My Team Fortress 2 team uses a reference copy of the game that it’s created to make new servers. This Gold Master (GM) tends to accumulate cruft over time and needs to be periodically rebuild. Janine came over yesterday with the intent of making a new one with me. Building a GM is usually something I start at 10pm on a weekday because I can’t sleep and ends 10 hours later in a fugue state before I head off to work. This go was much more methodical and ended with a rib dinner. I much prefer this method of doing it.

Who We Are

No one died.

After Thought:

We know each other because of video games but after that we are unavoidably people.  Some people were there for friendship, some were there for escape, some were there for romance and I’m not sure entirely why I was there.  Not to say I didn’t enjoy myself or didn’t want to be there but to a certain extent I felt like my presence was right.  Team Interrobang is something I helped found and I would have a hand in its social life for as long as I could manage.  One of my core values is to promote human connection.  It doesn’t take a lot for me to feel alone and part of me thinks that if I create a social group large enough that feeling will simply disappear.  Either I haven’t or it doesn’t but other people are ultimately the source of all my avenues to happiness.  This is something that I don’t believe I can re-tune in the same way I won’t be able to convince my lungs to work on methane so I will continue to hold out my hand and say “may we have an adventure?” to those in my life.  Chad, Alex, Ryan, Ken, Suzie, Dallas, Cody, Ty, Mike, Steve, Rachael, Chris, Ben, John, Audrey, Marcus, and Peter took that hand and for that my life is richer.


Our first group stop was at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.  At the start of the tour, the guide asked “why are we here?” and while everyone else shouted “beer!” I yelled “pretzels”.  Shortly thereafter I made friends with the guides which proved to be a good use of my time.  The venue stopped us for a group photo and I borrowed the set-up:

From 2012-03-10 to 11 TI: St. Louis

The brewery itself was very clean and the tour was interesting much to my surprise.  At the end, we were invited to have free beer but there was a moment of hesitation before anyone stepped forward to drink anything.  One of the bar attendees, what I will call a beer siren, held her hands to her cheeks and said “I have all this beer and no one to drink it.  Who among you will help me?”  to which Ken said “I will” and he bravely began drinking.

I was running around a lot taking pictures and at one point a security guard asked if I needed to be removed.  The tour guide told him “no, he’s cool” and I got to continue running around.  That was kind of the guide.  Also, Alex pointed to the large cylinder of hops on display and said to me “Terry, please take a picture of that.  It’s very important to me.”  I did.

Lunch was at a local restaurant and then it was off to the St. Louis Arch.  The group has split in two and in going back and forth between the two groups, one at each entrance, a woman stopped me and said “sir, how tall is the arch?”  What the heck?  Why would anyone ask me, a man with a camera, who was obviously running, how tall the arch was? How should I know?  So I looked her right in the eye and said “630 feet”.  Showed her.

The arch itself was interesting and the view it afforded novel.  I don’t feel that it really stood as an emblem of westward expansion but it afforded a nice photo op which I was obliged to take.
HDR Pano View
That photo is a triumph of technology over ability as it is an HDR pano.  After the arch, some people wanted to rest and they split off while others wanted to continue to the St. Louis Zoo.  I found the Zoo was closed and retired to the hotel for an hour of quiet.  I recharged my batteries both literally and figuratively and was glad I did.


Dinner was at the Pi Pizzaria which is an annoyingly popular place in St. Louis.  I had to reserve the place a month in advance for our group and even then it was only for an end-of-the-evening time.  Every member of their wait staff had a unique haircut, was attractive, or both.  They also offered smoked gouda as a pizza topping.  I can see why people come here.

There was a Radiohead concert taking place across the street and parking was impossible, the restaurant called me in a bit of a huff:

Host: Is this Mr. Robinson?
Me: Yes.
Host: If your party isn’t here in five minutes we’re giving your…
Me: I mean no disrespect by this, but I need your patience.  I am a leader for a group of 25 nerds from the Internet who I somehow convinced to drive in some cases literally a thousand miles to come to your city for more social interaction than some will get during the rest of the year combined.  Some of these people are very important to me.  On top of that, we are strangers in a strange city dealing with the complications of some event taking place next door.  Our day has been long as will be our night, please don’t make me disappoint my people.

