Sunday, April 23, 2017

Things are bad

It hurts too much.  I can't write it up.

The situation in question will turn out perfectly, more or less on its own, if people can keep their shit together and not be assholes for two to three weeks.  After more than eight god damned months.

So it seems like everyone is trying to break all the things as much as possible.

And that's not even the problem.  There's something that should have been obvious for a long time, but I've either missed it or been in denial.  I've been confronted with it now and it has me in an emotional state that's almost indescribable.  Things are really fucking bad.  It hurts so much.

The things I have to do to keep things from falling apart even as others take this last little home stretch as the sign they should ruin everything, mean that I'm not able to help out where I would otherwise.

I am not the Kwisatz Haderach, I cannot be in many places at once.  If I drop everything to help out in Place B then that means that I can't be helping out in Place A the way I originally planned.

Fred Clark once pointed out that 
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running . . . to see you again
is untenable when more than one person is counting on you.  You've got to prioritize, and I am.

Doesn't change the fact that I'm not in Place A, helping like I planned to.  I'm doing more than missing out on time spent with people I love, and who love me.  If there's someone to watch the kids, work can be done.  It's not steady work, it's unpredictable, but figure a loss of $280 to $560 dollars.  (I said it was unpredictable.)  That's damaging.

Another month I might be able to help offset that, though never afford enough for it to be a gift rather than a loan, but this month I'm totally cleaned out.  Bills are paid, sky won't fall on me and make me homeless, money is gone.  I've got nothing but the minimum needed to keep my bank account open and some stuff I already owe someone but don't want to take out until I'm sure everything went through.  (Overdraft fees are evil.)

Things are bad.

Everything hurts and nothing is beautiful.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What things are the size of a phone booth?

I've had Doctor Who on the mind more than a bit of late.  It got me thinking, what else would really work for a Tardis?  I don't just mean, "Well we could stick it in without giving too much thought," which is something they tended to do in the show when they wanted to show someone else's Tardis.  That results in questions like, "How easy is it to get inside of a grandfather clock, really?"

The police box worked because it had doors you could use to easily enter or exit, it was big enough that someone coming out of it didn't raise eyebrows, and it was small enough that it could fit in a lot of places without getting too much in the way.  Anything smaller and it's hard to get in and out of, anything bigger and it's cumbersome to place.

A phone booth works, and is something people are more familiar with than a police box* (even if they are extremely rare these days.)

If we were looking for something that would fit in most anywhere, and we weren't limiting ourselves by factors such as taste, a porta-potty is the logical choice.  From there it's a small step to add "outhouse" to the list, though that would be a good deal more conspicuous in an urban setting.

A full sized freezer is just about the right size, but a little bit small.  You could certainly use one, but an individual of average height would have to duck to get in and out of the door.

Bare bones showers fit the bill to the point that people have actually converted phone booths to showers.

Wardrobes are known to have entire pocket dimensions with talking animals inside of them, and they can fit the size requirements.

And at that point I think I'm out of ideas.


It has been noted that a much simpler thing to do than having your Tardis be a free standing object would be to have it be a doorway, then all you need is a wall and doesn't stand out too much unless the architectural style is extremely divergent.  That's not what I'm asking about here, though.

More of, how many things are there --and what are they-- that are large enough for people to come out of, but not much larger than that, which have doors or equivalent reasonable entrance/exits?


* There are people who think that there's never been such a thing as a police box and Doctor Who just made it up.  This is true to the point that in court the police lost to the BBC over who had the rights to a police box because the judge said (more or less) that basically no one thinks of the police or police boxes when they see one, they think only of the fictional representation of a fake police box in Doctor Who.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Always derivative, but asymptotically approaching infinity

I'm the kind of person who has big, detailed, ambitious ideas . . . for other people's work.

For my own work I'm lucky to get a premise and a paragraph.

When people talked about being let down by the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who I came up with an idea for a rebooted franchise with a hundred year plan that wove together various divergent narratives, made the 50th an event rather than an episode (which the four previous decade-events crescendoed up to), had built in mechanisms to deal the possibility of unplanned actor departures (be they due to getting a better deal, creative differences, or less healthy reasons) took every plot-hole as a jumping off point to do something interesting, and . . .

Could not possibly have the serial numbers filed off.*  I did that without even really trying.  It just happened.

When I try to come up with an idea of my own I usually stall out before I write a single word.

If I can create a plot then I can't create any actual scenes.  All outline and no substance.  If I can create some actual substance, a scene or two that might be written, there's no story for it to fit into.  If I have characters I probably can't conceive of a setting.  If I have setting, I probably can't conceive of characters.  If I try to mash two ideas together so I have both . . . they don't fit, don't mesh.

Yet if I'm trying to tell the story of Bella Swan, Tsukasa, and JC Denton facing the zombie apocalypse (while I hide behind Bella, in a sort of cowering way) . . . well that has a timeline, it's got a general overview, it has a couple scenes, it's got . . . ok, honestly not that much.  But way more than The Princess Story, and way less than Edith and Ben, which is kind of the point.

The more original something is, the less I can actually pull it off.

I'm writing this when I've been on an extended dry spell with respect to everything, so it might not seem to have much punch given that I'm not writing anything be it derivative or original, but this too shall pass and when it eventually does I think it's a fair bet that I'll be having a much easier time writing something set in a world Ana Mardoll or Fred Clark is deconstructing than something entirely of my own.

But, the thing is, even though my works are derivative, it's not like they're copies.  Writing copies of Left Behind or Twilight would hardly be rewarding, more like mind-flaying.  Tons of original thought and world building and characterization goes into that stuff.  World building and characterization that wasn't present in the original.  So if I'm doing all of this stuff, why can't I do it without some execrable work as my jumping off point?

I think part of it is seeing things from a Watsonian perspective and asking, "Ok, why the Hell did that happen?" instead of taking the external Doyalist perspective which lends itself to, "What the fuck were you thinking author?  There's no way in fuck that should have happened!"

Bad writing, or even merely inconsistent writing, leads to a complex world because you need to be able to reconcile things that are nigh impossible to reconcile.  If you take it as a given that X, Y, and Z happened and ask, in-universe, why and how, you start developing strange and interesting theories that may take you to places you never expected to go.  (Or epileptic trees.)  That doesn't happen if you take a more reasonable approach and recognize that the author(s) simply fucked up and/or didn't care.

But, at the same time, you become tied to the original by the very problems that create such fertile grounds.  If your setting depends on X, Y, and Z because your world building was literally started by, and laid upon the foundation of, the question, "How can X, Y, and Z all happen in the same universe?" then these things become too important to throw away.  Take them away and your foundation is gone, the building crumbles, things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mass and moment are released, other poetry as well.

So maybe it's absolutely fundamental that you have a sparklepire who saves a depressed girl from an out of control van spinning counterclockwise across an ambiguously full parking lot on a day when school really should have been cancelled because WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK FICTIONAL FORKS, WASHINGTON!?  (Not to be confused with actual Forks, Washington which I'm sure is a nice place that cares about the lives of their teenagers.)

And at that point you're really not going to get away with, "No, really, it's not Twilight, it just happens to have a gaggle of --two adult and five teenage-- sparklepires who have been living in Forks since the depressed main character stopped coming to there to visit her police chief dad during the summers."

Or maybe it really matters that your protagonists are a star reporter, an airline pilot, an college student who is daughter of the pilot, and a pastor to the previous two, who all have the unwanted attention of the Antichrist because he's already got the flight attendant linking three out of four of them and (with the un-linked pastor for the free space) if he can catch them all he'll have bingo.  (Nicolae Lanakila, he's got to be the very best, like no one ever was.)

Or perhaps there's a really strong reason why it matters that these people came through a picture, onto a ship, were briefly enslaved, discovered a burnt out island, had one turn into a dragon, another meet a fallen star who did body-horror to his slaves, and . . . the estate of C.S. Lewis would like a word with you.

Those are over the top examples, and I don't really know where I'm going with this.

Other people's works are like puzzles to be solved.

We ignore, for a moment, that the author was a horrible racist and the character traits are an expression of that racism, and instead ask, "What could reasonably lead to someone in this situation having these traits, thinking these thoughts, and doing these things?"  If we do it right, then we'll end up with a much more interesting character, one who isn't from stock racist caricatures (I can never fucking spell that word right; thank you spell checker) and subverts the racist tropes the original enforced.

We ignore, for the moment, that the author had the plot go A, B, C because they had an outside agenda they were going to follow whether it made sense or not, and ask how could B follow from A when at first, second, and third glance that seems not just implausible but impossible.  Then we ask how this could lead to the right conditions for C when B would seem to negate any such conditions.

