Saturday, February 23, 2019

Can't hear myself play

The came across a machine built around a violin, complete with bow.  The machine featured a lot of actuators and a complete lack of any aesthetic sense.  At the moment it wasn't doing anything, but the monitor attached to it featured a continuous scroll of code.

"What's it saying?" the human asked.

"I wouldn't call it language," the android said, "but if I'm correctly interpreting the intent behind sharing these specific outputs, its microphones have all failed, rendering it unable to determine if it is playing in key.

"It seems to be quite distressed by this development, and --if I'm interpreting correctly-- is requesting repairs.  Repeatedly."

The human nodded at this and then took off its backpack.  "Tell it that the new ears I'm giving it, though better than nothing, are pretty crap."

"We have other priorities," the android said.

"Won't take but a minute," the human said while rummaging through the backpack.

"It will take significantly longer than a minute."

"Figure of speech."

"You shall have to educate me, at some point, on the difference between a figure of speech and a baldfaced lie."

"Just make sure it knows to expect low quality replacements," the human said.  "I don't want to get its hopes up and then--"

"I do not think that it has hopes."

"I'd rather act like it does when it doesn't than risk acting like it doesn't when it does," the human said, finally seeming to be satisfied the components and tools it had taken from the backpack.

The android ignored the machine's keyboard and connected itself to a port while the human started to work on the machine.

"I have relayed your message," the android said.  "It is repeatedly indicating that processes are requesting audio input and receiving none.  I note that these processes are discretionary in nature, and there is no reason to run them in the absence of input."

"It wants to hear," the human said.

A few minutes passed in silence.

Finally the human finished working and said, "That should do it, two new ears--"

"Back up communicator microphones are not ears," the android said.

"--and you should be hearing."

The machine responded by playing the violin ensconced within it.  What it played conformed to no existing style of music.  The note lengths followed no pattern, it exhibited no structure, most of the pitches weren't on any scale, and it certainly didn't have any identifiable time signature.

In the human it evoked and abstract and jumbled sense of joy.

"I think it's happy," the human said.

"That conclusion seems reasonable," the android said.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

- ~ ∗ ~ -         - ~ ∗ ~ -

- ~ ∗ ~ -         - ~ * ⁂ * ~ -         - ~ ∗ ~ -

I have no idea why the human and android are going through the kind of place where one might find a violin bot in need of maintenance.  Nor do I know why the android is being snarky.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

I was looking at something, and something led to something else, and the somethings kept on piling up until I came across a robot that plays the violin.  This, in itself, is nothing new.

The 1910 World's Fair had "self playing violins".  In fact it was three violins, each with only one string, that were all played by the machine in which they were mounted.  This obviously leaves one with serious questions.  Questions like "If this method could only play one string per violin, why didn't you install four fucking violins?"

Questions about playing a four stringed instrument with three strings aside, though, its worth noting that it didn't take long to go from "Let's make a piano into a computer, and have it play songs when fed the right program" to "Let's do that with violins too."

The resulting Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina naturally looks cool, in that "start of the 20th century" way some things do, but at the same time it looks like someone shoved some violins inside a player piano . . . because someone shoved some violins inside a player piano.

Given that the stock market crash completely killed off the player piano industry (higher quality phonographs as well as radios had already wounded the industry), and that the self playing violin existed only as a luxury feature on certain player pianos, the dream of robots that played violin sort of disappeared.

In 2007 Toyota showed the world a robot that plays violin and . . . it doesn't look like a robot that plays violin.  It looks like the kind of thing you'd see in a cheap sci-fi movie if the unimaginative prop and/or costume depart were told "this scene calls for a robot that plays violin."

In, apparently, 2015 someone (who was not a backed by a billion dollar company) built a robot that plays violin that looks like a robot that plays violin.

That's what I found myself looking at:

Here's a video.  (That links to a portion where it's playing for a bit, if you want an explanation of how it works and such, go back to the beginning.)

And that left me thinking thoughts, some of which led to the above.

Something not featured above was imagining the evolution of player and instrument.

If you want a robot that plays violin, and making it a good violinist is your only concern, there's a lot of ways you can go about that and none of them look particularly humanish.

Imagine that you took that as far as it could go.  Multiple generations of refinements, improvements, and innovation until diminishing returns meant there really wasn't much more room to improve.

Then take away the violin (bow too.)

Then, without a violin in mind, have someone design an instrument that takes full advantage of the form and functioning of the robot.

