Author Archives: TechPhek

Image example

Thumbnail. Linked to Media File

Medium. Linked to Attachment Page

Large. No Link

Full size

Comments Off on Image example

Filed under Tech

Recent Writing Revelations

2016 is the year I write a lot. I’ve been aiming to do at least 100 words a day, and I usually do that. I’ve been doing Coursera work, outlining, flash fiction, and even some memoiring! I’ve been learning a lot of things lately and thought it would be nice to put to words what I’ve discovered in the first quarter of this year.

  • I still suck at creating titles. You can definitely tell because of this blog. Part of it has to be marketing. Will it make a good hashtag? Is something else with a similar title already out there? Is it evocative of another work, and do you want it to be? You also tend to write much more of the middle stuff of stories than you do titles, so there’s just a lot less practice on it.
  • Memoiring is powerful. I haven’t grown up in any overly odd situations or gone on adventures, but I grew up in an abusive home. It’s hard to explain to people, as it doesn’t fit the standard ideas of what constitutes abuse. Being able to write about these events, even if it’s just for me, helps me realize how unnatural things were and how it affects me even today. I don’t think I’ll ever write a full book about this, or even if it’s something I’d want to share with a wider audience, but it is inspiration for many characters and scenes in my stories.
  • Interactive fiction: where to start? Project Zed is an idea I’ve had for a really long time, and I’d love to be able to write it. A big part of it that’s making it hard for me to get anywhere is that I’d need programming skills (or recruit someone who can) to create the interface for the story. At least things such as drones, wetware and neural networks are much more common now than when I originally had the idea, so I should be able to craft something much more realistic.
  • It’s okay to be like others. Growing up, one of the stories I absolutely loved was Eragon. It was quintessential hero’s journey, someone rising from nothingness, mystical creatures and intelligent dragons. I loved it and was really into the fanfiction community; I didn’t write too much of it, but I beta-read and edited for others and did lots of theorycrafting about the subsequent books. Now, looking back at the books, I can see the flaws and how it really is “Star Wars with Dragons.” But that’s okay! Because I absolutely loved it, as did millions of others. It made me write more, think about literature more, expand my own ideas about fantasy. It made me read Earthsea and Garth Nix and many others. As I’ve been nailing down the outline for Enter Humanity, I’ve realized that it’s very much like Game of Thrones, with the political issues and multiple POVs and no true “evil.” There are very few original stories left, and someone, somewhere will always love what you write.
  • Maybe the Oxford comma really is necessary.

Comments Off on Recent Writing Revelations

Filed under Fiction, Phek

Trans* Capstone Supplements

Image gallery: Click an image to open. Click arrows to navigate.

Trans* Terms:

Note: Many terms are defined differently for each individual. This list is in no way exhaustive nor comprehensive.

Transgender: A person who is changing their birth gender into another.

Transsexual: A person who is using medical and/or surgical means to change their birth sex.

Cisgender: A person who’s birth gender matches their sex and gender identity. This is the majority of the world population. Usually shortened to cis.

Sex: Biological traits that identify someone as male or female. Determined by X and Y chromosomes, gestational development and puberty. Legal sex is denoted by government documents (birth certificate, IDs, etc).

Gender: Actions and perceptions that identify someone as a man, woman or other. Determined by society and how people treat the person. Gender identity is how the person sees themselves.

Sex reassignment surgery: Generally refers to altering genitals to match a person’s new sex. Additional cosmetic surgeries (breast addition/removal, facial reconstruction) can fall within this category.

Comments Off on Trans* Capstone Supplements

Filed under Capstone, Nonfiction, Tech

Living Trans* at RIT: Hidden Issues for a Hidden Group

Multimedia can be found here.

“My body- and its difference from normative ‘maleness’ gets in my way at nearly every juncture: dating, talking about my history, doing things I enjoy, going to the restroom, choosing clothes- the list goes on. These are all mundane, day-to-day things; as a transperson, virtually every moment of my waking life is colored by the realities and structure of my body,” Tristan Wright writes on his blog because sometime fish have wings.

Wright is a member of a well-hidden community within the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York. He and many others identify as trans*, a label that adds a layer of complexity to anything and everything. A lack of understanding has lead to discrimination, humiliation and even violence towards trans* individuals in other communities. Despite the safety and acceptance at RIT’s campus, many still choose to hide themselves for their own safety.

Gender Identity

The term trans* (with the silent asterisk) encompasses everyone who does not fit the sex or gender identities given to them at birth. This includes cross dressers, androgynous individuals and people undergoing a change of their gender or sex. The affects of one’s presented gender is normally not felt until they attempt to go outside of the expected boundaries.

