Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fleas! Oh my fucking god fleas. Also I'm broke. But mostly the fleas.

So I didn't get the computer off to be fixed when I had hoped and wasn't in a position to do it afterward for a while.  The most recent post was prescheduled and I haven't exactly been producing volumes that are just waiting to be posted.  I'm hoping to get the computer shipped off to repairland today.  But that's not the point, this is: Fleas!

All attempts to kill them have only succeeded in making them angry and the result is swarming monstrosities with an appetite for blood.

Most likely what is needed is a series of comprehensive attempts which: a) cover EVERYTHING in the house, and b) are spaced out so that when flea eggs hatch they're killed off before they get a chance to breed.

At the moment I have almost no actual money, absolutely no credit, and not enough wiggle room in bill paying to be able to use the almost-no-money to buy flea killing methods.

I think the phrase is, "Fuckity, fuck fuck fuck," but don't cite me on that.  And in addition to the problems with the furnace I previously mentioned, there's this: my washing machine is apparently at least partially broken.  Fuck.

None of this is really conducive to writing, so I have no idea when I'll be updating the blog next.  If things go well I won't even have the computer for a while because it needs fixing.  More than I originally thought.  In addition to the wireless modem ceasing to work the speakers are acting wonky and the optical disk drive doesn't work right.  Sometimes it doesn't work at all, sometimes it can show what the disk contains but will fail as soon as you try to do anything, sometimes it spins out of control and won't stop until the power is cut.  (Ejecting via the manual override you need a long thin thing to access {say a needle or a straightened out paperclip} does not cause it to stop spinning, it just demonstrates how fast it is spinning, does a fan impression that is only limited by the fact the disk isn't shaped with an intent to move air, and has the potential to cause friction burns if touched.)

To repeat: if things go well, as in not badly but as good an outcome as can be hoped, I will be without my computer for a while.

Attempts to find some partially working secondary computer to use while the primary is repaired have, thus far, been hindered by the fact that taking a step toward the place where said back up computer would be stored instantly results in my legs being covered in blood sucking devil insects known as fleas.  Fucking fleas.

I don't know what to do about the fleas because no money.  I think the god of money doesn't like me.  This should be when I'm storing up a money reserve to keep me going over the winter months of heightened oil usage, but all appliances seem to want to fail at the same time.  This to the point that I can't afford to buy things with which to kill the fleas.

I did say, "Fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck," right?  *looks up*  Yes, I see that I did.

Ok, so, stuff.  In closing, I'd like to write more of various things.  It's been far too long since I did an Edith and Ben installment, for example, and I've plotted out way more of the princess story in my head than I've actually written, but I have no idea when I'll get to do such things because:
  1. Computer
  2. FLEAS!
  3. Broke
That is all for now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monthly Donation Reminder Post

This is the monthly post where I remind everyone that I'm really low on money (basically always) and I have a donation button.

Fun.

This month it falls on the ides.

The ides of July would have been known as the ides of Iulius to the ancient Romans.  Named after Iulius (Julius) Caesar.  Before it was renamed in his honor it was "Quintilis".  Like the other number months (September, October, November, December) Quintilus is different from our calendar by two.  That is to say that even though it means "5th" but it's the 7th month of our year.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Why I might not be here for a while

Yesterday my wireless stopped working.  I didn't think too much of it.  I figured re-install drivers, restart the computer, all will be well.

That's not the case.  The computer knows that there's a device somehow related to networking that isn't working, but it doesn't even know that it's the wireless adapter (even if I tell it) and it will not work.

This is a problem for two reasons.  First, wireless is how I connect to the internet.  If I'm at home then it's simply not feasible to plug directly into a cable for anything more than a short time (so doing it to download the correct drivers was ok, but doing it for blogging not so much.)  If I'm not at home then often I don't even have access to non-wireless means of connecting.  Second, I need to get it fixed.  This is why I have a warranty after all.

While it's away being fixed I'm not going to have a computer.

To say that this will adversely affect my posting is like saying that Buck Williams is bad at making analogies.

Of course I can post from other people's computers, as I am now.  So we'll see what happens.

