Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Beginning 2014

2013 has been an interesting year for me, my first full year as a cancer survivor, I have come back from that dark adventure with a new lease on life, and a new determination to take advantage of the strengths and gifts God had granted me. I think that this year was the first to truly teach me the safety of perspective, the power of distance, and the advantage of forethought when facing a situation. Even when pressed, I understand now, more than ever, than I not only still have time to face a challenge, but I can set out to make more time, often to the detriment of my challenger.

To know something, and to understand it are truly different things, and this year taught me that I can, indeed work, and work well with someone whom I don't like. I can trust to unpleasant, I can even defend the unkind. I can stand for principle, even one opposed to my own, without compromising myself in the process. To be friends, coworkers, allies or neighbors are truly different things, and while they should coexist in the ideal, I have learned to keep each roll carefully in its place when the different relationships will not coexist.

To be linked is good. To be respected is hard. To be trusted is earned. And to be true is, honestly, to be hated at times. Each of these has there place, but it is good not to mistake any of them as universal.

To look into the mirror is to see a preponderance of flaws, shortcomings, and failures. The silvered glass offers no hope for the critical eye. Instead, one must look at the refection offered by those around him, friends, family, spouse, and child. In these I see both the critical judgement needed to burn off impurities, but also a heartfelt appreciation of not only accomplishments, but of the spirit that propelled each one.

As these, the final hours of 2013 drawn to the arbitrary close that is the end of the year, I look back, take stock of my life, and use these lessons to force a compass that will guide me through the year to come.


I shall strive to work harder, mentally and physically, to demonstrate to others, and to prove to myself that I can, and well be an example of industriousness, determination, and resolve.

I shall endeavor towards formal certifications in skills important to me, both personally and professionally.

I shall compete unreservedly, setting my goal no one step ahead, but ten of those around me. In victory I shall celibate the good health of those I passed. In defeat, I shall celebrate twice as hard for them, for it is their example that I should learn from, and they who will likely be there when I fall, answering my cries for aid.

I will forgive my transgressors, and free myself of the heavy, painful chains of hatred and spite, not because they deserve it, for they truly do not, but rather, because I need the peace it will offer, and can stomach no more fighting on these fronts.

I will look inward, and scrutinize myself, a personal crucible to burn away all but the truest thoughts and desires.

I will look to others. I will be more aware of those who have made efforts to befriend me, and will make efforts of my own to reach out in kind. For these are the bonds that raise us up from just existing in this word to truly living in it.

I shall read more, for the page is both mentor and playmate to the mind.

I shall write more, for the pen can is as fine as any doctor's scalpel, as powerful as any sword, as strong as any fortification, and as enduring as any mountain. With my words, I hope to entertain, to educate, to declare and to defend in the new year.

I shall not answer the cries of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy or pride.

I shall aid the weak, uphold the honest, defend the persecuted, give to the wanting.

I shall cherish all that I have, and acquire only what I truly need.

I will love my wife all that much more because she is so dear to my heart.

I will cherish my son, and be glad in his every joy, for his is a legacy I have the privilege of helping to build, and one that I hope will surpass my own.

And finally, I shall endeavor to learn from every mistake, every failing, and refocus myself yet again this time next year.

So say I,
Cisco Cividanes

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Keeping everything in it's place.

Well, I spent some time sewing today, and worked on a little project I have been meaning to tackle for a while.

There is a product out there called "Grid-It", which is more or less a board with elastic straps woven through each other, and used to hold small items in place for transport and storage. Its marketed to the  computer user demographic with some success, and has gotten some good reviews. I liked the idea, but wasn't about to pay the market prices for it, exotically when I wasn't sure it would work for me. Fortunately, the concept is fairly simple, meaning the DIY community has come up with countless ways to make your own.

I went to Wal*mart, got eight yards of elastic, and then came home a pulled out the sewing machine and an old shoe box. Two hours later... I came up with this.

And the other side.

And as a final test, with all of this stuff jammed in there, will it fix in the medium pocket of my bag?

And the answer is...


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Some customization (the bag)

Okay, I've been busy in my (extremely rare) spare time. I wanted to make my bag a little more of my own, so I added a few things. 

First, some before and after shots for you, see below.


First, lets talk about my handles.

I actually spend a most of my time carrying this bag like a brief case, since I don't actually need to wear it for any duration of time. So, when I read into the car to get it, I've found that if the light is bad, I spend too much time trying t find either of the two carry handles on it.

I used a cobra stitch to wrap them in high-visibility orange and white cord, as you can see. The added durability and volume make the handles easier to grip, and more comfortable to hold, while also meaning I can see them and reach for them in even the weakest light.

