Saturday, January 31, 2015

Snow update (image post)

All but one of these pictures were taken on Thursday.

As I pointed out at some point, there was shoveling left to do.

This is how it looked before starting that shoveling:

This is after doing the front path to the right size:

Now, ideally I shovel the sidewalk, and the driveway, and so forth, but there was limited time, so the immediate concern was getting out the trash and recycling bins:

That's not the best angle, here's another shot:

But before we get to that two things.  One, a shot looking at my house instead of from it:

Turned slightly so that you can look right at those bins I have to get out:

Don't see them?  That's kind of the point.  We'll get to that, but first thing two.  Just as I was breaking through to the street and I heard a cracking sound on the shovel.  I examined it and found nothing amiss.  Thus I assumed that catastrophe loomed.  Soon after the problem made itself known:

Here's a closer shot of the damage:

As time passed and I tried to get to the bins it soon became clear that I would not be able to do so in the available time.  This is what it looked like when I was forced to stop shoveling:

So I crawled in and got the recycle bin out

And I looked down at myself:

Now there probably should be some explanation as to why I'm just in a t-shirt there.  Shoveling is hard work, it wasn't as cold, and you overheat fast.

Here's another shot of me adjusted so that up is up and down is down:

And here is the job as close to done as it was going to get:

Something important to note about one of those two shovels:

Don't see it?

Unlike the orange one it didn't break, it was already broken from the start.

When I arrived elsewhere I noted that there had been snow there too.  I give you this picture of a car:

And then it snowed some more.  This bike had been dug out after the storm.  Obviously the second snow wasn't nearly as severe, but that doesn't look like a cleared off bike.

At the time of this writing, I haven't had a chance to see what it looks like back at my house.

One of the bad parts is that the oil hookup is at the back of the house, so even though no one parks in it anymore I still need to shovel the length of the driveway.

"They have Lego Friends for the girls and regular Legos for the boys."

So said the six year old girl.  She and her brother are both in the Lego club.

The brochure had Lego City, Bionical, Star Wars, a space shuttle, and Minecraft in addition to Friends.  She's not wrong that they have Lego Friends for the girls and everything else for the boys.

She's not wrong that the other Legos are what constitute regular.

There's no reason that there couldn't be female mini-figures in the prominently displayed construction scenes from Lego City,  There's no reason that there couldn't be female rebels in Star Wars.  She likes Minecraft and plays it in her free time, but Lego has made clear to her that Minecraft Legos are not for her.

Lego Friends.  Lego Disney Princess.  Lego Elves (coming in March).  These are where Lego thinks that girls belong.

To reiterate, girls get:
  • Friends
  • Princesses
  • Elves (yet to be released)
This is a list of the other things Lego offers:
  • Architecture
  • Castle
  • City
  • Classic
  • Creator
  • DC Comics™ Super Heroes
  • Fusion
  • Ideas
  • Legends of Chima™
  • Marvel Super Heroes
  • Minecraft
  • Minifigures
  • Mixels™
  • Pirates
  • Star Wars™
  • Technic
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™
  • The Hobbit™
  • The Lord of the Rings™
  • The Simpsons™
  • Ultra Agents
Notice a disparity between what Lego thinks girls should have and what Lego thinks regular (male) people should have?

To make matters worse, this dichotomy is of their own invention.  There's absolutely no reason that girls need to be segregated into those three things, there's no reason that the giant list of other things couldn't be gender neutral.

Hell, there's no reason that those three things should be marketed specifically to girls.  Plenty of boys (and men) wanted mini-figures that had more realistic proportions.  (The standard minifigure has three different scales.  Height is one scale, width is another, depth is still a third.)  Plenty of boys like Disney movies too.  Everyone likes friends (it's kind of embedded in what it means to be a friend.)  The fact that The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are in the "normal (male) people" section indicates that something based on elves could be marketed to everyone, not just girls.

And that's the problem.  Every single line that Lego makes could be marketed to everyone, regardless of gender.  They've decided to segregate things based on stereotypes.  Even if the offerings to boys and girls were totally equal in number, having different things for them would be fucked up in itself.  The lines should be marketed based on what they are, not the gender Lego executives sexistly assume will want to play with it.

If, for example, Technic has fewer girls buying it I offer two possible reasons:
  1. The marketing for Technic is exclusively marketed at not-girls
  2. Technic figures (larger than normal mini-figures) do not include female characters of any kind.  That's a pretty clear, "No girls allowed sign," being hung on the entire line.
Neither of those indicates that girls wouldn't like Technic.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

On lazily porting console games to PC

The notebook in which I do three pages daily of brain dump is elsewhere. I took it out of my bag along with my school notebooks.

So another post.

The console vs. PC debate will probably never be resolved and I have no intention of wading into it. That said, there is something that I've been noticing on some PC games I've played lately that is directly related to consoles and PCs.

In theory, a console is just a PC that's been stripped of everything that doesn't improve gaming, and been given really good versions of what does involve gaming. So in theory a console is basically a gaming PC, at a price you could never buy a gaming PC for, that can't do much besides game.

(Also they tend to be standardized and non-upgradable while gaming PCs tend to be customized and totally upgradable, but that is neither here nor there.)

Continuing in the land of theory, there shouldn't really be inherent differences between console games and PC games because a console is, at heart, a personal computer that's had all the non-gaming crap ripped out.

In practice it doesn't work that way.


I played games on my parents' Commodore 64 and their TI, but what really made me a gamer was Dark Forces. It was a Star Wars first person shooter. It's base geometry was what's called 2.5D: a 2D map that's extruded straight up for the third dimension. So the floor-plan can be as complex as you like, but all the walls are completely vertical, floor and ceiling completely level, and only one of each.

It was innovative in that it was able to combine the 2.5-D units into an environment that was actually 3D. The walls were still all vertical, the floors and ceilings all completely level, but there were multiple floor and ceiling levels meaning that sometimes you'd be on the ground but in a firefight with someone on the second floor.  It couldn't produce a slope, but a staircase (including several spiral staircases) was well within its abilities.  For 1995 that was really something. Twenty years later it's no big deal.

All of that is beside the point

It had ten weapons. The sequel, Jedi Knight, had ten weapons. Why? Weapons were mapped to the number keys:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0 gets you slots for ten weapons, each a keystroke away. The sequel's sequel and its sequel put the explosives under the “-” key and thus had 11 weapon keys.

Interface dictated design.

Legendary has four weapons, though you can switch what the four weapons happen to be. The Tomb Raider reboot (2013) has four weapons.

Why? They use the directional pad (up, down, left, right) to select weapons. Four “buttons” means four weapons. Interface dictates design.

What I note about these games, however, isn't in the number of weapons they give you.

It's how games that had to make sacrifices in controls to work with a standard console controller don't get optimized for a PC interface.

Consider just Tomb Raider (2013). It's a pretty complex game and there are a lot of ways you can interact. However it's also a console game made with a console controller in mind.

As such sometimes when you want to shove an object you end up attacking it with an ax instead.

That might not be the best example.