Legal sex is one of the biggest hurdles that trans* people face. A child, once born, is labeled male or female by their genitals; the child is assumed cis and the information is recorded on the birth certificate. In the United States, this mark of sex is sent with other information to the Social Security Administration, school districts, insurance, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. The legal sex is connected to the person’s legal name, which is normally never changed unless a woman gets married (men taking the wife’s name causes legal issues). A name change can be done with a court hearing and a few hundred dollars, but a legal sex change can be trickier.


Image: Requirements for altering birth certificate sex in the US.
Purple: Sex on birth certificate altered upon request
Grey: Altering sex on birth certificate requires court order
Light blue: Altering sex on birth certificate requires sex reassignment surgery
Navy: Altering sex on birth certificate requires both SRS and legal name change
Red: State does not alter sex on birth certificates for transsexuals
Source: Wikimedia commons

Most states require a court order in order to change a birth certificate, with many also requiring sex reassignment surgeries (SRS) as well. 3 states currently bar altering of the birth certificate. SRS costs thousands of dollars, which is not always covered by insurance, along with lengthy psychological evaluations and medical loopholes for a trans* person to traverse.

This means that most trans* students at RIT are legally their birth sex and have their legal name. Legal names are required on documents, as Financial Aid keeps in contact with the IRS. This means that legal names are listed on student IDs, on professors’ class lists and as display names in RIT’s email system.

Val Pizzo, president of RIT’s trans* club Tangent, had issues with this. With short hair and a rugby shirt, he easily presented as male, but the second-year student still has his legal female name and sex. During his required freshman discovery class, the professor set up an activity that split up students by gender; she planned it before meeting the group and used the sex markers attached to the student’s names on her class list. On the first day, Pizzo was asked why a male-looking student had a female marker on the sheet. Pizzo laughed it off and told the professor that it was a mistake, though he knew it was because his legal sex and presented gender didn’t match.

The professor seemed understanding, but throughout the quarter she kept referring to Pizzo by his female name and used female pronouns for him. Pizzo eventually pulled her aside and explained his situation, though the professor kept using the female pronouns and identity. He wasn’t too bothered by it, but he knows that’s not always the case. “For other people, especially in smaller classes, it can be an ordeal.”

Class lists are built using MyCourses, a software suite that RIT utilizes to allow a class to communicate within and share information and files. The data for students is pulled from the main data banks, though an individual’s information can be altered by asking the right people, Pizzo found out. The student ID can be changed to only have a last name, though the student’s picture is still necessary. The email display name can also be changed by speaking to IT services. Pizzo and other trans* group leaders note that none of this information is easily available.

Living Trans* on Campus

All freshmen coming straight out of high school must live in the RIT dorms as long as their parental or guardian home is more than 30 miles away from campus for their entire first year. Students are allowed to pick which dorm and roommate they have as long as the other person is of the same legal sex as them. For trans* students, this presents a thorny issue: Do they live with a person they have no idea about how they feel on trans* people? Do they come out to every potential roommate? Or do they hide their identity and try to pass as their unwanted gender when they’re in their room?

There’s an option available especially for trans* students. An incoming student fills out a form, including a short essay on what the student needs in order to be comfortable in housing. This allows RIT Housing to match students with understanding roommates. If there’s no match, the student will be placed in a single room instead, which costs an additional $1,200 per year.

Shaemus Spencer used this option to find a roommate, where he was roomed with another female-to-male trans* student. He originally wanted to live in Special Interest Housing, where a fraternity-like club lives all in one floor of a dorm. Neither Art House nor the House of General Science House had a member who would be a suitable match for him, so Spencer lived on a normal co-ed floor. The only people who knew of his trans* status were his roommate and the floor’s residential advisor.

Spencer was able to use the male restroom on his floor without any issue, though there was also a unisex/disability compliant bathroom on the floor. Trans* individuals have issues with public bathrooms, as it can cause them to be forcibly out their identity. As Wright wrote “The ability to easily go to the bathroom is widely undervalued. If I have to pee, I have to hope there’s an available stall in the nearest bathroom. If there isn’t (which usually happens when I’m at a large meeting or other event and we’re on a restroom break) I find myself going on a little voyage in search of one, awkwardly walking in to the restroom, looking for feet in the stall, and hoping that no-one is thinking too hard about what I’m up to. Then, of course, I wonder if my bathroom-mates are paying attention to my “business”, if they notice the sound of me peeing with my feet facing the “wrong” direction. Can they tell I’m sitting down to pee? Do they wonder why?”

Trans* people being harassed for using public restrooms is a well documented phenomenon, so many elect to use gender-neutral bathrooms at their homes or in public. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) currently requires at least one compliant bathroom per building, which sometimes can be a unisex bathroom. The oldest parts of the campus were constructed in 1964, before ADA bathroom compliance was in effect.

Source link

This means that older buildings have few, if any, “safe” bathrooms for trans* students. The art college is based in two connected buildings (7A and 7B or Gannett and Booth) that are each four floors tall with a basement; there is only one ADA unisex bathroom between them. Newer buildings tend to have at least one, though anything built past January 2010 do not have this information publically available.