Second, the black compression straps from the top photo have been replaced with slightly heavier red ones so that the bag as a little more of a personal touch.

As a last touch, I stitched up some loops of the same cord on both ends of the strap so that I can see both ends in poor light if need by. Also, on the loop I installed, I now clip it to the bag so that the strap isn't hanging down while I carry the bag.

You can see it here in some poor detail, its the orange knotted loop at the bottom of the photo.

I've also moved things around and adjusted the content a lot to better balance the space.

Work in progress, to be sure, but I'm still outrageously happy with it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Convention Conversations: Swords

I am going into my 5th year as a director of operations for Izumicon, and I wanted to take advantage of the Facebook visibility to start some talking point with con attendees. My goal here is not to lecture, but to share the benefits of my experience, and to provoke some thought.

But first...
Disclaimer: This is not an official Izumicon communication, and the statements made here are not representative of, or policy of Izumicon. I am not a policy maker within the Izumicon organisation, and while my opinion is asked for, it is not the overriding factor in safety related issue.  This blog post is my opinion and experience only, and should be considered that, and only that.

After five years heading up safety for our con, I've had the true privilege of shaking hands with, and talking to some amazing people within the cosplay community. The words "creative" and "dedicated" do not begin describe the craftsmanship I have seen in some costumes. People's ability to take on a whole different persona is brought to its fullest potential at conventions, and the pageantry and showmanship has never left me disappointed.

All of that being said, Anime (and Manga) do have some truisms associated with them that we need to acknowledge up front. And the critical point I want to make here is the fact that a vastly higher number of anime characters are armed in some fashion than people in real life. So just playing the odds, if you cosplay, chances are good your character does, or should, have a weapon of some sort.

There are some other things, however, that I think should be brought forward as we got into the winter con season and move towards spring and summer break.

First of all, local laws.

I seriously can't tell you how infuriating it is to have someone go to Facebook and post twenty or thirty lines of emotional opinion or "What the con said doesn't matter because X works for the police there and he said...". Its not simply a mater of the information being in question at that point, but when a counter point is offered, the discussion turns into either A ) a full blown flame war, or B ) a passive aggressive snipping match between rival social circles. The real casualties in all of this are the con-goers themselves, a lot of whom honestly want to have fun, show off, and not get in trouble.

So, who do you trust?

Let me give you a hint, they aren't on facebook, and they aren't part of the convention.

Most major cities have a designated public information officer within the police department. Oklahoma City (the jurisdiction for Izumicon) has such an officer, and it is his express job to speak to the public and answer questions regarding the laws within the authority of his police force.

The easiest way to contact a Public Information Officer:

1. Google "Police non-emergency number" and the name of the city or town your convention is behind held in.

2. The number you find should connect you with the police department "front desk"

3. Call the number, and when you reach an operator or dispatcher (the calls are often times routed to the 911 call centers, depending on the jurisdiction) say: "Hi, my name is [first name only] and I wanted to speak with someone in the police department about local laws about a few different types of bladed weapons. Do you know who I could talk to?"

A few pointers on this as well.

You shouldn't need to give your last name, or any major identification, and in general I usually try not to when asking law enforcement these types of questions.

Don't say "I have this sword...", your descriptions are probably not going to sound to the office the way they sound to you. You want to ask questions like "What is your city policy on swords?" for example. Quite frankly, you shouldn't need to say what you have at any point in the conversation. You could legitimately being asking ahead of a purchase, or you could be calling from a location where your weapon is legal, and you just want to respect the laws of where you are going. My point is, don't get sucked into handing over an itemized list of your costume pieces to the police, they don't need it, and what you do or don't have is irrelevant to what the laws of that location do and don't say.

If anyone asks, it *is* a costume piece. Being sharp does not automatically make it anything else. That being said, you will want to ask if an edged costume item will be treated diffidently than a dull one.

While this conversation can be had on the phone, I really, really suggest you ask your questions in writing (e-mail is fine). IF (God forbid) you do wind up in a legal dispute, your attorney will want to know what you were told, and a printed E-mail will clarify things a lot faster than your recollection of a phone call.

The process isn't terribly difficult, it is a little time consuming, but it is also the best way to find out what to expect from local law enforcement, and what they will expect from you with regards to weapons.

And then, convention policy.

This really is something you don't need to start asking yourself the day before the convention. There is such a thing as too early, but realistically, you should be able to get a solid answer on what type of props the convention will allow three to six weeks ahead of time.