The Square/X button on consoles, which on PC is represented (by default) as E is used to:
1 Push buttons or otherwise interact with technology.
2 Pick things up
3 Use the climbing ax to climb
4 Use the climbing ax as a prybar
5 Use the climbing ax to break shit
6 Light your torch
7 Use your torch to light shit on fire
8 Reload your weapon (on PC this is, mercifully, changed to a new button)

Note that a completely different key is used to use the climbing ax as a melee weapon. This makes sense because … Jasper?

Even with reload switched to a new button this means that sometimes on PC you're trying to quietly pick something up as you sneak by enemies in the dark and you end up accidentally lighting your torch. Do you know how bad of an idea that is when you're trying to sneak?

A recent commercial claimed a human eye can detect the light of a single candle at a distance of 10 miles. This is wrong -- well, not wrong.  Misleading.  It's misleading.  A human eye acclimated to darkness could detect the light of a single candle at a distance of 30 miles if there were an unobstructed line of sight, however this is of largely academic concern as the horizon is 3 miles away on a level surface.

The point is, lighting a torch while trying to sneak through a dark place is a BAD IDEA.

If Tomb Raider had been a PC game then in all likelihood the button described would only be for "use" and "pick up". (This is since picking up is how you use pick-up-able things, so both functions fall under the umbrella of "use" and thus it makes intuitive sense to put them together.)

The ax and the torch would probably be equipped via dedicated keys, like the weapons. You'd never pull either out by accident.

Lighting stuff with the torch would be done using primary fire button.  Attacking things with the ax would be accomplished the same way.  Prying with the ax would be secondary fire (all the weapons in the game have a secondary fire) and breaking probably would too since it's more a prying motion than a striking one.

Following the logic above, beginning a climb with the ax could be put under primary fire since it's more of a striking motion than a prying one, but it could also have a key dedicated specifically to it since it's different enough from the other functions of the ax to arguably merit one and it's something you might want to do quickly when another weapon is equipped.

And likely there would be more user-usable weapons. Enemies use machetes, swords, and pikes. Perhaps you might be able to use some of those. But that's not the thing. The thing is how shoddy the ports of console games to PC really are.

A native PC game wouldn't bind eight functions with no common element to a single key.  Of the eight functions 1 and 2 can be argued to go together, 4 and 5 can be argued to go together, and that's about it.

Now the way that, for example, the game manged to avoid, say, 6 (lighting your torch so you can see) and 7 (lighting the place on fire) getting confused is fairly good and intuitive.  It's certainly much better than it managed to avoid confusing 2 (picking something up) and 6 (broadcasting your position to every enemy with functional eyes.)  But even though that particular thing worked it's still a work around.  There's a desire to do more things than there are buttons to do them, so a way needs to be figured out to use the same button to do different things.

When that fails it fails spectacularly, when it works it's nice, but in both cases it's because there's a limitation: too few buttons for the functions you want to preform.

That's not the case on PC.

The keyboard I'm using now, though on a laptop, is pretty complete.  It's a got a distinct number pad and everything.  But even if we ignore that and look just at the main typing keys there are sixty.  It is difficult to imagine a console game that has more than 60 distinct functions, so there is no reason that a console game ported to PC should have disjoint functions bound to a single key.  Leaving keys doing septuple detail is just lazy, shoddy work.  Though an eighth of a point to Slytherin for making it so it wasn't octuple.

Tomb Raider actually does deserve some credit for making the port to PC actually make use of parts of what makes PCs PCs.  It then loses all of that credit because it turns out that the work was just the ground work for “The Definitive Edition” which will never be released on PC anyway. So the work that was done wasn't to make it work well on a PC, it was a test-bed for a special edition on "next-gen" consoles.

(A name, by the way, that will sound very silly one generation of consoles into the future.)

Legendary, on the other hand, was ported over to PC with so little checking to see if things worked that the devs didn't notice a fatal flaw that made it impossible to complete the game. When it was brought to their attention the developers announced that they had no intention of fixing it.

Most things fall somewhere between the two, but it's worth noting that both, and so many others, are done with the assumption that the only thing that needs to be done by way of adjusting the interface is to make keyboard keys stand-ins for console buttons. That makes no sense for so many reasons.

Already described is the fact that the constraints on console controllers re:number of buttons utterly fail to apply to PCs so there's no reason to employ the same workarounds and hacks.

You don't need to have one button do twelve things.  You don't need to have a button do one thing if pressed and held, another if pressed and released, another if pressed twice in rapid succession, and another if ...

Another concern is that you simply don't interact with a keyboard the same way you do with a console controller. I defy you to try to use a keyboard by holding it in your hands with your thumbs on top and your fingers underneath while playing a game where people are shooting at you, things are trying to eat you, or both.

Console controllers are made to quickly switch between a tiny handful of buttons.  Keyboards are made to have buttons for almost everything you'll ever need to do while pressing at most two keys and usually just one.  Getting optimal gameplay out of these two things requires different strategies.

When games are ported that never seems to be taken into account.


Just random ramblings of a person without a notebook.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The weather is here; wish you were beautiful (images)

I don't know who had the quote, I heard it second hand from my dad.  Obviously it's a play on, "The weather is beautiful; wish you were here."

Anyway, suddenly being low on heating oil seems a lot more immediate of a concern.  I try to allot myself two hours for walking to school, but it takes closer to an hour and a half.  As a result I have a pretty good feel for how cold it's been, and the answer is nothing like this.

My outdoor thermometer is borked, I have no idea how cold it really is.  Fucking cold.  An online weather site tells me that it feels like 4% Fahrenheit, that I can buy.  It goes on to tell me that much of that is due to windchill.  On that I call bullshit.  There is no wind.  Not where I just had to shovel through shoulder height snow so my house would have an exit.

Actual temperature of 17 degrees my ass.  Two days ago I had to take the long way home to pick up medication on the way; it took a little over two hours and the temperature at the start, before the sun set, was 18.  It was nowhere near this fucking cold.  Not even at the end.  Well, maybe toward the very end.

Anyway, what has motivated me from coming out of my hiatus is, basically, that I took some pictures.

Looking out the front door in the morning yesterday:

The path shoveled:

Obviously that image is looking down, how about a level shot:

That's kind of blurry.  Some flash might help:

After seeing the snow in the picture with the flash, you can probably guess that the path didn't last.  Here it is at night

 And if you were wondering, the snow hadn't stopped, but it had turned into a much finer snow.  Which is sort of going back to the beginning since when it started it was almost a frozen mist.  Anyway, flash picture of the change in snowflake size and density:

That brings us to this morning.  Now my camera does have a panorama mode that would have made taking this show easy, but flash was required because the day wasn't yet bright enough to get a good shot without it.  That is why you will see --not one, but two-- obvious seams in the image that follows.  As for why the top seam is crooked, I didn't want to cut off the railing tops, but had apparently moved between shots just enough to make it impossible to connect the images without doing that if I used a straight line.

By tomorrow (night, not morning) I have to make it so that my trash and recycling bins can reach the road.  Fortunately, since no one with a car lives here anymore, I can just leave them at the end of the driveway, how hard could it possibly be to get them out?

A shot looking back at my house:

Generally the path up to the door would be twice as thick, I'd clear the side walk, and clear enough in front of the sidewalk for a car to park.  We'll see how much of that I pull off.