They gave us more time.

The City Museum

My near highest compliment is to call something “strange and wonderful”.  Some things with adjectives like “loud”, or “threatening”, or “beautiful” break us from our surroundings but those things have a built in word bias.  “Threatening” usually isn’t a good thing but “strange” can go either way.  The strange is worthy of attention which is rare.  Strange things shine.  Wonderful carries two meanings, the first being “good”.  The second, and more important one to me, is the idea of arousing wonder, a cardinal value in my non-religion.  I have met a few people that are strange and wonderful and have been to a handful of places that are strange and wonderful and tonight I added to that list: The City Museum.

Walking into it made me excited as each element of it screamed “engage with me!” to the point where I walked back to the car and left my camera.  The museum proper is housed in a 10-story building that covers about a quarter of a city block.  It’s filled with… odd things like an indoor tree house, a skate park, a cave system, a very tall slide, several bars and even a vintage cloth store.  Outside they have a ball pit filled with kickball-sized spheres and a jungle gym of rebar and small planes.  The City Museum holds the first human hamster wheel I ever used, the first tree house I climbed over, the first rope swing I used, and the place where I executed my first parkour maneuver.  The last is a story:

The outside portion had a climbing area with a commuter plane stuck sideways through it.  You could continue on the path by going in the rear door of the plane and exiting at the front or you could go over it.  I felt adventurous so I got a running start, jumped, grabbed an overhead bar and swung over the fuselage.  Someone who appeared to have been hitting the hashish looked at me and went “whoaah”.  I felt like a god, or at least a 7-year old.

Rest of the Night

Before returning to the hotel, Suzie, Dallas, and I picked up an ice cream cake to use as a birthday cake for Team Interrobang.  We were turning four, and we deserved a cake.

Happy Birthday to Us

As the cake was being consumed we started telling stories and the locus of attention shifted to me. I was the founder, I had been to every meet-up, and I enjoyed dishing gossip. I went through my standard stories of our shared oddities, triumphs, and tragedies but one casual line stopped me for a second. Someone, I think it was Ryan, said to me “Tell the one where…”.  Tell the one where.  Stories had become lore had become legends and for an evening I was the old chieftain in the Tribe of Interrobang.

22 people came from various places for various reasons to get together as Team Interrobang in St. Louis.  Of those that stayed the whole weekend, only one was new to me and most I had seen in some capacity since our previous giant get together last year in Cincinnati.  As Suzie commented to me “Cincinnati was the meet-up, St. Louis was the reunion” And I think this was an astute observation.  Most had driven in with the closest being St. Louis residents and the most distant being Steve and Rachael McMackin from Tucson, Az but we were all in good enough spirits to go out to dinner, and then go swimming, and then do a bit of drinking.

At the hotel there was a bouncer in a rather nice suite guarding an elevator.  I was waiting to meet up with someone who was late, so I asked the bouncer a few questions:

Me: So, what are you doing?
Him: We have a rooftop club, and I keep out people who shouldn’t be there.
Me: Like who?
Him: People that are already drunk, mostly.  Tonight, we have a special guest and I want to keep out the riff-raff and gawkers.
Me: Who’s that?
Him: One of the Kardashians.
Me: I thought you said you’re goal is to keep out the riff-raff?
Him: *smile* Unless you’re famous for being riff-raff.  But I didn’t say that.  Hey, you like to take pictures?
Me: I do.
Him: If you get some slacks and come back later, I’ll let you in.
Me: *text message from someone who’s lost* Thank you, but I’m here for other reasons.

I stood around for a bit and I saw the bouncer reject some seemingly sober, very well dressed people.  I don’t know if he was being nice or just trying to keep the club full but the consideration was flattering.

I went to bed early that evening.  It had been a 40-hour day and I tend to wear down quickly at meet-ups as there’s a constant Do-While loop running asking “is everyone ok?”.  Team Interrobang had made it to St. Louis, and we had made it to 4 years old.

