Saturday, February 25, 2012

What I've been doing for the past week

The careful observer will note that in the past week I have written all of one thing, and that thing was the Deus Ex post I wrote today because I didn't want to go another week without a Deus Ex post.

I've spent most of the week, which was a vacation from university, working on a project to make a puzzle.  Not as in jigsaw, much more along the lines of a Rubik's cube.  I suppose if I were a traditionalist I'd make my puzzle out of wood (Ernő Rubik made his original cube out of wood) but I don't have wood working skills or tools so I make puzzles out of plastic.

I use Alumilite products, and had some left over from the old days but I discovered, to my dismay, that the silicone rubber I use to make my molds apparently will not age perfectly if you leave it sitting untouched for years on end.  So first I had to get more of that.  That took some time.  The casting resin I use does apparently last (either that or it was more recent than the rubber, but I think they 're the same age) but I ordered more of that too.  (It just occurred to me that if this does sound interesting to anyone, I should probably point you to a starter kit that has everything one would need.)  While I was waiting my plan was to try to use some molds I had left over from times before with the resin I had to get a start in making some stuff, but that turned out to be a lot of frustration.  I made the molds before I knew some tricks I now know to make casting a less aggravating process, though I definitely get aggravated anyway.

I learned various things this week, mostly in terms of, "No one should ever do things the way that I'm doing them."  For example, one should have gloves that fit, one should have cups that are the right size, one should have decent ventilation, one should have a higher tolerance for failure, one should know how to pour well, one should ... [stuff].

I also learned that the type of puzzle my plan called for modifying, a Rubik's Revenge which is like an ordinary Rubik's cube but is 4x4x4 instead of 3x3x3, no longer exists in the form I was planning on using.  You can still get it, I think.  I'm pretty sure this is the style of Revenge I was thinking of, but the shipping costs as much as the puzzle and I'd rather not make something designed to fit an out of production thingy.  So when the new Revenge arrived at my door, I took a look, found that it had been changed in a pretty big way, and realized that that set me back another day.  (The puzzles arrived after the silicone rubber.)

On the plus side the new version is a better puzzle in that it is less likely to fly apart in your hands and it is also more likely to work the way I want it to work if I can get my modifications done.  (On the down side it now costs twice as much.)

Anyway, then it came to pass that I was finding myself running low on vacation and still hadn't even gotten through the Ovid I was supposed to do, much less the Vergil.  So I had to put that whole project on hold for the time being while I try to get the Latin addressed.  I'm hopeful that next week I'll be ready to say, "Hey, look what I did," but for the moment everything is way too incomplete for me do to something like that, so I'll just leave you with some pictures, because I have a new camera.  I did not expect that since a camera with warranty costs about as much as filling up the heating oil tank on the house, but it's definitely a gift I appreciate.

(Though I still miss the old camera.)

This is a past project, on the right is the top half, on the left is the more or less identical bottom half that didn't get disassembled quite so cleanly:

The ball in this picture is what I took apart that past project to get at.  Most of the rest is something called a dogic:

These are some molds:

This is what happens to the plastic that doesn't get into the mold:

I didn't spill it on the notebook, after it hardened I picked it up and moved it there.  My sister thinks that the blob toward the top looks like a headless crow.  The Headless Crow obviously is famously known for his rivalry with Ichabod Crane.  Of course the fact that cranes are larger than crows makes one wonder just how scared Ichabod would be of a crow that didn't even have a beak with which to peck him.

Finally, I had forgotten about his until I looked through pictures, but I had tangerines.  You know what that means?  If you answered, "It means you have enough seeds to start an orchard," then you're correct but it's not the answer I was looking for.  If you answered, "You made a lamp," then yes.  Yes, I did.  And this time it actually worked how it was supposed to:

There's not a candle in it this time, that's composed entirely of tangerine and canola oil.  And flame, of course.

Deus Ex Training, Part 7: Killing People With Sheep

[This is part of a series of posts about the game Deus Ex.]
[The series began with this post.  The first post in this section is here.]

When I went two weeks without writing a Deus Ex post I felt bad about it until, in the course of writing a post at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, I realized how much I did write in those two weeks. Then a third week passed without me getting a Deus Ex post done and I didn't have the same excuse. This week I haven't written anything, but I didn't want to go another week without a Deus Ex post, so I'm writing this. It might be a bit rushed.

When we last left off Gunther had told us to head over to the next area, and here we will get a chance to use a new kind of weapon. An explosive. It can function as both a grenade and a proximity mine and it is called a Light Attack Munition which is shortened to LAM. The pronunciation of that is just like it would be if you were talking about young sheep.

This is the demolitions training area. First you will learn to use a LAM as a proximity mine. Approach the bay window and you will see a LAM placed on the target board on the black and red wall.

Yes, Gunther. I just told them it can be used as a proximity mine.

If you look at the window what you see is a sort of hall with two robots at one end and, yes, a target board with an explosive attached. It is blinking red to show that it is active. It's so pretty.

Actually, before you even get to the window you should notice a medical bot in the room which is there in case you, you know, blow yourself up in a non-fatal fashion and need some healing.

When you approach the window Gunther will tell you more stuff:

Press the first button next to the window and a security bot will be released. Watch as he nears the LAM. LAMs placed on walls are proximity triggered.

