Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Long Live The Queen: Unfortunate Implications (Spoilers)

Part of Long Live The Queen is that you can't have everything.  Understandably so.  If you go to your friend's birthday party then the commoner isn't going to make you blueberry cookies to help you with being down over having to skip the party for safety concerns, and since that's what started your relationship you don't get to have a relationship with him.

That sort of thing happens, and it generally happens in such a way that there's no huge problems brought up either regarding internal consistency or bad out of game implications.  Generally.

There is one glaring exception.

It has to do with the rights of non-straight people.

The queen-to-be dancing with another woman is considered scandalous.  If you tell the game that you want to marry another woman the best you can pull off is making her your lady in waiting, having both of you marry other people, and then having sexy-fun-times when no one is looking.

Same sex relationships, male and female, are kept hidden.

And, for the nobility, since titles are hereditary it's absolutely vital for stability (read: not-civil-war), that they marry members of the opposite sex and have kids.

All of that implies a less than good situation for people attracted to members of the same sex.

There is something you can do to change all that.  But before I get to it, some background.


Lumens are magic users.  They get their magic from special crystals that they bond with for life.  (Want another Lumen's crystal?  You've got to kill them.)  They are generally regarded with fear.  Possibly hate.  A while back court politics went less than well and, since the ruling class was composed entirely of Lumens, magic was used, things went to shit, after the fallout there would only be two open Lumens until the time of the game, all the others either gave up their power or said they did.

One was whoever the current ruler of the kingdom was.  It was acknowledged that some problems needed magic to fix, rulers can get away with shit, so a Lumen crystal was passed down through the royal line.

The other was the family line of your first option in magic teacher.  They've been hated and feared for hundreds of years because they felt it was necessary to keep magic alive and not lose the knowledge thereof.


Background point two.

You will be invaded.  It cannot be stopped.  I'll talk about that when I get to inconsistency because there's really some evidence based on the handling of past events that it should have been stoppable.

There are several ways to deal with this, but the pertinent two go like this:

Your navy gets its butt kicked meaning lots of people die and your military is generally fucked.  Surviving soldiers sacrifice their lives to buy time even though, well, that's pointless.  Then it turns out that what the enemy king is really after is your Lumen crystal, so he wants to duel with you and win or lose he'll call off the invasion.

At this point the two important-to-us options come up.

1 You can use high skills involved in conversational manipulation and just plain being an imposing force worth listening to combined with personal knowledge of the enemy king and an ability to be a kickass heart string tugging musician to redeem him and have him go home in peace.  Other than death and turning evil, this is the only option in the entire game that does not leave your kingdom under the constant burden of knowing that the country in question wants to retaliate.

2 You can kill him in a magic duel.


Background over, it is possible to have a same sex marriage in the game.  Here's what you have to do:

Lose the naval battle killing off most of your military.  Lose a lot of what remains in a losing battle against the invaders cutting a swath of destruction across your country.

Fight and win in the duel.

Find out that while the enemy king was completely serious about calling off the invasion it's kind of hard for him to do once he's dead.  The high level commanders all return home, but many of the soldiers go AWOL, bringing lawlessness and death and whatnot to your country.  Also you'll have trouble with soldiers turned bandits into the foreseeable future.

Back in foreign country the Queen is pissed off beyond all measure that you killed her husband and begins the process of regrouping so she can take revenge.

And then two women can get married.

Got that all non-straight people? You can only get married in public (the affairs going on behind the scenes are more inclusive) if you're willing to destabilize a nation and have this generation live under constant fear of retaliation.

Seriously, take notes.

Except... it's worse than that.

You see killing the enemy king in a duel is the only way you can raise the status of Lumens above an uncomfortable subject that sometimes involves produce being thrown at people.  I've cheated to max out skills (thus opening basically all options) and tried every Lumen popularity related variation I can think of.  There is nothing else.

But killing the enemy king doesn't just raise the status of Lumens to, "Let us treat them with respect as we would any other person," it makes them into idols.  It's the highest public opinion has been in living memory.

Little kids pretend to be them and want to be them when they grow up.

In this setting your magic tutor and her lover (who can be your magic tutor if you don't accept the first) feel comfortable coming out publicly as Lumens in love and then get married, by you, the queen.

Let's break that down.

The queen gets a pass on being a Lumen because she's the queen, but her personal support isn't enough for people to not throw produce at her tutor.  So her being a Lumen doesn't matter much.

The other publicly known Lumen is who all those kids playing at being Lumens can aspire to be when they grow up.  While others might come forward now that there's not a need to keep it hidden (her lover does) she's the one everyone knows about.  Then she gets married to another Lumen, double awesome points, and the wedding is officiated by the queen, awesome icing, and the other Lumen is also a woman.

Now children are left thinking, "I want to be like that married lesbian when I grow up." Will this turn children gay? Of course not. Will this go a long way towards establishing marriage equality in the country of Nova? Almost certainly.

But then the situation for people with same sex attraction gets better.

The couple adopts.

It works.

Showing that adoption can work as an heir producing method is absolutely vital if members of the nobility want to have same sex marriage.  There are other obstacles (just dancing with a woman was scandalous when the princess did it) but in many ways the high profile lesbian couple will go a long way towards dealing with the other obstacles.  What can't be dealt with is the fact that two people of the same sex cannot produce a child.

Under certain circumstances the player character will even say to someone, someone who can become her romantic partner later, that it doesn't matter if the woman doesn't like men, she needs to get married to one and produce an heir pronto.  After that she can get divorced.

But if you've established that adoption is ok then suddenly that pressure evaporates.  Now, admittedly, the adoption was someone with family ties (the niece of one of the women) so it doesn't overturn everything, but it goes a long way toward letting the nobility have marriage equality and what the nobility does will tend to filter down to the rest of the country.