Also, that shovel isn't mine.  I have no idea whose it is or where it came from.  It's in deep now though.


If anyone wants to give me money for oil, it would not be unappreciated.  Right now I'm wondering if I should have held off on buying textbooks for school so that I could have put the money toward oil.

Snow is one thing, but as repeatedly noted, it's fucking cold.  The snow won't make my oil burn any faster, if anything it provides a layer of free insulation to the lower part of my house.  The fucking cold, on the other hand, that means my oil gets used faster.

But, all of that said, you (the readers collectively) have already given me more than I ever would have expected or dared to hope for.  So bear in mind that this is an image post not a begging for money post, and don't feel pressured.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Good news: No financial catastrophe next month.

In fact, donations have been such that in addition to stopping that from going to hell, I've finally been able to buy the school books I was supposed to have before the semester started on January 12th.

I still don't know what the situation will be with public aid.  Until I do everything is in limbo.

If I'm kicked off aid then ... I don't even know.

If I lose public assistance I'd need to replace it with constant money.  Money to replace $530 for expenses, $200 for food only, and the free health insurance I currently get.  (I plan to try to find out what the cost my medications would be without insurance later today, but doctor visits are another thing entirely.)

So, I'd need a constant, reliable, stream of money.  Except, even on the anti-depressants I don't think I can hold a normal job.  I'm constantly looking into things that I think I can do (consistently over an extended period) and seeing if there are ways to monetize them.  Success has been limited.

I'm blown away by how much people are able to give me in emergencies and appreciate it so much, more than words can possibly say.  Thank you all.

That said, emergencies are one thing.  They are finite, they are well defined.  Someone pays me something one time and that's it.

I very much doubt that I could count on Stealing Commas to replace what I'd lose if I'd lose if I'm kicked off aid.

So if I am kicked off I need to, very quickly, figure out how to make that money or lose everything.  Losing everything seems more likely.  I don't like that very much, so I'm still going to be spending a fair amount of my time frantically trying to find a way to not-lose everything.  (Notably my house and my antidepressants are things I'd very much like to keep.)

So, until I know what's going on with public assistance I'm not sure if I'm back or not.  But as for the bills that cropped up for unexpected reasons that were looming next month, at least that much is covered.

(And I just noticed that I'm getting low on heating oil, yay.  Why do unexpected expenses always crop up in winter?  If all of my savings are wiped out in summer at least I don't risk freezing.  It's not that low, though.  A problem for the near future but not immediate will-be-here-tomorrow future.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Meta Post: Probably going dark for financial reasons

Next month is in ten days.  I need at least $1,400 next month.  I need to focus on scrounging, selling, and begging in a frantic attempt to get that money.  If I'm focused on that (and school) I'm not going to have time for the blog.

Even more terrifying is that my public assistance is up for review.  $530 a month in cash.  An additional $200 that can be used only for food.  Health insurance.  If it isn't renewed I will lose my house.  Full stop.  I may go hungry.

The odds of there being a Stealing Commas are basically nil.

I'm worried about it not getting renewed.  I never really thought about it that much, but the help I've gotten paying for tuition (thank you and I regret nothing, for the record) adds up to a lot.  $4,000-ish per semester.  For three-ish semesters.  It's not like I kept the money or put it in savings.  It went straight to tuition.  But, on paper, it looks like $12,000 dollars of general income.

If they look at it as that then I am completely and utterly screwed.  I lose everything.

I said it was terrifying.  I meant it.  Absa-fucking-lutely terrifying.

I'll see you when I see you.


It was asked in the comments if donating to me now would make the situation with respect to the review worse.  No.  No, it would not.  I'm as confident of that as it is possible for me to be.  It has to do with the period looked at in the review, the time I have to report incoming money, and stuff like that.

If the review kicks me off public assistance, then I need all the donations I can get.  If it doesn't then new donations aren't going to change that and, moreover, it means that the government and I see eye to multifaceted-bureaucratic-eye on the very major issue of tuition money.  If you donate for something else, that I know how to deal with and report and so forth without fear.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

A note on begging for money: Small donations help too.

So, on the subject of begging form money and all that, there's an important thing to remember as I throw out all these huge number and point out that I need a couple thousand (ish) dollars by next month just to turn imminent catastrophe into eventual catastrophe.

Small donations help too.

Generally I assume that no one has anything to give, so this doesn't matter, but there's a possibility that it does.

Someone might look at me talking about $600 for this or $800 for that night think that, not being able to contribute a 3 digit number means they can't help.  That's very much not true.

Wikipedia constantly rubs salt in the wound of how poor I am by saying, "If everyone donated 3 dollars..." as if I had three fucking dollars to donate, but the point is hardly lost on me: small numbers add up.

I don't have exact stats on unique visitors (blogger only reports page views which means I can't tell the difference between one person visiting ten posts or ten people visiting one post each) so I can't really do a breakdown the way they do.

My point in making this post though, is that if you could donate $20 that would help.  If you can't do that but could donate $10 that would help.  If you can't do that but could donate $5, that would help.  I'm somewhat more hazy on values lower than that because Paypal takes a cut of each donation and I don't know, I'd have to check, if it's always a percent (in which case no value is too small to help) or if there's some minimum fee (in which case at some point a donation is too small to help.)

So, anyway, if the various posts about me needing money have left you wanting to help, but you can't help a lot, I do accept helping a little.

That said, don't help any if you cannot afford it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

January 2014

I like indices.  I like being able to find things.  There's an index overhaul in the near future where I'll be making sure the existing ones are up to date and hopefully making them easier to navigate (the original work index, in particular, is one that I've let get away from me to the point it's nearly two years out of date.)

The plan is to spend this year getting somewhat more caught up on things. Specifically:
On the first day of each month I'll post the index for two years ago if it hasn't been made yet.  On the 16th day I'll post the index for one year ago.
Movies and Games
My series of Long Live the Queen posts continued.  Please note that while the following posts are my criticisms of the game, they are not a denunciation of the game.  The game was good.  It wasn't perfect, but nothing is.

  • Inconsistency (spoilers) - Repeatedly in the game it comes to pass that you face a problem, seriously consider certain options, and then later face more or less the same problem and don't so much as think about the possibility that those options (which you've already considered and possibly used) might exist.  The game suffers for it.
  • Lack of Flavor Convos - When the only conversations are because PLOT it tends to detract from the feeling that the characters, and indeed the world, exist independently of the plot and it tends to detract from the flavor of the game.  More in the article, of course.
  • An inability to do the obvious (spoilers) - It's annoying.
Resident Evil: Degeneration, some thoughts - General impressions after watching the movie, and a fair amount of musing on the choice not to be an action hero when the capability is there.

Under control vs. under control (Wreck it Ralph and Frozen spoilers) - I was wondering recently how long I'd been meaning to polish this up and make it into a Slacktiverse post.  Now I know.  Since a year ago this month.  It's about the difference between "Under control means make it never happen," and "Under control means controlling when and how it happens." 

General Stories/Ideas for Stories:
The Princess Story, Part 4 - Princess Lara has a meal with Prince Apo and Princess Melitta where she tries to find common ground with Apo since they're betrothed.

Making sense of Alice's Power - Analysis, not a story.