Ok, I've pressed the button.  Oh look, it's a robot. It's all shiny and metal and it has two legs and pistons and I wonder if it'll be frien- BOOM!

Ok. There's no longer a robot there. I think I'll add this to my list of, “A real training program would be nothing like this,” things. Not just because they could simply sit you in a classroom and show you a video and thus get things done without damaging robots, but also because if you somehow unaccountably felt the need to use real weapons to show people that something like a LAM could be used as a proximity mine, there is a weapon better suited to the lesson.

There are four types of of grenade/proximity mine in Deus Ex and they all work the same way when it comes to how you go about using them.  They just do different things when used. In addition to the LAM, which goes boom, there is the gas grenade which releases teargas that will immobilize human enemies for a time*, the scrambler grenade which screws with bots iff** system, and the EMP grenade which disables electronic devices including bots.

If you did this same thing with an EMP grenade you wouldn't be left with a pile of scrap metal (you'd have a mostly intact bot) and you wouldn't risk the trainee blowing themselves up.

Anyway, once the bot blows up we finally get to handle the explosives:

This time you will place your own LAM. Take a LAM from the munitions bay and proceed to the red and black wall below.

So, since the medical bot was there, I was wondering what are the chances someone detonates a LAM in their face and doesn't die from it. So I dropped a LAM and had it blow up more or less exactly where I was standing. I was left without legs, and ninety percent of the health in my torso was lost, but I survived. Then, as I was starting toward the medical bot I hit the wrong button (I threw a LAM when I meant to put it away) and blew it up. The rest of this exercise was preformed crawling along the floor.

As it turns out, and I didn't realize this at first, you cannot die in this level. So no matter how badly you screw up you will still be alive to use a medical bot. Of course, you can only use one if you don't blow it up.

Get as close to the wall as possible when you place the LAM. If you aren't close enough, the LAM will fall to the ground and detonate.

In other words, don't do by accident what I did intentionally. It's important advice because if you're not standing right next to a wall the game assumes you want to use the LAM as a grenade and you throw it. Throwing it into a wall isn't necessarily a bad thing, I once saw someone do that in order to send the grenade in the direction of their pursuers without having to turn around, but it's a highly specialized move and not one you want to do by accident, especially since if you throw it at the wall when you're trying to put it on the wall it's probably going to hit you, and then end up falling right at your feet.

Of course it almost goes without saying that this is another case of game training doesn't possibly match realistic training because there would be entirely different directions in realistic training. Something more like, “Make sure you secure it to the wall well and have it set to proximity mode instead of a three second fuse.”  And you wouldn't need to use live explosives.

After the second bot goes boom we get to move on.

Very good, Agent Denton. You may proceed to the next area for more demolitions training.

Um, Gunther, I don't know if you noticed this, but I don't have legs anymore. I mean technically I think I'm supposed to assume that I do have legs and they simply don't work at the moment, but seriously, I could barely reach the switch to release the second bot. My eye level was about the same as the very bottom of the window I was supposed to be looking through. I'm crawling on the floor. I'm not sure that qualifies as, “Very good.”

Ok, so between this area and the next we meet yet another UNATCO trooper who is in a sort of storage room separated from us by bulletproof glass. Except this one is different. He has different lines and a different function. The other ones were here to take our stuff, he is here to give us stuff. He also has a different story, and some thoughts on how to run things for better employee morale.

You'll need a few extra LAMs for the demolitions area. Here, catch!

I just like to kid around.

Yes, making jokes about explosives is very funny.

Gets boring down here.

Didn't have my boots polished. That's why they put me here.

They just make up excuses because they like to harass us.

This place would run a lot smoother if they'd just rotate assignments, instead of always making you feel like you're being punished.

Bastards. I don't have to take this crap. There's lots of things I could be doing.

I had offers on Wall Street, you know. Top corporate security divisions.

Corporate work's not so glamorous, but it sure pays better.

One of these days, I'm going to resign. Then they'll be sorry. Then they'll wish they'd treated the troops a little better.

He also has two different lines for what to say if he can't give you LAMs because your inventory is full. One if you already have a full compliment of LAMs, which is impossible because there were only 8, one if you don't have any LAMs. In either case this is impossible to trigger because you simply cannot have found anything to fill your inventory with.

The development team had a habit of planning for the impossible and taking a look in the conversation files one will occasionally stumble onto a comment along the lines of, this situation should never come up, but just in case it does, here's the lines we'll play.

Also, beyond LAM-Trooper's eventual resignation, UNATCO has other reasons not to alienate their employees. If you should run out of explosives, you can return to him and he'll say:

Out of explosives? Here's some more. Hell, I don't care. I'm not paying for 'em.

In an organization that fostered loyalty in its employees he probably would care. He'd want to know that resources weren't being wasted. Of course UNATCO does foster loyalty in broad terms, largely because many or most of it's employees believe that UNATCO is all that stands between the innocent people of the world and utter ruin, but that doesn't necessarily make people take an interest in whether or not resources are being wasted.

Anyway, we use those explosives to learn that there are some doors we can blow up, and some we cannot, and also that damaged walls can be destroyed using a LAM. We do this by throwing one first at a set of doors, then at a damaged wall.

At this point we've learned two ways to detonate a LAM. We can use it as a proximity mine and we can use it as a grenade. I'd like to bring up a third way not mentioned here. You can shoot it.