So you get to choose between lasting peace and what seems like it would mean an explosion of equal rights and public respect for non-straight people.

And either way requires you to lose a bunch of lives by having the opposing army sink your navy and trample your lands.


That's an unfortunate implication.  "Yeah, we can have gay rights, we just need to ruin the country and place it at risk of future invasion."



Monday, December 30, 2013

Long Live the Queen

Ana Mardoll did a Let's Play of Long Live the Queen by Hanako games.  Her thread on it can be found here, and that obviously leads to the youtube video.  Of interest to people like me who don't always have reliable internet and reliable sound at the same time is that in the comments are links by which the video can be downloaded (now I just need to move the file to the computer with sound.)

Without seeing the video, Ana talking about it intrigued me enough that I ended up buying the game (it's not expensive, currently less than ten US dollars.)

I'm going to be making a series of posts about the game, by which I mean in preparation for a time when I have limited internet access I've already made a series of posts about the game (actually I would have made them anyway) and they're all about things I think could have been better.

This might leave one with the impression that I don't like the game.  That is the opposite of true.  I think the game is great, and that's saying something because I'm usually a first person shooter kind of person.

Before I get into what I think could have been better, I'd like to talk about what I liked but there's a problem.  I'm not good at that.  When I like something I tend to be, "I like it."  When I don't like something I tend to have more to say.

I like choice and consequences, I like that you can do things and have them send the narrative spiraling off in another direction.  I, for example, completely avoided any civil wars.  You might not.  I like that.  I like that the story conforms to fit your choices.  I wish we saw that more in games.

The only downside for me is that I like games where, if you play just right (usually constantly skating on the edge of disaster) you can get an all around good ending.  Not get everything, see everything, or do everything, that would be silly and would kill replay value, but get to a happy ending rather than, "This was good, but that sucked."  The example of this game forcing between "This is good and that sucks," or, "This sucks and that is good," is why "Unfortunate Implications" is to be the first of my posts on where I think the game went wrong.

But where I think it went right is all over the place.

I was looking into the game while on the phone with someone and reading over the achievements from the steam version basically convinced them that they're interested in it.  I think it was something like this, "saved the world with song, fought a tentacle monster?, PREFORMED A HUMAN SACRIFICE?"

Yes, all that and more is in fact in the game.  And makes sense in context.  Though you can't save the world with song and preform a human sacrifice in the same playthrough.

The upcoming posts will be:
Unfortunate Implications (Spoilers)
Inconsistency (Spoilers)
Lack of Flavor Convos
An inability to do the obvious. (Spoilers)

When they're posted and I have the chance I'll turn that into links.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

More talk of fundraising

I think I've found something that I enjoy that, while not about to solve all my financial woes, could possibly give me some additional income.  Maybe I could open an etsty shop or something.

This is good.  Here's the downside, basically all projects require you to spend on supplies beforehand.  Which I have done.  So I'm now even deeper in debt, and in a fortnight and a day it's back to school which I need medically more than academically.  This is the semester I'll graduate, you see, which means this is the semester I have to make the transition away from a medical team that knows me to one that is available to non-students and my insurance will cover.  So that's thousands of dollars of debt on the way.

And I still haven't paid for the fixing the tooth part two.  (Another one thousand two hundred in debt.)

Thus I really would like a way to do fundraising via the blog.  As I've said before, I'm always amazed and grateful at how begging for money , but I'd like to be able to give something back to those who help me beyond, "I'm not yet so broke I have to give up on blogging."

But what to give back is harder to work out.

Most of what I do is writing, but I can't write stories on command.  I mean I could try, I could say, give me a big donation and I'll try to write a story matching what you ask for when you send the donation, but it might not happen because I can and do have dry-spells and lack of inspiration and so forth.

Lonespark suggested less major writing related things like rather than writing a whole story writing in a character with the name or attributes the donater asked for.

Lonespark also suggested maybe something non-writing related, for example image manipulation which you can see examples of in these posts:

Sparklegul - Single image single scale manipulation
Sparklegul revisited - More of the same but with a technique I'd later adapt to hiding the blur of scaling.
Defiling the Mona Lisa - Using the previous technique for scaling while adjusting the colors in various ways.
Ana's Avatar - Various techniques
Ana gets the Dragon Treatment - Dragon process used on another image
The Great Eye and I opened another shop - The dragon technique used used to bring the image to a much more massive scale.
Playing with a picture (of a tree) - Previously used techniques
Destroying the Classics: Starry Night Part 1 - This is going back to single image single scale manipulation.  This scales things down so you can see the entire image.  The problem is that it also loses the details that make the images what they are.  Hence part 2.
tiny dinosaur - Multiple scaling up shenanigans.
Destroying the Classics: Mona Lisa by Van Gogh - An early attempt at combining to images by taking textures and such from one and mapping them onto the other.
We Are Star Stuff - Five examples of the same technique, each one combining textures taken from an image of globular cluster M15 with an image of myself and lonespark.  Thus showing the variation possible since all of five came from combining the same two images.

And I suggested that if there's an ongoing thing I've worked on that you want me to do (say you think it's been far too long since I wrote any of Where Antichrists Come From and you want more and want it soon) if you donated and noted that preference then I could move it to the top of the Things I Have To Get Back To stack.  That doesn't mean a new installment would be the next thing posted.  There might be something else before the Things I Have To Get Back To Stack can be touched.  (I have five posts on the game Long Live The Queen scheduled to post, for example.  And some things need to be written before I forget them and thus are moved to the front of the line regardless.)