Snarky Twilight:
Going to the Vampire Lair - Bella and Edward go to the Cullen compound.
It's so white in here why? - We start in the style of Douglas Adams, and move to a semi-plausible explanation.
Meetings and Greetings (Part 1) - Impossible people, impossible clothes, and bets that Edward doesn't like.

Lucy, meet Bella - Bella takes some time off to story hop and ask Lucy (of Narnia) if she really feels like she's doing what she wants instead of what her author thinks will best serve his purposes.

Edith and Ben
Meeting the Cullens - Ben meets Esmund and Jasmine for the first time, Caroline and Alex for the second.  Jasmine lightens the mood, Edith plays piano.

Skewed Slightly to the Left
Calling for help - Cameron needs to call in help to get Tsion across the border.
Getting to the other side - Cameron and Tsion cross the border with a little help from their friends and high explosives.

Image Stuff
Vermont (image post) - It was an adventure.  The tire exploded, there were rainbows, the house may not have been bigger on the inside but it sure as hell felt that way.  So: pretty pictures.

Kaleidoscope music box thing (image post, also questions) - There was this thing composed of pure awesome on ebay (there are pictures) and I wanted to know if anyone had information on who made it, or the proper name for it, or anything about it.  No one did.

The weather, it is here - Trees in fresh fallen snow look pretty cool.

Me Stuff:
Now I am indeed begging for money  - So apparently all is as it ever was.

Desperately seeking money - Things really haven't changed much.  Though I do have less credit and more debt now.

Sunday Confessional - A twitter user discovered that Ana Mardoll was my sock puppet in spite of being older, having a bigger internet following, and living in a different state.  Then there was the whole hive mind, assimilation, and the Custard Initiative may, or may not, have been called off.

Have I mentioned that I hate needing to have money? - It really is sort of distressing to look at a year ago and realize that, in spite of all my hopes that if I just made it through that financial crunch I'd be ok, it, in fact, never ends.

New post up at the Slacktiverse: Who decides what the fundamentals are? - I wrote a post for the Slacktiverse.  I need to do that more often.  It's an important question when discussing fundamentalists.

The cost of an education - It's things like this that make me feel like I constantly talk about needing money and feel guilty every time I make another post on the subject.  However much I may need it (I do) look at the fucking list of posts about myself, two out of every three are about needing money.

Current Financial Situation - An update on where things stood.  A not entirely bad update.  In fact a point I mentioned repeatedly was that I finally had heat.  In January, in Maine, that's a life saver.

The world at large stuff:
Marriage Inequality: How will we explain to future generations? - A transcript from a conversation in a hypothetical future classroom discussing our marriage laws.

Blog stuff:
I'd like to do a quote (from the blog) of the day, please help - No one did, it went nowhere.  I still want to do that at some point.

We'll be returning to regularly scheduled programming - Because logically you can only beg for money exclusively for so long.

October 2012 - Another month index post


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Monthly Donation Reminder and semi-regularly scheduled utter panic

So, the point of these posts is to remind people who might be willing to give me money that they can, in fact, give me money.  There is a paypal donate button at the top of the sidebar you will find to the right of any page on the blog.

The reason for a regular reminder of that is to try to prevent things from reaching crisis points by building up savings through donations when things are not in a state of crisis.

In that capacity, these posts have undeniably failed.  Consider the posts about money in the past week (one, two, three.)  A lot of the problem is timing.  If I'd known that things would go wrong on the electronics front and the dental front then there are certain things I would have put off for a month or two.  Things that will pay themselves back given time.  I don't have that time.

I was looking toward the end of the semester and the $4,000-ish in tuition that I have to pay off by then and investing in a plan to pay that off.  It's a good plan, I'm confident it will work if, you know, my entire world doesn't come crashing down in the next fortnight.  It is not, however, a plan that I can magically change from a four month time table to a two week time table.

To deal with the expenses that had to be paid immediately I've gotten even deeper in debt.  That's a problem in the long run, but it also has a disturbing aspect in the short term: I am out of credit.  I never had that much to begin with (something about credit companies not liking it when you have almost no income) so it's not catastrophic in a massive dollar value way the way it would be for many people if they completely maxed out their credit.

No, the problem is simpler: without credit I have no stalling tactics left.  The bills that are due next month are due next fucking month and there is nothing I can do to delay or finance or what-have-you that.

So, basically, if I can't raise a couple thousand dollars between now and February I'm screwed.

Like I said, the donation reminder threads have failed at the whole crisis averting intention.


Another thing I've been doing in these threads is talking about the months in which they're posted because they usually have far less content than what you see above.

The Roman year was originally ten months starting in March.  There was a mushy period of days that weren't in any months between December and March.

January and February were added.  There weren't enough month-less days to make two months, so days were shaved off of other months.

January comes from Janus.  A Roman god who looks forward and back (he's got two faces) the name has roots in the Roman word for 'door'.  So it made a certain amount of sense to have it be the name of the gateway between the old year and the new.

January, when created, had 29 days, which makes it a short month.  Thus the ides are on the 13th.  Julius Caesar added two days to it.  Those days, like all days he added, were added after the ides.  It hasn't changed since then.

Metapost: If your comment doesn't post tell me

With the exception of spam-bots who want everyone to click questionable links about Kim Kardashian and such, no one's comments have been intentionally kept off the blog.  I have in the past had cause to remove the comments of an actual human being (a couple of cases where people accidental posted the same comment twice, and one religious fanatic who kept on copying and pasting the same hateful violent pseudo-rhetoric) but that hasn't come up in a long time.

Any recent comments that have not posted are because something is broken.  The bad news is that there's nothing I can do to fix it.  I use Blogger's native comment engine and that gives me no control over the actual workings.  I can't troubleshoot.  The settings are such that everyone should be able to comment, that means that there's an actual error, and that's something I can't address.

But tell me anyway.

So how do you tell me that you can't comment if you can't comment?  If you were posting through a certain account* I'd like it if you'd try to comment again , this time as anonymous, just to see if the problem is that it's blocking you in general, or if it is instead blocking your means of commenting.

If that doesn't work, then email me.  [cpw (at) maine (dot) rr (dot) com]

I want two things.  First and foremost I want your comments.  If you're making comments and they're disappearing, that's bad.

The second is that I want to know precisely what is wrong.  Is it screwing up for certain people?  Is it screwing up for certain means of commenting?  What?

After I post this I'll go through the Blogger error reporting process (once I can figure out what it is again, it's been a long time since I had to do it) so they can get to work on fixing it (I hope.)


When I go to comment my options are to do it through accounts on:

Additionally I have the option of Name+Url and Anonymous.

I already know one person's OpenID comments aren't getting through, it would be a good thing to know if that's true for everyone with OpenID or not.  It would also be good to know if other methods are failing to get through.  So, if people could comment on this post with various methods (no need for much in the way of content, just say, "Posting via TypePad account" or something) to see what works and what doesn't, that would be nice.


*  For example, it was someone's comments via OpenID disappearing into the aether that let me know something was wrong in the first place.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Light in the Darkness

[Originally posted at Slacktivist and Right Behind.  In 2010.]
[Late in the Left Behind Series, New Babylon is cursed with oppressive darkness.  It isn't just that the darkness makes it impossible to see and no light source can drive it back, it is that it hurts.  The woman in the main story is one Rayford bumped into.  Krystall is selfless character first met in the same episode and later ... well, L&J didn't want to deal with the question of how one treats good people who are damned, so she ceased to be.]