Already we're probably talking about an instrument unlike anything anyone would ever design for a human being.  But there's no need to stop there.

No matter how well the new instrument is suited to the robot, if you'd started from scratch with the intention of building a robot to play the new instrument, it probably wouldn't end up like the violin bot.  So do that.


What sorts of things do you end up with when the process has been going on for a while?  (Both in terms of robot musicians and in terms of the instruments they play.)

I have no idea whatsoever.  Seems interesting though.

Monday, February 18, 2019

It's been two years

So that this won't all be doom and gloom, here's some good news:

I wrote something.  Its not good, it's 15 pages of people taking in circles with an abandonment / betrayal based breakdown and some comforting through hugs and such.  It was supposed to be a quick "I'm going back home, I need you to watch this magical object that keeps the connection between our words active" and that was it.  Didn't turn out that way.

What it did do, what gives me hope, is that if flowed.  That's something that hasn't happened in a long time.

If you want to read it, it's here.

Two years and two days ago, but in the evening so not a full two days, I broke my ankle.  I've talked about it a fair amount.  Slipped on the top step, ended up on the basement floor, broke it in three places, needed a plate and a screw installed.  And it used to be my good ankle.

At this point it's very, very clear that the ankle itself was the least of the resulting problems.

You see, two years an two days ago in the morning and afternoon, I was the best I can ever remember being.  That's not the same as "the best I've ever been" because there was a time, as a child, before I had depression at all.  I have only snippets of memories from that time, and none of them really give a good sense of my overall mental state.

Being forced to be sedentary is usually not the best thing for depression, but the larger problem was bloodclot risk associated with surgery and post-surgery.

I had to go off of my hormones and the effect was . . . very similar to going off my depression meds.  It wasn't the same, and I doubt very much that I'd ever confuse one for the other, but those two things are in a category on their own that nothing else really compares to.

Eventually I was allowed back on hormones and things improved.  I was so relieved at the improvement that I thought it was over.  It wasn't, but I probably spent a year telling myself that I was back to normal and never acknowledging that, while significantly better than being off hormones, the state I was in was pretty definitively crap.

(Also, I had a lot of genuinely crappy things I could point to as the reason I wasn't doing well at a given time, which let me avoid the realization that I wasn't doing well ever.)

In the middle of last year, I had a series of breakdowns that led to me finally realizing that my mood had never recovered from the stuff surrounding my ankle breaking.

At around the same time, things got worse.  The big thing was that the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust did their backstabbing.  (The house and greenhouse have been demolished, by the way.)

Things got worse and they didn't get better.  Every so often I think that might be breaking.  Look at the note I have to remember to attach to the top of the post pointing out that, while not particularly good, I did recently manage to write something.

Every time I've thought it was breaking, though, I turned out to be wrong.

So I don't know.  Maybe I'm finally moving back to bad and away from worse.  Or maybe it's another one of those times when you get your hopes up only to have them shattered in a way that hurts all the more than if you'd never had hope in the first place.

What I do know is that I've spent the last two years barely functional.

I've been on hold.  The world has not.

My father's father has died.

We lost the farm including the part that we were very definitely supposed to keep as promised at every stage of negotiations.

That loss meant my sister was driven from her home.  Since she didn't have much time to look for a place to go, she settled for a place that was in a pretty terrible state (with the intention of fixing it up.)  Turns out that it was even worse than it looked (to everyone, including the inspector.)  Very much so.  It's not a long drive for being in a different city, but it's enough that I never see her or my nephews or my niece.

There was no Christmas or Thanksgiving last year because of how spread out the family has become.  Don't know if I'd have been able to take any joy in them if they had happened.

Other people have had changes that I'm not sure it's my place to talk about.  (They're not in my immediate family.)

All around me everything seems to be falling apart and I'm completely helpless.  I only ever leave the house for appointments, sporadic food shopping, and when I need to catch a bus to visit Lonespark.

I've been failing at taking care of myself so very hard.

My appetite went away, and I tried to stay on top of getting enough food, but last week or the week before (everything runs together) I discovered that I'd been failing at that.

Undernourishment will augment depression pretty hard.  So will dehydration.  Or sleep deprivation.

It's been two years, and that's way too long.  I want this shit to be over.

During that time my psychiatrist moved to a different practice, which means that while we should have been trying to adjust meds and such I was instead trying and failing to actually connect with the replacement.

