Wednesday, September 11, 2019

It's not quite a greatest hits collection, not even close really, but maybe you'll find something to enjoy

First off, computer problems again.  I won't know how bad they are until a new charger arrives on Thursday.  (Trying to troubleshoot with the battery worn down beyond all comprehension doesn't work well.)

Second, I did actually get something written, and I'll share it soon, but if you can't wait have a link to Fimfiction.  That's the first chapter, which is the new thing, you might want to read the prologue first, though.  The name of the story, by the way, is Anon-a-Missed.

Third, in this time when I can't write, I've been looking through old stuff.  Some of it I rather like.  Maybe others will too.

I was surprised to find that Grokking the Divine actually holds up pretty well.  It was something I wrote quickly because I didn't like something I'd read.  I haven't thought of it much since then.  It wasn't forgotten, but in some ways it might as well have been.

I read it at Fimficiton, and as I read I fixed some typographical errors and such.  So, until I edit the one here, it's actually better there.  (Story page, actual story)

I discovered that my primary The Horse and His Boy rewrite actually covers the entirety of canon-Chapter 1, which I'd completely forgotten.  (Content notes for slavery, child abuse, lack of self worth, and things like that.)  Here are the relevant posts:
The first introduction isn't analogous to any part of the original book.  That's why I put it in parentheses.  The rest of it, though, is a straight ride through my version of Lewis' first chapter from beginning to end.

What got me rereading my HHB stuff was a scene from much later in the same story.  I looked up the times I'd used the word scorpion here at Stealing Commas (for reasons that make sense in context) and came across this fragment: Invoking Tash after the battle, which I'm still proud of.

I've rediscovered some turns of phrase that I rather enjoy (though they may be too cute for others.)  Actually they tend to be longer than phrase.  Extended metaphors that are, I guess, turns of paragraphs.  I then forgot all but two of them.  (Or maybe there were only two to begin with.)

The first is from the prologue of a story I already mentioned, Anon-a-Missed:
Her will to go through with that plan, though, had not merely been ground down. It had been sacked, hoisted, de-sacked, dropped through the hopper onto millstones, thoroughly ground down, resacked, sent through the whole process again (being routed to different millstones via automatic processes, of course), and finally exported for sale as ultra fine grain.
(If memory serves, I looked up the actual process of grinding down grain in order to write that.)

This is from Actually, guitars can go with bows OR Finding a friend in the band room:
“Well . . .” Sunset began as her posture changed.  Most notably she reached an a arm behind her back and grabbed onto her opposite elbow, but truly everything about how she was holding herself suddenly screamed, Bashful!

Or, at the very least, Sunset's posture meekly opened the door, cautiously stuck its head into the room while hiding most of its form behind the door frame, whispered:
        Um... I'm bashful, if anyone . . . you know, is interested in that information
paused a moment, added:
        Sorry for bothering you
shrunk back a bit at any attention, real or imagined, it had gathered, quickly finished with:
        Bye-now
and sprinted away as fast as its figurative legs would take it.

Because posture like that doesn't really scream anything.
Not quite the same thing, but this is from the already linked to Invoking Tash thingy:
The sense of a smile, one at having an idea that pleased oneself, was conveyed to all who could see Tash's face, though Tash obviously did not smile. A beak cannot create a smile. Yet all those who could see his face felt as though Tash had smiled.
At that point I ended up binge reading Edith and Ben, which is why this post wasn't made yesterday (or was it the day before?)  Have some excerpts:

Prologue:
When you're lying bleeding on the ground, realizing that the thing flowing from your body isn't so much blood as it is the hope that you'll live to see another day, and trying desperately to control your heartbeat out of the silly belief that maybe, just maybe, if it weren't beating so hard and pushing the blood out of you so fast you'd live long enough to be rescued --because it might not be a realistic expectation but at times like these you grasp at whatever presents itself-- you find that the situation is actually remarkably conducive to reflection.
Fun fact: it is impossible to shake a thought from your head. No matter how vigorously you shake your head, the thought never actually falls out.
I was going to respond to that, but then I realized something. "You're evading."

"That's because I don't want to answer the question."

"Obviously. But you know I'm not going to drop it."
 And, I think, that was around when I stopped rereading my own stuff.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Would anyone like to pre-read/proofread something for me?

Shortest version:
Willing to read something for me and give feedback?  Leave a comment to that effect.

[Story description after the first asterism ("⁂" symbol).]
[Short but not shortest version of what's going on after the second asterism.]

So, this is a little different.

Deadlines can be very helpful to me, provided they're not ones I set myself.  External deadlines I have no hope of changing can help me to break through my blocks and actually write.

I think I started writing for My Little Pony (Friendship is Magic and Equestria Girls alike) because I was hoping to use that fact with regard to the first annual Sunset Shimmer Shipping Contest.  It didn't work, and my attempted Sunset/Luna fic for that never got written enough to actually share anything.

Now, I called it the "first annual" but at the time it wasn't, to my knowledge, scheduled to recur.

The second one produced this, which I like a lot even though it's a prologue without a story attached.  (I would love to write the whole thing someday.)

We're now in the thick of the third, and quite possibly last one, and I have kind of a problem.  I'm actually writing pretty well, but I can't sustain writing without feedback, and I'm not ready to publicly share anything.

The short version is that the word count limit is killing me.  I write long things.  I squeeze absurd amounts of description into small in-universe timeframes.  When I do dialogue, for example, I talk about pauses that other writers would never even make note of.  To tell the story in 15,000 words or less I'm going to have to butcher the ever-loving fuck out of things in the editing process, and I don't feel right about putting up chapters that I know I'm going to have to massively rework.

That's at Fimfiction.  He're I'd just leave the old versions up and it'd be no problem (why I have three versions of the second chapter of Life After), but I don't know if it's precisely kosher to post the story to another site before the contest is over on the site where the contest is taking place.

So . . . If I can get some people giving me feedback now, I think I can finish the story before the September 15th deadline, but I don't feel comfortable publicly posting the "I'll almost certainly have to change this, quite possibly in extreme ways" first drafts right now.

Thus I'm asking for prereaders.  I'm going to put the details after a break just so I can make them easier to find.


Since it's a shipping contest, it needs to include a romantic relationship.  The theme is "endings" and that specifically (explicitly) means that the romantic relationship in question has to end.