Elior walked across the tarmac of New Babylon's airport, wherever he looked there was someone writhing in agony. The screams of the victims blended together into a sort of hellish white noise. He couldn't stop to help them, not yet. Like all angels, Elior was a messenger. He was here to deliver a message.

He made note of the position of every person. He might not have time to save them all, but a little reconnaissance beforehand could help him to save more of them. God hadn't actually told him to save them. He'd said nothing of the sort. But God hadn't told him not to save them either. That left the decision on what to do in Elior's hands and Elior already had his answer.

To better understand the situation Elior dropped his supernatural defenses and experienced what a mortal would. He cried out and raised his defenses. The pain had defied description. Bad enough that he hadn't even noticed falling to the tarmac. He picked himself up and continued on his way.

His goal came into view. A man walked away from her, that was odd. It was clear the man could see, but who else would be able to see in this place? Elior knew it didn't matter, if the man were important God would have mentioned him. Still, it made him curious.

Elior pushed it out of his mind, and approached the woman. He knelt beside her, "Emma, God sent me to tell you that he has heard your prayer." He placed his hands on her. She stopped writhing. "It is never too late to come to God. But neither is it free. If you swear to forsake evil and actively do good, God will take you into his embrace."

She swore it without pausing to think, but Elior knew she was sincere. For now that was enough. Time would tell whether she would live up to it. He granted her the ability to see in darkness and helped her to her feet. "Do you have any questions?"

Emma thought for a moment. "Why is this happening?"

Elior looked around, shook his head, and said, "I don't know. I'm just a messenger. I would stop it if I could, but God won't let me interfere in the Antichrist's plan."


"No, not Nicolae. He would make a piss poor Antichrist. Nicolae is like an angry child who has no real goal in life other than to throw tantrums whenever he notices he doesn't rule the world. The real Antichrist is going to try to pass himself off as Jesus. Can you imagine what would happen if Nicolae declared himself Jesus? There'd be so many questions he couldn't answer, chief among them being who the Antichrist was.

"The idea of an Antichrist is so prevalent in popular culture that anyone claiming to be Christ needs to be able to point to someone as an Antichrist. Who could Nicolae point to? Tsion Ben-Judah?" He paused to consider that. "Actually that's not far off.

"Anyway, Nicolae is not the Antichrist. He is a patsy, and an idiot to boot. If the real Antichrist were as stupid as Nicolae my work would be much easier. I wish the real Antichrist was as ineffectual as Nicolae. The real Antichrist is working with the real Lucifer who has, for centuries, been setting this up. They did this," Elior gestured to the ubiquitous darkness and suffering. "But God let them, and I don't pretend to understand why."

Emma asked, "What does God want me to do?"

God hadn't told Elior. His instructions had ended at answering questions, with no indication of what answers he wanted Elior to give. There was always the standard answer, "Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and come to those in prison." He paused a moment, "Speaking of which, I have something for you," he handed her bread and a water bottle.

Emma snatched them and immediately bit into the bread, then stopped, pulled the bread away from her mouth, and looked at the starving masses around her. Elior knew what she was thinking. "Go ahead. There's enough to go around." It was the fastest he had ever seen someone eat, and he worried she might drown on her water. She survived, coming out somewhat better fed and watered and completely unscathed. "I'm planning on helping them, if that sounds like something you'd like to do, I could use the help."

Emma nodded.

"Now I might not be allowed to make this all go away, but I can preform some miracles." He handed Emma a loaf of bread. "That will feed as many people as needed. You don't happen to have any fish ... no, you wouldn't. Nevermind. You'll find the bottle is full again, and will remain that way. Go around feed people, comfort them, give them a drink, see if any of them will come to God, but most of all get them moving. The overall goal is to get all of these people moving as far as they can as fast as they can that way." Elior pointed. "If any of them will accept God call out my name. I'll see about doing for them what I did for you."

Many of them were quite willing to accept God.



Elior watched as the woman's soul left her body. She was clearly shocked, death by gas grenade would do that to a person. She also exhibited the kind of serenity that only people who had been relieved from great pain ever experienced. "Hello, Krystall. My name is Elior."

When she faced him she filled with fear. "No, no. I'm not here to hurt you. You helped strangers. Even when you thought there was no benefit for yourself. It cost you your life, but it earned you something far more important. I'm here to take you to Heaven, to a place prepared for ones such as you before time itself began."


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The cost of education this semester

So basically this is another begging for money post, but it's also a status update.

I listed two unknowns before.  One was the cost of getting the tooth filled, obviously that came in.  The other was the cost of books for school.  Now I know it, sort of.

Books will cost at least $331.40.  I say at least because that's if I can get them all used and that is supremely unlikely since used books, being cheaper than new ones, sell out much faster.

If I have to buy them all new it becomes $425.59.  So that places everything in a nice easy to get a grasp on range.  The hard part is, as always, trying to find a way to actually pay the damn bills.  Recall that I'm still trying to scrape together 12-24 hundred dollars due primarily to dental and electronic difficulties.

... well, in point of fact about a quarter of it was completely expected, it was just that other stuff (unexpected stuff) wiped out the savings intended to pay for the expected stuff.

So returning to the land of education is financially frustrating.  But on the plus side, I'm almost entirely sure that if I manage to avoid head trauma and stay on my medication I will definitely get a MUCH better grade in my first and longest class  (It's worth one and a third times as much as the average class, you see, thus the meetings are longer) than when I took it before.

I mean, last time I took it I got a concussion and spent like a third of the semester suffering the after effects.

Also: Zen Buddhism.  I shall learn about it.

Tuition is $3,898, but that's an issue for another time.  The university, of course, wants me to pay it right now.  But fuck them, they fired the teacher who has helped me the most, did it without just cause, and when asked why they lied about it.  I know from experience that if I pay them by the end of the semester it'll be fine for me, so they can wait impatiently for their money.

If I can get the current crisis solved I'm confident I can pay for tuition by semester's end.  If I can't then, assuming I still have a home, the money that would have been used for tuition will be used to pay for the current crisis and any kind of fees and interest incurred by whatever means I need to use to kick the current crisis down the road (if such means exist.)

And in keeping with not wanting to have a string of "I need money" posts with no interruption, I'll keep on getting older stories posted here.  I'll shoot for a story about what an angel worthy of the name would do when faced with an episode from one of the later Left Behind books, to be posted around noon tomorrow.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A no-kill Rapture

[Originally posted at Right Behind, in 2010]

He didn't want to be having this conversation again. He tried to ignore her. He had something more important to do anyway. In theory clearing the memory card was the easiest thing in the world, put it in the reader, hook the reader to the computer, and tell it to transfer the files, and forget about it. In practice the only part of the process that worked properly was the memory card. If he didn't hold the reader perfectly still, which was nearly impossible in a moving car, the connection would break, and he'd need to tell it to move the files all over again. That might not be so bad, if not for the fact that the laptop's battery was shot and telling him it only had 15 minutes of power left. Given that it would shut down automatically when it got to seven minutes left, which never seemed right to him, it was critically important that he hold the reader steady.

