Modular arrowhead tutorial – part 1

Very brief tutorial that’ll probably get edited quickly whenever I make more. This is basically the same design today, except instead of DAP and spray glue, I now use double sided carpet tape.

There are several double sided carpet tapes out there. The one I started with (can’t remember the brand) most closely resembles strapping tape, in that you can see the criss-crossed fibers like the weave and weft of cloth. It was all right, but as far as foam goes, it’s too stiff and peels apart quite easily. The tape I recommend now and have been using for years without construction fails is Roberts Max Grip carpet installation tape. 1 7/8″ wide.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Always cover the entire surface area of attachment with the tape. My comrades and I use to only put one strip down the center when using carpet tape to build swords, but that was foolish. You’ll get the maximum amount of life if you use 2 strips to overlap.

Firstly, you’ll need the base of the head. Typically a 3″ length of 1/2″ CPVC works fine. I’ve been experimenting lately to find a thinner, lighter core, but CPVC is what you’ll see here–much different from PVC which is heavier and more durable than what is required for an arrowhead core. As for length, 3″ is usually the minimum. Depending on your arrowshaft length, you have the chance of making a core that reaches the 28″ mark for your drawstop (a requirement for Dagorhir archery). If you have a 31″ shaft, 3″ will do.

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Wrap the core with duct tape (or another tape of choice) to widen it to about the circumference of a penny (or other penny-sized metal disc of choice). Make the edge of the tape even with the top edge of the CPVC (whichever you decide is top). Place the penny perpendicular to the end of the duct taped core and secure with smaller strips of duct tape.

Now comes what I’ve heard called the wrap cap repeat portion. Cut a strip of foam 4 1/4″ x 1 3/4″ and apply carpet tape to the back of it. Remove the nonstick backing after applying the tape, then roll that piece lightly around the duct-taped core, keeping its edge even with the top of the core closest to the penny. When I say lightly, you do in fact apply force, because you want this to stick to the core solidly. Think of it as if you were wringing out a delicate shirt, not the amount of force needed to choke a bear. Note the pictures here feature DAP where I say to apply tape. DAP is completely useful and durable, but application takes longer and is much messier than carpet tape, which is why I hardly use DAP any more (again, these pictures will be updated during my next build day).

Once that wrap is done, you may have some excess–no worries! Feel free to use a retractable blade to shave that off and make it look more circular (you’ll see an example further in the tutorial). Tape gums up blades, so I typically keep one knife strictly for cutting foam, and another with which I can cut whatever. That helps my foam knives stay sharp for precision. Apply a piece of strapping tape over the seam to help it stay wrapped around the core.

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From here on out, when tape is used on the arrowhead, I instead recommend strapping tape instead of duct tape. Just as durable if not more so, and lighter. Dagorhir arrowheads are heavy enough as is–might as well pinch the weight where we can!

So, that little rectangle is what you wrapped around the core, now comes the cap. Cut a circular piece of foam approx. 1 5/8″ – 1 3/4″ in diameter. Apply tape to one side, folding over any extra bits, and attach perpendicular to the wrapped core. If you wish, you can wrap a thin piece of tape around the base to help it stay–I find the next wrap phase helps this just as well.

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Now you’ve wrapped, and you’ve capped, so next is repeat. Cut out another rectangle of foam, 6 1/4″ x 1 3/4″. Apply carpet tape to said rectangle and wrap around your foam core, keeping the top edge even with the cap you just previously attached. By now, you should see how the 2nd wrap piece acts the same as the tape for securing the first cap in the above photo. Apply strapping tape over the seam to help keep the wrap from separating from the other foam.

In the first photo above, you can see where I had excess when wrapping the rectangles onto the core, and how I cut them off at an angle to be more circular. The second picture is the 2nd cap (wrap cap repeat), though it’s more like an octagon. Second cap will be approx. 2 3/8″ diameter, depending on the force you applied when wrapping. More force = more compression = smaller diameter circle to cover. Because of the  compression of the tape that’ll go around the foam, octagon (pictured above) is a perfectly acceptable shape, too, if you don’t want to cut a nice circle.

Last piece of foam attachment is the open cell. There are many varying opinions on where to get this, or what’s the best, but the only thing to remember is graduated compression. The older the foam, the more quicker it compresses to its minimum width. Newer foam will be much springier and will still feel cushy even when fully compressed. Some open cell foams out there, even new, will compress completely without gradation. I have been scavenging for a few years now and have hardly bought new open cell since. But reviews have it that Jo-Ann Fabrics green foam does fine.

My newest design is cutting a 2 5/8″ – 2 3/4″ diameter cylinder out of a open cell block about 2 1/2″ tall with a band saw. I was skeptical at first, thinking the band saw would whip the piece right away and possibly injure my hand. Oddly enough, I had no accidents, and Enzo of Cliffside Armory was just as stupefied to see it work–wouldn’t be possible without the advice of Magnus of the Rhydderich Hael (formerly of Narnian Dagorhir). In this case for tape application, I apply tape to the top of the cap instead of the open cell–much easier to attach tape to closed cell.

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And that is effectively part 1, congrats! Obviously there are more finishing steps for stability and applying a cloth cover, which I have yet to photograph. If you intend on crafting arrowheads now and will wait til part 2 is published, at least apply one or two rounds of hockey tape over the seam between the last cap, the open cell, and the base to help keep it all together. While I will praise carpet tape til the end of this century, it still needs help to stay in place.

Yes, I apologize for making this a two part tutorial. Don’t worry, fellow foam fletchers, you’re not the only one who thinks it’s snooze-worthy.