This is the plan for the story:

One character has lost her friends and is being bullied by the entire school, this is left her in a deep, at times suicidal depression (there is no actual self harm in the story, just thoughts of it and considering it.)

The other, partially because she's shy, but mostly because of a magical artifact, has never had much of anything.  She's pretty much completely isolated, and at this point it is (because magic) difficult for people to notice her in the first place, and difficult for those who do notice her to remember her.

(Both of these things make sense in universe.)

At the start of the story, they're already dating.  They thing that's because they have romantic love for each other, it's actually an unconscious coping strategy for their depression.  It's basically non-pharmaceutical self-medication.

That's actually, mental-health-wise, a dangerous thing, for a variety of reasons.  That's not really going to come up, though.

The story is going to be about the two of them getting better, and (as they do) seeing their relationship fade away.  That'll be kind of angsty for them, since for a long time it was the only thing that kept them going, but it's (supposed to be) a positive story, which will end with them realizing that:
     a) it's not a bad thing (they're just discarding a no-longer necessary cooping mechanism),
     b) they still make good friends, and
     c) when their choice in romantic partner is based on "This person and I actually have a romantic spark" instead of "This person is the only thing that makes me happy because they're the only one to care about me" things are actually a lot better.

So, that's the plan.

[aside]

My hopes of researching/brushing up on the ways that things go wrong and are unhealthy (without being anyone's fault) in depression-based pseudo-romance haven't worked well.

Apparently it's much easier to find information on "How to have a healthy relationship" than it is to find "These are the patterns usually present in this very specific kind of unhealthy relationship."

That said, I have heard first person accounts in the past (and while I haven't done that specific thing, I am intimately familiar with depression) so hopefully I can do that part without being massively insensitive.



The short version:

I'm writing a story; the goal is for it to be done by September 15th; I'm the kind of person who needs feedback to keep writing; I'm not ready to release any of it publicly.

As such, I'm looking for pre-readers.  Do you want in?  Make a comment with your preferred method of being privately contacted.

(If all else fails, I'll just give you my email address; I'm trying to post it less frequently, but any email finding spam thingy probably already has it.)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

I need heating oil and a way to read a hard drive

I hate asking for money, and I especially hate it when it's such a large portion of what I've been doing.  It looks like, over the past three months, half of the things I've posted have included me asking for money.

I'd really rather be writing a ton and asking for money rarely (if ever.)

But, as you might guess from this opening, I need money.

Things have been deeply, terribly, fucked up.  The fallout from my pharmacy going out of business is still kicking my ass, I'm completely out of some of my most important medications, I'm not keeping up with bills well (late fees, where applicable, always suck) and I'm now out of heating oil.

Actually, I've been out of heating oil for at least a week (I think.)

The benefit of having this happen in August is that I can survive that.  If it were winter and I left the house without oil that long the water would freeze and break my heating system.  Last time that happened the cost to replace a heating system thus destroyed was $6,000.  It's been years, I imagine costs have gone up.

It's not winter, so that didn't happen.  What it does mean, however, is that I can't take a shower* and can't wash my clothes properly.  If I weren't out of dish soap anyway, it would also make doing the dishes significantly more difficult.

So, I need oil.  Ideally I'd fill the tank ($479.80 for 200 gallons) and be done with it, but at this time of year there's no great loss in doing the minimum order (100 gallons) instead.

My cash on hand is about fifty cents. ten cents.  (I was way off there.)

So, yeah.  I need money.  There's the tip jar in the upper right hand corner, this goes to the same account and should work just as well if not better: paypal.me/ChrisTheCynic

Paypal has, historically, utterly failed to process recurring donations for me.  Someone would try to be nice by setting up a monthly donation, and instead of it working I got a monthly message that Paypal couldn't process it because *mumble*mumble*.  (Seriously, they never gave me any information on why it might be going wrong or what might be done to fix it.)

So if anyone does decide that they want to give me monthly money, I'd point you to my patreon, but with the warning that I've been in a massive creative slump for two and a half years, and the past year and [third? quarter?] has been even worse than that.  Content isn't exactly common.

(Though today I did put up an early access post with bunch of links to hideously rough in-progress work on google docs, because if I'm not going to finish anything, that kind of seems like the most I can do.)

-

Ok, thing two.  Secondary computer died.  Completely died.  I think that all I need to do to fix it remove the power socket, buy a replacement, solder the replacement onto the mother board, and put it back together, but until such time as I learn to solder (it is on my list of things to do) the computer is a paperweight.

Plugging it in provides zero power (for obvious reasons) and the battery has run out.  As such, it is incapable of doing anything remotely computer like.

There was warning that secondary computer was on the way out, and I have a replacement secondary computer because of that warning.**  There was not, however, warning that it was imminent.  A lot of stuff did get backed up, of course, but all of the stuff that was in progress didn't, because it was more recent than the most recent back up.

So, what I have right now is a 128 gigabyte SSD --a SanDisk SDSA5.JK-- with really important stuff on it, and nowhere I can plug the damned thing in.

You see, secondary computer was a faithful companion and lasted a very long time.  I'm pretty sure, though not completely sure, that that's why I can't plug the damned thing in anywhere.  It's old as dirt.  Primary computer is new.  Primary computer has a slot where I can insert a second SSD, but old as dirt SSDs need not apply.

So, I need a way to read this fucking hard drive.  Ideally I'd like to be pointed at a cheap (but not so cheap as to damage shit) SSD to USB adapter that will work for this thing (or something like that.)

I know nothing about such things.  Help?


-

* It seems kind of weird that I can't given that I need everything else to be cold as cold can be, but I seriously can't take a cold shower.  If there were a lake I could jump in, all would be fine, but I live by the salty ocean instead.

That's how I can interact with cold water.  I can immerse myself (or part of myself) in it, or I can't fucking take it.  (It'd probably be less unpleasant to bang my head into a wall repeatedly, than it is to try, and inevitably fail, to withstand a cold shower.)

** Though, I kind of fucked that one up.  I was not in a good head-space when I ordered it, and by the time I recovered enough to go "This really isn't what I should have gotten" the time during which I might return it had passed.

It's a perfectly good computer, but it's not what I want in a secondary computer.  A secondary computer should be sleek, light, and maybe smallish.  This thing is more like if I put the processing power (and other capabilities) of a secondary computer in a body the size of a primary computer.  It's all wrong.  (None the less, I'm getting used to it.)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Indifference (Equestria Girls)

[This is a story about someone who is deeply depressed and passively suicidal.  It contains discussion of ways one might accidentally die.  So, you know, if you need to steer clear, steer clear.]