All dorms, despite some being built in the ‘60s, have at least one unisex bathroom per floor, allowing all trans* students to have a safe space. After freshmen year, students can live wherever they wish, with on-campus apartments and suites having the usual non-gendered bathrooms most people have in their own homes. Students can also have anyone they wish as roommates past their first year as well.

The Field House hosts a large gym, pool, athletic courts and hosts most of RIT’s wellness courses, a required part of graduation sans doctor’s note. There are gendered locker rooms, another known place for trans* people to face harassment. Normally the locker room has to be passed through to reach the pool, though there is a more circuitous way to get there; most trans* people are not comfortable enough to wear swimwear in public so this has not been a vocalized issue. The Field House does have two unisex bathrooms in the basement that could be used for changing, though they are out of the way and do not offer a safe place to store items or to shower.

An odd issue facing trans* students on campus is the mail system. Students living outside of the dorms have mailboxes that are used by everyone in a unit, so the name is not taken into account. Students living in the dorms have mailboxes that are handled by the student post office for the eastern half of campus. Letters, postcards and mail small enough to fit into a mailbox are sorted by name, so if a person’s non-legal name is used, the post office will cross it out and add the legal name instead. This happens as well for packages that need to be picked up; eastern on-campus apartment students face this issue as well.

The western half of campus has its own post office, and it does not have this issue. When students sign up for their mail key at the beginning of the year, they fill out a form that includes their name and what other names they might receive mail as. This allows trans* students to receive mail without it being tampered. The eastern post office sign up is automatic, as any keys or info is taken from Housing.


The first major step that brought the RIT trans* community to the spotlight was more of a stumble. The student-run weekly magazine, The Reporter, wanted to write a feature piece on trans* people on campus. The February 4 issue featured a female-looking body on all 6,000 covers to match the main feature piece “Infinite Circles: RIT’s Transgender Community.” The piece focused on two students, Melissa Maron and Tristan Wright, who was a first year at the time.

In the article, the only issues brought up were name changes on school documents and the “slightly…irritating” lack of safe bathrooms. The piece spoke about how Maron founded Tangent, the only trans*-specific student group, but shows an unflattering picture of her taken in profile, making her masculine facial features and prominent Adam’s apple obvious signs that she is male-to-female trans*.

“That was one of the worst issues ever that I was in charge of,” Mady Villavicencio said. As the editor-in-chief of The Reporter, Villavicencio was responsible for all final content, including imagery, within the magazine. The public comments on the piece note how “Infinite Circles” is redundant, which the magazine received flak about, but the GLBT community brought to her attention that the piece had multiple issues to it.

By focusing on only two people, “Infinite Circles” was only able to focus on a very small slice of “transgender” life. Language used was unclear or not defined or was used improperly. “There is a lot of disagreement within the GLBT community about definitions and beliefs,” Villavicencio noted. “I ran [the [piece] across as many of the GLBT Center friends and alums as possible.” Due to the lack of time and other pieces requiring attention, she had to hope that the trans* students interviewed were able to “speak for themselves.”

Villavicencio looks back and notes that because she spent time with GLBT people that she was already aware of issues and terminology and didn’t think of including them. The writer, Michelle Spoto, and section editor, Alex Rogala, had issues because they didn’t have this background knowledge, Villavicencio said.

The piece also ran several weeks after a user-submitted blurb offended the trans* community, so they were already wary of The Reporter, “so that might have tainted the perception of the piece.” The pictures were taken at the last minute, with Joi Ong having to create portraits at the last-minute. “Honestly, if I were to do it again, I would have waited to publish.”

Villavicencio spoke throughout the writing of the piece with Christopher Henry Hinsely, a transman who is now the GLBT Center Coordinator and staff advisor for Tangent.

“Since they’re marginalized, they really need a safe space,” Hinsely said. This need of a safe-space is what led Maron to create Tangent, which is now lead by Pizzo. The group has club status, allowing it to reserve rooms and to access funding, but it is not open to everyone, causing it to break RIT club rules. This disobedience is due to the nature of the club. “It isn’t very open to cis students because the mission isn’t to educate, but to help each other,” Hinsely said.

Tangent used to have only a few regular members, but now it features over 20 students who attend on a regular basis; the doors are open to trans* and questioning students from local schools who don’t have their own trans* group as well. At meetings, members support each other, share stories about their experiences and share clothes when a member decides to change how they present.

Trans* students are also welcome at ritGA, RIT’s gay alliance, as well as the GLBT center to access resources or to have a safe space. RIT’s deaf/hard-of-hearing population also has an LGBT club called Spectrum. All the GLBT-focused groups receive extra representation in Student Government thanks to the executive board OUTspoken.