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Forced into the Modern World

An Amazonian tribe’s insight into our Western world

I recently watched this video, in which an Amazonian tribe reacts to the western world—in the cultural interpretation, of course, not directional. If you’re uninformed and need a definition for that, please consult other sources (Reference.com). For the record, I cannot find more background on this video after a brief search. The Sciences of Religion and Myth on FB claims it is a Xingu tribe named Kamayura. Regardless of how much is based in current tribal philosophy, the subject matter and speakers strike a chord with me, and hopefully also with everyone else who gives their attention. One always has the best insight and criticism into their life and work from a third party observer, which is exactly what these men are sharing.

More times than not, I consider what it’d be like to live completely at harmony with the Earth as in these tribal communities. From my understanding, there would certainly be some tradeoffs. You wouldn’t have a phone or the internet through which you’d communicate to my friends and family, but instead you’d walk over to their home. You wouldn’t expend gas and contribute drastically to atmospheric change, because you could work in a community farming plot or forage and hunt from the forest. Your possessions wouldn’t add to the world’s harvest of plastic—however, there’s a greater risk for infection, any number of easily treatable diseases, and who knows how many microbes that aren’t filtered/purified out of the water. One works for survival, personal fulfillment, and to be at harmony with the Earth and Her cycles, not for money to pay taxes that, while they do fund roads and schools and libraries, also get caught up in criminal activity, embezzlement, and political corruption. I would be free to show respect to all manner of flora and fauna, yet be hindered by gender roles and expectations of marriage and child-rearing. And the list goes on.

The end result may seem ideal to some, or at least, more ideal than our current culture. Here is a people, whose rush lined houses, scant clothing, and sun bronzed skin utterly define what most people consider primitive. They, who face untold dangers of disease and natural predators on a daily basis, possess a philosophy that singing in front of a crowd is bravery worth respecting. The modern world has us so trained to think that artists are there only to make money, that many forget art is expression. It’s sharing one’s interpretations, hopes, dreams, vision with complete strangers, who mighty make fun of them, criticize without any real knowledge of the message, write them off as another money hungry abstract painter. There are even those who want that attention, no matter how nasty or derogatory, because it gets them in the lime light for fifteen minutes, and so dedicate their “hard work” to spectacular failure. Centuries in the future, what is a crucial medium through which we understand long extinct cultures and civilizations? Art. What story will you leave behind? What song of yours will the Kamayura listen to?

Now granted, I’m not standing behind all their views, because 1) I don’t know them, and 2) they might have a lot of misguided rituals that inappropriately treat conditions like infection or menstruation. That research would take me more than the 10 minute Google search that people count as “research” nowadays. In the same breath, the human race is overpopulating and stripping nutrients from the Earth to the point that colonization of other planets will be necessary, which is the end result of why we went to the moon. Studies show properly guided tree trimming, controlled burns, and researched irrigation can improve the health of the land that we’ve damaged, even though the French gardens exhibited there is probably over doing it. Loss of life in the course of self-defense is sad yet sometimes necessary, but the degree to which we have advanced our methods of killing each other is disgusting.

The commentary on care of the elderly hits me just as hard as disgracing the Earth, because truly, both are part of my (and everyone’s) ancestry. To quote another friend of mine, the reason we have so many health issues is because we’re not dying like we should. When non-Kamayura humans get to the age where our minds depreciate, caretakers and medical professionals are usually the only ones with training enough to handle those conditions. I watched my mother take care of my grandfather as best she could, but both of us had to work and couldn’t be at home all the time to watch him. When you have a diabetic with memory loss and borderline dementia, they’re a bit of a danger to themselves. I know eventually when I approach the elderly category and try remain self-sufficient, I hope I have the grace to admit I’m older and accept help. The best among each generation that has to make that decision for their parents agrees with the tribe—it’s hurtful to watch, and even worse to experience, especially when you feel like you’re being forced. If we weren’t expected to earn money to pay taxes, if mom didn’t need to work in order to provide for her own retirement, if demands of modern society weren’t around, then maybe the care we show to our elders would be different. Do I think there are solutions, though? I certainly do.

How does one determine which set of attributes is “better?” Would a shorter, fuller lifespan be worth more to one’s consciousness than a longer one where the evils are thinly veiled and swept under the rug? My choice thus far is obvious, but I always have this debate in the back of my mind whenever media like this comes to my attention. In the end, I personally determine that giving up scouts, my family, and Dagorhir is too great a price for such a life. With that in mind, though, I try to make as small of an impact on the ecosystem as possible. How can you do that, you say? Walk or bike instead of drive. Purchase used instead of new—furniture, electronics, clothing (I’ll leave underwear to the reader’s discretion), rescued pets instead of from a breeder—in order to create fewer things and get more use out of said things already out there. Fix what can be broken before scrapping or recycling. Refuse bags for takeout items that you can carry—including from restaurants—or reuse bags for larger shopping trips. Buy as few prepackaged items as possible, and make your own foods. Keep silverware in your glove box so you don’t have to use plastic ware when eating out. In essence, reevaluate the impact of every single action you usually take for granted, from typing on a keyboard to putting on socks. Act as if it has detrimental impact on the Earth.

Because it does.

What’s most important to take from all of this is the type of culture the Kamayura perpetuate. Their young and middle aged men echo the same sentiments of their elders, without signs of sarcasm or insincerity. It’s not that they simply have a generation that will keep their ideals sacred, but rather one that feels their importance, and will instill that in their children and grandchildren—misguided and valid information alike. Viewers look through their computer and TV screens into the confident eyes of tribesmen half a world away, and hear them describe a culture whose survival they will fight for, against all comers now and 100 years from now. Their tears, in the black paint that runs down their cheeks, ask us: what will you fight for?

Tough Questions: What was one thing you wish you had asked a previous manager?

On a prompt from The Daily Post: Tough Questions

“This week, tell us about a moment in which someone asked you a question you weren’t sure how to answer, whether because you didn’t know, were too uncomfortable, or thought you might offend or confuse the other person.”