Now we finally are working on it, but the process is slow.  "Let's make a slight change and wait a month to six weeks" slow.  And if I can't stay on top of the "eat-sleep-drink" trifecta that'll mess everything up and we might not be able to tell what works from what doesn't even at that snail's pace.

I don't want to be like this.  It hurts.  But I am.

That's where things stand.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A broad outline of the things I hope to do in the future

I started something that ended up getting too long.  At this point if something takes more than one sitting, it's probably not going to be posted.  Still, you might get a post called "What I hope the future of Stealing Commas will contain" at some point in the future, which will be like this but more into nitty-gritty details.

I hope to write again.  Fragments, chapters.  Original, derivative.  Continuations of old things that have languished for too long, wholly new ideas and characters and settings and scenes.

I desperately want to be a storyteller again.

It's probably the case that in the near future this will be a bunch of variations on a narrowly defined theme.  (You've already seen a bit of it, actually.)  When I get really depressed I tend to fixate on something and I've been very depressed for quite some time.  I don't even know how many alternate versions of the Equestria Girls Holiday Special I've started or thought about, but any return to posting is probably going to include a glut of that.

Close readings.

I've never seen them as quite the same as the kind of deconstructions you see from the likes of Fred Clark or Ana Mardoll, but I did have three things where I took things really slowly and looked at what emerged.

They were things I liked with the idea being that analyzing things I liked would keep me in contact with those things and help my mood in particular and mental health in general.  That didn't work out out, but I do want to return to (via starting over from the beginning) all three of them.

I've been thinking of adding the first thing I don't like to that line up, just so that people can know what the Equestria Girls Holiday Special, which I've got sixteen thousand variations on, is all about.

Thus, decon-esque things:
1 .hack//Sign
2 Deus Ex
3 Kim Possible
? Equestria Girls Holiday Special ?

I'd like to do, and share, more photography.  I used to do that, I could do it again.

Image manipulation is likewise something that interests me and that I've shared here in the past.  It's likewise something that I hope to do in the future.

I've tended to basically do . . . um, computer aided impressionism maybe?  I used to enjoy that.

Something I've never really talked about here is making things.

This is a thing I designed and had 3d printed once upon a time:

(The stickers, which were designed for a rather less complicated thing, I ordered from somewhere else.  As I recall it took three sets to sticker my design.)

I've got so many puzzle ideas that I never made because of the cost of 3d printing, and depression, and frustration at my hands not always being adequate to the task of casting pieces from molds.

Something that I've wanted to do but never made progress on is prop making.  Both replica props and original ones.

The interest is primarily in handheld things.  Sonic screwdrivers are an example.  It's a huge part of why I'd love to get my hands on the products from Rubbertoe Replicas.  Given the screen accurate fidelity, their stuff is basically a physical three dimensional blueprint with all of the information needed to create your own.

Nothing I make would be on that level (I work only with plastics, after all) but . . . yeah, the idea of creating that kind of thing is so appealing, and I want to work in that direction.

It's not happening while I'm too out of it to take care of basic bodily needs, but this is about things I hope to do, and that's one of them.

I've also thought of maybe doing reviews, or something like them, of games or movies.

And that might well be everything.

Now I'm only falling apart

Four lines of a song written by Jim Steinman and sung by Bonnie Tyler have been in my head.  How long I don't know.  Days?  Almost certainly.  Weeks?  Possibly.

Once upon a time I was falling in love 
But now I'm only falling apart 
And there's nothing I can do 
A total eclipse of the heart

I've never understood the song.  Not really.  Who is "bright eyes"?  Why is there nothing she can do?  Is it because bright eyes isn't listening?  Is it that she's lost the will?  What the fuck is going on?  And what exactly does a total eclipse of the heart entail?

None of that is the point, however.

The point is something else.  As much as having four lines stuck on endless repeat is annoying, the music is at least somewhat relevant.  Well chosen, as it were.  Insightful even.

Up until the last paragraph I thought it was just one line "But now I'm only falling apart", but then I realized that it's more than that.  "There's nothing I can do."

That is such a good description of this last however long its been.

I'm stuck.  I might say that I'm in a rut, to an outside observer it might even appear to be true, but I think it's more of a downward spiral.  Sure, it looks like I'm doing the same thing day after day and week after week, but the truth is that I think I'm getting worse and worse.