When the puzzle is worked out we've done more world building and more characterization and more solid fiction than the author ever did.

But, for whatever reason, I can't seem to do it on my own.  I've worked out how to re-work The Last of Us into a story with three main campaigns** in which Riley never dies but everything canonically shown happens, the world is significantly more fleshed out, and so forth.

Seriously, look at the size of that fucking footnote.  That's just a general overview.

For my own zombie stuff . . . I got nothing.

Ok, not nothing.  One scene where a trans character is accepted.  Pretty close to nothing when you compare it to what goes on in my head re:The Last of Us.

I can fill a world with stories and details and so forth, provided it's not my world.

I don't know why I felt like writing about that, but at least there's a post here.

* * *

* I could maybe get away with the idea for a series that follows what the Tardis does with itself after the Doctor is finally well and truly dead.  Just don't call it a "Tardis", don't have it look like a blue box on the outside, find another name for the low frequency torsion inducers (things that use sound to induce a twisting motion and can thus be used to embed or extract the helical threaded fasteners --usually metal-- so common in the universe) cut all ties to the rest of the franchise, change the background mythology, and . . .

Oh, and it's also the part of the concept where I have the least idea of what would happen.

Pattern continues.  The more original something is, the less I'm able to follow it down the winding paths that eventually lead to, you know, actual produced fiction.


** The first campaign is Joel, it's like the main game but the Ellie parts are cut out.  When Joel is unconscious the story skips over that.

The second campaign is Ellie it starts with the flashback Left Behind content, follows from there to the next . . . three weeks, was it?  Her getting back into quarantine, her ducking the military, her meeting Marlene, fast forwards through the parts where Joel is doing all the work, shows follows her perspective on getting the handgun and saving Joel, continues to skip to the parts where she's separated and independent, all the way through to saving Joel at the university, at which point we get the non-flashback Left Behind content, the Ellie parts of winter, and then what little of the ending she's there for.

It ends on her talking about Riley and asking about the fireflies (no flashbacks to what Joel knows, this is Ellie perspective.)

The third campaign is Riley.  It starts with her slipping out of a firefly safehouse and crossing occupied Boston to reach Ellie.  The Left Behind content is mostly done in excerpted cut-scenes, ones that take into account decisions the player made in the Ellie campaign, but don't spend too much time making you rehash the same stuff.

Then there's the two of them getting infected.  While Left Behind strongly implies that they were bitten by different zombies, her hand (the one that got bitten) came dangerously close to the mouth of the zombie that bit Ellie so it's not too hard to say they were infected by the same zombie, at the same time, in the same place.  Add in saliva mixing if you want.

After the cut-scenes of excerpts from the date with Ellie in Left Behind Riley wakes up.  Turns out she didn't turn.  Like the last survivor of the helicopter crash, entirely non-zombie illness caused her to become dangerously violent.  She attacked Ellie, Ellie thought Riley turned, Ellie thought she killed Riley.

An injured Riley makes her way through occupied Boston looking for Ellie.  She's hiding from fireflies and government alike because she's AWOL from one and a terrorist to the other.

The Boston section is made of short bursts and large gaps.  She's healing from a near-fatal wound, she can't trust any doctors.  As a result she's always several steps behind until the very end of the Boston section.  She finds out where Ellie is going to be taken just before the Boston events of the Joel campaign.

She makes it to the original meet point before Ellie, Joel, and Tess.  The fireflies are still alive and, when they learn Riley is immune too, decide one immune girl is as good as another.  They capture Riley*** and split up.  Half of them take Riley to the university, half of them stay to wait for Ellie.  (Obviously the second half die, but that's not what this story is about.)

Riley wakes up at the university when it's still a firefly base.  She learns that they're looking for a vaccine, not a cure, she learns that extracting what they want will kill her, she realizes that the same thing will be done to Ellie if they get the chance.  Riley fights her way out (the damage she does is part of why the fireflies abandon the university.)

Riley sticks around, out of sight, as the fireflies abandon the university.  She was waiting for Ellie, but instead of Ellie showing up, she learns where the fireflies are relocating to.  She knows that that's where Ellie will be taken if Ellie is still alive.  She's on foot, so her trip to Utah takes a different route and a different amount of time than Joel and Ellie's.

She finally catches up with Joel and Ellie at St. Mary's.  In an extended version of the cutscene where Joel gets his weapons back we learn that Joel wasn't guarded by one easy to distract and disarm solider (because that would be profoundly stupid, make no sense, and be a plot hole one could pilot a fully loaded 747 through.)  Riley kills the second soldier --the one Joel didn't know about-- who would have killed Joel before his rescue attempt even started.

After a quick introduction, she and he split up to thin out the guards and make it more likely one will reach Ellie in time.  (The idea is that worst case they split the guards in half, best case most of the guards are after one intruder and the other has minimal resistance.  Gameplay-wise it'll turn out to be worst case with neither one having it easier.)

Riley fights her way to Ellie via a different route and arrives just after Joel saves her.  She stays behind so that Joel can escape with Ellie in spite of carrying her making him significantly slower than the various armed fireflies out to stop them.

Before they separate, though, they make a plan to meet up again. Riley nixes the standard 'just outside of town' idea, and tells Joel to keep going until he reaches a safe place, Joel tells Riley about the dam.  Riley says not to tell Ellie about her being there, either she'll tell Ellie herself, or (if she doesn't live to do that) it's better that Ellie not have to deal with Riley dying twice.

That's done fairly quickly, so perhaps not the best thought out plan, and probably not communicated in full sentences.

The final combat section of Riley's campaign sees her between Joel/Ellie and the heavily armed fireflies all converging on them.  She doesn't have to beat the fireflies, just slow them down enough that they never reach Joel/Ellie.

Once that's done she comes to the garage, walks over Marlene's corpse, slits the tires (or pops hoods and yanks wires) on all but one vehicle, and drives that one away.

In her ending she arrives just in time to hear:

Ellie: . . . that everything you said about the fireflies is true.
Joel: I swear.
Ellie: Okay.

Which is when she announces her presence:

Something like:

Riley: I don't know what he said, but the fireflies are gone.  They gave up on a cure, their last base got shot up, and Marlene is dead.  All that's left are angry people with guns.

No, that's too long winded.  Just something about the fireflies being past tense.  Riley knows that they stopped looking for a cure even before they abandoned the university because they were going to vivisect her for a mere vaccine (same as Ellie.)

Anyway, fade out on an long overdue Ellie-Riley kiss.  Joel can be in the background visibly not-disapproving.  Maybe even a smile.

Put all three together and you get canon The Last of Us (including Left Behind) but with final-level plot-holes . . . not quite filled in, but at least smaller, our interracial same sex couple not doomed to being half zombified the moment they decide to be a couple, a happier ending, and so forth.

Joel is learning to be fully human again, Ellie is searching for meaning after she seems to have lost everything (and finds it in her companion, not her quest individual people, not the abstract idea of saving humanity), Riley is fighting for love.

For Joel the climax is saving Ellie, for Ellie the climax is saving Joel in "Winter" (which would include escaping the horrible Reaver settlement) and maybe a bit of bonding with him over giraffes, with the actual journey's end being denouement, for Riley the climax waits until the very end when she and Ellie are together with no one trying to eat or vivisect them.


*** Riley would have gone willingly but the fireflies in question believe that they shouldn't put all their eggs, all two of them, in one basket.  They refuse to let her wait for Ellie because they figure that if the two girls are sent in different expeditions there's a better chance that at least one will make it through.

Thus they take her against her will.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monthly Financial Post

I'm in an interesting state.  There was money that I planned to use to pay off two credit cards.  It was going to be great.  Get rid of the highest interest debt, $70 less per month in minimum payments, so on, so forth.

Life sort of happened at me.  The cost of oil and some marginal expenses wiped out enough of the money that the most I could do was hope to pay for one.  Then that hope went away.

As it stands:
If I took all of my money on hand and put it toward paying off my worst debt in terms of interest rate, I'd fall $364.08 short of paying it off.  But I can't do anyway that because my other accounts are empty and I still have $165.73 worth of bills due this month (first on the 20th.)

So more like $529.81 short.  But then on the 11th of next month I have $647 due.

So here's that interesting state I mentioned.  I'm not short of money right now.  I've got what I need to pay things and survive into the next month including the taxes that come due then.  That said, I am $1,176.81 short of paying off the fucking high interest debt that I so foolishly expected it would be possible to pay off.

No cataclysm.  Sky isn't falling.  Just stupid unrealistic hopes failing to be realized.