The question asked of me most recently in a job interview was (insert blog post title). My answer came after a long pause, because truly that was the first time I had ever been asked that exact question, either within an interview or without. In short, my answer was ways to acquire better skill for estimating completion time for proposals, projects, or being asked by impatient clients/managers on location of resolving an IT support issue. I had honed in on a particular manager who left a poor taste in my mouth after he effectively fired me (effectively because he just performed an action “mandated” by company policy), when the same query could’ve been posed to any of my managers. The question made me realize that while I’m quite over the incident and know now it was a move toward better opportunities (that office went downhill and was soon closed), I still hold a small grudge.

My firing had come because of a second occurrence within a policy-mandated time frame of the occurrence prior. I was responsible for a weekly report of IT tickets that were completed in the previous seven days, and about a month after I started this recurring task, I was asked about a ticket which hadn’t appeared on the report. I replied in an email (the same method through which this whole conversation took place) that it was absent because the ticket was still incomplete, and immediately followed with asking whether I should going forward include incomplete tickets, too. No answer, so I continued as per normal. Fast forward a couple years, another incomplete ticket didn’t make the report, only this one had been unresolved for longer than our policies said we could have open tickets, and because I was the one who hadn’t brought it to anyone’s attention, the company got in hot water with the client. I was “responsible” for that oversight, and so got the occurrence.

If I’m being honest, I’d say I shared about 20% of the blame. I could’ve called one of the people on the email, or spoken with them in person, or really just followed up a second time. The soreness results from this habit happened FOR YEARS, and still no one brought it to my attention again. Then, suddenly, when this error follows another in a couple weeks’ succession, I’m fired. Everything else on my record was superb. The staff we serviced liked me, loved my friendly and helpful attitude, I had just joined a company-wide committee to help improve the workplace atmosphere, I was rarely late and often left later than my shift, I was incredibly giving to my co-workers and even took calls off hours from them. But no, two occurrences and that’s it. *sighs*

Turns out the prompt brought up more to write about than I originally thought. Funny how one’s Writer’s Voice works out that way, no?

A Little Girl’s Dream Come True

The scene: brazen sun setting on Hononegah’s Kelsey stadium after my oldest brother Ben’s track meet, waiting for the results so we can go home. My little 8-year-old eyes soak in that monstrous black rubber oval and transport my scrawny body to the Olympic stadiums. Fans cheering, camera lights everywhere, the full weight of that elite level bearing down on me. My mom lets me run a lap, the 400m, my favorite event to date–and don’t you doubt it. The Glons were Olympic junkies. My parents went to Montreal, and would’ve gone to LA in ’84 had I not been born. My first 400m PR (personal record) was 2:00, what I thought (and was told) was decent for my age. Ben would break the school’s pole vault record that year, and we couldn’t have been prouder.

Fast forward to when I first set foot in Hononegah’s halls. I’m the youngest of four and enter into a decade-long legacy of being the youngest Glon. I start to make my own footprints and soon no longer hear “Oh, you’re soandso’s sister?” Also riding on my back was a vast history of football (soccer in America). All my siblings played, over 10 years of club and four years of high school, and both my parents coached for as long as I could remember. I grew up at my siblings’ games, gnawed on My Little Ponies with my best friend, took road trips with my dad’s college team, and went to Denmark to compete with a 2nd ranked team through the Sirens club. My house had a football field as a main feature, where my siblings passed weeks upon weeks of self-induced practice. Their competition for longest juggling streak was legendary in our household.

So when girls’ soccer season rolled around in the spring, far be it for the newest Glonner to put on cleats and take the field. Nope, I traded them in for mid-distance spikes. I wasn’t all that impressive on the track–I just had heart. I only ran a 63-64 second 400m, and got put on the relay teams at times. I tried out triple jump, but ended up wrecking my hip, and I shouldn’t have to explain about shin splints. When my junior year came around, and college loomed on the horizon, I sat up late one night watching the Sydney Olympics. I felt shivers run down my spine when Stacy Dragila became the first gold medalist for women’s pole vault. An American, a fellow citizen of the country I called my own, made history. I knew instantly that my heart, strength, determination was being called, called to the runway. I would be a pole vaulter, not matter what it took.

Luckily, Illinois followed suit and made it an official girls’ event statewide for the 2001 season. I jumped at the chance (pun intended) and spoke with our boys’ coach about the idea. Polaski (Pol for short, appropriately enough) was all for it. I took home videos he gave me and tried to carry out his instructions as best as possible. I kept up on my weightlifting, did push-ups at home, and usually had to be kicked out of the stadium at the end of the day. The glorious day came when I got my own pole, a UCS Spirit I named Bellatrix, for Orion’s shoulder star since my shoulder clicked and was sometimes weak. I’d discover later that it was also named the Amazon Star, further confirming the wisdom of my choice in names.

And on that first glorious practice with my own pole, I broke it. No joke. We had wooden pallets under our pit to keep it off the muddy ground. I missed the box and wedged it between one of these pallets, only to break the tip when I took off. I could imagine UCS shaking their heads when they heard the story–“This is why women shouldn’t vault”–but whatever their reaction, they replaced it. And a good thing, too. Because I kept at it, and I loved it. My very first competition was at Sterling High School, where they had female vaulters for longer than I was alive. Their girls SOARED over heights I only dreamed of. Despite the intimidation of excellence, I came out with 6′ 6″ as my first PR. Coach Black from Sterling approached me after I was geeking out with my mom, and asked if I had vaulted before. I explained a bit of my history, saying it was my first meet, and he said it was odd, because I looked like a natural.

I must clarify at this point, dear readers, that I had never been called a natural at anything. I had a gift for writing, sure, and a masterful way with words that had earned recognition ever since middle school. I was a skilled archer, practicing til I had numb fingertips in my grandpa’s backyard. I loved running and grew a set of lungs for midfield position in football. I got hand over fist compliments about my Native American dancing. And yet, I was never a natural. This coach, whose vaulters were near doubling my first height, used that word.