Sunset turned at the sound of the door opening and saw Vice Principal Luna emerge.  At another time she might have been worried, she wasn’t exactly supposed to be here, but at the moment she didn’t care.

Luna raised a hand in a gesture of greeting that was almost a wave but didn’t quite make the cut, and then walked toward Sunset.

“If we ever get the lock on that door fixed,” Luna said, “all of the miscreants who sneak up here will be in for an unpleasant surprise when they try to leave.”

Sunset smirked and asked, “I’m a miscreant?”

“Miss Shimmer,” Luna said, “you are the miscreantest miscreant to ever miscrealy miscreant around on this planet.”

“Only one of those is a word,” Sunset said.  A moment later she amended that with, “Two, if you go by probable spelling rather than meaning.”

“They’ll catch on,” Luna said, “just you wait.”

Sunset smiled again, Luna returned the smile then looked over the edge of the roof.

“Yup,” she said, apparently to herself, “it’s still a long way down.”

Sunset didn’t have any trouble making the connection.

“I’m not going to jump,” she told Luna.

“I never said that you were,” Luna said.  “Mind if I join you?” she asked.

Sunset gestured to a section of parapet in front of her.

Luna sat on it, facing Sunset, then said, “Having established that you’re not here to jump, why are you here?”

“The view,” Sunset said.

Luna nodded.  “That’s why I come here too.”

A few seconds passed in silence.

“It’s your job to be the scary unapproachable authority figure who frightens all the students in line by ruthlessly handing out excessive punishment,” Sunset said.  “Why are we having a conversation that doesn’t involve you telling me I’m not allowed to be up here?”

“Sunset,” Luna said, “how would you describe what we’re doing right now?”

“We’re having a conversation,” Sunset said.  “An awkward, stilted, conversation.”

“That’s why you smiled,” Luna said with the dryest sarcasm Sunset had yet to hear.

Another second passed in silence.

“How would you describe it physically?” Luna asked.

“Uh . . .” Sunset said in a reflexive attempt to allow her brain the time necessary to understand what kind of answer was expected of her.  It didn’t work.  So she said, “We’re sitting.”

“Sitting and talking,” Luna summarized, “that’s all you see when you look at this?”  Luna gestured between them when she said ‘this’.

“Yeah,” Sunset said.  “It’s what’s here to be seen.”

“That’s interesting,” Luna said, “because what I see is two people, neither of whom has taken any safety related precautions, who are dangerously close to the edge of a roof.  Close enough that falling off of the building is a distinct --if unlikely-- possibility, in fact.”

“I’m not--” Sunset said.

“--going to jump,” Luna finished.  “I know.”

“Then why are you coming back to this?”

“Sunset, there’s a lot of space between actively suicidal and healthy,” Luna said.  “Sometimes you just don’t care whether you live or die.”

Sunset started to say something, but Luna held up her hands in a gesture of, ‘Wait,’ and Sunset did.

“It can be not eating enough, it can be not drinking enough, it can be not sleeping enough or not staying awake enough, it can be having your hunger and thirst die away, your emotions being replaced with apathy, and your ability to act, or even think, becoming dulled,” Luna paused.  “It can be sitting on the parapet at the edge of a roof, with no concern whatsoever about whether or not you might fall.”

Sunset said, “I’m not--”

Luna said, “--going to jump.”  Luna sighed.  “We’ve been through this, Sunset.”

Then what do you want me to say‽” Sunset shouted in exasperation.

Luna seemed to think that over for a moment, then she asked, “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?”

“That’s a trick,” Sunset said.  “Endless sleep isn’t an option.  Either you wake up, or you die in your sleep, but the question doesn’t ask, ‘Do you ever wish you could die in your sleep?’  It avoids the topic of death entirely.”

“So that’s a ‘Yes’,” Luna said.

“It’s a ‘Yes, but…’” Sunset said.  “I do, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s impossible.”

“While this is entirely beside the point,” Luna said, “you are aware that comas exist, right?”

“Doesn’t make a difference,” Sunset said.  “It only ends two ways: wake up or die in your sleep.  There are no other options, and --no matter how long it takes-- you have to do one or the other eventually.”

“It’s called being passively suicidal,” Luna said, “and I really wish it weren’t.  People have this idea in their head about what it means to be suicidal, and they know they’re not that, so they assume they’re not anything that has the word ‘suicidal’ in the name.”

“Are you supposed to be a psychologist now?” Sunset asked.  She honestly wasn’t sure if she was asking because she was genuinely wondering or because she was being sarcastic.

“No,” Luna said, “not even close."  For a moment Luna looked like she might laugh at the possibility, but she didn't.

After another moment, Luna said, “I’m someone who has starved --obviously not to death-- in a house full of food.  I’m someone who has become severely dehydrated when surrounded by things to drink.  I’m someone who lost years of her life in a barely conscious haze because she wasn’t getting enough sleep, calories, or hydration.

“I’m someone who used to lie awake in bed for hours on end, sometimes well into the afternoon or evening, because I couldn’t muster the motivation needed to get out of the damned thing in the morning.”  Luna paused.  “I’m someone who sat on the edges of rooftops, without a single thought for my safety, to take in a view I would have seen just as well without going to the edge.”

It took Sunset a while to process that.  It was more than she had ever expected to learn about her vice principal.  “Luna . . .” she said with nothing but compassion, but she couldn’t find any words to go after it.

Luna simply waited.  She showed no signs of impatience; she just sat there and gave Sunset time to think.

Finally Sunset said, “I’m really sorry for what you’ve been through, and it’s great that you trust me enough to tell me all this, but that’s not--”

“Sunset,” Luna said, “if you look me in the eyes and swear that you’re eating, drinking and sleeping enough, that you’re taking care of yourself, that you’re not taking unnecessary risks or ignoring your personal safety or lack thereof, I’ll believe you.”

Sunset thought about that.  It was an out.  All she had to do was lie to Luna, and Luna would drop it.  It wasn’t like she had never lied before.  She’d lied all the time.  Frequently to Luna.  On the other hand, it was also a display of incredible trust.  Luna was telling her that she’d believe Sunset, whatever Sunset said, even though she knew Sunset was an accomplished liar.  That made the prospect of lying to Luna seem like an even larger betrayal than it would otherwise be.