~ ~ ~

It's time for me to start walking.  My shoes are utter crap.  I'd really like to just get good shoes to replace them.  Good shoes last longer, keep my feet safer, and cut down on sprained ankles (though they wouldn't have kept me from breaking my left ankle since I go barefoot in the house.)  Good shoes also cost a ton.

These are to my taste.  That's a hundred dollars that . . . yeah.  I don't have a shoe fund.

I'm also somewhat surprised to see how much the insoles I've transferred from shoe to shoe for years, if not a decade, actually cost.  I really should get new ones.  Without them my feet hurt themselves severely, but the ones I have are ancient and fall apart at a glance.  Fifty bucks.  I had no idea.

So if I want to properly welcome my left foot back to the land of the walking, $150 (less two cents I suppose) that I sure as fuck haven't set aside.

On the topic of walking I also need shorts or yoga pants or something in that vicinity otherwise my lack of the highly coveted thigh gap causes my legs to rub each other raw, sometimes even vaguely bloody.  I don't even have a price tag on that one.  I just know that leading up to breaking my ankle I'd worn right through most of the clothes I used for that purpose and I think I have only one or two such things left, no idea how long before I wear holes through that/those.
~ ~ ~
But, in general, the sky isn't falling right now.  I may not be able to pay off the debt I'd wanted to pay off, but bills in the near future can be covered.  And I think at least half of the sole on my right shoe is still attached (the left shoe should be better since it's had two months off), so I don't actually have to replace my shoes right away either.

And those are my finances.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A bell, though . . .

My dad has introduced me to a lot of auditory things.  The music tends to be good, the spoken word often leaves something to be desired, but I'll always treasure this particular Easter thing.

A youtube vid that consists of the whole story is at the end, but for those who'd prefer an excerpted transcript, that's right here:

The story is of Easter coming up in an adult French class.  One student, a Moroccan woman, didn't know what Easter was and others tried to explain using the limited vocabulary and basic grammar they had managed to learn thus far.  After all attempts at explaining the religious aspects failed, the conversation moved to food and in particular to chocolate.

The speaker, David Sedaris, said the Easter Bunny brought chocolate.  Once it was established that he really did mean to say bunny, the part that I treasure begins:

The Morrcan rolled her eyes and the the teacher sadly shook her head as if this explained everything that was wrong with my country, “No, no,” she said. “Here in France the chocolate is brought by a big bell that flies in from Rome.”

I called for a time-out.  “But how do the bell know where you live?”

“Well,” she said, “how does a rabbit?”

It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes; that’s a start.  Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth . . . and they can’t even do that on their own power.  On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character.   He’s someone you’d like to meet.   A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet.   It’s like saying that come Christmas the magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks.

Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell?  And why fly one in from Rome when they’ve got more bells than they know what do to with right there in Paris?  That’s the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there’s no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their job.  That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell’s dog.

And how does the bell hold the candy if it doesn't have any arms?  How does it get into your house without being heard?   It just didn't add up.

I suppose similar questions could be asked of the Easter Bunny; I just never thought of it that hard.

Nothing we said was of any help whatsoever to the Moroccan woman.  Clearly disgusted she just sat there, her lips positioned as if to spit.

I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.

In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom.  A concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom.  If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes.  So why stop there?  If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt?

I told myself that despite her past behavior, my teacher was a kind and loving woman who had only my best interests at heart.  I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next.  The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and the countless miracles — my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.

A bell, though . . . that’s *&^%$# up.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday, walking, jumping off a bridge, trudging through life, metaphorical marshmallows

Before I share what I wrote, some scene setting.

Originally posted in 2010, Fred Clark is in the habit of reposting his Holy Saturday post on the day before Easter.  If one reads the link address it's "holy-saturday-6" so either he hasn't done it every year, or he's changed up the name at least once.  (The original wouldn't have a number, thus out of eight years he's done it seven.)  But it's consistent enough that it's a bit of a tradition.

The point of the post is that for those of us not coming face to face with miracles and proof and so forth, every day is this Saturday.  Jesus died on Friday, he doesn't rise till Sunday.  This is the point in which any wondrous fantastical things are in the past, any certainty has yet to come, and there is no proof that things will ever get better, that promises will be kept, that . . .

It's a very human part of Christian holy week.  Things fall apart.  The center cannot hold.

We can hope, we can pray, we can have faith, we can believe, but we cannot know.

Or something like that.

Anyway, that's a bit of context.  I posted this in the comments:

~ ~ ~

Monday is the day when Cadbury Eggs are on sale. A truly wonderful day indeed. Unfortunately I don't think I can partake this year.

I may finally be able to move from crutching to crutch assisted walking, but getting to a store and back? That's beyond me, I think.

After working so hard to keep my left foot from so much as grazing up against anything for two months, it's mentally difficult to walk. The first time I intentionally put my weight on my left foot most of the effort was involved in forcing myself to lift my right foot. Yes the X-rays came in and I was told left-foot could take the weight I'd be putting on it, yes I was keeping more than half my weight on the right crutch so the left foot wouldn't have to carry too heavy of a load, but it was . . . like jumping off a bridge.

You stand at the edge of a bridge and tell your body to jump. It doesn't. You look at the water beneath, you remind yourself that you've done it many times before and there's nothing to be afraid of. You close your eyes, gather your resolve, open them, and try to jump. You don't move. You step away from the edge, pace a bit, convince yourself that your ready, go back to the edge. And don't jump. It's like your body isn't listening to you.

Eventually, though, you do jump. Eventually. Maybe it even gets easier with time. It's fun jumping off bridges, after all, and you kind of want to invite all your friends because if you get to jump off a bridge then all your friends should too, right?

But before "eventually" when you're at the edge of the bridge with open air before you and a long drop below you, that's what it was like.

It was like my body wouldn't listen to me. Like I told it, "Right foot, lift up," and it had a mind of its own with which it said, "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU!? If I do that the then left foot will take the weight and the pain will defy description. I'm not fucking moving one bit!"

But as of yesterday I am walking. As of yesterday I'm back on my hormones and hopefully this mood-fucked state of pseudo-depression, and every muse refusing to communicate with me, and lacking the motivation to brush my teeth so I end up never getting to bed, and so forth, will lift.

Things, could, perhaps, go back to normal.

And normal is a series of Saturdays.

I never really have reason to believe that things will work out. Because of financial fuckery every time non-monthly expenses come up (e.g. $647 due on the 11th of May) it seems like the end is nigh. A lot of times I have no hope. The police put a gun to my sister and beat up her boyfriend eight months ago when even they say they had no reason (the only charge is resisting arrest when they never said anyone was under arrest, everyone complied with their commands, and they fully admit there was no cause to make an arrest) and the fallout still hasn't fucking ended. Things seem to get worse and not better.

But I always trudge on, not so much literally these days, and the sky seems to persist in not falling.

I wouldn't call it faith, and I'm not sure it qualifies as hope, but from experience I've learned that if you just survive long enough, eventually something good will happen.

Maybe that's what the endless string of Saturdays really teach us: if you endure and try to do the right thing, maybe things won't all turn out horribly all the time. Sure, things might crash and burn, but if you survive and persist maybe you can roast marshmallows on the flames.

- - -

I added a second post to note that the bridge I generally jump off of if I'm jumping off of a bridge is precisely high enough to shout, "Holy Zarquon's singing fish!" between when you leave the bridge and you hit the water.  I feel this is a perfectly good way to evaluate bridge height.

Also, anyone who wants to help my sister right now, vote for her grant proposal.  You can do it once per day.  Anyone who wants to help me, I've talked about how I accept donations so much you've probably got it memorized.  Monthly financial post will be a bit delayed because of a bunny that delivers eggs or some such.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Predawn light (ankle and general health post)

They took new X-rays and all is good.  I'm to start walking with crutches, which is very different from straight up crutching.

Straight up crutching uses one leg and two crutches and has you moving via a series of vaults.  Plant crutches ahead of you, push off good leg, move in crutch-defined arc, land on good leg, repeat.  It's fast, somewhat intensive, and nothing like walking.  The entire point is to never let the bad leg/foot/thing touch anything.

Walking with crutches is entirely different.  As far as your leg movement is concerned you're just walking.  Where the difference comes in is that when your good leg is up the crutch (or crutches, but usually just the one) is down.  This distributes your weight across two or three (again, usually one crutch so just two) ground contacts and keeps your bad leg from taking the full force of your weight.

From walking with a crutch I'm to use my own judgement as to when I just plain walk (there will be a brace involved) and again to when I walk entirely unassisted.