Originally there was an LGBT-specific senator that would represent the large community by themselves, but there was too much work for one person. OUTspoken is currently lead by president Wright and vice-president Jillian Strobeck. Strobeck, as president-elect for next academic year, is aware of the young group’s issues.

“In the past, I feel that OUTspoken has fallen short.” She explains that with the multiple LGBT-focused groups on campus, it isn’t always clear where lines are drawn. Out of fear of “stepping on ritGA’s toes” OUTspoken has been lax, focusing instead on setting up social events for the LGBT community. Strobeck says that next year she plans to address the lack of unisex bathrooms in older buildings, though she’s not sure how the issue would be fixed.

Improving Trans* Life

“Socially it’s been great,” Spencer said of trans* life on campus. “Administratively it’s been hard.” RIT is very accepting of trans* lifestyles, students have found, but information isn’t always open. Pizzo said “When you really need this info is when you apply as a freshman.” Knowing about groups such as Tangent and OUTspoken as well as the process for getting names changed and safe housing chosen is vital to assure a safe experience for an entering student.

The RIT Health Center allows students to continue hormone therapy and to continue any psychological or psychiatric therapy they may have started, though this is also not advertised. General therapy and health resources are made known, but long wait lists make it hard to be seen in a timely manner.

Though RIT’s campus generally is supportive, there are still instances when transphobia happens. Pizzo shared that a female-to-male trans student was once friends with a girl, who one day said he was spending too much time with her and told RIT he was sexually harassing her. During the disciplinary hearing, the girl continuously misgendered the trans* student and referred to him as she. He asked her to use his preferred pronouns, as she had done so when they were friends and knew that doing otherwise hurt him. Pizzo said another trans* student was given trouble for being on an all-female floor, which made some people uncomfortable.

Faculty and staff can participate in safe-space training, where they learn about LGBT issues and how to be empathetic. People who pass the free seminar get a sticker to place on their door, denoting that they’re open to be approached. Not many take part, Strobeck said, and she plans on increasing visibility in the program.

“There will always be trans* people who will never be out,” Pizzo said. “They will always be stealth.” This is due to the world at large being transphobic, which is slowly improving.

For now, trans* students can feel safe at RIT. The university’s president Bill Destler donated $10,000 to The Northeast LGBT Conference that took place at RIT April 12-14, show his support for all members of the LGBT community both on campus and the world over.

Comments Off on Living Trans* at RIT: Hidden Issues for a Hidden Group

Filed under Capstone, Nonfiction, Tech

Inter Unum Sommnium et Alterum

Each and every night, before I go to bed, I travel to another world. It’s not a dream, since I can still control myself. When I drift off into sleep I leave this place. Tonight I’m lying on a hill in a spruce forest, the needles smelling sharp in my nose. I can see the pale blue sky with paler clouds stretched across. In the distance was a jagged mountain. It was like a pyramid; I knew there was something buried deep inside.

The dragon that lived on the cliffs took flight. I never get to get close to it, I usually fall asleep before that. There had to be other creatures that lived in this world, though I’ve never seen them. I haven’t seen much of here, but the mountain is always there, somewhere in the distance.

People keep saying that I need to apply to colleges. I don’t want to. I know I’m not good enough to get in. I never did well in classes. I’m not good at anything. There’s the state school I could always go to. Everyone treats it as a joke. It’s where you go to be a gym teacher. .

I don’t want to be a gym teacher. I don’t want to get stuck at school. But I don’t want to get stuck at a shitty job, either.


Now I find myself on the mountain itself. The rock is shorn sharply, as if someone came down with a knife and carved it from something else. That’s how glaciers form mountains, isn’t it? By just cutting into the Earth and pulling everything else away.

You can see out for miles up here. There’s the spruce forests covering the rolling hills and a glinting river through one of the valleys. Up to my right I can see a plateau. There’s a meandering heard of brown creatures out there. I wonder what those are. They could be horses, or buffalo? Maybe they’re aurochs like in that book I read once.

A sudden updraft of wind knocks me backwards. It’s the dragon taking flight. Its flint-grey hide matches so well with the mountain. It circles around the mountain a few times, too high for me to get a good look, then it flies off in some direction I can’t see; the entire mountain is in the way.

Mom gave me some applications to fill out. I check what they needed. Transcripts of my grades (shit). Letters of recommendations from teachers (shit). Essays on why I want to get in (fuck). $100 application fee each (christ). There’s 5, 6 of them here.

Is this what everyone else is doing? How do they expect me to get this all done? The due dates are all in a month. What am I going to do.


I’m now on some other part of the mountain tonight. I feel uneasy, exposed, like I’m backed up against a wall. I scan the land below me to see if I recognize anything. There’s a big lake that I think I’ve been to once before. There’s more forests out there, but I think I see some deciduous woods this time. I look up to see, right at eye level, another mountain in the midground.