If you see a LAM attached to a wall and want to be rid of it but don't want to risk screwing up defusing it, shooting it will work just fine as a means of disposal, just make sure you stand well back because you are detonating it.

This also works for LAMs in flight so when someone tries to attack you with one the result can be quite impressive. You can't shoot it while it's still in their hand, the game isn't quite that good at handling possible interactions with explosives, but the moment that it leaves their hand, which is to say in actual game design terms: the moment the projectile is spawned, then you can shoot it. You might not even realize they've thrown it yet.

You could just be trying to stop the person before they kill you, fire off a shot at them, and hit the LAM that they've just thrown. The first time this happens it will take you off guard. Assuming there are not other people trying to kill you but instead you are allowed a moment of quiet reflection, what happens is this:

You look at the place where your enemy was standing just a moment ago. You look at the pistol in your hand. You look back that the site of the explosion, you return your gaze to your pistol*** and look back at the scorched site of the explosion. You think, “Did I do that?”

And the action-movie coolness of what just happened dawns on you. It's like this scene from the movie RED.

Anyway, at the moment you don't have a gun and even if you did the helpful munitions trooper, with the standard lines, would take it away from you. So as you move on to the disarming course you have to do this the hard way, which involves getting to the LAM before it has a chance to detonate, then clicking on it. After you do that you can click it again to pick it up to use for yourself.

This is hard to do when you're slowed down because you're crawling on the ground due to incapacitating damage to your legs. Fortunately you cannot die in this level, which I realized when the first one blew up in my face.

A word of warning, Agent Denton. This was a simulated experience; real LAMs will not be so forgiving. You may proceed to the next area.

I feel like that would be a more powerful statement if he only said that when you screwed up. It still works if you do everything right because he could be saying that real LAMs will not be so easy to disarm, but I think it would work better if he said that only if you'd managed to damage yourself and said something different if you'd gotten through unscathed.

Down some halls and it's a medical bot. I Can Walk!

Also a munitions trooper. No more explosives for me.

Passed that is the next level, where we will hear from Anna Navarre.


* Which makes it very powerful because the standard response to being hit with the teargas in Deus Ex is to forget about everything and rub your eyes, which leaves the victim standing still and defenseless. The only thing that can snap them out of it is direct damage, but since you don't have to worry about them fighting back until then, you can take your time in making sure that the damage will be effective.

You do not respond the same way to teargas, probably because that would be incredibly annoying and possibly result in sure death.  (You have to stand still while your enemies can shoot you, what could go wrong?)  But the flip side is that you take actual damage from teargas which no one else does.  If you're sufficiently injured already, teargas could kill you.

** Identification, friend or foe. The bots use complex algorithms to determine who they should and should not shoot. If you scramble that they have been known to identify birds as the enemy. (And that was how the great robot seagull war began.) Iff doesn't always mean that. In other contexts iff means “if and only if”, for example, but in Deus Ex I'm pretty sure iff is always referring to identifying friends and foes.

*** If you've seen the 1999 film Thrill Seekers you might wonder if you somehow ended up with one of the guns from the future that look normal but fire explosive bullets. You have not.  Sorry.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Edith and Ben - Charlize tells Ben about the Truck

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[This is on the drive from the airport to Forks when Ben first arrives in Washington.]

As I said, Charlize and I aren't big on talking and car rides together tend to involve listening to the radio while I look out the window and she drives. It looked like this was going to be one of those rides, but then she said, "I got you a truck."

It took me a while to process that. It took me a while to notice that my mouth was actually agape. I looked at her. I looked at the road ahead of us. I looked out my window. I looked back at the road ahead. I still wasn't sure what to think about that. Finally I said, "I have no idea what to say about that."

There was a long moment of... well not silence because the radio was on, but not-talking.

Then she said, "Well, I could tell you what I was afraid you'd say and what I hoped you'd say. Maybe that would give you some ideas."


"I was afraid you'd say, 'A truck? What would I want with a truck? I hate trucks. You're the worst mother ever.' I hoped you'd say, 'Thanks.'"

"You are not the worst mother ever."

"That's high praise."

"Can I see the truck before I decide how I feel about it?"

"Of course."

I tried to go back to looking out the window and listening to the music, but now I was curious. "So how old is it?"

"Well... it's older than I am."

"How much?"

The way she said, "Eleven years," made it pretty clear that she wished I'd asked something else first. She quickly added, "But it's in good repair."

So it was a truck, in good repair, from the 1950s. Assuming that she was right about that, though as far as I knew she didn't know anything more about trucks than I did, I had to wonder how she came across a well maintained truck half a century old. So I asked, "Where did you find it?"

"You remember Billie Black?"

Billie Black was one of my mother's best friends, we used to go fishing with her. She didn't live in Forks, but instead lived with her tribe in a place called La Push about 12 miles to the left. I definitely remembered her so I said, "Of course."

"Well... well she didn't need her truck anymore, so she let me have it cheap."

I didn't remember her truck, but I did remember that she seemed to really understand mechanical things, so if it was her truck I figured Charlize was probably right about it being in good repair. That brought up an entirely unrelated question, "Why doesn't she need it anymore?"