So, today I start walking, by the time of my next check up, which is another six weeks, I should be walking without any outside help.  Obviously the metal crap inside of my foot will be providing inside help.

~ ~ ~

Honestly, I don't give much of a shit about that.  My prognosis was always good.  Someday I'll be back to 100% and yada, yada, yada.  Another week or two before I could try walking wouldn't have bothered me too much.

Here's what I give significant shits about: We've reached the point where surgery related blood-clot risk is no longer enough of a concern to keep me off of my hormones.

It takes time to change a system, things won't get better overnight any more than they got worse.  In fact, in my experience it usually takes a longer for mood to recover than it does for it to degrade.  But at least it can start getting better.

At least this fucking pseudo-depression can start to go away.

At least the fog in my brain can start to lift.

I have no idea how long the change for the better will take, but it begins today.  A new day is coming at some point.  It might not be light yet, but there's a glimmer.

Characters from a game idea, (transplanted comment)

[I wanted to do a proper write up of the concept, by my ability to produce stuff is touch and go, and I lost touch with it (it went) between the comment and trying to expand on it for a post.  So this is just the comment from Ana Mardoll's Ramblings with perhaps a bit of clarification added in.]

So, εν νω εχω an action-adventure game where the player can choose the main character's gender but not assigned at birth sex. Main character was AFAB, period.

The game would follow main character seeking out and rescuing pansexual (cis) girlfriend's little brother. Little brother is ace, but I might want to underplay that because he's been snatched up by a Lovecrafitian cult for their virgin sacrifice and the message "Being asexual will get you kidnapped by evil people who live in strange geometries" is hardly a good message to send.

There isn't a village crazy lady (sorry Tala, not every place has someone to fill that role) but there is an older woman who can perhaps dispense some wisdom at the underground Esheresque village the player character meets nir first allies at. She's outlived her lovers, but was once part of a poly relationship where the love triangle was closed.*  (She's bisexual and her first lover was a likewise bisexual female, the one who was added to make it poly was male of some gynephilic persuasion.)

The village was originally entirely composed of people whose thinking was so different from our own that language (including things like ASL, writing, and so forth) is impossible for them (and understanding them in fullness is impossible for those who have language) --they still vocalize, it's just that they only ever use nonsense "words" and those words don't have any pattern to them (a given word may seem to mean X this "sentence" but it'll probably never mean that again)-- but they're nice people who will accept anyone who needs a place to stay and doesn't cause trouble, so by the time the character comes upon it the village has a mix of speakers and non-speakers, including some village-born children who are speakers and have been raised alongside the non-speaker children.

The older woman from two paragraphs up was the first speaker to come across the village, and moved to it full time after her lovers passed on.  She therefore has the most experience interpreting the sounds, gestures, and so forth the non-speakers make, though that doesn't necessarily mean she's the best at it, and she's quick to point out that even after all this time she still doesn't actually understand them.

I figure while main character is there ne will see children of both sorts listening to "Jabberwocky", probably read by older woman, enraptured. Also, when ne gets a sword I see this exchange:

The sword is delivered by two young apprentices, one speaker and one non-speaker:
Player character: *in jest* Is it vorpal?
Speaker: The vorpalist!
Non-speaker: Vorp, vorp. *each "vorp" accompanied by a thursting/stabbing motion*


Anyway, I'd likely play the game through with the main character as a cis girl/young woman, thus not fulfilling my desire for a trans* character in game, but when I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that there's no reason that choosing character gender needs to be linked to character biology, and in the cases where you don't have full control over the details of the character maybe it shouldn't be all the time. Maybe sometimes we should have, "Ok, you picked X but character was assigned at birth Y, certain bodily features may show this**, and your character will be shown taking hormones every so often." (Not that all transitions involve hormones.)

Of course, part of what needs to happen is for there to be so many representations that no one representation is ever placed under the crushing weight of, "This is what trans* people (as a whole) are like." Which wouldn't take much time if the games industry didn't, as a whole, suck. So one figures it will take a really long time.


* All three legs link lovers, unlike the standard set up in fiction where there's love between A and B, and love between B and C, but not so much between A and C.  The points A, B, and C are in a triangle, but only the legs AB and BC are actually filled in.

** I don't pay much attention to Adam's apples, in spite of the name screaming: GENDER! Apparently there are a lot of people who would like the kind of character creation where you have control over minute detail, which the above described game wouldn't feature, to include the option to have women with larger ones and men with smaller ones.  (Absent some disease or mutation I don't know about, or surgery I suppose, all human beings have one.  It's the visibility that varies.)

Monday, April 10, 2017

The post that was here

So, I made a post, and if you're looking for it you won't find it because I decided to revert it to draft form pending looking it over in a calmer state of mind.

Today is not a good day, and life is not good today.  I called up my mom because a change in her routine means that I won't be able to pay her money I owed her as I once did.  The conversation got derailed almost immediately, covered basically my whole lifetime, and especially the past 8ish months that everyone has been under tremendous stress.

I may have burned all of my bridges with my mother, which would be extremely unfortunate.  Though she's been increasingly distant since she moved in with her boyfriend.  I don't even remember the last time she came to see me, as opposed to using my house as a pit-stop while doing something else.

Still, even if things had become estranged, they were definitely much better yesterday than they are today.

I didn't really like the post I wrote, full of raw emotion and not enough context.  Hence taking it down.

It's especially a concern given that I know that at least one person who means my family harm has been reading Stealing Commas.  Raw emotion doesn't always lend itself to perfect fact checking.  Usually that's not much of a problem; errors may exist, but there can be later corrections and clarifications.  These days, though, it seems wiser to hold back.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Help save the farm

So, I'm not exactly inspired these days because my hormones are way the fuck out of whack on account of not being allowed to go back on the ones I take by hand, instead of produce by glands, yet.

Brain is foggy, words don't come, so on, so forth.

My sister is trying to get a grant to help with overhauling and thus saving the farm.  If she gets the grant depends on if she can turn out people to vote for it online, which is where you can help.  Go here and vote for it.  Every fucking day.  That's the thing, you can vote once per day.  So do that and help save the farm.

If my mood weren't screwed over for medical reasons I'd like to think that I could write something engaging that would inspire people to actually click over and click vote, and keep doing it until voting closed, but my mood is fucked over, so you just get this.

Kind of a crap post.  Sorry.

Friday, March 31, 2017

chris the cynic's Guide to Game Design -- Controls

On a meta note, it's been a day shy of a day more than nine months since the first draft with the name "chris the cynics Guide to Game Design" is listed, so it's something I've been thinking about for a while, even though this is the first post to make it to public consumption

So: controls.

Key Points

This is the short version.  The "Too long; not going to read" version.

Let players customize the controls as they see fit.  You know neither their bodies nor their minds and that means you cannot possibly make an ideal control scheme that works well for everyone.  You can, and should, try.  This, however, should result in merely the default setting(s).

The players should be able to create custom control schemes as they see fit.

An important and oft overlooked part of this is when the controls for multiple things are coupled together under a single input.  While this happens more often in controller games, given their limited button space, it's actually quite common in general.

You need to be able to let players de-couple things.  What this looks like is when you have a button that does X or Y (generally depending on context) you need to let the end user, should they so desire, have separate buttons for X and Y.

You also need to let the gamer couple things so the separate buttons you have for A and B can be combined into an "A or B" button like you had for X and Y in the previous example.  Yes, this could result in incredibly stupid things.  That's not your problem.

Finally, in addition to allowing players to bind commands to keys/buttons, you should let them bind them to combinations thereof.  (I.e. normally the X key does this, but if I'm holding L1 it does that.)

General Overview

Let the players customize every damned control.

But-- no.  Every.  Single.  Thing.

This is so very basic and yet triple-A publishers still get it wrong to this day.  So here's the deal: you don't know.

I'm not just talking about the basics of you not knowing whether or not your player has two hands with eight fingers and two thumbs between them, as most game designers stupidly assume.  (May Furiosa kick their asses.)  I'm talking about everything.

You don't know how your player's parts, whichever parts they may have, operate.  Assuming your player has exactly the digits you expect, you don't know how big they are, how much space they can cover, what hurts, what's comfortable, what they're used to.

There are good reasons and bad reasons for failure.  Most, though not all, games are built on the assumption that the good reasons should be part of the play experience.  It looks like this: You don't succeed, you restart at the last save/checkpoint/whatever, you try again.