Messages from a Team Interrobang admin:

7 AM – Site appears to be functioning slowly.  Unsure of problem, investigating, can anyone help?
10 AM – Site now appears to be down.  Looking into causes, tech support for hosting contacted.  Could use some guidance.
1 PM – Fixed.

I woke up at 1:30 PM to a perfectly functioning site.

This is why I sleep in on Sundays.


Those who chose to rested well did and I reaped the benefits of my simple dictum of “I get my own bed”.  My walk to the lobby was midway between a stroll and a lumber and I smiled slightly at no one having died.  The taste of in my mouth was not victory, just non-defeat and I was fine with that.

Almost Everyone

My  evening involved going to New York City with Suzie and Mike, but for now, Cody and Ashley wanted to eat and Cody was happy to find a Cici’s Pizza (somewhat) nearby so he could continue his 40 day streak of eating there.  We drove to New Jersey, went to Cici’s and had crappy pizza and for the first time felt old.  The group member’s ages went 18, 19, 20, and then me at 27 and I felt everyone else was communicating in secret nods to avoid me catching wise to them.

Ending Notes:

  • The medallions I had made for this meet-up had an adhesive back.  Several people immediately stuck them to laptops. I hope they don’t cut themselves.
  • Hot weather sucks.
  • Liquor stores seem to stock lime but not lemon juice.
  • “I get my own bed” is a good policy.
  • Cinci was the meet-up, Philly was the re-union.

Fragmentation was my concern for the weekend and it was realized almost immediately when our group of 17 was reduced to 11 for visiting the Mutter Museum, a collection of medical oddities hosted by the College of Physicians in Philadelphia.  The others either had no stomach for seeing a colon the size of a punching bag or chose sleep as their cardinal concern; as they wish.  The walk to the museum was already warm and I was wearing a polo shirt for the first time in years with the exception of for Scouting events.  I felt out of place, under-dressed, and like I was failing to maintain a notion of group until I encountered a surprise mood changer: the receipt for museum entrance which had the phrase “Team Interrobang” on it in no less than three places.  Whenever I sign or receive documentation that treats my TF2 team like an actual entity I feel like I’ve fooled the world.

I took the museum at a slower pace than most, spending two and a half hours to go through the displays as compared to 60-90 minutes for the rest of the group.  Even malformed skeletons become boring if you look at enough of them.  The group moved on to lunch and I took in more of the museum, violating my own cardinal concern and before leaving to retrieve my camera from the hotel (the Mutter allows no cameras) I signed the guest book on the group’s behalf.

Those who made it.

I returned to the hotel, downed some more water, looked at the sweaty mess I was turning into, grabbed my camera, and headed for Reading Terminal to meet the re-assembled group for lunch.  Along the way, I remembered I was in a city:

I love pictures of pictures.

I wasn’t just in any city, I was in my city or as close as I could claim to any other metropolitan area and again Philadelphia rewarded attentiveness.


Between monuments of industry lie monuments of history and I am tickled by the image of William Penn walking a highway of sky from one nexus of modern antiquity to another.

I had certainly taken my time, and by the time I reached Reading Terminal everyone had eaten and decided to return to the hotel.  So, we walked back.
Fade to Looney

The above occurred on the way back as the notion of an afternoon at historic sites dissolved in the heat of the day.  I like how each figure is slightly less sane as one goes from right to left and in retrospect the resolve the crank in the back is exceptional considering the heat.  We also passed another Philadelphia landmark, the fat raving lunatic, as someone near Walnut Street spoke of their triumphant comeback to Philadelphia politics.  The person in question weighted somewhere north of 300 lbs and was wearing gym shorts and a pit-stained t-shirt.

I again drank water and coolness as the notion of visiting the Liberty Bell or anything more than a half mile or so from the hotel died.  Some people were tired, others were still recovering from a long previous evening, so I invoked a mental preparation I had made weeks in advance: The Nerd Protocol.  Team Interrobang is a bit more social than one’s standard group of Internet folk but there are still cleavages.  Some people dislike others, there are internal rivalries, and the full spread of emotion from love to loathing exists within our community.  But sometimes, these go to excess, and should there be an explosion, I would draw upon the fact that there were still enough nerd’s nerds that I could escape to a museum.