Charlize took a moment, before answering. "She's in a wheelchair now, and... that makes a truck from the 50s not really fit her anymore."

I wasn't prepared for that. "Was there an accident?"

"No. Diabetes." Charlize sighed. "It's not like she stopped being herself, and I don't want to pity her, but she was always so..." she didn't seem to know what to say, but I knew what she meant. Billie could never sit still. On dry land she was always on her feet, seldom running but always walking or at least standing. The only time she wasn't was when she was fishing, or, presumably, when she was driving the truck that I still couldn't remember. It seemed almost unimaginable that she couldn't stand any more. Charlize interrupted my thoughts by saying, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be dumping all this on your first day here."

"No, it's ok. I had to hear it sooner or later." I hadn't been to Forks in four years. Hearing about Billie really drove home what that might mean. I wasn't sure I was ready for how things had changed. I didn't really remember all that much of how things were, but already such a big part of what I did remember had been overturned.

"The bright side, such as there is one, is that you're getting a truck that's spent the last 20 years in the hands of a really competent mechanic. Try to dwell on that for now, and leave the rest for later."


[Edith and Ben Index]

Snarky Twilight - Alice and the Truck

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Recap: In defiance of the narrative, Bella drove herself home meaning that Alice didn't need to drop of Bella's truck.  Credit must be given to Meow for the idea this is built around.]

*Bella hears knocking on her window*

*She looks to see a girl outside of it. (Remember that this is a second story window)*

*Bella opens the window.
Girl: Hi.
Bella (confused): Hi.
Girl: I'm Alice
Bella: Hi, Alice.  I'm Bella.
Alice: I know.
Bella: I figured you would, why are you knocking on my window instead of my door?
Alice: Style.
Bella: Come on in.
*Alice climbs through the window*
Alice: Thanks.
Bella: You must be freezing, the rain is pounding out there.
Alice: Yes it is. Does that seem odd to you?
Bella: Why would it be odd?
Alice: Well this climate doesn't have pounding rain.
Bella: I wouldn't know, I'm from Arizona.
Alice: Anyway, you're probably wondering why I came.
Bella: It crossed my mind.
Alice: I was supposed to bring your truck back to you.
Bella: That's nice, but already have my truck.
Alice: I know. But the thing is... the thing is that I don't actually get to do much in this story, good women being invisible and all, so I was really looking forward to finally getting a chance to do something. So I was wondering...
*Alice looks down, and bites her lip (but not in a vampire way, just the way the humans do sometimes)*
Alice: I was wondering if I could borrow your truck so that I could bring it back.
Bella: You want to take my truck away for the sole purpose of bringing it right back again?
Alice: Yes! That's exactly what I want.
Bella (suspicious): Is your brother going to be involved in this?
Alice: Not in the least. This is all me, that's why I was looking forward to it.
Bella: I keep the keys by the door downstairs.
Alice: Thank you.
*Alice hugs Bella*
Alice: Thank you so much.
*Alice runs out of the room and down the stairs. Soon after the truck's engine roars to life and drives away.*

*Bella watches by the window, wondering if it was a good idea to give the keys to time and space to someone she doesn't really know. When her truck comes back into view it isn't touching the ground. Alice is holding it aloft, dancing to unheard music, the wires from headphones visible, though the headphones themselves are hidden under her hair.*

*Bella smiles*

*Alice reaches the house and gently, and silently, sets the truck down. Then dances her way back in the direction whence she came.*


[Snarky Twilight Index]

Edith and Ben - Erica and Scraped Hands

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[This would be after Ben returned from tide pool viewing through the woods, going faster than he safely could and getting scraped up in the process.]

I didn't think it was that obvious I'd hurt my hands, I wasn't dripping blood or anything, but apparently it was noticeable because pretty much the moment Erica saw me she asked, "What happened to your hands?"

My reflex was to hide them, and I said, "Nothing."

"I can see it's not nothing, let me see."

"I fell in the woods a couple of times. It's no big deal."

She held out her left hand, palm up, "If it's no big deal then there's no harm in letting me take a look." I hesitated, then put my right hand on top of her left. It didn't want to open and I had to will myself to override that desire. "Ben, this is terrible."

"I've had worse."

"If the best thing you can say about something is, 'I've had worse,' then that's a sure sign it's pretty bad." She looked back at my hand.

"You sound like my mother."

She said, "Then your mother sounds smart," without looking away from my hand.

"So anyone who agrees with you is smart?"

She let go of my hand and looked me in the eyes, "Only the ones who agree with me when I'm right. Ben, you didn't even clean the wounds, I could see dirt in there."

"They're scrapes, not gashes. Who ever heard of cleaning a scrape?"

"If it's deep enough for dirt, it's deep enough to clean. Now look, I've got..." she checked her pockets, of which there were many, eventually finding what she was looking for on one of the inside pockets of her coat, "I've got some disinfecting wipes-"

"You carry those around everywhere?"

"More or less," she offered them to me. "You should use them."

I did, and many words went through my mind, most of them derivatives of, "Fuck," but I said nothing.

"I know it hurts, but an infection would hurt more."


[Edith and Ben Index]

Twilight, Masquerade Burlesque: Explanation for using a Truck as an Umbrella

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Following up on the idea that the Cullens are intentionally failing the masquerade in absurd and over the top ways for fun, someone suggested that Alice lifted the truck above her head and danced down the street with it.  This would be Alice explaining why she did that to a vampire who wasn't in on the game.]