This hinges on the idea that you, the player, are failing for a good reason.  Fun curls up in a ball on the ground and dies of despondency if the player is failing for a bad reason.  Bad reasons include but are by no means limited to:

  • My thumb doesn't bend that way
  • I've been playing games with a different control scheme and I keep on attacking when I'm trying to jump which leaves me plummeting to my death
  • I can't actually mash that key because the relevant digit had a run in with frostbite
  • My hand is small, I can't quite reach that button while holding down this button
  • I keep on thinking this button does X because it makes sense to me even though for some ungodly reason that button does X even though only a sadist would make that button do X
  • The fucking designers made the O button do twelve different things with no common thread between them and whenever I tell my character to hide she instead jumps on the nearest table and dances an Irish jig
And so forth.

All of those are things that could easily be avoided by letting the players customize their control scheme.

With a computer customization has a lot more options because there's an entire keyboard to work with, generally a mouse, and possibly other peripherals.  With a console the standard controllers tend to have about as many buttons as a really cheap four-function calculator, so options are more limited but they're still there.

Coupling and Decoupling

It is common for some actions in games to be context specific.  Hitting the cover button doesn't cause you take cover when there's no cover to take.  You can't throw something if you have nothing to throw.  It is, at best, extremely difficult to do a stealth takedown of an enemy when your character is the only being, friend or foe, within five thousand miles of the action.

Even simple straightforward buttons we take for granted, like "fire", are in fact context based.  If I tell the character to fire when the character has a storm trooper rifle equipped it does not, in fact, cause the character to quick draw their Bryar pistol (technically a Bryar rifle that's been so modified and sized down it's now pistol sized) and fire that.

It makes intuitive sense to group together all of the "use weapon's primary fire" commands into a single "use the primary fire of the weapon you've got equipped right now" command that can then be bound to a single key.  Thus Dark Forces has one primary fire key instead of ten.  (Though whether punching someone counts as "firing" your fist is debatable.)

That's a very simple example of coupling commands into a single button and having context determine what they do.

It's also a thing that makes intuitive sense.

That said, many modern games have found it more useful to separate the Dark Forces "primary fire" command into three or more parts.  Where in Dark Forces melee takes the form of choosing weapon 1 (fists) and then hitting the fire button, in a modern series like the rebooted Tomb Raider or Uncharted there's a dedicated melee key that does that and then returns you to your previous weapon when you stop hitting that key.  Grenades (Dark Forces weapon 4) also tend to be given a dedicated key.

Dark Forces had "Use one of the weapons one through ten, which one determined by context," if it were like the modern examples it would have been decoupled into "Use weapon one", "Use weapon four" and "Use weapon two, three, or five through ten, which one depending on context."

Even something as simple as "use the selected weapon" has proven to be more complicated than people originally thought.  But this is all still pretty simple and easy.

Where this becomes more difficult and complicated is when you've got something like the Uncharted series and you're trying to fit aim, fire (only for guns), throw grenade, punch, counter, jump, drop, hang, roll, take cover, leave cover, switch cover, use, open journal, find ally, equip weapon one, equip weapon two, find vehicle, break neck, pull off cliff, kick off cliff, shake flashlight, and so forth onto a handful of buttons.

Let's talk about cover as it's a decent example.

The way the game works, you can only take cover while standing on the ground.  The way things in general work you can only drop from something when you're on something to drop from.

So it makes pragmatic sense to put these two actions together, which is what the devs do.  A single button controls both and what the button does is determined by context.  It doesn't get messed up because it's impossible to do one whenever it's possible to do the other.

This is a case of coupling controls at its best.  A drop button is completely useless when on the ground, a cover button (in these particular games) is completely useless when not on the ground, put the two together and you've saved button space and reduced the time during which what buttons there are happen to be useless.

The cover control is also coupled with the the switch cover control which, again, works because you can't drop or take cover in situations where you can switch between two areas of cover (since you're on the ground and already in cover.)

It's then coupled with the hang off of something you were standing on top of which intuitively makes sense as a down action being grouped with drop, another down action, but runs into difficulty because there are times when it's possible to either take cover or hang off of what you're standing on and the game isn't psychic enough to know which you want, so mistakes will be made.

Then it's coupled with leave cover, which means that maybe when you were trying to safe-ishly get from one safe area to another while under fire (switch cover) you simply stand up (leave cover) and get killed by machine gun fire.

Then it's coupled with roll, which means that sometimes when you're trying to switch cover, or hang off of something, or stop being glued to the wall but still stay in one place, you dive into a forward roll and end up standing in a place you never meant to be.

So forth.

This isn't an example of coupling at its worst.  Not even close.  If I had to pick the worst I'd probably go for the: "We made a non-lethal stealth action share a control with 'Jump up, lunge forward, murder someone in plain view of everyone in the entire county, and then just stand there while people gawk'" that can be found in certain Assassin's Creed games.

The Uncharted example is coupling at its middle.  Fairly usual, about as inoffensive as these things get, and still laden with problems.  "Leave cover" is the same button as "Stay in cover" (which is what the switch cover control is for) and that's more or less what you can expect from a lot of games.

This is . . . sub-optimal.

Of course, part of the reason for this sub-optimal situation is because we're talking about a console game and a controller doesn't have that many buttons.

Still, depending on one's play style some of the commands coupled into a single button might not be needed, reducing the chance for the game to fuck up, or there may be entire default buttons that never get used onto which some of the commands from an overloaded key can be placed.  Or changing up which controls are coupled with which under single buttons could solve everything.

How to let players customize

In PC games it's common to allow each command-set (control over decoupling and coupling is seldom given to the players) to have two keys bound to it.  This is a good thing as it allows for a player to deal with things like: I can't touch [Key One] while I'm holding [Key Two] but when I don't have to touch both at once those are totally the best keys to bind those command-sets to.

Or it can allow multiple people to use a game with their own preferred control scheme, but in that case only two.

I've already talked about the importance of allowing players to couple and decouple commands, so it should be clear that, while a command set might be default, players who want or need to should be able to customize at the level of individual commands.

Two or Three keys per command-set is good, but there's no reason it can't just be N.  Control scheme profiles should exist so that you can switch from "This works best when I'm helping a seven year old play the game" to "This works best when I'm playing on my own," and even "This works best when my friend [person] is playing the game on my system."

Some game designers, to their credit, are already allowing players to create as many control schemes as they want (with the option for two inputs per command in a given scheme, no less.)

But PC games are hardly the only games.  (Though what I'm about to say can go for PC games too.)

All of that does apply to console games, but console games tend to be played with controllers and controllers have limited buttons.  And this is where the wonderful field of combinatorics comes in.

You see, in the art of keyboard creation there was this incredible invention called a "shift key" that, by reserving one key for altering what the others did, allowed keyboard makers to turn [X] keys into [2*X - 2] keys.  Suddenly the alphabet required a mere 27 keys (26+1) instead of 52 (26*2).

Things get even more interesting when one considers that there can be multiple ways to modify what a button does instead of just one dedicated key.

In fact, people who work with controllers have long had the idea that any combination could potentially be used for a unique command.  A, B, X, and Y (my keybord doesn't have squares and triangles, sorry Playstation) go from being four things to being ten by making each combination of two buttons do a unique thing that happens to be different from what any of the individual buttons do on their own..

It's not like controllers just have four buttons.

Conclusion: there's really not a shortage of buttons on a controller IF a player is willing to use combinations.  Is a player willing to use combinations?  Depends on the player.

Let them bind the controls to whatever buttons they want AND to whatever combination of buttons they want.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Entwining Destiny

[Came to me when I saw a thing with significant fruit that would "forever entwine" the destinies of those who shared a single fruit, presumably with informed consent.  Characters seemed to think of it as a true love thing, but when I heard it that wasn't what came to mind.]

One: I'm as excited about our journey tomorrow as you two are, and I wanted to do something tonight.  You know, since it's a stupid idea that'll probably leave us scattered to the winds.

*Two rolls eyes*

*One pulls out fruit*

Three: Is that . . .

Two: The freaky fruit?

One: Yeah.

Three: How did you get one of the magic fruits?

One: Well . . . it wasn't easy, but I don't like the possibility of us losing each other, so I figured we should have destiny on our side.  I want us to share this.

*One breaks the fruit into three roughly even pieces*

Two: Isn't it supposed to be a true love thing?

One: The legend is that those who share it have their destinies joined, it doesn't actually mention love.  I figure if our destinies are forever entwined, we'll always find each other, no matter what might go wrong, how lost we might get, or how far apart we end up.

Three: You still think the raft will be destroyed and we'll end up adrift.

One: I think the risk is worth it, same as you.

Two: So why the destiny fruit?