Which was hard when she was saying things that made him so angry his hands shook. Couldn't they spend a day without talking about religion? He was clearing space on the memory card so they could take a thousand pictures of them having fun climbing a mountain. Wasn't that enough? Why did theology have to come into things?

Finally he couldn't take it anymore. “You think I deserve to go to Hell?” He didn't mean to say it that loudly and harshly, and for a moment he felt bad. But not enough to stop focusing on the computer and card reader.

“No, but...”

And he was fully angry again. It was silly and self centered to think of it that way, and most of the time he would have recognized it as such, but at the moment it felt like a personal affront. She knew how much he hated people stopping mid thought like that. He had always said that if you didn't know what you were going to say you should take a moment to figure it out before you start talking. She knew that.

He gave her what he thought was a reasonable amount of time. And then more time. Nothing. “What?! But, what?” Nothing. He turned to her.

“Shit!” He didn't have time to think about how it was possible for her to be gone, how she got out, or why he didn't hear the door. He didn't have time to think about the way his computer went flying as his entire body lurched forward and his hand shot towards the wheel. Only one thing mattered: Getting control of the car.

When he turned his attention to the road he found there was no road. The car wasn't going down the interstate at seventy miles per hour. It was parked. In what appeared to be a Walmart parking lot. He didn't understand. Had be blacked out? He picked the computer up off the ground, 14 minutes of battery left, the clock had the same time, it was still on the same file.

No time had passed. Where was she? Where was the interstate?

Where was he?


Kelly was getting ready to lunge for the same hold that had made her fall off the wall twice before. This time it would work, this time she would grab it right and it'd be an easy climb the rest of the way to the top. This would be the day. She just had to go.

Which was a lot harder than it seemed. She knew the rope would hold her, she knew Jen was a great belayer. She'd been caught without problem a thousand times before. But the part of her that knew those things wasn't the part that was keeping her short of breath and making the chalk sweat off her hands.

She closed her eyes to collect her thought. Then everything changed. She wasn't holding onto the wall anymore. She was standing on solid ground. She opened her eyes. She would have been standing next to Jen, if not for the fact that Jen had disappeared.


Michael was looking out the window at the fields below. He loved watching the scenery go by and wondering what was happening down on the ground and today was perfect, not a cloud between him and the view. Then suddenly everything changed. He said, “Jesus,” but it didn't seem like enough an expletive. The fields suddenly came up to the window and the engine had stopped.

The plane tilted to the left until the wingtip hit the ground. They were in a random cornfield. He later learned that the pilot, copilot, and nine of the passengers had disappeared.


The ambulance wasn't hers. The shift wasn't hers. The supplies laid out on the ground in front of her weren't hers. But the people on the ground were hurt, that made them patients. And she was the only one around who could help, that made them hers.

The explosion had apparently happened mere minutes before she was transported to the scene. No one remembered how they were pulled clear of the wreckage, nor could they explain where the ambulance came from.

It didn't matter. There was healing to be done, the tools were at hand, and the fact that they didn't actually belong to her wasn't going to stop her from using them.


He'd been watching Elizabeth Warren give a lecture, on tv, then suddenly he wasn't. His response was, he thought, understandable, “Where the hell am I?”

The only answer he got was warnings from the equipment monitoring the patient's vital signs. Explanations could wait, there was a surgery in progress. That he was qualified to complete the procedure couldn't have been a coincidence. Somehow, whatever made his predecessor, Doctor Mary Jacobs, disappear decided to replace her with him.

Perhaps she had been needed elsewhere, what little he had seen of her work indicated she was better than he was. Being magically transported wasn't what bothered him later. Nor was it the look in the eyes of woman who, shell shocked, told him that half an hour earlier she'd been 8 months pregnant, though he knew it should be, or if not that the sobbing he heard as he walked passed the maternity ward, infant care, and the children's wing.

What bothered him was that there hadn't been any time for learning on the job. The time it took him to find out what needed to be done the patient should have died. Instead all signs pointed to a full recovery. It was impossible. As if someone had hit the pause button until he got up to speed.

When he had lunch he found several others with similar impossible stories. One told of how he'd been so drunk he needed both hands on the wall to move, and then suddenly found himself sober in the place he was needed most. Another of being transported to the ideal place to catch and treat a man who had a heart attack after witnessing an entire school bus disappear.


She had to divide her attention between the road and the mirror. She wished she didn't have to spend so much on the mirror, but there was bullying going on and she was determined to stop it. Maybe she couldn't stop it everywhere, but she could make sure it didn't happen here. Not on her school bus.

Then, the children were gone. All of them. She didn't think about the fact that the bus had been in motion. She didn't think about what would happen if she let it choose its own way down the hill. She didn't think at all. She stood up and looked at the empty seats.

She called the names of the best students. Then the worst. Then she called every student whose name she knew. There was no response, and no sign of any of them, but it was impossible. Unthinkable. They couldn't simply be gone.

It would be much later that she realized that somehow the school bus had parked itself by the school, though she was nowhere near there when it happened.


Flying Pony wasn't a pony and she couldn't fly, but what she could do was jump and she was good at the steeplechase. Just as she was about to launch herself over a loon themed jump something changed on her back.

The weight of her rider was gone. She turned to look and then remembered the jump. She remembered it too late. She tensed, but never hit it.

She was alone in a field. Her rider, the jump, the course, the audience, the competition, everything was gone. All she could see was open field. She didn't ponder the question. She was a horse surrounded by tasty looking grass. She started to eat.


One moment there were six cheerleaders forming a pyramid. The next there were four cheerleaders all safely on the ground.


The tugboat didn't notice its entire crew disappear. It didn't notice that it was no longer in a crowded harbor, or that it's engine had been turned off.

A set of high definition cameras that a documentary crew had set up in hopes of seeing the Loch Ness monster recorded the tug's sudden appearance. The monster did not show up.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Word Problems

You live in a two story home (see attached page for floor plan, assume all walls are one foot thick, and each room is eight feet tall), you have decided to turn the house into an aquarium.

  1. How much sand will you need to buy to cover the floors to a depth of three inches?

  2. What will the weight of that sand be?  (Sand has a density of 80 to 100 pounds per cubic foot.  Assume it averages 90 pounds per cubic foot.)

  3. What would the sand weigh on the surface of the moon?

  4. Would it have been better to buy those colored little rock things that are in some fish tanks? (Show your work.)

  5. What will be the PSI exerted by the sand upon the floors?  (Give answers for the ground floor and upper floor separately and label both.)  Will the floors withstand the force?

  6. You will need to waterproof the house so that it does not leak.  You plan to do it with a revolutionary new type of tarp which is massless, volumeless, and completely water tight.  What square footage will you require?

  7. The tarp comes in the following sizes:
    8 ft x 20 ft for $20.97 - - - - 12 ft x 24 ft for $ 31.97 - - - 18 ft x 24 ft for $56.97
    24 ft x 24 ft for $75.97 - - - 30 ft x 50 ft for $198.00 - - - 40 ft x 40 ft for $211.00
    30 ft x 60 ft for $238.00

    Assuming that you need at least four inches of overlap to ensure the structure remains water tight, what combination of tarps will you buy to do the job with the lowest cost?  (Show your work.)