Now, that really raises some interesting questions.

1. Where do you get the "official" convention policy?
2. Who's interpretation of the policy will you be dealing with?

1.   Where do you get the "official" convention policy? There are a few places where you can get the official stance on weapons for a con. My first choice is the convention website. Not all of them will have the ink-on-paper policy you are looking for, but it is a good place to start looking.

If you find something that looks largely definitive, I highly recommend printing it out and keeping it handy when you head to the con.

2. Who's interpretation of the policy will you be dealing with? This one is quite simple, ask who will being handling security/safety/operations (or whatever the convention chooses to call their rule enforcement team). When you find out the name of that department, I highly recommend you point your questions at their director.

For better or for worse, the director is the one who's interpretation you will likely be answering to. I don't care if the rules say "blades up to 41" are allowed", if the ops director says "I will ask anyone with a sword over 20" to take it outside", well, guess what, that's your new rule.

Now, at this point, I highly encourage you to engage in a conversation with the person and point out that there is information out there that is different. The other information may be dated, or he may have misspoke. My point here is that when two things conflict, talk about it before you choose the one you like and hope for the best.

Once you are at the con, there are a few other things I would like to mention here.

So, why do we zip-tie weapons? Let me be honest with you, its not the the reasons you probably think.
Securing a weapon to its scabbard has (for me at least) two, and only two purposes.

First: I want to protect the weapon from other people. That zip-tie is your insurance policy that some Idiot (with a deliberate capitol I) doesn't say to himself "hey, I bet I can do something cool," and then snap your weapon out of its scabbard. As much as I respect a person's ability to protect themselves and control their personal belongings, I don't think any of us have the type of personal training needed to retain control of an openly displayed sword in a close quarters situation like a crowded con. Drop your guard for 1 minute, and you could very legitimately be hosed.

And to explain that philosophy a little more, I am a Oklahoma Concealed Weapon license holder, and I carry my sidearm in a daily basis. That weapon is hidden, and on my person at all times when it's not in it's gun box back home. If anyone were to reach for it, I am ready, and willing, to use brutal force if necessary to maintain control of that weapon. The main reason is that part of having a gun is the dire responsibility of making sure you don't ever loose control of it.

I have taken that ideal and simply transported it over to the swords and weapons at the con. By securing it to its scabbard, the idea is to buy you that added level of protection if someone else has a not-so-good idea.

Its one thing to snatch a pretty stick away from someone, its another thing entirely to suddenly have a 41" blade in hand.

Second: That zip tie tells the con that you and they are on the same page.

One of the conversations I really don't like having to have with cos-players who have weapons is when they say "I tied it down myself, I don't need to have your people zip tie it."

Actually, yes, you do.

That zip tie is also our way of telling, at a glance, twenty feet away, that your weapon had been checked, and that you and the con have talked to each other. This isn't a minor issue, Ops staff sometimes like to make sure you know important things, like places where you can go for photos, where to go with weapons related questions, places where we don't want to see weapons and so forth. And sometimes they don't have anything to say, but we still need to know that one of our people has looked at the weapon and said "yep, its snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug."

That tie is effectively our signature saying that we have agreed that we are all agreed on things about your weapon.

Another goo case in point are non-weapons that get zip-ties.

I've seen a lot of people who say "its not real, I do I really need to zip tie this?"

Actually, yes, we really do, and for a lot of the same reasons I just said. You may know it's not real, but let me tell you, the last thing anyone needs is to be misidentified as armed in an escalating situation. If all you have is a pretty prop that can't cut butter, that zip tie is my way of looking and knowing that at a glance.

You're note that I never said, or implied that I was protecting anyone from you.

The truth of the mater is that is someone went bat-sh*t crazy and wanted to use their sword as an offensive weapon, a half dozen plastic zip ties aren't going to stop him and we all know it. Weather or not your weapon is secured by plastic ties is not going to have a major bearing on how you choose to use it, and I, for one choose to not delude myself with thoughts to the contrary.

I really, really wanted to just skip this part, but after this year, I think we need to have this conversation as well.

When dealing with other people, you need to treat your weapons as if they were real.

In translation, that means:No pointing a spear (or a gun, or a sword, or whatever...) at someone, & you don't swing anything (let alone a real sword) anywhere near people.

The one, and only one exception for this type of rule that I am aware of is a staged fight or scene, and that has its own common sense rules involved, first of which is making sure your acting area is free of by-standards.

Brandishing a weapon (even a toy) in a threatening manor can escalate a situation to the use of lethal force in seconds. If the person you are "playing with" doesn't realize you have a toy, and thinks, even for a second that you are about to hurt him, he is legally allowed to defend himself.

