A Valentine’s Day Retrospective

 

 

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Photo by jdunham @ Morguefile.com

EDIT: My girlfriend came down with something and we have shifted our date to either this weekend or later next week. Nonetheless, we are both very enthusiastic!

 

Valentine’s Day holds special significance for me, even if the turn of events that brought my good fortune had not occurred. These are for reasons that I am not yet quite comfortable sharing, though perhaps that may change over time.

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Ghost of Painters Mill

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Photo of the Old Lion Brothers Building, taken by Dylan Greene

Yesterday was occupied by visiting my grandparents and today was something of an oddity. Aside from Dungeons & Dragons, I took this opportunity to indulge in a guilty pleasure of mine: Taco Bell. If you go up Reisterstown Road long enough (my previous GPS mispronounced it so it sounded like “REESE-terstown”) from my house, you’ll come to a part of Owings Mills called “Painters Mill”. That part has gone under some significant redevelopment. Recently, a small block of stores has been demolished, guess nobody will miss the Cricket Wireless or the gnarly looking adult DVD store.

On the other side of the road is Foundry Row, a newly built shopping plaza that’s got a Mission BBQ, Zoe’s Kitchen, Bagby Pizza, Chipotle, and a Wegman’s. There’s a DSW planned as well, which Fits right in with Owings Mills’ affluent nature, though I must confess that slick facade does not appeal to me.

What did, however, was a fragment of my childhood that lay in stasis. Near the Pizza Hut across from the Taco Bell I ate at is the remains of an old embroidering manufacturer, known as Lion Brothers. In its heyday, it was the world’s largest manufacturer of embroidered emblems.

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The Stroke of Midnight

2016-04-23-14-04-20Today is officially the first day of 2017. It is, by luck of the draw, the first birthday of Memory of the Star. As with most of us, it is a time to reflect on the year behind me but also a way to plan the year ahead.

My therapist has instructed me not to take up New Year’s resolutions and I understand her reasoning. Instead of performing a resolution, I am going to do what I like doing the most: taking a snapshot of where I am and where I was the year before.

Unfortunately, my inaugural post has since been trashed. Not because I particularly regretted it, but because Memory of the Star began as a directionless blog. During that time, I was at the start of a long process of recovery from depression, a process that continues to this day. My thoughtful posts were mostly forgotten by both me and whatever audience I had at the time.

In their place were daily prompts, which I often answered with little enthusiasm or vigor. Not that they weren’t helpful with bringing in fresh faces, but the bump in traffic that I received was not really that significant. Nor did it help build any semblance of community. Bringing eyeballs means one thing, getting them to stay is another. Yet, I’m glad that I let it remain dormant until my journalism classes completed.

Memory of the Star, like the New Year itself, represented a fresh start. As I had grown dissatisfied with the direction that Eyes Through The Glass had taken. Fortunately for me, a fresh start is not needed this year. Just a look back to the year before and a look forward to the year ahead.

Despite the deletion of my first post, I have an excellent recollection of what had happened. At the time, I was in a state of limbo, having been out of school for some time and in preparation for my triumphant return during the following spring.

My social group had formed over Dungeons & Dragons. I had focused on getting my social life and academics back in order before anything else.

Now, those aspects of my life have been pretty much fulfilled. So, I figured I’d spend the time this year focusing on some more subtle aspects. Some of these are things I’ve already started doing, others are things I started and fell off the wagon with.

Dating is an ongoing journey, and given that my post “Curse of the Lonely Heart” was the post that received the most likes I will likely make more references to it. For a while, it was a tie with my decent but personally uninteresting topic of weight loss. However, a few days ago someone pushed it over the edge.

For the purposes of this snapshot, I am currently single. Some things hint at a possible direction, and I am still trying, but we’ll have to see where this goes.

Speaking of weight…My NaNoWriMo adventures did my weight loss program no favors, having gained all of the weight I took the time to lose. Fortunately for me, weight loss was a simpler process than I anticipated and the most it will take is a bit of discipline.

There are other aspects that I could highlight, but for the sake of brevity and focus, I will use these. We’ll see where this is in 2018.

The Human Face of Atheism

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Photo by lisaleo @ Morguefile.com

I have found one thing very odd during my time in the blogosphere. Despite my atheism, I have for some reason attracted a small contingency of openly religious bloggers. I have no explanation for this, though I suppose it can be chalked up to mundane demographics like the geographical location of the bloggers.

For a while, I was trying to figure out how to broach the topic of my atheism. I could do what other atheists do and argue my position and I could a pretty good job too. Indeed, I could spend the rest of my blogging career refuting theistic claims. Yet, I also shy away from that because the atheist-theist dialogue is painfully static. Most of the atheists I know are still refuting Pascal’s Wager, usually because theists don’t check beforehand to see if this is an argument that has been presented before. This ends up with pages upon pages of refuting the same arguments. I would never run out material, but I’d be making the same arguments over and over again.

Yet, I can make one observation: Atheism, as viewed by most theists, is misunderstood at a very fundamental level. Even my dentist’s assistant had trouble grasping the notion and I get a lot of people asking me if I celebrate Christmas. Surprisingly, not only do I celebrate the holiday, but it is also my favorite holiday for a very specific and secret reason. Though you may be able to wring it out of my offline friends because they know.