And if anyone has any suggestion for, "You could offer to do Y to people who donate," then please share it.  Because I always need seem to need money (at the moment more than usual but less than averted catastrophe of at the beginning of this month) but I want to be able to give something back to those who donate.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

American Tricksters - Story Idea

Lonespark thinks I  should have something to record my phone conversations so that I can just share them all here.

What prompted this was the following idea for a story.

Once upon a time America was rife with trickster gods, at the very least most people have heard of Coyote.  But then colonization happened, mostly by Christians who lack appropriate trickster figures.  Even most non-Christians had fairly Christian mindsets.  And so this new population was lacking in appropriate trickster gods.  (It's not that the gods like Coyote went away, they just stayed with the people who believed in them.)

Eventually it was decided that America needed some tricksters and so suitable human candidates were sought out in America for elevation to this status.

Why did it take so long for this decision to be made?  Have you ever tried to organize and inter-pantheon conference of trickster gods?

Seriously, think about that.

Then after that they need to actually come to an agreement.  It's a wonder it didn't take till the year seven thousand.

To go with the diverse nature of the country there would be a diverse set of Americans elevated to minor-godhood.  They would be chosen, largely, by ancestry.  So someone of Siberian descent would get a Siberian trickster god mentoring them and be responsible for being the trickster god for Siberian Americans.  Trickster gods from all continents would be choosing an American to be the trickster for the descendants of their people in America.  And this includes America itself.  Native trickster gods would recruit people who had left the religion but were descended from their people to function as the trickster god for Americans of that descent who left the religion.

Anyway, this brings us to token white guy, he probably wouldn't be the only white person (Prometheus has to pick a Greek, for example) but he's token white guy.


[Loki does something to get all of the pesky, "How can I know you're really a god?" questions out of the way.]

Human: Who are you?
Loki: I'm Loki.
Human: Pretty sure Loki is male.
Loki: You fail history forever.
Human: We call it mythology, so you fail at culture.
Loki: It's history.
Human: Mythology.
Loki: Did you know that Jupiter has rings?
Human: I thought Saturn had the rings.
Loki: Saturn has the most visible rings.  The point is that Jupiter's rings exist whether you believe in them or not.  The same is true of history.  It happened, that makes it history.  Not myth.
Human: Still think Loki was male.
[Loki changes into a male form, then a female horse, perhaps one or two other forms, then back again.]
Loki: I'm in charge of you because you're of Norse descent.
Human: Pretty sure I'm British.  (Note: shorthand for "Of British descent," person is an American)
Loki: Pretty sure you're Norse.

On fitting in with the other tricksters in training:

Token white guy - "Sorry I'm late."
"You don't apologize for being late."
"You set fire to a nearby building, so you can rescue the people in it and use that as an excuse for being late."
"What is wrong with you?"

On Leadership:

(names made up on the fly)

TWG - "Why are you all looking at me?"
"He's Norse, the problem is yours to solve."
TWG - "Uh, ok.  Alex, Tash, you create a distraction.  Mel, you be on the lookout for anyone taking advantage.  Briana, you save the world.  I'll be here trying not* to to fuck things up."
Briana - "You can't even delegate right."
Ashley - "Calista, you save the world.  [TWG], you provide support.  Tash, Briana, you help me replace the water in the Bellagio Fountains with diet Coke.  Alex, no Mentos.  Everyone else, freelance."
Alex - "What if I got 300 pounds?"
Ashley - "Make it 3,000 and I'll look the other way."

On Saving the World:

TWG is driving, speeding, and then a cop starts to chase.
Calista : Lose them, we don't have time.
TWG: Right now it's a speeding ticket.  If we turn it into a high speed chase the cop will call for backup.
*Pulls over car*
Calista: You do remember this car was stolen, don't you.
TWG: Borrowed. (The plan is to give it back, just not at all where the owner expects to find it.)
Calista: And your plan is?
TWG: Loki is my mentor, do you know what Loki does?
Calista: Cuts people's hair off in their sleep?
TWG: That too, but mostly he sleeps with anything that moves.
Calista: You plan to fuck your way out of-
TWG: Drive off as soon as I have the cop distracted.
*gets out and simultaneously shapeshifts into a form that will turn the officer on, in this case a scantily clad woman*

[conversation with police officer about whether she's into one night stands, TWG isn't interested in breaking hearts, convincing her that this is an ok bribe to take because it doesn't hurt anyone and finally, "Do you want to have sex or not because it's fracking cold out here" recall that TWG shapeshifted into a scantily clad form]

Calista (who is a POC) drives off while the cop and TWG are otherwise engaged, perspective shift to her as she saves the world.

On whether or not cut out to be Loki/Kirk/Bond:

Calista (on couch, not looking up from reading) "Did you enjoy yourself while I did all the heavy lifting?"
TWG, not even noticing the question, still in female form *sigh* "I may not be cut out for this."
Calistia "She wasn't fun?"
TWG, while transforming back to usual form "No, she was great, it's just that the whole one show only no encores thing-"
Calistia "She wants a relationship and you don't."
TWG "No.  I wouldn't have done it if she weren't up for one time only.  I'm the one who might not be able to let go."
Calista: "That's your problem.  Also I may or may not have set up a trap to get back at you for leaving me to do the hard work alone."
TWG "You filled my room top to bottom with fish."
Calista *Shakes her head* "Never the same prank twice.  No.  I'm not going to let you know what it is.  So you'll just have to spend your time constantly on your guard and worried, or ignore the threat and thus be the easiest mark ever.  Either way you lose.  Enjoy."


Or something like that.