Sunset closed her eyes, took a deep breath, opened her eyes, looked Luna in the eyes, and spoke.

“I’m not sure the last time I ate," she said, "I think it was probably breakfast yesterday, but I’m really not sure; dehydration and I are long time companions; I try to sleep on a schedule, but it never works, so I don't sleep much; sometimes I want nothing more than for darkness to take me and the world to never bother me again.”

Sunset took a breath and looked over the side of the school.  It was a long way down.  They were dangerously close to the edge.

“I know --logically-- that if I were to fall off the roof I’d be terrified.  I know that I’d almost certainly die on impact, and thus not have any post-terrified time to think.  I know that if I somehow did have that time, I’d probably be in too much pain to form coherent thoughts about my feelings and outlook.  But . . .” Sunset paused for a long time.  “I feel like, if somehow I did have the time and ability to consider my situation, then --as I lay broken and dying on the ground far below-- I wouldn’t mind.”

Sunset saw nothing but concern in Luna’s eyes.

“But that doesn’t mean--” she said.

“--that you’re going to jump,” Luna said.

“I’m not planning on falling either,” Sunset said.

“But the prospect doesn’t bother you,” Luna said.

Sunset nodded.

“It’s the same for if a store I happened to be in were robbed, and I got hit by a stray bullet,” she said, “or if some jackass ran a red light and hit me in the crosswalk.  I feel like, as I lay there dying, I’d be ok with it.”  Sunset looked away.  “And I’m not sure the world would lose anything with my passing.”

“That’s the brain weasels talking,” Luna said.

“Brain weasels?” Sunset repeated in something that was lodged firmly in the ambiguous territory between question and statement.

“Technical term,” Luna said.

“Uh huh,” was Sunset’s response.

They lapsed into silence.

“Sunset, do you live with anyone?” Luna asked.

Sunset gave Luna a look that she hoped conveyed nigh inexpressible amounts of incredulity.

“I know that, as a unicorn from another world, you probably don’t have human parents to live with in this world, but you could have one or more roommates, or you could live with a boyfriend or a girlfriend.”

Living with a boyfriend was closest to true, in that it wasn’t entirely false one hundred percent of the time.

“Flash,” Sunset said.  “If it gets too cold, I crash in his guest room.  He and his parents have made clear that it’s always open to me, no matter what disagreements any of us may have, whenever I need a warm bed.”

“Do you think they’d be open to letting you stay for an extended period?” Luna asked.

“I’m not moving in with my ex,” Sunset said.  “It’s bad enough that I need to rely on him if we get a particularly harsh winter.”

“I’m not letting you be alone right now,” Luna said.  “And, no, it’s not because I think you’ll try to kill yourself.  You need someone to make sure you’re getting food, water, and sleep.  That’s at the bare minimum, ideally you should be getting a good deal more support.”

“You’re not letting me . ? .” Sunset sort of asked.

“Meaning that, unless you can offer up a more agreeable alternative, you’re moving in with me,” Luna said.

Sunset thought about that, then said, “Rumor has it that you live with your older sister in your parents’ old home.”

“I’ll have you know that I was bribed very handsomely to return to that house,” Luna said in a mock-serious fashion.

Sunset raised an eyebrow, “What were you bribed with?”

“The only true currency of the world’s elites,” Luna said, “video games and associated hardware.”

Sunset felt that she had raised her eyebrow too early, for now seemed like a much better time to raise it.  With eyebrow raising off the table, Sunset simply looked at Luna.

“My game cave is second to none,” Luna said.

Sunset didn't really know how to respond to that, and ended up saying, “Ok then,” as a way to signal that she felt the topic had run its course.

Luna shrugged.

As she thought about the larger context, Sunset realized that there was one thing left to say on the topic Luna's 'game cave'.

“If you want me to move in with you,” she said, “I’m getting access to all of that.”

“You're really into video games?” Luna asked.

“The opposite,” Sunset said; “I’ve basically never had access to them.”

Luna looked genuinely horrified.

“I have at least a decade of lost time to make up for,” Sunset added.

Luna offered her hand to Sunset and said, “It would be my honor and pleasure to lead you on this journey --this epic quest-- through digital worlds and toward the inevitable corruption of your impressionable young mind.”

Sunset shook the offered hand.  “I am well and truly bribed,” she announced.

“That’s good,” Luna said, “because I’d much rather bribe you than force you.”

There was silence for a while.  Then Luna stood up, offered Sunset her hand again, and said, “Come on.  It’s getting dark out here.”

Sunset grabbed Luna's hand, let Luna help her get up, noted that Luna’s grip was probably strong enough to stop her from falling if something went wrong, and then realized that an important detail hadn’t been addressed.

“How long is this arrangement going to last?” Sunset asked.

“Until you’re better,” Luna said matter-of-factly.

“What if I never am?” Sunset asked.  “Do I just stay with you and Celestia till I’m old and gray?”

Luna shrugged and started walking toward the door.  “We’ll cross that bridge if we ever actually come to it.”

Sunset had a silly thought.  She decided to give into it.  “After we cross it,” she asked, “can we burn it?”

“We’ll cross that bridge and decide whether or not to burn it if and when we come to it,” Luna said, a hint of mirth in her voice.

When they reached the door that would let them into the library and off of the roof, Luna stopped.

When she didn’t start again, and neither did she say anything, Sunset asked, “Something wrong?”

“You’ve been in this world for years,” Luna said, “plenty of time to get situated.  Twilight was only here for a few days, she doesn't seem nearly as adaptable as you, and I doubt she'd do well on the streets.”  Luna paused before finishing with, “Where did she live?”

Sunset was originally going to answer in a different way, but then she remembered where they were.  “Through that door,” she said.

“In the library?” Luna asked.

“You know the pile of books on the floor that everyone --everyone who sees it, at least-- says should be picked up, but no one ever actually disturbs?” Sunset asked.

“I think so,” Luna said with clear uncertainty.

“That was Twilight’s bed,” Sunset said.

“I . . .” Luna said, “have questions.”

“I may or may not have answers,” Sunset said.

“Are old reference books really that much softer than than the library carpet?” Luna asked.

“Don’t know,” Sunset answered.