On it was a bristling black tower. It looked like a fortress rising out of the face of the rock. Seeing it made me anxious. Things like that just don’t appear on their own. How long were other people here? Did they know I was here too?

A deep sound hit me as it shook the ground. I could hear rocks tumbling down the mountain off to my left. My eyes snapped to the tower, something rising from it. It, too, was a dragon.

Today I fucked up. After class I went to my Spanish teacher and asked for a recommendation. He just looked at me. Are you sure about that? he asked me. I just left the room. I hid in the band closet the rest of the day.

I tried looking over the applications again, and I just couldn’t do it. I’m not going to get in with my grades. My teachers don’t like me. Do they even know who I am?

I was on the mountain again. It was so odd, that I ended up here three nights in a row. Normally I don’t end up at the same place twice in a week. I could see that dark tower out on that other mountain. I didn’t like that there was another dragon here. Or that there was someone out there who controlled him, and enough people to build himself such a fortress, too.

I sat down and pulled my knees to my chest. I didn’t want to leave this place, but when I’ll get found out, I won’t be safe anymore. There was no way that I could defend myself, either. I didn’t know how to fashion tools out of stone to create better ones. I couldn’t just punch a tree down to get wood.

Next to me sat the flinty grey dragon. It was big, but it didn’t seem to be aggressive. It was looking out at the black tower.

“You know there’s another dragon out there, don’t you?” It didn’t respond, but I knew that it understood me. “You might be able to stand up to it, but I don’t know about everything else that lives there. It’s probably bad, too.

“What are you going to do?”

The dragon stood up, but then lowered its side towards me. It looked at me with silvery-blue eyes. In that moment we understood each other. I used its leg as a step and swung onto its back, where the neck met the body. I twisted my fingers in its soft mane and the dragon slipped off the mountain and into flight.

I knew that everything was going to be okay.

I’ll talk to my English teacher in the morning.

Comments Off on Inter Unum Sommnium et Alterum

Filed under Fiction, Phek

Unisex Bathrooms at RIT

Source link

The iframe doesn’t work out too well on this page: I’ll have to tweak the dimensions of it in order to fit with the final publication.

This was made with Google’s Map Engine Lite, which just entered public beta today. It’s neat, since it allows you to make sets of data that is stored in “layers,” and you can change the visuals for each data point as well, or make them all the same on a single layer (as I did). You can import data via a spreadsheet, but unfortunately I was stuck with manually placing the data points.

The most difficult part was dealing with RIT’s map system. A few years ago they switched from mostly referring to buildings by number to referring them by name. Most people on campus, especially staff and uppergrads, still use the number system. All of RIT’s maps have been switched to the new system, which can be very confusing.

All buildings are labeled with a three letter code, like GIS, COS or LIB. Generally the code is simple enough to figure out. Most academic buildings are known by both number and name, so there’s little confusion. The dorms have nearly always been referred to by their name, so finding a number for them requires looking it up on a table. A row is a single building, with columns such as name, number, and code.

For some reason, the table is organized alphabetically by code, with the code being the farthest column to the right. This is very good if you’re looking at the map and you know where a building is, but not its name. In most cases (like with me tonight), I knew the name but not the physical location of the building. So this required me scanning every single column of data by eye, as the maps are PDFs or image file with no searchable text.

The bathroom data is publicly available via a PDF linked by the GLBT Center. It was last updated January 2010; I’ll look into getting an updated list. The data lists buildings by number, requiring the lengthy look-up process.

With all the data mapped out, I noticed some interesting things. The old academic buildings weren’t very good with having unisex bathrooms, but as they were built in the 1970’s, this is to be expected. Most of the dorms were built in that time, though, and they have one bathroom per floor, generally. Building 17 (microelectronic engineering) has a surprisingly high number of bathrooms. Even newer buildings like 70 (computer science) and 78 (Louise Slaughter Hall) have only one each, and these are huge buildings with multiple floors.

There’s many newer buildings without a single bathroom at all. I know that RIT now has to have at least one ADA/unisex bathroom per building now, though I don’t know when this came into effect.

Comments Off on Unisex Bathrooms at RIT

Filed under Capstone

SS Interview

Yesterday I spoke to an ftm individual who’ll be called SS here (full name will be in piece). He was wonderful to talk to and I found a lot of places to go to for more information.

RIT has names on RIT emails, computer accounts, IDs, paychecks and forms be the same as a person’s legal name. Changing a name short of becoming a married woman is a very expensive process. SS told me how his name on his ID and MyCourses is his legal (female) name, which causes confusion. He uses an outside email to communicate with professors and fellow students, which displays the male name. He introduces himself as his male name, but professors sees a female name on their rosters and end up having to ask, which causes him having to explain his situation. SS doesn’t have an issue with this, but for people in the middle of transitioning, having to out themselves can be dangerous.