I've wanted to come back here so many times and write something.  Anything.  And it hasn't happened because I haven't been able to sustain the willpower needed to pull that off.  The post on Christmas day, which could be summed up as "Here's some shit you could buy me, or even give me if you happen to already have it on hand," and certainly lacked any creative merit, was only pulled off because a) it didn't really require any thought, and b) I could tie it to an external deadline that was inexorable.

If I'd tried to post the damned thing in May, it might never have gotten done.  But "giving" being related to "Christmas" pulled it off.

Most things don't have that, and even when it is possible it's unreliable at best.

I can't even describe what it's like to not be creating right now.  I want to say "emptiness" but that description is, unironically and pun not intended, hollow.  I want to say many other things, but the words flee from me.  The concepts as well.  It leaves me with nothing.

I'm not taking care of myself properly.

I'm not taking care of things that depend on me.  My cat can bug me into keeping her fed and watered.  That's good.  I don't know if I cold cope with the guilt should my negligence harm her.  My plants don't have the same ability.  I don't know how they're doing.  I would guess that losses are the highest they've been in a long time.

It's a terrible thing to look at something that was once alive and vibrant and know it died because of you.  Killed by your failings alone.

I'm not keeping myself well fed.  I'm not keeping myself well hydrated.  Rhoadan reminded me last post that they sent me some large drink containers because that's something that can help me with hydration a lot.  The fewer refills that need to be made for full hydration, the more likely it is for hydration.  As it turns out, I know exactly where those ended up when I forgot about them.

I meant to follow up my reply of (more or less) "Thank you for reminding me I have those, it'll help a bunch" with "Now that I'm using them again [good things]"  I know exactly where they are, after all, and using them would be a good thing to do.  I never did because I haven't.  They're two steps (maybe one and a half) from where I normally use my computer and I haven't retrieved them.

A lot of stuff is like that.  So close.  So easy.  So in reach.

And yet I'm not getting it done.

This is my life right now:

I wake up.  I've slept longer than I should need to (based on a lifetime of past experience), but I'm still not rested.  I drag myself out of bed.  I take my medicine (the one thing I've managed to stay on top of) I collapse into the spot where I use my computer.  I compulsively do things on the internet.  I doubt it would be considered "compulsive" in any clinical sense, but I see no other way to describe it.

I think of other things to do.  Someone of which are simultaneously easy and would reap huge rewards.  I don't do them.

If hunger and thirst disturb me enough, I eat and drink.

Return to compulsion on the internet.  Most of it has to do with simply staving off the boredom that would otherwise come from doing nothing.

Continue until I finally manage to break away and go to sleep.  Usually hours after I should be going to sleep.  Usually many hours after I should be going to sleep.

Sometimes I even brush my teeth.

I repeat.

I wanted there to be more in this post.  Talking about what I want to do.  Hopes for when I managed to create something (anything) again.  It kind of got taken over with the [something] of the now.

I'm going to post this.  Then I'm going to try to write something hopeful.  Something about the way I want things to be, and how I'm going to try to make that come to pass.

~ * ⁂ * ~

One last thing before I post this.  Sort of emblematic of everything.  Remember how primary computer broke down two and two thirds months ago?  I still haven't taken it in to get fixed.

It's sitting on my living room floor.  There's nothing inherently difficult about getting it fixed.

I want to make my own back up first, that was the original delay.  I needed to to find my external storage medium (no frills external hard drive with lots of space, nothing fancy.)  That's been found.  I even went through the first steps of backing it up.

It waits, there's nothing hard, I don't get it done.

So it goes with everything.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

If you ever wanted to give me a gift

[I can be contacted via email at cpw (at) maine (dot) rr (dot) com.]

First off, I don't actually expect anyone to get me something.  I'm just using the fact that Christmas is a deadline I can't delay to hopefully get this written and out there.

So what is this?  Well, when I'm in a bad place emotionally but not necessarily financially, sometimes people ask if they can do anything to help and, even though finances aren't a top concern at that moment, there's not a lot I can point to other than the donate button.

It's not that I don't need money, I usually do, but I'd like to have other options.

The obvious solution is to have a post of "These are some things you could do to make my life somehow better other than giving me money."

The hard part has always been writing it.  It's not exactly a happy topic to begin with, it feels like I'm saying I should be given things I don't deserve, my brain always freezes up, and so on.

And then there's the fact that a lot of time I don't have the necessary information.  It ends up seeming like I'm saying "I could use one or more new pairs of shoes" (this is true) "I have no idea what my shoe size is" (this is also true.)