Not-in-on-it Vampire: You walked down the street holding a truck over your head!
Alice: Actually, I danced down the street holding a truck over my head. I figured people would notice the dancing and not the truck. I needed the truck, you see.
Not-in-on-it Vampire: No. I don't see. What could possibly make you think carrying a truck like that was a good idea?
Alice: Well I heard there might be sun, and I was outside, and if I didn't cast a shadow on myself I would have sparkled and given everything away.
Not-in-on-it Vampire: So you carried a truck?!
Alice: Well, an umbrella on a sunny day would have been suspicious.
Not-in-on-it Vampire [is at a loss for words]


[Twilight Index]

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reader self insert character meeting the traitor alone

[So this is a product of two different things.  One is this thread at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings in which characters meeting with people they believe are villains alone, unarmed, with no way to call for backup, without telling anyone that's what they're doing, and without so much as recording the conversation is brought up and, appropriately, looked down on.  The other was someone saying in the comments of this thread at the Slacktiverse that adding them to a story would massively change it and me thinking that I probably wouldn't, unless I remembered the story and could use that knowledge to change things.  And at some point I stopped thinking about it in terms of "I" and switched to a newly created fictional character.]

[So the story so far is that Character 1 has been transported into, more or less, a book ze read/movie ze saw/thingy ze thingyed.  When ze got ze lost hir memory as is traditional in starting characters with mysterious origins.  The result being that ze had no foreknowledge of events, just an increasingly strong sense of déjà vu.  Ze has joined up with the heroes but has yet to make any difference in the story, and this is what happens when ze does remember and decides to follow the long held, justifiably criticized, trope of meeting with the traitor while completely defenseless.]

Character 1: “I've finally remembered. I remember who I am, I remember where I from, I know why I feel like I've been through all of this before. Where I come from I read all of this in a book, I didn't know it was real, I had no idea you were real people or that this was really happening somewhere. I thought your lives were fiction.”

Character 2 starts to leave, “That's nice, I have to-”

Character 1: “Please, just listen a little while longer, this is important. Please.” Character two stays, but is clearly annoyed.  Character 1 continues, “The reason that I've had a constant sense of Deja vu is because I've read all of this, which means that nothing I have done has made a difference. Everything would have been exactly the same if I weren't here. I haven't changed anything. I don't matter.

“That changes now. Right here, right now I'm going to matter.”

Character 2: “This is all really nice, but I think your head injury is-”

Character 1: “I know you're planning to betray us.” *Pause* “I'm not going to let that happen.”

Character 2: “Ok, first, you're delusional. Second, if that were true how would you stop me?”

Character 1: “It's very simple, either you can decide not to betray us right now, or you can kill me right now. But you're going to have to pick one or the other.

“I know that you're not a bad person, I know that given time to think about you'd realize that it's not something that you want or need to do. I also know that if I do nothing you won't get that time. It'll be over in a moment with no going back. I'm changing that.

“Now it's not just one act, but two. To betray us you'll have to kill me now, live with that for a while, and then still to choose to do it then. You'll have ample time for reflection. That's my gift to you. The reality of the situation in a way that's immediate and undeniable, and time to think over that reality before you do something at effects so much more than a single life.

“I'm unarmed. I haven't told anyone else, but if you don't decide to come clean and join our side for real I will. And I'll leave out the part about reading it in a book so that they'll take it seriously. It doesn't matter whether or not they believe me, the suspicion will be enough to ruin your plans. So if you want to go through with those plans, you're going to have to kill me.

“I know you well enough to know that that's something you can't push from your mind. You might be able to put off really thinking about betrayal until it's already been done, you might be able to treat it as some abstraction disconnected from the reality of the people in front of you, but you can't do the same with my dead body. You'll be able to get away with it, I'm sure, but you won't be able to dismiss it the way you've dismissed thoughts of what betrayal will mean to the others.

“I ... didn't think I'd have a chance to say this much. You've been quiet for a long time.”

Character 2: “I'm thinking.”


[Original Work Index]

Friday, February 17, 2012

.hack//Sign: Responsibility

.hack recap: Tsukasa has accepted that, since he can't log out, the game world is his world now.

(I recommend actually buying .hack//Sign since my words don't really do it justice.  One can get either the DVD this episode is on, or the full series as a set.)

.hack//Sign, Episode 2, 1:35*-4:31

This episode is called Guardian and, as you might have guessed, Tsukasa's Guardian will show up in it. Before we get to that, though, we'll have a lot of other stuff to look at.

The episode starts with Tsukasa standing in the rain in a thunderstorm. He says, “No way,” and I honestly have no idea what he's referring to. I could just randomly make something up (e.g. he realizes it should be impossible to feel the rain on his skin and yet he does anyway) but there's really not enough in the scene to know.

The next scene has him in the same place he repeatedly met Mimiru in the previous episode, a place that appears to be in the mountains above the clouds, with wooden bridges that disappear into the fog/mist/cloud below.  It's also defined by green grass, and sort of kite things in the air. It's very welcoming looking.