One: I couldn't bear the idea that if something did go wrong we'd never see each other again.

*somber silence*

Three: I'll eat.

*Three takes a piece of fruit*

*Two takes a piece of fruit and raises it for a toast*

Two: Friends forever?

*One and Three raise their fruit bits*

One and Three: Friends forever.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

An unwanted trip down memory lane

I wanted to check that I hadn't accidentally borked things in such a way as to have a post not show up in the site's feed over at the Slacktiverse.  I don't use feeds, so this was more involved than one might expect.  Involved, but not difficult.  Also quite quick.  But it dredged up certain other results.  One was So you've just been turned into a zombie apparently because it was originally posted at the Slacktiverse and I noted that in the name.

Another was a post from Slackitvist which was just before the collapse of the Slacktiverse on typepad.

A sort of morbid curiosity had me looking back on it, and then I was caught up, and before long I was just habitually searching for a term in the comments, reading, and repeating, on autopilot.  Repetitive activity without any real thought on what I'm doing, if I should be doing it, or if I'm even capable of stopping is something that goes with my depression, and I tend to get trapped in cycles like that provided the activity is simple enough to do on autopilot.  I used to wear holes straight through otherwise pristine jeans with a finger motion along my inner thigh.

It was less boring to do "Next occurance of search term - Read - Repeat" than wear a hole through the skirt I'm wearing, but it definitely wasn't fun.

So, let's talk about the original Slacktiverse and the memories that got dredged up.

* * *

Fred Clark was a friend of the person who invented the term "Slacktivist" in it's original meaning, a meaning that some people seem to be (unknowingly) reclaiming.  The original definition from the person who coined the term was people derided as slackers because they weren't out doing big news-making things (for example: clogging the national mall with with a well-publicized march) but were in fact activists who got shit done.

Maybe they weren't participating in a national march because they where working at a soup kitchen, planting trees, helping local kids, volunteering at church, and (yes) writing shit on the internet to raise awareness.  Maybe they were just doing one thing.  But they were in fact making a difference in spite of the fact that they were viewed as slackers.

When Fred Clark started blogging he did it under the handle "Slacktivist", which he uses to this day.  Though it didn't start there, Slacktivist was at typepad for ages.  Then Fred got and took an offer to join Patheos a place that is . . . better in theory than in practice.  It was that way even moreso when he joined.

The commentariat was a vibrant community and a lot of people didn't want to lose that even though several prominent members flat out refused to move to patheos.  A compromise was reached.

* * *

The general consensus was that people trusted three commenters to take the reigns of whatever happened, and so Fred gave those three the keys to the site he was leaving at typepad.

Thus the Slacktiverse was born.

Of course, most people followed Fred away, only a handful followed both places, and a lot of those who said they would never go to patheos ended up going.

And there was a question of content.

Now the entire point of the Slackiverse was the conversion in the comments so the content of the main post never really mattered all that much (not to deride main posts, many were quite good) but there was some question of how to run a commenter blog.

So commenters submitted posts, and such.  But there were definite problems behind the scenes.

"Always" is a bit overstating it, but as far as most people were concerned Fred had always stayed out of the comments.  The three moderators of the Slacktiverse were chosen from the commenters.  There was definitely an attempt to make clear when the mod hat was on and when it wasn't, but for some reason it never seemed to work there the way it did in other places.

Fred is male.  The three moderators were all female.  The misogyny came in thick, but was mostly relegated to the spam trap so it was a while before people other than the mods were aware of it.

For some reason where things really came to a head was in the standards the community chose for itself as it was being decided how things would be run in the absence of Fred.  Specifically trigger warnings.

Fred doesn't use them, the Slacktiverse did.

Some triggers are obvious.  Death, torture, rape, self-harm, starvation.  Some triggers are not.  That's the things about triggers.  Consider the obvious ones of torture and rape.  (You have been warned.)  There is a form of torture by rape that uses a Coca Cola bottle.  It's actually a fairly standard practice in certain places.  Why?  It's done in hopes that Coca Cola becomes a trigger.  That way, even after the torture is over, the person will keep on suffering.  ("Coca Cola" is the second most commonly used term, regardless of language, on earth, if you're interested the first is apparently "okay".)

One would probably never think to warn people, "This is going to have coca cola bottles in it, so prepare yourself or avoid it if you need to," but if someone in the community has suffered that, the community would be wise to create such warnings.

Even when people don't use the term "trigger warning" or "content note" this does have a habit of happening.  I knew someone whose aracnaphobia was so severe that pictures of spiders would set him off bad.  So in a forum he frequented, people would, without ever being asked, have notes like "[name] don't click this, spiders".

The Slacktiverse wasn't a place where the "Without being asked" thing was done.  But when people did ask, it was something that would be noted by those who remembered in the future.  Well, the nice ones who remembered.

There was one case where someone who wrote about transumanism tended to go on topics that were triggering for another member and there was a detailed and civil back and forth over exactly what the warning should be.  It was hashed out that it was easiest to just warn for transhumanism in general (even though it wasn't what was triggering) than each and every individual subtopic of transhumanism that was in fact triggering.

When people saw warnings for transhumanism, though, good fucking god.

* * *

So we had the misogyny, including liberal use of the only English profanity I refuse to use, behind the scenes, and out in front we had people looking at every warning and being all, "You warn for X.  That's absurd.  No one could be triggered by X.  This is completely over the top Political Correctness police state shit.  Who is triggered by X?  How?  Why? X, X, X.  Justify your pain to me."

And that wasn't the problem.  The problem was that those people would then go to other places (sometimes first) and rant about the over-coddled special-snowflakes and there'd be an influx of trolls.

Looking back you'd really never tell.  The mods were good at catching the horrible fucking shit and getting rid of it.  You only knew about the times when you happened to load the page after the shit but before the mods axed it.

Of course, there was enough shit that as a regular you'd see it at least some of the time.

Somewhat strangely, the absolute worst came from Slacktivist.  We'd all been one group, many of us were part of both groups, and there'd been no bad blood in becoming two groups, but any mention of the Slacktiverse in the Slacktivist comments caused a massive influx of particularly toxic trolling.

PZ Meyers didn't help either.  (Yes, it was checked, it was really him.)

Anyway, this all put the mod team under a lot of stress, and there were other things too (I was originally going to go into more detail about one I had firsthand knowledge of, but I think I'll leave it confidential) and as a result of the massive load on them combined with human fallibility they didn't handle everything perfectly.

That drove some people away, which sucked.  Mistakes alienating good people always sucks.  But it also had another effect.  Every imperfectly done thing would be harped on elsewhere causing a fresh influx of trolls to the site.

And the imperfectly done things would be used to argue that the mods were horrible people which could then be used to cast things where there was no fault in a negative light, which was all then combined and presented as evidence they were monstrous internet tyrants.

And they were on the hook for things they didn't do.  The "This Week" posts, the one feature that completely survived the various transitions to the modern Slacktiverse have always been reader submissions.  Readers submitted their own trigger warnings/content notes.  And fuck did the mods at the Slacktiverse take a lot of flack for being the kind of oversensitive anti-free speech jackbooted net-thugs who would use certain content notes they never wrote.

Because, "I wrote this and I think you might want to know X is in it when you decide whether or not to read," really implies all of that stuff between "for being" and "who would use".

And there was the infamous post, not by the mods, in which an atheist criticized atheists who want to convert the entire world to their particular views on religion so that no one who disagrees will be left amoung the living.  (But, do note, conversion and natural die-off, not killing.)  Calling it "evil in one of its purest forms" was probably a poor choice of wording, but it was the first post in a conversation and it took all of three posts for someone to offer a loud, resounding "No, you're wrong," counter argument.

That had trolls coming in entirely unrelated to the other trolls in a stream that never, ever, stopped.

* * *

The final tipping point, though, was when someone said, out of the blue, that they didn't want Slacktivist turning into another Slacktiverse during a discussion of French imperialism in Morocco circa World War II in a comment thread to a Slacktivist deconstruction post of Left Behind book 3, Nicolae: The Rise of the Antichrist.

Massive influx of trolling.

Combined with the steady streams from other sources it eventually became too much, changes were needed, and a completely new moderation system was set to be implemented.

It was too late though.  The system never got a chance to really be tried because by now there was too fucking much trolling coming from too many directions and the original home of the Slacktiverse was closed to new comments and converted to an archive.  The moderators went into self-exile so they would neither have to suffer the shit moving forward nor lead the trolls to whatever followed.