“Why would she make it so high?” Luna asked.  “Even if the books are better to sleep on, I can’t see adding additional layers making things any better.”

“Not sure, but I would guess that it’s for the elevation, not the comfort,” Sunset said.  “If you can roll to get your knees under you--”

“--you stand a better chance of actually getting out of bed,” Luna finished.

“For Twilight it was probably more about ease of getting up, and not so much a question of whether or not it happened,” Sunset said, “but yeah.”

The two kept on talking as they walked through the school, from the roof access to the exit nearest the faculty lot.

-
- -
- - -
- -
-

This comes out of reading a lot of fanfics based on the Equestria Girls Holiday Special comic.  It's quite bad and, like many other bad things, inspires a lot people.  ("I can do better," is a strong motivator.)

There's a tendency to try to make the invisible visible, which tends to mean making the psychological physical.  Sometimes bullying becomes more physical, sometimes the response does, sometimes both.

Sunset has a tendency to find herself standing at the edge of very tall things thinking about jumping.  (Sometimes she doesn't, sometimes she does, sometimes she tries but is stopped at the last possible second.)

This was born from the fact that there's a lot of space in which one isn't thinking about jumping but is very much in a bad place, mentally speaking.

-

Forgot to put this in the story: Part of the reason Sunset isn’t sure when she last ate is that she’s been avoiding the cafeteria.  Lunch on school days had been the one meal she was always sure to eat, but since she stopped visiting the cafeteria, that hasn’t been true.

Luna would have agreed that it was probably wise to avoid the cafeteria, while still finding the effect, vis à vis Sunset not eating, unacceptable.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Just an update to let you know where things stand

[This talks about depression and suicide-adjacent thoughts.  You have been warned.]
[this is copied and pasted, verbatim, from a post of the same name I just made on my patreon]

Yesterday marked the first time something had happened in a long time: I actually ate enough food two days in a row.  That caused something unexpected to happen.  My emotions turned back on.

I don't know the last time that I actually felt things in full force, but the experience was not a good one.  That was probably exacerbated by the fact that yesterday I forgot to take my medication, but one day off my meds is not, in itself, enough to produce the anguish I went through yesterday.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Spiderman: Far From Home appears to be completely ignoring it's premise

[This has been massively expanded upon, but the basic idea was originally posted on Twitter.]
[Nota bene: the movie isn't out yet right now, and the Twitter thread upon which it is based was written a week and a half ago when the movie definitely wasn't out.  It's about what seems to be true based on pre-release info.]

Summary:
So, the short, short version my my Spider-Man: Far From Home commentary is:

This movie wants to tell a story that's impossible in the post-Endgame world, but it insists it exists in exactly that world.  Why?
I just saw an ad for Spider-Man: Far From Home, and it looks like it's ignoring the premise.  Hard.

The premise, remember, is that the population of the universe in general, and earth in particular, just doubled* without warning.

*Caveats aplenty, we'll link to them. footnote them.[]

-

We have a universe that's only five years removed from the greatest disaster in the history of the universe,[] and it just got slammed with a new one.

For Spider-Man, we're concerned with earth.  That's good because we understand earth.

There have not been five years of preparation for, "Ok, about 3.75 billion people are going to pop into existence out of nowhere, so we need to make sure we have food, shelter, infrastructure, and employment for all of them waiting."

Now, obviously, we're going to see a lot of killing and whatnot over other things, but food is what I want to concentrate on.

Carrying capacity isn't a set thing.  It changes.  Notably, it drops to match a reduced population.  Five years is more than enough time for that drop.

(Abigail Nussbaum adds:)
‏Also, note that said carrying capacity was already stressed to the breaking point by the disappearance of 3.75B people, with their labor and role in the supply chains. Those five years were spent restoring a broken system, which is now going to be broken again.
When the carrying capacity is lower than the population, you get famine.

Usually this happens because something happened to the food supply (crop failures, for example), but suddenly doubling the number of mouths to feed will very definitely do the job.  It'll do the job like nothing ever has, in fact.

Given time, the extra people can do extra work on extra agriculture to make extra food.

In the immediate aftermath, however, we're talking about the worst famine in recorded history.  (Immediate, here, is going to be measured in years.)

One reason that famine sucks so much, by the way, is that no amount of pulling together or cooperation can compensate for there not being enough calories to go around.  If you're eating the minimum necessary for survival and using all the food, there's nothing more you can do.

Until there's a harvest large enough to feed everyone left alive, you're kind of screwed.

-

There's a major threat to that harvest that we need to consider.

Those seeds you need to plant to make that harvest?  They're food you could use to keep your family alive.  Do that, and you have nothing to plant.  You need twice as many of those seeds as you thought, and now you're strongly considering making it so there are fewer.

There are shades of the 'tragedy of the commons' here.  If one person uses seed stock as food to keep themselves and/or their loved ones alive, that's not going to be noticeable on a global scale.  Sure, it'll suck locally when the crops that those seeds would have produced never arrive, but maybe the next town over lucked out and had a bumper crop.

It's never just one person.  Everyone counts on someone else being responsible, and the result is catastrophic.

Also, with a famine of this magnitude (and on a global scale no less), it's not actually that unreasonable, from a self-interest perspective, to eat the seed crops thus ensuring that things get worse come next harvest time.

There's a very good chance you, generic you, are going to die anyway.  Ditto for those around you.  If that's who you care about, you might as well stay fed as long as you can and forget about the future.  Sure, it'll screw over the world as a whole, but the world as a whole is basically trying to kill you at this point.

So that's a problem.  Things are a hellish famine-scape until there's a large enough harvest, people will be actively doing things to make it so that harvest doesn't come soon.

And, remember, even if no one ate the seed stock, there wasn't enough to begin with.

To get to the famine ending harvest, this is what needs to happen:
  • Field space needs to double.  It's not like the fields from before the first snap have been sitting fallow all this time and merely need to be sown.  They're five years gone.  What that means depends on where the fields are, but even those left untouched and relatively intact need to be cleared and tilled (many will need to be fertilized too.)
  • The capacity to grow, harvest, process, and distribute food needs to double.  This is mostly industrial shit, I know it not.
  • A large enough number of seeds to produce a population-feeding global harvest need to be set aside instead of eaten.  This is double what people had been setting aside, and given that people have been eating that, more than double what was set aside after the famine started.
  • Those seeds need to be planted, cared for, and brought to harvest.
    • There's an element of luck in this.  Just because everything on the human side is finally set up and working doesn't mean that nature will cooperate.
  • Now we're into the processing and distribution, which needs to survive "Hungry people want food now" and "Hungry people want food here."  (This is entirely apart from "Grudges, from the famine and before, mean that some people actively want other people to starve, and will work to see it happen.")
And --Woo!-- done, provided that the next harvest hasn't been sabotaged by anything leading up to this point.