The Brotherhood of the Social Awkward went to the Academy of Natural Sciences and I had an absolute ball.  I blasted out a text message notifying people, and one person took a cab getting there before the seven of us who had walked.  There was a special butterfly display which I paid the two extra dollars to see and I knew I was in the company of those secure with their masculinity when the fellow who arrived early responded to my query of “did you get the butterfly pass?” by pointing to the pink pin on his shirt and saying “you bed your ass I did.”  The first stop was the live animal show led by a shapeless woman who loved the animals far more than she loved the audience.  Her first guest was a Harris Hawk native to the Southwest:

Harris Hawk

Docent: Can anyone tell me what the Harris Hawk eats?
Child #1: Grass.
Docent: No, think desert.
Child #2: Fish.
Docent: Closer, but no.
Surly Team Member: Sand.

Her second guest was a very white red fox eliciting my favorite question-response from a docent, possibly ever:

Audience Member: Can a fox and a dog mate?
Docent: Not naturally, but I wouldn’t put it past science.

Ah, science, we’re about coulda not shoulda.

We went around the displays and I found a strong photographic parallel as shown below:

20110722-1537-PhillyFriday-Edit-2 and Humanity Mirrors Nature

The butterfly exhibit was nice, as the 85°F/80% RH room was still much cooler than it was outside and I got to use the word “Lepidopterologist” a dozen times.  The staff member took kindly to the fact that there was a bunch of non-child, non-threatening men in her area and let me take a picture of her be-butterflied head.

Natural Jewelry

Thank you, un-named staff member.

We hit every exhibit in the museum, and we all kind of died near the apiary, so we amused ourselves by mismatching the bee quiz tiles.

Funny Match UP

We made dinner plans and I felt glad that we’d finally have our group together time, but one person had to bow out due to feeling ill.  The motto of the weekend seemed to have emerged as “close enough”.  This followed into our evening activity of karaoke where Andy and Adam did a surprisingly good rendition of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin and I got to do “What A Wonderful World” in the style of Louis Armstrong.  I think I do a passable impression.  I don’t go to bars much as someone who doesn’t drink but enjoyed karaoke.  I put in a few requests but they didn’t jive with the culture of those present so I’ll need to find another place to do show tunes and popular rock of the late 90s.

I made peace with someone, and again the day ended.


Meet-ups, in retrospect, are the part of Team Interrobang I wanted from the beginning.  In a limited way, a video game with friends is a “meet-up” that just happens to be virtual and where the agenda is implied by the medium, e.g. playing the game.  Joining together in meatspace should be easier as we’re born with and then subsequently develop the total toolbox for engagement without intervening contrivances but when the locus of contact is that intervening contrivance such is not the case.  Meet-ups are combinations of excitement and boredom, subterfuge and conspicuousness, and sublime and the quotidian, and of course, sweets.  Philadelphia proved no exception.

While Suzie slept, I baked two berry cheesecakes, four dozen cookies, and 3 lbs of truffles and was happy with the results of each.  The enemy for my baked goods were the same as for myself, the heat, and even with the aid of insulated storage containers, I doubted the truffles would suffer the daytime high of near 100°F well.  But, chocolate re-freezes so I packed the raspberry choco-spheres in parchment paper and they went into my car as everything I touched became coated in sweat.  Getting to Philadelphia was uneventful, parking even less so, and the actual check-in process, minus a hiccup was also dull.  A portent, I hoped.  Parties trickled in, and the evening started at around 8:00 PM with the command of “food”.  Dinner was about a block away and even this almost proved too much due to the heat.  Still, on route, I captured something ellusive: Ben Start enjoying himself.
The wait for a table for a table for 17 was about 20 minutes, well long enough to appreciate the blast of air conditioning and to be ok with the restaurant’s somewhat liberal definition of sufficient arm space.  The group was large enough that it broke into three subgroups of which the center had focused on facial hair, including both Ken’s beard:
and Ben’s beard:

I want to make a comment along the lines of “two beards, both alike in dignity” but such isn’t the case.  Ben’s beard is something I’ve simply always know him to have and the idea of seeing his chin seems less likely than me seeing him nude.  Ben’s beard and he have a symbiotic relationship, each supporting the other in defining the greater Overben.  Ken’s beard seems more something willed into existence.  One day, Ken wished for a beard and, after invoking some C++ commands, he recompiled his face and there was beard from non-beard.  I picture him fluffing it out slightly, looking in a mirror and saying “let’s see what this thing can do” keying off a montage of him going about town with people stopping to stare in awe and point while ZZ Top music played in the background.

Dinner wound down, and even a short visit to Rittenhouse Square had us all drenched in sweat, so we returned to the hotel where I forced people to try truffles.  The response to them was so orgiastic we were told by the hotel staff that we were too loud.  They offered us a room on their conference floor where we learned “room” was defined as the landing room for the bank of elevators.  Hazaa.  We sat, we drank, and the evening wound down.  Gha, it was hot.

Team Interrobang runs off of a standard Dreamhost shared hosting instance that’s on a box that probably runs 2000 other sites.  This corner of the Internet is fine and adequate unless you do something to upset the apple cart like install a shoutbox, do a vBulletin update, or hit F5 too quickly.  I had thought I learned my lesson from a previous case where doing a vBulletin update cause the server to burst into flames but apparently the act of running a DB backup was enough to max-out the Triscuit that was being used as a processor within the cardboard box of a server we shared.  I contacted Dreamhost to have them cut the DB connections and learned “whenever we close the DB threads new ones are opened just as fast, there’s nothing we can do.”  Really?  You’re physically incapable of temporarily shutting down my tiny virtual instance?  The irony of this being brought about by a backup operation is what I found delicious.

So, I did what they were unable to do and closed each open DB thread by clicking the “Kill” button in phpmyadmin a little more than 400 times.  Not fun, but necessary.  Each time I hit this button, my internal homunculus put a tick mark in the “times I’ve wanted to drop shared hosting” tally section of my brain.   On the plus side, I was able to use iMovie to make a little Youtube video after not having slept for 28 hours.

Being a furry could be a choice, some genetically transmitted paraphilia, the next step in the teenage angsty iconoclastic arms race, or something else entirely but regardless of cause it is a lifestyle with which I feel fully in my rights to raise an eyebrow to.  My TF2 community has dealt with its fair share and I’m disappointed in that there seems to be a coin flip’s rather than a dice roll’s chance that the person in question is an absolute dick.  To not single them out, these also seem to be the asshole odds on people that claim to be high school students, independent musicians, or worse of all, people who have run other gaming communities.

One of our current community members includes a link to a fur affinity site in his steam profile and it terminated in a page of such content as to make me wish their community were either larger or smaller instead of the uncomfortable middle land it currently occupies; large enough to be a recognized group but not yet large enough to have experts in the field and large sub-communities.  After I stopped laughing at the word “fursonna”, I was disappointed by the combinations that people had chosen.   People cleaved to the powerful, the mythical, and the bizarre but there were no capybaras (adorable), dik-diks (even more adorable), or megatheria (extinct) among their lot.  The combinations were also seemingly uninspired.  Wow, an eagle and a lion… woooo, why not a combination of a cheetah and a three-toed sloth or dolphin with a bird of prey?  The former would be worthy of thought and the latter worthy of fear but these seem unexplored.

A friend of mine posits that the movement comes from the need to be “other” and with the advent of modernity, most regular wants are satiated so people are getting more creative.  This may be the case, but I have always been an advocate of realizing the here and now to the point where I may move to add a “fursonna” field to our our team’s roster page just so those of like mind can take a second and post “homo sapien” in defiance.  I wonder what patterns would emerge geographically.  Maybe there are more zebra and oryx furries in Africa and my wanted capybaras near the Andes.  Knowing that there was someone who chose adder, cuddle fish, or scorpion running about the Levant would make me smile and say “proper job”.