I do need things.

My clothing is threadbare at best and full of holes way more than anyone would like.  My backpack is falling apart in at least three different ways (busted zipper that leads to many headaches, holes in spots, and one of the straps is tied together because the plastic thing that's supposed to allow you to adjust said-strap completely died while I was waking somewhere with it on my back), my . . . wheeled luggage thing with the extendable/retractable handle that doesn't appear to have an actual name decided to take a different approach and combined the "gaping holes" with the "zipper problems".  It also dropped a screw from the handle, which is apparently all it takes to make the thing impossible to retract.

When I'm doing badly emotionally, I'm not always as careful as I should be with things.  (I often set things down in less than safe places, for example.)  When I'm doing badly emotionally for more than 22 months straight . . . all of my glass bowls (I think it's all of them) have broken.  I have no glass bowls.

Lists sort of go on.

It would be nice to have a comforter that's actually still recognizable as a comforter.

I cannot begin to describe how good it would be if I could put all of the back ups from past computers in one place that was simultaneously safe and easy to access.

Games are fun.


The obvious place to start is things that are free.

Feedback is a huge one of those.

It's hard to give feeback when I haven't produced anything in what feels like forever, and I haven't produced with any consistency for almost two years, but hard is not impossible.  Especially because something that I could really use right now is reminders of when I used to do things right.  Also reminders that I used to do things right.

So if I ever produced something that you liked, if you could take time to go back to it, reread it, and then make a comment telling me what about it you liked, that would mean so much to me.

I think other free things require more functioning brain to elucidate than I've had for a week or so.

I could use advice on some things, but getting them from brain to page isn't easy right now.

Cameras is a thing.

The cameras I've had in the past had sunset modes that, somewhat surprisingly, were actually really good at capturing Sunsets.  The Canon PowerShot I have now does not have one of those, and I have yet to discover how to take sunset pictures that don't look like crap.

I've always done handheld photography, but the new camera is good enough (and my hand unsteady enough) that it seems like I might want to work on changing that.  I know nothing of tripods.  I'd need something that's light, portable, and quick to set up break down.  Anyone have suggestions?  (Relatedly, anyone have suggestions I could actually afford to pursue?)

There's a lot of computer stuff, but I'm really not braining enough to describe any of it.

In the realm of similar to no cost but not the same, there's a very good chance that people have, but no longer necessarily need or want, things that would be useful to me.

This has actually worked out pretty well a couple of times.  I've said that I could use something someone already had but wasn't using, the person contacted me (cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com) to get my address, and I got the thing.  Some those things were helpful at the time, some I still use to this day.

I already listed some things in the "I do actually need things" bit.  A backpack, wheeled luggage one might take on the subway with them, a comforter, glass bowls.

I can immediately add large glasses and cups.  (The fewer times I have to refill my water to become and remain hydrated, the more likely hydration is to be achieved and maintained.  The more times, the more likely it is that depression will prevent hydration.)  Ceramic plates have suffered some of the same fate as glass bowls, but I have plates in reserve.

While it's entirely possible that someone reading this might have clothing or shoes that could help me, figuring that out would require me to know my sizes.  So . . . electronics?  That sounds good, right?

When it comes to electronics, especially computer stuff, if you've got something that is merely outdated (as opposed to nommed on by a dragon, dipped in acid, or used a lightning rod) I'd be interested in hearing about it.  Unless its something I specifically spent more money than probably wise on (like my new camera) the outdated thing you have is probably worlds ahead of whatever I have.  (If I even have something in that category.)

Specific things that would be useful right now are robust external storage, a wireless USB mouse, and . . . well, computers themselves.  I'm not expecting anyone to give me a computer.

Outside of electrionics . . .

I like puzzles.  Have I ever mentioned that?  I don't think I've put together a jigsaw puzzle in years.  Also twisty puzzles (Ruibik's cubes and the like.)

Continuing in the vein of "Joy giving things" Legos are something I doubt I'd ever not want.  The more ordinary blocks you have, the more you can do.  For specific lines, I love the colors (and dragons) of Lego Elves.  (Unless there's been some sort of sorting error, every other thing on this wishlist of mine is Lego Elves.)  I love Spaceship! and superheroes and buildings one could theoretically make a town or city out of, and the sculpted pieces (dogs, cats, dinosaurs, bunnies, dolphins, so forth), and . . . I just really like Legos.