  8. How many gallons of water will be required to fill the house? (Show your work.)

  9. Jake from down the street thinks he can get you a better deal on the sand, the tarp, and the water, but his supplier requires that measurements be made in metric.  Convert the previous answers (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8) to metric.

  10. You want to replace the windows and doors with clear material so that you can look in on the fish.  Assume that water does not compress (this is usually a safe assumption as it does not compress much.)  The density of water is 62 pounds per cubic foot.  Recalling that in a liquid pressure at a given depth is exerted equally in all directions, how much pressure will doors need to withstand?  How much will windows on the ground floor?  How much will windows on the second floor?

  11. Would you be better off using glass or plastic as your transparent material? (Show your work.)

  12. What is the force exerted by the water and the sand on an average square foot of flooring
    a) on the ground floor?

    b) on the upper floor?

  13. Sea water has a density of 64 pounds per cubic foot.  What would the previous measurements (10, 12) be if you decided to make the house a salt water tank instead?

    (For questions 14-17 assume that you settled on fresh water.)
  14. You don't want the water to be stagnant so you plan to set up small water movers to develop a current in the house-tank.  You have ten such water motivators.  Where should they be placed?  (Show your work.)

  15. You don't want the current to be too small because you think that might lead to dead zones developing. instead you have desired to move water at the maximum velocity that will not tear the house apart.  What is that velocity?  (Hint: use Bernoulli's principle to help determine the effect doorways will have on this calculation.)

  16. Alice from up the street has convinced you that maximum current is a waste.  What is the minimum velocity your water motivators need to induce (using the placements from question 14) in order for 90% of the water in the house to circulate throughout the house in a 24 hour period?

  17. Given that the volume of water in the house (see your answer to question 8) is finite, only a certain number of fish will fit into it.  Larger fish require more free space than smaller ones.  The higher the proportion of large fish you buy, the fewer fish you will buy overall.  The higher the proportion of small fish you buy, the more fish you will buy overall.

    What is the most awesome ratio of small to large fish?  (Show your work.)

  18. You've decided to make the house have a mix of fresh and salt water zones.  How many times did the average student just say, "Fuck"?

  19. Using the water motivator positions determined in 14 and the water motivation velocity determined in 16, determine how long it would take for the water in the house to become 95% homogenized if you did nothing to maintain the different salinities.

  20. You want the house to be 40% fresh water, 40% salt water, and 20% brackish water (by volume) describe the system required to maintain this distribution (within 2% tolerance) in perpetuity.

  21. How many times will the average bull shark pass through different salinity zones in a year?  (Show your work.)

  22. The octopus has been eating your sharks.  If the octopus draws an average of 15 tourists primarily college students, and the sharks draw an average of 30 primarily children, is it most cost effective to get rid of the octopus, stop buying new sharks, or continuing to replace the sharks as they are eaten under the following conditions?

    a) children get a 40% discount but tend to bring 1.25 adults for every two children, college students get a 20% discount but tend to bring .5 non-student adults per every 10 students, and 80% of the adults accompanying children are non-students.

    b) Children get a 10% discount but tend to bring 1 non-student adult for every two children, college students get no discount.

    c) Children get no discount on weekends but get in free on week days.  College students get in free on Tuesdays but pay full price on other days.

    d) The octopus has requested you buy it larger sharks, these last few were kind of scrawny.

  23. A leak has developed in the floor and begun to flood your high school friend's secret lab where ze was trying to create a genetic combination of shark and octopus.

    If the equation for the size of the hole is X(t) = X(0) + k * dX(t) * P(t) where X is the size in square feet of the hole, X(0) is the size of the hole when it was first noticed, k is 3.14/(6ft), dX(t) is the change in the size of the hole at time t, and P(t) is the length of the perimeter of the hole in feet at time t (assume a circular hole), how long will it take before:

    a) The basement lab is half full?

    b) The computers in the basement lab get wet and short out?

    c) The specimens escape into the local sewer system?

    d) You have to plug the hole with a tourist to stop your fish from running out of water?

  24. You live in Iowa, the state with the most EF5 tornadoes per square mile.  After the house is destroyed by one, what are the odds (use p-value) that the SeeFee channel will pay you to be in the documentary, "Sharknado In Real Life"?

  25. What is the maximum speed a shark octopus hybrid can move on land, as measured in furlongs per fortnight?


Extra Credit:

  1. Which fish spent the most time in the den?
  2. Which fish spent the most time in the kitchen?
  3. Which fish spend the most time in the living room?
  4. What is a parametric equation for the movement of the octopus through the bedroom when it is stalking prey?

More Sympathy for the Devil

[Originally posted at Right Behind, in 2009.]
[Note that this is a stand alone work.  The "more" in the title comes from it being originally posted at a time and place with other fiction including lyrics from the song.]

Something about the man made Matthew stop. It was probably the lighting. Somehow the streetlight was making the man appear to glow. Or it might have been his hair which seemed a little too blonde, or his eyes that seemed to be too bright of a blue. Or maybe it was simply that he was wearing a bright white suit. Matthew had only ever seen someone in a white suit once before, that was years ago in an IHOP. It had stood out to Matthew at the time but compared to the man in the practically glowing white suit standing on this random street corner in the middle of the night it seemed fairly unremarkable.

Matthew knew he shouldn't gawk, and was about to get going again when the man spoke, "Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste."

The sentence seemed somewhat familiar to Matthew. Was it something he'd read? Something someone had said? He'd been reading so many books and conducting so many interviews that he was having trouble keeping it all straight. Citing sources was hell. Could it have been in one of the books he just looked at in the library?

Then it hit him, it wasn't any of that. It was from a song by the Stones. It was a simple, if indirect, message: I am the devil. It didn't seem absurd. It felt true. Matthew didn't know what to do, so he asked for confirmation, "You're-"

"Yes, I am Lucifer. I understand you're writing a book about me. I'd like to help you. Not by telling you the color of God's eyes or the date of the Rebellion or any other trivialities like that. I've never really cared about facts; I'm interested in a deeper form of truth. What matters to me is getting the idea right. That's why I'm here. I believe you have a question that gets to the heart of the idea."

Matthew nodded, he did indeed have such a question. One no priest or book or essay had been able to sufficiently answer, "Why?"

"Of course 'Why?' Why is the only question that really matters. When, where, what, who, whom, whose, whither, whence, which and even how are all incidental. Why is where the meaning lies. Still, if you want a useful answer you'll need a more specific question. Why what?"

"Why do you go on knowing …" Mathew trailed off. What happened if you said that Lucifer was going to get his ass kicked to Lucifer's face?

"That I'll lose?" Lucifer finished for him. Mathew nodded. "It isn't that complicated. Put yourself in my place. Not the place I was in, the place I am now. What led up to this doesn't mater. Besides -I've read your notes- you've already figured out why I started. To understand why I go on forget about that.

"Forget about God and Jesus and Destiny. Forget about the rebellion and six thousand years of history. Just imagine you are where I am. Imagine that a third of your species was doomed to spend eternity in hell. What would you do? Would you sit back and let it happen?

