It Doesn’t Have to be Like This

Originally published as two separate posts on April 6 and April 7, 2018. I have chosen to republish it now, because it remains very relevant in September of 2020.

Today I worked from home, but left in the afternoon to come down to a going away party for another SingleHopper.

Getting into Union Station at 5pm means you’re the one late salmon swimming upstream, so I walked a slightly different way to get out of the station, which means I came out slightly more west than I normally do. As I headed north, west of the river, I came upon a young man, somewhere in his 20s, clearly homeless, cold, hungry, sitting on the freezing ground, and wracked with body-shaking sobs of despair.

And of course, since it was just after five, there were hundreds of people walking past him, ignoring or pretending to ignore him.

I was late to the party. I could have kept walking. I almost did keep walking, but I stopped instead.

I actually had a few dollar bills – not enough, of course, but I got them out to give to him. And I knelt down next to him and touched him on the arm to try to reach through his sorrow, and the first, ridiculous, heartbreaking thing he said to me was,

“I’m sorry. I’ve been so depressed.”

And part of me wanted to laugh in disbelief, and part of me wanted to weep in horror.

So I swallowed all of that, and gave him the money and asked him if I could buy him something to eat, which he turned down because someone had given him some granola bars earlier that day.

I tried to convince him to let me get him something, but he wouldn’t budge, and just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean I get to insist you take more of my charity than you want. So I said “good luck” and went on my way. The party was fun, and I got to see my friends, and we all spent money that probably could have been used better on drinks and ping-pong at the most ridiculous bar.

Of course, I looked for him on the way back to the train, but he wasn’t there. I’ll look for him more. But before I do, I’ll get to sleep in my bed, in my house, with my dearest wife, after checking on my amazing children, and then tomorrow, I’ll go to an event to be with other friends to watch people hit other people with sticks. And I’ll feel simultaneously overjoyed and terribly guilty about it.

But under all of it? Is all this:

Life is short and hard and the black dog always wins in the end. I spend a fair amount of my time bewildered about how and why human beings are terrible to each other.

We are failing as a country. As a people. As a planet. We have got to do better. I didn’t post this so people will tell me how great I am. I’m not. I left him there, and for all I know he’ll be dead before morning. And I left him there anyway.

People think I have no sense of humor. People think I’m too political. People think I waste my time posting memes about overturning the established order. Well, this is partly why. Because sometimes I cannot think of anything else to do.

And I will keep trying. But this post from Jim Wright ties in perfectly.

There are so many empty houses in America, we could house everyone. There’s so much food we could feed everyone. But instead, we’re obsessed with quarterly profits and shareholders.

Sure, I stopped and treated another human being with respect and caring and gave him a couple bucks so he could have some food, but in reality, I should never have had the interaction in the first place. He shouldn’t have been there.

Everyone should have shelter. Everyone should have food. Everyone should have health care.

Anti-Racism Resources

It’s not enough to just be not racist. We have to be anti-racist. That means constant self-evaluation and work. While not exclusive to people who look like me, it is the work of majority to make sure that minorities are not excluded.

To that end, I have created a List of Anti-racism Resources (google docs) that I update on the regular. Feel free to peruse, use, and share.

Rehoming Posts

So I’ve decided that as Facebook becomes ever more difficult, I’m going to be copying some of my content from there to here, in preparation for the platform imploding. I don’t know if I can backdate the posts or not, but I’ll put “originally published” at the top of each post or something. I won’t be copying over FB comments, however.

Also, I’ve enabled SSL, which, duh.

Y’all are welcome to subscribe!

With Great Power…

Originally published on September 15, 2020.

Today on Andreas’ Admonitions (one in a continuing series I wish I didn’t feel compelled to write):

Just because you’ve never gotten push-back on your troublesome opinions before doesn’t make them not troublesome. It just means that either people don’t feel safe around you, or other people are trying to curry favor with you because you hold influence and power in an activity that they value. It means you need to grow as an individual. Power doesn’t make you a good person.

What you do with that power reflects what kind of person you are.

In addition, the structure and boundaries of relationships between Peers and their dependents are wholly private and unofficial and have nothing to do with the rules of the SCA. Here’s what is governed by SCA rules: a person’s conduct in accordance with the SCA’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.

I’ve written before about how social media has changed the SCA both for the better and the worse. There are people I consider good friends that I never would have gotten to know without Facebook. There are also people who I have let go of because they showed us who they really are. It is my personal choice who I directly associate with; the SCA has no authority over that.