(Also, August 3rd is my birthday, if you're interested in getting me something.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Now You See Me (a spoiler filled post on the cost of cuts)

Note the title.  Spoilers.

Now, I've mentioned that Now You See Me  is the kind of thing that I think could do well as a TV series in the style of Leverage or The A-Team.  A story of outlaws doing justice via crime.  In The A-Team they used their skills as inventive soldiers, in Leverage it was their skills as thieves, in Now You See Me the series (which is, so far as I know, never going to happen) it would be using things out of the magician's handbook.

If one looks at it like that then the movie itself would be the origin story.  The original A-Team never had an origin story episode, it just had an opening narration.  Leverage did, and the movie The A-Team was an origin story.

There's a problem with all three origin stories if allowed to stand on their own.  They're self serving.  The Leverage crew wanted payback after their client didn't pay them and tried to kill them.  The A-Team wanted to clear their names after being framed.  Now You See Me is a bit different in that the people doing most of the work (though not the planning) aren't the ones with the vendetta, but it's still about someone getting even.

And this is where we go spoiler heavy.

In existing editions of the movie what happened was this.

Thaddeus Bradley was a magician who was either jealous or not that good or just cared about making as much money as he could.  The exact reason doesn't matter.  He realized that magic wasn't working for him and decided that instead he could ruin other magicians for a profit.  He'd strip away the mystery, show how all their tricks were done, and give them a bad name while he was at it.  (He referred to his first mark as a "two bit hustler".)

In order to break into the world of media he concentrated on a single magician: Lionel Shrike.  Thaddeus' debut was to utterly destroy Shrike's career and do it mercilessly.

It took Shrike a year to even recover enough to attempt a comeback.  He was going to do an escape.  He was chained up, locked in a safe, and dropped in the Hudson River.

It turned out that the safe manufacturer was corrupt.  The substandard worse-than-advertised materials they used couldn't take the pressure of the river even though, if the safe had been manufactured properly, it shouldn't have been a problem.  The safe warped itself shut sealing Shrike inside and thus killing him.

Shrike's life insurance refused to pay and as a result the family was ruined.

Flash forward to the time of the movie.  Four magicians are recruited to be initiated into a secret society that guards real magic.  To get in they need to follow a series of instructions with blind obedience.  The instructions are three shows.

Show one: they rob the bank that carried the note on the insurance that refused to pay out because it was totally their fault.

Huh? Wha? Wait.

In a deleted scene it is instead said that they foreclosed on the Shrike family house forcing them onto the street.  Given the time in which we live it isn't hard to believe that they did this without sufficient cause and were still doing it to people at the time they were robbed.  Switching from that to "the bank that carried the note" really kills a lot of the righteous indignation that makes one think the bank should be robbed.

In fact there's nothing that makes one feel the bank should be robbed and the money is given to a random Vegas crowd.  If they'd stuck with foreclosure then they could have done so much more because Nevada, especially around Vegas if I remember correctly, was hit really hard in that arena.  The crowd could have been selected from people who were hurt by that.

Anyway, second show: The insurer who refused to pay out.  This was played well.  They robbed the guy, but they gave the money to very specific people.  The show took place in New Orleans and everyone in the crowd had been loopholed out of insurance settlements post Hurricane Katrina.  They robbed the insurer to give the people the money they were cheated out of by the insurer.  Something that you can feel morally good about.

The third show was the safe manufacturer.  It since became a security company that is under investigation by the FBI. What gets cut is that it isn't just under investigation, it's known to be guilty. The FBI knows where the safe with the dirty money is, they're just waiting for someone to show up and claim it.  The security contractor stole the money from funds intended for reconstruction stuck it in a safe in a warehouse, and waited, hoping that if they waited long enough no one would make the connection when they finally tapped the money.

Them showing up to open the safe is the break that the FBI is looking for because it'd be hard to weasel out of responsibility then.

Also cut is the part where it's pointed out that the money is being sent back to the ones it was originally intended for.

The result is that it doesn't really feel all justicey but instead more of, "What the fuck, you're going after these people because of one bad safe decades ago when they don't even make safes anymore?"

And finally Thaddeus Bradley is framed.