Unfortunately, so do most of the people who actually have Legos, so it seems like the chances of people simultaneously having them and not wanting to keep them are probably low.

When it comes to actually buying things . . . that's actually an even more difficult thing for me to write up than the rest of the post.  There are definitely people who need money and stuff more than I do, so it always feels like anyone could find better places to spend their money than on me.

~ ~ ~

The simplest thing on this front is just to link to the Amazon wishlists I have.  They're not necessarily up to date, or sorted, or any such thing, but they at least exist.

(Note that in the top right corner there should be the option to sort a list in a way other than the default.  This could be useful to you.)

This one has all sorts of things all mixed together.   We've got lots of lego sets, books on math, 50 years of Doctor Who art (I love concept art) a lot of games . . .

I should talk about games.  Games are a form of storytelling that can reach me emotionally when other things can't.  They don't always work, but the past 22 months of everything being kind of shit would have been much, much worse if I didn't have games to turn to.

The same also goes for my life as a whole.

I could really use more of that sort of thing in my life right now.

Everything on that wishlist is there for a reason, but some things that stand out in my mind right now are these:

I haven't played Tomb Raider, Shadow Thereof yet in spite of loving the first two.  I have some trepidation about it because, while it was quite good, the second game definitely left me with the impression that that the people in charge either didn't understand (or, perhaps, didn't particularly like) what it is the series gets right.  That said, the second was good in spite of that so hopefully the third will be as well.

Also, hey, it's half off on Steam right now.

Kingdom Hearts III and the Resident Evil 2 remake (underground labs and convoluted conspiracies!) both coming out in January.  Monster Hunter World and Persona 5 are both things that would be nice to have firsthand experience with in order to better connect with some people online.

~ ~ ~

The other list started off as divination, hence the name I gave it, but it ended up more being "Pretty cards and pretty rocks".

It is in general that the answer to the question "Would chris like these polished rocks?" is, "Yes."  Especially if they come in green, purple, orange, or blue.  Though, truly, if I were to list all of the colors I like, I would produce a list of all colors.

"Would chris like these rune stones?" has the same answer for obvious reasons.

At some point I really need to locate good references for runic divination.  A problem with rune stone divination, though, is that as much as I like rocks, traditional runic divination was done with sticks.

On the other hand, I'm not a diviner.  My interest is definitely more along the lines of "utter fascination" than "belief."

Important question:

Is there a term for divination stones with runes on them other than "rune stones"?  Because this is what actual runestones look like.  Note that they're big, heavy, and contain lots of runes that go together to form a coherent inscription.

They're not small things with one rune each.

~ ~ ~

List "more or less the last" is called absurdly expensive Lego sets.  Truth be told, some of them are not actually absurdly expensive (while others definitely are) but instead simply intended for people in significantly better economic places than the one I occupy.

~ ~ ~

Off of wishlists . . . um . . . I could really use a wagon.  Something I could load groceries into and pull behind me on the sidewalk for the walk home.

If my brain were working better I could populate this part better.

Some of the time things I what I want totally doesn't match what's reasonable.  For example, if a rich person were shopping for me I'd ask for one of each of these.  Probably also an Alibre design licence.

There are other things that aren't expensive but even at low prices aren't necessarily worth paying for.

Any of the books I do fic of would be useful in both physical and electronic forms.  (There are some things I want to do that require several physical copies of the same book.)  At the same time, I wouldn't recommend spending even thrift store prices on any books from the big three series (Left Behind, Twilight, Narnia.)  They're more of "If you see it at a yard sale" things.

The exception, I guess, would be reference material.  Not for Left Behind, but
The Official Illustrated Guide for The Twilight Saga and . . . I know that a variety of reference books for Narnia exist, and I'm sure that some of them are quite good, but I don't actually know anything specific about any of them.

Uh . . . that's probably good enough, right?

I'm posting now.

Come back tomorrow.  I want to end the year on a high note, so I'm going to try very hard to post fiction every day for a week.  Since I'm still in the same creative dry spell I've been in, I'm probably going to acomplish that by looking through old files to find things I've written but never published.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The long overdue second update

[Lot of talk about depression, also possibly unpleasant living situation]

I'm going to break this into sections, for ease of reading.  If anyone cares, they were written in the order of "Living Situation", "Living Situation Part 2", "Money", "Mental Health", "Writing", "Computer"

~ Computer ~

Obviously my computer is pretty critical to Stealing Commas since without a computer I can't post anything here.