SS told me that when he applied for housing as a freshman, he applied for and was accepted to two special interest houses, Art House and House of General Science (HOGS). He wanted to live on HOGS, but housing has a rule against different-sexed students sharing a room in the dorms. SS presents as a male, which would make living with a female uncomfortable with both of them. Housing gave him a second option, after much contact and talking to higher-ups, for SS to live with another ftm trans*, but on a general floor. SS took this option and was a non-floor member of HOGS.

Each floor in the dorms has a handicap-accessible/non-gendered bathroom, which includes a toilet, sink and shower in one lockable room. The other housing options on campus have non-gendered bathrooms like most people’s homes with a toilet, sink and shower/bath.

A very interesting thing SS brought up was the NRH and GV post offices. At NRH, students are not given any forms to fill out. When mail comes in, despite the physical address on it, it’s the name of the person on the package that determines who it is for. SS had packages and postcards sent to him with his preferred name, but since that person doesn’t exist within RIT’s computer systems, the post office would cross out his name and write the female name instead on it, despite multiple times telling them that he was who he said he was. This lead to postcards being marked up. GV, on the other hand, requires a form to be filled out when you open a mailbox there, which has space for other names you might be known as. This allows SS to get his mail with his preferred name without issue.

I have a large list of on-campus people, organizations and departments to speak to now for official rules concerning trans* students and logic behind the rules.

Comments Off on SS Interview

Filed under Capstone

Beginning Ideas and Research

I had three ideas for my capstone project: video games influencing players, wearable technology/portable computing and trans* issues at RIT. After reviewing all three ideas with my professor and the class, the trans* story pitch was the strongest and the one I chose to go with.

For a background interview I spoke to the receptionist at the GLBT Center at RIT. I missed a talk by a trans* speaker by one day, which is a shame, but we discussed the issues that trans* people have on campus, especially when it comes to representation.

There’s three major groups that work with trans* people on campus. The GLBT Center is for everyone under the queer umbrella, as well as allies. It’s a safe space for people to hang out, eat meals, take a nap and to have weekly meetings. There’s free condoms and a library of queer materials to check out.

The Center for Women and Gender has C. Henry Hinesley, who runs the GLBT Center. The Women/Gender Center gives counseling and services and runs feminist events. The Center used to be the Women’s Center, but the new name is part of their PR campaign to show that they’re inclusive to everyone. They have free condoms, dental dams, pads/tampons, chocolate and literature on domestic violence, sexual health, etc. The Center still seems to be very much geared towards cis females.

OUTspoken provides representation for LGBT people at major student organization (MSO) events. OUTspoken is ran like a club in that it has multiple people, while the deaf and female communities each have their own senators in student government.

RIT has its own trans* group, Tangent, but they seem to be most literally underground. I’ve heard of them before when The Reporter was writing their one piece about trans* people, including how flyers for Tangent get ripped down and otherwise erased from campus.  I managed to find a single poster outside of the GLBT Center. They don’t have their own webpage, only a single email address; they’re an official RIT club, which is odd that they have such a small footprint.

I’m currently looking for trans* students to talk to me, which I expect to be somewhat difficult. I’ll try to get a hold of Tangent and talk to Hinesley as well.

Comments Off on Beginning Ideas and Research

Filed under Capstone

Chicken Story

Once upon a time there was a farm, with all the typical barnyard fare, except there was no rooster. There was no need of one, as there was only the need of unfertilized eggs for the farmer and his wife to eat, so there was only one hen as well. She was a beautiful hen, with fluffy golden feathers. The ducks and the geese and the swallows and the owl could never be as beautiful as she.

Every day she would lay an egg, and every day she would sit on it, waiting for it to hatch. And every day it wouldn’t hatch, for there was no rooster. She knew that she didn’t need a rooster, for the there was no bull and yet the heifer gave milk, there was no dog and yet the bitch had pups. So why shouldn’t she have a chick without a rooster around?

She spent her days sitting on her nest and empty eggs, angrily pecking at any of the other animals that came by. Soon the other animals left her alone in her corner of the barn. She was alone, but she didn’t care, she knew that one day she would get her chick.

And one day, it did happen. She was sitting on an egg that looked no different than any other. She had the same anticipation that it would become an empty shell with a fluffy chick flopping out. There was a faint cracking sound, and she looked down her breast. Something was trying to hatch out of the egg!

She stepped off her nest, and the egg was rocking so slightly, whatever was inside was trying to get out. The hen had no idea what was supposed to happen between this and the hatching. Her squawking and screeching attracted the other animals, and the mother duck knew that the chick was in trouble, that it was too weak to break out on its own.

The duck tried telling the hen that they had to intervene, that she had to do the same for her own children, and the hen only laughed at her. Those ducklings weren’t as good as her own chick, they needed a drake to be born. The hen sat and watched the egg, waiting for it to hatch.