In the scramble to set up a new home before the old one was forever closed (so there could be a link) we went with what one person (Ana Mardoll) knew.  Except . . . Ana knew Blogger for main posts and disqus for comments but some people couldn't use disqus and Blogger's built in stuff turned out to be insufficient (I don't get trolled nearly as much so it works for me) so the place was a bad fit.  Thus it became a redirect to the current home.

* * *

And my trip down memory lane really drove home how much people who weren't there fundamentally didn't get what was happening.  They saw two or three people who ranged from good-faith hostile to Trolly McTrollstien.  That was such a small part of it.

I kind of wonder if the effectiveness of the moderators ended up hurting them.  Most of the shitstorm was invisible unless you were engaged enough in a conversation to be refreshing the page frequently to see what new comments had been made in real time.  Otherwise the vast majority of the trolling was gone by the time you were reading.

That meant that the only thing you really saw were the non-trolls.  If the only people the moderators were visibly responding to were those who weren't that bad, it could seem like those were the ones they were coming down, which would mean everything they were saying about the trolling could seem to be directed at relatively innocuous commenters.

And without getting the stress the mods were under, you didn't understand why mistakes were being made, you just knew that mistakes were being made.

The trolls ended up basically invisible, and the only thing outsiders or casual insiders saw were people who weren't doing anything bad enough to be deleted.  And the mistakes that the mods were making as more and more stress was placed on them?  They fell into that category.  All the errors were visible, most of the correct things were not.

So for an outsider it looked like there was relatively little bad happening, no explanation for why the mods were getting more and more hair-trigger, some minor bad things that the mods dealt with, a fair amount of the mods talking about major bad things that didn't seem to have evidence, and some cases where that increasingly fine hair-trigger caused them to censure people who didn't deserve it.

But most of all what stands out is that people flat out didn't get that they were part of a larger group, one whose most active members they disapproved of.  Whenever people had a gripe-fest at Slacktivist it caused massive trolling at Slacktiverse, and instead of recognizing that that was a problem it was just completely ignored.

People were seriously saying things that amounted to, "Do we have to talk about this?  Can't we not?  Well, I don't want to, but here let me lob this troll bait out so they'll get swarmed over there while I stand safely over here and act like there's no such thing as trolls."

* * *

The whole fucking thing sucked.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Things I need, things I want

I need more socks and replacement shoes.  I need oil.  I need food.

These four things represent different ways of going about things.

~ ~ ~

Socks can come from anywhere.  I tend to go to some godless chain store that is destroying all good things in the universe, like say a Walmart, and just buy a package with a lot of cheap socks.  On the other hand, when someone gave me a gift certificate to Sock Dreams it meant that I got some fucking fantastic socks with quality I'd never set out to get myself.

So, yeah, wide range of socks.

Wide range of ways people can help with them.

~ ~ ~

For shoes definitely need them a lot (the sole is coming off of my right shoe in a way that could knock me to the ground in a way I can't really afford) but at the same time, I'd like to get good shoes.  Now the good shoes that I used to have, and really liked, are out of production.  I dug them up (I knew I'd never gotten around to disposing of them) and double checked that.

They haven't been replaced with a new model, they're flat out gone.

I think this is as close as I can come.  Men's because the women's ones are offered in crap colors.  Of course this requires me to learn my shoe size again.  The super old shoe I dug up from the era when I had good shoes is a 10 1/2 wide (also men's), but I honestly have no idea if that was the right size or more like "Close enough".

It's also the sort of thing I'd probably never buy for myself because there are other places where the $99 might reasonably go.  At the moment I'm primarily focusing on paying down high interest debt, for example.

I'll probably end up buying cheap shoes when someone is able to take me to a place that has them.

Of course, money grubbing person that I am, I'll point out that it's possible to get me an LL Bean gift card (apparently it'd get sent straight to my email cpw [at] maine [dot] rr [dot] com.)  It's interesting to me that they say "never expires" like that matters.  This is Maine (they're based in Freeport) and it's illegal to have a gift card expire here.  Unless the company goes bankrupt, the gift card will be good.

~ ~ ~

Oil I've already ordered, I should get a price quote within the next 24 hours.  I expect it to be around $300-ish.  Only way to help me with that is a donation.

~ ~ ~

Food is . . . complicated.  Even as I get more and more able to do things, food preparation is still not on the list.  So I've been ordering things delivered.

That's simple and straight-forward enough, I need money just like with the oil.  (Also expensive as all fuck.)

Where it gets complicated is that I don't know what delivers around her, general internet services to hook you up with delivery places don't know much of anywhere either, and . . . yeah.

Anyone know the delivery scene in the greater Portland area in Maine?

* * *

I want various impossible things, like to be able to go back on my hormones now as opposed to waiting until it's safe (because this demi-depressed state fucking sucks.)

But on the possible side of things, I mostly want interactive fiction.  I want to go to other worlds and do other things and make noticeable progress toward clear goals.  I want a vacation from the real because it's kind of sucking.  Hell, it sucked before I broke my ankle.

I want Kingdom Hearts with the two items on the PS4 wishlist representing nine-ish games of content between them (only six playable) and the three on the list for the 3DS (which I theoretically will have) representing the playable versions of the two unplayable games, and one that had different gameplay mechanics after the system switch.  (Thing nine is an original, as in never a game, cinematic thing delivered in the same way as the two non-playable games.)

I want Breath of the Wild, and to a lesser extent Dishonored 2 which is on the same list and apparently on sale.

I want to be able to immerse myself in other places, other times, other worlds, other people, other everything, because I'm stuck one room most of the time with little that I can do.

I do have non-interactive fiction potential getaways too.  There's a reason that Deep Red is the top movie on this list that I'd forgotten existed until Ana asked me if I could put useful stuff on a wishlist.  That reason is that it's been far too long, I barely remember the movie, and I decided to try to sort the damned list.  Is the list sorted?  Only the stuff that comes above the puzzles.

Get beyond that and there's a lot of "Whut?" and fair amount of, "Ok, I'll grant that this seemed like a good idea at the time, but HOW did it seem like a good idea at the time?"  And also no hierarchy whatsoever.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


I've been out of state.

That might not seems like the best thing to do, but it meant spending time living with other people.  (Broken ankle is much easier to manage when someone can carry stuff from one room to another and actually make food.)  It was also part of a plan (or was it a plot?) to inject something up into this broken ankle time.

See, there was a concert.

Apparently once something has happened all record of it ceases to exist, so I can't link to anything, but it was Dar Williams at the Cabot Theater in Beverley, Mass.

That was one day after I made the journey from home to Massachusetts, and five days after the concert, which was yesterday, it was time to come home.

This is, as you might imagine, a bit of a process.

~ ~ ~

I didn't have to worry about losing my hat on the way home as I'd lost it on the way over.  There was the obligatory forgetting of important things (the two external hard drives on which my computer had been backed up) and all of the usual stuff.

But the thing is . . . I'm fatter and weaker than I used to be, somehow my backpack seemed to weigh as much as a twelve year old, and the T is . . . the T.

Thus I started off absurdly early in hopes of maybe catching my bus.

~ ~ ~

Oak Grove does at least have elevators.  The elevator doors have a habit of only opening half way when they're supposed to open, and getting open the rest of the way sometime in the following week.  This is fucked up, and while it doesn't inconvenience me I have seen it, and could have figured out without the seeing of it, be really fucking unhelpful to a person in a wheelchair.

Also, I spent a good deal of time wishing for a wheelchair.

Anyway, I crutched from drop off to elevator, then from elevator to bench.  Then I rested.  If I were walking this would be absurd.

After a while I made my way to the place where you pay, I'd actually acted like an intelligent person and taken the Charlie Card (an RFID card that you put money on electronically so that you can use the Boston T by holding said card up to a reader which is a lot faster than other means of payment) out before getting off the bench.

Another elevator, much exertion to get to the damned train.  Normally I go to the far end, because that's where my exit is.  I barely made it to the near end in time to catch what was, I think, the second train to leave since I was dropped off.

Also, it was fucking cold, and something about the combination of crutches and my backpack kept making my shirt ride up.

I usually describe the behavior of the Orange Line as it goes outbound.  Inbound is . . . well, stuff.

At Oak Grove, which is the end of the line, it's a ground train.  Next stop is Malden Center.  For that it's a full blown L (elevated) train.  Then it goes back to the ground, crosses the water, comes into the place with the giant Lego Giraffe (actually Duplo, but Duplo is a Lego brand), and really starts to flirt with the idea of being an L again, but comes back down to earth for the stops themselves.

A while later it's underground and we have achieved subway.