I think the idea came to me after a car alarm made me imagine a scene where someone smashed the car with a sledgehammer until the alarm stopped at which point the entire neighborhood opened their windows to give a round of applause to the slegehammerer.


* Originally I forgot the "not" which, given the job description, is still an appropriate thing to say.  Just not the thing I intended to have him say.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Music related to the time of year in a place dominated by Christians

I would have made this post ages ago but with the continued degeneration of primary computer I now have no computer that has both sound and reliable internet access.

Christians and the Pagans

Same Old lang Syne (My mother loves this song.)

It's apparently a true story with only two factual errors. The singer never said who the woman was for fear of screwing up her life, but by the time the song came out she was divorced anyway so the one line that might have been a problem wouldn't have been. The woman didn't come forward until after the singer died for fear of screwing up his marriage in spite of there being nothing in the song that would do so if it were proved true. (Hell, he said it was true the entire time anyway.) People are weird.

Fairytale of New York

There is no NYPD Choir, which is why the band featured in the video is the "City of New York Police Pipe Band". They didn't know "Galway Bay" but their mouths needed to be moving for the video so they sang the Micky Mouse theme song.

Not a Christmas song per se but the Long Haired Radical Socialist Jew is sort of related

A Christmas Carol (Even though the prospect sickens / Brother here we go again)

Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord
(My dad's favorite)

The Rebel Jesus

Straight No Chaser's The Twelve Days of Christmas (Original)

For the record, I love dreidel guy. Also understanding is helped if you've heard Toto's Africa BUT that is not to say Toto's Africa makes sense. In fact "Africa" isn't supposed to make sense, it's supposed to be a song made from the perspective of someone who has only seen Africa on TV and therefore doesn't really know what he's singing about. Anyway, moving on.

Straight No Chaser's The Twelve Days of Christmas (Ten year anniversary)

Sleigh Ride

Does youtube seem to have more ads lately?


Please share songs you like in the comments.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Shoveling (Image post)

Anyone closer to the equator might not fully get what winter is like here.  So I give you a series of photographs, cleaning up after one storm.

One week ago, on the 16th, I got home.  But there was no time for pictures then, I was supposed to have gotten home a day earlier but weather was weathery.  So on Tuesday morning I took this picture:

You can see the original, kind of pathetic, job put in.  Not even the whole front steps.

By the night the snow had called for reinforcements.

Wednesday was lost.  I only had time to reshovel what had already been shoveled in the morning, and at night there was no time.  Thus Thursday came and looked like this:

With work that turned to this:

And when I started on Friday like this:

I had finals on Friday and so couldn't get any more accomplished.  Thus Saturday:

One may notice that the snowpiles got somewhat smaller in this series of three pictures where I didn't do anything.  Nature does help at times.

People across the street with plows attached to their trucks also help at times:

It may not look like much but getting the snow on the image's left closer to the snow pile is in fact very useful.  The image's right was all me.

When I was taking what was supposed to be the last photo of Saturday I forgot a key rule of flash photography in the cold: Don't exhale.

Anyway, the point is, as you can see in this image where I held my breath, image right was done:

And that brings us to today:

That's not snow, by the way, that's tiny droplets of water.  It was icy as all fuck.

And there you have it.  There was a storm, I've shoveled seven days, and now the sidewalk is finally clear.  All that's left is the driveway and salting and stuff.

That's what winter is like up here.  Or down here if you're oriented differently.  And if one goes north just a little it's several times worse.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fundraising and whatnot

First off if you're wondering what to get me for Christmas money would be nice.  Or a really nice brand new laptop that has wifi that doesn't crap out, functioning sound, a screen that is the right color, a battery that can hold a charge, a CD/DVD drive that works, and more or less none of the problems my current computers have.  But money would be easier because if I get, say, $74.21 by month's end I'd be happy, you can't get a laptop for that price.

But secondly and more importantly, I've been wondering if there's anything I could do with the blog to actually fundraise as opposed to beg for money.  It's not that begging for money doesn't work.  I've been blown away by how generously people are willing to give.  Thank you all once again for it.  But it would be nice if I could work out a way to give something back.  The question is, "What?"  Money doesn't solve writer's block after all, so I can't promise, "hit this funding goal and I'll write something," I'd write something money or no if I had it in me at the time.

The only thing I can think of is I could make a list of, "These are the things that I'm going to try to do," (Which would be separate from "Inspiration has hit me I will post random thing.") And if someone donated I could kick their chosen thing, mentioned as a comment in the donation thing, to the top of the list.

But that doesn't seem terribly interesting or ... whatever.

So does anyone have ideas on what I could do to fundraise through the blog?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On poverty, internet, and cell phones

Poor people are on twitter.  This is a known fact, it has been studied.  I'm not sure if it has been studied enough, but like gravity it's one of those established facts you can pretty well count on.  Drop an unsupported rock and it will fall, take a census of twitter and there will be poor users.

The reason that I say I'm not sure that it's been studied enough is that poor people are not underrepresented on Twitter.  For an incomplete list of places where poor people are underrepresented, consider:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Movies
  • Books
  • Almost anything else
So perhaps someone should look into whatever it is that twitter is doing right and try to adapt it to elsewhere, but that's not the point.

The point is: poor people: twitter haz them.

Now this can be a problem if you're going to write a screed about how twitter sucks and use poor people not being represented as part of it.  It's not the only problem with the screed in question.  As just one example of another problem it had the phrase, "third wavers whose postmodern indoctrination have[sic] them believing feminism is a series of made-up words," that's right third wavers, Meghan Murphy doesn't approve of you, you're brainwashed, and you spew gibberish.

But sticking with poverty.  The article isn't about poverty, "poverty" appears not a once and "poor" only to say that poor people aren't on twitter.  The article isn't trying to help poor people, it's trying to use poor people.