I was hooked.

I excelled and took first in Conference, in Sectionals, and earned a 6th place medal at State. I was stoked to be sharing a room with one of my biggest athletic role models—a fellow basketball player, sprinter, and high jumper to boot. I earned a qualifying spot in 2002 as well, but was struggling with correcting my form and didn’t make finals. At our end of the year banquet, despite not being a team captain, I earned our team’s MVP award, which was yet another dream come true. I had underclassmen at my graduation party that were sad to see me go, someone they looked up to on a team where mostly the conceited cheerleader type did well. Leaving Hononegah, it felt odd to have left such a mark, when I at first never thought I’d ever rise to the challenge of that caliber.

At Lawrence University, I continued vaulting and making my teammates’ heads shake at my dry humor. During the fall of my sophomore year, I tore my left ACL—my take off leg—and feared the worst. Pole vaulting is demanding, despite how easy some make it look, in a number of different ways, most of all on the body. All that pounding, all that twisting, all that force on the take off leg worried me from day one of recovery. But it all went away during the first practice for which I was medically cleared for vaulting; the first vault, just a basic drill to swing my legs up in a position that looks like the number four, gave me indescribable joy. In my senior year, I broke both our indoor and outdoor records, resetting them to 10’ 2”. Coach approved my request to make a last chance meet in Milwaukee, hoping to qualify for Nationals, as I was only inches away in practice. Alas, that was one dream not to be, and graduated with a Field MVP award from the team.

I had no job prospects, and so returned back home in June. I investigated coaching vault at Hononegah, but my first job let out at 5 pm, and it’d be impossible to get there in time to benefit the team any. My second job had me rise early to start my shift by 6, letting me off by 3, and thus began my coaching journey. Danny Savage didn’t have any specific vaulting coach and welcomed my offer. Three years later, one of my first vaulters I had had since her sophomore year took 1st place in the conference. Vaulting specifically had to be held at a different location from the rest since the original host school had no pit (private school, too costly under their insurance). Oddly enough, that had been the same situation with my senior year conference, and in celebration, I gave her my 1st place conference medal from my senior year, too. The other assistant coach told me she was speechless for most of the ride home, truly touched by the gift. I think that helped solidify a coaching legacy for my alma mater.

There is not much and, simultaneously, mountains I can say about my seven years at a coach. Like being a scouting advisor, I learned as much from them as I hope they did from me. I made some poor choices, granted, and learned from them. At times, I felt inadequate as a coach due to all of my time obligations. I attended practice the same day that our family dog died, and their energy cheered me up. For the first time, I was point blank thanked for my effort and expertise by one of my vaulters, a humbling and new experience that has permanently left a mark in my mind. I recruited two of my athletes to our scout troop, whom remain my good friends to this day. Hearing or reading the phrase “Tell me a joke, Glon” never fails to bring a smile on. I got to drive them down to the State meet this past season, an eye-opening and enjoyable experience, to be sure. I was proud to share in all their victories, and humbled seeing their success outshine my own.

Just this September, I up and moved 600 miles east, away from my childhood home and livelihood and family and a majority of my friends. I was dropped into gorgeous country, just as the leaf-like fur of the highlands turned to gold, orange, and a dozen shades of red. I became familiar again with long lost friends, discovered delicious food and coffee, and laughed until my head hurt. Much of my time after the move was put into building a ramp for an aging relative, slimming down my possessions, and accomplishing a couple projects that’ve been held at bay for months. A newly upholstered couch and a bookcase from my grandpa’s scrap wood are just two of them. With all the ups and downs, both seen and unseen, It is one of the best starts to a great adventure I could ask for.

In the quiet solitude of our study, cat lounging on a blanket occupying 1/3 of my desk’s territory, I finally see a green Tae Kwon Do belt staring back at me after weeks of searching. Seeing my brother go through Judo in our younger days, martial arts has always been a draw for me. Lawrence gave me that opportunity, and as part of my activity fee. I exceled through the ranks to my blue belt (halfway to black), but due to scheduling and physical demand, I wasn’t able to complete the advancements. Tradition in our school was to pass our belt to a person who had inspired us. I gave my white belt to my scout troop, the yellow to my grandfather, and the green was supposed to go to Dragila. I saved it all this time, hoping against hope that I’d get that chance, like so many others I had been given. Even though it’s a long shot, I email the address given on the Dragila vaulting camp website…and wait.

Nothing for a couple weeks. I assume they just ignore it and can’t accept packages for security reasons. Surprisingly, an email DOES come in, and I’m elated! It was an apology for missing my message, and I was given the go ahead to send the package. Signed: Stacy Dragila. I mean, really? An email from one of my biggest role models!? It seemed all a dream.

I had to elaborate on this over the three pages not to brag about my accomplishments, not to garner sympathy for my struggles, but rather to explain how drastically my life was changed from something as “simple” as pole vaulting. My personality, work ethic, humor, dedication, desire to do something great with what I’ve been given—all of this I owe in part to Stacy Dragila, a gift that can never be equaled.

Crafting: Oblong Cross-Sectioned Hilt

I maintain always that Dagorhir and other foam sports should be closer to the medieval era, and one easy way to do such is make hilts that have an oval cross section instead of being round. In the functional sense, the feel helps train the mind to remember which side is the striking surface, no matter how often you rotate it and play with the blade. Below is the outline of a cheap, simple, and effective way to create this type of hilt.

Some people use bar stock in place of this method, as that also provides a counterweight while still making the hilt oblong in cross section. My preference is to use a long hex bolt as counterweight since I have a hollow PVC core. As I mentioned trying to make Dag weapons more realistic, I recommend counterbalancing swords, period (pun intended). If you have a solid core, use the bar stock method, though the step about thickening the chopstick sides may also apply to bar stock and dull the sharp corners.