Downtown Crossing is my stop.  Downtown Crossing has no elevators.  Downtown Crossing has a sign saying that elevators will be installed.  I was told that they said it would take seven months.  This was said a year ago.

But before we even get to the lack of elevators, remember that I'm on the wrong end of the train.

I think I have to stop and rest two times just to walk from one end of the platform to the other.

When I get to the stairs down to the Red Line I take a third rest.  I am, by now, drenched in sweat.

For most of the way there's a sturdy railing, this is good because going down stairs on crutches sucks.  I'm very slow and get in various peoples ways.

At the end of the stairs, though, something changes.  For the last few steps.  Just three or four of them between a landing and platform level, the railing ceases to be a good railing because it's no longer bolted to the fucking wall.

Thus I have to sit on my ass and slowly butt slide down the final stairs.  There's no one there right then, so I have a sort of mini-break.

It's not enough.  I don't even make it down the hall, drop to my knees at a hall intersection, the intersection makes it wider, so I hope that I won't be too much in the way.

Multiple trains let off people going between the Red Line and Orange Line.  Several of the people wonder if I need help, if I'm dying, if they should call emergency services on my behalf, and so forth.

I eventually reach the Red Line just as a train leaves.

I don't remember if I got there in one trip or not.  It seems unlikely, but I don't remember stopping.

Anyway, I got to the good place to get on the train.

I was only on for one stop, but damn was it nice to be able to sit.  (I'd also been not-up while waiting for the train to come.)

~ ~ ~

Once I got off at South Station I walked to the wall opposite the tracks and collapsed.

I didn't quite stay there until the next train came, but it was close.

I remembered that south station did have elevators and actually used it to get to T-Loby level.

The elevator to ground level, however, is out of service.  Ish.

Now I was drenched in sweat before I even got on the train that brought me here, so as one might imagine I'm not exactly trying to add heat to myself.  My coat is sort of tied around my waist (the sleeves aren't quite long enough to make a decent knot) and definitely not keeping me warm.

Thus we come to the "ish".

I was fully willing to take the escalator.  The up escalator was shut down.  Not just shut down.  The only reason I remembered that South Station has elevators in the first place is because the up escalator from the platform was also shut down.  This one, however, is shut down and blocked off as if it is the scene of a nuclear waste spill.

So, the "ish".  There is an elevator to ground level.  It just isn't inside the station.  It lets you out outside of the building, and then you have to go through the death-cold to get back inside South Station.

Finding the elevator required enough energy that I had to drop to the ground and rest before using it.

Getting from the elevator back into the building required another period of rest.

It's a bit hazy until I sat at one of the tables and took off my bag for rest where I was sitting on an actual chair.

There were clocks.  I had time.  Seriously.  There was over an hour until my bus left.

And I was really fucking thirsty, and (having recovered from the outside's death cold) back to overheating.

When I was sufficiently rested I went over to the place next to the pink berry and got a strawberry banana smoothy, put as much weight on the counter as I could to take it off of my right leg which was, remember, doing all of the work.  Work that's more than normal. even before you take the fact that one leg is doing all of it into account, because you don't walk with crutches, you vault.

Smoothy comes and we have the difficult and strange hopping of someone who's only using one crutch, well using both crutches as if they're a single crutch, because they need a hand free to carry a smoothy.

I'm kind of surprised I actually made it back to the table and chair place.

Some brain freeze troubles, but otherwise the smoothy was very good and something that I needed.

The moment I decide to get up and go to the bus terminal, boarding is announced on track one.

South Station is in three sections.  Below ground, and at the front, is the T.  Red Line and Silver Line.  Above ground, and in the front to front-middle, is the waiting area of the long distance trains.  This is full of food places and . . . um, stuff.

Occupying the entire rest of the middle (which is definitely the biggest section) is an outdoor area where the long distance trains board.

At the back is the second building that makes up South Station: the bus terminal.

So to get from where I was to where I was going I had to go outside, for a fair distance, and here's the annoying part: there is no dedicated way to get from front South Station to back South Station.  Instead you walk down the boarding platform for track one.

If timing is right, that's not too much of a problem, but if you happen to have the misfortune of moving from one end to the other when track one is boarding . . . it's a hassle even when you can walk.

So I waited longer than planned, and even so I got in people's way because I was slow, and I had to take breaks (did I mention that the temperature was death-cold?), and more people enquired as to my well being or lack thereof.

Once I got inside the bus terminal the first thing I did was take another break.  The windows have sills that are perfect for sitting on.

The elevator here did work, so that's what I did once I could.

That only gets you one floor, though, and you need to to go two.

Nice stone bench for a break in between the two elevators.

Up the next one, still haven't missed my bus, go to where the buses are, have a sort of mini standing-break at the entrance, and then get to where my bus is in, I think, one push.  And promptly collapse because that's overdoing it.  I was in fact trying to begin the process of getting to the ground to sit.  But no one who saw could have mistaken what happened for intentional.

It was, however, a clean landing on hands and knees.

I should probably mention something about my right hand at this point though.  Before the concert I slipped on black ice (it hurts pedestrians too) in a Subway (sandwich place) parking lot.  Landed on my hands.  The thumb section of my right palm didn't like this, but it wasn't a big deal.

All of this crutching around, though, put a a lot of pressure on my hands, including the thumb section of my right palm.

It was a very unhappy hand, is the point.

~ ~ ~

The bus ride home was largely uneventful, though Amazon did want me to know that I was running out of time to pre-order Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX (top of the wishlist) which . . . why would you remind someone of something like that?  Oh my god, come the 28th you'll be able to order-order it instead of pre-order it.  Woe is everyone if that should come to pass, buy now so you won't have to order-order!

And this is a source of minor annoyance because I thought that it came out February 28th when I put it on the wishlist.  Though, I would have put it there anyway.  I've always wanted to play Kingdom Hearts and that represents the the first six games worth of content.

I feel like there might have been other things of note on the bus, but none come to mind.

~ ~ ~

I was picked up by my dad.  From him I learned that there may be an animal in the house (beyond mice and such) that wasn't invited (but it could just as plausibly have been his eyes playing tricks on him) and that I had no oil.

As it would turn out, I did have oil.  But the house had been without heat for days.  It was cold.

When I made it down stairs (not an easy task) I discovered that the water was too low for the furnace to run, and the oil gauge was on empty.  I put in enough water, toggled the power on and off, and the thing started running.  The gauge has always been an approximation.

Of course at this point the house was really cold, I had no idea how much oil there was (no idea if it could heat the house or would burn through in a minute or two),  and . . . stuff.  I brought up an electric blanket and a blanket so heavy I haven't needed it since I've been forced by ankle to sleep up stairs, reheated my numb feet with a heating pad while the two blankets worked together to create a warm cocoon.

~ ~ ~

And that was my homecoming.

I think.

Other Stories, a Harry Potter Snippet

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

[...] on the Harry Potter thing, if these things are being left to one group, it kind of implies that there are other things being done by other groups because it doesn't make sense for one grade to have all of the, "I must break the rules to do good things," people.

Something like:

* * *

Senior Ravenclaw: We're being watched.
Senior Slytherin: What? Wher-- Oh.
Senior Hufflepuff: We know you're there first years.
Senior Ravenclaw: It's really going to be easier if you just show yourselves.

*Harry, Ron and Hermoine come out from under the invisiblity cloak*

Senior Gryffindor: Please tell me the three of you aren't doing something stupid again.
Senior Slytherin: [to senior Gryff] That's no way to say, "Hello." [to heroes] What are you three doing out here?

Hermoine: We're going to the forbidden hallway to stop the Philosopher's Stone from being stolen. We think the thief might be trying to revive the dark lord.

Senior Ravenclaw: That's nice.
Senior Hufflepuff: Good luck with that.
Senior Slytherin: We're going to the secondary storage area to stop a love potion production operation.
Senior Ravenclaw: The tangled and twisted magic around the school makes it ideal for hiding illicit operations.
Senior Slytherin: If we weren't busy, we'd help you out with your dark lord problem.

Ron: (outraged) You think love potions are more important than-!-

Senior Ravenclaw: Even if the dark lord is resurrected it'll take time to rebuild his power base and become a threat.
Senior Hufflepuff: Time during which opposition to him can be built back up.
Senior Ravenclaw: The love potions are a problem right now.
Senior Slytherin: They ship at daybreak, every day, so if we waited another night after learning where they were operating we'd be insuring there are more victims.
Senior Gryffindor: That's not an option.

Harry: But we're talking about--
Hermoine: Actually, I'm with them on this. Love potions are evil.

*two groups start to go separate ways*

Senior Slytherin: Good luck, see you all at the final feast.