Right now my primary computer is borked.  It had various smaller problems, then the hinges broke (it's a laptop) and now it's in two pieces.

It's under warranty, and hinges are easy to replace, so it shouldn't cost anything to fix it.  If it needs to be replaced, though, I'll need to pay for a new warranty for the replacement.  Possibly more, since I don't remember if it was on any kind of sale when I got it.  (The warranty gives the money to buy a new computer of the same price, not the same capabilities.)

Still, as far as I know the only major problem is the hinges, and those are simple enough to fix.  It should be relatively quick and fairly easy to get primary computer fixed.

It's been sitting in my living room for over a month doing nothing.

I want to back it up myself.  That means locating the external hard drive with enough storage space to pull it off.  As tasks go, that's not a difficult one.  The problem is that right now I'm having great difficulty with all tasks, regardless of whether or not they're intrinsically difficult.

That brings us to the next thing:

~ Mental Health ~

I'm not doing well.  I haven't been doing well.  I never fully recovered from breaking my ankle back in mid February of last year.  That's more than a year and nine months now.  Around six months ago or so, things got worse.

My hormones are still out of whack.  There's no evidence that that's what's screwing up my brain in depression-y ways, but we're working on getting them back into whack.  Checked my thyroid.  It's not the problem.  Working with my psychiatrist to adjust medications, but antidepressants tend to be of the form "tweak, wait a month, see results if any, repeat" so it's a very slow process.

Anyway, being in this bad place makes it hard to stay on top of other things.  Notably, Eat-Drink-Sleep is a huge thing that has repercussions in every aspect of life and I've been doing a crap job of keeping on top of it.

Screwing up any one of those can give depression-like symptoms, screwing up all three when you're already suffering from depression is not good.

~ Writing ~

My creativity has abandoned me.  That's incredibly unpleasant.  I cannot describe how much I want to be telling stories, and how much it hurts that I can't.

I'm going to keep trying, of course, and I certainly hope that there will be stuff to share here in the near future.

~ Money ~

Money should be great.  Actually, I need to update the thing in the sidebar.

*does that*

As one can see, while my debt is still as massive as it has ever been, most of it isn't accruing interest.  This is a very good thing and a huge thing, and I'm very grateful for it.

If my camera hadn't passed the point of dead and dived right into the murky depths of "no longer capable of being zombie-level animated" I'd have zero high-interest debt.  (That's camera, plus warranty, plus needing to buy a different type of memory card for the new camera.)

That said, things aren't great.  I have been so absurdly out of it for the past six months, and I wasn't particularly with it for the year and three months before that.

Sometimes the only way out is to spend money on the things I'm not capable of doing myself.  That adds up, though it doesn't add up quite enough to explain why I'm over $900 behind on certain things.  I'm probably going to have to look up what constitutes the remainder of the shortfall.

Anyway, that' the quarterly and . . . thirdly(?) bills hitting at the same time.  I need to scrape up that $900+, and soon, but I have no idea how I'll do that.

I also should put oil in the tank.  $427.35 right now, but the price of oil changes constantly.

So: yay.

~ Living Situation ~

I was planning to write up a post saying that things weren't as bad as they were, then I got news that, while long anticipated, was still very much "Oh God, oh God!  The sky is falling."

You know how every time it's looked like I wouldn't be able to afford to keep my house I said that the only other options would be bad for my mental health?

(The other options being moving in with my dad or my sister.)

My dad is going to be moving in with me.

As I said, this was long anticipated.  My dad was renting the upstairs apartment from his dad.  His dad's attempts to make an updated will didn't go well.  The result was that when my grandfather died his property passed to his girlfriend, which was not a good thing.

Before he died, my grandfather had my dad pay rent way into the future so that, when he was gone, it wouldn't be possible to suddenly evict my father.  That, however, didn't change the fact that my grandfather's girlfriend now owned the building.  She got a reverse mortgage.

The way those typically end in cases like hers (and her inheritors aren't likely to shell out the money needed to make things atypical) is that when the person dies, the house becomes the property of the lender.

Now comes the stupid part: Apparently a house changing hands via reverse mortgage does not result in the new owner becoming landlord to any tenants (in the legal sense of that word).  Some sort of loophole somewhere.  As such, tenants (here: my dad) are not protected by tenants' rights.

As near as we can tell, once all of the paperwork for the transfer of ownership of the property goes through, he can be evicted with zero notice.

At which point he'll move in with me.