I do not believe that you can be a racist and be a good peer. I do not believe that you can be a homophobe “in real life” and leave your bigotry at the gate. I do not believe that 1000+ word screeds about how BLM is a group of communist terrorists, or refusing to recognize someone’s gender identity, or their marriage, are “closely held opinions”. Indeed, when they’re posted publicly on Facebook, it’s no different than broadcasting them over the radio, shouting them through a megaphone, or putting them up on a billboard. These are not simply speech.

They are an action.

And when someone who espouses these beliefs repeatedly is called on it by people who are no longer willing to be cowed or tone-policed, that’s not doxing; that’s simply consequences. Words mean things. Doxing has a specific definition.

Reporting bad behavior with supporting screenshots is not doxing.

The SCA is a private organization, and as such is not only allowed to decide who may participate but is required to adhere to certain standards. The membership cannot ignore the fact that the SCA Inc is a US Not For Profit organization, subject to modern laws and regulations that also govern conduct.

If the SCA stands for Chivalry, Honor, and Integrity, then it must stand for Inclusion, Equity and Diversity, and it cannot stand for Prejudice, Exclusivity, and Homogeneity.

We all need to examine our internal biases. We all need to apologize for the harms we have done. We all need to strive to do better. We all need to lift each other up.

Write to the Board in support of our progress, be kind, and be safe.

See you next time, on Andreas’ Admonitions! 😕😕😕

It only takes a little.

Originally published on September 12, 2020.

I’ve posted about this clip before. About how much I love it, about how it’s the best scene in Doctor Who, even though I don’t really much like Amy Pond.

I’ve been thinking about it today, and why it affects me as deeply as it does. Part of it is just that it’s well written and well acted. It’s a moving moment.

But here’s the thing: a lot of us (in general) feel like they’re not having an affect on the people around them. That we don’t really make much of a difference. I felt like that for a very long time indeed, and I convinced myself that if I just tried harder, and did more, it would finally be enough that folks would recognize it.

Van Gogh died in pain, demoralized, mentally ill, believing himself to be a failure. And he died not knowing how his art affected the world.

We can prevent that. We can tell each other that we love them, that we value their contributions, that even the smallest act can be an act of love and support.

In these days of social distancing and anger, despair is insidious and runs silent and deep. So reach out to the people around you. Show them how much you mean to them. Because as much as I wish it was so, no madman with a box is going to show up and take you into the future so that you can see how you fared in the history books.

We need to be each-others’ madmen in a box. Send a text or a DM. Actually call someone up on the phone (did you even know that your cell phone could connect you for real-time audio communication?). Set up a zoom. Comment on FB posts. It doesn’t have to be much.

I see you. I appreciate you. You matter. I love you.

Laura’s Birthday 2020

Originally published September 11, 2020.

Today is Laura’s birthday. We’ve been married for over 12 years, and together something like fifteen? I think so. I know the anniversary of our first date, but sometimes I can’t remember the year. I’ll have to go look it up on Live Journal. And we were essentially dating long distance before that anyway.

Here’s the thing. We fight. We have endless conversations that don’t resolve. We interpret things differently. We’ve hurt each other, through mistakes or negligence. But I remember the feeling of walking with her on that December morning, both of us recovering from disastrous breakups, and thinking “is it possible that she’s the one?”

We made it possible. We made it happen. We’ve survived illness, financial issues, and a dozen other issues (many of them my own stupid fault) that would have broken other couples. We decided that we weren’t going to let it break us.

One of the things I’ve been trying to do for Laura almost as long as we’ve been together is write her a song, and I don’t know, it just hasn’t worked. Nothing I’ve been able to write down has approached the depths of the feelings I have, the love and appreciation I have for this woman, this mother, this wife, this amazing person that I have had the luck and the fortitude and perseverance and desire to be with and stay with.

There’s a link to an Avett Brothers song in the comments that doesn’t come close either, but I like it.

And maybe that song is going to get written after all. I think I have part of a chorus.

“Even looking back at all we’ve been through
I’d start all over with you.”

I love you, Jibba Groo. I went back through your photos and made this collage. It’s a snapshot, at least, of a lot of good memories. Maybe we can get it developed at the Walgreens!

And there’s more to come at dinner!

SCA Membership & Revenue Analysis in the Time of Covid

All organizations have their tropes and common apocryphal stories. The SCA is no different, and one of the most common is “The SCA is dying! Membership is drying up! We’re gonna fold!”