One might wonder why I'm focusing on food and not animals.  We'll get to that.

-

To get us back on track with the original tweet thread, a recap: the population has suddenly and unexpectedly doubled.  There will not be enough food.

Yes, this includes if all crops were just on the verge of being harvested pre-snap so that, since they were alive, they snapped back, and since they were ready for harvest, they're quickly edible.  The system that converts "plants in certain fields in certain places" to "global food" isn't set up to operate on the necessary level anymore.  (Entirely apart from the other disruptions caused by doubling the global population.)

Depending on how you look at it, there is either too little food for the people supply, or too many people for the food supply.  While cutting back to the point of "starving, but not to death" and sharing as much as possible will stretch the food supply, there comes a point where it can go no further.  There aren't enough calories to keep all of the people alive.

Recap over, let's get back into the original flow of things.

-

One solution to more mouths to feed than the food can support is the Thanos solution: fewer mouths to feed.

Genocide is a very real possibility, but there's also less sinister things.  People will refuse to eat (and thus starve to death) so that there's more food for others.  Not "people may", "people will".  There has never been a famine like the one we're talking about, but there have been a lot of famines, and we know how people respond to them.

(Part of how we know that people will eat seed stock, even though it makes things worse in the long run.)

Random note back on the evil side: 'Hansel and Gretle'ing will be happening too.  It's not just that some people value their own lives over their children's lives, though there is that.  The thing about abandonment instead of murder is that it leaves the hope of "Someone else, someone who can feed them, will take them in" which makes it seem a lot less horrific in the eyes of the abandoners.

Quick note before we leave this point, I don't want to dwell on things like genocide, but do note that wars fall into the "things like" category in this case.  Sometimes it's the exact same thing, in the case of wars of extermination, but if you're fighting to take away what allows others to survive (food in this case) your success will kill them every bit as much as an extermination campaign.

Anyway, that's a quick rundown of the "fewer mouths to feed" angle.

-

There are, of course, other ways to approach the problem.  One is expanding what one considers food.  We've already mentioned that, to a degree, in the form of people eating seed stock.  That's only one part of it.

As I said above, the point at which there's nothing more you can do in the face of "not enough calories to go around" is when you're eating the minimum necessary for survival and using all the food.  I do mean all the food.

Long before we reach the point of cannibalism, we get people eating every non-human in sight.  This is why I've been focusing on harvests as famine enders to the exclusion of livestock, by the way.

At first, livestock is going to seem like salvation.  After all, half of all living things from five years ago just popped back into existence, that means half of the animal supply did.  Once they're all rounded up, they can be sent to slaughter to help offset the insufficient crops.

That's not the only reason they're going to be sent to slaughter.  With five years adapted to half population, there won't be sufficient animal food or grazing land, and the last thing you want right now is for the livestock to overgraze or otherwise run out of food.

Obligatory note that the slaughterhouses, and everything after, also aren't prepared to deal with this much supply.  That's industrial, I'm not getting into it.

Something like a cow is a way to convert not-food (grass, for example) into food (hamburgers, for example) and thus really valuable.  Couple that with the human-side food shortage, and eating the excess livestock to prevent a livestock food shortage is a good idea.

But it only lasts so long.  The first problem we're going to hit is that people who are eating meat at "snapped back and sent to slaughter" levels aren't going to instantly stop once the excess is gone (especially given that, you know, fucking famine.)

Once the excess runs out, we're right back to the "half as much food as needed" problem, except we overshoot.

It doesn't end there, it gets worse for farm animals.

-

First off, a lot of animals eat things that people can eat.

Know what chickens eat?  Mostly cereal grains.  Things like wheat and corn.  Things that people eat.  The rest of their diet?  Protein.  Either animal or plant protein.  Looking specific protein sources used in chicken feed, that's also human edible.

Does this mean that chicken feed is edible?

I have no fucking clue, actually.  I tried to look it up, couldn't find an answer.  That's not really the point though.

If you've got corn, as an example, would you rather it save people from starving to death, or be turned into chicken pellets?  Remember: the people probably pay better than the chickens do.

Why do the people probably pay better when chicken food would be in equally short supply?

Picture yourself as a chicken farmer (but not my sister, because that would be weird) and imagine that you had the option to starve to death (or let your loved ones starve to death) or feed your chickens.  Which would you do?

And remember:
  • Male chickens can be utter assholes who will leap into the air and attack you (or your children) with their giant scaly Jurassic Park feet, which happen to be tipped in vicious fucking claws.
  • If you decide not to feed the chickens, then it's time to kill and cook (starving the chickens would be cruel), which:
    • Means you have meat that you and yours can eat
    • Means you also have meat that you can sell.
That second half of the second point is important.  Meat prices will have gone up, you can sell at a premium.  You can sell at a premium and still be selling at below the market rate.  Your customer gets a deal, you get money with which you can buy food other than chicken, everyone but the chicken wins.

(Probably worth pointing out that immediately after the unsnap, what happens to the price of meat will be complex and difficult.  Once the unsnap surplus animals are gone, though, meat's going to be like any other food: expensive.)

As to the first point: yes, they will attack babies that have only just learned to walk.  Do not leave children (any age) alone with roosters unless they have been verified as rooster combat capable.  (When dealing with roosters yourself, be aware that they may wait util your back is turned to attack.)

Hens seem to be safe.

Back on track, if chicken farmers merely put off buying chicken food in favor of feeding themselves, that's going to drive prices down.  If they actually start killing and eating/selling the chickens, that's going to drive prices down more.  Meanwhile human beings are going to be paying ever higher prices for food, of which there isn't enough.

If chickens had access to money and could buy their own food, chicken feed prices would climb in the same manner as person feed prices, since chicken food is brought by people who themselves need to eat, that's not going to happen.

A second reason that things get worse for farm animals is simply that they're edible.