So let's talk about poor people and internet access for a moment, something the article neglects in favor of blanket assertions (that happen to be false) under the cover of asking a question and then answering with, "I’m preeeetty positive..."

Phones are pretty vital if you want to stop being poor without starting a glass blowing studio in the abandoned sewer furnaces you had the incredible luck to stumble across.  This is because most jobs require one to have a phone.  They call you, if you are not there to be called the job does not go to you, you don't get the job.

If you want a job then a phone is more important than having a warm place to stay.

Thus a lot of poor people, though by no means all, have phones.  Phones with internet are better still, they allow you to contact people in a variety of ways and if you're, say, looking for a place to stay while the blizzard blows through social networking is your friend.  Plus networking can help you get a job too.

Treating phones as luxury items ignores the fact that they're necessities.  Not everyone has necessities, that's part of why we have so much pain going around in the world.  A world where everyone could be guaranteed necessities would still be far from a perfect world, but it would be a lot closer than this one.  When you don't have something that is necessary that is damaging.  That's, sort of but not exactly, what it means to be a necessity in the first place.

But even if you're saying, "Well, there are people too poor to have phones," and then redefining the word "poor" to mean, "too poor to have a phone," where everyone else previously defined as poor is just part of the sometimes starving, sometimes homeless, sometimes both middle class, you still don't get to say that there are no poor people on twitter.

Things vary from place to place.  This is undeniable.  But given that there's poverty in a lot of places we can still talk about what is available to some of the poor while understanding that it isn't available to all poor people.

So free public libraries with internet access.  This was not my chosen example; it was from someone on the other side of this disagreement.  Free public libraries with internet access allow people who cannot afford a phone, but are still literate, to access the internet and thus twitter.

If we're talking about poor people in general, there are poor people who can access twitter.

If we're talking about people too poor to, say, have a home, some of them have smartphones.

If we're talking about people too poor to have any kind of phone, there are still some of them who can access twitter.

Which means that if you, non-poor person, are going to write a screed on why twitter sucks, leave poor people not having access out of it.  Of all the forums we have thus far invented twitter, even though I don't actually care for it all that much, is doing a stand out good job of letting poor people have their voices heard.

If you claim otherwise you're not trying to help poor people, you're trying to use poor people.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Present conditions (pictures)

Ok, so, there is weather here right now and I thought I'd take some pictures.  Nothing too impressive mind you, don't get your hopes up.

In fact, looking through them, the only ones that really came out were of my house.  So first, even though it was taken last, this is my house with no flash:

Other than the fact that they the color of the streetlight dominates everything, that looks fine, right?  Here's four pictures I took with flash, in as rapid succession as the refresh time on the flash would allow, right before that one.

And before I took those I had to take the camera off of automatic because with each picture it tried more and more to focus on the snow:

So long as I'm going back in time, this is before the storm started:

And here's something you might remember, also from before the storm:

It seems like, liquid or solid, the water just wants that thing.

And an update.

I just got off the phone with the heating oil company.  They said several things that were not true.  I didn't call them out on any of them except for a very gentle correction about one.  No implication that lies were involved.  It's actually kind of important that I didn't use the word lie, not even in the, "I'm not saying you're lying," form because when it did show up it was out of the blue.

But before that the yelling started, which did not include me.  That's ... odd.  Usually when things reach that point I've lost my emotional cool as well.  Honestly I'm totally unconvinced that the yelling was the result of emotions at all.  Earlier the person said, "You don't need to be rude to me," in a raised and hostile voice in spite of the fact that I hadn't been rude.  I could have been rude, damn could I have been rude, but I wasn't because more than I want to hold them accountable for what they've done before I WANT HEATING OIL.  Thus the, "Ignore my emotions and play nice," mode had been activated.  A mode that I usually am content to forget exists.

So I had to hold back when they said that my gauge was broken, it isn't.  That was their original claim.  That's why they didn't give me as much oil as had been paid for.  They claimed that despite all else indicating they'd put about an eighth of a tank in thus bringing the tank to a quarter full they had filled the tank.  It doesn't hold up now because the gauge reads empty and it is empty.  It'd be hard for them to argue that a bone dry tank is full regardless of what the gauge says.

I had to hold back on various things.  The one thing that offered gentle correction with was when they adopted the excuse my mother gave them, probably because it was better than their excuse.  They said that they can't fill up when the "still filling" whistle isn't going.  I pointed out that they'd done it before.  They offered three mutually exclusive explanations for why that was, at least one of which was, "Yeah we did it before, because some other oil company had gotten oil in a place reserved for air, so we couldn't hear the whistle but we totally still don't do it when we can't hear the whistle even though I just said we did."  The final one, though, went like this:

We didn't fill up when the whistle wasn't going, the evidence suggesting that we did was maliciously planted by another oil company which no one saw or heard that came on the same day as us but before us.  We were kind enough to clean that up out of our philanthropic hearts.  The fact that we didn't clean it up then, and instead did it well after the fact thus torpedoing this entire conspiracy theory, is a fact best ignored.

But none of that really mattered because the call ended like this:

"We don't have to deliver you oil at all.  We can just refund the money."

I tried to say that I know that they can do that but I want the oil.  I was cut off mid-sentence.

"We lie to our customers."  whut?

"We lie to our customers." Ok this is true but should you really be saying this for the record?