He's sitting on a fence and throwing a cartoonish bit of produce to a cartoonish animal. (Vegetation should not have a face with which to smile at you if it is about to be devoured. Just saying.) Eating the fruit causes the animal, a grunty, to level up into an adult. So it goes from being a furry hippopotamus with blonde hair the size of a small dog to a furry hippopotamus with blonde hair about the length and height of a donkey (though, as you'd expect, wider.)

It says that there's no need for another adult in the area, and flies away. (It just sort of tilts upwards 45 degrees and walks away even though there's nothing for it to walk on.)

Probably the most important part of this scene is that Tsukasa seems amused, almost bordering on happy. Which, at this point, appears to be something he only does when no other human beings are around. He goes for a walk and it turns out other human beings are around.

The first person he walks by is Bear, whom he notices but ignores until Bear asks him if he's read the message board. Tsukasa hasn't. Tsukasa can't. You have to log out to access the BBS. The only time Tsukasa ever learns about something on the board is when someone tells him. And it's not as if he asks anyone. His response here isn't, “Why?” or, “What did it say?” but instead, “It's not my problem.”

Bear doesn't press the issue, though the way he says, “Never mind, then,” is laced with enough suspicion to provoke a visible reaction from Tsukasa before Tsukasa resumes walking way.

The next person he passes is Mimiru who, on seeing him, takes a moment to collect herself and then smiles. Tsukasa completely ignores her, he doesn't even glance her way as he walks passed. While Mimiru is annoyed and distracted by that, Bear sneaks up on her and startles her. (He doesn't actually say “Boo” but he might as well have.)

Then we cut to a conversation between the two in medias res. Since it does start in the middle we don't know if this is the first conversation they've had on the subject, or simply the first we see. Either way, it's the first of many conversations they'll have concerning Tsukasa and the events surrounding him.

I said in the first episode that I think it's incredibly important, enough so for me to see it as the result of a benevolent destiny, that these are the people Tsukasa met. This is why. These two people will end up spending huge amounts of time and energy trying to help Tsukasa even though they never met him before, he's not really a fun person to be around much of the time, and in these initial meetings he's been nothing but rude.

To a certain extent this plays into a fantasy that you see used and abused in other places, the thing at the root of Edward Cullen and Manic Pixie Dream People: that someone can come along and care about you and help you no matter how much of a jerk your insecurities might make you into. That someone will come along and see the beauty that is the real you and you won't be able to push them away and so you'll get what you want in spite of the fact that the way you're acting is making it pretty much impossible to get it.

The parallel is definitely there, though as time goes on we'll see a bunch of places where they differ from the standard MPDP. They're not always right, they will make mistakes, they'll work off bad assumptions, they'll occasionally make things worse, but more important than all of that is that they're not controlling. They won't say, “You will bake for me,” the closest they might come is something more like, “I really think you should find something you like doing. Have you considered baking? If you don't want to bake that's fine, but I just wanted to let you know that baking is an option.”

Anyway, I think there's also something else at work beyond the standard, “Someone will save you even if you're a jerk,” fantasy. I think there's also a question of responsibility.

What I see with Bear and Mimiru reminds me of a post by Fred Clark on the question of responsibility. As is always the case with Fred Clark, the whole thing is worth reading. That said, the most relevant section is when he talks about an Ethics 101 question:

It might be helpful to look at this through the lens of a textbook example from Ethics 101: The Drowning Stranger.

"A man is drowning near the end of the dock," the professor says. "What is your responsibility?"

"I didn't push him in!" the student says, with abrupt, vehement anger.

From the professor's perspective, this anger is strangely out of place, but for the student it seems justified. The student, instinctively, heard the question of responsibility as an accusation of blame. And, for what it's worth, the student's statement is correct. He didn't push the hypothetical stranger off of the hypothetical dock.

The problem, of course, is that the student's response — standing by as the stranger drowns while adamantly insisting on his blamelessness — is itself so irresponsible as to incur the very guilt the student set out to deny. Very well, he didn't push the man in, but he did just stand there and watch the man drown without lifting a finger to save him.

The reason that it's so important that Bear and Mimiru are the ones Tsukasa met is because of how they respond to questions like this. It isn't their fault, they didn't push him in, they are not charged with looking after people like Tsukasa, they are not system administrators or therapists, they are not connected to Tsukasa in any way other than being strangers whose paths crossed and they are under no more obligation to help him than anyone else who happens to bump into him.

And yet none of that seems to come up in their thinking.

One gets the impression that if either of them were asked the above question their answer would be somewhat different:

“A man is drowning ne-”

“I save him.”


“I save him. If he's close enough I offer an arm or a leg, making sure to keep enough of my weight on the dock to avoid being pulled in, otherwise I run off the end of the dock and dive in, not straight at him because drowning people have a tendency to anyone or anything that appears in front of us, and that would kill us both. I dive off to the side and then circle round behind him. I grab him, my arms under his armpits, and lean back so that he's supported by my buoyancy, and then I start swimming back to to safety. With my legs; my arms are occupied holding onto him.”

“But I haven't asked the question yet.”

“I don't care. I've got a hold of him and I'm kicking back to shore. Or the dock. Whichever is closer.”

The exact details might change, it'd probably be a good idea to ditch your shoes before attempting that, for example, so there might need to be some tweaking, but I picture them responding something like that because we see what they think their responsibility is. A stranger is trapped in an online game, what is your responsibility? Their answer seems to be to help him.