Just like people eat seed stock, people will eat animals that are needed for breeding to maintain herd size.  They'll also eat them early.  The fact that a cow will have twice as much meat in 6 to 12 months doesn't mean much if you won't be alive to see it.

And people will eat milk cows and things like them.  Egg hens are another example.  If I've got things right, it only takes a month for egg hens to lay enough eggs to equal the calories you'd get from eating them, but that assumes there's adequate food for the hens and that you can wait a month.

Keep your animals and they're a drain on your resources, kill them and they're a source of meat, money, or both.  When faced with starvation, a lot of people are going to be very interested in meat, money which might be used to buy food, or both.

-

The one spot of good news for Peter Parker in this livestock nightmare is that the plants he eats are probably produced by humans and machines, so people eating work animals isn't going to touch him.

The bad news is that pets will be on the menu.

There are going to be tough questions for students at Peter's high school.

Questions like, "Would I rather eat Fluffy, or Spot?" and, "Do I have it in me to butcher them myself, or will I need to get someone else --who would take some of the meat as payment-- to do it?"

It's not like pets are the only thing, of course.  Given where he lives, you can bet that Peter's diet is going to include rats and pigeons for a while.

They'll run low, of course.  They're in the middle of a famine too, and humans outnumber them.  But, for a while . . .

It really is the case that any animal is potentially on the menu, so we can imagine a scene where Spider-Man races to the scene of a major disturbance and discovers that it's neither normal criminals nor supervillains; it's just a crowd of hungry people who have decided that the NYPD horses and dogs are a viable food source.

We can imagine it because it's the kind of scene that has to happen in Spider-Man: Far From Home if it's actually part of the post-Endgame MCU.

We can also say, with a fair degree of certainty, that nothing like it will appear.  We aren't likely to see Peter and friends facing food riots or the government response.  We aren't likely to see the effect of the political instability that would necessarily exist even if this weren't happening a mere five years after the worst disaster in history.

Remember, there has never in history been a situation where there were twice as many people as the food supply could support.  Like the snap, this is superlative.  This is the worst famine ever.  It's the first worldwide one, too.

Peter and Pals are in New York City.  That gives them front row seating.

Even if they were somewhere less globally connected, since it's global, no matter how hard they try, there is no possible way that they can avoid being completely swept up in this disaster.

Until the food supply and population reach equilibrium this will be their lives, and they will be forever changed by it.

We aren't likely to see that.

-

Nothing in what's been released about the movie even attempts to address anything that happened in Endgame other than, "Hey, we're fresh out of Iron Man."  An Iron Man shortage is not the major problem left in the wake of Endgame.  (I'd also point out that Iron Man isn't the only hero they're out of.)

We know beyond all doubt that the world is falling apart in the worst possible way; Peter Parker goes on vacation.

Which, in the end, is sort of the problem with the MCU.

They wanted a connected universe.  They refused to connect it.

Every damned movie they set up things that must necessarily happen, or be true, or have consequences, and every time they ignored it as completely as possible in everything that followed.‏

I don't particularly want a "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends have all their joy and optimism crushed in the famine-ridden Hellscape that necessarily follows Endgame" movie.  I understand why they're not doing it.  But that's the only Spider-Man movie that can follow Endgame.

So, instead, we're getting a movie that doesn't follow Endgame.  And that's fine.  But why, then, are we being told that it does?  Why not just say, "This is a different continuity"?  You don't need continuity to have the same actors show up as the same characters, after all.

What's the last MCU movie that actually benefited from being in a shared universe?

If they'd just said, "Yes, we're (mostly) using the same familiar face for each character, but don't expect everything to line up," what would have been lost?

I ask because I don't remember the last time it felt like being part of the MCU continuity was lifting a film up instead of weighing it down.


And wow is that fucking uneven.  Sorry about that.  The plan was to have simple editing of the Twitter thread for readability and typos, then I massively expanded on some stuff, then I ran out of steam after the chickens.

Anyway, here's a massive footnote on why we don't know whether the population doubled.  This will be a straight cut and paste of the Twitter thread covering it:

-

[] So, I was writing a thread on Spiderman: Far From Home and how it seems to be ignoring its own premise, and I realized that I needed a separate thread on the caveats to the statement that the premise is "The population just doubled without warning."

So, caveats here.

Some of the people popping into existence are doing it less than idea places.  Think "a bowl of petunias and a very surprised looking whale" places.

Well over three hundred thousand would have appeared at airplane cruising altitudes sans plane, for example.

A more pressing concern is probably those who appeared in the middle of roads.  Over nine million would have done this in the US alone.  That's going to lead to secondary die off, in the form of everyone who gets offed in the traffic accidents.

We could obviously go on at great length, but it's important to note that for all of the people who suddenly find themselves off belay in mid air, or in the middle of the ocean with no boat, there are more who appear in places where they're safe and sound, physically at least.

Which brings us to the psychological toll.

A lot of people are going to be visiting their own (empty) graves and wondering if that's how it was meant to be, and (whether they do that or not) not everyone is going to survive thinking along those lines.

Kicking someone five years into the future would be a strain normally, but this isn't just any future.

Five years ago something happened, and the snapped back people are going to be hit with the full reality of that all at once and it's going to hurt.

Five years ago, no caveats, half the population of the universe disappeared.

We're primarily concerned with earth, and even then we limit ourselves to humans instead of talking about ecosystem collapse or intestinal bacteria, so for us it's really more that ~3.75 billion humans.

Those people who would later appear in the middle of the road?  They were on the road.  It probably doesn't matter whether they're driver or passenger, since a passenger going dust is going to distract the driver.

So on, so forth.

But, again, for every person in an inopportune place, more weren't.

They, of course, had to then deal with the biggest disruption in human history.

Most visions of the Rapture are lighter and fluffier.  In real history, the Black Death wasn't nearly so terrible.

It doesn't actually take that much to collapse a civilization; what Thanos did was more than enough to collapse every civilization. In fact, if that had been his goal, we would be well justified in calling what he did massive, absurdly over the top, overkill.

Which brings us to the wars and riots and so forth.

This is when you begin to understand precisely why the filmmakers curled up into a ball, whimpered, and finally gave the fuck up --instead opting to push it off screen with a time-skip-- in the face of what they'd created.

Every recorded war pales in comparison to the inevitable after-snap conflict.  All wars combined wouldn't measure up.

Before, alongside, and after that is the political maneuvering and restructuring.