"We have a million customers;" This is a lie, they only operate in Maine, and even then only in parts of Maine.  For this to be true they'd need to have about 80% of the entire over 18 population of Maine individually paying them, with the remaining many, many heating oil companies (and non-oil heating systems) squabbling over the remaining 20%  That's not happening.  There's a possibility that they have 1,000,000 locations, though that still seems unlikely, but that's just because some people say, "I live here and am responsible for a business there, I don't want either building to freeze," or, "Hey, I've got two homes, bring oil to both."  But, like I said, they've got a lot of competition, they operate in a limited area, therefor they definitely don't have a million customers and they probably don't have a million locations even if many of their customers own second houses and businesses.

"we lie to our customers."  Again, weird thing to say on the phone.  Especially given the fact that voice was totally lacking in any of the usual signs of sarcasm.

"We can just pay you back."


Without commentary, this is how the phone call ended:

"We lie to our customers.  We lie to our customers.  We have a million customers; we lie to our customers.  We can just pay you back."
*hangs up phone*

[I should note that it might have been "over a million customers"]

My sister is of the theory that the company is trying to get rid of customers.  Various oil companies aren't accepting new customers and if this one over-extended itself it might want to be rid of old people.  Plus if the payment is locked in at the oil price when they were paid then given the oil price has gone up they save money if they can just refund your money and then resell the oil at the current price.

Some of the faux outrage presented as off the cuff in a moment of anger things that were said to me were word for word identical to things that were said to my sister before, though the, "We lie to our customers," finale was new.


Regardless new heating oil company has been found.  The, "Willing to deal with assholes" discount will be a thing of the past for my house.

A quick pointer when it comes to dealing with known liars.

The company that gives my house heating oil is cheap.  Part of the reason that it is cheap is because customer service is something that they don't really care about.  They're assholes and liars.

If you're willing to deal with assholes and liars in order to get cheaper heating oil as my mother, the traditional source of heating oil purchasing in my household, has traditionally been they're the place to go.

Here's the problem.  My mother is very, very bad at dealing with liars.

Here is an artist's rendition of the most recent time she contacted them and the lead up:


Before contacting them, talking to a co-worker:
Mom: They said it was full when they finished.  It was three quarters empty.
Co-worker: Well once I had a problem where the company thought it was full because cobwebs in the system stopped the whistle indicating it's still empty from going.

[Note: The company in question doesn't use the whistle.  They put in as much oil as ordered even if you've accidentally ordered more oil than will fit.  The extra gets dumped over your yard.  They leave without telling you that, when you notice and contact them they assure you it is physically impossible.  Then they stall until you're forced to move the snow that has absorbed most of the oil, effectively dispersing it and making cleanup impossible.  Once that is one they show up, check, say, "Well it's not that bad," clean up whatever portion of the oil wasn't dispersed, and grudgingly offer you a refund for some amount of oil that they have estimated via esoeteric means, didn't make it into your house.]

The actual conversation:
Mom: you said it was full last time when it wasn't, I wonder if there could be a problem with the whistle...
Company phone operator: Whistle?  Yeah.  The whistle.  Totally the whistle.  That's it.  And if your whistle isn't working right the next time we come out we're not only not giving you oil, we're charging a 20 dollar fee for bugging us when you didn't need oil.  This is on top of the 70 dollar fee for bugging us for less than 100 gallons because the credit on the account is for less than 100 gallons.
[conversation continues]


Do you see where she went wrong?  Other than dealing with a company composed of assholes, liars, and lying assholes in the first place.

If you happen to be dealing with someone who you know lies to you at any given opportunity, DON'T MAKE UP THEIR LIES FOR THEM.

There are, for what it's worth, no cobwebs in the whistle system.

But more importantly, they never offered the idea that whistle might not be working right as an excuse until my mother offered it to them as the sort of excuse she'd be inclined to believe.

Very simple tip.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I have no heating oil

First off notice that I didn't say, "I have no heat."  I actually have a fair amount of heat, enough that I didn't realize I was out of heating oil until I tried to take a shower and discovered that there was no hot water beyond what had already been in the pipes.

The reason that I have no heating oil is that the heating oil company put about an eighth of a tank in when they'd been asked to put rather more than that in.  As a result of that there's a credit on the account meaning that all that needs to happen is for someone to contact the heating oil company and tell them to use that credit to buy however much oil it will pay for.

I can't be that someone because it's not my name on the account and more importantly I don't even know the company's phone number.  If one needs to know an account number I'd be even more screwed.  So I contacted the person who does know these things, whose name the account is in, and who the company is used to dealing with.

To recap: all that needs to happen to fix the situation is to tell the heating oil people to put in oil that's already been paid for.  That seems pretty simple, right?

It notably does not involve phone calls in which my sister orders me around and implies that if I take my sleep medication I won't be awake for her possible but by no means definite arrival and thus screw up all the things.

Generally speaking, I'd rather be forced to abandon my home in order to seek out the nearest homeless shelter than get unsolicited life-fucking-up "help" from my sister on one of the two most stressful weeks I'm likely to have in a year.

So why in hell my situation was communicated to my sister without event asking me if it was ok is lost on me.