Bradley being framed works out because Morgan Freeman can pull of "condescending remorseless asshole who you want to see behind bars" quite well.  It's a talent.  It has to be because, even taking the deleted scenes into account, Bradley is the one who there's the least damning things against.  He's a parasite and his idea to catapult his own career by destroying Shrike's did ultimately result in Shrike's death, but destroying someone's career as a magician isn't even illegal.

The closest thing I know of to Bradley in the real world is "The Masked Magician" who was absolutely nothing like Bradley.  He showed how a variety of magic tricks were done, but they were tired old tricks that no one really relied on anymore.  His career was an attempt to force magic forward rather than an attempt to destroy someone and profit off that person's downfall.  For there to be a real world Bradley there would need to be, say, someone who decided to make a name for himself by showing how every single one of, say, David Copperfield's tricks is done in such a way as to bring down Copperfield and force him to go back to the drawing board for whatever his next act would be (which could take years because magic tricks take a lot of work), which no one might attend anyway.

Then Copperfield would have to die in his comeback attempt and the person who destroyed Copperfield's career would have to respond to the death not with guilt or even sympathy but instead scorn.

Regardless, that's part of what was lost in the cutting.  Of the four targets two don't come across as deserving enough.

-

Another thing that changed was money and Fuller.

I like Agent Fuller.  Agent Fuller is the sidekick.  Agent Fuller is gender non-conforming. While the person who discovered this (the mentalist) makes fun of him for this, and Fuller is very uncomfortable about being outed, it's the case that Fuller is presented in a positive light.  Even when the mentalist is making fun of him, it's clear that the mentalist is being an asshole.  But back to Fuller.  He's loyal, he's smart, he's competent.  He can't win, but in part that's because his boss is secretly working for the other side.

But then he gets left hanging at the end of the movie.

The original way things were going to play out was this:

The horsemen dropped real money on the crowd (in the revised version one is left wondering why no one but Fuller noticed it was obviously fake) and everyone assumed it was money they had stolen.  Fuller was the only one who took a closer look at the money.  He checked the dates.  He reveals what he learned  (the next morning) by showing a bill that's two years old.  The stolen money had been waiting in the safe for 5 years.  So the money couldn't have been from the safe.

Fuller and the main character discuss what's happening and Fuller points out that:
1 They're probably going to lose their jobs.
2 He loves his job.
3 He needs his job.

The Four Horsemen meet up with the main character in the middle of nowhere and he gives them a choice, they can take their share of the money (a quarter of a billion each, give or take) or they can join the secret society that uses magic to bring justice.  They can't do both.

Eventually they decide to join the society.

At that point Fuller, who hasn't been fired yet, is given a phone call revealing the location of the money and he runs off to retrieve it which will presumably make him a hero and thus let him keep his job.

All of that gets lost to the cutting room floor.  Even in the extended edition Fuller's story just ... stops.

-

Another thing was Alma Dray.  I'd very much like a copy of the original script because her story was clearly different.

In the existing film (theatrical or extended) she's sent by Interpol, is largely dismissed by main character, has him blow up on her for no real reason toward the end, points out correctly that she's done nothing to deserve such treatment, disappears for a bit, reappears asking main character to trust her ("take a leap of faith") he does, cue possible romance.  There's even a kiss.

In the deleted scenes, the reason that the main character isn't happy with her is that she wasn't who Interpol was supposed to send.  He knows the person Interpol was supposed to send and trusts that person.  She claims she had to replace the other agent because his mother was sick.

Instead of the blowing up for no reason in the final version, Main character gets a call that he's been waiting for for an unspecified period of time, the details of the phone call aren't clear (we only hear the very beginning and very end) but he's speaking French and both Alma and the agent that was supposed to be sent are French.  When he hangs up he says to Alma that she lied to him, presumably about the other agent's mother being sick but it isn't stated in the material I have available, and when next they speak it's tense and the reason that she disappears for a bit is that he won't tell her where they're going because, "I don't have the luxury of giving you the benefit of the doubt twice."

In the final version of the movie Alma gets treated badly for, apparently, shits and giggles.  In the version that isn't gone with she's actually treated less badly and there's a reason for him not to trust her.

It makes sense and also makes the main character much less of an asshole.