A day later, the chick finally broke through the shell and collapsed in the nest. The hen was amazed, she finally had a chick, but it was so ugly. It had grey, bumpy skin and was covered in slime and goo. Where were the beautiful golden feathers? The hen kicked the sickly chick out of her nest and got to work on making another egg.

The chick had no perception of what her mother was, since she was already forsaken from the nest. All she knew is that she was tired and cold. As the mother hen napped in her nest, the owl brought the chick up to its own home in the rafters. The owl had had its own chicks that had grown up and left to make their own nests, and she couldn’t leave a chick to die alone. The swallow parents brought the chick food, as the owl soon discovered that chickens don’t eat mice.

The grey, slimy chick slowly grew stronger, and once she opened her eyes, she was just as fluffy and pretty as any other chick. Once she learned how to walk, she played with the swallow chicks in the rafters. She never bothered checking on her mother in her nest below, as the owl was the mother for all she knew.

The hen had another egg that bore a chick, and this chick hatched out perfectly, it came out fuzzy and yellow and calling for its mother’s attention. She spent all her time taking care of the chick, though she rarely left the nest, as she still hoped that she would be graced with a third, roosterless chick. She let her chick play by itself in the barn, but always close enough so she could watch without having to leave her nest.

When the first chick noticed that her swallow friends were starting to fly, she asked her owl mother why she wasn’t flying. Give it time, the owl told her. She asked why she grew faster and was already much bigger than the swallow chicks. We’re all different, even though we’re all birds, the owl said.

The chick tried to fly with her swallow friends, but she didn’t have the feathers that they did. They were a shiny steely blue, while she was still very yellow and fluffy. You’ll get your feathers soon, the swallow parents always told her. Some chicks just take a little longer to grow.

She soon did, though she had big, wide feathers on big, wide wings. Her friends were all small and sleek and could flit around the rafters of the barn. Their size difference was apparent, as she was becoming as big as her owl mother, who already towered over the swallows. When she finally learned to fly, the chick was very clumsy. She felt terrible, she would never be as good as her friends.

We can do things besides fly, the other swallow chicks told her. They still chased each other around, looked for bugs hiding in the hay bales, looking out at the rest of the farm from the window, pestering the bats while they slept.

One day, the swallow parents felt that their chicks were all old enough and strong enough fliers to leave the barn on their own. The yellow chick, who had grown up to be a big, golden hen, wanted to go as well, despite not being as good at flying. The owl still let her go, she would be close enough to get help, and her friends would be with her.

All the chicks flew down to the floor of the barn. They played in the air, looking at the horses and sheep and the heifer up close. The golden chick ran after them, making short flights to get up as high as the swallows, though she could run as fast as they could fly.

The mother hen squawked. Who are you, she demanded. The chick explained that she was the chick raised by the owl up in the rafters. The hen wasn’t very happy. How is there another hen, the only ones are my daughter and I! Another hen stepped forwards from behind her mother, wings tiredly hanging from her sides. This chick, the second chick that the hen had hatched, had dull brown feathers and looked quite dull.

Hey, she looks a bit like you, one of the swallows said. She should play with us, another said. The golden chick asked if the brown chick could play, and the mother hen regarded this new chicken carefully. She told her daughter that she could play, just to stay within view of the nest.

The gold chick and the swallows played like they normally did, and the brown chick struggled to keep up with them. She could barely jump, and she couldn’t even fly. The gold chick asked why she couldn’t, and the brown chick snapped that real chickens don’t need to fly. The brown chick puffed out its chest and walked back to its nest that sat next to her mothers.

The gold chick wondered about the brown chick for the rest of the time that she and the swallows played in the lower level of the barn. When they returned to the rafters at the end of the day, she asked the mother owl about who these other two chickens were. The owl told her about how the hen had laid the chick’s egg, but rejected the chick since she was hatched sickly. The owl had brought her up to the rafters to raise her, since her egg-mother refused to acknowledge her.

The brown chick said that I’m not a real chicken, the gold chick said sadly. Chickens lay eggs and raise their chicks to be good chickens, the owl told her. She laid you and that other chick, but did she raise you? And did she raise the brown chick to be a good chicken?

The gold chick thought about this as she sat in the nest and the sun was setting. She thought about this as she slept, and thought about it as she dreamed. She was woken up the next morning by the young swallows asking her to go play with them. With the owl’s blessing, she flew out of the barn door with her friends, to explore what the rest of the farm had in store for her.

Comments Off on Chicken Story

Filed under Fiction, Phek

Technical Instructions

Audience and Use Profile

The audience will be Windows 7 computer users. They will already have a basic understanding of how to use computers, but not how to do advanced functions and customizations. These users are likely to contact a vendor such as Geek Squad to handle technical issues that arise instead of their technically-inclined family or friend or to handle it on their own.

These instructions will aid users in speeding up their computers after they have been in use for some time. The users are not expected to do any physical upgrades or pay for any programs.