And as a second side note, about hex bolt counterweights: to make sure mine don’t rattle after years of use, I wrap several messy layers of duct tape around the non head end. Enough that I have to use notable force and/or twisting to push it down til it’s flush with the core end, but not too many that the tape bunches up and makes it impossible. Said method hasn’t caused one rattle after 13 years of counterbalancing.

THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP, SO READ AND FOLLOW CAREFULLY. Start when only the blade on the weapon is finished. Take two chopsticks, preferably the round kind but any will do, and cut them to the desired length of your hilt. They can be a little longer so the ends will hide under the foam of the pommel (you didn’t put that on yet, right?). Tape them to opposite sides of your hilt area. This, in my opinion, is the most crucial part, because if they’re not secure here, they’ll rotate or slip and completely throw the purpose for this design out the window. Note in the picture how they’re secured with duct tape that’s exactly snug with the chopstick’s surface, not just wrenching down the tape as tight as you can. That would create a triangle of open space between the tape, core, and chopstick, making it easier for chopstick shift. You could attempt splitting them in half to make them more flush to the core, but that makes the hilt slimmer—either take that into account in the next step or work with the round ones.

Also, if you’re borderline OCD like I am, double and triple check that the chopsticks align exactly with the blades. I’ve had a couple instances where they’re slightly off, and I end up redoing the hilt because it bothers me so much. Princess and the Pea sort of story.

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As you may notice, straight up chopstick-core Oreo feels just like that, not a solid hilt. Next, rip off more duct tape in lengths that match the chopsticks, in sets of four. Fold two of the lengths in half, and place them in the middle of the other two lengths. Secure these thicken layers lengthwise over the chopsticks, centering them on the folded lengths. Effectively, this thickens the chopstick sides while thickening the exposed part of the core more slowly. If preferred, add an extra securing layer of duct tape after the first thickening pieces. Add as many thickening layers as your hand needs to make it just impossible to feel the chopstick separate from the core.

At this point, feel free to add an extra securing layer after thickening is complete. Double check your grip isn’t too wide. Here I actually recommend the hilt be a little slimmer than preferred, as I always add deer skin leather to complete the realism.

To attach the leather (or hemp string, or preferred hilt covering), wrap double sided tape along the hilt. In a bind, you can also use reversed duct tape, with one edge of it folded under to secure it to the core. By fighting physics, hands most often slide along the hilt from blade to pommel. That means your hilt wrapping will start at the pommel, making the leather/string/whatever near the blade will be on top and a moving hand won’t catch up the edges of the wrapping. After the hilt is completely finished (leather and all), then add the pommel. This ensures any extra bits are hidden from view and give the weapon a neater look.

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There you have it! A cost effective realistic hilt that looks like it belongs on a reenactor’s field. Gimme your questions, comments, or criticisms, and thanks for reading!

The Dreaded 2016 Election Post

I’ve made all my Will save rolls thus far to post much of anything about our election. In part because I’ve seen firsthand how people overreact and insults fly almost instantaneously. Mostly, I’ve held out from doing so in vain hope that some news outlet somewhere (heck, even in a foreign country) will keep covering what candidates plan to do with the US. Everywhere I look now elaborates on how terrible the debates are, or mudslinging, or conspiracies, or memes illustrating all of the above, or simply what their views are. I’m hoping writing about the subject will release some of the tension in my mind and nerves.

To be frank, yes, I feel that our country got the biggest shaft when it came to this election, which is thankfully a popular opinion amongst my level headed friends and acquaintances. No candidate has a solid lead on the pro/con race in my book, and that’s with knowing a lot of the biggest factors. Benghazi, company bankruptcies, the wall was already going to be built, forgetting what Aleppo is, believing in outrageous theories, recorded conversations. In the end, it will be voting for the lesser of evils. Many countries have dealt with similar situations in their past. Seems like it’s time for ours.

My biggest arguments and the largest pit in my stomach lie with Trump. It is indeed disturbing that a boy of his character has made it this far in the election, and it wracks my spine to even consider such a phrase. It’s an insult to the term ‘character,’ really: a word I hold in high regard as a roleplay enthusiast, author, adventurer, and a human on the good end of the moral scale. A great part of his appeal comes from the fact that he’s not a career politician, so he doesn’t sugar coat his opinions and can be trusted to speak his mind. In some senses, that’s a desirable trait. It brings to mind a judge my sister, a former Assistant District Attorney for sensitive crimes, admired. She witnessed said judge laying into criminals, calling them absurd for their mindlessness and blatantly criticizing their actions with sharp accuracy, which she had never seen before. THAT’S the mind speaking we need, not something that recreates platform for racism, sexism, and ignorance. Unfortunately, there is an underpinning of all three of those ideologies in our country, which we’ve been fighting to eradicate for decades and centuries. And now Trump’s helping them survive.

The other side of Trump not being a previous politician is that he has no experience. This also implies he hasn’t been serious about the potential of becoming one of the world’s most powerful leaders, and our representative to the rich, poor, privileged, discriminated, hard-working, and apathetic peoples needs to be top notch. Decorum, humility, and a passion for improvement are crucial, especially when we’re going to need help with our national debt and in our continuous skirmish against terrorism. Trump possesses none of those, or at the least, not consistently, as we’ve seen in both his recent and older past.

Stein, while I admire and stand behind her goals of clean energy and LGBT policies, I haven’t seen anything on her plans to accomplish them (On the Issues: Jill Stein). To be fair, I haven’t seen many plans for any candidate. Clinton’s policies, we see, only plan to increase our national debt by 200 million, instead of 5.3 trillion like Trump’s proposals (CNBC: Clinton’s vs Trump’s tax plans). Johnson has a history of not only increasing spending, but increasing debt (Johnson’s “Balanced Budget”). But, he also has a history of spending for schools, and I feel teachers are vastly underpaid and underappreciated compared to how important they are to our society’s future, no matter where you go in the world. Plus, some of the teaching practices that are forced on them make it so our students nowadays aren’t trained to improve lives, obtain true, applicable knowledge, or inherit passion to change our world for the better—only get good test scores, prove themselves “worthy” of a standard that doesn’t hold up in the real world. That potential scares me more than anything.