Because if there is one thing that I definitely do not need it's her trampling all over my life right now.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Snarky Twilight: Creativity, Trust, and ... um... stuff

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Previously we had the explanation for how Edward is there, this picks up with the first dialog in the chapter]

Edward: "Your hair looks like a haystack..."
Bella: Thick, blonde, and rigid?
Edward: but I like it.
Bella: Meaning you don't like haystacks and consider the first part of your sentence to be an insult. You really did internalize the whole player culture negging thing, didn't you?
Edward: You're trying to set me up because you know my next line is, "Of course."
Bella: (mock innocence) What? Me? Play with the book as written to put you into uncomfortable situations? Never.
Edward: Can we at least try to stay on topic? Is there anything you thought was a dream?
Bella: When you stepped in that bear trap I was sure it was a dream. Except not sure. Considering the possibility is more like it if we're going for accuracy. I had in mind the possibility that it was just a pleasant dream.
Edward: (scoffingYou're not that creative.
Bella: Aren't you an asshole?
Edward: You aren't. [said in such a way that, "that creative" is understood as what she isn't.]
Bella: Excuse me?
*Bella tells a complex narrative about how a crossed wire during a lightning storm led to a video game character gaining sentience, escaping her game onto the internet, successfully lobbying for AI rights, and 35 years later running for, and being elected to, the office of the president of the United States*
Bella: and I made that up on the spot.
Edward: Caring about this: I am not doing it.
Bella: But it was a good story. I mean it could use some polish, but first drafts are always like that.
Edward: It was pointless.
*Bella is visibly pissed off*
Edward: This is the part where you were actually supposed to bring up Charlie.
*Bella glares*
Edward: (annoyed) Fine. (matter of factly) He left an hour ago — after reattaching your battery cables, I might add.
Bella: You might add it, but will you? Additionally, I call bullshit.
Edward: What? That's exposition right from the book, what could possibly be wrong with it?
Bella: Unlike you, Charlie knows better than to disrespect my truck.
Edward: Says wh--
Bella: Unlike you he isn't trying to control my life.
Edward: That's what you-
Bella: Additionally he trusts me so there would be no point.
Edward: Whatever.
Bella: Plus I had to use the truck to get the bear trap.
Edward: (shock) And he let you? (annoyed) That's not AT ALL how Charlie is written. (anger) How the hell do you keep getting people to defy the narrative?
Bella: I prefer to think of myself as showing them that there is a choice, what they do from there is up to them.
Edward: Back on topic. I have to admit I was disappointed. Is that really all it would take to stop you, if you were determined to go?
Bella: If someone sabotaged my truck there is no force in Heaven or on Earth that could stop me from avenging it. Hell is right out. It does not stand a chance of hindering me.
Edward: Uh... that's not what I meant.
Bella: Who says I care what you mean?
Bella: Where were we?
Edward: Uh... you should be deliberating where you stand.
Bella: I'm skipping some lines. I need another human minute. And my minute I mean hour, and by hour I mean day, and by day I mean--
Edward: Month.
Bella: And by month I mean year--
Edward: And by year you mean decade.
Bella: And by decade I mean lifetime.
Edward: I’ll wait. For precisely 60 seconds.
Bella: Then you'll walk in on me brushing my teeth.
*Bella goes to brush her teeth*
*it takes more than 60 seconds; Edward waits anyway*
*Bella returns*
Edward: Welcome back.
Bella: To a bunch of dialog that doesn't make sense as we've firmly established that you were not here all night.
Edward: You're not going to say you love me, are you?
Bella: I would have liked to say I loved the man, but I didn't like to lie.
Edward: You're quoting again.
Bella: Do you know what?
*pause as Edward has no idea what she's quoting*
Bella: Dan Fogelberg is officially added to the list of people, places, and things that you should know about but don't.
Edward: (obvious subject changing): Breakfast time.
*Bella clutches her throat with both hands and stares at him with wide eyes*
*Shock crosses Edward's face.*

Bella: You are such an easy mark.
Edward: Quoting again. Your voice changes when you do it.
Bella: And I'm guessing you again have no idea what I'm quoting. *pause* Yup, no idea. You are a cultural void. Is there anything to suggest that you actually existed in the years between when you became a vampire and today?
Edward: Can we get on with it?
Bella: No, actually. Not going along with the next scene.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Narnia: If the heroes did their jobs: The Dinner Party

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[So I was thinking something like this for why our heroes would be at this dinner party (continuing in the continuity established here and first meeting the dufflepuds here, in this version Caspian, not Lucy, needs to read from the book):]