"Or would you do everything you could to stop it? You'd fight against it, wouldn't you? Even if you knew that it was a fight you couldn't win. You wouldn't just surrender. You'd make a stand. You'd do everything in your power to stop the inevitable. You'd do it because it was the right thing to do. For your conscience, for yourself and most of all for your species. You know as well as I do that some lost causes are worth fighting for.

"That is what you would do for humanity. I am no less devoted to my kind than you are to yours. I also have another reason. I'm the reason one third of my kind are damned. If not for me they'd be in Heaven still. I have an obligation to them. I owe it to them to try to stop what's coming. I am why they are damned; I have to try to get them out of what I got them into.

"This isn't about going down fighting, or spitting in God's eye. It is about giving everything I have to the cause knowing full well that won't be enough. I have to try.

"Does that answer your question?"

Mathew nodded.

Lucifer started to walk away. Then stopped and turned back, "Oh, one last thing. The serpent in the Garden of Eden wasn't me. That was an actual talking snake. I shit you not."


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Of Teeth and Taxes (or: fuck I need money)

Remember how I said that the bill for fixing the cavity hadn't come in yet?  It has now.  The quarterly property taxes also have.

This is, sort of, an "Oh my fucking God!" moment for me.

Depending on how you look at it, the cavity could be said to be two cavities.  It was where two teeth met and parts of both teeth had to be drilled and filled.  That said, since the teeth touch it was one hole and thus the dentist talked about it as one cavity.

I don't know exactly how it was calculated for billing (one or two) but it came out to an even six hundred dollars.  These even hundreds from the dentist bother me, mostly because I don't think the numbers are rounded down to the nearest hundred and so believe that they must be rounded up to the nearest hundred.

At the same time, the quarterly property taxes (which are my expense to pay) have come in.  Interestingly they're also in the range of $600.  Specifically $646.38.

Thus the two together are $1,246.38.  That's to be paid next month.  In my most recent post I worked out that $1,210.23 was how much that confluence of bills totaled to.  So put it together and I get $2,456.61.

This is the part where I say, "Fuck.  Fuuuck.  Fuck, fuck, fuck.  Fuckity fuck."  See?  I just said it.

Now, mind you, there is nuance involved.  Unlike the $1,246.38 I just found out about, the stuff from last post is not a) entirely unaccounted for or b) entirely due in full soon.

Specific details are in that post but some of it was already paid and thus just frustrating in that it wiped me out, some it was looming in the future at an unknown date (still is), and the vast majority was converted to high interest debt meaning that it can be paid in small manageable payments with the downside that, in the end, it'll cost me about 150% of what it would if I could pay it off now.

Also, I got one donation yesterday,  (Yay!  And: Thanks.)

So it isn't the full $2,456.61 hanging over my head.  I'm not quite sure exactly how much it is.  (Which is why I'm taking the shortcut of reusing last post's number)

It is, however, at least $1,446.38 that needs to be paid next month ($200 of the amount from last post I know needs to be paid by then.)  It takes me three months to make that much (gross, not net.)  Hence the repetition of the word fuck.

So I think I'll end with two things:

  1. Anything anyone could send my way to help would be greatly appreciated.  I may start shamelessly begging in the general direction of people I know in person.
  2. I'll try to get a post not about my money problems up by tomorrow.  In fact, I'll dig up an old story I haven't transferred onto the blog yet and schedule it to post in the morning so that I can be sure I'll have a story post tomorrow and I'll try to write something new for the afternoon/evening.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Finances update, discussing other types of insecurities

I think, perhaps, that I have reached the point where I should just drop all sense of shame and beg for money.  Then again, I have doubts as to whether or not it would work anyway.

So, the state of things:
  • Repairs, replacement, backing up data, and getting the replacement under warranty: $711.48
  • Dentist appointment when cavity was discovered: $200 even
  • Drilling cavity: unknown, bill has not come yet
  • A utility bill somehow got overlooked for multiple months, now I owe: 138.95
  • The internet, the thing which I require to continue blogging and how I pay all my bills: $159.80
  • Textbooks for a new semester: No fucking clue, probably between one and two hundred.
Now not all of it has to be paid right this second so I'm not in frantic panic mode.  Some of it has been paid which has merely left me with almost zero in other funds as I face the remaining three weeks of the month.

In particular:
  • The utility was paid off.  It's just $100 more than I expected and so my budget for the month, insofar as I have one, is screwed.
  • The internet bill isn't due yet, but I've never quite been able to make sense of when it is due.  It just spends months accumulating (no interest charged, no late fees) and then, seemingly out of nowhere, announces that the time to pay has rolled around again.  I've yet to be able to divine a pattern for when the time to pay rolls around.
  • The 711.48 need not be paid off in any hurry.  I could just make the minimum payment and end up spending 400ish dollars more and taking about 4 years to pay the damn thing off.
So it's not all doom and gloom.  But it feels like it is.  $1210.23 plus however much fixing a cavity costs plus however much my books will cost.  (And, down the road, tuition.)

So I look at that twelve hundred dollars and despair.

So, I guess, I am begging for money.  Please help me out.

But at the same time, I feel kind of worthless lately.  In the past month I've done very little fiction.  Two fragments of Skewed Slightly to the Left, two fragments on non-Noah arks, one bit of Being more than a Simulacrum, one bit of a talkative person versus bad guys with guns, and someone yelling, "Sanctuary!"

I'm pretty sure I used to be more prolific.

I worry that I've lost most of what appeal that I've had in the past.  Don't get me wrong, I've read every comment and I cherish every one.  I know that there are people who still find what I write to be of value.  I cannot begin to describe how much I appreciate you or how much I love seeing that someone has commented.

But there are also lurkers.  And when it comes to them all I have are traffic stats, and those show a blog in decline.  Clearly what I'm doing isn't as pleasing as it once was to some segment of my audience.

So I find myself sort of torn.  On the one hand, I really want to solicit donations and somehow cajole readers into giving them.  On the other hand, I can't really argue that I deserve such.  I'm not producing as much content as I once did, and what content I do produce doesn't seem as popular as what I once made.

On the third hand, I give everything away for free.  So it has been, so it will always be.  If you have to pay to get something from me, it won't be published here.  Ideally it'll be published in a book and what I'll say here is, "Go buy my book, it has a great story you can't find online," or something like that.  So, given that I give everything away for free, why should I expect people to suddenly pay me on account of having a bad month billing wise.

Zaphod has run out of hands, but there is another.

Hand number four: I recently looked over my paypal account, for as long as I have had one with an eye toward donations.  It really put what people have done for me into perspective.  I've been given more than I can possibly claim to have deserved.  So asking for more seems... yeah.

Three hands tend to say that I shouldn't even ask.  But the mere existence of this post should indicate that I'm going to return to the first hand.  I look at that $1,210.23, I wonder about the costs yet to be quantified, and I fear the rest of winter.  My savings have been wiped out.  Again.  That means that when I run out of oil I'll be unprepared for the expense.  Again.  Thankfully I've got about half a tank, so there is time, but it doesn't change the fact that it makes that first hand really tempting.

Thus I again beg for money.  Please, if you can spare it (and ONLY in that case) send something my way.  My donate button is always open.