So, you know some of the complexities of my dilemma. Or rather, our dilemma, that of a world power. How do we decide? The best option, going forward, is to cease and desist IMMEDIATELY the spread of any media that makes light of the indecision or our poor position, because we know how powerful social media can be. It influences not only legitimate news outlets (what trends on FB and Twitter is what they think we want to hear about), but also the mob mentality and what the masses perceive as real. We already know this is going to be bad, plain and simple. Instead of griping about it, we need to focus and be sensible, more sensible than our candidates. Be informed, be rational, and after the dust settles from this dreaded election next month, don’t complain. Hunker down, do what’s needed to help our nation and our fellow man, and never. Give. Up.

A Geek By Any Other Name

For readers who are unaware, I’m part of a fantastical recreation of the medieval era called Dagorhir. We dress up in garb, hit each other with foam weapons, cook great food, hone our skills in the arts and sciences, and create a culture complete with its own rituals, glossary, and inside jokes. We are regular people having a ton of fun.

I describe it as such because so many outsiders today are quick to label all LARPers as a category of lower class of humans that can’t accept reality, especially because we lack the social skills for comfortable integration into the modern world. We don’t know about military tactics because our fighting is pretend. We aren’t serious about fitness because we’re prancing around and casting spells. We’re ignorant and closeted because our topics and specialties are long dead, or not appropriately researched or applied. We can’t maturely discuss the environment, world issues, politics, or philosophy because we’re too wrapped up in a world that doesn’t exist.

I cannot deny those stereotypes do apply to some people. I readily admit a lot of people I’ve sought out as potential friends or romantic partners immediately were checked off the list because of their social mannerisms. All they could talk about was themselves, and any story or topic initiated a fierce struggle to relate it back to their story-line. Or, one of my deepest annoyances, never bringing others into the conversation, asking about their stories and experiences, and only doing so in order to criticize it or offer “sage” advice. There are simple overarching courtesies to all interactions, whether you’re a geek or not.

I would go so far as to argue that 90% of the world is a geek, which I define here as an overly enthusiastic expert in a chosen field. Fashion geeks are obsessed with the flow of pop culture clothing and accessories. They’ll write or read blogs and magazines, attend conferences, talk for hours on end with like-minded friends, maybe even hold parties highlighting some sort of achievement or release in the fashion world. Just because they’re called fashionistas doesn’t make them less of a geek. Sports geeks constantly keep track of stats, watch games, follow their favorite players, talk about them incessantly on forums or at sports pubs, collect memorabilia, and visit sacred stadiums. The category list is non-exhaustive, as I’m certain you can suggest a couple different types right now.

In all geek subcategories, you can find similarities to LARPers. Politics junkies can’t go two sentences without bringing up the most recent bill, or some idiot that shouldn’t be in office. TV enthusiasts don’t know how to talk to nature geeks unless there was something in a show they once watched. YouTubers may look awkward in a conversational circle unless a video is mentioned on which they’ve knowledgeable. I don’t say this to insult, only as an observation. If you think there’s no other way to interpret my words, that says more about your own mind rather than mine.

Anyone of any geek walk of life can find reason to poke fun at someone else’s past time, yet I’ve found LARPers get the cold shoulder from more of their obsessive brethren than anyone else. Why? I can’t determine that, but my best guess is luck. The fine line that separates us and any other [insert topic] obsessed person is the medium, and that’s it. Like most culturally accepted microcosms, someone at some point in our recorded history decided a hierarchy of hobbies, and arbitrarily put gamers and LARPers near the bottom. Maybe the First Gamer said their mother wasn’t classy, I don’t know. I’m aware that newspapers have sections devoted to many of these categories I also assign to geeks, like politics, sports, world issues, even fashion or pop culture. That doesn’t make those hobbies any more valid or important than ours, and we can gain prestige and fame in our fake worlds just like they do. Oh, their worlds aren’t fake? Tell me whose status and milestones are going to matter when your body declines to its eventual end. No one’s.

I’ve made countless lifelong friends through Dagorhir. I’ve met quality people who care for their fellow human of any background, hobby preference, color, creed, religion, or lifestyle. I’ve been enveloped in breathtaking sunsets, witnessed the meek find their confidence, laughed at inoffensive jokes until my head hurts, and cried at touching gestures of beauty and sacrifice. I’ve fought beside egomaniacs, rolled my eyes self-promoting drama, got stomped by chauvinistic jerks, and walked away from weasel-like individuals looking for a con. And the odd thing is, you can say all of that stuff about anywhere you go in the modern world (well, except maybe the fighting part…but if you don’t have conflict in your life, it’s a sad one indeed).

After all this evidence, it shouldn’t be a stretch to say Dagorhir is just a recreation of life, no matter how much others want to insult or deny it. It’s a catalyst through which we process and embrace the world. Humans have countless avenues and guides to how we fit into this whole crazy mess called reality, but we choose Dagorhir. Like readers choosing mystery or thriller novels: different clothing put over the same core components. Of course, a percentage of our populace complains and gripes about this event or that fighter or these circumstances. Dagorhir, just like life, has taught me that the dark times make the bright ones shine more brilliantly, and when on my deathbed many years from now, I will remember warm fires, true friends, and memories stronger than any man-made alloy.

HB2 or not HB2, now that’s a silly question

To make myself crystal clear for the remainder of this post, I stand against HB2. Not solely for the fact that it denies equal rights for transgender people (whether or not that was intended, it does nonetheless), but also for other forthcoming reasons.