-

Finally there's references.  When the first (and only) Pirates of the Caribbean movie was made the film makers realized that they had a problem.  Will Turner needed to say, "Barbossa," because, "Hey, you, guy in the hat," simply wouldn't do.  Which meant that Will needed to learn that Barbossa was named Barbossa.  He didn't.  Never in the movie up to that point did he have an opportunity to learn the name.  So they rewrote an earlier scene to have Jack tell Will, "Captain Barbossa and his band of miscreants..."

This movie has the opposite going on.

In the end we have:
Dylan: I know that the logical conclusion for you is to take this case to it’s resolution and for you to turn me in.
Alma: Yeah.  But you know how I feel about resolution and logic.  And you also know that I think some things are best left unexplained.
Uh, no, he doesn't.  How she feels about logic (which was she didn't think it was going to help in solving this case) was in an alternate version a scene that appears in the extended version but not in the theatrical.  How she feels about resolution is in a scene cut from both versions.

As for things best left unexplained, I'm not sure that exact thing ever comes out but it might be a reference to the scene that was cut from both versions.

In a scene inserted to take the place of various things cut out Dylan says, "You were right, it's bigger than all of us," to someone who never said it was bigger than all of them.

Cut scenes and suddenly your characters are spewing non-sequiturs.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The little things about being broke

It's too hot to think.  It's too hot to write about anything other than it being too hot to write.  I have an air conditioner.  I don't dare use it lest I find myself unable to pay my power bill.  Haven't used it in years.

I'm low on socks and underwear.  Hardly the most glamorous purchases in the world.  I don't know if I can afford to buy more.

There may be something wrong with my furnace.  No way in hell I can pay someone to check that out.

The problem is that it doesn't seem to be heating water.  It'll heat the house fine (not that I want it to) but water not so much.  This is at least somewhat strange because the furnace heats the house by heating water.  (Steam powered radiators, you need the water to be hot enough to turn to gas more or less immediately, if it doesn't then the mess is a spectacular catastrophe*) but then the water that it heats is not, as I understand it, the water that is used for hot water.  Instead there's some kind of heat transfer thing that goes on.

I definitely can't afford to have someone come and take a look.  I can hope that the problem passes.  It might; where the water comes from did just change.  (Utilities work ended, all that's left now is to fix the part of the road that had to be dug up, so I'm back to getting water the way it's meant to be gotten instead of the work around, but I don't know if that means that various pipes have to be emptied by use before everything is back to normal.)

If the hot water problem doesn't fix itself then I have no idea how I'll wash dishes as hot water is kind of an important component in every dish washing style I know (though certainly not every dish washing style there is.)  That's a big deal because I have no clean dishes.

For whatever reason my bills all seem to fall at the beginning of the month.  At least I hope they do because if I'm forgetting something I may be screwed.  So today, on the first day of the month, I got all my money for the month and then saw the vast majority of it (85%) disappear just as quickly as I paid bills.  Is there a word for the feeling of, "Yay, I have money!  Wait... no, I don't have money"?

I miss having TV.  Don't get me wrong, I knew being without TV was coming and I prepared damn it.  I've got a giant collection of movies recorded to DVD, for example, but there was something about being able to lay back on the couch, turn on the TV, and browse the channels to see what was on that I miss.  And I miss it even though the vast majority of the time NOTHING was on.  ("Let's see, I've got hundreds of channels, there must be something on.  Nothing on that one.  Nothing on that one." Hundreds of channels later: "How the Hell can there be nothing on ANY of them?")

Even when nothing money related is messing with me it's always hanging over me like a less deadly but no less menacing sword of Damocles.

People keep asking me to chip in $3, I can't.  Oh what a wonderful world it would be if I could afford to chip in three dollars.

I'm tired.  Just in general.

There was more stuff.  I forgot it.

-

*"Righty-tighty lefty-loosey" is one of the most annoying phrases in the English language and only works if you've agreed on a number of things beforehand (I will be facing in the same direction as the thing, the direction of the upper edge is what I'll use for transforming rotation into linear direction, reverse threaded things don't count, so forth) but if you forget the principle behind it, even once, you can screw things up massively.