But it's not quite like that because there's not a lot of evidence they ever considered it as a question. Whether he's really unable to log out is a question they'll consider, whether they should be trying to help when they learn that's the case would appear to be a foregone conclusion on their part.

The parallel that comes to mind is Malcolm Reynolds in Serenity. Mal doesn't leave River behind even though his life would have been a lot easier if he had. Afterward Jayne asks him, “In earnest Mal, why'd you bring her back?” and Mal has no answer. He has no answer because he never thought it was a question. He never considered other options, he never considered that there might be other options.

The same seems to be true of Bear and Mimiru. They might have questions as to the factual accuracy of Tsukasa's situation, but they have no question about how to respond if it is accurate. And even when they doubt it's accuracy, they're still concerned for him as a person.


The actual substance of the conversation is thin enough that I considered saving all of the above for a later instance, but it is the first time we see the interest they're taking in Tsukasa and so it seemed simplest to say that the first time instead of trying to weigh which time it comes up is the ideal time.

Anyway, substance. As I said, the conversation is already in progress when the scene starts, so we don't know everything that was said. When we come in, we learn that Mimiru has found out that the Crimson Knights are looking for a cat-character (it was looking for this character that originally brought them into contact with Tsukasa) and Bear is convinced that they're taking the situation too seriously for it to just be that.

And then they come around to Tsukasa, which is presumably where the conversations started as well. At the very least it had to have come up before because Bear knows that Tsukasa isn't able to log out (something Tsukasa has only told Mimiru) and brings it up as something he's concerned about. Both he and Mimiru know that should be impossible. The conversation ends with no conclusions.

Bear says he'll be thinking about it for a while, and in so doing refers to himself as old. Mimiru hadn't known that he was old and, after bringing up that she hadn't know, points out that a character's appearance doesn't mean much. That's an important point because it gives a certain freedom from the expectations of appearance and a certain anonymity.

Regarding expectations, one character started playing The World because it allows her to interact with people without them judging her for her wheelchair. In the game she's just another person so in the game she will never be treated as a wheelchair with a person attached, where in the real world that is sort of treatment is unfortunately common.

Regarding anonymity, the way the game works means that age, race and gender are all things that belong to the game character, not the player, which means that when one meets someone in the game they don't know if they're male or female, 9 or 90, and they have no indication of race.


* Every episode starts with the same opening credits which contain what is, in my opinion, the worst song in the entire series. On the other hand someone somewhere else said it was the best, so opinions vary. At some point I'll get around to seeing what meaning, if any, can be pulled out of what's in the opening credits, but for the moment I'm just skipping them, which means that, according to my DVD player, I'll be starting each episode one minute and thirty-five seconds in.

I'll probably also try to look at the closing credits and the short thingy that indicates the halfway point of an episode in the same post. I very much doubt that there's much to say about any of them, though I do think there might be something to say about one aspect of the opening credits.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In Loving Memory of My Camera

So, given that the one day sale on Twilight ended many hours ago, I probably shouldn't be leaving that as the top post.  Unfortunately I've been in a not-so-good mood since yesterday around, say, 2:30 and it got worse in increments probably topping out as I was walking home, noting that sunset had come and gone, thinking that the lights reflected on the estuary I was walking over (on a bridge, I can -as yet- not walk on water) would make a wonderful picture, secure in the knowledge that I'd lost my camera.

Any lingering hope I might have had went away today when the company that runs the buses between the two campuses that make up my university sent me an email saying that they had looked, and found no camera.  That means that everywhere that it could have been has been checked, and every associated lost and found has also been checked.  No camera.

I love that camera.

I was going to post a picture of that model of camera, so that there might be a visual aid, but for reasons I do not fully understand that's not working so I'll just send you a link to the entry for that camera on Amazon which has pictures of the model of camera, picture taken by such cameras, and a large amount of verbiage describing just how awesome it was.  (I can sum it all up in five words: "It is an awesome camera.")  And I lost it because I put it into a pocket that didn't really have enough room for it, then forgot about it.  By the end of the day it was not in the pocket any longer.

It wasn't cheap either.

Anyway, after I realized it was lost I spent hours looking for it, decided that the world was mocking me because pretty everywhere I looked there was something to take a picture of, and have felt more or less like crap ever since.  (Although there have been exceptions.)

Did I mention I miss my camera?  Because, seriously, I miss that camera.  The most annoying thing of all is that it was slightly damaged and still under warranty.  It shouldn't have been with me in the first place, it should have been being repaired, but I forgot to bring it in the last time I went to the store.  If I'd remembered to bring it, then not only would it not be lost, it would be in the process of being made better than it had been.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

If you're going to buy Twilight, now is the time

If you follow what I write about Twilight then you've probably already read this elsewhere since that's how I found out, but just in case you didn't, let it be known that Twilight on Kindle is on sale today.

63% off, one day only.  (Also US only, so if you're not in the US and I just got your hopes up, sorry.)

So, if you find yourself intensely curious about where Snarky Twilight comes from, or what Edith and Ben differ from, this is probably the best deal you're likely to get.  I've never owned a physical Kindle myself, but I know from experience that Kindle for the PC is both free and nice.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

If I had 4,000 dollars

So some of my problems are things that really reek of privilege.  Even the big things like the increasingly likely possibility that I'll lose my house, can only be understood when one takes into account that I currently live here paying no expenses whatsoever and I have not one but two places I can move into (my sister's place and my father's place, neither of these is remotely optimal, but the options exist.)  That's privilege.