Often, these conversations happen during times of stress in larger US society (I can’t speak for the SCA in Australia & New Zealand, of course), and so, right now, the topic has been very pervasive in many circles. And, of course, the SCA’s video plea for people to renew and gift memberships added to the reactive panic cycle.

Now, I’m a data nerd, and I know many other data nerds, so I decided that I was going to look at the publicly-available-data from the SCA’s website. That consists of Corporate budgets, Membership numbers, and IRS 990 Financial Statements, all located at in the Documents Library on the SCA website.

The fact of the matter is, there’s not a ton of data to analyze. I was able to come up with three charts, each of which is incomplete in one way or another. There are several months between the time the SCA started tracking membership (1992) and now. There’s 2010 IRS Financial statement is missing from the website, and the most recent published file is from 2017. Internally, the IRS Financial Statements are inconsistent from year to year, as different SCA Treasurers probably felt that different data points were more or less important than their predecessors did.

But I was able to do some analysis:

  • The first year the SCA started keeping track — November, 1992, there were 21263 paid members.
  • The SCA’s peak membership was in June of 2006: 32991 paid members.
  • Something happened between January of 2011 and January of 2013. The SCA dropped from 31310 paid members to 28564 over that time-frame — an 8.5% drop.
  • The highest membership the SCA has had since then was 31134 paid members in January of 2016, but there has been a steady decline since then, to 28723 in January of 2020.
  • When the Covid pandemic struck, and Pennsic was cancelled, and the SCA offered members free extensions on expiration, the bottom fell out. By June of 2020, membership had dropped by 3656, nearly 13%.
(right-click and open in new tab to see details.)

Now, memberships is not the only measure of participation; the SCA has always been open to non-members. Analysis here is a little trickier.

Firstly, the first Non-Member Surcharge data we have is from 2003. Secondly, I’m pretty sure that the cost of the NMS rose form $3 (us) to $5 (us) at some point, but I don’t know when. However, if we decide to ignore the cost variance and assume that the NMS was $5 (which will under-report a little bit, but not extraordinarily), and we average the NMS over the 14 years of the data we have, we see that the NMS averaged $154,182 per year, which means that there were approximately 30,836 non-members attending SCA events per year. That number was highest in 2014, and lowest in 2003, although 2017 was also a bottom-3 year for NMS charges.

As you might expect, there’s a big jump in total Membership revenue in 2003, not just from the NMS, but also from membership revenue itself. That big increase normalizes, but takes a huge drop between 2016 and 2017, when total Membership Revenue went from $1,252,537 to $852,098.

So, even setting aside the drop from Covid, we can see that membership is down to mid-2003 levels, and Membership/NMS revenue is down to mid-2001 levels — as of 2017.

(right-click and open in new tab to see details.)

The most interesting data I found, however, was buried deep in the IRS 990 forms for the SCA, for something called Program Service Revenue by Year. It appears to be a combination of three line-items: Globally available newsletters (which I assume refers to the TI and Complete Anachronist), Locally available newsletters — your kingdom newsletter — and Event fees. even though the majority of event fees don’t actually enter the SCA Inc’s main bank account, it is revenue the corporation must report. To me, this data directly reflects participation in a way that no other data I’ve seen does. The highest revenue reported against this line-item is from 2006, when revenue reached $3,527,258.

Again, the publicly available data only runs through 2017, and here, we see a correlation to the Membership drop between 2011-2013. Program Service Revenue dropped from $3,343,383 in 2011 to $2,683,689 in 2013, and then further dropped to $2,322,751 in 2014! That’s a drop of over a million US dollars — an over 30% decrease in revenue over three years.

(right-click and open in new tab to see details.)

What happened in 2011? I’m not sure. I’ve asked some questions to figure it out, and I’ll update this post when I know more, so check back!

And let’s remember: the last three years aren’t included in the financial data I was able to look at. While there are visible downward trends in the membership data for 2018-2020, it’s impossible to know if that translates directly into less participation, because several kingdoms have done away with pay-to-fight rules, which in the MidRealm, at least, freed up several hundred members to stop paying the yearly fee.

Another really interesting data-point is that while membership drops between 2011-2013, and overall revenue drops between 2011-2014, Membership/NMS revenue actually goes UP between 2011 (total revenue $1,073,972) and 2014 (total revenue $1,186,285.44). I can’t figure that one out either.

It’s clear that participation at events has been on a downward trend since 2006. What’s not clear is that any of this has anything to do with policies or procedures that the BoD has put in place.

What do you think? And how do you think the SCA could best recruit participants who will be in the SCA for the long haul? Let us know in the comments!