For the uninformed, what Part I of House Bill 2 boils down to is that, in North Carolina, all persons must use the bathroom designated by their biological sex, as shown on their birth certificate. On the surface, it sounds pretty agreeable with American history: males don’t do private stuff like showering and urinating around females, and vice versa. Half of the big hubbub in the media arises when you consider transgender peoples’ daily life and their corresponding rights.

Gender is a set of cultural, social, and psychological traits. Typically, Western cultures decide aggression, competitiveness, and strength are masculine and that naturally they belong primarily to boys. Same goes for compromise, nurturing, and delicacy being feminine and typically belonging to girls. I identify as female though I often express myself with more masculine traits than most women, and I fully support women with masculine traits as a normal thing, just like men with feminine traits (check out gender in Samoa, Thailand, and”two-spirited” folk amongst Native American cultures) . I am still cisgender, though. Cisgender is when your gender matches your assigned birth sex: one designated as male at birth identifies as a man, one designated as female at birth identifies as a woman. HB2 unintentionally created a devastating issue for transgender people, because now instead of using an appropriate bathroom, they’ll be forced into the facility designated for their biological sex, ie a designated sex at birth they had no control over.

I may have lost some of you on that last paragraph. Hopefully, I can lay it out more plainly for you.

Here’s Joe. Joe was born with outie genitals and thus was a designated male at birth (dmab). He grew up playing with trucks, maybe started tinkering with them, proved himself capable by being strong in relation to his peers, competed in football, took charge in asking his significant other on dates, grew some facial hair, wore pants and shirts. All of this feels fine and normal to Joe. Joe is a cisgender man.

Here’s Jim. Jim was also dmab and grew up with the exact same things that Joe did, but they all feel misplaced or wrong. Maybe instead of wearing pants all the time, he wants to wear a dress or skirt. He hears the phrase “man up” and inside, that feels awkward, where he doesn’t want to show aggression or subdue his emotions. He relates much more easily to the cisgender women in his life, their roles, personalities, and mindsets. Jim may also feel like his genitalia are unnatural in intimate relations. Jim is a transgender woman.

So Jim becomes Julie. She begins dressing in dresses and skirts, wears a padded bra and makeup, adopts pronouns like her/she/hers. She grows her hair long and has hormonal treatments to stop facial hair. Julie gets surgery to remove her Adam’s apple and alter her voice to a higher octave. Maybe the paperwork is too expensive to get her birth certificate changed, so she doesn’t. People who meet her for the first time start using “she” and “her” naturally, and THAT feels right. She can talk about fashion, or cry, or not go fishing, and she for once doesn’t get weird looks.

I need to stress a crucial point which contradicts 90% of what we’ve been taught for a long while: body parts don’t equal gender. In fact, there’s such a mix of different percentages of XX and XY that body parts sometimes don’t even designate sex. There’s an unhealthy obsession with this in order for us to feel like we have some sort of control over something we deem mysterious or complex, like if we can draw lines and put everything in a category, we’re superior and in charge of our fate. Sadly, no matter how hard we try, we’re not in control, as Jurassic Park clearly illustrates. (Gender and GeneticsTumblr post reviewing sex & biology in a partially scientific, partially blatantly frustrated manner)

Yet, Julie could get in trouble for using the woman’s bathroom in NC since her birth certificate lists sex as male, despite that she clearly is a woman. What would be the punishment? Well, the first funny thing about HB2 is that it doesn’t list a punishment. If you think that’s silly or untrue, please check any news source of your choice, and when you find something, then we’ll talk. How would they even find out whether she’s transgender or not? That’s the second funny thing about HB2: no suggested method for enforcing this bill. You can find several news outlets that called NC police departments to hear their proposed way of revealing whether a person is cis- or transgender, and not one got any results. One department said they didn’t have the manpower to monitor public bathrooms, only enforce it on a complaint basis to respond when situations arose. Another city just plain didn’t know–they agreed that officers checking birth certificates before using bathroom or shower facilities was inefficient and a whole ‘nother kettle of fish with privacy invasion (NPR interview about HB2, Mother Jones’ HB2 article)

To explain the other side of the coin, I’ll bring up an interaction I had with an acquaintance who supports HB2, whom I’ll name Sup. Sup believes it will prevent dmab (designated male at birth, remember) sex offenders dressing up as women and entering women’s bathrooms to take advantage of women–and should they get stopped, they can simply claim they’re transgender and get away scott-free. Sup is convinced that not enforcing HB2 belittles the suffering of all those who’ve been subjected to sexual assault, advances, and violence while in public bathrooms, shower facilities, etc. The video Sup asked me to watch covered stories of said cisgender women victims, the title reminiscent of the often forgotten victims of gender based bathrooms. How many crimes against trans people have been forgotten, overlooked, and not reported prior to HB2? Believe me, cisgender victims aren’t alone in that regard, sad as it is. (Transgender homicide rate hits historic high in US)

I’ll say this once, though I’ve expressed similar sentiments many times before–I cannot imagine the trauma those people have gone through. They are much tougher than people give them credit for, and I in no way wish that to happen to anyone else.

To return to Sup’s argument, the victims in the video were assaulted/violated before HB2 went into effect. Honestly, if people are going to take advantage of someone in a bathroom, they’re going to break the law, whether HB2 is there or not. Is there a feasible way to actually prove what crimes were prevented by the bill in question? Consider it like increasing security at a subway stop or in a department store: are there statistics that outline how many theft were prevented from even being attempted? There’s no way of telling, but you can prove an increase or decrease in crime rate, and happily enough, inquiries have already been considered. According to the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, over 200 municipalities and 18 states that enforce no gender discrimination in bathrooms, showers, etc. have shown no rise in crime in these private areas (ABC News on Debunking “Bathroom Predator” Myth, Stats show assaults don’t happen in bathrooms – focuses on child assault). I’d say that’s pretty telling.