And just to be clear, he doesn't have to think you intend him harm, just that you might hurt him. So, if he thinks you are acting like a moron, and you just happen to be doing it with a real knife, he's probably just as justified taking a punch (or worse) at you.

Let me say this again, when carrying a prop that looks like, or looks like it could function as, a real world weapon, you need to treat it as real.

Closing thoughts
In the end, a convention is about having fun, but as costumes and props get more elaborate, and animes get more and more diverse in its character development, the con-going population is going to have an ever increasing number of cos-players who own costume weapons. As there is no central governing body to regulate this group, it is up to each and every one of us to individually learn, and apply the rules, laws, ordinances and manors that should go with weapons safety at a convention.

Cisco Cividanes is a Customer Support Technician for Dell computers. His history includes 3 years as a fully certified volunteer firefighter in the state of Virginia, one and a half years as a Correctional office in Oklahoma as well as 3 years as an (armed and unarmed) professional security officer. He holds a bachelors degree in safety from Oklahoma State University), and worked as an Fire Sprinkler engineer for 5 years. His hobbies include medieval reenactment, writing, blogging, tabletop gaming (RPG and board), walking, "tinkering",archery, knife throwing, performing arts, and fixing things. He has also moonlighted as a photographer, bounty hunter, and celebrity body guard on select occasions

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My new bag.

So, this Thanksgiving, my family did an early Christmas due to the fact that my in-laws would be out of town for December. As a result, I got my gifts early this year.

the one I really want to talk about is my new bag. Wal*Mart is (or maybe was, by now) selling the Fieldline Tactical ROE bag (which is a low cost clone of the Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger bag) I've had my eye on the bag for a while because of how it works. By rotating the bag around to your front, you can access it all without having to take the bag off. I found the concept novel, and wanted to see if I could take my EDC kit and transfer it to one of these bags.

The bag is actually smaller than my old one, but more soundly built. The face and sides are lined with MOLLE/PALS webbing, allowing for the attachments you see here, namely the red, blue and yellow bags.

The point of EDC ( every-day carry) is to have a reasonable mix of what you know you will need on a daily basis, and what you will likely make good use of during the unforseen.

Now, lets get a few things out of the way up front, the ROE bag is a small bag for a lot of small items. This isn't a military filed bag, and never wants to be. The primary reason I have the red external pouch on it is so that I can have my Individual First Aid Kit on hand, and in something I can detach if I want to leave it behind for some reason. also, their are times where I might want to have the IFAK on hand and not the bag itself.

So, lets get down the the nuts and bolts, shall we?

Starting with the IFAK itself, as you can see I pretty much have the old girl loaded to bear. More or less, I intend to be able to address most medical incidents from minor cuts and scrapes all the way up to a major laceration or puncture wound.

This is actually a cool little slot called a "torches layer". It fits a flashlight and that is held in place with shock cord. iuts actually a nice little setup.

This is the pocket right under the IFAK. Right now, it doesn't have much and I'm sort of looking to see what I want to put it there. At the moment it has my emergency whistle, my extra carabeaners and my thumb drive and so-forth.

This is the head pocket at the top of the bag, right under the flashlight. Here we have hand sanitizer, Aspirin, Tylenol, my camping spoon/fork/knife, chapstick, matches and a lighter.

The main pocket!
Now, you have to understand, this is what it would look like if I were wearing it and has it pulled around in front of it. I look down and this is what I would see. There are two mesh pockets in the middle there, and the one on the left has my pens and writing tools, and the one on the left has my folding mirror, with more hand-tools and such to follow.

The space isn't vast but its good for a lot of small things, but not any large ones. The subdivision is good for keeping those things accessible and easy to keep track of.

The small bag you see inside the main flap above has a lot of odds and ends in it, mostly computer and small mechanical tools that I have used in the past and are worth keeping on hand.

This is the same pocket, but with the notebooks pulled up so you can see the pocket where my kindle fits in (its turned out so you can see it better).

The yellow bag on the side is mostly my "flaps and straps" bag. I have my 50' of para-cord in there, the locks for it, one of my red straps, and at the bottom of the bag is my compass (just because I didn't have any other place to reasonable put it)

All told, I'm happy with it. It definitely takes some getting used to, but I like the organisation, the size and the fact that I don't have to take it off to get to the contents, a major complain I had with my old bag. If someone asked me for something, I had to take it off, kneel down, and usually unpack half of the bag to get to what I needed. With this... flip it around and "bam", it's there.