But that pales in comparison to the privilege inherent in a problem like, "I've never been to Greece and am unlikely to go in the near future."  To even consider that as a problem one has to have a pretty sizable distance from the real problems of life.

And yet, in May a Harvard outpost type thing is sending one of my teachers to Greece as the leader of a trip.  The trip is being offered at cost, 4,000 dollars give or take (plus airfare both ways) depending on the fluctuations of the relative values of the Euro and the American dollar.  The money doesn't need to be had until May, but a (relatively) small down payment is required on the 20th of this month and so if I can't figure out a way to come up with $4,000 by May in the next eight days then there's no reason to make the down payment which means I can't go.  I consider this a problem.

Now at this point, if I were a reasonable person, I'd be thinking about the fact that even if I can somehow come up with a way to get the $4,000 that money would be better spent on trying to keep me in my house, and if I can't (which seems more likely) there's no point in worrying about it.

But the thing is, if this is to be the year when it all goes wrong and everything comes crashing down and I lose my house... I'd kind of like to go to Greece.  And if it isn't, if I somehow manage to make things work, I'd still like to go to Greece.

No matter how right things might go in the next few months, the only way I could be sure I'll have the money then by the 20th of this month is if I get someone to promise to loan or give it to me.  I don't know the odds of that, I figure they're pretty low, and it probably isn't a good idea.  Even if it did happen, that would just mean more indebtedness to my family.  They may have long since given up on the hope of me ever paying them back, but I haven't.

It also could mean bringing some pretty bad conflict down upon myself if I ask.  The last thing anyone wants to think about right now is more costs.  But I really want to go to Greece, and in the middle of a year that looks like it's going to be a pretty dark time for me, I could use some light.

Expect me to be using excessive profanity in about 8 days or so when any chance of going fails to come to pass.  Actually, said profanity might only be spoken, in which case it wouldn't show up on the blog.

Twister Rewrites

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Twister was on the other day. The male and female leads in Twister aren't that impressive as characters, and I feel so sorry of male lead's fiancee, but you know what I really like about Twister? The rest of the team. I wish there had been more of them. Whatshisname who makes the movie/television references ("The cone of silence"), whatshisface who figures out the directions, whatshername who hardly ever speaks and yet still manages to seem like a fun character. Even the really annoying guy who should under no circumstances have been the one poor fiancee had to sit with.

I think it would have been a much better movie if it had just been about the team doing what they did, instead of Jo manipulating Bill into getting back together both with her and with the team.

Also Jonas was very badly handled. If he'd made his big break by stealing their research or something, that would be one thing, but instead he got decent funding and actually built the thing Bill never got around to. Oh so very evil, that one. Clearly he must die by tornado.  Sarcasm off, if he was going to be a jerk, there should have been reason to think of him as a jerk beyond, "He's funded," and even then death by tornado would be serious overkill.

Obviously my initial thought is to do a rewrite of Twister so that it isn't about getting (back) together at all. They're all already together as a team, and this is just the season when they finally have Dorothy. That's my primary suggestion, but if that's too extreme I offer a rewrite of Twister that keeps it closer to the original:

Bill is trying to get everything settled for his move to another field due in part to the fact that he's become disillusioned after Jonas stole their research and used it to get a grant they really could have used. After fighting for too long to get the credit he and his team deserved, and instead getting a reputation for being someone who tries to claim other people's work (discrediting his whole team in the process), he's burned out and ready to leave all this behind and has lined up the one job in meteorology he can still get, that of weatherman.

He's come back to disentangle the last of his finances from those of the team, which is now run by Jo. He's clearly depressed and Jo tries to convince him to stay around for a while in hopes it might cheer him up. When she shows him that they've finally built his dream sensor package, Dorothy, it gets him to stay for a little while.

As the movie progresses he gradually starts to reconnect with the entire team.

It also so happens that Jonas is in the area and they can interact in much the same way as in the actual movie, but in this case the reason for them despising each other isn't that Jonas is in it for the money, it's that he took their research, used it to secure a grant that should have been theirs, played the situation so well he made it look like they were trying to steal credit for his idea, and now he's managed to make a knock off of Dorothy that he's showing off to the news cameras which means that the same damn thing is happening all over again.

Because the focus isn't on a love triangle you can instead put it on the team as a whole, and in the course of seeing Bill reconnect with each of them you get to learn more about all of them and get a much better feel for their characters, you also see Bill become more alive as he goes from the isolated place in which he started the movie towards a place where he's surrounded by friends.

You can have pretty much the same events, so the ending would still be the tornado at movie theater, followed by the remains of the town, followed by going after the big one.

At which point Jonas doesn't die because that's just petty on the filmmakers' part. His driver listens to the warning and gets the hell out of there just in a nick of time to save them both. Jonas loses face when it is revealed (by the grateful driver) that he had his life saved by the person who he's been actively trying to ruin for the past few years (because if people took Bill seriously they might take his claim that Jonas stole his work seriously) and given that he didn't get the data and the poor team did, he's no longer the one the cameras follow.

The end.