Where our talk turned interesting was when I showed Sup pictures of Shawn Stinson, trans male body builder champion, writing that he’d be forced to use the women’s restroom, and of an unnamed trans woman from a Sao Paulo parade, writing that she’d be forced to use the men’s restroom, Sup said I was mistaken: Shawn “clearly identifies” as a man, and would therefore be in the men’s restroom. When I read these responses, I began to think Sup was unaware of what transgender means, and tried to quote the exact words Sup used to “explain” HB2 to me. It was then that the debate folded under heated words and no more progress was made.

And thus the third funny thing about HB2, that most supporters don’t realize, rears its head: the trans men and women they’ve been seeing going into one bathroom for years will suddenly be going into what appears to be the wrong restroom. Men who look like Shawn will have to use the women’s room if there’s no gender neutral bathroom available for them, and women who look like Andreja Pejic will be walking into men’s rooms all over the state. That, if anything, will cause confusion and ruckus more so than if we were allowed to use our actual gender’s facilities. (The imaginary predator in America’s transgender bathroom war – mentions a transwoman using the ladies’ room without interference inside Governor McRory’s offices)

More confusion and ruckus has already happened, as a matter of fact. A cisgender woman was followed into a bathroom by a man, and when she asked him what he was doing, he replied he was concerned for the safety of his mother, who had just entered the bathroom before the woman in question. Another woman with a gender neutral appearance, while in the women’s room, was told by another woman she had to leave, that she “didn’t belong there”, accompanied by a disgusted look. Yup, HB2’s reign is ensuring our safety left and right. (Connecticut woman says she was harassed in Walmart bathroom after customer mistook her as transgender, Texas man follows woman into a bathroom to check her gender because she was ‘dressed like a man’)

Hopefully this musing has broadened your mind a bit, or at least confirmed some of what you knew about transgender topics. As a good friend of mine said, wanting to learn is steps 1-80 of becoming a good ally, and during this day and age, we could all use another friend.

Winter’s Fall

For most of my adult life, it has been the same story whenever winter comes around. People griping about snowfall and storms, cold temperatures leaving everyone sour, the “dirty trick” of it leaving and briefly return a week later. You would think I lived in Texas by the way my peers acted, losing their minds after a 1/2 inch falls and stays.

Growing up on a large plot of woodland, winter for me meant snowforts and hot chocolate breaks and sledding at my grampa’s next door. I can see my dad on our riding mower plowing the 200m driveway, in his 80’s one piece navy snowsuit and monstrous boots. Those boots were a favorite sleeping place for our St. Bernard Wolfgang when he was a pup. And I don’t mean just as a dog bed–he literally once slept IN them, vertically, slumped over like a tired flower in a vase. One year, we tried training Wolfgang to live up to his rescue dog ancestry. But in the minds of four young children, putting the smallest under a sled and then a pile of snow before telling a 200 lb dog to seek is the way to go.

Never mind that the other three went inside when called for hot chocolate and left me wondering if our plan had worked.

WolfPupBoots

Highschool was hectic with all my activities and sports. I didn’t get much time to enjoy winter fully, especially with my siblings off in college, though I did make sure to wander the woods once in a while, and bask in the serenity that even a couple inches brings to the land. Lawrence University had a beautiful campus to begin with, and winter only made it more so. I’d realize my love of playing Ultimate in the snow at midnight (Snultimate) after meeting a girl who’d one day become my Roomie and friend for life. Some nights the scenery would call to the itch in my veins, so I’d cover up and meander the pathways, soaking up all that light could coax from the shadows or how it reflected off the snow. One such venture yielded a picture of our Main Hall with a bench and a globe of snowy fireflies around its lamppost. A favorite of mine to date.

Literature equates winter with death, the Long Sleep when Nature retreats for a time the be born again in spring. Animals have stocked up and prepared for hibernation, dogs and horses have winter coats, flora hunkers down to wait out its return several months away. If humans were just meant to be whiny about it, perhaps we should’ve done the same. The bottom line, my fellow Midwesterners, is that it comes every single year. We KNOW it will. Why bother being cranky and depressed? As sure as the sun rises, we will have to shovel driveways and sidewalks, be more cautious on the roads, and fight harsh winds while walking, and get used to frozen nose hairs on the worst days. I’m stumped at why most of us continue to be negative about something so unavoidable.

Maybe water does really retain memory, and therefore I like winter so much because it reminds me of the underside of a sled, following the mystery of coyote tracks, and the soft clicking symphony as I walked our long driveway in solitude. To be fair, I love all seasons–sometimes for memories, some times for the new ones made–so I don’t think that theory cuts it. I do know, however, that thousands of people pass the winter complaining and being grouchy (insert usual disclaimer about understanding losing a love one during winter time and other terrible memories) and feel if you know the reason such an attitude exists, you can just as easily fight it.

Find the wonderland we remember as kids. Take time to appreciate the snowflakes that fall for thousands of miles at a snail’s pace. Listen to how the staggering commotion of the human world is muted by a couple inches of frozen water molecules. Discover how it reminds us that all things, good or bad, might be out of our control, but how we react to them is decided absolutely on our own.

MainHallLights06

Let’s Talk: Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation

I’m giving a talk! Womanspace is a wonderful, inviting group of women based in Rockford whose aim is “Connecting, empowering, creating and transforming our world — one woman at a time.” On February 25th in the William Reif Gallery, I’ll be sharing experiences and information on gender identity and sexual orientation. Online registration is possible through the link below, or they also accept in person registrations at their office.

“Take a walk through terms, myths, and cultural impressions of the LGBT community. Touch on certain religious aspects with an accepting mind, and strengthen your knowledge about what it’s like for a person with an alternate sexuality or identity to grow up in today’s world. No question is too awkward, no topic is too weird – just bring your open attitude!”

Womanspace Programming