Since logical argumentation doesn’t seem to be advancing the dialogue, I decided it would instead be more productive if I simply told my story. How I came to atheism, and what has changed as a result.I also really like the personal story of atheism, seeing the story of atheism being taken out of purely abstract concepts and given a human face. So, just how did this start?

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A Ring From Lake Elkhorn

 

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Photo by Lucas Larsen

 

Yesterday, I happened upon a rather interesting discovery. I had not anticipated this when I trekked out to Lake Elkhorn to visit Nathan, Lucas, and Maggie. We wandered around the Columbia lake for a while before heading off to Cheeburger Cheeburger (which we call “the malt shop”) and talked at length about the usual topics that we normally discuss, such as the Aletha blog post I made earlier.

While we were wandering around the lake’s perimeter, I noticed a small glistening object in the dirt. Upon reaching down and picking it up, I realized that I had come across a very small ring. My friends suggested that it was a toe, and given that it was too small for even Maggie’s fingers, I am inclined to believe that it was.

My first instincts vocalized were, “Who dropped this? Can we return it to them?”, but it took me less than a second to understand that this was an impossible task. We had no idea who dropped it, though I can’t imagine they’d be in good spirits.

My friends suggested bringing it to a pawn shop, though I can’t imagine I would have gotten much for it. Instead, I made the decision to save it. I would give it to someone else in the future, someone who was special to me. It gave me motivation, a reason to keep trying. Someday I would find someone to give that ring to.

Session One of “Curse of The Lonely Hearts”

 

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Photo by GaborfromHungary at Morguefile.com

 

This past Sunday I began my first session of my therapeutic Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I took careful notes during the session as to preserve what had happened. All in all, it was a successful session and my therapist and I both agreed to hold several sessions. I wanted to see where this goes.

Since we only had an hour, we played a streamlined campaign. What this really means is that combat was extraordinarily simplified, which was assisted by the fact that it was a one on one session. Since she was busy with work, I took the time to pick up the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide so she could have a premade world to drop Halador into.

I was told some information that Halador doesn’t know. Omveus’s plan is to bring winter to the city of Neverwinter. I assume that he’s going to target the fire elementals that warm the river in Neverwinter Wood underneath Mount Hotenow.

The rest of the adventure notes are as follows. It began, appropriately enough, with Halador celebrating his birthday. All of it comes from Halador’s perspective. This is his story.

First Frost in Neverwinter

I spent the morning celebrating my birthday with an entourage of bards. My reputation is not unknown, I have with me a small but loyal entourage. They sing high praises of my goodness and nobility.

Yet being exposed to that constant praise did not lift my spirits. On the contrary, I believed that their words were hollow. I grew uncomfortable and left the inn. I was walking along the streets of Bluelake District, crossing the Dolphin Bridge into Protector’s Enclave. I headed for the House of Knowledge to speak with one of Oghma’s priests. Though Helm is the deity I am bound to, I often seek to acquire knowledge.

But my stroll was cut short when the sky grew dark. An ominous shadow arose from the ground. I pulled out my holy symbol of Helm to drive it away. It left a black Box of Uncertainty on the ground. I placed it in my backpack, though I was unsure of what it meant.

I was shortly thereafter accosted by a pixie. She whispered to me words that I could not understood, and blew a puff of intoxicating pixie dust in my direction. I could not resist it and was brought into Neverwinter Wood.

Treefall

In the Wood, I received a vision of a more glorious Neverwinter, a prosperous city of hope. I was told it could be mine if only I completed my journey.  The pixie handed me an acorn and then went on her way.

As I made my way through the Wood, I stumbled across a group of woodcutters. I had overheard that they were under Omveus’s employ. I was approached by a massive treant who sought an alliance with me. I agreed, as it turned out there three hundred of these woodcutters who sought to deforest the Wood under Omveus’s orders.

We were not alone. A hundred treants rose from their slumber to fight. I went after the ringleader, who shed his human disguise to reveal himself as a deadly lich. The ground around him had grown cold and dead. I thought I was done for, but I felt the trembling of the acorn that the pixie had given me.

I took it out and observed its shift. Not only did it tremble, but it changed color. It went from a matte brown to a shimmering gold. I dropped the acorn and it burrowed itself into the ground.  The lich became weak and I killed him with a single blow.

Going Forward

At the end of the session, I remarked at how quickly time passed. I was enthusiastic for the next session. Hopefully, we’ll get into meatier territory as time goes by. I’ll keep adding notes on this, perhaps this could prove beneficial to someone else.

In the meantime, Omveus’s presence looms over Neverwinter and the Curse of Lonely Hearts remains.

A Lesson As An OkCupid Moderator

 

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Photo by imelechon at Morguefile.com

 

OkCupid is a funny thing. I had recently exhausted most of my viable searches so I decided to leave that site behind for the most part. It was therefore rather surprising when I received a notification from OkCupid that I had received a message.

My hopes were lifted, perhaps inappropriately, that a match had decided to message me for a change in contrast to the “black hole” effect that I got from the site. For the record, I know why that is occurring and will likely elaborate in a later post. However, this post came from OkCupid itself.

Apparently, my account was in good standing so I qualified for being a moderator. Naturally, I was intrigued by this process. What goes on behind the scenes?

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