Case in point: Every so often the furnace needs new water put into it because it isn't a perfectly closed system and it works by turning water into steam.  To do this you open a valve, look at a water gauge, take into account the speed at which the water is rising, and then attempt to turn off the valve at the exact time it hits a preset marker.  This is because you want it as full as possible (so you don't have to refill it often) without being overfull (which makes it so it doesn't work.)

If it will turn on afterward then your job is done and you can forget about everything.

Unless of course you didn't turn off the valve, if for some strange reason you, for the first and last time in your life, turned the valve counterclockwise when you meant to turn it clockwise.

In that case the furnace will initially turn on, but overfill soon after you've left and the water will keep flowing in, having nowhere else to go it will go where the steam is supposed to go.  Once it's filled the entire heating system for the house it will look for a way out.  And it will find one.  To be clear, the steam isn't technically ever supposed to leave the system.  The steam is supposed to heat metal radiators which, as their name implies, then radiate heat.

However, it would be a very poorly designed system if the steam couldn't leave.  If the steam couldn't leave then it is conceivable that the pressure would build and build and build until something exploded.  Explosions are not something that really goes in the category of "things I want my house to do" so while the steam escaping isn't part of the heating system per se (in that it isn't a mechanism used to heat the house) it is a built in feature to the system as a whole.

And if instead of steam you have water filling the entire system and trying to get out as the pressure builds, the system will not explode then either.  The water will get out the same way the steam would have.

Every radiator in the house will turn into a sprinkler system and the water will be downright nasty.

Trust me, I know.

-

This is also an example of why curiosity is a good thing and should not just be laid aside.  I felt that there was something strange when it seemed like I didn't have to turn the thing that far to make the water start going into the furnace but then I had to crank it and crank it and crank it before the valve stopped afterward.

If I'd taken the time to explore why the hell that happened I likely would have figured out that it was because I had turned the valve the wrong way the second time and instead of closing it I'd made it as open as possible.

Which would have provoked a reaction of, "Shit, I better turn it the right way and stop the water from going in before something terrible happens," which would have averted the whole mess.  Alas I allowed the matter to go examined and thus catastrophe.

So remember children, if you don't give in to curiosity, your heating system will attack your entire house with ick-flavored water.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Why human beings are created with the materials that are close to home

In the mythologies I'm familiar with, human beings tend to be made with what is locally available.  In a region with a lot of dirt?  People are made from dirt.  Got a lot of rocks?  People are made from rocks.  Surrounded by trees?  People are made from wood.

There's a reason for this, and it doesn't have to do with the deity/deities making people as it does with their underlings.

You see, no angel wants this:

Are you sure you don't want to tell him?  He likes you. ... Ok, fine.  I'll tell him. 
Greetings most high one, God of gods, host of hosts, you are truly divine and holy, holy, holy, holy, holyholyholy.  Blessings be upon your name.  Now ... um.  About the people ingredients shipment.  It's... uh.  Well, it's like this: 
The shipment from the rain forest kind of sank. 
... 
I know you've been waiting for it.  I know how much you wanted it, but it's a long way away and we haven't exactly invented the shipping industry yet, and there were waves and there was lightning and such and ... it's now at the bottom of one of those oceans you made in your wisdom. 
It's nobody's fault really, I mean it's not like we can control the weather.  Well, the people in atmospherics probably can and Joe's been telling me about all kinds of things but no one in the person making department can control the weather and the ship sank. 
... 
I don't know what we're going to do now.  You are the omnicient one, I was thinking you'd have an idea. 
... 
Well, look, I know you wanted to get this whole thing done in a week, but do you think maybe you could push the creation of humanity to next week?  Maybe take a nap, give us some time to requisition a new shipment of supplies. 
... 
Can I go now most awe inspiring one who definitely wouldn't smite the messenger?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I'm exhausted

I just got back from buying food for the first time in, I think, over a month.  That took hours because with no transportation getting to and from the store is killer.  The sidewalks offer little to no protection from the sun and it's a long slog over when my backpack is empty and I have nothing in my hands.  On the way back with a full bag and, in this case, more bags in my hands, the feeling is more of "kill me now" and it didn't take long before the heat, direct sunlight, weight, and lag of good nutrition of late because I haven't had much in the way of actual food made it so I had to frequently take breaks to recharge in whatever shade I could find and not so much recover as wait for my hands arms and shoulders to stop hurting.

