movie - a la Elton John’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” (seriously, you could not swing a dead cat in the mid 1990s and not hit that song - it was everywhere). Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” is a worthy successor to that throne (and, like Elton’s song, it too won an Oscar for Best Original Song).

In short, if you haven’t seen it already, drop what you’re doing and go see it right now. Heck, it will probably be out on DVD before the end of the month.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

Southern Snows

Tags: snow, weather, the south

So without a doubt you’ve seen the reports about the “Snowpocalypse” we had in the southeast. “Two inches,” they keep saying, paralyzed an entire region. They then look smugly down on us poor southern hicks, unable to deal with two simple inches of snow. “We get x inches a day here!”

If only it were that simple.

To understand what happened and why this was such a big deal, you have to understand some things about southern weather and cities in the South (especially Atlanta and Birmingham):

  1. It wasn’t “two inches of snow.” It was two inches of snow on top of 2-3 inches of ice.

    It wasn’t the snow that was the problem. It was the thick sheet of ice that formed everywhere that was the real problem. And this is what always happens when it “snows” here: ice forms everywhere. Snow in and of itself isn’t a problem. But ice is a major problem.

  2. We do not have the infrastructure to handle these things because they are very rare here.

    A snowfall like this, in a major Southern city, happens about once every 5 years or so. There’s no more reason for Atlanta or Birmingham to have salt trucks or snow plows than there is for New York to have hurricane levees or tornado shelters. That equipment would spend most of its time unused, and would be a waste of money in the first place.

    I always tell my northern friends to replace “inches” with “feet” when talking about snow in the south and comparing that to their locales. So imagine a couple of feet of snow falling in a day. That would paralyze any city.

    Two inches might as well have been two feet for a city with few, if any, snow plows or salt trucks and no other infrastructure to handle snow and ice removal.

  3. “Atlanta,” as a city, only has a population of about 500,000. The Atlanta Metro area has a population of 6.1 million people. See the disconnect there?

    “Atlanta” is actually made up of about a dozen counties and dozens or hundreds of smaller cities and towns. Each of these towns has separate police, fire, and infrastructure to maintain. And not only do these towns not coordinate with one another, they are often outright hostile towards one another. So when a major event like this happens, there’s no one to coordinate things for the entire region.

    As a result, everyone let schools out at the same time and everyone got out of work at the same time. When that happened, millions of people were on the roads at the same time. Considering that Atlanta traffic is complete shit on a beautiful clear sunny day, this was not a good thing.

    Atlanta is also not flat. The majority of the city is made up of rolling hills, some steeper than others.

    Throw in multiple times the amount of normal traffic and a two-inch coating of ice and no infrastructure for ice removal and drivers that have no experience driving in winter weather and geography that is made up of hills and … well … you get exactly what happened. A natural disaster.

    And Birmingham is just a smaller Atlanta, with all the same problems. The exact same thing as above applies there.

The big thing is the lack of infrastructure. Our population is not used to handling winter weather, because it is not something we often encounter. Two inches of snow is absolutely enough to paralyze a region that cannot deal with snow.

Hell I had to go get a new heavy coat for skiing this last week because a light coat or sweatshirt is all I need most winters. On the absolute coldest days, when it dips below freezing, I’ll wear both and maybe a hat if it’s really cold. Extreme cold and, really, any snow are just not things we’re used to dealing with here.

So yeah, look, I know it’s easy to make fun of us. Bama fans just taken by themselves give the world a lot of well-warrented comedy. But, on the whole, we’re not dumb. Our cities are just built to handle different types of problems (like hurricanes, tornadoes and lots of rain). Snow is not something we worry about, so when it does happen, it tends to make a just a big mess.

Back from the ski trip

Tags: skiing

Wow. I can’t believe it has been 12 years since the last time I skied. And I can’t believe that I had forgotten how much I loved it.

Yes, the last time I skied was just after Christmas in 2002, at Winterplace in West Virginia. When I lived in Tennessee, getting up to Winterplace was only about three and a half hours - easily doable for a day trip. But living in Huntsville makes that an almost seven hour drive.

Sure, there are a handful of other places nearby to ski. There’s a Ober Gatlinburg, and a few places in North Carolina. But to really get good snow, the best places in the South have always been in West Virginia.

This time, though, we went further. To Showshoe.

Getting up there was a challenge in and of itself. It was snowing pretty good before we even crossed into Virginia. By the time we got up on those two-lane roads, it was coming down good and the roads were starting to ice. We made it in just in time. But, the next morning, I awoke to a mountain covered in glorous powdery snow. Perfect for skiing.

It was a killer weekend. Snowshoe is a much more challenging place to ski than Winterplace. Some of the “beginner” runs at Snowshoe would be Intermediate runs elsewhere, and I didn’t even attempt any black diamond runs after 12 years without doing this (and especially given my … current physical state). Even without the risks, though, it was still a great time.

In short, in the future, I’m going to make time to ski more.

Website Updates

Tags: kiranlightpaw.com, skiing

Made some updates to the website today. This website.

Notably, it’s actually a pretty big growth from what I intended just a couple months ago to be just a simple blog. I’ve started adding and fleshing out some more real content:

  • Added some of the stuff I’ve written over the years (and more is on the way as I clean it up).
  • Added a terribly pretentious About page. :)
  • Added an incomplete list of Links.

I’ve also updated, for the first time since 2006, my “How To Do Your First Furry Con” guide. I figured eight years was probably enough time to have elapsed for some of the information to become stale. Things like smart phones didn’t exist, and things like “travelers’ checks” did.

Also, space background! I like space!

In other news, I’m heading out to go skiing this weekend in West Virginia. This will be my first time up on skis in an unbelievable 12 years. Let’s see how much of this I’ve forgotten.