When the bodies are buried and borders settled, earth will be unrecognizable.

The people who burst back into being are going to have to be faced with the fact that the world as they knew it ended, and there's this new thing in its place that they don't understand, don't fit into, and are ill equipped to cope with.

That's before we get to the people.

A lot of the non-snapped people they knew will be dead because of the aftermath.  Be it the immediate disaster or the riots or the wars or --and this one is brutal-- because they stopped receiving the care a snapped individual had been providing, a lot of the nonsnapped are dead.

Those who returned have to face that.  They also have to face the fact that everyone they knew who lived through it is fundamentally changed.

Other than the ones snapped and unsnapped with them, the people they once knew are gone.  Some died, the rest are different people now.

Certainly reconnection is possible, but in the face of people who have lived (and grown) five years through Hell in what was, to them, the blink of an eye, the unsnapped are going to have a hard time relating.

Which brings us back to the suicides.

The world they knew is gone, the new world doesn't have a place for them, they don't know the first thing about making a place, some of the people they care about are dead, others are so very different.

The psychological strain is high.

This also, by the way, is Flight of the Navigator.

David couldn't fit into a world where eight years had passed while he remained the same.

David, of course, had it comparatively easy.  He was the only one to disappear, so there was no major disruption to life on earth.

Anyway, all of that is why it's difficult to say whether "doubled" is accurate.

Half of the population disappears.  A bunch more die.  Time passes.  The population is now [something].  The people who disappeared reappear.  Many die.  Is the population now approximately two times [something]?

We can't really answer that.  We don't know how many died in the disruption.  We don't know if people have been breeding like rabbits.

It's almost certainly the case that the population doubled or more than doubled with the unsnap, but which of those it did is harder to say.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hypothetical trailer for a hypothetical game about running around (figuratively) in zero gravity

[Originally posted right here right now.]
[Just something quick and rough]
[Italics are voice over.]

So, you know how it is when you think you're living in a small town on earth that is, perhaps, too isolated for its own good but otherwise fairly unremarkable, and then your entire understanding of reality is shattered when the gravity fails?
[short scene of when the gravity failed, and the immediate aftermath (based on computer physics simulations rather than assumptions about what it would look like.)]
Yeah . . . that.
[adults looking completely freaked out, confused, and/or in utter shock]
[kids having fun 'flying' by launching themselves from building to building]
As near as we can tell, we're in some form of bio-dome or other on some kind of space station, with absentee landlords.
[A town meeting, in the high school auditorium.  Why?  Because the seats are nailed down, which gives people something to latch onto.]

"We're somewhat close to sure," a speaker says, "that the sea migrating into the sky will not cause the local fish population die off, provided that we implement some simple and straightforward safeguards."
Life goes on, because it kind of has to . . .
[People attempting to shop at a supermarket, which has been modified for zero-g by people who clearly had no idea what they were doing.]
. . . and some of us even attempt to understand things . . .
[Two floating people, anchoring themselves by holding onto a workbench.  Said workbench has clearly alien/future/{otherwise unlike what we know} technology strapped to it.]

One Person: "I'm telling you, if we hook the doohicky into the thingamajig--"

The Other: "Then the whole thing will explode!"

One Person: "Don't be so dramatic.  The worst that would happen is we'd void our warranty."

The Other: "We don't have a warranty,"

One Person: "Then everything's fine."
. . . but answers are kind of hard to come by . . .
"It was hard enough figuring out how high up the sky is, now you want to know what it's made of‽"
. . . and no one really knows what to do . . .
Public figure: "Provided we all stay calm--"

Random Heckler: "No one will notice you don't have a plan!"
. . . so any ideas at all, no matter how ill conceived . . .
Leader of a ragtag group: "We'll just steal some construction equipment and drill a hole in the . . . the . . ."

Member of group: "Sky/bedrock/wall/thing."

Leader: "Yeah, that."
. . . are kind of welcome . . .
[Narrator is on screen for the first time, and is talking to members of the rag tag group]

Narrator: "I just want you to know that I'm only doing this--"

Member of group: "--because you're bored and have nothing better to do, we know."

Narrator: "Look, I just want it to be on-record that I think this is a stupid idea that has no chance of working."

Member of group: "When we appoint a scribe, making that record will be the first thing we have them do; let's get on with it."
. . . given the lack of clear alternatives.
[Explosion rips a hole in what looks like reality itself, but clearly has to be the wall around the enclosure.]
Which is more or less where we find ourselves.
[Quick shots of gameplay involving human-powered movement through zero gravity in various environments.]

[Lots of the zero-g equivalent of running (toward, from, between), possible non-euclidean geometry (not sure on that one), and a distinct lack of combat.]


⁂   ⁂

So, where this comes from is long, roundabout, and only tangentially related to what this actually ended up being.  I'll have a separate post on the game Adr1ft (along with what I wanted, and didn't get, from it) in the near future.

The short version: I was thinking thoughts about a person (not vehicle) moving in zero gravity as a game mechanic, and how, properly implemented, that could be awesome.  Then, somehow, the idea of a terrestrial setting came into my head.  Given that terrestrial settings aren't particularly known for their lack of gravity, that's when the "not really on earth" part of the idea came in.

The idea proper started with what became the first two italic bits.

The first bit was never completely formed.  "You know how it is when . . ." something about the sudden realization that one isn't in figurative-Kansas anymore being brought about by the gravity turning off.  (Figurative-Kansas not mentioned, but hopefully that gets the idea across.

The second bit of, "Yeah, that," was always pretty clear.

Those two things were the start of the idea, the next thing I came up with was having people who had scavenged some of the habitat technology trying to understand it with the exchange of:
"I'm telling you, if we hook the doohicky into the thingamajig--"

The Other: "Then everything will explode!"
or thereabouts.  The rest of that particular bit grew pretty naturally.

Everything else I sort of hastily filled in in the process of writing.

The "hastily" is important here because none of it is particularly well thought out.  Nor is there any clear concept of how it fits together.  For example: Did the people at the work bench get the doohicky and the thingamajig on their own, or did they salvage it after the ragtag group blew a hole in the wall? No idea.

I very much don't know what would happen to a body of water if gravity turned off.  That means that I also very much do not know if there's any hope for fish.  (This is well before we get to the fact that fish, apparently, do very badly in zero gravity.)  I just needed something for someone to say in a town meeting.