Over time your computer will slow down unless there is proper maintenance. A computer is a machine and needs to be maintained, just like a car. Bringing your computer back up to speed might seem complicated, but is actually quite simple. All it takes is a few simple steps.

Uninstall Programs

  1. Click the Start button
  2. Click the Control Panel
  3. Click Uninstall a program under Programs
  4. Uninstall programs you don’t use or need. Many computers come with programs added by the manufacturer. These slow down the computer and take up hard drive space. Removing them can help make your computer faster than it was when purchased. Caution: You can harm your computer by removing vital programs.
  5. Look up programs you are unfamiliar with. If looking up a program with a search engine does not clear up if it is important, then don’t delete it.

Remove Spyware and malware

  1. Download Spybot Search and Destroy from their website. The program is free, though they accept donations.
  2. Install Spybot.
  3. Go to Start>All Programs>Spybot-Search and Destroy. Right click the Spybot-Search and Destroy program and chose Run as Administrator.
  4. Click Yes on the popup dialogue.
  5. Update Spybot. Click the update button on the right margin. If there are updates, choose a server that is located in the same country as you and download the updates. Close the box once the downloads are complete. If there are no updates, close the box.
  6. Immunize your computer. Click the immunize button on the right margin. Spybot will automatically look for ways to make your web browsing faster and safer. Click the Immunize button to apply protection.
  7. Locate spyware. Click the Search & Destroy button on the right margin. Click the check for problems button. The program will go through your computer and look for programs that slow down your computer, steal your identity and invade your privacy.
  8. Click fix selected problems once the scan is complete. Spybot will remove the negative software on your computer.

Remove Unnecessary Files

  1. Download CCleaner from their website. The program is a more effective version of Window’s Disk Cleanup program. The program is free, but they accept donations.
  2. Install CCleaner.
  3. Open the CCleaner program. If a dialogue box pops up, click yes.
  4. Click analyze on the bottom of the window. The program will look for temporary files your computer no longer needs.
  5. Click Run Cleaner.
  6. Click the Registry button on the right margin.
  7. Click scan for issues. CCleaner will look for entries in the registry that are no longer needed or incorrect. This will allow the computer to run faster.
  8. Click fix selected issues. The program will ask you if you want to save changes to the registry, and you should in case an error is made.
  9. Click fix all selected issues.

Defragment your Hard Drive

  1. Download Defraggler from their website. The program is a defragmentation program that used to be included in previous versions of Windows. The program is free, but they accept donations.
  2. Install Defraggler.
  3. Open the Defraggler program.
  4. Click yes when the dialogue box appears.
  5. Select the Windows drive from the list. This is the drive that has your operating system installed onto it. The icon will have a Windows Logo on it. It is usually the C: drive.
  6. Click Analyze. A fragmented file is when all parts of a program are not physically next to each other on the hard drive, which causes using the file to take much longer than it would if the file was unfragmented.
  7. Click Defrag. Depending on the amount of fragmented files, this could take several hours. Leave your computer on during this time. The defragmentation will take longer if you use it, so it is recommend to run the defragmentation while you are at work or overnight.

Improve your Browsing Experience

  1. Install a new web browser. If browsing the Internet is taking longer than it used to, then a more modern web browser can improve this.
  2. Download Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari or Opera. All of these browsers are free and have different features and user interfaces. Do research on which one you want to use.
  3. Install your new web browser. Import bookmarks and favorites from your old browser if you so choose.
  4. Keep unnecessary files out of your new browser. Do everything you can to not install browser toolbars. These are generally malware and slow down your computer and keep track of your activities online. The few seconds it might save you is not worth the time it slows down your computer.

Maintain your Faster Computer

  1. Run Spybot, Defraggler and CCleaner at regular intervals. This can be as often as a week to every three months. Like changing oil in a car, a computer needs to have unnecessary files removed to keep it up to speed. Pick a schedule that works around you and how much you use your computer. The more you use it, the more often it should be maintained.
  2. Warning: Only install programs you trust. Be wary of unneeded programs. Only trust browser toolbars, extensions or programs from the web if they come with excellent reviews. When installing programs, read each screen to make sure that extra software isn’t being tacked on.
  3. Make sure your hard drive does not become over 90% full. At this point, there are so many files on a hard drive that it takes a long time to search for files. Back up files and videos on the internet or burn them on DVD or Bluray discs, or purchase a second hard drive to store your files on. This can either be an external or internal, though do the research for what is the best to chose.


Computers need to be maintained in order to have peak performance, and these steps will help with that. The programs in these instructions don’t need to be reinstalled each time, though Spybot should be updated to keep your computer safe. Defraggler and CCleaner will need to be downloaded and installed again if there is an update. Updating programs and Windows help keep you safe and your computer working fast.

Comments Off on Technical Instructions

Filed under Nonfiction, Tech