On the plus side, he'd be a great resource when it comes to keeping up with the bills.

~ Living Situation, Part 2 ~

This may not be as bad as moving in with him would have been.  There's a difference between me being a guest in his house, and him being a guest in my house.

I have my doubts about it being that much better, but apparently when he was looking after my grandmother (not his mother, my moms) and therefore lived with her, he kept to himself except when necessary for the "looking after" part of the equation.

So maybe he'll just sleep in a room I don't use anyway, we'll occasionally cross paths in the kitchen, and he'll pay for TV to actually be on TV in the living room.

Of course the use of entertainment systems is a problem in itself.

Not the mental health problem that living with my family represents, mind you, that comes from frequent direct interactions especially if they involve a shared living space.  The problem entertainment represents is more of a frustration.

I can't block things out.  Well, I can't _intentionally_ block things out.  There have been times when I was engrossed in reading and the world around me basically ceased to exist (as far as my senses were concerned) for hours.  I cannot summon this power, however, and I don't think I've used it in over a decade.

What normally happens is that my attention fixates on anything around me with a strong preference towards things I don't want to see or hear.  (I have a lot of home improvement projects I want to do, one of them is instituting some form of soundproofing.)  My childhood was full of times when I searched the house for the ever elusive spot where the TV in the living room couldn't be heard.

Attempts to distract myself all fail as the thing my attention is fixating on takes precedence.  It's very annoying.

Monday, October 22, 2018


The good news: I have wireless again.

I've actually had a new wifi router sitting around taking up way too much space (why do they always make boxes so much larger than they need to be?) in my living room for ages.  It came with the new modem that I never installed.

I figured that since they went together I should swap out modem and router both.  This was a mistake.  Don't know why, but the combination that works is "New Router; Old Modem".

The bad news: I am so fucked up right now.

It's difficult to say precisely what's wrong.  Tentative guess is that it's a combination of several things which is why it doesn't feel like any one thing I'm familiar with.

This has been building up for a while, I think.  I don' have a plan beyond the usual.  The usual being "Eat, drink, sleep; in proper quantities."  That might be enough.  If I deal with the problem by sleeping in its general direction, hydrating the ever-loving fuck out of it, and putting in sufficient calories, it might go away.

If it doesn't, then . . . I've got nothing.  Outside help will be necessary.

Either way, the fact that Eat/Drink/Sleep even could be the solution points to a deeper problem: I'm in a place where I'm not staying on top of those three, possibly to the point it's become debilitating.

That's never a good place to be.

The neutral news: Primary computer did not magically repair itself since yesterday.

This was completely expected and is in no way surprising.

For one thing, it's in two pieces connected only by cords that are never supposed to see the light of day.  (Primary computer is a laptop, the monitor has broken off.)

Problems like that produce strange reactions in people.  Even people who should know better.  People take a look at a laptop broken into two pieces and--

Ok.  I just had a minor revelation.  People are applying their considerably broken and unhelpful paradigms for mental illness vs. physical injury to tech support.

If the problem were just that the primary computer broke in two, and I didn't have an active warranty (which I don't want to void), I could fix that no problem.  I've done it before.  (I've also done transplants.)

It's a mechanical problem with a relatively simple solution.  It just looks grotesquely bad.

The problems that I can't fix, the computery problems, generally don't look like much of anything.  If you're not the one using it, a borked computer looks exactly the same as a fully functional one.

And so if I go into the store with a computer that works perfectly well as a computer in every way, but happens to have physical damage, it will instantly be taken seriously as a case that needs actual treatment, while if I go into the store with a computer that utterly fails to function properly as a computer, but doesn't have any outward signs of damage, I'll instead have to sit stand through them, essentially, trying to prove that it isn't really busted.

Visible injury gets taken seriously.  Invisible injury is dismissed as user error unless proven otherwise.
I'd never thought of computers repair in that framework before.  (Or, if I have, I've forgotten.)

The entirely unrelated news: I've voted.  You should too.

If you're from the US, as I am, then you know what it's like to feel completely powerless as everything goes to Hell around you.

One of the dangers of feeling powerless is that you can stop believing in whatever power you do have, however small.  Since you don't believe that power is real, you don't use it, and through that choice you strip yourself of what little was left after outside forces took the rest.

If you can vote, that's a power that hasn't been taken from you yet.  Use it.

You know the reason that certain people are trying so hard to take that right away from so many?  Because it still matters.