Caspian asked, "Wouldn't it be better if I just went up and read this spell right away?" He was going to add that they could eat after, but was answered too soon.
"Master?!" came the shocked reply. "The Masters must be properly fed. Everything must be tended to, so it must." A chorus of affirmations followed.
Before Caspian could respond Lucy silenced him with a gesture and motioned for them to speak away from the group.
Lucy started thus: "I don't think they know how to be anything but servants."
"That's nonesense," Caspian said. "No one is purely--" and then he stopped. "How long do you think they've been slaves?"
"I don't know but ever since we've met them they've treated themselves as lesser than. We're the 'masters' to them. And what do you do with a Master? Clean the house, trim the lawn, tend the garden-- they don't have access to our houses and our lawns and our gardens or anything else like that. But another thing you do for a Master is--"
"Prepare a meal."
"Exactly. They may be planning an act of rebellion, but they still can't seem to conceive of their relationship with us as anything but servile. So they have to make us a feast because that's the only way they can conceive of us interacting."
"The perfect slaves," Caspian said with disgust.
There was a pause.
"If this magician did that to them," Caspian said, "then he has a lot more to answer for than whatever he did to their bodies."
Lucy didn't disagree, but didn't make any response at all. Not even a change in facial expression.
"I mean there's slavery," Caspian said, "but if you're right than this goes beyond even that. Normal slavery only has power over your body, you're talking about a people who've had their minds put in chains."
Now Lucy responded, "Exactly." And it was an enthusiastic, "Exactly."
"So what do we do?"
Lucy looked down, "I don't know."
"Even if we set them free, and fix their bodies of course, if they can't think of themselves as anything but servile what good will that do? They'll just be the ready slaves of whoever makes landfall here next." There was a pause. "And until then they won't know what to do."
The silence disturbed both of them. Lucy finally broke it.
"They can think for themselves. Whatever strangeness may surround it, you reading from the book is their idea. So was the spell that made them invisible. So there's that."
"That's not much."
Lucy had a new thought: "And then there's this: there's nothing wrong with serving. What if we could get them to serve each other. We wouldn't be imposing our ways on them, but we also wouldn't be leaving them as people lesser than, and subject to the whims of, someone else."
"I..." and Caspian found he had nothing to say. "I..." he tried again. "I think we might be on this island for a long time."
Another pause, this one less fraught.
"I hope you're wrong, by the way," Caspian said.
"I do too," Lucy said.
"I hope that this dinner is just some silly tradition and they don't think of themselves as nothing but servants."
"There will be time enough to find that out," Lucy said, "but for now we're losing the group.
The group had indeed gotten well ahead of them.
"What do we do?"
"I told you already, I don't know."
"I mean right now. Do we have a dinner party in the local despot's house and just hope the noise doesn't attract him?" Caspian asked. Then he started talking again before Lucy could respond, "And I remind you that the local despot is a magician."
"I think we have to. If they won't tell you the details you need until after dinner, then we have to have dinner. Hopefully once they're visible we can talk about everything else."
"And the magician?"
"Keep your sword at the ready," Lucy said. "I plan to eat with my dagger. I don't want it leaving my hand."
"Thank you," Caspian said, "for your council." After a pause he added, "You're really right, we should catch up."
Lucy and Caspian rejoined the group with little trouble, and quickly, but quietly, gave out orders that everyone was to politely indulge in their host's insistence on the dinner, but to be at the ready for the possibility of an intruding magician.
Dishes appeared and disappeared as the invisible people put them down and picked them up. It was a disconcerting sight, but those who had attended great feasts before (Kings Caspian and Edmund, Queen Lucy, Lords Octesian and Restimar, and Reepicheep), were able to follow everything as a fairly mundane preparing of the table.
The only thing out of the ordinary was the way liquids were transported. Every bowl or pitcher appeared at the table with a lid, quickly disappeared, and then appeared again with the lid gone. In contrast to the rest of the dinnerware the lids appeared to be cobbled together with a good deal less attention to aesthetics.
"They must have made them after they lost the ability to see while they worked," Eustace remarked. Once he said it, it seemed clear that this was the case. A small handful of the lids were different* apparently crafted by ones who could see what they held in their hands, but most appeared to have been cobbled together by those who couldn't see their hands or what those hands contained and then painstakingly adjusted until ready for their job. Whatever the job of the waterproof lids actually was.
Eustace had become much better at seeing things from others' perspectives since he had been a dragon.
Everyone from the Dawn Treader, Lucy and Caspian especially, tried to learn more about the invisible people. This was made difficult by the fact that the invisible people had given themselves the least honored seats at the great table, when they finally stopped serving the meal and sat down. More so by the fact that they insisted on getting up to transport anything rather than allow any of the guests to strain so much as a little to reach or move something. But it was made impossible by the fact that the invisible people refused to say anything in the least bit interesting.
"It's getting dark, so it is. It does that at night, so it does."
"You came over the sea, did you? That's powerful wet, it is."
"I always say, 'When someone's hungry, she wants food.'"
And so forth. Though that last one got a powerful confirmation from Iisha, the master bowman.
Eustace quietly said to Adah, "They're afraid of saying anything that could ever possibly offend anyone."
"Terrified," Adah said. "Believe me, I know when people are terrified." Only a handful could hear, all from the Dawn Treader, and all of their thoughts went to first seeing her: as a Serpent. "I don't need to see terror to recognize it."
"And that," Lucy added, also keeping her voice too soft to be heard by their hosts, "is a very bad sign." Lucy turned to Caspian.
He grimly took a spoonful --with his left hand-- of the most delicious mushroom soup he had ever had and didn't enjoy it in the least because his thoughts were entirely with his right hand: on his sword's hilt.
Not everything about the meal was wrong, not everything about the place was wrong, but it was becoming more and more clear that as wrong things went the fact the people here were invisible was relatively minor, considering.
* Some would have been made between when they were transformed and when they became invisible but, assuming that they acted to become invisible soon afterward, not enough for the feast. I'm assuming that these away parties are composed of dignitaries, of which they have an increasing number, and enough guards to protect the dignitaries.
That's why the Kings and Queen and cousin of royalty are always there. Also why Octesian and Restimar, rescued in this version, are present. Adah is there simply because it's been so long that any time she can get land beneath her feet she's happy and, given what she's done for them, no one will argue with that.
The idea behind this is that they can make peaceful diplomatic contact with whomever they find immediately (the top officials are all there) but at the same time they're not going to get captured and sold into slavery again (hence the guards.)
It may not be the best plan ever, but when you're on an ill stocked mission from God and your royalty consists of children, you go with what plans you have.
Also, another reason for large parties to leave the ship is that the ship is getting damned crowded.
After they found Octesian's bracelet they went on a search and found not just him but the survivors of an entire ship that got wrecked, when they found the burnt village another search, now they have refugees whose home has been destroyed and whatever other slaves were in the holds of those who took them. What they're not doing is finding places to offload these people.**
It's really at a point where you want to send as many people on your scouting party as you can not because a reconnaissance party too conspicuous for reconnaissance is a good idea but because you want the people left back at the ship to be able to stretch damn it.
** Technically they could have dumped the rescued slaves back at their destroyed village but there're traumatic memories, it's the wrong season for starting from scratch, the entire place is a graveyard now, and so forth.
Plus it clearly isn't a safe place to have a village if the entire population could be overpowered and variously killed or taken into slavery. Now that any previously existing defenses have been razed it's even less safe then when it totally failed to be safe enough.