Two breaks from my house someone doing yardwork saw me and offered me cold water.  That was nice.  Blessings be upon his name, whatever that may be.

Yesterday I spent much of the day outside because I have been assured that my house was overrun by fleas and thus I should deploy chemical weapons.  I personally didn't notice because for some reason fleas don't like me very much.  Perhaps I taste bad.  Whatever good fortune it is that keeps them from bothering me does not extend to my family and pets.

Even if I hadn't been told I would have known something was wrong because my cat was afraid to come in the house and, when she did come in, afraid to touch the floor.  She only acts that way when there are fleas or when she's worried there still might be fleas after fleas have been killed off.

So the house was gassed with stuff that had been left for me to use.  (The flea problem erupted when I was away for an extended period.)  This involved the unwieldy process of moving a terrarium (aquarium without water intended for the keeping of land animals) with a more than somewhat startled gecko inside.  It couldn't be in the house when chemical weapons were being used to eradicate all life in the house.

Also moving various wires so his light and heat pad could stay on.  That probably wasn't necessary because it's so hot he probably feels at home, but I wasn't taking chances, two days ago it was cold and rainy.

It also meant staying in my driveway for much of the day.  First to let the chemical weapons spread through the house and kill everything that touches air, then to let the same weapons disperse.  That's why I had to stay out of the house.  The reason I had to stay in the driveway instead of, say, shopping then is that the gecko makes a tempting target for predators.  If you don't believe me, get one and then show it to a house cat.  Small moving thing with basically nothing in the way of natural defenses save the ability to drop a limb when scared (it actually used this ability once.  Picking up an escaped gecko is something that might get you bitten and can involve climbing on furniture due to the gecko habit of hiding on the ceiling, picking up a disembodied gecko tail is just disgusting.  Those things thrash like you wouldn't believe AND THEY ARE DISEMBODIED) is pretty much begging to be eaten.

The top of the gecko tank does not lock down.  Once upon a time we kept something (I don't remember what) heavy on it to stop cats from getting in (well, one cat at a time, but the gecko has a lifespan that means he's met various cats.) but now the only thing on top is the light.  Inside he's safe.  Current cat doesn't go where the cage is, he can't lift the top of the cage.  (He only ever escaped when it was open.)

The end result is that if I left the vicinity of the gecko tank I might come back to find myself without a gecko.

So I was in the driveway.

I played a recently acquired copy of Unreal Tournament III.  It is, of course, wrong to judge a game that exists mostly for the purpose of multiplayer solely on its single player campaign.  On the other hand, they did go through the trouble of having one and since it's there, oh my god is there so much wasted potential.  It seems like lately all I've been doing is seeing things with wasted potential.  At some point I need to write up posts on the movies Driver and Getaway which both had decent premises executed like crap.

The new Godzilla movie is another thing that deserves a post.  It's problem is that the makers couldn't seem to decide what kind of movie it should be, tried to make it over half a dozen different movies and thus failed on all counts.

The game Mirror's Edge I've talked about at length (Quicksave, cheating, and the sanctity of single player, Spoiler Free Post, Plot Post, What I would have done differently if limited by real world concerns like money and time available, what I would do if not so limited, second post on what I would do without limitations) and while some of that, particularly the parts where I imagine making the game without limitations, calls for fairly radical changes, some of it is very much, "If they just tweaked this it could be 200% more awesome."

Recently an eight year old and a five year old have seen me playing Mirror's Edge and they've both grasped both how cool the game is AND how silly and stupid some of the oversights are.  Which is to say that even small children can see the wasted potential.

Unreal Tournament III''s single player campaign provokes the same feeling of wasted potential.

So, basically, more of the same.

-

Oh, and money.

Nothing is hurtling toward me that will cause everything to come crashing down all at once, but it does look like there might be enough things that I used to stave off such collapse that things will whither away via interest and, when I can't keep up with monthly payments, late fees.

So yay.